Edmonton Tourist: Jasper Park Lodge

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Last week I told you about my little getaway during secret season at Jasper National Park. We decided to make it a resort getaway, so we booked two nights at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This is the place where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stayed for their honeymoon. The Jasper Park Lodge opened as a tent city in 1915 then eventually was taken over by Canadian Pacific Railway and became one of the great railway hotels of Canada. If you have stayed at any of the other Fairmonts in Canada, you know what I mean. It is high end and exquisite. I had been here before for a quilt workshop and my hubs and I came for a weekend getaway 25 years ago, but I had not been here since.

I booked through the AMA website and found a deal, and I mean DEAL for $200 a night. Worth noting – this is not a sponsored post. That is a typical night stay in town in a regular hotel. Offseason midweek makes a big difference plus being an AMA member sure helps. It’s worth it to keep your eye on deals.

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We checked in late on a Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that morning the hotel texted to welcome me and asked why I was coming. I let them know it was a nice getaway for us since we hadn’t been in 25 years. They asked if there was anything they could do for me, and I said no. I did consider bringing Cap, with a pet fee of $50 per night, I thought against it. If my kids were with us then I would have brought my pal. When we checked in we were immediately upgraded to a cottage on the lake. Here was the view from the living room – that’s right I said living room.

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Lac Beauvert was frozen without snow so in a few weeks there will be some good skating going on! The room was large with a king bed and the sofa was a pull-out. Down the hall were a coffee bar and fridge. There was a large double-wide closet with robes, slippers, and an umbrella.

The first thing we did was take a walk along the lake. To go around the lake takes about 45 minutes, we made it about halfway before it became too dark to walk in the woods in wolf country. The smell of pine in the air is an instant stress reliever for me. Honestly, I don’t know what I prefer more, the mountains or the ocean. The high-end cottages, where Royalty stays, were all decked out with Christmas lights. They were so pretty through the trees.

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The big cottage sleeps ten (I think) and has a full kitchen, fireplace, study, dining room and three bathrooms. Everyone gets a bedroom. I want to book this one year for my family at Christmas. The hotel will put up a tree and we can either have Christmas dinner catered in the cottage or we can cook it. One day… its a bucket list item for sure. This is the Royal one. Very secluded and quiet on the point.

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You walk down from the cottage and can sit on the cute bench, I guessed the royals sat here at least once.

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We walked back to our cottage and I thought about how lovely this was. Very few people were around.

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We made a cup of tea and I pulled out my knitting. It was quiet and peaceful, a perfect ending to the day. Eventually, we made our way to the main lodge for a bite to eat. Since we ate a big lunch at Jasper Brewing Company, it was late before we decided on cocktails and nibblies. We walked the 5 minutes to the lodge and went up to the Emerald Lounge. I looked at the menu and thought hard about creating my own Old Fashion. Look at the choices!

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In the end, after all the big talk of wanting a cocktail, I had a glass of shiraz and the hubs had a Jasper Ale. We ordered the charcuterie board, it had interesting things on there like elk sausage and other game meats, cheeses fruit and nuts. We decided to share dessert and landed on the rhubarb sorbet and lemon mascarpone mousse. It was so good, we ordered another the next night.

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We poked around the lodge before heading back to our room. Christmas in November happened the week before so the decorations were up. After hearing all about it, I put that on my bucket list for another year. Perhaps I can convince my mom to postpone her trip to Europe next year and I will take her for a treat.

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The gingerbread house filled the lobby with the aroma of cinnamon and ginger. I am considering making one for my office and keeping it up all year round.

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I only need 440 lbs of flour. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I can make it in batches.

Stanley the house labrador dog was off duty when we stopped by. I didn’t get to see him at all over the stay, he was either walking or resting.

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The walk back to the cottage was surprisingly bright. The full moon lit up the mountain range.

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This was the same shot the next morning.

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We woke up early, and by early I mean we stumbled in for breakfast about 9:00 am. and ate at Orso Trattoria. The only problem with the secret season is the limited availability for dining options. However, the breakfast was good with a view that was only rivalled by my breakfast view at Wickaninnish in Tofino.

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You are looking at Edith Cavell. That tiny dot on top of the mountain is the Jasper Sky Tram. You can go up there and see for days (but only in the summer season).

After our day of site seeing, we came back to this:

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I guess they thought 25 years meant anniversary? It was so thoughtful and delightful! The raspberry macaron was the best one. They were super fresh. The champagne went in my bag for New Years!

We headed back to the Emerald lounge for snackies, we didn’t have the strength to drive into Jasper  – buy that I mean, I didn’t feel like calling for the car because there wasn’t anywhere to self-park, they do it for you. I loved the ritual of walking to the lodge for meals. Especially in the full moonlight.

The next morning we repeated the same breakfast plan. Each meal we took the time to get to know the servers. Most of the staff come from Austalia or Ontario. The Alberta kids think the Rockies are old hat, so they travel farther west to surf and work at the Wick. The staff live on the property and are amazed at their view every morning. I regret not coming to Jasper after college. I thought about it but never did. In my next life, I am totally doing that!

We took a walk around the property before we headed back to pack.

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The pool is open all year round. It’s heated obviously and you swim through a tunnel from the indoor pool. It was 32F that morning with one brave dude swimming and taking in the view.  Its fine until your hair gets wet. We continued walking towards the boathouse.img_4513

If you are looking for peace, I recommend a few days here. Jasper National Park is a world-class destination, rich in history and wildlife. If you have been before, you know what I mean. If you have never been, come. If you see me poking around, come say hi.

 

Brothers

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Not everyone has a brother, but everyone knows someone with a brother. I have one brother, grew up with a couple of foster brothers and I have friends who I feel as if they were brothers. A brother relationship is much different from my sister relationship. I don’t think it has anything to do with gender, it has everything to do with personality and preferences.

My brother has been my nemesis, my partner, my adversary and standard that I judge by (I know judging isn’t preferable, but we all do it.). But mostly my brother has been my friend, the kind of friend I don’t talk to every day, but when I need to I can call. He always calls me right back. He is turning 50 in 19 days.

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Why is it that I am okay with me being 52 but it bothers me that my baby brother is 50? I think of him as the little kid that was into everything. My grandmother called him busy and that was an understatement.  My brother was busy x 10. But I sure did learn a lot from him. He would dehydrate frogs in his jean pockets and then stick them in water. It would take a bit, but those frogs always perked up and he would take them back to the pond. At the age of 9, he quietly sent part of his allowance every month to the Humane Society. We discovered this by the monthly subscription newsletter and thank you cards. He had our little sister on the back of his bike and he couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to pedal. Her leg was caught in the spokes and it broke – the leg, she was 3(?) maybe older? He abandoned his beloved bike and carried her home. He was always rescuing birds, dogs, cats and people. His room was a pet sanctuary filled with rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish and dogs. It smelled like a farm.

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He is a lot of things. He has no time for fiction, except Star Trek – but I think he thinks it’s a documentary.  It has to be true or it’s wasting his time. This includes liars and fake people. He is fiercely protective of family and friends. He never complains about anything that happens to him or the cards life has dealt him. He doesn’t let what other people say or do bother him. Life is too short to get involved with drama and it has to be his biggest pet peeve. He wants everyone to just get along.

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I am fiercely loyal back. I will always choose him.

This guy hates homemade food. Make him homemade cookies, and he rather have store-bought. Make him bbq burgers and he rather have fast food. This guy loves going out to eat so it surprised me when he said I make the best shortbread he has ever had. I am flattered. For his birthday I will make him 50 shortbread cookies. My recipe is here. He will likely hide them under the sofa cushions with a dirty sock on the bag to protect it. He will snack on these during Star Trek Discovery in case anyone wants one.

Happy 50th Birthday Brother, I could have asked for a better one… but you’ll do.

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper National Park

Have you heard of the Secret Season? I had, but I had no idea there was a special name for it! Of course, I am referring to the ‘offseason’ in the Rocky Mountains. It is the time after fall but before ski season and Christmas break.

I went the second week of November to Jasper National Park. I had been to Banff during the secret season and its still a little on the crowded side. Lots of tourists out looking at cool things. But Jasper? This as my first time. If you have ever visited Jasper National park in peak season, May to October, then you know how busy it can get.

We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday. The plan was to stop at Jasper Brewing Company for lunch, walk around downtown and head off to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to check-in and have dinner. Finding parking is usually a complicated experience so you take the first spot you find at the far east of town and walk several blocks to the far west side of town.

The lack of people almost tricked us into parking by the totem pole. Almost. I suggested we drive closer to the brewery. We found four spots IN FRONT OF THE BREWERY! FOUR people, FOUR!

We went inside and one other couple was there. We didn’t have to wait for a table. While we were there one couple and a group of 8 came in. That was it. Lunch was delicious as always and we each had the winter ale because…winter and we like ale. But I know from experience the 150 IPA is fab and so is Jasper the Bear Ale, which is my usual. When I say ‘usual’ I mean the last time I had beer was three years ago. I gave it up, and all things carbonated. I treated myself on this occasion because ale is just so good with the fried chicken sandwich with siracha aioli.

After lunch, we toured around town, which was empty and largely closed. A lot of shops and restaurants were closed for the season.  We popped into Parks Canada’s information building and bought a friends of parks t-shirt. All proceeds go to supporting Parks Canada. My favourite vacation spots in the world are thanks to Parks Canada, so I support where I can.

Across the street from Parks Canada is the totem pole, so I stopped in the middle of the road and took a photo. No one tried to run me over, I stood there for a good long while just marvelling at the spaciousness of an empty park. It was absolute heaven!

The totem still looks good and is easier to see without people standing in front of it. Then we sauntered back to the west side of town and drove to the hotel where we had booked a few nights. I will go into greater detail of the resort in a future post. But I will say this, Jasper Park Lodge is lovely. We had dinner at the lodge and poked around the grounds before calling it a day.

The plan for the next day was to head down the Banff Jasper Parkway and see what we can see. At breakfast, we overheard people talking about the big horn sheep heard at Medicine Lake and thought maybe we should go there first since we are already on the south side of the Athabasca River.

We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Maligne road. We normally stop at the canyon first but we wanted to see the herd before they moved on. It didn’t take long for the dry snow-free road to becoming a snow-packed but sanded winter driving road. The higher we climbed in elevation the more snow we encountered.

The vistas were phenomenal. I come up here frequently in the summer but the mountains really show off their craggy detail in the winter when covered in snow. It was spectacular. There was a forest fire through the pass a few years ago so the mountains are on display for all to see. When we arrived at Medicine Lake, there was the herd, down on the frozen lake. They look like dots but it really shows the scope of Annunciation peak.

Here they are in the zoom version.

Then we came across a moose sow and her calves. I have only been this close to a moose on my street. Never in a National Park. But that’s Canada for you.

The air was crisper than at the lower elevations. Jasper townsite is 1060 metres (3477 feet), the climb up to Medicine lake to us to an elevation of 1670 metres (5479 feet). It put things in perspective, Vancouver’s elevation is 0 because its at sea level and Edmonton is at 2300 feet. It was 9C in town but -5C at the higher elevations. We met a couple from New York State sitting in their car at Maligne Lake. They had boots, snow pants, down-filled jackets big mittens and a hat. I wore my converse, jeans and a sweater. They marvelled at the lack of winter clothing we had on. It felt like spring to us, but we are smart winter travellers and know that anything could happen. In the car were winter boots, jackets, mitts, hats scarves, blankets plus an emergency kit with hand warmers, booster cables, emergency blankets and all that other important stuff you need to keep warm in your car until help arrives. Happily – none of that was needed and we chatted for a while with the American tourists.

We made our way back down to the townsite and ate lunch at the Other Paw, a sister bakery to the Bear Paw. Both are delicious. The Other Paw, is more of a deli and we had fantastic sandwiches and cookies.

Bellies satisfied, we went south down the parkway to Sunwapta Falls. This is where I was not dressed for the conditions. It was too slick to hike down the icy pathway towards the falls. I did not want to be a statistic, so we took photos of the totems and drove back towards Athabasca Falls.

Again, not dressed for the conditions, but we drove over the bridge and took some lovely shots.

Then hopped back into the car and headed north to Pyramid Lake. I didn’t take a single photo. It was nice just to sit and look. Being present on this part of the journey was wonderful. It was interesting to me that Patricia Lake was not frozen, yet 200 meters away, Pyramid was. I wondered f there was an underground spring or heat source that kept the water open. During WWII, they tested ice hull aircraft carriers and one is at the bottom of this lake. Not that the open water had anything to do with it, but it may be why they chose that lake to test it.

Driving back to the room, we saw a mule ear buck just sauntering along Mildred Lake. The amount of wildlife we saw on this trip was the opposite of the amount of people we saw. Elk, deer, big horn and eagles were out in full show. Come during the secret season for a quiet and restful few days. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Care

I have become a very social being. This is contrary to who I thought I was or what I thought I needed. I think what happened was I just made an effort to spend time with people who and matter to me and care about me. I think it all goes back to that day about 10 years ago when I started this blog (shout out to those who still read regularly – thanks mom!). I was looking for more. I had a light bulb moment Friday when I saw this:

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First of all, I don’t know if Oprah said it. It sounds like something she or Maya Angelou would say, but I haven’t heard her say it. That part doesn’t matter. The words do.

I sat in reflection of those words for two days. Things that roll through my mind while I drive or while I knit (yep still knitting two weeks later). How do you know if the people you like don’t care? And more importantly, are you prepared to accept they don’t care? There is nothing you can do to change their minds. No amount of doing for them, giving to them or pleading with them will make them care for you. The hard truth is, you need to walk away.

Here is my handy checklist to determine if people care.

  1. Do they say “I am sorry I didn’t call/meet/see you, I have been JUST SO BUSY.”? If they care they make time for you. If they are busy you might hear them say, “Look, my schedule is stupid busy right now but I have a Saturday free in 5 weeks, are you in? Or can I call you right back as soon as I finish this? And then they actually call you back? Yep – they care.
  2. Do they call you and tell you their problems, then when they are done talking they say, well I should let you go? If they didn’t ask about you, chances are they are using you to release their problems to make themselves feel better. Once they have unloaded, they feel great and can go back to their life. Meanwhile, you are carrying this burden of truth and have no idea what to do with it. Now if they say, hey I am calling to hear how you are doing, tell me everything. Then they share their stuff, chances are they care. If you are not mentioned in the conversation except to tell you their mother/wife/friend doesn’t like you, chances are they don’t care. But sometimes you don’t see people for a year or more – just facebook or Instagram stuff. But you just know you can call them and cry or say hey I was thinking about you. Quantity doesn’t matter, quality does. Yep – they care.
  3. Does it always cost you money to get them to spend time with you? If you are always spending money to go visit them and it isn’t reciprocal. Chances are they are not the best choice for you. This includes family.
  4. Do they reach out on a special day that is important to you? Your birthday, your dog’s surgery or the last day of Mercury Retrograde? Do they know what is important to you? If they haven’t asked, they likely aren’t interested.
  5. Do they use guilt as a way to control your time? Relationships are a two-way street. If there is an ultimatum list of things you must do to get them to care about you. Walk away right now.

I think I was looking for more because I wasn’t engaging with people who cared back. Once I released the people who didn’t care, my life began to fill up with people who did. This past week I went for lunch with two friends from my teaching days. We’ve met yearly for 15 years since we stopped teaching together. It takes us all day to catch up and we send notes to each other all the time. When one of our mothers died, I asked, are you okay and she said no. We immediately went to each other. Then I had another lunch date with a gal who I  see weekly – or almost weekly. Just an hour, but the regular catch up is reciprocal. It’s lovely. I text my sister and sometimes she texts first. I invited my aunties over for tea once every one hundred years, but when we meet up, it is amazing. My mom calls me every Sunday morning and we catch up for a half-hour.  She lives in Europe so call all the time isn’t easy. We make time for each other.

I wasted a lifetime trying to get people to care about me. Here is the kicker, once I accepted the idea that there was nothing I could do to make them care about me, a new person popped into my life. I spent a lifetime being supportive, remembering details, supporting these people when they had no one. I don’t think they have even noticed I am not in the picture anymore. I just faded away. I finally believe they don’t care. I was lonely the whole time I tried to get them to care. Walking away has brought new people who actually care about me in my life. How do I know?

  1. They call me to ask to hang out.
  2. They ask me about my dog, kids, work, hobbies, my book, trips, sadness and happiness.
  3. I receive tiny surprises, a note, a text, photo, a coffee or candy for no reason.
  4. Hugs are tight and I feel them giving me energy not just taking it.
  5. They remember important days, my birthday, an interview, surgery or a doctor’s appointment.
  6. They ask about my welfare because they actually care.

I think about the years I have wasted trying to be someone special to people who just didn’t want me. It breaks my heart and now I want a do-over. Believe someone when they treat you like they don’t care because they don’t. And that is okay, you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Let them go and hold space for those people who do care. All we can do now is do better.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Common Ground

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I have talked before about not-for-profit business. The first one that comes to mind is  Judy Blume’s book store Books & Books. I love the idea of providing goods and services for the community rather than to line the pockets of billionaires…but that’s not what this is about and I don’t want to get into capitalism with you. I heard about a coffee shop in Sherwood Park (east of Edmonton and about a 7-minute drive from my house) that was community-based AND a nonprofit!

Community is a big topic and is something I live daily at work, at home and in my city. I went to Common Ground’s web page to find out more about it because I wasn’t interested in supporting something that was contrary to my values. Values are a big thing for me and I am choosing to spend my money differently. This line stood out for me:

“In getting to know the community through a research project and many conversations, it became clear that what Sherwood Park is really looking for is community and connectedness.”

Aren’t we all? There is a trend happening that is taking place in people’s communities. Less social media and more face to face connections. People use social to connect with people far away who have common interests or for various other reasons but this is creating a disconnect. Humans are social beings and need face to face connections. At least I do. The premise of this coffee shop is connections. There is a community space for meetings or gatherings. It is run by volunteers. There is a kindness board to share a coffee for those who need one and there is a wall of games to help make lasting connections.

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The irony of this visit isn’t lost on me. I reconnected with a friend from my teaching days (it feels like a lifetime ago). She is a regular blog reader and reached out suggesting coffee. I loved that idea and while it took time to get a free spot in my busy summer, we finally settled on a date that worked for both of us. It was wonderful to reconnect, talk about our shared history but also discover new reasons to connect in the future.

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The tables are large, suitable for meeting new people or meeting up with large groups. The treats are delicious and the tea was good (oddly I didn’t have coffee). There are open mic night and music in the evenings. The windows let all the light in and help to create an inviting atmosphere. I only wish this place was walking distance from my home. It’s almost enough for me to consider moving back to Sherwood Park…Almost.

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I hope this place has a long and healthy effect on its community. You will probably see me sitting there visiting with people on occasion – come by and say hi if you do! Support local and support nonprofit! It goes a long way to strengthing healthy communities.

Common Ground: Community. Coffee. Cafe.

150, 161 Festival Way
Sherwood Park, AB

Monday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Stat Holidays: Closed

Ritual

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I have been receiving questions about journaling and meditation from you. Either you stop to talk to me about it or you email me. I thought I would answer meditation questions here and get to journaling next time. How meditation began for me and why I continue with it. *Content warning – religion is part of that and  I no longer participate -may be triggering for some people. My spirit team helped me with the next two paragraphs – full credit goes to them.

The daily ritual is a practice by many all over the world. It brings calm and security to many and insight and relief to others. It is used as a way to bring balance. Many religions use ritual as a way to engage followers. Creating familiar patterns within their routine. These patterns are often found to be familiar and with that brings comfort. The lighting of candles, the burning of incense, and even the repetition of prayer. Finding time within your day for the practice of ritual can be a comforting way to bring order into your life.

Rituals can be rich in symbolism. But are primarily separate and have meaning to the individual. It is a way to find a mindful practice. Staying within the moment allows for a focus of presence. Being present in your life is a gift of clarity that is not readily used by everyone. We are either living in the past or worrying about the future. Using ritual to begin your day can pull you into the present moment and allow for a productive day. Often joy is associated with presence.

I grew up in the Catholic Church and it was filled with rituals. I liked not having to think about what was next, just knowing…until that one day I listened to myself repeating the Apostles Creed and I went…hey….wait a minute… I don’t believe all those things. I then attended to participate in rituals and leave out the parts of the creed that I didn’t believe. I began to feel….fake. I couldn’t go anymore because my beliefs and my ritual practice were at odds with each other. For lack of a better word, I woke up.

After I left the church I found myself feeling at odds with myself. I needed a practice that upheld my beliefs and supported my morals and values. I struggled for a long time to find this practice. I knew religion was not the answer, but my faith and beliefs were consistent with my values. This is where I could begin again.

Believe it or not, running reintroduced me to the comfort of ritual. I would stop studying every day at 10:00 am. Put my shoes on and head outside in any weather. I never ran inside. I am Canadian for crying out loud. If I let a little cold stop me, I would never see the light of day. I dressed for the weather, put one foot in front of the other and away I went.

Same…same…same…

Until one day I couldn’t anymore. Heath issues happened and running is not an option for me any longer.

I struggled again, looking for the repetitive ritual that soothed me and comforted me. Something that would give me quiet and thoughtful prayer at the same time, the way running did. Without running, situations happened that made me blind with fury. I needed to find someplace to put my anger. I would have given anything for a long run to work out my frustrations or at least the ability to have laser eyes and cut my enemy off at the knees. But that solves nothing.

I turned to ritual again. I thought about what it was about the church that I found so comforting. I loved the music, the candles, and the silence. Not being asked to answer questions, not having to problem solve…just be. Just like when I ran. I didn’t set goals to be stronger/smarter/faster. I ran to just run. Just be.

I decided to wake up early…lets back up a minute.

I was a long-time meditator and knew it could help me connect with a higher presence. I had used it in the past as a method of prayer taught to me by Sister Dominica, my grandfather’s sister who was also a nun. She lived with us and every day she sat in prayer AND in meditation. Neither was the same. She said prayer is when you talk to God and meditation is when God talks to you. I meditated when the feeling moved me. Sometimes weeks would go by before I would meditate and sometimes just a few days. I was inconsistent and never considered it to be a ritual.

I began reading about different thought leaders, Wayne Dyer was one, I watched Super Soul on a regular basis and called it my church. The more I learned about self-love and stillness the more I knew I needed to meditate with regularity…but…

BUT………..

I didn’t have time. It takes time to do this stuff. I had kids, hubs, job, home I had STUFF TO DO!

Dr. Wayne Dyer said, get up early in the morning because anything worthwhile is worth making time for. Super Soulers said, make time for you. Love yourself enough to sit in silence for 10 minutes a day because you deserve it. Take time for you.

All I could think was BUT!!!! People neeeeeed me.

I was that girl who would sleep until 8:15 and then run to school. I was that girl who had serious FOMO. I would stay up late and resist sleep. Then in the morning, I was wrecked and late and flustered and a mess.

BUT…every time I turned around I read the sign that told me to do it. Take 10 minutes for myself to prove to me I was worth it. I did it when I ran, why couldn’t I sit on my chair and do it?

December 1, 2016 I began setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier. and on December 11, I turned it off and went back to sleep. Later that day I noticed I was grouchy. I mean REALLY grouchy. I was so angry at work I left to sit in my car and have a nap. If I had laser eyes I would have used them and be the only person standing today.

December 12, 2016, I set my alarm for 5:30 am. I got up, showered and went and sat by my Christmas tree. My dog came and sat with me. This began my daily ritual. I haven’t faltered since. It changes occasionally – but for the most part it is the same.  Sometimes I meditate later in the day, but I always do it.

My day begins at 6:30 am.

  • I begin my day with water. I drink it or I bath in it. It always begins with water. When I am at the ocean, I stand in it.
  • I light a candle and set my intention for the day. Sometimes I just set the intention but it always happens with or without the candle.
  • I sit or lay down, this is dependant on what my intuition tells me. I am more focused when I lay down.
  • I thank the universe and my team for their guidance and support. Beginning the day with gratitude is the number one most important thing I do. It has changed me as a human.
  • I ask two things, “What would you have me know” and “What would you have me do”
  • Then I begin my meditation. I set the timer for 30 minutes on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends. I often step out of meditation at the one hour mark. But I leave lots of time, just in case I need longer…sometimes I do.
  • I end my practice with “thank you”.

Since I have begun this practice, I have reached 1070 consecutive days as of November 16th, 2019. I feel more joy, I am calmer than I used to be and my emotions are fleeting. I still experience all the emotions but they don’t stay around very long. I look at them from a detached perspective and watch them float away when I am done learning from them. I have very little use for lies, cruelty and hate.  I see it for what it is and try to move on from it. It doesn’t always happen. There are a couple of people in my life who still can trigger me into an insane rage. But I sit in that and then move on from it. It’s not easy but it’s easier than it used to be for me. I always ask, what do I need to learn from this…and that helps a lot. The big lesson was boundaries, but other lessons are equally as important.

My favourite part of the ritual is wooden matches. The firmness of the stick and the smell of the sulphur. It takes me back to the Church where not all the memories are terrible. I can sit anywhere for long periods of time and just be. Boredom isn’t a thing anymore because I am comfortable with my own thoughts and in my own skin.

So now you know. I am sure my ritual is wackadoodle for some of you.

That’s okay. You do you.

This works for me and I am better off for it.

Edmonton Tourist: Jāceck Chocolate Couture

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I won a gift card to Jācek Chocolate Couture because I entered a giveaway promoting @yegwalkway Edmonton Commonwealth Walkway. If you haven’t been, go because it’s cool. There is a post from me coming up soonish that explains how it works. Annnnywhoooooo……

I won a gift card for my favourite chocolate maker and chocolatier.  Jācek explains the difference here. 

Chocolate Maker: The Chocolate Maker is essentially the fabric-maker, sourcing raw materials (cacao), and making chocolate from the cocoa bean. To view this process, click here.

Chocolatier: The Chocolatier is essentially the dressmaker, purchasing chocolate made by the Chocolate Maker, and using their technical skills to blend, temper and complete the process to create the final bonbon (truffle) or chocolate bar.

When I was in Sherwood Park, I made an extra trip to this place. I walked into the shop and all I could smell was roasting beans. If you have not experienced it, I think heaven smells like that. Both the roaster and refiner in working today. Jācek’s chocolate process goes from bean to fine chocolate and that includes roasting the beans in house. The square box on the left is the roaster.

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I wondered around the shop trying to decide what to take home with me.

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I landed on the Jackie -Caramelized milk chocolate with sea salt. Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 4.49.51 PM

Sipping Chocolate because if this is anything like the hot chocolate I had in Europe it will be AMAZING.

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And a custom box of 12 from the chocolate collection 

Because this is an award-winning chocolatier, when in Rome…. or Sherwood Park, whatever….

All you need to know about that is 3 were salted caramels covered in dark chocolate and the rest were picked because they were pretty. I am sure they will be the best things I ever tasted.

What I loved about this place on a Tuesday morning and not a Saturday is it was empty. I always get the best care and service when I come here but this time I had their undivided attention so I could ask everything. She was helpful and told me all kinds of things like, sign up for the newsletter so I can get pre-order the advent calendar….ummm yes, please! And she told me all about the tasting classes that I think I will take my mom to for her birthday – don’t look mom! We chatted about wine and coffee pairings and simple whole mouth feel. When I was done, she gave me a spiced something chocolate sample – whole individual chocolate and OMG is there nothing these people do that is terrible?

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If you haven’t been, go. If you have been, ammirite? If you see me at a tasting come say hi. If you see me on a park bench with chocolate on my mouth, keep walking because I am not sharing this.

Hands

Wrestlessness has seeped into my hands. For most of my life, I have been some sort of crafter. I take up a hobby, master it then move onto the next thing. I have tried most needlecrafts from cross stitch to embroidery. Silk ribbon was my favourite and most forgiving but how many ornate pieces does a person really need? I moved onto crochet. I made afghans and sweaters, never made slippers because bare feet is where it is at.

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Then I upped my game and tried knitting. I made the cutest cable knit cardigan for my toddler. It had a hood and pockets, I even sewed a zipper into it. It was similar to the photo but it was navy, had pockets and no cables on the arms. This thing was a favourite of both my kids and now that I think about future grandbabies….sure it’s likely a decade away, I can still fantasize. Don’t judge. I’d like to make another, I wish I still had that pattern. I am sourcing something similar, so if you see one online – please point me that way. )This sweater is for sale – I want to make my own, not purchase from a shop.)

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I have made dozens of quilts and tried rug making. I even ventured into papercrafts. I paint on occasion and draw all the time. I have even tried finger weaving. Mostly to make bookmarks and bracelets, but my son wants a Metis sash. No, it’s not expropriating a culture, he is Metis so it’s completely appropriate. It is a massive undertaking and not something I could do in secret. I have a guilty obsession with spirograph. It’s mesmerizing and calming. Most of these things are gone by the wayside.

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My daughter is like me. She has tried her hand at most of these same crafts. She pulls up a video and gives it a try. I learned from books. Self-taught just a different method. Her latest project is knitted socks. Most people’s first project is a scarf or ‘coasters’, but not her. Go big or go home – she made socks. Watching her knit the tiniest stitches has me itching to knit again. I am searching different sites for yarn, needles and patterns. I remember loving cable stitches. I think I am going to give it a go again.

It’s been 20 years since I last knitted anything. I remember enjoying the feeling of busy hands. That changed to games on my phone – something I am consciously changing. I am on social media infinitely less than a year ago. I like not being involved in drama and focusing on being in the moment has been life-changing. Like my daughter, I dream of making large and complicated projects. I wonder how easy it will be to jump back into knitting? She started because her friend knits during lectures at university. I used to doodle. Keeping my hands busy has always helped me concentrate better on the words being said. When I was teaching I had a basket of fidgets because I understand that need is important to many people, not just me.

 

Today I am heading out in the snow – we had six inches or so yesterday, and it feels like knitting weather. I am leaning towards a cable project of some sort but I may not get any farther than a knit/purl project. But look at this cable throw.

Cable Afghan Knitting Patterns

Too ambitious? Maybe but that has never stopped me before. Give me a follow on Instagram to see the progress and tag/share with me your project for keeping your hands busy. I love seeing what you are all doing.

Edmonton Tourist: Pembina River Provincial Park

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When I woke up this morning (Saturday, October 12) it was sunny and lovely out. It isn’t going to be this way for long because the nights are getting colder. I anticipate snow sooner than later. With this in mind, I figured The Captian and I needed to head west to see what we could see. I googled Provincial Parks thinking I would go to Wabamum but Pembina River popped up.

First of all, I had no idea Pembina was a provincial park. Secondly, I hadn’t been there since 1988 when I would drop off a truck and trailer for the young paddlers upstream learning how to negotiate river eddies and snags while at summer camp. The truck was their ticket back to YoWoChaS, a YWCA camp located at Fallis on the shores of Wabamum Lake, where they would get a meal of fried chicken and bannock as their reward.

All I could think about was the river and how much fun it was at camp. I loved those people and that was a very special time for me. I learned a lifetime of things that stuck with me. Obviously, I needed to share that with Cap. I packed water and checked Waze. I live 109 km away. Totally doable. Had I planned my day better, I could have done two provincial parks, but I will get to Wabamum another day.

The Yellowhead Highway 16, is rough. Full of ruts and bumps until Spruce Grove. After that it was fine. It was the kind of day I thought I would like to keep going until Jasper but I needed to be home so Chatterbox could use my car for her volunteer gig.

I remembered the turnoff to Entwistle and easily found my way down into the river valley. I thought I remembered an old single-lane bridge that spanned the river so you could cross over to Evansburg, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was replaced? At any rate, I remembered the valley and the steep high banks of the river. I found the sign and pulled into the Day-Use area.

There were signs pointing the way to the beach.

Beach?

People who live in Ontario or near the ocean would laugh. The ‘beach’ is the shore with a bit of sand and rock. It’s lovely, but not what one would think of when you say ‘beach’.

Cap and I parked in the vast parking lot, I noticed there is an overflow lot. This is a swimming river because it is slow-moving and shallow. This river is popular with people who bring tubes or rafts and put in upstream and drift along. The perspective for Alberta from any river is amazing. If you get the chance to explore river valleys via the water, do it.

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Near where we parked is a playground and picnic shelter. There were signs that gave direction to the beach but you could see it from the parking lot, so it was obvious. There were signs saying no dogs on the beach…but… it isn’t summer and Cap can’t read.

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There is a parking lot by Entwistle 3km away and you can hike in if you look at the trails from P to P. It is hilly but I think it would be a great hike in the early summer or early fall. Cap and I parked and took the stairs to the picnic area near the beach.

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The hill we drove down was quite high, plus there are stairs and steep hills to get closer to the water. The picnic spots are fantastic, this should be a place I bring my famjam for a picnic.

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We kept walking upstream through the trees to get the to river. I didn’t feel steady enough to to take the short cut to the river.

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This was an easy gentle slope to the river. The first thing I noticed was the lack of leaves on the trees. The ground was abundant with crunchy leaves. The orange trees are tamaracks, they turn colour in the fall and drop their needles before winter. There are quite a few conifers still holding onto their needles plus the green lodgepole pines are straight and narrow still showing off their green needles that last all year long.

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We made it to the river bank and I remembered how easy it was to pull the canoe out from here. I think this must be where the rafters pull out too. The sign is easy to miss though, so first-timers pay attention once you pass under the bridge.  The big RIVER EXIT sign isn’t really big enough and is quite far from the water.

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Cap and I went further upstream to the park boundary.

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It is essentially at the bridge.

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Bridges that are accessible by water in Alberta have some sort of stamp or art on the structure below. Most are wild roses or the Alberta crest, but this one had a paddler dude. I love these signs along the waterways. I loved being on the river. I think I was a voyageur in a past life. The Pembina meets up with the Athabasca River which will take you to Lake Athabasca but there were forts along the way, so it was obviously used by voyageurs.

We turned around and headed downstream to the bend where the campground is located. This campground is gorgeous. I highly recommend staying here if for nothing else but the view.

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We climbed up the bank instead of heading back to the gently sloping path, Cap pulled me out because he is the best dog ever. Once back in the car, we made our way up the hill to the park entrance and stopped to look at the four monoliths.

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Part of the Canadian Northern Railway bridge. Ugly but historic.

I investigated the campground a bit more and learned camp spots are $33 a night and most have hook-ups. They aren’t all treed but they do have great views of the river valley.

Pembina River Provincial Park is about an hour west of Edmonton on Highway 16. Come in the summer for a float and I am sure a lot of people will join you, or come in the fall and be the only one walking on the shores. The choice is yours.

Just get out and explore your neighbourhood.