The epic 50th year comes to an end

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So many people fear 50. I chose to see it as a major milestone and embrace it. I made my epic 50th year about embracing adventure. As with all things that sit before you in the future, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I had to face every day by leaning in, purging what didn’t work for me and be present in the moment. None of these things happened overnight, but they all happened. I am turning 51 on Thursday. Let me share what happened this year. If you are interested, I will be exploring these points in great detail over at my other space Still Life, it isn’t for everyone. But it might be for you.

 

  1. Embrace Change.

At the age of 49, I was desperate for change. I knew I didn’t like where I was. I felt mired in grey matter and desperately needed sunshine. I was called on my birthday and was asked to come in for a job interview. I said yes. 5 days later I interviewed. 14 days after the interview I had a job offer. 30 days after the phone call, I was sitting at my new desk completely overwhelmed trying to navigate my new job with very little direction because my employer also wanted change but wasn’t really sure what that needed to look like. 11 months later, we are still collaborating and planning for the future. It’s exciting, inspiring and exhausting.  For the first time in my career, I feel respected and valued. Never underestimate that. It has opened my world up to infinite possibilities and that feels amazing. Being valued means different things to different people. For me, it means, have someone listen to you, respect your ideas even if they are not going to work, ask for your input and is kind and supportive.

2. Take time to value yourself.

I made a promise to myself 609 days ago.  I promised myself I would take the time to meditate every day because when I did, I was calmer, kinder and felt peaceful. I sat on my chair for 609 days and sat in silence. It wasn’t easy, I have a voice that reminds me I am not enough. I had a boyfriend who validated this message. I wasn’t thin, pretty, smart, skilled…enough. He didn’t choose me so it also validated I wasn’t enough.  I heard this message echoed in ‘friends’, family, colleagues, strangers and me. I sat for 609 days repeating my Sankalpa, it began with ‘I am happy’. Once I felt happy after months of repeating my mantra, I changed it to ‘I am enough’ as I learned I was enough I changed it to ‘I am forgiving’ because I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive others. This year I am grateful. I learned to love me, let go of outer expectations and focus on my life’s purpose. Not someone else’s. So it may feel like I abandoned you and in some ways I did. You’ll be okay.

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3. Health is more important than you think, listen to your body.

Last December I had a trip planned to go to New York City. I was excited about it. In November when I sat quietly with myself I began to feel like I shouldn’t go. It began with a friend’s reaction. I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach thinking about this trip. I cancelled the trip and immediately felt better. I learned that intuition is my greatest ally. One week later, I was in the hospital. My daughter calls it the time I died. In many ways, I did die. It was a life changing experience. I experienced an awaking. I will talk more about that experience over on my blog Still Life: Finding Peace in Chaos. But I had ignored my body until I couldn’t. Listen to yourself. Don’t let yourself down.

4. Nurture your circle

I was incredibly ill for months. I was home from work for six weeks. If I had gone to New York, I would have died. I didn’t have anyone there to help me. I would have been alone in my hotel room with cleaning staff finding my body. I spent months having tests, hanging out in doctors offices. Learning about my health and understanding what is normal and what is not. I finally have my health sorted and back on track. I feel better than I have in 20 years. Health is important. I sat in the hospital with my daughter and went through the list of people she should call if things became too much for her to manage. I have 8 people in my circle of trust and 3 were all vacationing in Europe at the time. Two others in my circle, my children, were living with me taking care of me at a time in their life when they should be focused on friends, school and fun. The other three were close by and I knew if I needed them, they would be there. Interestingly enough, my circle consists exclusively of family. I love them fiercely.

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5. Purge

I went through a phase where I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a close-knit circle of friends. I never really experienced that. I had one or two friends that I sort of felt close to when I was a kid. But I never really felt like people got me. As an adult, I wanted to experience that. I made the mistake of picking people who were fun but also had fun at other people’s expense. They were fairly focused on themselves and took from me at every turn with the exception of one. He treated me well until he didn’t. It was stressful. I didn’t know if I was speaking to the good guy or the bad guy. My values didn’t align with anything these people did for fun. Because values were misaligned, I was hurt in ways I never expected. It distroyed me. I sat for a long time asking ‘What do I need to learn from this’. I received my answer. I learned about the true meaning of friendship. I went through a purge that rid me of toxic people. I purged things. I gave away truck-loads of things. I burned things to exorcise the demons. I purged my schedule. If I didn’t see value in it, I didn’t do it. Saying good-bye and NO were the greatest gift I gave to myself.

6. Friends

I have a circle of trust – family. They come first in my life always. I have a few friends who I would do ANYTHING for. There are family and friends that do not hear from me very often anymore. My health took centre stage this year. Some people in my life are emotional vampires. As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge. Emotional vampires literally sucked the life out me. While I was recovering, there were people who kept taking from me and never once asked how I was doing. I thought about this for a while. Why do I keep nurturing this relationship? I reach-out and if the time is not convenient to them, they would swear at me, or blow me off. You would think by the age of 50 I would understand that a friend is loyal, trustworthy, KIND and dependable to the extent they are capable of. I made a list of people who I thought fit those attributes, I have two and with a new friend I made recently it may bump up to three. Friends never want to feel like they are an inconvenience. I hope I have never made my friends feel that way. Please be frank with me if I have, it was never my intent. I am at the point in my life where I need a best friend. I want honesty, loyalty, kindness, as their values. I want someone with the same interests as me. I want someone who loves deep, meaningful conversation about life, spirituality, books, and experiences. But most importantly, I want a friend who I can call up and say, ‘Something just happened, I need you.’ And they say “Yes” or they say, “I am doing this right now….I am going to call in in 15/30/4 hours so I can give you my undivided attention.” That person exists. I just haven’t found them yet or I haven’t recognized them.

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7. Purpose

I found my purpose. I found my life’s mission. The universe takes you there without you seeing it and then it hits you over the head with a brick and says – can you see it yet? I see it. In every situation I have ever been in, I have been in a position to help people by raising them up. This is my purpose. I have a unique skill that searches for the quality in someone that is special. I point it out to them and then I teach them to use it to the best of their ability. Typically it only takes kind words or encouragement to inspire someone into action. As a child, I was told I was too sensitive. Being sensitive IS NOT A BAD THING! It’s amazing. I am empathic. I can feel what others are feeling. I can see things from other people’s perspective. This is my gift and it helps me fulfil my life’s purpose. I have set this as an intention to use in every aspect of my life including work. As a species, we can do better. It is my mission to spread kindness. I am not doing this every day because people can be cruel and it wounds me then I get crabby and angry. But I try to be this every day. Try. I am getting better at it.

8. Adventure

I want to experience things. What I mean is, I want to watch/read/learn/do things. I did things this year I haven’t done before. I stood in the ocean and felt it. I mean really felt it and I was overcome by emotion and sobbed my heart out. I explored Alberta’s prairie and appreciated it for what it was, and didn’t criticize it for being something it wasn’t. Prairies aren’t trying to be mountains. So I enjoyed them for being prairies. I read book genres I hadn’t explored before. I was correct in knowing I don’t need to read frightening books. Now I know for sure. I took the time to learn about First Nations Art, I always enjoyed it but now I have learned its purpose. I took big risks because no one is going to do it for you. I learned more about myself by doing this than by wishing someone would do it for me. I subscribed to a Broadway streaming channel because I love theatre and I have reconciled with myself that I am not going to New York or London to see these plays in person. I want to see them now not some day. This has brought me a surprising amount of joy. I love my city. I want other people to see what I see. I explore it and photograph it. I try different experiences and festivals. I have been all over the world and if you said to me, ‘Robyn, you can no longer travel where do you want to live out the rest of your days?’ I would answer ‘Edmonton…just let me live a bit closer to the valley’.

Happy Birthday to me. We had one hell of a year.

Explore Edmonton: Telus World of Science

When I was a kid, my grandma used to take me and my brother to the Queen Elizabeth planetarium.

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Of course, it no longer looks as spiffy as this, but I rather remember it this way than the rundown version it has become. The mosaics are still super cool though. I loved sitting in the tiny theatre staring at the stars and learning about the constellations. It was one of my favourite memories as a child.

About two months ago I did some volunteer work and was gifted two tickets for the Telus World of Science. I was excited because there are two new exhibits, Dinosaurs and Terry Fox, that I wanted to see.

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The centre first opened in 1984, as a replacement for the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium that had operated as Edmonton’s Planetarium since 1960 but had become limited by its seating capacity of 65. The City of Edmonton selected the Edmonton Space Sciences Centre as the City’s flagship project commemorating the Province of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary. The original building was designed by architect Douglas J. Cardinal. It was the most unusual building I had seen go up in Edmonton. There was a definite space quality about it. The grounds and building have changed over the years, they keep adding to it. Apparently, two new galleries are going in and a complete revamp of the star theatre. This meant the Margaret Ziegler Theatre was CLOSED. My heart broke a little bit. But there was an inflatable star dome so I was happy I could see the night sky show. What they failed to mention was the star dome was for people under four feet who wanted to sit on the floor. That’s not me, so I left disappointed with a side of excitement for the new star theatre to open one day in the future. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Zeidler Dome opens this weekend!

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We went to the Dinosaur gallery. These were animatronics with sound and FEATHERS. First Pluto isn’t a planet and now dinosaurs have feathers. Science is forcing me to unlearn ‘facts’ from science class in the 70’s.

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If I was five I would have been all over this exhibit. Dinosaurs just don’t do it for me. I did learn a fun fact though, Dinosaurs suffered from skull fractures. They were clumsy, bullied and beaten by other dinosaurs. So that was interesting. I walked through the exhibit and took video of the moving creatures. You can find that video on my Edmonton Tourist page on facebook. It would have been WAY COOL if I was five, at 50 it was fine.

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We wandered through the other galleries, not much has changed since my kids were small and we had a seasons pass. The Terry Fox Gallery was worth the trip. I thought I knew all there was to know about Terry Fox and then I saw this water jug. He filled it in the Atlantic Ocean, intending to empty it into the Pacific Ocean. It was sobering.

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His van was on display.

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And his prosthetic leg.

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I had held this before. I had met Darryl Fox, his brother, at an event and he had this prosthetic with him. The weight is unimaginable. That famous blue Adidas shoe had me choked up a bit. His shirts were lined up – the days when everyone ran in cotton.

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And the Companion to the Order of Canada. This is something only amazing Canadians get the honour of wearing. He is the youngest Canadian to ever receive it.

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This was a moving exhibit.

We left the building and walked towards the observatoryIMG_0452.

Next, to the star theatre, this is my favourite place. The dome was open and we looked at the sun – with a special filter, you could pick out the textured surface and sunspots. Then we looked at Venus. Not something you can normally see mid-day. I often spot Venus at sunset.

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If you haven’t been to Telus World of Science lately, give it a go and say hi to Terry. Support science, encourage your daughters to enter into STEM fields. Take time to learn and respect facts. Science is always evolving (- hello? FEATHERS!!! and PLUTO!!!) because we are constantly learning more. I can only imagine what will be uncovered for my grandchildren. Go learn something. 

Explore Alberta: Alberta Railway Museum

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Have you ever explored Canada’s railroad history? There was a time in my son’s life where we would explore the railroads of B.C. and Alberta. We visited the last spike, the spiral tunnels and climbed into steam engines. He was a serious train enthusiast. I suppose it isn’t past tense, he is still a train enthusiast. Just lately he has had some physical barriers he has been dealing with. After a successful surgery, its as if I have my boy back! We decided to celebrate by going to the Alberta Railway Museum’s 50th Anniversary. 

We have visited many rail museums, rode the Kettle Valley Steam Train and gone to numerous model train shows, but never have we ever visited the Alberta Rail Museum. Its located in North Edmonton 24215 34 St NW, so we hopped on the Henday and drove for 30 minutes, missed the turn but then pulled in.

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After checking the website, we knew we could purchase tickets to ride the diesel engine. There was cake at the station, and we ran into a few people we know. One was the father of my son’s best friend. He told us to check out some of his favourite things, like the Mail Car. With the train not departing until 1:00 pm, we had about an hour to explore the cars.

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There were several cars stacked on the rails, some restored and some waiting to be next. But we could walk through the cars checking them out in their various stages of disrepair.

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Our friend was right, the mail car was the coolest.

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There was also a car that was used by the King and Queen of England, it was very velvety. Well, all passenger cars were velvety, the berths were tiny and shockingly complicated.

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The highlight was when our friend took us into the shed that held steam engine 1392. It was being painted, but we could climb right up into the cab to look around. He explained some interesting facts and talked to my son about the use for the different things he saw on the panel. He explained this engine was waiting for the engineer to get his ticket/certification so he could drive it. It cost $1000 a day to run the engine, fuel costs etc., and a specially licensed engineer. The steam train will be in full operation for the August long weekend.

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We spent three hours climbing up and down the cars, weaving in and out of tiny spaces. It was a day that had me wistful for his childhood, but thankful we packed in a lot of memories while we could. This is three more hours to that list.

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Bring your family, ride the train, and learn new things. Go visit the Alberta Rail Museum. I am so glad I did.

18 for 18: Exploring Edmonton’s River Valley

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A couple of years ago, Edmonton opened the Terwillegar Foot Bridge adjacent to the Terwillegar Dog Park. I explored that park as part of my River Valley Parks series. But I didn’t cross the bridge. I have been wanting to walk this part of the valley for ages, so I put it on my list. The 18 for 18 list.

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When you cross the bridge to the north side of the river and follow the trail, it leads you to the Fort Edmonton Footbridge. This is my favourite bridge. The Fort Edmonton loop is the loveliest little 5k. One time I ran briefly with Kelly Buchburger, former Edmonton Oiler Captain. That was a thrill, he was kind and friendly, then he opened up his stride and left me like I was standing still.

I had always wanted to walk that north section of the trail but never did, so I put it on the list. My pal Captain and I decided to walk it today. When I walk with Cap, it is like walking with my brother or my Chatterbox. I walk, they run ahead, run behind, run off to the side. Basically they ran an extral mile for every mile I walked. There was so many things for him to explore and sniff.

When we crossed the bridge, I was surprised to see grassy meadows. When I walk to through the valley, I expect to be in the woods as in the case with the other parks I explore. Closer to Fort Edmonton, the path is lined with trees, so I expected the same landscape. The meadow started as short grass, but as we climbed the hill (slope? incline?) the grass became taller. Wild flowers were growing sporatically all over the field.  We saw vetch, bedstaw, clover, wild roses, dogwood, morning glories (why is morning glory growing in the river valley?) canola, and camomile. There were butterfiles everywhere! One little orange guy few along with us and booped my chin to say good bye when we entered the woods.

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The path was filled with walkers, runners and cyclists. Dogs stopped to say good morning. But one thing struck me as we strolled along, it was silent. I could hear the wind in the trees and birds singing but I did not hear traffic. It felt like I was in the middle of no where. That was the best part of the walk.

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I one point there was a giant rock cairn, not as uniform as in the Scottish Highlands, but it was the kind of mound my dad would encourage me to climb. When ever we walked past a pile of rocks, I needed to climb them, walk past water and we needed to spit in it, walk past a hill and we had to run up it. All were the rules of the walk. This time I just took a photo. Gone are my climbing days but I could imagine my ghost of walks past climbing up to the top. That was almost as satisfying.

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When we rounded the bend, I saw the familar sign indicating the Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge.

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Now I was in familar territory. The river is down once again and beaches are springing up again. This one was filled with people playing fetch with their dogs.

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I enjoyed the silence today and loved watching the butterflies, but I think I still prefer walking through the ravines. I have two new areas of the valley to still explore and they are ravines. Soon, I will visit them.

18 for 18: St. Albert Farmers’ Market

I love the rain. I woke up to buckets of rain falling from the sky and thought about my plans to visit the St. Albert Farmers’ Market with my mom. I immediately thought to bring my lovely umbrella that I do not get to use nearly enough! I packed another umbrella for my mom. I live as far from St. Albert as humanly possible for an Edmontonian. It is a good 40 Minutes from my house. We hopped onto the Henday ring road and made our way north. I had a vague idea where to find the market because google. I learned about the shuttle service from the village transit centre but we decided to take a chance on parking close to the downtown core. I am sure the rain kept the crowds away and we did score a sweet spot across the bridge. It was a perfectly lovely day for a walk.

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Everyone who has told me about this market raves about how amazing it is. Truth be told, it is pretty fantastic. Great selection, interesting vendors, and bigger than any market I have been to in Canada. Obernai, France is the biggest one I have ever been to.

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We tasted nifty things and saw very talented artisans showing their wares. I met some interesting Babas and Guidos, old-school farmers who invent their own tools and sell them or cook for days so you can recreate a Ukrainian feast in your own kitchen. A few garden markets had tomatoes, rhubarb, herbs and berries and two different craft breweries were on hand with samples. But my favourite? There was a birdhouse that was called ‘Train Station’, it reminded me of the front porch where I sat with my grandpa while he told me stories of the wild west and how he was a pioneer (all fabrication of course but that was part of the fun) and I loved that little birdhouse.

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I spent money on a wired knife gadget that did amazing things if you practice and I bought a new willow wreath for my fence. It is an exact replica of a wreath I bought the year I moved into my house in 2001. I needed a new one because it had disintegrated and just looked like a pile of sticks.

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My mom bought fresh Arctic Char and we reminisced about eating it when we lived in Yellowknife, she bought craft beer for my dad and she also bought the weird knife gadget from that guido farmer who I thought was a genius. We walked up and down the streets for about two hours, stopping to listen to music or chatting with vendors. I even ran into an old friend who looked fantastic. I loved everything about the morning and was so glad I made the trip. It is too far for me to go to every weekend when there are great farmer markets in closer proximity, City Market comes to mind, but I will go again and perhaps on the next rainy day.

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If you haven’t visited, think about it. Go early and stay long. Details can be found here.

Freewill Players: Shakespeare in the Park

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Summer nights in July and my first thought goes to warm evenings. So why wouldn’t I want to sit in the middle of Hawrelak Park and watch a play? Can you think of a better way to spend the evening?

It rained for most of the day and I was feeling cold but eager to head to the Heritage Amphitheatre for one of my favourite festivals of the year. We left the house at 6:30 because even when you pre-purchase tickets for a particular night if the place fills up, you risk having to sit on the grass. It sounds fun, but grass isn’t as soft as I remember as a kid. As it turned out, we were able to secure second-row stage left. The gates opened at 7:45 pm and they scanned our phones, technology is cool. My daughter bought tickets for last night’s performance in the car on the way. I found myself telling her an old-person story, “I’m from a time when you didn’t pre-purchase tickets except for Rock Concerts, and then you had to camp out at the box office to have a chance to see anyone decent.” Buying in the car is still amazing to me!

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I had the forethought to bring a quilt and a scarf. I regretted not bringing my winter jacket and gloves. It was damp and 16C felt very cold for me. I bundled up and snuggled in with the program while my companions decided to take in the preshow Puppet version of the play. We were seeing Comedy of Errors but Shakespeare isn’t written in a style that makes sense without having studied it and focusing on the cadence of the language. You can get the gist of it by watching the show unfold, but having the background is helpful. The Freewill Players have a short 10 minutes synopsis preshow to help people following along. It makes it a better experience if you understand the show.

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The Hubs and Chatterbox went to the puppet tent and had a great time. They both commented on the way back to the car they commented without the puppet show they wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. I admitted I had no idea what the prologue was about until the final scene, then it all made sense, but I had no trouble following the storyline. I did study Shakespeare for three years in high school (Julius Ceasar, Macbeth and Hamlet) and in University (A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Romeo and Juliette, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice). I felt confident I could follow along.

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There were several concession tents, one for food and one for beer and wine. There was also a souvenir tent selling shirts, squirrels and pins. Two different contests were going on, a 50/50 draw (I didn’t win) and a survey that enters you in for a dinner to Chanti’s (I didn’t win that either but the gal behind me did). I did have some popcorn at the intermission because the scullery maid ran across the stage chasing Dromio. She paused and said, “this will take several minutes, so why don’t you go get a beverage and some popcorn?” That sounded like a great idea so I gave $5 to Chatterbox and off she went.

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Not to give too much away, but one of my favourite things about the Freewill Player comedy productions is the Bollywood ending. Its fun and kitschy. Watch for no other reason than to see Jesse Gervais and Hunter Cardinal dance with their partners. They were hilarious.

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Comedy of Errors plays odd dates and Hamlet plays even dates. Pay what you will is Tuesday night and I think I might go see Hamlet or at least catch it on the weekend. I hear it is the best of the two productions and I thoroughly enjoyed Comedy of Errors so Hamlet might be worthwhile for me to head back out.

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Tickets and Showtimes available here. Remember to bring a blanket. Shakespeare in the park ends July 15th.

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18 in ’18: Small Town Road Trippin’

Give me an open road and the promise of a Farmer’s Market and I am putty in your hands. I’m a sucker for a road trip. Some of the greatest trips I have taken involve a vehicle, cooler for of snacks, a destination and all the time in the world.

My fondest road trip memory was somewhere around my 12th or 14th birthday, so it was in August. We drove to Montana and stopped at a creek. It had a snag hanging over the water. It was perfect for sitting on and dipping your toes in the water or using it as a jumping point for diving into the icy creek below. I was there with my parents, my siblings and my foster sister. I am pretty sure we rented a caravan, but the details were sketchy – I may have been 16 but that part doesn’t matter. We saw cool things.

Another time I had just started my new life and drove to Prince Rupert. The crab boats had just came in and a couple of fishermen shared their bounty with us. We had a crab boil on the deck of our B & B. We were up early the next morning to catch the ferry to Port Hardy, a 15 hour trip through the inside passage. We saw marine wildlife and took it all in.

My family road tripped in Europe and we stumbled upon Vimy Ridge and saw churches riddled with bullet holes. I drove along the Great Ocean Road in Australia and saw the 12 Apostles and wallabies in strange places. I drove east to Regina taking photos of big things like kubasa, coffee pots, and a giant moose or the time we drove to Washington  DC and saw fire hydrants all painted like Uncle Sam, or patriotic dogs, that was a weird patriotic time in 1976. More recently I drove Big Sur and all its curvy winding road and saw elephant seals and whale pods.

My point is that a road trip allows you to stop and explore and always yields something amazing. Every single time. It is for those who want to live in the moment and look at what is in front of you. Road trips have allowed me to dip my toe into four oceans, 5 seas, 4 Great Lakes, 3 bays, countless lakes, rivers and creeks some fed by glaciers and some saturated with salt. I’ve walked below sea level and walked on mountain summits. I looked at the weird and wacky and stood before history.  If you don’t compare things and accept they are the best version of what they are, you will enjoy everything.

I took a Friday off to visit Lacombe, Alberta because I heard it was charming and there was a great Italian Bakery. A friend of mine told me to eat at the Cilantro and Chai. Except, my hubs hates cilantro and I wanted to go to the Italian Bakery. I have given up carbonated beverages so Blindman’s Brewery was out. This was part of my 18 in 18 adventure: visit 3 small towns around Edmonton. Technically 13,000 people makes Lacombe a city but, it feels like a small town.

We drove directly to McMahon’s Field for the farmer’s market. I love a small town Farmer’s Market! I was at one at Obernai in France and the church bells pealed to welcome everyone to the opening. I also went to a market in Watsonville, California where you could buy bags of avocados for $.99!!! The common thread of all these markets were the interesting people I met.

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Lacombe’s market was filled with people saying good morning and chatting about their wares. I met a man who made rings from coins, but not Canadian coins because that would be criminal activity. I had wanted a ring made from the 1967 Canadian animal collection. But no luck, he won’t break the law no matter how charming you think you are, however, he did showed me some really cool rings made from Australian coins with their animals on it.

I also learned about whipped honey vs clear honey. I bought $7 worth of whipped honey to support bee keepers in Alberta, but honestly, the truth is I love honey and it helps to keep my allergies under control. Bonus reason: it is the choice food of Winnie the Pooh, so it was a staple in our home while my son was growing up.

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After the market we ventured to the main street. It is the home to several Edwardian structures that have been restored and loving looked after. At the Denike Block a dispersant sale was on. A couple was selling off all his mother’s items now that she had passed. The mother wanted all her children and grandchildren to keep these things, but they were so worn and not useable any longer and I am sure not the to the taste of the grandchildren. The Daughter-in-Law was determined to take everything to the dump. All I could think of was how things only hold meaning for the owner. I have downsize by truckful and continue to give things away to people who are looking for items. The last thing I want is for someone to have to deal with my suff. I wished the sellers well and continued on my journey.

We found a back alley full of murals that were beautifully painted and it played mind tricks on me. The perspective was well done, it seemed as if there was actual corners and streets in the images.

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We stopped for lunch at the Italian Bakery, Sweet Capone’s . Best known for its cannolis. I have a friend who turned me onto the wonders of mortadella and I saw a sandwich made with that, provolone and aioli. It was fantastic. I paired it with a lavender steamer and salted caramel cannoli. It was a beautiful lunch.

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Sweet Capon’e was rocking with people lined up for cannolis. It was a Friday afternoon and you could tell this was the hot spot. It is definitely a bakery I would drive to again. The samples were huge, so I tried one. It was the best thing I had ever put in my mouth.

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It was easy to decided what flavour, salted caramel was the only choice for me. I briefly considered vanilla because I love vanilla, the most underrated flavour on the planet! My hubs had chocolate. We shared a bit with each other to taste test who had the better flavour. I obviously did, although he disagreed, I don’t love chocolate anything except Cadbury chocolate bars. Perhaps I wasn’t the best judge of the chocolate cannoli.

My lavender steamer or Lavendeto di Assisi translated via google says washing of Assisi. I think it should be Lavender of Assisi and think google is wrong. I suspect it is culinary lavender from the garden and not from Assisi, but it was delicate and lovely no matter what the translation or location.

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After lunch we explored a little further and found a working Black Smith shop, two museums and a park with a ping pong table. Lacombe is worth the drive from Edmonton for a little visit or as a stop for lunch instead of Red Deer’s Gasoline Ally when you are on your way to or from Calgary. It is a charming little city.

18 for ’18: Rockin’ Robyn’s Diner

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My Papa Bear is 19 years older than me and he just had his 70th birthday. It was one of those moments where I realized I think of him as the young guy sitting beside me on Main Street in Disneyland waiting for the Electrical Light Parade. I was six so that would make him twenty five. I think of dad with dark brown hair, tall, fun, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I then see my dad and realize he is 70. it always knocks the air out of me.

My mom appreciates finer cuisine, so its fun to take her to high-end brunch places. We went to Café Linnea for her birthday. My dad however, loves a really great diner. Old school diners that are decked out in vintage items. I had heard great things about Rockin Robyn’s Diner and knew the wait could be long to eat there. If we went early, I didn’t think it would be too bad. I put it on my 18 in ’18 for two reasons:

  • She spells her name correctly with a Y
  • I heard she was an Alice in Wonderland fan. I am a Disney fan so I suspected we were kindred spirits.

We arrived at 9 (not early but whatever…) to a line up at the door. There were 4 parties ahead of us. We were given a pager and decided to wait outside. 20 minutes later, it was out turn.

We were seated at a table beside the large mural and Dad noted, “I have never been to a drive-in that had any of those fancy muscle cars. Never. Where did people think young guys got the money for something like that?” Good point dad. But the art on the walls was interesting. There was a juke box at the other end of the diner and it was playing 80’s rock. This reminded my daughter of a great story about The Salt and Pepper Diner. Give it a listen, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s hilarious.

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We looked over at the lunch counter and surmised they make a great milkshake because of the equipment sitting there. The decor was fun too, black and white checked tiles, Alice in Wonderland items, retro ceiling fans and red booths!

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We ordered coffee and checked out the menu, coffee was straight up and good, this isn’t a latte and cappuccino kind of place. The waitress was sassy and hilarious. I am pretty sure she is my spirit animal, or at the very least me in a parallel life. I asked her to marry me after some fantastic zingers she through at my dad. She was his kind of waitress too. Fun, efficient and the right amount of sass you expect at a diner.

There were five of us and we ordered Eggs Benedict, a stack of pancakes with eggs and sausage, waffles , and mom can’t be easy and order a menu item so she went with 3 sides. We waited ten minutes at most before massive portions arrived before us.

Every dish came with fresh fruit and eggs were made to order. The food was delicious and I immediately understood why this place was so popular. My dad raved about this place and loved every minute of it. Excellent  value all around!

After breakfast we went to the counter to pay and were given tiny little candies that said “Eat Me”. I was over the moon with the Alice in Wonderland reference. We were told there is a Alice in Wonderland Mother’s Day Tea Party that happens every year too. Mom and I will have to remember to check that out next year.

Now I think I want to give lunch a try or maybe a milkshake. If you haven’t been before, I recommend it. I think it’s the best diner fare in the city.

You can find it in west Edmonton at 16604 B- 109 Ave or give them a call 780-756-5656

 

 

18 for ’18: The Totem Project

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One of my photography goals this year was to work on a project that documented totem poles. I didn’t have any reason for this other than I am fascinated with First Nations art and having a project to work on keeps my brain and body active. It encourages me to explore parts of my city or country that I hadn’t been to before.

I had to do some research on where to find them. I knew about two in Edmonton, and one of those was removed from CFRN. So that left one, the totem pole at Government House. fullsizeoutput_21b9I had seen it in passing so I was aware of it. I learned the CRFN Sunwapta pole was restored and will be apart of the new Royal Alberta Museum when it opens (it could be a rumour, but I have a reliable source). I was surprised to learn there was a totem pole on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. fullsizeoutput_23f5I went there all the time and wasn’t aware of it. Captain and I trudged through the snow to see it. It is 50 years old and is ageing well. I suspect the Province will take it down as it becomes more decrepit rather than let it die a natural death or even restore it. I went to the Stollery children’s hospital to do some research for a piece I am writing and discovered the Totem Pole there!fullsizeoutput_244b It was covered in butterflies and was beautiful. It will live a long and healthy life by being placed indoors. On that same trip, I went to the healing garden in the Mazankowski Hospital. A pole is placed there only it isn’t First Nations, but rather from India. It also was beautiful and not technically what I was looking for, I photographed it because it was beautiful. IMG_9198The last pole I found in Edmonton was the mighty Thunderbird located at the home of the Thunderbird’s, Ross Shepherd High School. I realized I was also aware of this guy but never entered it into my consciousness. fullsizeoutput_268cIt is located next to Coronation Pool and the Telus World of Science, so I often drive by it, but as with so many things, you see things but never notice them. This is why I like working on these projects. I want to notice everything and not just see them in passing.

My travels in the spring took me to the west coast. This part of the country is filled with totem poles. I visited the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and learned why First Nation’s art is so prolific on the west coast. It was logically explained to me. When the ocean tide rolls out, the ground is laid out in a banquet of seafood. More than you could possibly eat in a day. When food is there and not needing to be worked for, there is time and energy to be creative. This is why the art is plentiful. It was a beautiful concept. I learned the history of the poles and why they are rarely restored and often left to die where they stand. It isn’t from neglect, it is because the tree has a spirit and it lends itself to the carving. Out of respect and thanks, it is left to live out its natural life and die when it is ready. fullsizeoutput_2510I imagine some poles have been reclaimed by the land throughout the forests and they lay there becoming homes for plants and small critters. fullsizeoutput_2412We explored the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia, fullsizeoutput_24f3saw the totems at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, fullsizeoutput_2489stumbled onto one on Granville Island, fullsizeoutput_24ecwent into the Fairmont Pacific Rim to see the three totems in the lobby fullsizeoutput_25c4and looked at Capilano Suspension bridge’s extensive private collection. We drove the Sea to Sky Highway and found more along the way and in Whistler. fullsizeoutput_2591Welcome Poles were placed around the village, and then we found one at the Cultural Centre. fullsizeoutput_264dI decided I have favourites. The ones I am attracted to poles that are without paint. The beauty of the wood on its own was enough for me. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, the irony of being drawn to Raven is not lost on me. I purchased Raven art and a bookmark to keep him with me.
My entire project can be found here or over on Instagram by searching #totemproject.

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