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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November

October went by in a blink and I did participate and experience some cool things like looking at street art in St. Albert. Tell me this isn’t the coolest bench you have ever seen?

I checked out more Provincial Parks and went to Pembina River with my pal Cap.

I had warm cookies and milk at Confections Cake Company  – the best cookies I ever had that I didn’t bake.

I went to Soul Speak in St. Albert and met wonderful people, joined a meditation circle and won a book! YAY, I love winning things!

Now I am looking to November and thinking about the possibilities as winter begins to set it. I am not wanting to feel like I am housebound so I have made some plans and am going to see The Waitress at the Jubilee, but I also hope to get to see the Six before it goes to Broadway.  I am looking forward to exploring Edmonton as the mood hits me. As usual, I have listed some fun free things to do in Edmonton and the surrounding area as well as keep you posted on the festivals that are happening around our city.

  1. Gotta Minute film festival. November 4-10, 2019 Explore Edmonton hasn’t listed this but you should take part anyways. One minute silent shorts will be shown on LRT platforms and the Stanley Milner Library. This is a great opportunity for me to get to the new library and see it’s weirdness in person. You can watch the films via the web page but in person is better for the true experience. Plus – free festivals ARE THE BEST!
  2. All is Bright! November 16, 6:00 PM Helen Nolan Park will have a light ceremony all apart of the All is Bright Festival down at 124 street. I have never been to this festival but I have plans this year to attend. Plus I have a feeling we are in for a mild winter – so it will feel great to be outside! Or at least fingers crossed about the milder winter.
  3. Winter Whyte Light Up, Nove 30, 4:00- 7:00 at Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park
    8331 104 St NW, Edmonton. Lights, Farmers MArket and other seasonal offerings happening courtesy of the Old Strathcona Business Association.
  4. The Downtown City market is now open at the old GWG building. Located on 97 street.

Festivals

November is packed with festivals to participate in, the problem is finding time to do them all. Not all of them are free and actually, not very many are free. Here is a quick list of happenings around our community:

  1. Festival of Trees 
  2. Edmonton Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival
  3. All is Bright Festival
  4. Festival of Carols
  5. Conservatory Fall Music Festival
  6. Dickens Fest
  7. Zoominescence: A Festival of Light at the Valley Zoo
  8. St. Albert Snowflake Festival
  9. Enchanted Forest Fort Saskatchewan 
  10. Festival of Trees Sherwood Park
  11. Festival of Trees Leduc
  12. Christmas in Central Park Spruce Grove

 

Get out and explore your community Edmonton!

Edmonton Tourist: Fort Victoria Provincial Historic Park

Who among you is unaware that there were Forts along the North Saskatchewan river other than Fort Edmonton. Show of hands, please. I knew I couldn’t be the only one. When you go to Fort Edmonton, they talk about the york boats heading towards Hudson Bay. No one told me about Fort Victoria, Fort Pitt or Fort Carlton. I knew about Fort Garry because when in Winnepeg that’s what you do, you visit Fort Garry, see Louis Reil statues and eat a Manitoba Weiner. But there were other Forts??

When the hubs and I visited Smoky Lake for the Pumpkin Festival, we saw a sign for Victoria Provincial Historic Park. The hubs has been researching his family history (it is rich with Metis culture) and he mentioned Victoria being a Metis settlement. I suggested we stop by on our way back to the city.

Since it is a provincial historic site, I am counting it as a provincial park. It is supported and maintained by Alberta Parks so I think it counts towards my project. You can see all the Alberta Provincial Parks I have written about in the sidebar.

As we drove towards the area, I was trying to recall if I had been along the North Saskatchewan River east of Edmonton. I’ve been to Prince Albert, Sask. where the rivers merge about 40km east but honestly other than Battleford, Saskatchewan, I don’t think I have seen it other than the headwaters in the Rockies. Plus I’ve paddled it from Nordegg to Devon. I love our muddy river and it feels like home to me. Seeing it east of Edmonton was a wonderful experience for me. It looks the same. The valley feels the same. It’s my river so I felt like I was home.

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We turned east on Victoria Trail east of highway 855. All along the river were Metis river lots. You could tell the boundaries by the trees dividing the lots or they were fenced off.

ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lots circa 1878∞, pronounced (EE-NU) River Lot. ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) is a Cree word meaning “I am of the Earth”. The Victoria Settlement is situated on ancestral lands of the Indigenous peoples whose descendants entered into Treaty with the British Crown resulting in the territory opening for settlement. It was home to temporary camps built by the Cree. The Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and an influx of Métis settlers arrived a few years later and Methodist Mission established by George McDougall.

The Victoria Settlement and Metis Crossing were closed for the season, but still accessible to visitors. The interpretive programs were closed. Archeologists have found evidence of Cree peoples six thousand years ago. Think about that. Canada is a country that is 152 years old. We are hardly the founders, just people laying claim to a land that didn’t belong to us.

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We stopped first at Metis Crossing. Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive center in Alberta.

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The area along the river was divided into river lots showing how the settlement emerged from Cree lands. It’s easy to see why indigenous people lived here. Easy access to the river, hills to the north proving shelter from the harsh winter. Plus a natural animal corridor for hunting. Eventually, it was farmed and now the surrounding area is all farmland. In the summer months, the Metis Crossing Interpretive Centre offers voyageur canoe tours of the river. If you have never experienced a paddle down the river, I highly recommend it. The perspective changes the way you think about the land.

After we looked around the crossing a bit, we went back on Victoria Trail and headed east towards Victoria Settlement.

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It is an easy loop walking tour beginning with the methodist church established in 1878. Apparently, George McDougall was instrumental in negotiating Treaty 6 for the Indigenous peoples. Whether that was good or not, it’s hard to know. They did receive a better deal than Treaty 4 but John A McDonald was not about fairness.

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The timbers layout the fort boundaries, The Hudson’s Bay Company opened Fort Victoria in 1864 to serve as a post for the eastern trade out of Fort Edmonton. This is the Clerk’s Quarters. By 1890 the Fort had been reduced to five buildings and a rail fence. The Clerk’s Quarters is apparently the oldest original building on its original site in Alberta.

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Cree Cheif James Seenum, also known as Chef Pakan signed Treaty Six at Fort Pitt in 1976 and obtained reserves for his people at Whitefish Lake and at Saddle Lake. Before the treaty was accepted there was a debate, negotiation and some foreboding. Chiefs Seenum and Big Bear pressed for a single large Cree reserve of over 2500 square km (1000 square miles), which could support peoples’ hunting and trapping. For many years after the signing, Seenum believed that his people had been promised this much larger reserve. As late as 1882 Seenum travelled with Peter Erasmus to Regina to see the Indian Commissioner to press his claim for a central reserve. During the 1885 Rebellion, he counselled his people against joining Big Bear’s band in the conflict but also refused to let his people aid the Canadian military. * Source Victoria Settlement.

Treelines and fence lines show the delineation of the river lots still visible today.

This historic park is located in such a beautiful area of the province, nestled alongside the banks of the North Saskatchewan. I recommend a visit here during the summer and check out the different programs offered to visitors. then head over to Metis Crossing for a paddle on the river.

 

Sankalpa

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I have been trying a lot of new things lately in an effort to find my tribe, my people, my kindred spirits. If you watch Anne with an E on Netfilx/CBC or have even read the book or series by LM Montgomery, then you know what I am looking for.

kin·dred spir·it
/ˈkindrid ˈspirit/
noun
plural noun: kindred spirits
  1. a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own.
    “I longed to find a kindred spirit”

     

I have always been the odd duck surrounded by people who want to hang out with me. I am the stranger in a room full of friends. Since forever I have looked for people who think like me and who share the same values.  Sharing the same interests is nice but not a requirement. I have always wanted to feel or experience a connection knowing they were the person or people who belonged like me. The tricky part is allowing this to happen and to force the situation.

I have tried out various groups and types of people and this has resulted in a very large group or base of people I like to spend time with on occasion. Allowing the situation to unfold is harder for me. I want to influence the direction in an effort to find my tribe.

Have you ever met someone that you feel an instant connection with? All you want to do is spend time with them or think about them a lot. Sometimes their life circumstances don’t match yours so you need to be apart or they are surrounding themselves with people who don’t fit with you. The hard part for me is not controlling the situation so they align better with me. Just allowing it to happen is hard for me. Maybe they will return to me or maybe they won’t. Either way, I value the time we had together and miss them when they are not in my life.

Recently I met a woman whom I connected with instantly. We share a common interest and enjoy spending time with each other. Our friendship is new but I have a good feeling about this. She is part of my Tuesday meditation circle and I look forward to attending regularly for a lot of different reasons, allowing life to unfold is a major part of why I want to attend. It has taken me 52 years to figure the art of allowing. Sitting in allowing is a new thing for me. Saying yes when an invitation arises is part of that and saying no when I feel uncomfortable is also important.

I have reached 1050 days of consecutive meditation using only three Sankalpa during that time frame. I was meditating irregularly since 1992. I started a daily practice on December 13, 2016. I sit in meditative silence for 30 minutes a day and an hour and a half when time allows for it – like weekends and vacations. I recite my Sankalpa three times to begin my meditation and offer gratitude. I end each meditation with my Sankalpa and an offering of gratitude. Three years ago, my intent was to be less angry or at least have somewhere to put the anger. I began every meditation with ‘I am forgiveness’.  Over time the anger subsided and I began to feel calm or neutral towards those who I felt anger towards. When I could think about those people without emotion, I knew I was able to move onto the next Sankalpa. That is not to say I don’t experience anger because I do, but it comes and goes like a leaf on a stream. I watch it as if I am detached. I see the anger and ask myself, what do I need to learn from this. It has been transformative and I am grateful. 

My next Sankalpa taught me about self-love and self-care. I cannot believe in me if I don’t care about me. I had a lifetime of believing what others said to me or about me. The greatest advice I ever received was “It is none of your business what other people think about you.” I sat with my Sankalpa ‘I am loved‘ since February 2019. The biggest change I see in me is boundaries. I don’t let bad things happen to me because I say no. I put me first and take care of me. This allows me to take care of others because my well is full. You can’t be kind if your well is empty.

In July a big change happened. I went back to my Sankalpa of forgiveness briefly and then resumed I am loved because I needed boundaries and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I think about 5-year-old me and she needs me to do this. So I sat daily. I found I needed a longer time in meditation. I gave myself that gift of time and went longer. I can’t explain what goes on for me during meditation because it is an experience that no one else has. Your experience will differ from mine, but we are all connecting because going inward is where all the answers are.

I began my ‘I am allowing’ Sankalpa about mid-September. I watch things float on a leaf down the stream. It is calm and peaceful in allowing. I am detached from anger and hate. I experience joy and happiness at a rate and volume I have never experienced before. I have no idea what is around the corner for me, but meditating daily for the last 1050 days has provided me with a gift I cannot explain in words. I seek out things and people that bring me joy. I allow situations I cannot control to wash over me. I ask myself ‘What do I need to learn from this’ when situations become uncomfortable. The inner me always has an answer. I trust my intuition and I know I got this. On my desk, I have a note I look at daily, “I am meant to live in peace”. You are too. It’s awesome living in peace. I want it for you too.

I am pretty sure it all starts with forgiveness.

Edmonton Tourist: Street Art

Last week I told you about that amazing pumpkin pie…yes I still think about how great it was. After pie, I mean coffee, my friend and I headed out on the streets of Edmonton to explore the murals that have been popping up all over the city. Our focus was to stay downtown. The range was 96 street to 113 street east-west, 107 Ave to 100 ave north-south. We drove because it would take us all day on foot and quite frankly, I would have been done by mural number four.

We made a list of 11 murals but saw 21 because there are more in Edmonton than located on Rust Magic’s website.      I posted our list because I have had a lot of people message me about the locations since posting some images on Instagram.

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I have to say a lot of these murals are in a rougher part of Edmonton. The Capital City Clean Up project’s focus is to bring art to the streets and clean up graffiti. You can read about that reason here. Not all of the murals are for that reason, but honestly, I don’t care about ‘why’, only happy its now a thing. We met some very interesting people along the way.

The first place we went to was the bottle depot.

We noticed First Nations and street art influences on the murals.

Next, we travelled here and met three women travelling around downtown also taking photos of the murals.

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We parked across the street to take this photo and behind us overlooking Little Italy was this one:

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While I was looking at this one, a man who lived in the area came to chat with us, asked for some coins and then told us to stay beautiful. More people need to end conversations with ‘Stay Beautiful’.

We travelled west to find the next spot.

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We stood and looked at this one for a long time. There was a lot to take in. I wish I could read Russian, who can tell me what this mural says? Is that Bruce Lee? And tigers are underrated.

We were close to a few more so we walked a bit.

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Do you think those sunflowers were an afterthought to clean up tags? Or were they part of the original piece? This is clearly First Nations but around the corner is an African piece.

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This piece had me at the swirly sparkly bits (scientific name).

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Across from that is the Scottish Highlands mural. Obviously, this is the Avenue of Nations.

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Look at this detail, even the electrical outlet was painted at one point.

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When we stopped to check out the mermaids, two fellows asked us if we were developers looking to put in a new condo or something on the casino land. Why can’t we leave things green? These fellows were great. We chatted a speculated with them for a bit.

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The mermaids weren’t my thing, plus they seem super vain. But shout out to my former University in the background!

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Over to Oliver for this classic wall shot. I made my friend pose for me. I like the custodian closet. But the easel was cool too.

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Then we moved into the downtown core. Why are there red splotches are cartoon hands? Was there an explosion? Did Mickey Mouse do this? It was really orange – this photo doesn’t do it justice. Behind this wall was my favourite piece. It was layered with graffiti both intentional and new tags, plus the horses and angels were spectacular. I looked at this for a long time discovering new details.

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Those horses, the muscle detail moved me.

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Not my style at all. Male fantasy for everyone to see. If it had sound, it would be loud.

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She haunts me. This mural is on the side of Chez Pierre. Chez Pierre is still open? Edmonton’s underbelly.

South of Jasper was the next series.

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I liked this a lot. It reminded me of Mr. Doodle and his black sharpie work. Touch can make you feel better. It’s a lovely sentiment.

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I took this through a chainlink fence. The slope made it trippy to find level. This is by the men’s hostel.

Then we crossed the road to find the Famous Five.

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For the last part of the tour, we headed back to the Boyle Street area – we missed a few but honestly, we were fading.

This guy made me think of Guardians of the Galaxy and now that’s all I see. You’re welcome.

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Over to  iHuman for this piece:

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Strawberry blossoms should be on everyone’s wall. Who can tell me what this Cree word says?

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This is found at the Sally Ann.

Then finally we made it to the Armature and spotted this:

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The combination of the mural and the ghost signs was amazing. I loved the detail in this and we stared at it for a long time too, but then I was cold and hungry and tired, so we called it a day. Tell me which mural was your favourite and if you have been to see it in person.

There are three other sections of murals I want to tour:

  • Alberta Avenue
  • Old Strathcona
  • 124 Street

Perhaps I can persuade my pal to join me on further mural adventure. Take an afternoon and get out an explore Edmonton!

 

 

Home

Have you ever gone back to your childhood home and just stared at it? I know so many people that go home to the house they grew up and don’t even think about it. Their parents lived there all their life and it’s home’. 

I lived in a few homes in Sherwood Park and when my parents moved into the city, my mom asked if I was going to be home for Christmas dinner. I asked her if the new people would mind if we all showed up for dinner. Home didn’t feel like their new house because I didn’t live there. Home was the house on the hill. A lot of things are pointing me back to the nostalgic parts of my life. I don’t get out to Sherwood Park anymore. I was in there visiting a friend and decided I would take a tour of all the old places and see how they differ from my memory.

My first stop was my high school. It’s not a high school anymore, it’s now the school that was by the traffic circle and now it’s here. When I was in grade two I lived across the street from it and now there is a playground in the rugby field. My first thought was, huh, I wonder how many pet bones they dug up. That playground did not exist. There was an empty rugby field in its place. It was a pet cemetery for me and all our friends. we had funerals ALL THE TIME. Mostly for frogs and birds, sometimes worms, but there are a few hamsters and two puppies buried there, or were.

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Then I stopped at Great Oaks I. When we moved back here from the North West Territories this was the house I remembered. We didn’t live here long, just long enough to have a super fun summer with lots of friends. I am still friends with one of the fellows. We reconnected years later. Thanks Running Room!

From that house, we moved to Glen Allan and my next stop.

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I drove by my elementary school and jr high first. I met Jean Vanier and at the time I hadn’t the foggiest who he was. If you don’t know, here is some info. He spoke French and was very kind. I was sad to note a parking lot where the outdoor hockey rink used to be. But the trees and playgrounds all looked the same. I met some very nice humans here and two influential teachers, Mrs. Anderson and Mr. Gleason. I am still in touch with some old friends who I met here. Thanks Facebook!

My house looks very different. First off, all the trees my dad planted are gone. Secondly…what the heck is happening with the wood? My house had white roman columns and green shutters. There was a patio out front with a lawn swing. We sat out there every day after supper and rocked back and forth with my mom and dad. I loved that swing. My room was the window on the bottom left. That was where the swing was. I made a fortune babysitting in the neighbourhood and because I was a money miser, I never needed loans for university. Thanks Neighbours!

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I then went to my home when I was three. I remember the friends I met and became Danger Girl in that house. I connected with a friend at Smokey Lake Pumpkin fair, I first met her on this street. I loved everything about living here. There is a fish buried in that yard and ghosts living across the street, probably because the fish. This place is still beautiful and I would consider moving in today. Pretty great for a 50-year-old complex! The memories are stellar from here. Look how happy the door is? My room was the upper right window. I swear the fence is exactly the same. Thanks Greenwood Village!

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My grandparents, both sets, lived not too far away from this house. So I decided to stop by and see what their houses look like now that my grandparents are no longer there.

I learned to build kites that would lift your feet off the ground in that garage. This house used to have red cedar siding. That’s how I remember it. It was the original showhome in Sherwood Park – or rather Campbelltown. One owner for 60 bazillion years. I ate macaroni and drank coffee in that kitchen. It was home to a print shop and the house always smelled of ink and paper. It is still one of my favourite smells. Thanks Grandpa!

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This house is where I walked to every day after school. I would sit at the table and drink tea with my great-grandma. I had my fifth birthday party in that house. I watched a lot of football and learned football minutes are longer than real minutes. I learned you could either love the Eskimos or the Riders but you had to choose. Loyalty is important.  My great-grandma taught me to count to 100 and how to talk to children so they think they are special and important. I cry when I think about how wonderful she was to me. The house used to be brown. I swear I saw my gram walking up the steps in her blue Sunday best holding her cane as I stood there looking at that house. If that house came up for sale, I would consider buying it. Thanks Little Gram!

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Nothing has changed and everything has changed. It was fun strolling down memory lane. I should have brought my siblings. Next time.

 

Edmonton Tourist: The Moth Cafe

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I had a date with one of my favourite humans. We get together sporadically and explore the city. Our plan was to visit the art walls of Edmonton that are popping up all over the place but first, we needed (?) wanted (?) desired coffee.

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The Moth is a plant-based cafe located at 9449 Jasper Ave. It has a smallish parking lot but there is street parking all over the place downtown. I had never been, but I had seen it all over Instagram from my vegetarian friends. There was even a post from a friend who was laying in a hammock that resided in the cafe’s corner. Sadly the hammock is gone to make way for more tables. Thankfully for us, the extra table gave us a place to sit on the stage because this place was packed. To be fair, it was Sunday morning and all kinds of people are at great cafes on a Sunday morning for brunch.

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There was lots to choose from but only one real choice for me.

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I had an almond milk latte and a piece of pumpkin pie because pumpkin pie is the BEST! My friend had a coconut milk latte and a peanut butter chocolate cupcake.

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The coffee was fine but the pie was the best thing I have ever eaten and I think of it often. Thoughts like….what was that secret ingredient that made it taste so good? cream cheese? lemon? silken tofu? I have no idea, but I wish I was Chris Morocco and could recreate it.  I love it so much, I think I will call them and order a whole pie for the weekend’s non-thanksgiving dinner. My friend’s cupcake was fine but she loved her coffee. Overall I hear great things about the food in this place and I would definitely go back.

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Edmonton is a foodie’s paradise. The Moth Cafe is another great place to sit, eat and visit on a Sunday morning. I am sure you will find me there on another day. Come by and say hi, bring a fork so we can share.

Pie

It is a big weekend here in Canada. Most people will celebrate Thanksgiving, and by celebrate, I mean eat turkey and pie. I invited my parents to join us for Thanksgiving dinner back in September. They are continuing their adventures overseas and are currently in France somewhere near Versailles.

Thanksgiving Days Past barely registers a blip on my radar. We always went to my grandmother’s home and family would come from across Canada. It all changed once my grandfather died. I didn’t really want to go anymore because the dynamic was different. I still went for a few more years, but then I stopped getting invited, so I stopped asking to come. There are three times a year when I think of grandpa most, Canada Day, his birthday and Thanksgiving. Those were his favourite holidays.

I am back to loving the holiday dinner again. It was wonderful having my parents join me and my family. We sat around the table and ate turkey, cabbage rolls, stuffing, carrots and homemade rolls. I destroyed the cranberry sauce by burning it to a crisp. There was a time when that would send me into a panic, and I would make the hubs run to the store for fresh supplies. This year I said, “oh well, no cranberry sauce this year”. This proves to me that my meditation practice and mindfulness techniques are working for me.  I did make homemade pies because pies are my superpower. I am much better at baking than I am at cooking. Some people say there isn’t a difference, but I disagree. I do think some people are good at one or the other.

I am a baker.

Usually, I am somewhere in British Columbia in the fall and manage to visit a pumpkin patch and purchase a few sugar pumpkins, my favourite for pies. I travelled to Smokey Lake Pumpkin fair looking for said pumpkins but honestly, the pumpkin selection was terrible. The alpaca wool selection was AMAZING! If you are looking for wool, that is the place to be, if you are looking for sugar pumpkins, not so much. I heard a rumour Safeway has some sugar pumpkins – or at least they are called pie pumpkins, I will investigate the difference but I have tins of ED Smith pumpkin in my pantry so I think I will just simplify my pie for the weekend. After all, Thanksgiving is over for me.

I have had requests for more recipes sprinkled into my blogs. So dear reader, I share my Pumpkin Pie with you. But first – pie alternatives.

Pie alternatives

  • You can bake the pie filling in a casserole dish or pie tin without the crust for a gluten-free experience or for those people who just don’t want the crust. This is one of the few pies that will still behave like a pie without the crust.
  • Sprinkle white sugar over top and use a torch to brulee it. The secret to a great crackle top after you torch one layer, add another layer of sugar and torch it again.
  • Crush pecans or your nut of choice and sprinkle on the bottom before adding your pie filling. I like to toss the nuts in maple syrup.
  • Adding ¼ cup of cream cheese adds richness and tang if that’s your thing. Sometimes I like to do this and will include orange zest.
  • Pie filling spread over phyllo pastry and rolled into a log. The spiral it into a greased pie dish. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sanding sugar. You’re welcome.
  • Add pie filling to your cinnamon buns before you roll them up for baking. This takes cinnamon rolls to the next level.

 

Pie things to keep in mind:

  • The type of pumpkin you use is important. If you are not roasting sugar pumpkins, then use ED Smith or Libby pumpkin purée. NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING. The difference is huge and worth it.
  • Use one tin of evaporated milk and supplement with whole milk or half and half. I have used full cream, as in whipping cream and that was decadent. Never use skim or 1% milk, the pumpkin custard needs fat.
  • Crust – I use butter to make my crust, cold butter. I blind bake by docking the crust and using pie weights – I use kidney beans I use over parchment paper – I reuse the kidney beans for every pie crust blind bake, I think my beans are several years old.
  • Crust part II – feel free to use a frozen deep-dish crust. I do sometimes because it’s quick. To make it taste like homemade, thaw completely and transfer into your pie plate. Same rules as above.
  • Always bake your pies on a baking sheet. It saves your oven from spills but more importantly it helps brown your bottom.
  • Nutmeg is the devil… I never add it

Pumpkin Puree

Cut and seed pumpkins. Cut into manageable chunks and place flesh side down in a roaster. Add one cup of water to the bottom. Preheat your oven to 400F and place the pumpkin on the center rack for one hour. When done it will be fork-tender.

Remove flesh from the outer shell and mash in a bowl. It is at this point I place into two cup mason jars and process. I make about six jars of pumpkin. My pal Captain loves pumpkin, so I always reserve some for him. Apparently, pumpkin is good for dogs and they love it. Don’t add salt or sugar until you are ready to use in recipes.

 

Pie Filling (for 2 pies)

 

4 eggs

1 can (398 mL) EDSMITH Pumpkin OR two cups of your own fresh pumpkin puree.

2 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar

1 tbs (5 mL) ground cinnamon

2 tsp (1 mL) ground ginger

1/2 tsp (1 mL) salt

1 ½  cup (175 mL) milk. Use one tin of evaporated milk and top up with milk or cream of your choice.

Beat eggs lightly in a medium bowl.  Add the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt – stir until well combined. Blend in milk. Pour filling in pie shell. Whisk together egg and water – brush the egg wash on crust.

Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and continue baking 30-35 minutes longer or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool. Best served the next day – this lets the spices mingle. I serve with brandy cream (whipping cream, brandy and icing sugar – all to taste and whip until soft peak stage).

Edmonton Tourist: Smoky Lake Pumpkin Fair

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The first Saturday in October, Smoky Lake Alberta hosted the 31st annual Pumpkin Fair. I had never been. Since I haven’t been on much of a vacation this year, I thought I would continue the ‘Alberta Staycations’ I have been experiencing.

Smoky Lake is about an hour and a half northeast of Edmonton. The hubs and I stopped at Tim Hortons for breakfast and steeped tea ( I might be the only Canadian who doesn’t enjoy their coffee but they make EXCELLENT steeped tea) and headed north-ish.

I love a good road trip.

There was a long convoy of vehicles travelling from Edmonton to this small town. Since we had no idea where we were going, we followed them. That took us to the school that hosted the Farmer’s Market.

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There was a part two to the market down at the gazebo which we would visit later. The first impression was, damn Smoky Lake residents, good on you for supporting this event in full force. I am sure the entire town was here plus visitors from surrounding areas and Edmonton. I knew many people who came to this but only saw their Instagram posts, I didn’t run into them.

The lines for the market tables were slow. One woman asked the vendor where the farmer’s market was, and he laughed and said – you are here. To be fair, it was really a craft fair, the farmer part was down the hill.

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So many people and lots of quilts, candles and indigenous creations from beadwork to moccasins. The knitted sweaters and alpaca woollens were stunning! This is where I ran into an old friend I’ve known for 50 years.

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We took the obligatory selfies and then she and her hubs were kind enough to show us around the fair! To be honest, I was grateful. This place felt overwhelming for me, plus it was fun to catch up.

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We left the busy school and climbed down the hill towards the midway and gazebo where Famer’s Market part II took place.

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There were fewer farmer stalls than I expected. I think the bulk of the growers were in the building that charged admission. This was where the pumpkins and gourds compete for largest.

But…

There were some amazing things to see.

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If I played cribbage, I would be all over these. It made me think of Sundays at my grandpa’s house. He would break out the cribbage board and play his boys before dinner. I wish I could have given him a set.

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We found wine – even hemp wine!

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We found alpaca wool galore. I bought three dry balls to try those out. I am on a quest to reduce single-use plastics and unnecessary chemicals. Goodbye fabric softener, hello wolley dryer balls.

I fell in love with alpaca shawls and took the producer’s card so I can call her when I free up some cash flow after Christmas.

After we looked at all the vendors, we went out towards the midway.

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It brought back memories of Sherwood Park’s Medieval Days where my friends and I would hang out on a Friday and Saturday night each summer.

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By this time it was getting late and we needed to be back in the city for dinner with a friend, plus we wanted to visit the Victoria Settlement provincial historic site. So we bid each other goodbye and did a drive-by of the show and shine downtown.

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Hearses were out! That is a proper car for a pumpkin fair show and shine!

I am sad to report that I didn’t stick around for the giant pumpkin weigh-off or the smashing pumpkin, but this photo from RaisingEdmonton.com will give you the idea of the size and scope of these beauties. 1500+ lbs. How great would that be for a jack-o-lantern?

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If you missed it this year, pop it into your calendar for 2020, the first Saturday of October. It’s worth a visit.

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