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: 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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Edmonton Tourist: September Staycations

I get a lot of questions from people who live beyond the borders of Edmonton. I’m asked about things to do in Edmonton beyond the MALL. Questions about transit and accommodations or best places to eat. Honestly – I don’t take transit, nor do I stay in a hotel because my bed is super comfy and free. Other than offering my place to stay, I thought a monthly guide of things I might do in Edmonton might be of interest to actual tourists and locals alike.

If I was visiting my beautiful city I would stay central. Airbnb or an actual bed and breakfast in Old Strathcona, Windsor Park, Oliver or Glenora would be my first choices. Hotels downtown or Strathcona would also be on my radar if I didn’t have a car. That way walking or transit would be easier. I would want to be closest to the river valley or arts districts.

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I would consider coming in the summer during festival season. To be fair, Edmonton has festivals all year long with the Flying Canoe in February being my favourite (but the weather is TERRIBLE! It is often -40C), but the Fringe and The Works are a close second. September has Kaleido and that is charming too! I am seeing an Arts and Cultural theme here…maybe I have a severe bias.

I rank a restaurant on their breakfast menu, coffee or wine list. I am not hip and trendy, but I enjoy a great meal (mostly breakfast) and a really great cup of coffee. My favourites include but are not limited to, Café Bicyclette, Workshop Eatery, Little Brick, Sugar Bowl, Juniper Bistro and Mandolin.

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My favourite things to do are usually free or a nominal fee. You can often find me poking around any public art installation, browsing used book shops, exploring the river valley, visiting the art gallery, Royal Alberta Museum, strolling down 124 street or 82 Ave, or attending small community theatre at the Varscona, Westbury, Walterdale or Trinty.

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September has a few things I will be checking out in my city.

  1. I woke up on Sunday morning to learn about the #yegwalk or more formally known as the Commonwealth Walkway. Download the app. As you walk along the walkway you come across medallions and the app gives you voice recordings and photos of the history both colonial and indigenous as well as flora and fauna knowledge. I listened to everything already and have been on the trail thousands of times. It is a great walking tour of my beautiful city. Check it out!
  2. Something newish to the Downtown City Market is Market Sundays! IMG_6638Saturday Market is on 104 street and is my usual favourite outdoor market, plus the little shops along the way (wine and chocolate) can’t be beat for additions to my groceries. I am going to visit the Sunday market for the first time ever. It is located on 103 Ave between 96 street and 97 street. 96 street also is called the Armature – that is new-ish (new to me) and is the City of Edmonton’s first city-led green street.
  3. No Change in the Weather is a Newfoundland musical and will be at the Westbury Theatre running September 25-28. It promises to have traditional Newfoundlander songs and music. I am all for that. I love a good toe-tapper.
  4. This weekend is the Kaleido Festival It is September 13-15 over at Alberta Avenue (118 Ave between 90-95 Street). Billed as a family-friendly arts festival. There is a Front Porch music series. People playing on their front porch! How Edmonton is that? I love it!! I try to go every year. The Friday night lantern parade was super cool and begins at 9:30 pm Friday. It’s worth the price of admission (free). You make lanterns and carry them through the parade. It begins at The Carrot. I will miss it but will be back in town to catch the last bits of the festival on Sunday. While I am there, I am checking out a few of the Public Art pieces at that end of town. You should too because Edmonton is an amazing city.

The Dog-Days of summer in the YEG

It is late August and I look outside thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It’s not like I didn’t do anything. My summer was FULL as in ‘TO THE BRIM’ with fun things and not fun things.

I checked off more 18 in 18 things like visiting another small town. This time I went to Calmar. It is straight west of Leduc and I heard it had a fantastic bakery. The Calmar bakery has been a fixture in this town since 1949. Apparently, the donuts are worth the trip. I respectfully disagree, but the place smelled delicious! There are a few antique shops, a post office and a mural. The fire hydrants are cute. We spent 5 minutes walking the length of the main street and popped into 3 shops. 20 minutes later we were like, “What do you want to do now?” We were fairly close to the University Botanical Gardens so we went there on a rainy day. That made the day worthwhile. Then we stopped off at Bon Ton bakery for a rustic loaf of bread to eat with soup. Next time you find yourself in Calmar…keep driving.

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I saw the moon at the Muttart. The big giant indoor moon. It was amazing.

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I checked out Folk Fest during some of the smokiest days we have had, thanks BC fires. So we live in a dystopian future now. We are past the tipping point of climate change and blue skies have been non-existent here in the blue sky capital of Canada. Its been blazes hot and smoky or ice cold and rainy. Everyone is cranky and suffering from SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sun has been a tiny orange disc in the sky.

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We went to Fort Edmonton to recognize Treaty Six Lands and participate in the events there. We learned more about my children’s Métis Heritage, scripts and attended a Pow Wow. This was likely the best day of the summer. The Pow Wow was powerful and moved me to tears. Fort Edmonton goes dark next year for refurbishment, so make sure you catch it this long weekend!

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I spent a day admiring murals that are popping up around my beautiful city! The new one by Holy Roller/El Cortez is a stunner. But what I didn’t know about was the Jill Stanton Piece on the Varscona Theatre. I think that one is my favourite piece.

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I tried out a new brunch place, Pip, for my birthday. It has a great vibe and Tommie our fab server gave me a heavy pour Mimosa to help me celebrate!

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I Fringed! Twice! Some of my best summer memories are Fringing. This year I went to the box office and said, ‘randomly give me something at 8 o’clock.’ We walked to the Garneau and saw Scratch, a long-form improv that was complicated but was neatly wrapped up in a bow during the final scene. It was brillant. These guys have been appearing at the fringe for 14 years. They are worth catching if you see them next year. Risk taking is the best part of fringing. The following day we caught Sad Ass Cabaret. It was SAD – like cry sad. But the narrator could have read me the phonebook and I would have bought a recording. His storytelling abilities were fabulous. I loved it. The music was meh. We bought street-art for a friend my daughter is visiting, we ate green onion cakes because that is a must-do at the fringe. I won a prize on a spin wheel and the dude tried to give it to my daughter instead of me. ‘Um, exCUSE ME???? I won the prize, she is just cute and didn’t do anything.’ An old dude felt the need to explain to me why he was dancing. – Dance on dude! It’s the fringe! Enjoy yourself! I saw a dude in a Sombrero, he may or may not have been a real Mexican but the drunk guy he gave his guitar to could play Nirvana, and that was cool.

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A woman my age or possibly older told me how much she loves my converse. They are my homage to Doctor Who. She seemed envious that I have the courage to wear a shoe that is intended for young people. Listen friend, wear the shoe, eat the green onion cake and always give zero fucks because it’s your life and only you can live it.

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When Fringe ends, it always feels like summer ends. Except for this year, my vacation starts September first, so my summer is not ending until September 15th. I promise not to waste the remaining days of summer.

 

 

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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Tradition

I grew up with December steeped in tradition. We celebrated Christmas hardcore. The Christmas Tree went up the first Sunday in December or as soon as Dad agreed. Christmas Carols began playing on Saturday mornings as background music to house cleaning as soon as the first snow arrived. This could have been September or it could have been November. First Snow meant Christmas music. First snow in Edmonton meant early fall. We had a Christmas party every year and Santa always came. I knew it was one of my grandfathers but still…he came every year.Christmas Eve lunch with one set of grandparents. Chinese food with the other grandparents on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning brunch with my parents and Christmas dinner with my grandma. Every year the dependable comfort of traditional events happened. I loved all of it.

I no longer want to do many of these things and have established my own traditions that focus more on my little family. I prefer simplicity. But one tradition I have kept from my childhood that I look forward to every year is gathering up the family and exploring the city to look at Christmas lights.

I find fewer people decorate their homes or actually, there are more diverse people living in my neighborhood who don’t celebrate Christmas so not every house has lights. (My neighborhood during Diwali is magnificent though!). People are still decorating at Christmas, just not close by. But looking at lights still remains my favorite tradition of my childhood, that and Scottish Shortbread.

My family packed themselves into the car along with my pal Captain, and we went out in search of Christmas Lights. Often we plan to walk through decorated neighborhoods and this year with the mild temperatures would have been perfect. But I am not at my best healthwise so we turned on the seat warmer and rolled the window down to enjoy the weather and lights.

Our first stop was Castrol Raceway. I have no idea if this was the first year for this or it is an annual tradition that I had not heard of, either way, this was fantastic. $25 a carload ($50 for Limo and $125 for a bus). We drove out near the airport and had plenty to look at.

 

Then we traveled to Candy Cane Lane, it is nice but not as spectacular as in Christmas Past.

 

Traditionally we traveled to the Downtown core to look at the old museum grounds, Legislative grounds and City Hall. No Tree this year at Winston Churchill Square because of the construction but the Ledge was beautiful.

But the best was saved for last. Christmas at Bobs was spectacular. Give this website a visit to learn more about it and his wish for you to pay it forward. It is interactive and fun. My girl posed in front of the Angel Wings, and then my pal Cap needed to pose as well. It was hilarious and beautiful. I recommend giving this place a visit and then go do something nice for someone else.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope its special this year. But from my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Giant Flies and other stuff called Art

There is something lovely about a warm September Saturday.

Fall is my favorite time of year. Warm during the day and cool and crisp in the evening. It was the Kaleideo Festival in Edmonton this weekend and my friend and I went. It was an art festival. There is one thing about artists, they are very relaxed and casual.

We arrived down at Alberta Avenue just before noon. Not very much was set up, in fact, people were still setting up booths and exhibits. It was a bustling atmosphere and family friendly…just not much open.

HODA was playing on the main stage, I had heard them before when they visited my school. The food trucks were all over the place. Edmonton has take food trucks to a whole new level. Gone is the Gut Truck theme and now it is gourmet fair with tantalizing yummies. I passed and moved on to the Artist’s Village. That is where I spent the last of my birthday money. Local art that I find beautiful.

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We saw giant flies hanging from a building and popped into The Carrot, a not for profit Coffee House run by volunteers….What??? What a cool concept! We decided we needed to come back to visit this place.

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By the time we wandered the 2 blocks of street festival, we realized that we still wanted to be outside, so we headed for the City Market Downtown. I love this street market! It is my favorite Farmer’s Market in Edmonton.

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We bought spicy peanuts and butterflies, and I bought a bottle of great wine for my graduation day. The fresh vegetable smells mixed with dill and bbq was delightful. These kinds of events make me long for living close to the core of the city. I think I am done with living in the burbs. I want to step out my door and run in the valley, or walk to the market.

Out doors in the fall is fantastic.

What did you do today?