Edmonton Tourist: Local Shops

How is everyone doing? Trying hard to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible? Would you do me a favour? Please stop.

Christmas is less than a month away and I am slightly happy about no hustle and bustle, no shopping malls and no pressure to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Although I stopped with most of that nonsense a few years ago, there are still some holiday traditions I really enjoy but the pressure of all the other stuff was getting in the way. Normally, the hubs and I take one day and get all of the shopping done. We make a day of it. Go for breakfast, decide the order to hit the shops (we always have a list of what to purchase before we go), hit the shops, have a relaxing lunch with a festive libation, hit more shops if necessary and then go out for a delicious dinner. We have done this since the kids were small. My mom would take the kids for the day. It was lovely.

This year is quite different but it’s not. We didn’t have large family plans last year, so obviously we won’t this year. Christmas shopping is not quite the same because I have been intentional about who receives my money. I read a stat that made me think carefully about where I spend my money.

This made me think. Part of what I love about my city are the small shops that fill different communities with vibrancy. Who doesn’t love strolling along Whyte Avenue or 124 street? Who doesn’t love the tiny bistros and restaurants that support local growers? Is it easy to hop on the internet and shop Amazon. At least be more intentional and buy from Canadian box stores. But since you are shopping online anyways…. did you know most local shops take online orders and will deliver? With all of this in mind, I took to my Instagram stories yesterday and posed this: Tell me your favourite small and local business!

And you did.

The side benefit was I found new businesses! I ordered from a few and now my Christmas shopping is done. A lot of activity was happening yesterday, people were sharing, businesses were sharing, people were buying, businesses were selling, everyone was happy. It was a very fun day. Let me share with you a few that I think excel in their customer service and products.

  1. RSS Designs by Riyaz Sharan. I heard about this local artist from a friend and neighbour. I went to the artist’s page and was blown away by the images he has created of local landmarks. His Red Chairs at Elk Island hooked me in. I went to his online store and made two purchases for Christmas. I am so excited to gift these. He offered shipping but I opted for local pick up. I will get these tomorrow.

2. Glass Bookshop Owned and operated by two locals who focus on Canadian writing with special attention paid to LGBTQ2SIA and IBPOC writers, as well as the independent publishers who help to produce their work. They take orders for more mainstream and best of all? They delivered to my porch. Their communication is personal and helpful. My books were coming in at different times and they were prepared to deliver when each one arrived. I said save your time and the environment, and waiting until they all arrive. These are lovely humans, and I like to shout from the rooftops how great this book shop is. Now, they don’t just cater to Edmontonians, they will ship a book to you wherever you are. I found them most helpful with my Indigenous education. Bonus – they have a podcast because who doesn’t love nerding out to books?

The had me at the brown paper bag…

3. CraftyBones She is a fiber artist specializing in crochet and woven pieces. I purchased two items and requested a third custom piece. Shipping is available but because she is local, I have made arrangements for pick up once the pieces are complete. I am very excited to see these pieces too! I even ordered myself one. I had a comment from a follower who told me she bought something after I posted because it was exactly what she was looking for. I love it when that happens.

4. The Royal Bison Who doesn’t love a good artisan craft show? The Royal Bison moved theirs on line this year with the 12 days of Royal Bison. Each day a different medium is featured – but you can buy anything any day. Today the feature is Art + illustration, yesterday it was ceramics. It is a lovely curated selection of local Edmonton and Alberta artists.

5. Daisy Chain Book Company You might know I like books. This used to be a book truck showing up at farmer’s markets and festivals. She turned it into a shop during a pandemic. It is located on High Street in the space that used to be my favourite quilt shop. It is downstairs and charming. She sells new and used books – think Powells but smaller. I love everything about this place, the owner, the happy decor, the selection, kindness and the book community that is growing out of it. You can also order online and she will ship it to you. I have an out of print book on her list that she is keeping an eye out for. Fingers crossed it comes to her. I love this place.

6. I.M. Collective This is a group of indigenous artists who create and sell unique items. They have their online Christmas market happening right now on facebook. I found them at the City Market a few years ago. The work is beautiful. I especially like “Kookum approved” Who doesn’t want their granny approval?

7. Majesty and Friends Located in Highlands in the most adorable shop selling hilarious and quirky gift items. They also have an online shop – honestly – I have come to love shopping from the comfort of my chair. The daughter bought the infamous Fuck You Kenny mug from here. And I like to buy the cards but there is a infinite amount of fun things to purchase. Great stocking stuffers.

I know I have only sctached the surface but I have other things I want to do today like bake mincemeat tarts and shortbread for Christmas gifts of my own. Just so you know, I am not sharing these because these shops are paying me. They don’t even know I am doing this. I am sharing because I don’t want to lose part of what makes Edmonton great. Support local.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: The Plan

This is not a black a white photo. 25 cm expected by the end of the day!

It has been quite the week! Watching the election from across the border has been exciting. There will be HUGE ramifications for my province and I laugh as I imagine our premier squirm a bit. His plans will be crushed. All of this makes me so happy today – you could even call it JOY. I have SO many good things happening right now.

My furnace died last week and we were without heat for a week. But the new furnace is so quiet and efficient, it makes me happy.

Work has been stressful. As an event strategist during a pandemic, you can imagine the challenge BUT – Our philanthropic campaign may be the best one yet because we had to imagine new ways of doing something. Coming together as a team has ensured our best creative ideas will be front and centre. I can’t express how excited I am to be apart of it. Do I feel like I am on fire and my desk is on fire and I am floating down the river in a dumpster while its on fire? Heck ya! But Come December 18, I think it will be feel good to relax and see the campaign success behind me.

My oven died in September. The thermostat didn’t shut off and nearly burned the house down. The new oven has a PROVING SETTING! It has easy clean and the inside is BLUE. It is super pretty AND it has convection bake – I tried it and it baked the best peanut butter sandies.

I AM ON VACATION FOR ONE WEEK! We are expecting 25 cm of snow today. It is really pretty outside and the first snowfall always puts me in a Christmassy mood. I am making a list of Christmas baking I want to do. I don’t know if I will get to it all because I AM ON VACATION but I think I will get to a lot it. Having a list makes shopping easy for future visits. Here is the plan:

  • Grandma’s Butter tarts (I wrote to my aunty and she sent me the recipe. These beauties were always made on November 11 – so the family tradition will continue!) This recipe makes EIGHT DOZEN. Obviously this is for sharing…
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Grandma’s Date Squares/Chews with hot pink frosting
  • Mincemeat Tarts (for those who don’t know – they aren’t made with meat – its fruit and a UK thing)
  • Sugar cookies decorated because that is how my aunty did it.
  • Lassy coos (or rather Ginger Sparklers but Lassy Coos is the family name for them)
  • Honey popcorn – this is my recipe I figured out after testing various combinations because Disneyland sold honey popcorn at Pooh Corner and It was the best thing EVER.
  • Gingerbread people – I make these with ribbon strung through and names written on the bellies. There are a couple of new babies in my life so I will make these for them and their sibs.
  • Brownie Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Nanaimo bars. I have never made these before but what the heck? I learned to make a ton of things this year. what is one more?
  • Magic bars – my mom made these at Christmas and I always loved them. I have never made these either, never to late to try new things.
  • S’mores – this will be a blog post on its own because I have an idea….

Okay, that is a long list. But I am not spending time with friends and family this year for Christmas. I will fill some tins and do a drive by porch visit.

I have a whole week ahead of me to do ONLY FUN THINGS. I can’t wait. I will let you know how the baking goes and tell me what your Christmas plans are going to be.

Meanwhile, things are looking up. Stay healthy everyone!

Silence

Have you ever sat in a room or outside and heard absolutely nothing? I have a couple of times. Once was at my acreage after a heavy snowfall. It was below -30 so the snow takes on a dense quality. I was waiting for my ride so I sat on the half log wall and waited. I was dressed in a one piece snow suit and felt relatively toasty warm. It was getting dark so the birds had stopped any chattering. There is a smell and sound to dense snow. It seems to absorb sound. It was perfect silence.

The other time I was walking through a forest in northern Scotland. Pine or spruce, I can’t remember. The needles had fallen off every tree. I had never seen a completely dead forest before. No birds, no animals no other trees or plants. Just a deep floor of needles and bare trees that seemed to go on for miles. It had the same sound as the cold winter evening I experienced. Dense and complete silence. Only this felt spooky. I could feel the death. In Winter I feel the hibernation. Here I felt death.

After spending months with my family, my son said, “No offence, but I am introverting hard and would like you all to go away for a holiday.” Me too, but the places I would prefer to go have just had large outbreaks. The second wave has come and I don’t trust others enough not to share the virus. So I stay home.

I needed to go into work for a meeting on Friday. I have been back to work five times since March 17. The place is like a ghost town. My employer has graciously allowed me to stay home because I am high risk. But this past week everyone was sent home again as a preemptive attempt to protect employees and their families. It has been decades since I worked for an employer who cared this much. It is comforting and feels a bit like loyalty. Something I haven’t felt in decades. At any rate, this place was silent. Almost as silent as the spooky forest. It felt eerie without anyone there. Then I had my meeting and I was loud as usual and disturbed the only four people on the floor. It was too quiet anyways. I drove home in the silence of my car. I didn’t listen to anything. I needed silence.

I miss silence.

I am surrounded by my family – which is great – but also not great. I miss having the house to myself.

In June I was supposed to go to a meditation retreat. I really feel like I missed out on some me time by not going. My next vacation is in November. Obviously I am not going anywhere. (Sorry son of mine). I think I will plan a mediation retreat in the sanctuary of my bedroom. Spend a day or two in silence. Honestly that sounds as good as winning the lottery. Spending the balance of the week reading and writing, sounds like an actual mental retreat. After 8 months of high stress I think I need it. I bet you do too. Bubble baths, good books, meditation, and maybe a day to bundle up and sit outside in the dense snow.

It sounds like self-care. Something I bet we all need even though self-care for you might look different, you still deserve it. Be good to yourselves and stay healthy. I am rooting for you. Try silence and see what you think.

Edmonton Tourist: Government House

Sitting high above the North Saskatchewan river is Government House. This park is also home to the form Royal Alberta Museum or RAM. I may be wrong, but I think the old RAM still houses museum archives. I hope one day it becomes an indigenous peoples museum. The architecture of the building is stunning. It would be a shame to let it fall into ruin.

I came here a few weeks ago when the sky’s were filled with smoke from the American fires. Edmonton had very few smoke filled days this summer. Likely because everyone stayed home (for the most part) this year. The government house grounds are home to a significant collection of public art. The Captain and I strolled around the grounds to take it all in. It had been a while since we visited here. Often its in the winter to look at the Christmas lights.

There was a wedding in front of Government House, probably no more than 10 people and two dogs. All wearing masks. It was a lovely setting. I know it isn’t a ‘trend’ to have smaller weddings right now, but I like it. The big splash of a wedding doesn’t appeal to me. I like a nice simple affair with a handful of meaningful friends and family. I parked far away from the wedding party so they could have their privacy and I could have minimal people contact.

At the bottom of the parking lot is a path that leads to the valley and Government House Park. There is a great tobogan run and a fantastic running path that takes you west along the river bend and then south. The leaves were perfection. This was the peak day for fall.

We then headed towards the totem that sits on the south east corner.

I don’t know what it is, but I love totem poles. I like to really take my time with each face and study the carver’s ability.

This one is soulful and feels sad.

Cap soon became restless so we headed towards RAM to look at the public art. One section of the building has stone carvings that represent petroglyphs. In all my years coming here, I had never noticed these before.

We wandered around the building to look at the other pieces of art, but honestly none were as beautiful as the building itself.

This is my favourite piece on property.

We wandered around the back of the building and Cap heard the howl of a coyote so we stopped to listen. I thought he would join in but he was not okay with the coyote and thought we should leave.

Soon we were back at Government House. It is haunted so I always look for paranormal activity in the windows. I saw a clerk once in the window as a kid. The building was closed and it was night. The hair on my arms stood on end. It was spooky. I don’t like going in that building but I take visitors on tours there. Apparently there is a ghost story about a clerk who locks men in one of the rooms. The men who work in the building avoid going into that room. The ghost doesn’t bother the women at all.

The medallion in the centre is a wild rose. I would love to take an imprint of that and turn it into a tatecanvas bag or something.

We stopped this building. I am not sure what it is but it is beautiful to look at.

If you enjoy public art, I recommend a visit to Government House grounds. Wander around and take in the views. Whatever you decided to do for fun, keep your distance, wear a mask and stay healthy friends.

Edmonton Tourist: Emily Murphy Park

I tried to wander around Emily Murphy Park Saturday morning but I couldn’t find a parking spot. This is arguably one of my favourite river valley parks because it is secluded and there is a kick-ass fire pit hidden within the park. I am not divulging the location, even today when the park was slammed with people my beloved firepit stood alone – hidden waiting for me to return (or my pal because I told her about it).

from 2011

While going through my archives, I realized I never visited this park as part of the Edmonton River Valley Park series. Cap and I made our way down to see a huge party at the shelter. No masks, no social distancing….so I guess in two weeks we will know the outcome. I took a photo of Emily Murphy herself (in bronze) and thought briefly about first wave feminism. Don’t @ me about how terrible it was these famous five women didn’t consider bipoc in their quest to be know as people. That is why it is first wave. The ones who came first to open the door and suggest the world could be different. Super flawed but most people don’t consider others, they only think of themselves. It’s up to you to change that. Don’t like it? Do something.

I circled the park. To the south the road is closed because of the Groat Road construction. That is a shame because that way leads to the trails along Mayfair Gold Course and into Hawrelak Park. The photos below are from 2011. The park hasn’t changed.

To the east the trail was clear. That path takes you into Kinsmen Park, The Walterdale Museum, the Highlevel Bridge and the Walterdale Bridge.

Sitting on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, Emily Murphy Park feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. The University of Alberta is up the hill. Downtown is across the river. But it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. That is what I like best about Edmonton’s River Valley Park system. It feels like wilderness in the middle of the city. Where else can you live and be surrounded by wildlife one minute and head for the coffee bar the next?

This shows the park in all her glory when the park was empty on a Friday night in 2011.

When we left the park, we headed for Government House. I wanted a view of the valley and about 500 less people. I will save that story for next time.

Edmonton Tourist: Queen Elizabeth Planetarium

Have you ever been to the planetarium? Not the Space Science Centre, the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium located at Coronation Park. It was the first planetarium in Canada and I used to go all the time when I was a kid. I remember sitting in the blue velvet seats (I have know idea if they were or not, but that is how I remember them) and staring at the white lights on the ceiling called stars.

I learned abut constellations and gained enough knowledge that I would pick them out in my backyard and name them. I still can. It was something my grandpa and I would stand in the back yard and we would point them out to each other. My brother was looking for UFOs and I was looking for other planets. Grandpa would always point out Cassiopeia – the W in the sky. He told me it was God’s initial W. It stood for Warren, Grandpa’s last name – implying he was the divine. If you knew my grandpa, you would know he was a giant fibber, all in fun, but a giant fibber just the same.

Stargazing was a huge favourite pastime of mine – still is to some extent. I am not a rabid fan like the hubs but I enjoy it on a crisp fall night. I remember coming here with my class for field trips and with my cousins with my grandma. The place seemed huge but I loved gazing at the stars from the comfort of the chairs. I remember the building being larger, of course I was a kid so everything was larger.

This building is supposed to open soonish – hard to say when since there is a pandemic, but soonish could mean next year. They did a marvelous job on the inside. I took a peak and the restored architectural design is quite lovely, even the bust of Her Majesty looks grand.

Trying to find this place from memory was tricky. I have walked to it from the Space Science centre, of course we have parked at the building when I was a child, but trying to drive to it wasn’t as straight forward as I expected. The building is in a back alley of sorts now. Behind Ross Shepherd High School. It is directly across from the sports field. I found it eventually and walked around the building. The mosaics are still located in the front of the building which is now the back. The front faces the park and the back of the building is the parking lot. It doesn’t matter, it creates a grand entrance.

I am glad the City of Edmonton preserved it. It is a true historical gem.

Stay safe and healthy friends and get out to explore your town.

Edmonton Tourist: ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ Kâhasinîskâk

Have you seen the new bridge that spans Connors Road? It is beautiful and will need a revisit after the LRT Valley line construction is complete because you just can’t get close enough to take a good photo. I did a drive by and it doesn’t do it justice.

The bridge is called ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk (pronounced kâ-(h)a-si-nî-skâk) it means “slow moving water over stones” which is in reference to Mill Creek just south of the bridge. There are a few things I love about this project. First of all I love the nod to the Cree peoples who are here now and who came before us here on Treaty 6 lands. I love the written language of Cree. I love the look of this bridge and I love that the City of Edmonton up-cycled the old bridge and moved it to Blackmud Creek. I hope Edmonton incorporates more indigenous names, artwork and architecture in our landscape.

After I drove under it to get that terrible photo, I parked at the Muttart Conservatory so Captain and I could walk over to the bridge. I used to run here a lot and was in much better shape, but I still found the hill daunting and hard to climb. In my less than fit state, I am happy to report, I climbed that hill and lived to talk about it.

The park west of the conservatory appears to be unnamed. If you know the name, let me know. I think it is Dove of Peace park. That is where the Dove was moved to after Pope John Paul II held mass under it.

I thought there used to be a swing hanging from it. Am I imagining it? Does someone else remember it? This hill also provided great views of downtown and I took a moment to wave a my pal who lives across the river. I texted her to say I was waving. She wasn’t home but said hi.

This perspective gives you some idea how steep the hill is. It is where Edmonton Ski Club is located and people sit on these hills for the Folk Fest. It provides a lovely view – plus the construction of the valley line station. Ugly but necessary. I am sure they will place public art to help with the ugliness.

I kept climbing and made it to the top where ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk crossed Connors Road.

It isn’t really finished. The deck is just roofing shingles and Cap wouldn’t walk on it. Likely too hot and gritty plus he is fearful of heights. I couldn’t walk across it. It it lovely though, I love this architecture.

We headed back down the hill and saw the backside of the Dove of Peace and took in the views of Edmonton Ski Hill and the Muttart Conservatory.

When we made it down the hill, we walked around the Cloverdale neighbourhood. I like it here too but living here during Folk Fest is a no go for me. Half of Edmonton arrives in this neighbouhood for a weekend and no thanks. But it sure is charming.

Where should I go next? I might head over to Emily Murphy Park because I don’t have that in my River Valley Parks series, or maybe I will head to one of the ravines. Let me know what you would like to see next.

Stay healthy friends and get out there to explore your neighbourhoods.

Edmonton Tourist: Muttart Conservatory

I am getting braver. I still won’t go inside public buildings, except for grocery and pharmacy. But I am visiting lesser visited outdoor public spaces. This week I went to a few spots in Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.

September is sunflower season here. I was starting to see sunflowers pop up on my Instagram feed. I thought I would go and see if the Horticultural Society was still maintaining the gardens at the Muttart. The Muttart Conservatory is closed this year and next for extensive renovations. Hindsight tells them, it was good timing, the same goes for Fort Edmonton. Timing is everything! The new LRT line is under construction and quite frankly the roads are a mess.

But…

This scares people off and I’m for it.

The parking lot at the Muttart was surprisingly full but I learned that was for the construction. I found a spot in the north section and parked. A few masks were tossed on the ground. Your mom doesn’t work here so clean up after yourself. You should be ashamed. Clip those loops and toss in the trash. Better yet, purchase a pile of reusables and wash them. At least you are wearing a mask…

Captain and I walked south towards the cute little foot bridge at the path entrance.

There were a few people walking around but only two small families. My first thought was this would be a lovely spot for a wedding. I knew an Egyptian family who immigrated here years ago. They held their daughter’s wedding photos here because of the pyramids. They were beautiful photos.

I had forgotten there was a gazebo too.

This park is really charming. Cap was pulling me onward towards the gardens. I instantly spied the sunflower bed. So we headed towards it.

It shared space with zinnias, or at least I think they are zinnias. Fun fact, they were Lois Holes favourite flower – or at least she said they were in her annuals book.

You can’t tell from this photo but the space between the gardens and the cityscape is the LRT construction. Crouch low so you get the best vantage point.

The bees were busy gathering pollen for winter. I found a few hives mounted on trees to support bee life here in Edmonton, SAVE OUR POLLINATORS!

I took a pile of photos of just sunflowers. You can check those out on Instagram, some even star bees.

We wandered around the flower beds and found the afternoon to be relaxing. I missed this. I miss Edmonton’s parks. But I am reluctant to go to many places. Usually the colder weather reduces the number of people in the parks, so I am going to check more out this fall. I am not afraid of cold and snow, and it keeps people inside. All the better for me.

My plan was to climb up on top of the conservatory. The conservatory is built into the ground with the centre courtyard a flat space for walking around and looking into the greenhouse pyramids. I climbed up the steep bank only to find the walkway closed. Sad sigh on my part.

We climbed back down and walked around the south side of the conservatory. This area was ankle deep grass. It wasn’t mowed all season.

I knew the community gardens were around the west side of the conservatory so we headed there. These gardens are overrun with weeds but we found strawberries, peppers, green tomatoes, chard and milkweed.

I turned around an saw a tiny path that let to Dove of Peace Park, but I will save that for next week.

Have you been to the Muttart Gardens? It is a perfect place to sit and meditate or wander around and smell the flowers. It is worth a visit.

Edmonton Tourist: University of Alberta

It is the time of year when students are heading back to school and participating in a once in a lifetime pandemic. Life is strange and unfamiliar right now. Both my adult children are attending classes but not at their campus of choice. They are attending classes via Teams, Zoom and eClass. This is how I finished my degree, so I know a little bit about what they are going through. It is hard to make connections, participate in group work, and borrow books from the library. My work from home situation is similar. It is hard to work on group projects, chat and become inspired and get those creative juices flowing. However, it is what it is and we are making the most of it.

My daughter is annoyed that she is paying buckets of money and she doesn’t even get to enjoy the best part of University, Fall Semester on the Arts Quad. I have to agree. It is the best part about about being a U of A student. Certainly not the windowless classrooms, but walking across campus to get to different classes before winter sets in.

I left the house last week for the first time since forever or blursday, I can’t remember. I hadn’t been on campus since last fall. My MRI doesn’t count because I was in and out of the Kaye without going anywhere but my car. I was doing some architectural research for a book I am working on and drove to the University of Alberta Campus and brought my pal Captain. We could have stayed in the car but I needed to walk.

It felt normal. I miss normal.

I parked at Rutherford House Provincial Historic site. For those of you not in the know, Alexander Rutherford was Alberta’s first Premier. His other lesser home is found in the valley at Fort Edmonton Park. I have toured this house a lot. I used to imagine living here when I was a kid. I loved the opulence of the grand staircase and the idea of having a maid to cook meals. My hubs does that now and it is as decadent as you think it might be. We walked around the gardens taking bad photos.

The gardens are well maintained and lovely for being so late in the season.

We headed south towards the Common where the international students reside as well as other student housing. I love that the campus sits on the south bank of the North Saskachewan River.

The older homes mixed with the newer architecture is normal to me and I love the character it adds to Garneau neighbourhood. The big elm trees that hang over the streets is so lovely and calming. I ask myself every time I am here, WHY DO I NOT LIVE HERE?

We stopped and admired gardens and buildings then found ourselves in front of Convocation Hall, the old Arts Building. The entire arts quad is lovely. A friend of mind said it reminds him of Harvard. Harvard is 383 years old, U of A is 112 years old but it feels stately and peacful.

There is a little brook between Convocation Hall and Hub. I love to sit here and just think or meditate. I have had many great ideas here and the best part is I haven’t shared this spot with anyone so it isn’t tainted with memories. It is just my spot to visit alone.

My parents used to take my brother and I here for walks in the evening. Likely my dad had to drop off a paper or we were picking him up from class. I don’t remember, but I loved running around the big trees and visiting the Turtle or as the sign post says, Tory Building.

So many great memories here for me. I hope my kids have equally great ones too. Get out and explore new neighbourhoods, Edmonton is a lovely city.