You are Mr. Roger's Helper

I work from home now. I like a lot of things about working from home. The commute is easy. I don’t have to wear business attire. It is very quiet and I have a window that over looks my garden. Sure it’s only been a day, but so far I like it.

My co-worker Cap goes outside a lot. I suspect he is taking smoke breaks, but whatever, he still gets his work done. He doesn’t wear pants, I am also okay with this. I share this space with three other adults. One is taking on-line classes with the University of Alberta. They haven’t got it all fine tuned and its a bit chaotic, but at least it is continuing. One is retired, but volunteers with Meals on Wheels. Their new protocols mean less hugging in gratitude and more verbal gratitude for continuing to bring food to the infirm. The other one is on a break and is returning to school in the fall, hopefully.

We went to gather some food last night after dinner. The stores are pretty much empty of food and people, but I was able to get what I needed. This reminds me a lot of the books I have read about war time rations. I am grateful I listened to stories of my grand and great grandparents. I understand about rations and economizing. I think I will need to do a lot of this. Protip: Cabbage is a great soup filler and it was the only vegetable available last night. We are not there yet. But we might get there sooner rather than later.

Here is a wonderful side effect of this pandemic, people have been extra ordinarily kind. From smiles and hellos, to not taking everything off the shelf. I only took two packets of yeast, that will yield me 12 loaves of bread. I left some for other people. I am set until May. The helpfulness of tech support to get me up and running was wonderful, sure its their job but do you know what kind of patience it takes to answer stupid questions because people don’t read? Kim and Nathan, my tech support were amazing. Stop being stupid and impatient people. This isn’t about you. It is about all of us working together for a common goal, survival. This of this a World War III, only this time we are all on the same side.

My daughter was wondering what kind of PTSD we will have when we get to the other side. You know what she means, its like the how the survivors of the depression in the 30’s hoarded bread clips or rubber bands because you never know when you might need them. She thinks she will always practice the two metre distance from people, or will forever wash her hands for 20 seconds singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. As an introvert, I was born for this self isolation thing. I don’t have to host a social gathering? SCORE! All the parties are cancelled? YES! I can stay home and pet my dog? I am living the dream!

But in all seriousness, please listen to your health authorities. Ours is excellent. She speaks from a knowledge of science and answers hard questions. She isn’t sneaky and she practices what she preaches. She came down with a cold, so she self isolated and tested negative for Covid-19. I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to see women of science leading our country in times like this. They are the calm, factual guiding lights. I wish I could say the same for our elected leaders, this is not the time to force through budgets and fire doctors and lay off nurses. This is not the time for fake facts and lies. Anti-vaxers are going to have a tough time when they release a vaccine for Covid-19, science is on one side and they are on the other. Good luck with that.

I have noticed a heavy increase in my blog post Mr. Roger’s Helpers. I don’t know who needs to hear this, those words were meant for children because you are adults and need to be the helpers now. That means you reassure your children. You stay calm and learn the facts. Stay home to protect others. You are the helper. Ask you neighbour if they need something, support food banks if you can, help tutor students online or stop being so demanding. The facts are we are in this together. Stand up and lead, if not your community then lead your family or your group of friends.

You are the helper.

If you find you are overwhelmed and you need a place to catch up, come visit the Edmonton Tourist Community on Facebook. We have been checking in, and being a shoulder for each other. If you need to stop being the helper for an hour, do it. We are open and can listen. Hang in there friends, we are in this for the long haul if you want to believe it or not.

Edmonton Tourist: Hiatus

Where I wish I was…

The world is a strange and curious place lately. I hear healthy people say things like “everyone is overreacting” “Why is everyone panicking?”. I am part of the demographic that is at high risk for infection. This means I am thinking carefully about where I go and who I spend my time with. The last time I had an infection, my daughter called it the time I died. I was so sick my kidneys shut down, and organ failure caused other significant issues. I only ever remember being that sick one other time, and that was when I had red measles when I was a kid. I was so sick the doctor CAME TO MY HOUSE. My dad thought I was dying. Honestly, I thought I was dying. Being that sick is not something I recommend. I am the main provider for my family. Three other adults depend on me to support them while they go to school and look after the home. I rely on them, and no one wants to let each other down.

My intuition is telling me to slow down and self-isolate. This means all non-essential social gatherings and events. What makes it essential? I don’t really have an answer for that, but I am sure I will recognize it once it happens. I am still going to work because, so far, the risk is low. I eat at my desk and don’t visit the cafeteria. I am NOT A HUGGER, nor am I affectionate – so I have that going for me. I am a bit of a germaphobe, not as bad as my workmate, but pretty damn close.  Honestly, I feel better than I have in ages, years even. I am not overly concerned, but I will be taking precautions.

I am going to use this time to catch up on reading, and I have a stack of books that are begging me to read them. I am going to bake and freeze things because baking is fun. I love making bread, savoury and sweet things. Comfort food will be nice to have since eating at fun bistros, and restaurants will be one of the places I avoid for a while. Soon my garden will need me, and I am looking forward to growing things. I have a lime tree in my front room that needs some TLC, so I need to do some research on how to love it a little bit more. My blog is going to change for a while. I hope you understand. The support you give me is amazing, and all the notes and emails you send are appreciated. Let me know where you are going and send me photos! I am making a list of places I need to visit once this craziness calms down.

Do I expect everyone to follow suit? No. I am not the WHO or a credible health organization, but I do read their updates and listen to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s daily updates. This is important information for my area and maybe yours but pay attention to credible sources. I need this for my job but its good to know for my home life. The time for “not believing in science” is over. Facts are important and will save lives.

The bottom line is to listen to the facts and make good judgements. Subscribe to your library’s ebook borrowing system, eat good food, drink clean water and wash your hands for crying out loud. Stop being gross not just during this world pandemic but forever, okay?

This will pass.

Stay healthy everyone.

Edmonton Tourist: Winter Patios

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There are a couple of places in Edmonton that offer winter patios. Two are standouts for me, Café Bicyclette and Little Brick. Both offer roaring fires and delicious coffee. I am more of a coffee girl than a cocktail girl, so the winter patios that offer alcoholic libations are off my list. If you happen to know of other yeg winter patios, please drop a comment in the box below or shoot me an email and let me know.

I had a medical appointment early in the day that required the hubs to drive and chauffeur me around. After I finished I suggested we head to a winter patio because it was only -14C and was warming up! He is always game for any of my hair-brained schemes so he obliged.

We arrived just after 11:00 am and the thermometer had risen to -10C, perfect for a fire but when we looked at the patio it was empty. He asked me if I still wanted to go or did I want to try Little Brick? I had not had coffee yet and I said, let’s get some coffee and maybe a bite to eat.

We walked into a jam-packed house of people speaking French and eating brunch. Café Bicyclette is located in Edmonton’s French Quarter and as French as the hubs is, I speak more of the language than he does and my French is limited to cereal box and hockey French.

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He looked at the menu and said I think the Pain Perdu French Toast -I agreed as I usually do. Rarely we have different things and I suppose that is what happens to couples to live together for a quarter-century, you kind of morph into the same being with the same likes. Their coffee is some of the best in the city but I noticed they get it from Ace, a local coffee roaster. I really need to get there and have it live and in person. (Hey Dad…we need to have a date!)

We placed our order at the counter and they gave us a number so they could bring our meal out to us. I asked them what are the parameters for the patio to be open because I always seem to miss it. Francois replied, oh, I can open it up for you! So he went in the back and send out someone else to start the fire and get the sofa cushions for us. We stood at the high bar while we waited. Our coffee arrived and I sipped and watched.

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When the cushions were out, we grabbed a few wool blankets from the box at the door and joined the fellow outside. The woodsmoke was lovely. I am not a rookie to outdoor winter fires. Insulation is the key. Place a blanket under your bottom, one behind your back and neck and one over your legs. We stayed there until close to 1:00 p.m.

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I drank my coffee and the french toast arrived. I cut it all at once like I am 3 so I wouldn’t have to fuss on my lap, springing my dinner all over the floor. I love eating here. There is a lot of traditional French Candian fare, their poutine is some of the best in the city. I have had crepes and croissants but this french toast was likely the best thing I have ever eaten here. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, this would be it. Event the watermelon mint salad was over the top delicious.

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The patio is charming with old wooden windows defining the space. We sat alone by the fire until the end when a gal and her dog stopped to enjoy the fire. You could see the remnants of the Flying Canoe Festival, (the ice slide and ice sculptures on the outdoor bar.).  I was content to stay longer but the hubs was cold. He caught a chill and became hypothermic…. reluctantly I agreed to go.

I was so pleased to know the staff was happy to open the patio just by asking. I will make sure I ask the next time it appears closed. I think I will make my way to the Little Brick next and invite a friend who just celebrated her 50th birthday. She seems the type who likes to sit outside and enjoy a fire.

There is a website that lists local winter patios. Check out Winter City Edmonton for all the info. Here is what I found. Maybe I will explore more patios before spring comes.

Winter Patio Locations

Get out and explore people!

 

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.

 

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!

 

 

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: October Staycations

 

I have been caught up in a whirlwind of activity over the last few days. Since I started practicing mindfulness during fun activities, I have laughed 100% more than I did before. It isn’t always appropriate to laugh until your sides hurt, but that happened when I went to a team-building event and announced I was ready to have my butt kicked during ping pong and darts. It turned out we were all so bad, we could only laugh. I was doubled over the ping pong table laughing for a while, then wiped the tears from my eyes. I cannot tell you how good that felt. The week before I laughed with a friend who I hadn’t spent time with in ten years. TEN YEARS! It is amazing how quickly time flies while you are busy. Make time for your friends. That is what is missing from your life, or at least it was missing from mine. I have promised a few people to meet for coffee – I haven’t forgotten! You can expect a message from me soon, I promise!

I won tickets to a play from Newfoundland that is making its way across Canada, No Change in the Weather. It played at the Westbury in Old Strathcona. I went with my daughter, and all I can say is she is delightful to spend time with; I enjoy her company tremendously.

A good friend of ours just retired, and her children threw a surprise party for her. She didn’t know all the details, but she could no longer use her symphony tickets, so she offered them up to us. I have been attending the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) since I was five and my grandma to me to see Sing-A-Long with Mitch. I don’t get to go often, but I really enjoy it when I do. I particularly enjoy the Christmas performances. The ESO is performing the music of Star Wars in November, and their Christmas series is in December. I think I might go if for no other reason than to sing the Canadian National anthem with the ESO. THAT is always fun for me! It is an elevated level of sophistication you don’t get at the Oiler’s game.

Sunday, I went exploring with one of my most favourite humans. We poked around downtown Edmonton, and you can expect a full trip report on that adventure in the coming weeks. But let me give you a little teaser – it was all for the ‘gram.

Now that it is October, its time to plan out free things to do in Edmonton!

  1. Smokey Lake Pumpkin Festival – okay, this isn’t in Edmonton and you need a car to get there, but it’s mostly free. Smokey Lake is about an hour and change northeast of Edmonton. Some things cost money but you get the chance to see pumpkins the size of cars. I am going for the first time this year. My family is on a quest to find sugar pumpkins for pie. I didn’t go to BC this fall, so I need locals ones. Plus I cook some up for my pal Cap. Pumpkin is his favourite. I love a good road trip and this one shows promise. If you see me, come say hi! It happens on October 5th.
  2. Visit Government House. Free Tours are offered on Sundays. There are a couple of good ghost stories to go with the tour, ask them the one about men being locked in the upstairs room. The general rule is to never be alone in that room if you are male. You will not get out. Apparently, it has happened to several men who work there. Good ghost stories are ALWAYS appropriate in October. While you are there, visit the totem pole and learn about that history plus the other public art found on property. Bring your camera to experience the views of the river valley from up there. It is simply spectacular.
  3. Self-guided walking tours of Edmonton’s historic neighbourhoods. The City of Edmonton has downloadable brochures that take you around Downtown Edmonton, Oliver, Old Strathcona and Highlands. It explains a bit about the architecture and historical significance. Edmonton has some fascinating history, take a moment and read up on the early beginnings.
  4. Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve. Okay, this isn’t in Edmonton either, and you need a car BUT, have you ever watched the aurora borealis dance across Astotin lake or see the Milky Way? Elk Island Nation Park is part of the Beaver Hill Sky preserve, and it is free if you have a national park pass. If you don’t the next best thing is to visit Telus World of Science Observatory. It is open until 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. It shuts down if it is cloudy, so check the weather. If you are like me and enjoy watching the aurora borealis from your deck, sign up for aurora alerts here. They send you a note telling you when you can expect them or if. Red Alerts happen regularly, and when they do, you can see them in Edmonton’s skies.

Edmonton Festivals

Edmonton has festivals all years round, and three are happening in October. They aren’t free, but they may interest you. I will be attending Litfest because BOOKS ARE MY LIFE. And seriously, who doesn’t want to go to a book festival?

September 26 – October 5 Edmonton International Film Festival

October 16-19 Edmonton Comedy Festival

October 17 – 27 Litfest

Whatever you do this month, get out and enjoy Edmonton.