Edmonton Tourist: Café Linnea

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Do you see that empty chair? That was where my brunch companion was supposed to sit. She arrived eventually but this happened during the -40C cold snap. (The cold snap that lasted 10 days.) The world was moving slow. I even arrived later than I wanted to because Café Linnea is usually packed with Edmontonians wanting to eat the delicious food they serve. This is what it looked like 9:00 a.m. Me and that couple in the corner. My server brought endless coffee and I sat with my book and just enjoyed the peace until Rena arrived. I had been here before and wrote about it here. Being my second visit, I was hoping the food was as amazing as it was last time – in case you are curious, the answer is “you betcha!”

 

 

We spent two hours catching up and devouring the food. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw the special, schnitzel and spaetzle. Um, yes, please!

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The last time I had really good schnitzel I was in Freudenstadt, Germany 

Just looking at this photo makes me want to have it for dinner. This was as good as I remember it should taste. I wish it was a regular menu item because I would be back tonight. Except the celery salad. (?!?!!?) I’d be okay if I never ate that again. I’d rather just munch on celery sticks thanks.

My brunch companion had the Farmer’s Breakfast.

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Look at those beautiful eggs! We both had the juice of the day, grapefruit and something with something else. Freshly squeezed juice is always delicious so I didn’t pay attention. Their coffee was good and hot and always filled in my cup. I usually have the latte but decided on the old school cuppa so I could have lots. I love holding the hot cup in my hands on such a cold day.

As the morning progressed, the placed filled to capacity. We continued to chat and were never rushed so we ordered dessert.

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I was still feeling the Euro vibe, so I had a lemon crepe. It was light and perfect. My partner ate the chocolate rosemary ganache and loved it except she could tell there was rosemary which was the reason she ordered it. I don’t have a photo because we were hyper-focused on eating. Don’t judge, just wait until you go there, you will understand.

By the end of the meal and my 200th cup of coffee, I decided I needed to bring the famjam home a loaf of their amazing sourdough bread. I chose the darker crust because I like a chewy texture. It did not disappoint.

You can find it in the garment district by Donut Party and the Omnivore. I recommend both those places too! There may be a wait, but it is always worth it.

LOCATION & PARKING

Café Linnea is located in Holland Plaza at 10932 119 Street NW, Edmonton, AB, Canada. There is free parking in the lot directly in front of our restaurant (east-facing), or at the side (north facing), both of which are accessible from 119 Street.

Get out there and explore your city!

Hibernate

It’s that time of year where I find myself hunkering down and taking a step back from my busy life. Partly because December is so hectic with gatherings and special events, it’s nice to sit around and expect very little of yourself. It helps that the weather has been a wee bit on the cool side. -51C windchills anyone? The wind has been a tad brisk. Today is the first day we opened the curtains and let the sun in. Why? Normally we keep them shut as an added insulation barrier to the wind that whips out of the north. It is -17C and quite frankly, it feels like spring.

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The view from my home office. 

I read once that how you react to winter is a metaphor for how you react to life. I take it in stride.

Coping with cold does take more effort and thought. For example, I have to plug my car in. Not because it is electric, but because the block heater warms the oil pan and it makes it easier to start. I plug it in when I get home and I also plug it in at work. It adds an extra five minutes each time. Not a huge deal except I am outside struggling with frozen cords praying the end doesn’t snap off like it has before – that is a major hassle if you have never done electrical work before. Things break easily is this type of cold.

Dressing for cold takes thought. I work in a glass building. Sure there is central heat, but it still feels cool. I have a blanket and pashmina at my desk. I wear wool socks, and usually have a base layer, mid-layer and outer layer. When I only have two layers, the blanket comes out for my lap. As I get tired near 3:00 p.m., I find I get cold. Pot of tea and my pashmina help to perk me up. I always wear a scarf and an extra wool scarf for outside. Winter takes effort.

Eating is also a change to the regular. The last thing I want is a salad. Give me hearty soup and crusty bread. Soup for days is my motto. Bread and baked goods make the house smell delicious, warm and welcoming. It is comforting to eat at home when it is cold.

At home, the curtains are drawn and the fireplace is on. Quilts on chairs and sofas to snuggle with in front of the fire while watching tv or reading. The duvet on the beds and long hot showers are the best part. I don’t like going anywhere so I cancel plans and stay home. We have lived through two weeks of this. Now, as a reward the weather is moving up to single negative numbers it will feel like a treat.

Weather in Canada seems to be a competition. The Prairies are better at it than Vancouver, but Newfoundland is better at it than Alberta. When I lived in Yellowknife, NWT, cold and dark was a way of life. Too cold for your car to start but you went to school or work anyway. If you didn’t, you would never get anything done. Same as Edmonton. I missed work once because of a blizzard in 1988. It rained, covered my car in an inch of ice and then it snowed so much it buried my car. It took most of the day to dig my car out. The roads were closed anyway, so there was no way I was getting out of my town to drive into the city. I was late once because my car didn’t start but a new battery helps that from happening again. So this year, that didn’t happen. As a child, I never missed school because schools never closed. It is what it is. Weather is relative. What is hard for us prairie folk is harder for Lower Mainland folk and the thought of surviving winter on the Rock is unfathomable yet here they are, surviving.

Tofino residents were still surfing this week in spite of the fact they walked through the snow to get to the water. I get that. Winter is a metaphor for how you face life. You either hide and complain, or you get out there and enjoy it.

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www.paullevyphoto.com posted on @pacificsufco 

The sun is on its way back to me. It is setting as I leave work now. This makes it feel like spring is coming. It is rejuvenating to see the sun as I warm up my car and unplug my car. Do I hate winter? No. I love the dense sound when it’s cold. The crunch of the snow and event the frosty feeling in my lungs. It makes me feel alive. Cold snaps help me appreciate spring and summer. I am planning my garden and dreaming of my summer vacation. This year I have decided to not plan around anyone. I am taking the vacation I want without accommodating other people. I am spending my one week at a retreat between the Monashee and Cariboo Mountain Ranges and then one week staycation at home hanging out in my beautiful city.

I can’t imagine living somewhere where the four seasons don’t exist. Winter is the perfect time to hibernate, relax and enjoy the cozy warmth of inside and all the great things about home.

Edmonton Tourist: Ten Years of Travel

As we move into a brand new decade, I am reflecting on this decade. The last ten years of blogging have pushed me into unexpected places. I love my city but I knew there were places I hadn’t really been to. The more I visited the nooks and crannies of Edmonton, the more I knew I wanted to explore other places the same way. Becoming the Edmonton Tourist had me looking for those hidden gems that are free to explore and left me with delight at new knowledge of other places. My parents gave me the gift of travel and I have been all over the world. After being the Edmonton Tourist, I think I would explore those places differently if I had the chance to go back. As we move into 2020, I reflected on some of the best things I have seen in ten years. I eagerly look forward to exploring more because, to me, there is no better thing to be than a tourist.

2010: Vimy Ridge. I went to Europe with my famjam. We landed in Paris and explored France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany during a nine-day period – it may have been ten days, IDK, it was A LOT. We had a plan but the best part of the trip was the unexpected happenstance of stumbling upon Vimy Ridge. It was a complete accident that changed my life. The art, the unexploded shells, the trenches and the grave markers of boys who were not much older than my own shook me to my core. Thanks Vimy.

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2011: Banff National Park. My son and I went on a camping trip to Banff. Just the two of us. We created memories that we still laugh about. I learned he is more like me than I realized and we both love Johnsons Canyon. It was a pivotal moment for us. It is one of the greatest vacations of all time.  Thanks Banff.Johnston's Canyon - all paths deserve to be walked on

2012: Regina. I learned from my trip with my son that one on one time with your child is important. The next year my daughter and I went to visit my godmother in Regina. This was an epic trip filled with big things like the world’s largest coffee pot and Al Capone’s secret caves of Moose Jaw. But we also went to Dog River. A fictional town on the prairie where they filmed Corner Gas. It was such fun I cannot begin to describe it. Small town Saskatchewan was an unexpected great trip. Thanks Regina.IMG_1648

2013: Calgary. If you know anything about Alberta, you understand the love/hate relationship between Calgary and Edmonton. A bucket list item was to run a race with my dad. The fat girl whose grade seven gym teacher called her lard ass. Whose ex-boyfriend said fat made him lose his chubby. Proving to myself that I could run and run with my dad was a big deal to me. It was his birthday and we took my son to Calgary for the Calgary Marathon weekend. We ran the 10km. The Hubs and my daughter surprised me at the finish line. It was an epic day. I learned that Calgary puts on one of the best races I had ever attended….better than a Disney Race… The crowds were amazing and the sites were beautiful. Exploring a different city on foot was such a gift. Thanks, Calgary.

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Me and Dadeo at the finish

2014: Hawaii. For my son’s graduation, he got to pick a trip. He chose Hawaii. We went to Aulani, Disney’s resort on the west side of Oahu. We had been before when my son was 7 months old. He learned to crawl in Hawaii. I didn’t want to leave the resort. I am not such a big hot beach fan, I love the cold beaches of Tofino, but this place was magical. I loved it. I learned that I am impervious to sunscreen and can listen to the ocean for the rest of my life. The four of us explored every inch of the resort and spent time on top of volcanoes, looking at war memorials, learning about seafood and pineapple allergies but most of all just loved exploring with each other. Thanks Hawaii.

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2015: Big Sur. I was crew for my friend who ran from San Fransico to Anaheim (500 miles) to raise money and awareness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It was the loneliest trip of my life, but as with all times of loneliness, the greatest learnings come from that. It was my own pilgrimage of sorts. It was the greatest growth for me. It was the beginning of the end. I shed 500lbs of dead weight and began the long road to creating boundaries. I sat on a rock at Devil’s Slide and watched a pod of humpback whales swim by. It was a spiritual experience and the greatest learning of my life. This was the place where regrets were born, accepted and learned from. I returned to this spot on the way back home with my hubs. I cried for days. I cried all the way home to Canada. The great purge of emotion happened on this trip and I learned who I could trust, and who was loyal. I am grateful to my Hubs for taking such good care of me when I couldn’t care for myself. This place feels sacred. I long to go back. Thanks Big Sur.11921645_1125074180854471_1929081778109239340_n

2016: Vancouver. The year my daughter graduated, her chosen trip was to Vancouver. It is no secret that Vancouver is my favourite city on the planet. She was toying with the idea of going to school here. We did a different kind of trip than we normally do. We visited film sets. Heck, we even crashed a set at the Delta dog park during the filming of the Flash. We drove right on set with the confidence of the film crew. It was only later they asked us who were. We were lost and how the heck do we get out of here? Good times. I learned things about Vancouver I never knew before. What a great place to explore. Thanks Vancouver.

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2017: Tofino. The Hubs and I came here on our honeymoon way back in the early 90’s. In 2017 the Hubs just retired and I was about to start my new career. It had been a tough summer and I was ready for change. He surprised me with a trip to the Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach in Tofino. I walked straight into the ocean and stood there for an hour or two and just let the waves wash over me and heal me. I cried and let out all kinds of pain, trauma and RELIEF. I was reborn on that beach. It’s corny but true. A baptism of sorts. This remains the greatest vacation of all time. ALL-TIME! It only would have been better by having my kids there. I want them both to get married there and I want to move there. I never want to leave Tofino or Ucluelet again. When I win the lottery Friday night, Saturday morning I am packing and moving there. At least I will have a seasonal home there and a place here in Edmonton because I love Edmonton too. The ocean, the rainforest, the raven and the wolves are something special to me. I love this place. Thanks Tofino.

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2018: Vancouver Island. I loved 2017 so much, I needed to go back. This time I was healthier and could do more. 2017 was what my daughter refers to as the time I died. I didn’t but I was close to it. My kidneys stopped working and let me just say, I don’t recommend organ failure. It was a long road back, by the time I made it back to the west coast, I was ready to explore every nook and cranny. We hiked rainforest trails, explored the lighthouse, ate amazing things, went to a carving shed to meet an artist, met a gal who moved from Edmonton in the ’70s and never went back. This time we went in a boat to explore the ocean as well. We saw eagles, sea lions, harbour seals and orcas. ORCAS! Damn, I love you Tofino.

2019: Jasper. Secret Season is the best. My daughter’s 21 birthday was spent at Disneyland. It took up most of my money. The hubs and I wanted a vacation so we booked off-season at the Jasper Park Lodge and saw things I hadn’t seen before. Winter in Jasper before ski season is THE BEST EVER! We saw wildlife and zero people, except for that couple from New York City who was shocked I was wearing a sweater and no parka. Winter in Alberta is different than in New York. What I think is warm is apparently FREEZING in NYC. Big babies… Seriously though, make the trip for the wildlife and the scenery and the quiet because it is worth every second. Thanks Jasper.

img_4557 2020: The Unknown. I think I will go to Kamloops for a spiritual conference at the Akashic Ranch in June. But I might go to Sedona and explore vortexes or Santa Fe for the Balloon Festival. I might wander down to Waterton National Park or take my kids back to Aulani, maybe we will go to Disneyland and visit Galaxy’s Edge or just stay at home. I don’t know. But I do know I will be exploring more provincial parks, hanging out in my river valley and poking around new restaurants and maybe take in a festival or two. 2010-2019 showed me a lot of amazing things. I am positive the next 10 years will show me more.

Get out and explore, you won’t regret it.

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!

 

 

Judgement

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I fell flat on my face, literally.

Friday morning I was walking my dog Cap and we reached the end of my block, so I was six maybe seven houses away. The road was uneven and my toe to caught the lip between the sidewalk and the street. I fell flat on my face.

  • My first thought was my new glasses, I hope they don’t break – they broke.
  • My second thought was, Cap come back! I had let go of the leash to save myself and put my hands out to protect my new glasses.
  • My third thought was, oh no Cap, don’t get hit by a car! He didn’t because he was saving me.

This all happened in the intersection. As most of you know, my acoustic neuroma creates an unbalanced life for me. I am used to navigating on the uneven pavement while my brain is telling me I am not upright. I am in a perpetual state of dizzy.  This is why I fell, I try to right myself but there is always a point of no return. When it happened at Disneyland in the Haunted Mansion, I had friends catch me. Here in Edmonton, my dog couldn’t catch me but he stood sentinel blocking cars from running me over.

Four cars, not one person asked me if I was okay or needed help. They all watched me struggle. All of them. Every single one.

I stood up and was disoriented. I took my sweet time. I couldn’t remember what my plan was. Apparently, I was to take Cap for a short walk and then drive my daughter to the train so she could get to class at the U of A on time. (I forgot to go home. I walked for two hours.) I got up, looked at my hands and touched my face. Then I walked to the middle of the intersection where my dog was watching the traffic ready to pounce and protect. I picked up his leash and we walked to the corner where I did a deeper diver of my injuries.

My left eyebrow was bleeding and numb. My left wrist and thumb were sprained and badly bruised. My right wrist was bruised, the palm of my right hand had rocks embedded deeply under the flesh. I took a moment to dig out the rocks I could see.

My glasses were bent, not scratched! (Thanks Universe!) But they were no longer in alignment and it made me feel unstable. I looked at the leash and Cap looked at me. Right, we were going for a walk!

I asked Cap which direction he wanted to go. He loves getting to choose. So we went North. I was still amazed that everyone stayed in their car and no one offered a word. People are disappointing.

Along the way, Cap took me past an apple tree, so I picked one. It was sweet and juicy with a hint of tartness. They were small but tasty. I suppose I stole it. So now I am a disappointing human taking what isn’t mine.

Further north, through the trees there was a pile of leave to trek through. I love the crunchy smell, I realized I messed up someone’s pile. I tried in vain to sweep them all back into place with my feet. Again, I was the disappointing human ruining some else’s work.

I expected Cap to turn right to go grab a snack at PetSmart. He walks in and sits at the til waiting for a treat. The staff are very accommodating and are happy to see him. But instead he turned left and we made our way to the local elementary school.  There is heavy construction building a junior high next door and there were cigarette butts in front of the site. this time people were disappointing. This made me think about what others are thinking and why can’t they just put trash in its place? Why is that so hard?

Disappointing strangers 2 Disappointing me 2 – score is tied.

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Along the sidewalk I noticed poetry etched into the concrete. Each meant something different to me. I was surprised at the amount of joy it gave me. When I came to the end of the poetry pieces I saw it was placed here by the Meadows Community League. The project is called Poetry Pathways, Love Letters to the World. I went to the website to learn more, “Poetry Pathways in the Meadows connects in practice and vision with the City’s Walk Edmonton project which understands that walkable communities are healthier, safer and friendlier.” Two pathways are located in front of schools and two pathways are located in community parks. I am going to take my pal Cap south next time to explore the other two poetry pathways.

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Humans do nice things.

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I suppose we are all guilty of being disappointing. But on the other hand, we all do some lovely things. I guess we shouldn’t be too quick to judge but instead look for the good things.

Edmonton Tourist: Thunder Lake Provincial Park

After working my summer away doing cool things. I took a much needed mental and physical break to do more cool things. This time of year I like to visit the west coast but I was there in the spring and honestly, I don’t have the vacation time or money to spend. I took my daughter to Disneyland for her 21st birthday this year. My children can convince me of anything but don’t tell them that. I am putty in their hands and they will always come first. Even now that they are adults, they are the most important thing to me. So, vacation dollars were wasted spent on her. That leaves me with enough spending cash to enjoy a staycation with a few little side trips. Honestly, Edmonton is just as interesting as hundreds of other cities I have visited, the only thing missing for me is the ocean. I still seek out water, it just doesn’t sound the same as my beloved Pacific Ocean.

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Day 3 of my staycation took me to Thunder Island Provincial Park. It is about a 100-minute drive northwest of Edmonton. This is another one of those places in Alberta that I had never been to. It amazes me that I have walked on Vimy Ridge, gazed up at the Sistine Chaple, explored the Seven Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, felt the spray of Niagra Falls, kayaked with orcas, hiked a rain forest, looked at a shrunken head and gazed upon the Book of Kells and stood at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity but I have not explored much of my home province. I am not sure what inspired me to explore Alberta Parks, but here we are.

I am having a hard time being alone with myself lately so I invited the hubs and my Chatterbox to join Captain and me on this day-trip north. I packed a lunch that included the hub’s favourite road trip cookie – the Fudgeo. The lunch is the classic hobo lunch my daughter(s) prefer while on a trip. It is an assortment of good cheese, Italian meats, crusty bread, balsamic and olive oil, veggie sticks and fruit. We threw in extra spicy Cheetos for funsies. I tossed in the trusted Bearclaw quilt that goes to all beaches with me and the 25-foot tether for Cap. There was a bear warning at this park – one was in the area so Cap needed to be close by…just in case.

We arrived at about 10:30-ish and headed straight for the day-use area. We had the vast parking lot to ourselves. We jumped out of the car at took in the view. This place was gorgeous. The leaves were beginning to turn and the air was crisp. Fall is definitely here.

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We walked along the beach for a bit and I imagine this place will be packed over the weekend.  For now, I was just enjoying the silence. Its something I had not experienced in a while. I thought it was quiet at Pigeon Lake but this was the kind of quiet that made you think you were the only person left on the planet. There were no car or boat sounds. No other human voices. Only the occasional bird. Even the trees were quiet, my daughter quipped, “they must be mad at each other”.

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We walked along the shore towards the pier, a small but reminiscent pier of my grandpa’s cabin at Isle Lake near Athabasca. It was solid but small and was yearning for a boat so we could go for a ride or head out to fish.

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As usual, my fraidy-cat dog walked on it and scared himself thinking he might get wet. He quickly scampered off so we decided to get on one of the trails to see what we could see.

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There was a look-out indicated on the map, so we planned to look for it. But the map wasn’t very useful. Eventually, we figured it out. First, we travelled along the shore.

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The water was smooth like glass. We saw beaver evidence and counted the loons on the lake – or ducks. They were so far out of my vision range, I couldn’t tell which they were. We watched a few bees gather pollen from the flowers. Thrive little bees, the world needs you!

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As we continued on our exploration, I pointed out asters and goldenrod, rosehips and dogwood, always reminding everyone they wouldn’t get scurvy being shipwrecked with me! Keeping Cap alive will also be important once we are shipwrecked because that boy is a hunter. He flushed out a grouse who flew into the tree to watch us. Cap was having a great time and I think he would have caught the bird had we let him go. With the bird in the tree, Cap was at the base just teasing it and laughing the whole time.

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We stood watching each other for a few minutes until the grouse had enough and flew off. Cap pulled Chatterbox into the brush but she slowed him down and we got him back on course.

We backtracked to the trailhead for the lookout which went straight up. You could tell we were out of the prairies and headed into the boreal region. More hills and forest than meadows and fields.

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When we reached the top, we discovered the ‘Lookout” was grown over and all you could see was choke cherries and hazelnut bushes.

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So much for seeing the lake from up high.

We walked along the road towards the beach to have our Hobo Lunch.

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Picnics are the best.

The drive home was quiet, mostly because I slept all the way. I think I am still recovering from my weekend at Pigeon Lake. Thunder Lake Provincial Park is gorgeous and I highly recommend packing up a picnic or your tent and go spend some time exploring this gem.

Winter Break

Health is a fickle thing. One minute you are great, the next…not so much.

My Christmas break was filled with sleeping, lab appointments, more sleeping mixed in with visits to my Doc. While I am steadily improving – not 100% – I am back at work and felt good enough to get outside. Sunshine and fresh air are magical elixirs that boost me up. The best part about getting outside is the sun is on its way back to me! Darkness isn’t always present and sometimes I can see the sun when I leave work. This is the best feeling – sure its dark when I get home, but sunshine in my mirror is lovely.

There is a National Park not that far away from me. Elk Island National Park is home to Bison, wolves, deer, moose…and a myriad of other creatures. I always ask the universe to show me some creature while I am there. I am never disappointed.

The Captain and I headed out mid-afternoon because I wanted to capture some twilight over Astotin Lake. We drove directly to the Bison loop in hopes to spot the heard. No such luck. I just caught the moonrise over the prairie.  The Red Chairs are a lovely spot to sit and contemplate.

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We left the loop to make our way to Astotin Lake but found a ‘bear jam’ on the way. It wasn’t really bears – but that is a common term for wild animal sighting. There was two bison across the beaver pond. They looked like rocks or boulders – but I knew they were the bison I was looking. ei7.jpg

After seeing those two fellas, I was hopeful I would spot a heard at the lake, or at least one more fellow. No such luck. everyone and their dog was at the beach today. I know it seems like an oddity to head to the beach in January. But Albertans don’t let the weather stop us from living our best life. We pack a lunch and make a day of it. Who doesn’t love the beach? Families were snowshoeing, tobogganing, skiing, sitting around a fire – there was a lot of fires. The smell was heavenly. It reminded me of winter cookout’s past. Pack snow around the fire as wind protection, roast hot dogs and apples and you are having a great time! The snow doubles as a cooler for beverages! Win/Win!

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We popped out of the car and started walking towards the lake, but the snow was deep and Cap didn’t enjoy it touching his belly. He is a big boy too so the snow must have been nearly a foot. He led me to a cleared path and we went exploring in the woods instead.

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There is a denseness I can’t explain unless you have experienced it. The snow absorbs sound so everything seems silent but yet you can hear voices carried across the lake. The crunch of the snow sounds different in January than it does in March. This is the height of winter and its perfect.

Further down the road, we discovered ungulate tracks – it looked like bison to me! Yet there were no large animals to be found. Cap loved the smell and followed the tracks for a while.

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Soon we found ourselves back a the beginning of our adventure. We did the full loop and that tired us both out. Cap slept all the way home and continued napping for the rest of the evening. He is a healthy guy but as he ages, he sleeps more. Kind of like me. Obviously, we are kindred spirits.

Elk Island National Park is located about 50km east of Edmonton on Hwy 16. You do need a discovery pass to enter. A single day is available at the gate. I have a yearly pass and try to make the most of it. Since I purchased the pass we have visited Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Pacific Rim National Reserve and Elk Island National Park. I hope to get to Yoho and Waterton this year before it expires. Get out there and take in that blue sky!

 

 

Disneyland

I am dreaming of a vacation.

My mom and I have been tossing around the idea of a vacation with her, dad and me. No one else. I want a memory of just the three of us. No stopping the car to let my brother out for a run. No having to share a seat with a sister who hogs all the cuddle time with mom and dad. No grandmas tell us where they want to eat. Just me, mom, and dad on the kind of vacation we have never had before. But I also want a vacation together that we have had before…like Disneyland. 

I began going to Disneyland at the age of six. I have been upwards of 30 times to the various parks in the United States and France. This may seem surprising to many who know me but it has been years since I have darkened the doorstep of any Disney Park, years. My last few memories were tainted by situations and relationships that needed to be purged by me. Moving forward I will spend future Disney Park time with family. I want to recreate my first memory and make new ones. I want to have a great memory of the parks with my children and my parents. So I think this year will be that opportunity. 

My best memory of Disneyland when I was six was sitting on the corner of Main Street with my dad. We were holding spots for my mom and brother. They were shopping at the Emporium for warm sweaters for us. It was August and the evenings become cooler. We were waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade. It was that parade’s debut that summer. A fun fact that I only know now because I am a fan. I was oblivious of that fact as a kid. 

Mom came out of the shop with grey sweatshirts with Mickey Mouse on the front. The park still sells that style only its called vintage now. We snuggled into the sweatshirts and munched on popcorn. We shared a box between all of us. I remember my dad being amazed by the lights and music. I was mesmerized. 

Fast forward to the year I brought my kids for the first time and we sat on Main Street wearing newly purchased sweatshirts watching the Electrical Parade. We didn’t munch on popcorn we had dole whips and Mickey bars instead but we were enchanted with the parade. It was as magical as I remembered. The next day we met Pooh and Pigglet and my son was transfixed. He whispered secrets into Pooh’s ear and was happy beyond words.

My children are now adults and my parents are seniors. I am not that little six year old who had crushes on Robin Hood and Thomas O’Malley, now I crush on Spanish Mode Buzz, Bert and Ramone who likes it low and slow as he cruises through Carsland. We have all decided we want to have a family vacation together in our old haunt. We want to explore Galaxy’s edge, ride the Matterhorn on the Tomorrowland’s side at night, ride Pirate’s and Splash and maybe even sit on a bench on Mainstreet and watch a parade or two. I want to pop into the Emporium with my mom and buy sweatshirts for everyone because the evening is cool. I want to share with my parents the secrets I have learned and make my dad take a photo with his doppelganger Han Solo. 

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I want to be amazed by magic. It’s been a long time since I felt happy there. I am ready to get that back. It will be 47 years since my very first visit. There is a theme park where the parking lot used to be. Rides have changed and evolved but there is still a lamp above the firehouse on Mainstreet that I am looking forward to seeing again.  I can’t wait for 2019 and all the vacation magic it will bring. 

Lights

What are your best holiday memories as a child? Mine always included some yuletide light display around the city. Edmonton has an abundance of festive events available for a nominal fee, some are quite expensive for a small family and the best kind in my book, FREE.

As a kid, my best memory was Fort Edmonton Park. It included a hayride through the dark village and heading over to Egge’s barn for hot chocolate and cookies to wrap up the evening. I am attending Fort Edmonton’s panto Red Riding Hood on Thursday so that fun place is checked off my list for 2018! I, of course, will report back. I also really enjoyed the teddy exhibit at RAM but they haven’t collected bears in years. But mostly I loved driving through the different neighbourhoods to see how people decorated their homes. Late at night with car blankets on our laps, Christmas sing-a-long music playing on the radio and late night hot chocolate before bed. 

I did a variation of those activities with my kids when they were little. We would load them up in the toboggan and pull them along Candy Cane Lane (several blocks in Edmonton that decorate for the season with magnificent displays). We would visit the  donkey where my daughter yells “HI DONKEY!” The donkey and sheep were part of the living nativity scene at City Hall. We would do the drive-by light display at the park and go look at the tree at the Ledge. All the things that my kids reminisce about even today.  

Last night we all piled into the car and drove to a dark empty parking lot in the city’s east side industrial area and wait for the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. It travels across the country and sets up a party in different cities to raise money and awareness for local food banks. I produced a series of events for Alberta Food Banks this fall so I felt I was covered. Sitting in the dark and seeing the glow of the train was magical. It made me wish this was a thing when my son was little. Never have you met a bigger train enthusiast than my boy. Even today he still says ” oooooooooo a train!” and then spouts off knowledge you didn’t think you needed to know. 

We stood on the side of the tracks (a safe distance away) a watched the lights. The passenger car that held the entertainment was playing Elvis’ Blue Christmas so festive music added to the charm in the dark.  This is a thing I plan on going to as long as CP Rail participates. It was magical. I recommend checking out when it will visit your neighbourhood or a the very least do a rail-by. Go to Instagram and follow #CPHolidaytrain for more beautiful photos.  

Even you can’t see the CP’s display, then for sure visit your local neighbourhood. Lights just bring me into the spirit of the season, I hope they do for you as well.