Edmonton Tourist: Vacation Plans

I lost my glass of water and spent about thirty minutes looking for it. You know where it was? Sitting in the water dispenser waiting for me. It was full. I don’t remember filling it.

The phone rang this morning and it was my colleague. He needed a report I was supposed to run. I thought I had run it and I looked in the file – nope. There was no record of downloading it either. Sent it to him and thought about my week, what did I do all week? I don’t know. I remember feeling like I got lots done – I just can’t tell you what it was.

This is what mental exhaustion looks like. I have been here before. Thankfully, it isn’t bad yet. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. There are layers stacked upon us – pandemic, the premier, residential schools, rogue rule followers, restrictions, fear – and it is a burden for some, too much for others. For me, it’s draining and I am not reenergizing myself enough.

Every person I talk to wants a vacation, the kind where you go somewhere and do things that bring comfort. My vacation won’t be until July and even then, I am not going anywhere. I will be fully vaccinated by then and that makes me grateful and emotional. I am 15 months into this pandemic and still work at home daily. Occasionally I go into the office because I need a scanner, printer and inventory items, it its rare. Yet all I want to do is stand in the ocean for about an hour or 50.

Since I am not going to the ocean this year I think I need to plan something so I don’t feel like I have wasted my vacation. I have been kicking around some staycation ideas and honestly – I just realized I will be able to do stuff. Real Edmonton Tourist stuff. Half the fun of a vacation is the planning so I am reaching out to YOU. Any Edmonton suggestions?

Here are some things I am looking forward to:

  • Outdoor Farmer’s Markets – I avoided them last year but it’s no secret how much I love them. I think I will visit 124th Grand Street and St. Albert for sure.
  • Whyte Avenue Art Walk – that runs every Saturday until August 1. Maybe I will find that raven I have been looking for.
  • Al Fresco on Fourth – patios, outdoor vendors, art, parks, say no more – this is a thing for me. Saturdays downtown on 4th (104 street) (I think I need more Saturdays…)
  • Fort Edmonton Park – it has finally reopened and I am very interested in exploring the indigenous exhibit and checking out what’s new after refurb closer for the the past two years.
  • Public Art tour – my friend and I explored a downtown section of public art and murals a few years ago – I want to checkout the art around Old Strathcona next. I bet she will come with me again because that was a lovely day and completely worth doing again. This time I will drive and instead of coffee we should go to a craft brewers for lunch.
  • Craft Beer Tour – I think I will do a road trip and visit different tasting rooms – this will need some thought and planning especially around drinking responsibly.
  • Part of me wants to drive to Jasper for the day and part of me doesn’t. I will play this by ear as the vacation approaches. My tenting days are over – who are we kidding – my camping days are over and I am not ready for a hotel stay yet. So Jasper must be a day trip. I have done it before and always loved it. This way Captain can come too.
  • Stanley Milner Edmonton Public Library, now that it is open, the new library is a place I haven’t been to yet. I think it needs to be on the list. Oh and borrow an actual book with paper pages. It’s been ages since I have done that.
  • Brunch – this is the number one thing to do that I have missed most this year. My go-to favourite place is Cafe Bicyclette but maybe I need to branch out and try someplace new. The fear is I won’t like it as much… but vacations are for risk-taking. Where do you suggest?
  • Neon Sign Museum -I love this place. The problem with summer is by the time its dark enough to see the neon in all it’s glory it’s 10:00 p.m. but, I will take one for the team.
  • The Sugar Bowl – I want to call my friends, sit on the patio and eat popcorn. I miss friends. I have a feeling everyone will be trying to sit on patios with friends this summer.

Well, that is eleven things. I need to save some time to rest and sleep – maybe read a book or two. Tell me some best places to visit in Edmonton and that includes brunch spots. What am I missing?

Stay healthy friends!

Healing

I have talked about the toll the pandemic has had on me. It is mostly fine but this third wave in Alberta is horrifying. Our numbers per 100,000 are the highest in the world. I am grateful I have received my first vaccine dose. The hubs and parents have theirs, my children are scheduled. It is a relief. Almost 2 million (out of four million) Albertans have received their first dose yet the numbers climb because of “freedom” fighters who host rallies and rodeos, or attend massive church services. I can’t begin to understand the way people think.

My family is filled with nurses, academic doctors and scientists. I have grown up knowing knowledge of sciences are not ‘beliefs’ but facts. Science is constantly trying to prove itself wrong – that’s how we know what the facts are. Facts keep showing up. So what I am going to tell you may seem at odds with practical science.

To heal from this chaos, I have a daily meditation practice. Twice a day I sit in silence and meditate. It has been life changing. Recently I hit the 1600 consecutive day mark. For anyone keeping track, that is four and a half years of daily practice never missing once. I am also a reiki and crystal practitioner. I often practice on myself but lately it has become too much so I called my personal practitioner and mentor for a session.

To get the full benefit from a reiki session, I meditate and set an intention to allow my practitioner into my energy space several days before. The day of my session she sits with a grid and energetically connects with me. (I know this sounds like woo woo to many of you – but that’s how I feel about church – its weird to me and I don’t get it – but I respect that it works for you.) She intuitively chooses crystals that connect with me. This is the grid she built:

Fluorite and amethyst were the main focus with hematite aligning everything together. When I decided to call her, I had connected with my crystals as well. I began meditating with fluorite and amethyst completely unaware she had also chosen these for me. Its not a coincidence, its what always happens when we connect energetically.

My session was via zoom because she has moved to a different part of the province and you know – there is a pandemic happening. A reiki session is similar to a massage. In this case there is no touching – obviously – when I practice I can do either touch or not – sitters preference -but touch is far more effective for me. We went through a visualization that made me cry. Then a healing process. I yawn a lot during a session as my body adjusts to the flow of energy. I also get incredibly thirsty for days afterwards and sleep deeply.

A few days post session garbage starts to purge from my system. I often get colds or something else releases. I don’t ever feel sick – my body is releasing garbage that no longer serves me. Sometimes I purge people. They just don’t fit with me and I release the connection. We then fade away from each other without any drama. This time I got a big stye in my right eye. I haven’t been anywhere to catch anything. In fact, that has been the greatest thing about the pandemic – I am never sick. Garbage is oozing out of my eye. It’s fine, not painful, just super ugly and a sticky. I am keeping it clean, using warm compresses and flushing it out as recommended. If it doesn’t heal on its own I will go see my doc on Tuesday. But its already better.

I have watched reiki sessions and witnessed people coughing up flehm or even vomiting. But other sessions have no purges and healing happens to a joint or muscle – depending on what the treatment was. My session was healing on a molecular level. It was deep and I experienced warmth. I was quite flushed when we finished.

I was also calm and felt peaceful. I could have slept for hours and if it was closer to bedtime, I would have done just that.

During this session there was a specific intention and focus. I didn’t even know I needed it until it arrived. We worked through it and now I am excited to see how it ends. I suppose I will know come June. I guess I am sharing all this because everyone heals differently. Some people need to talk, others sleep, some people go to the woods – my point is everyone finds a way to heal that works for them. Reiki and crystals are mine.

Stay healthy friends.

Question 17 of 52

Why is it important to have high self esteem?

I think self-love is the most under-rated quality that you can possess. My ex never thought it was a good idea to have self-esteem. It made you arrogant and egotistical. I disagree. People who exhibit those qualities behave that way to build themselves up. They need constant validation. Loving yourself is the best gift you can give yourself. When you love yourself your well is full. Then you can give more of yourself.

I began looking myself in the mirror and said nice things to me. Sounds bonkers, I know, but hearing yourself speak truths is uplifting. I do this before bed so its the last thing I hear while I sleep in a effort to raise my vibration. Everything I say to me begins with ‘I am…’ It is very similar to saying a sankalpa during meditation except you say it so you can hear, not just think it.

I read once your soul doesn’t know the difference and will believe everything you tell it. Give yourself some loving kindness and try this before bed for a 21 days. Look yourself in the eye and repeat these:

  • I am kind
  • I am smart
  • I am beautiful
  • I am happy
  • I love you

I promise you will sleep better and little by little you will notice a difference in your relationships, your work and your general happiness. It takes time to undo the words and beliefs other people told you that you are. Remember, you are what you say you are. No one gets to decide that.

I also started throwing in I am wealthy because … the Universe is always listening.

Stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Miquelon Lake Provincial Park

Miquelon lake is the provincial park of my childhood. Dad would take us here during summer break as long as we did our chores before hand. It was only a 40 minute drive from our house in Sherwood Park so it was an easy destination that gave all the beachy vibes of a destination vacation. That’s a lie. There are no palm trees or crystal clear blue water. It is a swamp in the middle of the prairies, but that’s not to say the place isn’t lovely – its beautiful for what it is. Miquelon Lake is not trying to be a lake in Ontario or an ocean beach. It is a lake on the prairies.

I have cabin fever an many of you do too because this place was packed. Filled with loud music, people singing off key, people yelling and the smell of hot dogs in the air. It wasn’t the tranquil respite I was hoping for.

I hadn’t been here since my niece went missing on the beach. Spoiler alert: we found her 20 terrifying minutes later playing in the trees close by. Before that, I would bring my kids here just like my dad did years before. Its a good place to build sandcastles. Back in the day you were allowed to swim in the water but in recent years the lake has been receding and is now leaching salt. Chalk it up to climate change. I suppose it won’t be the place I take my grandkids to swim and that’s a shame.

In elementary school, we would come on overnight campouts. I learned orienteering here in the woods, and was taught about the different ecosystems. I studied beavers and their lodges, watched loons and blue herons. It was the wilderness in my backyard.

It still is those things but its also a picnic destination. Captain and I went for walk along the beach and it is quite a distance now from the parking lot. Where the water began in the 70’s is now beach grass and sand extends past where I learned to swim.

We headed north into the group picnic sites and walked along some trails before heading back to the car. I couldn’t hear nature, just loud music. I might be that old man who yells at people “Get off my lawn!”. The park is still lovely. There are plenty of picnic spots. The campground was full for a weekend in April which is unusual but 19C is an invitation to enjoy the beginning of summer here in the Edmonton area so who can blame them? I too was searching for nature now that spring is here.

I don’t think I will come back for a long time. I will leave it for families who are picnicking and playing frisbee. Maybe when my grandkids come on the scene we will come for a picnic and a hike in the woods or bring the telescope because this place is a protected night sky reserve.

My next destination will be definitely be the road less traveled.

Bake Club: Not Hot Cross Buns

The act of making is typically done to please someone else. At least in my case. I have created all kinds of things to gain that praise from someone. When I bake I make things that my family likes. Not this time. Today I made something that only I like. Last week I realized I have not been treating myself – that ended today.

My daughter claims dried fruit is an abomination. Raisins are like chewing old people. I disagree. But because I love her, I tend to leave out raisins, dried cherries, candied ginger and other dried fruit to please her. My grandma put raisins in everything. I remember my dad complaining about it in everything but butter tarts. I always loved them except that time she put it in her stew… grandma – I love you but that was weird. But the raisin sauce on ham was good!

Today I made Not Hot Cross Buns because every spring the bakeries make them and they look so delicious with their currents and raisins. The hubs bough ‘hot cross bun bagels’ last week. The flavour was nice but the fruit was green and red. That candied peel fruit that is dyed is tasteless and holds way too much artificial colour. I prefer no food dye. I am not sure why – but it turns me off. Anything that alters normal body chemistry and turns things colours can’t be good for you over the long haul.

I soaked 2/3 cup of raisins – the good kind that taste like they came from a red box. You know what I mean. Then I zested one orange and juiced it. I soaked the raisins in the orange juice for about 30 minutes. Rum is good for this as well. While that was happening I weighed out my 440g of flour, 50 grams of dark brown sugar and 50 g of white granulated sugar into the bowl of my stand mixer. I added 2 1/4 tsp or one package of instant yeast, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of allspice and 1/4 of a grated nutmeg. I whisked that together and started on my wet ingredients.

Into a small bowl or two cup glass measure, I added 1/2 cup of 2% milk, 1/3 cup of butter and popped that into the microwave for about a minute swirling it together until the butter melted. I added 1 Tbsp. of vanilla and the orange zest from before. Whisked 1 egg and add it to the mix.

In your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or by hand – but it will take a while) on low speed, slowly drizzle the wet ingredients. Before it combines into a ball, drain the raisins and add them to the dough. Beat on medium speed until it comes together. There will likely be raisins or what ever dried fruit you used on the bottom of the bowl.

Sprinkle about 2 Tbsp. of flour onto a clean surface and dump the dough and remaining dried fruit out. Start to knead the dough until it feels soft. At the beginning it will be gritty – you will know the second it becomes soft and smooth. It will take about 5-7 minutes but maybe longer. It took me 10 minutes today. Form into a ball.

Light oil a bowl, and place your dough into the bowl. rotate it so it also is covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let this double in size in a warm spot. Keep an eye on it it should be about an hour but it really depends on your kitchen.

Divide up the dough into 14 pieces and form into balls. I put them into a parchment lined pan because I like soft sides. Give them a little room because they will expand. If you don’t want soft pull-a-parts – put them on a baking tray with lots of room around them so they won’t touch while rising. Let rise for another 2 hours.

This is where I stop because a flour paste cross is tasteless and I don’t like the sticky glaze – but if you do – here are the rest of the instructions. This is why I call them Not Hot Cross Buns. My daughter said – just call it raisin buns…. sheesh mom!

The cross! Mix about a 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 of water until it forms a paste. You are going to pipe this – so adjust the consistency as necessary. I filled a ziplock bag and snipped the end off. Pipe a long stream from top to bottom allowing it to hug the bun. Turn your tray and repeat the process intersecting the first line.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Make an egg wash of egg and cream or milk – about a tbsp, and brush over your buns. Bake in the overn for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Make an apricot glaze – I used Peach jam because that is what my mom made me and it is what I had on hand. 1 tbsp. of jam, 3 tbsp. of vanilla and 1 tbsp. of water. heat together and strain through a fine sieve. Brush over the warm buns. Eat them warm, eat them room temperature or eat them cold.

This is how they should look:

Easter Hot Cross Buns Recipe | Le Cordon Bleu

Tell me how yours turned out!

Stay healthy friends!

Question 11 of 52

What makes you feel like a strong person?

Boundaries.

Before I had courage to set boundaries and before I am who I think I am – not who you tell me to be, my boundaries were weak. I let people lie and gaslight me, I let people take advantage of my good nature and worst of all, I gave more chances than I ever should have. I allowed people to treat me like garbage all because I wanted to belong and I wanted friends to want me and value me. I was looking in the wrong places. I let myself down.

July 7, 2019 I snapped. I had had enough. I drew the line in the sand and walked away. I grieved for a while but mostly I reflected on the state of my mental health and began to enjoy the peace in my life.

I don’t regret anything I did for a minute.

I realize that all of events of my life led me to that moment. Choosing me was the best thing I ever did and I am glad it didn’t happen too late. I have years left to enjoy this new found freedom. I have purged former friends and family from my life. I now have a circle of friends and family who I can trust with my life. I know they have my back. They are reliable. In the end, I conjured up covenant that Indiana Jones would have chosen and chose wisely.

Boundaries are more powerful than I thought they were with the added bonus of being a set of blueprints to map out my day to day life. It took a friend telling me what I didn’t want to hear. A punch to the gut and she was right. She is the friend everyone needs. She will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I even said no at work. I was off for the weekend and received a message asking for a file. I had worked overtime every day that week. I said no – I would get it Monday morning or they could ask xxx who was still working. They apologized and said Monday was fine. The world didn’t end, I wasn’t fired and I could continue with the relaxing start to my weekend. I promptly turned off my phone.

Boundaries are a beautiful thing and that is what makes me strong. How about you?

Question 10 of 52

No photo description available.

What does it feel like when someone recognizes something you worked hard to do?

Satisfying. The end.

Kidding… I can write a bit more on this topic

I used to draw a lot. The hours I spent at my desk, alone in my room drawing was astounding. I transposed images. I would look for the detail and copy them exactly. I didn’t have tons of talent to come up with something on my own, so exploring graphic design didn’t work out so well for me. But I could take an image and duplicated. If any of you know what career that could lead to, please drop me a line. Any rate, I would take these images and show my dad. He was always amazed and proud. He often encouraged me to show people my portfolio when they came to visit. It made me feel good.

I was never the athletic child and in a world where all the funding goes towards that, or you are judged by size of your body, having arts as your talent was pretty frustrating. I often felt inadequate. But art and academics came easy to me. Easy doesn’t mean it didn’t take effort. When I worked hard at something, I often heard “but it’s easy for you” or “but you are good at that”. Hell yeah I am good at it because I put effort into it. To be recognized for it was another level.

My dad has always been stellar at encouraging me. His enthusiastic response helped me pursue activities and achievements without fear. People will often shoot you down rather than build you up. It is just as easy to be a cheerleader than a discourager. So when you get recognized for the effort, it is a great feeling. Who doesn’t like that? It sure doesn’t happen often.

I like to take a page from my dad’s book, lead by example. Offer the complement. Tell someone you see their work. Show people you appreciate their efforts. If we all lifted each other up, the world would be a better place.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Pistachio Pinwheel Cookies

I have never made a pinwheel cookie until yesterday. It wasn’t easy but completely manageable. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day overall and maybe that is a contributing factor. I haven’t been sleeping, I feel tremendous stress at work, I have cabin fever like I have never experienced and am fantasizing about living in a six bedroom house ALONE. I don’t have a six bedroom house now…so why one where I am alone? I have no idea but the past year has taken a toll on all of us and I am really feeling it. Where some people want to socialize – I want to feel isolation. This may lead to a drive in the country later today. If I don’t come back it’s because I found the six bedroom home in the woods and live there now. Back to cookies and why this wasn’t easy with my crankiness aside.

There are many steps to this cookie. I am more of a cream and dump kind of cookie baker. Give me a basic butter cookie and toss in things like chocolate, nuts and fruit – you have yourself my favourite kind of cookie. But, working my way through cookbooks is part of the challenge. Learning new skills, trying new ingredients, is all part of growth on my part. So here were are.

I watched Claire Safitz’s NYT Cooking video on how to make this cookie and found that to be the same as reading her instructions. For a change, there is no discrepancy. Yay Claire! She likes this cookie for Christmas because she doesn’t like decorating and this is a self decorating or interesting cookie with the green. I probably wouldn’t make this cookie all the time either but save it for a fancier time because it looks good – it tastes fine but it’s not sweet. You get the sweetness from the nuts and a bit from the the outer ridges.

This cookie is a shortbread cookie. The almond white layer would be a great cookie on its own but it pairs nicely to the pistachio layer. I used almond flour – a new ingredient to me. The almond extract takes it to a new level. I divided it into thirds and set 1/3 aside for the pistachios. I rolled it out measuring 12″ x 8 “. Measuring is also new to me. I have a ruler in my kitchen now and all dough is rolled to the perfect thickness. All my baked good were too thin. I have the hang of this now! I rolled it out and popped it into the fridge while I made the pistachio layer.

I keep pistachios in the freezer because of the high fat content. This prevents the expensive nuts from going rancid. Honestly, I practice this with all my nuts now. Everything in the freezer, label and dated. I ground up the nuts in my food processor and added them to the reserved 1/3 of the almond dough. I think you could sub cashews because it would taste wonderful but you wouldn’t get colour variation. Then I dropped spoonful’s onto the chilled pre-rolled dough.

Using my offset spatula, I spread it out leaving a 1/2″ boarder. Not going to lie, this was not easy and very fussy. I let it chill for 30 minutes.

No came the hard part. Rolling this into a log. I started with the edge closest to me but the almond dough just tore and crumbled. Then I thought to use the parchment as if I was rolling sushi on a mat. Boom – this mad a huge difference and I used the parchment to help put it into a tight log.

I wrapped the log in the parchment and let chill for another 30 minutes.

I rolled the log in sugar. Don’t miss this step. I didn’t have sanding or turbinado but it was still fine, and honestly these cookies need the extra sugar. Then the instructions said to cut in half and continue cutting in half until you have 32 pieces. I trimmed the ends first to give it an even start.

I laid them out on a baking sheet fairly close together and baked them for 20 minutes at 350F. They don’t spread but you need to give them room for the heat to circulate.

These cookies need a cup of tea or a glass of cold milk but after a day the flavour improved and I found myself really enjoying these. Her full recipe can be found here.

Food processor is useful for chopping pistachios. Obviously it can be done with a knife.

  • 2/8 cup shelled pistachios (3.2 oz /90g)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter(6 oz /170g), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (3.7 oz / 105g)
  • 2 large egg yolks (1.1 oz / 32g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.6 oz / 130g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1-1/8 cups almond flour (5.6 oz / 160g)
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar, for rolling

Stay healthly friends!

Bake Club: Rhubarb Galettes

Back in the summer I asked facebook if anyone had an excess of rhubarb they were willing to share with me. I have a tiny new plant that doesn’t produce much yet. I love rhubarb, it tastes like summer to me and is basically a weed here on the Canadian prairies. A good friend had a bunch and my sister-in-law(SIL) said I could take some of hers.

I took both. My SIL said ‘What are you going to do with all this rhubarb?’ Obviously eat it. I froze two large bags. Last week I was thumbing through my Duchess Bakeshop book (tired of hearing about this book yet? You can buy it here.) and found Rhubarb Galettes on page 165.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and if I did – I am sure it would have been spectacular. But mine was delicious all the same.

I have three bundles of pie dough in my freezer. Each bundle makes a double crust or 24 tarts. This is my grandmother’s recipe I gave here in the Butter Tart recipe. It is one of the most forgiving, flakey crusts I have ever made. Plus I had enough and then some of rhubarb in my freezer. What I liked about this recipe was the method. The pretty rounds used for the galettes. Most instructions have rough edges or torn pieces to make to look very rustic. I prefer pretty edges.

I made the topping and set it aside:

  • 1/4 old-fashion rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp of butter (I used salted because that is what is in the pantry)

Then I made the filling and set it aside:

  • 3 cups of fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 3 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

I had thawed the pie dough in the fridge the night before then rolled it out on a lightly floured surface. I measured a small plate and bowl to find a 6″ diameter and used it as a template to cut the circles. I got three circles on the first roll, combined the scraps and cut two more then combined the scraps for the sixth round. They are craggy but… whatever, so much for pretty. I placed them on a silpat liner because there was going to be leakage.

I used a 1/3 cup measure to divide the filling between the galette rounds. Then I pleated up the sides of the dough before I added the topping.

What I should have done was add the topping then pleat up the sides. I then baked them at 375F. What I should have done, was chill them for about 30 minutes so they would hold their shape better. Then apply an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. The rhubarb is tart and it needs a tad more sweetness to the crust. But overall these were delicious.

They kept a room temperature in a pie safe for three days. The family enjoyed them. The crust was crisp on day one, soft and flakey day two. I think I liked day two best. None of these turned out pretty like the photo in the book – or in her shop. That is why I think chilling the crust is key because I had a breach when the pie crust laid down to rest.

One day I am going to give Duchess pie crust a try. She uses a combo of vegetable shortening and butter. That makes me curious.

I think about this galette and the different possibilities for filling, like apple or berries. Something that gives you the taste of summer in the middle of a cold winter.

Stay healthy friends!