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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Joy

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I met a wise woman this summer and she looked at me for a long moment. Silence hung between us as I waited for her to speak. I could tell she was thinking. It took a moment longer then she said, “Have you forgotten how to play? I think you need more joy in your life.”

Normally I get defensive, or maybe I used to get defensive. Maybe a bit of both because no one likes to hear how badly they are performing as a human. But in this case, I knew she was correct. I have spent lots of time recovering from different things.

  • Heartbreak
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Rejection

You get the point. Recovering takes time. It now called ‘Growth’, either way, you can forget what fun and joy look like while you are experiencing growth. I used to laugh way more than I do now. I wanted to do that more.

She asked me what did I like to do when I was young. What did I do for fun? I thought about this for a long time and then made a list.

  • Ride
  • Music
  • Read
  • Create
  • Dance

Ride:  I dissected my list. What was it about riding my bike I liked? Not the bike. But it was able to take me places farther than my feet could carry me in a day. I lived in Sherwood Park and would ride my bike into the city every weekend to explore the river valley and I would always buy a frozen lemonade.

Music: I was in high school and I directed a children’s choir for the church. It ws the only way you could get me to go to church, that and the chance to see that cute guy sitting with his family in the third row. I belonged to a jazz choir and was often singled out for my voice. I belonged to a basement band – the 80’s version of a garage band. We performed for ourselves and played a lot of Journey and Led Zeplin – weird mix but we found it challenging and fun. I expressed all my emotions through the piano. All of them. I loved growing up with a piano.

Read: Who wants to go to bed when you can visit New York or London or Australia? I wanted to read about girls like I was, smart, adventurous and always getting in and out of scrapes. Now I like to read about women like me, smart, adventurous and always getting into and out of scrapes.

Create: I drew a lot, I mean A LOT. My dad would often show my work to people and I was always asked to draw something for someone. I even toyed with the idea of becoming a cleanup artist for Disney. I could create amazing things out of lego and build a four-story mansion from two sticks, seven blankets and three cushions. If I needed a backdrop for my imagination, out came the paper and pencil.

Dance: I never took lessons. But turn on the record player and I was a prima ballerina or Broadway star. I had the BEST jazz hands since Gwen Verdon. I could Step in Time with Bert and Mary.

Interestingly enough, I continue to do all those things – although I haven’t built a fort since I was a teacher. I expect to have to teach my future grandbabies how to do that and I am up for the challenge. What I think I lost was the ability to be present while experiencing the things that I find fun. So I did a little experiment.

I made an effort to be in the moment, not check my phone for a text, not think about work or some argument I got into about politics, not worry about the next thing. Just simply be in the moment. I do this in meditation, so why couldn’t I do this in play? I read about art being a form of meditation and prayer, but people take prayer very seriously. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be serious? Maybe it was meant to be fun and engaging!

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The first thing I did was go exploring. I do this all the time as you the reader knows, but I did it without thinking about a blog post. Or a photo for my Instagram. I did it without thinking about any conversations I had. It was hard to change that mindset at first but I have now been meditating for 1,015 consecutive days. I have a pretty good handle on being in the moment during meditation and I knew I could apply it to playtime. I explored in the woods and in the city. I found cool and new things in all those places. I took photos because it brings me joy to compose a photo and look at it later. If a blog post or Instagram photo came out of it, fine, but that was not the intention.

Then next thing I did was sign up to join a choir. I had some issues with the choir director and looked at the time commitment and decided it sounded like work not fun. The piano is used exclusively by my daughter and I don’t really feel like learning all over again. But I do have the most amazing music collection. AND I know all the words to every song. Instead of playing podcasts in the car, I turned on music a few more times a week. I sang songs that made me feel. 

Read: I read about 50 books a year. Still doing it! But… I read about 25 books about marketing and leadership this year. Obviously, this was for work and not pleasure. I realized I hadn’t been reading for fun in a while. I went to the library and signed up for a card and learned how to use the apps to get ebooks and audiobooks. I downloaded Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – she is one of the most beautiful writers I have ever come across – and became OBSESSED with Albie and Franny. I still think of them even though I know they are fictional characters. I am now listening to The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, it’s no Red Tent, but Linda Lavin is a delight to listen to. I have a couple of books I am reading one by Martha Beck, Elizabeth Gilbert and one by Rob Schwartz. Each book is in a different room in the house so when I have a moment, I crack it open. This afternoon I plan to get cozy with Martha and maybe finish the last half of the book.

I haven’t drawn or painted in a very long time, but I doodle during staff meetings. I write 6 out of seven days a week and I will still play lego – I have a box of women in science and Doctor Who lego that I like to play with when I sit at my desk. I have a nifty kaleidoscope that I look through and I often pull out my spirograph set. I create at work and right now I am in planning and creation mode so I have lots of opportunities to flex the creative gene.

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Dancing isn’t as prolific as when I was a child but I will shoulder dance or bop my head around to music. It feels good.

After being intentional with all the things I found fun as a child and still do today, something fairly amazing has begun to happen. I am happy more. Simple. I went to see Downton Abbey and was absolutely giddy. I cooked all day for a mock Thanksgiving dinner before my parents went back to Europe and I loved it. I explored the public art in my community and was thrilled there was so much of it!

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I think the moral of the joy story is to be present in what you do and joy will find you.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Alberta Parks

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Lois Hole Cenntenial Park

Now that I have finished my City of Edmonton River Valley Parks series, I felt like I needed a new project. I have chosen to explore Alberta Provincial Parks around Edmonton, or at least go to parks that are day trips. Provincial parks are not the same as National parks. They are governed by different levels of government and Alberta parks have free day use. National Parks you need a parks permit for day use. There are more differences, but you can look that up for yourself.

Around my city, there are quite a few Alberta Provincial Parks within an hour of the city. If I drive a smidge farther say an hour and a half, there are even more. I know I have been to a few parks, but there are so many I have never been to at all and those are the ones I am going to focus on. I did some research and used this list It is provided by Alberta parks and helped me locate the park based on the nearby town. Looking at the different parks, I know I want to visit parks that promote day use. There is no point going to Nanton because it is only a campground. I want to see and experience these places. I have added the following to my list:

  • Thunder Lake
  • Long Lake
  • AspenBeach
  • Coal Lake
  • Cooking Lake
  • JJ Collett
  • Lois Hole Centennial Park

I have been to these places but its been decades so I think they deserve another visit:

  • Wabamun Lake
  • Pigeon Lake
  • Pembina River
  • Strathcona Science Park
  • Miquelon Lake

Occasionally I will do overnight trips at head to parks that are farther south but I will get to that another time. For now, my list is full of local day trips. Hopefully, I can get through most of the list by next summer. My first report will be Lois Hole, Centennial Park. It is located west of St. Albert and only a 30-minute drive. I think it’s a great place to start. Next up will be Pigeon Lake, I have a work thing and will be there all weekend so, obviously, I will report back on that lake.

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Wish me luck and throw out some suggestions for your favourite Alberta Provincial Park.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Bountiful Farmers’ Market

There is a new indoor market in Edmonton I was curious about it. I have been to other cities with indoor markets like Seattle or Vancouver. I like the atmosphere of these places. Edmonton has a year-round indoor market in Old Strathcona. The Strathcona Farmers Market is busy and bustling with long-time favourite vendors. The new Bountiful Market is similar but not as bustling as the other ones I had been to. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the lack of people crashing into me. I think this is because of the wide isles. The number of people there had to be as many as found in Strathcona. The cars were parked as far as the eye could see in either direction on 97 street plus the parking lot was full.

The place smelled clean and not of fish or farm. It was bright and airy with a variety of stalls that I hadn’t seen before. Often you go to the City market or 124 street and you can find the same vendors. This all seemed new.

I arrived as it opened with my pal Andie in tow. Our first stop was coffee for here but I just looked around and chatted with her when she wasn’t chatting with people she already knew. People say I know a lot of people but Andie knows twice as many as me. The crowds hadn’t begun to build so it was easy to talk to vendors. I liked the way the stalls were built. Each had a frame and a sign. It was consistent and pretty. I had no idea how important that was until I experienced it. It made the space inviting.

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Most vendors were set up for taste samples. I tried everything from gin – deep regret that I didn’t buy it. I will need to go back to buy some- to gelato. There were pretzels and perogies plus endless fruit and vegetables. The flower vendor had the loveliest peonies available. It made me think of a friend of mine and her lovely garden. She should consider selling cut flowers at different markets.

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We stopped often and spoke to everyone. I sampled things that were delicious and tried some things that I wish never entered my mouth. But that’s how it goes and why you should taste before you buy. My taste isn’t for everyone.

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It excites me that we have another indoor market in Edmonton and on the south side that’s close to me. Soon all the stalls should be filled and then this place will really be hopping!

You can find it here:

  • 3696 97 Street, Edmonton
  • 9am – 5pm every Friday, Saturday, Sunday — all year.

For more information visit Bountiful Farmers’ Market and say hey to the Trouble Monk people, their gin is delicious.

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!

 

 

RAM

The Edmonton Tourist respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

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Who remembers visiting the Royal Museum of Alberta as a kid around Christmas and riding the moving sidewalk to get a glimpse of the Teddy Bears? That was one of my favourite memories around this time of year. My family would clamber into the vehicle and we would go to the museum, visit the poinsettia display at the Muttart, go say ‘hello’ to the donkey at City Hall and then spend the evening driving around the city looking at lights. This usually happened the Sunday before Christmas, but not always or it was spread out over the season.

The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) is back open and in its new location after a long hiatus of collection transfer to the new site downtown. It is a beautiful facility with lots of light and collections I have not seen before. I purchased a Mammoth Pass for $35.00 which I think is a steal. I can come and go, checking out the different galleries including the features that rotate on a regular basis. After spending the day on Monday, I realize you need at least two days to see the Human History gallery and the Natural History gallery. I spent 4 hours in Human History and didn’t read it all. I plan to take my time with RAM over the next few months and really explore it. My grandpa always read every single word in the museum and it was painful to go with him because I just wanted to see stuff, not learn about it. He never went through it fast enough.  I am ready to learn about the history now so I find myself reading more.

RAM has some random exhibits in the Human History Gallery that seem odd. Newfoundland junk food? A mechanical horse that I used to ride when we went to Safeway? Beekeeping and Edmonton Oilers history? There is a lot of my childhood in this museum. It was cool to take a trip down memory lane. These weren’t the only artifacts that were interesting.

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My ChatterBox attended with me and she laughed about my things being in a museum. She is now a second-year University student and studying the history of things and stuff. I have learned so much from her. We looked at the Indigenous displays including the Residential School display and this opened up a conversation. We sat down in front of the Metis exhibit and discussed what it meant for her family and how things have changed and what it must have been like for her grandfather attending Convent School, while it wasn’t a Residential School for him, we suspect it was part of the genocide movement to remove all cultural history of his Mother, Grandmother and his Aunt. My hubs said his dad never spoke of his cultural history so in that respect the Church was successful in eradicating a culture. The bottom line is we don’t know what her grandfather went through. He may have been fine but he may have suppressed it. We also talked about the importance of reconciliation.

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What I know is this, you cannot expect generations to assimilate into our white culture after the past they experienced. These children were removed from their parents. They did not grow up with their mom tucking them into bed and kissing them goodnight. This is Blood Tears by Alex Janvier 2001. One the back side of the canvas, he wrote his memories and feelings. It is raw and hard to take in. I was shaken.

Having spent 10 years at Blue Quills Residential School, Alex Janvier shared his experience on canvas. He shows us the things he saw, experienced, and felt. We see a dark figure, a cross, a leg, a fish, a scared figure with his hair cut off, and a jumble of colours. The yellow paint may signify hope, light, escape.

 

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When people say, ‘why can’t you get over it?’ all I can think is it is easy to say it, its difficult in practice. I don’t want anyone telling me when I should be ‘over’ the sexual abuse I experienced. They don’t know what I went through because it wasn’t their experience.  Feelings just are and how they are managed is different for everyone. If the First Nation’s leaders are asking for things so their people can move forward, I don’t think its unreasonable all things considered. Part of that is, stop idolizing racist men of the past. Acknowledge their role, provide a complete picture to understand the history. It can’t be easy walking past a statue that is revered knowing that person tried to eliminate you from history. It says people today still don’t care. I think people today don’t understand. Reconciliation is part of that conversation to understand. Canadians need to listen more and talk less. RAM provided the space for the conversation to start. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it a start? Yes. 

Check out RAM and get that conversation started.

 

 

18 in ’18: Funicular

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Today is the last day of my vacation. I spent a week here ↑ looking at that view. The sky was blue, no rain or smoke from the BC fires. It was relaxing and zen. I loved it. It was my third time vacationing at the Pacific Rim National Reserve. I spent time in Tofino and Ucluelet. I recommend a once in a lifetime visit or regular visits. Whichever suits you. I think it is some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. I saw bears, bald eagles, osprey, salmon, ravens, and orcas. Eight orcas to be exact and on two different days. So there’s that.

It snowed in Edmonton yesterday and honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I live in a northern-ish town and it has snowed in September and stayed…this time it’s not staying (Thank you universe!) But it IS my last day of vacation so I felt the need to do some Edmonton Touristy stuff. My parents are hobos as I have mentioned before. Soon they leave for Europe to winter and ride the rails as hobos want to do. I figured I would invite them on an adventure today to see things they haven’t seen in a long while or ever. I rarely invite people on my Edmonton Tourist adventures, only Captain my best pal as seen here:

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I picked up my parents for coffee at 10:00 am. We went to Crumb on Calgary Trail. I love their coffee and think their Pain du Chocolat is the best ever. I then asked if they had ever been on the Funicular. They hadn’t and neither had I, but it was on my 18 for 18 list so I needed to give it try.

We parked at Louise McKinney park because there is free two-hour parking if you are good at parallel parking. I am! My dad wanted to know if he should get out to direct, nope because I learned to parallel park from the best (him). Tight spot, first try, I win! I jumped out and did some She-Ra moves and flexed for everyone then I hugged my dad and said thanks for teaching me that skill.

We walked down Grierson Hill towards the Funicular. This was built and designed to make the river valley accessible to everyone unless you are entering from Grierson. Then you need to take stairs down to the valley path to catch the elevator or up the stairs to the upper deck to catch the Funicular. Dear City of Edmonton, you need a 3 stop elevator so Grierson people who park at Louise McKinney can access it. Kind of a no-brainer for an accessible feature. Perhaps you needed to include physically challenged folk to give feedback on the design.

We walked down the stairs to ride the elevator for the full effect.

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Up we went admiring the view of the valley. It is a great lookout point!

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The valley is just starting to turn colour and the snow has melted here, but not at my house. We walked over the bridge and looked at the public art. We were trying to interpret it. Is it waves? Is it a skateboard park? You decide.

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Then we finally made it to the Funicular. Pressed the button and waited a long time for it to descend.

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As we moved up, we did enjoy the view. These are my hobo parents.

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We rode up with travellers from Yellowknife. They didn’t know what they should see so I gave them a few fun free things to do and look out for and chatted with them about great lunch spots downtown. I showed everyone this.

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Take a risk, its the most Edmonton thing you can do.

I love it!

Then we walked to Churchill square to see the #HappyWall.

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There’s me. I was so happy to see the square and wall empty. So excited, I spelled it wrong because

  1. it’s harder than you think to flip a million tiles.
  2. proofreading your own work is hard.
  3. spelling is hard.
  4. I was excited

It was still there when we left our tour of downtown, so it was up for two hours. TWO HOURS! hopefully still up because it is relevant and important to our city.

We trudged through the construction (but when its all done the Arts District will be FANTASTIC!) to get to the Royal Alberta Museum or as they like to call it #NewRam. I am buying a Mammoth pass for $35 because of UNLIMITED ACCESS FOR $35! I did have to listen to how the British Museum is free, but I said talked to Rachel. It’s not RAMs fault. $35 is reasonable when a single admission is $25. Go twice and boom, worthwhile. Plus it supports culture and history. All the things that make Edmonton a great place to live.

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The countdown clock is up!

18 Days

23 Hours

53 Minutes

until grand reopening. 15000+ people were able to procure free tickets for opening weekend. I didn’t because I hate crowds and the website kept crashing on me, also work, ug.

These crates are all over the city, building excitement. It kind of reminds me of A Night in the Museum, only in Edmonton and not New York.

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We peeked in the window and saw the gift shop and a dinosaur ribcage at the admission door. He wasn’t quite finished being put together yet. We checked out the Post Office Murals that were left/donated/bought(?). This was the site of the Main Post Office in Edmonton and these murals were part of that. I love them.

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We turned around and walked back to Three Bananas for lunch because SOUP IS DELICIOUS and theirs is also good.

Then we headed back to the Funicular. We entered the Funicular and pressed the button to descend. Nothing happened for a really long time. Then the doors opened and it asked us to leave. So we walked down the stairs.

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We watched a guy run up and down carrying full water jugs. Go, Dude! You’ll be awesome at the next November Project stair climb!

When we took the elevator down, I saw a mom/granny struggling with her stroller. See City of Edmonton? You need to add another stop. So Dad and I climbed up the stairs and helped her carry the stroller down to the elevator because that’s what Edmontonians do even when the City Builders don’t.

The big takeaway from this other than having a great day with the hobos, is about what the Yellowknife tourists said to me. They couldn’t figure out how to get to the Funicular and every Edmontonian they asked couldn’t help them. Here is my advice for you Edmonton, get outside and explore your city. It is more exciting than you think it is and we are lucky to live here. We have a vibrant art and culture scene, our restaurants are amazing and our river valley parks system is some of the best parks in the world. What other cities can you see bobcats, bears, moose and deer in the downtown park? Banff and Jasper don’t count. Be present in your life, live it. Don’t let life happen to you.

Love The Edmonton Tourist. xoxox

The epic 50th year comes to an end

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So many people fear 50. I chose to see it as a major milestone and embrace it. I made my epic 50th year about embracing adventure. As with all things that sit before you in the future, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I had to face every day by leaning in, purging what didn’t work for me and be present in the moment. None of these things happened overnight, but they all happened. I am turning 51 on Thursday. Let me share what happened this year. If you are interested, I will be exploring these points in great detail over at my other space Still Life, it isn’t for everyone. But it might be for you.

 

  1. Embrace Change.

At the age of 49, I was desperate for change. I knew I didn’t like where I was. I felt mired in grey matter and desperately needed sunshine. I was called on my birthday and was asked to come in for a job interview. I said yes. 5 days later I interviewed. 14 days after the interview I had a job offer. 30 days after the phone call, I was sitting at my new desk completely overwhelmed trying to navigate my new job with very little direction because my employer also wanted change but wasn’t really sure what that needed to look like. 11 months later, we are still collaborating and planning for the future. It’s exciting, inspiring and exhausting.  For the first time in my career, I feel respected and valued. Never underestimate that. It has opened my world up to infinite possibilities and that feels amazing. Being valued means different things to different people. For me, it means, have someone listen to you, respect your ideas even if they are not going to work, ask for your input and is kind and supportive.

2. Take time to value yourself.

I made a promise to myself 609 days ago.  I promised myself I would take the time to meditate every day because when I did, I was calmer, kinder and felt peaceful. I sat on my chair for 609 days and sat in silence. It wasn’t easy, I have a voice that reminds me I am not enough. I had a boyfriend who validated this message. I wasn’t thin, pretty, smart, skilled…enough. He didn’t choose me so it also validated I wasn’t enough.  I heard this message echoed in ‘friends’, family, colleagues, strangers and me. I sat for 609 days repeating my Sankalpa, it began with ‘I am happy’. Once I felt happy after months of repeating my mantra, I changed it to ‘I am enough’ as I learned I was enough I changed it to ‘I am forgiving’ because I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive others. This year I am grateful. I learned to love me, let go of outer expectations and focus on my life’s purpose. Not someone else’s. So it may feel like I abandoned you and in some ways I did. You’ll be okay.

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3. Health is more important than you think, listen to your body.

Last December I had a trip planned to go to New York City. I was excited about it. In November when I sat quietly with myself I began to feel like I shouldn’t go. It began with a friend’s reaction. I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach thinking about this trip. I cancelled the trip and immediately felt better. I learned that intuition is my greatest ally. One week later, I was in the hospital. My daughter calls it the time I died. In many ways, I did die. It was a life changing experience. I experienced an awaking. I will talk more about that experience over on my blog Still Life: Finding Peace in Chaos. But I had ignored my body until I couldn’t. Listen to yourself. Don’t let yourself down.

4. Nurture your circle

I was incredibly ill for months. I was home from work for six weeks. If I had gone to New York, I would have died. I didn’t have anyone there to help me. I would have been alone in my hotel room with cleaning staff finding my body. I spent months having tests, hanging out in doctors offices. Learning about my health and understanding what is normal and what is not. I finally have my health sorted and back on track. I feel better than I have in 20 years. Health is important. I sat in the hospital with my daughter and went through the list of people she should call if things became too much for her to manage. I have 8 people in my circle of trust and 3 were all vacationing in Europe at the time. Two others in my circle, my children, were living with me taking care of me at a time in their life when they should be focused on friends, school and fun. The other three were close by and I knew if I needed them, they would be there. Interestingly enough, my circle consists exclusively of family. I love them fiercely.

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5. Purge

I went through a phase where I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a close-knit circle of friends. I never really experienced that. I had one or two friends that I sort of felt close to when I was a kid. But I never really felt like people got me. As an adult, I wanted to experience that. I made the mistake of picking people who were fun but also had fun at other people’s expense. They were fairly focused on themselves and took from me at every turn with the exception of one. He treated me well until he didn’t. It was stressful. I didn’t know if I was speaking to the good guy or the bad guy. My values didn’t align with anything these people did for fun. Because values were misaligned, I was hurt in ways I never expected. It distroyed me. I sat for a long time asking ‘What do I need to learn from this’. I received my answer. I learned about the true meaning of friendship. I went through a purge that rid me of toxic people. I purged things. I gave away truck-loads of things. I burned things to exorcise the demons. I purged my schedule. If I didn’t see value in it, I didn’t do it. Saying good-bye and NO were the greatest gift I gave to myself.

6. Friends

I have a circle of trust – family. They come first in my life always. I have a few friends who I would do ANYTHING for. There are family and friends that do not hear from me very often anymore. My health took centre stage this year. Some people in my life are emotional vampires. As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge. Emotional vampires literally sucked the life out me. While I was recovering, there were people who kept taking from me and never once asked how I was doing. I thought about this for a while. Why do I keep nurturing this relationship? I reach-out and if the time is not convenient to them, they would swear at me, or blow me off. You would think by the age of 50 I would understand that a friend is loyal, trustworthy, KIND and dependable to the extent they are capable of. I made a list of people who I thought fit those attributes, I have two and with a new friend I made recently it may bump up to three. Friends never want to feel like they are an inconvenience. I hope I have never made my friends feel that way. Please be frank with me if I have, it was never my intent. I am at the point in my life where I need a best friend. I want honesty, loyalty, kindness, as their values. I want someone with the same interests as me. I want someone who loves deep, meaningful conversation about life, spirituality, books, and experiences. But most importantly, I want a friend who I can call up and say, ‘Something just happened, I need you.’ And they say “Yes” or they say, “I am doing this right now….I am going to call in in 15/30/4 hours so I can give you my undivided attention.” That person exists. I just haven’t found them yet or I haven’t recognized them.

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7. Purpose

I found my purpose. I found my life’s mission. The universe takes you there without you seeing it and then it hits you over the head with a brick and says – can you see it yet? I see it. In every situation I have ever been in, I have been in a position to help people by raising them up. This is my purpose. I have a unique skill that searches for the quality in someone that is special. I point it out to them and then I teach them to use it to the best of their ability. Typically it only takes kind words or encouragement to inspire someone into action. As a child, I was told I was too sensitive. Being sensitive IS NOT A BAD THING! It’s amazing. I am empathic. I can feel what others are feeling. I can see things from other people’s perspective. This is my gift and it helps me fulfil my life’s purpose. I have set this as an intention to use in every aspect of my life including work. As a species, we can do better. It is my mission to spread kindness. I am not doing this every day because people can be cruel and it wounds me then I get crabby and angry. But I try to be this every day. Try. I am getting better at it.

8. Adventure

I want to experience things. What I mean is, I want to watch/read/learn/do things. I did things this year I haven’t done before. I stood in the ocean and felt it. I mean really felt it and I was overcome by emotion and sobbed my heart out. I explored Alberta’s prairie and appreciated it for what it was, and didn’t criticize it for being something it wasn’t. Prairies aren’t trying to be mountains. So I enjoyed them for being prairies. I read book genres I hadn’t explored before. I was correct in knowing I don’t need to read frightening books. Now I know for sure. I took the time to learn about First Nations Art, I always enjoyed it but now I have learned its purpose. I took big risks because no one is going to do it for you. I learned more about myself by doing this than by wishing someone would do it for me. I subscribed to a Broadway streaming channel because I love theatre and I have reconciled with myself that I am not going to New York or London to see these plays in person. I want to see them now not some day. This has brought me a surprising amount of joy. I love my city. I want other people to see what I see. I explore it and photograph it. I try different experiences and festivals. I have been all over the world and if you said to me, ‘Robyn, you can no longer travel where do you want to live out the rest of your days?’ I would answer ‘Edmonton…just let me live a bit closer to the valley’.

Happy Birthday to me. We had one hell of a year.

18 for ’18

 

 

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Lethbridge overlooking the Oldman River

 

I have been scouring the podcast world for new and meaningful content, well, meaningful for me. I spend a lot of time on the road lately and use podcasts as a way to spend my time. On my way home from Lethbridge, Alberta, I was listening to SuperSoul Sunday. SuperSoul is my church. I spend Sunday mornings listening to thought leaders and their perspective on things. On this particular episode, Gretchen Rubin was a guest and was talking about finding joy in little things. This is something I have been intentional about. So I listened just a little bit harder. I am always looking for easy things to do that will increase my joy. For example, when someone asks me how I am, I used to say the truth. More often than not I would get trapped in a spiral of dark depressing feelings. I now say, “I am great!” or some other positive adjective whether I am or not. I did this as an experiment.  I found when I said great and smiled, I did feel a little bit great or happy or whatever adjective I used. The more I said it, the truer it became. I also decided to say affirmations before bed. I always say “I am happy” along with a few other ones. Every time I say to myself “I am happy’ I  smile involuntarily. Going to sleep happy made me wake up happy. Not happy…more like joyful. It is a far better way to start the day than dreading the rest of it.

I digress…

So back to the podcast. I looked up Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast. She co-hosts it with her sister Elizabeth Craft. I discovered Liz Craft is my Spirit Animal. She gets me on another level. This led to Liz Craft hosting another podcast called Happier in Hollywood with her writing partner Sarah Fain. Again, these are my people! Regular moms who work and aim for happier outlooks in a world that is more dark and depressed than ever. Liz and Sarah introduced me to By the Book. If you do nothing else this year but listen to this podcast, it is worth it. They read a self-help book and follow it for two weeks. It is inciteful and hilarious. You’re welcome. So Oprah led me to 3 new (to me) podcasts and that gives me hours of joyful listening on the road. YAY!

One listener on Happier decided to do a list for 2018 of things she wanted to do. It was called 18 for 18. On this list of non-resolution type things were clean out the junk drawer, hike once a month. Try the new cafe. All things that people say they want to do but never get around to it. She posted the list in her bathroom where she sees it every day. When she feels down, she does something on the list then crosses it off. A simple way to create happiness in her life. It is now a thing or movement, the community is doing it.

I LOVE LISTS! I especially find crossing things off my list super satisfying. I pulled out my Bullet Journal – best moment of my life was finding about this type of journaling, okay so I exaggerate, but it has revolutionalized my work projects and achieved my goal of becoming less tied to technology. I am the type of person who goes big. So I created two lists, an 18 for me filled with new recipes I want to try, little declutter projects and classes I want to take, as well as some private items that I have been meaning to do. The other list is for my Edmonton Tourist Project.

I have been struggling with what is left for the tourist to explore. I had visited all the River Valley Parks in Edmonton – except one. I have been to all the festivals at least once and some I plan to never repeat. I found my favourite cup of coffee – shout out to Mandolin! I know where I love to eat breakfast most often but there are little things I still want to explore. I get lots of recommendations that I should try from you guys and from other friends whose opinion I value. This leaves lots of things to do the Edmonton!

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I made the list. The rules for my 18 in 18: Edmonton Tourist are simple. Do something on the list, blog about it then cross it off. Deadline is December 31, 2018.

  1. Visit Ice Castles √
  2. Have brunch at Café Linnea √
  3. Wine Tasting – ambiguous but there are lots of places to try it including the big Wine Expo.√ In Deep Cove
  4. Have brunch at the Workshop Eatery √
  5. Visit Muttart Conservatory’s Adult Night √
  6. Go to the last park on my list Hermitage Park
  7. Explore MacKinnon Ravine
  8. Explore MacKenzie Ravine
  9. Walk from Fort Edmonton Bridge to Terwillegar Bridge (it’s about a 5k walk)√
  10. Go to a board game café like Table Top or something similar
  11. Have Brunch at Rockin Robyn’s Diner√
  12. Funicular √
  13. Visit 2 small towns in the Edmonton Area and see what they have to offer(bonus points if I find a farmer’s market!)
    1. Lacombe√
    2. Calmar√
  14. Visit the Royal Alberta Museum (when it finally opens)
  15. Go to the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter this is no longer a thing! What??? So I am revising this and bring over an item from my personal list Photography: The Totem Project  √
  16. Visit the St. Albert Farmer’s Market√
  17. Visit the Callingwood Farmer’s Market
  18. Visit the Millwoods Farmer’s Market

I will be visiting this page from time to time to cross things off the list and link to the blog post. It should be a fun year!