The Halfway Point

2018 is just about halfway completed. I have been reflecting on my goals and actions and wonder if I am putting my best foot forward. For me, I find having goals to reach for important to my motivation. Without them I just plod along allowing life to happen to me rather than me living my life. I have been excited about a few things this year.

  1. 18 in 2018
  2.  Scrivener Software
  3.  Totem Project

18 in 2018 is primarily a to-do list. But I have outlined it as a series of goals and achievements that assist me with the fundamental purpose of living life. I have two lists. A personal list and an Edmonton Tourist list. I have discovered my personal list to be much more fun for me. Somethings are so mundane you might think I am dead boring. For example, one thing on my list was a series of declutter projects, my closet, the kitchen drawers, my personal hygiene space in the bathroom, my bedside drawer and the cupboard under the stairs. The last one was looked upon with dread. I did not want to face that at all. One morning I enlisted help from my hubs and we got to work. The most shocking thing happened. Apparently, we had completed this task last year, and the cupboard was fantastic. That was an easy item to cross off the list. I was surprised and how light I felt after the decluttering process. My drawers and baskets all still look fresh and clean, my closet has copious amounts of empty hangers but need some rearranging because my summer wardrobe is not easily accessible. Basically, I need to thank my mom for forcing me to endure the process as a child. I never felt as good as she claimed cleaning would make me feel, but now that I am older, simplifying my life is energizing.

I have a brunch jar, a mason jar that holds bottle return money saved for brunches! We used the cash from the jar to explore restaurants in Edmonton. Our criteria are simple, we have had to either heard great things about these places or learn of new places that we are curious about. Then we visit the restaurant. So far we have ventured off the beaten path. My next brunch place I wan to visit is Pip in Old Strathcona. My jar is ready for me to empty it! I jest need to find the time.

I have only read 14 books so far this year. I say only because my goal is 40 and in six months, I am off my target of by one book. I am currently reading Eleanor Oilphant is completely fine, and I am enjoying her quirkiness. I have read some great books this year! I started following the Hello Sunshine book club (Reese Whitherspoon), she showcases women authors and mixed genres. My favourite so far is You think it, I’ll say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved the compelling characters in this book and wished I could get to know them in a novel. Hopefully one of them will pop up in a novel for my reading pleasure. I don’t usually think of myself as someone who reads short stories, but Elizabeth Strout and Maeve Binchy are stellar short story authors who I have read and thoroughly have enjoyed their offerings. So maybe I do enjoy short stories? I remember reading O. Henry in grade five (Thanks Mrs. Malone!) and his stories stuck with me. I found them compelling and riveting. All those authors have inspired me to try my hand at the short story genre. Which lead me to my second thing I have been excited about this year.

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Scrivener software and Office Lense have inspired me uncreative ways I didn’t think possible from software! I usually write in my notebook at cafes or parks because Judy Blume does. (Taking her Master Writing Class was a big deal for me, and I learned so much!) Often, I write using Word on my desktop because it is 2018. I was watching an author video on Hello Sunshine Book Club page with Jill Santopolo, author of The Light We Lost, and she mentioned using Scrivener, so I looked it up and downloaded the one-month free option. This rocked my world and cured me of wanting a smartboard in my office. I combine it with Office Lense, an app a colleague encouraged me to try, and I can convert my notes to documents and move sections around Scrivener. Its keeps notes in an easy to find section or on the bulletin board beside my main document. The simplicity of this and the usability of this has rocked my world. Uploading handwritten notes to make them useful is something I dreamed about since 1988, when I was in University for the first time. Clearly, I was ahead of my time. Now if I could combine it with software from recorded notes (maybe Dragon Speech?) my life will be complete.

Photography and visual arts is a big part of my life. I love to document my adventures through digital photography. Every now and then I like to have a purpose to my photo adventures or I find I continue to capture the same things endlessly. Trees, nature paths, architecture and my dog are my favourite things to capture. I like choosing a specific subject to photograph and create a project around it. IMG_E7974Last year I focused on the Red Chair project. A series of red Muskoka chairs were captured. The purpose was to explore the offerings of Parks Canada during the Canada 150 free entry into national parks. These chairs are off the beaten path or in well-traveled places. Finding them became a fun pursuit for me. I sat in every chair I photographed to experience the view and take in the purpose of the chair. Some of the captures can be found on Instagram by using #redchairproject or by scrolling through my feed @edmonton_tourist I am considering putting the entire collection on my Edmonton Tourist Facebook page. I enjoyed the red chair project so much, I decided to photograph totem poles. It began because as a kid I remembered poles around Edmonton and was fascinated with them, I loved the Sunwapta Pole at CRFN Television station, and the poles in Jasper. fullsizeoutput_238bI even remember having a tiny one that I bought in Banff as a child. This project became much more involved than I expected and deserves its own post, so watch for that one next Sunday.

I looked at my list and I have completed 8 items. Not bad for six months! I have 10 more to attempt. Now it is summer, I can safely explore some of the ravines with my pal Captain. The small town exploration begins next Friday, I have the day off (Thanks Flex Time!) and intend to visit Lacombe and the Farmer’s Market. Calmar and Vegerville are also on that list. It is nice to have things to look forward to. So how do you organize your goals and plan your time?

Discovery

Parks Canada celebrated 2017 and Canada’s 150 birthday celebrations by issuing everyone who wanted one a Discovery Pass. This let everyone enter Canada’s National Parks free of charge. I have no idea what it ultimately charged the taxpayers but I happily partook in the offer, thanks, Justin!

I visited 4 National Parks this year.

Jasper National Park

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Pacific Rim National Reserve

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Banff National Park

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Elk Island National Park

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I appreciate how these spaces are preserved and protected. I saw all types of wildlife, black bears, coyotes, bald eagle, red tail hawks, grey wolf footprints, harbour seals, sea stars, molluscs, dolphins, porpoises, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bison, deer, fox, elk and numerous squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, geese and songbirds. Yesterday was the last day of the year to use my park pass, so I packed up my pal Captain and we made our way to the closest National Park from my home, Elk Island.

It has been bitterly cold here as with the rest of North America. The temperatures were hovering around the -30C mark with winds dropping the windchill into the low -30 or high -40 range. The type of cold that freezes your nose shut and pinches your face. Happily, the cold is about over and plus temps are on the horizon!

I drove to Astotin Lake to watch the sunset at 4:30pm. Cap and I walked across the frozen beach and he would pause to lift his paws. It was too cold for him.

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We looked at the sunset and then braved the easterly winds back to the car.

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I then drove to the Bison Paddock hoping to catch a glimpse of a bison or two. We saw about 10 females with their calves as we drove down hwy 16 towards the park. Obviously, we didn’t stop on the icy roads to take a pic, but we were rewarded with seeing a lone fellow munching on the frozen grass.  But first, we had to turn right following the loop.

The first stop was the famous red chairs. They had been turned around facing west this time. Normally they overlook the meadow to the east.

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Perfect for viewing the sunset but too cold to sit in the chairs. I have yet to stop to sit, maybe next time. Behind the chairs, the full moon was rising. It was spectacular in the pink sky.

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My face and fingers were frozen by this time, so I jumped back into the warmth of my car and continued around the loop. To my amazement, this guy was still there snacking on some exposed grass.

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Sunsets on the prairies are beautiful and the colours seem to be brighter in the fidged temperatures.

I watched him for a while before heading home.

Receiving and using the Discovery Passes were a great gift. I suspect the purpose of the free passes was to reignite the passion Canadians feel for their country, especially with the drama that is happening around the rest of the world. I think the point is want to have a pass for 2018, it was a subtle marketing ploy that I think I have bought into. I still want to explore Tawayik Lake with The Captain, there are other parts of Elk Island I have not seen and I also want to get to Waterton Lakes National Park this year. If everything goes as planned, I will make it back to Pacific Rim and head east to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and really explore what it has to offer.

Let me know your favourite Canadian National Park so I can put it on my list.

Edmonton Tourist: The Science Behind Pixar

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Anyone who knows me well has a sense that I am an animation fan, specifically, a Disney/Pixar fan. I spent hours in my youth drawing and creating. I had originally wanted to be a Disney Clean-up Artist. A Clean-Up Artist removes all the extra lines to reveal a polished image. It is more creative than you think and much more involved than having an eraser,

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You know its Woody and Buzz, but the Clean-Up hasn’t happened yet. 

For reasons that coincide with what I refer to as the Dark Times, I didn’t get out of Edmonton, never mind finding my way to Los Angeles. However, that didn’t change how I felt about the artistry of animation. The level of detail is always what pulled me in. From my first moment on Main Street in Disneyland to searching for Easter Eggs hidden in movies, I enjoy all of it. So when my son came home back in November and said, “We just saw The Science of Pixar at Telus World of Science (TWOS). I think you will love it.”

 

He was not wrong.

I had planned to go to Bon Ton Bakery with every other Edmontonian on Saturday. TWOS is down the street, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to go! Bon Ton had a line outside in the dark waiting to get in, happily, I arrived at 9:03 am after the doors opened but the wait was going to be about 30 minutes.

 

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I enjoy the politeness and the information of this sign. Thank you TWOS for having a cheeky sign I can relate to.

 

Baked goods in hand, I left for TWOS and decided I would not go see it if there were a million kids, I would plan on going on the Adult Only night. I wanted to be able to take my time and thoroughly experience it. I can’t do that when I am letting kids try stuff.

We walked into the foyer and we were the only people there. The place was empty. The first day of Christmas break and the building was full of staff and a handful of visitors.

The cost was $30 per person (ish- it was actually a little less) The recommend 1.5 hours to go through the exhibit. I agree. To fully experience it, you need to watch all the videos and try out the interactive parts. I found this fascinating.

The first part was the introduction video. It had a cameo of John Lasseter, I am not going to lie, his shenanigans have left a dark mark for me on Pixar. But his abuse of power does not negate his creative brilliance. Then I think, there are other brilliant people in this world and maybe it is their time to shine. At any rate, I entered with mix feelings.

The exhibit has the following steps of an animated CG film:

  • Modeling
  • Rigging
  • Surfaces
  • Sets & Cameras
  • Animation
  • Simulation
  • Lighting
  • Rendering

I participated and at every section and watched every video interaction. I was blown away by the level of detail that goes into each frame.

Modeling was the least interesting for me yet it was fascinating at the same time!

It takes place after the storyboards and character development. The clay models are used to scan and get the image into the computer program so it can be animated.

Rigging was next, this step gives movement to that character, it makes all the parts move, from facial expressions to limbs moving.

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Surfaces add texture, it makes McQueen shiny and Mator rusty, Skully furry and Mike smooth. Such an involved process!

Sets and Cameras, where to put the camera determines the look of the set. This was facinating. IMG_8357

Animation, I basically learned it is all stop motion on a very advanced level. I gave it a try with the Pixar lamp and learned I do not have the patience for 26+ movements per second. I took a video of it and the lamp moved in a choppy motion. Although to be fair, I didn’t have the time to really do it justice,  it was super finicky.

The Simulation was all physics. Trying to get curly hair or fur to move the way it does, in reality, was a series of equations that simulated springs. Thinking about how to achieve the end result. Problem-solving at its finest!

Lighting was cool, I played with sets and sun levels, turning on and off interior lights. possibilities were endless…

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Rendering blew my mind away. It basically is a mathematical equation for colouring each pixel. The guy based his math on the hydrogen bomb equation and won an Oscar for it.

This exhibit gave me my Disney fix. I hadn’t been since January 2016 and it doesn’t look like I am going anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I am not fascinated by it all. I enjoyed wandering around and looking at the artist’s renditions. People are crazy talented and I  admire their ability.

Is it for kids? Sure kids will find it fun, but it isn’t a playroom. there are buttons to push and characters they will recognize. I think kids over 8 will get more out of it but the science and math involved will be out of range.

If you are an animation fan, Pixar or Disney fan, then this is a must-see when it gets to your neighborhood. Right now it is touring in Edmonton until January 7th and is also at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. It was developed by the Boston Museum of Science and Pixar. When it comes to your city, go see it!

The Red Chair Project

It happened.

I turned 50.

I had great expectations for turning 50 but I couldn’t name any of them. It was vague but it was going to be great.

I took my birthday off. It was in the middle of a hectic week at work and my thoughts were filled with shoulds. As in ‘you should do this…’  Only I didn’t do that.  Listening to Love, Sex and Money podcast with Anna Sale, I heard Ellen Bernstein call those kinds of days ‘Shouldless Days’. I took her advice and gave myself a great gift. August 16th became the Shouldless Day.

I had spent the last 9 months in a daily meditation practice and it changed my perspective and showed me what was important. Worrying about work was not one of those things. So in the busiest season, the busiest week, I took my birthday off.

Best thing I ever did.

Here are the Coles notes from that day:

  • I took myself out for breakfast
  • went for a walk with my pal The Captain
  • I received a special birthday gift from my grandfather
  • I received a life-changing email
  • I went out for dinner
  • I cried from happiness

It was an epic birthday. I declared my 50th year to be the year of Epic Adventure.

Canada celebrated its 150th year as well….ok I am not getting into the ins and outs of colonization or the political reasons etc, but for better or worse, it turned 150. With that, Parks Canada celebrated by opening up all the national parks with a free park pass. I thought this would be a great way to spend my 50th year, I would visit National Parks. I live fairly close to 2 parks and not far from 2 more. I could make an effort to visit these… but money was really tight. Finding a way to visit those distant parks was going to be expensive.

 

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City Hall Edmonton

 

I decided not to worry about the how I was going to do it, but focus on the intention of going. I wanted value from my park passes so I made an effort to visit Elk Island National park. It is only 30km away from me. Cap and I could make the trip, explore a little bit and go a few times this year. Done. Value out of my park pass! When we arrived at the park, we discovered Red Chairs! Parks Canada has installed Red Chairs at scenic points in all the National Parks. My first visit was at the height of winter.  I found 3 pairs of chairs. Then I went back in the summer and saw them differently.

I was now obsessed with these Red Chairs. I convinced the Hubs to go to Jasper National Park, it is about a 4-hour drive from my home. Money was still tight so we decided to call it a day trip.

Not one Red Chair was found and I was disappointed. I got over it quickly because, you know, JASPER! I did find green chairs!

 

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Athabasca River View

 

I had googled where the Red Chair locations were but couldn’t locate them. Not to worry, Jasper is one of my favourite places on the planet, we enjoyed our day and Captain loved it as well. So many new things to sniff!

My birthday happened and then a week later my life changed. I was offered a new position with a new company, the Hubs retired and unexpectedly we had the opportunity to travel for one week. We thought about traveling to all kinds of places, but the idea of going to Tofino really appealed to me. We had not been since we were first married over 21 years ago. Tofino is located on Vancouver Island. One week on the ocean sounded like the perfect opportunity to relax.

We flew to Victoria and rented a car. From there we drove up-Island and over to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This was easily the greatest vacation I ever experienced. We stayed at a local resort, I played in the tide pools and stood in the waves for hours. At Chesterman Beach, we spotted a two more pairs.

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We explored trails through the rainforest and found another pair of Red Chairs.

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I wanted to stay another week but commitments required me elsewhere.  My plans for other National parks were on hold. New job starting, a trip to New York City was in the works. my 50th year had started off awesome and was just getting better.

Before I knew it, I had a few extra days off allotted to me. We had new things to celebrate. My kids received great news and we thought this deserved a family vacation celebration. We all decided to drive to Banff National Park. Since we were all traveling as a family, we needed to find a location that permitted  The Captain. As safe and friendly as some kennels are, it was not something I wanted Cap to experience, we either all go as a family, or we don’t go at all.

Tunnel Mountain had A-Frame cottages that allowed dogs,  a four day weekend was now in the works for us. We arrived before the snow fell, went for dinner and enjoyed our evening by the fire. The next morning our adventure was about to begin.

We drove along Tunnel Mountain and less than 5 minutes into our trip, I spotted Red Chairs. We stopped and took in the view.

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Bow Valley was beautiful and crisp. After our fill, we traveled to the Hoodoos to take in that view. We found another set of Red Chairs. These ones were part of the restoration trail project.

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I sat on one and took in the view. I had not meditated yet that day and the family was exploring the hoodoos, so I decided to sit in silence for my morning ritual. I had explored this practice in Tofino. There is something magical about meditating in nature.

Soon we decided to head up to Lake Minniwanka. As we rounded the corner and stopped at the look-out, we noticed the road going south. I had never explored this road before and I had no idea it was a loop, one that navigated south along Two Jack Lake. 50 years of visiting Banff National Park and I am still finding new things.  Before long, we spotted another set of Red Chairs.

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Again I sat in silence and enjoyed the view while my kids explored the peninsula and skipped stones. The view was beautiful.

After this stop, we ventured over to Vermillion Lakes, no Red Chairs but another spot I had never explored before. This weekend was all about new experiences. It was fantastic.

We needed to pick up some items for dinner so we drove into Banff and stopped at IGA, they also had a Red Chair – a giant one very different from the National Park Chairs, but it still counted in my eyes.

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Now it is November. I canceled my trip to New York but may have an opportunity to visit Waterton National Park before Christmas. The park experienced extreme fire this summer and I don’t know what is left but I think I will take time to explore Glacier Lake and the village to see for myself. I heard there is a pair of Red Chairs that face the Fairmont. It looks like my Epic 50th year and the Red Chair Project will continue. Next year, I think I will visit the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada to explore more National Parks and see more views from the Red Chair.

Edmonton Tourist: Top of the Bank Trail

I had an errand to run in Wolf Willow today. I saw signs for the Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge, my pal the dog was with me so I decided to explore the river valley from the west end. Let’s be clear, I never get out this way unless I have a specific task. The west end is just not a destination for me. Mostly because it’s far from my home. 

This morning I learned I ‘won’ the giveaway. I belong to a friend group who give stuff we no longer want, away to people who want it. I’ve been lucky enough to win beautiful art, a stunning chandlelier, a brand new kitchenaid mandolin, wooden hangars and today, 3 unopened boxes of Twinning Earl Grey Tea. EARL GREY TEA PEOPLE!!! Obviously I won. I have given away oak tables, books, office supplies and appliances that I no longer use. It a wonderful pay-it-forward group. The tea was in Wolf Willow, a neighbourhood that backs on the Edmonton Golf and Country Club. I think I’ve been here once, but I’m not sure. I think I face painted one Christmas at the club. I always feel like I won the lottery when I am gifted new things.

 If I win the lottery in real time, I always think about what I would change about my life. Pay my mortgage off, leave my job, write every morning and definitely go back to school. I would enroll in some sort of English writing classes at the University of Alberta. 


I parked my car beside the golf course and walked towards to river bank. I followed the signs that said Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge. I have run many times across that bridge because it was part of the Fort Edmonton 5k loop. My most favourite loop in the valley. So I’ve seen that side plenty but had never gone farther than the bottom of the 205 staircase. 

I’ve lived in and around the city for close 50 years. This was the first time I had been here. 


When we got to the entrance to the valley, we were given the choice to walk to the bridge or take the upper bank trail. I just had flip flops and the trail was soft. I had never explored the upper bank before so we took the path less traveled. 


The homes here are monstrous. Stunning floor to ceiling multi storied homes looking south east over the river. It also made me think about what to spend lottery winnings on. As someone who is obsessed with the tiny home movement, these homes had little appeal for me. I have become more minimalist as I age and I care less about things and stuff. But I do think about things. I give myself thinking prompts like what would it be like to live here? I imagine myself and a rich spouse (usually Mark Ruffalo) enjoying breakfast on the upper terrace. Then that fades and I begin to think about composing paragraphs for pieces I am writing. Thinking about context, situations and how to make it a story rather than an event. These adventures of mine are part of building experience to write. I’ve enrolled in an University writing class that begins Thursday. It fulfills my wish to continue on with school and take a class that is meaningful to me. I’ve never enrolled in something I was passionate about, just something that I was capable of and could use to advance my career. I regret that I never explored what I wanted, I just did what was suggested to me. I’m fixing that starting Thursday. First Day of class. 

Walking along the bank, I thought about how people get where they are. What do these folks do to afford this lifestyle? I find it interesting that the more money someone seemingly has, the less time they spend enjoying it. I never saw a single person walking along the bank. Not one. No one was in their yard, no one was on the sidewalks. It was as if The Captain and I were walking through a ghost town. An experience to file away for a story in my future. 

The Upper Bank Trail would be a firecracker hot place to be on a sunny day. But the blue sky would be worth the effort. As Cap and I ended our loop, I noticed the Mayday blossoms beginning to open. I’ve watch cherry blossoms bloom in photos from other cities weeks ago when we still lived under a blanket of snow. Now it’s our turn. The blossoms are beginning to open and releasing their fragrance. It was a beautiful day to win the lottery and explore the bank in silence. 


Edmonton Tourist: Under the Big Wheel

Winter is still going strong here in Edmonton. I am not going to lie, it is bringing me down. Six months of winter is more than enough. Thanks Old Man Winter, you can stop now. Happily I haven’t removed my winter tires.

As far as second winters goes, this one isn’t all that cold but I still find myself wanting hot coffee. Today I had a date with a great University chum who tells it like it is and asks the great questions that make me think about things from a different perspective. Today we chatted about friendship problems we both have, parallel to the point that loyalty is an issue for both of us. We are loyal and hope for a reciprocal arrangement. It didn’t happen for either of us and then she said, “What did you want to happen?”

That simple question knocked my socks off because I  have been looking at it from the perspective of ‘This happened and I need to do this because I am loyal and the friendship is important to me so I need to forgive.’

Her question made me pause and think. I love that quality in this friend, she makes me think.  Then the server came and asked what we wanted to order.

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Right…breakfast! We decided to go to Old Strathcona and have brunch at Under the Big Wheel. A farm fresh organic kind of place with a really large Penny Farthing bicycle hanging on the wall. I am assuming that was the big wheel, not the red plastic kind of my sister’s childhood.

The Big Wheel

We both ordered coffee, she had a mocha and I had a latte because I am on a quest for the best one in the city – side bar: It was good, really good but I place it third on my list.

It was served in a very unconventional way – as was the entire experience – Unconventional.

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It came in a tall highball glass or something you would have cold chocolate milk in. It was hot on the hands but felt nice on my cold fingers after walking here in the wet snow. Because it was in glass, the coffee didn’t stay hot for long. That would be the biggest reason it is only third on my list. I like coffee hot and to stay hot. But it was good enough to have two. I rarely do that.

So where was I? Right! What did I want to happen? I wanted my friend to stick up for me, not be neutral. She agreed. Her friend was neutral too. We both would have been okay with “What you did was really crappy and I don’t like it.” but still be their friend…because it isn’t high school. Or if you thought I was being crappy – say so! I respect that!  She also agreed that would have been a better solution for her as well. So meanwhile here we are sharing similar experiences and our Server comes back – can I just say, our server’s lipstick was on point? It was the perfect shade of red for her alabaster skin. I digress… Our Server comes back and asks if we had decided. Of course not, we were catching up! We quickly glance down at the menu and she says, ” have you been here before?” Nope, first time. “My personal favourite is the waffle, our Belgium waffles are amazing” There was a gal behind us at a different table shouting out, “OMG THE WAFFLES ARE AMAZING” I enjoy that kind of enthusiasm and recommendation, so I had the eggs benny on a waffle – it was called The Savoury Waffle. I had a choice of smoked salmon, sausage bacon or cooked spinach (who wants to eat that? Cooked greens just taste like Chlorophyll to me. Too green. I prefer my greens uncooked with the exception of Beet Leaf (not Cabbage) Rolls and baby bok choy in soup. I picked bacon because, well, bacon. My friend chose the Traditional Breakfast, it was very conventional.

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Both were tasty. The hollandaise sauce was not the usual and I couldn’t put my finger on it, what made it taste different? It was good, but different than the norm. The waffles were light and fluffy, the gal behind me did not lie.

Where were we? Right…. loyalty. I also disclosed that I was thinking about words that had been said to me and playing them over in my mind. She agreed that she does the too. Only I don’t think about where the person was coming from when they said them, it was more of a how those words affected me and caused me to behave in certain way or do things maybe I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been so hurt and how could I have reacted better?. These were traumatic experiences I kept reliving and then looking at how I could have done things better/different. We agreed this wasn’t helpful to moving forward. But yet we still did it. I suspect most people do this.  Some people can just let it go easier than others.

We also talked about how awesome our dogs are. Hers are new to her family an mine is celebrating his 3rd adoption day with us on the 27th. I call it his birthday because he didn’t have to be a wild dog any more and hunt for his food. He found out very quickly he prefers being retired and living a spoiled life.

The best part of this breakfast was the server let us visit and chat as long as we needed. She kept coming back to see if we needed something more – just salt for the eggs and another latte, but it was really restful. I really did enjoy this spot for brunch, the food was great.

I have visited a few other spots around town to test out their coffee. I went to Anvil, a new spot in Ottwell. Decent but over priced. It tasted fine but didn’t wow me.

I also visited Wild Earth Bakery, cookies were good coffee was fine, also didn’t wow me.

If you decide to come to Edmonton for coffee and want to meet, let me know, I would love to experience coffee with you!

My list of favourites so far in order:

  1. Mandolin
  2. Cafe Bicyclette
  3. Under the Big Wheel
  4. Little Brick
  5. Anvil
  6. Wild Earth

Where do you like to go for your favourite coffee?

Edmonton Tourist: Mandolin Books and Coffee Company

The sun was out and spring felt like it was here. After being in a stadium for 5 days with 7000 kids, I was happy to get out in the fresh air and explore a little of my city. Plus, I wanted a coffee, a really great cup of coffee. To me great coffee comes in the form of a Café Latte. Hot, creamy with a strong coffee flavour. My favourites in the city are Café Bicyclette, Block 1912, Transcend, and now Mandolin.

I had heard about this place from some people at work. They knew I am a hard core book lover and was serious about my coffee so they thought the combination would be right up my ally. I headed to highlands on 112 Avenue. I used to live in this neighbourhood about 25 years ago and all that was here a a restaurant and wool shop. The 2 block street has undergone some heritage sprucing up, new lamp posts, some cool signage to let you know what used to be in that spot and a mural. This little trip had all the things a nice exploration includes:

  • Points of interest
  • nifty shops
  • pretty neighbourhood
  • coffee

It felt like an afternoon vacation.

My Companion and I walked along the south side of the street first, in search of the coffee, I was charmed by the signage.

I bet that was a great Hardware store! I love old timey hardware shops, Steveston BC and Entwistle AB have some of the best I have ever been to. Highland Hardware is now the Apple Box, a crafty paint shop that has milk paint, I need to remember to head back there when I pain my bench – I want it to be a rusty red.

Continuing along the street we found La Boheme. I always wanted to sign and dance on the tables there like in Rent, but have only eaten there and went to the wine cellar for a tour before I even knew anything about wine. Man, I wish I could go back in time and appreciate it more.

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Then came Mandolin Books and Coffee Company.

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The place had a great selection of used books and antiquarian. I found a Rudyard Kipling book of poems dated 1922. On the front cover was a swastika – pre-nazi Germany swastika meaning ‘lucky’ or ‘auspicious’. This was what it symbolized for 11,000 and now its an ugly symbol of hate. This book was in perfect condition as were so many of the books in this place. But first, COFFEE!.

The coffee here is Catfish Coffee, and I have to say, it is now my favourite coffee in the city. I really enjoy the flavour.

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We went to the counter and ordered 2 lattes, a lemon square and a blondie because this was a vacation and we needed sustenance.

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The baked goods tasted homemade (WIN!) but the coffee was smooth, creamy and strong – everything I look for in my favourite cup.

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It had been a long time since I enjoyed a coffee this much.

We poked around this shop and found some other great finds, like blind dates,

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we found a guy playing scrabble in the back and a mama reading to her offspring.

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There is also a patio out back.

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Once we found books we had to buy, it is a book store after all and I buy books because that is who I am, I ventured back outside and explored the other side of the street.

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We went into this great little candy shop and found vintage candy and poked around the antique store.

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It was the perfect afternoon in a great neighbourhood of Edmonton.

Edmonton Tourist: Government House Park

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Such a great day for a visit to a park! But because it is early spring, choosing a park that would have very little melt or muck was important to me. Government House Park is located on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River and gets direct sunshine and heat. I figured it would have minimum spring run-off.

When The Captain and I parked, I looked around and decided to take a path less take by me. I had run this park multiple times and know where the trail leads along the river, but I had never followed the path that goes north. Until now.

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The first thing we found was a big puddle, the ground is low here and the run-off pooled to create this large pond-like water feature. We walked around it.

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We quickly discovered this path went parallel with Groat Road, something I had never walked or run on before.

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We made our way towards the new bridge that spans Groat road and is part of the Edmonton Marathon route. The old bridge is the one I broke my foot on during my very first half marathon… good times.

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Once we made under the bridge we found the path to be icy, and I was not in the mood to fall so we turned backed. I might come here in the summer and walk over to Coronation Park to explore.

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What I didn’t realize in all my years living in this city, there is an upper trail – who knew? (apparently every other Edmonton Citizen but me) It takes you by the toboggan hill. Up that hill is Government house. I always fantasized about living there as a kid and having this be my toboggan hill. Canadian Dreams….

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It is steeper and higher than it looks. But could you believe it was closed?

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We kept heading west with the intention of heading to McKinnon Ravine but as the trail combined with the lower tail, the water and mud was more than I wanted to let my white dog wander through.

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We began walking East towards the parking lot and decided to sit and enjoy the sun on our face.

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We were watching a flock of mauve/grey birds flit around when a Peregrine Falcon swooped in and crashed the party.

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Also bigger than it looks.

We headed up to Government House – the actual House. It is located on the old Royal Alberta Museum grounds. Government House was originally build as the residence of the Lieutenant Governor. That did happen for long and it soon became a meeting place for caucus. I toured it once and learned it was haunted, but I always fancied myself living here and it was the backdrop to many of my imaginary adventures.

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The now empty museum is such a beautiful building, I hope they do something amazing with it.

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It was a great day for the park adventure, but the mud was more that I had hoped for. I think I will wait a few more weeks before venturing deeper into the valley. I have a few more parks to visit to complete my river valley adventure:

  • Emily Murphy
  • Hawrelak
  • Buena Vista
  • Laurier
  • Rundle
  • Hermitage
  • Riverdale
  • Victoria

I have been to 10 (11 if you could Strathcona Science Park) I am over half way now. It should be a good summer!

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Terwillegar Dog Park

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I have been meaning to go to the Terwillegar Dog Park for a while now but wanted to wait until the bridge construction connecting the south and north sides of the river was completed. That just happened. So when I woke up Saturday morning, I had that magnetic force pulling me in that direction.

Terwillegar is not easily accessible for me. It is located in the South West corner of Edmonton and I have never felt like this was where my people lived. I am more of a central located kinda of gal even though I do not live central, I play there a lot. I visit those parks, restaurants, shops and many of my pals are centrally located so I am drawn there. South West, not so much. However, I pride myself on being familiar with every corner of my city. The Captain and I hopped into my car and we headed for this park.

Terwillegar has a reputation of being a great dog park. My dog is not able to go off his lead for safety reasons. The Captain is mostly a super a friendly dog, but he demands that other dogs respect him as Alpha. This is usually fine as most dogs are smaller and automatically accept this, but every now and then a large do comes along and Captain usually says to the other animal, “Kneel before me peasant” and if that dog does not comply, a battle will ensue. I also do not trust that Captain will come when I call him. He pretty much comes when he feels like it. Being a responsible dog owner, I know I cannot control my dog off lead, so he doesn’t get to run around the park…ever. This prevents any and all unwanted lawsuits.

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When we arrived, parking was at a premium. I managed to find a spot and looked over the field to see the pack. This park was busier than other parks I visit. Captain was pretty excited to see all the dogs racing around. I admit to feeling apprehension because of his unpredictable nature – my guy was a wild dog rescued from a reservation up north. He hunted and lived within a pack but I suspect he often went rogue. He talks to coyotes and hunts small game still. The field did not hold much interest for him, other than all the sniffing that was possible, he led me off towards the river and forest.

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This place does not do well after rain and snow, lately Edmonton has had its fair share of moisture. The place was a mud bog. My white dog sported black little legs in no time. I also was covered in mud, my least favourite thing unless I am barefoot or in wellies, I was wearing neither.

Once we arrived at the river, I could see the new foot bridge to the east of where I was. It was still a fair way off, so we made our way towards it through the woods. Huge mistake.

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I am fairly well versed in bush-wacking, this was a skill I put to good use as the trails were squelchy with muck. We tried to stay off the mud path and keep to the side for several reasons, my balance lately has been very unstable, so I did not need to slide around on the path most taken. The other reason being, I had a scheduled visit in an hour with my aunt who lived close by and I did not need to look as if I had been playing in the mud pretending I was 5. The final reason being, Captain hated baths. This guy would trapes through mud puddles as if this was the best thing in the world, but put his foot in clean water and you’d think I was punishing him for no good reason.

30 minutes of hiking through the mud and water, we finally came to the paved path that led to the bridge. This road had a think layer of muck as well. There was no place that was safe.

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After the City comes back in the spring to finish the landscaping, (add grass?) I can see this being a lovely spot, but today it filled me with regret.

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As we approached the bridge I marvelled at the engineering of this structure. Apparently it is the second longest stressed ribbon bridge in Canada, although I am unable to determine the longest. News reports didn’t offer that information. Essentially it is a high tech rope bridge. I walked across it with a fair amount of people sharing the bridge ( I wait a really long time to get a photo with out people) and I am happy to report it felt solid. The over hangs remind me of wings, giving the appearance the bridge is hovering or floating above the North Saskatchewan River.

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Of all the Edmonton Parks, I must admit this is my least favourite. The mud didn’t help, but I can certainly look past it. I doubt I will ever return but I do understand why the locals enjoy it and now with the bridge, they are connected at last with the River Valley Trail system that I am deeply in love with.