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!

 

 

18 for 18: Ice Castles

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I am crossing the first item off the list – I went to visit Edmonton’s Ice Castles. Full disclosure, I received tickets from a friend so I did receive a free entry. Honestly, I am not altogether sure I would have paid to enter. $16.95 for Adults, it really doesn’t look all that special on the outside. I did go with an open mind. As I moved closer, it became more spectacular.

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I timed my visit so I could hit the magic hour of sunset. 5:00 pm on the day we went. I wanted to capture photos before and after so I could catch the different light. I am glad I did.

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Different coloured flood lights(?) LED lights (?), I am unsure of the tech, were lighting up the icicles. The time of day made for a very flat light and it was hard to see definition out in the open. As we explored caves and walkways the detail showed itself to be amazing.

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I took time to speak to one of the staff about how they created this giant ice castle. He explained they grew the icicles by running the water then moving the small icicle to where it was supposed to go, then they built upon that by adding more water. The amount of water needed for this was staggering. I am not going to lie, it does concern me.

Environmental concerns aside, I let myself be swept up in the beauty of the art installation.   We wandered through the tunnels and found the fireplace in the centre of the castle.

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Soot was clinging to the ice and the hearth was melting but it was so cold -25C so the warmth was welcome. I didn’t dress nearly warm enough, I needed 2 leg layers but only had one. I had forgotten how much I love the smell of a wood fire. It was heavenly!

We kept meandering around and located the fountain room. This was beautiful.

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As the night became darker the greens and pinks from the lights became more dominant.

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We left to search for the slides, only one was finished when we went through.

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The line was long and I didn’t think my rear end needed to sit on ice. Maybe if I had worn my snow plants, but I passed on that opportunity. You would think Canadians would not find ice so novel, but we did! To the left, we found a throne and I quickly snapped a photo before the next couple sat down. Again, there were massive lines.

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Not interested in sitting on ice, I did that plenty when I worked as a ski lift operator, or ‘lifty’. I remember it well and I have no desire to relive that, but LOOKing at it was so beautiful. I was very happy I decided to go and experience the beauty of the ice.

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Sunset was happening by this time. I looked up and there was the moon. Cold, crisp and beautiful.

BUT SO MANY PEOPLE! I would wait a long time for a shot clear of people.

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I would shoot up or close, fewer people in the frame.

We spent about 45 minutes and saw everything at least twice. There was a lot of waiting while parents were pulling their children through the tiny spots. People were polite and took turns with the exception of a few who knocked my camera over while pushing their way ahead of me. For a crowd this size, I was honestly surprised at the amount kind and considerate people there.

For the most part I found this to be a worthwhile experience. I do realize many families could not afford to participate in this activity but there are other free and beautiful things to do during Edmonton’s WInter. (Honourable mention to Victoria’s Skating Oval. The lights there are also beautiful and its free) Yet Ice Castles is an instagram photographer’s dream.

For times visit the website for more information.

 

Tradition

I grew up with December steeped in tradition. We celebrated Christmas hardcore. The Christmas Tree went up the first Sunday in December or as soon as Dad agreed. Christmas Carols began playing on Saturday mornings as background music to house cleaning as soon as the first snow arrived. This could have been September or it could have been November. First Snow meant Christmas music. First snow in Edmonton meant early fall. We had a Christmas party every year and Santa always came. I knew it was one of my grandfathers but still…he came every year.Christmas Eve lunch with one set of grandparents. Chinese food with the other grandparents on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning brunch with my parents and Christmas dinner with my grandma. Every year the dependable comfort of traditional events happened. I loved all of it.

I no longer want to do many of these things and have established my own traditions that focus more on my little family. I prefer simplicity. But one tradition I have kept from my childhood that I look forward to every year is gathering up the family and exploring the city to look at Christmas lights.

I find fewer people decorate their homes or actually, there are more diverse people living in my neighborhood who don’t celebrate Christmas so not every house has lights. (My neighborhood during Diwali is magnificent though!). People are still decorating at Christmas, just not close by. But looking at lights still remains my favorite tradition of my childhood, that and Scottish Shortbread.

My family packed themselves into the car along with my pal Captain, and we went out in search of Christmas Lights. Often we plan to walk through decorated neighborhoods and this year with the mild temperatures would have been perfect. But I am not at my best healthwise so we turned on the seat warmer and rolled the window down to enjoy the weather and lights.

Our first stop was Castrol Raceway. I have no idea if this was the first year for this or it is an annual tradition that I had not heard of, either way, this was fantastic. $25 a carload ($50 for Limo and $125 for a bus). We drove out near the airport and had plenty to look at.

 

Then we traveled to Candy Cane Lane, it is nice but not as spectacular as in Christmas Past.

 

Traditionally we traveled to the Downtown core to look at the old museum grounds, Legislative grounds and City Hall. No Tree this year at Winston Churchill Square because of the construction but the Ledge was beautiful.

But the best was saved for last. Christmas at Bobs was spectacular. Give this website a visit to learn more about it and his wish for you to pay it forward. It is interactive and fun. My girl posed in front of the Angel Wings, and then my pal Cap needed to pose as well. It was hilarious and beautiful. I recommend giving this place a visit and then go do something nice for someone else.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope its special this year. But from my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Edmonton Tourist: Upper Mill Creek Ravine

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I have been house bound for days. Partly due to illness and partly do to…who are we kidding, I was sick in bed for 5 days. I was feeling slightly better by Friday and today I felt slightly better than yesterday but I then came down with a serious case of Cabin Fever.

I decided to bundle up me and my pup and head to my most favourite part of the city, Upper Mill Creek Ravine. You may recall this summer, I went to the lower creek, north of the pool. Well,my favourite spot is south of the pool in the Argyll and Hazeldean neighbourhoods.

Did I mention how cold it was? I was in the kitchen drinking hot chocolate, you know the kind made from Ghirardelli and milk on the stove? Yeah, THAT kind. So delicious. When I said to my Captain, Want to go for a walk? His head snapped back so fast you would have thought we had not done this in a while. Wait…I hadn’t been at a park with him since November at the Science Park…Sorry Cap.

We both put our jackets on because it is cold. Fahrenheit on the left Celsius on the right. The wind made it feel colder -12F and -24C, that to me is the real temperature because feeling is everything.

Mill Creek Ravine is my happy place. It is the place I go when I am sad, happy, angry, resentful, disappointed, or any other myriad of emotions. I enter and become instantly relaxed. I kind of needed that today. Lets just say I am filled with complex emotions that need sorting out, so off I went.

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The upper trail is groomed and paved. The off leash dog park is way down in the gully. That is where Cap and I were headed. Not that I can trust him to be off leash, he is independent minded so I am not really sure he would come when I call him or if he would just say, “You know what Peasant? I miss living in the woods, I am out of here.” Now I am all for independent thought but I’d rather keep him safe with a chance at a long life rather than struggling to live in the wild, so I keep him on a leash. I do let him investigate all the great mouser places and animal dens. One day I am sure he will find a skunk hallow and then I will be sorry, but until then, it makes me happy watching him be happy.

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Happily there isn’t a lot of snow so far this year. That makes trekking easier and there hasn’t been any freeze/thaw cycles so no ice. This makes it safer for me who is prone to falling.

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Mill Creek trail is built on an old railway bed, so there is a converted trestle farther north, I am not convinced that what this is, it doesn’t seem sturdy enough to hold an old steam engine, but it is built in the old tresses style and is a lovely bridge over the creek. Obviously at temps that have been sub -20C for weeks, the creek is froze solid.

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This is part of the off-leash walk. There are trash cans an dog bag bins all through here. All they are is old grocery bags for people to use. There is zero excuse to be a lazy pet owner. I bring my own eco ones attached to Cap’s leash.

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Lots of pets with their people come down here. If my Real Estate agent called me tomorrow to say he found me a house within walking distance to here, I would cry with joy. Who doesn’t want to live here? It is silent as if you are in the middle of the country but the convince to being 5 minutes to downtown Edmonton. To me it is perfect. I have been down here and have spotted deer, the occasional moose, falcons, hawks, eagles and coyotes. I have heard of a bear sighting once and know there are porcupines and skunks with the odd badger but my trusty pal looks after me.

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After wandering around for about an hour I asked myself why I wait so long to come back? It clearly the best place I can be.

 

Pancake Girl to the Rescue

Happy New Year everyone!

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I was at work yesterday and my colleague asked me what I was doing a year ago. I replied with, “It was a very dark time that I don’t like to talk about.” He commented and said well look at you now.

Yes…look indeed.

I have come a long way baby. Today is my Runnaversary and to celebrate I will go to my favourite spot and run an easy 5. Last year if I look at my DailyMile chart, it tells me I did 2.1 km and I was tired.

I remember how hard it was, but I kept at it.

IMG_8773Today I became Pancake Girl. I volunteered for the 2014 New Years Day resolution Run in Edmonton. I saw the We Shall Have Pie Gals – It was great seeing them! I went to look for them after my job was done but they blended in with the crowd and couldn’t be found. I still need to meet up with them for real!

It was my job to run outside, gather pancakes and run them to the buffet table. There was 8 griddles set up outside. It was 1F this morning with a windchill of -8F. For the record, it was cold. However, I didn’t let cold deter me from my all important job of feeding the runners!!

Back and forth I went and put on 2550 steps on my Polar Loop. Crap – 8000 short. That is okay, I will head out to the River Valley shortly and get the rest of my steps in. Running in daylight is now a novelty for me. I cannot wait for spring!

The Edmonton Sun and Global TV were there taking my photo and I am pretty sure I am now the new pin-up girl for 2014 because OBVIOUSLY I was the eye-candy of the day. Although Mike and Owen claim they were. Only time will tell! You can be sure if I am the chosen one, I will tell you all about it.

Meanwhile, my skin looks fresh after the Pancake Facial and I may never want to eat another pancake as long as I live. However, this was an excellent beginning to 2014. I am looking forward to completing my 365 days of fun. Today was just another fun day along the way.

Happy New Year everyone!

Winter, you are a jerk

Winter is being a jerk.

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I was sitting in my office on, APRIL 19th, and looked out my window. Snowflakes the size of quarters were coming down. Had it been Christmas morning I would have thought, “Oh How Lovely!” Then carry on with the presents and food. BUT APRIL 19th?

THIS TOTALLY SUCKS!

As a winter protest, I am creating a list of things that are suppose to happen in Spring here in Edmonton.

  1. Hmmmm okay this is harder than I thought it would be. We don’t get spring in Edmonton.

It will snow on and off until the end of May. I know, I know… this is complete and utter lunacy. I am so over winter I can’t tell you how badly I want to hear robins on my front lawn or smell fresh cut grass.

In protest I went and bought 3 short sleeved running shirts and several pairs of ankle socks for running.

Apparently I am only hurting myself because today is a crappy cold and windy day with the odd snowflake here and there. There is no way I can run outside in my new running togs and stay warm.

In 10 days it will be May. On May 26th I am running my first 10km race. I don’t want to wear this:

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But seeing as I am racing in Alberta, odds are excellent that I will be wearing exactly that.

I have decided I will use a technique called planned ignoring. This is where you don’t reinforce negative behaviour, you ignore it. In this case WINTER is being a jerk so I will no longer pay attention to this bad behavior. No more pictures, no more winter clothing, no more tolerance. Winter will finally become tired of being ignored and go away or at the very least, change it’s attitude. From now on my stubbornness will finally come in handy. I will force winter to leave by not giving it what it needs. That’s right winter, your days are numbered!

Anyone up for a picnic?

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Go Home Winter, You’re Drunk

Go Home Winter, You’re Drunk

was the facebook status of one of my friends this morning. I figure this is just par for the course. My week has been difficult having the plague and all and this is the icing on the cake – 15cm of new snow.

This week started off swell! The snow was melting, over a foot of it was gone. I was running WITHOUT cleats! Sure I had to wade through giant glacier fed puddles with huge icebergs floating by, but that was just a minor inconvenience when confronted with the fact that I could run without cleats AND in a t-shirt! All the winter gear got left at home! So freeing and delightful.

Not only is it snowing this morning, my coffee machine broke and it needed tech support. I nearly had to DRIVE for coffee in my jammies. Luckily the phone call to Kuerig’s Brandon sorted things out. Charming southern dude who gave me life this morning. In fact, he gave me enough life to fill two giant travel mugs  – Thanks Brandon!

Meanwhile this is my back yard on April 5th at 11:14 AM – the view from my desk

Go Home Winter, You’re Drunk

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Quite frankly, all of us up here in the Great White North are sick of it. I am not sure why, this is quite typical for us. Perhaps it is because of social media. We can SEE what kind of weather the rest of the world is having and we want some. Bring on Global Warming, I want ocean front property with a citrus grove in my yard. Meanwhile, back to our regularly scheduled winter…

 

 

 
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