Thursday, December 29

A "Berry" Merry Christmas

The first time I have ever spent Christmas away from the nuclear family (mom, pops, sister and bro) happened to be in Regina, Saskatchewan - I didn't see that one coming.  Not that there is anything wrong with Saskatchewan but I knew missing family Christmas would happen one day but I always pictured it while I was working away in Prague or New Zealand and unable to afford the trek home for the holidays.

My dad's sister, her husband and their 4 delightful progeny were kind enough to host me at the Berry* household with Coco the cat, Peanut the gerbil, three salamanders, one gecko and two underwater frogs for the big day.  We ate too much junk food, I tried out their xbox kinect (the first video game that is ACTUALLY a work out - I could barely stick out 3 levels!), fell for the new Zelda game so much that I'm thinking about getting a wii to play it, played some uno, took lots of naps, and exchanged gifts.  My mommy shipped me my stocking and I cleaned up with a freshwater pearl necklace, a car safety kit, some cool canvas bags, granola, a cookbook, sweet potato & cinnamon muffin mix, and - so that I'm not the only one in my office without one - my very own Fossil purse!

And now a lesson - the second you can afford not to use the greyhound you will suddenly be too good for the greyhound.  12 hours there, 15 hours back - bus limit reached!.  I sat with my legs cramped dreaming of my very own Otto, right in my driveway.  Driving would have allowed me to stop and explore all the dinky little towns along the way that called to me from the loser-cruiser.  The roommate was kind enough to check in on a regular basis regarding the attachment of my head to my body.

And a bit of a rant about the bus system - definitely not built for comfort.  Just a few hours outside regina you will be kicked off the bus in a place called Swiftcurrent.  The bus depot was "conveniently" built in an industrial park with no other sources for nourishment than their very own restaurant.  And what a restaurant it was.  $10 for a juice, a soggy ceasar salad (alliteration!) and a grilled cheese on organ-preserving white bread with rubber "cheese" inside served in a cafeteria.  The worst part was all of the old people sitting around commenting on the fantastic quality of the food.  I would hate to know what most of them eat on a regular basis.  Fine.  Swiftcurrent is small.  Calgary should be better right?  Nope.  The same set up on a larger scale - nothing outside but warehouses - nothing inside but expensive fried food.  AND there is no bus schedule posted (electronic or otherwise) so if one wants to know what time one's bus leaves or from which platform (which your ticket will not tell you) you must wait in line at the ticket/information counter in order to inquire.

*Spelling of last name changed because my aunt is fairly paranoid ;

Wednesday, December 21

Tasty Houses

We made houses for cookie people and then ATE THOSE HOUSES.  Just joking - I plan to eat it for Christmas.  A fun little quirk of the cafe in our hospital is that they make extra dough for various sweet treats and then sell it to the staff at the hospital.  This time of year you can pick up gingerbread and ginger snap doughs (as well as sugar cookie dough and pie crust).  Taking the easy way out I and two friends at work got ourselves some raw cookie junk and made three little personalized edible houses.  Every time I start a project like this I feel like "Ok Martha, this can't be that hard" and I end up feeling like a kindergarten student by the end painting goopy icing on with my fingers.  

B's house reminiscent of Mario's Rainbow Road

My house with skittle walkway (if only....)

Salud's kitschy crooked-but-charming roofed house  with marshmallow walkway

B's special "juice"

The mess

The back of my house and an evergreen made of feet

"I can't believe it's not feces" now in gingerbread

Thursday, December 15

Harper's Tangrams

I get the feeling that Canada doesn't look quite right to PriMordial Stephen Harper.  Tangrams were a grade 4 make work activity to develop visuospatial intelligence.  (or apparently Wikipedia thinks they are an ancient Chinese puzzle).  I'm not going to lie - the idea for this political toon came to me and I was so absorbed in the idea and in trying to get that creepy glint to Harper's eye that I'm not entirely sure it makes sense outside of my own brain.

It is basically a commentary on how I think our Not-so-Prime Minister has the ultimate goal of changing the shape (values, vision, political structure) of Canada to more closely resemble the United States.  And he just creeps me out.  Yes, I realize the tangrams don't include the territories but I think Harper's USA-shaped-Canada would not include them I am sad to say (unless, of course, the primary industries are blown wide open up there).  

Wednesday, December 14

We Were All Thinking It

There have been two big uproars in the normally internationally ignored Canadian political front.  The first came earlier this week (as no surprise) when the conservative government officially withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol.  This move took a swift chunk right out of Canada's world image and brought it another step closer to the conservative's ultimate plan of an America shaped Canada.  Honestly,  some of the the conservative government's reasons for pulling out even make sense on the surface:  we can't hit the targets without damaging the Canadian economy, none of the other big polluters have to do it! (waaaah), they have a better plan, we shouldn't have signed it in the first place.  Yes, the economy is important.  Ours is one of the only economies in the "west" not looking directly into the crapper and, of course, it would be nice to keep it that way.  No, the US and China did not sign Kyoto.  They have a better plan - this one I can't even address except to say - um, yeah right.  The point more than Kyoto or not is that we're tarnishing Canada's reputation, we're going back on our word and we're taking the easy way out.  I'm tired of feeling like I have to apologize to the world for the behaviour of our current government (thank clothespins I at least did not vote for them).

That brings me to the second media storm:  Justin Trudeau calling Environment Minister Peter Kent a "piece of sh*t".  The worst part is that he had to apologize.  Please.  Environment Minister is a puppet post for this government, a mere formality with a good salary.  I think this outburst is a sign of the opposition's growing frustration with this insufferable PC cabinet.  I say, well done Mr. Trudeau; it isn't like everyone in the room wasn't already thinking it.  Could you direct that Harper's way next time?

Wednesday, December 7

Ladies with Brooms

Moving to the West I made a big list of fun times and new experiences.  Life-enriching moments if you will.  And near the top of that list was Curling.  So I joined a fun league and play every Tuesday night.  If I say I'm busy Tuesday then I'm sliding down the ice on my "slippy shoe"*.  You may be surprised to find out that curling actually requires quite a bit of skill.  Lots of that is figuring out how hard to throw the rock, how much to turn it, and how to fall gracefully.  I haven't mastered any of those things.

I've even been reading up on the game (I was going to say "sport" but don't want to start any arguments).  While on my trip back to TO for graduation I found myself exploring a street near where I was staying and found a box of FREE STUFF.  FREE.  Just waiting for me at the top was a "Curling for Dummies" book.  It was fate.

Some curling terms:
House:  the whole bulls-eye painted under the ice
Button:  the very middle circle
Draw:  to put the rock in the house
Sweep: the crazy action of sweeping really fast in front of the rock in the belief that the harder you sweep the less the rock will "curl" off to one side or another - I'm not yet convinced.  But then again, I haven't reached the sweeping chapter in my Dummies book.
Skip:  the person on the team who calls all the shots
Hurry hard!!!! what you get to yell as loud as you want to encourage vigorous sweeping

Mostly I enjoy the banter.  The cooperativeness (it is a very polite game).  And the fact that curling lends itself so well to Happy Gilmore quotes.
"Go home!  Are you too good for your home?"
"Just tap it in.  Just tap it in.  Give the ol' tap tap tapperoo"

Curling is winter's golf:  it really does take skill but you can play even if you spend the other 166 hours in the week eating cheetos and watching HD tv.  You can also reach your peak at age 67.  This sport is my last chance to make the Olympics.  Iqaluit 2042 here I come!

*Every time I say or think "slippy shoe" I then begin to sing "damn, that's a slippy shoe. That's a slippy shoe" to myself - it goes to the tune of the "Sexy B*tch** song.
**I don't know why it is always vowels that get starred out in "curse" words.  Really, if you want to disguise the word it would be the least effective way to do so since the consonants are more at the heart of most English words.  Removing vowels still make many words fairly recognizable when we attempt to slur the consonants together - school = sch-l, pen = pn, flower = flwr.  See?  Try blocking out random consonants and the words aren't as easy to recognize - ca, reote, awl.  Did you guess that those were cab, remote and crawl?  It may be better off writing "*itch, or shi*.  Ok, swears are still recognizable but there is some doubt and I don't automatically pronounce properly in my head.  But swears don't offend me so I don't care either way.  

Sunday, December 4

My Alberta Life

An excerpt from a text convo with my roomie last night (approx 11pm):

Roomie:  you still up

Me:  Yeah, what's up?

Roomie:  want to do me a favour?

Me:  Perhaps I could be persuaded.  What can I do?

Roomie:  you would need to get gun powder out of my vault and bring it here.  for that I would take you to jasper or louise.

Me:  Interesting.  What are you going to do with it?

Roomie:  im going to shoot a baby canon with it

That is the first time I have been requested to deliver gun powder and I brought it to the armories.  I left the line about jasper/louise in there just to prove it later on.  It sounds like quite the lifestyle but if the zombie apocalypse hits I have almost assured safety.  My roommate even has a plan:  unload the gun cabinet (actually a room), high-tail it to Costco, secure the roof and, bam!, we control the resources and have a great lookout post.

Bonus photo - when I dropped off the gun powder I got a tour of the big weapons.

Speaking of zombie apocalypse, I had a wonderful visit from the Jedi Master and her new hubs, the Eagle. We enjoyed some lovely blooming teas and very bacon-y perogies at Glenn's Tea House.  We basically soaked up all the culture in Red Deer.  I think, in that instance, we were the culture in town.  On top of all of that greatness I got a lovely gift of raw honey crafted by Toronto bees and earned by the Jedi Master and her bee gear.  

Wednesday, November 30

A Fitting End to November

My November had little to do with mustaches (except my last post) but a whole lot to do with snow.  Perhaps SNOvember would be more accurate (I'm sure that was highly original of  me).  To cap off the month we got 15cm of snow overnight.  Just the chance to test out Otto's new winter boots.  I was debating back and forth about whether he deserved/needed such extravagant footwear and today was a confirmation that I made the right grown up choice.  I had to drive out to a rural site 30 minutes away on a teeny highway and he gripped like nobody's business.  Plus, with the extra control, I had fun throwing out his back end around snowy corners at every opportunity (read:  without other drivers around to hit).

 Is it wrong to love tires so much?  I considered trying to get a photo hugging them but it is cold out and the angle was awkward.  Look at THOSE TREADS!!!!  LOOK!
Otto has a snowy smile.  Without the flash it looks like he's got a bit of Lindsay Lohan going on.

I have been doing all kinds of things that adults who own cars do:

-shoveling the driveway
-using a car wash
-scraping car windows (ALL THE TIME)
-parallel parking
-plugging the car in at night
-checking the weather report to know if I NEED to plug in the car the night before
-filling up the gas tank (wait...the guy who pumps the gas does that)

Also, when I went to drop off my car for the new tires I had to hand over my keys.  It was at that moment that I remembered that my keychain says "Pastors of Excellence".  Best. Keychain. Ever. I wonder if they noticed....

Saturday, November 26

Wasted Mustaches

I was on mustache watch today.  So many quality lip furs and I'm pretty sure the growers were not even aware of Movember.  The 'staches were a matter of personal style and most likely not going to charity.  The Innisfail horse auction today was prime upper-lip caterpillar spotting.  And it was pretty good for scoping out horses.  Every time I drive out to Innisfail - I cover the small hospital and longterm care facility there once a week - I hear this older gentleman rambling on the radio about coming on down to the Innisfail auction for "red geranium back heifers" or "1.90 calves for the best price all year" or whatever he is saying.  He is officially the worst person at making radio commercials.  Except that it worked and spent my Saturday afternoon at a horse auction.  It was difficult not to bid considering I could have gotten myself a mini horse for $100!  Plus, there was a real auctioneer with the fast-talkin and the deal-makin and the gavel-hittin.

This is Angel.  She is 10.  She was so sweet.  I believe she went  for $650.

Showin' off the horse skills.  Look!  You can even lasso a cow on this one!

Sadly, none of the mustachioed men made it into my photos.

Monday, November 14

Time for Bridge Nights and 4pm Dinners

Every few years I feel as if I have hit the "adult" phase of my life.  The first time was at the age of 12 when my mother would not let me do whatever I so chose and had to tell her where I was going and with whom.  How could she treat my grown-up self like that?  Then I moved off 8 hours away from my family to do my undergrad and, in my second year, rented a townhouse with three friends.  I was sure that I had definitely found adulthood - I mean, I had to BUY MY OWN GROCERIES and cook and manage my own time.  Clearly adult-like things.  Of course, those parents of mine were still more or less covering the bill.  Fast forward to the beginning of grad school.  Surely I was an adult now.  I was paying for my life with student loans and parental funds however funds to be repaid this time.

Negatory.  I am NOW an adult.  How do I know?  There are three main ways:
1) I make my own money and if I spend it all on a $200 purse before my next paycheck then I have to eat Ramen for the rest of the week.  Getting on my feet, even making decent dollahz, means that I am living more or less paycheck to paycheck.
2) A good chunk of my paycheck goes to lame things.  1/4 is auto-dropped down on loans.  Do you know how many new fossil purses I could be buying with that money?  Dresses at Anthropologie?  Tickets to Cuba*?
My car also sucks the dinero right out of me.  Thanks to the premature blizzards (november?! Really?!?) my car now demands expensive new rubber shoes with all kinds of special "grooves" and "treads" that I don't understand but apparently need.  Oh, and it needs a timer so it knows when to start heating up.  Oh, and I have to be an adult and go out in the cold to actually plug the car in.
3)  My conversations with friends involve lame things and, guess what, I enjoy it!  My time in Toronto with friends I haven't seen in way too long was spent talking about loans and saving for the future and down-payments and investments and the importance of 0% financing.  Don't worry though, I believe we still talked about bowel movements schedules being interrupted by new jobs.

How did you know you were an adult?

*Ok, it isn't SO much each month to purchase tickets to Cuba in the plural.

Sunday, November 13


After two packed years of grad school I am officially no longer a "Masters of Health Science" candidate but hold the official MHSc. paperwork.  To retrieve it I was fortunate enough to get three days off work (plus a stat!  Thank you Remembrance Day) which I used to fly out to the great Toronto.  How much I miss Toronto (Tronno) could be a whole new post.  It is a city that gets a bad rap around the country (and Mayor Ford is doing NOTHING to help this) but those people clearly have not lived in the downtown core and experienced all that the city can offer when one does not have the stress of driving in that monstrous videogame (10 points for the garbage can! 30 points for dodging that biker!).

For conVAcation on Tuesday evening my parents and two friends from home (plus their tiniest dude who turned one that very day!) made the drive to watch me wear a silly robe in front of over 1000 people.  I felt very loved.  Here are some photos of me becoming a master.

A gaggle of lovely classmates

Me and Obama

Introducing Hi-C, ShanWow and Katie V, MHSc. (all)

Thank you, UofT

Chilling with RoRoW and others in Convocation Hall

Overly intelligent people in silly robes 

Hi-C and the Golden Sceptre (possible children's book?)

Paddy - thumbs up to the crowds?

More golden sceptre

Me and the padres.  Can we tell that it was humid in Toronto?  Point for Red Deer: optimal hair conditions

Sunday, November 6

I'll (not) Be Home for Christmas

See what I did there?  Clever, eh?  Even if the sentence becomes a slightly Brit way of saying things.  Moving way out here I had known that not going home with my family for the holidays would be a possibility this year with me being the noob at work I was not expecting first dibs on vacation time.  And I was right.  But not even that - this year we get 4 days off in a row due to when Christmas falls.  Knowing this I decided to at least TRY to get home.  This time it was the airlines that crushed my dreams.  Thank you Westjet and Air Canada for a lonely Christmas due to your greed.  To get my sorry butt to my parents's house for the big day was going to run me around $1700!  Yep, you read that right. To fly in my OWN COUNTRY.  Let me remind you that it cost me less to fly to Nairobi, Kenya just this summer.  Add to that kidney-punch of a price the flights are at the most inconvenient times giving me barely 48 hours with the famjam.  Let's break that down:  1700/48 = $35.42 per hour to hang out with my family.  If you include time wasted sleeping then it gets up to about $65/hour.  After a realistic and very adult conversation with my mother on the phone tonight we mutually agreed that, while sad, we would not be lining neither Air Ebeneezer's nor ScroogeJet's coffers this season.

Fear not, dear friends!  I had a few very kind offers from friends and co-workers in the area for some company over the holidays but the best offer so far has been to head over to Regina and spend it with my Aunt and Uncle and their 4 cool kiddos (shout out!).  So maaaaaybe I spoke to soon about where my money would be going but perhaps not.  Tickets are still pricey at about $800 (if I'm lucky) to do the Regina thing by air so my cheap cheap heart has been considering a $166 greyhound ticket.  I thought my bussin' days were behind me but that saved $600 could go to new shoes.....or my loans.  So looks like I'll probably be packing some good books and my ipod and hunkering down for a long winter's nap in a chair covered in stained 80s fabric.  

Saturday, November 5

Sneaky, Sneaky Chapters

So - I went to Chapters last weekend on a whim.  Not that big of a whim because I wander around that store rarely buying anything at least once a week.  So maybe it should read "I went to Chapters last weekend on schedule".  Set up near the front of the store was a table with a young dude and some books displayed in an obvious "I wrote this book and I'mma sign it for you" kinda way.  So I approached because I can't resist a book.  It turned out to be a graphic novel which is rarely how I roll but it got me thinking:  Hey, my sister likes all this jazz.  DING DING!  Christmas!  It was all dark and foreboding looking with a razor on the front and black used a lot.  I flipped through it and it had werewolves and guns and generally seediness and angst.  Perfect!  Sister will love it!  Plus the dude mentioned that it was already in the works to become a movie.  Not only would I be giving my sister a novel I think she would enjoy it was about to become extra cool and she could say that she liked it "before it was cool" which is what every hipster wants*.  Excited I texted her to say that I had found part of her Christmas gift and golly gee whiz would she ever like it.

Flash forward to this weekend:  I grab the book off my shelf to sneakily read a chunk and see what it is like when I spotted the dedication at the front.  "This book is dedicated to every soul still searching for the Truth, the Life, and the Way.  Oh no you didn't.  I quickly scanned my brain - there had to be some other reference that would use that line than John 4:16 (ie.  the bible).  But in my heart I knew.  I flipped through the book more carefully hoping to allay my fears but e'erbody be wearin a CROSS!  This be a Christian graphic novel.  My sister don't really roll that way (and we know from previous posts that neither do I).  Should Chapters not have to post some sort of warning on booths like this?  Or hide the table in the religious section?  I guess not in Red Deer you don't.

Thank goodness sister has a sense of humour so we had a good chuckle over text when I broke it to her that the "totally amazing and right up her alley gift" likely would not be all I had made it out to be.  She said she'd take it anyway - apparently a graphic novel is a graphic novel.  Plus I have to hand it to the dude - the drawings are pretty wicked.

*I should clarify that my sister isn't really a hipster.  But I think everyone appreciates being able to slightly arrogantly claim to have "known about [insert pop culture reference here] before it became cool" every once in a while.

Tuesday, November 1

What's In a Name

My given name is Katie.  I assure that that is my full name.  You can look at my birth certificate (although, let's be honest, if you were going to fake a form of Canadian legal identification this would be the one - it looks so easy!).  In fact, people sometimes have such a hard time believing that Katie is not short for anything that I have to whip out the blue-proof-of-my-existence just to shut them up.  So, to clarify, my name isn't Catherine/Katherine, Caitlyn (or any variant thereof), Kathleen or Frederick.  Just Katie.

It is a pretty solid name and I have no complaints but I do sometimes wish I had a longer, more sophisticated (read: grown up) name to fall back on.  With this in mind I had the epiphany that I could be whomever I chose when I moved to Red Deer so I set out to be Kate.  Just to test the waters.  To get a feel for the name.  When in social settings and at work I introduce myself as "Kate" and it is starting to feel less weird.  I even answer to it most of the time.  The plan hasn't been foolproof because my resume had said Katie and so my coworkers were expecting someone by that name.  Some have made the transition and others haven't but I don't correct anyone.  It is my name after all and I don't really notice.  And - woops - my name tag at work says Katie so it is about 50/50 what I will get called.  What feels the strangest to the point that I just can't really say it with a serious face is my full name with Kate instead of Katie (ie with my last name).  It just has a different flow and doesn't have the same ring that one feels after 26 years of using the same name.  So if you come to Red Deer you can still call me Katie but you might hear me introduce myself as Kate.  Who knows how long this will last. What I have learned so far is that I like using Kate at work when introducing myself to clients but that there really isn't anything wrong with Katie and I think I like my name even more now.

Anyone else ever try to transition to a new name (or variant of your given name)?  Whether moving to a new place or not.

Sunday, October 30

Time to "Gopher" an Adventure

I'm so witty.

The purpose of this is multi-fold.  1) To make you incredibly jealous of my adventures.  2) To show you that if you come to visit me I bring it.  3) To demonstrate the somewhat backwardness of this region of Canada.

ShanWow came down this weekend to the Deer and boy did I have some plans for us.  Especially getting to bed nice and early on Friday night.  So we could be up for adventure on Saturday....of course.  The only thing that could have made Saturday better would have been me offering waffles and bacon for breakfast instead of lame-toast.  But you can't win them all.  We jumped into Otto and sped* off to the Red Deer craft show at Westerner Park.

Back up.  I forgot one of the most exciting parts of the weekend.  ShanWow arrived on the G'Hound at approx 830pm Friday night.  Having yet to go to the station myself I used the ol'GPS to get there and, since her bus was late, pulled into the Dairy Queen across the street to wait (with a Blizzard).  Things were dandy, we enjoyed some soft serve and then it was time to head home.  Looking both ways I pulled out of the parking lot and made it about 30 feet when it simultaneously dawned on ShanWow to ask "This isn't a ONE WAY STREET is it?".  Then sensory overload as I processed her question, the cars coming at me from the incorrect direction and the flashing Po-po lights in my rear-view mirror.  Pulling into the nearest parking lot to wait for the officers.  They are EVERYWHERE!  And sneaky!  This was my very first time being pulled over and my first time having to present my license and registration to a uniformed civil servant.  I blame the poor signage.  Although I played up my newness to Red Deer and they let me off with a friendly reminder that the downtown of the city is a maze of one-way streets.

Now back to the craft show.  It was pretty darn cool. AND we bought things because we have jobs and money.  And you couldn't elbow someone without damaging an unborn child.  I swear to pumpkin milkshakes that every woman in Red Deer is reproducing.  If the world is over-populated I have found the culprit.  Government - if you're looking for a place to do top-secret medical testing this might be the place.  But I walked out happy with some emu lip balm and a new children's book to add to my collection.  Technically I buy a kid's book in any place that I travel but since moving here counts as an adventure and it was published by Red Deer Press AND the illustrator was there to SIGN IT I feel like this was a boon for me.  I am now the proud owner of Tiger's New Cowboy Boots.

The craft show was just the opener though.  Did you know that if you drive south 45 minutes to Olds, hang a  louis and keep on going for another half hour you will find the jewel of the prairies?  I'm using the term jewel metaphorically of course to represent the Torrington Gopher Museum.  Since the moment I hear about this place I knew it would be awesome and, since ShanWow also has great taste, I saved it for her visit.  Much to our dismay we found online that the museum was only open June to September.  GASP!  Do not fear fair readers - we decided to call *just in case*.  We were rewarded for our tenacity, too.  Who should pick but Diane, a curator of sorts for this magnificent display and she informed us that, with enough notice (meaning at least 3 minutes and 39 seconds needed for her to walk across town) she would open the museum for visitors  throughout the year if we just "gave her a dingle" on her home phone.  The rest of the story can be told pictographically.

Clem, the town mascot

Every hydrant here has a personality

We stopped for lunch.

Pizza N' More "Eh" has a monopoly on the local fuel market

We gave Diane a dingle and she met us at the museum.  We took up the parking lot.

She asked if we wanted to wear the gopher head.  Need she even ask???

 Of course this was not all I had in store.  The rest of the evening was spent making gnocchi from scratch then eating said gnocchi.  We turned on Hocus Pocus (who doesn't love a buck-toothed Bette Midler and an air-headed Sarah Jessica Parker sucking the souls out of children?) and carved pumpkins until out hearts were full of Halloween spirit.

*I feel like a rebellious hooligan driving my usual 10km over the speed limit here.