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. 

Thursday, October 27

Let's Talk About Food

Since moving here I have been a bit lazy on the food front.  Attempting to remedy that I headed down to that local, organic, hormone-free, had-a-happy-life butcher, picked up some chickpeas at the store and whipped up an old favourite.  One of my very favourite things that my dad makes is chickpea meatloaf.  How hard could it be?  Not that hard except when the recipe says you need a food processor you should probably have a food processor and not improvise with a blender and a fork for smooshing rogue chickpeas.  In the end, though, it was more than edible (although a bit chunky and not as good as my dad's).  To top that off I baked some coffee bread but ended up with my worst batch so far.  My excuses, I've decided, are going to be 1) it is a new oven with which I am not familiar to explain away the uncooked centre of one of the loaves, and 2) I didn't put enough flour in and the bread ended up disappointingly flattish.

Upsidedown mushy meat brick and an oh-so-tasty-one at that
And since we're on the topic of food I have decided to be a bit of a self-made human Zagat guide to Red Deer.  Let's be honest, someone needs to do it.  Since it is early in the "DapperDame Eats Red Deer Zagat" my focus has mainly been on the "ethnic" cuisine.  Skipping over Italian because "East Side Mario's" isn't ethnic.

Here is the list online under "Ethnic" that I will be eating my way through + reviews:

East Side Mario's Italian Eatery  2004-50 Ave. Red Deer - NOT ETHNIC....but I have eaten here.  It tasted like carbs. 

Las Palmeras Mexican Restaurant  3630-50 Ave. Red Deer - This place has the prices of a schwanky pub but the look of a diner.  It is missing that cheesy charm of the traditional Mexican restaurant and the lights are not dim is-that-a-drug-deal-going-down-in-the-corner-or-a-jukebox that is the typical backdrop for Mex food.  What it lacks in cheesy-charm it makes up for inside its enchiladas.  Seriously.  One visit and I'm already in a rut:  do I get the enchilada again because I *know* it is awesome or try something else that *could* be awesome? - 4/5 tastebuds agree this place is worth the visitLucky's Lounge 

Pho Thuy Dong Vietnamese Restaurant  5108-52 St. Red Deer - Looks just like any other viet restaurant inside including requisite lucky cat statues and fish tank full of angry creatures.  A restaurant that would be hardly memorable were I still in Toronto I know my  selection is limited and I would definitely return.  Plus they try hard and give a bit extra.  Order the lychee juice and they will put whole, fresh, peeled lychee in your drink to give it flair.  Not the place to go if you don't eat animals.  After asking for the vegetarian menu I was told anything could be made "vegetarian".  Halfway through a good, if not a bit bland, pho it came out that the broth was chicken broth.  Woops.  No puffy fried tofu either (but you can't blame them for not serving it - the market might not be there in beef country).  Big props for the variety of perfectly steamed veggies in the pho.  3/5 tastebuds.

Red City Donair & Pita - The miniature downtown core actually houses 3 donair (read: shawarma) restaurants.  The first I wandered in to was slow and as I waited to try what they were offering I glanced at the condiment selection and was left disappointed.  I decided to take my chances somewhere else and stumbled upon Red City.  Not only was the pita dude extremely friendly the chicken shawarma was pretty darn good.  The chicken was the best quality I have seen in a shawarma place.  My decision to order was made up when I spied the neon pink pickled turnips that keep me going back to middle eastern restaurants.  Even though I specified "everything" the gentleman left out the turnip and was surprised when I requested it specifically.  Go to Red City, get a dang chicken shawarma and risk it - order the pickled turnip!  4/5 tastebuds

Wok Box  5250-22 St. Red Deer - I have fallen for this one twice.  Mostly because I love Asian food of (almost) all types and this place is right in my view.  Let's not fool ourselves though - 'tis a chain.  The pad thai is tasty and flavourful and NOT PAD THAI.  Not in the least. Not a hint of tamarind and, in my mind, the tamarind makes the pad (or the thai?).  If you have yet to eat Pad Thai (or any asian dish for that matter) do not try it for the first time here.  The chicken teriyaki was better but perhaps I'm just less familiar with what it SHOULD taste like.  - 2/5 tastebuds

Sunday, October 23

Alberta Adventure: Drumheller Edition

From the town of Red Deer one can drive to Drumheller (read:  dinosaur capital of Canada) in 1.5 hours.  Since moving here I have wanted to check this place out and today my roommate and I took the drive.  The town is obviously proud of their cretaceous heritage and one cannot go 100 metres without yet ANOTHER statue of a dinosaur.  Although, the triceratops is sadly under-represented.  Today was a big day as I stood beneath the WORLD'S LARGEST T-REX STATUE.  Jealous?  I left a car in there for scale.  That t-rex would eat the ones in Jurassic Park as a snack.
The town is also home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum - a pretty swanky joint with all kinds of dinosaur fossils and exhibits including a wicked look at what snorkeling could have been a billion years ago.  Let me tell you - a little freaky.

The other thing that Drum is most famoso for is the BADLANDS.  Sounds like a place where bandits hang out to rob unsuspecting tourists.  In fact, it would be the perfect place to do this if this weren't Canada and a giant tourist circuit.  It is quite beautiful and one of the big sources of fossils.

And the tall rocks with caps on are called Hoo Doos.  Pronounced exactly like it is spelled.  Can you get over those blue skies?  The colours of the prairies, especially as the sun sets, still blow me away too.

Sunday, October 16

The Things (That Make Us Who We Are)

Since 2007 our family has lost three very special people: grandparents to me, parents to my parents, a brother to my great aunts and uncles.  For each of them I wrote a post trying to summarize a life: Nonno, Nana, and Grandpa Les.  But before this blog our family lost Grandma Maggie.  She was one of the toughest woman I've known - she could hunt and fish, she raised 6 kids, and she could really bake.  One of the biggest impacts she has had on me though, she'll never know.

2007, after finishing my undergrad in business and realizing that it was the last thing I wanted to do with my life I took a year off.  I worked at an employment office.  I save money.  I used all of that money to travel to South America for three months on my own and learn Spanish.  I shadowed an SLP and decided then that I could do that and I could like it.  4 years since - I worked to save money, spent a year at UWO getting the prerequisites and applying for the program, and after, thankfully, getting in on my first try, I spent two years in Toronto earning a Masters of Health Science.  Now I can put things like MHSc., R.SLP and SLP(C) after my name.  I collect letters.

The program at the University of Toronto is set up so that the first year lays a foundation and centres around child language development; the second year addresses acquired communication disorders and focuses primarily on adults.  From my Grandma Maggie I already knew two things:  1) I wanted to help adults with communication disorders; 2) I was terrified that I would not be able to do it.

When my grandmother was still quite young a despicable disease started to slowly steal things from her - balance, coordination, the ability to walk, care for herself and even her speech.  We eventually found out that she suffered from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP.  Her speech became increasingly difficult to understand and, while they tried communication devices, the technology at the time was not as advanced and she had limited control of her hands with which to use the devices.  After two years of study I now know that her speech was a mixture of Hypokinetic, Spastic and Ataxic* dysarthrias; all three fighting against her intelligibility.  At the time, as a 10 year old, all I knew was that I couldn't understand what she was saying and I felt so guilty for not understanding her and too afraid to ask her to repeat herself for fear of hurting her feelings that I was afraid to talk to my own grandmother.  That isn't easy to admit and I'm not saying it to hurt anyone's feelings but to be honest.  To this day I feel badly about my 10 year old self and wish that I had spent more time with her being patient and admitting when I couldn't understand.

So that is where both my fear and motivation came from.  I so badly wanted (and still want) to help adults with language and speech disorders communicate with their loved ones and improve their quality of life.  I was also apprehensive that as soon as I was met with a client with a significant speech disorder I would discover that I could not understand them and that conversations would be exercises in frustration for both of us.  That didn't happen.  It didn't happen because I now knew to take the time to listen.  I know now strategies to help people get their message across.  And I discovered that I am often quite good at deciphering difficult speech.  Now when I have clients with nearly-unintelligible speech my initial reaction is still a lump in my stomach but I remind myself that I now know what to do and set out to help them in any way I can.  Thanks Grandma Maggie.

*Almost all speech disorders distort the pronunciation of speech sounds.  On top of this, each unique type of dysarthria impact different subsections of the speech system to decrease intelligibility.
Hypokinetic Dysarthria:  Often associated with Parkinson's Disease, this speech disorder makes it difficult to initiate speech and often causes people to speak in short, fast bursts at low volumes.
Spastic Dysarthria:  This type of dysarthria causes a strained or strangled voice quality, slow speech, and a monotonous prosody.
Ataxic Dysarthria: this is a result of damage to the cerebellar system.  Speech is often reported to sound "drunk".  Sufferers have a difficult time coordinating speaking and breathing (something we take for granted all the time) and develop a tremor to the voice.  Speech sounds become further distorted and speakers often have pitch breaks and uncontrolled volume changes.

Monday, October 10

Redneck Thanksgiving

If it weren't for guns I would probably have been fairly lonely this Thanksgiving.  That is a line I never imagined typing.  Until today I had never even been near a gun but my roommate and his friends are in the reserves and have quite the collection of firearms.  We headed out early this morning with a few vehicles full of guns and a bunch of guys with army nicknames - I didn't even have to come up with my own blog nicknames!  Chachi, G, Fatboy and I headed out to Cookie's parent's farm to kill some zombies.  Cookie's family was sweet and welcoming and even offered all of us turkey with all the scrumptious trimmins'.

Most of this can be best shown in a photo montage.

Lookin for a beaver

Found his dam.  Target identified (ps. no beavers were harmed in the making of this Thanksgiving)

It looks so hardcore.  I have no idea what kind of gun that is.

Another crazy looking weapon.  I also tried a shotgun.  And I'm pretty sure I never once hit a target. 

Main targets:  zombies

Lighting fires to set off the propane tanks

Apparently a propane tank won't just burst into flames if you shoot it - it needs to be in close proximity to a fire

And the whole stump is now gone

What was left of one of the 6 propane tanks (only 3 were ever recovered)

Shooting water bottles mid-air

Whiskey the horse

So now I have tried guns.  I can't say that they are my "thing" but it was an interesting experience - I'm glad I did it with people who really knew what they were doing.  And that the targets were paper.  Plus I got to see more of Alberta farm country and it is beautiful.  Nothing says thankfulness like a clip full of fresh rounds ;)