Sunday, November 25

Switch (Will Smith Style)

Blogger is forcing me to switch sites.  Perhaps Blogger and a combination of my frugality.  Today I reached my 1GB quota of photos I can post on to my blog.  If I want to continue using that account I would have to start paying $2.49/mo for an extra 25 GB of storage.  Trust me, I realize that is a tiny amount for WAY.MORE.STORAGE but it isn't necessary.  It took me 7 years of blogging to hit the 1GB mark so why should I shell out a monthly fee for 25 times the space I need?  I'd pay 10 cents a month for an extra GB of space.  That is my final offer, google.

All that to say:  I'm moving.  To Wordpress.  I hope to see you there.

Christmas Crack

From all the various genes collected across my family tree and the various cultures attached to those genes I've acquired dark Italian hair, pale skin, a flat Scandinavian face and a list of tasty, tasty desserts.  Over the last few years I've taken up making Finnish Coffee Bread (pulla) but this holiday season I decided to force everyone I know to eat genettis.  They are a soft, fluffy and white white white italian "S" shaped cookie with a hint of anise.  The good part about being in Edmonton is that no one has heard of them.  This means, unlike in my hometown, I can bring genettis to a potluck and have people comment about how interesting and different they are or ask for the recipe.  If you bring genettis to a family gathering the Soo they are usually welcomed but definitely not fawned over and almost everyone can name a grandmother than creates a superior version.  Here, my version is the superior version because it is the ONLY version.  Check.

I've so far made 3 batches; a test batch and two (unrelated) potluck batches.  Good thing I went for the test batch.  Tip:  cook them for the whole recommended time.  Apparently (because of all of the baking powder) these are not like regular cookies where you take them out a bit early for extra soft and chewiness.  Well, you can, but apparently uncooked-chewiness is not a pleasant characteristic when applied to this recipe.

Saturday, November 24

One of Those Days

Actually, today had the making to be "one of those days" but isn't turning out so bad.  I had been lazy all week and only climbed once so I was determined to make it to the wall last night.  My turn to drive I bundled myself up and walked to the 5th floor of the parkade where my car hangs out with all the other cars but didn't get very far.  Some flashing lights and a click-click-click when I turned the key and not much else.  Dead battery.  Thankfully physics_dude was amenable to drive and we still got in a good climb and our ritual lemon honey tea at Tim's afterwards but the boost he gave me after was unsuccessful and I started to worry I'd be spending my Saturday fighting with the dealership.

Fortunately I have one of those roadside assistance packages included with the new car so within an hour of calling there was a truck to boost/tow me as needed.  In the end all it needed was a boost (whew) and I learned some helpful car lessons.  I got kudos from the AMA guy for having a full tank of gas (a must with sub zero temps, thanks for teaching me well, pops!).  What I didn't know was the toll it takes on the battery in cold weather when a car only gets taken out sporadically and only for short jaunts at that.  Apparently it doesn't give the battery a chance to re-charge itself.  The AMA dude recommended that to recharge the battery I take Otto for a decent drive to stretch his wheels and make sure that he would start the next time.

Not having anywhere especially far to go I decided to just follow a road I hadn't taken before and have a look around.  On my way back from exercising my car we were about to go through a green when an SUV pulled out across the car in front of me.  Lots of screeching, frantic breaking and a pretty big smash.  It could have been me in the intersection 3 seconds later but Otto made it out unscathed. Stashing my car illegally around the corner I found everyone at the scene mostly shaken but no one had yet called in the accident and there were children in one vehicle so, for the second time in my life, I called 911.  They let me go before the police showed as long as I gave my information for a statement.  So now I make cookies and wait for the po-po to come take a statement about the accident.

The cookies are for a crafts and cookies party for the Edmonton couchsurfing community.  Time to meet some like-minded people :)

Monday, November 19

Serial Host and Other Updates

It has been a while since I updated.  The reason being there are quite a few things I'd like to put out there in the blogosphere but alone each is pretty minor for a while post.  Therefore I will combine into a superpost.

1.  My very small record collection will not be getting any bigger any time soon.  I'll never shake the "hipster" label walking into the local myoozik store asking things like:
Me: Do you know where one could get a record player fixed?
Clerk:  What make and model?
Me:  It's a 1960s telefunken stereo.
Clerk:  Try [local business], just bring it in and they could give you a quote.
Me: is one of those massive stereo cabinets.
*Face palm*  Apparently it is the kind without a rubber-band-thing to be cheaply replaced so the motor is bust.  It is going to cost me more (in money and frustration) to fix this than to buy it.  But I'm attached!

2.  I'm still climbing and still a bit (unintentionally) obnoxious about it.  My three month trial membership has run out and I still find myself there 3-4 times a week.  It is the challenge that drives me.  Without taking photos it isn't easy to explain exactly the differences I'm seeing but there is much more control, my footwork looks like terrified-spastic and a little bit more like the slinky spider I aim to be.  I've still been focused on mainly 5.9 and 5.10 boulder routes but they are smoother and some moves requiring actual upper body strength aren't as impossible as they once were.  Even the slanty walls that I could barely hang still on I can now traverse with moderate effort.  Plus it is fun.  FUN.  That said, I'm in a hand-sloughing phase where my hard-earned calluses are peeling right off (aka:  flappers) and one has been bleeding so I took this evening off  hoping to let it heal enough to climb comfortably.

3.  The lovely ShanWow had her birthday and we celebrated like bosses.  Included in the celebration was our very favourite of desserts:  The Duchess Bakeshop.  We devoured a duchess cake (green marzipan over soft vanilla cake and some fantastic but unidentified jam and icing filling) and a lemon meringue cake.  Made to wait with the cakes before dinner for at least half an hour we may or may not have caved.

4.  Serial host:  I'm now a more experienced member of the couchsurfing community.  Over the last few weeks I've hosted twice (that is 200% the amount I hosted in the previous 27 years).  TWICE!  The first time was a pair of gentlemen, one calgarian one south african, who showed me that even men in their 30s could spend 3 straight days in the West Edmonton Mall - primarily the water park - and thoroughly enjoy themselves.  At least that's where they say they were.  In their defense it snowed straight for the whole time they were in the city.  Never again will I tell people to skip the mall.  The next hosting experience was a 20-something gal from Belgium who happens to be traveling across Canada and hoping to settle in Edmonton to make a bit of cash.  She shared stories of her trip to the Faroe Islands.  Look them up.  I want to go to there.  And now I'm hooked.  To hosting, that is.  Too bad Edmonton is not nearly as hopping in the dead of l'hiver.

I usually gently force Corner Gas on my unsuspecting surfers.  Any other CanCon suggestions?

Saturday, November 10

November: In Like a Lion

Unfortunately the second half of that saying is unlikely to apply to Nov'12.  It will be big, ferocious cats all month.  At least is has been lovely, even if the roads have been so bad I haven't been climbing since Monday.  Did I mention that today was the 4th day of snow in a row?

Sunday, November 4

My First CFL Game

My plan last night was to hit the climbing gym right after work because it was closing at 1830 for a competition.  I had waited all week for this.  And then I got a surprise invite to an Edmonton Eskimos game because someone at work had an extra ticket.  I gave up climbing to watch a testosterone-laced sporting event and....I...don't regret it.  Generally, sporting events have been like the opera for me:  glad to have tried it once, made it through (barely) with no real desire to do it again.  That said, if someone offers this gal a free ticket to something this gal will probably go.  Although nothing is truly free and I am paying for it in jean sizes after a bag of tiny timmy little donuts*.

It was quickly clear why he was having such a difficult time giving this ticket away.  When the Commonwealth stadium was built in the 1970s Edmonton had the option to spring for a roof and they decided to tough it out instead.  It may only be the very beginning of November but the whole game was a consistent -5 Celsius.  Only about 1/3 of the seats were taken but the people who came were hardcore fans.  Just look at this hat:

People cheered, people booed, people commiserated with the strangers next to them about terrible plays and bad ref calls.  A community existed.  The basic rules weren't too hard to follow and I soon found myself angered by an "incomplete pass" call that was clearly complete from the replay.  True to form whenever I attend a professional sports game the team I was rooting for managed to lose the game.  But it came down to a field goal by Calgary as the clock ran out.

The verdict:  Let's go again!  Except that now won't be until next season and I'll have forgotten how much I actually enjoyed watching the game.

*What the heck are those called?

Tuesday, October 30

An Edmonton Thing

There are a few things that seem to be very popular in Edmonton.  Some make more sense than others.  I'll give you a few examples.

It seems to be an Edmonton Thing to:

1.  Run up and down a ridiculous flight of stairs outside in the park for a painful amount of time just for fun.  This, I suppose, is a good thing.

2.  Make a donair/shawarma in the messiest way possible.  Instead of using a pita for exactly what it was created for (ie. to fill that painstakingly crafted pocket) they like to just make it taco style.  While still using a pita.  Wasting the pocket!  And getting my hands messy.  Unacceptable.

3.  Have two restaurants owned by the same people/group and called the same thing but be entirely different in terms of decor, crowd and price point.  For example - Beruit Cafe.  On Whyte Ave it looks like a regular donair place with McD's-style chairs and fast food.  North of the river on Jasper it has the same name (and sign!) but a full menu with $25 entrees and occasional belly dancing.  That was a surprise to walk in, sit down and have to walk right back out again because all you wanted was an $7 shawarma at their other location.  Smarten up, Edmonton!

4.  Pronounce coyote funny.  Yes, they have them in many different provinces but here we don't have "kai-oh-tees" we have "kai-oats".  Used completely unironically.  What I was to ask these people is 1) Do you think the name Wile. E. Coyote works with this?  2)  What do you call the movie "Coyote Ugly"?  

Saturday, October 27

An Artsy Day in Edmonton

Every once in a while something else about being an adult (especially an employed one who finds herself enslaved to the man) gets me down for a bit.  This week it has been the realization that I am not free and THREE WEEKS of vacation is just not enough.  I want to GO somewhere (Russia, perhaps), I want to visit my family and I want to take long weekends to explore other parts of Canada.  It will be another year before I acquire a coveted 4 weeks of vacay.  That sounds pretty good, actually.  BUT - it will be 8 years after that before I get 5.  

So I can whine and sulk about it (which I plan to do) or (and) I can make being in Edmonton feel like being a  vacation.  No, that's cheesy.  But it is up to me to keep my life from feeling monotonous, to make sure that my evenings and weekends include me getting involved in the community.  That is something I'm already trying to do - climbing 3-4 nights a week, French classes on Thursdays, the occasional community event like classic movies at the Royal Alberta Museum.  But I can try harder.  

Today was a good day to start trying.  The downtown farmers market moved inside city hall for the winter and I went in search of some pricey gourmet chocolate bars made right here in Edmonton.  Apparently Kerstin used to have a store here but then she moved to Germany and her sister kindly feeds the cravings of Edmontonians on Saturdays.  I'm new to this but I'm already a fan.  This time I went for "pumpkin pie".  Yep, chocolate and pieces of flaky pieness and pumpkinness.  

Conveniently, right kitty-corner to city hall is the Alberta Art Gallery (aga).  A lovely building that is even lovelier inside.

This was not taken by me.  I stole it from the internet.  But it has snow so that is accurate.
Until today I had always wanted to go inside but just hadn't.  Sight unseen I bought a membership to encourage myself to go whenever I pass by (every few weeks) and get discounts on things like drop-in art classes and their acclaimed quarterly art parties running until 2am on Saturdays which always sell out.  It was a well-spent $65.  Their exhibits are well thought out and beautifully executed.  Plus I can hunker down for a tour every hour or so throughout the afternoon.  Without the tours I miss things in the art.  I am not always sure where to start thinking about and reflecting on it.  

One of their current exhibits, "Beautiful Monsters", looks at renaissance and baroque prints/engravings of monstrous creatures.  After the interactive tour (my fave!) I could tell the difference between these two styles and identify symbols in the paintings.  It made me want to dig deeper into Greek and Roman mythology and even Biblical mythology to better be able to interpret symbolism in art from this time.  A new hobby?
The second tour was upstairs and it looked at just one piece of contemporary art.  Good thing because it is the type of weird junk I would have walked up to, cocked my head to the side to look more contemplative, possibly paced around once and then walked out thinking "I don't get it".  However with an artsy mind to guide me we started talking big questions.  The piece was by Susan Sze - she made what appears to be a representation of earth and the cosmos from man made elements all balanced very precariously.  Perhaps a comment on our current state.  She represented some as already lost (blackened) but she left us a small way out.  Hopefully we can find it.  

Add all this to climbing tonight I'd call it a great day overall.  I need creativity and expression back in my life. I've put back exercise and started to put back friendships/social life.  Now I need volunteering and art.  What else might be missing?
What elements do you need in your life?  Are they represented?

Monday, October 22

So Much for Self-Sufficiency

It is that time of year again.  At least for Otto.  He hit the 16000 km milestone (happy birthday, Otto!) about 800 kms ago.  For his birthday Otto always demands new oil and sometimes to change his shoes/wheels.  When physics_dude offered* to show me how to change said oil and said wheels I decided that it was a life skill that I should acquire.  Fast forward to me standing in the automobile oil aisle of Canadian Tire with my Mazda3 manual in hand** perusing the surprising number of types.  Apparently my car is made especially to take the one kind of oil that is the most expensive and one that only two companies offer (and only one in the large-size format).  Add that to the cost of a new filter and the hassle of tracking my own oil changes by keeping receipts for insurance purposes and it wasn't long before I gave in and decided to let the Mazda dealership do it since the cost will be about equal.

Oh well, that still leaves the summer-winter tire swap, right?  Sort of.  After wrangling Otto into a tight spot physics_dude very patiently talked me through the steps of taking out my jack and various tire-related tools, jacking up one corner of the car and removing the nuts.  Thankfully there was some extra power available because whoever screwed those nuts on last time was NOT a femininst.  They were trying to make damn sure I wouldn't be changing my own tires.  And, yes, once tightened appropriately I could wrestle the nuts off myself.  After many instances of success and self-congratulations we went to pull the wheel off area and it would.not.budge.  Even with kicking.  Whatever dastardly forces were sealing the wheel would not let go and we gave up, defeated.  You win this one, car dealerships.  $130 later my oil and wheels have both (all?) been changed.

Seriously, though.  What would have happened if I had been on the side of the road with a flat?  I would have had to pay $150 for someone to come and fix me up because it wasn't do-it-yourself friendly.  When I left the dealership with my keys this morning I also left behind a few instructions including "easy on the torque".  When spring hits I will be changing my own wheels and the dealership will be getting a piece of my mind if not.

Have you successfully managed to change your own wheels?  Did you hit similar roadblocks and what did you do about them?

*I'm remembering it as he offered.

**A manual that, it appears, was subsequently left behind somewhere in Canadian Tire.  How do I DO that?

Sunday, October 21

Joshua Radin

Ever since a group of SLPeeps watched "Adam" instead of studying for CASLPA I have been hooked on Joshua Radin's music.  And his voice.  His voice is like really smooth crack (if I knew what that was like).  He did almost the entire soundtrack for the film and it just fit so organically.  Now he has another record and he's touring.  Last night he played a packed show at a church in downtown Edmonton that I attended with Shae and ShanWow.  Mr. Radin was just as weirded out about being god's house as I was so it was ok.  The show started with Lucy Schwartz as the opener and A Fine Frenzy sandwiched between the two.  The name Lucy Schwartz didn't sound familiar but I was able to sing along with one of her songs; she lent some female vocals to the Adam soundtrack and is a good performer in her own right.

A Fine Frenzy was a band for which I had high hopes and had to deflate them somewhat to enjoy myself. The singer is a very talented vocalist but her aspartame-sweet and flakey demeanor at the start made her come across valium'd.  As the show progressed and her music picked up the tempo whatever she took beforehand appeared to wear off and it got much better.

Now for Joshua Radin himself.  The whole concert from start to finish was 3.5 hours!  We definitely got more than we paid for.  He played a good selection of his oldies-but-goodies and his brand new album.  And since I purchased his new CD (yes, CD, no LPs for the hipsters in the crowd) and Shae got a t-shirt we were able to meet him after the show. Unfortunately a brief handshake and CD sign was not enough to make him fall hopelessly in love with me.  Good thing Shae was there to help me tone down my big ear-to-ear grin before meeting him; don't wanna be a big fangirl.  His new stuff is good stuff and you should get it!

He is making his way east - Toronto friends, see him if you get the chance!

Shae and me waiting in the cold for the concert

Me and Joshua

Wednesday, October 10

No-Gun Thanksgiving

My first Alberta thanksgiving involved shooting.  This time I took it to Saskatchewan for some berries and a little couchsurfing.  It was the first time I had ever driven for 8 hours (8 whole hours!) all by myself.  CBC radio kept me company but when that ran dry in a few places I found out that the most played songs on all radio stations are something by Justin Bieber and Gangnam Style.  I think I learned some Korean.

While the end point was Regina I stopped for a night in Saskatoon to break up the drive Friday and to check out this city that I hear so much good about.  Of course, couchsurfing helps to make the city.  A friendly guy and his group of roommates (4 siblings) hosted me for the night.  In less than 24 hours I met some great people, watched a live beat poetry performance and drank less than a 1/4 of a local beer.  Woops.  I thought I'd just wing it and have a been all nonchalantly.  But it was awful and I felt like vomiting in my mouth with every sip.  Right.  I hate beer.  The magoo-glasses poet was followed by a bearded man sitting on a milkcrate and crooning in his Jack Johson-esque voice to some unexpectedly grunge guitar stylings.  (Google "These Hands" if interested).  The next morning included a communist breakfast with very scrumptious eggs and a trip to the Saskatoon farmer's market where I bought my very first Saskatoon berry pie.

The end of the road was Regina, home of another kind of Barry.  And some cold weather.  I thought Regina was south of Edmonton.  Regardless we kept warm with a fire pit and roasted marshmallows, talked French grammar (they were very patient with me!) and sat around with uncle C on the guitar and sang songs I remember from my camp days.  Basically a picture perfect cheese image of the perfect family holiday sans any football.  There's something to be said about watching Corner Gas in Saskatchewan as well - it lends some...context.  I'm always searching for some Canadiana - other than maple syrup - to bring with me while couchsurfing and I think the first season of the Dog River gang may just be it.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Edited:  The only photo I took the whole time.  A life dream of mine to get sucked into the "vvoyd".  And a void it is.  All the roads were closed for construction and we crawled through this gloomy town for over half an hour. This is usually a blink-and-you-miss-it variety.

Monday, September 3

How and Where

How did I get here?
Where am I going?

Less than two weeks from now will mark one year since the epic road trip with the parents out to the USA of Canada.  Then I started working and immediately the paychecks started coming and I marveled at my ability to support myself and purchase goods without (as much) guilt.  The plan was to move to Red Deer, complete a year contract at the hospital there, try (but not to hard) to get a job for when the contract was up, move to New Zealand if I didn't find a new job.  Fact:  an SLP with one year of experience in Canada can apply for contracts in Ireland, the UK, NZ and Australia.

So how did I end up living in Edmonton in a full-time, permanent job saving for retirement?  The allure was the stability and the guarantee that these pretty numbers would keep being beamed into my bank account.  The allure was saving and considering retirement by 60 a distinct possibility.  The allure was a bigger city and a more "cutting-edge" facility.  Now I'm 27 and I have all of those things but when did I even decide that is what I wanted?

Once one finds oneself firmly embedded in the rat race it isn't easy to get out.  Or even to know for sure if you want out.  It is a bit of a trap of accumulating things and security.  Now I have my very own apartment and I enjoy living on my own.  I enjoy decorating it and setting it up just as I want.  And tying myself down to one place.  The furniture I bought from kijiji required a lot of thought, effort and patience.  Each piece was picked to match my tastes and the vibe of my apartment.  The stereo cabinet was long sought.  If I moved to another country (or even too far around this one) it would make more sense to sell it all since I would have nowhere to store it.

Is this really what I want or will I regret not living on the other side of the earth for a while?  Right now, I don't know the answer.

Wednesday, August 29

My New Chicago Accent

I'm a bit of an accidental accent chameleon.  When I travel somewhere with a regional accent my speech automatically morphs to fit the style.  Embarrassingly so.  I can even tell that it is happening and am powerless to stop it.  The effects are just wearing off now after nearly 24 hours back beyond the 49th parallel.  There isn't anything necessarily *wrong* with the Chicago (aka general midwest) twang except that my A's just generally aren't this nasal or as front.  To get a feel for the difference pronounce "speech pathologist".  When I say it in my "general Canadian" accent the first "o" sounds like the /a/ in father.  In my new found midwest accent that first "o" sounds is much more like the /a/ in cat.  See the difference?  I just went with it this time and enjoyed hearing it coming from my mouth.

Why would I have a Chicago accent?  I was in Chicago, of course!  A quick 5 day trip for a conference, a couchsurf and a hang with the lovely Hi-C.  The famous J.Lo aka Logi (not Jennifer Lopez - J.Lo of the speech-pathology research royalty) hosted a 20-person conference in dysphagia at NorthWestern University Hospital.  This intimate setting allowed for plenty of discussion and revealed that J.Lo is one feisty and opinionated SLP.

Team Canada and Logi (not to be confused with her band:  Logi and the Parkies)
Instead of shelling out the big bucks for a hotel we traveled the awesome way and couchsurfed!  Our host was extremely welcoming and accommodating.  Although his profile says he'll take "only" 5 surfers at a time we found him routinely packing up to 11 extra people into his one-bedroom flat.  And were we ever lucky to score a space in his living room - we found out that he is fully booked until October!  Good thing Hi-C is a keener and emailed him mucho in advance.

As for the city, it truly is fabulous.  The same size as T-dot (the actual city - the great chicago area trumps the GTA by nearly 3 million people) it has a much more impressive sky line and hopping downtown core although I'll still give Toronto wins for food culture and cutesy neighbourhoods.  That great Chicago fire of 1871 really did the city a favour by destroying the crap and setting them up for a well-planned downtown with a great architectural culture.  I have never seen a place so dense with incredible architecture and was definitely worth the hour long boat tour through the rivers.

Highlights of the trip (I'm too lazy to rotate the photos - you get the idea sideways):

Cultural cuisine.  It was the first stop!

Some of that fancy architecture plus the pretty wicked Chicago flag.

Legendary Chicago bean

Me, Hi-C and DeDeb reflectin' our hot selves in said bean

Maturity from Hi-C (Band:  D'Hilary and the SLPeeps)

We took the long was so we could walk under this very apt sign!
 The most amazing view in the city and all I had to do was buy a $7 tea.  Thanks, Hancock Tower.  Still cheaper than the $18 elevator ride at the Willis.  Pssh.

 Deep Dish - of course we had to deep dish.  Unexpected:  they put the sauce ON the cheese (which was about 1 cm thick) and the crust was made with corn meal (hence the yellow colour).  A little dry for my liking but worth a taste test.

If you haven't tried couchsurfing you probably should.  Go ahead, make a profile.  I'll even give you a reference (if you're nice to me).  

Sunday, August 12

Very First Folkfest

It seems like the only thing I have been doing this summer is attending festivals around the theme of food.  Not that I am complaining.  I've tried many scrumptious foods but it was nice to attend something where food wasn't the focus.  There has to be something else to celebrate, right?

There is and that something is folk music.  Not that I have any idea how to define folk music.  A while ago, if you asked me, I would have imagined something with fiddles.  Fiddles = folk music, right?  Folk can be a bit of a general category but, after attending 2 days of festivities, I have no idea what folk music is.  In fact, I'm not even sure what it isn't except maybe pure rock/metal nor top 40 pop hits nor classical music.  I had ruled out hiphop until the last main stage act Saturday night.

Perhaps the point of folkfest isn't music that fits the right definition but music that brings people together and promotes a sense of community.  This definition I found online seems to most closely encompass the four days of music togetherness in Edmonton:  "Folk artists today are experimentalists who dabble in different genres, integrating various musical influences into their narrative songs."

The festival itself is 4 days of music from Thurs-Sunday.  During the day there are 7 stages with various artists and groups of artists playing 1 or 1.5 hour shows and in the evening everyone gathers at the main stage for the "big" names.  This year's headliners were Corb Lund (Thurs), Arlo Guthrie + Family (Fri), Emmylou Harris (Fri), Mary Chapin Carpenter (Sat), Bonnie Rait (Sun).  I made it to Friday and Saturday.

It really is an incredible community.  A huge park packed with tens of thousands of people and everything just worked.  The lines were long, the spaces were crowded, children whined/cried but everyone everyone just respected each other and enjoyed music together.  You just squish in and listen.  The way the festival works is that someone in the group (Thanks, ShanWow!) shows up an a terrible hour, often before 7am, and gets in a giant corral.  Those in the corral are given tickets and a lottery is drawn allowing groups of 50 or so at a time to enter the festival grounds and place a tarp "in front of" in main stage.  By the end of this there are about 4000 tarps bumping up against each other covering all but a few square inches of grass.  The first lucky few groups get the flat land in front of the stage and the rest spill gradually up the hill.  Perceptibly sliding down the tarp is a constant foe during the main stage event.  We're considering velcro pants next year.

People bring various kooky puppets, flags and home made crafts posted on ski and garden poles throughout the tarp grounds to help one locate their blue tarp in a sea of blue tarps.  Then everyone leaves all of their things on their tarp for hours and hours and nomadically wander from stage to stage.  I never heard of anything going missing.

The two best things about folkfest:  friends and discovering new music (at least, new to me!).

Royal Wood - a Peterborough native, I saw him twice...partially because he's not too hard to look at.  Plus his music is catchy.  His LP is rotating on my telefunken right now.

The Dunwells - a band that is big in their UK homeland but had yet to set foot on Canadian soil.  They are all very genuine people on stage and played along when Bahamas whipped out an American classic that they didn't know but tried to sing along (the class was "You Don't Know How it Feels" by Tom Petty).

Bahamas - another Ontarioite, this time from Barrie, but with a fabulous mustache.  This guy was the most regular-guy of everyone I saw.  He was more interested in jamming with the two other bands (mentioned above) during the workshop* that promoting his own music.

Andrea House - a local singer-songwriter that couldn't be found on youtube.  She has a very mellow vibe but didn't truly stand out until she pulled out something a little more 50s and upbeat.  Very kindly but perhaps a bit mistakenly, was overshadowed when she opened the stage to her keyboard player to play one of her own original tunes.  Too bad I missed her name because I'd like to see her on her own stage next year.

Valdy - an apparent Canadian treasure that I was unaware I should be treasuring.  It was like Fred Penner but a little nuttier.  But you could tell the over 50 crowd knew the words to his songs.

A few other notable artists were Jayme Stone and his recreation of folk tunes from all eras and areas of earth from 1700s eastern Europe to African folk.  New Country Rehab.  The Barr Brothers.  Lindi Ortega who did a strong rendition of Dolly's song pleading for a a colour TV.

*Workshop is what they call it when they jam 3+ bands on stage together and then let things take their course. 

Friday, August 10

Heritage Days (Day 2)

After a disappointing first day of food I returned with ShanWow to try again.  I'm glad that I did.

Finland - pirakka - Hoping for something sweet and ending up with something savoury.  A very Finnish treat with rye bread in a thin, soft crust with rice paste in the centre and egg mush spread on top.  Sounds not so great but I'd eat it again.

Serbia - baklava - The serbians definitely know how to create a flaky honey pastry.  Baklava wasn't anything new but a rare treat.

Eritrea - alicha - basically Ethiopian food and therefore the way to my heart.  This was a stew of potatoes, carrots and cabbage on a nice, grey, tangy injera bread.  Some of the best things in life are vegetarian.

Ghana - plantain - roasted in 7 (seven!) Ghanaian spices these were easily the BEST PLANTAINS I HAVE EVER HAD.  A little burnt.  Kinda sticky.  Sweet.  Lots of flavour.  Ghanaians know how to take a lame banana wannabe and turn it into something great.  Plus, they have moves.

A few tents stood out in the marketplace of kitsch.

Scandinavia - I was a bit disappointed that Finland teamed up with Norway, Denmark and Sweden instead of holding its own.  This was made up for by the actual learning taking place in the tent.  They had two exhibits, living dioramas, of life in Scandinavia 1000 years ago.  A woman in (mostly) traditional clothing demonstrating how to make sinew and cook with heated stones.  A man with a plethora of tools actively carving a canoe.

Peru - best original menu. One of the few countries that put in the extra effort to offer things that no one else was offering and that was distinctly Peruvian.  Yes, empanadas are great but does every Latin American country need to feature them?  Peru had their, albeit revolting, mazamorra morada or purple cord pudding (and the juice, too!).  They had their papa rellena and choclo (corn on the cob sort of Peruvian style).  Good effort, Peru!

Israel - good effort at realism.  Festival goers could walk through fake stone tunnels to learn more about Israel with a very realistic heat index 10 degree above the sweltering Hawreluk park.  Minus points for giving out free fortune cookies with only a tourism website inside and no fortune at all.

Zimbabwe - thank you for showing up.  This was another country offering something different from other booths however it scores as one of the most disappointing because their food wasn't ready for lunch so I never did get to try any.

Surprisingly missing:  Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Spain (I see a trend).  If little dudes like Bosnia, Borneo and Sudan can do it, so can you!

Thursday, August 9

Heritage Days (Day 1)

This is one of Edmonton's BEST festivals.  And a euphemism for "eat yourself around the world" or "78 countries to obesity".  But what a glorious way to go.  Not too many other countries could drum up a festival with over 60 countries represented in a city of less than a million people.  This festival was MASSIVE.  I even used up all my tickets the first day only half way through in desperation because I thought that it had to be over by then.  Nope.  I had to go back a second day for Africa.

Sidetracked.  The festival is hosted in a large park (Hawreluk to be precise) in the heart of Edmonton.  Countries set up anywhere from 1-3 booths and sometimes a stage.  The booths sell food, souvenirs and sometimes even educate patrons about said country/culture.  The stage features dancers, musicians and martial artists specific to that country.  Let's be honest, though, it is all about the food.  Many of the Muslim countries were kind enough to serve all of us while continuing to fast for Ramadan.  The cultural information was generally a bit lacking (with some notable exceptions), there was a definite push to sell tacky objects of little usefulness and smothering crowds.  And smothering heat.  But it was all worth it.

What was a bit disappointing the first day was how difficult it was to find foods or cuisines that I had never really sampled.  No, I hadn't really had Nepalese cuisine before but it was very similar to the Indian food I am used to.  Most middle eastern countries served the same general dishes and the Eastern Europeans pulled out the sausages and the croatian/romanian/serbian do-nuts, Latin America represented with get the idea.  Perhaps I am just too cultured ;)  So the first day was a bit of a bust but not entirely.

Day 1:
Philippines - Halo Halo - a schizophrenic concoction that starts with beans (red and chickpea), add coconut jellies, syrup, shaved ice and topped with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!  It was not unpleasant.  Not recommended to anyone who has texture aversions as you never quite knew what you would get.  Definitely one of the most unsual and unlike-anything-I-had-before items of the festival.

Nepal - chicken curry - basically a chicken tikka.  Nothing new but also not disappointing.  I love Indian food so I could definitely love Nepalese as well.

Nicaragua - nacatamale - this must translate as the mother of all tamales.  It was huge and, ultimately, a big waste of my last tickets.  A big glob of bland corn mush with a chicken leg cooked right inside.  A few hidden gems of peppers or an olive but overall boring and bland.

Where day 1 lacked in food it made up for with entertainment.  A barefoot, crooning grandmother at the first nations tent, some traditional Romanian folk dancing and Irish folk dancers who stole their wigs from a drag show.

Tuesday, August 7

OMG, I'm a Hipster

I was minding my own business, listening to an original LP of Billy Joel while sipping some rooibos and wearing some moccasins when it hit me:  holy Christ, I'm a hipster!

It wasn't something I saw coming.  Hipsters are annoying. They're pretentious.  They aren't quite sure what irony means but use it ALL.THE.TIME.  And slowly, without realizing it, I've become one of them.

The evidence:

1.  New glasses.  No explanation required.

2.  A 1960s telefunken stereo cabinet to play some sweet LPs (that I pick up a a thrift mall and garage sales).  It fits with the decor of my apartment which consists mainly of teak from the 60s and not a single couch yet.  ShanWow is an awesome friend and helped me fetch this from a random person's house.  My record finds include Duran Duran, Elton John, Billy Joel, U2 and Boney M (Rasputin!) to name a few.

3.  Kicking horse coffee and a french press.  Did I mention that you have to grind the beans yourself???

4.  Card-carrying member of the NDP

5.  A mustache tattoo on my finger. I'm not even sure where it came from.*

6.  I subscribe to The Walrus magazine.

Evidence against:  No iphone/instagram, no clothes from American Apparel, no beer drinking (craft or otherwise), no converse shoes

For good measure I took some extremely reliable internet quizzes and all say that I'm hipster.  How can this be???  All of the music I listen to is mainstream - you would have heard of it all!!!

So what do you think - is the evidence for or against me being a hipster?

*Haha, joking.  I would NEVER do that.

Saturday, July 28

If you Lead, I will Follow

8 weeks into the Aspire climbing class and we've finally fallen.  They've been building us up to lead climbing - we are now all certified to belay for top-roping.  This is when you tie yourself to a rope, the rope up to the top of the wall over a beam/through a chain and then back down to the belayer.  Lead climbing is when you take the rope with you up the wall and clip it in as you go.  Why is this different?  Because, for the first little bit, you aren't attached to anything (ie. if you fall you hit the ground).  Obviously the first clip can't be THAT far off the ground - maybe 8-10 feet.  But it also means that if you clip to the wall and then make it to the next clip but miss it and fall you fall below your last clip - sometimes 5-10 feet before the rope/belayer catches you.  You gotta trust that person holding on to the rope.

They take it pretty slow with us but this week was the big fall.  And you know what?  I had no problem letting go.  And it was fun!  Kind of a rush and over before you know it.  Honestly - the part I don't like is the first 10 feet where you aren't clipped to anything!

Difference between top rope and lead falling

Lead Climbing - Learning to Fall

Monday, July 23

Tasty Edmonton

Edmonton is a city of festivals and some of them are very tasty festivals indeed.  The square outside of city hall becomes a showcase for the city's restaurants.  Each participating establishment sets up a tent and offers two selections from their menu in miniature portion for a fraction of the cost.  Eaters buy tickets and exchange them for food.  So, basically, you take money and buy their money and then buy food.  It is all too easy for ones eyes to become larger than one's digestive system.  And all too easy to part with this "money".

The variety was decent - a little Thai, a lot of Chinese, Vietnamese, some Italian, some Mexican, Caribbean and good ol' Canadian.  I took the chance to try Hungarian along with a little sauerkraut and it wasn't bad at all.  There was freshly squeezed lemonade and deep fried pickles with fresh tzatziki.  Mini cappuccino chocolates to get rid of those single tickets.  The hardest to resist are things I haven't tried so the white tea vanilla ice cream caught my eye.  The white tea flavour is subtle but a great undertone to a fabulous treat.  With a few tickets left I plan to try the local vegan restaurant and some tacos.

John Frieda (the company) had a booth set up to market their frizz-ease products and, let's be honest, those words are always music to this girl's ears.  Since there was no wait ShanWow, DIW and I decided to volunteer ourselves for a little up-do right there on the square.  Justin, a stylist from Montreal, gave me a mini Snooki bump.  ShanWow left looking even more elegant with her side swept bangs and DIW ended up with a spectacular braided up do.  Plus we all left with goodie bags.

Hungarian tetrapod sausage and sauerkraut

ShanWow engaging in her favourite summer activity

White tea ice cream

Sunday, July 22


It is official - I have finally been to Canada's westernmost province and can put my total at 6.  The east continues to elude me.  Living out here does have some perks.  I always thought the first place in BC I would explore would be Vancouver; from what I hear, a city after my own heart.  But Kelowna is an 11 hour drive away and Vancouver is 15 so on taking a 4 day weekend still meant that Kelowna was more reasonable in the car.  Otto joined the adventure along with former-red-deer-roommate and another friend.

The drive through the mountains was beautiful.  Even if I napped for a small portion of it.  The long highway is full of attractions to entertain the weary traveler including a mining ghost town, a dairy farm with 30+ flavours of ice cream, a creepy enchanted forest and, the best attraction of all, goats on a ramp.  Unsuspecting travelers are lured to the Log Barn with promise of candy and beef jerky.  Little did they know they would end up spending their quarters on goat feed.  When the goats see humans anywhere near the gumball machine corn dispensers they climb up a ramp to await the treat.  The corn goes in a cup and the goat must turn a bicycle tire attached to a pulley to bring the treat two stories up to its trough.  Brilliant goats!

As for the city of Kelowna itself - it tries hard.  It sits on a lovely lake, has a few trendy little shops and has a significant number of public sculptures/art pieces.  Even with all this the city lacks character, something hard to overcome by newer centres.  Oh well - people aren't going to Kelowna for the town they are going for the 38 degree weather, sunshine, boating and, of course, the wine.  Not that I really like wine but there are tours of wineries every day with tastings.  A few of them are a little hinky.  For example - Summerhill Winery differentiates itself with a 1/8th replica of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt.  The belief is that the sacred shape of the pyramid channels positive energy so they store the wine inside.  Their claims include that people in a blind taste test choose, at a rate of 82%, the wine stored in the pyramid against the exact same wine stored in their "normal" cellar.  Of course, my first questions would be about the storage condition of the control
 wine.  But I digress.  I could have stayed inside that pyramid for hours but that was likely due to the temperature differential and not the result of the massive quartz crystal on the ceiling.  Besides the hokey pokey I also learned that I like gewurztraminer and reisling - so I prefer the Germans.

We also did the apparently obligatory tour of the Mission Hill winery, one of the largest in the region.  The wine here was also stored underground and included the personal pottery collection of wine holding vessels as old as 5000 BCE.  In a group of about 12 people we ranged from a snooty quebecois man who really knew his wine and engaged in all of the less flattering wine tasting practices.  For those of you not in the know, it is acceptable to slurp wine and also good form to spit it into the pail provided instead of deigning to actually drink any.  On the other side of the spectrum were two couples from (of course) Edmonton.  The wine tour must have been a last minute decision because the females of the group (somewhere in their mid-20s) were wearing sandals with thick, colourful fuzzy socks.  One member had taken what used to be a skirt with an elastic waist, hiked it up to her chest and tried to pass it as a dress.  We may have been fooled if the slit didn't hit near her belly button and reveal her "juicy" underwear.  At least the dress partially covered the naked woman tattooed on her chest because that would have been tacky.

Other stops on the Kelowna tour included Carmelis goat cheese factory.  A small place on someone's property with over 20 flavours of goat's milk gelato.  And all you can eat waffles at The Jammery wasn't so bad.  But one of the best parts of the trip, since I was out-voted for couch surfing, was visiting with some locals who happened to be the aunt and uncle of one of our troop.  We sat in the backyard for hours and consumed cherries right off of their trees.  Cherries RIGHT. FROM. THE. TREE.  That's the life.