Rainy Winnipeg I have been doing some super exciting work travel lately, if you consider Winnipeg and Edmonton exciting.  Next week I get an all expense paid trip to Cold Lake!  I get to go all the good places don’t I?  I have never been a huge fan of Winnipeg, but this trip it started to grow on me.  I think it was the summer that helped, Winnipeg is full of nice big green trees.  I miss the big green trees in Calgary, where I live there are very few big trees.  I can’t afford to live in the neighbourhoods with tree lined streets.  My house is up on a big, big hill, which meant during the recent horrific, record breaking, terrible floods we were absolutely fine.  We didn’t even have our power flick.  My brother lives up on the other huge hill in Calgary, and he was just fine as well, one thing my Dad instilled: don’t buy in the lowlands.

I think one reason Winnipeg appealed more on this trip is that my boss and I got away from the downtown and airport regions and explored some of the more interesting neighbourhoods.  He likes going to local joints like me, so we had some nice meals.  He also loves his dessert and wanted to go to an old fashioned ice cream walk-up place, which was a lot of fun.  He ordered a Grog, which was an upside down blueberry sundae in a cup.  Unfortunately I haven’t been feeling very well for the last few months, so I just took it easy.  We were done early on the last day, and I convinced him to stop by another local yarn store, which was in an old house.  This is my favorite type of yarn store; room after room after hallway lined with more and more yarn to explore.  Even the driving rain couldn’t dampen my mood!   I think I could handle living on this street, all the trees, the old houses which I could actually afford to buy, a little local café, and a beautiful yarn store.  I don’t have any intentions of moving, but I did do an MLS check and yup, I could afford to live in this neighbourhood.  I took away one little happy souvenir:

Sweet Georgia

Sweet Georgia Sock Yarn!

There I am, do you recognize me?  Of course not, it is 10 am in the morning in Yellowknife, it is -28 oC, and I am about to take my glasses off as I couldn’t see due to the fogging up from my breath.  I had to have my cowl pulled up so high to avoid the cheek freeze.  I was out on a leisurely stroll from New Town to Old Town to check out some stores and take a few photos before we caught our plane back down south.  Isn’t it funny how leisurely strolls don’t really happen when it is that cold, you just walk very, very fast until you finally get to where you are going.

This is 11 am, looking across Great Slave Lake.  They aren’t going full dark, but they don’t get much light this time of year.  We didn’t see any Northern Lights due to clouds, our conference schedule (must network!!) and my need to go to sleep at 9 pm.  Poor boss guy, he is a night owl and likes to sleep in.  I go to sleep early, and am up at 6 am, ready to head off on the next adventure (which is usually breakfast).  He does have a good trait in that he likes his food, try not to work for a boss who skips lunch, or other meals.  It is not fun going hungry when one is braving such cold weather, or making small talk with operators from the high arctic.

Even though we were very busy at the conference chatting with people from all over the north, and learning about their water, wastewater, and solid waste issues, we got a little bit of time to sample the local cuisine, scenery, and do some shopping.  I got caribou antler buttons!  We had arctic char, bannock, these yummy oat cakes, but didn’t try any musk oxen.  I was torn about whether to sample the latter, as I’m not familiar with where they are raised, or whether their consumption is ethical or not.  I like to know these things.  It was the best conference food we had ever had.

Two messages stood out for me from the keynote speaker: gargage as a resource, and that we are in the plastic age.  He spoke about being out in the barrens, far from anything, and having a plastic bag blow by.  Keep that image in your head for awhile.

Yellowknife is full of art, and has beautiful dramatic vistas.  I only took a few photos due to finger freezing problems.

 I really miss the cottage lifestyle of Ontario, the leisurely life, the beach, the water, swimming, buttertarts, running around in bathing suits all day, reading the day away.  We just went to Ontario for a week, mainly to visit relatives (2 great grandmothers, 1 grandmother, 1 grandpa, 2 aunties, Althea has now met most of her immediate family!) but I worked in a few days at a cottage.  She had fun playing at the beach, we went for a little hike in Alonguin Park, went to a beach there, and got away from phones, tv’s, and a lot of noise for a few days.  When she was asleep Mr. J and I read, drank wine, ate butter tarts, and relaxed, relaxed, relaxed.  I find I can only really relax away from the to-do lists of the house, and work.  Once I’m back home the unfinished to-do list hits me in the face, today at work I only managed to go through my e-mails, not really reading them, and make a longer to-do list.

We also survied the visit to GGMIL without too much pain, even though it wasn’t pretty.  Althea managed to neatly demonstrate why we weren’t staying with her by almost pulling a statue off it’s low pedestal (toddler height exactly) and crushing her feet.  We stayed instead with a friend with a  2 year old in a lovely child proof home with lotsa toys.  Watching our children playing together was a delight.  Good-bye vacation, hello working straight until Christmas.

Last week I had to go to Saskatchewan to help fix a water plant.  We fixed it, and saved the town.  No one there noticed, which is better than the problems being so bad that they do notice.  Please trust me when I say it is a bad thing when the town water tanks are so low, because your plant isn’t working, and they have to tell people to not only not water their lawns, but not to fight fires either.  That gets people really, really, upset.  (When the town water tank gets to 10%, that is when the call is made to stop fighting fires).  I went out with a new employee, who is new to Canada.  What a beautiful time to see Saskatchean when the canola, and flax are in full bloom.  He also got a good taste of how nice and friendly people are here.

Last month I had an opportunity to head to Denver for leadership training provided by the charity I like to volunteer for: Water For People.  The more I learn about them, the more I think they are doing things correctly, and that it is worthwhile putting some time towards them.  In a nutshell: they are working to give people in developing nations what we have.  Turn on the faucet, clean water comes out, a healthy place to go to the washroom, and hand washing routines that reduce the incidence of disease considerably.  All of this is provided by local people working on committees, in their jobs, and the people that benefit pay a fee, much like we do with our water and sewer bills.  If you get something for free, you don’t tend to appreciate it as much as something that you pay for, and work for.  It is also better for local people to help themselves, rather than foreigners to swoop in on a week trip, build something, and then swoop out.  Other innovative programs include starting a repair person business so that people have someone to call when something breaks.  They are basing many of these programs on business models, rather than giving things away for free.  Their latest goal is to start a business in crap.  Yup, crap.  Let’s say you get a lovely new latrine, which works great for 7 years but then it’s full.  Now what do you do?  Who do you call, how do you pay to get it cleaned out so that you can use it another 7 years?  If you can call a local business that has advertised in your area so that you are aware of them, and they you can sell your s^%t to them, and they turn around and sell it somewhere else for a profit, then the whole thing keeps going doesn’t it?  Water for People gives opportunities for people like me to volunteer in their monitoring work; they monitor each program for 10 years after completion to ensure that it is still working and operating properly.  One day, one day I’ll do this. 

But back to the trip to Denver, Althea did wonderfully on the 2 hour plane ride down.  She checked out everything, but everything.  Towards the end of the trip she started getting a bit fussy, and  I was standing up in the aisle with her rocking back and forth.  She then filled her diaper to capacity, and felt much better as our sunny girl came back.  I had to go to the front of the airplane to change her, and I believe I scared the front row people into never having children due to the sheer number of wipes it took to clean her up.  Hee hee.  While I went to the training, Mr. J wandered around Denver with the baby in the stroller, getting mobbed by women.  Even some men, one guy complimented him on his genetic prowess “Good job man, she’s really cute”.  Ummm, I helped to, in fact one might say I did a lot of the work?  Mr. J somehow manged to fight off all the women and get Althea down to me at the training a few times, I fed her in the back of the room once or twice while presentations were going on.  The people putting on the training were very baby friendly, which was wonderful, but Althea couldn’t stay long as she was delighting in her shrieking voice.  Over, and over!

I had vowed to eat Mexican (Tex-mex actually I don’t like real Mexican food) every day since it is good in Denver, and crap here.  Unfortunately I discovered or remembered something else, it upsets my stomach.  Yup, my old guts are back, all the benefits from my pregnancy are gone and I have to start watching my fat intake again.  Even though we were eating on a budget we still managed to find yummy things to eat, but we didn’t find a Chipolte’s so that Mr. J could have one of their burritos. 

During one of Althea’s naps we wandered by this construction site, and I was awestruck but the artistic yarn bombing.  Here is my confession, be upset with me if you want, I don’t like most yarn bombings.  One good rain storm and they look ragged and dirty to me.  But this one was different, this one was a work of art, and brought colour, life and beauty into the ugly construction site. 

 Breckenridge was so beautiful, whether due to the alpine setting, the beautiful building styles they have obviously preserved, the flowers everywhere, or the fresh air.  I know it seems silly to almost need a vacation from our vacation, but I really relaxed here after two months or running around, and being buried under “To Do” lists.   I can’t relax like this at home where I’m constantly staring at things I need to be doing.  Mr. J went for a bike ride, we went for walks with the stroller, had naps, watched tv, and explored the town.  Unfortunately the yarn store wasn’t that great, but that is good for my pocket-book.  I ate huevos rancheros as much as  I could, it is so damn good.  So good.  Not as good as in Moab, but pretty good none the less.  I think the trick is with the green chili sauce, it needs to be hot, but just the right level, and also very fruity to give a robust flavour.  Smother the tortilla, refried beans, potatoes and scrambled eggs just so.  So good.  It will be my mission to find a recipe and try to make some up here, if I can find the correct chilis. 

On the way home Althea was again a champ, and even slept a bit on the plane.  People complimented her behavior, as I’m sure they had the mental thought “Oh no a baby, she is going to cry the whole way”.  But nope, she is a world traveller just like her Mummy, and now she has the passport and foreign country visit to prove it.  Plans are afoot for us to go back to Breckenridge next year for Mr. J and some friends to enter one of the endurances races in the area.  I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Some Salty Dogs

May 21, 2011

Last weekend we headed over to Salmon Arm, British Columbia for the first mountain bike race of Mr. J’s season, the Salty Dog six hour endurance race.  That meant that he rode around the course for six hours, and completed a very respectable six laps.  He probably could have done another lap, but by the time you get off your bike and take a little break, it becomes very difficult to get back on it again!  Especially when you get to hold something so cute:

Althea and I stayed for the beginning of the race, and came back for the end, with a walk and a bit of a lounge in the hotel in the in between time.  She was by no means the only baby there, nor the youngest, and with over 60 little bikers taking part in the mini-race, the Salty Pup, the place was teeming with kids.  These mountain biking events are truly wonderful places for families, hanging out in the outdoors, getting lots of exercise, and having a lot of fun.  Only six years until Althea can be a Salty Pup. 

The baby is now at the age where it is getting difficult to feed her in public, as there are way, way too many other things to look at.  She eats a bit, pulls off, looks around, eats a bit, repeat.  When I use the cover she is generally grabbing it and stuffing it into her mouth pretty quickly, unless she is really, really hungry.  Once the edge is off however, away goes her attention again!  I have discovered I can feed her in the passenger seat of the truck, and it is fairly private, or as we did, head back to the hotel for a few hours.  On the way out there I even fed her in the Lake Louise visitors center in a nice quiet secluded spot, that was until Mr. J turned on the educational display in front of us.  I’m still training him not to make distractions! 

We absolutely loved Salmon Arm, or the Shuswap Valley in particular, which I think is part of the Okanagan Valley area.  In Calgary things are barely, barely getting green, whilst a short six hour drive away, over the continenal divide:

Lush green, lilacs out, warm air, sweet smells, flowers everywhere, big trees, beautiful hobby farms, mountains, lakes, so nice.  It seemed like Ontario but with mountains, which for those of us from Ontario you will know what that means.  No matter how much we like the dry climate out here, we miss the lush greens of where we grew up.  We will definitely be coming back here, and if we had unlimited money we would be buying a little place, I can understand why so many people retire over here.  I’m hoping Mr. J and I can enter as a team next year, hopefully I’ll be able to pull off a lap or two.

Saskatchewan Adventures

November 28, 2010

 A big road trip like my boss and I made last week is always an adventure, but this week the adventure was more of the snowy, icy, I sure hope we don’t end up in the ditch like that guy adventure.  The good news however is that we drove around safely, made it to all of our meetings (mostly) on time, and my boss was happy with all the progress we made.  I’m also pretty sure I didn’t manage to annoy him, or piss him off too badly which is good considering the hours in the car together, and the four business meetings a day we participated in. 

It snowed every day, and the temperatures were down close to -20 oC until it warmed up on Friday.  Christmas is in the air however, and seeing all the old fashioned decorations up already and covered in snow made it easier to believe.

On Thursday we finished our business meetings, had a late lunch/dinner, and my boss made the decision that we could stay in Saskatoon for the evening, heading back to Calgary the next day.  I was happy about this as driving late into the night, through the new snow that was falling, plus the icy conditions would have made for a very tiring drive.  But since we were done so early, and since we were so close(everything in Saskatoon is relatively close since it’s a small place) to the yarn store, could we perhaps stop by for a quick visit?  It worked, and off we went to find the store which is tucked into an older Saskatoon neighbourhood.  I didn’t have a huge urge to visit the yarn store in Regina, but the Wool Emporium is special. 

 They have lots of “regular” yarn and products, but they have special stuff, local stuff that you can only find here from the small farms that dot Saskatchewan and Alberta.  Alpaca yarn so black that you can see blue in it, greys, brown so deep, brown almost orange in tone, and so many variations thereupon.  My promise to my boss of “just ten minutes” made me a focused shopper, and this cream/brown blend was irresistible.  I can’t find a link to Jubilee Alpaca, which seems to be a local company that consolidates fibre from various farms into their yarn.  It doesn’t seem to be one specific farm.  But since the shipment was recent, I had a huge variety to choose from.  It was hard, very hard.  This creamy colour is going to  make a beautiful sweater, soft and warm, and neutral enough to match many outfits.  I’m actually considering remaking one of my sweaters that my Grandmother made, which I wear all the time.  Its getting a bit ratty, but its the perfect length, fit, colour, and design.  We went back to our hotel, I was high on yarn fumes, and I merrily knit away the evening!

Baby’s First Potash Mine

November 25, 2010

This week I’m in Saskatchewan, which is actually kind of fun.  That is if I ignore the freezing temperatures, constantly blowing snow, icy road conditions, and various other signs of an early, long, and especially cold winter that we are now deeply into.  I think when I was visiting Saskatchewan once a month it was wearing on me, but now that I haven’t been here in over 9 months, and I haven’t traveled anywhere in about the same time, going on a road trip is a lot of fun.  So far we’ve done Calgary-Moose  Jaw-Regina-Moose  Jaw-Regina-Esterhazy-Regina-Saskatoon.  That is a lot of driving.  My boss has figured out that I prefer to knit over driving, and I feel a bit bad as he drove all day yesterday, I need to make sure I do my driving shift today!  Driving conditions are dicey to say the least, and we’ve been playing a rousing game of ” spot the vehicles in the ditch”.  As the roads are elevated here, and the ditches are deep, this is not always easy!

We’ve been visiting mostly engineering offices, but yesterday we went out to a potash mine, and got a bit of a tour down to where the water plant is.  So, baby’s first water plant tour!  I think she enjoyed it, even though she seems to be kicking through the meetings, and was asleep through the tour.  It can be hard to concentrate on business meetings when someone is trying to stick her foot out your belly button.  So far none of the people we have visited have mentioned the pregnancy, even those people whom I’ve met before!  Is that normal?  I can’t figure out if its stranger that no one mentions it, or if everyone had mentioned it.  I comfort myself knowing that at least I will be memorable, because not only are there few female sales people, but there are even fewer female sales people with a giant belly in front of her.  The receptionists keep bringing me water, and showing me where the toilet is, which is very good. 

The name of the game today is to go to our meetings, and figure out how to get my boss to go close to the Wool Emporium so that I can have a quick visit with the “Wall of Saskatchewan”.  We have a meeting close by, and there is a sandwich shop in the same plaza, which may work on my unsuspecting boss.  Wish me luck!  Photos that are mostly snow next week!

Fernie Weekend

July 20, 2010

The mountains around Fernie are very green this time of year, and just bursting with life.  It was so good to get out of the city and wander around in the woods, cleansing my lungs with some nice fresh air.  We had beautiful days and rainy evenings with a fair amount of mosquitos which inclined us to skip the campfire and instead play cribbage inside the tent before falling asleep.  We got our wedding business out of the way by noon on Saturday, which is the benefit of only having two places to visit.  We have decided on one venue, and are now deciding on which weekend next June will be the lucky one.  One venue was better for guest accommodation, but the other (Elk Valley Lodge) had such beautiful locationsto  have the actual ceremony and reception.  We can either get married outside on the lawn surrounded by trees and mountains, or inside the loft with the mountain view.  Can’t lose there.  The lodge will do all the decoration with candles and wild flowers on the tables, and what will hopefully be excellent food.  I’m already looking forward to it. The rooftop hot tub doesn’t hurt either.   After the tough decisions were made we took ourselves into the mountains!

Ahhh, the babbling brook, the wild flowers, the breeze, the sunshine, the constant calls of “yo bear” as I worried about stumbling onto a black or grizzly bear.  There have also been cougars sighted in the area.

On Sunday I took myself up to the incredible Island Lake Lodge.  If we have about  a million dollars budget we would get married here by the lake, but alas we don’t.  I started around the lake loop, which is well used by tourists, and close into the lodge.  I suddenly glanced up and noticed a giant bull moose about ten feet down the trail, silent gazing at me, already stopped.

He had the huge antlers, the beard, and rather a calm demeanor which didn’t fool me.  As a wise Canadian I didn’t stop to take photos, but instead gave up the trail to him, as he was obviously going my way.  I went about 10 feet off the trail and hunkered down behind some rather sturdy looking trees that I figured were close enough together that he couldn’t get through them with his huge antlers.  I was hoping he would keep going down the trail so that I could get a better photo, but after around 10 minutes he did  a sharp right turn and went off into the woods.  He seemed very peaceful and not too worried by me, but better safe than sorry!  And here I was worried about the cougar sightings!

The heat has finally found us here in Alberta, and its glorious.  It cools off just the right amount at night in order to sleep.  This weekend Mr. J and I are heading down to Fernie for a weekend of camping among the cedars and a bit of wedding planning.  The good thing is that in a small town there are only two possible venues to look at.  I don’t think I have the patience to look at any more!  The first one is called Elk Valley Lodge, and may also be a Raw Food retreat venue.  However those among my family who just jumped to the conclusion that at the wedding we will be serving all raw food and have declared your intention to not attend the wedding, don’t worry.  They serve all kinds of food!  So far we’ve justed perused the website, and have been very impressed by the lodge itself, and the views down the valley.  We could get married in their loft, or outside on the balcony if the weather is nice.  Then everyone goes inside, has tapas, and then dinner.  So easy!  Around 2/3 of the guests can probably stay right at the lodge, and Fernie with all its numerous hotels is 4 km down the road. 

The other location is at the Fernie ski resort, the Lizard Creek Lodge.  Again its a beautiful place, with indoor locations and outdoor wedding locations.  I couldn’t plan an outdoor wedding without an indoor back-up plan.  We’re going to have breakfast there on Saturday, and look around. 

We’re staying at the provincial campground, which doesn’t have many facilities.  By Saturday morning we shouldn’t be too stinky.  After that we’ll jump in the local creek a few times.

I just made rice crispy squares as our camping treat.  And not just any rice crispy squares, I put fruit loops in them.  Another reason why Mr. J wants to marry me!