Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I've come to the conclusion that...

giving blood is a lot like taking a plane trip.

You spend your whole time waiting, filling out forms, standing in line, getting screened, talking with the other passengers/donors and in the end, all you get is a cookie and a bit of juice.

It's also really easy to develop a false sense of intimacy with the other donors/passengers. You're stuck in this process both working towards the same goal. You have past trips/visits in common so there's something to talk about and you can compare and contrast your experience along the way.

And best of all, you'll probably never see these people again in your life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Takakkaw Falls and the journey home

Mom, Brandin and I had planned to leave around 8am on Monday, July 14th but he got an allergy attack around 6 which woke Mom and I up. Instead of attempting to sleep for another hour or so, we just packed up and left. It was probably good that we got a slightly earlier start because we stopped a lot during the trip.

To get to Canmore (our first stop) we took Highway 1A instead of the Trans Canada. It was recently paved and there was practically no traffic so it was a wonderful drive. The perfect way to start our day. We grabbed Tim Hortons in Canmore and then kept going.

We also stopped briefly at the Sprial Tunnels. I didn't take any pictures though because my camera card was almost full by that time.

A few years ago when I took a similar road trip (home - Edmonton - Regina - Calgary - home) with my friend Melissa, we took a detour to Helmcken Falls in Wells Grey Provincial Park. Helmcken Falls is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. Bridal Veil Falls, the sixth highest is less than an hour from my house. Just before I left on this trip I googled the list of waterfalls to see what the chance of catching another high one would be. Imagine my delight when I realized that Takakkaw Falls are just off the road we'd be taking home!
We stopped in Field, BC to confirm directions and I expected them to tell me about the anticipated fees. Takakkaw Falls are in Yoho National Park and there is a day use fee. They didn't give me any information though and I didn't see anywhere on the way up that we could have stopped so we ended up seeing them for free. Unfortunately it made me nervous that we HADN'T paid so I probably didn't enjoy the trip as much as I could have because I was feeling the pressure to get back on the road. Anyways, to get to the falls we drove up the VERY interesting mountain road. Parts of it are so steep that vehicles with trailers are banned from going up all together.

They'd never make it anyways. Even I had to go very slowly in order to clear the corners properly.

The drive was worth it though.

"Yoho" is a "Cree expression of awe and wonder".

Takakkaw is pronounced "tak-e-ko". I still haven't mastered that one. Anyways, it means "It is magnificent" in Cree and that totally fits. Everytime I got a glimpse of the falls on the way up I found myself rehersing the name. Takakkaw. Takakkaw. Almost like a prayer (of course I was trying to figure out the pronunciation too :P)
The drive up to the falls only takes about 20 minutes. The walk from the parking lot to the falls isn't even that long.

Brandin was a typical boy walking OFF the path the whole way up and going down as close to the water as he could, as often as he could.

Once we got up to the base of the falls, we could really feel the spray. It was quite cool, especially at that time of the morning. Mom climbed down and filled her water bottle with fresh mountain water.

We didn't linger for too long at the falls. Just enough to get a new appreciation for the beautiful Canadian Rockies then we hit the road again. We stopped briefly in Golden for lunch and Revelstoke for ice-caps. Mom drove between there and I took a short nap. We got gas in Kamloops and dinner in Merritt and made a pit stop in Hope. Brandin was starting to get annoyed with all the stops but Mom and I just laughed. Dad hates stopping so we enjoyed pulling over whenever we wanted.

We arrived at home just after 8 pm.

The entire trip was, in a word, wonderful. Long, not long enough. Tiring, invigorating and fullfilling. Next time won't be three years away. I guarantee it.

Royal Tyrell Museum

From the website: The Royal Tyrrell Museum celebrates the long history and spectacular diversity of life - from the tiniest grains of pollen to the mightiest dinosaurs.

Set in the Alberta badlands, the Museum opened in September, 1985. Four hundred thousand visitors were hoped for that first year. Nearly 600,000 came, and hundreds of thousands continue to visit each year.

They come to experience the power and excitement of some of the most remarkable fossil displays anywhere in the world, in Canada’s only institution devoted entirely to palaeontology.

I've only visited the museum once before. Robert was still in diapers at the time so that gives you an idea of how long ago it was. I really don't remember anything about it and we only have a handful of pictures. When we realized that the museum is (theoretically) only an hour from Tim and Candace's we made plans to go on Sunday, July 13th. Robert and Tim were working but Seth was off so we loaded up the little boys and headed out. I say it's "theoretically" an hour away because we hit construction which made the trip closer to 1.5 hours. Still not bad.

If you have any interest in dinoaurs whatsoever, or if you just enjoyed "Land Before Time" then the Royal Tyrell Museum is for you. It's world class museum full of everything you ever wanted to know about palentology.

Visiting with my cousins meant that I didn't get to absorb as much as I could have. I read most of the plaques but we didn't do the audio tour. Still, I really enjoyed it. Descriptions of the different exhibits are here My favourite was the impressive Dinosaur Hall, (If anyone can tell my why my stegosaurus is vertical instead of horizontal I'd appreciate it) and the information about the Burgess Shale.

After the museum we briefly explored the surrounding "badlands" we drove back in to the town of Drumheller called the "Dinosaur Capital of the World" and had lunch at the appropriately named "Dino's Family Restaurant". We briefly considered visiting this guy, the world's largest dinosaur but decided to just take a picture from the road.

From there we headed back to Tim & Candace's and spent the evening at home. We played a few rounds of LIFE, had nachos for dinner (since we had a late lunch), repacked our suitcases and visited until bedtime.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dierks & Deric at Stampede

As much as I enjoyed Stampede, the bottom line reason for spending the day there was because Dierks was performing that night. This was my sixth time seeing him (and third time meeting him) and it's fascinating to see how different each show can be.

First of all, at this show I was able to meet, Suzanne a fan club member that I've been talking to off board for well over a year. She was actually IN San Antonio the same weekend I was. Joanie and I ended up going to Gruene Hall that night but our second choice was where Suzanne was hanging out.

It was great to finally meet Suzanne in person and to have someone to hang out with during the concert. Mom chose to stay on the sidelines but Suzanne, her sister Jodi and I were right up at the front. It also helped to have them there to save my spot when I had to leave for my meet and greet!!!

People have asked "how come you get to meet him so many times?" Fan Club people. It's all the Fan Club. Just submit a request and "voila" "You Get To Meet Dierks" :D

This was my second Fan Club Meet & Greet so I knew better what to expect. It was just as good as my last one. Dierks is friendly, warm and engaging. First everyone lines up and says "Hi" and get's their picture taken and an autograph one on one. Then we all sit around and chat for awhile. He answered questions about the coming album (anticipated release date: February 2009), the next single (anticipated release date: September 3, 2008), touring Canada (he hopes to be back next March or April) Cassidy, the baby and more. We commented on the plaid shirt and he said "just for you, just for you". It's a running joke between Dierks and his FC members. When he first got a record deal he wore tons of plaid. Over the years he started wearing almost all black. Lately, to the delight of fan's, he's re-introduced plaid. After the Q&A session we all pose for a group shot (I copied it off the website) and then we're done. There are only 16 FC M&G passes per show but Dierks easily meets with 80 people. He's awesome about giving FC members the most time though.

After the M&G I headed back up to the stage for Deric Ruttan's show. His set list was pretty much the same as the show in April and minus the covers of "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do" and "What Was I Thinking" (obviously). Deric doesn't a fantastic high energy show that is perfect for summer time.

He was really appreciative of the response he got in Calgary commenting "It's nice to be somewhere that really appreciates country music"

My spot, pretty much as close to the stage as you can get, was right in front of the bank of speakers so I admit the show was a bit fuzzy. By the time Dierks came on stage I had lost my hearing so it wasn't as big a deal :P My ears rang for a week afterwards. It was *so* worth it though :D

One of the interesting things about having seen Dierks five times before is that I'm starting to recognize his road crew and his set up. Also, being an outdoor show, we got to watch the crew do set up before the concert and then do the switch over after Deric's set. First time or sixth time though, this show was just as fantastic as previous ones. He again opened with "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do" and then burned through a mix of hits and album tracks.

He performed at least four songs that I haven't had the chance to hear live yet.

  • "Trying to Stop Your Leaving", the current single and the song that has been my ring tune for over a year

  • "Soon as You Can", the runner up for the last single off "Long Trip Alone" and a fantastic song live,

  • "Can't Live it Down" which contains my all time favourite Dierks lyrics and current life motto "Gonna live for places I ain’t been/Make a lot more good remember-whens/Right up to the end" as well as the tour name "Throttle Wide Open" and

  • "Sweet & Wild" the fantastic new track off his Greatest Hits album that I have been listening to on repeat.

Dierks also included the bluegrass set featuring "My Last Name" and "A Good Man Like Me". He took the stage just after 9 and played for almost two hours.

I watched his guitar tech and that poor guy was RACING the ENTIRE show. The band and crew are so finely tuned to each other's needs. Dierks will finish a song, take his guitar off while he's turning around and the tech will be there with the next one ready to go. At one point Rod (the lead guitarist in the white shirt) lost his guitar strap. Dierks himself walked over and re-attached it while he was singing without missing a beat. Dierks is really good at letting the band take the spotlight at different times too. He may be the headliner and the lead singer but you can tell that he loves those guys and wants them to get recognition as well.
All of us were hoping that Dierks and Deric would do a live version of their duet "Good Time". Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they didn't but Dierks did bring Deric out during the encore to sing "What Was I Thinking" (which Deric co-wrote) and the traditional "Folsom Prison Blues".

Even without the duet, this was still the best concert I've been to this year. D&D are my favourite singers and to have them both on the same high energy stage is fantastic.

Now I'm counting down till next spring!!!

Calgary Stampede

Saturday, July 12, Mom and I "did" Stampede. I've been once before with Meredith so I had an idea of what to expect but we fit a lot more in this time. I had a handful of attractions I specifically wanted to see and we visited all of them and more.

One of the attractions was the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. I admit I didn't recognize most of the names but the displays were neat.

Another section I really wanted to visit was the Indian Village. Many of the brightly painted teepees on site are open for viewing and the people there are very willing to discuss their heritage and culture.

After the Indian Village we made our way to "Weadickville". As the plaque says, "In 1912 the great Stampede was born from the vision of Guy Weadick. Guy was a famous working cowboy and vaudeville entertainer featured in the traveling wild-west shows that were popular world-wide in the early 1900s. He was a man with a dream of celebrating the romance and authentic culture of the old west." Weadickville is dedicated to him. It features a series of historical shops. Our first stop was an original out post for the North West Mounted Police. Next we got some information about Quebec's 400th Anniversary celebrations. Then we stopped in at the Weston Bakery for the most amazing freshly baked strudels I have ever had. They were right out of the oven and still warm! While we ate we listend to "the toe-tapping country tunes of the Keister Family Fiddlers".
Weadickville also offers a General Store, Blacksmith and Ice Cream Shop.
I had my picture taken with "western gun slingers Doc, Snake-Eye, Stringbean and the Sherrif of Weadickville (far right).

Mom and I had our picture taken as we "Made Chuckwagon History" :) And I got to pose with one of the original Olympic torches from the games held in 1988 in Calgary. This one is #4 of 150.

The only other "must do" on my list was to catch a performance of "Barrage". Meredith and I saw them *many* years ago and thoroughly enjoyed their show. When I saw that they were on the schedule at Stampede, I made a point of seeing them. They were just as good as I remembered. If you get a chance to catch this group, make sure you take it.
After the Barrage show Mom and I wandered around a bit. We visited some of the livestock displays, watched some cattle being judged and marvelled at the vast array of fried foods.

We also spent some time watching two of Calgary's top chefs participating in an "Iron Chef" style competition.
I'll put the rest of our day in a separate post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Friday night we all went for dinner at Red Lobster. We don't have Red Lobster at home but we still get the ads on tv (figure that one out) Anyways, it's a bit of a running joke between Mom and Robert that when they see the ads they both start salivating. Dad's allergic to all shellfish so he would never want to go. But, because he wasn't there, we could go without a problem. The food was just as good as the ads make it out to be. We had a big round table near the back that was perfect for our group. At one point the boys (Seth, Robert, Tim and Xander) started making spit balls. See the guy behind Seth? Tim was aiming at Seth and ended up nailing that guy right in the temple! The thing was, Xander was standing beside Tim when he did it, and just as Tim's spitball landed on the guy, Seth hit Xander! So of course Xander started crying, which made the guy think that Xander had hit him! And Tim let Xander take the fall!!! The guy was laughing and so were we (it actually took most of the meal to figure out exactly what happened) and as completley immature as it was, it was funny :)

Big Hill Springs Park

Friday while Tim, Robert and Seth were at work Canadace, Mom, the boys and I went to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. The park isn't that far from their house and it's a fantastic spot for young boys to run off some energy.

As the description says "The main attraction is a series of small waterfalls that flow year-round over rocky terraces covered with a lush growth of shrubs and grasses; the park is also the site of an historic fish hatchery and Alberta's first commercial creamery." The creamery foundations are seen above.

The bugs were really bad in the park (as they are in most of Alberta) so we walked quickly. It is so peaceful there. I can see why they enjoy visiting often.

At one point Xander was hiding behind a tree. His brother's didn't see him go back there and when Mom and I were approaching it quietly they thought it was something interesting, like a deer. They were a bit disappointed to learn it was just their brother LOL

When we finished the trail the boys played in one of the shallow streams for awhile. They had fun splashing around and cooling off in the shallow water.

Monday, July 21, 2008

We inturupt the vacation re-cap

for a weekend re-cap!

Thursday evening I had dinner at Mom and Dad's and then the four of us (including Brandin) went and saw WALL-E. Cute movie. Really, really well done on the techincal side. I laughed out loud a few times. It did get a bit slow at times and I'm not in a hurry to see it again but it was enjoyable.

Friday Mom, Brandin and I went raspberry picking. I picked six pounds in an hour. I froze most of them but I do have a bucket sitting on my counter that I've been adding to salad and my cereal. Brandin and I also washed my car that evening. It needed it after driving all the way to Alberta.

Saturday was a quiet low key day. I had a "to-do" list of chores and tasks that I wanted to accomplish and I got most of them done. Saturday also marked the fifth anniversary of our local Farmers' Market. I was involved in the launch in it's first year. I created and updated weekly the "What's at the Market this week" newsletter flyer that they still use. Lots of the original partners were there and they had speeches and a cake and we all celebrated five years since the very first market day.

Saturday evening as I was leaving my building to meet Mom, Dad and Brandin for a picnic I stepped funny, twisted my ankle and fell down. I ripped a bunch of skin off my knee and jarred my arm and my head. I didn't hit my head but I had to go back inside to wipe the blood off my knee. When I got inside I had to lay down for a bit until the room stopped spinning. Now my whole body is sore and I'm nursing a wound on my knee that is three inches long and two inches wide. Not fun. :( I did manage to make it to the picnic (after Dr. Mom bandaged me up) and we had a nice time.

Sunday after church Mom, Dad and Brandin went to Vancouver. I stayed in town and joined friends of mine for lunch. Then I picked Aaron up from work, stopped at Wal-mart for my own medical supplies (big bandages, gauze, polysporin etc.), raced home and made a quick salad and headed out for a bar-b-que with my Northern Reflections collegues. It was great to be able to spend time with them without customers around. They were joined by their husbands/boyfriends and kids as well so it was a big loud party.

Tonight (Monday) is our wrap-up dinner for the BerryBeat Festival which I'm really looking forward to.

There, life goes on. Back to your regularly scheduled programming now :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Visiting Family

The main purpose for my trip was to get away and visit as many family members as possible. My dad's sibilings had held a reunion in May but for various reasons, I wasn't able to attend. That meant that instead of conveniently seeing everyone in one location, I had to go track down the ones I could see. Not as efficient but nice because you get more one on one time.

Tuesday morning I went to my cousin Suzanne's house. She has two daughters and her husband was there for awhile before he had to go to work. My Aunt Emily (my dad's sister), cousin Rhonda and four of her kids joined us for coffee. We had a wonderful time even though we didn't stay very long.

After that Mom and I stopped and picked up Grandpa and went to my cousin Naomi's. Naomi is Aunty Liz's daughter. She has two girls. Her sister Ruth (and Ruth's son Jonathan) were there as well. Ruth, Naomi and I are all very close in age and I spent a lot of time with them in the summers when I would visit. It was great to see them again and catch up a bit.

That evening I met up with a friend for dinner. Getting to the restaurant required navigating Edmonton's river valley which is always an adventure but I arrived successfully. While I was there an impressive thunder and hail storm occured. I found out later that Mom had tried to go for a walk and got caught in it. Oops!

Wednesday morning Mom and I got up and drove out to join Dad's sister Louise (he is one of six, Mom is one of four hence all the relatives) and her husband Rick at Thunder Lake Provincial Park near Barrhead. They were taking their RV up there for a few days and invited us to join them. We spent the day relaxing in the sun and around the campfire visiting and catching up. Three of their children were able to join us during the day and I got to meet my cousin's kids for the first time.

Thursday we packed up, said good bye to Grandpa and headed South. This is Grandpa and I. He's doing quite well for an 83 year old.

On the way out of town we stopped in to see my mom's Uncle Oskar and Aunt Helen. We didn't stay long but I did get Aunty Helen to tell me a bit about the trip from Germany to Canada. More on that later.

Our last stop before hitting the road in earnest was for lunch in Ponoka with my Dad's Aunt Elsie. We had a fantastic visit with her. She's 83, fit as a fiddle and the funniest woman you'll ever meet. She reminds me a lot of my grandma (her sister) but without the worry gene that my Dad and I inherited. She swims at least three times a week (and has been doing so for over twenty years), volunteers at her church, in the community center that is part of her building and travels to see her three kids, three grand kids and one great grand child frequently. If I am doing as well as her when I get to that age I will happy with life.

We finally got to Uncle Tim and Aunt Candace's mid afternoon. Candace had picked up pizza from Seth (he's assistant manager at Panago) and she headed out at five to attend the Judd's concert with her sister. Mom and I stayed at the house and "babysat" which mostly consisted of playing the board game LIFE with my cousins. (It's a blast by the way, especially since they have a newer version of the game which has great updates). Tim, Robert and Seth got home later in the evening and again it was just a lot of visiting and quality time together.

That's a run down of the family that I managed to connect with. The rest of my time was spent wtith Tim, Candace, their three boys and my two brothers, in different combinations.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Valley Zoo

Monday after Aunty Liz got off work she, Mom, Grandpa, Jonathan and I went to the Edmonton Valley Zoo. We used to go there when I was younger but we haven't been in a LONG time. Fortunately, it was much like I remembered and still a really fun place to go, especially with an almost three year old.

Some of the displays made us laugh, like this guinea pig enclosure on the left. I have never seen so many guinea pigs together and they were all different!

Hey V, a kookabura, just for you :) He was singing up a storm too :D
This is Jonathan looking at the ring-tailed lemurs.

The Valley Zoo recently welcomed two baby Red Pandas. My dad is obsessed with these creatures. He, Mom, Seth and Robert went to the Calgary Zoo and saw the pandas there so when we saw this guy, I had to call him. They are really interesting creatures. Apparently zoologists had a hard time classifying these creatures and finally dubbed them "pandas" because they eat bamboo.
We never did see the babies but this adult was pretty to look at.
My personal favourite animals were the gibbons. they were really hard to photograph because they were behind glass and swinging like crazy!!! It was so fun to watch them go back and forth and around and around.

Grandpa's favourite was the elephant. I can't make this picture rotate correctly but you get the idea. He was amazed that the trainers could get that close to such a large animal and that it would just stand there and let them wash it. They sprayed it and then scrubbed it with long handled brushes. It was fun to watch.
I don't technically have permission to post pictures of Jonathan so these "creative shots" will have to do ;) Aunty Liz bought him this tiger in the gift shop. At the end of the handles is a trigger you can squeeze and the tiger opens his mouth. Jonathan spent the rest of the day walking around roaring and biting things.

And this is the entrance to the zoo on our way out.