Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Canoe

 Back when we bought the cabin, a friend alerted us to a canoe going cheap. We bought it and stored it under the deck at Terry's dad's until we could get it to the cabin. Then we joined the foreign service and the canoe stayed right where it was.

While visiting this summer, we decided to finally take the canoe to the cabin. In the process of moving it to the car and then to the cabin we noticed how beautifully lightweight it was (one of the reasons we got rid of the COVID canoe was it was too heavy and bulky). We discussed Terry driving it back to Calgary. In the end he did. And this weekend, 15 years after first acquiring the ride, we put it into water! 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Going home again

The kids and I spent three weeks in the US this year. Starting in MA, we spent time with mom (board games, card games, Cider Hills, and for me and Alex the first of five college tours!) then with dad (another college tour, with dad as tour guide, Duck Tours, and his annual BBQ). 

Zoltan as a volunteer for the magician who performed at dad's

We drove down to PA in time to meet Terry who had been driving from Calgary. Staying with his sister most of the time we hit the Turkey Hill Experience, laser tag (a surprising number of injuries!) another college tour, and time in and around the pool.  We even tested out our origami kayak in there.  And then again at a state park with an actual lake.  We visited folks in the Lehigh Valley and swung by the cabin on our way to the last two college tours - one being Penn State. Will Alex be blacklisted if I mention I was not too impressed with the Penn State Creamery ice cream?

Finally swinging south, we invaded my brother's house. Terry and I had some errands at Main State and I got to catch up with a few friends there, then more catching up with friends as we checked out the water park at Cameron Run. My nephew and his girlfriend also hit town that weekend so we got to have a big festive brunch before heading to the airport where we discovered there were issues with the kids being on my ArriveCAN (as in, one wasn't and one was only sort-of) which took nearly an hour to fix and we weren't allowed to check in until it was complete. Did I start panicking? Of course I did! Also of course, nobody ever asked to see the app once we were allowed to go, but every other step from the check in to the gate was super smooth so we still had plenty of time. 

Storms in our plane-change city made us nervous but I reminded myself that if storms delayed our landing, it would also delay planes departing. At touchdown our next flight still showed a departure in 20 minutes and we were 20 long gates away. I am out of shape. That it all I will say about that. The plane was in fact significantly delayed so we could have crab walked backwards - lesson learned. We once again had time to spare and then some.  Super smooth otherwise, and from landing in Calgary to being in the cab home was less than an hour. We did arrive after midnight, though, and I had work bright and early the next day! 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Alymer Lookout

 To my delight, and probably everyone else in the family's, I have found a women's hiking group. Much less nagging the family to come with me on hikes I'm not comfortable handling alone!   The first hike I did with this group is also the longest hike I have done in memory (possibly ever) - 24 km in one day. I thought it would be Ok because more than half the hike is mostly level, with a relatively sharp incline at the end to get to those amazing views. so this is the thing about hiking with a bunch of moms: (1) when we started inclining I was definitely the last in line, except for another women who I think just wanted to be sure I made it although she kept saying she was super slow; (2) when someone fell and gashed her knees, there were multiple choices of alcohol wipes, antibacterial ointment, and large Band-aids; (3) at lunch nearly everyone had carrot, cucumber and/or celery sticks. It was glorious. Everyone wanted to be there, everyone was having a great time. I did get blisters and learned that the kids' hiking shoes are really not meant for serious hiking. Also if I am going to continue hiking with these ladies then I will need a serious, decent pair of hiking boots. Given that I wear kids' sizes I am not hugely optimistic about finding what I need.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Elkwood Campground (aka Peter Lougheed camping #2)


Back during our first full summer when we were camping neophytes and made lots of mistakes, we spent a couple of nights in the Peter Lougheed area. There are multiple campgrounds and one we visited was Elkwood. Elkwood had actual showers (in one location for the entire campground), an ampitheatre that held concerts and park ranger informative talks, and a ton of bike trails. We swore we'd come back one day and thankfully, Schnerp.com let us do exactly that!

[side note: schnerp is a site that alerts users to cancelled reservations to their chosen campgrounds so they can try to snag the newly opened spot. The window is only open for 10 minutes and the first 2-3 times we tried someone else got the spot before us.]

We ended up never using the showers nor did we attend the concert but the campground was as nice as we had hoped. We arrived Friday after work and a fast food dinner, the nearly eternal summer daylight allowed us to still get the tent and gear all set up before s'mores and getting ready for bed. I was also thrilled and surprised to sleep as late as 7am and only woke a little cold in the night.

After a more or less leisurely breakfast we headed out to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge, which I would not say would be worth the trip from Calgary but being about 20 minutes from camp made a ton of sense. The bridge itself is cool, as a suspension bridge, but there isn't much else to it. The loop is only about 1km long, taking us up to and over the bridge, then looping into the forest before spitting us back out by the car.

I had heard quite a bit about renting kayaks and canoes from a nearby campground (our PL #3 if all goes well - next year) and wanted to check it out. Boulton Creek Campground has all the Elkwood does PLUS a general store, ice cream shop, and aforesaid rentals.  It's also where we buy the token to use for showers if we so indulged. We went for the ice cream and decided the watercraft rentals were a bit rich for our blood. It's a cool system though, you handle the paperwork for the rental and get the oars/lifevests at the shop, but the craft themselves are at the waterside about 10 minutes' drive away.  

Instead we decided to check out a different waterside day use area and had a great time there, although the kids would probably deny it now. We scrambled around the rocks, the kid got their feet wet (and their shoes, socks and to some extent pants/shorts) and we watched a bald eagle grab a fish out of the water, then - after its lunch - come hang out in a tree near us.  Upon return to the campground Terry and I took a little bike ride and caught some stunning mountain views as well as admiring the wildflowers beginning to poke their heads up.

Sunday morning there was rain in the forecast so after pancakes we got everything packed up in the cars and got ready to go. On the way home we stopped at several day use areas to check them out. I deeply regretted not pulling off at Grizzly Peak because the views were clear to the wall of mountains across the way.  At the Opal day use area there was an entire city of Columbian Ground Squirrels (exactly the small mammal I have been thinking are prairie dogs all these years and just learned this minute that I was wrong) scampering around worried about birds but paying us no mind. And many weren't all that concerned about the birds either, lounging fully stretched out on rocks or among the grass.  I could happily watch those adorable rodents all day but we did need to eventually get home. We discovered that there's trout fishing at Mt. Lorette Ponds and Terry happily scoped that out for future reference.  There's also a pulloff I noticed every time we were on Route 40 that has an old fashioned well and stairs beside it leading up into .... who knows what?  A couple of miles after I was sure I had just missed it Terry saw it and pulled off. It was a sweet a spot as I thought it would be, but the trail just led along the little creek and we didn't follow it very long.

Due to various logistics this is the only camping trip of summer 2022 and it was definitely one for the books!



Sunday, July 17, 2022

Stampede Pancake Breakfasts


Of course I had heard of Stampede before moving to Calgary. The rodeo thing, right? And when we moved here I heard a bit more about the pancake breakfasts. I heard about corporate sponsored ones, fancy with cocktails and invites being handed to clients and contacts.

During COVID the whole pancake breakfast thing took a hiatus, so this year was our first opportunities. I was a bit of a disbeliever - organizations just have this breakfast spread and anyone can just show up and eat the pancakes? Yes. Oh, yes.

While I was busy hiking mountains, Terry took the kids to a neighborhood breakfast at a new establishment we had been meaning to check out.  They were on the early side so although the pancakes were cooking, the band was not yet set up and the ponies for kiddie rides were just coming in. Apparently they were wearing cowboy hats. How disappointed am I that Terry took no pictures???

This morning we went to a nearby neighborhood for a church's pancake breakfast so I could see what this was all about.  This time we arrived about 15 minutes after it officially began and the line was down the street, the tables they had set up were full and they were setting up additional ones, the band was in full swing as was the petting zoo. These things are basically like block parties but better in just about every way! What an amazing thing for communities to do in a city.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Alpacas and gophers and rain, oh my!

 


Before we had ever arrived in Calgary we had heard about the Gopher Hole Museum and it was on our bucket list. Then COVID hit and we didn't really travel. It isn't open year round, either.

Last year friends went to Kirk's Alpaca Farm and had a blast. There's a little shop, picnic benches for lunch, and lots of little kid toys and games around. You can feed the alpacas and hang out with them in their pasture.

These two unique establishments are only 15 minutes away from each other!

You have to book a time with the alpacas because it gets really full. The operation has only been in business a few years and they say each year they are learning a lot, growing the business, and breeding new alpaca babies used to hanging out with humans. They advertised 22 babies and they were so cute!  There's two pastures, one with the moms and babies and one with the males. You get a baggie full of feed and can hang out with them quite a while. Some are happy munching the grasses and some greedily chomp down on handful after handful of feed. The babies were frolicking around. One mom and baby were resting and the mom started growling when I got a little too close. Many seemed unbothered by a little petting of their necks but were more interested in other things to hang around too long. They do have incredibly soft fur. 

We also enjoyed watching the prairie dogs scampering around. They were 100% not freaked out by us humans, with nary a panicked "cheep" to be heard. They were mostly running around, popping out of one hole and into the next. We caught one with a mouth stuffed with grasses - for what purpose we had no idea. 

Next up was the Gopher Hole Museum. Honestly, it was a lot smaller than I had expected - just one room. However, gophers are quite small and the diorama are stacked on top of each other so they fit a lot into the space. The dioramas are quite detailed and pretty humorous. 




Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Hiking season

Between Terry's broken ankle and wanting to spend every free moment skiing during winter, we have not been hiking. Although some trails are still closed for avalanche risk, there are still plenty of amazing hikes in the Rocky mountains that in our three years we have not yet done.

On Juneteenth when we didn't have work we thought we were in the clear to hike Lake Agnes. It was a school day/work day and I had been asking around in some of the hiking groups I'm in online and folks said they weren't having problems finding parking during the week. Hm.

Arrived at the parking lot at 10am and it was firmly closed. So we went back to the Lake Louise info center to regroup. After a conversation with one of the park guides and some more conferring, we decided on Moose Meadow to Ink Pots. 

It was nearly deserted until we hit where the trail merged with the path from Johnston Canyon to the Ink Pots. Lots of mosquitoes, some wildflowers getting an early start, and a lovely walk through the woods. The Ink Pots were worth the trip. We also discovered a lovely river just beyond, and the mountains of course behind it all, making a ridiculously beautiful spot to stop and eat lunch before adventuring on.

Btw, the Lake Louise parking lot fills by 8am even on a weekday, and Lake Morraine by 6am!!!

For the next week, we had seen a photo of Peyto Lake looking particularly deep blue and given that we'd never seen it yet (the overlook had been closed for most of our time in Canada) decided that would be the destination. The view did not disappoint. However, as the lookout is only about 1km from the parking lot we knew we needed a bit more for a hiking adventure.

So we hiked through the snow (!?!? no joke) across a ridge to another viewpoint that overlooked Bow Lake and some different mountains. The snow was very slippery and slushy so Terry's ankle began bothering him before we got to the farthest point on the trail; however we saw enough to know we wanted to come back later in the summer when more had melted and make it all the way through to the end.  The prairie dogs were abundant - a few were so big and fat I thought they were a different animal - and it was as always fun watching then scamper about.  

The wildlife highlight, however, came on our return trip.  This marmot popped out of her (his? I'm going to assume this was a mama with babies inside who wanted to keep an eye on the giants happening by) hole. At first she just popped out, checked us out and dived back in. But then she got curious and took a longer look. This was when she assumed the classic "senior year photo pose" and let us photo her from various angles.  A small group came by and she again dove back into the hole, and returned moments later to check them out.  We must have hung out with her for at least five minutes (a long time, wildlife-wise) and it was with regret we said goodbye and finished the hike.

 


Sunday, July 3, 2022

Canada Day

 


This has been an unusual year. The snow isn't melting as fast as usual, many hiking trails and campgrounds that would normally be open are still closed. Lots more bears around because the continued snow at higher elevations means they need to come farther downhill to find food. And, for the first time since 1991, Sunshine Village was open for skiing.

It was only one lift operating (Strawberry Express), and off that lift only two runs. The line snaked far up the end of the hill although I timed the wait and it was only 15 minutes. We had decided not to schlepp our poles up the hill because we were already carrying a bunch of stuff and it turns out we do use the poles more than just as a mental safety blanket. At one point it started to rain as we got on the chairlift and midway we moved into bluer skies and the rain fell away. The rain. While we were skiing. On July 1.

We arrived later in the day because (1) I had meetings I couldn't miss in the morning because this wasn't a US holiday so we didn't get out the door until after 10:30am and (2) there was a car crash that mandated a rerouting so it took an extra half hour to get there. All this to say that by the time we had done two runs we were very hungry for lunch and were comfortable calling it a (ski) day.

After the nourishment it was time to change out of our ski boots and into the hiking boots. Because the lift next to Strawberry (Standish) was open for sightseeing; i.e. the hiking trails weren't open but there was a half mile walk to a viewing platform with truly stunning views.  I gotta say - it was cold. Like, I was not wearing nearly enough and I kept rubbing my ears to warm them up cold. So we didn't stay too long.  With that view, though, we definitely want to return when more has melted, the wildflowers are around, and we can actually hike.  Oh, and the viewing platform was in British Columbia.

Quite an adventure for one day!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Sisters

I am completely enamored of our most recent additions to the family. They definitely keep me on my toes, especially Kiki, who comes to me chirping and squeaking (these are not meow-ing cats) like she needs something but she does not want anything. Not food, water, a litterbox cleaning, playing nor petting. Just wants my attention.

They came to us very skittish, to be expected. Especially Ficker, who spent her first week with us in the wall. She did come out to eat and use the litterbox, after everyone had gone to bed. As they become more comfortable some real personalities are starting to shine through.  I don't know how much is becoming more comfortable with our family and how much is that they are now the only two cats in the house - they were fostered from earliest kitten-hood by a family that already had three adult cats.

Kiki is much slimmer than Flicker, and she's always on the move. I think she actually eats more. Flicker definitely prefers to "preserve her energy."

Today's cute-ness: they were intermixed on the office chair we have been meaning to trash, grooming each other, and then on a dime started fighting. One cat got pushed off the chair. Just like human siblings!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

If you don't like the weather just wait 10 minutes

We bought cozy patio furniture on Saturday. I curled up on a loveseat to read on Sunday. Later we built our first fire of the season, roasted the first marshmallows/made the first s'mores of the season. 

Then, overnight, this:



Saturday, May 7, 2022

Getting outdoor hours

I am trying the 1000 hours outside challenge this year. Given the way the first part of the year has gone, I think I will be happy to reach 500 hours by new year.  However, my mother's day present to myself and my family means that more time out of the house just may be quite a bit more feasible.


Yes, this is a new (to us) patio set. The chairs around the table are significantly more comfortable than the set we previously had so outdoor dining just became more likely. AND there are two loveseats perfect for lounging on while reading - one for me and one for Alex. PLUS two small coffee tables just right for holding nice cold drinks to stay hydrated in the summer heat.

Just need this to not be the next "most wildfires ever recorded" year so we can breathe the outdoor air.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Catching up

 Since the last post, way back in January ... 

  • We've skied. Literally every weekend since January 8 at least one member of the family skied for at least one day. Terry ended up going for the 10 weeks of lessons, and when that ended I started the 4 week spring ski lesson course. Sadly, tomorrow is my last lesson and given how melt-y everything is getting, likely our last time on the slopes until next season. I know most slopes have been closed a month already, but it is a little sad to us. I guess we go back to hiking.
  • We have two new additions to the household: Nikita and Flicker (née Harlow, but nobody liked that name and Flicker suits her). We had been talking about getting cats since before we went to Germany and it was beyond time.
  • Alex is prepping for high school. In Canada high school starts in 10th grade. She applied to, and was accepted at, a charter school that we expect will give her the support and challenge that has been missing in middle school.
  • Terry's been prepping for gardening season. We have a bunch of little baby plants under lights waiting for the right time. Which, in Canada, is way past Mother's Day (normal planting time in PA).
  • I had a short work trip to Dushanbe, Tajikistan!  For three days! 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Maple syrup taffy

 Friday's adventure: maple syrup taffy

All it takes is some boiled syrup (to 235-245F) and snow. Check and check.

In one set of instructions I found online the writer mentioned that candy thermometers are notoriously inaccurate so she uses three simultaneously. Given what happened with our attempt, I'd say she was probably right. By the time the syrup hit the right temp the consistency was definitely off. Several recipes mentioned letting the syrup cool for up to 5 minutes before pouring but this was already hardening.  We did get a few crunchy, hard candy clumps before Terry tried to salvage what was  there by adding water and boiling down again. That gave us somewhat creamy, sweet snow. Definitely not what we were after.

So, we will try again.

And try again we did. That was Saturday's adventure. I took the boiling maple syrup off the burner when it was only about 225 degrees. That created the kind of thick, sticky, taffy consistency that could pull out a filling.

So I guess we need a third try, for that perfect Goldilocks of chewiness.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Happy birthday to me!

 ... a few days late.  This year was a pretty good one. It started with chocolate chip waffles and Alex' card. The card included a secret code I had to crack to find the batches of cookies she made just for me.

 

  We tried to make maple syrup taffy, which failed miserably. We watched a movie together, Terry made my five hour duck (delicious as always, and the source of a year's worth of duck fat), and after dinner we had a brief jaunt to Confederation Park to check out the light displays and do a little sledding. 

The kids' s'mores cake was fantastic, although the marshmallow frosting melted into the cake a bit.  The kids gave me what I always ask for (but don't always get) - a whole day without fighting. I *may* have napped between 10-11pm but did get up in time to watch the fireworks on TV. We could see a tiny bit of the highest fireworks from the front steps but that wasn't reason enough to stand outside in the -20 chill.