18 for 18: Ice Castles

VZELE9839

I am crossing the first item off the list – I went to visit Edmonton’s Ice Castles. Full disclosure, I received tickets from a friend so I did receive a free entry. Honestly, I am not altogether sure I would have paid to enter. $16.95 for Adults, it really doesn’t look all that special on the outside. I did go with an open mind. As I moved closer, it became more spectacular.

VHXJE2496

I timed my visit so I could hit the magic hour of sunset. 5:00 pm on the day we went. I wanted to capture photos before and after so I could catch the different light. I am glad I did.

GZUNE7787

Different coloured flood lights(?) LED lights (?), I am unsure of the tech, were lighting up the icicles. The time of day made for a very flat light and it was hard to see definition out in the open. As we explored caves and walkways the detail showed itself to be amazing.

RWFLE8826

I took time to speak to one of the staff about how they created this giant ice castle. He explained they grew the icicles by running the water then moving the small icicle to where it was supposed to go, then they built upon that by adding more water. The amount of water needed for this was staggering. I am not going to lie, it does concern me.

Environmental concerns aside, I let myself be swept up in the beauty of the art installation.   We wandered through the tunnels and found the fireplace in the centre of the castle.

IMG_8643

Soot was clinging to the ice and the hearth was melting but it was so cold -25C so the warmth was welcome. I didn’t dress nearly warm enough, I needed 2 leg layers but only had one. I had forgotten how much I love the smell of a wood fire. It was heavenly!

We kept meandering around and located the fountain room. This was beautiful.

KVFUE3262

As the night became darker the greens and pinks from the lights became more dominant.

FBEHE4876

We left to search for the slides, only one was finished when we went through.

NEACE3229

The line was long and I didn’t think my rear end needed to sit on ice. Maybe if I had worn my snow plants, but I passed on that opportunity. You would think Canadians would not find ice so novel, but we did! To the left, we found a throne and I quickly snapped a photo before the next couple sat down. Again, there were massive lines.

ODWPE4071

Not interested in sitting on ice, I did that plenty when I worked as a ski lift operator, or ‘lifty’. I remember it well and I have no desire to relive that, but LOOKing at it was so beautiful. I was very happy I decided to go and experience the beauty of the ice.

IMG_8696

Sunset was happening by this time. I looked up and there was the moon. Cold, crisp and beautiful.

BUT SO MANY PEOPLE! I would wait a long time for a shot clear of people.

IMG_8669

I would shoot up or close, fewer people in the frame.

We spent about 45 minutes and saw everything at least twice. There was a lot of waiting while parents were pulling their children through the tiny spots. People were polite and took turns with the exception of a few who knocked my camera over while pushing their way ahead of me. For a crowd this size, I was honestly surprised at the amount kind and considerate people there.

For the most part I found this to be a worthwhile experience. I do realize many families could not afford to participate in this activity but there are other free and beautiful things to do during Edmonton’s WInter. (Honourable mention to Victoria’s Skating Oval. The lights there are also beautiful and its free) Yet Ice Castles is an instagram photographer’s dream.

For times visit the website for more information.

 

Advertisements

18 for ’18

 

 

CLQGE3615
Lethbridge overlooking the Oldman River

 

I have been scouring the podcast world for new and meaningful content, well, meaningful for me. I spend a lot of time on the road lately and use podcasts as a way to spend my time. On my way home from Lethbridge, Alberta, I was listening to SuperSoul Sunday. SuperSoul is my church. I spend Sunday mornings listening to thought leaders and their perspective on things. On this particular episode, Gretchen Rubin was a guest and was talking about finding joy in little things. This is something I have been intentional about. So I listened just a little bit harder. I am always looking for easy things to do that will increase my joy. For example, when someone asks me how I am, I used to say the truth. More often than not I would get trapped in a spiral of dark depressing feelings. I now say, “I am great!” or some other positive adjective whether I am or not. I did this as an experiment.  I found when I said great and smiled, I did feel a little bit great or happy or whatever adjective I used. The more I said it, the truer it became. I also decided to say affirmations before bed. I always say “I am happy” along with a few other ones. Every time I say to myself “I am happy’ I  smile involuntarily. Going to sleep happy made me wake up happy. Not happy…more like joyful. It is a far better way to start the day than dreading the rest of it.

I digress…

So back to the podcast. I looked up Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast. She co-hosts it with her sister Elizabeth Craft. I discovered Liz Craft is my Spirit Animal. She gets me on another level. This led to Liz Craft hosting another podcast called Happier in Hollywood with her writing partner Sarah Fain. Again, these are my people! Regular moms who work and aim for happier outlooks in a world that is more dark and depressed than ever. Liz and Sarah introduced me to By the Book. If you do nothing else this year but listen to this podcast, it is worth it. They read a self-help book and follow it for two weeks. It is inciteful and hilarious. You’re welcome. So Oprah led me to 3 new (to me) podcasts and that gives me hours of joyful listening on the road. YAY!

One listener on Happier decided to do a list for 2018 of things she wanted to do. It was called 18 for 18. On this list of non-resolution type things were clean out the junk drawer, hike once a month. Try the new cafe. All things that people say they want to do but never get around to it. She posted the list in her bathroom where she sees it every day. When she feels down, she does something on the list then crosses it off. A simple way to create happiness in her life. It is now a thing or movement, the community is doing it.

I LOVE LISTS! I especially find crossing things off my list super satisfying. I pulled out my Bullet Journal – best moment of my life was finding about this type of journaling, okay so I exaggerate, but it has revolutionalized my work projects and achieved my goal of becoming less tied to technology. I am the type of person who goes big. So I created two lists, an 18 for me filled with new recipes I want to try, little declutter projects and classes I want to take, as well as some private items that I have been meaning to do. The other list is for my Edmonton Tourist Project.

I have been struggling with what is left for the tourist to explore. I had visited all the River Valley Parks in Edmonton – except one. I have been to all the festivals at least once and some I plan to never repeat. I found my favourite cup of coffee – shout out to Mandolin! I know where I love to eat breakfast most often but there are little things I still want to explore. I get lots of recommendations that I should try from you guys and from other friends whose opinion I value. This leaves lots of things to do the Edmonton!

numero-18

I made the list. The rules for my 18 in 18: Edmonton Tourist are simple. Do something on the list, blog about it then cross it off. Deadline is December 31, 2018.

  1. Visit Ice Castles √
  2. Have brunch at Café Linnea
  3. Wine Tasting – ambiguous but there are lots of places to try it including the big Wine Expo.
  4. Have brunch at the Workshop Eatery
  5. Visit Muttart Conservatory’s Adult Night
  6. Go to the last park on my list Hermitage Park
  7. Explore MacKinnon Ravine
  8. Explore MacKenzie Ravine
  9. Walk from Fort Edmonton Bridge to Terwillegar Bridge (it’s about a 5k walk)
  10. Go to a board game café like Table Top or something similar
  11. Have Brunch at Rockin Robyn’s Diner
  12. Try Geocaching
  13. Visit 3 small towns in the Edmonton Area and see what they have to offer(bonus points if I find a farmer’s market!)
  14. Visit the Royal Alberta Museum (when it finally opens)
  15. Go to the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter
  16. Visit the St. Albert Farmer’s Market
  17. Visit the Callingwood Farmer’s Market
  18. Visit the Millwoods Farmer’s Market

I will be visiting this page from time to time to cross things off the list and link to the blog post. It should be a fun year!

THE EDMONTON TOURIST’S PRAIRIE ADVENTURE PART 2: Lethbridge

Part 1 

Road trips have become my most favourite way to travel. I love getting to the destination but exploring on the way is part of the fun for me. I never used to be this way. I preferred to get there in a hurry, so I didn’t waste any vacation days. I never saw the trip as part of the vacation. Now I do, and some of my most memorable adventures happened unplanned and by accident. That is how I saw Vimy Ridge, we tripped over it, so we went to see it. It was the single most amazing place I have ever visited. All because we accidentallyVimy drove by.

 

Having never been to this part of the province, I was eager to see new things. To the south of us, we saw a massive rock. I assumed it was a mountain but it was not anywhere near the Rocky Mountain Range. We were perplexed. Turns out it was a butte in Montana. MONTANA! It was 100km away from where we were. I had no idea you could see that far in the distance. I often joked we could see dolphins jumping in the Gulf of Mexico because it was so flat, but knew it wasn’t possible. I saw Montana from the vantage point of Taber Alberta. Cool.

Rolling into Lethbridge we went to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Closed for the season but I peeked over the fence.

While looking through the fence, I thought about my Grandfather. During World War II he was here guarding prisoners of war, Japanese, Germans and Italians. I thought about the internment camps located here and in Medicine Hat. I didn’t research to see if there was anything left, but I did find this information when I came home. I am surprised to see the stories my grandfather told me are in line with what I read. If you knew my Grandpa’s gift for storytelling, you would also be surprised they match!

We left the gardens and made our way to Indian War Park at Fort Woop-Up. It has been years since I have heard First Nations People be referred to Indians. It left me feeling cold.

However, the park is wonderful! It is located in the coulees on the shores of Oldman River. The Lethbridge Viaduct was built by Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR steel trestle is 5,331 ft. (1,624 m) long; 314′ (95.7 m) high; 12 trains a day still cross it.

IMG_8544

IMG_8538

After leaving Indian War Park I had a little time left to visit Popson Park. It is a beautiful spot along the coulees and Oldman River located to the south of Lethbridge.

CLQGE3615

Sunset over the prairies at 4:00 pm in the middle of January. We saw a Pheasant and his hens take off across from these two beauties:

DFOQE5362

They watched us carefully and didn’t move. We stared at each other for a few minutes before I moved on.

The prairies are a beautiful place for a short visit. I recommend taking the time to stop and look before you drive on through to your destination.

 

The Edmonton Tourist’s Prairie Adventure Part 1: Medicine Hat

When I was a kid, my parents packed up my siblings and me for a road trip across the Canadian Prairies: Destination Washington DC. We drove across Canada to Toronto, Hamilton and Niagra Falls, then south to DC for the United States of America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976.

I was 9, and I remember Arlington Cemetary, the White House, the Liberty Bell was in DC for the celebration, all the fire hydrants were painted like Uncle Sam (I always thought Uncle Sam was Sam the Eagle from the Muppets), and the Lincoln Monument. I remember the traffic of DC, New York and Chicago. I remember the spray of the Niagra Falls, eating fish and chips at Hutches on the beach of Lake Ontario. I remember understanding the vastness of Lake Superior. The Canadian shield brought back memories of living in Yellowknife, NWT and I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The trip from Edmonton to Winnipeg was flat and what I called boring. Nothing to see except count the red barns that grandpa asked me to. For every red barn I saw, I would get 10 cents, paid in full upon my return. I think I saw 15.

I remember endless fields of grain and blue sky.

Nothing to look at because I liked looking at mountains. I’d rather travel west than east. I knew for certain the Rocky Mountains were the best in the world because I had witnessed it for myself.

Experience and perspective change a person.

I know understand that The Rocky Mountains are not trying to be the Cascade Mountains. Neither is better or worse. They are the best version of themselves.

The Canadian Prairies are not trying to be mountains. Prairies are flat and treeless. They are the birthplace of grain and other farm-grown goodness. They are the birthplace of endless sunsets and wide open sky that can be bluer than any other sky or filled with a billion stars and showcase the Aurora Borealis.

It took me a long time to stop being competitive with other places and love everything for what it is.

I now have a job where I get to travel to the southern parts of Alberta. Places I had not been before. I didn’t stock up on things to distract me from the drive, I made an effort to appreciate the scenery for what it was.

I drive to Calgary on a frequent basis,  medical reasons for family, for job-related trips and for a vacation side stop on my way to Banff. I always turn right. Last Friday I turned left for the first time in all my 50 years. I hopped on the Stony bypass and followed the signs to Medicine Hat, Alberta. The weather was crazy, +6C in Calgary and -13 in Brooks, an inversion layer made me think the sky was falling. The blue sky was endless and the fields were dotted with oil pumpjacks. Alberta is Oil Country after all. IMG_8467

Trees are a scarcity where you find farmland and sometimes its hard to see where the land ends and the sky begins.

PUHUE9402

After work, I did some exploring and discovered the coulees lurking below the flats. They pour into the South Saskatchewan River. In Edmonton, we call it the valley, here it is the Coulees.

IMG_8486

Down in the coulees, you find trees and scrub. Beautiful too but all so different from what I experienced before.

IMG_8488

I was searching for the World’s largest Teepee. The Saamis Teepee was originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Designer Steve Illes had the teepee painted “white for purity, red for the rising and setting sun, and blue for flowing waters”. It stood in Calgary’s McMahon Stadium, where it housed the Olympic Flame during the opening and closing ceremonies

IMG_8489

It was perched high above the river on the flats beside the Trans Canada Hwy.

UDEQE2215

The wind was brutal and bit into my face. But I walked, read and learned about the plains people. Soon after we were back on the road heading west for Lethbridge. I am surprised I could not see how beautiful the prairies are when I was a kid. I am happy I can see it now. Next week I will post part 2 of my prairie adventure.

IMG_8520

Discovery

Parks Canada celebrated 2017 and Canada’s 150 birthday celebrations by issuing everyone who wanted one a Discovery Pass. This let everyone enter Canada’s National Parks free of charge. I have no idea what it ultimately charged the taxpayers but I happily partook in the offer, thanks, Justin!

I visited 4 National Parks this year.

Jasper National Park

IMG_E6843

Pacific Rim National Reserve

IMG_1261

Banff National Park

IMG_E7968

Elk Island National Park

IMG_E7051

I appreciate how these spaces are preserved and protected. I saw all types of wildlife, black bears, coyotes, bald eagle, red tail hawks, grey wolf footprints, harbour seals, sea stars, molluscs, dolphins, porpoises, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bison, deer, fox, elk and numerous squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, geese and songbirds. Yesterday was the last day of the year to use my park pass, so I packed up my pal Captain and we made our way to the closest National Park from my home, Elk Island.

It has been bitterly cold here as with the rest of North America. The temperatures were hovering around the -30C mark with winds dropping the windchill into the low -30 or high -40 range. The type of cold that freezes your nose shut and pinches your face. Happily, the cold is about over and plus temps are on the horizon!

I drove to Astotin Lake to watch the sunset at 4:30pm. Cap and I walked across the frozen beach and he would pause to lift his paws. It was too cold for him.

WKTOE0526

We looked at the sunset and then braved the easterly winds back to the car.

ODRDE0343

I then drove to the Bison Paddock hoping to catch a glimpse of a bison or two. We saw about 10 females with their calves as we drove down hwy 16 towards the park. Obviously, we didn’t stop on the icy roads to take a pic, but we were rewarded with seeing a lone fellow munching on the frozen grass.  But first, we had to turn right following the loop.

The first stop was the famous red chairs. They had been turned around facing west this time. Normally they overlook the meadow to the east.

JQLOE4658

Perfect for viewing the sunset but too cold to sit in the chairs. I have yet to stop to sit, maybe next time. Behind the chairs, the full moon was rising. It was spectacular in the pink sky.

IMG_8444

My face and fingers were frozen by this time, so I jumped back into the warmth of my car and continued around the loop. To my amazement, this guy was still there snacking on some exposed grass.

BRJWE1035

Sunsets on the prairies are beautiful and the colours seem to be brighter in the fidged temperatures.

I watched him for a while before heading home.

Receiving and using the Discovery Passes were a great gift. I suspect the purpose of the free passes was to reignite the passion Canadians feel for their country, especially with the drama that is happening around the rest of the world. I think the point is want to have a pass for 2018, it was a subtle marketing ploy that I think I have bought into. I still want to explore Tawayik Lake with The Captain, there are other parts of Elk Island I have not seen and I also want to get to Waterton Lakes National Park this year. If everything goes as planned, I will make it back to Pacific Rim and head east to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and really explore what it has to offer.

Let me know your favourite Canadian National Park so I can put it on my list.

2017: The Epic 50th Year

If you sat me down a year ago and asked me where I thought I might be December 29, 2017, I would not have guessed this. I think that is the biggest takeaway from this year is not knowing what is around the corner is normal and can have wonderful surprises.

I felt the sting of betrayal, the exhaustion of health issues, the joy of appreciation, the pride of ability and the excitement of exploration.

IMG_E7454

2017 had me exploring more of my surroundings that I had not seen before. I crossed the new bridge in Terwillegar, tasted some of the best coffee in the city, saw a sea star clinging to rocks in the ocean, visited 4 National Parks, started a new job, had meaningful and grownup conversations with my brother, was visited by death,  read the most exquisite words and dumped the worst books that I could not get through. I learned that success is not a dollar value or a title and now I feel sad for people who do. I learned fighting for victims is possibly the most important work I do. (my children and I have talked about the world and where it is headed. History is a great learning lesson and we are doomed to repeat it. I said, “I am the kind of person who will hide people to keep them safe”. They both responded with, “so are we.” I felt great pride know their values are set.)

img_6559

I learned spending free time on things I don’t like is wasting my life. If I read a book that is terrible, I close it. If I taste something not worth the calories, I don’t finish it. I don’t hug people I don’t like. I make an effort to spend time with people who mean something to me. I take 30 minutes each day for meditation, it is more important than work. Work in a place that aligns with your values, it is not my life but I spend a lot of time there so having it fit with me is important. Loyalty is precious, don’t abuse it and only give where deserved.

IMG_E7566

I gave up things that no longer matter or bring me joy, the NHL was the first to go. I still do not drink pop of any kind and gave up aspartame 31 months ago and all carbonated beverages are going. That includes beer so it is leaving my pallet this year. Participating in events that I dread or resent, not going to happen this year.

I learned it is okay to let goals go. I worked with a young gal (Emily) who had a long time life goal of becoming a doctor. One day she realized he had everything she wanted and being a Doctor was not part of her story any longer. She had the courage to say, its okay to let that goal go. She picked a new one and changed her life. We celebrated by taking a lovely walk in Mill Creek. I admire her and have learned more from her than most people in my life. She is a beautiful human. I cry just thinking about how powerful her belief in herself is. I made big changes because I was inspired by her, Thank you Emily <3.

I achieved every goal I set out for myself in 2017:

I meditated every day. As of today, I have meditated 383 consecutive days for a total of 170 hours and 52 minutes. I credit this to be the single most important thing I did for myself and it brought significant change. Sitting with yourself in silence for 30 minutes every day is the best gift you can give yourself.

  • I am calmer
  • I let go of things that are not important
  • I can see what is important and meaningful to me
  • I smile more
  • Things (purchased items) no longer have meaning
  • I appreciate people are doing the best they can with the knowledge and tools they have

I set a goal to read 35 books, I read 43 and likely will have read 44 by New Year’s Eve.

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 12.33.38 PM.png

The best book I read this year was by Elizabeth Strout, Anything is Possible. My favorite book of all time is My name is Lucy Barton by the same author. Lucy visits Anything is Possible and it was like catching up with an old friend. It is my favorite for personal reasons and how it made me feel when I could relate to the story.

I did something epic for my 50th Birthday. I had intended to visit New York City. It was a long time goal but circumstances had me changing my mind. Instead, I went to Tofino and it was the best vacation I have had in 50 years. I consider myself to be well traveled. This vacation was valuable.

IMG_E7295

I went on as many adventures with my pal Captain as I could. As my health improves, I suspect we will go on even greater adventures together. I hope to bring him to Vancouver in the spring so he can visit the ocean and bark at harbor seals.

I fought for friendship and let other friends go. This falls into the “I know what is important” category. I chose kindness and learned fun can also be kind.

I supported my children unconditionally. I refuse to squash my children’s dreams. I will not warn them of peril or talk them into doing something they will hate. When they say to me, “I want to do/try/experience…” I say okay. I ask what their plan is and then I ask if they need help from me. I am watching them become amazing humans and living the life I wish I had the courage to live at their age. Happily, I have that courage now.

I made epic mistakes too. I asked for advice when I wasn’t ready to hear it. Actually, I thought I would get positive and uplifting support. I didn’t. It pushed me back into darkness. I am working on getting that sparkle back. I did learn who I can trust and who I need to hold at arm’s length.

I learned family is pretty damn important. But not all family are your people. Family can mean friends too. My parents and my children are my people. I have 7 friends who are my people. You know who you are, if you are thinking” am I her people?” you probably are if I eat breakfast with you, drink wine/coffee with you or talk/text to you on the phone.

So what will 2018 bring? I have no idea. I have decided to just let things happen and be the observer of my life. I will not manipulate circumstance to make things the way I think I should have them. I have set goals because I do not want to be a sloth, life doesn’t happen by sitting on the sofa, adventure is out there!

2018 Goals:

  1. Meditate for 30 minutes daily.
    • I created a nice little spot in my room to help with consistency. I journal about it on a blog I have created. It helps me see the progress/change I am experiencing. If you are interested in following it, contact me and I can give you the address or FB page. I am keeping trolls out.
  2. Write daily.
    • As with any practice, a daily occurrence is important. I will either blog/journal or work on my book.
  3. Protect Privacy.
    • Trolls feed on personal knowledge. I am sharing my privacy with important people.
  4. Be kind
    • I will ask myself every night as I review my day, “Where could I have done better?” Did I say something that was unkind? Could I have helped someone? We don’t get better without self-reflection, this will be my learnings.

I have 3 more goals that I will keep private – as part of #3’s goal. This makes me feel empowered.

I hope you also had a wonderful 2017 and learned many new things. Here is to continuing my epic 50th year and embracing the learnings that come with it.

Happy New Year my loyal readers!

IMG_5813

Edmonton Tourist: The Science Behind Pixar

img_8337.jpg

Anyone who knows me well has a sense that I am an animation fan, specifically, a Disney/Pixar fan. I spent hours in my youth drawing and creating. I had originally wanted to be a Disney Clean-up Artist. A Clean-Up Artist removes all the extra lines to reveal a polished image. It is more creative than you think and much more involved than having an eraser,

IMG_8374
You know its Woody and Buzz, but the Clean-Up hasn’t happened yet. 

For reasons that coincide with what I refer to as the Dark Times, I didn’t get out of Edmonton, never mind finding my way to Los Angeles. However, that didn’t change how I felt about the artistry of animation. The level of detail is always what pulled me in. From my first moment on Main Street in Disneyland to searching for Easter Eggs hidden in movies, I enjoy all of it. So when my son came home back in November and said, “We just saw The Science of Pixar at Telus World of Science (TWOS). I think you will love it.”

 

He was not wrong.

I had planned to go to Bon Ton Bakery with every other Edmontonian on Saturday. TWOS is down the street, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to go! Bon Ton had a line outside in the dark waiting to get in, happily, I arrived at 9:03 am after the doors opened but the wait was going to be about 30 minutes.

 

IMG_8334
I enjoy the politeness and the information of this sign. Thank you TWOS for having a cheeky sign I can relate to.

 

Baked goods in hand, I left for TWOS and decided I would not go see it if there were a million kids, I would plan on going on the Adult Only night. I wanted to be able to take my time and thoroughly experience it. I can’t do that when I am letting kids try stuff.

We walked into the foyer and we were the only people there. The place was empty. The first day of Christmas break and the building was full of staff and a handful of visitors.

The cost was $30 per person (ish- it was actually a little less) The recommend 1.5 hours to go through the exhibit. I agree. To fully experience it, you need to watch all the videos and try out the interactive parts. I found this fascinating.

The first part was the introduction video. It had a cameo of John Lasseter, I am not going to lie, his shenanigans have left a dark mark for me on Pixar. But his abuse of power does not negate his creative brilliance. Then I think, there are other brilliant people in this world and maybe it is their time to shine. At any rate, I entered with mix feelings.

The exhibit has the following steps of an animated CG film:

  • Modeling
  • Rigging
  • Surfaces
  • Sets & Cameras
  • Animation
  • Simulation
  • Lighting
  • Rendering

I participated and at every section and watched every video interaction. I was blown away by the level of detail that goes into each frame.

Modeling was the least interesting for me yet it was fascinating at the same time!

It takes place after the storyboards and character development. The clay models are used to scan and get the image into the computer program so it can be animated.

Rigging was next, this step gives movement to that character, it makes all the parts move, from facial expressions to limbs moving.

IMG_8338

Surfaces add texture, it makes McQueen shiny and Mator rusty, Skully furry and Mike smooth. Such an involved process!

Sets and Cameras, where to put the camera determines the look of the set. This was facinating. IMG_8357

Animation, I basically learned it is all stop motion on a very advanced level. I gave it a try with the Pixar lamp and learned I do not have the patience for 26+ movements per second. I took a video of it and the lamp moved in a choppy motion. Although to be fair, I didn’t have the time to really do it justice,  it was super finicky.

The Simulation was all physics. Trying to get curly hair or fur to move the way it does, in reality, was a series of equations that simulated springs. Thinking about how to achieve the end result. Problem-solving at its finest!

Lighting was cool, I played with sets and sun levels, turning on and off interior lights. possibilities were endless…

IMG_8355

Rendering blew my mind away. It basically is a mathematical equation for colouring each pixel. The guy based his math on the hydrogen bomb equation and won an Oscar for it.

This exhibit gave me my Disney fix. I hadn’t been since January 2016 and it doesn’t look like I am going anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I am not fascinated by it all. I enjoyed wandering around and looking at the artist’s renditions. People are crazy talented and I  admire their ability.

Is it for kids? Sure kids will find it fun, but it isn’t a playroom. there are buttons to push and characters they will recognize. I think kids over 8 will get more out of it but the science and math involved will be out of range.

If you are an animation fan, Pixar or Disney fan, then this is a must-see when it gets to your neighborhood. Right now it is touring in Edmonton until January 7th and is also at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. It was developed by the Boston Museum of Science and Pixar. When it comes to your city, go see it!

Tradition

I grew up with December steeped in tradition. We celebrated Christmas hardcore. The Christmas Tree went up the first Sunday in December or as soon as Dad agreed. Christmas Carols began playing on Saturday mornings as background music to house cleaning as soon as the first snow arrived. This could have been September or it could have been November. First Snow meant Christmas music. First snow in Edmonton meant early fall. We had a Christmas party every year and Santa always came. I knew it was one of my grandfathers but still…he came every year.Christmas Eve lunch with one set of grandparents. Chinese food with the other grandparents on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning brunch with my parents and Christmas dinner with my grandma. Every year the dependable comfort of traditional events happened. I loved all of it.

I no longer want to do many of these things and have established my own traditions that focus more on my little family. I prefer simplicity. But one tradition I have kept from my childhood that I look forward to every year is gathering up the family and exploring the city to look at Christmas lights.

I find fewer people decorate their homes or actually, there are more diverse people living in my neighborhood who don’t celebrate Christmas so not every house has lights. (My neighborhood during Diwali is magnificent though!). People are still decorating at Christmas, just not close by. But looking at lights still remains my favorite tradition of my childhood, that and Scottish Shortbread.

My family packed themselves into the car along with my pal Captain, and we went out in search of Christmas Lights. Often we plan to walk through decorated neighborhoods and this year with the mild temperatures would have been perfect. But I am not at my best healthwise so we turned on the seat warmer and rolled the window down to enjoy the weather and lights.

Our first stop was Castrol Raceway. I have no idea if this was the first year for this or it is an annual tradition that I had not heard of, either way, this was fantastic. $25 a carload ($50 for Limo and $125 for a bus). We drove out near the airport and had plenty to look at.

 

Then we traveled to Candy Cane Lane, it is nice but not as spectacular as in Christmas Past.

 

Traditionally we traveled to the Downtown core to look at the old museum grounds, Legislative grounds and City Hall. No Tree this year at Winston Churchill Square because of the construction but the Ledge was beautiful.

But the best was saved for last. Christmas at Bobs was spectacular. Give this website a visit to learn more about it and his wish for you to pay it forward. It is interactive and fun. My girl posed in front of the Angel Wings, and then my pal Cap needed to pose as well. It was hilarious and beautiful. I recommend giving this place a visit and then go do something nice for someone else.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope its special this year. But from my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

The Red Chair Project

It happened.

I turned 50.

I had great expectations for turning 50 but I couldn’t name any of them. It was vague but it was going to be great.

I took my birthday off. It was in the middle of a hectic week at work and my thoughts were filled with shoulds. As in ‘you should do this…’  Only I didn’t do that.  Listening to Love, Sex and Money podcast with Anna Sale, I heard Ellen Bernstein call those kinds of days ‘Shouldless Days’. I took her advice and gave myself a great gift. August 16th became the Shouldless Day.

I had spent the last 9 months in a daily meditation practice and it changed my perspective and showed me what was important. Worrying about work was not one of those things. So in the busiest season, the busiest week, I took my birthday off.

Best thing I ever did.

Here are the Coles notes from that day:

  • I took myself out for breakfast
  • went for a walk with my pal The Captain
  • I received a special birthday gift from my grandfather
  • I received a life-changing email
  • I went out for dinner
  • I cried from happiness

It was an epic birthday. I declared my 50th year to be the year of Epic Adventure.

Canada celebrated its 150th year as well….ok I am not getting into the ins and outs of colonization or the political reasons etc, but for better or worse, it turned 150. With that, Parks Canada celebrated by opening up all the national parks with a free park pass. I thought this would be a great way to spend my 50th year, I would visit National Parks. I live fairly close to 2 parks and not far from 2 more. I could make an effort to visit these… but money was really tight. Finding a way to visit those distant parks was going to be expensive.

 

IMG_E7295
City Hall Edmonton

 

I decided not to worry about the how I was going to do it, but focus on the intention of going. I wanted value from my park passes so I made an effort to visit Elk Island National park. It is only 30km away from me. Cap and I could make the trip, explore a little bit and go a few times this year. Done. Value out of my park pass! When we arrived at the park, we discovered Red Chairs! Parks Canada has installed Red Chairs at scenic points in all the National Parks. My first visit was at the height of winter.  I found 3 pairs of chairs. Then I went back in the summer and saw them differently.

I was now obsessed with these Red Chairs. I convinced the Hubs to go to Jasper National Park, it is about a 4-hour drive from my home. Money was still tight so we decided to call it a day trip.

Not one Red Chair was found and I was disappointed. I got over it quickly because, you know, JASPER! I did find green chairs!

 

19429951_10156012982906337_8142550947900352525_n
Athabasca River View

 

I had googled where the Red Chair locations were but couldn’t locate them. Not to worry, Jasper is one of my favourite places on the planet, we enjoyed our day and Captain loved it as well. So many new things to sniff!

My birthday happened and then a week later my life changed. I was offered a new position with a new company, the Hubs retired and unexpectedly we had the opportunity to travel for one week. We thought about traveling to all kinds of places, but the idea of going to Tofino really appealed to me. We had not been since we were first married over 21 years ago. Tofino is located on Vancouver Island. One week on the ocean sounded like the perfect opportunity to relax.

We flew to Victoria and rented a car. From there we drove up-Island and over to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This was easily the greatest vacation I ever experienced. We stayed at a local resort, I played in the tide pools and stood in the waves for hours. At Chesterman Beach, we spotted a two more pairs.

IMG_E7566

We explored trails through the rainforest and found another pair of Red Chairs.

IMG_1298

I wanted to stay another week but commitments required me elsewhere.  My plans for other National parks were on hold. New job starting, a trip to New York City was in the works. my 50th year had started off awesome and was just getting better.

Before I knew it, I had a few extra days off allotted to me. We had new things to celebrate. My kids received great news and we thought this deserved a family vacation celebration. We all decided to drive to Banff National Park. Since we were all traveling as a family, we needed to find a location that permitted  The Captain. As safe and friendly as some kennels are, it was not something I wanted Cap to experience, we either all go as a family, or we don’t go at all.

Tunnel Mountain had A-Frame cottages that allowed dogs,  a four day weekend was now in the works for us. We arrived before the snow fell, went for dinner and enjoyed our evening by the fire. The next morning our adventure was about to begin.

We drove along Tunnel Mountain and less than 5 minutes into our trip, I spotted Red Chairs. We stopped and took in the view.

IMG_E7949

Bow Valley was beautiful and crisp. After our fill, we traveled to the Hoodoos to take in that view. We found another set of Red Chairs. These ones were part of the restoration trail project.

IMG_E7959

I sat on one and took in the view. I had not meditated yet that day and the family was exploring the hoodoos, so I decided to sit in silence for my morning ritual. I had explored this practice in Tofino. There is something magical about meditating in nature.

Soon we decided to head up to Lake Minniwanka. As we rounded the corner and stopped at the look-out, we noticed the road going south. I had never explored this road before and I had no idea it was a loop, one that navigated south along Two Jack Lake. 50 years of visiting Banff National Park and I am still finding new things.  Before long, we spotted another set of Red Chairs.

IMG_E7974

Again I sat in silence and enjoyed the view while my kids explored the peninsula and skipped stones. The view was beautiful.

After this stop, we ventured over to Vermillion Lakes, no Red Chairs but another spot I had never explored before. This weekend was all about new experiences. It was fantastic.

We needed to pick up some items for dinner so we drove into Banff and stopped at IGA, they also had a Red Chair – a giant one very different from the National Park Chairs, but it still counted in my eyes.

IMG_E8009

Now it is November. I canceled my trip to New York but may have an opportunity to visit Waterton National Park before Christmas. The park experienced extreme fire this summer and I don’t know what is left but I think I will take time to explore Glacier Lake and the village to see for myself. I heard there is a pair of Red Chairs that face the Fairmont. It looks like my Epic 50th year and the Red Chair Project will continue. Next year, I think I will visit the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada to explore more National Parks and see more views from the Red Chair.