Edmonton Tourist: Under the Big Wheel

Winter is still going strong here in Edmonton. I am not going to lie, it is bringing me down. Six months of winter is more than enough. Thanks Old Man Winter, you can stop now. Happily I haven’t removed my winter tires.

As far as second winters goes, this one isn’t all that cold but I still find myself wanting hot coffee. Today I had a date with a great University chum who tells it like it is and asks the great questions that make me think about things from a different perspective. Today we chatted about friendship problems we both have, parallel to the point that loyalty is an issue for both of us. We are loyal and hope for a reciprocal arrangement. It didn’t happen for either of us and then she said, “What did you want to happen?”

That simple question knocked my socks off because I  have been looking at it from the perspective of ‘This happened and I need to do this because I am loyal and the friendship is important to me so I need to forgive.’

Her question made me pause and think. I love that quality in this friend, she makes me think.  Then the server came and asked what we wanted to order.


Right…breakfast! We decided to go to Old Strathcona and have brunch at Under the Big Wheel. A farm fresh organic kind of place with a really large Penny Farthing bicycle hanging on the wall. I am assuming that was the big wheel, not the red plastic kind of my sister’s childhood.

The Big Wheel

We both ordered coffee, she had a mocha and I had a latte because I am on a quest for the best one in the city – side bar: It was good, really good but I place it third on my list.

It was served in a very unconventional way – as was the entire experience – Unconventional.


It came in a tall highball glass or something you would have cold chocolate milk in. It was hot on the hands but felt nice on my cold fingers after walking here in the wet snow. Because it was in glass, the coffee didn’t stay hot for long. That would be the biggest reason it is only third on my list. I like coffee hot and to stay hot. But it was good enough to have two. I rarely do that.

So where was I? Right! What did I want to happen? I wanted my friend to stick up for me, not be neutral. She agreed. Her friend was neutral too. We both would have been okay with “What you did was really crappy and I don’t like it.” but still be their friend…because it isn’t high school. Or if you thought I was being crappy – say so! I respect that!  She also agreed that would have been a better solution for her as well. So meanwhile here we are sharing similar experiences and our Server comes back – can I just say, our server’s lipstick was on point? It was the perfect shade of red for her alabaster skin. I digress… Our Server comes back and asks if we had decided. Of course not, we were catching up! We quickly glance down at the menu and she says, ” have you been here before?” Nope, first time. “My personal favourite is the waffle, our Belgium waffles are amazing” There was a gal behind us at a different table shouting out, “OMG THE WAFFLES ARE AMAZING” I enjoy that kind of enthusiasm and recommendation, so I had the eggs benny on a waffle – it was called The Savoury Waffle. I had a choice of smoked salmon, sausage bacon or cooked spinach (who wants to eat that? Cooked greens just taste like Chlorophyll to me. Too green. I prefer my greens uncooked with the exception of Beet Leaf (not Cabbage) Rolls and baby bok choy in soup. I picked bacon because, well, bacon. My friend chose the Traditional Breakfast, it was very conventional.



Both were tasty. The hollandaise sauce was not the usual and I couldn’t put my finger on it, what made it taste different? It was good, but different than the norm. The waffles were light and fluffy, the gal behind me did not lie.

Where were we? Right…. loyalty. I also disclosed that I was thinking about words that had been said to me and playing them over in my mind. She agreed that she does the too. Only I don’t think about where the person was coming from when they said them, it was more of a how those words affected me and caused me to behave in certain way or do things maybe I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been so hurt and how could I have reacted better?. These were traumatic experiences I kept reliving and then looking at how I could have done things better/different. We agreed this wasn’t helpful to moving forward. But yet we still did it. I suspect most people do this.  Some people can just let it go easier than others.

We also talked about how awesome our dogs are. Hers are new to her family an mine is celebrating his 3rd adoption day with us on the 27th. I call it his birthday because he didn’t have to be a wild dog any more and hunt for his food. He found out very quickly he prefers being retired and living a spoiled life.

The best part of this breakfast was the server let us visit and chat as long as we needed. She kept coming back to see if we needed something more – just salt for the eggs and another latte, but it was really restful. I really did enjoy this spot for brunch, the food was great.

I have visited a few other spots around town to test out their coffee. I went to Anvil, a new spot in Ottwell. Decent but over priced. It tasted fine but didn’t wow me.

I also visited Wild Earth Bakery, cookies were good coffee was fine, also didn’t wow me.

If you decide to come to Edmonton for coffee and want to meet, let me know, I would love to experience coffee with you!

My list of favourites so far in order:

  1. Mandolin
  2. Cafe Bicyclette
  3. Under the Big Wheel
  4. Little Brick
  5. Anvil
  6. Wild Earth

Where do you like to go for your favourite coffee?

50/50 Me: Update 38 books


Well…it’s been a while since I have updated this project of mine. I think it was somewhere around May 20th. I think it was Never let me Go. I have read 16 books since then and you can find out what they were by checking out THIS page.  I ave read some outstanding books this year and I have read crap. I do know what I think is crap, others think is fantastic. That is what I love about reading. Different books appeal to people in different ways. Isn’t that fantastic?

English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a certain group of goodread friends who read with the same taste as me. I check out what they like, they check out my list and then we discover for every 1 book we finish we need to add 5 more to the list. It is frustrating. I just can’t seem to read fast enough. I am currently reading (almost finished) 419 – the 2012 Giller Prize winner. Know what? It is justified. This book is compelling and interesting and there are times I am GOBSMACKED at the stupidity. 419 is code for the Nigerian bank account scam. I actually know a person who gave their bank information and had their account wiped out. AND they were not seniors with limited faculties, they are a perfectly sane human who thought it was a good idea. It ruined him financially. It crippled his life and I doubt he will ever be the same. Just like the book is unfolding. Scary really…

I figured it was time to update my top favorite 5 books of the year so far. I hope to make it to 50 books by New Years Eve. I am not sure if I will make it, but I am trying. 50 books is a ton of reading. I went through the Wee Book Inn the other day. That is my favorite used book store on Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. I was looking at the books they were displaying and in my head all I could hear was ” read that, read that, read that, read that read that.” But do you think I could find the next book my book club is going to read? NO! I may have to pay full price because I am not good with the library book thing. I never return them on time and it creates bad karma. There are so many books I want to read I am having a hard time fitting them all in. But those of you who read the same types of books I do (good ones) then maybe this list might be helpful in choosing YOUR next book.

The Edmonton Tourist’s Top 5 favorite books in 2012 so far…

  1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. It is a book about “what if”,altering the time line and saving Kennedy. Great read, weak ending.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Probably not for everyone but the journey she took shook me and I could relate. Loved every moment of this book.
  3. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. So unexpectedly great and moving.
  4. The Book of Negroes by Lawernce Hill. Every human should read this.
  5. The Decendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Maybe I loved it because of where I am in my life, but it was way better than the movie and I liked the movie too.

Choosing 5 is hard, I need to give honorable mention to The art of Racing in the Rain and A Dog’s Purpose. Both of those surprised me and charmed me…yes I cried too but the endings were perfect.

50/50 me is also about movies but I have reached that target long ago and stopped keeping track. I am well over 80 by now, perhaps more.

So that is what I am reading. Follow me on goodreads if you want to read my reviews of all the books I have read or challenge me on books you think I should read. Click on the goodreads button to the right, it will lead you to me. Or just tell me what you are reading! Should I read it too?


I Was Almost a Hobo

Great News! I lived!

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about I shall explain. I walked 20km today – it ended up being closer to 21km. This was in preparation for my up coming 1/2 marathon in two weeks. I planned to walk by 2 hospitals and 2 funeral homes…just in case. But, I felt fabulous afterwards. I think race day, if I get a good sleep, should go off without a hitch!

I walked from my house to the University of Alberta and then over to Old Strathcona’s Farmer’s Market. It is far. This was my LSD walk. I know it sounds a lot more fun that it actually was. L = Long S= Slow D=Distance

I walked at an easy pace, this let me know on race day I can push my self faster and still be fine. I completed my 20km in 3:45 min. YAY! The major component is COMPLETED. That is my goal for August 21. I wish to Finish the race. I don’t care if I am last, if I have to crawl or if roll across the finish line I want to finish! This will be the first major goal completed for me this year. Wow.

I have been practicing “Mindfulness”. I go into depths of mindfulness in Me and Mo if you are interested to in learning more about it. But the short answer is, Mindfulness is using your 5 senses to be in the moment. It was a very zen/yoga experience.

Often on my long walks, my mind drifts to various scenarios to have fake conversations with people. Or it imagines different places I would like to be, or it really gets carried away and creates all kinds of scenarios where there are people AND places involved and often a glass of wine. Today was different.

I swam 3 times this week for 90 mins or more. I did the regular walking distances as per my training outline and I re-configured my music. I have a couple of songs on my playlist, when I hear them I burst into tears or I am transported to favorite memory that now is just heart braking. I turned THOSE off and focused on my walk. Did you know that Edmonton on a Saturday morning is filled with kooks and strange happenings? I had no idea either. I am often sleeping on a Saturday morning!

Let me share with you The Things you see on Mulberry Street the things you see in south Edmonton.

1. I am pretty sure I saw John Cleese riding his bike – true story. He wears a Tilley hat and his moustache is graying, but it was him.

2. I passed a Wicca/hippie house. They had a raised vegetable garden in their front yard. It was built in the shape of a star. Various Wicca symbols were all over the their home. I wanted to go in and visit, but I was on a time schedule people!

3. I saw a man step onto his balcony buck naked. His junk was swaying in the breeze. Why do guys who look like Brad Pitt NEVER do this? Just wondering….

4. I saw a home without a view of water to be seen – not even a puddle – yet their entire home was sail boat themed. Poor guy…It’s hard to live on the prairies when your heart belongs on the ocean, or at Tiffany’s New York…I can sympathize.

5. I saw a guy wearing a very colourful short sleeved shirt. As I got closer, I realized it was his tatt. He even had a cuffs on his arm.

6.I saw a family of 4 riding a tandem bike with a trailer bike and a buggy trailer. It was long but they were having a great time! The parents each had a dog in their backpack too.

7. I saw an entire front and back yard filled with sunflowers. Not a blade of grass to be seen. It was beautiful.

8. I saw 3 guys riding heir bikes into the river valley with golf clubs strapped to their back. The guy in the rear was wearing a hockey helmet and had 2 hockey sticks in his bag.

9. I saw a house painted in lemon Yellow and Hot Pink. Right next door was a cool contemporary home, not a blade of grass out of place. The Yellow house had buckets lining the sidewalk filled with collections of rocks, shells, broken glass and christmas bulbs. Two little girls were having a tea party and one ran home to the contemporary house to get more cookies.

10. I met a man while crossing the street and he talked about the weather. That made me smile, in Edmonton strangers will talk about the weather or hockey.

11. At the 10k point, I saw a train coming. I thought about making a run for it, but knowing me I would trip and fall and be killed. The goal is not to die BEFORE I finish the 1/2 marathon. So I waited. And waited….and waited….

There was 5 engines on this train. I knew it was headed for the mountains and I also knew it must be loooooooooooooong. The cars had the typical Alberta cargo, lumber, gasoline, Sodium Hydroxide, Oil and Molten Sulfur. What is THAT for? I stood waiting for 5 songs, one of which was Bohemian Rhapsody. HOLY CRAP it took for ever! During that time my mind wandered. I thought about running along side the train and hopping on. Leaving my life behind and becoming a Hobo. I would stop at little hobo camps along the way, carry the bandana tied to a stick that my dad gave me for my 18th birthday (Dad thought he was hilarious. In the bandana was an apple, a road map and a home renters guide. – TRUE STORY! Love you too Dad!) I thought I would love the life of a hobo! Riding the rails, traveling to parts unknown….not really, I know the railway ends in Prince Rupert. But I was too afraid of falling under the wheels trying to jump on. In my head I am an awesome jumper. In real life…not so much. So no Hobo life for me in THIS incarnation.

( I think I could make it as a Hobo, even though these are just camping pictures)

If today was any indication how my 1/2 marathon will go, I will rock it! I can’t wait to wear the medal around my neck.

What’s in a Name?

I was sitting in a staff meeting last week talking with a colleague (who I refer to as  Trophi Girl – her nick-name will make a great blog another day) …well laughing, not talking…about names. Names are important! So please spell it correctly! I always feel devastated when I spell someone’s name wrong. I really feel for kids when their parents give them a name with odd-ball spelling. Trophi Girl has unusual spelled name – easy to spell but there is an I where a Y should be. That’s ok, I can remember and spell it correctly every time.

We weren’t laughing about names of people though, we were laughing about business names. Both of us are in agreement that people who name their business should really ask people, friends and strangers to give feed back before buying the sign. Every time Trophi Girl drives down Whyte Avenue, she passes the Wee Wee Massage Parlor. This had me holding my sides in laughter!  She the explained it was WEI WEI Massage Parlor, now we have no idea if you pronounce it WEE or WAY or WHY , but to us it looks like it might be WEE.  Of course now I drive by it and laugh by myself in my car. Sure people stare, they want in on the joke too!

This had me thinking of other unfortunate names. I did some research.

1. Schickhaus Meats in New Jersey. Mr. Schickhaus, I recommend you make people say it slow not fast.

2. Hand Job Nails and Spa in Castro District, San Francisco, CA . PLEASE tell me you were inebriated when you chose that name!

3. Dildo Run Provincial Park, Newfoundland Canada. Ok, ok… they are Newfies and KNEW the  meaning and are still having a great laugh! Thus is the beauty of Newfie Screech!

4.   Some times words are not enough

5. Seriously? Your mom was ok with that name?

6. Must have been a tough name to go through school with!

7. Oh come ON! You are a contractor! You MUST hear the jokes!!

8. Really? That is the only Reputation you have?

9.This is my very favorite. I want to go here. It looks like they do a thorough check!

I now get the beauty of a numbered company. Names are important.

Hi I’m Julie McCoy, and I’ll be your Ship’s Cruise Director!

The Love Boat
Image via Wikipedia

I have spent the better part of my Sunday engaged in homework for my University Course. I was at work long before the offspring decided to emerge from their warm cozy beds at the first sign of breakfast. By time Offspring #2 said good morning, I had completed 2 of 4 minor assignments,with research and reading still needing to be done for the day. The first thing out of her mouth was “So, what are we doing today?” I almost growled “homework” but the sound was much more civil than a growl. A large sigh emerged from her lips and she sat down to visit her friends via Facebook.

Flashes of my youth appeared before my eyes. The ages of One to Four of my life are remembered as “shhhh your dad is studying”. I remember Dad hiding away in the deep dungeon of a basement, surrounded by concrete walls, one insignificant window and the smell of damp basement. In the corner opposite the stairs, sat his desk, comfortable office chair and a desk lamp,with a view of the washer and dryer. Those were the days of typewriters, pens and paper. After dinner, I would sneak to the top of the stairs and peer through the railing to spy on my dad. Mostly to see if he was actually busy, but perfectly happy just to get a glimpse of him. On days that he was at the library, my brother and I would sneak down and sit in THE CHAIR. We would take turns spinning each other and giggling ourselves into dizzy oblivion. We could not imagine our Dad to be so lucky as to have this chair to sit in for hours on end.

In contrast, I am luckier I suppose. I am also located in the basement but my walls are dry-walled and painted White Chocolate. The light streaming in is from large windows in a “walk-out” basement. The floors are cork and possess in-floor heating. Over my work space is a rather large map of Disneyland that I look at from time to time to gain inspiration from all those creative spirits before me. I am thankful for the good fortunes that have afforded me these luxuries compared to my father’s study hall.

Friday Nights were designated as Family Night. Dad would emerge from the dungeon ready for a break. Our family would go in search of inexpensive and free things to do. I often remember going for drives through Millcreek with the final destination being Dairy Queen. My brother and I would be bathed and dressed in our pajamas. We would pile into the car either with my Grandparents or just are small family. Off to our destination we would go leaving the ‘burbs headed for the city. In those days, the Dairy Queen was just an ice cream stand. It was a seasonal shop where you waited in line outside. My brother and I would order a soft serve dipped cone, my mom would often get a small marshmallow sundae and my father, without fail, would order a butterscotch milkshake. We would take the scenic route home, driving around looking at people’s homes or beautiful gardens. Usually we were asleep before the car was parked for the night with mom and dad carrying us up to bed. Sleeping or not, we would fake it to get the lift to our rooms.

I loved the undivided attention of my parents. So does the Chatterbox. She often is seeking parental attention of some form. You can often hear her say “So, what are we doing today?” As if I am the Omnipotent Being responsible for her personal entertainment. She often makes me feel like I should have been born Julie McCoy, Love Boat’s Cruise Director.

Yesterday, the Chatterbox and I went in search of clothing specific to our impending trip to Europe. We spent the better part of the afternoon laughing and looking for items that would make our stay more comfortable. While walking through Edmonton’s historical district of Old Strathcona, we stumbled upon The Walterdale Playhouse Open House. Immediately she led me through the doors knowing I would follow. We were given a tour of the main-stage and back stage. Shown how they magically transform plain people into characters that fill your imagination. Shown how they use paint and light to create elaborate illusions of grandeur. The Walterdale Playhouse is located in the old fire hall and still maintains the bell tower. 10 minutes before each production the bell is rung, signaling the need for patrons to find their seats. Chatterbox was given the opportunity to ring the bell high above Old Strathcona, telling the community that she was indeed ready to be an actress. We left armed with information of upcoming auditions, tips and a sense that we really enjoyed our time spent there as well as with each other. Our day was far from over, but the Walterdale Playhouse did enhance the rest of our experience together. We found shoes, drank ice tea at Starbucks, took crazy self-portraits together. The moments that were memorable, were unplanned. Just like Friday nights to Dairy Queen when Dad would burst into song and sing the Tennessee Bird Walk, or my brother would tell a funny story about the trouble he got into that day.

I need to remember the importance of Julie McCoy. I need to keep scheduling family time together so we can create more memorable moments as a family. I can do that. I can take a night or a day off every week to have family time. Lesson learned Mom and Dad! Thank you again for being spectacular role models that taught me everything I needed to know about being a great mom.

You can always find time to do what matters most.