Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Behind the Curve

There are a lot of jokes about Saskatchewan...things happening slowly and what not.  Change, and pretty much anything else, can't really sneak up on you in's flat, you can see things coming for miles...and of course, most things are smart enough not to sneak up on presumably armed country folks.  And so things are rumoured to amble along in their own slow sweet time, and sometimes some things, say the latest fashion crazes, never arrive.  In fact, cable TV still hasn't made it here, and in some silent agreement between the population and satellite providers, it never will.  Fortunately we now have the small Bell ExpressVu Satellite, but, it still looks like we are prepared for alien communication on the old giant car sized dish mounted out behind the house from the 80's.  The joke is we can be a bit behind the times out here in the boonies.

However, as I woke this morning, I felt it more than ever.  Australia was already in a whole other year.  I saw two former Bermuda friends dressed in savvy suits under balloons and the glow of the impending new year over in Doha while I had my morning coffee.  Dublin and Glasgow friends have less than 3 hours to go, and while they raise bubbles of champagne, I will still be back in 2014 thinking about the proverbial last supper of 2014.  Even Bermuda is going to beat me across the 2014 finish line...and they are on ISLAND TIME for heaven's sake.

I am looking forward to 2015.  The symbolism of a barrier between the parts of 2014 that I did not like and the parts of the future I am looking forward to.  The idea that at the stroke of midnight I am closer to the start of the next adventure than to the end of the last one.  That the setbacks that have plagued me will somehow be trapped on the other side of the invisible divisor of 2014 and 2015, the red tape tying me down will unravel and I will bound happily off into future.  I remember feeling just like this in 2010...sitting on a patio looking out into the Atlantic in December waiting for the magic wand of the New Year to wave.  If I recall, January and February were spent on that same patio, with the same company, wondering why it was all still the same.  It did all turn the spring.  Here's to a speedy wrap up things this time around.

Come on 2015...I am ready for you.  For the inevitable and invisible future, as John Green woefully stated through a character citing existential myopia.  And to my friends who are already on the other side waiting for me to get with the times -- be there soon, save me some of the good stuff!  Happy New Year everybody!

Just a random road to nowhere in Saskatchewan, meant of course to symbolize the path ahead, blah blah blah

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Catlady Stigma

I always get called a catlady.  I laugh at it, but sometimes think it is a bit unfair.  I only have 2 cats, and that was because they really really needed a home...even the shelter had given up on them.  Now of course, once I got them, I fell in love with them, despite their antisocial food hoarding ways and the fact that my love is unrequited.  However, it recently dawned on me that I am the victim of an unfortunate social stigma.
I am not going to name names, but I recently witnessed, and documented, the following Christmas melee.
The questions the first photo raises are obvious.  Why?  Why would you do this to your poor cat?  How?  How did you expect this would go is the next logical question. The answer, is a bit like this, although the cat is just catchin up in this conversation and still thinking "Why????"

This might be the unhappiest cat picture ever taken.  The second cat got lucky, he only had to wear a tie, and since the other cat looked much more foolish he was relatively content.

Now.  These are not my cats, not my cat costumes.  But I am allegedly a catlady while the perpetrator of these events is allegedly not.  Why?  It appears the determination of catladiness is not the number of cats, or even the ridiculousness of cat exploits, but marital status.  I might as well get another cat.  And some reindeer costumes.  Meh.  Merry Christmas!

Starry Night

I saw Van Gogh's "Starry Night" at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's a cool painting, and really does capture one of those nights where the sky is a deep shade of cobalt lit up by bright skies.  The painting shows a perspective from outside of the city, which even in 1889 may have had enough indoor lighting spilling into the night through windows to require an observer of the stars to head outside of the city a bit to really do so.  This painting is probably more famous in today's pop culture, but he painted a similar one in 1888 of the skies and house lights reflecting off the Rhone River.
I like to think about how these paintings would have been considered by those who viewed them in 1888 or 1889.  In that now unimaginable time when access was limited -- there were no color photographs and would not be for 50 years, and it would be 115 years until my beloved internet allowed me to just pull it up online.  Had I lived in 1890, would I have possibly heard word of a new beautiful painting (obviously at some ball involving hoop skirts, although presumably I would still have been a terrible dancer)?  Only if I were lucky could I have seen it, for it was owned privately by different parties until 1906.  But human taste remains the same in some instances, this being one.  It is still alluring to look at the original 126 years later, and humans still look up into the same clear night sky when Venus and a quarter moon hold court.  I am still drawn to painting of light in darkness, and still feel my gaze drawn upwards on a starry night.  Which brings me to the point -- Saskatchewan has not much urban space, and therefore one sees a lot of stars in the sky.
so many stars
Starry night 2014....not exactly a masterpiece, but....

There was a streetlight that shone in my window in Bermuda, and I could never quite get the room dark enough.  I was looking forward to inky black darkness in the country...but to my surprise, some nights the cumulative effect of the stars and the moon are worse than that streetlight.  The nights here can be totally black if cloudy, but very bright when clear.  Maybe not overly exciting, but, timeless.  And when you have a bad day and feel very small, staring up into all those stars reminds you that comparatively, everything is very small...and somehow that makes it better.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bittersweet Season

"Death ends a life, but not the relationship." -- Robert Anderson.

I heard this on TV the other day and it rang very true to me.  I googled the author and it is credited to at least 3 different people, most commonly an author who used the phrase in 1997 in a book.  But Robert Anderson, who died in 1967, is also cited, so I will give him credit in this case.

It's Christmas.  Hopefully your trees are up, your presents wrapped, baking done, eggnog ready for cheer, and all is well in your world.  I am pretty well ready.  I love the Christmas season...the preparation, the days of thoughtful gift shopping, the parties, sending out Christmas cards, decorating my tree, and seeing for just a brief period the unified effort of people all around you focusing on the very same thing.  Christmas Day itself is a different story.

It used to be my favorite day of the year, until 2009 when my niece and her two friends were killed on a March evening by a moron who hit them by speeding through an intersection on the wrong side of the road while they were turning in it.  Christmas Day, and all holidays, are forever one person short of a family event.  The girl who lit up 16 Christmases with her excitement and smile is forever gone.

This morning in Florida, a colleague and part of the Bermuda circle of friends, will be laid to rest following a car accident as well.  The circumstances are different of course, but grief is weighing heavy on many in Bermuda and beyond today.  Greg was a big guy, with a big heart.  Greg served with the US armed forces, I think it was the air force, and he was hugely patriotic.  Sometimes his views on this clashed with other friends from other countries, but no argument no matter how good or logical ever swayed him from that deeply rooted American pride on pretty much any subject matter.  He proved to be good counsel to some friends in need, and was always happy to chat.  He enjoyed pina colada's and golf on his time off, and probably scores of other things I didn't know about.  What I do know is he always met me with a hug at work, and that says a lot about a person.

I think many times people don't know what to say to a family who has lost someone, be it child, parent, sibling, or spouse.  So they say nothing at all.  That silence may be more comfortable for you, but it does nothing to alleviate the pain of a family who is missing someone.  The thing I have learned in grief is that I don't want the person I cherished to be banished from conversation or 'left out.'  I love opening facebook and seeing that someone else has found a new picture, or posted a note.  I love that she is still loved, still thought about.  People may not tell you about it, but they have little 'rituals' -- the obvious is visiting the grave site, leaving flowers.  There is also lighting candles.  Inclusion in prayers.  I visit the accident site.  I still buy her gifts because I cannot bear to Christmas shop without doing so.  Pictures.  Scrapbooks.  There is much already being done silently by a family who grieves.  Do not be afraid to say "You must miss her/him."  Do not be afraid to bring up old stories, good memories, as those bring smiles in their wake.  Is it possible you might get tears?  Maybe.  So what?  That's what friends are for.

And so, my heart goes out to the family of Greg Strickland today.  And also to the scores of friends who are also celebrating Christmas one smile short this year.  I know it will still be a happy day, but I also know there will be moments when the pang of loss is present too.  I can only hope you feel your loved one close in heart and mind when it does.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Catmas Trees

If you have a cat, or two or even three or more, you know that your cat(s) have a complicated and somewhat volatile relationship with the entity known as a Christmas tree.  The old adage "home is where the cat is," rings true, because I never even thought of getting a Christmas tree until the year I brought Lexi and JJ home.  That's when a college apartment stopped being a place to crash and became a place to call home.  It was many years ago, in a galaxy far far wait, wrong story.  But it was a long time ago. Of course, in that year, there wasn't a fake tree to be found anywhere in the city...and you all know I refuse to kill a real tree for entertainment.  My demise being well documented at coffee break, as all of my demises are, the secretary came running into my office mid day with a flyer to announce that Canadian Tire received a last minute shipment of artificial trees.  Known to be found in my office at 11pm, or 2am if I couldn't sleep, no one really minded that I tore out the door and down the elevator and across town in the middle of the afternoon on Christmas tree quest.  I secured one of the few in stock, and looked frantically around for decorations...they were also picked over, but I found a few good ones, and even splurged on a little porcelain village that lit up and everything.  I went back to work, where everyone was almost as excited as me that I found a tree, and waited til the end of the work was done that evening to go home and set up a cozy little Christmas tree. 

It was well after midnight by time I assembled the tree, strung the lights, added the ornaments and tinsel and sat back to admire its blinking, sparkly beauty.  I was exhausted, but it wouldn't be complete without the porcelain village.  I assembled it on the fireplace mantle, carefully arranged the little figurines carolling and doing their Christmas activities, and it was then that Lexi and JJ suddenly developed an interest in Christmas.  As I plugged in the village and looked at my two wide eyed cats, I have that nervous feeling one associates with a premonition, and headed to the kitchen to get the duct tape so that I could fasten the cord to the mantle and it would not be dislodged by any prying kitty paws.  I didn't even make it out of the kitchen before I heard the crash of my porcelain village on the marble around the fireplace.  I rushed into the room just in time to see JJ eat the dismembered head of one of the villagers.  Not even a glue gun could save it now.  I supposed I could save the headless villager scene for next Halloween.  After a long and stressful day, I sat down for a little cry as I picked up the pieces of my dream Christmas village before wandering off to bed.  I hoped JJ had eaten a smooth villager head, and wouldn't require emergency surgery.

Sometime in the night, I heard a distinctive tinkling sound.  I knew it must be a dislodged ornament.  I walked into the kitchen and found Lexi batting around a shiny ball.  I told her "Noooo," and walked into the living room with a smile to hang it back on the tree.  That's when I saw that the tree was lying smooshed on the floor, atop several broken glass balls, and ornaments everywhere.  JJ was camped out inside the branches like it was a bed, sucking tinsel off the branches like the little dog eats spaghetti in the movie "Lady and the Tramp." 

JJ likes sparkly things as much as I do apparently

Sometimes, a day is worth more than one good cry.  I picked up all the broken glass, propped the tree up against the couch, and went to bed once more that evening hoping JJ wouldn't need emergency surgery from eating the tinsel.  The litter box was as festive as my tree for the next couple of weeks.

As the years went on, I developed a few survival skills for me and the Christmas tree over the holidays.  Here are some tips I learned the hard way if you need to figure out how to manage Christmas vs Catmas.

Rule #1.  Set realistic expectations.  You think it's a Christmas tree, your cat thinks it's a giant toy.  Embrace the fact that both of you can enjoy it if you do it right.

Lexi cat popped out in the upper 1/3 of the tree much to my surprise

Rule #2.  No tinsel.  Seriously.  It's bad enough seeing your cat go by with an extra silver tail, but tinsel or string can kill a cat by getting tangled in the intestines.   And you can never get the stuff 100% off the artificial tree, I cannot tell you the hours I spent trying (which were matched by JJ chewing the branches also trying to get to that delicious tinsel).

Rule #3.  Take your time.  I learned to reduce the kitty excitation level by a time delayed tree assembly sequence.  Day 1 I would pull the box out of the closet and open it.  They would spend most of that day and night rolling on all the branches in the box.  If you want to be really brave, you can put the stand out with the pole in it, but I wouldn't go further than that.  Day 2 insert the branches.  Day 3 add those blinking lights that drive them into a frenzy, and on day 4 add the ornaments.  You can extend the delays if you have particular rambunctious cat cohabitants.

Rule #4.  Develop a rigging system.  Your tree needs to withstand vertical assaults by your cat roommates.  I found a simple trip to the hardware store for a hook that normal people use to screw into a ceiling to hang a plant from can also be screwed into a wall as a mount for a rope to go around the tree.  It never toppled again.  Of course, if you put your tree close to a window you can even hide the hook behind a curtain where it won't make you look ridiculous the other 50 or so weeks of the year.

The rigging system allows for kitty trapeze and other tricks

Rule #5.  Decoy ornaments.  Buy cheap, glitzy plastic ornament and load the bottom of the tree with them.  They are kitty safe and keep the cat from seeing your treasured ornaments, which you hang at the top of the tree.  Do a risk assessment when ornament shopping, taking into consideration cost, breakability, the method of attachment (hook or loop -  loops withstand far more shaking than the hooks), and how much fun the game of is-it-yours-or-mine that you will have with the cat.

Rule #6.  Play the long game.  At some point, you will have to go to work, go for groceries, or sleep.  The cat however, is always there.  I repeat....the cat is always there.

Rule #8.  The size of the tree is indirectly proportionate to both destruction and fun.  The small tree I had in Bermuda took it's share of biting and bashing, but was never as utterly devastated (or enjoyed) as much as the large tree in Canada.

Rule #9 -- Take any tree photos as soon as you are done decorating.  It won't look like that for long. 

Rule #10.  Have fun.  You know they will!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Abominable Snow Spider.

The Abominable Snowman seems to have arrived in Western Culture around 1921.  It came back with the crew of the Royal Geographic Society's "Everest Reconnaissance Expedition," or a mission to find a north route to the peak of Everest.  Yes, famed mountaineer Mallory was on the expedition, but Charles-Howard Bury was the leader.  He was Irish, and knowing how my Irish friends enjoy a wee tipple now and again, it makes sense that this is the first pop-culture report of the abominable snowman.  Now to be fair, it was a newsman who coined the term abominable, and the Sherpa's who pointed out the track, and our Irish guy didn't really buy it...but it sounds funnier if I blame it on the Irish lad.  Pre 1921 and pre pop culture, there are innumerable accounts of abominable snowmen...but they are by the Nepalese and Tibetans...and they are called Yeti or Metoh-kangmi (loosely translating to man-bear snowman).

I can sadly report that southern Saskatchewan appears to be Yeti-free (so far).  But I found something equally terrifying.  The morning's heavy frost revealed....the lair of the abominable spider.  To the best of my knowledge, the cold Saskatchewan winters are supposed to make for fewer and smaller bugs.  This behemoth arachnid pad was a little disconcerting to find in December.  Pretty.  But disconcerting.

I guess that explains where this came from a few weeks ago.  I couldn't figure out where some a large critter was living in the dead of winter.  He appears to have frozen solid.  Perhaps the abominable snow spiders aren't really all that resilient.  I almost felt bad for the little guy.  Alas, the tale of the abominable snow spider ends in tragedy.  Unless he unthaws and scurries off in a few months.  Seems unlikely, but that's what abominable things do.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Christmas Totem

The origin of decorating Christmas trees dates has, like many Christian symbols, pagan origins.  The practice is recorded in history as early as the 1400's, and since that's about when recorded European history takes off, it could be virtually timeless.  Martin Luther 'Christianized' the practice by replacing decorated oaks and legends about sacred oak to an Evergreen, with it's more triangular shape representing the trinity.  It's been part of Christmas pretty well ever since.

Much to the chagrin of my live tree loving friends, who have made it a delightful and much loved part of the Christmas tradition, I cringe at the thought of the millions of oxygen producing, CO2 consuming, squirrel housing trees being killed, and burned a few weeks later (generating even more C02) in the name of Christmas.  I am therefore a dedicated plastic tree girl, and  while I know plastic is far from environmental, I just can't kill a perfectly good tree.  I am hoping decades of reuse minimalize the carbon footprint.  In putting up my tree today, I realized it actually bears more similarity to another historical item.  The totem pole.

The totem pole is an Indigenous or First Nations tradition of carving symbols or figures in a large tree.  They figures served as characters, or events, in the story it tells.  The secret of the story lies in the observer's knowledge and connection to the meaning of the figures and how they are placed.

This is my totem pole, in all its plastic glory.  I think it's a thing of beauty.


And those who know me will know the meaning in my totem.  They will look at the ornaments and know some of the histories.  Above, a singing dancing moose sits below the tree, a reminder of the days when a certain young boy in our family wanted to be a moose farmer when he grew up.  The little leprechaun below says luck of the Irish, not sure how lucky he is since he is hanging from a tree, but he was a gift from Siobhan (fellow Bermuda explorer) to my parents when she visited Canada on her way back to Ireland.  Next to him is a little guitar, if he gets bored, a treasure from my Edmonton days when I was a poor student and used to scour placed like Canadian Tire for inexpensive glittery gems like this, which I still love many years later.

In another section of the tree, Bermuda is featured with the banana leaf doll, the little bear from my sister's Beanie Baby collecting days, the mailbox from my mom's Canada Post career, the white crocheted ornaments from a Saskatchewan Christmas fair, and a little kitten wrecking a tree in honor of the life size event that happened every Christmas with Lexi and JJ.  The drum and crystal presents were found on more budget foraging days in Alberta.

This Dalmatian Beanie Baby has a penguin and bear friend that were gifts to me one year, picked by my niece and nephew and purchased by my sister...they remind me of the 101 times 101 Dalmations and Happy Feet were played on the VCR or DVD player.  All I am missing is a Balto.

This little bear says 2001, and he is actually a key chain, a treasured Christmas gift from my niece Jaycena that she purchased with money scammed from Grandma.  It travels with me in remembrance of her.

In this corner, we have ornaments in memory of Jaycena, who always made Cbristmas so much fun.

There are actually 2 banana leaf dolls on the tree....I fell in love with them and got one for my mom and one for me.  We have a merged tree this year since I am here. 
 All families have their Christmas tradition.  Ours is the movie "A Christmas Story," with little Ralphie and the Red Rider BB gun.  Here he hangs from the tree in all the glory of the pink bunny suit his aunt made him.  If you push a button it plays of sound clip of his father calling him "a pink nightmare!"

And of course there is a leg lamp -- "it's a major award!!!"  Sitting next to it on the left is a hand painted ornament from when I was a blood bank tech, a gift from a work friend.  There is a pewter kitten nearby as well.

Atop our tree is a very special star.  The original stays with her mom, but my sister scanned and printed replicas for the rest of us.  The Christmas star Jaycena made as a little girl.  The opposite side has a sad face just in case the mood changes, but, nothing else will ever sit atop my tree :)

Gifts, memories, treasured artifacts of my past.  This is my totem.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


When winter comes, the prairies start to look a bit like the surface of the moon.  So far the snow has been light in the southern part of the province, which is good for driving, bad for spring moisture.  But even the shortest of drifts get windswept into miniature dunes.
And on a bad day, when the wind is howling, little creatures cross the dunes in search of windbreak.  such was the case of these prairie chickens, who were rather camera shy and this one shot through the blowing snow and windowpane was all I got...they scattered when I opened the door willing to freeze to get a better photo.  Probably better for both of us, as I stayed warm, and they flew to some trees where it was probably warmer as well.
But once more I digress.  We left off in Saskatoon, more specifically, the long drive home.  This time around it was fortunately uneventful.  No random audio recordings were sent to the middle east, but a few random photographs were taken along the way home.  First up was just a pretty winter scene, just south of Saskatoon, which has more snow than southern Saskatchewan at the present.

Next up was just the view down another lonely gravel road.  Sometimes we prairie people forget how decadent all this open air and open spaces can be to urban dwellers.

As the sun started to go down and the moon started to rise, I pulled off the road just north of Kyle, near an abandoned yard I had spied with my little eye on the way to Saskatoon but was too short of time to stop at.  It was a picturesque little spot.

Roadside in central Saskatchewan as the moon rises

Despite the unnerving single set of footprints that led off the roadside and into the abandoned yard with the cool trees and empty shack, I followed the same path, keeping an eye out for anyone who might be hunkered down in the area for some unknown reason...there were no other vehicles in sight.  I never did see the owner of the other footprints, or figure out where they had headed to, since there was no way to go but into the building or into the empty field (let's just say I didn't stick my head in the building).

From inside the abandoned yard

pretty old grees

A web of old trees
Aaaand, the shot I came in for

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Saskatoon and Frisky Fondue?

Day 2 of girls weekend, a Tuesday, we set out to do some Christmas shopping!  Saskatoon is about 350 kilometers north of where I have been staying.  Temperature does not always function like a simple gradient of gradual cooling as you travel further north...but on this particular day, it did.  As Monique and I headed out into the -27, windchill factor unknown, we were like "it doesn't FEEEEL that bad for -27."  Only a true Canadian would say that.  Or a penguin perhaps.

We were looking for just about everything, so it didn't really matter where we went.  But the Midtown Plaza downtown shopping mall was our first choice, so off we went.  Despite both of us having been "off sugar" for a couple of weeks, we decided to dine at the mall, with a giant Starbucks and a main course from "The Cupcake Conspiracy."  So much for my planned 30 days of goodness, but what can I say, I am a social cupcake consumer.  It's not like I eat cupcakes at home alone or least not since I got back to Canada.

After that, it was shopping time.  It was nice to get to a bigger center where there are some of the more popular chain stores, and some of the newer less well known stores, like Saje, where we slathered in smelly medicinal oils and then set ourselves loose in the mall to see if a) they worked, and b) if we could handle smelling like giant peppermints for long after application.  The answer on both counts was yes.  After a short while, my friend Tanya who lives in the city joined in to the shopping melee.  I am not sure if she enjoyed shopping with 2 peppermints, but she didn't really complain.  We debated a plan for dinner, and the chosen restaurant to meet at was "The Upstairs Fondue."  After cupcakes for dinner, my pancreas let out a little groan knowing some sort of chocolate fondue was on the agenda, and begrudgingly prepared to amp up insulin production.

En route to the restaurant, I recalled to Monique that I had only had fondue in a restaurant once before -- and it had been with Tanya and my sister at a little place in Banff called "The Banff Grizzly House" sometime back in the 90's.  The strange thing about that experience, was that even though it was the 90's, each table at the restaurant had a phone on it.  The phones could not dial outside, you could only dial other tables.  Now, presumably, if you knew anyone else in the place, you would be sharing a table.  We decided this must be some cheesy pick up joint idea left over from the 70's.  But it was mostly couples at the restaurant, so we changed the idea to a cheesy 70's swingers club idea.  Much to our dismay, our phone rang shortly after, as some swarthy disreputable types who did indeed look like they were from the 70's were on the other line.  We politely hung up, and carried on with our fondue, but I never really forgot what a funny little idea it was.

When we got to the Upstairs Fondue, present day, the 5 of us in attendance sat down and the waiter promptly informed us that we would all be sharing one fondue pot, and the portions allocated to the couples.  There was only one couple in the group, but there was to be no single ordering, so 2 would be served together and the least coupley person would get a half order.  Guess who he picked to be THAT person.  This whole couple requiring menu just reaffirmed our earlier suspicions about fondue and swingers.  It also set the tone for a lot of silly conversations about it, loads of laughter, and a completely fun evening.  Strangely, we had the place almost to ourselves, but the food was really good and we had such a good time that I would totally go back.  Check this place out if you are doing some group dining in Saskatoon anytime soon.  I also learned that fondue is originally Swiss cuisine, and the purist way to eat it is to use a hot broth rather than oil.  There is also a hot rock for grilling if you prefer.

That concluded our fun evening out,  The next morning there was still a bit of time for exploration before girls weekend concluded with our respective long drives back.  After a quick and surprise reunion in the hotel lobby with a girl I attended school with many many years ago, we decided to check out the city.  There is Broadway Avenue, with a lot of independent and eclectic the Peruvian sock, mitten, and clothing store.  There was also a whole string of yoga shops, which we began to call Yoga Row and use as orientation throughout the weekend.

 We found the posh houses by the University and the river valley (it's the North Saskatchewan that flows through Saskatoon).

We stopped to take a picture of one of the city's many bridges...there are 8 river crossings in the city, which is quite a few for such a small city, hence it's nickname the City of Bridges.

There were also a lot of churches.  Some quite striking.  These two were actually on adjacent lots in the downtown area.

Loved how orange this one was
 And of course, the Delta Bessborough.  This hotel is one of the Canadian National Railways, and many grand hotels were built across Canada by either Canadian Pacific Railways or Canadian National Railways.  This was a later construction, being in 1928, but it still has the same style as some of its older landmark hotels.  Being a rather famous Saskatchewan landmark, and rumoured to have a ghost, we decided to explore the hotel.  In we went, and found ourselves in the midst of an oil and gas conference.  We quite clearly didn't belong, but being in polite old Saskatchewan, we simply wandered through with just a few raised eyebrows.  We made our way to the top, wandered down the old staircases, and caught a glimpse of the pretty room interiors as we made our way through the halls.  No ghosts though, and river valley views were confined to the guest rooms...or the dining room on the 2nd floor.

We did find a few relics of time, like the old phone booths, and some intricate carved doorframes in the emergency exits, which must have been the outside face of the building at some point.

Our final stop was a great little Café on Broadway..."The Broadway Café," of course, where we dined among Elvis, Marilyn, and one other very special guest....

....Morse's very own, the fabulous, the funny, the super EMT...Andrea!
After that, unfortunately, it was time to go.  Saskatoon turned out to be an awesome little spot for a road trip.  It would be even better in the summer.  Of course, the company is what made it really a special couple of days.  Thanks all!

Monday, December 8, 2014


I have been an absentee blogger again.  Sorry about that.  I was on the road a lot last week, and between the hundreds and hundreds of kilometers, hotel rooms, Christmas shopping, and catch ups with friends, there was just no time to write.  I even snuggled a relatively fresh baby in the melee of last week and the back to back road trips.

I kinda like road trips.  Just getting in the car and driving for hours and hours.  Even better when there is no arrival deadline.  Lots of time to sort the thoughts in your head, and ever changing scenery. 
Today I hopped in the car to drive to Saskatoon to meet a friend from Edmonton, for a girls weekend...well, a girls Monday-Wednesday.

I found one plastic dvd holder of pre-Bermuda CD's, and pulled it out for the road trip.  Successful playing of those CD's required a bottle of lens cleaning solution and a sunglass cloth (seriously, there was mud on one of them...and it wasn't even the "Puddle of Mud" CD that was muddy...yes that is a legitimate band name.)  A few blogs back I theorized about what your choice in music says about you.  And while I was singing along at the top of my lungs to Melanie Doane, a kinda folky rocker, I realized I was listening to feminist music.  I was kinda surprised by the implications for a second, but then I just carried on singing to the rest of the album, feigning silence when I met oncoming traffic so that no one would SEE me car singing.  At a small town stop sign, I glanced at my phone in the counsel of the car and saw there was a WhatAspp message, but I had not heard a notification.  At the stop sign, I reached down and held the increase volume button for a few seconds, and carried on down the road.  A half hour later I stopped for coffee in Swift Current, yes that is the name of a city, and checked my phone.  I was met with a very disturbing WhatsApp message from my friend in Qatar, the Dev.  It said "Are you road tripping? :) And a bit of singing!"  What?  I thought.  I scrolled back and to my horror, there it was, a little blip with my profile picture and a play button denoting an audio file.  I had inadvertently hit "record" instead of volume and fired off a lengthy clip of me singing at the top of my lungs halfway across the globe.  What can one say but "OMG!!"  It was followed by about 13 lines of hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha from my friend.  Apparently I not only made his day, but supplied him with digital blackmail that is going haunt me for a very long time.

The only consolation was that the drive had been very pretty. Amidst the singing I had pulled over on a few grid roads to snap some photos of the trees, which were totally snow encrusted towards one end and absolutely bare towards the other.

It was also striking that the sky was almost the same color as the snowy ground.  The light was intense and bright...but muted through the thick cloud layer.  As the drive went on I saw many more snowy fields, the occasional blue sky, and many more snowy trees.

There is a Provincial Park called Saskatchewan Landing, which I have photographed in the fall earlier in the blog.  But this looks much different covered in snow and ice.

Somehow the ice and snow make this area look even more timeless.  The prairies suddenly fall into these jagged hills where water peacefully flows through an ancient river system that shows the scars of more tumultuous geological times.

Unfortunately, Saskatchewan Landing is only about 1/3 of the way to my destination of the day, which was Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Saskatoon, just for information, is not the capital city of the province, but it is the largest city, with a population of 261,000.  It was named after the Saskatoon berry, of course, with the Cree name misaskwatminiskahk, literally translating to at the place of many Saskatoon berries.  The Saskatoon berry is a sweet, violet colored berry, that often gets made into jams and pies.  Probably not well known outside of Canada though.  Saskatoon has an interesting history -- initially is was a 21 acre section of land granted to the Temperance Colonization Society, which was seeking to relocate away from Toronto and the evils of alcohol.  Now a University town, the current population has strayed from those temperance roots.  Also interesting is that back in the day, the temperance settlers would have to take a train to Moose Jaw, a famous party hideout for bootleggers and gangsters like Al Capone.  After that it was a horse ride for several days to get to Saskatoon.
My journey, albeit somewhat embarrassing, was also much easier thanks to technology.  The drive only took 5 hours with coffee and photo stops.  And focusing on the present, the point of the journey was to meet with my Edmonton friend Monique at the halfway points between her home and my current address.  It was after dark and minus 27 when she arrived in Saskatoon, but it was onwards with the plan -- catching the most recent Hunger Games Movie -- Mockingjay Part 1.  I can be a bit of a book snob when it's a book or series I like...and I loooved the Hunger Games despite being far older than its intended audience.  The first movie I thought they did pretty well on, although I had my reservations about how it would translate into film.  It was only the closing scene with the dogs that I thought they lost too much in translation and got too crazy with animated effects.  The second movie, Catching Fire, was a rare case in which the movie was better than the book in my opinion.  And so I was very curious how Mockingjay would turn out.  The critics had been negative, and I was a little put off that they extended the 3rd book into 2 movies.  However, both Monique and I really enjoyed the movie.  It was easy to get lost in again, and oddly, I suspect the 4th movie can level out some of the odd characterization that takes place in the second half of the 3rd book.  I hope it doesn't take another whole year to see what they come up with!