How does it work, again???

how does it workThere was a time when I considered myself technology savvy.  In fact, I always remember my Gran in the 80’s confusing the attributes of a portable telephone handset with the TV remote control.  I’d arrive just in time to watch Coronation Street with her, to be greeted with the familiar comment, ‘you’ll have to look at the TV as it’s not working when I press the remote control again‘.  I’d smile and suggest maybe if she didn’t use the telephone to operate the TV we may be in with a chance ….. she would chuckle.  And repeat the same manoeuvre a few days later.

Grandma phonesAnother of her favourite mistakes was attempting to answer the phone with the TV remote control and wondering why it wouldn’t work.  Even when she remembered to use the telephone handset, she’d often hold it the wrong way up and wonder why everything was so quiet.  I’d be shouting down the line, ‘turn the handset the other way round, Gran‘, after which it would go silent for a few seconds before she’d come back on the line with a much clearer voice saying, ‘oh, that’s so much better‘.  She left us long ago, but the memories still make me chuckle to this day …..

30 years agoOnly 5 years ago, I’d be able to manipulate spreadsheets, construct eye-catching presentations, and merge documents using the latest tools and techniques.  These days, with each new version of Microsoft, I’m chunnering and grumbling when I can’t find the tools as they’ve been put in a more ‘user-friendly’ format.  User-friendly indeed.  I never thought I’d see the day when I’d start insisting they kept things the way they used to be.   It’s the kids that now come to my rescue and with the click of a button, and a look from them that says, ‘that was obvious‘, I certainly feel like technology has overtaken my capabilities.  Sign of the times, I guess.

wifi cartoonEven the oven is getting in on the gig these days.  Back in the UK, I had a traditional gas oven which required your physical presence to turn it on, ensure nothing was blown up during the cooking process, guarantee food wasn’t burnt to a cinder and that it had been physically turned off and the flame extinguished when finished. When we moved to Canada nearly two and a half years ago, the house we bought has a ‘modern’ electric double oven and a variety of switches that I’ve never known how to operate.  Trial and error in the early days saw me working out which switch turned each of the ovens on – and I haven’t deviated from this since.  I also quickly discovered that the term ‘broil’ means ‘grill’ – but there have been several occasions when my husband has attempted to cook a dish and wondered why it was burning on the top as he mistook the ‘broil’ setting for ‘bake’.  Subtle reactions I’ve made like raised eyebrows, deep sighs and constructive comments of, ‘if you cooked more often maybe these mistakes wouldn’t happen‘, have been blissfully disregarded by him – probably in the psychological hope that his chores will become redundant and I’ll assume all further accountability for the use of our kitchen appliances.cartoon on microwaveSo it was only when a good Canadian friend of mine visited for lunch last week and quizzically asked what the various switches and buttons did on my oven, that I had to admit I had absolutely no idea.  There wasn’t an instruction booklet left when we bought the house from the previous owners and (rather like being with my husband), I have stuck solidly to its’ basic capabilities – never once thinking that I’m sure there’s extra functionality that would make my life so much easier staring me straight in the face.

It was only the following morning, that I suddenly thought about my oven again (as you do).  Much like Aladdin’s golden lamp, I couldn’t help but feel that today’s equivalent of technological advances and the wonders of the modern-day ‘world-wide-web’, must hold the answer to my quest.  So with some degree of haste, I scribbled down the model and make, and typed it into a well-known search engine.  Literally seconds later, up popped the instruction manual and the ability to download it online.  I can’t believe it took me 2.5 years for even the idea to occur but like all good things, I get there in the end.  To say it has changed my life would be an understatement.  Whilst I still feel like a technology dinosaur, I now have an oven with tons of additional capabilities which I’ve been busily utilising ever since.

laughing catIt made me wonder how many other things there are that with just a few seconds on the internet and a fresh look at whether I’m using them to their full potential, I could vastly enhance how they’re utilised?  Will the same approach work on my husband, I wonder …….  ūüôā

 

 

Thanks goes to my ability to search on google images in an effective fashion to find pics for today’s blog!

Time flies when you’re having fun …

Time fliesWow!  I’m always staggered how time seems to fly by, and the older I get, the faster it disappears.  Well today is a pretty significant day at our end – it’s 2 years since we boarded the flight from Manchester and touched down here in Edmonton.  Doesn’t feel like 2 years, that’s for sure.  Just goes to show how quickly time flies when you’re having fun …..

As if to mark the event, some of my Canadian appliances are starting to play up.  I always remember my Gran saying that modern appliances never seem to last half as long as they used to – I think she never did replace the original oven that had been put in her house in 1954, and as for the vacuum – it was probably one of the original models of ‘Hoover’ ever manufactured and even outlived her.  It would have been of archeological significance had she still been alive today – she sadly left us in 2000.  And now I find myself sounding just like her.  Let’s hope her penchant for ‘Baileys’ (other irish liqueurs are also readily available), and the copious quantities she actually consumed, aren’t as contagious.  Mind you, I am noticing a tendency to stock up on toilet rolls (just in case we ever run out), which was another thing she was renowned for.  At this rate, I’ll be able to support the whole of south-west Edmonton for at least 72 hours should there be a national shortage ….BaileysAnyhow.  It’s the kettle.  It’s not been well for a few weeks and has suddenly given up the ghost, despite no end of coaxing and cajoling into operation.  It’s probably taken umbrage from excessive use, and now refuses to even turn on.  Now I know for a fact, that I had to buy it after we arrived on Canadian soil – so less than 2 years usage doesn’t sound that much to me.  Mind you, I’m a Brit, and I take my tea-making very seriously – and the poor appliance has probably given up from overwork.  My husband would no doubt empathise ……

So I thought I’d treat myself and upgrade to a newer model (the kettle, not my husband).  My list of requirements isn’t long.  It’s a kettle.  I just want it to reach boiling point as quickly as possible – so I can focus on the really important aspect of steeping the tea leaves for the required duration to produce the perfect brew.  It’s an art form.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.Canadian TireOff I trotted to the local Canadian Tire emporium, trying to stifle the excitement of obtaining an appliance which can rapid-boil in the least amount of time.   Life in the fast lane when you’re in your 40’s, eh!

Imagine then my horror and utter confusion upon entering the store and facing a shelf-full of kettles, to find none of them ‘advertising’ the rapid-boil facility.  In fact, I struggled to find anything remotely referencing this key attribute.  Top of the list as the feature of choice was a ‘variable temperature’ option – some of which declared you could programme up to 6 different settings into the kettle.  I must admit I was bemused.  It’s a kettle.  The last time I was in school doing science, the boiling point of water was 100C and to the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t changed since.UK TeasMy tea drinking has largely centred around black teas – moving over the years from Typhoo (you only get an ‘OO’) to Tetley, then Yorkshire Tea, and now mostly Earl Grey (for the more discerning palate). All of which the perfect brewing temperature is 100C – it’s the ‘steeping’ time which is the more variable element.  So completely flummoxed as to the need for variable temperatures in a kettle – and programmable ones at that – I grabbed the boxes from the shelves hoping for some enlightenment.  Now I know it’s probably not news to you, but it was certainly news to me, to discover that correctly brewing more delicate types of tea – especially green tea – requires lower water temperatures.  Who knew?  I didn’t.  Not only that, but brewing delicate teas in too-hot water can create a bitter taste. If you frequently brew green and white teas, investing in an electric kettle with variable temperature control saves you the bothersome process of first boiling water, then waiting for it to cool to the correct temperature.  My (flippant) answer would be, to drink black teas and then you’d never have to wait …..Variable kettleNeeds must when the devil drives – and a replacement had to be procured quickly for me to maintain my ‘black’ tea drinking frequency.  I went for the simplest version with no additional features other than the ability to boil water.  It’s marginally faster than my previous one – but who’ve guessed that procuring a kettle would provide a cultural insight into the boiling requirements of Canadian consumers.  We may be two years in, but I’m still learning new things every day.

List of attributesLet’s hope the next appliance to fail isn’t my husband.  My list of desired attributes may be unattainable …..

ūüôā

Thanks as ever to google images for the pics in today’s blog

Canadian Life – 1 year on …

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It would be remiss of me not to mark the passing of 12 months since we arrived here in Edmonton, Canada. ¬†12 months??? ¬†Can you believe it? ¬†This time last year we were on a plane (click here for a recap of my blog) and arriving through Border Control, hoping upon hope, that they awarded us permits to stay. ¬†The Border Officials were obviously feeling sympathetic (or unwell) that day and luckily for us, they did – and so much has happened since¬†…

Six¬†months ago,¬†I provided a list of what we were looking forward to doing over the Summer. ¬†Well, all this we did. ¬†We visited Vancouver (have a read), had the pleasure of both sets of grandparents residing with us¬†for periods of time during the Summer (updates here), even ventured further afield and sampled Kauia (very very nice and very very hot), and the kids certainly did get 2.5 months off school with amples of activities and entertainment. ¬†A Bar-B-Q (and a huge one at that) was procured, and has been put to very good use¬†– plus, I’ve not given anyone food poisoning as yet, so everything’s good ūüôā

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You’ll be relieved to hear that my cat – who’s now 20 years old – is also alive, well, and still extremely vocal. ¬†Whilst being hard of hearing and slightly blind, she never fails to recognise when the tin of tuna is being opened and beats a hasty path¬†to the kitchen. ¬†There was tough competition from one of the Grandma’s over the Summer who also had shared sympathy for these ailments – the only difference being, she could smell the opening of the sherry bottle at 300 yards and it was touch and go I didn’t get the two favoured delights mixed up between them both!

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Last week we celebrated our first Canadian Thanksgiving – an opportunity to give thanks for the harvest and all things that were good over the last year. ¬†I guess you’d describe it as similar to a harvest festival in the UK. ¬†I think the last time I went to one was when I was still at school and we all had to take in boxes of veg, fruit and foodstuffs – and that’s going back a few years …. ¬† Over on this side of the pond, it’s commonly¬†celebrated with a thanksgiving meal consisting of roast turkey, all the trimmings, plenty of veg, squash and potatoes. ¬†Interestingly, this date coincides with a national holiday both in the US and across Central America who celebrate it as Columbus Day – the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in Central America. Now, just to add to the melee, it’s not the same date as ‘thanksgiving’ in the US, which is commonly the 4th Thursday in November. It’s very confusing to the uninitiated.

Wanting to embrace the event, a turkey was¬†procured along with all the trimmings and we spent the day preparing what can only be described as having Christmas dinner in the middle of October. It did feel quite bizarre, and almost as a trial run for the major date in December. ¬†Wanting to try out a ‘traditional’ Canadian dessert, we were proffered a suggestion of ‘candied yams’ – sweet potatoes, honey, sugar, orange, marshmallows and nutmeg. ¬†On paper, sounded quite feasible and even amidst preparations, looked quite appealing. ¬†Let’s just say, it wasn’t to our taste, and even the kids took an instant dislike to the concoction. ¬†It’s been subtly suggested to me since, that it should’ve been served as a side dish to the turkey as an additional trimming. ¬†Call me antiquated and old-fashioned, but I still can’t get used to all this mixing sweet stuff with savoury courses. ¬†Goodness me, whatever next …..

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So, what does the next 6 months¬†hold for us I hear you ask? ¬†Well, one thing’s for certain, we’ll definitely be seeing snow. ¬†Lots of it – although ‘word on the street’ has it that we’re in for a mild winter. ¬†All this ‘El Nino’ effect or something along those lines. ¬†Trust me – it’ll still be sub-zero temperatures – this classification of ‘mild’ is all relative! ¬†I’m about to get winter tyres on my truck in preparation so with any luck, I’ll stick to the snow and ice like glue when it arrives. ¬†It’s very technical though – I just want 4 tyres that hold the road. ¬†Apparently, I have to also give due consideration to the look, the tread, the wheels, the type of rubber composition, the size – oh my word, I’m way out of my league on this one. ¬†One for the husband, me thinks …

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There’s our visit to the UK for 10 days in November, and then the snow will definitely be on the ground when we arrive back. ¬†We’ll be attempting to ski ¬†– another item on our bucket list (bet you thought I’d forgotten), and with these newly acquired skills (and hopefully, no broken wrist this time), we’re off to Banff National Park for New Year. ¬†We’ll continue to enjoy living here, spotting the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights, and maybe the old wild animal here and there (not including the kids). ¬†We’ll no doubt mark off another few items from our bucket list and we can definitely say, it won’t be without incident or a large amount of humour and enjoyment.

Bring it on … ūüôā

Thanks as ever to google images for the majority of pics in this week’s blog

Three cheers to the grandparents

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We’re nearing the end of the Canadian visits from the grandparents, and both sets have had a truly wonderful first-time experience of this vast country. ¬†Not only has it been lovely having familiar faces around – it’s amazing how much you miss not just being able to ‘pop round’ or arrange an impromptu weekend visit every now and then – but the seniors in the family and the youngest 3 members, have thoroughly enjoyed spending time together. ¬†Common factors are clear winners with both sets – demands for ice-cream, desserts, cakes and biscuits – I’ve had to be the umpire and affect some degree of sensibility otherwise the oldest and youngest generations would¬†be eating them continuously! ¬†Grandparents have clearly been leading the kids astray … ūüėČ

My in-laws are in their mid-80’s and had never envisaged a trip to Canada, believing that physical limitations and sheer old-age, preventative factors. ¬†However, following a series of prompts by us and eventually, just buying tickets with the dates for their travel, meant there was nothing for it, but for them to board the plane – and they arrived without incident and importantly, all completely intact.

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That was nearly 3 weeks ago and during this time we’ve seen an abundance of superb weather and also some excellent trips out – both near and far. ¬†It’s made us explore and find things to do that all parties enjoy, and for the last 3 weeks it’s been particularly challenging as accessibility with wheelchairs has had to be incorporated into the mix. ¬†I’ve had to balance limited physical abilities alongside the abundance of energy my 3 kids display and need to burn off on a daily basis.

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So, we’ve had some delightful trips. ¬†One was to the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. ¬†It’s set in the River Valley just outside downtown Edmonton, and has 4 glass¬†pyramids. ¬†For those familiar with ‘Eden’ in the UK, it’s very similar but on a much smaller scale. ¬†That said, the Muttart Conservatory is an accredited museum and is home to one of Canada’s largest botanical collections.

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There are 3 biomes, each displaying a specific climate year-long. ¬†Temperate (very similar to the climate in Edmonton), Arid (desert and drought-like), and Tropical (humid and hot) each host an array of botanical delights that have their own appeal. ¬†The kids loved wandering around and looking at the different varieties. ¬†The fourth pyramid is entitled ‘Feature’ and provides a themed display which changes approximately 7 times a year. ¬†At the moment, it’s theme is ‘Journey to Middle Earth’, and along with a ‘hobbit’ home, wizard, dragon breathing out plumes of smoke through its nostrils, along with cascading waterfalls – it was truly amazing. ¬†There was a photo with both dragon and my mother-in-law that both myself and my father-in-law had a chuckle about as we both had the same caption in mind. ¬†Suffice to say, I’ve not included it here, I’ll leave it to your imagination – you’ve only got the painted dragon to feast your eyes on below. ¬†The latter pyramid was definitely the most striking of the four, but with wheelchair access available throughout the displays, it meant all members of our party could see everything and experience it together. ¬†Brilliant.

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Fort Edmonton was another day-trip affair. ¬†Edmonton’s heritage park takes you back to 4 eras. ¬†The original Fort built in Edmonton from 1846 signifying the fur-trade era is an impressive structure, and shows how tough it must have been to live and survive in such a harsh climate without the joys of central heating or warm clothing.

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A street depicting 1885, and the hardships the first settlers had to go through is full of original buildings from this time which have been re-sited and located in the park alongside each other. ¬†This is followed by a street from 1905 and Edmonton’s growing municipality, and then finally 1920 with ice-cream parlours, motor vehicles and movie-theatres. ¬†It’s brilliantly done, staff are dressed in clothing from their specific eras and take the form of residents in each of the communities.

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There’s a steam engine and street tram providing rides and assisting in the transportation across the park, plus a fair and midway – attraction park with carousel rides and other amusement delights from the early 1900’s. ¬†Well worth a visit – but leave yourselves a day for the privilege and don’t forget to pack a picnic ūüôā

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Further afield, and a trip to Western Canada isn’t complete without a visit to the mountains and the awe-inspiring Rockies. ¬†Jasper was as beautiful as ever – we’ve been there 3 times now in the last 12 months, and has become our favourite destination of choice. ¬†Lovely to see the mountains without snow for a change, whilst the most impressive view was when my oldest kid and I took a walk around Lac Beauvert at 6am in the morning. ¬†The sun casting red glows on the peaks of the mountains above and only the sound of the animals for company – staggeringly beautific and iconic.

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This was followed by a brief jaunt to Lake Louise, a mega tourist attraction, but when you arrive at the lake you completely understand exactly why. ¬†Nestled in between the mountains, the lake is the most gorgeous turquoise colour you can imagine, and it’s a view you can never tire off. ¬†The older generation were staggered by the breathtaking scenery and along with a car journey that takes you through the Icefields Parkway – one of the most scenic drives in Canada – were stuck for words. ¬†It even took their minds away from the lure of ice creams for a brief period!

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Back in Edmonton, we’re now taking things easy for the last few days of the grandparents stay with us and I’m sure it’s a trip they’ll never forget – for numerous reasons. ¬†More importantly, it’s given everyone a replenished sense of connection with one another, shared experiences, and unforgettable memories. ¬†It just goes to show, that no matter how old you are, you can experience things you never thought possible – and truly benefit from the process.

It’s going to be quiet next week …… !! ¬†ūüôā

It’s a farmer’s life …

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I’ve always loved Farmer’s Markets. ¬†Originally from Bury, the renowned ‘Bury Market’ is firmly in my veins, having visited there every week when I was little whilst my Mum and Gran would buy their foodstuffs for the week ahead and had an innate ability to locate the specific stall for whatever item they required. ¬†If you couldn’t find it there, you wouldn’t find it anywhere.

Holidays to France were often punctuated by trips to local markets and seeing the varieties of produce (often ‘live’ animals) which could be bought and taken home for tea. ¬†I love hearing the stall-vendor shouts and humorous banter between customers and traders as money and produce exchange hands.

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So now the summer’s here, one of the best forms of entertainment and areas to source homemade and original items, are at the huge number of Farmer’s Markets which are dotted across Edmonton. ¬†There are some which occur on specific days of the week, all year round – whilst others ‘pop up’ in the summer months across different areas of the City on set days. ¬†Similarly, there are stalls which you’ll find there every single time you visit, and others who clearly hire them when they’ve got produce or goods to sell. ¬†They are hugely popular, and often you’re vying for space at the front just to get near the goods on offer. ¬†There’s usually a pretty eclectic mix of stalls – ranging from homemade food and homegrown produce, through to handmade jewellery, clothes, and even a stall offering different flavours of homemade dog biscuits to the discerning canine! ¬†To supplement this, there’s often musical ‘busking’ – of an extremely proficient nature, and brilliant to listen and shop to.

My 2 favourite places are the Downtown Farmer’s Market on a Saturday, and the Strathcona Farmer’s Market also on the same day – and I tend to alternate our¬†visits each week. ¬†There are a couple of British producers that have stalls at each one – a Cumbrian lady¬†that sells her homemade honey which is truly scrumptious, and another who is a pork butcher and has the most fantastically tasting smoked bacon that I’ve found this side of the pond. ¬†You won’t find a better black pudding without being back in my hometown of Bury ūüôā

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Little things obviously mark you out as English. ¬† I went to the ‘honey lady’ and offered my usual greeting of ‘Hiya’. ¬†To which she responded, ‘oh my goodness, I’ve not heard that for a while – you must be the English lady I spoke to a few weeks ago. ¬†It’s so nice to hear an English greeting, and I’ve been here 15 years so it’s been beaten out of me. ¬†We just say ‘hi’ over here‘. ¬†We then went on to pass the time of day for a further 15 minutes whilst the rest of my family entourage had to resort to eating some of the fresh cherries and slices of cake just been procured from an earlier stall. ¬†Clearly, a notice saying ‘I’m English’ slapped on my forehead is never required where I’m concerned – I just open my mouth and the first words uttered give it away. ¬†Mind you, then there’s my northern accent ……

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Today we found a stall with 2 ladies who made stained glass mini-flowers for the garden. ¬†I did ask her whether I needed to bring them inside when the temperatures drops to -30, but she said only to be careful when the temperatures started to thaw again next Spring ….

The things I find so amusing and brilliant to watch, are the hoards of people who visit there, from different cultures and backgrounds. ¬†Some bring along their four-legged friends too. ¬†Dogs. ¬†And lots of them. ¬†But beautiful pedigrees and gorgeously cute. ¬†There’s one chap who we’ve seen there each week for the last few weeks. ¬†Not a dainty chap, he¬†dresses¬†in biker-gear and can be seen carrying what can only be described as a long-haired Pomeranian. ¬†This small dog is nestled in a leather front-facing ‘dog’ carrier (imagine a baby carrier on his biker Dad’s front), sporting his own pair of ‘oakley’ sunglasses (and I don’t mean the biker owner). ¬† Makes me chuckle each week, but the dog clearly loves the attention and seems extremely content taking in the view and numerous voices of admiration from passing onlookers. ¬†Only in Canada …

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My other favourite stall is a fishmonger, who has a fabulous variety of fish which is flown in from both the Atlantic and Pacific each week. ¬†One of the drawbacks to being in Alberta and away from any ocean by a very long distance, means that fish has to be frozen. ¬†But I’ve found a stall who not only has a wonderful selection, but smokes their own fish when it arrives too – so their smoked haddock is truly fantastic and tastes superb. ¬†It’s well worth the long queues just to obtain a couple of frozen pieces …

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It seems that the majority of fresh fruit is brought in from British Columbia and there’s an absolute abundance of different types of cherries, apricots, pears and apples. ¬†I love the selection and the quality of the fruit is amazing. ¬†My father-in-law has always talked about eating the most delicious blush coloured cherries called ‘Kentish Naps’ which he assumes were from Kent, England back in the 1930’s and nothing ever since has come remotely close. ¬†Well,¬†we’ve exceeded¬†that today. ¬†Here visiting, we took the grandparents who are now in their mid 80’s to the market and he bought some British Columbia cherries that were the same blush colour he always remembered. ¬†And guess what? ¬†They were just as good today as the last time he had them 80 years ago. ¬†What a brilliant experience and pleasure! ¬†I’m now anticipating that for the remainder of their stay with us, we’ll be consuming such quantities of the fruit that I’ll be glad not to taste them for the next 80 years ūüôā

Just goes to show, you can travel half-way across the world to a country you’ve never visited before in your life, and experience something that takes you back to your childhood long ago. ¬†Brilliant. ¬†That’s what travelling is all about and making the best memories. ¬†ūüôā

Football frolics

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Now I do admit, I’m not the biggest supporter or follower of the UK’s most popular national game – namely, football – but I have been known on occasion to make an exception and turn on the box to watch one of the more significant games involving England. ¬†It’s usually ended in defeat but the addictive process of having¬†raised national expectations and the optimistic hope that this time ‘could be the chance they need’, only to be dashed when the whistle blows after 90 mins is an inevitable tortuous cycle of emotions.

So it wasn’t until I kept driving past adverts in Edmonton for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, that I suddenly realised our current city of residence is one of the Canadian hosts. ¬†Not only that, my Dad – who is an avid follower of the sport – would be staying with us during this time and as such, a trip to see a World Cup game would be right up his street. ¬†Tickets were hastily procured and excellent seats reserved for the semi-final match. ¬†Seeing a football match (albeit the intent had been a Canadian version of the sport), was also an item on our bucket list (click here to see the full listing!) so there’s the opportunity to tick yet another item off our list in the process ūüôā

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Image courtesy of FIFA

It wasn’t until the Sunday prior to the match, that whilst sat in a pizza place watching the quarter-final match between England playing Canada (we had to keep the cheering fairly low profile based on the clientele), that the dawn of realisation hit us. ¬†Our semi-final match would be between our national team and Japan. ¬†I couldn’t have planned it better. ¬†In fact, I didn’t – it was sheer luck.

Edmonton have a brilliant approach to encouraging the right behaviours with the appropriate incentives.  All public transport to and from any of the World Cup matches is free to those with match tickets for the 2 hrs before, during and after a game.  So, onto the LTS we went and over to the Commonwealth Stadium, just north of the city centre.  I took my parents and middle kid, and all made an effort to dress in England colours РI even painted the flag on our cheeks and hands as a sign of encouragement!

Excited wouldn’t come close to describing the atmosphere. ¬†The English supporters (of which there were many) were in full voice and just watching the reaction to the vocal support from other nations was amusing. ¬†For those used to watching and being at English matches, it’s the norm, but it clearly had other nations slightly baffled as to whether the correct protocol was being observed by the English. ¬†It was addictive, and as the match commenced, my middle kid looked at me and my parents in amazement as we shouted encouraging comments to the players and obvious instructive insight as to what¬†they needed to do to win the game. ¬† Offering advice and instruction to others whilst having no skill or qualification in the activity whatsoever, has often been a common characteristic of mine ….. ūüėČ

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By the end of the match (and yes, we lost), I could well understand why friends of mine invest princely sums of money for season tickets to support their football teams of choice. ¬†I loved it, and just watching the action from the edge of the pitch gave¬†a different feel about it to seeing it cold on a TV box. ¬†My Dad has reached a new iconic status as he has been able to inform his friends and grandsons that he’s not only been to a World Cup match, but has seen England play in the semi’s – the highest level any football team from the UK has reached since 1966 ….

Our return journey on the LTS was an interesting game of ‘how many people can we fit into a train carriage in one go’. ¬†Very civil and good-natured, everyone took turns and as it was ‘Canada Day’, some well-liquored travellers started a verbal rendition of the Canadian National Anthem as hordes of people waited and shuffled patiently towards the trains. ¬†The refrain was picked up, and by the end, everyone waiting was either singing or humming to the words with¬†huge cheers going¬†up as it finished. ¬†It was one of those ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moments in life. ¬†Fantastic.

Canada flagAs with all games, it’s not always the winning but the taking part that’s the important part. ¬†We certainly did and had a glorious day. ¬†Winners all round. ¬†ūüôā

Bear spray at the ready …

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A trip to the Canadian Rockies is always a superb experience and a wonderfully scenic visit, but one of our favourite places to stop off at, is Canmore – just south of Banff. ¬†It’s an old mining town, nestled in between the mountains so you get 360 vistas all around – but without the touristy lure and trappings of Banff or Lake Louise. ¬†As a result, it’s much more authentic. ¬†The main street with shops are individualistic and it is riddled in character and a great atmosphere.

There are some lovely walks along the banks of the Bow River, but for our visit this weekend, we took a walk up to Grassi Lakes. ¬†Bears are still very active and the advice from the Information Centre is to ensure you¬†have some ‘bear spray’, as the berries are starting to come out and are a major attraction for our furry friends.

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Following a 90 second demonstration on what to do should we fall upon a grizzly and how to operate the canister ‘in-haste’ – plus signing a declaration that we wouldn’t use it for any other purpose – we were good to go. ¬†The resulting conversation from the 3 kids for the first 30 minutes into our walk, was a preoccupation into the detailed arrangements should we encounter a furry beast – not helped by suggestions of feeding the youngest as a sacrifice to it first, whilst the rest of us made off as fast as we could. ¬†The youngest was understandably perturbed by this proposal and it was¬†concluded that it isn’t the ability to outrun the grizzly we need to be concerned about – just to be able to outrun the slowest member of our party … let me introduce you to the grandparents who are currently visiting ….!! ¬†The youngest was decidedly comforted upon this news that she wouldn’t be bringing up the rear.

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Anyhow, this certainly took care of topics of debate during the amble, and created a distraction for the kids whilst they traipsed up the paths to an elevation of 1500 metres. ¬† There are 2 small lakes when you arrive – both a vibrant green and turquoise which makes the journey thoroughly worthwhile. ¬†You also get the view of the Bow River down in the valley overlooking the town of Canmore too. ¬†There’s a large waterfall to see and an opportunity to take lots of pics. ¬†It’s not a hard walk and reaps rewards for the small amount of effort required – it’s also extremely popular so get there early to benefit the most.

It was with slight disappointment we arrived back at the cars without an encounter or even glimpse of a grizzly – although if the bears had any sense, they’d wait till it was quieter in the evening to eat the produce in relative peace. ¬†Given my 3 kids, I wouldn’t have blamed them at all.

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For the humans, there are some culinary delights worth testing out whilst in Canmore. ¬†The Rocky Mountain Bagel Company, on the Main Street makes 12 different varieties of bagel each night and the sandwiches they produce are mouth-wateringly tasty. ¬†We tried the ‘Mountaineer’ – pastrami, cheese, salad, mustard and gherkins – which we had on a jalapeno-cheddar bagel. ¬†Truly delicious.

Further down the street is the pub, restaurant and shop of the ‘Grizzly Paw Brewing Company’. ¬†A local producer, they have a modern, purpose-built brewery just 2 miles down the road which offers tours and ‘tastings’ too of all their ales. ¬†Those who don’t necessarily want alcohol (?), can sample their sodas which the kids loved. ¬†Needless to say, beers (not bears) and sodas were procured and consumed that evening …

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There’s also one of the oldest buildings in Canmore to visit, built in 1893. ¬†Not old by European or UK standards, but significantly old in this area, and the original home of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police who were stationed in Canmore earlier last Century. ¬†Prior to this, were there any disturbances of any description, troops from Banff were called in and suffice to say, by the time they often arrived, the event had either culminated in disaster or has dissipated completely. ¬†Those were the days.

So, a good weekend was had by all and should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, give Canmore a visit and let me know what you think. ¬†I suspect you won’t be disappointed. ¬†In the meantime, we’re into our final week of the school term and the prospect of hunting for dinosaurs looms ever closer (and this isn’t a sarcastic reference to my parents – honest!). ¬†More to follow ….

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