There’s a reptile in flight ….

img_9324I think I was a reptile in a past-life.  Usually in a constant state of seeking to nudge up the house thermostat in a bid for a warmer temperature and a place to defrost my hands and feet, I can normally be found nestled under several layers of clothing, with thermal socks and gloves that only a heat-seeking missile would be attracted to.  Ironic then, that I find myself living in a Winter City where temperatures are sub-zero for at least 3 to 4 months of the year.

There’s only two ways to go in such a climate – either embrace the frozen north, or hibernate; only to reappear when the snow has subsided and we start to climb into the positive temperature range around April/May time.  You may be reading this assuming I’m the latter ….. but no.  Despite my cold-blooded tendencies, I do enjoy the winter activities and especially, a spot of skiing – either downhill or cross-country.  Both are readily available in Edmonton, and working in my favour for the cross-country is the fact that Alberta is a prairie-state and literally, as flat as a pancake.  It certainly makes for a less arduous (and by definition, much more fun) way to experience the sport with the avoidance of any hills or steep terrain which would have me hyperventilating with effort and collapsing with sheer exhaustion.  img_0046But I do miss my mountain fix.  It’s one of the scenic aspects I miss most about living in the UK.  That said, Jasper, and the Canadian Rockies are a mere 3.5 hrs drive to the West and are mountainously majestic on a monumental scale.  We’re lucky that we can take a quick trip there for a weekend, get my mountain fix, and attempt the downhill skiing of the Marmot Basin.  With 86 runs, the longest high speed quad-chair in the Canadian Rockies, and views to die for, it’s a spectacular place to ski.  And this past weekend, we did just that.marmot-basinAll the family have their own equipment, and during the past two Winters we’ve lived in Canada, everyone has gradually picked up the skills and technique to get them from the top of a slope, down to the bottom – hopefully, without any mishaps en route.  Even my youngest kid who is now 7, will happily throw herself down the more gradual terrains – which means the whole family can ski together.  My middle kid is the risk-taker, and will seek out every treacherous route in a bid to experience moments of sheer terror with shrieks of hysteria.  Living on the edge is definitely one of her life philosophies ….

Beset with a few challenges including my husband having the navigational prowess of a lemon, my middle kid demonstrating a strong magnetic draw to any dare-devil activity, and my youngest kid being solely focused on remaining upright; I adopt the role of chief navigator and assume responsibility for making sure that whatever chair lift we go up, there’s a route back down that doesn’t require the mastery level of a black diamond.  With the trail-blazing abilities of a bloodhound, I’m relied upon to traverse the various routes down the mountain, identifying a variant path each time from the one before, until we all safely arrive with aching limbs and tired muscles to the awaiting chairlifts at the bottom  – only to be whisked into the heavens such that the cycle can repeat itself yet again.img_9355After a few hours, confidence was high and I decided to inject some novelty, proposing we take a chairlift towards the top of the mountain rather than focusing on the middle and lower terrains.  As we ascended, the views were spectacular and the scenery stunning.  With my attention somewhat distracted, I had failed to notice the need for a rapid exit at the top of the lift as the chairs quickly gained height before flipping around a spindle and returning back to the bottom.  Graciously hesitating at the top to let my kids off first, was my undoing.  I missed the optimum point of departure – and only when the chair started to pick up speed and the ground quickly fell away did I realise a hastier exit was required.  The prosaic lines of the immortal song, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go Now’, reverberated through my head – and a nanosecond split decision saw me adopting an ‘Eddie the Eagle’ approach to descent as I ‘launched’ myself off the chair.goat in flightA ‘Clash’ it certainly was.  Imagining it to be more graciously executed than the reality, I felt I had it perfectly controlled until the landing.  Maybe it was the knees, or even my posture that let me down, but my husband later recounted the moment when he witnessed the ‘splat’ as I hit the ground and arrived unceremoniously in a heap at his skis.  Even the best of us, have our odd moments of misadventure and I’m still chuckling about the incident a week later – whilst nursing a rather large bruise that has managed to feature all the colours of the rainbow.  The bruise has managed to generate enough heat to keep my reptile-like tendencies at bay, retaining warmth in my hands and feet.  I can’t help but think it’s far easier just to notch up the thermostat …. ūüôā

 

Google images supplied the cartoon in today’s blog, the rest have been photogenically captured by ‘goat and kids’

Life in a freezer

Christmas goatDid you know the best temperature to maintain your home freezer is between -18 and -23C? It certainly comes to something when we’ve been living in temperatures below that for the last few weeks and our home freezer is warmer than it is outside …. how bizarre is that?  We’ve been sat with the freezer door open just to take the chill off!  There again, this is Edmonton – the most northerly city in North America.  It’s to be expected, I guess.

For those wondering what -25 and below feels like, its best described as uncomfortably cold. When it hits below -30, the outside air is so cold that each time you take a breath and breathe in, your chest hurts as your body isn’t able to warm the air up quickly enough before the cold blast of oxygen hits your lungs. Any drops of water quickly turn to solid ice – so much so, that moisture in your nose instantly crisps up, your eyes feel grainy and any skin left exposed to the elements starts to painfully throb. Frostbite is certainly a reality and you need to treat the weather with respect in what you wear, how long you’re outside for, and how many layers you’ve got on in order to maintain your core body temperature. My kids do a lot of swimming, and within the 90 seconds it takes them to get from the entrance of the Recreation Centre and into the car, any strands of hair outside the obligatory woolly hat has instantly frozen on their heads, and their wet mesh bags turn to solid ice and can stand upright without assistance. It’s like a reality scene from the film with the same title …. ‘Frozen’.  As I say …. bizarre.

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There are some saving graces.  Thank goodness for the ability to remotely start my truck which can be nicely warming up before we reach it in the car park (or the garage come to that) – complete with automatic heated seats and steering wheel (mmmm….. toasty).  Talking of the car, if it’s left outside for long periods then the advice is to plug-in the block heater if the temperature gets below -15 to protect the engine and other components from freezing solid.  I’ve never done this as yet – my mechanical knowledge isn’t that great – I’ve no idea which switch to flip to open the bonnet let alone have the ability to plug-in a ‘block heater’ (a what?)  I know, I know …. a typical female stereotype – but to my credit, at least I can reverse and park with ease …..

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On a more practical note, there are some basic aspects which require consideration that I felt would be useful to bring to your attention and will be alien to those residing in warmer climes.

Supermarket shopping.  Or even, just a trip to the bakery.  There’s a delicate balance between how long you can leave newly purchased perishable goods in your car and take the opportunity to call in at other retail outlets on the way home, before everything has frozen solid and needs to be defrosted.  Milk, yoghurt, bread ……. On the plus side, the garbage which we store in the garage ready for the refuse collectors to call and collect on a weekly basis, becomes frozen so at least the pungent aroma of rotting food is mitigated significantly …..

hand warmersI don’t mind a bit of a chill, but my survival instincts are tested to the extreme when we dip below -20.  So much so, I’ve purchased mini sachets of hand warmers which when activated, will retain their warmth for upto 6 hrs.  I’ve even expanded my arsenal and to this year’s collection have supplemented these with some toe warmers and even body warmers. Quite frankly I don’t care where they need sticking – I’ll put them anywhere as long as they keep me warm!

It’s all relative.  This week has seen a massive swing and we’ve gone positively tropical for the last few days with a massive swing of 25 degrees – up to 0C.   Boy, does it feel warm and bearable in comparison. Even the local weather network reporting on the daily weather describes it as ‘warm for the next few days’ which made me stifle a chuckle, before we’re due to plummet back into arctic conditions just in time for Christmas Day.  Oh joy!canada nativityThank goodness Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. I can’t help but feel the Christmas story would’ve been a different affair if Mary and Joseph had found themselves in Edmonton seeking respite.  Just the thought of residing in a stable with the minimum of shelter, sub-zero temperatures, and only a cradle in a manger would have, I strongly suspect, most pregnant women thinking twice.  Not only that, any nearby animals would be scarce on the ground, sensing they’d be used for food, heat and clothing.  The shepherds with their flocks of sheep would be safely nestled in their small-holding (if they had any sense), plus the 3 kings would have been noticeable in their absence, opting to remain in their palaces where it was warm and luxurious.  Oh, how different the Christmas story would have been ….

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Christmas is a time for giving.  For family.  For being thankful, for joy and for peace.  For all its frigid nature, life in a freezer at this time of year certainly injects the feel of Christmas.  There are sparkly lights on the outside of all the houses, Christmas objects in gardens lit up and twinkling, the temperatures so cold that the frost glimmers in the air, and along with the fairly light dusting of snow we’ve had so far, it all serves to create a magic that is hard to replicate.  In the words of that well-known song ….. it’s a wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, be of good cheer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas ‚ĚĄÔłŹūüéĄūüėä

 

Thanks as ever to google images for the majority of pics in today’s festive blog …

A taste of things to come …. ???

Edmonton fall

Not only have the temperatures plummeted below freezing for the best part of the last 2 weeks, but we’ve also had our first few snow dumps unseasonably early. ¬†It may only be¬†mid¬†October, but life in the most northerly city across North America has had us hunting out our woolies, gloves, hats, scarves and snow pants much earlier than usual. ¬†Not only that, tools have had to be commissioned and the snow shovel has been pressed into service¬†to remove the accumulation of snow on the drive and pavement – serious stuff indeed. ¬†Maybe it’s¬†a freak weather event which¬†with any luck, may¬†disappear later this week – but there’s no escaping the certainty that¬†by the middle of next month it’ll be here to stay and won’t disappear till next May. ¬†Brrrrr ……..

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On the plus side, the snow slopes are getting excited. ¬†Last year, everything had to be delayed by a few weeks as the snow was later than usual – this year, Mother Nature is making up for it and with this early blast there may be chance to get some early season skiing or cross-country skiing underway. Let’s hope so.

Last week, in amidst all this excitement, Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving – our second one since our arrival. ¬†A year ago, I embraced the festivities with attempting to emulate a ‘typical’ Canadian thanksgiving meal – roast turkey and all the trimmings. ¬†For those that remember, (and should you wish to relive the event, click here), we discovered to our detriment that a dish entitled ‘candied yams’ which we took to be dessert, should’ve actually been an accompaniment to the savoury main course. ¬†We’ve mastered many elements to living in Canada, but this whole mixing of savoury and sweet together has us foxed each and every time. ¬†With this in mind, I thought we’d better play safe so asked my many Canadian friends for a dessert recommendation. ¬†‘Pumpkin Pie’ was the resounding cry – so procure one I did.ThanksgivingNow imagine the scene ….. it’s snowing outside, we’re 4cm deep in snow and are heartily¬†enjoying our roast dinner. ¬† To be honest, it was only the lack of ‘Jingle Bells’ resonating from the speakers and you would’ve been mistaken for thinking it¬†Christmas dinner. ¬†Anyhow, back to dessert ….. husband and kids all declared their enthusiasm to try the pumpkin pie, and were looking forward to this with anticipation. ¬†Even the cat appeared from her bed – lacking in some of her senses now she’s at the ripe old age of 21, but her sense of smell is still functioning perfectly and the lure of the roast cooking was¬†obviously too much for even her to ignore. ¬†Main course consumed, and the dessert¬†was brought out with great ceremony – husband & I even poured a glass of Canadian ice wine to sample in its honour.Pumpkin Pie

There’s a silence that often prevails after a dessert is served – everyone heads-down, maximising their delight, savouring the sweetness and aroma, wishing it would never end. ¬†Well, after the first mouthful was consumed, the stunned¬†silence epitomised the collective feeling about the dessert choice and we wished it would end. ¬†And end quickly. Unilaterally, (once we’d struggled to swallow our first mouthful), and very similar to the current US Presidential Elections, we were challenged¬†to find the merest glimpse of positive endorsement that would see this dish as a preferred candidate for future events, and¬†were grasping at the smallest elements of the pie which were least repellant. ¬†It was a traversy. ¬†To say there was immense disappointment, was¬†an understatement. ¬†We shall be leaving the delicacy to my Canadian friends to consume in entirety in future.

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Our track record with pumpkins has not been a resounding success so on a positive note, our future use of¬†them¬†will be exclusively¬†as decorated outdoor exhibits during Halloween …. ¬† mwah ha ha …..

ūüôā

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

Just give us a push …

cross-country-skiing

I’ve been out and procured some cross-country skiing equipment over the last week – part of an early birthday present and also, if I didn’t do it soon, I’d miss the brilliant snow conditions that are in Edmonton at the moment. ¬†Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking days or weeks before the snow disappears. ¬†No – we’re in it for the long haul and it won’t be probably till April before¬†we get to see glimpses of grass underneath the blankets of whiteness that surround us currently. ¬†That said, there’s no time like the present, and after my brief ‘trial’ just before Christmas, I’ve been keen to try the sport and get out in the River Valley and enjoy it.

The equipment is slightly different. ¬†For those familiar with downhill skiing and having to prise your feet into the¬†solid, rigid ski boots, then you’re in for a treat with cross-country skiing. The boots are wonderfully comfy, rather like wearing¬†a pair of flexible slippers on your trotters – and clip into your skis just at the tip of the toe, leaving your ankle free to move up and away from the ski itself. ¬†This is great as it enables you to really push-off and ‘skate’ through the snow. ¬†The skis themselves are much narrower and significantly lighter than downhill skis, with¬†the poles much taller. ¬†There’s a whole industry surrounding waxing underneath the skis – to provide grip and glide – and knowing the difference and what to use, and when, seems to be riddled with¬†complexity to me as a complete novice. ¬†I’ve copped out and gone for ‘waxless’ skis ¬†– and so far, these are working really well and I’ve at least remained upright. ¬†Success!

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I’ve mentioned in numerous blogs over the year that the City of Edmonton certainly embraces and encourages activity – providing an amazing number of activities and sports from young to old. ¬†Cross country skiing is no different, and there are a number of park locations in the city which are purposely groomed and maintained for people to purely turn up and have a go.

One of the other advantages of living in Edmonton is that rather like living in Cheshire, England – it’s extremely flat, albeit much drier than it seems to be over the other side of the pond. ¬†This means that for the majority of cross-country skiing opportunities, there may be minor inclines and small sections of downhill, but for the most part – it’s flat. ¬†Not challenging for those wanting to adopt it as a serious sport, but for the recreational user and for me, it’s proving a hit. I can tell though, that getting up minor inclines needs more finesse on my part – I’m doing a good impression of a dilapidated duck and it’s been pure luck I haven’t ended up in a heap back at the base of the climb. ¬†Good job there’s nobody filming my exploits – you’d have ‘cine-gold’ to blackmail me with!

cross country skiing

Some circuits are based on or around golf courses – you can imagine there’s not much call for golf when everything is covered in snow and it’s sub-zero. ¬†So, these circuits are groomed and often take you round the edges of the courses, through the trees and along the river. ¬†It’s so quiet too – you wouldn’t know you were in the centre of the city.

I had to chuckle last week¬†as I embarked on my first attempt at cross-country skiing with my newly acquired equipment. ¬†As I was getting my boots and skis on, a chap in the next vehicle was doing likewise and remarked on how nice my skis were. ¬†Not wanting to let on that I’d¬†never used them in earnest as yet, I simply shouted back, ‘yes, they’re extremely light’. ¬†He then enquired as to which direction around the track is usually adopted – and luckily, as I’d been just once before, I could say with a confident sweep of the arm, ‘oh, we always go this way’………..and with that, off he skied. ¬†Just goes to show, do it with confidence and nobody is any the wiser ūüôā

Cross country skiing

Yesterday, I took a friend of mine around one of the skiing tracks. ¬†It was a beautiful day – blue skies, sunshine and temperatures that were verging on freezing point, ie. mild! ¬†The scenery was spectacular, and the skiing wonderfully crisp, it’s an utter joy to be out and experiencing it. ¬†We even spotted a family of 3 coyotes quietly enjoying the sunshine nestled underneath a conifer as we passed only 10 feet by. ¬†I haven’t had any disasters as yet, and despite being hard work on your muscles, it’s highly aerobic and doesn’t take long before the sweat is dripping and you begin to wonder whether all the layers of clothes may have been overkill. ¬† I’m enjoying it, and boy, do you feel much better mentally just having got out there and given it a go.

I wonder what’ll be next!! ¬†ūüôā

Thanks to google images for this week’s pics! ¬†Hard to take pics when you’re travelling at speed …..

Winter sports …

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We seem to spend forever planning and preparing for the imminent arrival of Christmas and all the festivities that go along with it, and yet no sooner has it arrived, then it’s over and we’re now already heading midway into January. ¬†It’s frightening how fast time goes. ¬†But in terms of Christmas, we’ve just had the fortune to celebrate our second Christmas over in Canada – and we made a concerted effort to try to make the most of the break by doing new things and trying different activities.

My last blog mentioned the various shows and attractions we went to see with the kids just prior to Christmas (click here for a reminder). ¬†As soon as we’d recovered from the Christmas Day excesses, we hit the road, and travelled the 4hrs over to the Rocky Mountains and Banff. ¬†Edmonton isn’t renowned for its hills, so you can never take away the delight of seeing the Rockies slowly appearing on the horizon after 2 hours travelling, and the size and scale of the mountains covered in snow. ¬†Ironically, we left Edmonton in -20, and arrived in Banff at -5. ¬†The heady temperatures didn’t last for long and the cold flipped on its head and plummeted us back to the ever so familiar ‘minus double digits’ for the remainder of our stay. ¬†That’ll teach us for thinking it may be warmer further south!

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It’s always nice to have people visit, and extra special this year was my best friend from home who flew over from the UK along with all her family to spend New Year’s week together. ¬†We’re both of a similar mould, and making the most of a week together with family members whose ages ranged from 6 to 76 required a detailed plan and meticulous planning which we’d been developing for the last 2 months. ¬†One of the first activities all bar the seniors of our party were first to attempt, was skiing. ¬†We opted for a family lesson, and ended up with a tutor from Cardiff in good old Wales. ¬† I lived in Cardiff for a while years ago, and we happily compared notes and places as we traversed the mountains. ¬†It’s the first time I’ve been skiing in the mountains since doing it in Europe many moons ago, and you forget the staggering views and scenery at the top of the mountains, just after you disembark from the chair lifts. ¬†Trying to¬†concentrate on the terrain is hard work when your eyes are constantly drawn to such wonderful views – and the skiing itself is crisp, dry, and beautiful powder snow to ski on. ¬†We had a brilliant day.

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Another highlight and ‘must do’ in the Rockies is a trip to the hot springs. ¬†There are several different locations and last year, we visited the one just outside Jasper. ¬†Banff equally have hot springs, and the view across the mountains is amazing when you get there. ¬†There’s nothing quite like the experience of sitting in a blistering hot pool of 40C, whilst your shoulders and head are exposed to the outside elements of -25! ¬†It’s much more pleasant doing this in winter than it is in the summer I’ve found, and there’s also a comical element as your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes start to form ice crystals and freeze. ¬†It’s hilarious! ¬†The worse part, is the decision to come out of the pool and move indoors to get changed …… brrrrrrrr…………

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Next on the itinerary was ‘dogsledding’. ¬†It’s been on our bucket list of things to do in Canada and it didn’t disappoint. ¬†We opted for a firm just based outside Canmore – probably one of my most favourite places in the Rockies – who take you via minibus about 17km towards Spray Lake. ¬†There, you’re greeted by tour guides and 185 huskies who are all excited about being hooked up to sleds and going for a 10km run. ¬†The dogs howl and jump with excitement until the sleds are off and then within an instant, there’s complete silence as you move along the trail except for the patter of paws on the snow and the occasional encouraging command shouted by the guide.

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The sleds are surprisingly comfortable and the winter views of the lake and forest scenery, spectacular. ¬†We even had the rare pleasure of spotting a moose with her youngster moving through the trees – brilliant! ¬†Nature at it’s very best – and certainly puts life into context when you can be out and about just witnessing such majesty. ¬†Amazing.

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Spending time together, doing stuff together, sharing experiences together is what makes such things memorable. ¬†And it truly was. ¬†It was a great week spent with friends and family – and all the more important to us as they’d flown from the UK to spend it with us. ¬†We certainly had a few comic moments too – and we’ll be dining off and recounting these¬†for years to come! ¬†What a way to start 2016 ….

Happy New Year one and all ūüôā

Active? Me? Well, what do you know ‚Ķ..

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When asked to describe me, friends invariably come up with all manner of descriptive terms ‚Äď some complimentary, some jovial, some just plain rude. One thing that they all would have in common though, is that the term ‚Äėactive‚Äô or something even indicating the essence of any effort being deployed in the pursuit of fitness ‚Äď would definitely not appear. On that they would certainly agree.

But, take me away from home pastures and place me in an unknown city with snow for 5 months of the year, and mostly blue skies and high 20‚Äôs temperatures for at least 4 months ‚Äď then a transformation nothing short of miraculous has occurred. I‚Äôm now hankering after any exercise possible ‚Äď and you know what I put it down to? Having the scenery, blue skies and sunshine ‚Äď irrespective of the degree of warmth. That‚Äôs what. ¬†Staying inside would be sacrilege.

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I tested my theory recently on my brief return trip to the UK. Every day delivered weather that was miserable, raining and cloudy. Now, I do admit, that my social diary was rather manic and a large portion of time taken up meeting friends and family – which was absolutely fab and a wonderful tonic. But did I get the urge to be out and about exercising? No. In fact, it was decidedly the opposite.

Since the kids returned to school in September, at least 3 times a week I‚Äôve been traipsing the trails around the River Valley in Edmonton, seeking out new routes and taking great delight in listening to various playlists whilst enjoying the views. I‚Äôve loved it. It‚Äôs become my preferred form of ‚Äėme‚Äô time, and I‚Äôve felt much better for it too. It was a shock to my muscular system initially, and I can only imagine the frenzy of activity it provoked inside my body ‚Äď rather like an opening episode of the sequel to the animation, ‚ÄėInside Out‚Äô. I like to think that instead of ‚Äėemotions‚Äô competing against each other, there’s ‚Äėmuscular‚Äô, ‚Äėskeletal‚Äô, ‚Äėdigestive‚Äô, ‚Äėcommon sense‚Äô and ‚Äėreckless‚Äô all jockeying for position. Upsetting the norm of what has been the best part of 40 years, I certainly have.

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The snow came down nearly 2 weeks ago and whilst only a small dump by Edmonton standards, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, it‚Äôs still on the ground. Two weeks on, it‚Äôs still pure white, shimmers in the light and creates it‚Äôs own sense of beauty. It‚Äôs cold, but that‚Äôs manageable if you just make sure you‚Äôve got your layers on ūüôā

So, traipsing in the snow has become my new pursuit and not only that, true to my word, I’m now hitting the ski slopes for an hour or so whilst the kids are otherwise engaged in educational establishments. Strava is struggling to cope with all these various nuances of exercise, but I’m loving it.

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Friends recently asked me if the snow turns a yucky brown colour and goes to mush. Not in the slightest. In fact, most of the trails that are paved are cleared for snow which makes walking on it all that much easier. Only the gravel paths stay full of snow and even then with the advent of others walking the same routes, the snow slowly gets worn down and it’s easier to navigate. Whatever the case, invariably, the sky is blue, the sun is shining and the view is a wintry picture reminiscent of Christmas cards.

A fellow Mum who I see everyday in the drop-off and pick-up at school is a cross-country skiing fan – and has invited me to join her. ¬†I’ve no idea what I’ll need to do, the amount of physical exertion it’ll require, or even the type of skis needed – but I’m game and we’ll try to get out over the next week. ¬†It’ll be a laugh and lovely to enjoy with a new-found friend.

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I‚Äôm coming to the conclusion that maybe, all my years of experiencing the UK weather has made me appreciate such a climate and finally having the environment to enjoy such forms of exercise on my doorstep, has unlocked a new-found passion for doing so. I‚Äôm not advocating it as a recipe of success for others ‚Äď but it‚Äôs certainly working for me!

Long may it continue. ¬† ūüôā

It’s cold Jim, but not as we know it

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Whenever I mentioned to anyone that we were relocating to Edmonton, Canada, the first comment invariably made was along the lines of, ‘you do realise they have snow there for 6 months of the year?’ ¬†This was then often followed by ‘and it’s extremely cold – minus 40 in the Winter’.

Both points are absolutely true, and yes, the snow has indeed arrived along with the sub-zero temperatures. ¬†In the last 2 weeks, we’ve gone from being in the positive mid to late teens, through to minus mid to late teens – and a windchill that has seen it -24 on a few occasions. ¬†That said, it’s hard to describe what this is like unless you experience it – it’s like nothing I’ve known before. ¬†It’s wonderful, yet cold – although I’m conscious that it’s still a novelty at this point!

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The skies are often blue – pure blue, with not a single cloud in them, and the sun shining. ¬†On the occasional day, there’s cloud cover – usually when it’s due to snow, but more often than not (so far at least), it’s been clear blue skies. ¬†The temperatures are so low that there isn’t any rain anymore, just snow. ¬†And now the temperatures have dropped and the first snow has fallen, it stays where it is and gradually compacts down on the surfaces as ice on the pavements and roads. ¬†I’m used to seeing snow turn quickly into a mucky brown slush in the UK, but this never happens either here. ¬†It stays crystal white – even after footprints and boots have trodden in it.

The air is so dry and cold, that you get ice particles in the air which shimmer and glisten in the light – it’s truly beautiful. ¬†The trees stay covered in snow and ice crystals – and are mesmerising to look at and reminiscent of all the picture postcard¬†scenes seen on Christmas cards in the Winter.

And talking of Winter – this hasn’t arrived yet. ¬†It’s Autumn here – and Winter is still to come. ¬†Everyone talks about February being the coldest month – and with the temperatures already plummeting, we’ve procured all manner of clothing and apparel that keeps us snug whilst outside. ¬†Lots of layers is key, and anything left exposed feels the cold pretty quickly.

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Driving has also taken some getting used to. ¬†Luckily, our new Jeep arrived the day before the snow so it’s been both fortuitous, but also a steep learning curve for someone (me!) who’s not been used to driving much in the snow and ice. ¬†I’ve progressed though. ¬†On Day 1 – I accept – I was as slow as a snail. ¬†Driving with trepidation in the snow and on the ice, much to the disgruntlement of the locals who were extremely polite and patient – no honking of horns or gesticulating gestures which I would expect to find back in England. ¬†It’s been a baptism of fire as I’ve had to drive and navigate myself around in order to deposit kids off to various locations and obtain food and necessaries for the house. ¬†My confidence has grown and now – 2 weeks on – I’m driving on the sheet ice (which has become the new tarmac) with greater confidence and assurance. ¬†There have been no minor mishaps, traffic accidents or vehicle breakdowns – key KPI’s from my perspective and a success story, I’m sure you’ll agree!

It’s also interesting to see that life continues and nothing stops for the sake of sub-zero temperatures or a foot of snow. ¬†Nothing can afford to – not when it lasts for 6 months of the year. ¬†Traffic flows easily, there maybe the occasional bump on the roads (usually as the extra stopping distances required haven’t been factored in), but no great inconvenience. ¬†Gritters grit the roads and life continues as before.

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Even the school has a policy that above -20, the kids will continue to play out at ‘recess’. ¬†Below this (including windchill), the kids stay indoors. ¬†But they need to be hardy, and make sure they always wear hats, gloves, thick coats, and waterproof boots. ¬†It’s one of those learning points in life that you’ll only ever forget one of these items once – and you never do it again, as it’s so cold.

Walking to school in a morning, the school has a traffic light system displayed on the doors depending on the weather and temperature. ¬†Below -20, it’s a ‘red’ system and the kids can access the school and wait in the gym until school officially opens. ¬†Above -20, it’s a ‘green’ system, and they have to wait outside until the school doors are open.

You quickly acclimatise to the temperature though. ¬†It’s warm today. ¬†At only -8, I’ve put a thinner coat on and haven’t needed a hat. ¬†Like life – everything’s relative.

Winter when it hits will be interesting …