Guys, it’s been really hot here this week

Yesterday morning nearly did me in. By the time I got to work, I was drenched with sweat and it took me at least 30 minutes to cool off. Granted, I did decide to take the long, hilly way (better to get my walking mostly done in the morning while it’s still “cool”).

How people live in more southern locations, I do not know. There would be no end to my whining and whimpering. I’m clearly built for cooler weather.

I can’t wait for autumn. Hell, today I’d take winter.

Anyway, I’m too hot to write a real blog post, so here are a couple of pictures I’ve taken while taking a break on my walk to/from work in the desperate hope that I might cool off a bit in the shade (nope, I just got bitten by mosquitoes).

It's hot out. Even in the shade.

It was too hot to take the trail on the way home today, so I made a pitstop in an often ignored corner of the #constableeziofaraonepark in #yegoliver

Here’s a few bonus pictures from last week, which wasn’t quite so hot.

Purple

It's a beautiful day!

It's a beautiful day!

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Peace Garden Park

When I first moved to Edmonton, I lived in a wee bachelor in Oliver Community just around the corner from what is now the Peace Garden Park. At the time, it was just a rough asphalt lot that looked liked it hadn’t been maintained in years, but, they’d already started working on planning a new community garden in the community. By the time I returned to the community, it was already built and in use (there’s a picture of it from 2011 on this page). Several years later, and it’s thriving. It’s brimming with flowers and veggies, nowadays. You can walk around the gardens, enjoy a break on the benches in the middle, play on the surrounding grass, or even have a break at the tables they leave out by the shed. And, it’s built for everyone in the community – it even includes some hip-height raised beds for people who have mobility issues (example, if they’re in a wheel chair or arthritic).

PoppiesPoppies and daisies

Squash flower?Roses

Purple flowers

The river valley trail

The day before Canada Day, I strained the posterior ligament in my left knee. It’s been annoying and it meant that I couldn’t take my favourite route along the trail (stairs and inclines hurt). This week, it suddenly started to feel better. After taking two days to test it out (carefully) on steps and longer walks, I finally decided it was OK for me to hit the trail again. I’ll ease back into things (only do the trail if my knee feels fine, and not more than once a day for a little while) and hopefully get back to my usual longer walks before I head off to Paris.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday morning’s walk. It’s been really dry in Alberta, but we’ve had a few nights with rain and things seem to be coming back to life (some lawns have even come back from the dead, changing from brown to green in just a few days). Despite all of this, the trail looks lovely and I got two surprises at the end. The first was to see a good sized, healthy looking coyote off the main path. I’m always happy to see wildlife, but I bit surprised to see it there as it’s usually a fairly busy part of the trail. Then, as I heeded up the hill, I ran into a cyclist who was foraging for berries. I should have asked him what he was picking (dark red berries on a bush).

Sunshine yellow
Dainty
I believe this is burdock.
Click through to the original and view this is a larger size. The dainty web wrapped around the petals is lovely.
White berries
I found a section full of these berries. It almost looks like Christmas.

Rain

Have you ever woken up in a cabin or tent during a light rain shower? Or, walked through quiet woods while it rains? That pitter-patter of rain drops is heaven to me. The smell of damp earth, the feel of damp air against my skin, the quiet – it all soothes my soul. I love walking in the rain. I love that no-one else wants to be out on the trails in the rain. I love that some hearty birds refuse to let rain quiet their pretty songs.

It rained on Monday. There was a 5 minute downpour that swept through my neighborhood first thing in the morning and a very light rain, which we Maritimers typically call “spitting,” that persisted throughout the day and overnight.

Normally, I wouldn’t care too much about a simple light rain. It seems so inconsequential compared to a proper Maritime rain shower. But, it was desperately needed because it’s been so dry in Alberta. All the usual thunderstorms and heavy downpours we usually get in June didn’t happen. We got a mere fraction of our usual rain, so everything is dry and dying.

I miss the rain, so I left for work early in order to have time to enjoy the newly rain soaked trail. It was a relaxing way to start the day.

When I left work and discovered that it was still raining (not quite heavy enough to be bothered with an umbrella), I decided to take advantage of it and take a long route home: down around the Alberta Legislator building, up through the usual trail above the golf course and then through the quiet streets until I’m home. It only offers a brief break from the busy-ness and traffic, but it’s enough to recharge me.

It was just as lovely the next morning. It was peaceful. The usual joggers weren’t on the trail and the the birds were quieter after a night of rain. A young hare sat on the edge of the trail. A chipmunk scurried along a fence. The walk was relaxing. I didn’t even mind the light cobwebs hanging from the trees. It was as if nature was reaching out to caress me.

I hoped it would persist for another day, but by Tuesday afternoon, it was already starting to clear up. The humidity lingered for another few days, making the nights unusually warm and the days  seem hotter than they really were. But, at least I got a few rainy days on the trail.

Rain covered flowers, after a brief but heavy rain
Random rock
Dark skies
Rain drops.
The trail never looks dreary
It rained last night
It rained last night
It rained last night

River valley trail

When I was going to the gym all the time (last year), the one thing that I really regretted was not being able to find the time to hit the river valley trails each day (read: not prioritizing things correctly). At the time, it made sense to focus on fitness, i.e. the gym. In retrospect, that was probably part of why I got fed up with it. I need nature and I really missed the wee trail close to my apartment. I missed watching things grow in the spring. I missed being the only one brave enough to wander along it in the rain. I missed trudging through the snow. I missed the pretty views.

Of course, I then injured myself, which meant that the hills (up and down) were a problem for me.  Sigh. I was doomed to 6 months of always having to be on crowded, busy, noisy, dirty city streets.

This week, I was restless, tired and grumpy about the heat. I needed a break. So, I decided to leave for work a bit early one day and hit the trail. I hoped that the quiet would help me start the day on a more relaxed note. Luck was on my side that day – the trail was empty, except for song birds and one wee rabbit.

Bunny!

It was so nice to feel like I was starting the day in nature and with bird song, instead of on a busy and noisy street. I miss it, I missed it when I started going to the gym all the time, and I don’t know why I ever thought giving that time to a stuffy gym was a good idea. I thrive on quiet and (at least on occasion) solitude. I live for flowers and bird song. I feel happier when I have a chance to reconnect with nature. And, I love being able to cut through the Legislature Grounds. Yes, my injury was an issue for a while, but my knee seems to have healed and strengthened enough to manage the trail at least once a day. I’ll work my way back to twice daily and then start taking longer routes and other trails.

Running on a treadmill may have been good for my circulatory system, but this is what’s good for my heart.

And, for the record, it’s equivalent to about 2.5 km and 10 or so flights of stairs, so it’s pretty good for my circulatory system, too!

The quiet path to work
Flowers
Rose
Berries (with bonus ant)
On the way to work
On the way to work
Instead of a managed garden, one office building is opting for wildflowers. This isn't one of the better beds, but it's still lovely.
Bonus picture: There’s a building near the Legislature Grounds that seems to have opted for wildflowers in their rocky flowers beds. It’s quite beautiful. This picture is from one of the least impressive sections, and I still love it.

The Farmer’s Market

Growing up, my family had a small bit of land by our family cottage that we used to grow vegetables. All summer long I would whine and groan about working in the hot sun with all the bugs, but at the end of the day we’d have homemade hodge-podge with fresh carrots, beans, babies potatoes and whatever else was on hand. At the end of the summer, we’d clean, blanch, freeze, and preserve beans and berries on the weekends. At home, we cleared out our root cellar, made by dad in the corner of our creepy basement, to make room for potatoes, onions, carrots, jams, and pickles. Harvest weekends could result in trunks full of vegetables and our luggage crammed in between kids in the back seat. It wasn’t until much later in life, when I was too busy with school or work, that I started yearning for those long days of too much sun and too many mosquitoes just so that I could get my hands on dirt covered carrots and fresh peas still in their pod.

As I got settled in my career and paid off my student loans, I was introduced to my first Edmonton farmer’s market, the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. Each week I’d buy a variety of things, including the sweetest carrots I could find and delicious bagels. When summer rolled around, I’d even treat myself to succulent strawberries.

I moved to the other side of the river a few years ago, so I now frequent the City Market Downtown. Each week, I buy more or less the same things, but everything is like a treat. Everything is crisp and flavourful, and they stay that way all week. Even the still-damp mesclun (lettuce) mix from Reclaim Urban Farm Inc. stays fresh and crisp for the whole week.

I typically focus on foods that I’ll be eating for my snacks and lunches (if I have to work in a cubicle, I’m at least going to have a nice lunch), but I sometimes treat myself to little extras, like fish from a local fishmonger, bread by Prairie Mills, maybe a couple of cookies, or honey from Beanstalk Honey (best. honey. ever. – I have at least two varieties in my cupboard right now).

To me, shopping at the farmer’s market isn’t just a nice treat, it also makes economic sense. I don’t like it when food starts to wilt and go bad because I eat almost all my fruit and veggies raw and unprocessed, even in the winter. When they’re wilting and drying out, they just aren’t that good anymore and, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but they tend to go to waste. In contrast, the market food stays fresh and delicious a long time. Yes, I do have to pay more upfront for a lot of things, but it’s worth it because it all gets eaten. And, I eat a surprisingly small amount of food, all considering, because it’s all filling and good quality.

The market itself is worth a trip, even if all you do is buy a few baked goods. In the winter, it’s housed on the mainfloor of city hall. In the summer, it takes up 3 blocks not far from city hall. The surrounding shops cater the market goers and there’s a huge variety of stalls (veggies, clothes, plants, baked goods, food trucks, even dog treats). I always go first thing, before it gets too hot and too crowded, and even when I have a list to stick to, I still like to browse all the other options.

There are also a lot of weekend evening markets scattered throughout the city. The one closest to me, 124 Street Grand Market, sounds great, but I haven’t gone yet because it’s on Thursdays, which is just a bit too close to Saturday to be a useful grocery day for me. However, I will have to try and go a couple times as I often volunteer or travel on Saturdays throughout the summer.

I’d be so sad if I ever moved somewhere without a farmer’s market.

Strawberries and cherries!!! This is the time of year when my trips to the market start being a little more expensive, but it's worth it!
Green onion bouquet.
Yum! Everything on this plate is from the market, except the cheese in the scrabbled eggs which is from the cheese shop down the road.
One of my favourite things about eggs from the market is that they come in so many different shades. And, this week, I even got one smaller than usual and over larger than usual. Variety is the spice of life!
Dandelion honey from the market
Mixed mushrooms
This is why I like to get my greens from the market!
Keeping the old and the new apples separate is easy when you use mesh bags instead of plastic. Though, I can't help but wonder how so many apples survived the week -usually I devour them.

Selfies

I basically quit my feminist selfie project by default. I just can’t seem to make myself stick with taking regular pictures of myself. It’s so boring. I should have known this would happen. I’ve never been particularly interested in taking pictures of people (I’m not even very good at taking pictures of my much loved niece and nephew). So, the few times I do think to take a picture of something other than my hair, I’m bored or trying to be goofy just to make it seem less boring.

Ah well, I guess we can’t all be into selfies :)

Here’s a few of the more “recent” ones and a few bonus hair pics (because I like pretty colours!).

Sometimes you need to take a silly pictures of yourself 😎
This is my angry "duck face" look. 🐙  It's too bad you can't see the variety of colour in my hair a little better. I've got everything ranging from blue-green to purple-pink. It's pretty fantastic!
This is my "you displease me" look - my hair is too long and very annoying in this windy, dry weather. So, I'm having some of today. #feministselfie
Blue hair! I was toured of the pink, so I asked for a surprise.  I love blue!
My hair is so beautiful! Thanks to the always lovely @evakhoury who did an amazing job! You should all go to her for all your hair needs, even if you aren't ready to add a splash of colour. #vividimagestudio #yeg

Banff and geocaching

I love Banff. It’s beautiful. I never get tired of visiting. One of the highlights of my Easter weekend (so long ago, I know!) was to visiting Banff. Twice!

The first time we went, we started the day at Cave and Basin, which is always an great place to stop because it’s cool and it’s free if you happen to have a park pass (which we did).

Cave and Basin is a cave and a basin (I bet you weren’t expecting that!). The cave is home to a small geothermic pool, and the basin is a stinky geothermic pool above ground, which is home to a snail that isn’t found anywhere else. Cave and Basin fostered the idea of preserving special places as national parks and preserved sites which people could visit. Canada now has a decent network of national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas (though, considering how big we are, I can’t help but think that we could be preserving even more).

Cave and Basin, Banff, Alberta

After that, lunched in a Southern food restaurant (which reminded me of my trip to Tennessee last fall, sigh), we drove around the back roads, making a few quick stops to do some relatively easy geocaching. It was my first time, sort of. I tried it the hard way a few times several years ago, but my lack of patience with re-learning map skills combined with my shyness which manifests itself by making me super self conscious about rummaging around in the brush meant that all I was really doing was wandering around near where I thought their might be a cache. So, I like to think of this as my first geocaching. It was fun and I really want to do it some more, but I really wish I had my niece and nephew were around to join me. It would be a lot of fun to take them (though, maybe the nephew’s still a bit young to appreciate it).

Geocaching in the mountains

Of course, my favourite part was just being able to wander around in pretty areas. Seriously! Is this not gorgeous!?

Geocaching in the mountains
Geocaching in the mountains

The next day we went back up to visit a friend who was staying in the Fairmount Banff Springs Hotel, which is a pretty snazzy hotel!

We visited the Fairmount #Banff Springs today. It's a beautiful hotel, even on a dreary day.

And, of course, we made a pitstop at Rocky Mountain Chocolate for some of their delicious fudge and tiger butter … which I chopped up and froze as soon as I got home so that it will last me until my next visit to Banff.

While in #Banff this weekend, I bought some tiger butter, maple fudge, and butterscotch fudge from #mountainchocolates . The tiger butter is best when fresh, but it's still pretty fantastic if frozen, so I'm cutting them all into bite sized pieces to free

If you’re ever given the chance to visit the rockies, go. The mountains are amazing!

Exploring hidden trails

I live near the river valley. In my area, it’s a beautiful mess of park, trails, roads, trails, recreational facilities (golf course, etc.) and more trails. Most of the trails are paved bike/pedestrian trails. Some are maintained year round (which is a fancy way of saying “the snow is cleared in the winter”). But, there are also some hidden trails. I’ve known about one of the hidden trails for a couple years. I saw some questionable looking people turn off a set of stairs off through a gap in the railing one evening and amble off along a faint trail into the trees. I was curious, but not curious enough to get over my nervousness. I tend to be a bit overly suspicious of places and I prefer to know a bit about it (where it goes, etc.) before exploring. But, as an unofficial trail, I wasn’t able to find out anything about it. So, I forgot about it until yesterday, when I was walking past those stairs and noticed a beautiful tree full of blooms at the opening of the hidden trail.

Sun-soaked blossoms and blue sky

As soon as a stepped off the stairs to take a picture of the blossoms, I couldn’t resist. It was early enough in the day for any drunks to be sleeping off their booze, but late enough for there to be a lot of traffic and people in the general area, so I figured it was safe enough to check out the trail. Or, as it turns out, the network of trails.

Trail

I wasn’t appropriately dressed for a hike (for example, I wasn’t wearing proper sneakers and I didn’t have any water with me), so I only wandered about 1km in, but it was lovely. It meanders along the slope below the promenade and buildings, in and out of dense trees and mini clearings. It periodically branches off (presumably to connect to the buildings above) and the trail eventually splits to either head up (to the neighborhood above) or down (towards the roads below). I opted for up and quickly ran into a homeless encampment. It was getting a bit steep and I wasn’t sure how I felt about getting too close to the encampment (I wasn’t sure if the trail ended there and didn’t want to intrude – plus, let’s be honest, not all homeless people are nice).

A fork in the trail

It’s pretty clear that the trail is used by cyclists, so I had to make sure to keep my eyes and ears open for speeding bikes (though, I only met one cyclists, on the way back up and he stopped to let me by well before we were at risk for a collision). But, it was pretty quiet and I didn’t see or hear anyone other then that one cyclists.

Blossoms

The trail reminds me a lot of the unofficial trails in the park area near my old apartment (which I explored several times). They were exceptionally lovely because there weren’t any roads nearby by. Oddly enough, I felt safer on them even though there were fewer people around. I miss those trails.

Anyway, it was just a short trip (30 minutes of wandering, at most) but I definitely want to visit them again.