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We’ve become hooked on short-haul trips to small towns we’ve never explored in our own province. W asked if we could go on another adventure as soon as he finished school, and so we obliged by packing up the car and driving to Medicine Hat on Friday afternoon – as good a place to go as any when the forecast tipped beyond 30 degrees. The temperature in southern Alberta this weekend ranged from about 34-38 – no better time to hunker down in a hotel that has air conditioning and a water slide. (Also: no obligation to cook, do dishes or laundry.) We beat the heat with a visit to Tino’s drive-in (hilariously thin burgers, but people apparently go for the chili fries, and the ice cream was cold) and Swirls Ice Cream (my fave). Because I’m a full-on coffee snob, Mike walked across the street to Tim Horton’s while I went in search of a proper cappuccino. The Station Coffee Co in downtown MedicineContinue reading

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When most Calgarians hop in the car for a day trip outta Dodge they tend to head west, toward the mountains, toward Banff and Lake Louise and skiing and snowboarding. And while those are very worthwhile destinations, I’m partial – once spring rolls around – to leaning more southwest, toward the Cowboy Trail, that gorgeous rolling expanse of foothills between the city and the mountains out on highway 22. Technically, the Cowboy Trail (named for all the ranches it winds past) runs 700 km, from highway 3 near Lundbreck to Highway 18 near Mayerthorpe, but the chunk we like to take goes from Bragg Creek through Priddis, past Millarville – and the farmers’ market at the racetrack on summer and fall weekends – to Turner Valley and Black Diamond. It’s a perfect distance – a couple hours in the car, with plenty to stop and eat. The Millarville Market should be opening again soon for the season-typically it’s open Saturdays 9-2. Keep driving another tenContinue reading

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Every time I come out here, life pulls into sharper focus – it becomes more clear what I want to do and why I want to do it – why it’s important – and then I go home and it kind of collapses into the day to day minutae. One of the things I always seem to struggle with is how to make a living – while maintaining my integrity. I know I’m not the only one. So here I am in the midst of a blog redesign – still, because for years I’ve been trying to figure out how to do things better, what the right next step is, how to stand out from all the sameness yet maintain familiarity, worried that if I do take a sudden jag, people will lose interest. (And if they do, isn’t it my own fault for being boring?) As always, my blog keeps getting back-burnered for actual work deadlines – I have to answer to editors, publishersContinue reading

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I head up to Jasper at least once a year – I’ve been going for Christmas in November for the past 13 years – and because I’m typically eating and drinking at the Fairmont JPL, I rarely have an excuse to check out the town beyond gassing up. This weekend there was a little more wiggle room, and we decided to stay for an extra day to exhale before hitting the coast and to do a bit of a Jasper walkabout. People kept asking me where to eat in Jasper and the truth was, I had no idea. Jasper is a ski town in the Athabasca river valley, small and beautiful and full of gift shops, anchored by a railway station and often populated by herds of elk. There’s an Earls and a Famoso pizza and a Tim Horton’s, the requisite tourist-stop candy store and an easy to find grocery store on the main drag. But some poking around and asking those in the knowContinue reading

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I was in Jasper this weekend. How beautiful is this place? And yes, I met Molly Ringwald. And sang 80s karaoke, and lost my voice almost completely, rendering me unable to manage a squeak across the table to Molly at dinner. And I made Sriracha caramel corn and Nutella brownies and that Pixie Stick sandwich Ally Sheedy made in the Breakfast Club. I’m still recovering. But even with all that pink 80s glam, one of the best parts was getting outside, soaking in the outdoors in all its greatness. (And yet going to bed on ironed white sheets – is there anything better?) The drive up to Jasper from Calgary on the Icefields Parkway (highway 93) is one of the most beautiful in the world – you pass somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 ancient glaciers and ice fields, emerald lakes, frozen waterfalls and the odd assembly of elk or bighorn sheep. The 10,000 year old Athabasca glacier is the highlight; as kids, we’d takeContinue reading

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downtown

A few weeks ago, we found ourselves stuck in gridlock in an underground mall parkade on the afternoon of Black Friday. This was not planned, and it was not joyful. I’m not one to hit the malls for such occasions, nor set my alarm to go shopping on Boxing Day. I flirted briefly with online shopping, which saves you a trip out, but makes me feel badly for Otto, our FedEx guy, and sitting alone with a credit card by the glow of my laptop is too solitary for the season, and somehow takes away the thrill of the hunt. I do love the bustle of Christmas shopping – of seeing neighbourhoods decked out, of the camaraderie of crowds with the same happy goal. Even when there are lineups and you find yourself crushed in the food court, tired and hangry in search of sustenance in the form of ginger beef, it has a certain Christmas Vacation appeal. So we decided to do our ownContinue reading

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village

I just dropped in to tell you a few things. One: I may have a bit of an ice cream problem. Not news. Two: My new neighbour-slash-mixmaster, Billy Friley, may not help in this regard, and I’m so grateful that he had a quarter-life crisis, crashed out on his Grandma’s couch for a week, tasted some huckleberry ice cream from a micro-ice creamery in Montana and had an epiphany, deciding right then and there it would become his life’s work. Or at least his Next Big Thing. Three: After said epiphany, Billy spent 13 months in a little space in a parking lot off 10th Ave SE learning how to make ice cream from scratch, with only Jessica Alba to keep him company. She still oversees the machine in the corner, where over the weekend Billy gave W a quick tutorial in homemade salted caramel ice cream. His place is open now, called Village Ice Cream, and it’s worth poking about until you find itContinue reading

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Yesterday was our annual Upscale Bake Sale as part of the CBC Suncor Energy Food Bank Drive. Aviv Fried was back this year with enormous quantities of bread and three kinds of scones from his Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Brûlée Patisserie brought dozens of mini cranberry loaves. Decadent Desserts brought fancy cakes and a gluten-free Yule log Buttercream Bakeshoppe brought cupcakes. Joining us for the first time this year, Yann Haute Patisserie with pain au chocolat, croissants and other flaky pastries, Wild Grainz with freshly baked loaves and shortbread, Sweet Provocateur with festively packaged cookies, loaves and buttercrunch, and the folks from Cruffs were going fast and furious custom-filling cream puffs with chocolate-hazelnut, vanilla and strawberry pastry cream. Each bakery donated their time and baked goods, and many came down to help and chat with folks coming to buy their wares, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Calgary Inter-faith Food Bank. The numbers aren’t in yet, but when I left they had already talliedContinue reading

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This here? My Favourite View From a Porta-Potty. Remember when I used to post what I ate for dinner every night? Yeah, me too. Now when I fall asleep or need to meet a deadline (not nearly as much fun as propping my laptop up in bed and recounting our evening meal – OK, maybe the sleeping part is) and a day or two slips by, the events of the day before yesterday seem so day before yesterday. But I don’t want the weekend to slip by unreported. Even though I didn’t actually cook anything. I didn’t actually cook anything! (Dinner tonight was roast chicken, roughly smashed potatoes and some baby zucchini, quickly fried up in a skillet with oil and garlic. There, now you’re up to speed.) We skipped out for a quick getaway to Jasper – the highway 93 is as stunning as any I’ve ever driven, and yet we had only seen it in winter. I imagined it would be gorgeous inContinue reading

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