July 30, 2013

A Fort Edmonton Park Anniversary Weekend

Where better to celebrate year four than one of our favourite places in the city, Fort Edmonton Park. We spent our weekend at the Hotel Selkirk, wandered the grounds after hours in streaming perfect sunlight, and took pictures. Lots of pictures. We had a later supper booked at Johnson's Cafe, so after we checked in, we took the opportunity to get out and enjoy the park.

Neal and I explored unencumbered by throngs of park visitors and read every sign, peeked in every window, and stopped to pet every animal we saw. As well as housing a large collection of historical buildings, the park plays host to a variety of cats, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and horses. Some horses are employed by wagon and pony rides and some seem to just spend their days with noses buried deep in piles of hay. The horse pasture in streaming sunlight made my heart sing and we spent a lot of time with these pretty fellows.

I love horses, and hearing their exhaling prrrfffft gretting brought back many wonderful memories of years training Thoroughbreds on the farm. One bay was our friend and stood so nicely while I snapped away (a few blades of fresh grass via Neal may have helped). 

Although these equine fellows were music to my heart, this fellow is still my favourite...

Happy Anniversary love, there is no one I would rather spend this one wild and precious life with. Here's to many more such wonderful evenings,

July 29, 2013


Gentle rippling waves and shore birds bring peace to a week in Slave Lake. We had a wonderful time hanging out at the provincial park campground with some dear friends and their kids, then spent the rest of the week checking up on our re-build house.

Progress is in fits and starts. The house can sit a few days with not much going on, then all of a sudden a flurry of activity begins. We are close now, close to listing and hopefully close to selling. We are close to finding a new nest. It can be exciting and a little unsettling, which is why an evening at the beach was in order. I may have let a few bad words slip while trying to catch flying shorebirds in my viewfinder. This is when I acknowledge that I'm a tad wound up, and Neal adds to his petty cash stash. Sometimes being in Slave Lake is hard.

Thankfully the truth that God supplies all our needs brings perspective. Though aggravations creep up, and impatience threatens to take root, I rest in the hands of the One who has a plan. We're trusting Him for good things.

July 18, 2013

Golden Fields of Glory

It is amazing what God can do with feeble attempts at obedience, even just sitting in quiet and listening. It is so good to just be quiet and listen after a long season of busy. I always resist at first. Then, after settling in, wonder why I let quiet time slip away so easily.

These golden fields on a drive out to my parent's place last evening seemed wrapped in His glory. I decided to slow down, to stop and listen and see. Goldenness saturated the ground and sky and saturated me, a partaker in all this glory.

He is so incredibly beautiful.

The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

In the heaven God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. 

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 
Psalm 19:1-10

Oh spend some time with Him this weekend friends. He is gracious when we feel far. He honours even small minutes of time, waiting to bless. Wanting to bless. Sending soul-shaking encouragement to rock you, or whispering quiet peace. Expect good things.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." 
John 10:10

July 16, 2013

On counting your chickens...

Have you ever felt like you are floundering around, confused and slightly directionless? Ever hit the ground after plans fail? I hate it when plans fail. I was excitedly preparing to announce my recent enrolment in Arts and Cultural Management classes at a local university a few weeks back. Wind whistled through my sails as I soared on wings of expectation. Until I was recently notified that my application was put on a waiting list as classes were at capacity. 


But these were on-line courses, part time too, they were open and available! They were supposed to mesh nicely with my choice to return to substitute teaching, and give purpose to turning down full-time teaching opportunities.

I flap wings missing a few feathers, and plummet fast down. It hurts to fall.


There are people out there who have found their thing. Whether it is a professional career, the journey of motherhood, a passion turned into a business, a ministry to pour into, there is something in the way these people go about their day. They are happy in their work. There is an inner sense that they are living out a greater purpose. Maybe you are one of those people. Neal is one of those people. He loves his job. It is the perfect mix of his passion for science and teaching and his pastor heart. He went through a time of wing flapping too, but God faithfully led him and continues to. 

Why is that so much easier to see in other people?

Maybe you are like me, and do not feel like you have found your thing. I have tried to grow into teaching, to dig in instead of bail out, to adjust my expectations and attitude, to do hard work when I feel hopelessly inadequate. It is hard to explain, but when I teach full-time I feel like something is missing. Quiet time is eaten by exhaustion, and I flounder when I lose focus of the One who has a plan for each day. I get all off kilter and lose balance.

So I have been on a hunt for something different. Charging ahead, still neglecting to sit in quiet, though I have lots of time now. Neglecting because I have failed to trust. I run to open doors and He gently shuts them. Why? 

Yet in this hunt, and even through doubt, one crystal clear thought bubbles up...

Who you are is more important than what you do

Who am I when I read of recent flood devastation? Who am I when I stand in line at the grocery store? Who am I when impatient drivers threaten my patience? Who am I when a friend calls to talk?

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  

I know that my life should serve Christ and not myself, but oh how I struggle with that. I would like to be comfortable. I would like to create beautiful, perfect things every day. I would like my work to be easy, and I would like to end every day with a bowl of popcorn pretty please. 

It encouraged me recently to read this of Emily Carr, a famous Canadian painter and writer; "In her fortieth year she was still seeking her identity. She thought she might find it in Paris, when all the time it was in the rainforests of her own Vancouver Island and the Indian villages of the Queen Charlottes" {excerpt from 'Edmonton: Stories From the River City'  by Tony Cashman, and you can read more about Emily here}.

Identity takes time. Using gifts well takes time. It is okay to circle around and bump your nose on closed doors, and turn around again. Perhaps discovering identity and purpose involves experiencing what it is not. Just don't stop seeking. God knows. He is the creator and He knows.

I wish He would let me in on it, but perhaps that would spoil the surprise.

July 15, 2013

Dear Friends With Kids,

Being the only couple without kids in a varied circle of friends is really not so bad. Earlier in our journey, thoughts about being the only ones without kids would bring on water-works. Now, a little older and a little farther along the journey, I'm comfortable in this liberated skin. 

It's okay. I'm okay. Life is good, both yours and mine. 

Being a rather unique breed, the couple in their thirties with no kids variety, I wanted to share our perspective with you. I share in love. I share in jest. I share because I want you to feel loved and respected and to be free to allow your family to be themselves around us, these strange people who consistently sleep through the night.

1) We love your kids. We love them when they are sweet and obedient and when when they are crazy and do not do what you want them to. It may provide an inward chuckle, but that's because we get it. They are kids after all, not angels. I mean no offence when I say that the closest kids get to looking like cherubs is when they are sleeping. In waking hours, we are completely comfortable with whatever they, and you, decide to do or say in the moment.

2) We are not judging you by the cleanliness of your house. Wait a second, did you read that right? Yes you did. We don't care about the toys on the floor, dishes on the counter or the fact that we just stepped in something sticky. It's okay. You have kids.

3) You can feel perfectly comfortable leaving us to our own devices while you put your kids to bed. Even if that means bringing them five glasses of water, reading three bedtime stories, and engaging in repeated attempts to replace their jammied behinds back into bed when they escape. I might pick up a few toys and put them away, but I'm just trying to make myself useful (refer to #2).

4) We do not expect you to keep up an un-interrupted conversation with us. Chances are, if you have more than one child, you no longer remember what it is like to have an un-interrupted conversation. That's okay. No expectations here. In fact, you earn our admiration by the way you can pick up and carry on a conversation after repeated interjections to your children, who are more than likely plotting just how many times they can ambush their sibling. We like talking with your kids too, and are more than happy to discuss dinosaurs, the latest adventures of Princess Petunia, or how many legs a caterpillar has.

5) Sometimes we feel guilty that we are more often at your place than you are at ours. You are more then welcome to bring your tribe to our place, but we understand the restrictions. For the past year and a half our place has been a small condo with not a lot of room for entertaining, or toys, but you are welcome to squish in. Once we settle into a new place you may have to remind me not to buy glass-topped tables and put the antler collection out of reach. And buy more Cheerios. And toys. Actually, Neal would love that. At any rate, I will do my best to make our home kid-friendly. We really enjoy coming over to your place though, and appreciate that it is often easier for feeding and sleeping routines. The snacks are an added perk.

In short, we love your family. We love the variety and colour you bring to our lives. We are grateful for the blessing of friends with kids.

So leave the toys and dishes where they lie, and relax. We are on your side.

Much love,

July 6, 2013

Edmonton's Warehouse District

In younger years I had a great irrational fear of The City. To my young sensibilities, The City was a noisy, busy, scary, concrete place. I was able to avoid it most of my young life, until necessity forced attendance at a post secondary institution right in the heart of the concrete and bustle. Being thrust out of my country comfort zone was quite an adjustment. I can still recall various lines of a poor attempt at poetry written for an entry level English class in first year; "I spend the days staring out tinted glass, the concrete jungle encompassing me" and it goes on to bemoan the fact that I am away from fresh air and space for most of the day. I'll spare you the rest as I've conveniently forgotten it...

Now, as an adult returning to The City after years of living away, I find myself falling fast in love with it. It could be my new penchant for industrial interior design, or confidence gained over the years, or fresh eyes in which to view the world. In any case, when the Edmonton and District Historical Society hosted Doors Open Edmonton, I jumped on the chance to gain some insight into the historical buildings in Edmonton's warehouse district. 104th Street has blossomed into the heart of downtown, attracting residents and independent, local businesses into converted warehouse spaces, breathing life into a previously desolate part of the city.

First up was a  tour of the Cobogo Lofts Condominium, originally the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company Warehouse (pictured above). The fantastic Jon Hall and his wife Gail, who teaches market fresh cooking classes out of their loft, were our hosts and tour guides as we visited three lofts in the historic building. I am always amazed at the kindness and generosity of Edmontonians, and was pleasantly surprised that three families would actually open up their homes and allow the general public in for a tour. I guess that's how you roll when you love history and culture and want to share it with others. If I ever have the opportunity to live in a historic, unique home I would love to return the favour!

Large hewn beams with metal bracings, original hardwood and red brick covered walls are absolute show-stoppers in these lofts. Large windows draw your eye out to the cityscape around you and the whole atmosphere seems to encourage a zest for life. It was industrial design bliss. After the tour, Neal and I wandered down the street and happened upon the largest outdoor fresh food market I have ever seen.

White tents spread out in every direction and the streets were filled with happy market-goer's out to find some fresh, local food for their tables. Our time through the market was a bit rushed as we were already stretching minutes on our parking meter a few blocks away, but you can be sure we'll be back to slowly comb through the vast spread of market-wares.

Edmonton is a beautiful city and I'm excited to explore more of it! Next up... a visit to the historic Highlands neighbourhood...

Until then, explore and enjoy your city, however large or small it may be!

July 5, 2013

The Highlands - A Stroll Down Ada Boulevard

There is one gem in The Highlands district that can almost touch Dalvay By The Sea, and it is the Holgate Mansion. This majestic craftsman sits on a gently curving, tree lined street and overlooks rolling, green North Saskatchewan River banks. The historic Highlands area was originally created as an up-scale streetcar community in August of 1910. This community was the brainchild of William Magrath and Bidwell Holgate, a savvy pair who dreamed of creating a serene, healthful community for Edmonton's finest businessmen and their families. Job done I'd say...

Magrath Residence est.1913 

Magrath built a mansion of palladial proportions as well and it has become a photo destination for many newlyweds! We were lucky enough to see a wedding party enjoying the grounds as we began our tour of The Highlands, and if you look reeeally closely at the picture on the right, you'll see them on the side porch (I didn't realize they were there until later!). Plentiful tree growth kind of blocks the view of this giant, but the structure is original, as seen in the photo from the Glenbow archives. The mansion went through a rough patch in the mid 1900's and fell into disrepair, but was later bought privately and restored.

Neal and I had already spent the morning touring 104th Street on foot, so we were happy to find a bench to rest. Our tour guide, a local who owns several properties in the area, took us on a meandering walk through the neighbourhood, sharing bits about the original owners and architecture of the area. After visiting in Nova Scotia a couple summers ago, I was somewhat familiar with architectural styles of the early 1900's, but on this tour I learned something new.

Mitchell Residence est.1936

It may be strange, but I love old bricks! On this trip, we learned about 'clinker brick', a type of brick with a bumpy facade and high sheen. Occasionally clinker brick will take on a greenish hue, from impurities being drawn to the surface during heating. Clinker bricks were formed through over-heating during the brick making process and were originally discarded as waste because of their misshapen appearance. Then someone decided to use these discarded bricks on their home (a true recycler!) and suddenly they were all the rage. Clinker bricks are now extremely rare and highly valued. Some homes in The Highlands have clinker-brick chimneys, but only one residence has an exterior made entirely of clinker. I was paying so much attention to learning about the brick that I neglected to take a picture... but here is another pretty one of Mr. Holgate's home,

Holgate Residence est.1912

Finding the lovely little home pictured below and meeting its resident was a highlight of the tour. Bright, cheerful flowers caught my eye from way down the street. The darling front porch held a yellow lab lounging by a large wooden front door and made this home just picture perfect. As our tour guide was educating us on the history of the home, the front door opened and out stepped a sweet elderly lady, the owner of this home and also the founder of the Edmonton Historical Society. She was sweetness personified and I felt I had just stepped in front of Patty's Place from Anne of Avonlea.

Sheldon Residence est.1914
Have a happy week!

July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

{image via Travel & Adventures}

To read beautiful words on what it means to be Canadian, see this article. I'm off to enjoy a day at the beach!