Tuesday, 28 June 2011

ID? At 30?

I got IDed on the weekend.  Not once, but twice.  And, no, I wasn't at a nightclub.  It was at the movies and the local RSL club.  Not the kind of places that you expect to get asked for ID.  

Little White Lies - well worth seeing if you get a chance

On Friday night, we went to see Little White Lies at the Uptown cinema, an old run-down movie theatre that shows mainly art-house and foreign language films.  My favourite.  However, movies that are usually rated M15+ in Australia have an R rating here, hence the reason why one might be asked for ID. The thought that I may possibly be under 18 is kind of flattering, I guess?!

Legions Club in downtown Calgary

On Saturday night, I wasn't expecting to be asked for ID at the local Legions Club (the Canadian equivalent to the Australian RSL).  We were there to see a band as part of the Sled Island Festival, a local music and art festival (yes, it's festival season in Calgary).  The IDing process became quite ridiculous when a girl in our group was refused entry for not having ID ... she is in her late 40s and has kids old enough to be attending the concert.  Crazy. I know that those asking for ID are just doing their job, but can't people just have a bit of common sense when it comes to working out whether someone in their 30s or 40s needs to show ID?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Camera? No camera?

This is the question I ask myself each time I go walking or driving.  When I take my camera, I hardly see any wildlife, but when I don't take it, I see spectacular wildlife.  Like yesterday.  As I was driving down the ranch's driveway, I saw not one, but two black bear cubs!  It was quite amazing.  They ran across the driveway, into the bushes, then back out onto the drive and into the bushes on the other side, where (presumably) mamma bear was waiting for them.  11 year old B was with me and was equally amazed.  We stopped and watched them for some time before they disappeared into the thick bushes.  And I didn't have my camera with me.  Typical.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Titanic ...

One of the fun things about being a private teacher is that I get to take the kids on heaps of excursions.  This is also a fun part about teaching in schools, but the difference between a school excursion and a home-school excursion?  Only one child to worry about instead of 25!  This week, we went to see the Titanic exhibition at the Calgary Science Centre.  Our reason for going was that 11 year old B is currently reading Gordon Korman's 'Titanic' series and also exploring concepts surrounding the idea of heroism.  As we entered the exhibition, we were both given a boarding card with our passenger details.  This allowed us to follow the story of a real passenger through the exhibit, finding out at the end if we lived or died.  Luckily B and I were both first class passengers, so there was no bickering over that!  And, luckily for me, I survived my time on the Titanic, unlike B who was a male and therefore died a gentleman-like death by leaving the lifeboats for the women and children.  The whole exhibition was fantastic and extremely well set out, with a terrific audio guide with different stories for adults and children.  Now I just need to explore ideas for our next fun excursions ... suggestions are more than welcome!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

An alcohol free month ...

Beers in Xian with my Dad, who has also recently jumped on my alcohol free bandwagon!

I did it!  I went for an entire month without a drop of alcohol passing my lips.  And, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  I survived a wedding, several dinner parties, C's mini family reunion as well as several opportunities to enjoy a drink in the sun.  C bought a bottle of Verve to celebrate, but I decided to save that for a special time, instead choosing to ease myself back into the drinking life with a Corona in the sunshine. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

A day at Spruce Meadows ...

See how big they are?!
It's show-jumping season in Calgary!  For the next 2-3 months, there is a different event on every weekend at Spruce Meadows, one of the world's best show-jumping facilities.  I was excited to visit Spruce Meadows on Saturday for several reasons.  Firstly, I joined a tour of the facilities and got to go out onto the course to check out the jumps.  And, secondly, I was looking forward to testing out my new camera and getting some great action shots.  Having the opportunity to walk around the course was amazing.  The jumps were set up for the two classes that I was going to watch, with jumps with heights of 1.40m and 1.50m.  From a distance, it is hard to appreciate just how big and wide these jumps are.  It was quite amazing.  After walking the course, I settled in to watch about 60 rounds of show-jumping.  Brilliant.  It's such a terrific spectator sport because there is always something happening, the crowd ooos and ahhhs over the horses and riders and there are always a couple of spectacular spills to be witnessed.  The day certainly wet my appetite for the upcoming season and I think that Spruce Meadows is where I'll be found several weekends over the summer.  For now, please allow me to indulge by sharing some pictures of the day ...

Going ... 

... going ... 

... gone!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Doing the flagpole ...

The road heading to the US border

On Thursday, I made the drive down to the Canadian/US border to renew my work permit.  According to the US immigration officers at the border, this is called doing a 'flagpole.'  Yes, that is the official term.  It's even on the form they gave me to give to the Canadian immigration officers.  It was a stressful day because I was alone (I've never driven that far - 7 hours return - by myself) and a little worried (because that's what I do) about the process going smoothly.  The questioning process what quite scary.  Why the immigration guys feel the need to be so unfriendly and mean, I'm not sure.  But, the main thing is that I walked out with my work permit in hand.  Which meant that I could now get on with organising a Chinese visitor visa, which was proving to be a complicated process, applying in Canada with an Australian passport.  

Typical Albertan scene - cows and mountains

The drive back to Calgary was much more pleasant and I took the time to stop along the way and look at some of the interesting little towns.  The town of Nanton reminded me of a what I imagine a typical prairie town would look like - rail road and grainery on one side of the road, the shops on the other side. Nanton is home to a fantastic antique store where I spent a good deal of time poking around.  A town that I didn't stop in was Stand Off (funny name, hey?!), home to a large Indian reserve.  It looked like a ghost town, with dilapidated buildings that looked long abandoned.  However, upon closer inspection, it appeared that they were actually still in use.  The drive itself (minus the stress, of course) was quite pleasant with the never-ending prairies to the east and the foothills and Rocky Mountains to the west.  Hopefully next time I take that drive it won't be to do the 'flagpole'!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A ride to school ...

My transport to school this morning!

Yesterday, 11 year old B received his much anticipated dune buggy (I've been hearing about it for weeks).  This morning he arrived at my front door (I live just a few minutes walk down the hill from the 'main' house) to drive me to work.  He proudly showed me how it worked, insisted I wear my seatbelt in case we rolled over (Ah!  Panic!) and off we went.  It was actually quite a lovely way to start the day.  We drove up the hill, with views over the lush green foothills, the wind blowing in our hair and arrived at school in one piece.  I could get used to this service!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Mocktail hour ...

Mocktail hour on my new outdoor furniture on my balcony overlooking the horse paddocks

My month of non-drinking is going well.  So well in fact, that I may even be a little sad when it ends in just over a week's time.  Not drinking is forcing me to be creative with what I do drink when others are drinking celebratory glasses of champagne or warming glasses of red wine or thirst-quenching pints of beer.  Last week I discovered a mind-boggling variety of mocktail recipes with which I've been having fun experimenting and expanding my non-alcoholic drink repetoire.  Here are two that I tried on the weekend:

Blissful Bellini Mocktail:
1/2 cup peach nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
chilled sparkling apple cider

Mix peach nectar and lemon juice in a champagne flute.  Top with sparkling apple cider.

Pink Shampagne:
1 1/2 cups chilled sparkling apple cider
1 1/2 cups cherry flavoured mineral water (I used soda water mixed with pure cherry juice)
1 cup cranberry juice

Mix all ingredients and stir thoroughly.  Serve in a champagne flute.

My favourite was the first one, the bellini, because the lemon juice gave the drink a lovely citrusy kick.  But, at the dinner party we attended on Friday night, I was happy drinking either since they both were bubbly and served in a champagne flute!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Nose Hill ...

Nose Hill

I was super excited for Sunday as it was time for the first hike of the season!  C and I got up early, packed our backpacks, visited Safeway to stock up on hiking snacks and headed off to Canmore to meet one of C's friends for a sunny Sunday hike.  It was not to be.  We hadn't even left the city when we had a call to say that it was 8 degrees and pouring rain in Canmore (only an hour out of Calgary).  Hiking in the rain didn't appeal to me so we decided to stay in town.  Still wanting to get out for a wander, our first hike turned into a stroll around a city park, Nose Hill.  Funny name, hey?  I looked into the history of the name and there seems to be some disagreement about where the name comes from.  One theory is that it is description of the hill by an Aboriginal translator, way back in the 1770s - from a distance, the hill looked the chief's nose.  Another is that a bunch of Indians had a drunken brawl on the hill, ending with a woman's nose being bitten off.  Nose Hill is a park I hadn't been to before, but it was a great discovery - 11.5 square kilometres of rolling hills covered with numerous pathways, most with great views of the city and the mountains.  We spent about 2 hours wandering the hills and admiring the views before the rains that were in Canmore headed our way.

Downtown Calgary from Nose Hill

The rainy mountains

Some deer out for an afternoon stroll

Walking paths everywhere

A great day to fly a kite

Spring time flowers (and pretty weeds!)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A cattle drive ...

Guiding the cows out of their paddock

On Friday, I took part in my first cattle drive of the year.  It was, in fact, my first time on a horse this year.  For one reason or another, I have missed most of the riding opportunities since I've been back in Canada.  It felt good to be back in the saddle, my first ever ride in a Western saddle.  It felt a little odd to ride in a Western saddle, I wasn't really sure what to do with my hands as the big horn at the front of the saddle was in the way.  It was a beautiful day for a ride  - sunny, with a slight breeze - although the cowboys were slightly concerned that it would be too hot for the cows, especially the calves, and they wouldn't move very fast.  Luckily, they were fairly keen to keep moving along the hilly country roads and we got them to their new home in about two hours.

Highway crossing achieved!

Keep Right?  The cows seem to be doing a pretty good job

I really enjoy the cattle drives and feel that I'm getting the hang of the jobs that need to be done.  My favourite job is riding in the middle of the herd,  helping to keep moving the cows along and chasing the stray ones out of the ditches at the side of the road.  My least favourite job is riding at the front of the herd, providing the direction for the cows to follow.  I'm more of an active cowgirl, riding at the front is boring!  Although the cattle drives are enjoyable, I do get slightly distressed by the noise of many of the cows.  It's quite a frantic time because many of the calves get separated from their mothers, which is unnerving for both mother and baby and they make some awful noises as they try to seek one another out.  I find it comforting to watch them reunite along the way and when we finally arrive at our destination. 

Mum and baby

Another mum and baby - this time, a moose!

Now, all the cows are in their summer home and there will be no more cattle drives until the end of the summer.  So, it's now time to move onto some polo playing!

Stopping for a cooling drink

Working dog takes a break in the water

A pretty pond along the way

"Where's my mummy?"

AD - That's me!

That's got to be uncomfortable!

Cattle At Large - That was us on Friday!

A beautiful horsey property

Finally there!

Mums and babies reunite in the lush paddock

See, I'm a real cowgirl - I'm riding in a Western saddle!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

+15 ...

Calgary has a really great pedestrian system in the core of downtown.  It's a walkway 15 feet above the ground, hence the name +15.    The walkway connects a number of downtown buildings and shopping malls and also contains a number of small restaurants.  Wikipedia tells me that Calgary's +15 is the world's most extensive pedestrian sky walk - it runs for 16 km!  The +15 is a terrific system for getting around (especially in the cold weather) ... if you know where you are going.  Every time I come into the city with 11 year old B (we often come in for a day at the excellent city library), we get lost.  We leave the family's office and head towards the library but always get lost.  We normally attempt to go via B's favourite lunch spot which is located somewhere in the depths of the +15.  After a number of wrong turns, we find our way to lunch.  After lunch, it's guaranteed that we'll get lost again as we make our way to the library.  It happens every single time.  So, while Calgary has the 'world's biggest' something, it's a system that frustrates me immensely!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Early morning on the ranch ...

During each work week, I spend about two nights in the city at C's place.  I'm super lucky because I get the best of both worlds - the country lifestyle and the city way of living.  However, spending a weeknight in the city means an early start the next morning as I need to drive the one hour home to the country and get ready for work.  It's often a beautiful time to be out driving as there are few cars on the road and I get to see some lovely sights - the mountains as I drive along the highway and then some stunning wildlife as I enter the foothills and head up the (long) driveway to the ranch.  I normally spot a herd or two of deer and I regularly see the ranch's resident grey owl.  I always carry my camera with me in the hope of spotting a moose, but I often miss them or only end up getting a grainy picture from the car.  Here are just two sights I saw last week ... 

Spot the owl!

A baby moose

(Didn't find the owl?  It's sitting on the top right hand side of the gate!)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Two weeks in ...

It's been 2 weeks since a drop of alcohol has passed my lips.  That's not a very common occurrence in my life.  Not that I normally drink a lot, but I do enjoy a glass of wine a few times a week and a beer every now and again.  But I'm quite enjoying this little break (and enormous challenge).  There is definitely something to be said about waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning without the dull and cloudy head that often arrives the morning after a few glasses of wine.  For starters, I am having the most wonderful sleeps at night.  I fall asleep easily, sleep the whole night through and am woken each morning from an incredibly deep sleep by my alarm.  I also have so much more energy.  I'm particularly enjoying my gym workouts where I'm feeling fitter and stronger as well as trying new and more challenging exercises.  And, I've also noticed that the few kilos I've been meaning to lose are beginning to melt away.

This weekend was a tough one though as C and I attended a wedding and were invited to several afternoon drinking sessions in the rare Calgary sunshine.  The wedding was particularly tough and I pretty much had to tie my hands behind my back to stop myself from reaching for that tempting glass of bubbles.  Once people knew we (C has joined my crusade) weren't drinking, it was much easier.  And, I was so proud of myself at the end of the evening.  The drinks sessions were also fairly easy to avoid as we just politely declined them, instead choosing to enjoy the sunny days walking around the river and gardening.

The thing I'm missing most of all is not the social drinking, but the glass of wine that I so enjoy while I'm cooking dinner or curled up on the couch reading a book.  Instead, I make a 'cran and soda' (cranberry juice with soda water and a wedge of lime - very Canadian) in a wine glass.  Not quite the same, but it will get me through the rest of my alcohol free month.

C likes to joke that I'll be joining the Temperance Movement next but there is no chance of that.  After a month long break, I'll be ready to return to alcohol, albeit with a much stronger willpower (and pancreas!) - only having 1-2 drinks at social events and cracking open a bottle of wine on a more infrequent basis.  I'm sure it will be tough, but I know my body (and my mind) will thank me for it.