Monthly Archives: September 2013

Friday Photos: Stampede Edition

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Every July, Calgary, Alberta transforms into a boot-stompin’, hay-balin’, two-steppin’ kind of town. The Calgary Stampede takes over this big, booming, oil metropolis for 10 days which means that everyone from police officers to corporate executives wear cowboy hats, there is no shame in having free pancakes for breakfast every day, and everybody becomes an expert on chuckwagon racing.

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The Stampede is a rodeo, Ag show, fun fair, art exhibition, circus, concert, and party all rolled into one wonderful package.

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Plus there’s lots of deep-fried food…on sticks. What’s not to love?

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This year the whole city, including the Stampede grounds, was devastated by floods a mere 2 weeks before the Stampede was to begin. The tragedy seemed insurmountable. Maybe in its 101st year the Stampede would have to be cancelled.

But it wasn’t.

That good old cowboy spirit prevailed and the Stampede was as great as ever. Thank goodness, really, because those police officers in black Stetsons? The best part of my year.

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Knock, knock. Who’s there?

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* Remember my grand plan? The one that was to bring structure to this blog? Well, turns out that I have to come to dread that structure, particularly the last bit: Story That Needs to be Told. NEEDS to be told? Talk about setting yourself up for failure.

What if I have a story that can’t live up to that? What if all I have is a few memories that are neither here nor there? It has started to feel like I always need to deliver a convocation speech when all I want is a bit of small talk sometimes.

My solution up to now has been to stop writing, to abandon posts half way through writing them, and to allow weeks to go by without posting because I can’t get every post perfectly written.

I’d like to change that. I’d like to slip into the blog equivalent of elasticized pants. I want to relax and share more even if it doesn’t conveniently fit into the structure I laid out at the beginning. We’ll all enjoy this a whole lot more, just like we enjoy Thanksgiving dinner more when we allow ourselves to pop that top button on our jeans.

Wait…you do that, right?

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Let’s talk about…Barcelona, Spain (I personally don’t pronounce it as “Barthelona” which in my opinion should be left to the guy in black socks and sandals who is lisping his way through his holiday photo slideshow.)

Barcelona street

It is not difficult to find good food in Barcelona. You need only to wander the narrow, meandering streets with laundry strung above them, following the smell of garlic and the warm glow of candlelight.

What IS difficult is being pregnant in Barcelona and unable to eat that good food.

The rules about what a pregnant woman can and cannot eat are as confounding as, say, the reasons why the Kardashians are famous.

Meat, but only if fully cooked. Cheese, but only if pasteurized. Eggs, but not undercooked. Fish, but no sushi. Vegetables, but only if washed.

I found it difficult to navigate Barcelona’s menus with these limitations swirling in my mind. Really tasty tapas include things like cured meats, marinated raw fish, pâté, farm-fresh cheese, and shellfish. As much as the logical part of my brain told me that Spanish mothers eat all of those things, all the time, it was nerve-wracking.

Yes, I probably played it safer than necessary (and may have even eaten at a bagel place once), but I knew that Barcelona would welcome me back another time to feast on ALL of the food with only my appetite as a limitation.

As if I need an excuse to go back.

Barcelona alley

There are numerous spots around Barcelona where you can see the fantastical creations of architect, Anton Gaudi, but the most famous is Sagrada Familia. This enormous church is still under construction, but it is already incredible to behold.

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I loved the soaring pillars and the colourful stained glass. I also loved that his designs were slightly wonky, dreamy, and playful. It seemed as though Gaudi was equally inspired by nature as by Dr. Seuss.

Sagrada Familia

This trip to Barcelona had many purposes: to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, to escape the Norwegian winter, and to stay in a swanky hotel in a big city before we had a baby and swapped swanky for swaddling.

To this end, we booked into a very posh hotel right downtown – a place that had fluffy robes and a shower head the size of a dinner plate.

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One night as we slept, cocooned in sheets with a high thread count (for the price of the room, I would hope they were), we were startled awake by someone knocking on our door. Before we could make sense of what was happening, the knocking turned to banging. Then the banging turned to shouting.

Matt checked the peephole and asked the guy what he wanted. (What could we offer, really? A shower cap?)

The guy started yelling at us to let him in, but not in a menacing way, just in a drunken-can’t-remember-his-room-number way. He clearly was convinced that his friend was inside our room, refusing to open the door for him. He kept on shouting until finally Matt was shouting back at him, “YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG ROOM”.

With all of this middle of the night hoopla my luxury hotel experience started to feel distinctly youth hostel-ish. We should’ve just sealed the deal and invited him in to share a beer, wash his clothes in the sink, and hand-stitch a Canadian flag on his backpack.

We didn’t, though.

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“Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind…”

– Ernest Hemingway

Hook, line, and sinker

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Where: Børøy, Norway

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Plate of food: Since Børøy is an island off the southwestern coast of Norway, we had to travel by ferry. If you have ever been on a ferry in Norway you will know that any self-respecting ferry will serve hot dogs on board. And any self-respecting Norwegian will eat one on board.

I secretly love this hot dog phenomenon in Norway, and had no qualms about eating one at every opportunity when I lived there.

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As I sat nursing our baby girl on the ferry, I sent Matt to buy me a hot dog (only the very best for breastfeeding mums). Inadvertently he was given a cheese hot dog which has a molten core of orange processed cheese.

I bit into my hot dog and a geyser of bright orange cheese sauce erupted out the end of the dog, arching over my feeding baby, and splattering onto the floor.

I was shocked, to say the least, but I was relieved to see that the cheese incident had no witnesses: Matt was off paying for the ferry ticket, my baby was sleeping, and no one was sitting near us.

Then I looked up.

And locked eyes with a pre-teen boy who gazed at me with a fair amount of disgust.

I did the only thing I could – I stared straight at him as I took another bite of that hot dog.

The Best: The highlight for me was simply staying in a Norwegian hytte (cabin). Norway is dotted with thousands of hytter from the rugged coasts to the snowiest mountains. Most are remote, a lot of them are painted bright red, some you can rent for your holiday, and all of them are as cozy as can be.

Hytte

We were lucky enough to stay in a number of these picturesque cabins during our time in Norway. This one on Børøy was one of the best with its location right on the water, its tranquility, and its private boat that we could use to explore the surrounding islands.

We had two holidays there – full of fishing, card games, walks to the apple orchard, boat trips, views of glass-like water, and complete silence.

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Norway – I love you, your hytter, AND your hot dogs.

Story that needs to be told: I am not a fisherman. In fact, at the age of 27, I had never caught a fish before. Matt, on the other hand, enjoys fishing and was keen to fish while on Børøy; he often took the boat out for an hour or two.

I patiently waited while he fished, spending my time with an infant who had no desire to fish nor, more depressingly, to sleep.

After a particularly sleepless night and a bleary-eyed day, Matt suggested that I fish off the pier as evening approached. He insisted that it would be relaxing, distracting, and peaceful.

I begrudgingly dragged the fishing rod out to the pier, muttering about not knowing what I was doing. As I settled into the rhythm of casting, listening for the satisfying “plop” of the lure, and reeling in, I had to admit that this was exactly the simple task I needed to unwind.

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And then I caught a fish.

And another.

And the next day in my new-found obsession with finding time to fish, I caught a pollack big enough for us to actually cook and eat.

BOOM. Hunter-gatherer extraordinaire.

Here I am looking distinctly terrified at having actually caught a FISH.

Here I am looking distinctly terrified at having actually caught a FISH.

Except I didn’t want to actually touch the fish. Or gut it. Or clean it. But still, BOOM.

“Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.”  Louis L’Amour