A Central-Canadian gal learns to love Edmonton
I have a confession to make. Back in 2008, when my husband and I had just finished our degrees and the world economy was in a downward spin, he was offered a job. Good news. Great, even. But — and it’s tough to admit — this central-Canadian girl swallowed hard when she heard it would mean moving to Edmonton. Edmonchuck. Deadmonton.
They are unfortunate nicknames that don’t fit the city I now know, love and, yes, champion (pun intended) to people around the world.
So it might be the most northerly metropolis in North America, but it’s certainly not a Siberian gulag or sleepy backwater. In fact, Edmonton combines the best of the different places I’ve lived, creating a wonderful geographic fusion.
It’s the same size and feel as Ottawa — my childhood home — with its abundant parks, government workers, and festivals. But it’s also a little libertarian like Wyoming, where I hung my hat for two years.
There are times I swear I’m back in Dawson City, Yukon, where I spent half a winter writing in Pierre Berton’s childhood home. It’s especially strong when I’m walking my dog through the snowy back alleys of Mill Woods and smell a wood fire, or happen to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, while hanging out in a backyard hot tub.
And if I squint just right looking at Whyte Avenue, I’m back at university in Montreal. On a rainy fall afternoon, I could easily be in the Kerrisdale or Kitsilano neighbourhoods of Vancouver.
Edmonton also indulges my international tastes. Missing France? I head to Duchess Bake Shop. And I promise you won’t find better butter chicken in Leeds than at one of our great Indian restaurants.
After two years of enjoying all this city has to offer, I have a new nickname for it: Home.
Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail is the author of For the Love of Flying. She is currently working on two books, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying Canada’s North (forthcoming from Frontenac House), and a Second World War-era novel, Chasing Skies. She is a member of Avenue’s Top 40 Under 40, class of 2012.
And now the making of that photo…
Getting the antlers on the dog and getting him in position was pretty easy. He takes direction well, especially when there are treats involved.
Wrestling the cat into the Santa suit was a different story. And getting him into the “sleigh” was nearly impossible…the dog is getting anxious now!
This photo almost could have worked, except it’s blurry, and the “reindeer” is looking pretty emotionally battered by “santa.”
Finally the photographer comes to the rescue, holding the cat “just so” so we’ll be able to digitally insert him into a photo with the dog. And voila! A Christmas miracle shot after 15 minutes of painting an old drawer, an accidental discovery of a pet santa suit at Homesense, and a bag of pet treats! (Oh yeah, and Photoshop)
There are a fascinating array of reality shows out there dealing with the vagaries of personal finance. My favourites so far include Gail Vaz-Oxlade as quirky yet hard-ass host of Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess (still haven’t been able to catch the TDDUP Home Edition on HGTV since I gave up cable, though! Gail, are you proud??).
I was still active but frequent travels and home reno projects got in the way. Then I went to Dawson, Yukon for the Berton House Retreat and my scheduled exercise slipped further in the freezing cold and dark. I didn’t exactly gain the ‘Dawson Dozen’ but when I got home I was ready to regain my former self. Problem was, I didn’t want to lock into a 2-year contract, pay high dues, or deal with schmarmy gym-goers checking out their biceps in the mirror. The local rec centre and I didn’t gel either, especially for about $60/month. It was time to work out with what I had and become my own personal trainer.
Here are some tips on designing your own low-cost weight-loss/training plan:
1. Assess your starting point and goals. The Mayo Clinic has a good Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator and Sparkpeople.com has a lot of free tools for tracking fitness, food, and progress. Prevention and Fitness magazines often have sane one-month plans for kick-starting your new regime. If you do some research and put in a few minutes a day, you can be your own coach.
2. Do inventory on your equipment. Do you have a treadmill hiding under a pile of ironing? Or fitness DVDs? Or a sidewalk clear of snow? There’s your cardio. (I would recommend a heart-rate monitor to make sure you’re pushing yourself hard enough!). Do you have a resistance band? Free weights? A floor? Then you can do strength training.
3. Make a 28-day plan. Studies show for a habit to take hold, 28 days can be the magic number. I have a whiteboard where I write down my plan for the month and then cross off the days. It’s a great way to schedule your fitness, stay accountable, and track your progress.
4. Once those 28 days are done, though, switch it up so your body doesn’t have a chance to get complacent. February I was doing a circuit using a fitness ball. March it was freeweights. Now I’m using a resistance band (check out the March 2011 issue of Chatelaine for a great workout). When something starts to get easy, increase the weight, reps, or sets.
5. Find your motivators and reward yourself often. I get to watch t.v. when I’m on the bike -http://www.ctv.ca/ and http://www.slice.ca/ have full-length, live-streaming episodes of dozens of shows for free. I just hook my laptop up to the tv with an HDMI cable, and I’m good to go!
In O Magazine’s February 2011 issue I saw an article about combatting pantry clutter, so when I realized I was bumping up against the limit of my monthly food budget I decided to set myself a challenge: create meals for four days based solely on what was in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.
- Monday: grilled chicken with couscous, chickpeas and carrots
- Tuesday: Sweet Pea Fried Rice
- Wednesday: grilled leeks and chicken with an apple/carrot/cabbage coleslaw with light vinaigrette
- Thursday: Red Curry and Peanut Noodles
Then of course there’s breakfasts and snacks, and since I love to bake there’s usually a pretty decent stash of supplies on hand:
- Granola bars (will be saving on all those preservatives and packaging!)
- Strawberry-Banana Smoothies
- Apple Pie Muffins (a specialty of mine for years)
I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front since my return from the Yukon, which I blame mostly on all the shovelling I had to do last month. According to my Edmontonian friends and colleagues, it is definitely one of the snowiest winters in living history.
This week has seen a steady stream of cold temps (by southern Canadian standards, my Yukon friends keep reminding me) and snow. For the most part it’s just been a few centimetre here and there, then yesterday it decided to dump on us. Again.
This morning I woke up to at least another 10 cm and the snow is still falling. As the one who works from home, the shovelling has largely fallen to me (except for Saturday when Doug did it and a snowblower-bearing neighbour came to help him. Lucky!). The shovelling has become particularly onerous since I now have to propel it over four-foot high embankments, or carry it several feet in either direction to dump. We’re simply running out of room!
So far the roof is holding, but much more and rooftop snow removal companies are going to be in major demand around the city. If they can reach the houses, that is: our cul-de-sac still hasn’t been plowed since the initial storm, making it nearly impossible for anything but the most rugged of SUVs and pickup trucks. The Mini Cooper has certainly been garage-bound for the week…
Now we come to a great Canadian game called “name that snowdrift!” If you can tell what’s under those blobs of snow by Riker in the photos below you will win the grand prize – a trip to Cuba via the U.S. of A.*
On Friday afternoon the snow started falling… and falling… and falling…
The city is slowly digging itself out this morning, but for some, rescue might not come until spring. Yes, that is a small pickup truck facing the sedan…
Friday, September 10th:
Those are just a couple examples of my local online transactions this summer. In fact, some have even called me the Kijiji Queen (or in less-nice times, the Kijiji Nut). Here are some things I’ve learned:
1. As at thrift stores, garage sales, and Walmart, there are ridiculous people on Kijiji. I had one woman who wanted to buy a $5 bookshelf from me. After a flurry of emails getting dimensions and bargaining down the price (which I did because she ran an animal rescue program) she had the gall to ask me to drive it all the way to the other side of town because she didn’t drive and her boyfriend was very busy. I still haven’t figured out how to vote people off the K-island, but she’s first on my list…
2. There are serious buyers and casual trollers. To show you’re serious, include your phone number, that you will come pick it up, and what you’re willing to pay. If you really want it, pay full price or offer more – in cash. That’s how I got a $1500+ value Jasper getaway package for $495. My competition was offering to trade a Brick’s gift card and some beer… but that won’t pay the expensive divorce lawyers!
3. There are people on Kijiji called Tiger, Candi, and worse. I’m not kidding.
4. You can start your art collection for $10 if you cruise the site regularly and are willing to drive half an hour.
5. If you’re like me and hate cigarette smoke, you should always ask if the item is coming from a smoke-free home. I have walked into places that had obviously been hot-boxed for years. But if the deal’s good enough and the items don’t hold the smell – like my bamboo room dividers and bar fride – then you may have to make a judgement call.
6. A coat of paint – whether low VOC latex or toxic spraypaint – can transform anything. Hence my $10 oak night stand turned printer stand; my $40 bed frame; and my $20 t.v. stand.
7. Use the map function and target the nicer neighbourhoods in your city. That’s where you get your discounted Pier 1 items because the domestic diva likes to shop a little too much. Or where you get a patio set because they only really use one of their balconies and don’t need their second set. Or where you get the great gift cards that were freebies at the last Porsche event.
8. Before you buy anything at Ikea check Kijiji. Chances are a student or young professional purchased that exact piece you wanted 8 months ago and needs to find it a new home.
9. I have found the best time to post items is around 10am on a Thursday. I don’t know why, but I suspect it has something to do with at-work cruisers who are winding down for the week and looking to pick things up over the weekend.
10. The best time to get good deals seems to be earlier in the day, earlier in the week. So grab your coffee Monday morning and get ready to peruse the new ads!
I’m still not sure if I should eat that loaf of bread Crazy Candi gave me in exchange for the chair, but I know that my house would be a lot more empty – as would my bank account – if it weren’t for my adventures in Kijiji-land!