- Deck Space.
I live with my husband and a cat in roughly 700 square feet of space. So when spring rolls around and I can dust off the Adirondack chairs and roll out the BBQ it’s like I’ve gained an extra room. Now what to do with all the stuff we’ve been storing out there…can/should the oven double as a cupboard?
This time of year marks a literal emergence from the depths and darkness of winter. And though I’m not ecstatic when the sun shines in my eyes at 7am on a Saturday morning, I just can’t bring myself to buy blackout drapes. Vitamin D, in this northern region we call Canada, is a precious commodity so I’ll take it when I can get it, 7am or otherwise.
- Winter Layers.
I’ve bundled myself in grey and black sweaters, coats and boots all winter. And, as a result of sitting on my butt for several months straight, I’ve also got this layer around my hips and thighs that makes my pants fit a little tighter. Spring requires action to remove the layers: I put my sweaters in a Rubbermaid bin and took to the great outdoors in a fit of activity: soccer, tennis, and a bike ride.
The imposters masquerading as fruits and vegetables over the winter are exposed as illegal aliens, replaced by berries, and carrots, and broccoli that actually smell like real food. Soon those BC fruit trucks will be parked along the road side offering the season’s best and freshest at prices that don’t scream “we were shipped from Argentina!”. Also, time to fire up the BBQ for burgers, grilled salmon, and roasted asparagus. Mouth = watering.
There’s something to be said about living in a country with four distinct seasons, each with their own distinct sights and smells. I used to crinkle my nose when the snow melted and the smell of brown leaves and soggy grass would settle in my nostrils. Now, I’m more likely to take a big breath and exhale with a sigh of satisfaction: the smell of rotting foliage, often laced with the scent of year-old soggy dog poo, is truly the smell of spring.
1. Dippity Doo Da: It’s my Aunt’s 50th Birthday party tomorrow and I’ve volunteered to put together a selection of dips and spreads for a “dip bar”. I tried to wrangle Tyler into helping but he had a “hockey game” to attend. Here’s what’s on tonight’s dip making menu:
– Orange Flavoured Hummus
– Kalamata Olive Tapenade
– Pesto Cream Cheese Spread
– Southwest Black Bean Dip
– Creamy Curry Veggie Dip
– Spinach Dip
2. Ganglion-what? Turns out I have Ganglion cyst on the inside of my left wrist. Also known as Bible Bumps, after the rudimentary method of removing them: smack them with a heavy bible to cause them to rupture. My doctor told me “you can YouTube it to see people bashing their wrists against walls trying to pop them”. Word of warning: when your doctor tells you about a condition you have, fight the urge to Google it.
3. Speaking of Wrists: It seems to me that a lot of people spend their work days on a computer and don’t have the same wrist issues I have. Is is posture? genetics? diet? work space set-up? Haven’t been able to say for sure, but I start physiotherapy in April. After two years wearing wrist brace at work, I’ve finally taken the plunge: I’m going doing something about it!
4. Adults Only: Went to Adults Only night at the Science Centre this past Thursday. It’s a little expensive to get in ($56 for two adult tickets including parking), but was a pretty fun time. There was a bar, a DJ, and lot’s of cool exhibits. Best of all, I didn’t have to feel guilty about clamoring over five-year-olds to play with magnets.
5. Mother Nature’s a Tease: March should be known as “psych!” month. The weather starts to warm, the snow melts. I saw a girl in Mission wearing short shorts and a guy wearing flip flops. Then, one morning I wake up and “psych!” it’s winter again. It’s making me crazy!
Calgary, Calgary Outdoor Centre, Calgary Restaurants, Calgary Sport & Social Club, Calgary Sushi Class, FFWD Calgary, Kananaskis, Lake Louise, Olympic Oval, SAIT, Sakana Grill, Skating in Calgary, Snowshoeing, Southland Leisure Centre, Volunteer Calgary, Willow Park Wines & Spirits, Winter in Calgary
First off, I have no right to complain about winter in Calgary. My typical work day starts with a leisurely roll out of a down-comforter warmed bed into a hot shower. I get ready in my toasty apartment, walk down an indoor staircase to a heated underground parking stall, start my frostless, snowless, already warmed car, drive a relatively short distance to work, and coast into a similarly heated underground parking stall. Once a week, I go outside to get groceries. And during that 30 second walk from car to grocery store entrance, I still have the audacity to audibly whimper as I suck in the lung constricting chill that makes each breath slightly painful. I cringe at the brittle crunch of icy snow beneath my boots and, being out of practice on the icy sidewalks, grab Tyler’s arm to stay balanced. My husband who, on a daily basis, trudges in the pre-dawn dark to a bus stop to wait in sub zero temperatures, piles onto an overcrowded bus standing shoulder to shoulder with a crowd of cranky commuters spouting coffee breath and snotty noses, looks me up and down and says, without a single ounce of pity, “do your coat up”.
So I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to winter. I have a romantic view of snow and ice similar to the outlook of the person who wrote “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” when he penned lyrics about building snowmen in meadows and sleigh bells ringing. I really do think though, that winter in Calgary can be a tolerable affair (if not enjoyable). However long the snowy months, however short the daylight hours, however low the temperatures go, it’s possible to avoid cabin fever and embrace that frosty cold ice princess known as Mother Nature. Here are some ways I stay sane:
1. Skating: pick up a used pair from a thrift store, borrow from a friend, rent from the UofC Outdoor Centre. Then, find a patch of ice (you can skate at many of Calgary’s public rinks – we’ve tried the rinks at Southland Leisure Centre as well as the Olympic Oval at the UofC), or a free neighborhood rink (Prince’s Island park has great ice. We also have a rink near our place in Windsor Park that is lit at night and almost always empty).
2. Play in the Snow: packing the car up to head out to Lake Louise for a day of skiing can be quite a production (and an expensive one at that), which is why, during some of our most penniless days as students, we took up snowshoeing. Rent snowshoes from the UofC Outdoor Centre or a number of other rental shops in the city (we rented from GearUp In Canmore), then head out to the mountains and break trail. Our favorite spots to snowshoe are Sherbrooke Lake (great for beginners) and Chester Lake (a bit longer and more difficult). Pack a lunch and thermos of hot chocolate (don’t forget the Bailey’s) so you can warm your belly for a lunch stop at the top. What a gorgeous way to spend a day!
3. Appreciate the Arts: from consumer tradeshows to winefests to any number of options for live music, cooking classes, gallery exhibits, live theatre – it’s as if the city’s creative side awakens in the dead of winter to entertain bored, vitamin D deprived, slightly zombified Calgarians. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN THE CITY. And because my favorites are food, wine, and entertainment, here are some places I look if my upcoming weekend looks a bit blah, blah, blah.
- FFWD Calgary (for some of the lesser known music, theatre, and arts events)
- ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen (cooking classes and demonstrations – Cookbook Cooks is another one I’ve tried. Sakana Grill has a sushi class that is a ton of fun for a group)
- Willow Park Wines & Spirits (weekly wine, spirits, and food events – Kensington Wine Market also has a decent tasting schedule)
4. Cook a Meal: I believe it is the North American way to “get dinner over with”. Most days, when I get home from work, I’m starving. I haven’t even taken my coat or shoes off as I feed my equally hungry cat, and ravenously grab at the first thing in my cupboard to satiate the rumbling in my belly (usually a handful of chocolate chips or a pile of soda crackers). In any case, I too have an urge to get dinner over with, for the simple fact that I’m hungry, tired, and I just want to sit in front of the TV for a mindless episode of Breaking Bad. But, on those days when I’ve had a particularly filling lunch, or on weekends when time is spent in less hurried increments, I’ve discovered a certain satisfaction in building a meal from the ground up. I am in love with the “Best of Bridge” cookbooks for their simple, tasty meals that don’t take a Michelin starred chef to interpret. From soups to curries to casseroles to quesadillas, the variety of dishes has made meal time less of a to-do list item and more of a hobby.
5. And speaking of eating… I don’t think I’ll ever get through the list of restaurants I want to try. We eat out maybe once every week or two. When there is an occasion to celebrate, or a bit of money in the bank, we scan through our “must try” list of restaurants and pick one. It could be a casual bite at Tubby Dog, gourmet pizza from Cibo, or a succulent steak dinner at Open Range, but it never ceases to amaze me how there is always something new to try in this city. Our list is compiled from a few sources: Recommendations from friends and co-workers and reviews on UrbanSpoon. Avenue Magazine also puts out an annual list of “Best Restaurants” which has never steered us wrong. PS, Canmore is a treasure trove of incredible restaurant options. It’s a favorite pastime to spend a Saturday snowshoeing in Kanananaskis, then stopping in Canmore for an après-snowshoe meal at one of the town’s many excellent dining spots. (The Trough, and Tapas are two of my favorites).
6. Volunteer: with a New Year come resolutions to “be a better person” and “get more involved in the community”. Why not dive in head first by visiting Volunteer Calgary? I’ve found opportunities through this site that have matched volunteer positions to my own interests and hobbies. Whether it’s weekends spent on casual graphic design, or doing taxes for non-profit organizations, Volunteer Calgary offers the opportunity to match your skills with volunteer hours and possibly gain some relevant experience and networking contacts along the way.
7. Play a Sport: The Calgary Sport & Social Club is a great way to link up with like-minded people who play your sport at a similar skill level. Don’t know anyone or a finding that you’re a few people short of a full team? Join up with a singles team. From indoor soccer to volleyball, dodge ball or basketball – pretty much whatever sport you’re into at whatever level you play at, the CSSC offers something for everyone.
8. Hit the Gym: I have a membership at Southland Leisure Centre, one of Calgary’s many public recreation facilities. This isn’t at the top of my list because sweating on a treadmill isn’t always my favourite thing to do (okay, it never is). I try and pick a night that will be quiet, such as late Friday evening or most week nights before close, strap on my Nike’s, get some good beats going on my ipod and put an hour in. I’m by no means a gym rat – I make it maybe two times a week – but I always feel energized after and find I get value for my money for all the additional recreation activities the pass includes. At $50 a month (cheaper if you get an annual pass), I get access to squash courts, badminton, skating rinks, pool & waterslides, hot tub, gym, and daily fitness classes. If you’re not worried about what your friends will think of you for spending your Friday nights at the gym, it’s not a bad place to spend $50.
9. Take a Course: Every time January rolls around I feel this indescribable urge to further my education. Rather than quitting my job, selling my car, and hastily emptying my bank account to get that shiny new Executive MBA, I quench the urge by signing up for night classes at SAIT. Typically, a two month continuing education course will cost around $400 plus textbook and runs one or two nights a week from 6 – 9pm. The classes I’ve taken have been practical and hands on with (generally) good instruction and takeaway skills that I’ve immediately implemented in my current job. Add to that the fact that I’m gaining more knowledge about something I like to do (in this case, graphic design), and it’s a win-win.
10. And if all else fails: Persue a hobby. I take my boredom out on this blog. On those minus 40 degree evenings, where I can’t quite remove myself from the couch, I fire up my laptop and start writing. From scrapbooking, to piano to guitar to Nintento Wii, to painting, drawing, decorating, and shopping – my apartment is a veritable museum of collected, discarded, and in-progress hobbies that I keep tucked in the corner for the cold snowy days in Calgary.
Here’s to surviving the rest of winter!