Dawson City, heart of the Klondike

On August 16, 1896 gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek (later called Bonanza), a tributary of the Klondike River. When news of the strike reached the outside world the following summer, the Klondike gold rush was on! 100 000 people set off for the Klondike and approximately 30 000 of them made it. By the summer of 1898, Dawson City, at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, had become the biggest city north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg!

We thoroughly explored Dawson’s gold rush history on previous visits, but this time we were there for our nephew’s wedding. Richard and his five siblings were all together for the first time since 2012, so much of our time was spent visiting with family.

With a present population of less than 2000 people, however, the town is small and easy to see. Come take a look around with me.

Built by Arizona Charlie Meadows in 1899, in its heyday The Palace Grand Theatre saw everything from vaudeville to silent movies. Eventually, however, it fell into disrepair. In 1992, the then condemned structure was given to Parks Canada by the Klondike Visitors Association and underwent complete renovation. For many years, it was home to the Gaslight Follies, a high energy musical comedy that played nightly from May to September. Sadly, once more in need of refurbishing, the theatre is presently closed again. Plans to have it reopen in time for Canada’s 150th birthday and the 75 anniversary of the building of the Alaska Highway this summer fell through when asbestos was discovered and progress on the project slowed significantly.

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From 1896 to the mid 1950s, more than 250 sternwheelers plied the waters of the Yukon River. At one time, as many as 70 of these majestic riverboats carried passengers and supplies from Whitehorse to Dawson City. Now the stately SS Keno sits on Dawson’s riverbank welcoming visitors to come aboard for a step back in time.

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The streets of Dawson offer a mix of old and new, often side by side.

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Many buildings remain from Dawson’s early days, some still in use and others reminders of days gone by.

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Even modern structures retain the look and character of historic Dawson.

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Permafrost, a thick layer of permanently frozen soil below the surface of the ground, underlies this northern community and requires special building techniques to keep it from melting. Old buildings like these ones, hastily constructed during the gold rush, show what happens when the frozen sublayer softens.

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No visit to Dawson would be complete without at least strolling by Robert Service’s cabin. It was here that the poet who penned The Cremation of Sam McGee and numerous other northern tales lived from 1909 to 1912.  A costumed actor playing the role of Robert Service offers readings there every afternoon during the summer months.

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The Cremation of Sam McGee begins with the words “There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold”. The midnight sun is one of the things that I love best about northern Canada in the summertime. Here’s a photo taken at 11:30 PM. As you can see, the sun has dipped behind the hill overlooking Dawson, but it never gets any darker than this!

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The final stop on our virtual tour of Dawson City, the Commissioner’s Residence, built 1901 as to house the government leader of the newly formed Yukon territory, now has a permanent place in our family history. It was on those steps that our nephew and his beautiful bride were married on Saturday, July 8th!

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Ten years!

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At the end of this week, it will be ten years since Richard and I walked out of our Alberta classrooms for the last time and entered a brand new phase called retirement! Where did the time go? It amazes me to think that we’ve been retired for an entire decade already! Over the past few days, I’ve been looking back and marvelling at all the things we’ve done during that time.

I often say once a teacher, always a teacher. We knew that even though we were retiring, our teaching days weren’t entirely behind us. We’d long had a dream of teaching English overseas after we retired and we accomplished that by spending one year in Japan and a semester at a university in China. Those were amazing experiences and we treasure the memories and the friendships that we made! I’ve also spent some time doing online mentoring and we both volunteer with our local literacy program. I meet once a week with two young women, both members of the Old Colony Mennonite community that moved into our area over the past few years. They are fluent in English, but neither of them ever had the opportunity to learn to read or write, even in their own language, so I’ve been teaching them. Richard tutors one of their husbands.

We’ve discovered that there are no end of things to do in retirement, even in a small community like ours. Richard has been serving as the Deputy Director of Emergency Management for our town for the past few years, a volunteer position that involved quite a bit of training. He also serves on our Community Hall board. Because we come and go a lot, we hesitate to commit to too many activities that require us to be present on a regular basis, but we give our local food bank a thorough cleaning once a month and occasionally work a shift at the thrift store that’s operated by three local churches. In addition, we hold positions in our own church and participate in many activities there. Lately I’ve even had to say no to some opportunities because I felt that I was becoming too busy!

Two of our grown children were already married when we retired, but our family has grown over the past decade to include another daughter-in-law and five grandchildren! Though none of them live very close to us, being grandparents is one of the best things about this stage of life and we spend as much time as we can manage with our little ones.

The past decade has brought some surprises, some good and some not so good. We certainly didn’t anticipate becoming seasonal farm labourers, but I believe in living life to the fullest and I’m always ready to try something new. As a result, this city bred girl learned to operate some pretty big machinery and loved it! For several years, I drove tractor in the spring and combine in the fall as we helped a farmer friend with seeding and harvest.

Travel was always part of our retirement plan. During the first few years, we visited nine Canadian provinces and fifteen American states plus Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Saipan and Costa Rica. In 2013, I was diagnosed with a little-known incurable cancer which slowed us down a bit and keeps us from being out of the country for extended periods of time, but since that time, we’ve managed to tour Israel and visit Mexico twice. I’ve also been on a girlfriend trip to Las Vegas and we travel to Vancouver regularly to spend time with family. Last fall, we spent two weeks in Nova Scotia and celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary while we were there.

We continue to stay physically active. Golfing is a summer passion for both of us. We also love to hike and we recently purchased a tandem kayak. During the winter we keep active lifting weights, bowling in the local seniors league, and going to dances.

Writing was always something I always knew I’d return to in retirement. Though I’ve had one magazine article published and I’ve done some freelance editing, it’s blogging that I’m most passionate about these days. I love the opportunity it gives me to interact with my readers. Even my blog has changed over the past decade though. I originally started it to share our Asian experiences with friends and family back home, but I loved writing it and I’ve kept it going ever since. Though I still share travel stories whenever I can, it has morphed into more of a lifestyle blog that includes a weekly fashion post reflecting another interest of mine that grew and developed in my retirement years.

Perhaps that’s been the key to a successful and happy retirement… we’re still learning, growing, and exploring new interests. I am extremely grateful that we were able to retire as early as we did. I’m just now approaching 65, traditionally thought of as retirement age, and Richard is 67, but we’ve already been blessed with ten wonderful years of retirement. We loved our teaching careers, but as we watch our younger colleagues wrap up another school year and see their weary, stress filled faces, we don’t for one moment regret retiring when we did!

What will the next ten years hold, I wonder? Much will depend on my health, but at this point, I’m doing well. With a few restrictions, I’m able to lead a normal and active life. I don’t think we’ll be leaning back in our rocking chairs and putting our feet up anytime soon! There’s still a lot of world to see and new adventures await us!

Play clothes

logoI grew up in an era when girls wore dresses to school and changed into play clothes when we got home, but what do I wear when I take my grandchildren to the playground?

We picked up grandsons, Sam and Nate, from school yesterday afternoon and headed off to Start with Art, an annual exhibit at Deep Cove’s Seymour Art Gallery that encourages young people to appreciate, collect, and curate their own art collections.

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After perusing the the work of numerous different artists, narrowing their choices and finally making their selections which will remain on display until the show ends next month, we were off to the nearby playground.

It was a crisp spring day; too warm for a jacket, but perfect for my light denim waterfall shirt from cabi’s fall 2016 collection worn open over a striped tee and a white cami. Though Nate was comfortable in shorts, I was glad to be wearing my dark wash jeans from Old Navy.

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“I’m almost as tall as you Gram!”

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“Am I taller?”

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The waterfall shirt (unfortunately no longer available) is a great layering piece but can also be worn alone as a button-up shirt. Its stand up collar and ties set it apart from similar shirts and give it greater versatility.

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Hike to Quarry Rock

One of the big advantages of living in (or visiting) North Vancouver is the fact that you’re only minutes away from a wide array of beautiful backcountry hiking trails. Our grandsons didn’t have school today due to a teacher professional development day and though it poured rain overnight this morning’s weather looked suitable for an outdoor adventure.

Quarry Rock is a large rocky outcrop overlooking Indian Arm at scenic Deep Cove. Clouds hung low over the cove as we set off on our hike.

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The 3.8 km round trip trail, which is also part of the easternmost section of the much longer Baden Powell Trail, begins with a long stair climb that quickly informed me that after a long winter, during which the treadmill in our basement mostly gathered dust, my legs and my cardiac conditioning are somewhat out of shape. It didn’t help that in my eagerness to get out and onto the trail, I’d forgotten to have my morning cup of tea! Fortunately, the fresh air, the enthusiasm of our young hiking partners, and the wonderful smell of the damp forest were invigorating.

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The overall elevation gain on this trail is approximately 100 metres, but there are lots of ups and downs along the way. In addition to many flights of wooden steps, boardwalks and small bridges, much of the trail is a maze of tree roots.

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The terrain is typical of North Shore hikes with the trail wending it’s way through densely wooded areas of Douglas fir and hemlock. Morning mist hung in the trees as we set off, but before long the sun began to peek through and we soon started removing layers of clothing.

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Along the trail, many small creeks filled with spring runoff from the mountains tumble down the hillside in their rush to reach the ocean.

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Eventually the trail climbed up onto solid rock and we walked out onto the bluff where the views were spectacular.

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This trail is clearly a popular one. Even on a cool Monday morning, there were lots of hikers out and when we reached Quarry Rock, it was so crowded with people that it was difficult to get good unobstructed photos!

 

Shopping Sue’s closet

logoMy sister-in-law, Sue, loves to shop and has a larger clothing budget than I do. She has excellent taste and knows what looks good on her. Many of the sales clerks in her favourite mall know her by name and are familiar with her personal style. I am often the lucky beneficiary!

As a child I didn’t wear hand-me-downs, not because we were well off or because I didn’t want to, but because I was the oldest daughter in the family and had only one female cousin who is ten years older than me. There wasn’t anyone to hand clothing down to me. As an adult, however, and a frugal fashionista, I am more than happy to wear pre-owned clothing, especially Sue’s! Though I’m taller, we are very similar in size and can usually wear one another’s clothes without alteration. Though Sue tends to wear dramatic colours (she says I need more colour in my wardrobe!) and I favour neutrals, we have similar taste in clothing and we love to shop together.

Last month, we got together for our annual girls day out… lunch and shopping. Though I bought a couple of items, most of what I came home with came from Sue’s closets! Before I arrived for the weekend, she had done a major closet purge and I was met with several large bags of clothing to sort through and try on. What fun! I came away with one dress, one skirt, four sweaters, three golf shirts (like me, Sue is an avid golfer), three dressier tops, a warm fleece pullover and two handbags. That was just a tiny fraction of what was in the bags which then went to my daughter and, after she chose the items she wanted, to a thrift store.

Here’s my favourite item from Sue’s most recent castoffs. I love its loose fitting blouson style. With elastic at the hem, it’s great at camouflaging a midsection bulge and the colours coordinate with so much that is already in my wardrobe. I know I’ll wear this one a lot especially when the weather gets warmer.

This is far from the first time that I’ve benefitted from Sue’s extensive wardrobe and her generosity. In the past, she has also acquired a few items from me, but I’m a minimalist in comparison, so her gain has not been as great as mine. Shopping Sue’s closet started me thinking about clothing swaps in general. I’ve never taken part in a clothing swap party, but I’ve been reading up on the idea and I’ll share what I’ve learned next week on Fashion Friday. See you then!

Day or night? Home or away?

logoLots of cute pyjamas were worn around our house over the past few days when all of our kids and grandkids were home for Christmas. Other than the children in one family who like to wear them for the long car rides to Gram and Grandpa’s house and back, none of us wore them out in public though.

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When we lived in China, it wasn’t unusual to see grown men and women on the street in flannel pyjamas. What we didn’t know until later when one of my Chinese students came to stay with us for a few weeks was that it’s commonplace for the Chinese to wear pyjamas whenever they’re at home, getting dressed only to go out or when they’re expecting company. If they’re just stepping out to pick something up at the street market or a nearby shop, it’s not unusual for them to wear their pjs rather than bothering to get dressed.

In Europe and North America, the fashion industry seems to want us to follow suit.  While they’re not suggesting that we should go to work or stroll the mall in our fleece onesies or our flannel pjs, designers are definitely urging us to turn fancy pajamas into glamorous streetwear.

While I could entertain the possibility of wearing a satiny pyjama shirt with jeans for a very casual look, this is not a trend I’m about to adopt. What about you? Would you go out dressed like any of these gals?

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Hats, hats, hats

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October is usually a golden month here in Alberta, but this year it’s been grey and dreary. I did my seasonal wardrobe switch earlier this week, putting away my summer clothes and bringing my winter ones out of storage. This is not something that I enjoy doing as I dread our long, cold winters, but I do like the fact that the chilly autumn air means there are some hats that can also come out of storage. We took advantage of a few moments of sunshine this afternoon to take a series of hat photos with the remaining leaves on our weeping birch as a backdrop.

A hat is a great accessory that sets you apart, whether you’re at a formal event or just running errands. This jaunty tweed cap is casual, yet chic.

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When I lived in Japan in 2008 and 2009, most of the older women wore bucket hats that often reminded me of upside down flower pots on their heads! It was in Japan that I found this black felt cloche, however, and I immediately fell in love with it. I was delighted that it actually fit my larger than average head.

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In addition to looking at the hats, take notice of the fact that scarves are a great way to add a bit of trendy animal print to your fall and winter wardrobe.

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Vintage hats can be a fun addition too. This “Saratoga Uncrushable” was made by Biltmore, a world-renowned hat maker, likely in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Though the hat was made in Canada, the tweed fabric, which is 55% wool and 45% cotton, was woven in Scotland. A little research online told me that this is actually a man’s hat and meant to be worn fedora style, but the soft, pliable material is easily reshaped as a cloche which is how I have always worn it.

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The “Saratoga Uncrushable” is actually on long term loan from the community theatre group that I belong to. It was part of one of my costumes several years ago, but when the production came to an end, I hated to part with it! It will go back to the group when it’s needed again, but in the meantime, I continue to enjoy wearing it.

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And finally, a real felt fedora! I’ve never actually worn this one except for for these photos. Made by the great British hat makers, Christys’, probably in the 1940s, it was my father’s. It even has his initials punched into the leather headband inside. When we were cleaning out his apartment and storage unit in preparation for his move to an assisted living facility a few years ago, I laid claim to the hat that he hadn’t worn for years. I knew that it, too, would make a great costume piece for our theatre group. It has been worn onstage several times by several different actors, but I’ve always been tempted to wear it myself.

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What do you think? Should I wear it or not?

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