Creating a distraction

LogoIt’s now been five months since I made the decision to let my hair grow out and I haven’t given up yet! I even survived six weeks of camping, often without power. I’ve been surprised and pleased with how well it’s gone, but there are days when I despair and consider giving up; days when the unruly curls and frizz almost get the best of me.

I’m enormously grateful to whoever invented hair combs. Some days sweeping the sides back and holding them in place keeps me from completely losing my mind, but I’ve also learned that accessories are a great way to create a distraction taking attention away from my hair and focusing it elsewhere.

Here I’m wearing a silky scarf designed by Northwest Coast indigenous artist, Clifton Fred, and a pair of eye catching earrings.

The same principle works to draw attention away from other flaws or body parts that you’d rather not accentuate. Hats, scarves, sunglasses, belts, statement jewelry, colourful handbags, or stylish footwear are all great ways to steal attention. Use them to draw the eye away from those parts you don’t particularly like and to enhance those that will give you your best possible look.

For example, if you have what is commonly referred to as a “turkey neck”, lose skin around the neck that often develops as a woman ages, you may want to camouflage it by drawing attention down and away from that area. Opt for scarves, necklaces, or earrings that create long vertical lines. On the other hand, if you are big busted and prefer not to accentuate that feature, shorter statement necklaces that draw the eye up to your neck area are a better choice.

Be careful not to overdo it by wearing too many accessories at once, but be sure to add one essential and inexpensive accessory to every outfit… your beautiful smile!

Before we leave the topic of my unruly hair though, I just wanted to share the fact that it’s a genetic trait inherited from my mother’s side of the family. Clearly, I have passed it on. Here’s my youngest grandson ready for his first day of preschool last week.

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And here’s what he looks like when Mommy tries to tame his locks!

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Photos of Simon: Melaina Graham
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Hidden gems

In addition to world renowned sites like some of the ones in Jasper and Banff National Parks, Canada is home to many hidden gems usually known only to local people. We also found some of those on our recent travels.

After saying good-bye to our son and his family and leaving the mountain parks behind, we spent another week in the nearby foothills where we camped at Bottrel, Alberta with our daughter’s family. There’s actually nothing at Bottrel except a general store and a small unserviced campground, but we heard about it because our son-in-law’s mother lives nearby.

The campground is only 40 minutes from our daughter’s home in northeast Calgary. As soon as we’d set up camp on the bank of the lovely little creek that runs through the campground, we drove into the city to pick up Drew, our oldest grandson, who enjoyed two days of camping with Gram and Grandpa before the rest of the family was able to join us.

One of the things that we wanted to do during that time was introduce Drew to kayaking, but the creek was too small for that and we didn’t know of any lakes in the area. Richard spoke to the storekeeper, who also runs the campground, and learned of a small fishing lake nearby that’s known only to the locals. The highlight of our outing to Winchell Lake was the rare opportunity to watch a loon and her chick close up!

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About 20 minutes from the campground, on our way into Calgary, we had also passed signs for Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. A quick online search revealed that its 2.3 km (1.4 miles) hiking trail with an elevation gain of only 20 metres (66 feet) was popular with young families. Not intending to do the hike until the rest of the family joined us, we decided to take a drive over to the park just to check it out. Drew was so enthusiastic, however, that we ended up hiking the entire trail that day! Of course, as little boys are inclined to do, he put in a few more steps than we did!

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Later in the week, we packed a picnic lunch and returned with the rest of the family. With Drew as our guide, we did the hike again.

An interesting geological feature in this small park, which is located in a beautiful coulee, are the mounds of unusual rock called tufa (too-fah). Apparently tufa forms when water, rich in calcium and carbonate, emerges from the ground. As it comes to the surface, it releases carbon dioxide into the air and forms outcroppings of calcium carbonate rock.

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The first part of the hike was particularly pretty following a stream with lots of little waterfalls.

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I believe this was 3-year-old Simon’s first hike, but he was very keen to go!

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Later in the afternoon, back at the campground, the creek was a great place to cool off!

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Two great hikes in Jasper National Park

As part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration, the country offered free Parks Canada passes to every Canadian and every visitor from around the world who requested one, giving each of us free admission to national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country. We put our pass to good use when we spent a week camping in Jasper and Banff National Parks with our son Matt, daughter-in-law Robin, and grandsons Sam and Nate, who were enjoying their first family vacation in the Beatrice, a newly restored and much loved family heirloom.

Like most mountain parks, both Jasper and Banff abound with hiking trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. While at Jasper, we took advantage of two of these.

Valley of the Five Lakes

We chose this trail on the recommendation of my aunt who has lived in Jasper since 1953 and who continued to hike into her late 80s. The 4.5 km loop, located about 9 km south of Jasper, was an excellent choice. With only 66 m elevation change it was an easy hike for all of us.

The loop takes in all five small lakes, each a different shade of blue or green, but all strikingly beautiful.

First Lake

First Lake

Second Lake

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Second Lake

Third Lake (and in my opinion, the most beautiful)

Third Lake

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Isn’t that just stunning?

Fourth Lake

Fourth Lake

Fifth Lake

Fifth Lake

While bears are known to frequent the Five Lakes area, especially in berry season, we saw only this frisky little chipmunk who was happy to pose for a photo.

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Maligne Canyon

With a depth of more than 50 metres at some points, Maligne Canyon is one of the deepest in the Canadian Rockies and certainly one of the most spectacular. For our second hike in the Jasper area, we started at the 5th bridge and hiked up the canyon trail to the teahouse at the upper end.

When I first looked at my photos, I was disappointed. Somehow they just didn’t capture the magnitude of what we’d seen. Then I realized that it was the thunderous sound of the water churning through the deep, rocky canyon that was missing! Use your imagination as you follow us up the trail and try to imagine what it sounded like as the canyon walls narrowed and the rushing water echoed below.

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Where does all that water come from? Located in the Maligne valley, Medicine Lake is formed by the Maligne River. One of the interpretive signs along the hiking trail compares Medicine Lake to a “giant leaky bathtub.” Water from the lake drains into what is thought to be the largest inaccessible cave system in the world and resurfaces downstream through springs along the canyon walls.

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The power of the moving water becomes evident when you look at the shapes of the rocky canyon walls that have been whittled away over eons.

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In some places, rocks and sand swirling around in the turbulent water wear potholes in the canyon floor or walls. Over time, as the canyon wears deeper these potholes, or bowls as we called them, are left above the water level, reminders of a previous time. You can see a pothole still being formed near the centre of this picture.

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Another interesting feature is the chockstone. Chockstones are giant boulders that have become wedged across portions of the canyon which narrows to only two metres at the top in some places. Over time, erosion slowly reduces the size of the chockstones until they eventually tumble to the canyon floor. There is a chockstone with moss and trees growing on it near the top of this photo.

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The promise of dozens of fossils preserved in the rock beneath our feet was an incentive to keep our young grandsons going as we climbed the last portion of the trail which is a bit steep. They became very good at spotting these reminders that this was once a very different looking world and enjoyed making rubbings of several of them.

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Though this hike isn’t a long one, if you go, allow yourself lots of time as there are so many interesting things to see and photos to take!

There are many trails in the canyon area and rather than retracing our steps the entire distance, we took a higher trail from the 4th bridge back to the 5th. Though we were above the canyon walls and further from the thundering water, the views were beautiful.

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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!

 

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