A Good Friday at the Lake

image

Hey everyone! Hope you’re having a good Friday (har har) and enjoying a well deserved day off work. Long weekends really are the best.

I’m up at my family’s cabin in the Shuswap for Easter and feeling pretty lucky to be in this little slice of paradise.  Summer is my favourite time to be out at the lake, of course, but I really love coming here in the shoulder seasons as well. The pace is a little slower, and there’s lots of time for reading and running and playing the piano and all of those other relaxing activities that tend to get squeezed out when I’m at home. There’s no rush to get dinner on the table, so we can take our time in the kitchen and make lots of amazing meals. I’m pretty sad that Zevi’s stuck at work and not able to be here, but the fact that we get to have a ham for Easter dinner makes his absence the tiniest bit easier to take ;).

No matter what time of year it is, I always feel my shoulders drop and my chest loosen when I get to our lake house. I’m looking forward to more relaxing family time this weekend, with a little bit of cabin maintenance thrown in to help us earn our afternoon beers. I hope that whatever you’re up to this long weekend helps you feel renewed and ready to dive headfirst in to the spring and summer days to come!

Tagged ,

That Time We Got Stuck in the Argentinian Salt Flats – Part One

image

When you get back from a long distance adventure, there’s generally one story that gets told over and over again. It’s the one that your closest family members and friends have heard numerous times, because every time you’re with someone who hasn’t heard it they insist that you tell it again. For us, the story that everyone has heard is about the time we got ourselves in a pretty bad situation during our road trip in Northern Argentina. Zevi does a pretty good job of telling it, but I’m going to give it a go myself, because no account of our trip would be complete without it.

We’d had a beautiful and adventurous day of driving a tiny rural highway that wound up and down high mountain passes, and after conquering that crazy road, we were feeling pretty relaxed about the rest of our day. The salt flats had been something we’d been excited about for a long time – they were one of the first things we’d pegged as a must-see in Northern Argentina. Since we knew that a lot of tourists visited them, we didn’t really think much about any risks that might be involved in checking them out. We figured that we’d drive out, take some cool photos, and be at our hotel in ample time to grab some dinner.

After driving about an hour and a half from the small town of San Antonio de los Cobres, we were super excited when we looked to our left and saw a white expanse of crusty salt glistening not too far in the distance. We were keen on securing ourselves a prime picture taking spot that wasn’t too packed with people, so we decided to take an unmarked side road towards the flats. As we bumped and rolled our way on to the salt, we were excited to see that we would have the entire area to ourselves. It was so beautifully secluded, which we thought was strange given that it was a well-known tourist attraction, but we were happy to be solo.

We really wanted to recreate those cool reflection photos that people take on salt flats that I’m sure many of you have seen, so we were excited when we saw a small blue lake on our GPS. We decided to drive towards it in hopes that we could get some amazing shots of our own. Between our excitement about being on the amazingly expansive salt flats, the promise of capturing some top notch photos, and the euphoric high from having conquered that risky mountain road, we weren’t even a little bit worried about the fact that we were driving kilometres upon kilometres further from civilization. The salt appeared to be solid, and it seemed unthinkable that we could run in to any sort of trouble.

That is, until we did start to run in to trouble. We’d arrived at the area where the GPS told us that there would be water, but there was no water to be seen. All of a sudden we heard a splash, and felt the truck lurch downwards as it cracked through the salt in to the muddy water below. We had found the lake, but it was under the salt, rather than on top of it. This was the first moment when I realized that being so incredibly alone might not be such a great thing after all, and I told Zevi we needed to turn around and get out of that area ASAP. He was in complete agreement, but as he turned the truck around, we sank in again. At this point we were both starting to panic even as we popped out of the mud and continued on our way. Our fears were validated when we sunk in a third time. This time we didn’t pop out. We were seriously stuck.

image

I don’t think I realized the true gravity of the situation at first, or at least I wanted to remain optimistic. We had experience getting ourselves free from Calgary’s snow banks, so I figured we’d be able to maneuver ourselves out of there with a little a little rocking back and forth and pushing. Unfortunately, none of our tried and true techniques got us anywhere. In fact, we may have actually been making things worse. Finally we surrendered to the fact that there was absolutely no way we were getting ourselves out of there. Suddenly our solitude was a serious problem.

People always say that if you run in to trouble the thing to do is stay with your vehicle until help comes to you. We had driven so far out on to the flats, though, that no one was going to be coming our way any time soon, so we had no choice but to trek towards the road and try to flag down a passing car. It was a scorchingly hot day, so we made sure to slather on the sunscreen and bring all of the water we had for our walk to the gravel highway. Using his GPS app, Zevi figured that the walk would be about five or six kilometres, which we thought would still give us enough time to find help and get towed out that evening. That dream started to dwindle as we walked on and on, crunching our way through the seemingly never ending salt only to arrive at a muddy swamp where one false step would suck us in to our hiking boot tops (Zevi learned this the hard way). Every so often I’d exclaim to Zevi that I could see someone in the distance, but my hopes were dashed when I realized that the wild donkeys looked an awful lot like people when you looked at them from just the right angle. Honestly I think I could have tricked my mind into thinking that almost anything looked like a human at that point – I wanted so badly to find the saviour that would bail us out of this increasingly dire predicament. We walked on and on towards what we thought might be buildings, looking for any sign of civilization.

Stay tuned for part two where I’ll wrap up this story.

Tagged , ,

Mike Edel and Towers and Trees at the Ironwood

Towers and Trees 2

Watching live music fills my soul in a way that nothing else can. I haven’t been to many concerts this year, so I was excited when my lovely sister Julia invited me and Zevi to a show at the Ironwood. Between Julia and her friend they’d gathered a pretty large group so we had quite the contingent out to see some great bands!

Mike Edel

The Ironwood is one of my favourite places in Calgary to see bands play. Shows generally start at a reasonable hour, the environment is relaxed, the sound quality is top notch, and it’s not earsplittingly loud. Can you tell I’m getting old? We had great seats almost as close to the stage as you can get, and while I initially worried I’d walk out completely deaf, our vantage point turned out to be just perfect.

Towers and Trees 1

The bands on the bill that night were both from Victoria. First up was Towers and Trees, a six piece fronted by the dynamic Adrian Chalifour. I was really impressed by their energy and by how tight their set was – they sounded like veterans rather than a band on their first Canadian tour! With beautiful harmonies on the slower ballads and frenetic bluesy spirit on the up tempo numbers, the set was a great mix of feeling and showmanship. They were great at interacting with the audience, unplugging and playing a song in the crowd and encouraging lots of clapping and snapping along. I’d never heard their music before that night, but I came away a big fan! They’ve got a record coming out in the next few months, and the first song off of it more than lives up to their live performance. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!

While Towers and Trees were a new discovery for me, I’d been listening to Mike Edel for quite some time. I saw him a couple of years ago when he came through Calgary and enjoyed his set so much that I picked up his album, The Last Of Our Mountains, which has been on heavy rotation ever since. Mike’s voices is powerful but also very raw and real, and it has an almost whispery quality that makes you believe that everything he’s saying is coming from an honest place. He played a lot of material from his new album, which is coming out in a few weeks, and I was happy to hear that the new songs were just as gorgeous as the ones I’ve listened to so many times. It turns out Mike is a storyteller too, and we were treated to the stories behind some of the songs he was playing. It’s always fun to hear about the inspiration behind the lyrics!

It was a great night of music, and the perfect combination of a new discovery and an old favourite. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the upcoming releases from both Towers and Trees and Mike Edel, and you should be too!

Tagged , ,

Spring Sunshine

spring sunshine

As the days turn warmer, you can almost hear the city breathing a collective sigh of relief. Even though our winter this year wasn’t all that harsh, there were still enough days where we had to bundle up in huge puffy coats and mitts and hats and scarves to make us long for the season to change. In winter we hurry from one place to another, clutching our hoods tightly around our faces to block out the cold winds and barely slowing down for a glance at the person passing us on the sidewalk. We forgo nights out with friends in favour of staying warm and cozy on the couch in the comfort of our homes. The long hours of cold and darkness bring out the hermit in most of us.

As much as I love to get out to the mountains to ski and snowshoe, I’m never sad when I see winter coming to an end. Spring brings the promise of so many good things. As the sun gets stronger, I start to feel that the days of music festivals, boat rides, camping trips, and backyard barbecues with friends are not so far off. I can almost taste that cold Corona with a little hint of lime and feel the warm grass on the soles of my bare feet. I can imagine that feeling of complete freedom as I plunge into the chilly lake water for my first swim of the season and then let the sun coax every drop of water off of my browning back. I can feel my shoulders relax as my body begins to realize that it no longer needs to steel itself against the biting chill.

Spring sunshine doesn’t pack the same punch as its summer counterpart. Instead, it gently whispers of things to come. As the first buds start to appear on our leafless trees and the first flowers poke their heads out, I feel so much excitement for the upcoming season. I’ve always been a lake-swimming, sandal-sporting summer girl, and this late March sunshine on my shoulders lets me know that my favourite season isn’t too far away.

Tagged

My Calgary: OEB

OEB eggs benedict

I still remember the first time Zevi and I visited OEB. We tried to go to a well known breakfast joint down the street, but since there was such a huge line up we decided to take a chance on a little spot that had just opened a few doors down. It may have been the one and only Saturday in its existence when we could just walk right in and get a table! I was instantly impressed, and had a feeling that that it would become a favourite.

Let’s be honest, the last thing I really want is for OEB to gain more popularity. There are already hordes of people spilling out the doors on weekend mornings, and even on a weekday you’ll probably have to wait a few minutes to score a seat. As much as I’d love to keep it to myself, though, there’s no way I could talk about my favourite spots in Calgary without mentioning this gem.

The number one thing everyone mentions when they talk about OEB are those potatoes. And man are they some incredible potatoes – the best ones in Calgary in my books. If a french fry and a hash brown made sweet sweet love, OEB’s breakfast potatoes would be their offspring. The wedges of potato are fried to crispy perfection, and seasoned with just enough special spices to make you wonder exactly what they sprinkled on there to make them so addictive. Anyone who doesn’t order these in some form gets a serious side eye from me. Zevi’s lucky I let him steal some of mine ;).

OEB Duck PoutineOEB soul in a bowl

OEB has a mind-bogglingly expansive menu, so basically any breakfast items you can think of, and some you’ve never dreamed of, are there for the taking. From crepes to eggs to toast of all kinds, it’s on the menu. I often find myself gravitating towards the “Box’d” section of the menu, which features some wildly creative, and, more importantly, wildly delicious breakfast poutines made with those delicious potatoes. You really can’t go wrong with melty, squeaky curds and crispy spuds, topped with bacon, duck, or even fois gras. They’re pretty much breakfast perfection in a cute little take out box, and so easy to take home to snack on later if you can’t digest all of those saucy carbs in one go.

OEB Zevi

If you’re looking for the best breakfast in Calgary, I know many people will agree with me when I say you’ll find it at OEB. You might have to wait a while to get in on a weekend, but now that they’re using the NoWait app, you can put your name down in the comfort of your own home and just wait for the text saying your table is ready. There’s pretty much nothing stopping you from stopping in now! Just save some potatoes for me, ok?

OEB

824 Edmonton Trail NE

Tagged

Hiking Lady McDonald

Lady McDonald - Heather, Adelle, Caleigh

For her birthday, a friend of ours invited us to go for a hike up Lady McDonald, and Zevi and I jumped at the chance to get out to the mountains. Located just North of Canmore, the hike is a quick trip from Calgary. Thirteen of us gathered at the bottom of the trail and started making our way to the summit. It was a gorgeous blue sky day, and not even an accidental wrong turn could dampen our spirits!

Lady McDonald start Lady McDonald Zevi Lady McDonald Heather Adelle Lady McDonald mountain view Lady McDonald rocks

The way up was a pretty steep slog, with barely any flats or downhills to be found on the trip to the top. The trail was well marked, though, and although we had to navigate through a few rocky sections, I never felt unsafe or unsure of my footing. I’d worn a tank top under my long sleeved shirt not really expecting to strip down to just that layer, but on the first half of the hike the sun was so strong that I was actually sweating in my sleeveless shirt! Definitely not the weather I’d normally expect to find in the mountains in March.

Lady McDonald treesLady McDonald summit Lady McDonald summit 2 Lady McDonald summit Heather Lady McDonald inukshuk

Once we got nearer to the summit, things started to feel a bit more like early spring. The wind picked up, the clouds rolled in, and we started to see a few more patches of snow. There was still far less snow than I’d generally expect to see at this time of year, though. One of the great things about this hike is that you get to see gorgeous views all the way up, which erased any disappointment of not making it it to the actual summit. We were told that it was a fairly challenging scramble to get there, and that with the frigid wind howling the way it was it was pretty unrealistic to take that on. I was pretty happy with what we’d accomplished, and although I didn’t run up and down the mountain twice like one of our friends did, my legs were definitely burning by the end.

Crazyweed group shot Crazyweed wings Crazyweed steak Crazyweed ribs

We capped off the day by stuffing our tired faces with delicious food at Crazyweed. There aren’t many better ways to spend a Sunday than enjoying fresh mountain air and a great meal with friends!

Tagged , ,

My Five: Favourite Instagram Accounts to Follow

Instagram is probably my favourite social network. Full of gorgeous food photos that inspire me to get out my pots and pans and jaw dropping travel photos that make me want to drop everything and hit the road, Instagram is where I go when I want ot be inspired. Here are some of the accounts whose photos I find myself double tapping on a regular basis.

@tracyshutterbean

Tracy has such a unique eye for photography and she captures life from such an interesting perspective. I love her quirky snapshots of every day life and her mouth watering food photos!

We dipped our toes into an alternate universe today.

A post shared by Tracy Benjamin (@shutterbean) on

The recipe for this Smoked Salmon Ramen is on #shutterbean today. That egg tho! 🍜🍳✨

A post shared by Tracy Benjamin (@shutterbean) on

@bevcooks

Bev posts lots of insanely cute photos of her twins, but the best part are the hilarious captions she writes.

All the ladies in the house say YEAH.

A post shared by Bev Weidner (@bevcooks) on

@travelalberta

This account full of awe inspiring photos of my home province makes me proud to live in Alberta!

Spring, we're ready for you. Photo by @alexstrohl | #explorealberta

A post shared by Travel Alberta (@travelalberta) on

Why do you travel? Photo by @younner | #explorealberta

A post shared by Travel Alberta (@travelalberta) on

@abeautifulmessofficial

I can always count on A Beautiful Mess for a shot of colour, a jolt of creativity, and some of the best murals you can find.

It's the little things! Like fresh fruit and veggies from the farmer's market! 🍅 Photo by @hannahjgoodwin #ABMlittlethings

A post shared by Elsie + Emma A Beautiful Mess (@abeautifulmess) on

Your mission this week! 💛 Photo by @allisonwonderlandphotographie #ABMlifeiscolorful

A post shared by Elsie + Emma A Beautiful Mess (@abeautifulmess) on

@julieskitchen

Her food photos are beautiful, and the collages she creates are spectacular.

Those are just a few of my favourite Instagram accounts to follow these days. What are some of your favourites?

Tagged , ,

Saying Yes

Buenos Aires

I’ve always been a cautious person who doesn’t really like to take unnecessary risks. Sure, I’ll try weird foods and go travelling to foreign countries, but in general, my default setting is to stay within my comfort zone. I like routine, and change always takes me a while to adjust to. I like to plan ahead, and I’m not very good at being spontaneous. Because of these things, I sometimes avoid exploring new opportunities because I’m not very comfortable with improvising my way through the unknown.

One thing I realized on our South America trip is that I don’t always want to be the “no person”. I don’t want to be the person that shoots an idea down just because it seems crazy or unrealistic, or because it’s something I’m not necessarily comfortable with. Being a realist and thinking carefully through your options is great a lot of the time, but sometimes you just need to jump in with your eyes closed and see what happens. There may be repercussions, but most of the time you come away with an experience worth talking about. You might be a little tired the next day, or get a little dirty, or get your truck horribly stuck in a muddy salt flat, but every time you push yourself beyond your comfort zone you grow in a way that you wouldn’t have if you just stayed home.

I’ve been trying to say yes more often, and get involved in things I might have otherwise passed by. While I still want to make sure I’m respecting my limits and taking care of myself, I know that my life will be richer if I continue to take risks and put myself out there in big and small ways. After all, the worst outcomes still make for great stories.

Cafayate – Part 2

I know it’s been a while since our South America trip ended, but I want to write about the last part of our trip before I totally forget about it! So, from time to time I’m going to go back and revisit our big adventure. 

We’d had a great day of wine tasting in Cafayate, so the next day we decided that we wanted to do something a little bit different. The owner of our hostel had told us about a hike close to town that would take us to some beautiful waterfalls and give us the opportunity to swim in the Rio Colorado, which would be a welcome respite from the heat of Northern Argentina. Although most people who did the hike hired a guide from the local community, we were told that it was possible to do the trek without one. The only caveat was that the trail was not well marked, or marked at all, really, so we might have trouble finding our way on our own. Feeling like we wanted to save some money and be independent, we decided to give it a shot solo. The man who greeted us at the entrance to the parking lot was not happy with our decision and tried to tell us that we were obligated to hire a guide, but we stood firm and set out unaccompanied.

Rio Colorado Cafayate hikeRio Colorado hike

If you’re thinking about doing this hike, you should know that no one’s exaggerating when they say that the trail isn’t marked. The trek was basically a big guessing game, where we jumped from one side of the river, which was more of a stream in this blazingly hot and dry November, to the other attempting to navigate our way up the valley. There was a group with a guide just a bit ahead of us that we tried to sneakily follow for a while, but eventually we lost them and it was up to us to find our way again. We never felt like we were in danger, and in a way it was kind of fun to chart our own confusing course, but I do understand why they encourage you to hire someone who actually knows where they’re going.

Rio Colorado hikeRio Colorado Cafayate hike

After we’d been hiking for a couple of hours we became really unsure of where the trail went next, so we decided to stop. We were running low on water and the sun was unrelenting, so we really didn’t want to go much further anyways. Luckily we were stopped right by a little waterfall with a nice pool, so we got to go for a swim. The water was absolutely frigid but it felt great after hiking in the heat!

Puppy in the window CafayateEl porvenir Cafayate

After finding our way back to our car and going back to our hostel to change (and seeing a very cute doggy in the window!), we headed out to do some more wine tasting. We had some bad luck with the first few places we went to being closed so we almost gave up, but we ended up going to some great tasting rooms in town. We really loved how casual the Cafayate wine tasting scene was. Unlike much of Napa and Mendoza, most places had no problem with drop ins, and prices were extremely reasonable.

Cafayate steakChef at Cafayate parilla

We’d eaten dinner the previous two nights at the beautiful wine bar attached to our hostel, but on our last night in Cafayate we wanted to try out something different. I think there’s a rule that you can only go so many days in Argentina without having a steak, so we decided to check out the parilla that our hostel recommended. Cafayate is a pretty small and not particularly touristy place, but we definitely felt like we were off the beaten path when we finally arrived at this hole in the wall restaurant. We sat down at a plastic table on the sidewalk and proceeded to have a parilla experience that was lightyears away from any of the places we’d eaten at in Buenos Aires. There was no menu, so I walked up to the sweatpants-clad chef and asked him to bring him whatever he thought was good. As you can see in the picture above, his grill was built in to the side of the restaurant, so this was street meat at its finest. When our entrees arrived at our table, we both took one bite and confidently proclaimed that this was by far the best steak we’d ever had. Instead of our usual sirloin or rib eye, we’d been given bonier cuts, and the meat was so incredibly tender and flavourful that I was rendered speechless. My only regret was that we’d waited until our last night to go, so we wouldn’t be able to return. The whole experience just reaffirmed something I already knew about eating out. As much as I love eating at fancy, high end restaurants, sometimes the most amazing food comes from some guy slinging meat on the side of the road, or from a little nondescript hole in the wall.

Cafayate still stands out to me as one my favourite stops on our trip, and one of the places I’d most like to return to. With great wine, delicious steak, beautiful natural surroundings, and a laid back atmosphere, how could we not fall in love with this little town?

Tagged , ,

Brunch Parties

Brunch Julia and ZeviBrunch saturday one

I love having people over, especially when there is food involved. Dinner parties are the classic choice, but lately I’ve hosted a couple of brunch get togethers and I’ve really loved having people over earlier in the day! They’re usually a bit more casual, no one’s worried about spending a ton of time on hair and make up because you’ve all just rolled out of bed, and there’s no need to worry about appetizers or dessert.

Brunch Saturday twoBrunch mango mint lassis

Here are a few things I’ve learned about hosting brunch that you might find helpful should you ever want to give it a try.

  • Do as much prep as possible the night before. When you’re crawling out of bed in the morning, you want to have as little as possible to do before your guests show up. Don’t leave yourself a ton of cooking to do in the morning before everyone shows up and you will feel much more relaxed! Last Saturday, I made these baked eggs, which I’d made with success in the past, and I was able to do everything other than cracking the eggs in to the dish and baking them on Friday night. I also made these potatoes, which are always a hit, and I boiled the potatoes the night before so I just had to smash them and bake them in the morning. I also cut up a bunch of the fruit for the fruit salad so that I only had a bit of chopping to do on the day of. Zevi and I made a delicious baked caramelized banana french toast a couple of weeks ago that we just had to pop in the oven in the morning, which made things a total breeze. You never know what will come up, or how may cocktails you’ll have the night before, so being extra prepared is the way to go.
  • Master your coffee making set up in advance. Coffee is pretty key to most peoples’ wake up routine, so it better be on point! We normally use a two shot stovetop espresso maker in the mornings but that wasn’t going to suffice for a group of six people, so I had to use our Chemex. We’ve had the thing for years, but I’ve barely used it, so I was frantically googling tutorials and watching youtube videos on Saturday morning. The coffee turned out ok, but I wish I’d done a couple of test runs with the Chemex to get the system down pat beforehand.
  • Make something you love, but don’t be too ambitious. Your friends are counting on you to provide their first meal of the day, so maybe don’t try out that amazing looking souffle you’ve never made before that has a high chance of failure. Brunch should be fun, and you don’t want to be stressed about things not working out on a weekend morning.
  • Make something that doesn’t need to be eaten immediately. Things get a little unpredictable on a Saturday morning. Sometimes alarms don’t go off, or hangovers are raging, or people are just a little slow to get themselves out the door. Whatever the reason, it’s highly likely that someone you invited won’t show up on time, so making something like that’s best eaten right as it’s finished cooking, like scrambled eggs, can prove problematic. You’ll have more success and feel less stress with something that’s still great after sitting for a few minutes.
  • Most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff. I tend to obsess over what I’m going to make when I’m having people over, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but I try to remind myself that people really aren’t going to be that upset if their yolk isn’t perfectly runny or you burn a couple of potatoes. As long as you don’t give them food poisoning, your friends are going to be grateful for the opportunity to get together and chat above all else. Yes, it’s great to be mindful of the food you’re making, but in the end what you’re eating is secondary to the conversation.

The first meal of the day is often so rushed, so it’s fun to have the opportunity to sit down and eat something delicious in the morning. I’ve loved having people over for brunch recently, and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Tagged , ,