Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 13, 2013

It Just Needs A Little Love

As Christina and I will be out and about for a large part of the Christmas season this year we have chosen to keep the decorations at a minimum. We decided to not put up our usual tree and have instead opted for something a little more modest that we found at Lowes.

That's right, it's a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!

With my own 'Linus' blanket

It's not such a bad tree after all....

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Meat Shopping in Beverly...and Beyond

I was invited to attend a fancy gentlemen night out at at buddies place last week with the requirement of bringing a meat dish and booze (scotch preferred). With a requirement to bring meat, there was only one destination in Edmonton in which to shop: The Beverly Area.

Beverly is home to a bunch of great butcher shops, deli's and sausage houses. It is a carnivores dream.

When meat shopping in NE Edmonton somethings are just a given; a link of Garlic Ham sausage from Widnyoswki'. But another meat option was escaping me. I wanted something different.

Chrissy and I browsed the selection at the Italian Bakery and the Mundare Sausage House but even with the great looking cuts, nothing jumped out at me. That all changed though when I walked into Smokin Iron Farms. I browsed through Muskox, Kangaroo, Camel striploins and then stopped....Python! This was surely what I was looking for.

To celebrate the great find I picked up a celebratory Pop Shoppe. Obviously, this is my kind of place.

With my food selection determined, we decided to take in some local Beverly color. First stop, the Drake Hotel. 

Chrissy, who has lived around the area her whole life admitted some trepidation about going inside, as it has quite a reputation. Eventually, she agreed to join me for one drink if I would goto the antique store nearby afterwards. We arrived at the Drake just after 2pm and the bar was pretty busy. Apparently, they just finished a bingo lunch and the band was about to start. Chrissy became relaxed and was won over by the waitress legitimately asking her if she was old enough to be in the bar. We ordered our beers and the band started.

The country band was pretty entertaining, and aside from a rusted chair with screws jutting out of it, our experience at the Drake was pretty good. 

Fulfilling my end of the bargain I accompanied Chrissy to the nearby Antiques Alberta. I have to admit I was quite surprised by their wide selection of goods. Definitely some cool stuff including this old school camera apparatus.

With all of our errands ran uncharacteristically fast we decided to check out a well regarded greenhouse and it's Christmas exhibit in Sherwood Park. A quick drive later we arrived at Salisbury Greenhouse

It was a fantastic feeling to leave the monotone and dry Alberta environment and enter the moist and colorful greenhouse.

Even with my Movember nose filter it was a joy just breathing in.

I usually frequent greenhouses in the spring and early summer so it was neat to see the different types of plants offered by season. I don't know why I was so surprised to see so the amount of poinsettias and Christmas cactus's; in retrospect it just makes sense they would be prevalent.

By The Way - For anyone wanting to know about the Python. I prepared it by scoring it and thinning it out a bit and then cooked it in butter. It ended up a bit rubbery in texture with a taste somewhere between pork and chicken. Not too bad really.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

All Is Bright on 124 Street

It's technically still autumn but it already seems like it's been winter in Edmonton forever. Generally I really like winter but the last couple of years I have been having trouble getting excited about it.  I can't fully explain my blase feelings but they mostly reside around the lack of activities and stuff to do. So when I heard about the All is Bright event I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer and help develop 'something to do' in winter.

My day started early for a Saturday as I arrived on the already closed down 124th Street at 8am to help setup for the day. For me the experience of setting up for an event of this type was completely new and I couldn't help but marvel at the vast amount of equipment and the general organization of the volunteers.

My highlights were watching the stage  be assembled and the lugging around of beer kegs...mmmm beer.


Christina joined me in volunteering just in time to clear the area known as the "North Pole".

With the tables now clean Chrissy and I donned plastic gloves and got ready to serve free Smokehouse BBQ pulled pork sliders to the already assembled masses.  We formed a pretty good team and kept the perpetually replenishing lineup moving through on a good clip. 

The sliders were a hit and were soon all gone. It was at this point that we realized foolishly that we didn't 'sample' any ourselves. Secretly I think Chrissy was happy about this as the North Pole was situated right across the street from one of our favorite cafe's in the city - Tiramisu Bistro. The place was packed but we managed to get a seat and a fantastic sandwich. 

Feeling recharged we decided to walk back to the "South Pole" as opposed to taking the horse drawn carriages. 

Arriving back at the main area Chrissy took off to Tinbox and the rest of the High Street shops while I worked my way through the on street beer gardens to the stage.

As I walked through the street I started to hear the first few notes of a familiar song. But I didn't actually believe my ears. Someone was playing 'For Whom The Belll Tolls" loudly on the street in the middle of the afternoon. This of course is awesome and something that I fully support. Becoming more and more intrigued I got in vision of the stage and ended up seeing that it was the Backbeat School of Rock kids jamming it out. 

Chrissy soon joined me and we watched the band for some time before strolling back over to the beer gardens to try some mulled wine (which I surprisingly liked quite abit). We did a little bit more work stringing up some lights along the fencing and then took another extended break to check out the winter market and galleries.

We wandered around the area and I took in the sights that included monster fireplaces and um...monsters.

Meanwhile Christina took in the sights that included the change rooms at Floc Boutique.

We found each other again in the kids area near Cococo Chocolatiers just in time to hear a loud crash behind us. It turned out a life size Jenga game had just ended. I seized the opportunity to rebuild the tower and challenged Chrissy to a battle.

Just when I thought I had my lovely foe defeated she pulled out a block leaving the tower tilted but still upright. As I readied myself for my turn an alert TV Cameraman spotted my upcoming shame and zoomed in.  As the blocks tumbled down on top of me I maintained my composure as best as I could. Not a single four letter word was filtered through my mustache.

Another cool highlight were ice sculptures on the street including these two Alice In Wonderland pieces.

My favorite was the sculpture in front of McEhleran's furniture where through the day I watched a couple blocks of ice slowly transform into a throne.

BTW - McEhleran's has some seriously nice stuff. I think I need to win the lottery to purchase all the stuff Chrissy had her eyes on.

After another mulled wine (to remain warm) Chrissy and I settled in near the stage to watch our favorite Edmonton band, the Awesomehots, play.

The band was great as they sounded quite sharp in the freezing conditions. I especially liked the ping sound of the hammer hitting the rail. I have to admit though, after hearing that ping I was secretly hoping for a cover of the Legend of John Henry's Hammer. Maybe next time...

As the daylight started to slide away we waited for the ceremonial light up of the street.

And with the flick of a switch the street was lit up with overhead lighting, tree lights, decorative planters, and animated storefronts. The illumination really enlivened the appearance of the street and instantly made the whole area pedestrian welcoming.

As Chrissy and I walked down 124th Street back to our car we passed wave after wave of people just arriving. For an inaugural event I have to think the organizers are happy with the attendance levels they achieved. I know I was happy to be a small part of it all. It definitely made my winter day a better one.