Saturday 28 June 2008

I Finally Went to the Calgary Farmer's Market

I have 5 days off this week-end to do whatever I want, and today (after thinking about doing so for a couple of months) I went to the Calgary Farmer's Market. I was amazed really at what diverse kinds of produce that one is able to find there - even in June! I mean - we live in Alberta right? Can anything really grow in Alberta? Well, the answer to that is - yes, with much effort. But, a lot of the produce I found today was from B.C. (which technically is outside of my 100 miles, but at least it's not New Zealand) They also had some California produce there, but I was not about to touch that. It makes me guilty even thinking about it now. There is actually one grower in Innisfail, AB that grows Asparagus!!!!! I mean - Asparagus - in Alberta. It's truly amazing to me.

Note the label says "Asparagus - grown locally - Innisfail, AB"

So, what did I buy there at the Asparagus people's stand? - Pickled Asparagus of course!!! I LOVE Pickled Asparagus (as anyone who keeps up with my blog knows) I haven't opened it up yet, but you KNOW that's going to disappear tomorrow when I do. I also picked up some lovely B.C. Cherries. 2 Varieties - The regular Bing variety, and also these lovely Rainier Cherries with a lovely golden color and slightly tart taste. I'm currently eating them, and have this crazy idea that if I lay the seeds out on a paper towel and dry them out, I may be able to grow a Rainier Cherry tree right here in my back yard. Will let you know how that one turns out.

I also found this really cool and slightly weird Yellow Zucchini grown locally (can't remember where) as well. I know that squash traditionally is yellow, but Zucchini is usually green. It's so fun to see yellow zucchini, and it was the same price as the green, so I went for it...

One other really cool thing I found was Honey made by Alberta Bees!!!!! This company I bought it from does this amazing thing with it as well. They cream the honey, and add fruit flavor extracts to it to make it fruity. I tried a few varieties out of curiosity, and then well, I couldn't say no, so I bought the Saskatoon, Blueberry, and Lemon flavored ones. You would be surprised how tasty the Lemon one was.

So, needless to say, I was pretty impressed with the variety found at the Calgary Farmer's Market. People often told me that it's more expensive than other farmer's markets, but you know, I found that the prices aren't that much different than they are at the Health Food Store, and often you can't find local produce at the health food store. (Not at this time anyway) Also, the vendors are just local folk trying to make a living, and I would imagine that the cost of being set up there is somewhat high, so they have to cover their overhead. With all of these thoughts in mind, I don't really mind spending a few extra dollars to support local producers. The atmosphere of the Market is awesome, and there's something to see literally everywhere you turn. They have live entertainment at various parts of the Market, andd also crafts, local artisans, etc. I loved every minute of being there. Don't eat before you go either because there's tonnes of good eats - ready to eat. ALSO, it's not too hard to get there on city transit. (which is how I got there) You just take the 20 from Heritage and get off just after Mount Royal College, and right before Flander's Avenue. You can see it quite clearly from Richard Road, so it's super easy to find. I'm going back lots of times this summer, because I'm sure (in fact I know) that there will be more exciting produce to come as the summer goes on. What a great place to spend a Saturday (or a Friday off) I recommend it to everyone I know!!!

Here's some more pictures of the market...

Tuesday 24 June 2008

What I Did This Week-end...

This past week-end, I went to a mid-singles (25-35) conference at church. It was really a lot of fun. I saw a lot of old friends - (who had various reactions of surprise and wonder at my changing appearance). I made some new friends, all of whom are really great people. I just had a really really great time. The Saturday portion of the conference was tightly action-packed to the extreme. Saturday morning we went to various workshops. I went to 3 different ones starting with one girl's experiences as a resident at a Ugandan hospital, and her fight against HIV in that country. It was really touching and also sad to hear about her experiences there. Then, I went to a Karate Workshop, and learned proper fist-making, punches, and kicks; even got to do some!! They also taught us a little self-defense. It was very useful, and also gave me a little extra exercise for the day. Then, I went to a workshop on "Dating for Grown-ups". It was really good, and interesting. There was one really uncomfortable moment where there were jungle personalities doing a song and dance routine, but nonetheless, it was somewhat entertaining. After that, we had pizza - massive quantities of Pizza. Heard a keynote speaker. Then, it was off to our service projects for the afternoon.

There were about 6 different projects to choose from and there were good sized groups at each one. My friend and I decided to go to the Calgary Drop-In Centre to help out. We went, taking about 15 extra pizzas with us. I mean, what good were they going to do us? As we were walking in with the pizzas, people came over and asked us for a piece, and there we were distributing pizzas. That was fun. There was one crowd sitting on the grass that had some serious munchies (if you know what I mean) we gave them a whole one. Anyway, we went in, and helped out in assembly-line fashion at the kitchen making bag lunches for people to grab and go. That was a good experience, but then our contact there - Mark (awesome awesome awesome) took us on a tour of the facility. Mark is a really cool dude, who has great stories, and an amazing attitude. He's been there, you know? So, he knows how people feel. He put it in the right context for us, each of these people we are helping are individuals. Each human soul has value, and that's their focus there. (It has to be) So, I've never seen the upper floors of the Drop-In Centre before, and it's really pretty amazing what they do there. They encourage positive life choices and help people to feel empowered. People come into the centre sometimes at rock bottom. Suppose you were addicted to crack and living on the street, and you woke up to reality one morning and decided you just can't do this anymore, some day you're going to wind up dead. (this is the example Mark used), so you would arrive at the drop-in centre, and spend some time at intox until you were sober. Then, once you were sober (sober is a requirement for safety reasons for all patrons involved), you could line up and get a ticket for a bed to stay in for the night. There's only so many beds mind you, so not everyone gets one. Obviously this is a problem in all drop-in type centres. Imagine not knowing you're going to have a bed for the night. Each person who does have one ought to count their blessings. I'm so grateful for the bed I get to sleep in. Anyway, if a person is making positive choices, and really trying to make changes in their lives, they may have a chance to have a semi-permanent (until they get really on their feet) home on one of the upper floors. This is determined by the counsellors, they watch people to see what kind of changes people are making in their lives. They have their own bed, their own locker, and often, this is the best home they've ever seen, so it's like a paradise to them. So, then they mentor people to help them get on their feet. I asked Mark my question - and he answered it as I imagined he would... I asked him if he saw that there were more and more working people (I mean working full-time) that were homeless. He answered by saying yes, there most certainly was. This is a subject which upsets me very much, as I have seen the rents go up, and the slum landlords get rich off of them. I am really lucky at the moment, that my parents own a home, and I pay them rent. I pay them an amount which is really helpful to them, but it still is really cheap in comparison to what I would be paying out there - if I had my own apartment. The thing is, Calgary is now ridiculously expensive to live in, and with the cost of housing, food, transportation going up; the wages have not adjusted to keep up with that. It just makes absolutely no sense to me. Anyway, something needs to be done. I wonder if the provincial and city government really "get it". This, I doubt very much. There needs to be rent control, or at the very least, the city needs to buy more property to make into low-income housing - throughout the city, not just in one area. So, that, in a nutshell, is what we did Saturday afternoon. After that, we had dinner, speed dating, and a dance. These were all fun activities, but the real highlight of the conference for me was my experience at the drop-in centre. I'm glad to know that there are people out there that care about what's going on in our city with regards to the homeless. It could so easily be one of us. Not only drug-users or mental-health patients end up on the street. Anyone could wind up there, especially at this difficult stage.

Friday 13 June 2008

Parental Appreciation Week

I'm home today - with a wicked migraine (and staring at a computer screen - smart) I had it yesterday, and it was building up all week. My only conclusion is that it was brought on by constant barometric pressure changes. It's been raining for weeks!!!!! Today, the day I have the wicked migraine, it's lovely and sunny outside. I guess it's the change in pressure more than anything else. I'm inside. Typical. I have been facing a fair bit of stress lately, perhaps that's a contributor as well. Work has been extra busy. (have no idea why) We felt like we were running a telethon last week. The phone was hot. Plus, we were short of staff for various parts of the week. It was a bit strained. That, plus the banking stresses, and well - my parents have added to the stress level. Perhaps it's the weather, and stress - causing lack of sleep, etc.

So, now that I've gotten to the bottom of my pain, I'll tell you what's been going on with my parents. Mum has a cardiac history, and well last Saturday she and Dad were out shopping at the co-op when she had some serious chest pain. She described it as the worst pain she's ever had. Apparently Dad asked her if he could take her to Emerg, but she refused. Later on that day, as she was wincing and complaining about being tired, I asked her what was wrong. She said - "Oh, I think I had a heart attack earlier" Well, I have learned to never take this statement lightly, because my younger brother who was 29 at the time, ignored pain for a day and a half, and it actually was a heart attack; and really we're lucky we still have him around. Anyway, I was all - "Mum, get Dad to take you to Urgent Care", she stated, and I quote - "Oh, I haven't showered yet, I don't feel like it". Sigh, what to do with these crazy parents of mine. I told my sister about it the next day, at Dinner, and Mum complained and said "Dad didn't insist enough that I went to the Hospital, he should have insisted." Yeesh. Suffice it to say - my parents are getting worse and worse in every aspect as they get older.

So, with that in mind, I felt it was time that I undertook a project - pronto - that I've been meaning to do for quite a while. In fact, it has been on my to-do list for approximately 3 or 4 years every single day. It was listed as "Work on Q's" Meaning - work on questions to ask Mum and Dad in an interview about their lives. So, Sunday night, I did that. Tuesday night, I recorded Mum's interview on my computer onto MP3 format. It took about 3 hours to interview her. Then the next day, I started to interview Dad. I say started, because - being a Yorkshireman, and full of banter, he takes a lot longer to tell a story, and it's considerably more interesting and colorful than average. But that's Dad - and really I did want to capture them in their actual personalities telling stories as they come out of their mouth. I did about 3 hours of Dad's interview on Wednesday night, and Thursday for another 3 hours. Doing this actually made me feel a lot closer to both of them. They are really interesting people, and before they were my parents, they were themselves, and they had interesting lives with interesting stories. Especially interesting was both of their stories about growing up during World War 2; and Dad's stories about serving in Her Majesty's Royal Navy.

Dad in Japan - 1951 - on the right with the ukelele and cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Dad remembers every house address he ever lived in, and every job he ever had. He can tell you exactly how every machine he ever used or maintained works. His memory is pretty sharp. Mum's isn't as sharp as it used to be. But, I got what I could out of them, and now I have that record for future generations. It also prompted me to go on a hunt through the house for old tapes of relatives and Grandparents speaking on similar subjects. I found a number (but I think there's still more yet to be found) of them. I found one of Mum's Dad (the scoundrel) playing the accordian with his girlfriend Em back in '83 and singing away. He used to do that all the time. He often went to nursing homes, and hospitals and sang to the other old folks here in Calgary. He was really an interesting character - even if he was a complete scoundrel. He actually ran the Terry Fox run - all the way through at 83. Active until the day he died (and I mean active). He had a heart attack, and died at the Foothills Hospital in 1987. Also found various tapes mailed to us from Dad's family. I'm pretty excited to hear his Mum's voice, as she's one who I never really knew, and she was quite a character whom I think I get most of my spunk and independence from. So, in order to keep those records for a considerably long time, I'm turning them digital so that we can. Tape deteriorates after a while. If you want to hear some of Mum and Dad's stories, let me know, and I'll get you a copy. The files are too big to email, so, it'll have to be hard copy. So, yeah - that's what I've been up to this week.

The Four Yorkshiremen - Monty Python

Saturday 7 June 2008

Lessons From a Classic - Johnny Lingo (1969)

Granted it's cheesy (the wigs are horrendous) and also a little stereotypey, but it was made in 1969 after all. I grew up watching this movie, and I'm very glad I did, because the message hits home every time. The truth is - that true beauty in a woman is something that each individually determines by what they think of themselves. Doesn't every woman want a Johnny Lingo in their life who sees them for who they really are - even if we can't see it ourselves?

Part 1...

Part 2...

Part 3...

Trains And Veins

You would not believe what I saw on my way to work today. It looked like this....

There I was walking along on my regular route under the overpass, and I looked up - there was a steam train. A glorious, shiny, Hogwarts Express-esque steam train. I had to stop in my tracks and look again. (obviously took a picture). As I was stopped there in my tracks, others stopped and looked up as well. I mean - it's not something you see every day here in Calgary - you know? So, then it started to pull out, and it had passenger cars attached to it - with passengers in them! I mean - how exciting is that? All of us on our daily walking commute were stunned into silence and awe in it's glory. I'm sure we were all late for work, but who cares? I mean - it's pretty special I think. After a little online research, I think it must have been this... (link)
5 days, 6 nights through the Canadian Rockies - on a steam train! Who wouldn't want to do that? $4000 coach though - per person no doubt. Not for the likes of poor folk like me. One can dream though.

In other news...
Today I gave blood at Canadian Blood Services. It's just a short walk from where I work, so I just walk there. For the first time - ever, my blood was fast moving. I was done in a matter of 3 minutes flat, AND I don't have a bruise, AND they didn't spend hours finding a vein. I attribute this to healthy eating, and exercise and increased heart rate. Apparently there's 650 calories lost in a pint of blood, so I decided to indulge in 2 portions of blood clinic cookies instead of 1. (It's ok, there weren't many other donors today - so I wasn't being too greedy) In actuality, one of the portions was a bear's claw. Also had the soup, etc on top of my own lunch. Heck, I felt not faint of body or mind at all today. Giving blood is great. Apparently they don't have many donors throughout the summer, so - sign up and make an appointment peeps!

I'm not usually one to post sappy tear jerking advertisements on my blog, but this one gets the message across...

Friday 6 June 2008

Need Part-Time Work to Supplement my Full-Time Work - Suggestions Please!!!

So, now that I've sold my car, and almost completely organized my banking so that it's manageable, I need a part-time job on top of my already full-time work schedule. I mean - really - what do I do with my evenings anyway? Mostly sit around, read, do Yoga (that will continue at least 2 evenings during the week), write blogs, used to waste time on facebook. Nowadays I've limited my facebooking to one log-in per day. Seriously, people need to put a limit on their cooky communications addictions. (I'm a prime example) I've now devoted myself to lessening my stack of books to read by reading them. I've also - discovered the Library. This means that I will be spending no more money on books - at all. (well, unless it's absolutely necessary) Thanks to Jodi and Angelique for preaching to me on the usefulness of the Library. (oh, and congratulations to Jodi on the birth of wee Moira - yay!) The goal in obtaining a second job and saving more money is to lessen my debt substantially so that I can put money away for better use. I mean - there's lots of things I'd like to do, but can't afford to at the moment. So, by fall, I'd like to be a lot closer to my goals. As far as extra work goes, I'm free for perhaps 3 evenings a week from 5pm on, and Saturdays. I won't work Sundays. I was thinking about a paper route, but there's no guarantee of the "up to $2000 a month" that they advertise. The exercise would be extremely beneficial and useful too. Making money, exercising at the same time. I love anything that can incorporate a few objectives at a time. (that's how the bike idea came about) That's how it was - back in the day (turn of the centuryish) Desk jobs were a lot less common than they are now. I mean - a lot! Whole livelihoods most of the time depended on what you could grow on your land or in your yard. Ah, to live in simpler times would be nice. But, these are my times, and I must make the most of them. I'm totally babbling here. So, yes, the work thing - umm, 3 evenings, Saturdays. (3 is flexible - I might be able to do 4?) retail is ok, as long as it's not clothing. Also, I have a lot of medical clerical experience so if anyone knows of any side work that I can do for local Docs and such, that would be cool too. I hope to make at least an extra $1000 to $2000 a month. Nothing that involves investment, so please don't suggest any crazy money making schemes. Other suggestions are extremely welcome.

Lets hope I don't have any interviews like this one...

Sunday 1 June 2008

Ding Dong; It's Gone!!!

Yes, that's right. The Car - it's gone. I sold it to a really nice young chap and his Dad for a cool $9000.00. It was bittersweet, but I will spare you the details about that. I do feel a lot better about having sold it. Now I can save money, and put a substantial amount of money towards my debt; so that I can work towards starting a new life; the life of being in the black instead of the red among other things. The young guy that bought the car was really excited about it, so that makes me happy. I think it may have been his first car, and he loved it as much as I did when I bought it. So, I'm on foot, transit, and bike everywhere I go now. I've already gotten a substantial amount of exercise with this "no car" deal, and I intend to make the most of it.

J.K. has bankers dead on

Now, I move onto another topic - so, Friday, I had an appointment with my bank. The bank will remain nameless, as I have nothing good to say about them in this entry, and the truth is, that these bank people have lots of power in the world, and I'd rather stay on their good side. However, having said that, I really believe that all big banks are owned by the devil. People laugh when I say that, but it's true. So, I went to my bank on Friday to re-negotiate my loan, and remove my car from it so that the young fella would have no problems insuring it, and registering it and stuff. I had made the appointment with my regular banking guy - because I know him, and trust him, and he's always been good to me. 20 years! I've been banking with them almost 20 years! So, I walked in and told them I have an appointment with buddy-o at 4:00, and all that. The receptionist told me that I would meet with some other guy - an enormous Eastern European brute type guy who seemed intimidating at best. I kept an open mind, but as soon as I walked into his office, and started explaining what I wanted to do, it became clear that he didn't quite comprehend what it was I wanted to do, and in fact made me feel like I was the stupid one - and didn't understand that I couldn't do what I was asking to do. I'll spare you the details about this, as it involves my personal bank issues. Anyway, I got a little upset at this, as you can imagine, because lots of things ride on whether or not this works out. All I wanted was a smaller monthly payment of my loan so that I could put a substantial and in fact entire amount against my other debt, and also save some for the future. They flat out refused to do this, so I promptly told them that I would move ALL of my business from them to a different bank. Didn't tell them which one, but I decided to move it all to a much smaller bank; one that is not one of the massive world-owning variety. Again, I will not mention which bank I chose to retain anonymity. Today, I walked into the small bank, told them what I wanted to do, told them which services I wanted from them. The banker I dealt with said "no problem" and it was done. Unfortunately, because I sold my car, I have a substantially less amount of security to put against the loan, but Alberto - the guy who helped me said that he didn't understand why there was a problem at the other bank, as I had never ever missed a payment, and had been an excellent customer to them all my life. Plus, the amount is not much, and I make good money, so, Monday or Tuesday, he should be able to set up my loan for me. I'm switching my chequing account, savings account, credit card, and loan over to them. They provided excellent service, and were extremely helpful. I will no longer have the banker's noose around my neck. Yay - yet again - for local services. Smaller really is better in these instances. On the plus side, the other - massive bank was at least able to remove the car from the loan, and provide me a letter for the nice young man who now owns my old car.
Other than the car and banking, I have a few items to mention. The Barbara Kingsolver night thingy was AWESOME! For all of my work friends reading this - Jodi did not have her baby by that night, though she may by now. I heard something about contractions on Friday, plus she was on the list for possible induction this week-end. So, keep your fingers crossed for her. Yeah, anyway - Barbara Kingsolver - just as great a speaker as a writer, and her husband was a really great and highly entertaining speaker as well. I enjoyed a lovely platter of Janice Beaton cheese at the meet and greet; (no not ALL to myself). For those of you who don't know, Janice Beaton is the Bernard Callebaut of cheese in Calgary. It's amazing. I hope to one day (when I have more opportunity to make cheese) make it as good as she does. I don't know if I could have the patience to wait for Cheddar aging 3 years mind you, but I could try - someday. I also met Julie Van Rosendaal at the meet and greet and had a good chat with her. She saw me and was all - I know you - but she had never met me, just saw my picture on here. Then she remembered and was all - "Oh, you're cheese Becky", and I said - "Yes, I'm cheese Becky" Then she told me how she had found my blog with the link to her site on it, etc. I think it was title that caught her attention - the whole "Grrrrrrr, what am I doing wrong?" Really, it is catchy, and I would want to check that out. If you're reading this Julie - hi! She said that now she has a face to the blog she'd check in on me. What else? Oh yeah - the smell of seared flesh (as in cow flesh) is in the air now, and it makes me hunger for good old fashioned BBQ. That is one thing about Alberta - we do have really great cow. It's been a stressful week, but now it is almost over, and I do feel about 70% better about things now that the car is gone, and I can see a plan forming for financial balance (even though I live in Calgary)