Monday, August 30, 2010

Dinosaurs & Icecream: Alberta Badlands

On a breathtaking, refreshing road trip, just days after landing from my Californian adventure, I have the chance to marvel at Alberta's mountains and scenic
wonders. Kristin arrived from Germany late Thursday night and after a couple days of power shopping the famous West Edmonton Mall and South Edmonton Common's outlets, Sean, Kristin and I took off on our Alberta Road Trip.

Drumheller was our first stop, 3.5 hours south east of Edmonton and home of the World's Largest Dinosaur and a renowned archeaological dig site, it stands alone
between miles and miles of road, empty space, farmers' fields and barbed wire fences. Unlike the country's other flat prairie landscapes, the badlands of Alberta are rolling hills and winding paths, dusty air and sandy mountains. Reminiscent of our second grade days, Sean and I played tour guide for Kristin, showing her ourfavorite dinosaur, the Stegarous Rex and old-fashioned western paraphenialia. The Royal Tyrell is fascinating to visit as an adult, to marvel at the intricate work of uplifting a fossil from its rocky shell. Check out the baby myosaurous!

Surprisingly, this small Alberta town offers more than just dinosaurs, run-down hotels and Western stores - we actually had an excellent meal at O'Shea's Irish Pub.
$4 highballs, $10 meals and $4 specialty coffees were a hit. Mmm, frangelico!

En route to Banff, we took in the plentiful scenery on Highway 1 and Route 56 , a section of small town Canada which none of us had seen. It is enveloped tranquility
that makes me wonder how a person from such a peaceful place would react if they met with my hectic lifestyle! Sean and Kristin also stopped at Pete's Drive-in, thefamous burger, fries and milkshake joint that boasts real ingredients and gigantic portions for less than the price of DQ.

*Facebook Users - CLICK HERE or you won't be able to see the spectacular Banff slideshow pictures from my new DSLR! Click right hand corner of black box to adjust speed.

Banff's Sulpher Mountain was the perfect way to earn our dinner at the Keg Tuesday night, A grueling 2 hour hike up a winding, rocky road, we were saved only byProtein Plus bars in Sean's bag and our 3 litres of water. (Thanks to my trainer, protein bars are a bit of a faux pas on the diet list this week - we're almost there, 8 more pounds!) Also, my pillowy soft Saloman boots (can you believe hiking books are comfortable?) were an added bonus. Arriving at the top, we were met with words of congratulations from an American lady who, alarmed at our feat, exclaimed, "Not my style".

Shivering, we took a few pictures at the observatory before climbing the final kilometer of stairs to various viewpoints. View the slideshow of some fabulous poses
Kristin, Sean and I took in a natural paradise. Starbucks at the bottom (the advertisements LIE - there is no Starbucks at the summit!) was a welcome relief. Hazelnut lattes and ice wine maple leaf chocolates never tasted so good!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inked @ LA Ink

After five long years of contemplating the idea, becoming indifferent, focusing on interior appearance,waiting to find the perfect workout to tone my body, and passionately wanting a personal work of art, I was inked on August 22nd, 2010 at High Voltage in LA. Yes, the home of Kat von D's famous artwork and her many friends, who have been tattooing for 16 years.

As everything in the US seems to be about legal text and suing the other party, High Voltage's list of precautions and post-tattoo care are (like every tattoo place) ridiculously long. No soaking, no scratching, no covering up, no tubs, avoid pools, beaches and regular soap for 4 weeks...

Doug Bickle, my artist, who worked with the tattoo gang at their original home in Michigan, assured us that it would heal in a week if we applied Aquador and Aveeno, and sunscreen on the beach; it would be just fine! Surprisingly, the tattoo barely hurt - except for a claw digging feeling at the swirly edges. In fact, I'd argue that putting Afterbite on a well-scratched mosquito wound(which happened far too often this summer) is much more painful! (It looks super red in the picture, but it heals in a few days)

"Are you nervous?" Doug asks me.
I nod nervously. "Well, me too," he says.
"I Googled you; you know what you're doing!" I respond. He laughs and I try to laugh too. I'd seen the needle before we began, and I didn't need to see it again.

"They're addictive" He warns me. I know - already I'm plotting my next work of art.

Actually, it was only a half-hour process that took over an hour to sketch in perfect detail. He imitated my idea so perfectly that the skeptical feeling I received when I presented my three elements to the front counter a week ago - a lotus flower, Aquarius and Shakespeare's quote - dissipated. Opting away from the flower - a true Aquarian with a love of literature - I chose the latter two elements. Perhaps the flower will wait for a rib tattoo...

"Ambition is merely the shadow of a dream" Guildenstern tells Hamlet in Shakespeare's well-known drama about morality, indecisiveness, honesty and loyalty. Hamlet had a dream to claim his rightful place in the throne and avenge his father's murder; he fails only because he fails to commit to his dream and overcome his tragic flaw of indecisiveness. People say I'm ambitious and driven to achieve - but I don't believe it's personality that achieves. It's the passionate attitude that a dream, your dream, will become reality.

Check out Doug's other shop here

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Desert, Cliffs & Twisted Roads: Hiking the Grand Canyon

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Still on our whirlwind road trip, Julie and I drove 30 hours in 3 days, traveling from Brea California to Sedona, AZ to the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles city and back (twice to LA, actually). Spectacular beauty, scorching yet comforting heat, bronzing suntans, outrageous traffic, desert isolation and the satisfaction of breathing mountain air at the top of a cliff.

Hours of scintillating conversation, terrible reception and incoherent radio later, we shot scenic pics in the slide show below. Should I mention the mad dashes to find low carb, low sugar, low fat, high protein foods in a Western American town full of grease, cowboys, and miners?

Take a look below and hover your mouse on the top right hand corner of the slideshow box to speed up or slow down this scenic wonder.

Our drive back on West 40 and 89 A was a peaceful ride until the winding Arizona mountainside at night challenged my driving skills. Just like the California freeway drivers, they follow right behind you, despite the clearly empty lanes to your left, pass you on the right, speed 20 mph over the limit, and honk continuously at the foreigner driving on their roads!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Arizona Adventures: Roadtrippin' the Desert

**Facebook users, click here - or you won't be able to see the slideshow!

Landing in California for a day of jam-packed Ontario, CA, outlet shopping was the perfect beginning to my whirlwind week long adventure in California. Knowing Julie and I, we packed every hour of our trip with amazing ideas and are still on the road, trying to make them reality - and running into the craziest obstacles on the road!

Thursday morning much needed sleep-in delayed our departure by a couple hours, although we made great time. While LA's traffic is ridiculous, the giant highway stretch to the desert is a peaceful drive with amazing mountain views.

Good for Goodyear! - Wow, we learned quickly how much you have to watch your back on the road. After three hours driving on a long but beautiful road, Julie and I stopped at the highway Shell station for gas. An attendant quickly pulled us over to tell us we had a flat and that he (apparently a mechanic) should look at our car. I didn't notice any flat, but he insisted we turn our wheels and look at chunks coming out of the tire in the shop. "Well, that's weird," we thought, as he tried to convince us to rashly buy $233 Nexen tires, claiming they were top quality and our car wouldn't make it to Sedona without them.

"Really?" I thought. Kinda freaky considering the hour drive between rest stops on Highway 40 is almost an hour. Their demeanor got more agitated as we called Julie's family to check up on the situation. Finally, I just called the mechanics at work and sent them a Blackberry messenger picture - and found out that it's likely just Arizona's extreme heat that's wearing out the tread and they were nowhere near dangerous. What a bunch of scam artists. Thank you for real mechanics and smartphones!

Sedona, Arizona is a cute little touristy town with the famous Pink Jeep Tours that take you on a Scenic Rim tour - and then the Broken Arrow - better than any off-road tour I've ever been on. With Wrangler MTRs with Kevlar on their Jeeps - yes, I noticed - they climbed red rock walls, swerved around cliffs and hung onto rocks sideways to show us the best of Arizona scenery. Sedona is the cutest little town - Arizona's Banff!

Check out the slideshow below for hot weather and beautiful landscapes.

Coming soon - the pics I take tomorrow of the Grand Canyon - I'm on the road and LOVING the time off work, tutoring and writing, but stay tuned for more blogging!!!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Fringing in the Festival City: August in Edmonton

Despite our temperamental weather, the first few weeks of August are always host to the summer's best festivals - Heritage Days and the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. This long weekend's weather was spectacular - and the international fare was somewhat diet-friendly!

With Ethiopian vegetables, a Russian bread and jam combo and a cup of fruit on my platter, I wandered the booths and watched international performances.

Unfortunately, puppies aren't allowed in any city park, so the next day Kiara and I stayed in. We love driving to the dog park and hanging out with Kiara's puppy best friend, 6 month old Watson! See them below shaking hands before beginning a rough, tumbling wrestling match in my basement!

Fringe Festivals are always hit & miss - though I'm told this artsy collection of art and plays is the country's best. Performers from around the world share their drama, comedy and poetry with everything from college skits to Late Night Cabarets. A late night spectacular of bits and pieces from comedic shows, it was a great preview to the rest of the Fringe - although I'm in California for the second half of the festival this year :)

This summer, I made two Fringe trips, both of which turned out to be creative, inventive and ingenious. The best, Happily Ever After was a hilarious parody of Snow White, Cinderella, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid - in what would happen in the land of "Happily Ever After" if the princes left and the girls had to grow without magic. Cinderella gets a divorce and tries to take care of her baby with a broken wand, Snow White explores lesbianism and Belle attempts to survive marriage to a beast. In a not so perfect world of postmodernist princesses, Polema Productions' first show was a hilarious take on love!

I love the Fringe!