Monday, October 31, 2016

Down Moose Alley toward Edmonton

LOCATION: Near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Warmer as we headed south. Highs about 40.  Overcast   We awoke to snow in Grande Prairie.  
  At 10:00 AM, it is still a little dark.
With my aunt and uncle, we hit the road toward Edmonton, about 350 miles southeast.
The highway is called Moose Alley, due to the many moose that try to cross the road.
Sadly, we did see what appeared to be the result of a moose crash.  On one side of the highway was a dead moose and on the other side was a wrecked car, totally smashed in.
We visited Keeling, my cousin, and his wife.  We had dinner with them. His wife is Greek and put on a wonderful Greek spread.  The table was loaded down with Greek specialties.  
We are staying in a motel about 50 miles north of Edmonton.  There are many motels along the highway. When the economy is strong, they are all filled up with oilfield workers, and they boost their prices to $300/night.  In the current downturn, most are fairly empty and prices are reasonable.  Tomorrow we are off to Edmonton.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 29, 2016. Last day in Grande Prairie

LOCATION:  With my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Foggy and overcast all day. Highs around 30F   It was a bit of a dreary day.  We mostly stayed inside and read.  The fireplace was very cozy....
We tried a taste of a Chinese liquor that Martha had bought when the salesman told her it was Scotch.  It is Chinese fire water!  It is the strangest stuff.  The "bouquet" reminded me of fermented soy sauce.
We had drinks (wine, not the Chinese stuff) in front of the fire before going out to eat.
In keeping with the Chinese theme, we went to a Chinese Canadian restaurant in town for dinner.  It is has been around for about 50 years. I remember my mother fondly talking about it.  My cousin who lives in Vancouver, home of some of the best, most authentic Chinese food around, likes to return to this Grande Prairie restaurant for the Canadian version of Chinese  food.  We ate with my other cousins and their sons.  They ordered about 10 platters.....the table was loaded with delicious food.  We were stuffed!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 28, 2016. Back down the Alaska Highway

LOCATION:  Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Some delightful sun.  Mostly cloudy Lows around 0 F.  Highs 30F   It is colder in Fort Nelson than in Grande Prairie.  Overnight, it got below 0F.  The nights are long already.  Since it doesn't get light until about 9:00 AM, we got a late start on the road.  We stopped at a grocery to buy supplies for the trip.  This sign was in front of the door.
We spent the day driving back southeast 8 hours to Grande Prairie.  At about the 3rd hour, the sun magically popped out and the northern Rocky Mountains soared around us.  
We didn't see any wildlife, other than 2 dead moose in the ditch.   
At mile marker 20 (20 miles north of where the highway starts in Dawson Creek), we took a detour to see part of the original Highway.
We stopped in Dawson Creek to take a picture of the start of the Highway, Mile Marker 0.
We arrived home, a bit tired, at 7:00 PM.  What a unique opportunity to make the drive in the winter!
DINNER:  Aunt Martha made a spaghetti squash and I made a sauce for it.  Very good!

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 27, 2016. Driving the Alaska Highway in winter?

LOCATION:  Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada WEATHER:  Wintery-ish.  Overcast. Snow flurries. Highs about 30F   We accompanied my aunt and uncle to Fort Nelson, BC where my aunt has a church meeting.  It was quite the adventure.   We started out in Grande Prairie in the morning with just a bit of snow on the ground and in the trees.
The landscape became snowier as we drove along...
We passed through Dawson Creek, the start of the Alaska Highway.  Our destination was Fort Nelson, at Mile 300 on the Highway.
We drove through the north edge of the Rocky Mountains.  The roads were not paved, and at times it was a little dicey.  There was a lot more snow here.  
We met up with two other carloads of people going to the meeting, and drove as a caravan, for safety.  
I'm glad I was not driving....Aunt Martha and George took turns.
We saw a caribou standing on the side of the road.
About 8 hours later, we arrived in Fort Nelson.
We went to church with my aunt and uncle, and had a nice potluck dinner, too.  Afterwards, we stopped by the motel and had a drink in the lounge.  A few others who had driven with us stopped by, too.  Tomorrow, we have the 8-hour return trip!  

October 26, 2016. Downtown Grande Prairie

LOCATION:  With my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Overcast. Highs about 30   Since it was not such a nice day, we decided to do things mostly indoors.  We did take a nice hike around my uncle's farm, trying to avoid the heavy mud.   We had lunch in a steakhouse restaurant downtown with some friends of my uncle and aunt.  Very nice conversation.  Good food---Korean nachos!   Then, we went to Grande Prairie's cultural center.  The art gallery is extremely good.  One of the current exhibits is from an artist who paints essentially the same scene over and over again, of the Canadian north with snowy mountains, and a lake, and sometimes a deer or moose or bear.  
The pictures themelseves are not remarkable (apparently the artist could whip one out in minutes), but the exhibit was interesting in that there were about 500 of these pictures mounted.  More and more and more.....  
The cultural center also has a great library, and we got some books on CD for our trip tomorrow.
DINNER:  I made  a seafood pasta with garlic sauce, using shrimp and scallops.  Quite tasty!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 25, 2016. Snow and dinosaurs

LOCATION: With my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Light snow all day.  Highs around freezing   We awoke to a light dusting of snow on the deck, then a continuation of large snow flakes most of the day.   We invited a neighbor who is celebrating her 93rd birthday out for lunch.  We took her to a new dinosaur museum that has a lovely cafe.  The museum was recently built and is very modern.  
The cafe had cute dinosaur names for their menu items.    
The view from the cafe of the children's playground was very snowy.
Back home, we did computer work, making arrangements for our stay in Vancouver next week.     DINNER:  George grilled some chicken and I made a veg and potato sauté with potatoes from their garden.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 24, 2016. Lazy day in Grande Prairie

LOCATION: With my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Rather dreary.  Cold and overcast. Highs about freezing.   We planned to take a walk, but couldn't rouse ourselves to go outside.     We decided to go into town for lunch.  We found a cute bistro-type restaurant and had delicious sandwiches.  After running some errands, we went to the other brewery in town.  This one is hidden away in a commercial garage-type area.  It was hard to find.  Very smal and unpretentious.  We tried several beers (free) while one of the owners explained the beers to us.  The other owner was busy brewing and the place was very fragrant with beer smells.  The beers are quite good and we bought a few bottles.  They make a stout with a few local berries called haskap.  They are from a winery nearby that claims to be the northern most winery in th world!  
Back home, I prepared a hearty stew for dinner.  I had found this recipe in a magazine and thought I'd give it a try.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 23, 2016. and food

LOCATION:  With my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER: Cold and overcast.  Highs in upper 20s F   We spent some time going through old photos of my mother and her family.  My grandfather was quite a cool chap.  
He married my grandmother about 1919 and they traveled from Iowa to rural Alberta, Canada to homestead land.  
They had a very rugged life.  My grandmother was a teacher.  Here she is riding her horse to a school to teach, carrying my uncle as a baby.
The winters were long and cold, so they had lots of wood to get them through.  My mother was born near Edmonton, and is a little girl in this photo.
Their house was pretty primitive.  They lived on a farm, quite modestly. This was taken of my mother and uncle in the 1920s. 
Their neighbors were all immigrants.  Many were Ukrainian.  My mother always talked abut the Ukrainian families and the unique foods they ate.  This photo is a Ukrainian family neighbor family visiting my grandparents.    
My mother was quite attractive.  In this photo taken in the 1940s, she reminds me of one of the characters in "Call the Midwife".  My grandmother and grandfather are on the ends of the photo, with my mother and her brothers in the middle.  In this occasion, they were on a train platform saying goodbye to one of the brothers leaving to go to high school back in Iowa.    
Finally, my grandparents lived into their 90s.  This was one of their last photos.
After all this reminiscing, we drove to Sprit River, a small town about one hour north of here, accompanying my aunt who is very instrumental in the governance of the United Church, to a special minister appointment ceremony.    After the church service, we partook in a traditional church potluck supper.  In the spirit of the memories here, I tasted three different kinds of traditional Ukrainian cabbage rolls.  
We drove through ice fog with poor visibility.  The trees are beautiful with their ice crystals.   At one point, we slowed way down as we thought we saw a moose crossing the road!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 22, 2016. Hikes, beer, and Oktoberfest

LOCATION:  With my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER:  Sunny and crisp.  Highs in 30s   We went into town and took a nice hike around the reservoir in one of the city parks.  
Then we refreshed ourselves at a brand new brewery in town.  
We did a tasting tray, sampling some good lagers, IPAs and a stout.
The evening's excitement was Oktoberfest at the Canadian German club.  It started with a buffet of German foods.....sauerkraut, wurst, smoked pork, and more, followed by a desert table laden with Black Forest cake.  They cleared away the tables and the band started up.  It was time to dance!  
Many people were wearing traditional German clothes.  There were many darling children dressed up in their lederhosen and felt caps.
There was even a yodeler who belted out a song.
 Another custom was grape-stomping.  They brought out a barrel, grapes and water, and people started stomping!
My aunt and uncle danced almost every dance.  The dance floor was packed with dancers of all ages.  My uncle Leo spun me around the dance floor to a lively polka dance.  I did one line dance and the "chicken song".  The band was excellent, rotating a set of German songs, then more modern country songs.  It was a very fun night.  We left before the "midnight lunch" when apparently they serve yet more food!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

October 21, 2016. Projects and walks in Grande Prairie

LOCATION:  With aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada WEATHER: Sunny and warmer. Highs around 40 F   George loves to do projects, so Aunt Martha suggested that he could help by reupholstering the dining room chairs.  We selected fabric in the fabric shop, then George went to work.  
The finished product looks great!  
Mid-project, we had to go to town to buy more stapes for the staple gun.  We went to the UFA (United Farmers of Alberta) store.  I have never been in a store where I recognized so few items.  My aunt Martha explained some to me.....tags for the cows' ears, needles for vitamin vaccines, liquids to sprinkle on the cows to protect them from flies and mosquitos, and lots of very heavy looking overalls and coats. Grande Prairie still has a little Wild Wild West feeling.  Almost everyone drives a huge pick-up. This one was in the UFA parking lot.  They are all quite dirty from the muddy snow melt.  
 I took a walk around the area.  Since it was warmer, the snow was melting and it was quite muddy.  I mostly stayed on the sidewalks of a nearby subdivision.  Some of the houses have up to 6 garages!    
Kids had found enough snow to make snowmen already...  
This is my aunt and uncle's nice farmhouse.
DINNER:  Taking advantage of the warmer, sunny day, George grilled porkloins on the BBQ.  I did a vegetable stir-fry.