Giants Ridge

Photos, Travel

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Giants RidgeLast weekend I went to Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort and I didn’t have any fun . . . just kidding I had so much fun I wrote a story about it for school! But I’m not going to regurgitate that here.

On Friday afternoon 40, or so, Canadians met in the parking lot of Great-West Life and started tailgating — as is customary before getting on a bus and driving six and-a-half hours south. It was a beautiful day and ungloved hands were clutching beer cans as far as the eye could see.

When the bus arrived everybody piled on and I settled in for a relaxing drive down to Minnesota, I had obviously never been on the Giants Ridge ski trip before. The trip organizers are a trio of brothers who have been going to Giants Ridge for more than 20 years. It started out as a family ski trip but the brothers have turned it into a friends vacation with many ingrained traditions.

The bus ride down was impressively exhausting and I was glad when we rolled into small-town America at one in the morning. I made a bee-line to our hotel room and politely declined an invitation to continue the party at the hotel pub.

The next day we all lumbered back on the bus and headed for the hill at 9 a.m., just early enough to feel unfazed by approaching hangovers.

The “mountain” I remembered from previous (younger) ski trips now looked like a gently sloping bluff. But the snow was in great condition and the weather was absolutely fantastic. Since I had only gone skiing once in the last three years I spent most of the day trying to get my confidence back. I’m happy to report that my ski’s were no longer pizza-ing by the end of the day!

On our last run of the day we stumbled upon the annual slush cup — a competition to see who can bomb down the hill on whatever equipment they want, and make it across a pool of freezing water. It was hilarious, my favourite entrant was a tiny little skier with a green wig poking out under his helmet (unfortunately he didn’t make it all the way).

We capped off the day with a dance party on the deck of the chalet and a nap on the bus before arriving back at the hotel for well-deserved soak in the hot tub. Neal and I went for a late dinner at the local sports bar and ended up having a  long conversation with a bartender named Angie. She was sweet, crass and 100% American, I loved her.

The next day was a repeat of the first, but with less skiing and more dancing. The bus ride back to Canada was significantly tamer and was broken up with a lovely stop at the border at 1 a.m., which involved the border guards searching everyone’s luggage. Hooray for getting to bed at 3 a.m. on a Sunday night before going to school at 8 a.m. on Monday.

Regardless of my whining I survived, and you can count me in for next year!

A LOVE-ly Month

Happy, Photos, Travel

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Screw February, October is now officially the month of love.

Last weekend I went to a beautiful wedding in Toronto for two wonderful people. Neal’s brother and, now, sister in-law got hitched at a lovely old heritage house in the outskirts of Toronto proper. It was a whirlwind of heartfelt toasts, fantastic speeches, tears of joy, and lots and lots of dancing.

The whole evening absolutely reconfirmed why I love weddings so much. It’s a celebration that brings two people, two families, and all their friends together to celebrate the love that they’ve found with one another. And it’s the kind of party that makes people feel loved and honoured to have been invited to.

Congratulations Kat and Alex! Your love is inspiring and you are two of the coolest peeps I’ve ever met.

 

New York City

Happy, Home, Photos, Travel

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Within eight hours our trip had taken us from the rolling hills of Pennsylvania to the angular landscape of Manhattan Island. We drove into New Jersey intending to park the car and hop on a train to our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, unfortunately our great intentions turned into minor frustrations when finding a long term parking proved more difficult that planned. Eventually we left the Civy at the Newark Airport and headed to the Island just in time for a rainy Friday night rush hour.

Walking out of Penn Station at 5 pm gave us our first stereotypical New York City experience, complete with umbrellas, taxi cabs and lots of jostling for sidewalk space. By the time we stumbled up to our hotel we were completely soaked, pretty embarrassing since the hotel we booked was gorgeous and would have been well above our means without some help from Hotwire. Our room was tiny, but the king-sized bed itself beat sleeping on the ground or our one night stay at a roadside Comfort Inn.

Our time in New York was limited (two and a half days) and with so many friendly suggestions it was pretty overwhelming trying to decide what to do and where to eat. So much so that we ended up winging it or using Yelp most of the time. Our first night out it was still raining so we went to a bar down the street called the Beer Authority, pretty tasty cocktails and the pasta dish I ordered blew me away. Our Saturday consisted of concert food and nine dollar beers, but more on that later. Sunday on the other hand became our totally touristy day.

We woke up bright and early (eleven am) and decided the best thing to cure our post concert headaches was brunch at the HK Cafe, where my eggs benedict craving was thoroughly satisfied. Unluckily for Neal, I noticed a flea market a block wide as we where leaving the cafe and obviously had to investigate. After dragging him around to a close to a dozen vendors his logic prevailed and I agreed that we should probably go see the Empire State Building since we only had 24 hours left in New York City.

On our way we passed by a huge street party celebrating Peurto Rican independence, which was apparently distracting enough for us to j-walk right in front of a few police officers. We made it to the Empire State un-arrested and headed up to the 85th floor observation deck. The view was as breathtaking as you could imagine, but the thing that surprised me was how quiet it was looking over the hustle and bustle of such a massive city.

Our next must-do was a visit to Central Park, and I have to say getting there was an adventure of its own since the New York subway system is a hot confusing mess. Every time we tried to take a train during our visit we ended up getting on the wrong line or going in the wrong direction. But then maybe it was just our inexperience with a real city’s transportation system (nope it was you New York, it really was). Anyways, the park was beautiful and enjoyably busy, not to mention massive as we walked the length of it later on looking for a restaurant. We passed by lakes, birthday parties, and hundreds of people exercising before plopping down on a rock next to some tennis courts. Some of us napped and others just people watched, either way we both enjoyed resting our feet for a while.

We ended off the evening meeting up with some Winnipeg friends and eating fantastic Thai food at a little place called Ember. I left New York the next morning knowing I would have to come back to see everything that we didn’t have time for this time around.

Today

Happy, Photos, Travel

window Tea breaky sunsnow beer Bike walk fort fort2 arlington leavesToday I slept in, had a relaxing breakfast, and got to take some pictures of our recent snowfall. Basically I was in heaven.

March in Winnipeg is so damn unpredictable. I can remember years when Spring has been ushered in by sweaters and plus 10 temperatures, and many other years that have been underlined by frostbite and crazy late snowstorms. This year has been more like the latter. The week before my birthday I had my heart set on going for a skate on the river trail, days before I got the devastating news that the trail was closed and the river was melting because it was too warm. This past weekend we got 20 cm of snow during a blizzard!

While I hate that I’m still wearing a parka outside, the fresh snow made for some pretty shots.

Watermelon Shots and a Cabin Party

Photos, Recipes, Travel

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This is the story of a wonderful winter cabin party that I hosted and the little jello shots that inspired such a weekend to come together. I have been lucky enough to have a beautiful winterized cabin, an hour out of the city, for the better part of my life. Yet, up until last month I hadn’t had a big get together out there in the winter. Thanks to a decent amount of pestering from friends I finally made an event of it and was thrilled that so many people could make it out. The overnight party featured a full out beer pong tournament, potluck, watermelon jello shots, a very late night trek, and (I’m so sorry again) two busted air mattresses and a pretty cozy sleeping situation! The following are some pictures from the cabin and the recipe for some fantastic watermelon lime wedge jello shots that I am ever so proud of!

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The recipe for these, and many other inspired Jello shots, was found at the blog That’s So Michelle. I used Stolichnaya Vodka as I was told it chills very well and isn’t overpowering flavour wise.

Watermelon Lime Wedge Jello Shots

10 ish limes
1 cup vodka
1 cup boiling water
1 package Jello brand watermelon jello mix (apparently other brands don’t work as well)

1) Halve limes and hollow out the peel. I used a paring knife to score the white center veins of all the limes to make this part easier (be careful not to pierce the lime through the skin or else the jello will leak out of the peel). I also reserved the inside of the limes to make homemade lime juice by muddling the limes in a bowl and working the juice through a strainer.

2) Combine the 1 cup of boiled water with the vodka and jello mix, stir until the jello dissolve completely.

3) Place the hollowed lime halves on a baking sheet and ensure they are sitting as evenly as possible. I used a measuring cup to pour the vodka solution into each lime half.

4) Very carefully place the full limes into the fridge and allow to set for several hours, I sped this up slightly by putting them in the freezer partway through.

I’m hoping I can organize another cabin party before winter is over because I have plenty of other jello shots I want to try. Also, I’m thinking a pick-me-up party in mid February will be a nice escape from school and the wretched city for most people.

 

Polar Bear Capital of the World

Photos, Travel

Churchill, Churchill, Churchill…I had no idea how hard I would fall for you! The whole trip was absolutely magical; travelling two full days on the train, feeling like locals almost immediately, walking around town cautiously in case of wayward polar bears, getting a tour of the backroads, renting a truck and having our own off-road adventure, finally seeing a polar bear! I definitely enjoyed my time up North more than I had expected to.

The whole point of the trip was to pay a visit to one of my best friends who had moved up to Churchill last year because of a job offer. She has since fallen in love with the tiny town and has “settled down” with a great guy (whom I was sick of hearing stories about and ready to meet). He was even nice enough to let us crash in his pad for the entire week never having met us either! I like to think that we did a good job of being entertaining guests because of drunken debauchery and a belated Thanksgiving dinner.

Our first weekend was a pretty rowdy one which included a Friday night meat draw followed by bar hoping between the Tundra and the Seaport, and a Saturday night beer pong tournament which lasted until 5 am but was broken up by a toga party at the complex. Besides all of the liver damaging we did manage to fit in some sight seeing and got driven from Port Mary to the research centre in hopes of seeing our first polar bear. While we didn’t have any luck this time we did learn a lot about Churchill’s history and former connection to the military and see some interesting landmarks. The grounded plane, for example, is called Ms.Piggy since it crashed on a ridge just short of the airport because the cargo it was carrying was too heavy, none of the passengers where injured.

Our (my) disappointment in not seeing a polar bear was exacerbated by story after story of nightly bear sightings in town, there was even paw print evidence on the side of our favourite local diner one morning. We (I) started brainstorming how we could see a bear before the week was up, this included seriously considering going on a $400 buggy tour or a $500/hr helicopter tour. Thank god logic prevailed and we ended up renting a truck for 24 hours and only spending $140 (and holy crap $45 on a quarter tank of gas). But it was all worth it!

Our second stop of the day brought us to Brian Ladoon’s dogs, a track of crown land where Ladoon raises endangered eskimo dogs thanks to government intervention. The area is somewhat controversial because Ladoon has started blocking access to the area and charging tour groups a fee to enter. He seems to be getting away with this because his land is a great place to see bears because they like to coesxist with the dogs, and it seems tourists will pay any amount to see a polar bear. Similar to our last visit out there the road was blocked, but lucky for us there was a big mound of white fur lying about 200 meters inside the gate! It was hard to tell what we were looking at without the camera zoomed as far as it could go, and until the bear moved I was sure we were looking at a rock. But there it was, and there it remained until we returned 2 hours later. And thats how we saw our only polar bear twice in one day!

Satisfied, we spent the rest of the trip playing bingo, going out for dinner, enjoying open mic night and helping my bestie and her boyfriend organize a high school volleyball tournament. By the time Thursday evening rolled around we were both considering coming up for another visit, and despite tearful goodbyes I would be lying if I said wasn’t excited to get back on the train. So we left a dreary, slushy Churchill (the weather was unseasonably warm for the rest of the trip by the way), and embarked yet again on a two day train ride back to Winnipeg.

I do have to talk about the train before I close because it was just as much an adventure as the time we spent in Churchill. I’m lucky to have a relative working for Via Rail who didn’t mind us name dropping and even wrote a letter to support our cause for upgraded accommodations (Thanks Art)! This meant we rode home in the berth, or sleeper car of the train, being rocked to sleep in a very luxurious bunk bed. This exceeded expectations because we had been told that we wouldn’t be fed for two days and that we would be bored out of our minds. Not the case! We frequented the dining car, meaning I ate too many perogies, drank wine, played cards, watched movies, and read for two extremely relaxing days. I have since been recommending Churchill by train to everyone that I talk to because it is an extremely reasonable way to travel and if you have 11 days to spare you have the chance of exploring a gem in your very own backyard!

En Route to Churchill

Photos, Travel

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Me and the boyfriend are currently on our way to Churchill, Manitoba (polar bear capital of the world)! We have a 45 hour train ride ahead of us and then seven days to visit one of my best friends and explore. I’ve travelled to New Zealand, Australia, Europe and all over western Canada but I have never ventured into my northern backyard! I’ll be back in two weeks with tons of photos!