Thursday, 11 December 2014

Hernia today, gone tomorrow (well, February)

Back to earth with a bump today. After her 7th birthday yesterday, today we booked Lara in for a hernia repair in February. The Alberta Children's Hospital is the brightest, most cheerful looking hospital I've seen though! The inside matches the outside, too.

I'm not sure how it would have worked under the NHS, but once Lara had been assessed today by a surgeon, they agreed it required surgery to resolve, and they commit to scheduling the operation within 3 months. We have a certain amount of say in the matter, and we've picked a date just before Lara breaks up for half term, so she can recuperate at home. She's to avoid exercise for 2 weeks after, and she'll only miss one ski lesson, although she will miss more skating sessions. It's only a day procedure, no overnight stay needed, and Lara gets to choose the smell they'll use to disguise the anaesthetic gas. She's agonising between candy cane and bubblegum at the moment...

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Happy 7th Birthday, Lara

Lara turned 7 today, she enjoyed opening her presents before school, with Danil's help - he was a bit confused, and thought it was his birthday too. Grandma joined us via skype for the big unwrapping session. Lara took her cookies to school, and then came home to a little party here. Dan enjoyed helping blow out the candles, and we had to re-light them several times so they could both have a go at blowing them out again.

Yesterday was Lara's school Christmas Concert, which was streamed live on the internet, so Grandma and Baba Luda and Aunty Lucy could watch. Olga and I tuned in too to the afternoon matinee. There's Lara, in the middle row, second from right:

Monday, 8 December 2014

Nearly 7

Lara is fully into her preparations for her 7th birthday on Wednesday, and that includes preparing cookies for her class.

She has her Christmas concert - completely in French - on Tuesday, which will be streamed live on the internet by her school. We're having a party for 8 of her friends on Saturday afternoon, in the music studio where she has her piano lessons, and her piano teacher will be there to supervise the kids as they have a go on his instruments.
After her party we'll be clearing up and heading straight out to the trailer, as Lara has her first lesson with her new ski school at 9am on Sunday morning, and we don't want to be late. Having said that, we were late last weekend when we stayed there and had to get Lara to the resort (8 minutes drive), but we'll blame the -37 degree temperatures for that. This week it's forecast to be +13 for a few days midweek, before dropping for the weekend, so some of that 50cm of snow that fell should have melted by the time we get there on Saturday teatime.
Whilst the focus for the age group Lara is joining is still on fun, rather than competitive racing, all the children are considered as athletes. so we have been advised to send her out with protein snacks in her pocket rather than chocolate bars, and there are recommendations on what she should eat after her all-day lesson to help her body recover! Serious stuff...
Back at home, Lara has been asking about getting another pet. We've had a look at hamsters, rabbits, cats and fish (my preference is fish) but we've kind of ducked the issue by suggesting she officially adopts Jackson as her pet, so for the past two nights he has been allowed to sleep in her room, which in reality means, in her bed:

Monday, 1 December 2014

A chilly and snowy weekend

A proper winter storm came through south Alberta during the end of last week, dumping 50cm of snow in the Kananaskis valley where we keep our trailer. That's good for skiing, but it made getting to the trailer a bit tricky, We chose not to drive out on Friday, in the dark, as it was still snowing and the road conditions weren't great. So we drove out on Saturday lunchtime, with temperatures in the mid minus 20s. Fortunately the campground people had ploughed some of the roads around the site, but not the ones that gave us access to our trailer, so we had a fun time hiking though snow that was thigh deep for Olga and I in places. We could have lost Dan completely in some of the drifts! Rather than go skiing that afternoon, we hung around the trailer and had a go at clearing some pathways, and Olga (weighing less than me!) cleared the snow off the roof of the trailer. We found the plough man and got him to plough our access road, so I could get the truck close to the trailer, but not onto our campsite.  Maybe next weekend he'll plough me a parking space.
We have three electric heaters in the trailer to keep us warm, but they struggled against temperatures approaching -40 outside through Saturday night, and even the gas furnace in the trailer gave up and refused to light on Sunday morning, hopefully simply because it was too cold, something had probably frozen.  We had to drive to Nakiska at 9am as Lara had a lesson with a coach from her new racing club, and the temperature gauge in the car reported it was -37 outside. We didn't believe it at first, but it was insistent, and stayed like that for 15 minutes at least, so it must have been true. It felt like it.
Olga joined Lara on her skiiing lesson, while I took Dan and the dogs for a drive to get some petrol, as much to keep us warm as anything else - even with the sun coming up and the heaters on, it was still hovering around zero degrees inside the trailer. They had a very good lesson, and the coach thought Lara was a strong, confident skier, which is very encouraging.
The forecast for the next week is for it to warm up to a low of -8, which is much more comfortable. We might not be there next weekend, as we need time at home to put the Christmas decorations up, and prepare for Lara's birthday on 10th December.
I set off walking along the access road to the trailer but turned back, and went to find the plough man!

After it had been ploughed, I could get the truck close to the trailer

A rather blue photo of Olga clearing snow off the trailer roof

It really was -37 outside
Before we found the trailer

A Snow armchair

Snowshoes for Christmas perhaps?
The drive out along the Trans Canada Highway is spectacular

A Casino Night

It's 2am on a Monday morning and I'm in a Calgary casino... but I'm working, not
We have signed Lara up with a ski racing club this year, rather than traditional skiing
lessons. She'll still learn, but the focus will be towards speed and technique. As well as
paying for the lessons, the parents are expected to pitch in by volunteering to help with
fundraising. I'm gettig my volunteering stint out of the way tonight, at the casino. The
ski club provide enough volunteers to cover 36 shifts over the weekend, in the more menial
back-room jobs. I'm working in the count room, between 10.45pm and 3.30am. There are 6 of
us, my job is to input the counts of $100, $50, etc... into the computer. We've done one
count so far, and it was $82,000. And this is a quiet Sunday night! Now I'm back in the
Volunteer Lounge, waiting to be called back to the count room with my team, probably in an
hour or so.
In return the ski club will get a share of the casino takings over the next few months, and
this could amount to $60,000! More importantly, this takes care of my volunteering
requirement for the season, and I've seen what $82,000 looks like :-)

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Strapping the skis on

We're still here! I'll hope to fill the gap since the last post another time, but I just wanted to share our Saturday morning here. It's just after 8am, and I should be leaping into action, clearing the path outside of snow, and packing things to go out to Nakiska, and waking the kids. But why would I wake the kids up at a weekend?!? It's bad enough waking Dan every morning for nursery at 6.15, and then Lara an hour later. We'll let them wake up on their own today.
So I'm going to have a cappuccino in the peace and quiet and think about how many layers I'm going to put on. It's nice and warm inside at the moment, toasty in fact, but quite the opposite (almost exactly according to our weather station) outside, and that's without wind chill...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

October 1st - De-ice the truck

One more for the record.. Today I had to scrape ice off the truck windscreen.. Brrr. But then by the afternoon it was T-shirt weather again.

Monday, 8 September 2014

September 8th - Snow is Falling

Just for the record, snow is falling today. It's not really sticking yet, and yesterday it was 27 deg C and T-shirt weather until 5pm.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Summer Review 2014

Tomorrow (Tuesday 2nd September) is the first day of the new school year for Lara, where she will be starting Grade 2. The school have mixed up the classes from Grade 1, so she's in with a few children who were in her Grade 1 class, but also some new ones. Olga spotted three Russian surnames in Lara's class list, so who knows, perhaps Lara might pick up some more Russian as well as French.
She's super-excited about going back to school, unfortunately she has a bad cold at the moment, and in an attempt to get her back to full fitness as quickly as possible, we chose not to go over to Cochrane today and see their Labor Day Parade and Rodeo, which we very much enjoyed last year. She has opted to go to bed early and go straight to sleep without watching any TV, which is rare indeed. We're very happy that she feels this way about school, life would be much harder if there were tears and cries of "I don't want to go".

Given that there have been a dearth of blog posts recently (OK, for the last year or so!) I'll try and summarize the summer activity here.

We dipped our toes into the world of camping here. First, we have to explain the terminology..
"Camping" here is the catchall word for sleeping away from home in some kind of Recreational Vehicle ("RV") or a tent. The act of pitching a tent and sleeping in it is called "tenting", and proportionally very few people do it. We started the summer in that select bunch, we bought a large tent (technically it sleeps 13!) and all the tables, chairs, kitchen equipment, inflatable airbeds and lanterns to go with it. We camped tented at Calgary's amusement park in late May, then at a lake 90 minutes drive north twice more in June. It actually worked better than we expected, the kids and dogs all got off to sleep OK, eventually, and the tent survived everything the weather threw at it, which was some heavy rain and strong winds on one occasion at Gull Lake. It was great to get Lara in particular enthused about the whole "outdoor living" concept, as we intend to do an awful lot more of it in the years to come.

Lara finished school towards the end of June, and we enrolled her in a few week-long half and full day camps at the local sports centre to keep her occupied. But it was the start of a more-than-two-month break..

One of our new Canadian friends here is a supervisor at a rifle and pistol club in Calgary, and in early July he took me with him one Sunday morning to shoot his .22, .45 and 9mm pistols. A friend of his also let me have a go with his .357 revolver. It was a great experience and I'm sure that I'll follow it up by getting my firearms license and taking it up as a hobby. It would also provide some sensible defence from the local wildlife on those future camping/tenting trips and hikes in the country.  Bears, cougars and wolves are all present, if not common, in the mountains here, and there were bear sightings as close as Cochrane and even NW Calgary this summer.

In the middle of July we celebrated my 40th birthday by heading off to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Olga arranged it all, and kept it completely secret from me, even Lara managed to keep the secret. She was allowed to whisper the destination to me when we arrived at Calgary airport to catch our flight! It warrants a blog post in its own right, but here's a couple of photos just to give a taste of what it was like:

Once we came back to Airdrie, we decided to pass some time at the weekends visiting RV dealers to get an idea of the kind of caravan we'd like to buy, or what we could afford. 
Another terminology lesson: what are ""caravans" in the UK are "travel trailers", or just "trailers" here. 
We visited a few dealers, we're lucky that many of the big ones have their showrooms close to Airdrie, without finding exactly what we wanted. Many of the trailers we saw had most of our desired features, but not all. That is until we visited an independent dealer close to Airdrie, we explained what we were looking for, and he cajoled us into his golf cart and trundled us off to see a Rockwood Signature Ultralite 31-foot-long bunkhouse. This was perfect, it had absolutely everything we'd been looking for, except it was utterly brand new and therefore more expensive than we were originally planning to spend. However, after going through the financials, and having two more looks at it, we decided to take the plunge. It's big, and technically would sleep 11 at a push, but that would be rather crowded. 11 adults anyway, but it could certainly accommodate two families. It's got a bunkroom at the back with three bunks and a double sofabed, with a door to close off the room from the rest of the trailer. This was a must!
The problem with buying a 31-foot long trailer that weighs around 7000 lbs (3200kg) is you need a decent truck to pull it.
So this meant more shopping, and a trip to the local Ford dealer. Again, I explained what I needed, and given that the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling pickup truck in North America since Moses was a boy, we figured that was a good place to start. As you may expect, he had the very truck in stock, but perhaps luck was on our side, as it really does have everything we need, and most of the things we wanted. It's a 2014 model, new, with enough engine and mechanical bits and pieces to pull upto 11,200lbs, so we should be OK pulling our trailer, even once we load it up with our stuff. |
After years of driving used cars, we must admit it's very nice to drive a brand new truck. We have had to accept that it doesn't have the in-built DVD player that was such a useful feature of the Dodge Grand Caravan we had, but the kids are using their tablets at the moment on long journeys and that'll do for now.
We picked the truck up early in August, just in time for me to use it to take Olga to the airport for a business trip to Malaysia for two and a bit weeks. We waited until Olga was back to pick up the trailer, as it required us to have a "walk through" by one of the dealer's guys, to show us how everything worked. So on Thursday 28th August we towed it away to a RV storage lot, stopping at a local shopping centre car park to get some maneuvering practise in:

Today I've booked us into a local campground (the Canadian word for campsite. A camp site is where you park your RV or pitch your tent in said campground) for next Friday and Saturday night, so we'll have our first proper attempt at setting it all up, levelling it, hooking up to electricity, water and even sewage!
It's quite an up-and-down road to get to the campground, on the northern edge of Cochrane, so it'll be a good test of the truck's ability to pull the trailer. We've cheated a little by booking a "pull through" site, so I don't have to reverse the trailer into the spot. That will definitely require some practise in a large car park before I try it on a campground with seasoned campers watching!

Olga had her two and a bit weeks away in Malaysia with work, to give some training to clients, and whilst at first I said "no problem, I'll cope, I coped in December when you went to Kazakhstan and it was -40 here", it dawned on us that if Grandma could come over to help, that would be a great idea, especially as it was still the summer holidays, so Lara would get to see more of Grandma than if she came over during term time. So at very short notice Grandma booked her flights and arrived 4 days after Olga left. Lara was so excited in the run-up to her arrival, making plans for what they'd do together, even about where Grandma would sit in the truck on the way back from the airport (in the back, between Lara and Dan). It was a great help for me to have mum here, as well as being great to see her and spend time together, so she knows we're doing OK over here!
We had a trip out to Banff during Grandma's last weekend here, we went to our usual haunt of the waterfalls, the kids like to throw stones in. It seems it's also a favourite place for newly weds to have wedding photos taken, though I can understand why. We also went to the amusement park, Calaway Park, where Lara excelled at the ring toss game, winning two large toys (the game's limit!) within 6 throws of her allotted 20 rings. Even Dan won two toys on one game where he had to throw a ball into a hole. He seems to be very left handed, but if it works for him, I'm not complaining!

So we're nearly up to date.. This last weekend we took a drive on Saturday down through Kananaskis country, past our ski area at Nakiska, and headed on a 100-mile driving loop into areas we'd not seen before, finishing up back in Canmore, one of our favourite towns. There was an ulterior motive for this drive, as it took us right past an RV campground very close to Nakiska, where we are planning to park our trailer during the winter. We had a look around, and saw the pull-through spots they have available, and chose one. We'll be taking the trailer there in the middle of October, and leaving it there until the end of April. Our plan is to use it every weekend during the skiing season, so we'll drive out on a Friday late afternoon, ski on Saturday and Sunday (Lara has lessons booked for all day on Sundays) and return to Airdrie on Sunday evening. The dogs will come with us, and we'll rotate shifts of Dog-and-Dan sitting as needed. This was another reason to buy a very modern trailer, so it has all the necessary insulation to allow us to camp in it during the winter. We'll not be using the water supply in the trailer, the weather is just too severe for that, so showers, toilets and washing up will be in the campground facilities. Luckily we're only a very short walk away from them, given it got down to -27 during the day there last winter! We're investing in electric blankets and portable ceramic heaters too though. We think it's going to be amazing, opening the door on a Saturday morning to clear, crisp mountain air, fresh snow, and silence. Bears won't be a problem, but wolves and cougars will be around, and we're almost certain to encounter moose. Even they can be aggressive and have been know to charge at people who get too close!
Talking of moose, we saw two during this drive on Saturday, one male was drinking in a river and we missed a chance to take a photo, but another Mrs Moose was taking a drink right next to the gravel road we were driving on, and so we were able to get some close ups of her.  We also stopped in a park visitor center where the kids were able to stroke a black bear fur, and see some stuffed examples of the local residents..

So, back to school tomorrow, "camping" Canadian style this coming weekend, and then Olga's birthday in a few weeks time. September looks to be as busy as every other month!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

New Wheels

To celebrate our first year here, we've took the plunge and bought a caravan, or travel trailer as they're called over here, and traded the Dodge FunBus for a pickup truck. Here are some photos:

(this one is a stock photo, not our actual trailer)

Reinforcements on their way

Olga is away on business in Malaysia for the next two weeks, having left a couple of days ago. It's a tough journey, flying the "wrong way" through Vancouver to Hong Kong, staying a night there (in a hotel I stayed in 11 years ago), and then going on to Kuala Lumpur and then on to Miri. She's arrived safely, if not entirely sure what day it is. She is 14 hours ahead of us in Airdrie, which puts her seven hours ahead of Lucy in the UK, who is well overdue for the delivery of her first baby. 
Olga posted this photo from her hotel room in Miri..

I was sure I could cope with the kids while Olga was away, but with more thought, and a look at the school calendar for the autumn and winter (no long half term holidays here) we asked Grandma if she had a window in her schedule to come over and help me out and spend time with the kids, so Grandma is flying in to the rescue tomorrow! Hurrah! Lara is beyond excited, and has spent the last few days making plans about what her and Grandma are going to get up to.
Grandma might get to see some exciting weather - we've been having some spectacular thunderstorms recently. They are very localized - there was one two days ago, it rained on our street but 4km away at Dan's nursery the hailstones were the size of golf balls and dented cars in the car park. Here's Lara with one of them:

Today I needed to take the kids and dogs for a walk, Lara chose to ride her bike, which is fine, but Dan's not up to that yet. He's just learning scootering, but to make sure we didn't spend ages waiting for him to catch up, I enlisted Jackson's help to pull Dan along... it worked well until we reached a slight downhill bit, where Dan gained some speed, clipped my heels, came to an immediate stop and tested out his helmet. It worked perfectly, phew:

Later today I took the kids to investigate one of the Calgary cricket clubs. It's not quite Littlewick Green, but it's unlikely I'll find a cricket club as pretty as that again, but the standard of cricket here looked about my level, so perhaps I'll have to make inquiries.. for next summer :-)

Friday, 8 August 2014

One Year Canniversary

August 7th was our 1 year anniversary of arriving in Canada.
Here's a little summary of the story so far:
We covered a lot of miles (OK, kilometres) in the first month, going back and forth to Calgary to register for this, that and the other, and heading in the opposite direction to Kananaskis, Banff and Lake Louise for days out.
We opened our bank account with Scotiabank, and used our line of credit with them to buy a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan (with a DVD player for the kids, thank god). Yesterday we traded it in for a new Ford F-150 pickup to pull our new 31' travel trailer, treats to ourselves and the kids, and we're looking forward to many a roadtrip camping adventure.
It was a pleasant surprise to us how quickly we bought a house. We had engaged a local realtor before we even left the UK, and on our second day in Canada we started looking at properties. We looked at 14 in a week before putting an offer in on our current house in Airdrie. We used a Scotiabank broker to help us apply for the mortgage and we moved in two weeks after the offer was accepted, 1 day before our 40' container arrived from the UK.
Lara started in Grade 1 a few days later, in French Immersion, and is loving school. Getting a yellow school bus like in the Simpsons excited her too.
Last Winter was cold and snowy, but the novelty didn't wear off, although I'm sure it will in a few winters' time. We skied most weekends at Nakiska, and we've bought passes already for next season, as they had a mad sale where adult season lift passes were $199.
Spring passed in the blink of an eye, I think. There was a good month to six weeks of cloudy, warm days with rain during May and June, but since the start of July it's been hot, with the threat of thunderstorms most afternoons, though they don't always materialize, but when they do, the hail can be spectacular (and expensive if it trashes your car).
We've been "tenting" a couple of times - the word "camping" here has a very different meaning, so we've learnt!
Our neighbours are lovely, and through them we've made some other Canadian friends, and whilst we haven't yet built up the circle of friends we had in the UK, we're certainly not feeling lonely and isolated. We get out to the pub from time to time, albeit separately so one of us looks after the kids while other meets up with friends. We're not within walking distance of a pub here, so we don't have the opportunity for "a swift half" like we used to, but I'm happy to trade that for the skiing and camping. We do still get our fix of British pubs by watching Coronation Street, but it's 2 weeks behind here so I have to be careful not to talk about it when I'm skyping Grandma back in Manchester.
One year has flown, we love it here, we feel we have settled in - the truck and the trailer attest to that - we're in no rush to return to the UK, and whilst we miss nights out down the pub with friends, we keep up with gossip on facebook and chat regularly with family on Skype.
What's not to like, eh?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Lakeside Camping weekend(s)

Last Friday we packed the car to the roof and beyond (filling a new roof bag) and set off in the pouring rain towards Aspen Beach Provincial Park, on the shore of Gull Lake, 90 minutes drive north of Airdrie. The forecast for the Gull Lake area was better than for Airdrie, and it did dry up as we headed north, and by the time we arrived at our pitch at 8pm it was a nice evening.  Before we'd unpacked the tent our neighbour came over to say hello, it turned out she works in Lara's year at her school as a French language teaching assistant. It's a small world! She kindly offered to let us put anything we needed in their RV fridge, and charge any phones or tablets, as our pitch had no electrical supply.
We put the tent up without any drama, within 30 minutes, but it took quite some time to unpack all our things and set up inside, then cook some supper, and get the kids ready for bed, so it was past 11 o'clock before they were in their sleeping bags. It had only just gone dark too, so it was unlikely they would have gone to sleep much earlier anyway.
No matter how comfortable our new airbeds were, we were never going to get much of a lie-in, and soon after 7am Dan woke up, which is the alarm call for everyone. It might have been early, but it was a lovely, calm, sunny morning, and so getting up wasn't such a hardship. I took the dogs for a walk down to the lake, only a 7 or 8 minute walk, and found the other important part of the campsite - the playground. It was right on the lake shore, and whilst the water is cold at the moment, it's a shallow lake and we're assured it will warm up through the summer. Back at the tent we had a breakfast of fried and boiled eggs with salami and croissants, then set off down to explore the lake shore with the kids and dogs. We even had a little stab at fishing, though we certainly weren't expecting to catch anything. We headed back to the tent for lunch, with the intention of inflating our own 10-foot boat, and going out on the lake for a while, with me rowing, expecting the novelty to wear off for the kids within 30 minutes. We bought new PFDs (personal floatation devices - mustn't call them lifejackets!) for everyone specially for the weekend.
Chantelle, our neighbour, and her husband Serge approached us as we prepared lunch and asked if we would like to go with them on their boat for a tour of the lake that afternoon. Their boat was apparently plenty big enough to accommodate all of us, and we should meet them at the boat launch at 1pm...
While we had lunch, Lara bit down on a piece of bread and her second lower front tooth came out! After a brief discussion about whether the tooth fairy would find her here, when she's not at home, we decided we'd try it, and before she went to bed that evening she put her tooth under her pillow. That clever tooth fairy did find her, she broke into the tent, didn't disturb the dogs, broke into Lara's little personal tent, and swapped her tooth for $5.
After lunch we walked to the boat launch, it turned out Serge's boat was a 9-seat motorboat with a 275hp engine, capable of 40mph, which is fast for a small boat. We went out on the lake for 2 hours, Dan wasn't sure about it for the first 10 minutes, but then relaxed enough to fall asleep, and he only woke 10 minutes before we returned to the launch. In the meantime Serge revved the boat up to 30mph, and Lara sat up at the pointy end with Chantelle, and couldn't take the smile off her face as she was buffeted by wind and spray.

We returned to camp at 3pm and started to think about what to do for tea - everything takes longer when you're camping.  All the campsites here have firepits with a grill to cook on, so we bought some firewood from the campground office, and Lara and I set about making some kindling, and Olga showed Lara and Dan how to make the fire and light it.

While the fire got going, Lara and I took the dogs for a walk through the woods. Mishka caught site of something that he was interested in chasing, and this alerted Jackson. Lara was holding his leash, and he set off at a gallop to see what Mishka was interested in. We've drilled it into Lara how she must try to hold onto his leash all the time, when we first let her walk with him she would panic if he pulled and would let go of the leash. To her great credit this time she didn't let go, but he pulled her really hard, and she fell full-length on the stony path, ripping her trousers and giving her a nasty graze on her knee. She didn't let go of the leash, for which I was very proud of her, it would have been a nightmare trying to get him back if he chased a squirrel into the woods. She picked herself up, and with a stiffest of upper-lips she didn't cry, and we headed back to the tent. Olga cut the bottom half of her trousers off to give easy access to clean her graze, and this made us realise I'd not packed  a first aid kit, but I found one in the emergency kit we keep in the car for if we're ever stranded in winter.
Tea was burgers cooked on the grill and garlic bread cooked in foil on the fire, with s'mores for dessert - these are marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between cracker-type cookies, cooked over the fire. Lara had a treat of roasted marshmallows for supper once Dan had gone to bed; he took some persuading to settle down, but zipping him properly into his little sleeping bag, inside his own little tent which was covered with a blackout curtain, and putting some lullabys on his tablet did the trick by 9.30pm. Ahh, modern family camping!
Lara had her marshmallows and was happy to go to bed at 10pm, with it still very light outside, and with the large group of campers in the field 50 metres away making a lot of noise, it reflected how tired she was that she fell asleep without any great problem, watching her new Lego movie on her tablet.
This gave Olga and I an hour sitting by the fire, enjoying a few glasses of wine, until it went properly dark and we retired for the night.
Sunday was Father's Day, so I was entitled to a lie-in, and it was 8am before we got up. The weather forecast wasn't great for Sunday, but luckily it turned out to be wrong, and on stepping out of the tent we were greeted by clear blue skies.
After a quick breakfast of eggs and croissants again, I was presented with my card and presents from the kids, and Lara took me away for my surprise trip down to the lake for some fishing. This meant her having three casts then heading off to the playground, but I enjoyed my hour of peace and quiet by the lake, not catching anything.
Then it was back to the tent to start the process of packing up. It only took 30 minutes to take the tent down, and it even all went back into its bag, which isn't normal. Packing all our other things up and arranging them in the car took quite a lot longer, whilst having lunch and keeping an eye on the kids, but in the end we set off at 1.45pm, just before our "check-out" time of 2pm.
We had a nice, calm drive back to Airdrie and unpacked half of the stuff straight away, but only half - we're going back to the same campground this coming weekend!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A Lovely Saturday - running, fishing, shopping, playing

We had a very nice day today, so nice that  I have to make time to write a quick blog about it.
This morning Lara's school had organised a fun run in the main park in Airdrie, Lara and I bought t-shirts to enter, and joined a few dozen other families down at the park on a lovely, warm sunny morning. Olga and Danny came along for moral support and to take photographs, though it's possible they will end up in the local newspaper - a journalist snapped them and asked Olga for their details, so we'll see what appears in the paper next week.
Lara started off at a usual 6 year old's pace, and was soon walking, but between us we contrived to complete the 1.75km circuit doing a run-walk-run, and she happily crossed the finish line before me.
After a quick breakfast of melon, granola bars and bananas, provided by the school, I grabbed our fishing rods out of the car and we passed half an hour "fishing" in Airdrie pond, in the middle of this park. It is stocked with rainbow trout by the local council but we were never going to catch one, but that wasn't the point, it was about engaging Lara, and to a lesser extent Dan (who has his own mini rod) in the activity for a short while.
Then it was time for lunch, the kids' current favourite food when we're out and about - grilled cheese sandwiches from Tim Horton's. We had this in the outlet in the local Walmart superstore, so decided to do some shopping while we were there, but that turned into a marathon effort, but everyone got something out of it. The kids got shoes, water pistols, toys, Lara got a new PFD ("Personal Floatation Device, I can't call it a lifejacket!), and we got some food for a BBQ and for a party we're going to tomorrow night at our neighbour's house.
Then it was back home for a bit of downtime, before Olga took them off to the playground, and I built my new weights bench in the garage - I'm trying to tone up a bit before my birthday next month!
Once they were back, we dug out our family inflatable boat to blow up, to check it hasn't sprung any leaks. We didn't use it much in the UK, we only went out on it a couple of times, but we intend to use it a lot more here, hence the new PFD for Lara, and Dan, Olga and I will get new ones this week, before we take the boat with us next weekend on our next camping trip.
With the boat successfully inflated on the driveway, and the kids having bounced around (and out of) it, it was time for the BBQ - at least with a gas grill there's no real setting up to be done, you just uncover it and turn it on, so I did some burgers and chicken and that was enough to keep everyone happy.
The kids have gone to sleep quickly and quietly tonight, and now Olga and I can sit down with a glass or three of wine and chill out a little too.
I just wanted to share what a nice, family day we had! I didn't take many photos, but at least here are some from this morning:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mother's Day

Today was Mother's Day here, Lara had made Olga a handprint in concrete at school, decorated with "precious jewels". The concrete bit was so it could be kept in the garden as an ornament, which is where this one will go.

After breakfast in bed, we set off to the Elbow Valley, part of the foothills west of Calgary, just over an hour's drive away from Airdrie. I had read on a really helpful website about Highway 66 - it's closed to vehicular traffic until May 15th, so it's a perfect place to ride bikes with the kids.
Once we got into the valley, before the road closure began, we saw people had stopped by the side of the road, and were standing by their cars and pointing, or taking photographs; a sure sign there was something interesting close by. Bears are definitely up and about now, but this was a moose, close enough to the side of the road that Olga thought better of getting out and taking a photo - moose are known to charge people!
Having reached the barrier that closed the road, we parked up and got on the bikes, with Dan on the kiddy-seat with me. We cycled for 1.5km until we reached Beaver Flats campground, which is definitely in bear country, and looked deserted - like the road, it's closed until May 15th. We had brought our bear spray with us, but between Dan and Lara, we were making plenty of noise.

We stopped for a while by the Elbow River so the kids could play, throwing stones into the river was the main pastime, with Lara throwing bigger and bigger rocks, and Dan suggesting that he might grow up left-handed:

Dan was happy on my bike, and Lara was OK so long as she wasn't cycling through snow or on a gravel road, when there were a couple of tantrums, so we'll definitely do something like this more often over the summer.
On the way home, as we were leaving the valley, we passed a group of mule deer, so named because of their donkey-like ears: