Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Eye baggage.

0       0
U       U

A bus boarded at 0100hrs. Check. A seat shared from 0100hrs to 0400hrs with territorial and prissy lady. Check. Isle seat, AKA No-place-to-lean-except-on-prissy-lady-which-is-obviously-not-an-option seat. Check. Bus-passenger purge at booming metropolis of High Prairie. Check. Ahhhhhh, stretch. Check. Twelve subsequent hours of in-and-out dozing, with no concept of time or place or meaning of life. Check.

Oh, 301-3 Neville place, you never looked so good.
Welcome home. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Aurora Meets Flashlight

Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

Also, sometimes you just need to scrawl. I decided to let my movement decide the meaning...a nimble interpretive dance routine with a flashlight resulted in what you see here... any interpretations?


Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

Yes, it's true. Green skies do exist in Canada. Praise the Lord.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Standing O for TwentyTwelve

The end of the world is nigh. The earth's core will melt the earth's surface and cause the poles to relocate in a major surface shift...or so says a disheveled and psychopathic Woody Harrelson.

Just got home from seeing the best worst movie I've ever seen.  I loved it so much I hated it. I hated it so much I loved it. Poor John Cusack - having to work with that predictable drivel. At least he didn't have to hear the overkillickly dramatic soundtrack while filming - I would like to think, for his dignity's and reputation's sake, that that would have been the dealbreaker.

Why do people keep making these movies? Is it really what America really wants? Even though they have seen this movie time and time again...albeit with different names, different budgets, and different fame...do they really not cringe at every predictable plot line,  every one-liner, and ever ridiculously-and-totally-milked close-call death experience?

But the fact that I hated it so much, and that I couldn't keep myself from physical manifestations of the former, made me grateful, in some strange, alive kind of way. I left that theatre with a sense of ridiculousness, a sense of wasted time, but also a sense that there is some purpose in it all. I had so much emotion bottled up in me that I couldn't help but throw myself into a standing O position. Well, I couldn't help myself...but Meaghan could. She pinned me down as soon as she felt the strange energy emanating from the psycho beside her. I wanted to clap, but alas, my hands were tied up at the moment. Which was probably a good thing for the sake of my reputation in this teensy town  (not too teensy to have a teensy movie theatre, mind you).

2012, you make me crazy. Thank you.

And John Cusack, I will for your sake be open minded and forgiving. I'm sure you had your reasons.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shattering Cold

My lamp shade, made of fine asian plastic, shattered last night. Whoever thought it was a good idea to transport the poor thing when it's 49 below 0 should be kicked.    Ow.

Whodathunk. The most banal of activities becomes painstakingly difficult and time-consuming when it is nearly -50 degrees Celsius. Like getting a key in a lock. Like trying to jam the block heater's plug into the extension cord. Like just plain going outside.

It's all funny stuff in retrospect, but swear-worthy in the moment. Yesterday, I had a lot I wanted to get done. It was our Christmas party for the French association (my first real event), and I had plans to spend the day running errands, baking, and pulling stuff together to haul over to coffee shop where the event was to be held. I heard jokes being made on Rosie's alarm clock radio that morning about the cold. That should have been my first clue: when northerners start joking about the coldness of the cold, it must be pretty dang frosty. And when I looked outside, everything was covered in a haze of cold...not fog, not smoke, not frost... a haze of cold. Second foreboding clue. My third clue was much less a clue than a blatant affirmation of the statement: my car was toast. And when I say toast, I mean it in the exact opposite way the thermal qualities of toast implies: it was frozen solid.

I could try to blame its non-compliant state on the west-coast sissyism of a non-block-heater-equipped vehicle...but there was really no one to blame but me. I JUST had a block heater put in my car last week.  I was in denial. I refused to park in the parking space allotted to me, 301-3 Neville place, way at the back of our building... but furnished with electrical. Instead, I opted for a spot at the, I say this facetiously, much more convenient FRONT of the building, at which location which I had developed a naively autumnal habit of parking. ''One last time..'' I told myself thursday night as I parked. Famous last words.

So, she wouldn't go. My little Honda civic, that has driven across the country more than once, that has suffered weeks worth of Winnipeg winters, that has endured a good solid month of NWT winter, has decided that the -40's are the limit. No indication that -29 was even NEARING a problem. But give that girl a couple extra negative degrees and she is indignant. And any other day I could have done without her, but on this particular day, where a sound system needed to be picked up, where grocery runs for bags of flour and jugs of juice, where boxes of decorations needed to be hauled, I needed the ol' girl. As David Ives once said, it's all in the timing.

So I became a poor helpless southerner calling out for help from more seasoned northerners. I called my friend Jordan (who also, handily, happens to be somewhat of a caretaker for our building, since his parents own it) to come to my rescue. ''Jordan??'' I whined....''My car is frozen. What do I do now? I don't want to have to pay for a tow truck,...'' then sheepishly added ''...and I can't plug in because I didn't park near my plug last night.'' So the good lord Jordan and his friend Darcy came over and blessed me with 3 extension cords to run all the way from the back of the building to my car out front, where I made use of the precious block heater for the first time in my car's life. And 2 hours later, TA-DA! A started car.

The cold went from bad to worse yesterday. After I got my car started, Darcy and I were collecting the cables...the frozen 15-metre-pencils that stubbornly (and moments later, dangerously) refused to allow us to manipulate them in any way. As we were pulling one inside the building, it cracked in half and sent sparks flying everywhere. The bitter cold had frozen the plastic casing and the wires within, so that any attempt at folding or rolling up the cable would end up in a snap. Moral of the story: UNPLUG frozen cables before handling them.

So I went about my day, running my errands, everything requiring twice as much time as usual. Odd, because I myself did not feel all that cold. My body was handling the cold fine. But you know how when people make small talk about weather and say things like ''oh, but it's a dry cold'' or ''oh, that moisture chills right to the bone!''....I finally have experienced all of these classic colds, and can attest to their pertinence. It really is a dryer cold up here, so it doesn't feel nearly as bad in your nostrils or in your bones. That doesn't negate the fact that it still is REALLY cold, and everything else (besides your body) breaks down around you as a result. And holding your keys in an un-mittened hand for the 30 seconds it takes to open the outside door to your apartment can be a painful experience.

Also, did I mention that my car in now officially a clunker? As of yesterday, really, litterally, a clunker. It clunks. And shakes. The trunk refuses the latch, the doors refuse to close because the locks are jammed, and ice builds up like concrete in my wheel wells. It really, really, really does not like winter here.

As for me, I'm not clunking. I've still got a skip in my step. And I sure am a sight for sore eyes in my winter bundles.

Happy wintering folks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Arctic Char

Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

Arctic char available inside. Ask local mutt for details.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

snowshoes and moonlight

Oh, boy. Oh boy, oh boy oh boy.

We just got home from snowshoeing by moonlight. Really.  I put the word out yesterday that there was going to be a special meeting tonight at 9pm in the rec centre parking lot. Eleven friends came out, we piled into cars and drove to the shore of the Slave. We strapped on our snowshoes and away we went, our path lit only by the moon. I couldn't stop saying how incroyable it was. I've decided that you haven't lived if you haven't snowshoed by moonlight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Midday Moon

Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

Just to share a bit of my perspective with the world. 1pm on a saturday afternoon in Hay River.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abbey in the summertime...

Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

Abbey, I remembered about the photos. Finally. They're coming your way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Invisible strings

This week I received many bits and bytes from the outside world. They are like an invisible string tying me to my real life. Funny, I used that expression ‘real life’ today with my new friend Diana, who, being an outsider like me, said that that’s what she calls it too. Her real life. Her life prior to her arrival in Hay River. I think the reason I find the expression odd when applied to my life is that it gives the illusion that I had a normal life in a regular place prior to here. That this is a one-time anomaly amidst an otherwise regular existence. When in real life, my ‘real life’ is scattered and polydirectional…Winnipeg, Abbotsford, Chilliwack (peppered here and there with Princeton)…. francophilism, acting, camp, photography, outdoor rec, teaching, lighting design, directing, percussion. My ‘real life’ is a myth. But I’ll keep using the expression, because somehow it still gets the point across that I’m a temp.

Back on track. Invisible strings.

This week’s invisible strings were manifold: a surprise package from Kerianne with Jelly Bellies, jewelry, and a book to inspire me (which I’ll get into another time); a package from Katie with more jewels, yarns, Gilbert, and Mo (which I’ll also get into another time); Genevan dark chocolate from world traveling big-wig-hot-shot researcher Christen; phone calls from Karla, Danielle, Carol, Rona, and my mom; and some skype chats with Abbey, Jenny, and Lowana. I can’t tell if it makes me more or less wistful for my real life. Less because people seem so close, so tangible when I can chat on facebook or talk on the phone every week or skype and actually see someone in the flesh, in the moment….but More because I are reminded of what is going on in my real life and I wish I could take part. It’s a good dissonance. Reminds me that I’m alive. It feels good to feel, even if it’s just confusion.

I committed in last week’s blog to looking towards Germany this week for my business. That was the first mistake, as we all know the Germans like their whites. As I made the approach to the German border, I scanned the line of soldiers to see if I could make out any reds. All I saw was a row of whites, an Aryan nation, as I suspected I might. But lo! A red disguised in blue called out to me from the ranks, stepped out of line and said “take me! I’m ze #1 red in alt of Gehmany!”. I coldly replied “You’re the only red in all of Germany. Don’t flatter yourself”. I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and whispered menacingly in his ear that his time had come. “Time to check out”, I said. To the stern colonel awaiting his departure I said, “bag ‘im”, and with that, the two of us, myself and the red soldier, marched solemnly toward his judgment. Luck was not in the soldier’s cards that day. Later, when I asked the soldier his name he sweetly…oh, so sweetly… replied: “My name is Zenzen, Dr.Vino Zenzen.” I had what I needed to warn the world about this imposter. Now I know….never give your heart to a red German in blue.

Dr Zenzen, Vino Noir. Touted the #1 red wine in Germany. What an insult to #2.

Ok, ok, a little harsh. For those of you that follow my wine log, this week’s wine was (obviously) a disappointment. But only because it was waaaaay too sweet. I would not recommend this wine to anyone who likes wines on the drier side…but it would make a great sangria base, or I’m sure it would be awesome mulled for Christmastime…

Today some of us girls went on a little trek, snowshoeing a trail just outside of Hay River. We were going to go to a friend’s cabin, but we were running out of daylight hours and decided to maximize by staying closer by. It was nice to be surrounded by friends, a random conglomerate of people that we pulled together. Here are some highlights:

Diana, showing off her sweet old school raquettes.
a jay of sorts.
yet another classy self portrait.
meaghan hamming it up in her pamper snowpants.
Rosie, the most stylish gal out on the snowpath.

We had a spontaneous potluck afterwards, and talked about things. It was really nice.

Happy novembering.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Landing Strips, Fish Fries, and a Moose Hair Tufts.

Oh, Hay River, how do I love thee.

Let me count the ways….

I love thee on cold weeknights in a winter wonderland.

I love thee keeping company in a Woodshed.

I love thee with Thursday Wine.

I love thee in a DC-3 loading cargo.

I love thee frying fish, though you deny me the chance.

I love thee collecting willows.

I love thee with raisins and curry.

I love thee at the disco-bowl.

I love thee, I love thee, I love thee.

…I love thee keeping company in a Woodshed.

The Woodshed is the local diamond in the rough. It is a garden centre, a coffee shop, a home decorating and book store all rolled into one. It’s actually open at night…and the coffee isn’t half bad, either. Thursday night we met up with our friends Adam and Shannon at the Woodshed and had tea and biscotti. It felt like a small dose of my real life. It may become my go-to place when I need some comfort, since I can’t buy Safeway’s Hermit’s cookies here. Hermit’s cookies, the big fat fluffy raisin and walnutty cookies you can only get at safeway in the bakery section, became my chicken noodle soup of comfort food when I was missing Winnipeg while living in BC. They were the cookies my memère always kept (and still keeps!) in her cookie jar. Since there is no safeway here, alack! No Hermit’s cookies. Woodshed, here I come.

… I love thee with Thursday Wine.

This week I added a new rule to Thursday wine night. I noticed myself being strangely overwhelmed at the decision of which wine to buy…because I’m not allowed to just buy ones I know I like. I’m having to venture into a whole other realm of wine buying – not having a clue about what I’m about to purchase. So…the new rule, to help narrow down the shelves I have to choose from, introduces a country rotation. It just so happens that the last 4 weeks I have been here, I have bought wine from all different countries. First, Canadian, then Chile, then Argentina, then Italy. Germany is up next. But this week, I got the chance to do a bit of a comparison exercise, which is helping me understand taste a bit more. I bought an Italian wine this week: Colle Secco, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. As the name suggests, it is dry as a bone. I would never have bought this particular wine if it weren’t for my rules, mostly because I would never normally buy Italian, and then a dry wine at that. But I’m glad I did. I didn’t like it at first, but I think it must need to breathe a bit, because I accidentally left it to breathe in my glass for a good hour before I got back to it, and it was an entirely different wine. Then the next night my friend came to our dinner party with a bottle of a dry French wine, and I did a little side-by-side sampling to see if I could taste the differences and write them out. The dry French wine was Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it was genious. I immediately loved it – dry, but not as dry as the Italian. Smooth, full bodied, but mild. I highly recommend it, if you’re looking to broaden your horizons.

…I love thee in a DC-3 loading cargo.

I accompanied my journalist friend édith to the teeny airport on Friday night as she interviewed some people from Buffalo airlines, the airline that will this week see itself in the world première of “ice pilot”. After the interview, we went out to the landing strip and up into one of the planes, a very army-looking stubby thing that seats 12 plus a bunch of cargo. I had to be hoisted up into it…a ladder would have been a luxury. The passengers in from Yellowknife had just disembarked, the stairs were already put away, and the staff was loading the plane up for a big cargo trip. We lent a hand. It was a good moment.

…I love thee frying fish, though you deny me the chance.

Have you ever wanted to know how to tuft moose hair? I have. Wanted to, that is. And I had the opportunity this past Saturday, but found no success. We went to a craft fair being held at the reserve (just across the river from town), in their beautiful treatment centre/lodge. All week I’d been looking forward to the event, as the posters promoting it around town promised a moose hair tufting demonstration and a 2$ fish lunch between noon and two. We got there at 1. There was no fish. And no tufting demo. They ran out of fish at noon, and everyone was starting to pack it up (and pack it in, let me begin) by the time we got there. Nonetheless, we still managed to get around to some tables, and I (of course) managed to cram some bannock down my gullet.

And oh, how I wished I could have bought you all a pair of moccasins from these ladies. If I could spare a couple hundred bucks each, I would, I swear. Beautiful beading, luscious furs, softened leathers…ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the north!

…I love thee collecting willows.

Saturday night we planned to have a bunch of friends over for dinner. Well, it started with inviting a new friend for dinner (Diana, who I met in a store this week…when she snapped my picture and put me in the little section of the local newspaper that asks lame one-sentence answer questions. Turns out she’s from Vancouver). And then it somehow evolved into a whole thing with Meaghan and Adam and Shannon and Edith and Diana’s cousin David visiting from Vancouver. So…it was time to clean and to cozify our home a bit more. Saturday afternoon I went collecting willow and birch branches. I made a wreath, a lamp adornment, and a pickle jar full of wisps.

…I love thee with raisins and curry.

The above-mentioned dinner party was a great success. I made a massive pot of brown rice and another massive pot of curried vegetables. Meaghan made a delicious salad, Shannon made cinnamon buns, Edith brought wine, Diana brought chicken to add to the curry. It was delightful. Conversation was never at a loss, and we were very comfortable crammed into our tiny living room.

…I love thee at the disco-bowl.

Adam had the foresight to reserve a lane at the bowling alley so we had a place to move our gathering to after dinner. Yes, there is a bowling alley in Hay River. 6 lanes, to be exact. It’s in the basement, under one of the Chinese food restaurants. Sound ghetto? It was surprisingly un-ghetto! Very state of the art. How state of the art, you ask? So state of the art that Saturday night is disco bowl night. Spinning mirror-balls, techno music, and black lights that expose every piece of lint and dandruff. And…all new scoring computers. A really technologically relevant locale. We were impressed. The only thing that didn’t impress me was my score. Probably an all-time low…Karla and Gary, you’d be ashamed. But I made up for it by making Abbey proud – I was ridiculous.

And that brings us to now, Sunday night. Rosie and I just got home from dinner at Mary and Glen Davies’– the family that has already had us over for multiple dinners (starting with thanksgiving dinner the weekend we got here, before they even knew us… and gave us an incredible house-warming basket when we got our apartment). Mary sent us home with a tray full of pumpkin cheesecake. Lucky for Rosie, who has an ample supply of lactase naturally provided by her body.

Hay River:

I love thee, I love thee, I love thee.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

And a bison-huntin’ we will go…

This summer, my cousin Jacqueline taught me something about buffalo. She taught me that the following sentence is, in fact, completely functional and grammatically correct:

“Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.”

Go figure. No really – go figure. That’s an order. Some of you already know how this one works, but the majority of you are mystified and have given way to disbelief. Figure it out … and I’ll unpack it for you next blog.

That was my excellent segue/ice-breaker leading straight into me talking about my buffalo….er, bison….hunting trip that took place this weekend.

Our friends Adam and Shannon (who very recently moved here from Nova Scotia) wanted to go for a long drive Sunday, and invited Rosie and I to tag along. They wanted to go bisson hunting.

Did you notice my typo? Just wanted to emphasize the hard “s” sound made by most Canadians when pronouncing the word “bison”. MOST Canadians… but not Manitobans. I remember that when I first moved to BC around 9 years ago, it was the first word that came out of my mouth that marked me as a sure-fire foreigner on the coast. That and the word syrop, which I pronounced “see” instead of “sir”. Manitobans are die-hard protective of the pronunciation of their beloved provincial emblem: the bizon. They WILL fight you if you tell them that the right way to utter the word is “bi-son”. More specifically, Rosie will fight you if you tell her that the right way to utter it is to NOT vocalize the fricative. Manitobans boldly and proudly voice their buffalo’s fricatives.

I digress.

We drove out to Fort Providence, which is about 200 km northwest of here. Along the way, we stopped at a few different locations to check out the sights, take some photos, and enjoy the crystal clear blue sky.

And the grayscale version of the clear blue sky:

Right before the small town of Fort Providence, there is a ferry crossing to get across the Mackenzie River. If you look on a map, and find the southwestern point of Great Slave Lake that joins the Mackenzie, you’ll find Fort Providence, where the mouth begins to narrow. This is Rosie and Adam walking back to the car to await the ferry creeping up behind them from across the river.

while I appreciated the land around the ferry "terminal"

As soon as you cross the river, you enter a wood buffalo reserve. And though we drove two whole hours without seeing any wildlife other than a few birds here and there, as soon as we crossed water we saw immediate evidence that we were in the land of the wild wood buffalo. Meandering, messy tracks with occasional sniff spots denting the snow like snowpants-clad human butt prints. We drove into town first to see if we could find ourselves a place to eat lunch - the day was getting on, and we were getting hungry.

We found a little greasy-spoon (seemingly the only place to eat out other than at the gas station), and while I ordered a chicken burger and Shannon ordered a fried egg sandwich…Rosie and Adam ordered buffalo burgers. When in Rome…

30 minutes later, when we were back on the road and in the midst of encountering our first wild wood buffalo, Rosie whispered softly to the beasts: “You are beautiful. And delicious.”


Our first encounter was with a cow and her calf, who seemed more than slightly annoyed at our childlike glee at the occasion of meeting them. Or maybe it was the fact that our car stalked them slowly from behind….

then inching along beside them as they walked along the highway...

then inching just past them, and stopping dead in front of them so they’d have to walk around us or head off the road entirely:

They opted for the latter:

Then we shot them.

When we tired of shooting them, we continued our hunt for more buffalo. Ten minutes up the road, we came upon three more.

We shot them, too.

And the big bull on the far left reminded me of a Sith Lord.

We continued north up the highway (which would take us to Yellowknife if we continued on a few hours more), and took a few more pictures of the scenery:

and then we decided to head home while we still had a couple hours of daylight left. On our way back, we saw the most beautiful sunset:

Oh. And the shooting of the buffalo? Cameras, people, cameras. Who do you take me for? A redneck?

The End.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Smoked Gouda and Red Wine

First of all, I want to start this blog with: CAROL SKINNER IS THE BEST!

Rosie is still winning 2-1, but the gap is closing, thanks to Carol “Cactus” Skinner. (and, I would definitely say that the point I awarded myself upon receipt of Carol’s package was put to shame when I opened it…it’s worth 3 points at least! But, rules are rules, one package, one point.)

The best part about today’s point: lactose free smoked gouda. REAL smoked gouda, not some lame fake-soy smoke-flavored loaf. And it survived a one and a half week voyage from Princeton BC to Hay River NWT. Oh, Carol, you are goooooooooooooooooood.

Now that I have given Kudos where Kudos are (is?) due, today I want to talk about Thursdays.

It’s been a long time since my life has been normal enough to have a weekly schedule that is actually consistent and filled with rituals and traditions that repeat themselves at the same times, on the same days of the week. For instance, every (and I mean every) weekday morning now, I wake up at 7:15. I walk to the kitchen, I put the water on. I grind some beans and tip them into the bodum. While the water’s boiling, I do the bathroom bit. By the time I’ve washed my face and brushed my teeth, the water’s ready. I fill my mug half with the hot water from the kettle, half with cold tap water, and add a few squirts of lemon juice. Then I fill my french press. In the next 4 minutes (because that’s how exactly how long you are supposed to let ground beans suspend in 98 degree water). While I drink my warm lemon water I get my lunch ready. Usually a homemade soup from the freezer, or a can of tuna, or, when I’m feeling indulgent, a chicken pot pie because they are delicious and cheap like borscht. I pack my backpack with my lunch and my computer, and set it by the door. By then it’s time to plunge the press. By then I’m also almost finished my lemon water, so I take one last swig, and fill my mug with the thick dark jet fuel I call coffee. I take it black, the way it should be. I take my mug over to the rocking chair in the living room, and set it on the windowsill beside me while I grab my book and pull my blanket over my lap. I read for about a half hour. At 8:20, I get dressed in non-pyjama clothes. I make a smoothie to take on the road. I bundle up, put on my backpack and my hiking boots, I get my Rosie-knitted mitties on, and plug in the ol’ i-Pod….and set on my merry way, on my 20 minute walk to work.

Well, now that you can picture me every step on a weekday morning, let me get back to talking about Thursdays. Thursday are particularly enjoyable to me in this new life of mine. Because I have a mostly Monday to Friday kind of a job, Thursdays mean that Friday is coming. I suppose one could argue that Thursday have always meant that Fridays are coming. But in the recent years of my life, days of the week have not really meant anything to me. A Wednesday could have been a Friday could have been a Monday. A morning could have been an afternoon could have been a night. No matter, no consequence. With theatre, life does not make a habit of schedules and traditions. Unless it’s with your theatre friends.

So, Thursday to me now mean that Friday is imminent. Which means I have a regular, joe-schmoe weekend. Which I don’t mean lightly or pejoratively! A joe-schmoe weekend is all I could have ever wished for. A whole weekend to do whatever I want. Thursdays are inukshuks marking my weekly travel cycle. I think that Thursday mark my week moreso than a Friday or a Monday. Even moreso than a Wednesday, often considered to the crest of the week, or hump-day, as some so eloquently like to call it.

And then, to add to the joy of an already great landmark day, Thursday is also New Wine day. I added value to my Thursdays a few weeks ago by deciding that every Thursday I would allow myself to purchase a bottle of wine. And never the same one twice. The bottle of wine will last me for 3 or 4 days (I have teensy cheap wine glasses that I got a 25 cents each at Field’s), and I will savor it. I told myself that I would take notes, so that I remember for the future which ones I liked more than others…but so far, that has not happened. What I do know, though, is that eventually, I am going to run out of red wines I can afford. The wine selection is slightly lacking, and they range from 11 bucks to 40 bucks a bottle. And I’ll have to decide at that point whether I want to switch to whites, or restart the cycle, or throw the whole project out the window and buy whatever ones I like best. I’ll try to remember to share with you what I discover.

The first week, I played it safe. I bought Naked Grape. Shiraz, of course. It was like…comfort food, cheap and familiar. I bought it the night we moved in, as a house warming gift to myself.

The second week, I bought Cono Sur, Pinot Noir, from Chile. I know already that I don’t really love Pinot Noir, but I thought I’d give it a second chance. Probably won’t give it a third.

Last week, I bought PKNT (picante?). Unfortunately I left the bottle at a dinner party, so I don’t have the label here to tell you about it. As for taste, also not particularly memorable. Good, but, not awesome.

Today I bought another safe and familiar comfort food, after the last two were just kind of average. I bought a Lindeman’s shiraz. Nice. I wanted to go for the Wyndham Estates bin 555 (which was a bit pricier…at 15 dollars!), but since I know I love that one, I’ll save it for an important Thursday. Or a lonely one.

I have also allowed myself a no guilt rule on Thursdays. It is the night that I allow myself the liberty of not feeling guilty about not getting anything done. Those who know me know that I like to get stuff done. To put checkmarks in the boxes of my to-do lists. Thursdays, there are no boxes, no checkmarks, no lists. Well, at least not after 5:30.

So, these are the importances of Thursdays.

On another note, the other night I took some pictures from our balcony, after it snowed. It’s not Aurora Borealis Spectacular, but still pretty. This is our cozy little view:

Hoping your Thursdays are as good for you as they are for me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pilgrim at Hay Cr...er, River.

Today I felt a bit crummy. But it’s not H1N1, I swear!

I’ve been feeling the last few days like I’ve been coming down with something. We’ll see what comes of it…I woke up, felt the scratchy throat and dull headache combo, and went back to sleep. When I woke up again, I went straight to the bottle. Of Oil of Oregano. Sucked back a couple of garlic pills, put some echinacea drops in my lemon water, took my minerals, my homeopathy sugar pills, and bundled up for a down day. I’m gonna give this cold the ol’ one-two, nip it in the bud. Let me set the scene. Here’s me today:

I’ve got about 4 books on the go right now, so I was not at a loss for something to do. Every morning for the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading a bit from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which Rosie just so happened to have brought with her up here (it’s been on my to-read list for far too long, having been recommended to me by every tree-hugging, philosophy loving coolio I know). I’ve been really enlightened and challenged by some of the stuff I’ve read. One line that keeps running through my head is proving to emphasize a recurring theme in my life and conversations here in the north. Allow me to share it with you:

“All I can do is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of interior babble that keeps me from seeing…”

So when I’m in conversation with someone about human relationships, insecurity, judgement, and the like, I keep thinking “Gag the commentator”. If we could gag our inner commentator, we’d be able to see a lot more. We’d be so much more gracious, more understanding, more loving, more open-minded, and, possibly, more adventurous. I’m thinking that this is going to make its way into my writing a fair bit…keep your eye out for it!

And I also have been reading a play by Michel Tremblay, Damnée Manon, Sacrée Sandra, a play in alternating monologues about 2 sisters (well, a sister and her tranvestite brother) and their two polar lifestyles. Manon is a religious nut that has an obsessive relationship with her rosary, and Sandra is a crossdressing prostitute that is sex and image obsessed. But somehow, their personal issues have astounding parallels….

And then, I’m in a perpetual state of reading Antoine de St. Exupéry’s The Little Prince (or, Le petit prince). I’ve begun to adapt it as a one-person show, an exercise that is a great catalyst for learning, experientially rather than theoretically, the form of play writing. I’m really excited for the project. It’s probably the best story I know, besides, perhaps The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, or, on a whole other level, Les Misérables.

The litte prince....

And as for my easy-read fiction on the go right now, I started reading (after months and months of attempting to avoid it) The Shack. Too many people talking about it in too many spheres of life, so I had to. I found a copy at Meaghan’s house, so I decided to take it up. I’m about halfway through…I’ll tell you the verdict in a few days. Maybe I’ll do a whole blog entry on book reviews. Or maybe I shouldn’t, if I’m trying to gag the commentator….

So, I also have managed to cook and bake a whole bunch of things this week again. I’m really really really loving having the time to cook and to try new recipes. Except that I’m really bad at following recipes. I’m trying to learn NOT to change recipes before I’ve tried them at least once strictly in their recommended format. But I’m too impatient. Let me share with you what I’ve made this week:

  1. Date squares, really oat-y with walnuts. Mmmmmmm….one of my favorite treats. I had a whole bunch of extra dates that were developing a weird texture, so I needed to use some up. I wish that were a common problem for me…too many dates…

  1. Whole wheat bread…because I finally bought some whole wheat flour. The recipe I used pretty good, but if anyone out there has a killer bread recipe, I’d love to have it! The old fashioned way, though…none of this breadmaker stuff (because I’m too poor to own one).

  1. Oatmeal-cranberry-blueberry-coconut-walnut-chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmmm….Gorp, but so much better.

  1. Almond chicken soup. Sooooooooo good. I was kind of making it up as I went along, basing it on a happy accident I had with peanut butter and chicken last year. You need to try this. If you like cashew or almond chicken from Chinese food restaurants, and/or Ethiopian peanut soup, you will love it.

Make chicken broth/stock (I had bought cheap chicken thighs, baked them, separated the meat from the bone then boiled the bones and skin with whatever random stuff I had wilting in the fridge: radishes, celery, onions).

Once you have a good base, add a few tablespoons of almond butter (you can use peanut better instead, but almond butter is better for you) almonds (I used whole blanched), cooked chicken, diced celery, onion, and radishes, and a few whole garlic cloves (you can use minced, but I like the treat of finding a whole clove in my soup! Once it’s boiled, it’s not that potent). Bring to a boil, it will thicken up a bit. You can thicken it with corn starch if you like it really thick, or just add more almond butter. For softer almonds, add them to the stock before everything else.

So those are my ramblings for the day. I’m off to a board meeting, so I need to get my fuzzy sick-day brain back into work mode.

And just so you know, Rosie is winning the parcel-reception game, 2-zip. If you feel sorry for me, you can send something to: (insert Joanne’s Hay River address here) (haha…so shameless.)

Bonne soirée!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You gotta start somewhere. Might as well be here.

I started writing this weekend. Well, sort of.

Most of you know that I one of my main goals this year is to spend time writing. Plays or performance pieces, in particular. And some of you may know that I have been a little stumped. I have a million and one flotsam and jetsamy thoughts floating about my brain, and I have the time now to harness them. Or filter them. Or both.

A few months ago, I started a special little journal. It’s a small, palm-sized India-earthy looking thing, covered in fabric and bound by string. Like this:




The front half of the book is consecrated to storylines. The back half of the book is consecrated to characters. The hope is that the ‘twain shall meet…somewhere in the middle of my special little book. I have carried this little guy around with me for the last four months, and when it so happened that I was simultaneously inspired, disciplined, cognizant, and pen-laden, I would write down little observances, little fits of genius, little philosophical revelations, little rhetorical questions, and sundry other littles.  And the best part about the little guy is that on its very first page, on the very first day I got it, I wrote out my intentions and purpose for writing. To remind me in case I lost track. Or in case I got too mean.


So I’ve been keeping track of ideas. But I haven’t been too good at sorting them. Which brings me to why I have not actually really and truly started … “Writing”….(with a capital W). Those of you who know my charming and idiosyncratic obsessive compulsiveness when it comes to things being in their place, will perhaps know that organization (or lack thereof) would be enough of a reason to keep me from getting anywhere. Paralyzing, in fact. Because when you have a brain like mine, you come up with quiet and unnoticed, dainty hiccup-like questions (which you don’t even agree with) like: How do I make it all fit in a nice tidy package? Which idea is more important? How do I tie all my favorite morals and philosophies all together? How do I combine all my ideas into one story? How do I educate people about this or that? How do I  (questions that do not admit the possibility of NOT accomplishing or answering to any of the above in a clear and precise manner). So that’s problem numero uno: where to begin the story.


But there is something else keeping my writing process at bay.


I remember writing really lame poems when I was a teenager. Really lame.  I didn’t know it at the time, of course, so I kept on my merry way with the writing. Clichéd, easy turns of phrase. Corny, dark imagery. Crammed words to fit a meter, and rhymes at any cost. I cringe at what Kurt Cobain’s post-humus stardom brought out of me – a bad sharpie drawing of his face on my bedroom wall, and a stupid, stupid poem … to convey my loss, no doubt.



I fear that I will turn out the same predictable drivel that I was turning out 15 years ago, when I gave up my potential writing career to take up music….or sports…or whatever. I always had an awareness of what I (quite subjectively, of course) considered to be GOOD writing, INSPIRED writing, CREATIVE writing….GENIOUS writing. That meant that I always had an awareness of what I considered to be BAD writing, REDUNDANT-WITHOUT-CLEVERLY-MEANING-TO-BE writing, REGURGITATIVE writing, ANGSTY-DARK-TEENAGER writing, and the like. It makes me think of the Spice Girls. I remember very consciously thinking, when a couple of the spice girls’ super hit songs were played 100 times a day on Q94FM sometime in the mid to late 90’s, that this had to be the WORST kind of writing on the planet. Come on: if you wanna get with me, better make it last? I wanna really really really really zigizay…ah! Really? Ok, it was catchy. But it sucked.


And when I imagine myself writing, I imagine that I will,(no matter how hard I try not to), write Spice Girls songs. Despite my abhorrence of (what I consider to be) clichéd writing, I think that that is what I will inevitably write. And then I will hate it. And then I will have to lament that while all this time I thought I had the potential in me to be a great writer, I am really the worst of all scribing sinners. Because even though my brain is saying “Ew! Ugh! Blech!” while my hands go to town on the keyboard, maybe it doesn’t have enough talent to stop them. Maybe its decided that since it made its own lumpy mattressed, mite-infested, short-sheeted bed…it should have to lie in it. Even though it knows it sucks.


So rather than make that painful discovery, it’s probably safer to say : “Oh, I really want to write!”. And then just talk about how you want to do it, knowing that you’ll never actually have the kind of lifestyle that would allow for something as great as that. (whew. what a relief.)


So I’ve been living in a sort of creative paralysis, fearing that a Garth-type is going to come up to me and say: “If you’re going to spew, spew in this”, offering me a Dixie cup for my verbal vomit. Haha. What a gross image.


You know, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m being dramatic, for the purposes of honing the craft of which I speak. Rather, write. Of which I write. Is there irony in that? I can’t remember. Try hard and you might find a speck of it in there somewhere. Though you might argue that my definition of irony is just like everyone else’s, which is to say, wrong.


Those are my thoughts for today. Well, I don’t want to lie. They were mostly from yesterday…but I never finished them before bed so I had to bring them to a close this morning.


I’ll come back full circle to my opening statement: “I started writing this weekend” next time, now that I’m done with the disclaimers... 

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Here are some photographic highlights from the last week...not in chronological order.

A sunday drive in the territories.

Me, making "light" of Meaghan's lite-brite pumpkin endeavor.

Meaghan, with her guts spilled.

Meaghan, myself, and Rosie ready for the dance.

the highway between Hay River and Fort Resolution at dusk

the highway between Hay River and Fort Resolution, a bit before dusk

Fort Resolution

Fort Resolution
Fort Resolution

Rosie Reflected in the Slave.

land of the silver birch, home of the beaver.

some cool looking wood on the beach.

My office.

me. with a camera for a nose.

So, that's this week in pictures. Now, to explain them!

So, last sunday we went for our first outing outside of Hay River since we arrived. Meaghan brought Rosie and I to see Fort Resolution, which is about 2 hours from here. It was a beautiful drive (as you can tell from the pictures above), but, aside from the company, also fairly monotonous. Something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it at first. And then, it hit me: we were on a road that went to one place only. After the first half hour, when the road turns off to head to Fort Smith and Fort Providence, there is no other turn off, no other intersection, no other point of interest until you reach the end of the road an hour and a half later, in Fort Resolution, population 500. It seems so odd to have a community so removed from other communities, with absolutely nothing on the way, with a very long (mostly gravel) road that is the only way in and the only way out. 

Fort Resolution is what I would have imagined a tiny, remote northern town to be. It is also right on Great Slave Lake, due east of Hay River. But a very different...vibe. It was quiet as we drove in, and Meaghan gave us the tour in her SUV while I shot some pics out the passenger window. There is one grocery store, and one convenience store/gas station, a band office, a government building, an RCMP compound, a school, a couple of churches, and a small huddle of houses and mobile homes. A lot of  houses looked to be either abandoned or condemned, and some were no bigger than a single room. But there was still something charming about the place, and we were to be charmed all the more moments later when Meaghan took us to visit some people she knew (she had spent of lot of time visiting the town from Edmonton, working with the youth, in the last few years. She lived there a while, too.). We walked out of the cold, dreary, and quiet world outside... and stepped into a microcosm of warmth, life, and celebration inside the home of these people. The family was just about to have dinner, and had a million visitors and family strewn about the house. They invited us to stay, but unfortunately we had to get back on the road towards Hay River (because it's the only place it goes!!) before it got too dark.  Hopefully there will be a next time. I'm not done with Fort Resolution yet.

This week in general went well. We made some more friends, hung out with lots of people, carved pumpkins (well, I gutted the pumpkins and then watched Meaghan decorate them with her cop-out pumpkin kit...which turns the pumpkin into a lite-brite. Cool effect....but totally a cop out from knife-wielding). We even went to a Halloween dance at....the LEGION! we are officially small-towners. For those of you who are small towners, you will appreciate the charm and centrality of a Legion. Seeing as how we have nothing here to make costumes with (I have a sweet tickle trunk, but it didn't make the packing cut to come here), we turned our normal clothes into "costumes" (which are not REALLY costumes, because they are our legitimate clothes...but hey, I feel like I do that a lot). I was clad in plaid, and Rosie was a gypsy. woohoo, real crazy. 

It's 6:30. Rosie and I were invited to dinner at our new-new friends' place tonight (someone other than Meaghan!), and we're supposed to be there now! So, enjoy the pictures for now, and I'll elaborate more...soon.

Happy November 1st.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

3rd storey story.

 Abbey has been harassing me for photos of our apartment. So, here they are folks!

(our dining nook)

(our shared bedroom...and bed. Notice our neat little sides)

(the living room)

(the bathroom. Rosie's invention: the earring tree. note the scarve that are still in wearable condition, not adorning our walls in a permanent fashion)

(my home office...where I intend to do my writing and photo editing....)


It was a painstaking process to actually get in here, but now we’re settled (ish) and enjoying our cozy home. We’re both broke and only brought what we could fit in my little civic, so we don’t have a load of stuff to decorate the place…but fortunately we are both scarf lovers! We brought so many scarves that we have enough to drape over things and tack up on the walls …and still have a million left over to actually wear. Our great little minds thought alike on that matter. 

(Oh, and I don’t know if I mentioned how much it’s costing us to rent up here…but you’d be shocked and appalled. We are renting a one bedroom, a teensy little apartment…for $1500 a month! Remind we why I didn’t just move to Vancouver? )

This week was great. Busy, in its own weird northern kind of way, but great. I’m still learning the ropes at work, but with a deadline for our application for funding coming up on Monday, I’m almost past the worst part of feeling like a dummy starting a new job. It is very humbling to feel incompetent. Which I admit is a very important thing to experience. But…well… I’m almost ready to feel like I’m good at something again… 

Now, I did have the urge every single day this week to cook and clean. Maybe it’s the Suzy Homemaker in me, or maybe it’s the constant need to feel productive...but I’m thinking it’s probably more to do with the fact that I’ve been living out of my car for 3 months, and haven’t been able to cook my staple favorites. In case you’re interested, here were some of the items on my menu:


  1. Fall Soup: tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts, various and sundry beans, garlic, onion, and barley. Mmmm


  1. Comfort food: Perogies and brussel sprouts and steamed beets….slathered in yogurt.


  1. Indi(a)licious: chickpea, spinach, fresh tomato, raisins and curry, pan fried in olive oil


  1. Sweet tooth: Oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies, and ….my personal fave…lactose free rice pudding! I have to tell you how I made it – you MUST try it if you are a rice pudding fan, especially if you are a lactose intolerant one and have been mourning the loss of your favorite childhood dessert). Boil rice in same amount of water as usual (2 to 1 ratio water to rice), but add a can or two of coconut milk to the mix, a bit of honey or sugar, and one or two cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, them simmer for a good 40 minutes…or until it gets thick-ish. Add raisins near the end, if you like them. (I absolutely do…frankly, rice pudding is not rice pudding without raisins.)

I can’t believe I have time to BLOG about my DINNERS! I LOVE IT! I always wondered what kind of people blogged about the minute details of their lives. ME! It’s ME! I DO!

Ow. (Rosie just poked me. With knitting needles.)

We went for another sweet walk today. We found sweet place on Great Slave Lake, where we walked along the beach, hunted for beach treasures, and stumbled across…a shipwreck!


We were looking for goodies to decorate our house with. We scoured the beach, drank coffee, took pictures, and enjoyed the fresh air. I took the liberty of taking some more self portraits. I couldn’t help it! I’ve been enjoying the challenge of finding a place upon which to perch my camera (safely….can’t afford to replace it when I’m paying 1500 bucks a month for rent!)…then figuring out where I can fit in the scene…then setting the self-timer…. then guessing what distance to set the focus based on where I think I might end up….and then hitting the button and running into the shot in 7 seconds! 

(self portrait #1)

(self portrait #2)

While I was scouring the beach for natural hidden treasures, I was pleasantly anxious about what I might find in the next big pile of driftwood. And the next pile. And the next pile. It was a familiar feeling. A good feeling, but a very specific one. And then I figured it out:  it’s the same feeling I get when I go thrift shopping! It was a funny realization…I couldn’t believe how similar the feeling was. It’s nice to know I have a different way to achieve the thrift shop adrenaline rush….especially since there’s not really any thrifting available anywhere near here.

Well, now, that pretty much brings us up to date. I want to take this opportunity to wish my Katie and my Mel very happy birthdays. This one's for you, girls:


Happy Weekend, all. Cheers.