28 March 2011

Moose Jaw Minute #33: Chicago vs. the Hotel Room

From Moose Jaw to Chicago to Seattle to Moose Jaw to Calgary to Moose Jaw and then to Chicago again.  I am currently back in the windy city for work...criss-crossing the busy streets, watching the setting sun's rays glint off tall buildings, and well, to be honest...fighting the most awful flu.  I usually ache for my time in the city...to splurge in the business, revel in the clackety-clack of the El on its tracks, and bury myself nose-deep in all the food and friends I can possibly get my hands on.  Instead, I am shuffling between work and my hotel furiously chomping on Ricola, digging for tissues, and hoping beyond all hope that I will feel better in the morning.  There is nothing more frustrating to me than being sick...I have very little patience for it, especially when I am traveling.  Lucky for me, this trip back to Chicago is one of many...I was just here a couple of  weeks ago and it will be only a week and a half until my next return. 

So, for now, while the city beckons and entices with its glittering lights and many shops and restaurants, my bed is beckoning louder...

22 March 2011

Moose Jaw Minute #32: Ah, Calgary!

Whew!  It's been a busy couple of weeks on the road!  From Moose Jaw, to Chicago, to Seattle and back home again...only to get back on the road...again.  This last weekend found us on the road to Calgary to visit our good friends Bryan and Cathy, eat at Sultan's Tent, and complete the process for our NEXUS cards.

The drive to Calgary was a long one.  As we headed west across the "land of living skies," the setting sun illuminated the road in front of us and forced us to keep the sun visors down.  We drove through fields and low hills, exclaiming "deer!" and "cow!" whenever they reveled themselves to us along the sides of the road.  I am still amazed at the distance you can travel before seeing one lone farm surrounded by trees in the midst of flat grazing land or fields of canola.  We made a quick fuel stop in Medicine Hat...fuel for the car and some Starbucks fuel for ourselves before completing the rest of the journey.  While the drive from Moose Jaw to Medicine Hat was full of the glaring sun, the road from Medicine Hat to Calgary was socked in with some of the thickest fog you've ever seen.  Dave and I were both leaning forward as we strained to see the dashed line...our homing beacon along the way.  We pulled into Calgary safely and were greeted warmly by our awesome friends Bryan and Cathy who had a spread of bread, cheese, and other goodies laid out for us...all to be downed with a side of Bryan's excellent home-made wine.  The perfect way to end a sunny and foggy drive.

The next morning, after a 'family' breakfast with our friends and their kids, we drove to the Calgary airport for our NEXUS "interviews."  We arrived on time and were shuttled into a small room about the size of a closet to watch a video on how to use our cards.  These cards will allow us to cross the border from Canada to the States much more quickly and easily...no more long customs lines for us!  We stepped out of the room and had our paperwork reviewed, were fingerprinted, received a retinal scan, and...done!  All in all, we were there for maybe half and hour.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  From there, we visited the Chinook Centre (think a smaller version of the Mall of America) where I found myself on a perpetual hunt for a good dress to wear once the weather warms up (you know, for those two days in August)...alas, despite the multitude of shopping options at the center, battling crowds, and one delicious Teopia beverage later, we departed sans dress.

There is another reason to visit Calgary.  That reason is Sultan's Tent.  This restaurant is dedicated to providing diners with a traditional Moroccan experience, complete with traditional hand-washing, no utensils, and some of the best food I have ever tasted.  Each of us indulged and got the Sultan's Feast...a five-course meal that includes a lentil soup, Moroccan salads, a flaked pastry filled with your choice of stuffing, a mouth-watering tagine, dessert, and either Moroccan coffee or mint tea.  Amazing.  It truly is one of the better places I've ever eaten...made even more so by the excellent company and good conversation. 

Sunday found us on the road again on our way home...this time, the sky was overcast and our first day of spring was met with snow on the ground and our breath freezing in the air...while I fear "spring" may still be a ways off, our persistent winter is made bearable by weekends like this one.

And,  just in case you didn't notice...the Minute has a new look!  I'd be curious to know what you all think!  Leave a comment and give me a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on the new design!

Good food and friends at Sultan's Tent!


We have yet to actually stop at the World's Tallest Tepee (seen below), but I can't wait!

15 March 2011

Moose Jaw Minute #30: Over the River and Cross the Border

Just wanted to provide a quick update...things have been a bit busy!  I just returned from travels to Chicago and Seattle...always good to get a little dose of friends and the city!  I'll update you more on that in my next post.

I wrote recently about the fantastic (un)bachelorette weekend my sister, mom, and friends arranged and wanted to share with you the Open Hands newsletter!  It was exciting for me to read as they featured our volunteer work.  They are a fantastic organization and if you get a chance to head to Atlanta, I highly recommend a volunteer stop with them!

This weekend, we are heading off to Calgary to submit our applications and be interviewed for our NEXUS cards.  These nifty little cards will allow Dave and I to cross the border much more easily.  I don't like to think of myself as a  travel snob -- I love airports, will gladly sit in the economy seats, and have a lot of respect for those working behind the airline counters.  All that being said, however...the customs lines can be a bother, especially when the small CRJ200 flights into Chicago I take almost every month land in conjunction with large 747s coming from India and China and everywhere in between.

The NEXUS card will be a skip, hop, and jump to the red carpet line of traveling.  It will mean stamp here, go there, and see ya later in about two minutes flat.  It will mean that traveling back and forth from Canada to the United States will be that much more enjoyable.

And, hey...who doesn't like a little joy when they are traveling?  I know I do.

03 March 2011

Moose Jaw Minute #29: Febtoberfest and a Happy Birthday

One of the great things about being here in Moose Jaw are the people we get to spend time with.  The military base provides us with a close-knit community of friends and we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by talented, awesome people!  We all love getting together and last weekend was no exception with our first ever Febtoberfest celebration!  Why an "oberfest" in Feb and not Oct, you ask?  Well, it's cold here, we have a long stretch of work days ahead of us, and it was time for some celebration and cheer in the month of February following an incredibly successful Robbie  Burns day!

Dave and I got our cooking on and made brats (for the meat eaters), a German potato-bake (really yummy, and I'm putting the recipe below), sauerkraut, a German lentil stew, and -- the stars of the show -- home-made pretzels.  So good!  Folks brought over their favorite beverages and we had good German music playing in the background.  It was a delicious night and a great way to spend a Saturday!

Yesterday, March 2nd, marks the day Dave was brought into this world!  We celebrated with lots of balloons, a home-made Happy Birthday banner clinging to the wall, stout-steamed mussels (we let our vegetarian/vegan guard down for one evening), and home-made pumpkin bread pudding.  Dave is the reason I was introduced to Moose Jaw in the first place and the reason I am making my new home in Canada.  I'm just going to indulge myself for a moment and write down a few of the reasons I'm so glad my husband was born:

1.  Dave is calm.  Truly, truly calm.  Under pressure, not under pressure, when things are good, and when things may not be so good, Dave is your guy.  He provides such an excellent balance for me and I am extremely grateful for this yin to my yang.

2.  Dave truly values the people he surrounds himself with.  I am astonished and impressed by the company he keeps and he truly engages and wants the best for the quality people in his life.  I believe you can tell a lot about a person by those they keep closest and I can honestly say that Dave has picked amazing friends to be part of his urban family. 

3.  He's opinionated and isn't afraid to say what he thinks.  As someone who over-thinks things, seeing someone so confident in their beliefs and feelings is pretty outstanding.  He is never harsh or rude when expressing his opinions and they are always said with intention and thoughtfulness.  I love discussing big-ticket items with him and am always impressed with his approach to situations.

4.  Dave is my best friend.  Enough said.

5.  Dave is really smart, and talented, and funny.  He flies a jet, he teaches others how to fly, and he keeps a good sense of humour about everything -- knowing the difference between the big and little things in life.  He is always teaching me something I didn't know and I love that when we talk about stuff, he gets my mental gears going.

So, as we celebrate Febtoberfest and birthdays, I realize more than ever how happy I am to be here and calling Moose Jaw my home for now...

German-Style Potato Bake

2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled (use your favorite kind)
4 tablespoons Earth Balance spread (vegan butter) divided (1 TBSP and 3 TBSP)
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beer (if you don't want to use beer, add 1 cup of veggie broth)
1 cup veggie broth
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1/2 large jar of good sauerkraut
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Slice potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.  Cook potatoes, covered, in a pot of boiling water to cover. Depending on size of potatoes, they will probably need to cook for at least 20 minutes. When potatoes are tender, drain and allow to cool. At this point, potatoes can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

Spread a little Earth Balance in a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange the potato slices in prepared baking dish. Set aside.

Add 3 tablespoons butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add chopped onion and sauté until tender. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle in the flour, stirring until smooth. Return to heat and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually add beer and broth, stirring until mixture is smooth. Return to burner and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in sauerkraut, mustard, horseradish and black pepper and simmer for about 5 mins.

Pour sauce over potato slices. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 375-degree oven for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated through and bubbling around the edges of the dish.

Just before serving, sprinkle parsley over the potatoes. Yield: 5 to 6 servings.

Our Febtoberfest, erm, costumes...and friends!

The Birthdaymobile

Pondering Birthday Wishes....