Alberta snapshot: Death Valley, Sandy McNabb.


The afternoon of the very same Tuesday I shot that frosty photo of Twin Valley Reservoir (see here), my hubby and I intended to do some snowshoeing at Sandy McNabb, in Sheep River Provincial Park.  The snowshoeing part of that was thwarted by temperatures that had risen to nearly plus 10 degrees Celsius and the accompanying heavy slush on the trail, so we hiked instead (and were grateful for waterproof boots!). The trails at Sandy McNabb were previously unfamiliar to us, but we’ll be back in the summer, for sure! During the winter, most of the trails are designated for cross-country skiing, so snowshoers, hikers, equestrians, and fat-bikers have to be aware of which ones are multi-use.  We chose Death Valley/Death Valley Loop, and despite the ominous moniker, it was an enjoyable, fairly easy 6 kilometre trek through primarily forested area.  We were even fortunate enough to make the distant acquaintance of one of the local residents. So fun!


Photo credit: R. Normandeau.

Alberta snapshot: Twin Valley Reservoir.


Just the right combination of fog, cold, snow, and frost made for some striking scenery on a trip this past Tuesday to Twin Valley Reservoir, near Champion, Alberta.  The dam was built over the Little Bow River for use in times of water scarcity and the irrigation of farmland in the county, and although work was completed on it in 2004, this was our first visit there. Fishing was slow (that’s Anglerspeak for nothing doing) this go-around, but we’re looking forward to trying it again after spring arrives, bringing open water with it.

That distant view of the flat, open prairie is incredible in its vastness – it manages to be simultaneously mind-boggling AND remarkably soothing.


Tuesday tidbits.

A co-worker recently recommended the book Stitches to Savor and the website (here) of a marvelous quilt-maker, expert embroiderer, and (as my colleague stated) “rock star” of the stitching world, Sue Spargo.  The book was written in 2015 and as the subtitle states, it is a “celebration of designs by Sue Spargo,” created from wool, embellishments of scraps of silk, velvet and other fabrics, beads, various threads and so on.  I was previously unfamiliar with Spargo’s work and to say that I was absolutely blown away by it is a massive understatement.  The photography in the book is utterly stunning as well, capturing the intricate detail of the motifs so perfectly that you can almost feel the textures. What an inspiring treat, and highly recommended if you can track it down at your local library.

I don’t know if any of you out there are soap makers (I’m not, but it’s on an unfathomably gigantic list of things that I want to pursue some day), but if you are or if you want to try something new, this recipe for Gardener’s Soap might be right up your alley.  When she lived in Calgary, I worked at the library with Margot, the owner and creator of Starfish Soap Company, and this is one of my favourite soaps that she makes. She is based out of Gabriola Island, in British Columbia.

My favourite recipe from last week?  These Chocolate Chip Blondies with Chocolate Ganache that I made for my hubby’s b-day.  The recipe is so easy you think it can’t possibly be accurate, but it is and the end result is decadent, sweet, and definitely special-occasion-worthy.  You could omit the ganache if it’s not someone’s birthday, I guess, but why not go big and bold? It’s chocolate, after all.

Have an amazing week!

Alberta snapshot: Fullerton Loop (part 2).


FL2FPNormandeauAnother photo from our snowshoeing trip to Fullerton Loop, near Bragg Creek, Alberta, a couple of Sundays ago.  The snow and cloudy skies turned the whole world black and white…with just a hint of blue. The silence was magical.

Alberta snapshot: Fullerton loop.


I don’t recall such a snowy February here in Calgary…we’ve definitely got good snowshoeing weather at the moment.  The thing is, the risk of avalanches in the mountains is massive right now and sticking to safe terrain is crucial.  Fullerton Loop, outside of Bragg Creek, fits the bill perfectly: it’s a no-risk snowshoe trek, fast and easy and short (just over 6 kilometres). It’s fairly heavily trafficked right now, so if you don’t have snowshoes, you can simply hike it (and at this very moment, you probably don’t need microspikes).

We headed out there last Sunday morning and it snowed the whole time; in fact, Highway 66 wasn’t even ploughed when we arrived at the trailhead, beating the crowds that arrived later in the day.  For us, it was snow…trees…quiet.  Blissful.

Calgary snapshot: Regal Cat Cafe.

A couple of weeks ago, my hubby and I honoured a very special reservation for coffee and baked treats at a café in the neighbourhood of Kensington here in Calgary.

We had a few guests join us afterwards.

Of the furry variety.

You see, we spent the morning at the Regal Cat Café, where you can sit and enjoy a delicious tea or coffee and a scrumptious variety of baking, and then, if you choose (and who wouldn’t?), you can pay a small fee to spend the better part of an hour entertaining and being entertained by a roomful of cats.  The Café works in conjunction with The MEOW Foundation, a Calgary cat rescue charity, and the cats you get to play with are all up for adoption.  The money you pay to spend time with the cats goes to help fund the Foundation’s work.


It was probably the most delightful morning I have spent in years.  We don’t have a cat, but I am utterly infatuated with them, so to have free time just to play with these rescues and watch them do goofy, fun cat things, was such a treat.  And the Café’s ultra-spacious, kitty-approved (and quite frankly, supremely swanky) accommodations, completely separate from the food, are set up with all manner of hiding spots, climbing areas, platforms, scratching posts, blankets, chairs, and sunny nooks just for snoozing.  It’s absolutely perfect.  (There is even an inner room with a sink for washing up and lockers to securely leave your belongings in).


For anyone in Calgary who wants to visit the Café, there are a few drop-in cat visits permitted, but they do prefer advance registrations.  The number of people allowed in the room at one time is restricted.  And you have to observe a few rules for the safety and comfort of the cats (and you), but everything is clearly explained when you get there.


I’m looking forward to filling up my new Loyalty card at this wonderful place.  🙂

Tuesday tidbits.

If you’re looking to ID native wildflowers on the Canadian Prairies (specifically in Saskatchewan), this website has the most amazing photography I’ve ever seen on the subject.  We have most of these plants here in Alberta and I know this is a resource I will use over and over again. Even if you don’t live in this part of Canada, you will hugely enjoy the beautiful images. I am floored that these are not yet compiled into book form; I would buy it in a heartbeat.

I somehow missed the name change for African violets and I can’t seem to find out when it was made official (for all I know, it was quite a while ago)…but here it is: Saintpaulia spp. are now more accurately termed StreptocarpusThis article offers a bit of explanation.

My favourite recipe so far this week: this one for Cranberry Muffins.  But I didn’t have any oranges, so I didn’t use orange zest or orange juice; I substituted 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract instead.  And omitted the glaze entirely.  They were wonderful.  I will get some oranges and try them the way they were intended as well.

From the “Toot My Own Horn Department”:  I am delighted that my article “Vibrant Viburnums” is included in the new volume of The Prairie Garden!  The 2018 book is all about shade plants and was officially launched last week.