May 6, 2014

Calgary, Beet Borscht and Baguette

After an Easter weekend of greatly appreciated help in moving furniture, assembling new stuff and generally helping us to get things straightened around in our home and in the baby's room we took a very early summer vacation to go to Calgary. Angie did not know how she would be feeling by this point in her pregnancy when we made the initial, tentative, plans but it was a good trip.

After checking into our hotel, making my accessibility requests made and arranged for when we returned, we took a quick visit to the Chinook Centre for a nice coffee before heading to Lazy Monkey for a nice supper with a friend I hadn't seen for far too long. That was a lengthy visit because we had a fair bit to catch up on, but not as much as you might think. There is something so nice about reconnecting with someone you hadn't seen for years and it feeling like it was not that long ago.

After a reasonable night's sleep we made the obligatory IKEA run, where we ran into my cousins from Saskatoon, and their kids, then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Cross Iron Mills Mall, where we bumped into the same cousins multiple times. I guess those are the places Saskatchewan folk go when they visit Calgary. We wrapped the very snowy day up with supper at Joey (this dumbing down of restaurant names doesn't appeal to me, but the food did). We thought that by planning a trip at this time of year we would not run into much snow, but we did and they got hit the following weekend with even more.

The next day we went to the Symon Valley Ranch Farmer's Market where we had a chance to enjoy another nice coffee by the same roasters as on Friday, see some very unique products and vendors and bought a few things that we are in the process of enjoying now such as the beets that are the highlight of this post and a few ready-made soup and stew mixes which we plan to break into this coming Saturday. I'm not sure why, but I seem to be saving the beef jerky we picked up.

One thing about independent business and vendors, they are always so friendly, knowledgeable about their product and interested in serving their customers. It's always so enjoyable to interact with them and learn about their products that they are so passionate about. I'm not the type to snap pictures of everything and everyone, but I did snap a couple uninspiring shots while waiting for the empanadas we enjoyed before leaving shortly after noon. My apologies for the mediocre cell phone shots that precede the star photo of this post at the end.

That afternoon, Sunday, we went downtown to check things out. In past visits to Calgary we avoided downtown because we were assuming that the parking would be too expensive and the driving more intimidating than the benefit of going downtown. After Vancouver and Seattle last year downtown Calgary was completely unintimidating to drive in. We spent the afternoon at the Core shopping center, which cost us a whole two dollars for parking as Calgary has a very affordable and liberal parking policy on weekends.



At the top of The Core shopping center are the Devonian Gardens. It was a very nice place to spend some time enjoying plants and scenery since spring has been so late in coming to this part of the world. The only problem was getting up there with only one elevator for the entire shopping center which was always packed like a can of sardines. The multiple escalators seem to elude most people who could've used them.


I was hoping to have the opportunity to make a few photos of the gardens while we were there so I looked up their photography policies before we left. It sounded like they were reasonably casual but that anybody wanting to do anything serious need to reserve and pay for the time there. As such, there was a very large men's choir having a photo session after which they graced us with their talents before dispersing. It certainly added to the lovely atmosphere of the gardens.

However, I did not bring my camera because the weather looked lousy and we were not planning to go to the zoo so I was not going to haul it with me just to photograph a few flowers which would've only end up being snapshots, as seen above. The light was really nice in the gardens and the shiny metal tables made for beautiful fill light reflectors which meant Angie had to pose for me more than a few times.


After we had seen enough of the gardens and the shopping center we went downstairs and out onto 8th Avenue, also known as Stephen Avenue. This street is pedestrian only between certain hours of the day. It was nice to be able to stroll down the middle of the street, see the unique architecture and far more interesting businesses than your typical chain stores that every single mall in North America seems to have. It was almost eerily quiet to see so few people downtown in a city of over 1 million but it certainly was nice to have all the space to ourselves.

We made our way down to the Olympic Plaza then back to the shopping center and off to supper at a French-Indian fusion restaurant. It was called Saffron Mantra, had only been open a few months and was run by some really nice people. I hope they do well and that the few places they could improve get worked out quickly. I would not mind visiting it again.


We returned to our hotel and got to bed early to make for an easier trip home the next day. They were very accommodating at our hotel but we did not get an accessible room. I didn't terribly need it this time so I thought I would enjoy the opportunity to make a photograph while not on the bottom floor, as 99% of accessible rooms are.


After an uneventful trip home Monday, and another shorter week because of Angie's three-day course beginning on Friday, I dug into the beets we bought at the farmer's market in order to curb our craving for beet borscht after my Aunt Doreen's whetted our appetite for more of it.

I don't know I've cooked with purple cabbage before but the pattern and texture after cutting into it was just too beautiful to not make a photo of it.


The broth had begun to take on a bit of a purple texture with the juice of the cabbage but it wasn't until these little nuggets of beet are added that it turned to that deep and rich color.


Accompanied by a nice French baguette, with the dill stirred in at the very end, we had a very satisfying supper of hot soup and chewy bread. The best part, in addition to the enjoyment of cooking it, it was good to make a photo just for the fun of it. I always appreciate the purpose of my work on Challenging Reality but every once in awhile a photo just for the fun of it is important, also.

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