Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Trip to Calgary

We finally made it to Calgary! We wanted to visit with Kirk and Robyn and with Alissa. We discovered that although it's 275km from Edmonton, the straight road and little traffic makes it a fairly easy, and quick, trip.

We enjoyed an evening with Kirk and Robyn, eating delicious lasagne and catching up. Good friends, good food, good conversation -- what more could we ask for?

On October 14, Alissa was installed as the associate pastor at First Mennonite Church - Calgary. We were really glad to be able to be there for her installation and to celebrate with her afterwards. Congratulations Alissa!

Besides visiting people and worshipping with Alissa at her church we also took some pictures. Here are a few to give you an idea of what fun we had with Alissa and Suzanne, her sister! These were all taken right behind Alissa's new house.

Celebrating Fall -- literally and figuratively!

I like the funky angle on this one.

Dave was there too :)

Suzanne and Alissa in front of Alissa' new house.

Natasha's work life

So after two months of working two jobs, both part-time, I have switched to working one job, full-time. I knew that both of my jobs had the potential to go full-time sooner rather than later and our pace of life helped me to make the decision to give up one on the sooner side. So I now work full-time as a research assistant for the Kidney Health Research Group at the University of Alberta.

In this position I gather articles, both from on-line and in the library, coordinate the articles, and generally keep track of all the details. I have worked on two new systematic reviews since I've been there and both have included about 300 articles which I tracked down (with a lot of help from a snazzy on-line system that directs me on where to find them), photocopied in triplicate, entered the results of whether or not they were relevant for the review, and other details. Actually, one of the reviews is just starting so I'm still at the tracking down and photocopying stage. I am also learning how to do data extraction.

One day a week I am also providing some assistance to the woman who is in charge of the finances. I just learned how to do cheque requisitions. And I can reconcile the accounts. It has been a little complicated to learn the ins and outs of the university accounting system but I am glad to be able to learn more about financial systems in general.

I decided to go with this job for a number of reasons. It is a little closer to our house and both the daily and yearly schedule work better with Dave's schedule (we get to walk one way together every day, except Fridays when Dave doesn't go to school, and we will have all the same holidays -- like the Winter break). I can see myself doing work like this more long term (I get to spend hours in the library!) and it fits in with my social conscience. And with only working one job I get to sleep in a little more -- attempting to wake up at 7am was really difficult for me.

So that's what is happening with my work life. My days fly by and I am always really busy, which I love. Right now I am considered casual which means I am paid per hour, but next September I will be permanent full-time which means paid holidays and benefits. For now I like the flexibility of being casual -- it means I can take as much time off as I need this coming year to visit Ontario, attend weddings, and take time for a honeymoon after ours!

Somewhere outside Vegreville...

As Natasha hinted at in her post about our Thanksgiving weekend, the most exciting part of the trip was saved for our drive home. Although we had put off the topic of marriage until we were settled in Edmonton, the combination of two long car trips and watching a movie about love, marriage and relationships brought the topic back to our attention. We realized that we -- and our relationship -- had indeed survived the trip out West, and that we were ready to take the next step. Unfortunately for you traditionalists out there, this realization did not come in the form of a proposal, nor was it accompanied by an engagement ring. Instead, we came to this conclusion while driving back from Saskatoon -- somewhere near Vegreville, to be precise. We got to a point in our conversation where we realized that we had essentially decided to get married, and immediately pulled off the highway and onto a dirt side road to let this settle in. Once it had, we got out of the car, hugged, and jumped around excitedly for a bit.

Since then, we have been a bit more organized in our plans for the wedding. We have bought rings -- plain gold bands, which we're wearing on our right hands until the wedding -- and have booked a place for the reception. Now we just need to figure out the ceremony (and an interfaith ceremony, to boot), a guest list, invitations, flowers, food, etc., etc. The wedding planning is a bit overwhelming, at times, but we're generally quite excited about our decision.

We spent a bunch of hours on the phone telling people our news and thanks to everyone who has congratulated us, and been happy with us, whether through phone, e-mail, and in person. We also went out for a celebratory engagement dinner at The Creperie and enjoyed really good food and champagne.

Now for some pictures.

Us playing around with our friend, Marika's, engagement ring in April. Who knew???

The picture we took of us after going out for dinner to celebrate.

A better picture of us, Alissa took when we visited her in Calgary, about a week after getting engaged.

We have rings!!! We're wearing our rings on our right hands until the wedding. Then we will switch them to our left hands. Dave's hand is on the bottom and Natasha's is on top. It's harder to take pictures of your hand than you might think.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Our first major road trip since arriving here in August was to drive to Saskatoon to spend Thanksgiving with Natasha's family. Natasha took the afternoon off work on Friday and we arrived in Saskatoon in time for supper.

This was a more low key weekend than some other times we had spent in Saskatoon. We still managed to help Natasha's parents clean a huge stack of boxes out of their garage on Saturday, and then Dave helped Natasha's dad install a garage door opener. Natasha hung out inside, enjoying the warmth, and playing computer games!

On Sunday, Natasha's mom and dad made a huge Thanksgiving dinner and Natasha's Grandma Krahn, her brother Jason, sister-in-law Erin, niece Ainsley, and nephew Liam, along with Erin's dad Bob, joined us for dinner. It was fun to play with Liam and Ainsley although they were hyper. (Not that you can tell that from these pictures!)

Ainsley with Natasha's mom

Liam playing

(Note from Natasha: I think my dad has some better pictures.)

On Monday we drove around some of Lakeshore's property with Natasha's dad, and tried our hand at water witching. Dave was better at it than Natasha. (Lakeshore is the tree business Natasha's dad owns with her two uncles, although her dad is retiring in three days. For the most part.)

We had a nice drive home and we think you all know the highlight of that part of the trip! For those who don't look for our next post...

A visit from Dave's family

In September, Dave's parents and niece, Lily, came to visit us. The visit coincided with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
After arriving and settling in on Wednesday night, everyone headed off to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah services the next morning. It gave Dave's family a glimpse the Reform Jewish community in Edmonton. That evening, we went out for dinner to meet a friend, Deb, from Dave's religious school days. We all ended up hanging out back at home, catching up and eating ice cream.
After a visit to the library -- which has an excellent children's section -- on Friday morning, we took advantage of a beautiful fall day and visited the Parliament grounds, which are about a fifteen minute drive from our house.

A nice garden near the buildings.

We wandered around the large green space in front of the buildings, and hung out at a bandshell for a while. That evening, we had a nice Shabbat dinner to mark the beginning of the Jewish sabbath, and enjoyed a dessert of honeycake, apples and honey, which are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah. We used the pottery from Natasha's care group at Waterloo North for the first time.

We took Dave's family along on our Saturday morning routine -- going to the market, visiting the library, and then going to our violin lessons. A clown even made Lily a balloon palm tree with a monkey, at the market.

Lily also spent some time playing with Kessler, our landlord's 9-year-old son, which was a good infusion of kid time for her.
That afternoon, we finally caved in to the unwritten Edmonton rule that "all out-of-province visitors must go to the West Edmonton Mall", and trekked down the Whitemud to West Ed. Despite not being mall people, we had a really good time; Natasha and Dave's mom got facials (at one of the many spas in the mall) while Dave, his dad and Lily hit the waterpark. We met up in time for dinner, and finished the day with a nice meal at The Spaghetti Factory.
Finally, Sunday arrived and it was time for Dave's family to fly home. We saw them off at the airport on Sunday morning, waving as they went through security, and then headed back to town in time to catch (most of) the service at First Mennonite Church. All in all, it was really good visit, and gave Dave's family a much better sense of his new home.

A tour of our house

Since most of you have not had a chance to visit us yet, we wanted to take you on a virtual house tour. We hope it entices you to come visit us soon!

We live in the front part of a duplex. We love our house. This is our house this past Sunday, after it snowed. We have a nice tree and a great parking spot for you. See, it's right in front. The window on your left is the office and the window on the right is the living room.

Come on inside. This is our front entry.

And to show you you're in Edmonton we have an Oilers hockey player that Dave drew when he was five. It seemed appropriate, somehow, to hang it in our new place!

You can have a seat in our living room...

... and look down the hall towards the kitchen.

Or you can see Dave working in the office and admire our collection of pictures. (The ceramic fish around our thermostat hung in Natasha's Ewert grandparents' house for many years and she is thrilled to be able to give them a new home.)

For some reason Dave is working at Natasha's desk in the office, instead of his own.

Here is our overstuffed bookshelf, and our cozy reading nook -- it is technically a closet but who can tell. In this picture you can also see Natasha's violin (which we both use) under the shelves, and Dave's guitar by the chair. You can also see evidence of Friends and Seinfeld episodes on DVD, our main form of mindless, but funny, entertainment.

This is the view to our kitchen. We like our kitchen and do a fair bit of cooking here.

The shelf that was to the left of the last picture lived in this part of the kitchen until Saturday night. Due to lack of counter space, and absolutely no drawers, we bought a kitchen island which Dave put together on Saturday.

Now our kitchen has more counter space and drawers for the cutlery to live in. We also reorganized all our food. We have been unintentionally feeding a mouse. He seems to really like chocolate. So now our kitchen is more mouse-proof than it was, and we are less likely to have things fall on our heads from the cupboards. Note particulary the clock Dave made when he was 12 years old is hanging on our wall and it still works!

This is our fish-filled bathroom. No live ones yet. The colour is a light purple; it was the most random colour we chose and we both really like how it turned out.

This is our bedroom. There usually isn't laundry on the bed to be put away, but there are always books on the night table. Note the pictures of our younger selves hanging above our heads. We are actually around the same ages in these pictures, and in similar positions -- lying on the floor with a rattle. A strange sort of symmetry.

This is mostly a picture of our closet but you can also see one of the plastic drawer units we have to help with the space issue -- we have more clothes than we have space to put them. You can also glimpse the hallway on the right which is basically a spot for three doorways to open to -- our bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen.

Between the living room and kitchen walls are the steps heading down to the basement. Eventually we will paint in the basement, too, but it just wasn't a priority in August.

And this our guest room and, sometimes, laundry drying room. We have a lovely bed for you to sleep on. My dad and Dave even sawed the box spring in half to get it down the narrow stairwell. (Don't worry, they put it back together too!) At some point we are planning on painting the wood paneling so it feels a little less seventies. But we've heard it's a pleasant place to sleep.

And that is the tour of our house. We hope you can come and see it in person sometime. We even planted bulbs a few weekends ago, so if you come in the Spring you might get to see tulips, crocuses and freesia in bloom.

Some random pictures of us planting some of our flowerbeds:

So what's there to do for fun around here?

By now you may be wondering: what do Dave and Natasha do when they're not working, studying, or taking trips across the Praries? Well, we've gotten into a number of activities here in Edmonton, from folk dancing to fiddling. Curious? Read on!

Before setting out for Edmonton, Natasha retrieved her violin from a friend with the intention of taking lessons once we arrived. Dave was also interested, as he had previously attempted (quite unsuccessfully) to teach himself to play. Luckily, we found a friendly teacher at a local music store, and we each spend half an hour every Saturday afternoon torturing this poor soul. On a more pleasant note, we've developed a routine on Saturday which -- in addition to the violin lessons -- includes a trip to the farmer's market and a stop at the local branch of the library, all of which are a short walk from our house.

Through a friend of Dave's, we met a couple who teach an Israeli folk dancing class. We have gone to a couple of the beginner classes, and both really enjoyed it. The dances we've been taught are easy enough to learn, and from watching the intermediate classes, we are certain that more challenging dances lie ahead!

Dave has also gotten involved at the Reform synagogue (Temple Beth Ora) on the Communications Committee. Specifically, he is helping out with their website (surprise!), and is also starting to take on other miscellaneous computer tasks. After several years of non-involvement at his synagogue in Waterloo, he's happy to be contributing to the congregation here in Edmonton. Natasha has been attending here as well, and she is taking an Introduction to Judaism course to learn more about Dave's faith.

We also have attended First Mennonite Church in Edmonton a few times, although aren't as regular there as we are at Temple Beth Ora.

Natasha, meanwhile, is taking a beginner ballet class at the U of A on Monday evenings. She has wanted to take ballet for a number of years, and is really happy to be able to follow through on that interest. She enjoys the barre work, especially balancing on her toes (but she's not doing en pointe yet) and jumping, but has a hard time maintaining her balance on the floor work -- Dave is just impressed that she can stay on her toes for such a long time!

Dave is fighting the sedentary tendencies of student life by playing squash and jogging at the U of A track a few times a week.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dave in Edmonton

Now that Natasha has told you about her employment situation, I figured I should fill you in on what I've been up to here in Edmonton (no, the answer is not "nothing" -- that would make for a very short and boring post :).

My main projects over the past few weeks have been a couple of websites that I've been asked to re-design. One is for Project Teach, a program run by a friend of the family (Pierre Joanis) which helps train schoolteachers in Haiti. The old version of the site is up at http://www.project-teach-haiti.org, and my "new and improved" version should be going up within the next few days.

The other site is for Wave Control, the company that Natasha is working for. Natasha was discussing her possible duties with Trevor (her boss) when the topic of improving the company's website came up. She recommended me for that part of the job, and so I've been working with Trevor to spiff up the existing site. This site is located at http://www.wavecontrol.ca, but it is -- once again -- the old version, and I'm not sure exactly when we're going to switch over to the new version.

The other bit of employment I've had this past week was helping Trevor clean out his old condo, which he officially moved out of at the end of August. This involved moving furniture, boxes, etc., and then cleaning the place from top to bottom -- floors, fridge, stove, bathroom, etc. It took a bit longer than I'd hoped, but it was satisfying to be able to leave the place knowing I'd done a thorough job, and that it would be clean for the people moving in.

Besides the website design stuff, I've been doing house organization things like hanging pictures, organizing books, and other general tasks like cooking, and grocery shopping. The school term starts tomorrow (aaah!) with a day of grad orientation events, so I will be turning my attention towards my degree quite soon.

Natasha's new jobs

Well now that you know all about the moving aspect of life I thought I'd tell you all what exactly it is that I'm doing here. I have two part-time jobs, both of which were lined up before I got here. It's true that there's a shortage of employees in Alberta, which worked out well for me :)

My first job is an office manager-administrative assistant-bookkeeping position. I will work twenty hours a week, in the mornings. The company is called WAVE CONTROL systems ltd (www.wavecontrol.ca) and they produce a very specific part for the oil industry -- it has to do with chemical fluid control. I really don't understand more than that. I am doing all of the bookkeeping, various administrative tasks, and eventually I will also be a part of the quality control and testing phase of things. I might even get to assemble some fusion boxes, whatever they are! This past week I worked full-time at WAVE CONTROL since the research group wasn't ready to have me start yet.

That's my other job -- I am a research assistant for a kidney research group at the University of Alberta. I will be working there in the afternoons. My good friend, Natasha Wiebe, is a statistician for the group and she is the one who has brought me on board. I am looking forward to starting there next week and will be able to fill you all in on more details of that job at a later point.

One of the things I really like about both my jobs is that they are located within walking distance of our place. The walk to WAVE CONTROL is 3.3 km from our house and takes me a little over half an hour. I don't know what it will be like in winter but I am looking forward to the challenge! The walk to the university is also about half an hour. Unfortunately they are located on opposite sides of our house so to get from one to the other I will have to take the bus. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

Entry into Edmonton

After a week in Saskatoon, we headed out on the final leg of our journey, arriving in Edmonton early on Thursday afternoon (August 16). First of all though, we had to continue our tour of big things by seeing the Egg at Vegreville.

The Yellowhead in Saskatchewan

Our new provincial home

Yep, it's really a giant egg!

We got a tour of our new home from Deanna, our landlord, and went out to buy paint. Natasha's parents arrived that evening, and we spent the next three days transforming our place from a beige box into a colourful, bright home, complete with furniture -- brought from Saskatoon by Natasha's mom and dad -- and our boxes of stuff, which arrived safely from Waterloo. We are so thankful that Natasha's parents not only gave us lots of furniture that they weren't able to use, but also fixed walls, painted with us, and helped us move in for three days, in the midst of their move. Thanks.

Since words cannot describe the transformation our place underwent during those three days, we are including some pictures.

Natasha's dad fixing the numerous holes in the walls.

Our (only) door is on the right and the hall to our kitchen is on the left. Just a sample of the beige-ness of our house.

Dave showing off his paint rolling skills.

Our bedroom is getting blue-er!

Natasha's mom painted a first coat on all of our trim before she left.

After all the furniture was moved in,
we were more than ready to relax...

... but we had some unpacking to do.

Saskatchewan Stories

Our week in Saskatchewan was mostly spent helping Natasha's mom and dad move. For those who don't know, Natasha's mom and dad recently sold the place where Natasha grew up. Located about two kilometres outside of Saskatoon when they first settled there, in 1970, there is now a sub-division planned for the land upon which the family home sits. Thus the move to a location about 10 kilometres outside of the city. During the week, we helped pack, move, unload and unpack about four trailer loads of stuff. And countless car trips too!

Natasha had the opportunity to stroll down memory lane, dragging Dave with her, as she sorted through various books, toys, photo albums and clothes from her earlier years. Thus we moved an extra five boxes with us to Edmonton. Natasha was especially glad to re-discover her Cabbage Patch doll, named Julie Melinda.

Natasha was glad to be a part of the transition from the old house to the new farm. And her mom and dad have lots of plans for renovations for next summer so this probably won't be the last week of helping her mom and dad in Saskatchewan.

Other than moving we also spent part of one day driving to Rosthern, where Natasha showed Dave the school in which she spent her Grade 12 year. She even got to show him the room she lived in, in the Girl's Dorm. And the all-important brick on the old schoolhouse where she had carved her name. (This is a Rosthern Junior College tradition and Natasha's brick is on the same wall as her Grandpa Ewert's, and those of both her parents. Her dad, for some reason, even managed to scam *two* bricks!) After the school tour, we enjoyed a Mennonite brunch at a heritage farm which was quite tasty.

We also spent some time with Natasha's brother, Jason, and his family -- partner Erin and kids Liam and Ainsley. Liam won for quote of the day, when after ordering our food at a restaurant he announced, "Now we're in hibernation." "What does that mean, Liam?" someone asked. "It's when we sit and wait for the food to come!"

Since our time in Saskatoon was so focused on moving Natasha's mom and dad, we have no pictures at all from this week. Maybe next time...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Note to our readers

In case you haven't noticed, we've added some pictures. There are new ones going all the way back to Prague, so check them out throughout the blog. Thanks for reading and more coming soon...

Road Trip Pictures

The Big Nickel at Sudbury and Dave

The Big Loonie outside Sault Ste. Marie and us
(gotta love self-taken pictures!)

A moose crossing sign
(Unfortunately we didn't see any real moose.)

A beautiful Northern Ontario view

Heading North on the Trans-Canada

Lake Superior has cold water!

Ontario's longest suspension bridge
(at Ouimet Canyon, near Thunder Bay)

The Terry Fox monument, just outside Thunder Bay

How could we not take this picture?!? It's in Dryden.

Visiting Jason and Katharina in Winnipeg

The first sign of home
(for some of us!)
'Nuff said.

Tying comforter knots with Grandma Ewert
at the Thrift Store in Lanigan, SK