Friday, June 25, 2010


The power went down in my apartment, the rest of the complex, and pretty much all of C'ville just over 24 hours ago. Cell phone signals are spotty, the Darden email server is down and I am bringing this blog to you from my office - a generator-fueled oasis of power and AC.

I find it ironic that I grew up practically in the tundra, still making it to work when it was -40C with blowing winds and three feet of snow, but a 15-minute storm can send an entire city into a tizzy. As a result, there have been only a few times in my life when I have had to live without power, and most of those times have been on camping trips. ;-) Boy, I wish I had a cooler and a Coleman stove right now!

Over the last 24 hours, I've discovered just how inextricably my life is linked to technology. For example, what do you do when you are out of communication with friends (no phone signal or Internet access), have no power for your computer or TV, and can't go for a walk because the street lights aren't working (a bad combination when the sidewalks are littered with fallen trees)? Well, a lot of people may take that opportunity to read. So, I did that, but since I have my books on the Kindle app on my iPhone, it only lasted until the low battery warning came and alerted me I may want to save that power to serve as an alarm clock in the morning. (Still died, but managed to wake up on time without it... Julie: 1, Technology: 0)

Anyway, like a true junkie, I am at the office charging up the following items before returning home to sweat it out (AC not working) in my dark apartment: portable DVD player, iPhone and laptop. I did have plans for tonight, but with email and phone signals down, I have no idea where I'm supposed to go! Until the power returns, this is a great place to bunker down, since some of the restaurants on the Mall have power, and a restaurant is definitely more appealing than beef jerky and pita chips at home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

It's the time of year where kids all over present their dads with school-crafted neckties and celebrate fatherhood with BBQs. Although I outgrew the construction paper tie phase of my life many years ago, and, being 2,300 miles away, am not able to prepare a BBQ dinner for my dad, I want to honour him through a special tribute post.

My dad is one of the most giving, selfless men that I know. I can't say for sure, but I would almost bet that he is spending this Father's Day with his "adopted family" - a group of Congolese refugees who he delivered winter jackets to at Christmas and has since invited into his life. My dad has spent his life seeking out people that he can love through various ways, whether by helping single moms with construction projects around their homes, being an adopted dad at father/son events for boys that have no fathers (which worked out well for him, seeing as how I have only sisters!) or just generally inviting his friends to truly be a part of his life. Ever since my family moved to Edmonton, my dad always sought to make sure we had as many people over for Christmas or Easter dinner as we could possibly find who didn't otherwise have family in town. My dad was a model of what it means to love others, unconditionally.

One of the things that always drove me crazy when I lived with my parents was that it seemed as though the house was always under construction. My dad loves to build and remodel and dream about what could be. While my parents' house (and the house they are building) definitely reaps the benefit of this, there are also houses and camps everywhere that have benefited from this passion. My dad gives his Saturdays (and often evenings) to drive out to camp and build cabins or do renovations. In addition to this, he started a ministry at church called "Tool Time" which provides home renovation help to people who might not otherwise have the talent or money to get projects done on their own.

Although my dad was quite disappointed that I never became an accountant, he's supported my career decisions. One of the best parts of our relationships now is that we've moved from a relationship where "father knows best" to a dialogue where I share what I'm learning and give him input into his own business based on what I am learning and experiencing through my own career and education. I think the best gift my dad could have given me, and both my sisters, is the confidence that we can do anything, and then backing that confidence up by listening to what we are learning and letting us make our own decisions in life.

All in all, I am very truly blessed with the family that I have. I can't even express in words how appreciative I am, and I know that others are not as fortunate. But my dad has not just been a blessing to us - he's given the same love and support to countless others.

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


For many years, New York City was at the top of my list of places I wanted to visit, but seemed far and inaccessible. It was on the other side of the continent, and extremely excited. Given that travel during my first 25 years of life consisted mainly of road trips, and New York was a four-day drive away (yes, I actually looked into it), it just didn’t seem practical.

As I write this blog entry, I am riding the train back from my third trip to Manhattan. (No wifi yet, but there are power outlets to plug in my laptop!) The first trip to New York came when I was on the East Coast visiting MBA schools and stopped there with my mom for the weekend. We saw all the tourist attractions – spending time at Times Square every night, walking through Central Park, seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway, watching the New York Philharmonic play at Lincoln Center, watching Brett Favre in action at a New York Jets game and playing “Heart and Soul” on the big piano at FAO Schwartz. Though it should have satisfied my NYC cravings, it only whet my appetite for more NYC.

Now that my experience in NYC has transitioned from staying in expensive hotel rooms to sleeping on couches in friends’ apartments, the things I see and do have changed. Yesterday, instead of riding the Staten Island ferry (and catching that long-awaited glimpse of the Statue of Liberty), my friend and I went to a BBQ festival and caught up with some of her old friends. In some ways, I miss the tourist parts of New York, but seeing it as an “insider” has its definite benefits.

For starters, transportation costs are cheaper because you spend less money on hailing cabs and instead take public transit. Public transit is probably one of the best advantages of having a friend in the city; I saved a fortune on cab fare by knowing exactly which train to take to and from the airport in Munich. While public transit is accessible to everyone, there are so many other options that I never would have discovered if not for my friends. (Like the PATH trains to New Jersey, which I just found out about this weekend.)

You also get to eat at the less-crowded, less-hyped, but amazingly good restaurants that aren’t “World Famous” or located in the touristy areas. Yesterday morning, I walked straight past the one-hour line-up to get into Carlos’ Bakery of Cake Boss fame. Instead, last night I ate the most delicious, moistest chocolate cake I’ve ever had in my life at this little bakery called Amy’s Bread. On Friday night, we had incredible Chinese food at the Peking Duck House in Chinatown. The wait was only 10 – 15 minutes, and my friend was surprised there even was a wait. If it hadn’t been for the engagement party in the back half of the restaurant, we would have sat right down. The food was also much more reasonably priced than Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.

There’s a line from a John Mayer song that goes “Didn’t have a camera by my side this time, hoping I could see the world with both my eyes.” That’s how I felt about this trip. My camera was in my purse, but it stayed there all weekend. Instead, I paid more attention to enjoying my surroundings and taking in the people watching. I’ll do the tourist stuff the next time I visit the city with someone from back home, but for now, I enjoy being almost a local.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Before this summer, I never would have considered myself a "foodie." Though I did enjoy food that tasted good, I never thought too much about where it came from or imagined new ways I could put food together to make something delicious.

Hours staring at a spreadsheet with delicious, local ingredients and reading even the first few chapters of "Omnivore's Dilemma" changed that for me. Although I still haven't gotten very far in "Omnivore's Dilemma", it's been interesting to see the implications of the corn takeover and how it's affected what we consume. Did you know that North Americans (Mexicans excluded...) have more corn in their bodies than the rest of the world? It's because it's in everything we eat. Farmers grow corn and feed it to cows, chickens and pigs. Even if we aren't eating corn, we eat it every time we eat beef, eggs, bacon, milk or cheese. To take it a step further, consider that corn is used to make most soft drinks (corn syrup), anything processed (corn starch) and pretty much everything we eat.

What's the problem with corn? There are a few. It takes more energy to produce corn than it actually provides, due to the use of synthetic fertilizers. It destroys traditional farms. It used to be that farmers grew oats, vegetables and other grains so they could feed their cows, chickens and pigs. Those cows, chicken and pigs would leave behind the remnants of their dinner, and this would be used to fertilize the fields for the next batch of crops. It was a self-sustaining system. Corn, instead, takes over the whole field (along with soy) and farming becomes industrial.

Anyway, although I haven't gotten as far as I'd like with "Omnivore's Dilemma", that's been in the back of my mind as I spend my days analyzing customer purchase patterns at work. Part of that process has involved going over our product database many times, which has provided me an opportunity to view the plethora of local foods available that were produced without corn. It's also enabled me to be a little more creative in what I'm cooking, and though I still don't feel confident to stray from a recipe, I've been looking up new recipes to try.

And, as part of that whole process, I took the plunge and ordered some very expensive chicken from a place called Polyface Farms. Food at Polyface is produced using the good, old-fashioned farming models, and despite the fact that I slightly overcooked the apple-stuffed chicken I made with it, I could tell there was a definite improvement over the regular chicken I buy.

Is this just an intern-induced fad, or will it mean sustained changes in the way I view food and the food chain? Only time will tell.