I am sure you have all heard the expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We all know, or we should, that the way we react to situations is our own choice. Some of us find that choosing to see the good when it is not all that apparent is quite easy and some don’t. I am a person who has always tried to be positive…even when things were quite bleak. I think this is why, for most of my life, I have been so happy!
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on a wonderful holiday with my true love this September. Rather than going somewhere exotic, we combined our holiday with some family “business” on his part. Stephen’s family is wonderful! Every last one of them! There are four wonderful brothers, an amazing sister and all the spouses. I am so lucky that they all welcomed me into the family! We have enjoyed some wonderful times together in the past few years…Palm Desert as well as various times in our lovely Alberta.
This September we started out by stopping by the family farm in Carstairs on our way to Calgary to meet Katie and Carl. Our first “lemon” was that we had booked the wrong Hampton Inn and Suites in Calgary…who knew that there were two with the same name…Hampton Inn and Suites Calgary Airport. We thought we were booking the same hotel we had stayed at the summer before. Alas, we were not. The hotel room was very nice and very clean. They only problem was that there was no restaurant or lounge. We did not have a suite and visiting with four adults was a tad crowded in our rooms. Did we let this bother us? No, we just found other places to enjoy each other’s company for those two nights.
The weather and the gorgeous fall foliage were amazing! We spent a wonderful day visiting an outdoor home decor exhibit followed by a lot of walking and visiting. We managed to get to one lovely art gallery. We had some wonderful, deep, philosophical discussions where I learned that the four of us are “kindred spirits.”
Then on to the hotel in Canmore. The original plan had been to stay in Banff but as it was still considered “the season” we decided to stay in Canmore but spend our days in Banff. The resort we stayed in was really a time share/condo. Not new…not really all that clean, but the suites were nice and the views were amazing! Again, the weather and the foliage were fantastic. Now, I know I said that the suite was nice…but there were some strange things about it. First of all, the one bedroom, complete with a King sized bed, was NOT a large room. In fact, it was so small that you couldn’t even open the closet door or get the luggage rack out of the closet.
Then there was the bathroom…The makeup mirror was located about a foot below the ceiling…fine for women over 7 feet tall, but for poor 4 foot 11 inch me, it was a joke. Have you ever tried to put on makeup while looking up at the ceiling??? Then there was the shower! Each suite had a steam shower, equipped with a foot massaging unit. The steam shower had 3 dual purpose knobs and a pin pad with MANY numbers and symbols on it. There WAS an instruction card located in the bathroom. Unfortunately the diagrams on the card were NOT for the shower in our room. We didn’t even want to use the steam part of the shower…all we wanted was a regular shower. You would think that would have been easy…but NO way! After at least a half hour’s reading and trying to figure it out, Stephen suggested I go first. I am SO glad I did not decide to wash my very thick hair…it would have been impossible to stay in the shower long enough to rinse the soap out because this was the HOTTEST shower I have ever had! And the shortest! I believe I looked like a lobster when I emerged. Stephen also had a very short, very hot shower.
When we met Katie and Carl for breakfast we asked them if they were able to figure out the shower. This is when we found out that not all the showers were the same. They WERE able to figure out how to make their regular shower work. They also flooded the entire bathroom in their suite…to the extent that water leaked to the suite below them (or so we heard). What happened to them was that when they turned the shower on, the cover on the foot massager blew off and water sprayed out at very high pressure.
Did any of this ruin our stay? Absolutely not! We laughed about it all. The next morning we had the opposite problem…NO hot water. So, sponge baths only (and short ones) until we checked into our hotel in Olds, where we knew the shower was not only clean, but we knew how to make it work and we knew we would have water of the correct temperature.
The other “funny” incident at our hotel in Canmore occurred in the restaurant in the hotel when we went for dinner…albeit a late dinner. Katie and I ordered wine…each of us ordered a nine ounce glass…why not? We weren’t driving! Stephen ordered a beer and Carl asked for “a glass of your finest Diet Coke.” This request seemed to confuse the waitress who was not all that comfortable with the English language. After finally figuring out what Carl wanted she left to get our drinks. When our wine arrived at our table it was very obvious that they were not nine ounce pours…we all suspected they weren’t even 6 ounces. We asked our lovely waitress about this and she assured us that we had 9 ounces. We were all a little upset and possibly a little bit more vocal in expressing this than we should have been. The two other couples in the restaurant were quite amused by us. Although this restaurant was advertised as a VERY upscale and popular place, there were very few diners that evening.
What could have been a very tense situation was made into something very different by my wonderful Stephen. He called the waitress over and told her that we were all gamblers and we always bet on things…for a lot of money. He said that Katie, Carl and myself thought we got a short pour but that HE thought we did not. He said he hated to lose bets and the only way to settle this was for her, our waitress, to bring us a measured shot glass and we would find out. She was very willing to do that…after all, she didn’t pour the wine. She returned with the shot glass and we measured the wine in the glasses…we were right…not quite six ounces! We let our waitress know and she righted the situation by bringing us the remaining three ounces and possibly a bit more.
Next we decided to order our food. Being that it was later than we usually dined, and we didn’t want a big, heavy meal, we opted for three appetizers. They were small but expensive…but that’s for later in the story. Katie, being very much like her brother, told the waitress (in a joking way) that “we didn’t want 75% of our appetizers, we wanted ALL, 100%, at the same time.” We were not sure if she knew we were joking and found out later that she probably did not. Our three dishes were: elk meatballs in a Saskatoon sauce; mini crab cakes with a different sauce for each one; and a charcuterie tray. They first two dishes were “fine” but certainly not terrific. The charcuterie tray was very weird indeed. On the plate were: pickled onions; olives; hot peppers; crostini; some sort of salami; some very “not dry” proscuttio; and some RAW bacon! Yes, raw bacon…okay, it was pancetta, but it was totally RAW and disgusting!
We did NOT make a fuss. We did not send anything back. We did not complain. But we did decide to order dessert. Katie, Carl and I ordered two to share between the three of us and Stephen asked the waitress if they had ice cream. She told him that they did but said, “You do NOT want that…it is VERY tiny…for children!” It was obvious that she was afraid he would be upset by the size of the scoops. Stephen assured her that he would be fine with just a little ice cream. When the desserts came out the ice cream was in a huge bowl and there were FOUR gigantic scoops of chocolate ice cream in the bowl. Our waitress obviously told the kitchen staff what had happened with the wine and asked for extra ice cream. We were not charged extra for this. But I will tell you that the cost of that particular dinner was extremely high! Way too much for what we ordered. In terms of how much we laughed and how much fun we had, it was well worth it!
On to Olds, Alberta, where we stayed in a wonderful hotel called the Pomeroy. It is located across the street from Olds College. The restaurant, Just Jacks, is terrific! Great food at great prices, served by skilled wait staff. There were NO lemons to be found at the Pomeroy! We all (12 of us most of the time) had a fantastic time! We even took over the lobby one night when Carl played his guitar and the family sang…and boy can they harmonize! The college has a Botanical Garden and Wetlands that allowed me to wander the grounds snapping gorgeous photos of the beautiful fall foliage.
We had so many wonderful experiences on this trip but the VERY best was an evening set up by Bonnie with her cousin Willie Hamm who is a musician and a Luthier. He makes amazing stringed instruments of all varieties. His work is flat-out unbelievable. He has a relationship with wood that one rarely sees (my son also has this relationship with wood). He showed us how he designs and builds all his instruments in his shop, which is attached to his home. He explained why he chooses a specific wood for a specific instrument…he actually can “play” a piece of wood…Willie makes one-of-a-kind instruments for famous and not so famous people. He showed us harps, guitars, bouzoukis, banjos, ukuleles, and other stringed instruments he has made or was in the process of making. He “book matches” the grain of the wood on each instrument. While making a guitar for a female country singer who has now passed away, he discovered that in the “book matching” process, a face appeared on the back of the guitar…a woman’s face. We saw that face and it was REALLY there.
After the experience of seeing how Willie designs and builds these instruments, we were treated to what I believe was the best (or possibly the second best next to Sir Paul’s) concert I have ever had the experience of attending. He played most of the instruments he had in his shop, and he can play all of them extremely well. He writes his own music, all instrumental (at least all he played for us). Willie is an amazingly talented musician as well as a wonderful Luthier. He has just produced his first CD and I am anxiously awaiting its arrival.
Willie uses only wood that has fallen naturally…he does not use wood that needs to be chopped down. He travels all over the world to get his wood. Willie is a MOST amazing man and the experience we were treated to that evening was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would have paid hundreds of dollars to have this experience!
The rest of our holiday was spent with the family…and what a wonderful family they are! Six siblings who all get along (maybe not always but most of the time) and who love and respect each other…although they certainly have many differences of opinions. These people know how to have fun! They know how to show their love! They know how to laugh and rejoice! And they all know how to sing! You can tell that I am NOT a biological member of this family as I cannot sing, although I wish I could.
There were no more “lemons” on this holiday. As far as I was concerned, the lemons we were given helped to create one of the best holidays I have had…EVER! Remember, YOU decide how the experiences in your life make you feel. Although I have always known this fact, this holiday showed me again that we are the creators of our Universe and we have the power to experience the life we desire!
Happy travels to you all!