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Shopping Stimulant

posted Mar 30, 2012, 5:00 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 5:21 PM ]

As I step off the escalator on the top floor, my senses are immediately assaulted. I went one floor too many, but it’s too late. My eyes are transfixed, and try as I might, I cannot take them off an enormously breasted anime doll.  I am like a child who just flipped through Play Boy for the first time. I am a slave to the dolls. What amuses me the most about the dolls is the fact that they are showing the politeness of the Japanese culture - the dolls have tape over their nipples. This tape by no means diminishes the disturbing sexual scene that perturbs my eyes. Two girls and one dog. I will say no more.


Somehow, my mind breaks through the stimulus overload and wills my legs to move. I cannot avert my gaze as I am forced to walk through most of the floor to find the down escalator and make my escape. I go down one floor and become lost in a maze of dishes. I slowly make my way through each floor. I feel as if I am on some sort of artificial stimulant. The florescent lights make my eyes hurt and it’s so hard to see the details of the vast array of items to buy. I feel I cannot leave until I buy something. Each object screams to me “You want? You need me!”


The endless streets have brought me to this 8 story monolith of light and sound where I've found what I didn't even know I needed. On the electronics floor, I find it — a light up USB rubber ducky.

Putting on my headphones, I blend into the hundreds of shoppers who have found what they came for, and the thousands who will unexpectedly purchase one of the millions of things you can only find in Akihabara.

26 Hour Train Trip

posted Jul 8, 2011, 11:57 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Jul 9, 2011, 12:38 AM by Colin Beck ]

The last time I was on a via rail train was from Edmonton to Kamloops. I was 5 years old, it was the dead of winter and we had to pick up a few train cars from another train that had the engine freeze. Now I'm 29 and my husband, Colin and 3 month old daughter Alicia took the train from Edmonton to Vancouver. Colin found us an awesome last minute deal on VIA rail's website for 75% off. We stayed in a sleeper cabin with our own private bathroom and bunk beds.

Travelling on a train with a baby is very easy. Alicia can eat when she wants, sleep,
  get out of her car seat to cuddle. We fed her before our meals in the dining car and the rocking of the train kept her asleep while we ate. The meals were impressive. For supper I had lamb in a blueberry gravy and Colin had maple salmon. We had soup, salad and dessert. Complimentary coffee, tea, cookies, yogurt and snacks were available too.

Travelling by train from Edmonton to Vancouver may take longer than flying but the journey is half the fun of getting there. We were allowed 50 lbs of checked luggage each and we were allowed carry-ons
that weighed 50 lbs too. We had no security checks and only one of us needed to show ID to get on the train. My parents were allowed on the train and checked out our cabin before we pulled away. The staff on the train were very accommodating. They made up our bed as soon as we requested and even put chocolates on our pillow as a finishing touch.

When it was time to detrain (yes they really say that), we wanted to stay on the Canadian and continue our romantic luxurious journey.

Itinerary of our time on the train

8:00 am Left Edmonton and wandered the train. We got a seat in the skyline panoramic car with a beautiful view of lake Wabamun and a few junk yards.
10:30 am Brunch in the dining car. We had a choice of pasta, Beligian waffles or omelette.
1:00 pm Arrived in Jasper for an hour and had ice cream outside.
2:30 pm Bon Voyage tiramasu and champagne.
3:00 pm Viewed the mountains from the skyline car with the panoramic view
5:00 pm Supper in the dining car.
7:00 pm Car park (caboose on the train with lounge chairs and an upstairs with a view all the way to the front of the train) We visited it right after our supper so we could beat the crowds.
11:00 pm Back to the skyline car to view the stars before bed (option to step off the train for a few minutes)
7:00 am Up for full breakfast and then off the train

Here are a few more photos from our trip:

View from the dining car

Skyline car

Car Park (caboose)

View from the Skyline car

BeckTrek with Baby

posted Jun 9, 2011, 11:24 AM by Serena Beck

Wow, BeckTrek is long overdue for a blog post. We expanded our family from 2 to 3 people on April 01, 2011 when our beautiful little girl Alicia Victoria Beck was born. We took Alicia (2 months old) for her first road trip last weekend to visit my best friend Erin and her son Ayden.

Alicia slept the entire 2.5 hours to Lloydminster. However, as soon as we hit our first red light in town she started cooing and gurgling to let us know that she was still in the back seat and was getting tired of being in her car seat. In addition to visiting, Alicia found her first geocache and Colin visited Saskatchewan for the first time where Alicia found her second geocache. These were also Erin and Ayden's first geocaches too.

On Sunday, Alicia played at the park and swayed in a swing without a seat belt. She also raced us down the slide .

Alicia is a great traveller and slept for the 2.5 hour car ride home too. This is just the beginning of travel for Baby BeckTrek.

Island Life in Nanoose Bay

posted Sep 8, 2010, 6:32 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Sep 11, 2010, 9:30 PM ]

Colin and I enjoyed life on the island at his mom's house for the long weekend. We snorkelled in the ocean, admired purple starfish, ate fabulous seafood and enjoyed the company of family. It was a nice relaxing retreat.

Susan and Brian toured us around to a few wineries MooBerry Winery,  Averill Creek Vineyard and Merridale Cider House. We savoured cheese at the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. Our favourite cheese was the creamy berry cheese and they also had a great mushroomy Brie too.

A trip to B.C. just isn't complete without a little duck hunting. I bought 32 rubber ducks from Zydeco gifts on Johnson street. This brings my collection to 479 rubber ducks.

We visited Coombs and the goats on the roof. We found a geocache while we were there. Unfortunately, my stamp and scrapbook store is now a fudge store. The antique stores were turned into hippie clothing stores and fast food stores. The main grocery store still sells delicious candied salmon so that was all we bought.

Here's a few more pics from the trip:

And if you just have to see them all, here are all 341 photos:

Baby on Board Signs in Vehicles-Is there a Purpose?

posted Aug 22, 2010, 6:31 PM by Serena Beck

Parents want to do everything they can to protect their children and put them first in their lives. This is  understandable. That first ride home from the hospital can be scary and you may drive extra careful and check 3 times that the car seat is in correctly. Your vehicle may even sport the suction cupped warning sign on the back window that states "Baby on Board!" You may graduate to the "Kids on Board" sign as your kids get older or you may opt for the baby bottle magnet that says "Baby on Board."
What is the Purpose of these Signs?
Do these baby and kid signs mean that because you have a baby on board other drivers better drive extra careful around this vehicle. If, heaven forbid, you were in a car accident, it better be with a car that doesn't have any little people on board. Perhaps you should find a car containing much older people instead (watch out Seniors on board will be the next sign).
Do these signs mean that as a parent, you may be too busy oogling or stuffing a soother in your child's mouth to pay attention to the road. Should the sign serve as a warning about your driving and potential risks as a "New Driver" sign does. Watch out it's a new driver. New drivers are unpredicatble. Watch out it's a parent driving and she make sudden dangerous moves.  These may be rather unfair assumptions but these are the connotations that I receive from these signs.
Other car signage fads similar to the baby signs included the Pisces or Jesus fish , the balls dangling from trucks, cancer, military, fight against bad driving etc. ribbons, Calvin figure peeing on a bush or logo,  the stick people family and the list goes on and on. Most of these signs advertise your religion, your beliefs, likes, dislike etc. so unlike the "Baby on Board!" signs, they actually server a purpose.
In my opinion these signs do not make your children safer in the car. The only purpose that I can see for these signs is to advertise to the world that you have children  or twins or whichever version of the sign you purchase for your vehicle. If you have one of these signs on your car, please make sure that you're not using it as an excuse to drive poorly - every other car has humans on board.

Mosquito Patches: Do they really work?

posted Aug 1, 2010, 3:36 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Aug 1, 2010, 4:09 PM ]

Colin and I went camping last weekend and we each wore a mosquito patch to try and prevent mosquito bites. The Insect Defend Patch is mostly made up of Vitamin B and doesn't contain Deet like most smelly mosquito repellants. You stick the patch on your arm or leg or whereever you want just as you would stick on a band aid or a stop smoking patch.
Colin placed his patch on his left arm and I placed mine on my right leg.  We didn't have a control for our experiment (someone not wearing a patch). I received 2 bites-one on my leg right below the patch and one on my left leg. Colin received 3 bites on the same arm and hand that his patch was on. We didn't receive any other bites from mosquitos or other insects the entire weekend. It's hard to say if these bites were received before the patch kicked in. You're supposed to put it on 2 hours before you are exposed.
The patches last 36 hours but we didn't wear the same patches all weekend. We put new patches on after we showered on Saturday morning. My patch did prevent me from receiving any mosquito bites when I went running on Sunday night and mowed the lawn on Sunday night.
Where to Purchase Insect Defend Patches in Edmonton
I bought ours from the Fisin' Hole - $8.00 for a box of 5 patches. Someone in my yoga class also told me that they are available from Rexall drug stores for $7.00 a box.
We're going to put our patches on right now. We're heading to a barbecue in celebration of Swiss National Day today with some good friends. Since we're following the instructions of putting the patches on two hours before exposure we shouldn't receive any bites.

First Child and Grandchild Favouritism

posted Jul 20, 2010, 8:25 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Jul 20, 2010, 9:30 PM ]

I know life isn't always fair and that things are not always going to be equal between siblings. However, I have sensed in my family and, my husband's family (and I'm sure we're not alone) that the first child and first grandchild are favoured over their siblings. 

Parents often unknowingly favour their oldest child by filling out that child's baby book, setting up a post secondary fund, taking more pictures of that child, keeping more of that child's toys, drawings, clothes etc.  Some people may try to justify this by saying that of course there would be more pictures of that child and a filled out baby book because that child has been around longer than the youngest child. In my opinion, this is not a justifiable excuse. 

Everyone in the family such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles remember the first grandchild's or nephew's or niece's first sleeper, first word, first kiss etc. However, if you were to ask them about these items for the youngest child, they would not remember (even though it would have happened more recently).

You may say there are exceptions to favouritism. For example it's rare that people receive a baby shower for their second, third or fourth child, but they do for the first. This may partially be due to the fact that when you are having your first child you start with no supplies. Whereas for the second and third child, you would be expected to reuse certain supplies from the first kids such as strollers etc. 

I was recently at a family event talking to some distant relatives. By the end of the conversations, I realized that no one had asked how I was doing (even though we talked about how they were doing) and we only talked about my brother, his wife and their 3 kids (who could not attend the event). My brother is 3 years older than me and I love him and I enjoy saying positive things about his family, but it was as if I didn't even exist to this person. Someone said to me "Oh yeah, I thought I recognized that guy you were sitting with." What I wanted to say was: "Yes, he is my husband and you were at our wedding 4 years ago." However, I am too polite for my own good most of the time.

Therefore, when we have children, if you want to spoil our first child, please save an equal amount of spoiling for the second child too.  I'm not saying that this is how our relatives will act when we have kids, but I have witnessed it in the past. I'm safe on my side of the family because my brother is the oldest grandchild and also had the first great-grand child. However, if we have kids first, Colin is the oldest grand-child and has the potential to have the first grandchild.  

It is also possible for the youngest child or the middle child or the 10th child to be favoured over other children too. However, more often than not it's the oldest child.

Since I grew up  being the youngest child, I am going to try to ensure that I fill out both my kids' baby books. For all the times I've hunted through my older brother's photo albums to find a picture of myself, I'll make sure that I take just as many photos of all my second child as my first. All the second and third born children out there stand up with me and demand that you get  to stay up as late as our older sibling!

Weed Huggers

posted Jul 11, 2010, 8:11 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Jul 11, 2010, 10:58 PM by Colin Beck ]

Most people have probably heard of tree huggers. I admit that I am a tree hugger because I once spent 20 minutes wandering around a US Military Hospital (I was there for work)  trying to find a place to recycle my plastic water bottle. I never did find one and the person we were working with gave me a plastic palm tree (my fave tree) for me to hug instead. 

I determined this weekend that my cats are weed huggers. Similar to how people sit in trees in the rain forest to prevent the deforestation of trees, our cats lay on the base of piles of quack grass absorbing the cool dirt and eating bugs. They protest the uprooting of the weeds. The weeds are their jungle fortress. We see it as a sign of laziness if the weeds are not pulled. However, unless you have something to wipe the weeds of existence there is no point uprooting them. This weekend my parents helped us pull many of our weeds and replace them with sidewalk  blocks. After 3 years, we finally have a real sidewalk and a mini patio.

Colin also finished the flooring in the loft our garage/our future poker lounge. I am going to hang my seated hammock up their from one of the rafters. That will be my only object in his "man space." Colin also completed the electricity and all the wiring in the garage too. Stay tuned for details of the fire pole and the pulley system for restocking beers in the loft.

Jasper in June: A Motorcycle Retreat

posted Jul 4, 2010, 12:43 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Jul 5, 2010, 2:47 PM by Colin Beck ]

From June 10-13th, 2010, Colin and I headed out on his motorcycle to reconnect ourselves to the Canadian Rockies. We saw many mountains on our RTW trip last year, but sometimes it's nice to play in your own backyard too. 

On Day 1 we left Edmonton and headed to Jasper. It was cloudy and about 20 minutes into our highway ride it felt like little rocks were striking my legs (sometime tiny rocks do hit us), but it was rain. We stopped to put the protective covers on the bags before it started to pour. We both stayed dry with our multiple layers of pants. I had my lulu capris, jeans, and then rain pants over top. Colin had his jeans and his waterproof biker pants over top. It was a bit of a chilly ride, but it was all worth it to breathe the crisp Jasper air. We stayed at the Hayward House for only $60.00 for one night. Our host Ann told us that it was -2 on the parkway that morning, but it was sunny and warm when we arrived. We had dinner at the Downstream Bar and Grill. It was a trendy little pub that had a great atmosphere for relaxing (we sat in the couch seats) or drinking into the late hours of the night. We grabbed a geocache in town and then retired for the night.

Hayward House deck

After a restful sleep in the cute character house on Patricia Street in Jasper, we headed for our long journey to Revelstoke. On our way out of Jasper and Alberta we saw a brown bear and a black bear. The tourists were lined up as a smorgsboard at the side of the road for the bears. The bears come down from the mountains to find food at the side of the road and many tourists were out of their cars walking towards the baby bears for pictures. Idiots. We only stopped once for a picture (since we didn't have much metal protecting us) and it was when the bear was really far away.

It was a fun, warm and long day of riding. We made lots of stops for snacks and geocaches and found a cute little Swiss bakery in Valemont to grab a strudel. 

We drove through the Shuswaps and wished that we had time to swim in the Lake. We will definitely have to go for another motorcycle trip to the Shuswaps sometime. We arrived late at our couchsurfer's house. We visited for a little while and then crashed.

Lake Agnes tea house

Day 3 was all about the hike for us and the main purpose of our trip. We went to Lake Louise and hiked to the Lake Agnes tea house. We spent $50.00 on sandwiches, dessert and tea. It was pricey because everything including all the waste has to be walked down the mountain or brought in/out by helicopter. We felt rather out of shape during the up hill hike, especially when a couple that were each carrying a kid on their backs passed us. It took us 70 minutes to hike up and 45 minutes to hike back down to Lake Louise.

I highly recommend going on the 3.5 km hike (one way). There is also a beautiful water fall at the top of the mountain. On our way to Lake Louise, we stopped at one of my favourite types of waterfalls - the mini waterfall at the side of the highway that trickles down the mountain from melting snow and slips under the highway. We also filled up my water bottle and drank the water on the way up the mountain, which may have been the cause of our quick trip back down the mountain for an emergency bathroom visit. 

We stayed at the Lake Louise hostel and it was one of the nicest hostels we have stayed in. There were many families staying there and Colin even chatted with a few people about his bike. It was a bit pricey, but we paid extra for a private room. There is a restaurant in the hostel that serves comforting home cooked food at an affordable price and there are endless activities - fuse ball, fire place, board games etc.

Day 4 was a really long ride back to Edmonton but we had to do it in one day because I was leaving for Boston for a work trip the next day. We stopped lots due to our sore muscles from the hike. I felt like a fidgety 5 -year-old on the back of Colin's bike. It was also so hot that I managed to burn my cheek through my helmet even though I was wearing sun block. 

I think bikers sometimes receive special treatment and this occurred on our way home when we had to pay for our park pass again. On the way in we paid almost $20.00 and on the way out we received 2 for 1 admission and only paid $10.00. Sweet deal. Sometimes it pays to be on the bike.

So beautiful it almost looks photo shopped but it's not
We ate a bit more extravagantly then we normally would while travelling which increased the cost of our 4 day and 3 night trip. Here is the break down of our costs:

A few other random photos from our trip:

Duck I bought in Jasper in the side of the road waterfall

The lovely sights of Jasper

Coffee break

Nice view from the gas station

Home cooked meal at the Lake Louise Hostel

Squirrel at the tea house

Water and snow

Lake Louise

Mountains and motorcycles oh my

I encourage you to check out the very cool route that I mapped out with pics from the trip and a google map integrated in (mainly cause it took some work to create this, so check it out!)

And if you'd like to see all 279 pics from the trip, they can be seen here:

Questions I'm Often Asked in the United States

posted Jun 21, 2010, 8:05 PM by Serena Beck   [ updated Jun 23, 2010, 3:38 PM ]

Often when I am in the US and an American finds out I am from Canada, I am asked the following questions/told the following:

·         Do you speak French?

·         Is it cold there?

·         What is your healthcare like?

·         You’re Canadian that is why you’re so nice.

·         You’re Canadian that is why you are so polite.

On June 18, 2010, I was in the airport reading while I waited to board a flight back to Edmonton. I asked a Bostonian, Jessica, to watch my bag while I bought a drink. We connected and started chatting. Jessica was on her way to travel through Europe for a month. I told her about our trip and gave her a business card to our blog. She asked if I speak French and I said a bit. I was able to tell her a few words for Paris. 

On the same day, when I went to buy my water, the lady at the check out also asked if I speak French and we exchanged a few basic words (thankfully she kept it simple so that I knew what she was saying).

This got me thinking about what options are offered in the US for second languages. I did a bit of research and it seemed to vary. Some people don't have an option to take a second language until Junior High (or middle school as they say in the US) and others didn't learn second languages until High School. However, in some states learning a second language is mandatory in elementary.  I guess this might be why people find in quite curious that most people in Canada take mandatory French (at least when I went to school) from grades 4-6 and then may take it in Junior High and High School as an option class. Taking a second language course is not mandatory. 

We also talked about our healthcare. In the US parental leave is a short 6 weeks. I am glad we're spoiled in Canada and receive a year (I heard rumor of 18 months but I think this was only a rumor as I never found any news stories on the subject). It's sad to think that such a wealthy country like the US is poor in so many ways: healthcare, vacation time, parental leave. Perhaps the US can learn a thing or two from Canada on these subjects, but whether they will adopt them overtime is another thing.

1947 diner - I had a great meal here.

Downtown Boston

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