Teacher Getaway: Grand Forks Edition

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Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Grand Forks for a teacher conference and my friends at the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted quite the lovely stay. I was excited to get away for a couple of days because as of September my life will become extremely busy, and to also learn new and innovative forms of education from other educators.

The GGFCVB put us up at Canad Inns Destination Centre Grand Forks and I was shocked by our impressive suite. I have never stayed in such a large suite before and I am forever thankful for their kindness and generosity. Located off of 1-29 on S 42nd Street, Canad Inns feels like home away from home, and in this case, home is Winnipeg. If you’re from Winnipeg, you know that Canad Inns is a popular hotel property with recognizable restaurants attached to it – Tavern United, ‘l Bistro, Aaltos, Garbonzos , and Playmakers (All-American Lounge).

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The suite was spacious, front desk was incredibly attentive, and the snack bar area was filled with snacks to get you through a night in case you forgot to buy something at the grocery store. We highly enjoyed drinks at Tavern United, especially on the patio during a cool breezy night, which was nice from the day before where humidex values topped 100F. I will have to say that I was not impressed with the breakfast buffet at Altos. The pancakes were dry and stale, the homestyle potatoes were fried too long and were dried out, and the only thing I enjoyed was a bowl of cereal. Also, there is no free continental breakfast, so if you’re not willing to pay ($9.99 plus tax) for breakfast, or would like something with more option, there’s great spots around town that you can find through the GGFCVB website.

The night we arrived we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at The Toasted Frog (124 N. 3rd St) with long time friends of my cousin, who also accompanied me on this trip (along with her friend and colleague). Of course we had to get a plate of Cheesy Pickles, a must when you’re there. I followed the appetizer with a delicious wood fired pizza and my first ever Moscow Mule.

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The following day we had the option of a food truck for lunch during the conference. We did not like the chosen selection so we opted for the best pizza in town – Rhombus Guys (312 Kittson Ave). Rhombus seriously has the best pizza in town and I have never been disappointed by their selection. The staff is friendly and will definitely help you out with suggestions if you’re unable to choose a pie on your own. They also have the option to have two pizzas on one pie, if you order the larger size. Please do that, because you will not be disappointed. We went with the Deluxe pizza and asked for half with olives and half without. There were plenty of slices left to take back with us to the hotel and we enjoyed them as a midnight snack. Next time you’re in Grand Forks, I highly recommend you stop by the Kittson location or their brewing company pub at 116 S. 3rd Street.

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That night we had reservations for Sky’s located in historical downtown, in the oldest bank building. I’m a sucker for history and old buildings, plus I absolutely love downtown Grand Forks. I have said many times that it reminds me of The Exchange District here in Winnipeg. I highly suggest you make a reservation because of their popularity, it may be difficult to get a table for walk ins. It’s not a large dining establishment so there are not a lot of tables available.

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We began the evening with a set of cocktails – Raspberry Balsamic Whiskey Smash and Love in the Elevator. Now, to be really honest, my whiskey took a long time to receive (it apparently has a process to make) and the martini my cousin asked for (The Escalator) came back with Love in the Elevator. The server returned with the correct drink, but, my cousin did enjoy the incorrect one. Dinner also took an extremely long time to arrive after the first point of ordering (1 hour). Now, I am not sure how their ticket system works, so I am not going to fault them on that. It wasn’t a busy night, so we were not sure why it took so long for our food to arrive. However, when dinner did arrive it was delicious. I enjoyed the Berbere Spiced Rubbed Roast Chicken which was a take on the Ethiopian Style Butter chicken. It was very delicious and incredibly savoury. My cousin and her colleague split the special of the day which was a salad, and sides of soup. While her friend enjoyed a pasta dish. As the evening wound down, we all indulged in dessert, and incredible views of downtown (see the anchored picture above). The food was excellent and I’m not going to site them for slow service – we all have our days. If this happens to you, just be patient because the food is really good. It gave us the opportunity to chat and unwind, and really enjoy a successful year before going back to school/work next month.

Of course, eating was not the only reason we were there (aside from the conference). We shopped too. Yes, Target and Walmart was on the list and we did find incredible deals, but there’s also a hidden gem that many tourists don’t know about – The Dakota Boys & Girls Ranch Thrift Store, located at 2017 Demers Ave. This is where Target sends all of their out of season clothing and the prices you cannot beat. Last year I purchased a really nice dress top for work for $2.99. Where can you get a deal like that? No where. Seriously, check them out the next time you’re in town. Consignment and second hand stores are my go to’s when I’m short on cash and need a new outfit for work or school.

I also need to give a shout out to Eide Hyundai and the North Dakota State Troopers office. As I arrived in Grand Forks I was involved in a minor collision on the interstate with debris that was in the middle of the road. I received minor damage to the car and Eide made sure that my car had absolutely zero mechanical problems so I could travel home safely. I was really impressed with their service and compassion. Being in a collision when you’re in another country is no fun, it’s scary, and they were able to ease my worries and provide a detailed report to my insurance company. If you need service when you’re in town, or if you live in Grand Forks, please consider them. Thank you to Cameron, Dan, and their crew from the bottom of my heart. Also, thank you to the state trooper to was able to take my report before I left town. He made sure that the report was accurate and that no detail was left out. Plus, thank you to the clerk who just happened to come in during her holidays, received my message, and was able to get me in on such short notice. I appreciate that as well.

Thank you to my friends at the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau. You made my trip extra special and we were able to unwind and forget about the stress we have been dealing with lately. We laughed more than we have in the last year, and being able to relax (especially in the splash park at the hotel) was top priority for us. Merci.

Press Pause

Photo Credit: Dapinder

It has been pretty quiet around here lately. Once school finished at the end of April, I went back to work. Between work and personal life, things are busy. I am trying to enjoy the little things, be spontaneous, and live to the fullest. Now that I have a clear path, especially with my career, things have been zen.

And I love it.

I have also developed this new attitude – if I don’t take crap from my students, I’m not taking it from you. If I don’t allow my students to treat me differently, or with disrespect, why am I allowing adults to do that? There’s no more time for that. Things have been a little stressful and I am trying my best to not let it get too far.

In the meantime, I have decided to take a step back from blogging. As you can see, the posts are sparse. Life is getting in the way and I’m not going to allow blogging to get in the way of life. Right now, my focus, is all about teaching. Even though I am currently on summer break from school, I am still doing teacher things – planning, creating, and colluding. Okay, colluding in a good way with some fabulous educators. One of my goals as a teacher is to constantly work on my professional development and I believe one should start as a student teacher. It doesn’t hurt. People often complain that teachers have the summer off and don’t do anything – oh, we’re doing things, and while yes, we are finding time to have fun… we’re also planning for the upcoming year. Teachers take 12 months of teaching and squish it into 10 months. It’s not easy. Please don’t think it is. This summer I plan on creating new things for Teachers Pay Teachers, items for my future classroom, and things that I could use during my last year of student teaching. I’m also going to work on my teacher portfolio because before I know it, the massive job interviews will be here (February); I also apply for my teaching licence in December.

Life is moving fast. There are no regrets.

I will make no apologies for the lack of blogging or taking a step back. Sometimes we need to do this, we need to press pause. I’m hoping that I will have time in the summer to get back into blogging, but for right now, I’m taking it slow. I need to sit back and reflect as much as I can this summer and this upcoming year. My life is going to change very soon and I am so excited for all the changes that it will all bring. Good changes. Positive changes. Life changing, changes.

Press Pause. You’ll be happy with what happens.

hiSTORY through art

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I was invited in April by the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau to visit the the North Dakota Museum of Art and their newest art exhibit. It was a beautiful, and somber reminder, of how one can find their culture after years of oppression.

“In Our Own Words: Native Impressions”, an exhibit at the North Dakota Museum of Art, is a simple exhibit, yet it speaks volumes; displaying Native history from the perspective of Native Americans and their continued experience with the trickle-down effect of colonization within their culture, all while communicating determination to preserve their ways. This exhibit is the work of Daniel Heyman (printmaker), Kim Fink (printmaker), Lucy Ganje (graphic designer), and Leigh Jeanotte (UND Director of American Indian Student Services; member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa).

Native Impressions is a unique exhibit – each display was crafted on paper medium, encased in bold black frames – aligned in a perfect straight line, encasing the east wing of the museum. Surrounded by clean, crisp white walls, each piece pops with varying shades of colour, bold print, and haunting portraits.

Once the subjects had been chosen, Hayman quickly drew their images and then carved them into wood to produce large-scale, reduction color woodcut portraits of Native people: one for each subject, three from each reservation, all 25.5 x 19.5 inches. While Heyman made the drawings, Lucy Ganje interviewed the sitters, collecting their oral histories which she transcribed, edited, designed and typeset into accompanying broadsides.” – NDMOA handout.

As I viewed this exhibit, I could not help but recall my own Native History. I am Metis – part Native, part European (Scottish), including ancestry of full-blooded Cree and Ojibway. Growing up, my mother shared stories she had heard as a child about the effects of colonization experienced by her paternal grandparents and great-grandparents. Canada was not, and is not, immune to the effects of colonization – Residential Schools (coined Boarding School in America), creation of reserves and the enforcement of First Nations moving to reserves; assimilation into the European way of living, and the on-going poor treatment for simply looking Native.

One specific creation echoed the same words that I have heard many, many times: “Nothing good can come from our Indian ways”. I paused for several minutes, recalling the memories, and thinking of my own history. There was one point where my family members felt it was better to assimilate and not “act or be Indian” for the sake of their safety, integration, and acceptance into “white” society – “It’s just how it is,” was the common response. Now, as an educator, I try my best to incorporate Native history in my classroom, and discussing with my students how we can positively change the future for our First Nations people.

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I highly recommend stopping by NDMOA and viewing the exhibit. It’s honest, chilling, and thought provoking, with the words and feelings expressed straight from Native peoples. Art can sometimes be confusing – what is the true intention of this piece; however, this exhibit allows the viewer to think – what can be done to heal wounds of the past and become an inclusive society for all?

“In Their Own Words: Native Impressions” runs through July 10, 2016. Visit http://www.ndmoa.com/ for hours of operation.

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A phone call to heaven

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Today is one of those days where I wish there was a phone that could call heaven. Today I am really missing my grandmother. St. Patrick’s Day was one of her favourite holidays and she would always call to wish me a day of good luck (her father was Irish).

The strangest thing happened to me this morning as I was preparing supper. As I was preparing cabbage and corned beef stew, peeling the potatoes, I suddenly was overcome with the scent of my grandmother and the house she used to live in. A flash of memories popped into my head – when I was little, but big enough to work a potato peeler, it was my job to peel the potatoes while my grandma cut them. I sat at one end of the table and she sat next to me dicing the potatoes in what seemed like perfect cubes. After, while the stew would cook, we would sit at the table playing board games.

It was a lovely reminder of all the good times that we shared, but it also made me miss her a lot. Usually there are specific times when you miss a grandmother – major holiday(s) or a birthday. For me, it is St. Patrick’s Day.

Isn’t it incredible how the sense of smell can trigger memories and instantly take you back to that place in time. If I close my eyes I can see that dining room – how big it was, where the table was, what the hanging light looked like, the pattern on the wallpaper, and the colour of the carpet. I can hear my grandmother’s voice and her laugh when something funny happened during the game, the sound of the UNO cards being slapped on each other, or the sounds of the marbles moving along the Aggravation game board. I had the most amazing memories with my grandmother and I miss her every single day.

I made this stew for her. I hope she likes it, wherever she is.