suburban siberia

transitioning from Los Angeles back to Edmonton

Category: Weather

the fourth trimester

As we approach June, summer solstice is not far from my mind. The sun rose at 5:19 am this morning and will set tonight at 9:42 pm. But this time the sun’s extended duration has a different meaning to me as it revolves around my baby boy’s sleep schedule…and mine (when I get some).

Levi and I named our baby Jasper Eliott Collinge. He was born on Jan 7, 2016 (two days after his due date), at 7 lbs and 14 ounces, with a full head of hair (thank you extreme heartburn). I was incredibly apprehensive prior to his delivery, but once my contractions started the closer it came to his arrival the more prepared I became. Although 32 hours of labour would make anyone ready for delivery. When I arrived at the hospital at 7 am I was 6 cm dilated and was luckily able to take an epidural – which was the BEST thing. I was happy, calm, I took a nap and could still feel the contractions without any of the pain. I was telling jokes, the staff were amazing – including my obstetrician, I didn’t yell once at Levi and finally when it came time to push I was beyond excited to meet our little boy. Jasper was born at 1:54 pm later that day. Delivering was one of the most unique feelings I had ever experienced. I met my baby. Something I had created over a period of 9 months and finally was able to hold now that he had left my body. He was born jaundice due to our blood incompatibility so we stayed in the hospital for 3 days as he recovered. He is now 4 and half months, at 19 weeks, doing great and full of smiles (most of the time).

The first three months are a bit hazy due to the unfortunate bout of sleep depravation. Luckily I have taken a billion photos and videos so I can relive those moments but for the most part I would agree to the term the fourth trimester as I felt Jasper was still an extension of my body during that time. Where his dependence on me for survival was never felt so acutely which included my smell, my breast milk and my care for him. As he transitioned to 4 months I saw him transform more dramatically from a newborn into a baby where he is now able to more directly vocalize his emotions, can stand sturdily on his feet with the help of our hands, brings everything to his mouth and desperately tries to sit up on his own. And now that he is rolling over and squirming mightily crawling does not seem so far away at this point. The smiles and giggles is my most treasured thing. It really helps when you are changing his diaper for the 3rd time in a row in the middle of the night. You have one eye open, one foot asleep, and grogginess surging through your body. Then you hear a small giggle or glimpse a sneaky smile, and suddenly the dark clouds and the exhaustion (momentarily) melt away. As his small body develops, I feel mine erode as I share and provide life for him – but when I think about it, the contributions feel more than worth it as I experience the life cycle first hand.

Among my many apprehensions I was incredibly worried about postpartum depression. But it seems instead of the sad hormones I got the “life is amazing and I want everyone to feel as amazing as I do” hormones – which I assume people will also feel by looking at my baby, holding my baby, or listening to me describe how wonderful my baby is regardless of whether they have children or not. I try to restrain myself as best as possible from sharing photos when he is not around, but I’m not sure how much longer I can hold of on that impulse. I just keep thinking about the time I was on a flight from LA to Edmonton and a father showed me photos of his children for 30 min and I was polite about it. But in my mind, the entire time I asked myself -who cares. But here I am close to doing the same thing – the wonders of life. My obsession with him I’m pretty sure is healthy, but possibly annoying. But hey if I can’t be myself, then who else will I be.

One of the many things that surprised me was how my world opened up once he was born. There is this huge network of resources that becomes available once you have a baby. I had visions of sitting in my house alone with a crying baby, feeling trapped into domestic life while on maternity leave, but there are plenty of opportunities to leave the house, groups to join, health professionals to consult with and a multitude of family and parent friends to hang out with which never makes me feel alone or desperate for a solution to a problem. My friends without children are extremely supportive, offering what ever they can, when they can. And Levi’s and my parents are overwhelmingly helpful and full of enthusiasm for us – giving us a whole new perspective on all they have and continue to do for us. I bring Jasper to 99% of all of my meetings (as I still continue professional obligations) and everyone is overwhelmingly welcome to his presence, never indicating that they are bothered by his crying, my breastfeeding, or my extreme lateness, which is helping to build my confidence in this new adventure. It is the complete opposite of how I thought it would be. I could continue to go on and on about all of my epiphanies but instead I will share a few photos of Jasper’s first three months which I will naively assume will make you feel as happy as Levi and I do.

Summer Solstice

Today is my favourite summer day. June 21st the longest day of the year. Around this time it becomes increasingly hard to focus on work as I daydream about bike rides and the best place for summer picnics. This province really comes into it’s own this time of year where everything is green and the thought of winter is a cold distant memory that you heard about once long ago. Today is perfect and it feels like it lasts virtually forever because of the late sunsets. Tonight the sun should finally rest closer to midnight and that’s ok by me.

Below are some photos from the past few days which include scenery from a few bike rides, and rolling prairie fields from a site visit I did yesterday close to Wabamun Lake for a Cider House project. This is also where I also tasted some young field strawberries. I can hardly wait to go strawberry and raspberry picking this summer!

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winter research

This winter I have been invited to work on a few installations. One has already happened in January at Latitude 53’s parka patio and there are a few more to come. A good friend of mine, Lindsay Farr (who I went to school with and is also an artist and intern architect) and I created an installation that hung overhead the auction item room. We had a lot of fun combining our ideas of what winter themed installations should look like at a party. Below are a few images we used as a reference to help us think about strategies and imagery of what we hoped to do. I should have some more president pages coming up for a few more installations I am planning.



 Here are a few photos of the installation along with a picture of some of the friends who helps us put it together.

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winter shop talk

Spring is appearing to approaching this city earlier than expected and I thought I would make  few more comments on winter before it leaves us entirely this year. I wrote this post in January and then saved it wondering if it was something worth posting but after few discussions with friends about how warm it is getting but not warm enough to forget wearing undershirts or socks to protect against the chill I began to think it was worth sharing:

Just so we are on the same page once you ascend into a northern winter you can never really go back. Summer does a pretty good job of erasing cold winter memories in Edmonton with the amazing long days of sunlight but on the flip side the short days and cold nights begin to wear you down and make you feel like you dreamed about a glorious friend called summer. I realize every place you live in has its advantages and disadvantages but generally it can be tough to remind yourself of these amazing things when temperatures dip below -25 (-13 fahrenheit). In Canada I have lived in Halifax and Edmonton so my northern winters are regulated to those experiences. But I can assure you I am an encyclopedia of weather survival strategies as any other good Canadian – like what to do when ice crystals form on your eye lashes and they start to solidify together so much so that you can’t open your eyes when walking on treacherous icy sidewalks. That’s a fun one. So while this might be a needless reminder to most about the every day I think it’s worth thinking about regardless.

Winter technically doesn’t start until Winter Solstice for scientists and astrologers but my body says winter starts when it snows. Which is typically two months earlier near the end of October if you live in Edmonton. Generally if you participate in Halloween as a kid, you or your parents were trying to think of clever ways to incorporate a parka into the ensemble as it begins to snow around that time of the year.

People who do not live in cold weather climates always ask how we get around and deal with the extreme weather. I dealt with this question a lot in Los Angeles so I had time to think about it while the temperatures stayed on average around 20 to 25 degrees (68 – 77 degrees fahrenheit) year round. There are various answers to this question, but I think the most basic answer is time. We get around just fine, but it take a lot more time. It involves strategy, discussion and experimentation. For example: When deciding what to wear you have to think about where you are going that day. Will you be walking, busing or taking a car? Each of these answers will have different strategies for proper attire. Do you wear thicker socks or wool socks. V-neck with an undershirt or a turtle neck (super 90s but I wish the turtle neck would come back). Thin pants with snow pants on top or leggings or nylons underneath the pants? I’m not even begging to think about fashion at this point. Solely the idea of staying warm first, and maybe fashion second …. if there’s time.

Another example is transportation: If it’s the bus you have to ask yourself if you have enough clothing to keep you warm if the bus is late or doesn’t show up, and if your shoes are warm enough for the walk to and from the bus. My friend, Eleisha, said last year that she got frost bite on her eye balls walking to the bus because of the wind…….on her eyeballs!! If you are driving you have to predict the traffic because the roads could be icy and that will take even more time because people will drive more cautiously. You also have to make sure your car is prepared and will have to have items like a snow brush, emergency blanket, jumper cables or an extension cord to keep your car battery charged so it doesn’t freeze -most people only have a variety of these options but I can assure you each of these items are necessities for road ready winter survival. You also have to be ready to jump out of your car at any time to help push some one out of the ditch or mentally prepare yourself with the fact that your chances of being in a collision with the possibility of death due to slippery roads or low visibility is a daily situation. All of these things take time due to careful planning and some days it works out and on the days it doesn’t you take a hot shower when you get home and plan some more for the next time.

You also talk about aspects of winter every day. In my yoga class they talk about using ujjayi breathing to help keep you warm when you are outside. When discussing where to get lunch with a friend or co-worker you strategize the warmest route to take if you are walking. If you are planning on sledding/cross country skiing/running/winter biking on the weekend you discuss the best types of equipment to use, the best places to buy said equipment and the best type of snow or trails to visit. Usually though you are only outside for an hour or two and planning the event takes longer than the event itself . People will also have a million strategies on how to keep your house warm, hands warm, feet warm….so and and so on. For example people will brag about how cool they keep their house when they are not in it (some say as low as 10 degrees/50 degrees fahrenheit) and how minimally warm they keep it when they are occupying it (15 – 18 degrees / 59 – 65 degrees fahrenheit) as a way to save on energy costs. I do not do this (that is crazy) but your energy bill and your budget will love you for it. I can assure you it is a boring as it sounds and it is a thing.

BUT luckily Alberta is the sunniest province in the country so we have plenty of beautiful days. 325 days of sun to be exact which helps battle the 151 days of winter. During the day we have plenty of clear blue skies and I heard that you feel 10 degrees warmer in the sun so it’s a yin and a yang. Most people ignore the above strategies that I have listed. After a while people start to learn what they can live with for when they head outside. For example my brother and mother refuse to buy a winter coat. Not sure what their deal is but in the mean time I am just fine with my layered attire: undershirt (to protect against chills), t-shirt (presentable front), sweater (to ease the evening drafts when the sun goes down),  and scarf (acts like a blanket to wrap around during the day and draft protection from the wind on my neck when outside) with a winter jacket for when I head outside. I won’t even begin to explain my bottom half ensemble to save you the trouble and leave you to think about your own winter survival strategies.


snow day

I have lived back in Canada for a year now. As it snows outside my bedroom window and I type from my cocoon like bed along side a kitten we recently acquired, life at this moment is perfect. I haven’t spoken about winter yet this season so below is an attempt to describe how I think about my days lately. It’s tough because this is known information for most who live in Edmonton or other northern cities but this way of life is not everyone’s because the further you live from the equator the less people there are inhabiting the earth. Therefor, it’s not common knowledge.

Lately I been waking up before my alarm and I have no idea what time it is. I try to guess but I am at a loss. Is it midnight? 3 am? Do I have time to go back to sleep? I check the clock. Hell no. It’s 7:00 am. As soon as time passes the 5 pm mark this time of the year the sky looks almost the same until about 8 am. Dark. That’s because sunsets and sunrises this time of the year pass quickly so there is very little change in the darkness. Winter Solstice was on December 21 in 2014 (the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere) so while we are now on an upswing for daylight extension, it is a long road to Summer Solstice on June 21st. Today the sun rose at 8:41am and will set at 4:35 pm.

If you pay attention to the landscape around 8 am things start to dramatically change because of the sunrise. Generally during the day the sky is grey and the snow is mostly white so the shades of grey around this time of year are truly beautiful. I think if you lived in the desert you would have the same appreciation for a monochromatic environment. But once you add a mix of sunrise or sunset, you can get some beautiful soft pinks, yellow and purples in there. Sunrises are a delight any time of the year, but the addition of bright colours in a climate that has a lack thereof during the winter is always a benefit.

Usually it’s pretty sunny during the day (Alberta is lucky that way) but today it’s a snowy overcast day. Only a few hours left until it reaches darkness again and the stillness of the night. The location of the sun this time of year is at a lower angle so the shadows are longer and move quicker because of the short daylight hours. Other than temperature, sounds and lighting vastly differ between a winter and summer night. The snow is a great insulator so sounds around you become muffled or crisp. The snow also acts as a bounce and reflects brightness into the atmosphere. So even though it is dark in the night-time, there is a purple haze/glow that you can see as your eyes transition from the snowy landscape to the heavens above.


7 am


8 am




game changer

New Year and new days.

Hopefully my break from blogging is over but frankly posting during a time of vulnerability always seems like a bad idea so I’m not sure if I’m really back. But I am blogging none the less because we are at the apex of winter and I’m beginning to see the error of my intentions as the blog is called Suburban Siberia. In short all is fine but I am a container full of dramatic feelings depending on the day, which I am not so sure they are based on reality. If you really think about it though, winter can be a depressing time and so my feelings are intrinsically tied to the season whether I want to admit it publicly or not. But also I have to remind myself this blog is more of a digital diary so I guess it’s my blog (party) and I can blog (cry) when I want to.

Mike Tyson says it best “Everyone’s got a game plan until they get punched in the face”.

Shane Mosely, Antonio Margarito

warm weather lament

This Edmonton summer has been exceptional. No really! While I grew up in Edmonton, LA has ruined me for warmth as I became acutely aware of slight changes in temperature between 80 degrees and 70 degrees fahrenheit (27 – 21 degrees Celsius) and detested anything below it because I would have to wear socks. But this summer was perfect. Tons of bike rides, lovely sunsets, outdoor pools, berry picking, river rafting, full of warmth through all of July and the mosquitos only came out in the last two weeks which while it’s always a hassle, better late than forever. When I visited the Hollywood Bowl in the summer in Los Angeles I described it as: amazing atmospheric music out in the open air under a starry sky surrounded by the dramatic hollywood hills…..without mosquitos. That last part gets every Edmontonian to gasp with envy. Those pesky bugs can really be a bother. I actually forgot they existed until I moved back.

Not only is Alberta beautiful in the summer with lush and expansive landscapes it also has wonderful late sunsets and early sunrises. I think it’s Latitude’s way of saying “sorry for the 8 months of winter” kind of deal where the days seem longer and you are tricked into a 1 – 2 month spout of warmth. For example on summer solstice (June 21) the sun doesn’t set until close to midnight and then rises as 4 am. But it has now moved to a 9 pm sunset with a 6 am sunrise. Soon in December it will be a 4 pm sunset and a 9 am sunrise……. See! The summer mourning begins!

BUT we are not there yet. It’s a swing into the fall phase with a few weeks left of warmth so hopefully I can get on the bike as often as possible. Below are a few photos I took this summer. Of course it’s aways better in person.


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15 degrees

Today it’s suppose to be 15 degrees (59 degrees fahrenheit). It hits it’s peak at 5 pm and then drops back down from there. I wasn’t so sure this day would come. I want to know why I feel so happy about this. In Los Angeles anything between 5 degrees and 10 degrees (41-50 degrees fahrenheit) it’s winter weather, but this weekend when it was 6 degrees I saw a motor cyclist, a cyclist and a two rollerbladers in the same block when I was driving around town. Yesterday I even wore a dress without leggings or nylons. It was an amazing feeling! Even Lulu is enjoying watching the snow melt.



Maybe that’s why I like Edmonton so much. It’s the simplest things that make me grateful and bitter at the same time. Most of my wardrobe is dedicated to summer but here in Edmonton because it doesn’t over 20 degrees too often I doubt I’ll wear most of the clothes the way I use to in LA. I can see how this sounds like griping, but truly I am sad. BUT the best thing is happening today. Not only is it 15 degrees above today I’m also going to a hockey game with my dad. It’s one of my favourite things to do with my dad and it doesn’t happen so often anymore. This also means I get to wear Levi’s hockey jersey that he wore when he played as a kid. It’s been shared between the Collinge cousins when ever there was a young one needing a jersey for when they played but now it’s all mine and fits! Go Oilers go!



This past Saturday was nearly a bust. Once I convinced myself to leave the house (as it was -25 with the windchill) I ventured out to try the x country ski trails at Terwillegar Park. I’ve never been there and surprisingly it’s only 5 min from my house….(another bonus my husband would say). I checked the Edmonton website to see when the trial was last groomed and it reported Jan 11. Great!….Except not so great. There were no trails! It was just a huge dog park without signage indicating where to ski. It even says on the city’s website that it has classical and skating styles but there were no tracks. So I ventured around the park for 10 min and I found a faded ‘difficult’ sign that indicated the hilly part of the trail but still no traces of ski tracks. So I sucked it up and skied as best I could.

On one hand I considered it a loss but on the other hand I was able to get out and exercise in the bitter cold for 1.5 hrs…..And I even felt pretty great afterwards. I guess it’s one of those adversity stories you tell children as a way to bore them into succeeding. While I don’t have much experience with x country skiing, I would rate Terwillegar Park 0 out of 5.  It’s a nice place to go though if you have a dog.

After my ski attempt I went to pick up some fresh pizza dough for dinner that night. I did a google search (my first mistake as Edmonton is terrible for its online resources) and saw that the Italian Centre carries it. Great! But when I got there I found out they only had frozen pizza dough. Another fail as I was expecting my nieces and nephews for dinner in 1 hour. I agonized as I waited in the deli line up as to whether I should put everything back and order Boston Pizza but somehow I convinced myself to wait out the long line and order fresh toppings. I ran home, defrosted the pizza in a warm water bath (which apparently is controversial due to bacteria growth), we successfully made the pizzas and they didn’t throw up. Yay! My nieces and nephews even loved the meat I bought (Thank Heavens!). I thought the quality would be lost on them but they surprised me. So I suppose the day turned into a win. Even one of the pizzas magically turned into a heart. Those little cuddle monsters really know how to turn a day around.

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photo 5killing water spirit – AGA Inuit Exhibition

I’m starting to feel guilty about not posting too much about the neighbourhood I live in like I hoped but it’s bloody cold outside. While I have dreams of venturing around the ‘hood’, it’s always from my couch with leggings, a cbc t-shirt and a cosy bathrobe. Oh well. Hopefully next week. Attached are a few photos from this weekend and some pants I wore today with flamingos. I was trying to trick myself into thinking about warmer weather. It didn’t work and no one at the office noticed my attempts to lift the winter vibe. Sometimes the cold drains you from caring I suppose. The good news though is that the sun sets around 6 pm now!

office attire

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family brunch

photo 1family brunch

brenda draney – AGA

brenda draney -AGA Exhibition

lulu telling me what to do

lulu telling me what to do

morning commute

morning commute