Can you believe I am now a quarter of a century old?! I certainly can’t! Time has flown by these past few years, but I made sure to take the time to enjoy every moment of it. I am especially grateful for the cherished memories from my 25th birthday yesterday, which I got to celebrate with my boyfriend Max here in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
In case you hadn’t read further on, Max’s birthday was just over a month ago, and I had lots of surprises lined up for him. After having eating his favourite meal for supper, eating his favourite dessert, and opening all 25 of his gifts, he sat there and said “How am I going to be able to top this?!” I’m a pretty lucky gal because he is the type of man who will definitely take that as a challenge, and it is rare that he does not succeed when he sets goals for himself.
Unfortunately, both he and my step-sister Katelyn initially thought my birthday was December 5th, so I got spoiled a bit in advance. Max was smart enough to ask me two days prior to my actual birthday to confirm the date, and so he proceeded to ask if I wanted to celebrate on the 5th, given that it was Saturday. I told him it made no difference to me, whatever was best for whatever he had planned. He told he would check on some things and then let me know.
We woke up the morning of December 5th quite late, and let me tell you, it felt so great to sleep in for the first time this week! I’ve gotten into the habit of getting up when Max gets up for work (6:30AM) and getting breakfast ready to get a good head start on job applications and art projects every day. I should also mention we’ve been playing Minecraft every night this week until midnight, and my body is not used to get only 6 hours of sleep. (Side note: I freaking love Minecraft!)
We were too lazy to make breakfast/lunch that morning, so we decided to go to Subway since we needed to go out to buy a few things as well. I got a few art supplies that were on sale, and we also made our way to NAPA and got some oil and an oil filter. My first birthday gift: a (much needed) free oil change from my wonderful car-savvy boyfriend! He spent the rest of the afternoon working on my car while I got some work done on a few Christmas gifts.
Although my birthday celebrations were in fact filled with love and joy, I received some bad news from my mom that afternoon. My heart stopped as I read the following text:
“Steve took more seizures. In ER right now.”
For those of you who were unaware, my step-dad Steve had a liver transplant in August 2014 and suffered seizures as a side-effect from the anti-rejection medication. He was prescribed with medication for the seizures right away, but has had two separate episodes this year and landed back in the hospital.
I managed to keep my shit together, for the most part, but it really pained me to be so far away this time. If I had been in Moncton, NB, I could have driven to see them right away. But now I’m 5000kms away and the only support I can offer are encouraging words by phone or by text.
I ran to the garage and told Max right away. He was almost done with the car and came inside afterwards to make sure I was doing alright. We sent a message to my mom and Steve to say that we were sending love and positive thoughts. She replied soon thereafter to let us know that a CT scan had been done and that there was no signs of bleeding and no tumours, both of which were good news.
My mind was more at ease and I felt relief knowing that things were looking a bit better. Max asked if I was up for going out, or if I would rather spend the night together at home given the circumstances. I decided it would do me some good to get out of the house, and I figured he had something great planned.
Our first stop of the night was Ernie’s Sports Experts. I haven’t owned proper winter boots since I was approximately 12 years old, so he told me he was buying me a good pair for my birthday. He also made mention that these would be necessary for my birthday surprise. I was intrigued to say the least. And as if it was fate, we found the coolest looking pair of boots right away. I know I would be buying them, that is, if they had them in my size. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m tiny, and so are my feet, so I basically never buy shoes because they don’t come in such a small size. As always, I asked for the smallest size they had, which the salesman explained could be 5 or 6. He went to check and I had my fingers crossed. The look on his face was not promising as he walked back towards us. “I only have a 6.5” AHH! But I want them so bad!! You know what, I’m gonna try them anyway! I sat down and pulled the boots on, admiring their beauty. I touched the tip of the boot to see how they fit, and it was actually pretty good. I was wearing thin socks and there was a bit of space left, all of which could be filled in my some cozy wool socks. Done, I’m buying them. Or rather, Max did!
Next up was a pitstop at OMG Cupcakes for dessert. Don’t worry, we didn’t spoil our appetite by eating them before supper. But speaking of supper, IT WAS AMAZING! Max took me to SOTO Teppanyaki and Fusion Sushi, where we watched a young Japanese man cook our meal in front of us. He even asked me to light the onions on fire with his lighter and he scared the crap out of me by banging down on the grill as I was about to ignite it! We laughed pretty hard. I did manage to light the onion tower though, and what a sight! He proceeded to throw a piece of brocoli at each of us (total of 3 couples) that we needed to catch with our mouths. Only Max and one of the other guys succeeded, but it made for a few good laughs. Everyone except me had ordered Chicken Teriyaki. Being vegetarian, I ordered Grilled Tofu. All of our meals were served with miso soup, a small salad, rice and veggies. The others also got some shrimp as well, which was a nice surprise. I don’t know about them, but mine was absolutely delicious! I had to force myself to stop eating when I was full, it was just so good! And I’m so grateful to have a boyfriend who is always willing to finish my plate so we never waste any food.
Part of me was regretting eating so much because I had no room left to eat the cupcakes we had bought! And to make things “worse” – please note the sarcasm, as indicated by the quotation marks – Max took me to a candy store after supper! We walked around, sang loudly in harmony with the music on the radio – as we always do – and gazed at all the different types of candy! After much debate, we settled on two or three different kinds each, and Max paid for our purchase. I can’t be the only one who constantly thinks: “I can’t wait to be hungry again!”
We made a quick stop to visit our friend Benoit after our candy-land aventure and chatted with him for a bit. They snacked on some of the candy and dessert, whereas I was trying to convince my internal organs to digest faster.
The night was topped off with an intense night of Minecraft. Max even found Redstone Ore, but we had no idea you had to have Silk Touch to be able to break it down and actually receive the Redstone! We did manage to make a huge garden and get some farm animals to follow us back to our house. Yeah, we’re nerdy like that!
OK! That was only the half of it! Now it’s time for Sunday! Our alarm is set for 6:30AM because Max said we needed to be ready for 7AM. This is new, because Max is not a morning person. Now I’m really excited!
Typical me, I was up at 6AM so I decided to start getting ready early, then crawl back into bed and poke at Max, hoping he would wake up. He actually sleeps like a brick and as always, he pressed snooze twice on the alarm. When he was somewhat conscious, he rolled over to kiss me and wish me a Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, he passed out again immediately after. I woke him and told him I was turning the light on. He grunted but did not protest. He eventually crawled out of bed and we got dressed to head out. He had already prepared his backpack the night before, and apparently, we were bringing a shotgun too. I couldn’t keep thinking “Please don’t take me hunting for my birthday… Please don’t take me hunting…” We went upstairs to grab some snacks and we packed up the car. Of course, any activity would be incomplete without Tim Hortons, so we stopped at the nearest one to grab breakfast and some drinks.
“Do you want to know where we’re going?”
“No, it’s supposed to be a surprise!”
And surprisingly, I managed to not ask a billion questions – out loud – about the destination and I did not ruin the surprise!
We drove for quite a while though, and different ideas of what it could be kept rolling in my mind. “Is he taking me to watch the Northern Lights?” “Are we going to BC like I suggested last week?” “Are we driving to Calgary?” “ARE WE GOING TO BANFF?!” Ok, ok, stop trying to figure it out!
I’m not very entertaining when I’m tired, nor when I’m in a moving vehicle, so you can imagine I was pretty boring during the drive. Luckily, caffeine makes Max very talkative so we ended up talking for hours and it made the time go by pretty quickly. We made a pitstop in a town called Grande Cache, and fortunately for him, I have no idea where that is on the map therefor it couldn’t ruin the surprise as an indication of where we were going.
Another hour or two down the road, we came to a booth and the man asked where we are headed. Darn, I guess this is where the surprise ends.
“WE’RE GOING TO JASPER FOR MY BIRTHDAY?!”
I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t that far from Grande Prairie, and it was one of the places I definitely wanted to see while I was in Alberta! Especially during the winter!
Max went on to explain that we would go eat lunch at a vegan restaurant in town, and then we could walk around for a bit before possibly doing another activity he had planned. He didn’t know if we would be able to do it though because he had tried calling to get more information and there was never any answer. I told him it didn’t matter, just the fact that we would be able to take in so many beautiful sites was more than enough! And of course, Max packed my camera so that we could take nice pictures throughout the day.
We got to town around 11:30AM and made our way to Coco Café. There, we shared a delicious meal and ate to our heart’s content. Judge me all you want, but I ordered one of my favourite café lunch items: grilled cheese! It was so delicious with avocado and a side of Roasted Garlic and Pumpkin Soup. Max had a grilled chicken sandwich with a beet and corn salad on the side. He had also ordered an elk sausage, but turns out they had run out so he also had a grilled cheese.
Once we finished eating, we made our way to the town’s information centre. Max wanted to take me for a ride on the SkyTram, but turns out it closed for the winter in November. Dang! But the Parks Canada employee, Peter, kindly suggested other activities and places to visit in the area. We thanked him and walked back to the car.
“OK, so I had two other things planned out. One is to go to the BC border to take a picture to finish your Cross-Canada road trip, and the other is to go to a scenic area by a bridge overlooking a lake and all the mountains.”
I was so excited, I almost cried.
We decided to head to the BC border first, which was only about 15 minutes out of town. Here I am in front of the final province of my cross-Canada road trip:
Of course, such a trip would be incomplete without Max suggesting doing something silly. He absolutely wanted to climb the mountain goat on of of the signs, to the point where he asked me to go get some rope in the car. Uhh, no. We made due with angle adjustments to make it look like he was on the sign.
Our final stop before heading back was by far the most beautiful. We drove out into the woods and stopped at a few different places. The first was Lake Patricia, where people were actually skating!! Max was so disappointed he hadn’t thought of bringing skates. As for me, well, I flat out suck at skating and was quite content with just admiring the natural beauty of the lake and the mountains surrounding it.
The next stop was to view Pyramid Lake, both from the shore and from an island across the bridge Max had mentioned. As always, I started to get cold, but tried to take it all in, because it truly was breath-taking. Take a look for yourself:
When it got to the point that I could no longer feel my toes, we decided it was time to head back.
During the trip back, we talked about lots of stuffed, but we did start making plans for Christmas break! I won’t go into any details quite yet because nothing has been confirmed, but more information on our travel plans will be posted on the blog soon enough!
To sum, my 25th birthday was absolutely incredible. I received messages from friends near and far, and I even got two birthday cards in the mail! I got to share wonderful memories with my main man who never ceases to amaze me with his kindness and thoughtfulness. I am so happy to be in such a great place in my life and I just want to take the time to say thank you to everyone who is or who has been a part of my life. Each and every one of you has shaped and influence me in some way or another, and you’ve all made me proud of the person that I’ve become.