Northern lights and house expansion

We’re back at the lake for the first time since just before the record snows that hit this area in late February. Thee are downs trees and branches everywhere – beside the road, in piles in front of neighbors’ houses, and of course in our yard. We were able to get here early enough yesterday to spend Friday evening with saws in hand, cutting off broken branches and cutting up fallen ones. We spent today moving the boats out the the garage because …. drumroll …. the building permit for our renovation is supposed to be ready Monday and the general contractor is working on the contract, revising it from our comments. With any luck, our long awaited renovation could kick off before the end of this month.

I am in fact having a hell of a birthday month (I mean that in the best way). My birthday was Sunday; birthday week commenced Wednesday with my annual employee review when I learned I’m getting a promotion (same job, bumped up one grade with concomitant substantial raise and stock grant), then the same night I went out for drinks with colleagues (after a couple days of project planning meetings and left after an hour to meet Ted at the tax accountant’s where we learned that we did guess right about how much extra cash to withhold for taxes, so we’re getting a refund, not having to pay. For next year we just need to fine tune it so we get a smaller refund instead of loaning money to the government.

Then Thursday morning we got on a plane and headed to Yellowknife, in northern Canada to fulfill one of my few remainingg bucket list items. We succeeded – we saw the Norther Lights on two of our three nights there and took some fantastic photos. I’ll have to go post those from Ted’s computer; I did get a few on my iPhone but the ones on our DSLR and GoPro are way better. Unfortunately there were some issues with the tour company we booked a package with, notably the part where they contacted us less than a week before the trip and said, essentially, “we made a mistake and you need to send us a lot more money”. We eventually got that resolved; they ate a little of the discrepancy and we covered some by giving up on the daytime activities that had been booked that we didn’t care much about – we didn’t want the days too booked up anyway since we’d be up most of the night. They also picked us up half an hour later than stated on both nights we went out with them. They also booked us in a SUper8 way out on the uninteresting side of town for no apparent reason – everyone else on our tours was in downtown hotels. I’ve given them a scathing review on Trip Advisor, though I did note the guide was friendly and helpful and the cold-weather gear they rented us was great.

THe two nights we successfully saw northern lights were “aurora hunting” – they drive you to a few locations, mostly on the Ice Road across the Great Slave Lake, in order to find a spot with clear skies and visibility. The middle night we went to “Aurora VIllage”; they served us an excellent dinner, but then there wasn’t much to do. They have warm teepees with hot drinks for taking warm-up breaks and dark hills for viewing, but the sky was just too cloudy and there wasn’t much else to do, after we’d walked around and seen the place, but either stand out in the cold or roast by the fire. I suppose that’s probably a glimpse into early life in the North, but I’m sure people would have had a lot more work to keep them busy (and of course wouldn’t have been awake in the middle of the night). I’ve reviewed them on TripAdvisor too, and suggested having storytellers in the tents for when there’s nothing to see or people need to come in and warm up.

There were some delays on the way home but otherwise things went smoothly.

So far a great month! Here’s hoping my luck continues and the renovation kicks off soon and goes relatively smoothly!

Garage cleared out and ready for expansion:

Finally back at the lake!

Aurora photos on iPhone:

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