Survival guide: Making it through your first winter [back in Canada].


We dare not say that winter is drawing to a close, but we can say that we have (mostly) successfully made it through nearly 5 months of winterous conditions.

Our first winter back has been both better and worse than anticipated- worse because of how extreme the weather has been.  The number of extremely cold days has been more than the yearly average, and along with this, Red Deer has also experienced a record snowfall this year.

According to Environment Canada, 1924 held the record November-December snowfall with 104.9 cm — until this year.  This record was broken in December 2013 when 109.9 cm of snow fell upon Red Deer soil. FYI, the average November-December snow is about 36 cm, which says something about how extreme this year was!

Overall, though, we have found that if you keep yourself busy and distracted, and surrounded by good people, the winter is bearable.

So here you have it: Breno and Mel’s guide to surviving your first Canadian winter (or the first one in a little while).


Top of the list: Enjoy tasty food with friends.  Often.  We highly recommend the Cuban Pulled Beef.


Invest in a few good pairs of Eastern-European footwear.  Some Albanian boots for outdoors, and some Lithuanian felt slippers for the indoors will do nicely.  The winter season is long and harsh, so treat your lower extremities right.

The Flying Canoe Festival YEG


Take in a winter festival.  Or two.  The city of Edmonton celebrates its wintriness with a multitude of festivals throughout the winter months.  Skating, tobogganing, outdoor patios, snow and ice sculptures, warm beverages and live music are just a few of the wintery delights you are likely to encounter at such events.  This year, we made it out to The Flying Canoe Festival, which we highly recommend for the blending of the outdoor/indoor venue, excellent music, and spirited ambience.


Find some lovely adventuring companions, and head off to explore some new territory!  The Rockies make an enchanting setting to pay a visit to in the winter months.


A pair of snow shoes will make the explorations that much more fun.

Winter tires are an absolute must and will save you (probably multiple times) from getting stuck in the snow or ending up in the ditch on the side of the highway.  Don’t even think about it.  Just do it.

A remote car starter lessens the sting of the frigidness when jumping into your car on those -30 degree mornings.  Another excellent (and recommended) investment!  Keeping a blanket in the car to spread across your lap is an alternative option.


Dawn a pair of cross-country skis and traverse a local park, river valley, or golf course!

Winter Survival

When it’s a “warm” day of at least -10 degrees, grab a child and take to the slopes via a crazy carpet, saucer, or sliding device of your choice!  The GT snow-racer gets our vote for ultimate control and performance.


A cozy pair of mittens (and some Paleo Chocolate Cake topped with pomegranates) have the ability to make the winter months much more enjoyable too.

Moisturize.  Alberta winters are harsh on the skin.  There are some lovely local products that can help out with this.


Choose a ‘winter beverage,’ whatever it may be, and enjoy it frequently.  By the fire is best.  Or by candle-light.

Seek out opportunities to enjoy some live music.  This activity needs not require one to bundle in multiple layers.


Try not to get too hopeful when you experience a warm day.  Uttering the word “spring” prematurely could result in major devastation, so it’s best not to say this word aloud until at least April or May.  And try not to get too discouraged when the snow piles tower over you.  Take it all in stride.  Remind yourself that winter is a season (though a long one.)


Take time to look closely and admire winter’s beauty. Don’t spend too much time fantasizing or reminiscing about beaches, but DO call to mind the days of NZ winter when it was sometimes warmer outside the house than inside.  Be thankful for central heating.

By following these suggestions and guidelines, you can take the sting out of winter and thrive amidst the brisk temperatures.


Looking back, looking ahead.


One year ago (give or take a few days), we celebrated Brendon’s birthday with friends at Brother’s Beer in Auckland.  As Brendon’s 29th birthday came, we spent a few minutes reminiscing about this day last March, and then got caught up in other pictures from that time in life that was so incredibly rich and memorable.


In the midst of the winter freeze, it’s very hard to not wish we were back in NZ!  It is heartwarming to look back with fondness on a chapter in our lives that we will never forget, yet we must continue to embrace our current stage and location, regardless of the lack of beaches, breweries, and meat pies.


Brendon is in the final stages of his thesis.  These days, he writes mainly from home, although the odd time he packs up his books and heads to Dose Coffee Company, the gem of Red Deer.



Brendon has just a month or so left… to finish his final chapter, edit, revise, and submit his thesis.  This sounds like a hefty task, and it is.  Without the companionship and support of the community of fellow scholars and students that once surrounded at Laidlaw, the task of thesis-writing has been a lonely one.  But I am really proud of the way Brendon has persevered through the challenges of solo scholarship in this foreign township.


What is next after his thesis is finished?  Brendon gets asked this question often.  First, a trip back to NZ sometime in the next couple of months to defend his thesis.  After that, Brendon will try to get a job of some sort.  Ideally, he would like to teach at a post-secondary institution or seminary somewhere, but jobs in this realm are not exactly plentiful.  There are other projects and fields to which he could also apply his skill-set, but nothing is lined up as of yet.  It’s a little bit unnerving, but also exciting, waiting to see what kind of opportunities will present themselves.