Getting back on track

YMMFlagThe past three weeks have been full of emotion and determination. I love Fort McMurray; it shaped my formative years. The people and the community shaped me to be the person I am today. I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing…so I did A LOT. I realized this when the Cupcake asked me if I even came home in the past couple of days. I don’t regret the amount of energy I put into helping my community. It went beyond donating time or money to the Red Cross. While, I wasn’t at the front lines, I was on the line ensuring Albertans, my friends, family and everyone I ever crossed paths with in Fort McMurray had the information they needed. That’s right, all those bulletins and answers you got during the last three weeks, I had the privilege of writing all of them. I’m not saying this to get a pat on the back or accolades. I’m telling you, so you know that the people working behind the scenes are real people who come from the community and truly care about Fort McMurray and the people that live there.

While, I have been asked to return to my desk downtown, my heart is still with the people All this Fort YMMof Fort McMurray. So much so, that myself and my lovely Epicure consultant Kirsten chose to host Epicure fundraisers in support of Fort McMurray families. Kirsten has graciously committed to donating 100 per cent of her commissions and all the host rewards to families evacuated from Fort McMurray. With the host rewards we are able to create meal kits that are complete with everything needed to make the entire meal.

My fundraiser collected over $400 worth of products to 10 Fort McMurray families…all FREE to them. Right now, the families are setting up temporary homes away from Fort McMurray. One family said she had no motivation to cook, because she didn’t have spices, another person needed a protein boost and just wanted to eat healthy home cooked meals. Providing s few basic spices from Epicure is helping these families eat healthy during a stressful time, when eating healthy and taking care of yourself is the last thing on your mind.

Turkey breakfast deliciousSo all these spices for free, what can families make with it? In our home, we take food seriously, because if you’re going to eat your calories, they better taste damn good. Ever since we received the signed copy of Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings cook book, we are ruined for breakfast sandwiches. We’ve made John’s Breakfast Sandwich a couple times already, you can find one of the posts here, but this week, we decided to switch the meat up and make it a bit leaner by using turkey instead. The verdict: delicious. Co-worker reaction: the smells wafting from my cubical had a few people stopping and one colleague actually stealing the last bite. So I would deem it a complete success.

We also ran out of green beans and brussel sprouts, so we chose to use the last of our berries and one lone green apple for a fruit salad, but we wanted something a bit more fresh and flavour impact, and the mojito berry fruit salad was born.

Mojito fruit salad product

Mojito berry fruit salad
Serves 4

1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1 medium green apple (cut into chunks)
2 Tbsp lime juice or apple cider vinegar or fruit flavoured vinegar
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp Epicure Summer Berry fruit dip mix
1/2 tsp Moroccan Mint and Beet dip mix (could be substituted for mint)

1. Combine lime juice and water with the summer berry fruit dip mix and Moroccan mint and beet dip mix, to rehydrate and activate the ingredients. Let sit for five minutes.
2. Combine berries in the bowl and toss to combine, let rest for five more minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator to combine all flavours.
3. Enjoy!

Born, Raised, and Strong

FortmacstrongI wrote my first post on McMurray on the eve of the extensive evacuation. An evacuation that saw 88,000 people from my hometown displaced.

I no longer live in Fort McMurray, but I can’t help but tear up whenever I think of the destruction and uncertainty my friends, family, and all McMurrayites are going through. During the first hours of the evacuation, I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders as I waited for my people to check in as safe (thank you Facebook). I felt useless that I couldn’t help my friends and family – that I couldn’t help my hometown community. I know I wasn’t alone. Many of my friends and family also felt the same way. We felt helpless as we sat glued to the television and our iPhones watching update after update. (We are still waiting for the update that the fire is out.)

There are no words to express the gratitude or the pride I feel for the hundreds of first responders, police and personnel currently battling the beast. Dozens of my friends stayed behind to protect our hometown, and to them and the rest of the crew, you are the true superheros. If you want to read a story from the front lines, please visit firefigther Lucas Welsh to read his word.

For so many ex-McMurrayites living in Edmonton, a fire in Fort McMurray was ominous, but nothing we haven’t seen before. But a fire this massive that left many of our friends and families displaced. We knew we have to act. So, in true McMurray fashion, my friends threw a small BBQ in support of displaced McMurrayites. What started out small quickly grew to 150 people. By Friday morning, my friends were on the phone securing donations of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks. Once again, these ladies showed what true compassion and consideration is all about. On Saturday, as I walked up the street towards the festivities, I was once again overcome with emotion.

We know the destruction the beast leaves behind will be extensive. But we also realize that we are lucky to have a community full of support. Fort McMurray was built on pride and strength. While I am extremely sad that my family trapline is probably gone and my children will never touch it, and my friends and family have lost their childhood homes, I can’t help but think – this beast will not defeat us.

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Over the week, I have seen a number of different tag lines for my home town, from: We will be back; Fort McMurray Strong; We will not be burned; and There is strong, then there’s Fort Mac Strong. All these apply. Fort McMurray was built on pillars of strength and pride. Like the phoenix, McMurray will rise from the ashes, and re-build our community, bigger, better and stronger. While our land may be rich in oilsand deposits the true strength of the community comes from the 88,000 people that call is home.

This post was written to show the generosity and strength of Albertans. I was going to rely on the donations that are filling arenas, and the more than $60 million (and counting) donations to the Red Cross, but my husband wrote a post that is extremely poignant. So I’ll let him tell it.

kyles fire

It was in Ft. McMurray, 11 years ago with my roommates and friends after our apartment had a bad fire.

It’s no where near the catastrophe happening there now, but that is part of my point. It wasn’t a national scale emergency, it wasn’t headline news (although we did make the local radio for some reason) it was just some broke 20-something dudes who lost their crappy apartment. And yet that small scale didn’t matter to Ft Mac. We were put up in a suite hotel at no charge to us for a few months until a new place could be found. Our boss took us out for beer, dinner and gave us money for new clothes and supplies. Our friends helped us fish out what was salvageable no questions asked. That is just what you do for your fellow McMurrayite – they will be there for you when you need it, guaranteed.

born and raisedNo matter where you are from, if you lived in McMurray at all, this state of emergency has affected us.  While we may not call it our current home, that city, that community has all given us so much.

From the money in our pockets, education, friends and the millions of memories, that city is our hometown.

At the end of the day, we stand with you McMurray, we have your back. Because we know you would do the same for us. 

#YMMSTRONG #YMMfire #Wewillbeback #betterstrongerbigger

True North Strong

a-welcome-to-fort-mcmurray-sign-stands-on-the-side-of-highwaThis post has been written in my head for many years. It is a response to so many biased media stories. It is the response to so many negative remarks. Today, I’m overwhelmed once again with pride.

I was born and raised in Fort McMurray. That is home. My experience growing up in Fort McMurray has shaped me to be the person I am today. It has left a large imprint on my heart and life.

For years, McMurray received a negative reputation. For years, I, and many like me, have focused on the positives of our hometown community and promoted all the great and wonderful things Fort McMurray has accomplished and strive to do.

Once again, multiple wild fires have started, putting the community in a state of emergency. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Fort McMurray, it is in the heart of the boreal forest at the confluence of the Clearwater River and the Athabasca River. The community is surrounded by trees. It is one of the things I miss living away from Fort McMurray.fort-mcmurray-small

But today, the trees are losing a fight against raging fires. Some fires a mere 1.5 kilometre from the town. More than 500 people have been evaluated from their homes, waiting to hear when they can return; in hopes they have homes to return to.

How have McMurray residents responded? They’ve opened their homes to displaced families, volunteered to help move personal belonging, and volunteered to house animals.

As I sit in my office in Edmonton watching the news and #ymmfire hashtag flood my twitter feed, I can’t help but be moved by my hometown’s generous spirit. Fort McMurray is so much more than its oil production and environmental record – which is not at all what the media makes it out to be…that is for another post another day. Like every community in the world, Fort McMurray has endured issues. But past the issues, Fort McMurray is an amazing place.

I’ve witnessed many McMurrayites volunteer there time to raise over $700,000 to help a community fire fighter fight cancer. I’ve participated in emptying pantries and volunteering my time to Father Mercredi’s student run Santa’s Anonymous to ensure families had a good Christmas. And I’ve seen hundreds of McMurrayites raise $6.8 million  for the United Way to ensure programs and services are uninterrupted.

Over and over again, this community rallies. We join the fight in any way we can. We open homes, wallets, and most of all, hearts. And we don’t just focus on Fort McMurray; we extend our generosity to all parts of the province, because at the end of the day, we are invested in our community, we love our community and we are Albertans.

As we go about our days in Alberta during this very unseasonable weather, I hope you share my appreciation for our wildfire response teams, for our first responders, firefighters, junior forest rangers, and all personnel responding to ensure our communities are protected. The next time you see one of these team members, buy them a coffee as a thank you.

To my friends and family in Fort McMurray, stay safe. #YMMstrong.