Pioneer Poetry

saskatchewan, 2012

leaving the station, saskatchewan 2012

Have recently begun researching a book project and in my readings came across this poem, written around 1914 by railroader-turned-writer Cy Warman.

I thought it was too lovely not to share, plus I have a bit of a fascination with the nostalgia of trains. Apparently Cy often recited his poems aloud to his railroading friends so I imagine the escalating rhythm and sound of a locomotive in transit when I read this.


Oft, when I feel my engine swerve,
As o’er strange rails we fare,
I strain my eyes around the curve
For what awaits us there.
When swift and free she carries me
Through yards unknown at night,
I look along the line to see
That all the lamps are white

The blue light marks the crippled car,
The green light signals slow;
The red light is a danger light,
The white light, “Let her go.”
Again the open fields we roam,
And, when the night is fair,
I look up in the starry dome
And wonder what’s up there.

For who can speak for those who dwell
Behind the curving sky?
No man has ever lived to tell
Just what it means to die.
Swift toward life’s terminal I trend,
The run seems short to-night;
God only knows what’s at the end –
I hope the lamps are white.

Veet Hair Removal Giveaway

Veet is pretty much a no-brainer.  Such a no-brainer that when a friend of mine suggested I hold a waxing ‘party’ for this contest – because waxing used to be so difficult in the past that you literally needed assistance – I laughed her off and explained that I was pretty pro now.

Since I am a total fan of 1) Veet, and, 2) Poetry, I decided to launch this little Twitter contest so you can win a $100 Veet gift basket of your very own.

Blogger Contest_Giveaway

Here’s the deal:

Tweet me (@tpotratz) with a short poem containing the word “hair” and #veetcontest, and you’re entered to win.

Here’s some inspirational entries so far:

  • Thick hair = more flare = more snare = more care (…required)
  • I just want to share, I truly love my hair, if I didn’t care, my head would soon be bare
  • Spring’s twilight ebbs by, Summer raises sunny head, hair sprouts must now fall
  • Roses are red / Boxes are square / Please help me, Veet® / Deal with this hair!
  • Of all the hair in the world to shave .. To see Russell Brand bald would be my fave !!

I’ll be choosing a winner this week so get that paper to pen and be spring-ready with this awesome prize pack!


How-To: Gatsby Fashion Theme Party

Two weekends in a row at Hastings Racecourse, the most recent of which was a birthday party with a Great Gatsby theme!  I spent hours scouring through Value Village for the perfect get-up – and though it was harder than I expected to find a 1920′s style dress, I discovered a few helpful tips.

gatsby2Gatsby theme girls at Hastings Racecourse

The great thing about the 1920′s is this was the first era where women took a bit more control of their wardrobes and began to rotate more comfortable clothes into their style, such as trousers and shorter skirts.  So as I was searching the thrift stores, I was keeping an eye out for high-quality, high-waisted ladies trousers that I could pair with a fancy silk blouse and cloche hat.  I was also looking for knife-pleated skirts, shift dresses, or anything with a bit fullness around the bottom of the hemline that would be appropriate for that famous flapper-style dancing.


When I came across this lace dress (Suzy Shier, so modern) I was at the end of my rope but resolved to try it on anyway and ‘make it work.’  Only then did I realize how perfect the cap sleeves where, and from there I was off.  I found the white shoes that were the perfect shape with black detailing…now I just needed an abundance of white accessories to even out the look.  Strings upon strings of pearls later, plus a white handbag, and I was set.  You can go a long way with a more modern dress if you accessorize appropriately.

gatsby kiss1920′s finger wave hair

Youtube helped me with my hair (a finger wave is surprisingly easy to do – and I don’t even own any gel at home, I used a curling cream instead) and I aimed to keep my makeup super simple.  I didn’t want to have to reapply all day so I opted for the Make Up For Ever Aqua Rouge.  It’s a long-lasting, waterproof lip colour and that you can wear matte or glossy, and for me it literally lasted all day with minimal fuss or reapplication.  (I filled in my entire lip with with the Pomegranate Pink Aqua Lip pen first, then applied the rouge on top.)

One final tip if you’re in a pinch and need some Gatsby-inspired accessories – many of the girls found everything they needed at the Party Bazaar in Vancouver.

A Day at Hastings Races

  hastingsgateand they’re off! horses right out of the gate at hastings racecourse

My previous experience at Hastings Racecourse, while rife with all the expected excitement and occasional glamour that horse racing involves, has always been slightly marred by my own complete and utter ignorance as to how to properly place a bet.

I would literally wager the day away solely on luck, navigating through the program by picking out the horse names that I thought were most hilarious and betting that pony to ‘show’ – the safest option that pays out the least amount (yawn). While this method is fun, it hardly compares to the payoff that can be earned if you:

  • Consider the statistics
  • Research the horse
  • Research the jockey
  • Research how that horse fares with that jockey
  • Understand the odds
  • Choose the right betting option

a little bit of swank

When I was invited to the Hastings last weekend for a ‘Day at the Races,’ I jumped at the opportunity to get the inside scoop on this often-elusive sport.  Quite luckily for me, and the rest of the bloggers who attended, we had coaches (hi Janis!) at our disposal who patiently explained the basics of betting and advised us, if asked, on exactly how to place our bets.  When I had settled on my favourite ponies for race #2, I headed up to the betting station with confidence (after triple-checking with Janis that I had memorized the right spiel) and declared my $2 bet on a triactor box, which cost me $4 total.

If exactor boxes and superfectas sounds like a foreign language to you, you’ll be happy to know that betting coaches are available to everyone and anyone at Hastings – all you have to do is ask, and I wholeheartedly urge you to do so next time you visit.  Not only are they chock-full of wise information, they’re so nice!

I got to head up to the announcer’s booth to watch my first race, and despite screaming with glee as my chosen horses raced past the finish line (broadcast all over North America, whoops!), Dan, the animated voice of Hastings Racecourse, was very good-natured in the face of my embarrassing error and sweetly noted that there aren’t many activities you can do for $2 that give you such a thrill and rush of excitement. (I took that as absolution for my shrieking into his microphone.)

hastingsgate2jockeys and horses loaded into the gate

We also took turns watching a race right from the starting gate, by far one of the most memorable experiences of the day.  If this isn’t on your bucket list, it should be.  After the horses are trotted in front of the grandstand next to their escort horse/rider (“dynamite-proof”) they are transferred to the handlers who guide them into the gate (“like stuffing a marshmallow into a piggy bank”) and keep them calm until the gates fly open…sort of. The horses are so charged, sweaty, and wound up prior to the race, they’re literally rearing to go and the whole gate is moving and shaking. The jockeys, however, seemed quite calm and nonchalant about the whole thing – one even got thrown from out of the gate and he sprung right back onto his horse as though he had go-go-gadget springs in his riding boots.

hastings2sitting in the starting gate with kim cathers

I was so glad to have this experience a week before heading back to Hastings this weekend for a Gatsby-themed birthday party – now I will really know my stuff! There’s something for everyone at the track.  Admission is free and bets are cheap, or you can go fancy and rent a box in the grandstand, or the Sky Box next to the announcer booth if you’re really feeling swanky. The food was great, the staff are all so friendly and helpful, and I see many future expeditions to Hastings now that I have some reckoning of what the heck to do once I get there.

Thanks to Hastings Racecourse, BCLC, Joe, Mark and Janis who were so generous with their time and knowledge, and all the other bloggers who I got to meet!

I’m giving away a Hastings prize pack later this week, which includes:

  • Silks Admission, Reserved Seating
  • Buffet for 2 Guests in Silks Restaurant
  • Official Hastings Program

What do you have to do?  Tell me what you would name your race horse!

Tweet me @tpotratz and be sure to include @HastingsRaces and @BCLC.

Road Trippin’ from BC to Alberta

driving through Jasper National Park

There’s nothing quite like heading out from Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway with the whole country laid out before you, that long road full of possibility and adventure.  Driving through BC is glorious – I never get tired of inspecting old farm houses and crumbling barns, dusty roads trodden down by hooves of cattle and the boots of cowboys.  You’re likely to get every type of weather heading up through the Coquihalla, and when you emerge you’re on the heels of the Rocky Mountains.  This is the where Canada begins to feel like another world, where the rolling hills of forested country give way to the razor-sharp peaks of the Rockies and elusive wildlife can be spotted from the roadside.

imageblack bear in Jasper National Park

Once you pass through Banff, the landscape soon changes and the romance of transcontinental travel quickly dissolves when you reach the expansive nothingness that is Alberta.  I imagine this is the point where, for those who are making an ambitious cross-country drive, a hint of “what was I thinking?” begins to set in. The low-rolling hills project in every direction, gradually flattening out as you proceed East and punctuated only by cattle farms and urban sprawl.  The reality of human population seems so much more apparent in land-locked areas.  Seaside cities always offer the escape of the ocean, I suppose there’s something comforting about that for me.  I

imageelk in Jasper National Park

There is only one major thing to appreciate while in Alberta (this time of year), and that is the abundance of country music.  Even sports bars played country on a Friday night, I was over the moon – you would never find that here in Vancouver.  (Sorry, Bourbon, you don’t count.)

imageHarley Davidson wanted ad in Avola’s Log Inn Pub

When you’re about ready to boomerang home, try a different route on the way back.  The change of scenery is nice when you’re doing such a long haul, even if it costs you a bit of extra travel time.  We headed through Jasper National Park for the drive home, which was stunning – between the mountains and emerald-green lakes we saw elk, deer, a bear, and lots of birds.  The Yellowhead Highway is a bit more run-down but it takes you past the tiny town of Avola, which has the best little Log Inn Pub in the province!  It’s a renowned stopover for motorcyclists so you’re bound to run into some interesting folks if you stop here for a snack and a beer.  You’ll see the sign with a motorcycle frame on top of it from the highway, you shouldn’t miss it.

imagewall of notes in Avola’s Log Inn Pub

Barriere, still recovering from a huge forest fire which devastated the surrounding area in 2003, has a nice little antique shop right off the highway that we were glad to browse through briefly.  A bit on the expensive side, but you’re getting legit and rare items.  I was really interested in this strange map contraption ($1250) – the sign explained that it was a fire finder, once used in fire lookout towers.

When you hit Little Fort, you can head home through Kamloops or prolong your route once again and head NW up through Cariboo Country.  Just driving through this area fills up my heart, there’s something about that Cariboo air… If you do decide to head that way, stop at the antiques market in Clinton, there’s always gems to be found there.

Last pieces of road trip advice?

  • Skip the roadside diners (I’m looking at you, Smitty’s) and hit up the truck stop restaurants for your quick, basic, greasy breakfasts instead.
  • Salty nuts are great for keeping you alert, but keep some water handy.  I highly recommend salted pumpkin seeds, they’re very high in iron and taste delicious!
  • Don’t store your chocolate bars on the dashboard.
  • Don’t attempt to learn how to play the banjo while riding in the passenger seat; driver may try to smack you after a couple out-of-tune hours.
  • Follow your instinct and give yourself permission to stop along the way and enjoy this beautiful place we live in!

Eco Fashion Week and Value Village Present: 68lb Challenge by Kim Cathers

PeterJensen_PBJ_3438_jpgKim Cathers’ lace tablecloth skirt; Peter Jensen photo

Eco Fashion Week is coming up in Vancouver in a couple short weeks, and there’s one event in particular that you absolutely cannot miss.  Kim Cathers, my dear friend and the woman behind the kdon line, is embarking on the second installment of the 68lb Challenge presented by Value Village.  68lbs is the average weight of clothing that a person in North America discards every year, and Kim’s challenge is to scour the aisles of Value Village for roughly 68lbs of garments to be reworked into a new, original collection.

PeterJensen_PBJ_3739_jpgKim Cathers reworked a pair of men’s trousers into this dress; Peter Jensen photo

Last year her show was a sell-out success, with Real Housewives of Vancouver star Mary Zilba frontlining the show (check out the full gallery here).  We saw a beautiful spring colour palette of peaches, creams and blues, tablecloths draped into clever skirts, and silhouettes filled out with crinoline.  This season Kim is creating a F/W womenswear collection out of recycled men’s suits and sweaters, and it’s going to be amazing.  I’ve seen what this woman can do with an old suit jacket, so I’m prepared to be blown away.

Be sure to buy your ticket ASAP so that you don’t miss out.  A ticket purchase gets you to the exclusive after party at UVA wine bar, with free drinks and canapes included.

See you on the runway!

68 Pound Challenge by Kim Cathers for Value Village
April 22, 8:30pm

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