Friday, April 2, 2010

Allan's Retirement Party

As some of you may know, our store manager, Allan Hart, has decided to retire after 34 years of working for the North West Company. Of those 34 years, he spent the last 28 of them as store manager in Baker Lake.

This is an amazing fact in itself when you consider two things about the way people go about their careers these days. Personally, I don’t see anyone working for one company for 34 years ever again as people do not have the same loyalty as they did years ago. Also what is amazing about this is that for those 28 years that Allan was manager here is that the customers and the people of Baker Lake respected him, and still do respect him.

With that said, the Hamlet threw a community feast and square dance in his honour on March 27th.

It was a surprise to Allan that the party was being thrown. Everyone sat in the community hall and waited for Allan to arrive, and when he did, everyone in the room gave him a long standing ovation. It was a great thing to see – something that you think you would only see in a movie.

After that, the food began to pour out.

The feast consisted of a big chunk of caribou, rice with raisins in it, and macaroni salad. The meal was delicious!

After the meal, there were some speeches and Allan was presented with some gifts from families and organizations in the community. Allan then gave his little speech, which was somewhat unprepared as you could expect, and was translated into inuk by his wife Nancy.

And then, in Inuit tradition, LET THE SQUARE DANCE BEGIN!

Grace and I had never seen the Inuit square dance before, and it was pretty cool to watch! However, they had some other plans, and the next thing we knew, we were square dancing!

Now, this isn’t square dancing in the AM 920 CKNX kind of square dancing that we would know in the south. And quite frankly, you are never in the shape of a square for that matter. We expected a dance to last around five minutes, you know, the average length of a song…


The dance was about 15 minutes long, and was one song in length. There was eight people total in our square (four groups of two) and since there was three white people in our square who had never danced before, Grace got dragged around by Mellow (who used to work at the store and is an overall awesome guy) and I got dragged around by Pam (who works at the store). We did spins, circles, jigs, and a bunch of other things that we can’t seem to remember at this point in time, but it was a lot of fun and was very tiring!

The really cool part about the square dance though is that in the hall there were elders, teenagers, adults, and kids… and they all knew how to square dance and they all enjoyed doing it! Down south you would not see that at all!

It was a great experience for us to have, and we won’t forget it!

Below are some pictures for your enjoyment!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

As Promised, Here's Pics

As promised in the last post, here are some pictures from the summer in Baker Lake. It isn't much, but it is what we have. The store renovation blog will be up tomorrow.


This is out at the Bridge to Nowhere overlooking the river. It's quite peaceful out there. And isn't the view something else?

This is the Bridge in the background. There is a little eating/rest area there, which is where this was taken from.

That is a sik sik (I believe that is the proper spelling). It is essentially a ground squirrel that if you get too close, has some serious anger issues. As you can see, he isn't too happy at the moment.

An arctic hare. Poor guy didn't know that winter was over. Usually they turn brown in the summer.

A ptarmigan. This has to be the stupidest bird known to man (or a close runner up to the dodo). They are hunted with rocks and sticks. You chase them, and instead of flying away (which they can do) they decide to run. Like I said, not too bright. Makes me wonder how Steve couldn't catch one... (Sorry Steve, had to do it!)

Lovely Baker Lake as viewed from the VOR near the airport.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Summer Update.. In Winter

Okay, so it’s March 2010.

If you look closely, the last time we wrote in this thing was May 2009.

Okay, we suck. We have a lot of things to cover from the last nine months or so. Here is the order of events (and this may end up turning into a Band of Brothers type mini series based on how long it has been since we updated this thing) that we are going to cover everything in:

  1. Summer
  2. Store Renovation
  3. Christmas
  4. New Year’s
  5. Winnipeg
  6. Today

With that said, we are not going to make you wait any longer. Here is the first chapter…


We’ll skip the part about going home for vacation as everyone knows about that. What we will do is talk about coming back from vacation.

We got back from vacation and we had to go live at the Four Plex (coming full circle) for two or three weeks because our landlords at the house decided that they wanted to come and live at home for a few weeks. Did that suck? Why yes, yes it did. When you go from living in a house for seven or eight months and then have to move to an apartment, it sucks. So while we were at the apartment, not much happened…

Except sea lift.

The dreaded sea lift. As you may recall (or probably not since it has been so damn long since we wrote in this thing), sea lift is the twice a year barge shipment of goods and supplies in to town. This is done to save money on freight costs (which compared to flying everything in by air, it is a lot of money). However, this has it’s downside as well – such as handling 300,000 pounds of freight in three days.

I made the comparison last year of saying that it was like doing 20 trailers at Speare Seeds back to back – without a forklift. I still stand by that comparison. It is a long three days, but it is worth it when you see how much money is saved not only for the store, but for the customers as well. We also bring in furniture and appliances on this barge for our big arena sale.

After we got through sea lift, it was time to move back to the house. Yes, I do mean move. We had to move all of our stuff out of the house to the apartment, and then back again. All this so our landlord’s could have a vacation. Still ticks me off to this day. Anyway, we got back into the house and settled in.

The rest of the summer was not that adventurous with all things considered. We went out on the Honda a few times and did some exploring on the land. We had a baseball game with the stock boys from the store on Labour Day, as well as a BBQ afterwards.

Everyone had fun during the summer. However, as we all know by now, the summer is not that long up here.

With that, his brings us to the second sea lift. To save time, see the description of the first sea lift as it is very much the same.

I will add some photos of the summer time when the internet connection allows me to add some. The bandwidth and such can be so crappy at times that it is impossible to do anything uploading or downloading.

Tune in next time (the day after tomorrow) for part two… Store Renovation.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Ok, so we lied (or more so, Mike lied a little) when we said that we would have a new blog up on the 30th. However, it is only the 2nd and there is a new one up, so we aren’t that far behind!!!

Now, when we last talked, we mentioned that there were promotions and upcoming vacations and such. However, today we are going to talk about our version of the Blackout that we had in Ontario a few years ago.

From April 21st in the AM until the 23rd in the AM, we had limited power in town.

Our power plant broke down is basically what happened. From what we understand, there are three generators in town that power everything in town. There is one generator big enough that it can power the entire town by itself, and then there are two generators that, combined, can power the entire town.

Apparently what had happened is that the big generator kicked out, so they went to the two little generators.
Then one of them kicked out.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening, down at the Northern, we were running things as usual until the power went out. Then it came back on, then it went of again. This happened until the afternoon when Allan (our store manager) finally called the power corporation and found out what was happening.

So, for the next two days we operated under a “last minute of play in this period” type mentality. We would announce over the speaker system that the power was going out in 15 minutes (because by this point the power corp was nice enough to let us know when our power at the store was going out) and it seemed like all hell would break loose in the store. The lines would get really long, people would start rushing around the store, and we would have to have a staff member at the door to make sure nobody else would come in.

And for the next two days, any time the phone would ring, the question would be “is it open?”

Yes, “is it open?” The store is not referred to by most locals as the store when they ask you if the store is open. Nope. The Northern, for the most part, is referred to as “it” like the store is some sort of all knowing entity or something.

Occasionally, the store will be referred to as The Bay, which it was back in the mid 80’s before HBC sold off the northern Canadian stores they owned. Mostly the elders call it the Bay. I guess you could compare it to how most of us in Ontario still refer to Rogers Centre as the SkyDome.

So the power outage, getting back to the topic, would work on one hour cycles. For example, if you had power from 7 to 8 PM, you would be without from 8 to 9 PM, and so on. This made for interesting eating choices. The first day of the power outage, we helped clean up the Quickstop with the power out, and as a thank you, we were given left over KFC food for lunch. Not the healthiest of choices, but considering we couldn’t cook anything, it did the job. That night for dinner was sandwiches.

The second day of the power outages was once again sandwiches for lunch, and for dinner that night we made a deal that we would eat something hot. So, when the power kicked on, Mike made sure that he turned the oven on and within minutes there was a frozen pizza in the oven.

The power outage lasted until the Thursday morning and since then everything has been back to normal. Well, as normal as things can be anyway.

With the power outage though, we realized that we rely heavily on technology up here for entertainment and for work. We couldn’t do much in the way of television or movies or video games because we had no power, and at work we couldn’t even do the simplest of paper work by daylight because everything is kept on the computer. We couldn’t stock shelves because our warehouse has no windows whatsoever, and we couldn’t even have the store open because all of our cash registers are done through a computer point of sale system. At least in the south we would be able to sit outside and have a camp fire or something because up here we don’t have any trees!

Now, with that said, here are a couple of pictures that we promised.

Yes, it is May 2nd and look at all this damn snow! GAHH!

So, don’t be looking to us for sympathy if you have a day where it is a “chilly” 5 degrees! :P
Another update will follow in a few days, and this time there will be pictures of the store. We have promised this before, but this time we mean it. Hey, we’ve done pretty good as of late with our promises, have we not? :P

-Mike and Grace

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The April 23rd Post Finally Posted on April 29

Finally after a much awaited return to the blogosphere, we have come back for another try at this thing.

I know, we suck at keeping it updated. We readily admit that. Much like Mike is willing to admit that after 7 months of winter, he is extremely tired of it. Much like how we are both willing to admit that we miss BBQ food.
Or like how much we are willing to admit that VACATION CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH!

Yeah we are starting to get anxious. Mike was lucky enough that he got to go out to Winnipeg in March for a week for the Wintering Partner’s Conference, but still, we both need to get out of the North for a bit.

Now, with that said, we will try to do a quick recap of things that have gone on since we last spoke on this thing.
1) Holy crap, has it really been four months since we updated this blog?

2) When we last talked, we said how things weren’t so busy at the store. Well, that has changed since tax season kicked in. Like we had mentioned in a previous entry, saving money is not exactly done up here (or maybe it isn’t approved of, that much we are not sure of yet), so there was lots of spending done. Grocery is doing well, as it most likely always will due to the fact that people need to eat food. Retail is doing alright, not as good as last year, but last year also saw the IRSSA cheques (something to do with the schooling that they had as kids) so there was more money around.

3) Mike predicted last times that there would still be lots of jobs in town this year. So far, he has been right. The store is always hiring people, and to date there have only been two mining camps not returning this year, and both of those are relatively small (under 10 people), so they really don’t affect the job situation much here.

4) On February 1st, Mike was officially promoted to Grocery Manager (how the position opened up is quite a story, and will be told when we are home) here in Baker Lake! Of course, a promotion like this came with a raise in pay (which is ALWAYS good) but it also comes with better benefits, so WOOHOO!

5) On March 9th, Grace was promoted to General Merchandise Department Manager – Soft Lines and was named Post Mistress of the Post Office! Also, a raise in pay was included. So, WOOHOO!! Basically, she takes care of the fashion side of retail and is in charge of the post office. And believe it or not, that post office is, as Bill MacKay would say, “CRAZY BUSY!”.

6) We are still living in the house that we moved in to in November, and we potentially may be living here for a while longer as the store wants to keep the house if the owner’s are willing to rent it our another year. So, WOOHOO!

7) Since Christmas time, Grace has been on Weight Watchers and has done INCREDIBLY WELL! I (Mike) will not dive into numbers here because it isn’t my place to tell, but she is happy with it so far (which is all that matters)

8) Since Christmas time, Mike has NOT been on Weight Watchers, which at times drives Grace crazy since he will eat some junk food that she likes. Mike has since learned to not eat that junk food around here. :P

Now, there is the Coles Notes version of how the last four months have gone. Some of the faces of our management team have changed, but it all seems to be for the better at this point.

Now, here is the quick rundown of what happens in June as June means VACATION!

On June 18th we fly out of Baker Lake on the evening flight and arrive in Winnipeg at 10 PM. We are staying two nights in Winnipeg because we are going to spend the day with Britt and Chris on the 19th and take in the sights and sounds of Winnipeg. On June 20th we fly out of Winnipeg and arrive in Toronto around noon.

So, with that said…


Our schedule is, so far, a little busy, but we will make sure that we are available to see each and every one of you!

Now, with that said, there will be another update tomorrow night (Thursday the 30th) with some more stories of the north.

-Mike and Grace

PS: We will have more pictures posted soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Holiday Wishes

Hopefully the Christmas season was as good to everyone else as it was to us this year. We were lucky enough to have Grace’s parents come up and visit us for a week. On top of that, we all got some great gifts and had some good laughs.

Christmas away from home for the first time was somewhat different. For me, it was strange to be away from family and friends at this time of year. For example, on Christmas Eve there wasn’t the Wilson Family Christmas, it was a Baker Lake Perogie Feast.

It was nice in some ways though, as we got to do some things that you wouldn’t be able to experience down south. At midnight, we went down ONTO the lake (as it is VERY frozen at this time of year) and watched the Northern Lights dance around as an Arctic Hare hopped out in front of us. That was quite a sight that you can’t get just anywhere!

Christmas Day was also an adventure! Who would have thunk it that I would be the last person out of bed on Christmas Morning? Not I!

Everyone here at the house was spoiled one way or another with the gifts they got, which was good. But most importantly, the people that were here on Christmas morning were people that care about each other. Once we finished opening presents, which was around 2 PM, we finally started to get ready for Christmas dinner.

Now, for me, Christmas dinner was quite small this year as we had a grand total of six people for dinner, as opposed to the usual 20 or so at the Snell house.

However, Christmas was enjoyed by all, and other than Grace having a bout of the flu on Christmas Day, everyone was healthy and happy.

New Years Eve in Baker Lake was something else! It may not have been the biggest party that we have ever had, or ever been too, but it is definitely one for the ages! We had Steve, John, Karen, and their two kids over for a total of seven people in the house. But, with those seven people we had a party for the ages.

We had our fair share of drinks, we saw New Years come in a total of four times thanks to the wonders of TV (Newfoundland, Halifax, Ontario and Nunavut) and therefore, we had four New Years toasts.

To make a long story short, the party ended sometime around 4 AM and resulted in a few head aches the next day. Everyone had a great time, and that is the main thing.

So far the New Year has been not so busy at the store. Apparently there is a bit of a lull at this time of year as most people have done a lot of shopping at Christmas time and are waiting to accumulate some more disposable income. Grocery, for the most part, has been just as busy as before. Where we see the most decline is in retail, as like I said, the money just isn’t there at this time of year.

For us, it is hard to say whether or not the economy has anything to do with the lull as this happens every year. Also, it is hard to tell how the economy will affect things up here because there aren’t a whole lot of jobs tied to southern companies. I mean, there are companies that are owned by southern companies (such as ours), however, there is money to be made here. The gold mine has some ridiculous amount of gold deposits at their site that there is no way they would shut down. Also, the other mines here have minerals that are still in high demand. Therefore, the jobs are still here.

We’ll just have to see how 2009 plays out for us compared to 2008.

In other news, we have done a little bit of wedding planning, however nothing is set in stone as of yet. All we know for sure is that the year will be 2010. Speaking of which, 2010 is turning out to be a big year for weddings for us as Steph and Steve are getting married on July 10 and Britt and Chris are getting married on July 24. Congrats to both couples!!

I know I write this in every blog, but we will definitely try our best to do more blogs in the future!

Thanks again to everyone who sent cards, gifts, and e-mails to us this holiday season. Every little bit helped make our first Christmas away from home a little bit easier to cope with given the fact that we couldn’t see any of you.

Only five months until we are back in Ontario for a visit!

Mike and Grace

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


So since our last blog a lot has happened. Mike and I have moved into a house! Woo hoo. The store was currently leasing a house for our grocery manager and, well, some things happened and our grocery manager left town suddenly. Since my parents are coming up for christmas our store manager asked Mike and I to move into the house till the lease was up because he didn’t want to leave the house unattended  and it has 3 bedrooms so we’ll have a lot more room for christmas. The house is pretty nice. It has 3 bedrooms and 4 TVs, all with satellite! We also have 2 full bathrooms, one being in our master  bedroom. We also have a nice big kitchen and a garage with a fancy car which we can’t use because its owned by the store and its just being stored here for the winter part of the year. Which leads me into my next topic, which is the weather.

 Well we waited for snow and it finally came, at first it was nice and we didn’t find it to be to cold at all now however that is changing. We are definitely thankful that our new digs are located right across the street from the store because WOW is it ever a frosty morning walk. Our front door has a deck infront of it and last week we had a blizzard and all the snow blew right infront of our steps so for a week we were going through the garage to get into the house. Finally today, even though we are having another blustery day, Mike was able to shovel the steps.  The postive side of having all his snow and cold weather is that it makes a great freezer on your door step. Anytime we need a bottle or can cooled we through it on the porch for 10 minutes and it’s nice and frosty. All in all, the weather isn’t so bad, however, we have learned that when going anywhere outside after it hits -25 and its windy that it’s a must to wear snow pants. I just can’t wait till it hits -70 :S lol

So I’ve updated  you on our house and our blustery weather now on to something slightly more interesting and amusing lol. Now that it’s Christmas our store holds different event nights such as Moonlight Madness, Customer Appreciation, Kids Day, Ladies Night, Teen Night , Mens Night and Elders Night. During these nights we open the store from 8-10 and have big sales, depending on the night. For example, on teen night we play games, and on busier nights such as ladies night we just try to get everyone through the till as fast as we can.  So anyway, last Saturday we had Kids Day which means the big red guy comes and visits the store. Traditionally, its always the new guy that plays Santa, however we recently got another member to our management team (the name is Steve) which should mean Mike is off the hook. This year however they decided to also order a Rudolph costume which meant Mike played dear old Santa and Steve played Rudolph lol best day of my life. No worries folks I’ll be posting pictures at the bottom of Mike in his outfit… oh and of Rudolph.

 Well other than that not much else is new just the odd thing. I had a great birthday! Mike got a Barbie cake made for me and had everyone sing happy birthday to me during coffee it was really nice. Also thanks everyone for the wishes, gifts and cards it made the day special. We still miss everyone lots and can’t believe we’ve been living in the North for 6 months now. Wedding plans really have not progressed. Hopefully once my parents come up we will celebrate and plan a little more. All we really know right now is that we want to get married and not get married in the summer or spring. Well I’m signing off now and promise I’ll write a blog on how the rest of the Christmas season goes.s

Love Grace!