Monday, September 25, 2017

Two Cowboys: Fiesta with Casa Hogar Los Angelitos Dancing Away with Ballet Folklorico in Okotoks, Alberta

The Rhythm

Music and dance have a way to transcend culture, time and place. Even more so on a Monday evening in Okotoks Alberta, as a school theatre is packed with spectators witnessing and clapping to the pumping Latin rhythms from Mexico's Ballet Folklorico.

The spectacle was courtesy of the touring dancers of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos of Manzanillo, Mexico, on their tour through the Canadian Prairie towns. The Two Cowboys was lucky to get an invite to the Okotoks performance.

We cannot stay away from people that create things - music and dance in this case - and people that care for each other.


Baile folklórico, literally "folkloric dance" in Spanish, also known as ballet folklórico is a collective term for traditional Mexican dances. It puts the emphasis on local folk culture with ballet characteristics like pointed toes and exaggerated movements, that are highly choreographed.

You will find folk dances in the villages during fiestas and not on stage. Each region in Mexico, the Southwestern United States and Central American countries is known for a handful of locally characteristic dances. On Monday 18 September, we were treated to the Mexican folkloric journey by Casa Hogar Los Angelitos students (CHLA).

CHLA is an orphanage that is providing for the needs of the homeless and forgotten children of Manzanillo. The facilities and the not-for-profit organization that supports it was founded by Nancy Nystrom and her husband, David. Their clear mission is to help develop the young people of the city that would otherwise have been destitute.

The focus is on education. Children that would otherwise not have had opportunities are given a chance and is supported to develop into skilled individuals, ready to contribute to society in Mexico once they become young adults. Since inception, CHLA has succeeded in helping several young men and women go to universities and technical schools. All activities are funded through individual sponsorships and donations by generous patrons.

What sets CHLA's approach apart is the Ballet Folklorico. Nancy Nystrom had the idea that expressive arts may help some of the children deal with their sometimes complicated pasts. It worked. Her idea has gradually progressed to where many of the children in CHLA and even some from surrounding communities have joined the Ballet Folklorico Casa Hogar Los Angelitos.

The next step was to share it with the world by taking the show on the road. This is how people in Alberta and other communities across North America are getting to see the rhythmic enthusiasm of these outstanding performers. At the same time, we all learned a little bit more of Mexico and of ourselves as we too contributed as spectators to the opportunities for these children.


The dancing was world-class. The stamina of the performers was exceptional considering they perform almost daily while on tour. The costumes were breathtaking and the rhythms contagious.

For a short while, we were all in a Mexican plaza during fiesta. Vibrant colors were everywhere. Mariachis and their songs were thumping away in a tranced tapestry of familiarity as they sing of love and heartbreak, happiness and success. People danced. Viva Mexico!

For a moment we forgot about our pasts, and we shared in the music and dance present of the students of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos. What a present it was!

Hendrik van Wyk
Fiesta Cowboy

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Yes, He Came




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Traveling Cowboys: Soaring with the Eagles at the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation in Coaldale, Alberta

Soaring with Eagles

Where can you feel the wind from a fully grown Bald Eagle's wings on your face? Even better, where can you give a Golden Eagle a shower on a hot summer's afternoon?

The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is the place where I realized a childhood dream of being up close and personal with eagles and other birds of prey. Colin, the proprietor of the facility allowed us to give a Golden Eagle a cooling shower. I also saw how accurately a fully grown Bald Eagle land on his arm, between a group of people. I felt the wind from the birds 85" long wingspan when he swooshed by, during the performance.

It all happened this summer during our visit to the foundation's rescue and conservation center in Coaldale, just east of Lethbridge.


The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is Alberta's first privately licensed raptor rescue and conservation organization. It's been operating since 1982. The facility is located two hours south of Calgary in the heart of Canada's wild prairies and 10 minutes east of Lethbridge. You can visit the center during the summer months to get a closer look at the magnificent birds and to learn more about the work that goes into rescue and conservation.

Although Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is Alberta based, the organization's environmental contributions extend far beyond the province of Alberta. It released offspring from their Burrowing Owl breeding program in all four western Canadian provinces. At the facility, they've also cared for injured birds from locations ranging from Ontario to British Columbia, and even Canada's Arctic.

The Foundation is a non-political organization with a simple strategy. According to Colin Weir, the founder, the focus is to initiate hands-on practical solutions which directly benefit wildlife and our environment. Colin mentioned that although it sounds idyllic to be amongst these majestic birds every day, they do not receive any government or operating subsidies to help them in their work.

He calls it his happy place and his biggest liability. The Foundation relies solely on donations in addition to people generously donating their time. It makes the work of the organization so much harder. They spend 100% of all donations on programs and projects that directly benefit the wildlife and habitats they strive to conserve.


There are no words that can describe the experience we've had with Colin. Look at the video and photos below. We highly recommend the visit.

The highlight of the day was when Colin released a rehabilitated bird, and we could film the action with our cameras in slow-motion.

If there is such a thing as a spirit animal, then the Golden Eagle is mine. The majesty that is part of these birds is breathtaking. Even more when you see them up close, and you realize how big they are, how fragile they are on the ground and understand the power they exhibit when you see them in flight. You can experience all of this in a matter of minutes at the center.

The visit to Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation was not only a highlight of our trip to Lethbridge. It was a special day I will cherish for the remainder of my life.

Hendrik van Wyk
Spirit Cowboy

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Two Birds




Where's the Barn

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Two Cowboys: Fresh, Pure, Liquid Gold from the Alberta Prairies Courtesy of Forever Bee in Okotoks, Alberta

Purest of Honey

In 2010 I embarked on the crazy journey to perfect classic Italian Honey Nougat. It is an ancient celebratory confection with only four ingredients - honey, egg white, cane sugar, and nuts. Nougat is a major industry in the old world of Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, and Morocco where it was typically served to royalty and as present at weddings, christenings, Christmas and birthdays.

It is also one of the most difficult confections to make. The soft, white, melt-in-your mount textured candy has broken many a chef's resolve. Only a few people in the world know the secrets of perfect white soft honey nougat and most of them only impart it to close family members on their death bed, who is tasked with perpetuating the legacy.

It took me three years and five tons of failures to finally unlock the secret of honey nougat perfection. None of which I am prepared to divulge in this post. What I did discover during my struggle is that most of the honey that we buy in stores are either not honey or of such low quality that it may as well be regular cane sugar syrup. For a start, it contains abnormal amounts of water, and it is pasteurized. As we know pasteurization kills all pathogens - the good ones with the bad. The bottom line discovery was that store bought honey cannot be used for making Honey Nougat.


During my journey, I met Matt and Annanie. They own of Forever Bee. It is a small apiary they started in February of 2012 while on their own search for a better quality honey.

Forever Bee began as a tiny business that managed to sell a few jars of honey here and there at farmers' markets. They've been bootstrapping the business since and have managed to build up a strong fresh honey supply to many loyal customers in Southern Alberta. Their products include raw honey, flavored honey (they do a fantastic cinnamon honey), honeycomb, beeswax, candles and more.


We spend a lot of time around farmers' markets in Southern Alberta, and inevitably we run into the Forever Bee clan again and again with their fresh honeycomb and jars of pure, unpasteurized honey.

The honey is terrific for all the good reasons they mention in the video above.

What stands out for us about Matt and Annanie's business is not so much the honey they produce, which is fantastic. It is the success they have starting from nothing five years ago and building a simple, successful business with a very loyal customer base. The business is in its fifth year, and it is allowing them to have their entire family involved in growing it. It is only with passion and an outstanding product that they can continue to succeed.

Being at farmers' markets is hard work. It may appear idyllic or romantic to the casual bystander. There is a lot of time and dedication that goes into producing products the whole week and then still doing markets at the same time. For many, it is a seven day week affair. Often these small producer businesses cannot sustain themselves with only one market, so they are typically serving several markets per week. The season is also short, so every market day counts.

We find Forever Bee at these markets in the Foothills. What stands out is their dedication to a fantastic quality product. What sets them apart from other honey vendors is their willingness and commitment to educate about the virtues of fresh honey and the love and care they put into making their honey taste as good as it possibly can.

The honey from Forever Bee is the perfect honey for my classic soft Honey Nougat.

Hendrik van Wyk
Sweet Cowboy

We earn our livelihood from producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to help us earn from our work. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other stories.


Lethbridge Market

Okotoks Market

Canmore Market

Honey Gold

Happy Beez

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