Winter Storm

We got up with Alex at his normal school rising time of 6:30AM yesterday so that we could head out the door early for our drive to Niagara and beat the snowstorm. We succeeded. From Guilford to Albany, the sky was uniformly blue. Then it was uniformly grey. We did not encounter any snowfall until we were half an hour from Niagara. Our eight hour drive was uneventful, not too much traffic. More cars and trucks were headed east than west. We saw dozens of large utility trucks in formation headed east. We imagined that they were preparing to be in place to repair fallen hydro lines when the storm hit the northeastern states.

We listened to most of Fredrik Backman’s book, A Man Called Ove. We laughed out loud listening to this book even though it is also sad and touching about love and loss. Ove is a wonderful character. I heartily recommend reading this 2012 Swedish novel. I see he has three more novels. He appears to be publishing a new one each year. I look forward to reading these.

Now, more than twenty-four hours later, it is still snowing and is to continue doing so until noon on Wednesday. Niagara is finally getting winter. Not so, north of here at Cobble Beach where it is sunny and green. Home to golfing tomorrow, albeit still indoors.

I put my sourdough starter in the fridge today to give me and it a rest. I made blueberry bran muffins and oatmeal raisin cookies without the sourdough. I have resupplied my father-in-law with baked goods.

Time for a game of Hand and Foot. We have one more card addict in our midst.

Birds and Beach

March 8, 2017: International Women’s Day

Morning coffee with sourdough banana chocolate chip muffins is a good mid morning pick us up. This snack is made better by watching the birds taking turns at the bird feeder. The bluebirds arrived this morning and joined the cardinals, purple finches, red bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, downy and red bellied woodpeckers. Even the chipmunk has come out to play in the morning’s first burst of sunshine.

Yesterday afternoon a goshawk circling the neighbourhood and crying his presence had the birds disappearing. Alex’s efforts at photographing birds were dashed even with Grandpa trying to call the birds in with his app.

We finished painting on Monday and had a bit of a rest day yesterday. I went for a six kilometre walk around the neighbourhood. It is the first time I have seen maple sap collected in plastic bags: long blue plastic bags with a metal cover over the top of them. The spile fit through the side of the cover.

While I walked, Brian cleaned the black concrete counter tops so that he could apply a sealant to them before we went to bed. The sealant is most odiferous, best to be as far away as possible after application. It was good to be able to leave windows ajar.

This afternoon the temperature rose to 12C, although with the off-shore breeze from Long Island Sound, it was colder than that. Brian and I enjoyed our walk on the beach at Hammonasset. Although the only birds we saw were seagulls, we spotted five seals at Meigs Point. We found the tour of the new visitors’ centre interesting and informative. Not warm enough for swimming!

We were so energized by our walk, we washed windows when we arrived back at the house. Brian and Alex went for a bike ride when Alex got home. I did more raking. Since then Alex has been doing his homework on the deck and Julie is riding her bike. Although snow is in the forecast for Friday, we are enjoying spring while we have it.

Out for a Hike

Maybe spring has not yet arrived. Although the sun continues to shine brilliantly and the days are perceptibly lengthening, it was -6C today and the wind made it feel much colder. Nevertheless we enjoyed a hike in the bare woods of Cockaponset State Forest. Huge boulders are fun to scale especially Coyote Rock, so named, because Shawn saw a coyote there once. Alex is always eager to hike, Julie less so, but she does like climbing rocks and declared that she was having fun.

Julie is no slouch; she and Alex were playing pretend games outside for more than three hours before we went for a hike. Kids do not feel the cold! Julie likes to be in charge of the imagination games. Fortunately her big brother is usually willing to do her bidding.

Julie was the Carcassonne victor last night. We played with their new Christmas expansion. There are now many more tiles which makes the game last longer and creates a much larger medieval community with more points to score.

We brought our sourdough starter with us to Connecticut. I have been feeding it for the last two weeks. Brian wondered if it needed a passport. We made it across the border without one. I made some chocolate chip oatmeal muffins with it and now we have some bread rising. It should go well with the baked beans and ham that are filling the air with a wonderful aroma. Last night’s clam chowder was delicious, as usual. Grandpa makes great chowder.

Shawn and Agnes are sending us wondrous photos from Pompeii. Alex and I think we should plan a trip there too.

A Breath of Spring

Relaxing after raking. Yes, we have gone south, at least as far as Connecticut. There is no snow here unless you count a dish towel size patch of grey snow near Alex’s bus stop. He said there was a mountain of snow ploughed up on that corner that he and his fellow bus riders scaled while waiting for the bus, but the mountain disappeared a couple of weeks ago. Only the small patch resists melting. After yesterday’s downpour it has probably succumbed.

Plenty of birds at the feeders: tufted titmouse, purple finches, downy and hairy woodpeckers, chickadees. The snowdrops are out and the deep red hellebores are budding.

Our daily routine of yoga, golf and cross country skiing has been replaced with an earlier morning alarm so that our grandkids can be fed and watered and out the door early to catch their respective buses, one before 7:30 and the other before 8:30 AM.

Our new sports are cleaning and prepping the family room walls for a paint job, raking up winter’s debris and demolishing a playhouse set that had a serious leaning posture.

We still work yoga into our daily exercise, but walking may or may not happen before the kids come home from school. An after school walk around this hilly neighbourhood involves games of hide and seek as we walk or run or close our eyes and count to fifty. Actually my calves are still groaning from Monday’s nine times up and down the stairs at the Niagara Whirlpool. I do not think the sedentary drive for seven and a half hours on Tuesday was helpful for my leg muscles.

Thursday is pizza night and Grandpa will make an awesome pizza. We have already enjoyed a sushi snack. We have to dine earlier so that Julie will make it to her piano lesson and Alex to Scouts. We promised their parents we would not lose them, and we will also make sure they participate in their regular activities.

Last night we fit in a game of Carcassonne but I think we will have to forgo games this evening.

The Circle Tour

February 14, 2017

This past weekend we did the circle tour of southwestern Ontario, a mere 1000 kilometres in three days. As already reported, on Friday we drove to Ridgetown. I say “we” but Brian did all the driving as he usually does. I check maps and look for alternate routes just to bug the GPS.

On Saturday morning we drove Brilynn to Chatham so that she could photograph the bride and groom and theories entourage in their preparations for the wedding. Brian and I picked up a coffee and headed for Lake Erie, erroneously thinking that there would be public access to a beach somewhere. There was not, at least nothing close by, just large luxury homes with driveways posted as “private”. No lake views for us.

We proceeded to Deer Run Goldfish Course near Blenheim where the wedding was to be held. We had a leisurely stroll around the golf course. Alas we only found four golf balls, only one of which was a Titleist, but not a Pro V, Brian’s brand. We scouted out some potential wedding photo opportunities for Brilynn. The best was the covered bridge near a pond. A rust oil derricks looked interesting.

By the time we returned to the club house the groom and his mates were arriving; so, we got our wedding duds from the car and went inside to change.

The wedding ceremony was short and sweet with the bride’s brother officiating. With about sixty guests present, we had time to visit with folks, and in particular, our friends, Mike and Kathy, the brides parents. We enjoyed a delicious meal of stuffed turkey breast, roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy and salad. Four different cakes were offered as well as chocolate covered strawberries. Perfect!

Our original plan was to return to Ridgetown to spend the evening with Doug and Midge, but since Brian’s Dad had gone to hospital Thursday evening with heart issues, we decided we should check in on him in Niagara. He went home at 2AM Friday as he did not want to leave his cat alone all night and the gurney was not very comfortable for sleeping. We arrived in Niagara Falls Saturday evening.

We took Highway 3 to Niagara and shortly after getting on 3 we saw an intriguing abandoned house. Brilynn loves photographing abandoned buildings; so, we stopped and she took some great shots.

On Sunday we celebrated World Marriage Day at Our Lady of the Scapular and renewed our wedding vows. After breakfast we headed for home dropping Brilynn off at the Aldershot GO station.

We had every kind of weather on our journey to Cobble Beach. We awoke to freezing rain, drove in slush and rain then rainy snow then greyness then huge wet snowflakes. After waiting a while at a level train crossing for a train to move on, we did a detour to get around the train.

By the time we arrived home it was blowing, rather than snowing and our good neighbour had cleared out our driveway. Good to go exploring. Always good to come home!
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

The Hometown

Ridgetown, Ontario
Friday, February 10, 2017

I lived the first eight years of my life in Ridgetown, this small town in southern Ontario, once the home of Canadian Canners and Silcox Hardware, and the Kent Dairy Bar that sold Cherry Cokes. This is the place where the hill on Erie Street down one block from Main Street to Tiffany Street was a big hill. Truly it was, but maybe my seven year old legs helping my big brothers pull a wagon load of newspapers up that hill imagined it to be more Everest than it really was. It is still difficult to believe that this little bump could ever have been called a hill.

Ridgetown is where milk was delivered in glass bottles to our door, lots of milk as well as many loaves of sliced bread to feed our ever expanding family. We were up to seven children by the time we moved from Ridgetown to Simcoe in the spring of 1959.

The last time I was here, which is several years ago, I knocked at my friend, Doug’s door but did not find him at home. This time I emailed well in advance to see if he would be here. Alas he and his wife would be in Mexico, but friend from long ago that he is, he said we could stay in their beautiful home anyway.

After a three hour drive from deep snow in Owen Sound and snow fogged air past acres and acres of flat fields, we arrived in Ridgetown where there is not one snowflake to be found, but a bitter wind chilled us as we walked up and down Main Street, I looking for stores from my childhood and Brilynn chuckling at my side as we saw empty shell after empty shell. There are not many stores still operating in downtown Ridgetown. The cinema where I saw my first movie, The Ten Commandments, I think, is gone. I think the Foodland parking lot occupies that space. I cannot imagine how this Foodland can be open twenty-four hours a day, but obviously someone thinks that this is profitable.

The dairy bar is a laundromat with a row of empty stores beside it. The hardware store on Main Street has disappeared. A Home Hardware exists on the edge of town, on the way to Morpeth. Only Mitton’s Jewelry store survives, dating back to 1876.

Tiffany Street was only ever one block long. This has not changed, although our house at 5 Tiffany Street could really use a fresh coat of paint. The sidewalk is the same, still as narrow as it was when I first learned to ride my new red two-wheeler. The backyard seemed smaller although I only viewed it from the street. Someone appeared to be at home. Tempted as I was to knock on the door, I did not. I wanted to retain my childhood memories of the interior.

Faye’s house at 6 Tiffany Street seemed smaller. I could still picture Bert in his tidy workshop.

We drove to St. Michael’s School, only one kilometre away. I am sure I remembered it twice that distance. Of course it would have been in miles then. The two room school has mushroomed into something bigger that did not at all resemble my first school. St. Michael’s Church has not changed.

Sadly the Carnegie Library was demolished and replaced with a plain red brick one floor building with no character. Across the street the lawn bowling is still available but no one was hanging about on this cold windy day.

The Ridgetown Ag School is now a satellite campus of Guelph University and is quite possibly the only business in town that has grown. It even spawned a Tim Horton’s beside it.

Canadian Canners long gone, is now the setting for some storage units and a few small bungalows.
Yecks appear to have the eatery business in hand with three different restaurants, the latest of which is licensed. We went to the unlicensed Grill that advertized yellow perch on Fridays. We entered the restaurant at the absurdly early hour of 5:10 PM. There were only a few empty tables. It is definitely the senior crowd that dines at this time. There were two children younger than Brilynn present.

The servings were generous. My yellow perch was good. Brian and Brilynn would have liked their ribs to be warmer. Dessert was included: rice pudding or jello. The rice pudding was enhanced with whipped cream and cinnamon but was cold and lacked raisins. Sigh!

Back at Doug’s we relaxed playing Hand and Foot. Brilynn and I let Brian win both games.

Winter Wonderland

January 29, 2017

This morning we went to 8AM mass at Our Lady of the Scapular Church in Niagara Falls. This is a regular Sunday habit when in Niagara. We usually have occasion to see some siblings there. This morning it was Margaret and Genny. Rarely, there are no other family members present, but we have been attending mass for many years here; so, many faces are familiar even if we do not know all their names. The church was built in 1960. My family moved to Niagara eight months later.

Brian and I have a history with this church. We received the sacrament of Confirmation together. We were married here. Two of our three children were baptized here. Our parents’ funerals were here. So even though only two years of our married life was in Niagara Falls, we have been returning here for decades. There is something very comforting and peaceful about such a familiar place, about such a tradition.

Father Paul’s homily this morning was about the Beatitudes: nine blessings such as Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. All are very hope filled. Father Paul read some modern versions of the beatitudes that refer specifically to our times and suggested we create some of our own. Pope Francis has added some beatitudes for our times: Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalised and show them their closeness. Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him. Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home. Plenty to consider and practise in what can otherwise be troubled times.

Today we drove the two hundred and seventy-five kilometres home to Cobble Beach in our normal three hours and forty-five minutes. We listened to the beginning of Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo, one of the earlier Detective Harry Bosch series. We noticed that the fields were blanketed in white around Guelph but the snowbank and piles of snow did not appear until Durham. At home we had to clean almost a foot of snow out of the driveway before we could drive in. We did not anticipate more than a couple of inches of snow. When we left home two weeks ago, the ground was still covered in two feet of snow but we thought with the mild temperatures and rain of the past two weeks, there would be nothing left. In fact all had disappeared but this fresh snow fell in since yesterday.

We quickly emptied the car and donned our skis to take advantage of this winter wonderland. We think Cobble groomed the trails just for us, a welcome home gift! The trails are in good condition and except for a few places, we were the first to use them. After 7.4 kilometres we were happy to relax in our steam bath.

Grey Parkway Walk

January 28, 2017

A snowy grey day in Niagara. Brian and I went for a walk on the Niagara parkway north of Queenston. Everheart Country Manor in Queenston is still sporting Christmas attire, adding some cheer to a grey day. It gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor as a Great Bed and Breakfast. Two fisherman wearing red vests were spots of brightness on the very grey Niagara River. We noted that one of them was waving his arms up and down to create warmth. At least we assumed he was not sending out distress signals.

We walked 5.3 kilometres in an hour. Even with my cozy pants I was feeling a little chilly. It’s good to come in from the cold and sip on hot chocolate.

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. Part of me says this does not feel like spring, but then what is a Canadian spring if not changeable weather with bitter cold one day and sunshine and warmth the next. I think March and April are good months to travel to warmer countries, but this year we are planning a trip to Portugal in September. This is not the best time to leave home but it is when we were able to book a kayaking trip across Portugal. We will be kayaking the Douro River from Spain to Porto September 3-12. We are studying the internet and books on Portugal to see what else we want to do for a few more weeks in Portugal. We are open to suggestions.

Meanwhile I want to commit to studying Portuguese so that I will be able to converse a little with the local people. We have the Rosetta Stone lessons to get started.

Changing Landscape

January 27, 2017

It has been snowing on and off in Niagara Falls today. We saw a little sun this morning but mostly it has been cloudy and cold. At 2C, no snow is accumulating on the ground.

We went shopping at Costco this morning, arriving shortly after the 10AM opening time. The parking lot was packed as was the store. Although I am not a frequent Costco shopper, I do not think I have ever seen so many people lined up for the checkouts. Am I missing some big gift giving holiday? Are people stocking up for a potential blizzard? Do people just like shopping. It is Friday, not Saturday; we did not expect such a big crowd. Is it this a new holiday?

Brian was so impressed with the Bose speaker that Peter had, that he bought one this morning. They were on sale at Costco, a good deal for his birthday gift.

This afternoon we went shopping at the Outlet Mall. We only went to our three favourite stores: Eddie Bauer, Solomon’s and Icebreaker. The salesperson at Eddie Bauer said, “I just love to see you two come in here. You are always wearing our clothes.” It is not as if we visit every day but we could well have been in once every six weeks in the past year. The best deal of the day was a pair of merino pants at Icebreaker: $229 for $19.99. And they fit! Yeah!

This week I was telling our friends about the pool and building constructed over the pool at our family home. The St. Peter Ave family property has been deteriorating these past few years with new owners who have not loved and cared for it as we did. In the past couple of weeks a backhoe has been busy. I went by today and took some photos. Although the house is still standing, the forty trees of the cherry orchard are gone as are the willows, plum trees, blue spruces and every shrub and tree from the front and back yard. Only the cedar hedge and a few cedars close to the house remain. The backhoe was excavating the remains of the swimming pool today.

The house will also be torn down. Plans are under way for the construction of single family homes and townhouses on the two and a half acres. The last orchard in Stamford which used to be mostly orchards is history. This is the third house I lived in that has been demolished: two in the past six months: this one that my parents owned for forty-five years and Brian’s and mine in East Linton. Our Calgary home was torn down to make way for a high rise condo. We have not been back to Calgary to see that changed neighbourhood.

My sister, Rosemary, is coming to join us for a roast chicken dinner. I have chocolate chip cookies ready for baking.

I did not swim today. 😦

Bye Bye Montserrat

January 26, 2017

Last night we dined at Olveston House, the home of Sir George Martin who recorded many musicians at Air Studios in Montserrat. Sir George died last year but his wife and daughter still own it and it is being run as a B and B and restaurant a few days per week. There is room for thirty-six diners on the verandah that surrounds three sides of the house. We had seafood chowder or pumpkin soup, grilled wahu or tuna with fries, veggies and salad and we could not resist cheesecake or ice cream for dessert. Every meal was delicious and the price was about forty percent less than the night before at Watermelon. A highlight was touring the house to see a platinum record framed in each bedroom and photos by Linda McCartney in the hallway.

We had a very early wake up call this morning. I set my iPad to awaken us at 5:30 AM. I awoke suddenly from a complicated dream and tried to find the lamp switch to reach my iPad. Brian clicked the light on his watch and said it was only 3:30 AM. I asked what alarm was going off. He said it was the next shift of tree frogs. They certainly sounded different from the ones I fell asleep to. I went back to sleep until the iPad alarm awakened me.

One of the wonderful things about the Taj and this climate is that once dressed in skort and tank top, I walked out of our bedroom door and was immediately outside admiring a full sky of stars and a cruise ship coasting by on a calm sea. I like winter but it’s such a big deal to put on sufficient gear to weather the elements.

A swig of orange juice, a cup of tea and a few corn flakes with yogurt and I was hugging our friends good-bye. Everyone arose for our departure but only Bryan had the task of driving us to St. John to the airport. We were pleased to know later that he found breakfast and gas to get him back to the Taj.

We did not stop at Runaway Ghaut for a drink of water, insurance that we will return to Montserrat. We had drunk from Runaway Ghaut at the end of our Cot Walk; so, we are covered for a return to Montserrat. At six in the morning there are far fewer vehicles or pedestrians in motion on our Grand Prix style hairpin turns.

At the John Osborne airport we were accosted by our first mosquitoes on the island. We did not have long to wait for Reginald to check our bags and passports and take our departure tax. All seven passengers were ready for our 7:30AM flight. From takeoff to landing open Antigua was exactly eighteen minute. It was beautiful looking into the turquoise Caribbean, seeing the coral reefs, a five masted schooner and the toy sailboats moored in Antigua. We spotted the fort ruins near where we stayed two years ago. There was no sign of the old resort but no sign of a new one being built either.

There was no lineup at the airport in Antigua, no wait for our baggage. We had to walk over to the old airport to buy breakfast at the Big Banana. It is a good thing we were in no hurry for our next flight. I think the chef had not yet got out of bed. We enjoyed a good full breakfast of omelette or eggs and bacon/sausage with toast and tea/coffee…all on island time…slowly.

We had to don our long sleeves and legs to walk around in the new airport, cool air conditioning. Not too much to see or buy, but Brian bought a bottle of Antiguan rum in a skull -shaped bottle.
Our Air Canada flight was on time for departure; so, 3600 kilometres, two movies and five hours later we were landing in Toronto. I enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children and Bridget Jones’ Baby.

Fifteen minutes after leaving our 320 Airbus we had cleared Customs and Immigration and were hugging Brilynn who delivered our car to us. Brilynn only had to wait a few minutes to catch the train to downtown. We are looking forward to a phone visit with Brilynn tomorrow.

Leaving the airport during rush hour is always slow, but not to bad. It’s a balmy 4C with no snow, but we are still pleased to have heated seats in our RAV4. It is a change from 28C. 7 PM in Niagara and now in search of supper. What a fun holiday we have had. We are so fortunate!