Whiteouts

Cobble Beach 

Friday, February 8, 2019

If you are thinking of driving into Grey and Bruce counties today, don’t! Ninety kilometre per hour winds howled all night and are still furiously blowing snow in every direction. Occasionally we can see Georgian Bay, but often we cannot see the end of our driveway about fifty feet.

Another snow day for students. Schools are open but no buses running.

For those of you basking in the sun somewhere well south of us, stay there. We have been home for a week and we have glimpsed the sun three times. No stars, not one!

It was milder earlier in the week; so, a lot of last week’s snow accumulation disappeared. Yesterday the hills of the golf course were green. Although I got out snowshoeing twice last weekend, since then, the snow has not been deep enough but the paths have been icy for walking. I have been sticking to roads for walking and glad to have hiking poles for slippery sections. Today the roads are covered in drifts.

When we walked down to the golf simulator this morning, the wind pushed us, but coming home we kept our heads bowed to avoid the bitter wind in our face. I checked to be sure our neighbours’ houses were maintaining their temperature.

This is my afternoon to volunteer at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, but I opted for staying safe and warm at home. I will wait until next week to view the giant goalie mask in person. I will practice Portuguese and bake some chocolate chip cookies. I am happy to have Val’s beautiful orchid to plant sit. Val and Tom wisely departed yesterday for South Carolina. Hopefully they will not have whiteouts along Lake Erie’s shore.

PuddyCat, alias Goose, has not made an appearance today. She is not in the house Brian made for her and there are no tracks around our house. She has hunkered down some place warm, we hope. This past week she has been on our bedroom window sill to bid us “Good night!” and awaken us with meowing at 6 AM, but not today.

I set out to make Bon Appetit’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries. It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I did not have all the ingredients. What is shocking is that I had no chocolate chips on hand. No dried cherries was less shocking. I made Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries, Pecans, pieces of dark chocolate and chunks of Twix and Snickers chocolate bars. The last two items were mini bars left over from Halloween. The result is “Yummy”. So if you happen to be up this way lost in the whiteouts, I have cookies.

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Home Again

Cobble Beach

Friday, February 1, 2019

Our five hour flight seemed faster than going to Antigua but it was the same. Crazy Rich Asians is a fun flic. Can You Ever Forgive Me is a very interesting and humorous account of the literary forger, Lee Israel. We landed at Pearson at 9:07 PM. We taxied for twenty minutes.  It was waiting for a gate to accommodate us. The snow blowing and swirling on the tarmac did not look warm. 

We zoomed through the airport with our wheeled bags and had our passports and customs sheet read correctly by the machine on the first attempt. Jim had left for home when he figured we were in the airport. We only had a few minutes to wait before he picked us up. This was very good as I think one minute more in the cold and my ears would have fallen off. There was a fifty degree Celsius difference from when we left Antigua. This did not include the wind chill factor. A heated car is wonderful!

Our drive home this morning was uneventful. There was more snow in Mississauga than what they are used to, but the road north was dry and clear of snow until we reached Flesherton. After that the roads were snowpacked and the depth of that packed snow increased as we got to Owen Sound. The sky was blue but we drove toward a cloud bank to the north. Owen Sound was in that cloud, completely overcast.

We stopped to pick up some groceries. The parking lot was full. It looked as if everyone was shopping after two days with closed roads. The cashier told us this was not the case. She said there were plenty of crazy shoppers in the past two days as well. Even though roads were closed, customers did not stay home.

Minutes after arriving home, I drove back to town to do my volunteer docent job at the Tom Thomson Gallery. Today I was also training another volunteer. We had a very busy afternoon.

Brian spent the afternoon cleaning out our driveway, walkway and our neighbour’s who just left for California. He also unplugged heat vents, a hazard of deep snow.

Brian has seafood chowder ready. I am starving!

No swimming today!

Happy February!

Antigua Airport Day

VC Bird Airport, St, John’s, Antigua

Thursday, January 31, 2019

No swimming today! We were up at 6:15 AM, ready for Bryan to drive us to the airport at the north end of Montserrat. There were at least eight employees to look after the four of us passengers. I was even randomly chosen for a security body check. I have not been “patted down” before.

Our Irish sounding pilot apologized for the fifteen minute delay due to the weather: rain and fog. Our flight was twenty-five minutes long. We circled and cross-crossed Antigua three times while waiting for our turn to land. I did not count them, but yes, there probably are 365 beaches with forested hills and a little farm land and groups houses dotted about.

Since it was drizzling in Antigua, we decided we would just wait out our day in the airport. Some regrets there. After our no-waiting for immigration or emigration we passed through security and are now relegated to walking the length of the airport floor, 300 metres, indoors. I sure wish I could breathe some fresh air. Access to the sun deck of the executive lounge would be good. With air-conditioning I had to don my fleece with my long pants. Of note, we met the most charming, friendly, chatty immigration officer ever. Her name was Bonnalynn and her birthday is two days after mine!

We have already received three notices from Air Canada, each indicating a further flight delay. The latest stated an hour and forty minutes behind schedule.

I am happy that there is a great hand dryer in the washroom. At the airport in Montserrat, we were directed to cross the grass to be under a roofed exit to avoid the rain. I did not notice the foot sized hole in the grass; so, I got a soaker. I dried my sock and running shoe here.

We had latte and pizza at The Big Banana restaurant in the airport. The pizza was good but the cappuccino at the opposite end of the airport was tastier, hotter and cheaper. 

We drank the water at Runaway Ghaut in Montserrat to ensure our return. It is safe to drink the water straight from the taps and ghauts in Montserrat. I had three drinks. Does that mean I will not need to drink any water from Runaway on the next two trips?

Many, many thanks to Bryan and Susan for their great hospitality. The Taj provides wonderful accommodation in paradise. I will certainly miss the freedom of the great outdoors dressed only in a bathing suit. We travelled light, very little clothing required. Everyone from home has been sending us emails warning us to stay in Montserrat lest we freeze upon arrival in Toronto where it is -20C.

We had the airport to ourselves (10 passengers) until 2:45 pm when, all of a sudden busloads of people showed up. Most flights appear to be scheduled to leave between 15:30 and 14:50. We are the last one!

Last Day in Montserrat

The Taj, Montserrat

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Our last full day in Montserrat has been fabulous! And hot! With some drizzle and cloud but more sun with a pleasant breeze.

Brian and I went to the Isles Bay Bar beach right after breakfast. Brian had one hook and some squid bait left; so, he wanted to try fishing one more time. The ocean was the calmest it has been. While Brian cast, I walked to the opposite end of the beach, passing two fishermen getting ready to go out in their small wooden motor boat. Another fellow was casting his net from shore and collecting bait fish for the fishermen. He did not want his photo taken.

Under the cliff face I spotted what looked like a collection of shells. Very odd since there are only a few very tiny shells on the beach. They were turtle egg shells! The turtles had hatched.

I walked back to Brian in time to see him catch a fish! He was happy that he was getting many bites. The fish was too small to keep but Brian was delighted to have caught a fish.

I almost swam the length of the beach but about fifty feet from the cliff face my arthritic big toe was cramping and demanding some sand therapy; so, I moved into shoulder depth and walked to the end then started walking back in the water. Part way I continued my walk on the shore to meet Brian who was walking toward me. The water was deliciously warm. Pelicans followed my progress, probably hoping I would stir up some fish for them.

Back at the Taj I spent time reading The Glovemaker’s Daughter until the four of us went for lunch at a small busy cafe/restaurant, The Attic. I enjoyed my mango juice, chicken roti and cole slaw. Susan had a sandwich with her slaw. Bryan and Bryan had the full rib meal. All of us were very satisfied with our choices. This establishment has been around for a long time and is obviously a local favourite. Many were coming by to pick up their takeout.

After our afternoon reading and siesta, we went back to the beach, this time with Bryan and Susan. We saw many schools of fish, large, medium and small while snorkeling. The sun was shining; so the brightly coloured fish stood out even better. I saw orange ones as well as many combinations of neon, gold and green. I saw some large fish speckled black, yellow and white with large black dorsal spots. One very flat fish( a flounder?) flattened itself against a rock and was so well camouflaged I could barely make it out. I kept watching until it moved again, lest my eyes deceived me.

Brian made rum punches (virgin, for me) for our final sunset watch from the deck. The sun put on an amazing show for our final evening. I took photos from the apartment deck, no hydro wires in my way.

Bryan and Susan shooed us out of the kitchen, they prepared a lovely almond crusted tilapia dinner with fried rice and cole slaw.

Back at home in Georgian Bluffs, the temperature is -20C, 50 degrees below what we had today. The snow plows have been pulled off the road due to zero visibility. The Cobble Beach yoga class was cancelled again today. Good for me since that means I will be able to attend four classes instead of two when I get home. We will be staying at my brother, Jim’s, tomorrow night. Friday weather sounds better for driving home from Mississauga.

And Then There Were Four

The Taj, Montserrat 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

This morning, Brian and I sat quietly reading in 28C temperature looking out on a drizzly day with half of our panorama shrouded in mist. Bryan and Susan left to drive Barb and Al to the airport around 10AM. Bryan had already left the house before 7AM to drive Peter and Sharon to the airport for the early morning flight to Antigua.

All four were scheduled for the Air Canada flight this afternoon. The flight was three hours late because of the snowy conditions at Pearson. Toronto received more than 30 centimetres last night. 

I hung two loads of laundry: sheets and towels on the lines and have since made two beds and prepared for the next onslaught of guests. Bryan and Susan have more guests arriving Thursday when we leave.

There was sun around 11:30 AM that dispersed the mist. The rain stopped. I heard the noon day chimes ring while I swam 62 lengths.

A misty drizzle returned after our siesta but we still went to the beach for our swim. Bryan brought a small nerf football that we threw to one another. It is difficult but fun to throw a football when you are up to your neck in waves.

I finished reading Educated. It is amazing how resilient a person can be in spite of a most difficult upbringing. It is equally striking what a profound pull our childhood memories and family ties have on us. 

Brian made delicious egg salad sandwiches in his homemade bread. Brian has made a loaf of mixes white/whole wheat brea almost every day with his no-knead method. The loaves have all risen well with a bottle of Carib in the dough and warm humid temperatures. With eight people, each flavourful loaf disappeared quickly. Tomorrow’s loaf might last a little longer. My banana-mango bread is almost gone, still moist and tasty. We have more bananas but no mangoes.

Susan set the table for four tonight. Drastically different. Brian is barbecuing chicken thighs. Not much of a sunset tonight but still beautiful sitting on the deck watching for the green flash that did not happen.

Walking, Swimming, Dining

The Taj, Montserrat 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Two years ago, I walked part way up Garibaldi to the cliff face opposite the Taj to see what was happening with a big house that was being built. There was only a foundation completed. This morning I walked the 2.5 kilometres to the building site where nine men were busy working on the third floor. It looks as if two thirds of that floor will be deck and then some interior space. I have heard that whoever is having the house built only has work done on it when he is on the island to supervise. Certainly a slow process.

I walked back via the Isles Bay Beach; so, slightly longer: 3.25 kilometres. The good news I had to report to all was that the sea was calm. I was more than ready for my swim. I was not planning on outgoing my record of 54 lengths, but I managed to do 60. Now Al will have to make up his extra lengths at the pool open Owen Sound, or more likely in Mexico where he is headed next.

This afternoon Brian went to the beach again to try fishing in the calm water. Although he did not catch any fish he had bites; so, he felt good about his expedition. 

All of us then went to the beach for our late afternoon swim. The snorkeling was good. In the clear water it was easy to see fish and larger ones, many of the footlong variety, and of course, colourful!

This is our last evening of eight together. The sun set into a cloud layer; so, no green flash as we ate our crisps with cheese and had our drinks on the deck? Sharon prepared and excellent pork tenderloin with cognac sauce on rice with fresh garden peas. Barb, Al and Peter were sous-chefs and plated and served. Another delicious feast. We will wait for Tortuga Rum Cake. First we need to play a ping pong tournament. I already lost to Susan and Peter lost to Al.

Pepper will be later.

Sunday Dining

The Taj, Montserrat 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

It was very windy on the deck last night as we gazed at stars without iPads. We tried to remember which constellations we had identified previously. We actually donned sweaters and shawls as the wind had a chilling effect. It was nothing like the cold being experienced in Ontario, but it was probably the first night I put a long shirt on in ten days. It might have been 26C instead of 27C, but then there is the wind chill factor!

Today it is still very windy. It started with rain and the centre arc of the rainbow for the first hour then sun until sunset after which the rain returned. We may have to settle for Pepper rather than star gazing. There are also suggestions to play shuffleboard or ping pong. We have not done that yet.

The covered upper deck has a shuffleboard as well as three long clothes-lines: the perfect place for drying our laundry and bathing suits.

We walked to Olveston House for Sunday “brunch”. I think of brunch as eggs, waffles, pancakes, fruit, those kinds of food. The menu was a dinner menu; so, we had our big meal of the day in early afternoon. Seven of us opened for the roast lamb while one had roast pork. The thinly sliced lamb was perfect with gravy roasted potatoes and a variety of vegetables. Brian and I shared a spicy pumpkin soup. We will have to try to reproduce that soup! We also shared a “Rich Chocolate Cheese are with Raspberry Coulis”. Also delectable. Olveston House is my pick as best restaurant here.

Before George Martin bought Olveston House in the 1980s, it was the manager’s house for a lime plantation of six hundred acres that was started in 1855 by Edmund Sturge for the company he and his siblings owned in Birmingham for manufacturing citric acid from raw citrus juice. Olveston House was named for the area of Gloucestershire where the family came from. This wooden structure was moved to its current location in Old Towne and is surrounded by 5 acres and includes a swimming pool, tennis court and six guest rooms. Linda McCartney’s photos grace the centre hall. Gold and platinum records are seen in guest rooms. The lime plantation was buried by the pyroclastic flows from the Soufrière Hills volcano in the 1990s.

We bobbed like corks in the rolling waves at Isles Beach this afternoon. On the shore the wind sprayed us with sand. In the water the waves tried to push us further out. As the waves crashed in the shallow, water sprayed back to us corks. It was a pretty sight but we did not have a water camera to capture that.

We are having a variety of snacks this evening: leftover wahu turned into a creamy mix on crackers, leftover pizza turned into bite-sized pieces. I made coconut chips this morning after Brian racked open three more coconuts. I do not think I was too successful with this process. Our chips are chewy rather than crunchy. A steak salad is next. Then we still have banana mango bread to consume. A good thing we are having this “light” meal.

Addendum: the three large caterpillars we saw yesterday were Costa Rica Sphinx Moth caterpillars. 

A question: why is sand being trucked off Isles Bay beach??

Climbing Garibaldi

The Taj, Montserrat 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Another fabulous day!

Four of us had a busy morning painting concrete walls, edges of steps and a bench. Brian and Al returned to town and this time, they found money.

After my painting activity I was very ready for a swim and was good for fifty lengths. 

After our lunch of leftover spaghetti, it was nap time. Then Brian, Al, Barb and I hiked from the Taj to the top of Garibaldi. We crossed the Belem River and walked up switchbacks past beautiful homes, the ones we see on the hillside opposite the Taj. A few homes were never improved after the volcano activity. We could only glimpse parts of these homes buried in the greenery. We would have needed a machete to be “urban explorers”. We checked out a rusting car in a falling-down garage. Any useful parts were long gone.

The upper kilometre of our 3.8 kilometres was very steep. Each turn of the switchback took us more steeply up. En route we admired the views as well as the flowering trees, a giant caterpillar and wondered about a golf-ball sized hard fruit. Bryan, Sharon and Peter we’re coming up in the van with the idea they would need to drive us back to the Taj.

We had spectacular views of the volcano and the ruined town of Plymouth as well as views back over Isles Bay and to the Taj. Three women and a young boy of eight or so had come up in a car. The boy was quite taken with Al’s binoculars. When we pointed out the is,and orf Redonda, he insisted it was England because “England is close to Montserrat.”

We decided to start walking back on our own as we did not think the van could handle our extra weight for the steep descent. They planned on taking some photos and leaving ten minutes after us. They took lots more photos. We were within a few hundred metres of the Taj by the time they showed up. So we walked a total of 7.6 kilometres in an hour and fifty minutes with 220 metres of ascent. Then the same amount of descent. An energizing hike!

We were ready for another swim but I did not feel the need to do fifty lengths.

We enjoyed our supper at the Isles Beach Bar. Most of us had grilled wahu, but Brian and Al each ordered a medium pizza; so, there is leftover pizza in the fridge for breakfast.

It’s a warm breezy evening on the deck with some constellations to view. Brian recited Sam MacGee last night and Al read The Snake by DH Lawrence. Who is on for tonight?

Rain and Sun

The Taj, Montserrat 

Friday, January 25, 2019

We had a beautiful night last night lying on the deck identifying constellations with our iPads.

Happy Robbie Burns Day! We will not be addressing the haggis, but have fun, those of you who are. Our UK friends are by this hour all finished! This is a spaghetti night. Maybe we will have another poetry recital! One night Barb read The Highwayman to us. Tlot! Tlot, Peter and Brian are vying for the honor of reciting The Cremation of Sam McGee. maybe they will do a duet.

It was pouring when we woke up this morning. I did my yoga on the covered deck, back a little from the wall to avoid getting wet. A one third rainbow graced the sky open almost the same location and at the same time as yesterday.

Half of our crew went to town to the hardware store and the bank. Both were rather futile. Five stores did not have the hardware needed (lag bolts anyone?) and the bank’s internet was down; so, no cash available. “Come back later.” “When?” “Later.” No money, honey.

I stayed at the Taj and made banana mango bread in a springform pan. It took twice as long as the recipe indicated. I think the heat should have been higher than the recipe indicated, but it looks good. No sampling yet.

Then I made lunch: an omelette concoction with fridge leftovers: potatoes, onion, garlic, broccoli, squash, and chicken with cheddar. The shopping crew arrived home just in time to ensure that I made enough.

Around 2 or 2:30 PM every day, everyone disappears into their rooms. Call it nap time or siesta, it is an essential part of the day. I usually take my book with me and read for ten minutes before my eyelids flutter and I succumb to a twenty minute nap.

The rain stopped before lunch; so, I had a swimming pool swim. The rain started again after my nap even though I came downstairs with my bathing suit on, ready for a walk and swim. What were those clouds thinking?

I finished reading Death by Chocolate by Sally Berneathy, an easy humorous murder mystery. I am now reading Educated by Tara Westover: fascinating.

We did get out for another walk. A few agoutis crossed our path but they do not stand still for photos. The white cabins in the photo are part of the Vue Point resort. It still needs plenty of restorations, but it can be yours for a mere 6.2 million dollars.

Birthday Celebration

The Taj, Montserrat

January 24, 2019

Happy birthday to Brian, the love of my life! Even though we could hear the waves roaring from our perch at the Taj, Brian wanted to start his birthday by fishing; so, I accompanied him.  While Brian cast his squid bait into the waves at one end of the beach, I did yoga at the other end since that is where the shade was. Brian lost his sinker and used up his bait, but had fun even without catching fish.

The waves were powerful and beautiful. Greg, a neighbour walking his dogs, said there would be nine foot waves today. The waves have certainly been amazing, more interesting for photographing, too dangerous for swimming or frolicking. Our first day in nine that we have not been in the ocean. We value our skin and bones. Swimming in the pool was refreshing.

Last night, we dined at Olveston House, the home of now deceased George Martin of Air Studio Fame. Although there were several delicious possibilities on the menu, our crew opted for wahu in a ginger orange sauce or lobster in a cheese pasta. Everyone was content with their choices. Sharon’s liver pate appetizer made it around the table. We shared desserts two by two, except for Peter’s ice cream. Both the cheesecake and white chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis received good reviews.

This morning after our beach adventure, I made Brian’s traditional angel food cake although I did not have a tube pan. We will see how it worked in the white porcelain baking dish. I still have to whip the cream with chocolate for its topping.

Several chores were looked after: scraping concrete walls for painting, applying teak oil to a table, fixing an outdoor bench, doing towel inventory, sorting out a cupboard to find new treasures, baking bread, shopping.

We drove to the Isles Bay Beach Bar for lunch and to watch the waves. Although the food was slow to arrive, the Caribs were not and when the food arrives, everyone devoured their meal: fish and chips, burgers, chicken wings, salads, BLT. Some os is walked back from the beach. Brian and I took time for me to take more wave photos including finding two Brians in my photo.

And now here we are on the deck again. Not a spectacular sunset this time. Brian prepared a calimari snack….the bait he did not lose. Sharon has prepared barbecued ribs and roasted potatoes. Barb and I worked on salad and beans.

The birthday boy was well feted. Susan wrote great lyrics to the tune of Red, Red Wine. Peter played guitar and the choristers were terrific. Such a fine birthday with good friends!

Red red wine

Now I am sixty-nine

Here with some friends of mine

The Taj Montserrat

Is where it’s at

Red red sky

White sails go drifting by

Green flash lights up the sky

Where I love to be

By the blue blue sea

Snow was cold

I felt old

Heavy coats were hard to bear

Now I’m warmed 

By the sun

Just a bathing suit to wear!

Blue sky days

Snorkeling at the Bay

Pepper games last all day

We drink too much rum

It’s so much fun

Red red wine

Now I am sixty-nine

Here with some friends of mine

The Taj Montserrat

Is where it’s at