Victoria Day

Monday May 21, 2018

It was a fine day to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, even if we were not in the right country and we worked all day and we did not have fireworks. Sunshine and 24C is always good in my books. It was a good day to be outside and that is where we were.

While the family went to school or work, Brian and I worked on the deck. It took us a mere four hours to figure out then install a thirty-three inch stair railing. It only took a little over an hour to install the second one. We can now be hired as consultants for installing Trex railings. Just don’t ask us to install any! We are done. Actually we are not. We will install the longer two stair railings when we return in July. Shawn needs to return some railing sections and order some that will fit. As it is, we were surprised to learn that when you take a section of railing out of a box that describes it as six feet, you only have a railing that measures 67.5 inches. This is new math for me!

 After cleaning up, we each did some grass cutting. This hilly lot is good for an aerobic workout. We put the deck furniture back on the deck and it looks good.

Brian went to pick up Alex from track practice and I waited for Julie to arrive home by bus. I opened the windows wide to breathe in the spring air. The cats were quick to each find a window sill.

Julie practiced her piano pieces and I enjoyed the recital. Julie is making good progress.

Alex, Julie and I played three rounds of Blokus and took turns winning with a three way tie on the last game. Brian and Agnes managed to find time to play Carcassonne this evening. This is the only game Brian played on this trip, but he will go home happy because he won. He will even come back to play another day.

Brian barbecued salmon on the new deck. We devoured it along with rainbow chard and quinoa.


Not Done Yet

But Getting There

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Another busy building day! The good news is that the rain held off. It became very humid in the afternoon. But in spite of a busy schedule for kid events, progress was made on the deck. Only the stair railings remain to be done. Sadly not all of the right materials were delivered; so, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to complete both sets of stair railings tomorrow. The deck is looking good although it needs to have our dirty footprints sprayed off. I delivered boards to the deck builders then helped Brian when Shawn had other duties.

Julie was “flying up”from Brownies to Junior Girl Scouts followed by bowling. Agnes took Julie to that. Alex and Shawn went to a Scout meeting regarding a July Scout trip to the Florida Keys. Alex also had his cello lesson. Shawn is leaving first thing in the morning for San Francisco; so, he had to get ready for that. Agnes found time for grocery shopping and making meat loaf, one of Julie’s favourites.

Alex and I found time to play Ticket to Ride. Alex won. Alex and I also fit in a walk around the neighbourhood. I always enjoying walking and talking with Alex.

Rainy Saturday

Rainy Day

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday morning is always a pancake breakfast in this house but I used the last egg in the muffins. Although Agnes was ready to go buy eggs, I looked up an eggless pancake recipe online and that is what we made. I really could not tell the difference.

I am sure that Meghan and Harry were delighted to have blue skies for their wedding, but on this side of the Atlantic it was a very rainy day with only a few minutes of no rain. This did not stop our deck builders. Brian and Shawn worked in the garage to build a step for the deck. They went in search of more materials and they did work in the rain to install several boards.

The rain never stops Shawn from going for a run. He fit that in too.

Alex worked on some language arts homework while Julie and I had reading time. I am reading and very much enjoying Coventry by Helen Humphreys, one of the books that Gary Draper recommended in our Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning lectures. Agnes went grocery shopping so that none of us would starve.

This afternoon Alex, Julie and I played several games of Blokus and had Agnes join us for one of them. Since our builders were not wet enough they decided they would take time out for fishing. The best time, according to Shawn is when the tide is going out. Alex, Julie and I went too. Julie and I took an umbrella and went for a walk, admiring houses, flowers and the shore. Julie was back in time to cast a few but no one had any bites. Shawn drove us to another spot where he cast a few and caught a twenty-two inch striper. Unfortunately the rule is that you can only keep them when they are at least twenty-eight inches. No fish for us!

Agnes was home cooking Coq au Vin; so, we not only did not go hungry but had a great meal.

Deck Destruction

Destruction of a Deck

Friday, May 18, 2018

Today was all about taking apart a rotten deck over the last several years, Brian has replaced boards on the deck at Shawn and Agnes’ in an effort to prolong the deck’s life. The original deck was never installed properly by the previous owners. No space was allotted between boards for drainage; so, the deck rotted. This is the year for the deck to be replaced. Today Brian and I started at 9AM to remove the old boards. Brian did the dismantling and I hauled  boards and stacked them beside the driveway to put in the dumpster that had not arrived.  I calculated that I walked a few kilometers hauling boards. By 2:30PM the deck was fully dismantled. Brian went to the lumber store for some missing materials and while he was gone, the dumpster arrived. By the time he was back I had loaded most of the rotten material into the dumpster. Alex arrived home from school and helped me finish, then he turned his attention to helping Grandpa build the new deck.

When Julie arrived home, she and I did some pruning and planting then Julie and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and bran muffins with chocolate chips and fruit.

Agnes and Shawn arrived home at 5 PM, earlier than usual. Shawn helped with the deck while Agnes made supper: ribs, green beans, roasted potatoes and spinach salad. We always eat well.

As the kids prepare for bed, Brian and Shawn are back outside in the dark working on the deck. It is supposed to rain tomorrow; so, they are trying to make the most of this fine day.

A Slow Drive to Guilford

On the Road to Guilford

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When we turned out the lights last night, it sure was dark! When you are in the forest on a moonless night, there is only blackness. And it was quiet: no spring peepers, no owls, no coyotes. 

Our breakfast was awesome. Wanda prepared blini with fresh fruit and blueberry and strawberry jam with scrambled eggs on the side. Delicious! A healthier repast than what we had at the Country Diner. Supper was good, not gourmet, but the amount of gravy on our ground chuck steak with mushrooms and onions was heart-stopping. Brian also had gravy on his fries; I declined. The vegetables offered were peas, cole-slaw, cheese or applesauce. I do not know when the last two became vegetables but we both chose cole-slaw. We were so full we had no room for the enormous ice cream cones being served at the dairy bar next door.

Back at the log cabin, we walked the hilly dirt road, hoping to burn a calorie or two and aid digestion.

We decided to not drive back to Lucifer Falls; we will save a repeat walk there for another day. The first few hours of driving through forested hills was uneventful but refreshingly green in many shades. Sadly after we crossed the Hudson River, we had many, many miles of stop and go traffic on Highway 84.  Very short sections of construction were responsible. Our six hour trip took us nearly eight hours.

We listened to the end of the West Cork series of podcasts about an unresolved murder case in Ireland from twenty years ago.

We were happy to arrive in time for pizza. From the dining room Brian spotted an indigo bunting at the feeder. Shawn did not think he had ever seen one here. The azaleas are dazzling! Agnes is happy to see them getting bigger every year. The hellebores are also very content in this environment as they spread throughout the garden.

This evening we were fortunate to take in Alex’s cello performance in his school’s orchestra concert. Although we concentrated on our grandson’s performance we were very impressed with all of the talent in the grade seven and eight orchestras. Alex also performed with the select orchestra. 

Eulogy for November

We often say that November is a good month to head to sunnier warmer locations than southern Ontario. We think of November as a gloomy month. Our daughter questions why I gave birth to her in November when October is always a much more colourful month in which to celebrate one’s birthday. Brilynn is beyond the age when I have to explain conception and duration of a pregnancy.

It is true that on this last day of November we had a cold drizzle all day long, but I have fond memories of this month. I even looked back through Brian’s careful daily weather recording and note that there were only ten days this November in which we had some precipitation. It only snowed on three of those days. On the other days there were probably only three days when it poured rain. Most days it drizzled a little, let up for a while then drizzled a little more. That is not bad!

November has some of the best sunrises! This November was no exception. From my pillow I often open one eye early enough to see if there is colour over Georgian Bay. When there is, I am compelled to rise from my cozy nest and go into the living room to see just how special the sunrise is. Sometimes there is only a pink orange band glowing on the horizon but I have observed magnificent displays of rose, magenta, purple, fuchsia, tangerine, then pale pink before the golden sun dazzles me with its brilliant light and spills its reflection across number sixteen pond and Georgian Bay.

The days grow shorter and darker in November as we approach the winter solstice. It is time to turn inward and recline with a pile of books from the library, but this year we have continued to walk at least five kilometres a day around the golf course. Our morning yoga straightens our spine and rids me of headaches that sometimes plague my nights.

My cache from the library usually includes a travel guide to a different country as we contemplate a future adventure. We have not yet decided on a destination, but we have time to dream and wonder about the possibilities.

And then we have a surprise day such as November 28th when the temperature rises to 14C and we play nine holes on a deserted golf course. Windy, true, but sunny, most of the time!

Brian has not been participating in hunting in recent years but still helps the hunters with butchering and packaging. This means that November is also time for a venison pie making party with friends. We now have five delicious pies stored in our freezer.

In the United States, Thanksgiving heralds the end of November. Although we did not travel to Shawn and Agnes’ for Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the time we spent with them in Connecticut at the beginning of the month. We can be part of our grandchildren’s busy lives and provide a little support for their parents. We always enjoy hikes at Hammonasset and in the state forests. The oak leaves there this year provided greater variety of orange and brown colour than our own maple trees did. We think the wet summer and warm fall made autumn scenes less spectacular.

We marvel at the beauty of each day and recognize that November is also a gift for which we are grateful.

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.

Still in Connecticut

Bye, Mom/Grandma! Have a good trip!

Bye, Mom/Grandma! Have a good trip!

Make your own track, the beech leaves have taken over.

Make your own track, the beech leaves have taken over.

Today was supposed to be departure day. We said our good-byes to each as he/she left for school and work. Alex hoped that UPS would not deliver Grandpa’s backpack until the afternoon; so, we would still be here when he got home. Alex got his wish. Brian had ordered a backpack from Sierra Trading on Saturday and had even paid extra for quicker delivery. Alas his VISA card encountered some fraudulent activity; so, his purchase was held up, then the route for delivery went through Kentucky where a snowstorm delayed it. The end result was the red 40 litre +10 Deuter Backpack did not arrive until noon today, by which time we had decided we would go for a ski and head for Niagara tomorrow. Brian is delighted with his backpack. Margaret and I will not lose him on the Camino. I am wondering why we did not order two of them, other than that I had wanted to try a Slim Line version and a slightly smaller pack. We have bought houses with less deliberation than purchasing a backpack!

Brian and I painted the upstairs hallway then had a coffee and watched the birds at the feeder while waiting for the backpack arrival. So the hall is the beneficiary of fresh paint and we were rewarded with viewing, bluebirds, tufted titmice, bluejays, doves, juncos, a robin and nuthatches.

A robin...wondering where spring is

A robin…wondering where spring is

Then we went crosscountry skiing in Timberlands forest nearby. Shawn was the only skier who had “groomed” a previously non-existent trail by skiing up, down and around. For the most part we followed his tracks although for some downhills we opted to create our own, to slow us down and avoided colliding with a tree. Snowplowing through deep snow was not an option. Likewise for uphill we had to resort to rigorous herringbones rather than running straight up as Shawn had done. The end result was that we had a great time in early afternoon sunshine and we were drenched in sweat; thus, we had sufficient exercise.

We picked up a selection of sausages for supper and buns and meat for sandwiches for tomorrow’s drive as well as corn chips to make more nachos for this evening’s appetizer.

Alex arrived home first on the bus, delighted to see us. He went straight to his room to do his homework then practised the cello for twenty minutes, entertaining us and his great grandparents on Skype. Alex has a well honed routine. Julie arrived by bus an hour later, with hugs and a request for yoghurt.  The three of us went sledding again, because Grandma had not yet had enough exercise today! Certainly -5C and sunshine with no wind is delightful.

It was great to have an extra day here!