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.


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!

Skiing in Vermont

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The only thing that would have made this a better day was a little more sunshine, but we are not complaining. The sun did shine for about an hour this morning. We are happily reclining after a hot shower and almost four hours of cross country skiing at the Viking Nordic Centre near Londonderry, Vermont. This area received about three feet of snow in the past ten days; so, the trails had a terrific base and were groomed just before we headed out at ten this morning. It was snowing pretty steadily for about half of our skiing; so, a fluffy top layer covered everything.

We skied more than twelve kilometres in two hours this morning. Within ten minutes of starting I darted off to the left on Helga’s Way with Brian calling after me that he did not think this was a good idea. Brian had noticed, and I had not, that this was a black trail, the most difficult. Once committed we kept going and I slowed so Brian could lead the way down a steep multi-curved hill. Brian keeled over part way down to avoid missing the next big turn. I sailed past then dropped into the snow rather than do battle with the very large pine in the next curve. Happily we were without injuries and finished the rest of the black trail without more spills. After this we avoided the black trails. The blue ones were challenging enough. We are certain that we climbed more than we descended.

The barn condos are n the bottom middle of the photo. We went all the way down and all the way back up.

The barn condos are in the bottom middle of the photo. We went all the way down and all the way back up.

Downhill ahead!

Downhill ahead!

We took a break at noon. We changed our upper layers and left things hanging around the wood stove in the warming hut. We drove a few miles to the Maple Leaf diner where we ordered a cheeseburger with fries for Brian and burger and onion rings for me. We could easily have split a burger and only had fries or onion rings, not both. All portions were enormous. Brian did the manly thing and finished my burger for me.

We returned for another hour and three quarters. We completed just over eight kilometres. I think we were weighted down by food and we are sure we went almost continuously upward. The downhills always felt shorter. According to Brian’s GPS we climbed about three hundred feet. We think the GPS was defective. It felt more like a thousand feet of difference in elevation.

Red barn condos

Red barn condos

We passed a huge red barn-like building with outbuildings which had been converted into condos in the seventies. They look out over a wide river valley. Today the river was heavily blanketed in snow and looked more like a field than a river. We enjoyed skiing through a pine forest and mixed forest of huge hemlocks, birches, maples and beech trees still sporting their bronze leaf dresses. We had the trails pretty much to ourselves. They are busier on weekends.

With tomorrow’s forecast of temperatures of -25C without counting wind chill, we may decide to head south to Shawn’s sooner rather than ski again. We are pleased that the Blue Gentian has a hot tub and it will be toasty for our use after tonight’s supper.

Vermont In February

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Here we are, cozy by the fire in The Blue Gentian Lodge east of Londonderry in south Vermont.  We are stuffed from having dined at The Grill, a restaurant in a small plaza just down the road in Londonderry. I had a plate full of scallops with mushrooms and red peppers on rice. Brian and I shared a bowl of thick New England chowder then Brian had fish and chips with a local brew, Switchback.

We drove three hundred and seventy miles to here from Niagara in seven hours today with rest, coffee and food stops along the Niagara State Thruway. We were watched by hawks, silent sentinels in the bare treetops along the thruway. Once in Vermont we stopped near Troy at a beer store we had discovered two years ago. This store is packed floor to ceiling with hundreds of varieties of ale, lager and ciders. The very genial staff pointed out lots of different possibilities and told us we could make up our own six pack; so, we did. It appears that craft breweries in Vermont are doing well. There are more than thirty of them, AND pay attention, Government of Ontario, they are all available in grocery stores! Brian is enjoying Bear Naked Ale as I write. I have no room for my Cherry Razz Ale nor my Grapefruit Ale tonight.

It was a sunny day for travelling on dry roads with white fields and forests which became much hillier as we approached Vermont. Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage accompanied us in Audiobook format en route. We are preparing for our Camino!

This lodge was opened in the sixties when Magic Mountain, the downhill ski resort next door, opened. The current owners have been here twenty years. Based on the couples we have met in the lounge, the lodge has many repeat guests who have been coming here for several years. It’s cozy and clean, with quilts and local art on the walls, not fancy, but comfortable. We are looking forward to French toast for breakfast before going cross country skiing at the Viking Centre three miles from here.

From Sun to Snow

Cobble Beach

January 19, 2015

Saturday night we savoured Caribbean Seafood Chowder, marlin on a bed of puréed pumpkin with white beans and finished with a molten lava cake.  We took our PIC coil with us to the outdoor lounge where an Antiguan was playing the keyboard and singing old romantic songs, many of which I did not recognize. We trained our British friends well as they joined us with their PIC coil. Every little PIC helps! Once again we were among the last to head off to bed. Even the musician packed up before us. It must be the British influence keeping us up so late!

View while sipping piña colada

View while sipping piña colada

Sunday morning was our last “hourrah” on the beach. We walked back and forth studying shells and collecting coloured polished shards of glass to give to another guest who is going put her glass collection on her kitchen window sill as a reminder of her warm vacation. We snorkelled for an hour and fit in an extra swim before packing our bags and having our last piña colada before lunch. Yes, we were able to have a good lunch before taking a taxi van to the airport. We did not have to worry about being hungry on our non-food flight.

We arrived at the airport two hours ahead of schedule and spent the first hour moving through the line for emigration and customs check. I heard an official with a walkie talkie saying, “Well, if everything is ready, let’s load them up.” And they did! We left Antigua an hour early.

Four and a half hours later we were landing in rainy dark Toronto. I was surprised there was no snow! In spite of the mild temperature of -2C, I felt cold after two weeks of 25C+. Happily brother JIm was quick to pick us up with my down jacket in hand.

Lynn had a delicious meal waiting for us: fish amandine, carrots, broccoli and rice. We could not decide between Stephanie’s two birthday cakes; so, we had both: Black Forest cake and rum cake.

Brilynn returned our car to us and greeted us with big hugs. Always a pleasure! Brilynn is keeping Kishu in Toronto. Our house is very quiet without Kishu, but she seems to be quietly content at Brilynn’s.

Home gain

Home again

Toronto received a skiff of snow overnight and the temperature dropped and continued to do so as we headed north for home. Nevertheless the sun was shining, but the snow had not accumulated much until after Orangeville. At home we have two feet of snow. There must have been a thaw followed by new snow as we were skiing on a crusty slippery layer after unpacking at Cobble Beach.

Skiing before sunset

Skiing before sunset

It’s -11C now and even though I am wearing three layers, two of them, wool, and I had Brian’s warming spaghetti with lamb meatballs, I am cold.