Black and White

December 7, 2017

What I am about to type, I first wrote by hand in a notebook, very unusual as I have a tendency to type more than I write, a speedier process, but perhaps one that does not give me enough time to think about the actual words I type….

I have not written in this notebook for a long time, more than six months! I am currently waiting for my desktop computer to catch up to my commands. Why is it so slow? It may have something to do with saving to the cloud. That cloud must match the one outside. It is saturated.

Georgian Bay is long gone .The lighthouse is disappearing into a uniformly grey sky.. The tone of that grey is getting darker as night descends. Somewhere the sun is setting but it is not at all visible in any direction at Cobble Beach today.

This week I have been experimenting with black and white photography. Why, you might well ask. A friend, Marie, issued me a challenge on Facebook to post a black and white photo each day for seven days. I am to post each photo with no people, no comment, no explanation, photos of my life. Then each day I have also dutifully extended the challenge to someone else. This is day five of the challenge for me.

In the course of the past five days my world has become more and more monochrome as the days shorten and the snow falls, and falls. In the past twenty-four hours more than thirty centimetres of snow has blanketed our neighbourhood.

The snow began in earnest yesterday afternoon with fierce winds driving it horizontally past my windshield as I drove home from a delicious potluck lunch in Port Elgin. I left behind the waves crashing on Lake Huron’s shore, splashing onto the road and icing the branches of shore-side trees and shrubs. The drive reminded me how grateful I am to be retired. I do not have to drive anywhere if I do not feel like it. My preferred mode of travel is walking, cycling and skiing. I will be able to take up skiing tomorrow after four days of golfing this week! Amazing weather changes!

I shoveled out our driveway when I arrived home yesterday. Brian cleaned it out again this morning. I reshovelled after him, adding the steps on both sides of the house and the front walk and porch.

This afternoon in the space of two hours as I cleaned out two friends’ driveways, the snow continued to fall straight down in huge wet flakes with no wind. The kind of snow that sticks to eyelashes. I love it!

Although I have seen such constant snowing in the past I still marvel at the magic and power of such a snowfall.

My efforts at cleaning driveways is no longer obvious as an additional fifteen centimetres have filled them in. My snow angel will soon have disappeared.In fact it is now so dark that I can no longer see it in the yard below even though the white snow is bright in the darkness.

Black and white, yes that is our winter. However, in the natural black and white winter world, I see colour. In the milkweed pod, a golden glow of seeks peeks out of the cracked pod. In a dark sky sunrise varying shades of pink and gold slowly leak across the horizon and line the clouds. Some days, not today, a patch of blue briefly sneaks into existence, a bright spot in a dull day.

Right now, as I look out, the bay has reappeared. The grey shade of the bay is now distinguishable from the far black shore, the medium grey sky and the white snow.

Alan did a fine job of decorating six small trees outside his townhouse, five with white lights and one with red. These sparkle in the black night. Our own small pine in the back yard is weighted down with red and white smudges of light.

I like colour photos more than black and white because even on a monochrome day, I glimpse colour, subtle perhaps, but there, and I like it. That little bit of colour warms my heart and brightens my life.

This black and white challenge is teaching me a thing or two about photography. I think it is more demanding of talent or skill or both. I need to learn more about editing photos and taking the photo using the optimum light in the correct direction.

I chatted with Brilynn on the phone as I waded shin deep through the falling snow along the buried golf course path. I consulted my photography expert on what I had to do to give my black and white photos more definition. Brilynn suggested that I download the snapseed app. I have done so and have even looked at a couple of the tutorials. I have so much to learn about editing photos: colour or black and white.

I sent Brilynn some of my colour photos and asked her to edit them as black and whites. She sent my milkweed pod back in seconds, edited with snapseed. I clapped my hands in delight. The monochrome milkweed pod no longer has black blobs hiding the features that I saw in real time, features I tried to capture with my IPhone. The seeds were missing in my black and white version. Brilynn knew how to use the tools to highlight those seeds.

I finished creating a forty-page book of colour photos this week. I like to assemble my photopages as collages. Many of you would probably say I included too many photos and that the photos would have stood out more with white space and fewer larger photos. No doubt you would be right, but making collages brings me joy. And that is good!

Brilynn pointed out that many of the editing tools are available in the editing software of my iPhone and iPad. I just have to dig a little deeper in those menus. Now perhaps if I learned more about editing I might even select fewer photos but spend more time making them just right. Unlikely!

It is a good thing that I typed this immediately after writing in my notebook. Probably a month from now I would not be able to decipher my hieroglyphics. Decoding handwriting is another reason to opt for typing or thumbing my blog. The resulting black and white text is legible.


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!

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.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It is only 4C and there is a bitter 40 kilometre/hour north wind, but the good news is that the sun is shining brilliantly, the sky is totally blue and there is no St. Patrick’s Day storm! Yeah! Spring is coming!

Can you not imagine the daffodils hiding under the snow?

Can you not imagine the daffodils hiding under the snow?

We see shrubs!

We see shrubs!

Still some slow melting banks of snow

Still some slow melting banks of snow

The roads are bare and mostly dry!

The roads are bare and mostly dry!

The ant will soon be free!

The ant will soon be free!

The steps are clearing.

The steps are clearing. Soon there will be snowdrops!

Home Again

Cobble Beach

March 2, 2015

The sun is setting, casting gold upon the western horizon and hues of pink and blue over frozen Georgian Bay. A three quarter moon is brightening high over the bay in a cloudless sky.

We arrived home around 2PM after stopping for groceries in Owen Sound. The drive from Niagara was on mostly dry roads although we saw lots of blowing snow and skies that went from cloudy to threatening to a mix of blue and clouds as we got closer to home.

American Falls

American Falls

Beautiful ice tapestry

Beautiful ice tapestry

One of my favourite views of the the brink

One of my favourite views of the Falls…at the brink

Happy 90th, Mom!

Happy 90th, Mom!

Home again!

Home again!

On Georgian Bay

While it has certainly been a very cold winter, there is no denying the beauty of winter. As I look out at frozen Georgian Bay with the sun highlighting great shards of ice jutting from clear glass and snow-covered stillness, I smile in awe. Right now the wind is only barely moving the tree branches, the sky is mostly blue with drifts of white clouds. After a two day hiatus from skiing, we enjoyed our 7.9 kilometre ski around Cobble Beach, sporting our new backpacks loaded with ten pounds of filler.

At Cobble Beach in winter

At Cobble Beach in winter

The wind the past two days was more than we could stand on our faces, the only part of us still exposed. I guess we need full face masks. We went snowshoeing yesterday on Georgian Bay, figuring that the wind would bother us less at a slower pace. Where the ice was swept clear we could see right to the bottom to the rocks. The ice appeared to be a foot thick. It was amazing to see the bubbles frozen in the ice. I had recently seen photos of this phenomenon, but did not recall having seen this before. Our ski poles skittered along beside us, not finding purchase, but the spikes of our snowshoes gave us sufficient grip. We really should try skating. I think we could shovel a meandering trail on the bay, along the shore. No one has put ice huts on the bay in front of Cobble Beach although a village of ice huts adorn the bay closer to Owen Sound. We have not heard how successful fishing has been.

Mother Nature, the artist

Mother Nature, the artist

Inside, we have had another golf lesson on the simulator and have played a few holes here and there in the golfing world. A delightfully warm thing to do. We chose courses where the weather was sunny, the sky blue,  and there was no wind. We still hit the ball into sand. I even lost a ball in the ocean off the coast of Scotland. Believe me that cost me strokes!

Ah, come on, Brian, I think it is only 5 km across. Surely there won't be open water?

Ah, come on, Brian, I think it is only 5 km across. Surely there won’t be open water?

We have secured our flight from Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona. We even looked into extending our trip by a week, but for the cost of doing so, we could afford to do a return trip on another occasion.

We are still deciding on how to get from Paris to St. Jean Pied de Port on March 31st. Much hinges on the time it takes to deplane in Paris and get through Customs and Immigration. The question becomes whether or not we can make an early connecting flight or train leaving Charles de Gaulle. Eliane phoned this morning with an offer to meet us in Bordeaux and drive us from there to St Jean. That sounds like a delightful alternative to a number of trains and bus transfers. We are now looking into connections to Bordeaux. Such fun making plans!

Last night I weighed the items I intend to pack and am now discarding items from that list. How frugal we become when measuring in ounces and imagining each ounce on our back.

This is my swimming hole in summer.

This is my swimming hole in summer. There will be summer this year??


The blizzard forecast for today in Connecticut did not really materialize, or at least not as I imagined it. We did have high winds as witnessed by the oaks swaying and groaning and about four inches of snow freshened the already white landscape. Blizzard to me means whiteouts but in the forested hills it is not the same as our flatter more open landscape at Cobble Beach.

Lots of space for trail blazing and hiding.

Lots of space for trail blazing and hiding.

This morning Julie and I made bran muffins with the very necessary chocolate chips. Everything is better with chocolate. Alex read Grandpa the instructions for installing the drain for the bathroom sink. Only one trip to the hardware store was necessary and everything works, no leaks. Agnes and Shawn went skiing. They don’t often get out together, just the two of them, and certainly not for skiing.

Monkey supervises muffin making.

Monkey supervises muffin making.

This afternoon Alex, Julie and I conquered the slopes again with sleds. I also got to slide down as well as carry a sled uphill. Today I opted for trudging uphill in the snow. I wanted to match Margaret’s exertion climbing 1500 steps in Hamilton. I am sure I did. And if that did not do it, more chasing of geese certainly did. We expanded our fox and geese paths to give the fox even more of a workout. My thighs feel today’s fun.

The fort is feeling fine.

The fort is feeling fine.

Agnes made an excellent sausage vegetable soup for lunch. Brian, Shawn and I prepared tonight’s feast. Everyone enjoyed a filling lasagna and salad. A scoop of coconut gelato and one of black cherry gelato was a very satisfying dessert.

I taught Julie how to play Hand and Foot. She beat me. Brian and I showed Alex and Shawn how to play. Alex and I won the first hand by thousands, but we have not got back to finish the game. Julie and Alex are engaged in Minecraft. A lot of chatter bounces back and forth as they play.

Before bed I take a few minutes to read a little of Tim Moore’s Spanish Steps, Travels with My Donkey. I am not planning on leading a donkey along the Camino, but you never know what Brian might do. I will encourage him to read the book. That should dissuade him of any such notion.

Valentine’s Day in Connecticut

Happy Valentine’s Day! Always a pleasure to spend time with people I love!

Cello practice

Cello practice

I think perhaps that 2 hours of playing with a ten and five year old in the snow might be more exhausting than four hours of crosscountry skiing. Although I started this day slowly with half an hour of Yoga Studio, the rest of the day has been busy!

Shawn made waffles while Brian fried Vermont bacon and we ate them with Kemble Mountain maple syrup. A nutritious delicious start to our day.

Julie protested that she hated winter and it took some convincing to get her dressed and outside. She preferred raising frogs on the iPad. Mostly she wants summer to arrive with days spent at the beach. I must admit I love those days too. Nevertheless, Julie donned her snow gear. Alex was already sledding. Shawn gave me some snow pants to keep me dry and warm. Minus nine Celsius was positively balmy compared to yesterday. The front yard is a great sledding hill with only a couple of trees to avoid. I did not slide down but walked down in foot deep snow and pulled sleds back up. After a few of these uphill killers, I opted for carrying the sleds up along the roadside. I know, not as much exercise! Mea culpa!

We took time out to make snow angels then went to see what we could do in the backyard. The snow was not good for packing; so, I shovelled out a fort and told Alex they would be able to build the walls higher when they had packing snow (“sticking snow” according to Julie). I pushed Julie on the glider while Alex pumped himself on a swing, sort of, since the snow was at the level of the swing seat.

Snow angels

Snow angels

Julie asked what we could do next. I suggested playing Fox and Goose. They did not know what this was; so, I showed them how to make a trail, again lots of stomping around in foot-deep snow. Although I talked Alex into being the fox, he soon caught me. My big boots were good for making me fall over in the narrow track. I got to be the fox, more than the goose. That was not such a great game for me to teach them! At least not for me. Julie thought it was fabulous and oh, wonder of wonders, the girl who hates winter wanted to stay outside when Alex and I wanted to go in. Naturally she wanted the fox to stay out too, but no, she did not want to be the fox. The fox convinced the little goose to come inside for hot chocolate and lunch.

While we were enjoying the fresh air, Brian and Shawn went shopping for oatmeal as well as paint and hardware for a bathroom reno. Agnes bought a sink and countertop and completed some work at the lab. In the course of the day, the bathroom received two fresh coats of paint and Brian installed the cherry vanity he made at home, the counter, sink and taps. Shawn took advantage of everyone’s busyness to ski 6.8 miles, the first crosscountry skiing he has done in a long time.

Cookie decorators

Cookie decorators

Alex, Julie and I made our heart-shaped oatmeal chocolate chip cookies decorated with lots of colourful sprinkles. We are now waiting for ribs and spaghetti squash to finish cooking. Wild rice and salad are ready, the table is set. Nachos have already been devoured. What board game will we play tonight? Or maybe Hand and Foot. We have a new deck AND a card shuffler!