Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ice queen

We kept power all day and night yesterday, so it was with a big sigh of relief that I pulled the plug on the bathtubs. Another power outage dodged. With freezing rain coming down all day we were housebound for Boxing Day: no family dinners, no outings to the shopping malls, no friends coming over to share our dinner.

Getting the dogs outside was fraught with peril, anytime they dashed out they all wiped out and turned around to skitter back to the house. Finally by 9pm the temperature had edged up above freezing, so, in the pouring rain, Carm chopped at the ice on the front deck and steps down to ground level. He had to take each dog on a leash away from the house so they would take care of business - there was no way they were going out into the rain willingly.

This morning much of the ice had melted, except for the thick sheet that covers the laneway. Thank goodness for my icers. They have metal grips on them and strap to my boots. I keep a pair of them permanently deployed on an old pair of boots.

Cooking onions and garlic fragrance the air. Supper will be a mushroom onion soup with lentils and red rice.  

We got an email this afternoon telling us that we can start booking our excursions for our Mediterranean trip - that is sure to banish some of these winter blues. And it is less than 3 weeks till my trip to New Zealand!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas

The little tree twinkles bravely against the window frosted with freezing rain. I'm twinkling bravely too. Christmas has changed, as it probably has for you. With the passing years, family growing and shrinking, moving and returning, Christmas changes. For some people it is for the better, however, it doesn't seem better to me. This year was the first that there was no Christmas morning at my parent's house - I'm not gonna lie and say that this was joyous. It does show me that we have to work hard at making new traditions - I have a few ideas.

On Christmas Day Carm and I spent the afternoon at his sister's house with Maria, Jack and their sons & wives and our three grand nephews. It was fun. When we got home we recovered from all the feasting and finally by 7 felt ready for our bottle of champagne and a few nibbles, while we watched 'Sound of Music'. We should have gotten home earlier so we could have gone to Montreal for a couple of hours, but with the dogs it didn't seem possible.

Today Environment Canada is calling for heavy freezing rain so we are stuck at home again. The planned trip to Montreal has been cancelled and instead we filled buckets, bathtubs and bins with water in case the power goes out. The 1998 ice storm is always in our mind when freezing rain is in the forecast. Nine days without electricity makes one a little nervous for a repeat. At this exact moment it is pouring.

We did have a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with my parents and brother Graham. It was a very adult time with no kids to leap around with. We all grow up, even when we don't want to!

I flung open the curtains in the bedroom Thursday and was greeted with a winter scene straight from a Christmas Card. The trees, including the ones right outside the window, were piled with snow. I should have gotten out to get a few photos but was too lazy. It wasn't just the tree branches that were covered with snow. Oh no, the decks and laneway had several cm piled on as well. It was warm and even inched above freezing which made the snow heavy, perfect for snowmen.

It didn't take me long to get the deck cleared though - I've got a method now. At least for when there isn't a foot of snow - that will require a different approach.
Friday night we snuggled up on the sofa to watch 'Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer', a tradition that goes back several years. We've seen this 1965 production for years and it never fails to delight. I like it better than 'Charlie Brown Christmas' (but the music rocks - I have the soundtrack).

Well, I feel better now that I've gotten all that off my chest, so, with a smile on my face and love in my heart, I wish you all a Merry Christmas :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

all aglow

Christmas has half heartedly stuck its nose into the house. Yesterday, our little artificial tree, still decorated from last year, was carried triumphantly upstairs by Carm. I eased the dust shroud from its shoulders and plugged in the lights. 'Lights all aglow', a token nod to Christmas. I've been so lethargic these last few weeks that I can't get the house clean, let alone anoint it with baubles that will also have to be dusted and eventually put away. I usually delight in setting the scene, but this year I'm not sure where my energy has gone.

Today the sun is shining strongly and the temperatures have warmed to zero, or possibly just above. Droplets of melting snow can be heard tinkling down the rain spouts like a pied piper calling me outside. My fleece pj bottoms clung to my legs (that's the problem with fleece, it is too darn static), my heavy green farm boots bunching them around my knees as I stepped outside the door, the first of many forays. Coat, hat, boots, coat, hat, boots, every time I stepped outside it was the same thing - precisely the problem with winter.

I wish there was somewhere to walk the dogs, but alas, the field is socked in with snow tall enough to tip into my high boots, and with a crust a few inches down it was too hard for Spike to break through. I guess if he really wanted to he might have put more effort, but since I wasn't forcing the issue we both gave up and stuck to the laneway. Kabira took one look at what we were trying to do and fled to the front steps. Bella was game as always.

On one of my trips out, I took some old peanuts and spread them on the ground for the squirrel. It turns out the crows have a taste for Onion Garlic peanuts from Picard's as well. A battle raged across the dazzling snow. The squirrel was the aggressor: he wasn't for sharing.

The sun shone and even if it was low on the horizon it was a welcome sight. It even graced the walls of my bathroom while I luxuriated in a late afternoon bubble bath. The golden light ignited a few minutes of 'peaceful easy feeling'.

Yesterday we made our first reservations for next years camping. Hurrah, there will be a Titanium Reunion of sorts after all. It will come hot on the heels of our trip to the Mediterranean. Life is rough ;-)

"Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that. She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment. Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow. Some green she thinks so good for our eyes that, like blue, she never banishes it entirely from our eyes, but has created evergreens." ~Henry David Thoreau,

Monday, December 19, 2016

the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity

In the wake of Saturday's snowstorm were freezing temperatures, and, of course, heaps of snow. The wind was swirling an icy dance when we went out yesterday afternoon: Carm with the snowblower and me with a shovel. I pulled my coat hood more tightly over my head and got to work. Front step, check. I laboured over the back deck. I was tucked out of the wind, but the snow was piled high with a crispy layer of ice to keep my shovel from slipping easily.

I would have liked to quit, but the sound of the snowblower in the front guilted me on. I could hardly winge out and let Carm finish, that would hardly be fair after he did the whole laneway. I got mad when I realized I wasn't wearing my fitbit. Then the sun came out, luring me to the end of the deck where a narrow blaze of sun sparkled. The low sun cast a pink light over the snow in the field. It was beautiful. I quickly got back to work so that I could get my camera and capture this beauty on 'film'. I was reminded that winter isn't just dark and cold. It is also diamonds in the snow, and beautiful light, and the sight of soft snowbanks. I remembered to straighten my back so I could look up and see the spruce trees iced with white fondant. I suddenly saw the tracks of a lone rabbit. I've been in such a funk that I had forgotten to take notice and find pleasure in Nature's beauty.

There have been other pleasures to brighten my days. Spike is still getting the drops in his eyes and he is so good about it my heart melts. We put a mat on the table that I lift him onto so us old folks don't have to crouch down. I tell Spike that it is time to get his eyes done, and he comes from wherever he is sleeping to be lifted onto the table. He stands quietly while each eye is pried open and a precious drop is medicine is dropped in. He gets a treat and then I lift him back down. He does all this without trying to hide, nor a whimper or a winge.

Are you all enjoying one of the seasons tastiest offerings? I'm on my second carton of eggnog, a special one made with milk and cream and other real ingredients. No milk-by-products for this nog. It is rich and delicious and terribly fattening. I do a partial re-enactment of happy hour on the ship, but instead of two drinks, I make do with one.

"He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.... In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity." ~John Burroughs

Saturday, December 17, 2016

an ordeal getting food

When we got home I told the dogs that they better appreciate the ordeal that we had gone through to get their meat. There weren't even ruts in the snow to follow on our way to the pickup place - either the snowplows had done other routes, or hadn't come out at all. Our 40 minute drive took 60 minutes.

Normally we wouldn't have poked our heads out on a day like this, but there is no other option for the dog meat. The 'guy' delivers to a drop off place 70km from here and only once a month. We get to the location and everyone lines up waiting for him to arrive. The bad weather slowed him down too so we had to wait in the freezing cold for 1/2 hour. When it is our turn we give him our money and get our bags of frozen meat bricks. We try to load the freezer so that we don't have to go every month.

You learn a few things standing in the cold like that. I learned that my new boots suck at keeping my feet warm. The sole is way too thin - maybe an insole will help. My blundstones have always kept my feet warm even though they aren't lined at all. It must be the sturdy rubber sole. Sadly the bottom of my current pair is crumbling so I used a (not so) proper winter boot.

It took ages to get warm: hot cocolate, jammie pants, fluffy blanket and finally a hot bath with a side of not so great movie. Still, what better afternoon to cocoon at home.

Friday, December 16, 2016

bundled up against the chill

This morning (and still), the edges of the windows were gilded with ice topped with a frosty glaze. Yes, it is cold out - there is no denying winter's imminent arrival when the temperature is stuck at -18, colder when you factor in wind chill. The dogs dash out and are back inside in an instant. No playing and hunting that squirrel that lives behind the camper.

The birds are huddling against the bird feeder and the little red squirrel scurries on the ground collecting the fallen seed, his fur fluffed up and tail curled over his back like a shawl.

We haven't been doing anything exciting lately. We were out for Chinese food with Trudie & Leo on Sunday and of course they came back to our place for a longer visit. Monday was spent with my head figuratively under the covers - I haven't been feeling so great the last week or so and tend to cocoon if my resolve to fight it wavers. I couldn't even be bothered to even do the things that I know will keep my mind healthy. Maybe it was winter stopping me. Cold, blowing snow will do that to a person.

Tuesday was dr. appointment day. My dr. is only working a few mornings a week as she is recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, which put her in the hospital for two weeks. Scary that something so devastating can come out of the blue. We stopped at Costco afterwards where I picked up a bathing suit which is one size too small… not very encouraging (eat more cookies, it will feel better).

Wednesday we went into town again. This time to visit Carm's mom (who still remembers who I am), and some shopping. I tried on 'the dress' that I've been obsessing over for a month - it made me look like a frumpy box. I was so disappointed… visions of Carm and I floating on the dance floor during our Mediterranean cruise were dashed…(drink some eggnog/ sans liquor, it will feel better).

Thursday Christina came over so that I could help her find a flight to Zurich. We found something, but there are lots of combinations that are totally ridiculous with hours of layover in crazy airports.

Today I am bundled up against the chill and wondering what I could do to shake off this funk. Pulling the covers over my head is only acceptable for a few days but now it is time to take action. or not.

… a little while later…

I was thankful for my warm down coat when we went into the village for a few things. On our way to the hardware store we passed the pharmacy which offered free flu shots. I don't get them every year, but since I'm going away in Jan I didn't want to take a chance, so I got jabbed. Then we went to the grocery store so I could look at the eggnog. I picked some up at the corner store the other day that is said to be the best around - it is excellent with an impressive ingredient list (milk and cream are the first two ingredients), but is expensive. The grocery store brands were about a buck cheaper but had ingredient lists that read like a chemistry experiment. I'll luxuriate in milk and cream… yum… almost addictive… really fattening… I'll burn it off on the hills of Wellington.

Back from our errands, I've changed into fluffy pajama bottoms and am cuddled under a blanket with a steaming cup of tea with lemon and honey.  Carm is on the computer looking for cruises for next winter.

Some say squirrels are rats with tails, and so they may be
But in my eyes, they are creatures both wild and free
I smile as I see two of them race up and down a tree”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

new adventures

The after motion has abated, but the glow of excitement has been rekindled. Why? Friday we got together with Jo Ellen and Don to book a Mediterranean cruise for the spring! We are both super excited about this - Carm will finally visit Italy. We also visit Spain, France, Greece and Turkey (today Turkey is cancelled and some other Greek islands are added).

It has taken me several days to recuperate from the Caribbean; I wonder how long it will take for the next trip? Or the one after that? I have to figure out a way to get a little more rest, including some quiet time by myself. I love all the socializing, but it wears me out.

Spike started squinting Friday afternoon and it was quickly clear that he has another eye infection. The first was last May but we didn't have any antibiotics left so it was another trip to the vet. Dr. Shackleton gave him a thorough examination and sent Spike home with a little bottle of eye drops. I wished that my doctor gave the same service. I expect that it has something to do with payment (how much does a human doctor get for a visit like this?).

I must remember to visit the vet clinic before our next trip and give them the go ahead for a certain amount on our account, just in case something happens. It doesn't need to be a catastrophic event to require a trip to the vet: eye infection or impacted anal glands require a visit as well.

The laundry from our trip is done, and much of it is refolded and packed in either my suitcase for NZ or the suitcase for the Med. Crazy I know, but this way we'll keep a set of clothes in new condition, and not slightly worn out and faded. Plus, why put everything away just to get it out a few weeks later? There are a few things I won't be bringing with me to NZ (formal dress being one of them), and a few extras for wearing around Kirsten's farm. It is just slightly over 1 month until I leave.

Last night we attended Laurie & Kevin's annual neighborhood Christmas party. She had her house beautifully decorated, setting the stage for a wonderful evening. I enjoy everyone's company so much and wonder why we don't see them more often.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~Marcel Proust

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Home sweet home

We have been back (safe and sound) since late Sunday night, or more accurately early Sunday morning. Pat had stayed the night so we were assured that if something delayed our arrival all the feathered and furred ones would be okay.

Sunday was a long day. We were both awake long before the 6:30am alarm and after showers made our way up to the breakfast buffet. A bite of quiche, some smoked fish, and a few slices of melon started our day. It was disembarkation day… return to home day… vacation over day.

The ship was well organized for getting 3600 people off and onto waiting busses. We had booked a tour for the morning as our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until almost 8pm. The tour guide was interesting, giving us history of the everglades and all the environmental f__ups that had happened over the years. Our first stop was for a boat tour of the everglades and a show featuring some big gators. We had a good time.

Next stop was a botanical garden with some native and exotic inhabitants. All the birds and animals were rescued from unfortunate circumstances. First we boarded a trolley for a ride through the extensive property. Then we wandered around the rest of the gardens until it was time to go. We zipped through the gift shop (hurrah for me no stopping - memories of my trip with Dad to Jordan flashed in my head - there wasn't a shop we passed that we didn't find something wonderful), shared a giant slice of key lime pie then boarded the bus (which had wifi).

That was it, the holiday was over and we were dropped at the airport for a 6 hour wait. It was a long time with not much to see. We ate mediocre pizza and surfed the internet. Everyone was too tired for much else. At least I was.

So there we are: 8 nights of adventure for 2 homebodies. Would we do it again? YOU BET! Next time somewhere more exotic, like the Mediterranean. And maybe a few nights longer.

General thoughts:

It was nice feeling confident that the pets were in good hands and I hope Pat had a good enough time that she’ll do it again. The dogs were sleeping in her bed and Grace was letting Pat scratch her head so I guess we weren’t missed all that much.

I gained 1 pound, and should have walked more. We enjoyed the company of Jo Ellen and Don and would cruise with them again. I need to take a bit more time where it is quiet - I'm an introvert and never got the chance to recharge and started getting cranky.

We mostly ate at the buffet: the food was good and convenient. We went to one formal night - I was too tired for the second one - it was fun to get dressed up. I'd eat at the dining room one more time. We had a meal at specialty dining - I'd eat there earlier in the cruise as I think we'd appreciate it more. Happy hour was a good idea.

I liked the location of our stateroom even though it was just above the theatre - it was also one flight down to the piazza where all the bars and entertainment were. A balcony is a mandatory feature. We did lots of stairs. The buffet was on the 16th Lido deck which was too many flights to walk up.

Entertainment was excellent. The production shows were very professional. The comedian was okay. The impersonator made me laugh - I might have enjoyed that show the most.

Internet was expensive at $1 a minute, but I managed to post a few blog entries quickly. The buses in Dominican Republic and Ft. Lauderdale had wifi. We found wifi at a bar in St. Thomas.

I saw a bracelet that I really liked  but didn't buy it. It has been gnawing on my brain since. Note to self: sometimes it is okay to be a bit extravagant. Other souvenirs were from street vendors. I didn't buy anything with 'Princess' on it.

Our excursions were interesting. Some focused on taking us to shops, while others showed us the scenery and had some interesting highlights. One tour had 4 rum tastings before noon :-o  Antigua had a rum punch. Hummm… those were the tours we liked the most - which had nothing to do with the rum. We saw lots of stray and loose dogs. The tours are a bit of a blur now as they were similar. St Thomas had an open air bus which hurtled up and down and around the hairpin steep roads. Carm was in the seat nearest the edge and says he was terrified.

Either my camera or the memory card screwed up, leaving me with fewer photos than I took. I should have brought my big camera after all.

Talking to so many different people was fun. Everyone was friendly and seemed to be having a good time. Several times the conversation turned to politics - not Carm's doing!!! People are concerned about what the future holds for their country.

I felt that I was suspended in a bubble cut off from reality. Time seemed to move randomly. It took a while to get used to feeling so disconnected - I'm not sure if I liked it.

We had fun!

I still have after motion!

And I woke up to snow the morning after we got home :-(

Friday, December 2, 2016

Port day 3: Antigua

Yesterday’s stop at Antiga was lovely, after we finally got on the bus. A long line up faced us, probably no longer than the other days, but the sun was shining strongly and I was maybe a bit grumpy from being kept up late as Carm watched ‘Spectre’ on the rooms TV. Well, eventually we got on the bus and started our tour.

We drove through the town and out into the countryside, up and over the hills to the other side of the island. The dwellings ranged from poor bungalows to upscale mansions. There was hardly any garbage (unlike Porta Plata in the DR). There were fruit trees of ever variety. And loose dogs walking around (fewer that DR, and many wore collars).

After winding our way through the country side we came to the top of a large hill with the scant remains of a fort. The views were tremendous.

Back in the bus we zoomed down the hill to the remains of Nelson’s harbour. Huge sailboats and motor boats were lined up on the dock. We toured through the old buildings, had a rum drink (part of the tour), and boarded the bus.

Back at our port we tottered around looking at the shops, then mounted some steps to a small bar with free wifi. We had a local beer (2 for $5), checked our email, and posted on facebook. We are back on the boat now for 2 sea days so internet will be limited.

Today is hot with a mix of sun and cloud and high humidity. We might spend some time on the balcony, but to be honest I could just have a nap.