Friday, March 9, 2018

An Epic Journey

Since this is a new year and actually the third month of 2018 it’s about time to update you on all the fun there was to have. We’ve returned from what can only be described as an epic journey of almost nine weeks (62 days) in warmer climes. We did pretty well at avoiding winter in the northern hemisphere, but the windy, cool temperatures of this week are still a shock to our tans. A short synopsis of the trip follows after my whining. 

On a positive note, yesterday I joined a friend at Frenchy’s and managed to pick up some finds for the grandkids and even a couple of things for myself. Dropped my tax receipts off to the accountant to be done (fingers crossed) and enjoyed lunch with my buddy at The Beandock until she had to leave for a four hour shift. I stopped at the Bell dealership to pick up my phone and that’s when things went downhill. 

Although today’s technology issues could be described as ‘first world problems’ as I said to the life partner “I live in the first world so I am allowed to be annoyed” he replied “oh you are that!” and I cannot disagree. My cell phone (about a year old) gave me grief since bought it - locking up, shutting down, overheating to the point I couldn’t hold it - getting so I didn’t trust it, and then on vacation I dropped it and smashed the screen. After a consultation with the local Bell dealer I opted to buy a new cell phone, use the insurance I’ve been paying $11/mo for to receive a replacement phone and sell that. Sounds pretty straight forward eh? Yesterday I picked up the new phone, bought a case and screen protector, paid the $11/mo for replacement insurance on the new cell as it must be put on at purchase but can be removed at any time, had it paired with my bluetooth in my car and although originally promised that the apps were backed up, I was told “it’s a Sony to a LG so you have to download them all again” So I have spent more than a few hours reinstalling, updating, syncing, signing in to the apps I use. But….the final indignity came when I called the insurance program and was told they had a replacement phone available to send me and I would be billed $200. Whoa, just a sec…why am I billed that? Well, we cover almost all the cost, this is your portion. You’re joking right? Is this the deductible cost? Well, you can call it that if you wish. I don’t want to call it anything and I don’t want to pay $200 after I’ve paid every month for protection which you won’t honour, I can buy a cheap new phone for less. An offer to keep the file open for 30 days was extended. Yeah right…And this morning when I spoke with the clerk at the Bell dealership  (who had NEVER mentioned the $200 deductible) she said “oh yeah, they always charge that. I have no idea how she thought I was going to recoup my money with that fee in addition. She gave me the number of the repair service they use so that I could replace the screen and sell the expensive paperweight (I mean phone) I now own. The repair guy told me that it would at least $190 to replace the screen and suggested that unless it was an iPhone or something costing about $1000 would it be worth it? What a money suck technology is. Rest assured the next phone call I made was to Bell to remove the insurance - the clerk tried to tell me that it was a good deal if you were replacing the phone within the first year. I explained that although the incident happened in the first year, I’d been out of the country and unable to report it so essentially I’d paid $132, now the deductible was $200 and if I was lucky I could sell the phone for $250 to recoup those costs but had still purchased a new phone. Someone is winning, but it’s not the consumer. 

As well, I had been attempting to complete a photobook (65% discount coupon is expiring shortly) and it had taken me a couple of days  on our pathetic rural broadband (which I pay $75/mo for) to upload ‘some’ of the photos, yesterday I couldn’t even open the project so the struggle is real. The local (defined as 30 km drive away) library was open from 6 - 8 pm last evening so I opted to drive in the wind and rain (thankfully not snow in our area) and finish the book. I managed to accomplish this fairly painlessly in about 90 minutes, while visiting with a librarian acquaintance. Not my best effort, but I added a few stickers, changed some backgrounds and dropped it in my cart. Attempted to checkout and…the coupon would NOT apply no matter what I did. I sent a desperate plea to tech support on the live chat and was instructed to sign out, sign back in, clear my cache and cookies etc etc. reassured several times ‘this should work now’ to no avail. With five minutes to library closing I live chatted again (different tech) who went in to the database to see what I was trying to order and must’ve somehow fixed the glitch as the next time I hit apply….it did! Hallelujah!!! Grabbed my laptop and out the door as they locked it behind me. So…enough whining. 

Coming home in March to put away the Christmas decorations reminded me of my promise to myself to NOT plan to travel during the holidays. The usual reasons of price, crowds and weather of course, but the fact is that a couple of weeks (not really anymore than that) of winter weather can be fun - thinking we’d like to go back to camp etc. We stored our vehicle with my nursing buddy and they kindly drove us to the airport as well. Off to Toronto for the overnight, delayed, in late, long wait for the shuttle, early start due to the overbooked shuttle etc etc. In to Miami the next morning and it was cool and overcast but we ventured out to enjoy the flea market next to the hotel and a lovely Cuban (well Miami Cuban) lunch. Breakfast and shuttle to the cruise port and by 1 pm we were on the  

Costa Maya, Mexico


San Gervasio, Cozumel
Norwegian Getaway. A welcome drink in the sun while we waited for our stateroom and shortly we were unpacked, muster drill completed and readying for the evening. Dressed in our New Years Eve finery, up to the Brazilian restaurant for a wonderful leisurely supper then wandered out on deck for the festivities. Lots of music, dancing, drinks, noisemakers, lights, champagne at midnight and just a fantastic way to welcome in 2018. We finally wandered back to our cabin by 1:30 am and crashed. The sea day was a great way to explore the ship and the Getaway is huge. In fact, we haven’t been on such a large vessel in years as we’ve been on smaller ships and likely won’t choose a megaship for a while. When you’re dealing with these numbers of people for example, lots of food but not as much variety. The entertainment events have to be reserved. Takes a bit of planning to get to your destination on time etc. etc. Not terrible, just not as good a fit for us. The week spend by and we enjoyed all the spoiling…In Roatan we shared a cab with a couple from Kentucky and went to a resort to snorkel. It was coolish, soggy as it had rained and the wind came up suddenly as we were on the way to the reef - the shore captain got in the water but couldn’t keep his snorkel clear in the huge waves, I declined and we headed in, back to the cruise port in our cab and we ran for the ship in the torrential tropical downpour as we arrived. Belize was Harvest Caye which is a developed private island, so really not Belize, a cloudy day but a lovely beach, warm water to swim in, a wildlife display, lots of services, zipline, playgrounds, pools etc. In Costa Maya we spent the morning in the cruise port and enjoyed the wifi at Starbucks then watched a wonderful pole climbing and dance display from a local native group. In the afternoon we did a snorkelling excursion and although it wasn’t amazing, it was fun. There was a pirate ship theme and the young folks running it were entertaining enough. We’ve kind of gotten past wanting to snorkel in a group who are just learning. Fun way to pass a warm, sunny afternoon though. Cozumel was a great day where we opted to do our own excursion and arranged for a cab who took us across the island to San Gervasio to visit the Mayan ruins. We found a private guide who gave us a wonderful tour, explained his Mayan ancestry and the history of the island. The final sea day we attended wine theatre which was kind of like a couple of acts of dinner theatre with wine tasting. Not bad and a fun way to pass a couple of hours. Disembarkation day was the usual frantic and we had decided to try to find the hop on and off bus in Miami but…it didn’t stop at the cruise port so we caught a cab. After a lengthy discussion (English not being the driver’s first language) he finally understood that we wanted to catch the bus, still didn’t know where the terminal was but as we made our way along the city streets he suddenly pointed at the bus in the lane just
ahead and to the right of us and said “this is what you want?” We agreed it was and he sped up, put his passenger window down and had an involved conversation (en espanol) with the bus driver who indicated he would pull over at the next corner. We pulled in behind, grabbed our packs from the trunk and jumped on the bus. We were able to pass the time on the top level, ducking for overhanging tree branches, visiting Little Havana for lunch and learning about Miami. By mid afternoon we headed for a cafe, then grabbed the train to the airport.

Began our wanderings in South America with an overnight flight to Santiago de Chile (watched Victoria and Abdul - excellent movie) and slept a bit. Very efficient processing at the airport (even though the bags are scanned twice) and we grabbed a shuttle to the Matilda Boutique Hotel. Explored the neighbourhood a bit, had lunch (chorillana is like a poutine + ) and an early bedtime. An early
Matilda Hotel

Santiago to Mendoza 
morning Uber to the bus station, some assistance from the ticket agent and we wait at the platform for our Andesmarr bus. Front upper level with the most amazing views of the Andes as we travelled over to Mendoza. Visited with a young couple (American / Polish) travelling for the past two years and swapped travel yarns. Snow capped mountains, 29 switchbacks in one spot, amazing geology, lots of buses and transports, ski lodges at the summit and a very speedy (half an hour) crossing at the Chile/Argentina border. By the middle of the afternoon we passing turquoise lakes which reminded us of western Canada and then into wine country.

Posada de Cavieres 
A cab from the bus terminal to Maipu and our stay at Posada Caviers Wine Farm. The owner is originally from Belgium and it was sort of like Fawlty Towers but a low key place in a vineyard with pool. Supper was created every night by a chef who came in and was delicious! We shared our meals with the other international guests and had great conversations. We spent our days doing wine tours and tastings and lounging by the pool. It was a great week. Off in the afternoon to Mendoza to enjoy a cafe and then a cab to the bus terminal - thumping music, the offer of a caramelo and taking the corners on two wheels - what a rush.

The 20 hour bus to San Carlos de Bariloche was an adventure, the buses all have stewards who check your ticket, answer your questions and serve you meals and snacks. We enjoyed a full chicken, rice, veggie and dessert supper with drink, tea and coffee. The movies were in Spanish but one had subtitles and… even if another language you get the gist. We passed by vineyards, general farms, industrial areas and my travel partner even saw an alpaca (so he thought but we were later told it was more likely a guanaco - same family but different critter). In to Bariloche by afternoon but unable to find a bus so we grab a taxi who takes us to Villa La Angostura. We have extreme trouble finding the Airbnb we’ve rented but our cabbie is persistent and eventually we arrive. The fairly new house is beautiful, the view of the lake and mountains is breathtaking, there are lots of kitties and it’s very peaceful. Our Argentine friends arrive an hour after we do (they too had difficulty finding the place and they don’t have the language problem). Thus began a great week of exploring the area with our in-house guides, interpreters and cooks. Ahh. We enjoyed the beach and lake, visited the town, hiked in the area to a Mapuche (local indigenous people) mountain park, took a cruise of the lake and national park, journeyed north to San Martin de los Andes and south to El Bolson (backpacker haven). Then we moved back to Bariloche for the second week and found our Airbnb which was a large older home with great grounds, an indoor asado (BBQ) and full of antiques. We explored the area, hiking, visiting waterfalls and parks, travelled to Colonia Suissa (Swiss colony) shopped and visited the museum in the city, had supper out to celebrate our friends anniversary. It was a very full agenda. Our friends dropped us at the bus terminal and we caught our bus to Chile as they headed north to Mar del Plata. 

We enjoyed the bus from Bariloche to Osorno past the lake country, active volcanoes, farming country and small towns. The topography isn’t as dramatic as the northern route but it is very pretty. We had a room in a hostel near the bus terminal in Osorno - a young family and the hostess had great English suggesting lots of tourist activities. We wandered the city checking out the markets, shops and street entertainment, ate lunch at a food court - the marine pile was a big hit with the shore captain, supper at a small local restaurant (cheap and delicious) and then took a bus to Frutillar (strawberry in English) the next day as an excursion. It’s a tourist town with German roots from the 1800s on the lake, lots of great restaurants and shops. We wandered for the day, had a fantastic lunch and caught the bus back to Osorno. 

We moved on to Valdivia which is a city on the river near the coast and enjoyed a German beerfest as the Kuntsmann brewery is located there and our timing meant we got to enjoy lots of lederhosen and clogs as well as beverages. We took the city bus out to Niebla which is a Pacific coast beach of dark sand (cold water and fog offshore) and caught some sun. Passed aquaculture, ferries, resorts and lots  
Valdivia market 
of small villages on the way. The market in Valdivia is one of the best we have seen anywhere with fish, vegetables, fruit, crafts and lots of people, noise, and energy. Pelicans, vultures and gulls wait for the fish to be trimmed. It was so fresh that there was no smell at all. There was even a heritage submarine on the dock. We were attempting to travel from Valdivia to Santa Cruz but it was one of those… can’t get there from here situations.

Breakfast buffet - La Perla 
We eventually travelled to Los Angeles as we were told we could get to Santa Cruz from there but….that wasn’t true either. We walked for over two hours on a Sunday evening to try to find a place open for supper and ended up eating at McDonalds as it (or Subway) were the ONLY options. And no, it wasn’t any better quality than in Canada. Back to the terminal by afternoon and off to Santa Cruz via Rancagua and because the travel planner does not like to wait he planned a 20 minute stop to connect in Rancagua. We got away late, there were lots of stops and by the time we got in there was a five minute window in the chaotic bus terminal. We approached various drivers with the ticket we’d printed at the hotel and they waved us away. Out of the crowd a young fellow with some English appeared, took us to the ticket office (which was at the back of the terminal in a maze) made his way past a couple leisurely discussing purchasing various tickets, convinced the agent to reprint our ticket - in Chile they wouldn’t accept anything but the receipt from the agent) and took us back to the platform. When offered cash for his troubles he pulled out his phone and used Google translate to tell us that if he were in another country he’d hope someone would do this for him. Onto the regional bus which was a little less glamorous, full of locals and backpackers, a short stop in San Fernando and we were in Santa Cruz. As we approached the bus terminal the steward pointed at us and yelled “Santa Cruz” and we made our way down the swaying aisle. The bus stopped, he grabbed our packs from the hold and pitched them towards us and before we had climbed the steps to the terminal the bus was speeding up the street. A cab to La Perla deposited us to our most upscale accommodation of the trip - a large corner room with a balcony overlooking the pool and plum orchards. The clerk  
brought us a treat the chef had left in the kitchen every evening and the breakfasts were a smorgasbord Ahhh. We spent the week visiting wineries, doing tastings and enjoying great meals (Peruvian) exploring the city.

When we opted to move on to the coast we found we first had to go to Santiago de Chile and catch a bus back out. And so we travelled to San Antonio for a few days. It’s much like Valparaiso and is becoming a cruise port, but is less sophisticated. We wandered along the waterfront, visited the fish pier, checked out the container ships unloading and were generally entertained. The next day we stopped for lunch at a restaurant and apparently it was a family event but…we were welcomes as family and given a great meal - chicken and rice and the best pisco sour I had in my travels. It was carnival and we were treated to a great parade, music and entertainment. The parade was so lengthy that some of the performers were on their way home while the later acts were still in the staging area. We had a great supper of empanadas and pastries at a small cafe and felt like locals. The next day we walked to the bus terminal and got a ticket for Casablanca which is less than two hours away and spent the day tasting wine at Bodega Re with lots of pre cruise passengers then on to lunch/tasting at Casa del Bosque which it turned out we’d visited two years ago when in Valparaiso (must’ve like it!) Back to the square, bought an ice cream for us and the toddler on the next bench then caught the standing room only bus back to San Antonio which made its way along the coast past beaches, small villages and resorts. Back to Santiago the next day with an airport hotel to catch a morning flight to Easter Island. 

Believe it or not the LAN plane is a 787 dreamliner with nine seats across, yes that is how many people travel to and from Easter Island every day. The flight was smooth, I watched Goodbye Christopher Robin (great movie, even though I’m not into war stories) and we landed on the hot 
Maoi on Easter Island
humid island on time. Bit of a delay with attempting to buy national park passes, then looking for our ride to the hotel who arrived eventually and presented us with leis. The hotel was basic and could have used a thorough spring cleaning, no air conditioning but… it had a moai (statue) on the shore in front of our cabin to make up for it. The next day we walked to Hanga Roa, arranged to go snorkelling, checked out the park and waterfront, bought our national park passes and stopped for supper on the way back. The following day we rented a vehicle which enabled us to tour the island see all the major sites from volcanos, beaches, the quarry to multiple statue sites with lots of wild horses. Absolutely incredible to be visiting a place you’ve only seen on the Discovery Channel, pinch me are we really doing this? We were lucky to be there during carnival and saw great dance performances and a fireworks display that would’ve rivalled July 4th in Boston! We managed to snorkel in the rain just off the shore in very clear water and saw a variety of exotic Polynesian fish and healthy coral. We kept the rental and drove it to the airport, leaving the keys under the visor (sounds like rural NS) and catching our flight back to Santiago.

Another stay at Matilda’s where we enjoyed supper at Vikingnos - very over the top decor - but a great carnivore meal. We wandered the squares and parks, stopped for Japanese - sushi/ Peruvian - causa snack on the way and enjoyed the peaceful hotel garden. Played tourist and visited the funicular and zoo as I’d done in 1994 to compare the changes. The funicular was the same but the zoo had been completely changed to reflect modern standards - the giraffe no longer leaned over and licked the side of your face and the rheas didn’t peck at your legs through the fence for example. A bit of a rush to get back across the city, pick up the bags at the hotel and off to catch the 6 pm bus north but… we made it! 

The overnight bus made its way out of the city through vineyards, farms and industrial areas, out to the coast and finally dusk settled. We enjoyed our chicken supper and settled into our came seats - large and fully reclining we slept until 8am when we woke up in the Atacama desert. It’s the highest elevation, driest desert on earth and has a long history of mining. We made our way through Antofagasta which is a coastal city the size of Halifax, buying a sandwich from a vendor who climbed on the bus at a stop. By mid afternoon we were in Calama a small industrial city and checked in to our hotel, explored a bit, found some supper and turned in. We wandered the city, found it had a huge new mall which would rival West Edmonton and checked out various bus stations with a thought to going to San Pedro de Atacama. We eventually found a private tour and spent the next day with our driver exploring Laguna Chaxa with flocks of flamingos and Laguna Miscanti y Miniques at an elevation of 14000 + ft. I don’t manage this altitude well but it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. A quick stop in San Pedro, sure glad we didn’t stay there - very dusty, crowded, noisy, full of backpackers - not a place we’d like to spend a lot of time. The following day we rented a truck and  

Laguna Chaxa

explored the Valley of the Moon (where the lunar rover crew trained) with breathtaking scenery. We temporarily adopted two girls from Arica in northern Chile and took them (and their bikes) with us, returning them to San Pedro - they were pleased as it was hot! We attempted to visit the hot springs but they were closed due to being washed out. We made our way on hair raising, twisting, cliffside tracks to Rio Grande a pueblo town in a mountain valley. Not going to repeat that excursion! Saw lots of wild donkeys and even a herd of goats/sheep on remote roads. Back to the airport to return the rental and relax. The final day was spent on the reverse bus trip and in to Santiago de Chile by morning.

We checked in to Matildas again, wandered over to the Plaza del Armes to people watch and have a drink, back across the bridge and ‘home’ in time to visit with some British / American guests and then have a delicious supper at the hotel. Stored the backpacks and off in an Uber to the market to meet our chef and attend cooking class for the day. We toured the fish, meat, fruit/vegetable and flower markets while being educated on Chilean cuisine then taxied over to the cooking school. We spent a very enjoyable day learning to make pisco sours, pebre (pico de gallo) and doblicita (bread) shrimp and avocado, corvina (fish) and tomatoes with panda cotta for dessert. The wine flowed freely and we poured ourselves into the Uber and back to Matildas to decompress in the garden while chatting with a researcher from Merck in Philadelphia who had done a week long horse trek over from Santiago to Mendoza (no thanks) until the taxi to the airport. Check in, security and a final pisco sour and empanada before the overnight flight to Miami. Early am nap at the airport, breakfast, check in, security and on to Toronto, then Halifax and an uneventful drive home by midnight. 

It’s been a busy few days as we tie up the ends from the last trip and I have readied for the next adventure. The shore captain isn’t coming so will hold down the fort at home. So, in closing…we are checked in and packed, grandson tucked in for the night and we’ll be on our way in the morning for nine days of March Break fun with daughter #1. Can’t wait. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

No Easter Bunny on Easter Island?

Into the final holiday push of gift creation, Christmas tasks such as putting up the tree - an Inuk friend said "must be so nice to have a real tree that smells so good" and she is correct, visiting / entertaining, end of year paperwork, duck hunting for the shore captain, appointments which will have to last until March and getting ready to pack for an extended vacation. So a fairly steady pace here which was only made more frantic by a friend's unfortunate loss of everything but the clothes being worn in an apartment fire. They returned home from an evening out to find smoke pouring out the eaves, kicked the door in and rescued the pets and now are trying to put their lives back together, not an easy task at any time but with the holidays and lobstering even more difficult. Our community is a very generous one and donations of clothing, money, groceries, a fundraiser ongoing and offers of a place to stay and more are being offered. I am carrying the Red Cross disaster phone and so was able to do provide assistance through that fund, something I hadn't thought I'd be doing for someone known to me. 
Mandela vest 

I've been working on some crochet projects and although the pattern for my granddaughter's circular vest stated one ball would be sufficient….it wasn't. I am off to source an additional ball, thankfully the local yarn store has it in stock to complete it. The way that baby is growing, there's no point in holding on to a size 2 creation. I have been resisting the temptation to visit the yarn store and have actually been working on reducing my 'stash' with a couple of projects - grey, white and red (lumberjack look) crocheted cap for a friend's grandson to be born this winter, some fish shaped dishcloths which I've been gifting, a hat and slippers which the granddaughter will 'grow into' and a couple of toques for the homeless shelter but…who am I kidding? Not really making a dent in it and all it will take is a moment of weakness at the yarn shop, feeling the fibres - it's like sitting in the car at the dealership and….

Today I made bread pudding, but not the kind my mother would've made - apple bread pudding created with some brioche I found in the discount bin (so sweet it burns if not closely supervised in the toaster) and caramel sauce. Yum, will make it again. 

Gramma's Apple Bread Pudding
  • Prep15 m Cook 45Ready In 1 h
  • 4 cups soft bread cubes
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 7x11 inch baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, combine bread, raisins, and apples. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 3/4 cups milk, and 1/4 cup butter. Cook and stir until butter is melted. Pour over bread mixture in bowl.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs. Pour bread mixture into prepared dish, and pour egg mixture over bread.
  • Bake in preheated oven 40 to 50 minutes, or until center is set and apples are tender.
  • While pudding is baking, mix together sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Serve over bread pudding.
I also made cranberry pudding (for the extended family Christmas supper on Saturday) and a few dozen chocolate chip cookies for the boy captain as they'll be a welcome treat when lobstering. Tomorrow's plan is to make doughs (fried brown bread dough) for him as well. What do you get the young man who has everything? Mom's baking of course.

Have been making the rounds and getting together with various friends as it'll be March before we catch up again. Squeezing in visits before and after errands or other social events takes some planning but is possible. Still working on a meet up with northern buddies temporarily in this province, will be tricky with the weather forecast and travel schedule. I've arranged to store my vehicle with my nursing class buddy and reduce the insurance as I did when heading to work. Ticking all the details off my to do travel list. 

Had the grandson over a weekend ago and he was assisting with some of the holiday tasks - moving of the bear on the advent calendar "who does that when I'm not here - Grawmp?" Now that's funny! The guy who has traditionally done very little for Christmas… doesn't do cards, clean, decorate the house, bake, wrap gifts and when urged grudgingly brings home a tree for me to decorate and puts up minimal exterior lights while complaining how much he dislikes the holidays. This year is slightly better - it is very difficult to complain that one "doesn't have time for this" when retired, as you DO have is lots of time. But the moving of the bear awaits grandchildren at this point. 

We travelled to the city on the weekend and kept our youngest grandchild while her parents enjoyed supper, a hockey game and a night away. She's a busy 15 month old, but no where near as frantic as her mother was. She was very cheerful, ate everything she was offered and repeatedly said "mo" smiled and pointed at the fridge, stove or counter for the additional food. We discovered that she treats Pete their yellow lab as if he is a sibling, chattering to him, sitting on him, reading him books etc. and he is very gentle with her. After a bath, pyjamas and a bottle she was off to bed and settled herself at 7pm and slept the night. Shortly after we turned in, Pete launched himself onto the mattress with us and all 80 lb of him in the middle of the bed was like sleeping with a boulder! In the morning our granddaughter was chirpy calling out "dog, dog, dog" then "kitty, kitty" upon hearing her pets awake and was up for breakfast and the day. Sure wished we lived closer to be able to do that more often. 

The details are mostly in place for the travels with flights booked, some accommodation, bus tickets, plans to meet our Argentine friends for a couple of weeks, some open ended time in Chile to explore the coast and a four day trip to Easter Island in Feb.  When I was explaining that we were going to Easter Island, our grandson asked "is that where the Easter Bunny is?" so I described the statues and showed him some online photos and he said "still pretty cool" which I agreed with, then "Nanak, I just can't believe that you aren't taking me!" and when I explained that he was in school in Jan/Feb he said "that sure doesn't make it any better!" ahhh hard to disagree with that. He has been the guy with the quotes for sure lately as this is the quote of the day to his younger brother from one of the places he stays … gotta put your undies on first THEN your pants. They go under your pants that’s why they’re called undies, if they went over your pants they’d be called ovaries….maybe he's going to be a Dr. 

When I was relating the story of my great nephew being on a Timbits team which was chosen for the intermission display (also televised) at a Mooseheads game, our grandson (who enjoys playing nerd guns, legos, board games etc with this hockey player) gave me a piercing 'annoyed' look and said "Nanak, you never told me that Grant was famous!" I'm sure  the upcoming visit will yield some more yarns as he is pretty pumped for the holidays. We will have him for an early and late Christmas, looking forward to that as we'll miss him for the next few months.

When you say "home eight weeks" it seems like a long time but…after catching up from a previous extended trip, making sure to not miss anything on the home front and then prepping for the upcoming extended trip….the time slips away. A week from tomorrow we will be starting out on our journey…

It has been a year on Saturday since I finished the chemo treatments and I continue to feel well (obviously by the pace I keep) with good checkups and it's amazing how quickly you can put that part of life behind you. So much better to be getting my own haircut this morning than wearing a wig and hats. I was reading an online article about a 35 year old with children 5,3 and a few months old who was diagnosed with colon cancer with metastases and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. He wrote about the need to live each day to the fullest but also described the disconnect of planning for the future while getting things in order in case you weren't there. It's a weird dichotomy. He sure nailed it! I had a lovely email from a nursing classmate today who wrote "I am so glad to hear you're doing so well. Only you could bounce back like that" which made me smile.

Have been purposely putting off thinking about work, there is clearly no shortage of northern nursing and I will sort out how to work for about five weeks in May/June when I return from southern travels. I had hoped to return to the NWT community I've been working in for a couple of years but this may not be possible as an RCMP posted in has a nurse partner so there might not be room for a casual CHN in May. I'm considering a return to a community in Nunavut which I enjoyed and haven't been to for three years, it's a busy spot and I'd have to get back up to speed but May tends to be a quiet time in the arctic with the majority of folks 'out on the land' and it would be a good chance to visit everyone. Another option is a TB nurse contract which is an office (read day job no on call) and involves managing the TB program in a Nunavut community meaning I'd get to explore another part of Canada's north. Since the majority of communities withTB outbreaks are in the Baffin region this would require travelling in through Ottawa where the oldest daughter is now located so….benefits to each of the choices. The title of this blog may be retirement planning but one thing is certain…I am not ready to give up work completely just yet. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

You're home? For the Moment

A month since the last post which means either that I'm too busy/procrastinating or there's nothing to write about. Lots going on so….clearly I am being negligent in my blogging duties as I freely admit to being a first class procrastinator, and being home hasn't increased my interest in doing housework or tackling a few of the projects I've been putting off. I did manage to get the decorations up inside the house and it does look festive. The shore captain actually took my suggestion of putting the exterior Christmas lights unearthed in his excavation of his workshop to good use - managed to get three strings working - they've been installed on the eaves and corner of his barn where they likely cause some surprise as they're visible when rounding the corner. Can't let him get ahead of me...My to-do list has gotten shorter though. One of the items was purchasing a box of Peace by Chocolate (the Syrian chocolatiers who came to Antigonish last year and have been promoted by our primeminster) but as I worked my way through the online checkout I grumbled about giving $9.50 to Canada Post for shipping. I noticed on their FaceBook page (when searching for a promo code) that Sobeys now carries the chocolates and a quick call to my local store verified 'yep we have lots' which warmed my frugal soul. Gotta give those new Canadians making their way some support. 
Wine tasting

My friend and I enjoyed our cruise out of Miami to Bahamas and Key West. We put together a four day + three day back to back cruise to make it a week. Not sure I'd bother to do back to back cruises again (especially for such short time periods) as we wasted a few hrs in Miami getting reregistered for the second cruise and….
My Fair Lady Dining Room

Nassau Public Library former jail

Public Health message at its best
the entertainment was completely repeated, plus we had to arrange to have the same table (and thus staff) in the dining room as since the two cruises were completely separate there were two registrations, accounts etc. We thoroughly enjoyed the Enchantment of the Seas although we managed to miss Super Mario as he had just left the ship after about six months on board. Apparently he was sailing on another ship. His loss.

Capt. Ron 
We did a Bites of Nassau walking and food tour with a small group where we had a great time with our guide Capt. Ron sampling conch fritters with calypso sauce, Bahama mamas, chocolates, gelato, conch chowder and rum cake. We learned a lot about Bahamian food culture, history and generally had a wonderful afternoon:
Conch fritters with calypso sauce

Critters on a pirate ship
On the return visit to Nassau during the second cruise, we visited the Pirate Museum and it was a fun morning. Well, maybe not the stuffed rats in the very realistic dioramas but it was a well done facility. Those female pirates were tough women for sure. Learned lots about piracy, the Bahamas and separated fact from fiction of books and movies. Capt Ron had agreed the museum was worth a visit and we concurred. Although Nassau is touted as a shopping mecca, we didn't find any particularly notable buys and the exchange rate is really painful so we window shopped.  The private island of Coco Cay was (as expected) lovely and we spent two wonderful beach days there. We walked the nature trail (did not spring for the $30 US per person guided tour) and saw chickens, geckos and birds as we explored the various beaches, craft vendors and stuffed ourselves at the BBQ (one of the best I've had at any of the cruise lines) swam, sunned and generally enjoyed ourselves.
Harry S Truman
One of the 54 many toed cats here

Ernest Hemingway's writing studio
The Village People…sort of
Miami sailaway
Key West found us opting for a hop on and off trolley tour which didn't disappoint as we got to see the island, learned lots about the history/culture of the area and were dropped off at Hemingway House to visit with the cats. Although I'd visited before, it was worth the repeat trip and the cats appreciated the attention. We took full advantage of the entertainment on the ship and enjoyed the night shows - comedians, juggling, and musicals as well as the crew shows. On our final night (as it was my travel buddy's birthday the following day) we suppered at Choppes Grille which is the a la carte restaurant. A very classy meal with impeccable service resulted in a nice finale. Important to keep those positive thoughts in mind as we flew United home and RUDE is the word which comes to mind to describe their service. Nuff said. Not to mention that we encountered snow upon our return to reality. Sigh

The shore captain was out on the water for the first day of the lobster season helping get the traps overboard for a Captain who had leased a lobster license this fall but hadn't been lobstering for 15 years. No interest in going the next day for the first haul (although I suspect a crappy marine forecast influenced that decision) or since. Says that he's gotten that bug out of his system and even had to be encouraged to go pick up some lobsters at the plant so I could make sandwiches for a road trip (more on that later) as promised. He did however steam and crack them for me - a wonderful gesture.

Had a physio appointment so rewarded myself with a lunch of almond coffee cake at a new cafe:
Apparently you can have salads, wraps, paninis etc. there for lunch but why would you want to when the baked goods look like that? Stopped at Frenchy's on the way home and found some goodies for the grand baby including a cute pink folding camping chair which is low to the ground and sturdy (she doesn't quite fit in the taller frog chair the grandson uses) a real deal at $2.50. I set it up in the living room when I got home and put one of the cats in it for a photo op and….she has rarely vacated it since, apparently considering it as 'her' chair and enjoying being close to the action. The grandson said "Nanak I think you have to get the baby another chair, that one is Squeaker's" but as I explained….Frenchy's finds are just that - finds not orders.

Have enjoyed a couple of road trips recently with a former coworker, always good to catch up on the news and travel with an easy going buddy. Our first outing was to the sale - Ten Thousand Villages:
which we enjoyed last year for the first time (although it's been held for many years apparently in the same venue) and again purchased lots of unique goodies. So fun to travel to Nepal, Vietnam, India, Peru, Bangladesh etc (without risking tropical diseases) and find interesting,reasonably priced fair trade items and know that this is helping community projects. We oohed and ahhed, tried on, sniffed, picked up and put down, and even resisted (a bit) but in the end, the credit cards got a workout. We also met a former coworker at the sale who had recently returned from a trip to China which had long been on her bucket list - apparently it exceeded her expectations - lots of discussion with my buddy as she'd travelled to China in 1985 with a nursing group when it was first opening up to tourism. So a global kind of morning. We made our way to lunch at Bread and Olives (well once we discovered it had relocated from where I'd last visited it a couple of years ago) to Main St:
It's a wonderful bakery / deli with ? British owners (or at least British accents) where I had a turkey, brie, cranberry pie and my friend enjoyed a cornish pastie while we chatted, people watched and shared a pot of tea. Capped the day off with a stop at Frenchy's where I managed to enlarge my granddaughter's wardrobe and pick up some travel clothes for myself. A wonderful way to spend the day.

Yesterday my road trip buddy and myself headed out early as we stopped at Frenchy's and both scored very well for ourselves and family - my friend even found a dinosaur costume for her grandson's pug - I ask you, where else can you so reasonably complete such a unique purchase? We were headed to visit a former coworker of mine as I was sure they'd have lots in common and was correct. He has begun rug hooking and she is an experienced hooker/teacher so they discovered they knew hookers in common, examined each others work, commented on techniques and generally enjoyed an artistic exchange. I caught up on the news and crocheted - good to see my buddy so content and looking so well - while we enjoyed lobster sandwiches and gingerbread cookies for lunch. It was a beautiful day for a drive up through woods to his little hippie house. Ahh. We left in mid afternoon to ensure I was home in time for the supper I'd been promised (baked coots - which were delicious by the way) and made it just as the rain began. Good timing all around.

The shore captain has been duck hunting in front of the house in the mornings in his sneak boat (similar to an Inuit kayak) and has been quite successful. In fact he shot two eiders (sea ducks) and two coots (American scooters) with one shot each as well as two hooded mergansers (shell ducks). One of the eiders had a band from Laurel, Maryland in 2006. Hadn't shot a banded duck in his 50 yr hunting history so got on the phone to the Audubon Society who promptly sent him a certificate. Exciting times.

Had the grandson over for a visit on the weekend and he got into the holiday spirit by 'moving the bear' on the advent calendar then helped me stamp brown paper to make wrapping paper and wrap some gifts - such craftiness a new experience for him. We baked gingerbread cookies and he decorated them, taking some to school for his teacher and buddies - likely ate them on the bus I'm thinking. He created a wonderful chapter book called Puppy Christmas which was inspired by the 2011 Christmas Seals stickers I gave him. When I suggested a word to use he said "Nanak, give me a break, I'm only in grade 2 and besides it's my book, I decide" gotta love those artistic types. I have placed his masterpiece on the coffee table with my other important books. We video chatted with his auntie and discussed our plans for March Break when we visit and he sang the one line of the song for the school Christmas concert which he can remember to her. A very full weekend.

Today I've 'taken the day off' and have really accomplished very little unless online shopping, a walk to the mailbox, finishing up the socks I've stuffed for the mission and a load of laundry counts as a full day. Actually I spent quite a bit of time responding to "come see this" as the shore captain reviewed his videos from the spring snow goose hunt after I figured out how to transfer them from his GoPro and also assisted him in the storing of lumber for woodworking projects overhead in his barn, this being a two person operation. Apparently the kind of day that two somewhat retired people have according to a neighbour who we dropped in to visit last week as she assured me they'd be home if they didn't kill each other getting the outdoor Christmas decorations up. I hear ya sister!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cyclades Adventure

At the risk of startling those who were concerned I'd disappeared….we're back! Well, actually we've been back from our wonderful trip for a week, but I'm still working on getting my act together. Who am I kidding? That's a daily project. I'm really attempting to get unpacked, laundry put away and into some semblance of 'normal' life. Remembering of course that I'm unpacking from a 6wk work rotation where I sorted, gifted and packed the remainder of my accumulated two years of 'stuff' and then without even making it home, the additional 6 wk vacation. The mud room was congested for a few days with backpacks, suitcases, action packers and boxes. I've managed to store the northern gear between the barn and the house and have no plans to look at it until the spring. The travel clothes and gear have been washed and stacked for repacking as there are only 10 days remaining before heading out on a girls cruise - more on that later.  As I work my way through the 'to do' list, my stack of paperwork sorted from the accumulated mail is gradually diminishing. I've managed to get laundry out on the clothesline in the mild autumn air, walk to the mailbox a couple of times and generally enjoy the season.

We arrived home at 3 am last Thursday after a wonderful 45 days in the Greek cyclades and have decided we're committed to slow travel. It was great to have four or five days on each of the nine islands we visited to explore, relax, or just hang out. By the end of October the tourist season is winding down and therefore less choice in accommodation and restaurants, but also fewer tourists. We were very fortunate with the weather (which was equivalent to a pleasant NS summer) and had only one morning and two evenings of rain (all within the final week). Spent regular time on the beaches, walked a lot (good thing as we ate a lot) met wonderful people, saw a multitude of historic sites, travelled with locals on buses, ferries and even rented dune buggies twice. Just generally enjoyed ourselves to the max. I overheard the shore captain describing the vacation to a seafood industry colleague and he said "neither of us try to be anyone other than who we are and the Greeks appreciate that, so it went well" which kind of sums it up. So I offer the following photos (in non chronological order) as additional documentation of a wonderful (and highly recommended) vacation:

windmill on Paros

Church of 100 Doors front - Paros

4th century Church - back

Archeological Museum - Paros

 Kalotaritissa Beach - Donors

Ferry in Koufonissi 

Beach - Schinoussa 

Sunset-Villa Meltimi, Iraklia

Kitties even on the beaches

Octopus drying 

Goats in Apollona, Naxos 

Swimming with fishes Folegandros

St Nicklaus Beach, Folegandros

Aglia Beach, Folegandros 

Roman catacombs, Milos 

Blue Star ferry from Pireaus 

Sunset - Notas Studios, Schinoussa

Ferry terminal, Paros 

Paros by dune buggy

Monastery - Paros 

Exquisite churches everywhere 


To extend our Mediterranean cuisine, I made fassolada (Greek bean stew) which our hostess in Kimolos had made us for lunch one day and it's delicious. The recipe which I found on Greek website called Kopiaste will be included as a meatless dish going forward:

Fassolada - yum!

Fassolada (Greek Beans Stew)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time:  1 hour and 30 minutes
Serves: 6
  • 250 grams (8.8 oz) navy or other white beans
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 big onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 carrots, sliced is rounds and halved
  • 1 big potato, cut into cubes
  • 3 – 4 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 fresh tomatoes or 1 can of whole tomatoes with sauce, blended with 1can tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 organic vegetable bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  1. Soak the beans in water  overnight.
  2. Drain the water and place the beans in a pot with fresh water.  Boil for a while and remove any froth which arises.   Drain once again.
  3. In a pot heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.   Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, spices and mix.  Add the tomato, blended with the tomato paste and the vegetable bouillon dissolved in hot water.  Add more water if needed to cover it and make it soupy.
  4. At this point you can either continue cooking it on the stove top or transfer it to a “gastra” (similar to Dutch oven) and continue baking it in the oven.  Bake for two hours in a preheated oven to 200oC (400oF).  After half an hour, stir the stew and discard the bay leaves, cover again with the lid and continue cooking until done.
  5. If you wish to continue cooking it on the stove top, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until soft, for about an hour and a half, mixing regularly.  Add more water if necessary.
  6. After about an hour, remove lid and cook uncovered until the sauce thickens, stirring regularly

Next plan will be for cooking up gigantes or giant beans (a type of large runner beans) which are baked in the oven. Even brought some of the seeds home so the gentleman farmer can grow a crop next summer.

Had the grandson over for the day on Sunday and he's grown a couple of inches and put on about 10 lbs. since I'd seen him in July. I have missed seeing him the past three months - travelling is fine but missing grandchildren is a problem. So grown up now, reading extremely well, great math skills and just as amusing - the yarns, the yarns just as his father shared at that age. He was questioning me about how old I was when he was born and I told him, then he asked about my year of birth which I named as 1956. He was amazed and said "Nanak, did kids have to carry water from the well in a bucket back then?" I was speechless and sent him to his grandfather for the answer. Just because I can remember a hand pump in the kitchen as a child….

On Monday morning we headed to the physiotherapist for a double appointment, or as northern patients often describe "kind of like….but not". So kind of like a date….. but not. Since we both got adjusted and taped, the life partner suggested we buy a bottle of wine in a couple of days and take turns ripping the tape off each other.

The intent of the shore captain upon return home has been duck hunting, but today was the first morning he managed to get out in the boat. Everything from having to apply for his migratory game permit online (now that was a performance!) to getting up two mornings in a row to look at the weather but not going (and then sighing and muttering upon hearing shooting later) readying the boat and gear multiple times and finally bringing home one coot today. Bit more of a challenge than flocks of large snow geese at low levels this spring, think he's been spoiled.

Managed to get a few minutes to visit with the buddy I'll be cruising with shortly. This is the 10th anniversary of the first trip we enjoyed and we are planning to 'surprise' SuperMario, someone my friend spent a fair bit of time with that first cruise - he's a guy who spends 50 weeks of the year on Royal Caribbean ships, having just recently celebrated his 7000th day at sea on the Enchantment of the Seas. According to the media photos he hasn't aged as well as my friend , guess that's what living on cruise ships for years does to you. Hoping to snap a few photos of the 'oh hello there' event when we connect. Surprise!

This time of year always brings lots of angst with the approaching lobster season and intensity increased this fall as the Department of Fisheries & Oceans changed regulations last month involving the leasing of licenses - trust agreements (whereby a captain fishes a license for another in a leased arrangement) are no longer permitted if the captain already owns one license - a common occurrence as these years, stacked licenses are how a living is made. This is supposedly to remove the corporate takeover of the industry but in reality most of these arrangements (some for many years) are within family enterprises (as with the shore captain and boy captain) and must be changed with the license sold/permanently transferred. Although this may have been the intent (eventually) it has caused much immediate scrambling between fishermen, fishery associations, bankers and lawyers with raised voices, pacing and gesturing. Ultimately, there will be little change to the number of licenses and who fishes them which is the supposed intent. Sigh.

The shore captain has offered first week mentoring to a captain who has obtained a lobster license this year and was pleased to have been asked. Having been involved with the lobster industry for decades, he wasn't looking fondly at missing the adrenaline rush. I however, am thrilled to be travelling and thus miss the lead up to and first day excitement / frenzy. Luck or good planning on my part? I'll take it.

Tomorrow we're off on a bit of a road trip as we head to the city for a routine oncology appointment, overnight to visit with the granddaughter who is now walking and discovering many new things, pick up a 7th birthday gift (a globe has been settled on) for the grandson, squeeze in an afternoon visit with a friend in the area, drop the shore captain off at the airport early on Saturday (he's flying out to visit with the oldest daughter where they'll attend a hockey game in Montreal that night and a football game on Sunday before he heads back Monday morning) while I travel to Cape Breton to visit with a buddy in her new apartment and pick up mister on the Monday return. A busy four days.

Nice to have some time in the beautiful area of the world we live in, enjoy the grandkids a bit, putter on projects and generally enjoy life for a couple of months. Not winter mind you but….that's another update to fill in those details.