Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Jen and I and the boys added to our Christmas tradition by making our biggest gingerbread house yet.  Here it is just after we assembled it, the main house with two dormer windows, and two wings with a chimney each. That was three recipes of gingerbread and about nine pans to cook, for all the sides, roofs, walls and some gingerbread men and trees as well.  What an undertaking, we figured we had better take a picture before we moved it in case it did not survive the move.   
Here it is in all of it's candified glory.  Is it not a thing of beauty, one to be admired. The main house is for Mark, Jen and the boys, Barry and I get the left wing and Mark's Mom and sister get the right wing.  Are not the candy trees wonderful?  Jennifer had a box of them ready made to add to the yard, WOW! The front walkway, made of cherry twizzlers are an attempt at a replica of Jen front walk made of flat stones picked from a beach.  Leeland decorated the right wing, he is obviously the free thinker of the lot. William demonstrated he was his Mother's son with his adherence to straight lines and patterns as he adorned the left wing.  
We have been enjoying the holiday season, last week we were at the boys school Christmas Concert.
Leeland is the boy in the blue in the front row. if you haven't guessed, they are singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
William is in the red in the middle of the back row and they are singing Little Drummer Boy.  We have been going to see the Cape Breton Junior Hockey team play.  Mark gave us passes as a thank you for looking after the boys for the weekend.  The last game we were at Leeland's team played during the intermission, thanks to the sponsorship of Tim Horton's.  They were so cute, the Junior team's mascot, Screech, the Screaming Eagle was out on the ice with them and Leeland spent a fair bit of time gazing up at him.  I watched part of the game with Jen and family and marvelled that we were able to do the time honoured Canadian thing this winter, watch a live hockey game with members of my family. 
Mark leant us an artificial tree this month and I was able to figure out how to assemble it and borrowed some of Jen and Mark's decorations to add to the ones that have gone around the world with us on the boat.  I thought the tree looked hilarious only partially assemble so made Barry take a picture.
The end product was a pleasant but definitely not overcrowded tree.  I don't think we had one that was ours since we lived in our house in Yellowknife, that would be 10 years ago.  Last week curling wound up for the holidays and we had a turkey spiel.  You entered your name and teams were thrown together and we curled two four end games.  There was a tie and the tie breaker was a draw to the button with a frozen turkey cling wrapped to a styrofoam plate,  I took on they challenge and although I finished second out of four our team got to choose between peanut and chocolates for a prize. 

Barry and I are ready to hit the ski slopes, the googles the competed our ensemble, the only new equipment we got. Barry got skis and poles at the local Value Village (our favourite store) and he got boots and I was able to get skis and boots from Kijji. His sweater is new to us a great addition to his winter wardrobe.  
Happy Holidays to all our friends around the world and to our family both near and far.  Technology is wonderful, we saw and spoke to all of our immediate family within the last 24 hours.  Lots of love and many bigs hugs are coming at you. From the crew of Cat's-Paw IV.  Ann and Barry. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Australian Vacation Two

A stupendous feat of balance on the snouts of two dolphins.
 At the dolphin show I was impressed with the dolphins leaping about and the handlers would be pushed forward in the water by the dolphins so they were being propelled really fast. I was astounded when they did the trick shown above.  Imagine the co-ordination of the two dolphins and the trainer as well as the balance involved, WOW!

There was a big outdoor aquarium where they had all sorts of marine life that you could view from above and below the water.  There were barracudas, sharks, turtles, and all sorts of tropical reef fish. This is a shovel nosed shark, one of the weirdest looking creatures in the lagoon.  The kids were fascinated with the fish, there was also a spot where they could touch starfish and rays.  The skin of the rays was very soft and spongy feeling.  
There were a couple of polar bears that I felt a bit sorry for. It was so hot, I don't know how they coped with the heat, hopefully the water was cool.  This particular bear had a piece of plastic that he was playing with, it had fallen in the water and the bear was hanging off log trying to get it.  We spent quite awhile watching him have fun.  

The family getting on a ride. 

There were only eight seats of this ride and it was filled with our family, Jennifer and William, Heather and June, Graeme and Quinn and Trish and Leeland.  You had to pull yourself up to the top hand over hand and then you fell back to the bottom. This was one ride that you had to work at.  It was fun watching the kids and the adults hauling themselves up.  

The next day we went to Movie World.  There were great rides and there were Looney Tunes Characters everywhere.  Here June is on a carousel riding around on the Road Runner. As soon as the park opened we headed over to the Superman ride and managed to get on the first run of the day.  It was probably one of the most exciting rides I have ever been on whipping around the rails at terrific speeds experiencing G forces on some of the turns. 

Everyone was excited to see the Batmobile, and later Batman came and got in it, notice Marilyn Monroe striking a pose in the background as she looks on.  We had fun at the Bumper Cars and the Wild West ride. In the heat of the day we sat in the shade and watched the Stunt Drivers.  The fairly small space was filled with scream of revving motors and the smell of burning tires.  The motorcyclist were spectacular as they jumped over the cars and from one side of the stage to another over ten meters in the air.  The show was cut short due to high winds.  

It was three fun filled days, Wet and Wild, Sea World and Movie World but I was happy to go back to the motor home before the park closed on the third day as the heat was getting to me.  It was great to create such happy memories with all of our daughters and four of our grandchildren.     

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Australian vacation

William, Jennifer, Quinn and I enjoying a ride at Sea World on the Gold Coast in Australia. 
We have just returned from a three week trip to Australia.  We went to surprise our oldest daughter, Trish, on her fortieth birthday. Originally our middle daughter, Jennifer, and  her two children were going to visit and she asked if I would like to come with her to help out with the kids.   Barry decided he wanted to join us because if he didn't come now he may not see the kids until they were a lot older. We asked our youngest daughter Heather to join us so all our children would be together. We were just missing our oldest grandchildren, Cassidy and Elijah who weren't able to miss that much school. 
\Barry and I and the girls, right to left, Trish, Jen and Heather, shortly after we found Trish. 
We started off the holiday on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, where we attended three theme parks in three days.  We surprised Trish and her family at Wet and Wild, a water park extraordinaire. Heather found her and at first Trish did not recognize her, it was a super reunion. We mixed and matched generations on the water slides, the kids standing tall by the measuring devices. 
The black hole was one of our favourite rides, it was completely dark inside so you would swirl and drop without warning adding to the adrenalin rush of hurdling down the ride.  Quinn and William, the two seven year olds, were the only grandchildren big enough to get onto this ride. 
Three generations floating along on a beautiful day.  
 The next day saw us at Sea World. The dolphin show was a highlight for me. 

More later, the Grey Cup is about to start. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dirt Dwellers

It's official we are now Dirt Dwellers for the next 6 or 7 months.  We had a successful lift out on Saturday, October 18th, yeah!!  The boat was balanced, it was close to high tide and everything went off without a hitch.  What a relief!!  It was a great day for lift out and there were a number of boats to be hauled so there were others around to lend us a hand so all is well.  We spent most of that day cleaning up and Barry was helping others so at the end of day he was wet and cold.  It was decent day for lift out but weather had moved in and it started raining in the afternoon so we were very glad to head back to our apartment and jump into a hot bath.  
Sunday was wet, windy and cold but the sun came out on Monday and I spent most of the next two days polishing our year old paint job, hopefully protecting it from whatever a Cape Breton winter will throw at it.  I was remembering the overpowering heat and humidity when I did it last year in Trinidad, not sure which I prefer.  Having cold water drip down my arms and soak my layers of jacket so my arms were freezing by the end of the day may have preferable to sweat streaming down my body but I am just not sure.  Barry did all those winterizing things guys do to motors and water pipes, hoses and intake valves. Cat's-Paw IV is about as ready as she is going to get to spend this season on the hard. 
While we were waiting for the lift to be fixed we took a day and went for a drive around the Cabot Trail.  It was gorgeous with the fall colours shining in their glory.  We have never been in this part of the country at this time of year before and now we can understand why there has been a cruise ship in Sydney Harbour every day for the past two or three weeks.  We stopped and did two short hikes along the trail, leaving me with the desire to do more. 

I regularly check up on Facebook and found out from reading her daughter's posts that one of our old friends from Yellowknife was in the area.  We managed to hook up and had a very delicious lunch with Pat Barbour, now Fielding.  We invited her for lunch later in the week and took her down to see a very messy boat. She used to sail with us on our first boat in Yellowknife.  She was here with her brother and his wife to take in a series of concerts that is Celtic Colours week.  She inspired us and we attended an Acadian Night that featured some great fiddling and step dancing as well as a very entertaining groups from Quebec. 
We stopped by to see our family the other day ( how great is it to be able to say that ) and after a short road hockey game, William and Leeland joined me in creating an undersea garden on the driveway. Cat's-Paw IV was riding on the waves and a palm tree was waving on a beach off to the side.  

When Jennifer got home she asked if we wanted to help carve pumpkins.  The boys decided what faces they wanted and Mom and Grannie carved away. Grandpa was the official photographer and took some great photos. 

We had our first guests to sleep over last Saturday night.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening with them, playing cards, a shortened game of Scrabble and trying a beginner form of Yahztee.  They fell asleep without too many problems and Mom and Dad got to sleep in on Sunday morning while we took them to hockey.  Fortunately William knows how to put on his own hockey equipment and we managed to get him on the ice on time. After the practise I went down to the change room.  It was my first ever visit to a hockey dressing room and the I was amazed at the amount of energy that was emanating from that space.  It was filled with parents peeling off sweaty hockey gear and stuffing it in big bags, siblings waiting for their turn to get dressed or wanting to leave, and grandparents standing back against the wall in silent support, a real Canadian experience. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Not a banner week

We are ensconced in our new apartment.  It is roomy and I have managed to frame a few of our pictures from around the world so it feels like our space.
The furniture from Mark and Jen's cabin fits in well and will be great for the time we are here.  We are using their dishes as well so we would be able to go sailing in the spring without transfering a bunch of housewares. We had a few hitches hooking up our internet, but it finally has happened, yeah!!  
At the dock almost ready to be lifted out, no dodger, no sails, very few lines, boom waiting to be tied down.
The other problem is the boat.  We had a lift out scheduled for last Tuesday and we were all prepared. When the travel lift hoisted the boat out of the water it was not level, the operator thought it would straighten out when he put it down, but no such luck.  
Look at how crooked the boat is VERY SCARY!!!
We tried everything, putting the jackstands high on one side and low on the other but the boat just kept looking more and more crooked. IT WAS UGLY. At one point it bent one of our brand new jackstands. Then the lift started malfunctioning, the brake didn't work and the cables kept slipping and the boat would suddenly lurch, NOT GOOD to have a 26,000 lbs.of anything jerking about in the air.  I was almost sick to my stomach.  We finally decided that the best thing to do was put it back in the water and try to lift it straighter. We had to wait four hours for the tide to come up and then tried again, it wasn't completely straight when he lifted it and the operator put it down and said that he didn't know why it wasn't coming out straight and he wouldn't do it again. SO, we took the boat back to the slip. 
It was so disappointing not to get her out, we have had her lifted seven times before and we have never had a problem before.   We put a level on the boat and discovered that it did not sit level in the water so we moved our extra chain around inside the boat and we took 100 litres of fuel out of the bow and put it in jerry cans so it won't be on the boat the next time we go to lift it.  We also took off our wind generator and our wind vane hoping we could be lifted out backwards but after doing that work we looked at the travel lift again and once we measured we could only be lifted out bow first.  I guess we should have measured before we did all the work, when will we learn. 
We went to see a different lift operator on Thursday morning at the club, thinking he would give us a time for our haul out and he informed us that the cables on the lift  were fraying and needed to be replaced so probably the soonest we could be lifted out was next Wed.  In the afternoon I convinced Barry we needed a change of pace and we went to a local 9 hole golf course and shot a round of golf. I quickly pulled out in the lead with a couple of lovely fairway shots and then my game fell apart and Barry pulled ahead.  Going into the 9th hole Barry was 2 strokes ahead but he choked on the green  and we finished the round all even.  It was a beautiful day, the sun gleamed down on the trees lining the course that were all shades yellow, red and orange, gorgeous. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Preparations are underway to put the boat to bed for the winter.  I really wanted to do some more sailing but the Captain is in no mood so.....  We have taken all the sails off, the oil is changed, there are lines hung over Jennifer's fence to dry, I managed to get the dodger off and things are progressing.  We are hauling out in Sydney at a local yacht club and we have to buy our own jack stands, they will be coming in on Monday and we are hoping to get out of the water some time this week.  
We can move into our apt. on Wed. the first of the month.  Jen and Mark are putting their cabin up for sale and they are emptying it of furniture and have very generously offered us the use of it for the duration of our stay.  I am looking forward to putting up some of our art that we have acquired around the world on our walls. Mark and Barry have been out at the cabin for the past couple of days painting the outside.  Mark has been there for the past week doing some reno's before putting it on the market.  

William is in the red pants. 

Last weekend it was very busy.  William was involved in a road hockey tournament and Jen had volunteered to be the medical attendant for a morning.  William and Leeland were invited to a birthday party and Barry and I had the pleasure of taking the two of them plus a friend to a horse stable, where they got to ride around a ring and then go on a wagon ride (towed by a tractor) to a hut in the woods where they had hot dogs and cake.  The group of seven year olds were very rambunctious and when William had another party this weekend and Jen had to work, I balked at the thought of attending another party and Jen called the Mom who's child we took last week and she graciously took William!!
The boys and I have been in the pool almost everyday after school.  The weather has been quite nice, in the 20's during the day but cooling off quite a bit every night.  The hot tub is a great addition and the thought of it's warm embrace encourages me to get in the pool when the wind is cool and the air is crisp.  The trees are starting to turn and we plan to take a trip around the Cabot Trail once the colours become more consistent.  There is a big festival called Celtic Colours which goes on about this time of year and we plan to take in some activities.   We had the tail end of a hurricane come through here last week and although the boat was securely tied to the dock, it managed to get itself blown over enough to rub against the dock and now there is a very ugly gouge in our new paint job.  I will have to contact the fellow that did the painting and see if I can get some advice on how to get make a good looking repair. There are a number of repairs that need to be made on the sails including trying to fix the spinnaker that I blew out on our trip to Newfoundland.  I had it up when the winds were gusty and on one particular big gust, it just split right across the middle.  It is too old to pay someone else to repair it, there is a lot of sewing involved, and we do not want to buy a new one, so we are in the market for a used spinnaker for a 40 foot boat, if you happen to have one hanging about or know someone with one to spare. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Goings on in Cape Breton

Barry's brother Bruce, who is recovering from back surgery, and his Mom, Georgie.
Quite a lot has happened the last few weeks.  Barry left in late Aug. for a trip out west to visit his family.  He stopped off in Alberta to visit his brother and family and then drove out to Vancouver Island to stay with the remaining family members, his older and younger sister and his Mom.  I think a good time was had by all.  There were reports of Barry getting whipped by Bruce in every golf game they played, they managed to fit in several while completing renovations on Bruce's new home in Red Deer, AB.
Barry's younger sister Kim with the latest addition to her equine collection.
Once they reached the coast they convinced their big sister Sherran and her spouse Doug to accompany them on the course and the games were on.  As a thank you for lodgings for a week, Barry thought that a session with a golf pro was a great idea for his sister. Maybe the next time he heads out there, she will be able to beat him as well!!  Barry also managed to hook up with the crews of Tagish and Cop Out buddies from the Indonesia rally and visit with our old Yellowknife friend,Ian, who is living aboard his boat Nightide, in Van Isle Marina on Vancouver Island.

I was very disappointed not to be able to accompany him, but the reason that I did not go was because my Mom was able to fly out here and visit with her daughter, her granddaughter and her great grandchildren for a week.  We had lots of laughs while she was here, playing cards with the kids and joining them in the pool and the hot tub.  How many children do you know that are able to say they went swimming with their great grandmother!!! 
Three generations of goofy women who know how to giggle!
The final soccer tournament of the summer (or jamboree as it is referred to in Cape Breton) took place on the Sat. while Mom was here and it was a beautiful day.  We sat in the sun and watched as the kids raced around after the ball, the favourite activity while they were sitting on the sidelines was catching grasshoppers!  One day Mark came home from the cabin near the New Brunswick border with a bucket full of Concord grapes.  The next day Mom and I picked them all off the stems, crushed them, then boiled them up to make jelly,  I had added the pectin to the juice for a double batch when I read the instructions saying that you are not supposed to double the recipes, oh oh; the question that runs through your mind is, "Will it set???"  It did and the jelly is delicious. 

A full sized replica of one of the first hydrofoils.
We headed out to Baddeck the next day and immersed ourselves in the life of Alexander Graham Bell, he had a summer home there.  He is known as the inventor of the telephone but was involved in so much more.  He had a think tank that designed and flew airplanes that set flight distance records.  The Silver Dart, a plane he was involved with developing, took part in the first flight in Canada, off the ice in the Bra d'Or Lakes.

 The same group invented hydrofoils and he also developed the precursor to the gramophone.  There was a time line of his life and it included the signicant scientific happenings while he was alive, The Origin of Species was written, the Wright brothers took to the air, and he was a contemporary of Marconi, it must have been a fascinating time to be alive. 
Barry arrived back on Thursday night and Jennifer was off to a conference in Halifax.  She said there was a spare bed and we were welcome to it if we wanted.  We drove the four hours down on Friday morning and spent the afternoon at Pier 21, the spot where millions of immigrants first landed in Canada. 

The typical baggage of a Canadian Immigrant.
 Barry's Mom was sent to Canada as a teenager when London was evacuated in World War II   and she first set foot in our country when she stepped off the ship at Pier 21 in Halifax.  The exhibits were interesting enough but the most fascinating part for me was during the guided tour when the Parks Canada employee was telling the immigrant's stories.  There was a photo of an old woman with her 3 or 4 year old grandson and they never knew who it was until one day a middle aged man visited the museum and said, hey that was me!   That evening we attended the Atlantic Film Festival and saw the premier of a film made in Nova Scotia.  The director and producer spoke about the film before it began and the whole row in front of us was taken up by member of the crew.  It was a pretty good movie, but listening to the group as they oohed and aahed over their names in the credits really enhance our experience.  

This week I am working for Jennifer as her secretary in her office in New Waterford.  I went in for a couple of hours before my Mom arrived and was shown what to do.  The reality of working in a busy doctors office is quite different than just observing.  I floundered around yesterday feeling mostly quite useless, struggling to figure out the software.  Today, Jen worked in the Emergency Room so there were no patients to cope with and by the end of the day I was beginning to get the hang of what I was supposed to do.  Just before I left I noticed in one chart I had posted the same lab result three times because I could not find where it went the first two times I did it, being unsure of how to get rid of the two superfluous copies I just left them there feeling sure in my heart of hearts  that having three copies was in many ways far superior to having none!
I have the feeling that some sailing therapy will be needed by the end of the week. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

First Day of School for the Stonehouse Boys 2014

The boys waiting for the bus, Leeland striking a pose!
It was the big day today, the first day of school for William and Leeland, William is going into Grade 2 and Leeland is going into Primary or what was Kindergarten in my day.  They have been going to bed as if they have had school all week and waking up early to get them used school hours.  William was up and awake and ready to go about 15 minutes early.  Leeland had issues with what he was given for breakfast and had to be cajoled into getting ready.  I mentioned that if he didn't eat up and get dressed his big brother may go off on the bus without him and that seemed to strike a chord and breakfast was consumed and school clothes were decided upon and off they went.  Leeland's backpack was very heavy and by the time they had waited 10 minutes for the bus he was stumbling around with his over sized burden.  He decided it was okay to take his backpack off and put it on the ground until the bus came.  

After the bus arrived and departed Jen and I hopped in the car and went to school to catch their arrival. William was the first one of the bus. 
Leeland was immediately relieved his backpack as he stepped off, by the bus monitor, a very astute woman.  
William found his buddies and in typical seven year old fashion when they were asked to line up for a picture, horseplay broke out, what a bunch of goofs. It must be great to have a group of friends to hang out with.
Leeland,with his monster backpack, at his desk.
It was i

Monday, September 01, 2014

I am always on the lookout for unusual gifts on our travels.  When we were in New York we went to the Museum of Natural History and there was a gift shop by the dinosaur exhibit.  I pondered about what I should get and who I should buy it for.  I was drawn to a book of origami, it was called dinogami.  The paper was coloured so when you followed the very intricate directions you would end up with a wonderful looking dinosaur.  There was an explanation with every creature which explained where it had been found and what it's characteristics were.  I could not resist, although Barry was rolling his eyes, it was my Natural History purchase. 

The next process I had to go through was, who should I give it to.  Hmm,  there was Cassidy and Eli, my grandchildren, aged 15 and 13, maybe they might enjoy it.  Then there was our very crafty daughter, Jennifer, who is very artistic, and we were going to visit her so, perhaps she and I could enjoy it together.  She took to it like a duck to water, we took on our 9 day holiday on the boat and she spent many happy hours folding away.  I tried one and had to resort to asking her to interpret the instructions in order to finish it.  Her boys, William, 7 and Leeland, 5, took to requesting that she fold their favourites, and they were competing to see how many each had. 
The other day when we were out at the beach we collected some driftwood and Jennifer wanted to make some dino-mobiles.  I had my doubts that we would ever get around to it, but yesterday and today was had some quality mother and daughter time balancing little dinosaurs with fishing line off the end of a stick.  It was great fun and now each of the boys has a lovely reminder of the summer holiday on Cat'-Paw IV hanging from the light in their bedroom. 
P.S. Photographing them was quite a challenge, thanks to Angela and Jen who held up the backdrop to give you an idea what they looked like.