Monday, August 20, 2018

Back from Bracebridge

Bracebridge is in the area of Northern Ontario known as Muskoka - it's known for its 1600+ lakes and rivers as well as tons and tons of rock, as opposed to soil.  Farming is next to impossible so the area has become famous for being "cottage country" instead. For the second year we stayed in a large red brick house that was at one time the General Store of Utterson, about a 15 minute drive from Bracebridge where one of my sisters lives.
 She can only drive short distances due to a back injury suffered many years ago so we go to her instead of her coming to London.  Some of you many remember me writing about a nephew who had a severe motorcycle crash - it's this sister's oldest son. He received 23 "major traumas" to his body and is recovering still - 5 or 6 years later. He is also diabetic (discovered when he was a little boy) which also hinders his recovery. 
So she is struggling somewhat as he has his own home but can't look after it so my sister, in spite of her own injury, looks after him a fair bit as he is in a wheelchair at present. 
But we had a great visit and made the best of things. However, we'll have to look for a different Airbnb next brother and I loved the old house in Utterson and developed a routine of walking each morning past Long's Lake...but part of the reason we stayed in Utterson was that there was a variety store and take out food place right across the street from the house and we LOVED their greek salads and french fries (not to mention their fantastic butter tarts and ice cream) - BUT THEY HAVE CLOSED!! Darn!  There's only about 6 houses in Utterson so it's understandable that they couldn't make a go of it.

My brother makes me laugh as you can see...
I was extremely fortunate this year to receive no black fly or mosquito bites!! They went after my brother instead - thanks bro! 
 The house has a large front porch and we each bought some salads and roasted chicken and basically had a picnic every evening on the porch. We explored downtown Bracebridge as usual and bought books at the used book store. We always check out the Re-Store as well and found a few treasures. Of course no hot and humid summer day would be complete without a mid-afternoon pause at the many pubs serving local craft beer!

We were early to bed so that we could get in our brisk morning walks and much needed showers afterwards! 

 We walked on a paved road but there wasn't much traffic except for one day when a long line of old classic cars drove by us on their way to Gravenhurst for a boat ride (the people not the cars!)
I showed my sister my yoga app and we worked through the positions that have helped me with my bad back. She wasn't in worse pain the next day so I hope she'll keep it up. Each day the sun shone brightly except for the day we drove home - we drive on the back roads in order to avoid the major cities, like Toronto, which got flooded from heavy rain for the 2nd time in a few days!

It's a bit further and takes quite a bit longer driving on the back roads but the countryside and villages are gorgeous and much less stressful. 

I'll have a few more photos tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Seesters and Brudda: By the numbers

It's been ages since I did a "by the numbers" post. goes!
  • My first post after my blogging break was #1300!!
  • I have been retired for 1505 days!
  • I have two sisters and two brothers - ALL older than me. Yes, I'm the baby of the family! My two sisters are 9 and 12 years older than me. My brothers are four and seven years older. 
  • I'm visiting one sister and one brother this Bracebridge, ON (Santa's Village!) My other brother and I are going to Scotland soon and I hope to see my other sister at Christmas in PEI though Kazi has a new job and we'll have to see if we can make it happen. 
  • Bracebridge is about a 4 hour drive and at one time both of my sisters lived there.
  • We leave for Scotland in 30 days!
  • Yesterday I rode my bike for 26.7kms :)
  • I used points to purchase a $100 Esso card and two $50 grocery store cards (the budget is tight this month!)
  • My property tax went down $7 per month! Woohoo!
  • My cell phone bill will be increasing by about $15, so much for the previous savings of $7. I added unlimited long distance minutes anywhere in Canada.
  • My natural gas bill was a mere $32 in August...but my electricity bill went over budget by $2.37 due to running the A/C. Considering how deathly hot it's been here for weeks and weeks I'm surprised my bill wasn't sky high!!
  • So far this month I've spent a whopping $44 on food plus $7 for lemon tarts to share with my Scotland bound brother. Lemon is his favourite - I go to his place for tea every other Thursday and to make plans for the Scotland trip. 
  • I have gone to Dairy Queen THREE times so far this month- I only get a plain cone as it has the least amount of calories!!
  • And speaking of calories - between eating better (most of the time), cutting out a few things like bread & pasta and riding my bike almost every day I have lost 10% of my overall weight!! I haven't been below 130lbs in 15 years!! 
  • I don't think I'll have any $$ to put into savings this month but that's ok. I paid off well over $1,000 on my Mastercard to cover new hiking boots ($423), almost $200 at the Mountain Equipment Company, Greyhound bus tickets to get us to Toronto's Pearson airport, travel insurance and an early birthday dinner with Kazi. Never fear...I clear off my Mastercard every month and pay no interest. 
  • I also did some thrifting with my friend Jules; photos in my next post. Can't remember how much I spent but it wasn't much!
Thus ends "By the Numbers" August edition :)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sneak Preview

Preparing for our trip to Scotland is taking up most of my time these days. I have used the airbnb website as well as Google satellite photos to get pictures and locations of all of the places where my brother and I are going to stay. I'm giving you the "sneak preview" so here goes:

From Glasgow airport we are taking a shuttle bus to the downtown train station where we will take a train to Stirling and pick up our rental car. We'll be staying in the village of Dollar for a couple of nights doing some hiking near the Campbell Castle and the Stirling Castle.
Looking out the bedroom window towards the Ochil Hills.

Dollar, near Stirling UK
Campbell Castle
We are descended from the Campbells as well as the Gordons.

From Dollar we head towards Perth, Scone and Pitlochry staying at the Kirkmichael Apts near Blairgowrie.
Kirkmichael Apts
Most places we are staying for 2 nights except for Isle of Skye (5 nights) and Taynuilt, Oban (6 nights). These places are jumping off points for further exploration, hiking, boat trips and other excursions (distilleries!)

After our time in Kirkmichael we head further north to Grantown-on-Spey, just skirting the Cairngorms National Park and staying in an inn called The Hearthside. We'll be hiking around Loch an Eileen - one of the most picturesque places in Scotland.
Loch an Eileen, Cairngorm National Park

From there we have to get around Loch Ness so we will drive to Inverness and then drive on the northwest side of Loch Ness stopping to explore along the way. This will be the longest day of driving as we are headed for the Isle of Skye and staying near the northernmost part of the island.
Glamping on the Isle of Skye!!
Isle of Skye
We have lots of time to explore all that Skye has to offer including a boat trip to Loch Coruisk located in the Cuillin Hills. Of course we'll be stopping at the famous Bridge of Sligachin where it is said that you can gain eternal beauty by washing your face in the water under the bridge. I may have to stay there for a good while!!
 Loch Coruisk
Bridge of Sligachan
After the Isle of Skye we will either take the ferry off the island to Mallaig on the mainland but that depends on the weather. If unable to cross via ferry we'll be taking the long way back, but either way we'll end up in Gairlochy which is near Fort William where my Gordon ancestors had a castle (one of many)! I have a ticket on the Jacobite steam train (Harry Potter's train to "school") which I am very excited about!
Our BnB in Gairlochy, near Spean Bridge

Jacobite steam train
Spean Bridge; near our BnB
From Fort William we head south to the village of Taynuilt, close to Oban. This will be our jumping off point to go to the Isles of Kerrera, Mull, and Staffa, again depending on the weather...fingers crossed!
BnB in Taynuilt
Isle of Staffa
I would really really like to take the ferry from Tobermory, on Mull,  across to Arndamurchan which is the westerly most point of the mainland that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day you can see across the water to the islands of the Outer Hebrides - Eigg, Muck and Coll.
Which reminds me - while we're on the Isle of Skye there is a ferry that crosses to Lewis and Harris of the Outer Hebrides and if we get a nice day we might go across. Time will tell...

Then we start heading back to Glasgow but first a wee visit to Fintry where we've booked a night at the Montrose Estate in the Fintry Hills.
Montrose Estate
Looking out from our bedroom except it will be fall, not spring.

From Fintry we are a short drive back to Stirling where we will be dropping off the rental car and taking the train to Glasgow where we've booked 3 nights in a historic area of the city and to do some major shopping :) and museum/gallery visiting.
By then, and likely before then, I'll be very homesick and needing a good cuddle with Lily and Luna and of course, Kazi!

Lots of things are dependent on the weather in Scotland, as they do get a lot of rainy and windy days but we won't let that get us down. We both have good rain gear and hiking boots and with having a car we can go where we like. Torrential rain means a day in the nearest town/city - and we both LOVE used book stores! I just checked the weather in all of the places we are going to and every single one of them is cloudy but no rain. A good sign with a month to go :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Happy For a Rainy Day!

Did you hear about the fields of sunflowers that were damaged by hordes of people looking for the perfect selfie photo to post on Instagram? This actually happened about an hour from where I live in Flamborough, ON. 

Here's the news item below:

"What would you do for the perfect selfie? Would you trespass? Park illegally? Trample a sunflower field with thousands of other people just to get Instagram likes?

Over the weekend of July 29th over 7,000 cars showed up after sunflower photos taken at the farm went viral on social media. The police had to get involved and the Bogles have now permanently
 banished the public from visiting the sunflower field.

Berry Bogle just wants it to all go away.“There are even local businesses mad at us right now," he said".
"People are parking in their parking lot and walking over to our field. They are taking the heads of the sunflowers and taking them home."
He says some of the crop is now ruined, but people keep showing up, telling the Globe and Mail the influx of selfie seekers was like "the zombie apocalypse."
The photos below were taken by me...but not at the Bogles farm near Flamborough. No, I was with a friend who was going thrift shopping in Stratford and along the way we happened across this field of sunflowers. Naturally we took a few photos but I assure you we didn't go into the field nor did we take any sunflowers home with us (but we did have an awesome time thrifting!)
Consider yourselves extremely lucky because other than maybe on Facebook I won't be posting these fabulous sunflowers on Instagram or anywhere else and I won't be telling anyone where this field is!
Feast your eyes!
Why would anyone want to foist their mug in amongst these glorious flowers anyways??
Sign me confused!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hellooooo! I'm in the house!!

I've come to the conclusion that I don't like being inside in nice weather.  Which would make me just like my dad. I start feeling anxious and feel like I'm wasting my day if I do things inside when the sun is shining! There's nothing wrong with being out and about for hours on end; for my dad it  meant that he would head out of the house at the crack of dawn and my mom wouldn't see him until lunch as she slept longer than he did - like til 8am!  After lunch and a perusal of the newspaper he would usually head out again until it was supper time unless he had things around the house to do like mow the lawn, feed the chickens, paint the house, tar the roof or change the oil in his car.

As he got old older he hired others do to those sorts of tasks but he NEVER stopped spending most of each day outside. And for him any day was a good weather day whether it be summer or winter. In fact he was even busier outside during the winter as he would drive around the countryside refilling the many bird feeding stations he had set up or he'd install a few bird boxes to give birds shelter in bad weather and a place to lay their eggs in the spring.
Dad loading up the bird feeding stations.

My dad suffered from severe depression and anxiety and in his last few years he also had OCD. I like to think that being out in nature everyday helped him cope, just like it does for me.

So when I go missing from my blog it's because I am driven to be outside. I have to check out my beloved Kilally Meadows to see what's blooming and to listen to the birds. I have to go biking on the trails and I have to play beach volleyball (except for when it's +40c and 100% humidity!! - like yesterday...then I bike instead :) (or head to the beach!)
Tansy - the latest addition to my little guide on wildflowers in Kilally Meadows.
Monarch blissing out on Joe Pye the beach!

PS: Anne - no Disquis commenting!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Taking a Break

Good morning!

I going to take a break from blogging - not sure for how long. I am finding it hard to find the time to devote to making this a blog I can be happy with. I feel somewhat aimless when I sit down to write - I'm sure that shows through.

I want to think about what direction I'd like to take the blog in and I've been exploring things like going back to Blogger commenting or switching the blog entirely to Wordpress instead of Blogger. Or...I may do nothing and leave it as is. Those are the weighty issues on my mind! Tough times indeed (yes, I'm being sarcastic)!

One thing you can be sure of is you haven't heard the last from me! I may resolve my issues quickly...or not. We'll see. I do feel I need to take a wee break to refresh myself and consider all of my options.

That's it for now.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018


There are days when I don't even want to read the newspaper. Thankfully I don't have cable TV so I miss most of the noise from CNN and other news networks. However, I do see/read/skip over a lot of news/magazines online - I enjoy The Atlantic and The Guardian  the most. So I do keep up on current events and the local newspaper keeps me informed with what's going on in my city and surrounding area.

My morning follows a routine which involves on reading the paper and then going to read the headlines at The Guardian mostly to see if the nuclear red button has been pushed yet. That's my main worry about the state of the world these days. It takes me back to my childhood and scary times in 1962 - The Cuban Missile Crisis and the escalation of creating nuclear war heads by Russia and the U.S. I was only 6 years old in 1962 but I clearly remember the drills at school (like squatting under my desk was really going to save me!) and I remember being terrified of THE BOMB and the total annihilation that it represented.

Frightening times.

It is not within my power to make any relevant changes in the current political landscape but like most of the world's population I wish I could do something to help. Recently I've had two opportunities to reach out to strangers - one I failed at and one that I hope was helpful.

Both times I was riding my bike. A couple of weeks ago I was riding down Cheapside St. and saw a woman staggering along the sidewalk. I did what I usually do - I kept going. Then I thought I should have checked in with her to make sure she was ok. I rode back but couldn't find her. I checked all around the shrubbery and side streets etc but no sign. My hope is that she lived nearby and had made it safely home. It was only a matter of two minutes before I turned around and she couldn't have disappeared into thin air. I still feel bad that my first reaction was to ignore rather than to respond with compassion.

The second incident happened yesterday while again riding my bike. (I see a lot more riding my bike than I do driving my car!) I saw a man laying down beside a street. In fact his legs extended into the street. I circled back and approached him cautiously. I asked him if he was ok several times before he started to come around. I asked him a bunch of questions - he said his name was Jesse and he lived in public housing across the street. He said he'd been to the bank and coming back he fell asleep. I tried to set judgment aside and when he said how grateful he was that I had checked on him I said we're all human beings. I had him stand up for a couple minutes to see how steady he was and then I watched as he walked over to his home.

At no moment did I feel unsafe. Obviously there will be situations that I would report to police rather than involve myself in and will follow my gut instinct. But I hope I will never again turn my head and look the other way. I have myself been on the receiving end of help from strangers more than once and it meant so much to me.