Monthly Archives: September 2010

Canada, eh?

I’ve made several trips to Canada(specifically Ontario) in the last 7 or 8 years, and I’ve always come away with a favorable impression of the people and the country.  I have noticed a few differences – are ya amazed?

  It seems that in every hamlet of at least 5 houses in that part of the world, they have constructed a Tim Horton’s outlet.  In case you are among the uninformed majority of Americans, I will inform you that this enterprise exists solely for the purpose of drug distribution.  Actually, it’s coffee, but a large majority of Canadians start their day by getting in line at their neighborhood Timmy’s drive-through on the way to work.  They drive up to the speaker stand, roll up their sleeves for their ‘fix’, and start rattling off gibberish like, “2 triple triples and a four by four” (if there are several people in the car).  Or, they might order, “a double double and a regular”. Then they advance to the window where they surrender their Monopoly Money (also known as Canadian currency) in exchange for the elixir they MUST have!  I must tell you, their coffee is SO GOOD you’ll be hooked, too, if you dare to try it!  Oh, by the way, ‘Timmy’s’ is also a BAKERY, so you might want to release your belt a notch or two when you get your order, because at the very least you’ve ordered a box of ‘Timbits’ (doughnut holes), and you might even have ordered some of their fine pastries.  Enjoy, hooked mortal!!   Planning a trip to Canada, think you might want to visit Tim Horton’s?  You’ll first need to visit http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2581280419 to learn how to order properly.

   If you do any traveling in that fine country, you’re going to encounter some odd road signs,

including speed limit signs with speeds listed that are in the (shudder) Metric System.  If you are driving a car made in Canada, no problem – if your car was made in the English System USA you’ll likely be confused (unless you remember to read the inner dial on your speedometer, which is in km/hr).  Somebody told me a rather simple way to approximate the conversion from Kilometers/Hr to Miles/Hr – you take the number you see (100, for instance), then mentally take half that number(50, in this example) + 1/10 that number(10) and add them together to yield the answer (60).  It’s not perfectly accurate, but it’s close.  If you can attain Warp Speed, there’ll be other conversions, I’m sure.  So, you now have the Knowledge Keys to the Kingdom and can therefore sally forth in your American-made vehicle, fully understanding the road signs.

   It’s possible that after you’ve been in Canada long enough (1 day?) to get frustrated with the currency system or the Metric Road Signs from Hell, you could decide that you require alcoholic sustenance.  So, where in Ontario might you find such items?  Well, don’t bother driving around looking for signs that say ‘liquor’ or ‘package store’ – you’ll be further frustrated.  In their infinite wisdom, Ontario decided at some point to regulate the sale of strong spirits and offer them ONLY at the LCBO store – and, as you guessed, that stands for “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”.  See how simple?

  Dang!  “All I wanted was some beer”, you say.  Hmmm, off to the grocery store?  Nope!  The corner convenience store?  No again, beer puppet!  You must visit an Ontario institution known cryptically as the “Beer Store”.  I don’t know how they come up with these names – really!

  Maybe in all your driving around, you find that your car needs fuel.  You drive into the station (in Canada, they look JUST LIKE gas stations, so no confusion there) and prepare to gas up.  You notice the sign that says, “$1.02”.  “WOW!  $1.02 a gallon??  I am MOVING HERE!”  And, it’s Canadian money!! Even MORE savings!  WODDA COUNTRY!  Then, you notice in the small print – “Price is per liter”.  Uh Oh, how much is THAT??  After consulting your hazy memory of high school chemistry, you realize…. wait, there are 3.8 liters per gallon, so I have to multiply this by 3.8 to get the cost?  3.8 x $1.02, that’s $3.87 per gallon!!!  Oh Lord, don’t let me need more than 5 liters, I spent all my money at “The Beer Store”.

  Oh, Canada!  I love you, I love you, I don’t understand you yet!  I’ll be back, but PLEASE don’t change anything, or I’ll be totally lost!!

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Niagara, the falls

  All good things come to an end, and we finally had to pack up and leave Ontario.  Many many good memories of our visit!!  The driving was tedious, like any road trip, but it was WAY cheaper than flying, then renting a car.  One thing that made the road trip MUCH more tolerable was Kate’s suggestion that we stop by Cracker Barrel to check out a book-on-cd for the trip.  GREAT IDEA!!  We found a fabulous book to enjoy – it was Michael Crichton’s last book (he died of cancer last year).  The title was “Pirate Latitudes” – really really good!!  Great characters, great story.

   We left Maitland, Ontario, and re-traced our steps back down the 401 highway (we found out that Canadian highways that start with a “4” have at least 4 lanes).  We came back southwest as far as Toronto, then diverted to the south to head to Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Son Bret had recommended that we see the falls from the Canadian side because we’d be so much closer to the falls than we could be on the American side.  He was right – we could *almost* reach down and touch the water right where it plummeted over the edge.  The whole thing was just stunning, breath-taking!  We took lots and lots of photos, then headed down to where we could take a voyage on the “Maid of the Mist”.  I’m sure you’ve heard of that – the blue-and-white boats that take you right up to the spot where the water comes thundering down and you get all wet.  Well, we did that, and we got all wet  🙂  They give you some throw-away plastic ponchos, and those work pretty well – oh, by the way, are your *shoes* waterproof?  Ya might wanna check.

   I’ll make my confession now – I had seen pictures of the falls before, had seen pictures of the “Maid of the Mist” before.  Yawn.  I was looking forward to seeing the Falls, but taking the boat trip had never seemed like that big an attraction to me before.  But, when Kate explained that if I didn’t get interested and excited about it, RIGHT NOW, I’d be walking home, well – I changed my attitude!  I’m glad I did – it was indeed neat, I did love it!  Yes, REALLY!  🙂  I have explained to Kate before that I have this problem about GOING PLACES – I usually like it when I get there, but somehow I dread the going.  I am working on this, trying to do better.  So far, she hasn’t had to draw her gun.  So, here are some pics to share: 

  Niagara Falls is one of those things you just have to go see – no picture, no description, can do it.

And, don’t be like me, don’t be afraid to have fun!  So, get off that couch (as my daughter Natalie said)!  She was joking in that context, but it’s true – no one will bring these things to you – go get ’em!

Adieu Ontario

   We got to go to the Spencerville Fair while we were up Nawth.  It was like a county fair, but I don’t know how they refer to them up there.  Anyway, there were agricultural displays in various tents and buildings, lots of animals to see and smell (watch where you step).  There were carnival rides, it was great!  Here are a few pics of our cloudy, rainy outing at the fair. 

(All the pics in the blog are ‘click-able’ if you wish to see the larger versions).

  The wooden contraption you see in the last photo is a horse-drawn snowplow.  I wondered how they accomplished that task in the old days, and now I know!  We had lotsa fun at the Spencerville Fair.  Unfortunately, Lisa could not make it – maybe next year.

   We also took a trip to Merrickville, Ontario, one of my favorite villages.  I really can’t explain the fascination I have for the place, it’s just historical (the Rideau Canal goes through there – look it up!) and kinda quaint.  Yes, I’d move there tomorrow if I could!  Nah, I’d probably freeze to death, it’s REALLY cold in that part of the world come wintertime.  Kinda fun to think about, though.  Here are some more pics – some show a glassblowing shop where we paused for awhile, made a few purchases.  I described in the previous post how we stopped at “Brewed Awakenings” and had that fabulous sandwich with the red onion marmalade – well, you can order some for yourself at http://www.mustard.ca/  That’s the website for Mrs. McGarrigle’s Mustard Shop.  They have an amazing array of jams, jellies, dips, mustards.  Try it, you’ll like it!  And, I’ll give you your money back if you’re not happy with your purchase (of course, I can only pay you in Confederate money – Internet rules, you know).

   Our last road trip while in Ontario was to Ottawa – I had visited there before and wanted Kate to experience the international flavor of Canada’s capital city.  Beautiful old buildings – some of the most striking are the buildings of Parliament.  During some of our driving in the downtown area we passed several of the foreign embassies – Saudi Arabia, China, United States, etc.  It really gets your attention when you come across these – it reminds you that there are many other countries than just our own or Canada.  Here are some pics: 

In photo 5 you can see a waterway down the center going to the river – that is the series of locks which is the northern end of the Rideau Canal system, mentioned before.  In the last photo you can see a street stand selling Beaver Tails, which is another Canadian ‘fiesta food’ – it’s a lot like a funnel cake, with lots of cinnamon and sugar.  I don’t think any beavers were harmed in the preparation of our street snack.

   I have lots and lots more photos – bring your canteen and come over, we’ll have a photo-viewing party.

   I hope you enjoyed sharing our vacation.  We had a great time, as I’ve said several times – wish you coulda come along!

  Next post:  our stop at Niagara Falls on our way home.

Canada Vacation part deux

   We are home now, recovering from the drive, tired but happy.  Kate has already left for work this evening, so it’s just me and KD here at the ranch.  We left little doggie at the boarding place while we were gone, and when we picked her up this morning, it was WAG CITY!  Everything KD could wag, was wagged!  She was writhing in happiness when Kate brought her to the car and it took just awhile to get her settled down.  And, I guess KD loves even me  🙂

   I’ll include some pics on this post so you can see a few faces, a few places.  Firstly, you should be introduced to Dick & Judy, our wonderful hosts during our stay in Ontario.  They are just the greatest people, fun to talk to, fun to do things with (the 4 of us spent our last evening there singing in the kitchen).  They are always smiling, ever helpful, the kind of folks you’d count as good neighbors!

   Here’s a candid shot of Lisa, Luke, and Emma – the kids are opening packages that we brought for them.  Bret had not yet come home from work.

  And, I’ll throw in a couple of pics of the house and yard, front and back, just to give you an idea of our surroundings.

  They have a nice  house and grounds, I think you’ll agree.

And, I finally cornered Bret and got a pic of him – handsome fellow!  Yes, I managed to crowd into the photo, too – I’m SOOOOOO vain!   In case I forgot to mention it, Kate was there, too!  🙂

  Here’s a shot of Bret’s house – Bret and Lisa live just a few kilometers away (I don’t know how much a kilometer is, maybe it’s the same as a light year)    🙂  

  I took one more shot of their front yard and street – in the distance, you can see some water, and that’s the St Lawrence River, just 1.5 blocks away (or 2 light years, whichever).  They live in the town of Prescott, Ontario.

From time to time, we saw freighters on the river – it sort of gives you a start as you turn around and see a big ship going by, almost in the neighborhood! 

 I actually took this shot from Ft Wellington, a historic site just down the road from where Bret lives.  In the photograph you can see across to Ogdensburg, NY. 

 Here’s a look at one of the mortars in Ft Wellington. 

  We went to a street market in Brockville, Ontario, just down the road.  It was a beautiful day, right beside the St Lawrence River. 

  The guy in the second photo had all these wonderful home-made jams, jellies, and marmalades.  I didn’t think I cared much for marmalade, but his was GREAT!!

   We went to Merrickville, Ontario, we went to the Spencerville Fair, we went to Ottawa………. more pics to come!

Peameal and Spelt and Poutine, Oh My!

   Welcome to Canada!  Kate and I are having a wonderful time visiting friends and family.  It is her first trip to this area, and it’s about my fourth.  We are in Ontario, south of Ottawa, near the St. Lawrence River.  Our hosts are Dick and Judy Dickins, and we could not have asked for more gracious friends/relatives.  They are sharing their house with us and have been just super nice about everything.  We all know it can be difficult to have company invade your home, but they are just wonderful about it.  Thank you, thank you, Dick and Judy!!

   We drove all day last Wednesday (Sept 8th), spent the night just east of Toronto in Whitby, Ontario.  Next morning we checked out of the motel, went to the Sunrise Grill for breakfast.  We enjoyed sharing an order of Eggs Benedict made with peameal bacon.  Here is a simple defnition of peameal which I copied from another site:  “Peameal Bacon is a boneless cured pork loin rolled in cornmeal, not what is commonly known in the United States as “Canadian Bacon” which is basically a smoked ham.”  You might call it a ‘pork cutlet’, and I love it!  After our breakfast we drove for another 3 hours or so, arriving safely in Brockville, Ontario.  My son Bret works in Brockville at Future Shop (sort of like Best Buy), so we stopped in for a surprise visit.  We had lunch with Bret then went on the rest of the way (about 15 km) to D & J’s house near Maitland.  We were greeted there by the trio of border collies Bandit, Murphy, and Riley – great dogs, all!

  In addition to Dick and Judy we were also happy to see Bret’s wife Lisa (beautiful girl!), and the DG’s (darling grandchildren) Emma and Luke (aka Lukey).  Just to explain, Dick and Judy are Lisa’s parents.   I’ll plan to do a follow-up post with some photos – I don’t have all them ‘at hand’ right now.  I had a great time introducing Kate all ’round, and she blended in perfectly, as I knew she would, with her ready smile and friendly nature.  She became instant buddies with Emma and Luke, and over the course of our visit has spent a lot of time with Emma, showing her how to do stitchery, and Emma is loving it!  Kate is really enjoying her time here, getting to sleep late every morning (well, kinda late), and on several of the morning has arisen to find that Judy has constructed another batch of spelt muffins (using spelt flour).  Another borrowed definition:  “Spelt is a species of wheat that has been grown since 5000 BC.”  The spelt flour gives the muffins a particular ‘graininess’, which is quite pleasing – they are somewhat crumbly and slightly sweet, very good! 

   We have been out on a few sightseeing forays, and on one of our outings we went to a county fair (Spencerville Fair) to entertain the kiddoes and to see what’s going on in this part of the world, agriculturally speaking.  We saw lots of farm animals (yes, Kate is now even MORE insistent that we need chickens or goats or water buffaloes or something).  We stopped at a food booth to stoke up on calories, and Kate and I shared some poutine, the national fast food of Canada.  Poutine is a dish consisting of french fries topped with fresh cheese curd, covered in brown gravy (usually turkey gravy).  I know, I know, it sounds revolting, but give it a try, you might be surprised.  It’s not something you’d want to eat a LOT of, since it’s probably about 7,000 calories, but we enjoyed sharing a serving. 

   Yesterday we went to Merrickville, Ontario – I had visited it a couple of times in the past and really loved it so I wanted to have Kate experience it as well.  Son Bret went along as our driver and tour guide – as it happens, Lisa used to live there, so it was a familiar place to the family.  We stopped in for a sandwich and coffee at “Brewed Awakenings” and shared an order of soup and sandwich.  We had beef/barley soup(really good soup) and a grilled chicken panini sandwich dressed with red onion marmalade.  My GOSH that was a wonderful sandwich!!  We inquired about the marmalade and were told that we could purchase some right down the street at Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustard shop, so we went there straightaway and grabbed some to take home.  Do plan to visit Merrickville when you’re in the area.

   When I get my photos together I’ll plan to do an additional post, but I think I’ll wrap this up for now.

We’ll be seeing you Americans in a few days! 

Carry on!

Hutch Quest

  When we first moved to Indiana back in January, most of our stuff arrived intact aboard the BYT (Big Yellow Truck), but we did have one casualty.  The china cabinet came down the ramp and promptly expired – it gave a creak and a groan and just came apart.  We put the parts of the corpus delecti into the dumpster, dried our tears and moved on.  Since then, from time to time, Kate has mentioned that she wants a replacement hutch.  She prints out postings from Craigslist, ads from the Big Box stores, whatever.  I’m trying to satisfy all of her needs without us going to the poorhouse, so it’s been a balancing act.  “Here’s a hutch, only $375!”  “Here’s another one, just $325!”.  Well, we’ve been wasting our money on insurance bills, gasoline, food, that sort of thing, and there just hasn’t been room in the budget for her hutch.

   Recently, she began dropping stronger hints, “Get me a hutch or I”ll torch your pickup!”.  So, I asked her to find something we could better afford. She found one – $75.  I asked, “Are you serious?  What could you get for $75?”  Anyway, she assured me that she had spoken with the seller and all would be good.  I made some remarks about her gullibility but agreed that we’d go see the $75 hutch.  We drove to Shelbyville, KY, found the house (nice neighborhood – good start!) and drove down the LONG driveway to the rear entrance of the garage.  The lady came out, showed us the corner hutch, money was exchanged, all was working well.  We loaded the hutch onto the utility trailer that we had taken along, and it all worked great.  I used those ratcheting ‘clickity click’ hold-downs and made sure it was locked down tight.  Off we went.

   We drove a ways on the expressway heading home and decided to exit for gas.  We got the gas, headed down the street so we could turn around to get back to the expressway, and about that time I heard a noise in the back and glanced into the rearview mirror just as the hutch made a Kamikaze dive off the trailer onto the asphalt road.  Horrors!  I pulled over as quickly as I could into an opening to a side street then ran back to survey the damage, fearing the worst.  I first thought I might need a broom and dustpan to gather up the pieces, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the hutch had slid safely to a stop, scratching only the back of it, and that the oncoming traffic had managed to dodge it in the road.  Wow!  I still don’t understand how BOTH of those ratcheting hold-downs gave loose at once, but I know I won’t be trusting them as much in the future!

   We got reloaded, re-lashed everything, and made it the rest of the way home without incident.  She and I managed to horse the thing into the house and it is there now, in its place of honor – no scratches, no broken glass.

I hope this was our last hutch incident.

Incipient Autumn

   The days are growing noticeably shorter, there’s a coolness in the mornings.  We still have some fairly hot days ahead of us, as we know, but I think maybe we’ve turned the corner on this HOT HOT summer.  Most of us are ready for some relief, yes?

   Yesterday I spent some time working down the big brushpile that’s out in the front yard – it doesn’t look so big in this picture from March, but I’ve added to it since then.  Anyway, I tied on with my lawn tractor and dragged the biggest branches and downed trees up by the garage, prior to cutting them up with my chainsaw.   The cutting went well, no missing arms or legs, no trips to the emergency room.

   So,  mission accomplished – the brush pile is nearly gone, and I got some wood cut for a CAMPFIRE evening!!

   We went out last night just after dark and loaded up our new firepit with some freshly-cut logs and settled back for some PRIME evening entertainment.    I had purchased the firepit a month or two ago, and finally got it assembled in time for our first *cool* evening.

   I wish I could fully describe just how great that was, sitting out there under the stars (no moon last night), no mosquitoes, no wind, nothing to detract from the pleasure of the experience.  Just Kate and me, watching a crackling fire.  (one small problem:  we were out of marshmallows, so – no SMORES  😦  )

  A minor note about this picture:  if you look closely, it appears that there are two figures in the flames – one on the left with a guitar, one on the right with arms upraised.  Hmmm  – maybe I ought to lay off the vodka for just one evening!  🙂   

   In just a few days we’ll be off on our adventure driving trip to Ontario, Canada.  We pull out next Wednesday morning, Sept 8th – I’ll take Kate to work on Tuesday evening, then pick her up next morning so we can leave directly from Louisville.  The tentative plan is to drive up to the Toronto area the first day, then finish up the last 4 hours on Thursday.  We’ll be gone for a week or so, and I know it’ll be just great!  Renewing old friendships for me, introducing Kate around – oh what fun!

  I’ve included a couple of pictures of the house where we’ll be staying.  It belongs to daughter-in-law Lisa’s parents, Dick and Judy Dickins.  It’s made of stone and was built in 1830 – it’s beautifully furnished inside.  In the second photo you can see the carriage house, which is a stately structure in its own right.

  On the map, find Ogdensburg, NY – we’ll be right across the St Lawrence River, just a few miles west.  From their front yard, you can see the St Lawrence.

  Envious yet?  Wanna come?  Ok, we’ll meetcha there!

  We’ve got some really nice neighbors who have been placed on alert to watch the place while we’re gone and they’ll pick up our mail, too – just can’t trust the post office for that.  We’ll bring them some souvenirs if we remember – maybe some Canadian Bacon  🙂

   Ok, that’s about it for now.  Not sure when my next post will be – probably in a couple of weeks after we return.

  So, is it time to start planning  our *NEXT* trip?  🙂