Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas tree hunt

They don't hunt for trees in Germany.  Julia says they use mostly potted trees that they then plant outside.  We decided that a tree hunt was something she had to do while she was here.  The weather didn't co-operate and provide snow for snowball fights or sledding but it worked out that Caitlin had the morning off and Alec was home for the week so we went anywhere.

Here Julia cut down her very first Xmas tree.

I removed the little pesky branches at the bottom.  I consider this my best side.  My hair is neatly braided and you can see my hand knit mitts but not the aging face.
Julia was most impressed with Alec carrying the tree.  It was a very small tree.  But it fits perfectly in the corner where I wanted it.
The farm we went to is down a number of tiny roads, each progressively smaller, more hilly and then dirt.  But the service is amazing.  Here we are with Laura (who owns the farm) and her dog Spruce.  Laura is very outgoing, likely ADHD and had sparkly makeup.  In this picture she looks like a mannequin but she doesn't often stop moving (or talking).  We were the only ones there so she spent the whole time providing commentary and details.  Unfortunately she lost 2000 seedlings this year because it was so hot and dry.  It is a small farm and that really cuts into the harvest for the coming years.

I look like a real hick.  I expected it to me muddier.  And if I worked in a barn that would be my barn coat.  But I love it.  Warm, co-ordinates with everything but alas really starting to show its age.
Here we are with our tree.  Make sure you look at Kevin's shirt.  His favourite Christmas movie is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and I was thrilled to find this shirt in San Antonio.
The tree was put up and decorated quickly then Julia and I spent the afternoon baking.  It is so nice to have someone in the house who loves to cook.  Julia wants to experience "Canadian" food so we have made apple pie and Nanaimo bars and my grandmother's shortbread.  We are having tortiere Christmas Eve.  Other than poutine what would you consider Canadian food?

Julia's Story

Once upon a time there was a smart young girl named Julia who lived in a country far, far away.  Julia wanted an adventure and wanted to work with horses so she did lots of planning and then more planning and finally bid her parents and Prince Charming Auf Wiedersehen and headed for the wilds of Canada.  Julia spent 3 months working at a ranch in northern BC and all was well.  Then Julia spent 3 months working at the racetrack in Vancouver and all was well.  Then Julia came to Collingwood.  All was not well.  The accommodations promised her were not furnished as stated.  The farmhouse had cracked walls, ceilings and windows and questionable water supply.  It was left a mess by the previous tenants.  (Caitlin, Connor's girlfriend Sabrina and I had spent the previous day cleaning so Caitlin could move in.)  The owner (we will call her Cruella) had given incomplete information to the barn manager and then headed to Florida.  She was expecting a girl from out west and not until the new year.  I guess Germany is west if you go far enough.  The manager tried to give Julia the full time hours promised but after the evil Cruella returned and said they were over budget Julia's hours were cut and another girl laid off.   So basically Julia was left underemployed and homeless.  She moved in with us for a month. (And Caitlin decided she couldn't live in the farmhouse either.) We enjoyed having Julia but she needed more money than the few hours the barn provided so she found a job cleaning condos and moved into staff accommodations.  Not her plan but she took it all in stride.  We hope to still see Julia a lot over the coming months so you may see her occasionally in my blog.  Julia will be in the area for another two months then she will be doing some exploring in the states before returning home.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Goodbye San Antonio

After a week in San Antonio I have these observations to make.

Don't mess with Texas is so wrong.  Everyone we met was friendly and courteous.  Everyone called us ma'am. We felt so welcome.

We had great weather - about 10 degrees warmer than normal seasonal temperatures.

The roads in San Antonio are poorly designed ad the signs are even worse.  There were many areas
that our GPS didn't work so we usually had a map and printed instructions in addition to the GPS. We never really got lost but sometimes we went in circles or zigzags or stars.  If you understood that - you have been to San Antonio.

We went to the oldest bakery in Texas (Naegelin's bakery in New Braunfels) and the worst bbq in Texas (Rudy's).  We saw the most famous bar (Coyote Ugly). 

The pride that American's have in their military (and their sports teams) is evident on bumper stickers, articles of clothing and just about everything else.  They don't value their seniors as much.  Mom was only eligible for senior's discount at 3 places.

San Antonio needs to start recycling.  Our resort didn't recycle.  None of the attractions we went to recycled.  We did finally find a few half garbage/half recycling bins in the downtown.

I really, really miss Tim Horton's coffee.  Starbucks sucks.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Last Full Day in San Antonio

We spent some time at the pool again.  We have had the pool virtually to ourselves every time but today.  It was great.  This picture is for my hubby - to prove I used the new prescription goggles he bought me.
These tracks were in the sand at the beach at rattlesnake river.  Does anyone know what they are or do I have to wait until I get back and can look it up in my book?

Mom and Leanne spent the afternoon shopping while Lynda and I did the rattlesnake river, walked on the nature trail and played shuffleboard.

When they returned we ate whatever we could find in the fridge - leftover teriyaki chicken with blue cheese dressing anyone?  Then we went to the firepits for our own private fire.

Alamo and Riverwalk

Whenever I told anyone we were going to San Antonio they would invariably say "oh, you have to go to the riverwalk and the Alamo"  So we did.  We started at the IMAX to watch the Alamo movie to set the stage.  It was made with historical re-enactors and not real actors.  Then on to the Alamo.  I didn't get any pictures of the Alamo but we enjoyed the history.  Photos are actually prohibited inside and outside difficult to get a shot with all the modern amenities.

Riverwalk was a bit of a disappointment but that could have been just how much everyone had built it up. It is beautiful.  The banks are lined with restaurants and the odd gift shop.  And waterfalls and flower gardens.  There are lots of little footbridges so you can cross to the other side.
We ate right on the river.  The guacamole was made fresh right at our table.

We walked during the day because we wanted to do the tour at night to see the lights.  The tour starts at the lower level of a mall.  All the trees, bridges and buildings were lit up.   The guide tells you a bit of the local history (which I could barely hear because of the toddler beside me).  One of the most interesting tidbits was about the 500 room Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel.  It was built in 1968 in a hurry when they realized they didn't have enough rooms for the 1968 Texas fair.  The units were prefabricated then stacked onsite in 46 days.  They attached the tail of a helicopter to each unit to stabilize it as it was craned into position.

This is the underside of an underpass.
And since it was the 5th day of Christmas , Santa was there too!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More Exploring

We had planned on doing Riverwalk today but changed plans due to a bit of rain in the forecast.  On Tuesday we went to Natural Bridge Caverns.  I have never been in anything like this before.  The formations were amazing.  There were so many different colours and shapes.  We were glad we went.

After a gourmet meal in the parking lot (canned tuna with crackers, canned peaches and a cookie) we headed to New Braunfels then to Groene.  Groene is a very pretty town.  Very old.  We had an amazing meal at the Grist Mill - local catfish and steaks.  The pic below is the grounds around the restaurant.
We stopped at Groene Hall for a live band but didn't stay long.

Tomorrow - Riverwalk for sure!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A lazy day

We took it easy today.  We needed a rest after a few hectic days of travel and tourism. 

We had a great breakfast at Cracker Barrel.  It was my first time at a Cracker Barrel.  The food was amazing and plentiful.  The waitress was terrific and the manager came over to make us welcome.  The Texans are so friendly and polite.

We spent the rest of the day in the water.  The resort has a lazy river and we floated in circles for a long time.  The water was cold but hey, we are Canadian!  I am so glad I had the foresight to give my husband a waterproof camera years ago - it sure has come in handy.

And we saw our first gecko!
Tomorrow - Riverwalk!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Enchanted Springs Ranch

Since it is Sunday, we went to church.
Then we grabbed a bull by the horns
Doc Dakota and one of his satisfied customers.  Lynda is 92 and has been using his magic elixir for years.
Mom got herself in a bit of trouble for backseat driving.  The little boy didn't do his homework.
And Mom got on a horse!  My mom is terrified of horses but she can now cross riding off the bucket list we are creating for her. 
This is Doc Dakota's older identical twin brother - Sheriff Joe Wayne.  It was a quiet day at the ranch so he took us on a personal tour of the exotics on the property on a golf cart.  I think he is doing his Crocodile Dundee impersonation here.

 I highly recommend a trip to Enchanted Springs Ranch to anyone in the San Antonio area. 
The other performer Pistol Packin Paula was amazing too.

More SeaWorld

I was really tired last night so not my best post.  Here are a few more pictures from my Mom's camera.

This is where the light/music show was.  The lights on the trees went on and off and changed colours and patterns.  It was very pretty.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


We started our day with an early swim and volleyball and a quick walk around part of the resort.   What a great way to start the day. 

After a quick trip to pick up a few groceries we headed off to SeaWorld. 
We saw seals and penguins, sharks, killer whales and saltwater fish.
The place was all lit up as dusk fell.  This grove was particularly popular.  Then there was an amazing light and sound show at the entrance.

The shows were good.  The best one was the beluga/dolphin/diving/synchro swimming one shown below.  Wow!

Today is the one year anniversary of my father's death.  What could have been a very depressing day was spent as a family, creating memories.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A long day

We were up before 5:15 this morning and flew from Rochester,NY to Atlanta, Georgia.  Then we spent 5 looong hours on a layover.  The people at Xpress Spa were amazing.  One of us (who will remain unamed) paid for a foot massage and they let all of us sit in their massaging chairs for free.  Highly recommended for anyone travelling through Atlanta.

We arrived in San Antonio, Texas 20 minutes ahead of schedule but still didn't get to our timeshare until after 6. We had to navigate rush hour traffic without a GPS (it is fixed now) and very poor signs.  We are all ready for bed.  Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to share some more exciting pictures.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The most common question

As a gardener, the most common question I get asked is "What do you do in the winter?"
The answer "I keep very busy".
In no particular order are some of my winter activities.
I find the horizontal surfaces in my house buried under months of debris and dust.
I straighten out our neglected finances.  This is my first year of self-employment so I will have lots of extra paperwork.  But business was better than I had hoped so I am not complaining.
I actually sit down at night and watch tv.  Some years I have gone 8 months without turning the tv on.
I knit.
I cook better meals.  And lots of baking (which I really don't need to eat)
I rescue Connor and his new jeep.
I do puzzles.  This one was harder than I expected.

I take in young German girls on work visas whose accomodations didn't work out.  That leads to more cooking. 
I sew.
I rescue Connor and his jeep again.
Usually I shovel lots of snow.  But this year is amazingly warm.
And this year - I am excited to be getting ready for my trip to San Antonio with my mom and sisters.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The best laid plans ...

While my to do list is progressing slowly (complicated by severe vertigo this morning), Kevin's plans have had to be changed.

He spent the better part of a year planning his trip.  It was to be a week of adventure in the northern lakes, the highlight a visit to the castle at White Otter Lake.  He emailed and researched and emailed more and bought a satellite phone and researched and printed and emailed ...  The original 12 dropped to 6 (Kevin, Caitlin, Connor, Dalton and senior friends Don and Bryan).  The satellite phone worked fine in the spring when he trialed it while walking the dogs in our neighbourhood.  But  he has had a lot of difficulty this last week.  It won't sync to his phone anymore so no two way communication.  It took many calls to the support centre from home and on the way up to get a sat phone that works occasionally and is not as detailed .   Often no  town names or roads are shown so their location comes to me as a red dot in a green forest, sometimes a red dot in a green forest with a blue lake beside.  Not incredibly useful.  They hit the water Saturday morning and were back at the put in Sunday afternoon (with their vehicles at the take out).  One of the first portages was not passable.  It was 900 m of bog up to their calves in spots and much of it blocked by a fallen tree.  I was so disappointed he wouldn't get to see the castle after all that planning.  They looked into Zodiac rides but ended up taking a float plane and had a great time.  Dalton sent me the picture below. Kevin says "The size of it in the middle of nowhere".  Cell phone coverage is spotty .

I believe they are at Sandbar Provincial Park now.  Their plans change minute by minute.  How did we survive without cell phones?  People used to holiday across the country and you wouldn't hear from them for 2 or 3 weeks, unless they sent you a post card.  Now we (I?) worry if a few hours go by.  Strange just as I finished typing this I got a message from Connor that they are leaving Sandbar.  He hasn't had cell coverage since leaving Thunder Bay 4 days ago!  And Kevin called right after.  They are going to Neys.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


My house is empty.
Of other people anyway.
(There is still 2 dogs, 1 cat, 3 rats and the inhabitants of 2 aquariums)
Everyone else left this afternoon to go to The Castle at White Otter Lake.  The more common version of why the hermit built a castle in the middle of nowhere is as a dowry for a wife.  Impressive structure no matter why he built it.  But I will content myself with pictures and the stories from my family - I am not really into portaging that much and someone has to watch the pets.
I have 10 days of solitude stretching in front of me.  I was looking forward to it but it has only been a few hours and it is very quiet.  I am going to try to keep busy by
- visiting my mom
- Cleaning out my truck (it is more than just a truck - it is my office too.  I used to clean it every week or two but I must confess it has been months)
- working
- catch up on my gardens (if I have the energy after doing my client's gardens and if the temperature is less than 30)
- having a friend over
- doing a puzzle and/or some sewing (it isn't often my table is cleared off!)
- walking and biking the dogs
- changing Connor's sheets (normally that wouldn't be worthy of itemizing but I expect it will take days.  I have to clean all the junk off one bunk then strip it and remake it.  Then put all the junk from the other bed onto the clean one and strip and make the 2nd bed.  Not to mention the tiptoeing between the treasures on his floor)
- catch up on my reading
- clean (hmm maybe I should do this before the friend comes over)
- blog?  Would anyone like before and after shots of my truck or Connor's room?

Friday, June 1, 2012

I totally forgot that the guys went canoeing and kayaking on the bay Saturday morning before the other guests arrived.  There were 5 that went but I only have pictures of two.  Kevin took the pictures and I guess Connor and David were so fast that no pics were taken.  Below is my brother in law Mike and Alec.  We were fortunate that Alec was on a course nearby and could make it for his grandfather's birthday celebration.  Alec didn't make it to the funeral so he hadn't seen most of the family for a while.

And a shot of just Alec.  He hates it when I post pictures of him but I just had to.  He is usually fairly somber.  He doesn't smile often and you can see his pearly whites in both shots so I couldn't resist.