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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Last Day on the Hills

   Great day skiing with the grandkids . Elliot decided he wanted to try the "Puddle Jump" but I left before he got his turn so I don't know yet how wet he got!

  I hadn't seen the kids skiing at all this year so surprised them by showing up at Brimacombe. I was there quite early and had several runs before they got there. James has come along amazingly for his first year on skis. He is quite independent on the easy hills. Natalie is beginning to line up her skis in parallel position, progress from last year. We had an amazing blue sky all day and my face feels quite hot. After a hearty lunch I only took a couple more runs as the snow was getting quite slushy. So I left the young folks to their own pursuits and headed home for a nap and a soak in the tub. That will be the last day, for me at least, as I will pack away my skis and boots until next winter.

   Dinner tonight is one of my favourites - Tuscan Chicken. The recipe is from Frances Mayes memoir "Under the Tuscan Sun", and contains artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and chick peas as well as chicken legs, a one-pot meal which makes for easy clean up. Yesterday I made Impossible Pie - not an outstanding success but tasty enough. The pie crust is actually created on top from coconut and you invert it after letting it cool slightly - quite ingenious!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Fresh Pasta

 I very seldom eat pasta but had a hankering for Lasagna today and decided to try my hand at making pasta from scratch.

  I found some videos on You Tube and, after watching them, decided I was ready to go it alone. First thing was to buy some semolina flour and I may not have bought the correct kind as it was rather grainy instead of being smooth like flour.  The dough was hard to roll out and I don't think I got it thin enough. However, I cooked the pasta sheets for a few minutes and then started building the lasagna.

   Now, with the addition of a veggie tomato sauce and a layer of spinach and cottage cheese in between, it may taste OK. Lots of mozzarella cheese on top and between the layers will also improve the taste. It certainly looks like lasagna! 
   As I suspected, the pasta was a bit heavy, but I managed to make a meal of it regardless. In fact, I will be eating it for several more days - it is rather filling!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

An Uneventful Day

   Went to a movie yesterday - "The Great Beauty" - Italian with English Subtitles. It had been well reviewed and highly recommended but I found it rather difficult to follow. It was a beautifully shot film, set in Rome, but with a hard-to-follow plot  (really no plot at all, just disjointed vignettes). I would have been less disappointed if I hadn't had to go down town to see it. However, on my way home I stopped off at a sushi take-out which has an end-of-day sale after 6:30 p.m. and got a huge portion of sushi for $9, reduced from $13.99. Quite a good deal, and I ate the whole thing!

   Nothing much of interest today - James here, a visit to the church play group, and picked up some groceries on the way home. I am cooking lamb chops for dinner and have them marinating in lemon juice and olive oil which should render them tender. I will have them with mashed potatoes and brussell sprouts.

   Still very cold today, although sunny. We had a quick walk around the garden and did notice a few shoots coming up, but there is still a lot of ice in the shady spots. Also lots of rabbit pellets - can't think what they are finding to eat unless they are getting into my composter.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Baking

   James and I made scones today. Measuring the ingredients was rather haphazard but he enjoyed kneading the dough and cutting them out with a glass. They turned out quite well, although I substituted yoghurt for the buttermilk that was in the recipe.  It was still too cold for us to go to the park - I am getting very exasperated with being indoors so much - but we did go out to the Early Years Centre and to buy some groceries. However, it's not the same as having him run around in the fresh air.

   Dancing group tonight so an early dinner of leftovers (salad, liver and roast vegetables). I will also probably have another scone when I get home and the rest can go in the freezer.

  

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Still wintry

   Chilly day today, although sunny. Steve was over for a couple of hours this morning to help me tidy up after the basement renovation. We took some surplus materials back to Home Depot, stopped in at Starbucks for a coffee and then he moved furniture back into the basement and stapled down some wires that had to be removed before the floor was laid. He is quite useful and handy at times! Luckily, Alison could spare him as she was at the barn for a morning riding Mischief.

   Last weekend Judy and I had a pleasant morning skiing at Brimacombe. The conditions were pretty good, although they started to get a bit slushy as the day progressed,  and it wasn't at all cold. We got in quite a few runs in the morning but I faded very quickly after lunch so we headed home around 1:30. We had car pooled so she drove home, giving me a chance to recoup my energy.

James checking the weather report on Friday.


   On Saturday I had an early start, heading for the West End Workshop in Brampton.  We had two sessions in the morning, a nice lunch and another session in the afternoon. Then some fun dances until 4:30 when we were served afternoon tea (yummy) before heading home. Needless to say, I didn't need dinner!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Almost Spring!

   A dull, drizzly day but the temperature has remained above zero since yesterday. I'm trying not to get my hopes up but maybe winter is finally over. Having said that I did see some snowflakes this morning but they didn't lie on the ground for long.

  Judy and I are going to attempt a ski day soon. This will be my first of the year so I hope it goes well. Hopefully they had snow rather than rain at Brimacombe.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

First Shoots

Sunny but cold today, a bitter north wind and the temperature started at -12C, wind chill probably -20 something. Must have been chilly watching the St. Patrick's Day parade!

I took a turn around the garden today and found a patch on the south side of the house where the snow was all gone. Already some shoots have appeared, probably tulips. I hope they survive the frosty nights we still have in store for us. Nothing else is showing any sign of growth.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Beginning of the End of the Snow

   Beautiful day today - sun shining, a gentle breeze blowing from the south and everything melting. We are still very snow covered but the end is in sight! On my walk this afternoon I was stepping over puddles - hope they don't freeze overnight - and looking for signs of Spring. No new growth pushing through the snow yet, still too much of it, but the birds were very lively. I actually got to sit outside for half-an-hour, soaking up some rays.

 
Wind blown patterns on the glass.

 
I was sitting out here doing some sun-bathing a couple of days ago!

 
Still looking very wintry here.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Digging Out

   I had to resort to pushing the snow aside as my shoulder wasn't up to lifting it. But there's enough room for the car and tomorrow it should start to melt.

Friday, Feb. 28

   Ship docked for the last time at Puerto Morales, Mexico. This is the port for Cancun and very busy with another (huge!) cruise ship. We had a slightly later start to the excursion so I did a stretching class with Cherie before breakfast. I've skipped quite a few of these but it's a great way to start the day.
   The bus ride to Tulum was just 1 hour where you arrive at a huge shopping centre, then a little train ride and a short walk to the entrance. This is a really big site, well laid out with lots of explanatory signs. It was also the busiest we have encountered as there are many resorts along the coast who do day trips to the site every day. Our guide was rather pedantic in his descriptions so I wandered off and followed at a distance, doing my own reading. The biggest temple was that of the "Descending God" which overlooks the ocean with a magnificent beach at the foot of a steep path down the cliff. Very impressive! Unfortunately I got separated from my group, took a wrong turn and had to retrace my steps back to the entrance. Arrived with minutes to spare before the bus departed. I wasn't the last, though!

   Back at the ship for a special lunch with roast beef and all the trimmings PLUS the usual buffet! I may have overdone it slightly as I had to skip dinner as I was feeling rather queezy. This was a shame as it was the Captain's Farewell dinner and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it. Before that, another talk by Temu regarding our departures on the morrow - we all had to leave the boat by 9:00 a.m. but in instalments.

Saturday, Mar. 1

   With our departures synchronized we had one last task - Mexican Customs. Before we could leave for the airport we were thoroughly searched - not sure what for but we had been warned not to bring any food off the ship. Finally we arrived at Cancun Airport and, after 5 hours I was aboard the flight back to Toronto - quite uneventful except I had to buy food for the plane as none was included. I got home shortly before midnight, tired but relieved to be in my own bed and with pleasant memories of the trip. Here's one....

One of many beautiful sunsets on the ship.
  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Last Snow Storm

    At least I hope it's the last of the year, and it has been a corker. So far 12 cms. has accumulated and the wind is so strong that drifts are developing. We are back into the minus temperatures with a strong wind chill.The poor sparrows are almost being blown off the bird feeders!

We climbed to the top of this temple.

From the top looking across the plaza.

Wednesday, Feb. 26

   Our last stop in Belize was Belize City (not the capital as it is prone to flooding) and we came in by tender followed by a long, bumpy ride to Alton Ha. This site is a bit different from the others as it was ruled by priests and had many temples and burial mounds. It was also a commercial centre with two large plazas.

   After lunch and a nap another boat took us to a tiny atoll called Goff's Cay where we spent a couple of hours snorkelling. I was a bit apprehensive about trying it so opted for starting off on the beach - never did get out of my depth! But I got the hang of using the snorkel and was quite pleased with myself. The water a clear blue-green and I did see a few small fish. I will be more adventurous next time. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera so had to get a photo from the CD.
 

Goff's Cay
 
 
Thursday, Feb. 27
 
   Sailed overnight to Costa Maya, Mexico for our longest excursion yet -  2 1/2 hours by bus on bumpy roads, but it was well worth it. Kohunlich is quite an unusual site with huge carved masks set into the side of the temple. It was built around 400 AD and abandoned around 900AD. t was also the largest site we had visited so far. Its name refers to the nut palm "Kohun" used to thatch houses to this day.
   On the return ride we stopped at a cenote (sinkhole, formed when limestone is dissolved by an underground stream and the roof collapses in). We ate at a restaurant and had a quick dip in the pool. We had ceviche of shrimp and octopus, followed by fried and battered fish and other seafood, the first local food we have been offered and quite delicious. Dinner also included ceviche. There was a brief rain shower on the ride back to the ship but we were all snoozing anyway! Two interesting slide shows before dinner given by the "bird guy" and the "fish guy" - so many beautiful examples of local fauna.
 
This mask was about 4 feet tall.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Trip continued...

   We have had a most Spring like day today - I even sat outside without my jacket for a while soaking up the rays. However, more snow is forecast for tomorrow so winter is not over yet!

Monday, Feb. 23
   Arrived at Punta Gorda, Belize in the early hours and after breakfast boarded a tender for a very bumpy ride to shore. It was quite thrilling actually, although some on board were not impressed! We saw an iguana in the trees by the shore but no time to capture it on film.


A stella at Nimi-Li-Punit
   We visited two Mayan sites, Nimi Li Punit and Lubaantum, very quiet restful places and the weather was most pleasant. However, the roads there were extremely rough and bumpy. It is extraordinary how these sites were built, seemingly the stones were brought from a nearby river and carved to fit. One interesting location was a ball court where the Mayans played "pok-ta-pok", a game played with a large rubber ball and using only elbows, knees and thighs. Rumour has it that the winners were executed!



This is a quaint, rustic boarding house in Placencia. All the houses were painted pastel colours and had multi-coloured signs outside.


The Ball Court - most sites had one.


Back to the ship for lunch, buffet style, while the ship sailed up the coast to a small seaside resort called Placencia. Another tender ride to the dock and an hour or two browsing the shops - didn't buy anything - and wandering the beach. The sand was beautiful and the sea a light greeny-blue.  Gorgeous, the most Caribbean of the places we had so far visited. Belize used to be a British colony  so the official language is English. The toucan is its national bird, although we didn't see any.

Tuesday, Feb.25
   Overnight we once again sailed north to spend another  day in Belize at the Cockscomb Nature Preserve. The rainforest was very impressive but little in the way of wildlife to see except for some parakeets and a few paw prints in the mud. We had a long hike to a waterfall where we had a dip before heading back. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yes, that's me in the pool, cooling off after the hike!
 
Another lecture that evening on the Mayan to prepare us for the next day's site.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Before I Forget....

   I have been back from the cruise for over a week and details are becoming blurred so before it is all gone, I had better get things down.

Saturday, Feb. 22
  A very early start - the wake-up call from the limo company came at 4:15, 5 minutes after I woke, and we were on the road by 5:00 a.m. The flight to Miami took off and arrived on time and, after a short wait we were on our way to San Pedro Sulla in Honduras. We arrived there and were met by a local guide who rounded us all up and escorted us to a bus, where we waited for nearly an hour while she tried to locate someone's lost luggage. It never did turn up so there was a mountain of forms to fill out and other arrangements to make.

"The Yorktown" docked at Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala.
   Finally we arrived at the "Yorktown" , climbed aboard and quickly located our cabins - small but comfortable - and found our way around the ship. It is quite a small cruise ship - just 130 passengers. I was placed on the main deck, very close to the dining room. One deck up was the lounge, and above that the sun deck. First task was a safety drill, conducted by the captain, a visit to our "muster stations" and fitting the life jackets. Next dinner was served and most of us retired early after a long, busy day.

Sunday, Feb. 23
During the night we sailed to Guatemala and docked around 6:30 a.m. Soon after breakfast, we departed for an excursion to an old 16th Century Spanish fortress - "Castillo de San Felipe" - located on Lake Izabal, about 60 kms. inland. It was originally used to protect the area from pirates whose purpose was to intercept and capture ships loaded with cochineal ( a die made from insects). When cochineal became less valuable with the development of other die sources, the attacks stopped and the fort was abandoned around 1700. It was restored in 1960 and boasts some original and well preserved cannons from a British frigate that sank close by.
   We were back at the ship in time for lunch, a beautiful buffet spread. Of course, I had to try everything so headed for a nap afterwards. Later in the afternoon tea and sandwiches were served, followed by two lectures, one on the Mayans and the other on the geological formation of the Yucatan and how it influenced the development of the civilization of the area. More snacks were served when the bar opened around 6:00p.m. so by dinner time I was already half filled and had to cut back on the courses. I decided to be more selective in the future!!
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A Long Gap

   I feel very guilty about neglecting my blog for nearly two weeks but will gradually catch up over the next few days. Due to a mix-up with my medications (my own fault, I took a double dose of one drug and a half dose of the other!) I have had a recurrence of the symptoms from last summer and only today am feeling back to something close to normal. Luckily, this all occurred after I got back from my trip.

   It's still very cold and wintry here - morning temperatures in the minus double digits - so no relief in sight for more Spring-like weather. The snow remains stubbornly on the ground and we have even had a further accumulation this past week. It will be some time until we see bare ground and several weeks more until the ground is ready for planting. In the Prairies, they say, the ground is frozen to more than a metre's depth and it will be summer until it has thawed out, so we are luckier here.

   I hope to load the photos from my trip soon but here's one to be going on with. It was taken in Placencia, a little tourist town in Belize - all coral sand, blue sea and quaint little shops, bars and boarding houses (couldn't really call them hotels, they were too rustic). The photo was taken by one of the crew from the ship and included in a CD we got on disembarking.