Monday, October 17, 2016

Sweating it Out

Summer is officially over.  The sun knows it and has started to take a little time off by rising later and setting earlier.  The trees know it and they are dropping acorns, pecans and leaves.  The  kids know it because they are back in school.  Saturday afternoons and nights know it because now they include college football.  I do love fall, even the air outside turned from hot and humid to mild and much less humid.... for a few days.  This got my hopes up that fall was legitimately here.  I fall (pun intended) for this evil trick every year, I should know better by now.  Fall (weather) does not truly arrive in Houston until well after Halloween in spite of all the traditional signs....silly me.  Shorts and tank tops it is....with boots.

Re-entry this year has gone smoother than usual. The first week home was spent bonding with all of the things I miss while we are at the farmhouse.  Things like my daughter, son-in-law and beautiful grandson,  my house, my golf group, and all the traffic on the freeways. Usually, after a few days of unpacking and moving back into my house I find myself wondering why I'm here and not still up there.  This year I know I am right where I should be, in spite of the weather.  Yes, I may complain about the weather in every would too if you lived here.

Look who came over for dinner!
Something else in the air, other than heat and humidity, has been love.  We are at the age where all of our kid's friends and our friend's kids are getting married.  Over the last month or so we have been to two weddings and one engagement party and are heading to another wedding this weekend and two more are on the horizon for next spring.  With all these weddings and lovely young couples I find myself somewhere in between feeling ancient and inspired.  There were two "close to home" experiences at the recent weddings.  At the first one, the gospel reading was the same one read at our wedding 38 years ago.  I was verklempt to say the least.  I elbowed TJ as soon as the priest started reading the passage,  Matthew 5:13-16 and when the priest mentioned in his homily that maybe someday, 25 (or38) years from now, the couple might elbow each other when they heard the same reading at another wedding, I was a goner.  The second "close to home" moment was when my nephew and his mother danced their first dance to the same song my son and I danced to 5 years ago at his wedding.  I just love weddings!  Can't wait until this weekend and another family wedding!

The most recently married couple and the longest married couple at the wedding.
Makes me feel happy...and old.

Finally, in a totally unrelated and random topic but still something that makes me sweat ....
Being back in the states preceeding this election has been surreal and unsettling.  I keep waiting for someone to say, "joke is over...gotcha" and present candidates with vision and principles....honesty and ethics would be nice too, liberal and conservative.  Unfortunately, my jaded view of politics is only being confirmed.  I just want to be able to vote for someone I am proud to vote for.  How did we get here?  Ugh!
And that's all I have to say about that.  Have a great week and enjoy the fall weather!

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Quickie Goodbye

How fast can I write a blog post?  I have a little "found" time and before I leave the velvety, crisp, clear air of Nova Scotia I thought maybe I would knock out one last blog post.  It can be done.....go!
Sunrise, sunset or just the middle of the day, I will miss this sky!
The kitchen is clean, the fridge is clean and rid of all summer foods, the floors are cleaner than they have been or will be for a year, windows covered, grass mowed, patio furniture sadly stored away for another 8 months, and the garden is mocking me by producing mass quantities of luscious red tomatoes.  I never manage to have the stamina to stay through tomato season up here.  TJ will be back for a few days to savour their deliciousness, so no garden raiding just yet people!  The end is here, I must tear myself away and say "goodbye" until next year.
But first, a delicious breakfast!
It was a great summer, one of the best if you are talking about weather.  It was also a summer of celebrations from newly engaged couples, to weddings, to big "0" anniversaries and significant birthdays, we partied!  We had new visitors to the shore and most of the regulars.  Two of our daughters were unable to make it this summer and we really missed them... next year it!

Never get tired of this sky!!!
I look over my pictures of the summer and am amazed at how much we did and how many lovely days we enjoyed.  It is truly a blessing to have a place like this, it never gets old and we never take it for granted.  Yesterday I took my last air conditioned run and wished I could bottle up the view and the air and bring it home with me.  My ourdoor exercise will now be through a neighborhood that has houses crammed close together with no view of the sky in 90 degree humidity for at least another month.  But yes, I am ready to go back.  Remind me of this later next week, I WAS ready!
Look!  We have a street sign...
and me....
trying to make a sad face after my run.
Bye Farmhouse.....I'll see you next year!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Jiminy Crickets!!!

One of the most unusual phenomena of September has got to be the invasion of the crickets!  Who knew this was a thing??  I did a little Internet research and found this information, which very accurately explains why so many crickets this year.  Glad we had a lovely, warm, dry summer and glad we had that much needed rain but I could really do without the crickets!!!

Dry summers cause cracks in the ground, which gives crickets plenty of room to lay their eggs.
Once the moisture hits, those eggs hatch.
The little harbingers of evening are everywhere and they chirp ALL DAY LONG!  It is driving me mad!  I had no idea crickets appeared any other time than evening in the summer.  Their chirping was always a signal that it was time to go home when we were kids playing outside in the neighborhood.  I can only assume they are now a signal that it is, once again, time to go home.  Inevitably one...or ten get into the house and start chirping.  My quest is to find them and smash their little bodies into silence.  Finding them is not an easy task for a person who only hears with one ear.  Stereo hearing would be very helpful in locating the little buggars.  I'm like a crazed woman stalking the incessant chirping every night before I go to bed.   No crickets all summer and then Labor Day came and bam!  Crazy chirping crickets by the thousand... all chirping their little legs off and telling me it is the evening of another summer.  Time to go home...before I go mad!

Rain shower responsible for the birth of a million crickets?!
I used to love September.  It was a month of beginnings, hellos, new adventures, anticipation of the "year" ahead.  The past couple of Septembers have been much different.  Labor Day is a sad day up here, at least for me.  It is the weekend we say goodbye to all of our summer friends.  The last weekend of our idyllic exisitence together.  The shore gets very quiet and lonely after Labor Day, unless you are a cricket.  There are a few of us still bumping around enjoying what seems like the most lovely days of the summer.  I  will go home, eventually.... and try to cobble out my old life.  It will be bumpy because it just isn't socially acceptable to wear workout clothes all day and there is no grass to mow and no vegetable garden right outside the back door, no beautiful sunsets and cocktail hour every day at 4 is probably not going to happen.  September is now a month of goodbyes.  It is a month of closing things like the cottage and the farmhouse, my least favorite part of our summers up here.

Not wanting to close on a downer note, I'll leave you with a few September photo gems, because September really is a lovely month up here...even if there are a million chirping crickets annoying me while I clean the fridge out and pack my bags.

It's a month of happy flowers!

I can pick this many cherry tomatoes every day.
 There are almost as many cherry tomatoes as crickets!

Not a bad day for mowing!

And if you are lucky, you get to visit Prince Edward Island
find this cool rock, and take silly pictures!
September isn't too bad after all!

Just please make the chirping stop!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Goodbye Brain

Before I begin, I love all of my sisters.  There is one though, with whom I share a brain, and it is the eve of her departure.  I am a bit sad to say the least.  I would feel sad if any of my sisters were leaving and they were the last to leave, but I am particularly sad for this departure...this year.  It signifies the beginning of the end.  The end of another magical, mystical, summer at the shore.  The end of long nights spend playing cards, watching the Olympics...or trash TV, doing the dishes after a delicious meal or just hanging together.  It is the end of having someone who "gets me" around whenever I need/want.  There aren't many people who just get you... look around.  She is the other half of my brain..the end of my sentence, the yin to my yang and since we live apart most of the year, being together for a month has been awesome!

Tonight we met on the beach, after her hellish day of cleaning, packing and detaching.  The clouds were perfect, the breeze was cool and sweet and the sun was setting.  She is a beach person and this was her last hurrah!  We then high tailed it to the farmhouse to take in the rest of the sunset.  It was bitter sweet.  I noticed how far the sun has moved on the horizon and it reminded me that the end is near.  Before I know it, I will be the one having that hellish day/week of cleaning and packing and disengaging and there will be no sisters to say goodbye to me and no one will miss me the way I will miss her when she leaves.  It will just be the end.  So, goodbye Brain!  It has been another great summer!  Thanks for the memories!
It just won't be the same....

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Martha or Mary?

 Martha had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” (Luke 10:39-42).

I realize this reading has deeper, more spiritual meanings but as a woman, wife and mother I revert to the simplest translation.... Martha is doing all the work and Mary is having all the fun.  I want to be Mary but find myself in the role of Martha many times.  It is a gift to be able to host gracefully, without stress or resentment and still be able to enjoy the "good part".  The trick is balancing both.

Afternoon lobster feast, enjoying the good part!
Every summer I am reminded of this story about Martha and Mary.  With a large family and so many friends and relatives around for the summer there is always the challenge to balance being a good host and enjoying the guests.  I tell myself I will not worry about doing "all the work", instead I will focus more on the people around me.  Every summer I inevitably have a Martha moment.  This feeling usually comes after a long day or longer night and is the result of too little sleep brought on by too much socializing.  I'm my own worst enemy.

We are lucky here because the communal nature of this place spreads the work load.  There are definitely times when the hosting duties fall heavily on one person or one family but there are also times when it is spread around and everyone has a chance to entertain and be entertained.  It is one of the things about this place that makes it so special.  Everyone is willing to pitch in and help with the hosting duties allowing everyone to enjoy good conversation and time together.

All the Marys and Marthas....Mikes and Jims of the shore.
It is easy on the host when everyone helps out.
There is never a problem enjoying the "good part" either!
I think of the lessons our children learn by being part of this dynamic.  They learn to share their fruits and pitch in by helping with the cooking, serving and cleaning because that is what everyone around them does.  They learn to sit and talk to people in a social setting.  They learn to take their turn being a guest and being a host.  We all want to sit and enjoy like Mary but there is no meal without Martha.  Both roles are important and valuable.  Balance is the key.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Simple Pleasures

July snuck by with only one blog post.  It's hard to sit at a computer and put together coherent thoughts if you don't first sit down at a computer.  These are the weeks that are made for family, friends and outdoor fun. While the world around us seems to have lost it's collective mind, here at Amherst Shore, Nova Scotia the days have been filled with simple pleasures and perfect weather.  It's no wonder I haven't spent time wracking my brain to come up with a great summer blog post.  I've been busy living a great summer.

No politics please, we are busy living a great summer!
One evening, back in July, I sat on our deck waiting for TJ to drive back from the airport and thought to myself how perfect it has been to be here, away from the television filled with bad news, controversy and politics. I've always said being here is like taking a giant step back in time to a simpler life.  Spotty Internet connections and cottages without televisions allow us to disconnect and just live.  How long has it been since you just lived?  I sat on the deck waiting and made a mental list of all the simple pleasures here that help bring us all back to life!

I look over the pictures I've taken so far this summer, relatively fewer than in past years, and they are photos of people playing games, the beach, sunsets, the natural beauty that surrounds us here and the smiling people we love.
Who needs/wants to sit at the computer with this outside?
The bird feeder outside my window is full of finches and a line of hungry customers waiting their turn.  There is a little squirrel who eats his evening chestnuts on our steps every day and seems totally unafraid of humans.  The hummingbirds helicopter back and forth to the feeder on the window like giant bugs.  There is the sound of cars on the nearby road, far away enough to not ruin the peace but close enough to let us know we are not alone.  These are the sights and sounds that surround me as I make my mental list.
get in line!

snacking on chestnuts
Simple pleasures are all around us here, from hanging sheets on a clothesline to dry in the breeze to picking fresh strawberries at the U-pick up the road.  Making a least at our house, involves first going out into the garden and harvesting the lettuce, washing it, tearing it and putting it in the crisper early enough in the day to be crisp by dinner time.  I take pleasure in watching the fields along the road change colors over the summer from bright green to dark green to light yellow to deep gold by the end of the summer letting me know the days of summer are coming to a close.  There is nothing more peaceful than sitting in the sun room with the windows open and the breeze blowing through the curtains and dozing off on the sofa while reading a book.  Simple pleasures of the shore.

The things we do with other people are simpler up here.  Most days begin with exercise either on the front lawn or on the road walking, biking, boot camping (not me but I've heard it exists) or inside doing yoga.  There is no trip to the gym and no fancy equipment.  Later, we all migrate to the beach to visit, walk on the sandbars, watch the kids play, and swim (again,not me, unless you call wading up to my knees swimming).  There have been days that we all want nothing more than to stay on the beach until night because it is so pleasant and peaceful.  Dinner can wait...right!?

There is also the annual bonfire and hot dog roast when we really do get to stay on the beach until night and no one really has to worry about dinner.  This year the evening was about as perfect as they get with clear skies, sandbars out and bugs non existent...which never happens.  There is nothing better than a hot dog roasted over an open fire sprinkled with the tiniest bit of sand!  Simple pleasures!
I love it when my husband cooks dinner!
One of the nicest afternoons recently was spent on the front lawn of a cottage playing bingo and celebrating 50 years of the Koolaid Kids at Amherst Shore.  This group of kids raises money every summer for charities benefiting other kids in the area.  While the kids at the beach are on their vacation they meet every Tuesday morning and have held various fundraisers over the years like walk-a-thons, the ever profitable bottle drive at the end of the summer (because we drink a lot!), kid auctions, selling liquid refreshment during our annual games weekend, and this year the lovely bingo coffee house afternoon complete with 50 years of trivia, fresh baked treats, and a giant koolaid pitcher shaped cake to celebrate 50 years of kids helping kids.  It was simple (except for the planners I'm sure) and enjoyed by all! 

"I-21".....what you say in an American bar!  "O-67"  the koolaid kids began in 1967!
Great job Koolaid Kids!

I've swept the floor, cleaned the table and countertops, emptied the dishwasher, picked and cleaned lettuce, made lunch, cleaned out the refrigerator, planned dinner and changed into my bathing suit while I have been working on this post...all the while determined to finish.  No wonder I haven't posted anything in a month!  Enjoy living your summer life!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Winter in Africa

I wanted to cry when we left Cape Town.  Through all of my travels I don't think I ever felt this way leaving another destination.  What was it about that place that brought tears to my eyes and left a hole in my overwhelmed heart?  I have been grappling with this question ever since we returned.  I thought I should not write about the trip until I sorted out my feelings.  I may never sort them out, so I'll write anyway.  It is one of the most interesting and beautiful places I've been.  Maybe the reason I was sad to leave was chances are I will never visit again and there is so much more I would have liked to seen and done.

I always thought of Africa as a warm continent.  Silly me!  Arriving the week of the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere proved me wrong!  I had planned for chilly and possibly wet weather but not cold weather.  We arrived to pouring rain and 5C/40F temperatures.  As if the weather weren't enough of a challenge, after 28 hours of travel we/TJ was challenged with driving on the left side of the road!  We carefully navigated our way out of the airport through the driving rain to our Airbnb apartment.
The view at lunch was breathtaking
The apartment was lovely aside from a few missing amenities.  I don't consider myself "high maintenance", I can tough it out most times but toughing it out on the vacation of a lifetime was not on my agenda.  We found out our apartment did not have heat, Internet or a hair dryer (maybe I am high maintenance).  I was still not feeling the love for Africa.  The temperature inside was only slightly warmer and less windy than outside!  No exaggeration!  I am sure it would have been lovely in the summer but it wasn't summer...not even close.  We quickly realized we had not packed enough fleece!  We both wrapped up in our warm clothes and the available blankets and took a little nap.

Just warming up!
After our frigid nap we just had to get out of the apartment to someplace warm.  What better place than a winery!  Through rain and wind and driving on the left we found the closest winery for a little tasting.  Delicious!  Scenic, probably....if we could have seen higher than mid mountain.  The main thing was it was heated!  Dinner later that night was lovely and even interesting thanks to the sommelier who gave us tons of recommendations for our wine country visit later in the week.  OK...I'm warming up to this place.  We slept in all of our clothes, under all of the blankets in the apartment, while watching our exhausted breath float into the air above us.

The next morning my very perceptive husband made reservations at a hotel with heat, Internet and a hairdryer!  We chipped the ice off our suitcases and moved on to warmer accommodations.

The itinerary for day was the Cape of Good Hope and Chapman's Peak!  Luckily, we woke up to sunshine!  I just knew things would look so much better in the sun and I was right.  The view was lovely and there was hope and anticipation in my heart.  We headed south and with every turn my eyes opened wider and wider with awe.  What a beautiful country!

Boulders Beach
Penguin beach
The day continued to get nicer and nicer and I got happier and happier!  I made TJ stop for scenic overlooks and photo taking.  I made him climb to the top of rocky cliffs and lighthouses.  He was always accommodating, even though he really does not like heights.  It was one of the best travel days ever!  We saw things I had only read about and dreamt of seeing.  We drove Chapman's Peak, one of the most beautiful drives in the world and arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset.  I was falling in love with each turn in the road.

Photo stop!

Let's hike up there!
The view at the top is always the best!

Obligatory tourist photo!
Traveling during the off season proved to be a good thing.  There were enough other tourists to make things interesting but not so many that we had to wait in a line for anything.  Unlike last year when we went to Croatia in the off season!  Off season = cold weather.  We are going to have to try to travel in the shoulder seasons sometime and experience moderate weather and crowds.

Chapman's Peak deserves it's own blog if you ask me but I'll spare both of us.  If you are Canadian, think Cabot Trail only shorter.  I can't thank my husband enough for doing all of the driving and missing out on every view because he was so focused on staying in between the lines and on the correct side of the road.  I think the reason he was always willing to pull over for a photo op or just to gawk at the scenery was to get a break from driving, which suited me just fine.
Definitely worth pulling over
We caught the golden hour

The next few days were just as perfect.  We went to the top of Table Mountain, went on a safari...and froze, drove through mountains, valleys and vineyards, and passed poor townships on the outskirts of the city framed by the ever present mountains on the horizon.  We visited lush wineries and tasted many delicious wines.  We ate tasty meals which cost us very little with the US dollar worth so much in this country.  Every day left me wanting more.
Isn't he handsome?!
I could post about 100 pictures of amazing scenery, it was just that beautiful!  If you want to see them click here!  We met many kind people along the way.  Every night we used Uber as our transportation to dinner, because really how much driving on the left can one man be expected to do?!  All of our drivers were fantastic!  We were also a curiosity as Americans, they all said they wanted to come to America.  This was different than most other countries I've visited.  Usually we are not looked on so favorably.  I admit, most of the people I talked to were in service roles... waiters, drivers, shop keepers, caddies, the people at the wineries and the occasional random traveler.  People were sincere,  helpful, smiling and happy to chat.

I found myself wishing I had not been warned about the dangers of the cities we visited.  I wanted so much to not be on my guard.  I tried to walk with trust and confidence and just enjoy taking in the sights.  It was difficult because TJ was on high alert most of the time which bled into my psyche.  I want to visit this country again someday and be safe and free to explore.  We were perfectly safe traveling through the national parks or hiking or visiting wineries,  I just wanted to be able to walk the city streets in the evening after dinner and that just could not happen, which is very sad.  There was so much more to see.

There is obvious disparity between the haves and have nots in South Africa.  Such a beautiful country on the outside but if you look closer there is crime, poverty, and struggle.  The people live surrounded by rich natural resources and beautiful landscapes and I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to wake up in such an amazing place!  The townships at the foot of some of the most majestic mountains in the world are incongruent.  The country is evolving and still has a long way to go before things are right.  One thing that is indisputable, they live in one of the most breathtaking places I've have been blessed to visit.
Unedited panoramic view,
how could I not fall in love?

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