Thursday, June 6, 2024

How Did That Happen?

It was Liam's 4th birthday this week on 4 June.  I no longer have a puppy, well really, I haven't had a puppy for a while. I'm starting to get puppy fever but with costs rising, two is all that I really can afford. Liam had his annual health check-up on his birthday and that visit with no shots was $125. 

After his vet visit, I took Liam shopping; we went to PetSmart for canned dog food and then to Pet Valu for him to pick out some birthday presents. The owner of that Pet Valu store has Liam's litter brother. Then it was home to celebrate with Teddy. 

I had made extra pupcakes when I made Teddy's, so it was just a matter of putting on some decorations, Greek yogurt and blueberries. They each got one after the requisite photos were done. Liam ate his whole; Teddy needed his broken up a bit. I think they both enjoyed them. 

We wait for so many things, holidays, vacations, the weekend and just like that they're over and we say "how did that happen?" We have to remember to take time and enjoy the now. 

Happy Birthday Liam, here's to many more!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Camping in Ontario

 We did a short camping trip to start the season but we hit three provincial parks. We went to Balsam Lake, Awenda and Emily. 

Balsam Lake was just a one-night stop as the drive to Awenda was too far for me to do in one day. I left home at 9:17 am and made it to Balsam Lake at around 3 pm. It wasn't a bad drive, but you get quite fatigued even with stops for gas and to stretch our legs. We had pull thru sites right near the bathrooms. At first, we couldn't figure out why so many people drove to the bathrooms, then we looked at the campground map. The two comfort stations in our loop were the only ones in the whole campground; of course, there were privies but no other showers or flush toilets. It didn't help that many people who did walk also brought their dogs up with them. I guess they thought, have to go for a walk, why not take the dog. But all in all, Teddy wasn't too bad, and it was only one night.

Balsam Lake

Teddy likes sleeping in the trailer

We were able to have a relaxing morning the next day as Awenda was only about a 2-hour drive. When I was posted to Borden, I'd always wanted to camp at Awenda but it was always full over the summer. We were in Hawk campground at the far end of the park. If you like cycling this would be a nice park, as it was, we were nearly 10 km from the beach. I had always read that Awenda was part of the Niagara escarpment, and it is, I thought that meant there would be views over Georgian Bay, but the tree canopy is so thick that there wasn't much of a view until you get right to the lake. 



Rocket at Awenda

Georgian Bay

I took the dogs down to the dog beach twice. The second time a thunderstorm was approaching, and it was Teddy who decided it was time to go. I got to the store for ice and was headed back to the campsite when it started pouring rain, the worst of it had stopped by the time I got back. We did lose power for a few hours though. The funny thing was that none of the park staff that drove around stopped to update us on the situation.

Liam does wade

Teddy loves wading

Liam would rather keep his feet dry.

The sites at Awenda were huge, if you're camping with other people, it's hard to get sites that are really close. We were camped near the central bathrooms. There was only one set of privies in the loop so some sites would be quite a hike to use the toilet. I don't know why they don't install some additional privies. The sites are well shaded with a canopy of oak and maple trees.

My site from the road.

Tree canopy

On our last day at Awenda, we drove into Penetanguishene. We walked the marina and went out to Discovery Harbour. Penetanguishene was a Royal Naval station, long before Canada was a country. Discovery Harbour was free for military veterans and very dog-friendly, so it made for a nice day out.  Since most kids were still in school, I think we were about the only ones there. All the reenactors were looking for something to do and gave us detailed accounts and demonstrations. We had to say no to seeing a musket firing as the dogs likely would have been quite upset by that. The dogs were allowed in all the buildings except the Officers' Quarters. I don't know if that's normal or if it was because we were nearly the only people there.


The town marina

Discovery Harbour

H.M.S. Temcumseth

The next day it was a short drive to Emily Provincial Park near Peterborough for two nights. Again, this was really just to break up the long trip back. We had no plans for Emily, but to relax. I took the dogs down to the see the campers beach and to the day use area that has a dog beach.

Dog beach

We're still batting a 1000 for setting up and taking down in the dry. We enjoyed all of our meals outside, didn't have to head to a restaurant once due to rain. I bought a new camp stove for this trip, no more naphtha or pumping up the old Coleman stove. I also got a propane fire bowl with Airmiles points, but we didn't use it on this trip, perhaps we'll use it for our one-night stops or if there's a fire ban during our long trip that starts next week.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

This is Me - Off to College

I said I'd hoped it wouldn't be another two years before I did the next installment. Well, two years are long gone; it's been four years since I wrote This is Me - School Days.

This week I was reading an article about a man who had a DNA test done and found out that a longtime friend was actually a distant cousin. He wrote that often we wait and don't ask our older family members about their lives and then that history is lost. And that got me thinking again about writing my story.

I am the oldest of six children, while my father only went to Grade 8, my mother went to Teacher's College, and they always told us if we wanted to continue our education, they would find a way. Being their first child, my parents had bought an education policy for me, kind of like a Registered Education Savings Plan but not government sponsored. I also only graduated high school with a junior matriculation rather than a senior matriculation, so the military paid for my first year of university. There still wasn't a lot of money so to save on boarding costs, I went to live with my mother's parents. I only applied to Dalhousie University in Halifax where they lived mainly for that reason and because it had a good medical school and undergraduate science programs.  

Yes, like many people I thought I wanted to be a doctor. The first year, that wasn't a big deal as everyone had to take a very general course load. My high school teachers had told us that university was harder than high school, so I wasn't at all surprised that my marks dropped. I still got all B and C's except in my calculus class. I did fine first term but it seemed like I missed a semester over the Christmas holidays, and I was lost. Luckily, they were two half credit courses, so I got a half credit of calculus and failed the second half. The same thing happened in Linear Algebra, I got an A+ in the first half credit and was totally lost in the second course. But I had my math credit for my degree.

At the end of my first year, I went home, to a new home. My Dad had been posted from St Margaret's to Chatham, bases which were only about 17 km apart. When I left for university, they were still living in St Mag's but moved to a married quarter in Chatham shortly after I left. My first time seeing the new place was at Christmas. It worked out well for me that we had moved to Chatham as I could apply to be a lifeguard at the town pool. I got hired and that became my summer job during university. 

We had to return to Halifax a little earlier than expected as my grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer. My second year, I took a number of biology credits, still leaning towards pre-med. Organic Chemistry and Molecular Biology did me in. At the end of my second year, I was only a half credit over having a failed year.  What it meant though was that I would need to do a fourth year to get all the credits I needed to graduate and med school was out of the picture. 

Third year, with the classes that I selected, I only had classes on Tuesday and Thursday during the first term. They were long days, I left for university probably around 8am and my labs ran from 7 to 10pm. But it gave me three days off a week for assignments, doing readings and working. I basically walked into the swim director's office at the YMCA and walked out with a job. Most lifeguards and swim instructors are students, and it was hard to find people who could work during the day. 

Early in my third year, my mother called one evening and said she was coming up to do some Christmas shopping, when she arrived, she asked my cousins and me if we had noticed anything about my grandmother.  One of the neighbours had called and told my Mum that my grandmother wasn't well. My grandmother was diagnosed with presenile dementia, the effects were like Alzheimer's, but the doctors said it came on too fast. Before I left to go home that summer, my grandmother had been moved to a nursing home and like my grandfather, she passed around the time I was to start my fourth year. My mother, her brothers and sisters decided they would keep the house in Halifax for a year to allow those of us living there to finish school or make other plans. At the time my grandmother passed, there were two of my cousins, my mother's youngest brother and sister and myself living at the house. 

I had a pretty easy fourth year academically as I just had a few credit requirements to complete. I took some geology courses that I quite enjoyed and some environmental science and ecology credits. I attended job fairs but there wasn't much out there for a just Bachelor of Science degree; most labs wanted either technologist's diplomas or Masters degrees. After I graduated, I went to the Canadian Forces recruiting office in Halifax; they were happy to accept me but told me I would have better luck getting in if I went to the recruiting office in Moncton, NB.

I enjoyed university; the one disappointing thing and it gets me every time I see a Kindergarten graduation, is that I didn't get to wear a mortarboard and flip the tassel at graduation. At Dalhousie, you are capped, they place the cap on the head of the graduate; only postgraduates wear the mortarboard.   A little thing but it bugs me to this day. 

Yes, at the beginning of my fourth year, my family had moved again. My father wasn't posted but his release from the Forces was coming up so he took his move to his IPR (Intended Place of Residence) a year early so that my two youngest sisters wouldn't have just a single year in a new high school. So, in Moncton, I went into the recruiting office and did all the enrollment testing to join the Forces as a Direct Entry Officer. I also went to the YMCA in Moncton to apply for a job, I wasn't as lucky there as I had been in Halifax. This was around the end of May or early June of 1980, gawd that sounds like such a long time ago.  I didn't have much luck finding work with my degree but knew I was already accepted into the Forces. In late Nov, I got the message from the recruiting office that I was to report for basic officer training in Jan 1981, I was enrolled in the Forces on 6 Dec 1980, but that's a story for another day.

I promise it won't be four years before the next installment of This is Me. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Camping Meal Preparations

Hard to believe on a day like today when it's barely above freezing that in less than a month, we'll be on our first camping trip. The first trip is to three Ontario provincial parks, and we'll only be gone just over a week. 

Our big trip is down to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We just finished doing all the bookings and we'll be gone a month. It was an adventure booking the Nova Scotia provincial parks as they lock the web site for the 15 minutes prior to the time reservations open, then you're assigned a random number that is your place in line to get onto the web site. The first morning we tried to book a park, my sister got in right away, and I had a five-minute wait. As a result of that reservation system, we didn't get any of the sites we wanted but we did get into all the parks we'd hoped to, except one, so we had to change our itinerary a bit. 

So, I've been doing a bit of meal prep, it makes it easier when you have part of the meal done. So far, I have made savoury breakfast muffins and egg bites. The muffins tasted delicious both warm and cold, the egg bites on the other hand will need some added flavour, maybe hot sauce. The muffins have sausage, onions and cheese. The egg bites are made three ways, bacon and cheese, basil and tomato and mushroom and onion.

Savoury Muffins

Egg Bites
I've also prepared some evening meals. I made Donair meat; I still have to make the sauce.  I've also made the filling for Quesadillas. The Donair loaf doesn't look attractive but with all the spices it sure tastes good. With the Donair meat, we've found when camping that Donair pizzas are easier than making individual Donairs. We use Naan bread for the crust, the Donair sauce as pizza sauce then Donair meat, tomatoes, onions and mozzarella cheese for the toppings. I'm thinking maybe I'll make some pulled pork too. That makes an easy supper, you can either do tacos or sandwiches and pulled pork freezes well. 
Quesadilla filling

Donair loaf
We do eat quite well when we're camping. Not all our meals are elaborate, sometimes it is just hot dogs and chips. Occasionally, we do eat in restaurants, especially if the weather is bad, but if you do that very often it gets expensive. 

I'll need to get my camping grocery list put together soon so that I don't forget any of the key ingredients for the meals. I once forgot the shrimp to make a Shrimp Sambuca. 

I sure hope the weather warms up in the next few weeks. Camping is not as much fun if it's too cold.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Total Eclipse

As most in North America know, we had the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse this week. Where I live, I wasn't in the path of totality but was in the partial eclipse area. At first, I thought that's okay we'll see something right? Well yes and no, without glasses you won't see much at all, if you're close to totality the light will change, and the temperature will drop but you won't see much at all. I'm sure am glad that I drove down to see the totality. It was awesome!

I was going to go to a campground that's pretty much straight south of me on the St Lawrence River called Riverside-Cedar but they had it gated off right at the highway so you couldn't get into the entrance parking lot. I had left home with plenty of time, so I decided to drive somewhat further east to the Long Sault Parkway, thinking I'd be able to park along the parkway. Nope, they had that blocked off too, but you were allowed to park and walk in and onto the parkway. I got one of the last parking spots as before finding a spot I decided to walk the dogs and when I got back to get my chair and jacket they were turning people away.

Just a word about dogs as so many posts said to leave them at home and to even close the drapes or shades so they wouldn't get anxious. Teddy and Liam didn't even seem to notice. They laid relaxed by me most of the time. The only thing that got Teddy excited was going in the water and cookies. During the totality they did start to bark but only because another dog was barking. I think if your dog showed anxiety, it would be because you took them to a crowded, noisy location.

Not looking at the sun!

The next thing that surprised me is that the sun is so bright, you never actually see the moon. When the eclipse started, that is when there was just a little bite out of the sun, I hadn't seen the moon at all. Even with the glasses all you see is a black shape in front of the sun. It's no wonder that primitive people thought perhaps the world was ending. As we got closer to totality, the light changed, and it started getting cool. I was glad to have the jacket to put on over my fleece.  Birds that had been warbling away, were now quiet. 

With just my cell phone camera I couldn't get any good shots. I tried with the glasses held up to the lens but all I got was a less brilliant sun. This shot was taken when we were getting pretty close to totality over 90%.

I hoped I would get a picture of the corona but even then, the cell phone camera just doesn't cut it. And I was so awed at the totality that I didn't think of zooming in or trying video. Totality was so cool, everyone cheered or oohed and awed. Not sure I saw Bailey's Beads, but I did see the Diamond Ring. That was spectacular. It's shortly after that you have to start wearing the glasses again. In the first picture below, you can just make out the moon if you enlarge the photo.

Cell phone picture of totality

Sunset in the afternoon, looking towards the Southeast

These next pictures were taken by a friend, who is a photographer and has good camera equipment. She was somewhere further east of where I was but like me was very close to the St Lawrence River.

It was magical, eerie, fantastic all at the same time, no picture you see will give you the same impression as being there. If you ever have the chance to see a total eclipse, it is certainly well worth the trip.