Sunday 31 March 2019

Life is good

I'm glad to be home, though I truly enjoyed my latest (and last, at least for awhile) vacation. It's time to get serious about getting this house ready for re-sale....and I'll get there after a good cleaning, more clear-up and those pesky repairs I need to do.  But in the meantime, there is catching up to do.  I've been watching the women's curling (which I PVR'ed) and the men's worlds event started yesterday.  Priorities right?

While I'm watching television, doing laundry and other housework, I'll share some of my photos from the trip.  Since this cruise took me to three of the islands I visited on the last cruise there aren't nearly as many!  But I did visit two new ports, returned to one I hadn't been to since 2011 (on my very first cruise), and I crossed off a bucket list item.  More on that later.

This is at least the third cruise I've done on the Crown Princess.  I love this ship for several reasons, but most of all for the aft pool (Terrace) that is adult only, quiet - no loud music at any time, has the Outrigger Bar, and is close to the buffet.  I always select a cabin close, and this time I wasn't more than 30 feet from the back stairs that lead up to the pool area.  It's my very favorite place to spend time in the sun, eat a meal, or have a drink.  
The photo to the right shows the aft while we were in Barbados.  At the top where the flag is flying is the Terrace pool area.  It's not large which means it never gets crowded, and above the pool is an area with tables and chairs for meals or simply relaxing when the deck chairs are full.

My room was on the next floor down, on the starboard (right) side of the ship.  I had an inside cabin again.  It was a standard room except there were two bunks on either side of the bed that could be brought down for additional guests.  Of course, I didn't need them but found I kept bumping into them as I got into bed.  Eventually I learned to go over the end of the bed but not before I got a couple of bruises!

 This was the view from the aft while prior to sail-away.  I believe that's the Harmony of the Seas (a Royal Caribbean ship) to the left and behind that is the Regal Princess.  It was a cloudy day with periods of sunshine but no rain. 

The bridge in the background is the 17th Street causeway bridge and you'll see it again later from the other direction.

This is the other pool that I spent time at, but not during the day!  The big screen is used to provide entertainment showing concerts and movies.  In the evening it is an outdoor movie theater. Many of the deck chairs have added pads, there are blankets (not really needed) and free popcorn is handed out.  I watched a few movies there, including The Green Book, Old Man and a Gun, and The Wife.  I also saw A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody on my flights, and one evening watch Ocean's Eight on my stateroom television.  Anyone who knows me well knows this is unusual as I normally don't have the patience to sit through a movie.  I enjoyed all of them, but must say that The Green Book was the best and deserved the Oscar win.

Also deserving of a reward was the pilot and crew of this Coast Guard helicopter.  On our second day at sea, a passenger had to be medivaced from the ship to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The crew on the ship drained both pools in the center of the ship in preparation, to allow a basket and the helicopter medic to be lowered onto the ship. That area was closed to the rest of the passengers but the Terrace was still open.  This photo was taken prior to the medivac and I chose not to stay to watch when they completed the mission. The helicopter circled the ship a number of times to get the speed correct as the ship continued to sail, albeit at a lower speed.  The precision is something to see, and I'm hopeful the passenger has made a complete recovery. 

 Back to sail-away!  Coming out the channel, we pass by some lovely (and I expect very expensive homes).  Often there are residents out waving good-bye to the cruise ships.

Further along this channel are two large apartment blocks.  I was disappointed to see that the giant hands that used to wave good-bye from one of the apartment balconies weren't there.  Perhaps the occupants were away that day or have moved.
 As the ship moves out to the ocean, we pass by the beach.  It has been on my bucket list for sometime to spend a day or so on the beach, and be there to wave good-bye to the cruise ships.  This trip I did it and you'll see the photos in a later post.  

Spoiler alert - the weather wasn't nearly as nice as the day we sailed. :(

One final photo for today, from the 16th deck look out to sea.  I believe that is the Harmony leading the way, but I'm not certain.  We had two days at sea before we reached our first port, St. Kitts.  I spent the time relaxing by the pool, reading, and wandering the ship.  Dinner in the evenings was spent with a lovely group of people, a couple from Coquitlam, B.C., a couple from New Hampshire, and an older couple from Florida.  The latter, Fred and Ruth, are their nineties, have sailed more than 600 days on Princess, but more importantly are Holocaust survivors.  They met in a camp when they were just teenagers.  Ruth escaped while Fred survived and they met again in France where they were married before emigrating to the U.S.  Both lost their entire families to the Nazis.  Despite the tragedies they've suffered, they are a truly loving and compassionate couple, both hilarious in their comments, and such fun.  They tend to win trivia games, a lot, so we were each gifted with a prize at our final dinner together.  I hope sometime to meet up with them again.

Life is good!  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I hope I never lose the feeling of wonder and excitement of travelling to different places and meeting a diverse group of people.  These experiences remind me that I am fortunate to live in the time and place I do while opening my mind to other experiences and ideas.

Have a great day everyone!

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Keeping busy

We're finally getting some decent weather, at the moment it is 2C.  Yes, it's above freezing here and though we have some snow in the forecast for tomorrow, it shouldn't be more than a centimeter.  I expect I'll see some melting off the overhang out front soon.  Can it be that spring is finally coming nearer? 

Perhaps!  My brother saw a pair of robins at the farm the other day, when it was still very cold.  He told me he imagined it was a couple, and she was ragging on her partner.  "It'll be fine, you said.  We'll get there early and get a prime nesting spot, you said.  The snow will be nearly gone and the bugs will be out, you said.  Why I ever listen to you, I don't know.  Sheesh!"  Sounds about right, lol.

I'm heading out on Saturday for even warmer weather.  I fly out to Fort Lauderdale, leaving Regina about 10 a.m. and arriving around 9 p.m. local time.  I'm staying at a hotel that offers shuttles from both the airport and the cruise port, as well as a free breakfast.  Normally, I'd have dinner the night of arrival at the nearby Moonlight Diner, but it will be closed by the time I reach the hotel. It's too bad because I enjoy the old fashioned decor of the diner.  I have a layover in the Toronto airport so I expect I'll grab a bite there to see me through til morning.  

The itinerary includes Antigua, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Martinique and Grand Turk (Turks and Caicos).  The latter two ports are ones I've never been to as yet, so am really looking forward to both.  The cruise is over 10 days, with 6 ports and three sea days.  That doesn't add up, right?  Well, that's because they include the day of arrival back in Fort Lauderdale.  Once we return, I've booked myself into a hotel for two days near the port.  It has been on my bucket list for many years to spend a couple of days at the beach so that I can wave at the cruise ships as they sail out in the evening.  Sounds weird, I know!  But I think it will be fun.  Plus I'll get photos from a totally different perspective.

Out of curiousity I checked to see if my fare had gone down since I booked, it has not.  In fact, if I had booked last minute, it would have cost an additional $500-600.  Yikes, no deals there!  The costs of the first hotel is a bit higher than I would have liked but I believe that was due to the timing as it is spring break for some places.  On the other hand, I used Airmiles for my hotel right on the beach, and what is normally a $400/night hotel (and well beyond my means) was under $100 for the taxes/fees for both nights.  The flights I booked through the cruise line were reasonably priced, no more than I've ever paid for a previous trip so I was happy.  Overall I'm close to my budgeted average cost per day.  I'll have to penny-pinch a bit on the cruise itself, no extra shopping!  

I think this is the last cruise until June 2020 but it may not be the last trip for the year.  A friend of mine (we met in university in the mid '90's) is currently living and working in Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories. She's there for a three term and will be retiring in January 2021.  Over time, she's accumulated several weeks of vacation, and while she and her husband do travel together frequently, he doesn't as much time available.  So she sat down and figured she could take 2 weeks off every 2-3 months, and decided that we need to do a girls trip in October 2019.  

She wasn't certain where she'd want to go, so I did a bit of research and made a few suggestions (including one cruise....are you surprised?).  Last night we chatted and she mentioned she also has access to a timeshare option in various locations because of their ownership of a timeshare in Aruba.  I did remind her the Caribbean would not be the place to go in October.  Too great of a chance of a hurricane!  She was going to review the materials she's received and see whether there was anything in particular that was interesting and a good price.  At this point, I'm don't know where we might be going or if she'll change her mind.  I will, however, start saving for a trip just in case.

Back at home, the Brier ended on Sunday with one of the best played draws I've seen.  Team Alberta, skipped by Kevin Koe, was the winner over Team Wildcard, skipped by Brendan Bottcher.  This is Kevin's fourth Brier title, this year with two new players on the team.  Brendan and his team also curl out of Alberta, and had to win their way into the Brier, since Koe won the provincials.  They got to play in the wildcard game based on points earned on tour.  The wildcard team have been together for three or four years and this is the second year in a row they've been in the Brier final.  Pretty damn good for a young team - the skip is 27!  I suspect this team will win the Brier one day, just not this year.  The game came down to the final rock in the tenth (and final) end.  Koe had a tough shot to get his deuce and Brendan's last rock, didn't make it easy for him.  But the shot was made and win was Team Alberta's.  They won every game they played through the tournament (12 in total) so the win was well deserved.  They will do Canada proud at the worlds.

The curling gives me lots of time to knit.  This is the scarf/shawl I've been working on.  I did a rough measurement last night and I've got about 12 inches more to knit.  That shouldn't take long to finish, but the rest of the week is busy so I may not get it done before I leave.

I've also started a baby sweater with the remaining yarn leftover from the blanket.  It is a crocheted, worked from the yoke down.  I've finished the yoke and have started into the body.  I may leave it for a bit, as I found a pattern for an Easter basket.  I have lots of bits and bobs of various yarns of similar weights so will use some of that for the basket.  While there may be enough of one color I think I'll do it in stripes...or maybe not, we'll see.

This is a close-up of the knitted pattern.  It's an easy, four row pattern so I think I've not made any obvious mistakes.  I have had to frog it back a few times when I've not been paying attention and have lost a stitch.  Each row ends slightly differently so it's pretty easy to figure out when I've made a boo-boo.

The rest of the week is going to be very busy.  While I've pretty much finished packing, that was done between curling games on Saturday, I have other things to do before I leave.  On Wednesday, I'm meeting my friend K for lunch.  She and her partner just returned from their latest cruise, and I have items from our December cruise to deliver to her.  We just haven't been able to connect as they've been away for most of the winter.  Lucky!  

I also plan to make a batch of buns and muffins to leave for my son.  I don't have to, he certainly won't be expecting me to do so, but Eli and D will also be here this week so I know they won't go to waste.  They arrive on Thursday after my morning nail appointment.  Eli is getting a much needed haircut and she has a doctors appointment in the afternoon.  I get to watch the little man while she's at her appointment.  On Friday, we have an appointment at the bank, and of course, I have dinner with friends in the evening.  We also need to get her taxes filed while she's here.  They'll stay until Saturday morning, and head home after dropping me off at the airport.  Yes, it's going to be a busy few days!

His mom took him to the library yesterday in Melville and with the nicer weather they walked.  He's wearing a harness and leash because he's a stinker and runs off when given the chance.  And yes, his feet really are that big!  He's got really wide feet and finding shoes to fit those feet is tough.  They picked up several books, some for each of them.  She also learned that the children's reading program is for children 3 and up, so it will be another year before he can attend.  In the meantime they've been doing lots of reading at home, and making various crafts together.  He's growing up so quickly!

On that note, I'd best get back to the housework that needs doing.  Have a great couple of weeks everyone.  

Thursday 7 March 2019

Making headway

Finally, we're getting some weather that is near normal temps for this time of the year.  In fact, I was able to open up the sun room on Tuesday afternoon!  The outside temp was -10C (14F), but with the sun the ambient temp inside the sun room was just above the freezing mark.    

I had two very happy cats!  Sasha especially loves to spend time out there with the sun on his fur warming his old bones.  

The room needs a good cleaning, since it's been sitting all winter but I'm not nearly as enamoured about spending time out there just yet. The floor is cold, and I don't curl up quite as well as a cat. :)  The cleaning can wait for a couple of weeks yet.

The curling continues this week with the men's Brier, being held in Brandon Manitoba. That's given me lots of time to work on my crocheting and knitting projects.  I've finished the table runner, though I plan to add a backing to it so it's currently sitting on my sewing table.  I did however, finish this:
This is the cat bed I mentioned.  It took one skein of Bernat blanket yarn, and because it is such a bulky yarn it made up very quickly.  I had thought I would knit it, but this pattern (crochet) was so simple, I went with it instead. I did end up ripping it back because the center wouldn't lay flat.  I realized I'd added an extra stitch (or two or three) at some point that was messing me up but once I figured that out, it was done in just a few hours.  I like those kind of projects!

I have enough yarn to make a second but will leave it for now, as Sasha never uses a cat bed.  Saku will though and within minutes of my setting it on the floor, he was curled up in it.  Later, that evening, he even took a nap in it.  So while it seems a little small to me, it's apparently "purrfect" for him. 

You would think with all the projects I've been working on, I'd be close to using up the yarn stash.  You might think that but you'd be wrong.  I had no idea how much yarn I had packed away.  It will be some time before I get through it all!    

I wasn't certain what to start on next, so I went to the bin and pulled out a couple of balls of yarn.  After a search on the internet I found a pattern using that specific yarn and only needing two balls.  What I'm making is a scarf/shawl with a lacy pattern.  It's a bit fussy so will take some patience and some time.  Pictures will come later when I have a bit more completed.

On Wednesday I made a run out to our new Costco store.  It opened in late November and is a bit of a drive further out of the city, where it used to be a few short blocks from home.  I didn't go often, but I will likely go even less now.  But they had a few items on sale, that I wanted to pick up including pull-up diapers for Eli, chicken breasts, and flour.  As is the case with Costco, I ended up buying other items, hot dog buns and hot dogs, and I forgot to buy flour.  Oh well, I'd made two dozen buns and a batch of muffins on Monday, so I really don't need the flour just yet.

Not much else happening here.  My purging of household items has slowed, though not completely, as I keep identifying items that I no long need or want.  The decision then is, whether I keep for one of my adult children or if it goes in the donate bin or the trash.  I'm really enjoying this because as the items are leaving, the house is getting easier to keep clean.  Go figure!

Retirement has also brought on a couple of other welcome changes.  I'm sleeping far better than I was before.  I used to wake up two or three times a night, and on occasion lay awake for sometime; now most often I sleep for a solid eight hours.  It's wonderful!  Today I even slept through C leaving for work - normally I would have heard the garage door open and close. 

I'm always eating much more healthily.  I have time to plan and cook evening meals (I think I probably had time but I was too lazy) and when I'm on my own I actually take the time to make something and sit down at the table to eat and enjoy it.  Add in the extra activity of working around the house and I've actually lost 8 pounds.  The difference wouldn't be noticeable to anyone but me, but I can feel the difference in how my clothing fits.  (Not enough that I need to rid myself of any more clothing.)

Basically, things are chugging along here.  That's a good thing.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Saturday 2 March 2019

Welcome March

Despite the change to the calendar, March hasn't yet been any kinder to us than February was.  It's cold, yet again -31C this morning, and that is before the wind is factored in.

Yesterday morning was much warmer, thankfully, as snow had fallen overnight.  I was out early clearing the driveway.  Glad I did as the temperature began dropping throughout the day.

There is some relief in the forecast, but it will be several weeks yet before spring truly arrives here.  In the meantime, I'm looking forward to my next getaway in mid-March.  

It's been a busy week, as I drove C to and from work Tuesday through Thursday.  We had cleared out the Cobalt on Monday, and he got the news on Friday we were expecting, the car has been written off.  Tuesday, after work, we headed to a car dealership to test drive a Toyota Corolla.  The test drive went well, so after a bit of discussion on tires and block heaters, we met with the finance guy and completed the paperwork for a car loan.  C got the word on Thursday the loan had been approved, and I drove him to the dealership after work to finalize the purchase.  He is now the proud owner (or partial owner since the bank still owns most of it), a 2017 Toyota Corolla.  I drive an older model, a 2007 that I purchased from the same dealership back in 2010.  It's been a very reliable vehicle, so I'm hopeful C's will prove to be the same.  

Meanwhile at home I kept busy with my chores, my projects, and bit more packing.  I've nearly finished the baby blanket, just ends to be woven in, complete the edging, and block it.  I'll tuck it away for the next baby as I have no one in particular in mind...I just had the yarn.

Next up, I want to crochet a cat bed.  I found several free patterns on the internet and I bought the yarn at least two years ago with good intentions!  It's quite thick yarn so it should work up quickly.

On Friday, I met a friend for lunch.  We met nearly 42 years ago, and have kept in touch throughout the years, generally through Christmas cards and more recently, through Facebook.  I think the last time we actually saw one another was likely 15-20 years ago.  It was great catching up with her!

Later in the evening, there were just two of us for the Friday night dinner as four of the group are currently in sunny Jamaica.  We had a good visit, with a wide range of topics, before I headed home to watch the wildcard game of the Brier.  Yes, there's more curling!!

Today is a big day for this little guy.  Eli turns two today.  I had thought I might drive out for a visit but with the cold weather, decided against it.  I called this morning for a video chat just before 7.  He immediately grabbed the phone from his mom and took me up to his playroom.  While D and I chatted he showed off his mini-trampoline skills.  Then he headed back downstairs. Thankfully, his mom had the phone because he likes to slide down on his's a race to the bottom.

Next up I was introduced to his new toys, a talking Elmo, a talking Chase (this was my contribution) and a talking Octopus.  I confirmed with D that none of these toys were coming to G'ma's house.  :)

I snagged this photo off D's Facebook account.  He's watching his favorite program Paw Patrol, while enjoying his juice.  D said he's had his breakfast, a bowl of cereal and she's mixed up a batch of cinnamon buns as a special treat.  I'm sure he'll have a wonderful day, and I'll see him when they are here in mid-March.  We'll celebrate his birthday then too, though I'm sure he has no real clue what it is all about!

Have a great weekend everyone!  I'll be hibernating, watching curling, and working on my projects.  Sounds good to me.