Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WHERE I'VE BEEN

Hey there folks! Been a little absent from this site for a while. My apologies. I will have to Google "Blog" to see what I am supposed to do here. Anyway, we were in Mexico for a week at the end of February/beginning of March and it was fantastic and then after that I just kinda laid around wishing I was on a Mexican vacation. It didn't help that we're one day away from Easter, a week after it officially turned Spring and it was still -24C with the wind chill this morning and there's still more snow around here than the last three winters combined. On the positive side, I've invested heavily in canoe manufacturers and trash pump companies in advance of the impending floods and that'll pay off as soon as, or IF, the temperatures get anywhere close to where they're supposed to be. So have a look at the last few articles I've thrown together and, yes, of course, there's some Mexico vacation stories but you'll have to look for them. Thanks for stoppin' by. Come back again real soon.

YOU CALL THIS SPRING??!!


             The calendar says it's spring. The earlier sunrises and later sunsets say it's spring. The seventeen foot snowdrifts and the super cold temperatures tell me that we're still up to here in winter. Calendar be damned! When will it end!?

A long time ago, before I had to worry about adult-type stuff like insurance policies or house damage or sewer back-ups or flooded communities and everything, my largest springtime worries were about raft supplies and avoiding getting a “bootfull” of runoff slush and water in my red-toed boots. Apparently, getting a “bootfull” was a child’s equivalent of committing murder, or something, because if you ever came home with a “bootfull” you’d be getting a lickin’ or, at the very least, a heck of a tongue lashing, depending, of course, on which parent met you at the door. I know now that it wasn’t the fact of getting your pants, socks and boots soaked with ditch water that was the problem; it was that you were told to NOT get those things wet and you still went ahead and did it anyway. That was the problem!

Aw, the innocence of youth, eh? The “Fun Quotient” was everywhere and in everything from the freezing cold water, to the mud, to the slushy snow and ice everywhere. There was adventure wherever you turned. In adulthood those adventurous elements of youth turn into threats to your property.

You know, back in my growing up days in the 1960’s and ‘70’s the snowfall levels that we have experienced this year were pretty much run-of-mill as were the high spring runoff water levels. In fact, one particular year, when we were living in a little hamlet north of Moose Jaw called Marquis, we had an unusually early quick melt that had the water standing everywhere and then the temperatures dipped well-below zero which turned the whole community into one huge skating rink. Now that was just about every Canadian kid’s dream come true.

Our whole humongous school yard was one sheet of ice which came in real handy for us hockey playing fanatics as the early thaw had left the indoor rink’s ice virtually unplayable and the streets were so rutted and frozen that there was no way you could play any street hockey so we were awfully happy when the whole community turned into a giant arena. It was great! You weren’t interrupted by cars wrecking your snow-pile goal posts and you didn’t have to sneak in to the rink through the snow hatches to steal a few hours of mostly-dark indoor hockey and you could skate and skate and skate all over town without a rink caretaker screaming at you.

But that was then and this is now. I am not quite so excited to see our community turned into a complete ice rink regardless of how many children it makes happy. Funny how one’s perspective changes over time, isn’t it?

As anxious as I am to get this overly-long winter over with I am hoping that it takes its sweet time and eases into some warmer temperatures so we aren’t living the “Big Flood of 2011” all over again in 2013. Once every fifty or so years is good enough for me.

“Funny how life goes on but leaves marks on our lives; this time of reflection certainly brings the happiest memories with a dash of sadness.” Tammi Post quotes.

OUT OF THE MOUTHES OF BABES


Our Grandson is turning four-years-old in a few weeks and his little sister is one-and-a-half-years-old right now and she idolizes her older brother. She bugs him incessantly, mind you, but she idolizes him. She follows him everywhere and copies everything he does. Actually, she might even think she’s a boy, too. Case in point: their Mom was getting them ready for a bath one night and little Ava, naked as a Jaybird, sidles up to the toilet bowl and makes like she’s going to go pee so her Mom snatches her up and puts her on the seat (she hasn’t started potty training yet) and little Ava scowls and fights to get down from her perch and then her Mom sees what she’s trying to do…Ava turns, facing the toilet, trying to go to the bathroom through her belly-button because she’s smart enough to know she doesn’t have the same equipment as her brother but she’s pretty sure he goes pee standing up so she must be able to do that, too. Kids, eh?

One of the many great things about Grandparenting is that you get to re-live some of the “kids do, (or say), the darndest things”. I say re-live because there are some cute and funny things that you remember your children saying as they were growing up but it’s not nearly as fresh as listening to the little ones in the moment.

Another case in point is just before we were to leave on our hot holiday vacation we FaceTimed with our daughter and the Grandkiddies and it’s cute that we can see each other in the iPhone but the sound is iffy some of the time and near the end of the conversation my wife tells the kids that we will make sure we bring them back some “Sea Shells” from our holiday by the sea. Well, our Grandson, Treyton, doesn’t know what “Sea Shells” are, but he says “okay”, and then a little later, just before we’re hanging up he yells into the phone, “don’t forget the CHEESE SHELLS, Gramma!”

So in that vein I will share some other cute little children stories with you. Enjoy:

“While walking through the mall the other day my three-year-old son said, “Mama, is this the mall?”

“Sure is,” I replied and then he stopped in his tracks and said (with arms waving and a funny British accent), “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most beautiful of the-mall?”

I started laughing and he said, “No, really, Mama who is the most beautiful?”

“At age five our granddaughter, upon seeing airplane tailings in the sky, asked me if God minded having those scratches across his sky.”

My five year old daughter told my husband this morning that “It’s easy to raise kids, you just lift up them.”

Says a Mom to her three-and-a-half-year-old: Mom-“Trey, just a second!” Trey-“What’s a second?”

Three year old Jack was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked, “Mom, why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?”

Brittany, (age four), had an ear ache and wanted a pain killer. She tried in vain to take the lid off of the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap and she’d have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: “How does it know it’s me?”

Five-year-old Melanie asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn’t remember any more. Melanie said, “If you don’t remember you must look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six.”

 

“The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.”-Mark Twain (1835-1910).

THE MARIETA ISLAND EXPERIENCE


From Wikipedia: "The Marieta Islands were originally formed many thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, and are completely uninhabited. The islands are about an hour long boat ride west-northwest from the coast of Puerto Vallarta and are visited daily by hundreds of tourists, yet no one can legally set foot on the islands. In the early 1900s the Mexican government began conducting military testing on the islands because no one lived there. Many bombings and large explosions took place on the islands causing amazing caves and rock formations to be created. After a massive international outcry, started by scientist Jacquues Cousteau in the late 1960s, the government eventually decided to label the islands a national park and therefore protected against any fishing, hunting or human activity."

            With these islands as our destination point our group of twelve and another twelve tourists boarded a sailboat and we set off from the Marina Terminal in Puerto Vallarta. The ship that would take us to the islands was built in Holland in 1938 and is still used on a daily basis by Pegaso Chartering today. I can’t remember what we had to pay per head to go on this all-day excursion but even without the spectacular whale-watching and the snorkelling that came with the ride, it would have been well worth the ticket just to sail on that ship that day.

            Many of the tourists on the tour thought that we’d sail up to the islands and get a ride to a beach and then snorkel in the water around the islands for a bit and then be shuttled back to the ship for the ride back home. It was kind of like that, but not quite. About forty-five minutes away from the islands our tour guide informed us that we’d get within 600-700 meters, almost a kilometre, away from the islands and then they’d get us a little closer in the outboard shuttle boat and we’d then have to snorkel through a hole in the island to get access to the beautiful sandy beach inside the island. Easy, eh? For some…yes; for most…no!

            It was a bit of a shock for the non-confident swimmers, my wife being one of them, and the crew sent the more confident or experienced tourists on the first shuttle boat. I’ve been in and around water since I was a baby so I was anxious to get in the water and swim with the fishes. Deb, on the other hand, didn’t know if she’d even leave the ship.

I had taken an underwater camera along and got some pretty good pictures around the islands and in the caves. I was up on the beach when along came Deb through the opening in the rocks completely shocking the rest of us. She is not only a non-swimmer but a little panicky in the water at the best of times so it was some monumental fear-conquering that got her to that beach.

Once on the island, though, the effort to get there was well worth it as that beach was beautiful and completely surrounded by rock. There were other caves to explore and everyone who swam into the area warmed up on the beach and took in the breath-taking sites.  

As the tour was on a tight schedule our time on the island could never be long enough and we had to get back out to the ship, which turned out to be more difficult than getting there. The waves coming through the hole in the wall kept pushing us back in toward the beach but, again, perseverance prevailed and we all managed to get back to the ship safe and sound. At least the difficulty in the return trip kind of kept our mind off of the cooler water temperatures.

As a newbie hot holiday traveller I still have a hard time defining the top one hundred moments from our trip but the snorkelling off of the Marietas Islands is right there at the top. Next time, and there’s definitely going to be a next time, I think I’ll see if I can prolong my swimming with the fishes but I think Deb will file the one life-threatening I-think-I-can moment into the memory banks and be happy reliving the whole ordeal through the pictures.

“Always bear in mind that your resolution to succeed is more important than any other,” Abraham Lincoln.

OUR PUERTO VALLARTA VACATION


            I am not sure how to present this column to you. Here's the thing...we have just returned from our trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and we had so many amazing experiences that I might have to turn this space in the paper into a serial piece to fit all of the details in. I don't want to make anyone envious, mind you, but go ahead and feel that way if you must, because I always did when listening to other people's similar exploits but this was a brand new experience for a few of us on the trip and I just feel the need to share.

            We filled up a lot of our time with all of the touristy things to do, and, yes, of course, occasionally tequila was involved. We did a lot of sunbathing, city touring, constantly bartering with local "merchants" over souvenirs, golfing, a too-short-time snorkelling around the Marieta Islands, whale watching and the highlight of the trip, for me, was a parasail ride 110m, or so, above Banderas Bay providing a view overlooking the resort filled beaches and a pretty good look at the city from up there. My only complaint was that the ride was too short. Not bad for a guy who can't stand heights, eh?

            Another highlight would be the snorkelling at the Marieta Islands. Unfortunately some miscommunication with our tour guide ended up with a day-long sailboat whale watching ride with a tiny bit of snorkelling when we all thought we were going on a snorkelling/kayaking adventure with a bit of whale watching. We were a little more than surprised to hear that it was going to be the other way around as we gathered on the pier in the morning to board the sailboat.

            Sidebar here...if there was a low-light of the vacation, other than being sick on the way home, it was minutes before we were to go to the Marina and board the sailboat for the day's activities and our group of twelve was gathered in the lobby of the Melia resort at 7:30 in the morning and I thought it would be advisable to have one more bathroom break before we left for the Marina because one never knows where the next bathroom may be. As I was walking to the bathroom I was reading about the resort's destination wedding offers on the wall and the next thing you know I'm in one of the beautiful shallow pools they have all over the resort  on my hands and knees half-covered in water. Apparently it was very funny... for everyone else! I like to make people laugh but I usually prefer a different method to accomplish that task. Needless to say it was one of the more memorable moments of the trip that I'd like to forget.

                Anyway, the miscommunication turned out to be karmic as the whale watching was mind-blowing and even the crew said that it was an extraordinary display by the Humpbacks that day. I know they are paid to say that but you could read the amazement in their eyes, too.      

            At the risk of boring you I will not go on and on and on about the amazing week we all had in Mexico. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and our trip ended on March 1st. There was good news and bad news in that, too, though. What I thought had been a case of Tequilaitis, from my overindulgence on our last night there, turned out to be a little more than that. I’ve been sick since we left. I tell you that five-hour plane ride was a white-knuckler as I did my utmost to keep all of my bodily fluids inside my body. Sorry, enough of the details, suffice it to say that I am still not feeling well, three days on, but I am so happy it happened at the end of the trip and not the start.

            Despite the fact of how I came home feeling and because we returned to a nice March winter storm, as well, I would return to Puerto Vallarta in a heartbeat and the plans are already in the works for the next visit. I can hardly wait.

            “Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them,”-Bob Dylan (1941-).

FRUITY BEER? NO THANKS


I may have mentioned this before but I can say it again...I like beer. Always have. It’s certainly not a dependency and I don’t consume anywhere near the amount of beer that I did in my old “Weekend Warrior” days but I’m still known to occasionally drink a few cold ones. My Dad always said that my love of beer came from my Mother's Hungarian roots and pointed out how Mom's father and brothers enjoyed a cool one or two every now and then but that theory flies in the face of Dad's Welsh/English beer guzzling ancestry.

            In fact if you look up the top twenty countries by average consumption per person in litres of beer Hungary ranks 17th at 75.3 litres per person while the United Kingdom, (Ireland not included), is ranked 6th in the world at 99.0 litres per person. Canada, by the way, is ranked 19th at 68.3 litres per person and Ireland all by its lonesome is ranked number two in the world at 131.1 litres per person. Who's number one, you ask? The Czech Republic at 156.9 litres per person. These are statistics people, not judgements, okay?

            So anyway, short-story-long I like to experiment with my beer choices and try different kinds of beer from all over the world. My way of thinking is that you really shouldn't call yourself a beer drinker, though, if you've never tasted a Guinness. The Irish really take their stout beer seriously, too, so seriously that the original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on its property, at a perpetual rate of 45 Irish pounds, (roughly $26.00 Canadian), per year. Now there's a safe business model, eh?

            Our little Liquor Board store in town here is very good at bringing in a variety of beers from all over and, as stated above, I like to experiment every now and then so they bring something in and I try ‘em out. But now we’ve got some trust issues going on because I stopped in and was shopping around and they had brought in some kind of fruity beer from France called “1664 Blanc” and I was reading on the packaging that it is a wheat beer and it has a “Fresh & Fruity Flavour”. I was waffling and saying I didn’t know if I would like two of my favourite things mixed together. I like beer and I like fruit but I don’t know if I’d like a combination thereof.

The staff at the store assured me it’d be good and the beer company’s advertising stated that it “turns every beer moment into a sip of French pleasure.” Really? I beg to differ. If this is France’s version of beer drinking pleasure then it’s no wonder they aren’t even in the top 50 of beer drinking nations. My guess is that they like their beer to taste like wine or something.

My first sip of “French pleasure” was not so pleasurable. Yeeuchh! Ptooey. Those six bottles went down so slow it was terrible. Not even a near-frozen state helped it slide down better. Again, I’m not sure if it’s an English thing or a Hungarian thing but if I pay for something I’m going to use it. Even if it almost hurts.

I recall my famous words to the Liquor Board staff members quite clearly, “What if this stuff tastes like s…not good. Is there a money back guarantee?”

“Oh, no, no…you’ll like it”, they assured me…WRONG!

But, then again, as they say, “to each their own”, and one should never question anyone else’s tastes but, at the same time, I also recall a wise local store clerk who once exclaimed, “it’s good if you like it!” However, in this particular instance…I just didn’t. Like it, that is.

“Taste every fruit of every tree in the garden at least once. It is an insult to creation not to experience it fully. Temperance is wickedness”-Stephen Fry (1957-).

 

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