The Blogger Who Went Missing and Can’t Stay On Topic

Tomorrow I am going to meet with friends to talk about blogging.  It is not easy to keep writing blogs over time.  Some of it might be the knowledge that if you slow down and then stop blogging you may find out no one really cares.  I recall a segment in one of Garrison Keillor’s CD’s (it was a tape when I first heard it), The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra.   He talks about hosting a university radio program on classical music.  He took it on mostly to impress a girl he admired but had never spoken to.  He screwed up his courage and asked her, one day, if she listened to the program and she said “All the time”.  The next day the sound engineer told him there had been a transmitter problem and the show had basically not gone out over the waves for several months. And no listener had called in to ask why.  In other words, no one missed him.

Blogging, is sort of like that.  It might be fun while you do it but when you quit, well, unless you’ve got a special talent or topic or you’re a celebrity, no one misses you.  That said, I am happy to share the little I know about blogging with others who plan to use the platform for good things.  Their interest has piqued mine.  I went so far as to change the picture from a winter scene (it hasn’t been winter for months) to one that looks like Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland at this time of year.

Since I haven’t blogged for so long I need to refresh my memory of how to do things and so will end with a totally unrelated (to the topic above) series of photos.   We were on a road trip to Eastern Canada earlier this month.  We logged 5700 km in two weeks traveling and sightseeing in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Not long into the trip I started to take pictures of the salt and pepper shakers. Don’t ask me why.  I wish I’d thought of it one day earlier as I missed the little white Eiffel Tower set in Edmundston, NB. And so, to the seasonings of the Maritime provinces. 

And if there is anyone out there reading this, let me know.  

 

The Ups and Downs of Travel

It is a privilege, to travel for pleasure.  It’s not for everyone and not everyone can consider packing up and getting away for a while.  We travel from time to time and these are some observations about before, during and after being away:

  • Before we go away I do all manner of things unrelated to preparing to go away.  It seems I want to run myself short of packing time…and I usually do.   I do it every time we go away and cannot seem to help myself.  Any suggestions to break this very inefficient behaviour?
  • While getting ready to go I think of all the things I’d do if I stayed home.  I would clean and purge those basement shelves that have set there un-purged for a long time.    I would organize that stationery drawer and the linen closet if I stayed home.
  • If you order a salad in a restaurant and two bites in you discover a long hair is part of the repast, two things happen.  First your appetite diminishes substantially and second your meal becomes more economical as the manager “comps” it.  I’d prefer really to just pay for it and not find the hair.  
  • Audiobooks are a very good way to pass time in the car.  Providing the subject is of interest to everyone in the car.
  • When arriving in new city on a happening Friday, don’t wait till 7pm to try to find a place to eat.  It is the time when everyone else is looking to do the same thing.  Driving around from place to place doesn’t work.  

Do you have gems of travel wisdom to share with someone (me) who obviously could use them?

 

The Berkshires-Xu Bing at MASS MOCA

During our recent trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts we returned to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA.  The gallery space is amazing and the art is, well, modern.  It is my favourite contemporary art gallery (and that includes visits to modern art galleries in New York City and London, England)

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Inner beauty MASS MoCA
Inner beauty MASS MoCA

The work of Chinese artist Xu Bing is on display until later this year in a number of the galleries in MASS MoCA.  Xu Bing is one of the most important Chinese contemporary artist working today.  According to the gallery brochure “All of the works on view part of a series or are part of long-term projects that are still unfolding.” 

If you go, Phoenix is the installation you must see.  From the MASS MoCA website “The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. At once fierce and strangely beautiful, the mythic Phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development, and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today’s China.”  The work was originally commissioned by a real estate developer in China.  The work proved controversial, the funding was cut and other sources of support had to be secured.  

Each Phoenix is nearly 100 feet long and the two of them weigh over 20 tons.

The front of one Phoenix
The front of one Phoenix

Phoenix was scheduled to take four months to complete.  Due to several factors including the Beijing Olympics, the global financial crisis and the rejection by the real estate developers who commissioned the work, Phoenix took two years to complete.  The Artis Talk video inside the the MASS MoCA link above gives you a sense of the artist along with an explanation of his art.

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See the workers' shovels
See the workers’ shovels

The Phoenix is something to behold.  Trash from the construction site, workers shovels, construction hats and empty canisters and so many other remnants form two beautiful birds.  They are internally lit with LED lights.

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Single photos do small justice to the exhibit.  Phoenix and MASS Moca are both something to be seen.  If you have occasion to be anywhere close to North Adams MA, USA, a visit to MASS MoCA will not disappoint.

The Berkshires-A Prairie Home Companion and Cricket Creek Farm

We just returned from a week in the Berkshire Mountains, Massachusetts.  There has been a lot of rain in the area but it didn’t rain every day, all day and that was a good thing.  It’s a pretty area and there is plenty to see and do.  

A Prairie Home Companion-Tanglewood 2013

Our week ended by attending (for the second year in a row), the live radio broadcast of a Prairie Home Companion (PHC) at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass.  It’s the 40th on air anniversary of PHC and the host Garrison Keillor and his weekly show are well-known. Well, that might be a stretch.  Let’s say they are well-known within the National Public Radio (NPR) followers and people who like music, humour, stories and a host who is a singer, humorist, author and an observer of life.   I wish we’d started attending this concert years ago and would like to attend for years to come.  While I am wishing, why not include staying longer and taking in more summer concerts at the summer home of the Boston Symphony.  The performances cover a broad range of tastes.  This year the Barenaked Ladies and Vince Gill are examples of artists who will be at Tanglewood.  

 It’s quite a spectacle.  Thousands of people stream onto the lawn around the Koussevitzky Music Shed up to two hours before the PHC performance.  They bring picnic lunches, fancy set-ups with tables and chairs and linens, wine glasses, candelabras, flags and flowers arranged in vases.  Many of the attendees have purchased lawn tickets and they sit outside as the sun sets and the show goes on.  The encores are legendary.  I heard one attendant tell someone the encores may last 1.5 to 3 hours!  The audience joins in, singing along until either they or the performers finally give in to the advancing hour.

Cricket Creek Farm, Stephentown, Mass.

Cricket Creek "working" farm
Cricket Creek “working” farm

We visited Cricket Creek Farm, where you can buy raw milk and milk products (legally available in Mass) where their beef are completely grass-fed, and the pigs feed on grass and whey and veggie compost – no grain.  Blog edit update: thank you to Topher from Cricket Creek Farm who kindly corrected my original blog on what the animals are fed.   You can buy sausage, free range eggs and chickens (you can see them ranging freely), fresh-baked goods and more.  You are welcome to explore the farm and advised to stay clear of working machinery and the various animal plops found on a farm.  

The Pigs Call This Home
The Pigs Call This Home
Cricket Creek Farm-The Store
Cricket Creek Farm-The Store

The farm has an honour store.  All the products are at hand.  You find what you want, add up the total on the calculator, put your money in the box making change as necessary and away you go.  We bought some butter (ingredients: cream), locally made blueberry spread, soap and raw cheese.  While we didn’t really check we thought it unlikely you could bring raw milk products back into Canada, so we brought them back on the inside (Of us, not the car. We ate them.).  It would be great if there was an enterprise like this closer to where we lived.  We should investigate.  

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I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan and our neighbours provided our milk and thick cream (unpasteurized) and in turn our mother gave them eggs.  From the milk Mom made butter, buttermilk and cottage cheese.  It’s been decades since I have tasted homemade butter.  On our trip we were listening to the book “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.  It makes you think about what you eat, where it’s been raised and what happens to our food as it makes it way from producer to consumer.  And it’s not all that pretty, nor comforting.  

 Have you eaten raw milk and raw milk products?  Would you, if you had access to them? 

Have you been to the Berkshires and if so, what did you see and do?

Another Prince Edward..this time, the Island

One weekend we were in Prince Edward County in Ontario and the next weekend we were in Prince Edward Island (PEI), one of ten and the smallest of provinces in Canada.  Its area (just under 220 sq. miles) and population (just over 140,000 in total) means you can see a lot in a short time and while it is very busy in summer, early June is just before the really busy season.

We have been to PEI several times over the years and always during spring and summer months.  From those visits we have an image of an island that is predominately a green, idyllic rural landscape.  We know there’s some tough weather in other seasons.  It is the home of the author Lucy Maud Montgomery and there are places to visit remembering Anne of Green Gables throughout the province.  

Recipe for a idyllic stay in an idyllic setting:

  • Join cherished friends some who travel to, some who live in the province
  • Take time to enjoy a leisurely drive around at least some of the island
Red soil-ideal to grow potatoes
Red soil-ideal to grow potatoes

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  • Stay at one of the independently run hotel/cottage/B&B establishements.  We stayed at Kindred Spirits Cottages.   There were seven of us sharing a 3 bedroom cottage.  It was great.  There was enough room for everyone to spread out a bit, a nice deck and our own private hot tub.  
  • Stop for lunch at a small cafe. We stopped at the Landmark Cafe in Victoria, PEI.  The menu is very interesting and everyone enjoyed their meals. While we just happened upon the cafe we discovered it has been recommended in “Where to Eat in Canada:.  Across the street is the local playhouse.

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  • Buy your seafood from an outlet on the wharf and cook your own very fresh lobster and mussels.  Our hosts at Kindred Spirits Cottages put a lobster pot on our back deck.  

    One of our in-house chefs
    Garth, one of our in-house chefs
  • Invite your friends, born and bred talented islanders over for dinner/.  Hope he brings his guitar.  Sit back and reflect on the entire experience and how it fills up your soul.
We were delighted Fred brought his guitar
We were delighted Fred brought his guitar and his voice

Have you been to PEI?  If so, what were the highlights of your visit.  If not, what would you like to see?

Prince Edward County, Ontario

We just returned from a delightful weekend with our friends in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  We stayed at a relatively new Bed and Breakfast, The Manse, in Picton.  

The Manse B&B
The Manse B&B
Outside The Manse
Outside The Manse

We would all highly recommend the B&B, its amenities and our friendly hosts Kathleen and Chris.  Prince Edward County is becoming well-known as a wine growing region.  

Closson Chase Winery
Closson Chase Winery
Closson Chase-another view
Closson Chase-another view

We had a good long walk in Sandbanks Park, visited some of the wineries, enjoyed delicious meals and the great company of dear friends.

Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Mother Nature's art in the sand
Mother Nature’s art in the sand

No Vacancy There But Delightful Stay Here

I just returned from St. John’s Newfoundland.  Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada’s easternmost province.  Its strength and beauty lies in the people who live there.  They are friendly, down to earth, full of good humour and proud of their heritage.  The province’s economy is on an upswing and downtown St. John’s (capital of the province) shows evidence of the boom.  

I was attending a conference in St. John’s and was tardy in booking a hotel room.  By the time I made inquiries the rooms were all taken.  I found accommodation at At Wit’s Inn, a very comfortable Bed and Breakfast (B&B) a 20 minute walk from the conference hotel.  In the end, I am happy to have stayed somewhere unique, quiet and clean, where you are very comfortable and at the same time supporting a small family business.  There are 3 rooms in the B&B.  I’d stay there again.

Have you ever found a no vacancy sign and then found alternate accommodation and felt you got the better end of the deal?

Here are some pictures:

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Hope Springs in Palm Springs-Part II

A few weeks ago four of us trekked off to Palm Springs, California to attend a three-day golf school.  We did other things in Palm Springs but attending the golf school was the reason we  made the trip.  There are probably many golf schools in Palm Springs. We decided to enrol in the Cahill Golf School where our teacher was Mike Cahill.  There were just the four of us in the class.  It was nice being only with people you know.  Mike has taught for about ten years.  Mike and his father Dave run golf schools in Las Vegas and Palm Springs.  

We decided to spread our three days out a bit during the week.  That was wise for you go from a winter climate with pretty much no golf (unless you are the sort who goes to indoor ranges or simulators) to 6-8 hours of golf in a day.  Our day started with almost four hours of instruction on the driving range and putting green.   That is a lot of time.  After a bit of break we would go on to the Cimarron Golf Resort course and play 18 holes.  Mike came with us for the first few holes to watch and give some advice on course management.  The weather was mixed throughout our time there but we tried to take full advantage of Mike’s knowledge (and patience perhaps) no matter the weather.  

Palm Springs Golf School March 2013

Speaking with and for my friends, we would all recommend the school (and don’t pay attention to the fact the photo is dated 2008, really it wasn’t taken then-maybe that’s just some weird note from the ether that says I should have gone to a school at least 5 years ago).  Mike coached each of us based on our individual abilities.  He didn’t try to make us all do the same thing i.e. it wasn’t a cookie cutter approach.  

We had videos taken of our swings at the beginning and end of the school and we have those videos to watch now that we are home.  We can continue to ask Mike questions and if we have trouble (as if we won’t), we can take a video and send it to him and he’ll help us from afar.  Now that’s service.

IMG_1650The thing is, we flew back to winter and now the challenge is to remember all we learned since we can’t get out and practice right away.  What was I to try with my grip?  How were we to set up for that shot just off the green?  

Have you gone to a golf school in winter?  Would you go back?  Please tell me it changed your game in a good way.

We golfed at a few other courses when we were in Palm Springs including the Resort Course at Tahquitz Creek and the Escena Golf Club.  The following gives you some idea of the scenery-first a serious swing, then a road runner and a cactus shadow on the fairway and lunch by the reflecting pool.  Ah, so nice.  

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Hope Springs in Palm Springs-Part I

Golf is a very difficult game, at least it is for me.  When you golf, hope springs eternal
that your game will improve by leaps and bounds.   I just returned from a week-long vacation in Palm Springs, California where three friends and I rented a home and attended a three-day golf school.  And so, hope springs in Palm Springs.  

It’s a luxury to leave winter behind and go to places that sport palm trees and temperatures that are conducive to short sleeves and golf shorts.  The last day it sported an earthquake as we sat waiting to tee off.  Tremors should not be a surprise, I suppose,  as we were spitting distance from the San Andreas fault.   

Palm Springs is a popular destination for people who want to escape cold weather. There are all manner of license plates on vehicles from out-of-state.   It appears to me the average age is on the other side of 70.  Many Hollywood stars of years gone by owned homes in Palm Springs.  We hiked and cycled past homes that were, at one time, owned by Hollywood notables such as Bob Hope, Steve McQueen, Peter Lawford and Debbie Reynolds.   Marilyn Monroe was discovered at the Charlie Farrell’s Racquet Club.   She is now represented by a 26ft tall sculpture in downtown Palm Springs.  

Marilyn Monroe statue

The weather was mixed during our stay.  It was cold, cool, warm, hot, dry and rainy, windy and calm, sometimes all in one day.  The last day it was pretty much perfect, leaving us with a great last memory.  

There are many hiking trails in the valley and into the mountains. You could spend many a day exploring the various trails.  Cycling is fairly easy in the city.  There are a number of bike trails that often share sidewalk space with pedestrians. 

A couple of pictures from a bike ride:

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A lavender lemonade at the Native Foods Cafe:

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The home we rented through Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) was comfortable and the owners were very accommodating.  Here’s a few pictures of where we hung our hats for a little over a week.

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And here we are by the pool.  Do you recognize me?  Have you been to Palm Springs or the area around it?  What was your experience?

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A Favourite Spot-Hastings House, Saltspring Island

On our trip to the west coast of Canada this fall we stayed at one of our all time favourite getaway locations.  It was our third visit over the past three decades.  The place is Hastings House, on Saltspring Island, B.C.

The Green House
The Green House

We have always enjoyed the Inn and its amenities.  The food is superb.  Breakfast is included in the room rate while dinner is optional.  You may be served dinner in your room by the fire if you wish.  That’s a bit decadent, isn’t it. 

The service is always friendly, courteous and professional.  You feel very pampered from check in to check out.  

The Green House
Inside The  Green House

There are a number of out buildings where you can stay as well as rooms in the Inn.  This time we stayed in the Green House.   On a previous visit we stayed in The Meadow and during that visit I sat outdoors in an adirondack chair while lambs jumped and played in the meadow just a short distance away.  My husband spent the afternoon assisting the chefs in the kitchen.  He was very happy with the experience.  I was happy to use one of their bicycles and enjoy a nice ride around the area and not assist the chefs in the kitchen.

Below are pictures of some of the buildings and the grounds.  The last two pictures are of an endive, walnut and blue cheese salad we enjoyed one evening and finally a view of the Pacific Ocean when you take a walk up the road from one of our favourite spots, Hastings House.

Do you have a favourite getaway spot?   What keeps you coming back or at least wishing you could go back?

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Hastings House
Hastings House

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