Sunday 27 March 2016

On Easter

Easter has always been my favourite holiday. Even more so than Christmas. Easter held special memories going back to my childhood. I love the time of year in which we celebrate Easter. I love the colours, the flavours, the "feel".

Easter meant baskets, real ones, made out of wood or reeds, with a nest of cedar cuttings in which were nestled beautiful coloured eggs and a few special treats as well. Easter came with a toy, too. Sometimes it was a new Golden Book (remember those?) or a skipping rope that had a special smell to it (and I often wondered if it tasted like the shoestring licorice that it reminded me of), or a ball. These were all memories from my own home. The smell of cedar still takes me back to that.

We also had an Easter tradition that my mother carried on from her mother, and that my sister did a good job of continuing while my mom was still alive with her children and the cousins. My mother came from German heritage where the bunny brought special warm golden brown eggs. This required a special kind of "call" which my grandmother did, and then my mother after our grandmother died. We children would be inside the farm house, the "call" was made, and then when we went outside, we found tucked under bushes, or on the lawn, or in the rock garden, or on the stone porch wonderful warm-to-the-touch golden eggs. We firmly believed that they had been brought (or maybe even laid!) by the bunny. There were even little scratchy marks on the eggs which we were told were left by the bunny's claws. In my mind, this bunny was of the cottontail nature (not some grotesque costumed white being with a freakishly big head and a vest).

The eggs actually were made by boiling white eggs with many onion skins. (They would be saved up a few days ahead of Easter, and ripped off of whatever onions were in the house at the time). They were warm because the adult women would be boiling them up while kids were playing, paying no attention whatsoever with what was happening in the kitchen. Year after year and we never caught on.

With our own children, we created our new traditions, although when they were little and my parents were still alive, they hunted for the same special bunny eggs at "grandma and grandpa's", and at my sister's a couple of times, too. I did continue the cedar boughs in the baskets and spent many, many nights before Easter staying up and dying eggs after the children went to bed, hoping nobody would get up and need to use the bathroom and catch me in the act. I also spent many frosty mornings (literally!) at about 6:30 a.m. hiding plastic eggs filled with treats around the yard. When our kids were very little, the eggs would just be hidden on the porch, but as they got older, eggs became harder and harder to find. Once, when an egg was placed in the rotten crevice of an cut-off pear tree, it became stuck. My husband used the saws-all to extract it! My daughter is far more competitive than my son (in this kind of activity) and took it upon herself to find more eggs than him. One year it was colour coded and they were only allowed to pick up eggs of their own designated colour, leaving any others for their sibling to find. In the end, they always divied up their treats evenly between the two of them anyway.

This is the first year that I have not hidden eggs. The kids are currently 19 and 16. They need to be woken up. They don't wake up on their own with the anticipation of what the Easter bunny brought for them. They did get treats, however. You can never be too old!

Weather wise, it is a beautiful Easter Sunday out there. I got out a bit, loading up the wheelbarrow with branches that came down over the winter. Almost all of the snow is gone. There are even a few little spring flowers up.

We have my husband's mom here with us this weekend and both kids are here. I have a big ham in the oven and I'll make mashed potatoes, carrots, coleslaw, green beans, asparagus (and brussel sprouts just for me, nobody else likes them). I tried a new recipe that I grabbed from Pinterest for dessert. With a salty ham, I thought that lemon would be a nice balance in taste. So I made lemonade cake. It caused a bit of an oven disaster when I was baking the two layers. They bubbled over so much they oozed out over the floor of the oven and on the rack below. Nice burny smell until the oven cooled enough that I could clean it up. The icing is a lemon cream cheese (mmmm!!)

I hope everyone has a lovely rest of their weekend. Happy Easter!

Tuesday 22 March 2016

what causes a name to go "out of fashion" ?

I don't know what made me think of this, but I have realized recently that there are so many names that are just not being given to the next generation anymore. Growing up, my friends and acquaintances had names like Jeannie, Heather, Tracy, Linda, Wanda, Jane, Erin, and Kathy. I know of absolutely no children with those names.

My aunts and uncles (many of whom are now deceased) had names like Marjorie, Jean, Gwen, David, and Boyd. Again, I know of no children with those names.

However, my paternal grandmother's name was Olive and I know many small Olivias. My maternal grandmother's name was Emma, and again, I know many young Emmas. I'm not sure if I could say the same about the grandfathers: Walter and Milton.

If we wait long enough will those popular names of the 60's and early 70's come back in style? Are names now determined by tv personalities or other form of celebrity? By what were names influenced in the 1920's when my parents were born? Were they more determined by continuing a family name?

I have noticed now that names sometimes have different spelling than the traditional form. Is that a way of making your child unique (or just creating a hassle every time someone tries to spell their name)?  I was a firm believer in naming our children something that would suit them at any age. I do wonder about some names that are cute for little ones, but will they seem a bit ridiculous as that person becomes an adult, later in life?

What about you? Is your name still in use or has it gone out of style?

Saturday 19 March 2016

Our 2016 Holiday

We have returned safe and sound from our first ever Mexican holiday. We spent five nights, six days in Cancun. We had lots of fun, did lots of relaxing, had only two moments of "stress", ate lots, drank lots, and I read lots.

This trip involved  a lot of wee hour of the morning moving about. We left our home here in Ontario at about 2:30 in the morning, the very same morning that the clocks turned ahead one hour (which, for those of you who don't know, happens at 2:00 a.m. - which makes for some tricky setting of alarms on cell phones which automatically set themselves to daylight savings time). We drove through the "night" avoiding no less than nine deer, two raccoons and one bunny rabbit and ended up in Detroit. It took a little bit of doing to figure out where the lot was in which we were going to park our vehicle (our first stressful moment), but a quick call and we were able to find it. We were shuttled to the airport for my favourite part of any trip, the waiting.

The flight was fine, no problems and when we landed in Cancun, the procedure for going through customs, etc. was smooth and painless. The company that we booked the trip with was there with a shuttle to take us to the resort which was only about ten minutes away. That was wonderful! We have had vacations where we rode a shuttle van or even a bus (with no bathroom and NO stops on the way) for three hours to get to a resort. So, this was a real treat!

We have gone to a number of resorts in the Dominican Republic which were quite big, some even requiring little vehicles to take you to different areas of the resort. This was not the case in Cancun. We stayed at the Royal Solaris, a medium-small hotel, where everything was compacted and easy to get to. It was a different experience for us to be in an actual hotel, as opposed to the three story walk-ups, spread out from each other in places like Punta Cana or Cuba. We were happy to be "upgraded" to an ocean view room with no extra charge (and no actual request on our part). The view from our room was lovely. We did not have a balcony, something we are used to in other places, but it was not a great hardship by any means. It was wonderful to open the windows and hear the surf (the ocean was that close!) and feel the warm breezes.
Amazing view from our room

The room was not fancy, but it was clean and well stocked with anything we needed, from bottled water to extra pillows and towels, to all the cute little bottles of shampoo, mouthwash (a first!), and conditioner (usually lacking in other places we've stayed at- and a MUST for someone with unfortunate hair). There was a mini fridge with beer, bottled water, and canned sodas if you wished. They would restock it every day if needed.

Our room was located right beside the elevator (and not usually an issue for us as most of the resorts we have been to have stairs that everyone, except for staff with carts or people with mobility issues, use), and we ended up finding the room to be noisy with people talking to each other as they waited for the elevator, or the shutting of doors, crying of babies, hooting of spring-breakers. It wasn't terrible, but just not something we normally have had to contend with .

There were a few food choices: the main buffet, an a la carte restaurant, an outdoor restaurant, and the food choices by the pool, oven baked pizza and sushi being two of them. We never became bored with the selections, thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor restaurant in the evenings, and thought the variety was great. On tripadvisor, some people complained about the food, but I certainly wouldn't. I'm not sure why they were upset. They must have ridiculous standards. The only thing that surprised me was a lack of what I thought was typical Mexican food. We only ate guacamole once, and never was there any salsa. However, maybe I am only used to what Canadians think Mexican food is. Maybe I've had it wrong all this time. One evening, we enjoyed the Brazilian barbecue theme at the outdoor restaurant. We could fill our plate with salad, and hot sides of vegetables, and breads, then a waiter came around to our table with large skewers of roasted meats. We were offered chicken wings, more chicken portions, two kinds of sausage, pork, lamb, beef, and the most glorious pineapple I have ever tasted. We were ridiculously stuffed. Absolute gluttony, but it's a vacation, so no regrets.
There are many levels to the pool area. One covered area is the outdoor restaurant.

We had one moment where I turned on the wall mounted hair dryer (which I suspected was going to be a problem when little bits of metal screen came shooting out of it when I first tested it out upon our arrival in our room, and it sparked a wee bit). I had my shower, was in my nifty robe the hotel provides during your stay, and my husband was having his shower. I was ready to tackle my unfortunate hair, had combed through it and put some kind of taming product on it. I detached the hair dryer from its little wall cradle, turned it on, and a sort of electric blue flash went poof, at the same time the lights all went out, and I gave a yelp. No, I wasn't electrocuted, but we were without power. (I was hoping I hadn't turned off the whole floor's power as it was the time when people would be getting ready to go out for supper). Hubby let me know that he had packed a small flashlight which I groped around in the dark to find, then I called down to the reception desk, who answered with a few sentences of Spanish (none of which I understood). I let them know what room we were in and that we had no power, and that I was in need of a hairdryer. A few minutes later (husband is still merrily showering in the dark through all of this), a maintenance man arrived at our door. He spoke very little English. Our power came back on, but he wasn't understanding my absurd charade of hairdryer explosion, so I led him into the bathroom, showed him the hairdryer which he turned on (yes, it still was running) and I ended up having to pick up little pieces of fried metal from the floor to convince him that I wasn't going to be using that one! In just a few more minutes, he had come back with a different hairdryer and switched it out with the scary exploding one. I was very impressed with how quickly things got solved!

Another lovely aspect of this resort is how close the pool area is to the ocean. You can be reading on a lounge chair close to the pool and look up and watch the ocean waves and hear the surf. Flags are flown on the beach each day to let people know if the water is safe or not. Almost always it was a red flag indicating that the waves and resulting undertow were too dangerous for swimming. In some areas along the beach there were orange or yellow flags. In those areas people did go in the water and enjoy the waves. I have a healthy respect for undertow and didn't go much past knee depth.
The lifeguards were diligent. You can see the red warning flags.

This is one of the ways to get down to the beach.

There were many lounge chairs to choose from. The resorts are built to be in the architectural style of Mexican pyramids and are usually white.

When we travel to the Dominican Republic, we meet people from many parts of the world, usually a lot of people from Canada, but many other countries as well. When we have been to Cuba, we have also met people from all over the world, but generally not Americans (for obvious reasons, but that will be changing soon, no doubt). At this resort in Cancun, there were very few Canadians, and mostly Americans. We were a bit foolish, however, not realizing to what extent the college students would be celebrating their Spring Break in this area. When I went to university, I had NO extra money to be gallivanting off to another country for a vacation. This is not the case with today's students. Perhaps they are very good at managing their money, or perhaps they have incredibly generous parents, but whatever the reason, there are a HUGE amount of American college students who are able to go on vacation during their school year. Regardless of their numbers, I would say that for the most part they kept their celebrating to a dull roar, were still courteous and polite to anyone on staff as well as to other vacationers, and didn't cause any problem for us (apart for one confused inebriated young man who stood at my door asking if I was sure that this was my room -  I suspect he was given a false room number by an uninterested female).

We experienced our second stressful time on our trip home. Again, we were up in the wee hours of the morning so we could leave the resort at 4:00 a.m. (Yes, there are still people partying at the lobby bar at that time). Getting through the Cancun airport was again effortless. Our flight was a little bit delayed, and when we arrived in Los Angelos, we had to wait in the plane for another chunk of time before we could get in whatever you call a plane parking spot, and "deplane". This was making us sweat, because we had to make a connecting flight with a total of an hour and a half to spare (some of this already eaten up on the runway). The passengers were let off the plane in the order that they were sitting, with no regard to people trying to make their next flights, a practise which should change. We were misdirected in the customs area, even after we told them we were Canadian, which ate up even more time. By the time we got through customs and found our gate, our next flight was already boarding. I really hate connecting flights. I would love to avoid this in the future. By the time we got to Detroit (I'd lost track of time changes at that point) we were subsisting on small packets of peanuts and two cookies each. No, we didn't choose to spend the money for food on the flight. Ridiculous prices.

When we finally got to our vehicle (no problems there, good job, Park N' Go) we started driving out of Detroit, found a Wendy's and inhaled double cheese burgers and fries. We finally arrived at our home at about 1:30 in the morning. The house was still standing and the cat was still alive. Our sixteen year old son managed well with the help of two friends who had him over for a day at a time. It's the next day and I've put through a load of vacation laundry.

My challenge of packing only a carry-on piece of luggage was very successful and probably was the reason we made our connecting flight in L.A., because we didn't have to wait for any checked luggage. (Hubby also had a carry on bag). I would say I only over packed by two shirts, one skirt, and one pair of shoes which I only wore once and probably could have done without. I'm quite proud of myself. If you stuck around long enough to read this whole post, thank you! I would recommend Cancun to anyone who hasn't been. Would I return to this place? Probably not, but not because I was disappointed with it. There are just too many other places to try out. If partying college students bother you, I would avoid this time of year. Anyone else vacationed in Mexico? What were your experiences?

Saturday 12 March 2016

Going Away

As I sit at the computer this morning, the sun streaming in is so warm and so bright that my right shoulder is heating up and I have to shield my eye . This should be something to celebrate. However, the timing of this beautiful weather change comes on the cusp of our first ever five night vacation to Mexico. (We've been on vacation before, but never to Mexico). Most of the snow has melted in the past few days, as we have enjoyed a mild spell. I've seen red-winged blackbirds (the first harbingers of spring), as well as flocks of Canada geese gathering at low lying flooded areas.
Beautiful morning sunshine

When we go on vacation, it is always to escape the cold and the snow. I don't feel like we are escaping anything this year. However, it will be nice to drive to the airport in good conditions. We have had other experiences of driving through nasty snow storms and dangerous roads to get to the airport. This will be much more pleasurable and less stressful.

Not only is this our first time to Mexico, but I am challenging myself to another first. For this vacation, since it is a little shorter than our usual six night, seven day vacation, I am going to travel with just a carry-on piece of luggage (and a big purse!) In the past, we've always had our carry -ons and a larger checked bag. But, by doing this, we will avoid line ups at the luggage carousel, we will be able to get through customs quicker, and we won't have to pay for an extra bag (something we encountered a couple of years ago when we flew with an American airline). Boy, we got tired of paying for that bag!

I am not a light packer. I am a "just-in-caser". I bring a variety of clothing, choices of bathing suits, lots of reading material, and enough medication to cure everything from headaches to gastro issues, to mosquito infestation. I also have hair that goes squirrely in humid weather. It needs a lot of taming. I usually bring at least three types of hair product and two hair appliances. I'm not sure what my game plan is this time. Maybe a handful of hair elastics just to hold back the mess.

As many of you probably know, liquids are severely restricted on board an airplane. I like to bring full sized bottles of sunscreen, in at least two SPFs. I am now forced to transfer sunscreen into silly little 100 mL bottles (or less) and use my handy dandy label maker so we don't mix up our 30 (beginning of the week) with our 15 (end of the week)! I purchased a teeny tiny container of hair spray and husband has a teeny tiny container of shaving cream which will reside in a small see-through bag with a teeny tiny toothpaste, my foundation make-up, and a silly little bottle of hair conditioner.

I also like to take a choice of footwear. Shoes take up a lot of space. At this point, I am pretty sure I am going to infiltrate my husband's carry-on luggage. He brings less. He doesn't need room for a make-up bag. He doesn't even bring a book! (What are you going to do for five days???). And then there's chargers, camera, tablet, beach bag...

In the wee hours of the morning (don't forget the time change!) we are crossing over the border to fly out of Detroit. It is a direct flight there, and we have one stop over on the way home. We did not have a good experience with this sort of thing in the past, missing a flight due to incredibly long line ups and having to spend extra money for a hotel room, and getting home a day late. So I am a bit nervous about that again. That is another reason for keeping it to just one piece of carry-on luggage each. Hopefully this will make it easier for us to move quickly through airport procedures during our stop over.

The resort we are going to in Cancun is not "top drawer". But the beach along there looks amazing. Reviews on TripAdvisor are usually good, but many of them say the resort is getting old and showing its age. They charge for wifi (quite a bit, per device) so I won't be spending time on the internet. I will post when we get back and hopefully be able to say everything went smoothly and I am now an expert packer, ready to take on the world in one bag!

Thursday 3 March 2016

The Perils of Yoga

Afew posts back, I wrote about how I was starting to go to to yoga. I have been four times in total now. I'm getting a tiny bit better each time, with still room for vast improvements. Up until now I have worn a pair of "work out" pants, not exactly yoga pants, but acceptable. I combined these with a stretchy knit top with long sleeves, of a decent length so it didn't ride up too much when I was bending and stretching. This wasn't specifically an athletic-type top, but it was fine for my purposes.

I decided for a little motivation and because I just wanted to, I would purchase some sort of top for future yoga classes. I ended up in that giant store we all know of with its racks of inferior product and good prices. I spotted a tank top that cinched together at the back with a built in pseudo sports bra band that looked long enough for bending and stretching. It would go well with a nice zippered pullover. So, off I went to the tiny cubicle change room to try it on. There weren't a lot of sizes, so I was going to be trying on a size that I wasn't totally sure would be big enough. The door of this tiny cubicle did not have a separate lock that slid shut or even a hook and eye latch. The door just locked when it closed. I hoped. There were even cryptic instructions written in black marker over the door knob about pulling up when opening. (?) There are no change room attendants ready to stand guard. I stripped down to just my pants (remember, this tank top had a built in sports bra band- thingy) and tried to figure out how to get into this thing which kept flip flopping over itself, turning half-way inside out all the time hoping nobody was going to just open the "locked" door and try on their poorly made cheap clothing choices.

Eventually I gathered it up and controlled it enough to get my head through the hole and then shimmy the rest of me in, readjusting the sports bra band into place and looking in the mirror just long enough to know there was no way I was going to wear this to yoga or anywhere else for that matter. (When did THAT happen to my body?? Dear god, I used to have a waist, and less abundance of flesh over top and underneath the sports bra band thing). I couldn't wait to get it off and put my sweater back on (making sure I was standing in a position where I could kick back against the door if someone should try to come in).

I started pulling up from the bottom. The tank top part moved, and stretched, but the rest of it just stayed there. I tried to do the criss-cross action that women do with their arms to remove articles of clothing over their heads... but nothing was budging and I realized my arms don't really reach that way anymore. I pulled on the tank top part again and heard faint whisperings of stitches about to rip. I tried more shimmying. At this point, I realized I was stuck inside this ridiculous body-insulting piece of yoga foolishness. I recalled when my kids were little and wore turtlenecks and you would be either pulling them on or off and they would get their heads stuck in the turtleneck, and then they would get all panicky, like they would be stuck forever.

Worse still, I thought that certainly this would be the time that someone would push open the door only to find me contorted and half naked in my yoga straight jacket, and then would quickly apologize and shut the door, leaving me in there and not offering to help.

Obviously since I am sitting at my computer writing this, I did finally release myself from the grips of this tank top which I hung back up on the hanger for someone else to attempt to try on at a later time. I did not purchase it. I bought a different, easy to deal with t-shirt that is made out of some fabric that will move with me and wick moisture away from my yoga body. It is going to be a long time until I go shopping again.

Have you ever been stuck inside your clothes?