Sunday 27 March 2022

Late March in Ontario

 Last night the wind blew and the snow came in diagonally. Prior to that most of our snow was gone and I was noticing the little red nubs of the peonies pushing through the earth. This morning the snow has covered everything and there is more coming. 

None of this is surprising. Here is the weather in the days to come this week, just to see how crazy and varied it can be at this time of year:

This is tomorrow's and Tuesday's forecast. Nothing above zero (celsius) . Please note the "feels like" temperatures as well. I have no idea if other parts of the world include "feels like".

Hope abounds as we look at Wednesday and Thursday. Why, it's practically shorts weather at a high of 15 (feels like 13) on Thursday. Mind you, it plummets to zero over night. 

Ha, ha, more fool you, as we approach Friday with snowfall and below zero temperatures again, to wake up to a "feels like -9" on Saturday morning. 

And this is why Canadians tend to talk about the weather a lot. 

Monday 21 March 2022

Mundane Monday - What is your Most Commonly Used Spice(s) or Herb(s)?

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme... Today I was putting a small chicken in the oven and was just going over the process with our son who was home from college for a short while, trying to do my motherly bit by giving him a basic idea of how I do it. I brushed the bird with oil and then grabbed my little jar of Herbes de Provence and shook it liberally over the chicken. He then looked at the jar to see what it was composed of: things like rosemary, thyme, savory, basil, marjoram, even lavender. 

I was thinking it was time for a Mundane Monday, so here is my question: in your day to day cooking and food prep, what would you say are the seasonings you reach for the most? I think I would say, apart from salt and pepper, garlic powder, herbes de Provence, and perhaps oregano are my most commonly used seasonings. I also tend to use Montreal Steak Spice for beef. Also, in the colder months (and around Christmas), my cinnamon jar often needs refilling.

I imagine I will get different responses from people in different parts of the world and I'm looking forward to hearing from you! 

Tuesday 15 March 2022

I'm Back

 I have not written any posts for more than a month and haven't really been commenting a whole lot either. Bunch of reasons come into play, doing a lot more supply teaching being one of them. As well, husband and I made a rather quick decision to go away for a week some place warm when the requirement for PCR tests was finally dropped in order to return to our own country. 

We made the decision to go to Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic) because it is always less expensive than other places, including Punta Cana in the same country. We have been to this area four other times, always during the March Break because that was when we were able to travel due to our professions. This time it was the week before March Break. 

We flew out of Toronto with Sunwing airlines. I was more than stressed at the beginning trying to make sure I had dotted every i and crossed every t in terms of all the necessary "paper work" and other things to remember when travelling in this day and age. I say paperwork, but honestly, it is all done on your phone. Heaven help anybody who is not comfortable with cell phones and apps and downloads, etc. We had to create a QR coded document to enter the Dominican Republic (shown at the Toronto airport). We printed it out at home, as well as saved it on our phones. We downloaded the ArriveCan app and started the proceedings of putting in our information before leaving. It was stressed over and over how important it was to use this app and how it would be necessary to return to Canada. Because we are old school, we also printed out our "tickets" which of course are not tickets at all, but pages upon pages of itinerary (which I don't think we showed at all). When we attempted to use the kiosk at the airport in which you slide your passport (honestly, still can't spatially understand how they want you to hold it), it wasn't working properly and did not send the confirmation to my email but a lovely woman helped us and told us to just go stand in line anyway and she helped countless other people as none of the bloody kiosks were working properly. I hope she is paid well. Those small details cause me disproportionate anxiety but we managed to get through and on the plane, not seated together, by the way. 

Do you remember when you got food on a plane in return for the huge amount of money you spent to ride the plane? We received a complementary plastic cup of the beverage of our choice (nonalcoholic). Not even a package of cookies, or pretzels. I know I sound (and I am) whiney. Nor were we on a plane which had little screens on which to watch a movie to pass the time. I chewed two chewable gravols and closed my eyes all the while trying not to make physical contact with the "spready outy" man who was sitting beside me. Honestly, just close your legs a tiny bit. One positive was it was an incredibly windy day and the tail winds (I presume??) made for a quicker flight, for which I was very grateful.

Our airport experience in the Dominican was smooth as silk, no problem at all. We boarded the bus to the resort with other travellers, many of whom were dropped off at other resorts close by. The warmth when you enter the airport and walk to your bus is so welcome after being cold for months and months. 

When we got to the resort, our check in was also quite effortless and because it was a small resort, we were walked to our little four-storey building which was touted as adults-only. The accommodations were what we expected, having looked online at pictures. The room was smaller than we thought, but perfectly fine for just the two of us. However, it was disconcerting having this stare at us for seven days:

Yup, giant lady in sunglasses. She is placed over a huge thick glass panel which separates the bathroom from the bedroom. Other people also had giant women. One couple we spoke to said their giant lady was holding an apple. 

Moving on, the thing that struck me the most in the first couple of days of being there, was how empty the resort was. We have always been used to the great battle over the lounge chairs in the shade, the waking up at 6:00 a.m. to scout out a good seat and stake your claim with a towel, then return to bed for a couple more hours. But here, you could have played "switch your seat" all day long, the choices were endless. Our adults-only section had its own smaller pool with a little bar. I took pictures to send back to our kids to show them how empty it was. 

We were the ONLY guests at the pool, and one very bored bartender. 

The first full day, we spent time at the main pool. Besides us, there was a young family with children enjoying the water. Here is a picture of more empty lounge chairs. 

I just couldn't get over it! However, later in the week, starting on Thursday, more guests arrived and things started to fill up. Due to the lack of guests, and as well as probably just getting back on their feet after Covid pulling the rug out from under them, the resort did not offer any activities or evening shows or exciting food options. We felt a bit bamboozled by the reviews we had read online. I suspect they were written by staff to promote the resort in the hopes of getting more guests. I can say this was the first time that tripe was on offer in the buffet. Tripe. Who the hell eats tripe on their vacation??

The beach was very nice. Much seaweed had been churned up by recent storms, but that wasn't the resort's fault. As well, you could sit anywhere you could choose. Beach vendors (and they are allowed by law) were thick and persistent. We generally never purchase vacation jewelry or have people give us foot massages, so there was a whole lot of "no thank you". Regardless, the wonderful hot breeze at the beach, and being able to look at up this:

was worth it. 

In order to return to our homeland, we had to have a rapid antigen test done the day before we left. We were able to have this done in a little ambulance parked outside the resort by a sweet girl who spoke no English. Each test cost $35.00 American. This is an immense savings compared to the close to hundred dollar each PCR tests previously required. Thankfully, there was someone who spoke Spanish in the line behind us. It was done quickly and not altogether accurately (one nostril, barely felt it), but we knew we were going to test negative because we brought rapid tests with us and tested ourselves the night before. I wrote out not one, but two, email addresses to send the results to (again, god help you if you don't have a cell phone) which was good, because they only sent successfully to one of the email addresses. 

On the final day (Sunday), we were packed and ready and discovered our flight was delayed by four hours, and then by another chunk of time, until finally we decided, with two other Canadians on the same flight that we would not board the bus to the airport, but would split the cost of a taxi so we wouldn't have to sit for an extended period of time in the airport. I think that was a good idea. It never fails to amaze us, the driving practices of the Dominican people. They are fearless. I witnessed a family of four aboard a small motorcycle (and helmets are few and far between). Lanes on the "highway" are optional and fluid. 

At the Dominican airport, we were asked to show our negative test results (on my phone) and pay our $20 American each departure tax (in cash, hmmmm). We boarded the plane home, again not seated together (guess I should have arranged that ahead of time) and I was seated in the very last row next to an incredibly enjoyable person who described himself as a non-binary unicorn and his husband. He made the flight home so interesting and so much fun and I thanked him for it. We enjoyed our complimentary orange juice / tomato juice and told each other our life stories. 

Finally, upon landing at midnight? One a.m.? Who knows because it was also the weekend of daylight savings time change, we went through the process of re-entering our country. Apart from showing our passports a couple of times and successfully, for the most part, but it wouldn't take an image of me, leading me to believe I am a vampire, using the kiosk, we never one, NOT ONCE, had to show anything on the ArriveCan app or the leaving the Dominican documentation complete with QR codes, over which I had stressed on our second last day. Both husband and I said, "Are we done?" "Is that it?" "We're through?" So prepared were we to show every declaration and result and address of where we had stayed and plan of action for possible quarantine, and randomly chosen surprise test at the airport that we were shocked.

Finally reunited with our vehicle, we drove the 2 1/2 to 3 hours home, meeting up with dense fog at the end to be greeted by our two cats who had been checked in on by our lovely daughter for the week while we had been away. I think Murphy is even fatter than when we left. 

It was a very different holiday than any other that we have taken. I won't go into the whole Covid safety thing, but suffice it to say, the resort did its utmost best to have their staff masked and to clean and sanitize. I was never concerned about their practices. It was lovely to feel warm and to walk about not ensconced in layers and boots. The people who worked there were gracious and kind and Roberto who brought coffee to our table had to be one of the hardest working older gentlemen I've met (and yes, we tipped him well). The bed was king size (bigger than ours at home) and perfectly comfortable. The pina coladas were delicious and their local beer was perfectly acceptable. Being able to eat at a table while looking out to the water and hearing the surf was heavenly. 

We are now home, there is still open luggage sitting in the front hall, laundry being done. I still feel "swimmy" as I call it, that sensation of floating, or walking on a boat after the flight home. That always happens. I need to do a grocery run today, sometime. I am glad to be back. It is March Break here, so no supply teaching this week. The cats are very pleased we are back and the chickens too, if chickens are capable of such emotions. To any fellow Canadians who may be thinking of doing any similar travelling, be ready for a lot of time spent on your phone. Happy Tuesday, all.