Thursday, September 30, 2010

Duplex Rénovations ...sigh

    Renovations continue here at the duplex here in Montreal, painting trim and preparing for the new windows and doors arriving next week, hopefully. The garden is now grass (I laid sod down for the big bbq last week) - maybe one more cut before digging out the rake and collecting leaves that are already dropping. After much grunt work and language unbecoming to a person of my status I can proudly announce the installation of my new oak banister (handrail to those who speak New English) in my entranceway! After drilling numerous holes to find the studs - not all 16 inches to centre! - I attached the hangers, added the banister and voila! Here is what the stairway used to look like a few months ago looking down from the hallway, showing the old painted handrail, rubber inserts on the steps and over 80 years of general wear and tear ( I had already painted the walls in this photo)....

and now the new carpeted stairway, looking up from outdoors!

          I also painted a sky and clouds on the wall that shows on the other side of the bathroom window (actually the wall of the skylight on the roof that extends down past our bathroom to the main floor bathroom below). When the sun shines it gives an impression of the window looking outside (click for a better view)...

Lara and Chad are now in their new home on Prud'homme just a few blocks away and were successful in renting their old duplex on Victoria Ave. Lara acted as agent through her agency Adresz. If you are new in Montreal check her out at for all your housing needs.

Before I close I just want to wish my Mom in Brooksville, Florida all the very best after her recent operation. I think of her every day and wish I could be closer to comfort her in her pain as she once did for me, when she wiped away the tears, held me close and loved me. Thank you, Mother dear     gws

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Loblaws Backyard BBQ

  More than 25 people gathered at 2027 Clifton Avenue in Montreal on Saturday, September 25th at the home of the winner of the grand prize of  Loblaws backyard BBQ for the province of Quebec! ( For those who do not know Loblaws is Canada’s largest food distributor and a leading provider of general merchandise products, drugstore and financial products and services.) Part of Canada's Biggest BBQ Tour, Loblaws promoted this contest that offered entrants the chance to win a President's Choice Big BBQ Party and backyard makeover, along with $2,500. Phil was the lucky winner and deservedly so! The food (steak, ribs, salads, ice cream and fresh fruit) was great, the service impeccable and the company perfect! Mother nature threatened all day to dampen everybodys spirits but after some heavy duty prayers from all concerned the day turned out dry and warm. Here are some photos taken during this very special occasion! Again, congratulations Phil!! Wait till next year! gws


Sunday, September 26, 2010

OUR HOMES 1983 - 2010

  Marie and I have been together for almost 28 years now and have lived in a variety of places in this big beautiful country - from Nova Scotia to Ontario, and as most of you know, finally decided to retire in Quebec. Next year will be the start of construction of our last house and the completion of the so called circle of life. Going through my photos I found I had pictures of most of our previous homes and thought I would post them here. Each one was unique in its own way, with special memories both good and bad, but always worth remembering for every house where love abides and friendship is a guest, is surely home, and home sweet home, for there the heart can rest. Here then, in no particular order, are the homes Marie, Lara, Christina, Philippe and I have shared together....gws    


                   Ave de Clifton, Montreal, Quebec


                     backyard, Ward Mountain, Kentville, Nova Scotia

                                                                 Southmore Drive, Ottawa, Ontario

                                                              George Street, Ottawa, Ontario

                                                                 Rte 201, Paradise, Nova Scotia
                     Prospect Rd, Whites Lake, Nova Scotia


                                                                          Walkley Rd, Ottawa, Ontario


Thursday, September 23, 2010

On reaching 60

I am constantly being reminded of how old I am. Not from the occasional aches and pains, the loss of a few more hairs or an additional wrinkle but from people around me who like to suggest that perhaps I am no longer capable of doing what I used to be able to do...Most men are like wine: some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.... I rest my case:

A man is not old as long as he is seeking something. gws

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Wedding of Diane and John

                                                                       WARNING!  MANY PHOTOS AHEAD!

                                                                                    Part the First -

     The dawn was just a very faint glow in the eastern sky when Christina and I, early Monday morning just after 5am, August 30th, 2010 said goodbye to Marie and Muffy and headed over the Champlain Bridge onto Autoroute 15 and, once off the Island of Montreal, pointed the old van due south to the NY border and the I-83 and into 5 days of hot, southern weather. We were off to Florida for the marriage of sister Diane - hereafter named Dee - and her partner of a long time, John Boucher. The wedding was scheduled for the 4th September at 11:00am and I was hoping the camper would get us there at least the day before. We left one of the hottest months on record in Quebec and were soon to find out there would be no reprieve from the heat that had settled over eastern North America. By 0630am we had cleared customs at Champlain and were soon on our way through Plattsburgh and the Adirondacks.

    After a drive of almost 10 hours we decided to stop for the night. Just near Montgomery, NY we found a county-run park called Winding Hills, in a heavily wooded area with a lake in a very natural setting. We saw quite a few wild deer and most were very tame. The lake, alas, was thick with algae and full of snapping turtles as big as a truck tire - or so the locals said. I was not willing to find out. I built a campfire and we cooked up some fresh corn-on-the-cob and soup for supper, then turned in to the sound of a million insects in the towering pines around us.

Unfortunately a $5 resistor thingamabob that controls the ignition decided to pack up the next morning when we were ready to leave and we had to wait around 4 hours until I could get a hold of AAA for a tow to the nearest garage in Walden. Thankfully the service was great, the people friendly and I was not ripped off (total cost of repairs and labour was $127). By noon we were off and running towards Albany, 7 hours behind schedule! I decided to avoid NYC and headed southwest into Pennsylvania and down towards Harrisburg. Another scorching day in the 90s as we chugged along interstate 78, blasted every few minutes by huge semi trailers. I should have known that I-78 is the major road linking ports in the New York City and New Jersey area to points west, and sees over 4 million trucks annually. One of the worst roads in the country in my opinion - can you believe an interstate with only 2 lanes in many places - so I decided to call it quits just after 3pm near Lenhartsville in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country. The van was getting hot, as was I, and I had visions of breaking down on that awful piece of highway. There we found a family campground called Blue Rocks with a very welcome pool and clean showers.

After a quiet night we were up at 5am and ready to roll. I had planned to go through Delaware and do the bridge to Virginia but we wanted to make some time so went through Maryland instead, avoiding Washington, and then into Virginia, hoping eventually to head out towards cooler air along the Atlantic. The temperatures continued to climb though and by 2 PM it was close to 100F and by then it was time to look for a place to camp. We had been going 10 hours and the old girl was starting to complain whenever we got into heavy traffic and I could not get up enough speed to enable the air (even though it was like a blast furnace) to cool the rad. It seemed like it took forever to get through Norfolk (I have a name for that place that sounds similar) and into Chesapeake and just north of the Carolina state line we found a campground off highway 17. It was a huge place, on a 100 acre farm near the Inland Coastal Waterway and the geological wonder known as the Great Dismal Swamp. But as much as we would have liked to visit these places time was now our enemy and the wedding was only 3 days away.


  The next morning, very early again, we were up and running down Highway 17 into North Carolina, my intention to go out to the Outer Banks, a 200-mile long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast, and stop along the beach for a few hours. Marie, Phil and I had been there a few years ago and I had always wanted to return. It is a wild and totally desolate place at times, dotted with old lighthouses and miles of sand dunes as far as the eye can see. The Wright brothers' first flight in a powered, heavier-than-air vehicle took place there in 1903, at Kill Devil Hills near the seafront town of Kitty Hawk and I would have liked to stop there for a few hours as well. But fate intervened by the name of one Hurricane Earl, a Category 4 storm with winds of 140 mph that was only 80 miles off the coast when we passed by. Although it was another beautiful cloudless day and already into the 90s I could just see off into the distant Atlantic the outer fringes of the storm and, as we were getting constant warnings on the radio to leave the area as a mandatory evacuation was in effect, there was not much else for us to do but turn west and make for the I-95. Another day lost, I thought as we turned onto the one Interstate I was hoping to avoid at Rocky Mount, and headed back south towards Florence. We crossed into South Carolina and stopped at one of the USAs biggest tourist traps to gas up and look for a bathing suit for Christina - South of the Border. For the past 2 hours on I-95 we had seen the billboards every few miles featuring Pedro the mascot, wearing an oversized sombrero and poncho, counting down the number of miles to, and promoting, South of the Border. Needless to say neither of us were impressed and vowed never to return!

And as I have done countless times over the past 40 years driving between Canada and the USA on my way to visit family in Florida I again found myself crossing Lake Marion and, as we were already halfway through the state, thought it might be time to stop and go for a swim. So, off the beaten path of SC Hwy 6, four miles east (exit 98) of I-95, we stumbled across Mill Creek marina and campground - very friendly, very southern and very hot. As it was right on Lake Marion, I went for a beer and a swim, together. The water was very warm, the beer very cold. The lake is one of the two largest man-made lakes in SC that make up the Santee Cooper Lake System and fishermen from all over come for the catfish and large mouth bass. Not a trace of Hurricane Earl or fish for that matter, but a nice breeze appeared out of the east and after a few more cold ones and a so-so dinner at the camp restaurant I slept like a log.

Our last day on the road started like all the others, up and on the road before 5am, still dark but a hint of light over the Atlantic. By the time we rolled into the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia the sun was already burning on my left arm. A quick few hours and by 9am we had crossed into Florida, stopping at the Florida welcome centre to make some calls and stretch our legs before the final haul into Brooksville. I took I-10 in Jacksonville to the 301 turnoff to Starke and, as Christina had never had boiled peanuts, we picked some up along the roadway and spat shells all the way to the I-75 in Ocala. The turnoff to Brooksville came into view before 3pm and we had made it. One day before the wedding. No air conditioning and way I will do that drive again in August!

Part the Second -

We did not have alot of time to get ready for the wedding but as it was almost come as you are I was not too concerned. I had originally planned to just wear a sock, but, with Rich and I both happen to be wearing black, we went as the Blues Brothers. It was great to see all the family together for the first time in a few years - Richard and Hayley had arrived from Ontario the day before us, Caroline a day before Rich flying in from Utah. Isaac (Dees eldest) and his wife Alicia were there as well (the first time we had met!) and one strange bird everyone called Weedly....she performed the wedding. It was a glorious day, not too hot with a blue sky and puffy white clouds overhead. For a gift from us I gave Dee and John a triptych I had painted of a mountain scene - completely different than anything they usually decorate their home with as Dee likes her Florida scenes, the sea, shells and fish. It was a  great day as Dad gave Dee away and the happy couple posed for photos. I think Lyn and I were the designated photographers so I took a hundred or so digital shots (some included below), Lyn 5 or 6 rolls of 35mm.  The next day Dee and John were scheduled to embark on their honeymoon - a Carribbean cruise to the Caymans, Cozumel, Roatan and Belize. Bon voyage to you both and in your new life ahead remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination....


                                                                                     Part the Third -

                         Following the reception the rest of the afternoon was dedeicated to only one thing -

                                                                               Part the Forth -

I spent three more days with Lyn and Don, visiting with Mom and Dad, and preparing the van for its winter hibernation. Hopefully it will not be invested with ants and spiders when we return in the new year! This trip I saw more than the usual number of banana spiders and had the opportunity to meet them face to face on more than one occasion walking around Dons or Dads properties. They are the largest non-tarantula spiders in North America and I saw some with bodies the size of my little finger, and leg spans of over 5 inches. They are relatively harmless so I had no fear getting close to them with my camera. Like all my photos if you click on the image it will open up v e r y large!
Before flying back north on the 8th Christina and I had the opportunity to go out with the gang on Dons boat to Crystal River, home of the manatee. We did not see any of these slow moving mammals but did encounter a few dolphins, flying fish and spent an hour swimming in the Gulf. Nearby the Crystal River 3 Nuclear Power Plant dominated the horizon - manatees often congregate near power plants, which warm the waters and I thought it a strange symbiosis how creatures millions of years old quickly adapt to the 21st century. On the 8th Rich, Hayley and Christina headed east to Lake Worth for a week after dropping me off at the airport in Tampa and are still no doubt basking in the Florida sun. Life now returns to normal here in the Great White North, fall is in the air and already the local papers are predicting the upcoming fortunes of the Montreal Canadiens hockey season.

Part the Fifth -

While I was gone Marie was busy finishing the counter tops in the kitchen - she cut the laminate sheet, glued and rolled it, bought a fixed base router and did the edges as good as any professional. She never ceases to amaze me with her talents and the photo shows what a wonderful job she did. That is her in her office, taken last month. The front balcony was completed this past Saturday as well and can now be used again. Sorry I cannot say Marie did it as we hired two young guys who finished it in 8 hours. This weekend we are heading out to the cabin to continue installing the pine tongue and groove on the walls and enjoy some much needed peace and quiet. It is time for me to turn down the volume knob on life for a while....Phils back yard BBQ is now scheduled for the 25th. So stay tuned for more photos!  Till next time. gws