Monday, February 28, 2011

King George VI

    I was pleased as punch that someone has finally done a movie about King George VI, and to the win the Oscar as best picture was certainly satisfying to me! I have been an avid collector of the King's memorabilia (mostly stamps and books) for forty odd years now and feel justice has finally been done to whom history often labels as a misunderstood, introspective and unassuming man. In reality King George VI was a beacon of light and inspiration to those who lived through the last world war (my Mum especially, who lived in England during the blitzes), a loving father to the present Queen and a devoted husband to the Queen Mother who outlived him almost 50 years! The King was only 56 years old when he died this month in 1952, and for the previous 15 years he had been called upon to bear the sudden burden of the crown, following the abdication of  his oldest brother Edward in 1936. During those years, with the rise of Hitler's Germany, his courage through his many handicaps never failed. England was bombed, the skies constantly violated, the shores threatened with invasion and the Empire faced with disintegration, yet he shared the dangers and perils of his fellow countrymen as only he knew how - in the service of his people.
    For those interested in learning more about him the following excellent book is essential reading: King George VI His Life and Reign by John W. Wheeler-Bennett , first published in 1958. It is the official biography of King George VI, presenting a comprehensive record and analysis of his personal and public life. It is filled with extensive historical background and is based on the author's unrestricted access to Royal archives.

    I have an extensive collection of stamps issued during his reign, from 1937 to 1952, carefully preserved in an old Stanley Gibbons KGVI stamp album. At that time the British Empire was immense, encompassing Australia, NZ, Canada, Ceylon, India, Ireland, Malaya, Newfoundland, Pakistan and South Africa, just to name a few. As well numerous African states, most having since gained independance, and dozens of tropical islands scattered throughout the globe that were either Crown, Federal Colonies or Dependancies of other islands, issued stamps bearing the King's portrait. Here then are a few examples of some of these stamps from my collection:

    Hopefully, through the release and success of the film The King's Speech, even more people will come to appreciate the man behind the stutter - a great King who some 60 years ago, by his simple humanity, devotion to duty, and service to his people and Empire, earned the deep respect of millions around the world. gws

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February, out like a lamb...

Marie outlined in an archway at Mont Royal Cemetary

     This weekend Marie and I drove up to the cabin, stopping off in Ange Gardien, just south of Granby, to discuss the design and initiate the drawing of the house plans with Structure Alternative, a local business which specializes in in-plant production, transportation and installation of wooden structures for the residential markets. We have decided to go with this company as it has been the most professional and know what they are talking about when it comes to putting up walls and roofs. We have had a disappointing experience with two other house builders we have been dealing with this year, Maisons Laprise , a prefab manufacturer, and Timberblock, who produces log homes. Little followup and disorganized staff seemed to highlight these two companies so we are happy now to have found someone we have complete confidence in.
    We snowshoed up Maxime and our driveway in a heavy snowstorm when we got to our property. Even in low 4 wheel drive I was unable to negogiate the incline due to a layer of ice under the snow- the first time I haven't been able to get up Maxime in four winters there! Muffy came with us and jumped through the deep snow like a rabbit. She loves it there and the years seem to fall off her when she gets outside in the wilderness. 
Marie visiting with Patrick, Mont Royal Cemetary

Me and Marie, Mont Royal Cemetary
   Before going out to the Townships this weekend I managed this week to finish the main entranceway and paint the pantry. Next job? Build a cabinet for the washer and dryer.
Window to pantry from dining room

Inside the pantry

Our Mexican silver and copper sculpture, in pass-through between dining and living room
 But, deciding I had had just about enough and as it was such a beautiful day today, we took a few hours off to drive up to Mont Royal Cemetary to visit with Patrick. The sun was shining and there was no wind so afterwards we took the opportunity to stop off at the top of the mountain to see the city stretched out below. It really is a beautiful spot and one more reason Montreal is such a great place to live. We will visit often once we move away and we need to reconnect with civilization!... Our prayers and thoughts are with those who have suffered and lost loved ones in New Zealand this past week.  gws

Marie and view of Montreal (Olympic Stadium in distance) - click for larger view
Me and view of Montreal (St Lawrence River in distance) - click for larger view

Monday, February 21, 2011

Skiing at Chantecler

This Saturday Phil and Fer, Marie and I drove north on highway 15 to Ski Chantecler, about an hour from Montreal, on the road to Mt Tremblant. It is a great spot in the Laurentians for beginners as well as intermediate and more advanced levels of skiers and snowboarders. There is night skiing there as well and a bistro ( packed with kids and rather noisy while we were there ) where you can relax with a beer or munchies after a day on the slopes.

Phil getting ready to snowboard

For Fernanda and I it would be an auspicious occasion - her first time skiing, my first time snowboarding! Usually this time of year Chantecler would have incredible ski conditions with large amounts of snow but it had rained the past two days and the temperatures had got up into the high 40s so we were confronted with hard packed snow with a layer of ice beneath it! The temperature was perfect though when we got there - about -6 with no wind! Phil was eager to show off his snowboarding skills to me and for the past year has encouraged me to try it. He first snowboarded in the Rockies a few years ago and figured old Dad could do these little hills! I rented a board and boots, Fer and Marie skis and boots, while Phil had his own gear. He and Marie gave Fer basic instructions and followed her through the first few hours as she tried to keep her balance and learn the basic skills on the beginner`s slope. Marie hadn´t skied since 1997 and was a little rusty but was able to show Fer how easy it was and by the end of the day they were both able to attempt a fairly long run down the mountain! At the same time Phil was showing me how to maintain my balance and use my knees to change directions on the same slope where little kids were putting me to shame. Thankfully there was a 'rolling carpet' lift which we used to get back up the hill. I somehow managed to master the basic moves and after a few tumbles was confident enough to get on the big ski lift and head up the mountain! Naturally I took a major fall near the bottom, going into some trees ( my first aerial!)that lined the runs and whacked my butt pretty badly but all in all it was a great experience and, except for a briuse or two and aching muscles, I could do this again! Who says you can´t teach an old dog a new trick or two! 

Me on my rented snowboard

Marie in her new ski outfit

Me at the bottom of the beginner's hill

the rolling carpet at the right of the beginners slope

Phil & Fer

Fer, first time on skis!

Marie outside Bistro

Me, Ski Chantecler

First run, no broken bones!

Me coming down fast, run 41, Ski Chantecler!!
Marie in front of run sign

Marie at the bottom of Run 41

It cost Marie and I about $100 for the ski lift tickets, rentals and food, so I thought it was a pretty inexpensive way to spend a day and hopefully we can all do it again before spring. There are a few days of cold weather ahead but looks like it will be warming up this weekend when we plan to take a drive out to the cabin. Tomorrow might be a good time to use my spa coupons and get that Swedish massage I so badly need!  gws

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kitchen renovation...continued

       Good morning! For those who might have wondered I can say I am almost done our kitchen updates here in the duplex. With the help of Phil last week (before going to Florida) I finished the electrical behind the countertop, installing two new outlets and a Broan range hood over the stove. Drilling behind the wall and through the plaster and lathe was accomplished with an extra long (36inches) drill bit and a length of string to pull the wire through. Once that was done it was time for a new backsplash so Marie and I finally decided on tile - I like to work with it and for the small area to be done was quite inexpensive and looks good! Hardest part is the cutting naturally but I have an old 7 inch wet tile saw that I picked up for less than $75 new and have a done quite a bit of cutting with it. Just make sure the blade is in good shape and take your time. I think you'll agree the tile ( not only on the backsplash but the floor as well ) really improves the look of the old kitchen!
before tiling
after tiling
               Next two projects involve finishing the main entranceway by installing a new lockset and, once the weather warms up, putting in a new frame and outside door on the back balcony. This weekend Phil, Fer, Marie and I are off skiing/snowboarding. Pictures to follow! Till then, have a great Friday! gws

Wednesday, February 16, 2011



Hit my 500th visitor to the site today since adding my new counter this past April. (I have been up now since 2008 and am pushing the 2000th hit). They certainly aren´t mind boggling numbers but thank you anyway to all the people who have stopped by and read a bit about us, our travels and plans. As you can see on the counter at the right you are from 41 different countries! Don't forget to leave a comment and come back to see what is happening in the Steward family! gws

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day!

Hey cupid! I got your arrows again this year and thanks! Happy Valentine´s day to you all and remember : a heart that loves is always young....

Plattsburgh, NY, Sunday, February 6

On Sunday last Marie and I drove down to Plattsburgh, New York and got on board an Aliegant flight to St Petes, Florida. We spent a night with Dee and John in Land O' Lakes where we had a great BBQ and watched the Superbowl together, picking up the camper they had been looking after for us, then driving it up to Brooksville to spend a night with Mom and Dad. Our third night we stayed with Lyn and Don, meeting one of his old Air Force buddies from the west coast and then headed back up north Wednesday morning. When we left Brooksville that morning catching the I-95, we got as far as The Oaks campground in Yemassee, Georgia, not far from Savannah. From there we continued on up through South and North Carolina, stopping at the South Forty camp resort in Petersburg, Virginia, just south of Richmond. The weather was getting to be a bit nippy and it was cold that night but our propane heater kept us cozy and warm. We left early to get through the madhouse of Washington, Philadelphia and NYC, catching the 287 (NY Thruway) to the I-87 and stopping our last night on the road south of Albany. It was dark when we called it a night, the snow was rather deep and we didn´t think we would have any luck finding an open campground, so decided to treat ourselves to a hotel in the little town of Newburgh, in the Catskills.

Moose weathervane, snow and icicles somewhere in the Adirondacks, February 12

From there the following morning it was another 6 hours to home, the drive through the beautiful Adirondacks always a pleasure and relaxing. The old van ran like a new vehicle and we now have to decide if it is time to sell her while she still works, or keep her and fix her up for another few years. Stay tuned for further updates!

Icicles and our 1981 Dodge Ram van, somewhere in the Adirondacks, Saturday, February 12

Have a great Valentines!! LOVE and PEACE!! gws

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February = Snow!

  Happy February from snowy Montreal. Only our second big dump of the winter so we can't complain! I was at the cabin yesterday removing snow from the sheds and solar panel and didn't see another soul. I snowshoed up into the woods to look about and in the quiet and peace around me felt somewhat soothed and healed from the past hectic month, my senses put in order for the rest of the week...the days are getting longer... can spring be far behind?    gws