Sunday, July 26, 2015

Andy Lake - year 2

We just spent a magical week at Andy Lake. We discovered this little resort last year; after trying a few other cottages at other lakes over the years, we finally found one we loved enough to go back to. The ownership changed in the fall so we weren’t sure what to expect this year, but it was all good. Our cabin was still very rustic and tiny but there is talk of updating it in the future. They did add a TV / DVD player, which we made full use of. There was no TV reception but watching a few Corner Gas episodes every night was fun for all.
We booked this week’s holiday when we checked out last year and in the year since then, a few conflicts arose: Chloe is away and couldn’t come, Dale had to fit some work in and Neve had tickets to the One Direction concert Friday night. We weren’t able to change our reservation, so in the end Dale, Spencer and Neve went home on Thursday at noon and I stayed until Saturday by myself. This sounded like a dream come true in advance but when it came down to it, it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations. I don’t mind being alone but following on the heels of such happy family time, it was kind of lonely. Seeing other families laughing and frolicking in the water didn’t help either. But I made the best of it by watching lots of The Office episodes, reading, sleeping, and laying by the water with no one begging me to come swim with them. Okay, I actually wouldn’t have minded someone to swim with by the end, but it wasn’t all bad. I always say I love being alone, but maybe I just talk tough. Who knew? We missed Chloe a lot; it wasn't the same without her but we knew she was having fun without us so we tried to do the same.

But the rest of the week was amazing. I tried to get up early to enjoy the day to its fullest but I failed every day until I re-defined early. I work up around 9:30, went for a run (sometimes), had breakfast, had a cup of tea on the dock, swam/read/ate all day, had dinner, swam some more, went in the sauna, played games, and watched Corner Gas. I started and finished four books, two newspapers and one magazine. And we ate. Oh, how we ate. All carbs, all the time. My stomach still feels full and heavy. But it was Worth It.
Neve loved the three cats roaming around the resort and named them Cleo, Furnando, and Jackie.
We also went for a couple of canoe rides and explored some islands in the area. The weather was sketchy at first: it alternated between sun and rain every half hour or so. During one of the sunny spells when it looked like the rain was done for sure this time, we took the canoe out and were a fair distance away when it suddenly started raining. We headed back but not fast enough: a wall of rain and strong winds caught up with us. It was raining so hard we couldn’t see anything (Dale and Spencer called it hail, but it wasn’t). We paddled with all our might and made it back, soaked to the core. That sealed my decision never to go on a substantial canoe trip of any kind. Not that I was considering one, but still.

Action shot. Not sure where Jim's lower leg went.

The water trampoline was a big hit again. Apparently it’s super fun to try and push people off. Some people are not as easily pushed off as others. Spencer and I finally got Dale off except I went in first with Dale’s full weight on me and I didn’t have time to plug my nose (I know, I’m a baby) and we sank way down and I felt panicked that I’d never come up. I don’t find trampoline-wrestling nearly as fun as Dale and Spencer do. I’m not sure how fun Jim found it either. It’s kind of sobering to discover that your much older brother-in-law is stronger than you are. He and Sabrina and the girls dropped by for a visit on Sunday and my friend Lori and her kids came by on Tuesday.
As hard as it was to leave our little paradise, it’s nice to be home where you can drink the tap water and weird droppings aren’t constantly falling from the old log cabin ceiling. But I’m already looking forward to next year when the entire family will be there for the entire time, no matter what amazing opportunity Chloe has to turn down or what concert will be missed (unless the Beatles get back together).

Friday, July 17, 2015

Movie afternoon


Neve faced one of her long-standing fears this week. Ever since she was a toddler, she’s been scared of movie theatres. I remember when she was so little she could barely talk (which isn’t very specific since she was a late talker), we took her to IMAX to see “Santa vs. the Snowman.” She got so freaked out by the 3D graphics in the opening credits that Dale had to take her out of the theatre and walk around Portage Place the whole time. There was a big red A that zoomed out towards the audience and she was terrified. “Red A close to me!” she cried. In her baby voice it sounded like “Red A cose-a-me” which is phrase that still makes us laugh to this day. At least she knew her colours and letters.

I think we did take her to one movie after that, but I can’t remember which one. I do recall her fear of the automatic flushing toilets which played a part in her refusal to go to a movie ever again. Not a big deal; I’m not into forcing a kid to go to the movies and it’s saved us a lot of money over the years.

But then Minions came along. Neve loves minions. She sleeps in minion pyjamas literally every night. If that doesn’t prove her love for them, I don’t know what would. Then she admitted that she sometimes feels left out when all her friends are talking about a movie they’ve seen in the theatre. We can’t have that! We must feel included at all times! So I made it my personal mission to convince Neve to see the Minion movie. I promised her a small theatre, no earth-shaking surround sound, no 3D or big crowds. Enter Towne Cinema 8. I think I have expressed my love of the Towne 8 before, but let me say it again. Is it a bit sketchy? Yes. Has it seen better days? Yes. Are the screens on the small side? Yes. Is there a better deal to be found anywhere in the city for first run movies?? NO! $4 a ticket (Tuesday special; regular price is about $5). For $16, we got two movie tickets, a medium drink, medium popcorn and extra butter. And it’s seriously not that bad – they keep it clean and contrary to popular belief, there’s lots of parking around. My motto is: support businesses that you would be sad to see disappear. Actually I just made that motto up but I would be very sad to see the last movie theatre in downtown Winnipeg close down.

Anyway, Neve was very anxious until the movie started and then she relaxed when she realized it wasn’t too loud or over-sensory. We sat in the very back row and ended up having a great time watching those silly yellow oval dudes. She was pretty proud of herself for facing her fears and has now declared she will go to movies, but only at the Towne 8. That’s my girl.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer: Week 2

The weather has been hot hot hot lately and I love every second of it. We rarely run our central air because neither Dale or I love it and the big trees around our house keep it pretty cool inside. But we’ve had the A/C on the past couple of days, so you know it’s hot. It still cools down just enough in the evenings; Dale and I had dinner at our neighbours tonight and it was pretty idyllic sitting outside on their patio drinking sangria and eating delicious Spanish food. I don't think I could ever get enough of this weather.

Here are a few things that we’ve been up to lately. I’m going to try not to break down my entire summer day by day, but somehow that’s what seems to happen here.

Neve and I went strawberry picking last week. Spencer came too but since he finds strawberries repulsive, he sat in the van and read. We picked five baskets of berries and then headed to my parents’ house. We explored the garden, ate lots of fresh peas and had garden lettuce and freshly-dug potatoes for lunch. Those potatoes were the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time – with butter and fresh dill … mmmm. Dessert was fresh strawberries with ice cream and milk.

My mom and I made jam and then Neve and I went home, where I made more jam. Followed by white cake and whipped cream to eat with strawberries. I also made chocolate-dipped strawberries and tea biscuits to bring to work to eat with strawberry jam. I’m still not tired of strawberries. In fact, they’re all gone now (except for the jam and some I froze) and I kind of want to go pick some more.

Spencer stayed at my parents to work for a few days. You may think to yourself, “What a nice boy to help out his grandparents!” Yes, he is a nice boy, but not that nice. He’s on a quest to earn money. But he did have a good time in the process. There are always machines to drive and meat to eat. What more could he ask for. Well maybe some Bob Dylan records and a piano, but a break from his regular routine is a good thing.

Mowing the lawn with Grandpa's new tractor

We were down to one child for a few days which was a nice break for us too. We scored a weekly invitation to watch Amazing Race Canada at a friends’ house, so we went on Wednesday. We went early so Neve could swim in their pool and then we all watched the show. The kids watched in the basement and Neve had such a good time she made us promise to return every week. Luckily it was just as fun for the adults watching upstairs, so we probably will go whenever we can.

Neve and I went to the Quarry on Friday. We couldn’t find anyone to come with us so it was just us two. We were both a little skeptical of that situation, but we had a great time. It was so hot that we spent lots of time in the water which made Neve happy. Then we zipped home for happy hour, followed by my parents coming for dinner and bringing Spencer home. We were going to barbeque burgers but our BBQ decided to die that very day. A fresh dose of propane didn’t resuscitate it, so Dale went to the neighbours to use theirs. Our BBQ was about 17 years old so I guess it paid its dues. Dale was in the process of building it a new brick pad to stand on, but now that honour will go to a new BBQ.    

See how handy Dale can be when he puts his mind to it! This is still our old BBQ in case you're concerned that we got ripped off on a new one.

On Saturday we worked in the yard and then went out for dinner with friends. It was sunny and beautiful all day so I had visions of sitting on the patio but it was not meant to be. Almost as soon as we were seated on the patio at Cibo, the thunder and lightning started, followed by rain. They didn’t have room for us inside, so we dashed to Corrientes where we ate inside. Not quite like I imagined, but still fun to get together with friends. 

And on Sunday we spent an awesome day at Grand Beach. Spencer had no interest in the beach and vowed to spend the whole time in the van reading. Since he would have died of heat exposure, I thought it best to let him stay home. Again we were down to one child but this time my niece Tia stepped up to the plate and became our daughter for the day. The day started off warm but overcast, but once the clouds moved out of the way, it was super hot and sunny. The water was refreshing but not too cold, the crowds weren’t too big, and it was all a very fun day. We laughed at all the people with glowing red sunburns until we got home and realized people were probably laughing at us. A few applications of aloe vera fixed that problem for the most part. After the beach, we went to Bob & Jan’s, except Jan is in PEI for a couple of weeks so Bob made us dinner and we sat on their lovely deck and hung out all evening.

Synchronized cone-eating

In the photo above, I wanted to draw your attention to our beach caddy. Not the man, the cart. My dad built this for me years ago when the trip from the parking lot to the beach with three small children involved a long, awkward, exhausting heavy-laden trudge. Then we discovered the Quarry where you can basically park right next to the lake and can take a couple of trips if you really need to so we hadn't used the cart for a while. But we brought it to Grand Beach yesterday and it was still as awesome as ever. All the other beachgoers were struggling with chairs and umbrellas and coolers but we sailed right by them … all of us empty-handed and free except for Dale. He wasn't quite as excited about this as I was. But it was basically the highlight of my day. And it was a good day so that's saying a lot.

All in all, it was a pretty perfect summer weekend. This week we’ll be mostly sticking around home and getting ready for some time at the lake, followed by a trip to pick up Chloe in Quebec. Chloe still seems to be enjoying her time there. She says she’s able to understand French better than she thought she would but I get the impression she prefers listening over speaking. We’ve passed the two-week mark, and she’s now been away from me longer than ever before. It would be nice if she could fly home for a weekend in between. However, being independent is pretty awesome too so I’m proud of her.

Here's one last photo from another beautiful evening this week when Neve and I went on a little photo shoot to the Forks and City Hall. Good times. How I love you, summer.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Time warp week

It’s been a weird week. Not bad-weird, just time-warp-weird. It feels like last Sunday was at least a month ago. I can hardly believe it’s only been a week since we sent Chloe to Quebec. Neve was still in school last week Monday and Tuesday. Even as I wrote that, I had to double check the calendar to make sure that was true. We’ve only had three weekdays of summer holidays. I don’t know how that’s possible. It definitely had something to do with Canada Day falling smack in the middle of the week. It felt so much like a weekend that I tried to get the Monday Safeway deal on Thursday. I felt silly when I realized my mistake, but the cashier did not laugh. I think she thought I was trying to scam her. Maybe she has trust issues from people using expired coupons and stuff. Anyway, these are some of the things that happened this week. My pics are just iPhone pics, so the quality isn’t awesome.

Monday: Neve had school and her final soccer game (no pictures).

Tuesday: After Neve finished school at 11:30, Spencer, Neve and I went to Matlock to a friend’s cabin. It was hot and sunny and we spent a great afternoon on the beach. In the evening Siobhan and some other friends came over for drinks on the deck. It was short, but sweet to see her before she left for Ireland the next day.



Wednesday: On July 1st, we went to Mike & Darla’s for a Canada Day pool party. We had lots of fun and watched the fireworks from their backyard.

Thursday: I worked all day. I can’t remember what else we did that day.

Friday: Spent an awesome afternoon at the Quarry with friends, bookended by a morning happy hour with my neighbour and an afternoon happy hour with another neighbour. Later the kids and Dale and I went for ice cream and walked along Corydon.

 The above picture is notable because Spencer is a) at the beach of his own free will; b) not reading; c) not eating junk food; and d) not asking to go home. It's also worth noting that it was a beautiful day - it may look overcast but it's that *#$&%^ smoke coming from forest fires in northern Saskatchewan. I wish someone would put those out already.

Saturday to Sunday: went to Dale’s brother and sister-in-law’s cabin in Hecla (at Hecla? On Hecla?). They have a beautiful cabin there with the most amazing huge windows overlooking the lake. They were away on a trip, so Dale, his mom, the kids and I went to hang out there. The weather was uncooperative; a thunderstorm started almost as soon as we arrived and it rained the entire day. I will say it made for perfect napping conditions. There was no rain on Sunday but between the smoky air and the mosquitoes, it was nicer to be inside. We ate and read and played lots of Rummy and Phase 10 and Skipbo which is all much more fun to do when you can see a lake from your window, so it was all good. We also explored the Lakeview resort and walked around the wharf, etc. It really is beautiful up there.

When we got home, Dale and I went for a bike ride and later Chloe phoned. Sounds like she’s having a good time. She’s made friends (although I question the depth of a relationship in which she can’t speak English), likes her teacher and has done a bunch of fun activities. She didn’t sound one bit homesick which I’m thankful for, but I admit it would have been a tiny bit touching to hear a little sniffle or something. One week down, four to go. We miss her. Neve and Spencer fight like an evil little cat and dog without her. Yesterday they were arguing about how long a second was. Chloe, if you’re reading this: hurry home!! Or if you understand French better by now:  Maison de pressé! (hope that makes sense – if not, blame the google).

The first full week of summer vacation begins tomorrow. Hope they're all as long as this last one!