Friday, July 29, 2016


In summer, pretty much every day is a good day but yesterday was even gooder than most.

I had a great bike ride to work; the weather was perfect and I only had to stop for two red lights.

As soon as I stepped into the office, I heard someone exclaim, "And she just walked in!" Turns out someone had just pulled my name in the draw for free Bomber tickets. That was a great way to start the day. But wait! It keeps getting better. In my mail slot was a sizeable cheque for the annual work project I do on the side. Then I got some great news about next spring's Chamber trip (I'm going to Croatia!).

Later in the morning, a guy in my office comes tearing down the hall, yelling to me that someone tried to steal my bike, which is locked up outside. As a fellow cyclist, he always keeps an eye out for suspicious activities around bikes and happened to see a guy bent over my bike. When he went outside to investigate, he saw the guy sawing my lock off with a knife.

My co-worker is the politest guy you've ever met and he said, "Sir! What are you doing? That's my co-worker's bike!" Another passerby also saw this and started yelling at the thief using much less polite words. Something to the effect of "you f*&% *#$&@* I'm calling the cops! You better run, you f$#*& @*#&$!"

He ran.

So my bike was saved. I brought it into my office for the rest of the to help it get over its trauma.

I didn't even get my bike on the picture. And yes I know my helmet's crooked.

After a lovely ride home on my newly-appreciated bike, I nurtured my children and my plants and got ready for dinner. Bob & Janet and the girls came over for a belated birthday dinner for Jan, then Jim and the girls joined us for cake. It makes me so happy to have people over and be able to sit out on the deck well into the evening. Consider that your invitation to come join me!

hashtag blessed

(that's for you, Siobhan)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Steep Rock Beach: one-day road trip

Before I proceed, let me just say that not all the comments are appearing on the blog. Blogger sends me an email when someone comments and I know there was one from Sheri-Lee and I think some others, but for some reason, they're not appearing here. So I just wanted to say that I did get them. And I appreciate them all - thanks! I love comments!

I've been feeling sorry for myself that there's no road trip on the agenda for us this summer. I'm living vicariously through many of you, especially Shannon whose summer trip is in a category all of its own. But one thing we can do is day trips. Unfortunately Chloe was working and couldn't come with us, but I guess she had her own road trip last weekend (and another one next weekend).

We got up early, which was not easy since we were up late Saturday night. Friends came over for Indian food and we sat on the deck for hours, through rain and shine and darkness. But we forced ourselves from our bed, packed a picnic, woke the kids and were on the road by 8:30 with a stop at Tim Hortons for some breakfast.

We headed north on Hwy 6 and drove almost three hours to Steep Rock Beach. I'd seen pictures of it in Travel Manitoba brochures but I hadn't heard of anyone who'd been there and I was curious.

It's pretty sparsely populated up there and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Steep Rock is a tiny town with signs pointing to the harbour, the south cliffs, or the beach campground. It's all kind of spread out and sort of confusing. Our first stop was at the harbour and this is what we saw when we came over the hill. The hut wasn't open and the palm trees were obviously not real, but it still looked pretty cool. It was sunny when we left Winnipeg but shortly after we arrived in Steep Rock, it started to rain. The wind was super strong on the lake and the waves were pretty big. There were two swimmers playing in the waves with boogie boards and it looked pretty fun. But cold.

We walked around a bit, then drove to the beach campground. It would have been lovely to have our lunch by the beach, but the wind and the rain were not conducive to that plan. So we put the seats down in the van, spread out the blanket and ate our lunch in the back of the van. If Chloe and her cousins can sleep in a van, surely we could eat in ours. It was kind of fun; we thought of watching a Corner Gas episode on the van's DVD player but we didn't want our battery to die in the middle of nowhere.

And then suddenly, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and it turned into a gorgeous day.

We played grounders on the least safe/most fun play structure we've come across in a while, complete with splintery slides with huge metal rivets, swinging steps, and rusty chains. There was a second play structure with a tall fire pool that reached dizzying heights. A fall from the top of that would surely result in a bone fracture or death.

We also saw a few garter snakes. Dale calls them "gardener snakes;" one new resident to Canada will now do the same after he asked Dale what it was.

Then we drove to the south cliffs and saw steep rocks, hence the creative name of this area. These cliffs were the highlight (besides the snakes). I took way too many photos, but the view varied from each of the cliffs and I couldn't stop myself.

There were even a couple of caves.

The boy is not as tall as he looks; we were on standing on a slope.

Like I said, many pictures. On the plus side, we now have an stunning future wedding location for our children. It's good to plan ahead. I hope no one minds the 3-hour drive.
Eventually, we reluctantly headed home (except in Spencer's case, switch the word "reluctantly" for "finally") and stopped along the way to take meaningful photos of large statues. I wanted the kids to be in the picture so the scale was more obvious, but the kids don't always do what I want them to.

A hay bale dressed as a hippie, for reasons that are likely only clear to the creator. But I like it.
So that was fun. There are some really cool spots in Manitoba that are worth exploring. If anyone has any good suggestions of lesser-known places, let me know. Might I add that whole day cost nothing but the gas. We used gift cards for Tim Hortons, brought our own lunch, and no entrance fee or park pass is required at Steep Rock. We were planning to go out for dinner and/or stop for ice cream, but no one was hungry.
The entire weekend was pretty great. We hung out at Lion's Pool with the neighbours (and Jan made a brief appearance bearing slurpees) on Friday afternoon. Chloe, Spencer and I went to a hilarious Fringe show Friday night; we're still quoting lines from it. On Saturday morning, the girls and I went to the St. Norbert Farmers Market and Doug & Lorie came for dinner that night. The weekend was even sweeter since Friday was the last day of a 5-day "healthy eating challenge" which I may discuss in more detail another day.
Today is a beautiful, hot sunny day and the whole weeks looks good. It isn't possible to overstate how much I love summer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rushing River - year 6

The weirdest storm is going on right now. It was a super hot day (30s with high humidity); one that you just know is going to end with a storm. The sky got dark and sinister, and the lightning and rain started  when I left Polo Park after a few errands. Then it started to clear up (complete with a double rainbow that's all over instagram) and now it's dark again except for clear sky way in the west. 

If you didn't come here for the weather report, read on.

Our annual Rushing River camping trip followed very closely on the heels of our annual Andy Lake week. Since that's probably all the holiday-ing we'll be doing this summer, it was a little more condensed than I would have liked. However, we skipped Rushing River last year and this year's booking was made pretty last-minute, so I feel very lucky that we were able to do it at all.

Sadly Chloe couldn't come this year. We are navigating a new phase - caught between the kid we still want her to be and the independent adult she wants (and needs) to be. She had her own adventure this weekend - a trip to Wisconsin Dells with Bailey and Tia. I'm proud of them all - three young(ish) girls driving on interstates and figuring things out on their own. Expired passports and spending the night in the van? No problem - these girls rose up to the challenge! 

Back to our less adventurous weekend. I took very few pictures because I felt like they would be the same as the other years. Now I wish I had taken more. We had beautiful weather, great campsites right on the water, and lots of food and friends and fun. We went swimming and canoed to different islands. The canoe we rented this year felt super tippy and the kids felt anxious, so after we unloaded the kids and towels at an island, Dale and I set out to prove that the canoe wasn't as tippy as it felt. We were wrong. Both of us just leaned slightly to the left and instantly we were in the water. And then the canoe started to sink; luckily we were close to the island and could drag it there pretty easily. Later, when we left the island, Neve was sitting on the floor of the canoe and shifted her weight slightly. We were so close to tipping again that we took on water. We were very still for the rest of the paddle home. No one even dared to cough. I know canoes aren't the most sturdy of watercraft, but this was ridiculous. I feel like the canoe factory's testing process could be improved. Too bad we didn't get all of that on film.

As the children get older, things have changed. The girls used to play Barbies and mermaids the entire weekend. The boys ran around the campground and swam and played. This year the girls did gymnastics on the play structure and the boys played board games and read. I kind of miss the old days but it sure is nice that they can pack and shower and go to the bathroom by themselves. Our conversations and fun around the fire have also evolved. Justin Bieber is no longer the villain in every single one of the campfire stories.  But still. The good old days were pretty sweet too.

Blake's birthday! 

The wrapped gift underneath the mini cake stand is a young adult romance book that I meant to give Chloe. She got the humourous book on parenting that I meant to give to Blake. oops.

I say this every single year (see previous blog entries for proof) but NEXT year we will have a tent trailer instead of a tent. The problem is we always forget about it until right before we go camping the next year and it's hard to buy a camper and get a hitch on the van the day before we leave. We tried. I feel like we may have missed the boat on the camper, with Chloe unlikely to camp with us much and Spencer not far behind. But we love our annual camping trip so much and we'd camp more if we had a trailer (right?!). I feel like I'm getting too old to sleep on an air mattress three nights in a row. A guy across our back lane has trailers available to rent so we might just go that route. Stay tuned for what happens next year. (Spoiler: we'll probably still be in a tent.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Andy Lake 2016

We spent last week at Andy Lake in the same cabin we've rented the past few summers. I could really just link to the blog posts from previous years because we did exactly the same things. We just look a little older and heavier in the pictures.

It's by far our most relaxing week of the year ... no schedule, no work, no watches, no makeup. Other years we've done little excursions to Kenora or Sioux Narrows but this year the furthest we went was a few kilometres up the road for ice cream. It was so good - exactly what we all needed after a very busy May and June. In some ways, it would have been nice to go a little later in July instead of immediately after the busy-ness of grad. It added to the stress, knowing we had to prepare and pack up as soon as the festivities were over. We didn't even start getting ready to go until Saturday morning - Dale went grocery shopping while I packed - and we were on our way by 1:00 pm. But even with that pressure, as soon as we were on the road, it was awesome. If we'd gone a week later, it probably would have taken me that entire week to get ready, yet somehow we did it in only a few hours. So that was a good lesson. Well, we forgot a lot of things, but we managed. Chloe joined us halfway through the week, so she brought everything we had forgotten. And more junk food, since supply could not keep up with demand. All my clothes are tight and drastic measures need to be taken but it's summer and everything tastes so good.

Lucky Charms means we're on holidays

I would have liked a little more sun and a little more heat, but we worked with what we had. It was overcast a lot, but very little rain. We spent our days in the water - canoeing, swimming, paddle-boating, jumping on the water trampoline - reading on the dock, and playing games in the screen room. After dinner, we did our sauna/swim/repeat routine, followed by a few episodes of Corner Gas. It was such good family time and even better once Chloe arrived.

Trampoline-wrestling was the highlight again. The children are getting stronger. They look so pleased with themselves for pushing Dale off.

There were cats again this year, including 5 kittens. Neve made friends with the owners' kids and they spent a lot of time looking after the kittens. I don't believe the kittens actually needed looking after but the girls felt otherwise. They made a cozy space for them, complete with a chart of all the kittens' names.

Lots of reading was done. I measure the success of a vacation by how many books I read (three and a half)


The pre-requisite dock-jumping pic

It was hard to leave this beautiful view, but there are good things about being at home too. Like ... laundry? work? cleaning? Okay, there aren't many advantages other than sleeping in my own bed. And using my own bathroom. And all the plug-in rodent repellers made me uncomfortable. We've never seen a mouse or evidence of one but they wouldn't have those repellers for no reason. I never look in corners or under the bed. In fact, I keep my eyes fixed at about waist-height anytime I'm in the cabin.

The resort owners are making some changes and they're not taking bookings for next year at this point. I'm very much hoping we can go back next year, but if not, we'll be on the hunt for a new place. That will be sad for us because I can't imagine a nicer set-up than this. But it would be good for you blog readers - you wouldn't have to see the identical blog post for the fourth straight year.

After we checked out on Saturday, we went to Rushing River for the afternoon.  Jim & Sabrina were camping there with friends, so we hung out with them. They have a huge floating party island - here it is floating to the main beach.

We're heading back there later this week for a camping excursion with Blake & Kristin. The laundry should be done just in time to pack up again. But it's nice to have something to look forward to (the camping, not the laundry).