Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas 2016

It is now Boxing Day and Mike, Aimee and Maya are out shopping, Chris and Jason are loafing, Avery is napping and I have a chance to blog.
The Christmas tree was up when I arrived. I gather Avery helped decorate it and he has been very good about not touching it. He bought the long snowman home from his last day at daycare with "I did, I did" which meant he coloured it.
In Aimee's family, Christmas gifts are unwrapped on Christmas Eve so the kids were allowed to unwrap one present before they went to bed. We had our introduction to Avery's unwrapping technique. He frantically tears off small pieces of paper. His partner in crime, Maya, then puts them in her mouth.
Avery got Car slippers (they go so well with the skull and cross bone pajamas)
Maya's were pink with little claws.
Chris and Jason flew in at about 11am and still had wrapping to do so we really didn't get started on Christmas until about 2:30pm.
Avery in his elf hat with a mouth absolutely full of clementine pieces
First it was Christmas stockings (as if it was Christmas morning instead of afternoon). We each got a kitkat and Avery immediately identified it as something edible, biting right through the wrapping with no problem and then proceeding to eat mine as well.
Avery was the elf and started out very well, handing each gift to the person he was told to and then helping them unwrap it. After a while he just got very impatient with the process and developed a number of unique "Avery Elfing Techniques":
1. Air mailings (throwing gifts at people)
2. Multi tasking ( how many wrapped and unwrapped gifts could he carry at one time)
and finally
3. Cut to the chase: lets skip the step that's taking too long and I'll just unwrap them all!
Avery was very generous with helping everyone unwrap. Yes, that is a cupcake onesy Mike is wearing. A gift from Aimee. Going one better than Christine's gift a number of years ago; My Little Pony pajama pants.
Avery immediately understood how to use the ride on Jeep I gave him. Aimee and Mike were not happy he got a Jeep before they did.
We had an excellent Lasagna for dinner, turkey is on Boxing Day, and the kids didn't get to bed 'til late. Too much excitement. So much fun.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Edmonton - pre-christmas 2016

After numerous gate changes and delays I finally left Toronto and landed in Edmonton's wonderful -20 weather. Since then it has warmed up. Days have been spent shopping and running after grandkids.

Meal times, one of Maya's favorites. Though she's pretty happy most of the time.
Supper at Daddy's work meant some pretty intense colouring,

coaster chewing,

trombone listening

and chopstick wielding.

Followed by bath time and

story time.
 Meanwhile Rasta is having so much fun at Si and Dan's .......

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


I am leaving for Edmonton this week so, I'm sure, the blog will feature grandchildren over Christmas. As a bridge to that here are some pet pictures.
I visited a fellow "hooker" in Cambridge last week and she had some wonderful pets; parrots, a tortoise, a lizard, a very friendly, very furry cat and dogs.
His colours were just beautiful. Photo by Jennifer Budd.
I was in Toronto last weekend as Chris had surgery. Two, as always, was in the thick of things.
Cuddling with Chris while she grumped about her liquid diet.

Checking out the snow fall.
 Back at home now and doing some last minute Christmas stuff before leaving. I am making Jason a stocking to match the rest of the Sweeton stockings (a tradition begun by George's Mum when she made appliqued stockings for Christine and Michael). My needlework is nowhere near as neat and tidy as hers, but the stockings are being made bigger as Santa now tends to deliver magazines as well as small things.
Rasta decided that the red felt on the table looked like a good place to lie. He knows he's not supposed to be up there but I had to take a picture before chasing him off, it was such a lovely contrast with his black and white fur.
Note the artfully placed paws. This picture is primarily for Chris because she gets freaked out by his paws.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Baja California - La Paz to Toronto

My final day in Mexico was spent mostly in traveling. Up early and did final cleaning and then started the drive to La Paz. Took me a couple of tries to find a gas station that would take my credit card (2 of them mysteriously had defective machines??). Stopped off at the grocery store to buy some coffee. I really liked the Mexican coffee.
The drive back took nearly 3 hours as I was carefully staying well under the speed limit. I passed the scene of my "traffic infraction" and there was a cop car sitting at that 4 way stop. I watched everyone roll through it but I came to a full, solid, long, stop before proceeding.
Because I had to get the car back by 3, I was rather early for my 7:30 flight but I just hung out at the airport bar/restaurant and it was quite entertaining.
There was a constant stream of flights coming in and its amazing to me how many people want a beer before they even get on the shuttle that will transport them to their resort (even though the Mexican greeter has told them there is beer on the bus). There were also a huge number of destination weddings (you can tell from the groups of young people with many of them carrying clothing bags) and for some reason destination wedding guests do a lot of squealing and hugging. It was a great place to people watch.
 The tables get pretty full at peak arrival times so I shared my table a number of times with some interesting people from Canada and the States.
Time for my last glass of Mexican Cabernet Sauvignon .I don't think I've seen any kind of Mexican wine in the LCBO (I just looked it up, they stock one Petite Sirah in Vintages). Time for my last beautiful Mexican avocado (though I can get them at home but they wont ripen as beautifully) this one with fresh crab salad on it.
Sun going down behind the Sierra de Laguna. It was the cloudiest and coolest day so far.
An uneventful flight home, got into Toronto at 2am, overnight in a hotel, picked up my car and drove home (gas, groceries and cat on the way).

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Baja California - La Paz, last day and Zarape en Malecon

Today I walked downtown just enjoying the warm weather and light breeze.
How could I resist a sign like that.
Brightly coloured with tassels and ribbons. Some had pictures on them. They were hanging in the parking area/courtyard of a house.
Pinatas, according to wikapedia : The Mexican Catholic interpretation of the piñata rested on the struggle of man against temptation. The seven points represent the seven deadly sins. The pot represents evil and the seasonal fruit and candy inside, the temptations of evil. The person with the stick is blindfolded to represent faith. The turning, singing and shouting represent the disorientation that temptation creates. In some traditions, the participant is turned thirty three times, one for each year of Christ's life. These interpretations were given to the piñata for catechism purposes. As the participant beats the piñata, it is supposed to represent the struggle against temptation and evil. When the piñata breaks, the treats inside then represent the rewards of keeping the faith.[3][7

It goes on to say that the pinata has largely lost any religious meaning and is now just part of many Mexican celebrations.
This old building holds the tourist information office which I wish I had found on the first day rather than the last. I didn't even bother to go in.
On the other side of this street is the start of a shopping district with lots of narrow streets and small malls. There is a large Sears Store and a 3 Hermanos department store, restaurants and bars as well as smaller independent stores.
I kept going, down to the malecon and walked along, looking for a likely lunch place.
I walked quite a way along the malecon and ended up with this view from my table at Zarapa en Malecon.
My glass of wine came with these botanas; nachos, warm refried beans with white cheese grated on top, fresh salsa (no sloppy stuff here just tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro all chopped fine) and what the waiter called "hot dip" and it was.
I can't remember what this was called but it was chicken wrapped in tortillas and covered with mole sauce. The sauce was light and very tasty, I love mole. A salad was supposed to come with it but the waiter apologized, said it would have been too messy on the plate and
served it as a side dish. He bought me oil and vinegar for the dressing but it had a balsamic reduction drizzled over it and that was dressing enough.
By now I had decided that this was definitely my main meal for the day and I had the makings for a salad for supper at home. So I asked if they had flan on the dessert menu. The waiter, who spoke very good English, came back from the kitchen, apologetic, no flan, would I like another kind of dessert. I said no thanks and ordered a coffee. He said they had a special one with molasses, would I like to try it, sure.
When he returned with the coffee he also had some flan, said it was a miracle, the chef found some. I don't know maybe they went next door for it. Chocolate for presentation and fresh mint leaves on top.
The coffee was very good with molasses and cinnamon in it. When he described how the mixture is hard and melts in the coffee pot I realized that this was probably what the weird looking brown cones had been at the grocery store. They were in the produce section, near the spices.
I had sat with my wine and meal for a couple of hours, watching the bay and enjoying just being there. The meal cost me about $20 Canadian including tip.
A Christmas tree was going up on the malecon as I walked back.
So now I need to pack, tidy and clean up the house, fly home and get thinking about Christmas myself.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Baja California - La Paz, curious about water.

Reading the old posts, from Merida, yesterday, I realized that I had done some water colour painting while I was there and vowed to try and do more (the only way I can get better is practice, and lessons!). I bought my paints with me on this trip so gave it a another try.
Prepped on the table outside. A yoghurt container lid for a pallette.
Every time I have painted it has been en plein air and I always forget how fast the paint dries, the colours  I've mixed and then when I brush them on too. It makes it more difficult to blend, wash etc.
He was rather fun to do, the zen doodle cow skull.

People in La Paz are serious about having clean cars. The neighbours, who appear to have 3 vehicles, wash them every weekend. There are car washes, hand and automatic, scattered through the streets and enterprising men offer to wash your car while you are in the grocery store. This made me curious about water here. In two weeks I have not seen a drop of rain though I am told it rained alot with a recent hurricane and the summer months are rainier.
There is a cistern on the roof of the house and it is filled twice a week with city water. Dale told me that hers, in Todos Santos, is filled once a week. I have been pretty careful with water as I don't really know how long a cistern full lasts. Of course I am drinking bottled water. The water from the air conditioner pipe is used to water the courtyard plants.
I pour the bottled water into this attractive crock so it's easy to fill a glass or a water bottle.
 Researching on the internet I found out that La Paz gets, on average, about 7 inches of rain a year in 18 rainy days. Water comes from an aquafier and they are building an aquaduct to get more water from the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. One article noted that most people in La Paz don't have a water meter so have no idea how much they are using or if they have a leak. A survey done also concluded that most residents of La Paz don't know that their water comes from the mountains or how much it costs.
There is residual arsenic pollution, in the water, in the mountains, from previous mining operations and there is currently quite a bit of resistance to a plan for Canadian and American companies to start up mining operations again. Wealthy developments (mostly around Los Cabos) have been putting in desalination plants to solve their water shortages but there is not much research on how many can operate in a small area without environmental consequences (a huge use of energy and pumping concentrated brine back into the ocean). I found a 2015 article that stated that a desalination plant would start construction, in La Paz, that year, also a water treatment plant, but I could find no indication that either plan materialized.. It is unlikely that the area will get more rain and it is the second fastest growing state in Mexico.

The fountain in the central square (designed to look like a local coastal rock formation) isn't always operating.
Interestingly the Nov 29, 2016 edition of the Baja Citizen, a local English language publication had an article titled "Home Water Management Ideas in La Paz" but the article was entirely about water softeners and water filters, not about using less water.
House finch bathing, unconcerned about the water supply, in a courtyard fountain.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Baja California - La Paz, mad dogs and Englishmen.

In a previous post I mentioned getting out and walking before the heat of the day. Well after a shower, some clothes hand washing, 2 cups of coffee, breakfast and online banking it was noon before I left the house. But I wasn't planning on going far, or for very long. Part of the problem is that there is no "shady side of the street" at that time of day. Anyway, I was looking for a couple of buildings that had been closed when I found them on the weekend; Unidad Cultural and Archivo Historico
On the way I passed this. I must live a sheltered life, I've never seen a "Beer Tunnel Express", a drive through (literally) beer store, before.
This is where I was headed as I had read there is an art gallery and theatre in the building.
 I found the gallery but it was closed and I could see that they were mounting a new show. I heard noise from the open door of the theatre and found that there was an art exhibit in the lobby.
I don't know if there was a title or theme to the exhibition but some of it seemed to left over from Dia de los Muertos which was at the beginning of the month.

The Day of the Dead is a big celebration in Mexico with people dressing up as skeletons and a fiesta like atmosphere. It is also a time to decorate graves, remember family members who have passed away and eat the food that they loved.

"Trascender" by Edelmira Ridriguez Morales

It wasn't all gruesome. "Bailarina" by Aline Flores.

"Nina con Esterella" by Gerardo Fernandez.

This one had an element of collage to it. "Arbol de la Vida" by Vicente Cedillo Nieto

"Abalax" by Lizette Inzunza. Loved this, the colour was perfectly spilt red wine colour. Not the colour of the wine in the glass but the muddier, purplier colour when it stains a cloth. But I never think of dancing when I spill wine. Or is it that the wine tastes like dancing or is it an ink blot thing. Shouldn't think too much about it, I just loved the image.

Finally in honour of my courtyard visitors. "Triptico de Colibris" by Maria Azucena Quevedo Luque

 I walked up the stairs to the open doors of the theatre and watched for a moment a musical performance of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf before an audience of children.
This building had big glass doors and I could see there were photographs lining the lobby and corridors.

The photos were of La Paz from the 1920's on, many labeled as "postcards". It was interesting to see the dirt streets, single story thatched and adobe houses, horses and wagons and then old cars, earlier versions of the port and malecon and the cathedral with no towers and then with one tower.
Well, that is what I had planned to do but then looking down the street I could see and smell the sea. So even though I was hot and didn't have my good walking shoes on, I headed down the slight hill.
This reminded me of the houses I had just seen in the old photos. The old brick was being repointed and some replaced. Newer construction is with cement blocks or poured cement then covered with stucco.
This just makes me laugh. Wheel chair access at the corners but there is no way a wheelchair could traverse the irregular sidewalks of cement, stone, sand, gravel, steps, ridges and ramp driveways. I saw one woman with a cane walking down the middle of the street. It was the smoothest area.
A man called me over to look at the Poinsettas he was selling. Each one in a brown paper bag like illicit alcohol. When I took a picture he pointed
to a prettier one to take.
I walked down to the fishing area that I had seen on my first walk, last week, and walked along it. There was a a woman cooking the fresh fish on hot coals for a group of fishermen. It smelled heavenly.
The pelicans looked well fed
and content.

I have seen one of these on the telephone pole, from the courtyard, but on the walk home was able to get a picture. A Gilded Flicker
 So, home, after 2 and a half hours walking in the heat of the day. Hot, blistered and looking for a green salad and avocado for lunch. I'm really going to miss these avocados.