Thursday, 20 July 2017

So Many Babies

I am always slow to get out congratulations, and this past spring has seen a whole pile of babies. So here are the new humans in my life (not alphabetically, not chronologically, literally in no particular order):

Nic and Drew have expanded their beautiful family one further, bringing Canada a new little wombat. I have only met her once but Rosie is just the sweetest. They are all renting The Cottage next week so can show the new little one their 'Beach House'. (Photo Right)

Christopher keeps bringing us Canadian content and just a few weeks ago became the proud father of Elliott. He lives, with his lovely wife Heather, just a couple of doors down from James and Mike so Elliott will be able to spend lots of time with his cousins Ava and Aiden. And the grandparents are around the corner too - such a cool city family - it is the Toronto dream.

Canada Day celebrations were even more special than usual for Pat and Michelle, who spent the entire day in labour. Fitting date - as they have been known to host an epic pool party on it in the past. Liam arrived in the early hours of July 2. I am so happy for this little family and the many adventures they will have together. (Photo left)

I can't believe how much Henry looks like his dad Marc. Marc and Christine are up in Ottawa. Henry was born in March, quite a bit early I believe. But he is doing wonderfully, even if Marc is going to have him cheer for all the worst sports teams (Boston? Really?)

P and E also named their little boy Henry, who was born a few months ago. At the moment he is keeping a very quiet social media presence. I have had the chance to see him and can report that he is super cute.

Babies are going to keep on coming with Lauren due any minute and JennD expecting her second little one in the Fall.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Bringing Back The Verde

I wanted a modern font for our house number at Casa Verde, it really updates the look. My plan had been to possibly 3D print some since buying them is much more expensive than the more traditional house numbers. Eventually I ran across a project online that included a recommendation for numbers that weren't too insanely expensive, and the grass highlights would mean that the house could tie back to its name.

So here is another little weekend project that we just finished. Though it feels like it took much longer because gathering the supplies (like getting the house numbers) took months:

New House Number And Mail Box
Casa Verde - July 2017

We also fixed up the area right below the mail box. It used to be a pile of bricks blocking animals from getting under the porch and some cracked grey patio stones. A couple of weekends ago we had a big dump bin so that we could tear up the cement pad in the back yard and dispose of all the concrete. We took the opportunity to move some patio stones around on our property - getting rid of broken ones and clearing them out from areas we don't want to have them anymore. We also had to get a couple of bags of red rocks and even did proper excavation, lining it underneath with landscape fabric to prevent weeds.

Jason and I are really bad at taking before photos, even though I know how great they are when things line up side by side. Here are a couple shots that can fill in for a true before and after shot of our house number:

Slowly Improving The Facade
Bought it - December 2015
New eaves - March 2016
New house number - July 2017
Casa Verde

I am very happy that the old number is gone!
Casa Verde - July 2017

Yes, I know that the 9 is a bit tilted, Jason and I can fix that with a normal drill - just moving the nail at the bottom over slightly. We needed to borrow a hammer drill from the Tool Library in order to screw the plywood backing onto the brick. That was the main focus this weekend, so that we could return the tools last night.

Also, in case you can't tell from the photo, it isn't real grass. (It might look weird in the winter.) It was quite the 'crafty' project, there was spay paint and trips to Micheal's:

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Going To Africa

It was a crazy rash decision and purchase but a group of 6 of us are going to Africa in January. To quote Kristen, "July 1, no plans. July 3, ALL OF THE PLANS." We got a voucher from Groupon, making a very affordable tour even more so. We bought the Groupon about two weeks ago. Then over the last week we have been working with the tour company to make the final reservations. The trip includes flight, but out of JFK in New York, so some of of us have paid a bit extra to adjust the departure to leave from Toronto instead. Now everything is booked and I still can't believe it is happening. Kristen, Noah, Tessa, my mom, Jason, and I are all taking a 12 day tour of South Africa and the idea of being on a safari is still mind blowing to me.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Cleaner And Lighter

When we first purchased Casa Verde we did a lot of renovating in the basement:
- Demo
We wanted to be able to rent the space out to help cover mortgage costs. Also, it was important to create a space that we were comfortable having someone live in - as you can see from the links above, it was very gross for the previous tenants.

One of the things we tried to do was reuse things, this was difficult because of the aforementioned grossness. We wanted to reuse all the doors but by the time we finished we had knocked down and moved so many walls that they didn't fit and it would be better to get new ones - except for the bathroom. We were able to put the original bathroom door back on. We kept it with the 'wood' look because it was easier and I wanted to have natural textures in the space.

We got a request a few months ago from our tenant to pant the door white. We still have leftover paint so it wasn't an issue, but it did take a long time to have a free weekend that was warm/dry enough to do it. So this was a little weekend project (spray painted the mirror, painted the door frame and door):

Small bathroom upgrade: Painting everything white
Basement Casa Verde
Before and After: July 2017

Tenant was right! It looks much better painted white to match the rest of the bathroom. It really brightened up the space making it feel lighter and more open. I was also able to touch up some scuffs and dirt on the walls too since it is all the same paint colour - which really cleans things up a lot. Even though it has only been a year, it makes me want to do touch ups elsewhere in the house too, there is so much wear and tear that seems to happen. It isn't that Jason and I are rough on the house but I think our walls dent easily (plaster) and the pale colours we have everywhere show grime.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Cost Of Stamps

This is such a grouchy senior citizen post, but I can't believe the price of stamps now! If you just buy one stamp it is a dollar, when you get them in rolls or booklets it is $0.85. It is nice that they have the little P that means 'current domestic postage rate' so if it goes up you can still use it to mail a normal letter within Canada. But still, when did it get so expensive? How is this not a commodity market item?

I actually remember when it was $0.45 to mail a letter. I found a website that maps out all the postage increases from 1943 to now. It turns out the price I am remembering is from 1995, and for my entire elementary and high school life it was under $0.50. That milestone increase happened in 2005 so I was in university at the time and I guess I didn't notice. I am shocked at the cost now, it is just such a big jump.

It is the same story with gas prices too, I started driving when it was in the mid-sixties. However, I can remember it being in the forties when I was younger. Now it is regularly well over a dollar. (I am such a grouchy old person.)

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Five Years And I Still Don't Like Coffee

Five years ago today I met Jason for the first time. We had been matched through eHarmony and quickly arranged to meet up for coffee, except I don't like coffee so I definitely had something else. I have different ways of explaining the matching process, or that first meeting, or our early days of dating. The bare fact is that we met up at the Starbucks at the corner of Bathurst and St. Clair (close to Rrunuv Bayit.) I was later told by Jason that the date was July 12. Seeing that later on we had agreed to use August 9 as the day we started a relationship, I was neither aware of or cared about remembering the specific day we met. However, each year Jason remembers this day and usually celebrates by bringing me Starbucks - but not coffee, I don't like coffee.

I can't believe that five years has gone by already. I love what we have done with this time together, I love where we are now as a couple, I love everything about him. Jason, I love you.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Flippy Floppys

There wasn't a dress code at the last BIA I worked in, however, my boss didn't really like open toed shoes/sandals so we agreed that we wouldn't wear them to work. I don't really think that flip flops are work appropriate, but it is a casual day today, with no meetings. Also, these ones are so much nicer than the usual $5 Old Navy style. I got them for Taylor's wedding, they are getting pretty worn out but I still love them.

Also, my awesome red pedicure is from Ottawa. We went out to get pedicures the day after Canada Day - such sore feet after waiting in lines, dealing with mud, and walking all over downtown. I didn't choose the colour to be patriotic, but lets pretend I did!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Hole In The Soul

I have been feeling a bit empty lately and I realize that it is because I haven't made or 'created' anything in a while. My mind is filled with timelines, organizational details, and budgets/prices for work, Casa Verde, travel, family and more. These leaves me feeling productive but hollow. I know that I am good at keeping track of these types of details. I analyse data well, much better than any creative skill I might have. But the data isn't enough, I need to be creative.

I thought that Casa Verde projects would fill that void. Fun little DIY upgrades like our 'fake crown molding' are really enjoyable, especially as they tend to take a fair amount of problem solving to recreate in our space. However, at the same time it often just feels like I am following instructions, just going step by step and not being really creative.

Hopefully I will get a chance to be artistic soon, but the opportunities seem more limited now for some reason. Maybe just getting back to writing will be enough.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Maybe It Is?

My numbers are terrible!! 2 posts in May! And I didn't do very well in June either. Maybe it is my new job that is keeping me from writing posts for Always Standing. My tablet is fixed now, I have no excuse.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Not A Full Day

My big street event at work was yesterday and the whole experience is a blur. I was at the office for 3:45am on Saturday morning to meet up with the people putting out our barricades, from that point on it was constant low-level chaos. I did take a couple of short naps - hiding out on an air bed thing (featured in the photo on the right.)

The event itself went from noon to midnight but I was there until about 2:45am helping with take-down - according to Jason. At this point time had lost all meaning and I had no idea. So it turns out that I worked a 23 hour day, which is pretty insane and I feel like I have the worst hangover right now. My whole body is puffy and hurts. But I did have fun!

I think the event went well. Over the next couple of weeks there will cleaning, reviewing visitor and business surveys, having multiple debrief meetings, and generally analyzing everything to see how we can improve.

Monday, 19 June 2017

It Is Going To Be A Tough Week

I am still a bit down because of Father's Day and how much it reminds me of Dad's death. Unlike more organic remembrances, that may still be sad but are at least enjoyable nostalgia, Father's Day just makes me think about the fact he is missing from my life now. It is definitely painful. His birthday is also coming up on Wednesday so it is a rough time for grief all around.

My event is, and like all event planning, the last week is chaos. It is basically controlled panic. While I do enjoy it, I could never do events like this full time - too exhausting. Also, this is a massive event and there has been less time to plan it than normal, even for a smaller event.

Also, related to work, it seems local discontent is coming a bit to the surface, which in general is a good thing because it will allow me to address concerns and improve relationships. But really this isn't coming at a time when I have the time, energy, or even mental capacity to give it the attention it deserves.

One week from today, next Monday, I should be able to take a deep breath and feel more centered.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day

Dad - I miss you.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

You Can Cook Those?

Jason took me out for dinner tonight before he goes away for a week to San Francisco. It was a really nice evening and a great escape from work, which is all consuming at the moment.

We went to Woodlot on a side street in Little Italy. (And it turned out that area was having a street festival so walked around for a bit afterwards.)

One of the most interesting aspects of the night was that we ordered roasted radishes, I don't think I have ever had a cooked radish! It is totally different from the sharp taste when they are raw, both Jason and I really liked​ them. So strange to experience new food that is something so normal and simple.

How have I never had a cooked radish before? I am 33.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Lost Summer

I ran across a video on Facebook called 25 Years of Summer Songs and all of them brought brief flashes of life back to me, except one. It was so strange to recognize each one, remember the song, reflect on my time during that year and then be confronted by a blank. It was jarring but I assumed it was probably an American list and that song wasn't popular here.

Then I thought about the year - 2004. I don't know if I would say it was the worst summer that I have had but it was a rough one: staying in Ottawa after my first year at Carleton in Engineering, to take summer courses. Working at a minimum wage job across the city that took over an hour and half on transit to get to. Dealing with a long distance serious relationship. Not many friends around because so many people return to their hometowns during that first university summer. However, that minimum wage job was at Extreme Pita, so that is full-time radio listening and I am surprised that the song didn't stick in my mind from that.

The song, Burn by Usher, seems to be pretty universally agreed to be the main song for the summer of 2004. While I recognize other songs from that same album, that one just isn't in my memory. I don't totally agree with all the picks each year, in 2001 I can remember Drops of Jupiter being a major summer song, but that might have just been personal experience. I might not be big on music but songs are still often a serious memory link.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Too Early For Worms

There is sun light peeking through the top of the drapes in the bedroom. IT IS FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!! The light doesn't wake me up or keep me awake (I don't need darkness to sleep) but the birds do. It is too early in the day for birds, go back to your nest beds.

I love that the days are getting longer, but hate that it also means the mornings are getting earlier.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Scaredy Cat

I don't really post much about Two here anymore​, because she has her own Instagram (linked on the left) but this morning she was being pretty amusing. Basically she randomly became super curious or scared of everything, like she had never seen it before. When she is curious she taps and bats at the item incessantly. If she is scared she either runs away or attacks or both.

Things Two was scared of or intrigued with​ this morning:
- The bathmat
- Phone charger cord
- Me taking my morning pills
- A hair tie on the bed
- Jason
- The dryer door
- A sock
- My purse
- Turning on The Tassimo
- Bed pillows, throw pillows, couch pillows

And this evening everything is back to normal again. It is funny when she goes a bit crazy, makes me wish I could have stayed home with her for the day to watch all the rushing around.

Monday, 5 June 2017

I Do Things Too

I did mention before that Jason has been doing a lot of work around the house, but I am also trying to be involved too. A few weekends ago I dug up the Perennial plants that I already had (two Bleeding Hearts that were a birthday gift from Mom last year, and some Irises from Aunt Dan). We need to do some serious work in the yards this year and I will replant them in the Fall when I know more clearly where our gardens are going to be. I got some planters to keep on the back deck so I can look after them over the summer. I also bought more perennials (manly Hydrangeas) since I really feel like Annuals are a waste of money.

Back Deck Planter Garden
Before & After - Spring 2017

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Smart Served

Sunday Mornin' Coming Down - A post about my Dad each Sunday, named after a song that he loved.

My parents got their Smart Serve certification so that they bar-tend at Give Me Liberty (the Liberty Village BIA street party that I worked on in 2012, 2013, and 2014.) According to my mom, it was actually at that event that my Dad learned about Shazam.  I don't know if they got much use out of the Smart Serve beyond those few times, they may have found it helpful for yacht club events. I was able to list Mom's as a Smart Serve bartender at my wedding so she at least got one extra use out of it.

Interesting side note: According to Anne you have to redo the certification in Alberta because it expires after a period of time. In Ontario it lasts forever. Teri and I did a course one weekend when we were 18, wrote the test and the end, and are still good 15 years later.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Candy Prep

Jason is 'on production' which I think is something in computer developer lingo but basically means he is scheduled for a off-time shift and has to work from home from noon to eight today.

To prepare for his Saturday work day he bought a Family Size pack of licorice sized Nibs and a big package of M&M's. He will now sit at the computer and focus very hard on work while eating a tonne of candy.

Friday, 2 June 2017

And Why Did I Go?

So, since I haven't been away, and most people knew that I wasn't, what has been the cause of the month-long blog hiatus? A lot of friends and family have been wondering why I haven't posted, and everyone has their own ideas as to the reason behind my stalled writing on Always Standing.

Here are the theories I have heard:

- The trails of home-ownership. Nope. It has been a busy Spring at Casa Verde but more for Jason than me. He has been working on the lawn, trying to get rid of weeds and seeding in more grass. While I was in Ottawa this past weekend Faye and David came and helped Jason and Noah tear down the gross shed/kennel behind our garage.

- Newly wedded bliss. Nope. I know we just had our honeymoon, BUT. We got married in September 2016, moved in to our own house in May 2016, bought our home in December of 2015,  and we had started to live together in October 2013. So the bliss wouldn't really be the type to keep me from posting.

- My new job. Nope. While it is true that I am working long hours at the office in preparation for our big summer event, it has only stopped me from posting in that I don't want to log into a work computer to do it. We use Google for everything here and having my account on the computer to access Blogger might get tangled up in the accounts I use for work. But I often have my personal computer here so could easily pop on it during a break and fire off a post.

The actual reason:

- My tablet broke! I don't think I ever mentioned that I had my own tablet but Jason got me a very nice Google Pixel C for Christmas. (It was intended for my birthday but came so early that I got it at Christmas instead.) Well, I have been using it to post on Always Standing because it is always on hand and the Blogger interface on it is okay. I hadn't realized how much I relied on it to blog, but I do. All my Azores posts were done from the tablet, it is pretty much my main computer now. Well, the screen on it went wonky about a month ago and Jason spent some time trying to fix it but ended up having to send it away. I have it back now and posting will pick up again.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

And Where Have I Been?

Obviously I was in The Azores last month, but where did I go after that? Why haven't I been posting on Always Standing, was I away from Internet? Actually, over the May long weekend, I was. We went to The Cottage and the Internet is terrible there. I also had a weekend trip to Ottawa but besides that I haven't done much.

It doesn't feel like a month has passed since I was posting regularly, but somehow it has been. I will start easing back into it, sorry for the absence.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

I Guess I Have Always Had This Nose

This is what I looked like exactly 33 years ago today, though only the nose is recognizable to me:

"30 minutes after delivery the flash bulbs start popping."
Photo by George Sweeton 
May 24, 1984

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Me, On A Sailboat, On Tuesday, In The Azores

When Jason shared his photos from the trip I was surprised how many there were of me. I am just not bothered by having my picture taken so it doesn't really register. We both only had our phones with us in terms of cameras but Jason came away with more pictures. I thought I would show what our sailing day looked like based on photos, it was a nice post to do about Monday, lets do it for Tuesday too. (All photos are Jason's unless otherwise noted)

Setting off! A beautiful day, a beautiful boat!
Skipper Pedro (left), First Mate Rui (right), and Jason
Photo by ME

Touring along the coast, passing cities and towns.
The architecture is very 'European.'

They let me drive!
I think there was some type of autopilot going too, 
but when I turned the wheel the boat moved.

Left the wheel to hang out at the bow.
One of the quiet coves along the southern coast of Sao Miguel.

I can see it! Our destination far ahead. 
It doesn't lie far off the coast of the city of Vila Franca do Campo,
but we left from Ponta Delgada so had to travel east to get to it.

The reason for it all!
something that I REALLY wanted to explore.
While we didn't see it from this angle (helicopter?)
you did get a sense of its shape from sailing around it,
climbing along the rocks on the inside, swimming in the lagoon, etc.
Photo from Tourism Website

We are getting closer.
The weather was perfect.
Just enough wind to be exciting,
not enough wind to make Jason uncomfortable.

I can't take my eyes off of it.
It is literally an ancient submerged volcano, and looks like it.

Rounding the islet to get to the entrance.
The cliffs show the rocks at strange angles and formations.

So beautiful.
Not just lava rocks and harsh cliffs,
also tropical vegetation.
(And later we would learn,
tons of newts and crabs.)

Time to swim!
We reach the entrance and they anchor the boat.
Jason and I swim into the Islet to explore.

Docking the boat.
After our excursion, we went into town for lunch.

It has moss still on the shell!
My reaction to one of the pieces of seafood served at lunch.

Full on tentacles.
But then I had fresh octopus for my main course,
it was amazingly delicious, melt in your mouth good.

Saying goodbye. 
Left the islet and the city Vila Franco do Campo,
time to sail back to the main port.

Spent the ride back enjoying the sun.

A bit bigger than us.
Came into port just as a cruise ship was leaving.

We want to thank our friends and family who supported this trip, which was our honeymoon, and those who participated in our crazy wedding back in September. The money that was gifted to us was used on this trip and allowed for the types of adventures we might not normally splurge on. We had so much fun and are very grateful.

Boats, Bones, & Bikinis - Tuesday In The Azores

I got to swim in the ocean again today, but this time it wasn't warmed by a hot spring. It is our last full day in The Azores and our postponed sailboat charter was scheduled. I was so excited to finally get to explore the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, but we had been told when we booked with Sailingside that we would have to swim into the centre of the crater on the islet because it was too shallow. The sail boat could anchor near the opening and wait for us.

This swimming idea did not appeal to Jason when the internet kept telling him that the ocean was around 16 to 17 degrees. We had done the Toronto Island Triathlon in similar temperatures, and Jason had bad memories of it being way too cold. So we woke up early this morning to go find him a wetsuit to rent. The major town that is just slightly down the road has a surf school so we set out to rent a wetsuit there. When we found it, there was just a number to call. They were set up on the other side of the island where the waves were better, but that was still on our way to the boat. When we met up with them, in a moment of weakness, I decided to rent a wetsuit too.

I am glad we held off going on the sailing trip because the weather today is much better for being out on the water. We got onto the boat and headed out of the harbour with our Skipper Pedro and First Mate Rui. We explored the coast along the way and finally made it to the islet. Jason and I went into the cabin to change and I decided that I would be fine in my bathing suit since the sun was shining and I don't really like the feel of a wetsuit. So this is why in the photo below taking by the skipper who stayed back on the boat - you can see me clearly but Jason blends in with the rocks in his head to toe black.

Jason (wetsuit) and I (bikini) in The Azores
Photo by our skipper Pedro
April 2017

We jumped off the back of the boat with snorkelling masks and breathing tubes, which I didn't know how to use so just ignored. Jason and I swam, through the thin entrance area and climbed up on the rocks inside the crater. We walked around, though the seagulls have taken over during the months when they don't run the ferries - so there were bones everywhere. There were also newts! Tons of them that were sunning themselves on the rocks but would run away when you got near. There were also quite a few crabs, including big red ones. 

Another couple had come in a sailboat too that was parked near the entrance and they were scuba diving in the lagoon area. They said that the previous day they had seen giant manta rays in the lagoon from the land and had come back to see if they could see them in the water. We didn't have any luck but we did see a couple of schools of beautiful silver fish. Jason saw other cools things since he is better at snorkelling than me, I think I kick too loudly.

We went into the town of Vila Franca do Campo for lunch before heading back to Ponta Delgada, this time sailing further away from the coast so we could get consistent wind. 

For dinner we went to an interesting restaurant, Quinta dos Sabores, that we had gone looking for earlier in our trip but required advance reservation. It was a farm to table style and they cook a five course meal just for those attending that evening. The food was good and we were hungry from being on the water all day.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Photos For My Favourite Day - Monday In The Azores

I didn't know how excited I was to swim in the ocean or how much I have started to enjoy hiking on holidays but today was so much fun, I think it has been my favourite so far. Let me detail our activities using photos (unless otherwise stated, all pictures were taken by Jason.)

We drove to the south-west coast 
to go swimming in the ocean at Ponta da Ferraria.
The cliffs are steep, would our little car make it?

Of course it would!
The switch-backs helped of course.
That truck is not ours, we rented a little car.

The jagged lava rocks make for an eerie looking coastline.
But this is the best place to swim in the ocean 
when the weather is a bit cool out.

Because these natural pools are fed by a hot spring.
At low tide the ocean is 28 C in this spot.

These pools have been used since the fifteenth century.
History was onto something, we enjoyed a nice swim.

Then we went for a hike at nearby Sete Cidades.
We set off to get to the lookout point for the 'twin lakes'
wanting to see the iconic crater formation.

The walk started off taking us pass an aqueduct.
(Which I could find no information about,
obviously it killed me to have no facts on this!)

About half way through we noticed
fog had started to roll in.

Was it going to be worth the climb
if we couldn't see anything? 

Because it really was a climb!
It was another hike with a big elevation gain,
almost 200m again, in a short period of time.

But we stuck it out, worked up a sweat,
and reached the top. (Hydrate!)
It was an enjoyable walk, no one else was around.

But at the top instead of seeing this:
Photo from a travel site.
Iconic image of the Azores,
seen a million times while researching the trip.

We had this view:

Still, it was a wonderful day!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sulphur Stew - Sunday In The Azores

We were scheduled to go sailing today but when we arrived at the marina the captain suggested postponing the trip and waiting for better weather. It was pretty chilly and very grey, also apparently quite windy out on the water. We appreciated him giving us a chance to come back on a nicer day and we agreed on a Tuesday trip. That will be the day before we leave so it is cutting it a bit close, but the forecast is good for that day.

Both the captain and first mate highly suggested that we go to Furnas, pretty much everyone we talked to had mentioned this place. It is also the main destination for tourists when cruise ships come to port for the day. Basically it is the one big unique attraction. But the whole island is amazing, I didn't understand why everyone kept going on about this small part of it.

We decided to go because it was crappy weather and that is recommended. The first stop was in the main place for geothermal, volcanic activity. A conservation area with geysers and boiling mud and all that awesome stuff. We had seen some of it before at Caldeira Velha but this was at a much larger and more intense scale. As you can see from the short film from my phone HERE, I am not a good videographer. I also really like boiling mud!

In that video you can see piles of dirt with posted restaurant names, this is for a dish called cozido and it is another main reason to visit the Furnas area. It was recommended by a lot of people because it is very unique to the area - seeing that it is a stew cooked in the ground using geothermal heat it does lend itself to being pretty unique.

When we went into town Jason got the stew, though admittedly not at a very appropriate location. The stew is made from hearty and root vegetables, various cuts of meat, and types of sausage. It really would be best enjoyed in a very casual setting. However, we had lunch at a fine dining restaurant in a luxury hotel, see my photo of Jason on the right eating the stew with white table cloth.

The reason were at such a fancy place was that the hotel owns these beautiful gardens and hot springs and if you eat lunch there than the admission is included. The admission on its own is surprisingly high, especially as we just ended up walking around - I didn't think the hot springs would be a good idea for me. The gardens were spectacular though, they were started in the 1700s so some of the trees are huge and everything is very exotic and magical.

We drove home along the north-west coast which is a fairly remote area with gorgeous scenery, jagged cliffs and rough seas. So beautiful. (I only feel asleep for a short period of time in the passenger seat.)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Hospital Tales And Watching Whales - Saturday In The Azores

My Saturday started really early with multiple trips to the toilet to pee. I recognised the symptoms of a bladder infection (UTI) right away. I decided to go to the hospital to get antibiotics, told Jason, left him in bed to sleep, and headed over the hills on the short 15 minute drive to the main city. This also gave me a chance to practise driving standard again during a time when there were no cars on the road (literally none, I saw a total of three the entire time, both there and back.) 

Since it was the middle of the night, the hospital was fairly quiet and they moved me through quite quickly. When I first got there they said that it would cost 170 Euros to see a doctor, more if there were tests. (They did end up doing blood work.) Jason called our travel insurance from the hotel and by the time I was leaving the hospital payment information had been faxed and it didn't cost me anything.

After a bit of sleep and breakfast we went back to Ponta Delgada for our Whale Watching trip, stopping first at a pharmacy to fill my three prescriptions. We did have to pay for the medication, but it wasn't a lot and I am pretty sure we can claim it when we get home. For someone who enjoys hospitals, this was not at all the issue it might have been for other travellers (though I did not enjoy the IV going in so they could take blood.) The only unfortunate thing was another night without enough sleep. 

The whale trip was rescheduled to start half an hour later because the boat hadn't returned from the morning trip. We were told that the captain had taken them far out to see blue whales and that we would likely get a sighting too. Jason was so excited, he was practically bouncing in his chair as we sat on the marina patio having ice cream and waiting for the boat to come in. 

We boarded quickly and were on our way to many hours at sea looking for whales. Jason did get a glimpse of a blue whale, as we saw one surface a few times. We also got great views of a sperm whale that hung out near the boat for a long time. We do have a great video of the friendly sperm whale, including a dive that involved a tail flip. However, I can't figure out how to load it up onto the blog so instead I am included a photo from Jason that is reminiscent of my mom's famous seal shots:

"Whales" by Jason 
Atlantic in April 2017 near The Azores 

The captain would have kept us out on the water longer but a couple on board had a flight to catch. We could see the 'blows' of other whales in the distance, as it was our four hour hour trip ended up being almost six and a half. Jason struggled a bit to not get seasick and stayed outside the whole time. For the last little while I headed into the enclosed area to have a nap. Sadly my sleeping made me miss seeing some dolphins that Jason said showed up off to the side of the boat at one point, but the nap was still nice. 

Ring Science

Jason looked up what happened to our rings yesterday and it is pretty interesting!

So, our rings are silver and the sulfur in the hot springs reacted with it, turning into 'silver sulfide,' if we had stayed in longer the colour would have moved past gold to brown to black. It is known as Black Sulphide.

To fix this, you can polish the rings, since it will normal silver below but that results in losing some of the material. Our plan is to reverse the reaction when we get home. If we put the rings with aluminium foil and baking soda than it will reduce the silver and silver Sulphide which will reform the silver metal.

There is not point doing anything about it now since we plan to visit more hot springs during the trip and exposing the rings to sulfur again. Even though Jason really doesn't like the bownish gold they are right now.

Part of the reason that gold is considered a more precious metal is that it is less reactive with other elements, so this wouldn't have happened if we hadn't gone with the cheapest material option like we did. But I love it, makes me like our silver rings even more!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Rings, Springs, And Organizing Things - Friday In The Azores

Breakfast is included in our hotel, so after a bit of a sleep in we went downstairs to see what the buffet would look like. I was very impressed, four rows of food including a full row of bread and pastries, lots of hot food, fruit, yogurt, even chia seeds!

We went into town (Ponta Delgada) to sort out whale watching and figuring out how to get to the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, since the ferries don't start running until May.

We booked our whale watching with Moby Dick, one of the main operators and top rated on Trip Advisor. We are going tomorrow.

While we were booking, I noticed a brochure for sailboat charters; this is one of the ways I had figured out we could get to the islet. Also, it seems like a fancy thing we normally wouldn't consider - perfect for a honeymoon treat. The lady at Moby Dick said that the brochure was for a friend and she would call him for us, a few minutes later he was leading us to the boat (that was finishing up a film shoot for a French travel show.) We booked a private full-day trip for Sunday, and have no idea what to expect!

After a quick stop back at the hotel we headed over to Caldeira Velha hot springs. It was only 2 Euros each to go in. The short walk through the forest was breathtaking, with a stream, palm trees, and ferns everywhere. We passed a small pool and patch of boiling mud (so cool!) The larger pool was a bit cold but had a natural warm water waterfall so if you stayed close to, or under, it you were fine. It was totally magical. We did spend some time in the smaller, warmer pool too. After we got out Jason noticed that our silver wedding rings had changed colour! 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Trails And Tea - Thursday In The Azores

Jason and I arrived this morning in The Azores, specifically Sao Miguel Island, after an overnight flight. After leaving our luggage at the hotel (it was too early to get our room) we went exploring the central area of the north coast. I got us lost a lot so we ended up driving up mountains at some points and then through towns on really narrow streets. Eventually we made it to the tea plantation, which was where we had chosen to spend a bit of time while we waited for our room to be ready. 

They have two major tea plantations on the island, we chose to visit the free one which is still an active factory (the other is more of a museum I think.) The one we saw, Gorreana, is only one of three places in Europe that grows and produces tea. Though they have only been doing it since the late 1800s.

Besides checking out the factory, we did a hike through the tea fields (elevation gain of over 200m in 30 minutes gave me some Inca flashbacks.) The trail system here is incredible! Great maps and trail markers:

Amazing Trail Map And Markers
Gorreana, Sao Miguel, Azores
Photos by Jason

The main tourism website actually lists all the hiking trails and lets you search by length, difficulty, and shape. Unfortunately this one through the tea fields is the only loop-style easy trail under 5km. Looks like our next few hikes will be harder, and I didn't find this one particularly easy! However, the lack of sleep may have played a part, luckily our room was ready in the early afternoon and I could nap to catch up on sleep. 

Six Hours In

I didn't get a chance to sleep on the plane, so arrived with Jason this morning in The Azores, for our honeymoon, pretty damn exhausted. After touring around a solid portion of Sao Miguel Island (it is quite small) while we waited to check into our hotel, I came up with the following delirious impression...

The Azores is like Spain and Hawaii had a secret love child 500 years ago and didn't tell anyone about it. They just put the kid the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and gave it to Portugal to look after. All lush landscapes with volcanic geology, green vegetation, and bright tropical flowers interspersed throughout by classic Latin/Mediterranean style architecture and European towns/culture. It is an amazing merger that to some degree feels very familiar but at the same time is like no where else.

Like you would expect from a hidden illegitimate child, The Azores, both the islands and their population, are quiet. Comfortable with their complicated and unique identity but also very reserved about it. Most people speak English and Spanish (and more) but they occasionally point out the difference in those languages as they connect to Portuguese, the main one spoken here.

The weather changes on a dime many times throughout the day, a bit moody I guess. Flipping from cloud covered mountains to rainy coasts to stretches of blue skies across patch work stone fenced fields. The weather doesn't stay the same very long but it also doesn't seem to be too extreme.

Lastly, they got pretty into cows. Bit of an obsession, cows are everywhere and wander all over the roads at times - even major highways.

Basically this place is strange and amazing but also absolutely STUNNING! I can't wait to explore everything from the waves crashing on the coastlines to the black lava rocks on the hill tops and everything in between. Stay turned for more updates.

Monday, 10 April 2017

National Siblings Day

According to my Facebook feed it is National Siblings Day. Though really it is only recognized in The States, everyone is posting photos of their brothers and sisters. I figured I would join the fun on Always Standing. Instead of posting a 'Throw Back' image, here is a recent one from September:

Mike and I at my wedding
September 23, 2016
Toronto City Hall, Ontario
Photo by Stephanie Beach Photography

He also was back in Ontario a couple of weeks ago. Instead of attending the funeral for Aunty Laura he chose to spend the money coming back to visit her before she died. He brought along Maya too since she is still young enough that you don't have to pay for an extra seat. Not only did they get to see our aunt but they spent a bit of time in Toronto with me too. I love hanging out with Mike, he is a great little brother!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

How To Make Money After Retirement

Sunday Mornin' Coming Down - A post about my Dad each Sunday, named after a song that he loved.

I don't know who's idea it was but my parents 'sell' parking space in their driveway at the cottage on busy weekends. People who are used to paying for parking are happy to hand over $10 for the chance to be close to the beach, even though there is usually free parking somewhere. My mom has continued to do this and once mentioned that she saved up the money to pay for Spanish lessons.

I found out last week that my Aunty Laura was saving up money to travel, which she did a lot of. The way she made the money to travel was about as high brow and low brow as it gets. She saved her Bridge winnings, and collected beer bottles to turn in. It took some time but she was a talented Bridge player and $5 each win starts to add up. Also, for as long as I can remember she was always collecting discarded bottles that could be returned, but at 10 cents a piece it doesn't seem like that would add up quickly.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Aunty Laura

I got notice this morning that my Aunty Laura had passed away over night. She has been sick for the last couple of months and had been put on palliative care a few weeks ago. Goodbye Aunty Laura, you will be missed.

Aunty Laura and I at my wedding
September 24, 2016
Toronto Island, Ontario

This is her official Obituary which will be published in the London Free Press on Friday:

Sweeton, Laura Delbridge 
April 5th, 2017 

Born March 13, 1943 and died at home on April 5, 2017. Predeceased by her father Alec, mother Berniece and brother George (Carol). Aunt to Christine (Jason) and Michael (Aimee), and Great-Aunt to Avery and Maya. Bridge player, collector, cat lover and traveler. The funeral service will be conducted at Westview Funeral Chapel, 709 Wonderland Road North, on Sunday, April 9th, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. with visitation one hour prior. Private interment, Exeter Cemetery. Those wishing to make a donation in memory of Laura are asked to consider the charity of your choice.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Nothing Like A Conference

I spent the last couple of days at a BIA conference related to my new job. It was a very invigorating experience, it is always so inspiring to hear what other groups are doing. I am already excited to go again next year.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Happy Birthday Steph!

It is Steph's birthday today! 
I hope she is having a good one.
Prime seats in front, up top, on a double decker bus.
London, England - January 2008
Photo by ME

It has been nine years since we took this photo, and we have been friends since September 2003, yet she still makes me this happy! Since moving to Toronto in 2010 we don't see each other as often, but we both make the effort and I head up to Ottawa pretty often. We make it work, she is worth it. Happy Birthday!