Day 165 – Home Sweet Home

Day 165 – Sunday, December 8, 2013

Today was our final push to our home in Grande Prairie after being away since July 10, 2013. After some breakfast and getting my hair styled, we said our goodbyes to Jordan, Alison, and Melodie and headed out. It was another bitter cold day but with bright sunshine for the most part.

Showing off our matching felted slippers all made by our friend Denise. Julie notes “Hmmm I think I should’ve got my hair styled as well.”

Home is within our sights. Julie notes “Right about here Blue Rodeo was asking us ‘Where are you now?’ And this was the answer.”

Scenery from northern Alberta.

Miles of wilderness and boreal forest.

Forestry is a big part of the economy.

Oil and gas exploration and production is also one of the main economic sectors.

…along with agriculture.

Even with my sidekick’s navigation skills, we made it home safe and sound.

Home sweet home!

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “I had been smelling wafts of fruitiness on our last leg of the journey today. As we unpacked I quickly discovered what that was. Ironically or justifiably or comically or sadly or understandably or absurdly, or any other ‘ly’ word you want to insert, depending on your impression of our adventure, that fruity smell was from the frozen busted bottle of champagne that we had carried with us from Grande Prairie across more borders than even ‘the firewood’ had travelled, to be used to toast our crossing of the equator. We didn’t accomplish that goal, yet, but we did have an adventure that no-one else can (or may want) to replicate. But we own that and as far as I know the first calls we made when arriving home weren’t to a divorce lawyer so that is a good sign that our marriage is still intact. Brad was rereading our earlier blog posts a few weeks ago and said ‘Julie, you should read this. We had a good time!’ I believe him and look forward to reliving it all but in the comfort of my living room, stretched out on my couch in a temperature controlled environment with family and friends nearby. The list of things we have learned is endless but at the top is something Mom and Dad had already told us, Lesson #165, ‘Oh Canada, Our home and native land…is the best place to be from and to return to, even though the snow bank you see in the picture above has doubled in size by the time of this post.”

Here’s to 2014 and the new adventures it may bring!

Day 164 – Melodie’s Bed and Breakfast

Day 164 – Saturday, December 7, 2013

We spent the day with our son Jordan, daughter-in-law Alison, and granddaughter Melodie.  Rhonda and Michel (Alison’s mom and dad) dropped by for coffee and a quick visit.  They had just returned from Phoenix so we got to compare some stories.  Julie and I got to spend a few hours of alone time with Melodie while Jordan and Alison studied for exams and completed papers. Melodie was not feeling very well in the morning but perked up by supper time. She put on quite a show for us.

Melodie having a nap in Alison’s arms.

Melodie and Grandpa.

Jordan and Alison made us a delicious stew. Perfect on a cold day. They also made homemade bread in the breadmaker we gave them because we could never get it to work. They don’t seem to have any problems with it. I think they secretly bought a different model. J Julie notes “They managed to do all of this and get their homework done! Impressive. And as for the ‘brickmaker’ as we affectionately called the breadmaker while we owned it, I am pretty sure Alison snuck to bakery while she was out ‘writing a paper’. That bread was delicious and nothing like the doorstops or airballs we produced in the past.”

After supper, Melodie was feeling much better and treated us to some of her dance moves. Julie notes “She does some great, jumps, lunges, arm waves and bum shakes but no twerking despite the fact that she is dressed like Miley Cyrus.”

A great day of relaxing with family. It is good to be back in Alberta and we are looking forward to getting home.

Julie notes “Yes we had that warm and fuzzy feeling spending the day with Melodie and her handlers. It got especially warm at one point when Melodie was climbing all over me and stops and proclaims ‘I peed on you Grandma’. Nothing a change of clothes couldn’t fix and we were back to reading books, watching ‘the Kitty Movie’ (Puss ‘n Boots) and generally relaxing and mentioning every few minutes ‘I peed on you Grandma’.

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Day 163 – Melodie’s House

Day 163 – Friday, December 6, 2013

Today, we left Russell, MB, at sunrise, in the bitter cold and headed to Edmonton to our granddaughter’s house. We fueled up the truck at the Russell Esso and fueled up ourselves at the Tim Horton’s right next door. It was very cold with the wind chill. The temperature was -31C but with the wind, it felt much colder. Julie notes “Brrrrrrr! I was sure while we were sitting on an asphalt parking lot in the Central America’s heat and humidity that I would never wish for a hot weather holiday again, but now I’m having second thoughts.”

Russell is a full service small town in Manitoba close to the Saskatchewan border. We have stopped here many times on our travels across Canada. All of the highway services appear to be very well maintained and well run. I guess that is why they appear to be successful. Julie notes “Yes we like Russell. And both Suze and Danny were correct with their answers to our question yesterday. It is the enthusiastic gold medalist for skeleton, Jon Montgomery, who calls Russell his home. He was the very likeable fellow who wandered around the Olympic village carrying a pitcher of beer, after his gold medal win at the Vancouver Olympics.”

We crossed into Saskatchewan and continued following Highway 16, the Yellowhead, towards Edmonton. Julie notes “Here is a shot for you Suze, one of many grain elevators seen along the way (or as Susan calls them ‘cement factories’).

The road was pretty good compared to the previous few days. It was mostly bare, with some blowing snow. Julie notes “The iTunes reminded us that we were ‘going on a sentimental jour-ur-ney home’.”

We passed many typical prairie farms. Julie notes “We almost ended the trip in Foam Lake, SK, with its town motto ‘Best Place In The World To Live.’ Why would anyone go any further? But we could almost smell Melodie’s feet from here so we kept on truckin’.”

We crossed into our home province of Alberta in the City of Lloydminster. The orange monuments mark the border in the middle of the city. Julie notes “Sunny Alberta welcomed us with open blue skies. I did not get out and kiss the border monuments however as I did not have a cup of warm water to release my lips and tongue from the steel. But it felt good to know we were almost home.”

The days are short and the sun was setting as we traveled through Alberta.

The temperature stayed at a cold -31C pretty much all day.

But we arrived in Edmonton to a very warm welcome. We traveled about 975 kilometres today and arrived at Jordan and Alison and Melodie’s new place just in time for supper. Julie notes “We hit Edmonton right at rush hour with the iTunes singing ‘Slow down, you move too fast’ as we crawled along the Anthony Henday Drive.”

We hadn’t seen their new condo. They gave us a tour and also made us a delicious lasagna and salad and even provided me with a few craft beers. It is really good to be back with family and especially see the changes in our beautiful granddaughter. Oh yeah, it was nice to see Jordan and Alison too.J

Julie notes “‘How sweet it is!”, as Jackie Gleason used to say. Here Melodie is cuddled up with her Grandma Vera blanket and silk piggies. Speaking of Mom, on our journey today Krista’s version of ‘Coat of many colours’ that she recorded for Mom’s funeral played. Which reminded me of cousin Carol’s words of praise for your CD Krista. Aunt Doreen brought the CD over for her daughter, Carol to listen to, which she did over and over again. She played it for her friend and the friend said ‘Oh nice, that’s KD Lang.’ And Carol said ‘No that’s my amazing cousin Krista!’ And her friend said ‘Well I think I like that better than KD Lang’s version.’ So there you go. And we love it too. Also Adam’s piano recording of ‘Imagine’ played and Brad said ‘That was Adam? That was good!'”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “So here we are basking in the attention of our 2 ½ year old granddaughter, who warmed right up to us again after so many days of grandma and grandpa being away. She had promised a few days ago on the phone to cook us meat when we came for supper and there was meat in the lasagna so she kept promise. Jordan and Alison have settled in nicely into their new home, routine and being together this year, instead of 500 kilometres apart. This is exam time though so we are looking forward to keeping Melodie busy the next couple days while they study and write papers. Feels good to be back.”

Day 162 – Running the Roads to Russell, MB

Day 162 – Thursday, December 5, 2013

We awoke this morning to quite a bit of fresh snow. Carol insisted on making us some French toast for breakfast. We didn’t argue with that! They both made us some ham sandwiches for the road. Brian had already made us coffee before he had to leave for the day. We visited a bit over breakfast watching the deer feeding in their backyard, said our goodbyes, and headed west.

Our beautiful full-service guest room compliments of Brian and Carol. Julie notes “The iTunes started us off with CCR’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’, singing those famous misheard lines… ‘There’s … a bathroom on the right.’ Similar to what Brian told us before we bedded down in this wonderful B and B.”

The deer feeding in Brian and Carol’s backyard. Julie notes “The one was eyeing up my French Toast I think.”

It had stopped snowing for the most part but the snowplows were still out clearing the highways. Julie notes “Willie Nelson was telling us we were ‘On the road again’ but it was slow going for a while.”

It cleared up but the highways were snow covered and slippery. Julie notes “The answer to Bruce Cockburn’s question today ‘if a tree falls in a forest, does anybody hear?’ is ‘ummmm sorry, I’ve got the iTunes blasting so I’m not really sure. But we sure did see a lot of trees!”

Julie’s on to old churches today due to the lack of windmills. Julie notes “and lack of silos as well.”

One of our traditional stops, thanks to Quentin and Kelly, is the Shell Station and restaurant in Upsala for fresh homemade butter tarts. I picked up half a dozen tarts to keep us going for the next couple of days. This is where we realized we had forgotten the ham sandwiches in the Thunder Bay fridge. I guess Brian and Carol will have a lunch waiting for them. Julie notes “We were sure missing those sandwiches as we arrived at the Tim Horton’s in Dryden, my Mom’s birthplace. (Dryden, not the Tim Hortons.) I sure hope Grandma Clara wasn’t in labour waiting for Mom to be born as long as we waited for food at that Timmies! Our timing was perfect as we arrived right behind a bus load of hungry and noisy girl hockey players and parents on their way from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay. And the customer service was strained to say the least. But the soup and sandwiches hit the spot and we were happy we were travelling in the opposite direction of the team bus.”

These butter tarts are homemade and delicious. I know Quentin and Kelly are jealous, for sure. Julie notes “Oh I knew for a fact that they were as I texted them tantalizing pictures, just to make sure.”

This was one of four or five semi’s in the ditch along the Trans-Canada highway.

Another old church shot.

I told you she was in windmill withdrawal and filling the void with old churches. Julie notes “I am thinking the semi drivers were also taking note of the churches and thanking whomever or their lucky stars, if they made it out of those situations unscathed. Plus, aren’t they purdy?”

Another semi in the ditch.

We made it to Russell, MB. A big drive for us today of 1023 kilometres, especially considering the road conditions. We booked in to the Russell Inn and went for dinner at the hotel restaurant. They upgraded us to a deluxe suite for the same price as a regular room. The hotel room was very nice and under $100/night. Julie notes “The TV ‘fireplace’ was crackly away when we entered our very large, renovated room. A nice touch and with a tweak of the thermostat we were as cozy as the fireplace hinted at.”

I had a nice beer and Julie had a glass of red wine.

Julie had the seafood salad…

…and I had the Cajun chicken Caesar salad. It was a little disappointing. It is pre-packaged plain chicken with a side of salsa. Not sure how that qualifies as Cajun? Anyways, we kept our promise to ourselves that we would both have a salad for dinner. J Julie notes “Rule #162 ‘How far away from Cajun country is Russell, Manitoba?’ Well that is really a question but you know what I’m saying. Of course you will likely ask me ‘How far from any fresh seafood is Russell, Manitoba?’ but there is not too much you can do to ruin Pollock and I happen to like it. The real bonus was that we did not have to go outside to return to our cozy room with the TV fire burning, albeit a bit of maze to get back there. Thank goodness for my keen sense of direction.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “Trivia time! What is the name of the medal winning Olympian who calls Russell, Manitoba their home town? What medal did they win for what sport?”

Day 161 – Kissin’ Cousins

Day 161 – Wednesday, December 4, 2013

After a stop at Tim Horton’s for some breakfast, we were on the road to Thunder Bay, ON. We drove 471 kilometres to Julie’s cousin Carol and her husband Brian’s place. They had graciously offered us a room for the night. The day started out clear and cold and the roads were mostly bare but by the time we reached Nipigon the weather had moved in and it was beginning to snow. An hour or so later, as we reached Thunder Bay, the snow was really coming down. A real Canadian winter day!

Julie’s breakfast porridge with her nephew Adam’s homemade butterfly gift. Julie notes “A Grandma Vera tribute, porridge and her butterfly pattern. Thanks Adam.”

Leaving Wawa and their well-known town symbol, the Wawa goose. Julie notes “I think this answers the ‘goosing’ question that was on everyone’s minds. Everyone should start their day off with a giant goose! iTunes quickly picked up the theme and played a Grandpa Jim song appropriate for the drive and our adventure, singing ‘This land is your land, this land is my land, from the Arctic Circle, to the Great Lake Waters, this land was made for you and me.'”

A rock cut on the Trans Canada on a clear cold winter morning. Julie notes “‘Country roads, take me home’ I sang in perfect harmony with John Denver. Not sure why Brad kept turning the music up. It was almost like he was trying to drown me out? That couldn’t be it though. Maybe he just needs his hearing checked.”

A Lake Superior view with trees, rocks, a ship, and a truck all in one shot. The only thing missing is a windmill. Julie notes “He beat me to it. But this is one of our favourite drives unless we hit weather (or almost hit a moose as has happened in the past). Are you ready for a WTF? (Wow That’s Freaky!) This has happened before as we’ve driven along this beautiful shore of the Lake Gitche Gumee. As the skies of ‘December’ got gloomy and we looked out over the lake, Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ started playing. Goosebumps, either from the coincidence or the drop in temp as we drove towards the cloudy weather. You decide.”

We stopped in Nipigon for a late lunch. This was the first day open for Audrey’s Restaurant. Her and her husband had spent the last month and a half sprucing up the old restaurant and just opened up this morning.

Here’s Audrey posing in her restaurant with her new menu. Nice friendly folks. We wish them all the best in their new business venture.

We re-tarped the truck behind Tim Horton’s after picking up some supplies at the Nipigon Canadian Tire. The first tarp had started to shred and rip after 2 or 3 days of travel. I bought a heavy duty tarp this time and hope it lasts for the rest of the trip. Julie notes “WTF!” (Weather Tarp Frayed!)”

Both the weather and roads started to deteriorate as we neared Thunder Bay, ON.

We were into a full blown snow storm when we arrived at Brian and Carol’s beautiful acreage near TB.

Julie’s cousins and cousins-in law and aunt. From L to R; Carol, Connie, Aunt Doreen, Bonnie, and Judy. Lynn was not able to make it because of the storm. Steve is relaxing in the background. He is known to all Doreen’s sisters as “the cute guy”. Julie notes “These are wonderful gals. Aunt Doreen is my Mom’s slightly older sister and best friend while they were growing up. And I do believe she may have been the instigator of many of the crazy antics the USSR (Ugly Step Sister Reunion) got up to when all the sisters started travelling together after their child rearing years were behind them. At least that’s who Mom pointed the finger at. Most of those stories are not printable on this forum.”

The men folk talking about manly stuff. L to R; John, the muleskinner, Doug, Brian (seated), and Andy. Julie notes “What do you think they’re talking about? They might be all trying to guess how John broke his ankle because he isn’t quite sure.”

Carol and Brian hosted an amazing dinner for the group. Julie notes “Mmm delicious meal and the company superb.”

Andy and Doug at the buffet. Julie notes “Andy is asking ‘But where are the buns?'”

Lyle and Lynn missed a great dinner because of the weather but we also missed out on the buns because they didn’t make it. J That was the joke of the night and we’re just kidding. haha It was a terrific meal with good folks. They always welcome us as we travel through the area. Even when we tell them not to go to any trouble, they always do. Julie notes “Aunt Doreen told me they could fuss over us if they wanted to. So we didn’t argue.”

Aunt Doreen has become an accomplished watercolour painter and presented Julie with one of her beautiful paintings. After reading the blog and seeing the pictures, she knew Julie would love this windmill painting, in particular. Julie notes “Just one of her many talents. Just like all of the Holmes and their offspring she is very creative in all aspects. And funny too. Plus one of our loyal blog followers and commenters. I was overwhelmed when she gave this to me. It is definitely the money shot of the day. Now I know you are all wondering what my talent is being a Holmes. Hmmm I know there must be something.”

It was a great evening with relatives and we can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. Julie notes “Sorry for importing that big black spider into your house. We are just glad it scurried out of the cold box of treasures before ending up at Aunt Doreen’s house. Good news is that that is one less spider at the Moscow Holmestead.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “P.S. Don’t let us forget the delicious ham sandwiches in the fridge that Carol and Brian made for us.”

Day 160 – Goose it to Wawa

Day 160 – Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Okay, today we are really homeward bound. Jim, Krista and the boys were up early getting ready for their day. Their household is busy in the morning with breakfast preparations, making lunches, getting the boys organized for school, and making sure the overnight guests had some fresh coffee. We drove 806 kilometres from Orillia to Wawa, ON. Julie notes “Wawa, Home of the giant goose! I am hoping they give out ‘I got goosed in Wawa’ certificates. If not I may need to contact their Chamber of Commerce to suggest that idea. I think it would really ‘fly’.”

Jim and Krista getting ready for the day. Julie notes “Notice their beautifully renovated kitchen as well.”

Some last minute visiting with Adam over breakfast. Julie notes “Another meeting of the minds. Wonder what they were pondering. I just hope Brad wasn’t helping him with his homework! Especially since he isn’t wearing his glasses.”

Julie and Harrison saying their goodbyes. Julie notes “I am the one on the right and the elusive man of mystery (including Murdoch Mysteries, as I have mentioned previously) is on the left. He is a very nice, smart young man who among many of his wonderful attributes, lets his crazy aunt hug him.”

We took our first break at Parry Sound Tim Horton’s because Julie spotted Bobby Orr’s jersey in the window of his hometown Visitor Centre. Julie notes “Now a great Timmie’s commercial would be me walking in there and Bobby Orr serving me my ‘green tea, one bag in, one bag out, two milk, two sweetener’. But no such luck. I may send that in to their marketing department as a future idea. Although that may not wash as Tim Horton was a Toronto player and Bobby Orr spent most of his illustrious career as a Boston Bruin (until my hockey crazed girlfriends and I ruined his knees when we jumped him that fateful night outside the Maple Leaf arena dressing room, on his way to his bus – come to think of it, maybe best we never actually meet him in person again, right ladies? You know who you are. I wonder if we’re mentioned in his new book though, eh?)”

Fresh snow and overcast but the driving was good and the highways mostly clear.

We stopped in the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) for a late lunch at Casey’s Grill in the Water Tower Inn. I had the Cobb Salad.

Julie ordered the Sandwich Slider Combo with a pulled pork and a rotisserie chicken salad slider along with the roasted red pepper soup. Both our meals were very good.

After filling up in the Soo, with food and diesel, we headed north on Highway 17 following the north shore of Lake Superior to Wawa. This is a beautiful scenic drive, winter or summer. We have travelled this route many times and it never gets old. The rock cuts through the Canadian Shield and the views over Lake Superior are awe inspiring. Julie notes “Some might say spectacular. The only thing missing is a windmill or three.”

We found the Parkway Motel just before the entrance into the town of Wawa and got checked in after negotiating a rate of $69.00/night. It’s a small older motel but has been somewhat renovated and is very clean. We relaxed for a bit before heading into town to find a restaurant. Julie notes “Nice new soaker tub awaiting my return. Ahhh.”

We found the Wawa Motor Inn for dinner and located the restaurant under the giant Canada goose. It was a busy spot. Julie notes “We noted that several establishments were closed, likely for the season as summer is the height of their business so be careful when you’re using Trip Adviser or it might lead you on a merry ‘goose’ chase in Wawa. But we did find a couple places despite their darkened signs. In this case the lights were OFF and no-one was home.” It was our waitresses’ first day on the job but she was an excellent server and obviously came to this job with some past experience. The food was good and seemed mostly homemade. Julie notes “Brad doesn’t want to say what we had in this cool old place with the giant pulley thing hanging in front of the huge beautiful fireplace. (The new waitress wasn’t able to enlighten us on the history of that but I bet she’ll find out for the next customers.) The restaurant was just in the midst of changing hands so were still working on what their menu should include. We volunteered to try out their very plump and juicy wings and of course someone needed to ensure their fries were up to standard. No goose on the menu though so the giant goose on the roof is somewhat false advertising. Or maybe they were goose wings we were eating. That would explain their size?”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “As we left Orillia, Gordon Lightfoot’s home town, after saying our goodbyes, Gordie sang to us ‘that it must be wanderlust’ because ‘every highway lets me slip away from you.’ Then Bette Midler and Linda Ronstadt sang about ‘Sisters’ And I found myself ‘hammering out love, between my brothers and my sisters’, as we drove along, followed by ‘Suzy Q. I love you.’ So thanks for everything family. We keep you in our hearts as we travel along. And if you dare, stay tuned to see if I earned ‘I got goosed in Wawa’ certificate today.”

Day 159 – Homeward Bound

Day 159 – Monday, December 2, 2013

Today we left my sisters place near Cobourg and headed to Julie’s sister Krista, her husband Jim, and their children Adam and Harrison’s home near Orillia, ON. Before leaving Cobourg, we swung by to say goodbye to our #1 (one of many #1 followers, so don’t be too jealous, OK?) blog follower, Red, and her husband Alf. Then we headed in to Julie’s other sister, Susan and husband Ron’s place. Once we got on our way it was a nice easy drive heading north-west on secondary two lane highways through small towns and farms to Krista and Jim’s.

Red and Alf in their driveway.

Alf is a very accomplished machinist and builds hot rods for fun. This is his current project car. An incredible machine!

Red was ready to hit the road with us, I think. Either that or she was ready to leave me behind? Julie notes “Well if it hadn’t been for Red’s sore foot we would’ve been out of there like Thelma and Louise!”

Julie going up to Ron and Susan’s door. Julie notes “Ding dong, Avon calling.”

Ron and Susan in their newly renovated kitchen. Note the beautiful old hardwood floors that Ron restored. Julie notes “Looking good! The house and the lovely couple too of course. All the work has paid off and the place looks great! Lots of work but super results.”

We passed by numerous old southern Ontario farms along the way. Julie notes “No windmills so I became a little obsessed with silos. Wonder what Freud would theorize about that?”

We stopped in for a tour of the Orillia Opera House where Krista is the manager. Julie notes “A grand entrance by our tour leader! I can just see her dressing up as a Carol Burnett character and coming down those lovely spiral stairs. That is what I would do if I worked here. It was very interesting to see the entire behind the scenes stuff that we as patrons don’t even know exist. And the projects and renovations are always ongoing in a historical building. Kudos Krista for a job well done. They were prepping the place for April Wine’s concert at the end of the week. Now does that take anyone back to their formative high school years?”

This is a painting of the Opera House in a completely different setting. Julie notes “We were really getting into it. But I kind of look like a Canadian King Kong grabbing on to those turrets. And Brad is saying ‘Wow! Look at those turrets!”

Krista was short on entertainment for the day and asked Julie and me to perform. We did our classic routine. Julie notes “Believe it or not, this was spontaneous. No practise at all. April Wine, eat your heart out!”

Everyone in the audience thoroughly enjoyed our moves. We brought the house down. Look at their reaction. Julie notes “I think I heard the janitor or someone yell ‘Silence is Golden, eh!’ Not sure if it was a request for that song or just a comment on our performance.”

After the Opera House visit, it was time to head over to their acreage, Four Storey Acres, where we were greeted by their number one son, Adam. Harrison was also there to greet us. Julie notes “That Harrison is just too fast for our camera to capture him. But for those of you who don’t believe he exists, he is real! Trust me. And he loves Murdoch Mysteries. The boys quickly got us comfy in front of the TV, provided entertainment and snacks and tea until their parents came home. Then they invented some snowball hurling devices and headed outside. We were invited to join in the snowball fight but these guys were experts and we did not have appropriate snow attire.” Jim, along with the help of his sons and wife, has developed a first class maple syrup operation. They produce some of the finest maple syrup in southern Ontario. You know what I mean if you’ve been lucky enough to sample their product.

Julie notes “After a great BBQ steak meal with all the fixings, cooked by Jim and helpers, followed by a new episode of Murdoch Mysteries, with piano pieces played by both boys during commercial breaks, and a maple liqueur aperitif we were ready for bed. For some reason we both dreamt that we stranded on a desert island. Maybe the effects of too much liqueur?”

Julie notes “And it felt like tiny little horses were riding over my hips and kicking me in the head. Either the liqueur or the cold I haven’t been able to shake. One thing I should’ve learned on my travels but have forgotten I guess is close your mouth if you are sleeping under a toucan tree.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “It was sure great getting another chance to hug all of the above wonderful folks before we really set off on our homeward trek. Thanks Four Storeys for taking us in on short notice. See you in the morning for more hugs before we hit the road. And Harrison please make sure you let me know when the next new Murdoch episode is on so we can see if your theory is correct. Adam, thank you for the cup of medicinal tea and the toe and shoulder rub. It was just what the doctor ordered. Thanks to Jim and Brad for doing up all of the dishes. Thanks to Krista for getting through her evening council presentation without hurting anyone. We do not have time to swing by the jail on our way out of town tomorrow.”




Day 158 – The Turkey Caper

Day 158 – Sunday, December 1, 2013

Some of us planned on getting together for brunch this morning. However, after last night’s festivities, only five of us made the cut. The first restaurant we choose was packed solid with a wait of over 30 minutes so we picked our second choice, Wimpy’s Diner. It was also very busy with a small wait but eventually we got seated. Julie notes “And the breakfast was NOT wimpy. Like the sports teams that were in getting fueled up, we were fired up after our meal. Plus it was very warm in there which actually made us feel fired up. We were also fed up in a good way.”

Harry, Don, and Janet waiting patiently for their breaky. Julie notes; “Janet’s really thinking WTF (Where’s The Food).”

The muleskinner and his sidekick (also patiently waiting). Julie notes “Just wiping a bit of sweat from my brow, or maybe I’m saluting someone?”

Julie’s eggs benedict Florentine. They serve it with 3 eggs and she only wanted two so I graciously stepped up the plate, so to speak, and ate one of hers and one of Janet’s poached eggs. Julie notes “Plus his own 3 eggs. Egg-zactly! That makes 5 eggs. He must be ‘cracked.’ ‘Shell’ I tell you how full he was? Humpty Dumpty had nothing on him.”

Don then took us on a tour of his new office in downtown Cobourg. He is a senior financial planner with Assante Wealth Management and recently expanded his operations.

This is what he wants us to think he does.

But in reality, this is how he spends his days.

Don had requested some leftover turkey from Janet so that he could make himself a sandwich for lunch later that day. Unfortunately for him, brother Dan spied the turkey in the fridge and made his own turkey sandwich before Don had a chance. I’m guessing there was a very pleasant exchange of words between the twins. This is the turkey handoff earlier in the day.

For dinner, I BBQ’d up some baby back ribs at Janet’s request. Julie notes “This was a very expensive supper. Janet set the microwave at Brad’s request to time the BBQ. This was the same microwave that she commented on the day before saying ‘I can’t believe this old machine is still working.’ Famous last words. The old dependable microwave died mid cycle, emanating heat from all the wrong places. Guess what Janet is buying herself for Christmas. But the ribs were delicious!”

We enjoyed the ribs with a nice Caesar salad.

…and some of Janet’s homemade buns that she prepares special for each visit of her favourite brother (that would be me). Nice buns, eh? Julie notes again “‘Can you smell them?’ To quote the Toronto Star tag line from an article they did on Doris’s buns (their mom) quite a few years ago. Doris was not happy with tag line, implying people were sniffing her and her buns but we were always happy when she made them for us and very glad Janet perfected the recipe. Janet’s community was a bit up in arms as neighbours have been bun deprived for quite a while. And wonder what makes Brad so special that he deserves such a treat. Well for one thing he is ‘special’ plus there is a lot of whining involved if there are no buns available when he arrives. And he reciprocates with a few rounds of Caesars. So in summary you neighbours just need to ramp up your whining and drinking and maybe Janet will make a special batch just for you.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “Janet has made us turkey sandwiches for the drive tomorrow. Don’t let us forget them. And don’t tell Donny! Or he may sneak in and steal them as someone did to him earlier today! Twins! Whatchagoingtodo? Glad twin sister in law Kelly and I don’t steal turkey from each other.”

Day 157 – Emond Family Gathering

Day 157 – Saturday, November 30, 2013

Today, we planned on getting together with my 2 brothers, twins Don and Dan, and my sister Janet and any other family members who could make it. Don and wife Karen were there with their 3 children, Ericka, Harry, and Jack. Janet’s daughter Jenny was also in attendance. Janet offered to host our gathering at her house and put on an amazing spread, as usual. We enjoyed some drinks, a great dinner, and finished the evening off with a rousing game of HeadsUp. I don’t want to brag, but I was the easy winner with a score of 10 correct answers in the allotted time. Julie notes “OK. First of all, since this is a game where people yell at you from all different directions at once, the Emonds were naturals at it. Secondly, it took several rounds of the game before we figured out the different way to ‘pass a clue’ and ‘score a point’ so all scores were somewhat suspect. Thirdly (is that a word?), Brad was very fast at moving to the next clue even if he didn’t have the full phrase guessed. And lastly, I should’ve been given extra points because as you know I have had several major surgeries and have Tamoxifen brain. But luckily I am not one to dwell on such things. The real shout out goes to Jack who’s energy and imagination was boundless as he acted out clues for us. Tons of fun. Thanks Karen (and Ellen) for introducing us to that.”

Sunset through the trees from Janet’s front porch.

Caesars. Our tradition at Janet’s place.

Appetizers and drinks and catching up.

The Emond siblings. L to R; Brad, Dan, Janet, and Don.

The twins. Can you tell them apart?

Don and his sons, Harry and Jack.

Don and Karen’s children; Jack, Ericka, and Harry.

Here they are again showing their claim to fame; all 3 can suck their nostrils into their head. You are trying it right now, aren’t you?

Sister Janet and her daughter, Jenny.

Sister-in-laws, Karen and Julie. I’d say they are two lucky women to have married Emond men. I think they tell themselves that every day. Julie notes “Well we have to tell ourselves something to get ourselves out of bed and face that fact every day. And then reality sets in again.”

The feasting. Julie notes “Turkey dinner with all the fixings including Jan’s famous homemade buns! She has the best buns in Hamilton Township and maybe even Percy Township (since she was the Queen of Percy Township a ‘few’ years back). Can you smell them? WTF! (Wow They’re Fresh!)”

Sister Janet and I recreated an old picture. Here’s the original. Then,

…and now. Some 56 years later. Janet’s legs did recover after a while. Julie notes “They haven’t changed a bit have they?”

It was a fun night with family that included all the key ingredients, family, drinks, food, and laughter.

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Day 156 – Hot Belly Mama on a Cold Winter Day

Day 156 – Friday, November 29, 2013

Julie notes “Weeeerrrreeee BAAAAAackkk! Sorry for the delay but being back in Canada seems to keep us quite busy.”

Today we left Moscow, ON with a truck load of treasures from Jim and Vera’s “Holmestead”. Julie notes “We were barely on the road and the old song ‘Ya load 16 tons and what do get?’ A whole lot of memories (and maybe deeper in debt if you believe the song). It was a cold, clear day with a blanket of snow on the ground. We were heading to Peterborough to meet up with Julie’s brother, Quentin and his wife, Kelly. We drove the 401 to Cobourg and then north on Highway 28 after a Timmie’s stop. Julie and I vegged out watching a movie while Quentin finished up some work. Julie notes “We were very well behaved and tried not to bother Quent and his staff Penny and Helios.” Once Kelly arrived home from work, we all headed out to Costco. Julie notes “WooHoo! We haven’t been to a Costco in a long long time. But no matter how much we hounded Kelly and Quent, they kept telling us Christmas was coming and would not buy us anything. WTF (Way Too Frugal). WWTFT! (We Want That Frivolous Thing!) WTF (Watch This Freakout!) And then we were firmly told to settle down or we would be going home without supper.” After Costco, Quentin and Kelly had planned a dinner night out at Hot Belly Mama’s restaurant in Peterborough, ON. Hot Belly Mama’s is a funky little Cajun and creole place in the downtown. Peterborough has lots of great restaurants in an active downtown area. After dinner and some more goodbyes, we headed back to my sister Janet’s place near Cobourg, ON.

The truck loaded up for the trip back to Alberta. Julie notes “WTF! (White Truck Full!)”

Saying goodbye to the old “Holmestead” on a clear, cold, snow covered morning. Julie notes “No looking back and the iTunes spared me until later in the day to play Rosemary Clooney’s version of ‘This Old House’. The tears were lessened a bit by the fact that the family will gather there at least once again for their Christmas dinner.”

An old restored building on the Napanee River seen on our drive through Yarker, ON near Moscow. Julie notes “Beauty little spot. For those of you who know the area WTF (Watch Those Falls) to the right side of the bridge. A couple years ago someone’s empty car rolled down that incline and across into the river and floated under that bridge to finally get hung up in those falls. It took several agencies and some engineering know how to retrieve it. This is also about the exact spot that I used get dropped off by the one bus to wait for the other bus to pick us up and take us on into Napanee. We were always a bit scared of some of the Yarker kids, so us country bumpkins from the sticks of Moscow hung together for support. And we made it!”

A Napanee windmill.

One of the Cobourg Timmie’s. Julie notes “The appeal hasn’t worn off yet. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of Brad swooning at the sight of each one.”

Quentin and Kelly’s place in Peterborough complete with roof top solar generation. They sell the power to the grid through a metre and buy back the power they need for their own use. A really cool set-up. Julie notes “Or is it a really ‘warm’ set up what with the solar sunshine and all?”

The new addition, Helios, bugging the older and wiser Penny. Julie notes “I think he meant ‘hugging’ not bugging. Helios is saying ‘WTF!’ (Wuv This Feline!) but Penny is ‘WTF!’ (Watch These Fangs!)’ This is Quent’s office staff on one of their WTF (Way Too Frequent) coffee breaks.”

The siblings separated once again.

Reunited! The Muleskinner, his sidekick, Quentin, and Kelly. Julie notes “That was scary! He is the baby you know.”

We had a great dinner; Julie had the Shrimp Carnivale with their famous sweet potato fries; Quentin had the New York strip steak special with sweet potato fries; trend-setter Kelly had the Veggie Po’Boy but added some pulled pork with sweet potato fries; and I went with the Kansas City pulled pork sandwich and their Cajun roasted potatoes. It was followed up with some shared desserts. The atmosphere, service, and food were all amazing. Oh yeah, the company too. It is a real treat to get a waiter who is personable and knowledgeable and also very patient explaining the menu even when they are busy. Julie notes “Yes ditto that.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “Sorry to my twin sister in law Kelly for making her sit in the jump seat in the back. But as I understand it was more comfortable than trying to squeeze in to the nonbudging car seat. It was fun being the go between for you and Quent as you tried to communicate. Good thing Quent knows his way around Peterborough better than you. I think that was what he said anyway.”