The Winter Blahs

Feeling melancholy today. It has been a month since I have posted anything but I have been busy, I promise you, I have not been slacking off. Here it is the beginning of March and I am beginning to feel better knowing that in a month’s time I will be able to say good-bye to the soul- crushing Eeyorish winter that has blanketed my world since the end of December.

I think my gloomy mood has a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t get away to southern climes in the New Year, something I look forward to and helps me keep the pit of despair from looming up to envelop me, breaking up the bleak winter months with one week of sun, sand and sea and that is enough to help me get through the rest of it.

I completely understand why everyone (in the northern hemisphere) looks forward to St. Patrick’s Day so much. It is a means of celebrating the death of winter and the renewal of Spring and hope with music and revelry and companionship – a chance to sing and dance and drink and be happy – and yes, I know things get out of hand sometimes but it feels so good to blow off steam – my only concern is that no one gets hurt (that and the fact as a taxpayer I am footing the bill). Oh, to be young and foolish again.

Since I don’t want to leave things on a downer note, just let me say that I have a lot of great people and things (not nearly as valuable) in my life and I know how much better I have it than other people so this is just a passing wisp of gloom in a varied and interesting life.

For all of you that may feel despondent at times, or overwhelmed with life, I say – get out of the house – go to the library and read a good book – take a class in something that gets you thinking or take in a comedy show and laugh out loud, it will do wonders for you. No money, then go for a walk with a friend and talk about your hopes, your dreams and soon enough you will realize how rich you really are! Be kind to others and it will come back to you threefold! Thanks for listening, sometimes, that is all it takes.

Postcards from the swamp

Many of you may not be familiar with Deltiology, but I’m sure you have either picked up some in your travels or sent some to your friends or family at one time or another.

What is Deltiology you ask… it is the study and collection of postcards. The first postcards were published in 1869. Nine years later over 231.5 million were mailed out. Your primitive form of e-mails if you will.

New York postcards

In the beginning collectors sought out those that were postmarked – with those featuring a city or landmark, being mailed from that city. Nowadays, collectors tend to ignore the writings and deal mostly in blank, pristine specimens in whatever topic interests them – like geography, history, art, sports, portraits, animals, etc.

Postmarks do help in dating a postcard though often you can tell by the way people are dressed or the automobiles on the streets. Before digital cameras and cell phones were invented, I used to pick up postcards along my travels in case some of my photos didn’t turn out.

Picture postcards can be assigned to “the Golden Age of Postcards” (1898–1919), the time of the linens (circa 1930–1950), or to the modern chromes (1940). Modern chromes are color photographs and thus differ from photochromes generated from black and white photographs before c. 1915. Picture postcards can also be differentiated on the basis of other features: undivided backs are typical for c. 1901–1906, and divided backs for c. 1907–1915, while white border cards are common from c. 1915-1930.

Worldwide deltiology is the third-largest collecting hobby after stamp collecting and coin/banknote collecting. Collectors may find picture postcards at home in boxes, attics, or scrapbooks, generate their own on trips and vacations, and acquire them from stores, flea markets, friends and relatives or purchasing on the Internet, or through other collectors

Some collectors also like to collect postcards that are made out of cork (Spain and Portugal) or those featuring embroidery, fashioned from balsam, constructed like a jigsaw puzzle or made from tin…I have a few of these myself as I had never seen postcards made out of anything but paper before.

Postcard featuring street car made from cork in Portugal

A postcard I made from a trip to wine country in New Zealand.

The most valuable picture postcard in the world was sent by Theodore Hook Esq. to himself in 1840 and was bought at the London Stamp Exchange auction, UK on 8 March 2002 by collector Eugene Gomberg (Latvia) for £31,758.75 ($45,370.60). It is also considered to be the oldest postcard in the world and with that I bid you adieu until the next time…thanks for visiting! Stay warm

David, the Champion of the underdog

David sculpture

Sometime ago when I was younger and travelling around Europe visiting all the art museums I had studied in my University days, one of the sculptural pieces I admired greatly was the marble sculpture of David in Florence, Italy.  “Sculpture is considered the finest art form because it mimics divine creation: The sculptural image is found within the block of stone much as the human soul is found within the physical body”. 

Next to some wonderful paintings in the Uffizi Gallery which has several Renaissance masterpieces, this is the one thing in Florence that I just had to see…and it did not disappoint.

The story of David and Goliath is known around the world and celebrated for its theme of ordinary man facing down an often stronger opponent and winning against all odds – the premise for umpteen Hollywood films we have watched over the ages – all with a rock and a slingshot!

The David, perhaps the world’s most famous sculpture, one of Florence’s greatest attractions, stands in the Accademia Gallery at an impressive 17 feet tall (5.16 meters) nearly three times the size of the average man.  The sculpture weights 5,660 kg or 12,478.12 lbs and is made out of solid marble.

This masterpiece was created between 1501 and 1504 by Renaissance genius  Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, (born March 6, 1475, Caprese, Republic of Florence [Italy]—died February 18, 1564, Rome),

Michelangelo was a noted sculptor, painter, architect, and poet who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. He was also one of the few artists who saw fame and fortune during his lifetime, largely due to the largess of wealthy patrons.

Michelangelo was 26 years old when he took on the task of sculpting David and worked on it for more than two years, creating a masterpiece that still leaves us in awe, more than 500 years after it was created.  When the sculpture was completed in 1504, it took four days to move it from his studio to its original home on the Piazza della Signoria, where a replica now stands.  The original was moved inside to protect it from the elements in 1873.  In Florence alone, there are two replicas of David, but around the world there are at least 30 full size replicas of the sculpture….the sincerest form of flattery, I guess!

On their own, the “fake David” statues are definitely a work of art, but compared to the original in Accademia, they do not hold a candle.  Expecting it to be overrated, I literally gasped in awe when I turned that corner in Accademia and saw the original hovering above the crowd. Bravo Michelangelo, bravo!

Later, Michelangelo would work on the Sistine Chapel for four years at the request of the Pope. It was a difficult job of extraordinary endurance, especially since the tempestuous artist had sacked all of his assistants save one who helped him mix paint. What resulted was a monumental work of great genius illustrating stories from the Old Testament including the Creation of the World and Noah and the Flood. It became (and remains) one of the greatest masterpieces of Western Art.  He was 33 years old when he finished the Sistine Chapel.

Tats what it’s all about

While on the bus the other day and gazing out at the scenery I sat and contemplated why people get tattoos or tats if you will.  (I could have said I was travelling in the back of a chauffeur-driven limousine but I’d be lying).  I have never really had the desire to get a tattoo though in my twenties I came close due more to peer pressure than anything else; but couldn’t find a design, in the books on display at the time, that I felt an emotional attachment for that I would want permanently displayed on my body (plus I wasn’t drunk enough).

Nowadays, everyone seems to have a tattoo or a whole ‘sleeve’ of intricate designs that showcase the talents of the tattoo artist.  According to a Nielsen poll, one in five Americans has a tattoo, and nearly 90 percent of those who do never regret getting inked up.  In 2010, 25% of Aussies under the age of 30 were sporting a tattoo.  There was even a tattooed Barbie in 2011 that caused some controversy.  

Popular designs for women are the butterfly, star, flower, heart, birds, boyfriend’s name and tribal ornamentation.

Men prefer animals, skulls, a cross, barbed wire, nautical star, mom or girlfriend’s name and tribal ornamentation.

The degree of artistry varies widely but due to shows like LA Ink and Ink Master, etc. there are many skilled artisans who will happily put any design your imagination can come up with on your body somewhere.

I don’t care for pain much, stubbing my toe or banging my elbow brings me close to tears so to inflict any amount of pain willingly on myself is a no-brainer not to mention my aversion to needles.  As a colleague of mine said the other day when I asked him if he had a tattoo – “Why the fuck would I want to get one of those?”  That’s when I began to wonder why indeed you would want to get one of those.

Many people when asked will tell you that they did it as a tribute to someone they loved whom they lost to cancer, brain tumour, seizures, heart attacks and other maladies that befall humankind.  Others will say they had an ugly scar from an operation, or a birth defect and incorporated it into the tattoo and turned something ugly into something beautiful (provided they went to a professional artist); some want to draw attention to themselves, to be noticed or validated as an individual that stands out from the crowd.  Some, like Johnny Depp sees it as a road map of his life.

Johnny-Depp

Here’s the thing – I have nothing against tattoos in and of themselves – I think some of them are beautiful pieces of art – I just don’t want one.  I could say the same about lions, I think they are gorgeous creatures, I just wouldn’t want one as a pet!

Tattooing goes back thousands of years. Tattoos were partly invented to treat pain.  In the mid-18th century, Native American women tattooed themselves to alleviate toothaches and arthritis, similar to acupuncture but it was primarily sailors that brought inking to America.  Much like baseball players, sailors are a superstitious lot.  The common anchor tattoo was meant to signify stability and to safeguard them from drowning.

Once the 1920s rolled around, tattooing was still looked down on by the public. However, as Hollywood popularized glamorous makeup, many women were eager to try the trend for themselves. Unfortunately, at the time even low-quality make up was expensive and most woman could not afford it. Instead, many women secretly had cosmetic tattoos to emulate makeup done. Popular treatments included the permanent eyebrows, contoured lips, and tinted cheeks. While the general public tended to condemn tattoos, they still silently embraced them.  In the mid-20th century, musicians like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin helped make tattoos even cooler.

Tattoos can be a mark of deviance or decoration. They can convey stigma, as in the marking of captives or the marginalized, especially Nazi concentration camp victims. But they can also be extraordinarily beautiful, as in the henna designs for brides across Africa and Asia. There is also the strange case of women in Myanmar’s Chin province, who wear facial tattoos that are said to have once discouraged their kidnapping by despotic kings, but over time became a distinctive mark of beauty.  (This tradition is not currently practiced by the the younger generation).

Motivations are diverse. One study by German sociologists found they include beauty, art, fashion, individuality, personal narrative, physical endurance, group affiliation, resistance, spirituality, cultural tradition, addiction, pure impulse and, naturally, sexual attraction.   There are even people willing to get advertising inked on their heads, etc to market a product – usually strictly for monetary means – but also to promote their favourite sports team logo (can’t just buy a hat, apparently).

Over the years we’ve seen tattooing go from something that indicated barbarism to something that is considered an art form. In the years to come, we should have some really cool retirement homes sporting a variety of tattoos.  We will be able to read people like a book – literally! (back to Johnny Depp).

Festivals in 2020 every month – for when you win the lottery. This year, for sure

  1.   Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, Dec 1st, 2019– Feb 28, 2020

    From December 01, 2019 to February 28, 2020, come experience the world’s largest ice festival in beautiful Harbin city, China.  Actual sculpture judging is done January 6th – 8th, 2020.


  2. On January 28th in Lerwick, the capital of Scotland’s Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa will be held to mark the end of the yule season. Up Helly Aa! – that’s Scandinavian imagery, myths, sagas and a huge bonfire which takes place on the last Thursday of January every year to celebrate their Viking heritage. ‘Up’ refers to end of an event; ‘Helly’ is linked to holiday; while ‘Aa’ covers all.
    up helly aa


  3. Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020.
    New Orleans
    Mardi Gras always lands on the Tuesday that is 47 days before Easter. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent. Carnival season refers to the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, and officially begins on January 6 every year. Although Carnival season lasts more than a month, the parties, parades and fun kick into high gear on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.


    4.  Carnival in Rio De Janeiro – February 21st – 26th, 2020
    rio
    The actual annual dates of Carnival differ and depend on the date Easter falls in that particular year, as Carnival will be 40 days before Easter. Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon in Spring.

    5.  The date of Holi is different every year in India!
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    In most of India, Holi is celebrated at the end of winter, on the day after the full moon in March each year. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion and to burn evil spirits. This is known as Holika Dahan. In 2020, Holi is on March 9th and ends March 10th.  Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. Just remember to BYOD (bring your own dye).


    6.  Coachella, California | April 10 – April 19, 2020
    Image result for coachella california 2016The first major music event in the annual festival calendar, Coachella – California’s glossy, glam, palm-tree-peppered answer to Glastonbury – returns. Expect clear skies, designer-hippie ensembles and not a squelch of mud under foot.  If you can’t get tickets for this perhaps the next one might interest you.


    7.  Songkran Water Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand – April 13-15th, 2020
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    Stay indoors on the 13th of April – if you happen to be in Thailand. Or step out if you love water… and getting wet! For it’s a given that you won’t escape the water pistols, the water balloons and buckets of water as the Thais celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year.


    8.  The Ottawa Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Canada is the largest tulip festival in the world and it is held every year in May.  It will be held on May 8th-18th, 2020
    Tulips
    This festival is a celebration founded on international friendship with the 1945 presentation of 100,000 tulip bulbs from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, given in appreciation of the safe haven that members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during World War II in Ottawa and in recognition of the role which Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands.

    The Canadian Tulip Festival is also a celebration of the return of spring, with over a million tulips in 50 varieties blooming in public spaces across the National Capital Region. The highest concentration of tulips can be viewed in the flower beds of Commissioners Park, on the banks of Dow’s Lake, where 300,000 flowers bloom.


    9.  Glastonbury 2020, England – Worthy Farm – 24th – 28th June – 2020
    Image result for Glastonbury photos free"
    Glastonbury. This five-day bonanza offers dozens of live stages, attracting almost 200,000 people every year. The event hosts the absolute best of the musical world – names like Radiohead, The Smiths, Kanye West and Beyoncé have previously played here. The event also supports upcoming acts and promotes dance, comedy, theatre, cabaret and arts.


    10.  Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, Tennessee  June 11-14th, 2020 Image result for Bonnaroo music festival photos"
    The name of the four-day music and arts festival is one of the most recognizable in the world. Founded in 2002 on a sprawling farm an hour south of Nashville, Bonnaroo has since become synonymous with positive vibes, eclectic music, 24-hour programming, camping and high fives.  Artist line-up revealed in January.


    11. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
    pamplona
    The  Running of the Bulls is a part of the San Fermin Festival, which runs in Pamplona from July 5th to July 16th in 2020.


    12.   Edinburgh International Festival , Scotland – 7th August 2020 to 31st August 2020

    Image result for edinburgh international festival photos"

    Every August, the Edinburgh International Festival transforms one of the world’s most beautiful cities, presenting three exhilarating weeks of the finest creators and performers from the worlds of the arts.

    Edinburgh’s six major theatres and concert halls, a few smaller venues and often some unconventional ones too, come alive with the best music, theatre, opera and dance from around the globe.  The Royal Edinbugh Military Tattoo takes place at the same time.


    13.  La Tomatina in Spain 2020 – Wednesday, August 26th, 2020
    Image result for La Tomatina in SpainLa Tomatina is the most popular tomatoes throwing festival in the world. It is being observed in the town of Bunol, Valencia, Spain each year on the last Wednesday of August. It is a festival held purely for fun. The festival attracts a large number of tourists in the town of Bunol during the celebration.


    14.  Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada
    burningman

    Burning Man 2020 taking place August 30th– September 7th, 2020 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.  Their mission:  The Burning Man organization will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.  This is by no means your average festival!


    15.  Oktoberfest –  Munich, Germany

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    On Saturday, September 19th, 2020 the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will have the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Runs until October 4th.


    16.  International Balloon FestivalAlbuquerque, NM -Saturday, October 3rd – 11th, 2020.  The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual October festival that takes place in New Mexico. It was first launched in 1972 with just 13 participants. Today, more than 500 balloons take to the skies over Albuquerque each year, making the Balloon Fiesta the largest event of its kind worldwide.


    17.  Day of the Dead, Mexico is celebrated from October 31 till November 02, 2020.
    Image result for day of the dead images
    Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed.


    18.  Christmas Markets Dates – all over Germany
     20th November to January 1st, 2020

    Image result for christmas markets in berlin 2016 imagesThere is an air of  festivity that fills the air the end of November and continues till Christmas. Heralding the approach of the festive season, the streets are brightly lit, Christmas trees adorned with tinsel and little red bells and stars line the streets and people are out late doing their Christmas shopping. Concerts are staged, both outdoors and indoors, classical and modern. Street plays performed, musicians show off their talent and generally there is very festive and happy air around. This is when Germany is at its colourful best – white snows, green Christmas trees, red tinkling bells and families out on the streets. Come, join in the festivities!


Gaudi Barcelona in 2020!

I’m not sure how many couples out there go travelling independent of one another but my husband and I every few years take separate vacations from time to time and I feel we are the better for it.  Since I took two vacations this year without him, one to PEI and one to the Soo (Sault Ste Marie) with a good friend of mine, it is now his turn for adventure.

He is going to travel to London, England to visit with a good friend of his from New Zealand who he met in Vancouver where they worked together.  He now lives in the U.K. with a lovely wife and three kids.  My husband is also going to Barcelona, Spain for four days on his own to relax and check out different tourist places, and I have naturally been chosen to arrange it all which I don’t mind doing because I learn a lot; however, I am a bit jealous of his trip as I have only passed through Barcelona and have not really experienced the City.  I have given him explicit instructions to take lots of photos.

Of course, one of the chief reasons tourists visit this City is for the Gaudi architecture, not to be confused with gaudy.  Below is a little info on the man and his distinctive style.

Antoni Gaudí, (born June 25, 1852, Reus, Spain—died June 10, 1926, Barcelona) was a Catalan architect, whose distinctive style is characterized by freedom of form, voluptuous colour and texture, and organic unity.

At 73 years of age he was hit by a Barcelona tram on the street on Monday 7th June 1926.  Gaudí died 3 days later in hospital suffering from broken ribs, a bruise on his right leg and severe internal bleeding

Below are some examples of his most notable works but there are plenty more to see if you have the time.


Casa Milá (La Pedrera) beige and gray concrete building

Also referred to as “the stone quarry” due to its unusual rough-hewn appearance, Casa Milá is one of Barcelona’s most popular modernist buildings.
UNESCO recognized this building as World Heritage in 1984.  Casa Mila (1906-1912) is Antoni Gaudi’s most iconic work of civic architecture due to both its constructional and functional innovations, as well as its ornamental and decorative solutions. It is a total work of art. «Man makes art for man and hence it must be rational.»  Many people recommend that you see this at night to take in the light show.

Parc Güell (Park Güell) 

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It was built between 1900 and 1914 and today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is a garden complex that houses a series of dynamically designed buildings, including Gaudí’s house.  It is here where Gaudí perfected his personal style, which was greatly inspired by organic shapes (his naturalist phase)

 

Casa Batlló 

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Casa Batlló is the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877. Gaudí used for it typical constructive elements of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau movement) that include ceramics, stone, and forged iron.

Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction due to its radical design which contravened all the bylaws of the city, in 1906 the Barcelona City Council awarded it the recognition of being one of the three best buildings of the year.

The building is so irregular that there are few straight lines in it and much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic, known as trencadís, made of broken ceramic tiles.

La Sagrada Familia 

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Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudí’s works – his masterpiece. This church has been in construction since 1892, and it’s not expected to be finished until 2026 — to commemorate the centenary of Gaudí’s death.

Construction of Sagrada Familia started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, but by 1883 Villar resigned, giving Gaudí the opportunity to take over as chief architect.


 

If you decide you’d like to go to Spain, I wholeheartedly recommend that you go to Montserrat which is approximately 30 miles from Barcelona and can be reached by any manner of ways – train, car, bus, private tour, taxi, helicopter, etc.  This was the problem as I couldn’t decide whether to book my husband on a structured tour and being rushed or let him make his own way to the Metro and get his own ticket when he wanted to go.  So I am leaving this decision to him but I would go!

After driving through picturesque little villages, you arrive at the incomparable setting of the mountain of Montserrat, which rises majestically to 4,051 feet (1,236 meters).

Here you will find the Royal Basilica of Montserrat, which holds the famous 12th century Romanesque carving of Virgen Moreneta, the Black Madonna. Discover how pilgrims and visitors contributed to the spread of stories of miracles and wonders performed by the Virgin. Learn how the Royal Basilica has become and still remains one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Spain one thousand years after it was originally founded.


I know my husband will take photos of the architecture for me and he enjoys it but he is more of a sports nut so expect he will take in the FC Barcelona stadium or enjoy an exclusive experience at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya at the wheel of a GT. These emblematic, high-performance cars -Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini..- are what any motor sport fan would love to have and drive at least once in a lifetime; that is of course if I tell him about it.

He may just want to wander the different districts at his leisure and stop in for tapas and a beer in whatever establishment catches his fancy. Or possibly the world famous paella and cava.   I will be home shoveling the snow and cranking the heat and wishing I were there but fair is fair! …boy that was hard to write… I hope he has a great time and can’t wait to see his photos!

Note:  After his trip I will post where he stayed and what he found attractive about the City and where he found good food and beer or wine

 

Endless Days

Two adirondacks in garden 2You know those insurance ads that feature a retired couple sitting in Muskoka chairs at the end of a dock on a picturesque lake in cottage country sipping a hot beverage and holding hands – yeah, well that’s not my reality in “my golden years”.

The house does not clean itself but my car can drive itself to the grocery store – unfortunately, it doesn’t do the shopping as well.  Beds still have to be made, toilets cleaned, windows washed, etc. etc.  – you may have retired but the chores have not!  The silver lining however is that if you don’t feel like doing any of that on a given day, you can just go back to bed, pull the covers over your head and nap or catch up on that book you have been meaning to read.

I now have the time to be grateful for all that I have, the time to be creative … get out and take photos, paint, and take on projects that I’ve always wanted to complete.  People ask how I fill all those hours that I don’t work; aren’t I bored but I honestly don’t know where the time goes –  I play on the computer, watch you tube videos, tinker in the garden, see friends, go to concerts, walk in the woods, dance around the house and volunteer.  I recently volunteered for an event at a local auditorium which went off rather well despite the few glitches associated with a first time exhibition.  I distributed flyers for them the week before and the Monday of so I got to get out and get fresh air, had some exercise and participated in a worthwhile endeavor.  I also handed out attendee bags the first day and helped hand out sponsor packages the day before while they set up; everyone so excited and enthusiastic. I figure I’m pretty much on my way to sainthood now!

I watched the organizer who is very talented and efficient and seems to run on those bunny batteries handle all the different crisis that came up in a calm, professional manner and I applaud her zeal and commitment and energy and I realized I don’t want my time structured anymore, I don’t want to be that responsible anymore.  I want to enjoy ‘me’ time; I’ve earned it!  Not quite ready to sit and watch the sun set up in cottage country but adapting quite nicely thank you very much!

The quest for the perfect night’s sleep

pillows

I’m not at all sure how many of you even consider the importance of the pillow you sleep on at night and its overall effect on your health but in the last ten months or so it has become the windmill to my Don Quixote.

Normally I could care less whether a pillow is made of goose feathers, polyurethane foam, buckwheat or organic hemp … but those ads you see constantly on the TV do prod at your subconscious ever so sneakily and before you know it you have invested in a $200 contoured orthopedic polar ice pillow for your bedroom.  What the hell happened?

Now I know that a lot of you like the real goose down feather variety to keep it real or the down alternatives – and most others like a polyurethane or polyester fiber pillow which is hypoallergenic and doesn’t irritate sensitive sleepers. Plus, a group of you  like buckwheat hull and memory-foam models or bamboo pillows (called as such due to the bamboo fibers used to help create the material weave found in the casing) but generally filled with a shredded memory foam.  I have to say though that I think we have gone over the deep end here and not in a good way.

Now, I personally like a flat pillow, not one of those fluffy overstuffed things that make your neck sore just looking at it.  I only need a certain amount of fabric between me and the mattress, I have managed to make it through the night with a folded towel when need be but I much prefer a pillow that I can sink into and it surrounds my neck like well oiled masseuse hands that know how to get that crick out.

Recently, we decided to get a new bed – a king-sized bed so that both of us would have lots of room for moving around without kicking the other off the bed.  So we figured we should treat ourselves to these new buckwheat filled, cool to the touch clouds of delight that we have seen constantly on late night TV, you know the ones I mean.  I don’t think anyone ever mentions the fact that you could actually kill someone with them if you ever got in a pillow fight since they are god awful heavy.

My husband, bless him, seems to have adapted quite readily to his whereas I feel mine is a blend of instrument of torture and foul-smelling doorstop.  Needless to say, I have gone back to my much pulverized but comfortable synthetic model that I have had for the past few years.

I just sleep better with it and no geese were plucked in the making and we didn’t spend the equivalent of ten bottles of wine on it.  I also sleep with a cheap pillow beneath my knees to relieve lower back pressure.  Unfortunately one of the polar ice contoured fancy pillows sits neglected in a corner of the bedroom reminding me of how hard-earned money can be foolishly misspent.

Aw well live and learn!

Note:  Experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend replacing your pillow every 18 months or so. Pillows can be packed with mold, dead skin cells and dust mites, oh, my!  Yes, even when you throw the pillowcases in the wash every week.

To determine if it’s really time to get a new pillow, test it by folding it in half and seeing if it springs back to flat. If it doesn’t, it’s time to find a new place to rest your head.

 

The Gateway to the North

Travel through time when you visit the gateway to the north; the beautiful community of Sault Ste Marie.

Bridge to the StatesSitting near the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, Sault Ste. Marie is a community with a rich local history steeped in the steel and shipping industries.  Opened in 1962, the three-arch Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Mary’s River, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The reason why my friend and I were here: to cross one of those adventures we’d wanted to do for years off our bucket list – The Agawa Canyon Tour Train is one of the great train trips in North America.

And what is not to like about trains, the look, the feel, the smells and sounds come together in a symphony of delight.  Our anticipation was soon to be sated.  We had arrived in the Soo (as affectionately known) on Tuesday evening after a 6 hour drive through some spectacular scenery of its own from Orillia.  We had allowed a day for rest and relaxation before heading out again only this time with an engineer driving.

Algoma Canyon Park

This one-day wilderness train tour takes you 183 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, over towering trestles and along pristine northern lakes and rivers, to the Agawa Canyon created more than 1.2 billion years ago.

 

Since we did not know the Soo that well, we decided to go into town the day before the trip to suss out where the train station was in order to arrive on time (we tend to get lost a lot, I don’t know why).  After two failed attempts (one at the hands of a tourism info guide), we found the station and confirmed we were indeed booked for the next day, would we like to have our tickets so that we could avoid the line-up the next morning and just wait on the platform.  Would we?? Yes! She also told us where to park the next morning as our compartment number boarded to the right of the station.  Fantastic!  See, sometimes it pays to scout ahead.

The next morning we were up before the sun to be at the station for an 8 o’clock departure.  It was a cloudy day but we were hoping the sun would burn off the clouds once we reached the Canyon floor.  Unfortunately, the train’s departure was delayed by an hour due to an electrical problem but this did not dampen our enthusiasm and when it appeared blowing it’s whistle, the crowd cheered and we were off.

We appreciated that everyone was given a guide so we knew where we were. Also, there was an audio guide that played intermittently throughout the train, giving useful information about the sights and some history of the Soo.  A few of the highlights included spectacular vistas of Lake Superior and a thrilling ride across a train trestle bridge.

CautionSoon enough, we were at the Agawa Canyon Park. We had an hour and a half to explore. We chose to do the Lookout stairs which is somewhat not for amateurs but we did it anyways.  High-fives all around.  The view was well worth it.  As we had some time left we decided to walk to the Black Beaver Falls.  We didn’t have enough time left to go to the Bridal Falls which we passed by on the way in. We spent the rest of our time slowly making our way back to the train and taking a few photos and taking in the scenery.  And yes, the sun did come out a bit to make our day.

We heard the woot of the train whistle and knew it was time to board again. The next few hours were spent with enjoyable conversation with our fellow travellers. We met a lovely couple from Wisconsin who were retired and had been married over 50 years, no small feat I assure you. We pulled into the station tired but content from our day’s journey and having crossed off another must do off the bucket list.

As a side note:  Group of Seven Painters came to the Algoma area from 1918–1923, including Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer. They rented a boxcar and outfitted it like a cabin which was shunted to sidings near choice painting locations. From there they would go along the track on foot and by canoe throughout the wilderness. Their paintings became famous, as did the area they painted.

Tallest sunflower on record – over 30 feet!

Do you ever sit in the afternoon sun and ponder about how many different species of sunflowers there are in the world.  The answer my friend is 70.  You can rest easy now knowing that fact but did you also know that each sunflower is actually made up of thousands of tiny individual flowers, up to 2000.   And they are not always yellow.

I write about these today because I see them all over the place at this time of year except of course in my own garden.  I hate to admit it but I cannot grow them there and I have tried, oh yes, I have tried.  Since my husband loves them, I have periodically through the years, bought different ones and planted them in different spots in the garden and they die.  I don’t know why!  Subsequently, now I just take pictures of them and then give him a card every once in awhile so he can enjoy them if not in the flesh so to speak then through a photograph.  Below are some facts regarding sunflowers for you.

Famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh did a series of paintings called Sunflowers. 

Kansas is often known as the Sunflower state and the flower is in fact Kansas’s state flower. The sunflower is also the national flower of Ukraine.

Sunflower was  an important source of food for Native Americans. They used yellow pigment from the flowers to paint their bodies during spiritual rituals and to make dyes for fabrics. Also, they used sunflowers in medical purposes and for the production of bread.

Another factor that has a big influence on the meaning of  sunflowers is the belief (in Chinese culture especially) that they bring good luck. It’s believed that sunflowers are the ideal bloom to fill a home with a sense of safety and good fortune.

Sunflowers have also gone to space – specifically the International Space Station with astronaut Don Pettit in 2012.

Baseball players now substitute chewing sunflower seeds for tobacco which I think is not only prudent (less danger of contracting cancer of the mouth for one) but healthy as they provide Vitamin D and minerals to give them more energy. Along with health concerns, the slow pace of baseball provides players an excellent opportunity to find something to keep them busy. Chewing gum and seeds are also an excellent way to cope with the nervous energy built up during a high tension game.

And for your musical treat of the day

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!