Jump, go ahead and jump!

With no disrespect to Van Halen, I will recount for you my version of events oh so many years ago when I did go ahead and jump – out of an airplane extremely high above the ground.  To this day I am not sure what tempted me to proceed in this adventure where in all probability I could have been killed but let’s just say I was young and foolish and leave it at that.  The photo above was borrowed from the internet as they didn’t have cameras in my day.  Just kidding but we didn’t take shots (other than vodka) back then.

My co-conspirator in crime was my boss at the time and he was the one who suggested we go parachuting and I of course readily agreed.  The week-end came and we drove to the small airfield where like-minded individuals met us. The course began with a 3 to 5 hour training program completed in classroom.  Here, you learn everything you need to know to successfully complete a skydive, including parachute equipment, exit procedures, freefall body position (arch), canopy control and emergency protocol to jump from the plane and descend safely.

arch for jumpingThere is a little bit of listening and then some practicing where you hurl yourself spread-eagled off this tower-like structure and into a big bag of air (no, not your local politician) and then scramble up again and do it all over until we have the idea down pat.  One small problem with this being you are not falling from thousands of feet and there is no air bag upon landing, just good, old hard ground if you are lucky.

At an altitude of 4,000 feet, guided by the instructor, you exit the airplane with the static line automatically deploying your main parachute during a free fall of up to 5 seconds. You then steer your gliding canopy down into the landing field with the assistance of a ground radio instructor who transmits instructions to the radio attached to front of the harness.

Now, that particular week-end it was too windy for beginners to go up but more experienced jumpers went and we decided to stick around and watch them drifting peacefully down.  Unfortunately, this was not the case because of said wind and some of these experienced people ended up hanging from trees and being slammed into the cars in the parking lot by buffeting chutes.  Any sane individual would say okay not coming  back next week but no, we did go back.

I loved being up in a small plane watching the dwindling landscape out the open door waiting for my turn to throw myself out and the next thing I knew I was out and according to those watching kicking and scrambling to get back to the plane, not that wonderful arms and legs flung out style – more like riding an imaginary bike with legs flailing.  Once the chute opened by static line (you have to be prepared to pull the cord yourself if it doesn’t open within a certain time frame), it was spectacular, so peaceful.  As the ground approached however, I began to wonder why they weren’t contacting me by radio to assist with which line to pull left or right so I could land close to the big target on the airfield because I seemed to be drifting further afield.

I really had a sense of panic though when it looked like I was headed straight into power lines and then smack dab in the middle of the road and all of a sudden the ditch was there and it flashed through my mind I could actually die.  This happens in a matter of seconds, one thought forming in your mind being replaced before being finished by a much more pressing one and all of a sudden you hit the ground and roll like they taught you and you realize you are still in one piece except for the cut on your chin from the helmet strap when you left the plane and the sore knee from landing improperly before executing the ninja roll.  They sent out a truck to gather up the strays and discovered my radio wasn’t working so I couldn’t hear them trying to steer me in the right direction.  Then, they asked me if I wanted to go again.  Hell no!  Just get me to the nearest bar, thanks!  Not something I would do again but I am glad I did do it!  There certainly was an adrenaline rush involved, that’s for sure!  I can strike that off the bucket list!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano BridgeOne of the attractions of the beautiful City of Vancouver, BC is the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

Vancouver is a beautiful city—whether you’re talking about the mountains, forests, and ocean or the glistening modern skyline of glass skyscrapers. There’s a reason so many films and TV shows are shot on location in and around Vancouver. If it’s scenery you want, this is the place.


Only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver across the iconic Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver lies the  Capilano Suspension Bridge, originally built in 1889 hanging 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River offering breathtaking views to the canyon floor below.

This is a popular tourist site so plan accordingly to avoid long lines.

The park offers more than just the bridge. Its surrounding 27 acres celebrate nature, history and culture in unique and thrilling ways.
On Treetops Adventure venture from one magnificent old growth Douglas-fir to another on a series of seven elevated suspension bridges, reaching as high as 110 feet (33m), for a squirrel’s eye view of the forest. Guides, signage and interactive exhibits throughout the park help you in your understanding of rain forest ecosystems and their sustainability.

The view from the bridge is spectacular, and while there is minor bounce, it’s relatively easy to navigate. The bridge is reminiscence of the one in Indiana Jones’ Temple of Doom “Hang on, lady. We going for a ride”. Equally, or even better, is the single-file walk on Cliffwalk, which follows a granite precipice along the river with a series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms offering views at every turn.
There are other trails on the other side of the suspension bridge.
  • There are 9 different types of trees in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park! There are 2,014 Douglas fir, 157 Western Red Cedar, and 144 Western Hemlock.
  • The suspension bridge can hold 97 elephants. That’s 203 moose, or 4520 beavers.
       HISTORY

CapilanoIn 1888, a Scottish civil engineer and real estate developer named George Grant Mackay purchased 24 square kilometres of old growth forest on both sides of the Capilano River just north of the city and built a cabin at the southern edge of the canyon. The 65-year-old engineer hired two local Coast Salish natives to help with the construction of the first bridge in 1889 that was made from hemp and cedar planks.  Ten years after Mackay’s death in 1903, the bridge was replaced with one made of wire cable.

Rae Mitchell, bought the bridge in 1953. In 1956, he rebuilt the bridge completely, strengthening the cables and the anchors.  In 1983, Mitchell sold the Capilano Suspension Bridge to his daughter, Nancy Stibbard who is still its present owner.

Tickets are rather pricey, a little under $50.00 but if you have young ones under 6, they can get in free.  I think this is worthwhile if you are going to do some hiking while you are there and maybe pack a picnic.  You definitely want to arrive early to avoid all the shuttles and crowds.

Note:  There is another similar bridge not far away, called the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. In addition to being free and “just as nice as the Capilano bridge,” the Lynn Canyon bridge leads to some of the best walking trails in the area and is far less crowded.

Clipart Of A Leaf Inspirational Maple Leaf free graphics Flower Leaf Pinterest……………………………………………….the end!          Totems

Spirit Bears, Eagles and Orcas of BC

In the summer of 1999, Chicago cooked up a tourism ploy that not only worked like a charm, but also inspired countless imitators. Fiberglass cows–300 strong–decorated by local artists were placed around the city. The “Cows on Parade”–inspired by a Swiss project in 1998–began in early June and lasted through Halloween.

“Moose in the City” was a year 2000 project by the City of Toronto in which 326 life-sized moose sculptures were placed throughout the city and decorated by local artists.

orcas_eventlogo“Orcas in the City” was a 2004 British Columbia fund-raising project for the B C Lion’s Society, the first of four such events that I am aware of.  Many locals do not share the idea that this ‘art’ represents their city and find some of them downright embarrassing or kitschy and would just as soon not have them displayed throughout the downtown.  I, however am one of those people that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and I commend the imagination and artistic ability that is showcased in many of the works of art and the camp in some.

 


‘Bears in the City’, was a British Columbia charity fund-raising initiative in 2006 where life size (approx. 7ft) custom formed fiberglass Spirit Bears were distributed across BC to local artists who created a unique design and applied it to the surface in the medium of their choosing. The Bear became the artist’s canvas. Once the work was completed the Spirit Bear was displayed in prominent public spaces around the participating cities.

The bear was actually the rare “Spirit Bear” or “Kermode Bear”. A First Nation legend states that the Raven, their creator, made these bears white as a reminder of the time when the world was pure and clean and covered with snowdrifts and ice blue glaciers. Raven promised that these bears would live in peace and harmony forever.

The exhibit ended with the great ‘Spirit Bear Auction’, a gala event where the Spirit Bears were put on the block and auctioned to the highest bidder. Spirit Bear auction proceeds benefited the BC Lions Society’s Easter Seal Operations and the Vancouver Canucks for Kids Fund.


‘Nazzy Bear’ was named in honour of Marcus Naslund – the captain of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.  The artist was Dean Lauze who painted it for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment.  More of a promotional piece than ‘art’ could be argued here but definitely a more light-hearted version of spirit. Besides, how do we know that kermodes don’t appreciate hockey!

The ‘Kody’ bear was designed by my brother-in-law Gene Sebelius who did all the mosaic work and his good friend and artist, Bonnie Spencer who did all the painting.


 

Note:  The Eagles can be found on this website with an explanation of the project and photos of the work.  Keep in mind however that this was from 2010 and I could not find any contact info on this site so the eagles they say were not purchased at that time may indeed have sold by now.  www.eaglesinthecity.com

The front and back photos on right were by the renowned artist Jerry Whitehead


 

Below is a link to a newsletter regarding the Terra Cotta Warriors initiative of 2012

Terra Cotta Warriors 2012


Presently in Bonn, Germany you can find these and other representations of their beloved Ludwig van Beethoven who was born in this city.

 

If you know of other artistic displays of fiberglass statues that are auctioned off to raise funds for worthwhile charities, I would love to hear about them and see some of your photos!  Thanks for visiting and have a tremendous day!

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia is one of those cities that’s worth visiting simply because it’s so beautiful.  When someone mentions Savannah the image that first pops into my mind is the sight of all the moss-covered oak trees that languidly shift ever so lovingly in the southern breeze.

The second might not be overly familiar to some … but it is the Daiquiris drive-throughs where you can pick up your favourite concoction at the window a la Tim Hortons.  When we first walked in through the doorway (there was one across the street from our hotel so we didn’t need a car) there was a row of giant slurpee like machines where you had to make the difficult decision of what flavour you wanted your alcoholic libation in.  Daiquiri Drive throughSweet mother of …..I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  What does MAAD think about all this?  One-eyed Lizzy’s on River Street also makes exceptional margaritas!  If you have time you should also make a trip to Tibee Island and have dinner at the Crab Shack.


A little background on Savannah – not that big, easy to navigate and very pretty squares.

The 22 squares in Savannah today provide locals and visitors alike with a little greenery amid all the businesses and historic houses. At one time there were 24 historic squares, but two were lost due to city development while others, such as Ellis Square, were redesigned and made even more appealing.

Savannah was established in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe and was the first colonial and state capital of Georgia.  Oglethorpe named the 13th and final American colony Georgia after England’s King George II.  Plus, Savannah is a port town so there’s also pirate history and … it’s haunted!   How much more can you ask for?

If you like architecture, you’ll really like Savannah, something visually noteworthy is pretty much everywhere you turn.  Forsyth Fountain.jpgThis is the fountain in Forsyth Park, which is definitely worth a stop.  You’ll enjoy a short walk to the fountain and those gorgeous live oaks along the way.

Forsyth Park in the historic district was laid out in the 1840’s. The land for the original space was donated by William Hodgson. In 1851 John Forsyth, the 33rd Governor of Georgia donated an additional 20 acres, bringing the total size of Forsyth Park to 30 acres. The Park was named after him and still retains his name today.

The Forsyth Park Fountain

Perhaps the most well known feature of Forsyth Park is the large fountain that sits at the north end. The fountain was built in 1858. It resembles a few other fountains found around the world, including fountains in Paris and Peru.  On any given day you can find many people, especially locals, lounging on the benches, taking in the scenery and people watching.

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day the city of Savannah dyes the water in the fountain green.  We just happened to be there at that time but it wasn’t planned.  The ceremony when the water is dyed is a popular event attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands of local ‘Savannahians’, many of whom are of Irish descent.


The Mercer Williams House

Thanks to the 1994 book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the Mercer Williams House has become one of those ‘must-see’ attractions for many people coming to Savannah. Even before the book came out the house was a beautiful fixture on Monterey Square.  The Mercer House was designed by New York architect John S. Norris for General Hugh W. Mercer, great grandfather of  the songwriter and co-founder of Capitol Records, Johnny Mercer. Construction of the house began in 1860, was interrupted by the Civil War and was later completed, circa 1868, by the new owner, John Wilder.

In 1969, Jim Williams bought the house and restored it. Williams was a noted antiquities dealer. He also enjoyed restoring old homes, the Mercer Williams House being one of them. It was in this house that Jim Williams allegedly shot Danny Hansford in 1981 killing him. Williams was tried four times, finally being found innocent of all crimes. Williams died in the house of a coronary brought on my pneumonia in the same room as Hansford.

Bird Girl
If you are looking for the statue of the Bird Girl from “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, you could have found it in Bonaventure Cemetery prior to Midnight’s fame.  Now you can find her in the Telfair Museum.

 

There is much to see and do in Savannah and should be enjoyed at a relaxed and leisurely pace.  Visit www.savannah.com for more information or www.visitsavannah.com and receive a free guide.  I would love to visit the City again in the future but for the time being I think I will make myself a daiquiri and relive the time I was there.  Enjoy and explore.  Bon Voyage!

Home Sweet Home

I will never receive the Good Housekeeping Award of the year or the week for that matter.  I am not one of those people whose home you visit and everything is in its place and so clean you could eat off the floors.  Our house is cleaned when we know we are going to have company and we run around like mad the day before (even though we’ve had all week) cleaning toilets, vacuuming, dusting, polishing, washing, etc. but only those rooms where I know company will be – our bedroom is still untidy and could probably use a good air freshener to boot.

I don’t mean the house is dirty or crawling with germs and maggots overflowing the trash can – though my husband did ask me last week if there were maggots in the trash but it was leftover Chinese rice that I threw in and some of it stuck to the sides of the can, so I had to take it outside and hose it clean which it more than likely needed anyway.  Cleaned by necessity.

You can rest assured if I were ever to win the lottery, the first thing I would do is hire a cleaning lady or man – I’m not prejudiced – and a chef.  Namely because I don’t like to cook that much either – not after 40 years of doing it.  Of course my mom who had to make three meals a day and lunches for six kids and her husband had every right in my opinion to complain  about it…but never did!

If it wasn’t for my husband, I suspect the filter would never be changed in the furnace, the ducts would not be cleaned out and the light fixtures dispossessed of flies.  I just find that I am readily distracted from any chore I might be attempting by the phone ringing, checking e-mail, walking the cat, games on the i-pad – anything really that seems more interesting than the job at hand.

No, Martha Stewart need have no fear of being dethroned by yours truly!  She has drive and ambition and a whole crew to help her out, I am basically lazy by nature and a slob at heart.  Oh well!  Time to see if the Blue Jays are playing!

 

So many drinks, so little time!

In one of my previous lives or careers, jobs, vocations – whatever you want to call it – I was a bartender and I loved it, mainly because I got to socialize while at work, listen to great music, have a drink after shift and play euchre with the management for money at two o’clock in the morning – go home at 4 and get up at 10 am and start all over again.  Being younger, the long hours on one’s feet didn’t really bother me all that much.  Plus, I am not a morning person so getting up at 6 am or 7am was beyond my wheelhouse.

From the age of 21 to 45 I was in the hospitality business off and on with odd attempts at a “real job” as my mother used to say.  I banked my paycheque to pay the rent and bills and spent my tips; having a wise financial advisor at that time might have done wonders for my retirement, but alas I was not a saver.

I remember vividly how a well dressed older gentleman would come in to the bar and order green chartreuse and I thought it must be pretty good, otherwise why would you drink it, so after work one night I tried it and it was godawful (grotty) to put it mildly.  In those many years of working the bar I have tried many fancy concoctions and different types of liquors and liqueurs and below is a list of those I find offensive to the palate – just my personal dislikes – pretty much anything with licorice in it is at the top of the list as I can’t stand that taste but there are plenty of people out there who do like it.

Green and yellow chartreuse
Absinthe
Jagermeister
Ouzo
Pernod
Aquavit
Grappa
Scotch – no, I don’t care if it is single malt
Gin

 

Now some of my favourites:  Southern Comfort, Kahlua, Vodka, Frangelica, Dark rum, and Tequila in moderation.  Cheers!

 

A peek at a few of the many castles in Scotland

Today, I came across a box I had set aside with trinkets and guides and photos from when my husband and I took a month-long trip to Scotland.  When we returned to Canada, his mother who had emigrated here in the sixties remarked that we had seen way more of Scotland than she had in her lifetime!

It was a fantastic trip even though it rained most of the time – a lot like Vancouver that way so we were kind of used to it.  Besides, a lot of the castles and museums and galleries and pubs were indoor; so when it started to rain heavily we just popped inside and when we came out – it was still raining, who am I trying to kid!  Never-the-less a great trip which we hope to repeat again in the future.

One of the many things I had been looking forward to were seeing some of the many castles in Scotland – after a few weeks however, I was complaining about turning a corner and wasn’t there another blasted castle in front of us.  Lesson in this, be careful what you wish for, Ha! Ha!

I am going to break down our trip for the moment and just concentrate on some of the Castles we did see and which ones were worth the price of admission – some were free!  In the future, I would like to re-visit some of these castles and take photos with a drone as they are spectacular seen from a height.  When we first visited all our photos were on film, can you imagine, so we didn’t have the luxury of taking 15 shots of a castle and then deleting all but that spectacular shot that you did get by having a digital camera.

I’ll start with one of the nicest – and more a beautiful country manor than a castle.  We headed out from Glasgow down to Ayr which is about 45 minutes depending on who is driving – so a nice day or afternoon excursion.   Please click on link below for synopsis of castles we visited.  I hope you enjoy and that you will plan your own excursion over there as it is a beautiful country and the people may appear standoffish to start but are very friendly when engaged  – especially about their history and culture!  If you incorporate a side visit to Wales and Ireland – even better!

Castles of Scotland booklet

A little slice of paradise!

Looking for an exotic oasis of freedom with crystal clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, warm weather all year round and authentic, friendly locals.  Look no further.  You can do as much or as little as you like in the Cook Islands.  Still largely undiscovered by North Americans, the Cook Islands are like Hawaii was 50+ years ago only with all the modern conveniences.  Made up of 15 islands, they are a mix of coral atolls and volcanic islands abundant with marine creatures, both big and small.

You will not find row upon row of high-rise beachfront hotels and apartments nor chain resorts as there are no buildings higher than a coconut tree.  You will not find chain stores or McDonald’s, even a stoplight is hard to find.

The Cook Islands are named after Captain James Cook who visited the islands in 1773 and 1777.  By 1900, the islands were annexed as British territory and included within the boundaries of the Colony of New Zealand.  The Cook Islands government is a parliamentary democracy with its own executive powers and laws (became independent in 1965) but carry New Zealand passports.  A seafaring people, Cook Islanders consider themselves descendants of Polynesians from nearby Tahiti, who first settled the area about 1400 years ago.

English is the official language and is taught in school.  The common vernacular is Cook Islands Maori, also called Rarotongan similar to New Zealand and Tahiti Maori.  Dialects vary, and in the north, some islands have their own languages.  Cook Island Tribal Tattoos These Meanings Of A Polynesian Tattoo Will Seriously Impress You

The Islands total 240 square kilometres or approx. one and a third times the size of Washington, D.C.  Rarotonga is the biggest Island but is only 11 kilometres in length.  The main road which goes all around the Island is 37 kiolometres so you can circumnavigate the Island in an afternoon.  Scooters and bikes are very popular modes of transportation but it was the buses that caught my eye.  They run in two directions:  Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise.  A simple and efficient means of getting around with some very entertaining drivers who will fill you in on the folklore and history for free!


Some interesting facts on the Cook Islands

  1.  The major industries are agriculture and tourism.  Rarotonga receives nearly fifty thousand tourists a year.
  2.   black-pearl-variation-600x400The Cook Islands are the world’s second largest producer of black pearls.  Although they were named for the colour of the shell they are found in, the pearls come in hues of blue, silver and deep green.
  3.   The Islands are known for their wood carving, and many young people who live there are taught by older generations of wood carvers how to perfect those skills.
  4.   Rugby is the most popular sport followed by cricket and soccer.
  5.   Polynesian healers have used noni fruits for thousands of years to help treat a variety of health problems.  A cure all for the ages it is an important export
    Noni pulp
  6.   On Sundays the Cook Islands are buttoned up tighter than a clergyman’s collar.  Businesses shutter, the buses do not run and if you want a drink you’ve got to stick to your hotel.  Virtually all the people are Christian with 70 percent belonging to the Protestant Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) and 30 percent divided Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon, or members of other denominations.  Everyone dresses up and wear intricate hats woven by hand.
  7. Though there are formal church cemeteries they are far outnumbered by private  burial plots on private land.  The spirits of ancestors live with everyone, are a fact of life, and nobody to be feared.  In some cultures, having a view on your parent’s grave from your living room window might be rather unsettling but it is commonplace here and treated with the utmost respect.  Family land runs from the coast to the inner hills of the island and cannot be bought or sold.  It stays with the family or is leased (one of the main reasons there is not so much outside development).  The large and sometimes opulent burial vaults found in front yards most often belong to the woman of the family who built the house.  Shoveling dirt onto a woman is a disgrace so the body is sealed entirely in concrete.  For sanitation reasons, this practice spread to everyone.

    burial plot in front yard.JPG

    Next time you are planning an exotic get away, give some thought to the Cook Islands – a little slice of paradise!  The Islands are renowned for its many snorkeling and scuba-diving sites

Is being Wealthy the same as being Rich?

Money symbolRecently I finished another book on financial planning and how to become wealthy that my boss passed on to me.  While it is a little late for me as I am now retired (working part-time) and far from wealthy – I consider myself to be very rich.  For those 25 years and under I’ll give you the gist of what I have read on the subject of making money at the end of this post…because while money is a factor it isn’t just money that makes one rich.

For instance, I love to travel and wish I had started much sooner in life because the experiences while travelling have been educational, entertaining and life sustaining – not always – sometimes it is a vacation after all where the purpose is to relax and get away from it all … and sometimes things happen that dampen the enjoyment, but that is life.

I had a discussion with some of my friends recently on the topic of what makes one rich and surprisingly most didn’t say money but things like health, family, having a child, creating art, being in a job/career they loved, being in love, and getting out.  Don’t get me wrong they all thought having more money would help but they aren’t obsessed with it and the societal pressures from advertising to buy, buy, buy – spend, spend, spend!  By the way when I said getting out I meant outside the house, either on some level of fitness, to take in an event, interacting with others in some form of sport or recreation, just getting fresh air or watching a beautiful sunset.

 

Many people, usually ones that realize late in life their aches and pains are going to be a constant part of their lives are happy they are still able to do things and have their health so they consider themselves rich.  Others get together often with their families not just for Christmas and Thanksgiving but for summer barbecues, winter “games nights” and think that family is very important and that they are richer because of the number and quality of their friends and siblings or daughters and sons, etc.  And some people are interested in art and architecture, creating something, music and history and get out to have another shared experience and feel richer for it!  just like Scotia Bank says … you are richer than you think!

And now for that little nugget of info I promised at the beginning!  Pay yourself first, put that money into an investment and through the miracle of compound interest – watch it grow!  In other words, have your employer deduct a certain amount from your pay check at source – that way you will never miss it and put into a separate investment and leave it alone for twenty years – you’ll be surprised what you have at the end of that time period!  Easy, peasy! Lemon squeezy!  Right!!!


 

“Song for Zulu”

Song for Zulu

This song by Phosphorescent is featured on their Dead Oceans Album and is on the soundtrack of The Spectacular Now coming of age movie from 2013.  It got a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes website and is considered to be a thoughtful and poignant representation of teen angst.  I, however, have not seen it.  I am just enthralled with the song, it calms my being and allows me to delve deep into my own emotions and heartbreaks and come out on the other side.  I play it whenever I am feeling down because it gives me hope.  It is painful and beautiful all in one!

It is also on the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from 2014.  Again, another movie I have not seen!

I believe music can help change your life.  Both my husband and I have a list of songs we want played at our funerals that meant something to us as a couple and independently.  This may seem a little macabre to some but we feel it will help our friends remember the good times shared and not the sadness in our passing.

Image result for death quotes Image result for death quotes Image result for death quotes

The message here – enjoy life, it’s the only one you’ll have!