Dec 1st, 2011 - Had a busy month which included visits by Mom and Heather, and Peter.  We visited Brian in Barrie, and Rob in Prince Edward County again.  We enjoyed our jazz choir, where I surprised myself by opening up my vocal chords to belt out some great tenor solos.  Played my last tennis games with the final cold-weather hold-outs.  Our Facebook family group is taking over some of the function of this digital diary, because photos and news items are being shared there with great immediacy rather than finding their way to this page.  The garden is cultivated, turned over laboriously by hand and shovel for the winter, ready for the frost to help open the soil.  Lara came to stay with us as she transitions to becoming a Torontonian.  Spanish classes continued and I had a lot of fun sharpening my skills with verbs, and learning to sing a few Spanish songs - I even played my guitar for the very first time in public, as we played and sang Las Mañanitas to our classmates, and the following week played piano accompaniment to Quiereme Mucho.

Nov 6th -
Haul-out is done: it was a busy weekend at the end of October lifting all the sailboats onto their winter cradles, and preparing our own boat for winter storage.  My niece Lara has moved into our guest room, and she will live here while Deb and I go west and south.  This week Mom and Heather will fly here to meet Rob - Mom will be seeing her first born son for the first time in sixty years.  My brother Peter will visit two weeks later.  Apart from that, we're just singing, I'm doing some more genealogy work, and we're organizing the yard and house for winter, doing little repairs and packing things away.

Oct 24th -
it's been two busy weeks of getting to know Rob, Cynthia and Elisabeth, much of it online - the family has engaged in a whirlwind of postings of photos and banter to a "secret group" on Facebook.  Too much to read, at times.  We spent the weekend of October 14 to 16 in Prince Edward County with Rob and Cynthia, and Elisabeth came here for an evening to meet Deb and me, Lara and Andrea, who was also seeing our home and neighbourhood for the first time.  We have yet to meet Jennifer, but have seen a video of her 140 kilometre walk to Toronto in support of medical cannabis.
   In other news, the kittens went back, but not before the mommy cat gave Deborah a pretty fierce bite on her wrist (now okay, treated with antibiotics).  We've dropped the mast on Awelyn, erected the cradle, tarped Tiger Moth, and steadily worked at fall projects in the garden, by the conclusion of which I will have moved a very large raspberry patch and a number of other bushes and plants in order to create a bigger and better space for our staple "crops"
next summer: tomatoes, beans, squash, swiss chard, garlic and the usual herbs, etc.  And strawberries, of course.

Oct 11th - Well, my summer is officially over.  We sailed on Sunday, and it was, fellow sailors claimed, the most perfect sailing day all season. Yesterday there wasn't enough wind, and today it was cool and foggy on the lake, so we decided to spend the day dropping the mast. We worked at that all afternoon to the sound of machine gun fire a couple of hundred yards away - a film crew shooting an episode of Nikita.  Our stretch of waterfront is in constant use by film crews, and I suddenly realized Lara may even be using our boat next summer as a restful sanctuary between takes.
   It will be colder going forward, and we'll be busy with other things over the next couple of weekends: meeting my new older brother Rob and his wife Cynthia, and my two new nieces Elisabeth and Ryan, and Jennifer, Kevin and their children - they'll get to meet Lara and Andrea who will both be in town for the weekend of Lara's birthday.  And now, this just in - literally, as I typed this: our new cousin Brian, current wife Theresa, and his 26 year old daughter Lorna.
It's been a sad but miraculous month so far. 



Oct 4th - We've had a delightful visit from one of the couples we stayed with in Australia, Kerry and Dave.  They were here for two nights, capping off a seven week trip through N. America - their second visit to our continent - and we thoroughly enjoyed their company.  Dave is a former Aussie footballer, and they fiercely support the Geelong Cats.  On the last night before they left, in true Aussie fashion, they sat up until 4 a.m. to watch the finals on my living room wall...thank goodness, Geelong won.





Yesterday Deborah got a call from Toronto Animal Services.  Their nursery roof caved in (strange, on such a new building) and Deborah agreed to bring home another Mommy cat with three six week old kittens.  They are very cute, and very different: charcoal black, tan and orange-red.  None of them seem to have a strong feral gene, and the mother is quite calm in her new surroundings, and relaxed around us, which is good.  We haven't locked her into the guest room, but she stays in there with her kittens most of the time anyway.






Sept 30th - it has been a terrible six weeks.  In mid-August, my sister Heather phoned and said it was time to go back west again to see my father before he died.  He contracted pneumonia and they had to suspend his chemo treatment; at his age, after more than two years of fighting multiple myeloma through two previous failed attempts at chemotherapy, there wasn't much hope he'd survive even if he did overcome the pneumonia.  She thought that his death wasn't imminent, that we might have a few weeks to spend with him, so we drove, but I was anxious and so I drove long and hard.  We covered the whole distance in two days and a couple of final hours on the third morning.  Deborah and I arrived at his bedside in the Cross Cancer Institute, but he was very weak and under morphine, and couldn't respond to our presence, although we believe that he knew we were there and we have a story to tell about that. 
Forty minutes later they came to give him a fresh morphine injection, an increased amount, and less than three hours later he took his last breath.  Exhausted by the drive, I was stunned at the sudden turn and it took several days to begin to breathe
normally; there remains a sort of humourless "sad spot" in me, a depression which might linger for some time. 
I spent three more weeks helping Mom with work that needed to be done at the house, and sorting through the boxes of sixty years of paper that he'd hoarded, a job that is far from over and includes sifting through many boxes of audiotape, videotape and 8 mm films.  He'd converted the bulk of them to dvd at great cost recently, but I can't bring myself to let the rest go until I'm sure he hasn't missed any - I did find two trays of slides that he'd accidentally discarded when he shifted all of his first fifty years of collection to storage in the garage.


Back in Toronto two weeks ago, we began catching up to our garden - it's transplanting season so I set up a fresh bed in the front yard and I'm moving lots of other stuff around, and we have a harvest of tomatoes, raspberries, squash and swiss chard to eat - and lots of home maintenance chores we'd put off, some to make sure the house is dry and secure for winter.  We still haven't sailed our own boat all season, although we've been out three times on friends' boats earlier in the summer.  We have friends here right now from Australia, a couple we stayed with as couchsurfers last winter; we'll celebrate Octoberfest at the yacht club tomorrow evening after we drop them off at the airport for their flight home; we each have a voting poll to serve as District Returning Officers on Oct 6th in the provincial election; my niece Lara is coming here the last week in October, and her cousin Andrea will be here as well over that weekend to visit her, us and the great metropolis; I'm learning to edit video, we've had Deb's Dad and new lady friend over for lunch, and we'll get back into bridge, and possibly a tennis game or two before it gets too cold to play any longer.  We've resumed Spanish lessons, and our once-a-week darts/games evenings at the club.  The sailboat comes out of the water for the winter at the end of October.
Until now I've had no desire to update my digital diary, and I've lost my musical mojo completely since Dad's death, but I'm trying to get back into the mood: we've rejoined the jazz choir and have a good selection of songs that we're working on.

Sept 19th...I think.  I expunged this record temporarily to save Mom precipitous embarassment in case someone read her news here first (Peter's caution) and added it back to my diary more than a year later:

This morning I finally got an email from the Canadian Adoptees Registry confirming that we have a match.  It's an exciting moment, but we understand that it may be an emotionally difficult moment for our elder brother Robert and that it may take some time to gradually get to know him and our new nieces. 


At the same time, we wait with great anticipation to connect for the first time in sixty years with an eldest brother that we've never known and didn't even know existed until exactly a month ago.  This also stunned me at least as much as Dad's death, coming as such a complete surprise.  Meeting our brother promises to be a tremendously emotional event for me and my siblings, one of wondrous joy in stark relief to our pain over Dad's death and the disappointment that he kept this secret to the very end. What a horrible time it was, sixty years ago: so many young mothers felt compelled to give up their first child in our puritanical, coercive, repressive society.  A lifetime of heartache for my mother (and probably for my father, although he kept such thoughts and feelings tightly to himself) might finally come to a close as a result of the Open Records legislation enacted in Ontario in 2009.

Aug 15th - A decade ago I crewed once a week for three years on a racing Express 30 called Midnight Express, and had introduced Mike and Janet Bauer to the skipper.  Mike's been crewing for him ever since, and is now in the process of buying the boat, so it was very cool that he invited me along to crew for him on his first cruise as "the skipper". We had a fine sail to Lakeshore Yacht Club on Saturday, about 26 kilometres or 14 nautical miles.  22 boats from our club went there for the weekend, about 80 people, while some of their boats went to our club for the same social event.  We ate too well...

Aug 7th -
The heat and humidity continues here, although not as bad as it has been in July, when we broke a few records.  We had an Island Party all day yesterday, and the four yacht clubs competed for a cup - Deborah and her partner took first place at the euchre tournament, earning points for our club.  I captained the darts team, and although my partner and I came second last, one of my team's pairs came first.  There were sailing races, dinghy races and other competitions, and our club took the cup for overall points to hang onto for a year. 

Deborah is off to Montreal to visit her Mom and sisters tomorrow until Friday, so I'm bach'ing it and should have lots of time for music and for sailboat and home maintenance chores.  I've joined two other singers/instrumentalists, Rod Smith and Sheila Brand-Bennett, to form a trio doing cocktail sets of songs from the maritimes, songs from the 20's and 30's from England and N. America, some comedy songs, some shanties, some Beatles tunes, etc.  We have keyboard, guitars, ukulele and trumpet between the three of us, and the three part harmonies are excellent so we'll do quite a few a capella songs, some with just simple percussion.  We've had one exploratory session together, collecting song ideas, and I'll have a second rehearsal with the other male member tomorrow or Tuesday.  Sheila is a former professional singer and musical theatre actress who now teaches with the Toronto school board; she was our conductor in the jazz choir from last winter.  Our first project is to perform Birdland on stage at the CNE on August 30th - already booked, as a small ensemble part of the larger jazz choir performance.

Aug 3rd - over the weekend we enjoyed having my niece Lara as a houseguest.  We ate tomatoes, zuchinni and raspberries from our garden with Deb's Hainan chicken, and we toured the neighbourhood, including the yacht club and lakefront.  We visited Rosetta McClain Garden where we took a series of lily photos for my sister Heather, the lily afficionado.  Lara had her first Chinese dim sum from-the-cart lunch, and we visited Kensington Market, an iconic Toronto neighbourhood, on a "Pedestrian Sunday", when they close off the streets. It's sort of a current version of the Yorkville that existed when I was a teenager, before Yorkville got yuppiefied and went boutique and commercial.  Enjoy the slideshows: the lily photos are mine, of course, but the Kensington Market photos were submitted by many other visitors to the market.

July 28th - on Tuesday we went to the McMichael Gallery, where we immersed ourselves in the Group of Seven and Marc-Aurele Fortin, a Montreal artist who I admire in spite the miserable circumstances of his later years.  Married at 61 - at that point, I'd have to ask, "Why bother?" - and later, diabetic and vulnerable (he lost both legs and then his sight), he endured abuse by a 25 year old agent, aide and power of attorney who burned thousands of his works.  Fortunately many hundreds, at least, remain.
   We picked up Rosalinde, the artist couchsurfer from Victoria who stayed with us for a few days last month, and took her with us.  Apart from that we've just been playing tennis, bridge and darts, weeding the garden, and other random chores that pop up.  We're making a little headway in the basement, eliminating excess cargo - spent the whole afternoon at that.  We'll have a garage sale when we have a weekend with nothing else happening.
   Tomorrow, our niece Lara is arriving for a few days in Toronto.  We're looking forward to her visit.

July 21st - just back from a couple of weeks with family in Alberta.  It was a very pleasant trip.  Dad was weak when we arrived but perked up with the help of radiation, dexamethazone and fresh haemoglobin during our stay.  He is on a new therapy using thalidomide - very expensive, but after some anxious days after their medical insurance refused to cover it, we got word that the drug company themselves will subsidize it 100%.  We enjoyed reconnecting with siblings, nieces and nephews, and uncles.  We all did yardwork, eavestrough and garage work and some setting up of handrails and other medical aids for Dad in case he gets weaker as time goes on, or has weak days.  With fragile bones, falling is a significant danger, so handrails in the washroom and back stairway are important.  It was cool and rainy in Alberta, and still is...a very cool and rainy spring and summer, so far.
    Here in Ontario, the opposite is true.  We returned to a heat wave, temperatures in the mid-thirties, mid-forties with the humidex.  Today was forecast to hit a high of 38/48.  I watered the garden and spent some time weeding until the heat drove me back indoors.  Our garden has been taken over by crabgrass.  On the other hand, we have awesome tomatoes, zuchinnis (nothing better than a chilled romanesque zuchinni with ranch dressing on a day like this!), and raspberries, plus swiss chard, rocket and the occasional lovely strawberry still fruiting.

July 2nd -
Yesterday we went to 
The Railway Children for our 22nd wedding anniversary treat.  It was a bit tame as theatre, based on a children's story by Edith Nesbitt, and filled with Edwardian language, manners and morals; but we enjoyed the unique staging including a vintage steam engine named Vicky as a bonafide walk-on character.  It was quite a spectacle.  There's a good photo here - the audience sits on both sides of the tracks and the actors deliver their lines on the train platform, and on special platforms that wheel in and out along on the tracks, while the locomotive steams in and out at various points in the play without interfering with the play itself, so the whole audience gets to see and hear all the actors equally.  We sat in the third row up from the stage in this photo.
 
   Afterward we hiked up to
Ontario Place to enjoy the Canada Day fireworks.  They fire them from a barge just off-shore.  I've always joked that I'm so Scottish I got my father to marry us and picked July 1st for the date so we'd always have free fireworks! 

It was an ordeal getting home, though; public transit couldn't handle the crowds and streetcars and buses were all late and jam-packed.  We finally got home by 12:40; next year we'll watch them from our boat again, or drive down and capture a parking spot early in the day.

   Earlier in the day we fussed with our brand new Tohatsu motor on the sailboat, which purrs like a kitten, but the electric start button woudn't work.  We finally concluded, with the help of dock neighbours, that I'd blown a fuse in the electric start circuit of the motor while trying to hook it up to our dual battery system aboard the boat.  But while at the club, we pull-started the motor and managed to step the mast and put on our boom and sail.  Soon we'll get out on the water for our first sail of the season in our own boat. 

June 30th - Here is our latest couchsurfing guest: Rosalinde from Victoria.  She's holding the sign Deb used to find her at the airport. She's enjoying the ROM, the AGO, and touring eastern Canada - she leaves tomorrow morning early for a three day tour of Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City, and she'll also make a trip to New York from here. 
   I've done some landscaping over the past few days, moving flowering plants, irises, ornamental elephant grass and sea oats to the front yard from the nursery area in the back.  Later I'll shift the raspberry canes over to one side to grow more and better tomatoes and beans in our back kitchen garden; and I will build a special oval bed in the centre of our sunny lawn for the peonies, tiger lillies that are taller than I am, plus some day lillies, some irises and cana lillies, plus maybe tulips around the outside edge.  That should be dramatic.


June 26th - today is the 60th Anniversary of our tennis club.  We're about to have a party at the clubhouse.  Yesterday we picked up our new outboard; we'll mount that tomorrow, and get onto the next task of prepping and stepping the mast, attaching the boom and raising the sails for the first time this year.  And we painted the last wall yesterday.  Afterward, I mowed the lawns, and came across a mouse - actually just the front half, a gift from Jasmine, our outdoor cat.  I had to find a place for it so I could continue mowing.  Fortunately, there was a perfect choice: several years ago Deborah bought a mouse plant, and labeled it.  Something ate the first two leaves as soon as they emerged, and she covered it with a downspout cage to try to protect it, but it never recovered.  The cage, and the sign, have been there ever since...so of course I was able to tell her that I thought she should check her mouse plant, that something was finally actually growing there...it's a bit gruesome, perhaps, but it was worth it.

June 23rd -
In a burst of energy likely inspired by the fact that the big decorating job is almost over, we began painting the final bedroom today.  The ceiling is done but the walls will take two coats, so two more days should do it.  There are other projects: flooring, shed-shingling, plumbing, etc - but nothing so Herculean as repainting the entire interior.  So we might soon get back to simpler retirement joys: reading my stack of books, playing music at home, learning Spanish verb conjugations, sailing...
I did finally get the outboard back on the sailboat, but it wouldn't run - no spark. I think I must have burnt out an electrical component when we were trying to adjust the idle; we didn't notice that the impeller had broken and there was no cooling water running through the motor until it had really overheated.  I finally gave up on this 27 year old motor and ordered a new 9.8 hp 4-stroke Tohatsu; we're waiting for them to phone and tell us it has arrived at the dealership.  I can't wait to get the new outboard on and step the mast - we might be able to join a club cruise over the Canada Day weekend.
We've been eating a bowl of strawberries from our garden every evening for a week now, and serving them as dessert to BBQ dinner guests.  We got a good June crop this year.  Some of the plants are "everbearing" and should continue to give us fruit through the summer.  I should plant more of those.  Placing actual straw under the "strawberries" as mulch was successful - it limited the weeds and helped the soil retain moisture, and the loosely packed straw allowed airflow, giving the berries a high and dry place to rest and ripen. 
The raspberries are coming soon; the blossoms have already turned into little green berries.

June 18th -
I was planning to finally put my outboard back onto the sailboat and step the mast today, but Murphy struck: the bathroom medicine cabinet came off the wall last night, the anchors probably weakened when we removed it for painting.  After a late start, we visited three stores but couldn't find anything we liked better than the one that fell, and it matches our other two bathroom cupboards, so I rebuilt the specially designed hinges of this one and remounted it, while Deborah took the door in for a new mirror.  That took most of the day, and we have guests coming for BBQ supper, so I spent the rest of the afternoon racking ginger wine and cleaning equipment, and doing gardening chores, including watering - we've had a warm dry stretch of weather lasting several days now.  On days like this, I yearn for a more nomadic footloose and fancy-free existence, devoid of yardwork and house maintenance; life's too short to live out one's few golden years this way...now I know why guys get grumpy in their declining years.

June 17th -
On Wednesday we had our last choir and big band rehearsals for the season. The band had a party at Mike Sanderson's house - he's the guy at the bottom of the trio in the photo on this webpage for Moo'd Swing; this group has played at Roy Thomson Hall, and he plays guitars and mandolins and such with that group, but he plays trombone with us. They have nice sound samples on the Music page of their website. 
Last night we performed at the ETT annual awards dinner at the Liberty Grand ballroom, down on the CNE grounds; we drove the Indy 500 track in our Suzuki to get back out of the grounds on the way home, which is a bit of a fantasy thrill, quite frankly.  The Liberty Grand is a truly grand, spectacular building dating back to 1926 - click on the photo show on their website.  We've been invited back to perform on stage at another event on August 30th during the CNE, so I guess they liked us. 
Our last Spanish lesson for the season is this evening; and our last two bridge afternoons next week, although we plan to start going to an evening bridge drop-in.
On July 1st, we'll celebrate our wedding anniversary by going to see The Railway Children at the 'specially-built Roundhouse Theatre, and walk out into Canada Day fireworks. 
April, May and June are always very busy months, and I often feel like I have a full time job just keeping up with
all our yardwork and gardening, home and boat maintenance, taxes, medical appointments and volunteering commitments, while trying to squeeze in all the additional things we do just for fun.  We hope the next three months will be a little more relaxing. 

June 13th -
after a busy weekend (AMSF AGM Director's meeting and dinner, guests in our home for two nights, Sailpast Salute to the Commodore followed by the dinner/dance, and Sunday party clean-up and six hour OD duty), life is returning to "ordinary" and we've spent the day heavily pruning a couple of trees, one of which blocked sun to our neighbour's garden and and own, while the other allowed tempting access to our roof to the local racoons.  Three racoons in the tree in our backyard had a loud session a few nights ago; Toronto is the racoon capital of the world.  We now have a huge pile of boughs, branches and leaves to cut up and dispose of.
I have Monday night house league tennis this evening.  Through the coming week we have some final band and choir events of the season, including a band party and a concert and dinner for the jazz choir.  B
etween those events, bridge games and medical appointments, we'll put the outboard on the boat, and if it runs smoothly, we'll step the mast; and we'll complete our interior painting project.  Yesterday Deborah bought a 3/4 size classical guitar, a Beaver Creek, from a friend.  I called it her "six-string ukulele", but it seems easy to play for her small hands, and it looks and sounds nice.
I've added five more photos to our tulip folder, which is more than just tulips now; t
hese ones aren't tulips, but they're a good show.  The Starburst Clematis, peonies and white irises are dramatic. For some reason I missed getting a photo of our dark purple irises, and our Black Locust tree which fills with blossoms and perfumes the entire neighbourhood for one week in June every year. 

June 9th -
I should have knocked on wood when I wrote that "nothing out of the ordinary" was happening.  Yesterday we had a heat record for June 8th, and around 7 p.m. a violent wind and hail storm knocked down huge trees, rooftop business signs and power lines all over Scarborough, including the mature maple tree on my neighbour's property right across the street.  Every block on our neighbourhood has limbs sheared off or entire trees uprooted, snapped off at the trunks.  The clean-up will go on for a while. 
The kittens went back for adoption this morning, and today we await the arrival of two guests who are billeting here for two nights while attending the AMSF charity AGM and annual dinner, which we will also attend.  Saturday is Sailpast at HYC, and then things -hopefully - will get back to "ordinary".


June 7th -
I replaced the impeller on the Honda four stroke motor, which was an interesting challenge.  We haven't had a chance to run it on the boat yet.  But we've spent a day downtown at the AGO, made progress on painting the house, had Sol and Marcie over for lunch, took the neighbours and other friends out for dinner, and kept up our Spanish lessons, music, darts, bridge, started up the tennis house league, kept a series of medical appointments, and all that stuff.  Life continues, nothing out of the ordinary but nothing wrong with any of it.

May 22nd - we've had many days of rain, not too many days of sun.  The garden is planted, the house is getting painted - painfully slowly - but we haven't sailed our own boat yet because of motor woes.  We sailed with our friend Don Davies yesterday instead - our first incredibly beautiful, sunny day in almost two weeks.  I'll have to open my own motor and investigate a non-functioning impeller; all the while watching for any used long shaft outboards that might come on the market, and exploring the possibility of converting to an electric motor on a sailboat of this size, which will probably happen next November if it happens at all.
Eleven more tulip photos here, from our front garden.  I took these ones yesterday.


May 8th -
two sunny days in a row, and that means back-breaking work in the garden.  (Rainy days mean painting inside the house.)  We have turned the soil, weeded, done some transplanting, mowed the lawns for the second time this season, and tomorrow we'll plant low bush beans, swiss chard, buttercup and butternut squash, zuchinni, basil, leeks, onions, and rocket.  We'll plant red potatoes if we can find the variety we want, and tomatoes, for sure - so far Deborah has picked up several varieties of cherry and regular tomatoes, including one heirloom varietal.  We've battled the raspberry canes, which left me bloodied but unbowed.  The strawberries have white blossoms so we'll soon be tasting those, and we have lots of flowers - lungwort, primrose...and the tulips are in their glory - and so is the dandelion crop, which Deb attacks with alacrity every spring.  All the annuals are emerging: the sunburst clematis, and all the border bushes.  The front hedge is turning green. 
We continue our two afternoons per week of bridge school and club play, Monday evening house league tennis has begun, Deb is back to her choir and I'm playing piano in the Montcrest Big Band rhythm section (and have to practise my charts through the week), Wednesday evening is darts night, and we have begun Friday evening Spanish lessons - and wouldn't you know it, the instructor assigns homework! 
Yes, we're very busy...and we haven't even begun taking our own boat out for day-sailing and having bbq's at the club.  However, we will be sailing tomorrow: our friend Sean has just bought a new 36 foot Hinterhoeller sailboat and brought it home to Bluffer's Basin last Friday, and he has asked us to crew for him as he puts her through her paces and gets used to the boat.
Between spring cleaning and yardwork, house painting, gardening, taxes and getting the sailboat ready for the water, April and May are the two busiest months in the year down here on the suburban Ontario homestead; June, July, August, September and October are the months when we just have to maintain what we've accomplished, and enjoy the fruits of our labours.

May 3rd - Deborah's diary entry:
it was touch and go about getting the boat ready...down to the wire. Unfortunately we could not wait as the crane was scheduled. Luckily the 100 km winds that week happened on Thursday; if they'd happened on Saturday, we would have had to re-schedule the crane for another day. Luckily Saturday was a glorious day!! The only problem was the motor and so we are sitting at the end of the dock instead of where we usually stay (motor starts, but stalls..carburetor problems). We need the tow boat to drag us back to our slip, but it has been too busy and too rainy so far. For example today I had my bi-annual mammogram.
BTW, my weeds are doing great!!  Yesterday in a fit of energy and several minutes of dry weather, I pulled weeds from the "vegetable" garden at the back. I bought some swiss chard seeds and would like to put them in the garden...if it EVER stops raining!!
The kittens are so cute (see below). When I go into the room and talk to them they all come out of the carrier. Actually I am somewhat surprised that they are not out exploring on their own...but maybe that is because they were so much younger than any other litter I got. (Steve believes it is because the mommy cat is so extremely attentive that they never seem to have any compulsion to leave their den)
Painting...ah yes...must get back to that now that boat duties are mostly taken care of... 3 rooms done...5 to go (counting the hallway as a room). 

Stay dry!!

Steve: I spent all of yesterday morning at the truck dealership getting a diagnostic done.  My hybrid batteries are still under warranty for two more years, so I was hoping I'd get new ones, but they appear to be fine and we just got the computer codes reset.  I probably caused the error code by not shutting them off when I went away and let the truck sit for two months, according to the manual.
In the afternoon I picked up another truckload of firewood from a friend who cut down a big ash tree.  We have painting to continue, and new piano music to learn for the big band; Deborah made turkey dinner and her usual enormous pot of turkey soup on Sunday.  Today we returned to the teachers' bridge club.  Lots going on.


April 28th: As of last night, when a fifth trumpet player returned to the Montcrest big band, I officially became the piano player instead.  The weather has been frightful - 100 km winds overnight, and days of rain and gray skies.  We got the boat ready for launch, now only two days away, during a couple of weather-windows; but not the motor, yet.  It'll be a weekend of work and partying at the yacht club, and house league tennis begins this Monday evening.  And finally, the kittens have started emerging from the cat carrier on their own - invariably in search of their mother, who almost never leaves them alone, but if she does, they'll pursue.  This morning she was visiting us as we awoke, and I heard a tiny thump from the guest room as one of them fell an inch from the lip of the cat carrier to the rug below; she raced out of the room like a shot to get the little miscreant back into its den.


April 24th:
This morning the mommy cat made her big move; but the gray kitten gave her away.  We heard a single kitten crying, and went to look to see why, but the kittens had all vanished from the guest room.  There was, however, a lump under the red feather half-duvet covering the bottom half of our bed.  The lump moved. Deborah spoke to the lump, and the mommy cat's two enormous eyes appeared just under the edge of the duvet. Deborah turned the duvet back, and found all four kittens there with her.  The gray one had moved a few inches away from her, perhaps disoriented by its new surroundings, and had begun to mew - "ratting her out", so to speak.
It's been a sunny day.  I've mowed both lawns for the first time, moved some tulips from the spots in the lawn where the squirrels had decided they ought to grow, and painted the other half of the sailboat cradle, which has been two-tone (half-painted) for a few years - once it gets stacked, a week from now, it'll be out of reach for the rest of the year, except for a week at the end of October.  That's my job during launch: stacking all the cradles.  We're going to have moose steak for supper - courtesy of a newfie neighbour. 


April 23rd: the weather has been gray, wet and miserable all week, making it hard to think about sailing, gardening or other summer pursuits.  This afternoon it is supposed to warm up and the sun will shine a bit, so we'll go down to the boat and begin prepping it for Launch Day, which is racing toward us, scheduled for April 30th. 
We've completed painting the walls in the living room a very bright white with the tiniest bit of silvery-gray in it, which gives us vibrant colours when we use our projector on the wall in the evenings; but the projected whites are almost too brilliant.  A different gray with more charcoal in it would have improved the contrast, but we're supposing that in a little time, soot from the fireplace will create that adjustment naturally. 
That's two rooms painted...six to go...
The current cat mommy is very friendly, but Deborah has created a monster.  The cat has been polite, only visiting us in our room before we sleep or when we wake up, but she was in our room this morning, exploring, and Deborah invited her under the covers between us.  When I got up I saw the four kittens in their bed in the spare room, but seconds later Deborah swung her legs out of bed and almost stepped on the gray one - whose eyes have just opened overnight - mewing loudly where it had been dropped on the mat beside our bed.  The mommy cat had decided that she really liked the dark, warm comfort of the space between us under the covers, and was trying to move her kittens there.  We closed the bedroom door on her to prevent it, but two hours later she was at the closed door once again, standing up and trying to push it open, caterwauling with the gray kitten at her feet.


April 18th - After a couple of weeks with us, our young Tibetan/Canadian family was able to find their own apartment, so we filled up the truck and helped them move in.  They left us with freshly washed walls, so now we're painting - can't put it off any longer...and Deborah brought home a fresh litter of four kittens with their mother cat from the Toronto Humane Society.  They'll be with us for the next seven weeks.

April 10th - we've had house guests for a week. Carrie is the niece of a friend; she went to Dharamsala to study Tibetan translation, and came back two years later with a Tibetan husband, Tenzin.  They have an eight month old baby girl, Dawa.  They're trying to get established in Toronto and we've freed up the second bedroom in our little cottage, which we were using as an office and walk-in closet, for them to stay in while they look for an apartment.  Tenzin is working long days, putting in a four hour round trip commute to Mississauga to unload and sort ongoing cargo from planes, and Carrie is looking for a position.  She was a recreational administrator for the YMCA prior to her Dharamsala adventure, so she should find something soon.
I've had a dental implant drilled and pegged in my jawbone.  Tenzin and I have cut firewood and done the spring cleaning in our yard - there's no snow left, the grass is greening and the trees are budding; the temperature is 22 degrees today, with a howling wind.   Deborah and I have been to bridge together.  Deb has been back to choir, and I've found a new jazz/swing band to play with - not too big, about seventeen players, mostly saxes, trombones and trumpets, plus a drummer and a bass player.  They're short a piano player, so I'll cover that as well as one of the four trumpet spots. 
Deborah will be away all this week visiting her Mom and sisters in Montreal, and I'll wash walls, work in the garden and maybe get some painting done while she's gone.
We are settling back into our Toronto life. 

April 1st - just back from two months in Australia, escaping the ice and snow in Toronto.  We went from the aforementioned minus 18 to plus 42 in Sydney, a 60 degree temperature change.  The week we arrived was the hottest they'd had in 140 years.  The details and photos are in a travel blog kept on blogspot.com - here is the link: Australia 2011.  The latest entries appear at the top; to read them sequentially you'll need to click open the prior months in the menu on the right side of the home page of the blog.

Jan 22nd...Deborah's birthday! 
Minus 18 outside, just like an Alberta winter.  But we went out for an early Chinese buffet dinner and then dropped in "unannounced" on Greg, Christine and Liam - managed to surprise Deborah completely, and we toasted her with bubbly and this cute birthday cake made by another friend, Alison Dowling:


(Alison is from Queensland, so all the proceeds of her cake business are currently going to Australian flood relief)

Jan 20th: arrived home from our second two-week stay in Varadero yesterday.  Came in on the red-eye, got to bed by 5:30 and slept until noon.  Today we're feeling normal again.  We stayed at the "Sunbeach" resort - again, be careful how you say that...don't pronounce it like the guide did on the bus from the airport.  It is really 2 1/2 stars, not 3 (don't trust the TripAdvisor star reporting), and we actually preferred the 2 star Mar del Sur resort we stayed at in November, for several reasons.  We were not thrilled with the front desk management of this hotel, who we witnessed being dishonest, rude and unprofessional in the extreme to some guests with a very legitimate complaint about their bill - it looked like they'd had no customer service training to prepare them for their role, and no policy to fall back on when things didn't add up or they'd made a serious mistake and inconvenienced a customer.  A few of the other staff were also pretty grumpy, but they tend to cater to a young and rowdy clientele, kind of like a permanent Spring Break crowd, so I can see why they get grumpy but at the same time it serves them right. 
The food was somewhat better than Mar del Sur, at least. 
The infrastructure shortcomings of the hotel were significant - we stayed on the fifth floor of a ten story building with two elevators: one just for show, and the other in a state of constant repair.  It worked about six of the fourteen days we were there - it was a Chinese DongWang elevator, and China has no embargo against Cuba, so there isn't any real excuse for that.  We had a three day stretch without hot water, too.  Add that to short-staffing in the dining room and the coffee bar and pool bar, broken air conditioners, furniture and fixtures, and not enough beach chairs for their guests...I've grown disenchanted with the Cuban government's use of resorts as a cash cow for their social programs.  It sounds great in theory, but they take too much out and put too little back in terms of service and product to compete seriously with Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and other destinations.
However, the beach is always gorgeous, no matter which hotel you stay at, and the town of Varadero is an absolutely charming little peninsula village.  Cubans out on the street are pretty fine people, and you step out of time there a little bit - or maybe back in time, to the fifties or sixties, with no internet, old houses, old cars, and gracious old-world manners.  We went to someone's house for coffee one evening in the nearby town of Santa Marta, and we had an awesome lobster dinner in someone else's house.  We rode to Santa Marta on an "el coche" horse drawn carriage, a catamaran, and a pedal boat, and got around on the Beach Tour bus again, affectionately nicknamed "la guagua" (photos of these are in the slide show I made in December, two postings down this page).  We made friends with other guests, including a pair of young ladies who travelled with us, Alice and Erin.
I culminated two months of Spanish learning effort by reading seven Spanish children's books over the past two weeks with the help of the dictionary; the last one I read was "El Principito", The Little Prince.  I'd read that in English as a child. It was fairly advanced, and I felt quite pleased with my progress.  I began expressing myself in Spanish, although I still can't follow fast dialogue on a Spanish movie or tv show, or eaves-drop successfully on a conversation between two native Spanish speakers.  One more month of focus on verb conjugations, and I'll feel pretty competent for travel needs, at least, since I can read almost all forms of text fairly easily now.  I've decided to spend a month of concentration apiece on French and German this coming summer, to bring back some facility in those languages as well.  My smattering of French through the years in high school and university really helped to remember and make sense of Spanish vocabulary.  I'd love to work in a Berlitz school, teaching English and training in the other three languages at the same time.

Jan 1st, 2011: Happy New Year to all.  We've had a good three weeks reconnecting with  Toronto friends after our November vacation in Cuba.  We've had Christmas and New Year's parties with all our various groups: jazz choir, bridge club, yacht club, etc.  We've had dinners with friends at their houses and ours.  We spent New Year's Eve with Greg, Christine, Liam and Zoe in our old house on Macintosh, the one that we sold to them and helped them move into at this time of year exactly, five years ago.  In between all that socializing, I worked on my guitar skills, played tennis twice, and continued to acquire Spanish vocabulary, using Youtube for daily online video lessons. 
We've got some plans for 2011 that include travel to places we've never been, and returning to some that we have; and more sailing through the summer months than we did last year - maybe back up to the North Channel, as well as around Lake Ontario. 
We look forward to a fine summer garden, and time spent with our parents, families and friends, who are all well.  I anticipate a straightforward sort of year, including fresh travel adventures but also continuing the same routines and activities we've already become engaged in...but we're open to surprises, and willing to either go with the flow or seize any exciting opportunities that might float within reach. 
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