Saturday, January 17, 2015

Not So Perfect Photography

As I prepare for our trip to Arizona, I'm amazed at how many pieces of technology we are taking that, apparently, we can't live without! ..... A tablet, a laptop, cell phones, readers, camera etc. I am starting to wonder if I really need my camera? According to photographer, Sean McGrath (see link below), capturing the moment is what's really important. The photos below are a few "moments" that I captured from my travels in Asia. 

Woman waiting for the train to go by in the countryside of Bangladesh.

Market in Hanoi Vietnam
Old woman with a cell phone in Blangladesh

Men playing a game in a park in Beijing.

During my recent trip to Spain I found that I used my phone to take pictures more often than my camera simply because I was more likely to have it on hand and because I didn't have to dig it out of some zipped compartment of a purse or backpack. Also, it's easier to upload my photos from my phone to Picassa (where I can access them easily from anywhere), than to transfer them from my camera to my computer. Here are a few photos that I took using my phone in Spain.

street in Madrid

The medieval town of Pedraza.

Our delicious snack of olives at the San Miguel Market in Madrid

So ....... I'm off to Arizona with my phone at the ready in case I see any interesting or unusual sights. Like Sean McGrath says, "It's all about the moment". Hope to post some soon!

I also hope to take in Sean McGrath's talk on February 12th at 7 PM as part of the Rothesay Speaker Series at the Rothesay Town Hall.

Town of Rothesay Website

Sean McGrath Photography

Download 2015-01-17 11.50.54.jpg (1216.4 KB)
Article in KV Style about Sean McGrath

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Anticipating Arizona

wikipedia image

As we are anticipating our upcoming trip to Arizona I thought I would do some research and post it on my blog so that I would have some good links and info at my finger tips (all in one place) while I am away.
We are flying to Phoenix and then driving to Yuma with access to a rented car during our two week stay. So, in regard to what to see or do ..... what are the possibilities?

Driving Distance Facts:

  • Yuma to The Grand Canyon - 5.50 hours
  • Yuma to Las Vegas - 4.49 hours
  • Yuma to Tucson - 3.30 hours
  • Yuma to Tombstone - 4.21 hours
  • Yuma to San Diego - 2.42 hours
Below is the link to the Arizona Visitor's Guide. It has good information and quick links to specific areas.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is obviously a major attraction. To drive from Yuma, it would be six hours there and six hours back. That would mean at least one (perhaps two) nights in a hotel. The cost of the entrance to the park is $25.00 per vehicle (all passenger included) and there is a free shuttle to tour the area (the South Rim that is). We could likely get a hotel in Williams, or Fagstaff (about and hour or so away from the park). Below are some great links to info about the GC!


Grand Canyon Website

Another thought might be to take a day tour of the Grand Canyon from Phoenix. I found a few companies that offer day tours for about $130.00 to $170.00 per person. The tours seem to start at about 6:30 AM and return to Phoenix in the evening. They take you through the Sedona Desert, stop at various sights along the way and include 3 hours in the Grand Canyon. That might be a thought if we plan it at the end of our trip when we fly out of Phoenix?? Below is a link to one of those tours.
Grand Canyon Tour from Phoenix

For more detailed info about the "South Rim" I have copied an excerpt from the Grand Canyon Guide below.

The South Rim is the most popular part of Grand Canyon National Park, so look for South Rim hotels and motels in nearby Tusayan or Williams, just 50 miles from the park. If Grand Canyon National Park is just one adventure on your Arizona vacation itinerary, consider a more central jumping off point and book one of the hotels, resorts, budget-friendly motels and quaint bed and breakfasts in Flagstaff(90 minutes from GCNP) or Sedona (a destination it its own right, just 2 hours from the National Park.) You could even stay in Scottsdale/Phoenix, but only if you're up for an 18-hour day of self-driving, or better yet, a more relaxed full-day guided van tour to the Grand Canyon.

The South Rim is most accessible and therefore the most popular destination at Grand Canyon, attracting 5 million visitors each year. With two entrances - one at the south side, called Grand Canyon Village, just north of the small town of Tusayan - and one at the east, called Desert View, near the Cameron Trading Post, the South Rim is where you'll find visitor's centers, several in-park lodging facilities, historical buildings, and over two dozen viewpoints and trailheads. Because of its popularity, visitors should expect crowds and vehicle congestion, particularly in the busiest seasons - spring, summer and fall. The South Rim is open year round, and while wintertime is a beautiful and less crowded time here, the South Rim's 6,000 foot elevation and high plateau climate make for snowy conditions November through April; weather should be a consideration when planning your visit.
When visiting the South Rim, look for lodging and additional things to do in areas like Tusayan, Williams, Flagstaff and Sedona - all of which are within 1 to 2 hours drive from the South Rim or Desert View. There are a few restaurants and hotels in Tusayan, just 8 miles outside the park's south entrance, but visitors may find greater accessibility to hotels, restaurants, bars, entertainment, and other attractions in Williams (60 miles south) and Flagstaff (78 miles southeast.)

Route 66


Get your Kicks on Route 66! ...... Sounds like a plan? It is about 3.30 hours from Yuma to Kingman so I guess it could be done in a day, but it would be a lot of driving. Anyway it certainly would be something to say you got some kicks (even if it's just a bag of chips and a root beer) on route 66! 

Here is a good link with a bit of history of the famous highway.

San Diego

San Diego might be a possible place to visit since the drive is just under three hours. The hop on hop off trolley is $39.00 /per person, but it takes you to all the main attractions in the city and of course you can "hop" on and off as you like. I checked hotel prices through Hotwire and found a few deals in the downtown area for $120.00 - $130.00 per night (not bad for a Crowne Plaza or Sheraton!)


Given the above information, it seems like we will have to be selective about the sights we want to see out side of Yuma and the surrounding area, due to the diving distances. So .... the question is, what is worth seeing in the immediate area? I found a good website (below) that provides a lot of information. One popular thing to do is to visit the Mexican town just across the border, there are some good tips there in regard to traffic and times. (I believe that there is a large parking lot for people to park on the US side of the border and walk over.) Another cool thing to do might be to take a day tour up the Colorado River. There is a tour company in Yuma that offers a day trip for about $48.00 that begins at 11:00 and ends about 2:00 (just in time for cocktails!) - see link below. And if we are really bored there's always shopping ..... noticed that there is a Marshal's in the local mall!

Yuma Palms Shopping Center
The Kofa Wildlife Refuge is only 40mi. from Yuma and I read a good review of it on Tripadvisor by someone from Ottawa. The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Center, on the other hand seems quite scary, according to the National Geographic article below!

Kofa Wildlife Refuge
National Geographic article

Friday, January 2, 2015


Frame 1: Peter's Gym, Open until Feb. 1st. Frame 2: What happens after Feb.1st? Frame 3: It converts back to Peter's Bar and Cheesecake Emporium.

I know this poor photo of the B.C. comic strip is hard to read, but it sums up my sentiments about the predicable crowds at "my" gym after the Christmas holidays. So here's my rant: I go to the gym on a regular basis all year long and it irks me when "my" space is invaded for the month of January by enthusiastic weight loss seekers who, by February rarely darken the doors of "my" gym.

This morning, at "my" gym, I was doing my usual 30 minutes of cardio and watching Canada AM, as "usual". A fitness expert was discussing the pros and cons of joining a gym, an appropriate topic for January 2nd. She pointed out that while gyms are great, they are not for everyone and I agree. However, the gym works for me and here's why:

  • The gym allows me to exercise whenever I want, no matter what the weather is like. Walking and hiking outdoors is great, but I do not like to be outside in the rain or snow, or when it is too hot, or when there are icy roads and walkways. Winter weather would be a serious deterrent if walking or jogging was my exercise of choice.
  • Dogs!!! I like dogs, but when I encounter one on a walk my heart is in my throat and I doubt that the anxiety contributes to my health.
  • Variety is the key. At my age, I need cardiovascular activity, but I also need to do some work with weights for my bone density issues. I also find great benefit from the various stretching exercises I like to do on mats and if it want to really step it up, I participate in a class that includes yoga, and other techniques. There are many options from specific weight training classes to access to a personal trainer.
  • Convenience. I can attend the gym any time of day and it is about a five minute drive from my house. I can also shower there if I want to (and I have). They have hair dryers, great mirrors etc.
  • The cost is reasonable. I pay about $45.00 a month and it comes directly out of my bank account ... I don't even notice it!
So, I guess this is my "pitch" for the gym. It works for me. I go every morning during the week and on the days that I work (usually 2 days a week) I go in the evening. I don't think about whether or not I "feel like it" I just go. It's like brushing your teeth, a matter of routine. I don't obsess about it either. If something comes up, I can miss a day, or if I'm away that's okay. .... I just resume when I return. I still like to walk and hike, but only in good weather and with company. 

So  have I convinced you? It doesn't matter .....It works for me! I hope you find what works for for you!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

All the Tea in China

My lovely tea mug and tea, a gift from Joel and Alicia.

One of my Christmas lists this year included Earl Grey Tea. On a recent trip to Spain in one of the flats we rented there was a box of Twinings Earl Grey in the kitchen cupboard and we helped ourselves. It had been a long time since I had it but with the first sip I remembered how much I liked it. My first discovery of EG was a mistake (grabbing an individually wrapped tea bag without checking the label) and I was surprised at the citrus flavor ..... wasn't sure if I was even going to finish the cup! But it grew on me and now I think it is delightful (makes me feel British!) As a result of my wish list I found a tea infusion cup and Lavender Cream Earl Grey from the Tea Brewery under the tree. I just had my first cup and it was deeeeelish!

As I enjoyed this aromatic treat I began thinking about who this Earl Grey guy was (assuming he was a Brit likely involved in the tea business in someway). In my research I discovered that there are several theories about the Earl, who was the PM in the 1830's. One is that he received this special blend of tea as a gift from a grateful Chinese Mandarin as a thank you for saving his son from drowning. Another was that the tea was brewed with the addition of Bergamot oil (from Bergamot oranges) to offset the presence and taste of lime in the water at the home of the earl. It was also mentioned that the addition of Bergamot oil was added to lesser quality black tea in order to improve the flavor. In any case .... this delicious beverage became popular and, for whatever reason, know as Earl Grey tea.

A demonstration at a "traditional tea ceremony" in China (Paul and Ross on the right).

Tea has a long and interesting history that would take the rest of my days to research. But in a nut shell, it began in China around the third century BC after a Chinese Emperor had insisted that all his subjects must boil their water before drinking it. As the legend goes, a few leaves blew into his bowl of hot water changing the colour and taste. As he drank it he was impressed by the restorative qualities and flavor that he experienced and I guess the rest is history. In the photo, above I attended a "traditional tea ceremony" in China in which we discovered that it is polite (in fact expected) to slurp loudly!

My research also pointed out that the British were responsible for introducing tea to India.  Tea first came to Britain when Charles the second married a Portuguese princess who brought it to court where it was a big hit. The Brits began growing it in India in order to break the monopoly that China had on the tea trade. When I was living in Bangladesh (a country that used to be part of India) tea was a staple. On our travels to Sri Lanka, home to the famous Ceylon Tea, we learned that the British had originally tried to grow coffee there. However, after a crop failure, they tried tea and and have been growing it ever since!

Well, we could go on about tea forever, but I think I'll stop, click "publish" and bubble up the kettle for another "cuppa"!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014!

Joel and Alicia's cat, Daisy is here for the the holidays. She is very well behaved and enjoys one of her favorite spots under the tree.

I know it's Boxing Day and I'm  little late with my Christmas greeting, but better late than never! Merry Christmas everyone!! So far we have had some great visits with family and friends and look forward to more good times during the rest of the holidays .... wrapping up with a New Year's Eve house party at our place.


My boys with their new scarves! I was inspired by my trip to Spain to influence their sense of style after seeing all the "hot" Spanish guys wearing them.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Christmas seems to have snuck up on me! I guess it was all that gallivanting around Spain in November that distracted me. So now it's a scramble and only a few short weeks left to prepare for the "big day"!
So here's the plan ....

  • Decorate with as little as I can get away with. I know "more is more" at Christmas, but I plan to keep it as simple as possible using just a few of my favorite decorations .... I mean the tree will give it away! I was looking for a Christmas table cloth for my kitchen, but after searching for something I liked, I decided to buy a piece of green printed fabric that I can use all year around. I'll just stick a red candle or something on it for a Christmas feel.
  • Food - You can't break with tradition too much, so I will be making a few "old stand-bys" like shortbread, cheese balls and peanut butter fudge. (Best to stick with what you know.) Our future daughter-in-law does not eat dairy, so I'm always on the look out for appetizers and sweets that are dairy free. Gingerbread, date squares, peanut butter cookies, and various pies are a few that I've made. Hummus, pate and various antipastos are always good to have on hand too! And I am not above getting a little help from Costco. M&Ms or Mrs. Sobey!
  • Entertaining family and friends is the best part of Christmas! I'm anxious to see my youngest son and his fiance, who live 5 hours away, and this year we are having an "open house" a few days before Christmas. Of course we always look forward to a Boxing Day visit from my friend Diane and her twin sister Karen from the big city of Toronto. Karen has a history of getting storm stayed with us, but that's all part of the fun!
  • Shopping, believe it or not is going quite well! I've done some "online" shopping and hubby has been a great help picking up things for the boys. I plan to buy what I can find and if I need to "top it up" I can always get a gift card!
So there you have it. In a nut shell, I'm going to focus on enjoying family and friends. If I have no time to cook .... I'll buy something (or get hubby to do it!). If I'm not decorated to the hilt ..... nobody will notice anyway!

I made gingerbread cookies (dairy free!) with Anna Olson's recipe and they turned out quite well. Now I am going to decorate them using "Royal Icing" .... never heard of it before. In this icing you use meringue powder ... another thing I had never heard of before! My oldest son is coming for his birthday dinner tomorrow with his girlfriend and her 5 year old daughter so I thought that perhaps she might like to to have a little fun decorating the gingerbread men. I'll keep you posted!

Anna Olsen's Ginger Bread Cookies

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

Our "Six Days in Pedraza" were encased by three days in Madrid and four days in Barcelona, two beautiful cities with two distinctive feelings. Madrid, I felt had a more "high end" European feel, while Barcelona was more Mediterranean with a relaxed atmosphere. 

We arrived in Madrid at about 3:00 pm and our prearranged airport pick up delivered us to our Airbnb flat in a timely fashion. The apartment was typically European, very comfortable with two bedrooms (one with twin beds), two full bathrooms, kitchen and cosy sitting area as well as a balcony. Our neighborhood included restaurants, bakery/coffee shops and a grocery store literally three doors away where not only food but wine and beer could be purchased. 

After a three minute walk we could hop on the metro and explore other parts of the city. The San Miguel Market, an old facility made into a modern, high end show piece for delicious Spanish delicacies was one of our first stops. After a lunch of wine and olives we strolled around old Madrid and later took in Picasso's Guernica, at the Reina Sophia Art Gallery, something I was thrilled to see! One day during our travels we happened upon a wedding where the guests were gathered outside an ancient church dressed in the finest European fashion and wearing hats that would put the Royal family to shame. Madrid definitely gave a sense of old world sophistication.


After our six day "talkathon" in Pedraza we were ready for another adventure but also a little down time. Barcelona fit the bill with its slightly warmer weather and easy going feel. When we arrived at the address of the second flat the we booked, we were standing on the sidewalk waiting for someone to meet us with the keys when we noticed an old woman in a white house coat and slippers a few meters away waving at us. Francine, the apartment owner's aunt was a jolly, chatty lady who seemed delighted to see us and showed us to the apartment.
 During the next four days we enjoyed exploring the sunny streets of Barcelona. We saw Antoio Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, watched a multicultural parade, browsed through an open air market and enjoyed a beer near the beach. One day we stumbled across a free exhibit by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and even got a free poster! But even better .... we discovered a used clothing store just a few blocks from our flat. (The Madrid wedding goers might have been horrified, but us Canuks love a bargain!) 
On our last evening we had dinner outdoors with a fine bottle of wine and a propane heater to keep us toasty!


Our Spain Adventure

 by Linda Stafford

(Below is a video created by Linda,one of my travel mates, but for some reason it does not show up when viewed on my tablet so it may only be visible to those using a laptop??)