Grand Bend, Ontario during COVID

Things have changed in the world…have you noticed? Covid has pretty much turned everything upside down, and I feel like I am adjusting daily. While trying to keep our family safe, we also strive to keep a sense of ‘normal’, and a good dose of ‘fun’. Without the ability to go to school or see her friends, it’s been tough to keep things positive around here.

Most recently, my husband has been busy building a deck at our house, which has meant he has been busy doing back-breaking labour, but family time was at an all-time low. So one weekend, when Chris had an extra Monday off, we decided to go for a drive to one of the best local beaches we know in Ontario: Grand Bend.

Beaches everywhere across Ontario only opened a week or 2 ago. They were shut down to visitors to avoid COVID transmission. As many regions across Ontario were permitted to open up to Phase 2, that meant beaches were a go! We cautiously ventured out to the beach on a Monday that would typically not be as busy as they would be on a weekend.

Perhaps the beach looks busy, but we found it’s really just the angle of the photo that is deceiving

Let me tell you, there’s not much I love more than a good beach. I’m not a person who enjoys tanning, per-say, but I love the heat (under the safety of a beach umbrella!), and I love the water. It’s soothing to me, and I find, in the summer especially, I crave it. Grand Bend, on Lake Erie, is one of the most beautiful beaches around. I hadn’t been there in years. So going to this beach in the middle of a world pandemic with our 5 year old child was a special, first time experience, I guess!

So when we got there, parking was easy. It was evident it was a less busy day than usual, but tourism was still booming in this popular Ontario beach town. Chris and I agreed, getting out of the car in Grand Bend was like stepping back in time, like COVID wasn’t a thing. Almost. Some people were wearing masks, but everyone was spread out enough that social distancing wasn’t a big concern. All of the stores and restaurants had directional markers, and plexi-glass covering all of the tills. The stores didn’t seem to be requiring masks, so we generally stayed away, but we did our part to stimulate the local economy by buying lunch at a local restaurant (which had a great take-out menu as well as booze to-go, which we didn’t take advantage of this time!). Once we hit the beach, it was a beautiful oasis that allowed us to just be a family and not worry about that crazy bug.

Despite some of the pictures and reports coming from the first open weekend of Grand Bend (I’ve heard they have since closed down part of the beach areas because of overcrowding https://www.narcity.com/news/ca/on/toronto/grand-bend-beach-was-slammed-with-people-this-canada-day-photos), we felt quite safe there on a quiet Monday, and people respected their distance. From those picture angles, sure, the beaches look slammed, but during our visit, we found everyone kept their distance and we had 0 concerns. We were able to easily access the beach, and make some great summer memories. I’m glad we went when we did, because I have a feeling many of these beaches are headed for a shut-down as more out-of-towners flock to the outdoors for the only summer escapes available at the moment. Keeping the tourists coming to these locations is both a blessing and a curse at this time, while businesses struggle through a raging pandemic.

Scent of a Woman

 

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They say scent is the most powerful memory trigger. Today I was faced with this very trigger, seemingly randomly. While taking a stroll with my dog, I walked by this old building turned antique auction house. Somebody from inside called to me and said ‘Hey, I have something for you’. I said ‘Oh?’ and followed him (maybe against my better judgement, but I live in a small town). The man had some dog treats for my dog, which basically meant he was my dogs best friend now.

Still, as I entered this old building, I was hit by this peculiar scent. I immediately thought of my Mamagan (my maternal grandmother). How to describe this scent? Thinking of it logically, it was the smell of cigarettes and dated furniture. Maybe an old wood drenched in the scent of cigarettes, really. But actually, when I smelled this scent, I didn’t think of it as wood/cigarette smell. I thought of My Mamagan and her house. My Mamagan’s house was this little cottage-like home wrapped in wooden shingles and, from what I remember, a lot of wooden furniture and accents. Plus, as the other scent would suggest, she smoked. A lot. Of course this antique auction building is filled with all such furniture. Old furniture and a man who likes to smoke and give treats to the neighbourhood dogs.

I left this encounter thinking of the correlation between scent and memory. I was taken back to that home my Mamagan lived in that seemed to be a castle to me as a child. I’m sure, though, that it was not much bigger than a few rooms. I always found that place to be so magical, with it’s nooks and crannies. The kicker to all of this is that, not only is that house long gone (burned down in a fire years after we moved away), but my Mamagan has also been gone for over 18 years.

That such a specific scent (despite sounding so unpleasant) can bring back these vivid memories of a period of time. Stuck in time with this scent that cannot be bottled or easily recreated, but every once in a while appears out of nowhere, just as quickly fading away as if it never was.

New Christmas Traditions

20161127_122742 I have a confession to make.

I LOVE Christmas.

I love most everything about it, from decorating, to baking, and most especially christmas music. One of the great things about having a young child in the house is the ability to enjoy christmas with the new, exciting fervour that makes the season so magical.

So yesterday we started a new christmas tradition. We went to a local farm and picked our own christmas tree. It is a wonderful tradition because, not only is cutting your own tree more environmentally-friendly than a plastic one (especially from a local, no pesticide tree farm!), but the entire experience is special. PLUS, we get to pick a tree in the middle of a field and make my husband saw it down and carry it for over 2 km. So, it’s a family affair 😉20161127_122813

Nothing beats that fresh pine smell and the endless pine needles lingering around the house until you have to drag the dead tree out of your house to be burned in the firepit next summer.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and tradition filled holiday season spent with family and the many  happy shrieks from delighted children.

 

 

 

Phromthep Cape, Phuket Province, Thailand

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Today we visited what is apparently Phuket province’s most renowned landscape: Phromthep Cape. It is the southern-most tip of Phuket, with beautiful views of the sea.
Apparently the best time to go is at sunset, so hundreds of tourists flock to the area at that time to photograph it. We opted out of the heavy tourist time and went around 10am, when the weather wouldn’t be too hot yet. Even at this time, the place was busy with bus tours and selfie – sticks galore.

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We took a taxi up from Rawai, maybe a 5 minute ride. We didnt take the stroller, but took Evey in the carrier. This turned out to be a great idea, as there were a couple of tall staircases to reach the viewpoint.
We’ve been lucky to have some cooler days lately due to rain at night, so the carrier hasn’t been too hot. Still, we’ve also started freezing water bottles for Evey to carry and suck on to help cool her down. It really helps prevent overheating, which we think might have explained all of her exhaustion the first week of our trip (beyond regular jet lag, I think).

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Phromthep Cape viewing area isn’t huge, and you can do as much or as little walking as you wish (after the stairs, of course). It seemed that one could walk beyond the concrete onto the cape itself, and some people did this to get an alternate viewpoint. I decided not to do this as the footing looked questionable, and I knew carrying my 20 lb sack of potatoes up and down the cape only looked easy.

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We finally went to find a spot in the shade to sit and take Evey out of the carrier for a bit. At this point it is 11am and starting to get pretty warm. The moment we get her out, we are bombarded by a large group of maybe 15 or more people who would like to hold and take photos with our baby.

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We obliged because Evey doesn’t seem to mind. They are well meaning and just adore her. However, after a few minutes I stole Evey back and made a joke about charging them $5/ photo, and everyone eventually left. It was actually pretty overwhelming! As we were leaving, another bus load of people arrived and started fawning over her, so we had to make a run for it.
We went to a gift shop across the street, and they called a taxi-van for us.

My hope for you

I hope you’ve gotten your Dad’s patience
And just a touch of my stubbornness.
I hope you learn to be kind
To people, animals, the planet and, most importantly, yourself.
May you laugh often.
May you cry freely.
May you understand struggle, but never have to truly struggle.
I’m hopeful that you’ve inherited my outgoingness
And tons of your dad’s creativity.
I wish for you to love yourself.
And I wish that you love life
For it’s beauty, and it’s pain.
For it’s quirky and it’s plain.

Most of all, I hope that you are happy.

Long haul flight with baby

We went for our first flight with baby, and it was a long one. We might be insane,  but we figured 5 hours or 20 hours didn’t make much difference. Evey was either going to love it or hate it.
We flew out of the Montreal airport with China Air. We got good deals for our flights because China Air recently started flying out of there. I had called the airline ahead of time to request a bassinet,  and was happy to find out we got it. We were happy to have brought the stroller: it allowed us to store all our stuff and transport Evey through the terminals.
Our first encounter was with a Chinese woman who just loved Evey. A bunch of people stopped and cooed at her. Then she asked if she could get a picture with her. We accepted. Her husband must have taken 15 photos. That was just the confidence boost Evey needed, because after they left, she looked around at everyone else, like she was wondering who else wanted to have the pleasure of her smile. Little did we know this would be just one of many times people would want to photograph her on this trip!
At our terminal,  we watched the planes. Then, when it was nap time, I was able to use one of the nursing rooms near most washrooms. It was a good spot, because it was private and had a chair and microwave (for those with formula). Other than that, it wasnt well suited for nap time. The room was bright, the announcements were blasting, and the turbo hand dryers in the washroom next door came on intermittently.
Still, I managed to get Evey to sleep just as the overhead announcement asked us to come to the terminal desk. Turned out they had switched our seats, so they issued new tickets and we still got the baby bassinet on board.
When it came to boarding time, we held back a bit. We figured 14 hrs on board was long enough, so the later we got on, the better. It was a good thing, too, because once at our seats, the plane was delayed 30 minutes due to ‘issues with our flight plan’.
We had heard the hardest part for babies flying is takeoff and landing.  So, in anticipation of this, we gave Evey ibuprofen once we got on the plane. With everything going on, and trying to get her to swallow her meds, Chris fed Evey her meds with one hand, and poured half the bottle down my leg with the other. I was covered from knee to foot in sticky, cherry coloured liquid.  Perfect in time for the longest trip of our lives. The guy next to us brought me some napkins and then asked the stewardess if he could have a different seat. Nice, I thought, he figures we are in for a disaster.
Evey slept right through takeoff. She slept right through the installation of the bassinet,  too.

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She slept in the bassinet a couple of times,  but mostly slept on me. We had some trouble getting her back to sleep after her initial nap, so I spent some time walking up and down the aisles in her carrier. She made alot of friends. The flight was mostly like that. Nursing,  sleeping, playing. Chris had the pleasure of changing diapers in the tiny restrooms,  where the mirrors fold down over the toilet.  Small space for Evey. Not sure what people with a larger toddler would do. We brought a small bag instead of our larger diaper bag, and this is why.
The landing to our stopover in Beijing was without incident. In fact, she slept through that, too.
At Beijing airport, we stopped at a restaurant for some food, then found a washroom where again there was a Nursing room.

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It was an ok space with colourful wallpaper and a creepy poster that I pressume says second hand smoke is bad for babies. The room had a slight sewer smell, as did many areas of the airport. like the Montreal airport, this room was also bright and loud.
We got Evey to nap in the front carrier between flights.

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The last leg of the journey was Beijing to Bangkok.  A 5 hr flight in a much smaller plane. We got 3 seats and a window all to ourselves. Evey was great again, but her patience was running thin. The pressure during landing was more difficult for her, but she did ok. No giant fits.

We were so proud of our baby for surviving this huge trip. We were all totally exhausted and our schedule was upside down, but it seemed like this effected us more than her. We all spent the next day and a half sleeping, but now seem to be roughly on the local time (save waking up for the day at 3am, but I think we’ll iron that out).

While it all went as smoothly as one could hope, I’m sure glad we don’t have to do that again for another 6 weeks!

Life’s Wonder is upon us

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As we leave on this new adventure
I’m proud of us today
For creating the world we want
Our little girl to be raised in

While she won’t remember
Specific sights, tastes or sounds
She’ll forever be influenced
By the freedom of it all

2 months we’ll spend focused
On her and us alone
Grasping life’s wonder
And turning it into our own

Goodbye House

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Goodbye house.
Goodbye big blue doors.
Goodbye birds, and Goodbye trees.
Goodbye windows, creek in the kitchen floor, fireplace that I adore.
It’s been nice lawn, street, and that creepy A-frame shack.
Goodbye mural, Goodbye sink.
Adios light fixture, basement ceiling and goodbye garden.
So long stairs and front door.

Goodbye, house.
Thanks for being our home.
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It’s all happening

Well now we’ve done it.
Today is the day.
We jump from one adventure now, onto a new one.
This move is somehow bigger than any we’ve done before.
Today we face excitement.
Today we face fear.
Today we close a chapter.
We close that chapter with love.
We open the next chapter with so much learned.
Life is speeding and spinning, advancing and changing, just how we like.
We take the leap.
We put our plans into reality.
It’s all happening, today.