Archive for the 'Family & Friends' Category


10 3rd, 2009

From the city, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life,” — Sen. Thomas Carper (D.-Del.) on the Healthcare Bill

When it comes to politicians, people mention that my more cynical side pops front and center. By and large that is true. Therefore, I found it amazingly refreshing to read Senator Carper’s quote. Thanks for the honesty Senator; I raise my mug of steaming morning coffee in salute.

Sister-in-law Marlene and hubby Donn are still at their cabin in Canada. I suppose they are going for some sort of record. As the autumn winds and cold settle in quickly in those parts, I believe it is now at a point where they hustle off to town every other day to buy one more additional space heater. This in an effort to stay ahead of the game. I am envisioning their cabin filled with Kerosene cans and them tripping over an array of extension cords. Anyway, that is not what I am writing about. I am writing about the fact that I felt sorry for them being totally isolated in the North Woods and felt that they needed something to liven up their day(s). Give them a purpose, give them something to do.

Last spring Marlene and Donn watched as Maple sap was collected and then boiled into that loveliest of Canadian products—Maple Syrup. We received descriptions, photos, and even a video clip of the process. As a result, Marcia wanted to immediately head north to start tapping maple trees (she did not). Anyway, I thought of a fine April 1st prank for next year. Had they only closed up the cabin by September’s end it would still have been an April Fools joke. Since I troubled over their loneliness, I decided this was a better time. I asked them to look for, by Marcia’s request, a ‘new’ specialty Coca-Cola flavor. Look at the photo closely and you’ll see why they struggled to find any local merchant carrying this ‘sought after’ product.

Are you guys still speaking to me?

Last evening, at the last minute, we invited 1-year old Vaioleti over for dinner—parents were welcome. Marcia and I are so thankful she accepted. We were expecting another guest for dinner so Marcia spent the afternoon doing it right and creating a seven course meal from scratch. It all came together as both Julia Child and Martha Stewart would envision. The table was set. Both the Malbec and Merlot were breathing, the wine-cask candle holder came to life, and the wait began. At some point the realization that the only things happening was that the drying and cooling of the foods was accelerating—our guest didn’t show. That is when the new invitation was extended—HELP!

One great, and you’ll love it as a Thanksgiving meal addition, were Marcia’s Caribbean Sweet Potatoes; a blend of sweet potatoes and bananas. That is what we had for Vaioleti and that is what she couldn’t get enough of. Adrianne loved it and everything else including the roasted carrots and parsnips with cardamom, the seared pork roast with barbeque rub, and the homemade applesauce with cinnamon hot-shot candies. We had a wonderful feast and Vai ate her, second, dinner with gusto. Had she been able to talk I am certain she would have acknowledged that the meal sure beat chewing on dry Cheerio’s.

Talking about meals. This afternoon we’re off across the way for the neighbor’s annual fish fry. Our neighbor, a retired provost from the University, is an avid fisherman. All of his season’s catch is frozen and then prepared for this occasion. Since this is not solely a neighborhood affair it is a great place to meet and greet new faces. I love it.

Last Sunday our gang made it to the Bengal’s ‘overflow’ area, our downtown Fountain Square. The reason being that the Bengals game was broadcast on a billboard-sized screen. It was a nail biter of a game with positive outcome against the Steelers. I believe that Sunday will be a repeat as discussions about a time to head out have started.

It is great to watch the grandkids mature. Marin is now enjoying soccer, sportsmanship, teamwork, and screaming parents who are not allowed to chase you down on the field. In Florida Derek is starting Cub Scouts. I am certain he’ll love it and then ditto on the sportsmanship, camaraderie, and teamwork. This sure is a fun time.

Make it a great week, and if entertaining, it might not be a bad idea to remind your guests one last time.

Cheers,

Dirk



09 26th, 2009

From a still dark ‘Natti, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“More belongs to marriage than four legs in a bed.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy Anniversary Marcia. Paul McCartney once wrote; “Will you still need me,.will you still feed me..when I’m sixty-four?”. You proved that true at the time…..so……shall we sing the song another year? Here is my start; the morning coffee is waiting for you…with love.

All week long it’s been overcast, muggy, gray, and very wet, to the point that a collective gloom and depression is setting in. The ‘weather weenies’ are claiming that there is one more day of this stuff before it’s all over. I suspect that this is nature’s way of placing a buffer between the seasons. Mother Nature has made it perfectly clear that in these parts summer is now over and autumn is just around the corner.

I guess that I can look forward to the bright crisp days of autumn.

Yesterday, from up in my office, I heard someone talk to Marcia. Curiosity got the better and I wandered downstairs. Marcia was just beginning to see how she could best open a large box dropped off by FedEx. Making a long story short, we got a stunning gift from Pieter and Jeanne.

While with us at the cabin last summer Pieter kept his camera busy. One of the photos, a cabin view, he processed and then had professionally printed on painter’s canvas. The two foot wide framed piece is what appeared from the wrappings. Marcia just squealed. I was speechless (and it takes a bit to get me to that point). Here it is, a wonderful artwork. By the way, you can view some of Pieter’s camera work by clicking here.

Last week I mentioned that we were heading out to our Oktoberfest. It would appear that some members of our entourage felt the crowds to be a bit much. Personally, I loved it. However, prior to “turning tail” Marcia did get her annual 1-pound (or thereabouts) Cream Puff. I did have one bite and must say that it truly is perfection.

Assuming the powers-to-be don’t declare the soccer field to be too soggy for play we’ll shortly be watching Marin play soccer for the first time. Many years ago I had a blast coaching six year olds, This time, watching should be fun. What I remember loving about trying to shape these kids into a group that actually plays as a team is the challenge. They are so eager to learn, and take everything the coach says so absolutely literal. The fine differentiation between doing what you’re told versus doing what you’re told built upon the play situation as it unfolds is a nuance that takes time grasp. Go North Avondale, go Marin!

With the end of summer this week’s ‘Ramblings’ have just a tad of wistfulness, but mainly it is due to seeing this photo. Donn and Marlene are still at the lake enjoying the change of the seasons; a little more fishing, the brilliance of the Fall colors, and the lake itself. Sis-in-law Dia happened to look at one of the remote lake cameras and grabbed this shot of Donn and Marlene coming back in their canoe from a little fishing expedition. I am jealous. (You really should click on this photo and open it to full size–you’ll see why)

Make it a great week, and again, Happy Anniversary Marcia—love ya!.

Cheers,

Dirk



09 19th, 2009

From Oktoberfest crazy Zincinnati, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Don’t play what’s there; play what’s not there.” — Miles Davis

What a stunning week this has been, days at 80 and mornings made for a down comforter. Hence, my steaming morning mug of Tim Hortons coffee tastes especially good.

Thinking back, I am beginning to understand why, during the week, the morning tug-of-war for the eiderdown touched on the physical. Actually, Marcia misunderstood, it wasn’t so much for comfort, just that something came to mind and I wanted to share.

Grumpy, grumpy, Marcia is not a morning person.

After last weekend it was good to get back into a routine; some writing and a major amount of filing, shredding, and pitching. Looking back I realize that my desk was waaaay out of control: currently not pristine, but manageable.

Last Sunday was the day to explore Chicago with Jason and Tevita and it was great. If you ask those guys, we did it all. By mid-morning the fogs had burned off and we chose that time to explore the city from the viewing deck of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). They recently installed three glass cages that jut out from the 103rd story. The three of us just had to try standing on a plate of glass suspended over the far distant sidewalk.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the place then the architectural boat tour on the Chicago River is a must. I did not realize that to prevent polluting Lake Michigan that the river flows 2-feet lower than the lake. Our boat took us through the connecting locks to prove this point.

From a sidewalk café across from the Contemporary Arts Center I spotted a charming, high energy, middle-aged woman scurrying back and forth across Michigan Ave. As the lights would turn she would be on one side or the other and through the placard she was carrying would urge passing drivers to: “Honk to Impeach Bush”. For some people time must stand still.

Anyway, every so often I did hear the some honking. When I paid a bit more attention I took note that it was primarily taxis which were doing the horn blaring. Now, in a taxi it would have to either be the backseat passenger urging the driver on, or a spontaneous driver decision. I chose to believe it was the latter. Couple that with the fact that a substantial percentage of the Chicago taxi drivers are from the middle-east and I wonder if that dear little lady was really capturing her perceived desired audience. I did not think it mattered to her—she just looked so happy and charming.

Later today we’ll be off to our town’s . It is touted as being the world’s largest outside of Germany and is expected to bring 500,000 people to the city-center. All I know is that Marcia will indulge in her annual 1-pound cream puff eating event. I am not completely certain that these “puffs” are exactly one pound, but anything the size of a large grapefruit has to approach that in weight. Chicken dance here I come.

By the way, I have been horrible keeping the “Week’s Best” (button at bottom of site) updated. This week it features a very hip 1st. Amendment poster regarding Freedom of Speech – something recently brought to the forefront during all the many Town Hall meetings. Have a look.

Make it a great week everyone, and a happy Rosh Hashanah to Cathy and her family.

Shalom and Cheers,

Dirk



09 15th, 2009

From back in the ‘Natti, Good evening all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

” You are remembered for the rules you break.” — Douglas MacArthur

It’s Monday evening, I’m very tired, but enjoying a glass of wine—summer is now over!

It took two full days to shut and winterize Northern Comfort, our north woods cabin. Without Paul and Donn jumping into the fray I doubt that the pontoon boat would now be sitting under its winter tent.

The main piers have been set as best we could. Including building one under the cabin’s middle steel I-beam which sagged a solid six inches. Creating this pier demanded crawling 16 feet into a two-foot high crawl space. Here too, thanks Paul and Donn.

At the end, Marcia noted that my forearms looked like they came straight from a Popeye cartoon casting – swollen and bruised. Winterization does take a toll.

The last afternoon had us stop work to listen to the honking of many hundreds of Canada geese. Heading south they flew immediately overhead, a small ‘V’ formation at the tip and then one leg of the V stringing on and on with hundreds of the birds flying almost head-to-tail. Maybe the constant honking was for encouragement, maybe as a guide flying into the darkness of the night. In any case the sight is not soon forgotten.

We left at dawn. While still getting organized for the 12-hour homeward journey we passed an adult black bear standing at the side of the road. It never moved. The animal’s huge black head with coal black eyes just stared as we passed. Had it made any sense at all, at that instant, I would have turned around and headed back. There truly is something magical about the place.

This past weekend was spent in Chicago. My son-in-law Vince had a decade-busting birthday. A plan for him to make this truly memorable was hatched by our daughter Kirstin. Vince is a Chicago Cubs aficionado. Last Saturday the Cubbies played the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

A surprise trip and flight was sprung on him and his friend to travel from Orlando to Chicago. What he did not know was that 10 more family and friends traveled from as far away as California to help celebrate—including his dad and brother.

Wrigley Field and a Cubs game is an experience in and of itself. For three of us the fact that the Reds won was brilliant (the Cubs fans always appreciate the game win or lose). My nephew Nick opened up his home for the after game event—3 college football games on a big screen, poker, grilled Brats and corn, and the requisite ‘brewskies’, all in his “Man Cave”. Vince was kind enough to donate a major stack of chips to Nick all of which helped defray Nick’s Brats and Corn “investment”; so kind.

Jason, Tevita, and I arrived back in Cincinnati at 5 AM this morning.

Make it a great week everyone. Good night!

Cheers,

Dirk



09 5th, 2009

From the North Woods, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” — Winston Churchill

This morning I am sharing my first mug with a new-found North Woods friend—Ibu Profen. Twenty or so trips crawling under the cabin had Marcia introduce me to little Ibu. The building and re-building of the piers the place sits on is now well under way. Or so I think. I’ll bring my brothers-in-law over for an expert opinion.

I’d have Marcia give the ‘expert’ critique, but I question her true motive. I am slowly convincing myself that her, “uh-huh, it’s just fine” comments are made just so that she can go back to counting stitches for a new Afghan she is knitting—her third since we got here.

The trees have begun to turn so the winter-to-do preparation folder is out of case. This week it’ll be the start and finish for placing the place in winter hibernation; our second attempt to do it right. Already I have the list committed to memory; docks pulled onto dry land, pontoon trailered and the lower half of the engine drained and repacked; gas stabilizer in all left over gas, water off and lines drained, all outside furniture and stuff stored inside, and shutters on, and etc, etc.

I do want to get at least one more good kayak run in. Earlier this week Marcia and I had a nice long (14 miles) ATV ride. We ended up at a smallish creek draining nearby Pudding Stone Lake. And indeed she found a nice – 25 pound – Pudding Stone which we took back to the cabin. The stone will spend the winter outdoors.

At some point we asked each other if we’d brought anything to ward off Bears since we spotted fresh skat and bear activity all over the place. Especially so since we didn’t see another soul on the whole run and knew of bears having been seen immediately across the cove from us. As Shakespeare once said; “all’s well that ends well.”

I love the way that in Nature everything has a purpose. Marcia and I had been noticing a flock of Red Breasted Merganser ducks that paddle on by on a daily basis. Sometimes they’d just cruise slowly and at other times almost as if running on the water. Curiosity got the better of me and I did some reading. It appears that this is a hunting technique. Mergansers are fish eaters and they will hunt in groups, driving their prey into the shallower shore area by quickly forming an arc or a line and then paddling furiously and flapping their wings.

Then there are people—specifically politicians. Spending an extended period of time in Canada also means that one becomes aware that politically they are as screwed up as we are. Within the last month the top tier of Canada’s eHealth program – hired specifically to clean this group up – were all fired. This week it was the top strata of the Ontario Lottery Commission which all got canned; they apparently lived “high off the hog” on the people’s tax money. You guessed it; they too were brought in to “clean up” that agency.

Maybe they should have all formed a line and just raced about Queen Street in downtown Toronto flapping their arms as a more productive way to spend time and money.

Make it a great week everyone. Wishing a very Happy Birthday to my uncle Joop; who only yesterday celebrated becoming a very young 94. May you enjoy life as much this year as you did this past year. Next week Saturday I will be overly busy and my weekly post might not appear till Monday—my apologies.

Cheers,

Dirk



08 29th, 2009

From the North Woods, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“When it comes to luck, you make your own.” — Bruce Springsteen

We locked up the house mid-week and headed north. The temperature gauge read 90. This morning, now at the cabin in the North Woods, a blustery wind is gaining entry into the cabin through any crack that it can find. The rain is drumming steadily on the roof and in the early morning breaking light the small white caps on the lake appear as glowing phosphorous lights. Through it all I hear the coffee maker sputter its “all done” breath. Excellent!

I do believe that after Marcia wakes up I’ll get an ear full. Let me explain. Yesterday Paul and Dia shared with us that they found an old home movie Marcia, all the kids, and I took of a trip to the lake back in 1998. Apparently I must have had an old VHS style camera and documented this vacation heading up the long way through Port Huron, then through the little town of Tobermory via a car-ferry boat to Manitoulin Island, and on north—and they loved seeing it again. They recommended we take it to our place to watch. Last night Marcia suggested we power up the old tape player and wrap ourselves up in an afghan; which we did. That is when I discovered I did not have the tape.

This morning while reaching to get the laptop out of my backpack, any guesses what item I first pulled out? Exactly!

Last weekend, Adrianne’s birthday weekend, allowed for spending a whole bunch of time with the grandkids. What a joy! Just watching them grow and learn is amazing. Marin talking about what he’s learning this year now that he’s a 1st grader. Also, excitedly talking about the new sports he’s getting involved in.

Over dinner at our new, favorite, Thai restaurant Dinah caught my attention, age two and she was happily eating her food expertly eating it with her very own pair of chop-sticks.

Vaioleti, happy birthday TODAY, is no longer a baby; she is now completely a toddler. One year ago today she entered the world as a 1-pound-14-ounce little fighter. Brother Art took a photograph of her in her hospital incubator and on top he laid his Blackberry. Vai and the Blackberry were about the same size. Last weekend, now an 18 pounder, I watched her crawl about, stand up at any opportunity she got, and trying to walk pushing a little stroller. She sees you and a smile bigger than all outdoors greets you. We really are both blessed and thrilled.

Not to forget the kids in Florida. This week they announced that they’ll be up for Thanksgiving. Can it get any better? I knew you’d agree with me.

In a little bit Marcia is heading for a nearby auction on St. Joseph’s Island. I am not allowed to join her; something about my negative attitude at these events. Since I have always stopped short of physically restraining her from bidding I have no idea what all the concern is.

Yesterday, while I was taking a nap, right in front of the cabin Marcia saw a gathering of about 25 Loons on the lake. A lot of racing about and wing flapping seemed about all that was taking place. Looking up Loon behavior it appears to be “getting ready for migration” time. The chicks are now a little over a month old and parents gather to teach them flight and work with them to build up wing strength. While still being fed, these chicks, in less than a month from now, will be expected to join the flock and migrate to the open ocean for their winter stay—and by then will be completely on their own. This is really a highly intensive learning period: hard love, do or die!

This next week we’ll slowly start getting the cabin ready for winter hibernation. The fact that the temperature is dropping to 38 tonight and that the trees are beginning to turn will keep me focused on getting the various projects done. In this part of the world this truly was the year without a summer—except for that one week in June. The folk in these here parts still commiserate about that one week.

Make it a great week everyone.

Cheers,

Dirk



08 22nd, 2009

From the ‘Natti, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool to admire him” — Nicholas Boileau

Last week I was both the fool and the bigger one too, but more of that in a moment. Coffee does come first. It’s still dark, the neighborhood is quiet except for a distant train, the air is cool, and the grass I cut last night still puts out that special fresh-cut smell. This is a great time of the day. This is a great mug of coffee.

Two apologies, the first for my foolish assumption that our concert last Saturday evening would be at best a “country-bumkin” fest, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The lesson is; do not assume anything. The second apology is for the lack of photos. Canada’s Hughes Satellite System which Paul kindly lets me use while in the North Woods causes a conflict with Blogger when uploading—bottom line being it will not accept the loading of any photos. I’ll place a few in this post.

While last week’s post alluded to having to listen to compositions dealing with ploughing matches and biker reunions at last Saturday’s concert, I was oh so wrong. It proved to be an extraordinary event in all ways. What made it special is that it was a group of extremely talented young Canadian kids – some already professionals and others just emerging. The concert was put on as a gift to those living in these ‘outpost’ small rural communities of Northern Ontario. Plus, the ladies of the community supplied intermission pies to die for. Note that the young woman on the video clip just happens to be playing an extremely rare 17th century Giuseppe Guarneri violin!

What was just as amazing was how these kids managed to get to the concert hall. They were staying at a wilderness camp to plan and rehearse. Fogs prevented their float plane from getting them out, so some local residents played ‘taxi’ and got them with their ATVs – a 25 mile trip – 4 hours in and 4 hours back. Now that is dedication, and even more so, remarkable community spirit.

During the last four years Marcia, our gardener, has managed to mangle into oblivion two lawn mowers; something about new stumps arising in places where none had been before. The latest new tool to combat this problem is a Club Cadet mower with a Kawasaki racing engine. Not only just that but this beauty is self propelled.

I was thrilled for Marcia and was all smiles as she stepped out behind the beautifully humming machine for that very first time. What I did not expect was for her to be jerked around by the machine making like Lurch from the old Adams Family show. Sweaty, a blistered thumb, and a hissed “you’re trying to kill me aren’t you”, was the end of her mowing experience.

Last night I mowed the yard. Marcia laughed when my head hit a low hanging branch. I think she deserved a laugh.

Today is a celebratory one. This evening the clan is heading out to celebrate Adrianne’s birthday. Additionally we’ll skew it a bit into Vaioleti camp since she’ll be 1 next weekend when Marcia and I will be back in Canada. Afterwards it will be “Movies on Fountain Square” where we’ll watch Bees. This is part of the city’s effort to bring people into the city core as well as provide summer entertainment.

But, even prior to that, later this morning I’ll be sitting Vai from 10 till noon. Via, just 1 pound 14 ounces a year ago is now a bouncing 18 pound toddler. She crawls anywhere, stands, smiles, and skips naps. I can’t wait. Yea!

Make it a great week everyone. We’ll be heading back north to enjoy a final week and then to start preparing the cabin for its winter hibernation. Also, I can’t wait to see how my super-special mouse trap has performed, but I have been informed that I can’t talk about it and absolutely no photos. Summer is just waaaay to short.

Cheers,

Dirk



08 15th, 2009

From the North Woods, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” — Henry James

For the past week each morning started with the making of the coffee and tea ritual. Coffee for Marcia and I, tea for Jeanne and Pieter. They left about the time that I was ready to try for a “change.” Not to worry though, coffee is still my morning ritual, including this morning. Crews at Tim Hortons shops across Canada are sighing a sigh of relief.

This week has been weather perfect in the North Woods. Then last night Marcia mentioned that she heard of a 60% chance of rain for the evening. Yesterday afternoon we got two newspapers; the Sault Ste. Marie Star and the Toronto Star. Both had their ‘forecasting’ feet solidly planted in the “clear skies and sunny” camp. Now, at 5:00 O’clock AM the rain is beating on the tin roof. I am just thrilled I listened to Marcia and prepared our deck, yard, and boats for wet weather, it will make the rest of the day go so much smoother not hearing the “I told you so” refrain.

Weather forecasting is astonishingly bad in these parts. This week a newspaper article quoted the Soo television weather guy saying the he’d been blocked in the grocery store aisle by a housewife who berated him as being a liar and ruining her vacation. Another saying his reports were less accurate than flipping a coin. Wow, I suggest he should consider a career change. By the way, I side with the ladies in the grocery store.

Above the noise of the pounding rain and still in morning dark I can hear a Loon’s location wail and tremolo echo across the lake. They really are incredible calls.

The final adventure of Pieter and Jeanne’s visit was GPS-in-Hand-Donn and Master-ATV-Navigator-Marlene escorting us on their All Terrain Vehicles for a couple of hours of serious back-woods trail riding. Our Honda Recon ATV is a size smaller than their machines and near the end of the ride our little machine reached its limit, while they, carrying Pieter and Jeanne, were able to charge on. Marcia and I were totally stuck; with a rock caught under the engine’s skid plate, the right front wheel hung up over a log, a tree I could not get around up in front, and six or so inches deep mud all around—all forward progress had ceased.

Marcia was able to climb off and onto some rocks thus keeping her feet dry. Rocking and then reversing about 15 feet I got on solid ground and ready to head out the way we’d come into the trail. Marcia scrambled across rocks and logs and on to the back of the Recon. We were all ear-to-ear smiles and thrilled with the whole adventure—Jeanne and Pieter’s smiles were the widest.

Rumor has it that tonight we’re off to a local concert featuring five acts. I am really quite uncertain what to expect. Our local weekly, the North Shore Sentinel, printed a bit about a local musician who composed special pieces for an upcoming Ploughing Match and the New Liskeard Bikers Reunion. I think that this sort of sets the stage for tonight. Then Sunday evening we’re joining the other lakeside residents for the annual “irregulars” dinner. This year it will be held in the town of Iron Bridge at the Red Top Inn – our “special occasion” spot while in ‘Cabin Country’.

Monday morning we’re heading south and home to take care of business. As it happens, today is the start of the Province’s annual bear hunt. This means that for that last couple of days car-loads of beer along with unshaven, wanna-be bear hunters clad in day-glo orange have been seen rolling north into the area. I suspect that on our way out we’ll see the roads filled with furtive-looking, camouflage clad, bears sneakily trying to hitchhike south. We’ll keep our eyes open.

With the help of Jeanne and Pieter we managed to make this past week a grand week. Thanks you guys for the enormous stockpile of memories (and the over 200 photos). Now I best get started on the chores I put off earlier in the week, maybe by starting with a quick kayak paddle around our foggy cove. Make it a great week everyone.

Cheers,

Dirk



08 8th, 2009

From (back in) the North Woods, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself” — Soren Kierkegaard

I am in love with life; especially so with the quiet of the morning. Hello from the north woods where a light breeze, an orange morning sky, our cove’s two loons with their two chicks paddling by, are all eagerly anticipating the sun to pop over the tree-line. It just doesn’t get any better. Too bad Pieter and Jeanne, and Marcia are still asleep ‘cause they are missing the best. Oh well, I’ll just share with our resident mouse in between sips of my fresh mug of coffee.

Did I say the summer has finally arrived? Maybe that is a good chunk of my “joie de vivre”. The other being that Jeanne and Pieter arrived mid week and it’s been non-stop since.

We have finally met most of our immediate cabin neighbors, and what better way than to be invited to the evening campfire. Again we hit the jackpot as we met some delightful folk. You’ll have to agree that things ‘click’ when quickly we were in the thick of a discussion on man-breasts. Belly’s sore from laughter Marcia and I finally waddled home.

The following evening at the campfire one retired gentleman was asked to share one of his more harrowing stories from the days when he was the helmsman on the Great Lakes iron ore freighters. The one that stands out is while turning into Thunder Bay an unexpected storm hit his ship broadside. For a bit he thought he’d lost the ship and that it would turn over. Upon docking it was discovered that several of the metal deck covers had blown away – they had 8-feet of water in their front hold.

Having been a tour guide in my former life I sprung into action when P & J drove up. I had a complete two page listing of the “must do” events (for day one). About this point Marcia got a case of apoplexy and in clear terms advised me to “get a life.”

What has now happened is that in the morning we are facing the day with a Seinfeldesque events list of doing nothing. Crashing at night we can’t get over how busy we’ve been. I should point out that my 40-year old folding kayak is performing as hoped for. With the morning lake being like glass we’ve done some stunning two-person paddling exploring the shore line. Finally I have a few nice photographs to send on Hal, the 87 year old gentleman I bought my kayak project from—I think he’ll be pleased with the results of the rebirth of his ‘baby’.

Finally I can write about a cabin tradition. This year, again, Daniel (husband of my niece Jacquie) brought his telescope to the north-woods. No ordinary telescope, this one comes complete with electronic tracking, a remote, and a drawer full of eye pieces. Again we took our trek into the woods to a bare stone outcropping—the “Observatory”. Most took their quads to make it to that outpost. I loaded up the little ranger (including two passengers in the pick-up’s bed), threw it into four-wheel drive, and just barely made it.

What is amazing is that each year the sky watching is so different. While last year we had no moon and our Milky Way was a large ribbon of stars, galaxies, and planets, this year we had a full moon along with a very clear sky. Imagine looking at a faint and very distant galaxy while hearing a moose calling somewhere in the distance.

With Pieter and Jeanne we are having an amazing time; the paddling, the exploration on the quad, the quiet talks, the evening Happy Hour on the pontoon, and an evening campfire (which just lit up into flame as I am writing this). And I haven’t even mentioned our hike through the woods to reach the top of our lake’s signature spot the 300’ high cliff of Rock Candy Mountain. A little later this morning we’re off to ‘civilization’ and a nearby estate auction.

Even without any ‘list’ I have been able to make it a great week. I trust you’ll do likewise.

Cheers,

Dirk



08 1st, 2009

From (back in) the North Woods, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.” — Mark Twain

What originally was a quirk, our overnight drive to the cabin when we came up in late June, has now become standard fare. Yes, we did it again. We left ‘Nati-town at six PM last Wednesday, and arrived at Bruce Mines and Bobbers (their little breakfast nook and regionally the best breakfast place around) by five AM. Marcia and I snoozed in the car till they opened at 5:30 and had their great traditional breakfast. When we reached the cabin an hour and a half later we found the tin of Tim Hortons coffee exactly where we left it. In fact, I am drinking some now.

Before you think us nuts, let me quickly finish up the reason for our night-drives. The trip had construction sites from Cincinnati through to Ann Arbor. During daytime these have substantial delays – we experienced none. By the way, many of these sites had large signs stating. “funded through the America reinvestment act.” In other words, “don’t you worry; these repairs will be paid for by your grandkids”. OK, back to our night-drive. The further north you go the less truck traffic is on the road (most tend to be packed in the rest areas). Both toll bridges have major construction work and at night – no traffic. Then, at 3:45 AM going through Canadian customs is a thirty-second event.

The big news here is that the ongoing civil employees strike in Toronto just settled. The Mayor of that city completely caved to the union’s demands. According to what I read in the Globe and Mail, the citizenry of the city is livid. My opening quote came from the Globe and Mail and references their thoughts on their Mayor.

My experience is that Canada is a completely loveable place, other than that it is run like a small town. Early in the week my property tax bill arrived. I copied the page that had the details on it and wrote a check. The details state that this can then be given to any financial institution. Yesterday a hardware run forced a trip to town (Monday is a bank holiday – Canada and the UK have so many holidays that they have run out of names and hence they all have become “bank” holidays) and I stopped by the local credit union – a financial institution.

After they stamped my receipt they realized that they could not take my check since I was not a member of their credit union. I now was left with my stamped – and then voided – receipt and check. Over to the bank went. The bank could not take my check since I did not have the original receipt with the proper perforation on it allowing them to tear the slip off. I mentioned that what I had was identical to the original but my copier was not able to insert a perforation, and after all, wasn’t my check the critical piece in the transaction.

Finally the teller brought the bank manager over who promptly agreed with me. However, since the dear folk at the credit union had stamped and voided the copy of the original receipt they could not accept and use it. I even offered to write a note and sign next to each of the two voided stamps. No luck.

Finally I stuck the voided receipt plus my perfectly good check into an envelope and marched over to the post office. The clerk looked at the envelope and advised me that I could save postage by just going over to any financial institution. I just smiled and said “oh, let’s just mail it.” “Fine” she said, “that will be 57 cents.” That is when I realized that I only had American money on me.

Yesterday afternoon Donn and Marlene picked us up in Paul’s steel fishing boat for a run to nearby Pickerel Lake. This requires amazing navigational skills since the 700 yard connector between our lake and Pickerel has rocks, submerged logs, and a couple of beaver dams. The weather happened to be great especially considering that the locals refer to this year as “the bummer of a summer.” We had a fine time.

In fact it was so good that Marlene and Donn both decided to throw a line into the water and do a little trolling. At first I felt a little lost, just sitting there watching as they merrily trolled along. It was only after their lines crossed and within seconds became a two-inch ball of intertwined nylon filament that my role became clear – I became the ‘keeper-of-the-line’. It was also the end of the trolling.

My current cabin read is The Ship and the Storm the story of the four-masted windjammer ship Fantome getting caught in Hurricane Mitch while cruising off the coast of Honduras. It got my attention since Marcia and I both got caught up in Mitch while visiting Guatemala. We were stuck for three days, not all that much wind but horrific rains. All travel was ordered halted due to floods. Since our hotel could not bring in staff and supplies we were all sort-of hanging out and the same foods magically rolled out and appeared on the same buffet tables, meal after meal. After coming home I was prescribed some serious medication to clear up my intestinal condition—thanks Mitch!

We’re preparing for Pieter and Jeanne’s visit mid-week. Our plan is to make it a great week. Trust you’ll do likewise.

Cheers,

Dirk