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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Impromptu Days are the Best!!!

Impromptu Days are the Best!!!

Don't you find that sometimes, the unplanned days turn out for the best? We certainly do - especially when we spend it with some dear and treasured friends!

One thing leads to another

Last week, we were in Iron Bridge looking for deer. We saw some at one of the houses where they have feeders for these beautiful creatures. However, when we wound down the car windows to take a better picture, the ice on the window cracked as it opened and the noise startled the deer causing them to bounce off over the hill towards the river, and out of sight. We thought we'd cross over the bridge and see if we could catch sight of them from the other side of the Mississagi River. 

Curiosity trumps common sense!

We didn't get to see them again; but we did stumble across a really nice trail that we hadn't known about beforehand! Curious to see where the trail led, we started to follow the rut in the snow which allowed us to negotiate the trail without our snowshoes. Foolishly, I had left my winter coat in the car as I thought we were just going to look across the river for a few minutes before returning to the warmth of the car - and it didn't seem to be that cold. (Curiosity trumped common sense on this occasion!!!). After wandering along for about ten minutes, the cold began to creep in, so I strongly suggested to Mark that we should return to the car and venture back on another day. He kindly agreed, and we waited for a sunnier day. 

Impromptu Decisions

Yesterday, the clouds cleared away and we thought. 'Today's the day!' Wanting to share the adventure with our friends, Carolyn (CJ) and Art, I sent a private Facebook message and it didn't take long for the reply to arrive! One of the things we love about this couple is their readiness to drop everything at a moment's notice and go! 

On the trail

It's about an hour to drive from Elliot Lake to Iron Bridge and, as usual, the conversation flowed easily and abundantly!! Arriving at the trail, we checked to see that the rut was still visible and negotiable as there had been quite a dump of snow over the previous two days. Sure enough, the conditions allowed us to leave the snowshoes in the car, so we set off, crocodile style, along the furrow, admiring the view of the river along which the trail ran. Of course, along the way we had to stop for the inevitable group pics and selfies!

The trail followed the Mississagi River
An unexpected delight!

After 30 minutes or so, we came across a couple of buildings that looked as though they may have been a summer camp. 

The snow was quite deep around them and some of it had begun slipping off the roof with the result that there were several 'snow-icicles' hanging down. There were a couple of holes in them and we managed to take some pics through them, which created some nice effects. 

Enlarge the picture to see the holes
Alan could see through the hole - which gave him an idea!

Just before the buildings, we noticed that the trail had veered off to the left, so we recovered our steps and ventured off in that direction in the belief that maybe - just maybe - this trail was a loop and would take us back to where we had parked the car. 

Winter Wonderland

We all agreed that this part of the trail was the best. Although it took us away from the river, the trail was not so wide and was made up of twists and turns as well as fallen trees which had to be circumnavigated. We made several stops to take in the sheer beauty of the Winter Wonderland that surrounded us. 

Are we there yet?

The direction of the trail changed frequently and, after a while, we started thinking that the path may be taking us all the way west to Bruce Mines (which would have been a helluva trek) - and that we'd never find the car!!  It also became a distinct possibility that we would have to retrace our steps, which would have taken another hour! Luckily, there were a couple of out-houses along the trail - though privacy could have been an issue!

Finally, CJ heard signs of civilization - and Art spied the car. 

We'd made it - and had completed a couple of hours of good, refreshing exercise. Upon arrival at the car, we took a little trip back on the other side of the river and espied several deer at the various spots we had come to know. 


Trekking through the snow also has the effect of building a healthy appetite, so we stopped off at the 17 Restaurant in Blind River for a bite to eat. Not to be confused with the Pier 17 restaurant (which is close by), this establishment does not look like much from the outside, but it is really cosy and clean on the inside - and the food is excellent at amazingly low prices. (Thanks to our good friends, John & Dianne, for referring us to this small gem. Check out their excellent blog - 20 Years from Now). 

To finish off the day...

There are some people who are just so much fun to be with that you don't want the day to end! CJ and Art are two of those people - and so, in order to prolong our time with them, we asked them back to our home to watch a movie that we had mentioned to them on their last visit. Without hesitation, they agreed and we settled down to watch, 'We Bought a Zoo' - a heart-warming, inspiring, 2-tissue movie, which is one of our favourites. Based upon a true story, it contains one of the best motivational quotes ever... 

“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.”

A great movie if you want to be inspired

It was the perfect end to a perfect, impromptu day - the best!!

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Fun in Erin, Ontario!

Fun in Erin, Ontario!

Our first house-sit this year took us just 7 hours from home into semi-familiar territory. We used to live in Meadowvale, Mississauga (back in 1996-1997) and used to escape to the countryside by heading north on Mississauga Road towards Belfountain and the Forks of the Credit. Little did we know then, that we would be staying at a splendid old farmhouse, just two roads to the west. 

The farmhouse has been beautifully renovated, with some add-ons which have preserved the character of the home, while making it super-comfortable. We feel we are living in the lap of luxury! 

On top of that, we get to look after two awesome canines, one lovable feline, two delightful budgies, and a small cold-water fish! They are all very easy to look after, though the fish doesn't seem to want to sit on our laps, or be brushed! 

Our lives really revolve around the cat and the two dogs, all who have become the light of our lives over the last few days. Kitty tends to stay upstairs most of the time, but will come down in the evenings. As soon as she hears one of us climbing the stairs, she bounds down from her bed and rushes for some fussin', and we are rewarded with some of the loudest purrs we've ever heard!! Her food and water are kept in a bathtub so that little Lexie doesn't gobble it up before she has the chance to tuck in. 

Lexie (a Yorkshire terrier), and Max (a German Shepherd, are delightful and revel in the willing attention we give them.

Whether we are reading, catching up on our browsing, or just watching TV, every now and then, we'll feel a nudge to remind us that it's time for petting! We are thoroughly enjoying taking them on their walks on the amazing 15-acre property, with its many trails. Max just loves to wrestle with a stick in his mouth. In fact, if it's made of wood, he'll grab it - even it it's half of a large bush!! He is so much fun and never seems to get tired. Lexie has an adorable way of running so that her ears flop up and down - a picture that will forever be in our minds!! 

The grounds surrounding the house are a mixture of trees, bush, and open spaces, with a pond and a more-than-comfortable guest house not far from the main building. The trails weave in and out of the treed areas and, in the snow, we've seen the footprints of deer, rabbits, and other small animals on our walks. 

The Guest House

Not far from the guest house, there are some interesting old stone-walls that are part of a ruined building. So far, we don't know what the building was, but the remains are quite enchanting, and add to the ambiance of the surroundings. 

We'd love to know the story behind these wine bottles!

On Monday, we took a trip into the local small town of Erin. 

Although it was overcast, and most of the stores were closed, we could see (and feel) the charm of this community, and the main street boasted some one-of-a-kind stores amongst the more familiar ones. On the advice of our home-owners, we stopped in at Tintagel's Tea Room for a latte, before heading home. 

The tea room also sells a variety of gifts and is a really quaint place to spend an hour or two. 

Today, we indulged in our first hot-tub, which was absolutely marvellous. With snow all around us, the sun shining in a clear blue sky, and the jets soothing our backs - what more could we want? 

On a winter's day, there's nothing quite like sitting comfortably with a good book in front of a fire. However, sometimes, little Lexie has other ideas! 

We sent a text to our home-owners this morning saying that, 'after walking the trails, spending time with the doggies and other furry, scaly, and feathered friends, lazing around in front of the fire, and relaxing in the hot tub, we've decided that we really don't like being here... we friggin' LOVE IT!' We have also wished them many more happy vacations!  

Please visit these websited for info about house-sitting: 

Trusted HouseSitters 

HFF HouseSitters

A note about our home-owners. 

Patrick and Martina Skuce are owners of their family business, Caledon Building & Design. Patrick is the president and the construction manager, while Martina is an interior designer. They are accompanied by their two sons, Charlton (project manager), and Roland (timberframer and site supervisor). Here is a link to their website:  Caledon Building & Design.

On a personal note, they are people with big hearts and generous spirits. We are thrilled to have gotten to know them, and honoured that they chose us to look after their home and pets while they enjoy their well-earned vacation. 

(All pictures shown here - as well as on social media - are reproduced with permission from the home-owners). 

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Friday, 1 January 2016

Bye Bye - Garbage Food - Rosa - Joy - and Black-Eyed Peas!

Bye Bye - Garbage Food - Rosa - Joy - and Black-Eye Peas!

We were sad to say bye bye to Alexander on Wednesday morning. He had become a central part of our lives over the last two weeks and, already, our laps are feeling cold and neglected!

Ally's mom, Helen, and her best pal, Amy, joined us for breakfast at Bayou Joe's down at the Panama City Marina before we started our northward journey home. We all chose one of the 'Garbage Specials'. It was the best 'garbage' we'd ever eaten - not that we've made a habit of it!!!

Any 'Garbage' choice is good, here!

Panama City Marina

We are loving this House/Pet sitting adventure, not least because we get to meet some fantastic people. Helen is awesome, and saw to it that our stay in her beautiful house was comfortable, enjoyable, and felt like home away from home! We are delighted that she has invited us back and are looking forward to cementing our friendship with her. She is certainly one of life's treasures.    

It was fantastic to get to know Amy, and we got to spend quite a lot of time with her - especially on Christmas Day. There is never a dull moment with Amy, and it was easy to love her. We're looking forward to seeing more of her during future visits. 

After departing Panama City, we headed north to our first destination on the way home. 

Montgomery, Alabama, is a lovely city, and is home to the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, which is why we chose that route. 

Bronze statue of Rosa Parks

Rosa is often called the mother of the Civil Rights Movement because of what happened after her refusal to give up her seat on the city bus, back in 1955. She was 42 at the time, and it happened to be her birthday. This action led to her arrest and subsequently triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott which, in turn, led to the beginning of the breakdown of racial segregation. 

Rosa lived to be 92 and received numerous awards and medals. The museum dedicated to her, and to the events that followed, was opened in 2000 at the intersection where the arrest took place. Her story is uplifting and inspiring. 

Two years ago, on an earlier road trip, we had the honour of standing in the very spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated - an experience I will never forget. (Check out that blog by clicking this link).  The same sentiment was present standing in the spot where Rosa Parks was arrested. 

The bravery of these individuals, who stood up for human rights at the expense of their personal safety - and at great personal cost - leaves one feeling very humbled indeed.

The next morning, we set off for our next stopping place, passing the city of Nashville on our way to Louisville, Kentucky.

Nashville, Tennessee 
We had spent two days in Nashville on our way down to Florida, so we satisfied ourselves with just one photo of the city in passing. 

Arriving in Louisville in the late afternoon of December 31st, we decided to treat ourselves to a New Year's gift of a movie by seeing the film, 'Joy', with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, along with a brilliant cast. The movie was funny, but also had a great point to make about perseverance and belief in one's self. It's on our list of movies to watch again when it comes out on Netflix. (Here's a trailer for the movie to give you a taste of it).

Interesting to note: there were three movies we have been wanted to see. However, as Jennifer Lawrence was born in Louisville, it seemed appropriate to watch this movie in her home town!

This morning (New Year's Day), we left Louisville for Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Cracker Barrel - 'Light on the Wallet!'

Before leaving Indiana, we stopped in for lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, as it had been highly recommended by a friend and was advertised as being 'light on the wallet'! 

We were amazed at the service we received, as well as the quality of the food we had chosen. As it was our first visit, the waitress treated us to free coffee! As well, we were both given a free serving of delicious black-eyed peas, together with biscuits and butter. Apparently, this was an old tradition that happens every New Year's Day! 

Once again, it was a case of being in the right place, at the right time!

As we closed the gap between us and the northern part of Michigan, we were placing friendly bets as to when we would first encounter snow. There were dustings of white showing in the northern part of Indiana; but it wasn't until we got into central Michigan that we saw the gradual build up. That being said, we couldn't have asked for better weather for traveling, and the roads had all been cleared and were in tip-top shape. 

Just before we reached Mackinaw City, (where we visited in June of last year), we stopped off in Gaylord, Michigan, to see the holiday illuminations. Mark wanted his photo taken by the sign (we'll leave you to guess why!!). 

Main Street, Mackinaw City, Michigan

Mark - posing appropriately!

Mackinaw City Town Hall 

The journey today took just under 11 hours, with a few stops to answer the call of nature and to eat our lunch. We're glad that we won't have to be in any hurry to get up in the morning as we'll take another look at Mackinaw City before crossing the Mackinac Bridge and making our way to the Canadian border. 

It feels good to know that tomorrow, we'll be home within four hours!

Life is good!

(Please feel free to leave a comment in the space below!)

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