Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Special Surprise

Our grandchildren arrive Saturday from Boulder. They will be staying for a week. As a Special Surprise, we set up a tent in our gym where they will be sleeping. I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they see it.

It is a large family size tent with a double mattress for our grandson plus a single size foam pad for our granddaughter. There are two cozy sleeping bags and colourful warm blankets in case it gets chilly at night. 

The front door is currently tied open, but can be zipped shut for privacy.
The back window can be zipped open to form another door.
A basket of books, a bear and their favourite stuffies (little brown puppy and green chameleon) sit ready and waiting for story time and cuddles.
All the doll things sit in one corner nice and tidy for now.
The dolls have been dressed and their extra outfits washed and folded ready for play time. Our granddaughter loves all things "Doll".
The Lego and toy cars sit in bins in the opposite corner patiently awaiting release. Our grandson loves all things "Lego". They both like all the toys.
I even have enough space left to exercise if I feel like it.
Usually my daughter and her family stay in our basement suite. There is a bedroom, a bathroom and an open area with a sofa bed plus enough floor space for a sleeping pad. 

Now that they have a third baby, they asked to stay upstairs where there is a queen size bed (big enough to fit the baby if necessary) plus a separate room for the older two so they won't be disturbed if when the baby cries. I hope my daughter and her husband are comfortable enough on our son's old queen size mattress.

The last time they visited we bought a new more comfortable mattress for the bed in the basement and moved the old mattress up to our gym as a spare. It fits perfectly in the tent alongside a smaller padded exercise mat. Our grandchildren should be quite comfy and cozy.  

I expect our son and his dog will be quite comfy too on the nice new mattress in the basement. 

Setting up the tent was a genius idea. I am as excited as I imagine our grandchildren will be. Hush ... don't say a word. It's a Special Surprise for our grandchildren.

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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Weekend at Blue Mountain

We spent this past Weekend at Blue Mountain to celebrate my husband's birthday on Friday. We drove after work arriving at 8 p.m. in time for a late dinner at Tholos Restaurant. We love their authentic Greek food and their entertainment ... a very enthusiastic and talented belly dancer.

We stayed at the Westin Trillium House in a deluxe guest room on the third floor with a view of the mountain. It was very nice and comfortable.

Mountain view is the side you approach by car. This is the other side of the building with a view of the Village across the pond. There are boardwalks encircling the pond which lead to the Village in either direction. It is very picturesque.
After breakfast and a matcha tea latte, we headed out to hike up the mountain. It was cool enough for jeans and jackets. Once we started climbing and sweating, we wished we had worn shorts.
The skies cleared by the time we reached the top. The views were definitely worth the effort.
My husband took a picture of this plaque commemorating Ontario's First Chairlift. He thinks he remembers riding this lift back in the day.
This sculpture at the top of the hill caught our attention ... very cool.
We rested a bit in the sun at the top of the hill before hiking down ... no open air gondola ride for troopers like us.
After our hike, we drove to Collingwood to browse the shops where we ran into an old friend (at a bike shop of course) who now lives in Collingwood. She had hiked Nottawasaga Lookout trail that morning and recommended it. We thought Nottawasaga sounded perfect for Sunday.

We had made reservations for 7:15 p.m. at our hotel restaurant for dinner. Since we had time to spare, we decided to check out the little town of Thornbury nearby. We both love Thornbury cider so when we saw the Thornbury Village Cider House we stopped for a visit and taste. From this flight including 2 oz each of the following apple ciders - premium, cranberry, spiced apple and honey - I preferred their premium apple cider. Cranberry apple was good, spiced apple smelled better than it tasted and honey apple was just too sweet.
We made it back to our hotel in time for dinner at Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill. The food was delicious and, as luck would have it, they carried Beaver Valley cider (another local award winning cidery). It was good, but I still prefer Thornbury apple cider. 

After all that good food and cider, we slept well despite wedding celebrations late into the evening two floors below. I mention it because the music carried to our room like it was right next door. We had requested a room at the end of the hall to avoid excessive noise. Next time we will ask for a room at the other end away from the banquet hall. 

On Sunday we woke up to sunny skies and warmer temperatures. We were looking forward to hiking at Nottawasaga Lookout trail. We could not find any maps but figured we could head out and back without getting lost. The main trail was well marked in white with side trails in blue. The main trail was mostly single track and relatively easy with enough roots and rocks to keep things interesting.

We decided to take a blue side trail heading towards the caves on the way back. We had passed it on the way out but I thought it looked too troublesome to climb down. From this direction it looked easy enough.
Easy enough until we reached the caves and big rocks.
We had to clamber over and under rocks and fallen trees. The blue markings didn't seem to follow a proper trail, but we carried on anyway.
This climb was particularly challenging. My husband had to go ahead and help hoist me up the last bit. I could get my knee on the next level up, but then I was squished between two rocks, so had to twist to stand on a very tiny ledge plus I'm not really comfortable with heights. My heart was thumping and legs shaking by the time we made it to solid ground only to discover we had to go back down to pick up the trail at the bottom of the crevice. We were guided by other hikers who had come up the other way. 
The way back down was a little easier than where we had climbed up, except we had to leap (my husband might say step) over a deep crevice to get to it. Did I mention I'm not comfortable with heights? Thank goodness my husband was there to hold my hand.
We made it down safe and sound and carried on along the bottom of this crevice following the blue marks painted on the stone walls.
I loved seeing all the rocks covered in brilliant green moss. These tiny ferns were particularly pretty.
At the end of the crevice we climbed up and back to the main trail.
This was the sign we had passed earlier on our hike where I thought it looked too challenging to try hiking down. I was right ... climbing up and out was relatively easy though. 
Like the sign says "Hazards Exist" and, like we've all heard before, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

In the end, I was happy to hike the Standing Rock and Caves Side Trail. It felt like an accomplishment. 

After our hike, we headed for home stopping for lunch along the way. We got home fairly early with enough time to unpack, eat dinner and prepare for another week at work. 

If you're looking for a fun place to visit, consider a Weekend at Blue Mountain. We plan to go again ... perhaps this winter to ski.

Thanks to our parents for taking care of our pets Maggie and Sadie while we were away ... we truly appreciate it.

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Monday, 2 October 2017

Back from Boulder

We're Back from Boulder. We've been back 3 weeks already. We went to visit our grandchildren and meet the newest family member ... a baby boy born August 27th.  

It is a long drive to Boulder ... 2,250 km to be exact. Our son and his girlfriend did it non-stop in June. I wrote about their trip here. We prefer a more sensible pace leaving Friday at noon to arrive around noon Sunday with two hotels booked en route. 

We left straight from work with the car already packed and ready to go. With it being Labour Day weekend, we hoped the border crossing wouldn't be too slow. The border was fine, but we ran into heavy traffic due to construction plus an accident that added over an hour to our drive. 
I took photos showing the bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic on our drive to Minooka. We made it to our first hotel by 8 p.m. (7 p.m. local time since we had crossed a time zone). The hotel desk clerk recommended a nearby restaurant "The Shrimp Barn" for dinner ... excellent choice.
Our first hotel - Hampton Inn and Suites was new and very nice. This was the view from our room on the top floor. 
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and were ready to head out by 8 a.m. local time. It was a beautiful sunny day with cool'ish weather perfect for driving. Our destination was the Oak Tree Inn in North Platte 940 km away. We hoped to get there in time for dinner.
Our stops along the way were limited to Starbucks (and there are not many), gas stations and rest stops. We packed food for the road only stopping to refuel and use toilets. We had no time for sightseeing, but took photos of anything the least bit interesting like this truck promoting the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum nearby. We didn't actually visit the museum.
We made it to North Platte by 7 p.m. local time. It was a relief to stretch our legs after 11 hours of driving. I was happy to find this dinosaur at the gas station beside our hotel wearing a crocheted saddle blanket, halter and chaps plus a proper saddle with stirrups. Who could resist a ride? 

As we struggled to capture a selfie somebody kindly offered to take our photo. It's for our grandchildren ... truly.
After riding the dinosaur, we checked into our hotel. For dinner the front desk clerk recommended San Pedro a nearby authentic Mexican restaurant. We decided to walk even though she didn't consider it a walk-able route. After driving all day, we desperately needed to move. On our way to dinner, we stopped by Fort Cody Trading Post (fancy name for a tourist shop). It was right beside our hotel.
Our walk to the restaurant took us across a bridge over a river where we captured this gorgeous sunset. It was a busy road, but there was a sidewalk so it was totally walk-able taking only about 15 minutes.
San Pedro lived up to its recommendation. The food was authentically delicious and the beer mug was huge - that's not an optical illusion.

It was a warm evening, we enjoyed our walk back to the hotel after dinner. I couldn't help but notice our daughter shares a birthday with Buffalo Bill Cody ... February 26 a couple hundred years ago.
We were given breakfast coupons for Penny's Diner - a cool 50's style diner located beside the hotel. After breakfast, we made a quick stop at Starbucks nearby setting off by 8:30 a.m. local time. With another time zone crossing near Paxton, we expected to get to Boulder around noon.
It was a beautiful hot, sunny day for our drive with lots of bright yellow flowers decorating the roadside. 
This rest stop commemorated the Pony Express with a statue. We sent a message (by G+ chat; not Pony Express) to our daughter to let her know we were almost there. I was excited and anxious to get going.

When we arrived, our granddaughter greeted us at the door then took us upstairs to meet her new baby brother. Her big brother who had been sick with a cold was sound asleep on the big brown chair downstairs.

Our granddaughter was happy to help with opening gifts for the baby. She loved the dresses she got from her GG (Great Grandma) and Other GG (Great Grandpa). She also loved the money she got in a card from her Great Gramma and Great Grandad. 

The little moccasins we brought for the baby barely fit. He must have big feet like his Grandad.

Our other grandson woke up before too long. He was happy to show us his Lego collection. He has a ton of Star Wars themed projects - all very complicated builds. He loves Lego. 
He also loved the Styrofoam airplane we bought at a dollar store. His arms are long enough to fly it properly. Our granddaughter has trouble. With shorter arms, the wings bonk her head. Throw-flying airplanes have their limitations.
We loved our week in Boulder with our grandchildren and their parents. Our daughter was  recovering from giving birth just one week before our arrival, so she and the baby stayed home while we did some things with the kids and some things on our own. 

We had dinner together every evening then hung out with the kids until bed time. Our grandchildren watch one show before bath time every night. We joined them for the show most nights. After bath is story time. They each picked out two stories for both of us to read. Then it was time for their Dad to say good night and tuck them in for sleep. 

Our son-in-law is home on paternity leave, so he and the kids were able to join us for a hike at Chautauqua Park - a popular hiking spot in Boulder. It was very hot and hazy, but we had fun. Hiking in the mountains is one of our favourite things to do. Our grandchildren love it too.
My husband and son-in-law were both feeling poorly after the hike ... like they might be getting sick. The haze was actually smoke from forest fires in Oregon. Since they are both sensitive to smoke, their 'illness' was probably caused from inhaling too much smoke-polluted air. 

Back at the house we enjoyed a bit of baby time. He seemed to like his lambs and his cuddles. 
Every morning we joined our grandson and his Dad on their ride to school. His school is an easy 1.25 km ride along a busy road. There are bike lanes plus a sidewalk for kids. They manage their commute very well.
Always one last high five before we leave.
More cuddles back at the house ... can't get enough in one short week.
We managed to fit in two 40 km bike rides together. The first up Left Hand Canyon Road and the second West of Boulder on Niwot Road and Eagle Trail. Both rides were challenging with climbing and hot weather but also totally fun. We ended our rides with a visit to Amante Coffee frequented by cyclists. 
Back at the house ... more cuddles of course.
My husband likes to help out when we visit by doing little projects around the house. This time he added a new kick plate to protect their recently painted front door.
Our daughter and son-in-law raise chickens for eggs in a back yard coop. They have added two roosters since our last visit. All are thriving.
I like the grapevines growing on their chicken coop fenced enclosure.
They also have a couple raised garden beds where they grow vegetables.
And a green house full of herbs and other plants.
This baby ... he captures our attention.
After two days of biking, we fit in a morning hike on North Foothills Trail a short drive West of Boulder. Of course we wore our new sun hats.
We got back in time to accompany the baby to his 2-week doctor's appointment. Our granddaughter loves the maze outside at the hospital.
Afterwards we all went out for lunch at a nearby sushi restaurant - our son-in-law's treat from Google. Our grandson was in school and loves sushi, so they ordered take-out for him and promised to take him for ice cream after school as well. Our granddaughter chose to have ice cream at the restaurant instead ... a decision she later regretted as you can probably tell by the look on her face.
After ice cream ... more play time on Pearl Street then home for a rest before dinner.
While the kids rested we relaxed with matcha tea lattes and shopping (at a bike shop) before heading home to make one last dinner ... pasta with soft bread and salad.
All too soon it was time to head for home. We were up and ready to go by 7 a.m. on Saturday. Everybody was asleep except for our daughter who looked tired. We went up to say good-bye and took one last photo of our grandson sleeping peacefully before we hit the road.
My husband wanted me to take a picture showing our luggage. We bought two new easier-to-pack bike boxes. They are under blankets in the back so look a bit like mountains in the background. Don't be fooled, that's our fully packed Santa Fe.
The drive home was uneventful except for two hours of gale force cross winds and rain through Nebraska. We drove for 12 hours on Saturday staying overnight at Baymont Inn and Suites, Iowa City/Coralville. We remembered liking the restaurant 30hop in Coralville the last time we drove and were looking forward to eating there again. 

On Sunday, we were on the road by 7:30 a.m. and home by 7 p.m. With crossing time zones, it was 10 hours of driving for a total of 22 hours in two days. It felt great to get home to our pets and our own bed. 

I have been busy ever since we got Back from Boulder with work, prepping for visitors and a weekend away (more about that in another post). Our daughter and her family are visiting for Thanksgiving again this year. They arrive on Saturday. The baby will be six weeks old already. I can't wait to see them ... five more sleeps. 

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