Train Trip

 

I love taking the train. Today, I packed my lunch and left my humble abode to take the train to visit my sister Faye. I left a couple of my adult children to keep the ‘home fires burning’ and look after the animals.

Lunch packed and ready to go!

Lunch packed and ready to go!

 

I signed up for Viarail Canada email sale alerts and earlier last month, I received an offer too good to turn down: $25.00 fare each way from Ottawa to Toronto! I couldn’t even drive half that far for 25 bucks! So after making sure my son Darin could drive me to the train station in the city and confirming that my sister would be home (not that I expected her to be away during hockey season!), I booked my return ticket on the train. The usual fare would have been about $170 return so I knew I was getting a real bargain. So for an unbelievable total of $ 67.25, I’m travelling to Hamilton and back. Viarail in Canada always has a sale on: every Tuesday, the unsold seats for the upcoming week are discounted severely (‘Express Deals’). It’s a great deal if you can be flexible with your travel times.

This morning when the train arrived at the station, the conductor called everyone to the business class cars because “there’s lots of room here! Come on!”. So I gladly stepped aboard. The seats are larger in Business class than they are in Economy too and the windows even have curtains on them. New bright, clean seats. Overhead storage compartments. Plugs. Big, tinted windows. What’s not to like? Add free WiFi and I’m golden!

Speeding by snow covered fields

Speeding by snow covered fields

The train is the way to go. It’s ‘carbon friendly’ since it transports more people in a equitable fashion. And I can sit here writing this blog taking the time to look out the window as I type. On a train, you get to see all the out-of-the-way places that no roads lead to: back fields of farms, swamps with dead trees sticking out, parts of a city that you’d never venture to, Canadian Sheild rock cuts that barely fit the train…..
The gently rocking as the train speeds along the tracks almost lulls me to sleep. This particular train that I’m on today is an express train of sorts. It slows down in towns and cities but only makes stops at a few train stations along the way, shaving about 40 minutes off the trip. We passed the Brockville train station and it brought back some memories of the times when my niece Brodie and nephew Curtis used to take the train up to visit us. We’d pick them up in Brockville then take all 7 or 8 kids to Shepard’s Bait and Tackle, right beside the train station. It was a highlight for the kids to buy a few lures and watch the live bait in the large tubs. Mr. Shepard has retired and sadly the store is no longer there……

Brockville Train Station

Brockville Train Station

When I get to Toronto, I’ll purchase a ‘GoTrain’ ticket to complete my destination to Hamilton – I’ll even get the seniors rate this time too! lol. From the efficient and comfortable commuter train, I’ll pass right by some of Toronto’s famous landmarks: The CN Tower, The Air Canada Centre, and the Skydome! I love the train.

Passing the CN Tower and Skydome

Passing the CN Tower and Skydome

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Wandering North

 

Today I am compelled to share an amazing video, Wandering North, filmed and edited by someone very near and dear to my heart: my son. It’s about their Alaska, U.S.A. and Yukon, Canada road trip last summer. Earlier in 2013, they decided that they wanted to go on this adventure, so they worked hard and saved money, planned the trip, bought a car and finally quit their jobs and gave up their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They spent months driving north to the Arctic Ocean, hiking in Denali National Park in Alaska, then slowly making their way eastward, exploring further, until they arrived here at home in Ontario. They are true modern day explorers. They have also travelled around India, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, as well as the west coast of North America.
I need to share this with my worldwide blog readers because you may never get the opportunity to see such an incredible place with your own eyes. I commented to my son about his latest video: “Thank for sharing your adventure and taking me along for the ride……….from small, alpine plants to gigantic, towering mountains……stunted pines and craggy hillsides……..from lakes to valleys to inside glaciers….in blazing sunshine and wicked winds……..seeing wild bison and mountain goats………..cooking on an open fire in the middle of somewhere……….. All from the breathtaking view along the Alaska Highway. Thank you. ”

Wandering North http://vimeo.com/85203523
Here are some photos from their northern adventure (for more photos visit here):

Brooks Range from the tundra, Alaska

Brooks Range from the tundra, Alaska

Dalton Highway, north of Fairbanks, Alaska - 666 kms (444 miles) gravel road to Deadhorse at the Arctic Ocean

Dalton Highway, north of Fairbanks, Alaska – 666 kms (444 miles) gravel road to Deadhorse at the Arctic Ocean

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Harding Ice Field, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Inside a glacier at Harding Ice Field, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

Clothes Dryer Maintenance

Okay, this might be a boring post for some of you but believe me it IS important. I’m talking about clothes dryer lint. Yep, lint. Boring, yes. But like I said, important. I remember in the late 1970’s when we lived in a townhouse on the edge of the city, one neighbour’s house caught fire because she didn’t clean out the lint in her dryer and it caught fire.
I love hanging my clothes outside when the weather permits and not when it’s -30 degrees celsius like it’s been lately. You can read a post I wrote about it here. I don’t dry ALL my clothes indoors on a rack beside the wood cookstove any more or on indoor clotheslines downstairs as I did when the children were small (they loved to play hide-and-seek among the lines of drying clothes by the downstairs wood stove. I’m not going to discuss the many uses of dryer lint. I’m actually going to write about getting rid of dryer lint…………. really removing it………….. all of it. Everyone is our house cleans out the dryer lint screen every time they use the dryer. Today I went a step above and beyond:

Inside the lint screen chamber

Inside the lint screen chamber

I hadn’t planned on such a lenthly job of dryer maintenance today. But when I went to add my clothes to the dryer, I noticed that the lint screen didn’t quite go down all the way. I took it out and looked into the deep dark crevice where the air goes and lint is not supposed to go. Yikes! It was full of lint too! So I looked at the lint screen holder and discovered that it was screwed into the frame of the dryer. I removed the screws and popped out the lint screen holder to take a better look. I reached inside with my hands and removed all the lint that I could – handfulls and handfulls of it!! I got a flashlight and noticed that there was a lot more lint down further, out of reach. I found a long chop stick and taped it to my index finger to extend my reach.

100_3784

I managed to scrape and pull more hand fulls of lint from the bottom until I removed it all – it filled half a bag!! A fire hazard! Whew, now I know why the clothes seemed to take a bit longer to dry these days!

Bag of lint!

Bag of lint!

I know I’m not done yet. Another day, I’ll have to clean out the inside of the dryer vent pipe that leads to the outside.

There’s no excuse now:  no, you don’t need a new dryer, just go clean out the lint!

 

 

 

Bird Watching

 

Most of my family knows that I love watching wild birds. My favourite vantage point is from right inside my house. I currently have 6 birdfeeders on the go, down from sixteen I used to have. I only use black oiled sunflower seeds to fill my four birdseed feeders because commercial mixed wild bird seed is wasted: the birds pick out the sunflower seeds and brush the leftover millet and corn onto the ground.

Northern Cardinal - Marty

Northern Cardinal – Marty

The variety of birds that come to eat include Nuthatches, Black capped Chickadees, Bluejays, Northern Cardinals, Mouring Doves, Sparrows, and Juncos. I used to get loads of Evening Grosbeaks, but sadly I haven’t seen any for over 15 years now. I also have several suet feeders hanging off the eaves of the house. I buy beef fat from my butcher and cut it to size when I get home, then freeze for use in my suet feeders. The Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers especially love it. The local Pileated Woodpeckers stay clear of the house and find their sustenance from local trees.

Owl in our yard - Marty

Owl in our yard – Marty

There are lots of other birds that I have the pleasure of observing who don’t visit my birdfeeders. Last winter, we had a beautiful owl perch himself on a tree 25 feet from our house one afternoon. And of course, every spring we have a flood of Robins, Red Winged Black Birds, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, and Northern Orioles.

This year, the ‘piece de resistance’ is the appearance of the Snowy Owl in my neck of the woods. There is a tremendous influx of Snowy Owls here this year because of a population explosion in their natural habitat which has forced them to come south. So the search was on to spot one of these beautiful rare birds!
Yesterday, my granddaughter Livi telephoned me to come with her and her Daddy to feed some wild birds along a nature trail. On our way there, we spotted a Snowy Owl sitting atop a telephone pole along the road! We stopped to observe and take a picture – check one thing off my 8 year old Granddaughter’s “bucket list” lol. It was the only snowy owl we saw all day…….

Livi feeding Chickadee

Livi feeding Chickadee

When we arrived and walked along the hiking trail a bit, we filled our hands with seeds for the birds and we weren’t disappointed! The little chickadees landed on our hands and picked out the sunflower seeds sometimes two at a time! We stopped many times along the several kilometer trail and filled our hand with seeds and the birds would come out of nowhere to feed from us. It was awesome! The only time I ever had a bird land on my hand was when we went for a hike on Mount Washington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia in Strathcona Provincial Park and the birds just landed on our outstretched hands – no seeds required. We hope to try the same thing on our front porch where the birds are already familiar with us and eating.

2014-01-18 14.58.16

 

 

 

I’m Hibernating!

 

It’s cold outside. Bloody cold. For the last few days, the thermometer on my porch has recorded minus 30+ celsius (-22F) or colder at daybreak. Add a north wind to that and it feels like -40+C (-40F)! We had a few ‘warmer days’ of around -10C 14F) but now it’s gone back to frigid temperatures which has stimulated Environment Canada to issue a Windchill Warning and the local health department to issue a Frostbite Warning.

Cold
The Weather Network claims that it’s going to warm up to ‘normal’, whatever that is…… It seems that winter should be wrapping up because we’ve had snow since November. In fact, by the time winter officially began on Dec. 21st, we had half the amount of snow we normally have for THE ENTIRE WINTER. These freezing cold temperatures usually sweep through at the end of January for a few days but this year it has been long and brutal.  My two wood stoves have been burning non-stop all day long.
The last time I drove to town was on December 23, 2013 – twelve days ago! I started the car after a week and let it run just to keep the battery charged up. Later that evening, I was glad I had because we ended up ‘rescuing’ a friend of Nellie’s who took a wrong turn and ended up stuck in a snow bank at the end of a nearby dark, deserted country road in record-breaking frigid temperatures.

Cardinal and Bluejay

Cardinal and Bluejay

It’s really important to me to keep my bird feeders full on such cold days. The wild birds around here are accustomed to being fed and depend on it. I buy beef fat from the local butcher to put in my suet feeders because the fat is really what they need, not the ‘bird seed filler’ in commercial suet. I only use local black-oiled sunflower seeds for my bird feeders – all types of birds love it: blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, goldfinches………and even the squirrels.

One consolation of enduring extrememly cold temperatures is that it means that we don’t get any snow. So when it ‘warms’ up to -7C this weekend, we’ll be getting the gift of 20+ cms (8 inches) of snow! Oh well, a white, clean-looking landscape is pretty.

map

 

 

 

 

 

Grammomsblog 2013 in review

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Grammomsblog “stats helper monkeys” have prepared my 2013 annual report.

Included in Grammomsblog 2013 Report are statistics for:   my most popular post, number of posts and pictures, most active day, most active Commenters, viewer Countries, etc.   I hope you will just click the link below and enjoy reading.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

 

 

 

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