Archive for September, 2016

Ongoing Education

Before I retired I thought I might go back to our local University and take classes.  Maybe history.  I always enjoyed school and taking classes where I did not have to worry about about exams just seemed an attraction.

But it did not happen.

Travel and working on the yard and attempting to improve my golf game and the ever present building models just seemed to fill my time.

Over the years our friends kept telling us about courses held at our local university for seniors called Elder College.  They seemed so enthused but I never accepted that I was a senior.

Last spring one of Pat’s friends convinced her to become a volunteer for the Elder college program (as if she did not have enough interests)  And she agreed.

So this last month we determined that we were actually going to enrol in Elder College and maybe take some courses this fall.  Turns out this is the hottest trend in the Valley.

This fall they have about 65 courses.  Everything from Tai Chi and Bridge to history of pre Trojan War civilizations and the history of beer.  Yesterday Pat and I attended a session where all the 65 instructors gave a brief synopsis on their class and encouraged everyone to book.

This morning everyone wanting to book a course, had to log in at 9:am on the internet.  I cheated and started my enrollment at 8:58 and got my courses but by 9:10 Pat could only get one.  Within 30 minutes 1500 seniors had nailed almost all the classes.

So I am booked for weekly courses starting next week.

One course is a reading group talking about novels about the British Navy during the Napoleonic War (ie Hornblower).  Another is a geomorphology class that includes field trips to the beach and outcrops to recognize the type of rocks.  Another is  a series of speakers talking about the various major environmental projects planned for our area.

Then there is a series of 8 lectures on Saturday mornings about Vancouver island starting with Bob McDonald (the host of Quirks and Quarks) showing views from space.  I have heard Mcdonald before and he gives a great show.  Other lectures will cover the history of industry and native culture on the west coast.

Needless to say my first choice was the book group on novels about Royal Navy from 1793 to 1815.  The instructor had previously contacted me and asked that at one of the sessions I bring my model of the frigate Juno and make a presentation about the reality of life in the Navy at that time.  I now have 90 minutes (not sure how I will keep it that brief)

Pat will be able to attend the Saturday series of lectures with me but the selection she chose and will attend is an 8 week course on the story of numbers.  The instructor was enthused and Pat signed on about how mathematics can be exciting.  Remember she was a Math major in University. Granted if I had this guy as a math teacher in high school I would have gone into math.

So we have a fun filled educational fall.


Pickled Eggs

I love pickled eggs.

When I was growing up this was a common addition to picnics and parties.

Pickled eggs were part of preservation method for vegetables like pickled beets and carrots and cucumbers way back before refrigeration.    The spiciness of vinegar and the tartness of a little bit of salt was just a treat to the bland diet of the time.   A hundred years of dining tradition to get beyond the boredom of overcooked beef and pork with potatoes.

You look at the array of meal selections we have today with Indian and Chinese and Moroccan, they all come with spices, some of them hot.   But in the history of North America, aside from salt and black pepper, we only adopted these exotic spices in the sixties.  In the case of Pat and I, this was a discovery in the early seventies when we moved to Toronto and realized there were flavour buds on the side of our tongues that we had never experienced.

Pickled eggs went back into the attic of our dining options.

But occasionally I would see a pickled egg at a breakfast buffet and remember how nice they tasted.  Pat would frown and look at me with the look that this egg will give me a heart attack.

I remember the scene from Dancing With Wolves when the actor Robert Pastorelli was eating pickled eggs from a jar when he delivered Costner to the fort.  As he was was taking the mule train back east he was eating pickled eggs when the natives shot arrows into him.  Not a great way to die, but as if he had to die, he would have loved to had the taste of these tart and spicy protein treats in his mouth.

Pat and I were shopping at Costco today and they had a sale price for a big jar of Pickled Eggs.  I wanted to buy them because it would take me back to my youth.

But, of course, Pat is right and I should only look for fibre treats at this stage of my life.  Maybe hemp, or grass or soy roots.  Definitely nothing with flavour.

However if any of my kids are reading this, a jar of pickled eggs slipped into my room as I am waiting to die, would be appreciated.

Comox Lake Overlook Hike

Today our hiking group went on a trail that leads to the Comox Lake overlook.  I did this a year ago with the group and I remembered it as a lot of vertical and some bush scrambling but with a spectacular view over Comox lake.  The weather was spectacular and as Pat had no other business I convinced her to join us.  Now this took a bit of convincing because the last hike was the Ripple Rock where the vertical climbs were much more difficult than I remembered.

This one is supposed to be easier although there is a combined vertical of at least 400 meters.  Good trails on the climb with at least 1 km on a logging road.  Then we came to the trails down to the lookout.  The problem with trails in a rain forest is that they become wash runs for the rain.  The water washes out the sand and soil leaving the glacial till rocks.  Ankle twisting and a scramble.

We eventually came to the lookout for the lunch.  Unlike our hike to Ripple rock a few weeks ago the skies were brilliant blue and from the lunch lookout we could see the lake and across Cumberland and Courtenay all the way to Powell River and the Rockies.

Unfortunately the trail down to the lake level to the road to take us back to the cars involved more washed out rock scree.

Pat’s old hiking boots were not up to the challenge and she had a lot of foot problems on the downhill but she made it through.  The last 2 km is on easy trails and we end up at Jumbo’s Cabin built in the 1850s (see pic 2).

We have a great group of friends and all along the hike we chat and joke and just enjoy each other’s company, but we really need to spend some money on a good pair of hiking boots for Pat.




Ham Mujaddara

Last week we bought a small smoked ham from Costco.  Now normally we would not buy a ham from them unless we had 30 people showing up, but they introduced a smaller quarter ham for $8.

We have managed to get 4 great meals out of this ham.  It was a wonderful ham full of flavour.

First meal was just the sliced ham with potatoes and applesauce.  Then a diced ham in a rice mexicali dish we have enjoyed for decades.

On Sunday I made scrambled eggs with ham, just a delight.  We were down to the last 2 cups of diced ham.

I went off to play golf this afternoon and Pat told me she would find a recipe.  Do not ask about the game, beautiful weather but slow round of 5 hours.

When I came home (by 6:30) there was a wonderful fragrance in the air.  Pat tells me we are having a traditional Arabic dish Ham Mujaddara.

I went like… Arabic and Ham?  Are you sure?

Pat found the recipe in our Fine Cooking magazine and it is a North American twist on the normally vegetarian dish of rice and lentils.  Far as I am concerned the ham made it spectacular.

I am also sure this is why the Jihadists think of our civilization as corrupt.

Still if you are ever in a position with leftover ham let us know and we will forward the recipe.  This is a GREAT dish.   Sweet and tart and  just different and healthy.



Ripple Rock

Last week Meagan and Jorg came to visit us on the island.  The weather had been sunny and warm all August but when they arrived we had West Coast weather.  Overcast and occasional drizzle.

They came with the expectations of Paddle boarding in the ocean or on Comox lake and hiking at the great spots in the north of our island.  Did not turn out as they hoped.

Trying to save their vacation I proposed a excursion for one of our most picturesque hikes.  A hike from highway 19 to an overlook of Seymour narrows where in 1958 there was the largest man made (non nuclear) explosion at its time to blow off the top of two underwater mountains that were blocking the channel.

I did this the previous year with my hiking group and remembered it as a moderate to difficult hike with a great view.  Granted it was done on a warm sunny day.

Our day was overcast and with all the previous rain, the vertical sections on broken rock and tree roots were a bit harder than I remembered.  Meagan and Jorg had no problem but Pat was upset with me for taking the group on what was at the difficult end of our scale for local hikes.

Fortunately the drizzle held off and we had a nice lunch on the overlook.  When you see the picture imagine the scene on a brilliant sunny day.  Also notice the walking stick at the left which Pat wanted to beat me with.  Still we made it back home OK with no injuries.  Pat and I were exhausted but M & J decided they needed more exercise and thought they would head off to Comox lake for some paddle boarding or swimming but even they thought it would be better to just wander around the village of Cumberland.

I will have to remember this great hike for the adventurous members of the family.


A sad visit to Disney

I was watching the news today and there was a feature on the family that lost their 2 year old in June to an alligator at the pond next to the Grand Floridian Resort in Disney world.  To this day the parents are still being attacked for allowing their child to be so close to the water.

Ever since this event I have thought about our vacation as a family in 2003, when we stayed at the Caribbean Disney resort hotel next to a lake.  Granted a lake a couple of portages away from the Sevens Seas lagoon, but in a similar water system.

We had a group of rooms around a nice beach next to a lake with the same warning DO NOT SWIM.  Nevertheless, we took our grandchildren down to enjoy the beach.  Pat and I watched them as they ran in and out of the shallows and played in the sand. Here are some pictures taken within a metre of the lake.

Pat and I were in charge of the kids as the parents relaxed.  I encouraged them to play on the shore as I was shooting a video. We were in charge.

Can you imagine how we would have felt if a prehistoric reptile came up and grabbed one of them and dragged them to their death?  We totally empathize with how that family must feel.






My Left Hand

I was working on the model this afternoon cutting little dado joints to connect the deck beams to the crosspieces.  You saw a tiny groove and then use an exacto blade to carve out the extra wood between the cuts (the role that you would use a chisel for on full scale).  I have done this hundreds of times and occasionally there is an accident.

Sure enough the blade slips through the wood and slices a cut on the top of my left thumb.  Not particularly deep but bloody. Cannot save the cross beam because it is covered in blood.

So I rinse it off and clamp it with a paper towel.  These days, of course, it takes a bit longer for the blood to stop.  I put a couple of bandaids on then go  back to work… but my left hand turned to me and seemed to say, could you not once let me hold the knife and let that hand on the other side of your body hold the wood?

This is true.  It is as if I have two children and favour the one over the other.  The right hand seldom has to take a risk.

If there is a possibility of a live wire I send in the left hand to touch.  If I am drilling a hole while requiring a small piece to be held, the drill is in my right and my poor left hand is holding the scrap.

Over the years my left hand has experienced hundreds of little scrapes and cuts but as I explained to lefty, if you look at my hands the more serious cuts and scars are on my right.

Grabbing for a barb wire fence to climb over on Uncle Ken’s farm produced a visit to the hospital and a scar an inch long with 8 stitches.  Lefty countered with the scar on my left wrist where I cut myself working on the pool hoses in Oakville, where granted, the box cutter was in my right hand, that one required 12 stitches.

Then the right hand came into the conversation and closed the argument by pointing out that as the dominant hand it is like the older brother in a Royal hierarchy.  In other words get over it lefty, you will always be the one holding the tiny piece of wood while I take a radial tool to mold it.

Pat tells me I should buy Lefty a chain mail glove like butchers use.


Visit from Meagan and Jorg

It is the end of August and Meagan and Jorg surprised us a couple of weeks ago by announcing they wery going to join us for a vacation on the island.  Turns out that their dates for the trip coincided with our return from the glorious BC tour.  We gathered at Blaine and Lisa’s home on the Friday and took the same ferry home the next morning.

Thereafter the plans went wrong.  The weeks of hot sunny dry days we had been experiencing turned to overcast and drizzle.  We tried to make the best of it by taking them to a good restaurant for their anniversary, but they were determined they were going to explore the island.  The next morning they set off to see what Port McNeill and Telegraph Cove could offer.  In their planning they brought their  wetsuits and paddle boards expecting to explore the many inlets for several days.

But the next day they called and asked if they could come back to our place as it was raining (as only the northern rain coast can do).

Their prize for returning was for Pat and I to take them to tour a museum in Campbell River.  Great museum but not, I suspect, better than their plans for paddle boating on the inland lakes.

So yesterday I proposed a hike on a great hiking trail.  A trail that leads from the highway to a lookout overlooking the Seymour Narrows to the site of the Ripple Rock explosion in 1958.

I did this hike last year and remembered it as a great hike, but kind of forgot that it has a fair amount of vertical climbs scrambling up scattered rock and tree roots. Actually not a moderate but a difficult undertaking on our hiking club scale.

No issue for Meagan and Jorg but Pat found it a bit of a chore.  No question I also had to take a lot of breaks.

But the view at the end on a cliff overlooking the narrow strait where the largest non-nuclear explosion took place in 1958 was wonderful.  The overcast had broken and we had a half hour of sunshine to enjoy our lunch.

The hike back was a bit easier but with a drizzle, making the rocks somewhat slippery.

This was supposed to be a great adventure hike in the sunshine, but it is the Wet Coast.

Great dinner that night (Pat’s famous seafood chowder).

All together a pretty good day although Pat still insists this was NOT a moderate hike.

Unfortunately, with the west coast rain, Meagan and Jorg cut short their holiday and headed home this morning.