Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learning New Customs

Last night provided another of those awkward moments.   Each place we've moved to, we have had to discover what the nuances of local phrases and customs mean.

In Peru, naturally, we found several differences.  Even moving from Nevada to Texas provided other changes.  Our move north to Canada has given us more.

My awkward moment came when I arrived at our study group hostess's home.  After getting settled in she offered a beverage.  I was thirsty, so asked if I could have a cup of tea.  There were only tea cups set out, no drinking glasses or pitcher of water.  After selecting a tea I enjoy, I waited for my hostess to provide the hot water.  But, it didn't come.   Definitely a bit disconcerting.

Apparently in Canada (at least here in London) when offered something to drink it is more polite to decline.  Filed away for future reference, and a reminder to drink water before arriving.  At our break time, she again offered a beverage, which I did receive.  Then she had a nice little tray of crackers and cheese, stressing how good the cheese was.  Taking her at her word I selected three crackers and three small pieces of cheese.  Apparently this was another faux pas!  

Slinking back to my seat, I did find the cheese to be wonderful and commented positively.  Silence from the other women, a disapproving silence from one.  Sigh.  Another note: eat before you come, and only take the same as everyone else - which was one cracker and one slice of cheese.  Just so you know, the slices were very small, as were the crackers.

I'm learning.  But, all I can say is I much prefer Texas hospitality.  But, we live in Canada, so now I simply live and learn, remembering to have both my thirst and hunger satisfied before venturing out.  

Friday, March 27, 2009

What's Spring Break Without Snow???

Most of our "Spring Break" weather here in London was pleasant.   Our pictures of Niagara Falls show the bit of chill, but it was a far cry from the frigid January and February we had just ended.  When we picked Meghan up on Wednesday the weather remained nice.  Thursday, however, was a bit of a different story.   Friday our weather turned London balmy, again.  All in all, we had a very pleasant week with two of our older girls visiting.

Fencing Classes

Last night Mary and Peter completed class #6 for their 10 lesson introduction to fencing.  They are both doing well.  Peter has wanted to take classes since visiting his sister Liz's team practice at University of St. Thomas.  Mary was iffy until last night's class.  She came out exclaiming, "That was the best ever!"
They are learning to fence epee, but using foils.  Okay, that's as far as my knowledge goes.  But, they are thoroughly enjoying this sport.  The club that is sponsoring the classes has members from about 10 to 75!  They come in to begin their practice as this class is winding down.  We are finding that this might be a wonderful sport to pursue well beyond our homeschool years.  I may even take it up next time around for the introductory classes.

First comes stretching, then practice on form, and finally practicing on each other.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Maple Syrup Sugar Bush Adventure

We've just returned from breakfast at the Fort Rose Maple Company.  This seemed rather appropriate for Meghan's and Kate's quick visit during their Spring Break.   These pictures are from a visit Mary, Peter, Tom and I made to the Fanshaw Kinsmen's Sugar Bush about 2 weeks ago. The first one shows the older method of boiling down the sap into syrup.  To the left side is one of the two Belgian's pulling the haywagon that took us out to the sugar house.  It was plenty cold then and the sap was running free and easy!   While we've seen plenty of tree buckets with taps along our drives, the lines you see at the Kinsmen's Bush are more modern, and quick.  This series of lines is a collecting point for all the trees across the road from the sugar house.  Fanshaw Kinsmen Bush utilizes a low pressure pump to pull it to a line high enough to allow the horse drawn wagon to go freely to and from their entrance.  The biggest threat to the lines are the deer running through, ripping them away from the spigots.  

We learned that the window for gathering maple sap is short, as narrow as the ideal temperature range for optimum production.  Sap begins to run when the temperature run in the narrow window of 5C high and -5C low. Higher than that, or lower the production isn't as abundant or swift.  After tapping the sap, the long tanks boil out the water, and requiring at least 70 to 1 for the final maple syrup product.  We all agree ... maple syrup is by far preferred to the usual high fructose corn syrup product marketed as pancake syrup.  

Monday, March 16, 2009

Niagara Falls

Kate flew in on Saturday from Houston, and Sunday we drove over to see Niagara Falls.  Here are some pictures of the five of us on our quick tour, starting with the view from our room.  

This is definitely a place we want to return to.  Given that this is the first weekend of the Ontario schools March break, hectic is insufficient to describe the mob at the hotel.

Houston Shopping with the Bride

Here are Liz's future mother-in-law, Carrie, and my daughters Katherine, Elizabeth and Meghan.  We are at Kraftsman's cafe for a quick breakfast before the Houston Bridal Fair on Saturday morning.  My visit was certainly short, but I was able to touch base and visit with a few friends.  Friday Liz tried on several dresses and found "the one!"  Looked so pretty on her.  I remember that same feeling all those years ago when I tried on the wedding dress I chose.

Late on Friday afternoon the three girls and I drove up to our old neighborhood in Copperfield.  We enjoyed the first fish fry at Christ the Redeemer.  Another opportunity to enjoy the Knight's fantastic fare and visit with several of our old parish friends.  We were also given the grace to have a personal tour of the new church building with Debbie Maglicco, the liturgy director.  Beautiful, beautiful church.   We are looking forward to returning in May for Peter's Confirmation, and again in August for Liz and John Paul's wedding!

Later on Friday evening my good friend Rebecca Hill and I attended the UST play, "Charlie's Aunt."  It is such a fun farce!  Kate was stage manager, and Meghan was house manager.   Saturday was the bridal fair followed by the vigil mass at St. Basil Chapel on the UST campus.  Early Sunday I was dropped off at the airport, and made it back to Tom, Mary and Peter by early evening.   Quite a long day of quiet following three days of intense activity.  God is good!

As always, never enough hours in the day.  But, we accomplished all that I needed to, and had plenty of time to just enjoy each others' company.  So, in the end, we had plenty of time.  

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March Miracle

Well, Tom's fellow office mate who assured us that March 1 the melt begins in London was right!  What we have now are swiftly diminishing dirty snow drifts that look like ice stagmites.  All the grass is emerging, matted down from all the snow.  The wind, though, is still quite icy and bites right to the bone.  
Our predicted high today is 15 C (~59F).  Quite a nice, pleasant surprise after what seemed like unending snow storms and growing drifts.   I am certain Peter looks forward not having any more driveway shoveling duty.  No snow means plenty of mud, though.

This Friday we will be joining with other area Catholic homeschool families for First Friday!  This time around we will have the joy of dry roads, as opposed to the icy ones in February.  

Take care.  I hope your own winters are winding down as spring is close at hand.