Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Robins are back

Spring is finally here. The snow is melting and every day we see changes outside and a new bit of growth in the yard. All this is a comfort and a sorely needed bit of cheer for those who have made it through the tough and seemingly endless winter.

With the warmer weather the birds are being busy in the garden rummaging through the leftover seeds on the ground and generally feeling wonderful that the snow is gone.

When checking the back yard this morning for more appearances of the snowmelt that had left copious amounts of water in the lower areas of the yard, I saw a flock of American Robins. It is always a welcome sign and truly a sign of spring. The industrious and authoritarian birds were checking out the sights for their summer stay. They tried a dip in the pond, but it must have been to cold as it sits in the shade and traces of ice are still present. It is a real treat to watch their erect stand, beak tilted upwards, to survey their environs. They are a popular sight here. I love their red chests, cheery songs and early appearance at the end of winter. Soon the ground will be warm enough, food will be plentiful and we will see them tugging earthworms out of the ground to feed to their young.

I am looking forward to hear their early morning and evening calls from their repertoire of songs.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Last week’s happenings

Braving the cold elements of last week I took my friend to a little side trip to the Western Development Museum’s 1910 Boom Town. It’s exhibiting a full- scale replica of a typical settlement of that era. Along the main street you can go into buildings like the general store, the blacksmith’s shop and the post office; even a one-room school. All are outfitted with antique pieces, which of course would have been the objects of everyday life at the time.

We were also interested in the exhibition of the “Hunter of the Prairie Sea”. It is a replica of a Tylosaurus fossil found in Saskatchewan. Nicknamed Omaciw, (which means hunter in Cree) and is more than 9.75 meters (32 feet) long making it one of the largest of the marine reptiles. It was discovered along the south shore of lake Diefenbaker in 1994. It is known as a very ferocious hunter of ancient seas, ready to kill just about any smaller creature that crossed its path. You just have to look at its jaws, lined on each side with two rows of pointy, cone shaped teeth. Just real vicious looking not one species I like to meet in the dark. Apparently stomach contents indicated a diet on fish, seabirds and even shark. It’s hard to believe that our flat prairie landscape was once under water.

 In addition to the Tylosaurus the exhibition introduces one to the marine environment that existed in Saskatchewan million years ago.

The massive exhibit of the Tylosaurus can take your breath away and I was glad to get out of the rooms for a more pleasant experience…lunch of course.


Don’t you just love to go to the theater?

We treated ourselves to the play “Rabbit Hole” by David Lindsay-Abaire. The play is about how people grief and how they grief in very different ways and what can happen when those differences are at odds with each other and within a family. Grief obviously did not bring the family closer together. Sorrow isolated them. Anything that anyone said was almost guaranteed to be the wrong thing. It is a sad play and tears may easily flow as a family grieves the loss of their four-year-old son who was killed accidentally by a young driver while following his dog onto the street.

It was an evening of good performance at our new Persephone Theater.

Rummoli anyone?

What is that? It is one of our all time favorite games. Last Friday my ladies church group played this entertaining game. We played for big money…pennies that is…

Rummoli is a great game and easy to play. Perfect for rainy days. We often get together, sometimes even for a hearty Pot Luck, which of course is every ones favorite.
As a child I used to play it with my family at my grandmothers place. It was a get-together I cherished. Always placing a candle nearby so we could continue playing just in case of power outages.

We like to add up our final penny count and see how much we are in debt or how much we made. Lots of fun to see that you made as many pennies as the player beside you lost.

Always a nice evening when spend with friends.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Maui – a trip to paradise (1)

I know I hang on endlessly about the weather, but it does rather pre-occupy a person when it is this cold. What better ways to escape the winter, than heading south to a warmer climate. Thinking of lying on a sun soaked beach is enough, you just want to do it and so my family and I ventured out this winter to the beautiful island of Maui in Hawaii.

Our daughter who is a relative organized person took it upon herself to book all the sweeping canvasses of attractions we wanted to experience.

We arrived at Kahului Airport around 9:30 pm Maui time (2:30 am our time) and were bussed to were we picked up our rental van and off we went to our destination, a beautiful resort situated between Kihei and Wailea on the western coast of Maui. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Kahului Airport. Once we’ve settled in we realized how tired we were and that there was not much time till morning.

While in Maui we became early risers. The Mynah birds were beckoning with their loud calls and creating quite a ruckus. I ventured out for a morning walk to get a glimpse of these birds but only spotted a lonely heron. Instead I captured these beautiful, vibrantly colored flowers on camera.

The first day was spent shopping and sightseeing around Kihei, driving past bustling farmers markets, sugarcane fields and miles and miles of beaches and a spate of restaurants.

The next day we ventured out early to Lahaina a bustling historic whaling village and hot spot with many attractions and art galleries. In the early nineteenth century it was the capitol of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In the mid 1800’s up to 1500 sailors from as many as 400 ships took leave in Lahaina including Herman Melville, who immortalized the era in his classic Moby Dick.

We had booked a submarine tour this morning leaving from the harbor and were really looking forward to the dive. We were taken by boot to the sub Atlantis. It is good to wear good walking shoes, as we had to descend into the sub downward on a strait ladder and flip-flops just wont do. We each were seated at our own giant porthole so that we could experience the undersea world first hand.

Descending to 130 feet I saw a collage of bright yellow tangs, neon green parrotfish and yawning moray eels. I was in awe as schools of brilliantly colored fish and exotic marine life swam just inches away from me. It’s a fascinating journey into another world.

Back in 2005 the Carthaginian, a replica whaling ship, was sunk in an area devoid of coral reef. Secured to the bottom in an upright position 95 feet below the surface, the vessel has become a self-sustaining habitat for schools of tropical fish and other marine life and a new interesting site for scuba divers.


Lahaina has restored its many historic sites, attracting some of the best restaurants and shops. On most days of the week there’s an endless parade of visitors moving up and down on Front Street enjoying the attractions. The picture was taken from the restaurant were we dined for lunch overlooking the old Pioneer Inn.

Planted in 1873 in front of the Courthouse and the harbor is this sprawling Banyan tree along Front Street. It is the size of an entire city block and stands 60 feet high. If you need to cool down a bit on hot days just walk under the dangling vines and the sweeping branches of this tree. Usually you find it full of very noisy birds so one needs to be very careful…. It is a real landmark of Lahaina.

At sunset we treated ourselves to a dinner and dance cruise on the Maui Princess. On the menu was the islands Mahi-mahi fish. When cooked the flesh is white and flaky with a sweet taste, making it an ideal fish for preparation. I did not do any dancing but enjoyed watching a family group who were celebrating sixty years of their parent’s marriage. All dressed in red t-shirts marked with Hawaii Six-0h.

The musical entertainment by a local artist, good food, on a slightly swaying boat by a gentle breeze under the stars made for an enchanted evening.

Saturday I did some island hopping and I flew to Honolulu to the Sheltie Specialty. I was welcomed into the home of a long time Sheltie breeder. Her house sits on a hill overlooking the dormant Diamond Head crater and Waikiki beach, Honolulu and of course the ocean, a spectacular view especially at night.

Maui – a trip to paradise (2)

She has three gardens for her shelties, the upper, lower and middle garden. As well as an orchid display around her fountain in the front garden. I am so jealous. Among other delectable treats, her dogs ate Avocados and Papayas with their supper as these are grown on big trees around her house. Back home I have to pay a fortune at the Supermarket for these tasteful fruits.
Sunday was the Sheltie Specialty in Thomas Square Park, which was judged by Denise Cornelssen. I saw some beautiful shelties in her line-up of winners.
Following the judging, members gathered together for a lunch right in the park. I was encouraged to try Hawaiian made delectables that were prepared by club members. The evening was spend together for a relaxed dinner Hawaiian style. I had chosen fish again, I love seafood and don’t we go on holiday just to eat?

On my return to Maui my group ventured to the Maui Ocean Center. It was a journey of discovery through the extraordinary underwater world that lies beyond Hawaii’s surf-ringed shores, from the complex beauty of the living reefs, to the vast, blue realm of the ocean. All of the marine life at the center is alive and from Hawaii and collected under special permit with the Hawaiian State Department.

The decoy scorpion fish was one of the many exhibits that attracted my attention. He apparently utilizes a modified lay-in-wait strategy to capture its prey. To attract its prey he sits on the bottom camouflages himself and keeping its body motionless while undulating its dorsal fin in order to mimic a small fish.

The stonefish is extremely difficult to see because it usually buries most of its body under sand or rubble and only their widely separated eyes show. Often algae and hydroids grow on its back. It has been suggested, that stonefishes exude a white, milky substance over their bodies, which encourages plant growth. Shrimps and other animals have been observed to climb over them. This is the world’s most venomous fish. Their near perfect camouflage and the venomous spines make them a hazard for swimmers, snorkelers and divers in shallow water. Wounds should be treated immediately with hot water or dry heat.

Here is a picture of Hawaii’s National Fish the Reef Trigger fish – or like the Hawaiian people call him – the “humuhumu nukunuku apua’a” -  Now say that really fast, bet you are having trouble.

For the evening we treated ourselves to a gastronomical five-course dinner at Buzz’s Warf. The restaurant is one of Maui’s oldest and is situated in Maalaea Bay Harbor, a bustling landmark with beautiful views of Mt. Haleakala and the southern coastline of Maui. This is the place were you find some of the best seafoods, freshest fish and biggest prawns. They are to die for! They’re rich and sweet and share many characteristics of lobster, (except for the price.)

We drank far to much wine and spend too much money.

The highlight of my holiday was no doubt the Helicopter flight over the southern part of Maui and the majestic Haleakala Crater, the world’s largest dormant volcano. It measures a dept of over thousand feet and is more than ten miles across.

Al our pilot narrated the whole tour over the two ways in flight communication system. He educated us about the Hawaiian people, its history and culture, geology and the Hawaiian flora and fauna. The story about the pig and the cow when first imported from Europe to Hawaii was hilarious. Apparently when the cow and the pig were brought ashore the Hawaiians had no native name for them so they called them peepee (cow) and poopoo (pig). A treat was the medley of Hawaiian songs playing softly on his radio. I was completely enthralled with the awe-inspiring tropical beauty and any apprehension I had about a helicopter flight just melted away.

We soared high above Haleakala Crater, experiencing dramatic views of hidden waterfalls and the tropical, pristine rainforest. From an aerial perspective we experienced the road to Hana with its many hairpin curves and watched ocean waves crash against jagged lava rock on the southern coastline of Maui. What an invigorating experience it was as 75% of Maui can only be seen from the air and I was fortunate to see a little piece of Paradise.
If you are wondering what we have around our waists, it is a flotation device or life vest…just in case.

Maui – a trip to paradise (3)

What would a Hawaiian holiday be without witnessing a Luau?

A Luau experience will take you back in time. Imagine yourself in ancient times were Kings and Queens entertained their guests enjoying a traditional feast under the stars.

We were invited to such an evening of fun and relaxation and just to hang loose Hawaiian style.
Upon arrival we walked through the most beautiful gardens. The air was filled with the sweet tones of the plants and flowers and greeted with a Lei by gracious hostesses, tropical beverages (Mai-Tai) and a sincere ALOHA.

The pre-show activities included a coconut cutting demonstration, poi pounding, kappa cloth making, arts and crafts and the ever-popular underground oven ceremony. Everyone was invited to gather for the unearthing of the pig from the traditional Imu, were it had been cooking since early morning. The results were well worth the time. We were then escorted to the eating-house for a satisfying, bountiful buffet of island cuisine.

As we took in the romantic ocean sunset, as views of Lanai and Molokai faded away into a vast star lit sky, the actual show began. Ancient hula dancing and songs captured the essence of old Hawaii. A spectacular display by fire dancers would almost take your breath away, praying that no one would get hurt. Basking in the gentle evening trade winds, as talented musicians and bright young dancers shared their culture with swaying hips and graceful hands, made for an absolutely enchanting evening.


A Maui holiday would not be complete without experiencing a drive on the famous road to Hana. This drive shows you the enchanting side of Maui, taking you along the winding, low cliffed volcanic coastal road while you see the colored scenery.

Keanae Lookout will take your breath away and the black sand beach of Wainapana Park lends to solitude and respite from urban life.

Here is my daughter and son in law (both are avid bird lovers) enjoy having their picture taken on the way to Hana. Don’t you just love all the primary colors of the Parrots?

On the days my daughter and son-in-law went diving I spend most of my mornings at the ocean. Being on the beach, stretching out on smooth, almost silky sand, warmed by the sun rising behind the palms, was heaven, no care in the world. Feeling the warm sand between my toes and the soft caress of a fragrant breeze as I watch the irresistible curl of a perfect wave – tended to push thoughts of serious scientific research to the far right side of my brain.

Frankly, I never thought of leaving, but as all good things will come to an end, I had to return home. What a shock it was - arriving to a -40 in Saskatoon and all the snow, I just wanted to turn around and fly back to Maui.