Part 17: We're still in this!
My last blog post ended in October 2020 and today it is January 29, 2022. What?! How fast time passes... even when we are stuck in this pandemic and all the anxiety it has created. January 2021 started so well and we were quickly pulled out of a long trough of very little work, especially for me. It seemed like everyone got the same memo: "let's get on with business again." And then an unexpected BIG client came along and saved me from changing careers. Suddenly I was handling an ever-increasing amount of internal communications – consultation, writing, graphic design... work I love!
Thankfully we were nicely busy again and not so stressed about our business. We still couldn't do much with the restrictions , but we could take road trips! On a sunny day in February I took a day to myself with my camera and ventured off to discover Beach Meadows. Big waves crashing on the rocks, an abandoned boat in Meteghan and an interesting old graveyard along the way – of which there are many in this province. We found out that you can have a private graveyard on your land here in Nova Scotia.
For the Chamber newsletter, I was interviewing businesses and writing their stories, and some of them got picked up to run in the local paper – pretty exciting to have my writing in print.
We continue to marvel at the gorgeous skies here... and because of the tide, we always get these sheets of ice at the shoreline - pretty cool.
This one was taken in Blue Rocks – always a great spot for photos... look at the colours in the sky and reflecting on the water!
We were also keeping ourselves entertained with our cooking! Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients cookbook is a new fav. Excellent recipes.
And then, a conversation with Alan's dad was about to change our lives. He was coming to live with us. At 92, he really wanted a new adventure and we could give him that! He was living in a nice but small apartment in West Vancouver and had been limited to a few friends in the building as their 'social bubble.' He had been reading this blog and seeing the photos of our property and the ocean really appealed to him. Originally from England, the Atlantic Ocean was in his blood.
We wanted to give him this new adventure and have him in our lives. He was living a good long life, in good health and mind, and had lots of stories and experiences to share. It meant some major rearranging of our house... we would give him our bedroom on the main level and finish the upstairs suite for ourselves. I had already spent months painting and renovating up there, but now the floor needed to be done, curtains made - lots to do. Alan started with the subfloor.
At about the same time, we had been talking to our friend Troy Naugler and he was thinking about getting into the excavation business... would he take a look at our driveway and parking area that we wanted to create and... maybe a pond? First we had to clear the area, get some chipping done and stake out what we wanted.
On a gorgeous day in May, Troy and Sheldon arrived with the excavator... fixing our driveway, creating a huge parking area and digging the pond. Pretty exciting to see our land being transformed.
It only took a few weeks; the pond filled in 2 days with all the Spring runoff. I added some bullrushes and rocks and before long we had a sweet little toad taking his evening swim. There are lots of plans to create a parklike area around the pond. Next year.
At the end of May, the job was finished and looked amazing. Troy was right when he stated that what we had done would definitely increase the value of our property.
And... we were just loving our new pond.
Meanwhile, I received all the fabric I had ordered online for the drapes in the house - 13 windows in all, fully lined. I ordered swatches first to be sure from fabricguru.com - amazing choices, good prices (even with the exchange) and beautiful quality! We ordered the grommets from Amazon and brackets from Ikea. I had everything I needed. Now to sew my heart out. Projects, projects - this was a big one!
We had a gorgeous Spring... and found time to enjoy it as often as we could.
For Alan's birthday on June 24, we went to Halifax. It was a lovely warm day and we spent time strolling along the waterfront – love this city! Our dear friends Bernie & Mark sent a gift certificate to the restaurant we were at, The Bicycle Thief (our fav), for us to enjoy a lovely bottle of wine and dessert. So sweet!
Summer was getting on, the Habs were in the playoffs and we were really far behind with our reno – we were both super busy with work thankfully, but it didn't allow time for much else. The August 29 deadline when Robin would arrive was looming large. Next step was levelling the floor best we could – it's a 1916 house after all – and then laying the new flooring.
We were finally getting the roof on the house done. Oh man, what an ordeal that was - we had stored all the materials back at Wall's over the winter and when Rissers went to collect it, it had been sold/used. They had to reorder and of course, with the supply chain mess it took a while... they could finally schedule us in by July. It was great to see the crew back on site! They fixed a broken dental detail, put in a gorgeous new skylight, beautifully trimmed out, and once again, did amazing work. Risser.ca ... the best!
I had the opportunity to go out for a kayak in Blue Rocks in August and I took it! It was a very beautiful paddle in the heavy mist.
In early Spring, we had scheduled University painters to paint our house. We kind of left it open dependent on the roofing getting done... and finally in the first week of August, we were able to get the painters here. Vincent was the main guy and he had lost his entire crew - they were athletes and had all gone back to school early... so his dad was helping him. It was blazing hot by now... those guys worked so hard... and each day our house became pretty again!
I said, "Make it look like this"... and they did!
The painters were still here in August when my cousin Linda and Harry came for a visit. They were our first overnight visitors because of Covid. I hadn't seen her in 40 years and we had a good visit. It was a bit hectic – we were busy with work, the painters were here, we were doing our best to get ready for Robin's arrival... lots on the go. But we still managed to have some nice dinners and campfires together, go out to dinner, walk on the beach and take a few drives.
Now we were in a mad scramble... we had one week left to get the house ready for Robin to move in... the painters were still here – Vincent managed to get a crew to help him with the back of the house so he could get to school on time - it was frantic, with movers taking stuff up to our suite, all of us walking under ladders with painters above... and putting furniture together into the night...
The storage room we had been using since we got here had to be cleared out to allow for an office/workroom for Robin – a desk for his computer and space to do projects – we know that he loves to do projects and he's a fine painter, and we wanted him to be comfortable.
We were ready as we could be. We set off for Halifax on Saturday, August 28 to go out for dinner downtown at aFrite and have a peaceful sleep at the ALT Hotel because they were coming in on an early flight.
It was not lost on us that our lives were now going to change. As of tomorrow, it was not just the two of us anymore – we were about to share our lives with his dad. We felt that we had lots of room and land to make that quite comfortable and easy. Robin, accompanied by his grand daughter, Mary Jo, arrived very early the next morning after a red eye flight from Vancouver, and we brought him to his new home for the next phase of his life.
The first thing he did was sit at the Steinway – he loves to play piano and flute... Mary Jo stayed on for a few days and we had a nice visit while Robin got settled in. They even went out for a sail on the Tillicum - our neighbours 2-mast schooner that sits in our bay... Robin had never thought he would steer a sailboat again at his age, but there he was... happy as a boy.
We went for dinner at a few of our favourite spots – they were enjoying fresh fish, our home-cooked meals and a road trip to Minas Basin to look out over the red cliffs and lush farm land and orchards... it was a nice visit.
My work for Michelin was building constantly and I was loving it. I was even writing and designing a 24-page magazine for another plant in New Glasgow. So good. We were getting in some good beach walks and going out for dinner a fair bit with Robin – he loves to go out as much as we do!
Life settled in. Robin is constantly busy. He loves to solve problems and must always have a project on the go. He wasn't used to having meals made and things done for him but I think he likes it. He's a voracious reader and goes out for a walk every day. A constant reminder of how to live your life well! Stay busy, keep your mind engaged, stay active.
In that last photo, he's flying Alan's drone.
Now that the house was painted, I put in a small perennial garden - the first of many in my mind!
We outfitted Robin in tick-resistant clothing and showed him the woods. Since then, he treks up there several times a week.
Robin wants to build another boat. I loved watching him and Alan discuss the plans and sketches popped up and then before we knew it, he was building a model scale.
We were having a glorious fall, quite warm. I got out for a few kayaks in the cove, we did some road trips along the coast and on October 7, both Robin and I went in the ocean for a swim at Bayswater Beach! It was beautiful.
The model of the boat was done. Now to plan for the build, probably in the Spring when it can mostly be done outside. He plans to make it for rowing and sailing.
We were all double vaxxed by now and really wanted a change of scenery. Robin and Mary had built a house and studio on Gran Manan – an island in NB out in the Bay of Fundy. I had never been there and Robin and Alan hadn't been there for some 30 years. So, off we went.
We had a nice lunch in St. John, NB and checked out the town a bit – home of Moosehead beer, thus the moose statue – before we had to grab the ferry to Gran Manan.
The ferry ride was long and as we neared Gran Manan I could see Robin becoming very quiet and lost in his memories. It had been a dream to live there – he had built a home and a studio, he was part of the art community, painting and holding workshops for print-making. It was a place that he talked about a lot and had fond memories of with his beloved wife, Mary.
Unfortunately there were no restaurants for dinner, and some of the historic areas were being completely left to rot. It kind of broke his heart. But there were still some very beautiful areas – like the Swallowtail lighthouse and the cliffs of Southern Head looking across to Maine. And I had never seen a weir before.
We stayed at the Compass Rose - very sweet and comfortable Bed & Breakfast, and explored the island – stopping in to see the house and studio they had built. Robin had a photo of when he and Mary lived here – and the current owner let us wander all around. We checked out all the spots that had been dear to Robin and stopped in to visit an old friend Maude, who was actually older than him! So cute... she had a few of his paintings on the walls and was really happy to see him.
Back home again and Robin felt happy to be living in Nova Scotia - he loves the variety of world-class restaurants here and how this province really cares about preserving history.
October and the beach walks were spectacular, the colours beautiful.
November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day. Not many people know about it outside of the UK, but Alan and Robin wanted to celebrate and as it turned out, our neighbour Innis had grown up in Scotland. He and Brenda came over with fireworks to add to ours, our neighbour John came over too – it was a great night and Robin got to meet them. We sat around the campfire and Alan and Innis were like boys, setting off the fireworks down by the water.
My sister Sharla was in Haiti with the Red Cross (I love this photo of her below holding a sweet little baby) and things got a little scary there, so she was getting out. She came for a visit and I picked her up on Nov 12 – the same day I rewrote the Real Estate exam in Dartmouth. We went into Halifax and had a fantastic dinner at The Press Gang, sitting at the bar in this old stone building that had been the stables for 'the King's Man' – we had fresh oysters and seafood and caught up – we hadn't seen each other in person for over 3 years.
She had a great visit and really enjoyed time with Robin – he reminded her of our grandpa... we played Scrabble and enjoyed some fantastic meals out. Sharla and I went for the day to Keji park and then up to Blomidon and Minas Basin for some beautiful walks. Doing a big circle, we stopped in Port Williams and had dinner at the Port Pub, discovering a terrific brewery - Wayfarer's . Of course, I took her to Blue Rocks because I love it there.
When it was time to go back to the airport, we went early and went to downtown Halifax to the big art store there and had a nice lunch at McKelvie's. Crab cakes. Yum.
I was happy to have the Real Estate studying over. It had been tying up all my time. I had taken the online course last year because I feared I was going to have to change careers – work was so slow and I really didn't know if it would recover. I was happy to find out that I passed, but I'm really not sure what I'll do with it, if anything.
All of our drapes were finally getting hung. Alan had been so busy he hadn't been able to help me. We all love the cozy feel they add. It's an old house that needs renovating, but we're doing what we can until then.
Our fall season lasts well into November here. Robin loved seeing the colours again - they are vibrant here... and was inspired to do his first painting in NS. First he had to make an easel, which he did... and then he did this lovely painting of our woods.
He gave the painting to us as a Christmas present and it has found a home in our studio - he really captured the feel of our woods on a fall day.
We got our first snowfall in early December. So pretty. Which of course inspired me to start decorating. We cut down a tree for our patio area – I really wanted an outdoor tree; I had bought 50 wooden buoys and 100 year old rope in Lunenburg; painted the buoys bright red and strung them on that tree... they turned out great! I had also painted our house number on an old wooden buoy – I really love these old buoys... we're getting a bit of a nautical feel happening!
Our indoor tree was beautiful but it was so large that our tree stand couldn't hold it. We had a disaster day of trees falling over, ornaments breaking, me in tears; finally resorting to a trip to Canadian Tire to buy a heavy duty stand... ahhh, the holidays.
We got there in the end, but I sprained my thumb in the process. Yowch! The rum Sharla had brought from Haiti helped - nicest rum I've ever had.
Christmas was of course, very quiet. Omicron was invading our world and we chose not to go out to restaurants for a while... but really, we were lucky here that nothing closed. I spent one afternoon taking some photos for the Chamber and loved all the decorations in Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and Bridgewater. This is just a tiny sample. The lobster trap tree in Lunenburg was particularly beautiful... and sobering.
We had a lovely charcuterie dinner and Prosecco for Christmas Eve; enjoyed a beautiful Christmas morning with Baileys in our coffee, the fire on and presents to open... and the full turkey feast on Christmas Day. Robin was so pleased to once again use the silver spoons that had been in his family for over 200 years – he remembers them from when he was a boy.
A beautiful traditional moment... lighting the Christmas Pudding...
On December 27, we went to Hirtles Beach for a nice walk... Robin proclaimed it had been the best Christmas he had had in years. That made my heart swell.
The rest of the holidays, we worked on house projects and relaxed.
New Years Eve was very fun. There is a lobster boat called the Nellie Row with an all-female crew. I follow them on Facebook and read with delight that you can place an order for lobsters and pick them up at the wharf – fresh from the ocean! What a feast we had!
So we said goodbye to a year that was NOT terrible for us. In fact, despite the aggrevation of masks and restrictions, we were really fortunate to have such great clients and lots of work, and be able to get so much done on our property. And of course, welcoming Robin into our lives has been a very good experience. He is settling in so well and really loves Nova Scotia.
All of the drapes were installed finally! What a difference. And Alan was building a table for our laundry room. We all contributed to the design, painting and material choices.
I've become the barber in our house and after seeing what a good job I do for Alan (no nicks!), Robin trusted me to cut his hair. You can see our very old kitchen in the background... some day it's going to come face to face with a sledge hammer.
Our house is filled with Robin's artwork and we love it. He's a very talented artist with many different styles of painting.
Alan's computer had been in for repair over the holiday and it had been a real nightmare, but had pretty much forced him to not work for almost 3 weeks. Long story and way too technical for me... but thankfully, we have a great IT company in Bridgewater, Antares Computers. They patiently and thoughtfully fixed everything and we eased back into work.
On January 7, 2022, Robin turned 93. He has seen so much in his lifetime – born in 1929 and living through the second world war in England before coming to Canada. He's lived in five provinces: Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, B.C. and now Nova Scotia. To celebrate, Alan made a delicious curry and crepes Suzette. So delicious. We went for a lovely beach walk at Risser's Beach and many people were out strolling and enjoying the sun.
So... January is almost over and Robin has a new project: wood carving. He and Alan worked out this cool carving wheel so he could clamp it down in any position he wished... and Alan has lent him his carving tools. The first carving is of two haddock – it's looking good!
I've been out snowshoeing in our woods and skating on our pond. It's a bit small for skating but it's so fun to say I was skating on my own pond. I might expand it next year... Lunches are as healthy as I can make them – a far cry from the excess of December!
2022 is shaping up nicely and as usual, we have a long list of things we'd like to do inside and out. The projects never end and that's the way we like it!