A Trip to Boldt Castle

P1080916 (2)

The Powerhouse with it’s flying stone arched bridge.

Moving from the prairies to central Canada on my annual visit with kids, I had the opportunity – with my son, Doug – to cruise the St. Lawrence and visit Heart Island. The boat part of our journey left from Rockport, Ontario. With blue skies and a pleasant river breeze, we made our way straight to Heart Island and Boldt Castle.

P1080832 (2)

P1080861 (2)

P1080924 (2)

 

Quoting from the Boldt Castle brochure: a visit to castle offers a glimpse into one of the most compelling love stories in history. At the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full-sized Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a testament to his love for his wife, Louise.

 

P1080918 (2)

P1080899 (2)

P1080937 (2)

Beginning in 1900, the family spent four summers on nearby Wellesley Island while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters and artists fashioned the six story, 120-room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge and a dovecote. Not a single expense or detail was spared.

P1080922 (2)

P1080874 (2)

In 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately stop all construction. Louise had died suddenly. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument to his love.

P1080873 (2)

P1080938 (2)

For 73 years the castle remained eerily vacant, left to the mercy of the elements and the vandals. The Thousand Island Bridge Authority assumed ownership in 1977, determined to preserve Boldt Caste. From what I could see, they have been wildly successful!

P1080882 (2)

P1080884 (2)

P1080888 (2)

P1080893 (2)

After two enchanting hours on Heart Island, we boarded our boat for a 40-minute cruise through some of the Thousand Islands. Stunning. Named millionaire row back in the day, some of the houses attest to the legacy of an era when the rich spent lavishly on their summer retreats.

P1080930 (2)

An island just big enough for a house!

P1080869 (2)

The Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley island.

P1080946 (2)

Wow!

P1080851 (2)

The shortest international bridge in the world. Halfway across this foot bridge, one crosses from Canada to the US.

P1080952 (2)

There you have it! A wonderful adventure on the St. Lawrence. If you visit Boldt Castle from Canada, remember to pack your passport. Heart Island is over the border into the US. And do go in September. The weather was great and the crowds were reasonable.

Home and Happy

Clematis in full bloom

Will you look at that clematis in full bloom right outside the kitchen door! Wow!

It’s been two weeks since I came home from my travels in southern Alberta. From the land of rolling fields of canola, rodeo broncs and shiny buckles, cowboy culture and prairie winds to my Vancouver Island, lakeside cabin. I had some wonderful time with kids and grandkids. Life is good.

Kristen and Me

Me and my lovely daughter, Kristen enjoying music in the park.

Canada Day Cuties

My Canada Day cuties – Emma and Brit.

High River rodeo

They’re wearing that Alberta look well – daughter – Kristen, son-in-law – Matt, and granddaughters – Emma and Brit.

So – enough of holiday antics. I thought I’d share a few highlights from the last couple of weeks at home.

Fresh Salad Greens

Fresh salad greens from the garden is a big treat! The lettuce, radishes, baby kale and chives make an attractive side dish.

Garden

Lots of work for the head gardener but it sure pays off.

Lower Garden

Vegetables aren’t the only thing in the garden these days.

Oh my, bear and Buddha

Bear and Buddha – east meets west Smile

Bear and apple tree cha, cha, cha Bear and apple tree – cha, cha, cha. For this dance the bear is definitely leading.

Bleeding Heart

The last of the Bleeding Heart in the woodland garden.

2017 Wild West Rodeo – Making Memories Alberta Style.

Rodeo Days 8

Guy Weadick Days in High River, Alberta – Pro Rodeo, WPCA Chuckwagons, food trucks and … stop the presses right there. What more can you ask for?

Rodeo Days 16

I lunched on pirogues smothered in caramelized onion, bacon and sour cream. Wow, oh wow!

Rodeo Days 9

Rodeo Days 6

Rodeo and chuckwagons are an integral part of High River history and this prairie town knows how to host a bang-up event.

Rodeo Days 4

Guy Weadick, the man the High River Rodeo is named for, is the father of the Stampede tradition in Canada. He came to Fort McLeod in 1904 and fell in love with the area. In 1908, with wife Florence La Due at his side, the pair came to Calgary as part of the Miller Brothers Wild West Show. Guy organized the first ever Calgary Expedition and Stampede in 1912. He went on to introduce the sport of Chuckwagon Racing to the Stampede in 1923.

Guy and Florence Weadick

Guy and Florence lived west of High River on the Stampede Ranch. They brought Hollywood to the Highwood through their friendships with Will Rogers, Hoot Gibson and Charles Russell. Guy was laid to rest in the High River Cemetery in 1953.

Rodeo Days 7

All of the Pro-Rodeo events were exciting but my granddaughters and I loved the barrel racing best!

Rodeo Days 13

The Chuckwagon Races have always been a big hit in High River. Since first run in 1946, the town’s enthusiasm for the heart-stopping competition has never faded. I can attest to that fact. The crowds were packed in for the Sunday running and the boot stomping excitement when those chucks rounded the last corner shook the huge grandstand.

Rodeo Days 11

During a break in the rodeo action, granddaughter Brit took a fall and scraped her knee, drawing blood. A medical attendant was on the scene in moments. Like I said, a well-organized event!

Rodeo Days 10

I can’t end this blog without reporting on the first event of the day – Woolie Bucks. Kids chase after sheep to snatch envelopes of prize money from their backs. Only at the rodeo, as the saying goes.

Rodeo days 2

A few last minute instructions and the race is on.

Rodeo Days 14

The sheep were stiff competition but no match for these little cow pokes.

Rodeo Days 15

Run like you stole that money off the back of a sheep!

We recently looked back on the one-year anniversary of the day my daughter and her family sold their home in B.C. and made their way to High River, Alberta. Trepidation was high for Bruce and I. We wondered how this change would effect all our lives. I am happy to report that things have come out as right as B.C. rain. The community of High River has been a special treat for all of us – welcoming and packed with all a young family with growing kids could want as well as special events grandparents can enjoy!

Rodeo days 1

Yee-haw!

Before I Fall – A Movie that Makes You Think

Before I Fall movie poster

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) seems to have it all: popularity, a loving boyfriend (Kian Lawley) and a seemingly perfect future. Everything changes in the blink of an eye when she dies in a car crash but then magically wakes up to find herself reliving the same day over and over again. As Samantha tries to untangle the mystery of a life derailed, she must also unravel the secrets of the people closest to her and discover how the power of a single day can make a difference.

I don’t see many movies, let alone a new release! Stop the presses. My daughter and I found ourselves with time to spare last night. I wasn’t so tired I had to flop in bed at 9:30. This movie was cued up and ready to go. The first twenty minutes of viewing, before the dramatic scene that sets the stage for the plot to unfold, are pure slogging. The viewer will almost wish something bad happens to the main character and her friends. They give a new meaning to the expression ‘mean girls’.

Once Samantha has died and is thrust into a purgatory of reliving her last day on earth over and over, the movie gets interesting. The blurb summarizes nicely – discoveries are made, past behaviours are examined and a variety of denial mechanisms are brought into play. But ultimately, Samantha is forced to recognize her culpability in setting a terrible chain of events in motion.

The twofold message of this movie is a great one for young and old alike. The plot aptly demonstrates how, with one tentative step after another – no choice earth shattering or worthy of pondering in and of itself – a person can end up on a path never planned for or anticipated. Even more important is the belief we all have that there will be endless time to get things right. We brush off behaviour that is petty, or mean or selfish. We know we’re better than that and we’re sure we’ll make it right in the future. But what happens if our time runs out? On any given day, are we ready to leave this life behind?

Samantha discovers that living one day fully with not a single regret is all the preparation needed to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave this world knowing she made a difference.

See Before I Fall with the young people in your life. Talk about the message. This movie will make you think.

Ode to Joy–Holding My New Book

Me and the new book - back cover

I suppose the picture says it all Smile 

The proof copy of No Compass to Right arrived and, on first blush, it seems everything I hoped for. Of course, with proof copies, the devil is in the details. I discovered that uncomfortable truth the hard way with a previous release. I’ll be pouring over this one for a couple of days before placing my bulk order.

If you read e-books, you can pre-order a copy of No Compass to Right for release on June 1st. The big day is coming, folks!

Large NCR release banner (2)

And if all of that is not enough cause for celebration, I received another wonderful surprise in the mail yesterday. Delayed Mother’s Day gift – Bear Paw oven mitts. Many thanks to Kristen, Matt, Emma and Britney. Can you imagine a greater gift for out here at the lake? Now I can lift hot pans with my bear hands while watching bears stroll by – LOL. Wow – two goofy, happy pictures of me in one post. What is this world coming to?

Me and my mother's day gift

Holiday Reflections

Saint Benidict's Anglican Church (2), High River Alberta, Jan. 04, 2017 - bruce wtizel photo

Reasons to spend holiday time staying with family in another province:

Grandkids change so fast. The opportunity to reconnect with where they are in their lives is a precious one. We took Emma and Brit on a snowy outing to the High River Cemetery. More about why in a later blog. Emma was so excited to run between the gravestones and brush off the powdery snow so she could read the inscriptions. She is at that wonderful stage when the ability to read has clicked and she can’t wait to decipher the written word anywhere she finds it. The day was quite cold and when Brit headed back to the car, Emma looked disappointed. She told me, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her we would come back in the summer and spend as much time as she liked. She said, “Can I wear a dress?” I felt that would be perfectly fine.

High River Cemetery

A couple of snow angels visited the High River Cemetery.

A couple of snow angels

Kristen - Bruce Witzel photo

 

 

 

Grown kids still need their moms. Well, they do! Especially when mom can bite her tongue now and then. Listening matters more than always heaving the proverbial two-bits into every conversation.

 

 

 

The opportunity to do things one wouldn’t do at home. For example, watch ten episodes of The Crown on Netflix – I loved it!

The Crown - Goggle Image

Experience a white Christmas. For someone who grew up on the coast of British Columbia and hasn’t strayed far from coastal waves, this was new. As was watching Emma and Brit skate on an outdoor lake and multiple sledding trips down what passes for a hill in High River.

White Christmas - High River. Albe

Emma sledding - Bruce Witzel photo     Brit sledding - Bruce Witzel photo

Brit - winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Understand what -30 with wind-chill feels like. Britney told us that her school doesn’t let students play outside at recess if it is colder than -20 with a windshield. I guess announcements over the PA system are hard to decipher whether it be at a school or in an airport.

Tsunami warning - Goggle ImagesBe terrified over one’s first experience at a wave-pool. When the waves hit me, I was standing in the worst place possible – near a wall and in the outflow from one of the water slides. Add to my terror the fact that Kristen told me to stay close to Britney. I seriously felt as though I was on the beach as a tsunami rolled in with no hope of keeping my head above the water let alone staying close to anything. Suffice to say, as Brit bounced towards me with a grin and helped me get my footing, I realized I was to stay close to a five-year-old for my safety not hers.

Baking with grandkids. Making and decorating sugar cookies is my Grandma baking specialty.

Emma & Fran decorating  Christmas cookies

Playing cards and games. We discovered Phase Ten this year and enjoyed it. Pass the Ace continues to be a favourite. As usual, I stayed on the receiving end of loss after loss at crib. Good to know all is as it should be with me and the gaming universe. One day, Emma, observing yet another of my losses, patted me on the back and said, “Don’t worry Grandma. I’m on your side because you’re the thunder-dog.” And so I was.

Candy purchases at the Bulk Barn. Hot Tamales by the pound, anyone? This is the sort of good time you had to be there to enjoy!

Getting familiar with a new, family-oriented community. I am helped to put the day-to-day events of kids and grandkids in context with such information. And we did such a good job at this that we ended up in the local High River paper. Can’t complain about that.

New Year's Eve in High River Times

Reasons why it is wonderful to come home:

No matter how comfy the bed I land in, nothing can replace the tried and true of my own bed and pillows.

The opportunity to eat in tune with personal preferences – fresh baked bread, homemade soups and a spicy black bean dip made with balsamic vinegar that is to die for. Unfortunately, Bruce is not a fan of three things – balsamic vinegar, cilantro and lentils. All of which, I love. But I had read in my Bean Cookbook that balsamic vinegar is a bean’s BFF, so I had to throw caution to the wind. The consequence I am willing to live with is that I must consume all the spicy black bean dip on my own.

The off-chance that I may finally return full-time to writing the fourth book of the Crater Lake Series – yippee!

Significant blocks of quiet that allow me the time to enjoy the memories of a great family holiday. Life is good!

Kristen & Matt - Bruce Witzel photo

Eight Years Old Today

Emma's Birthday

My granddaughter. Emma, turns eight today. How the time flies. There are days when I can’t remember where I put my coffee but I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.

November 21st, 2008 – I got the call from my daughter, Kristen, at about two in the morning. Screaming down the phone lines, at least two weeks early, she told me she was thinking of going to the hospital. “The baby is coming, Mom.” 

I was living in Victoria at the time, at the university, teaching. I had a class to teach later that afternoon. I flew out of bed and into action. Emails went out to a substitute instructor and I was in a cab on the way to the bus depot before 5:00 am with many calls back and forth in the those ensuing three hours.

I learned that they had sent Kristen home on that first trip to the hospital. I remember holding the phone away from my ear as her outraged voice rose. She was livid.

I was finished the two-hour ferry trip and back onboard my bus headed for the downtown Vancouver Bus Depot when I got another call. With gasping and groaning amidst the words, Kristen said, “We are on the way back to the hospital. Where are you?” That call ended before I could answer because she had to barf out the window of the car.

I arrived at the depot and managed to find a cab driver who was willing to drive me out to The Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. He took one look at my face when the words – My daughter’s having a baby. I have to get to the Royal Columbine” – poured out of my mouth and he smiled. Get in, he told me. I was in the labouring room soon after Kristen got processed and sent there herself.

Okay, flashback to my own labouring experiences. With my first, labour was a three-day ordeal that ended in an operating room with me having a caesarean delivery. Not the most pleasant of memories to draw upon. My next delivery was a scheduled caesarean. Through Kristen’s entire pregnancy, I worried about a long, difficult labour ending with any number of complications.

I am happy to report that Emma’s birth was nothing like anything I imagined. My daughter is a rock star! I arrived in the room at 10:00 am – Emma was born by 2:00 pm. The last hour and a half was such intense work that the time flew by.

But there was those few terrifying moments, right at the end, that seemed an eternity. Emma’s head had crowned, I was watching her being born. The doctor suddenly asked me to move aside. A flurry of orders poured out of her mouth. The room filled with people. Newborn Emma was in the doctor’s arms and moving quickly to a table nearby surrounded by other masked doctors and nurses. The cord had been around Emma’s neck and she wasn’t breathing. I stood very still and saw this brand-new life surrounded by busy, capable hands. I saw Kristen sit up on the delivery table and I heard the anguish in her voice as she said, “Mom, Mom … what’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong.”

IMG_1026

That moment stretched out forever and then Emma cried and she was in Kristen’s arms. The world tilted back to a proper axis and all was so wonderfully, wonderfully well.

The next few hours were incredibly joyous. Emma moved from the arms of her exhausted but overwhelmingly relieved parents to those of her ridiculously proud grandparents. I remember thinking that I had never in my life been present for such an amazing event. I was so completely overwhelmed with the thought that my baby was now a mother.

IMG_1047

I am so grateful that when that phone call came at 2:00 in the morning on November, 21st, 2008, I acted decisively. I got to see my granddaughter’s birth. And I am so thankful for the relationship I have with my adult daughter – a relationship that made being by her side as she gave birth to our beautiful Emma so right and perfect. Though, in the picture below, Emma looks less than thrilled with the entire process.

IMG_1045

And today, that tiny baby is eight-years-old. Little did we know that being grandparents would turn our lives and our priorities so totally upside down. I regret nothing! Every moment spent with this special little girl who is Emma has been worth it.

00471HSAS146 Emma Keeley008