Like nothing I’ve seen before

We are now in Skagway Alaska. This is the end of our northern Alaska/Yukon road trip. The next phase involves a two and imagea half day boat trip through the Alaskan Inner Passage to Prince Rupert BC and then across to Haida Gwaii. Our ferry sails early Thursday morning.

Our camp site is right down town beside the ferry docks, within walking distance to the many shops, bars and restaurants but also beside a park and surrounded by mountains. The best of all worlds .

I was sorry to leave Whitehorse. It is quite a special place.  It was current and fresh.  I liked being served by young 20 something waiters and waitresses all wearing funky clothes, tights and leather boots. l loved Whitehorse’s spring flowers blooming roadside and stunning snow streaked glaciers.  It had a wonderful Yukon River boardwalk and great museums.  Never the less, Skagway looks even better.

Today driving down the Klondike Highway I saw landscape like nothing I had ever seen before. It is very stark, rugged and barren. As far as the eye can see are huge boulders and rocks. We drove past countless gorges and waterfalls, panoramas of glaciers, trestle bridges and emerald lakes. I think the four bears we drove past were Kodiak grizzly. Up in the mountains the temperature dropped, the winds were howling and the sky over casted.  Just when you couldn’t imagine worst conditions we would drive pass a crazy lone cyclist peddling up  an impossibly steep mountain.

All day long I was thinking of the early prospectors.  I could not imagine the desolation and desperation they faced as they headed up the steep muddy and highly dangerous incline of White Pass and faced the 33 mile Chilkoot Trail.  There is a famous photograph taken of those many men and pack horses struggle in a single file with deep snow all around.  There is nothing by today’s standards to compare that determination and courage.

Tomorrow we are going shopping in downtown Skagway. It looks fantastic. The store fronts have all been reproduced into a  Disney land pretty world of what it might have looked in the 1890’s but now filled with Pandora charms, Thai restaurants, Oakley sunglasses and North Face apparel.

Stay tuned. This is my adventure

PS – this post has been entirely composed using my iphone.

Posted in Things my mother taught me | 2 Comments


Mosquitos  0.  

Black Flies.   0. (Can you believe our luck) 

One bottle of Chardonnay ( it is Saturday night) 

Wildlife sightings today – one poor dead moose and a huge black bear

The weather is partially cloudy, some showers and colder in the mountains ( estimated around 15 )

Yea, Whitehorse. How about that?  Mile number 1,413 on the Alaska Highway
Today was a beautiful drive through the snow capped mountains, past glacier fed turquoise lakes with several more bear sighting.   They are as common as black squirrels up here and frankly they are freak’n me out when I try to walk Libby at P-breaks along the highway. 

We saw endless vistas of wetlands and meadows with blue mountains far in the distance.   It is one vast country we live in.  The Yukon is largely unpopulated with little traffic.  Tiny towns are hours apart with nothing in them worth stoping for.  It will be interesting to see the population and retail changes between the Yukon and Alaska. 

We are in a great camp site just on the edge of Whitehorse. It was highly rated by RV reviews and I get why.  I think they have brought in landscaping professions to plant beautiful blue flowering Lupins and Prickly Rose shrubs between the rock boulders  that separate each camp site.  I’m going to bring out my good camera tomorrow and take more pictures of all of these wild flowers. 

Tomorrow we are running out to Haines Junction ( just a day trip) and back here again. 

Based on friendly hook-up discussion with our fellow RV campers – all seem to be retirees, most are Americans headed towards Alaska and all of them have very expensive super stretch rigs. 

We paid for our internet tonight. $7.95 a day.  What a treat to have the connection. 


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Mile # 422

We snagged a great camp site today. We are on the banks of Toad River,  Northern  BC, just south of the Yukon. 

Here is a summary of the last 24 hours:

Mosquitos      0

Black flies (orbiting but not biting)  30

Sightings: 1 brown bear, 1 moose (cow) or maybe it was an elk  and  7  Mountain goats (including 2 very cute babies)

Smirnoff Ice  3

The drive up to Fort Nelson was uneventful. It really is a working man’s world. We were passed on the highway by countless tracker trailer trucks, tankers, and huge lumber carriers .  Everyone’s business seemed related to oil, gas or lumber.  There were no cute coffee shops or Tim Hortons.  There was no where you would want to stop for a hundred plus miles. No homes. Few farms.  Just a continuous ribbon of highway through the bush. If I’m frank, I found the scenery and native residents  sad and depressing.

North of Fort Nelson we entered the Rockies and the driving at times was stomach in my throat scary but beautiful.  Suddenly the road is clear of transport trucks. We share the near empty highway with other campers.  I guess supplies to these parts are not shipped via the highway.  They probably come by ship into Skagway. 

   Just down the road we passed the summit on the Alaska Highway, an elevation of 4,250 feet

The scenery at Toad River is exactly what I was expecting. We have lots of space, a lovely river side camp site surrounded by majestic mountains.  The lawn chairs are out and I have an icy Smirnoff in my hand.   Awww we have arrived 

Stay tuned for more musings on the road 

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Out running the mosquitoes 

This morning I’m updating Westlakemusings using my iphone.  Forgive me a thousands sins.  I never would have imagined writing a whole blog on my little phone but what are my options?  Wait until I’m home in August? 

 I’m currently camping just outside Dawson Creek and tomorrow we start our quest north up the Alaska Highway. It is a rarity to even have the internet.  My life this summer is all about living in the moment.  I’m just going to write and post whenever I have the opportunity.

The trip so far has been smooth and according to plan. I locked my front door on May 19th and began this adventure.  First driving my car west to Edmonton. There I joined up with Warren and our RV. 

For six weeks before this vacation I ran around working like crazy trying to get my house ready for the renters.  All my solarium plants needed to go into the garden.  I edged, added mulch, washed windows,  shampooed carpets  and even painted outside trim.  It was a mad dash against time.  I left everything in perfect shape and to keep it that way I have hired  a team of friends, neighbors and a very nice house keeper/property manager to look after everything until I return.  

I was already exhausted before I left and after 4.5 long days spent in the car I was happy to have a whole week of down time visiting family in Edmonton before the trip continued.

It is now day three with Warren, Libby the dog and the RV. Since arriving in British Columbia we have spoken to a few fellow RV travelers coming up from south of and they all say the Mosquitos have been unbelievable.  Apparently we are outrunning them in our quest north 
I did have a scary encounter with tent catapillars   Yesterday morning just having returned from a long wet walk with Libby in some tall grass, I noticed, to my horror that I had tracked in 20 – 30 tent catapillars.  They were clinging to my pant legs.  GROSS 

I guess given the option I would choose catapillars over black flies, Mosquitos or bears any day 

For those wondering, Libby is coping but not enjoying herself.  I have been giving her daily herbal treats that promise to calm and reduce stress but I don’t believe they are doing anything.   My vet also sold me a pump which is called “Kalm Aid”.  Again it is meant to “to promote relaxation”.   All she wants to do is lie on my lap and pant.  Poor thing. 

Last night we stayed at a camp site called The Northern Lights RV Park.   It was located on the side of a north facing huge valley with vistas that went on for miles.  Sadly the sun doesn’t even set until after 1 pm and rises around 4 am. For those remaining three hours it only gets dusk. On top of those conditions we had a full moon last night.   Can you believe that I have never seen the Northern Lights?  Sadly I don’t think it will happen on this trip. 

Ok I just got a Low Battery message on this phone.  Stay tuned.  I hope to send regular musings from the road. 


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New green

A sure sign of spring is a solarium filled with little green sprouts.  The season is on.  These days I am busy patting down soil mixture, misting baby sprouts or transplanting to larger pots once the first leaves appear.


Starting a garden from seed is glorious work. Everything is so easy and comfortable.  Inside the solarium the  temperature is perfect. There are no cold winds.  Coats are not required.  There are no pesty bugs irritating me. Unlike typical gardening I don’t have to squat, lift or bend to pull weeds.  For the most part I am comfortably sitting at a table dropping tiny seeds into prepared holes or standing over my  plants  at waist level.


I’m fascinated by the germination process.   Some of my sprouts are growing so fast that they change hourly.  Nature is indeed a miracle.


In honour of their gift to me, I have written a short poem.


 New Green

 Willed by timeless forces

Hope nuzzles its way through the soil

And emerges bright green


Tiny and new, a living filament stretches up towards the light

Two cotyledons unfold

Claiming their space in the world


Posted in Life in the country | 2 Comments

Planning a Summer of Awesomeness

The summer of 2015 is going to be amazing.  Warren and I are so looking forward to hitting the road and heading west.  We will be away for at least ten weeks, visiting friends in Haidi Gwaii and family in Kamloops and Edmonton.  We have never explored the inner passage off the Alaska coast. It will be the trip of a life time.   But, in order to rent out our house successfully and take off on a three month road trip of awesomeness… a little pre-planning is necessary.  Lots of planning and countless mini projects are keeping us on track.

This is my To Do List:

Our house has been listed with a local vacation home rental company. I gave them lots of house photos and we are now posted on their web site. To date we have five weeks booked.  How cool is that?                                      List house….done √

Warren and I plan to be away on vacation while our house is rented. A responsible person is essential to manage the property (cut grass) and clean the house. We have interviewed and hired a wonderful student to be our property manager / housekeeper.                                                                                    done  √

The rental company gave us a long list of necessary household items. We had most everything on their list but we did invest in lovely new linens, fresh  pillows, duvets and covers and lots of towels.                                                               done  √

Warren built me a lovely spacious new linen closet. I have stained it and most of our new linens are on the shelves.  I still want to pretty it up with more baskets and labels.

I have really been enjoying creating a colourful and fun “Welcome to our House and Here is Everything You Might Want to Know” binder for our rental guests. I have never done scrap booking before.  Just shopping for the supplies and gathering brochures and local maps has been a blast.  My true calling was a tour guide.

Welcome book

I am also writing a property manager / housekeeper guide / procedure binder.  Mostly it is filled with reminders of hidden spots within the house that dirt might collect.   I keep waking up at night and worrying that our property manager / housekeeper will forget to check the oven tray or microwave for splatter.  What if our guests return a dirty dish to the cupboard?  Will she catch it?  Will she sweep under each and every bed every time?  Hiring and trusting one individual has been the scariest part of renting out our house.  It is so pivotal to our success.  Our housekeeper must really care about our guests expectations.  How do you instil this attitude and work ethic?


Where are we going to put this stuff?

Where are we going to put this stuff?


The finished linen closet with lots of shelving and rods to hang blankets

The finished linen closet with lots of shelving and rods to hang blankets










Also on my To Do list is pulling out some old paint cans and repainting a few little smudges

We are cleaning out drawers and closets and storing away all of our personal stuff. (definitely not all done yet)

This week I am planting my summer seeds in the solarium. Warren has just installed a new grow light.  It is a bit early but I want my plants to be well established and strong when I plant them in mid May.  I won’t be around to baby them.  Their roots will have to find their own water and nutrients. My 2015 garden will still be filled with lots of lovely herbs and heirloom tomatoes.  I love my beds to be filled with zinnias, and marigolds, bachelor buttons and cosmos.  I have also over wintered a lot of last year’s geraniums.

Warren will be leaving for out west one month before me.  We will meet up in Edmonton.  I’m basing my departure date on the risk that we won’t have any more frost. I will plant my garden and go………………

One of my greatest challenges is to get Libby (our dog) road trip worthy. I fear it is a loss cause.  She is a free spirit who loves to run at maximum speed….everywhere.   We installed an invisible fence when she was only a pup and she has grown up tearing around here with wild abandon.   I have been taking her into town to get her use to the leash and sidewalks. She hates the car. It makes her motion sick and when she sees another dog or person at the side of the road she barks.    (This mini project is definitely not complete)

Arranging for all of our bills to be paid on-line without any mailed invoices and arranging for any existing mail to be collected

Making a few “Private” signs for off limit areas and a house’s rental name sign for our mail box.

Tune up the lawn mowers / complete income taxes / plus a thousand other things

Then there is the planning for our awesome trip

I’m assuming we might be off the grid for many days in northern BC, and the Yukon so I want to do as much research now.  I can’t count on our lap-top and iphones to connect with the internet on the Alaska highway.   What is the address where we are staying?  What time does the inner passage ferry leave the dock?  Is this place dog friendly?  As co-pilot, I’m taking lots of notes now.

My life is filled with anticipation. These are good times.  I love to have goals and a full calendar.  All of my attention is  focused on summer planning.  With my long “To Do” list I am able to ignore the lingering two feet of snow outside my window.



Posted in Life in the country, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


……..and now for something a little different.  Thirty years too late, this is my attempt at the spoken word.  Queue the hip-hop beat, please ……………..


It was all about the hair……..all shiny and bouncy

Tack on the smile and I charmed my way in

That ………..and… I had a remarkably tiny waist


I was a darling with potential  /   credentials

All bought by mom and dad

Sashaying my way through life with an inherent sense of entitlement


Step aside    Confidence is everything

Right place at the right time


For many years I was firmly in the A pile

I played their game  – Always respectful –

But I grew neglectful, complacent,

No excuses.  It just happened

I slipped

Past the Bs

… .. just never stopped sliding


To the inevitable Cs

I’m heavily wedged here now –

Just ordinary in the dairy aisle, non-descript at best


Pride now is inessential

I’m  practically toothless

Tethered to my favourite comfy chair

High definition / social media are my drugs of choice.

Quiet now… I’m no one’s voice


My destiny was inevitable. But wait, my heart still beats

Like Ursula the sea witch I rise up and roar…  I’m not done yet.


Posted in Things my mother taught me | 3 Comments

Defining Moments

I want to share something with you. It is this thing I do in my mind, a kind of game.  I play it quite regularly when I need to quickly distract myself from something unpleasant – like a dental procedure.  During those moments when I really must focus on something else, I am able to pull out a nice collection of memories. I keep them sharp and readily available. Like playing cards they are very familiar, prioritized and a little worn.     I don’t know, maybe everyone does this?

This is how it works for me.  The process usually starts with a defining moment.  I will be thoroughly enjoying myself when someone asks: “Does it get any better than this?”    That triggers the start of my qualifying period.

For example, on a beautiful day last summer we had a delightful picnic with old friends. We were out on the patio at the Grange Winery.   A century old barn was behind us and a creek ran to the right. Out on the table we had a spread of food – (roast beef sandwiches as I recall).  That day the wine paired perfectly.  We were all laughing at something, when someone stated: “Isn’t this all wonderful”.

It was a defining moment.  … I detached myself from the conversation and started the mental evaluation process.

Weather perfect … check

Great company…. check  

Food, drink, lots of laughter, a treasured  moment.    Is it worthy enough to be included in my collection? …”Oh Yes”

At that point I try to build  details into my memory.   It is like scrap booking.  I flick a switch and start-up my brain’s recorder to catch snippets of the conversation.  What were we laughing at?   I consciously cut and paste in the audio sound track.  I note the angle of the sun and the colours around me. How do I feel?  Like a barometer I take a measure of my happiness.  Finally….. “ Click“    The mental memory is taken and filed away.  The design phase is complete.

I have at my disposal about eight lovely memories which have been previously sorted and prioritized. Some of my tried and true favourites include:

  • Swimming in the late afternoon surrounded by sparkling diamonds on the water
  • Flat on my back on the trampoline, giggling uncontrollably with my best friend (full disclosure – we were more than a little drunk)
  • A fall hike with Molly when she was being particularly frisky

What is my most treasured memory, you ask?   The top card in this deck was my first defining moment back in 1985.   That was the year that Dad died and I felt  Mom needed a goal; something to focus on.  I planned a once-in-a-life-time vacation. It was a hiking holiday in the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland.   We hiked high up in the mountain meadows surrounded by cerulean  skies, jaw dropping vistas and grazing goats.  Euphoric is an understatement.  We developed ravenous appetites.  Bring on the Swiss cheeses, chocolate, crusty breads and sweet wines.  It was all ambrosia to these weary hikers.

Defining moments1My defining moment from this holiday involved another picnic lunch beside another babbling brook.  We had walked all morning.  Our trail followed a fast-moving stream.  Out of nowhere we came across a wooden bench.  It was just too inviting.  We collapsed and brought out our packed lunches.  Mom’s hiking boots were off in a second and she wiggled her toes.  I dropped my  knapsack and relaxed my shoulders.  I recall angling my face towards the  sun’s rays.  Hummmmmm  Its warmth spread across my skin like a rich lotion for my soul.  My eyes were closed when I heard Mom say.  “Does it get any better than this?”






Posted in Family matters | 4 Comments

The Big Reveal

Ahh the new kitchen.  The last frontier.  The final phase of this house renovation.  It is almost done.  We are still waiting on two cupboard doors.   Want to see it?  I took pictures of everything.

We started this project back in September.  Step 1 – A temporary kitchen was assembled out in the  solarium.  I am so lucky to have that wonderful space,  so bright and spacious.

temporary kitchen

Warren moved in the microwave and frig.  The gas man hooked up the new stove and we used the scaffling to hold all of our food, plates and pots.  I had counters galore to work on.    The only draw back was the lack of water.  I used a garden hose to wash my dishes. As the project inched its way into late fall the garden hose routine became colder and colder.

window removedThe old window was removed and the kitchen gutted back to the rafters.

(a little side note:   Other wives might be a little nervous at this point in the project.  After all – your beautiful house is now destroyed and exposed to the world.  Not me.  After living through countless other renovations all beautifully completed by Warren, I know he has things well under control.  Warren really is very experienced, skilled and knowledgeable.  As a matter, indulge me a little bit so that I can rant about a pet peeve of mine….People are always saying to me “Oh you are so lucky to be married to a handy guy“.  This drives me crazy to hear that.  This guy is not just”handy”.  He is a professional and one of the best. ) rant over.

Oooo!   look…. lovely brick walls were discovered behind the old drywall.   Should we leave them exposed? kitchen brick wall

The new floor was laid and lots of pot lights installed.

kitchen reno with new pot lights

I love this floor. We first used these tiles back in 2013 when we renovated the bathroom.  We bought extra knowing we wanted to be consistent when laying the adjacent kitchen floor.  They’re porcelain – very durable and easy maintenance.   The colour is perfect for our life style.  We hate taking off our shoes when entering the house and the dog comes and goes with wet feet all day long.  This mixture of gray, sand and light green colour doesn’t show a thing.

One of the most difficult decisions I had to make was selecting my colours.  The floor, backsplash and countertops versa the cabinet doors and paint for the walls.   Wow  I found it really difficult to commit.   I did not want to go white.   Every magazine I looked at showed white kitchens.  Hmmmm   I’m just not a white kitchen gal. After much anguish I went with my gut.  We selected “oyster” coloured cabinets.

kitchen reno coloursThe day we picked out our counter top was fun.  We drove to Toronto and walked through a warehouse filled with amazing slabs of beautiful marbles and granites.  I wanted to own them all.   In the end we selected “Verde Butterfly” granite.   At a distance it looks black but it has lovely deep olive tones with lots of flecks and interesting sparkles.


This is an Ikea sink.

Actually getting it was a memorable story.  We loved the sink but they were out of stock everywhere in Canada.  Later that month while Warren was on his Bonneville salt flat vacation he was able to pick one up at the Ikea location  in  Salt Lake City, Utah.  Makes it kind of special, doesn’t it?


Our kitchen cabinets came from Ikea but the doors were custom made by a company in Mississauga called Doormaker.

BEFORE  – ugly painted green pine cupboard doors, smaller window, old appliances

old kitchen

AFTER –  Ta da!

IMG_0828All done.    Fini     Complete    I’m loving it.

Do you like ?



Posted in Renovations | 8 Comments

The new fireplace

The new fireplace project started when we decided to do something with our crumbling brick chimney.  Living in an 1852 brick house requires continuous upkeep.  The mortar cracks.  The old brick crumbles.  Of particular concern was outside chimney.  It required rebuilding with new “old” bricks.

We hired a stone mason to do this job.  While he was carefully dismantling the old chimney  outside fireplacewe thought it would be a good time to convert the old wood fireplace into gas and do something about the red brick interior wall.

Do you remember Murphy Brown?  It was a 1980s sitcom starring Candice Bergen.  In this show Murphy hires a guy to paint her living room.  This guy “Eldin” continues to paint and repaint every room in her house.  He is there for years and sort of becomes her family.


We hired our own “Eldin” this fall except he was a stone mason and his name was Lawrence.   He worked most days from August until December and circled the whole exterior of our house filling cracks.

BEFORE     This is a photo of the old red brick interior wall.  The wood burning gas insert has been removed in preparation for the new gas fireplace.

family room brick wall

We have never been too happy with the colour of the family room brick wall.  A warm brown might have been nicer.  This was an added feature wall built sometime in the 1960.  It was ugly and sucked all energy out of the room like a black hole.

Warren and I seriously considered applying new stone to the wall.  We lugged home lots of samples: lovely flagstone with warm caramel colours, but at the eleventh hour we decided to just paint the old brick.  It was a cheaper option that could be covered at a later time.

One of our challenges was deciding what to do with the holes where the hot air vents had been.  Our solution was to contact Wellington Pottery .  Their four clay square plates now cover the old vents.



fireplaceWhat do you think?  Better isn’t it.



Posted in Life in the country | 7 Comments