NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Halloween

Back in the day I used to dress up for Halloween.

Hobo Pam 1976

My mother tended towards homemade costumes and when my kids dressed for Halloween I did my best to carry on that tradition even though I was not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination.  My work featured fabric paint, face paint and spruced up Goodwill finds.

Cory's homemade Pikachu costume.
Love my stapled on painted cardboard tail? 
Katrina's cobbled together Madeline costume, no sewing!

I'm stocked up on candy, but probably won't see any of the kiddies all dressed up because even though I only work 2 days a week I always seem to work when they come knocking.  Wayne is off work tomorrow though and I know he enjoys it immensely.  Maybe he'll bring the kittens outside on their leashes to entertain the trick or treaters.

Spotted while walking in McHenry, Illinois

Perhaps instead of making people costumes I should put my thinking cap on and come up with costumes for the cats we adopted this year?  It's a thing, google it if you want a good laugh.

Richmond, Illinois

A tradition I have not carried on is decorating my home for the holidays very much.  I have a dislike for creating extra work for myself though I enjoy the creativity and effort that others put into it.  Newfoundlanders especially seem to get into decorating for All Hallows Eve I noticed while we were visiting last week.

Halloween greetings from Blaketown, Newfoundland

That being said I am considering undertaking a yard decorating project featuring Pokemon this year for Christmas.  But let's get through this holiday first and see what happens.  Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Argentia - The Americans Arrive and How Do I Get There?

Remember my post a few weeks back about Argentia?  Now that we've talked about Argentia before the Americans arrived, let's discover what happened after they took up residence.

From Wikipedia  Argentia with ships and aircraft, 1942

Although base construction began at Argentia in December 1940, work did not truly get underway until one month later when 1,500 American construction and engineering personnel arrived aboard the SS Richard Peck. The steamship remained docked in Argentia’s harbour for two years, where it served as living quarters for American workers.

Furlongs Pond

Alongside the Americans, thousands of Newfoundlanders also found work at the construction site. About 4,000 local workers were employed on the base at any one time and, by the end of the war, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Newfoundlanders had worked on the base.

hidden guns looking out over the harbor 

With its naval base and air station on the north coast of Argentia Harbour and the army base to the south, the massive installation cost more than any other American military base built overseas during World War II.  Commissioned in 1941, the naval base and air station were fully operational when the United States officially joined the war in December of that year.

By 1943, more than 12,000 American military personnel were stationed at the Argentia base, which extended over 3,392 acres.

Near the end of the war, German prisoners – typically survivors of bombed U-boats – were often interned at Argentia, with the first ones arriving in November 1944. Alongside these prisoners, two captured German destroyers and two captured U-boats also arrived in Argentia for servicing while en route to the United States. It was a dramatic turn of events for a harbour that just five years earlier was largely frequented by local fishing boats.

After World War II the Argentia Naval Air Station began a new age of warfare. Although initially the base began to slow down in activity, as tensions increased between the USSR and the US, many new changes and expansions began occurring at the base.

Once again Argentia's strategic location in the North Atlantic proved useful this time patrolling and surveilling the north Atlantic. Soviet nuclear submarines were the largest threat to the United States and because of this many advance radar and surveillance systems were built at Argentia.

Me and my mom at Argentia Naval base, 1968

My father worked in the garage when he was stationed there in the late 60's and like many young men stationed far from home he met a pretty girl and started a family.  I often wonder how many other babies were born at Argentia Hospital to one American parent and one Canadian parent?  I am in the unique situation of  having a U.S. Department of State birth certificate and also a birth certificate from Newfoundland which gives me the right to choose to reside in Canada as a citizen if I ever decided to do so.

Traces of the American occupation remain

Many Newfoundlanders worked at the base over the following decades, even Wayne had a job on the base as a young man working in the BOQ.  Military activity in the area gradually decreased over the decades until 1994, when the last remaining American forces withdrew from the area and handed over its facilities to the province.

Argentia is now home to Marine Atlantic ferry service 

Today Marine Atlantic ferry service operates the Argentia - North Sydney (Nova Scotia) ferry route annually from mid-June to late September, with the MV Atlantic Vision making the one-way journey across the gulf in approximately 14-16 hours.  Last year I promised financial information on our trip from Wisconsin to Newfoundland towing our fifth wheel and it may have taken me a year to deliver but here they are! 

When viewing their current rates online don't forget to figure in the exchange rate which is in our favor again.  Vehicles are charged by the foot with anything under 20 feet currently being $232 CAD.  The route to Port Aux Basques route takes 5-7 hours and costs less money and is the route most tourists choose, but don't forget the capital of St. John's and many other sights are on the east coast of the island.  We chose to arrive in Argentia (sleeping the whole way on our night sailing) and depart from Port Aux Basques after driving across the island and would definitely recommend it.  All rates are one way.

Ferry to Argentia for 2 passengers and vehicle 50-60 feet = $713.33 USD 
Ferry from Port Aux Basques back to Nova Scotia = $487.39

Overlooking Argentia harbor now
For our month long trip across two countries we also spent about $1700.00 in diesel fuel and averaged $28 a night in campground fees.  We ate out a lot more than usual and spent almost $900 in that category alone!  Cory needed a one way ticket back to Wisconsin and I chose to travel to St. John's one way by plane as well to cut down my time on the road.  Our total costs not including groceries and trinkets was just under $6000.00.  GULP!  Of course the cost is so high because we not only had to get there we had to get back to the same origination point. We put on almost 4,000 miles on the mainland alone, with an additional 900 miles on the island of Newfoundland.  Those who are full timers will obviously not have to go so far and back again which makes a huge difference.

To compare Cory and I just returned from our week long trip.  Our two airline tickets + baggage fees totaled $1002 and we paid $420 CAD/$314 USD for a rental car plus about $100 (current cost is $1.33 CAD per liter) for fuel.  Lodging in our case was free since we stayed with family.

One more post about Argentia to come later on, but I have other things to show you first so stick around!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lisa's Murried!

That is not a misspelling in the tile, or at least that is the way Lisa spells it! Lisa is sister to "young" Tommy who just was visiting us down in the good old USA, and in 1998 Lisa visited us as well.

She came a stayed the summer, helping me out with the kids so I could go to work.  We took her all around while she was visiting, our most memorable outing was at a Wild West park in Illinois where I paid to have her arrested.  Was she some mad at me!  She refused to pay the fine of singing "I'm a little teapot" and busted out of jail.

Lisa with Katrina and Cory, 1998

Cory and Katrina adored her, and still do!

Cory and Lisa, 1998

So 18 years later here we are in Newfoundland to see her get married to her long time sweetheart.

Wayne's brother top left, one of his sisters on the bottom right

Friday evening the guests were gathered and the flower girl and ring bearer were waiting.

Everyone was waiting for the bride, of course, and just like at my wedding almost 27 years ago they were waiting because the bridesmaids were having to do some last minute alterations of the bride's dress.  Perhaps that happens at every wedding!

A grand time was had by all, here's my video tribute to the happy couple. I'm so glad we came!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mug Ups and Music

Eating in Newfoundland can be an adventure, and to visitors a crash course in the lingo might be in order.  A touton is bread dough fried in salt pork fat or butter and served with molasses, for instance.  Scrunchions are misspelled on the sign below, but are fried pieces of salt pork fat cooked to a crisp often with onions.  I shudder when I look at them, but Wayne will unfortunately eat them.

I wasn't able to find pease pudding when Cory and I asked around for a restaurant to eat dinner at, but I did find pea soup at O'Reilly's Pub.  Newfoundland pea soup is made from yellow split peas with bits of ham, turnip (rutabaga) potato and carrot thrown in and lots of pepper usually.  Besides chunky turnip soup and moose stew this is one of my favorite dishes to indulge in when I get the opportunity.

Cory had the poutine and I don't know what they do differently with their french fries not to mention their gravy in Newfoundland but it has a flavor all its own that is unmatched.  I snuck a few off his plate and tried not to think about what that meant for the high cholesterol of mine that I doubt will be tamed on this trip.

A "scoff" or a "big feed" is when the food is plenty and everyone tucks in.  While not a traditional scoff, my cousin Cheri and I cleaned our plates when we met for breakfast at Cora's in St. John's.  Remember those pictures I posted of the two of us coddin' around on Castle Hill?  I still see those girls in us, do you?

The only food I've had that disappointed was the chocolate at the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.  I cringe as I write that, it feels like blasphemy.  But I am here to tell the truth and the truth is it is not spectacular in any way, kind of bland and a little waxy as a matter of fact.  If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth head down Water Street a bit farther to Rocket Bakery.  Great spot for a "mug up" which is a snack with a cup of tea.  They also serve sandwiches, soup and quiche so stop on in for lunch if a mug up isn't enough.

I had a piece of cake and the ginger cookie.  Worth every butter and sugar laden bite.

That's enough about food for now, let's talk about music, which was well represented in a sculpture and a mural downtown.

And just around the corner musicians could be found with their cases open, and this was late afternoon on a weekday!  I preferred the accordion and showed my appreciation with a "Loony" which is the Canadian one dollar coin.

Accordion music always reminds me of my grandad, those were always happy times when he played in the living room and everyone was gathered together visiting.  As far as I know none of the Griffins have anyone in the family who does that anymore, but my sister-in-law Therese used to play I'll have to see if she still does!  She's the mother of the bride of the wedding we are attending tomorrow so who knows maybe I'll get to hear some more of that sweet accordion music tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nothing in there, just Nature

I was up early this morning to drive out to Butter Pot Provincial Park which is less than a half an hour drive from St. John's.  We always speed right by on our way out to see the relatives, but without Wayne along on this trip I finally had time to stop.  This is what I found.

Apparently all is closed up by October.  A gentleman happened to be parked outside the gate when I arrived and when I asked about going in he told me "Nothing in there, just nature."  I don't know who was more perplexed, me or him!

Just a five minute walk from the blocked entry I found access to ski trails, making me glad I had given road walking a try.

"Bridge" was sturdier than it looked!

I found a few tiny late blueberries still on the bushes, and some mushy crackerberries (bunchberries) too.  But mostly I just enjoyed the rich profusion of reindeer lichen on the forest floor.

No snow here yet, but it wasn't much above freezing this morning!

Since no other cars were parked out on the roadside I assume I was alone except for the moose whose hoofprints were plentiful on the trail.

Pitcher Plant past its bloom time

I walked about 2 miles total, through the blueberry bushes, up over the root tangles, and around the edges of ponds.

In addition to lichen, the boreal forest is a great place to find fungi.  Most were looking pretty beat up, but a few were still looking perky.

fungi village going down into the ditch 

Even old Pearly Everlasting doesn't look too bad against a splash of red.

Creek beds are seldom dry in Newfoundland, and I got a wet knee when I knelt in the moss and forgot it would be like a wet sponge!

Yes, nothing in there, just nature.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rode Microphone Review - A Real Winner!

It's not very often that I am blown away...well, sometimes in the Midwest wind is a factor, I must admit.

Choppy water on Lake Michigan at Harrington Beach State Park

A few weeks ago I bought a Rode VideoMic Go attachment for my Canon DSLR but haven't had an opportunity to test it out.  I'm heading to windy Newfoundland and had to test it out before I go so I drove up to Harrington Beach State Park for a last minute tent trip this past weekend.

All of the reviews I read or watched online were about its use for making videos with people in them, but I was looking for a solution to all that wind noise when out on my adventures.  Take a listen to this video I made at the beach, I about fell off my seat at Starbucks when I compared the two sections!

It attaches easily on the top of the camera and weighs nothing, I never noticed it was there after attaching it and I walked around with it around my neck for another hour after the test shot.

Cory and I touched down in St. John's, Newfoundland tonight, so lots of posts to come from the island.  I'm going to settle in and try to catch up on two months worth of blog reading this week too during my down time, some blogs I am even farther behind so my apologies but I swear I haven't forgotten you all!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Newfie on the Loose in Kenosha

My nephew Tom came and stayed with us in 1996 for 7 months when he was 18 years old.  He helped out with the kids, turned me on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even took one of our dogs home with him when he went back to Newfoundland.

He was skilled at avoiding the camera so this is the only photo I have of him from that time that shows his face.  We were at the kids' school Christmas program, if you couldn't figure that out by my groovy holiday sweater.  Funny that those are back in, but now they are worn "ironically".

Twenty years later Tom finally made it back for a visit again, and the past two weeks he's been hanging out with us just like the old days.  Not only part of the family routine, but he's even spending time watching the game in the neighbors garage and wooing the local ladies.  

Tom on the steps, Cory and his visiting friend behind him

I dragged him out to Kenosha which is where we were living when he stayed with us all those years ago, driving by the old house and exploring a few local spots nearby like the Dinosaur Museum.

The Dinosaur Discovery Museum isn't much, but it's a free museum with donations accepted which I was happy to do. The building was actually the old U.S. Post Office and was moved to the spot from a different location when the new one was built and the road widened.  Photos and a description of the move were just as interesting to me as the dinosaurs.

Where did the dinosaur fossils come from that were used to make the replicas?  Not Wisconsin, there have been no dinosaur discoveries here.  Wisconsin used to be mostly underwater, and erosion washed away most sediment that might have contained fossils.  By the time of the glaciers fossils reappear, including giant beavers, woolly mammoth, walruses, and whales! Unfortunately none of those were on display, perhaps I should make a request.

 The lower level houses the Carthage College Institute of Paleontology's research lab and information about their recent dig trips.  It also had a Pokemon Go charging station which was interesting to Cory and his friend.

After the museum we wandered around downtown by Lake Michigan, an area which is seeing new growth with the museums, restaurants and boutiques moving back in.  We had lunch at Mike's Chicken and Donuts and as we exited I spotted a mural I didn't know was there.

Mike Bjorn's Clothing features fine menswear from "mild to wild" but the best aspect of the store was the imaginative displays.

I don't know if they skeletons are on display all year or only added for the month of October, but they were spooktacular.

I don't know what was my favorite, the flying PeeWee Herman or the pimped out skeleton in the display window that got us in through the door in the first place.

We also dropped in to my cousin's new business venture just down the block called In the Garden of Eden, a tasteful lingerie shop that I hope does well for her.  Tomorrow Cory and I board a plane bound for Newfoundland with Tom to go to his sister's wedding this weekend. Hopefully I won't freeze to death when I try to go hiking!

Linking up to Monday Mural.