Monday, August 11, 2008


Miranda and Ralph at Elora Quarry Note: Hover your mouse over the photos for descriptive text. Click on photos to enlarge the image.

Our daughter Miranda and her husband Ralph visited from Australia from June 25 to July 25, 2008. Although our agenda was overflowing, we managed to fit in some quiet times while constantly consulting to keep everyone in sync. It was so wonderful to have the family together again after a year and a half and savour each other in the good old summertime. The month passed far too quickly and though words can not express the joys and sorrows, I will attempt to summarize some of the happenings.

Miranda Becomes an Aunt For the First Time
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Ralph Experiences a Fresh Water Cottage For The First Time
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Ya Ya Sisters Make 200 km Bike Trip From Toronto to Sandbanks Provincial Park
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Cool Condo at the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival - Ralph Takes to the Stage
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Wild Summer Party at Phelanland
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Other Happenings - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
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Miranda Becomes An Aunt For the First Time

Miranda holds Dayyán for the first time

Nervous new parents Aaron and Nagmeh end of week one

Meeting Dayyán for the first time, when he was just a week old was quite a thrill. Miranda and Ralph went straight from the plane to greet him and manged some cuddles during those first jet lag days. He was worth flying half way around the world to see!!!

Ralph with Amber's cat Joey

Oh bliss...... sleep well sweet prince

Musical Interlude by Connie Talbot singing It's A Wonderful World

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Ralph Experiences a Fresh Water Cottage For The First Time

Island view from the front deckThe five of us set out into the unknown with a canoe, two vans and lots of games, to spend the first week of July at a cottage on Berford Lake, just north of Wiarton, 10 minutes from the Bruce Peninsula Trails, 20 minutes from Sauble Beach and an hour and a half from Tobermoray. The Lake was shallow but rocky, pretty and weed free.

Enjoying supper by the lake

Miranda, Ralph, Amber, Arthur, Nanci in cottage

Dubbed "rustic dream" the cottage turned out pretty much as advertised. There were lots of windows, mould and bugs. The decor featured a coffee table made from an old Bob sled with a steering wheel from a Model T Ford. Our friend Gail Kelly joined us for a few days and spoiled us with her delicious treats. The weather was cold and rainy most of the week but a pleasant time was had by all.

Some highlights from the week were:

  • getting lost in the mosquitoe and poison ivy infested woods
  • pulverizing an ancient croquet set from the cottage
  • Miranda, Amber and Ralph in a canoe taking on water
  • Amber and Miranda paddling all around the lake and having a picnic lunch

Canoe is ready to go

Miranda and Amber are ready to go

  • watching swooping birds, dragon flies and hearing the magical sound of loons on the lake
  • learning two new games: sequence and pass the bomb
  • getting Ralph to play games inspite of himself and getting blitzed by Amber in Dutch Blitz
  • a trip to Tobermoray where we took a boat cruise in the Marine park and saw two shipwrecks under the glass bottomed boat and beautiful Flower Pot Island

  • Lighthouse in Tobermoray Harbour

    Arthur and Gail after cruise tour of marine park to see the shipwrecks

  • a vigorous swim in big waves at Sauble Beach; Ralph found it quite different from the ocean
  • finally seeing Wiarton Willy in his special house in the middle of town
    • Sauble Beach after a good swim and french fries

      Wiarton Willy is no longer an albino groundhog

    • celebrating Canada Day at a fireworks display - NOT
    • watching old videos on a bug infested TV screen; killing them three at a time
    • seeing Indian and Inglis Falls and the Tom Thompson Art Gallery in Owen Sound
    • Our own Canada Day sparkler

      Nanci and Ralph at Inglis Falls in Owen Sound

    • wonderful look outs over Georgian Bay, caves and lots of poison Ivy in the Bruce Trails
    • visiting Shirley and John Reaburn in their lovely new home on Georgian Bay

    • Cave Woman

      Shirley and John Reaburn in their lovely home on Georgian Bay just north of Owen Sound

    • eating lovely meals outside, junk food, ketchup, Timmy's "Iced Cappuccino" and too many delicious home cut French Fries
    • Arthur waxing poetic on the "Niagara Escarpment
    • Dad always tells the kids about the Niagara Escarpment. It has become a family trip joke.

      The Owen Sound Fry Wagon .... delicious

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      Ya Ya Sisters Make 200 km Bike Trip From Toronto to Sandbanks Provincial Park

      Our girls are buff!!! For months they had been planning to "get away" together and hone their bicycling skills. It was quite a challenge to pack their bikes up without adding too much weight. Miranda rented a bike and they left from Amber's apartment in Toronto on Monday and cycled eastwards along the Trans Canada and the Waterfront Trail.

      Happy Cyclers

      They had several adventures and misadventures along the way, including a broken spoke and two flat tires; one conveniently in front of a Dairy Queen and the other in the middle of nowhere. People were very friendly and helpful. They camped out at Darlington Provincial Park the first night and Presqu'ile Provincial Park the second night. They then stayed at a campgrounds at Sandbanks for the next two nights.

      Getting the bikes readyBikes are loaded up and ready to head out
      Camping at its bestThey're everywhere!!

      At the ages of 26 and 29 they found the pup tent tiny and the ground rather hard!!! I'm told that Amber was the chief cook and organizer and Miranda the dishwasher. The laughter and bonding was a supernovae!!!! They were pretty happy to see us and have real seats, when we picked them up Friday on our way back from Montreal. Ralph got to experience a second lovely freshwater lake, as we stayed long enough for a swim. When we lived in Tweed where we raised the kids, we had many lovely outings to Sandbanks, so for Miranda and Amber, this was a real trip down memory lane.

      We made it to Sandbanks!!!

      Our wee tentA sandcastle like Aaron used to build
      Beach Beauties!!Ralph and Caitlin arrive

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      Cool Condo at the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival - Ralph Takes to the Stage

      On the way to Montreal we stayed overnight with our good friends Elske and Deryk Harris in Brockville. They were wonderful hosts in their lovely heritage home and we even got to play a game of bridge. While in Montreal, we met up with some friends of Ralphs, Craig and Genevieve, who had moved back to the area from Australia several years ago. He was thrilled to see their three lovely children for the first time.

        A BBQ with Elske and Deryk in Brockville

        Bahai' friends Craig and Genievieve and their 3 children

        Oooh la la it's Montreal!!!!

        Since Miranda was off on a cycling trip with her sister, Ralph planned a trip to Montreal to see the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. Arthur and I decided to go along and we took our 16 year old neice, Caitlin, who had never been to Montreal.

        The festival was a unique experience, a one of a kind adventure for a comedy novice such as myself. Aside from the hassles of french logistical disorganization, the events were fun and belly jingling. There is an excellent review of the festival online but off line, there was a highlight of our own. At the Aussie comedy show Ralph's presence soon became known and he was invited up on stage. Being the shy fellow that he is(n't) he was persuaded to display his bare crack for which he was given a beer as all good stagies must have a beer!!!

        Since we attended four different shows: The Ethnic Heroes of Comedy, Late Night Down Under, South Park Live with creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and New Faces of Comedy, we enjoyed a good variety of humour. Some of the shows were in night clubs and some in theatres and all were lined up and sold out. It gave me a good appreciation of how difficult stand up comedy is to perform and yeah, I had a refresher course on swear words and off colour jokes!!! Sometimes we felt like we should be covering Caitlin's ears.

        We have ARRIVED!!!Miranda eat your heart out.... we got to see South Park and you didn't!!!
        City of sin and seductionSometimes we felt like covering Caitlin's ears

        Montreal however was not all comedy. Between shows we were able to take in several other sights and soak up the ambiance of this exciting city. We dragged Caitlin off to see St Joseph's Oratory. She's not used to touring churches. For those of you who have never been to Montreal, this amazing sanctuary is a must see. Everything is gigantic at this church built way up on the mountain on the site where the sainted Brother Andre lived a humble life of devotion and healing. His wee original chapel is full of crutches left behind by those he had healed. The view is spectactualar and the double domes, incredible stained glass and amazing carvings, iron work and scultped way of the cross touch what is deepest in our core of being.

        Of course Montreal has many other lovely churches. We also visited the famous Notre Dame Basicia and it is a breathtaking cathedral with all the pomp and splendour it its day. Caitlin laid low for this event but enjoyed shopping in the old city. This link will show you the layout of the down town area and has 150 photos to enjoy.

          charming horse tours of the old city

          A new version of he's got wheels

          For Arthur, the highlight of this trip was an afternoon at the Montreal Royal Botanical Gardens, with special emphasis on the Bonsai exhibits. We saw all three Bonsai exhibits, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden and the newly formed Tree House Garden of naturally collected native Bonsai. This map will show you the extent of these remarkable gardens where one could easily spend the entire day.

          The Chinese PavillionToo many lovely trees to choose from
          Native bonsai from the Tree PavillionThe water falls in this gorgeous Japanese gardens was built from green serpentine rock and coy fish swam in the waters.... very serene and lovely

          Caitlin and Ralph adventured on their own at the gardens and their favourite part was the butterfly insect exhibit.

          And now for the COOL CONDO!!!

            An open concept modern kitchen to die for

            Caitlin made this mask at school in drama class

            I managed to book the most amazing condo pad to stay in while we were in Montreal - just stumbled into it online and it was even better than we expected. Photos can not do justice to the funkiness of this apartment. The condo was 2500 square feet and located in an old skate factory, not far from the old city, in sight of La Rond. The condo had a grand piano, a swing, a hammock, glass blocks and table, huge plants and everywhere you looked was colour and interesting artifacts. Too many photos to insert here, so check the collection at Flickr.

            Art in the master bedroomArt and jet tub in funky bathroom
            Lady on a swingLacy in a hammock

            We created many wonderful memories on our outing to Montreal. The Comedy festival is well worth the trip and Montreal is a place you can visit time and time again.

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            Wild Summer Party at Phelanland

            Nirvana for Great Grandpa Ernie
            On our way back from Montreal we had a dip at Sandbanks where we picked up Miranda and Amber and their bicylces. We then headed on to Toronto where we left Caitlin and picked up Grandpa Ernie. We arrived home late Friday evening and my brother Kevin, his daughter Jillian and her boyfriend Mike arrived at 1:00 am from Boston. On Saturday my niece Karina arrived from Edmonton. Somehow in the midst of unpacking, new company arriving, and being away for a week, I managed to keep everyone fed and occupied as well as prepare for a big party we had planned on Sunday to meet and celebrate the birth of our new grandson, as well as enable family and friends to greet Miranda and Ralph before they had to return to Australia.

            Mike was the epitomy of a first time guest helping outOur niece Karina from Edmonton
            My baby brother Kevin at the St Jacob's MarketYour happy hostess

            One of the fun things we did was take our company to the famous Mennonite Market in St Jacobs Saturday morning as we picked up food for the party. My brother Kevin made this fabulous moving panorama of the outside venue.

            Although the weather did not co-operate .... this is the second 40 plus people event I've had this summer, that had to be hosted inside the house ..... it turned out to be a wonderful party. Thanks to everyone who brought food, gifts and suppplies as well as those who helped cook, clean, and keep things friendly and flowing.

            Corrie, Annette, Joe, Nagmeh,Aaron, Steven, MarionCousin Julie and Kevin Cullen with her boys, Keegan and Tanner
            Cousin Steven and Caroline visit with JulieOld friends Joanne and Marie on the left, new friends Judi and Harry on the right, fat ass in the middle

            We were very moved that many people drove quite a distance to be with us.... not to mention a surprise visit from my old Tweed friend Annette Olive and her husband Joe, who just happened to "drop in" from Medicine Hat, Alberta. I was also thrilled that a few of our new friends and neighbours also came to the party.

            Annette was our Tweed neighbour. Our kids went to nursery school together Mary and Phil Hoekstra, old friends from Tweed who have now moved to Paris; Steven and Pollard family in background
            Katrina, Scott and Jillian lead the kids in a rousing game of Dutch BlitzOld friends Marie and Fred Northey from Tweed; Ralph chats with Joanne to the right

            Everyone seemed to mix well and talk freely. We were delighted that our "newly found" niece Kersti was able to attend with her fiance and new baby boy, Nicholas, who was born just a week after Dayyán. Great Grandpa Ernie was in his glory with two babies to pass around!!! We were very happy to be able to take a four generation picture of the Phelan men. Miranda and Ralph were very happy to see so many people as it was very hard to get around to everyone during their busy month in Canada.

            Richard entertains Aiden or vice versaMiranda, Ralph and Nagmeh
            Cousin Steven and our wonderful neighbours, Walter and JoyceNanci, Karina, Kersti

            A big thankyou also to those who brought baby gifts. Aaron and Nagmeh were thrilled to see everyone and to receive so many unexpected surprises. You will notice a special gift of love in the photo below, an "I Spy" quilt made by my sister in law, Debbie Phelan. Part of that quilt story is Debbie's desire to carry on Bertha's family tradition of passing on home made quilts to mark signifcant occasions. This is a tradition that my mother also carried on and soon Aaron and Nagmeh will get to choose one of the baby quilts mom left in the cedar chest for her unborn great grandchildren.

            Debbie, JP and KevinAlex and Debbie with the I Spy Quilt she made for Dayyán
            Amber presents Grandpa Ernie with the cabinet she made for him at her woodworking course last year.... he was quite tickledRalph chats with Joanne

            Enjoy the following photos of people holding Dayyán.

            Great Grandpa Ernie's first glimpse of Dayyán. Inez enjoys the moment too.Grandpa holds Dayyán for the first time
            Great Aunt Melvina holds DayyánFour Generations of Phelan Males.... Oh my God!!!

            Daddy knows bestCaroline enjoyiing Steven holding Dayyán
            Aunt Miranda gets in on the actMelvina, Jillian and Karina making baby eyes

            Welcome to our guest baby, Nicholas as well.

            Two beaming moms, two lovely baby boys: Kersti and Nicholas, Nagmeh and DayyánBrandon becomes a Daddy for the first time
            Auntie Karina holding NicholasAmber holding Nicholas

            My only regret for the day is that I was not able to get around and visit everyone as I would have liked.... but that is the nature of being the hostess. With our family now so diminished, after our year of three family deaths, connecting with each other is even more meaningful. Today as I prepare for the anniversary of my mom's death next week, I feel grateful the years she was with us, for the wonderful hospitality she offered to everyone at our home on Pigeon Lake, and the values of nurturing and love for family and friends that I am heir to.

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