Chicago lake frontChicago is known as the Windy City, but during the week I visited, the place could have used a bit more wind.

I attended my nursing reunion here from September 21 to 27. We happened to show up during a heat wave with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit). On my last day, the temperature dropped 20 degrees Fahrenheit to a very pleasant 70.

Another nickname for Chicago is “Chi-Town” pronounced Shy Town. And still another nickname is “Second City”.  

I always thought that meant it was second to New York City, but apparently that is not so. Our tour guides told us that Second City refers to how the city was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871.

Legend says that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocked over a lantern which set fire to the barn, and from there, the fire spread. Some of our tour guides dismissed this legend, saying that back in the day there was a tendency to blame the Irish for anything that went wrong, and that more likely, the fire began as a lightning strike. At any rate, the fire spread and burned for three days. Rain finally put it out.

Following the fire, legislation decreed that buildings not be built of wood. The materials that could be used were brick, stone, marble and limestone. And thus began the era of the skyscrapers. the era of the skyscrapers

Our group stayed at the Embassy Suites near Navy Pier. Here is our crest on their Welcome Screen. HADSON crestThe hotel gave us a hospitality room. Here is the signage. Our school is called HADSON, and the hotel almost got it right, calling us HUDSON. Pretty close.

almost HADSON

almost HADSON 🙂

One of the nurses made a cap, which does resemble our original nursing cap. As far as I know, nurses don’t wear caps these days.

something like the HADSON nursing cap

something like the HADSON nursing cap

We did “hop on hop off” bus tours, and boat cruises of the harbor. We ate hotdogs and deep dish pizza. And at Maggiano’s, we had some of the best chocolate cake in the world. 

the best chocolate cake in the world!

Everyone loves a Chicago hot dog.

At Giordano’s, we tried the deep dish pizza. 

Absolutely delicious!

Absolutely delicious!

Suzanne and Tracy

Suzanne and Tracy

On Saturday, twenty-two HADSON nurses boarded the boat for the Chicago Harbor Cruise. As we floated along the Chicago River, we passed this building which curves with the river. In 1887, the flow of the Chicago River was reversed. Instead of flowing into Lake Michigan and discharging sewage into the great freshwater lake, the River took in fresh water from Lake Michigan and discharged its sewage into the Mississippi River watershed. Here are the locks that allow that to happen. 



Chicago – our view from the boat

It’s a windy day out on the lake.

Navy Pier

I like tall buildings. I have climbed the Calgary Tower twice (it’s only 802 stairs) and I have taken the elevator to the top of Toronto’s CN Tower. So I had to visit the two tallest buildings in Chicago. First the John Hancock Building. 

John Hancock Building

John Hancock Building

At one point, the John Hancock Building was the second tallest building in the world. Now it is the eighth-tallest in the USA.

Willis Tower

Willis Tower

This is Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, and formerly the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. I think it is now the second tallest in the Western Hemisphere. At any rate, I like being up high and here is the view. 

way up high!

the view

There was so much to see that I know I will have to make another trip to the Windy City. 

The Harold Washington Library

The Harold Washington Library

the L

the L

Sidewalk café’s

Sidewalk café’s


What locals still call Macy’s Department Store

The Bean

Cloud Gate, or, more fondly known as The Bean

And of course we reminisced, as we walked through Millennium Park, cruised the Magnificent Mile and ate Chicago’s version of poutine at the welcoming Timothy O’Toole’s Pub.

Thanks to all my classmates for a great visit. See you all in three years!

June update and some provincial flowers

The Tuesday Café is rather quiet these days. You may have noticed that I’ve only been posting monthly for the last little while.

That’s because I’m hard at work on the next book in my WEDDING series. This one should be available by October 1st. It is the prequel to ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING. I’m just wrapping up the final chapter and then I’ll let it simmer for a bit before sending it off to my editor. Next, the fun will begin with choosing a cover.

Besides writing, I’ve been doing some traveling. At the beginning of June, I spent a week in Regina and the Saskatchewan countryside.

Prairie for miles and miles

Nothing but prairie for miles and miles.

Here is the grain elevator in the little town of Limerick. The hotel in this town makes the best chicken wings in the world.

Saskatchewan’s provincial flower is the western red lily, also known as the wood lily or prairie lily.

provincial flower - western red lily

western red lily

Last week, I was in Ontario for the annual family reunion. We are fortunate to have a great photographer in the group who happens to have a “drone” and so we even got some aerial shots this year.

Everybody wave!

One of the farms I visited had peaches ripening in the beautiful Ontario sunshine.

peach tree

As usual, I visited Pinecroft for lunch with some of my cousins. And I bought an art card of trilliums, Ontario’s provincial flower. I’m holding the card here.  

at Pinecroft

I intend to frame it, maybe with a double mat, some white and a bit of green. Trilliums have three large white petals and they bloom in the springtime. Here’s a picture of trilliums up close. My sister has some in her backyard. I wish I could grow them in Alberta but we don’t have the climate for it.

provincial flower - trillium


Alberta’s provincial flower is the resilient Rosa acicularis, otherwise known as the prickly rose, the wild rose and the Arctic rose.

provincial flower - Alberta rose

Alberta Rose

This little flower starts blooming in late May and will often continue to bloom into August.

Do you know what your provincial (or state) flower is? Got any growing in your backyard? Do you have an annual family reunion?


Ontario trillium from bigstockphoto #164564648
Saskatchewan western red lily from bigstockphoto #164564648
Alberta rose from depositphotos #47112519_l-2015

The New Me

I finally got another profile picture. What do you think?

My last one was from 2011—taken by the University of Calgary people when I was enrolled in Spanish classes there. Now, five years and one grandson later, I am embracing my grey and silver and white and blonde hair. It’s like having natural highlights. Mother Nature has given me changing colour.

Besides the new ‘me’ you will notice a new layout for my website. I used to blog more often, and maybe I will again, but for the time being I am heavily involved with the Thurston Authors. I will tell you more about the project next week. Right now, I can let you know we are launching our first book on September 29th.  My book is the ninth in the series and it will be released on November 24th. Here’s the cover:

The Thurston Heirloom

My book is set in the month of September. That background image on the cover is of Larch Valley in Banff National Park, Canada. In autumn, the Larch turn golden and lose their needles.

Larch Valley

Yes, these trees that look like evergreens lose their needles.

There are several ways of classifying trees. One is by hardwood or softwood. Another is by the leaves and seed production—in other words, the tree is deciduous or coniferous. Deciduous comes from the Latin ‘to fall’ and means the trees lose their leaves in the autumn and are bare during the winter. Usually we think of maples and oaks when we think of deciduous trees. Deciduous trees change colour in the autumn, turning red or yellow or orange.

A coniferous tree bears seeds in cones.

An evergreen keeps its leaves (needles) year round, and as such, it is the complete opposite of a deciduous tree. Pine, fir and spruce are evergreens. They are also conifers.

But not all conifers are evergreens. Some of them, like the Larch, are deciduous conifers.  Mother Nature has created what looks like an evergreen and has let it change colour.

The Larch typically grow in the cool temperate zones and high in the mountains. Every year, a huge number of hikers head to Larch Valley to see the trees change colour.

Have you ever been to Larch Valley? Do you like watching the leaves change colour. Do you colour your hair?

Larch Valley image from # 127344314

Boom Lake

Boom Lake

Quadra Mountain and Bident Mountain at the end of the lake

Yesterday Rolf and I hiked the five kilometre (3.2 mile) trail to Boom Lake in Banff National Park. There’s an elevation gain of about 175 metres (575 feet) and it’s nice, gradual climb.

mushroomsWe’ve had a wet summer this year, so the trail was muddy in places, but nothing serious.

flowers along the wayThe rain has provided lots of moisture for the vegetation.

Boom MountainWe had lunch sitting beside the lake and looking up at Boom Mountain.

Suzanne and RolfHere are Suzanne and Rolf. They play minor characters in my next book THE THURSTON HEIRLOOM which will be released on November 24th.

clear cold waterBoom Lake has clear cold water and good fishing.

the "boom" for Boom Lake

“the boom”

Near its east end, the lake flows over an old moraine that barely touches the surface. The crescent-shaped moraine extends just beneath the water and catches the driftwood floating down the lake, thus creating what looks like a lumber boom. For this reason, the lake is called Boom Lake.

I love hiking, especially in the Rocky Mountains. I love the views and the quiet and the way the air smells. Hiking is one of the best ways I have found to relax, rejuvenate and reorganize my mind. Plus, it’s pretty good exercise.

Denman and Hornby

The leaves in Calgary are changing to gold. No frost yet and, so far, none in the forecast.  Of course, it’s still technically summer until the twenty-first. And I’ve heard predictions that we’ll get a very warm autumn.  That would be nice.

This past July, we spent over three weeks in British Columbia.

On July 4, we left Horseshoe Bay on the mainland , taking the BC Ferries ship called “Coastal Renaissance” and landing 90 minutes later at the terminal in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Coastal Renaissance

From there we drove north to Courtenay to stock up on groceries. Then we headed back down the island to Buckley Bay where we caught another ferry, a much smaller one, which delivered us to Denman Island where we stayed for a week. During that time we visited Hornby Island twice.

Denman and Hornby are two small islands on the east side of Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island with Denman and Hornby in the circle

Vancouver Island with Denman and Hornby in the circle

Denman and Hornby

Denman and Hornby

Our son (Ryan) and daughter-in-law (Liz) and their Labradoodle (Makita) joined us on Denman. They were coming from further north on Vancouver Island where they had spent a week at Nootka Sound salmon fishing.

We stayed in a little cottage and, with a five minute walk through the trees, we could be at the ocean shore.

nighttime on the deck of the cottage

nighttime on the deck of the cottage

Denman Island is about 19 square miles and home to approximately 1000 year round residents. Tiny  Denman Village is made up of a general store, a bookstore, a couple of cafes, a hardware store, some craft stores, a library, a church, a school, a community hall and a post office.

Hornby Island is a bit smaller, about 11 square miles, and also has about 1000 year round residents. During the summer months, the population can swell to 5000.

The people who live full time on these islands are farmers, crafts people, artists, potters, writers, retirees and others looking for a laid-back lifestyle.

apple trees

~ Walking around the “downtown” on a warm summer’s day ~

buzzing bee

While exploring the island, we visited a vineyard. The farmer was out with her vines so she left this note.

vineyard note

We called her, she returned and invited us inside to taste some wine, and I bought three bottles of the Sandy Island White.

Corlan Vineyard

On Wednesdays, there’s a Farmers Market on Hornby Island so we took the ferry across.





Makita watching the ferry’s progress on the short trip to Hornby Island.





Hornby Island ferry dock~ Approaching Hornby Island ferry dock ~

The market is in a treed area with a huge array of stalls selling muffins, jams, vegetables, jewelry, clothing, wine, massage, pottery and more. After the market, we went into “downtown Hornby”  to one of the restaurants.

 watermelon, cucumber, feta and mint and spices

~ Watermelon, cucumber, feta, mint and spices ~

avocado, romaine, red onion, cucumber and hummus

~ A wrap of avocado, romaine, red onion, cucumber and hummus ~

Later we walked down to Tribune Bay.

Tribune BayTribune Bay, on the south side of Hornby, has a white sandy beach and warm, shallow waters.

Still later we ended up at the Cardboard House Bakery for some blueberry sour cream pie.

Cardboard House Bakery

That’s Makita hiding in the shade of the picnic table.

The next day, we went back to Hornby using Ryan and Liz’s boat.

Makita in her life jacket

~ Makita in her life jacket ~

We anchored in Tribune Bay for some swimming. This is me with Makita. We both like swimming but I think she prefers fresh water over the salty seas.

Makita and Suzanne

Then we motored over to Ford Cove for fish and chips.

Ford Cove

Here I am relaxing on the boat.


There’s a public boat launch at Bill Mee Park on Denman.

lining up the boatLiz is lining up the boat and Ryan will secure it  to the trailer.


While Ryan and Rolf went fishing, Liz and I relaxed at the cottage. Liz (an artist, as well as an engineer) did some painting. I did some writing. And we both worked on this jigsaw puzzle which reminds me of Tribune Bay.


On Saturday, it was time to leave Denman. We said goodbye to Ryan and Liz and Makita. They headed back to Calgary and we were going up island to Campbell River.

It started to rain that morning, a very welcome rain considering the island (and much of the west coast) had been experiencing drought. The Denman Island Farmers Market is on Saturday so we stopped in before we left.

As I wandered around with my umbrella, I bought a hand woven dish towel and another bar of homemade soap. I also had a cup of steaming hot coffee and the best rhubarb coffee cake I’ve ever tasted.

Cuenca to Vilcabamba

For my blog post this week, I want to return to Ecuador. Last time, I told you about The Eleven Hour Bus Trip. Now it is time to leave Cuenca and go to Vilcabamba.

For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.

poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba

poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba

The bus ride from Cuenca to Vilcabamba was a little better because I got the front seat, right by the door to the driver’s cabin. There was a blue curtain across the door, but I kept pulling it back whenever people got on or off.
Besides the driver, there was one other ‘helper’ up there, and sometimes there were two helpers. Keeping my eyes on the horizon was good—I was not as nauseated. The helper seemed a little nervous about me being able to see him. I figured out that half the reason the bus wound so much was because the driver was avoiding potholes, like Hans Solo avoiding asteroids. At one point, one of the helpers moved the curtain over a bit more to block my view, but Rolf could still see the driver, who was eating fried chicken—with both hands—while one of the helpers was reaching across and steering.
This trip was only five hours long. There were no bathroom breaks and my bladder had lost all tone by the time we arrived in Loja. We had a bit of food at the bus station and waited for the connecting bus to Vilcabamba. This last leg of the journey only took an hour and a half.

breakfast in Vilcabamba

Suzanne and Rolf in Vilcabamba

Our hotel is owned and run by a French couple. Everything works and is ultra clean. We look out on a garden and there is a hammock on our porch. Breakfast is served on the table outside our door—juice, tea/coffee, egg, fruit salad and homemade multigrain bread.
 breakfast in VilcabambaI think I’m going to like it here . . .

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