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Year of Firsts 2019

57_1Thus begins my 49th year
and with it I will start checking things off the bucket list.  My friend Bernice who has also just entered her 49th year mentioned the idea of doing something you have never done or gone somewhere you have never been at least once a month this year. Outstanding idea!
Trying to find at least 12 new activities that I have never done will be a challenge as I have done quite alot in my life.  I have been hoisted 20 feet in the air in a monkey suit for The Wizard of OZ musical at the confederation centre of the arts.  I have rock climbed in Thailand, boot skied on a glacier lost control and almost died in Alberta.  I have hiked thru a gorge in Australia,  drove thru rivers in Costa Rica, climbed a live vocano in Guatemala,  went sailing in New Zealand, snorkeled in Belize,  joined in on the kava cermony in Figi and did a river boat tour in The Golden Triangle.  There has been no shortage of experiences that is for sure.  But this year I will add at least 12 more to that list.  So here we go…
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Some of the ideas friends suggested:
Archery
Sky diving
Float tank
Whale Sharks
Tight rope walking
Visit England
Falconry
Axe Throwing
Hot Air Balloon
Go to Machu Picchu and hike the Inca Trail
All great ideas looking forward to trying a few
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The List of Accomplished Firsts

April 15th 2019 : Landed in Stevensvile NFL
#1 April 25th2019 : Visited The Bottle House and the Tinny Castles Prince Edward Island Canada
#2 June 28th 2019 : The Skywalk Toronto Ontario Canada
#3 July 2019 : Painting my first self portrait in acrlic
#4 August 2019 : Beer Bath Spa
#5 September 2019 : Cooking Lassana and Caesar Salad
 #6 October 2019: October 2019 : Archery
#7 November 2019: Performing on a stage made from people’s homes
#8 December 2019: Paddle Boarding in Bacalar
#9 January 2020 Watercolor Painting Class
#10 Febuary 2020
#11 March 2020
#12 April 2020
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January First

Watercolor Class

One of the things about living in Merida that I love is the artist community.  So it is only natural that a few of my firsts would be art classes. In July I painted my first acrylic and now January was my first watercolor. 

Now when I think watercolor painting I think soft colors and blurred lines (like the painting  below) and this is a style for sure but in Chris’s class I learned watercolors can do so much more.

imagesWhen I entered the class the stage was set with paint and an instruction sheet.  The goal was to paint the vegetables that were sitting on the cutting board in front of us.  However that is not where we started.

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Chris first explained to us about the different brands of paint and paper that could be used and the different effect the brushes would have on different sheets of paper.  Then we went through the 6 techniques.

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My favorite was when he put salt on the paper and it pulled all the water (and thus the color) towards it.  Quite an interesting look.  

After going through each style we started painting our own little squares.

 

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Once everyone did their sample squares Chris told us to begin painting the model which was in our case the cutting board of vegetables.

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I started with the cutting board then the onion and the avocado.  Being I like abstract I decided to use alternate colors for everything.  Chris was a wonderful teacher as he saw me going out of the box and he encouraged me to run with it.

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He then showed us how we could take something and paint around the edges. This he demonstrated with a cilantro leaf.  I loved this idea and got quite swept away with it. However as I began this process my painting transformed from a plate of vegetables to a fictional creature.

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He then came over and suggested that I do some blotting to paint the sky area which worked out perfectly.  He also showed us the check mark bird which I also found appealing. By the end I had a wonderfully weird painting to add to my collection.  

I was really surprised how bright the colors remained and how I was able to paint clean lines as well as the soft edges.  

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Something I also noticed was the blotting cloths in themselves were beautiful pieces of art. As well as the paint trays. 

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Of course when I got home I played a bit with it on photoshop.  But the original painting will be framed and hung as I am really proud of this one. Chris also informed us that when framing watercolor it should be hung behind glass as humidity will effect the painting however it should not be touching the glass.  So I am still looking for the perfect home for my Avolantro Creature. 

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The Year of Firsts #8  December

Paddle boarding in Bacalar

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This months first was extra special as my life long friend Bernice who had the idea for The Year of Firsts,  was holidaying in Tulum.  So we decided to meet in Bacalar for this epic adventure.
The day I was leaving for Bacalar started late as I had people working at my house until 2pm but once they were finished I hit the happy trail south.  Bacalar is a 5 hour drive from Merida so I decided I was going to go out for two night and bring the dogs with me.   The drive out was pretty uneventful just the way I like it.  I was able to relax clear my head and enjoy the scenery.
Once I arrived at the hotel that all changed.  There was a street dog in the parking lot who fell in love with Sammy.  And it seem the feeling was mutual.  However Sammy is 14 and 1/2 so I started to worry as this dog was clearly only about 2 years and jumping all over her.  I managed to get the dogs into the hotel and the owners helped me chase away this dog. This did not last long as  the dog was at the hotel everyday looking to play with Sam. He was relentless.
As it was a 5 hour drive from Merida and we left late I was zonked so I got our things from the car, settled in and hit the sack so I would be fresh for the morning.   The hotel room was beautiful and had two floors which was kind of perfect as the dogs could stay downstairs where there was no furniture and I was sleeping in the loft upstairs however I discovered the tiny house problem for people who are a bit older.  Peeing in the middle of the night happens often for me and manuveing the staggered stairs while half asleep was a bit tricky.
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The other problem was that the hotel was open concept so it did not have doors on the entrace or the back. So the street dog came to our hotel door more than  once to try and get Sammy to come out to play.  This made Joey start to bark and me have to manuver the staggered stairs once again.  This beautiful hotel and the owners are amazing as well as the staff they did help me quite alot and were very understanding with the dogs however the stairs made me thing this is more of a young persons sort of place.  Not saying that I am old but if you are someone who generally needs to get up in the middle of the night this might not be the room for you.  They did have some bunglows so if I return that is what I would choose.
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Breakfast, which was included,  was outstanding.  I started with a delicous coffee that was a local bean and roasted to perfection.  Next was a fruit bowl that has a side of tapioca to accompany the apple, papaya, watermelon, berries, chia seeds and yogurt.
The second corse I had a variety of choices. I went with the chaya and eggs served with beans and a spicy guacamole.
Once I was finished with breakfast I took the dogs down to the lake and to the end of one of the many piers.    What a beautiful spot.
Bernice and Brent arrived around 11 am.  Most of the day was spent  chatting and catching up but we did manage to squeeze in a walk around and we made a plan for the morning to paddle.
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That evening we found a beautiful restaurant on the water.  I have to say they offered some of the best coctails I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.
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Mine was a strawberry mint with raspberry infused vodka and Bernice had the mint and cucumber with gin and soda.  Brent stuck to his favorite… Victoria.
The meal was equally delicious.
After dinner we walked down to the main sqare to see the Christmas lights but opted for an early night so we were fresh for the morning.
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The good sleep was not in the cards for me due to Sammy’s new friend.
We got up the next day had some breakfast and headed to the water.  It was the perfect morning to paddle.
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Jose set us up with our gear and we set off.  No lessons not tips we were just going to wing it.  The hard part was finding balance. (as is it with many things in life) DSCF7587
Once we got our groove it was really relaxing and peaceful.
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One we got comfrotable then we started playing.
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Time to head back.
What a great way to spend the morning. I think I may have discovered my new favorite pastime.
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But all good things must come to an end.  We headed back and relaxed on the dock for a bit before hitting the road.  Me back to Merida and them back to Tulum.  As alway the visit is too short.  I need to convince Bernice to move to Mexico.
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The Year of Firsts #7   November

Performing on a stage made from people’s homes

 

This month I did not set out to  achive this “first” activities  however a musical first fell into my lap.

 

This month’s First was performing on a stage made from the wood from people’s homes. 

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This was an extremely unique experience. Los Similares the 60’s 70’s rock band that I perform with was asked to play at a festival hosted by a small puebla 2 and ½  hours outside of Merida. None of us knew what to expect. After driving through towns on winding roads we arrived at Hanal Balam. It was a beautiful little puebla with farm animals and children running freely. As we approached the stage I was a little nervous as it was quite high, did not have stairs and was made of different sized pieces of wood.  Hanah who was assisting us in our set up told us that all the wood had names written on them as they had been taken off the houses in the puebla in order to build this temporary stage.

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(my view)

Part of the reason for the festival was to raise money so the town could build a more permanent stage for future performances. Once the new stage is completed, the people of the puebla would then take back the pieces of wood and return them to the spots they were taken from.  Quite an interesting concept. Could you imagine that happening anywhere else? “I am just going to take off this wall or door or roof from my house for a month until the festival is over. “ As we started to play our set more and more people came out of their near by homes to join the activities.

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They were so happy to see us there. They were happy to have us standing on their houses to play music for them. But this was a very new experience to them so they did not clap. When we were done playing each song they just smiled and nodded. The children would run up to the stage and then they would run away.  So adorable. We were offered rice milk when we were finished playing and stayed to watch the mariachi band that performed after us. It really was an incredible experience and so worth the 5 hours drive.  Thanks so music to Maria Moctezuma for organizing such an amazing event. 


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The Year of Firsts #6   October  

Archery Lesson with Julie

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fullsizeoutput_371 Being Robin Hood is one of my favorite heros, as is Hawkeye, archery was a no brainer, it had to be on my list.  So when I found Maxim Arqueria’s private class was 300 pesos an hour this went to the top of the pile. Julie once again joined me for this First adventure. She had done some archery once before years ago.

It was not at all what I expected.  The bows were really high tec.  I still don’t really know how they work and why one was easier than the other but that I feel I will learn over time.
We met with our teacher  Omar who spoke great English and was very patient with explaining all the details.  And these details are key as they keep you focused and safe.
He first showed us the body stance.  There was a shooting line on the floor and we needed  to stand with one foot on either side of the line with our feet parallel to it.  Then he told us when holding the bow one needs to turn the elbow out and up a bit.  This protects the forarm from getting hit by the string.
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The arrows were forked on the tip so it fit right onto the string of the bow.  And the bow had two little bumps where the arrow needed to sit on the string.  The front of the arrow needed to rest on the front of the bow.  Omar told us it is very important not to wrap your finger around the arrow as this would cause damage to your hand.  However it is a very instinctual move so it was good that he pointed this fact out right away.  Once your body is in the correct position and the arrow is placed in the bow, you pull back the string of the bow and it is to be against your nose.  This also was not a natural placement and at first I thought it might hurt my face when I released but that fear was misguided.  There is also an aiming guide on the bow so you do not look down the arrow you line up the marker on the bow with where you want the arrow to shoot.  There are 3 markers on the bow each for a different distance. Lastly Omar told us when you release the bow you should let your hand brush against your neck.  This prevents releasing outwards with the hand and causing the arrow to vear left.  It also makes you look very cool and relaxed.
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After we tried the new high tec Hawkeye bows we got to try the old school Robin Hood bow.  It was a beautiful looking bow however that one killed me.
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I have so much more respect for the first hunters.  The tension on the string was so much greater than the newer style.  I could not get the string back to my cheek at all.
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And I was so focused on pulling the string I forgot to turn out my elbow. Big Mistake.
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So this was my battle scare from the evening.  The string hit my arm hard and fast and I am very proud to say I did not cry.  But man did that sting.  This experience however did not put me off and I continued on with the lesson.
Now that we tried both bows we go to try the trigger mechanisms.
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These wrap around your wrist with velcro and then you connect the trigger to the bow.  The string of the bow has a little loop where the trigger is connected.  At first pulling the bow without holding the string with your fingers feels a bit odd. However once I got the hang of it I could focus more on aiming and my stance.  When I was ready I would just pull the trigger and the arrow would fly.
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So once we both tried all the options we got to choose which bow we liked best. We both opted for the Hawkeye style beginner bow but I liked to shoot with the trigger and Julie prefered the fingers.  All options are allow so we shot a couple more rounds after Omar moved the target board back and put a bullseye on it for us.  I have to say I was pretty darn good at this.
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I will be returning.  What a blast.
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The Year of Firsts #5   September   

Cooking Lassana and Casear Salad from Scratch with Judy and Cindy 

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Well those who know me know I do not cook alot.  I love to eat but I am a lazy cook.  If I cannot make it in 15 minutes I usually just skip it.  I eat alot of cold meals at home.  But this was a different experience all together.  Cooking with these two chefs was not only an education but enjoyable as well.  Even though it took 3 hours we had a great time creating this delicious dish.   I do think it was partly due to the secret ingredent …. Strawberry gin.

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This was of course not in the lassana.

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Well to start they gave me a list of ingredients to purchase.

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When I arrive with the shopping list we got started on preparing the meat. The ground beef went into the pot right away then I had to peel off the intestines that hold the sausage together so it would fall apart nicely. It looked to me like there was little bits of cheese in the sausage but no, that was fat. This brought back some memories as when I was little I use to help my dad make sausages with the deer meat he would bring home after hunting.  We would put the intestines on the end of the meat grinder and it would make the perfect deer sausage.  I also remember how often I thought “we are having deer sausage again” and would let out a heavy sigh. Now I realize how lucky I was.

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We added the sausage to the meat pan at medium tempature to lightly brown the meat.

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After breaking up the sausage we needed to start to soak the noodles.  Now I always thought you had to pre-cook the noodles however the process now is just to make them soft in warm water.

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While the meat was cooking we started getting the garlic ready as it was going into every aspect of the dinner.
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It was not only going into the lassana but the caesar as well as the garlic bread.
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Everytime I use garlic I just chop it up but this little unit was great.  Just press down and presto you have minced garlic.
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Quick stir of the meat pot and back to the garlic bread.
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I chose the bagette bread for our garlic bread. So we needed to cut off the ends and slice it down the middle.   While I was cutting the bread Judy melted the butter and added some of our crushed garlic.  Then we needed to take the brush and mix the garlic into the butter every time we went to brush some on.

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Once all the bread was coated in a layer of garlic butter they were wrapped for cooking.  If you prefer the crunchy garlic bread you can just put it on a pan but we prefered the soft bread.

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Now there was no waste those end bit we cut those into bite size pieces and used the leftover butter to make homemade crutons.

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After we cooked them in the pan for a bit we transfered them into a bag to shake in some parmesan cheese in.

I would have been happy just eating a bowl of these for dinner.

It was now time to add the sauce.  Judy had some sauce already so we just added some more garlic pepper and salt.

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So we needed to wait a bit for the sauce to simmer so it was the perfect time for a strawberry gin break.  What a delicious beverage.  I quite liked it straight but that would have been a dangerous game as it went down smooth and easy so I opted to add the tonic.

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Now it was time to get going on the cheese filling.  This consisted of 16 oz of ricotta cheese,  6 cups of grated mozza cheese and one whipped egg.  All mixed together.  Alternativly you could just whip the ricotta and egg together and sprinkle on the mozza.

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We first put a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.

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The we removed the noodles from the water and dryed them off a bit before putting a pasta layer into the pan.

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We topped the layer of pasta with a layer of the cheese mixture then a layer of the sauce and another layer of the pasta and on and on till we used up all the pasta cheese and sauce

 

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Then we covered the dish and put it into the preheated oven

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While the lassana was cooking we could start to prepare the salad dressing.  We took 2 cloves of our minced garlic and some olive oil and mashed it up at the bottom of the salad bowl.  Then we added 2 little anchovies.  and mashed them up too.  We added more olive oil salt and pepper and mixed it up.

Now I always thought you needed to add egg to your caesar salad dressing.  This spurred the conversation.  Traditionally you would use an egg that was cooked for 3 minutes and mash that up and add it to the dressing. Some people add a raw egg and others add mayonaise but Cindy likes to just edit the egg all together so that is what we did.  I have to say I did not miss it.

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The next step was to rip off (not cut) the ends of the lettuce then wash it all. After washing it we needed to soak it for a bit in ice water.  This makes the leaves nice and crisp.

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So while the lettuce soaked and the lassana cooked it was once again time to have a little beverage.  One more Strawberry gin and tonic.

As we were sipping on our bevy’s the timer went off and it was time for the top layer on the lassana.  The last bit of mozzarelli cheeze was sprinkled onto the dish and we returned it to the oven without the cover on it so the top could get a bit crisp.

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It needed to cook for another 15 min then we needed to let it rest for another 10 minutes.

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At this point it was time to dry the romain lettuce.  Cindy wrapped it in dish towels and spun it around a bit then we layed them on the table.

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Once it was dry it was time to rip each leaf into a pile of bite size pieces.  Cindy told me it was important to not ripe them too small because they will wilt in the dressing if they are too tiny.

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At the 5 minute mark of the lassana being ready that is when we tossed the salad.  Adding a 1/3 of the lettuce at a time with crutons and paramsan cheese.  Once it was tossed we topped it off with more cheese and crutons.

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The lassana was ready for cutting and it came out exactly as it should.  Everyone was really happy with the dinner.  My teachers Judy and Cindy were quite amazing, kind and knowledgeable.  I might have another cooking first in my future.

The Year of Firsts #4   August    Beer bath spa and magnet pool. 

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I was starting to scramble this month. It was half over and I had no idea what my next “first” was going to be. I mentioned what I was doing to a few friends who started tossing out ideas. Then I got a message from Julie. “Have you ever done a beer bath?” Well as a matter of fact I have not. (not intentionally anyway lol) So we booked 2 tickets to attend the Neek Ich Casa del Agua Beer bath spa evening.  We were told to bring bathing suits, towels and open minds.

Friday came around and turned out to be one of my worst days I have had in a long time.  Traffic, set backs and well not a thing I tried to get done got done. It was a very frustrating day so when 6pm came around and it was time to enjoy the spa I was more than ready.

When we arrived we were welcomed with wonderful aromas and smiling faces.  Immediately the stress of the day started to fall away.

First, we were directed to the outdoor shower where we were asked to rub cleaning herbs on our bodies. These were rosemary and a few other cleansing herbs.

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0-3After covering ourselves and rinsing we were directed to the beer bath jet pools.  These pools were made of simple little cinder  blocks and were the perfect size for two. The water was warm, not hot,  and the beer smelled sweet.  There were little cloth bags floating in the water.  We found out the water consisted of Patito beer,  apple cider vinegar and hops.  The host informed us that when entering any of the pools it was best to start with the right foot as it brings good luck.  So right left in we went and a calm swept over me.

 

0-60-8We were offered a couple beer to drink while we relaxed in the pool.  “With or with out ice.”  As the sun started to set we heard some birds chirping in the distance and then they landed on the tree in the neighbour’s yard.  Juile pointed out that they were the local parrots that fly over Merida.  This was the first time I had seen them as well.  One more thing to add to my year of firsts. We were told to spend 60 minutes in the pool then we would move to the next one.  Both Julie and I started talking about how easy it would be to make one of these at home.  The wheels turned for a momment but very quickly the relaxation set in and my mind cleared.  Half way thru our 60 minutes they brought out the mud facial.  I am not sure what was in this but as she rubbed the concoction on my face with a soft brush I began to imagine I was a Greek goddess being pampered.

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At the end of our 20 minutes we were directed to the little fountain sinks to wash off our mud to prepare us for the next pool.

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Up next was the reiki stone pool massage. Once again we were directed to enter the pool with our right foot to bring luck.  While walking over the stones we were told to have positive intentions.  To trust in our own strength and to release any negative energy. To find our own balance.  Our palms were to be facing upward while walking on the river stones.

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After walking on the river stones we were to move on to our next relaxing activity .  The Magnet pool.

This part of the evening, for me, was the sweet spot.  The water was being sprayed upward and dropping down in the centre of the pool. The magnets encircled the pool thru thin wires. Once again I was directed to enter the water with my right foot.

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The water was much cooler than the beer water and I did not think I would be able to stay in it very long but once I was submerged in the water the cold feeling subsided and turned into a revitalizing fresh experience.  The water falling into the centre of the pool was strong enough to massage my head shoulders and back.  I started to feel a bit gitty. I could not stop smiling which was strange as I was by myself and there was no reason for laughter. But somehow joy pulsed thru my body.  I floated under the waterfall trying to have my whole body touched by this healing massage.  Finally after about 20 minutes I felt it was time for me to exit these glorious waters.  I sat on the edge of the beer pool for a bit then wandered about the grounds taking in the natural decor and positive energy.

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I truly got in touch with my earth child on this excursion.

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After Julie finish her reiki session (which she told me was amazing) we thanked our hosts and went outside feeling rejuvenated and a bit hungry so off to get some food.

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Keeping with the beer theme of the evening we popped over to Hermana Republica for some beer flights and a delicious dinner of rare tuna and ravoli finished with one of the best carrot cakes I have ever tasted.

0-13Finally we strolled down to La Parilla for the last stop of the night.  There we enjoyed some tasty margaritas and good conversation.
Before heading home to sleep soundly after such a wonderful evening.
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The Year of Firsts #3   July    Painting a self portrait in Acrylic

When I started this project I did not think I was going to be painting a self portrait.  I was painting a tree.  A fictional tree at that.  Something with no restrains or a look I needed to emulate.  I just started painting and it fell out.

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After I was finished and was sitting with Karla looking at our finished paintings I saw it. The tree was hair and the trunk the body. The painting was no longer finished and I had my work cut out for me.

 

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So I went home and flipped thru all my gig photos and didn’t I have a  picture of me playing the bass that would line up perfectly. Well except that my face was looking at the neck of the guitar and I needed to be singing upward ino order for the angles to work. I kept looking and found a photo that was perfect on the face portion but not the body so I got on my affinity program and spliced them together.

 

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Now just to be clear I could never sing like that while playing the bass. No way man.  But that is the beauty of editing.

Once they were put together I was ready to paint.

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So I made myself another canvas and the real challange started.  How to do this without cheapening the picture already finished.  Well I have to admit I did some tracing.

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And there was no way I was going to try and do eyes. lol So I opted to make it  a silhouette.    But then the sky background was so beautiful Karla sugested that the vest be just an outline with the sky coming thru.  I liked that idea but I needed  to darken the sky in the vest a bit. My skin I matched the color of the tree trunk and my hair matched the color of the leaves. Then there was the guitar.  I balanced the color of the green in the tree with the green of the guitar and then the white in the field was balanced with the white of the microphone. The red flowers were balanced with the microphone handle.

On a side note: I have painted in acrlic once before.  It was in a class where we all painted a gords.

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This was very fun, however the self portrait was much more challenging.  And yet much more enjoyable. (I think that had to do a bit with the company and the wine)

I am so pleased with the finished product.  Althought I am thinking about doing some of the tree texture on the arms. But I may not.

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My first cd was called Earthchild and I have also titled my first self portriat Earthchild as well.

 

The Year of Firsts #2   June   The Skywalk 

When we arrived at basecamp we were not sure what we were getting ourselves into.  They tested and retested the gear making sure we were roped up tight and safe.
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As we exited the top of the building the rush of adrenaline took me over from the tips of my fingers to the tops of my toes. (Note said toes were  hanging over the edge of the walkway alot of the time)
We started of slow and timid but by the end of the walk Rocky had us hanging over the edge like monkeys in the jungle.
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The freedom was exhilarating.
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Soon Rocky had us doing circus tricks.
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My heart was pounding the whole time and I have to say my second “First” is going to be hard to top.

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There is nothing like seeing millions of people, buildings, and cars looking like ants and toys.  Wow was spoken quite alot this glorious afternoon.  Thanks so much Trudy for treating me to such a wonderful afternoon.

So for my baby first I put together this song to go with the video they gave us (I edited it a bit) If you want to go on the walk with us have a look.

 

The Year of First #1  May The Bottle House

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April 15th 2019: My first, first was unintentional. I had never been to Newfoundland and my plane got diverted from Charlottetown PEI to Stevensville NFL. We were only there 2 hours and never got off the plane but still it was the kick off and so it goes.
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May 25th 2019: My choosen first was The Bottle House. I learned about this place about 7 years ago when I first moved to PEI and I always talked about going but never did. Today we made our way to Wellington PEI where we found these wonderful 3 structures.
Edouard Arsenault started to build the origional bottle houses in1980 at the age of 66. At the time there was no recycling programs set up and he decided to do this as a hobby. He got most of his bottles from the local restaurant and dance hall. As the six gable structure started to take shape visitors started to pass by impressed by his work so in 1981 The first Bottle House was open to the public.
The Chapel was the first building we visited. It is made of approximately 10,000 bottles. There are only 4 blue bottles used in this structure.
The walkway to the next house was lined with a fish pond and gardens with a pretty little bottle tree.
The 6 Gable House was the first house that Edouard built using about 12000 bottles. Back then the only bottles that were recycled were pop and beer. Everything else went to the dump. So each week Edouard took he old truck down to the dump to gather bottles from the dance hall, the legion and the local restaurants as well as the dump. People started to hear about his project so they began to bring him bottles. People have now brought bottles from all over the world.
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The Tavern was my favorite. Whiskey in the Jars. The colors were spectacular and there were so many unique looking bottles. My favorite was the fish swallowing the world.
The added bonus to our trip today was going to visit The Little Castles. Located near New London these tiny intricate replicas of historic castles were gorgous. It is now privately owned and no longer a tourist attraction so we were kind of breaking in so we didn’t stay long.

Happiness is a choice