Happy Birthday to N & N

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February marks the Eight Birthday of Nicholas and Eleonora of Capena. They were born a week apart so they are not related on a very nice farm owned by a well known veterinarian and his wife.

The puppies moved to Rome and grew up there before coming to Canada with us. They have had a life of luxury and ease but of course being Dachshunds they don’t know this or imagine this is how it is usually.

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Here they are in the guest bedroom facing South in our home, Nora is on the right of the picture. This picture was taken a few years ago in Rome.

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They are both healthy and happy, wishing them many more years of happiness.

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Happy Birthday Nicky and Nora.

Good restaurants

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We did an extensive tour of Ireland in September 2016, here is a list of great restaurants in Dublin.

Amuse Restaurant, Dawson St
Ananda, Dundrum
Assassination Custard, Kevin St Lwr [NEW]
Bastible, South Circular Road
Brioche, Ranelagh
Brother Hubbard, Capel St
The Cake Café, Camden St
Chameleon Restaurant, Temple Bar
Chapter One, Parnell Square
Craft, Harold’s Cross [NEW]
Dunne & Crescenzi, South Frederick St
Ely Winebar, Ely Place
L’Ecrivain, Lwr Baggot St
Etto, Merrion Row
Fish Shop, Smithfield
Forest Avenue, Sussex Terrace (pictured)
Forest & Marcy, Leeson St Upper [NEW]
The Fumbally, Dublin 8
The Greenhouse, Dawson St
Hang Dai, Camden St [NEW]
Heron and Grey, Blackrock [NEW]
L. Mulligan Grocers, Stoneybatter
Luna, Drury St
O’Connell’s, Donnybrook
Osteria Lucio, Clanwilliam Tce
Pickle Restaurant, Camden St [NEW]
Piglet Wine Bar, Temple Bar [NEW]
Restaurant Forty One, Stephen’s Green
The Winding Stair, Ormonde Quay

The McKennas’ annual 100 Best Restaurants List was first published in The Sunday Times. for more info see guides.ie or @McKennasGuides on Twitter.

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There are many good pubs and great restaurants throughout Ireland in Galway, Cork, Belfast, etc.. Cuisine is inventive and different with a certain flair.

Islander Day!

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Today is Islander Day,  what is this public holiday about, no one seems to know for sure, though everything is closed and it’s a day to spend at home relaxing or doing some fun activity. Since everything is closed you cannot shop or do much which would involve a consumer activity, so reading, a craft activity, sports of all kinds is what most people will do.

In Canada each Province has what is called a public holiday or Family day, the concept being to give people a day off in February which is also Carnaval time in cities like Quebec, Ottawa, Charlottetown, etc. We are in that calendar period after the Christmas Holiday period and not yet at Easter which is the next big holiday. So in February you get a break.

Last year for Islander day, we were here in Charlottetown. We had decided to come to PEI to see what life was like in Winter on the Island, we were still living in Ottawa at this time last year. We were seriously thinking of moving to PEI but wanted to make sure that this is what we wanted to do and there was enough activity on the Island to make it worth our while.

Well it was a busy February one year ago, we started looking for somewhere to rent in Old Charlottetown, not at easy as one might think, lots of rent and at very reasonable prices but if you want something more like the big city style apartments, it is not so easy to find. Also real estate agents are not that helpful, most will try to sell you a house in the process, but we were not in a buying mood. With the help of friends we did find exactly what we wanted and moving in in May, some 10 months ago.

So last year Islander day was wet, foggy and with next to no snow at all. It made for a dreary day, so we went to the Pub to drink, because that is what you do on such days.

Speaking of which, many pubs have live music with some pretty good if not professional musicians like Richard Wood or in this case Ian Sherwood, with this song, The short end of the stick.

 

The weather

Today I see that we are 5 weeks away from Spring and 8 weeks away from Easter. Mardi Gras is Tuesday 28 February. So no wonder that while doing errands yesterday it struck me that all the shops are promoting Spring and Easter, it’s just around the corner, so let’s get the little consumers into a frenzy of buying stuff. We just had 3 big storms in 7 days and the amount of snow is impressive though now the weather is quite mild and it is melting fast. Across the street from our home is a skating rink, very simple affair the snow on top was patted down and the city sent a team to water the surface 3 times a day for a week, in no time at all the icy surface was ready for skating. Quite a few parents bring their children to skate, I am impressed with the children some as young as 5 years old and very good at skating and practicing their hockey skills. I don’t remember my being that good at that age. Children do have an ability to learn fast and notice the small things where adults are often slow.

Children fall while skating and parents encourage them to pick themselves up, once the child is back on its feet every one cheers, positive re-enforcement.

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Our Christmas Cactus has finally bloomed. It is not a cactus as such though it is called that, more of a succulent plant. 

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Cleaning and preparing the ice surface for the skating rink across the street. To think that before 1989 this was as rail yard for trains and locomotives. Today it is a park and gateway to the city for Cruise ships.

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Today on the ice.

 

Great news today

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Canada and the European Union ratified a Free Trade Agreement today opening our markets to the EU countries, free movement of people and goods, etc. I could not be happier with this turn of events. Many years ago as a young diplomat I was involved with NAFTA and explaining to business people how it would work for them and how to use the new agreement. Later in Mexico same thing with the establishment of free trade zones in the North of the country and Canada’s participation in it. It’s all good and that is what I took away from it, the naysayers are uninformed or have their own fantasy agenda.

Canada needs to diversify our trade and this is an excellent and big step forward. It is crucial in these turbulent, chaotic times with our trade partner in the USA that we diversify. Next will probably be a free trade agreement with China but that is in the future.

The EU-Canada or CETA deal will drop barriers between the EU’s economy of half a billion people and Canada’s 35 million. Trade between the two sides amounts to more than 60 billion euros ($63 billion) a year, and the EU expects the so-called CETA deal to boost this by 20 per cent by removing almost all tariffs.

Very good news, it took 7 years of negotiations for this to happen. PM Justin Trudeau is off to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on this treaty ratification and then off to Berlin to see Chancellor Angela Merkel with whom he shares much in common and speak with top business leaders.

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Happy Birthday to our Flag!

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On the 15 February 1965 our Nobel Laureate Prime Minister Lester B.Pearson presented to Parliament and to Canadians the new Canadian National Flag. Pearson had promised that we would have a distinctive flag reflecting who we were as Canadians.

Today 52 years later we celebrate our Canadian Flag!

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The colours Red and White represent the two founding people of Canada, the English and the French. The Maple Leaf is an old Canadian symbol which goes back centuries.

A new President in Germany

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Frank-Walter Steinmeier was born in 1956 in the small town of Detmold in North Rhine-Westphalia. His father was a carpenter and it is said that some within Germany’s political elite look down on Steinmeier for his lowly background. On the flip-side, he is often praised for having risen to such heights within the political system.

He has a doctorate of law which he was awarded in 1991 by the University of Giessen, and did his dissertation on state prevention of homelessness.

Soon after leaving university he went to work for the state Chancellery of Lower Saxony as an advisor, and in 1993 became director of the personal office for the Minister-President of the state, and later Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder.

While serving as head of the office of the Chancellor from 1999 following Schröder’s election victory, he earned himself the nickname “The Grey Efficiency” because of his ability to manage teams behind the political spotlight. Steinmeier was made responsible for Germany’s intelligence services and he helped Schröder forge a coalition with Russia and France against the US’s invasion of Iraq.

In the grand coalition of 2005, Merkel appointed him Foreign Minister, from where he was shifted up to Vice-Chancellor in 2007. But come the elections of 2009 his party was rejected in favour of Angela Merkel’s, and he became leader of the opposition until he was given the position of Foreign Secretary again in 2013 following another election.

The Election process

The process by which a new President is chosen is not a simple one. It’s not a direct vote by the German people, but rather the Federal parliament calls in so-called “Electors” to vote on behalf of the nation.

The 630 members of the Federal parliament or Bundestag are joined by 630 “Electors” in the house.

Each different state is given a different number of Electors to send to the Federal parliament depending on their population size, and the regional governments can vote for anybody to become an Elector. This led to the surreal situation on Sunday where politicians were mixing with film stars, the national football coach, and the nation’s best known drag queen to vote for the next head of state.

Different parties can put forward their candidate, but in reality the government chooses who it wants to be President and then the vote is purely a formality. Steinmeier received 74% of the ballots with 931 votes out of 1,260.

The role of the German President

The official role of the President is as the head of state of Germany. The President often has a lot of freedom in their job, but they tend to leave the actual running of the country to the Chancellor.

The President cannot create laws or policies, but can give direction as to what the political debate should be. The President must also sign off on laws. He also has the power to veto a law.

In general however the President represents the State of Germany itself, and has a role in upholding the law and constitution. The President is obliged not to comment on current political affairs, and should stay politically neutral, staying above party politics.

Probably the most important role of the President is to represent Germany at home and abroad, and having been Foreign Minister, Steinmeier is very qualified to do this. He will now spend the next four years fulfilling his duties at home and abroad. He has promised to focus on visiting “left-behind” communities around Germany.

He takes Office in March and will replace the current President Joachim Gauck who is 77. The Official Residence of the President is a former Royal Palace Schloss Bellevue in central Berlin, built as a summer residence for the brother of King Frederick II the Great of Prussia in 1786. The German President actually lives in a Villa in Dahlem a suburb of Berlin, the palace is only used for Official functions.

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Intermission

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Well this morning we got up and the storm has stopped or past us, the wind is still pretty strong but is diminishing gradually. The Confederation sea bridge is still closed to all traffic, it has been closed for 12 hours now and I can just imagine that many trucks on the mainland side in New Brunswick are just waiting, parked in the special area for the bridge to re-open. The weather was just as bad in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and Cape Breton (Isle Royale) sticking out into the Atlantic, they always get the brunt of all storms.  What it means for us on PEI is that the grocery stores will start having shortages in fresh produce like salad and imported fruits from the USA or South America. You can still get the essentials since we have lots of farmers and livestock farms.

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My main concern is digging my car out from under the snow, right now the front of the car is buried in snow, our parking lot is clean, the plow guy came by early around 5am and cleaned it all out. The City and the Province have re-started the plowing of the streets and the highway and secondary roads after a 12 hour stop, so now they have to catch up. Matt Rainnie the host of CBC Island morning was telling us that another storm is coming this is just a break, an intermission if you like, the new storm should arrive by early hours of Thursday and dump another 25 cm of fresh snow. So Wednesday off I go for more food shopping and essentials.

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I don’t think I would want to live outside of a major town on PEI in Winter, here we have all the services and living at the corner of two main city arteries means the roads are cleaned first. I heard stories of people in the country side and they are left to fend for themselves, no one can get to them, the wind is too high and there is too much snow on the road. Stories from last night are of 3 babies being born during the height of the snow at home. The way it is organized on PEI is when a storm hits, emergency plows stand by at Fire Halls, all of whom are staff by volunteer fire fighters. If a call comes in the emergency plow will open up the road for the Fire trucks and hopefully make it on time to help, like in the case of births at home. It becomes a neighbourhood affair, since everyone knows everyone else.

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There are some tragedies of homes burning down and the Fire dept can’t get to them because the driveway to the Farm house is 200 feet long and has not been plowed or is too narrow. Last night a big barn full of bails of hay burned, the storm delayed the Fire Dept by 3 hours. Many of our secondary roads are also nothing more than soft red earth which in Winter turns to hard icy roads and are not necessarily plowed.

I don’t think many people will be going out for Valentine’s day given the state of the roads and everything is closed today anyway. Just stay home and read and enjoy the day. Until the next storm on Thursday morning.

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I have to say that the City of Charlottetown is doing a wonderful job of cleaning the streets quickly and efficiently, a much better job than Ottawa who never seemed to be able to clean streets unless you called your City Councillor to complain.

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Snow day

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We are currently experiencing a big snow storm which came from the US East Coast and now crossing through the Maritime region. Upwards of 60 cm of snow and high winds around 90Km. Everything in the region in closed and everyone is told to stay home, even the plows are off the road until the weather calms down. The Confederation sea bridge to the mainland is also closed completely to all traffic which shows how dangerous the situation is now weather wise.

Yesterday I did my food shopping like everyone else, here is a view of the parking lot at the Atlantic Superstore.

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It looks as if the store is buried in snow.

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This morning the view looking West in Charlottetown. The storm is coming but it is still 2 hours away from us.

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Just outside the City as the snow starts.

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About one hour later when some brave souls still went out. Walking the dogs is also difficult in blizzard conditions, they don’t want to do out because of the heavy snow and high winds.

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A little later on Queen street downtown. Visibility now is almost nil, the airport is closed and so are all businesses. People are simply staying at home and enjoying a quiet day.

It will be like this until at least 10 am tomorrow Tuesday.