Merry Christmas! Karen and Andrew in Banff, November 2018

Merry Christmas everyone,

Once again, we've been lucky to have a rich year full of friends, music, travel and love. The German and church choirs are still going full steam ahead, and we've enjoyed going to concerts, operas, theatre and movies with friends. Sam joined us for one of the wettest, coldest Folk Fests ever, but we still had a great time together.

Andrew was on the road a lot this year trying to sell floating solar, but we also got away on a couple of trips on our own. We went to Palm Springs for Andrew's 60th birthday in February, and to San Jose Del Cabo in March. Then in July went to Tulum, Mexico. There, we went snorkeling, which is now Karen's new favorite sport. Andrew also did a solo trip to Phoenix with his high school alumni to golf, go to a NASCAR race and celebrate many 60th birthdays.

Kevin, Sam, and Catina at ThanksgivingWe also had a couple of great family get-togethers this year. Christmas 2017 saw Karen's brother Kevin, wife Catina, and daughter Sam come and visit. In June was a 49 1/2 birthday party that Catina threw Kevin (his birthday is on Boxing Day, so he rarely has a birthday party). Then in August we went to Waterloo for nephew Calvin Mills' wedding to Eliza Heeney. We got to see the whole Mills family that trip!

Andrew's mom, Julia, continues to be in good physical health and good spirits. She had a bit of a bump this last summer when the medications to control her heart rate were not working correctly but that was fixed up overnight in the hospital. The biggest change has been with her speech; she doesn't have any words anymore. She still talks, but you can't really make out anything she is saying except by intonation. Despite this, she loves to be around whatever fun is going on. Andrew usually gets by twice a week to take her for a walk around the halls and she still likes to come shopping. Andrew does the weekly grocery shopping, leading Mom around behind the cart through the store.

Calvin and Eliza MillsYou may remember Andrew's excitement about his floating solar project at work last year. He was tasked with developing floating solar systems for the ponds that his company builds (Layfield Floating Solar). In October 2017, his company was named to do their first floating solar project in Sonoma; 2.5 MW of solar with over 7000 solar modules for just about $5 million. But that job got Trumped! The Trump tariffs on imported solar modules caused a spike in pricing and that project was cancelled. Rats! So Andrew was given a US working visa and was sent to do sales calls all across California looking for the next job. He found two. The first one wasn't set up well and our bid was too high because of job uncertainties. Then another project came up in Sonoma. We took a really strong run at this job but lost the bid, and that was the end of Andrew's solar project. After nearly two years of effort the sales of floating solar did not materialize so the project was wrapped up. Andrew is now back to technical services and will be working on training programs to pass along his wisdom before his retirement in March 2020.

We also said good-bye to Lucy this year. She was 17 1/2 years old and had lived a pampered life. She was a wonderful little dog and we will miss her, but are grateful that we had her for the (long) time we did.

This weekend we are in Banff on a quick getaway for our anniversary. We used to always come to Banff on our anniversary week and we are trying to start that up again. For Christmas, we have a big trip planned. We will spending a week in Morrocco and three weeks in Portugal. We are already planning what to pack!

We hope that you are enjoying health and happiness and the love of family and friends, wherever the holidays find you. All our best to you for a wonderful year ahead.

Much love,
Karen and Andrew
Christmas 2018

See our year in pictures below  

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Pictures from 2018

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We had Christmas at our house in 2017. Karen's brother Kevin came to visit with his wife Catina and daughter Sam.

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In February Karen took Andrew to Palm Springs for his 60th birthday. He got a new driver for Christmas so here he is trying it out on the course in Palm Springs.

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One of our favorite things to do in Palm Springs is to go to the Saturday market at the College of the Desert. They set up the market in their parking lot under the massive solar awnings that they have installed. It's a great location as the awnings provide shade from the hot sun.

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And there are always fun things to find at this market. This hat matched perfectly, but alas, Karen did not buy it!

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So for my birthday on February 9th we took in a jazz concert at our hotel. An outdoor concert in February!

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Andrew's high school class of 76 is the most active class that the school has ever had. Part of that has to do with our class captain Shael. We have have had more reunions and get-togethers than any other class in our school's history. So this year for our 60th birthdays the suggestion was made to go to NASCAR race in Phoenix. Count me in! Here we are on our tour of the pits where we found car number 76. From the left is: Laird, Shael, Mike, Bobby, Oscar, Dan, Dave, and Andrew.

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Wherever we go they bring our class banner. Here is our crew.

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Oh yes! It is loud. We rented these headsets that connect to a tablet. On these tablets you can tune in to the radio play-by-play of the race, watch video from inside the race cars, and listen to the radio traffic between the pits and the cars.

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And then there was our class "pit stop."

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Karen and Andrew went back to St Jose Del Cabo in March. Most people have heard of Cabo San Lucas but this is the town to the east where the airport is actually located. San Jose Del Cabo is where the mission was established in the 1700s. The mission church is still standing here in the main town square.

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One of the things we really like about San Jose Del Cabo is that every Thursday evening they close down the streets in their arts district and keep the art galleries open late into the evening. There is live music in the bars and on the streets and there are many art galleries to explore.

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And this year there was a new gin bar that opened on the second floor of one of the restaurants. This bar was open all around the outside and had a lovely view of the art walk area and, as you can see, a view of the mission church a few blocks over. Very tasty gin cocktails too!

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Once again we stayed at the Posada Real hotel on the beach in San Jose Del Cabo. This is a smaller hotel with only about 100 rooms or so and we like it there. Every night they would have some sort of entertainment. This night they had a family playing the marimba.

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And lots and lots of beach...

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A fun picture from our annual church dinner which was done on a Hawaiian theme. Yes, they had spam and rice on the buffet!

FloatingSolar
In May Andrew went to a trade show in Niagara Falls to promote Floating Solar. Here he is in his booth with the promotional banners and the solar floats on the floor of the booth.

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But being in Ontario gave Andrew a chance to catch up with his brother Jonathan. Jonathan is now settled as the minister of Immanuel Baptist Church in the north eastern part of Toronto (near Seneca College). Here is Janice and Jonathan Mills outside of the church.

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Two of their sons have moved back in with them since they came back from Africa. Here is Robert, Janice, Spencer, and Jonathan.

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Jonathan and Janice also bought a plug in hybrid car (a Chevy Volt). The rebate program in Ontario made buying an electric car very affordable so they got one. Jonathan and I spent a day running around in the car and it was very interesting.

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So interesting that we had to go out and buy our own. Andrew had gone to the car show at the end of May, checked out all the electric cars,and narrowed his list down to two models (Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ionic). On the May long weekend we went for a test drive in the Nissan (Hyundai didn't have any electrics in stock) and decided to buy it.

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So this is our new Nissan Leaf. It is 100% electric with a 40 kW battery. That will get us about 160 to 200 km on a charge (less in the winter when part of the power is needed to heat the car too). Andrew set up this charging station in our garage. It is a 50 amp stove plug that the charger plugs into. And he added a meter to this plug so that he can track how much electricity the car uses each month. So far it is costing about 2 to 3 cents per kilometer to run the car. The car is very fun to drive (very zippy) and has lots of range for around town.

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In July we went to Tulum Mexico for a week. Tulum is south of Cancun on the east side of Mexico. Our hotel was way out on a private beach so one day we took a cab and went into the town of Tulum. Here we are taking a break.

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The town of Tulum is pretty small. This is the main street. It runs about 4 or 5 blocks of shops. Most people going to Tulum are going to see the ruins of the Mayan city.

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The Mayan City of Tulum is the only Mayan site on the coast. All the others are in the jungle. The City is perched on this cliff overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. This is the highest point of land in all of the Yucatan peninsula.

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We took a tour of the ruins. The Mayan city is surrounded by a wall about 1 km on a side and then backs onto the ocean. Various temples are perched on the peaks of the cliffs around the compound.

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Our day tour had two other stops. One was at a marine sanctuary where we went snorkeling; Karen loved that! Then we went to a cenote. A cenote is a round hole that is formed when the roof of a limestone cave collapses. This cenote is on private land owned by the tour company. They drive you in to this private site where they provide you with lunch, and then you can either do a tour of the limestone caves, or swim in the cenote. We chose the swim.

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You might as well jump right in!

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Once in the cenote our guide takes us through the flooded limestone caves. He has the only light so you have to swim and keep up with him! Following along with the group is a photographer. She swam along with the group with a regular camera and had to hold it out of the water while she swam with the other hand. She took some lovely pictures.

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Like this one of Karen.

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In August we went down to Ontario for the wedding of nephew Calvin. This is the first marriage for one of our nieces or nephews. On the way to the wedding in Waterloo we stopped to visit Andrew's aunt Martha in Oakville. We spent the afternoon walking along the marina in Oakville.

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And then the wedding in Waterloo. Here is the extended Mills-Long family. From the left is: Robert Mills, William Long and his girfriend Tara, Wesley Mills and his girlfriend Ana, Calvin Mills and his new bride Eliza, Krysta Long, Janice Mills with Jonathan Mills hidden behind her, Luna who is the girlfriend of Spencer Mills (behind), and Catherine Long.

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The wedding was held in an old stone farmhouse and barn in Cambridge Ontario.

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During the bride and groom's first dance we took this shot of the bridesmaids lined up at the bar.

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Then, while everyone else was taking pictures of the bridal party we captured the groomsmen waiting behind the barn to have their pictures taken.

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The wedding took place earlier in the day and Karen and I had time to head to Niagara Falls for dinner. Karen had not been to Niagara Falls before so we took in the sights.

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And lastly there is Lucy. This picture was taken on Lucy's last day. Her back legs had given out and she couldn't walk anymore. She was a lovely little dog who gave us 17 and half years. We miss her.