Friday, December 3, 2021

In Search of the Official Halifax Food: The Donair

We get to Halifax and everyone is saying, you have to try a donair. Our friends, who have been here before us, tell us you have to try a donair. It's so ubiquitous to Halifax that it is the city's official food.

On one of our first days here, we tried a 'donair sandwich' at a local restaurant, but I had my doubts as to how authentic it was.

One thing we needed to do was to search out an authentic donair and try it before we go.

As you can see from the picture at the top, it looks like something you'd find on a street in the Middle East. So how did this Mediterranean style food find it's way into the hearts of Haligonians?

Peter Gamoulakos, a Greek immigrant with a pizza parlor in nearby Bedford started selling doner kebabs. It wasn't quite to the taste of the locals so he started experimenting with the recipe, toning down some of the more pronounced Greek savoriness and spice.

The locals pronounced it 'donair' and the new recipe caught on.

In 1973, Gamoulakos opened the "King of Donair" restaurant on Quinpool Road in Halifax. It was a success and soon spawned a chain and imitators. In 2015, it was named the city's official food.

We're headed to the original restaurant. Mainly because we want an authentic experience and it's also in a part of the city where the power has been restored after the hurricane. Many neighborhoods here are still in the dark.

It's a long walk from our hotel, at least a couple of miles, but walking is what we do when traveling. It builds up a good appetite.

Upon arrival, we find a table and peruse our options. We decide to go with the original, classic donair.

They're big enough that we get a large sandwich cut three ways so we can all have our own.

I'd watched the cook slice the meat off of the spit and wrap it in the sauce, tomatoes, and onions.

I dig in and take a big bite expecting a tasty, savory bite...not unlike a good gyro...and - what's this? - it's sweet! I was not expecting that.

So, imagine a gyro with a bit of frosting like you get on a cinnamon roll in the sauce, and you get an idea of what the donair tastes like.

It's good, if you know what to expect, but not quite my cup of tea.

We finish it and now we can be satisfied that we haven't missed anything.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

National Family Caregivers Month: Paying for The Caregiver

Welcome to
 National Family Caregivers Month. What is a caregiver? Basically, if you're someone with special needs necessary for living a normal life, you will need someone to help you meet those needs. That is a caregiver (also called a carer in some parts of the world).

While our blog focuses on disabilities, particularly mobility deficiencies, most of it is written by a caregiver with input by the one cared for (for the perspective of the person being cared for, you can check out Tim's series of posts called Cerebral Palsy Stories).

During this month, we'll be posting some articles about caregiving, what it is, how to do it, and how to pay for it. Our focus will be on persons needing help due to mobility issues.

Over the last month, we've covered what caregivers do, how caregivers need to put a little time aside to take care of themselves, and how to get a job as a caregiver. We'll end this with some strategies about how to pay for it.

Let's face it, caregiving is expensive. Figure at a bare minimum at least four hours per day. At a minimum, $15 an hour. Times that by how many hours a caregiver is needed each day, each week, each month...and you start to see just how much this is going to cost. 

A lot, if not most, depend on a family member who will do it for free or at least cheaply. What that doesn't consider, though, it how much that family member must sacrifice in terms of time and money to get that job done...not to mention burn out, which can happen amazingly fast.

The solution, of course, is to get a professional caregiver or pay the family member a true wage, or a combination of both. This means you'll need to find a way to come up with that money.

Easiest, of course if you have a big hole burning in your wallet, is to just pay it out of your funds. There are very few people, abled or disabled, who can afford that however.

Another option, should you be able to take care of it before a disability sets in, is Long Term Care Insurance which you may be able to get through your employer or on your own through an insurance agent.

With this in place, you can get a daily stipend to pay for care should the beneficiary become disabled or even pay for assisted living  or nursing home care but, once you're disabled, you will find it very hard to get anyone to underwrite you for this insurance.

That leaves us to relying on government programs to help pay.

Here in the United States, the main program for helping pay for a caregiver is In Home Support Services (IHSS) which is administered by each state, usually through a local county's health or welfare department, and is funded by a combination of federal, state, and county monies.

In our home state of California, you apply for IHSS through your county's health department. A social worker will be dispatched to interview you to see if your special needs qualify for assistance. If so, you will be given a number of hours that you qualify for. A worker can be hired (which can be a family member) and they will be paid for the number of hours worked, up to the number you were granted. The pay is just a little above minimum wage.

In theory, it sounds easy but finding a good, qualified worker can be a challenge. Aides must go through a one day training and pass a background check. Some county offices maintain lists of qualified workers that you can contact, interview, and hire.

You are in control of the hiring process and no one else is going to do it for you, which is where the challenge can come in. Also, if the person you hire doesn't work out, you have to start all over again. As they say, good help can be hard to find.

Many here prefer to go the family member route and that family member can be paid the full rate, somewhat easing the burden for them. A family member who is assigned as the caregiver will receive full pay, just as if they're a professional hired outside of the family, and also must go through the training and background check.

We live in California but a majority of states allow you to do this. From what I could find Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin also allow family members to be paid as caregivers. Check your state or county's health department to see if that would apply to you, too.

If not, every state has some sort of payment for in home care but it may be an outsider that is the one to do that.

Beyond the government help, there are some charities such as Easter Seals and March of Dimes that can help, especially those with little or no income.

I hope you find this month's posts informative and helpful. Should you find yourself in the role of a caregiver, know that you are not alone and help is available but you may need to do a little digging to find it.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 29, 2021

Seeing a Giant Tide and Ending Up on the Bottom of the Ocean - Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia

Time for another Nova Scotian road trip. My dad would regale me with tales of the world's highest tide when I was a kid. It was something he always wanted to see and told my about this magical place with the world's highest tides...up to 50 feet!

Watch the Video!

When he explained it, it sounded like a giant tidal wave would come in each day..."you can actually see the wave come in," he'd tell me. I was always entranced by this but never thought I'd get there. Well, you can see where this is going. Now that we're in Halifax it's only about an hour by car to the Bay of Fundy and the Fundy Discovery Site where you can watch this very tidal action take place and watch the wave, the wave my dad always talked about, come in.

In reality, the "wave"...or the tidal bore, to be technically only 1 to 3 feet tall but it is still something amazing to see.

Gray clouds are threatening as we leave Halifax towards Truro on the other side of the province. There will be rain but this will just be a normal, late summer precipitation, not the hurricane that came in a couple of days ago.

We dress appropriately and bring our raincoats and hats along.

It's a very easy drive, if a bit wet. We had checked the tide table before we left and the tide was scheduled to come in at 11:56am. We arrived, parked, and turned off the engine. It was 11:36.

With just enough time to get Tim out of the car and into his chair, we make our way over to the viewing area, a couple of hundred yards away.

There are about 40 to 50 people here for the same reason. We find a couple of chairs on the bank of the channel and then wait. It's raining so it's not the most comfortable wait but it shouldn't be too long.

The tide's a bit late. 11:56 comes and goes with nothing. Then, about ten minutes later, a flock of seagulls sitting on the ground of the estuary suddenly take flight and a shout of "here it comes!" from the visitor center behind us tell us to be on alert.

The estuary is on a curve so we look down to the bend and there it is...the magnificent, one foot tall tidal bore. Yes, it looks a bit like a large ripple but there it is (you can see it very well in our video).

It comes by and past us. The water keeps rushing in afterward like a rushing river. Soon, the water has risen about 6 feet. We stay for about a half hour before we decide to leave and look for some lunch.

One of the best restaurants in Nova Scotia is about a 30 minute drive down the bay. The Flying Apron comes highly recommended but I call just to make sure..."we just go our power back this morning so we're not going to open until tomorrow."

Scratch that on the list of Dorian related vacation casualties. Now, it'll just be a scenic drive along the bay and then back to our plan B restaurant close to the Halifax Airport.

Awhile later, we're in the town of Noel where I stop to get gas. Full serve out here in the boondocks at similar prices to what we pay in California. At the edge of town on the edge of the bay, we have to make a stop at Burntcoat Head Park. It's here where you can really see the effects of the massive tide here.

Tim's not interested in getting out of the car in the rain and the park's really not accessible anyway. He waits and listens to music while Letty and I take a short walk.

The tide's gone back out now so we walk down some stairs and soon we're walking along the bottom of the ocean, about 30 feet below the high tide line.

Nearby is a mushroom looking tower of red rock that is under water when the tide is in with a forest of trees on top. When the tide comes in, it's a small island offshore.

We spend a few minutes wandering around the seabed and then we meet back up with Tim for the drive back to Halifax.

Along the way, we stop by Oliver's Gastropub...located at the Inn on the Lake near Wellington...for a delicious lunch in a very cozy, warm atmosphere.

It'll do us nicely as we get back to our hotel and relax for the rest of the night.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 28, 2021


Too easy so this will be short...

The name comes from Captain Morgan rum and the O is for Organic for the organic fruit juice we got at the Haggen Oaks farmers market in Bakersfield, California.

Watch the Video!

Get fresh pressed organic juice of your choice at your local farmers market.  Fill a glass with ice. Pour 2 ounces of Captain Morgan over the ice, fill with the juice.

You're done.
Hand Picked Vintners Wines Straight to your door- Exclusive member discounts


Friday, November 26, 2021

Day Trippin' on the Day After

After burning a day of doing nothing but sitting in our hotel room yesterday, courtesy of Hurricane Dorian, we're back at again today. Looking at the weather, you'd never know a big storm blew through the day before but looking on the ground, there's a lot of evidence looking at all the dark shops and torn out trees.

Still, it's a beautiful sunny day and there's really nothing to do in our neighborhood. Let's take a drive.

Letty wants to see a quaint Atlantic fishing village. Her pick is Lunenburg, about a two hour drive out of Halifax. I'm wanting to go a little closer to Peggy's Cove, about half that distance.

Of course, we're going to Lunenburg.

The signals are all out in Halifax so it's a bit slow going until we get to the freeway, then it's a quick cruise. Tim has a loose bolt on his wheelchair and the toolkit we carry along with us doesn't have the right wrench for it so I swing off halfway down to stop at a hardware store.

Of course, it's closed because there is no power. I'm thinking this is going to be a quick trip to Lunenburg if there's no power there.

Hurricane Dorian actually made landfall a bit north of Lunenburg, sparing it the full force of the storm. Still, we pass plenty of downed trees. Some block over half of the road with no emergency personnel or signs of any kind. We can see where this might be a problem if traffic will be coming in both directions.

We also see dozens of dead porcupines on the roads. We don't know if this is a regular thing in Nova Scotia or maybe storm related.

Exiting at highway 3, we wind through Mader's Cove...another postcard perfect Atlantic village...where we see a huge, uprooted tree laying across someone's house. Eventually, we end up in Lunenburg where we find a nice, handicapped parking spot right in the middle of downtown.

It's a hilly little town and we climb up to the top of the hill on King Street from which we can wander downhill through the shops and restaurants on the way to the waterfront.

About half of the businesses here are still without power but enough is open so it doesn't feel like a wasted trip.

A friend of ours recommended we stop by Ironworks Distillery at the end of town. We walk over and, even though they have power and a few people are inside, they're taking the opportunity of the storm to have a day off and are closed to the public.

We continue to the waterfront, take in the views, and talk to a few shop owners.  A cemetery at the other end of town makes a good spot to look at the gravestones and take a few pictures.

Here's one where a tree grows through two tombstones.

Finishing the day with a forgettable lunch at Big Red's, we stop at a hardware store on the way out of town that and with power to get the wrench we needed for Tim's chair.

It's a slow, scenic drive along the coast on the way back as we decided to drive through Peggy's Cove to see what's there.

It's much smaller than Lunenburg but with about twice as many tourists milling about. There's an almost full parking lot at the famous lighthouse perched on big rocks that make for a stunning picture.

We cannot find an accessible spot but park in a normal parking spot while Letty goes out to take pictures.

While there is a tiny, picturesque fishing village here, there's not much else to recommend trying to navigate the area with a wheelchair so we continue on and back to Halifax.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Some photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

National Family Caregivers Month: Taking Care of The Caregiver

Welcome to National Family Caregivers Month. What is a caregiver? Basically, if you're someone with special needs necessary for living a normal life, you will need someone to help you meet those needs. That is a caregiver (also called a carer in some parts of the world).

While our blog focuses on disabilities, particularly mobility deficiencies, most of it is written by a caregiver with input by the one cared for (for the perspective of the person being cared for, you can check out Tim's series of posts called Cerebral Palsy Stories).

During this month, we'll be posting some articles about caregiving, what it is, how to do it, and how to pay for it. Our focus will be on persons needing help due to mobility issues.

As we've noted before, caregiving is an all-consuming 24/7 affair. The temptation to give into that would be easy to fall into but if the caregiver has a problem, everybody has problems.

I often remind Tim he needs to be an active participant and help me out. If I fall, he falls. If I get hurt, it's likely he will to. If I'm sick or out of action, he suffers because he no longer has my help.

One thing I try to do is take care of myself and stay in shape so I'll be healthy enough and strong enough to help him for as long as possible.

I admit that I don't always have the healthiest of lifestyles. I like to eat. I like to eat foods that aren't considered healthy. I like a cold glass of beer, a sublime sip of wine, or even a nice cocktail at a friendly little dive bar and I'm paying for that lifestyle by being overweight and dealing with type 2 diabetes.

That, of course, has to change so I've been eating and drinking less, trying to be healthier when I do (usually just one big meal a day and another very light meal). I've also increased my exercise considerably.

I walk just about everyday. My quota is 15 miles a week and most weeks I exceed that by several miles. I've gotten it to be such a habit that many in my county now know me as "that walking guy from Ione."

Tim goes with me at least once a week and he's now developed a liking for hiking when we go on trips.

He also joins me for a weight training workout session twice a week.

While I'll never be mistaken for a bodybuilder, I have gotten noticeably healthier and stronger. I've lost over 40 pounds...and cholesterol has dropped 80 points, and my blood pressure is consistently normal now. Yes, part of that is due to medication but I'll take it.

It's also helped me mentally and shedding of stress is a big part of my lifestyle and philosophy these days. 

If I can stay healthy mentally and physically, I should be able to take care of Tim for some years to come and keep pushing the day where we'll have to rely on someone else back to the future.

If you are or become a caregiver, make sure you put time aside for yourself and keep yourself healthy.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 22, 2021

Dastardly Dorian Dumps on Halifax

We've had marvelous weather in Nova Scotia since the fog of the first day lifted. Daytime highs of around 70 degrees, sunny, with a slight breeze. That's about to change.

Just before we left, Hurricane Dorian pummeled and devastated the Bahamas on its course through the Caribbean. As of this writing, 58 people have been killed, more than 600 are still missing, and some endangered the Bahamas nuthatch...are now believed to be extinct after the storm.

Dorian left the Caribbean, headed out to sea, and is now headed north. Looking at the track on the weather map, we can see a dot right smack in the middle of the storm's path...the next landfall will be Halifax.

We are going to experience our first hurricane.

Walking along the waterfront, we see changes. The floating pedestrian bridge is gone, it's been stowed away for the storm. A parade of Navy ships are headed out of the harbor from the big base here. They're headed to safer waters for the duration. Cranes are being lowered. The ferries have stopped running. Waterfront restaurants are boarding up their windows and, in our hotel, dozens of cots have been set out in the conference room to accommodate employees who can't go home and stranded guests who can't leave.

It's Saturday morning. On the news, the storm is expected to make landfall sometime in the afternoon. We head to a nearby convenience store to load up on snacks and drinks to hold us over until the storm passes. We each get a microwavable dinner from the hotel's lobby shop to have some nutrition to go with it.

Then, we get comfortable in the room. We're hunkering down, waiting for the storm, and will not be leaving the hotel until it's gone.

A consideration for us is that our room is on the 10th floor. We visit with the manager to see if we need to be concerned. We're told that all should be well, the hotel (Homewood Suites) has plenty of backup generator power and the elevators will still be running in the case that the local power goes out.

Now we long as the cable TV, lights, and internet hold out, we'll be good. Hopefully, the large windows will remain intact as well.

Mid afternoon, the rain starts. Not long after that the wind kicks up. Soon, we also have snow that is blowing sideways. The snow doesn't last long and then the rain comes in sheets with 80-90 mile per hour sustained winds.

Hurricane Dorian has arrived. A category 1 storm, just enough to be a hurricane, but not the category 5 that hit the Caribbean, thank God.

The windows shake...even the building shakes with the buffeting of the winds. I make a quick trip to the lobby just to take a little video of the storm for posterity. No way I'm going beyond the front door.

Back upstairs, now and again, the internet and cable go out. Just for a few minutes at a time. The lights flicker now and again but no sustained power interruptions. If you're our friends on Facebook, we apologize for all the silly posts...mainly, we were bored.

We're lucky...the neighborhood around us is lights out and the area to the east of us would not see a flicker of electricity for three more days.

By 10 o'clock that night, the winds have died down and now it's just a steady rain.

Halifax was very one died, no major injuries. A crane toppled onto an empty apartment building under construction, hundreds of trees were taken out, windows broken, and hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians were without power for several days. Minor inconveniences in the big scheme of things.

Some things we planned to do will either have to be modified or scrubbed but now it's time to count our blessings and continue our trip.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Cocktail Hour: Halifax Pub Crawl

We were told that Halifax has more pubs per one thousand people than any other city in Canada. I guess we should try a few while we're here.

Let's start with the 2 Crows Brewery, which is right next door to our hotel. Beers a bit overhoppy for us but it's fun to go next door with a couple of beers and throw axes at the wall at Halimac.

Watch the Video!

Another stop we enjoyed better was the Stubborn Goat Beer Garden, on Halifax's waterfront. This is a nice place with good beer to enjoy the activities on the water when the weather is nice although I'd call it more of a patio than a beer garden.

Onto actual pubs that we visited, we start off with the Split Crow Pub which sits at the entrance to a small pedestrian mall on Granville Street at the north end of downtown. It's a bit tight inside with the wheelchair so we sit in the small patio out front.

It's happy hour so we take advantage to get cheap glasses of Molson Canadian and Garrison Red along with Letty's wine. I like the red, Tim likes the Canadian.

Up the hill across from the Citadel is the Halifax Ale House. It's an ancient looking bar but it's only been in business since the 1960's. The building is indeed old (1893) but it used to be a church for the Salvation Army.

Keith's Red is my pour while Letty gets a giant mug of Hoegaarden and Tim goes with a Leffe blonde. We each think our selection is the best.

Next, we'll pop back down to the waterfront and visit Halifax Distilling Company. On our outing to Lundenburg, we missed out on the rum distillery there because of Hurricane Dorian related issues (basically the staff used it as an excuse to take an extra day off). Luckily, there's a good rum maker right here in downtown Halifax.

We taste a selection of their rums going from light to dark and including spiced varieties. It's all good and we take a bottle of the black and another of their chocolate rum to take home.

Next it's up to the lively climes of Argyle Street and Durty Nelly's which has a nifty side entrance for wheelchairs to avoid the old steps built into the main door. It's another Keith's Red for me and wine for Letty. Tim's going back to Coke at this point.

We're finishing up down the block at The Pint Pub, a much larger facility that includes a rooftop patio (that's not wheelchair accessible, unfortunately). We finish with a forgettable Olan lager, Fireball and Captain Morgan shots.

That's it from our drinking tour in one of Canada's most pub friendly cities. 

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 19, 2021

Splish Splash and Cannon Blasts - Forts and Cruising in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Fully rested up, we're ready to start exploring a little deeper into Halifax.  After breakfast and getting ready, the phone rings. It's the Harbour Hopper tour office telling us we will not be able to do the 1:30pm tour we booked because the accessible vehicle will not be ready until 2:30pm. Would we mind waiting an hour?

Watch the Video!

No, we're good. Actually, this is great because it gives us a litte more time to explore what would become my favorite attraction here, the Halifax Citadel.

This is where the English part of the city was founded back in 1749. A heavily fortified hill that was the North American military backbone of the English Empire. It also just happens to be right across the street from our hotel.

It may be just across the way but it's still up a steep and big hill. We have to track up five blocks, feeling every step in our glutes, to get the accessible route up to the entrance. Tim has a power chair so it's no big deal for him.

We buy our tickets and pose with the guard.

Over the moat and into the cobblestoned entrance, it's another photo opportunity with the guards but this time, they can break the pose and smile with you.

Inside, there's a large parade ground covered with hard packed gravel. It's not a problem for most chairs. There are some deeper, softer spots around the edges that you should take care to avoid.

Built into the wall, there's a museum of British and Canadian military history that winds you through several rooms.

It's interesting, especially as an American seeing things explained through the British side of things when you get to the period of the Revolutionary War.

Tim's am what sounds like a cannon going off repeatedly. Actually, it's a musket demonstration going on over in another corner of the fort. I amble over, too late to take pictures, but hear a very interesting spiel about why the armies of the day marched in attack lines, hundreds of soldiers wide, as opposed to taking cover.

In short, it's because the soldiers were nervous, the guns smooth-bore, and they figured with everybody shooting at once, there was a good chance that someone would hit something, even if a lot of shots went wild.

Over in the barracks building, a docent tells us the fascinating story of everyday lives of the soldiers.

Here, he demonstrates some of the games the soldiers would play to pass time in the barracks.

I must say that the docents here at the Citadel are among the best we've ever encountered in our travels. They were very knowledgeable, engaging, and made the history come alive. We enjoyed our visit to the Citadel a lot more than we thought we would.

At noon, another crew fires off a cannon over the wall that was to alert the ships and citizens of the town so they could set their clocks.

At this loud point in the action, we take our leave of this fascinating old fort that also has an elevator so that wheelchairs can access the path around the top of the ramparts.

It's about four blocks down the rather steep hill to the city's waterfront. This afternoon, we need to be there for our next adventure. We're going on the Halifax Harbour Hopper tour. This is like the Duck tours you have in cities like Boston but up here they're named after a frog instead of a waterfowl.

An old army surplus amphibious vehicle is used so that after tooling around the city streets for the first half of the tour, the truck turns into a boat and floats in the water for the second half.

You need to book the wheelchair accessible vehicle at least a day ahead of time. We stopped by the office yesterday to do just that.

At the appointed time, the vehicle pulls up and a manual, hand-cranked, wheelchair lift is deployed to get Tim onboard.

Once he's in, and strapped down, we're off.

First stop is a couple of loops around the Citadel, where we'd just come from, so we got a bit of a rerun.

Then, it's off to the streets where we see some old cemeteries and the large park known as Halifax Common.

It's through the shopping district and then by St. Paul's Church, the oldest building in Halifax dating back to 1749.

It's off to the casino where a ramp hidden alongside allows us to splash into the water.

It's a slow cruise along the waterfront, an area we've been exploring on foot for a couple of days now. The HMCS Sackville, a Canadian Corvette that was a legendary U-Boat hunter in WW I, is docked next to the Maritime Museum.

Georges Island, with it's pretty lighthouse and another historic fort, is the next landmark we pass.

We see the Halifax Transit ferries ply their way across the harbor, make one more pass along the waterfront from the casino to the cruise ship dock, and then it's back to the base.

It's a lot of fun and one of the few, truly accessible boat tours in the region.

Afterward, we make our way back down the waterfront to Pickford and Black, a waterfront seafood restaurant where we can bask in the late summer sunshine.

Letty has their wonderful seafood chowder and lobster roll...

...Tim the fish 'n chips...

...and the landlubber in the family has a creamy pesto chicken thigh.

It was all marvelously delicious and a perfect way to end this day.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved