In the Queen’s Purse

I just saw a photo of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II wearing a matching dress, coat, and hat, and there on her arm was a lovely leather (I assume) handbag.

Do you ever wonder how long it takes her to switch things from one purse to another? She probably has it marked in her daily schedule.

But WHAT is in her purse? To find the answer to this question, I have conducted a scientific study of the matter.

She is a woman. I am a woman. (This is the basis of my study.)

  1. A wallet. Okay, she doesn’t need a wallet but where else is she going to keep her ID? Her driver’s licence? Her Air Miles Card?
  2. A comb. I suppose she could have a lady-in-waiting carry her comb for her but what if said lady is nowhere to be found and Elizabeth’s locks need attending to?
  3. Bus Pass. If her limo has a break-down, she has to be able to get home. They probably have a senior’s pass for older queens.
  4. Cell phone. If you spent half your day being driven around the countryside, you’d want to have a chat with the kids and grandkids, wouldn’t you?
  5. An eReader. For those long plane/train rides. It would get just too boring looking out the window at clouds and farms.
  6. Gum. Well, it is refreshing after a banquet. Helps settle the royal tummy.
  7. A pencil and the London Times crossword puzzle. If the after-dinner speeches go on too long, this would come in handy.
  8. Nail clippers. Very useful for those jagged fingernail edges, brought on by the previously mentioned speeches.
  9. Keys. Now I had a problem with this one. I have one house. The queen has Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, etc. etc. etc. The keys could get a little heavy.  Add to this the many cars she owns, and perhaps a lady-in-waiting could be hired especially to carry the key chain, possible like the ones custodians tote on their belts.
  10. Sunglasses. These may be very useful to limit exposure to harsh sunlight and they have the added benefit of allowing Her Majesty to take forty winks without any of her subjects being the wiser.

The queen may have other things in her purse. Cash. Lip balm. Throat lozenges. But I think these ten items are essentials, and would make the transition from purse to royal purse.

Have a lovely spring day. – Maureen

Ten Things I Love About Vancouver

What a difference a day makes!


Left: Vancouver, Mar 22 Right: Ottawa, Mar 23

Left: Vancouver, Mar 22
Right: Ottawa, Mar 23


We have just returned from a delightful trip to Vancouver. We were there for a week and apart from the weather, there are a host of things I love about that city.

The evening we arrived, it was foggy and raining, but we went for a walk anyway. It was rain. Not snow!

  1. Queen Elizabeth Park. Our eldest daughter told us that we had to visit this park and I’m so glad she did. It is spectacularly beautiful. There were amazing views of the snow-capped mountains with the city laid out below.  The Spring flowers were blooming, ducks were swimming on the pond, and everywhere were paths and trails through the wooded areas.
    The view from one of the lookouts in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    The view from one of the lookouts in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    Rhododendrons in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    Rhododendrons in Queen Elizabeth Park.

  2. Simon Fraser University Campus. The university is set on top of Burnaby Mountain, and is designed with walking/cycling trails throughout. Paths flow into buildings which have large covered open areas. Our grandson, who is 9, knows the campus well, since he lives there, and was our guide for the week. When it isn’t foggy, the view from the mountain is stunning, and there are large windows everywhere to allow one to enjoy it.

    In front of Emil's school.

    In front of Emil’s school.

  3. Vancouver Public Library Downtown Branch. The building is difficult to explain. It is rectangular but surrounded by a free-standing round wall. There are glass sky-lights and it has a roof-top garden. It looks like the Colosseum in Rome.

    Near the library. A tree full of red umbrellas.

    Near the library. A tree full of red umbrellas.

  4. The Science Centre. This centre was made for kids and the day we went there I would say half the kids in Vancouver were enjoying all the interactive displays. We liked the geology section and the section on trees and plants.

    One of the Lego displays from the Science Centre.

    One of the Lego displays from the Science Centre.

  5. Metroland Centre. This is a very large shopping mall, which is apparently the second largest in Canada. It had every store you could imagine and we enjoyed a couple of hours going from store to store with Emil, our grandson, who bought himself a book on projects using the Rainbow Loom. It seems that craze is as popular in Vancouver as it is in Ottawa.
  6. The Sky Train/Buses. Every one of the bus drivers we had were friendly, welcoming, and smiling! No wonder. They live in Vancouver! They helped us find our way around and made suggestions about our route. The Sky Train is a raised rail system and apart from almost squishing me in its doors, was a great way to get around quickly and enjoy the mountain views.
  7. La Casa Gelato. This ice cream store has 218 flavours. 218! The wildest I saw was chili and bacon. I stuck to double chocolate but Emil had a combination of bubble gum and something pink! Shudder! We took our cones out to the adjacent patio and sat in the sun soaking up the feeling of spring.
  8. Hastings Skateboarding Park. This park is really an all-purpose park, located next to a public library and senior centre. The skateboarding facility is located at the other end of a large outdoor sports facility. There is a baseball field, tennis courts, soccer field, bocce ball area, children’s play area, a splash pool, and a walking/running track. We watched Emil perform on the skateboard and I am happy to say it wasn’t too scary.
  9.  The Mountains/Ocean Views. From the top of Burnaby Mountain, where we were staying, there was a view of the Fraser River Valley and on clear days we could see Mt. Baker in Washington State. I just couldn’t stop staring at the mountains. Beautiful. Magnificent. Stunning.

    Mountain view from our condo.

    Mountain view from our condo.

  10. Family. While in Vancouver I was able to see three of my brothers, one of whom I hadn’t seen for many years. We crossed the Fraser River on the new bridge which is very impressive. Emil was able to play with many cousins he didn’t know he had. Our daughter, Lindi, our son-in-law, Jim, and Emil, our precious grandson were very hospitable and fed us very well indeed. The condo where we stayed was immaculate and had everything we needed to make our stay enjoyable. Thanks Leena and Elyot.

    This is me with our Vancouver family.

    This is me with our Vancouver family.

Now we are back in Ottawa, a city I also love. But there are no flowers. No green grass. No robins. No mountains. No Emil. Just snow!



Need I say more?

Need I say more?

I hope you get a chance to visit Vancouver sometime. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day. – Maureen



Too Cold to Peck

As a Canadian, it is pretty well my duty to talk and write about the weather. We experience such extremes of temperature here in Ottawa, that it is easy to do so. A few mornings ago, this was me (take my word for it, it’s me) at the bus stop.

Waiting for the 114 bus. It was 15 minutes late!

Waiting for the 114 bus. It was 15 minutes late!

It was about 100 degrees below zero and it doesn’t matter if you measure in celsius or farenheit, it was cold. But you can’t stay indoors forever. I was just going to the bank (inside a mall) and if anything could convince me to take up electronic banking, this weather would do it.

Last week we went for a walk on the Greenboro Trail and it was beautiful. Because of the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that has decimated 25% of Ottawa’s trees, there were more woodpeckers in the trees than I had ever seen. They had obviously come to eat the insects and were making a racket pecking at the trees.

The Greenboro Trail

The Greenboro Trail

But a couple of days ago, the woods were silent, except for the crackle of the snow as we crunched along. There were no woodpeckers in sight.

It was too cold to peck!

Thanks for reading and have a WARM day! – Maureen

Texting Grannies

Lately, I’ve read a lot of articles about people texting instead of talking,  texting while driving(!), distracted pedestrians texting while walking, and I even saw a 12 year old boy texting while riding his bike.

Ottawa city buses have a spacious area for parents riding with their children and it is very sad to see these young people texting and playing games when they could be talking to their little ones. I’ve even seen several kids in strollers using cell phones! They may be just playing games but perhaps they have developed a way to text each other.

Toddler #1 – “Hey Dude. On the bus. On my way to play group. What r u doing?

Toddler #2 – Hi Junior. Just woke up from a nap. Eating strained carrots. Yummmm.

I remember, way back in the 1980s, seeing secretaries at a local company who were trying to learn how to use word processors. Many of them were struggling and I wondered how a 55-year-old was going to learn the new technology when she had been using a typewriter for years and years. Now that I am a senior myself, I realize that I was selling them short.

Recently the Hindustan Times featured an article on texting grandmothers and grandfathers. Newspapers and magazines all over the world are reporting on this phenomenon.

Everywhere I go seniors are using cell phones and computers. We have PDAs and laptops. We have iPods and iPads, and are using eReaders to take hundreds of books with us wherever we go.

Just before Christmas, I was out shopping with my cousin, and I stopped at Michael’s to check out the “Rainbow Loom”. It turned out to be THE gift of the season. The Rainbow Loom is a system for making bracelets out of tiny elastic bands. Every little girl wanted one, and now all the little boys around here are using them to make bracelets for their friends.

There was a huge display of them at Michael’s, only $18.99 (no coupons allowed).  It was difficult to get close to them because there were a dozen Grannies, all texting their daughters and daughters-in-law to ask if they should buy it for their grandchildren. It was a festive atmosphere as my cousin and I joined them.


One of the Texting Grannies.

One of the Texting Grannies.


Thanks for reading and have a great day. Happy texting! - Maureen





Winter in Ottawa – on the Greenboro Trail

When we moved here to Ottawa, on December 15, 2011, the grass was still green, the temperature was well above freezing, and a soft rain was falling. That year we didn’t see snow until a few days before Christmas and the whole winter season was milder than usual.

The coldest day of the year was the day my sister from Bermuda came to visit. The temperature that day was -25C. It must have been a shock for her! I had to lend her my long “yard-duty” coat that I had used when I was a teacher.

Last year, it didn’t snow until a few days before Christmas but Winter bit us in the derriere in March and April when we had several snow storms and the temperatures were frigid! It was very difficult and perfect strangers were talking to each other about how horrible the winter had been.

Not as bad as 2008, which set a record for the most snow EVER in one year in Ottawa.

This year, it has hit us early, and hit us hard, and while it has put us in the festive spirit and we do admit that it is beautiful, I fear we are in for another record-breaking year.

Today, December 11, 2013, it is -8C (17F). But when you factor in the wind speed, it feels like -16C (3F). Tonight it is going down to -19C (-2F) but the wind chill factor (which is a Canadian invention guaranteed to make us feel terrible (we are so cold) and wonderful (we are so tough) at the same time) will make it feel like -25C (-13F).

We went Christmas shopping today but were mostly inside so this afternoon we went for a walk on the Greenboro Trail. We took a few photos to prove how hardy we are.

And I admit – it was beautiful.

What do you think of my new WARM winter jacket?

What do you think of my new WARM winter jacket?

At 3 p.m. it was getting quite dark.

At 3 p.m. it was getting quite dark.

Two of my grandchildren built their first snowman of the season.

Two of my grandchildren built their first snowman of the season.

Over a week until the winter solstice and the sun is setting at 4:19.

Over a week until the winter solstice and the sun is setting at 4:19.

I fully expect my Bermuda sister to comment on this post telling us how “cold” it is there, but do not believe her. We have had this discussion before and I know winter in Ottawa blows her puny Bermuda winter right out of the water!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!  Stay warm.

It’s Chicken Bones Time Again!

The Ganong Chocolate and Candy manufacturing company began in St. Stephen’s, New Brunswick,  in 1873. They are Canada’s oldest candy company and their headquarters are still in New Brunswick. There is a Chocolate Museum located there and they celebrate with a Chocolate Festival every year.

In 1885, they invented a unique candy, with a pink cinnamon-flavoured outer part, surrounding a chocolate interior. They called them Chicken Bones, and they are still a Canadian favourite, more than 100 years later.

Ganong Chicken Bones

When I was a little girl, I often had chicken bones candy as a special treat and they quickly became my favourite. Do any of you remember going to the candy store in the 50s or 60s?

There would be trays of candies and chocolates of every kind, and you could usually buy them at the low price (even for those days) of 3 candies for 1 cent. If you had a nickel, you got a little paper bag full of humbugs, honeymoons, and chicken bones.

It is difficult to find chicken bones these days. However, we have a chain of stores in Canada, called Bulk Barn, which have barrels and barrels of  spices, flours, rice, quinoa, cereals, nuts, crackers, salt, sugars, raisins, dried fruits, and candies and chocolates.

In early November, Bulk Barn gets its Christmas stock in with baking supplies, and of course chocolates, Christmas ribbon candy, and chicken bones.

Word came to me last weekend from one of my daughters, that chicken bones were in at Bulk Barn. Today I made a trip to the store in the Billings Bridge mall and got a bag which I plan to eat slowly over the next few weeks. What a treat!

I read that Ganong ships to the UK and the USA, as well as all across Canada. If you get a chance to try chicken bones, do it. But be careful. If you eat too many of them, your tongue turns bright pink!

Thanks for reading. Have a good day. – Maureen

CHAPTERS: You’re Cheating on Me! (But I still love you)

Several years ago, a new Chapters store opened up in my neighbourhood. It was wonderful to have a huge bookstore so close to home. I would walk there frequently and it quickly became my go-to store for buying books and magazines. Since it is a Canada-wide chain, my grandchildren often received Chapters gift cards as Christmas and birthday presents.

Do you see the big BOOK on the sign? Does this tell you something? Do you get the idea that they sell BOOKS?

However, something has gone wrong. Over the last few years, it seems as if books and magazines are becoming a less important part of Chapters’ inventory.

A few days ago, I went to my local Chapters store with three of my daughters. Here are just a few of the items that occupied probably  more than half of the store’s space.

  • Office furniture and supplies
  • Blankets and throws
  • Dishes
  • Jewellery
  • Baby and children’s toys
  • Christmas trees and decorations
  • Chocolates and candy
  • Scarves and wraps
  • Candles
  • Lego sets
  • Gift wrap and bags
  • Games
  • Home décor
  • Nail polish
  • Baby clothes
  • Stuffed animals
  • Handbags

When I go to Chapters, I want to buy books and magazines. I don’t mind them selling Kobo  e-readers and accessories, because at least it has something to do with reading. But those other items – not so much.

The shelves holding books on Art , Computers, Science, and many other genres have been greatly reduced. It’s getting more and more difficult to find what I am looking for in-store. I can order books on-line from Chapters, but there is just something so cosy about browsing through a bookstore to see what’s new and interesting.

Chapters, you’ve done me wrong. And it’s really disappointing. But I still love you … for now.

Thanks for reading. – Maureen

Thermometer or Thermostat?


Thermometer: A thermometer is a device that measures temperature.

Thermostat: A thermostat controls temperature so that it is maintained near a desired set point.


The thermometer reacts to the ambient temperature and tells us that it is hot enough to prepare a four-course meal without the use of a stove or it is cold enough to freeze any exposed skin in seven seconds flat.

On the other hand, we can set a thermostat on a furnace or air conditioner so that it is always pleasant in our indoor environment.

When they were little girls, I often asked my daughters if they wanted to be a thermometer or a thermostat.

Do you want to just react to what is going on in your life or do you want to set the tone of your life?

The” thermometer” goes up when everything is rosy, and it goes down when things are tough. It gives us an accurate picture of how things are, but I say it is a very passive way of thinking and acting.

The “thermostat” is set, and it remains steady in the face of the everyday problems that beset us and it even works during the occurrence of catastrophic events. It is a proactive way of thinking and acting.

I have always tried to be a thermostat. At home. At work. With friends and family. I sometimes falter but this principle has always seen me through.

In order to be a “thermostat”, you have to know, without a doubt, that you are in charge of your own life and your own happiness. For me, the rock that allows me to “become” this set point, is my faith in God. Period.

I am not perfect and I don’t mean to imply that I am. It’s just that I see the world around me and I want to tell people who are running around like sheep following this trend and that one, that there is a peaceful, joyful way.

Thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful, maybe thoughtful, weekend. – Maureen.





Only in Canada, eh!

We are having a beautiful autumn here in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The weather for the past week and been warm and sunny and the changing colours are gorgeous. I have tried to get out for a walk or a bike ride every day. On today’s bike ride I told my husband that we have to memorize today and bring it back to mind when we have had twenty days in a row of below-freezing temperatures with high winds and blowing snow.

The Greenboro Trail today.

The Greenboro Trail today.


Did you know that one of my daughters works about a five-minute walk from my house? Today I walked over to meet her and we drove to a small mall nearby. The first store we went to was Mark’s. Now Mark’s used to be called Mark’s Work Warehouse. It was known for selling work clothes for men. Not suits and ties and silk shirts kind of workers. The kind of men who repair roads and climb hydro poles during Canada’s worst weather. The kind of men who dig and hammer and sweat and connect things and build bridges, and…


Well, Mark’s still sells work clothes but they also sell women’s clothes and I have to say their new fall line is gorgeous. We browsed and oohed and aahed. And then I spotted something I had never seen in any store anywhere in the world before. It took me by surprise and I had to take a photo of it.


Before I go on, you have to remember that today Ottawa is the warmest city in Canada at 26C (79F). It’s October. But Mark’s is ready for winter.


The Testing Room

The Testing Room


In the middle of the store was this full-sized Freezing Room, where you could step in to test the effectiveness of Mark’s winter clothing.


Only in Canada!!! Eh?


Thanks for reading. Have a great day!


A Test for Seniors

A few years ago my husband and I were discussing aging and we posed the question, “When do you become old?” The Canadian government declared us old when we turned 65 but we both agreed that while we were older, we weren’t old. At that time we agreed that when we reached 70, we would probably be old. My friend, who was rapidly approaching 70 was a bit (or a lot) annoyed by this and I had to agree, she didn’t seem old.

  • Last week I was looking after two of my grandchildren and when 9 year-old Owen and I came to a street we had to cross, he said, “Grandma, it will be easy to cross this street because cars stop for the elderly.” Well, goody!

Really, everyone ages at a different rate, so I came up with a few signs that you can watch out for to let you know that you are old, possibly approaching elderly, and well on your way to ancient.

  • When you are in the check-out line at the grocery store or at Walmart, do you set your items down, wait patiently and then act surprised when the clerk tells you the amount? Did you not think she was going to ask you for money? Do you fumble in your purse or pocket for your change purse and then slowly, very slowly count out every cent? While this is happening do you compliment the clerk on her hairstyle and ask her where she gets it done?
  • When you go out for dinner, do you bring 2 for 1 coupons with you? Do you at least wait for the lunch crowd to clear out before entering the restaurant? If you see friends at a nearby table, do you talk to them LOUDLY across the restaurant about your recent surgery, the more embarrassing the better?
  • Do you wait for “free bus day for seniors” to ride the bus? Do you always ask for the senior’s discount at Tim Horton’s? Do you order decaf tea or coffee because God forbid you have caffeine; you wouldn’t be able to have your usual two or three naps in the afternoon?
  • If there is ANY ambient noise – a fan, a passing car, the wind – do you have to ask everyone to repeat themselves?
  • Do you need several pairs of glasses when you go visiting? Sunglasses, reading glasses, distance glasses. You never know when you”ll  be asked to look at photos of grandchildren.
  • When you are a passenger in your daughter’s car, has she already got out, unstrapped the children, and brought a load of groceries into the house by the time you have your seatbelt undone?
  • When you buy an item and the clerk tells you it has a 25 year guarantee, do you laugh hysterically?
  • Do you complain about the air conditioning and/or the heating wherever you are because it is just too cold or too hot?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are definitely old.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day. – Maureen