Walk Like a Ballerina

Winter came late to Ottawa this year. December was mostly mild with very little snow.

Christmas Day was well above zero and it was raining. The grass was still green, for Pete’s sake!

But this past Sunday, January 4, we had:

  1. Snow
  2. Freezing rain
  3. Rain

All in one day! It was Nova Scotia weather in Ontario!

The shovelling was bad, my husband told me. As a result of all that shovelling, the freezing rain fell on a clean driveway which means that it is a solid sheet of ice. So it was salted.  But all the salt mines of Tanzania don’t produce enough salt to melt the ice that covered everything.

The trees and shrubs were ice coated and glistening in the sunlight which followed the “weather bomb”. It is just so pretty!


The temperature dropped from +8 C (45F) on Christmas Day to -25C (-13F) yesterday.

So now, when I venture out of the house, I have to walk like a ballerina.

You know. The teeny tiny steps, like Margot Fontaine dancing in Swan Lake. The arms outstretched and flapping in the air, like a bird ready for take-off. I mince my way down the driveway and do the ballet dance all the way to the bus stop.

I HAVE to get to Tim Horton’s to have a cup of steeped tea with my friend, Joan.

I feel as if an audience cheered as I entered the coffee shop. But I think some of them were hoping I’d fall.

I just hope I remember the dance steps for the trip home.

Happy New Year to all of you. May you be blessed with health and happiness. – Maureen

Getting to 30

In a few weeks I’ll be 70 years old.

My last post was called, “Being 20″.  It was 1965. I became a teacher that year, went to Alberta for my first teaching assignment, met my future husband, and became engaged before the end of the year.

  • 1966 – I got married, joined CUSO (a volunteer organization), and went to Zambia. I taught Math to High School students.
  • 1967 – I gave birth to my first daughter, Michelle. I wrote a Math text-book for adult literacy during my pregnancy.
  • 1968 – We returned to Canada and lived in Montreal where my husband was working. It was a case of reverse culture shock to be in Canada again.
  • 1969 – I gave birth to my second daughter, Lindiwe.
  • 1970 – I gave birth to my third daughter, Carla.
  • 1971 – We moved to Ottawa. I took my first art class, working on oils.
  • 1972 – Looked after babies. Cooked, cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked, cleaned.
  • 1973 – More of the same.
  • 1974 – We moved back to Montreal. Two weeks later I gave birth to my fourth daughter, Monica.
  • 1975 – I turned 30.

This was, perhaps, my busiest decade. Five of those years were spent with another human being attached to my body in one way or another. Pregnant or breastfeeding. I loved (and still love) being a mother but that was difficult. However, it had always been my plan to have my children in my twenties and “bring them up” in my thirties and forties. And that’s what I did. Successfully.

Getting to 30 was not always an easy road. We had challenges along the way, but we persevered and with the help of God, we entered our thirties stronger and more committed to each other and our family than ever.

So, good times. Good times!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day. – Maureen



Being 20

In early February, 2015, I will be turning 70.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this milestone. I’m pretty sure 70 is not considered young or even middle-aged by anyone under, well, 70!

I’ve been living the senior, retired life for a few years now and it’s been pretty good. Free bus Wednesdays, discounts once a month at local drugstores (and you’ve got to believe we frequent pharmacies a lot these days), special status on VIA rail, and senior coffees at various cafes and bistros.

But my mind has been turning back to my childhood, my youth, and my middle years.


I turned 20. I was finally out of my teen-aged years but not quite, according to the law of the land in those days, an adult.

  • I was in my fourth year at university, studying arts and education.
  • I still lived at home with most of my brothers and sisters, and I used to run up the hill every day in my effort to get to class on time. Successful most of the time.
  • On weekends and in the summer, I had to be home by 10:30, and I was!
  • In May, I graduated with an education degree.
  • I was hired, by letter, to teach elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, about 3,000 km (2,000 m) from my home in Nova Scotia.
  • I travelled by plane for the first time. Halifax – Edmonton.
  • I started teaching Grade 1.
  • I met my husband-to-be on September 19.
  • At Christmas time we drove from Edmonton to Fort Smith, NWT, to spend Christmas with John’s family.
  • On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) John and I decided to get married and go to Zambia, in Africa, to work as volunteers. (Our next anniversary will be our 49th.)

There were many changes in my life the year I was 20. I left home, travelled, and fell in love.

What could be more exciting than that?

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day.

– Maureen

Farewell to Nova Scotia

I recently returned from a visit to Nova Scotia with my two youngest daughters.


We flew on Porter Airlines and we loved it. The plane was small, a Bombardier Dash-8 Q-400 which is a turbo-prop. Everyone associated with the airline was friendly and helpful. They have a neat service called Sky Check. You bring your carry-on bag to the door of the plane, someone takes it from you, gives you an ID stub and returns it to you as you get off the plane. No more endless waiting at the carousel to pick up your bags.


We arrived in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia and went to pick up our rental car from Enterprise, for the drive to Antigonish. The very nice young man offered us a choice of vehicles. We could have a Nissan Sentra, or…


Our weekend ride. A white Mustang convertible!

Our weekend ride. A white Mustang convertible!


Yes, we chose the Mustang! We were going back in style!


Monica driving the Mustang.

Monica driving the Mustang.


Carla in the front passenger seat.

Carla in the front passenger seat.


Yes, that means I was in the back but the ride was totally enjoyable.


We got to Antigonish after a wonderful seafood mean at The Dock Pub in New Glasgow.  We took a ride down Main Street which has changed somewhat from the 1960s. The buildings were basically the same but new modern trendy restaurants and gift shops were scattered among them.


One of the touristy stores on Main Street.

One of the touristy stores on Main Street.


The Made in Nova Scotia Store was a delight to browse in. There was jewellery made with local sea glass as well as a myriad of tartan items. After all, Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland.


The next day we went to a few of the local beaches, where we lolled in the sand. Mahoney’s Beach was one of my old hang-outs.


Toes on the beach.

Toes on the beach.


We then drove along the Sunrise Trail and stopped at Cape George Lighthouse where we were lucky enough to spot whales playing in St. George’s Bay.


Whale watching.

Whale watching.




We stopped at Cribbon’s Point which is a beautiful fishing village.


Cribbon's Point.

Cribbon’s Point.


We also travelled to Cape Breton Island which is connected to mainland NS by the Canso Causeway. We stopped at a gorgeous sandy beach located in the small town of Port Hood. Later on, we drove to Mabou, CB, where I had spent a year at boarding school. This part of the trip was very emotional for me.


Carla and Monica couldn’t believe how peaceful it was there.


The church at Mabou, Cape Breton.

The church at Mabou, Cape Breton.


The convent at Mabou where I lived with 90 girls during my last year of high school.


St. Joseph's Convent, now a Retreat Centre.

St. Joseph’s Convent, now a Retreat Centre.


We had a tour of the building where I lived 54 years ago. It was basically the same and I admit I had tears when I thought of the happy times spent there. A lovely nun, Sister Catherine, gave us a tour of the building and I took a photo of the chapel, where I was usually the first one at Mass each morning. I know that being at Mabou with the wonderful sisters there strengthened my faith. That has stayed with me my whole life.


The chapel at Mabou.

The chapel at Mabou.


I told you Antigonish is a Scottish town, didn’t I? Here is my youngest daughter in our motel, The Claymore.


Monica with her new friend!

Monica with her new friend!


We visited The Wheel Restaurant where I hung out during my last two years at St.F.X. University in Antigonish. We had lunch at The Moonlight Restaurant which hasn’t changed one iota since 1965. We stopped at Arisaig Beach to see the unusual geology of that area. We took a long walk around Antigonish Landing, a protected wetlands area. We drove and walked on all the little back streets of the town that helped form me. We visited the Church, St. Ninian’s, and met some old friends there.


Brierly Brook, which runs through the centre of twon.

Brierly Brook, which runs through the centre of town.


What a trip! What a lot of new memories of Nova Scotia I have to think about on the long winter nights here in Ottawa.


We packed this whole experience into one long weekend!


I hope you enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane. I think we should all do this, at least in our hearts.


Go visit Nova Scotia some day. Its beautiful scenery and its friendly residents will steal your heart.


Have a great day and remember to leave a comment.










Going Home

I’m going home!


“There by the sea it stands,

The home that sheltered all my dreams…”

(From a poem, written by my father, George Brasset.)


I was born and raised in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

When I was 20, I left my seaside home and over the decades that followed, I fulfilled many of the dreams that were nurtured there. I explored the world, living in Africa, the US, and nearly every province in Canada. I married and had four wonderful daughters who in turn gave us eight amazing grandchildren.

On my next birthday, I will be 70 and I am thrilled to say I am going back to NS for a visit. I am being accompanied on this short trip by my two youngest daughters, Carla, and Monica.

My heart is full as I contemplate seeing the home where I used to live, and visiting the many beaches where I spent so many happy days in the summers.

I am looking forward to showing my daughters where I went to school, where I went to university (St. F.X.) and the beautiful St. Ninian’s cathedral where I was baptized, confirmed, and was married.

I want to show them the streets where my friends and cousins lived and the store where my father worked.

They say this trip is for me and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Even if it rains every day that we are there, I don’t mind.

Because I am going home!!!


Thank you for reading and have a fabulous day. – Maureen


48th Anniversary

Today is our forty-eighth wedding anniversary.

I met my husband-to-be in September, 1965, in Edmonton Alberta. I had just graduated from university and John was in his 4th year of engineering. We were 20 years old.

That December, we drove to his family’s home in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and we decided to get married. In the next few months, John graduated with his engineering degree and I finished my first year teaching. We also both turned 21.

We travelled to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where we were married on July 16.

Three days later, we left for Zambia, East Africa, where we would work as volunteers for the next few years. Our first daughter, Michelle was born there. Lindi, Carla, and Monica were born over the next few years. We lived in:

  • Antigonish, Nova Scotia
  • Fort Smith, NWT
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Lusaka, Zambia
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Naperville, Illinois
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Oshawa, Ontario
  • Ottawa, Ontario

We have five grandsons and three granddaughters. We are retired and very happy.


July 16, 1966.

July 16, 1966.


Thank you for reading. – Maureen


Tales from an ESL Classroom – Part 1

It was the funniest of times; it was the saddest of times.

I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The school I was working at was a language school, where most of the students were adult refugees.

My first class was a group of fifteen men and women from Poland. They were a great group who were eager to learn all they could about Canada.

The course lasted 20 weeks and in that time we were usually able to bring the students from having no knowledge of English to knowing enough of the language to get an entry-level job. We started with the alphabet and progressed to single words and sentences. Near the end of the course we started writing simple sentences. Grammar was a bit of a problem, though, and some students were never able to quite get the hang of it. And idioms, like “get the hang of it” were a real problem for most.

During one morning’s lesson, I asked a man, “How are you today?”  He answered, “Today is Wednesday.”

Sometimes I would write words or phrases on the chalkboard and the students were supposed to write a simple sentence, using the correct verb tense.

  • “every day” – The sentence I got from one man, “Every day I put two sandwiches in my briefs.” prompted a quick lesson on the difference between “briefs” and “briefcase”.
  • “bigger than” – This man must have been using a dictionary, probably a British one, when he wrote, “My cock is bigger than your chicken.” This time the teacher was blushing more than the students!

Occasionally, a student would miss a class and I got some pretty interesting “sick” notes.

One started, “My darling Maureen…” and ended “I love you, darling.”

We worked hard five hours a day, five days a week, and by Friday afternoon we were exhausted.  Sometimes we played BINGO, which helped them with their numbers but also gave the “caller” a chance to practice speaking.

One day my teen-aged daughter and her friend came for a quick visit and two men stood up and said, “We are single.”

The students, men and women, made wonderful progress and one of the women even named her new daughter after my daughter, Monica.

I heard over the years that they all got jobs, had families, and became Canadian citizens. I grew to admire and respect these people so much and they will always be in my heart.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.







Just Puttering Around

I woke up to a sunny morning today and decided it was a great idea to just putter around.


put – ter

verb (North American)

to occupy oneself in a pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks, or not concentrating on anything in particular.


The first thing I did today was pour myself a cup of tea. I am on my third “cuppa” as I write this.


A nice cup of tea, in the mug my friend, author Jo Hiestand sent me.

A nice cup of tea, in the mug my friend, author Jo Hiestand sent me.


Then I read today’s Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

  • Ontario is having an election on June 12.  Six weeks of campaigning! Speeches and debates and mud-slinging!
  • 90 couples renewed their wedding vows at church yesterday.
  • University of Ottawa has pioneered a new treatment for heart valves.
  • The Toronto Raptors lost game 7 in basketball.
  • The Ukraine (a mess).
The Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2014.

The Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2014.


It was time for breakfast. A second cup of tea with scrambled eggs and shredded zucchini.





While eating I got the daily crossword puzzle completed.


An easy one. They get more difficult as the week goes on.

An easy one. They get more difficult as the week goes on.


I worked on a jigsaw puzzle as well.


A Scottish port.

A Scottish port.


Finished my latest painting.


I am trying to do at least one painting a month. This one is April's.

I am trying to do at least one painting a month. This one is April’s.


And played Words with Friends with my daughter.


She usually wins!

She usually wins!


It’s only 11 a.m.!!! Did I mention that I was awake at 5:45 this morning?

What do you do when you “just putter around”?

Well, I have to meet my daughter for lunch and I also have to think of how I am going to occupy myself for the rest of the day.

Have a fabulous day! – Maureen








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