What’s That About?

I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who said that the older a person gets, the bigger his car gets.  What’s that about?  Do they think it makes people take them more seriously or are they just harking back to the good old days when they were driving those huge cars up and down Main Street on a Saturday night? 

The car I learned to drive in, in the early 60s, was a Pontiac Laurentian, which was the size of the school bus my grandkids take to school.  I can’t believe I drove that vehicle.  Parking it was like bringing a 747 in for a landing! 

Our family had one (huge) car.  Remember we were 13 people.  My four older brothers already had their driver’s licences by the time I got mine and every evening, there would be a rush to get to Dad first and ask for the use of the car.  I know he had to pay extra money for insurance for my brothers and not for me (I was a female and not as great a risk), so he didn’t mind me having the car frequently. 

One evening, my brother Rob wanted the car to take a girl to the movies.  I also wanted the car and I got to Dad first.  Rob was in a bit of a bind since he had already told the girl he would pick her up for the movie.  We had a little chat and here’s what we came up with.

Rob takes the car and drives to the movie with his date.  He leaves the key in the car.  I come along with my date and take the car.  Just before the movie is  due to end I park the car in front of the theatre and go to a restaurant.  I leave the key in the car.  Rob takes his date home and returns the car, leaves the key in, and my date and I go for a nice drive.  Mission accomplished.  A car-share evening with no one the wiser.

Another thing that happens when you get older is that you wake up earlier and earlier.  Sometimes I think that my hubby is going to get up one day before he goes to bed!  By the time I get up around 8 a.m., he has been up for hours.  Then he falls asleep by 8:30 at night.  We just can’t seem to get together on this matter.   At lease he has stopped making his side of the bed while I am still in it!

I’m thinking of petitioning the government to change the clocks so we will at least be in sync with the rest of the world.  You don’t mind going to work from 5 a.m. until 1 p.m. do you?

I’ve Got a Secret

I’ve been a reader since I was a little kid.  I don’t remember learning to read.  I just remember reading.  I love reading all kinds of books but I have a secret.  I want to  write books!  There! I’ve said it.  I want to write books.  I want to write books.

My Dad wrote poetry and children’s stories and had several of each published.  Of course it wasn’t his day job or even his evening job.  It was his okay, I’ve got three minutes to myself and I am going to write down this poem that has been racing around in my head for four days job. You see he and my Mom had eleven children and he worked long hours to make sure we had enough of everything.  He travelled sometimes as part of his work and he saw the beauty of the Nova Scotia landscape that inspired poems, like Isle Madame, and This Old Home.

Dad’s brother wrote a book about his adventures as a country doctor and had it published. It sold very well in both Canada and the US, but he died at an early age and no other books were written.

When my hubby and I were living in Africa, I wrote a Mathematics text-book for adult literacy and it was translated into several of the local languages.  While living in Montreal I wrote an English Grammar exercise book, which was used by a local language school in teaching English to French Canadian adults.  BUT, my secret desire is to write romance novels.

Yes, Romance Novels!  You already know the story.  Girl meets boy.  Kiss.  Kiss.  Hug.  Hug.  Girl loses boy.  No kiss.  No hug.  Girl and boy work it all out.  Kiss, kiss, kiss.  Hug, hug, hug.  The End.

I have already written one and a half romance novels.  I submitted the first three chapters of the completed novel for publishing and believe it or not, it didn’t get published.  But you know, it is still an accomplishment.  I actually wrote a complete 59,000 word novel.

Some of my friends asked me if the novel was steamy and sensuous.  Well, my mother was still alive at the time and I told them that if I wrote that kind of novel I would have to wait until my mother died because if she read it, it would kill her!  She has been gone many years but I could never bring myself to write that kind of book.  I have to be true to myself and it’s just not me.

The kind of romance books I enjoy are funny and clever and witty, and very, very romantic.  I love books by Sophie Kinsella, Kristan Higgins, Barbara Hannay, and many others.  I like Georgette Heyer and M.C. Beaton as well.  Their books are a sub category of romance novels but very good.

Ideas for romance stories are constantly going through my head.  Many are set in Nova Scotia, in Cape Breton specifically.  Some are set in the North of Canada.  Mounties and pilots and even computer nerds are often the objects of desire. 

Now that I am retired, I have all this time on my hands.  Should I give it another go?

Will That be Cash or Credit?

Do you have a credit card?  Uh huh!  Me too.  I was thinking today about weight loss and I came up with an analogy to credit cards.

I was talking on the phone to a friend, Sherry, and we were on our favourite topic – how do we even begin to lose weight and eat as we should?  It seems that very few plans work and even fewer work for the long-term. 

If I think of friends who have lost weight, I would have to say most of them have gained it all back and more.  Nothing seems to work over time.  Weight Watchers? Jenny Craig? Dr. Bernstein? Herbal Magic?  The menace of the “gain-back” is lurking in the background with all of them.

Do you know anyone who has let credit card debt get out-of-hand?  Maybe it has even happened to you.  You are going to use it only for emergencies.  You are going to pay the balance every month.  And then you aren’t able to pay the balance and you begin to have  interest payments to pay every month.  It is a slippery slope!  Soon you are not able to handle the interest payments and then a real emergency comes up and you are not able to handle it.  It is the same with weight loss.

When you begin to gain a few pounds, your clothes still fit and you go along happily.  But the day soon comes when your pants are too tight and you can’t button your blouse.  One time I planned to wear a specific “little black dress” to a party, slipped it on and was about to go out the door when I decided to sit down for a minute to see how comfortable it was.  I COULDN’T SIT DOWN!!  I was having trouble “making the monthly payments”.

If you have ever tried to pay off your credit cards and get control of your finances, you know it is not easy.  It hurts.  You have to say NO to yourself.  Maybe you even take the scissors to your credit cards.  And it takes time!  It doesn’t take long to get into debt, but it certainly takes a lot of time to get out of it.  But it is so liberating!

 It’s the same way with weight loss.  You have to say no to yourself.  It will hurt for a while.  No matter what plan you follow, whether it is one where you go to meetings or one you create for yourself, you will have to eat LESS than you want to.  When you finally reach your goal, you will have to monitor yourself closely, to ensure you don’t begin to gain again.  Be prepared to cut back for a time to stabilize your weight.

Once you are in control of your finances, you can begin to  use your credit cards again.  Every month, when your credit card bill arrives, you will monitor yourself.  Are you able to pay the balance?  If not, it is time to cut back on the spending. Now. Before it gets out of control again.

When you are at your goal weight, you can eat a piece of cake on your birthday. You can have a treat once in a while.  But stay alert.  Weigh yourself.  If you regain more than 3 – 5 pounds, cut back and get back in control.

If you are trying to lose weight and get fit, I wish you well.  But stay alert!!!

10 Things I Love About Ottawa

I am back home after two and a half weeks travelling in Ottawa and Montreal.  I was very tired when I got home and when I woke up in the middle of the night with someone beside me, I was very surprised.  Pleasantly surprised though.  And my hubby is a very happy man!!!

Ottawa is an incredibly beautiful city.  Every time I go there, I am struck by how liveable it is and how there are people everywhere.  It is alive and its people are very active.  So I wanted to do a “top ten” list for Ottawa.

  1. The Rideau Canal.  This canal runs through Ottawa from The Ottawa River through to Kingston, Ontario, about 200 km away.  It was opened in 1832 and is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America.  In the summer it is full of pleasure boats which moor along its length at pubs and restaurants.  In the winter, the canal is drained and a 6 km long ice rink is constructed and hundreds of people skate on it every day.  My son-in-law used to skate or kayak to work as the canal is only steps from their front door.   Little portable shops are placed on the canal and you can get a hot chocolate to drink or a beaver tail  to eat.
  2. Beaver Tails.  These are shaped like beaver tails and are fried pastries coated with sugar and cinnamon.  Can you imagine stopping for a beaver tail after a toe-chilling day on the canal?  Mmmmm.
  3. Winterlude.  This is a festival held in Ottawa for about three weeks every winter.  There are ice sculptures and fireworks.  There are performers and a “snow playground”.  And of course, the canal.
  4. The Tulip Festival. During World War II, the Queen of Holland was living in exile in Ottawa.  When she was about to give birth, an area at the Ottawa Hospital was declared to be a part of Holland so her daughter could be born in their homeland.  After her return home, the Queen sent tulip bulbs to the city of Ottawa as a thank you. Every spring hundreds of thousands of tulip bloom and they are gorgeous to see.
  5. The Green Belt.  This is a reserved area running through the city that is designated green.  It really adds to the beauty of the city.
  6. The Bike Paths.  Running through the Green Belt, alongside the canal and in every area of the city, there are many bike/pedestrian paths where  residents can bike to work or shopping or to meet friends.  These paths are ploughed in the winter, so they are still useable.
  7. The Museums. There are enough museums to please people with many different interests.  The Aviation Museum, The Museum of Civilization, The Museum of Nature, The War Museum, and The Museum of Science and Technology are just a few.  I still remember taking our girls to the museums when they were little.
  8. Dow’s Lake.  This is one of the best places in Canada for rowing, kayaking, and canoeing.  Canadian Olympic athletes use this area  for training.  As you drive or walk by in the early evenings, you often see dragon-boat  teams, getting ready for a competition.
  9. The National Arts Centre. In the centre of downtown this facility hosts symphony, ballet, and other cultural activities.  I went with my daughter once and heard a young man playing a Stradivarius violin accompanied by the National Arts Centre orchestra.  I’ll never forget that sound. 
  10. Autumn.  Fall is spectacular in the Ottawa area.  Across the river are the Gatineau Hills which are a blaze of colour and there are hiking areas around  the mountain lakes to allow visitors to enjoy the amazing views.

There are so many things I love about Ottawa that we are planning to move there in the coming months.  Every time I visit there, I have this desire to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Camp Grandma Day 5 – The Final Day

It is a gorgeous day here in Ottawa. The sun is shining and it looks like it is going to be a lovely day. The breeze is cool but refreshing.  Directly across the street is a beautiful church.  I am looking at the steeple framed by maple trees just starting to change colour and all of this contrasting beautifully with the cerulean blue sky.

I am looking out the living room window.  I can hear the tap, tap of hammers at a neighbour’s house and I can hear a small plane flying high overhead.  Once in a while a neighbour walks by pulling a wagon with a toddler inside and frequently the older residents come by for a chat about the weather or changes to the bus routes, coming up on September 4.

10:00 a.m. – The girls are up but are moving slowly today. They’ve eaten a good breakfast and are playing quietly.  I really don’t have any clue about what to do today.  We’ll probably go for a walk to get the paper, but after that, who knows?  Maybe an adventure awaits!

Noon – We are having lunch.  We made a pork roast this morning in the crock pot and it was delicious.  Just add a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and a package of onion soup mix.  Yummy.  Then Amelia helped me make jasmin rice which went well with the pork roast.

2 p.m. – They are playing on the pull-out couch pretending it is a houseboat.  On a nearby computer, they have put on a YouTube video of the ocean waves crashing on the shore.  Modern kids!!!  They sure know how to use technology to enhance their play time!

4:00 p.m. – We finished up the day by making chocolate cupcakes. As soon as they are cool enough we will ice them and enjoy a pre-dinner snack.  Maybe with a cup of tea!!!  The cupcakes are going fast!

6:00 p.m. – My son-in-law’s mother is retiring today so the whole family has gone to dinner with them.  They even brought some of the cupcakes with them.

7:00 p.m. – Monica, my other Ottawa daughter has come over for the evening.  My brother decided not to drive me home after all so I’ve had to scramble to book my train fare for tomorrow.  All done now, though.

9:00 p.m. – Michelle, Monica and I went out for a long walk and we ended the evening and the two and a half weeks with a great conversation about books.  Recommended were anything by Mary Jane Maffini, Elizabeth Haye, and the Dear Canada series of books.

11:00 p.m. – Looking forward to seeing my hubby tomorrow.  I wonder if he ate ANY veggies or fruit since I’ve been gone.

Camp Grandma was a success, and I have to say I learned a lot!

Camp Grandma – Day 4

The girls got up early today but not as early as Grandma.  I was making my second cup of tea when they came downstairs, ready to play Micho and Karo.  Enid, the eight-year-old asked me if I wanted Orange Peacock tea!!!  They are so cute!

9:00 a.m. – They have had breakfast and are already playing their Japanese school game.  They are dressed up like anime characters and are wearing high heels.  I have decided to be a student today and Enid is teaching me how to draw anime characters.  Apparently I have some artistic talent, according to my granddaughters!

11:00 a.m. – We have moved on and are out on the front patio, having a spa day.  Enid gives the best massages.  We had a very relaxing time and ate lunch there as well.  Amelia doesn’t want to take care of dirty feet but is willing to make beautiful designs on your nails with her Mom’s nail polish (Shhhh!).  Their prices are reasonable.  Massages are $1.50 and manicures and pedicures are $1.00 each.  I think I’ll get mine done every day!

3 p.m. – We have planned out a shadowbox we are filling with the medals Amelia has won for trampoline.  She is very proud of them. 

4 p.m. – They have cleaned their rooms!!!  Everything is off the floor and in the dresser or closet.  The rooms look wonderful.  Mommy is going to be so proud when she gets home from work.

7:00 p.m. – The day is over.  Mom and Dad were thrilled with the clean bedrooms. 

9:00 p.m. – Good night girls.  See you in the morning!

Tomorrow is the last day of Camp Grandma.  On Saturday I am going home to the Toronto area to be with my Sweetie.  I think I need a rest!

Camp Grandma Day 3

We’re half way through the week and things are going well.  Today started off with a cup of tea and a crossword puzzle while the princesses slept in!  (Surprise!)

10:00 a.m. – They’re both up!!!  They got up by themselves and quietly came down and got their own breakfasts.  We ran out of milk so we had a lovely walk to the store to get some.  It is a warm sunny day and we are looking forward to our barbeque later on.

11:00 a.m. – They are peacefully playing school – Japanese school – and I am going to surprise them as Mrs. Lema, the grouchy principal!!!

Noon – Whoa!  That worked well.  Their mouths were hanging open.  They couldn’t believe I went to a Japanese shop in Montreal to buy a kimono. Monica, my youngest daughter is picking us up soon for the barbeque at her work.  She and her husband are physicists who work for a high-tech company that makes optical filters.  It’s the annual outdoor cook-out where families come together.  There will be games for the kids, a pinata, kite flying, and lots of prizes.

3:00 – It was a great success.  The kids all had a good time and Monica’s colleagues were very friendly and welcoming.  More than a few of them commented on how much Monica and I look alike.  Owen and Brynn, two of my other grandchildren, were there as well.

5:00 p.m. – We are going out for dinner to Bambu, an Asian food restaurant.  It was supposed to be just my two daughters and me but circumstances changed and we are bringing along Amelia and Enid.

9:00 p.m. – We are back and Enid is in bed already.  We had a wonderful time.  The food was great and there was lots of it!  I couldn’t believe how eager Enid was to try different foods.  She even tried and liked wasabi, which is very spicy!

It was a good way to end the day.  I have a couple of things planned for tomorrow.  Hope the day goes well.

Happy 62nd birthday to my sweet sister, Helen!

Camp Grandma Day 2

Yesterday went well but the girls were at loose ends a lot of the day.  They need more exercise.  So how do I take care of that with my own mobility issues? We are in the beautiful city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and the first plan for today was to go to see the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill.

10 a.m. – We are going to have to go to Plan B because Amelia is still in bed.  I woke her up but the ceremony is beginning right now, so we are not going to make it.

Noon – We are on the bus on our way downtown. I’d like to see the Parliament Buildings but I don’t think we’ll make it that far. There is construction all over the place and we are getting tired.

2 p.m. – We went to the Rideau Centre and checked out the new Forever 21 store that is opening there soon.  The girls are excited about that! Then we went to the Apple store where the girls tried out the new iPad and the iPhones that were on display.  There was a huge number of people there and I hope they don’t mind that 8 year-old Enid was testing one of the computers behind the counter!!! I got her out of there before anyone noticed.

4 p.m. – We are back home and just heard about the big earthquake in Virginia.  It was felt as far away as Toronto, and I am sure in that area it will be known as the Toronto earthquake as the Ottawa/Gatineau earthquake was last year! My daughter is a geologist so it is exciting for her.

5 p.m. – The girls have gone swimming with their Dad. They are so excited. Summers were never so organized for me when I was little. They are so blessed.

6 p.m. – The day is over.  The parents are home and two tired girls are reading and talking about going to bed early tonight. So is Grandma!  At least I’m thinking about it.

Tomorrow has a big surprise in store for the two granddaughters.  We’re going to a high-tech company for lunch. Shhhh.  More about this on Camp Grandma Day 3.

Camp Grandma Day 1

The day started off well.  My daughter and son-in-law went to work and the girls slept in until 9:30 or so.  I had a fairly quiet morning as a result.

Amelia is 11 but looks like 13.  She is adorable and spent half the time brushing her hair and talking to me.  Enid is 8 and the sweetest little girl. 

 Amelia had a picnic to go to for her Grade 6 class.  Her mother asked me to have her make herself a lunch.  Great idea!  But not as easy as it sounds.  She wanted to make herself a rice sandwich.  She got out the rice maker but couldn’t remember the proper ratio of rice to water so it turned out sticky. Very. Very. Sticky.

Then we got out the tofu and I fried it up in a little peanut oil.  It turned out well but looked like scrambled eggs.  I guess it was okay because we got out a piece of foil, put down some sticky rice, topped that with the scrambled tofu and then put another layer of sticky rice on top.  I can’t wait to hear about what it tasted like!

After Amelia left with her foil-wrapped rice sandwich, Enid and I walked to the store to buy some milk and a treat for her. 

I have a few surprises in store for my two granddaughters.  I bought chocolate and some molds and we are going to make our own chocolates.  The girls are totally into Japanese culture and have kimonos to dress up in when they play school and I bought myself a Japanese kimono and plan to surprise  them as Miss Lema, the grouchy principal of the school! I thought we could also cook candy apples as I saw a recipe in a magazine which looks kid-friendly.

You need 50 caramels and 2 tbsp of milk.  You melt it in the microwave, stirring afterwards.  Then place popsicle sticks in 5 apples and dip them in the caramel mixture.  Coat with favourite toppings. Smarties, mini-marshmallows, tiny candies, chocolate chips.  Anything you can imagine.  Then place the apples on waxed paper and put in the fridge overnight. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

We’ll have to see what excitement happens on Day 2 of Camp Grandma.

Ya Gotta Love the Swedes

The first time I went to an IKEA store was 20 years ago.  We went to buy some furniture for our daughter Monica’s new bedroom.  We drove to Scarborough where we saw the most  massive building painted Swedish blue and yellow.  Honestly we spotted it about 15 kilometres before we pulled in to the parking lot.  After rotating dazedly through the maze of aisles, we picked up our items, paid at the cash and left for home.

Fast forward 18 years!  I was visiting our daughter Lindi  in Vancouver and on my second last day there we went to  IKEA to shop and for supper. Here’s the important part – we went with my son-in-law who is from Sweden.  Jim and Lindi and their son Emil had just returned from a two-month trip to Sweden and they were anxious to show me the ropes. 

You see on my first visit, I didn’t know that there was a plan to the place. There are even arrows on the floor to tell you in which direction to walk!  Everything is beautifully displayed and there are little cards that tell you to pick up your larger items in Aisle B, Bin 3!  It was full of families and everyone was cheerful and happy. 

We had supper in the cafeteria which had a huge mural on the wall, of Midsummer’s Day in Sweden with the people all dressed in Swedish costumes.  Jim and Lindi said that the picture was from the next town to  Falun, where Jim’s parents lived.  I had Swedish meatballs in honour of the visit and they were very good indeed.

We made our way through the building and bought a few items.  Jim got me some cloudberry jam and I bought some Swedish hard bread which was very good.  It was a fantastic experience.  On my next visit to Vancouver, I requested a return visit to IKEA and they were happy to take me there.  It was a bonus for them because their son was tall enough to go in the children’s play area and we were able to shop with no interruptions from the little guy.

I’ve also been to the IKEA in Ottawa a couple of times.  Today was the latest trip there.  My daughter Carla had recommended the duvets and other bed linens to Monica and we bought some today.  They were very reasonable priced and Monica even got a new pillow.  She has her eye on a craft work station that was set up, and I think maybe she was thinking of her birthday coming up in October. 

I don’t know whether Michelle, our fourth daughter shops at IKEA but I’m willing to bet she does.  When I am conducting Camp Grandma at her house next week, I’ll ask her!

Tak (thanks) for reading.  Have a good weekend!