Victoria Day Weekend

The past week has been pretty hectic with great happiness and one great sadness.  My 91-year-old mother-in-law passed away on Monday, the day after her oldest son’s 67th birthday.  She had a wonderful life and we all loved her and will miss her.

My daughter, Carla, came to Ottawa from Montreal to visit for the long weekend.  Her three boys were with her while her hubby was working on a few things around the house.  We had a blast!

On Friday evening, my grandson, Owen, had his 8th birthday.  The party theme was Wild West and the kids loved every minute of it.  Here are a few photos from the party.

Panning for “gold” at the Wild West party.

Howdy, Pardner! Welcome to my party.

Note the kid on the ground!

Owen is trying to make a break for it!

Each kid got a cowboy hat, a bandana, a bow and arrow, a camp stool, and some chocolate “money”.  A great idea.

Carla’s boys went for a long bike ride with Grandpa on Saturday morning and in the afternoon we had another party and a barbeque for Owen and Grandpa’s birthdays which are only two days apart.  The food was delicious and we were able to take home leftovers!

Mmmmm. Yummy.

On Saturday evening we babysat Amelia and Enid, daughter Michelle’s two girls.  The kids played all evening and then went to Mac’s for treats.  Seven cousins and almost enough money!  They were 14 cents short but the owner let them have the treats.  We went back the next day to give him the 14 cents!

On Sunday, Grandpa took the boys out for another looooong bike ride which turned out even longer when Cam’s bike broke and they had to walk home.  They had forgotten to bring their cell phones with them!

Michelle came over later in the day and the kids all watched an old favourite, The Aristocats.  They must have seen that movie thirty times over the years.  We had bought the VHS version many years ago and had to upgrade to the DVD version a few years later. I made popcorn and snacks and they settled in.

The weekend was one of the hottest on record with the temperature soaring to 35 º C (around 95 º F).  Carla and I took a walk along the trail near my house in the early morning.  I took a few photos.

Carla on the Trail.

Some of the flowers along the Trail.

Lilacs. My favourites!

In the afternoon we went to my sister Beth’s house near Ottawa, for another family barbeque.  It was wonderful.  Two of my brothers and two of my sisters were there as well as Carla and her three boys, Monica and Nick and their two kids, my sister’s daughter, husband, two step-children, and newborn baby.  The baby is just a month old and was the hit of the party.  Brynn, my 6 year-old granddaughter, said to her mother, “Tomorrow I’m going to tell all my friends at school that I have a baby cousin.”

Before Carla left I took a photo of her Bermuda Bag, because it is a different colour from the ones I posted in “It’s All in the Bag”.

I love the lime green of this bag.

Carla went back to Montreal and Grandpa and I had a looooong nap!


It’s in the Bag

Today while Hubby and I were on the bus, he asked me where my hat was.  I replied, “It’s in the bag.”

Because we walk, bike, or bus so much, we always take a bag with essentials in it.  Hubby’s bag has been nicknamed his “brain bag” because he totes around enough Science magazines and books like, “Quantum Fields in Curved Space Time” to keep him occupied while he is waiting for me to finish shopping.  You’d think he could just “people-watch” like I do when I am waiting for him!  I think he secretly likes it being called his brain bag, because it makes it appear that he is really above all this mall activity stuff and would rather be in his lab somewhere, performing his mad scientist imitation!  I think he got the name for the bag from a “Dilbert” cartoon, by the way.  His bag is basic black but I’m a little more daring.

I have different bags for the different outfits I wear.  This first bag was the first of its kind.  Ever!

The first Bermuda Bag. It is about 10 years old!

Here are a few items you could find in my Bermuda Bag.  Baseball hat, for when I am wearing a ponytail.  Bucket hat for when I’m not.  Winter hat for when the temperature dips down low.  Woolen gloves for casual wear and leather gloves for more dressy occasions.  Small packages of tissues for those occasions when I or one of my traveling companions have the sniffles.  A small vial of hand sanitizer for flu season or when one of my fellow bus passengers is hacking.  I need to be prepared for any eventuality!  At this time of year, I have to be prepared for warm, cool, sunny, or rainy weather.

The next edition of The Bermuda Bag.

If I’m wearing my jeans, this seems to be a good choice.  I also have sunscreen and throat lozenges.  I have a copy of the day’s free newspaper (you know I’m a senior, right?) and a small notebook where I keep window measurements and colour swatches, in case I see some household item that is on sale.  It has the names of author’s I’d like to read and lists any books of a series that I’m looking for.  This notebook also has names and addresses of contacts that I may have to access if I see a perfect card and want to mail it right away.  Oh, and stamps, a small supply.  I often have a small sketchbook and pencil to capture a scene that I love.

I particularly enjoy using this bag, especially in the summer. I think it is very Bermuda-ish!

Small shopping items can fit in the bag – bread, butter, eggs, etc. It is actually bigger than it looks.  I’d say about 18″ x 18″.  Perfect for a novel or library books that have to be returned.  Letters  to be mailed?  In the bag.  Bus schedules?  In the bag.  Sunglasses?  Reading glasses? Distance glasses?  Refillable water bottle?  Folding umbrella?  You guessed it.

Isn’t this orange colour beautiful?

Since one of my three sisters lives in Bermuda, we seem to have a limitless supply of this sought-after and popular bag.  One of my sisters has a beautiful gold one,  and another has a bright green one.  They only make a certain number every year and they are distributed at an international conference, held in different cities every year.

This red one is my current favourite!

I really wish I had a pink one, but apparently they’re hard to come by.

Just a sec.  My phone is ringing.  Hey, where is it?  Oh, right.  Now I remember.

It’s in the bag!

The Country Mice

Do you remember the old tale of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse?  I think the point of the story was that neither one fit in the other’s world.

The story I am about to tell you concerns two country mice who happen to be sisters.  It is a true story and not even the names will be changed to protect the two sisters!

It was the summer of 1964 and Helen and Maureen were living in their somewhat chaotic household in Nova Scotia, with their parents, seven brothers, and two other younger (less fortunate ?) sisters.  Maureen was 19 years old and just about to enter her fourth and final year at university.  Helen was just about to turn 15, and someone in the family decided that it would be a great idea to send these two young, innocent babies girls to New York City.   On the train.  BY THEMSELVES!!!

I don’t remember what the fare was but my sister was pretending to be 11, because it was half-fare for those under 12.  She was trying to look younger than she was which wasn’t difficult and I was trying to look older and sophisticated, which was difficult.  I know Helen wore her youngest looking dress and wore her hair in two pig-tails.  I think she looked a little like Ellie Mae Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies, minus the impressive chest.  I thought I knew everything about the world and I guess I did – the world of a small town of less than 5,000 in Nova Scotia.  Outside that, I knew nada!

We had to travel via Montreal, which was about 18 hours away.  There we were to be met by cousins (whom we had never even seen).  We would spend the night with them and go on to New York the next day.  I can’t really tell you about it except that we were absolutely shocked by the behaviour and the language of our eldest cousin and her mother, our uncle’s wife (and soon to be ex).

The next day we boarded the train for New York, a nine-hour ride, and since we couldn’t find seats next to each other, we sat across the aisle from one another.  We were each seated beside ladies who were younger than than I am now, and of course we chatted all the way.  I remember at one point Helen was asked what grade she was in since she was talking about her algebra and Latin courses, and she answered truthfully that she was in grade 9.  If she was only 11, that meant she must have started grade one at age two, or she must have skipped several grades on her way to grade 9.

At one point the train stopped to allow two border-patrol officers to board the train.  We had no passports, no visas, and very little cash.  They asked to inspect our luggage and on top were our Sunday Missals, because of course we would be attending Mass while we were there.  The officers just looked at each other and smiled and one said, “I don’t think we have to worry about these two.

Now remember, we had no cell phones and there was no way to get in touch with our parents or our New York cousins, but at least we knew we were going to arrive at 10 p.m. at Penn Station, and we had sent a telegram to our Aunt to let her know where we would be.  Imagine our surprise when we were told by other passengers that, Yes, we were arriving at 10 p.m., but at Grand Central Station, not Penn Station.  We didn’t know what to do but when we arrived our cousins were waiting.  They knew that no trains from Montreal got in to Penn Station at that time of night.

Our Aunt’s house was a wonder to us.  She lived in Westchester county and lived next door to some TV star among others.  Her children had all left home so Helen and I had the run of the place.

A couple of nights after we arrived, Helen and I decided to go to a movie in Pelham where Aunt Vernie lived.  We walked to the theatre and asked for two tickets to the movie and I tried to pay with a Canadian $2 bill!  The ticket lady called the manager who asked us where we were from and talked about the fact that there was no $2 bill the US, and they wouldn’t accept it anyway and he asked us tobe his guests!  It was an amazing gesture of kindness and understanding and we’ve never forgotten it.

We had such a wonderful visit.  Jones Beach.  Far Rockaway Beach.  The World’s Fair.  Radio City Music Hall.  Yankee Stadium.  And the shopping.  Saks Fifth Avenue.  Alexanders.  Bloomingdale’s.  Aunt Vernie wouldn’t let us pay for a thing and when Helen went to get out her purse to pay for lunch with our Aunt and Uncle, he just gruffly said that we didn’t seem used to dining out in a city and here we were in Manhattan where our Uncle and his sons had a business.  Of course we weren’t used to dining out!  You don’t go to any restaurant, let alone a fancy one, with eleven kids!

We visited cousins in Jamaica, Long Island, and in Mount Kisko, and the Bronx.  We will never forget our visit to New York City, although between us, Helen and I have since been to many different countries and Helen has a time-share hotel suite in Manhattan where she stays when she wants to see a play or concert.

The country mice were absolutely amazed at the wonders of New York City in the days before passports, body searches, scanners, and pat-downs became the norm.  When people invited to young girls from Canada to be their guests at a movie, with no ulterior motive.  We went to Yankees baseball games with our cousins and to the World’s fair with our much younger cousins.  We took the subway there and back very easily.  Can you imagine that today?

We were thrilled a couple of weeks later when Mom and Dad said they were driving to New York and we could all drive home together.  I remember sitting in the backseat and Helen saying, “It’s just like there are only the two of us children in the family.”  Dad just smiled and said, “But who would we have to leave out?”  No one, Dad.  No one.

Thanks for reading. – Maureen

Quickly Flow the Years

It’s Mother’s Day and although I am a Mom and a Grandmother, I am still thinking of my own mother, who has been gone for eighteen years.

Amelia, my Mother.


In this photo, taken shortly before my mother was married, her whole life was before her.

She looks so trusting and almost wistful in this photo.  It was taken on a trip to New York to visit her sisters.  She and Dad got married in New York City at St. Nicholas Church in the Bronx. Fifty years later Mayor Ed Koch sent a letter congratulating them on their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Mom was a woman who uplifted everyone she met.  Decades later, friends and cousins would tell me that they remembered Mom praising them and telling them that they were beautiful or intelligent or a great business person.  She was always thinking of the other person.

When her own mother was bedridden, Mom bathed her and did her laundry.  She took care of her bachelor brother when he was sick and was patient and kind.

I have a hazy memory of Mom when she came home from the hospital after adding the latest brother or sister to the family.  She was wearing a lovely green soft wool dress, slim-fitting, and her figure didn’t have an ounce extra.  She looked down at the baby and the love in her eyes was something I’ll always remember.

Mom was funny both intentionally and unintentionally.  She had a great sense of what was humorous and she laughed often.  Children made her smile and there were always neighbourhood kids who dropped in to see Mom.

She loved God and spent many hours praying, most likely for her children.  I can still picture her sitting by the window reading the Bible.

Mom had a beautiful voice and she played the piano very well.  She was in several productions as a child and in her old age could remember all the words to all the songs she sang.  She was a good artist as well, although I remember only one painting that she did, on a dare from one of my brothers.

Today is Mother’s Day.  My husband is with his Mother.  She is 91 and very ill.  She hasn’t seen him for more than five years so imagine how thrilled she must have been to wake up in her hospital bed to see her eldest child (of 12) sitting beside her.

I miss my Mother and I am thankful I had her.

Today is Mother’s Day.  A day for children to “rise up and call their mothers, Blessed”.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, young and old. – Maureen



Triple Power Push Pops

Do you even know what Triple Power Push Pops are?  Sounds like a bunch of Dads doing push-ups to me.  I had never even heard of them until Saturday evening when my grandson Owen was visiting.

Monica and Nick wanted to go to the new Avengers movie so we very kindly said we’d babysit Owen and Brynn, two of the cutest grandkids ev-er!  Brynn is 6 and Owen will be 8 next week.

After supper Grandpa announced that dessert was going to be “anything they wanted at the Quickie store”.  Now back in the day Quickie had a different meaning but here in Ottawa it is the name of a chain of corner stores, like 7-11 or Mac’s Milk.  (I think I prefer the older meaning, but that’s just me.)

We walked through the park to the store with the two of them jabbering all the way.  They have such a joy of life.  At the store Owen quickly found the garishly wrapped Triple Power Push Pops that he had been wanting.  He had never had one, but heard about it at school where no doubt the other boys had been discussing its wonders!  Okay, it’s candy.  It comes in a plastic cylindrical container and when you open it there are 3 (hence Triple) little buttons on the side, that you Push, to reveal 3 lolliPops.  I guess the Power comes from sucking on these things because for the rest of the evening, they had blue, red, or green tongues and they were hopping and bouncing all over the place.  Owen told me that the green one tasted like broccoli and that he didn’t like it, but the red and green ones were good.  I guess he won’t eat his veggies even if they are made into candies!

When I was a kid, there were candies like “honeymoons”, “chicken bones” (still love this one), “humbugs”, and “snake eyes”.  There were candy cigarettes with a red end so it would look like it was lit!  (Great “pushing”, tobacco companies.)  There were also liquorice cigars, which I never liked.

Do you remember any particular “treats” from when you were a child?  What were your favourites?  Do you still have them occasionally?  I have a few chicken bones every Christmas season.  I can taste them now.

Thanks, Renee for the Lovely Blogger Award.  I’ll post on that topic soon!

Only Money

When people have decided to purchase something, you often hear them say, “Hey, it’s only money.”  Sometimes I wonder where all my money goes.

Housing and food are givens and so are utilities and taxes.

But where else does my money go?

  • Books, Magazines, and Ebooks.  I probably spend a few hundred dollars a year on these items, despite the fact that we have a fabulous library here in Ottawa.  I am really trying to cut back but sometimes I feel like I just have to have the latest Jeffery Archer right away, for example.  In that case I buy the eBook which is cheaper than the hardcover.
  • Hair, Nails, Make-up.  Okay, I really save here.  I buy shampoo, conditioner, and hair dye, only when they are on sale.  I usually buy a bottle of nail polish a year, to paint  my toes for the summer season.  For make-up, I buy lipstick and eye-shadow once every two or three years.  I rarely wear make-up so it isn’t difficult.
  • Transportation.  This one is a good one for me.  Hubby and I take the bus only on “free” days, and buy our groceries, etc. to carry home.  Very rarely, I have to take the bus on a non-free day, and then I use tickets.  We bought a book of tickets ($15) four months ago and I still have most of them.  However, the city is getting rid of the “free” bus on Monday and Friday afternoons, so we will have to do some creative thinking to come up with some alternative plans.
  • Home Beautification. We moved to Ottawa a few months ago and decided to buy some new furniture and a new bed, as ours hadn’t been replaced for decades.  We spent about $2,000 but it is all paid off and NOT on a credit card.  That feels good!  I put in a very small garden in front of my house.  Plants and soil were a gift from my cousin, chairs from my daughter Monica, and some flowers from my daughter Michelle.  Cost to us $0.00!!!
  • Movies and Entertainment.  Absolutely nothing, although there are one or two movies I’d like to see sometime.  Most of our entertainment doesn’t cost anything – bike rides, walks, visits to parks, free concerts, even free cooking classes at the local community centre.
  • Restaurants. We probably spend a few hundred dollars a year eating out, but if you know me at all, you know we usually dine on the basis of two-for-one deals.
  • Electronic devices.  This could be embarrassing!  I am an electronic gadget lover!  I have two eReaders, a Netbook, a Laptop, and a regular computer.  I have an iPhone, and an iPod Touch, and several Memory Sticks (including a few free ones).  When I go anywhere to visit, I have a separate bag with cables for all my “toys”.  Hubby has multiple computers, monitors, memory sticks, hard-drives, and an Android phone.  I would say this probably runs into $1000.oo per year, as many of the items are now older, but still…

We really are blessed here in North America, but I feel that we should be aware of what we spend and how.  I have obviously cut back in some areas but I still have work to do!

Oh wait, I think there’s an app to help me calculate all that!

What about you?  What are your spending “pits”? – Maureen

Older People

I have always loved older people.  They seem easy to talk to, for the most part, and they have interesting stories to tell.  Just take a little time to listen.

Yesterday, Hubby and I decided to look for another adventure on the buses of Ottawa.  Yes, we are older.  I am 67 and Hubby will be 67 on the 20th.  We are not old, just older, so we qualify for theFree Senior’s Dayon Ottawa’s buses.  We took off shortly after noon on the #114, heading northeast.

We stopped for lunch at Perkin’s, and I really enjoyed my meal.  However, seated behind us, were a middle-aged man and an older woman.  They were having an intense conversation which we couldn’t help overhearing, for the entire thirty minutes we were there.  She had a pen and paper and he was asking her questions.  We quickly found out that she had been studying for her written driver’s test, and he was quizzing her on the content.  Let me tell you, it was painful!  That poor woman.  That poor man.  And poor whoever happens to be anywhere within 500 km of her if she ever manages to pass that test.  But I don’t see how she could.  I mean, he was asking her what a red light meant.  Does it mean to go or to stop?  Well, she had to think about that one.  Does this sign mean “yield” or “slow-moving vehicle”?  Ummm.

I can tell you, I don’t think she would recognize a car if she saw one, let alone know how to start or operate one!  I whispered to Hubby, “We’d better eat fast and get out of here before she gets into her vehicle, in case she is still driving.”  I know that she did not answer even one question correctly.  Hey, she didn’t even answer most of them.  She hemmed and she hawed and she sounded sweet and indecisive and he was losing patience and …. Well, you get the point.  I don’t think she was operating on all cylinders and instead should have been studying for some kind of medical/mental test.  She should never drive a car.

I told Hubby someone should just put a phone call in to the drivers’ bureau and tell them to throw away her licence, after tearing it into a thousand pieces.  We got out of there and breathed a sigh of relief.  I know not all older people are like that and I also know that I am going to continue my efforts to stave off dementia, before it’s too late.

We then did some banking at a local mall, and walked across the street to Dollarama, to check out the bargains.  Nothing tempted us, so we walked back towards the mall.  While waiting to cross the street, a #5 bus came along and Hubby asked if I wanted to hop on.  We would end up at Billing’s Bridge, and he figured it would take us about 45 minutes, which is a long time on a city bus especially when the roads are full of pot-holes.

Everyone always says that there are only two seasons in Ottawa, Winter and Construction Season.  So many roads are under construction and I’m sure we were on all of them.  It took us one 1 hr 25 min to get to Billing’s Bridge and we still had to transfer to the #98 to get home.

And then a funny thing happened.  We got on the bus and told the driver we were seniors and she let us on.  When we were seated, she shouted back, “To the seniors who just got on the bus, next time you have to show proof that you are seniors.”  Every eye on the bus was on us as I shouted back that we would.  Then she shouted, “Because you two don’t look like seniors to me.”

Ahh.  I guess we’re not older people yet.

Thanks for reading and have a good day! – Maureen

No More Winter

This past weekend was an absolute beauty!!!  It was sunny and warm, around 20ºC (70ºF) with not much wind, just a gentle breeze.

Here in Ottawa we have the annual Tulip Festival which started this weekend.  It goes until after Victoria Day which will be celebrated in a couple of weeks.  The tulips are incredibly beautiful and there are all sorts of activities.  My friend, Eleanor, and her husband are coming to take part with us and we are trying to find different things to do and places to go to.  I know there are some musicians performing at various locations and there are several art shows where local artists display their works.  That should be fun.  Eleanor and I are fellow artists and enjoy seeing what other artists are up to.

I’d like to share the story behind the Festival.  During WWII, the Queen of Holland came to Canada to escape the Nazis.  While she was here, she gave birth to a daughter.  The problem was, according to Dutch law, the next monarch had to be born in the Netherlands and she was in Canada.  The Canadian Government helped out by declaring her hospital room a part of Holland and everyone was happy.  The little princess was born in Holland.

After the war, a grateful Dutch nation sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada as a gesture of thanks.  There are now an estimated 1,000,000 tulips here in Ottawa, most descendants of the original gift.

Victoria Day is a holiday here in Canada and has been since my mother was a child.  Queen Victoria’s birthday was May 24, and as her reign went on, she became the longest reigning monarch in at least English history, maybe elsewhere as well.  By the time of her death in 1901, she had been queen for over 61 years.  (As an aside, Queen Elizabeth II has been queen for 60 years, and she’s still going strong! Her mother lived to be 101!).

My grandson, Owen, has his eighth birthday on the 18th and Hubby will turn 67, to catch up to me, on the 20th!  We will be partying all weekend long, because Daughter #3, Carla, will be here for the weekend with her three boys!  We are babysitting granddaughters Amelia and Enid that weekend as well.

Thanks for reading and have a great day! – Maureen


So, good-bye Winter,  and welcome Spring!!!


Lily was born in 1921, in Ontario.  She was the youngest child in her family.  When she was still a young woman she fell in love with Kevin and they were married in 1944.  On her wedding day, the whole city was covered in ice and she couldn’t get to the church.  She went outside in her wedding dress, hailed down the milk truck, and hitched a ride to the church.

Soon after, they moved out west to Alberta, where Kevin worked for the Government of Canada.  In 1945, in Grande Prairie, Alberta, their first child, a son, was born, to be followed by nine other siblings.  Years later, when their youngest was about 4 or 5, they adopted two brothers, Bobby and Chris.

I met Lily in 1965, when she was in her early 40s.  It was Christmas time and I was teaching school about 3,000 miles away from my home.  I was dating her eldest son and she and Kevin invited me and my roommate to spend Christmas with them.

There were 17 people in that little three-bedroom house that Christmas.  Kevin and Lily, their 10 children, 3 foster children, and my roommate and me. The boys had to bring the battery from their little Volkswagen into the house at night so it would start the next morning.  It was -50º F.

I remember Lily as cheerful, positive, and kind.  She didn’t always have it easy but I don’t think she ever said a bad thing about anyone.  Her love for her husband and children was evident to anyone who knew her.  She didn’t talk much, unlike me, and never wanted to call attention to herself.  When we were alone, she spoke gently and lovingly.  I knew that if I spoke to her in confidence that it would never be betrayed.

Lily became a grandmother when she was in her early 40s, when our eldest daughter was born.  When we visited them on our return from Africa, she had a little foster child who was the same age as our daughter.  She never ever complained of hardship, and I know there were many, and she never complained of hard work.  She lived through years where there was no running water in their house and an indoor bathroom was far in the future.

When Lily was around 60, she lost her beloved Kevin.  Her heart was broken, but she was strong and concerned for her children.  Since then she has lost two sons, Bobby and Michael.

Lily is 91 years old.  She is in hospital in Alberta, surrounded by many of her children.  What an example of a good woman.

In Proverbs 31, it says of a good woman that “her children will rise up and call her blessed.” 

I am proud to be her daughter-in-law and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day.  I send her all my love and affection.  I only wish I was half the woman she is.

Lily, I salute you!