Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Baltic Cruise

We're off again for a trip to the Baltic region, cruising on the Royal Princess. This is our first ever cruise on a big ship. And big she is at 3600 passengers and 1200 crew. The red arrow shows our deck—mid and low. It is one humongous ship! She was christened by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge last June 2013.
Dolphin Deck. We're on the Starboard side (the other side of the ship!)
We start our vacation in Copenhagen for a few days to get over the jet lag and see some of the sites. Then it is on-board to travel the cities in the Baltic Region.

Our Itinerary:
Day 1 Copenhagen, Denmark
Day 2 Oslo, Norway
Day 3 Gothenburg, Sweden (Goteborg)
Day 4 Warnemunde, Germany
Day 5 At Sea
Day 6 Tallinn, Estonia
Day 7 & 8 St Petersburg, Russia
Day 9 Helsinki, Finland
Day 10 Stockholm, Sweden  (Nynashamn)
Day 11 At Sea
Day 12 Copenhagen, Denmark and fly back to Ottawa

Hope to find my sea legs quickly. But others have told me that these big ships are very stable and I should be ok. Hope they are right. Just in case, I've packed lots of Gravol and my anti-nausea wrist bands.

My sister and her hubby are coming along, in fact it was their idea, along with two other friends. The big difference between this trip and our Ireland trip last year is the clothing I'm bringing. We lived in jeans and hiking gear in Ireland. But the ship has these "dress-up" nights so I'm packing a fancy dress and hubby will be fully "Kilted Out" for those two evenings—Kilt, sporran, dinner jacket and bow tie. 

That means two large suitcases for a 2 week trip. Just not used to packing so much. And lists galore. Plus lots of different currencies for our day trips.

I'll be posting more, so stay tuned.


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Friday, June 6, 2014

The Truth about Cats and Dogs and Pets

I don’t have pets. I didn't have a pet as a kid, except for that poor male gerbil which promptly gave birth to a bunch of little gerbils that all died. I think (s)he ate some of them. My kids had a couple of goldfish which ended up down the toilet. There was also short-haired male guinea pig which turned out to be a long haired variety. He slept all day and played at night. And died the night before our cottage vacation. Guess he didn't like the lake.

Really people at the Pet Store. Can you just stop lying to me!

My best friend has always had a dog in her life. She is single, retired and dogs have always been there for her, keeping her company, forcing her to get outside and walk and giving unconditional love. She also cares for her daughter’s Chihuahua sometimes. The licking and dog kisses kinda gross me out.

We did have a cat for a couple of years. My daughter’s cat, Elliot. While she was getting settled and her house was being built. I would love to have a cat again but hubby is allergic and it bothers his asthma and breathing.

But he moved to his new house a couple of years ago. The cat that is. I cried when he left.
Elliot in gentler times
Shortly afterwards, my niece called and frantically asked if maybe, just maybe would I take her cat. She had just given birth to a little boy and it seems the cat was stressed a bit too much around the new baby and his older sister. Or lets say, it stressed out the family. 

So against my better judgement I said yes. But only until things calmed down, then she would have to take the cat back. Thus Fiona arrived at my house, within 30 minutes, all sorts of cat paraphernalia trailing after her. They told my grand-niece that Fiona was going to cat camp.
Fiona permanently at cat camp
This looked a bit too permanent and Hubby was thoroughly pissed and threatened to kill the cat (not really!). But once Fiona stepped in the house, he did a 180 and thought it was a good idea to keep her forever. She's a Blue Russian rescue cat. You could pick her up and cuddle for hours. And she slept all the time. 

But our relationship was not meant to last. Remember Elliot. Well daughter thought it would be good for him to have a playmate, so one week later, Fiona left to live with Elliot. She has not returned. They played and had fun. And like any good woman, she was the boss.
Elliot and Fiona-Best Friends
But Elliot was a bit of a psycho cat. You couldn’t just pick him up so we’d just wait for the time when he would crawl up in our laps for some stroking and purring. As time went on he became more intense and vicious. He had to be tranquilized to go to the vet. The tough decision was made to put him down. I still get sad thinking about his time on this earth. Here is the post I wrote.

Which leaves me with no cat at all. And hubby says we can’t get another one.

Because he’s allergic and it bothers his asthma and breathing.

I now act like a crazy grandmother when I visit my grand-daughter and Fiona the cat at my daughter's house. I buy them both toys and cuddle with them. Here's a photo of Fiona from last Christmas. Looks like she's thinking what is this thing you puts me in?
Fiona. Christmas cat.
Good news is I get Fiona for a few weeks this summer while daughter vacations in Newfoundland. Pets do tie you down, especially figuring out what to do with them while on vacation.

And one day, perhaps I will have a cat of my own.


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

There's some good in this world...

A young guy, Scott, around 22 hit my car yesterday. My car was just grazed but his had a big dent. He was so nice and was worried I'd freak out on him. But I didn't. And after exchanging info, promising not to call the insurance, I was still a bit agitated for most of the day. He worked at a coffee shop. He was driving his sisters car cause she was in Panama as he certainly couldn't afford his own insurance. He was out looking for an apartment and was looking for the street. Probably a student. But he was nice and so was his friend who was trying to calm him.

Here is where I will confess that I actually slept in. Rolled over when my alarm went off at 6 am and decided to go into work late. I left the house around 9 and the accident happened. What if...

I shouldn't have been on the road at that time. Wouldn't have been in his way as he changed lanes and didn't see me. But, I always look deeper. Perhaps if I had left earlier I would have been in a worse accident. So somehow karma caught up with me on Monday morning.

As we parted ways, I told him hubby would call him later once we figured out the damage. But it bugged me all day and into the evening. At 8 pm I made the decision to tell him we wouldn't ask for any money for repairs. I think we can buff out the spot and maybe touch up a few spots where the paint chipped around the wheel well.

As soon as I made that decision, I was 100% better. Hubby came home at 10 pm and we talked about it. He called the poor young fella and said we would fix it ourselves and to just remember to pass it on sometime in the future. I guess sometimes you just have to let it be. And seriously, if it had been thousands of dollars in damages, I would not have let it pass.

We lived through our kids and car accidents. Nothing serious. Bumps, scratches. And years ago, my kids met those bitches from hell who freaked out. We dealt with it and remembered. One tried to get more work done and blame it on my daughter. The other tried to say it was my son's fault. Lied to the police. Thank goodness my daughter was in the car and was a witness. So we thought, here's someone who in a moment of inattention changed both our days.

I'm not a hero. I'm just someone who feels good when I do a random act of kindness. I've done little things. Paid for the order behind me in the drive thru. Tossed a few coins into the hat of a homeless guy. And let a young guy, maybe realize that there is good in the world.

I love Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien did say it best. Or at least Sam said it to Frodo:

There's some good in this world...
I hope this inspires you to do a little pay it forward yourself. It doesn't have to be monetary nor receive thanks. You will feel good.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Birthday Fun and Am I Really That Old?

My birthday was March 15th, the Ides of March. I turned 60.

But I don’t feel 60. I remember when I was young(er) that someone who was 60 was OLD. I really don’t know how 60 is supposed to feel these days. Just as I didn't know how 30 or 40 or 50 was supposed to feel. Sure there are a few aches and pains but generally I’m in good health, eat well (most of the time), travel and keep active.

Having a birthday in March sucks. It's almost always cold, snowy and dreary. So I planned a birthday weekend. Had my hair cut and coloured. My youngest sister visited from Toronto and along with my older sister, niece and daughter here in Ottawa went for tea at the Chateau Laurier. Here are some pictures from the day.
Selecting our tea at the Chateau Laurier.
I skipped the sparkling wine.
Our steeped loose tea arrived and shortly afterwards three tiered plates of scones (with Devonshire Cream & Jam), finger sandwiches and sweets, one for each of us.
Posing with one of my sisters.
Finger sandwiches. Two biters.
Yummy sweets
The tea was fun. At another table was a group of women spanning the generations from 8 to 80 with their fancy hats and fascinators. It was decided then and there that when I turn 80, in twenty years, we would again get together for afternoon tea at the Chateau, this time with our granddaughters who would be in their twenties.

Hubby gave me a lovely Pandora charm for my bracelet—a gold bouquet of diamonds. 
And on March 16th, we girls had manicures and pedicures. Just a bit of pampering to celebrate a milestone. I also watched as my Retirement countdown calendar (to the right) switched to less than 4 years til retirement. Time is flying! 

I’m still working which kind of sucks. I was out of the full time workforce for most of the 90’s, while my kids grew, only working part time or no time. Which means I’m making up for lost time and padding my pension with each year of service. Two years ago when I started this blog I asked the question “Will I be Ready to Retire?” At the end of that post I wrote:
"I will explore what will make me happy. Now. And from there I won’t see retirement as something that has to have a final plan in place but an extension of my current life. I just won’t need the alarm clock to get me up each morning. Unless I want to get up early."
The same holds true two years later. Lately a few close to me have been dealing with illness or death. We can never predict how our life will unfold.

So, I’m doing what makes me happy now, because we don't know what tomorrow will bring.


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Friday, February 28, 2014

Snowshoeing at Mont Tremblant

I spent the last 3 days at Mont Tremblant in Quebec. I'm not a skier so it might sound a bit ridiculous to go to a mountain in the winter where the temperatures were in the minus mid-teens. But I had a great time snowshoeing.

This was a short vacay with a friend of mine to pre-celebrate our 60th birthdays. My 60th arrives on March 15th. Keeping active is my motto. I don't feel my age and wonder where the time went. My parents were "old" when they were 60. 

I have two weeks left in my 50's and I plan to savour the next 2 weeks.

We arrived at Tremblant on Monday, February 24th around noon. Our room at the Hilton Homewood Suites wasn't ready until 4:00 pm but we wandered the village, had a nosh to eat and did a bit of skating on the outdoor rink.

I'm not a skater. Too afraid of falling on the hard ice but actually enjoyed the time on the rink. I borrowed my daughter's newer moulded skates without picks!
First time on skates in 20 years. Not bad.
Large skating rink near the Chapel at the base of the village square.
Our room at the Homewood Suites was quite nice. We were upgraded to a suite with loft, so I got the queen bed in the loft and my friend was comfy on the pull out couch. The room had a full kitchen and included a hot breakfast every morning. A good deal and easier on the pocketbook. The room overlooked Place Saint Bernard and the Tremblant ski hills.
Our room was the top two floors under the arrow. 
Views from our room:
Ski hills in the distance. Sun was just going down.
Place Saint Bernard with fire pit just outside our window.
Staying warm and toasty by the fire pit.
Linda by the fire.
On our first day, we took the Panoramic lift ($20) up to the top of the mountain with our snowshoes. We were surprised how many skiers were around during the week. On our snowshoes we had to first cross a couple of the ski hills which were quite icy til we hit the forested area. The snow was deep here and the trees were beautiful. A true winter wonderland. The wind died down as we got into the trees but the temp was about -15C with a windchill of -23C. Layers work the best and once moving the cold wasn't really noticeable.
Making our way across the ski hill to the forested area for snowshoeing.

Observation Tower overlooking the valley. Too ice covered to climb.
Winter wonderland of snow covered trees.
View from the top looking down towards the lake and village.
On our last two days we snowshoed at the base of the mountain around the golf course. The A-10 route was well marked through the forest. Again, once in the trees, the wind was bearable. And although we thought the terrain would be flatter, we did climb hills. I used my Nordic Walking poles and enjoyed some of the scenery along the way.
Frozen water run-off along the trail.
Such a good workout both days. 4.47 km, total climb 177 meters/580 feet.
The food. Well not so great. The first night we had Ham and Asparagus Crêpes at the Catherine Crêperie. They were a bit soggy and quite rich. Not really enjoyable although the place gets high raves from diners. I think the sweet crêpes might be better. 
Smiles before ordering.
On our last night we ate at Resto-Bar Le Shack where I had pretty good fish and chips. Most lunches we ate in the room or while snowshoeing-sandwiches or chili. Our hotel offered afternoon snacks daily from 4-6. Over the three days they had soup, salsa and chips and chili. We definitely didn't go hungry.

Of course a vacation in Tremblant means a trip to the Rocky Mountain store for fudge. I purchased a hunk of chocolate caramel fudge. Yummy in the tummy even at the outrageous prices.

All in all a great trip. Loved the snowshoeing in the forests and hills. And I was able to make my goal of 60 km walking/snowshoeing for the month of February. I actually exceeded the goal and logged in 68 km. I have a new goal to add another 70 for the month of March.

Hope everyone is able to get out and enjoy winter. Cause if we don't we will just sit inside and eat fudge. 


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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Thought That Counts

I have a secret friend. Well, I'm sure this friend is actually someone I know and speak with on a regular basis. But...

Every Valentine's Day for the last 20-25 years I have received a small card in the mail. No return address, no readable postmark, no name.

Handmade card with typewritten address.

Inside the card is written a lovely message:
Hoping I am a fabulous friend back at my "secret" friend.
When I received my first card sometime in the late 80's/early 90's I was perplexed. Who was it? I remember little confetti bits failing out of one of the cards onto my counter one year. I haven't kept the cards. I wish I had taken pictures of them though. They do sit on my window ledge for a few weeks and I think how cool it is that someone has been so thoughtful. 

As each year passed, I began to think how nice it is to remember others "anonymously". A few days before Valentine's Day I begin to wonder when the card will arrive. And true enough on either February 13th or 14th it appears.

At first it bothered me that I didn't know who was sending these. I can eliminate a few friends who I met after the first cards arrived, but I still have 5 or so longtime friends who would not only be capable of creating these, but who I consider true friends. Perhaps it is a family member. But whoever it is has not missed one year.

I don't dwell on the "who" anymore.

I dwell on the "thought".

Cause sometimes it is the thought that counts.


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Sunday, February 9, 2014


We've had sun for 2 whole days. And the weather has warmed up. If -6C can be considered warm! After -25C (-13F), it does feel quite balmy around Ottawa.

People are leaving their houses and embracing the last few weeks of winter. For those who don't know, the Rideau Canal splits the city of Ottawa and in the winter it freezes over. They clean it off and skaters can skate for 7.8 km (4.8 mi). It is the "longest (widest) skating rink in the world".

We have a three week celebration, called Winterlude, but I'm not a skater so rarely go down now. I have walked while others skated and who would want to miss eating a Beavertail. It's a deep fried pastry sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Yummy and full of calories.

I do snowshoe with a group every Saturday morning and yesterday was a tougher trail. We follow the cross-country ski trail but walk to the side in fresh snow so as not to disturb the ski tracks. I remember how hard it is to cross-country ski when someone has walked through the trails messing up the long striding skiing. The newer snowshoes are made from aluminum and aren't quite as wide or long as the old wood and gut snowshoes that the voyageurs used. I also use my Nordic walking poles for stability.
My aluminum snowshoes and Nordic walking poles.
The snow was about a foot deep in the forest and walking can be quite strenuous when breaking trail. Our leader usually tries to push through a trail and we follow along. Snow will pile up on the snowshoe so it feels like wearing weights around your ankles. The pictures below were at the end of our trek near the road where the snow wasn't very deep.
Kizell Pond Trail, Kanata
Near Beaver Pond
But what a workout. And what a joy being outside. A bit of Vitamin D from the sun doesn't hurt either, although we are bundled up so tight, very little skin shows. Within 10 minutes of trudging along the trail, I've usually unzipped my coat, unwrapped my scarf and removed my mitts. I dress in layers and really do work up a sweat. 

My Snowshoeing group
I discovered years ago that I need to embrace winter. To get out and enjoy the snow. But I am looking forward to seeing buds form on the trees in April, leaves burst out in May and the green return.

Then we will start the "it's so hot" mantra in the middle of summer. What I'd give to walk out in bare feet right now and forget about the boots.

Hoping you are enjoying the snow!


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