Bursting at the Seams

Last weekend I had family visiting from Florida – 3 teenagers, 2 adults and a large Newfie/Golden mix dog – Buddy.  Every bed in the house was called into action!

My 17 year-old great nephew was in my office/den on the Murphy Bed.  Keeping his room tidy was certainly nowhere on the priority list – I had to fight my way to my computer through bags of chips on the floor alongside dirty clothes, bed clothes and goodness knows what else.  It was best not to look too closely – but I had to access my computer for work.

After the den visit I decided to avoid going downstairs while my guests were in residence (2 in the guest bedroom and 2 on the sleep sofa). Everything and anything can be cleaned up after the fact and some things are just better left unseen!

My cats, though not confined to my bedroom – only ventured out of it on occasion to see if that big dog was still here.  He was – so they expected meals to be delivered to them (which I did) and a litter box be installed in my ensuite bath for the duration.  Ahhhh – the feeling of bits of litter under one’s feet before and after showering !!  Buddy – a trained therapy dog – loves cats and has two of his own at home but my felines weren’t interested in making friends.

Being accustomed to living alone – with that number of extra bodies, it certainly felt like a full house – but also a house full of love and fun though not much conversation.  Chatting seems to be via personal devices these days and not so much face to face.  The teenagers don’t even watch TV which surprised me.  They did seem to enjoy a visit to the Diefenbunker – another surprise.

It’s been 6 days since they all left and I have finally finished all of the laundry and have remade the guest beds for the next visitors.

I think Buddy did me a huge favour.  There had been a skunk living under my shed (this year and last year as well).  A visit from the Humane Wildlife Control (a company called Skedaddle) was scheduled shortly after the gang left.  The process involved encouraging the skunk to leave and then digging a trench around the shed to install heavy duty wire mesh so that nothing will ever be able to dig their way under it again.  The little stinker was nowhere to be found.  I’m guessing he/she moved to another den location after hearing Buddy’s loud and lusty bark.  Thank you Buddy!

Most of my family lives out-of-town so a visit from any of them is a welcome event!  It is always worth the effort and I hope they visit again soon.






When I was growing up our special family dinners always included “Auntie Pearl” aka (Pearl Beckwith) – a 2nd, 3rd, removed??? cousin of my Dad’s.  She was an unusual woman – born in Jamaica, never married and earned a living by living in other people’s homes while they went on vacation – looking after the home, their pets and often their children.  In between contracts, she had a room at the old (no longer existing) Alexandra Hotel at Somerset and Bank Streets.  Pearl was always meticulously turned out – I doubt she even owned casual clothing.

Many years have gone by and I find myself the Auntie Pearl of current times.  I am on my own (though I was married briefly many years ago), certainly am rarely “meticulously” turned out, my closet is full of casual clothing and I enhance my IBM pension by working for several real estate agents.  What we do have in common is being included in special family dinners.  I am so lucky to have two 1st cousins here in Ottawa and their children and grandchildren and even luckier to be invited to their family gatherings at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.  I am one Sheffield in a throng of Earles but they always make me feel so very welcome.

Easter, 2018 – Front Row – Julie Earle, Jennifer Earle, Steve Earle, Jamie Earle.  Back Row:  Sue Sheffield, Jeff Earle, John Earle

My brother, his three sons and their families, all live “away” – Toronto, Burlington, Guelph and Lake Mary, Florida.  Busy lives and geographic distance result in, for the most part, somewhat distant relationships – but any time I do see, or even hear from,  any or all of these folks, it is an extra special event.

Having no children or grandchildren of my own, my special friends play a huge role as part of my extended family and thank goodness for them. Knowing there is always somebody near by you can count on is huge.

I have no doubt we all define family differently based on our own life experience.  However we define it, we are lucky to have it.

Just The Girls

I am fortunate to live on a street where, of the small number of 50 homes, 14 of us are single women.  Talk about an absolutely fabulous built-in support structure not to mention very handy friends.

In addition to going to the occasional concert, hockey game, movie or just out for fish and chips, we have even travelled together – 8 of us did a Danube River Cruise a few years ago.  The normal routine is to get together every 6 weeks or so at one house or another to solve the myriad of world problems (and to drink several gallons of wine).  As a rule, we are all close to home and could get there on our knees if need be.  If the truth be told, we did hear some rumours at the local Tim Hortons (or was it Starbucks??) about those party-hardy ladies of GC and the racket they can make when heading home late at night en masse from one of our gatherings.  While there are 2 single men on our street – they aren’t invited – no rationale required.

Last night we went “off-court” to the home of an adopted member of our group, one car behind the other….. the blind leading the blind…..two designated drivers…..two trunks full of yummy finger foods …….and the usual plethora (I love that word) of wine bottles.  Had the Ottawa Senators not completely lost it at the end of the 3rd period, blowing a 4-1 lead and ending up losing the game in overtime, the evening would have been a complete success.  Our hostess was kind enough to have the game on TV in the next room allowing a few of us hockey fans to slip out now and then to check progress.

Of course we talked about politics – with several Quebecers in the group, it was very interesting to get their take on the current silly scenario in that province with  Pauline Marois and PKP at the helm.  It seems pretty much everyone is totally fed up with the whole issue.   We covered Hydro rates, the upcoming increase in home heating gas prices, the behaviour of children, teens, and how it became so, bullying, teachers’ authority (or lack thereof), parental authority (or lack thereof), children and grandchildren, travel plans and wish lists (most of us have a wish list much larger than our bank accounts) – and very briefly – men. I’m quite sure there were other topics of conversation but I can’t be expected to remember them all!!

After one of these get-togethers I know I always come away feeling very thankful that I ended up on this perfect street of (almost) perfect neighbours and wonderful friends.  It couldn’t be a better situation for growing into those golden years.  Our single ladies group even ponders the thought of pooling our resources when the time comes to hire a fulltime RN or Home Healthcare Aide to scoot from one house to the other – sounds a lot less expensive than moving to a retirement home.  Some of these after-many-drinks ideas sound far-fetched until you really think about them – not such a bad idea after all.

Our next challenge is to come together with our travel wish lists so that everyone knows what everyone else wants to do over the next 5 years – where people have wish lists in common – it could very well be the makings of another fabulous group trip.


My Life with Cats

We always had a dog while I was growing up.  I love dogs but when I decided to get myself a pet about 20 or so years ago, I was working full time and long hours at that.  A dog needs more time and attention than I was able to provide so I opted for a cat.

My first kittie was a rescue cat who came with a French name “Virgule” – which translates in English into “Comma”.  What a strange name for a cat!!  Virgule immediately became “Max”.  He was about 3 years old and a lovely striped grey tabby.  Max and I were learning how to manage a cat together – they sure aren’t like dogs!!  Here Max! – usually resulted in the opening of one eye and a sultry look as if to say “say, what…..???”.  I learned that, with cats, the sound of the can opener or shaking the treat bag does the trick.

After about 4 months, Max had his first episode – it was like a very strange and frightening seizure during which he became first very still and then he flung himself at me and bit!  Let me tell you, a cat bite is nothing to sneeze at!  Immediately after the “event”, Max would return to completely normal.  After I while, I realized that these seizures were often triggered by too much stimulation – if he was over happy, over mad, over playful – the result was not good.  He was a very large tabby and many of my friends were scared of him.  Other than the episodes, he was a very loving, friendly, cat and I loved him.

The vet was very interested in what was going on with Max (now known as Mad Max) so she consulted with the folks at the Guelph Veterinary College and learned that Max had what was called “Conflict Behaviour” – some wires in his little brain would get crossed every now and then and the result was a seizure and attack behaviour.  I got pretty good at getting something between us.  He didn’t need to bite me, he just needed to go through the motions – so a hit on a pillow or a magazine was just fine and then he was back to “normal”.  Options were to keep him sedated – I chose not to do this.  What good is a pet on drugs and dopey??

When Max was about 12, he started to lose weight.  Blood work was done – but because of his “attitude”, he had to be sedated for this.  Things went downhill from there and before the diagnosis could be finalized (it was a thyroid problem), Max went into a thyroid storm and his heart gave out.

I was devastated.  I cried as if I’d lost my very best friend.

Three weeks later I was poking on the internet and looking at various breeds of cats.  I came upon a Chantilly Tiffany up for adoption – in Kingston.  I headed out, cat carrier in hand – you can be sure I was going to come home with a cat.  Olivia was her name – 1 year old – all chocolate brown –even her nose and the pads on the bottom of her feet.   The breeder was willing to let her go since her mother, for some reason, wouldn’t tolerate her, they were constantly having to rescue her from harm – and her hair wasn’t quite long enough for “show”.  My cousin, Steve, actually purchased Olivia for me as a retirement gift.  Everyone likes Olivia.  She is graceful, quiet, and gentle (or so I thought at the time).

About 5 years later I thought another cat would make good company for Olivia.  Everyone told me cats do well with “others”.  Somehow I was talked into taking 2 foster kitties – not just 1!!  Axel Rose and Pink Floyd became Blaze (an orange tabby) and Herbie the Love Bug (a pint-size version of Max – a grey tabby).  They were just 4 months old when I got them and Olivia didn’t seem to pay much attention to them at all.

Then I moved to a new house and everything changed.  Olivia felt some strange need to assert her dominance in this new place.  She wasn’t at all intimidated by little Herbie – but Blaze – who has turned out to be a very large cat – and who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body – is another question.  He just has to look at her the wrong way and, without warning, she goes after him.  He can run pretty fast for all his large size – but she runs faster and usually comes away with a tuft of orange fur!!  Also – if Blaze and Herbie are playing, she seems to think they are truly fighting and jumps in to break it up!!  I never thought she had it in her to become a complete she-wolf in a nano-second…..but SHE DOES!

There has never been any blood spilled so I have learned to ignore all of this.  Non-cat people who are visiting are aghast if a flurry takes place under their noses – but that’s life with cats.  I think all 3 of them play games with me to see who can get me to react.

Breakfast is their favourite meal.  They don’t allow me to sleep in.  It starts with one, or two, cats walking across the bed.  I give up when I have a 23-lb orange tabby sitting on my chest.  Blaze has spoken.  They each get one ounce (basically a tbsp.) of wet cat food in addition to some dry kibble.  I rarely put my hearing aids in until after breakfast because the noise the 3 of them make is astounding.  You’d think I never feed them!!  Complete cacophony until the bowls are served.

They do have their idiosyncrasies.  Blaze loves to play with hair – particularly hair on which product has been applied – so watch out if you have gel or hair spray in your hair – it’s safer to sit in a chair with no back on which 1 large orange cat can sit.  Otherwise, you will be “groomed”.  Blaze “plays” by carrying a ball around in his mouth making all sorts of strange noises.  After all, when your mouth is full, all noises sound strange.

Olivia loves ice cream.  I can go to the freezer ten times in a day – but the minute the ice cream comes out of the freezer, she somehow knows it and turns up, even out of a deep sleep, and looks at me with that woe-begotten look on her face.  It’s actually a helpful thing – I save the ice cream for major treats and only on a once-in-a-while basis.

Herbie plays catch with himself.  He throws the little balls into the air, or down the basement stairs, and then chases after them – and will do this over and over.  He will actually bring a ball back to you if you toss it for him – but he never gets tired of this – so be careful what you start.

They are a constant source of amusement – and sometimes frustration – and they are always good company.  Seeing a cat in the window watching for me to come home and having at least 1 of the 3 (and sometimes all of them) greet me at the door when I come in – it’s a nice thing.  They do make it more challenging to travel or to do things on a spontaneous basis, but I can’t imagine a house without a pet.

Life with cats is a good thing.

My Latest Project

After a week (spread out over two) of hard work, my landscaping project is now complete and I LOVE IT!!

Not only does it look absolutely amazing, the only maintenance that I will ever have to do is to water my gardens and hose off the lawns in the spring after the snow has melted.  No more mowing (or paying for mowing).  No more fertilizing.  No more weeding (or paying for weeding).  No more nasty water bills.  No more grubs.  No more cinch bug.  Far fewer mosquitos.  No more angst that my lawn isn’t living up to the neighbourhood standards!!

Front Yard

Front Yard



Side Yard

Side Yard


I am so happy – and so lucky.  Pete Azzie and his team were absolutely THE BEST!  For those who are curious – it is EZ-Grass!  It looks and feels very real (it even has thatch in it).  Who could ask for more????


Love my I-Pad

I am so lucky!  Last week I was gifted with an  I-Pad……now that’s the way to make a person feel REALLY appreciated!

I have always said that old dogs CAN be taught new tricks – but as each year goes by, it takes longer and longer for things to “sink in” to the old noggin.  My favourite techie (Steve) just assumes if he tells me once, it is forever remembered.  Not quite.  Usually I have  to keep crib notes – visual is always better.  I just have to remember where I put them!

This world of the tablet includes a whole new language……”apps” is my favourite – it even has a store for shopping!!  Now that I know how to do!  Another cool one (and it’s free)  is called “AroundMe”.  Somehow this little “app” knows exactly where you are and finds all of the things of interest around you – bars, restaurants, theatres, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.  Can’t wait to try this one out when I’m not at home!!

Thank you Kris!!

Just Bitchin’ – Nothing Better than Planning a Holiday

Sometimes I think the planning and research is almost as much fun as the holiday itself – at least for me it is.

Just a few months away now from a fabulous holiday on the French and Italian Rivieras (no less).

Sometimes things happen for a reason.  Our original vacation package was cancelled – not enough people signed up – so our money was returned and it was back to the drawing board.  As luck would have it, we found something even better without spending more money!!  We will be spending 6 nights in Nice, 1 night in Genoa and 5 nights in Viareggio.  The itinerary is packed with lots of day trips – but how lovely to be coming back to the same hotel for multiple nights in a row.  I’m pretty much beyond the point of trying to pack up and move on every morning……at least not when it’s on somebody else’s schedule.

While in Nice, we tour St. Tropez, Grasse, Eze, and so many other beautiful places.

En route to Genoa from Nice, we will tour Monaco and Monte Carlo (we may even take the public bus from Nice – 25 minutes – to lose a few euros in the casino and oogle some spectacular yachts).

When we travel from Genoa to Viareggio, we will spend most of a day in Cinque Terre, walking between Riomaggiore and Manarola, then going by boat between Manarola and Vernazza and finally by train from Vernazza to Monterrosso del Mare – seeing 4 of the 5 quaint and breathtakingly beautiful little villages that make up this special place.  We will have covered all of the permitted modes of transportation – hiking, sailing and train – no cars allowed.

Then  5 nights on the ocean – and I mean right on the ocean – in Viareggio,Tuscany, with side trips to Florence, Pisa, Sienna and Chianti.

It all sounds absolutely wonderful.  So – now we’re pouring over information on what we might do with leisure time, looking at galleries of pictures, saving our money, practicing our wine drinking, making lists of our lists and enjoying every minute of it.


Just Bitchin’ – Your Councillor Can Make A Difference

I feel very lucky to live in Kanata South and to have Allan Hubley as my city Councillor.  This man is beyond amazing.

I have never been shy to express my opinion (now don’t all argue with me about this at once!!) – and I often email him if I want to express myself on any given issue.  He most often responds, personally, within 30 minutes!  Yes – within 30 minutes!!

I also call or email him when I have a request – a good example was when the changeover happened to garbage collection – nobody on my street had received new collection calendars.  It was taken care of immediately!

Most recently, I whined about how difficult it was to get a zoning question answered (and I do have a lot of those, working for a gaggle of real estate agents) – now I have a personal (and direct) contact in the planning department – thanks to Allan.  I have since had several zoning questions answered quickly and thoroughly.  Not only that – one of Allan’s admin people called me this morning to make sure the process was working for me.  Now that is SERVICE!

Allan Hubley seems to be a man with a very good head on his shoulders, who uses a lot of common sense (so sadly lacking in municipal politics), seems to truly care about his constituents – and he has certainly had his own share of life challenges.  I like him a lot.  The sad thing is he is only one voice and one vote on our City Council.  I wish we had more like him!


Just Bitchin’ – Friends & Getaways

Had a lovely Gals’ Getaway a week or so ago with some longtime and very dear friends – the 15th annual, in fact.  I know it’s our 15th because I keep a list!  I remember very little without lists these days!

The Getaways started with an impromptu decision to celebrate somebody’s 50th birthday.  We went to Kingston and discovered that it was Regatta weekend – not a hotel room to be found.  We ended up in a very BASIC motel on the outskirts of town – orange plastic tub chairs on the concrete pads in front of each door  – but we did have a lovely dinner on Wolf Island and decided we should do this every year.

As the years moved on, we became more discerning about accommodation requirements – we must each have our own bed, there must be a dining room (who wants to cook on vacation?), there must be a fridge for wine and munchies and a coffeemaker, there must be a sitting room with  seating for 4 for our happy hours and chat sessions – and a view would be nice not to mention some things of interest to do or see in the area.

Every year is a challenge and an adventure.  We have found 5-star restaurants in the middle of nowhere, fantastic family-owned wineries – we have returned 3 times to one of our “finds” at Glen House near Gananoque – and we have only had one disaster – at Wigamog Inn in the Haliburtons.  In that case the resort had just changed hands,  the cottage was under construction (we were given no warning), there was 1 loveseat with springs showing through to sit on, the stairs up to the cottage veranda were temporary and had no railing (like climbing a ladder) – and we went out for a boat-ride and got stranded out in the lake when the motor got tangled in a whole pile of rope (somebody from the resort was driving, not us).

Most of the cottage resorts we have found to date have been nice but we haven’t yet found the perfect place that will be “our place” for the next 15 years or more.    One of our foursome moved from Newmarket to Wasaga Beach a few years ago so Glen House is now a long drive for her and we do try to find someplace that is as close to equi-distant for all of us as we can.

Maybe somebody will read this and will have a suggestion!!

How lucky I am to have such friends and to enjoy the fun of getting away from the usual drill every year.  While on our getaways, we have met other ladies (it’s always women) doing the same thing – a group of 8 nurses who have been doing getaways for 20+ years and this year we met a group of teachers who have been at it even longer.

I think it’s a very special thing, don’t you?

Just Bitchin’ – Traffic in Ottawa

I bet you thought this would be another “rant” about the supposed gridlock in Ottawa’s streets.  According to a recent report just released by TomTom – Ottawa ranks 10th out of 26 cities studied when it comes to traffic congestion.  Toronto was just ahead of us in 9th position.  That’s not good.

Our photo-opp happy Mayor – Jim Watson – as usual, has turned this news into an advertisement for LRT.  Everything is somebody else’s fault and he has all of the answers.  YAH……RIGHT……like segregated bike lanes on Laurier Ave!!  What’s next, Jim? Segregated bike lanes on the 417???  The first leg of the LRT won’t be complete until at least 2018 – and I don’t see any other solutions popping up in the meantime.

I AM SO LUCKY that I am retired!!!  For the most part, I can schedule my trips across the city to avoid traffic gridlock.  In fact, I can schedule my life to suit ME!!  What could be better than that?