Day 237 – Commandment #8 for Seniors


Lately, you’ve noticed people your age are so much older than you.

Oh boy – is this true! I can’t BELIEVE how old some people my age seem. Clearly I’m not that old. Can’t be. I was just 20 only a few years ago (Ok – 52 years ago – but it seems like yesterday). I remember better what I was doing than than I remember what I did yesterday.

Which is probably not a great thing. At least my kids love to remind me of the things I’ve forgotten – like reminding me will make me remember.

Hint to the younger folks out there – it doesn’t work! We might nod and go – oh right, sure I remember that – but we don’t. It’s gone. Might as well not have happened. No reason to stress over it.

But back on topic – when my Dad got too ill for my sister’s and I to deal with (along with our kids, my middle sister’s brain surgery, and jobs), we had to put him into a care facility. It was a really lovely place, with a garden, nice rooms, great staff – honestly – super nice. His comment – I’m too young to belong here!

I thought he was being silly – my Dad was always one for the wry dry jokes – but now I realize that he was being honest. I look around at folks ‘my age’ and I can’t believe how old they are.

There are of course exceptions – my friend Sonia is a tip older than me – and she’s hugely active – and so is my friend Jill. And Arlene is a marvel at exactly my age. My mother-in-law is 85 – but you’d have trouble believing it. So this isn’t true of all people – but it’s true of a lot more than you think.

As a corollary to this – Younger people tend to look a LOT younger. Doctors are the worst offenders at this. I hate going in and finding that the Doctor looks to be 20.. How can he have enough knowledge to treat me? Of course the Doctors are actually the age of my kids – which is an average of 40!

So the real question is – how did my kids get so old? I’m still young, except in the morning – or as my friend Jill discovered – when shovelling snow! (Yes I warned her not to do that.. Will she listen – take a guess…)

Anyway – the cure to folks your age looking old is to simply stop looking. What I can’t see – I won’t worry about.

Signing off to put her head back in the sand – The Soup Lady

Day 233 – Commandment #5 for Seniors


The biggest lie you tell yourself is, “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it.”

Isn’t that the truth. I don’t write it down there is NO CHANCE I’m remembering it – and there’s a good chance I’ll have forgotten it – what ever it is – by the time I put down my pen.

I was never great at remembering. I’ve been using lists of ‘To Do’s’ since I was a babe in arms… ok – maybe more since I was in high school. But we’re talking at least 60 years of list making. If I had a dollar for every list…

It’s not really about the lists to be clear. It’s about the writing down for me.

When I go to class – I spend most of the class taking copious notes. Not that I’m going to refer back to those notes in most cases – for me it’s the act of writing down that used to put things firmly into my memory bank.

And that’s what has really changed as I’ve aged. We don’t write things down as often as we did before. We take notes on the computer, we record important dates on our cell phone – and even our watches are in on this acts of keeping us away from good old fashioned pens and paper.

Speaking of pens… an aside here. I always took exams in pen – not in pencil. I know – absolutely cocky of me. But true. I didn’t like the ‘correctability’ of writing with a pencil – it implied that I wasn’t confident of my first answer. And generally – I was absolutely sure I was absolutely right the first time.

I might not have BEEN right you realize – I was just sure that I was.

The problem was, I was right often enough to encourage me to continue with that cocky behavior – often to my regret.

I think one that that playing bridge has taught me – in hard and no uncertain terms – that making snap judgements isn’t always the best way to go. It can be the right thing of course, but sometimes taking just a bit more time to consider other options pays better rewards.

And aren’t better rewards what we all want?

In any case – I’m sitting here with a note pad, a scrap pad, a note book, an ipad, a computer, a cell phone and an Apple Watch – all trying hard to make sure I don’t miss appointments, I don’t forget what day it is – I can recall the time – and at the end of the day – most of what I’ve promised to do has gotten done.

Yeah Me!

Signing off to jot down yet another note (or 2 or 3..) – The Soup Lady

Day 226 – 7 Days of total Quarentine done…


And no blood on the floor. Yet. Has to be a record.

When last we chatted – I was flying into London just under the ‘total lock-down’ wire to visit my daughter, her hubby, and my grand-daughter. She had picked me up at the airport – and we’d arrived at her home (a lovely, but extremely cozy – no other term for it really – flat) in London.

The rules for foreign travellers coming into the UK is quite strict. You actually have to fill in a form giving your ‘Quarentine’ location before you board the plane – and they insist on knowing exactly how you plan to get there, if you plan to change location, who will be impacted… ya da ya da.

And they check up! Seriously. I arrived on Wednesday – Nov 4, and on Nov 5 I got a call to verify that I was where I said I’d be – that I knew that Nov 5 counted as day one, and that I wasn’t planning on moving!

Nice to know they are taking it seriously.

So – how is a week trapped in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 living/dining/kitchen room flat in London faring?

As I said before – no blood on the floor. Has to be a good sign, right?

To say we are close is an understatement. And while the flat is well insulated for sound – I can’t find anywhere I can sit and chat with my husband or my friends that I’m not overheard by at least my daughter. Her hubby might be listening in – but at least he doesn’t comment on my comments. Privacy – not really happening here!

On the good news side – I’m in London. And my daughter is a chef (runs in the family, eh?) so the food has been really good.

And more good news side – I have my own bedroom with a proper bed. And why is this special? Because my grand-daughter is not in London. She’s ‘camping’ out at her other Grand-parents in Sutton Courtney because she can’t be exposed to me until after I’ve done the 14 day required Quarentine. So – I’ve got the 2nd bedroom. Once she returns to London – she gets her bed and bedroom back and I’ll be sleeping on a air mattress in the living/dining/kitchen room..

Why is sleeping on an air mattress in the living/dining/kitchen room a downgrade? Because it’s on the floor! And at this point in my life, getting up from the floor is a lot harder than one remembers it being even 2 years ago… But I’d do anything to be here… I can re-learn how to get up off a floor if I have to.

Sleeping arrangements aside – life in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 main room flat is actually pretty busy. I’ve been helping my daughter out as best I can – which entails doing some data entry (ah – that long ago typing course is yet again a life-safer), some newsletter design, and learning a lot more than I did before about SEO.

She signed up for the amazing on-line E-commerce Growth Hub Program – and it’s awesomely good. I admit to being completely impressed. There’s a section on SEO that I’ve been listening to with my daughter and I am sold. These folks are inspiring, effective, efficient and super knowledgable. Man – I wish I’d known this stuff when I was running a website store.

I haven’t, unfortunately, been playing much bridge. I’m sure my bridge partners are missing me – but the time change is not working in my favor – by the time games start on the East Coast of the US – I’m eating dinner here in London. And it seems wrong to say – yup – traveled all the way here and I’m not joining you guys for dinner. So I’m back to doing the substitute route – and even that’s not working that well. I need at least 2.5 hours free time to volunteer to be a sub – and my daughter is quite capable of making sure that doesn’t happen.

I’ll be fine – the bridge can wait. And honestly – I don’t need more Black MP – I need SILVER MP – and the ACBL (that’s the group that controls bridge playing and the granting of ‘life master’s’) hasn’t offered any opportunities to earn Silver point since May. Boo-hoo.

More positive things – I’m getting very very good at using ZOOM! I’ve been able to chat with my sisters, my friends, my husband – with other bridge players – you name it – there’s a ZOOM for it. I’m on an HOA board in Vermont – no problem, we ZOOM our meetings. Want to discuss bridge hands – you got it – do a ZOOM. Man – I think I should buy stock! They must be laughing at their numbers.

Down sides of this experience – We are definitely having challenges with garbage. As I mentioned – this is a flat (condo?) in a 6 floor building in London. But there’s no garbage chute. Instead there’s a Garbage room on the ground floor – entered thru an outside doorway. But we can’t get there. We’re not supposed to leave the flat. For any reason at all. So the hallway outside and the elevator and stairs are off limits.

What do you do with the garbage and recycling piles that are building up? Answer – we’re not sure. We’ve put one big bag of garbage outside on the mini-balcony – and I’ve repackaged the recycling 4 times to make it as space efficient as I can. And it’s only week one…. I’ve suggested asking neighbors for help – but you need to be really friendly with a neighbor before you can ask them to handle your garbage for you…

I even suggested handing the garbage to a delivery guy.. but that’s a no go either. So it’s going to be building up in here…

Food is also a bit of a challenge. Since all of London is on ‘lock-down’ – available slots for grocery delivery got gobbled up quickly. When we looked last the first available date for the major on-line grocery site was late November… Not good if you need food for this week!

Fortunately – my daughter – being in the food industry – has alternative resources! She can call on friends that are Green Grocers to deliver – and The Butchery that is next door to the place she makes her sausages has offered to do a meat run (ok – I adore meat… get over it!).

We did have some run-ins. Our first attempt to get apples went afoul of our ability to understand units of measure. We thought we were getting a kilo of apples, pears, and red peppers – they sent us ONE Apple. And ONE Pear. And ONE red Pepper. Ok – lesson learned – read the units of measures carefully!

To be honest – we could have figured it out if we’d thought about the prices… but we were in a rush – and you know what happens when you rush… Clearly you end up with an order for One Apple, One Pear, and One red Pepper.

Evenings at my daughters are spent either playing board games (which I love), or watching Netflix. I admit to being rather addicted to RuPaul’s Drag Race, and we also watched some strictly British offerings like Staged. It’s a ‘lock-down’ based drama about two famous actors – David Tennant and Michael Sheen – who are trying to deal with lock-down, the impact of the pandemic, and life lived too close for too long with loved ones. I was particularly intrigued with the idea of going out into the garden and just screaming… Too bad the neighbors got nosy.. If I did that here – I’d be on a tiny balcony in full view of the world..

Not happening.

So – while I can’t say things are going smoothly – my daughter and I beg to differ – loudly – on many issues – there is no blood on the ground. Yet.

Signing off to start yet another day of lock-down… The Soup Lady

Day 137 – Whales – I’m going to see Whales!


Well -hope I’m going to see whales.

This is going to be my second try – the first was in South Africa – and for those of you who read my blog regularly – that didn’t work out that well.

Actually – it worked out seriously badly. And my husband and I had one of our infrequent knock-down/take-out fights about the experience. Turned out that I had one agenda (see whales) and he had another (go to wineries). The highlight of that mis-adventure was the hotel (amazingly beautiful – with a private butler) and the dolphins. No whales.

But this time – I’m hoping for much much better results.

Because of COVID-19 – Canadians can’t travel into the US until late August at the earliest – and honestly – I’d be amazed if the border opens up before late September. So while we can fly to Europe, the Caribbean – actually anywhere except the US and Australia and New Zealand – effectively our travel is restricted to ‘Chez nous’. That’s French for Our House. And by that we mean within Quebec and minor excursions into Ontario.

So – I’m going to Whale Country.

There is a huge section of the St. Lawrence Seaway that is semi-salty – has ocean tides, and some seriously amazing geography. And the result is a version of Whale Heaven. Krill (a Norwegian word for Whale food) inhabit the lower temperature zone of the seaway in huge huge numbers. And the tidal shifts mean that twice a day those Krill are drawn up from the lower reaches into the warmer water.

Whale Buffet in the making.

There are 13 different types of whales that come into this part of the St. Lawrence between May and October – and the Bulgas make this area their year round home. The best time to visit of course is while the weather is warm, even hot. This doesn’t bother the whales of course – and it will make your time on the boats a lot more pleasant. It is definitely cold in a zodiac in the middle of the St. Lawrence – even in July!

We knew that Whale Watching Center was a place called Tadoussac, but honestly – that’s all we knew. I couldn’t even have found it on a map!

Looking back, I think a bit more research might have been in order because, while Tadoussac is of course the ‘Visitor Central’ – it’s a town completely devoted to tourism. It barely exists outside of the months of June, July, and August when tourists ‘flock’ to see the Whales.

I’m using the term ‘flock’ with a bit of a sarcastic grin. While there is little question that there are a lot of tourists in this tiny tiny town – this is a huge recreation area. Folks come to do a lot more than stare at whales. They hike, they bike, they climb the massive sand dunes, they fish, and they kayak. Boy do they ever Kayak.

Keep in mind that while Tadoussac is clearly ‘Tourist Central’ – it’s not like New York – or even Quebec City. It’s simply too hard to get here.

The drive from Montreal to Quebec City is a simple 3 hour jaunt on Super Highway – your pretty standard stuff. Once past Quebec City however, the coast road turns into a 4 lane snail trail thru not so picturesque towns that have sprung up to capture the tourist dollar. And the driving is tough – watch out for cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians and even strollers. Fun looking, not so fun for the driver.

As you get closer to Tadoussac, the towns do get cuter. Also smaller and more likely to be clustered around a cove.. old fishing villages that have seen the light – and it’s tourism.

We kept checking Google Maps – and suddenly realized that our road ended up at a ferry! Man I thought I had ferries turned off… wait a minute – I did have ferries turned off. Why am I headed for a ferry anyway?

Turns out that the ONLY way across the Saguenay Gorge when you are on the coast road is by car ferry. You want to go to Tadoussac by the coastal route – you are taking that ferry.

The good news – it’s huge, it’s COVID-19 friendly (even the bathrooms – thank goodness), and it’s free. And we hit it perfectly – no traffic to speak of, and they were just starting to load it up. So we followed the directions of the masked man in the yellow visibility vest – (Ok that sounds weird – but trust me – it’s the truth) and drove onto the ferry.

I immediately walked up the three flights of iron outside stairs to the ‘observation’ room – which was closed due to COVID – and lined up for the bathroom. Why, oh why, is there always a line-up for the ladies room.

The view was spectacular – and made me want to take a boat trip up the gorge – which it turns out is closed at this time of year to keep the whales safe.

Once across the Gorge, we were right at our lodging for the night – a cute little tourist lodging called Hotel Gagne. It featured breakfast, a room with an en-suite bathroom, and great reviews. It was on a large pond that fed into the Gorge, and while the view from our room (more on that later) wasn’t great – the location was perfect. 15 minutes walk from the marina and beach were the boats to go Whale watching could be found.

My husband had done the research on restaurants – and had our dining completely planned out.

I had done the research on whale watching (Ok- different priorities) and had picked out the smallest Zodiac Adventure with the highest ratings. And I’m glad I did. Called Tadoussac Adtremont (I kid you not) – these folks had just one zodiac – but it featured a plastic cover with large windows that you could move out of the way – and more importantly – comfortable re-cycled seats from a defunct airline.

According to their website – tourists were required to wear masks at all times – so that felt safe. It was also a lie. Once the boat got started, the Captain climbed into the driver’s seat on top of the plastic shell and out of sight of the tourists. And the family next to us immediately ditched their masks. Thanks.

However – we opened our window so the rather harsh breeze was blowing from us to them, and kept our faces looking outward. I think we will be ok.. I hope we’ll be ok. But I really want to see the whales, the family has 2 kids who are sitting next to me, and theoretically should be safer, and anyway – the boat has left land.. I’ll just be careful.

The long ride out to where the whales were playing was spent in comfort – sitting on cushy seats, and not holding on to a railing exposed to the rain and cold. Once at the site – we could move onto the back of the zodiac to get straight outdoor shots – the best view – or kneel in our seats to shoot over the heads of the other folks.

And we saw Whales! Several Minke swam past, at least 2 Bulgas – easy to spot with their white skin – and the highlight – an hour spent watching three Humpback Whales – a mom, a dad and a baby (only a few months old).

The baby of course was the best – diving, jumping, flapping his fin – doing all the whale stuff you see in movies.

The down side – and you should know this – is that whales in general are endangered, protected, and respected in Canada. So no going closer than 100 meters. This meant that the ability of your captain to predict the movement of the whales was key.. If they swim towards you – you get the best views! And our captain was an expert. We were perfectly positioned to get the best possible views.

And while I did the best I could with my iphone – a proper camera with a long lens and a motorized drive would be much better. But I didn’t come to take pictures – I came to see the whales.

It was great!

So now I’m checking Whale Watching off my bucket list. I’m finally able to say – yes – I’ve seen whales..

Signing off to work on her next blog – The Soup Lady

Day 129 – The Emergency Room


Well – bummer. I fell and hurt my thumb. This happened on Monday, on Tuesday my doctor – who I contacted by phone – sent me a referral for an X-ray. I immediately went to get it done (for free – this is Canada) – and it was sent on to the Doctor.

This morning – his nurse called – I have a fracture and I must go immediately to the hospital and have it seen by an orthopaedic guy. It’s too important to wait the week or so it would take to get an appointment.

9:00 AM – So here I am. Sitting in the Emergency ward of the Lakeshore Hospital – hoping that no one Covid-19 positive is admitted.

There are signs everywhere that this is a restricted area – everyone is wearing masks and/or face shields. I had to sanitize my hands upon entering – and then waited for Triage.

9:05 AM – The waiting room is strangely empty – but I suppose this isn’t surprising. The news reports said that there are no Covid-19 cases at the Lakeshore anymore – and that folks aren’t coming into emergency in nearly the normal numbers.

I don’t blame them. I’m only here because my doctor’s nurse insisted that it was important – and the referral they sent by fax said ‘Urgent’.

Yesterday was actually similar. There’s a place to get X-rays and the like near my home – about a 15 minute drive – and that’s where I went to get the X0ray of my thumb. Like the Lakeshore Emergency room – it’ was strangely empty. And even though I was a drop-in patient without an appointment – I was in, X-rayed, and out within 45 minutes.

Like the hospital, almost everyone was masked – there was one exception, a lady working as a secretary I think, and she covered her nose and mouth with her hands when she passed me in the hallway. I looked away from her as well.

The X-ray technician was masked – did her work – and said you can leave. So I left. The X-ray went on-line, my doctor saw it last night, and this morning as soon as she felt it was reasonable, the nurse called.

9:30 AM – I’ve gone thru Triage (yup, I need to see an Orthopaedic guy), and been registered in the hospital. So now the hang-up really is the Orthopaedic guy. I’m sure there is one here in the hospital, but I’m also sure he is rather busy. So I’m waiting. And watching.

And reading a very good story called ‘The Darwin Affair’ by Tim Mason. It’s part of ‘The Global Book Club’. I use ‘Libby’ – it’s a library app (free) and you can ‘borrow’ on-line books for free if you have a library card. I needed a new story – and when I went to choose one, Libby offered me the opportunity (free) to join the Global Book Club. Apparently readers around the world are offered the same book at the same time without any wait lists or holds. And I must say it’s a wonderful story!

It’s based on facts surrounding the later years of Darwin’s life – and several attempts made to kill Queen Victoria. So it’s a murder mystery set in Victorian England (1860) and featuring key characters like Prince Albert and Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field, the real life version of Inspector Bucket from Darwin’s stories.

It’s a great read.

10:18 AM – Two policemen came in with someone in a stretcher – but no fuss was made and the person in the stretcher turned ‘right’ instead of left – so they didn’t come into the waiting area. I’m still waiting.

10:41 AM – The police – who had disappeared with their ‘patient’ are now leaving.. not very exciting news I’m afraid.

11:00 AM – still sitting in the waiting room – but a bridge buddy asked me to join in a game – so at least I can play bridge while I wait. We’d barely gotten started – when…..

11:15 AM – called to room 7 – Othopeadic – waited a minute and was seen by Dr. Seleck – a very pleasant, very English, young doctor from Toronto. He bent my thumb in different directions, asked me if it hurt, tickled the end of my thumb to see if the nerves were still working (they are). Then he sent me for another X-ray.

1123 – I walked next door to ‘radiology’ – and now I’m waiting for another thumb X-ray. I thought they could ‘see’ the results from yesterday, but apparently the system is completely integrated. Oh well.

11:30-11:46 AM – my hand gets X-rayed again. Several different positions, some moving of chair – but nice folks intent on getting the images just right. Now I’m back in the waiting room – still now crowded, still everyone sitting 2 to 3 chairs apart. I’m to wait until Dr. Sebeck calls for me.

12:37 PM – I’m called in to see the doctor.. who is looking at the X-rays of my hand.

12:45 PM – so – Dr. Seleck came in, announced he needed to get in contact with someone who knew more about imbolizing hands – and then disappeared.

1:30 PM – no news. No doctor. Still waiting. I’m really glad I packed a bit of lunch. And I’m really enjoying my book. I may well finish it.

2:13 PM – I’m sitting in a waiting area behind the main door to the operating part of Emergency. I’m watching folks come in and out of my area – and I suddenly got scared… It felt too crowded. So I got up to tell the receptionist that I’d be waiting in the main waiting area. Dr Seleck spotted me trying to leave – and told me to go back to room 9. He’d decided to splint my finger.

2:48 Dr. Seleck arrives shortly after I’m seated in room 9. Splints my finger, explains what might go wrong and when I might want to come back – then says I’m done. The ‘Out patient’ folks will call in a week for me to come in and figure out what to do next. I’m relieved, glad to go – and quickly call my husband. Victor picks me up – and we head home.

I rescue Grover from his cage – and we start a round of – train the bird.. and the phone rings.

It’s Dr. Seleck. He’s spoken to the main Orthopedist and I need to come back right away. They are going to put my thumb in a proper cast.

3;54 PM – I’m back in Emergency – and following Dr. Seleck’s instructions – I don’t go thru Triage. Instead I walk right into Room 4 – and ask for him. The receptionist is amazed… but he come right over – puts me in room 9 and explains that he’s going to put a cast on my hand.

4:45 PM – after fiddling with the cast to make sure it’s not to tight – Dr. Seleck is now really ready to send me home. And I’m ready to go. The instructions are the same – notice numbness, darkness of the thumb, fever, pain – come back. Otherwise I’ll be called in a week to come back and get the cast removed.

Total cost – Free. Including the parking.

It’s been a long long day – but I’m glad that my thumb got treated, that they identified and are treating the fracture, and that I had a good book to read. I’m also glad that there are no COVID-19 cases at Lakeshore Hospital…

Signing off to watch a silly move and try to figure out how to sleep with a cast on my left thumb… The Soup Lady

Day 128 – We’re Great Grand-parents


We are officially great grand parents. His name is Grover, and he arrived at our house with little warning.

I hate to admit this about my own relatives – but honestly – He’s a bird brain…

Of course he’s forgiven – because he is a bird. A Cockatiel to be exact – which is a small parrot. He’s gray with large orange feather spots over his ears, he’s just a bit over 2 months old, fully weaned – and very very cute. For those wondering about him flying away – his wings have been clipped – something you need to do yearly apparently. So he can ‘glide’ to the floor, but he’s not going to fly up in a tree. If his wings weren’t clipped – we’d need a bird leach.. That just sound really too weird.


Why are we in charge of Grover you ask? Well – my Kids left for Greece (Canadians can travel to Europe, even though Americans can not) – and apparently we were top of a very short list of ‘bird-sitters’, if there is even such a list.

Grove is going to be our house guest for 2 full weeks. And he came fully equipped – with a cage the size of a small closet, lots of food bowls, a play ground that my grand-daughter made for him out of recycled stuff like cardboard boxes, ribbons and cord and empty paper towel rolls. It has different heights, lots of different textures, and is adorable.

The best news – unlike my kids at this age – he sleeps thru the night… That’s very cool. And he doesn’t consider being banished to his ‘room’ (his very very large cage) a punishment… also heads over any kid I’ve had to be in charge of for 2 weeks – including my own.

And as mentioned before – he’s very cute.

He pretty much came finger and perched trained – so I quickly added towel training to his repertory. And I’m working on more tricks.

The short list of quick tricks for Cockatiels is Bow, Up, Down, High Five, Eat, Turn around, wings out and of course – eventually – talking.

I’ve got him coming ‘up’ onto my finger basically every time I guesture and say up. And similarly he gets down when I guesture and roll him off my hand towards the table. So that’s two down.

Bow is also coming along well. He loves being scratched behind the ears – so using the word Bow with a motion towards his head works perfectly.

I’ve been less successful so far with High Five. The idea is that he puts one leg on my hand and then pulls it back. High Five! (in his case – it’s a High Four since he only has 4 fingers/claws/foot parts… but I digress). But it’s a word and a motion and for Grover – an action.

As for feeding Grover – that’s actually fun. He can eat anything except avocados and Chocolate – and he adores the part of grapes without the grapes on it – the vine.. He’s quite the vine-a-holic! And kernels of cooked corn are also a treat. And he can spend hours making holes in cardboard – egg cartons being a huge speciality.

One big difference between Cockatiels and Larger full-sized Parrots is the noise volume. Grover will chirp sweetly at us to remind us he’s upstairs if he hears us arrive – and he doesn’t like it if we raise our voices – so he’ll chirp then as well – but that famous loud screech.. haven’t heard that yet thank goodness.

One other fun thing – if I’m typing on my ipad – Grove loves to come and watch. Which is fine until he starts walking on the keyboard. My spelling is bad enough – I don’t need a bird brains help!

Since we don’t want Grover to stay alone more than he must – say while we are working, He has been going on our 2 mile walks every day. I must say we do get a lot of attention – ‘Mom – that’s a bird!’ Is a frequent one. Grover just ignores most folks, but when bicycles speed past he gets tall and thin and his head feathers shoot straight up. After the third or fourth bike – he stopped reacting so strongly. You can, apparently, get used to anything.

Bedtime for Grover is simple. Around 6:30-7:00 he gets carried up to his clean cage, given seeds in one bowl, water in another and maybe some treats in a third and told – ‘Good Night’. The room is dark, but has a night light – and he quickly goes to sleep. Or at least – stops moving around… I don’t dare check to see if he’s really asleep.

Well – that’s the news on my first Great Grand-kid. I just thought I’d share something fun in these days of too many lines and masks and sanitizer.

Sighing off to see if I can make a video of Grover doing tricks… so far I’m batting zero on that effort.

The Soup Lady

Day 116 – Traveling during a Pandemic – or dealing with Covid on the road


Honestly – who would have thought we’d be almost 4 months into this thing with cases in the US on the rise, and even here in Montreal we’re not feeling exactly safe.

At least Disney World has re-opened. I don’t know about how you feel about that – but I for one am greatly relieved. They are taking a huge chance – will folks come, can they make sure that these folks are safe – but knowing the massive brain power they can call on – I’m guessing that this is a very measured risk.

I’m quite convinced that they at least know what they are doing… I’m not so sure about our governments. In too many places the rules are changing daily.. Here in Quebec, after much discussion and public consultation, and – I fancy – navel gazing, the PTB (powers that be) have decided to make Masks mandatory in all indoor spaces in the province. They have also decided that the recent upswing in cases (over 150 new ones today – which pales when compared to the over 7000 in Texas alone) is primarily due to large house parties over the two long weekends – June 24th and July 1st. Not the re-opened bars as was feared.

Has anyone mentioned that the US is having a huge upswing about 2 weeks after the July 4th weekend? Just wondering.

Anyway – subject of this blog is going to be travel in the times of Covid-19.

Last night we did a lovely evening Zoom chat with friends in Utah who are planning a 3 week trip to Georgia with their kids and grand kids. When I expressed dismay, they were quick to point out that they were driving – using the kid’s very large motor home. To be safe, they were buying all their food before leaving Utah, and thus stopping only for gas. They wouldn’t even have to use public bathrooms. They are leaving in a few days – I’m quite keen to hear how it goes. I know motor home sales are way way up – people liking the idea of total control over their environment… so I shall hopefully be able to report back.

Meanwhile – We recently decided enough is enough – we’re taking a short trip to the Toronto area. That’s about a 6 hour drive from Montreal but our plans called for us to visit several groups of friends who live in that area of Canada. Our trip journal starts with us leaving home on June 29th, heading West with plans to be back home on Saturday July 4th. So we packed up our clothes, our masks, some sanitizer, and headed out.

Since we were driving in our own car – that part of the trip felt very safe. It’s our car, no one else has been inside – we’re ok.

Our first stop was going to be Kingston, Ontario – about halfway to Toronto. It’s a small city by even Canadian standards, but home to several universities and most of Canada’s major prisons. I allow you to make the obvious links – but we weren’t planning on visiting either. We were going to grab a quick lunch and then get back on the road. Our thought was that a terrace was safer than an En-Route… for sure more yummy.

Our daughter, who lived in Kingston for 4 years (she went to University there), highly recommended Chez Piggy – and they had a terrace. We felt good about eating on terraces – and called to reserve. They cautioned us that wearing a mask was mandatory unless seated at our table – but we thought nothing of that. We were used to wearing masks in public – no biggie.

Turns out it was a biggie. A nail salon in the Kingston area had just been determined to be a hot-bed of Covid cases, and everyone was running scared. Over 20 people picked up the virus from that one location – and while testing is free in Canada – it still takes about 2 days to get results. While folks were waiting to see if they had been infected, Masks were mandated.

Of course we found this out AFTER we were seated and had ordered our lunch.

Nothing was going to change by leaving now – if we had been in contact – we’d been in contact. So we ate our lunch (yummy), and then walked back to our car, and continued our drive West. I will admit, we were crossing our fingers that we were ok – all the servers had been properly masked, and we’d stayed well away from everyone.. we were hopefully fine. (NB: it’s been 2 weeks – we’re fine!)

We stopped at an En-Route – one of those service centres off the highway to get gas and get a bit of a stretch and a toilet break. They had blocked off 1/2 of the toilet stalls in the ladies room (deemed lacking in social distance), and 1/2 of the urinals in the men’s room (again – not enough social distance). They had also shut off every other sink. Interesting. Lines on the floor indicated how to stand to get service front the take-out restaurants that were open – although there were so few people that it wasn’t an issue.

Unlike in the Kingston area, Masks were not required here – although almost everyone was wearing one, including us. We stayed away from other folks, got the needed relief, and headed on to Markham., about 30 minutes north of Toronto. Our hotel for the first two nights was there – a low price option run by the Radison chain, so again – we felt safe.

And the hotel was indeed perfect. They had taken some basic precautions – no maid service, a plexiglass barrier between us and the staff, no breakfast offered, doors (except for our room) opening automatically and sanitizer dispensers everywhere. For the price, we felt quite comfortable. Few folks wore masks, but we did whenever we were inside and stayed away from others.

We took a long walk in what was a light industrial area with basically no traffic. In the early evening the weather was quite pleasant. We found a take-out Chinese hot-pot restaurant for dinner, and walked back to the hotel for bed. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

Today we were doing the most ‘exposed’ portion of our trip – we were driving into downtown Toronto to visit very good friends. There was more traffic than expected, but for Toronto it was exceedingly quiet. The surprising thing was the noise level. On previous visits, Downtown Toronto was always quite noisy, but not now. And the change was a pleasure.

We got to our friends condo building, which also had taken significant COVID precautions – hand sanitizers, staff behind plexiglass barriers, cautions on the number of folks who could ride together in an elevator – that kind of thing. Our friends joined us in the lobby, and we walked (wearing masks) to the Royal York Hotel.

The ‘wear a mask’ concept hadn’t really struck home in Toronto at this point in time – we were basically the only folks wearing them on our walk past the Convention Center. But then – the crowds were missing, and that made it easy to keep social distance from anyone we got near.

The Royal York decided that one way to cope with the pandemic was by creating an outdoor eating space – and it was lovely. They had taken over a huge section of the sidewalk and by using fake greenery and a lot of fung shui – created a garden. There were different kinds of sitting/eating areas, all marked at ‘sanitized for your protection’ including an outdoor sofa/lounge section. The 4 of us were seated at one of the lounge chair options – easily maintaining social distance. Wait staff were all masked, menus were cleaned before being presented, and the food was lovely. We sat and chatted and relaxed. It was perfect.

With the lack of traffic noise, it did indeed feel like we were in a Garden – complete with water features including spouting lion masks.

We walked back to our friends condo – and this time braved the elevator to their place. The rules on the elevator were no more than 4 people, and you had to stay in the corners. But in truth, folks just waited as one group completed their trip up (or down) before getting in – and carefully avoided touching anything. Our friend used her key to touch the elevator buttons for example.

Once in their home – we were still careful about keeping social distance, but took off our masks and shared snacks and had drinks. We spent time relaxing on their tiny balcony – just enjoying the view of Toronto harbour.

When it came time for dinner, our hostess took out binoculars to check on available outdoor tables at the restaurants they could spot from their location on the 33rd floor. When she determined where there was space available – we hopped back on the elevator – and walked quickly to that restaurant. It was notably ‘down-scale’ from the Royal York – both in COVID awareness and price range. The wait staff were wearing masks but no face shields and at least one only had only her mouth covered. The menus might have been sanitized, but certainly there was no effort to make sure we knew that this had been done. And we had issues keeping social distance – one gentleman – unmasked – came way too close to our table for my comfort to talk to us about his dog.

But like in Kingston – we did the best we could to be as safe as we could.

After a take-out breakfast at Tim Hortons (got to love Timmy’s) the next day we headed away from Toronto into the Barrie area to visit friends who live on 5 acres out in the country. Seriously out in the country. While the air in Toronto was surprisingly – for Toronto – clean – this was heaven.

In the country – keeping social distance was much much easier… They had one bathroom cleaned for our use – and we spent the day outside on their lovely porch just relaxing and chatting. Our hostess is an amazing cook – she made her own sushi for lunch, and created designer pizza for dinner. What a smashingly perfect way to spend a day.

And the drive from their place to our hotel near Barrie was very cool. We were in rolling farm land – vistas went for miles and miles every time you crested a hill – and it was the evening of July 1st – Canada’s birthday. Fireworks are the norm – and they were visible everywhere. I counted 20 different displays from the top of one raise – simply by rotating my body in a 360 degree circle. We were too far to ‘hear’ them – but it was very easy to see them. Happy Birthday Canada.

Our next hotel was a Best Western Plus in Barrie – and they had also done a decent job of making sure we were protected. Kinda. For example – there was a large plexiglass barrier between us and the staff at check-in – but you had to reach around the Barrier to get your keys, sign the register – etc. So safe… and not so safe. And unlike the hotel from the night before – the walls were like paper. We could hear the music from next door – so loud it might have been in our room. This is not a COVID problem – this is just plain thin walls and cheap hotels. Oh well.

Breakfast was odd. They had signs up explaining that because of COVID they were being careful – so they had removed all the tables and chairs. No sitting in the breakfast area to eat. And there was sanitizer available for use before touching the items on display. Cereal had been pre-poured into bowls and covered with plastic wrap. You had to touch common pitchers to pour your milk, but they didn’t have any ‘buffet’ style offerings like eggs. Yogurt and the like was available from a fridge – but again there was a common handle. I grabbed the food and coffee I wanted, pleased that it was free, and washed my hands when I got back to the room.

Today we were ‘surprising’ our 77 year old friend on his birthday.. His wife and another mutual friend were to go to a brunch restaurant with a terrace – and we were to go there to say – surprise. He wasn’t that surprised I’m sorry to say. My husband had spilled the beans – and while he and my hubby had agreed not to tell anyone that the surprise was ruined – I think they had guessed. In any case – the restaurant was more like the 2nd place in Toronto than the Royal York. Wait staff had masks, but some were only over their mouths. And while the inside was closed to guests, you had to walk thru it to get to the bathrooms. They had gone to the effort to clearly mark a one way in/ one way out path – but narrow hallways made staying social distance really a challenge.

I actually opened the bathroom door from the inside – and was staring straight into the face of the lady waiting her turn… I backed up, she backed up. We strategized – and then she backed out into the hallway so I had room to pass. Awkward moment there…

But lunch was lovely – company was great – and afterwards we drove with our friend to see the horses. We were going to go riding the next day – but today we wanted to just say hi.

Horses get lonely during COVID too.

The barn had rules posted. No more than 5 people at one time in the building, keep social distance, wipe down when you leave. No sanitizer on display here – but it is really not that kind of place. We did bring our own – so we could be careful.

Back to the hotel for break. We took a walk, did some serious liquorice shopping at ‘The Dutch Shop’ and I spotted a rock shop. A large rock shop. As in a shop for large rocks. They even sold stepping stones of Italian Marble.. So our car is going to be loaded heading home.

Our friend’s birthday dinner was outside in their backyard with the rabbits and the birds. It was delicious. The devilled eggs were particularly wonderful and his wife also served cold shrimp, fruit salad – and ice cream for dessert. Yummy doesn’t start to describe it.

The next day we went riding – with a horse between you, keeping social distance is very easy – so no problems there. We had a lot of fun – and again spent time just chatting and catching up on the news – and bemoaning the boredom of too many days too separated. Little did we know that in two weeks the US would be seeing a spike larger than the initial one… but that was two week away.

Our drive home was uneventful – except for our visit to a different En-route. At this En-route – they were enforcing the wearing of masks indoors. A staff member was sitting outside politely telling anyone not wearing a mask that they couldn’t enter. Since we were wearing masks – it wasn’t an issue and I didn’t see anyone get too upset when they were asked to go get one. They were not handing masks out – so I don’t know what folks would do if they arrived at the En-route and had no masks – but we didn’t hang around to find out.

So – our first travel during COVID ended with us glad to be home.

It’s now been two weeks – we are fine and so are our friends. Dodged that bullet I guess. But meanwhile we all know what’s been happening in the US – and as a result Canada and the US have agreed to keep the border closed for another month.

And here in Canada – folks are seeing what is happening to our South, and we are getting a lot more serious about making sure everyone is wearing masks. And that folks know that hot spots like large groupings of friends that don’t keep social distance are problems. We were careful – but were we careful enough – or just lucky.

Like in Bridge – sometimes just being lucky is good enough.

Signing off to plan another trip – still keeping social distance – and definitely not going into the US – The Soup Lady

A Farmer’s Prayer – or Looking at things a little differently


This morning my wonderful daughter-in-law forwarded a story of a visiting pastor who attended a men’s breakfast in the middle of a rural farming area of the country.

The group had asked an older farmer, decked out in bib overalls, to
say grace for the morning breakfast

“Lord, I hate buttermilk,”the farmer began. The visiting pastor opened
one eye to glance at the farmer and wonder where this was going.

The farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord, I hate lard.” Now the pastor was
growing concerned.

Without missing a beat, the farmer continued, “And Lord, you know I
don’t much care for raw white flour.”

The pastor once again opened an eye to glance around the room and saw
that he wasn’t the only one to feel uncomfortable.

Then the farmer added, “But Lord, when you mix them all together and
bake them, I do love warm fresh biscuits.

So Lord, when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard,
when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just
relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be even
better than biscuits. Amen.

“Within that prayer there is great wisdom for all when it comes to
complicated situations like we are experiencing in the world today.

Stay strong, my friends, because our Lord is mixing several things
that we don’t really care for, but something even better is going to come when God is done with it. AMEN!

Signing off to count her own blessing – and wonder at the mystery of the universe of things that aren’t nice alone (like Buttermilk) but in the end make great biscuits.

The Soup Lady

Day 39 – Sometimes Lucky is better than Smart


AKA – “Bridge was their Passion. Then People started to Die”.

That’s the title of a NY Times piece by Jack Healy published on April 29 – it’s the story of how Covid-19 did a number on a Bridge Club in Denver. Starting with one sick 83 year old (who died), contact tracing showed she’d come in close contact with 100 other people at the bridge club. Funerals, weddings, Choir Practice and family gatherings then provided for an uncontrolled spread of the virus . That Bridge Club became Ground zero for Covid-19 in that section of Denver.

And there – but for Luck – certainly not Smarts – go I.

I love playing bridge – and I have two favorite bridge clubs. For those wondering what a Bridge Club might be – it’s a place that holds regularly scheduled competitive (or not so competitive) games of bridge.

To play bridge at a club, you sit at tables of 4. Trays – called boards – holding the cards are circulated from table to table – and every 3 boards the pair sitting E/W get up and change tables. In effect – every person is exposed to every other person – well under any Social Distancing measure. And worse – the cards are held by every other person sitting in your direction at the match.

Plus – there are always snacks – with folks gathering to help themselves.

To make sure a Bridge Club is a perfect storm for Covid-19 – most bridge players are seniors, many in frail health, lots with compromised immune systems.

So if one person had contracted the disease – every person in the room would have almost certainly been exposed.

So why the Lucky? When I’m in Montreal – I play bridge almost daily at our club – and our club is located in one of the epi-centres for the disease in Montreal.

So why didn’t I get exposed? Because as you know from reading my blog – I was in St. Croix celebrating my husband’s 70th birthday. There’s only one tiny bridge club on the island, and with my kids there – playing bridge wasn’t happening for me. So I just never went.

My last day playing bridge at my club was March 7. Just before the Covid-19 fan hit the fire. Lucky – not smart!

Back to the story by Jack Healy. He reports that the 83 year old woman went to a sectional held at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center from Feb 27 to March 3. Over 150 people were there – and no one was taking any precautions.

And bridge is the ultimate of social games. You snack, you chat, you handle cards handled by other people, you handle the boards, you all touch the machines that record the scores. It’s almost impossible to imagine how a bridge club wouldn’t be a hot bed of Covid-19 infection.

And in the Colorado Springs Bridge Center – our game and our lack of concern cost 4 members their lives, and at least 25 others have spent over a month fighting symptoms of the virus.

So what of the future of bridge clubs? Right now, everyone is playing bridge on line – and our local clubs are setting up ‘Virtual’ clubs so that some income will come in – they still must pay the rent if they rent space.

But in the long run – hand sanitizer isn’t going to work. We’ll all have to wear masks, not come in sick or even with mild symptoms, we’ll have to have on gloves, and I’m not sure how to spread us further apart easily – bridge tables are generally 4’ squares at the most.

My guess – Bridge Clubs may well become a think of the past. And that’s a shame. For many going to the Bridge Club for a daily game gave their lives meaning and structure. Something to do when the weather wasn’t great – or even if the weather was good.

And for those seriously frail – it was safe. You could avoid moving too much by sitting North/South, you could even arrive and depart in a wheel chair. And your friends were there. You could gossip a bit while waiting for the game to start, you could share Grand-kid stories.

Bridge Clubs – RIP – a victim of Covid-19

Signing off to play bridge on-line – The Soup Lady

Day 35 – My Squirrels are wearing cleats


My view includes a long thin section of garden with a 6’ high wooden fence, a stone path way, a bird feeding station, and several ever green shrubs. There are also several large trees.

I mention this so you can appreciate how Squirrel friendly my home is! I have never managed to get an accurate count on the number of Squirrels that call my home – home, but I’m sure it’s well over a dozen

There are certainly several identifiably unique ones. There’s one with the rat like tail – I have no idea what happened to him, but trust me – he’s identifiable!

There’s also the Sex Pot. This Squirrel loves to sit on a fence post and whirl his big fat bushy tail around like a stripper whirling a set of beads. Quite the show, and I’m guessing it’s won him many mates.

I have a pair that love playing tag up and down the trees – they even play hide-and-seek. One will go 4 square against a tree – on the far side from the other one. After a few seconds – the seeker – who I think was peeking – always finds the first one. It’s not much of a game, but they do seem to enjoy it.

But the real fascination in my yard for the Squirrels is my bird feeding station. It consists of a long pole, a RACCOON Baffle, and then right now I have two feeders and a Geranium Pot hanging from the hooks above the Baffle.

For those who don’t know – a Raccoon Baffle is designed to prevent Raccoons from attacking the feeders directly. Fortunately, I don’t have Raccoons in my yard, but I have very very tenacious Squirrels. They can and will do anything that they can think of to get to my feeders.

I admit to wondering why all the effort. The birds gleefully toss the seeds that they don’t want onto the ground – so the Squirrels are hardly starving. But I guess the Squirrels figure that they too should be able to feast from the source.

One time I saw a Squirrel make a flying leap from a branch of a tree about 20 feet above the feeder. He missed. He never tried that again.

Yesterday I saw a Squirrel trying to make his way below the windows on my board, balance on the thin edge that runs along the outside, hoping to get opposite the feeders and from there navigate the 4 foot leap. I really thought he might make it. He got around 3 of the window edges, balancing super carefully and grabbing hold madly. But when he tried to get past the 4th edge, he slipped and plummeted the 4’ to the garden. Haven’t seen him trying again…

But I have my eyes peeled. I don’t think those guys will ever give up.

I have caught them sitting on my porch, glazing at me thru the door – clearly wondering why I haven’t been filling the feeder recently. They are almost as hard to resist as the two Cardinal families that call my yard home, or the very noisy, very large Blue Jays that love to announce to the world that I’ve filled the feeders and all is good in the world.

I shall continue to keep my eyes peeled for Squirrel oddities – but for right now – they are signalling that yet again the feeders are empty.

Hey – not my fault guys – you ate it!

Signing off to fill the feeders – The Soup Lady