Day 170B – Happy New Year to All


How is this New Year different from all other New Years…

The Montreal Gazette just published a wonderful story talking about how the different Jewish Synagogues in the Montreal area are dealing with the challenges of the High Holy Days – when traditionally all Jews go to Synagogue – and the restrictions enforced here in Canada and Quebec by Covid-19

It’s a challenge. Synagogues that normally seat 2000 at this time of year are restricted to 25% or less – and given that we’ve actually had a lot of warning that this year wasn’t going to be like any other year – have gone to zoom and outdoor options.. Making the best of a bad deal.

So I thought I would share a link with you.

Click here

https://youtu.be/KijnnlVzREw

The song was written by Leonard Cohen – who was unabashedly Jewish, and the Synagogue featured is one of the most beautiful in Montreal – the Spanish and Portuguese.

It’s a beautiful and quite emotional appeal for all of us to search our lives and our souls asking if we’ve lived up to our potential as human beings – and asking us to make decisions on how to improve in the next year.

And for many – this is the raisin d’être of the High Holy Days… to force us to re-evaluate our lives.. to consider how we can be better family, better friends, better neighbors, better citizens..

Happy New Year

The Soup Lady

Day 166 – How do you celebrate 50 years of marriage?


Just to set matters straight.. We were married on Friday, September 11th, 1970.

Yes – I know – September 11. Not our fault. That date became infamous way after we were married – not fair really – a group of terrorists stole my anniversary date and made people think of something other than us..

For many years – because we were married on a Friday – Victor thought our anniversary was on September 13 (Friday the 13th) – but no… it’s Friday September 11, 1970. For sure.

6 months later, we went back to Atlanta to visit my parents – and Victor tried to return me. My dad told him – nope – warranty is up.

And on Friday, September 11, 2020 – it was 50 years…

Which is almost impossible for me to truly believe.

I was 21 when we got married. Hopelessly young and innocent and foolish and so much in love. I’m still in love you know – I adore my husband – ponytail and all.

I’m kinda hoping I’m no longer foolish and innocent – but I keep thinking that I’m still young..

Doomed to disappointment I’m afraid to say.

So just how does one celebrate 50 years of doing anything.. It’s a really long time. Way more than 1/2 my life. And here’s what really scary – longer than 80% (according to the US Census) of folks alive today have been alive!

Martin, the charming manager of Boneparte’s here in Montreal – where we celebrated our anniversary with an absolutely lovely dinner party for just 6 – annouced that he was born – BORN – the year we were married.

Our celebration – as most of our celebrations these days – was broken down into parts.. We celebrated in March in St. Croix – right as the COVID lock-down was happening with just our kids.. First time in over 20 years that it’s been just the 5 of us. It was really great – but the conversation centered around the COVID cases and how the world was going to react. We now know the answer – not great. But at the time.. we were a bit optimistic. Wrong – but positive.

Then we celebrated by traveling to send a lovely long Labor Day weekend in Barrie with our friends and Lucy and Lacy – the horses. It was a blast… a long drive each way – but worth it.

Then we had a wonderful dinner party at Boneparte’s – filled with laughter and gift giving and my kids and their kids.. Only Grover didn’t come, but the feeling was that perhaps the party would go on past his bed time. So we shared videos of him. He stayed home and went to bed on time. Probably better all around.

We got caught up on the lives of our two charming grand-daughters – who look more and more beautiful every time I see them. Their lives – like the lives of all kids from 13 to 21 these days are complicated by the truth of COVID. The youngest one is caught in a ‘bubble’ at school that doesn’t include her closest friends, and the older one is trying to have a relationship with a guy, be a young adult, start her working career – and dealing with idiots who refuse to wear masks, to social distance, to admit they are COVID positive, and thus put her life in danger.

I just don’t understand why people are so sure that their right to do what they want trumps the right of other people to feel safe. Why would any one who knows they are COVID positive not alert their friends. What is there to gain by not saying something. It confuses me.

As usual – I have digressed…

Back on track – Saturday afternoon we had a Zoom conversation with all the family – my daughter and grand-daughter in London (hubby was sick with a cold in bed – not Covid), my son and daughter-in-law in California, and my kids here in Montreal.

The we finished off with an equally splendid dinner party – period correct this time – which means we were dressed in our 1812 finest… Silver service, candles lit, music softly playing, amusing conversation, and No IT! Unfortunately for our hosts – their maid and butler had taken the day off (they always do when we come over… ) so while the service was excellent – it was our friends doing the service!

The meal celebrated our trips together. First course was a salmon tartar (yummy) with ground cherries. They are one of my favorite ‘fruits’ – which my friends only discovered when we were together in Quebec City. The 2nd course was a lobster Bisque with shrimp – we’d gone out to Boneparte’s – in period clothing – and three of the four of us ordered the Lobster Bisque… The 3rd course was Rabbit with Olives – in honor of our time together in Malta. The cheese course was again in memory of the Quebec City trip – we had cheese every evening before dinner in the ‘lounge’ area of our room in the BnB in Quebec City. And the desert course was a magnificent Charlotte Russe with a fruit topping. This was in honor of our times together at the Regimental Dinner parties in Vaudreuil.

The dessert was amazing. The dinner outstanding. The wines were well chosen to compliment the different dishes, and the conversation was delightful. We dragged ourselves out close to midnight – feeling very well feted indeed.

So this is how we have celebrated 50 years of being together.. And today is just another day – we’re headed off to buy fruit at Costco and the Marche near by – and having dinner together…

Life marches on… It’s 50 years and 2 days – if it lasts…

The Soup Lady

Day 156 – Our 50th Wedding Anniversary is upon us!


I got married on Friday, September 11, 1970. For years my husband remembered it as September 13.. because it was a Friday.

And for the record – we are still married. Which in and of itself feels like a record. So of course – I googled it!

We are still playing it ‘safe at home’ – so what else is there to do…

Turns out that – yup – it’s something of a record. Only 7% of American’s celebrate 50 years of marriage.

But upon further digging, it turns out that while I’m among a distinguished few that make it this far – it’s not really the record one might think. It isn’t really about being married… it’s about not dying.

According to a wonderful piece in a blog site called ‘Family Inequality’ the truth of the matter is more that neither of us died!

If you discount the folks that died, and the folks who are widowed – then you are left with the folks that got married married before 1971. And of those folks – who have the potential to celebrate 50+ years of marriage – fully 50% of us are still married.

So what does this mean. It means that folks that got married before 1971 thought we were getting married forever. We didn’t think of divorce as an option, it never even crossed our minds – or at least 50% of our minds… I guess the other 50% that didn’t die, did get divorced.

Bottom line – I’ve gotten to this milestone thru lucky genes (I didn’t die), lucky genes on my husband’s side (he didn’t die), and then I guess – because we never considered being anything other than married.

One other important factor – not to embarrass my kids or my readers – we still find each other very appealing physically. We also share a lot of history, but have our own unique interests and hobbies. We can let each other go on trips without being jealous (too jealous anyway), and rest comfortable in the knowledge that they will return. We give each other space… and a place to be separate inside our home. We forgive each other when we must – if not immediately, then eventually – and almost always before bedtime. We try hard to find the positive stuff – to not get bored when stories get repeated, but to enjoy them re-told and often mis-told. We are still in love.

I’m still happy every morning when I wake up and say ‘Good Morning Honey’.

My daughter-in-law just reminded me that when they got married – I told her that marriage is a 60-60 relationship – you must always feel that you are giving the bigger portion. If both of you feel that way – the marriage will work.

How are we celebrating this milestone? Are we having a big party or taking a fancy holiday? Well in the days of COVID-19 – the quick answer is – of course not.

We’re lucky in that we’re in Montreal, and the better restaurants are open under COVID-19 restrictions and taking it very very seriously. So we’re going out to dinner with the kids who live here in the city. It won’t be a fancy party – but it will be our style. Comfortable and happy.

Signing off to figure out what dress to wear (not really) … The Soup Lady

Florida Snowbirds – The North Welcomes you…


I don’t normally quote someone else’s article – but this one was impossible to resist. It was published in the Montreal Gazette on August 30 – and totally summarizes the differences between living in Quebec and basking in the sun in Florida…

The author – Josh Freed – is quite funny – in the subtle and understated way of most Quebecers… We know we live in a unique part of the world, and are more than willing – as Josh so clearly points out – to laugh at ourselves..

Read and Enjoy! The Soup Lady

Josh Freed: Floridians can reverse-snowbird here, under these conditions

Dear Florida:

Every year since the last ice age, almost a million of us Quebecers have temporarily migrated south to your state, to escape the cold jaws of winter.

But now, at last, you Floridians may be ready to escape the cold jaws of COVID and flee north to us. Several Gazette readers sent me an entertaining column by Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino that makes the following modest proposal:

“Dear Canadian snowbirds: As an unofficial South Florida ambassador, I would like to begin negotiations for a reverse migration this winter. We’ve bungled the response to COVID-19 so badly nearly all the world won’t allow American tourists to come … and we really need to leave. We’re desperate. Now it is your turn to host us. We here in South Florida will come to you in Canada this winter.”

The writer wants Canada’s Parliament to arrange special “refugee visas” for COVID-fleeing or election-exhausted South Floridians between November and March.

But he promises Florida’s new snowbirds will be good houseguests who’ll shovel our driveways, learn to ice fish and embrace Tim Hortons double-doubles.

Overall, Florida, this seems a reasonable request to me. Perhaps we do owe you shelter after all these years of Quebecers swarming your beaches and all-you-can-eat-buffets.

As well, we desperately need some almost-extinct U.S. tourists, so I’m open to Florida’s proposal on certain terms.

But before I go to bat as your unofficial Canadian ambassador, you Floridians must know the rules and realities of cold, COVID Canada.

If you want to migrate here this winter, then as Joe Biden might put it: “Here’s the deal, folks!”

There are no outings whatsoever permitted, not even to McDonald’s, Burger King or KFC. Just order-in healthy meals from say, Mandy’s salads.

Like all good Canadians, you must also wash your hands 10 times a day, which will then be inspected by our Royal Canadian Hand-washing Police.

Protection: Here in Canadaland we worship hand sanitizer, not hand guns like many Floridians, who can still legally carry a concealed weapon.

Masks are mandatory indoors under Quebec law, and we always wear ’em. There are no major culture wars over face coverings here, where a mask is just a mask is just a mask.

You do have the right to protest against masks democratically, outdoors, but ideally while wearing a mask.

Also, under Quebec’s Bill 21 you have the right to see the faces of all government service employees. But under COVID laws they don’t have the right to show their faces to you.

Quarantine: To start, you must spend two weeks in quarantine — and I mean Canadian quarantine. That’s 14 full days under virtual house arrest, Canada-style, not some sissy-style Florida quarantine where you probably get to visit Disneyland every other day, then play golf.

Politics: Be warned, Florida is a politically mixed state with redneck Republicans in the north and blue neck Democrats in the south, and many voters swing both ways. But Canada and especially Montreal is strictly Kamala Harris territory.

She’s the first former Canadian resident to become a U.S. vice-presidential candidate, and we’re homers.

We can offer a Kamala Harris Early Roots Tour, from her mom’s former McGill office to Kamala’s one-time algebra classroom and Westmount dance class studio.

Unlike your president, we see her as a remarkable American woman, not a foreigner, immigrant or illegal V.P. candidate.

Of course, we’re also counting on Harris to grasp crucial Canadian and Quebec issues. As an ex-Montrealer and lawyer she will surely understand the subtleties of the “bonjour-hi” debate, the complexities of the Montreal English School Board Wars and the intricacies of Westmount Park’s dog run laws.

Weather: It is either cold and unbearably freezing here or hot and unbearably humid, so dress accordingly.

In winter, be warned: There are no Early Bird dinner specials, no pitch-and-putt golf courses, no winter surfing. There are no all-you-can-eat buffets since COVID arrived, in fact no buffets at all.

There are several important new Canadian words you must learn, including snow tire, windshield scraper, wind chill factor, polar vortex and Celsius.

The temperature here is an entirely different system than yours, but don’t worry: Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures do meet and become identical at minus 40, which you may well experience.

On the plus side, if you do somehow get COVID-19, our Medicare-for-all system is free and we welcome all your pre-conditions. On the down side, be warned orange juice comes from cartons here, not from oranges.

Ultimately, if you do migrate to Canada, then when COVID ends you can decide if you want to leave or not. If you’re a Biden-lover and Trump wins you might want to settle here.

Likewise, if you’re an arch Republican and Comrade Biden wins and DESTROYS AMERICA’S SUBURBS as Trump claims, you can find refuge in Mississauga or Longueuil.

But there is one last condition before allowing you in: Come the U.S. election, your home state of Florida has to vote Harris-Biden, otherwise the deal’s off.

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 117 – Funerals during COVID-19


One of our closest friends mother died in early April – Not from Covid – and things being what they were, the funeral was delayed.

But on Sunday, July 5th – our friend decided to hold a funeral and a ‘life celebration’ for her mother.

We couldn’t really avoid going. It would be impossible to explain our absence – and despite my mis-giving on the topic, we promised to attend.

So Sunday found me in a car, heading to a funeral home in Laval, dressed sombrely as befits a funeral – and with huge butterfly’s doing the tango in my stomach.

I don’t like funerals under any conditions, but this one really had me on edge. Quebec had recently approved social gatherings for up to 50 people, and had not yet required masks to be worn indoors – so while we had our masks, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the funeral home.

Do keep in mind that today – 2 weeks later – the rules have changed. Now Masks are required for indoor gatherings – for any movement in an indoor space – but on July 5th – that wasn’t the rule.

Our friend had chosen one of the largest funeral complexes in Laval – there were at least 5 other ‘life celebrations’ being held at the same place at the same time – and attendance was significant judging by the number of cars. My comfort level was not increased…

We parked and walked to the entrance where we were greeted by an employee of the home, properly masked, who had a check-list of the day’s funerals. He directed us to first use sanitizer, and then to go the Ste-Dorothy room for our friend’s mothers memorial. Plexiglass barriers surrounded the staff desk, but the huge open 3 story high central entrance room was not barricaded. There were signs implying one-way traffic, but no one was in the main entrance.

So far, so good

But when we entered the St. Dorothy room – I panicked. I know – I never panic – but this time – I promise you – I was absolutely alarmed. My stomach did one of those scary flip-flops, and I caught my breath.

My friend had done everything expected of a ‘life celebration’. Her mother’s ashes were on display, there were pictures of her mother next to the ashes, and there was a slide show of images on a large screen.

All this I saw, but I also saw that there were about 45 people in the room, most not wearing masks – including our good friend. While the funeral home had placed chairs to prevent people from getting too close to each other – it was clear that social distancing was not happening.

Forcing myself to keep calm – and carefully keeping social distance, I moved closer to my friend, said how sorry I was for her loss, how we had to get together soon to celebrate her birthday, and then told my husband I was leaving.

And I left.

I’m definitely not ready for larger gatherings.

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