Category Archives: Canada

9, count ’em 9 more sleeps!

Winter Withering ……that’s what I call it….the cold, the snow… makes me lazy…..I’m like a big (big) bear wishing I was asleep in my cave not awaking until the first signs of Spring.  Although winter  doesn’t present an immediate danger as do most earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis or tornadoes it produces (in some) a very slow and sure dampening of spirits.  The older I get the less I tolerate it (winter).

I miss my windows being open and having fresh (warm) air to keep the (winter) aches and pains at bay.  Sunshine (not accompanied by cold).  Walks in the forest.  Camping.  I despise wearing winter boots, hats, mitts, scarves and coats.  You bundle up to go ‘out’ and then you die of heat as you tromp indelicately through the grocery store aisles in your winter uniform with unseemly perspiration rolling down your face (maybe it’s just me?? :).

Walk in the cold and then come home, immediately upon entering the warmth of your home the nose drips.  The cold has somehow found it’s way into your bones and it takes a big blanket or a warm bath to turn that bone chilling cold into warmth again.

Winter is my time to day dream.  Planning what I will do during the active 5 or 6 months of my year keeps me focused.   Researching and orchestrating the next great vacation (which passes all too quickly).

9 more sleeps until the next great vacation ….. booked in August (6 months ago).  Night 1 in Managua, Nicaragua.  Night 2 through 3 through 8 in Big Corn Island, Nicaragua, Night 9 through 15 in Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, Night 16 in San Jose, Costa Rica…then back home.  I won’t have daily internet connection during this trip.  The Corn Islands are remote, electricity isn’t guaranteed, internet connections even less so.  Little Corn has no cars.  Big Corn for $1.00 (US) per person you can get a cab ride anywhere on the Island.

Yup, 9 more sleeps until I feel the warmth, the fresh air the sand between my toes . . . . .

p.s. just realized I forgot to mention that I am on Day 3 of a cold…congestion, runny nose, general malaise……*sigh*


Sunshine . . . .

Sunshine in the winter in Ottawa generally means it’s WAY too cold to go outside!  Therefore, I am committing some of my day to cleaning up my blog.  Essentially, I have posted WAY tooooo many photos and I’m going to go through and clean things out a bit (I’m reaching my maximum capacity)……

In other news – only 15 sleeps until our long awaited trip to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua!  Woooo…Hoooooo!


This is why . . .

Some say – great to go away – but better to get home – however when home weather looks like this – the statement doesn’t ring true for me.  Lovely to be sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow but waking up this morning and looking out our windows at the frozen tundra just doesn’t feel inviting.  *sigh*  See below for my final words on our trip.


To recap.  Christmas is the most expensive time of the year to travel.  Our vacation was from Dec.24.16 to Jan.7.17 – encompassing both Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  As a result prices were high and we elected to stay in a hotel rated 3 star by expedia – 4 star by trip advisor.  Stars relate to amenities available, quality of service, rooms etc.   There was a time in my life I was a hotel snob and would only stay in high end boutique hotels.  However, when travelling south I have never felt the need to go for broke.  South is all about the great outdoors, fresh air, sand, sun & surf.  OK…I do admit that higher end hotels tend to provide better food with more selection, but honestly you can pay less for a hotel and then go for dinners out from time to time for a change.  That way you can experience off resort culture and new food.

We stayed at Whala Bavaro – a self-described ‘low key’ hotel.  What I liked most about it is that it doesn’t have nightly entertainment or many organized things.  A few nights of guitar players (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve & weekly BBQ night).  Once daily you can find aerobics on the beach.  The food is acceptable with little variety.  Probably the biggest complaint most people had was the food.  I did encounter some people complaining of a bit of ‘stomach issues’ – not necessarily linked to the hotel.  I’m a firm believer in Dukarol before travel, a daily traveller’s probiotic to keep the good bacteria up and metamucil as a binding agent (too much information? 🙂    I always have a bad tummy at least once every trip and in the old days it was worse, lasted longer and even into my trip home – I no longer have that issue with my daily regimen of the above!  (hey, this is VERY important travel info for those with weak constitutions or bad eating habits abroad 🙂 !!

So…Whala Bavaro – casual, don’t have to dress up for dinner (although you can if you like) – no long pants necessary kind of place.  We did buffet every night we stayed in the hotel, they have one small a la carte that we didn’t go to.  It has 3 pools – 2 of which always seemed a bit off colour.  We stayed in the highest priced suite section with our own pool.  It’s a new section and well worth the few dollars extra.  We aren’t pool users – we went in once, it was clean and only people from our section seemed to use it.  The rooms are very clean, the staff friendly and helpful (english is a challenge for them).  Whala isn’t actually on the beach, but has a small beach area a 2 minute walk.  The beach area could have been maintained a little better.  For our purposes, there was a bit of shade (we never sit in full sun for long), we were able to put our chairs steps from the water, there was a beach bar & snack bar (which we rarely used).  The best thing about Whala Bavaro is it’s location – in the El Corticito area of Bavaro Beach it is smack dab in the middle of a wonderful long, great for walking sandy beach and a block away from local restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacy etc.  Would we stay there again – maybe – but since we rarely go the same place twice – probably not.  Is it for everyone – absolutely not – but if you are ok with ‘nothing special’ but clean and less expensive, this might work for you.

I wasn’t fussy about my last trip to the Dominican.  We stayed in the Bayhibe area in a more remote hotel, filled with mostly Italians so it felt a bit more like Italy 🙂  There was little opportunity to mix with the locals.  This trip we came home with a far more pleasant ‘feel’ for the Dominican Republic.  All the Dominicans we spoke with and encountered were happy, pleasant people.  We didn’t encounter one situation that we felt might be dangerous, we felt safe at all times.  We are always ‘searching’ for places we might like to spend extended periods of time once we retire and we do feel that if we could find an area in the Dominican Republic that met our criteria that it would be a pleasant country to spend extended periods in.  Our criteria being a bustling little town on the sea close to amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies with a great beach.  Of course, #1 is that it needs to be affordable on a limited budget and I think you can do that in most places in the D.R.   Let us know if you have any suggestions (in D.R. or anywhere warm 🙂 !!

48 sleeps until we leave for The Corn Islands, Nicaragua!!!



5 More Sleeps!

Only 5 more sleeps to our first ever beach Christmas!  This weekend we attended Johnny’s Christmas Party at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel here in Ottawa.  It’s a beautiful old hotel and a lovely place to celebrate Christmas!

Busy week this week with work, appointments, dinner at our daughter’s house, lunch with friends, cleaning the house, laundry, packing and then finally our flight will leave at 6 am on Saturday morning…wooo hoooooo!!

The reason I brought you to this post today though was to tell you about the movie we saw last night on Netflix… was actually a documentary…..minam


We have been de-cluttering/minimizing for years now….starting back in about 2009 with the knowledge that we would be selling our 4 bedroom home in the burbs within the next few years….we put it up for sale in 2011 and we had divested ourselves of a great number of personal effects – and of course we had to because we were moving to an 1,100 sq. ft. condo apartment with one small storage locker for the ‘extras’.  Living with less just felt better.  Of course one always over minimizes in the beginning and we did have to replace a thing or two…  Next step, we sold the 1,100 sq ft condo after 4 years and moved into an even smaller condo in 2015…we are down to about 950 sq ft….and yes….100 sq ft makes a difference when it comes to storage.  Honestly, we had to rent a 2nd storage locker because we are still holding onto some family treasures that will be passed along to our daughters once they have homes, we still camp… lots of camping gear….golf clubs….but honestly my real estate files, signs and general *stuff* takes up a lot of our extra locker space.

Our vacations are for the most part done using a carry on bag now…..our camping trips we try to take only what we absolutely need, we no longer buy things for the home. What I didn’t take into consideration was that now I have started doing a few hobbies…sewing, painting (acrylics)….so I have had to recently re-organise our very tight space to accommodate these things.  Our new little cottage in P.E.I. will start to absorb some of our ‘extras’.  Bottom line is….minimizing is quite cathartic, you can turn your attention to other things – such as watching great documentaries on Netflix!   De-cluttering your space, then your mind …….. experience life .. not your phone (which I am VERY bad with)……live in the moment… the movie….I think you will enjoy it!


19 More Sleeps!!!

November flew!  My oldest daughter and I went on a Mom/Daughter road trip to celebrate her 30th birthday!  She is a nurse and I picked her up at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. after an all night shift and we hit the 417 – Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada bound!  She nodded off for a few moments but for the most part stayed awake to entertain me along the way.  The weather was clear, the roads were dry and we arrived at the home of my youngest daughter not long after dark.

We spent 3 nights seeing the  sights of Saint John (we have both been there before)…but our prime goal had been to watch the youngest daughter playing in a Football game on Saturday morning…..welllll……she went early and we wandered over once the game was started, couldn’t see her on the field…but there she was on the side lines….as we got closer we realized she was holding a big bag of ice on her knee and she looked in pain….DARN….she insisted upon staying at the game to watch her team mates (they won)…..then we headed to emerge to have the leg checked out….the emerge doctor prescribed crutches and recommended a visit to her doctor the following week….it was painful and she had a tough few weeks but luckily it didn’t require surgery.  She was a trooper all weekend and she hobbled around on crutches and we stilled enjoyed ourselves.

Monday morning the oldest and I hopped into the car and headed to Prince Edward Island where we were going to go to our new cottage to see what had been left behind  (the sale had closed on October 17th).  We stopped in Shediac, NB for lunch and a photo shoot with the giant lobster, we dropped by a great 2nd hand/antique store in Charlottetown and then headed out to Savage Harbour, PEI to see the new cottage.  My daughter hadn’t been there before, but she loved the cottage, the space and especially the BEACH!  It was a cool November day and there were no lights or heat at the cottage (power off) so we really just did a walk-through, dropped off a few things we had brought down then we headed off on a tour of the the north shore, round to Summerside and then back to Charlottetown and off to dinner at a nice restaurant where we had lobster for the 2nd?  or was it 3rd time in 4 days? 🙂

Early Tuesday we left Charlottetown, stopped at tourist store near the Confederation Bridge, did out ‘Anne of Green Gables’ dress up photos and turned the car toward Quebec City.  Arrived in Quebec City around 5 pm ish…..checked into our awesome little boutique hotel in lower town Old Quebec…did some wandering, grabbed a bite to eat….and watched the U.S. Elections *sigh*…..SIGH…..SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Wednesday morning, breakfast, wandered around Quebec City for a while longer then hopped into the car and headed back home to Ottawa.

SO……today, it’s December 12th……..weeks have gone by……..winter has started and my husband and I are counting the sleeps until we head off to spend our first Christmas on a Sandy Beach!  Last year I made the decision that 2016 was going to be the away for Christmas trip…future years we may have grand children and feel the ‘tug’ to be near the family… …December 24th @ 6 a.m. we head off to Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic…..2 weeks…..yipppeeeee!  Home again on January 7, 2017…..STAY TUNED!

Careful What You Wish For :) !!!

Now where did I leave off …. ahh yesss….we were in the Porter Lounge at the Ottawa International Airport……our plane arrived…..we winged our way toward Moncton, New Brunswick…..landed pretty much on time – 10:30 p.m. ish…..picked up our rental car and then headed on the 2+ hour drive to our wonderful little room in Prince Edward Island.  We were booked for two nights in PEI at The Trailside Music Cafe & Inn in the Apple Valley Room.  The Inn was going to be closed when we arrived so they left the door open for us and in the dead of night we stole our way up the stairs and into our cute as a button room!

What I haven’t mentioned about this wee trip is that we were going to spend some time with a real estate agent looking at a few cottages.  So….we woke up very early, grabbed breakfast at a place down the road and then met Wayne the real estate guy for a morning of looking at VERY inexpensive cottages.  Yes, I did fall in love with one 🙂

The rest of the day we went a drivin’ familiarizing ourselves with this beautiful little Province, from Cavendish to Rustico, etc etc.  In the evening there was live music in the Cafe downstairs and we ate fine food, drank fine wine (and beer for Johnny) and listened to some really great local performers.  The Proprietor of this fine establishment ‘Pat’ was also our server and I can’t tell you how impressed we were with absolutely everything we encountered at The Trailside Music Cafe & Inn.  Decor was perfection without being overdone…wine selections amazing……I do believe I will go back……probably often 🙂 because . . . . .

Well, the next day we got up early, packed our bags and headed off the other direction this time for the Eastern Coastal Tour…..starting with Greenwich Park, then on to Cable Head and beyond over to East Point then back down the south side finally making our way to Charlottetown where we had dinner.  We have never seen such beautiful beaches.  I can’t believe I have lived within a days drive of this beautiful Province for 58 years and NEVER visited before… love in love in love with PEI…..we were flying out of Moncton, so headed back in a big rain storm…managed to actually SEE the Confederation Bridge on the way back!  After 9 by the time we got to the hotel and hit the sack for a 6:30 a.m. flight – landed in Ottawa around 8:15…grabbed a bus and were home just after 9 a.m.

A few photos….

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I would like to get back to the music on Saturday night at The Trailside….Brian Dunn & the band were terrific.  They played a number of songs written by Brian that were absolutely poignant and heart breaking.  His wife passed away a few years ago and the lyrics and music to some of his songs reflect the loss and the challenges he has faced as a single dad who has lost his partner at such a young age.  Listen to some of Brian’s music by clicking HERE!

So yes, we bought ourselves a little PEI cottage…it’s not fancy….but it took my breath away….it’s an old home that was transported I believe from Charlottetown and plopped onto a little piece of property in the Savage Harbour Cottage Subdivision.  A lovely place to spend our summers once we retire….a family cottage….a cottage for friends to visit…..yet another new Chapter in the ever changing lives of J & M …..

p.s. winter vacay booked!  Dominican Republic for two weeks at Christmas and Little & Big Corn Island, Nicaragua  for 2 weeks at the end of February…



Johnny will be 52 on Sunday and we are heading to Prince Edward Island for the weekend.  We are flying to Moncton, New Brunswick renting a car and driving two hours to a cute little Cafe Inn in Mount Stewart, PEI.

For the first time ever we took the bus to the airport!  Online took 20 minutes.  We have been relaxing in the Porter Lounge and are soon to take off.  Flight time about 1.5 hours then the 2 hour drive.

Time flies . . . . .

Time does indeed seem to fly.  I have been ‘off’ blogging this summer….’off’ taking photos….trying to become ‘off’ facebook… some degree I’m kind of ‘off’ people….whilst still enjoying life….FYI – ‘people’ doesn’t include Johnny or the girls 🙂

Last post was a camping weekend in the Gatineaus June 6th.  Whatever have we done since then…honestly, the summer has been so busy that we’ve started cancelling some of our plans….we need a break!

This was the year of the ‘Staycation’ – all of what we have done in June, July and August is in Ottawa or within a 3 hour drive of Ottawa.

So….Ottawa Jazzfest 2016 took up a WHOLE lot of our time – June 22nd to July 3rd there were multiple performances daily.  We didn’t get to every single one but we saw a whole slew of acts!  We prefer the slightly younger musicians with interesting twists on the old style.  In fact, I am not a fan of the classic Jazz style and am always happier when there is a more bluesy sound.

July 1st – Canada Day – this is a HUGE event in our fair City of Ottawa – the Nation’s Capital~!  We celebrated with friends and family and had a blast!  We could see the fireworks from our new home in the Byward Market.

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Ottawa Bluesfest 2016  took up less of our time – it’s a lot of music and a lot more expensive with tons more people – we went to two nights only and the music was great and I was OK with not spending more time there.  We did see Billy Idol, and some of my favourite Canadian (and non-Canadian) blues style artists.  Monkey Junk hosted an All Star Blues Review most evenings and it was amazing – small venue in the War Museum…very up close & personal…great music!


Camping – hrm….. after Lac Philippe we went to Lake St Peter Provincial Park July 8th to 11th – it rained most of the weekend…but as always we HAD fun!  We did get out hiking on the one nice day.  I love camping 🙂  We also rented some kayaks on the nice day – but they were awful kayaks..not as enjoyable as the nice ones we had on Lac Philippe.


August long weekend we went camping at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario.  We stayed in a campsite with water view – we had a very open campsite, not nearly as private as we are accustomed to.  It also has much more of a Southern Ontario feel – not the ‘northern’ atmosphere we are accustomed too.  My cousin came to visit on the Friday, we went for a major hike on the hot hot day Saturday and of course left beach day to Sunday – and it wasn’t really a nice beach day *sigh*….headed off fairly early on Monday morning and meandered back along the shores of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River – lunch in Kingston….


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ONE weekend we toured our own fair city!  Double decker hop on hop off bus tour, we went to see the new Star Trek movie.  Next day we went on a plane ride in an open cockpit vintage airplane over the downtown of Ottawa and then to the Star Trek Experience at the Aviation Museum….we had a great weekend….Ottawa is an amazing city with lots to see and do!

Fireworks!  Last night we saw the 4th of 5 Fireworks in an annual competition hosted by Casino  Lac-Leamy.  We saw the first two China & The Netherlands from our Balcony, Estonia we walked over to Major’s Hill Park to see it and last night it was Australia and we were on the bridge between Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill and then walked down beside the Chateau Laurier to Major’s Hill.  I’m fairly certain that Australia was the best – it remains to be seen which they pick though!  Saturday night (20th August) is the finale of the event with the Canadian fireworks company.  Hopefully, we will remember in time to get a good vantage point!

OK..places to go, people to see ….. I will dig up some photos of all that I have described above and post them in a few days …. ciao ciao!  POSTED!

p.s…….. we have commenced the planning for winter 2017! yee hawww!



Lac Philippe

We manage to find ourselves at Lac Philippe at least once every year for a walk or a hike.  It’s a beautiful little lake in the National Capital Commission (NCC) ‘s Gatineau Park.  This weekend we camped there for the first time!  We arrived Thursday around 5:30 (after a very very stressful work day)….the weather was beautiful and it wasn’t long before we were cooking beans on the Coleman stove and sausage over the fire.  We only saw one other couple that night and they weren’t camping anywhere near us.  We were all alone in our sector of the park.  It was idyllic, quiet, dark – oh so peaceful!

Friday we rented little kayaks and paddled around the lake.   We paddled around the entire perimeter of the lake, saw many beaver huts (no beavers though), a loon happily diving for fish, a big blue fish which we have no idea what kind he was (coloured fish are fairly unusual in Canadian lakes that I know of), birds galore!  At the far end (near the entrance to Lusk Caves) we banked the kayaks and had a picnic on the beach, then headed back down up the other side.  We stopped at a little island and did some exploring and took the kayaks back.  It was a great day…oh so quiet out there!

Saturday was big hike day – we hiked to Lac Taylor (another lake within the same area), passing Lac Renaud on the way.  We picnicked at an empty campsite overlooking the Taylor Lake and then looped back through the forest trail and old logging road back to our campsite.  We think it was about 11 k altogether.  Lots of wildlife along the way (as is evidenced below).

Our evenings consisted of reading by the fire (with our geeky headlamps on)!  Nights got COLD….down to about 9c (with the day times in the mid to high 20’s).  Sunday morning we awoke to a lot of sounds..weren’t really too aware of what it was…and then it started to rain…once we looked out we realized that everyone who was near us (those that arrived Friday night) had all been smart enough to pack up and head out before the BIG RAIN started.  Needless to say we left with a lot of wet gear.  It was only 9:30 in the morning, so we grabbed Tim Horton’s breakie and coffee near Wakefield and decided to go for a drive up the valley to Maniwaki.  If you live in the Ottawa area and haven’t driven up there it really is a nice drive (in spite of the crazy drivers).  I had no idea that Maniwaki was so large, with traffic lights, Canadian Tire.  A section near the main street was cordoned off with police blockade and a huge police bus.  When we got home we read that a young man had been found dead in the area.  Sad 😦

Once home we stowed the gear, showered the wood smoke off and headed to Murray Street kitchen for a delectible meal!

That’s it – no more camping until July 7th.  City work & fun until then!


Beaver Hut in the background


A2 was our home for the weekend


Rented kayaks on site for 4 hours and paddled around the perimeter of the lake.





Wee fish near the beach where we rented the kayaks


More wee fish



Mom? Dad? & Goslings…


Oh Deer



Cute little guy



Ants at work



Same Goslings with Mom? Dad?


The biggest, tallest trilliums I’ve ever seen (above and below)



the requisite selfie – I shouldn’t wear hats or go without make up…OR do closeups – Johnny’s good though 🙂


I’ve never seen caterpillars at this stage before..not sure what the heck is next (above & below)


I should have left some space between our last hiking photo and our dinner the next day 🙂

Below – Johnny’s meal on top – Fred’s Pork – my meal below – Joe’s Fish.  The menu has changes/additions almost daily.  The ‘names’ of the dishes stay the same – but the dish itself may change.  My walleye (pickerel) was amazing..YUM YUM!


Back at it!

Our weekend didn’t turn out quite as expected.  Original plans had been booked oh so long ago – we were supposed to go camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park.  As the weeks passed it was evident that neither the weather nor my work schedule was going to accommodate that plan.  In fact, it was my work that was the straw that broke the camel’s back (so to speak)…and we cancelled our camping trip.  Johnny still had his Friday off (he’s doing a compressed work week this summer for every 2nd Friday off.

So…next plan – Friday was looking clear – we would take the day and go for a week hike and picnic in the Gatineau Hills.  Well, that would have worked except for the fact that I ended having a sale extended and having to boogie to get some signatures Friday morning, then a last minute call from a couple only in town for the day wanting to see one of my listings within the next hour, topped off by clients I had been working with for 4 months wanting to put an offer in on something that day!  So….no hike in the woods for us!

We did have a lovely dinner in the market (Byward Market, Ottawa) after I was done work though.  Alas, Saturday dawned, the weather looked less than ideal, no messages, phone calls or pages calling me away, so we loaded up the packs and headed to the Gatineaus.  One of our favourite places is Lac Philippe in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec.  It’s less than 30 minutes away so easy to get to.  We decided to do the hike to Lusk Caves, starting off the inland up hill side, getting to the caves and then walking back along the narrow roadway/path along the Lake.  Photos below are in a very random order but you get the gist.

However, as a Canadian….I may have been somewhat more prepared had I actually packed bug spray….black flies being the worst…mosquitos following behind…….was a bit crazy.  Interesting factoid….bugs come to me, sit on me..but don’t bite me….guess they don’t care for my chemistry.  Johnny however is not immune to these things, poor guy got quite a few black fly bites.  It’s quite interesting though, they seem to amass in one section. You can walk along..and nothing, then all of a sudden you enter a cloud of flies..shades of my youth in the near north of Ontario.  Johnny has a theory that I was probably bitten so often as a child that I’m simply immune to them now – let’s go with that.

OK….before you start looking at my beautiful photos taken on the Samsun Galaxy S6 phone…..we forgot to bring the OH DARN….had to stop by Wakefield on the way home and eat at the old train station…the food their was absolutely scrumptious, highly recommend!  It’s name is Cafe Pot-au-Feu clickem HERE  A well deserved break after our 10+ k damp buggy hike!  In fact, I’m not complaining at all, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE walking at this time of year and I think that the world can be more beautiful on a gray day than it is on a sunny day.  I believe my photos below may confirm that 🙂 !!



Forgot to bring the sandwich for the picnic..oops 🙂



Hoods and Hats!   To protect from blackflies, mosquitos and rain (mostly blackflies)


Love this ethereal pond



Red trilliums not nearly as common as white ones


White and red trilliums happily co-existing.



Back at the camp ground on Lac Philippe



Raindrops on sunroof


In lieu of packed sandwich


Fish tacos and salad por moi


Beet soup and fish tacos por Johnny


This was a lovely flowering tree



Nature utilizes everything at hand to survive



No cave walking today – full of water and no hip waders 🙂



oops…looks perhaps like partridge feathers…..there were tons of them…no carcass though..a fight perhaps?


Flowering tree looking over Lac Philippe



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