Pizza Saturday

My husband (aka Loverboy) and I love to eat out.  There are just certain foods that can’t be replicated at home; pizza is one of those foods. And so Loverboy and I found ourselves sitting at one of our favourite pizza joints this past Saturday. Now pizza is a meal that we  could possibly share, however we both like different toppings. I like bacon, green peppers and mushrooms (which Loverboy would never go for except when there are leftovers) and he likes the works ( which I would never go for, ever) so we each have to order our own.  I ordered a six inch (because I have a very small appetite, of course) and he ordered a nine inch because he doesn’t.

We were seated outside on the patio as it was a gorgeous day.  The sun was shining and the patio dining area was filling up quickly with people like us who obviously like restaurant style pizza better than what they can make at home from a box picked out of the freezer.  A restaurant is a great place to watch the comings and goings of the various diners.  Behind us were two men, obviously longtime friends, who were meeting up to have a drink and some pizza and share stories of the good old days.  Now I really wasn’t trying to eavesdrop – the tables were just very close together !  One of the men had his young son with him, a boy of about two or three years of age who was so well-behaved he deserved a medal, or a at least a free pizza (more on that later).

As the mother of two boys, who occasionally took them to restaurants, I know what I am talking about when I describe good behaviour because taking my children to restaurants was always a leap of faith.  My first born was actually very easy and eating out was a joy, however my second born was another story.   A restaurant was a venue just waiting to be explored, and then destroyed.  No linen went unsoiled, no drink unspilled!  It was always such fun and we learned quickly that the only restaurant safe for him was McDonalds.  (The washrooms there proved to be a bit of an issue but that is story for another day!). It was a whole lot less stressful because McDonalds caters to kids, there were no linens to wash and they had staff hovering around to pick up any messy spills.  As well, the price was also right!  When I see couples with an only child who behaves well in a restaurant, I can’t help but think to myself – “just wait you perfect parents until you have another – you will be replacing gourmet pizza with a cheeseburger and fry soon enough.”  If I see a couple with an only child who is not behaving, I telepathically suggest to them that McDonalds might be a better choice next time.

As we were waiting for our pizzas, a man, his face painted as a dog, entered the patio with his young daughter.  I actually had to look twice to be sure I was actually seeing what I was seeing.  It kind of made sense because the little girl had her face painted as a cat. I did make eye contact with the man once but looked away quickly when he gave me a look that said “I dare you to laugh!”  I really wouldn’t have laughed because first of all I wasn’t sure if he had all his shots, and secondly I was quite impressed with the lengths he would go to please his daughter.  Having your face painted like a dog and then going to a restaurant full of people takes a lot of chutzpah if you ask me.  You have to admire those parents who go the distance for their kids! I was left to wonder what his tattoo would look like when she grew old enough to get one, though.

Finally, the waitress served us our pizzas and she informed me that the cook had read her order incorrectly and had made me a nine inch pizza.  She graciously informed me that I would only be charged for a six inch, however.  Donnie’s eyes lit up, not because we were getting more for less, but because he knew I would not eat the whole nine inch which would mean leftovers for his midnight snack.  I have a habit of always leaving the last bite, the last slice, the last sip of anything when dining out.  Not sure why I do it but I think it is my way of saying I have a modicum of will-power. The pizza was delicious and I fought with myself to have one slice left over that the waitress promised to box up.  Just goes to show you that I am always thinking of Loverboy!

When it came time for the bill, the waitress came to the table looking rather chagrined.  She informed us that she had given our bill to the man with the little boy behind us, but that she had been able to rejig their bill so that we weren’t paying anything extra.  It was all a little confusing, especially because she handed me three bills – one for 44.80, one for 40.18 and one for 39.25.  When I looked at each one, I didn’t seen anything resembling our order and when I asked her which one was ours she gave me the one that said 44.80 which included a twelve inch pizza, a soft drink, two beer and a kids pizza. This was obviously the bill of the man whose little boy was very well behaved. Not sure why she gave me the other bills – maybe it was a test to see if I would choose the lowest one, I don’t know.  While I was looking at the bill for 44.80, probably with a very puzzled look on my face, the waitress suddenly grabbed it and the two other bills and said she would be right back.  When she did come back, she told me she had reentered our bill and handed me the updated bill that now said 34.18.  Wow, I saved ten bucks just by getting the correct bill!  And then I realized that the well-behaved young lad had actually gotten his pizza free because his father had paid for our bill which was ten dollars cheaper.  In the end, it was a just reward for the little guy’s good behaviour!  Not sure if the waitress had to make up the money but I made sure to give her a good tip so that it was a little easier to swallow.

After paying for our food, Loverboy and I headed out. He happily carried with him the boxed slice of pizza, dreaming of his midnight snack, while I happily reflected on the fact that I hadn’t paid the 44.80 for our lunch as I was all ready to do so.  It was a win all around!  As my father says, ” a penny saved, is a penny earned” and I think that counts in this situation even though I really didn’t save anything, but you get my drift!

On Your Mark! Get Set! go!

My first post-retirement activity was probably not what you were expecting and I know that many of you pictured me sitting on a beach somewhere, a long tall glass of liquid refreshment in my hand and Donnie (aka Loverboy) spraying my back with sunscreen (SPF 80). Well, that scene may come in time but it was not the first place I landed. I spent a week, sleeping on an air mattress in my parent’s apartment at the Parkland in the Valley Shannex. Yup, I went straight from retirement to the old folks home!

This post-retirement stay at Shannex happened because my father, age 84, had a hip replacement. He has suffered with pain for several years but was reluctant to have surgery because he was fearful of leaving my mother alone to deal with things by herself because she has limited mobility. He has been her caregiver for over 40 years since a bad back surgery took the wind out of her sails, figuratively and literally. Once I announced my retirement a few months ago, my father, directly after congratulating me, told me he needed me to come and stay with my mother so he could have his surgery and he booked his date two days after I actually retired. He obviously was very anxious for the surgery! So much for rest and relaxation; that will come later I guess, since I now have all the time in the world.

Now Shannex is a senior’s residential facility with several buildings. My parents live in the residential suites because they can live on their own (with some assistance) and it is quite nice. I have not been to many senior’s homes but I have seen W5’s stories on the horrors that you might find at some so that is my context. Your meals are made for you in the “five star” dining room (five stars given in comparison to the food you might be served in prisons according to some of the residents, although I found the food quite tasty), there is limousine and bus service available for trips to Walmart and other exciting places and there are many fun games like bocci ball, bridge and backgammon. I hear there is even a mean game of forty fives played daily in the main lounge.

The biggest thing I noticed while at Shannex was the large number of walkers that are parked in the dining room at meal time. It is a virtual collection of every type of walker known to man. If you are not using a walker, you are in the minority. Thankfully, I am not yet needing a walker and will continue my walking and squats routine to ensure I don’t end up there in the near future. Anyway, while looking at all the walkers parked in the dining room, I got the idea that a walker race in the parking lot would be a great idea. (Darn auto correct keeps changing “walker race” to “walking race” – Apple’s employees obviously are not old enough to recognize the word “walker race” as a thing!).

I scoped out a start and finish line and plan to broach the idea with the residents once they put their hearing aids in – yup, I have learned that many of them also can’t hear well. Thankfully, I am not needing a hearing aid yet and will continue to keep my iPod at a reasonable volume while doing my walking and squats so that I don’t end up there anytime soon. I really think this race would liven things up at Parkland in the Valley and could even be replicated at other Shannex facilities around the province. It could even become a national pastime and maybe even an Olympic Sport. Of course, participants would have to sign a medical waiver and show that they actually need a walker (I know those not needing one might want to pretend and sandbag the whole shebang).

Can’t you just picture it? White haired ladies and bald men (whose hair now grows in other places) lapping around the parking lot, pushing those walkers with zest and zeal, the smell of Ben Gay permeating the air. Winning medals and then heading straight to bed to rest up for the next event, in a week or two. Anyway, I predict it will be epic. I am planning on heading back to Shannex later this week so I am going to take my proposal with me and share it with the powers that be. I am sure that it is something that will really interest them and will cause a lot of excitement among the residents. Can’t wait to yell through my bullhorn “On your mark! Get set! Go!”

We Are the Champions (Sort Of) Part IV (The Finale)

After a great night’s sleep, we were all able to rise fairly early to begin our last day in Montreal.  On the agenda was some shopping, some dining and a visit to the Just for Laughs Festival.  Fortified with Advil to counteract the chocolate martinis and wine from the night before, we  had breakfast and set out to tour the shops as we were sure there were sales to be had.

There is something about sales that makes me loose my mind. First of all, I can never find anything that fits – the size I need just never seems to be available and so I try on outfit after outfit with no success in saving money.  It is so frustrating as I want to save money!  I did end up buying a pair of casual black ankle pants but they cost me $75 so I not sure that counts as saving money!  The other ladies had more success with saving money than I did, so all was good.

We had lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio on St. Catherine’s Street which is always pleasant, except when bird poop is involved.  Poor Mon Shin was sitting there, minding her own business when she felt a wet plop on her arm.  Thinking it was starting to rain, she looked down expecting to see a water drop and discovered that instead, she had been the victim of an errant bird dropping.  Not fun, however Mon Shin is very chill and just casually shook it off her arm.  Later Peppermint Patty, who had ordered a salad, discovered something very similar in her salad – well as least she thought it was that though the waitress assured her it was just an old piece of lettuce.  She was gracious enough to exchange the salad though, just to be on the safe side.

That evening we headed down to the Places des Arts to take in some of the craziness of the Just for Laughs Festival.  As we were entering the site, we met up with the same man we had walked with the night before from the Queen concert.  What are the chances of that in a city of 1.7 million people?  After a brief reunion, we were on our way.  The site was very crowded and there were acts going on everywhere.  We stopped to watch a Disney-like parade of transvestites dressed up as Disney princesses.  It was interesting and I can assure you that I will not look at a Disney princess in the same way again.  After the parade passed by we did witness a rather disturbing encounter between two men. One man had his pants pulled down to his knees and he was arguing with the other man.  We watched horrified and looked around for security but there didn’t seem to be anyone around.  The two men stopped arguing, the pants were pulled up and they went their separate ways.  It was  very disturbing!  We saw the same two men later, doing the exact same thing and realized it was one of the acts that were happening on the site.  I guess good comedy is subjective!  After we had all the laughs we could take, we headed back to our hotel to pack up and get a good night’s sleep in preparation for our next stop, Quebec City.

The drive to Quebec City was pretty uneventful.  With the two GPS’ guiding us, we were able to avoid getting lost and made it to our hotel by early afternoon.  We headed out to tour around the Old City, popping in and out of shops, discovering more ways to save money along the way.  We noticed dark clouds forming in the sky so decided it would be wise to pick up a rain poncho, just in case.  For 2.99, we were able to buy some very sexy ponchos – you know, the ones that look like a giant garbage bag with a hood.  Now Peppermint Patty, ever the practical one, determined that a little rain wasn’t going to hurt her so she decided to forego spending the 2.99. We continued on our way and ended up sitting in some bleachers watching a busker perform some dangerous feats, juggling what looked like very sharp sabers while riding a unicycle.  He was pretty entertaining.  Of course, during the show, the skies opened, but with our sexy rain ponchos, we were able to stay and watch the show.  Peppermint Patty did get a little wet but it didn’t hurt her so all was good.

We took the Funiculaire down to the lower part of Old Quebec and continued touring around.  We discovered a little shop that sold cider and other goodies and so entered to take a look around.  At the same time, a group of young teachers from British Columbia also popped in and they asked the girls working there if they allowed taste tests.  We joined in and tasted the many different types of cider that they offered and to show our appreciation for those free tastes, we even each bought a bottle of our favourite cider.  No money saved there, but I am sure the cider will be a hit at some dinner party in the future.

Our final stop in Old Quebec as at Il Teatro, a lovely restaurant just outside the gates. Mon Shin and I arrived first and asked about seating for five.  The hostess told us it would be a 15-20 minute wait as the two tables set for five were taken.  Well, fifty minutes later we were still waiting for a seat and things went downhill from there.  I won’t go into the details because I already wrote about the experience on Trip Advisor so you can read my review there but we ended up being welcomed at another restaurant, Pizza D’Youville, where we had a delicious dinner.  All’s well that ends well!

We checked into our hotel later that evening and after a good night’s sleep began the long trek home.  I have mentioned that we were using two GPS systems to keep us on track but unfortunately, we got distracted by the Backyard Barbecue Chips, licorice and M and M’s and missed a turn off somewhere.   We only realized it when the four lane highway suddenly merged into two lane highway and the GPS (which we had silenced) was frantically telling us to make a U-turn.  It all ended well and after a lovely though smelly drive through the country, we made it back to the four lane highway and the road home.  The We Are the Champions (Sort Of) Tour was coming to an end and we had made some great memories that will not be forgotten because I wrote them down!  And we are really excited because ABBA is coming to Montreal next year so we can see a Dancing Queens Tour in our future.  Stay tuned!


We Are the Champions (Sort Of) Part III

Now a delicious pre-concert drink is a chocolate martini and so as we began preparing ourselves for the highlight of our trip to Montreal, the Queen and Adam Lambert concert, I pulled out my jigger, shaker, Grey Goose, Creme de Cocoa and cream and began whipping up some drinks for the team.  Because I was so busy shake shake shaking, I only got to actually drink one which was good for me but not so great for one member of our party who along with a few martinis, also indulged in a few glasses of wine.  As we have traveled together before, I knew that this was not going to bode well so gently suggested she slow down, but she paid about as much attention to me as my husband does when there is hockey on the television.

Anyway, we left our hotel in good spirits (some better than others) and made our way to the Bell Centre for the concert.  We, of course, fell prey to the ridiculously expensive souvenir shop dropping a couple of hundred dollars combined on t-shirts ($45), souvenir books ($30) and key chains ($25).  They saw us coming and we were ripe for the picking.  I read an article last week that claimed woman over fifty should not be wearing t-shirts with logos or quotes on them; I am not sure who writes these things but they surely weren’t talking about a very cute and very cool Queen and Adam Lambert commemorative t-shirt!  It was probably fake news anyway, so why even heed the unwanted advice.

With our shopping done and another drink purchased at the concessions stand, we settled into our well-placed seats and proceeded to enjoy what was a stand-out performance by Queen and Adam Lambert.  Being a die-hard Queen fan, I was not sure what to expect with Adam Lambert taking on the lead vocals, but he handled the gig really well.  He was humble about his role, did not try to emulate Freddie Mercury, did not go over the top in his performance and was extremely hot in his tight leather pants.  Brian May and Roger Taylor are also such talented musicians and they brought the music of my youth alive. The concert was phenomenal and we all enjoyed it immensely. I was pretty much riveted to the stage for most of the concert but about midway through when I took a glance at my multiple chocolate martini drinking friend, I noticed that she was wearing one of those frozen smiles that indicates a possible high level of intoxication.  She seemed to be enjoying herself though and was relatively well behaved, so I didn’t think to worry about it.

Sadly, the concert had to end at some point and as we made our way out of our seats, it became apparent that our friend was pretty much blitzed.  We helped her out of the seat and guided her to the exit and began our trek back to the hotel.  She was having a great time practicing her limited French out on a anyone who would listen. A lovely gentleman, who had obviously attended the concert, joined up with us and was talking about how good the concert was.  Because I was helping my friend walk, we were a little slow so he continued on and joined up with the rest of our party who were a distance ahead.  This is when she really dug deep for those French lessons from school and began yelling “Arrêt monsieur!  Allons-ze!” several hundred times (okay, I exaggerated, it was only about 50 times).  When we reached our hotel the gentleman continued on his way.  We looked like the guys from the movie Weekend at Bernie’s as we made our way up to our room, two of us holding up our friend.  The only difference was she was drunk and not dead.

Once we reached the room, it became very obvious that we were going to need Gravol for our friend who was now not feeling very well.  I volunteered to see if I could find a store that was open.  I called down to the concierge who when I explained what I needed, told me the only place open at that time of night was Dunn’s.  Now I have been to Montreal enough times to know that Dunn’s is a smoked meat place so I was a bit confused but thought maybe they had a little store on the side.  Cinder volunteered to accompany me since it was late, we were in a big city and it was probably not safe to be out running the roads on my own.  When we got down to the lobby, the concierge met us and said he had misunderstood what I was looking for and directed us to a 24-hour Jean Coutu on Sherbrooke Street.

We had to walk about five blocks up a very dark and very deserted street – well, it was almost deserted except for the homeless people sleeping in doorways of businesses along the way.  Once we reached Sherbrooke Street, however, there were many people out and about.  There is a whole other world that comes alive after 11:00.  Who knew?  Obviously not Cinder, for she proceeded to ruminate about it at length, over and over again which I think was a result of the chocolate martinis and wine, both of which can make you repeat yourself… a lot!  We found the Jean Coutu Pharmacy about four blocks up Sherbrooke Street and went in to get the Gravol.

Now I have not purchased Gravol in some time and did not realize that you can no longer get it off the shelf.  It is kept in the pharmacy because apparently it has some interesting uses beyond easing nausea.  I approached the pharmacist and asked for a small box and he required my name, my date of birth, my address and my phone number so he could put it in the computer to track if I was going from pharmacy to pharmacy, collecting boxes of Gravol.  It is one of those situations where you try to explain why you are buying Gravol so late at night, but then you actually look like you are making up a lame excuse.  The pharmacist did not look convinced and shooed me off to pay at the front of the store.  There was a long line-up, overseen by a security guard who was watching everyone suspiciously, including me.  I was feeling pretty sketchy and ended up having a major hot flash, right then and there but could do nothing about it for fear they would think I was having some kind of drug withdrawal.  That guilty Catholic conscience gets me every time, even when I am not guilty!  There was a man who was obviously down on his luck who really caught the attention of the security guard.  He hovered behind a set of shelves holding candy and really seemed quite out of it.  The security guard kept walking over to watch him but he didn’t seem to catch him doing anything illegal.  At one point, the man decided that it was as good a time as any to get his photo taken – not sure if it was for a passport photo or some other reason but the line ended up going even slower because one of the cashiers had to take the photo.  Needless to say, I was glad to get outside into the cool air.

Cinder and I made our way back to the hotel with no major incidents – well other than Cinder almost knocking herself out by banging head first into a box hanging on one of the poles.  It was when she was talking about how she could not believe how there was a whole world that came alive after 11:00 (which really was the gist of the conversation the whole way home) but she avoided a collision at the last minute and we made it back to our hotel in one piece.  By the time we got to our room, our friend had fallen asleep but we woke her up and fed her some Gravel, ensuring that she would be able to function the next day.  We could hardly wait to wake her up and share with her the story of how we risked life and limb to ensure she was looked after.  It was going to be so much fun razing her!  After Cinder explained at least five or six times to the other girls about how she could not believe there was a whole other world that came to life after 11:00 I knew it was time for bed.  Another day awaited us – we might not be night hawks but in the daylight hours we had shops to hit and money to spend!

(To Be Continued)

We Are the Champions (Sort Of) Part I

What do you get when five fifty-plus women, whose nicknames range from The Woman to Peppermint Patty to Cinder to SuperQueen to Mon Shin, travel on a epic journey to see the one, the only Queen, minus Freddie Mercury (RIP), plus Adam Lambert (awesome replacement)?  Well, you get a little bit of rock and roll with some mayhem and madness thrown in for good measure, a lot of laughs and some wonderful memories that will last a lifetime (or at least as long as we remember them).

We had many crazy adventures that began in the small rural community of St. Hilaire, NB where were met up and loaded all of our gear into The Woman’s truck. Now no one can accuse us of traveling lightly (calorie wise or other) as Peppermint Patty, the cook of the bunch, had concocted a cheese cake, maple cones, and ginger cookies and we all had brought along assorted survival foods like M and Ms, jujubes, licorice and chips (assorted flavours) and dip.  Also included were several bottles of wine, some chocolate liquor and a large bottle of Grey Goose – you know, all the necessities needed for a grand adventure! With our suitcase bulging with enough clothes to ensure we were prepared for any wardrobe malfunction or clothing emergency, we hit the road to Quebec and our final destination, Montreal.

It wasn’t long before our decision to pack survival foods seemed like a pretty good one.  Stuck in a long line of traffic between Edmunston and Riviere du Loup due to an accident several miles up the road, we soon found ourselves following some other very smart drivers down a side road believing it would lead us away from what was promising to be a very long wait.  Shortly after, we left a roughly paved country lane and found ourselves traveling on a narrow dirt road, dust swirling around us, visibility limited.  With heavy shrubs and trees lining each side of the road, there was nothing to do but keep moving forward.  Suddenly the cars and transport truck ahead of us stopped and when the dust cleared we realized that we had not made it to the road, but were now stuck on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with no idea how long we would be there.

No worries for us though because we had our survival food and set about laying out a feast that would have made a lumberjack cry.  I decided to offer some ginger cookies to the people in the car in front of us as they had been nice enough to take a picture of us to memorialize this part of our trip (thank goodness we have cameras on our phones as the pictures will help when our memories get fuzzy as well as provide plenty of jealous moments for our Facebook friends who had to work).  I had just re-zipped up the ziplock bag, when drivers began running to their cars and we heard that the line was moving.  Hurrying back to the truck, we threw the feast back into the bags and ran for our seats.  When Peppermint Patty hopped back into the front seat, she expressed concerned about the dip and questioned whether or not she had put it back into the cooler.  As a food safety advocate, she knows her food safety rules and was very concerned that we would be poisoned because of her carelessness.  We reassured her that if indeed the dip had not been placed in the cooler, we would be able to get new dip, free from salmonella poisoning, when we reached Montreal, so all was good.

The remainder of the trip was rather uneventful – well except for the little stop at the rest area.  We all had to use the bathroom and so pulled into one of Quebec’s best features, a road side rest area.  Of course, it was busy and there was a line up for the women’s bathroom.  This is a world wide problem that I don’t understand.  They can spend millions to put a man on the moon, but they can’t spring a few extra dollars to put some more toilets in women’s washrooms.  Boggles the mind!  Anyway, one of team (whose identity shall be protected) had to really go to the bathroom and so we suggested that she use the separate disabled one that was free.  When she came out a few minutes later, we still had not moved too far and the line up had grown.  A couple of older ladies, seeing our friend come out of the disabled washroom, decided they would use it too.  Unfortunately, when they opened the door, they fell back and exclaimed that it smelled really bad and that they couldn’t use it.  This was all done in French and so our teammate, who also has a limited French vocabulary didn’t understand what they said but our gal Cinder, who is bilingual did understand and she translated for us.  Well of course, we fell into hysterics while our friend who was standing a few feet away and could not hear what was said, stood there with a blank look on her face.  Too funny!

We got back on the highway and texted Mon Shin, who had flown to Montreal from Saskatchewan to assure her we would be in Montreal before nightfall.  With two GPS devices guiding the way, we made it to our hotel with only a few wrong turns and checked in.  The poor concierge loaded up all of our gear onto a cart and holding onto his back for some reason, limped to the elevators.  Since we couldn’t fit into one with him, we took our own and finally met up with Mon Shin.  As you can imagine it was an extremely loud and boisterous reunion and I am surprised we weren’t put out on the street then and there!  Our bags arrived, the concierge wisely giving us enough time to greet each other so that we would then remember to tip him. As he walked back to the elevator, I was pleased to see that the limp had been replaced with a little skip – it is amazing how a good tip can put a spring into your step!

Well, because it was well after seven o’clock and we had eaten virtually nothing except for some licorice because we had thrown all of the the rest of the food into the back of the truck and didn’t want to stop to get it out, we decided we needed to head out for supper.  When you go to Montreal, Reuben’s is kind of an obvious choice and so that is where we went.  With great food, a tall, dark, handsome and very funny waiter named Tolis and an opportunity to catch up, we had a great evening.  Tolis was kind of cool when he first began waiting on our table, but certainly warmed up to the crazy ladies that he had the great opportunity to serve!  He joked with us and teased us and even gave us the good napkins (usually reserved for dining) for the desserts which are usually served with small flimsy napkins.  We were obviously very special customers.  It was an enjoyable evening and I hope Tolis got to keep his job after we left because his manager didn’t really seem to appreciate that Tolis had supplied us with the expensive napkins when the cheap ones would have done the job.  We assured the manager on the way out that Tolis was a gem and he should keep him on staff even though he ignored his other customers because we were so much fun.  If the waiting stint doesn’t work out, Tolis told us that he is also a stand up comedian so with his good looks and acerbic wit, we know he will be successful in that career and we can say we knew him when!  It is safe to say, we also provided him with some new material for his routine!

We made our way back to our hotel for some more reminiscing and a good nights sleep in preparation for what promised would be a big day on Monday!  We had a king sized suite which included a bedroom with a king sized bed, a bedroom with a queen sized bed, a living room with a pull out couch, and a good sized kitchen so there was plenty of room for our survival food and drink and assorted clothing and footwear.  We did have to share one bathroom and The Woman wisely brought some deodorizing spray with her so that we could ensure we left the bathroom smelling lavendery fresh when we used it. By midnight, we were all snoring away, resting our bodies for our next adventure in Montreal.

(To Be Continued)

Toilet Troubles!

Getting back to reality after a vacation takes a little bit of getting use to.  Going from the sand and sun to forecasted snowstorms in April can be hard to take, and a little depressing if you ask me. However, there have been so many interesting things that have happened in my life, post-vacation, that I really felt it important to overshare!

We are having some major toilet issues going on at our house.  I know talking about toilet troubles is probably not good form but bear with me – there are some lessons to be learned! We arrived home to water in our basement.  Now this is not an unusual event as we have an older home with a foundation that was poured over a few days – back in the olden days when our house was built, they had to use muscle power and a small mixer and it took several days to pour the cement for the foundation. This means there is a seam that sometimes allows the water in.  Nothing that we can’t deal with as we have a sump pump and an electric pump for those “accidents” that happen from time to time.

Anyway, I awoke on our return from vacation to hear water running in the basement and when I went to check it out, found out the overflow valve was spewing water.  I knew this was not a good thing so called Donnie (aka Loverboy) to come take a look.  He hummed and hawed and used his “plumber knowledge” to diagnose a blockage in the line inside the house.  (This had actually happened before when I was in an isolation room at the hospital having radiation treatments.  The downstairs toilet overflowed and Loverboy called me to ask what he should do.  Being unable to leave the area where I was without setting off multiple alarms and alerting the HazMat team, I told him to hang up the phone and call the plumber.)  So I took his diagnoses with a grain of salt and told him to call the plumber. He then decided to pump out the water that had collected in a few places. Normally, we pump the water into a big old cast iron double sink and this usually works like a charm, however this time both sinks filled up and threatened to overflow!  Not a good omen.

Meanwhile, I noticed that the toilet upstairs was not flushing very well.  We purchased a new toilet about ten years ago and it was designed with a “nifty” side button that you pushed to make the flush work.  It worked well for the last ten years but suddenly, the side button was not so “nifty” anymore as it would no longer flush the toilet.  This meant that we now were dealing with three issues having to do with bathroom features that we would rather not think about on a daily basis.

Of course, I had to head back to work which meant that Loverboy was left to tend to all these issues.  Dealing with household backups and breakdowns is one of his most favorite things to do!  And so, he began calling plumbers and contractors, trying to find someone who would help us with our problems. Meanwhile, I headed back to work for some of my own excitement that came by way of several emails from Natalia.

Now if you have never heard me mention Natalia before, it is because she is a new pen pal who found me via email.  I am not sure how she got my email address but I have received at least one email from her each day since my return to work. She is lovely gal from the Russian Federation who is looking for a man, and she has her standards.   Each day she discusses the characteristics she is looking for in a man and they include a “goodness man”, a “serious man”, a “smashing man”, a “reliable man”, a “respectable man”, a “good natured man”,  a “dependable man”, a “superb man” and finally, a “fair man”.  I am sure that I am all those things -well except for the “man” part so not sure why she is writing to me, but it does make for entertaining reading and I am really growing my vocabulary with her help. If I had any intention of writing back to her I would tell her that I am looking for a “plumber man” because it would be really good to have one of those right now!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Donnie finally found a plumber but he refused to come to the house and instead recommended we call the pressure wash guy with the camera who can see into your lines.  Of course, when a plumber recommends this you know what is next – “Will that be cash or credit card?” Ca-ching! Someone is about to become very rich and it is not me!  The blockage is outside the house, very close to the street but still on our property.  This means that we now require a contractor to come and dig up our lawn and walkway so that they can replace the errant sewer line.  Goodbye landscaping, hello mud! Ca-ching!!

As for the sink in the basement, the plumber did come over and decided it needed to be replaced because repairing it would cost about “as much as it costs to feed a family of seven for a year”.  Gotta love an old house! We now have a lovely plastic basin that will hopefully drain well and last for five or six years – about the lifetime of most things made today!

The toilet is another story.  We are still unable to flush it (well we can lift the lid, stick our hand into the scary disgusting water and lift the lever manually – yuck!).  I did go to the store where we bought it and they did attempt, half-heartedly, I might add, to try and contact the manufacturer but, guess what, they don’t make those “nifty” side buttons anymore!  What looked glamorous ten years ago, was no longer in vogue, so along with the lovely new plastic sink in the basement and a brand spanking new sewer line, we are going to have a beautiful new toilet to show off to friends and family.  Can’t wait until my next party!

So there you have it! Here are few lessons that I hope you take out of my story .  First of all buy a toilet that flushes like a real toilet.  Secondly, if you suspect you have a blockage in your sewer pipes, plan on winning the lotto and thirdly, if you find an old house for sale,  drive by, very quickly!  Thank goodness I took my vacation before all of this happened! In fact, I think I need another vacation now – preferably somewhere with working toilets and lots of vodka. Can anyone say “Russian Federation”?


Flying Comfortably is Not Guaranteed!

The end of a vacation is always kind of bittersweet. You have to travel home and it is often a long and challenging journey.  When heading home from an island, your travel options are limited; you can swim (not really ideal with all that luggage)), take a boat (that would be called a cruise and then your vacation wouldn’t really be ending, now would it) or you can fly (which is what my husband, Donnie, and I did because it is so practical and practicality is our middle name, plus we couldn’t afford the cruise option).

Our trip home from Barbados involved flying on an aircraft carrier whose name I will leave out. I will let you use your imagination because every airline has at one time or another had a bad day, er…bad week, er…bad year, er…bad decade (according to the reviews on this airliner that I checked out online). I am not sure how this airline stays in business because so many people who write reviews swear they will never fly it again.  Now in my opinion, making these kinds of assertions is not very realistic because usually you can’t follow through.  Often it is the only option for some destinations, and never again would mean you are grounded for good, or have to find some alternative form of transportation that does not yet exist.

Our flight home was on a fairly large jumbo something or another. One of the good things about the flight was we had free on-board entertainment at our seats which really is a must for long flights. This was different from our flight to Barbados where there was no on-board entertainment except if you had an IPad or rented one from them for ten dollars. Donnie had his IPad so he figured he was set but I don’t have one so I was screwed because I wasn’t forking out ten bucks for their crappy IPad. Now Donnie could have gallantly lent me his, but that didn’t happen. Chivalry is so dead in our house! Anyway, he downloaded the app and checked out the offerings and then he realized he was screwed, too because all they had were some really old bad movies and tracks from bands that no one has ever heard of, and for very good reason, according to Donnie. It was a long movie-less, music-less flight for both of us, but I digress.

Like I was saying, the plane was large and there were lots of people on it.  There were two rows of three seats each with 29 sections and I am telling you this so you can make a picture in your mind of how crammed in we were. Donnie, of course had the aisle seat, I was in the middle and, thankfully, a slender young thing had the window seat. I knew things were going to get interesting when just after take-off, the slender young thing indicated she needed to get out. We unbuckled our seat belts, took our ear phones out and wriggled out of our seats to let her out. She proceeded down the aisle, stopped at another seat, spoke to someone for two seconds and then came back to the seat wanting back in. We had to unbuckle our seatbelts, take out our earphones… well, you get the picture.

Things were proceeding along quite well until after the food and drink service cart made its first pass.  Suddenly, several passengers rose simultaneously and made their way to the two bathrooms which were located at the back of the plane. Now I have traveled by air a fair amount but I have never seen that many people need to use the bathroom at the same time.  They were lined up fifteen deep but it was so much work to get out of the rows that they must have felt it better just to wait it out in line rather than have to go back and wriggle back into their seats. It was then that I noticed that the average age of the passengers on the flight was around 75. For you young people who don’t yet realize this – age makes your bladder smaller and weaker, able to hold two to three drops of liquid before needing to go to the bathroom! Of course, seeing all these people needing to go to the bathroom made me realize that I had to go, too. Full disclosure – my bladder cannot hold one drop of liquid on a good day!

I decided that I would make a break for the washroom once the crowd died down because at this point there was no getting out of the seat because the aisle was blocked. About an hour later, I got my chance. I gave Donnie the signal, he undid his seatbelt, took out his earphones and wriggled out of the seat with both me and the slender young thing following, wriggling our way to the aisle.  Did I mention that the plane was cramped? I was quite excited to see that I was second in line. Yahoo! Suddenly we hit a bit of turbulence and the seatbelt sign came on.  I was not going to return to my seat at this point because I was next in line. One of the stewardesses then said to me, “Tell people they have to go back to their seat.” She might have actually said, “You and everyone else need to return to your seats” but my hearing was a bit off from the ocean water that had entered my ears while in Barbados.  I turned around and told the people standing behind me that the stewardess said they had to go back to their seats. Well, of course, no one moved because they all had waited for the line to die down, too and this was their big chance and plus, who was I to tell them anything. They were probably thinking I was lucky to even still be on the plane because I was wearing leggings and another airline had not let some girls on a flight the week before because they were wearing leggings. The stewardess then told me again to tell the people behind me that they had to go back to their seats – at least that is what I interpreted her words to mean. I relayed her message again but no one moved, including me. Thankfully, a toilet became available to me and I got in and got the door shut just as the stewardess shouted “Get back to your seats now!” Well one good thing was the aisle was clear when I came out and made my way back to my seat. Phew!

The stewardesses were hard working girls and they made several trips up and down the aisle offering water to passengers.  This was a really nice gesture, however with all those small weak bladders, it made for continued long line-ups at the bathroom.  I just want to say that whoever designed the layout of the plane needs to go back to whatever school they got their degree from and take some lessons in universal design for living because two bathrooms for that many people on a five and one half hour flight is not even reasonable and would rate a failing mark on a class project. That is, unless the point was to design something that would be cost effective and uncomfortable at the same time. Well, then they had a winner.

We made it back to Canada and were happy to get off that plane and make our connection to a plane that was even smaller and more cramped. Opting for first class is beginning to look very appealing and this is how I plan to fly once I win the lotto.  Until my ship comes in, however, I will have to fly econo!