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Top 10 Ways I Prepare for a Canadian Winter

With the fall season well underway and the official start to winter just on the horizon, I often feel like a squirrel gathering nuts, which is not too far from the truth, actually.

For those who might not be familiar with Ottawa, winter can offer its share of merciless days in terms of bad weather conditions. As a result, roads and driving conditions can get pretty treacherous.

If we hit a weather pattern of several days of heavy snow or freezing rain (or both), I tend to go out only if I really have to. And on those days when I have to go to work, I stick to the essentials: a commute to the office and back, and that’s it. I won’t do errands on the way home.

It’s just a question of safety… well… that and the fear of getting stuck in a parking lot where a plow hasn’t arrived to remove the snow which continues to pile up.

For that reason, I tend to stock up on certain items to ensure I have a decent supply on hand, and to not stress out if my errand schedule goes topsy-turvy when Mother Nature and Old Man Winter get cranky.

Here they are, my top 10 errands in preparation for winter:

10. Flu shot

Getting a flu shot is not so much a weather dependent preparation, it is just a seasonal one for which I feel a need to make time for it, to avoid the flu, avoid the line-ups and maintain good health through the winter season.

9. Snow tires

Local garages are usually run off their feet at this time of year as many drivers book an appointment to have winter tires installed on their vehicles. Given how bad the weather can get, I couldn’t imagine driving without them anymore.

8. Kitty litter Continue reading

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How Am I Klutzy, Let Me Count the Ways

Emergency SignI wouldn’t consider myself accident-prone, but the contents of my medicine cabinet and bathroom vanity seem to tell a different story. The generous supply of adhesive bandages, support bandages, patches, gauze, antiseptics, antibiotic creams, ointments, drops and analgesics are evidence that this household is relatively well-prepared for when slapstick and life collide.

I have been very fortunate in that I have never broken a bone, but when it comes to bumps, sprains, scrapes and very minor accidents, I have experienced more than my fair share. Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall shareholders, you are welcome!

I take inspiration from Elizabeth Barrett Browning when I ask: “How am I klutzy? Let me count the ways…”

– When I was very young, I was fascinated with automatic opening doors. When I was 4, I was “testing” the doors at a nearby mall and unfortunately missed my cue and crashed into a closing door.

– I am told that at a school concert in kindergarten, where I played the conductor at our school band’s brilliant rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel” apparently I fell off my podium in rehearsals. I have no recollection of this incident and will continue to deny it, but without video evidence, I admit that anything is possible.

– When I was 8 or 9, I remember a wobbly tooth that wouldn’t come out. Dad suggested I tie dental floss around it and attach the other end to a door, and to close it. I was never a master of physics, but I probably should have asked someone to check my work before proceeding with the experiment. When I slammed the door, the tooth didn’t come out… and the door bounced back into my face causing a bloody nose. Continue reading

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It Was Sooo Cold…

Leave it to Ottawa to be a city of extremes when it comes to weather. As I am writing this, we are digging out from a fresh snowfall of 46 cm (18 inches) of snow in a 15 hour period… and still counting. And this is two days after a weekend that wasn’t just chilly… It wasn’t just cold… It was spine-tingling, bone chillingly frigid at -28 degrees Celsius, but with the wind, was said to feel like -42.

Having grown up in Ottawa, one of the coldest world capitals, I will admit that weather events like these are not much of a shock to the system anymore, but it warms my heart to think of the possibilities of ways that we can joke about it.

This past weekend, it was sooo cold…

– Even teenagers were wearing long pants.
– My chattering teeth destroyed my night guard.
– I vacuum just to warm up.
– My Microsoft Windows are frosted.
– I sweat icicles.
– My long underwear needs long underwear.
– Popsicles aren’t that cool anymore.
– Every birthday cake is an ice cream cake.
– My windows are shivering.
– I have to factor in an extra 10 minutes before any departure, for all the extra layers of clothing.
– Even my prayer plant is rubbing its hands. Continue reading

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Top 10 Things About the Cat That Make Me Laugh

IvyAndMeSince the arrival of Ivy the cat in my life last June, there has not been a shortage of good times and good laughs shared in her company… and dare I say, at her expense (just don’t tell her that!)

Here they are, the Top 10 things about the cat that make me laugh.

10-The above picture
It must be just the angle of the picture, but this one really adds validity to what they say about “the camera adds 10 pounds”, which must be a real bitch when you only weigh 9 pounds to begin with.

9-The look she gives me when I eat a can of tuna

I secretly admit that when NO ONE is looking, every once in a while, I will eat tuna right of the can. It saves on dishes and is awfully expedient and efficient in the delivery of quick protein. However, I can appreciate how much it looks like Miss Ivy’s smaller cans of food and can understand the glare she gives me when she catches me in the act, when she goes into that cat stealth mode that she does so well. The loud meow of “AHA! GOTCHA!” is enough to make your blood freeze. I may have to stop that.

8-Blocking the sandbag
When I picked her up from the pet store, they gave me one of the toys that she played with, a little cat-sized sandbag that is the perfect size for playing “catch” (or at least her version, run after it and walk away). What has blown me away is her vertical jump to block a throw and then kick it off her hind leg… someday I will get it on film and post it as it is a stunning athletic feat. Clearly she does not get that eye-hand coordination from her adoptive Dad. Continue reading

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My Grown-Up Christmas List

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we get into the home stretch for holiday and Christmas preparations, one cannot help but notice the Christmas music playing in shopping malls, in stores, on the radio and in every television commercial. One in particular that I have been really enjoying is “My Grown-Up Christmas List”. Composed in 1990 by David Foster and Linda Thompson, the tune is a timely reminder that Christmas is not just about consumerism but it is about kindness, good will, respect and generosity of spirit. Check out the lyrics, it really is a pretty song!

However, on a much less serious note, I find myself reinterpreting the song, time and time again, thinking how life would be so perfect if life’s minor annoyances were eradicated. This my friends, is my grown up Christmas list:

-Perforated products such as paper towels and toilet paper that will actually tear off on the provided perforations.

-For tissues to not explode in the washing machine.

-For the safe return of socks that have gone missing from the laundry.

-For TV networks to not conspire and load up Sunday evenings with some of the week’s best television shows and create a scheduling nightmare for my PVR.

-Football games that run long and exacerbate the problem of recording the multitude of programs I need to record on Sunday evenings.

-Cling wrap that actually clings to what you want it to cling to, not everything else… including itself. Continue reading

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10 More Things I Have Learned From My Cat

Ivy_LCBOIt has almost been 4 months since I had the good fortune of adopting Ivy the cat and this proud papa could not be happier.

One month after she joined me, I was already surprised at the wonderful life lessons she had taught me as a first time pet owner, and had great fun creating a blog post about them: The Top 10 Things I Have Learned from My Cat.

What is interesting is that the more we get to know each other, and we are able to interpret each other’s language (and behaviours), I gain more appreciation every day for the companionship that pets bring as well as the special messages they convey in their own unique way.

Here they are: 10 more things I have learned from my cat:

11- Way more than I needed to know about feline parasites

A couple of weeks ago, Miss Ivy had a bug in her tummy… literally. Over a weekend that included a chat with a veterinary technologist at the Ottawa Humane Society, a couple of calls to the vet, a fecal sample sent to the vet’s lab, dozens of Google searches, and a healthy dose of worry, watching an outgoing kitty suddenly turn quiet and reclusive, I learned more about de-worming than I probably ever wanted to know. On the bright side, I should be ready should “feline parasites” ever come us as a Jeopardy category or in a trivia competition.

12- Take information on the Internet with a grain of salt

Every cat is different. As much as health sites that discuss human health issues sometimes contradict each other, the same is seemingly true with pet advice. My take away is to take the advice from the Internet as an opinion, but seek the advice of a professional.

13- Running to a cat with arms open wide – don’t

I can be a little goofy like that sometimes at play time.
This seems to freak Ivy out… I wouldn’t recommend it. Just sayin’

14- Cat toys do not have to be expensive Continue reading

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Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Writer

How do you know when something is your calling?

I believe anyone can probably list off the top of their head 5 to 10 things that they enjoy and that they think they can do pretty well. But what is that one specialty that is absolutely yours?

It took a lot of searching and stock taking over the years, but when the answer was finally crystal clear, signs, such as the following, were my validation and reminder of my purpose in life.

The fact is that the signs were always there, but launching a career and earning a living were the obvious priorities, to put food on the table and to keep me in cool shoes. But with retirement from my day job just a few years away, there is no doubt in my mind how my golden years will be spent.

For your consideration, here are my Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Writer.

10. Losing track of time

The old adage “time flies when you’re having fun” is correct and also a sign of the type of work for which someone may have a calling. For me, there is no greater gift than when I can spend my whole day at work (or a whole day off from the day job, working on my own writing projects), focused on the written word whether that means writing, editing, proofreading or doing light translation. Honestly, I will put my head down, get into the writing bubble, and with the exception of a bathroom break, the next time I look up it will be lunch time and the next time after that it will be quitting time… a definite sign.

9. Writing tools are the best gifts EVER!

For the last few years, my birthdays and Christmas wish lists have contained items to help me capture blog and story ideas on the fly and convert them to works for you to enjoy. It never gets old for me, even if it means a pack of printing paper, a box of pens, fancy notebooks, or building up a reserve of printing cartridges for those times when the cartridge runs out minutes after the nearest Staples store closed.

8. Your brain is always processing characters and plots

My inner voice seems to start most sentences with “Hey, what about…” constantly pitching ideas, characters and story ideas to me. The trick is to capture them with any of the gifts received in #9, and save them for future reference.

7. You accidentally call your family by your characters’ names

When creating a fictional world, writers need to develop a very strong connection to their characters in order to convey the traits that make them complete, living, breathing and believable characters. The occupational hazard is that their personalities establish such a strong presence in our subconscious that their names may become as conveniently accessible as those of our own loved ones.

6. Your video recorder is often full Continue reading

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To Prune or Not To Prune?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES With well over 100 posts on my blog, the result of almost two years of writing, I have recently been contemplating the question as to whether I should prune my blog or not. While I enjoy the sense of accomplishment of that many blog posts (which would equal the word count of a substantial novel), I sometimes wonder if there comes a point when some posts should be deleted.

After a bit of quick research on the web, there seems to be different schools of thought on the subject. At its core, at issue is the delicate balance between the business side and the creative side. On the one hand, bringing in and retaining the audience is an important factor. On the other hand, we have the slow and iterative creative process that sometimes takes a while to gain traction and to fully develop the body of work.

Based on my own experience, it is sometimes through the weaker written pieces that we have to put in some serious sweat equity in order to grow as artists. But weaker in whose eyes?

As I have mentioned before, there are some posts that were fully written in under an hour that achieved great results, whether number of views, likes or comments, while I have toiled for weeks over certain other posts that are important to me that barely registered a blip on the statistics. Either way, I am fine with that, but it just goes to show you do not always know for sure what will resonate with the audience.

Being the typical Libra that I am, weighing pros and cons on almost everything, here is a short list of reasons for and against the idea of pruning the blog.

    10 reasons why I could delete a few posts:

1-By decluttering, favourite blog posts should be easier to find for readers.
2-By keeping the blog on a few selected topics and deleting the ones that are outside those lines, it is easier to pitch the blog to a target audience, rather than trying to attract such a wide audience.
3-It could lead to better curated content. By keeping to a combination of the ones that attracted the most views, the most likes, and the ones I enjoy most, a collection of more popular content could be more inviting to new readers.
4-By achieving a better curated content on a limited number of topics, a better established niche could lead a visitor to read more posts on the same topic.
5-If after retweeting several times, a post does not find an audience, perhaps it is not meant to be and it is time to take it down.
6-If a new reader joins in, Continue reading

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50 Great Things About Turning 50

Celebrating 50 years

Celebrating 50 years!

1-Appreciation and gratitude for the simple pleasures in life.
2-Peer pressure has no effect on me.
3-For over three decades, I have not been grounded, I have not needed to ask to borrow the car and I did not have to worry about a curfew.
4-The ability to eat gummy bears after brushing my teeth, even if it means incurring the wrath of my dental hygienist later.
5-The ability to change dental hygienists whenever I feel like it.
6-Appreciation for the fact that in life, it’s not always about quantity, but quality.
7-The ability to appreciate those who genuinely offer kind words and the ability to tune out people who make me the object of their criticism.
8-Being past the stage of having so many things to figure out. I think I know myself pretty well by now. However, my challenge is how to make them happen when life throws me a curve ball, and how to keep them going.
9-Confidence… it’s that little thing that crept up on me over the years.
10-The freedom to be who I want to be.
11-Respect of my own energy and of my limits, and the wisdom to know when it is appropriate to challenge them and when it is not.
12-The realization that I really can’t please all the people, all of the time, even when I give my absolute best. While it may sound pessimistic on the surface, it really is about reality.
13-Trusting my instincts… My instincts can’t be that bad if I survived 50 years on them.
14-The knowledge that sometimes letting go is easy, sometimes it is hard. Either way, there was always something else waiting once I did.
15-The ability to graciously thank people for advice, notably unsolicited advice, especially about my life, and then doing what is right for me, whether that involves aforementioned advice or not.
16-The ability to fearlessly wear white after Labour Day and not worrying about showing up on a “fashion don’t” list.
17-I know what consistently makes me happy. Life doesn’t always deliver it, but that just makes me pursue it with greater determination.
18-The ability to pair a fine wine with a fine bag of chips, after a hard week at work.
19-Having many fine friendships that lasted over 30 years.
20-The knowledge that no matter how bad things get, things will get better. They eventually do, I just have to be patient. Along the way there is a lesson to be learned, even if it is simply a lesson about patience. Continue reading

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Top 10 Things I Have Learned From My Cat

Ivy_meEven though it has only been one month since I adopted my cat, Ivy (who also happens to be a great proof reader, if I can catch her between naps), that one month has been an incredible non-stop learning experience. While in some ways her reactions are predictably like those of an enthusiastic and sometimes curious young child which has forced me to be even more organized than I already was, she also brings with her great wisdom and insight.

Here they are, the top 10 things I have learned since becoming a cat owner:

10. Cats have their own natural rhythm. The sooner the human tunes in to it, the more harmonious their lives together can be. (Thankfully, I learned that one quickly.)

9. Always check to ensure that there aren’t holes in the bag of the extra absorbent, clumping cat litter at the time of purchase.

8. Avoid buying extra absorbent, clumping cat litter on rainy days.

7. Certain meows are not necessarily a cry for needing something. Cats can just be happily chatty as mine often is. (Thankfully someone told me that after my first sleepless week, when I was still a new pet owner and worrying about whether all of her needs were met.)

6. Extreme Organization: the coordination of the list of things I can get done while Ivy is taking a nap.

5. I am never alone! (… and sometimes in a creepy way!) She has an uncanny ability to sneak up on me, not utter a single meow, and scare the crap out of me when I genuinely thought I was alone in the room. Continue reading

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