Sunday, July 21, 2013

Getting around and getting by

I have been looking for ways to shorten my weekday commute.

Since I don't drive I didn't find this Cosmo article very helpful in that regard.   

I do like the idea of coming home to a handsome, helpful chap and relaxing with a glass of wine.

I rely on my feet and city buses to get around for errands, to get to the day job and home again.  Last week, out of curiosity, I took a different route in to work.  It still took me two buses but it seemed to be a shorter, more interesting and more enjoyable ride.  It also provided enough time for a short walk down a quiet, scenic side street. 

I really prefer walking over busing.  Riding a bike in to the downtown job just doesn't appeal to me.  

I used to have a bicycle but I gave it way during our downsizing and moving project 3 years ago.  It was pretty and sturdy.  It also was susceptible to frequent flat tires.  It seemed to cause me more grief than enjoyment. It also took up a lot of storage space.

My kids ride bikes.  They enjoy the freedom and mobility in getting to work, to school or hanging out with friends.  They are also pretty handy with bike maintenance and repairs. 

A few weeks ago, my suggested family outing included a tasty Thai dinner before attending the premiere of Bike City Great City at the Mayfair Theatre.  

We bused down from the restaurant and arrived early.  It was a good thing so that we could be near the front of the line of enthusiasts (some people actually rode their bikes there).  Once inside the theatre, we had plenty of time to enjoy the ambiance, to look around and for some offspring ... to visit the snack bar.

I found it interesting that although we had just eaten a healthy dinner, people still wanted to get popcorn.  There's something about theatre popcorn...
The old theatre's seats soon filled up with people.

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players..."  Aliens too if you noticed the dark figure on the balcony. 
After a brief introduction by one of the supporters, the movie began.  It was an interesting, inspiring yet short documentary.  

One of the directors was David Chernushenko, an Ottawa city councillor. After the movie, Mr. Chernushenko was available for a question and answer period with the audience.  My young folk were impressed that Mayor Jim Watson was sitting just a few seats away and that he is a proponent for cycling in Ottawa.   

Below are some statistics harvested from the documentary and other sources:

  • "While cycling is a fairly popular form of recreation in Canada, its use for non-recreational purposes in most cities - i.e. as a mode of urban transportation - can at best be described as marginal. In terms of mode share, the bicycle occupies a distant fourth place after the automobile, public transit, and walking."


  • Around 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured every year;
  • Cyclists are more likely to be killed or injured at an intersection or at a location where are are traffic signals or other traffic control signs.

It's really good to see CAA is endorsing and recognizing bicycles as a form of transportation.

If you don't own a bicycle, you can share with others and even rent through one of the following:
When cycling, remember the safety tips:

Take a bike tour of Ottawa with CBC's Steve Fischer.

When I acquire a bike again it will have to meet the following conditions:

  1. Affordable (as in cheap so that if it gets stolen, I will not cry.)
  2. Low maintenance;
  3. Comfortable (as in it will have a wide seat and high handlebars);
  4. Easily stored for an apartment dweller;
  5. It may have three wheels (Well... so much for #'s 1 and 4).


Did you find this blog entry funny, interesting or inspiring? (See the reaction check boxes below).  You can also subscribe to / follow this blog via email notification.  See the little sign-up box on the right hand side of this page.

Drop by the blog for my novel to read an excerpt where a thief almost gets away with Sera Fletcher's bicycle.

Thanks for dropping by.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Meandering holiday celebrations

Another weekend.  Another chance to relax and recollect.  

Another chance to satisfy a writing obsession. 

This past Canada Day was a quiet, creative one for me and my family. That seems to be the way I like my holidays lately.  

We spent most of the late morning and early afternoon indulging on a tasty brunch fare while watching the downtown Ottawa celebrations on CBC Television.   

Later that afternoon, my daughter convinced me to go to Dow's Lake, to see if there was a carnival a-happening.  It turned out that the city buses were few and far in-between.  We gave up waiting at the bus stop and began walking.  To avoid the noisy traffic, we detoured through the Experimental Farm.  

It was much quieter and cooler.  We walked and talked.  We got caught up on what was new or interesting in each other's lives.  We greeted and smiled at other people walking or cycling past us.  We even saw and smelled some huge, fly-swatting cows.

I had my camera with me so of course I took some photographs.  Below are the ones that were most picturesque or relevant to this meandering blog post. 

We came upon a field of colourful wild flowers and plants.

Something caught my eye.  We went in for closer scrutiny. 

As we zoomed in on the little darling, a gentleman cyclist stopped to watch us and inquired what we were looking at.  

"Shhh," I responded, "We've spotted a ladybug." (I don't think it would have mattered to the ladybug whether I was whispering or not.)

His reaction was one of amazement, in that we could see a small insect so many feet from the walking path.  

I was thinking about my fondness for such a helpful, cute and insignificant creature.  I thought about another ladybug encounter on a hot summer day in 1969.  

The gentleman continued chatting and successfully lured me into a debate about varieties of milkweed.  

During our tedious conversation, my argument was that I recalled milkweed plants looking much different, as known from living beside patches of them during my childhood.  My recollection was of the green pods of puff on plants where the Monarch butterflies lived.

Mr. Chattypants ended his contribution with a promise that upon his return home, he would check his plant manuals to confirm.  We pleasantly agreed that we would see in a month or two if these were milkweed plants and if pods of fluff would soon appear. 

(With a bit of research online, I have determined that this was indeed some kind of milkweed.  I still want to go back in a month's time to confirm pods of fluff!) 

Moving along the path, my daughter and I continued to the Rideau Canal.  Everything seemed to be enveloped by a dreamy haze.  We would later learn that this was due to smoke wafting into the valley from forest fires in Quebec.

We came upon a lovely willow-like tree.  It provided a convenient canopy, an awning of sorts to protect one from the hot sun or drizzly rain.  

The next tree that caught my attention was a tall one with a large knot hole about 15 feet up the trunk.  It seemed like an oh-oh-shaped mouth or the eye of Sauron.  Silly me.  It couldn't be the eye of Sauron since it was on a tree.  Perhaps the eye of Treebeard? 

(Even after scouring pages of my copy of "For the Love of Trees - a Guide to the Trees of Ottawa's Central Experimental Farm Arboretum", I cannot identify this fella. I'll have to go back and look for signage.)

As we rounded one of the shady curves of the pathway, we came upon a duck family.  Mother was keeping watch while her fuzzy offspring napped on a rock just a few feet from shore of the Rideau Canal.

It was difficult to determine if there were two or three of the fuzzy little ducklings.

It was a beautiful scene of peaceful fauna, of birth, parental love and growth. 

By this time, my daughter was becoming impatient with my distractions.  

Next we came upon another flora scene: one of growth, decay and rebirth.  

A few more yards ahead, I noticed something odd. 

It was a tree whose trunk almost looked like its roots were showing. 

I am intrigued by this structure and am assuming it is intentionally designed that way.  

We were getting closer to Dow's Lake.  Things were still quiet.  There was no audible or visual evidence of a carnival.

I captured a delicate looking water flower in the stillness of the lake shore.

Oh, good grief.  I still cannot identify this plant.  I'm assuming it's some kind of water lily?

As we strolled closer to the Pavilion area, we were greeted by a small wooden throne and trees lounging near the shoreline.

I think one of these is about to become a new, favourite tree.

I was not disappointed that there was no carnival.  We saw a  few people strolling about the grounds and a crowd enjoying the outdoor restaurant patios on the upper pavilion.  I accepted my daughter's invitation, her treat to dinner inside of one of the eateries overlooking the water.  

While dining, we observed black-winged Loons flying by,  landing, diving and disappearing.  I didn't have the energy or time to pull out the camera for that nor to capture a large Heron suddenly taking off from God knows where below us.  It was an entertaining and delicious dinner in the company of my daughter.   

Although we could have used the exercise, we did not attempt to walk back home after dinner.  I gladly paid for a taxi.

The remainder of the evening was spent celebrating Canada's 146th birthday from the comfort and quiet of le petit apartement.  That was until we heard the sounds of firecrackers and fireworks within our neighbourhood and in the hazy distance.  

I'm not a fan of fireworks and loud, explosive sounds.

I suppose I could put up with the celebratory noise of expensive, colourful explosions once a year.  It's a small price to pay for living in a clean, safe city and a stable, democratic country.   

- - - - 

Thanks for dropping by - and reading this far.  I am flattered.  I hope you enjoyed the photographs.  Did you find this blog entry funny, interesting or inspiring? (See the reaction check boxes below).  You can also subscribe to / follow this blog via email notification.  See the little sign-up box on the right hand side of this page. 

If you can identify some of the trees and flowers, please submit a comment.  Thanks! 

If you enjoy my writing style, you may enjoy The Year of the Rabbit, a novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness.  It contains mention of milkweeds and trees.  The main characters are a Catholic priest, a little girl and a retired exotic dancer.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

High School Reunions

Do you embrace the opportunity to reconnect with old high school classmates or dread the thought entirely? 

I recently received an invitation to a high school graduating class reunion in my old home town.  Although I graduated with a high average, that year was not a good one for me.  I didn't even attend graduation or the prom.  
  • Hands up if high school was one of the most awkward times in your life. 
  • Hands up if you can't remember half of the people in your graduating class. 

I had some good teachers - three that I remember who stirred that love of art, reading for exploration and... escape.

As for classmates, I remember few.  I can't even match names to faces or recall how our lives intertwined.

  • I recall the awkward attentions from a shy redheaded boy with whom I went on a movie date the summer before.  I think about "what if" I had continued to date him instead of the tanned, blonde Adonis who swept me off my feet.  
  • I think about the short, skinny boy I sat beside in grade 12 business math and whom I tried my best to help with algebraic formulas (the kind that mattered in real life).  He had a physical disability that affected the way he walked.  I thought I had it bad.  I found out years later that he  committed suicide.  I wonder if it was due to his disability, of giving up on life or that he was bullied into adulthood. 

I too have memories of exclusion and subtle bullying.  They were not as noticeable as the onslaughts one encounters in middle school but they were there.  If you didn't look a certain way, wear the right clothes, if you lived on the wrong side of the tracks or your family was poor, you were not included in certain cliques. 

On the funny angle, I have thoughts of the movie Romy and Michele's High School Reunion where two quirky ladies pretend to be successful business women when attending their high school reunion.  They claimed to have invented the Postit then dug themselves into deeper holes and embarrassments.  

I remember spending many hours in school libraries and public libraries.  I remember reading A LOT.

As it would happen, my current work schedule will not allow for me to attend the reunion.  In my heart, I would like to reconnect with a few people once again, to catch up from where we left off.  Maybe in five or ten years.

I may just become one of those big city tourists who invade Georgian Bay during the summer.  I fondly remember the Bay, the canoe rides, nature treks and carefree life of our early teens.

Thanks for dropping by.  Meander on over to an excerpt from The Year of the Rabbit, a novel about fate, family and forgiveness.  There is much mention of the refreshing Georgian Bay.
  • You can download a free ebook sample from Smashwords.  
  • If you have an iPad, you can download from the iBookStore for 99 cents.  (Please note:  It is incorrectly identified as children's fiction).  
  • If you have a Sony eReader, get a copy of the novel here


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lavender Blues

Lavender's Blue Dilly, Dilly
Lavender's Green.
Went on a tour Dilly, Dilly
But none could be seen.

(Apologies to the originators of this folk song.)

It was a dull and drizzly Saturday on a much-welcomed long weekend. Some friends and I went on an out-of-province day trip. We were not going very far; we were heading to Lavender Ridge in Luskville, Quebec at the foot of the Gatineau hills.  

Our quest was to see fields of blue flowers, to procure aromatic gifts then go for a tasty lunch somewhere new.


When we arrived, we saw rows of lavender pots for sale. There were also rows of pots lined up on the damp grass.  

The lady of the domain greeted us and provided an update on the situation.  Due to the wet spring, the first crop had failed to show for the end of June.  She was waiting for the fields to be dry enough to send out the tractor and plant another crop that would hopefully be ready by the end of July.

Since she was minding the store and waiting for a batch of bread from the oven, she gladly supported our request to tour the fields, to take photographs and look around.  She cautioned us to stay on the upper fields and not to venture into the lower, wetter ones.

With umbrellas in hand and overhead, we strolled first to the western portion of the property.

Lavender fields waiting for re-planting: 

For years, people have used Lavender for its medicinal properties, to relieve symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and depression. 

 The vineyards:

Apparently, they are growing a grape that was bred to thrive in northern climates

Close-up of grapes on the vine:

A view of the lower fields.  Can you see the cows?

Vineyards on the Eastern side: 

In addition to looking up and around, I was also looking down to plan my steps, carefully avoiding any wet, mucky areas. 

I saw daisies:

and a lone dandelion:

We encountered a lovely, well-planned flower garden:

...and a pond.  Can you see the faux Heron?

A random, lost teddy bear:

My imagination wandered as I wondered if a child somewhere was crying, missing her teddy bear

We returned to the dry, aromatic boutique and shook off our umbrellas.  Shelves and tables loaded with lotions, soaps and edible treats waited for our perusal.  Empty wicker baskets waited by the doorway for us to carry around and load up.  One complaint I would have was that not all items or shelves were marked with prices.  Things could get costly as one loads up her basket with gift ideas!

More people arrived.  A wine tasting session began.  

After being entertained and educated by the hostess, we continued on to purchase our goods plus a loaf each of that fresh bread.  

The ride home was pleasant, misty and picturesque.

That night, I slept in a room that smelled very pretty.  The next day, I wrapped and boxed items in preparation to gift to some friends. 

A souvenir not yet opened: 

This white wine is an unexpected contribution to my summer research project.  

Thank you for reading this far.  I hope you enjoyed the photographs.  I hope you found this blog entry funny, interesting or inspiring (See the reaction check boxes below).

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