Friday, April 12, 2024

K IS FOR KEEN

No one around. and nothing 
but the sound of the waves
(and each other) to keep us company.
TAKEN: APRIL 11th, 2024


I'm not exactly sure how my travel buddy hubby and I got so obsessed with adventure, but I remember the day when we opened a savings account specifically to fund our travels. It was in the late fall of 2011. 

The first couple of years we travelled in mid winter, then we discovered if we traveled in late November and early April, we could get two passport stamps for the price of one in February. Then, I discovered the holy grail of travel called Black Friday, and our long weekend mid-winter getaway was added to our line up.

Aside from the first couple of trips I booked with an agent, I don't think I have ever paid full price since I took over the task. 

The jaunt we are on now had me book our round trip airfare on December 29th, 2023 for a sneeze over $300 each. The house we are renting had just gone on the market, so I knew we would be one of the first tenants to stay. I don't believe we will be able to travel here for the reduced dollar value I paid, ever again.

Always keen for the deals I find, my husband simply goes with the flow. With my work life as hectic as it is, I knew that this go round was going to be about peace and quiet for me. When you look at the photo I am sharing, you can see I am getting exactly that. Aside from that private island off in the distance, there is no one around but us.

So, to be fair to the quiet my husband has had to endure, today we are going to head to the curb, grab the jitney for a $1.25, and head into town for lunch. That said, it will be interesting where we land for grub. 

I just checked the port schedule and there are a Carnival, MSC and Norwegian cruise ships at the dock. 

Meaning only us, and over 12,000 other peeps looking to get conch fritters.

The one thing I do know?

None of them peeps are coming back to the house for a cold been after lunch!  

Thursday, April 11, 2024

J IS FOR JOY

Well, it’s that time of year again. 

When after months of waiting, I arrive at my destination of choice to celebrate another trip around the sun. 

This year has me nicely perched next to the ocean, in a luxury home we've rented, in the Bahamas.

Once again, I packed a #petrocanada
glass so I could watch the sunset
...and have a drink with my Dad.
TAKEN: APRIL 10th, 2024

Yesterday was an OK travel day. The airports are always hectic but we have learned to navigate them with a ton of off the cuff comedy and a boatload of patience. Afterall, I know where I am going to land, and I realize that in itself is a privilege most never get to experience.

As our taxi zipped along the highway next to the beautiful blue green ocean, I felt myself become overwhelmed with emotion.  I found myself fighting back tears. Tears of joy.

Joy that we can afford to travel as we do, and joy at the best life I have been obviously blessed to be living.

In a nutshell, I will leave you with this. Life is short people. When in doubt, please always refer to Rhondi Rule #779:

Make sure you don't celebrate your 75th birthday.... by living the same year 75 times!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

I IS FOR ICED

A little something concealed in my Christmas gift.
She got me!
TAKEN: DECEMBER 22nd, 2023

 As I type, I am sitting comfortably in a fourth row window seat on West Jet flight WS 2520. Next stop, a safe touchdown at Lynden Pindling International Airport, The Bahamas.

Yep, it's that time of year again when I hop a place to celebrate my next trip around the sun. Because I am always away this week, I have always tried to pick my flight day word to the daily corresponding letter ahead of time, so that I can write in transit and not worry about getting blocked.

From what I can gather, the internet craze of getting "iced" took hold around 2010. Actually, I remember a coworker that was my age (at my previous play of employ) telling me her kids use to ice her all the time. She'd find those suckers every where - and never didn't she fold and not drop.

For those of you that don't know, getting "iced" is what it's called when you unexpectedly find a bottle of Smirnoff Ice that someone else has left for you.  Once found, the challenge is to immediately take a knee and drink the content of the bottle - STAT. This past Christmas was the first time it had happened to me.

As I have written here before, I am the old gray mare headed to the glue factory in the Google culture workplace that surrounds me. Makes no matter to me, I love the youthful camaraderie that swirls around the office a warp speed.

The one young gal that I work closest with has such amazing stories to tell of how she and her sisters have always taken great pride in successfully concealing the jolt and happily watching the other (or others in one instance) drop, kneel, and drink that I began to realize what a craze it truly is.

All the stories came flooding back as I popped the top and snapped this pic. The one thing I didn't do on that fateful day was take a knee.

Afterall, that last thing this old hack wanted to do was throw out her back a couple of days before Christmas! 

#yagottalaughaboutit

Monday, April 8, 2024

G IS FOR GESTURE

 

Give me a minute....
 I want to tell you how I really feel!
TAKEN: APRIL 8th, 2022
It's hard to believe that the picture I am sharing was taken two years ago today.

Firstly,  I should say that you can tell by the expression on my husband's face that my very specific gesture wasn't directed at him. He knew it was directed at the Rainbow Bend Resort in Marathon (Grassy Key), Florida. 

Now, if you tend to read here about my travel adventures, you'd know that my travel buddy hubby and I love to check out new destinations. So, when the VID ended, we decided to fly to Miami and drive to Key West for a four day long weekend.

Though our round trip Air Canada flights were a steal, the road to Key West proved to be very overpriced and lackluster. I am disappointed to report that we felt it was NOT money very well spent. 

That said, we honestly thought we had a pretty good plan. We flew into Miami, landed before noon, then swiftly grabbed our airport rental car.  We hit Islamorada for that first night (expensive but fun). Downtown Key West for the next (crowded, crazy expensive but fun). Then hit the Rain-Blow RearEnd Resort for a night (insert the sound of a cat puking up a hairball here).

I knew as soon as we arrived in Marathon, the more than $800 Canadian I had spent to be on the ocean was a terrible mistake.

We checked, in then when we were unloading our things, we immediately noticed a lingering odor in the air. 

Next to our 2nd floor room, was a large bay of shallow water, filled with garbage and smelly seaweed, and the odor was almost stomach turning. As a result, we stayed in our room and watch the Masters golf tourney and ate an early dinner we had bought at the local grocery store. 

Not to throw baby out with the bath water, after dinner we decided to check out the pool. It was full of algae with visible garbage floating in it. Back to the room for more TV time we went. 

The next morning we walked out of the restaurant (where our  breakfast was to be free) because it was so dirty we didn't want to trust the food would be safely prepared.

There is more... 

As I checked the drawers in the morning to make sure I husband didn't leave anything behind, I was startled as a bunch of cockroaches scurried to quickly to get out of sight. I physically felt sick knowing they'd comfortably shared our very expensive accommodation; to which we were officially out of pocket for.

I did write about it two years ago. The photo I attached and description said it all; and how I left it until now.

On a final note, I wanted my A word this challenge to be for appendage, but I didn't want to start off with a rant. 

So, after careful consideration, and my strong desire to share this specific experience, my thesaurus had me arrive at the word gesture for my letter G.

#yagottalaughaboutit

Saturday, April 6, 2024

F IS FOR FORTUNATE

Just a couple of life long friends catching up while unconditionally supporting each other. 
TAKEN: AUGUST 11th, 2016

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing friendships my entire life. 

The truth is, I can count the number of those wonderful peeps on two hands (with the help of a few of my toes). I suppose I relate to each and every one of those people by referencing the simple saying that, 'good friends are hard to find... and impossible to forget.'

The friendship I am sharing today started in the early throws of high school. I was a year older, and he was one of the most genuine and comedic people I had ever met. From that initial introduction, I simply wanted to get to know him better and spend more time with him. Just like yours truly, my parents loved absolutely everything about him.

He left our small town for university and never came back. I stayed, and I am still here. Yet, thanks to the evolution of the internet, I see him and hear his voice almost every single day.

The photo I am sharing was him stopping into my place of work to bring me lunch and catch up. He was on a solo cross Canada/US motorcycle tour that spanned more than fifteen thousand kilometers. It was the last time we've seen each other face to face outside of social media.

He was back to see his parents this past Christmas, and though my path of reconnection was paved with good intentions, I sat at my desk and worked on an eight million dollar construction estimate. Before I knew it, he was back on a jet plane and home again.

I expressed to my husband how disappointed I was that our window of time to visit had closed and he'd already left. My husband had a great suggestion. 

He thinks we should simply hop a plane and show up unannounced at his post retirement storefront on Vancouver Island. Lord knows we'd know when he'd be there. 

....Fortunately, we have his regular Facebook posts to thank for that!

Friday, April 5, 2024

E IS FOR EPIPHANY

Me, dealing with a terrible situation
after my hairdresser unexpectedly
turned me into a blonde!
(I just keep on keepin' on!.)
TAKEN: MAY 25th, 2023

Don't get angry, enraged or insulted.

Rise above the bullshit.

Flick your light back on.

Shine it brighter than ever. 

Fall so deeply in love with your own life

that anyone who tried to wrong you

becomes a laughable, 

ridiculous, distant, memory. 

~ Unknown

My epiphany last spring was to finally stop giving others more latitude than they could ever be granted by others on a good day. 

Instead of focusing on the colour I was dealt, I fired my hairdresser. 

...And it felt really good!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

D IS FOR DISCOMBOBULATED

Well, it is day four of the challenge and I am already behind the eight ball. A tad discombobulated if you catch my drift. It’s not that I have writers block, as that usually happens around the letter O.  

With this being my eleventh attempt at this marathon, the same thing happens every year. I think I am far more organized than I really am, then in preparation to jump on a jet plane for my birthday trip, work trumps A-Z every time.

That said, what a difference a year makes. Aside from sucking the hind tit on the challenge, my work life balance is amazing. I love my job and am looking forward to the adventures I have planned for 2024.

The honest truth is that some days I just have more drive than others. There have been several times in the last decade where I have been a tad overwhelmed and wondered if this was the end of the challenging writing road for me. 

If you’re stopping by for the first time, I am pleased to report that today isn’t that day!

As far as the word I selected for the letter D. Due to what I have on my plate, I may be emotionally confused or uncertain that I will stay on track for the challenge....

But say my word of the day three times fast. How fun was that ???



Wednesday, April 3, 2024

C IS FOR COMPANIONS

Top Left - The Kids and Toby
TAKEN: JUNE 2008
Top Right - Hubby, Daisy and Dottie
TAKEN: MARCH 2012
Bottom Right - Puddin' rocking the dock!
TAKEN: SUMMER 2017
Bottom Right -  Miya & Annie soaking up the ocean breeze in Outer Banks
TAKEN: OCTOBER 2022

Growing up, my mother was a cat person. The idea of letting a dog in the house was simply a hard NO.

Then, once my husband and I married he explained how he'd always had a dog. To his credit, he did entertain a cat or two until he refused to getting a third. Instead, when I was getting ready to go off on maternity leave with Jukebox, we decided to get out first dog. 

The methodology behind the decision was that I would be off work for sixteen weeks and I could house train a dog and change diapers as part of my daily routine. Well, my son slept through the night after three weeks, and I got up with the dog to take a leak in the night for almost six months!

Giggles aside, in all our decades together, the overall canine tally is nine. Three of those are still alive and living their best lives with us. It is in my will that the ashes we have accumulated be buried with my remains, and I don't think I will ever not have a dog in my life.

Because the truth of the matter is, a bond between and person and their pups is like no other. Not only are they our life long companions, they are always along for the ride no matter what ups and downs life brings

They personify unconditional love and I swear if you treat them right, they will love you more than they love themselves.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

B IS FOR BANANA

An interesting vantage point of the inseparable Oreo Gang!
Maya and Katie on the left and Annie riding solo on the right.
TAKEN (left) March 2024 and (right) June 2020

Like a lot of people my age, from Monday to Friday I eat a banana in the morning. 

Because I work from my home office everyday except Monday, as you can see in the photo on the left, the other four days I am expected to share my excellent source of potassium with my pups.

As any Labrador Retriever owner will attest, the breed pretty much eat anything and everything. Yet, for some reason my Annie (seen riding shotgun on the right) turns her nose up every morn at my standard offering. Blueberries, yet. Banana, not a stinking chance.

Now I'm no rocket scientist, but part of me wonders if it is her instincts kicking in as to why she turns up her nose. You see, as a small pup, she garnered the nicknames "Annie Bannanie and Nana Banana." 

Could it be that she just doesn't want to buy into others considering her a cannibal? You know, an animal that eats her own kind?

After all,  Edwardo Savarin was hilariously accused animal cruelty and chicken cannibalism in an article in the Harvard Crimson (as portrayed) in movie The Social Network.  If you'll, recall he fed chicken to a chicken while taking care of the animal for his initiation into the Phoenix Club.

Every time my girl turns up her nose, that exact tidbit scoots through my head. Then again, the other side of that proverbial coin could be that she simply doesn't like the texture.

Either way, I an 100% confident that one of my scenarios is the one that is actually correct!

#yagottalaughaboutit

Monday, April 1, 2024

A IS FOR ADVENTURE

Today marks the start of my eleventh April A-Z Challenge. 

Whether you're a regular reader or not, I can assure you that this month in particular always turns into a bit of a roller coaster ride for me. You know, a real writing adventure per se!

My buddy Dusty and I having a sunny winter snowbank adventure of our own.
TAKEN: EARLY 1980's (photo credit to my late mom)

From a very young age, I have always embraced writing. As I look back, I believe that part of me feels it was understanding the stages of the creative process itself that had me smitten from the start. 

The thought preparation, development, cultivation, the editing, and finally the implementation. With my implementation now being when I hit my website publish button - not flipping the page of my lined scratch pad.

That said, as a mature twenty nine year old, the public school systems back in my day differ from how they function today. Like cursive writing, creative writing was something that was both taught and encouraged. As a matter of fact, the best submitted efforts appeared regularly in our small town weekly newspaper.

For the record, I was first 'published' in said paper grade four. It was a poem, and I still that clipping my scrapbook that mother saved from our community rag. Public school poems evolved into the effort to write songs in high school. Once I left for post secondary school, the only writing I needed to have a stamp attached and the envelope get dropped off at the post office.

Then, when my kids left the nest, on that fateful night in October 2011, I registered for Blogger and the rest is history.

Writing for me is like the game of golf. Just because I like doing it, doesn't mean I am any good at it.

I read somewhere that adventure starts by standing still. In my case, for the last ten Aprils, adventure has always started with a blank page and the letter A.

Wish me luck - I am going to need it!!

Saturday, March 23, 2024

SQUIRRELING MY NUTS

It's that time of year again, where I look to the jar of nuts I have squirreled away all winter and decide how many of those precious gems I am going to spend on each venue, creating a great 2024 concert season. 

Since starting my newest position two and half years ago, I have gotten into the habit of transferring the monies I am paid to do site visits and inspections into a savings account. Knowing full well, that those dollars/nuts will be earmarked for more bucket list tickets.

Because he is in such demand, and focuses primarily on playing football stadiums, my No Shoes Nation buddy won't be headed north of the boarder anytime soon. So, I knew eventually hopping a plane to see him perform was going to be a must. 

Then, shortly after Jimmy Buffet passed, and he and fellow parrot head Zac Brown decided to join forces for their Sun Goes Down Tour. I immediately began making plans to head to into downtown Chicago for our wedding anniversary in June.

Though not a concert, the next tickets to be added here will be for my hubby.
A 1pm start on June 14th at Wrigley Field (Cubs vs Braves)
TAKEN: MARCH 21st, 2024
Though the concert is one of the reasons for heading to Chicago, there are a lot of other items that are a must see. 

An afternoon baseball game at Wrigley Field, a trip to legend Buddy Guys bar in hopes he shows up, an architecture river cruise, and definitely lunch at Lou Malnati's for their famous deep dish pizza. Oh, and let's not forget the fireworks at Navy Pier and a selfie at The Bean!

With our Soldier Field, second tier fourth row adjacent to the stage tickets secured, I am now on the Ticketmaster hunt for Wrigley Field resale tickets.  Which, where my husband wants to sit, are currently running at about the cost of a heart transplant at a private hospital outside Canada. Therefore, I am still squirreling away my nuts to purchase.

I suspect those will be purchased after my annual birthday trip in April. This year we are headed to a luxury oceanfront home we've rented with a pool in the Bahamas. We both love snorkeling, which will be steps through our private gate, so it was a no brainer when West Jet packaged our round trip flights for just over $300 clams each.

Yep, Bahamas is where I spend the clams I have shucked, Ticketmaster is all about my squirreled nuts. Which should not be confused with my 'being nuts'. 

...For obsessively chasing really great concert experiences!

Just sayin'.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

TAMING MY TRESSES

You never know who you're going to want to kiss walking Broadway in Nashville! #imabigfan
TAKEN: OCTOBER 10th, 2024
About a week ago, I bit the bullet, went into a hair salon, and got my hair cut. 

Not the most earth-shattering news I have ever shared here - but in this instance, my hair was the longest it had ever been in my life. The truth is I hadn't allowed anyone or anything near my tresses (except my very dull kitchen scissors) since that tearful day last May when I fired my hairdresser.

To be honest, I did wait a couple of days after a Edweena Scissorhands and her barrel of bleach did their deed, before posting about it here. All these months later, my disappointment in what was promised versus what was delivered still really pisses me off!

Anyway, because my hair was already frail, I took a step back and except for root touch up spray to kill the glare, I let it rest for more than two months. Then, through online research, I discovered a natural gloss that washes out which I could apply to cover the blondeness; until my grey could grow out and be blended in with highlights.

You can tell by the picture I am sharing today that by last October, my hair was brittle and because of the overall weight of the length, it looked like crap. It didn't matter what I did. The thing that was once my best accessory, was looking like that super annoying cousin no one wanted to admit they were related to.

Wait, it gets worse. Without notice, my hair started coming out in large clumps in the shower and by the end of January it was significant. My buddy Google said that by repeatedly pulling my hair tightly on the top my head, it was most likely a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. 

I knew it was time. My hair was so damaged that most everything below shoulder length needed to go. So it did. I told my new gal to get rid of everything that needed to go when she very diplomatically said, 'you can come back in a week and we can take more off, it really is best to do this in stages so you can get use to it.'  

She was very empathetic to my journey, and she was absolutely amazing. 

I guess as I sit here and type I wonder how the hell I went from holding my hand up to my ear saying loudly, 'Sorry so-in-so, I can't hear you over the volume of my hair!' To trolling Amazon for hair growth oils and hair thinning solutions.

Three little words. 

Middle age sucks. That is all!

 Actually, that is six words... but I think you catch my drift.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

MY EMPTY CHAIR

A very powerful photo of reflection snapped as the sun began to set on December 25th.
TAKEN: DECEMBER 25th, 2023

 
The year twenty-twenty three, though a great year for me professionally,  was also one of staggering loss. Between the people unexpectedly passing, combined with my moving on from those that weren't good for my mental health, saw that final tally exceptionally high.

I'm not exactly sure why, but from a young age, death and great loss has always affected me to my core. 

Part of me wonders if it is attributed to the fact that my parents had me later in life, and I began experiencing death at a younger age than most. I lost my fathers' father and mothers' mother less that three months apart. It was the fall I started grade five; and it hasn't stopped since.

I think the fact that I nursed both of my parents (in palliative homecare) to their deaths by the time I was forty, then lost my very first love unexpectedly at forty three, had something in my mindset give way. I remember the exact moment I made the personal decision to unapologetically live my life to its fullest. To which I have.

This past Christmas, as the house filled with all the smells that represent the holiday season, I paused before I took my photo to say a quick prayer for every single one - living or dead that parted this year.

Whether you agree or not, I believe you truly suffer the stages of grief for both. With acceptance being the final part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the those we've lost. 

If I am being totally honest, I suppose that is what my empty chair actually represents for me.

...Acceptance.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

REMEMBERING 2023

As the year comes to a close at midnight tonight, there is so much I am very thankful for. So much so, that I have no idea where to start. 

What I will highlight is that our wee, four legged blondie/Oreo filling, simply stole the show (as well as at least a half dozen of my perfectly good slippers). And, that I can finally admit I have discovered a perfect work/life balance; solidifying the saying 'life is short' as my personal mantra. 

Thanks for the memories 2023. They are truly respected and appreciated. I feel blessed that I have such great hope for an even better 2024.

All the best in the coming year everyone. Cheers to all, and thank you once again for reading. 

~ Rhondi

PS: With the past year 99.9% in the rearview, as you reminisce with me electronically you can click links to journal offerings that you may have missed, or wish to revisit. 

Most Memorable Moment (centre): The addition of the beautiful Katie Lulu, that arrived to her new home on January 31st, 2023. She has proven to be a much welcome thread to the newly reunited Oreo Gang and we love her very much. Thanks again @labradorables

(LINK TO RE-READ: NEVER, UNTIL NOW! )


January: The unexpected and shocking murder of my former coworker Ashley Milne (top left) in Collingwood. I have spent the year following this terrible and unnecessary tragedy in hopes her amazing spirit didn't die in vain. Please keep her and her young children in your thoughts and prayers.

(LINK TO RE-READ: A IS FOR ASHLEY)

February: With my sweet Puddin' passing in June of 2022, we thought for sure The Oreo Gang would be displaced for years. That said, with our addition of Katie, Family Furbaby Day was once again a great success.

(LINK TO RE-READ: OUR ANNUAL ADVENTURE)

March: After checking the Salvation Army Store in Gravenhurst for more than twenty years, I was ecstatic to find four more of my wonderful Petro Canada water glasses for the very first time. In a stinking blizzard no less!

April: I always look forward to my birthday trip and this year was no exception. We hit Vegas Baby! What do you do in Vegas if you have no desire to gamble? Guess you'll have to read to find out! (There are also other offering though my April A-Z posts.)

(LINK TO RE-READ: K IS FOR KNACK)

(LINK TO RE-READ: L IS FOR LOGISTICS)

May: For the first time in more than a decade, I moved to the cottage for the summer.  I set up a satellite office and only commuted to work Monday mornings for meetings. I kept telling my husband that we should have named Katie '649'... Because that pup definitely won the lottery.

June: A milestone anniversary had us hop a plane to Montego Bay for the weekend to celebrate. My dad's birthday the 9th and our anniversary the 11th it made for a great reason to getaway. Though we stayed in a much smaller resort hotel than we usually do, we had a great time.

(LINK TO RE_READ: FROM FEAR TO FEARLESS)

July: July was an amazing weather month. I worked for most of it sitting at my desk in a bathing suit. The only thing I enjoyed more was spending time with Goob in the water. You know, it doesn't matter how old they get, I just love having them around.

August: As reminisce about the year gone by, I think it had to be the 'year of the concert'. I think there were seven in total, with four being my country quartet. From a bucket list perspective, Chris Stapleton won that prize. Man, Budweiser Stage is a great venue.

(LINK TO RE-READ: MY COUNTRY MUSIC QUARTET)

September: Per the work plan, we added another layer to our estimating team, a new project coordinator. I began her training right the first week of September, so I moved home to have a shorter commute. Labour Day Monday (Lab + Our Day as the photo shows) was my last day living at the cottage full time. Made no matter, it was a really great month!

October: This nod goes to spending Canadian Thanksgiving week in Nashville. Boy, did we cram as much in as possible before returning home. The Mother Church of Country Music left me speechless, as did almost everything about this amazing city - including the Opry.

(LINK TO RE-READ:SIMPLY, UNFORGETABLE

November: They say some of the best decisions you make are the ones you think about the least. Well, we bought another boat. A 20 foot Doral bowrider that gets delivered the first week of May (weather pending). Can't wait to load up the pups...

(LINK TO RE-READ:WE BOUGHT ANOTHER BOAT)

December: Well this month is crammed with memorable moments. It closed out another milestone year at work, had us spend valuable time with family and friends, and our home was filling with both birthday and holiday spirit. Not just the birthday on the 25th but the 5th, when Katie celebrated her very first birthday.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

SOME AFTERPARTY PETRO

TOP: Our festive holiday view of the falls in our sleepy little town
BOTTOM: Watching the sunset, waiting for my coworkers to arrive.
TAKEN: DECEMBER 15TH, 2023 

Last Friday, my husband and I rented a large AirBnB home overlooking the Bracebridge Falls, and hosted an afterparty for fourteen; which included the seven coworkers I am closest with and some of their life partners.

I was pleasantly surprised by the individual reactions I received as they walked through to the kitchen and spied the gaggle of Petro Canada glasses neatly lined up on the counter. There was one on display for each of us.

None of them readers of my electronic journal, I told my story of how my collection of over two hundred glasses came to be, then poured them a spot of holiday spirit.

I explained that whomever enters my home for the first time, always has to raise a glass and have a drink with my dad. Because my home couldn't sleep ten like the rental could, I brought my glasses to them -  as if they were entering my home for the very first time.

 As I told the story, one of the project managers I work with (who is the same age as Jukebox) Facetimed his parents so that they could meet me and hear my silly story about my glass collection. Similar in age, they remembered when my conversation pieces were all the rage. 

Then, as so many do, promised to keep an eye out for them in Southern Ontario and have their son deliver them to me. As it does whenever anyone offers to help grow my obsession, it warmed my heart.

As I reflect on the last year, I am grateful it has been exceptional. I think I finally have this work/travel life balance thing in check. I took the business to the next level at work AND I got to have a drink with my dad in some pretty cool places. 

Under the stars at the Bellagio fountains Las Vegas, in the sun on a beach in Jamaica, rockin' Broadway in downtown Nashville, and with fourteen work buddies overlooking the beautiful Bracebridge Falls. 

Life is really good!

And keeping my pops memory alive with my Petro Canada water glass collection is just an added bonus!!

Saturday, December 2, 2023

RAMA-LAMA-DING-DONG

Seated in the tenth row, waiting for the BNL to take the stage.
TAKEN: DECEMBER 1st, 2024
Last night, my hubby and I had a nice dinner in Orillia, then headed to Casino Rama to see the Barenaked Ladies and their Hometown Holidays Show; they are only performing six.

I will start by saying that there was so much musical talent on that stage, it makes you proud that they are Canadian. And though I love their mainstream hits, I really enjoy their holiday offerings, and I am pleased to report that the evening offered a perfect blend of both.

Their comedic banter provided a ton of belly laughs and we headed home extremely entertained.

The buzz of listening to everyone exiting talk of how amazing it was was an added bonus, with both of us admitting it was far better than we were expecting it to be. Once again, money well spent, and another music concert ticked off the list.

My apologies about the photo quality. I left my phone and home and my husbands' needs to be put to pasture - PRONTO!

PS: Here's a great podcast link with Ed Robertson titled Don't Let Revenge Breed Resentment (click to listen)

The amazing Ed Roberton (center) flanked by
Kevin Hearn (l), Tyler Stewart (drums), and Ed Kreegan (r)
TAKEN: DECEMBER 1st, 2023

Performing my favourite song off 'Barenaked For The Holidays'
CLICK TO LISTEN: God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman w/ Sarah McLachlan
TAKEN: DECEMBER 1st, 2023

Bringing down the house with Brian Wilson!
TAKEN: DECEMBER 1st, 2023

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

FOREVER SEEKING SAVINGS

Seems I have everyone in the house looking for a great deal.
Thanks for your help #OreoGang!
TAKEN: NOVEMBER 26th, 2023

Several years ago, we were given a rustic and colourful plaque for the cottage that reads... “Don’t be too busy making a living, that you forget to make a life.” It was truly appreciated at the time, because the truth of the matter is we have always worked longer hours than most. 

Though we've both worked a lot to acquire the little bit we have, I credit where we are at to the fact that we have never been shy when it comes to looking for a great deal. Take travel for an example, I don't think I have paid full price to get on a plane since we began all our galivanting without the kids in the winter of 2012.

Every year, I always seem to find that one gem that surfaces, for at least a day, book it, locking in the price. Did you know that there are some days better than others to book travel? It's true, and I have my discounted hotel and airline tickets to prove it.

Anyway, with our purchasing a boat, I figured that I wouldn't get to travel for my 2024 birthday. Then, as Black Friday approached I couldn't help but hunt for that one really sexy four night deal. Though I came close to hitting the 'BOOK' button on the Trip Central website, I refrained. 

I know my husband is disappointed but he is the one that wanted the boat, and there are only so many pennies in the piggy bank. I have always been adamant that we never travel using our line of credit, it must to be part of our weekly savings stipend; which has been allocated elsewhere.

I'm sure something will come our way so that we can get out of dodge for a few days next April. But until it does, we need to remain focused on the fact that we have made a really expensive purchase and didn't increased our debit load.

As I sit here and type, I realize that our new twenty foot girl still remains unnamed. That said, as I look at the picture I am sharing this post I feel we should be leaning toward "The Paw Patrol."

I think it's perfect.... Because I know there will be six of them thar thangs (4 black and two yellow) making sure everyone on Orillia Lake knows they are on high alert, with their new ride confirming just what lucky pups they truly are!

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

RED SKY SKUNK PATROL

One of the prettiest morning sunrises I have ever experienced at the house (no filter)
TAKEN: OCTOBER 21st, 2023
Moving home from the cottage early, it was around the first week of September when I spied a skunk walking across the back yard, then continue to confidently toddle into our gully which is quite vast.

I immediately contacted the neighbours whose fenced in yard was where Pepe exited from. They nonchalantly informed me that they knew they had striped visitors at night, yet failed to mention the situation to us; which in itself really stunk!

You can imaging that the last thing we needed was our three dogs getting sprayed when out for a pre-dawn pee, so that weekend we put up motion censored spotlights around the yard and I purchased a 2000 lumen hand held spotlight so that I could survey for eyes glowing in the yard before the dogs ventured out.

We've lived in our home more than twenty years and this is only the second time I have seen a skunk at dawn. The last time was more than ten years ago. I know they surround us but until this fall, our 6 a.m. schedules never crossed.

Anyway, this morning I had been out with the pups before my husband left for work and after pouring my second cup of java, I spied the most beautiful colours rising on the horizon. I grabbed my phone and headed back outside alone.

The colours were muted at first but as the sun rose higher, the colours intensified. It was absolutely breathtaking.

As expected, social media filled up with similar photos around Muskoka of the beautiful morning sky with the 'red sky at morning' reference. 

Though I expect my red sky/skunk patrol will continue indefinitely, I don't expect to witness another sunrise as I did this morning for a very long time but there will always hope.

Speaking of hope, I hope we never cross path with them rascally striped smelly varmints we have been patrolling for every single morn...

Wish us luck on both counts!

Saturday, November 11, 2023

WE BOUGHT ANOTHER BOAT

Well, we unexpectedly bought another boat. 

It will be our fourth motorized vessel in the twenty plus years we have owned Orillia Lake. It wasn’t a planned purchase but one we both agreed on. It is a twenty-foot Doral bowrider; in absolute mint condition with less than 100 hours of total motor use time.

Feel free to help us name her!
TAKEN: SPRING 2023

Greatful that Cousin Jim (rear seen here, with his grandson on the rod) decided to upgrade!
TAKEN: SUMMER 2023

The first few years after our cottage purchase, we got by with a five-seater paddle boat, a row boat, and parasailing board the kids could dive off of. Ultimately, the first motorized boat we bought was an older SeaRay waterski boat. 

We bought it to encourage our kids to want to stay at the cottage more often. It turned out, we would float with the pups in the middle of the lake so that I could read a book in the sun and never used it for much more than that. 

Wrought with mechanical issues, we ended up giving her away to a friend of a friend as we were tired paying to have her repaired.

Our first...
TAKEN: JUNE 2010

Next, was our beloved Bessie Bowrider that we paid a whopping $300 for... and the trailer was included in the price.

Her saving grace was that her previous owner was a mechanic. Sure, she would take in a wee bit of water through the week but nothing a ShopVac couldn’t remedy. The pups loved her.

Spottie & Puddin' rocking Bessie bow rider!
TAKEN: AUGUST 2014

A neighbour kept the road open a couple of winters ago, and she was stolen from the end of our driveway. Not wanting to invest in another, we replaced her with Stella the floating picnic table - which is propelled by an electric trolling motor.

Always a conversation piece on the lake, our bubble as well as the pups were grateful for Stella during Covid. 

Spending the afternoon on Stella
(l-r: Miya, Goob, Mac, Annie, Cappy-T, Puddin')
TAKEN: AUGSUT 2022

Now, we know better than most, that this (new to us) bow rider is far larger than we need, but our final decision to buy took multiple things into consideration.

Though older, it has been babied and has only had one owner. We know for a fact that they could have sold her online for far more than we are paying, but a good home was one of their personal criteria. That, combined that it is a familial sale made the price so good, we couldn't refuse.

Lastly, our decision came from the fact that we know that we will eventually be selling the cottage (not sure when but it will be sold) and this boat will keep us and the pups touring the amazing lakes in Muskoka for years to come.

To be honest, it isn't the $3,500 price tag that concerns us, it's the price of fuel to get her off the dock. 

So grateful we already own a killer trolling motor!!

#yagottalaughaboutit

Sunday, October 29, 2023

CARVED ONE, THEN CLOSED IT

The Oreo Gang making sure my husband is disconnecting the water intake properly.
(Miya Maria on the rock, Katie Lulu on the step, and Annie Bannanie on the hill)
TAKEN: OCTOBER 29th, 2023

Over the years, more often than not, we head into the cottage for the last Saturday in October so I can carve a pumpkin. Then, the following morning, we pack everything up and close it down for the season.

For me, this year in particular, was like no other at the cottage to date. I worked from my upstairs office space four days a week,  and usually in my bathing suit. Though my workload was grueling and my days were long, there is something to be said for looking out from your desk seeing the water.

As you know, this was our wee Katie's first year at Orillia Lake, and she embraced everyday like it would be her last. Saying that she loves absolutely everything about cottage life would be an understatement. 

Miya, though still a pup herself, simply couldn't keep up with KT's high energy zoomies. Annie, now a sexy senior in her own right, stayed at my feet the majority of the season, with the odd burst of puppy like behaviour shining through about once a week; it was perfect.

As far as upkeep goes, each year we tend to alternate from interior upgrades, to exterior elbow grease. This past season, a lot of our focus was spent outside. 

We had wanted to replace all main floor flooring this year, but a milestone anniversary had us take a last minute trip to Jamaica in June to celebrate. I love how we mutually decided, with a 'let's go for it' for good measure, that my saved flooring dollars would more than pay for our unexpected excursion nicely.

That said, though I know I will get my new floors next spring, a bush hog for the exterior is definitely a must have as well. Every second 'working the lands' year arrives with such optimism. We always have such a positive outlook on the clearing, hauling and burning brush at the cottage property from hell.

This year, we finally came to the terms that we aren't in our 30's anymore - and we are definitely Stihl in need of extra help, as no one ever offers. (Get that? Stihl, I mean still!)

Anyway, as an aside, as a woman in construction in Muskoka I can't stress enough how hard it is to find good ticketed trades to service the home and cottage industry here. 

Closing our cottage gives me hope we may have reprieve on the horizon. As you can see from my Sunday morning pic, we officially have three new furry plumbing apprentices.

All wanting wanting to help with the task of turning off the water for the season.

#yagottalaughaboutit

Thursday, October 26, 2023

MY COUNTRY MUSIC QUARTET

Old Dominion - top left (ScotiaBank Arena) TAKEN: January 28th, 2023
Zac Brown Band - Top right (Budweiser Stage) TAKEN: July 14th, 2023
Chris Stapleton - Bottom left (Budweiser Stage) TAKEN: August 17th, 2023
Mary Chapin Carpenter - Bottom right (Ryman Auditorium) TAKEN: October 8th, 2023 

I have always appreciated all types of music, but for the last six or seven years, I have found myself gravitating to the channels offerings country on my Sirius satellite app. Suffice it to say, not many were surprised to discover that we landed in Nashville.

I think what might surprise most, is that all tickets purchased for my country music quartet were purchased with less than a month of them all landing on stage. All (except Chapin Carpenter at the Ryman Auditorium) were purchased off Ticketmaster - resale.

Now, I am not proud of what I paid for the tickets, with Old Dominion being the least expensive at a little over $100 each, and Chris Stapleton being the most expensive at just over $1,500 for the pair.

My first three experiences, were so high energy that I headed for the exit with little to no voice from yelling so loud, the fourth (an intimate acoustic presentation) moved me to my musical core. All of them left me completely and unequivocally entertained. Honestly, concert dollars very well spent!

I have always been an avid concert goer, and no genre is off limits. For instance, when we were in Nashville, we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and explored some of the roof top honky tonk's on October 9th. Then, walked back to our condo off Broadway just in time to sit on our balcony and watch the sunset. 

On a whim, I logged onto Ticketmaster and purchased two stage left Jonas Brothers tickets at Bridgestone Arena (where the Nashville Predictors play). With less than an hour left before they hit the stage, we took our ten minute walk to the venue. They too brought down the house.

Ramping up to perform (Joe's hit) Cake By The Ocean to a packed Bridgestone Arena.
TAKEN: OCTOBER 9th, 2023

Anyway, I remember having a conversation with my brother this summer and he felt the need to point out that my dogs were a luxury. Though I understood his point, I told him that 'my dogs were a necessity that my husband and I couldn't live without'. 

Which in a nutshell, aside from being a mega fan, is why I clicked the Ticketmaster button and bought the Stapleton tickets; exactly three days later. 

My dogs a luxury? Nope. 

It is my concert going habit that wins his specific label. All the monies spent on tickets, hotels, flights, food and spirits? 

THEY... THEM....THOSE.  Will always be the biggest luxury of my life!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

SIMPLY, UNFORGETTABLE

Last week, when I posted photos of my Canadian Thanksgiving travels on social media as they were happening, I was proud to share that we had included experiencing the spectacular 'Mother Church' of country music in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. 

What I was somewhat surprised to admit (after leaving the building) was that my amazing and intimate musical experience presented at the Ryman Auditorium was simply mind blowing!!

My beautiful exterior shot from across the street, and our third row balcony
seats preshow. (No video or photography is allowed once the show starts.)
TAKEN: OCTOBER 8th, 2023
Yet, it's hard to believe our weeklong vay-cay happened somewhat coincidentally. 

You see, I have a coworker that traveled to Music City last spring to see Luke Combs perform at Bridgestone Arena. With my husband and I having two full weeks off at the end of the year, I thought I would checkout the Air BnB she'd been raving about for availability.

Turned out our festive holidays timelines weren't available, yet the week of Canadian Thanksgiving was. Without a plan, we booked The Burnham (a ten minute walk to Broadway) and we had less than a month to hatch the rest of our plan.

I knew instinctively, we couldn't go to Nashville and not experience the Ryman Auditorium. Without hesitation, I purchased tickets to see Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin. 

As a 1990's country follower, I was familiar with the success of Carpenter,  I only knew Colvin to have one hit with 'Sonny Came Home.' Without reserve, I clicked that famous Ticketmaster button and bought us 3rd row balcony tickets as shown above.

From the moment you approach the exterior architecture of this historic 2,362 seat live-performance venue, you could feel its distinctive vibe. An Instagram follower hit the nail on the head when he commented on my exterior shot with... "Oh the ghosts that reside there, you can feel the history when you visit!"

He's right, this is hallowed ground filled with her spiritual sounds. It truly is a sacred place for any music lover, celebrating all music genres in every sacred pew.

Oh, and the Mary/Shawn duo literally brought down the house. 

The entire evening was... Simply, unforgettable.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

FALL COTTAGE LIFE

I honestly make an effort to watch the sunrise at least once a cottage season.
(This photo represents my 23rd year.)
TAKEN: SEPTEMBER 16th, 2023

Personally, I feel the one thing about owning a cottage, is that you yearn to be there whenever you’re not, with an underlying goal to never leave once you've arrived. 

One of the many silver linings for me, is that it's the bubble in my life where my peeps around the lake  simply know and love me as 'that cottage gal from town'

Over the years, they have come to the realization that I don't have much desire to use makeup, nor that I need to make any type of fashion statement. I don't think they even know how much effort goes into my hair in the real world;  which IS absolutely super spectacular!!

The negation of all of those time absorbing little things on a daily basis only scratch the surface of the perks of cottage living. I am much more in tune with the amazing energy that being next to the water creates, because that is how I spent my formative years. My husband enjoys it, yet I feel he would agree to sell this space I love, in a heartbeat. 

His internal loathing for the cottage is that my "Honey-Do Chores Together Lists" drives him bonkers - and every weekend, there are tasks that must be done. I swear the only thing that keeps him focused is that he knows there is a cold beer in the fridge waiting for him when we're done. So, even with retirement on the horizon, we continue to persevere.

As the days get shorter and colder, I have the time to reflect on how my cottage life this summer and my personal work life balance have evolved yet again. 

Me working from there full time and having (two out of three) dogs in need of a level of constant engagement, was more exhausting than I ever expected. I swear my right arm bicep grew this summer by throwing items to be fetched into the lake from the top deck... With double muscle growth happening on those peak days I had to endure the rain; ensuring my mature Annie didn't get lost in our puppy kerfuffle.

Either way, with my cottage office space in full gear, I believe I will be able to stay right up until it is time to winterize it. We have done weekends in the past but never lived there together through the week after Labour Day. 

And you know what? I am excited to try. We've never ventured into this territory in our twenty three seasons.... 

Should be interesting!

Thursday, August 31, 2023

BLUE MOON MUSINGS

Earlier this week, I brought the dogs into town as I had both in-office and site meetings, and moving them for the night made the most sense. On in-office meeting day, the gang of girls were as good as gold. Site meeting day, all freaking hell broke loose.

After I got the steam to stop rolling out of my ears, I cleaned the upper level disaster zone, then posted on social media:

Anyone want a dog or three?

Had an early site meeting on Lake Muskoka, only to return home to discover the dogs 'ate my homework!'

...AND my brand new sandals, two pairs of flip flops, three pens, and a jumbo role of toilet paper making it look like it snowed in here!!

#notimpressed #bad #katielulu #anniebananie #miyamaria #thissucks

Left: The Oreo Gang on National Dog Day
Right: Some home office evidence of evil!
Taken: August 25th & 29th, 2023
When I was going through the comments and reactions, I noticed our breeder responded saying  that her gang had been evil devil babies as well, noting, 'there must be something in the air.'

It was in that moment I had a genuine lightbulb moment. It dawned on me that the blue moon was upon us. Could that have been what made them all go batshit crazy?

So, I Googled, can a dog sense a full moon? This is what came back (via wagwalking.com): Your dog may seem to be much more alert, they may bark and howl more, they may growl, begin to chew things they normally would not, and may pace a lot if they are feeling restless and antsy. In all my years of having pups, I had no idea.

What I will say, is that when Katie came home in January, I was already working from home four days a week. I had a plan for her ongoing teething and had puppy proofed our home. As she grew there were challenges but nothing like what I came home to a couple of days ago. The difference this week was I knew all three participated; which has never happened before.

I will say, they do have a good gig living at the cottage but it's not like they are living in a van down by the river in town. They've got it really good. I will admit, now that I've calmed down, I think they are all beginning to suffer from a bit of separation anxiety as our routine is really quite regimented.

I start work an hour early every day so that I can exercise them three time a day, which they have come to know as recess. With three dog beds at my feet at my top of the stairs make shift cottage office, they tend to sleep while I work and talk on the phone knowing recess will eventually arrive. 

At the end of the day, I guess I'm just really pissed they ate my shoes. Even then, I suppose it's my fault. 

For whatever reason, I seem to keep buying their favourite flavours! 

#yagottalaughaboutit