Personal Archives

August 18, 2007

Smart Travel

I was talking to a friend, another retired teacher, the other day about our respective travels. She and her husband took a Rhine cruise back in May with a few days in Paris at the end. She booked the cruise through an affinity group & had a great time. But it was quite costly compared to the economics of our travels - and of course her experiences of travelling with a group were quite different from our "drive around, walk a lot, eat well, but watch the wine consumption" style. At some point in our conversation she said that she thought I travelled "smart". Why, thanks Carol.

Slow Travel = Smart Travel - works for me.

August 28, 2007

Porch repairs

I haven't been blogging about our travel plans for the past several days because I've been busy with a long list of must-do's before we leave on Friday. The activity that has been taking up most of my time are repairs to our porch floor. Our home was built in 1903 and has a lovely 700 sq' wooden porch. About 20 years ago I replaced the wooden pillars with aluminum ones and put down new floorboards. Last summer I noticed excessive bounce in some areas. A few weeks ago, I crawled underneath to determine the problem, hoping for a quick-fix. I reached along the top of a floor joist and my hand came away full of sawdust.

For the past few weeks I've been tearing up floorboards, replacing and improving the substructure of a large area of the porch, recycling/replacing the floorboards, all the time ensuring that the roof didn't come crashing down, and painting the floor. I finished yesterday - with 3 days to spare!

Here's part of the porch as a work in progress:

Here's how the same part of the porch looks today:

Now on to closing the pool, tilling up most of the garden, cutting the grass and making a lot of phone calls to help our time away go smoothly.

August 29, 2007

Pool pump woes

OK, so last night I double-shocked the pool in preparation for closing the pool either this evening or Thursday morning. I had a lot of outside activities planned for the day in preparation for leaving on Friday.

A few times in the summer the pool pump had stopped working, but after about an hour it started back up again. I figured we would have to get a new pump - but was hoping it wouldn't be until next year. This morning the pump wasn't working, but this time it had tripped a breaker at the electrical box - and it continued to do so whenever I tried to re-start the pump. I didn't have a lot of time to take it to a repair shop so I bought a new pump. The new pump looked so shiny & bright compared with our 17 year-old original model. However, the old pump had one virtue the new one lacked - it was wired & ready to plug in. Now, the wiring on a pool pump is very simple. Once you've wired one pool pump, I'm sure you could wire the next one in a flash. But this was my first pool pump wiring job. And of course there is the disclaimer with the pump that all electrical work should be done by qualified personnel. So I took a long time before I flipped the switch to start up the new pump, searching for any help on the internet, making sure that I had the pump set for 115v & not the factory set 230v, comparing the internal wiring of the old & new pumps, double and triple-checking the connections, and trying to calculate how big a mess I'd be in if I had done it incorrectly. But everything went well. And of course the cost of the new pump can be viewed as only the price of a couple (well maybe three or four) of decent meals in Rome or Paris.

February 2, 2008

Jeff Foxworthy on Canadians

A Little Canadian Humo(u)r,

Forget Rednecks, here is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Canadians

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you may live in Canada.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you may live in Canada.

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you may live in Canada.

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialled a wrong number, you may live in Canada.

If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of Detroit for the weekend, you may live in Canada.

If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Canada.

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Canada

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you may live in Canada

If you can drive 90 kms/hr through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Canada.

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked, you may live in Canada.

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Canada.

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit,you may live in Canada.

If the speed limit on the highway is 80km -- you're going 90 and everybody is passing you, you may live in Canada.

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Canada.

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction, you may live in Canada

if you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you may live in Canada.

If you find 2 degrees 'a little chilly', you may live in Canada

If you actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your Canadian friends & others, you definitely live in Canada

March 21, 2008

Travel plans - June 2008, June 2009, September 2010

Not much to write about for the past several months - sure not many would be interested in my vagaries - but I have been working on a few travels.

June 14-28, 2008 - I'll be back in the south of France - this time in La Begude de Mazenc in Drome. One of my brothers has rented a house for the month of June. I'll be there for 2 weeks; Liz will be there for the first week; another local couple are joining us for the first week. Plane tickets booked back in October; car in November; and I'm getting ready to book the TGV from Paris to Valence, where we will pick up the car.

SNCF has changed the online booking for TGV tickets - much more difficult now. Kevin Widrow's excellent instructions appear to be obsolete. Among the significant changes:
1. Tickets can no longer be printed out at your home computer - must be picked up at a kiosk at CDG, using the same credit card that was used to purchase them online.
2. If you say you live in France, there is no English language option.
3. If you say you live in the UK, prices appear to be the same as in France, but you can only pick up the tickets at a free-standing kiosk. If you live in France, you have the option of getting the tickets at a ticket counter, talking to a real person. Hopefully nothing goes wrong at the kiosk - but if it does, only those indicating a residency in France have that option.
4. So far I haven't found a PREM option on any of the scenarios I've tried.

June 6-20, 2009 - Liz & I are taking 4 single female friends to Provence. I spent a few weeks poring over dozens of listings & asking advice from some friends. I was trying to prepare a short list of possible accommodations to present to our friends who are coming for a trip-planning dinner next Friday evening. None of the properties seemed ideal - until I came across a 5-bedroom house in the Luberon. Better yet, there was a glowing review on ST from Linda in NC. We have been to Linda's beautiful home - at last year's GTG in Brevard. If the house gets Linda's approval, it's the highest recommendation I could hope for.

When I inquired about other properties, none was able/willing to commit for June 2009 at this early date - either on price or availability. When I contacted the owner of the desired property, I received a much more satisfactory response. We have the rental for next year at this year's price - just waiting for the contract in the mail.

None of our friends have been to France. On Friday evening, I am going to mention the possibility of extending our time with a few days, up to a week, in Paris. I am optimistic that at least some of them will want to experience Paris - I'll let you know what happens.

September 2010 - Intrigued by Kevin Widrow's account of his week on the island and some online browsing, I am thinking about spending 2 weeks on Corsica - have figured out the logistics & have ordered a couple of books. The travel account should be healthy enough by then - hope to include additional time in France - either on the Cote d'Azure, or in the Luberon or Paris. As the Brits say it's "early days", but it's something I'll be thinking about over the next year or so.

May 7, 2008

Grandpa Doug

Here`s pic of me with my first grandchild. He's only 2 hours old.


How do I feel?


May 20, 2008

Ed Kinsman, 1938-2008

Following are the comments I made at a memorial service at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa on Saturday May 17 for Ed Kinsman - a friend, teaching colleague and neighbour.

When Ed Kinsman retired from teaching in June 1998, I was asked by some colleagues to say a few words about Ed’s life and career at the OSSTF Annual meeting. I felt honoured to do so. I was told to keep my remarks brief, which I ignored.

I said at the time that this was not the definitive life and times of Ed Kinsman. Rather it was “Impression of Ed” from a colleague, neighbour and friend. What follows is an adaptation and updating and slight condensation of my remarks 10 years ago.

I don’t know a lot about Ed’s early life in the Annapolis Valley, but I do know he worked in a bank for a time. At one stage he considered taking courses in animal sciences. He dropped that idea when he realized that he would be spending much of his life, as he said, “looking at the wrong end of a cow.” He told me the story of how he embarked on a career in the military, deciding to enlist while spending a few hours one day in Halifax waiting for a train back home. I remember asking him how he liked the military, and was a bit surprised by his enthusiastic response “I loved it” he said “All you had to do was your work – everything else was taken care of.”

In the early 1960’s Ed had transferred from the army to a government agency and was living and working in Ottawa, where he met a young Ottawa woman, Pam Irvine who was working at Carleton university. Pam & Ed married in 1963 and later Ed worked on his degree at Carleton, graduating with a B.A. in Geography.

Ed began his teaching career at Smiths Falls D.C.I. in September 1969. I know he saved the clipping from the local newspaper showing all the new teachers. Normally I would find it hard to believe that somebody started teaching that long ago and stayed at the same school for his entire teaching career before retiring in 1998. However, I am also in the same photo - & I retired 2 years after Ed. Other colleagues who are in the same photo include Peter Au, Pat Tobey and Fred Hesketh, familiar names to some of you.

In his career as a geography teacher and Department Head, Ed was probably best known for his Grade 11 field camp in the spring – an experience that combined the talents of other colleagues and departments to provide a popular cross-curricular experience for hundreds of students. For several years, Ed served his fellow teachers as one of his school’s representatives on the federation’s collective bargaining committee. Along with John Parnell, he organized two cross-Canada bus tours and he also organized the first Students Against Drunk Driving chapters in an Ontario high school. For his efforts with SADD he received an award from the Attorney General of Ontario.

Away from school, Ed developed an expertise and business sideline in the field of antiques. I remember waving to Ed countless times as he drove past our home especially early many summer mornings, most likely on his way to another Joynt auction. He was also an accomplished painter.

For about 20 years our 2 families lived fairly close to each other – for much of that time within a mile of each other on Hunter Road. Along with many others we enjoyed their hospitality each Christmas season, when Pam & Ed opened their home to friends and neighbours. This is a tradition that continues on the road today, but on a rotating basis and with much less potent eggnog.

One of the most important aspects of Ed Kinsman’s life was that he was from Nova Scotia. Not only from Nova Scotia, but of Nova Scotia and it was to Nova Scotia that he returned on his retirement. When I mentioned Ed’s passing to a former student, Greg Anderson now a teacher at Perth DCI, what he recalled first about Ed was love for Nova Scotia. “He talked about it every day” Greg said.

Ed retired to the beautiful community of Mahone Bay on the south shore, where he continued to be interested and involved in many activities including Chairman of his Condo Association, a Volunteer with the Annual Wooden Boat Festival, the Scarecrow Festival and the Antiques Show. He was also a member of the local Genealogical Society, the Planning Advisory Committee and the Conservation Association. Liz & I had the pleasure of visiting Pam & Ed twice in his early years of retirement. They were wonderful hosts and Ed was a great ambassador for his community and province.

Ed Kinsman was highly regarded by his students, friends, colleagues, neighbours and community. The following short poem expresses my sentiments about Ed's influence.

- Message
When we no longer move within this life
echoes of us within the air resound
crows forever wakeful at their task.
- E.D. Blodgett

Echoes of Ed Kinsman will resound for a long time.

Continue reading "Ed Kinsman, 1938-2008" »

June 5, 2008

GTG in Ottawa, June 1, 2008

sandrac & I arranged to meet for lunch at Domus Cafe in the Market in Ottawa last Sunday. Sandra managed to convince some friends to join us - both of whom were in Ottawa on a one year posting from Frankfurt Germany. We had a pleasant lunch and good conversation - just another benefit of my time on Slow Travel.

Below is a group photo outside the restaurant. From the left: Liz, Philippe, sandrac, Akuvi and Zinah


July 6, 2008

Wedding with a French Connection

Yesterday we were invited to the wedding of a daughter of a childhood friend of my wife near Picton, Ontario. The wedding was a bit unusual for us since half the guests were from Macon, France. The groom is from there. He and his bride are both aeronautical engineers and work near Cannes.

When I explained to a few of the French guests that I had just returned from the Drome, they were only mildly surprised. After all, who wouldn't want to live in France?

Below is a photo of the bride & groom with his parents.


Baptism of our first grandchild

Today was another big day in our lives.. We attended the baptism of our first grandhild at St. Ann Catholic Church in Merrickville. Man, are we proud!!!

A couple of photos are in order:



December 22, 2008

I used to be a blood donor .....

I used to be a blood donor but since last July I have become an apheresis donor. Every two weeks I drive 80 km into Ottawa to donate platelets - with a plasma donation every 56 days. Yesterday was my 13th platelet donation - bringing my total number of donations, including whole blood, to 146. I am allowed to make 24 donations a year. I intend to keep it up for at least 3 years.

Why do I do it?

Well, the easy answer is because so few people do. The apheresis program in Canada was started in 1980 as a way of obtaining blood products, primarily plasma, separate from whole blood to be used in the treatment of some illnesses. At that time, it was thought that plasma exchange might be of benefit in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer. There is also a big demand for platelets. Patients with prolonged bleeding associated with some diseases (e.g. cancer) need large quantities of platelets as part of their treatment. I have recently learned that plasma is used in the treatment of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

But the main reason I do it is for myself.

March 3, 2009

Swimming with Liam

For the past few months, most weeks I get to spend an hour with my grandson Liam at the Perth pool.


He seems to like it.

I love it.

April 16, 2009

Living out of jars

Both my wife and I are retired - living on our pensions along with some sporadic and indeterminate income from various activities. We also have some RRSP investments. For the past few months we have been following Gail Vaz-Oxlade's budget guidelines. We determine our income, deduct Fixed Expenses and distribute our Variable Expenses in cash among 5 jars - see photo.


A couple of points:
1. We only budget based on our fixed income - any additional income goes into savings and
2. So far, we have not included any of our investments in our income - going to give them a few years to recover from the collapse late last year.

So far everything is going OK. We have "tweaked" the budget a couple of times and are both much more aware of how & where we spend our money. We have even modified some of our fixed expenses,e.g. insurances, and are installing a heat pump to lower our heating costs.

Here's a link to Gail's Interactive Budget Worksheet -

May 3, 2009

Book sales

Just checked the sales ranking of my book on It has been sliding down for the past few weeks - down from the 400,000 area to more than 2,400,00. Now it's taken a jump to 166,000!!! Can fame, and, more importantly, fortune be far behind. Or at least enough royalties to buy a plane ticket to Paris.

Also, I've been in touch with the manager of a nearby Chapters. I should have my book available in the store within a month or so.

Plus I've got a couple more local outlets that are opening for the summer season very soon.

July 5, 2009

Unique experience

Just in from working in our large vegetable garden behind our house. On the other side of the rail fence are 6 sheep, put there to feed on the grass in a relatively small area - about 1/4 of an acre. It is quite common to hear the "baa" of the sheep whenever I am in the garden. But this evening I heard a different sound as I was putting away my garden tools. It was weaker and higher pitched. I went back to the fence & saw two newborn lambs lying in the grass. I walked over to my neighbour to tell him. He thought I was talking about some young sheep over by the large sheep barn between our houses.

"No, these are two young lambs on the grass behind our garden." He came over & took the lambs and their mother back to the barn.

"That's the first time that's happened to me." he said.

Me, too.

July 6, 2009

New lambs

Here's a recent picture of the 2 lambs that were born last evening in the field behind my garden. They, along with the ewe, were moved into the sheep barn soon after I reported their birth.


Ewe & lambs appear to be doing well

At the sheep barn

A short video of my reception at the sheep barn to take a couple of photos of the new-born lambs

October 12, 2009

Our home

A photo of our home in Eastern Ontario. The house was built in 1903. We are the 3rd family to live here. We bought it in 1978 - moved in December 28. Our nearest neighbours, prize-winning Suffolk & Dorset sheep, live in a blue barn. Next to them are their owners, our nearest human neighbours. We live across the road from a dairy farm that has been in the same family for over 130 years.

We live in a quiet rural area surrounded by fields and only 2 miles from a small town. Our property includes an acre of land, with a large vegetable garden out back and a pool that we installed 17 years ago. My wife and I raised 4 children in our home and now we take care of our grandchild 3 or more days a week. Ten years ago my mother-in-law built a 2-bedroom "granny suite" attached to our home. The entrance to her home is visible on the right. We like it here. The house is way too large for our needs, but I can't see us ever moving away. We like to travel as much as we can, but we are also very attached to our home.


February 22, 2010

Health Care in Canada

Our grandson is ill. Last week he spent two nights in hospital. He had blood work, an x-ray, a couple of prescriptions and was seen by three doctors, one of whom was a pediatrician. The treatment suggested is taking effect and he should be OK soon. At the original point of entry into the Canadian health care system - the emergency room at our local hospital - our daughter produced his Health Card. The only focus of our daughter's experience with her son's illness was finding out what's wrong and how to treat it. There was never any question about payments, insurance, filling out forms or getting permission from anybody else.

It is mystifying how Americans can tolerate a society that treats health care as another marketplace, rather than a basic right in an advanced society. I used to think that Canadians and Americans were quite similar, but I don't any more.

July 1, 2010

Cherry picking on Canada Day

We have 2 cherry trees in our yard. This year there is a bumper crop for the first time. I'm picking cherries & gonna make a cherry pie for dessert this evening.

Happy Canada Day!


May 30, 2011

Apheresis donation

#192 blood donation in Ottawa today - able to do a large volume apheresis - woo!, woo! Pre-donation, over to Nicastro's on Merivale Rd. for some chorizoo sausage & Italian cheeses; then David's Teas on Richmond Road. Post donation, Bulk Barn on Hazeldean & Costco in Kanata. Home by 3:00 to work in the garden. Finally some warm weather. Planting potatoes tomorrow.

March 13, 2012

Lambing Season

While we live surrounded by a dairy farm, our closest neighbours are actually a flock of sheep (white-faced Leicesters and dark-faced Suffolks) living in a blue barn and the adjacent field. This is a very busy time of year in the sheep barn - almost all ewes lamb in February and March.

However, on a hot July evening in 2007, I was working in my garden, when I heard a couple of plaintive bleats in the field on the other side of the fence. I climbed over and discovered two newly-born lambs lying in the grass beside the ewe. My friend, the owner of the sheep was very surprised when I appeared at his door and told him about my discovery.

One of the two lambs is now an excellent ewe, one of the best in the flock. She gave birth to two lambs this evening. Below is a photo taken a very few minutes after the birthing process.


January 3, 2013

Three sisters

My father and his twin sister were many years younger than their older siblings. Their oldest sister married John Hines, a barber in Brockville. They had 4 children, a son, who died about 50 years ago, and 3 daughters - Eva, Doris and Ruby. Eva & Doris married and remained in Brockville, while Ruby spent her married life in Pembroke. Whenever they were together, there was a lot of laughter. They were a lot of fun to be around. I liked them a lot.

Ruby died first, about 15 years ago. I made sure that Eva & Doris were at our older daughter Kelly's wedding in 2006. Eva was quite frail and Doris wasn't sure where she was - but I'm glad they made it. Eva died three years ago; Doris on December 30, 2012. A bit of my family now survives only in memories and photographs - soon it will only be photos.

Below is a photo from 1991 of exactly how I remember my cousins - Eva Fowler, Doris McCaw/Parkin and Ruby Fisher.


April 16, 2013

Mary Nesbitt

Click here to view this photo book larger

The new way to make a photo album: photo books by Shutterfly.

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