Sunday, December 28, 2008


I'm feeling sorry for myself that the oldest daughter is off to Cuba on an early morning flight from Edmonton and I'll be heading back to work instead, very sad. She was dealing with all the last minute details of packing and getting to the airport etc. Nice problems to have.

I'm hoping to not have to deal with the following 'word of the day' problem (quarantine) when I head back in tomorrow:

It used to be that anyone wishing to take their dog with them if they were moving from North America to England had to stick their dog in quarantine for six months when they got to England so the English authorities could be certain that the dogs weren’t infected with rabies.

The rules have changed somewhat, but before they did a friend of mine moved to England for a few years and brought along his dog. The dog is a kind of malamute sort of dog. One of those Alaska-husky-type-looking-dogs. I believe they were able to visit the dog during its incarceration and things turned out okay.

But the remarkable thing they learned was that their dog was actually white. Since it couldn’t get grubby while in custody it went through a full shedding cycle and came out completely clean and almost unrecognizable.

The dog was held for six months, so that’s something over 180 days and according to my dictionaries that’s not a quarantine.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary the root of the word is kwetwer and comes from Indo-European and means “four.”

Between Indo-European and English it passed through Latin where quadraginta meant “forty.”
By the time the word
quarantine got into English it meant “a forty day period” and such a period was traditionally applied to several different things.

Jesus Christ was supposed to have fasted for 40 days and in the 1400s the church used the word quarantine to refer to the place where he spent that time.

When a woman became a widow it wasn’t always the law that her husband’s property should become hers. During the time it took to sort out what she got out of the deal a 40 day period was allowed her to continue living in their home. This period was also called the quarantine.
I won’t even get into the heartbreak of losing your partner and then getting turfed out of your home.

It was Samuel Pepys in 1663 in his diary who first noted that 40 days wasn’t what it used to be. In his case it wasn’t dogs being isolated but people who might be bringing human disease into England.Pepys said they were required to be quarantined for 30 days and that although this obviously wasn’t 40 days there was a general acceptance that the word no longer actually meant 40 days, but “it signifies now the thing, not the time spent in doing it.”

But I digress as I was going to describe this daughter as a frugalista. Apparently the definition is of someone able to dress cheaply but fashionably and that would surely describe her. She was telling me her Value Village shopping and Boxing Day sales scoring for her vacation wardrobe. Have a great time Bimmy. Travel safe. And speaking of travel safety this news story:

KAMPALA (AFP) - Uganda's police warned male bar-goers to keep their noses clean after a probe found a gang of robbers had been using women with chloroform smeared on their chests to knock their victims unconscious.

"They apply this chemical to their chest. We have found victims in an unconscious state," Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) spokesman Fred Enanga told AFP.

"You find the person stripped totally naked and everything is taken from him," he said. "And the victim doesn't remember anything. He just remembers being in the act of romancing."

Enanga, who explained that several types of heavy sedatives had been used, said he first came across the practice last year when an apprehended thief named Juliana Mukasa made a clean breast of the matter.

"She is a very dangerous lady," the official said.
While early investigations suggest that the gang may consist of dozens of members, the source of the sedatives remains unknown.

"We don't know exactly how they get these materials," Enanga added. "That is something that our investigations must crack."

He called on men, particularly travelling businessmen who tend to carry a lot of cash, to take caution."It's a serious situation and people have to be aware."

I think to console myself I shall do a bit of scrapping with all my beautiful new supplies. Had a lovely scrapbook from the western daughter which I think will be perfect for a western record of our fall travels there. This fall she'll be home for a friend's wedding and so we'll have eastern photos.

Not sure if I posted a link to this blog previously or not as I found it in a file but couldn't locate it in the archives. It looks like a fun posting for those downsizing and apologies if it's a repost:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Off the grid

Well, off the grid and almost off the map as we had one wild winter storm here on December 21st, which caused all kinds of damage due to over 100 mph winds. Power and phone were out for over three days, just managed to get the turkey roasted by 7:30 p.m. on Christmas day. So much for life in the slow lane as we spent most of our day either meeting our daily needs for food, water and warmth or snoozing, as there was nothing else going on. Daughter # 2 and I resorted to braving the crowds on Dec 23rd at Superstore just to get somewhere with lights and heat for a while, the groceries were a bonus.

One of the highlights of this little break from work has been the food and this morning daughter # 2 treated the two of us to chocolate waffles for breakfast. Yum. We’ve eaten so many lobsters as the kids have been requesting them in different forms that mister offered to eat leftovers for supper and bring them crustaceans as we’re getting a bit weary of them. Sorry - I can hear the groans of lobster-deprived folks everywhere as I type. And of course all that eating has been happening on my Christmas dishes, which have gotten a real workout – what a great idea they were.

We have (despite the whining of above) had a wonderful holiday as we all consciously made an effort to scale back this year. This resulted in very thoughtful, useful gifts on a smaller scale something that I’ve been wishing for. Received some lovely handmade articles, a hilarious page a day calendar for nurses, scrapbooking supplies and a date in a box – no, no not what you’re thinking but a coupon for two admissions to Empire theatres, two soft drinks and a large popcorn – woohoo, might even get the shore captain out with that one. Missing the western girl but as her Dad says “hard to feel sorry for her when she’s leaving for Cuba in three more days though” so that is a nice diversion from those frigid western temperatures.

The animals and I had a nice peaceful afternoon while the kids were respectively visiting and working and the man of the house was looking for his lobster traps, which had been thrown about with the rough weather. After a sunny but chilly dog walk and a calm session of sending Boxing Day (versus Christmas cards) online, I was right with the world. That and just heading into a weekend before heading back to work is even more reason to be grateful.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Life in the slow lane

The festivities are in full swing here as we're in the countdown to the big day with only four more sleeps. Daughters # 2 and 4 arrived on Thursday p.m. and that made an adjustment in lifestyle as the baby daughter's boyfriend and his hamster were temporary houseguests for one night before moving on. I explained to the cleaning lady that the extra bodies she found on Friday a.m. should be ignored and cleaned around and headed in for the final day at work until December 29th. W00t w00t!

I stopped for groceries on the way home and arrived to supper ready to serve - chili and herb bread courtesy of the soon to be teacher daughter. There had been talk of seeing the newest James Bond movie Quantom of Solace so a return trip back to town to take that in. There is no way an evening spent looking at Daniel Craig could ever be bad and Judi Dench continues as an amazing M so it makes for a movie your husband will even attend with you and I give it two thumbs up.

Saturday was spent getting the house in order and cooking so between the older of the two daughters and myself we managed to produce gumdrop cake, cranberry pudding, RCMP squares and apple pie. Then getting the tree decorated which involved the shore captain splicing two sets of lights together in a scene reminiscent of Clark Griswold ensuring I was able to put the final ornaments on the beautiful 10 ft. fir as the guests arrived for supper. We did the holiday supper for mister's side of the family and fed about 25 souls including the newest member (great niece) of 10 months. Had a nice phone visit with the 'away daughter' so she got to catch up with everyone.

The final week of work included a two day planning meeting and since I offered to scout and arrange locations here is a photo of the Guest-Lovitt House B&B in Yarmouth where we convened. The website to check it out is:

The two of us from out of town stayed over and the townies attended during the day. After a great outing to Frenchy's I wasn't up for visiting the jacuzzi and elected to chat indoors but my work colleague trooped out in robe with complimentary glass of wine in hand. It's a beautiful heritage home with wonderful hosts and great food, we were so spoiled we didn't want to come home by Thursday. I had a short shop at the gift shop next door and headed out of town.

As I started out on the 103 I noticed a car pulled over on the opposite side of the road and a man standing on my side of the road in a mustard color coat and hat with ear flaps attempting to flag someone down. He dropped his arms in frustration and I (nurse like) thought 'he must be really upset and need help' pulled over. I stepped out of the car into the slush keeping about 3 ft distance between us and noticed he was a slightly built man with gold rimmed glasses, thinking I could take him if I had to, I asked if he needed me to call for help on my cell and he said with a slight Newfoundland accent "Thanks for stopping, could you drop a parcel off for me at the Ultramar garage at the exit?" I didn't step any closer but looked at the round envelope in his hand and asked "what is it?" To which he replies "it's a sample" Now to to a nurse this has a few meanings. I'm guessing my look caused him to self declare and he introduces himself as a Dr. at the local hospital to which I respond with my job title and so he says "oh they're pulmicort inhalers for a patient, thank you so much I just couldn't bring myself to turn around on these roads after I forgot to drop them off" So I climbed back in the car with the 'samples' and dropped them off at the service station as instructed and continued on my way. When I mentioned about my stopping to the shore captain he said that although most women would have been afraid to stop he was sure I could handle myself and he was the one at risk. After the two days of dealing with infection control planning you can be sure I was the dangerous one on the loose.

Had a call today from the western daughter as she'd arranged for her father to air freight lobsters to Calgary for colleagues and was attempting to find out if they'd made it. Her Dad had headed over to pick some lively ones out of the tank house, pack them (including a few extra for her) and send them along with the transport to the airport. She convinced a helpful Air Canada cargo customer service representative to track them down and was thrilled to hear "they're in the air on a direct flight and will be in shortly" I told her that was the same as Merry Christmas!

We've been enjoying a lazy day here today of reading, movies and not much else. The snow has turned to rain now which is good as the baby daughter is working a short night at the local nursing home. If the roads are still nasty she'll be two for two shifts with her father driving her to work as she had a long day on Saturday. It's a windy night and the shore captain is concerned as to what Mother Nature is doing to his lobster traps out there while I'm enjoying the fireplace.

Enough procrastinating. I must get those Christmas cards which I am going to sacrifice trees for done tonight. More details on life in the slow lane one of these pre-Christmas days.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saving a life

Well, I had meant to finish the decorating but got caught up most unexpectedly in saving a life. The cats (usually Klyde) often look under the sideboard in the diningroom. Usually there is a cat toy (sometimes there is nothing but a figment of his feline imagination) and ordinarily there are large tumbleweeds of animal fur, paper scraps or other household artifacts. This morning ALL the kitty boys were most interested when I got the yardstick out to fish for the toys and they lined up next to me occasionally peeking under the sideboard, attempting to reach in etc. There were the usual suspects retrieved as listed above and then a scratchy noise (which I incorrectly attributed to a crinkly ball which is the cat's favorite) followed by a blur of fur which shot out from the edge of the furniture with three cats in hot pursuit towards the livingroom. I quickly processed that this was....a MOUSE!! He must have a strong heart as the scream I produced (as well as the territorial looks of the cats) sent the dog scrambling to the safety of the mud room. After Klyde gave him a chase around the fireplace and kitchen island, he scurried for the relative safety of the livingroom couch when Stanley decided to challenge Klyde for the prize. Then the cats set up a surveillance system whereby Gary laid on one side, Stanley in front and Klyde was back up in front of the fireplace. They were amazed at their good luck in having big game indoors.

I called the man of the house for assistance as he was a shore captain today due to the rough seas as I wanted him to stop home first before heading over to buy lobsters locally. When he arrived, we tipped the sofa and he discovered a field mouse hiding there. I produced his lobstering gloves and he attempted a rodent rescue. The abbreviated version - think those old Tom & Jerry cartoons - is that he (assisted by the cats playing right and left wings and me cheerleading while standing on a stool) managed to pick up the mouse after a lap around the kitchen and under the fridge and back to the livingroom and return him to his external home, physically unscathed but likely suffering from PTSD.

The critter hadn't been under the sideboard long as there was a completely unnibbled potato chip under there and no mouse droppings. The puzzle is that with our R2000 house set on a concrete slab with 12 in. concrete wall completely sealed for the smallest draft there is no opening and it's been too cold to have doors open - not to mention the threat of feline escape should this happen. Growing up in and living in older houses would lead you to not be surprised to find rodent visitors but here? Glad the cleaning lady didn't find him yesterday, maybe she brought him with her?
Stanley and Gary have been amusing themselves by posting guard from the top of the couch as shown above and are now napping there. My nerves. I'm going to walk the dog.

It's beginning to look a lot like...

I am taking a short break from decorating the house for the holidays. Yes, I have defied the Grinch and done this before Dec 24th. He has resigned himself to the thought that there will be a tree "when the girls get here" as has been the usual routine for a few years now. I am sure the neighbours are still in shock as they have been viewing a decorated outdoor tree on the veranda of the 'old house' which looks very nice since Nov 20th as the present occupant apparently is Grinchless. In previous years, a decorated inside tree would have been early on Dec 20th.

My main cause for celebration here (and the reason for decorating clean surfaces) has been that the cleaning lady visited yesterday - yeehaw - this is an early Christmas present for me. When even the man of the house notices and comments...she's great. Life is good.

I saw a cute holiday activity (which could be either in person or writing) of asking questions and as I come from a family of askers here's a sample:

"If snow could fall in any flavor, what flavor would you choose?

So my plans for the day include finishing decorating, completing those cards which I'm going to sacrifice trees for and emailing the remainder, a dog walk, perhaps some baking and maybe even a few moments of scrapping. On a craft site I came across a term which would work for whatever craft supplies you accumulate whether it be fabric, paper, yarn, buttons.... Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy. Isn't that a great label? I am happily guilty on a number of fronts.

I spent my lunch hour at work yesterday (highlight of my day but I refuse to talk about traumatic events such as not being retired on the weekend) researching options for post holiday Southern Caribbean cruise speaking possibilities. The two finalists in the running are a 10 day Celebrity Constellation cruise out of Fort Lauderdale the last two weeks of February or a 12 day Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean out of New Jersey the first two weeks of February (you spend the first and last 30 hrs in winter and the rest in the tropics but the port calls are basically the same. Pros and cons for both (as in anything) of course - less Air Miles to Newark, more days at sea thus more presentations / could spend time in Florida before, thus more cost / I've cruised on Explorer of the Seas before in 2006 but not Celebrity. Sounds like Curious George eh? Fortunately I could cruise out of Neward, unfortunately it would be cold :)

In the course of my research I found a great travel blog where the author reviews the different kinds of air miles etc. He also travels rather exotically as well as to New York City so I plan to have a deeper look:

Off to make like an elf. Perhaps I will post a photo of my efforts. Later.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Safe and sound

Tonight I have promised myself, I am going to sleep well as last night was a right off. This was because 'the boat' which had been due in during Sunday night wasn't there Monday morning when the shore captain checked, nor all day when he attempted to call them on the radio and cell and by the time he arrived home last evening he was just about beside himself with worry. He talked himself down a bit by telling me about all the safety gear, alarms and training they had as well as that all three of them were very experienced in winter fishing and must've 'laid to' in the major storm which had caught them early. He hit redial all evening and asked me to try after he went to bed. I called last at 11 p.m. and heard him up at 1 a.m. and then 2 and finally up for the day at 3:15 to go lobstering. Scenes from the movie The Perfect Storm played in my head all night. I woke before the alarm at 6:24 a.m. and decided I had to try one more time before work so I could concentrate today. Let me tell you that when the Captain answered and said "how are you today?" just as calmly as if he was home in his livingroom (as he always does no matter the drama ongoing) I was so relieved I almost cried! They were still 45 minutes from the wharf so he says "would you like to speak to your son?" and the boy says "well we shut the door, turned on the bus heater and I wedged myself in the bunk, what else could you do?" Now this is quite a mild assessment as they'd just laid to in a 40 ft. boat in 45 + knot gales, in - 6 temperature which causes icing with any movement and at least 11 hours (in good weather) from shore. The prodigal son is such a master of understatement. Now, I'm pretty sure that he engages in (as) risky behavior here on dry land but....

Today I received another message about the South American cruising opportunities, this time offering either February and/or March. Not sure if the tanking economy is scaring off cruise lecturers or what the problem is. But I can guarantee if I were a retired person that it would only be a matter of which month I'd be choosing to be there. This in addition to a request for New Zealand/Australia this winter, oh the choices the choices.

I'm off tomorrow and then again the next day to the district facility as there is a teleconference being broadcast from Nashville, Tennesee on improving healthcare. The past two years this has been broadcast only to Halifax so we've traveled down and this is not good scheduling early in the lobster season for me. The only problem will be (as usual) the time zone lag which will mean a 'lunch' break at 2 p.m. and not getting home until after 7 p.m.

And to close, I leave you with...the word of the year:
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Everyone seems to want one but apparently a lot of Americans aren't sure what exactly a "bailout" is.

The word, which shot to prominence amid the financial meltdown, was looked up so often at Merriam-Webster's online dictionary site the publisher says "bailout" was an easy choice for its 2008 Word of the Year.

The rest of the list is not exactly cheerful. It includes "trepidation," "precipice" and "turmoil."
"There's something about the national psyche right now that is looking up words that seem to suggest fear and anxiety," said John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president and publisher.
Several well-worn terms from the presidential campaign also made the cut: "maverick," "bipartisan" and, coming in at No. 2, "vet" - to appraise and evaluate, as in vetting a vice-presidential pick.

But none topped "bailout," a seemingly simple word that suddenly took on $700 billion worth of importance in September - and prompted hundreds of thousands of online lookups within just a few weeks.

How big was "bailout," etymologically speaking? While Congress was considering the enormous financial industry rescue package this fall, searches for "bailout" eclipsed perennial puzzlers like "irony" and the bedevilling duo of "affect" and "effect."

So how does Merriam-Webster define "bailout"?

As "a rescue from financial distress." But Morse says those who looked it up also seemed to want to know whether it had negative nuances or suggested irresponsibility or blame.

"People seem to have a general understanding of the word 'bailout,' but they seem to want to better understand its application, any connotations it may have and shades of meaning," he said.
The publisher usually picks its Word of the Year by considering the number of lookups and whether certain unusual terms submitted by online users have slipped into everyday discussion.
That's how the whimsical and technology-driven term "W00t" - that's spelled with two zeros, used by online game players to express triumph or happiness - gained the top spot in 2007.
A year earlier, online dictionary users picked "truthiness" as No. 1 after it was coined by Comedy Central political satirist Stephen Colbert.

But this year, Merriam-Webster switched its procedure to consider only the volume of lookups of particular words, noting "bailout" and others were looked up so frequently their importance could not be ignored.

Interest in "vet" spiked in June, as presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke about the team he had assembled to "vet" possible running mates.

"Socialism" and "rogue" also had many hits - the former as people debated whether economic help to businesses was tantamount to socialism and the latter as pundits questioned whether Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin hurt John McCain's presidential bid by "going rogue," or defying his campaign's control.

And "misogyny," defined as hatred of women, was looked up in huge numbers on the online dictionary, as Hillary Clinton's supporters questioned whether it had derailed her presidential hopes.

Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society - which picked "subprime" as its 2007 word of the year - said he thinks "bailout" was a good choice by Merriam-Webster.
It may even be in the running for the American Dialect Society's 2008 word when it is selected in January, Metcalf said.

"If we were to sift through the words of the past year and pick the most significant, the ones that characterized the year, the ones that remind us what we were thinking about and talking about, then I'd say 'bailout' is a good choice," he said.

Here is a list of Merriam-Webster's annual Words of the Year dating to 2003, when the publisher started making the selection:

2008: Bailout - "A rescue from financial distress."
Selected by huge volume of lookups as Congress was considering the $700-billion bailout package for the financial industry.
2007: W00t - "Expression of joy or triumph, or an obvious victory; abbreviation of 'We Owned the Other Team,' originating from computer-gaming subculture."
Selected as representative of new words, often whimsical and clever, emerging from new technology.
2006: Truthiness - "Truth that comes from the gut, not books." Coined by Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert; selected as Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster's online users.
Picked as national political debates questioned what constitutes "truth," and whether it is subjective. Deemed by Merriam-Webster as a playful term for an important issue.
2005: Integrity - "Firm adherence to a code; incorruptibility."
Picked as national political discourse centred on integrity and lack thereof in public servants on national and local levels.
2004: Blog - "A website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer. Short for Weblog."
Selected as it rocketed to prominence in midyear, driven by growth and popularity of blogs.
2003: Democracy - "Government by the people, especially: rule of the majority, or: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections."
Selected as one of the most frequently looked up words each year, especially in a campaign season preceding noteworthy elections.

Monday, December 8, 2008

All good

Well, it's all good here. Daughter # 1 called with the good news that she had received a $1600 raise on Friday p.m. and this is particularly noteworthy as she's only begun the position in October so apparently they understand she's a good catch as well as we do.

The big news on the domestic front is (drum roll please)......we have a new cleaning lady who will start this Friday. She lives just down the road and is an immaculate housekeeper herself so it's a good situation for both of us. I only had to clean two hours on Saturday morning before she came down to find out where everything was. Yes, I know cleaning before a cleaning lady arrives is dumb, but I didn't want to scare her off before she even started. And what I'm describing as cleaning as picking up a coil of rope with moss hanging off it from the Man Cave, throwing surplus computer parts in the hall closet, getting the laundry hamper down so that the lid would close, that sort of thing - crises management really. And of course there is always the need to have surfaces to clean thus the 'evening before pick up' so I must get back into the routine.

I finished reading The Flying Troutmans and am passing it on to a fellow fan before the library due date. It is as expected, another great read by Miriam Toews and I highly recommend the few evenings it will take to make your way through it.

The fellow fan noted above is my most recent cruise travel partner who spent her Saturday in the very enjoyable exercise of shopping in the city with her future daughter-in-law, mother of the bride and attendants for the wedding dress. Apparently the exercise was successful as well as fun with THE dress being purchased, nice lunch at The Fireside and getting to know the female members of the wedding party. Now since my friend is the mother of only one male child this was a highlight event. With three females and one male offspring in this family I may have the chance to participate in various reincarnations of this activity.

I'm including evidence that I DID learn something at the camera workshop. The exercise in the photo on the right was to focus in on the foreground (branch) while capturing a fuzzy (sconce) background. All the shots I threw away, taught me even more things of course, the main one being that it will require a number of these sessions before I make sense of some of the concepts. I think I shall put my new skills to work to immortalize the advent type wall decoration we hang every holiday here. The oldest daughter sent a message asking "did Dad change the bear before he went lobstering this morning?" But as I told her - Dad was the bear before he went lobstering with the price hanging at around $3 per pound, even with his catches up a bit, there is no joy in Whoville this year. The wall hanging circa 1984 or 85 has a bear who searches for Christmas in various locations of his house and the right to 'change the bear' resulted in loud protests of who's turn it was, tussels on the stairs and surreptious early morning risings to 'be the one' a few years back.

I got a late call from the local school on Friday saying they had one box of oranges left from the citrus order if I wanted them - did I ever - headed right up there on my lunch hour to pick them up. I dropped in to Frenchy's on my way back and managed to score a new pink dress which will be great for the neighbour's summer wedding at White Point Resort, a new pink top, a Christmas print scrub top for the nursing student who will be working four hours on Christmas day at the local nursing home and a great holiday, handpainted silk tie which I'm trying to convince the future son-in-law he can give to his Dad for Christmas.

The cruise speaking offers keep arriving in my inbox and if I had more money and free time there would be many choices as to where I'd be spending the month of January. Top of the list would be the offering for the Celebrity Infinity (shown at right) which offers a two week cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso Chile and then two week repeat return trip with description below with itinerary at left:
Destination-Related Special Interest Speaker in the areas of: South America Music /Art History /Cultural /Nature/Wildlife or Dance Duo. The opening is on board the Celebrity Infinity, visiting South America. There are two cruises. The candidate can do one or the other or both cruises back to back.

When I suggested to my last cruise travel partner that we should run away she replied that we could be the dance duo. Hmm.
For those of you with more time and money, I'm pasting some travel advice:

Shanda Stefanson, DAILY TAKEOFF.COM Ask anyone who has travelled to tell you about their experiences and they will inevitably regale you with tales of the amazing things they experienced and how much they loved it. You may even feel inspired to travel yourself after hearing the nothing-but-good-things they have to say about it.

But before you set out, be warned that they are only giving you part of the picture, not out of a malicious desire to hide the truth from you, but from the natural human tendency to only remem ber the goods things that happen to us. Unfortunately, the rosy-coloured reminiscing of your friends will not help you prepare for the downsides of travel that will sneak up on you.
The Traveller's Learning CurveThe first time you travel, you will be terrible at it. While most people wouldn't think of travelling as something you can learn to do, I would definitely define it that way. It's like starting a new job. It's scary and unfamiliar at first, there are new skills to learn, new ways of doing familiar things.

From the little things like packing your backpack in a way that makes sense or figuring out how to buy fruit in European supermarkets (you can't just bring them to the till like you do in Canada), to the bigger things like budgeting your money or getting used to the pace and stress of travel, everything you do will be a challenge when you start out. You will likely be intimidated and scared by it, but as you get more comfortable with being in a new place every day and get the packing process down to two minutes flat, you will feel like you are indeed learning to travel.

Don't expect to be an expert right off the bat and the learning process will be part of the fun.
Travel Is HardUnless you're taking a three-week vacation on a beach, travelling is hard work. Add to that the jet lag that you're likely to be coping with and the strain of being far from home. It's hugely challenging, emotionally and physically, sometimes overwhelmingly so.

I can't count the number of times that little things like missing a train or breaking a shoelace have reduced me nearly to tears, mostly due to the sheer exhaustion I was dealing with. If you get to this point, don't feel guilty about taking a day to just rest. Stay in bed all day or spend the afternoon with a book in a familiar setting like a coffee shop to recharge your batteries. The rest of your travels will be much more fulfilling if you give yourself some time to recuperate, even if you have to cross some things off your itinerary. Nothing is much fun when you feel like a child on the verge of a temper tantrum.

Sometimes Travel SucksNobody will ever tell you about the bad times they had travelling, unless it's with the humourous spin that often comes with hindsight. But it's the truth. Sometimes travel really sucks.

You will get sick, you will get home sick, guide books will give you misleading information, you will lose your passport, borders will get closed, it will rain for weeks on end, cathedrals will be closed for renovations. Things will go wrong. There will be days when you will really wonder what the heck you're doing so far from home and wish you had never left. You'll then wonder what's wrong with you that you're on the trip of a lifetime and all you can think about is how much you'd love to eat a cheeseburger and crawl into your own bed. But don't worry; it happens to the best of us.

I wouldn't believe anyone who told me that every moment of every trip they've ever taken was perfect. It just doesn't happen. Don't get down on yourself for being down on travel once in a while. Let yourself feel that for a while, go to McDonalds, then suck it up and get back to enjoying yourself. The only way these crummy days will ruin your trip is if you let them ruin your attitude.

The Ups and DownsI am not trying to dissuade you from travelling -- far from it. It's just much too easy to forget the practicalities of it when you have your romantic vision of the perfect holiday in your mind's eye as you buy your plane tickets. In my experience, the pros far outweigh the cons and every trip, whether it goes as planned or not, is something that will teach you things you never even imagined about yourself, the world and about life. In fact, the fewer things that go to plan, the more memorable the trip can be.

But a realization that travel, like life, is not always a bowl of cherries will help you to be prepared to meet those little surprises with humour and the determination not to let them ruin your trip.
And for those of you who are getting a bit stressed about the holidays I'm pasting this article from today's Chronicle - and no I'm not on track with preparations, have to wait for the cleaning lady to unearth the surfaces to decorate remember?
Balancing elegance, budget Holiday gatherings don’t need to cost a fortune; keep focus on friends, family, togethernessBy ALEX WILLIAMS New York Times News ServiceMon. Dec 8 - 4:46 AM

NEW YORK — I heard a jingle. No, it wasn’t an angel getting its wings. It was my iPhone, carrying word that David Monn, the celebrated New York event planner, was on his way to meet me at Kmart.

I had called Monn with a challenge: to see if he could design a transcendent holiday dinner party for eight at my West Village apartment on a recessionary budget — say, $30 a head (or less than one-hundredth the budget he’s sometimes used to) for food, decor, everything.

Monn said he was game. Considering that he was just back in town from designing the lavish party celebrating the renovation of the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach for 1,500 guests, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Sean Combs, the challenge seemed like handing the artist John Currin a can of Krylon high-gloss and asking him to spray paint a piece worthy of auction at Sotheby’s. But Monn insisted that the tanking economy was actually an opportunity.

"The thing about the recession is, it takes the pressure off," said Monn, 45. "It allows you to strip away all the stuff that’s not important and focus on what is: friends, family, togetherness."
Monn, however, probably did not understand how much he would have to strip away — for starters, everything I knew about holiday entertaining. Even with the domesticating influence of my fiancee, Joanna Goddard, whom I live with, my instincts as a party host seemed to freeze two years out of college.

Maybe with Monn’s help, I would do my part to rescue the holidays for others, and perhaps along the way, my own reputation as a host. But I would have to do it for less than some socialites spend on a spa treatment.

"When you have a budget, you have to think, ‘What’s going to make the biggest impact with the least amount of money?’ " Monn explained. For my party, for example, he decided on a "winter wonderland theme." This was not simple nostalgia for the days before global warming wiped out the holiday sleigh ride. Rather, he chose it because winter is white, and white is cheap.

A roll of quilting batting, for instance, to use as a tablecloth; a 500-sheet bundle of copy paper, which he planned to use to make delicate paper snowflake cutouts to suspend from my living room ceiling with fishing line. Cover them with glitter and dim the lights and they might as well be Steuben crystal.

Still, with only about $100 to spend on groceries, he said, we would have to keep things simple. For dinner, we would start with a pureed-chestnut soup. Perked up by a half-cup of heavy cream and a cup of Sauternes, that didn’t sound too austere, I thought, even if the ingredients were inexpensive.

On a tight budget, we couldn’t afford cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery down the street for dessert. Instead, Monn said, we would make do with an angel food cake from Food Emporium ($4.29). Slather it in store-bought frosting and dried coconut shavings, however, and who would know the difference?

And for the main course, he said, we would have potatoes.

I could almost see my own skepticism reflect back at me, as if his face were a mirror. Yes, I thought, minimalism is sexy in flush times. But does it have to feel like a sentence in lean ones?
Monn assured me that these would be special, twice-baked potatoes, as big as brontosaurus eggs. Besides, throw enough dietary fat into a recipe, and that in itself acts as a form of antidepressant. We would, he said, "pull the inside out, and fill them with lots of stuff you don’t want to tell your doctor about — cream, sour cream, probably a pound or two of butter."
The toppings would be a choice of mushroom ragout and chili.

After ringing up $72 at the Kmart checkout counter, we headed to our next destination, Jack’s 99 Cent Store near Herald Square. Politely nudging through the clogged aisles of the deep-discount emporium, the dapper Monn reminded me of a late-model Bentley stuck in traffic. But he seemed in his element. Stopping at a wall covered in silver and gold Christmas ornaments, Monn lovingly handled an opaque plastic maple leaf that glistened with silver glitter.
"Simple and elegant," he said, as if reciting a mantra. They were 50 cents each. He loaded his basket with 20. He would find a use for them, he assured me.

With the groceries ordered, our shopping was finished — final price tag: $238.40.
On Saturday, Monn dropped by our apartment in the afternoon to set up the room. By the time he was gone, the snowflakes danced from our ceiling like a Calder mobile. Our battered dining table, hauled in from the kitchen, was covered in layers of white; it glowed like fresh snow at first light. He gave us a shot of parting advice — "Dress up a little," he said, "it’s free." And then he was gone.

Whatever else unfolds during this supposedly downcast season, I would venture to say that eight people have already accumulated five memorable hours.