Sunday, 19 March 2017

Spring IS Coming, despite all the snow but the PC Cooking School Makes it all Better

Spring is coming

And this I am certain, or at least I was until I saw this view of my Spoiled Rotten Bed and Breakfast.  This is how mother nature greats my guests. How rude! I'm also a little horrified to realize that my shoveling skills might need some work for this "blue job".  

I know, it’s horrible to look at.  Not so long ago, there was a 5’+ snow tunnel for my driveway. This particular photo below is of my five foot tree that is completely obliterated.

I was almost ready to lose my sign if the snow didn't stop soon. When I saw this mess, a part of me cringed and said it looked so much nicer with all the snow.  I think it was at that point that the snow decided to return, because of meMy recycle box  is no more, hidden beneath the sign.          

Do you see the five foot evergreen hidden under here?                                                                            

I feel really bad about being responsible for bring back the fury of mother nature.  I should have been happy with the messy melt.                                                                                                                      
And then I took a PC Cooking class at the Innes Road Superstore in Orleans.
I met Chef Keith and realized it was not my fault at all, in any way.  He’s a wonderful instructor that all the dames love to heckle but he’s to blame.
He won my eternal adoration when he slipped only three of us newbies an extra slice of onion cheese tart that I would commit murder for.  Now, here is where the finger of guilt might point.  He admitted to us that the snowstorm is most likely his fault. [Total admission of guilt].  He put away his snowblower for the season.  I am not sure who is more culpable (him) but we both have to share some of the blame. 
It saddens me because he is such an amazing entertainer and cook, even with his beard that he asked our opinion about and promised us to shave then completely ignored his promise.  Are you seeing a trend here?  

Another thing, and I’m just guessing here but maybe he feels his class is getting slack in presentation.  Last week, he told us a video crew was coming in to film us for a PC commercial and interview some to be talking on the commercial.  Well, we got all dolled up and the beard stayed and the crew never showed up.  Do you think he just wants us to care about our appearances more and to get rid of all the track suits or is he really telling us the truth but I digress.

So what is worse, the clean lines of a driveway totaled by snow or the previous mess?  
On the plus side, the snow is going fast and now I can see most of my poor tree.  Repeat after me… SPRING IS COMING! 
 So make your booking to Spoiled Rotten B&B to watch the snow melt and take the cooking class.  

Classes are every Tuesday and they are a steal but filling up fast.  You pay $10 then get to eat what he cooks, and each person gets a $10 store voucher.  Win/win, you would think but really, that $10 voucher is an automatic $80 minimum grocery bill to me every single week.  Do you think they know this might happen?  Someone should tell them.  

Enjoy your balmy springlike 4+ degree weather Monday and Happy Spring. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Spoiled Rotten made the Top 10 Bed & Breakfast list in Ottawa… Despite thinking, I COULD NEVER DO THAT!

My most recent guests just told me they found my name from the Trip Advisor Top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in Ottawa list!  This is fantastic news that I have worked so hard to achieve and what a long process it has been.  After I worked out most of the kinks of the job, I realized it’s mostly about attitude. 

I am at a time in my life where I am over 50, nearing 60 and can pretty much do what I darned well feel like, say whatever I want kindly and wear whatever the hell inspires me.  It pains my younger daughter and the other smiles and cheers me on.  I like to think I am living my life as an inspiration to others.  I know that sounds self-serving but after 25 years of marriage and now on my own for 6, I have learned stuff, tried stuff and been there, done than, much more than the average middle aged housewife has ever dreamed of. 

There was the year of trying everything once and I am ever so glad that year is over with.  I’ve been a voyeur to some pretty outrageous stuff out there on Meetup.  There was the 6 month solo trip where I learned to be alone and lonely. I’ve rappelled down waterfalls, 7 to be exact, racked up 25,000 km in one trip, hiked Thailand, driven a tiny camper van on the wrong side of the road, thru Australia, lived in the jungle in a rainforest in the rainy season with spiders the size of small dinner plates and lived to tell about it.

I run my business the same way.  I jumped in with both feet and did the business plan and started to renovate.  I’ve added workshops and paint classes, meditations, retreats and energy healing events, music and sexuality workshops; I know, I’m really out there but I love life.   

I joined a quiet coffee group for mostly divorced people and they were quietly staring at each other like “waiting for paint to dry”.  Before I knew it, we were talking about one of my favourite topics, sex after divorce.  I realized then how shut down, reserved, and scared most people are to move on.  They live in fear about what most people will think of what they do, like sign up for the adult sex classes.  Who cares?  This is your life.  You think people are talking about you?  Maybe they are, but most likely, they aren’t.  Most people are just so involved in their own lives, they might raise an eyebrow about what daring thing you have said or tried to do, but then they think, I could never do that and they move on.  I even catch myself telling people I could never do what they have just done when it is really outrageous, and then I have to remind myself that I have done that and much more.   

Most of my adventures come with a colourful story and end with “it was the worst experience of my life and never again” …and then I forget and do it again. But I know the stories inspire others, even if they are humorous and wicked.  I especially love to shock people.  I love to see their eyebrows raise and the judgment in their eyes…and sometimes, the wistful yearning for a life more exciting. 

When I said most of the time, people aren’t even giving your actions another thought, there is the opposite.  People are talking about you and that is great.  You have become memorable.  People will come to your funeral and talk about you.  I have house loads of people coming by for workshops and they are high energy and focused.  Unless you are dynamic, I probably won’t be able to remember who you are when we meet on the street and I apologize for that.  I think it’s important to stand out and do things that people will remember and talk about. 

Once, I went to a friend’s meditation music event and as we went around the room to introduce ourselves, I said, “Hi I’m Cathy and I have a bed and breakfast called Spoiled Rotten.”  Suddenly, one of the younger ladies there whispered in awe, “Are you that lady, the workshop lady?”  I was indeed, but I had no idea my reputation preceded me.  How funny to see yourself through others eyes.  I’d never seen her at my place (which means nothing with my memory) but I had made an impact on her and that made my week.

A fellow student on my government Entrepreneurial course met with me recently and while reminiscing, told me, “I think except for one other person on the course who was well on his way to a business in progress, you are running the most successful business in the group.  Wow, that’s awesome to hear.  I must remember to tell someone something like that to uplift them too.

I hosted a racy book club at my place and met a number of new people and continued to be the story teller of the group to draw out the members from their shyness and become actively involved and tell their stories.  When the topic is risqué, you have to learn to step out of your comfort zone or it’ll be one very long quiet afternoon watching grass grow.  Weeks later, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and join a midnight snowshoe event in Gatineau with Couchsurfers.  The emails were flying back and forth and one young lady told me when she saw my name, she asked her mother, ‘isn’t that the lady with the B&B you were telling me about with all the stories and has done all those interesting things?’  Her mom signed up.  

The snowshoeing was tough and while the three of us lagged behind all the other 20 somethings running their late night marathon and leaving us in their snow dust, I could feel the frustrations of her being alone in the wood, struggling to keep up and hearing sounds that seemed like wolves.  She was nervous so I told stories to the daughter, shocking stories to liven up the night, stories an old grandmother with Alzheimer’s would casually reminisce to her grown children in her waning years and have them raise their eyebrows in shock.  She even laughed and said, “Mom, you should do that” but her mom said, “no way”.  Oh, I wish I could take her scared mom on one of my adventures. 

I loved trying to inspire the daughter to do some of the same stuff I’ve done.  I firmly believe it is the birthright and obligation of every single youth to travel the world and learn about themselves before they settle down to grow up and get a real job.  When my older daughter told me in tears, “mom, I just quit my job, got rid of my apartment, put all my stuff in storage to move with my boyfriend and we were supposed to go tomorrow but he just dumped me, what am I going to do,” I told her this.  “You have just won the lottery.  You have absolutely nothing tying you down.  Pack your suitcase and get your butt to the airport and just travel, see the world,” and she did.  She travelled the Far East and Australia for 2 years until she met someone and she’s delivering twins in mere days.  I’d say that’s a pretty awesome story to tell your kids, but I digress.

Most of these adventures that I truly don’t enjoy except for the storytelling aspect are there to challenge me, push me out of my comfort zone, to show to the 20 somethings that an old lady can do it too, (because in my mind, I am still 30ish) and I do it especially for bragging rights.  
I can tell people I stayed in a rathole of a youth hostel in the filthy belly of Bangkok in the dead heat of summer with feral cats running thru my room.  I slept in a satin, sweat inducing tube to avoid bed bugs from an ugly stained mattress with no sheets, to shock, both myself and others, and say but I did it and survived and to remind me to keep doing crazy stuff like that.  It keeps us interesting. 
I survived the Cranbrook flooding and almost being killed driving on a road that was closed and a river of mud washed out right behind me.  I survived two months in the jungle in the rainy season.  I survived the awkwardness of painting nude on the beach in a clothing optional retreat.  I survived swimming back after the tide left so I had to do the very long walk of shame to the shore without a stitch of clothing or water to hide me.  I held my head high and walked back like I owned this.  Inside, I was dying from terror that people would stare and talk but really, no one cared and if they stared, it was probably to say, I could never do that.  I want to be an inspiration but it doesn’t come without overcoming fears, barriers of the mind and self-recriminations and of course, the negative self-talk we all do.  

Sometimes, these adventures feed your soul, sometimes they inspire others and sometimes they are just great for business. Recently, after sharing travel stories, a happy couple staying for a romance package told me they found Spoiled Rotten when they searched the Top 10 Bed & Breakfasts in Ottawa and I showed up on the list.  I never actually made it to the top 10 of the list but they kept reading and there I was, #12.  I’ll happily take that endorsement.  I don’t believe I could be doing as well as I am without all my past experiences.  Shortly after I opened my doors to strangers, I remember two young men listening to all my stories and studying my wall map of all the places I’d been and they wrote in my Guest Book.  “Cathy, you are the coolest woman we have ever met.   Erin Brockovich and the ‘Eat, Pray Love’ ladies got nothing on you.”

For each of these crazy adventures, I pick my favourite, most outrageous events and frame it for my map wall of fame; of places I have been in the world.  This is one of my most favourite parts of my travelling.  Everyone in my family has the same 3’x4’ map and it’s a fabulous reminder of where I have been and where I want to go next and let’s be honest; it’s a great conversation opener for my B&B guests who have never taken a chance and say, I could never do that! At close to 60, I am living proof, you can! 

My map of the world and where I have traveled.

Rapelling the 7 waterfalls in Costa Rica

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Why Tapping Maple Trees Should Belong only to the Professionals

It's maple season time at Spoiled Rotten B&B  and I thought I'd jump on the band wagon.  Never was a thought more in error. The longer I am an innkeeper, and the more things I attempt, the more I realize how bad I am at certain things but I'm a disaster at mapling.  Yes, that is a new word.  I have exactly one tree and attempted to tap it last year.  I got a meager amount of sap and called it a day.  My friend Jon reminded me how wonderful it would be for me to have fresh maple syrup for my guests and I must admit, I got caught up in the whimsy of it all.  Forget that I'm drowning in paperwork and budgets and year long could it take to tap a simple tree and collect two jugs of sap a day, then boil them down and whatever else it all entailed?  Why, I even researched the best way to tap my tree and bought all the props, bells and whistles even though they are sold in lots of 20 and I only have one tree.  As most of my flights of fancy have turned out, I should not have bought anything or tried it again.  One flop was enough.  

Let's start with I love trees.  To take a drill and drill into the trunk for inches, well, quite honestly, it broke my heart and pained me to the core. I could hear her cry.  Unfortunately, I inserted the tap on a warm day and then it turned really cold and nothing happened.  On the first warm day, I was so excited to bottle up enough to sell and get wealthy from this get rich scheme but not a drop.  The next day, same thing, except for one tiny change.  The small tap I had used the previous year was dripping on the north side of my tree.  The massive wound I had inflicted on the sunny side of the tree was hemorrhaging tears of sadness.  The tree was soaked but nowhere near my drilled hole.  I researched how to fix it and Dr Google Death said to "put a cork in it", literally, and the next article said never do that.  You are putting a foreign substance in the wound and it will get infected.  Leave the attempted murder alone and it will heal itself.  The original person who encouraged me to just keep tapping; well I have his number.  He just wants all my trees to die and he alone will own the forest.  

A small part of me wants to try this one more time.  A small part wants to take the wine cork and stuff the hole.  All the voices in my head are telling me to stop.  You don't have time for this.   I have no idea what to do so I will do nothing and just keep getting my syrup the old fashioned way... from the grocery store.   

Thursday, 9 March 2017

March in the Capital – Ottawa 150 - 2017

Well, Ottawa has become a hotbed of excitment to party in 2017.  With all the hype of the Canada Table shared dining top chef event, I sadly did not get a ticket.  You had to buy in groups of two. Sigh!  Oh well, as my daughter always reminds me, some other more needy person probably deserved my seat….like a big corporation perhaps????   ;)

Well, last night made up for this crushing blow.  I excitedly anticipated the arrival of Red Bull Crashed Ice and while I like neither skating, nor the cold, the price was certainly in my visuals…Free!  I saw the canal being reconstructed into the raceway a mere few weeks earlier and it was fantastic to imagine.  Unfortunately, I imagined it going down the other direction of the Rideau and pretty much taking up half the city.  I guess its better that I’m not on the city planning committee because their setup made juuuuuust a little more sense than mine. 
I was coordinating with three other unrelated friends and that’s fraught with problems and millions of texts, and emails and Facebook.  I’m too old for all this social media tracking.  When I want to find a message I received, the steps I have to go thru to find it in every single program is daunting.  Quite often, it never does appear in any searches so I have to write the customers back requesting it again.  Ya, that’s professional.  Maybe I need an 8 year old on staff to do this stuff but I’m not sure I could handle the eyeball rolling. 

Back to Ottawa!    The grounds opened around 4pm and the race was advertised to start at 6pm so get there early.  Well, I layered up- a turtle neck, a long sleeved shirt and a hoodie, long johns, winter wooly sox, compression sox, a parka, hat, scarf, mitts and perhaps an airline shot…I said perhaps.  It was freakin’ omg cold but I was prepared.  Then, to add a little excitement, I caught a cold earlier in the week.  A wise man would have stayed home but this was a two day only in Ottawa event I could not miss.  Surprisingly, the crush of people was warming
The roadway to walk down the hill was wet and covered in ice, and treacherous.  I’m surprised they didn’t put gallons of road salt on that because I saw some epic near falls.  My friend was not allowed to climb the hill on the west side for taking pictures but on the other side of the canal, another death trap, they were all perched inside the fence.  Crazy but I bet the view was good.  Standing on the icy roadway was soooo cold on the feet.  I may have complained a bit in the beginning and was told to basically stifle myself; I was being a buzz kill.  How rude!  You know who you are. (see candy cane toque below)

 After waiting with nothing happening but videos playing and chatter, waiting from 5:30 until 7:30, our miss uppity manners was no longer on her game and wanting to go home too.  I just reminded her to "remember her warm place to visit". That was fun  and then I got to warm up in the Bytown Museum store while they gave out free popcorn.  I loooooove freeeeee!
It really was exciting being part of history in Ottawa.  I did see a woman texting on a phone that surprisingly still had juice in the cold and I watched a weird gush of fluids coming from her coat.  I told her she might be spilling her drink as she texted and she looked down to see that her coat was toast, totally drenched.  The bottom of her cup had separated and her drink was now empty.   She was beyond sad.  Her only night out on the town as a mom of three, all her medicinal drink gone and she had paid over $100 for the evening with childcare.  My heart went out to her; I could remember it all so well with my youngin’s.  I slipped her my hypothetical airline refreshment and she got all huggy and crying and laughing.  I think we both made each other’s night.  Now why do you keep getting me off topic while I’m simply trying to tell you a story?!
Watching the race was challenging.  All the best photo ops had volunteer security telling
 people to move on.
Every time we would find a “great” spot, tall people would stand in front of us. Before the event, a recon was done of Major’s hill park but pronounced blocked by all the construction vans.  The exciting end of the raceway was blocked so really, it was just a one second viewing of a hill that we could see.  Quite honestly, I was happier to see the Chateau Laurier lit up like the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany and the crush of people and just being there.  
I didn’t really care if I saw the race; I know that’s wrong to admit but it took too long, I have a short attention span, my feet were frozen and I had two boots full of toes that had broken off in the cold.  I was even content to only see the first two pre skaters zip down and then pack it in, but I didn’t.
When my friend, you remember the big complainer, said she was going home, we walked her up to the top, and realized that thousands of early arrivers were going home as well.  My thoughts are, if you have told us to arrive by 6 and refuse to tell us when the start time is, people are going to get fed up and cut out early.  Just be honest with us; tell us we won’t see any action until 7:30 but enjoy the videos.   If we know we have an hour, we might go inside to warm up, spend some money and not fear missing the action.
With that said, we walked to a sports bar on Elgin, and realized that some of the screens had the same races going on INSIDE, where it was warm, oh so warm.  I glued back on all my toes and we also realized that the race actually has an entire raceway, not just two barely visible humps to go over.  It was actually exciting to watch indoors and groan along with the crowds at the stumbles and triumphs.  I think I’m glad I did both but the cold entered my being and stayed with me till late, late into the night.  So that was my Red Bull experience.  Did not try a Red Bull that night, or ever but I overheard someone wanted to and it was frozen in the  -25 degree weather.  Now  that’s cold!!!

 Now don’t forget the next two upcoming events:        
                              Mar 15-18- The Stanley Cup Tribute and
                              March 27-2 Apr- The Juno Awards

And remember to book your rooms early or rent the whole house.