Retirement Happiness — A New Smartphone

Does having a new smartphone increase retirement happiness? Do we need a cell phone that does more than just make voice calls? Is learning how to use a smartphone essential for survival in the digital age? And how does this relate to retirement happiness?

Last week my husband bought me a new iphone — not the new iphone 6, but an iphone 5 which is smaller and more easily fits into the pocket of my jeans which, since retirement, are my go-to wardrobe staple.

Until then, I was happy with the hand-me-down iphone  that I received from our son a couple of years ago. When he gave it to me, I resisted using the iphone as I hardly use a cell phone. I get a few texts every week and occasionally check email or google maps when away from home.

Mostly the phone is in my pocket, or in my purse or, forgotten on the bathroom vanity where it gets charged. Basic functionality serves my needs.

Secretly though, I am happy with this lovely new, sleek, lime green phone. I have great aspirations for what I will do with it. No doubt my new phone is a complex device with more capacity than I will ever use.

It has power that is greater than the heavy PCs or early laptops I used through most of my career.  Unlike the luggable brick that was my first cell phone, this one is comfortable to hold.  The screen is big enough for easy reading.

I already own a Macbook Pro and an ipad.  All are easy to use — although, I confess to limited mastery  of these wonderful machines.

I struggle with technology but I push myself to use it.  Encumbered with insufficient understanding of the basics, I bravely explore new technology as I consider it essential to stay abreast of changes.  This is about survival in the digital age.

Many Seniors Resist Smart Phones

Although older people state that they are interested in exploring the digital world and many are active on Facebook, smart phones are often resisted.

Cost is perhaps the most common reason for hesitation. Most smart phones come with data plans that range from $80 to $150 Canadian dollars per month. This is too expensive for seniors living on fixed pension incomes.  By using free wifi, it’s possible to get by without a data plan for the smartphone but use of the internet is limited without reliable access.

Seniors also reject smart phones because they find them complicated to use.  The small screens are annoying.  They prefer the larger text on older phone models.

It’s true that decreased manual dexterity makes a touch screen difficult for many older people. I sometimes struggle to get just the right tap on the screen. That’s when a reminder, that small children have similar manual dexterity but  learn quickly to manage a touch screen, is encouragement enough to keep me trying.

Finally, some older people regard smart phones and new technology as time wasters.  They prefer to use precious days in face to face contact with friends and family. I can’t argue with such reasoning except to say that television or idle gossip are also time wasters.

Don’t Be Left Behind

These drawbacks produce a worry that many seniors will be ‘left behind’.  As I write this, I think of a woman at a recent book club meeting, who proudly showed off her old flip phone and told everyone that talking or texting is all she needs. That may be so, but the world changes quickly. How will she cope when her doctor begins seeing patients with e-visits? Doesn’t she want the ease of voice dialling or voice commands or emergency dial buttons?

In January 2014, CBC reported on a poll of over 700 people conducted in 2013. That poll found that a majority of seniors in Canada owned a cell phone but only 13 percent owned a smart phone.  Of smart phone owners,  only 7 percent used their device to connect to the internet.

In the United States, Pew research estimated that in 2014, 25 percent of seniors would own a smart phone.  Their research showed that smart phone usage was on the rise and estimated that, by 2017,  50 percent of seniors will have a smart phone.

Why a Smart Phone?

The digital age will soon bring wearable devices, phablets and e-visits.  The CBC poll information tells us that most seniors still use cell phones to contact someone or to be contacted as in the case for my book club friend.

A big market for smart phones looms within the senior population.  I think of another recently retired friend who gave up her land line but will never give up her smart phone with data, camera availability, messaging, pictures, contacts and apps that she became accustomed to using while still in her career.  She’s a hero and an early adapter among the seniors who will benefit as new advances hit the market.

If we reject participation in the digital age, we risk losing easy contact with children and grand children. Yes, they will still visit and talk with us on the phone but we will be left out of many essential communications from and with them.
How often will a quick text with an attached photo of a grand child be missed? This week I opened a text with an attached photo of my grand daughter climbing the steps for her first day at Montessori school. I know that I would never get a shiny print showing such a milestone or accomplishment but it took only a minute for the photo to be sent to my phone. It brought a smile and a sense of connection to an event that I would have missed.

The social life of the next generation is online — and not just on Facebook but on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine.  By rejecting new technology, grand parents will  miss the UTube video of a piano recital, or a goal scored during a soccer game, or the status update from a grand child.  These are the ways that our children and grand children keep their relationships alive.  We need to communicate on their terms, not ours.

To my chagrin, some of this is too much for me.  I’m not planning to use my new phone to play games or to watch movies.  But, it could be used for a quick e-visit with someone who has similar technology.

I don’t want the new world to pass me by as I wait for a smoke signal. That era is gone.  The future world is galloping toward me.


Canadian Thanksgiving Celebrations

Canadian Thanksgiving is a time of celebration.   Observed on the 2nd Monday of October and affectionately known as ‘Turkey Day’, Thanksgiving in Canada is closely linked with European harvest festivals.

People gather for excursions, family events, and relaxation.

In the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, Thanksgiving weekend means Oktoberfest celebrated with Germanic traditions of beer, food, dancing and singing.

The large Hindu community in Ontario celebrates Diwali at this time of year.  Diwali, a celebration of light involving spiritual and cultural practices, happens on Thanksgiving weekend this year.

This is also the last long weekend before winter begins. Most people take advantage of the extra time to plan something special.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Whatever traditions a family observes, there are some typical ways people spend this holiday weekend.

Outdoor excursions

Regardless of weather, most people try to spend some time outdoors enjoying the beauty of autumn.

Thanksgiving Beauty -- photo courtesy of Matthew Ingram
Thanksgiving Beauty — photo courtesy of Matthew Ingram

Trips to the countryside include activities such as picking apples, buying pumpkins, and admiring the changing colours of nature.

Many families plan specific activities to enjoy nature.  It might be a walk through a nearby park or a daylong hike. It might be an afternoon of raking leaves or putting garden furniture away before bad weather arrives.

Other families spend the weekend relaxing at their cottages.  Weather permitting, there is time to enjoy the night sky without mosquitos.   A campfire keeps fingers warm and provides hot coals for roasting marshmallows.

Some people use the long weekend to ‘close’ the cottage for the winter.  This involves hard work including draining water pipes, storing boats, and clearing the cupboards of leftover summer foods.


The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is a busy travel time. On both Thursday and Friday afternoons before the long weekend, cars jam all roads.  People rush to away from the city to see family, to get to a cottage, or to attend a festival. Planes, trains and buses run at capacity.

Young families can often be found travelling to athletic tournaments as this is the time of year for soccer, hockey  and track tournaments.

Many travel to celebrate this holiday with family members.  Generations usually celebrate with a traditional feast.  This provides an opportunity for reunions and for giving thanks for another year of bounty.


Typically, the Canadian Thanksgiving meal involves turkey with stuffing and gravy along with ham and various sauces. Side dishes include mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, turnip, squash, carrots, corn and various salads. Desserts include pumpkin pie with whipped cream and apple pie with cheese and ice cream.
With immigration, food traditions at a Canadian Thanksgiving meal are changing.  It’s not uncommon for the meal to include foods such as cabbage rolls, perogies, rotis, curries, halwas and dates as new ethnic groups add their favourite dishes.
Items that use the colours of harvest as themes adorn tables. Gourds, acorns, coloured leaves, chrysanthemums, decorative grasses, and pumpkins decorate both indoor and outdoor areas with brilliant golds, reds, oranges, and browns.

How our family will celebrate

This year, our son and daughter-in-law are hosting Thanksgiving at their home. It promises to be a HUGE family event as our daughter-in-law’s family includes several siblings, their partners and other extended family.  There will be lots of noise and lots of levity.

The meeting of two family cultures gives opportunity to adopt new traditions. I look forward to a meal that will blend the best dishes from both families. My contribution will include pumpkin and apple pies plus home-made cranberry sauce.

We will give thanks for the blessings of the year — for living in safety in Canada; for good relationships; for health; and for the abundant food.

I wish all of my readers in Canada a Happy Thanksgiving.  May you enjoy the love of family, the warmth of friends, and the blessings offered to all of us.

How NOT to Celebrate Your Husband’s Birthday

What should you not do to celebrate your husband’s birthday?  What should you avoid?

I’m exploring this topic today because my husband has another birthday coming tomorrow.  After 48 years of marriage,  we have celebrated many birthdays.

Most of the birthdays have been happy celebrations with good feelings associated with wishes for many years of health and happiness.

Birthday Celebrations
Birthday Celebrations

Sometimes the celebrations have been less than successful.

Today I’m writing about a couple of unsuccessful celebrations, in earlier years of our marriage, that taught me lessons. I’m writing about these birthdays so others might avoid these mistakes or,  get a chuckle from reading about my blunders.

The Most Embarrassing Birthday

The most embarrassing birthday happened just one month after our marriage. Even though this happened long ago, I remember it every year.

I got the wrong date for his birthday.

We were just back from our honeymoon and were settling into our first apartment. I had it in my head that he was born on October 10 rather than October 3.  On the 10th, I baked a cake and cooked a special dinner.  I decorated the apartment.

When he arrived home from work, he looked around and then asked who was having a birthday.

Crestfallen, after all the work and preparation, I reminded him that it was his birthday.  He burst out laughing and told me that his birthday had taken place a week before. I burst into tears.

I was mortified.  How could I make such a mistake? Despite my shame, he hugged me and tactfully reminded me that the correct date was on  our marriage certificate.

Regardless of the confusion about the date, we enjoyed the dinner and the evening despite the confusion over the date.

A Sad Surprise Party

A few years later, I decided to hold a surprise dinner party to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday.

By this time I had the correct date cemented in my head.

As he was teaching a course at a university out-of-town,  he usually arrived home between 7 and 7:30 pm.  I invited a few close friends who were in the dining room waiting when he arrived.  He was blown away when everyone shouted “Happy Birthday”.

We had dinner, did the celebratory candles on the cake, and drank toasts to good health and many more birthdays.  But he did not seem to enjoy the party. I could tell that he was doing  his best at ‘fake’ social behaviour.

After our guests left, we talked as we cleaned up.  During the conversation I realized that he was tired after teaching and a long commute.  Moreover, turning 40 signalled reaching middle age. He dreaded this as, for him, it signalled a type of ending.

When he arrived home, he was in no mood for entertaining friends.  What he expected was a quiet dinner with an opportunity to unwind afterward.

Lessons Learned

These  birthdays taught valuable lessons about how to avoid disappointing birthday celebrations. I try to remember them every year as his birthday approaches.

 Get the date right.  There’s nothing else to say about this unless you forget the date entirely which means a big mea culpa.

 Surprise celebrations aren’t always well-received. My husband is a low-key kind of guy who puts emphasis on being with the people he loves. He likes celebrations but enjoys them most when he has time to prepare. Being the centre of attention in a large group makes him uncomfortable.

Anticipate how the person will react.  Although I had great fun planning a surprise party, I should have put more thought into how my husband might feel when, exhausted from teaching and travel, he walked into a room full of people to celebrate something that caused him apprehension.

Understand that some ‘decade’ birthdays cause anxiety.  As I look back to the time when my husband turned 40, I realize that other events in his life at that time compounded the angst over reaching middle age. Decade birthdays aren’t always ‘special’ birthdays as suggested by our culture.
Finally, when choosing the celebration, think about your husband’s likes and dislikes.  As years have passed and many celebrations have occurred, I’ve learned more about the man I married. I realize that my husband likes to have his birthday recognized by his family.  He likes a small family dinner at home or at a favourite restaurant so I avoid a big celebration. He likes deli cheesecake better than cake I make for him.  And he’s not much for candles — especially as the birthday numbers grow larger.
So this year, once again, I’m arranging a family dinner at a seafood restaurant with food he likes.  The event will happen on the correct date, October 3. I’ve told him about the celebration and the venue so that he can prepare.
Surprises don’t always make for happiness!
Thanks for reading this post. If you have comments about birthday celebration ideas to avoid, please send them to me.  Also, if you had some great celebrations, please let me know about these.
I encourage you to subscribe to my blog so you never miss a postworksavvy post.
Photo of champagne corks courtesy of Werner Bayer.

Why Some Reunions Make You Happy

Some reunions make you happy.  Contact with people who have influenced your life validates and energizes you.

In terms of retirement happiness, some  reunions are worthwhile — others, not so much. The big ‘home-coming’ reunions at universities I’ve attended never attract me. It’s not worth the time or expense to attend these events to re-kindle relationships that were never important.

The  type of reunion that I try not to miss is one where I know that  I’ll be replenished by the people who attend.

Last weekend I hosted such a reunion.  It’s an annual gathering at our cottage where a group of women who worked closely together during the 70s meet to reconnect.
Our relationships  began as coworkers.  Over time, these relationships evolved to become friendships.

Our careers and our lives took us on divergent paths since the work connections of several decades past.  Among the group many made life changes including new jobs, new homes, new locales, and new partners.  We’ve shared stories of joy when adult children have married and made us grand parents.  We’ve also shared grief when beloved siblings and/or parents died.

Most of us see each other only at this reunion.  This is the time when we share information on key life events during the past year  — special birthdays, retirements, travel and achievements. We are shameless in bragging about accomplishments of children and grand children including weddings, baptisms, and baby pictures. This year we heard stories of falling in love again. We saw the joy in the eyes of friends who found soul mates later in life.

At the gathering, conversation comes as easy as breathing.  The openness and generosity of  long friendship provides compassion, understanding and respect. We relax and share our deepest secrets and fears. When requested, practical and timely advice is given.

To maximize the time we spend together, we meet early on a Saturday.  Coolers full of food and wine arrive along with guests hungry for a years worth of news.

We drink wine. We indulge our appetites with snacks and appetizers.  Eating together is a simple and ordinary act that strengthens the already strong bonds among us. The pleasure of sharing our food extends to a fun-filled potluck dinner.

Since retiring I’ve attended a MSW class reunion of 40 people at McGill http://Why you Shouldn’t Miss a Reunion. I’ve also attended a reunion of former colleagues http://Why Attend Reunions.  I enjoyed each of these events knowing that they won’t likely be repeated.

These formal, institutional reunions differed from the annual reunion I’ve just described.  They provided opportunities to go back in time and to recall pleasant associations of more youthful days.

Interestingly, our small group of former colleagues used the common ground of shared experience to build something bigger by meeting annually.  From each other, we’ve learned lessons of compassion and respect.  We’ve laughed and cried together.

Bonds have been strengthened by the pleasurable act of sharing food in an informal setting.  As we’ve fed our bodies, we’ve also nourished our souls.

By re-connecting every year we’ve established emotional attachments that make our reunion rewarding. Such reunions give abundant retirement happiness.




Life Changes — Embracing Retirement

Retirement comes in many forms.  It’s a time when life changes.

Sometimes the changes come gradually. Sometimes the  changes are deliberate and happen through personal choice. Sometimes the changes come due to circumstances that force retirement.

When job loss drives the retirement decision, embracing retirement is inconceivable for most people.  Finding work again — in a known field or, perhaps in a new field is usually the first consideration.  Many factors, including ageism, often make this impossible. Opting out of the labour force becomes the alternative.  ‘Retirement’ is imposed.

A similar process occurs when retirement occurs due to illness — especially when there is a long recuperation period.  As health improves,  the realization dawns that continuing to work will be impossible due to reduced energy, and continuing poor health.

Reaching a certain age may mandate retirement. This happened to my husband at the time when Ontario laws required retirement at age 65. On his birthday, he left his counselling and teaching  job at a community college. He then set up a consulting practise that continued for another 10 years until he felt ready to close his office and move into full-time retirement.

Embracing retirement — Margaret’s story

Margaret is a widowed friend. Her husband died after a sudden heart attack when she was in her late thirties.  She was left to raise two adolescent aged children.  There was no insurance, a mortgage, and the challenge of coping on her own.  Previously a full-time home maker and mother, she faced a job market with no skills.  She found work in a unionized factory that provided a wage sufficient to meet monthly expenses.

Years passed.  The children grew up, completed post-secondary education, married and established themselves in far away places. The mortgage was paid. Margaret dreamed of a happy retirement funded from the factory’s pension plan with visions of travel and leisure.

The dream changed abruptly when the factory moved from Ontario to a Southern US City where labour was cheaper. In her fifties and too young to retire, Margaret faced unemployment.

No stranger to a sudden life changes, she decided to make a new beginning. She enrolled in the local university to attain the degree she’d abandoned as a young woman.

She made a good profit by selling the family home.  Her employer paid a severance gratuity to all long-term employees including Margaret.  She moved to a small apartment near the university. These changes assured a financial base to fund a few years of education.


Embracing retirement -- study time
Embracing retirement — study time

Studying was not easy.  She cried over term papers when words did not flow.  She fought with new technology — appalled that the library was now a digital maze.  She had few peers on campus. Most faculty were younger than Margaret and often ignored or dismissed her. During this time she reached out to friends who helped her and supported her decision to study.

Margaret’s perseverance paid off.  She took five years instead of the usual four to finish her degree in social work, a profession where many of the lessons learned through challenging life experiences brought compassion, empathy and respect for others.

Margaret now works as a social worker in a children’s mental health centre.  She tells me often that she’s not ready to retire. When the time comes, she hopes to stop work gradually by dropping to part-time hours before stopping completely.

Margaret’s story may be an exception but I’m not so sure. In the four years since my retirement, I’ve encountered many people who challenged popular retirement myths.  Instead of viewing retirement  as a time of leisure leading to an eventual slow decline, they stay fully engaged with life, taking risks to carve a future of exciting daily choices.

Margaret wasn’t held back by a fear of failure.  Instead she moved out of her comfort zone and challenged herself. She found fulfillment in a new career rather than sitting around feeling sorry for herself.

All of us can learn from Margaret’s story. By taking a proactive approach to retirement and trying new things, we can move boldly into the future. With some creativity and risk-taking, retirement can bring days filled with opportunities and new rewards.

Do Pets Increase Retirement Happiness?

Studies show that pets increase retirement happiness, particularly among older people.

The companionship of a beloved dog or cat boosts happiness, improves general well-being, and enhances life satisfaction.   Pets reduce overall stress levels.

If you come home to an empty house, pets will offer a greeting. Owners with pets have improved physical and mental health as they care for another living being. The companionship of an animal decreases loneliness. Pets, especially dogs provide security as they protect both an owner and property.

Pets welcome you home

Pets can be relied upon for an enthusiastic ‘welcome home’ greeting when owners return.  Whether you’ve been out of the house for an hour or for a week, a dog will give  a boisterous, excited greeting.  You know you were missed!

Cats may seem oblivious and disinterested but they  constantly check comings and goings of owners. Our cats acknowledge a home-coming  only if we’ve been away for a significant amount of time, perhaps for an overnight stay.  They  rub their bodies along our legs.  They smell our shoes. They follow us from room to room with purrs and meows to provide a welcome home.

Pets improve health

Positive physical health effects come from owning a pet.

The American Heart Association published findings indicating that pet ownership, especially owning a dog, could result in reduced cardiovascular risk .  Why?  Dogs get you moving. They give a reason to get outdoors. Dog owners can’t avoid leaving the house for daily walks.   Regardless of weather, fido needs to get outside.

The structure and routine of walking has significant positive health benefits for both owner and pet.  As well as physical exercise, the daily walks provide another health benefit, Vitamin D exposure.

Getting out of the house also provides an opportunity to engage with others as pets are great conversation starters.  This socialization counteracts loneliness and isolation, especially among seniors living alone.

Mental health improves from interactions with a pet. Elderly pet owners, especially, benefit from knowing that a non-judgemental companion shares the joys and sorrows of each day. Daily chores of feeding, cleaning and caring for pets give a reason to get up in the morning.

A cuddle with a warm furry friend or a hug from a pet, improves mood. While most pets aren’t huggers, they do like to cuddle.  Cats purr in response to having a ‘head rub’; they love to curl up on warm lap.  Dogs wag their tails and drool to show happiness with their owners. Such enjoyable interactions with pets reduce stress levels resulting in improved mental and emotional well-being.

Pets Alleviate Loneliness

Pets provide a relationship replacement. When one of my friends lost her husband, a friend brought a stray kitten to her home. My friend had always been a dog lover. She never liked cats nor pictured herself owning a cat.

Surprisingly, she  found herself warming to this kitten who began to follow her around the house.  The kitten knew when she needed quiet time.  The kitten’s playfulness got her off the couch.  She found new reason to get up in the morning as the cat needed feeding and wanted attention through play.

Not only was my friend’s loneliness reduced with companion in her home, the kitten helped to reduce her grief as she learned to cope with widowhood. It was a win-win situation as the kitten needed care and my friend needed the companionship of another living thing.

Pets Protect and Guard Their Owners

A noisy dog serves as a security system when you live alone.

My widowed neighbour’s tiny dog weighs less than 10 pounds yet his bark protects her by loud barking whenever anyone approaches the driveway or deck leading to her cottage.

Many people choose large dogs and train them as guard dogs.  I grew up on a remote farm in Saskatchewan where every family owned one or two dogs that patrolled the farm to protect property and to herd the farm animals.

Pets have their drawbacks

Pet ownership brings drawbacks. Astronomical veterinary bills, costs for food, toys, and other pet accessories take a bite out of retirement income.  Boarding and kennelling a pet or finding a pet watcher adds to the cost of vacations.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) estimated the average annual cost (2013) for owning and caring for a dog at $1196 Canadian dollars annually. For a cat, the cost averaged $899. These amounts include food, veterinary care, grooming and vacation boarding costs.

Ultimately, costs aren’t viewed as a burden by people who love their pets.

Our cats are healthy so they don’t cost us a lot of money. However, we always consider how they will fare if we will be away for more than one or two days.

Vacuuming cat hair from furniture is an endless challenge. Regardless of whether at home or at the cottage, keeping the cats off our bed has not been successful. They manage to sneak to the bed when backs are turned seeking the warmth of a down comforter or quilt. I’ve invested in a special vacuum brush for cleaning the cat hair after nap time.

Woody cat curled up on my quilt
Woody cat curled up on my cottage quilt
Sister Tinks in her favourite spot on the bed
Sister Tinks at her favourite spot on the comforter

Most pet owners don’t put a dollar value on the enthusiastic greetings, unconditional love and loyal companionship.

Rather, it comes down to companionship and relationship with another living thing. The life-long devotion of a beloved pet is an investment that increases retirement happiness.



What makes summer at the Cottage Special?

Summer days at the cottage are special.  These are some of the happiest times in my retirement journey. I don’t have to do anything, be anywhere, or answer to anyone.

We spend most of the summer at our cottage at Lake Huron where sandy beaches stretch for miles.  The vistas of the lake change every day.

Lake Huron’s angry waves at our beach
Summer at the cottage is special — Lake Huron’s angry waves at our beach

The lake provides a backdrop of healing sounds ranging from a low, continuous swoosh to the crash of angry waves hitting the shore.

In Ontario, there are two to three months of warm summer weather. Because the season is short, every day needs to include special summer activities.

This year, the days and nights have been cooler than normal.  We’ve escaped the hot humid weather that often lasts for days. A tornado touched down near our cottage on July 27 but luckily we suffered no damage.   An earlier post describes the effects of the tornado.

As summer 2014 winds down, here are some of the memories I treasure.

1.  Cottage house guests

A cottage provides a venue for catching up with many friends. Visits often involve sleepovers and always involve relaxed conversations, as well as eating and drinking together.

This summer we hosted bridge club friends for a weekend of cards, food and fun.  We entertained friends from afar who travelled great distances for a few days of R&R at the beach.  We also had great lunches with friends who visit us every summer at the cottage but find driving to the city intimidating.

2. Family time 

Our 16 month old grand-daughter explored the cottage on weekend visits. We smiled as she experienced the mix of pleasure and shock when getting wet in the lake.  We enjoyed seeing her play with the same wooden wagon that our son used as a toddler.  Her screams of delight while running around in bare feet increased as we joined her. My husband and I went back to the city for a few days so that our son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter could have their private family time to create memories for another generation.

3. Reading

Summer gives uninterrupted time to dig into books that pile up during other months.  I’ve spent hours reading — on the deck, at the beach, sometimes late into the night — enjoying mysteries, memoirs, and novels.  I purchased a box of cookbooks produced by various churches, service clubs, and local agricultural groups at a beach flea market.  It provided hours of entertaining reading.

4.  Learning new skills 

The local art centre offered a variety of short courses through the summer.  A photography course taught me to use functions on my camera that I had never explored.  A writer’s course by a local author inspired me to spend more time on writing projects including this blog.

5.  Taking walks

Our beach town is small with many delightful spots within easy walking distance including a shop for fair trade coffee beans, a bustling fish market for freshly caught lake fish, a bakery for fresh cinnamon buns, and various small restaurants. Whether for exerise or just for fun, there were beach walks in the sun, exercise walks in the early morning, walks to friends’ cottages, walks to do errands, and after dinner strolls.

6.  Summer foods

Meals at the cottage are different from meals at home.  The box of local cookbooks spawned new ideas for using fresh South Western Ontario veggies and fruits. A farmer’s market every Wednesday morning sells a variety local produce as well as lamb, smoked sausages, and perfectly aged steaks ready for the barbecue. We started the summer with local asparagus, tender lettuce, sweet onions, raspberries and strawberries.  August brought abundant corn on the cob, vine-ripened tomatoes, new potatoes, and young beets. Yummy!

7.  Ice-cream

As a summer treat, ice-cream is food that deserves it’s own mention.  A sweet and salty caramel variety that one of the grocery stores stocks only in the summer has big fans at our cottage.  We’ve also consumed a good amount of quality vanilla ice-cream for the Dom Pedro dessert drinks I learned to make while visiting South Africa.  For those who haven’t had a Dom Pedro, it’s a type of milkshake made with Irish whiskey that works as a perfect ending for any meal — no dessert required!

8. Summer drinks

Summer days usually end with gin and tonic on the deck or with a favourite Ontario craft beer.  This summer we also tried various non alcoholic drinks including  fruit spritzers, grapefruit sodas, lemonade, and home-made ginger beer.

9. Looking at the stars 

Without light contamination, the night sky is really dark so every star is brilliant.  Taking time to step outside just before bedtime allowed me to marvel at the various constellations.  On these nights I gave thanks for the wonders of the universe and realized again that my life is just a blink in time and  I’m just a spot in something so big.

10. Cottage clothes and summer feet

Summer means wearing favourite T-shirts and stretching out my feet in summer sandals. I have a yoga teacher who urges us to love our feet. Her meditations on feet have made me notice how many people conceal their feet. Alternately, many women love to show off fresh pedicures. Thank goodness most men no longer hide their feet in socks while wearing summer sandals!

My list could include sunsets over the lake, cool evenings in front of a fire, and summer theatre excursions.

Too bad the season is so short.  It makes summer at the cottage a very special time.


Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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