Friends and family who have inspired us

And special people we have met while travelling

As jubilados (Spanish for retirees) we value relationships, old and new


One of the unfortunate disappointments of COVID–19 has been the cancellation of a party of a dear friend. For two years George Taylor has been planning to invite 90 of his friends and family to his 90th birthday celebration. Because his wife Marsha and I are the same age, born two days apart, I’ve piggy-backed on some of the parties he’s planned for her, like her 50th when he filled their West Vancouver backyard with food stations and live music, including the “Spice Girls” (Marsha’s playful ‘sistas’ Marie and Elaine and her friends Gina and Corrine). George knows how to throw a party and would have loved to see each you at his on October 23! Consider this blog his virtual birthday party!

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I was kicking myself.

Three years ago in Seattle there was an exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors. Six individual rooms, small and dark. Each one painted with polka dots and pumpkins illuminated by hundreds of LEDs reflecting endless pinpricks of coloured light onto mirrored walls immersing you into a kaleidoscopic wonderland. But I was too late. The exhibition sold out quickly and without tickets, you had to queue for hours with little hope of getting in. I felt even worse when Gail, Ginger and Carol Ann talked about how spectacular it was, despite the fleeting time (only two or three minutes) you had in each mirrored cubicle where only two or three visitors were allowed at a coveted time-slot. So you can imagine how excited I was to discover the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter at Høvikodden outside Oslo has one of Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors on permanent display. Even better, it was a slow day—Magellan and I had Infinity Mirrored Room, Hymn of Life to ourselves for as long as we wanted!

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“Alexa, drop in on Maxine.”

“Maxine MacLeod’s Echo Plus, right?”

I wait for Echo’s signal at mom’s bedside, room 128, Birchview Home, Birch Hills, Saskatchewan.

“Hello mom,” my voice loud even though I’ve upped the volume on her Echo beyond 80%. “How are you?”

“Not. too. bad.” (Pause) “What. day. is. it?”

And so begins “Maxine’s Newscast,” a daily ritual since COVID-19.

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If you landed here after consulting Ms Google about a sexy night out in Drake Bay—gottcha!

Also, be forewarned. If you’re afraid of scorpions, snakes, spiders or frogs, this might not be your favourite nocturnal adventure. For us, it was total pleasure, thanks to Tracie Stice and her husband Gianfranco Goméz.

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Eaton's 1948 Xmas Catalogue

What are some of your fondest memories of being a child at Christmas?

For me, Christmas started with the arrival of Eaton’s Mail Order Christmas Book. What a delight and dilemma to crawl through the catalogue, narrowing my choice to just one or two treasures. And then getting to share that choice with Santa—in person!

I don’t remember my first Christmas but I’ve been told it was not a white one. Dad was a fireman with the CNR and on a run that was delayed by snow. Knowing he’d be back late Christmas Eve, Dad bought a tree in Wainwright and put it in the coal tender. Neither shaking nor spraying that tree with water would get the soot out. But I’m sure I loved it anyway.

In pre-school years I wanted presents like a toy hammer and a saw (dad and all my six uncles were skilled carpenters), a train set with a transformer to emulate my Dad, who was now an engineer, tinker toys and a MECCANO Set. Mrs. Claus snuck in a pair of pyjamas (to be opened Christmas Eve, rather than the present that looked suspiciously like a hockey stick.) When I was five, Mrs. Claus upped her game to get me a navy wool blazer and pants that looked spectacular in pictures but were very itchy.

After moving from Biggar to Saskatoon, I spent more time in the sports section of the catalogue. I yearned for shin pads to replace the magazines bound to my legs with sealer rings,  I lusted for a Red Wings jersey and I wasn’t thrilled with the leather helmet Santa thought would protect my glasses’ frames that kept getting broken.

What might have caught mom’s eye in the catalogue?

Mom would have wanted to look swishy at the New Year’s Eve party so she might have circled “A” on the page below as a hint to dad. “DREAM of a dress…perky self ties at back….Crisp Rayon Crystalette with gold-colour splashed print.” Would mom have wanted Grey (shown) or Deep Teal Blue? $10.98.

I remember family holidays in the summer, stopping on a side street in Wenatchee so mom could get into her girdle before some “big city” shopping. Spice thinks “E” might have been what mom would order for herself. “NUBACK  CORSET…firm boning and sliding back panel for comfort and support. Order 2 sizes less than waist to allow for lacing. $4.95.”

What does every woman often get her man for Christmas? A sweater. “E” looks like something mom would choose for dad, but $7.95 would have been a lot of money in 1948.

On Christmas morning,  Mom was even more excited than me. She paced the hallway, knowing exactly where to step on the one board that squeaked. If flushing the toilet wouldn’t wake those sleepy kids, why not flush it two or three times more? Our lights were always the first ones on in the neighbourhood.

Christmas was different then. Kids received just one or two presents each and rarely gave gifts to their parents unless they were homemade. That being said, every year from the time I was eight years old until last Christmas I bought my mom a spatula for her Christmas stocking.

After breakfast, the whole family went skating on the forty-by forty foot rink that Dad built in the backyard every year, along with a six-foot-high toboggan hill. In the afternoon, even if it was forty below (same in both Fahrenheit and Celsius), he lit the Weber bbq to roast the turkey. What a challenge it was to keep the charcoal fired and try to coordinate the turkey’s timing with the vegetable dishes. After dinner I curled up with a new book or magazine, wearing my new jersey while dreaming of my best move around Red Kelly of the Toronto Maple Leafs to score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final. Having been up since 4 am, it was time to crawl into bed, happy.

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Timothy Eaton’s first catalogue, published in 1884, was a 32-page booklet distributed to out-of-town visitors at the exhibition in Toronto. Eaton expressed his vision for the catalogue in 1887: “This catalogue is destined to go wherever the maple leaf grows, throughout the vast Dominion. We have the facilities for filling mail orders satisfactorily, no matter how far the letter has to come and the goods have to go.” It became the first nationally distributed catalogue in Canada, and by 1894, Eaton’s was filling more than 200,000 orders per year. Colour was added in 1915, and photographs were added in 1919. The most anticipated catalogue of the year was Eaton’s Christmas catalogue, which, by the 1950s, grew to be a hefty wish book, slick and glossy with more than 200 pages and a kaleidoscope of colours.

Pictures Source Library and Archives Canada

Catalogue Pictures Copyright:

  • Eaton’s Fall and Winter 1948-49 Source: T. Eaton Co. Catalogue [English edition]Fall & Winter — Toronto : T. Eaton Co., [188–197-] — v. — P. 1-574© Sears Canada Inc. Reproduced with the permission of Sears Canada Inc. 029006-nlc003958

  • Eaton’s Christmas Book 1956 Source: T. Eaton Co. Catalogue [English edition] Eaton’s Mail Order Christmas Book — Toronto : T. Eaton Co., [188–197-] — v. — P. 1-187 © Sears Canada Inc. Reproduced with the permission of Sears Canada Inc. 029006-nlc003955

Pumpkins. Mushrooms. Persimmons. Mmmm…

Late autumn ripens my memories of Japan.

To the night Lynn, Ward, Magellan and I, dressed in kimonos, ate kaiseki at Ryokan Kurashiki. “Dishes of October, The feast to do the sight of autumn colors,” served by a kindly Japanese woman in the autumn of her life who Ward nicknamed “Ryokan Mommy.”

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