A challenging time-March 2020

I have been slow to write about our wonderful trips in December and January. It just seems that life has intervened, but now that I am on a 14-day self-isolation after travelling home to Toronto from our home in Florida, I have some serious time.

I feel compelled to talk about the ‘virus’ and our changing lifestyle. Once we started reading and hearing about the progression of this incredible disease, we knew that we had to move our trip up and get back to Canada. This meant preparing to leave a month early after 5 months of our stay.  Of course the ridiculousness around toilet paper started and some of the cartoons were, and are hilarious. What was that all about?

The hoarders in a nearby town where we buy our groceries,  depleted the stocks pretty quickly,  but we had ample, and just pretended we were on a sailboat and used the stuff judiciously.


a hostess gift now treasured


says it all

Normally when we travel between Toronto and Howey in the Hills, Florida, we spend two nights in hotels en route as Charles is towing his glider and we have Oscar, our doggie. So I also have to find accommodation that will take a dog. Over the years I have the regular places, and also the restaurants where we eat, because again with the glider that is 35 ft. longer than the car, it can be awkward. Charles is very adept at towing it, but I wouldn’t want to try. However, I just sit beside him with my imaginary brakes and steering wheel and drive all the way too.


ready to depart from Howey in the Hills

As news of the disease was progressing and as we listened to CBC, our national Canadian broadcaster, we realized that we had to get out of Dodge sooner than anticipated. I booked our usual Doubletree  in Charlotte Southpark for the return trip. We loved the rooms with refrigerator and microwave for Oscar’s supper. The hotel had a delightful bar where we ate dinner and listened to the barman tell us about his life. We had been seeing him for years, and learned how good that hotel had been to him when his home was destroyed by a hurricane. He was a lovely man.

The second one, a Doubletree in Cranberry, PA was quite beautiful, with a super indoor pool, and lovely lobby restaurant where we had dinner and unwound with some nice wine. However, I started getting nervous as I listened to our Prime Minister tell Canadians to get home, and decided along with Charles, that we would just stay one night on the road, the way we used to when we were first going to Florida. That was exhausting on its own, but with the glider, and the dog, not fun.  I quickly regrouped and found a motel half way, a Quality Inn, in a place called Hillsville, Virginia. I booked the best room, at $70 a night, a bit cheaper than Doubletree.  It probably was the honeymoon suite as it had a Jacuzzi in the room beside the bed. We weren’t tempted to try it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. All restaurants except drive thru’s were closed, and no hotel/motel would have any food service. So I started preparing our food for the journey, even though we would be just one night on the road, we would need two breakfasts, lunches, and one dinner as well as water and wine.  I also needed food for Oscar, but I always needed that on our previous trips. Now if you have been following my blogs you will know that I love food so drive thru’s were out.

I made a delicious breakfast sandwich that may be a keeper. I chopped eggs and added mayonnaise and put the mixture on a soft hamburger bun and then laid two half strips of bacon criss-cross style on top of the egg salad in each bun. That was it, not even any spices. Were they ever delicious! I also made ham and cheese with Dijon, and chicken, from a roast, with added barbecue sauce. All these on the soft  bun, which made them neater for the drive. I took some Tate’s chocolate chip cookies, some nuts and dried apricots and cherries in case we needed them on the road for the long haul.


no one staying here but us

For dinner, I had a half rack of Oakwood smoked barbecue ribs for each of us, that I had bought before we left ,and some macaroni salad from Publix that I had doctored with chives and fresh pepper. There were some mandarin oranges as well. The first morning Charles had his cappuccino from our machine, and I had low sodium tomato juice, which I adore, and we headed off at 6:30am, after walking the dog and feeding him some beef tenderloin leftovers. He never had it so good.  I had napkins, naturally, and a couple of dark chocolate Lindt bars for later, one bottle of red for CF, and a bottle of white for me. We had an insulated bag and I filled it with packs of ice. Of course I had wet naps, handi-wipes that I made with alcohol and put in a plastic container, and hand sanitizer for my purse and the car.


our new best friend

We were loaded. Charles for some reason had four parachutes, which took up lots of space, and his wonderful Toronto Breville coffee maker that he brought down to Florida to get fixed in the states. We left a small place for Oscar in the back seat, but it was just a heavy load with our clothes, my golf bag, and dozens of balls that I can get cheaper in the USA, and had bought before the crisis became apparent. With the rush of getting away and cancelling all sorts of services, my packing was not brilliant. Charles was once a department store truck delivery driver with Eatons, which you will know if you are a Canadian of a certain age, and he really could pack anything, but this trip it was a stretch. Often when we travel by air we only take carry on bags, but after being n Florida for 5 months, we had way too much, and I like to buy extra moisturizer and special cleanser that I can’t get in Canada.

Eatons then and then, now gone


worth the space it took up

On the road we always listen to a book. The one we were in the midst of hearing and still is not finished, is called A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and read by an excellent actor, Nicolas Guy Smith.  The narration is crucial to the enjoyment of the book. We also listen to CBC radio news, BBC radio news, NPR news, the classical music on Sirius FM, Blues, Jazz, Jimmy Buffet, Frank Sinatra and just sit quietly. With the glider in tow we have to gas up more often than you would need to in a car. Charles had a glove to hold the gas pump; I would grab the alcohol soaked wipes and dash to the restroom. I have the cleanest alcohol soaked backside around. I didn’t touch any surface. I took the dog for a wee walk and a chance for him to relieve himself. Lots of hand sanitizer in the car for unlimited use. I had always had a supply before the run on it happened. So we were fine.


wonderful narrator

When we ate on the road we stopped at a rest area, if one was open, and once we parked at a lookout, although it was pouring rain, so not much view. That second day it rained heavily in the mountains and it was a tense drive. Now back to the first night in our suite. We checked in and I even wiped the credit card, door nobs, every flat surface, light switches, toilet seat, fridge door, you name it. I also brought our own pillow cases, which proved great as these places now seem to be using little square pillows. So I put them side-by-side in my king cases and we slept well.


view out the window on the rain soaked highway

Our dinner at the little table in the room was the ribs and macaroni and lots of wine. Perhaps too much as we woke in the middle of the night very dry. Morning came quickly, though, and we departed again at 6:30. The rain made it a long second day. It didn’t ease up until we got to the Canadian border around 5:00pm. And what a lovely feeling it was to cross into our country!  With Nexus, it was very efficient, and we promised to self-isolate at home. There was little traffic on our highways as already people were staying home. Arriving in Toronto during rush hour can often be a nightmare, but we breezed through and parked on the driveway with the glider behind us. Our dear friend, Wouter had moved my car from the garage to a neighbour’s drive so we could swing in. I dashed to wash down the door handles, and surfaces inside because he had been there with groceries. We also wiped down the plastic bags and everything we could think of, including the exterior of the food in the fridge.

I have never wiped down so many surfaces nor washed my hands so often. But how great to be home. Charles took Oscar for a walk around the block and I ordered some take out from our favourite local restaurant, Azarias, that was still doing take out. I wish they would continue, but I guess it just didn’t work. I had Kung Pau chicken and Charles, shrimp tacos. We also ordered smoked meat sliders for lunch the next day. We may be isolated but we are going to eat well. In our insulated bag with ice packs I had put four lobster tails from our freezer in Florida, and they travelled well, and I steamed these, found some frozen pasta and tomato sauce and made a yummy dinner. As I mentioned earlier, our friend, Wouter had bought groceries that I requested and, baked goods, and just today he delivered wine. The next night I made a deboned loin of lamb with mashed potatoes, broiled tomato and heirloom carrots. We had mint sauce and mint jelly. that I found in the cupboard.  There is leftover lamb, and I will make it with rice pilaf, green beans and cherry tomatoes, a bit of gravy and that should be good as a Greek inspired dish with some herbs like oregano.


Royal York Road, normally packed with cars and buses and people now deserted

Our beloved deli and caterer, Absolutely Fine Foods is open and delivers in the neighborhood. So I ordered some tuna, egg and chicken salads, some of their great soups, and meat from their butcher department. Last night we ate veal parmigiana with the leftover spaghetti.

We are falling into a routine sequestered here at home. Up around 7:00am, listen to CBC news, walk the dog keeping a big distance between ourselves and any other walkers, although so far it has been pretty empty. A light breakfast, shower, dress in workout clothes, I found an old mat in the basement and started doing Pilates floor work, and lifting some weights. Today I did laundry before my emails, and writing this blog. I may start to play the piano and sing. A lunch for both of us, today a salad with a scoop of chicken salad, then back to writing, reading my book, a little nap for all of us, then dinner prep, a walk again at 4:00 with Oscar, a whirlpool around 7:00 with a glass of bubbly, after the tv news, then a late dinner, afterwards some Netflix or Prime and then read. This is not so bad and doable. In the beginning, we were both a bit anxious as it took about three days to get the Internet and tv working, but Charles got a super woman at a Bell call Centre who made it happen. Then cuddle in with Oscar and sleep. And repeat the next day, and day after, and day after. It is what it is, and necessary to keeping the treacherous virus at bay.

Perhaps retired persons know how to occupy their time without being restless. I think that it is necessary  to have a routine no matter what that is. Whether it is reading the paper in bed with a cup of coffee, doing puzzles or games that appeal. It is important to shower, even put on makeup, and get dressed. Keep the house or apartment tidy. Plan the days you will clean. If you have a cleaning lady you won’t want her coming in from wherever she was working and sharing. Good to get back to the cleaning routine, if you haven’t been doing that. Plan meals around what you have, and hopefully have a good neighbour who can help with the shopping as the online services are inundated. I have the radio on all the time with classical music and then jazz in the evenings. Limit your news consumption as it can be pretty depressing. We like to listen to the Prime Minister every day at 11:15 am with his updates. Working out  with some simple stretching exercises can be good, and if you are savvy you can do workouts with your classes on Zoom. Check it out. Naps are good, and if you have a dog the walks in the fresh air are excellent. As we haven’t taught Oscar to go on a walk by himself, he needs us. Just keep your distance from anyone you might see, and of course use the sanitizer. A schedule is so important. We will be off isolation in another week, but will still stay at home, and continue these practises, except for  a visit to the grocery or drugstore.

All that stuff about only older people getting it is rubbish. My dear ex daughter-in-law, who I adore, got it from her kids who were carriers and symptomless, who got it at school from kids who had been on a cruise and were at school, instead of in quarantine. To be fair, the spring break in Quebec, where Lara lives in a very small town, is early in March and the news had not really gotten out yet. But this COvid is insidious and nasty. Lara is on the mend, but it was not an easy journey for her, not to mention very scary when she couldn’t breathe. She got excellent care in the hospital. She is only 37. I could go on with other examples of young people, like the young star of ‘Come from Away’ who have gotten it, but when it is someone you know, you realize how real it is and how important it is to flatten the curve and stay home.

Yesterday was Charles 75th birthday. I was supposed to have a party for him with friends and family who were coming to Florida, but alas the best laid plans of mice and men etc. I had planned to sing with a wonderful jazz pianist, Johny Carlsson who was bringing a portable keyboard to our home, some of Charles special tunes, like September Song, Summertime, Someone to Watch Over Me. I had booked a flight for him in a P51, but he cancelled early before way before we left Florida, as a cockpit is a tiny place and you never know who would have been in it before him and the pilot Lee Lauderback.  So  it was just Charles, Oscar and I. At 6:00 our dear friends and neighbours, Wouter and Liz walk ed down the street and stood outside our door at a proper distance away, 6 feet of separation as they say, with champagne in all our hands , we sang Happy birthday. A nice surprise as well as a chance to seem them face to face, well almost. The bottle of champagne we had is the one we drank at our wedding, Billecart-Saumon. Our friends brought their own.

the invite for the party that never happened, something about being able to use the bar


Lee and Johny ;  should have been part of the birthday treats for Charles
Happy birthday toast with our friends

Dinner included caviar and blini that I bought online in Florida before we left and a duck breast with some mashed potatoes and tiny fava beans.  We shared a whirlpool earlier with some fois gras on toast and the bubbly. I got two crème brulées from Absolutely, and I put sugar on top and put them under the broiler. Yummy. We drank a great bottle of red, a grand cru St. Emilion, Chateau Montlisse 2000, that I found by accident in the basement.  I set a pretty table in the dining room, and we both dressed for dinner. Happy 75th isolated with the one you love wasn’t all bad.

Billecart Salmon_Champagne Brut reserve

the champagne




I will tell you about our trips to Savannah and then to the beaches in another blog. Please stay healthy.





5 thoughts on “A challenging time-March 2020

  1. Happy birthday, Charles. You couldn’t have celebrated in a better place than home, especially in a world-changing pandemic. Our gift to you, wishes for a healthy spring and summer.


  2. I should have mentioned in my post, that as along as the road trip home was, we were grateful to be isolated, and not in an airport or airplane. We believe that this self isolation is a good thing, and although we must walk the dog, and enjoy that, we are pristine in keeping ourselves away from anyone else in our quiet neighbourhood.


  3. Thank you Riki! I’ve been driving up Royal York fairly regularly and always look at your place, so I kind of noticed when you returned. You write so beautifully! See you sometime!!!




  4. So sorry, we sang Charles’ Happy Birthday out of key. lol Hopefully we can celebrate his birthday next year, with the original plans. you have no idea how happy we are to have you both at home. Safe and healthy.


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