Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Massie comments on Christmas

I have a pretty good life, so I really shouldn't complain, but I really don't think this picture of me is very flattering. My "Christmas outfit" was quite tight, with my winter coat and all, but it didn't cost me a nickel so, I guess beggars can't be choosers. Tell me honestly - do you like this look on me? Does it make my legs look fat? You would tell me wouldn't you? There's been a fair bit of travelling for us these past few days - I'm not really sure what all the commotion is about, but it's been a nice break from my regular routine. Let's see - things started to be a little strange about 3 or 4 days ago - honestly, I sometimes lose track of time. Jim and I went into the office as usual. My bench seat in the truck was a little crowded with parcels so I was a little cramped, but no matter, it's only a 3 minute ride. Jim brought all these parcels into his office and started this mad frenzy of carefully wrapping each one in paper - not sure what that's all about - they looked fine to me without the paper. I munched on a couple of biscuits, had a sip of water - I really wish he would change it more often, but I can't say much, especially when he catches me drinking water out of the toilet, but at least it's fresh. I wandered downstairs to see Russet - she's usually good for a treat. When all the wrapping was done, Jim bundled everything back in the car and we headed into town again. I'm assuming he did some more shopping because he came back about an hour later and crowded me even more. I can't imagine what's going on. When we got home my friend Ozzy was at the house. I don't remember inviting him over, but what the heck - he's good company, except when his stomach gets upset from eating my food and he passes some very unpleasant gases. We hung out for a while and then Jim took me for a car ride to Matt and Sarah's house. Courtney was there - I'm not crazy about her - she's a bit of a whiner and not much fun - she must be about a hundred years old. The humans had dinner - I think it was lamb - I got some leftovers, but I really don't chew my food well enough to know what it is I'm eating, but it was definitely meat. The next day we all piled in the truck again, more parcels crowding my space and took a long drive. I had to stay in the car, while Jim and Dave went inside for what seemed like hours. Jim came out and took me on a walk. I have no idea where we were, but there were lots of great smells around. I got kind of carried away sniffing and peeing on every second snowbank, but what the heck - I had been left in the truck for quite a long time. We finally left, Jim and Dave got in the truck smelling like shellfish and pasta. I think I picked up the scent of another dog on Jim's leg - but I'm not really sure - I was too tired to care. Then yesterday morning there were a few parcels opened at our house. Jim got a new hoodie and some new jeans. Dave got some work boots (not sure what he's going to do with them), and a nice looking winter jacket. There were a few books, some bottles, gloves, and chocolate, which I love, although I always feel as though I shouldn't eat too much of it. That's when this lovely Christmas outfit of mine made it's auspicious debut. Jim and Dave left in a terrible hurry, forgetting to take me with them. I'm not sure where they were but they came home about an hour later smelling like other people and incense looking holier than holy. Later that day we loaded up the truck with more parcels and off we went on another long truck ride. This time I got to go in to the party. I met this other dog there named Gus - he was pretty hot. Something about him really turned me on - I just couldn't keep my paws off him. Everybody kept telling me to behave, but I just couldn't help myself. The humans helped themselves to huge plates of food, while Gus and I politely looked on. I used my best sad eyes to score a few pieces of white meat - I think it was turkey, and a nice chunk of what looked like ham. I also got to lick some gravy off a few plates - big deal. After a few hours of chit chat we all piled back into the truck, now finally emptied of parcels and headed home. Today things seem to have returned to normal; we're back in the office and I'm just about to lay down for a nap.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have yourself a hairy Christmas

This past Sunday the Ste. Anne's team had our annual Christmas party (this was our 22nd) hosted by Roger and his outstanding team at the Best Western in Cobourg. Despite the dire predictions of the weatherman, and a little bit of snow on the roads, most of the team made it out for a nice meal followed by the presentation of our P.R.I.D.E. awards, some gifts, and some dancing. Front desk man Robert O. stole the night, not only with his ample display of chest hair (which was later challenged by Operations Manager Richard R., both pictured above), but also with some pretty sassy moves on the dance floor as the DJ belted out tunes from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The highlight of the night was the "Pass the Zucchini Lip Syncing Contest" (you had to be there). Fun was had by all; no fist fights broke out, and everyone made it into work the next day, so all in all I'd say it was a good night. Pictured above, dining room manager David S. is receiving the P.R.I.D.E. award for Excellence, as selected by his peers. David wins 3 nights at Miraval Spa in Arizona in recognition of his achievement. Other winners were, in the category for Passion, Steve P. from Food Services, in the category for Responsibility, Cara A. from Spa Booking, in the category for Initiative, Spa Manager Natalie K. and Guest Services/Duty Manager Tanya R., and Operations Manager Richard R., in the Category for Determination, each taking home 75,000 RBC Rewards points. Congratulations to all the winners. Now, if I may, I'd like to vent a little bit about the damn weatherman. When did Canadians become such a bunch of scaredy-cats? Today's all news channels are so starved for news that they make a big deal of a little snow storm, so much so that otherwise rational people find themselves sitting at home frozen in fear in front of their television sets. We were born in a part of the world that enjoys and celebrates the seasons! Pick up a shovel, apply some common sense, allow a little more time, invest in the right equipment, (i.e., snow tires), and you'll get there safely, despite the weatherman. If all else fails, take the train, or spend the night. We had tons of cancellations this past weekend, all because of the weatherman, despite the fact that we provide door to door service from the VIA Rail station in Cobourg. If you haven't been to Ste. Anne's Spa on a snow covered winter day, you don't know what you're missing. The outdoor hot tub, the fireplace, the crunch of snowshoes on the walking trails, a great meal after the warmth of a mud bath and a massage, and all of this set amid incredible snow covered scenery. As one of my red neck associates is prone to say, "suck it up buttercup". See you in a snow bank!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Preparing for Christmas - What comes around goes around . . .

Last year around this time, I remember reflecting on the cost of all the "stuff" we north Americans go out and buy in the name of Christmas. My immediate conclusion was that this very self indulgent practice would be much better directed towards people in need through donations to organizations specializing in fund raising for developing countries. On further reflection though, I came to the realization that buying "stuff" creates the economic activity that creates wealth and puts it into the hands of people who need the jobs that are created as a result of our buying. This weekend I took my mom and David to the Oshawa mall on Sunday afternoon. More than anything I was thinking it would make for a nice drive, although I use almost any excuse to visit the Telus store, where I am always greeted with a big smile and an abundance of help with my telecommunications challenges. While on the 401 we listened to yet another news story about the number of Canadians - (apparently now 1 in 5) who are hustling off to the U.S. to save money as they exercise the new found strength of the loonie. The latest angle is that Canadians are not good tippers! Although the Oshawa mall was busy, given the proximity to Christmas, it certainly could have been busier. Our first stop was at Canadian Tire where I picked up a squirrel proof bird feeder for my mom's back yard. It's quite ingenius, and it's already brought a steady stream of colourful customers, much to my mother's delight. A spring loaded device closes off the supply of food if anything heavier than a bird steps on it. There are a few chubby Bluejays that might have a problem with this feeder, but the squirrels are definatley out of luck with this one. Next we stopped in for a visit with the ever friendly staff at Telus where we were treated like royalty, as per usual. As it turns out, the VP for the Oshawa region, who's wife comes to the spa, read my blog (Tuesday September 11th, 2007) telling about the great service we always get at this store, and took all the staff out for breakfast. No wonder the staff are so nice - they are appreciated by management! Next we spent some time at Chapters reading and picking out gifts (OK, most of the gifts were from me, to me), another favourite pastime, before heading home. Although there were crowds, there were no line ups or delays at any of these stores. My message is this. Those Canadians who are rushing the border intoxicated by their zeal to save money by travelling to the U.S. should really pause and reflect on the long term impact of this kind of short term thinking. If the Canadian dollar continues to trade at par, (which it probably will as long as we are willing to compromise our environment to sell oil and other natural resources and as long as interest rates are low) there will be adjustments to retail prices once old inventory and old currency works its way out of the system. However, expecting these changes over night is not realistic. The impact on manufacturing jobs, (which by the way started long before the dollar hit par), is just the tip of the potential economic iceberg. There will be a domino/vicious circle effect as lost jobs in manufacturing, shopping and travelling abroad start to impact on each other. First the loss of these jobs will result in reduced spending and investment by these people without or between jobs. Ultimately the burden of these lost jobs will multiply across sectors and then be passed down to the taxpayer as our costs of an economic slowdown start to be noticed and responded to by government through our already strained and expensive social safety net. Irony is, all of this will ultimately weaken the dollar. So the old adage - what comes around, goes around comes to mind. Do yourself and your fellow Canadians a favour - shop at home and travel at home this holiday season - buy Canadian, give to the poor, and save yourself some long term pain.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A year of blogging, and life is a carnival

I can't believe that I've been blogging now for a year. My first blog was published after the 2006 Santa Claus Parade in Toronto, and here it is winter again. Today I went up to Reid's Arctic Cat and picked up my sleds - all tuned up and ready for another year of snowmobiling. I'm hoping that the snow conditions will be a little better this year; last year I put on less than 300 miles and that was probably in 2 or 3 outings. Last weekend I sat in on the Ste. Anne's book club, while Noah Richler talked about and read from Giller Prize winner Elizabeth Hay's book "Late Nights on Air", along with various musings about Canada's north, politics, journalists, and his father Mordecai. Noah is a great guy, a talented writer and a regular spa guy to boot. There's definitely something nice about being read to. Maybe it brings back the comfort of being read to by kindergarten teachers, parents, grandparents and babysitters before we mastered the technique ourselves. Inspired by Noah's regular readings and the influence of other souls like our Reverend Ed, Debbie and Darlene, Nancy and Chef and their willingness to lead our hikes and our guided meditation, we're going to make some changes to our fitness program at the spa, starting in the new year. Our goal is to mix it up a bit - make it more spontaneous and try to cover a broader spectrum of activities that are good for the body, mind and spirit. We hope to include more readings, more walks, some dance classes, meditation, yoga, and other activities that we hope can be lead by guest writers (like Noah), staff, and other local friends of the spa. Hopefully this new direction will be popular with our guests. I don't really think people come to Ste. Anne's to get fit - most just want to be taken care of, to relax and unwind in a gentle, non-judgemental and caring place. I'm currently struggling my way through Janet Wallach's "Desert Queen - The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia". It's an interesting read, but certainly not a book that you just can't put down. It is giving me a fresh perspective on the history of this region, in stark contrast to how it and it's inhabitants are portrayed in the media, and of course more evidence of the potential of a strong willed women who puts her mind to something. A funny little side note, when I searched on this book on Google, it also brought up references to the movie, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", one of my all time favourite movies. I have great memories of playing the soundtrack to this movie at full blast across the deck of a 30 foot Searay Cruiser(boat) careening at full speed across Rice Lake in the dark with 12 very intoxicated friends dancing under the moonlight with coloured beach towels blowing in the wind doing our best to reenact the movie's bus ride through the desert. I suddenly realized that I had no idea where we were, and worse yet, I had no idea where the old rail bed was that I had to safely navigate my way through in order to get back to our mooring, preferably without having it remove the bottom of the boat, the engine and both propellers. I believe that was also the night that I decided that alcohol and boating really don't mix (for the captain, that is). Miraculously, we made it to shore safely with all of our bodies and good memories intact. Who ever said that learning can't be fun?