Simply Biscotti Project

I have left full-time work behind and find (as much as you can know in the first 30 days) that you bring much of what you did in the workplace into the other parts of your life.  It only makes sense I suppose.  One area is that of projects.  There are projects in work life and projects beyond full-time work.  One of my (many) projects is tasting , well completely eating, my way through the dessert counter at Simply Biscotti on Preston St. in Little Italy, Ottawa.   It’s not that I hadn’t indulged a bit before I left work but really if this is going to be a clean project and it follows some semblance of project management principles then I should really start all over again…from scratch-just like the baking at Simply Biscotti.

And as in any well run project, there should be a project charter, the resources need to be assigned, dependencies assigned and documented and a Gantt chart populated (forget it-I’m not going there) and timeframes assigned.  At the end of the project (it’s highly likely this may be an ongoing project with no clearly defined endpoint) there will be a celebration to mark the great efforts by the entire team and we will absolutely conduct a Lessons Learned with all those who have been part of the project.  Truth be known it’s a pretty straight forward project.   Find the time, call a friend, head over to Simply Biscotti, enjoy a treat, blog about it. If there are no family or friends available, I am committed to going it alone. To keep the calorie intake and expenditure a zero sum game, there is the good intention to walk or cycle to and from the bistro.  I am sure I can figure out some visual tracking-a graph or something-that estimates calorie intake again expenditure-perhaps that’s not a good idea.

My second Simply Biscotti project visit occurred this week and there were two coincidences at the same time.  I heard about the patron just in front of me who, after tasting one of the treats, said she would like to eat one of everything in the counter.  While chatting with Rosa, the owner, I mentioned the YouTube  video of her bistro that I had come upon.  She said the woman sitting at the table next to me was one of the creators.  All I can say is with this sort of following I may have to quit talking about the place if I hope to find a table at any point in time!  Good thing there’s a patio set up now for the warmer times ahead.

This week’s delectable:  ricotta cheesecake. Ingredients included ricotta cheese, custard, candied orange, orange water inside a shortbread crust.  The candied orange added a surprise to each mouthful.  It’s a great treat for those who want delicious but not too sweet.  Mmmmm good.  Recommendation: if I was going to do this again I would have had them cut it in two and taken half of it home to savour later.  Maybe it’s just me, but once I start on something so good, it’s tough to stop half way.  I’m thinking I may start to take a little container with me for just such occasions-eliminate a take out container and string out the enjoyment-what’s wrong with that?

If you decide to go to Simply Biscotti.  Tell them Barb sent you and you saw it on the blog. Rosa said she’d like to know.

We all age at the same rate

On the subject of maturity

Many many years ago I recall saying, well perhaps whining, to my wise aunt that I was getting old. The way I put it, it must have sounded as if I was the only person who was getting older. At that time I was likely in my 30’s and she was well into her 50’s. My aunt looked me straight in the eye and said “We all age at the same rate-one day at a time.” That phrase has never left me. It makes a lot of sense. Get over it- neither you or I are not getting older any slower or faster than anyone else on this earth. We are all moving along the aging scale at the very same pace. It is my experience that aging can be more or less a big deal depending on how old you are and your views of aging.

If life is viewed in terms of a baseball game then you make your way around the four bases during your lifetime. Since the average lifespan for women in our country is around 80 years, then each base represents 20 years.  Using this analogy, I’m be leaving third base on my way to home plate. To be clear, I am just leaving…maybe my foot is still on the base and I will do whatever I can to make it a and healthy trip to home plate and when I get there I want to go like a watch battery.  I’m ok with that. There are many who never had  opportunity to make way around the bases in the 20 year segments.

The accounts of aging can be depressing, insightful, refreshing and witty. Last week I attended a show that included readings from the book I Feel Great About My Hands . The editor Shari Graydon was present along with several of the contributors. The contributors have all waived their claim royalties and proceeds of the book go to Media Action.

The contributors who were present included Alison Smith, CBC one news, Susan Harada formerly with CBC, Lynn Miles, singer/song writer and several other interesting and accomplished women who have lived lives as farmers, poets and/professors. From my perspective and being of a certain age, the evening was outstanding.

Shari chaired the evening and told how she was paying homage to Nora Ephron’s and her book of similar title, I Feel Bad About My Neck.  There is one coincidence (wouldn’t you know that was the title of my last blog) I am not particularly pleased with…and that is my sometimes stated goal of learning to drive a long haul semi and one of the short stories “How Drooping Breasts Led Me to a Truck-driving Life of Adventure” .   I’d like to think the author and I don’t have everything in common.  But then again, the whole thing may go with growing older and if you asked the girls, they might just say- we all age at the same rate….one day at a time.

Are thoughts and the insights and wisdom of aging are similar for men and women? (aside from the drooping breasts…but then again that might be a thought shared more commonly than one would realize)


If I had the skill, I would write plain language instruction for many things one tries to do on the computer.  Yes indeed, there are instructions and tutorials and videos.  However, they sometimes lack in their helpfulness when things don’t work.  Take figuring out to hyperlink into a blog.  I read the instructions (not a routine practice for me),  I watched tutorials, I copied, pasted, cursed, tried again.  What isn’t available under instructions routinely is ” and if this doesn’t work then”.  Finally I sought some assistance.  Yes I did this.  Yes I did that.  I deleted this http://.  What ?  I should have deleted that http:// ?  Why?  That doesn’t make sense.  Technology!

Let me know if the links work this time!

Coincidences-what are the chances

Recently I attended a class give by a man who has a Master Gardener designation. It was held in the south central part of the city-there were about 50 people in the audience. Three nights later I went a fundraiser amateur production in the hall of a Church in the eastern end of the city. There were probably about 200 people in the audience. During the intermission I noticed that at the table behind us was the very same man. What are the chances that in a region of some one million people that you will see the same person at two unrelated events in very different locations within a few days? What are the chances?

There is another story, indeed a true story about coincidences that we experienced as a family some 20 years ago. I have a picture to prove what I am about to recount. Unfortunately I am 21 years behind in any sort of organization of photos so you’ll need to picture what I’m about to describe-at least until I become more organized in this, my next chapter.

My our family of three along with a good friend were traveling to Denver, Colorado by car during the summer. We had put in a long day and had planned to overnight in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We had made reservations at a motel in advance. None of us had been to Cheyenne before. As we drove along what was obviously the motel strip, our daughter about 8 years old at the time, peeking out the car window, said to her father “We’ve been here before, right, Dad?”. Her father said, no, we hadn’t been to this city before.

Upon arriving at the motel our friend registered and then left the office to wait outside as we registered. As we left the office our friend, who had been looking around outside told us to come over where he was standing for we “won’t believe it”. And there etched into the cement was a heart and inside it where my husband’s and daughter’s names along with last initials! What are the chances?

Coincidentally (there’s that word again) I am reading a book right now titled “Why Do Buses Come in Threes” The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Windham. Chapter 6 is titled “How do you explain coincidence: and in it the authors explain the mathematics of chance. So what are the chances that the either of the above would occur? If I understood is correctly-the first example-the chances are about 50/50 over a certain period of time-the second example-not so much. You’ll have to read the book to see what the authors suggest. By the way, you need to really have a handle on math and probabilities to stay with some parts of the book. All I can say is they don’t say The Hidden AND SIMPLE Mathematics of Everyday Life.

What did I learn during my career

As I prepared to leave an almost 40 year career recently, I thought about what I had learned. I learned things through trial and error and from seeing things common things in uncommon areas. It’s my lens on a bit of the working world. I talked about these things at my “Next Chapter” celebration and have had a number of people ask for the list. And so, take it or leave it, these are the ones that come most to my mind of lessons learned. What have I learned after almost 40 career years.

• Take chances, leave your comfort zone, take some risks. Failure and mistakes come with the territory….it was once said that those who never fail are those who never tried.

• Believe it or not, people don’t pay that much attention to you-so don’t get too full of yourself or think you are really hot stuff. Remember my Polish Grandmother’s saying: The higher the monkey climbs, the more you can see his ass.

• Don’t be complacent. On occasion in my working career my husband labelled me a chronic malcontent. I really didn’t mind. If I do the same thing too often I don’t stay fresh or have the zeal I should.

• Don’t avoid difficult decisions-take the tough ones along with the easy ones-if you don’t they’ll come back to haunt you. Make the decision thinking about the overall impact, weigh all the factors and make the decision and carry it out with purpose and respect.

• If you are privileged to be in a position of leadership, your role is to support those who report to you so they succeed and ultimately progress further than you.

• Give people a stage-a chance to demonstrate their potential and then sit back and watch what happens and cheer for them from the wings. It was once said “it is better to prepare a stage than to walk across it”.

• Create and nurture relationships-not only your own but link others together-for business, professionally watch the synergy, watch the good things that happen from getting people together.

• Have fun…have fun at work…be creative. Do things like dressing up, buying something from the dollar store for your team members, write a poem or a song, design a synchronized snow shovel routine and use play dough to visually demonstrate something at a business planning session. If teams are creative in fun, they will be creative in work.

• Finally, bask in joy of working with others.

What do you think? What have you learned? What did I miss?

My ideas and your eyes

Beyond full-time work: There’s something about knowing your time is much more your own that is just the most fertile ground for growing possibilities and opportunities!


You think, I could do this or that or maybe this and that and something else too!

  • Class 1A driver’s license….why not?  During an appointment last week I was asked about my plans for the next chapter and I said perhaps driving big trucks.  Well, I learned there’s all sorts of openings in Nova Scotia-doing short hauls across the border.  That might work since short drives, rather than the ones where I get sleepy and have to pull over for a nap, sound like a better fit.
  • Re-decorating-all those things we could do-painting, repairing, refurbishing.  It’s never-ending.
  • Then there’s said garden plot-just rented for the season.
  • And golf.
  • And cycling.
  • And accordion lessons.  Ah the much maligned accordion.  It’s the only instrument I learned to play.  Well, that might be an overstatement.  It’s the only time I took music lessons.  I would like to try my hand at it again.  A loved one recently smiled and said “Do you know the difference between an accordion and an onion?  No one cries when they cut up an accordion”.
  • And Simply Biscotti runs….well this skims the surface of possibilities!  Speaking of Simply Biscotti the inaugural ‘beyond work Simply Biscotti eat your way through the dessert counter’ visit happened last week.  It was a beautiful day and I was joined by a friend.  The little coffee shop was full-we lingered over the dessert counter asking about this treat and that treat.  What type of filling, how sweet is it and so on.  And so the first choice was:

Fruit Tart-a cookie crust-the edges dipped in dark chocolate.  There was a custard filling topped with fresh berries and finished with a nicely flavoured glaze.  It’s not a really sweet dessert-very nice on a warm afternoon.  As far as calories, the total count is known but the subtitle is ” well I didn’t bike or walk a great deal today so let’s find dessert with fresh fruit in it”.  I’d order it again-but not till I’ve tried everything else.


There’s a noticeable connection between my ideas and my spouse’s eyes.  I am sure upon his next eye exam the optometrist will ask if he’s suffering eye strain-perhaps he’s been straining to look up too often.  No, my spouse will say, it’s from looking to the heavens and rolling my eyes so very often when my wife come up with another IDEA!

Green thumb

At short notice I attended a seminar by a Master Gardener last night. It was titled “Planning Your Garden”. An unnamed member of my family said “What’s to know? Short plants in the front, tall plants in the back.”  Such support!

Hot on the heels of last night’s new-found knowledge I went out this morning and rented a 1000 sq. ft garden plot from the city.  Today was the day that people who didn’t rent last year could vie for a plot.  Little did I know you could find out ahead of time which plots were available and you could have gone and previewed them.  As I waited outside the office with other would be gardeners, they discussed which plots they were hoping for and how some were weed infested and some overgrown and neglected and I thought hmmmmm.  Nonetheless a very pleasant and seemingly knowledgeable women-in-line ahead of us gave a few us of some suggestions about which plots seemed desirable.  So i will garden with my friend…there may be considerable coffee drinking and laughing and perhaps not too much gardening.  Some fresh potatoes and dill from my garden, enough to complement a summer’s meal would be enough of a reward in itself.  Now which is taller -potatoes or dill?

Five days beyond work

Well, it’s really only 3 ‘what would have been work’  days beyond work as 2 of them were weekend days.  It is, though, a whole new mindset.  The possibilities are endless-there are so many choices and things to explore-just where to start!

I filled most of my first day beyond work by spending it at a spa on the premise that what you do on your first day sets a tone for all the days to come.  After a work-a-day career, the thought of the unstructured freedom has not yet fully sunk in.

An example of my new mindset was a Saturday morning ritual…. receiving and opening up the Globe and Mail.   What was totally different was how I read it.  For I have routinely (or at least for a considerable length of time) separated the paper into sections and gone directly to the Financial section and from there directly to the segment entitled Financial Facelift.  I was keenly interested in people who were about our age and stage in life and considering life beyond work.  I’d look at their assets and liabilities and compare their status with ours and look at what the experts had to say.  This Saturday I didn’t go there first-I thought that article will wait its turn.  It’s interesting . I suppose if we haven’t got a fair handle on this sort of planning by this time…….well, we should quit buying the paper for we likely need to be saving those resources too.

It will take some time for me to shift gears.  Last night I thought about baking muffins for the morning and then I thought-hey-I can get up and make them in the morning!  No need to rush off for that routine morning commute.

There’s been time for good long hikes with friends, dinners and theatre and reading in the afternoon and maybe even a little nap here and there-knowing there’s time for those other things like laundry at any time I’d like.  Time and space to settle into what comes up next.  What luxury.

I do have to take some time to thank so many people who contributed to my farewell “next chapter” party last week.  I’ll do some personal thank yous, however I thought I’d try my hand at a cartoon response.  After you look at it, the old phrase “keep your day job” may come to mind.  Oh, wait-that won’t work-I don’t have a day job!

My first Simply Biscotti excursion needs to be taken too.  I wonder if we became subject to the Financial Facelift what the experts would say about a monthly expenditure entitled biscotti and decadent desserts.

The Pioneer Blog!

April Fools -I’m done working!

A quick introduction-indeed my name is Barb Shea and I have been known to tell a true story, on occasion.  Yesterday, March 31st, 2011 was my last day at work after a pretty lengthy and very satisfying career.  My wonderful colleagues at work held a send off party for me and it was party to end all parties!  I think I’ll need weeks to process the well wishes and kind remarks and to remember all the thank you’s I need to send.  I couldn’t have asked for a better time to spend with friends and colleagues.  If I’d had known it would be that much fun I would have left years ago!

And so to the blog-it was one of the gifts!  It was set up and titled and ready to go and launched yesterday-by my colleagues-they put on the initial content.  I tell you this to help explain my biography-which isn’t entirely factual-and the cartoon-which was authored by two witty co-workers.  Witty but not too wise in the ways of gopher hunting-they have my cartoon character asking about buying a shotgun-you don’t shoot gophers with a shotgun! At least asking for 22 calibre rifle would have added some credibility.

I was given a t-shirt with my picture and url on it.

So thanks to Chris and Tarry for getting me started.  You may live to regret what you’ve unleashed! My blog will follow my life beyond full time work and any stories that show up along the way.  The stories may be true or otherwise.

It’s exciting to think about what this next chapter in my life will hold.  I’ve many interests and great family and friends-who could ask for anything more.  It’s important always though to have goals and even on day one ‘beyond work’ I have at least one goal.  To regularly visit the independently owned coffee shop Simply Biscotti (the cartoon makes reference to it) in Ottawa, ON.  They have this lovely dessert counter-all made onsite.  I plan to systematically eat my way through that counter and blog about it as I go.  My knowledge of blogging and my waistline should grow together.