April 4, 2012

65th birthday brings pleasant surprise

SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — On March 7, I celebrated my 65th birthday and officially became an "old lady," according to my grandson Jesse. As it turns out, "old lady" status isn't so bad after all.

My daughter Tracey told me to keep March 8 and March 9 free because she had a birthday surprise for me. My sister, Sharon, surprised me and came along with Tracey. Their birthday presents were great, including a hand-painted sleigh front that was my great-grandfather's. The requested winter scene Tracey designed and painted is beautiful. I thought that was it until she asked me if I had my passport.

(Drum roll) "We're headed to Canada to stay at the Frontiere B&B in Hemmingford," she said, owned by Keith and Pat McAdam, her husband's aunt and uncle. I love bed and breakfasts, but my husband isn't crazy about them. This was a great present.

After a short drive north, Pat welcomed us at the door and showed us to our rooms. Tracey and I were thrilled to have the Spring Room: periwinkle walls, fluffy floral comforters, white iron beds, a rocking chair in one corner and an antique washstand in the other.

Sharon had the Western Room, whose décor included a sleigh converted to a day bed and a comfy queen-size bed with western-themed bedding.

A third bedroom, the Safari Room, had African décor. Two bathrooms, and we had it all.

The next surprise was supper at the WitsEnd Irish Pub, a substantial quarried stone restaurant just down the street. English fish and chips all around. Back at the B&B, Pat uncovered the steaming hot tub, and all four of us "girls" (the youngest, 44) donned our bathing suits and sunk beneath the frothy waters. Did we sleep well that night.


The next day held another surprise: a drive north to IKEA in Boucherville, near Montreal; one place I've wanted to see. Pat had been there before but took written directions because the exit is tricky to find.

Four women in a car, all chatting, and you guessed it, we missed the exit. Pat said not to worry, the next one was only eight minutes away. We missed that one, too. We kidded about being close to Quebec City, when we finally found an off-ramp with an easy on-ramp on the other side of the road.

At IKEA, I wasn't prepared for the type of store it is. You go in the door, up an escalator (or elevator) and proceed to follow red arrows on the floor through multiple room layouts. All items in each room are for sale — from the furniture to the pots and pans. Each setting told how many square feet it takes to live with the entire setting.

I didn't expect to find anything small enough to take home, so I just browsed. After walking through "miles" of showroom, I found a linen cabinet that was perfect for my newly remodeled bathroom. Where? At the checkouts. If I had gone there first, I could have saved a lot of walking.

I thought I had a good deal on the $200 cabinet, marked down to $99, plus 15 percent off on Friday, making it $83. Wow! At the checkout, however, I was rudely awaked to nearly $14 in taxes. I have more understanding of why Canadians like shopping in the States.

We decided to take a quick break at the IKEA cafeteria before heading south to Hemmingford. How embarrassed I was when I didn't think I had received the correct change from the cashier, only to discover she had given me $2 coins instead of paper bills.

Depositing our dirty trays, we headed for what we thought was the way out. After the third time around the same counters, we had to ask how to get out of the place. The kind clerk showed us a very secluded exit that would take us back to the checkouts. Makes sense now but sure didn't when we were lost in "IKEALAND."

I'm not one to go for girls' night out, but this one, with my oldest daughter, my only sister and special extended family, Aunt Pat, was one I wouldn't have missed for anything. Presents from family and friends rounded out the event. Turning into an "old lady" isn't so bad after all.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at