Summer Vacation 2014 – First Leg – Georgian Bay

Hello all! I’m here in Prince Edward Island and have finally had time to take a breath and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in the last week. I can tell you that it’s quite an overwhelming undertaking. However, I did divide them into the different legs of the journey which made sifting much easier. We have crossed four provinces and have driven almost 2,300 km in a week. We’ve visited my Dad in Georgian Bay, taken the kids to La Ronde in Montreal, toured historic Quebec City, made a quick stop in Fredericton, and are finally resting a few days near Alberton, Prince Edward Island before heading back to Ottawa.

Georgian Bay is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Ontario. My Dad and his wife are fortunate to have a lovely cottage in the area of Honey Harbour. Although they don’t look out onto Georgian Bay itself, they have a gorgeous view of a smaller bay that is relatively quiet and sheltered. Although the skies were overcast all weekend, it did not stop the kids from swimming. They had a choice of going in off the dock or splashing in the sandy beach area. Aside from 1000 shots of them jumping into the water and searching for fish in the shallow waters, I spent the rest of my time taking nature shots.

The most frustrating thing in the world is to try to take a photo of a Loon. I swear that they purposely taunt me by appearing just close enough to shore that my zoom lens can barely make them out or by popping up right next to the dock when all I have with me is my cell phone. Then, just as I’m about to take the shot, they dive under the water and, after what seems like an eternity, pop up again 6 miles away. So, you’ll forgive me if the shot I’m displaying here is not entirely crisp but it’s the best darn photo of a Loon I’ve ever taken.

Loon Georgian Bay

The other photo of a bird I took was purely out of curiosity. I wasn’t sure what it was. It was soaring like a Hawk but was far too large to be a Hawk. It seemed much too graceful to be a Turkey Vulture, and yet, that’s what it turned out to be. I had never realized that Turkey Vultures have beautiful silvery wings, but as it dove and soared over the cottage, I could see them glistening in the sun. I’m rather glad that, due to my distance from the vulture, I wasn’t able to capture a clear shot of its face. You can, however, see the red around the eye and the yellow beak if you look closely.

Vulture GB_sm

The Muskoka Chair is kind of a cultural icon especially in areas North of Toronto. It is the Canadian version of the Adirondack Chair. There are subtle differences if you look closely. It seems almost like a faux pas if you have a cottage and don’t have one of these chairs. The well crafted ones are very nice and are quite comfortable. I liked the secluded location of this one in the photo and thought, if I had time to myself, I’d like to curl up in it with a good book and enjoy my surroundings.

Muskoka Chair GB_sm

Of course, I have to include a few of the flora as well so here they are – Lily Pads and Daisies.

I’ll return soon with stories and photos from Quebec. :)

Tea Party

My daughter’s school ran a “flea market” this week. Families donated household items and clothing they no longer wanted and the students got some time to buy things for themselves. Yesterday my daughter borrowed $3 from a friend and bought me a lovely creamer and a vase. Today (after I gave her $5 for herself plus the $3 to pay back her friend) she came home with a bag full of newswrapped items. She was so excited as she handed me the bag. “For you, Mommy!” I unwrapped two teacups, one coffee  cup, a creamer and a sugar – all Royal Albert bone china in the Mayflower pattern. Now, it could have been a soap dish made in China, and I would have been thrilled with it because she thought of me. But these are truly beautiful cups and I can’t wait to have a mother/daughter tea party this weekend complete with homemade scones. I think she deserves it for being an absolute doll. :-)

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Oatmeal Squares

Oh Jeepers! I’ve just realised how far behind I’ve gotten in my posting. Well, time to remedy that. Some days nothing jumps out at me as inspirational but I guess some days I’m just not paying as close attention as I should be.

Every day at about this time, I’m usually preparing a snack for the ravenous hoard who will be arriving home from school in an hour. By 3:30 there are 7 kids in my house and 3 of them need gluten-free foods.

Gluten-free isn’t really a problem these days as there are loads of good options in the grocery store and a kazillion recipes on the Internet to choose from. I usually opt for the easier recipes though and sometimes it takes a while to find one for which I have the correct ingredients.

Today it suddenly dawned on me that my favourite treat from when I was a kid is actually gluten-free – my mom was  way ahead of her time. I quickly threw the ingredients together and felt very happy reclaiming this treasure from the past. The fact that it’s gluten-free is definitely a bonus but isn’t the reason for today’s post. Just happy memories.

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For the recipe and to read another person with fond memories of these squares, see this article by Gwendolyn Richards in the Calgary Herald.

Enduring Daisies

Back on March 11th, my sister sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. They were full of lovely daisies – gerberas and regular – plus roses and greenery. Slowly, over the last two weeks the roses and greenery have withered substantially. But look at these daisies!!! They’re still vibrant and stunning! Today I weeded out the witherers and now I can’t stop admiring the bouquet all over again. It’s the gift that keeps on giving – especially appreciated right now with the neverending cold. Thanks, Sarah. Xo

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Girls’ Night Out

I decided to treat my daughter to a little girl time with Mom this evening. Just she and I headed out to the mall for dinner and a little shopping. She needed some clothes but we bought those as quickly as possible and then spent most of our time in the wonderful arts and craft shop, DeSerres. I think she was just thrilled to have some special attention and I was happy to indulge her. What a beautiful way to start the weekend.

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Sentimental Beauty

I wasn’t feeling 100% today and most of the winter I feel cold. I have this blanket that was made in Scotland and sold through the Hudson’s Bay Company years ago. The kids can’t stand it because it’s mohair and wool but I find it very cosy. Not only does it make me feel physical comfort, it also comforts me in a sentimental way. The blanket used to belong to my grandmother. It’s a beautiful feeling to be comforted by someone who has long been departed but who still lives on in our hearts.

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Thoughts on Father’s Day

With my dad and sister 1974.
With my dad and sister 1974.

Well, it’s Father’s Day and, as usual, I’m spending it away from my dad. Life has taken us in different directions, physically. It’s probably been a couple of years since we’ve seen each other, a fact I rather regret. You see, it’s not intentional, it’s just that I have kids and he is getting older so time and ability to travel, on both sides is, limited.  As I write it and re-read it, it sounds kind of lame, really, this reason for not getting together but it’s the truth. We don’t talk often on the phone either. Maybe once a month; twice if we’re lucky.

With all this in mind, you might think we were estranged, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think of him often and fondly. I think he does the same but also with that parental worry attached, as every good father does. When we talk on the phone it’s always a pleasure for me. Hearing my father’s voice is like snuggling up to a childhood stuffy or blanket. It’s so familiar and so comforting…even if he’s reprimanding me in his very subtle, between-the-lines kind of way that he’s very good at.

Yesterday, I drove up to the cottage by myself. I needed to mow the lawn and vacuum amongst other small projects. It was one of those perfect June days; sunny with fluffy clouds in the sky, a warm breeze, crickets and birds singing in the grasses. As I drove along the winding roads of the countryside, I could feel every tension in my body release and I suddenly wondered why. I wondered why it was here, in the middle of nowhere, and nowhere near home, that I felt most at home. I didn’t grow up on a farm but rather a small-sized city. My dad was a history teacher at one of the local highschools. The countryside was a place through which we traveled to get from town to town.

Or was it? Suddenly an image came to me which brought a smile to myself that I couldn’t turn off if I’d wanted to. It was of my dad in a bright orange Cat Diesel Power cap rested just on top of his mat of wavy hair, which, if you knew my dad, was the antithesis of who he really was. But my dad always enjoys the dramatic approach to things; the eccentricities he can conjure. Anyway, that hat marked the days of the auction sales! My mom and dad were both antique enthusiasts and enjoyed running an antique business on the side. Almost every Saturday of the summer we rolled over the hills and through the valleys of Perth, Waterloo, and Oxford counties in our stationwagon (my sister and I sitting unbelted in the very back) in search of sales or for the purpose of setting up at table at a  flea market or antique show.

Auction sales were always  at farm estates, big beautiful open spaces with old homes and old barns. There was always a fence or a tree to climb, and an adventure to be had. My sister and I roamed like gypsy children while mom and dad focused on the goods for sale. I think it was a time when we were the freest. Mom let down her guard a bit and dad seemed happy to just be away from the classroom as a completely different persona. Certainly, my sister and I weren’t always agreeable about going back then, but I’m happy to look back fondly on it now. It really was some of the best times of my childhood and that explains a lot.

So there you are,  Dad, you can dress up all you want but you see how you are in my memories?! :) As a parent it goes to show you that of all the things you do for your  children, the things you do to make yourself happy, if you can include your children, can created the fondest and longest lasting of memories. I’m glad you didn’t abandon yourself, Dad. I’m glad you side a bit on the eccentric. I’m glad you are you and you’re my dad! I’m glad I have you to think about. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day! I love you.

“Love Always”

We all know mothers. Whether they are our blood, adoptive, or even surrogate they all hold special places in our lives. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have a multitude of wise and loving older women in our lives who give us wide range of perspectives and support. I am lucky this way. Being adopted as a newborn I grew up in a tight-knit family with a very loving and wonderful mother. The same year I lost her to cancer, I found my birth mother with whom I’ve developed a very close and loving relationship. I have also known several women in my life who became like a Mom-away-from-mom and they are loved and appreciated for their significant roles in my life as well. It’s amazing how these bonds are formed and can never be shaken throughout our lives.

About a month ago I was travelling in North Country New York state in the quaint and lovely villages just south of Syracuse. While perusing the local artisan shops, I came across an artist whose work I could not ignore (nor did I want to ignore it). Bright, lively, and happy is the only way I can start to describe Lori Portka‘s work. Her mixed-media paintings bring colour and warmth to any room. In fact, I bought two prints for my office which, as soon as the space is ready, I can’t wait to hang. These days, when you find an artist whose work you admire, you look for their website which I did with Ms. Portka. Her most recent posting highlighted her newest painting called “Love Always” which she had copied and printed as Mother’s Day cards. This beautiful painting (shown below) and its message was the motivation behind this post.

Love Always (Lori Portka)
Love Always (Lori Portka)

The inspiration for this post is, of course, all the women who came to mind when I saw the painting. To my mothers who have loved me without reservation or condition, Happy Mother’s Day. I love you always. To the women who took me under their wings and cared, you’ll always be in my heart. To the rest of you who are mothers and have mothers. Happy Mother’s Day. Celebrate well and love always.

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Wham!

No…not Wham!…Wake me up before you go-go. Wham! The ball is out of the park! Softball season has arrived once again much to the joy of my son, who played last year, and also my daughter, who is playing for the first time. Each of them has already had one practice and we’ll be out for my son’s first game tonight.

I used to play ball when I was a kid and absolutely loved it. In my late 20’s I also got into playing on a mixed adult slow-pitch team. That was great fun and did it for quite a few years. So, in a city full of soccer kids, I rather delight in my children’s choice in softball instead. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I very much enjoy soccer but the leagues here tend to fill up quickly and cost a pretty penny too. The other thing is that I’m much more knowledgeable about skills in softball than in soccer so I can help my kids to learn.

Stratford Kinettes 1983 (that's me kneeling on the far right)
Stratford Kinettes 1983 (that’s me kneeling on the far right)

As I was watching my daughter’s first practice today, a woman in her 60’s passed by walking a dog. She stopped to watch the other little girl on Anna’s team learning to hit. It’s a mixed team but mostly boys and I think the woman delighted in seeing the young girls giving it a go. We struck up a conversation and she told me she lived in the neighbourhood near the diamond and always saw groups of young kids learning to play various sports. She had coached soccer and we marveled together how wonderful it was to see how quickly kids pick up new things and to watch their progression over a season.

My daughter in action.
My daughter in action.

Anna came up to practice her batting. The coach gave her some instruction and then came the pitch. Wham! Another pitch. Wham! And another. Wham! “Your daughter’s a natural! I’m actually full of pride right now.” the woman exclaimed and, naturally, I beamed with pride. She’s very athletic, I admitted. “Well, good for her. She’s going to do very well.” I decided immediately that I liked this woman whom I would probably never see again. She had a great spirit. Of course, we’ll play and practice at the same diamond again so she and I may cross paths another day…I hope.

Later that day, as the evening sun glistened through the new spring leaves and cast a magical glow about the park, I watched my son hit a triple at his game. The smile on his face made me very happy. One because it’s satisfying knowing that this was not something I pushed my kids into. They chose the game for themselves and are learning to love it for themselves. And two because I remember how it felt when the ball came in contact with that perfect spot on the bat and it just seemed to fly and I’m glad my kids can experience it too. It’s not something you can ever explain to someone. I guess it’s just another cherished connection between us.

The Gloucester Spit Fires
The Gloucester Spit Fires

Can you tell I’m looking forward to the rest of the season? Enjoy your “season” whatever it happens to be, sport or otherwise, and making meaningful connections between people.

Forever Looking West

It’s Christmas day and all the presents have been opened. The turkey dinner is a few hours away and the kids are restless already. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Thunder Bay where we’re visiting relatives but, with the windchill, the temperature is a frigid -23 C (-9 F). Too cold for the kids to play outside – definitely not good for tobogganing – and the stores are closed. So what can we do? Although Thunder Bay doesn’t have a lot to offer commercially, I’ve always admired it for its scenery. I love to take drives along the railroad tracks to see the massive grain elevators and paper mills, or down to the harbour that offers a gorgeous view of Lake Superior, or up to High Street to look out over the roof tops of Port Arthur. Further afield there is boundless natural beauty from Mount MacKay in the South to Sibley Park in the Northeast, and Kakabeka Falls in the West. Over the years of visiting here, the kids have seen all these places (often more than once) and enjoyed them. But there is one important stop we have never made – to the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout.

I was 11 when I first heard about Terry Fox. He started his Marathon of Hope shortly after my birthday in 1980. It didn’t take me long to become completely enthralled in learning about the man and his mission. In fact, I still have the scrapbook I filled with every newspaper article and photograph I could get my hands on. I followed radio and television news reports and interviews and wrote a school project on my new Canadian hero. I couldn’t believe the struggle he went through every day and his determination to push on as far as he could for the benefit of all Canadians, and cancer victims of the world. I was crushed when I wasn’t able to see him run through my home town. I don’t remember the reason why I couldn’t go, just the indescribable disappointment of not being able to see my hero and losing the chance to possibly thank him in person. When he ended his journey on September 1st in Thunder Bay due to the discovery that his cancer had returned, I think there was a huge dark cloud of sadness that enveloped all of Canada. He had run for 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi).1

Terry Fox RunI remember the day Terry died, June 28th, 1981. I was in Muskoka with my grandparents. Everyone had hoped Terry would overcome the cancer but it was not to be. I also remember my Grandfather crying. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was already sick with cancer himself. In Terry’s remembrance and to raise money for cancer, every year Terry Fox Runs are held all over Canada and throughout the world. My children have been involved in the run at school for the last 5 years. Before the run, they are educated in who Terry was and what he stood for.  This year my son, who is 9, seemed to really take the experience to heart. He remembered, on his own, his Grandmother who died from cancer when he was only 2. When he came home and I saw his running bib, I was filled with pride and emotion. Later he told me everything he had learned about Terry in school and that his desire was, when he grew up, to complete Terry’s run. At that moment, I thought that it would be meaningful for him to see the memorial the next time we were in Thunder Bay.

I was right.

Amazing Couragehope

The monument has a powerful presence. Although it is difficult to see it from Highway 17, the view from the memorial is stunning. It overlooks the highway where Terry ran, Lake Superior, and the Sleeping Giant near the horizon. It is quiet and peaceful…especially on a cold Christmas day…and is surrounded by the beauty of nature. My son and I made sure to discover and read every part of the memorial. We looked up at the statue of Terry a long time. The sculptor had caught the intense difficulty, perhaps even pain, of Terry’s daily run but also his incredible physical strength, determination and amazing courage. As we walked away, back to the car, I turned and looked one last time. I realized that he was positioned forever facing West…immortalized in his quest to reach his home in British Columbia and to fulfill his mission and his dream.

Forever Looking West

Although my purpose of writing this post was merely to impart to you my experiences, I will include a link below if any of you wish to donate to the Terry Fox foundation.

Terry Fox Foundation