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Little Fort in the Woods

We recently travelled 900 km/560miles to visit our grandson Nolan. And his parents, of course.

We’ve had some nice, low-key days together with nothing planned, and they’ve unrolled according to our moods. We played a day-long game of Star Wars Monopoly, ate at a local Mexican restaurant, and enjoyed a movie night. Those activities were all good, but my favourite thing was spending some outdoor time with just-turned-twelve-year-old Nolan today.

The weather was cold and windy, so we bundled up in warm winter coats, hooked the leash to the dog, and set off for Nolan’s woods.

At first, we took a well-travelled path before veering off through the trees. After hopping a stream and scrambling up the bank, Nolan finally said, “We’re here!” We found what looked like a wall of branches leaning against a fallen tree.

At the other end of the leaning branches was an opening, and Nolan stooped down and crawled inside. So did Pop.

When I interviewed Nolan later, as he said I should do before writing this, he told me that he and his friend Matthew found the main tree they used as a ridge pole already bent, so they pulled it down even farther and then found branches to form the walls. It took a long time to haul them to the building site, but it’s easy to see that they did a very good job.

Then Nolan showed us these mud bowls that he had made a couple of weeks ago. He’d hoped they would dry out but agreed that would probably work better in the summer than in November.

This is how he got the mud to create the bowls: First, he found a long metal pipe and an old electrical box in the metal recycling. He used this to scoop mud from the stream.

He always rinses his scoop under a small waterfall when he’s finished.

After this demonstration, Nolan asked Pop to help him pick up a big branch and then showed him how to balance it across a huge log. We had lots of fun playing on the seesaw they’d just made.

After we finished at the fort, we saw The Tunnel (a big storm culvert) and then walked to another part of the forest to see The Pools.

Then it was on to The Lookout Tree.

We found crazy-looking Osage Oranges that looked like dozens of big tennis balls lying in the leaves. I wish we had those trees in Ontario. They’re super cool.

Finally, it was time to head home, Nolan with his walking stick and Pop carrying two interesting rocks they found beside the pools. Nolan promised to make us hot chocolate with marshmallows and chocolate shavings when we got back.

We didn’t take a picture of our hot chocolate, but we did grab a photo of the yummy dinner Nolan’s mom made. What a great way to end our day.

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Baloney: Just Hotdog Pancakes.

Who eats baloney these days? Do kids even know what it is? There are much healthier sandwich fillings, but baloney lovers know there’s nothing like nutritionless squishy white bread and thick-sliced baloney to tickle nostalgic taste buds.

But what may seem delicious, nostalgic, and “right” to me, may have a different twist for you. Should that bread be spread with butter, mustard, or mayo, or perhaps all three? And what about the filling? Just baloney? A Kraft cheese slice or two? Or maybe a leaf of iceberg lettuce.

Continue reading “Baloney: Just Hotdog Pancakes.”
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Once Upon a Cookbook

So, here’s a story for you.

I don’t have to tell anyone that COVID shut down life as we know it in early 2020. At my job in a Greater Toronto Area Emergency Department, we came face-to-face with stuff in pretty short order. It was hard, it was scary, and it was real. For the next year we rode the waves of that pounding storm.

Finally, in April 2021, with COVID numbers going down and vaccination rates rising, it was time to take a deep breath and look ahead to summer with hope that COVID would soon be behind us. Feeling that relief and optimism, a couple of us were chatting at work one day about the lock-downs and all the cooking people had done while stuck at home. One thing led to another, and we hit on the idea of a departmental cookbook — like, what were we all cooking when the restaurants were closed? We got talking about old favourites and how some of our index cards and cookbook pages were covered with stains and spatters. This somehow evolved into the thought that our cookbook could have actual pictures of well-loved recipes, not just typed-out versions. Voila! We had an idea for a unique book, plus it would be so easy to ask our co-workers to snap a picture of their recipes; no laborious copying-out required.

Continue reading “Once Upon a Cookbook”
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To Remember Autumn

I usually write a short story — often a memory — to post here, but not today. The weather has been quite wet this October, so I really tried to enjoy the nicer days when they came along. That meant camera in hand when walking the dog.

Some of the pictures I took follow; different memories than the written kind. In the winter, when it’s cold and the snow is blowing, I want to remember this beauty.

Continue reading “To Remember Autumn”
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The Saddest Part of My Favourite Month

October is my favourite month. We are usually blessed with gorgeous big skies, spectacular red, orange and gold leaves, and cooler weather. The only part of October I don’t enjoy is having to empty my summer plant pots.

Before beginning the task, I take one last look at the plants who have bloomed their little hearts out for me all summer.

Continue reading “The Saddest Part of My Favourite Month”
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July 1, 2021

I spent much of today, marked “Canada Day” on my digital calendar, in deep thought. While I’m proud to be a Canadian, and very thankful to call this country home, what I have learned over past years about our history has given me pause. Facts that have been revealed, little by little, were put under glaring spotlights recently, when some of the dear, innocent children, buried at forced confinement institutions, were at last found.

This afternoon I finished my second reading of Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo. Shimo, a Toronto-based journalist, made a plan to spend several months living on the Kashechewan reserve to research a water problem. What resulted is part memoir, part history, and she gives first-hand insight about life on that reservation.

I highlighted as I read, and I’d like to share pieces of her book with you. Although long, what follows are just a few words that taught, shocked, and broke my heart. Putting myself in place of the people who must live with these injustices, I wonder what kind of person I would be now if I’d experienced a fraction of what so many live with daily.

” . . . from the nineteenth century onwards, First Nations were confined to poverty in six ways. They were moved away from mineral wealth. They were displaced from natural resources including forest, lakes, and rivers. They had their land stolen through “theft” and “fraud”. They were stopped from establishing their own industries on traditional land. They were obstructed from opening other businesses. They were excluded from jobs off-reserve through racism.

“If you take away a community’s ability to generate resources, and then remove an individual’s ability tyo make money, then . . . you end up with the current situation of First Nations: racialized poverty. . . . Ninety-two of Canada’s one hundred poorest communities are Aboriginal, according to Statistics Canada.” Continue reading “July 1, 2021”

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It’s a Green Garlic Day.

I am very sad to say that I have profited by someone else’s misfortune.

Some locals may already follow my cousin’s daughter on her Reverie Farm IG account, as I do. I’ve enjoyed watching her business (on a farm between Markham and Stouffville, Ontario) grow and develop. Things appeared to be ticking along in fabulous fashion until . . . COVID. It kicked out the legs beneath lovely social events hosted on the farm — weddings and beautiful evening solstice meals — and that meant change and diversification.

At one point I watched a new bed of garlic being planted, and I anticipated the purchase of a nice stash to use over the winter. And then, a few days ago, there was a sad new post. Because of a problem I won’t get into here, the garlic wouldn’t grow to to maturity and she was offering green garlic for sale. I bought some. Continue reading “It’s a Green Garlic Day.”

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Friends, and neighbours, and John Deeres, oh my!

Today my husband and I did something that we we may not have done if we weren’t stuck at home every day of the week under Covid lock-down restrictions. Perhaps the lesson I should learn from this is to do more things, even when I feel too busy, because I’m really glad I didn’t miss today’s event.

Let me back up a few years. Few is a relative term in this story, but it feels not that long ago that I met John and his wife June. They were older than me, already having a couple of small children by the time I met them, but they welcomed me into their home as though they had known me forever. I was quite young then, perhaps eighteen or nineteen, and looking back, it seems a bit unusual that June and I would have become good friends, but we did. Her husband was busy building and running a large farming and grain-drying operation, but there was always time for his June. When he told me how much he loved her, and the special things he liked to do for her, it would embarrass me, but his words played out in real life, and it was obvious that June had a gem of a husband.

Continue reading “Friends, and neighbours, and John Deeres, oh my!”
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When Did I Meet You?

The last time mom came to our house, in October. She was so happy to sit in the warm sun while looking out at the woods she loved so much.

I’m trying to remember when I met my mother. She met me on the day I was born, and we spent the next week together. Fathers weren’t welcome at deliveries then, so Dad dropped her off at the hospital and she went in and had her first baby. To top it all off, the world was in the midst of — wait for it — the Asian flu pandemic, a global pandemic of the influenza A virus. A vaccine was released a couple of weeks after my birth, and the rapid deployment of same helped contain the virus. All that to say, the hospital allowed no visitors, and because a birth meant a stay of nearly a week, poor homesick Mom was on her own with me. Naturally, I have no memory of this.

When I was born my mother met me, but I have been wracking my brain to remember when I met her. Technically, that first meeting was mutual, but is it truly a meeting if I can’t recall it? Photos tell me we spent formal time together, sitting with my father and with various grandparents in generational poses. In other pictures, disembodied hands bathe me and cradle me, and I sit in front of a Christmas tree. Parental folklore tells me we spent time together walking the circuit of a small upstairs apartment in the farmhouse where we lived: around the kitchen table, down the hall, around the living room, down the hall, and so on, and so on.

Continue reading “When Did I Meet You?”
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I realize memories are fickle and unreliable, but I like mine a lot. It’s probably a sign of age, or more likely because there is little I need for Christmas, but I wish for these impossible things this year.

1.              I wish my parents would go to Massey Hall in Toronto (what a grand-sounding name) to hear Handel’s Messiah again.

What I do recall is crowding around Mom the next morning, anxious to hear the details of their evening out. She would tell us about Lois Marshall, the perennial soprano soloist, who sang like an angel, and my childish mind was in awe as Mom described her, always called by her first name, as if she were a friend. I imagined how beautiful she must have looked in her long gown, crossing the stage using crutches, because she’d once had polio. I’d never seen anyone use them and I was a bit envious.

I want them to get dressed up after supper and go out, leaving us — with whom? I don’t remember, although having someone else stay with us was as unusual as our parents heading to the city at night.

When I was twenty, I performed The Messiah with a large choir, and whenever the soprano sang her solos I thought of Lois.

Continue reading “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS”