Down east sayings to make you giggle

Man holding bottles of wine
Terry with his favourite wines

The West is beautiful, but you can’t beat the warmth, humour and light o’ life attitude of Easterners.

When we arrived in Antigonish a few weeks ago to spend a few days with Danette’s parents, her Dad Terry greeted us with a big hug and holding two bottles of wine in his hands, Four Skins and Kiss Me Arse.

The next day Terry walked out wearing a t-shirt that said, “It’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits”.

We visited one little fishing wharf where every building had a funny sign on it, some even upside down. There was The Lost and Found Bouys shack and the Little River Fisheries and Heritage Museum, Closed for Innovations.

Lost and Found Bouys fishing shack

We sure had lots of giggles on our trip and thankfully not the shits. We learned “The older the crab, the tougher its claws” and if someone was running late, they were “off like a herd of turtles”.

Yes, we can all learn a thing or two about keeping life light and happy from our friends down east. And remember, if yer not happy where yer is, yer never will be happy where yer to.

Long may your big jib draw. Til next week…

Sign on lobster shack

Walk on the ocean floor

Girls at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
Me, Danette and Leslie at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk on the ocean floor?

Last week at this time, I was walking on the ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park in New Brunswick on the way home from an epic two-week vacation to Cape Breton with my girlfriends Leslie and Danette.

Hopewell Rocks is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Canada. It is known for its iconic flowerpot rocks and for being located on the Bay of Fundy which has some of the highest tides in the world. Twice a day, the bay fills and empties of a billion tonnes of water during each tide cycle—more than the flow of all the world’s freshwater rivers combined.

Flowerpot rocks at Hopewell Rocks

The tides rise and fall between 40-50 feet at Hopewell Rocks. The entrance fee to the park is actually good for two days, since many people like to come back to see both low and high tides, or kayak between the rocks during high tide.

We arrived mid-afternoon and descended the massive staircase to the ocean floor. It’s a bit of a strange feeling to know that the rocks and beach you’re strolling on will be completely underwater in a matter of minutes. The tides rise so fast there, they now have park staff monitoring different sections of the beach to make sure stragglers make it back to the stairs to return to the surface in time.

We arrived as the tide was coming in. I stood and watched two exposed rocks to see how long it would take for the water to engulf them. I probably only watched for about five minutes for the rocks to fully disappear—that was how fast the water rose.

I was fascinated by the shape of the rocks, their unique patterns and colouring and the barnacles that covered the rocks like blankets. They were rubbery and uniform and dry to the touch. Some say the flowerpot rocks will eventually crumble, but they’ve lasted for thousands of years so my guess is you still have plenty of time to see them if you plan to visit.

Girl in front of rocks
Barnacles on rock

Many visitors don’t take the time to explore the many viewing platforms from up above, but I highly recommend it. When we first arrived, we watched a young deer trying to manoeuvre its way through the vast dark brown sand to the more lush green vegetation on the banks. It struggled to move through the quicksand and seemed disoriented in the loamy soil left from the receding waters. It was still trying to escape to safety when we moved to the next viewing platform.

There we saw a mother peregrine falcon perched on a tree limb stretching out over the Bay’s waters. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a peregrine falcon in the wild. We were very close, so we got a great view of her.

View of sandy soil and a deer
It’s nearly impossible to see, but the tiny dot in the estuary of water between all the brown loamy ocean soil was a deer trying to find its way to safety
Mother and baby peregrine falcon

As we were admiring her stately helmet and stature, one of her babies came flying in beside her. They screeched an exchange for a few minutes, then both settled on the limb. One of the park staff later told me there were four babies. Babies often stay in the same area as their family after leaving the nest, flying with them while hunting. The staff member showed me a bunch of photos he had of the falcons on his phone—he said this is one of the first years they’ve had peregrine falcons at the park and the park staff were clearly very proud of their newest residents.

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan a trip to walk on the ocean floor, or visit an iconic park landmark in your area. Happy travels!

Rock at Hopewell Rocks
Rock at Hopewell Rocks
Muddy ocean floor

Advice from a sunflower

sunflower

For some reason, this spoke to me this week.

Be bright

Be kind

Be sunny and positive

Spread seeds of happiness

Rise, shine and hold your head high

Have a happy week and smile if you see a sunflower.

The end or the beginning

Special guest blogger in sunlight

Special guest post by Dave Swinton

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the end.  How will it unfold?  How will people remember me? Will people remember me at all?

What will be my most remembered quality? Hardworking, caring, empathetic, or just a latent comedian telling lame jokes to captive family members.

I have also been thinking about some other people near and dear to me who are also thinking about the same subject.

For me it is only about retirement; for others it is a different beginning.

I am always in awe of how my father at 91 views his future as not an end but rather a new beginning. An ascension from his earthly form to something much better.

Always a deeply religious person, he sees a new beginning with my mother and all the benefits of a life deeply rooted in faith.

For me it is much simpler. Puttering around my gardens, cutting firewood with the odd day of fishing sprinkled in. Long walks with our dog and of course spending endless days travelling with my loving partner.

The point is to think less about the end of one chapter and more about the beginning of the next.

The legend of the jacket

Golfer in jacket
My brother Don, three-time TBW champion

A few years ago, we were sitting in a restaurant when I happened to overhear the conversation at a table next to us. The person was telling the story of a time when he was on vacation, and this group of golfers came in to the restaurant, and did a special jacket presentation like they do at the Masters. I smiled, because I knew he was talking about my brother. The story was the legend of the jacket.

For the past 15 years, my brother Don has organized a guys’ golf trip. It started out as The Boys Weekend, an exclusive invitational of three or four days of golf, with a bit of drinking mixed in for good measure. In the last decade, TBW has morphed into The Boys Week, an annual event where Don and 11 buddies rent a villa somewhere in North America and golf for seven days straight to see who reigns supreme on the golf course and wins the coveted jacket.

There is a trophy. One of the guys stole an old trophy out of their Board Room and every year, a new plaque is added with the TBW Champ’s name. But it’s the jacket that is the true prize and symbol of victory.

The jacket itself is an old brown herringbone blazer Don found in a thrift store years ago that mysteriously has the ability to fit every winner like the old pair of jeans in the movie The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.

Each year, it is handed over to the champion to wear with pride. The keeper of the jacket is responsible for getting their name and year embroidered on it. One of the boys fell down on his duties one year, so the new reigning champ kindly embroidered it for him—on the inside lapel.

Lapel of jacket with name embroidered on the inside

My brother has won it three times. The boys just got back from TBW in Prince Edward Island this year and I asked Don if the jacket came home with him this year. Sadly, Don said his game “fell apart like a cheap suit on the final round” and Bubba won it this year. Here’s a picture of Bubba in the jacket sporting his Anne of Green Gables look.

Congratulations, Bubba, and the entire TBW 2022 crew!

Golfer in jacket
Congratulations to Bubba, the 2022 TBW Champ!
12 golfers on a green
The field at the 2022 TBW Invitational in PEI

Lick a beater

Whipped cream on a beater

There is nothing more comforting than doing something that takes you back to your childhood.

One of my favourite childhood memories was when my Mom baked, and called us into the kitchen as she was putting a cake into the oven to lick a beater.

Licking a beater is a bit trickier than you think. You have to wrap your tongue around the curved edges of the beater blades, twisting it like a corkscrew to make sure you lick every last morsel of cake mix or whipping cream on the blades.

When I bake today, it astonishes me that neither of my kids want to lick the beater. But that makes me happy–all the more for me. As they say in the Swinton house, you snooze, you lose.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that takes you back to your childhood.

Signs of happiness

We were driving to Georgia this spring, and one of the billboard signs on the side of the highway said, “Put your positive pants on”.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but it made me smile and laugh and think about all the wonderful motivational signs on happiness.

Here are some of my favourites. You can buy most of these from etsy.com or Amazon. Have a happy week!

Why limit happy to an hour
Those who say only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain
Be happy sign
John Lennon quote on happiness
Irish blessing
All our visitors bring happiness, some by coming, some by going
The key to happiness is low expectations
If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
My all-time favourite, a fridge magnet the girls gave me one year for Mother’s Day!

A community success story

Volunteers holding fruit and vegetables in a warehouse
Volunteers Kristine Erdman, France Spence and Anne Newell at Kingston’s Food Redistribution Warehouse

This week I want to tell you about a community success story.

For the past few days, I’ve been working at an amazing facility here in Kingston called the Community Food Redistribution Warehouse. The warehouse officially opened its doors in March and has quickly become a critical hub for collecting and redistributing food to those in need in our community.

I was at the warehouse all day on Wednesday. It was a constant hub of activity with trucks delivering entire skids of oranges, fresh berries, bread and other perishable supplies. I watched a truckload of milk being wheeled into their massive industrial freezers, ready to go to places like the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and other agencies serving meals in the city. On Tuesday nights, they have a “bread group” that collects all the leftover bread from Cobb’s Bread and brings it to the warehouse.

The warehouse was the brainchild of a dedicated group of partners in Kingston which included the City of Kingston, United Way, Kingston Community Health Centres and Lionhearts who recognized the growing risk to food insecurity during the global pandemic.

Warehouse
Kingston’s Community Food Redistribution Warehouse. The large white structure on the left with the silver doors is one of their massive freezers.

I talked to Shawn Seargeant, Manager, Operations at Lionhearts when I was there. Lionhearts was founded in Kingston in 2014 by a group of community-minded individuals who wanted to help marginalized people in our community. They started serving 50 meals a day which quickly multiplied to 150 meals a day, then 400 meals a day at four different locations during the pandemic.

Shawn said the warehouse has been a godsend. They now have the facilities to take in excess food from restaurants and suppliers across the city, store it properly and redistribute it to agencies and programs in our community.

I asked Shawn and a few other people working there if other cities or centres had a warehouse like this. Guelph, with its large agricultural base has something similar, but for the most part Kingston is one of the few cities on the leading edge of solving the problem of food insecurity and providing universal access to food.

Before I left on Friday, I wandered into another section of the 11,000 square foot warehouse and found my friend France sorting vegetables and fruit with two other dedicated volunteers. France told me she loves working at the warehouse a few hours, three times a week—the volunteers there are a big family. I thanked them for making a difference in our community.

This week’s #HappyAct is to learn more about food insecurity in your community and help be a part of the solution. Here are a few ideas:

  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables in patio containers—donate extra produce to a neighbour, colleague or local charity.
  • Make a food donation to your local food bank. Summer is typically a time when the shelves start to empty out.
  • Build a food lending library in your neighbourhood. Stock it with extra fresh produce, or dried goods, free for the taking.
  • Roll up your sleeves and spend an hour or two working at your local community garden. Most neighbourhood cities have community gardens now that grow and supply fruit and vegetables to local food banks.
  • Support your local farmer’s markets—buy and shop local.
  • Be grateful every day for the food on your table and reduce food waste in your household.

If you’d like to learn more about the incredible work Lionhearts is doing, watch this video…

You’ve got a friend

Author and her best friend

There are no words to describe the comfort of a friend. Friends console us when we’re down. They are a sympathetic ear when troubles weigh heavy on your heart and the first person to say I believe in you. You will overcome this.

They share in life’s joys, sorrows and celebrations. They are the person you turn to when you need a hug, or someone to listen without judgement, or just want to share a laugh or what’s on your mind. They love you unconditionally, warts and all. Without them, we’d be lost.  

It’s a scientific fact that having one good friend has a significant impact on happiness. It’s not surprising having a friend increases your happiness in good times, but it’s been proven that having a friend is critical during times of stress when you need help.

In his New York University course The Science of Happiness, Dr. Alan Schlechter lectures about the “tend and befriend” response. The cousin to the fight or flight response, the tend and befriend response is when the hormone oxytocin, induced by stress tells us to reach out for help. When we reach out to a friend, our cortisone level goes down and we feel better.

They say you’re lucky to have at least one true friend in your lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two, my best friend Leslie and my husband Dave. Thanks for being my rock, guys. I love you both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to tell your best friend how much they mean to you.

Author and her other best friend, her husband

Explore a new neighbourhood

Graffiti
Street art installation on the Waterfront Trail at the Cataraqui River in Kingston

About a month ago, I started a new job. One of the perks of changing jobs is I’ve been able to explore a new area of Kingston on my daily walks at lunch.

This isn’t the touristy part of the Kingston. You won’t find photos of the north side of Princess Street in the glossy travel brochures, but I‘ve found my new little neighbourhood has heart and soul in spades and is full of hidden gems.

My first stroll took me down the Waterfront Trail along the Cataraqui River near the old Woolen Mill. There were dozens of swans gracefully swimming in the river, and turtles basking in the sunshine on the shore. A group of school girls were having their photos taken on the big grassy area by the water and people were out jogging and walking their dogs.

Across the trail was a street art installation with the most amazing graffiti. The sign said people were free to paint over any of the sections, but you could tell the graffiti had been there for some time.

Graffiti
Graffiti

The next day I walked up some of the back streets, past brightly coloured orange, yellow and green houses like you’d find in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, and homes with kiosks out front saying, “Take what you need, leave what you can”. I found a poetry garden with a poem by Lorna Crozier and sidewalks with chalk signs that offered up lemonade and free dog biscuits.

Green coloured house
Yellow coloured house

Another day, I was walking along Rideau Street and saw a young woman walking a dog with gorgeous black, brown and white markings. The dog promptly stopped and sat down at the corner. I was curious why the dog stopped so I stood and watched. The girl looked over and smiled and waited.

The door to a house across the street swung open and another young woman emerged and crossed the road with a plastic bag full of dog treats. It was clear this was a daily routine. It was a beautiful moment that I felt lucky to witness that showed how deep and caring the connections were in my new neck of the woods.  

This week’s #HappyAct is to explore a new area of your city. You never know what hidden gems and stories you may find.

Food lending library
Poetry garden
Sidewalk sign lemonade and free dog treats