Take a scenic drive to see the fall colours

Fall colours

Yesterday, for our 28th anniversary, Dave and I went for a scenic drive to see the fall colours.

We headed north up highway 38, and took the back roads through Parham, Mountain Grove to Arden to our first stop, Springwood Cottages Resort on Kennebec Lake. Dave follows them on Facebook because they are one of the largest dealers in used pontoon boats in our region. The owner was telling us they have as many as 60 pontoons in stock during high season, and he’s been going through stock like hotcakes during COVID.

If you’re from Ottawa or Toronto and looking for a great little cottage resort to get away to, we’d highly recommend Springwood Cottages. They have 22 unique cottages, all different sizes on a beautiful spot on Kennebec Lake, a premier fishing lake. The owner said they’ve been booked solid all season. The resort is for sale for $2.4 million.

We walked away, no pontoon boat in tow (sigh) and headed east along Highway 7 to Maberley, where we turned north through Fall River, making our way through the beautiful backroads toward Lanark. The Lanark highlands is one of the richest maple syrup producing areas in Ontario. Glorious red maples shone amidst the mosaics of yellows, browns and oranges on roads lined with quaint cedar rail fences.

Country road

Our next stop was Balderson Cheese Factory, which dates back to the 1880’s then Perth for lunch at the Hungry 7 Restaurant. The Hungry 7 is a great little spot to stop if you’re travelling between Toronto and Ottawa. We discovered it last year after one of Clare’s hockey weekends, and it’s become a fast favourite. All the food is fresh, with delicious flavours. I had a butternut squash soup; Dave and Clare had a blackened chicken sandwich. Their house dressing (which they change regularly) was to die for.

From Perth, we headed south past Murphy’s Point Provincial Park to the Narrows Lock 35 on the Rideau Canal. The Narrows Lock is perhaps one of the most interesting locks on the Rideau. It is in the middle of a lake, and there was no reason to build it. The reason was money and time. When they were trying to excavate the area, they hit bedrock and they also encountered a malaria outbreak. To speed up construction, Colonel By decided to build a dam and lock at the natural narrowing of the lake. It was a very pretty spot with a magnificent view of Big Rideau looking west.

View up Rideau Lake

Our final leg took us through Newboro, where we had to stop at Kilborn’s on the Rideau, a wonderful shopping destination, the picturesque village of Westport and home. We had planned to stop at Foley Mountain for a hike, but people told us they were lined up to the road at Foley Mountain, so if you plan to go, maybe try mid-week.

We’ve already scoped out our next day trip. The fall colours are glorious again this year, make sure you get out for a scenic country drive.

Author and her husband at Rideau Canal

Putting the social in social distancing

inspirational message

For many of us, social media has been a haven these past weeks. It has allowed us to stay connected, share fears, laughter, stories and uplift one another.

Here are some of my favourite posts from friends and strangers that have brought little rays of sunshine into my day. Thanks in advance to everyone for letting me share your photos and messages–I used first names only to protect your privacy, but you know who you are!

Two dogs looking at a bed

This photo from my friend Trish with the caption, “Is there any room in that bed? That’s actually our bed—you should be at work.”

The wonderful music videos artists and everyday people are posting to share their talents and creativity. Here is my favourite: a couple at their piano singing a parody of Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound. Thanks to my friends Leslie and Jill for sharing.

#socialdistancingpickuplines on Twitter:

  • From Will Ferrell @itsWillyFarell: “You can’t spell quarantine without “u r a q t”
  • “Like the last roll of toilet paper, I’d roll with you any day”
  • “You smell so good, is that Purell you’re wearing?”
  • “Looking for your Prince Charmin? I’ve got a six pack”

A quote from my friend Kellie who has been posting #100daysofgratitude on Facebook:

“i thank You God for most this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

E.E. Cummings

This post from my friend Mark who always makes me laugh.

 

 

 

The daily video jokes my friend Jill is sharing on Facebook from her “Great Big Book of Jokes”.

Photos posted by my friend Cathy of inspirational chalk messages on the sidewalk, seen on her morning walk.

sidewalk message "party at my house when this is over"

And finally, these beautiful words of hope, shared by a fellow hockey Mom on TeamSnap posted above.

This week’s #HappyAct is to put the social in social distancing. Keep them coming everyone. Let’s continue to brighten our days.

Take the self-care pledge

Sign that says you gotta nourish to flourish

There’s a new term being used in mental health care circles: self-care. It means doing all the things human beings used to do naturally to be healthy: get enough sleep, eat right, exercise.

Whenever the medical profession comes up with a term to describe what should be a given, you know we’ve gone off the rails as a society.

There are multiple elements to self-care: physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, and social. Self-care is really about “communicating with your soul and saying, Hey, what do you need right now?” I’m just going to focus on physical self-care in today’s post.

The statistics are shocking. One in three Canadians are not getting enough sleep. 6.2% of Canadians don’t eat breakfast and only one third of us pack a lunch for work. Almost a quarter of Canadians don’t eat fruit or vegetables on a daily basis. Four in ten Canadians get less than 30 minutes of physical exercise each day. And let’s not even talk about screen and cell phone use.

Let’s face it. If we were our own mothers, we’d be yelling at ourselves every minute of the day to take better care of ourselves!

What’s brought us to this sad state of affairs? All the obvious answers, when combined together make up a lethal Molotov cocktail of bad health factors: sedentary office-based work, too much screen time, fast food and processed food, driving everywhere, increased stress factors…the list goes on and on.

We have become our own worst enemy. And we need an intervention.

I’ve been particularly bad the past few weeks, eating poorly and compounding my poor health by not taking time to rest when I had a nasty cold. So I’m taking a self-care pledge. I pledge to:

  • Pack a lunch each day
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour and within the same hour range (eg. between 10 and 11 every night)
  • Walk every day
  • Get up and move every hour
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables

Who’s with me and what will be on your list? Leave a comment.

Plan a red hot date night

Last of the red hot lovers theatre playbill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a hot date on Friday night, and it wasn’t with my husband.

The man I went out with is witty, charming, and loves to laugh. He has a way with the ladies and knows how to carry a conversation.

We chose a romantic restaurant in west Burlington, the West Plains Bistro. I ordered a glass of French merlot and let the full-bodied red scintillate my taste buds as our server lit our candle, creating an intimate warmth and ambiance.

We shared a delicious beet and goat cheese salad, eating off of the same plate, European style. The warm, crusted goat cheese on greens was adorned with capers and roasted chick peas, creating a delightful rich mix of textures and flavours.

My date ordered the grilled pickerel with wild rice. I chose a seafood pasta brimming with lobster, crab, mussels and shrimp. We shared a coconut cream pie with raspberry sauce. Our forks entwined as we devoured the heavenly creamy filling.

Dinner was a delicious prelude to the main event: a live production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Theatre Burlington.

The three act play takes place in an apartment in New York’s dirty thirties. Barney Cashman decides he wants to have an affair to spice up his love life and invites three different women to his apartment for a mid-day tryst. I warned my date not to get any ideas.

It was steamy, passionate and dripping with sexual innuendo. It was also very funny and in the end, Barney discovers he is a decent, gentle and loving human being after all and can’t go through with it.

At the end of the night, I thanked my date for a lovely evening and drove him home to his apartment. I went upstairs, beat him at cards, then kissed him goodnight.

He was the perfect date, which shouldn’t be a surprise since it was 27 years ago this week I married his son.

I love my father-in-law very much. Here’s to you John, and thanks for being my date Friday night (but I think this week, I better plan a date with your son instead…)

me and my date at dinner

Happiness for sale

Sign about happiness

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this blog, it’s to look for happiness in the most unusual places.

A few weeks ago, Dave and I were touring up the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. We were off the beaten path, and found ourselves at the end of the road in Halfmoon Bay. There was a small general store and an ice cream shop, so naturally we stopped.

We bought some supplies and I stopped to read the notices on their local community board. Tucked between the flyer for the local fish fry Friday night, a business card for BigMoustacheDave.ca and wood for sale was this note:

Happiness
1. Connection makes us happy
2. Selfishness keeps us from connecting
3. Instead of seeking to benefit myself, seeking to benefit others and nature. This creates connection and happiness.

I stopped and wondered. What would possess someone to write a note about happiness, then pin it on a corkboard in the general store in Halfmoon Bay? What happened in their life that propelled them to share this wisdom? Have they found happiness? And how many people besides me have stopped to read this note?

If only happiness could be for sale. If only you could order it by the skidload, or walk up to a happiness bar like the oxygen bars in the airports and say, “I’ll take $20 worth, please”.

If only…

Halfmoon Bay General Store
The general store in Halfmoon Bay. The ice cream shop next door was for sale if any of you are looking for a change of pace

Take the one thing different challenge

Funny meme

I was wandering around the grocery store the other day, filling up my cart with the same old items I buy every week.

As I unpacked the grocery bags, I realized I hadn’t bought one thing different. It made me sad.

You see, the problem is I’m a creature of habit. I come by it honestly from my Dad.

You could almost set your watch by my Dad. He’d walk the dog at the same time every day, go to McDonald’s for his daily coffee at the same time every day, read the papers, watch the ball game and have his supper at the same time every day. He even did his grocery shopping on Saturdays in retirement despite it being the busiest day of the week because that was his routine.

Dave says I’m getting more like my Dad every day, and yes, I’ll admit, I have my little routines, but I’ve decided to change it up a bit at least in the culinary realm. I am challenging myself to make one thing different at least once a week.

So last night, I made a delicious sweet and sour chicken dish I never made before called The Thigh’s the Limit from one of my favourite cookbooks, Looneyspoons. It got five stars from the fam.

This week’s #HappyAct is to join me in taking the “one thing different” challenge and mix it up in the kitchen. See my blog post “Spice it up” for more culinary inspiration.

Always look on the bright side of life

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 10.19.55 am

There’s a great scene in the movie You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks’ character claims the movie The Godfather is the “ I Ching… the sum of all wisdom…the answer to any question.”

Sorry Tom, you’re wrong. The sum of all wisdom, the answer to any question, can be found in the brilliant anthology of Monty Python.

It has been 60 years this month since the British troop Monty Python was formed. The troop featured five bright lights in British comedy: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. American Terry Gilliam did the animation.

I grew up watching Fawlty Towers, Benny Hill and Monty Python. If you’re not familiar with these British trailblazers in comedy, you have to google some of their skits. They were nothing short of brilliant.

Together, the Python comedy troupe produced 45 television episodes, five films and a blockbuster Broadway musical.

Here are a few interesting facts you may not know about Monty Python

  • In The Holy Grail, they wanted to use real horses, but didn’t have enough money so they used coconuts instead.
  • Their first full length feature film, And Now For Something Completely Different, was meant to be a showcase for Americans who had never seen the show before.
  • All five members attended and met at the most prestigious universities in Britain: Jones and Palin met at Oxford, while Cleese, Chapman and Idle all attended Cambridge.
  • Beatle George Harrison was a huge fan of the show and came to the troupe’s rescue when financing for their controversial 1979 film “Life of Brian” fell apart. Harrison mortgaged his house for the movie to be made because he wanted to see it, kicking in $4 million pounds.
  • Always look on the bright side of life has become one of the most popular songs played at British funerals and is often song at British soccer games when teams are losing.

I always say the truest test of an artist is their ability to stand the test of time. My daughter Clare a couple of months ago came into the living room when we were watching The Holy Grail. She said, “What is this?” and started watching it with us. At one point she turned to us and said “This is like Sharknado, but even better!”

Much, much better.

This week’s #HappyAct is to always remember the bright side of life and celebrate the 60th anniversary of Monty Python by watching your favourite Python movie or skit. Some of my favourites are The Lumberjack Song, The Argument Clinic, Not Dead Yet, and all of Holy Grail.

Maybe this year I’ll finally get to see Spamalot on stage. Eric Idle also just released an autobiography in 2018 called Always look on the bright side of life.

What’s your favourite Python sketch? Leave a comment.

Ed. Note: About a year ago, I watched a fascinating documentary that aired behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast. Hopefully they’ll air it again this month, so watch for it.

A puppy at heart

Girl with dog

Ever since I can remember, there has been a dog in our house.

I’ve never paid more than $10 for a dog. My Mom always said mutts make the best pets.

Nine years ago on Canada Day, we brought home a little German shepherd, golden retriever puppy named Murphy. Our house has been filled with love ever since.

Murphy was free until he ate a pair of the kids’ underwear which required surgery. Our free dog ended up costing us $780.

Murphy has been one of the most lovable affectionate dogs I’ve ever owned. He’ll actually get up on the couch or approach you when you’re sitting down and nuzzle his head into your shoulder and lap and just snuggle with you. I call him my gentle giant.

I fear Murphy’s days are numbered. He has that disease that affects a dog’s spine where their back legs start giving out.

For the past two weeks, each morning he struggles to his feet, then stumbles towards the front door and down our porch steps, walking sideways and looking back at us with mournful eyes.

We decided to stop taking him on our nightly walks. Yet each night when he sees us grab the leashes, he totters to his feet and approaches the door with a little wag of the tail. This picture was from yesterday when Clare and I took him for a walk on the K&P Trail. Even though we struggled to get him into the car, he was game.

He is still a puppy at heart.

I remember Dave’s dad telling me once that even though he was in his 80’s, in his mind he was still a teenager.

This week’s #HappyAct is to always be a puppy at heart. We love you, Murph.

More posts for dog lovers

Two journeys in one

Grace and me at the top of Rock Dunder

One of my favourite seasons of the year to hike is fall.

Yesterday, my Ryerson Alumni Group hiked one of the most beautiful treks in Eastern Ontario, Rock Dunder, just south of Morton. This 230-acre property is owned by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust and rises 275 feet to a summit for a stunning view of the Rideau Canal and surrounding area. It was a former boy scout camp and has three log cabins on the trail.

We arrived just before 11 and started on the Summit Loop. The alumni magazine sent a professional photographer named Sarah Palmer to join us. A Ryerson grad, Sarah is a photo assignment editor for Macleans two weeks a month and freelances on the side. It was great getting to know her and hearing about her adventures and travels.

People at the trail summit

Even though it was unseasonably warm, the bottom part of the loop was wonderfully cool as we walked through the soft green canopy of the woods and explored the two worn log cabins used by the boy scout camp in the 80’s. Halfway to the top, we stopped for a swim and cliff jumping (well, Grace and my friend Mike cliff jumped—I chose to cheer them on from the cool water below).

The summit was spectacular—Rock Dunder definitely lives up to its reputation of being the best hike in Eastern Ontario.

At the top, we debated about taking the same trail back, or finishing the loop. We decided to complete the loop. My daughter Clare once said it’s always better to choose the path you haven’t been on before because it’s like taking two journeys in one.

For more inspiration to get you out on the trails this fall, see my blog post, Stand on a Rocky Outcrop.

Ed. note: Are you a Ryerson alumni living in the Kingston region? Join our group and follow us on Facebook to learn about all the fun activities we plan year-round.

Woman on trail
My friend Brenda at the top of the summit

Hiking group

Raising chickens

 

Chickens in garden

For the past three years, we’ve heard the pitter patter of little feet in our yard—chickens.

Whenever I tell people we raise chickens, it’s usually followed by a barrage of questions about how many eggs we get a day, how much it costs for feed and how to build a sturdy coop.

The answers, in case you’re wondering or thinking about getting chickens, is one egg per chicken per day (it’s actually slightly lower, so in 7 days, you would get about six eggs per chicken), $20 a month on feed for about 6 chickens, and…google it, but I can give you some design tips.

The thing I’ve been surprised about most is how much we enjoy our chickens. While I wouldn’t go so far as calling them pets, we do call them “our girls” and they have become an extension of our family.

I’ve learned the chicken community is a little crazy. I have one friend with a t-shirt that says “Crazy Chicken Lady” that she wears proudly.

I was at a 4H meeting earlier this year where another Mom plunked her chicken purse down on the table.

Harrowsmith magazine recently ran a story about raising chickens. The author said every evening around 5 p.m., she’d have cocktail hour with her chickens and took a picture of her with her glass of wine with a chicken on her lap.

I hope I’m not on the far end of the crazy chicken lady scale, but I do like my girls and we’ve certainly enjoyed additional benefits of raising chickens other than the beautiful fresh eggs every day.

You may have seen on Facebook a story about how raising chickens have given the residents of a senior’s home joy and purpose. There is something about caring for animals that provide sustenance. I also think they have helped cut down on the tick population in our yard.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go back to the farm—buy local farm fresh produce, produce your own, or if you really want to become a crazy chicken lady, look into raising chickens of your own.

Ed. note: This spring I blogged about the ultimate tacky souvenir. My girlfriend Danette on our recent trip to Vancouver Island, used my money to buy an egg holder for me with “Farm Fresh Butt Nuggets” written on the side. Okay, so maybe I am a crazy chicken lady now.

egg carton that says farm fresh butt nuggets

 

 

Chickens in sun on front porch
My girls sunning themselves on the front porch

chicken purse
My friend’s chicken purse