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.

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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

This is Seth Godin live

Speaker Seth Godin

It’s not every day you get to see one of your heroes live.

Last month, I had the privilege of hearing Seth Godin live. If you are in marketing or communications, you know the name Seth Godin. Marketing guru, brand revolutionary, author of 18 best-selling books and changemaker. This is Seth Godin.

Screw E.F. Hutton. When Seth Godin talks, people listen.

In his opening keynote, Seth talked about the power of communication to connect people and culture. He said most organizations are at a crossroads. We are living in an age of distraction. We need to be telling human-centric, emotional stories to cut through the noise.

My favourite business mantra is “strategy eats culture for lunch” (Peter Drucker). You can strategize all you want, but if what you are trying to achieve goes against the culture of an organization, you will fail. And yet many leaders do not pay close enough attention to culture within their organizations.

Here were Seth’s insights on culture:

You can’t fake culture. Honour your past; define your future. Make symbolic changes, big and small. Have all oars in the water. Be humble, stay the course.

We are experiencing a revolution, and a renaissance for business communicators who will be key strategic advisers in the age of information.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find a hero and learn from them. Or you can adopt mine and sign up for Seth’s blog.

Have an unbirthday party

group picture of cottagers
Love the look on Clare’s face in this photo!

When our kids were young, we had a wonderful neighbour named Mark Berry.

Mark was in his 60’s and lived on his own on our lake. His family was in Toronto, so he adopted us and we adopted him. Our dogs became best friends and we’d often have Mark over for a beer or dinner.

Every time Mark came for dinner, he’d bring us presents, claiming it was an “unbirthday party”.

There’d be huge stuffed animals for the girls, something for the kitchen or a bottle of wine for me, and usually something fish-related for Dave. These were some of our favourite nights.

Last weekend, it was our turn to pay it forward and hold an unbirthday party for a group of friends we’ve been getting together with for almost 20 years.

Girls wearing wine drinking team tshirts and socks
Our official wine drinking team–the socks say “if you can read this, bring me a glass of wine”

We brought wine drinking team t-shirts and socks for the girls, water bottles for the kids, funny beer koozies for the boys and a few other gifts for the real birthday boy who happened to be celebrating that weekend. I think everyone appreciated their gifts.

The best gift is having this wonderful group of friends who we’ve shared so many memories with in our lives.

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan an unbirthday party for a special group of people. May it bring many happy memories and returns.

 

 

Man with birthday hat and glasses
The real birthday boy

Ten fun free things to do in Kingston this Canada Day weekend

Canada 150 sign
We made this birthday card to Canada from all our employees last week at work

Happy #Canada150! It’s been wonderful to see the outpouring of love and pride for our nation in our sesquicentennial year. No matter what your plans are this weekend, I hope it involves enjoying time with family and friends and doing something uniquely Canadian.

Like most communities, Kingston will be hopping. Here are ten fun free things to do in Kingston this Canada Day weekend. Enjoy!

  1. Take in any of the Canada Day celebrations. There’s live music Friday night, and all day Saturday in Confederation Basin with fireworks at 10 p.m.
  2. Get your arts on at Artsfest in City Park, Sat-Mon from 10-6. Ever since they moved the location from Confed Basin to City Park, this fantastic arts and craft fair has blossomed, featuring artisans from across Ontario and Quebec. Last year we bought this cool rummoli board there, but there’s no charge to browse.
  3. Tour the penitentiary museum. While the main Kingston Penn tours, which cost $35 are fantastic, this little free museum is still a great way to pass an hour and learn about Canada’s history in corrections.
  4. Enjoy a drink on an indoor courtyard patio. Kingston’s patios are the best! Some great indoor patios include Woodenheads, Amadeus, Kingston Brewing Company, the Toucan and Chez Piggy.
  5. Take a walk along the waterfront. Park at the Murney Tower at the foot of King and Barrie Streets, and walk towards the LaSalle causeway. Count the Martello towers, pay your respects at the Celtic Cross memorial in honour of the victims of the Irish Famine, stroll through Battery Park (my favourite lunch spot) and cross the LaSalle Causeway to see RMC and a view of Fort Henry.Chez piggy patio
  6. Tour Bellevue House, the home of Sir John A. Macdonald. Admission is free this year in honour of our 150th.
  7. Take the ferry across to Wolfe Island. The Wolfe Islander offers some of the best views of the city from the water, and it’s all free. Grab an ice cream in Marysville before the return trip and get a birds eye view of the windmills on the island.
  8. Take a walking tour of Cataraqui Cemetery. Visit Sir John A’s grave site, and the site of his purported mistress Eliza Grimason next to him, Rose Cherry, and Harry Traill, the first Kingston prison guard killed in the line of duty and son of author Catherine Parr-Traill. With 91 acres of gorgeous gardens to explore, you can easily spend an afternoon here.
  9. Visit the Tett Centre and its resident artists and studios.
  10. There’s no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in Kingston and now you can be the “I” in Kingston by getting your picture taken in Kingston’s latest tourist attraction in Confederation Basin.

This week’s #HappyAct is to explore Canada’s first capital and have an absolutely spectacular Canada Day! Here is a tweet my friend Hollie Pratt-Campbell posted of her and her daughter with the new Kingston sign.

Rummoli board
Our rummoli board we bought at Artsfest last year