The world’s longest skating rink turns 50

Me skating in front of a big beaver

One of our true national treasures is the Rideau Canal Skateway. Since skating has always been a passion of mine and I lived in Ottawa for a year, skating on the canal always brings back a flood of memories.

When I was a student in Ottawa, I’d skate to school, skate to the movies, and skate downtown to the bars and back. One of my favourite memories was turning the corner near the Laurier bridge at night right at that serendipitous moment when fireworks were going off over the majestic spires of the Chateau Frontenac to honour the opening of Winterlude.

There’s no better time to skate on the canal than Winterlude, Ottawa’s outdoor winter festival, and yesterday, we spent a cold frigid February day on the canal. Since two sections were still closed—be sure to check the interactive ice conditions map on the NCC website if you go, but they were saying the full canal should be open today—we made our base Fifth Avenue and skated north and south as far as we could go.

My husband and daughter on the ice

We watched them film a Hallmark movie in the little park under the romantic stone bridge (Dave thinks he got in a scene). We watched a guy juggle hockey pucks and sticks—only in Canada! We ate beavertails, which is mandatory if you skate on the canal in case you didn’t know. And we skated, and skated, and skated, until my wool socks chafed at my ankles.

This year, under the Bank Street bridge, the NCC has erected a photo exhibit of 50 years on the skateway.

Juggling hockey pucks

There was a picture of Douglas Fullerton, the chair of the National Capital Commission from 1969 to 1973 who came up with the idea to make it a skateway and helped the canal open in 1970. There were pictures of 7-year old Justin Trudeau on the canal as a boy, and the unsung heroes who flood the ice every night. Since I lived in Ottawa, and skated at night all the time, I would see the NCC workers, huddling out in the freezing cold digging holes in the ice and then using their long hoses to flood it so it would be in pristine condition the next day for the hordes of visitors.

Ice sculpture
You could make your own coloured ice block and add it to this ice sculpture

After we could skate no more, we visited the ice sculptures and interactive outdoor installations on Sparks Street (very cool, pun intended!), and walked past the Parliament buildings, the war memorial and the Chateau.

I can’t imagine a better day or way to spend a winter’s day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and embrace winter, ideally on the world’s longest skating rink. Happy skating!

Snowplows on the ice
The unsung heroes who keep the skateway clear

My daughter on the ice

Girls eating maple taffy
Eating maple taffy as the sun sets on a great day

An afternoon at the Canadian Canoe Museum

Haida Gwaii canoes

When the weather is blustery outside, a great way to while away the afternoon is indoors at your local museum.

Last week, Dave and I spent two hours wandering around the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

The history of the museum is quite interesting and I found as I wandered around its circular exhibits, a strong connection to its history and contents.

The collection of canoes that now call the museum home was started by a guy by the name of Kirk Wipper. He was given a dugout canoe in the 1950s, which inspired his passion for collecting canoes. Kirk was the founder of Camp Kandalore, a well-known summer camp north of Minden. I spent many a summer near Camp Kandalore since my best friends’ cottages were just a few lakes away.

native canoe

The collection became the foundation for the museum’s artefacts, and now the museum has more than 600 canoes.

There’s the iconic red canoe famously painted by Robert Bateman. Bateman by the way had a family cottage very close to Camp Kandalore. It just went up for sale a few years ago.

There’s Gordon Lightfoot’s canary yellow canoe, memorialized in song. The make was Old Town, still one of the best canoes made in Maine, and the same make as our trusty green canoe given to us by friends for a wedding gift.

Canoes given to members of the Royal family

One exhibit showcases the canoes given to members of the Royal family in Britain. Prince Andrew, of course, came to Canada to study at Lakefield cottage just north of Peterborough.

As you wander around the exhibits, you traverse the routes and passages of the early fur traders and voyageurs through Canadian culture and history. You pass Haida Gwaii canoes, masterful in their carvings and paintings, a canoe laden with thousands of pounds of blankets, food, and other goods fur traders would transport to Hudson Bay posts, and beautiful birch bark canoes used by Algonquin and Iroquois first nations peoples in the areas north of the Great Lakes.

Canoe laden with trade goods
Contents of a typical trade canoe

One mural had this message on it. “In the Athapaskan languages, there is not word for wilderness. Wherever the Dene travelled, it was home. The land belonged to the Creator, and in the Dene expression, was only borrowed from their children’s children.”

Yes, on a wintry afternoon, this museum felt like home.

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan a trip to Peterborough and spend time in this unique little museum. The museum is trying to raise $65 million to move to a new location on the water near the Trent Lift Locks in a couple of years. What a wonderful time to visit. I plan to be there on opening day.

Man portaging a canoe

Just be grateful you are alive

Albert Einstein quote on gratitude

Sometimes I think we are too preoccupied with insignificant things, when really we should just be grateful to be alive.

Saturday morning, as we were driving to Peterborough, Dave and I witnessed a terrible car accident on Highway 7. We were the first on the scene, so I relayed instructions from the 911 operator to Dave and other kind samaratins who had stopped and were tending to the wounded. There was a mother and an infant who were seriously hurt. The news reports had said their injuries were serious and life threatening and they had been taken to Toronto. The driver of the other car wasn’t seriously injured.

To say each day is a gift sounds trite, but when you see with your own eyes how fragile life is, those words take on new meaning.

That night, our hockey team went out for dinner. As I was leaving the restaurant, there was a young couple holding a baby near the door. I stopped and chatted with them and reached out to hold the baby’s hand. I couldn’t help myself. It felt like if I could just hold that tiny little hand for a minute, it would send waves of love to the other little baby whose hand I couldn’t hold earlier that day, and everything would be okay.

Each day is a gift. This week’s #HappyAct is to just be grateful you are alive. To the mother and baby we helped on Saturday, we’ve been praying for you. We hope you both make it and have a long future ahead with your family filled with love and laughter.

This post is dedicated to the first responders in our communities who are there when we need them most. To watch them in action on that snowy highway on Saturday morning was awe inspiring. You guys are amazing.

OK child of boomer

Clint Eastwood meme that says Say OK boomer just one more time

It happened. About a month ago, when we were talking, Clare let me have it with “OK boomer”.

After the second or third “OK boomer”, I finally retaliated with “OK, child of boomer”.

Her response? “Mom, that makes no sense, whatsoever.”

For those of you out of the loop, the phrase “OK boomer” became an internet sensation in 2019 when a younger member of New Zealand’s Parliament hurled it at an older colleague in response to heckling. Someone made a TikTok video out of it, and it went viral. Now all the “kids” are using it.

For centuries, generations have struggled to understand one another. Older generations feel marginalized and undervalued. Younger generations feel like they have so much to contribute, but they’re dismissed as young and inexperienced and not given opportunities to prove themselves.

This generates the negative perception of millennials by older people that they’ve got it figured out, and the old farts “just don’t get it”, OK boomer. And so the torch of youth and know-it-allness is passed.

Labelling generations is a relatively new phenomenon. It started in the twentieth century, and took off mid-century when a large glut of babies were born post-war, creating the “baby boom generation” or Boomers.

As an official boomer myself, I usually try to take the high road whenever there is a generational dispute and try to see it from the other person’s perspective.

But I will confess it doesn’t help when millennials have to give a name to things that make it sound like theirs was the first generation to ever grow up. For instance, every time I hear a twenty-something use the term “adulting”, I just want to change their diaper.

This week’s #HappyAct is to either take the high road or the low road the next time you run into a generational dispute. You could try to bridge the generational gap by seeking to understand their perspective. Or if you take the low road and have fun taking the piss out of a millennial. Your choice.

OK child of boomer, gotta bounce, but if you think this post is lit, give me a RT, will ya?

Ten super simple things you can do in 2020 to help save the planet

Tesla electric truck

Tesla has finally come out with a new electric truck. If you haven’t seen it yet, it looks like a space-aged DeLorean and costs roughly $50,000. While many of us may not be in a financial position to be on the first buyers’ list, there are things we can all do now to do our bit for the environment and climate change.

Here are ten super simple things you can do in 2020 to help save our planet:

  1. When grocery shopping, place loose fruits and vegetables in a reuseable shopping bag instead of using the thin plastic bags in the store—there’s really no need to bag green onions, lettuce, peppers, etc.
  2. Use recyclable travel mugs instead of disposable cups.
  3. Stop using drive-thru windows to reduce idling and emissions—you’ll also get more exercise if you walk in to get your coffee or treat.
  4. They’re saying grocery prices will skyrocket in 2020. If you’re a meat eater, try reducing your meat consumption by 10-20% and save on grocery bills too.
  5. Stop buying bottled water.
  6. Recycle clothes by donating old clothes to local clothes initiatives. Why not shop there too? Some of my favourite finds have been at used or community clothes places.
  7. Get crafty: instead of throwing household items out, see what you can make with them instead. I have a couple of friends at work who make gorgeous furniture and household items with recycled stuff.
  8. Don’t buy or use plastic straws or cutlery. At work, keep a mug, plate and fork and spoon on hand for work celebrations and potlucks.
  9. Get serious about commuting—if you live in the city, try taking the bus or biking to work. If you’re in the country, see if you can ride-share a couple of days a week with a neighbour or co-worker. Or, negotiate with your employer to see if you can work from home from time to time.
  10. Compost. I’m shocked at how many people don’t compost. Not only does it redirect items from landfill, you get beautiful, rich soil for your garden.

This week’s #HappyAct is for all of us to start making little changes in our buying and consuming habits, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we all need to take action now. I pledge to focus on #1-3 and #9 this year since we’re already doing most of the others.

What are you doing to save the planet? Leave a comment below.

Where will you be in 2030?

man looking into future

Read any online news site at this time of year, and inevitably you will find an article on why new year’s resolutions fail.

New year’s resolutions are destined to fail because after one transgression, the mind will say, “oh well, I tried” and we fall back into old habits.

A more powerful and interesting exercise is to try visioning instead. Instead of saying what one thing will I do different this month or year, picture where you want to be a decade from now.

Where do you want to be in 2030? For most of us, I suspect the answer doesn’t involve significant life changes, just small changes and pivots to help us focus on what’s important in our life and what we want to do to be happy.

Here’s my answer.

I will be living in my same house on my beautiful lake that I adore and that has become a source of peace, happiness and solitude. Dave and I will be empty-nesters, but we’ll be OK. We’ll rejoice in our individual pursuits and cherish the time we spend together hiking, travelling and enjoying our lake.

I will be thinner and healthier (yes!) from being more active, instead of sitting at a desk all day.

I will write for 2-3 hours every morning, with the goal of being published.

I will continue to remain active in my community, volunteering, attending concerts with my friends, playing sports and doing things in the daytime (OMG, what a thought!)

I will take courses, either through the Queen’s Lifelong Learning seminars or through our local Seniors Association.

I will watch in wonder as my daughters discover who they are as adults, support their passions, and be there when they stumble.

I will be there for family and friends and be grateful for what each day brings.

This is my vision.

What’s yours?

Top ten happy acts of 2019

Girl walking in fall leaves

Welcome to the final happy act of 2019 where I recap the top happy acts of the year. I’ve come to learn my little blog, where I share a piece of inspiration or something we can all do to be happy each week has also become a chronicle of sorts: of my travels, family life, and of current issues on the minds of Canadians. I hope you still enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it each week. Here’s my top 10 happy acts of 2019.

  1. Take the self-care pledge. If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution to start off 2020 on the right path, this post may inspire you.
  2. Always look on the bright side of life: a tribute to Monty Python
  3. Living in the country has its charms. One of them is Funny country signs.
  4. Plan a red hot date night. Read about my steamy date with one of the last of the red hot lovers.
  5. Harvest the Grape. One of my favourite days this year was spent picking grapes at a local vineyard. Read about the harvest and what goes into making a truly remarkable vintage.
  6. Already missing the crisp cool days of fall? Check out Autumn ablaze, a photo essay with my favourite photos of eastern Ontario this spectacular fall.
  7. In Screams and curtain calls, guest blogger Ray Dorey shares his experience in local theatre.
  8. In Eat from a Dish with one Spoon, I explored native culture and what we can learn from First Nations people.
  9. A discovery of an old box of newspaper clippings of my Dad’s led to this photo essay and tribute to Toronto the good in photos, a must read if you live in the GTA.
  10. If there was one issue that galvanized the world in unity and action in 2019, it was climate change. In #FridaysforFuture and Lessons from Frome, learn about what one town in England is doing to take action.

There you have it. Thanks for continuing to join me each week in this journey. Here’s to many more happy acts in 2020.