The most important decision you’ll ever make

Picture of girls in newspaper
Grace and Clare on the front page of The Frontenac News

Last weekend, both girls competed in a regatta in Carleton Place. It was a long, 14-hour day, but they both did amazingly well for their first regatta and were featured on the front page of our local paper this week, showcasing their fourth place medals for the K4 500 metre race.

For years, Dave and I tried to minimize the amount of scheduled activities our kids were involved in to keep life sane, but we always knew there would be a time in our lives when our weekends and evenings would be spent chauffeuring our kids to various tournaments, races and activities.

With 4H, kayaking, hockey, and baseball we are finally there.

Life is busy and good, but it does mean we have to sacrifice our own interests for the kids, and I’ll admit, some days I resent not having any time to myself.

I was complaining this to a friend the other day, and asked her how she dealt with raising two children. She said she had felt exactly the same way, and asked the same question years ago to a friend of hers who had four teenagers. Her friend’s answer was “I just decided that this would be the best time of my life.”

In a few years, Grace will be off to university. Clare will be in her final years of high school. The day is nearing when it will just be Dave and I staring at each other over the dining room table.

So I have decided these are going to be the best years of my life. I will embrace every practice and local fair, cheer at the top of my lungs at every baseball and hockey game, and occasionally steal time for myself to keep me sane.

For I know I will never get this time back with my children. I will never be able to rewind time. I resolve to make these the best years of my life.

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Gentleman, start your engines

fire crew at demolition derby on stand bySometimes you have to kick the dust up and get a bit of mud on your tires.

Last weekend, Clare and I went to the Odessa Fair to watch the demolition derby.

North Americans have long held a fascination with demolition derbies. Derbies started back in the late 1940’s or early 1950s at local county fairs, probably an extension of the American love of the automobile. Car drivers ram into each other until only one car remains running.

For most local fairs, they are still one of the main attractions. The Odessa Derby started off with an audience participation vote of the car with the best paint job. We liked the one with the teeth marks on the side (I think it won), then it was time for the first heat of minis.

Each heat always starts the same way. Five or six cars enter the ring. The master of ceremonies announces a “gentleman’s bump then it’s full on carnage.

Cars at demolition derby

Drivers have to modify their vehicles for safety. All glass and flammable material need to be removed from the car. The gas tank is removed and replaced with a small two-to-three gallon tank, located behind the driver’s seat and the battery has to be relocated to the floor of the passenger side. Drivers use sheet metal, small oil drums, or beer kegs to protect their fuel tanks. No head on collisions or driver door hits are allowed.

We watched heat after heat of bumper busting, engine roaring, mud flying fun. At one point, the mud was flung so far, it landed on our shirts.

 

People watching at the derby is almost as much fun as the derby itself. The locals who knew the fairground backed their trucks up between the grandstands. One guy even had a home-rigged viewing platform with awning on the back of his truck.

In two words, it’s pure fun.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a seat in the grandstand for the demolition derby in your hometown. Here are three derbies coming up in our area this summer:

 

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

Strawberry fields forever

strawberry fieldsLast Monday, we piled into the car and headed to one of our favourite local strawberry farms, Paulridge Berry Farm just north of Napanee.

It’s a rite of passage each spring, picking berries. Strawberries are the first berry to ripen in the spring. I think for Canadians, it’s reaffirming. We take to the fields, celebrating the passage of winter and heralding the advent of the harvest season, grateful that another season of crops are bearing fruit.

When Dave and I were dating, we’d pick berries at Andrews Scenic Acres, north of Milton (I see it now also has a winery—time for a return trip!) My favourite part of their operation was the frozen yogurt machine at the entrance—you could have fresh frozen yogurt on the spot with fruit picked from the fields. In the fall, they’d have corn roasts and we’d have fresh apple pie in front of the fireplace in the barn. Many of my most well-thumbed recipes in my recipe box to this day are from Andrews Scenic Acres.

family sitting on a wagon

My other favourite part of berry picking is the wagon ride. In an age of trains, planes and automobiles, it’s nostalgic to lumber across open fields on a wagon, baskets in hand, to the perfect patch.

Of course, nothing beats the ultimate reward: eating the sweet, succulent fruit. There is nothing sweeter than a freshly picked strawberry.

This week’s #HappyAct is to visit your local berry farm.

Be sure to check in advance on their operating hours and to see what’s in season. This may be the last weekend for strawberries, but it won’t be long before raspberries and blueberries will be ripe, including the wild raspberries on my property.

Here is a great recipe for homemade strawberry shortcake. Enjoy!

Yummy Strawberry shortcake

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 tbsp baking power
1 tsp grated lemon peel
3/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450. Grease a cookie sheet. In medium bowl with a mixer, blend all ingredients. Drop dough in 8 equal mounds on the cookie sheet and cook for 10 minutes or until golden.

strawberry shortcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl with strawberry basket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

family in strawberry field

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

 

 

 

Watch for rainbows

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide”

We’ve had crazy rain this spring, in some ways a welcome reprieve from last summer’s endless drought. When the rain teams down, it can seem like eternity before the sun shines again.

But amidst the storm clouds and raindrops, if you watch expectantly, you might just see a rainbow.

A metaphor for life, really.

Here’s one of my favourite artists these days, Ed Sheeran singing The Rainbow Connection with Kermit the frog and some pictures of my favourite rainbow pictures, one taken over the lake this week.

This week’s #HappyAct is to watch for a rainbow. Instead of wishing for a pot of gold, let’s all wish the sun shines strong for Canada’s 150th birthday next weekend.

Two women and a rainbow
My best friend Leslie and I discovering our pot of gold under a rainbow in Killarney Park in Ireland

Enjoy the finer things in life

bottle of wine and wilton cheeseI’ve come to terms with certain truths in my life. I know I will never be rich. I’ll never own a Coach purse, have a designer kitchen, or set foot in a Ferrari or Porsche, let alone own one.

But when it comes to certain necessities, I am unwavering in my devotion to the finer things of life. Good bread, wine and cheese are three staples I won’t skimp on.

Here is a list of my favourite finer things:

  • Best bread: Pan Chancho bakery in Kingston. I had two colleagues from TD Bank in Toronto who insisted on coming to Kingston every year for meetings just so they could stock up on loaves of bread to take home on the train. Their olive bread is addictive.
  • Best ice cream: Kawartha Dairy wins by two scoops every time. I discovered Kawartha Dairy thirty years ago on weekend trips to Minden, the Kawarthas and Bancroft to friends’ cottages. Luckily you can get their rich and creamy ice cream everywhere now, even Costco.
  • Best cheese: Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Wilton Cheese Factory in Wilton is the best little cheese factory in eastern Ontario. Sure, there may be good fancy artisanal cheese places out there, but you won’t find better cheese at a reasonable price. People drive for miles for their cheese curds.
  • Best honey: This one has to bee my bestie Elaine Peterson’s Bee Happy Honey. You can buy Elaine’s honey at the Memorial Centre Farmer’s Market in Kingston on Sundays and other local markets
  • Best butter tarts: Mrs. Garrett’s of Garrett’s Meat Shop in Inverary—gooey, rich, huge and delicious! Don’t forget to pick up a pumpkin pie for a second dessert while you’re there.
  • Best coffee: Cooke’s Find Foods coffee. Get it in Kingston and Picton–guaranteed to perk you up.
  • Best wine: So many wines, so little time. Since I’m no connoisseur, and still have to buy wine on a budget, I won’t even attempt to try to list my favourites, but the amazing array of Ontario wines from the County and Niagara will keep us all happy for a very long time. I will give a shout out to my newest local winery, Scheuermann Winery in Westport. Leslie and I visited it last fall and enjoyed a bottle of their Romatique. Worth the drive to Westport.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the finer things in life. What’s one of your favourite finer things? Leave a comment.