Goodbye Rick Mercer and thanks for the memories

Like millions of other Canadians this week, I watched the final episode of the Rick Mercer Report Tuesday night.

For the past 15 years, Rick Mercer has been a staple in our household most Tuesday nights.

What struck me the most when I watched his final episode was how much his show personified what it means to be Canadian and the best about our country.

I’ve been lucky to see Rick in action twice over the years—once in Kingston when he did a segment on a national tree climbing competition in Lake Ontario Park, and last November at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. Both times he was engaging, funny, genuinely happy to meet and learn about people, and clearly proud to showcase the best about our country.

On Tuesday’s show, Rick did a special tribute to all the para-athletes he’s interviewed over the years. While we still have a long way to go in making Canada accessible, I believe thanks to legislation and guys like Rick, who have illuminated the wit, grace, and determination of people with disabilities, we are more aware and understanding of the needs and unique talents of this segment of our population.

Another segment was dedicated to politicians. There were some clips I hadn’t seen before (how did I miss the show where he and Bob Rae jumped into a lake buck naked?) I couldn’t help but contrast the relationship between Canadian media and our politicians with the United States.

While there is still an appropriate level of adversarial criticism and oversight, necessary for the media to do their jobs, the Rick Mercer Report personified how accessible our politicians are to the media, and the deep-rooted respect Canadians have for those who devote their lives to public office.

Through the Rick Mercer Report, we were able to explore the best of our country. From showcasing schools raising funds for Spread the Net to end malaria in third world countries, to the weird, wacky and wonderful events and people from coast to coast, Rick was our own personal Sherpa each week, taking us to new places and adventures across the land.

In his “Go See Canada” rant, Rick urged us to explore Canada, saying “I know in my heart of hearts, we would be better, stronger, and more unified if more Canadians could make it their business to see more of Canada.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to go see Canada. Thanks for the memories Rick. All the best in your next adventure.

And in case you missed it, I almost fell off my chair laughing this week watching Rick’s Seven-Day Forecast, especially since we’re frozen in this never-ending winter. Here it is again for your viewing pleasure.

Ed. note: A political note, thank you CBC for bringing Rick into our homes each week. Shows like the Rick Mercer Report would never exist if we didn’t have a publicly funded broadcaster. Keep them coming, and for all of you who fear going into withdrawal each Tuesday night, there’s still This Hour Has 22 Minutes, one of the best on television.

Toast your buns

Mother and daughter in car
Grace and I fighting over the heated car seats

Minus 27 degrees Celcius. The deep freeze is finally here. The consensus on Facebook yesterday seemed to be the best way to beat the cold was to stay inside.

Not us. We spent three hours down at the lake yesterday, clearing off the rink, skating, skiing and even having a hot dog cookout. After warming up inside, we headed out again, this time in the car to Westport for a church spaghetti supper.

I don’t consider myself high maintenance. I don’t own a Coach purse or Gucci wallet. I drive a 10-year old Honda and I’m just as happy with a simple pasta supper at home or at the church in Westport than getting dressed up and going out to a fancy restaurant.

But there is one luxury I have come to appreciate, especially in the dead of winter–heated car seats.

Whenever we venture out on a cold day, the girls and I race to Dave’s car and fight over the front seat. The victor hops in the passenger side and cranks the dial to 24 or 25 and waits for the warmth of the seat to make their tush tingle. It’s luxury, pure luxury on a cold winter’s day.

Clare usually wins, because she “claims” she gets car sickness in the back seat of Dave’s car. Grace and I think it’s a sinister ruse. Trust me, it’s hard to be sympathetic when the little minx blurts out “My buttocks are burning!”

Happiness isn’t a warm puppy when it’s minus 27 outside. Happiness is a heated car seat.

This week’s #HappyAct is to fight for the front seat, or find something to keep your buns toasty warm. And if one of your kids claims they feel car sick, be heartless. Race as fast as you can to claim the front seat–no butts about it.

Play in the big leagues

girl watching zamboniYesterday, we attended the Empire Life children’s Christmas party at the KROCK Centre in Kingston. It’s always a fantastic event with Santa, crafts, cupcakes and lots of good cheer.

The absolute best part of this annual party for our family is being able to skate on the KROCK Centre rink. For one day, we get to play in the big leagues.

We swish down the long straightaways past the blue lines and centre line to the sounds of Christmas music on the loud speakers. I marvel at how big the place is—the rink is cavernous. I look up at the bright lights and ads adorning the walls of the rink, the big Canadian flag and scoreboard and my co-workers eating pizza in the stands. We feel like we have the whole arena all to ourselves.

We play a serious game of tag. The kids are too fast now—I can’t catch them, but have fun trying. We watch from the visitor’s bench as the Zamboni makes its rounds, leaving the ice a slate of sheer beauty. It’s so perfect you feel like you’re skating on glass. Grace and Clare perch at the opening to the door on the bench, determined to be the first back on the ice.

Yes, it was a great day. A day when you can imagine, just for a moment playing in the big leagues.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find something you can do with your friends or family that makes you dream big. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your own rink of dreams.

Ed. Note: As a follow-up to last week’s blog, I posted the question “Does being a leader make you happy” on Quora. You can see the conversation here.

Sip, swirl and swallow

Man holding two bottles of wine
Dave with our bounty from Keint-He Winery

Yesterday, we spent the day in Prince Edward County in Bloomfield and Wellington with my brother and his wife who were spending the weekend at the Waring House. It was a grey, cold November day with the wind whipping off the lake. We warmed up the best County way, by sipping, swirling and swallowing the latest vintages at some of Ontario’s finest wineries.

The first winery we toured was Chadsey Cairns, a beautiful old barn with a tasting room overlooking their vineyard. We’d been to this winery several years ago, and I remember being enchanted by its charm. (It’s for sale, by the way—yes, you could be your own vintner for a cool $3.8 million). A bottle of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir later, and we were off to our next winery, Keint-He.

Ontario beach at sunset
A stroll at Wellington beach is a great way to clear your head after a day of tastings!

Here we tried a few red samplings, ending with a lovely Gamay Noir. I’m not a wine connoisseur, so I can’t describe all the wonderful flavours we were experiencing like the wine experts do. I just know what I like, and I liked all the wines we sampled yesterday (go figure!) For me, it’s as much about the ambiance. At Keint-He, they had a magnificent huge tasting table and stone fireplace. We sipped away watching the sun set over the fields.

Our last stop was Karlo Estates. This was our favourite stop. Their tasting room was bustling with dozens of revelers. The 100-year old barn beams, and white twinkly lights, coupled by now with our eighth or ninth tasting made for a wonderful end to the day. Howie and the boys behind the bar served us pairings of onion chips, blue cheese and chocolate as we sampled their reds, ending with a sweet, delicious Port.

Woman sipping wine
Sampling the Lake on the Mountain Riesling at Karlo Estates

Where were all the kids during all of this you ask? Out in the car. We shared a few jokes about that—hey, they’re country kids. They know what to do if the fishers or coyotes come after them.

This week’s #HappyAct is to warm up on a cold winter’s day by touring some wineries. The next two weekends, the wineries of Prince Edward County are celebrating Wassail, where you can sample mulled wines with food pairings. Short on funds? Touring wineries is a great day outing even if you’re on a limited budget. All three of the wineries we visited offered single taste samplings for a $1 each.

Four bottles of wine
Some of our bounty from yesterday’s outing

The Science of Happiness Part 3: Don’t be SAD this winter

winter sunsetI came across a fascinating article the other day about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It said up to 4% of Canadians are clinically depressed in the winter. Another 10-15% suffer from SAD, most of them women.

The reasons are interesting. SAD is said to stem from the genes of our cave-dwelling ancestors who thousands of years ago would have hibernated during the winter months.

Fast forward to the average Canadian today. In November and December, we get up in the dark, drive to work as the sun is coming up, and drive home again at night in the dark. There are days when some of us literally do not see daylight. It’s incredibly unnatural and unhealthy.

I’m lucky. I’ve never suffered from any of these conditions, but I do crave sunlight during the winter months. Even doing such a tedious chore as cleaning my windows today made me feel good knowing that the warmth of the sun’s rays would wash through my sunroom during the long winter’s months ahead.

This week’s #HappyAct is to increase your exposure to sunlight. Get out for a walk at lunch. Clean your windows. Get a high intensity ultraviolet light. Do what you need to do to beat those caveman genes.

Fire up the stove

Man lighting wood stoveLast weekend, when it was -24 outside, we had friends overnight camping in Frontenac Park. Our friend Tom Rae has camped every month in the park for the past three years. We love Tom—he’s like our very own Survivorman. I’ve been on canoe trips with Tom and have seen him make bannock on a canoe paddle—his latest project was to make homemade moccasins.

On that bitter cold morning, I was thinking of “the boys” while driving downtown and hoping they made it through the night. They survived but Tom said it was the first time he couldn’t get warm, they got little sleep and packed up at dawn to head home.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the cold and have actually really enjoyed this winter. Dave calls them “Thunder Bay” winters—bright, cold, clear days with not too much snow. But as much as I love spending the day outside playing shinny on the lake, doing a bit of ice fishing, skiing or hiking, when night falls, there’s no place I’d rather be than curled up in front of my wood stove with a glass of wine.

Who doesn’t love a fire and watching the flames dance and swirl, and the tingling feeling as the warmth seeps into your bones. I even love the sound of my wood stove—the low hum of the fan, the hissing and sputtering sounds it makes as the heat courses through the pipes, and the crackle of a log catching fire.

This week’s #HappyAct is to fire up the wood stove or fireplace and watch the flames flicker to life. And Tom and the boys—the offer still stands: any time you want to bail on the winter camping thing, you know where we are—I’ll have the wood stove fired up and cold beer in the fridge!

Two men winter camping in park
Dave and our friend Tom Rae camping in December in Frontenac Park

On frozen pond

Man standing with hockey stick on a rink on a lakeI wish I had a river so long. I would teach my feet to fly.” When Canadian Joni Mitchell recorded her iconic song The River in 1971, she was actually living in California.

Since then, The River has been recorded by 452 other artists, everyone from Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLaughlin to Idina Menzel, many of them Canadian artists.

There are times in our life when we all wish we had a river to skate away on, but I think Mitchell’s song resonates because it taps into our icy Canadian veins and our love affair with a frozen pond or rink.

For me that song evokes many memories, of skating on the Credit River as a child, skating all 7 kms on the Rideau Canal as a university student from the bars downtown to school, and watching in wonder as my own children found their wings and learned to fly on our frozen lake.

I remember one time BK (before kids) Dave and I hiked into Moulton Lake in Frontenac Park with our skates. It was early in the season, probably only four or five inches of black ice. The sun was rising and there were three deer at the end of the lake. The only sound besides the crunches of our skates carving into the pristine ice was the loud caws of crows soaring above, expressing their displeasure that we had disturbed their peace.

On frozen pond, I am free.

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend time outdoors on a frozen surface. Here are some pics from our frozen pond and some frosty happenings in the region to check out.

  • All 7.8 kms of the Rideau canal is now open in Ottawa, making it the world’s longest skating rink. Winterlude starts January 30, 2015 and continues to February 16.
  • Yesterday was the eleventh annual Skate the Lake in Portland—this tiny town on Big Rideau Lake in Eastern Ontario hosts this annual event where you can skate in 5 km to 50 km races on their oval—I plan to be there next year!
  • And something for skaters to add to their bucket list. Arrowhead Provincial Park north of Toronto has created a “fairy tale” 1.3 km ice loop through majestic pines, see this story for details.

people and dog walking on frozen lake


girl with hockey stick on frozen rink


Wear a funny hat

mother and daughter in animal hatsDo you ever wonder if your house has a black hole? I swear ours does. The latest thing sucked into the dark vortex of our home is an entire bag of hats that went missing during the annual switch over from summer to winter clothes. All of my best hats went missing, which means we’ve had to rely on our collection of “funny hats” this winter.

I like wearing funny hats, but I usually just wear them when I take the dogs for a walk or out on the lake. They’re warm, and they usually bring a smile to people’s faces. (Well, I’m not sure if it’s a smile or a grimace on Dave’s face, but we’ll go with the smile.)

Here is a picture of me in my favourite funny hat, my Elmo hat my girlfriend Elaine gave me for my birthday last year and a few more pics from a funny hat fashion show Clare and I put on yesterday. Hope it makes you smile.

This week’s #HappyAct is to wear a funny hat and keep warm.

Woman in Elmo hat

girl in rabbit hat

woman in funny hat

Take a long winter’s nap

Mother and child napping
Clare and I curled up for a nap on our bed, with Murphy looking on

I love sleep, so I hate this weekend when we lose an hour’s sleep. Personally, I don’t understand why we need Daylight Savings Time. This Hour Has 22 Minutes did a great spoof on the time change this week portraying a sleep-deprived Saskatchewaner.

Winter and sleep just seem to go together. One of the greatest luxuries in the winter is curling up for a long winter’s nap. It’s just so decadent, lying under the fluffy duvet, looking out at the trees while the afternoon suns streams through the window and letting your eyes slowly close as you drift off to glorious slumber.

I wasn’t much of a napper until I had kids when it became a survival tactic. My husband comes from a long line of nappers. Growing up on a farm, they’d be up early doing chores, have their main meal at lunch, then have a short afternoon siesta before going back to the barn.

In today’s hectic age, I think napping has become a coping mechanism. Last week was a perfect example. I was travelling on business and hadn’t slept at all the first night in the hotel. On Friday night, I was up in the middle of the night, and by Saturday I was an exhausted wreck. A quiet day at home and a long winter’s nap was just what the doctored ordered to make me feel like myself again.

This week’s Happy Act is to take a long winter’s nap. You’ll need it after losing an hour’s sleep and if you’re lucky, when you wake up, maybe winter will be gone for good.

Get in touch with your senses

senses--beautiful winterHave you ever closed your eyes and felt the warm sun on your face? Or listened to the wind rustling in the trees? Years ago when I lived in Toronto, a friend took me to a sensory deprivation tank. That’s where you sit in a tank of salt water for 45 minutes completely in the dark and silence. The idea is to awaken every sense in your body. I remember walking out of the building onto Jarvis Street. My footsteps on the pavement pounded in my head, the lights blinded me and the noise on the street was deafening.

Our senses are five of the greatest gifts we have. And yet, every day, we go about our business, oblivious to the smells, noises, and sights that make our world so rich.

This week’s Happy Act is to get in touch with your senses. Sit and listen to the rain, or the wind whistling through the trees. Salivate over your next steak. Touch your partner.  Choose a different sense each day, (or just pick one) and for two minutes, stop what you’re doing, and focus on one of your senses. I guarantee not just your senses will be awakened, you will be too.

We live in such a beautiful part of the country, especially at this time of year. I’m continually awestruck by the beauty around me. Here is a picture just up the road from our house–a winter wonderland. What sense of yours was awakened this week? Leave a comment.