Here’s to Canadian foods

As a Canadian, there are few foods that I am proud to call “ours,” but maple syrup and poutine are two very red and white guilty pleasures of mine.

Real maple syrup is one reason not to cross the border for breakfast, unless in a strictly savoury mood. Pancakes, and French toast are simply not “right” unless the syrup is runny and golden and has in no way been combined with any corn product. Thick table syrup is not maple syrup even if it is maple-flavoured.

On the flip-side, Canadian restaurants should never charge extra for real maple syrup. It’s an insult to the flag to provide corn syrup-based toppings for free and charge for a piece of our heritage. If there is to be a price difference, restaurateurs should provide a discount if someone wants table syrup. Continue reading

City limits sign should laud Olympians

Lately, water cooler conversation has been focused on the delayed spring we’ve been experiencing. As much as I like talking about politics, religion, and the weather (please note the sarcasm), there are plenty of more interesting topics to jaw about lately in the Sault.

From Olympic champions to successful first time charity events, proposed tourist attractions and a new coat of arms, we can do better than complain about the length of our winter or place bets on when we’ll see true signs of spring. Continue reading

Happiness is a long, hot shower

There is a song on the radio lately by Pharrell Williams that is a catchy little ditty about being happy. It espouses the type of unbridled happiness that one feels when falling in love, being super proud of your children’s latest accomplishments, or after you’ve won the lottery.

Part of the lyrics say: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…(Because I’m happy)…Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”

Once I was done singing along and dancing about to “Happy,” the words resonated and it raised the question, what is happiness to me?

Happiness is waking up comfortable in your own skin. It’s being able to look yourself in the mirror, still seeing the wrinkles, but knowing that a lot of important life experiences put them on your face and that you wouldn’t trade your crinkles or laugh lines for the world. It’s also knowing that your partner thinks that you’re beautiful just the way you are. Continue reading

A vacation isn’t always synonymous with relaxation

Especially with the steely grip this winter has had on many of our moods, it was high time for an escape. I took the kids on a cruise to the Caribbean, to find some relaxation, sun, sand, and heat.

I’ve travelled with my children before, but never for such long airport layovers, and never on a cruise. While I did find sun, sand, and heat, I’ve come to realize that relaxation is a stretch if you plan on seeing any of the ports of call or you want your kids to have a good time.

We cruised with the Celebrity Summit out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and due to airline delays thanks to the polar vortex, we found ourselves rushing to make one flight, then dangerously close to missing the cruise. By the time we boarded the boat, I had definitely found heat; I was glistening with sweat from carrying too many bags, too far, in much too hurried a manner.

A welcome drink on the cruise was more than welcomed. Our room was great, but with space at a premium I looked at all of our luggage quizzically. We were going to have to unpack before discovering the ship — realistically we were going to have to unpack if we wanted to even get out of the room! Continue reading

Rebuilding sandcastles

Staring out the window of the airplane, I can’t help but feel small: so small compared to the puffy white clouds dotting the sky. Only minutes ago it was the white caps and the size of the ocean making me feel insignificant. Just hours before, I stood on that beach, my feet sinking into millions of grains of sand.

I was but one person on the beach of hundreds, and but one on this planet of billions.

They say that the fish is the last to notice the water he’s swimming in. Removing ourselves from our own environment through travel, we see the grandeur of nature in a different place and can notice our water; differences and similarities in culture. Getting on an airplane to somewhere new has always helped to give me perspective before.

I think it’s important to remember how small we are, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, but we also need to reflect on the value of each and every person, and we can’t deny ourselves our own realities. Continue reading

Are diamonds really girl’s best friend?

Diamond engagement rings are supposed to symbolize love, commitment, fidelity, and so much more, and yet their beginnings are rooted in a much less than sparkly past loaded with taboos and gender-bias. Perhaps the most ironic part about engagement rings is that every girl wants one, but none of us knows why.

With that, I set off to do some Internet research on the reason for diamond engagement rings and was well entertained (and a little saddened) at the history of the ring.

My favourite article was by Rohin Dhar, titled “Diamonds are Bullshit .” He weaves an excellent monologue against the marketing machine that made diamonds synonymous with love. Continue reading

Thanks to volunteers

Nice to see some volunteers getting well deserved recognition

Recently the Sault Star had a full colour page dedicated to thanking the volunteers who were involved in the Santa fund. “These special volunteers … helped us collect over $112,300 for Christmas Cheer! Exceeding our goal of $100,000.”

Christmas Cheer Convenor Diane Marshall and the volunteers at the depot were also recognized as “hard working elves that work their magic to help the ones in need.”

In a letter to the editor a week earlier, Marshall lauded the efforts of the Firefighters and local Militia, thanked businesses for loaning equipment, and recognized the “Stuff a Bus” and “Greyhounds’ Teddy Bear Toss.” She also recognized knitters who donate mittens and scarves, and her “Senior Elves” at the Christmas Cheer depot, among others.

The individuals and businesses involved should be commended. The majority of volunteers are there only to help and/or be useful, not for the recognition. In spite of this, the public recognition was well deserved. Continue reading

Live life in high-definition

Over the holidays, I spent a lot of time sick, and/or of nursing sick family members, which meant watching a lot of television. It was then, contemplating the new year we’re about to herald in, that my television viewing epiphany happened: life is better in High Definition (HD).

We were introduced to the world of television with a few hours of programming a day, and as many channels. I grew up with twelve channels and a dial on the television to change the channel. My kids are growing up with hundreds of channels, much of it is HD programming and they can’t imagine having to get up to change the channel.

The first time I saw a show in HD, it was a football game. I felt there; right in the bleachers. It was so real, I worried that people would never get off their couches again. I don’t buy the super package of channels and movies for that reason, I wanted to still have an excuse to get off the couch and have a life. I’ve often cursed the television, so imagine my surprise when it was while I stared at the boob-tube these last two weeks that I would learn one of my most important life lessons.

Too many of us live in black and white, stuck on one or two channels. Our eyes are not open enough to everything going on around us and around the world. We miss out on so much colour, so much context, so much life. Many of us never travel, never try new foods, or life experiences because we’re trapped with Beaver Cleaver’s family. Continue reading

One act of kindness

My daughter made two ladies cry.

Usually, this would be cause for concern, but instead it is time to proudly share. For her tenth birthday Audrey asked for money to donate to Christmas Cheer.

(Warning: the goodwill toward man shown in this article may make grinch-like hearts grow two sizes or may even inspire you to do a random act of kindness).

But let’s go back a month to throw in some context.

As my daughter’s birthday approached, I looked around our already cluttered-with-toys house and thought: she needs nothing, what will we do with all the new toys that show up on her birthday, followed quickly by more toys at Christmas? We are blessed, too blessed, is what hit me.

How do I make sure that the kids know how lucky we are?

How do I foster the giving spirit? Continue reading

Stress-free kids birthdays

In a day and age where employer and employee loyalty is virtually non-existent and unemployment rates are high, I am always happy to see people who have carved out a niche market for themselves as entrepreneurs. Most recently, I held my daughter’s birthday party at “Celebrate your Day your Way Party and Play Centre” where I met David Greer.

Greer started off his party service concept in Desbarats, and soon after opened a location in the Sault. The concept is quite simple: he hosts and plans all of the entertainment for kids’ parties, he decorates the party centre accordingly and the parents simply show up with the kids and a cake (he even provides the plates, cutlery, cups, and napkins).

For all of the time-strapped parents out there, Greer’s solution is an easy one. Choose the party theme, decide if you want him and his wife to make the customized photo invitations or not, pick two or two and a half hours of entertainment, and you’re done! All you have left to do is go order or make the cake. Continue reading