A new year, and a new decade. Let’s hope that the world becomes a better place — lately it’s been feeling like we take two steps back for every step forward.
New beginnings are always hopeful things. I prefer to be optimistic, and so, while everyone worries about climate change, I’d like to share this charming article with you about sheep in Scotland who have been consuming more seaweed and are belching less methane as a result. It’s a start 🙂
With the growing trend of ‘flight shaming’, here’s a cogent look at approaching reducing carbon emissions in a less confrontational way. I believe travel is a powerful force for understanding and peace, and would argue that there are millions of people around the world who depend on the travel industry to make ends meet. While a lot of criticism has been levelled at travellers, there are industries that have been degrading our environment for decades and need to be examined. Clear-cutting, mining and monoculture farms in the Amazon and other jungle regions have caused an enormous amount of damage, for example.
However, I do love train travel and road trips. We were in Tennessee for the holidays, visiting a cousin, and if you’re looking for a place to spend your holidays in 2020, you might want to consider the Nashville area. We attended two light displays:
GLOW Nashville at First Horizon Park, a magical light display with skating rink, tubing slides, shops, and more, and
Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood Estate, where the magnificent Cheekwood Mansion is decorated to the hilt, and after dark the grounds turn into a holiday wonderland.
I can also recommend a great Mexican restaurant in Nashville, Uncle Julio’s, where we could have made a meal just of the scrumptious queso appetizer, and we all enjoyed our entrees — I had a fantastic salad with smoky grilled shrimp.
We also ordered a chocolate pinata for my hubby’s birthday. It comes out on a big tray with a wooden baton for cracking it. Our excellent waitress recommended hitting it from the top so that all the goodies inside — fresh strawberries, churros and chocolate empanadas — land gracefully on the tray (instead of spraying sideways onto the hitter’s lap). It was great fun and very delicious. Stop in if you’re in the area!
Personally I don’t like making formal resolutions, but for 2020 let’s all incorporate dreams, imagination, serenity and kindness into our lives. That’s a good start too.
Do you look forward to or dread the holidays? I’ve been in both frames of mind — depends on what you have to look ‘forward’ to, doesn’t it?
This time of year, with longer darkness and — at least in my part of the world — an ever-present chill in the air, bears considerable emotional impact.
With all of the season’s challenges, it’s really important to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Have some quiet times, soften the lighting, play a board game or watch a gentle movie.
One of the nicest Christmas breaks my hubby & I ever had was the year he got a bad cold. He wasn’t dreadfully ill, but tired and bedraggled enough that we had to bow out of all invitations.
We spent our days snuggled up inside by our Christmas tree, with a fire crackling, mugs of hot tea and our favourite movies on the television. I made chicken soup and other comfort foods that didn’t tax my hubby’s tummy. When my hubby snoozed in his favourite chair, I read or indulged in some retro paint-by-number artistry (which is not as low-demand as you might think, and remarkably engrossing).
It was probably the most relaxing Christmas we’ve ever had.
One Christmas a few years ago, we, with our nieces and nephews, decided to take over Christmas dinner at my hubby’s sister’s place and have soup and grilled cheese. She was slightly appalled at not putting on a big meal, but she was outnumbered. Several of us brought tabletop grill pans, and everyone contributed something interesting — my hubby and I brought the perfect grilling bread (golden and crispy on the surface, but soft and chewy underneath), our niece made two pots of soup, people brought their favourite kinds of cheese and some delicious add-ins. We banished my sister-in-law from the kitchen and created easy, delicious melted masterpieces in very short order. Then we all sat casually around the dining table and shared the goodies.
My family’s holiday celebrations centred on Christmas Eve. One year, after several busy weeks at work, I decided to keep things simple. I made a huge pot of chicken, sausage and shrimp gumbo a couple of days ahead. All I had to do to serve it was reheat, put out a basket of fresh crusty bread and a big salad. My parents were no longer alive, but my brother came with his kids, partner and her kids, and my mother-in-law wasn’t going anywhere else so we invited her as well. The recipe turned out to be delicious, granted, but I think the cozy and simple meal struck a chord, because that enormous cast-iron pot of soup got cleaned out, even with a big bowl of delicious English trifle waiting on the sideboard.
There was a Christmas when we had both families over and expanded our meal to invite our neighbours from across the street, who had lost both their son and daughter-in-law that year and were now raising their grandsons. We weren’t sure they’d feel comfortable enough to join us, but they did, and our families welcomed them, and it made for a really special Christmas.
The point of holidays, whichever you celebrate, isn’t to drive yourself crazy tracking down gifts, or make everything look like a Hallmark moment, or grit your teeth while relatives behave badly.
Warmth and fellowship are the point. Spend quality time with people who matter to you, and include people who or hurting or would otherwise be alone. Have easy, good food and easy laughter. Put aside differences, because lost time can never be recaptured. Be kind to each other.
I wish for you whatever brings you peace and contentment this holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving to our American family and friends. It’s important that we all take the time to realize the good things in our lives and be grateful for them. Verbalizing some quick gratitude thoughts in the morning can turn around a bad start to the day — it seems to rewire our emotions. If you don’t believe me, try it. Wherever you are, dear readers, I hope that you have things in your lives that you can be genuinely grateful for. If you’re of a mind to share some, please do in the Comments.
It’s straight out of my childhood. I always looked forward
to the return to school, Thanksgiving turkey, and, best of all, Halloween!
As an adult I only have Thanksgiving turkey and Halloween in
my life, but I have a great deal of nostalgia around all of them.
People seem to either love or despise nostalgia — I know people who feel it’s just indulging in sentimentality — but psychologists have done studies around it, and results have shown that there are benefits to spending some time in pleasant reminiscing:
The boost to your mood when recalling a positive
experience. My hubby and I often find ourselves laughing at something from our
travels that happens comes to mind from something that’s just occurred. It’s
really special to us that we’ve shared those experiences together, and those
memories have on occasion been a bulwark against something stressful that’s
happening in the present.
Researchers found a strong social component,
where people experiencing nostalgia were more motivated to connect with other
people. It may be for the often communal aspect of the shared memories.
When we’re reminiscing, it’s akin to reading or
watching a good story, but better because it’s from our own lives and
actually happened to us.
For the elderly, who can suffer from feelings of
isolation, it may inspire them to share their experiences and the wisdom
Autumn is my favourite season, and Halloween my favourite
‘holiday’, dating back to my childhood and a time when as kids we were
innocently and fully free to enjoy it. It was the one night where we were
allowed to prowl the streets without a parent in tow, and we made the most of
My neighbourhood was lined with trees, and as the air got cooler and the beautiful red and gold leaves began to drift to the ground, shuffling through them on the way to school every day, breathing in the earthy smell and crunching them underfoot, became an annual fall ritual. I would often pick up an especially ‘perfect’ leaf to press between book pages and keep in my room.
The scent of grapes would also fill the air – a lot of
people had grapevines in their yards at the time, so it’s an aroma that
instantly takes me back to childhood, although it’s increasingly rare.
Each grade at school always put on a Halloween party, and,
at least for me, weeks of planning went into my costume. My mom had a trunk
full of old clothes, which she readily helped me transform into a variety of
Anticipation on October 31st was intense – the
daylight hours couldn’t pass fast enough. We would put our costumes on and wait
feverishly for dusk to fall – it was an unwritten rule to not start
trick-or-treating before dark! – and for jack-o-lanterns to come to life on
front porches as the streetlights came on. As soon as that happened, our
parents would let us out the door for a night of adventure.
We always made a beeline to any places giving out candied
apples or popcorn balls, and then, in the mysterious darkness that could be
concealing who knew what unearthly creatures and the chill breezes that felt
like the tap of the grave on our shoulder, we would go up and down the streets,
deciding which houses looked welcoming.
There were always a few houses whose inhabitants were either
not kid-friendly, or (to us children) downright creepy. If the former, we
didn’t bother visiting them, but if the latter and there was a pumpkin out, we
would have a discussion as to whether we felt safe going up to the front door;
sometimes we did, with some trepidation, but sometimes the risk outweighed the
possibility of more loot.
Once we’d completed our circuit, and usually with a full
pillowcase of candy, we’d head toward our respective homes to dump out the
contents onto a table and see what goodies we’d accumulated. It was always a
great night, and I regret strongly that children now can’t have the same
My nostalgia for those experiences has been a strong
influence on creating a spooky effect for the kids that come to our door
trick-or-treating. They all seem to enjoy getting a little scared, and their
parents get a kick out of it as well. I didn’t realize how much the children
enjoyed the creepy contact lenses I’ve worn with certain costumes until a
parent commented once that his kids look forward to it every year.
My hubby helps me decorate our front entrance but allows me
to do the dressing-up and hand out the candies. He’s invariably lurking in the
background, though, to watch the kids react. We’ve put out a variety of
decorations, including some large stone gargoyles that we added glowing red
eyes to, and there’s usually fog swirling through the bushes and along the
ground. Our house has a split entryway, and the kids have even commented on the
interior Halloween décor that they can see behind me as I’m putting treats in
Halloween allows us to experience some chills in a safe way,
and allows both children and adults to step out of our normal lives and become
something entirely different for a night. It doesn’t have the emotional baggage
or responsibilities of Christmas, and it gives us an opportunity for some good,
The proliferation of Halloween-themed cooking contests on
the Food Network have instituted a new annual tradition for me, and I now have
a well-decorated Halloween tree on our dining-room buffet, but you might still sometimes
catch me romping through a pile of raked autumn leaves, to my hubby’s combined
dismay and amusement. Enjoy your autumn, and I hope you get as big a kick out
of Halloween next week as I do.
Like citizens of most countries, we Canadians like to gripe about our home turf, but the more we travel the more we realize how fortunate we are — a stable government, a great health-care system, many freedoms, and so much more. In honour of our national holiday coming up in a few days, here is a pictorial look at a few of the things I love about Canada:
I love these beautiful, majestic birds, despite how much they poop — they are a gift!
Fenwick Berry Farm displays some of the lush produce we are truly fortunate to be able to grow and buy
These delicious outings have become popular in recent years
An amazing piece of engineering that has been lowering ships from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie for over 150 years, and that continues to fascinate visitors from all over the world
The Great Lakes
These lakes are so large that friends who visited from Australia asked if they were lakes or oceans!
They shelter us, provide maple syrup, and turn vivid colours in the fall
Autumn is our most spectacular and enchanting season, IMHO
A rich Indigenous heritage and culture
The Indigenous Garden at Niagara College, Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, showing the harmony and respect for nature that permeates Indigenous life
An abundance of bees
I’m always happy to see bees in our ecologically troubled times
Halloween is my personal ‘happy place’, and I’m even happier that this wonderfully wacky holiday is celebrated so widely
A love of Breakfast
We can enjoy this most basic comfort meal at a wide number of restaurants
Gorgeous winter scenery
Even while we curse at winter storms, we can’t help but admire the scenery, as well as…
Mother Nature’s ice sculptures
Poetry brought to life
Outdoor concerts are everywhere, and are a great way to enjoy a nice summer evening
Artisanal wineries, breweries and distillers are livening up our food and beverage landscape
Miles of open road
Thousands of miles of good roads to explore, like the Trans-Canada Highway
…There are far too many things to list here — these are just a few that I happen to have photos of. I invite you to share your own personal favourites with me in honour of Canada Day!