Tag Archives: holidays

Being Canadian

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians!

Happy Canada Day “Happy Canada Day!”

I was thinking this morning about how much I love being Canadian, how much I love living in Canada. I know the idea of a “Canadian identity” is still kind of a fuzzy thing; our identity as Canadians is more often based on all the things we aren’t, rather than all the things we are.

But for me, being Canadian has everything to do with this feeling inside of me, this sense of pride and love for my country, a pride and love that’s quiet, but nevertheless deep and passionate. I suspect that it’s the same for a lot of Canadians. We may not be able to concisely define “Canadian identity” in a few pithy words, but we absolutely know what it means to be Canadian.

Today I’m remembering that day in my mid-20s when I became a  Canadian citizen. It was one of the proudest days of my life. It wasn’t something I was required to do; it was something I wanted to do.

Canada symbolizes for me many of the values and beliefs I hold dear. After all, I grew up in Canada, and my Canadian upbringing played a big role in shaping those very same values and beliefs.

Earlier this year, I worked on the index for The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight and the Fight for Canada, by Ron Graham, a very readable book about Pierre Trudeau’s repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, and the constitutional entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When I finished my first reading of the book, I felt such awe and appreciation for the persistence of Trudeau’s vision; I was quite amazed and impressed that Trudeau actually managed to pull it off, that we did end up with our own Constitution, and not just that, one that entrenches some very important individual rights.

I am fortunate enough to be of the generation that first saw the results of the implementation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was a wonderful time to be a law student in Canada, watching and analyzing all these important decisions coming from our highest court.

And in many ways, it’s the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that perhaps best reflects what it means to me to be Canadian.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

The Holiday Catch-Up Post

Happy new year, everyone! It was a very hectic December for me, as evidenced by the scarcity of posts here. And after I finished my last deadline for the year, I came down with the flu. Christmas week was kind of a blur for me as a result, but this past week has been great, with a wonderful family get-together where my husband cooked the most delicious roast chicken.

So here’s all the stuff I would have posted in the past few weeks, in shortened (for me) form. And then I will be up to date and will be able to get back into a regular blogging schedule for the new year!

IPad. Yes, I finally got my iPad, a Christmas gift from my family. And I love it! There have been some unexpected benefits, too, like discovering I will be able to markup PDFs for work purposes, which will really help my workflow (and save quite a few trees). I’ve been having lots of fun finding lots of great apps – and there are a ton of seriously good ones out there.

I’m blogging this post from my iPad right now, in fact, using an app called Blogpress, which, unlike other blogging apps I explored, let’s me insert HTML code (for links, for example) easily (rather than typing in the code manually). I don’t yet have my Bluetooth keyboard (it’s on it’s way via UPS right about now), so I’m still using the touchscreen keypad. Not ideal, but I seem to be getting quicker the more I use it.

Teen parties. Other than seeing family and dinner with friends, Ward and I haven’t done much in terms of parties this holiday season. But
Hayley had TWO parties here, one for Christmas, and one yesterday, for New Years Eve.

Yes, Ward and I survived. It was surprisingly fun, actually. Last night, for instance, we did a Chuck marathon!

Writing. Not much to report on this end, unfortunately. But I’m hoping this will change once I get my Bluetooth keyboard; I’ve been investigating writing apps for the iPad and there are some very good possibilities.

And thanks to Janel, I’ve been thinking about working on some short stories this year, too. She’s been very inspirational for me on the writing front.

Reading. I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the iPad and really love it – it’s easily my e-reader of choice. Which makes sense, since I already preferred reading in my iPhone over reading with the Kobo e-reader. I also listened to some books in audio while I had the flu, so I’ll be reporting on my reading material in future posts.

So that’s my quick update. It feels a little odd typing on the iPad, so this post might not sound as much like me as normal. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday week (or two!). Here’s to a beautiful, gorgeous new year!

A-Camping We Went (Plus Some Luxury Living, and a Bit of Thomas the Tank Engine)

We’re back from our long weekend at Long Point provincial park, on the shores of Lake Erie.

It was the most interesting experience, to say the least.

Downpour

We arrived in the midst of a rain storm. I took this picture from inside the van, while waiting outside the park office for Ward to get us registered. Yes, I stayed nice and dry.

But that wouldn’t last!

You know the expression, “the rain was coming down in buckets”? That is a very apt description of the weather at the time.

So we pulled onto our site and waited until the buckets were set upright again.

That’s the thing with Ontario rain storms. There’s a lot of water involved, but it hardly ever rains for extremely long periods of time. Unlike Vancouver, where I grew up – there, the rain is more like an everlasting drizzle, rather like living in mist all the time.

When the rain stopped going “whoosh” and “splotch, splotch, splotch”, and became more of a gentle pitter patter, we began setting up our tent.

I actually found this fun. But then again (maybe due to growing up in Vancouver), I like being out in the rain.

We got all wet, but it was quite enjoyable. (At least, I enjoyed it. I’m not so sure my husband did.)

Campsite view

The rain stopped midway through our setting up. All the camping pictures are from my iPhone, so they’re not great quality – you can’t read the sign above, but it’s the one that warns there are no lifeguards so parents are responsible for their children.

The beach was literally less than a minute away.

I loved that! At night, we could hear the pounding of the surf. The only downside was the comfort station being farther away than I’d like. There is, I have decided, an optimal distance to a comfort station while camping – not too close, but most certainly, not too far. We discovered that cutting across the beach made the walk almost (but not quite) close enough.

First day on the beach

The skies started clearing (it was only mid-afternoon by then), and we headed out to the beach.

There was a lovely wind blowing (because, you see, there were severe thunderstorm warnings in effect for the evening).

Wind + camping = NO BUGS.

I really enjoyed our first night there.

The most lovely thing happened that evening. Mother Nature put on a gorgeous lightning show. We all stood on the beach and watched as light flashed from far across the horizon over Lake Erie. It was absolutely breathtaking. I managed to video some of the event, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch any stills. Here’s what the skies looked like from the beach:

Sunset

Sunset

We stood watching the lightning show until it got very dark and started raining. That night, heavy winds with a smattering of rain fell on the campsite. It was an incredible experience, lying in the slightly-shaking tent, the window flaps down, listening to the wind and the surf.

Day One: Very enjoyable.

Day Two began with more rain; there was another rain storm mid-afternoon, and then it cleared up and became beautifully warm and sunny.

Unfortunately, that meant very little wind.

Very little wind + camping = BUGS.

Biting ones.

I collected an assortment of bites, and as soon as it got dark, I retreated into the tent and read the evening away. It was okay, but not ideal.

Day Two: Not as enjoyable.

The weather forecasters had predicted that the series of thunderstorms would result in the “perfect day” on Day Three. But we woke up to a downpour again. Which was okay with me (because, you know, NO BUGS), but by then, I’d had the perfect amount of camping experience. Enough to last me for the next little while, anyway.

Since we couldn’t cook over the campfire, we headed out to the nearby town and had breakfast. At the place we went to, we were handed a full page menu with the following choices: Breakfast.

So we decided on, um, breakfast. (I’m having a bit of fun here with this, but it was actually a very delicious breakfast, lack of choice aside: eggs, choice of bacon/ham/sausage, toast, hash browns, fairly decent coffee.)

The perfect day showed up by noon but we’d already decided to go, a day earlier than planned (which was, you might recall, already four days earlier than originally planned). So we took down our tent in the hot sun, and got the van all packed up.

Here’s when our camping trip got really good.

First, we stopped at the park office to let them know we were leaving, in case any last minute campers came by and needed a site (after all, it was booked through until Thursday).

They gave us a full refund for our unused days! We certainly hadn’t expected this.

Then, things got even better. On a whim, we called the Kettle Creek Inn, a deluxe inn we stayed at in Port Stanley, Ontario, about ten years ago, and managed to land a luxury suite on a last minute deal.

Perfection. Jacuzzi tub, gourmet dining, lovely soft bed.

We checked in, then walked down to the Main Beach. It was really hot, so when we got there, we slipped off our shoes, and splashed in the water. When it’s that hot, you don’t care that you’re getting your clothes all wet; it’s actually quite wonderful because you stay cool on your walk back!

The next day, after a nice breakfast (lots of choices), we took a ride on the Port Stanley train, which really thrilled our little resident train aficionado. After a very leisurely lunch, it was time to head back home. But by our calculations, leaving right then would have landed us in the midst of Toronto rush hour.

Not a good plan.

So we took a side tour into St. Thomas, to visit the Elgin County Railway Museum. And we got very lucky indeed. It turned out that A Day Out With Thomas took place this past weekend; over 15,000 people attended (most, I gather, being of the knee-high variety).

And guess who was outside the Elgin County Railway Museum, waiting to be stored?

Dylan and Thomas the Tank Engine

Yep. Thomas the Tank Engine.

To say Dylan was thrilled is to put it mildly. Thomas wore a black face mask (for copyright reasons, apparently!), but that was okay. I doubt very much we would have gotten such great pictures if we’d gone to A Day Out With Thomas, along with the 15,000 other wee ones.

We also got to see a 4-6-4 Hudson steam locomotive, the No. 5700 (it actually started life as the 5703), and it was so impressive. I’m not a train fanatic, but standing there beside this massive piece of machinery was quite an experience. The historic feeling was almost palpable.

No. 5700

No. 5700

And I have a better feel for the allure of Steampunk as a result!

When we left, it was the perfect time, traffic-wise.

All in all, this is my idea of the ideal camping weekend: two nights in a tent on a beach, followed by four star accommodations!

Fabulous Reading Streak – Ending, or Just Beginning?

image Last night I finished This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George, and breathed a happy little sigh. I realized I’ve been on a wonderful reading streak, during which I’ve read one enjoyable book after another.

True, This Body of Death wasn’t quite as good as earlier George mysteries, but it was still a lovely read, and very nice to really have Inspector Lynley back, if you know what I mean.

My reading streak began when I picked up The Passage, by Justin Cronin, last month. (This is one of my “best books I’ve read this year”, by the way, and I highly, highly recommend it – you can read my review here.)

image What drove me to pick this 784-page book as the first book to read on the iPhone (the first non-reread, that is) is beyond me. All I know is, I downloaded the first two chapters as a free preview and before I knew it, I had bought and was deep into the full ebook itself.

I call this a reading streak, but I did have a few clunkers here and there. But the beauty of my reading method is that I have very low tolerance for a book that doesn’t hold my interest really early on (and by that, I mean by the end of the first chapter), so when I come across a clunker, I end up not having to spend that much of my reading time on it.

In other words: next!

So let’s just say that, for all intents and purposes, I moved, albeit not absolutely smoothly, from The Passage to Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy.

As it turned out, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest was my favorite of the three Larsson books, with its government conspiracy angle.

image Which may have been why I enjoyed Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother so much. That link is to Amazon, but if you like reading ebooks, you can download it for free at Doctorow’s site. The free download comes in all flavors – I chose Epub, and read the book on my iPhone (of course).

I moved from Little Brother to Elizabeth George’s This Body of Death, another read on my iPhone.

In case you’re wondering who’s responsible for my decision to read both these last books, the blame falls to Jill of Rhapsody in Books, who posted wonderful reviews of both these books here (Little Brother) and here (This Body of Death); I would have read This Body of Death sooner or later – her review just made it sooner – but I’d forgotten about Little Brother until I read her review.

So now I’m asking myself, is this the end of a lovely reading streak? Or just the beginning? I’m hoping it’s just the beginning, as I’m now gathering together books to take with me camping (yes, that camping trip is coming up soon, very soon), and I think I’m off to a good start already.

In fact, I began reading Marisa de Los Santo’s Belong to Me the other day, and I’ve been loving it so far. (You can blame this one on Jill, too.)

Any recommendations on your end, to help me continue this marvelous reading streak?

Camping (Gulp …)

I’m sitting here right now, wondering, What did I just do?

You see, we just went online and booked a campsite at Long Point provincial park – for an entire week this summer.

Long Point

Yes, I know – it’s a beautiful place. But I’m taking deep breaths right now, because I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

My kids like to say that my idea of roughing it is a three star hotel. They’re not really joking, either.

I’ve been camping twice before, both times at Long Point. That’s because if I’m going to be sleeping outdoors in a sleeping bag on the ground, that ground had better be sand. Sand and I have an affinity – I’ve always loved beaches, and the campsites at Long Point are right along the beach. Most of the campsites are all sand.

Since we left our booking so late, we weren’t able to get a campsite with electrical access. And both of the times I’ve gone camping before, we’ve had a campsite with electrical outlets.

As for why I agreed to go camping this summer rather than renting a cottage on a beach like we normally do, it’s because Dylan, who will be seven, has never gone camping before. And Ward, who grew up going camping with his family, thinks it’s the ideal family vacation. And both my teens aren’t sure whether they’ll come with us on vacation this summer or not, and camping is something they can decide to do at the last minute.

Ward assures me that all will be well. Hayley tells me that no electrical is the way to go – after all, you’re camping, right? Easy for her to say, since she gets to decide at the last minute whether she’d like to come along.

Me? I’m not so sure I’m ready to rough it for a week – and I’m wondering why I was the one who said, Hey! Look at this campsite! No electrical but it’s available for an entire week! Really! Isn’t that great! Let’s hurry and book it before someone else does! Yes! Yes! Rah! Rah!

That was me an hour ago. (Long Point is popular and most of the campsites are already almost all booked for the summer – only a handful were available during the time we’ll be able to get away this summer.)

But right now? Right now, I’m thinking … but what about my coffee? What about my iPod and audiobooks? How will I read at night? What about the bugs? What about my contact lenses? Exactly how many adapters can we plug into the van? And wait … does this mean an entire week without the Internet? Will there be cell phone reception? OMG, did we just book the campsite for an entire week??

Ward’s a seasoned camper, so all he keeps saying is, Don’t worry, you’ll have a great time.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be investigating the latest, greatest things in camping provisions and equipment that don’t require electricity. There’s a reason why I’m known as the Comfort Queen in this house.

All you seasoned campers out there – your words of support and creative suggestions would be extremely handy right about now …

Chinese New Year

image

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!

When I was younger, I thought of Chinese New Year more as “red envelope time!”, because my parents’ friends would give me red envelopes containing money as part of the New Year celebrations.

So I thought a picture of a red envelope would be a fitting accompaniment to this post!

It’s the Year of the Tiger. Were you born in the Year of the Tiger?

From Wikipedia:

People born within these date ranges can be said to have been born in the “Year Of The Tiger,” while also bearing the following elemental sign:

  • 8 February 1902 – 28 January 1903: Water Tiger
  • 26 January 1914 – 13 February 1915: Wood Tiger
  • 13 February 1926 – 1 February 1927: Fire Tiger
  • 31 January 1938 – 18 February 1939: Earth Tiger
  • 17 February 1950 – 5 February 1951: Metal Tiger
  • 5 February 1962 – 24 January 1963: Water Tiger
  • 23 January 1974 – 10 February 1975: Wood Tiger
  • 9 February 1986 – 28 January 1987: Fire Tiger
  • 28 January 1998 – 15 February 1999: Earth Tiger
  • 15 February 2010 – 2 February 2011: Metal Tiger

I was born in the Year of the Dragon. Coincidentally, I’m also a Leo. You’d think I’d be very dramatic and assertive, having been born with such auspicious signs, but I’m not. I’ve always wondered about that.

To celebrate the New Year, we’re headed out to meet up with my sister and her family, and my mom – we’ll be celebrating with Buddhist vegetarian food and then we’ll spend some of the evening walking around Toronto’s Chinatown.

It’s Valentine’s Day, too, of course, so happy Valentine’s Day to everyone as well!

Photo credit

Reflections

It’s a tradition of mine, so I set aside some time this morning to think back over the past year.

What always astounds me is how many things happened that, on first acquaintance, seemed to be problems but turned out to be gifts in the end. This year has seen quite a few of these gifts, perhaps because I’ve been far more aware of this amazing ability of problems to turn into solutions.

It always feels right to me to give thanks on the last day of the old year, before turning my thoughts to the many wonderful things that the new year will bring. Looking back, there has been so much to appreciate; prominent among the gifts of the old year have been this blog, and all of you whom I’ve met virtually as a result of Ms. Bookish. Every comment, every email, every tweet – it’s all meant so much to me.

What I’ve discovered this year is that the world beyond my doorstep, beyond my own little nook of physical space, is filled with an abundance of kindred spirits – Anne Shirley would truly be in her element in today’s online world.

This morning, a poem slipped into my inbox, courtesy of the Panhala email list, and it was such a beautiful accompaniment to my own reflections:

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

– John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

I’d like to finish up this post with another special something that I received via email. Many of you have probably already seen this; I think it’s so appropriate to today, when we stand in that reflective gap between the old year and the new.

Because truly, all we need is love.

In … one breathtaking moment, musicians from 156 countries played “All You Need is Love” together. Watch now, as musicians from all around the world come together and share a song.

Happy new year, everyone!!

A Parisian Holiday: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley

French MilkI moved on from reading Eye of the Crow to something completely different: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley is a memoir, written in graphic novel format, of a month-long holiday the author took with her mother in Paris, France.

I came across this novel when I was reading around the blogosphere (when I do this kind of surfing around, it’s extremely dangerous for my TBR list, which grows at an astronomical rate); I immediately put in a hold request for it from the library (I’m not sure whether my librarians actually like me all that much anymore, because I’m always putting things on hold).

This was a lovely, quick read; what I liked most about it were all the descriptions of the food that Knisley and her mother ate, accompanied by Knisley’s charming illustrations.

Interspersed throughout are black and white photographs from the trip; the photos are a nice accompaniment to Knisley’s drawings.

The preface to the book talks about the self-discoveries Knisley made during the trip, as well as similar revelations about her relationship with her mother, but I didn’t feel this to be the book’s strong point; it’s not so much about the author’s fully coming into adulthood while in Paris, as it is about all the wonderful sights and experiences she had while there. Her mother accompanied her, true, but I didn’t get much insight into their relationship. If anything, I got more of a feel for the author’s relationship with her father, who joined them for a few days of the trip.

French Milk is at its heart a wonderful and charming travel memoir – a fun, quick read that will leave you dreaming of leaving regular life behind for a few lovely weeks in Paris.

Want to buy French Milk? Support MsBookish by purchasing through one of these links: Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Chapters Indigo | Amazon.co.uk

Saturday Ramblings And Some Links

It’s Tapas Night here tonight – which means I am, once again, cleaning house to get ready for the people who will be dropping by. Have you noticed I seem to do this fairly frequently?

My question is, why doesn’t the house stay clean in between get-togethers?

Anyway, I’m sitting here and procrastinating, like normal. Writing a blog post is far more fun than cleaning the bathroom, when you get right down to it.

(I’m also having that old internal debate about whether I should clean up my office or not – if I do, I will use the “sweep everything into a lot of cardboard boxes and hope for the best” (patent pending) approach.)

Tagging: Now I Get It!

I’ve been using a bookmarking service that I’ve been really loving: Diigo. They have an iPhone app, which means I can bookmark even when I’m away from my computer.

I’ve used different bookmarking services before, but part of the reason Diigo has really clicked for me is this video. I know – it’s funny how things “click” when you’re ready for it. I don’t think I really “got” the concept of tagging until I watched this video, which I found at Library Bytes.

And, with some lovely synchronicity, I also discovered Diigo at about the same time.

I anticipate that I will be sharing a lot more links with everyone as a result!

And Now, The Links

Dorte’s What’s in a Name reading list. For those of you in Beth Fish Read’s What’s in a Name reading challenge, Dorte has put together a great list of possible reads. I’d sign up for this challenge, but we all know how terrible I am at completing reading challenges!

Classic Books Every Kid Should Read. I loved this list of children’s classics – lots of my own best-loved books as a child are on here. It really makes you think about what makes a children’s book a true classic. And there are some titles here I haven’t read yet, so now I’ve added to my TBR pile as well! I found this one via @bookclubgirl on Twitter.

10 Literacy/Writing Tools This is a list for the classroom but there are some really good ideas in here for anyone interested in writing and literacy. And it’s not really a list of ten things – ten alternative tools are included too!

100 Holiday Crafts. I have only one word for this post – awesome. There are links to 100 different tutorials for creating holiday crafts. Just amazing. Now if I only had the time to try my hand at these!

And before I forget, here’s the latest from Muse in the Kitchen (and you can expect to see a bunch of appetizer posts going up after tonight’s Tapas Night!):

Scallop Ceviche – a great holiday appetizer that’s really simple to make.

Spinach and Yogurt Dip with Caramelized Onion – we served this up at last month’s open house dinner and it went over quite well.

Mussels and Clams with Lemongrass – this is a Thai version of steamed mussels and clams that’s very tasty.

The Best Chicken and Sweet Leek Pie with Flaky Pastry – chicken pie is the ultimate in comfort food, and this chicken pie is the best one I’ve ever tasted!

That’s it for this Saturday’s ramblings. Hey! I wasn’t all that long-winded today, was I? This untidy house is calling to me now to get things into ship-shape order now.

How’s your weekend shaping up?