Live Every Day like Earth Day

*

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb

Today we celebrate Earth Hour…..lately the trend is for everyone to turn off their lights for Earth Hour, for one hour at 8 p.m.    An organizer interviewed, suggested that families could play games in the dark with their little children, like hide and seek with flashlights.

Okay, I’m going to make my statement:  Earth Hour is a crock……turning off your lights and perhaps playing a (possibly dangerous) game in the dark or by candlelight is crazy to me.   However, the concept of Earth Day has its merits.  Society is more aware, I hope, of our planet and its fragility.   The originators of Earth Day envisioned an aware population who would make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.  Instead, people have utilized MORE oil, electricity, water, and non-renewable resources.  It makes no sense to me, to turn off your lights for one lousy hour, then hop in your gas-guzzling SUV the next day like nothing is different.

I try to live each day like it is Earth Day.  I heat my home with carbon-neutral wood instead of polluting natural gas, propane, or oil.  I recycle daily, compost, and re-use items. I respectfully use only as much water as I need.  I started with simple things:  I replaced all my light bulbs with energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent lightbulbs.  I gave away my ancient inefficient freezer in the garage.  And I have unplugged my second fridge in the garage though I can still use it for storage in the summer or cold stuff in the winter.  Also, I put power bars on all my plug-in stuff so it can be turned off when not in use and reduce my ‘phantom power load’.  Then I began replacing old appliances with Energy Star ones, like my fridge and clothes washer (which uses 1/5th less pumped well water as well).  I installed a Solar Hot Water system to heat my water rather than electrically.  About 10 years ago, when electricity rates were about 2 cents a kwh, our electricity bills were three times higher than they are today (@ 10+ cents kwh).  So I guess every one of my efforts has been worth it.  I don’t have any PV Solar Panels to produce electricity, but I will always subscribe to that dream.

‘Worth’ should be measured in more than monetary savings.  It’s about the planet and the real impact on our world EVERY SINGLE DAY.

So if you honour Earth Hour, honour the planet by taking any measures you can throughout the year. Live every day like it was Earth Day.

*http://www.renewableenergygeek.ca/images/compact-fluorescent-light-bulb.jpg

Early Spring Chili

Today is one of those early spring days with cloudy skies, cool wind, and a sprinkling of rain.  So I decided it was time to make “Clean-out-the-fridge Chili”.  I can’t take credit for this wonderful recipe ……full credit goes to my late neighbour and good friend John McKenna.  Whenever we had a skating party he always brought his exceptional Chili and when asked about the recipe, he just said that he cleaned out his fridge and added all the little tidbits to his Chili:  even a half a bottle of beer!   So in honour of John McKenna, I dedicate my Chili, today and in the future, sans beer.

This morning I soaked a cup of dried kidney beans, then cooked them up, setting them aside for later.  Then this afternoon, I fried up about 3/4 lb. of local, free range ground beef in my big dutch oven.  I usually start this in the morning, but my visiting sister Faye and I had other plans.   I started cutting up all the other stuff while it cooked, then added them altogether :

Approximately

4 medium onions

1/2 sweet red pepper

1/2 green pepper

1 large carrot, diced

1  1/2 cups diced celery

1 cup brown beans

1 can black beans

the cooked kidney beans

4 tomatoes, the last of my garden tomatoes from the freezer

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

2-3 tablespoons chili powder

a couple of shakes of Mrs. Dash

Water to just cover everything

Now the Chili is simmering on the stove and the smell is already making its way through the house.  I’ve barely cleaned up and Melvin is already wondering when it’s going to be ready!

I like to serve Chili with hot buttered whole wheat toast.  And at times, I’ve added a few drops of Tabasco sauce to my bowl to spice it up even more.

It’s almost 5 p.m. and the temperature barely got above 0 degrees Celcius ….a good Chili day, I’d say!

Chili

Sisters

I am the luckiest person in the world!  In addition to having seven wonderful children, 4 great children-in-law, and 4 beautiful grandchildren, I have TWO amazing Sisters!   We are BFFs:  best friends forever.

My sisters, Betty and Faye, and I grew up in a pretty normal household with hard-working parents in the ’50s.  When we were young, we lived in post WWII housing along side of  many other families.  There were LOTS of kids in the neighbourhood and we were never bored with nothing to do.  Every year, our parents took us on some kind of vacation either down home to the east coast or camping or visiting a relative, often bringing along a  neighbour.   When I was 11 years old, our parents bought their first home and we moved away from our beloved neighbourhood.

During our teen years, my sisters and I kinda went our own separate ways, having our own individual friends.  I have to forever thank my sister Faye for giving me the gift of life:  never smoking.  She did this by making me take a drag off of all her friends’ cigarettes once when she had a party and I was SO sick, I NEVER, EVER wanted to smoke.  Betty was our family “rebel” during her teen years, exercising her independence often. lol.   The two of us shared a bedroom growing up,  until the day she got married.  She always said I “breathed too loud” when I slept and “kicked” me out of bed often…..lol.   But that’s okay, I knew my Sisters loved me anyway.  It was great being the youngest sister too.  When I finished my basketball practice at high school on a dark winter’s eve, I knew I could always call my sister Faye and she would hop in her cold car (in her Robe and curlers) and drive the 5 miles to the school and pick me up so I didn’t have to walk home alone in the dark.  Thanks Faye.  And because I was a few years younger than Betty and she got a job before me, I had lots of nice clothes of hers to wear to highschool….thanks Bet!

We lost our Mom suddenly when I was in my early 20’s and we were devastated.  Betty and I were married at the time, but Faye still lived  at home.  We were crippled by our loss for many, many months afterwards.  BUT we always knew we had each other.  No matter what.  And nothing and nobody would ever come between us.  It was like an unspoken pact we made with each other which has held the test of time to this day.

WinterludeOver the years, we’ve taken alot of vacations together with our families and have had the BEST time!   We’ve gone down home to New Carlisle on the Gaspe, with most of our children and stayed in a couple of cramped chalets on the beach.  We had a great time taking walks along the ocean  looking for “beach glass”  or visiting our Grandmother, Aunts, and Uncles or having an amazing feast at my cousin Maureen’s …… My Sisters and I haven’t lived in the same city since 1972 .  Presently, Faye lives 4 1/2 hours away from me and Betty lives across the country on Vancouver Island.  Faye and I will go out to B.C. to visit Betty or Bet will come east to visit us in Ontario nearly every year.  When we  get together, we all talk a mile-a-minute at the same time AND can actually understand what each other is saying!!  My kids laugh!   Faye and I see each other more often since we live closer.  Several times a year, Faye takes the train to visit me while I’ll often catch a ride to her place with my daughter Kristi when she has business meetings in Toronto.

In recent years, we’ve been able to have “Sister-time”  in beautiful British Columbia, exploring beaches, mountains, and trails, many times with our children who live nearby.  My two Sisters actually tried surfing in Tofino a few years ago!

It’s funny…..the older we get, the more we seem to have in common.  When we were growing up, my sisters didn’t want me (the little sister) hanging around, but now we can’t get enough of each other!  We are truly best friends.  We know that we have each other’s backs and will always be there for each other in times of need.  We talk on the telephone at least weekly and now can Skype each other, bringing our worlds a little bit closer.

Sisters in Vancouver

 

The Future of Food

We all love Food!  I thought I knew alot about food, how to grow it, how to store or preserve it, how to cook it, eat it……but I’ve discovered that I know nothing!  My son Marty awakened my interest to the business of food a few years ago when he introduced me to the BBC’s series “The Future of Food” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00m9xjc/episodes/guide.  It talks about the food and its relation to global warming, oil prices, sustainability,over- fishing the seas, the importation of food worldwide, declining water reserves, population,…. I was blown away and still am.

Fresh fish

So now, every single purchase and thought I make about the food I grow or buy and eat is done ‘thought-fully’.  I began to learn a few years ago that the seeds available for planting in gardens and farms alike, were all “owned” by only a few multinational corporations.  They owned the keys to the future of mankind!  I began in earnest, to grow non-hybrid or ‘heritage’ food and save seeds from my own garden for the following year .  But I realize that I have a long way to go….

I recently watched a documentary about chocolate (‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’) -which I  love – and was disturbed to learn about how African children are enslaved by cocoa bean growers, some after their parents have sold them!  Chocolate that ends up in KitKats and other popular candy, even though those companies promise that they do not purchase child-slavery chocolate.  Undercover journalists prove that they in fact do.  You can watch it here:

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/4809/The-Dark%20Side%20of%20Chocolate        Now I’m trying to responsibly choose ‘fair trade/grown’ chocolate, which is no easy task.

I don’t pretend to know everything…..actually, I’m learning alot these days on my journey through this life
“Eating locally is not just a fad; it may be the best thing you can do for the health of the environment.” – David Suzuki.

My Florida Vacation

I had the opportunity last week to travel to Florida with my adult children and their families.  We had planned this 11 day trip last March after a huge snowstorm and weeks of frigid temperatures – nice warm weather seemed like a good idea!   We left home in long pants in 1 degree C weather and arrived in Florida to 29C!  We were driving down in my daughter’s van, so it made sense to go along…… for the 26+  hour trip.  I believe that driving a vehicle rather than taking an airplane makes better environmental sense as there are way less CO2 emissions per person.  The kids were great in the car on the long trip, by the way.

It was great to see the changes as we drove along into warmer climates:    One of the most beautiful areas was the southwestern New York state and Pennsylvania’s  Appalachian Mountains, even though most of the driving was in the dark!  I’m fond of the Appalachians as this chain of mountains continues up along the Gaspe, where my family is from. I noticed right away that the Americans don’t seem to embrace recycling and environmentally friendly products (like paper tea cups – they use styrofoam) like us Canadians do and I only saw one wind generator in the US and NO PV solar panels, even in the Sunshine State of Florida.  We observed our first sign of spring in the Washington D.C. area:  blossoms on the trees.  My apple blossoms usually don’t appear until the middle of May, a full two months later.  It was refreshing!!  We started to see leaves on the trees in the Carolinas, then in Georgia, Palm Trees!  THAT was a sure sign of the south!  By the time we arrived at our resort near Orlando Florida, it seemed like Summer with temperatures in the high 20sC.  Luckily, we planned a “down day” as it rained during our first day there, so we basked in the pouring rain in the hot tub.

 

We visited 3 “theme” parks while we were there:  Disney World (x2), Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Universal Studios Island of Adventures.   I must have walked over 60 km during the 42+ hours we spent inside the parks.  I must say, those theme parks are a well-oiled machine, moving hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis, quickly and efficiently.  From the time you arrive in their $14.00 parking lot, you are directed to a tram to take you to the front entry way.  Then a ferry, monorail, or bus moves you to the official front entrance where your bag is searched, THEN to the gates.  For each person who spends the $90+ to get inside, I’m sure they spend another $200 on food, beverages, ice cream, and souvenirs (well not me, as we made sandwiches and brought apples and water).  It WAS pretty impressive.  The attention to detail was apparent in the clothes the employees wore to match the attraction they were working at, to the design and props of the attractions a.k.a. rides.  Well obviously Disney and Universal HAVE the coin and the technology to do it right.

My favourite part of Disney World was ………hmmm it’s hard to pick one thing.  I liked the Pirates of the Caribbean ride because I like Jack Sparrow and the movies……I liked the Haunted House because I remembered it from 35 years ago when we went……they had lots of sit down, air conditioned shows to watch like Mickey’s PhilharMagic which was a 3D show with many of the favourite animated characters………the Steam Train that encircled the park……..and the late Walt Disney’s vision, the Carousel of Progress…….and the People Mover.  What I DIDN’T like were the long line-ups:  some rides had 2 hour wait times!  We figured out how to use the “fast-pass” system and lessened the standing in line-ups, but it was brutal on my feet and legs.   Disney World seemed all about getting as many people inside the park, spending lots of money and making their children happy with little effort spent on environmentally friendly products like cups and water bottles.  I was curious, at the end of the day while watching the spectacular fireworks over the castle, about what their electricity bill must be daily….. what their gross receipts and expenses must be……and how many people are actually inside the park on a March Break day…..mind-boggling!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom was quite different.  The theme was obviously about Conservation of the planet and animal species.  It was pleasant to walk around with the  hoards of other people in the jungle-like shade.  It seemed well laid out too with sections like Africa, Asia, Rafiki’s Planet Watch (and Conservation Station), and Dinoland USA.  I think my favourite attraction was the Kilimanjaro Safari (along with thousands of other people as the “fast” wait time was about a 4 hour return –  you swipe your admission card and a return time card is spit out).  The open-air safari was very well done with  the wild African animals roaming free in a very large Savanna style area with no visible fences like most zoos.  The knowledgeable driver/guide pointed out the different species and informed everyone about their endangered status, conservation measures worldwide and by the Park, and gave informal tidbits along the way.  I give it a 10 out of 10.  Another fun time was the Kali River Rapids, simulating white water rafting down the Chakranadi River in Asia…..I was a little hesitant about a ride that moved fast with sudden drops, but I couldn’t resist in the 31C degree heat!  It was a blast and quite refreshing as I got completely soaked!   There were several interesting trails which we didn’t go on (my Son and his family did) because our feet and legs were hurting.   Animal Kingdom was a little more low key and we enjoyed it immensely.

Universal Studios was a “horse of a different colour” and seemed to be geared to the older crown instead of younger children.  We just HAD to go and see for ourselves the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.  It was AMAZING!!  The Hogsmead town was true and exactly to scale.  It was incredibly well done.  We went there first, thinking that we’ed get on the Harry Potter ride through Hogwarts before the crowds got there….hahaha, well so did everyone else and the wait time was 2 hours with NO “fast” pass available!  Instead, we wandered around abit because the “street” set-u p  was SO awesome, then went to various areas like a terrific Magic Show;  the Lost Continent; Dr. Seuss-land;  then on to Marvel Comics area (crazy busy);  Jurassic Park where we went “white water rafting” again and got drenched, thankfully;  then completed the circle back to the Harry Potter area.  After a supper break, we stood in the 45 minute line for the Harry Potter ride and it was fabulous.  The line-up took you through Hogwarts where you would see the details of the castle from the movies:   the greenhouse;  holographic Harry, Ron, and Hermione talking to you;  the talking people in the paintings;   the library with Dumbledore talking to you…..just EVERYTHING you’d seen in the movies right there exactly!  It was a VERY pleasant wait as the line-up snaked around until you got to the ride.  And what a ride it was!  I’m not a roller coaster person.  I don’t like sudden drops and I was concerned about the signs along the way warning about motion sickness, dizziness, and sudden stops, twists, and turns on the ride.  But it was mainly done with video screens and props as it seemed like you were following Harry Potter on a broomstick all around……very quickly.  The ride actually moved quite abit and had you almost upsidedown at times.   Man it was AWESOME!

Harry Potter Hogsmead @ Universal Studios

Luckily, my cousin Graham and Valerie (and their son Nigel and his family) from London, England were in Orlando at the same time, so we got to meet again and have supper together.  We only spent one other day at the resort relaxing around the swimming pool and hot tub.  Our accommodations at the Villas at Fortune Place were very nice:   a 2 bedroom plus loft townhouse with a fully equipped kitchen.  I was quite happy to sit in the vehicle for the 29 hour straight drive home (thanks to my son-in-law Mike for doing the majority of the diving especially overnight, while the rest of us slept).  I arrived home in the “frozen north” of Canada to unusual 27C degrees, ALL the snow melted, and day two of the river ice break-up!  It seems like summer back home!

I just finished hanging all my laundry outside as it’s supposed to be around 24C degrees (all week)……scarily unbelievable.   I guess it’s back to the real world……..

 

Yearning for Spring

I’m sick of winter.  Even though it’s been a ‘mild’ winter, I’m getting tired of the cold and snow.  It’s been a ‘fickle’ winter with freezing rain or snow or just plain rain  -we’ve had half as much snow as we normally do.  But everything is still white outside, covered in an icy thick layer of snow.   One day it’s -24C (this morning) and the next day it’s +12C (tomorrow).

Mourning Doves on Clothesline

But there is hope.  The sun is definitely getting stronger!  My outdoor solar lights are charging up big time during the day and shining over the snow most of the night long.  And I’m getting lots of solar hot water.   But after 3 months of winter, I’m ready for a change.  My driveway is icy and full of frozen ruts from the last snowstorm/rain/then cold making walking treacherous.  My elbow is starting to hurt from the “repetitive strain” of chopping firewood.  I’m getting kinda tired of my winter food ‘menu’ ……Yup, I’m ready for a change.

I need sun…..and heat…….no snow………spring rains.  I need to get outside in my garden and get my hands dirty, instead of frozen fingers in holey gloves chopping wood.  About this time every year, I get “cabin fever” or a desire for something different.   I find myself online looking at Viarail destinations or thinking about visiting my Sisters.

I must stop myself from planting seeds to satisfy my need for the good earth.  It’s too early yet and I have to wait at least another 3  weeks to start tomatoes or else they’ll be too leggy and weak for the garden in May.  And I’m fed up chopping and hauling firewood.   I’m tired of making soup and lasagna and roast beef dinners with mashed potatoes and gravy.  I need a good barbeque with roasted potatoes, sweet peppers, onions, and zucchini…….mmmmmm.  And even hamburgers or ‘beer-butt chicken’ – a whole chicken stood on a can full of water, salt, and fresh rosemary placed on a tray on the BBQ.

I’m dying to see tulips in my gardens!  I am SO glad that I planted tulips and daffodils years ago.  They come back year after year.  It makes my day when I see the little shoots first poking through the ground around the beginning of April.  Then watching them get taller and the flower bud forming until one morning all the beautiful colour bursts forth.  They last for weeks and weeks, taking turns blooming for my mere entertainment.   By the middle of April, the ferns have started unfurling and within hours it seems, they grow 3-4 feet tall.    Day by day, more plants burst forth welcoming a new spring…..

I love sweeping off my front porch for the first time each spring.  It involves moving all the furniture, tables, crocks, and baskets of shells from both the east coast and the pacific.  Last autumns leaves and empty sunflower seed shells have blown against the house and need to be coaxed out.  But I don’t mind:  it gives me a chance to ‘commune’ with my porch and its ‘inhabitants’, sit a spell mid-job, and watch the birds or the trees or the last patch of snow melting.

Birds also make me feel happy – all year long, with the exception of the Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons who are fond of my pond fish.  The little Goldfinches who have been olive green all winter are now slowly starting to get their yellow colour back.  Some people have seen Robins already, but not me.  Bluejays are still active out in the open but will head to the woods come summer.

Lily Pad in the Pond

My dog Yukon seems to be getting ‘antsy’ – he wants to go outside constantly to sniff around and roll in the crusty snow.  I’m sure he knows that soon it will be all gone and he’ll just have green  grass to frolic in as he loses his winter fur.   And our kitten is fascinated by the rainbows cast around the room by my crystal hanging in the window, climbing up walls and chasing them on the floor every morning.

A few days ago I saw the first sign of spring:  a truck moving an ice shack off the river.  Fishermen have till next week to get their ice shacks off the river as the ice is getting thinner daily.

Yes siree, I’m ready for spring!  Bring it on!

Remembering Chris 1960-2008

Chris

Today marks 4 years since our Chris died at the age of 47 from metastatic Prostate Cancer on March 2, 2008.   We celebrated his life 6 days later with a memorial get-together inviting family and friends to our home rather than the usual stressful ‘funeral home’ experience (in the true spirit of the way we have always done things:  at home).  In honour of Chris’ memory, I’m posting the eulogy that our dear friend Ron wrote as it pretty well describes Chris’ life…..

“My Friend Chris

Chris was my best friend. I am sure that I am not the only one in this room making this claim. If Chris was not your best friend – he certainly was your good friend.
Chris was so easy to like:
• He could fix anything – from a car to a washing machine
• He owned every tool ever produced by mankind – and knew how to use them all
• He could move any household appliance – by himself
• He had a sense of humour that was sharp – but not cruel
• He brewed his own beer
• He was a Senators fan
• He had great stories
• He could talk on any subject – and – express an opinion – as he liked people to know:  he was not always right – BUT – he was never wrong!
• He used to be a bouncer for a rock and roll band
AND – an added bonus – if you were standing next to Chris, there was not a bully in the world who would even think of kicking sand in your face! Who would NOT want this guy’s friendship?

There was a lot below the surface – Chris had a big heart and a gentle soul. He easily passed the test of the best judges of character – children and animals. It made your heart melt to watch him play Santa Claus to the neighbourhood kids and his grandchildren. Even though the children knew that it was Chris under that beard – he was still the real Santa. And the way dogs took to him, you would think Chris had roast beef in his pockets!
It was Chris’ nature to help. Being the “neighbourhood cop” kept us safe and secure. He would drop what he was doing to help a friend – or even a stranger. Here is one example: A few years back, just as he was leaving the neighbourhood Chris came upon a car that was in the ditch due to icy roads. Chris pulled over to see what he could do. As he was helping the driver out of her car, another vehicle lost control, struck Chris’ truck and destroyed it. Fortunately, no one was hurt. After the sting of dealing with the insurance company had passed, we kidded Chris that “no good deed goes unpunished.” But we knew a sour incident like that would not deter Chris. He could never turn his back and walk away from anyone that needed help.

Chris & Yukon

I always suspected that Chris had led 2 lives -1 call them B.L. & A.L. – Before Linda and After Linda. I only knew the After Linda portion. I imagine the Before life was one in which Chris was a free spirit, who “lived large” – always ready to “party hearty” and probably acted like there was no tomorrow. The After part was a person who still loved to have fun – but – there was now a purpose and a future for his life – he had a home, a wife, children and even grandchildren.
This house and property was an ongoing project for Chris. The job list was endless –  once a task was finished, 2 or 3 more would take its place. This is just the way Chris wanted things – he had a ready-made excuse for never considering a move – how could he leave here if there was unfinished work? There was always a wall to move, a path to build and of course – the Pond!
Family was Chris’ lifeblood. He would walk through fire for his children and grandchildren and he was fiercely loyal. He was ready to offer good advice to the kids -and was surprised when there was not always a follow-through. That was until he was reminded that he didn’t always do what he was told by his father. He was happiest when he was surrounded by family in this house. The noise and activity wrapped around him like a warm blanket. This was a man who had everything he really wanted.

Clearly, the love of his life was Linda. He had found his soul-mate  – someone who he knew would keep all of the promises made years ago. What ever went wrong, Chris knew Linda would make it right. Della and I would see Chris and Linda walking together down the road, holding hands. We would smile and joke, “Look at those love-sick saps!” But Chris would be sure everyone knew he was no pushover – he insisted that he always got in the last word in “discussions” with Linda – by ending with those forceful words, “Yes Dear.”

The last few months of Chris’ life were very difficult ones. He battled a cruel illness that robbed him of his strength – but not his spirit. Often the treatments were as harsh as the disease. Through it all he kept looking to the future – worried more about others than himself. Chris kept going, despite the pain and loss of function that would make most of us wallow in self-pity. When he was knocked down, he got back up again. None of us were really surprised with his attitude – after all, this was Chris – did anyone think he would go down without a fight?

Chris has blessed us all. He loved and respected his parents. His brothers can be proud of his strength of character. His legacy lives on through his children and into another generation with his grandchildren. His wife had the devotion and companionship of an everyday hero – a great husband, father and provider. And for the rest of us – well, our lives have been made better because Chris was our friend.
March 08, 2008 ”

…..Tofino, B.C. 2008 by Nellie (16yrs)

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