Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Isn’t the City

Apparently, it’s attack-the-city-dwellers this week.

My next question, though, is a valid one. Why do you move to the country if you want to live in the city?

In my hometown, we had people moving from Brampton and the first thing they did was try to make the small town more like the city they just left - putting in more stop signs, wanting more services and complaining about the lack of stores.

On my street, some of the neighbours want to ban fires and put up streetlights. Isn’t the great thing about living in the country the fact you can see the stars and roast hot dogs on the fire?

If you like convenient living, my suggestion is to stay in the city.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Know You Are a Redneck When ...

I grew up in a small town. I currently live on a street that is closely surrounded by two small towns and my nearest grocery store is another small town away.

I have fabulous memories of small-town living - hours spent outside, building forts, hiking through trails, discovering CC Tree, playing in fields.

I went to high school in a larger town and then immediately went to Humber College in Etobicoke for journalism, doing my work placement at The Villager in the Bloor West Village.

I had no trouble going from small-town girl to big-city woman.

But if you listened to city dwellers, particularly those born and raised in the city, you would think that anyone who grew up or chooses to live in a small town must be a redneck.

Why is that?

Why is it OK to make prejudicial remarks about people who live in a small towns?
I expect many “city folk” are racist as noted by the number of hate crimes you read about in the city papers.

It’s been my experience that if you are a good person, a good neighbour, other things simply don’t matter.

“Country folk” like people who are friendly, who don’t mind stopping to chat and lending anything from power tools to a cup of sugar.

So I am sure people will forgive me if I get a little angry if people assume that because you live in a small town, you must be a redneck.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beautiful Monsters

I am likely going to alienate most of my neighbours for the upcoming comments, which is not my intention and I offer my apologies in advance.

I live in what is cottage country. My road is private, a dead end and on the lake.
Many of my neighbours are tearing down the cottages that line the road and building beautiful monstrosities.

I don’t mind, aesthetically, The houses, coupled with the spectacular views, make what would become a monotonous walk more enjoyable because the houses are all unique.
It just seems like a waste.

Most of these giant houses are empty the majority of the year - even in the summer.
While I appreciate the status of a cottage and why people would own one, it just seems really sad that these gorgeous homes sit empty.

Someone is paying to have the houses cleaned, the gardens created and maintained and the lawns cut. Not to mention, these houses are likely being heated in the winter, cooled in the summer and the appliances going at all times.

In the age of green, it just seems like waste of valuable resources.

Is it jealousy that makes me view these “cottages” as a waste? No, I don’t think so. Is it because I don’t like the idea of a cottage (I don’t like to maintain one house, never mind keeping up with a second one when I am on vacation)? No.

These houses are absolutely beautiful. The setting is gorgeous. I guess I wonder why anyone would built something so beautiful and then let it sit empty.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Counting Down the Days

There are only 52 more days until the latest Harry Potter flick is in theatres in Canada.

To view the official Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, visit

To view pictures, visit

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Ultimate in Cleaning

It’s called The Ultimate Coth and it’s guaranteed five years of general use.

So I am not sure if I should be embarrassed about my bad housekeeping skills or proud that I have destroyed The Ultimate Cloth in five months.

I think I am a little bit of both.

I received The Ultimate Cloth for Christmas from my parents. This unimpressive looking white cloth claims an “exclusive MiraFiber technology” that cleans, chemical free, with just water. According to the package, it can clean windows and mirrors, blinds, walls, chrome, vinyl and leather, stainless steal, granite and marble as well as shower doors, soap scum and more. “Hundreds of uses”, it says.

It’s true.

I live in a house of windows and I have tried window cleaner and vinegar and water with newspaper. The Ultimate Cloth cleans better than both without cleaners - and streak free. I have cleaned my stainless steal microwave, walls and mirrors by running The Ultimate Cloth under water, wringing it out and cleaning away.

And within five months, my white Ultimate Cloth doesn’t come clean, even with bleach.
While it still leaves surfaces clean and streak free (except the bathroom mirror for some reason. While it comes clean after drying, the mirror’s surface looks funny when washed), The Ultimate Cloth has certainly taken a beating at my house.

To order The Ultimate Cloth, contact Renee Black at 905-880-8111 or
Visit the website at

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cellphone Laments

Everyone laughs at me.

For years, I have enjoyed short spurts of work - a text saying “Pls pick up milk” or “I will be home soon” or phone calls discussing the day’s happenings.

About two weeks ago, my world changed.

I started working harder than I have my entire existence. Not only was I making more calls (while listening to loud music and teenaged laughter), but the texting became fast and furious, with one after the other coming both into and out of me.

I was then pulled out at a rugby game and the real laughter started.

“Is that your cellphone?” a boy asked.
“No,” was the short reply. “It’s my stepmom’s. Pathetic isn’t it?”

Then the group of people started to laugh at me and make comments about a donation to a museum.

I may not flip open or have a slide-out keyboard. I may not be able to surf the Internet or take pictures or play music, but I am able to have conversations and send text messages such as “I love you” and “I miss you” just as well as those fancy new phones.

So there.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Motorcycle Memories

People either love or hate motorcycles; there are often no shades of grey.

My aunt, a nurse, calls them organ donators, as she has experienced, first hand, the dangers of riding, and falling off of, the vehicle.

Perhaps I love motorcycles because my dad had one while I was growing up. I loved getting on the back of his Honda and feeling the wind rush by me.

My husband has a Harley, and yesterday was my first ride in more than a year.
I find being on the back of a motorcycle quite freeing and relaxing. While you can hold conversations (but at louder volumes), you spend a lot of time just thinking and looking around.

The sense of smell comes alive on the back of a bike - wood, freshly cut, dirt recently plowed by a farmer and lilacs by the dozens.

When it was just the two of us, we would jump on the bike and go. We saw a lot of the countryside around us on the back of the motorcycle and had some great road trips.

While my jump-on-the-bike-and-go days are now gone, the love of bikes is still there waiting for the day in the far future when we can go again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bottled Heat

Today was the first time in what has seemed like forever that I was actually hot.
Even my skin and bones felt hot.

I wish I could somehow bottle up that feeling so when I am cold, I could let the conserved heat seep out of my bones to make me feel warm.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Note to Drivers

Dear Drivers,

As you know, our street is a dead end; it’s not a busy road.

So can you do me a favour? When you see me pushing my son in the stroller, move over a whole lane. It annoys me when drivers sped past us, moving over only slightly.

If I can reach out and touch your car, you haven’t moved far enough away. If only half your car makes it over the yellow line, you still haven’t moved far enough over.

When drivers move into the other lane to pass, it makes me feel more confident that if something happened - a blown tire, a distracted driver - the car wouldn’t hit us. As a mother, that makes me happy.

So thank you to the drivers who move over to the other side of the road to pass me; who slow down when approaching me; and who wait until the car coming toward them goes by so they can move over a full lane to get around me.

These drivers get a grateful wave, a smile and a word of thanks. The others - not so much.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rabbits, rabbits, everywhere

There are a lot of rabbits this year, which doesn’t bode well for our vegetable garden.

I almost walked right by the one pictured here while taking my son for a walk last week.We usually have a rabbit in our front yard in the morning, eating the grass under the bird feeder, and I have seen three at once in the boat launch across the street.

I wonder if the foxes will come back to decrease the rabbit population?

We also have a lot of barn swallows this year, likely because we also have a lot of mosquitoes.

It’s amazing to watch the acrobatic flight of the swallows as they swoop and fly in between each other, people, houses and moving cars. I was able to capture a picture of a swallow actually sitting still. Anyone who has seen swallows in action knows how rare that is.

I thought I would also include a new picture of our Baltimore orioles. I have seen at least two males and their partners this year but we must have more because I have to fill their feeder every third day.

If you are looking to attract hummingbirds and orioles to your backyard, you don’t have to purchase a commercial mix - it’s just sugar water with food colouring. I add one cup of sugar to a large mason jar of water. I do not add food colouring.

And finally, I thought I would include a picture of the turkey vultures. You can distinguish these large birds even in the air by their red heads.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

For the Love of Water

Water, particularly bodies of it, has always been an important part of my life.
Growing up, my house backed onto the Credit River, and I spent many hours playing in and around it.

When I went to Humber College, I had the Humber Aboretum to go to if I needed a place to relax and unwind. From there, I moved to Kingston where Lake Ontario beckoned me. In times of trouble, I would bike along the paths that ran beside the lake before finding a secluded spot to think and write.

When Stouffville was my home, I would walk Tramp, my aunt’s dog, through the reservoir, where again my worries could be put aside.

While both Milton and Pickering offered bodies of water, it was more of a drive to get to them and I tended to think while on my inline skates or bike.

And now I am here with Lake Simcoe literally outside my door, offering instant peace.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Enjoying the View

I never tire of the above view.

We have lived in this spot since 2001 and the water is as calming and beautiful to me as ever.

I love getting up in the morning, opening the curtains and seeing what the lake has in store - beautiful sunrises of reds, oranges and blues; water that changes colour from Caribbean blue to icy blue; and assorted birds floating by.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Singing the praise of Sick Kids

When our son was one month old, he was airlifted to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Those first few days were dreadful as we watched our little guy struggle to live - his heart racing and skipping at 240 beats per minutes, double what it should have been.

While we were petrified our son’s heart would be damaged beyond repair if it didn’t stop working so hard, we never doubted the care or expertise of the doctors and nurses at Sick Kids.

We were constantly told by family and friends that while no one wants to darken the doors of Sick Kids, if you have to be there, the downtown facility is the best.

They were right.

Our son received constant care and so did we. Our endless questions were answered, and the nurses and doctors were patient, kind and professional.

Once our son was stabilized we were moved out of the cardiac intensive care unit to the cardiac unit. Despite the nurses having multiple patients, we never felt our son was not receiving the best care.

Almost two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, we were sent home - glad to be going but worried.

Our little guy will be seven months old in a couple of days and while we still worry, we know he is better. We also know that if we need to, care and compassion will be found at Sick Kids.

Sick Children’s Hospital information

PS-A special thank you to Markham Stouffville Hospital for the care they gave to our son then and now.
Markham Stouffville Hospital information

Thursday, May 14, 2009


There are people in this world who have not had the pleasure of co-existing with mice.

A couple years ago, mice made an appearance at our office. It makes sense; if I was a mouse, I would find hanging out in a newspaper office where there is no shortage of food and lots of nest-building materials, ideal.

One co-worker asked another if what was on her desk were mouse droppings and when confirmed, most people were freaked out that they were sharing their work surfaces with a mouse.

Then one day, the quiet in the office was broken by a shriek and the sight of JL jumping from her desk and screaming that a mouse ran across her toes.

While JL’s side of the room was erupted by people fleeing from their desks, NN, who lives in an old house in the city and understands mice, and I, were in hysterics as three grown men, equipped with various mouse-catching paraphernalia, cornered the poor thing and took it outside.

Making a statement
Growing up, we had mice in our house but we also had cats, and the rodents were smart enough to stay in the walls.
When our cats died, the mice started coming into the house and my mom put out poison.
One time my mom was in the kitchen, when a mouse staggered out, looked up at her and died. That was the end of the theatrical mouse.

Welcome to the theatre
Our cat, Sylvester, was born in a barn but became a spoiled house cat shortly after.
Sylvester is not the world’s greatest mouser and the mice in our house know it - they are rather bold.
One day my husband and I were having dinner and Sylvester joined us. I asked him what was in his mouth and he promptly spit it out. I looked over and noticed a mouse laying on its back, panting with its beating rapidly. As I pulled back to ask my husband to deal with it, the mouse jumped up and ran away, disappearing behind a shelving unit.
I sat back down, looked at my husband and said “Oh, dinner and a show.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Problem with baby clothes

If someone is looking for a way to make lots of money and keep millions of moms happy, they simply need to design baby clothing that makes sense.

I hate buying baby clothing; the experience is right up there with buying shoes.
Why are baby clothes so difficult?

The main problem is the labeling. Shouldn’t a six-month-old Gerber outfit be the same size as a six-month-old outfit from the Children’s Place?

Apparently not, and it makes purchasing clothing, sans baby, impossible and frustrating.

Other design ideas:

* Buttons the whole way down.
Take the outfit pictured here. It’s our favourite except there are only three buttons on the chest and then buttons around the legs. It means you have to pull the outfit over a child’s head and I don’t know a baby who enjoys that experience.

* No clothing that goes over the head. Babies hate it and so do their parents.

* I use cloth diapers so we need zippers that go over giant diaper bums.

* Buttons should be spaced at a good distance. I have one sleeper with buttons so far apart that my son’s foot hangs out.

* No hoods. While hoods are cute, they are a pain. I don’t like my son to sleep with hoods nor do I like them while he is in a car seat.

* Pants should have buttons down the front. The elastic waists looks nice but you have to shake the poor child to get the pants over the diaper butt and onto his waist. Designers can hide the buttons under the fake fly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Zoom, zoom, zoom

When my little friend BG came to meet our son for the first time, she sang him a song.

Since then, I have been singing the “BG song” to our little guy a couple of times of day, particularly when he is fussy.

As soon as the words “Zoom, zoom” start, he breaks into a smile.

I have taught it to two other little people and I am sure you’ll be able to guess which part they like best.

Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We are going to the moon.
If you like to take a trip,
Climb aboard our rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom.
Blast Off.

Thanks BG.

Monday, May 11, 2009

They're back ...

The birds aren’t the only creatures that are back.

Is it just me or are the mosquitoes larger and more blood thirsty this year?

I must have really great tasting blood because mosquitoes go out of their way to enjoy a sample.
If people are looking for a natural bug repellent, they simply have to encourage me to join their parties - that way their guests in shorts and T-shirts will be safe.

The mosquitoes tend to enjoy buzzing in my ear and sticking their ‘noses’ through jeans and sweaters to get to me.

Several years ago, my parents and I went to Holland to meet our Dutch relatives. I was told there are no bugs in Holland. That may be the case for most people, but the mosquitoes packed their little bags and flew to Holland to eat me alive.

The following are mosquito prevention tips courtesy of
* Remove standing water around your property.
* Change water in bird baths and wading pools weekly.
* Avoid mosquitoes by staying indoors at dawn and dusk.
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
* Repair screens.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

To all the women who love, cherish and appreciate a child, Happy Mother’s Day.
To my mom, who always puts everyone’s needs a head of her own, thank you.
Thank you for being such a wonderful mom, a great role model and fabulous person. I feel honoured and blessed that I have you in my life.
You always listen, you never judge and you are always there for me. Thank you for showing me how it’s done.
Happy Mother’s Day.

Love Lisa

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Welcome Back

It must be spring.

I heard a familiar bird song last weekend. I thought it was the music of the Baltimore oriole, which usually makes an appearance around this time of year, but couldn’t be sure as even its bright orange plumage couldn’t be seen at a distance.
While going for a walk with my son on Friday, I listened again. An experienced birder or someone with a good ear for music could probably pick the oriole’s melody out immediately, but I always get it confused with the robin.
Listening closely, I thought my colourful companions must be back.
When I got home, I washed my hummingbird and oriole feeders and hung them on the shepherd’s hook outside our windows.
The hummingbird came first, followed closely by both the male and female Baltimore orioles.
For the sake of honesty, these pictures weren’t taken this year. But I would guess that if the birds in these pictures aren’t the same creatures, they are certainly their relations.
Welcome back.
Welcome back spring.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Twilight Thoughts

I just finished reading Eclipse, the third book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.

I started reading the series on the recommendations of my stepdaughter, AD, and my friend, JM. Both said Twilight was so good they couldn’t put it down, and then they immediately ran out to buy the other three books. JM said it was the first time since Harry Potter that her children were neglected to finish a book.

So with those recommendations, I reserved Twilight from the library. I liked it. It was a good book, however, I found the main character, Bella Swan, annoying. Her belief that she isn’t good enough for Edward, her vampire boyfriend, irked me. I don’t think you should be in a relationship if you feel that inferior to your partner. I wasn’t going to read the other books because Bella annoyed me so much, but I persisted with New Moon. I am glad I did because that book was more enjoyable. I even liked Bella.

AD tells me the books get better as the series progresses and, so far, I must agree with her. Eclipse was really good. I didn’t want to stop reading it, and I am anxiously awaiting the library’s call for the final book, Breaking Dawn.

What I like about the series is that I am just as interested in the secondary characters as I am in Bella and Edward. I would love to learn more about Alice, Jasper and the other vampires in the Cullen family.

According to Meyer’s website, she was writing Midnight Sun, Twilight from Edward’s point of view, but it was leaked on the Internet and she stopped writing. You can read what she wrote on her website at

I have actually spent a great deal of time reading vampire books. If you are looking for other good vampire books, may I suggest:

* Christopher Golden’s Of Saints of Shadows and its sequel Angel Souls and Devil Hearts
* Nancy Baker’s A Terrible Beauty
* Tanya Huff’s vampire series starring Toronto-based vampire Henry Fitzroy and ex-police officer Vicki Nelson.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The City Mouse Vs the Country Mouse


Why is the question most people ask when they find out I drive at least a hour to get to work.

Loving my job helps. As does leaving early enough that I avoid the highway in the morning (that pleasure is saved for the afternoon commute). But the main reason for living so far away is the feeling of peace that begins as soon as I leave the city limits and head north.

By the time I pull onto our quiet street, the pressures of the day have evaporated; my shoulders unclench, my foot eases off the gas and my eyes start scanning for the beauty that is all around me.

I have had porcupines, skunks, raccoons and deer cross my path. I have seen a trio of turkey vultures enjoy a meal, watched as a male wild turkey show off and noticed an osprey fly over ahead with a fish still gasping for breath in its talons.

I have seen a red fox hunt a mouse and catch it, and kept pace as another walked down the road with a dead rabbit in its mouth. I have snorkeled with fish and dove out of the way as a hawk skimmed the surface of the water where I was swimming. I have followed minks and fed chickadees out of my hand. I am sure I saw a wolf once.

Why do I live so far from work? Why doesn’t everyone?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tips from the Queen of Laundry

I am a slob.

I recently had lunch at my grandmother’s house and had just started eating when I looked down and noticed I had spilt tomato soup on her clean white tablecloth. I met her eyes with guilt on my face and apology on my lips.

She shrugged and smiled and told me I was my mother’s daughter; mom, too, can’t get through a meal without something landing on her shirt.

For myself, I tend to avoid wearing white and I know if I am wearing something remotely nice, there will be a stain in the middle of it in a matter of moments. Unfortunately, it also means my six-month-old ends up wearing what I am eating.

As any mom will know, the baby is always hungry just as you are sitting down to a meal. Unfortunately for my little guy, you can look at his outfit and see what I had to eat - a bit of eggs, some home fries and some pasta. Someone needs to invent some type of covering to help shield babies from falling food.

So being a slob, one would think I would also be the queen of laundry.
Not so.
That title belongs to CC, a friend’s mom who can conquer any stain and have fun doing it. Apparently the key to getting out stains is to pay attention to them.

CC’s daughter tells me it’s likely her mom scrutinizes every piece of laundry before throwing it into the washing machine.

Here are her tips:

A water softener is key, as is washing in cold water. CC said she never pre-soaks unless the laundry is really dirty, and she doesn’t use bleach unless she is whitening dish clothes or socks. She uses the sun as a natural bleach.

Once a stain is located, Spray ‘N Wash (or another brand of spray stain remover) will get most stains out. Using a paste made of your laundry detergent will also help to scrub away stains. For baby clothes, CC used to use a Sunlight bar.

And the makers of Pro-Solve Carpet Cleaner should take note.
Another friend, SK, was using what she thought was a stain removal spray on her white clothes. Turns out it was Pro-Solve Carpet Cleaner. She told the story to a group who laughed at her expense. But months later, she is still using Pro-Solve - it gets out those tough stains on whites.