Friday, 26 April 2013

Celebrating Earth Day

At some point in my life, I’m sure the romantic ideal of living off the grid appealed to me. To live in a cabin in the woods, growing and foraging for food, hunkering down in the winter around the blazing wood stove and tanning hides to make my own clothes. And then age, knowledge and reality set in. Living off the grid means you pretty much spend every waking minute maintaining gardens, foraging for food, checking the traps, getting firewood and hauling water, just to survive. Yeah, I watch Yukon Men. 

I spent a good bit of time camping in tents, both with my family as a child and with Girl Guides as a leader. I picked up a few good survival skills and numerous life skills along the way and enjoyed many a wilderness experience for a weekend or even a week at a time. When B and I first met we enjoyed camping in a tent, up until a couple of years ago when I found it increasingly difficult to haul myself out of the tent in the wee hours to make my way to the bathroom. Now my idea of roughing it is having a hotel room without a Jacuzzi tub.
Actually, it’s not that bad. There are always the weekends at the cottage to give me a little taste of living off the grid. It’s really more of a rustic cabin built by B and his brothers several years ago. No electricity, no running water and an outhouse. It’s a good big cabin, with a livingroom/kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom (room with a bathtub and a solar shower bag hanging from the ceiling) and a huge loft as an extra sleeping area.

We were there this past weekend to celebrate Earth Day. Not really. We were there for our annual First Fishing of the Season Weekend. We go mid April pretty well every year. B and I and whoever else in the extended family wants to do a little fishing and have a lot of fun. We’ve had upwards of 8 or 9 people on different occasions but this year there were just 5 of us, and really only B and I til late Saturday afternoon.

We had a foggy drive to the cabin and arrived at dusk. It was a very spooky atmosphere with the fog on the river. We unloaded the car, got the wood stove going, plugged the lights into the battery and proceeded to sanitize the kitchen. Yeah, another joy of rustic living, mouse poop, it’s everywhere. We grab a bucket of water from the brook nearby for cleaning and bring it to a boil on the propane stove. Once the place is warmed up and sanitized we have just enough time to read our books (he the traditional type, me a Kobo reader) and then off too bed. 
Saturday is another drizzly day, not suitable for fair-weather fisherfolk.  We head into town for dinner supplies and a nice hot coffee at the local Irving station. On our way back we make a stop for drinking water at a nearby spring. Nothing better than fresh spring water for drinking. The afternoon is spent reading, watching the rain and listening to the squirrel, who seems to have moved into the upstairs loft, complaining about his new downstairs neighbours.

The rest of the gang arrived late Saturday afternoon. Typically we fish during the day and in the evenings we have a great huge bonfire, toast some marshmallows, make s'mores, maybe have a few games of cribbage and imbibe a few too many adult beverages. With the poor weather during this particular weekend, the evenings consisted mostly of the latter.The battery didn't last too long into the second evening so candles shed light on the indoor party.

Sunday was a better day and we all managed to make a few casts into the cold river waters. There were a few May flies on the water but we weren't seeing too much evidence of the fish taking them. In the end, I was the only one that hooked one poor trout. Two or three of the same size might have made a good snack but figuring that wasn't going to happen, I released him to let him fatten up for another day. 

I do enjoy these weekends at the cottage and would likely spend more time there but for one thing, the outhouse. Not the most delightful but certainly one of the more necessary places to have at a camp. I always feel like I want to slip into the rubber boots and hazmat suit, a respirator wouldn't go astray either. In the Spring it's a cold damp trudge up the hill and the summers bring battles with the spiders and flies for squatting rights.

So if I were ever to live off the grid, the first thing I would invest in?  A composting toilet. I could lug spring water everyday and cook over a wood fire for the rest of my life but an indoor toilet is the creature comfort I have come to believe I cannot live without.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Saltscapes Expo

If you never go to another expo, tradeshow or fair again, you must go to the Saltscapes East Coast Expo. This expo encompasses all the rest and IMHO, does it best. 2013 marks the 9th for this exposition of everything east coast. I discovered the expo a few years ago after I moved to NS and started subscribing to the Saltscapes magazine.

As you walk through Exhibition Park you will discover the five different categories; Savour the Flavour, Unique Retail, Home, Cottage & Garden, Culture, Music & Travel and finally Living Healthy in Atlantic Canada.

Savour the Flavour

This might just be my favourite part of the expo. Here you will find producers and purveyors of Altlantic Canadian food, wine, beer, spirits and other beverages. You can sample your way through tasty seafood tidbits, locally raised meat, or chef inspired morsels from many Nova Scotia restaurants. A must stop for us is the Tangled Garden booth to sample and buy some of their herb infused liqueur and jelly. There's a reason why they were featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Many of our favourite Nova Scotia wines are represented and a bottle or two of L'Acadie Blanc or Baco Noir always seem to make it into my shopping bag. Be sure to take in the culinary seminars, competitions and demonstrations featuring Atlantic Canadian Chefs.

Unique Retail

Want to get a little head start on your Christmas shopping? This is your spot. Everything from fine art to door mats, hand crafted jewelry to soap, something to spice up your dinner or your wardrobe, ironwork sculptures and garden furniture, it’s all here. Stop by Paul Hannon’s booth and check out his colourful art. I have a print of one of his works hanging in my kitchen, love his use of primary colours and local scenic vistas.

Home, Cottage & Garden

Are you thinking of renovating your kitchen or bathroom? Want to find the best plants for your landscaping project? Thinking a hot tub is the perfect addition to your cottage? Or maybe you’re looking to build or buy. This section of the expo has you covered. At past expos there have been gardening seminars at which I’ve picked up some good ideas. Also found an ideal deck design for my wish list.

Culture, Music & Travel

This is where the expo really shines. Representatives from every possible east coast destination are here to showcase the best we have to offer. Tourism groups, accommodation proprietors, tour operators and entertainment venues give you just a taste of what awaits you in their part of the world. All four Atlantic provinces are well represented. But wait, there's more, you can also find out more about the Gaspe, Iles de la Madeleine, Maine and even Iceland, exotic locations only a short trip from home.
Music and dance from the various regions can be heard and seen on the main entertainment stage or in the various destination locations. I usually run into a familiar face or two from home (PEI) and catch up on news. I've found lots of staycation ideas and more than once found myself saying "I didn't know we had that here in the Maritimes". Every year I take one of the Icelandair brochures and one day I might just make the trip.

Living Healthy

Just when you think you've see it all and your feet are getting a little tired, you stumble across the Healthy Living venue. Here you can find lots of businesses and organizations to help you keep fit, deal with health issues or advise how to avoid them. Sign up for the Bluenose Marathon or learn about sleep disorders. Healthy eating is important and here you might just meet a local farmer who is happy to discuss the fresh, healthy food being produced locally. You might want to make a stop at the Island Abbey Foods Science booth, their Honibe dried honey products made it to the Dragon's Den and their throat lozenges have got me through more than a few colds.

Make a Day Of It

Or a weekend. It takes us about three hours just to meander through the whole expo. One could easily spend the whole day taking in the various seminars and demonstrations, never mind enjoying the entertainment and striking up conversations with the many exhibitors. There are lots of samples to taste and numerous draws to be entered besides the main door prize draws. I would suggest doing up labels with your name and phone number to enter all the draws or you may find yourself getting writer's cramp after the first hour.

Another suggestion, buy your tickets in advance online, there can be quite a long lineup develop at certain times of the day. Purchase tickets online here. You can save $1.50 on a single day admission of $13.50.  

Want to keep up on the latest news, visit the Saltscapes Facebook page here and the Saltscapes website here.

Follow on twitter @saltscapes and #saltexpo.

Live in the Toronto area? Next year you can enjoy the Saltscapes Toronto Expo travelling show, this is a pared down version of the east coast show and a bi-annual event. Check the website often to find out the 2014 date.

So put on your comfy walking shoes, wear your buffet pants, grab a couple cloth shopping bags (you'll come home with a ton of brochures if not any goodies) and come on out to Exhibition Park April 26, 27 & 28, 2013.  I'll guarantee you're bound to learn something new about the east coast and leave with a head full of ideas to keep you going til next year's expo.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Hug your children, give them hope

My mind has been wrapped up with the Rehtaeh Parsons story this week.  No matter where you live in the world you’ve likely heard the story, it’s made international news. Her story breaks my heart. I do have some hope that justice will prevail. What makes me most sad however, was the incessant bullying and taunting she endured. I can only imagine how despondent she felt when her fellow students and so called friends participated in and prolonged the abuse.
I don’t want to paint all young people with the same brush. I’m betting the majority are pretty darned good kids, in fact I’m counting on it.
When I was a child, the stereotypical bully was the hulk of a boy who used physical intimidation and ridicule to make himself look superior. For me the bully came in the form of the pretty rich girl who teased and made fun of how I looked and what I did. It wasn’t just me she bullied but some days it seemed that way. There were others who teased and joked at my expense and when I reacted, accused me of not being able to take a joke or they excused it by saying they were just kidding. It was hurtful and may have had some lasting effects. I remember the teenage angst, the embarrassment and some days thinking I just wanted to die. But I muddled through with the support of some good friends and mentors and never lost hope. Like most young people, all I wanted was to fit in and be loved.
I am no angel, I confess I have been cowardly, have ridiculed or judged others behind their back. I do my very best not to say something hurtful to another or make a joke at another’s expense. Living by the golden rule is something I strive for and yes, some days I fail. I still run into the occasional adult bully hiding behind the same old excuses. Shame on them. 

Today, bullying has been ratcheted up several notches. It’s not just the mean girls anymore, social media has widened the scope exponentially. We can feel helpless, even hopeless. But let’s not wallow in that hopelessness, let’s strive to make change. Let each of us make a commitment to live by the golden rule, to treat others as we want to be treated. Let’s not remain silent when we see abuse. Parents, please be vigilant, know what your children are doing and experiencing in their lives. Talk to your children about consequences.  Love them, hug them and tell them no one has the right to bully and abuse them. Don’t let Rehtaeh and Amanda Todd & Jamie Hubley have died in vain. 
Please remember, just because everyone is laughing, doesn’t mean it’s funny.

Monday, 8 April 2013

National Grilled Cheese Month

What is it about being sick that makes us yearn for the comfort foods of our youth and our moms to spoil us. And of all things to be suffering with, an earache. If that doesn't scream " I want my mommy!" I don't know what does.  And why would the doctor prescribe ear drops instead of oral antibiotics for an adult? How inconvenient, especially since I have to put them in both ears, thankfully I have B to help out. Hate the feeling of the drops going in the ears, sure does bring back the memories of mom dropping the warm oil in my ears when I had earaches as a child.

So what do I crave when I'm sick? Well what is more quintessential as comfort food then the grilled cheese sandwich? Maybe a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. But today, all I wanted was the sandwich.  Grilled cheese has come a long way since the days of my childhood. Artisanal bread, hundreds of varieties of cheese and all sorts of additives, some best left to the imagination. And while I have experimented with many combinations of each, I always come back to my favourite, the egg dipped grilled cheese, with a side dollop of ketchup for dipping. And this is what I had for breakfast this morning. 

B sticks to his favourite of white bread and Kraft (and they must be Kraft) Cheese Slices. From this he never wavers except to occasionally add a couple slices of bacon.

Now I shall lie on the couch, wrapped in my blankie with cotton stuffed in my ears and in lieu of cartoons I will watch the Food Network for the rest of the day

Egg Dipped Grilled Cheese

  • 1 Egg lightly beaten with a teaspoon of milk
  • Two slices of bread
  • Old Cheddar sliced about 1/8" - 1/4" inch thickness
  • 1 TBSP Butter
  1. Melt butter in heated frying pan
  2. Soak bread slices in egg mixture
  3. Place egg side down in pan and add cheese slices.
  4. Cover with second slice of bread.
  5. When first side is a golden brown flip the sandwich and finish cooking til cheese has melted.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

In Case Of Emergency

Most of us in Nova Scotia and in the rest of the Maritimes have been closely following the story of the senior gentleman that drove off the end of a ferry into a river in Cape Breton last week. With swift currents and ice hindering the search, it took more then a week to find the vehicle and it's driver at the bottom of the river. What I found most disturbing was that it took a few days before there was any idea of who might have been in the vehicle and it was 3 days before his family even knew he was missing.

As someone who has done a fair bit of solo travel, it reminded me how important it is to let someone know when and where you are going and when you'll be back. I'm not talking about everytime you leave the house but any time you'll be going away for a day or more, doesn't matter how old you are.

As we age and retire from the daily work routine, as partners pass away, children move out and we are left on our own, there is an increased risk of someone not noticing if something is amiss. More often, medical emergencies arise, leaving us unable to speak for ourselves or alerting help. There have been stories in the news of seniors being dead for weeks in their homes before being discovered, while rare and the extreme it is not out of the realm of possibility for some. If you don't have a regular routine that brings you in contact with others on a daily basis, find some way to check in with someone every day or two. Maybe chat with a neighbour, get involved with a senior's group or regularly call a distant family member or friend. If you live next to a senior that doesn't seem to have frequent visitors or go out much, maybe you could become their “lifeline”.

And, no matter what age, always, always, carry ID with you. Whether out walking the dog, going for a bike ride or just a quick run to the store. If something happens that you can't speak for yourself, emergency response will look for some identification. You might have seen an email going around that you should put an ICE (In case of emergency) contact on your cell phone for just such an instance.

While travelling, I carry a laminated photocopy of my passport ID page with emergency information on the back. That ID comes with me everywhere. When I travelled solo, I would always try to make friends with couples or groups of people wherever I was staying. I would make plans to meet up with them for a drink before dinner every day or have breakfast together. When I was going on an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef, I started chatting with a couple on our way out to the reef. There were a few hundred people on the boat so I asked that they meet me at a certain spot on the boat on the way back, just to make sure someone would know if I was missing. Of course this was only a few weeks after a couple had been left behind on a diving expedition to the reef and were never found.

“Call us when you get home.” My parents still request that we call when we arrive safely home. It only takes a minute and keeps them from worry. A good habit to get into.