This is the price that I gladly pay for raising literate children.

So. Mugsy here insists that her children read. Before these babies could properly sit up, they had shelves of books to look at, chew on, drag around and drop. She also insists upon reading to her children (currently only the younger four, between the ages of 8 and 14). She reads books upon books, chapter after chapter, novel after novel. From the time the children were hardly more than delicious little morsels with chub-chub thighs and wrist-less sausage-like arms over which she could marvel and upon which she could nibble during their 2 a.m. parties (turns out that some babies are really quite crap at sleeping – who knew?) and afternoon cuddles alike, she would read to them. She reads them stories from L’Engle, Dahl, Pilkey, Shannon and Blume. She reads them poems from Silverstein and Mother Goose, and tales from Parks, White and Rowling. She reads them Llama Llama and Dr. Seuss until they can all recite them from memory. She thought she was responsibly and rightly encouraging literacy. Being an only child herself, she had no idea that she was also promoting something else entirely.

One day a year or so ago while she roamed around Costco bemoaning to herself about the price of baby carrots (she doesn’t get out of the house often), she came across an absolutely irresistible boxset of books and before she could stop herself (as if she really tried 😏), she purchased it and once home reverently removed the cellophane wrap. Mugsy and her children were about to enter the weird and wacky worlds and words carefully crafted by David Walliams.

Isn’t it beautiful? 😍

Beginning with first book in the box, The Boy In The Dress, and whipping through one novel after another, in the prescribed order, Mugsy and her children shared in the joy and pleasure of each new chapter. They laughed at the crazy characters and waited to hear the next ‘special deal’ the kind-hearted newsagent, Raj, would offer his next ‘favourite’ patron. Finally finding a story without Raj shocked them all, and not believing that it could be true, they waited for him to appear. When he did not (won’t spoil for you which novel he’s absent from), they all felt, well, a little betrayed. Alas and ahoy however they pressed on, for they were “readers” and not “quitters.” (Whatever that is supposed to mean).

That brings us up to present day. The motley quintet are reading the last book in the boxset, Grandpa’s Great Escape, relieved to find that the world has been righted and Raj is back. Giggles and guffaws from Mugsy’s eager listeners come in short order when Raj tells young Jack “I have an excellent deal going on yoghurt. Well, I say yoghurt, it’s last month’s milk and…” But just a few pages prior to that classic Raj moment, on page 110, is the place where things take a bit of a turn and what inspired this blog post. The passage is on page 110:

Usually, learning new terms and words is something I celebrate, but sometimes, it leaves a little something to be desired.

Fast-forward a week or two later, after still more reading of three-to-five chapters of GGE while the children eat dinner (most weeknight evenings). Everyone is happy and invested in the story, although they do not discuss the book outside of their dinner hour. That is, until one early morning (and all mornings are such early mornings during the week), when Mugsy asks her youngest son if he would like a second egg on a second English muffin for breakfast (his usual school morning breakfast fare). Without looking up from his plate, without batting an eye he says “Oh, yes, please Char Lady.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Yes, please Char Lady” Said now, with an elfish, cheeky smile starting to spread across his face as he lifts his eyes to meet Mugsy’s shocked expression.
“Char Lady!?! Are you kidding me? You cheeky booger nugget!”

The explosion of giggles that follows, from both the boy and Mugsy are the sort that can only happen in spaces were there exists absolute trust, love, and the safety for spontaneous outbursts of silliness.

So now, when I ask any of my younger sons to do anything, they’re apt to reply with either “yes Char Wallah” or “yes Char Lady” and immediately start to laugh. At times when I am giving them a list of things to do, I will end the with “and thank you, Char Wallah” just to make them smile as they set on their way to scrub their toilet or make their beds.

It is in these exchanges, these small moments in time, around forgettable and mundane tasks that we are able to create the happiest memories, the times they will (I hope) one day look back on and smile about, remember yet another ‘inside joke’ that only the four of them will share long after I am gone.

So, since Mugsy here is to be called Char Lady or Char Wallah by a small army of my own making, I can’t think of a more lovely memory to have (and to share) of the moment when I realized that all time spent reading to and with my people has been so much more than ‘just reading.’ The time spent has encouraged them to become readers themselves, helped them discover the magic of being lost inside the pages of a book, and has (gently) forced them to become literate (despite the occasional ‘more better’ that may slip out when one of them is tired or distracted).

Our time spent reading has done all of that, yes, but even more than that, we have been stitching together moments like this “Char Wallah” moment which ultimately help to create the fabric of their shared experience of childhood, of parent-child interactions, of their relationships with one another and with me. Realizing this, it is my dearest hope that one day, when one of them needs it the most and expects it the least, that another one of them will let loose an eye roll and a “yes, Char Wallah” on him and that their memories of this time together and the feelings of safety, of family and love, of happiness and home may encircle each of them like a warm hug and make their hearts happy again. If only for that single moment in time.

Right then. Enough of the soppy stuff. This Mugsy / Char Wallah/Lady must go and prepare the evening meal. The children are hungry and we are all looking forward to reading chapters 47-52 of G.G.E. For now that Mrs. Trifle has finally found a loo, had her tinkle and “shaken it off” (no loo roll left, of course) and she, Grandpa and Jack have resumed their escape attempt from Twilight Towers and it’s matron, the high-voltage cattle-prod-wielding diabolical Miss Swine. We are all on the edge of our seats waiting to find out where the story will take us.

And finally, please believe me that no matter how tired, busy or fed up I am, hearing any of my children ask if I will read to them, do ‘the Word of the Day’ calendar with them or plead for ‘just one more chapter, please!’ makes my heart so incredibly happy (well, happy that is until I stop reading and they kick off one argument or another, for the fifty-billionth time, but that’s a different post for a different day), and I suspect that it always will. 📖❤️
~A.

P.S. Join me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, if you like what you read here or hate what you read here, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Oven-Baked Black Bean Burger Recipe

During this year’s March Break, I posted a picture on the blog’s Facebook page of a black bean burger that I prepared for Miss M, so that she could participate in our family burger night while also staying true to her stated intention to eat less meat. There were a few requests on the FB page for the recipe, so now that the kids are back to school and I’m finding my ‘normal’ again, here it is.

First, I need to admit that while I LOVE cookbooks (to an almost pathological degree) and I have, probably thousands of recipes that I have collected, written and cultivated over the past twenty years, I tend to use them more as loving guides rather than absolute rules that must be followed. While this can be a low-stress way to prepare food, it can also lead to unpredictable results, especially when trying to reproduce an amazing meal. I chalk this up to the whim and whimsy of my particular set of mental and emotional issues. My family chalks it up to the cost of doing business with me. Either way, you’ve been warned. 

Honestly though, I have made these, as written below, a few times and they have turned out perfectly each time, so while I do not exactly adhere to all of the exact measurements all of time, I think the recipe is forgiving enough to still be a delicious alternative to a meat burger, even if you add a bit more bread crumbs or a lot more garlic, or toss in some carrots julienne. Lean in and own it, make it your own. The way it is presented here, is how I make them and the 50% of my kids who have tried them (and I) like them.

Oven-Baked Black Bean Burgers

Plant-based, not Vegan.

Makes 4-6 patties, depending on preference (I make 6).

Ingredients

1 can (19oz) Black Beans, rinsed and drained

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsp diced garlic

1 large egg, beaten badly

2/3 cup bread crumbs (about a handful, really)

1 tbsp chili powder (optional, I omit usually)

1 tsp cumin (again, optional)

Salt and pepper (and they’re in a fix), to taste (but don’t taste it raw, just guess)

Directions:

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat oven to 375F
  2. Rinse, drain and drip-dry beans. Place in a large bowl and mash with a fork (or, if you have one, a handy-dandy pastry cutter does an amazing job).
  3. Add onion, garlic, and spices (if using) to the bean mash.
  4. Add egg and bread crumbs and combine. 
  5. Form into patties and put on cookie sheet.
Perfect bun-sized patties 😍
  1. Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet, 10 minutes per side.
  2. Toss on a bun, load up with condiments, pile your plate with sides and enjoy!
  3. Refrigerate left over patties for a day or two, or wrap and freeze for later. Reheat in toaster oven or microwave (about a minute on high from cold, not frozen).

Notes: You can opt to pan-fry these in a pan using a bit of oil, 4-5 minutes per side, but that will change the nutrition facts accordingly. I haven’t tried to grill these, but if you’re brave and have a well-greased grill, I suppose you could also cook them that way. Experiment, be creative and have fun with them. xx

Let me know if you make them and how they turn out for you! If you like them, share the recipe with friends and family and spread the love 🌱❤️

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

As it turns out that like my mother before me, elephants make me cry.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

Long ago:

When I was young, on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. on CBC (channel 5, cable 6 in Toronto), The Wonderful World of Disney would sometimes play a full-length movie, much to the delight of thousands of Canadian children. Escape from Witch Mountain, Herby The Love Bug, you know, well-loved Disney fare. Remember, this was before the days when every household had a VHS player and a video store rental membership, or even just cable. CBC was available to anyone with a t.v., rabbit ears and a working knob dial that turned to change channels.

It was on one of those Sunday evenings, that I remember seeing the animated full-feature movie, Dumbo for the first time. My mother watched it with me and (spoiler alert) when baby Dumbo went to see his mother in elephant jail and she pushed her trunk out between her cell bars to reach out to stroke and rock him gently, my mother lost it. I was shocked by her tears, and I remember laughing at her for being so silly. It was just a cartoon! I remember her starting to laugh too and she was still dabbing her eyes when she tried to explain to me that having a baby (me) had turned her into a weepy mess and just the idea of that poor baby elephant being separated from his mummy was just about the sadness thing ever and it just killed her every time she saw it. I listened without really understanding and eventually just shrugged and turned back to watch the rest of the film. But that moment stayed with me.

Present day:

My mornings start at 5:30a.m. I put my first small on the bus at 6:45 a.m. and my last on the bus at 8:40 a.m. Between the third and fourth departure, there is approximately 20 minutes. I have been using that time to read to small number four. We usually read a chapter from a book that is just for her (currently Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton), as the books we read at dinner time or bedtime are of interest to all four of them. This morning though we could not find her book in any of the usual places. So, rather than waste more our time looking, she (wisely and practically) suggested that we read her school library book about elephants. Great, we love elephants! Except that it was a book based on the true story of three female elephants (two born in the wild and one born in captivity) who were slowly dying at the Toronto Zoo and were (finally) allowed to go to a sanctuary in California in 2013. Remembering Dumbo, I understood my challenge almost at once.

I made it through the entire book, not a tear in sight. No lip-biting or quivering voice. Until the last sentence.

At the end of the story were a few pages about elephants, their statistics, needs, health and habits. The last few paragraphs were specifically about one of the elephants in the story who was relocated to California with her two friends. While she showed improvements at the sanctuary, it was, sadly, too late for her health to improve enough. She was 46 when she died (around mid-life) and that last bit, about how happy the author was that she (the elephant) was at least able to enjoy her last couple of years of captivity living comfortably, happily and closer to her natural environment broke me. I couldn’t make it through the sentence. Tears spilled over and my voice cracked. I had to stop reading. In that moment, I became my mother.

I did finally pull it together and finish the last seven or so words, and wiping my tears away looked at my girl and said “ah then, what a lovely story!” And while she looked a bit taken aback, she simply gave me a hug and nodded in agreement, putting the library book in her backpack to return to school.

I love that we have this precious time in the mornings together, a quiet moment without the chaos of our ‘real’ lives. I love that she loves animals, big and small, and that she actively seeks out opportunities to learn more about them. I love that she wants to include me in her learning. I love that rather than laughing at me (as I did to my mother), she sat quietly and cuddled in, understanding that it was genuine empathy and caring for that poor elephant and the tragedy of her life circumstances that was the cause of my tears and not merely silliness.

I have always read to my children and I have also always advocated for others to do the same. Aside from encouraging literacy (very important), it creates these precious moments of connection between a parent and child, whether that connection is based in empathy, humour or excitement stirred up by the story being read.

So,

If you like elephants, or you like crying in front of your children, or you like crying while reading about elephants to your bewildered children, here is a link to the book on Amazon.ca. The story itself is fine and the illustrations are lovely. It’s that last page you need to look out for.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

2018 Santa Claus Parades in the G.T.A. Annual List

Now that Halloween is out of the way, it is time for us to move on. The stores have been prepping us for months now (Black Friday in August – say what?) And so, without further ado, it’s parade season!

For the third year in a row, here is my good deed for the year (this appears to becoming a habit). I sure hope that Santa is paying attention because this actually took some WORK, plus I added even more parades to the list this year. Because I’m a giver. But, of course, you should always check and confirm dates and times for yourself (most of the information is linked to an official page of one type or another) before bundling up your family and heading out. Because I also sometimes tell lies.

Some of these parades include Christmas or Santa or Light Festivals. Make sure to check out the event page so that you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Listed (mostly) alphabetically, not by date.

Daytime/Earlier Start Parades:

Beach (Kingston Rd) – November 25 – 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Beeton – December 1 – 3:00 pm

Bobcaygeon – December 2

Bolton – December 1 – 11:00am – 12:30 pm

Burlington – December 2 – 2:00 pm

Cannington – November 24 – 11:00 am

Coboconk – December 2

Etobicoke (Lakeshore) – December 1 – 10:00 am

Fenelon Falls – November 24 (Santa Day)

Kinmount – Christmas in the Village – December 8 (full day of Santa events)

Keene – December 8

Keswick – November 17 – 1:30 pm

Kitchener – November 17 – 10:30 am

Lakefield – November 18 – 1:00 pm

Lindsay – November 18 – 2:00 pm

Maple (Vaughan)– November 25 – 2:00 pm

Markham – November 24 – 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Millbrook – December 8 – 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Milton – November 18 – 1:30 pm

Mount Albert – November 18 – 2:00 pm

Newmarket – November 17 – 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Oakville – November 17 – 9:00 am

Orillia – November 25 – 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Pickering – November 24 – 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Port Hope – November 24 – 1:00 pm

Sharon (East Gwillimbury) – November 18

Streetsville – November 23-24 – No parade this year – festival instead on the 23rd and 24th. See link.

Toronto – November 18 – 12:30 pm

Tottenham – November 24 – 3:00 pm

Weston Village – November 25 – 2:00pm

Whitby – December 2 – 10:00am – 12:00pm

Night Time/Later Start Parades:

Ajax – November 24 – 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Alliston – November 24

Aurora – November 24 – 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Barrie – November 17 – 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Beaverton – November 17 – 7:00pm

Bradford – November 17 – 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Brampton – November 17 – 5:00pm

Cambridge – November 17 – 6:00pm

Collingwood – November 17th – 5:00 pm

Flamborough – November 24 – 6:30pm

Hamilton – November 17 – 4:30pm

Omemee – December 1

Orangeville – November 17 – 4:30pm

Oshawa – November 17 – 6:00pm

Peterborough – December 1 – 4:45pm

Port Perry – December 1 – 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Richmond Hill – November 18 – 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Schomberg (King City) – December 1- 4:00pm (Farmer’s Parade of Lights at 8:00pm)

Sunderland – December 8  – 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Sutton – December 1 – 5:00pm

Unionville – December 7 – 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Wasaga Beach – November 24 – 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Woodville – December 2 – 6:30pm

So, there you have it. If you know of another parade that should be added to the list, send it to me, or leave a comment below and I’ll see that it’s added.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Prepare thee now, post-haste, to prance merrily along the path of least resistance to your desired parade, spike thou hot chocolate with some peppermint schnapps (non-drivers only!) and Christmas on, my friends!

~A. 🤶🏻🎅🏻

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all the awesomeness that I can pull off.


Subtly, slowly, my life is changing. Oh, and Pax turns 10

One of the alarming thoughts that wakes me from my deepest sleeps in the middle of the night has come to fruition. To some, this may sound stupid and I accept that but I am sharing this anyway.

The past few days I’ve been grappling with the fact that my smalls are considerably less small than they were when I started blogging and as of today, I have but ONE child left whose age is summed up by a single digit. The rest have all joined the double-digit club and I’m struggling with this reality.

My youngest son turned 10 this afternoon and his mother is, as usual, a virtual mess of emotions.

I am beyond happy that they are all growing, healthy, smart and strong. At the same time, I feel incredibly sad that they are no longer small and scrumptious. They are, obviously, still young, they are still children and will always be my babies, but even I must admit that there is not an actual baby among them anymore and that makes my heart hurt in ways that I feel stupid for admitting.

So today, I try really hard to keep my head in the birthday game. Baking and (poorly) decorating cakes, preparing the requested birthday dinner, hunting down the perfect birthday gift, attaching the specially chosen helium balloon to his chair and telling myself that tears are NOT appropriate today. Today is for happiness. Today marks one of the very best and happiest days of my life, the day I finally came face-to-face with his perfect little self.

So why then, does it feel like a very long chapter of my life is closing and moving me, not so gently, onto another stage of life? A stage of life for which I feel ill-prepared and completely not interested in entering.

I have to Scarlet O’Hara this issue and think about it tomorrow. Today, the only thing that I know for sure is that today is NOT my day. This is not my day to show sadness, sorrow or pain. This day is decidedly NOT about me. Today is my Paxton’s day to smile, giggle, eat hot dogs and cake (with luck, not at the same time) and open presents and burst with excitement when he sees what hides beneath the wrapping paper. Today is his day to feel the pride of being 10, to feel all the very big feelings of being bigger, older, faster, and smarter than he felt yesterday (that extra digit can do that to a kid), but also, because today he is all of those things.

And today, like every yesterday and every tomorrow, I hold dear to heart that whatever else is going for me, he just makes my life happy. ❤️

~A.

Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including mockery.


The day when enough was enough, my girl came through.

This sign is now posted on our front door.

The sign reads:
“We are happy at our church. We don’t want to chage [sic] at all our faith.”

 

As is happens, my eight-year-old decided to take matters into her own hands after being sequestered once again, with her brothers and mother, in the living room, hiding from the JW’s who were knocking determinedly on our front door last week. I thought that I had the JW visits handled, but I was WRONG.

Yes, I could have answered the door (again) and told them that we are not interested in discussing their religion with them (again) but I did not. I was in my jammies, I was a hot mess without the ‘hot’ bit and I just did not have it in me to slap a smile on my face and be pleasant in that moment. So I hurried my youngest four children into the living room and read to them from a David Walliams book we’ve been reading together until I was sure the JW’s had left.

And that’s when it happened.

That is when my eight-year-old decided that she was done being pushed around and set about writing up and posting this notice in our front door. It is completely her own phrasing and spelling and I just love it.

I love it for how well it shows her spirit. I love it for the conviction in her faith and beliefs that she is not afraid to own and I love it for the succinct manner in which she expressed her message. I love that she was smiling and happy while still being quietly fierce while creating her sign.

I’m telling you the truth now, every day, at least one of my children reminds me that he or she is absolutely #Goals for me. And then, of course, one of them will scream, cry or smack one of the others and the pandemonium that ensues wipes my memory clean of that fact. So, I’m putting this here to serve as a reminder to myself.

My other smalls want to post their own signs as well, but I think that for now, we’ll just let this one ride and see what happens. I have never hidden the fact that I have only the loosest of grips on normalcy and if I start posting all kinds of signs on our front door, it will only be a matter of time before I’m setting up billboards on the front lawn and really speaking my mind. And trust me, nobody is ready for that day.

As for this sign? Out of the mouth of babes, my friends.

~A.

Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including mockery.


Today is a good day

As an act of deviation from my usual modus operandi of bitching and moaning and generally wallowing in self-pity (and chocolate), I am here to share that today is a good day.

I am purposely ignoring my scratchy, threatening-to-hurt, throat. I am in denial that my youngest has screeched herself hoarse at her brothers’ every infraction, real and imagined. I have chosen to omit any and all parts of the day that do not fit in with it being ‘a good day.’

Because today is a good day. We are on day three of March Break. For the third day in a row, I did not make four lunches before 7:00am. I did not shuffle kids outside, in shifts, to wait for their school busses. I did not have to search through backpacks for notes home, permission slips, agendas and homework. I did not have to fill my dishwasher with countless containers and lids that never fail to fill with (and retain) water during the wash cycle. Today is a good day. My smalls (hardly small at all anymore, but I also refuse to admit that most days) are home with me. We had one friend over for a playdate, another friend invite one of mine to a movie, and there are plans in the works for the other two to meet up with friends over the next couple of days.

We are not on vacation, somewhere warm and wonderful, frolicking in the sun and sand. We are not en route to some crazy adventure (that would most likely end up with me being featured on ‘Fail Army’ – ” You alright, Cory?”). We are not throwing money left and right at our week to keep us occupied and busy. We are home. We are playing with friends, reading, seeing movies (thank you, Cineplex Family Favourites!), running around outside, eating at home, having sibling sleepovers and staying up just a bit past bedtime.

Um, you know what? I’ve changed my mind. Today is not a good day. It is a good life.

~A.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on far too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off. Life is good, not perfect 😂


Dear 2017, it’s been swell, but this is where we part ways.

Dear 2017,

As was true of your predecessors, I welcomed you happily, full of hope, motivation and gratitude, a year ago today.

We had a mere 365 days together (or is it 364 – I never get the count right for some reason), and in that time, the U.S. has been under the control an obviously deeply disturbed and possibly organically ill leader and his misguided and twisted cohorts. Canada has fallen deeper into debt while applying band-aids rather than real ‘fixes’ to the issues that plague our society and nation, and the rest of the world has watched the events unfolding in North America with a mixture of revulsion and disbelief.

During your reign, we have witnessed horrifying acts of terror against the innocent, senseless death and destruction in all four corners of the (round) world, and countless incomprehensible acts of aggression and injustice against the very people those in power purport to protect.

But it has not all been bad news during 2017. Babies were born, marriages were created and a multitude of successes were achieved. It can be our tendency to remember the painful, negative, or scary events and this sometimes taints our ability to fully appreciate the happiness, the blessings and sheer wonders that surround us.

For me, I have five healthy, intelligent, compassionate, talented and completely fallible and human children. I have a husband who works hard to ensure that the needs of his family are met, even when he would rather stay in bed. We have a  home that provides us with sanctuary from the outside world and we enjoy an abundance of food that keeps our bellies full (and fills out some of our thighs, hips and butts, but, I digress, and that really only happens to me 🤭). I have parents who are healthy and in possession of their wits and independence. I have friends who understand my quirks, rants and shortcomings and talk to me anyway, almost always happily. My smalls and I have found a faith that feels right for us, and 2017 was the beginning of this exciting journey of faithful discovery.

So, 2017, while you have a been cruel and harsh at times ( for example, like your sister 2016 before you our creative talent reserves have really taken a hit this year), you have also been kind and awe-inspiring. 2017, you helped to make it possible for me to say good bye to you with a smile rather than with an eye roll and huge sigh of relief. Thank you for making it possible for me to welcome 2018 with an open heart, a willingness to strive for better, in all aspects of my life and the ability to look at events and circumstances through a more open, a slightly less judgemental and harsh lens while I make the choice to look for the best in all people whom I encounter this year.

Good bye, 2017, thank you for your lessons, gifts and blessings. I will carry them with me while I navigate the unknown terrain of 2018.

~A.


2017 Santa Claus Parades in the G.T.A.

Now that Halloween is out of the way, it is time for us to move on. The stores have been prepping us for months now (Black Friday in August – say what?) And so, without further ado, it’s parade season!

For the second year in a row, here is my good deed for the year. I sure hope that Santa is paying attention because this actually took some WORK, plus I added even more parades to the list this year. Because I’m a giver. But, of course, you should always check and confirm dates and times for yourself (all information is linked to an official page of one type or another) before bundling up your family and heading out. Because I also sometimes tell lies.

Some of these parades include Christmas or Santa or Light Festivals. Make sure to check out the event page so that you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Listed (mostly) alphabetically, not by date.

Daytime/Earlier Start Parades:

Beach (Kingston Rd) – November 26, 2017 – 1:00pm

Bolton – December 2, 2017 – 11:00am – 12:30pm

Burlington – December 3, 2017 – 2:00pm

Cannington – November 26, 2017 – 11:00am

Coboconk – December 3, 2017 – 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Etobicoke (Lakeshore) – December 2, 2017 – 1:00pm

Fenelon Falls – November 25, 2017

Keene – December 9, 2017 – 10:00am

Keswick – November 18, 2017 – 1:30pm

Kitchener – November 19, 2017 – 10:30am

Lakefield – November 19, 2017 – 1:00pm

Lindsay – November 19, 2017 – 2:00pm

Maple – November 12, 2017 – 2:00pm

Markham – November 25, 2017 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Milton – November 19, 2017 – 1:30pm

Newmarket – November 18, 2017 – 11:00am – 2:00pm

Oakville – November 18, 2017 – 9:00am

Peterborough – December 2, 2017 –

Pickering – November 25, 2017 – 12:00pm

Sharon (East Gwillimbury) – November 12, 2017 – 2:00pm

Streetsville – November 25-26, 2017 – No parade this year – festival instead on the 25th and 26th. See link.

Toronto – November 19, 2017 – 12:30pm

Tottenham – TBA

Vaughan – November 12, 2017 – 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Weston Village – November 26, 2017 – 2:00pm

Whitby – December 2, 2017 – 10:00am – 12:00pm

Night Time/Later Start Parades:

Ajax – November 25, 2017 – 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Alliston – T.B.A.

Aurora – November 25, 2017 – 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Barrie – November 18, 2017 – 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Beaverton – November 17, 2017 – 7:00pm

Bradford – November 18, 2017 – 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Brampton – November 18, 2017 – 5:00pm

Cambridge – November 18, 2017 – 6:00pm

Flamborough – November 25, 2017 – 6:30pm

Hamilton – November 18, 2017 – 4:30pm

Havelock – November 18, 2017 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Markham – November 25, 2017 – 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Orangeville – November 18, 2017 – 5:00pm

Oshawa – November 18, 2017 – 6:00pm

Peterborough – December 3, 2017 – 4:45pm – 6:30pm

Port Perry – December 2, 2017 – 5:00pm – 7:30pm

Richmond Hill – November 18, 2017 – 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Schomberg (King City) – December 2, 2017- 4:00pm (Farmer’s Parade of Lights at 8:00pm)

Sunderland – December 9, 2017  – 6:30pm

Sutton – December 2, 2017 – 5:00pm

Unionville – December 1, 2017 – 7:00pm

Woodville – December 2, 2017 – 6:30pm

So, there you have it. If you know of another parade that should be added to the list, send it to me, or leave a comment below and I’ll see that it’s added.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Prepare thee now, post-haste, to prance merrily along the path of least resistance to your desired parade, spike thou hot chocolate with some peppermint schnapps (non-drivers only!) and Christmas on, my friends!

 

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all the awesomeness that I can pull off.


Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 2 of 3

Part Two of the Engagement ring trilogy, examining the history of engagement rings and how diamonds got involved in this debacle.

Know her? Dude, I OWN her!

So, it turns out, this whole engagement ring business is pure fuckery. We have been had. Again. All the Jarrod’s, Zales, and Spence advertising is all hooey. But really, it should have come as little surprise that upon researching it, engagement rings originated as a public declaration of ownership. Of a woman. By a man. For fuck sakes.

During the 2nd century B.C., it is believed that the ancient Romans came up with the brilliant idea of giving a betrothal ring in lieu of giving the bride-to-be money or a valuable object (in effect, BUYING her, but with something worth LESS than cold hard cash). According to Pliny the Elder, the groom first gave the bride a gold ring to wear during the betrothal ceremony and at special events (because even back then, people cared what their neighbours thought of them, it would seem), then he would give her an iron ring to wear at home, which served to signify her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her. Well, that’s romantic a.f. Yes?

Enter, the diamond.

So, we trudge through history, wearing our iron bands, until 1477 when the uber-romantic and and completely politically manipulated Maximilian I, soon-to-become-the Holy Roman Emperor, presented the first documented diamond engagement ring to Mary, the daughter of his father’s chief political opponent, the reigning duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold. As the story goes, Duke The Bold, had but one daughter, who was called Mary of Burgundy, and Frederick III (Maximilian’s pop) was hell-bent to secure his son to her through marriage, in order to forestall military conflict.

Honestly. What woman could say no to an offer like that? Well, maybe a lot of women could. Like, I don’t know, just about every single woman? So, to sweeten the pot and Maximilian throws some diamonds in the shape of Mary’s first initial on that band of ownership he was hoping to win her hand with, and yeah, she (or her father) consented to the marriage. Ugh.

Although my purpose in this series is really to look at why I am (and many other people are) so obsessed with having, owning and wearing a sparkly diamond on my (her) left hand, the story of Max and Mary is fascinating, so I am going to continue this trip down memory lane bit longer, in the name of history. And in the name of it’s my blog and I can if I want to *spoiled brat moment exhausted now*.

Okay, so Max and Mary get married, and he gave her the diamond ring that would become the beginning of the end for potential grooms the world over, and then, wouldn’t you know it, they also lock into a pre-nuptual agreement (these fuckers were beyond forward-thinking, yes?) that stipulated that only the children of bride and groom had a right to inherit from each, not the surviving parent. Mary tried to bypass this asinine rule with a promise to transfer territories as a gift in case of her death, but her plans were confounded. After Mary’s death in a “riding accident” on 27 March 1482 (a mere four-a-half-years later), Maximilian turned his aim on securing the inheritance to one of his and Mary’s (dare I say, favourite) children, none other than Phillip the Handsome. I want to leave the story here, but I cannot.  Not before I note that Mary gave birth to three children during her brief marriage to Maximilian, the eldest two survived her. They were Philip the Handsome and Margaret. Yup, that’s it. Just Margaret. Not Margaret the Beautiful or Margaret the Brave, just plain Margaret. But Max and Mary loved their children equally. I mean, of course they did. When Mary died, Handsome inherited a world and two-year-old Margaret was shipped off to France, to marry the Dauphin, in an attempt to please Louis XI not to invade the territories owned by Mary of Burgundy. Because of course she was.

It is interesting to note that Mags outlived Handsome by almost 25 years. She went on to do amazing bad bitch work and helped pave the way for women rulers. She married twice and was widowed twice. Overcome by grief, she threw herself out of a window when her second husband died. One can assume she really loved that second husband quite a bit more than the first. But, as people often do, she survived throwing herself out the window and lived 26 more years, to the ripe age of 50 (Handsome and his devilish ways died at age 28). Magnificent Mags (as I’ve come to think of her), died after a splinter of glass became embedded in her foot which in turn made her foot gangrenous. While awaiting amputation surgery, she was overdosed on opium, which had been administered as a painkiller prior to surgery. Well. It certainly killed her pain, now didn’t it? Fucking narcotics. R.I.P. Magnificent Maggie.

Well, I am emotionally exhausted now, so with luck (and a wee bit of ADHD medication), I should be able to wrap this series up in the next post and maybe, just maybe, gain some insight and closure on my own quest for that elusive ice (which, incidentily is also slang for meth, so to be clear, I am not looking for meth, I just want a big diamond). Fucking narcotics always ruin everything.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.