Monday 31 October 2011

Mario Meets Luigi

Last year my son's friend Riley went out for Halloween as Mario and Thomas dressed up as a rock star; everyone asked where Luigi went.  This year Mario found Luigi and the two of them handed out candy while I accompanied a cheetah and an angel as they went trick or treating.  I got a chance to chat with the angel's father as we walked.  The girls visited each house and then scurried ahead as we, the parents, barely kept up with them.  The weather was cool, but comfortable, given we have had frosty nights lately.  As we walked down the street, I thought:  this is the one night of the year where you can walk down the street in the dark and still feel safe because your neighbours are doing the same thing.  We passed our house and I waved to Rob, stationed on the front porch, who had returned from work to relieve Mario and Luigi.  As we reached the last house on the street, the angel raised her hands up high and shouted:  "I love Halloween!"

I know Halloween can be construed as evil.  I know it is a completely secular holiday.  But if this is the one night of the year where a neighbourhood comes together, I do see something positive in that.  If this is the one night of the year where you can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger on the sidewalk, I do see something positive in that.  Halloween is what you make it:  it can be dark and evil or it can be light-hearted and innocent.  It gave me a chance to see my newborn next door neighbour in her pumpkin outfit:  I wouldn't trade that image for anything!

Well, Mario and Luigi came home, their pillow cases full of loot.  The angel returned to her house and I put the cheetah to bed, her tummy full of treats.  I blew out the candle in our pumpkin and turned out the jack-o-lantern lights -- until next year.

Logo courtesy 

Sunday 30 October 2011

We Interrupt This Program

As Americans curled up in front of their cathedral-like contraptions called radios, they tuned into CBS to listen to the Mercury Theatre on October 30, 1938.  At first they heard the strains of the Ramon Raquello Orchestra, but it was soon paused for the words "We interrupt this program".  A broadcaster proceeded to describe a meteorite which had hit Grover's Hill, New Jersey, near Princeton University.  However, with more reports coming in, listeners learned that the meteorite was really a space capsule and an alien had emerged from the capsule.  Americans hunched over their radios, hearts racing, as they heard that Martians were headed across the Hudson River to invade New York City.  Newspapers, radio stations and police stations were flooded with phone calls wanting updates on the crisis.  Some Americans hid in their basements; others loaded their shotguns; still others hopped in their Model T's and Model A's and headed out of town, crowding the highways.  Twenty families in Newark, New Jersey emerged from their houses with wet towels over their heads to protect themselves from the poisonous gases used by the aliens. 

CBS reported that 6 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast "The War of the Worlds" in 1938. Written and directed by Orson Welles, the radio play was an adaptation of the 1898 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells.  It is estimated that 1 million of those viewers believed the broadcast to be true.  Given that Americans were accustomed to radio programs being interrupted (the Munich Crisis had brought the world to the brink of war only a month before) they were already in a panic-stricken state of mind and ripe for a such a hoax.

But when the nation did go to war only three years later after Pearl Harbor was bombed, apparently many Americans reacted skeptically to radio broadcasts about the attack.  Radio listeners would never have that same naivete as they did on that night 73 years ago.


1.  Wikipedia.
2.  National Geographic News, June 17, 2005.

Photo courtesy National Geographic News.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Venus Fly Trap Eats Cat!

I remember when my son Thomas just learned how to read at 3 1/2 years old and we would be at the Zellers checkout and he would read the headlines of the tabloids with astonishment.  "Venus fly trap eats cat!" or "Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein adopt ape baby!"  Then I would have to explain to Thomas that these stories were concocted.  Today, as my daughter Jacqueline and I waited in line at the Zehrs checkout, I scanned the Hollywood tabloid headlines.  Woman kicks husband out; divorced woman has moved on to date hunk; woman reduced to skeleton and checked into rehab centre.  My head was spinning as I read the headlines. 

Now, while I know that no marriage is perfect, I am blessed to have a very stable husband.  In nineteen years of marriage, we have worked together through the good times and the bad.  We have never even come close to breaking up, even though Rob's mom passed away from cancer in the first year, we suffered three miscarriages within less than three years, my sister had a massive stroke and we have struggled financially.  We certainly didn't marry for money since we did not have two cents to rub together back in 1992. 

At the same time, God has blessed us richly in nineteen years.  Rob worked hard to earn both his M.A. and his PhD.  We were blessed with two amazingly healthy children.  We attend a church that is full of life.  We love our children's school, Brantford Christian School.  We have been blessed with several heatlhy nieces and nephews.  We have great neighbours.  Life is good.  No, we don't have any Venus flytrap stories, but we do have each other.  And that's all we need.

Photo courtesy

Friday 28 October 2011

Bushy Tails & Clever Minds

I saw a squirrel scurry along our fence with a walnut in his mouth the other day.  Here are some interesting facts about these furry rodents:

1.  Squirrel comes from the old French word "escurel" which has evolved into "ecureuil".
2.  The squirrel has over 200 species.
3.  New York City's Central Park is full of black squirrels.
4.  Exeter, Ontario is known for its white squirrels.
5.  Ground squirrels eat nuts, leaves, roots, seeds and plants.
6.  Tree squirrels eat bark, eggs, baby birds, nuts, acorns, berries and flowers.
7.  "Flying" squirrels can leap 150 feet.
8.  The African Pygmy Squirrel is only 5 inches long while the Indian Giant Squirrel is 3 feet long.
9.  The squirrel has four front teeth that never stop growing.
10.  Australia has no squirrels.
11.  Squirrels are clever creatures who have to remember where they stored their nuts each winter.
12.  Squirrels increase the tree population because they do not always eat all of the nuts they store; these nuts sprout into new trees.


Photo courtesy  

Thursday 27 October 2011

The Ripple Effect

My daughter Jacqueline had her heart set on throwing a penny she found at the mall into a fountain; however, we could not find a fountain so we stopped at a pond instead.  She wound up to throw the slightly tarnished copper coin into the blue water, let go and watched it fall short of the pond into the reeds.  So, back to Mommy she ran for another penny.  This time she wound up and the coin found its mark, falling into the pond with a plop.  Then she spotted a rock and threw it up in the air and into the water with an even bigger splash.  Slowly Jacqueline walked back up the hill to the van.  But my eyes still rested on the spot where she had dropped the rock:  ripples were still forming around the entry point of the stone across the smooth surface of the pond.  It was amazing to see one small stone make such a big impression on that pond.  Like the rock, we are small; but we can make a meaningful, lasting impression on others long after we take the plunge.

Photo courtesy

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Five Miles of Mud

“Nevertheless, the competence, confidence, and maturity began in 1915 at Ypres a short distance away, and at Vimy Ridge earlier that spring, again confirmed the reputation of the Canadian Corps as the finest fighting formation on the Western Front.”

So wrote esteemed Professor of History Doctor Ronald Haycock at the Royal Military College of Canada.  How did a small country like Canada with a virtually non-existent military, not only build an army, but a convincing one, in the years 1914 to 1918?  With a victory at Vimy Ridge, the Canadians were in fighting form when they were asked to fight the Germans at Passchaendale, a task that both the British and Australians had failed to do, eventhough they had been trying for three months.  When the Canadians arrived in late October of 1917, all of that changed.  Led by Sir Arthur Currie, the Canadians slowly took foot by square foot of land on a swampy area that had filled with water.  Shelling had destroyed the drainage system and the existing water was just soaking into the ground, making it nothing but a quagmire of yellow mud.  Some soldiers and horses even drowned in the quicksand-like earth.  It was impossible to dig trenches in the mud and so troops built concrete pillboxes instead. 

For some time, it looked like the battle would be a stalemate, but eventually the Canadians gained ground, but at a high price.  They were able to secure 5 square miles of mud, but at the cost of 15, 654 soldiers; this was a real blow to a country whose whose population stood at just over 8 million at the time.  Australians lost 36, 500 men and the British suffered 310,000 fatalities.  Although the Germans did take Passchaendale one more time, after the battle it was clear that the Canadian Army was a force to be reckoned with.  Nine soldiers were awarded Victoria Crosses for their valour on the Belgian battlefield.

Note:  Canadian actor Paul Gross wrote, directed and starred in a movie called Passchendaele in 2008, loosely based on the experience of his grandfather.

Photo courtesy

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Close to Shore

In a two week period in July of 1916, four people were attacked by a mysterious creature on the New Jersey Shore, emptying the beaches, devastating the resort economy and even attracting the attention of President Wilson.  Scientists were puzzled as to what had killed four humans on the Jersey Shore, assuming that the predator could not be a shark since sharks didn't eat humans.  However, with the passage of time, more and more people were convinced that it was indeed a juvenile white shark that lurked off the shores of New Jersey.  Although a leisure class had emerged in the United States and the resort industry was relatively new, beaches were evacuated and hotels were forced to close due to a lack of customers after the attacks.  Scientists have theories as to why a shark attacks including changes in temperature, changes in human bathing habits and changes in bathing suit designs.  They also presented theories as to why a shark would have been on the northeastern seaboard, given that  sharks tended to live further south.  Locals reported sightings of a renegade shark swimming up the Hudson River; while sharks could not survive in fresh water for long, they might be able to live for a few hours.  The Jersey shore attacks inspired author Peter Benchley to write his bestseller Jaws which premiered on the big screen in the 1970's.  A more recent shark attack that spawned a movie was the one suffered by Brittany Hamilton which inspired the movie "Soul Surfer".

Photo courtesy

Monday 24 October 2011

One Nickel Short in the Nickel Belt

Tom Connors found himself one nickel short when he ordered a drink at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario so the owner suggested that he sing a few songs to pay his bill; the singer walked out of the establishment with a 13-month contract that would change his life.  Charles Thomas Connors was born on February 9, 1936 in St. John, New Brunswick to a teenaged mother, Isabel Connors, and a fiddle-playing father, Thomas Sullivan.  Taken away by Children’s Aid after his father abandoned him and his mother was struggling financially, little Tommy was placed in an orphanage.  A Prince Edward Island family later adopted him and worked him like an indentured servant.  At 13 years old, Tom ran away and slowly hitchhiked his way across Canada for the next 13 years, writing songs as he went. 

In the 1960’s, he secured his first long term contract at the Maple Leaf Hotel.  It was at the Timmins establishment on Canada’s 100th birthday that someone nicknamed Mr. Connors,“Stompin” Tom, and it stuck.  He would damage the stage floors so much that restaurant owners would be furious. One patron was quite upset about Tom’s stomping and complained to the manager; rather than stopping, Tom stomped so firmly with his boot on the wooden floor that a wood chip the size of a quarter flew across the room and into the woman’s drink.  Needless to say, he was not the type to appease others. 

Stompin’ Tom went on to write many hits including “Bud the Spud”, “Sudbury Saturday Night” and “The Hockey Song”.  In 1974, he starred in his own TV series titled “Stompin’ Tom’s Canada”.  By 1977, the singer, tired of seeing fellow Canadian entertainers “desert” Canada and move south of the border to work, sent back the Juno’s he had won.  He retired for a decade, but then returned to the spotlight once again.

I attended one of his concerts in the early 1990’s in Hamilton with Rob and his family.  Although jazz and rock have been the two biggest musical influences in my life rather than country and western, what I like about Stompin’ Tom is his ability to tell a story, to weave a tale.  The entertainer has written several songs about Canadian history including:

            1.      Reesor Crossing Tragedy (a 1963 siding strike leading to 3 murders)

2.      Wop May (a bush pilot & World War I flying ace)

3.      The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down (Ironworkers’ Memorial Second Narrows Crossing Bridge collapse of 1958 causing 19 deaths)

4.      The Curse of the Marc Guylaine (its 2 sister ships sunk in the early 1970’s)

5.      Big Joe Mufferaw (French-Canadian logger)

6.      The Martin Hartwell Story (bush pilot stranded for 31 days)

7.      Algoma Central 69 (Sault Ste. Marie & Hearst historic railway)

8.      The Black Donnelly’s Massacre (vigilante justice in Lucan, Ontario in 1880)

9.      The Last Fatal Duel (Robert Lyon vs. John Wilson duel in 1883 in Perth, Ont.)

10.  Fire in the Mine (39 miners trapped in a Timmins mine)

Stompin’ Tom’s gift for writing lyrics helped him to write an exciting autobiography in 1997 called Stompin’ Tom:  Before the Fame, making him a Canadian bestseller as he sold more than 50,000 copies.  His sense of humour permeates every page.  It is encouraging to see him overcome the adversity of his childhood to find success in adulthood.  Although for many years he was a hard-living man, Stompin’ Tom remains a loyal Canadian with loyal fans. 

Photo courtesy


Sunday 23 October 2011

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

When Canada geese fly south for the winter, they fly 71% faster since they do so in V-formation, logging as many as 1000 kilometres a day on their journey.  With the frosty nights just around the corner, Canadians will soon hear the familiar squawk of the geese flying overhead on their way to a warmer climate.  Usually travelling in groups of 25 members, the geese are able to communicate more effectively and maintain visual contact in their V-formation which creates a current of air as one bird lifts up the one behind it.  The lead goose sets the pace, but if it tires, then it falls to the back of the pack and lets another goose take over.  If a goose is sick or is shot and falls out of formation, two other geese fly to its rescue, travelling with it until it is well or dies.  The geese at the back of the pack honk to encourage the geese in front of them.  If only humans always flew in a V-formation:  we too could travel faster and further and easier.

Photo courtesy

Saturday 22 October 2011

Objets d'Art

Stored in the salt mines, caves, castles and cathedrals of Europe from 1933 to 1945 were hundreds of thousands of art treasures, all stolen by the Nazis.  Although Hitler was refused admission twice to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, he fancied himself to be a connoisseur of fine art and had plans to open a Fuhrermuseum, a series of museums and galleries, to showcase these pieces.  On a visit to Paris in 1940, he confiscated several art treasures and only added to this collection as the war progressed.  Word spread quickly that the Nazis were plundering art galleries; the Mona Lisa was moved at least six times to avoid being confiscated.  While the Nazis did not find the Mona Lisa, they did confiscate the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, the Peking Man (500,000 years old), and the Ark of the Covenant (the one that Indiana Jones was searching for in the movie).  The Nazis also stole Raphael's "Portrait of a Young Man" as well as Manet's "In the Conservatory".  While the latter painting was retrieved by Allied soldiers, the former painting still remains at large.  In fact, 100,000 pieces were never found.  Here is a list of the top 10 "objets d'art" looted by the Nazis according to

10.  Saint Justa & Saint Rufina (Murillo
9.  Painter on the Road to Tarascon (Van Gogh)
8.  Portrait of Dr. Gachet (Van Gogh)
7.  Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (Klimt)
6.  Foundation E.G. Buhrle (Cezanne)
5.  Altarpiece of Veit Stoss (Stoss)
4.  Place de la Concorde (Degas)
3.  The Astronomer (Vermeer)
2.  Amber Room (Schluter)*
1.  Madonna of Bruges (Michelangelo)

*To learn more about the Amber Room, read my blog dated July 26, 2011.

Carlo III di Borbone che visita il papa Benedetto XIV nella coffee-house del Quirinale a Roma by Giovanni Paolo Pannini.  Photo courtesy

Friday 21 October 2011

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats (1820)

Photo courtesy

Thursday 20 October 2011

The Little Red Purse

The little red purse hangs on the door. 
It's covered with a little white flower.
Though its owner still sleeps in her bed.
Soon she'll awake for the breakfast hour.

Off to London with Papa Bear,
To meet Grandma at the shopping mall.
What an adventure for Little One.
She brings the red purse and her favourite doll.

Grandma and the little girl "window shop".
Then stop for lunch at the local cafe.
Little One hangs the red purse on the chair.
For a little girl she has a lot to say.

Grandma and her granddaughter look at jewels.
They admire the shiny bracelets and rings.
Does she have enough money in her purse
To buy the pair of pretty pink earrings?

Now it's time to head for home.
Today's events have been a first.
She hugs her grandma and says goodbye.
As Grandma slips a cookie in the red purse.

(September 10, 2007.)

Photo courtesy

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Buffalo Flood of 1844

Gale force winds and heavy rain hit the city of Buffalo, New York in the wee hours of October 19, 1844, tossing canal boats onto the shore like baseballs, drowning sleeping residents like fish and crushing buildings like pancakes.  Mistakenly called a "tsunami", which is the result of an earthquake, the storm system was a "seiche", the result of air pressure.  A strong northeasterly wind had pounded Lake Erie for days, but a strong shift in the wind's direction caused the resulting gale and flood.  At the corner of Main and Ohio streets, residents were submerged in six feet of water.  At Huff's Hotel, guests were pulled from their beds and swept into the lake.  Two hundred smaller buildings were demolished and debris covered South Buffalo.  Two families, stranded on a rooftop of a house, were set adrift when the house broke loose from its foundation; the roof shortly split in two, serving as life rafts until their occupants were rescued.  The Attica Buffalo railroad track was washed up for a mile and a half hampering trains.  Out on the lake, waves rose 22 feet in height, leaving several steamers stranded including the Julia Palmer, its passengers sending a horse to swim to shore with a note strapped to its neck stating:  "Burned wood.  Now burning furniture".  The seiche left Buffalo, a city named after Buffalo Creek, with 53 dead; 25 more souls perished on Lake Erie. 



Photo courtesy 

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Sugar and Spice

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.[1]
          (Author Unknown)

Six years ago, my sister Lisa was raising three boys and had adjusted to life with a house full of males, eventhough she was raised in a house predominantly female.  She loved being a soccer mom and hockey mom.  She didn't mind tripping over their toy trucks.  She bandaged scraped knees and kissed bruised elbows on a regular basis.  And then when she least expected it, she got her little girl.  Her Daddy calls her "The Platinum Princess".  One bat of her eyelashes and the world is her oyster.  She keeps track of her brothers; they can get away with nothing.  And yet she has her Daddy wrapped around her little finger.  She is a prima ballerina who steals the show at her recital, her teacher placing her front and centre.  Her smile lights up the room.  Like her Mom, she has a petite build, but a powerful voice.  And she exercises it with gusto.  She isn't afraid to speak her mind, likely a survival tactic in a house full of boys. 

Here is a poem that I wrote for my niece, Meghan, on Valentine's Day 2008, using her favourite phrase as a two year old.


She feeds the kitty
She feeds the doggy
She feeds the horsey
"My do it myself!"

She puts on her dress
She goes on the potty
She cleans up the mess
"My do it myself!"

She combs her blonde hair
She washes her face
She climbs on a chair
"My do it myself!"

She skates on the ice
She jumps on the tramp
She's sugar and spice
"My do it myself!"

"I'll help", says Mommy.
"I'll help", says Daddy.
"I'll help", says Cody.
"My do it myself!"

Linda Jonasson

It was six years ago today that the ballerina was born.  Happy Birthday, Meghan!  We love you!

Photo courtesy

Monday 17 October 2011

The Inspiring Vibrancy of Leaves

Photo courtesy 

I googled the phrase "A picture is worth a 1000 words" and found a series of beautiful photographs including the one above.  Wikipedia states that some considered the phrase to be a Chinese proverb while others attributed it to Confucius or Napoleon.  Nevertheless, it is true that one image can evoke so many thoughts.  When I look at the leaf photograph above, I think about how leaves "change" colour in the Fall.  It is the chlorophyll that keeps them green.  Apparently, they really do not change colour, but simply show the colour that was there all along once the chlorophyll dries up.  We as human beings are very similar to leaves in that God has given us so much potential.  Although we may appear "green" on the outside, inside we have the full spectrum of colours just waiting to burst forth.  Let this Fall be your time to show your true colours.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Fearless Lisa

Growing up, my sister Lisa was always the fearless one of the three Tufts girls.  She would try anything once.  She learned how to ride a bicycle at the tender age of 4 and raced down the street so fast one day that she flew head over heels over the handle bars.  As a child, she had a small body but a big voice.  My Mom’s friend remembers coming to the door, looking out and seeing no one; then she heard Lisa speak and looked way down where she spotted her.  Lisa always liked animals.  She talked my Mom and Dad into adopting a cat at Turnbull’s Grove where we had a mobile home.  Taffy was a beautiful cat, but sadly she lived only a year since she was hit by a car.  Lisa was artistic and liked to do arts and crafts at home.  Although she did not like high school at first, once she decided she wanted to be in the fashion arts program at another school, she excelled.  With her creative juices flowing, she had found her niche.  I remember her walking the runway in more than one fashion show. 

Lisa decided to study Graphic Arts at Humber College and once again she was in her element.  I remember the night she moved back home from Toronto to Hamilton after she graduated.  She had met some great friends at college, including Anne Marie and Joe, who helped her move her furniture.  Joe had placed two wicker chairs in the back of his pick up truck.  On the way to Hamilton via the QEW at 2 am, the wind whipped the chairs right out of the truck, but Joe failed to notice until a minute or two later.  The faithful friend pulled over and started running back along the QEW to fetch the missing chairs!  A policeman stopped him midway and asked him what he was doing on foot on the QEW.  He explained his dilemma and the policeman responded:  “Hop in!  I just helped another guy put those chairs in the back of his truck!”  A police chase ensued and the policeman and Joe did retrieve the wicker chairs.  Good friends stick around through the good times and the bad and now, almost 30 years later, Anne Marie and Joe are still Lisa’s friends.

Lisa graduated from riding a bicycle to riding horses.  Her first horse, named CafĂ© au Lait, she boarded in Bolton.  Later she bought a farm in Erin, Ontario and eventually boarded a total of 10 horses.  She always loved riding those horses, especially in the autumn, breathing in the cold crisp air as she galloped. 

Lisa always liked children and when she found out she couldn’t have one biologically, she was not deterred, but adopted a baby (see my post “In the Palm of His Hand”). But she didn’t stop at just one – over the next few years, she adopted four!  It is nice to see all four children so healthy and happy.  Her youngest three are birth siblings and it's a blessing that they were able to stay together.

Lisa’s fearless nature has never been more evident than in the last two and a half years since she suffered a stroke.  Although the odds were against her to survive, she not only survived, but she prospered, regaining her ability to talk, eat, sit up, read, write, exercise, and put on make up.  In her two years in the hospital, she never complained, never whined, but always counted the blessings that she had.  Her faith in God gave her the strength to walk through the valley.  Thank you, Lisa, for your fearless nature and enduring faith!  I love you!  Happy Birthday!

Saturday 15 October 2011

Hurricane Hazel

On this day in 1954 my teenaged Mom hung her head after her father told her she could not attend her Oshawa high school dance due to the approaching storm.  My Dad, 21 at the time, was let out of the new Ford plant early due to the inclement weather and slowly made his way home to Toronto, the wipers flying furiously back and forth on the windshield of his workmate's car.  My father-in-law, also 21, a new Canadian immigrant, struggled to move furniture into the new Hamilton home that he purchased with his brother as the wind off of Lake Ontario threatened to whip the screen door off.

Hurricane Hazel, which first hit Haiti and then carved a 200-wide path of destruction up the eastern seaboard of the United States, was about to hit Canada with a vengeance.  Not accustomed to hurricanes, Southern Ontario forecasters were downplaying the storm.  However, 200 millimetres of rain hit the Toronto area in only 24 hours, washing out 20 bridges as winds reached 110 kilometres per hour.  The Humber River swelled to overflowing, sucking up 32 houses on Raymore Drive alone.  One resident grabbed his wife and baby and escaped over a swinging bridge, only to see it wash away only minutes later.  Police warned that the river's current was so strong that boats should not be launched on it.  One rooftop held 23 people for hours until they were rescued by a helicopter.  The Canadian Army was called in to assist with search and rescue operations.

North of Toronto on the Holland Marsh, a large family named De Peuter used their house as a life raft as they drifted all over the farmland, now a lake bobbing with cabbages and carrots, finally coming to a standstill hours later when winds subsided.  In Southern Ontario, Hurricane Hazel left 4000 people homeless, killed 81 souls and left residents with a 100 million dollar bill.  Toronto's Raymore Drive was declared a reserve, no longer a residential area.  Clean up crews drained the Holland Marsh in November of 1954, many tons of produce lost. 

My Mom soon forgot about her high school dance which was cancelled anyway.  My Dad make it home safely to Toronto, although he took a detour due to a washed out bridge.  My father-in-law headed down to Hamilton Harbour the following morning where he saw giant rocks washed up on shore.  Canadians would not soon forget the name Hazel. 

Photo courtessy

Friday 14 October 2011

What are Little Boys Made Of?


What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

                     (Author Unknown)


It was a mild day in Exeter and a young couple was decorating for Halloween, when the woman, named Julie, announced:  "It's time, Bill" and they got in the car and headed for the hospital in London.  The woman had a difficult labour since her baby was breach, one of three such babies that night, but the doctor was very competent and managed to turn the infant around at the last minute and he came out on his own.  The couple named the baby Boden Ross Tufts.  Julie was coached by both Bill and her Mom, the latter as proud as a peacock to become a Grandma for the first time.  The baby's other Grandma waited in the waiting room with Grandpa, anxious to meet grandchild number nine.

Boden (now Bo) is three years old today.  Here are some exciting events he has been a part of since his birth.  Bo already has a passport since he has travelled to the States many times to visit his Mom's family.  Bo already knows how to swim short distances and even jumps off the diving board.  Bo is a champion pillow fighter (he always beats his cousin Thomas, who is a good sport every time).  He loves listening to stories read by his cousin Jacqueline.  Bo has played a bumblebee, a pirate and Batman for Halloween.  But his most exciting role has been that of big brother to Mason.  He loves his little brother so much!  Since Mason's birth the two boys travel in a "double-double" stroller.  Bo even invited his Grandpa for a ride in the double-double stroller -- what an honour!  Bo loves cars, especially his Grandpa's model cars.  His favourite birthday gift last year was a police car; he squealed when he opened the gift.  Bo loves to dance at Dance 'n Play at the YMCA.  He disciplines Cuddles the cat even when he doesn't need disciplining:  "You, Cuddles!  Yes, you!"  He puts on his Daddy's boxing gloves and goes fifteen rounds with him.  He makes crafts with his Mommy.  And he loves the movie "Toy Story".  Yes, Bo has done a lot in his first three years of life. 

Happy Birthday, Bo!  We love you!

Photo courtesy

Thursday 13 October 2011

The Sweetest Place on Earth

Back in the 1980's, my in-laws took a trip through New York State and Pennsylvania -- their destination was the town of Hershey, the sweetest place on earth.  As they approached the outskirts of the town, the chocolate aroma filled the country air, heightening their senses .  After a tour of the town, they returned to Ontario loaded down with a giant chocolate bar wrapped in that signature dark brown wrapper with the letters HERSHEY emblazoned in silver on the top.

Born in Derry Church, Pennsylvania in 1887, Milton Hershey was the son of Mennonite parents and had one sister who died of scarlet fever when he was nine years old.  Milton apprenticed as a printer when he was young, but hated the job so much that he deliberately dropped his hat into a vat of ink.  He switched to candy-making, apprenticing with a Lancaster candymaker for four years, after which he opened his own candy-making business in Philadelphia but failed due to the lack of customers.  His father announced that he was going out west to search for gold and Milton accompanied him, working for a candy maker in Colorado who showed him how to make caramels.  Upon returning to Pennsylvania, the young Hershey set up the Lancaster Caramel Company which was a resounding success.  Milton attended the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 and was fascinated by the machinery on display used to make German chocolate.  He sold the Lancaster Caramel Company, purchased 1200 acres of land near Lancaster and built a plant to manufacture milk chocolate, at the time a Swiss delicacy.  His plant, sitting in the middle of dairy farmland which gave him an unlimited supply of fresh milk, opened in 1905 and was the largest in the world.  Mr. Hershey also built a town for his employees which, rather than offering cookie-cutter rowhouses, boasted one and two-story brick homes, manicured lawns, tree-lined streets and a chocolate aroma wafting through the air. 

Milton married Catherine Sweeney, a woman who was never able to have children.  Mr. Hershey, therefore, devoted his attention to other children by opening the Hershey Industrial School to aid in their education.  The Hershey's were wealthy enough to buy tickets to the maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912, but Mrs. Hershey ended up cancelling their plans due to an illness; they reserved passage on another ship, the Amerika, instead.  Mrs. Hershey passed away a few years later, but Mr. Hershey lived until the ripe old age of 88.  His company continued to make fine chocolate, producing over 3 billion Ration D and Tropical Chocolate Bars designed, to resist the heat, that were served to World War II soldiers and sailors all over the globe.   The American Post Office issued a stamp honouring Milton Hershey valued at 32 cents. 

Hershey, Pennsylvania now has 12,000 residents.  If you want to find the Hershey Plant, follow the Hershey Kiss streetlights to the corner of Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Avenue.  Or you can just follow the chocolate aroma to get to your destination.  It's the sweetest place on earth!


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Wednesday 12 October 2011

One Guitar, Two Voices

Thomas thought it was going to be just another Thanksgiving Day:  feasting on turkey, stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, vegetables, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie dessert squares.  But one guitar and two voices changed all of that.  Thomas retreated to his bedroom to practise his guitar for half an hour.  My niece Amanda heard him playing and suggested that he bring his instrument downstairs and accompany her and her sister Cassandra as they sang.  They warmed up with the song "Grenade", my son strumming the chords while my nieces' voices harmonized.  Their voices drifted through the window into the backyard for our guests to enjoy.  Later, Thomas and Amanda joined us outside to perform "Rolling in the Deep".  Finally, the threesome reunited for "Hey Soul Sista", a new song for Thomas.  The girls faces lit up as they sang, recalling the good old days when they sang in church together.  Thomas' confidence grew as he played:  the sky was the limit.  Amanda recorded all three songs on her I-Pad and later posted them on You Tube (mandziii).  Thank you, "Jonadelas" (Jonasson & Candela combined), for sharing your talents with us and for making Thanksgiving 2011 an unforgettable one!

Drawing courtesy

The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

Thanks, Karen, for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!

The rules for the award are:

1. Link back and thank your givers.
2.Share 7 random things about yourself.
3.Choose some awesome people to pass the award to and leave a comment on their blog so they can claim them.

Seven random things about myself are:

1.  As a child, I was a tomboy and preferred playing with Hot Wheels rather than dolls.
2.  I am the youngest of three girls followed by a boy.
3.  I learned how to type in Grade 10.
4.  I learned sign language in Grade 8 and still remember the alphabet and the sign for "boiling".
(hold your left hand horizontal and hold your right hand underneath it in a vertical position-      fluttering your right-hand fingers the way bubbles might toss about in the water).
5.  My class had our own television show in Grade 8 on Cable 4 in Hamilton.  I almost interviewed Boris Brott from the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.  A classmate interviewed a couple of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats).
6.  I served the Premier of Ontario (David Peterson) ice cream at Baskin-Robbins in the 1980's.
7.  I received the Annie Dora Needle Award in Grade 12.

I'd like to pass this award on to Mike Sanders at:

Enjoy this sweet award!

Photo courtesy

Tuesday 11 October 2011


"Bau Auf!  Bau Auf!  Bau Auf!  Bau Auf!" shouted the "trummerfrauen" in columns of 10 to 20 as they cleared the 400 million cubic tons of rubble from Berlin's streets, assembly-line style, with only picks, hand-winches and their bare hands.  In 1945, the Allies ordered all women between the ages of 15 and 50 to clear rubble from the streets of Germany's bombed out cities like Dresden, Hamburg, Cologne and above all, Berlin.  During the raids on the capital city, 78,000 citizens had died.  Furthermore, thousands of Berliners had been killed on the battlefiled or were imprisoned in POW camps in Russia.  

With a ratio of 16 women for every 10 men in Berlin, it fell to the "frauen", dressed in head scarves, aprons and old shoes, to rebuild their city.  Rain or shine, wind or snow, everyday the rubble women would collect old bricks, clean them and stack them to be used again for new buildings.   Out of the city's 265,000 buildings, 48,000 were obliterated including one-third of its apartments and one-quarter of its industrial buildings during World War II.  Berlin's streets overflowed with bricks up to the first story of each building; in fact 75 million tons of debris covered the capital city accounting for one-seventh of the nation's rubble.  The damage was not contained to the surface, but also went underground as 90 Unterbahn (subway) stations were bombed as well.

To add insult to injury, because of a low supply of food after the war, Berliners were on average 6 to 9 kilograms underweight leading to malnutrition and the spread of diseases:  4000 died from cholera in August of 1945.  Post-war Berlin's population plummeted to 2.8 million (formerly 4.3 million).  Even so, the trummerfrauen managed to rebuild their city.  It had been estimated that it would take the women 25 years to rebuild Berlin; however, one rubble woman remembers sorting her last bricks in 1959. 

Although the Allies commissioned some German stamps to be printed in honour of the trummerfrauen in 1945, some official memorials were not built until 60 years after the war.  Rather than seeing themselves as heroines, Berlin's rubble women simply did what had to be done, with very little fuss.  The trummerfrauen rebuilt their city, one brick at a time.

Photo courtesy

Monday 10 October 2011

Pumpkin Pie Dessert

(Gail Robinson)

1 pkg Pillsbury Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 c. butter or margarine (melted)

1 egg

3c. (1 lb 14 oz can) pumpkin pie mix

2 eggs

2 c. milk

1 c. reserved cake mix

1/4 c. sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c. butter or margarine

Grease bottom only of 13 x 9 inch pan.  Reserve 1 cup of cake mix for topping.  Combine remaining cake mix, butter and egg.  Press into pan.  Prepare filling by combining all ingredients until smooth.  Pour over crust.  For topping, combine all ingredients.  Sprinkle over filling.  Bake at 350 F for 45 to 50 minutes until knife inserted near centre comes out clean.  If desired, serve with whipped cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sunday 9 October 2011

Thanksgiving Around a Ping Pong Table

Two slices of buttered toast, some popcorn balls, some pretzel sticks and some jelly beans, all served Frisbee style to the guests sitting around a ping pong table in the backyard:  this is Charlie Brown's version of Thanksgiving dinner.  Linus says grace and then the friends dig in.  However, Peppermint Patty is outraged that Charlie Brown has not served a proper meal.  But Marcie reminds her that Charlie Brown did not invite her -- she invited herself.  Peppermint Patty soon apologizes for her outburst.  Later Charlie Brown and his friends are invited to his grandma's house for another Thanksgiving feast.  As they travel in a station wagon to their destination, the friends sing "Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother's House We Go".  The show ends with Snoopy and Woodstock carving and eating a giant turkey with all the trimmings followed by slices of pumpkin pie. 

Thanksgiving isn't about the feast, but about giving thanks, no matter how small our blessings.  Thank you, Charles Schulz, for showing us this message in all its simplicity.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Cartoon courtesy

Saturday 8 October 2011

Indian Summer

We walked through the cornfields, the corn stalks gently swaying in the warm breeze, the giant silos jutting up into the azure sky, guiding us through the maze.  As we walked, we heard the ponies whinny as they were led into the trailer, Jacqueline having been one of their last riders for the day.  We climbed aboard a tractor which made a steady drone as we rolled past the strawberry fields where we had stained our hands red in June, past the apples that we had munched on in September, their juices running down our fingers, and on to the pumpkin patch where we would pick out a gourd for Halloween.  But first we stopped at a ravine to find some "treetures" as golden leaves fell above our heads.  Farmer Tom rolled the tractor to a stop and we disembarked, one large pumpkin in Rob's arms and some maize in Thomas' and Jacqueline's hands.  Indian summer is upon us.

Photo courtesy

Friday 7 October 2011

Forbidden Love at Windsor Castle

A young English woman worked her way up the ladder to become head seamstress for Queen Victoria, only to be fired for forbidden love inside the walls of Windsor Castle.  Charlotte worked for Queen Victoria sewing her famous gowns, one of many "ladies in waiting" who served the queen.  She was paid handsomely and she loved her work.  However, she made a grave mistake:  she fell in love with a fellow employee, Stephen, one of the queen's butlers.  They tried to keep their relationship a secret, sneaking off to get married.  However, the truth was soon revealed and a horrified Queen Victoria banished the couple to Australia, at the time a penal colony.  However, after some consideration, she realized her decision was harsh and she sent them to Canada instead, giving them 150 acres of land, a hotel and a post office.  The hotel had a bar where Charlotte would often serve a man named John McDonald, later Canada's first prime minister.  Her husband manned the post office.  The couple started a family and within a few years they had five children, three girls and two boys.  The village, called "Tuftsville", had so much promise.  Sadly, Tuftsville, later renamed Madoc Junction, is now a ghost town.  And it all started with a forbidden love affair within the walls of Windsor Castle.

This post is dedicated to my great-great-great uncle, Stephen Tufts, who married Charlotte Burton in 1860, and immigrated to Canada with his new bride shortly thereafter.

Photo courtesy

Thursday 6 October 2011

October Sky

It was a starry night in the Appalachians in Virginia when a young boy named Homer Hickam gathered on his front porch with his family to watch a Russian satellite named Sputnik streak across the sky on its orbit around the earth.  October 4, 1957, marked the beginning of the space race.  It also marked the beginning of a teenage boy's love for rockets; Horace would never forget that magical evening.  He and his friends started building rockets in his parents' basement.  The first rockets were small and primitive:  one blew up his parents' fence; another one landed at his father's workplace, the local coal mine.  While his father insisted that he throw out all of his rocket materials and abandon his dream, his mother, somewhat of a dreamer herself, encouraged her son to follow his heart.  His high school teachers tried to steer him in the direction of the mines where most men in Coalwood worked, but Homer wasn't interested.  However, he continued to build the rockets in secret, finding scrap materials at the dump.  At one point, he and his friends tore up some old railway ties to use for their rocket building.  One supportive teacher encouraged the "rocket boys" to enter the school science fair where they won first prize.  On to the state science fair they went where they also won first prize.  Finally, at the national science fair, they won first prize which earned them all college scholarships.  Homer realized a lifelong dream when he met Werner Von Braun, a German rocket engineer.  He had written Mr. Von Braun and received an autographed photo in response.  After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science degree, Homer secured a job at NASA where his dream was realized.  He worked in the Apollo program and helped put the first man on the moon in 1969.  He wrote a book called Rocket Boys:  A Memoir and his story became a movie starring Jake Gyllenhal in the 1999.  And to think that it all started back in 1957 when a teenage boy looked up and saw a small speck streak through the October sky.

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Wednesday 5 October 2011

Sour Cream Mashed Potato Casserole

Here is a recipe that my aunt used to make when we were kids.  I like to make it every Thanksgiving.  It can be made up to 5 days in advance and then refrigerated.  Enjoy!

(Marlene Mason)

5 lbs potatoes

1 – 8oz package cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

2 tsp onion salt

1 tsp salt

pinch of white pepper

2 tbsp butter

Cook peeled potatoes in salted water until tender and drain; then mash until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and beat until light and fluffy.  Let cool slightly and place in a large greased casserole dish.  Dot with butter or buttered crumbs.  Cover and refrigerate 1 to 5 days.  To serve, remove one hour before dinner.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Makes 12 servings.

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Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Million Dollar Sculpture

It took 12 years to construct, cost 1 million dollars to fund, covered an area of 1,278.45 acres, and sat 5, 725 feet above sea level.  On this day in 1927, Gutzon Borglum started carving into the granite on the side of a mountain in South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest.  Workers used dynamite to blast the granite after which Mr. Borglum would sculpt four eggs, each 60 feet tall, carving a face into each one.    Although no deaths took place as a result of the project, injuries did occur.  Originally, George Washington was carved first followed by Thomas Jefferson to his right; however, Jefferson cracked so badly that the sculptor had to reform Jefferson on Washington's left.  A couple of years later Abraham Lincoln's likeness was dedicated followed by Theodore Roosevelt's.  Overcoming early obstacles, Borglum was able to complete his sculpture on the side of Mount Rushmore before his death in 1941.

The national monument has been mentioned in various TV shows and movies and is featured in a chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" in 1959.  The sculptor had intended on etching the history of the United States underneath the four presidents' heads, but federal money ran out and the idea was abandonned. However, in 1934, a college student named William Andrew Burkett wrote and entered a 500 word essay about America's history into a competition and won.  His essay was carved into a bronze plaque and placed at the site in 1973.  The carving of the four presidents had been conceived to attract tourists to the area; today, two million visitors flock annually to Mount Rushmore, named after a prominent New York lawyer who once scaled its heights.

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Monday 3 October 2011

Driving Mr. Porkers

I raced down the highway to my destination with my passenger, Mr. Porkers, sitting proudly in his pink fur, his little black eyes looking straight ahead.  I had an important task to perform:  getting Mr. Porkers to his meeting by 9:30 am.  I took the corners carefully so Mr. Porkers would not fall off the seat.  He was a cooperative passenger, making not a sound as we approached our destination. 

Pulling into the parking lot, I eased the van into a spot close to the front door so Mr. Porkers would not have to far to go.  Stepping out of the van, I took my purse in one hand, and Mr. Porkers in the other.  We opened the door and walked down the hallway to the gym.  The assembly was already in progress and all of the students listened attentively as the pastor spoke.  The students sang three praise choruses and the assembly came to a close.

A little girl dressed in turquoise blue cords and a striped sweater with a hood turned around and spotted me and Mr. Porkers, flashing us a smile.  She stood up and I walked over to her, handing her Mr. Porkers:  it was showtime.  As she followed her teacher back to her classroom she tucked Mr. Porkers under her sweater so none of her classmates could see him.  They would have to guess who he was.  Then he would take his place beside the other guests for the day in Mrs. Silver's classroom. 

For now, my job is complete.  But I will never forget the day I drove Mr. Porkers to his first appointment.  It was my pleasure!

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Sunday 2 October 2011

Kennedy's Limousine & Lincoln's Chair

Would you like to visit Thomas’ Edison’s laboratory?  Would you like to see where Daniel Webster composed his English Dictionary?  How about the chair that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. in 1865?  Or the Ford limousine that President John F. Kennedy was riding in was he was shot in the Dallas motorcade in 1963?  How about boarding the bus on which Rosa Parks was denied a seat back in 1955?  Would you like to assemble a Model T from scratch or build small items on an assembly line? 

Photo of Kennedy's limousine courtesy 

You can do all of these activities at Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, built by Henry Ford back in the 1929.  The village and museum represent the great contrasting philosophy of Mr. Ford:  he did more to industrialize America than any one entrepreneur as displayed in his museum; and yet, he longed for the rural landscape of his childhood seen at his pioneer village.  The American industrialist was constantly looking forward and looking backward at the same time. 

Photo of Lincoln's chair courtesy

The museum shows the progress of America from pioneer times to the industrial revolution to the present day.  The outside of the red-brick domed structure is patterned after Independence Hall in Philadelphia (just like the American Pavilion at Disney World’s EPCOT).  Once inside, guests look up at the high ceilings which are made from the hulls of ships turned upside down, giving you an idea of the size of the museum.  Visitors see every machine from cars to planes to trains to busses to cotton gins to tractors.  From the ceiling hangs Charles Lindbergh’s plane “The Spirit of St. Louis”. Henry Ford has packed a lot of American History into one building.  It is a celebration of the United States’ progress over the past three centuries.

Photo of Henry Ford Museum courtesy

Next door to the handsome museum is the pioneer village, home to almost 100 buildings.  A train steams along the perimeter of the museum to give riders an overall view of the village.  Inside, visitors stop to examine Ford’s old work shop.  Thomas’ Edison’s birthplace sits nearby.  A beautiful chapel sits in the centre where present-day brides and grooms marry, in front of which is a courtyard where staff dressed in period costumes give old fashioned toys to visiting children to play with.  A one-room schoolhouse similar to one Henry would have attended in his youth also sits in the village.  Stepping into the village is like stepping back in time.  Henry Ford took extra care to travel the continent, search for buildings and items for his village and bring them home to display.  For instance, Thomas Edison’s childhood home was built in Vienna, Ontario and later moved to Dearborn, Michigan by Henry Ford.  No visit is complete without a visit to one of the gift shops where guests can purchase: old fashioned toys, candy, fridge magnets of Kennedy’s limousine or Parks’ bus, and rare books about Henry Ford and the history of automobiles. 

Photo of Firestone Farm courtesy

Take a trip back in time and imagine camping by the fire under the stars with Henry Ford and his fellow inventors, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.  It’s worth the trip to Michigan!

Photo of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding and Harvey Firestone on a camping trip in 1921 courtesy