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Posts Tagged ‘Niagara Falls’

Canadians have been celebrating a lot this year. It’s not that we need an excuse to celebrate, but this year is special. “What are we celebrating? “ you might ask. Well, we are celebrating the very fact that we are Canadian! Some might say we are celebrating that we are not American. Yes, 200 years ago The War of 1812 sorted out who was who. Just this past weekend my home town had a huge re-enactment.

Every One Participates at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

Every One Participates at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment
Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

A Colourful Day at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

A Colourful Day at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment
Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

One of the other things the War of 1812 created was the Canada/United States border – the longest undefended border in the world. In many ways this border bonds us together far more than it separates us.

Canada Us Pipeline Border

Canada/United States Border – It looks a little different than this today.
Credit: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed this border. I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario. There are four bridges that cross over the Niagara River linking our two countries – The Peace Bridge, The Rainbow Bridge, The Whirlpool (Lower) Bridge and the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge. I’m a “border kid”. This means I have spent my entire life crossing the border to the US, back and forth. Border kids have the distinction of being dragged half-naked “over the river” by their mothers since birth, then returning home wearing so many clothes we could play Ralphie’s little brother Randy in A Christmas Story. He was the kid who couldn’t put his arms down or get up when he fell, because his mom had him dressed like the Michelin Man. Yes, we were born and raised smugglers!

A Christmas Story

Do not fall down when dressed like this!

By the time I was in high school I was a pro. No, NOT a professional smuggler! But, by then it was second nature to cross over to the US on my own. I didn’t drive. I walked. In fact, it was a favourite activity for kids my age to skip school and take off over the river. They had really cool stores and the chances of getting caught by our parents were pretty much slim to none. We were always polite and never lied to the border guards, (Our parents were another story.) After all, the border guards had no sense of humour and carried guns. On one particular excursion we walked across the bridge, arm and arm and singing, “We’re off to see the wizard …” We were asked to stop singing but they let us continue into the US.

The Yellow Brick Road

Me (2nd from the left) and my buddies headed “Over the River”

On our way back to Canada, when they asked if we had anything to declare, I held my bag up and said, “just this pot”. We were immediately surrounded and I was relieved of my purchase. It was a little ceramic pot I had bought for 50¢ at a thrift store and still have to this day. I’m not sure who was more embarrassed, the Border Patrol or me.

My Wee Pot

My wee pot – 40 years later.

As a young adult, going over the river was a must. In the 70’s, the drinking age was 21 in Ontario and the bars closed at midnight or 1:00 am. Over the river, the drinking age was 18 and the bars were open until 2:00 am in one county and 4:00 am in another just minutes away. At some point the rules changed. Now, the drinking age in Ontario is 19 and the drinking age over the river is 21 – so the drinking crossovers have changed direction.

RAINBOW BRIDGE

Yes, it is that close

There was also a time when I had a business In Niagara Falls, New York and crossed back and forth over the border every day. In the summer the lineups on the bridge could be brutal and it was difficult to keep to a schedule. So, I hooked a crate to the back of my bicycle, loaded it with my briefcase, purse and heels, and rode to and from work every day. One day, one of the Customs Officials shared a story with me (one I am sure is an urban legend).

There was this fellow who crossed the bridge each day on a bicycle. He made the trip every day for many, many years. All the Customs Officials were sure he was smuggling something but never found anything on him. The man grew old and it came time for him to retire. He told the Customs Officials it was his last day, said good-bye and wished them well. One of the officials asked, “Please tell us before you go? “You’re free and clear now. “We’ve always suspected that you were smuggling something. “What was it?”

The man smiled and simply stated, “the bicycles.”

The Border

Almost there

We shared a piece of history that brought us together for a while. For 79 days during the 444 days of the Iran Hostage Crisis, former Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor and other Canadian Embassy staff, hid, protected and arranged for the escape of five Americans who had escaped from their Embassy when it was overrun. (President Reagan’s account of what happened.)
When it was finally made known to the public that the Americans were safely out of the country and that the Canadians were responsible, there appeared on the front page of our local paper a picture looking out across the Niagara Gorge to the escarpment on the other side. There was a giant banner hanging on the American side that was big enough you could read it while standing in Canada. It simply said, “THANK YOU CANADA”. I will never forget that sight. It could be because it appeared over night, or just knowing the manpower it would have taken to do such a thing. Or, could it be that it was the last time I remember an American saying “thank you”?

Thank You Canada

It was like this only really, really, really big

There was a Canadian movie made in 1981 about this called Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper starring our very own Gordon Pinsent.
You won’t remember it. I’m sure it never even played in the US. You may, however, be aware of a little film called Argo that’s making the rounds right now. This version of the story, directed by Ben Affleck, stars Affleck and is a dramatization of the joint CIA-Canadian secret operation. Of course the emphasis is on the CIA’s part in it. I suppose we should be grateful that Canadians were even acknowledged.

Argo

The big attraction for people visiting Niagara Falls is, of course, the Falls. There are actually two sets of falls. The Canadian falls are called the Horseshoe Falls and are conveniently located in all their splendor to be enjoyed by anyone who comes to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

The American falls are called the American Falls (clever). Right beside it is a smaller waterfall called the Bridal Veil Falls. Both of these are also conveniently located in all their glory to be enjoyed by anyone who comes to Niagara Falls, Ontario. That’s right! You have to leave Niagara Falls, New York and cross over to Niagara Falls, Ontario to see the American Falls. I think this is where someone says “location, location, location”.

American Falls

American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls
(Maybe I should have stopped my car to take this one)

I still head over the river on a regular basis, even though these days I live much further away. No, there is no smuggling involved. You can’t live that close to the border and not have someone in the family marry the opposition. Now my sister lives there, my niece lives there and my grandniece lives there. That little girl is worth a trip over the river .

My Grandniece, Ellee

My Grandniece, Ellee

-30-

Silk Purse Productions

This post was originally written for a social experiment called “Canadica” and posted on October 23, 2012.  Canadica was the brainchild of Rebecca Donahue and was created as a joint project between Canadian and American writers. We had a lot of fun poking fun at each other. As you know I love our American neighbours very much, especially my American friends and family. Yes, that even means my brother-in-law, Bruce, who is a great source of amusement for me and helped me remember the drinking bits.  I have written other pieces for various blogs and recently discovered that some of those were lost because the owner of the site closed it down. This particular post was the first time (and so far…only time) I was “Freshly Pressed” so I did not want to risk losing it.

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Food plays a very important part in our everyday lives. It is our fuel and gives us sustenance so we can live. I would venture to say that from the beginning of time (however you feel that started) all living creatures knew instinctively that eating was integral to their survival. Over time, the reasons we eat have grown exponentially: boredom, stress, socially, cravings, gluttony … really any excuse can be given for eating. In my lifetime I have met very few people who follow the school of thought, “Eat to live, not live to eat”and He-Who is certainly not one of them.

Very early in our relationship I discovered the importance of food to He-Who. Perhaps I should have clued in with the endless stories of all the food that he missed from his native Winnipeg. Yes, I became well versed in how “Winnipeg is the Center Of The Universe” when it comes to food (among other things). When friends or family mentioned they would be coming to Ontario for a visit they were quickly provided with a list including rye bread, cabbage rolls, perogies, corned beef, etc. and where to get them. It didn’t matter if the travellers were his friends or family. If he overheard someone talking in a restaurant he would introduce himself and produce the list, asking if you thought they might bring some of this back with them. Believe me, over the years, all manner of unsuspecting folks have become He-Who’s food-mules.

Once, when his Mother came for a visit the giant suitcase containing the food went missing. We had made it all the way back to Niagara Falls from the Toronto airport. He was on the phone in minutes tracking down the bag and making arrangements for its rescue. It was not a happy visit until he was reunited with the misplaced food.

When I first met Patrick, one of his best friends from Winnipeg, we picked him up at the airport, confirmed his food baggage was accounted for and headed to one of He-Who’s favourite pizzerias. All the way there Patrick was educated on the fact that this pizza was “almost” as good as the pizza he used to eat in Winnipeg. We ordered our food and chatted.  He-Who excused himself for a minute and before he returned our food arrived. As I chatted with Patrick I took a nibble from He-Who’s plate. I like to share so that I can try different things. Patrick’s eyes almost popped out of his head as he tried to stop me. “What are you doing? Don’t do that! If you want this relationship to go anywhere for the love of God do not touch that man’s food!” I was amused by what I thought was Patrick’s over-reaction. When He-Who returned to the table I told him what had happened. He was not amused and pretty much told me to eat my own. Of course, Patrick had to tell the story of the time he tried to take a piece of pizza from him and it almost ended in a war. It seems He-Who ordered the pizza he wanted and then offered to buy Patrick one for himself. Patrick said he would just have a piece of his. He-Who adamantly said, “No you won’t. I will buy you your own”.  Patrick in his naivety declined his own pizza and did attempt to procure a piece from He-Who. A few stitches, a tetanus shot and several years later, Patrick timidly shows me the scar from He-Who defending his pizza with a fork.

FORK

Over the years most members of my family have gotten use to He-Whos peculiarities about food. In fact, they cater to him. If we are invited for a meal I can guarantee you it will be something He-Who likes and they have probably accosted some old Ukrainian Babushka for it. When they visit they come bearing rye bread and bagels for him. One sister even brought corned beef! They spoil him. When it comes to food he always gets his way. Until recently.

Bread

My sister Pat recently retired and because of this we have had the good fortune to spend more time with her. She brought with her a partial loaf of bread she thought I would like. That’s right. I said it was for me. Somehow over the past 17 or so years she had missed the extreme nature of He-Who’s love of food. The bread was delicious. I enjoyed it. He-Who loved it. When we enquired as to where she got it she didn’t know. My sister Lu had given it to her. Lu came to visit and brought another loaf  “for He-Who”.  We found out it was Miche Rye from Panera Bread.

Panera Bread Oakville

The most convenient Panera Bread to us is in Oakville, about 100k away. We pass it on our way to Niagara Falls on a regular basis. Our next trip to Niagara included a stop at Panera Bread. Pat was with us and we were dropping her in Niagara for a visit. She planned to pick up a loaf of bread to take with her. I planned to pick up two loaves and freeze one. We were all happy campers as we approached Oakville.  Most of you have been in a Panera Bread. As you enter, the wonderful aromas make your mouth water. We stood in line staring at all the yummy stuff on the shelves. Pat and I noticed at the same moment that there was only one loaf of Miche Rye left. We raced each other to the cashiers. I reached mine first and asked, “Is that your last loaf or is there more in the back?” My cashier said, “I will check” and disappeared. Pat reached the cashier second and stated, “I will take that loaf, please.” By the time my cashier came back to give me the bad news that there were no more, my sister had already paid for the last loaf. I was stunned. I was speechless. I had to make myself look at He-Who. There was an expression I have never seen on his face. He very quietly left the building and went outside. I watched him. Words were exchanged between Pat and myself. In her defence she was clueless when it came to He-Who and his food.   I went into the restroom to avoid having to go outside. Pat, thinking she was doing the right thing asked the cashier to split the loaf. Poor Pat. She just didn’t get it. There were more words exchanged as we got into the car. He-Who was silent. Pat was now outraged that there was such a fuss over a loaf of bread and asked, “If you had gotten it would you have split the loaf?” Without missing a beat I responded, “No”. He-Who reached over and patted my hand. The car was silent the rest of the way to Niagara Falls. I would like to say that was the end of it but sadly there was still some bread throwing to come.

Miche Rye Bread

After dropping Pat off we decided to continue to Niagara Falls, New York and visit the Panera Bread there. They had one loaf left. I bought it. You may be scratching your head right now when you realize that we actually entered into another country to get this darn bread, but as soon as it was in the car the atmosphere changed. All was right with the world. Well, He-Who’s world, anyway.

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Perhaps, I have mentioned this a time or two but, for those who are new here, I’m a “border kid”, born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  The only thing separating us from Niagara Falls, New York was a river and a few bridges.  There was a time when going from one Niagara to the other wasn’t given a second thought. It was equal to walking around the corner to a friend’s house.  Things change and now you had better be ready to invest a a fairly hefty piece of time just waiting in line to cross that bridge never mind contemplating what might happen when it is “your turn” to face the border agents.  As I said, that is now.

Then, things were different. We came and went freely. Parents were never concerned if their children walked across to another country just to hang out downtown.  Can you imagine? I said “ANOTHER COUNTRY”!  It never felt like that. We all had friends on both sides. We all had relatives on both sides.  We studied the same things in school. OK, we were led to believe we studied the same things in school.  The reality was quite different.  Once a Canadian child was of certain age you started to ask questions.  Most families took turns hosting Holiday dinners. If we spent Christmas at Aunt Maude’s in Buffalo then we would spend Easter at our home in Niagara Falls.  The Fourth of July was always spent in the US.  Dominion Day (now Canada Day) was always spent in Canada.  One Holiday was always a great source of confusion, Thanksgiving Day.

Turkey

Pretty standard Thanksgiving artwork done by kids on both sides of the border…except I just made this one this afternoon…not when I was five.

We celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Our American friends celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November.  Granted it made the who ate where part easy to figure out but we had questions.  We all learned about Thanksgiving in school. You know, the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, Natives, corn, turkey dinner…wait a minute.

corn

Random shot of corn just because I like it. There was no corn.

Right about now is when you start to realize things may not be the same in the classroom on both sides of the border.  As a Canadian child I was taught a great deal of American history. In fact, I would venture to say that the influence of American History was quite heavy in my classroom.  With family on both sides of the border it is easy to compare notes and find that Americans know very little about Canadian History.  Canadian TV Producers have actually made extremely amusing programming asking Americans to answer questions about Canada.  Funny? Yes, but, also a little sad, don’t you think?

The History section on The Weather Network explains it the simplest:

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been futilely attempting to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did, however, establish a settlement in Canada. In the year 1578, Frobisher held a formal ceremony in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This event is widely considered to be the first Canadian Thanksgiving, and the first official Thanksgiving to occur in North America.

The reality is that Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving 43 years before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth. There wasn’t even turkey served. The first Thanksgiving meal was salt beef, crackers and mushy peas. It was all they had. I will give thanks that the Americans changed the menu, although I can think of some turkeys who wouldn’t.

Cousin Susie with turkey

Cousin Susie with “Betty”, who will never be Thanksgiving dinner.

Last year folks on both sides of the border celebrated and continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the “War of 1812“.   Yes, we have spent a couple of years celebrating us becoming not American.  I am not sure why the Americans were celebrating. Oh, that’s right, they still think they won that one (according to my much beloved American brother-in-law).  Here Laura Secord is considered a hero. In the US…not so much.  There are a lot of discrepancies when it comes to Canadian/American history most recently would be Ben Affleck’s depiction of what happened during the Iran Hostage Crisis. I prefer President Reagan’s account.

We will probably always have these inconsistencies in our history together.  We will probably always disagree on how to spell color/colour.  We will bang our heads together trying to figure out how many kilometers per hour is equal to how many miles per hour so we don’t get a speeding ticket in either country.

400000

I am celebrating my Canadian Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October but on the fourth Thursday in November  I will also give thanks for all my American friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Labour Day has come and gone. The days are getting shorter. The air is getting cooler. The end of summer is finally upon us. Can I get an “Amen”?
For most, at the first sign of summer’s end, around the world you can hear a hear a resounding ,”no,no, no…say it ain’t so”. Not this girl! I couldn’t be happier to see the back end of this summer that never was.

To be honest I almost wish I was young so I could go back to school.  The first assignment of the semester would be “How I Spent My Summer Vacation“.

My summer started out with the spider bite that wouldn’t quit.  I’ve already told the tale here (Bite Me) so I will just remind you with this.

Fat Hand

I know. Gross!

By the time our 1st of  July, Canada Day long weekend rolled around, I was able to use my hand well enough to shift gears in my car again.  I decided to head home to Niagara Falls to have some fun. Long weekends are not fun on the highways in Southern Ontario.  A drive that normally would take two hours can turn into four, six or even an eight hour drive.

TorontoTraffic Jam

I would like to say this was Holiday traffic but the reality is this is pretty much every day on the 401.

The truth of the matter is that any journey that uses the Ontario 400 series of Highways is… well…hell!  At the best of times you are in for a situation that is much more like  a parking lot than a highway. Having conquered the 401 West and maneuvered my way through most of the 403 all I saw were break lights and more cars stopped as I approached the QEW to Niagara route,  which I consider my halfway point.  As I often do, I got off the highway looking for an alternative way to reach the QEW. Dundas Street across the top of Oakville was clear sailing all the way. Do not ask me why but there were few cars on the road.  All I can say is thank God!  As I approached the stop lights at Dundas and  Neyagawa Boulevard they turned yellow and I hit the brakes. Except…there were no brakes.  My foot went right to the floor and my car went right through a red light.  As I approached the next set of lights they were green and I was in the left lane.  Somehow I had to get off this road.  I made a left hand turn in front of cars approaching the intersection with my heart pumping and horns blaring in my ears. I was able to gear down and use my hand brake to come to a full stop. May I just say, “That was one of the scariest things that has ever happened in my life!”.  I was stranded half-way between here and there on a long weekend.  CAA came to the rescue. I was towed back to Pickering to a garage someone recommended.  The good news was that no one died. The bad news was that the brake lines did and the cost of fixing them was more than the car was worth.  Yes, that’s right folks. The girl who spends most of her spare time driving to Niagara Falls on both sides of the border no longer has a vehicle.

Im walking here

These are now my wheels.

It was time to practice my big sad eyes with He-Who now every time he wasn’t using his car so I could still cruise.  For the record, my big sad eyes have never worked on He-Who, I don’t know why I thought they would now.  It seemed there would be a lot of walking in my future.

Near the end of July I was happily starting training on a job I would be doing for a few weeks while someone was on vacation in Ireland.  The location of the job had their parking lot under construction so you had to park on the street and walk in.  I drove in with the woman training me  and we both walked from her vehicle . And then this happened…

Concussed

Just be grateful I cleaned up all the blood before this shot.

I don’t remember a lot. Walking. Something catching my foot. S-l-o-w  m-o-t-i-o-n as I try to right myself a few times and then being surrounded by a lot of people.  As I lay on the ground trying to figure out what happened I could see the bent pole sticking out that had interrupted my stroll into work.  I was carrying files in my right hand and a camera bag over my shoulder so I wasn’t able to put my hands out to break my fall and I landed flat on the right side of my face.  A three-point face-plant,  if you will.  There have been x-rays and CT scans, Doctors and hospitals since then.  Broken glasses, chipped teeth, nerve trauma to my face and a pretty severe concussion.  Most have been fixed or healed or at least they will in time I’m told,  with the exception of the head injury. My memory is toying with me right now.  Concentration is difficult. Words are not my friend when I am talking, reading or writing. This  post has taken me a little over a month to sort out.  I’ve been having a really hard time keeping up with the blogs I follow. I have started commenting again and hopefully there aren’t too many mistakes.  He-Who has had to write some for me so I don’t miss a deadline. Fortunately, he is a better writer than I will ever be so that works. He will also look at this and edit it so I don’t embarrass myself too much with grammar, spelling or thought process.

It’s October now and everything seems so alive with colour.  We went for a wonderful drive yesterday and I took some pictures.  A sure sign that summer is over and I for one am glad of it.October 1 2013

wagon wheel

Looking up at leaves

over the fence

pumpkin line

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This was shocking to me. He-Who has been blogging and in one of his recent posts I found out I was not his muse! How is that possible? He-Who is definitely my muse. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

He-Who has many talents and is knowledgable about many things. Perhaps the thing he knows the most about though, is junk food. His specialties would be pizza, hamburgers and French fries. It has been his life’s mission to find the perfect fresh cut fries.  In keeping with his quest he has become familiar with every French fry truck aka “Chip Wagon” near and far.

When we first met we lived in Niagara Falls. You can head in any direction in Niagara Falls and find a French fry truck. There is one in every corner of the city and a few in between. The most historic FF truck in Niagara is “Jakes Chip Wagon”. That truck was around long before He-Who even thought of  leaving his frigid Winnipeg home and moving to Ontario. Located Downtown on St. Clair Ave.  near Queen Street it actually has been around since 1945. My first first French fry as a child came from Jakes as it did for most people born and raised in the Niagara area. Just the smell of salt, vinegar and oil can evoke vivid childhood memories.

Jake's Chip Wagon

Jake’s Chip Wagon is a converted 1951 Chevy truck.

There are others.  Potato Heads on Lundy’s Lane, Michelle’s Fries (not related) at the corner of Morrison St. and Dorchester Road.

Potato Heads

Located on Lundy’s Lane near Drummond Rd.

Michelle's Fries

Located on Morrison St. near Dorchester Rd.

Some have no specific name just a permanent location.

McLeod Road

Located on McLeod Rd. near Dorchester Rd.

Stamford Centre

Located at Stamford Centre

Bingo Chip Wagon

Located on Drummond Rd. in the Delta Bingo lot.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are seasonal and some are year round. The point is if He-Who was on an errand he was never far from a Chip Wagon.

Then we moved to Oakville.  There was not a FF truck to be found. He-Who would spend countless hours searching for these wee homes for fresh cut fries, but to no avail. He was distraught. I casually mentioned one evening after a long day at work that one of my co-workers thought there might be one near the Ford Plant. After dinner I put on my PJs and got comfy in front of the TV. Things started to get restless in He-Who’s corner.

He-Who: Let’s go for a drive.

Me: No, I’m exhausted and I’m in my PJs.

He-Who: Come on! I’m sick and tired of sitting around on our butts watching TV. All we ever do is watch TV.

Me: Except of course for the 1o – 12 hours I work every day and then I get to come home and cook and clean.

He-Who: (ok…a whole string of expletive deleteds but all directed at me wanting to watch TV). You don’t have to change. You’ll just be in the car.

Me: (sulking…get up and get into the car)

We drove around for quite awhile until I realized he was working his way over toward the Ford plant in a really round about way.

Me: You son of a (actually a really  nice woman)! You’re looking for that Chip Wagon! Just take me to the grocery store and we’ll get some potatoes and oil and I will make you your freaking fresh cuts!

He-Who: YOU CAN DO THAT?!

Me: Yes, I can do that.

He looked like a kid on Christmas morning. I knew I  had done something really, really bad but it was too late to turn back. Now he knew. The next day I came home from work and there on my countertop was a brand new deep frier, a sack of potatoes, a ginormous container of oil and a stack of papers. The papers were all the research he had done on how to make fresh cut fries that he had found on the internet. It got so that I would come home from work and smell the grease and I would know that he had made himself french fries for lunch. My theory was that he didn’t need them for supper then. Apparently I was wrong.  When my nephew moved in for awhile that deep frier was going constantly, until the day I came home and found the two of them hovering over the counter looking horror struck like they had just lost their best friend. In a way they had. The deep frier had actually melted in on itself. It took me a very long time to clean up the mess and degrease our home. There would be no more deep frying in my home!

When we started considering moving to the Durham Region it didn’t take long for He-Who to make up his mind. We had discovered a plethora of Chip Wagons in the area and he was in heaven. Whatever direction we headed there was a FF truck to be found.

Morti's Good Eats

Morti’s Good Eats in Whitby

Brian's Lighthouse

Brian’s Lighthouse

Ritson & Bloor

The Corner of Ritson & Bloor

Tommy's at the Beach

Tommy’s at the Beach

Yes, He-Who has earned quite the reputation for being the Official French Fry Expert.  Recently I received a text …

We’re on our way to Peterborough. Where is the best place for fries in Port Perry?

I didn’t even have to hesitate…

Going east on 7A at the top of the hill there are lights at Island Rd. Turn left and then into the driveway of Island Fries.

Crap! We just passed it.

Continue on 7A about 5 minutes to Nestleton. There is one on the right hand side beside the General Store.

A few minutes later …

Thanks. They’re great!

I shook my head at the thought that this is the kind of information I can provide at the drop of a hat. Perhaps we should make up some kind of map and sell it. You know…kind of like the Hollywood maps of “Homes of the Movie Stars”. Ours could be the map of “The Best Chip Wagons” of Southern Ontario. Of course it would be constantly changing because our He-Who is fickle when it comes to his favourites. One day you are his muse and the next you are not!

Golden French Fries

Golden French Fries–Extra Crispy

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http://www.niagarafallstourism.com/experience/holidays/christmas/

For the first time in over 10 years I will be home for Christmas. Niagara Falls will always be “home”, no matter where I live. As it turns out, He-Who and I will be “wintering” in Niagara Falls and we are planning to be there until the end of March. Now, I know that most people would prefer to winter in a warmer climate. Niagara Falls would not be their  fantasy destination during the colder months but for me it is exactly what I need. It will be wonderful to be able to catch up and make plans with friends I haven’t seen in way too long. As a rule we drive two or more hours (depending on the traffic) run around to see a few family members and then before you know it we have to turn around and drive back. We try to get way too much into one trip and everybody gets short changed. I’m looking forward to simply being able to drop in on someone for a coffee and not always be thinking of the drive back.

That’s the good news folks.

Things haven’t exactly gone well the last few years for He-Who and I. After losing the job I loved at the TV station and having a really bad experience at a smaller company in the “Big City”, we decided to venture out on our own. The business we started was in the Durham Region which is what prompted our move here.  It has been very difficult for He-Who as he continued to work in the horse racing industry in and around Woodbine Racetrack and had to spend way too many hours on what has to be the world’s worst highway … the 401.  After two years we had to make the very difficult decision to stop losing our money on the business and call it a day. Of course this means we no longer have to live here so we gave our notice. While this was going on things started to go really wrong with the Racing Industry here in Ontario. Race tracks were being closed, racing days were being eliminated and in short, the government was annihilating the racing industry. Yesterday was He-Who’s last day for this season’s contract so we have some pretty scary decisions to make.

We’ve been very blessed with friends and family and it wasn’t long before someone accepted our invitation to let us house sit for them while they are in Florida for the winter.  Of course while packing and making the arrangements to get rid of as much of our stuff as we could and to store the rest, my car decided that it was time for it to retire. In all honesty it has taken me over 400,000 k and can probably use the rest but it could have had better timing. While one of my relatives is trying to coax my car to come out of retirement a long time friend said, “use my car”. Just like that.  So while we may be temporarily homeless, a little underfinanced and unemployed, we have an abundance of wealth with family and friends.

Michelle & Santa

Santa and I for
Toni over at Words We Women Write

I plan to make the best of our winter in Niagara. After all it is one of Canada’s 10 Most Festive Christmas Cities. It will be wonderful  to see and spend time with the people I have been missing, some of whom you have met here in my stories. Best of all – I’ll be home for Christmas.

Christmas Logo pig lineup

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A little over a year ago we moved from a 3 bedroom, 1 floor condo, west of Toronto, to a 3 bedroom, 3 floor house east of Toronto. The move was a little over 100 km. With Toronto being in the middle it might as well have been 1000 km. When I lived west of Toronto it was nothing to “run home” to Niagara Falls for a couple of hours to visit family and friends. That drive across the top of Toronto can add anywhere from 1 – 3 hrs. (depending on the traffic) to my trip home now. Needless to say those visits are much less frequent.

So, why did we move? Well, our business was in the Durham Region and those treks from west to east on a daily basis were damaging us and our business. I really liked our condo. We had been in it for 8 years. It was, however, beginning to look less and less like a home. Everywhere I turned there was business stuff. Not just in the office. It was in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room, the bedroom and yes, even the bathroom (don’t ask).  We found this house and I liked it right away. But, the thing that sold me was when we opened the basement door and went downstairs. The basement had already been made into an office space! With cupboards and a sink and plenty of room for our business!  I was so happy as we brought everything in, because if it had “office” written on it, it went downstairs.  I now had a living space and a working space and I could come upstairs at the end of the day and close the door and that was that.

A recent visit to Dr. A had her a little concerned with my well being.  I have gained weight and have been struggling with getting rid of it.  I have a Gazelle exercise machine set up so I can take breaks from the computer and get some exercise, but doesn’t seem to be helping. The good Doctor suggested we run some blood tests and that I should walk for 20 minutes every day.  I looked at the sheet she handed to me to see what she was testing.  As I drove home I did some thinking. One of the things she checked off were my Vitamin D levels. Hmmm, if I am not mistaken (it happens on a rare occasion) Vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin”.  It then occurred to me that I actually rarely see sunshine.  The first 6 months we lived here I would accompany He-Who* on the front porch or the back deck for some “fresh air” (as we call it in my family) otherwise known as a smoke break.  In January I got really sick and stopped doing this.  I stopped going outside.  By the time I got home I had figured out that although I had a great working space there was something missing.  Windows. All the windows were in the laundry room side of the basement. It was lovely and bright in the laundry room.  It was dark and dismal in the office part.  Could it be I was just not getting enough sunshine and fresh air?

The first day I tentatively walked around the block. It took me 15 minutes.  I was not that familiar with the territory so I kept my head down and went a little further each day and then would see how long it took me.  I went to 38 minutes, then 45, then 50 until I finally made it to just a little over an hour.  An hour is my goal each day hopefully picking up speed as I carry on.  I have also incorporated it into other things I have to do.  I needed an oil change so I drove my car to the shop, dropped it off and walked a half-hour in one direction and then a half-hour back to my car. He-Who does the grocery shopping, so the other day I went with him.  When he went into the store I started walking towards home. An hour later he picked me up on his way home from the store.

We live in the downtown area. It is a little rough around the edges and sometimes a little intimidating. The other day I accidentally lifted my head while walking the usual route and noticed these…

A brazen glance to the left and I saw these…

…then to the right there were these…

It was head up and eyes all over the place after that. How could I have been walking past all this and not noticed it?  I walk with 1 piece of ID and my cell so I started taking pictures with my phone…

There was a lot I was missing as I scurried along my route. We have lived here a year and I find myself coming home and saying things to He-Who, like, “Did you know there was a big city pool behind us? With a big park behind it? I saw families playing!”

I am not Anglican but I have to tell you this sign made me stop. I read it twice before I took the picture. I quite like what it has to say.

I walked past several fire hydrants that were hand-painted. I will have to do some investigating to find out the story behind them. This one was my favourite.

This is a General Motors town. I have passed this place every day. Several years ago I worked on a documentary about GM in St. Catharines. Some day when I am not all hot and sweaty, I will go in.

Last weekend I heard music, people laughing and a lot of activity (of course this was “pre-looking up” walking). It turns out there is a beautiful bandstand with seating and a lovely park.

The sides of the bandstand are made of these panels…

and there is this wonderful monument beside it.

I have blisters, bites and sunburn but I feel better than I have in months and as it turns out there is lots to see on my walks.  All I had to do was get up, go outside, get some sunshine, fresh air and move again. Thanks Dr. A.

*Recently a friend referred to He Who Shall Remain Nameless For His Own Protection as He-Who because as she stated, “I can call him that because we are on a first name basis”.  Well, I’m on a first name basis with him too (at least for the time being) so He-Who it is!

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