We attended a wedding in Toronto last weekend that was held on Ward's Island (Toronto Islands). It is a beautiful location that allows visitors to have the feeling of cottage life in (or near) the city.

Here is the Toronto skyline captured from the return ferry on Saturday evening.

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, July 30, 2014 2 comments
John's great Aunt recently had to go into a nursing home and was unable to take her ten year old cat with her. Aunt Jean is devastated to have to leave Trudy behind, but is finding some comfort in knowing that family will be caring for her.

Here is a photo of our new friend Trudy, the newest member of our household.

She has been living with us for a week and is adjusting to her new home as well as can be expected. She is going through a really hard change - the loss of all things familiar to her. We brought over a pillow from Jean's house and we keep the radio on for her so it sounds like home, but everything is new. New sounds, new smells, new people, and other cats. Trudy is getting loads of care and attention from us, but loss and change are hard things to deal with, even for cats.

We are slowly introducing her to her new home and the other cats. We started Trudy off in a room by herself and let her adjust to it and feel safe there. The other cats smelled her through the closed door, and she smelled them. Yesterday we moved her to a different room and let the other cats explore the room she vacated. Trudy transitioned really well into the new room, and our resident cats seem to be accepting of the new smell in the house. A few more days and we are going to try a visual introduction.

The slow introduction process seems to be going really well and I hope it results in positive relationships between the cats.

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, July 29, 2014 10 comments
Today marks the 50th anniversary of My Grandma Barb's death (Mom's Mom). Grandma Barb died tragically at the hands of a drunk driver, in an accident that also took her sister-in-law and her niece and two nephews. Mom was only 15 at the time.

I can't imagine 50 seconds without my Mom, let alone 50 years, so I wanted to do something to remember Grandma Barb today. A few years ago I wrote a blog post about a hand me down coat that was knit by Grandma Barb, a woman I never knew. I thought it would be appropriate to re-post it today as a tribute to her life.

And in case anyone out there needs reminding: Never drink and drive.


Getting to Know My Mother's Mother.  Originally posted on April 28, 2010.

A year ago, my parents moved out of the family home they lived in for more than 32 years. During the clean up and move we got rid of literally tonnes of junk and donatables, and discovered some treasures that had been accidentally hidden many years ago. One of the treasures we found turned out to be incredibly important to me: Grandma Barb’s knit sweater.

I didn’t know my Grandma Barb. She was my Mother’s Mother, and she died in a car accident in 1964. It is somewhat awkward to write about because the Grandma I do know, Grandma Sue, has been married to my Granddad for 43 years, so calling her “step” Grandma seems weird to me because she is not my step anything - she’s my Grandma. Finding the knit sweater reminded me that Grandma Barb is my Grandma too, and wearing it gave me a connection to her that I had never really known how to find before.

My parents move was overwhelming in a lot of ways, so when I brought the sweater home last March, I didn’t know how much I would fall in love with it and how much impact it would have on my life. That is why it spent some time on the floor with the countless other things I brought home that day. At least Gary knew it was special right away and showed it the love that only a cat can.

Gary knows a great sweater when she sees one

The story goes that Grandma Barb knit five sweaters in 1960, one for herself, her husband, and each of her three children. They were made from Mary Maxim patterns, each sweater having a particularly Canadiana type theme; my Mom’s sweater had figure skates on it. Adorable. The sweaters were put away for the summer in 1961, stored in garbage bags, which resulted in four of them mistakenly being taken to the dump and lost forever. The only survivor was Grandma Barb’s sweater, the one I have now, and it has amazingly made it all the way to 2010. It is hard for me to wrap my head around it, but this sweater is fifty years old! What a life it has had.

My Mother wore the sweater constantly throughout her twenties. She recently showed me some photos of herself, at twenty years old, wearing it out to a winter carnival in Barrie, circa 1968.  Somehow the sweater is still as colourful now as it was then.  My Mother is too, actually.

My Mother and the coat circa 1968

My Mother is a beautiful person - inside and out

Every place my Mother moved, the sweater moved with her. It eventually ended up in the house I grew up in, hidden in plain sight in the coat closet. My sister wore it for a few years in the ‘90s, but returned it when she was finished, and back into the closet it went. I claimed it in March 2009, and began wearing it non-stop when the temperatures got colder in Autumn. I fell head over heals for this sweater, decided it was a coat, and was determined to wear it all winter long, regardless of how cold the temperature got.  I wore a fleece jacket underneath the sweater, providing it with a make-shift lining that every northern Ontario coat needs, and wore it for the entire winter.  I even knit myself a matching winter hat to go with it - I could not leave home without this coat!

I would be the first one to tell you that I don’t know a thing about fashion. I don’t follow trends and I definitely don't know anything about what’s “in”. That is why it completely floored me when every outing I made in the coat led to compliments from, and conversations with, strangers. I started wearing the coat when the world was gearing up for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  The official Olympic clothes riffed on the Canadiana style, so Grandma Barb’s coat was fashionable. A stranger even told me I was “sooooooo in right now”. For the first time in my life I was fashion-forward, and I just so happened to be using a coat that was fifty years old to do it!

Every time I got a compliment, I would tell the person: “My Grandma made this coat in 1960!” This lead to conversations about legacy at the grocery store, discussions about how awesome knitting is, and being able to share the Grandma I never knew with strangers who fell in love with her coat as much as I had.  Over the winter I got to know Grandma Barb a little better by taking her with me and telling people about her. I also got to tell everyone that I stole the coat from my Mom, which brought her along with me as well.  All this heritage surrounded me, just by wearing and loving a pretty amazing old coat.
Me, Mom, and Grandma Barb, all in one!
The Olympics are over now and Spring is here.  I still don't know anything about fashion, so I don't know if this coat will still be "in" this coming winter.  I'll still be wearing it regardless and if anyone asks, I'll gladly tell them all about my Grandma Barb and the sweater she knit, all those years ago.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, July 25, 2014 8 comments

I've been doing a lot of reading this year (I'm trying to read ALL the books). So far I've read twenty-one books in 2014, five of which were read in July alone (I'm almost done a sixth one, too). I'm able to read so much because of the amazing Public Library system. New books, old books, hidden gems, all are available for free. Libraries are the best!

One of my favourite features of our library system is the Interlibrary Loan. If my library doesn't have the book/dvd I'm looking for, they can request it from other libraries to try and get it for me. I was speaking to one of the librarians recently about how amazing the service is, and she let me know a little about how it works. A library puts out a request through the interlibrary loan system (which I believe is province wide) and other libraries can choose to fulfill the request if (a) they have the book and (b) there is low demand for the book with their patrons. Many different libraries see the request so chances are it will be fulfilled (I've used the service ten or more times and have always received the book). Books are then sent through an internal library courier that takes between 1-4 weeks for delivery.

It amazes me so much that (1) this is even possible and (2) it is a free service with my library card. It also gives me a feeling of great pride that everybody can have access to all the books, no matter how big or small their local library is. I absolutely love this service!

I also get a kick out of knowing where the books come from. My pick up location is in Elmvale, Ontario, and over the years I have received items from the following Ontario libraries: Niagara Falls, Keswick, Markham, Ajax, Orillia, and most recently Guelph. A number of those locations are two hours from my local library. How cool is that?

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, July 24, 2014 5 comments
I have been lifting some light weights recently, trying to add some strength to my arms and shoulders. It is going to be a long but worthwhile process, as I currently have close to zero upper body strength. I'm starting really slow (3 lbs weights), but the plan is to keep at it until I have enough strength to do a push up. I'm not entirely convinced I'll be able to do that, but John is encouraging me so I'm going to show up and see what happens.

I start my arm workout with a five minute warm up to loosen up.
I wanted a song to go with the warm up, so I searched through my playlist for songs that were around the five minute mark. The one that jumped out at me was Bob Marley's "Wake Up and Live." It's a pretty motivating song and perfect for getting me moving in the morning. Plus after this song plays, iTunes shuffles through my Bob Marley playlist, which provides a great vibe for my workout.

What songs help you get motivated or moving? I would love to know your favourites.

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5 comments
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