Friday, October 31, 2008

Hockey Hallowe'en

Hockey Hallowe’en


ghosts and freaks
with stringy black hair
and bad makeup
crossed my path
this Hallowe'en.

some of them were on my team
and threw me off my game.

the cold swirling air
above the ice was filled
with curses
at a flying pass
or wicked shot
that missed the mark.

and later
more curses still because
ghosts and freaks
with stringy black hair
and bad makeup
crossed my path, knocked on my door
and emptied my bowl of nummies.



I can't get Mrs. Kelly past my nose

When a reader saw my picture of grandson Ollie in my beer bucket [see post below] she made a comment that reminded me of Mrs. Kelly's sauerkraut, also made in a bucket.

I wrote: My dad always liked our neighbour's sauerkraut better than store bought.

Mrs. Kelly (5 ft. 0 inches tall, 180 pounds) sliced her cabbage in the adjacent backyard, tossed it into a laundry tub with other ingredients, removed her shoes and socks and danced on it for 20 minutes.

I held my nose but many others ate it regularly.

I think because of her dance I invented the saying: I can't get Mrs. Kelly past my nose.

I've become a bit more self-reliant over the years, prefer my own concoctions over store bought (real oatmeal porridge, homebrew, soups, pancakes etc.), am thinking about making my own yogurt and now lean toward making my own sauerkraut too.

I know the dance off by heart.


Ollie and Me: The best things in life are free

My grandson is into music and home brewing in a big way.

After running around the house in bare feet Ollie took a break and nicely rearranged a few of my CDs.

Remind me to rinse out the bucket before I make my next batch of Irish Stout.


If we don’t shop will Wal-Mart or the retail sector dry up?

Recently I listed a few reasons why I won’t shop at Wal-Mart.

E.g. I’d rather borrow, barter or buy secondhand.

A reader later added a few ideas of her own.

E.g. I don't like the way they push the little guy right out of business.

Jesse then sent me this:

I heard the lunchtime call-in programme on CBC1 yesterday. Did you catch it? I thought it was terribly depressing.

One of the callers was talking about their home-made Christmas and the "Expert Economist" (the way I heard him) basically said, “Well, if everyone does that, then what's going to happen to our retail sector and consumer confidence?”

"B*&*#r consumer confidence" thought I and "yay for the homemade Christmas".

The problem with Walmart and the like is that you can, and do, spend way too much and buy too much stuff - which is just tat and harms those poor children overseas.

(jesse went on to say more about Chinese working conditions and her response. FYI. she is formerly from England and when she says ‘tat’ I think she means insignificant.)

["Shrinkage is a good thing, right?": Courtesy photo link]

In my opinion the retail sector will never dry up and blow away.

It will always be there, in one form or another, in order to fill some essential needs and so, so, so much more.

But a smaller retail presence may be healthier all around.

Though I’m no expert, I think our confidence as citizens will grow as we dial back our spending so it’s more in line with what our households and healthy local and global environments can sustain.

Shrinkage is a good thing, right?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wal-Mart Madness: I’m not alone in refusing to shop ‘til I drop

Sure, every once in awhile I say something about Wal-Mart (“Too big for me! Yuck! Supercenters suck!” etc.).

Like yesterday. It’s in my genes.

My dad used to say to me, “If you want cheap you can buy cheap.”

Thirty seconds later the fender would drop off my new bicycle or whatever.

Now I know what he meant and every time I think of North American consumption habits I think there’s a terrible price to pay for chasing everyday low prices the Wal-Mart way.

["Let's dial our spending back a bit."]

Bobbie left this great comment:

Yea! I found someone else who refuses to shop at Walmart!

People keep telling me, "But their prices are so good!"

Sure they are, because they sell junk. And their name brands sell the same price as all the stores.

I don't like the way they treat their employees.

I don't like their politics.

I don't like the way they push the little guy right out of business.

And I so agree with you about keeping Christmas a quiet, family thing.

So I’m not alone.

What would be the benefits if more people (I won’t say ‘consumers’ - it’s a degrading word) dial it back a bit this year?


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

57 Days: Can you stay out of the malls that long?

Counting down yet?

I’ll help. There’s only 57 shopping days left until Christmas and, more importantly to some, the utterly excessive Boxing Day sales.

For some reason, fortunately I say, this whole shopping gig goes right over my head. (I’m 5 ft. 6 in. tall, so a lot of stuff does.)

For me, Christmas is family time, a day to sing, whisper a silent prayer and be very grateful I’m alive.

And if my family and friends like their homemade or small gifts all the better.

Boxing Day is for tidying up the house, popping the lid off a fresh can of cashews, reading a book or magazine and hoping nobody finds me until I’ve had my fair share of nuts.

About the upcoming 57 days:

I’ll make my traditional short gift list and tell my family to do the same. (I’ve been after everybody to keep things small for over ten years and they’re actually catching on!)

You won’t see me in a mall.

[Most of what we buy ends up at the dump: photo by GAH]

(Wal-Mart has everyday low prices? Tough. I refuse to shop there for many sound reasons. 1. I don’t want to encourage that type of retail. 2. China is their biggest supplier. 3. I’d rather borrow, barter or buy secondhand.)

Instead, I’ll be in my workshop.

Will you stay out of the malls this year?


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Keep your spending down, watch your fulfillment rise

After putting the first coat of paint on a pair of sturdy sawhorses yesterday I tidied up the workshop, returned to my study, changed back into street clothes and heard two emails arrive.

My computer said, “You’ve got mail, Gorgeous.”

I winked back.

One email, from a friend, asked if I'd help edit his most recent short story.

[Sure, I thought. But I don't come cheap.]

The second was from a reader of my weekly column and proves small pleasures come with big rewards.

She wrote:

Gord:  I have been hanging on to one of your articles titled ‘In travel (and life) the less you spend the more you enjoy’.

[Link to ‘A Sense of Place’ to see origin of my lovely title]

This weekend I volunteered for the annual London  Library book sale (and)... purchased 2 bags of books, totaling 24 books in all, for a total amount  of $6.
I will now have hours of reading, taking me to someplace else other than London, as well.
Yes, it is true, "The less you spend the more you enjoy".
PS: I can go to Bruce Beach now as well and take one book, and maybe get by on $6 worth of gas.

Signed M. A.

Nothing better than the Port Bruce beach and a book is there?

[I guess I do come cheap - but it's worth it!]

Get out your snowsuit!

Have you found a big pleasure for a small price lately?


Monday, October 27, 2008

What is this kid so happy about?

My last motorcycle ride was on Thanksgiving Monday (surely there will be one more sunny day before I store my bike) and one of my last photos of the day is below.

It was only after downloading the photos and playing with iPhoto on my computer that I realized I’d captured a gem - the image of a young girl reaching for a gull, or trying to fly or dance upon the wind.

Carefree moments are like treasures, are they not?

Click here to see more 'happy' fotos at WrittenInc. by Carmi.


59 Shopping Days: Getting consumerism under control is simple

Counting today - and many people do because somewhere in the city there is a deal on something that someone would surely love for some reason as a gift - there are only 59 more shopping days until Christmas.

But if you’re beginning to dread the holidays because so many people want a piece of your paycheck then try these two things for starters:

First, add ‘Christmas shopping’ to a list entitled “Reduce Spending on These Things”.

Food, clothing, shelter, transportation, recreation and now Christmas shopping top my list. [What would your top six be?]

Second, try a ‘borrow, barter and buy secondhand philosophy’ if you really, really, really need something.

[The best things in life are free: Photo GAH]

In my last column, about the book called The Virtuous Consumer [see Read This in margin] I said:

What (some who follow such a philosophy) have discovered is that by stepping out of the malls, they’ve found more time for friends and family, more time for experiences that enrich their lives.

One member said, “It’s simple. Getting our consumerism under control comes down to one question: Do I need this? The answer frequently is no.”

You have 59 days to determine what you really need.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I’m getting sneaky in my middle age

I recently took my lovely wife for a ride in the country and stopped to point out several dark blue insulators on unused telephone poles south of London.

I said, “Wouldn’t they make lovely Christmas gifts?”

[Insulators for Christmas anyone?: Photo GAH]

Got her thinking, eh?

Small, inexpensive, reusable and she’d only have to give me one boost for all eight.

Then, just before my son and new daughter-in-law came to visit for a few days I put a couple of my oil paintings on a side table in the dining room.

“Wow. You did these?” asked Shelley.

My son dabbles in oil and acrylic a bit too and he looked at them pretty closely as well.

[My favourite barn, east of Kingston: Photo GAH]

Just the reactions I wanted to see.

If I can find a minute I’ll make a nice frame out of cedar scrap.

My Christmas shopping list just got shorter.


64 Shopping Days: Are you gearing up for Christmas?

It’s not visions of sugar plums that dance in my head.

I see:

More coal being shovelled

More plumes of dirty smoke in the air

Millions of tons of cheaply produced goods being loaded into crates

[Photo by GAH from 'Matchbox Labels']

Ships thirsty for diesel fuel being readied at ports around the world

People singing “It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.”

I prefer:

A touch of snow on Christmas Eve

A walk through the neighbourhood with friends and a few Christmas carols

[Photo by GAH from 'Matchbox Labels']

A small Christmas gathering with as few gifts as possible

A can of cashews

My ‘gearing up’ (I’d better start soon) will include:

Telling my family and friends again what I prefer

E.g. “Let’s gear down. I have everything I need, except for a small can of cashews.”

Making small gifts in the workshop out of reused and recycled materials

Putting some wood aside for the fireplace

Buying a few supplies for my killer egg nog.


I’ve been in the gearing down mode for several years and it’s getting much easier.

My wife and adult sons are certainly catching on.

Are you gearing up or down this year?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Reduce our Christmas spending? What a novel idea

My recent columns re reduce-reuse-recycle keep opening up new doors.

I interviewed the author of The Virtuous Consumer [see Read This in margin] and felt what she said about reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’ seems particularly timely because many Canadians are now doing so - not all happily or willingly by any means - due to rising food and energy prices, and there are growing numbers of others who are reducing purchases in order to get off the cycle of unnecessary shopping.

["Do I need to go to a mall?"]

About a group that follows a borrow, barter and buy secondhand philosophy Leslie writes:

What (some) have discovered is that by stepping out of the malls, they’ve found more time for friends and family, more time for experiences that enrich their lives.

One member said, “It’s simple. Getting our consumerism under control comes down to one question: Do I need this? The answer frequently is no.”

That's another timely message. (And another door to a possible interview.)

Only 66 shopping days ‘til Christmas and I don’t think I need a thing.

How about you?

Are your thinking of a smaller Christmas this year?


The Three Rs vs How many shopping days until Christmas?

Let’s see if the two topics below go together:

First - only 66 shopping days ‘til Christmas

And only 66 days until the inevitable Boxing Day Blow-out sales too, excessive consumerism’s finest hour.

Second - I underlined the following in The Virtuous Consumer [see Read This - side panel] about the 3 Rs, a topic I’ve touched on in my last two columns:

It’s like a jingle that almost becomes meaningless when you hear it once too often.

But the three Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - might be all we really need.

["What do we really need?": click here]

Nobody likes this reduce R very much. But, frankly, it’s by far the most important.

Buy less stuff. period.
(pg. 104)

Do the two topics belong together?

On the one hand businesses are gearing up to sell, sell, sell the gaudiest pile of stuff ever in the history of man, on the other we probably don’t need 90 per cent of it.

Conclusion: Both topics deserve equal amounts of valuable thinking time.

We have 66 days to consider what we really need for Christmas.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ollie and Me: My grandson is growing up pretty fast

Holy smoke!

Ollie turns two on December 1st.

He visits our house 4 - 5 days per week (Pat and I babysit) and while he plays with my sons’ 30-year old toys and his new ones several thoughts cross my mind:

He’s really growing up fast.

He learns new things every day.

Life with Ollie is a blur.

[If you have blurry photos share them at Written.Inc.]

Even though a blur, I like the ride.

Hang on tight, I say.


Is there a better gift than grandkids?


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Record high temps in the Arctic create an escalating problem

As if warming temperatures in the Arctic don’t lead to enough problems.

E.g., The record high fall temperatures cause the water temperature to rise.

The sea ice melts.

The Arctic ocean becomes less salty.

Reindeer herds are apparently in decline (“Santa - with only 68 shopping days to go before Christmas!”)

As well as the above problems (‘largely a result of human activities adding carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere’ - link to news article) there is another big problem to consider.

This from The London Free Press:

Rising temperatures help melt the ice, which in turn allows more solar heating of the ocean.

So, as the ice disappears the warming trend occurs faster.

I think climate instability and global warming are occurring fast enough already.

And on a related note re ‘other heat-trapping gases’ and climate instability, this from The Little Green Handbook (see Read This in margin):

“...we release so many pollutants into the atmosphere. For instance, a mysterious new pollutant (trifluoromethyl sulphur pentaflouride) has been identified recently that turns out to be 18,000 times more efficient in trapping solar energy than carbon dioxide. This pollutant has a long lifetime.”

Isn't that another problem too?


The Virtuous Consumer: Shop wisely and less often

I'm always on the look-out for a good story.

When I bumped into Leslie Garrett, author of The Virtuous Consumer (see Read This in margin), after a hockey game several months ago I blurted:

I read an excellent quote of yours online the other day.

It went something like ‘the best purchase you’ll ever make is the one you don’t make.’

Good one.

She informed me that that was news to her.

[Always on the look-out: Photo GAH]

Not that it wasn’t her quote (it was and actually read "the greenest products are the ones you don't buy") but that someone was quoting her without her knowing about it.

Leslie and I trained for long distance races a few years ago and shared a bit about our writing tasks to pass the time.

She was publishing well-received childrens’ books and I was sending out brilliant weekly columns that prompted an occasional email e.g. this testy one from Pearl S.

Today she continues to write and is on local radio promoting a wiser form of consumption than we’re used to considering in North America.

She later gave me a copy of her book and I must admit it was a very good read.

Tune in to a short book review in next week’s column. (Link to this week's earthy article)


Now that I’ve finished Leslie’s book I’m ready for another - with a green lean to it.

Any suggestions?


Friday, October 17, 2008

Zoom w a View: Water, sand and sky at Port Burwell

A visit to Port Burwell, only 75 kms and an hour motorcycle ride from my front door, is a step back in time for me.

The town is home to one of the last Red & White Grocery stores in the entire universe... as far as I know.

As a teen I worked at a Red & White ("Carry those groceries for you, Ma'am?") so if you see one give me a dingle.

Port Burwell also has two beaches so the sound of the waves comes in stereo.

Go visit, especially the beach west of the Otter Creek channel.

What is your favourite destination an hour or less from home?


Can't Reduce?: A funny thing happened in a junk-filled garage

A week ago, after writing a column about a trip to the Dorchester dump a reader emailed the following:

Give me a call cause we are cleaning out our garage with treasures of 30 years...

I debated in a follow-up post, should I call or leave it?

Well, I did go (yesterday, with a friend), intending only to be helpful and take one or two reusable items e.g lumber.

[Courtesy photo link]

Well, the reader found she was unable to part with anything.

“I suppose I could use that,” I said, pointing toward a medium-sized piece of lumber leaning against the back window of her garage.

Immediately she thought of her own use for the dust covered board.

I tried again with another meagre sample. Same response.

I left wiser than I came and with only a few scraps (from the back of a truck recently filled to the rafters with junk from the garage).

I laughed to myself. We'll leave and she'll put all the crap back into the garage.

Then I concluded:

Some people don’t know the difference between junk and treasure.

Heck, I may be one of them.

I must hurry home and reduce the amount of stuff in my own garage and basement.


Decluttering... reducing... recycling... are you into the habit or buried in stuff?

Reduce: The burden of higher food and energy costs

We’ve heard it for so many years. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

For me it started in public school.

The 3 Rs. Save the planet.

And now, with almost everybody taking a hit in their wallet the 3 words stamped on the outside of every blue box and inside of every skull in North America may just save people a whack of money too.

[Link to Almost everybody's feeling burden of higher food, energy costs - The London Free Press, October 16, 2008]

Or save at least enough to keep groceries in the house.

Though I find it fairly easy to reuse and recycle [“It’s in my genes”: link to my recent column] and will keep an old t-shirt on my back long after the print and colour has faded into obscurity I bet I’m not alone in saying it’s hard to reduce consumption in many areas.

[Courtesy photo link]

It’s true.

We well know "The greenest products are the ones you don't buy" [Leslie Garrett, local author: see Recommended Reading, The Virtuous Consumer] but we buy and buy and buy at our house.

I think it’s time for a Buy Nothing Week.

How about you? Will ‘reduce’ be the hardest word you will ever hear?


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ollie and Me: Even if the photo is blurry he's still cute

I have a blurry photo or two of my grandson in my files, only because I haven’t taken the time to trash them.

Good thing I’m lazy.

Because Carmi, at WrittenInc would like to see them.

And your fuzzy ones too.

Link to his posted photographic theme [Blur] for the week and search your files.

And if all our shots are rough around the edges - it’s okay this week.

At least it's okay with Ollie and me.


When did I stop being a fussy eater? The answer may turnip soon

My wife fed Ollie at 12 on the dot today and though I was distracted by deep thoughts and typing feverishly (20 words per minute and I can prove it - slowly) the smell of leftover turkey and gravy hit me in the stomach.

As if by instinct the hunter-gatherer in me pushed away from the keyboard, walked to the kitchen and stuck its head inside the fridge.

I saw my supply of porridge but wanted something more exotic.

“Any leftover turkey in here?” I asked while poking my finger into cranberry sauce.

“You’ll have to heat more up,” my wife answered.

A few seconds passed, my thoughts shifted toward a veggie meal and my eyes settled on a bowl of turnip and a side of peas.

With a bit of salt, pepper and butter I could eat that, I thought.

Forty-nine years ago, had my mother suggested the same thing, I would have howled in derision or anguish. Then teased her until she reached for the fly-swatter.

Now, at age 59, I’ll eat just about anything slapped on a plate and shoved lovingly under my nose.

Who am I? How did I get here? Turnip and peas?


Have you gone from fussy to easily-pleased?

Why is that? How does it happen?


Motorcycle Miles: I found cornfields and bison not far from town

On pleasant fall days my motorcycle speaks to me in a husky voice.

“Take the tarp off me.”

“Put on your leather jacket.”

“Let’s ride to Lake Erie.”


Most people, motorcyclists or not, will see through the ruse in seconds.

My motorcycle can’t talk.

But it can lure me out the door by simply sitting in my laneway, especially on days when no wind moves branches in the tree tops outside my front door.

The cornfields and bison are near Pigram Rd., southernmost point. (Ask for directions.)


Do you have a favourite route to a favourite destination?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Zoom w a View: Corn (and fuel?) is disappearing from the fields

I motorcycled to Ports Burwell and Bruce yesterday and could have stopped twenty times to snap photos of soy and cornfields carved in straight lines.

Soybeans will occasionally shoot like hard bullets against my windshield.

Thankfully, cobs of corn don’t stray as far as the road.

The sight of vast fields caused me to stop more than once and as I walked across an open stretch I was amazed at the amount of debris left behind.

It crunched underfoot and I wondered if it could be used as fuel of some sort.

Could it be compressed and burned in small stoves for example?

I’ve planned a few winter projects using wood from the Dorchester dump and I’d enjoy using dry stalks and cobs to heat my shed.


Can corn debris be used as fuel?

Aren’t there such things as corn (kernel) stoves?

Wouldn’t annual plant debris be measured in millions of tonnes?


Canadian Hockey: You should have seen my spinnerama goal

I think I may never repeat such a brilliant goal in all my life - except in my dreams.

Almost guaranteed, whenever the conversation turns to recreational league hockey, the price of a new stick - or even the price of eggs - I’ll try to squeeze in the story about how I deked a young defenceman out of his jock strap and silenced both benches for several seconds before Dougie yelled:

“What the heck was that!?”

And I’ll dream about it too, when my mind drifts back to pond hockey, wind in my face, leather helmets and frozen toes.

[My bloodied leather helmet - circa 1962; autographed by Ken Dryden: photo GAH]

The nifty goal wasn’t too bad for the oldest guy on the ice in my league.

You’d better sit down for this.

First, a diagram - so you can see where I’m going with this and how I got there.

Second, I went north over the blue line with the puck.

One team-mate was on my right but a defenseman blocked my pass.

So I deked left around the first guy and encountered another man in a pink sweater, and apparently, no hockey pants. (Sorry, Ron.)

Ron blocked my path and a pass, the goalie guarded the post, so I conceived a brilliant plan in 0.5 seconds, forever after to be known as the Spinnerama move.

On my backhand I flipped the puck 3 - 4 ft. into the air between Ron and Morgan, the goalie, fully intending to catch up to it momentarily.

To reach the puck I had to either skate directly through Ron as if by magic or... spin around backwards without breaking stride or losing speed and around Ron... which I did - in the blink of an eye.

It happened so fast Ron’s shorts got twisted into a knot, his jock flew into the awe-struck crowd (not illustrated) and I ended up in front of the goalie shortly after the puck bounced onto the ice and... according to plan, onto my stick.

I saw a hole and struck the puck much like Tiger Woods would a golf ball in deep rough, Morgan groaned, stretched to his left and I rejoiced to hear the puck hit the back of the net where it quite obviously belonged.

At least according to the expected end-result (insert laugh-track here) of my hastily conceived plan.

When Dougie, from the opposing bench, hollered ‘what the heck was that’ I calmly replied, “A little spinnerama.”

It’ll never happen again except in my dreams.

But the retelling will.

You’ve been warned.


Gotta favourite goal? A home run hit?

Now’s the time to tell me...while I’m enjoying my oatmeal. [See third post below for recipe]


Monday, October 13, 2008

No Newspaper on Thanksgiving? Someone took a day off? WTHeck?

I look forward to the next few days after a major holiday when Letters to the Editor appear that say something like the following:

No wonder the world’s going to H-E-double hockey sticks in a hand-basket.

I didn’t get my newspaper on Monday. What’s up, you lazy toots?

You don’t know how to run a newspaper or your life and you ruined mine.

I deserve a paper!

I’m thinking strongly about cancelling my subscription.

Signed: Your friend, Elsie.

People like Elsie should sit right down and write themselves a letter and make believe it came from me.

Dear Elsie,

It goes without saying - your hair’s on too tight.

Some of the hard-working folks that make your comfortable daily routine so comfortable took a day off - just like you probably do on occasion.

Do this.

Put the dates of major holidays on a note and tape it to your bathroom mirror:

Add these words:

“Warning. You may not get a newspaper after holidays. Be prepared to turn on the radio for news. Tried TV?”

Signed: Your friend, Gord

There, that oughtta do it.

Don’t you just love Letters to the Editor? Got a favourite?


Stop and Shop: Two more thoughts about Saturday’s yard sale

I like yard sales and Saturday’s was a darn good one.

Brilliant weather, many visitors (most apparently without $10 for a beautifully handcrafted old-style carpenter’s tote or coat rack), pleasant conversations and a few sales.

Sure, I only broke even but that wasn’t my fault.

While puttering in the shed the day after I had two more ideas concerning yard sales that may improve my cash intake and make me a happier person - on days when I need pocket change to pay for coffee.

First, I’ll build a light-weight bench, a companion piece to two chairs I’ve finished, and together they will live forever on my porch.

Then, whenever the mood strikes and I have a few items to sell I’ll simply move the bench and one chair to the laneway, place said items upon it and wait for the world to stop and shop.

Really, this plan is going to work because my second idea is a winner.

I.e., I'll make a few proper signs.

“Workshop crafts”


“Catch-all boxes”

“This is not a garage sale where you'll pay 25 cents for an old stuff”

That oughtta do it.

Have you had successful sales? Any secrets to share?


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Zoom w a View: Pearl would not like my oatmeal supremo

Dear Pearl,

When I wrote about my by now world-famous oatmeal porridge recipe a few years ago you felt inclined to respond.

From your short email I deducted you are an oatmeal purist and do more than shrug when someone adds for example - almonds, cornmeal, cranberries, raisins, organic millet, quinoa, golden flax seed and natural wheat bran to the pot.

You wrote:

“Gordon, what’s with the nonsense of cooking up your oats for a whole week and adding cream of wheat and bran etc.? Just doesn’t add up to oatmeal.” Pearl S.

Was that a warning not to call my creation oatmeal porridge? I’m not sure.

["What would be a good name for this wonderful stuff?": photo GAH]

Anyway Pearl, I’m at it again, made another lovely batch, thought of you and renamed my concoction by a new and perhaps more appropriate name.

I hope you approve.

Regards, GAH

Gord’s Hearty Oatmeal Supremo

Into a large pot with 2 inches of water (approaching a boil) toss the following - and more - for Heaven’s sake:

1 - 1.5 cups of rolled oats
and a hearty handful of ground almonds
1/2 cup of natural wheat bran
1/8 cup of golden flax seed

1/4 cup of each of the following:
cornmeal or cream of wheat or both - live a little would ya
organic millet
organic quinoa
sliced seedless raisins
sliced dried cranberries
natural wheat bran

Stir to a rolling boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low simmer for 8 - 10 minutes.

Once cool, store in the fridge and enjoy for 10 - 12 days.

Whereas conventional processed cereals are often nothing more than a sugar delivery system to your heart and thighs, Gord’s Hearty Oatmeal Supremo is a content driven energy supply system that will make it possible to score goals with the greatest of ease (as long as it’s pond hockey and you’re playing with very young kids).

Enjoy oatmeal? Modify it much? How so?


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Don’t you just love a yard sale? (Hey, where’s the cash box?)

Wanna buy a birdhouse? Cheap?

Next time, that’s what I"ll write on a sign to create the right mood because all I wanted to do today was clear out some of the wood working projects from the basement and workshop.

And though many people admired my coat racks, old-style carpenters’ totes, LP album frames, catch-all boxes, birdhouses etc., I knew only a few people would be willing to part with, in my opinion, a fair price for sturdy, hand-made items.

Okay, so you read my recent column and know I get some material at a very low price.

But you should pay a bit for a person’s labour, shouldn’t you?

Not according to some browsers.

“I love that coat rack. How much?”

“You’ll never find that style of coat hook again, and it’s made of red cedar, so $15.”

Zoom. The man was gone.

["Pssst. Wanna buy a coatrack?": photo GAH]

All in all, after 3 hours I broke even.

I made almost the exact amount my wife spent on a friend’s framed print.

The cash box is empty - again.


Are you a yard sale addict? What do you look for? What has been your best buy?


Recommended Reading: Insight from interviews in ‘A Sense of Place’

I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money (Pssst - wanna buy a birdhouse?) but if you like travel books you might like A Sense of Place [Great travel writers talk about their craft, lives and inspiration].

Author Michael Shapiro interviews 18 writers so the above should read ‘talk and talk and talk about their craft, lives’ etc.

That being said the pages turn easily and I enjoyed what a lot of experienced travellers said about our world today.

This from Arthur Frommer (Europe on Five Dollars a Day):

I will go to my grave claiming that the less you spend the more you enjoy, the more authentic the experience is, the more profound, the more exciting, the more unexpected. [pg. 171]

Arthur is a man after my own heart.

["I'm looking for a can of soup while camping.": photo GAH]

Less is more.

More is less.

["Morning bath in Lake Superior.": photo GAH]

In life as it is in travel, in my opinion.

He also said:

When you live lavishly you’re really living a kind of life which only a small fraction of the world enjoys, and which is enjoyed primarily for reasons of social emulation. You want to impress other people.

I agree.

My recent column re a trip to the dump for free lumber struck a positive chord in many who liked my attempt to reuse materials and live small.

(Pssst - wanna buy a coat rack?)

Are you frugal? Live small? Feel good about it?

You should.


Friday, October 10, 2008

To Capt. Harpie and First Mate Jim Flatulence - “Listen to Mother”

Captain Harpie loves to tell Canadians (while wearing a cardigan) that his mother is his favorite pipeline for speedy financial and economic news.



He should listen to Mother Nature as closely.

She packs quite a clout when it comes to our environmental and economic health and proves the two components of healthy living cannot be separated.

This just in:

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, says hurricanes hurt its September results in the U.S., causing same-store sales to be lower than analysts predicted. [yesterday - Associated Press]

Don’t reach for a hanky.

Though ‘341 stores were temporarily closed because of hurricanes’ W-M still made a truckload of money.

[Courtesy photo link]

(None of it from me. I’ve been Wal-Mart free for over 8 years.)

Excessive consumerism, excessive mass-production (Do you really need a plastic Elvis?), excessive reliance on fossil fuels, increased carbon, increased degradation of life-support systems (air, water, land), climate change and instability, higher numbers of hurricanes, less profit for Wal-Mart.

Such an ugly cycle for the sake of (for so many) an indebted-lifestyle.

Will Capt. Harpie listen? Change course?


Thursday, October 9, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: Is it possible for a politician to think long term?

Captain Harpie and his Finance Minister Jim Flatulence recently said (respectively) “stay the course” and “increase productivity” in the midst of these troubled economic times.

I want ‘same old same old business as usual but more of it’ right about now?

Let’s think a bit more long term shall we?

This from A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright (see Recommended Reading in margin):

If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature.

Ecological markers suggest that in the early 1960s humans were using about 70 per cent of nature’s yearly output; by the early 1980s we’d reached 100 per cent; and in 1999 we were at 125 per cent.

Such numbers may be imprecise but their trend is clear - they mark the road to bankruptcy. [page 129]

[Live Small: cartoon by G.Harrison]

Add to this the knowledge that 'population growth is slowing but by 2050 there will still be 3 billion more' people on our planet and I’d have to conclude we are eating our planet far too quickly.

Have you ever heard a politician say things like the above? Will we ever?

What’s the most positive thing you’ve heard a politician say?


Economic storm catches up to Captain Harpie and his ship Kapital

Captain Harpie cut it too close.

When he and his rusted advisors debated six months ago whether a fall or spring election was best he should have said, “Let’s go right now. Tough times are ahead and we don’t want to get caught.”

The Harpie-ites went with fall, the leaves turned, so did the economic weather and there might be nothing to show for our $300,000,000 investment but hip waders all ‘round and empty pockets.

[Courtesy photo link]

My faith in the Captain has always been between nil and non-existent.

Bean-counters and believers in Market First capitalism make poor politicians because they know more about Dow Jones than long term problems related to an unsustainable economic model.

Productivity, profits and progress cannot solely or chiefly be measured in dollars and cents.

But that’s what bean-counters do.

I wonder if Captain Harpie is any better at forming an apology (“Geez, I spent a pile of your money... and for what?”) than he is at steering a ship?

What are your impressions of the captain?


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Point Form: Stream of consciousness flows from the dump

Part 2

I’ll email Louise today and thank her for her interest in my column.

She not only read it this week but invited me to her garage.

And it’s not everyday someone does that, to look over 30 years worth of flotsam and jetsam before it goes to the dump.

I’ll also tell her I’ll let Don, my friend and fellow dump diver, know about her offer (see post below).

If Don wants to go then I’ll go.

If he doesn’t want to go I think I’ll pass on the visit too.

I don’t mind turning into my father and going to a dump on occasion in order to rescue and reuse old lumber.

But I don’t want to look through another person’s garage.

Though I am looking for the perfect job, I don’t think garage diving is it.

The words “Hi, my name is Gord and I’m here to snoop through your garage” would never come easy.

Unless I ran a flea market or second hand shop and had to pay rent.

I think I'd do it then.

Resolved: Email Louise. Say thanks.

Then see what Don says.

If he wants to go I'll do a Part 3.

If you were Don, what would you say?


Point Form: Stream of consciousness flows from the dump

My most recent column is about last week’s trip to the Dorchester dump.

I would call it an earthy piece.

Not Pulitzer worthy perhaps, but as Crammer used to say with an eyebrow raised, “Oh, it’s something.”

If my mother was alive she’d say, “You’re turning into your father.”

I’d say, “Edith, I’m home from the dump. Where’s my supper?”

And we’d have a good laugh.

louise b. emailed this morning with a comment:

read your little tale re: dump searching with interest. reminds me of my husband.

I’ll stop there for now.

How old is her husband?

Did he ever meet my dad at the dump?

How many of us dump divers are out there?

louise continued:

anyhow give me a call cause we are cleaning out our garage with treasures of 30 years and up  and think you and your friend might find some useful things that wouldn't clutter the dump site.

[Courtesy photo link]

Louise left her phone number.

Do I want to be the kind of person who goes to other people’s houses to look at stuff in their garage?

I like going to the dump with Don, picking over the lumber pile, reusing pine and cedar for ‘whatever’, reusing stuff in general until, for example, the elastic in my underwear is just too tired for one more day.

But garage diving is foreign to me.

Should I call?

Would you go to louise’s garage?

Stay tuned. I may have to do a Part 2 on this one... and soon, I suppose.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pocket Change and Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flatulence

I can pay for most commodities needed in pursuit of the simple life with pocket change. [see post below for context]

But our government, like many in other wealthy countries, makes it harder everyday as it imposes a Market First economic model (vs Sustainability First) upon Canadians.

How do I know our government is a slave to Market First?

This from Saturday’s London Free Press:

Question to Finance Minister Flatulence - “You and your Prime Minister have said we must stay the course and cannot interfere in the market.”

Answer - “The sustainability of the manufacturing sector in Ontario depends on increased productivity.”

[Water pollution: photo link]

I would have asked a follow-up question - “Mr. Flatulence, how has the goal of increasing productivity, as if without limits, worked out so far for Canadians and their environmental life-support systems?”


This from The Little Green Handbook by Dr. Ron Nielsen (see Recommended Reading in right margin):

Market First is a market-driven future based on an assumption of an almost unlimited ecological capacity to support global development and industrialization.

Sustainability First requires a radical change in our behaviour, reflected in selfless care for one another and dedication to the environment.

Which model holds the most promise for those pursuing the simple life?


The Simple Life and Pocket Change

The simple life is one of my chief pursuits.

Coffee in the morning at The Roaster, a newspaper and easy conversation with my wife (“Gord, how do these jeans look to you?” is way too tough) to start the day.

Later on, an hour or two in the workshop (turning free lumber into something relatively useful), a short ride on the motorcycle, a good book.

All of the above can be accomplished with pocket change.

From more than one interviewed travel writer in the book A Sense of Place (see Recommended Reading in right margin) came the words:

“Most people on the planet just want to have a decent job and home and take care of their family.”

Simple goals for the simple life.

Have the majority of Earth’s citizens ever met that goal?

Is it getting easier or harder?

My thoughts:

Many governments in the wealthiest of countries will try to maintain healthy economies, to keep the dream alive, but will continue to follow the wrong course and block more and more citizens from achieving the simple life.

The wrong course - a Market-First economy (as opposed to a Sustainability-First model).

We need to know the difference, and soon.

Do you know the difference?


Monday, October 6, 2008

A love of recreational hockey runs, or skates, in the family

Part 2

It was good to hear via email that my oldest son had finally found not one, but two, playing opportunities in hockey leagues in his area [Fenelon Falls].

I responded as follow:

Hi Dave,

I enjoyed hearing about your opportunities to play hockey.

I'm glad you found at least one team, and $250 may be a steal - until I tell you what I pay.

Of course, I'm not in a league and only have 18 games on the official schedule, though we usually look for ice time at 2 other arenas to push us up to about 24 - 25 games. Not bad for... $190.

How many teams in the Cannington league? And is it a slapshot, body-checking league?

I played in such a league in my early 20s with 5 - 6 teams and won the scoring title one year. You were pretty young then and might not remember Scott Bradford, Don Kennedy and I driving out to Strathroy on Sunday mornings.

If you play for two teams you'll see your skills get sharper week by week, that's for sure, and - as with running regularly - that's an enjoyable part of most sports.

I don't know if you would agree but I think the enjoyment factor is much higher for hockey than running so I'll continue to play as long as I can. But, I don't think I could handle two leagues at my age.

Because you're retired like me [note - his job has a lovely schedule], and at such a young age (!) you should take it when you can get it, eh?

Keep your stick on the ice!

Love, Dad

I don't know, off the top of my head, where the love for rec hockey comes from. Do you?

But I do know that our adventures on the ice can be a friendly topic of conversation whenever Dave and I get together. It can be an ice-breaker, so to speak, before delving into more serious issues - if there are any.

And if there aren’t any I usually squeeze in the story about my spinnerama goal.

I tell it with more flourish every year.

Keep your stick on the ice.

Gotta good sport’s story?

I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.


A love of recreational hockey runs in the family

Part 1

The following email just arrived from my 37-year old son who resides in Fenelon Falls [and you’re dead right... I don’t look old enough to have a son that age]:

Hey, Dad!

Finally got into a league in Cannington (25 mins from Fenelon). They play on Thursday nights and I would be playing for the sponsored Pefferlaw team at $250 for the season, which is a steal!

Here's the catch - I just made the tryouts for the Kawartha Old Boys (35+ league out of Fenelon) and they're a great bunch of above average players with a penchant for quality ale...

...I remember what I said to you when you retired ...

If I was retired I would play hockey all the time!    

Keepin' you updated!

Love, Dave

["Play hockey all the time.": photo link]

In other communications with Dave I learned how hard a time he had finding a league.

And I know he loves to play.

When he visits London on a day I’m playing he brings his hockey equipment and, for a small nominal fee, gets 100 per cent enjoyment out of hitting the ice with me and 25 - 30 other rec players.

[Is hockey in your blood too? How did it get there?]

Good for him, I thought.

I typed a response. Stay tuned.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Point of View: Dress up the dump and we’ll have a winner

A few days ago I wrote that my friend Don and I drove to the Dorchester dump together to look for free lumber.

I bet that sounds weird.

Not that Don and I are friends but we’d go to a dump for any reason other than to drop off garbage.

It may sound unusual that we’d actually drive to a dump.

Because for most people garbage just goes into a plastic bag, right?

Then to the curb. And then it magically disappears and we don’t think about it again until next week.

But mark my words, someday soon driving to the dump to look for free lumber or millions of other useful things will be something a woman looks for in a man.

As we think less about constant consumption and more about the end results of our continuous shopping we’ll realize there’s treasure in them there hills and we can reuse some of it.

But the dump will have to get gussied up a bit before it’s a great place to visit.

A greeter would be nice.

“How can I help you today, sir?”

“I’m looking for a door for my shop.”

["Neater piles would be nice!": photo link]

“Oh, you’ll find hundreds of reusable doors to your right, over in pile 7.”

“And free lumber?”

“Gord, stop jokin’ around. You already know where that is.”

The greeter’s right. I know where hundreds of dollars worth is located.

Wanna go to the dump?


Friday, October 3, 2008

According to Leslie Garrett, local writer, the key word is ‘reduce’

I reduced my food and clothing costs today.

I ate leftovers and said ‘no’ to a trip to the Village of Values [i.e. Value Village] where I would surely have spent at least 10 bucks on second hand clothes.

Not bad, eh?

The word ‘reduce’ is on my mind a lot these days for two reasons:

I want to reduce my costs related to food, clothing, shelter, transportation and recreation, and am brainstorming ways to accomplish my goal before our country’s recession worsens.

["Reducing my costs!": link to photo]

As well, while interviewing Leslie Garrett yesterday for a future column she emphasized the importance of reducing our overall consumption of all goods.

“Of the three words - reduce, reuse, recycle - we focus a lot on recycling,” she said, “but the most important one is reduce.”

Leslie is the author of a book entitled The Virtuous Consumer - Your essential shopping guide for a better, kinder, healthier world.

[See Recommended Reading - side panel]

Over morning coffee at The Red Roaster I asked her several brilliant questions, heard many astute answers but the simplest solution seems to be to reduce consumption.

If I do that I reduce costs and become better, kinder and healthier toward the world and my wallet.

Is there anything more essential than ‘reduce’?


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Brainstorming about how to lower food costs makes me hungry

Can I reduce my costs related to food, clothing, shelter, transportation and recreation?

For example:

Can I eat less?

Less processed or manufactured foods, fast-foods and restaurant meals? Less foods that come from over 100 miles away? Less meat?

I’ll give it a try.

Except I won’t give up Reese’s chocolate-covered peanut butter cups. Not right now, anyway.

I could also learn how to make more than oatmeal, whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, omelets, spaghetti and killer sandwiches.

Hey, by reading the soup recipe book I was given by Jill Wilcox, owner of Jill’s Table on King Street, I bet I could learn how to make soup and become more self-reliant at the same time.

["There is no end to great soups!": Photo/recipe link]

And though a man cannot survive by bread alone perhaps by making my own bread I’d save some money. (Is that true?)

I could use the lumber from the dump (see previous post) to make a bigger bread box.

I’d say more but my wife just pulled muffins out of the oven.

Reducing food costs may be a challenge.

How do people do it?