Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zoom w a View: Waterfront property for sale?

If this part of the world (only National Geographic knows for sure) had a sale on properties by the water I'd definitely take a look.

Not that I could afford any property, but I could afford the look.


My Point of View: “Manufacturers, suck up the recycling costs"

When I asked the question yesterday ‘Should manufacturers be responsible for recycling costs?’ it was because industry currently pays between 40 - 50 per cent of our blue box costs yet produce 99.99 per cent of the trash that fills them.

And I believe once industry has to pay most recycling costs they’ll get a lot smarter about packaging. Link to post

Amber left this comment:

I agree! Recycling in Ontario is in a sorry state.

It uses a huge amount of resources to process and sort the materials, and this it does so imperfectly that many companies won't accept materials for reuse because they are so contaminated by unwanted items, so that much of it eventually ends up in the landfill anyway, not to mention the fact that a lot of what we throw in the blue box, we don't actually have the facilities to process (like plastic egg cartons), leaving the consumer, mistakenly, feeling like they are doing the good and right thing, while manufacturers continue to pass the buck!

Amber’s comment makes me ask, “What percentage of our blue box contents are turned into new product?”

“Would it be under 10 per cent?”

“Where does the rest go?”


Over 10 per cent? Can we find out?


Friday, February 27, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: Mason jars will be arriving shortly

In this week’s column I moaned about throwing out my canning gear and said I’d try to find it again.

No need.

The following email arrived at the speed of hydro shortly after my column hit the streets:

“I enjoyed your column today about the strawberries. I have an extra water bath canner and many mason jars that I will gladly give you if you wish to pick them up. Come canning season, you will need to purchase seals and rings for the jars. You would help me declutter a bit plus gain some of the supplies you need.” Judie

Thank you, Judie. Seals and rings I can handle.

All I have to do now is talk my wife into doing some canning.


I’m kidding. I think I can can myself. Can you can?


My Point of View: Should manufacturers be responsible for recycling costs?

Here in Ontario, I’m leaning toward a YES vote.

Not because the practice is widespread in Europe and I think every country should do what Europe does. [link to London Free Press]

(I’m sure I’d look cool in a beret but that’s another story).

But because industry currently pays between 40 - 50 per cent of our blue box programs yet produce 99.99 per cent of the trash that should be recycled. If they wrap things up in styrofoam, cardboard and plastic then they should deal with the costs of recycling that stuff.

And not me.

If I want a pound of nails I only want to pay for a pound of nails. Not the little packages they come in. I’ve got a lot of packages already. I can just use one over again. And again and again. And when it breaks I’ll go to the hardware store with a wooden box with a nice rope handle. Made in Canada, in my workshop, out of scrap.

I bet, once industry has to pay for recycling they’ll get a lot smarter about packaging.

There. That’s my point of view.


What do you think?


Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: Conservative Jim Flatulence vs my garden gnome

As Carla from Cheers used to say about Frasier, “What a maroon.”

Only three months ago Finance Minister Flatulence presented a world-class partisan budget, didn’t think the economy was in trouble, and with the help of his blustery and short-suffering Prime Minister tried to kneecap opposition parties, leading to the fastest Christmas retreat ever witnessed in the Canadian House of Uncommons.

I’ve got a garden gnome that shows more political sense.

“Sustainable development and pointy red toques all ‘round.”

Now he’s saying the country’s economy is in too much trouble to allow partisan debates to delay the federal government’s stimulus package.

He also said, “This is not a time for business as usual.”

If he isn’t referring mainly to his own party then Carla’s description stands.


Can Flatulence get the job done?


Young at Heart: Paint jobs, hockey wars and high hard ones

Now that I’ve finished painting a client’s plaster ceilings, the rest of the paint job is relatively easy.

In an earlier comment Jessica said, “The kitchen cupboards will seem like a holiday after that ceiling.”

But I must confess I’d rather be sailing. And I don’t sail. (Such are the trials of a retired guy still searching for the perfect job).

This afternoon’s hockey game was painful, with a twist.

According to my goals for the game I wanted to keep two Robs off the scoresheet and as puck would have it, I thwarted one Rob admirably time and again but deflected another’s shot into my own net.

“Thanks for the assist, Gordie,” he laughed.

["Keeping the game close": photo GAH]

Hah. He who laughs last...

Puck joined my stick later in the close game and I sent a high hard one toward the net. On its way it hit the other Rob’s stick - the goalie had no chance.

“We’re even,” I said.


Balance. I like things in balance. Don’t you?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Young at Heart: And the crowd goes wild

Great day. Hurrah! The stippled ceilings are all painted.

More cheers! The plaster didn’t come down on my head.

I can now clean hundreds of paint specks from my glasses, move on to the kitchen and finish my client’s cupboards. Four coats total. A relative snap.

And bonus. I knock off early today because I have an afternoon hockey game.

Today’s goals: Play tight defense for the first 20 minutes, give my tired body time to warm up and keep the two Robs off the score sheet.

Then, when warmed up, look for opportunities to be more offensive (and I don’t mean yelling something at the Robs, like, “Hey, air out your equipment, guys. You stink.”)

["Harrison lines up the shot!"]

And try to get one great shot off before the game ends. Over the goalie’s right shoulder would be perfect.

If the puck goes in the net, all the better.

Announcer: And the crowd goes wild!

It could happen.


Got exciting plans today?


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: I’m not a teddy bear kind of guy, but...

Because I sometimes do odd jobs for cash, or lemon poppyseed cake, I’ve been up and down my step ladder 4,897 times in the last 5 days, and my feet are killing me.

Thankfully, my climbing days are about to end.

Once I put the second coat on a client’s dining room ceiling this morning I can put my ladder away.

And get crackin’ on her kitchen cupboards.

Though it will be nice to use the money I earn to fix up my motorcycle for spring (warmer weather is on the way, right?) I’m actually looking forward to getting back to my own workshop to finish a wee job.

I need to finish a small dog house for a friend. She’d like a second teddy bear to guard the door.

Gladly, I say. I’d be happy to make her another half dozen teddy bears.

No step ladder is required.


Do you have a small project underway in your workshop? Tell me about it.


Link and Learn: Wood-stove buns, alfalfa sprouts, do-it-yourself

Maybe there’s no such thing as a free lunch but link up with Theresa at Pondering the Myriad Things and you’ll see one that’s pretty darn close.

Isn’t it amazing how many talents are found in human beans? We’re such a creative bunch, aren’t we?

I bet in even a small community you would soon find people who know how to bake (really well, like Theresa - among other things), sew, sing songs, play instruments, turn scrap lumber into 101 useful items, teach useful skills, produce a healthy garden, nurture strong families, paint pictures or -if absolutely necessary - stippled ceilings.

The list would on and on.

Scroll down Theresa’s posts, read about alfalfa sprouts and soon you’ll be producing and eating your own salads.

Though circumstances can challenge villages, towns and cities, confident and creative people will keep them vibrant.

Cheers. GAH


Monday, February 23, 2009

Reading and Riding: Three cheers for the recession?

Should we raise a cheer?

After all, the recession affects the price of oil. As demand decreases the price drops. ($38US per barrel on Saturday)

The recession affects how we spend money as well. I shared the following earlier:

“The new frugal could help the green movement. Big-car sales are down; industrial emissions will likely drop... the effects of lower consumption could actually achieve more than all of Al Gore’s finger-wagging.” [link to full post]

The recession could also be slowing the approach of peak oil (if it hasn’t already arrived without fanfare), the time when half the world’s supply is gone and that which remains will be scarcer and costlier.

[“Did peak oil sneak up on us?”: photo link]

I read the following recently while riding my exercise bike and preparing for 6 more weeks of hockey wars:

Conventional oil’s peak will begin, Colin Campbell writes, “a period of recurring price surges, recessions, international tensions, and growing conflicts for access to critical oil supplies, as the indigenous energy supply situation in the United States and Europe deteriorates.” Put simply, oil’s peak will have seismic consequences for the entire world. It will shift the ground underneath us. (pg. 100, The Upside of Down)

I’d quietly cheer if the recession delayed the seismic shift until we were well prepared with alternative fuels.


Has the wolf of peak oil, however, snuck in among the sheep?


Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Point of View: Under 40,000 km. on a 2005 Civic - Excellent

A few days ago, a player on my hockey team accused me of not caring much about the environment after I said I plan to get my motorcycle ready for next Friday the 13th.

(On that day in March, a few thousand hardy bikers will likely show up in Port Dover to celebrate the day. If it’s not snowing, I’m going).

“Hey, you’re supposed to be conserving fuel, Harrison,” said the guy, also a biker.

[Checking out campsite, Agawa Bay: photo GAH]

I didn’t argue with the guy. He’s usually just joking around. Plus, he’s jealous of my stick handling skills and tries to get into my head. (Insert laugh track here).

But he did make me think. How many kilometers am I driving per year? Is it excessive? Could I do better?

After the game I checked my ’05 Civic’s odometer. The car, at 38.5 months old, had registered 39,500 km., a bit over 1,000 km. per month.

My 1984 Virago? 14,000 km. in two years. (I bought it used two years ago with 24,212 km. It too is still under 40,000 km.)

Since my wife uses the car much more than I do I can honestly say I put more miles (and get better gas mileage) on the motorcycle than the Civic.

But could I do better? Sure. However, I give no guarantees this year.

I have two trips already planned and a lot of pent up biking demand!


It’s almost motorcycle season, isn’t it?


It Strikes Me Funny: The darker side of stippled ceilings

If anyone ever asks you to paint their textured ceiling - just say no. Tell them you’d rather juggle sharp knives.

If it’s stippled plaster - say nothing. Just run the other way.

Why am I so free with my opinion? Because I’ve spent the last four days painting stippled plaster ceilings (successfully too I might add) for a lovely older couple who charmed me into taking the job with the promise of tea and lemon poppy-seed cake.

["Keep your eye on the prize": photo GAH]

One more ceiling and two more days to go before I take on their kitchen cupboards.

Thank goodness the cupboards aren’t stippled. Just stained and lacquered, so each door will require careful sanding, two coats of primer and two more top coats.

Sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but still far easier than climbing up and down a step ladder 1,000 times per day and gently applying paint to stipple for less than 10 seconds at a time (any longer and the plaster gets too wet and falls into your face) while side-stepping several pieces of expensive furniture.

“Keep you eye on the prize, Gordie,” said my daughter-in-law.

The prize? A new tire, luggage rack and gas money for my first motorcycle trip of the season.


Motorcycle season is coming, right?


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Young at Heart: I’m winning the hockey wars

(Right off, I admit I’m boasting - but just a bit).

While changing from street clothes to hockey gear yesterday I learned something new - most guys in the dressing room thought I was younger than I am.

“You’re about 50 years old, right?” I was asked.

“Close to sixty,” I said. (September and early CPP are fast approaching).

My mind and body then pulled a neat trick. Because I suddenly felt more youthful I received a shot of adrenalin. And it really kicked in at the halfway mark, with my team down 4 - 2.

I saw an open piece of ice, made eye contact with my winger as I went for it, picked up the puck after it was flipped over a defenseman and I was off to the races. Break away. Full speed ahead.

After the game (we won) the goalie said to me, “I fell for your shoulder fake and you went around me so fast.”

“I have a shoulder fake?” I said. “I’ve only got two moves. That one - and I forget the other one.”

Good laugh, good goal, good times.


What keeps you young at heart? Hockey wars? Gardening? Someone special?


Zoom w a View: Thank you, Sis

My youngest sib sent the following from a National Geographic site and it took me a few moments to sort it out in my head.

I thought, helicopter - what an amazing perspective.

I also recalled a related photo I'd taken while sitting on my motorcycle at the side of a country road.

I'm glad my bike didn't spook the horse.


Motorcycle weather is coming soon, right?


Friday, February 20, 2009

My Point of View: Educated consumers could save the auto industry

North Americans, with money in their pocket, could save our struggling, gasping auto industry.

All we need is one good idea - and some money.

Well, here’s the idea (it includes money).

Rather than directing money toward car manufacturers to help them recover, governments should direct money toward consumers, in the form of a rebate, to go toward a new, energy-efficient car.

Which car? I’d say, give people a choice of 5 - 6 hybrids, or zero-emission-no-noise electric cars that can be plugged into a regular electric outlet... like the Aptera (California), Zenn (Toronto) Honda Insight (Japan, but produced in North America) etc.

[Aptera: link to review]

If I was guaranteed 75 per cent of the purchase price I’d put my money the Aptera. Funky looking, aerodynamic to the max, 100 miles per gallon. What’s not to like?

Their business would grow, as would others like it. People could get back to work with some kind of peace of mind.

The Big Three would have to follow suit or wither on the assembly line. You never know, they might collaborate and come up with one good idea. And consumers would have the money if their entry qualified for the rebate list.

Educated consumers. Are you out there?


Would you buy the Aptera, Zenn or Insight if 75 per cent of the cost was returned?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Simple Life: Oatmeal beats out Kellogg’s Muslix

Motorcycling season is coming soon (hey, a guy can dream) so I’m spending this week and next painting ceilings and kitchen cupboards for a client in order to pay for a new back tire for my Virago.

I’m breathing in paint fumes now so I can enjoy fresh air on country roads later.

Rather clever of me, isn’t it? (Not really. The ceiling has plaster stipple and is taking forever!!!)

But, and this is a big but, every morning I’ve been thankful I recently made a big batch of oatmeal Red River cereal combo with about eight additives (millet, bran, quinoa, apricots, raisins, currants etc.). One heaping bowl for breakfast fuels 1,000 trips per day up and down my stepladder.

My wife said I could try her new box of Kellogg’s Muslix.

Ha! I really had to laugh.

Compared to my oatmeal, Muslix won’t even help me open a can of paint.


Ever heard of an oatmeal drawer? (I keep mine in the fridge and nuke it in the a.m.)


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: Great news! Cheapest hybrid a hit

Finally, some good news for the auto industry. Hybrids are selling - demand is soaring!

When’s the last time you heard ‘soaring’ related to the auto industry and it wasn’t related to debt or other troubles? Never?

[Photo link to CARBlog]

I must be an old geezer because I can remember when SUV sales soared in the cheap fuel era.

There’s only one problem with the great news. It’s not from Canada or the US.

“Demand for the Insight, the cheapest hybrid vehicle on market, is soaring in Japan.”

Stink! Though a geezer, I was almost ready to do a cartwheel.


Any good economic news where you are?


My Point of View: Living on less begins with repentance?

I wrote five earlier posts re a magazine article entitled ‘Living on Less’ because it makes sense for many reasons.

The article began with a stirring subhead (“Times are tough, but could the new frugality make us healthier and happier than we’ve been in years?”) and ended with a solemn sermon (“Perhaps the time has finally come to repent”).

["Set a new course": GAH]

I ended the series by saying, re repent:

“I may have to do a bit more reading about that word.”

And I did. I googled ‘define repent’ and was buried with definitions.

For example:

repentance - remorse for your past conduct

• A turning with sorrow from a past course or action

• Acknowledge one's wrong and turn away from it

Related to the article, I therefore think the writers are suggesting that ‘perhaps’ we should acknowledge that our lives of excess are wrong, show remorse, turn away from the damaging course and set a new one.

I think ‘perhaps’ isn’t a strong enough term.


Your thoughts.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Healthy living during hard times

I read that during a recession we become healthier.

One reason, smog levels drop as the economy declines.

And people eat out less and exercise more.

Happy trails, y'all.


Photo by mojo


Live Small and Prosper Part 4: The Upside of Down

The recession bites.

So, what do we have to look forward to?

1. Environmentally speaking: “The new frugal could help the green movement. Big-car sales are down; industrial emissions will likely drop... the effects of lower consumption could actually achieve more than all of Al Gore’s finger-wagging.” (Living On Less, MacLean’s magazine, Nov. 2008)

I’ll believe that when I see it, but at least it sounds positive. (I’ve heard recently that pickup sales are down but some SUVs are experiencing increased sales because gas prices are low).

2. Physically speaking: “People actually get healthier... people tend to dramatically overhaul their lifestyles during economic downturns, for the better. They drink less, smoke less, and have healthier habits than when times are good.”

3. Mentally speaking: “Some boomers resent the idea they might have to scale down their expectations” and may look for people to blame. But, “for a younger generation, a shift of this kind may prove more painless” because young people value “balance in their lives” more than a big house and car.

[Wall Street panic: photo link]

4. Spiritually speaking: “We have all gone to this temple called money,” said a British Archbishop recently. “No one is guiltless.”

The last line of the article said: “Perhaps the time has finally come to repent.”

Interesting, indeed. If more people are searching for balance or a deeper meaning in their lives, and are seeing that excessive consumption and the pursuit of money have serious, long-lasting downfalls, then there truly is an upside to down.

Please read the full article for more details.


It’s been a long time since I heard the word repent (and in a magazine?). I may have to do a bit more reading about that one.

Are times a-changing in your neck of the woods?


Monday, February 16, 2009

My Point of View: McMansions are impossible to justify

It comes down to a pretty simple question.

How many square feet do you need to be comfortable?

Most people have no idea. Because we didn’t learn the answer in high school, university or over coffee with a friend.

We used a system commonly known as trial and error. Or went with what we wanted vs what we needed, or let a developer decide for us.

My wife and I can’t justify anything over 1,050 sq. ft. (not incl. basement).

Even that’s tough. Do we need a TV room and two spare bedrooms? Plus a basement filled with stuff?


How many sq. ft. do you need?


Live Small and Prosper Part 3: Living on less engages the brain

From Hummers to Smart cars? No way.

Way. And in Las Vegas, for crying out loud.

[Please read Part 2 for context.]

“This kind of downsizing represents a dramatic shift for a culture that has known little but steady progress for the past 50 years.” (Living On Less, MacLean’s magazine, Nov. 2008)

The shift toward a smaller lifestyle is dramatic because a lot of people have dramatically less money, but may also be permanent because our brains are finally, after 50 (to 65) years of idleness, more fully engaged.

The article says, “Until recently, each generation since the Second World War was richer than the last. Houses have gone from simple two-bedrooms in the burgeoning suburbs of the ‘50s to the McMansions of the ‘90s. Everything from cars to food went “supersized” - and along the way so did waistlines.”

But this most recent recession has made more people (wait for it) ... think.

Isn’t it about time?

More of us now know that “the bigger is better mentality (that) was bred in the bone of the baby boomer generation” has lead to our undoing.

More now realize how hard an Age of Excess - bigger homes, closets, cars, waistlines, debt loads - can come back to bite us.

Pain hurts. And teaches.


Will we ever recover?

Can we enjoy the new Age of Austerity?


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Young at Heart: Life is better with you

Truth is, my wife and I settled into our easy after-supper routine last night and I never summoned up the courage to sing my latest hit single for her for Valentine’s Day.

But I gave her a copy of the heart-felt words when I felt the time was right.

Verse 2, 3 and chorus follow:

[Verse 1 at yesterday’s post]

Life is Better with You

You are the best of my friends.
Life can be a dark, dreary place,
brighter when I see your face,
and I’m talking with you.

You guard the life that we’ve made,
make sure our memories don’t fade.
Time often gets marching along,
you help me feel that I’m strong,
when I’m talking with you.

[Courtesy photo link]

(chorus) Like diamonds in the night sky
I see love shine in your eye.
You treat me better than best,
I’m home when you lean on my chest.
Oh, I know I’ve got a good life,
and it’s better with you.

You are the best of my friends.
Life can be a challenging trial,
lighter when I see you smile
And I’m laughing with you.

You’ve been much more than a friend,
our good times don’t seem to end.
Time often seems short in a way,
you make life fuller each day,
when I’m laughing with you.


I keep a guitar beside my writing desk, write the odd song (I do mean odd), strum a few old ones - to keep me young at heart. I think it’s working.


Do you strum a few chords? Write the odd song? I’d like to see it.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Young at Heart: Our youth is in our eyes

Chocolates? Flowers?

A single red rose, loving kiss, foot massage or heart-shaped cheese burger?

["Say it with cheese?"]

All good on Valentine’s Day. Whatever works for you and yours.

Ross McDermott, at, has written a Valentine’s Day poem for the special person in his life - and I say “well done.”

And “wish I’d thought of it myself.”

Maybe I’ll fall back on one I wrote last year.

You will laugh and know

When I was a young man I wrote
long poems for you. Now that I am older
I write a song or two,

and hope the lines though short on heat
won’t miss a beat but catch you by surprise.
And you will laugh and know
our youth is in our eyes.


And if I can summon up the nerve - and remember the chords - perhaps I’ll sing this one for Sweetie-pie after supper.

You are the best of my friends.
Life can be a long, lonely road,
easier when you share the load,
and I’m walking with you.

You are the first of those near,
the closest of those I hold dear.
Time often gets slipping away,
you help me live for today,
when I’m walking with you.

Like diamonds in the night sky
I see love shine in your eye.
You treat me better than best,
I’m home when you lean on my chest.
Oh, I know I’ve got a good life,
and it’s better with you.


Chocolates? Flowers? Meatloaf?


Live Small and Prosper Part 2: Living on less has its rewards

Believe it or not.

In Las Vegas, one of the largest Hummer dealerships in the US is closing and will be replaced by a Smart car store.

["No Hummers? How can this be?": photo GAH]

And why?

Because, “the economic crisis that’s spreading around the globe like wildfire through a dry forest is scary.” (Living On Less, MacLean’s magazine, Nov. 2008)

During the crisis, however, important social changes are taking place, on par or even more significant than the whole Hummer-Smart car thingy.

For example:

1. People are thinking more carefully about needs vs wants.

(As a result, the sale of large screen TVs, computers and cellphones have slowed dramatically).

“Frugal is the new black” is the refrain in fashion circles these days.

(I own four old, black T-shirts. I am so with it).

2. A growing number of men and women have opted to forego plastic surgery.

3. Divorce lawyers in the UK are seeing more couples muddling through the tough times together rather than splitting up.

4. And a professor of marketing at Arizona State University is even predicting that libraries will become more popular.

More people are turning to books and free movies?

We live in amazing times.

Stay tuned.


Have you put some minor or major purchases on hold? Thinking deeply about my No Clothes Challenge? [see Green Ideas 2009, side margin]


Friday, February 13, 2009

Live Small and Prosper Part 1: Living on less has its rewards

“Times are tough, but could the new frugality make us healthier and happier than we’ve been in years?” [MacLean’s magazine]

Good question. According to the article, Kelly Hollingsworth would say “Yes”.

Kelly had it all. She pulled down a handsome salary managing a hedge fund and “lived a life of excess seemingly ripped from the script for Sex and the City” in the US Virgin Islands and then New York City.

In 2006 she lost her job and moved back to her hometown in Idaho where her rich, hectic way of life was reversed.

“But as Hollingsworth adjusted to her new, slower lifestyle, she began to appreciate its subtler pleasures. Such as time.”

Kelly says, “You start connecting to the basic things we all find pleasure in, like making homemade soup.”

[A book review by the bookworm]

With more time on her hands she wrote her first book, Soup in the City [link to Chapter 1, book reviews, more], a call for happy, frugal living.

The economic crisis will produce thousands of large and small success stories, as people come unglued from the market first economy and begin to live in a more sustainable and enjoyable manner.


What have you heard or read that relates to ‘there is success after excess’?


Zoom w a View: Port Bruce in happier times Part 2

One of my favourite summer-time pit stops is under water.

After I arrive at Port Bruce I often park a few meters from the north shore of Lake Erie, sip a coffee and take a few photos.

While sipping coffee today at a local diner I was told, "Don't go to Port Bruce. You can't get there."


The recent mild weather and rain have produced costly consequences locally and farther afield.

Are you bailing out a wet basement? Worse?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Zoom w a View: Port Bruce in happier times

I end up in Port Bruce on my motorcycle several times every summer.

I call the place 'the land that time forgot.'

Many residents were evacuated yesterday because the water in Catfish Creek is rising.

Hang in there, folks.


Any of your favourite spots under water?


Live Small and Prosper: Could the new frugality make us healthier and happier?

At a recent board meeting the chairman asked, “Gord, anything to share?”

“Whazzat?” I said.


While the treasurer had been sharing his report I'd been reading an article in Maclean’s magazine.

“Anything to share?” the chairman said.

Without skipping another beat I said, “Why yes I do.” (I felt certain the article related to business-at-hand).

“Anybody see this article?” I asked.

No one had, so I no longer felt like a complete idiot.

“It’s entitled Living On Less,” I said.

I also read the subheading: “Times are tough, but could the new frugality make us healthier and happier than we’ve been in years?”

I pointed to a photo.

[Photo link]

“This is the smallest house in the city of Toronto and it sold recently for $179,000.”

Board members were in awe, or something - so I continued.

Next I read the caption: “From 1980 to 2001 house sizes grew by 30 per cent, part of an Age of Excess some economists saw as unsustainable.”

I concluded, “People are over-stretched. That’s one big reason why we may face a drop in donations of food and finances in the future.” (at a local NPO)

Board members nodded.

And you thought I wasn’t listening!


I’ll read the full article tonight on my exercise bike. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Zoom w a View: Are you lookin' at me?

Thank you, Sis.

My youngest sib sent me the following from National Geographic.

"Are you lookin' at me? Are you lookin' at me?


Who said that? Name the movie.


Deforest City Blues: I have issues with the tent, but not the intent

I’m grinding my teeth.

Grandson Ollie came into my office the other day (while I was strumming my guitar and singing Don’t Call Me Late For Supper, Mabelene - my latest hit single) and to make him feel more welcome I stopped what I was doing and set up a makeshift tent by throwing a blanket over two chairs.

Shortly thereafter my wife retrieved a nylon pop up tent from the hall closet, and presto, bammo - Ollie had his own sun tent in another room.

I didn’t mind that Ollie went for the ‘snazzy pop up’ over my ‘saggy, unfolded, home-grown’ model. Or that he disappeared to another room.

I minded that the pop up came from China and was one more cheap product we’ll store in the closet most of the year.

So I said something to my wife about “yet another purchase”. (After 38 years together you’d think I’d know when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em).

“He’s very fair-skinned. He’ll need it at the beach,” she said.

(After 38 years you’d think...)

I said, “We already have a beach umbrella blah blah, we could improvise blah blah.”

Then I shifted to the positive because after 38 years... it’s the thought that counts.

But I do grind my teeth at times.


Should I zip it? Is it just a ‘win some, lose some’ scenario?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Live Small and prosper: Small homes are out there

People are living on less and are healthier and happier than they've been in years.

Below is the smallest house in Toronto.


If I lived in Toronto, that's where I'd be.

Related post will follow.

Stay tuned.


Google "smallest house Toronto" for more photos.


It Strikes Me Funny: The benefits of fewer choices on store shelves Part 3

In two recent posts I’ve shared bits of an email from Andrea (a new Canadian citizen from Austria) because it proves fewer choices may be a good thing.

For example;

Fewer Choices Benefit 3: For individuals, shopping trips will be four times shorter

[See read Parts 1 and 2 for context]

Andrea: “This is just one little example, but the list of course is endless. When I want to watch TV it is hard to choose something out of 600 or more different channels. That’s why I often end up reading a book instead of zapping through all of them.”

[Did you catch it? Fewer Choices (in Reverse) Benefit 4: Having too many channels may lead to reading a good book. Excellent]

["Read good books, listen to good music - now!": photo GAH]

“It seems to me that my days are getting too short for the time I need just to make one simple decision. That is probably why I started taking yoga classes, I guess...and it seems to me that it works. But that is a different chapter.”

[Fewer Choices (In Reverse) Benefit 5: Short days lead to yoga, meditation]

“Anyways, what I wanted to say is that time is precious and for sure far too precious to waste too much of it for a little decision. Despite of all the convenience that you are offered by a thousand different choices here in Canada I sometimes miss the simple choice of a few. It can help you save your time – you have to see it from this aspect!”

“And fewer choices might not necessarily be bad ones, especially - and I definitely agree with you on that issue as well – when the choices are done wisely with regard to their origin.”

[Fewer Choices Benefit 6: A few wise choices leads to reader satisfaction]

Already looking forward to your next column!

Andrea from London


Live small and prosper. Love your neighbour. Pursue a simple life. Blaze a new trail. Show good humour.


Monday, February 9, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: The benefits of fewer choices on store shelves Part 2

The following email from Andrea proves fewer choices may be a good thing.

E.g., Fewer Choices Benefit 1: Companions won’t get snippy.

[Please read Part 1 for context]

Andrea: In the end I was pretty satisfied with the choice I had finally made after 25 minutes.

“From now on every time we’ll go to the grocery store I will buy a different cereal to find out which one I like best”, I told Rick excitedly.

[Photo link]

It may not surprise you he was not very happy about my idea and that is why  I either end up grocery shopping by myself (which takes me of course four times as long, which is approximately half a day) or I just make a safe pick with something that I’ve had already.

Fewer Choices Benefit 2: Couples will have more time to spend together

Fewer Choices Benefit 3: For individuals, shopping trips will be four times shorter

Andrea continues - stay tuned.


I’ve had enough fun for now. I need to answer Andrea’s email.


It Strikes Me Funny: The benefits of fewer choices on store shelves

My last column, Having fewer choices may one day be commonplace (Feb. 4), prompted an interesting response, in my opinion (and that’s the one that counts around here, right?).

The following email from Andrea proves fewer choices may be a good thing:

Dear Gord,

I originally am from Europe, Austria, and since December 08 I live in Canada. When I arrived here in London and went grocery shopping for the very first time I was amazed by the huge amount of choices that were offered... with pretty much everything and pretty much everywhere.

One of my first days here my fiancé Rick and I went grocery shopping and I wanted to buy some cereal. When I finally found aisle # 2 I was totally amazed.

“Wow, great! That is probably four times the choice as in Austrian supermarkets” I called out loud to Rick. (And that was before I had discovered that the whole aisle was nothing but cereal.) I was in cereal heaven!

After 15 minutes of pushing my cart through the aisle and flipping cereal boxes to read up the ingredients Rick started getting a bit impatient with me.

“How long can it actually take to choose a stupid cereal?” he asked snippy.

So, Fewer Choices Benefit 1: Companions won’t get snippy.

Andrea continues - stay tuned.


Think: Are there several benefits to fewer choices on store shelves?


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Young at Heart: Ogden Nash taught me that courtships should be short

A reader recently mentioned that Ogden Nash was another of her favourite poets and I recalled that Mr. Nash liked to keep things short.

[See post below and comments for context]

He once wrote, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."

Here’s my latest hit single about a courtship that lasted only as long as the couple’s first meal together. 

Don’t Call Me Late for Supper, Mabelene

1. We met at an old country store,
I packed her bags and held open the door.
She asked me how I would feel about a good home-cooked meal,
Mabelene was a peach and much more.
Her folks were away at the fair,
So we danced ‘round her room without a care.
I got lost in her eyes, and hot chicken-pot pie,
And the smell of perfume in her hair.

Don’t call me late for supper, Mabelene,
You are the sweetest girl I’ve ever seen.
You sure are good-looking and I love what you’re cooking...
Don’t call me late for supper, Mabelene.

["Be my Valentine?": Photo link]

2. We got married at sweet seventeen,
Her Mama said, “Boy, don’t treat her mean.”

I said, “You count on me” and that was 1963,
I can’t live without my Mabelene.
At home she’s in charge of the food,
When I cook it don’t taste half as good.
If Mabelene fills my plate, a big smile fills my face,
She’s the best cook in our neighbourhood.

3. Mabelene bought a book from Par-ee,
Each day she tries a French recipe.
I eat all I’m able then lean across the table,
For dessert I always kiss Mabelene.
At night I kiss both of her hands
‘Cause they taste like her strawberry jam.
She comes to no harm when I nibble on her arm,
Mabelene’s the sweetest girl in the land.

Link to Eaton Bennett's photo's here - they really fit the mood.


Mabelene is a fair bit like my wife. We married in 1970 and are still going strong.

And she is the sweetest girl I've ever met.

Link Up: Poetry and prose strike a musical note

In an earlier post I dropped in a poem by Robert Frost.

Bobbie, a regular reader, said that among her favourite poets (including her youngest daughter) was Rabindranath Tagore.

You know what happens next, right?


Here is My Song by R. Tagore:

This song of mine will wind its music around you,
my child, like the fond arms of love.
The song of mine will touch your forehead

like a kiss of blessing.

When you are alone it will sit by your side
whisper in your ear,
when you are in the crowd

it will fence you about with aloofness.

My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams,

it will transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.
It will be like the faithful star overhead

when dark night is over your road.

My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,

and will carry your sight into the heart of things.

And when my voice is silenced in death,

my song will speak in your living heart.

Link to more poetry by Rabindranath Tagore.

Link to more poetry by Robert Frost.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Zoom w a View: Silence please

The behemoth below could swallow me easily, especially if I was krill, squid or shrimp.

Shhhh. At 5 ft. 6 in., I guess I qualify for that last one.


Photo from National Geographic archives.


The Simple Life: Mr. Frost, you still rock

The author of The Upside of Down [see Read This, in margin] uses a poem by Robert Frost to illustrate the point that complex systems e.g. human economies, “evolve over time, depend on a host of factors, large and small, knowable and unknowable.”

Though teasing out what may happen in the near future (considering knowable and unknowable aspects) to ‘cheap oil - dependent’ economies is very difficult, it is a pleasure to reread Frost’s poem - The Road Not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

[Link to an artist's studio]

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Post a poem or favourite piece of prose. Let me know.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Will protectionism lead to preserved strawberries?

A recent letter to the editor of The London Free Press got me thinking:

If countries try to boost their economy by relying (for example) on home-grown workers to produce more home-grown materials, will I ever see pomegranates from India again?

Or strawberries from California in February?

Or dried figs on a string from wherever figs on a string come from?

The letter-writer said:

“How do you protect the environment without economic protectionism? The further you have to move a product and the more complexity in moving it, such as size and/or temperature - the more energy is required. The laws of physics demand something in return for using energy. Currently, that by-product is life threatening levels of carbon in the atmosphere.” [Dan Hilton - full letter]

["Strawberries in a stockpot": link to photo]

The ongoing discussion re protectionism will be interesting because it links the economy and the environment in the same sentence, as should always be the case.

The discussion will also link to the following:

Can we do without, live with less (fresh strawberries from California in February)?

Can more people revive lost skills (e.g. preserve locally preserved fruit)?

Can we become more self-reliant in other ways?


It Strikes Me Funny: A conversation I will never have with my wife

“Pat, would you like to go for a walk?”

“Where to?”

“I’d like you to come to the beer store with me,” I’d say.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“So you could help me carry home my beer,” I’d say.

“No chance,” she’d say.

No chance, no matter how long we live.


On the other hand, no matter the weather, several mornings per week you’ll see me walking hand in hand to the local coffee shop with my Sweetie Pie.

Keep the home fires burning!


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Letter to the Editor: I don’t do canned strawberries - yet

I wish I knew how to preserve fresh berries because we might not see any more until July, or whenever local berries are ripe.

I say no more berries in February because this week’s most-used word is protectionism.

["I can make beer! Maybe I have the canning gene?": photo by GAH]

Political leaders are saying it, and now I’m saying it.

It’s a big word and I won’t be able to wrap my head around it this weekend (I’ve been called up to play hockey with my son in the Kawartha Lakes’ League) but I found the following from Dan J. Hilton thought provoking:

“The last thing the world needs now is protectionism” said Jim Flaherty this past week, proving once again that the Conservative government is out of touch with the reality of the Canadian majority. The first thing the world needs now is some protectionism.”

“How do you protect domestic jobs without violating free trade agreements?”

“How do you protect the environment without economic protectionism? The further you have to move a product and the more complexity in moving it, the more energy is required.”
[link to full article]

All this talk about protectionism, just a few months after dropping off 30-year old canning gear - big pots, glass jars, lids, rubber seals, the whole shamoley - at the local Goodwill.


Do you do preserves?


It Strikes Me Funny: I love my wife, my bike, and vacations together

But not necessarily in that order.

When my wife sees the photo below (from my sisty loveler, via Great Britain) she will say one thing:

“Don’t try this at home.”

When I add "bicycle vacation" to my Green Ideas 2009 list (see side margin) I'll bear that in mind.


But I still had to laugh.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: Escape south for winter? No way, José

Neighbours went to Mexico last week, came back without a tan, and while I shoveled yet more snow from my driveway onto their lawn I thought:

“So what was the point? For Coronas and a slice of lime by the pool? Warmer temps? A break from the snow? All of the above?”

Canadian snowbirds stay away for months at a time. It’s not for me.

Some complain about the snow. I love it.

Others wonder where we’ll all put the snow from the next blizzard. I’ve already got it figured out.

Robert Frost anyone?

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Hats of snow on fence posts, branches lined with frost - lovely.


My Point of View: White bird feeders are invisible to some birds

I found a bit of scrap lumber in The Annex a week or two ago that seemed perfect for a bird feeder, and once started (as is often the case) I felt I might as well make three.

Though they’re nice and sturdy and hang securely on any clothesline I’m pretty sure I made a mistake with the colour.

Some birds have found the feeder but not in the numbers I’ve seen in the past.

My theory: The white paint can’t be seen from the air or nearby trees.

I’m going to repaint the roof or base on one of them and see what happens.

Maybe Montreal Canadien red will do the trick.


Good idea?