Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Canada is Losing her Innocence

Just a brief post...

...in memory of the 10 people who were killed yesterday while enjoying the spring sunshine... innocently walking on busy Yonge St. in Toronto. We won't forget you.

...with healing thoughts for 15 people injured on Yonge St. yesterday when a deranged man deliberately drove a rented van down a very busy sidewalk tossing people to the right, left and centre. We pray for your recovery and for your families.

...with great pride for the police officer who didn't return violence with more violence. A peaceful take-down was managed in a frightful situation. Now the perpetrator will have to face his crimes in court and the heavy punishment that will come with them.

...with sadness, for our loss of innocence, some might say naivety. Unfortunately no one is exempt from these "attacks by vehicle".  This is not a gun crime. But it was definitely EVIL.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Back in the Saddle....


You folks know how much I like to ride my bike! The feeling of freedom and the cool breeze on my face while racing along the city's trails...well, it doesn't get much better than that in my book :)

This weekend has seen the best weather we've had so far this year so I've been putting a lot of miles on my bike...and needless to say I have the sore butt to prove it! Nothing but getting back into the saddle again can help with the pain so I'll be heading out again this afternoon for another ride. Here are a few photos from my first ride on Saturday:

I quickly found out that there is still some flooding along the multi-purpose trails...I turned around but not sure what the person on the other side did...can you see him?

The bench was a bit out of my depth but the view is nice :)


There were a number of interesting "sky" features like the "sun dog" below...

What is a Sundog, and How Did “Sundogs” Get Their Name?


Some interesting cloud formations...
 A facebook friend thought the sky was unzipping in the photo below...

...and Kylie....the vulnerable looking leaves of whatever plant this is below have survived the ice, snow and flooding!

So did this lovely mallard duck...!

Today it is going up to 19c - the warmest day so far! My doors and windows are open, I've done some raking and it feels quite warm on my fenced in patio. Warm enough to sit outside and read!! Oh, heavenly days are here again!!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Ice Storm

 Were any of you affected by the Colorado low that came through my region (SW Ontario) all day Saturday and Sunday spewing freezing rain and ice pellets "the likes of which we've never seen before?"      

(Eek, who do I sound like?)

The upside, it you can call it that, is that I stuck a really good book in front of my face for hours and hours on end so I wouldn't have to look outside! My author of choice at the moment:
...if you haven't read any of her books you might be familiar with her main character: Inspector Lynley on PBS Masterpiece Mystery!


Other than a couple of very careful trips taking out garbage and recycling and throwing seeds to the poor birds and squirrels,  I've been stuck inside. BUT, I didn't fall on the ice and break my hip!! See, there's always a silver lining :)

Knowing that we were in for the "storm of the century" I headed to Kilally Meadows for a couple of hours on Friday before all HELL broke loose! Things are "greening up" with signs of wild flowers to come:
Mystery Plant

Moss

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold


                If you look hard enough there are all sorts of treasures quietly growing...of course, after all the rain you might need a snorkel!

Monday, April 9, 2018

I've Got Gas!...

....or maybe I should say my car has been gassed up :)

I managed to hang in there until gas went down at 3 or 4 stations in London on Friday.  As someone who shops around for the best gas price Fridays seem to be a good day to top up the tank. I was on my last "bar" of gas in the tank so things were getting a little desperate but this past Friday I wasn't disappointed. Prices dropped briefly from weeks of $1.26 per litre to $1.17 per litre saving me a couple of bucks.

$45.00 filled up the Honda's tank and should last me into the month of May. Lowering my gas budget line from $60 per month to $45 per month seems completely doable.
This photo does not reflect today's prices.
BUT...I have a question. A reader who lives north of me, but still in Ontario, says their gas prices have been around $1.18 most of the time.  Why is there such variance in the price of gas? Why isn't gas the same price everywhere in Ontario or anywhere else for that matter? I do understand different places have different taxes applied to gasoline but that wouldn't affect sellers in the same province...would it?

*($1.18 per litre = $4.46 per gallon for those in the U.S. as there are 3.78 litres in a liquid gallon.)

With warmer weather hopefully making an appearance soon I won't worry about the price of gas as much, as I'll use my bicycle at lot, though of course summer activities like beach days will require more gas. 

There is a movement here in Canada pushing for people NOT to buy any gas on April 15th. This has been done before, quite successfully, with gas prices dropping for a period of time after the boycott. I hope it's successful again this year.

**On a more sombre note - I'm sure most of you have heard about the Junior Hockey team in Humboldt, Saskatchewan that occurred this past Friday. It was a horrific accident involving the team bus and a transport truck with 15 players, coaches, media being killed and the other 14 injured, some seriously. The outpouring of support from around the world has been incredible with $4.4 million dollars raised for families through a GoFundMe page. More than 60,000 people representing almost 60 countries around the world have donated.  It's not the dollar amount that is so amazing as it is how many people worldwide have shown how much they care. I feel very humbled by this and it gives me faith that the majority of people in this tiny world of ours are truly decent, kind and caring. 


Solidarity in the hockey world was also shown by NHL teams (Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets shown above) with players wearing the Junior Team's team name (Broncos) instead of their own names. 

In the words of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Tonight we pay tribute. To the team, to the families, to the community: The whole country is behind you. You are loved, and you will be remembered.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

All Gassed Up


Two challenges I have been working on in 2018 are 1) use as little gas as possible and 2) eat as little refined sugar as I can. So far I'm doing pretty good, especially where gas is concerned.

Since replacing my truck with a Honda Civic at the end of Sept. 2017 I have been lowering my monthly gas budget line - from a high of $200.00 (when I was driving Dougie the Dodge truck) to $60 now (driving the Honda).  A nifty savings of $140.00 per month! Yahoo!

AND... for the past 4 months I've only been filling the Honda once a month at a cost of $45.00 so I think it's time to reduce the budget line for gas even further - from $60.00 to $45.00 a month. Since buying the Honda the monthly amount I spend on gas has decreased by $155.00/month ($200 - $45). My car insurance and house insurance amount to $156.00 ($124 + $32)!! So by switching from a V8 truck to the Honda I am saving enough in gas to pay for car and house insurance!! That's amazing and has put a big smile on my face!! 

As most of you know I was thinking about going car-free so by driving something a lot more economical and lot more "green" than the truck goes a long ways to making me feel better about still driving.

Once it warms up a little (right now IT IS FREAKING SNOWING!!!) then I won't even be spending $45.00 per month on gas because I'll be biking most places within the city. I have met Goal #1 👍

GOAL #2 - the struggle continues...
I would estimate that I have decreased the amount of refined white sugar in my diet by about 75% (or more).  Which is great! I no longer spend time browsing the candy aisles at Dollarama (there are TWO Dollaramas within a block or two of my house though with me not shopping there as much as I used to I'm sure one of them will have to shut down due to poor returns!!) Since the beginning of January I have intentionally made purchases at Dollarama twice. Once was to buy a little somethin somethin for Valentine's Day which I shared with Kazi. And then one other time when I had a craving for chocolate covered almonds.

Zero Easter eggs consumed this year though I noticed a chocolate bunny on the kitchen counter :) and yes, I had a nibble. But the rest I'll take up to Kazi's room where I won't see it. I'm on the See Food diet, I'm sure you've heard of it - "if I see food, I eat it!"

It's not that I have stopped eating snacks - I have had a few bags of salt and vinegar chips and I have been baking oat scones on a regular basis. In addition, when I have a craving, I eat a few raw nuts which of course are high in fat and calories. BUT, the fat is good fat so they say. We've also turned to avocados (again good fat) and very satisfying. I tried (and failed) to eat one or two squares of dark chocolate a day as there are many health benefits but I couldn't stop at one or two so have had to give that up.

But I'm not giving up wine and beer - you have to draw the line somewhere! Besides...both have health benefits if they are consumed in reasonable amounts!


I've had to face the fact that I can't control myself around sweets. So I try to provide myself with sweet stuff that is somewhat healthier. My scone recipe spreads 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar throughout a yield of 12 scones. I use whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour, large oats, soy milk, butter, one egg and a half cup of currants. They are delicious and filling and use mostly healthy ingredients.

This isn't a diet about losing weight though I have lost 5 pounds over 3 months. It's more about trying to make healthier choices. It's hard though, I admit it. Menopause means I have to eat a lot less to maintain my weight as opposed to when I was a teenager and could eat as much as I wanted without gaining an ounce! NOT FAIR! 

I found a site that calculates your BMI but uses your age as well as gender, height and weight in their calculation. Yippee - on their site I am within the "normal range" - the loss of just 5 pounds and inputting my age (61) and gender has moved me from straddling the line between normal and borderline over-weight. I am going to save the results and look at them everyday for the rest of my life!!!

If you want to check your BMI go to https://www.smartbmicalculator.com/

Monday, April 2, 2018

Ospreys

My vigil for the arrival of the Kilally Meadows osprey couple has ended. On Saturday
their nest in centre field was empty...

But when I went back on Sunday (no fooling :) I could see their little heads poking up on the light standard in centre field!

They must be hardy birds - a nest of sturdy sticks just screams for a warm duvet!!

But they don't seem to mind...and imagine the COLD! My fingers were numb in the -7c temperatures with a strong wind. When they spread their wings they were really buffeted about.

The male was trying to woo his partner by performing his mating dance...

So far, she doesn't look very impressed! (she's on the right)

But surely this breakdancing move will melt her heart :)  It sure put a smile on MY face!

I recently read that although the Mr. and Mrs. stay together year after year it's more a marriage
of convenience as they have a strong instinct to return to the same location and the same nest. In a couple of weeks they should produce from 2 to 5 eggs and then Mr. will be responsible for ALL of the fishing!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Photo Phails

Happy April Fool's Day!!
I post a lot of photos on my blog and some of them are pretty good.
But obviously I don't post the failures
which a LOT of them are. 
I usually delete the blurry, distant photos
of questionable subjects.
I noticed I had quite a few that SHOULD
be deleted...and I will delete them after I share a few with you.
Just for phun :)

The photo below is an example of the many bad photos I have been taking while sitting in my car or hiking along the river trying to spot the osprey couple who annually take up residence in the ball  park near where I hike.  I thought this might be an osprey due to the shape of the wings but I'll never know for sure as the bird is too small. I did try to get a closer-up photo but the bird (probably a gull) disappeared behind the tree.


The photo of the cardinal below isn't terrible except that the bird's head is turned slightly away and it's a bit small. I took a bunch more and got bigger and better focussed photos where he was looking my way. Practise makes perfect.


I actually like the photo below although I didn't get the photo I was after. Back in university days when I was taking photography we called these "happy accidents." There was something over by the trees I was interested in but the camera focussed on the dried plants in the foreground and blurred the background...but I quite like it.


Sometimes I include my "shadow" in a photo but I didn't mean to in the photo below. I wasn't
paying very good attention I guess. When I do include my shadow it's usually the subject of the
photo, not some little object in the lower corner!


Timing is everything when taking photos of wildlife. I did eventually get a few
photos of these Canada geese where heads weren't blocked by twigs.


If I didn't have more photos of this I would have no idea what I was trying
to take a picture of! I saw this black shape far away across a field and wondered what it was.
It was just large black plastic bags which were being used to kill invasive species but had been displaced during the flooding. Definitely not photo-worthy!


The two photos below show me trying to get a picture of the downy woodpecker that was pecking away in its quest for bugs...it doesn't stay still long enough for me to focus and shoot!


Same with the hawk below. Trying to track it with my camera
isn't something I'm very good at!


The photo below was very disappointing to me - it was my first white-tail deer sighting this spring and I totally fluffed it! Blurry due to the camera focussing on the dried plant (lower right) and just too much crap (trees, underbrush etc) between me and the deer. They knew I was there and were on high alert. You can see one white deer tail almost dead centre and another close to the left side of 
the photo. They had just started to run away when I snapped this blurry mess.


Photography 101: get yer durn fingers outa the way!


Get the whole bird in the photo!

Below: While not the best photo ever taken it is the only "Cooper's" Hawk I have ever seen! I took this photo through my patio doors while it sat on a branch in my maple tree. I was sitting by the window, reading, when movement in the tree made me take notice. Then I had to find my camera, sneak up on the window to get this photo - a second later he flew away.  His head is turned slightly toward the tree so it isn't the best of shots but I was thrilled he hung about munching on a mouse (or some little rodent) til I got this photo. They don't usually come into an urban environment so it was quite exciting.

And there you have it - I'll keep this photo and the "happy accident" photo but will delete the rest.

I hope you are having a lovely Easter Sunday - I'm heading out after the laundry is done to see if the ospreys have arrived - I just can't stay in while the sun is shining! I hope it is shining on YOU!