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Is the Grass Really Greener Over There?

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The Grass is Greener Where you Water itTroubles can come in life when we believe the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  We can be taken over by envy, believing that other people have the good stuff and then feeling depressed, anxious, and maybe even a little bit angry.  We can be overcome by greed, wanting more and more and more, and feeling that what we have can never be enough. By denying the goodness of our own lives, we believe that we have nothing good to work with and don’t believe that we have the capacity to work with it.  We lose focus, self-confidence, and hope.

We need to bust the myth that we can have someone else’s life, someone else’s castle, and someone else’s lawn just by crossing over to where they are (and for all we know, they are admiring our lawn). We have our own spot, and if we can accept reality for what it is, we have the chance to develop it, to improve it, to grow it and shape our futures.

Robert Fulghum, author of the classic work “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” put it this way:  “The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered.  When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are.” Take a fresh look at your hypothetical lawn from a fresh point of view, and I’ll wager that it’s not as negative as you might think.  Maybe it could use some water, but that’s something you can do something about.

Remember that, when you find yourself coveting another patch: someone’s evidently been watering it.  If your patch is feeling dry or looking blanched, try some water.  Grass needs water to grow in order to be vibrant, healthy, and green. It simply won’t amount to much on a diet of entitlement (“It should just be green and awesome.”) or neglect (“What, water it again? But I did that last month.”). Give it a respectable amount of TLC.  You may still find that you don’t want your patch and that perhaps you want somebody else’s.  At least you will find yourself in a better place with your lawn looking prettier, greener, and more comfortable to sit on as you figure out how to make your way to where you do want to be.  On your fence-hopping journey, make sure to take your watering can with you.

Happy National Chocolate Day!

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Chocolate, Chocolate Candy, Truffle.What a time of revelry and yummy-gooey deliciousness. Big Candy knew what it was doing when they put this important holiday right next to Halloween. Now we can have a whole cocoa bender until November comes around.

Created by the National Confectioners Association, National Chocolate Day is observed annually on October 28th.  As a testament to chocolate’s popularity, there are more than two dozen chocolate-related holidays (how could you forget National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day on May 15th or National Chocolate Milkshake Day on September 12th?), and National Chocolate Day celebrates all things chocolate.  As a super popular flavor, chocolate is well deserving of its own day of honor and celebration.

How is Chocolate Made?

chocolate pralinesChocolate was first cultivated about 3,000 years ago by the Mayas and Incas. They used to drink a cocoa-like beverage and even used cocoa beans as currency.

Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree.  Cacao, which has been cultivated for at least three millennia, is grown in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America.  The earliest known documentation of using cacao seeds is from around 1100 BC.  The cacao tree seeds have a very intense, bitter taste that must be fermented to develop the flavor.

Once the seeds have been fermented, the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted.  After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs.  The cacao nibs are then ground into cocoa mass, which is pure chocolate in rough form.   The cocoa mass is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients. At this point in the process, it is called chocolate liquor.  The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Chocolate is GOOD for you!

Chocolate has nutrients in it that can help protect the heart. They are called flavinols and they can help increase the blood flow to your heart. And dark chocolate can help raise good cholesterol levels while lowering the bad cholesterol. It also has fiber and anti-oxidants.

Get chocolate-y!

chocolate-cupcakesGo out to your favorite restaurant and indulge in a delicious chocolate dessert or try one of these recipes at home:

Chocolate Lasagna
Fudge
No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars

If you are a pet owner, be careful during this time of celebration. Chocolate is toxic to pets. This is one time that it’s extra important not to share with our four-footed friends.

Winterizing

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winter-readyYesterday, I put my winter tires on my car. Today, fat snowflakes, a little bit of freezing rain, and a splat of mixed precipitation have me convinced that winter is right around the corner. That means it’s time to get prepared.

I’m not saying that you need to hibernate like a bear, but it’s never pleasant to be caught unprepared. The transition to the darker part of the year is a bit easier to handle when you aren’t scrambling to find your insulated mug and your window scraper. Winter can go from chilly to charming if you’re practically stocked and set with comfy gear and warm beverages.

  1. Protect your patio furniture and any other yard ornaments or planters. You’ll save yourself clean up time in the spring, and keep your furniture looking nice longer.
  2. Check on your snow shovel. Make sure you are set to dig out whether that means making arrangements for snow removal or having the tools to do it yourself.
  3. Stockpile the essentials. There are some things you can count on always needing, so you might as well stock up, especially if you can get it on sale (no one is going to look in your linen closet to make fun of the 3 unopened packages of toilet paper!)
  4. Get your winter coat, hats, mittens, and scarfs out of storage (and put away the sandals to make space!). At some point when you look outside and see our Canadian prairie as an ocean of snow, you’ll be glad that it is easy bundle up.
  5. Crack out the Vitamin D. Many of us get our daily vitamin D through exposure to sunshine, but that’s not sufficient in the winter, when the daylight hours are limited and most of our skin is covered. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends adults take 1000IU in the winter months.
  6. Get the soup on. Spend a weekend’s worth of quality time with your slow cooker and make a few great soups, which will taste even better if you can work in fresh fall produce like squash or kale. Freeze individual portions that can be easy lunches for work or warm dinner options for those days when it gets really cold.
  7. Get your car ready. Have winter tires, will travel? Canadians are used to doing a lot of driving in all kinds of weather, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst. Sometimes having a charged cell phone just isn’t enough. Before you head out on any winter road trips, make sure your car is stocked with a roadside emergency kit. Being safe and sound isn’t overrated.
  8. Fire it up. Wood burning or natural gas, make sure your fireplace is ready to go. Make sure your vents and chimney are clear.
  9. Get your skis, snowboard, skates, and toboggan out of storage and get ready for fun!

Hold the Moral High Ground

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With the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles tied at two in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s wild-card game, Melvin Upton Jr. hit a routine fly ball to left field. Just as Orioles left-fielder Hyun Soo Kim was about to make the catch, a fan in the first level of left-field seats threw a half-full (at least) beer can in Kim’s direction, narrowly missing the outfielder.

Long after the game was won by the Jays in extra innings — sending them off to Texas to start a playoff series against the Rangers — more mannered baseball fans were expressing outrage and amateur sleuths were dissecting photos and video of the crowd.

On social media, the incident drew comments from hundreds of people, including author Stephen King, who mused “Hey, whatever happened to polite Canadians?”

The Toronto Blue Jays have formally apologized to the Baltimore Orioles after a fan threw a beer can on the field at Kim. In a statement released Wednesday, the Blue Jays expressed “extreme disappointment” for the incident during the American League wild card game at Rogers Centre. The team offered “sincere apologies” to the Orioles, its managers and players, and Major League Baseball.

“Throughout this season, we have witnessed an incredible level of fan engagement, with a passionate and loyal fan base that extends across Canada,” the statement reads. “On the heels of one of the most competitive and exhilarating baseball games in our club’s history, it is extremely unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of one individual would detract from the game on the field, and tarnish an otherwise memorable night.”

Now, there’s no way the Jays can control what their fans may or may not do. Realistically, it’s something that can happen at any ballpark, and the actions of one person can reflect poorly on the entire stadium.  But I’m hoping that the rest of the Jays’ post-season is about their play on the field rather than things being thrown onto it.  With the Jays as Canada’s team, we have plenty to be excited about and that can happen in classic polite Canadian fashion.

Go Jays!

Strike!

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For many, Labour Day – the first Monday in September – signals the end of summer.  But what evolved into what we consider the gateway long weekend into fall began as a massive working class demonstration in the streets of Toronto.

Canada was changing rapidly during the second half of the 19th century.  Immigration was increasing, cities were getting crowded, and industrialization was drastically altering the country’s economy and workforce.  As machines began to replace or automate many work processes, employees found they no longer had special skills to offer employers. Workers could easily be replaced if they complained or dissented, and a result, they didn’t dare speak out against low wages, long work weeks and deplorable working conditions.  This set of circumstances is what brought about what is generally considered Canada’s first Labour Day event in 1872.  At the time, unions were illegal in Canada, which was still operating under an archaic British law, which had already been abolished in England.

For over three years the Toronto Printers Union had been lobbying its employers for a shorter work week. Inspired by workers in Hamilton who had begun the movement for a nine-hour work day, the Toronto printers threatened to strike if their demands weren’t met. After repeatedly being ignored by their employers, the workers took bold action and on March 25, 1872, they went on strike.

Toronto’s publishing industry was paralyzed and the printers soon had the support of other workers. On April 14, a group of 2,000 workers marched through the streets in a show of solidarity. They picked up even more supporters along the way and by the time they reached their destination of Queen’s Park, their parade had 10,000 participants – one tenth of the city’s population.

The employers were forced to take notice. Led by George Brown, founder of the Toronto Globe, the publishers retaliated. Brown brought in workers from nearby towns to replace the printers. He even took legal action to quell the strike and had the strike leaders charged and arrested for criminal conspiracy.

Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald was watching the events unfold and quickly saw the political benefit of siding with the workers. Macdonald spoke out against Brown’s actions at a public demonstration at City Hall, gaining the support of the workers and embarrassing his rival. Macdonald passed the Trade Union Act, which repealed the outdated British law and decriminalized unions. The strike leaders were released from jail.

The workers still did not obtain their immediate goals of a shorter work week. In fact, many still lost their jobs. They did, however, discover how to regain the power they lost in the industrialized economy. Their strike proved that workers could gain the attention of their employers, the public, and most importantly, their political leaders if they worked together. The “Nine-Hour Movement,” as it became known, spread to other Canadian cities and a shorter work week became the primary demand of union workers in the years following the Toronto strike.

The parade that was held in support of the strikers carried over into an annual celebration of worker’s rights and was adopted in cities throughout Canada. The parades demonstrated solidarity, with different unions identified by the colorful banners they carried. In 1894, under mounting pressure from the working class, Prime Minister Sir John Thompson declared Labour Day a national holiday.

So this weekend as you take in a Labour Day Parade, take a moment to consider the origins of the parade and enjoy what Labour Day has evolved into as you celebration the last days of summer with barbecues and football.

National Dog Day

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smiling-goldenDogs are “man’s best friend” for a reason. They’re clever, unfailingly loyal, and have amazing personalities.  They race to greet you when you come home, and they are always sure to tell you that they missed you while you were gone (regardless if you were gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours).  National Dog Day honours family dogs and dogs that work selflessly to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.  Dogs put their best foot forward ever day – for their law enforcement partner, for their companions who need some assistance, and doing incredible search and rescue work, just to mention a few of their talents.  Regardless if your dog has a formal job or not, they look at you and forever have a place in your heart.  For all those reasons and many more, the phrase “going to the dogs” meaning things are going downhill isn’t in my vocabulary.

laundry-dogToday is National Dog Day, an annual observance with the goal of honoring your pups and spreading awareness about rescue dogs. Started by pet expert Colleen Paige, National Dog Day is held every year on August 26 — the anniversary of the day she adopted her first canine.

National Dog Day celebrates all breeds, pure and mixed and serves to help remind the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, either from public shelters, rescues and pure breed rescues. Not that you can’t or shouldn’t on any other day of the year, but today is a good day to donate to your local shelter, volunteer with animals or simply cuddle up to your furry friend.

Until I can get home and tell my furry girl that she’s amazing and give her a big hug like I do every day, I leave you with a few famous quotes about pooches.

  • “Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot little puppies.” — Gene Hill
  • “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” ― Mark Twain
  • “Buy a pup and your money will buy love unflinching.” — Rudyard Kipling
  • “If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” — Woodrow Wilson
  • “A hound will die for you, but never lie to you.” ― George R.R. Martin
  • “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.” ― James Thurber
  • “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”—Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz
  • “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ― Josh Billings
  • “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” ― Christopher Morley
  • “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” ― M.K. Clinton
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