Monday, 30 June 2014

Monday Moanings - June 30, 2014

Where is everybody?

Is this really Monday, the top of a new week? That's what I'm wondering.

There's something quite odd about today. As I drove into town this morning I passed the GO train commuter parking lot. The twenty or so cars looked awfully lonely amidst such vast open space. Had  normal Monday moanings and groanings blossomed into a flu bug of epidemic proportions? Further along my route several signs blinked out warnings of delays due to roadwork. "Be prepared to STOP." was also prominent. I eased my foot back on the accelerator as the car crested a hill. Not a bulldozer or grader in sight, no flag gals or guys, not a single worker. All MIA!

Had my aging brain farted, blowing me into Monday when it really was still only Sunday? The traffic volume supported that theory and for a moment or three I wondered just how successful, or embarrassing, this trip into town was going to be. Undaunted I moved ahead (actually what really happened was that there was no convenient place to turn around, so I kept on going). I was rewarded for my perseverance - all the stores were open and not only was parking easy, shopping and checkout were a breeze. No bumping into other carts, no jockeying for position at the checkout and no waiting! I was into town and back home in record time, little more than an hour.

But, where is everybody? Wimbledon playing tennis with the best? Brazil for the World Cup? The cottage, having snagged a four day weekend from a generous employer? Or taking day to prepare for Canada Day celebrations tomorrow? Count me in for that one!

The trip into town behind me, I can say that I've got a couple of nice thick Alberta Beef steaks for the BBQ, Ontario corn on the cob and potatoes from Prince Edward Island. There's fresh pastry made with Saskatchewan wheat and butter from Quebec in the fridge. Tomorrow that pastry will encase rhubarb from my garden combined with local Ontario strawberries for a grand pie to be topped with whipped cream. There will be Creemore Pilsner and Ontario wine in Canada colours - 2 red: Kew Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir & Vineland Estates 2010 Cabernet Franc, 1 white: Tawse Winery 2010 Riesling.

Canada - 147 years young tomorrow. My Canada is my home with four wonderful seasons, each one offering its share of glorious days along with a few clunkers;

with awesome landscapes of mountains, lakes, forests and prairies;

with architecture in cityscapes that incorporate the old and the new along with green space too;

with so many diverse cultures to enrich and inspire each one of us to be who we were born to be.

But don't just take my word for it, have a look at how other Canadians describe this land: Canada Day 2014: My Canada is...

Happy Birthday Canada!

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 26, 2014

Tomorrow, 7am will be silent.
Tomorrow, no windows will resonate with the rumble of school buses.
Tomorrow the 3pm 'rush hour' convoy of those same buses returning their precious cargo home, will be absent.

The rhythm of my day will be a little disturbed tomorrow, and even more so come Monday, without these time pieces; like the bell and drum towers of ancient China, they signal the opening and closing of day. I'll get over it of course, the sun streaming in my bedroom window will see to that, and come September I'll be disturbed again, this time by the return of the yellow rumblers to my street. Ah, but all this is in the future, tomorrow and beyond.

Today is the Last Day of School!! WOO HOO!
Oh remember the joy of it all?
Ripping the paper off text books, coverings that had been so carefully cut, folded, applied and decorated ten months earlier; triumphantly handing the naked books back to the teacher; clearing out my desk only to discover that crumpled up test stuffed way in the back corner, the one with the big red "D" on it, then tossing the offensive paper in garbage can - no way that was ever coming home; gathering up the standard issue pink workbooks (Pink? What were they thinking??), some of my art work (only some because art was never my forte), a few remaining coloured pencils (a full set of twelve never survived ten months of gruelling work), and last by no means least, my prized possession, a wooden pencil box with a lid that slid open to reveal four bright yellow HB pencils and one slender white pen with blue lettering, "Etobicoke Board of Education". All got stuffed into a bag for homecoming, with one addition - a white envelope containing The Report Card.

I recall that one year, the teacher called each one of us to her desk to receive the envelope. She whispered a comment and the room number for next year's class. I was told, "Well done April. Room eleven." It was a mixed message. I was already in Room 11, in fact I spent grades 4, 5 and 6 in Room 11 - the annual shuffling of rooms and teachers didn't get me anywhere it seemed.

No matter, the last thing on my mind as I dashed out the school doors that day was next year's class. A vast expanse of uninterrupted playtime stretched out before me and September was nowhere to be seen on my radar. Getting up when I wanted, sometimes to just see the sunrise from the lounge chair on the back porch. Riding my bike all over the neighbourhood, sometimes taking longer treks, farther from home just to see how far and how fast I could go. And long afternoons spent in our backyard pool, until with fingers puckered like prunes, I'd drip over to the towels to bake dry out in the sun. Then back in the pool again!

Life was good!

Yep that's me diving in, ca 1969. Mom in the background. How did the ball end up in the air?

Fast forward some 45 years or so, and the last day of school doesn't have quite the same kind of energy.

There is no desk for me to clear out, no text books to return, no wooden pencil case and thankfully no report card! And we don't have a pool in the backyard.

But the strawberries are ripe for the picking and the Canada Day long weekend sits on the doorstep ready to kick off summer with a celebration of all things Canadian. It's not just a single day anymore but three or four days of festivities and fireworks across the country. I am so very fortunate to have the privilege of living in this great land and I am thrilled to be a part of the colourful mosaic that is Canada.

Life IS good!

©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday Moanings - June 23, 2014

Cranky in Spandex

Nearly three hours and not a single idea for this post has crawled across the finish line. Every single one of
them, four now, has disintegrated, run out of words or fallen into boredom and not one of them has made beyond a second paragraph. I'm fit to be tied. I have other things to do and the clock is ticking!

I'm blaming this all on the gym. It's been weeks since I stuffed myself into the uni-boob sports bra, eons since my toes got stuck in the narrow legs of my workout pants. But today, rising guilt encountered an opportunity for relief - my love had a dentist appointment and there were errands to do in town. And that's how I bucked my trend and went to the gym this morning. I had a great 30 minutes session of of heart pounding, sweat streaming cardio with upper body circuit. It felt amazing!

photo courtesy of Stouffville Joint Venture Fitness & Physio

I like the gym. I like the people that I meet there. But 2014 has so far proved to be a challenge to my gym  routine. With the exception of the month that I was out of the country and then the two plus weeks it took me to recover from that adventure, the list of excuses for my poor attendance falls into two categories: weather - snowstorms, ice storms, thunderstorms, and deluges - and whining, often white washed with a skim coat of virtue -
It's Monday, or Thursday and I have to write my blog, or I'm staying home to work on my book.

Today, the gym plus errands in town ate up the morning, so here I sit cranky in spandex at nearly four in the afternoon.

Is it nap time yet?

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 19, 2014

Throwback Thursday?

I note that this fifth day of the week (YES it is the 5th day in my book), has acquired the tag "Throwback". Apparently it's some kind of invitation to post something about one's past. Not to be outdone, I decided yesterday to jump on the bandwagon and make today's post about a 'throwback'.

An afternoon trip to my hair stylist for a long overdue haircut proved to be fruitful ground for ideas. Stories about first haircuts, perms, and colours all piled up in my prompt box of topics, but it wasn't until a client asked about how busy the prom season had been that my Throwback Thursday theme locked into place. Prom, that exciting, scary, wonderful, awful, exhilarating, depressing high school highlight. In my day, in my high school it was simply called "The Formal" and I went to two of them, even better I had pictures; old 35mm slides catalogued and tucked away in metal slide cases all stacked in the hall closet.

In the throes of a sleepless night I mapped out my text. You've just read most of that composition. Somehow it seemed much longer at 3am and far more eloquent. But no matter, I set straight to work at 9am.

Job #1 - find the pictures and scan them to digital. I've done this many times. It takes longer to find the images than scan them.

I opened the 3 ring binder holding the handwritten compendium of all the slides that my love and I have ever taken, all 6,821 of them. I resisted all temptation to marvel at all the other photographic gems from our past and zeroed in on May 1971 and 1972. Slides A0260 to A0264, A0434 and A0435 bore the note, "BCI Formal". The slide box I wanted was at the bottom of the eight others of course, but I managed to haul it out without too many crashes and expletives. I found the cardboard framed images and  took a quick look at the them through my Agfa Lupe magnifier aided by sunlight through a kitchen window - somethings never change; isn't that how everyone looks at slides? Somehow the pictures didn't quite look as I remembered them, somehow we didn't look as I remembered us. No time to ponder this one. I was on a roll. It was all of 9:15 when I powered up the scanner and loaded the software.

Three hours later I had my digital images. THREE HOURS? Yup. The software required an update. The update did not load properly the first time round, requiring me to call in my resident techno-wizard. He got around that problem and I tapped the first slide into the scanner then pressed 'scan'. Suffice it to say that the results were not pleasing. Back over to the wizard, who discovered all the settings had changed. With those re-set, slide 1 again disappeared into the scanner. A better image displayed on the screen, but still all was not right. A consultation of the online manual ensued followed by a re-calibration of the scanner, followed by slide 1 again. Success, or rather as good as it was going to get. The rest of the fine tuning would fall to me and the editing software. I scanned the remaining slides, rotated and edited the images in a valiant attempt to coax 2014 digital quality out of 43 year old cellulose, (only 4 photos made it to the final).

Job #2: write the blog.
And it's now 12:55pm.

May 1971

May 1971
May 1972

May 1972
And I married the guy. Here's a more recent Formal picture, taken at our son's wedding in 2011.

I think I'll stick with Thursday, or Thereabouts, and the techno-wizard too!

©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 16 June 2014

Monday Moanings - June 16, 2014

A Slow Start

Grey damp accompanied by cool breezes gave way to rumbles of thunder and soaking downpours this morning. Not an inspiring beginning to a new day or a new week. The seeds of the doldrums are fertilised by mornings such as this one.

I wrapped my listless groans and grumbles around a steaming mug of cappuccino and soon found myself in the living room of my childhood home tucked up in the comfort of a blanket fort. Cardboard boxes emptied of the grocer's delivery travelled as trains, buses, cars and boats between the tented sofa and chair like gondolas on the canals of Venice.

Ah Venice - now there's a place like no other...

I marvel at the seamless transition from blankets and boxes to canals and gondolas; from one faraway place to another. Time travel is a perfect antidote to mornings like this one, nipping any hint of doldrums in the bud. The rain has stopped. The sun has come out to play. The world outside my door is verdant, dripping with the colours of life.

A new week lies open before me. I'd best get at it.

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 12, 2014

Voting Day

After some six weeks of election promises, position and policy statements, accompanied by the now typical
yet lamentable mud slinging, we get to exercise our franchise and elect the next provincial government of Ontario. The pollsters and political pundits claim this election is too close to call so campaign staff are working the phones, encouraging the electorate to get out there and vote.

It blows my mind that in my glorious and free Canada, voter turnout is so abysmal; 61% voted in the last Federal election, 49% in the last provincial and roughly the same (or less!!) in the last municipal election. My Dad instilled in me very early on the importance of voting and the responsibility of every Canadian citizen to cast a ballot on election day.

My Dad the Weather Man
Many times I accompanied my Dad to the polling station, long before I was old enough to vote. I loved those walks with him. They took on the tone of a pilgrimage to a holy site. People there spoke in hushed tones, no jokes, no laughter, polite smiles only. I learned that voting was a solemn, serious thing. I never learned who Dad voted for despite repeated efforts to get him to reveal his choice. Such inquiries were always met with a sermon about the secrecy of the ballot being a hallmark of true democracy.

I heard that very same sermon again today, Dad's voice whispering in my memory as I entered the polling station, registered then stepped behind the cardboard privacy shield set up on a desk. I believe I heard Dad snort in disgust at this rather paltry excuse for a voting booth.

Back in the day I'd watch Dad from my assigned place along the wall just inside the door of the polling station, which more often than not was in someone's home. Ballot in hand, or sometimes the ballots were already in the booth, he drew aside the curtain of the booth and stepped inside. Then he turned and with great care and deliberation slid it back in place, concealing his presence and vote. A minute or two later the curtain was swept back with a wee bit of a flourish as he emerged, then marched over to the grey metal ballot box and pushed his ballot through the slot. Two taps of his palm on the box assured at least to him that his vote was in. With glowing heart, the free man voted.

Though today lacked much of the ritual that accompanied my father's experience, I too emerged from behind the privacy screen, strode over the white cardboard ballot box and pushed my ballot through the slot. I too gave the box two taps of my right hand.

We don't enjoy the same level of trust in our politicians that my Dad enjoyed and that is a profound loss, but not only do we still get to speak freely about that, we get to vote. This democracy of ours is far from perfect but it sure beats the alternative. And so with glowing heart, this free woman voted today.

©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday Moanings - June 9, 2014

A blast from the near past, almost a year ago yet as true now as it was then, and probably ever shall be.
Dust Bunnies and Fur balls still gather in the corners to plot their conquest but in my kitchen love, laughter and good food always have the upper hand, and I still adore my kitchen.

From July 29, 2013 (with a few minor alterations):

Carol Burnett - The Charwoman
Monday again! The day that, according to my schedule, is 'housework' day; the day The Maid in me comes out to restore cleanliness and good order; the day that, at its close, allows me to rightfully lay claim to a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." High fives all around!

This Maid is well schooled in all the tools and techniques of her trade. She has no shortage of buckets, brooms, rags and mops to go with her well chosen array of solvents and solutions, sprays and polishes. Most are 'Green' at least according to the label but a few are not so environmentally friendly - because sometimes a blowtorch just isn't practical! There is just one thing this poster maid from the 1950's lacks, one flaw in an otherwise perfect performance. Regularity. And not the kind remedied by bran. In point of fact, the woman cannot be trusted to show up on a regular basis and do her job!

Every Monday? Dream on! One Monday a month? Hmmm, not likely. One day, any day, once a month? Perhaps. How about a half day every four to six weeks? Deal! Or at least a tentative arrangement. Is it any wonder I have so few of those Good Housekeeping awards? Sometimes she does indeed arrive as agreed then spends the day drinking coffee and leafing through travel magazines. Can you believe it? The only warning of her arrival is the clattering of buckets, brooms and mops accompanied by a few expletives as she searches for potions not put back where they belong. If she were a smoker, there would be fag dangling from the corner of her mouth.

So imagine my surprise when this past Friday morning, the grumbling woman thumped into my kitchen, ordered a mug of coffee, then set to work. The dust bunnies gasped in horror, the fur balls scattered, the crumbs crumbled and the big drips hung on for dear life. The sugary bits burned into the stove top laughed, sure of their tenacity to outwit all the maid's solutions, but the giggles died the instant a razor blade scraper flashed in the sunshine. She brandished her weapon high, then one quick scrape here, another two or three there and not a trace was left, save for the maid's triumphant chortle. Then the chairs were wiped down and moved out; the lights turned up high for a full assault on the floor. There was nowhere to hide from this maid on a mission. The broom handled the first sweep, then the tractor beam of the vacuum sucked up the run-aways. A thorough mopping up completed the operation.

And then she was gone. As quickly as she had appeared, the Maid vanished into thin air, leaving behind a pile of dirty rags and a pristine kitchen. Mission accomplished. And it was a fine mission, well executed and successful, at least as far as the kitchen. Wonder when she'll be back to do the rest of the house? I'm thinking it won't be today, or any day this week for that matter. Next week? I'd best not hold my breath. In the mean time, already I notice that baby dust bunnies have emerged from god knows where and furry bits are beginning to gather in groups again. A few crumbs have even eased their way back onto the counters, but the stove top is still shiny.

I love my kitchen.
It is the place where so much of life happens.

Good things are made here.

Good things happen here.

Pristine has its time and place but most of the time I think my kitchen deserves a 'lived in' look, dust bunnies, fur balls and all.

"No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best."  (anon.)

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 5, 2014

The Stanley Cup Final

It's June, so what's up with all this ice hockey stuff? Well it's the way it is here on the left side of the Atlantic Ocean. This season began on October 1, 2013; 1230 games (82 games per team) were played before the playoffs began in mid April. Since then, 3 playoff series (Round 1, Quarterfinals & Semifinals) have been played. The mind boggles, at least mine does, which is why I don't start watching until maybe quarterfinals and then only if one of our Canadian teams is playing. The semi's I sort of watch if I have nothing better to do, unless a Canadian team is on the ice. BUT the FINAL? Well that's where the real hockey is played and I never miss the Stanley Cup Final.

image courtesy of

I've written about my hockey dreams in this blog a few times before, but permit me to once again put on my gloves, Chicago Blackhawks sweater and grab my hockey stick...

image courtesy of
I loved the match up between Montreal and New York, two teams from the 'Original Six' of the NHL I knew as a child, but I was really cheering for the Chicago Blackhawks to prevail over the LA Kings. That was not to be, still I've always been a Chicago Blackhawks fan through and through. The likes of Bobby Hull, Stan Makita, Chico Maki, Pierre Pilote and goalie Glenn Hall filled my childhood dreams of triumph and greatness.

The best Christmas of my childhood, the most memorable was the one (1962 or '63) when I got not only a hockey stick and gloves, but also an official Blackhawks sweater (they really were sweaters in those days, not jerseys). I well recall the surprise, the absolute joy that rocketed through my body when I tore open the package from Auntie Lilian, to discover not yet another dress (blech!), but the red and black wool of the hockey sweater. I was in seventh heaven and couldn't wait to get out on the street for a game of road hockey with the boy across the street. He'd be Johnny Bower to my Bobby Hull, or Stan Makita.

image courtesy of
I had hockey dreams. There was just one problem. I couldn't skate. Try as I might I could not master those
bright white slender figure skates. They tripped me up every time; the damn picks dug in and sent my flying far too many times. Back then, figure skates were the only option for girls, after all every Canadian girl on the ice wanted to be Barbara Ann Scott (1948 Olympic champion), didn't she? Well no, at least not me. I recall my Dad considered buying a pair of real hockey skates like his, but Mom wouldn't hear of it - those were boys' skates!

No matter, road hockey worked the magic and in winter on our quiet street there was often enough snow pack to use my real NHL puck and stick handle my way up the road rink to face Johnny Bower between the pipes.

She shoots! She Scores!
The crowd went wild.

My Blackhawks didn't make it, but one of The Original Six did, so start spreading the news ... 
New York, New York!

image courtesy of

text ©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 2 June 2014

Monday Moanings - June 2, 2014

Early Risers and Heirloom Flowers

Give or take fifteen minutes, 8am is rise and shine time here, most often signalled by the pitter thunk of four canine feet, followed by a paw on my arm, or what Sophie thinks is my arm. Then a long dark nose begins to push at the covers often accompanied by heavy breathing as the search for signs of life ensues. "Mom?? Mom, are you in there?" the furry beast wants to know. On this morning, I squeezed one eye open and cheered on by a bushy tail waving in frenzied joy, I glanced at the bedside clock. Two numbers swam in front of me in morning brightness, "57".

"Okay pups, it's time to get up." Four legs of glee and delight bounced all around me. Brief morning ablutions done and dressed for the day I sauntered out into a sun-filled kitchen, swung open the deck door and took in the air. It was a beautiful morning, a cool, fragrant, dewy morning. BUT it's only 7:09! It seems neither Sophie nor I is capable of telling time, at least not at first eye squint. And that's how I ended up in the garden before 8 this morning.

Out I went with trowel in hand to sit on the damp grass and play in the dirt. There is nothing like garden dirt -- dark, cool, clumpy yet yielding, just plain earthy. Just add flowers. And did you know that talking to the precious blooms, especially the pansies, elicits smiles and chuckles? Planting flowers can turn any frown upside down and turn any moaning into pure delight.Well it works for me, every time.


One day a long time ago when we were children, my Dad was out planting annuals in the back garden. He loved gardening, when he had the time to do it, and if he could amuse his three daughters at the same time, well that really was a red letter day. So on this one morning my sisters and I with noses pressed tight up against the bedroom window screen, watched Dad plant pansies. For our entertainment, he talked to his little plants in a voice not unlike that of the late Jonathan Winter's character, Maude Frickert. An old reedy, wheezy voice with a bit of a southern drawl wafted up to the window, "Well aren't you just a little cutie. Let's just get you set up right in here. Oh, such a sweetie. Now what about your other little friends here? They want a special place just like you. Oops, don't you worry about those little wormies. They're your friends too."

We hung on every word, suppressing giggles and jostling each other. What neither we nor Dad knew was that our neighbour, hidden by the fence, was also crouched down in her garden not two metres away from Dad. At some point she went to the fence to investigate the chatter. Dad kept right on talking to the flowers, "Oh look at you, such a pretty yellow dress."  At some point I guess he must have felt her eyes burning into his back. We watched him ooze his head around to look over the fence. We saw the colour go out of his face. Then we heard a woman's voice say as sweetly and slowly as possible, "Well they are pretty aren't they?"

We slid from our places at the window, hands clutching our mouths, giggles bubbling up inside us. I don't think Dad ever talked to the flowers again but the legend lives on. It's a family heirloom.


Did I talk to my pansies this morning? Oh, indeed I did. We had a lovely chat surrounded by sunshine and warm earth (my nearest neighbour is more than 60 metres away). 
I'm sure I heard Dad chuckling right along with me. 

©2014 April Hoeller