Extreme Snowshoeing and my Ex-Husband

Several of my social media acquaintances recently posted about their experiences learning how to ski.  To strap boards to your feet at -12 degrees Celsius and hurtle yourself down an icy mountain at age four is one thing ~ you bounce well, but to attempt it at age forty plus is incredibly brave, if somewhat treacherous.  I’m pumped by their accomplishments, but I’m worried about what’s motivating them.

I’ve skied since I could walk, you know when they laced up boots, but that doesn’t make me a good skier.   I faced the fact that I will never ski with my family because as they’ve progressed to double blacks, I’ve stayed on the green runs.  In my early forties, skiing gave way to snow shoeing.  Being a tentative skier, it’s better cardio and it keeps me in the alpine environment I love without the fear of broken bones [you know that small white female malady called osteoporosis].

Giving up skiing was difficult and even more so because my then husband took it personally.  Maybe, he said, I need private lessons or perhaps boot heaters and better skis.  It arrived finally into accusations about why, with thirty plus years of skiing under my belt, why wouldn’t I want to ski with them.  Ouch!  It felt like the moment when you tell your child not to be silly and to get their ass out onto the ski hill, only to find out that they actually have frostbite.  Only I was the child and he the parent and he didn’t care about the frostbite.

As my skiing ended, so did the 22 year marriage.  It had put into sharp relief that I was doing things not because I wanted to, but because I bought into a romanticized bully’s version of what shows as a good relationship.  A family that skiis together …

This feeling came full circle again six years later when I frequented my new boyfriend’s hockey games.  To only person in the bleachers, me, one of his team members said, you must be a new wife or a new girlfriend.  Newly in love I didn’t pick up on this not-so-subtle hint of what was to come.  Packing hot cocoa and a blanket, my fella quietly said perhaps I could stay home that night.

Wet salmon smacked up side of the head.

I was totally crushed and moped around the house for weeks bemoaning love lost, honeymoon over, blah blah blah

before I saw how silly I was being.  I was too busy waxing poetic about my hot hockey playing “boyfriend” to realize that he really needed his guy time back.  Nothing personal.  I mean, do I want him at Book Club.  Nope.  Point taken.

What I want for our daughters and sons is a life where they count on themselves first for happiness.  Not to be assessed by how much time and doing what activities with their families, but to be defined by if they show up for each other when needed.

At the end of the day, them skiing and me snowshoeing, I can still meet up with my kids and significant other in the hot tub to regale each other with stories of snow snakes, near misses and getting lost on the hill.

Ladies, keep skiing as long as you feel pleasure and challenge and if and when you’re ready for some extreme snowshoeing, call me 🙂

Lessons from Attack on Titan: How to Write a Shonen Series Without Throwing Women Under the Bus

With so many North American young adults, teens and kids now into social media, anime and manga, can Attack on Titan be considered a kind of new Feminist Literature for the 21st Century?

Taylor Ramage

Several years ago, I was venting my frustrations about Naruto to a friend of mine. My biggest complaint was that there are too many underdeveloped characters and all of the women are ultimately sidelined no matter how powerful other characters say they are. His response was “Well, it’s shonen. It’s supposed to focus on the boys.”

At the time, I had no rebuttal because as far as I knew, such casual sexism was just an inherent part of the shonen genre and there was nothing I could do except lower my expectations and hope that series like Naruto and Bleach could at least keep me interested with compelling stories (spoilers: they couldn’t. They’re both still running when they should’ve ended ages ago).

This conversation happened before I discovered series like 20th Century Boys (not shonen, but still focused on men) and Soul Eater (a popular shonen where the main…

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Beretta Bison Chili

My local Metro has stepped up in all areas from produce and vinegars to adding new meat products like from our local Beretta Farms.  I  also get to swipe my AirMiles card at Metro for points.

With all these winter storms, I was feeling chili.  I mean I was craving the heat and smoky comfort of chili .  Last week, at Metro, I picked up Beretta Farms Ground Bison for a change of pace and I was not disappointed.

I was delighted to speak with Beretta directly about the husbandry of their Bison and to get an inside track on how to prepare it.  What appeals to me about Beretta is their focus on raising animals that are grass fed, and mature slowly without stress and without the use of antibiotics or hormones, ever.

While Ontario is the largest market for beef, the majority of producers ranch out West.  Beretta Bison are also raised on the grasslands of Alberta, my home province and where I spent many a happy day on my Uncle’s ranch.

Beretta Farms Bison Chili with Master and Commander

A grass fed animal tastes very different than corn or grain fed.   You eat a steak in Calgary and compare it to a steak in Ontario and, regardless of the cut, the grass makes a difference.   Beretta bison are mostly grass fed with a finish of grain.

Plains bison co-evolved with the grassland biome and survive as a wild species.  Bison have a lower metabolic rate and well-muscled head for clearing snow, so they are less stressed during winter.  Even in the summer cattle gravitate towards wooded shade, making bison better at year round foraging.

Bison are also naturally low in fat and cholesterol, but high in protein, vitamin and minerals.   The lower fat content means watching for overcooking, but I didn’t notice any difference when cooking the ground Bison.

I also asked my Tweeps about wine pairings for bison.  Thanks to Shelley Nelson of Waterloo and the Wine Ladies, Georgia and Susanne, I opened a Henry of Pelham Baco Noir and an Argentinian Malbec, and both were perfect recommendations for my spicy version of bison chili.

Bison Chili Ingredients

Sweet Yellow Onions – one medium to large chopped

Sunflower  Oil

Minced Garlic – two cloves

Cumin – a titch

Hot Spanish Paprika – 1/2 teaspoon

Chili Flakes – in our house liberal (I used Pequin Chili  this time because it has a nice smoky heat]

Salt – sprinkling

*optional oregano

Bison Ground Beretta Farms – around 1 pound * I also threw in small piece left over beef tenderloin

tomato sauce – one plus one-half jars of preferably organic sauce

tomatoes – diced – 1 can

red wine – anything, a splash

maple syrup – a touch, I’m loving Maddington’s Maple Syrup

corn kiblets – 1 cup thawed from frozen Green Organic*

*ideally fresh, but hey we live in Canada so this product is grown in China, I look for organic, gluten free processing that is handpicked and flash frozen

white kidney beans – one can organic


Saute the onions in oil.

Add and cook Bison.

Add seasonings.

Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.

Simmer and re-check seasoning.

Add veggies.

Simmer and re-check seasoning.

Serve with corn chips or dark bread.  For me, I buy “Pumpernickel” bread from Voilá Gluten Free Bakeree in Oakville **the best ever!

Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, 10-1-1999-Comparative Ecology of Bison and Cattle on Mixed Grass Prairie, Steuter and Hidinger

Photographing Children with Alison Pentland

Even with a  squirmy toddler, a camera shy eight year old or a sullen teen, there is always hope that you can capture that memory or special moment.  As a mature person who is now on round two of taking pictures of squirming kids, here are  Grammie Pentland’s best tips on how to photograph your kids and grandchildren.


Natural Light in an Outdoor Setting

1 – Natural light in an outdoor setting with a point-and-shoot.  Here I used my handy Panasonic Lumix camera from Blacks Photography.  Even with a bribe of my pushing her on the swing, my granddaughter did not want to have her picture taken.   I think her hands covering part of her face adds to the shot.


Don’t always go for a full body shot. Shake it up.

2 – Don’t be afraid to change the angle or frame it strangely.  Fake out your grandkids by photographing just their feet in the lake or a close up of their eye.  Have them lay down in the grass and aim at camera at them from the top down.  It distracts them and usually makes for a more interesting photograph.


Indoor Diffused Natural Light and Distractions

 3 -Diffused Light and Distraction – here I sneak a shot using my iphone with Instagram.  I didn’t stop to ask for permission or to make her pose, just found a unguarded moment as she watched her favourite show holding day-old balloons from her birthday.


It’s the Moment that Counts, not the Photography

4 – Focus on capturing a moment warts and all.  This jolly old Elf at Sherway Gardens gets the Santa-of-the-Year Award.  When he realized my granddaughter would not be cajoled into posing, he whispered something to my daughter.   I used my iphone camera to shoot them all covering their eyes.  This memory is priceless and will be pulled at my granddaughter’s wedding.

Next week we speak with photographer Branda Dale who says, ”  I  use photography and the creative process in order to transform my client’s perceptions of themselves and of  their relationships with others.”

Rolling the Credits – Proper Referencing

It really frosts my berries when giving credit is missed.  In this case, I mean credit to me and not that you forgot and later shamefacedly amended your work to pay homage to the original idea, but that you were and are oblivious to anything but your own awesomeness.

Andy Warhol's original Campbell's Soup cans artwork, on display at the MoMA, New York

Andy Warhol’s original Campbell’s Soup cans artwork on display at the MoMA, New York – for original source of image please click image.

YorkU stepped up my ability to reference works, but it was a course with NIGS about on-line referencing where I realized that giving credit has become a chimera.

Referencing pre-technology was about where you place quotation marks, underline or what style to use, today it’s about giving credit at all.

We have too much technology and no self-discipline leading to generations guided by entitlement and instant gratification.  Anybody can now take a piece of art, music or other works and with a few tweaks of a photography or an audio application, can call it an original.  We can burn a disc, make a button, screen a t-shirt and make money on it.

The possibilities of our specialness are unlimited.  Enter contests online for free stuff or your five minutes of fame in photography, poetry or music to annually replace the Hockey Night in Canada theme.  Nominate [WTH] and Vote for yourself daily [WTH] in your community business association, Blog or Small Business Group as Fill-in-the-Blank of the Year.  Are we so starved for attention?

This is not someone of an older generation taking exception to the Culture of whipper-snappers-of-the-up-and-coming-young-and-beautiful-things.  Actually, I am talking about my own family [except you Alex 🙂 and contemporaries with comments like, Well if the technology is there it must be okay, or Everyone’s doing it or They make enough money anyway.  I mean if you are going to do it for fame or to make money on it, at least unabashedly know that that is the nature of your beast.

Maybe all this proliferation of specialness is a secret government ploy to keep us like rats.  Distracts us in the maze, if we know there will be cheese.  Maybe it’s our Revolution and we actually believe we are sticking it to the man.  Maybe it’s our societal reaction to too much government and feelings of helplessness that we take what we want, when we want it and screw everyone.  Maybe we’re just brats and this is our Darwinian march to extinction.

My dad said there is nothing new in the world and I agree, so if you are going to take something and make it artistically your own, good for you, but please share the credit.   Don’t give me some crap about the artistic integrity being diluted blah blah blah.  If you can’t find a way to do it without distracting from your own work, then you are just lazy.

Now I’m going to find a mirror to gaze at myself in.

What Keeps You Young?

In the past two years, I was not surprised to find a number of things that keep me young.  I am not suggesting that there are less lines on my face or I can take the stairs faster, just that my head is clearer and I’m am learning more about the world and myself.

First is water.  I am notorious for ignoring thirst.  I’m the kind of person who thrashes around in bed trying to avoid waking up for anything including water and bathroom breaks.   If you keep a bottle of room temperature water where ever you go, you will drink it.  Guaranteed.  Generally, I am finding my head clearer and my furnace more efficient by drinking more fluids including herbal tea, water and, yes, juice.

Second is people.  Interaction with people is crucial to staying young.  I’m not shy, but I hate small talk and I tend to stay in small groups.  So much of what we do is with the same old peers in large structured groups like charity events and house parties, but the real connection comes in small intimate groups of people unlike ourselves.  For the past two years, I’ve taken on students from the local high school in their co-op program.  Wrangling teens in a working environment has been my boon and my bane.  It’s taken a tremendous amount of patience to set up and run a program that they can learn something and receive a mark for while also trying to run a business.  The amazing part is what I’ve learned from them and how I’ve taken that knowledge into my costume business.

For example, this weekend I am taking my 23 year old daughter, my nephew and my students to Con-G in Guelph.  This is essentially a large conference where young adults sell and buy, but mostly build and show off their costume creations for the fandom of their choice.  Fandom being a character in a tv show, book, film, anime or comic book.  Because of my students, I’ve connected with Underworld LARP [live action role playing] a business that provides structure for people who love all things Orcs, Elves in order to Run. Fight. Hide.  For Underworld’s panel, I’ve designed four characters with make-up and costume and at 3:00 p.m. and 11:0 p.m. this old gal is dragging herself away from her cozy home office to body paint a Dark Elf, Jack Frost, a Faun and an Irish Banshee.  Talk about getting out of your comfort zone.

The third thing I’m doing is Hatha Yoga, but not any class.  It took me five years to find a guru, and I don’t mean a rock star in the social media vernacular, but a teacher who was more about the spirit of mind, body and soul than trying to give me a hard body.  Through yoga, I am learning more about this connection and using fully the body I was given to do the things that I want in the time I have been given.

What is your fountain of youth?

Treasures: The Original Locks of Love

Are you the caretaker of any family treasures?

the genealogy girl

Ronald & Margaret - darkerRonald & Margaret

During my college years I lived 2 1/2 hours from my grandparents.  This was the closest I had ever lived to them.  I visited them often.  I loved all of that time with just them.  Many of my most treasured memories come from these visits.

During one visit, my grandpa invited me into his office to show me something.  He sat down and reached for a frame that was sitting front and center on his desk.  His eyes became misty as he explained his new treasure.

When he was a young man he enlisted in the Marine Corps during WWII.  While he was away he and my grandmother wrote to each other.  In one of her letters she included a few of her curls tied together with a patriotic ribbon.  He carried those curls in his breast pocket throughout his time in the service.  Over the…

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Kids in Photography with Hope Hanson-Baker

This back lit shot is a good example of how spontaneous non-traditional shots can create great memories.

If the biggest challenge in photography is lighting, try and turn it into something interesting.   The photograph above is dark.  You can’t see the faces of the subjects.  It’s not not the kind of picture you’d see framed on a mantle, but I guarantee that the child in this photo will remember in it, the rush of joy flying in the strong arms of her father.  That is power of candid shots.

Hope Hanson-Baker of Plum Tree Photography took that candid shot.  She is no stranger to kids.  She spends most days wrangling two of her own little girls and a busy photography studio in South Mississauga, Ontario that specializes in kids.  Her birthday cake smashing sessions for one year olds are renowned and her Spring Bunny sessions are so adorable that even my 23 year old daughter wanted to pose.

Plumtree Photography Children's Portraiture

Plum Tree Photography Children’s Portraiture

When I asked Hope for her best trick in kid’s photography she gave a refreshing answer.  She said bribery.  “This is not the time to worry about teaching children how to behave,” she laughed.  I tend to agree with Hope.  I made my bed every morning for over twenty years and our three kids, now young adults, still leave their beds unmade here and at their own places.

Hope’s photography goal is about capturing who a child is, not just what they look like.  No easy feat especially in studio photography.   The space looks and smells unfamiliar.  The kids are likely wearing scratchy stiff clothing which they have to keep clean.  They might have to hug a sibling that they’d rather smash with their Elmo doll.  So if a little chocolate carrot is dangled, why not!

Both of Hope’s images were captured using a Nikon Professional camera and lens.