Looking back at 2014

Facebook has been offering photos from the past year as a rehash but it only uses photos that were posted on my Facebook page.  Anyone who knows me also knows that I like to do things my way.  So here is my version of 2014 in review.

In addition to these photographic glimpses, there were many more moments/hours with family, medical residents, friends who share my passion for helping in Africa, the cast and crew of Fault, Starbucks chatters and my KIngs Town Players Brew Pub buds – lots of friends and family to hug and laugh with throughout the year.  Thanks to all of you who were part of this.  And for those who missed out in 2014… we are starting a new year if you want to be in next year’s collection of happy memories, I am always willing to have coffee or a beer or dinner or lunch or just a chat.

My best wishes  for a healthy and satisfying 2015.

My very own All-Clad 3 qt Stainless Steel Sauté pan with a lid and a handle that stays cool.

I bought myself a Christmas present today while in town to see a movie. It is  my very own All-Clad 3 qt Stainless Steel Sauté pan with its own lid and a handle that stays cool. At home I do a lot of stove-top cooking with veggies and rice and pasta and salmon and this pot has been crying to me through the store window all week.

I then went to the store and bought some stuff to try it out, just guessing what I might make. Here is the recipe I came up with. It was a great initiation for my pan.

Step by step instructions:

1. Turn on your stereo to some music you like and with which you can sing along. You may also want to close the curtains as dancing might break out. I am a big proponent of the “Dance like no one’s watching” slogan as long as no one is. My music choices included Toto, Queen and Slumdog Millionaire. I sang and danced as I cooked.  It adds flavour of some sort, I find.

2. Open a bottle of red wine. I chose one that was recommended by Bob Benford when he and his wife visited me earlier this week – Apothic Red – California – good choice, Bob.
image3. Gather the ingredients and chop them up. I got some Roma Tomatoes (I am disappointed in the quality of vegetables available here in Florida. These ended up rather anemic. You would think with this weather they could grow decent veggies. I guess not.). Porcini mushrooms (all that was left in the mushroom bin this evening as obviously the tourists are flocking in and getting ready for New Year’s), Onion, garlic, fresh basil.
4. Boil up the water in a big pot with a bit of salt and when it is boiling throw in some spaghetti.
image5. Heat up the Sauté pan over medium heat and when it is hot add some oil, just enough to cover the bottom. When that heats (about 30 sec to a minute) add the onions then garlic then mushrooms and finally the tomatoes. Stir for a couple of minutes till they all are cooking nicely then put the lid on the Saute pan, peeking and stirring occasionally.
6. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it, spray it with some cold water and then add it to the tomato mix. Add the basil at this point too. This final cooking of the pasta in whatever sauce for a couple of minutes is something my Italian friend, Gloria taught me. It allows the pasta to take up some of the flavour of the sauce, whatever it is.
7. Onto the plate and top with grated Parmesan. I had enough for two, as you can see but I toughed it out and ate it all myself. 🙂 Next time I will add capers as well for a little zing.

The pan manufacturer said that clean up would be easy and it was. Warm soapy water and a dishcloth. No stick. Makes me very happy.

Can’t wait to try some more. This will likely be my go-to kitchen pot. Now, how to fit it into my carry-on luggage?



A Sarasota Christmas Eve

Tonight I experienced a different sort of Christmas Eve from the many I have had before.

image Before I start, let me add, that my three kids and five grandchildren were all with me on the weekend and we had a really wonderful celebration of the season.  The next day I headed to Longboat Key, Florida to a time share that I have “owned” for 35 years. In fact, my family spent a few Christmases here many years ago.

imageToday, despite being about 27 degrees C there was rain on the horizon so I jumped on the Longboat Key trolley into Sarasota to a movie. Review to follow.


The movie was out at 6 and the next trolley back to Longboat was not for an hour. As I walked up the street it looked pretty deserted, only a few people hanging about looking somewhat inebriated by the bus station.  I was early and across the street was a bar that seemed to be hopping.  So I went over to grab a beer while waiting for the bus


imageTables were full but there was a place for me at the bar, right beside the band.  What fun I had waiting for the bus.  After only one beer I was definitely into the Christmas spirit, toe-tapping and smiling ear to ear and singing along. If my bus was not due I would have stayed for a second.

At the bus station I sat near three guys who were happy to be together, no money but spending Christmas Eve w

imageith each other. Friends.  After a lot of hugging and Merry Christmases they decided that they had 17 minutes until their bus arrived and they should go get a beer. My suspicion is that they would miss their bus.  But it was actually heartwarming to see them enjoying each other’s friendship and feeling festive despite their circumstances.

As I got on the bus it started to pour rain.  I was the only rider.  It was like having a chauffeur back to my condo and the rain let up just as I was to get off the bus 100 metres from where I am staying.

For Christmas, my daughter Heather had given me some US$ to spend on entertainment while on holiday.  Today, for $22 I got transport in and out of Sarasota, a movie a beer, a tip for the bartender and $5 for a guy sitting beside me who was listening to the music but had no money to buy a drink.  A priceless Christmas Eve.

The evening was memorable.  I am still smiling and feeling very Christmasy despite being here on my own and it being warm outside.  I am happy.  I hope your Christmas Eve has some memorable moments too.

Merry Christmas.

Balls…Christmas ones.


Some stories get told over and over again at Christmas. Frosty the Snowman, Night Before Christmas,  The Wise Men and Shepherds. This is one I like to remember and particularly this year.

One of the Christmas traditions for Canadian families involves putting up the tree.

Flashback to 1957.

Our family has recently moved into a new house on Victoria Street in London, Ontario. It is time to put up the Christmas tree. My Dad is delegated to get a tree and bring it home for the family to adorn on a wintry Saturday afternoon.

Dad drags the tree into the living room, leaving a trail of sticky pine needles through the kitchen and over the dining room carpet. The tree, of course, is much bigger inside than it appeared on the lot. The top spire is bent up against the ceiling. Dad heads back out to the garage to cut it…

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London, Ontario Santa Claus Parade 1959

Here is a home movie of the London, Ontario Santa Claus Parade from 1959.  It is grainy and dark but that just adds to the mood.  We didn’t have HD video on iPhones back in the day.

LDN19620630_Heal_SlipperySlippery the sea lion escaped from Storybook Gardens in London in 1958 and swam down the Thames River, Lake St Clair, Detroit River and Lake Eerie to be captured in Sandusky, Ohio and returned to London. He was famous.


Gordie Tapp is a London- born entertainer who was prominent on CBC in those days on a program called Country Hoedown.   He later became better known across North America as a writer and performer on Hee Haw.  Gordie Tapp is now 92.

imagesBob Goulet was a Canadian-raised heartthrob who was born in the US.  His parents were from Quebec. He became  famous for his portrayal of Lancelot in Camelot on Broadway in 1960 with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. His rendition of “If ever I should leave you” was his signature song.   In the early 1950’s he appeared occasionally along with  William Shatner on the Canadian version of Howdy Doody.  Bob Goulet died in 2007.

James Doohan (Scottie on Star Trek) was also a regular on the CBC’s Howdy Doody.  My parents knew his family and would sometimes come home from parties, saying that they had spent some time with him, having no sense of his fame from Star Trek.


Whipper Billy Watson was a Toronto-born wrestler who was very popular at wrestling events in Maple Leaf Gardens.  He was known for being a “clean” wrestler and fought the likes of Gene Kininski, Gorgeous George and the Sheik.  He was also known for his charitable work. He died in 1990.

Santa Claus has a broad face and a round little belly that shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly.  He is jolly and plump.   He lives at the North Pole.  Children like him.


My Christmas – 55 years ago -1959

While cleaning out a closet I found a treasure. Old movies of my family that my Dad must have had transcribed from the little 8mm 3 minute films that were popular in the late ’60’s. The movies are grainy and dark but what a treat it is to see and remember Christmases from 55 years ago.

My Vardon grandparents in this film are younger than I am now.  My Dad in 1959 was younger than my eldest daughter is today.  I have a granddaughter as old as I was then.

My brother and I were lucky to have both sets of grandparents living fairly close by so we would all get together at one home or another for Christmas, taking turns as to who cooked the turkey. How wonderful it is to hear my mother’s laughter and to see my grandparents images again. All of us having fun.

There was always music.  One grandmother played the piano, the other the accordion. My Dad and Grandfather played the fiddle. We had a bass drum, flutes and when he got a bit older my brother played the trumpet. I could play the ukulele and the piano (not at the same time). My mother sang and danced. And laughed.

Rudolph as brightened a family yard now for almost 60 years!

Rudolph as brightened a family yard now for almost 60 years!

My Dad had made a plywood Rudolph with a red lightbulb nose that always was strapped to the railing of the front porch.  My brother Bob still has that Rudolph and posted a picture last week of it in his Hamilton yard.

In 1960 my mom’s cousin and her family came from Montreal to spend Christmas with us.  Always fun to get together with “cousins”.

In 1960, John F Kennedy was elected President of the U.S., John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister of Canada, Spartacus and Psycho were on at the movies and Elvis Presley and Chubby Checker (The Twist) were at the top of the music charts. A new group formed that year but not yet known to the world was The Beatles.

Tripping the light fantastic

I don’t know why I find these videos so hilarious. When I watch them I end up laughing until tears are running down my cheeks.  So, just for a little change I thought I would share these. I hope that they brighten your day as well. ( Sorry, ladies.)

These guys have an infectious laugh like the Car Talk Guys.

And Sherri Van V, this one is for you. Do you have these shoes?

And one more with a Hockey flair

Twenty years!

Barb at the DockaDecember 10, 2014

It was 20 years ago today that my wife, Barb, died after a long and difficult struggle with breast cancer. Twenty years. I can’t believe it. I sometimes think what I have packed into those twenty years and it saddens me to know that she did not get that time on this earth, too. She never got to cuddle her five grandchildren or to continue to provide nurturing maternal love to her kids who are now all hovering around 40 years old. They have gone half their lives without their mom. I feel sorry for them, too, for this. Dad’s are great but nobody comforts like a mom.


Gradualtion at UWO 1969

Gradualtion at UWO 1969

Occasionally,  Barb still appears in my dreams. She is healthy and part of the action, rarely says very much but she is just … there. I think that is kind of nice having her still hovering in my subconscious – there when I need her, just like when she was alive.

In those twenty years I have moved on, I think, rather well. I made lemonade, as the saying goes. With time I gradually morphed into a very happy and fulfilling life on my own. But I am always thankful for what she gave to me – many years of companionship and partnership, my cherished kids, and now grandkids that all have little bits of her thrown in.

Anyone who knew her will think about her today, remembering her fondly and with a bit of sadness as well.  Grateful, however, for having had her for part of our lives as a mother, wife, friend.

The fam.  1986

The fam. 1980?