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Pigs in blankets, chocolate orange, and sprouts

I’ve just spent my first Christmas away from my family – because I’m in the UK! You can find more info on that in my last post, but long story short, I was on an extended trip and didn’t want to travel home for Christmas and help spread Omicron to Muskoka. Since I’ve just experienced my first British Christmas, I thought I would write about a few differences between Canadian Christmas and Christmas in the UK.

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast

Every year, the Queen delivers a Christmas message reflecting on current issues and concerns the UK faces, and what Christmas means to her and her followers. More than 9 million viewers tuned in for her address this year. Though this isn’t a tradition in every household, it is in many, and even families who don’t watch every year seem to tune in from time to time.

For some, it is a very serious occasion – my dad Steve remembers visiting his Great Grandmother (born in England) every year on Christmas morning. She would be dressed up for the occasion, and he and his brother Chris would be kicked out of the room for the Queen’s Christmas message. You are also supposed to stand for the National anthem (God Save the Queen). Or maybe for the entire speech… it’s been different depending on who I’ve asked. This investigative reporter has been inundated with sherry and pigs in blankets, so I’ll settle on reporting that some standing is certainly involved.

Obsession with Chocolate Orange

As kids, we would often get a Terry’s chocolate orange in our Christmas stocking. I know many families enjoy chocolate oranges at Christmas, but England takes it to another level entirely. I pointed this out to my friend when Christmas items started appearing in stores at the beginning of November. My friend responded with “well, we definitely have a few but I don’t think there’s that many?” And so my quest to find as many chocolate orange items as possible began.

I made an instagram post the other day where I counted through 49 of them (forgetting about the chocolate orange milk in our fridge, and the chocolate orange subway cookie we had picked up). This also doesn’t include a few items that we had seen in November but could no longer find, like yorkies and lion bars. Cookies, chocolate, even diet bars – if you like chocolate orange, England is the place for you.

I wasn’t kidding when I said OBSESSED!
Christmas Day Foods

Many of the traditional Christmas dinner items in Canada are the same as in the UK – some sort of fowl as the main, stuffing, potatoes, sprouts, green beans, gravy, and cranberry sauce. The stuffing is different – it does use breadcrumbs, but it seems much heavier on the sausage and has the addition of chestnuts. British Christmas dinner includes a few things that the Canadian version doesn’t – Christmas pudding (except for in some families), and pigs in blankets (an absolute must here).

It’s also traditional to have mincemeat pies on Christmas Day and at Christmas celebrations here – something I’ve never known anyone to do in Canada (but let us know if your family does!).

White Christmas

In recent years, this has changed a little… but growing up you could pretty much always expect to have a white Christmas! In England this is a rarity. We actually ended up having snow on Christmas night this year… and at home in Port Carling there was none! Notwithstanding this role reversal, generally you can expect snow in Muskoka and a green (no, really!) Christmas in England… well, and grey. Grey skies always.

Brussels Sprouts Products

Okay, so we may have sprouts at Christmas… but we don’t love them nearly as much as the Brits do. I was amazed when Christmas season hit and they started popping up everywhere – I’ve seen Brussels Sprouts:

  • Ornaments
  • Socks (I bought these – Brussels ‘pouts,’ and all the sprouts had big red lips!)
  • Stress balls
  • Truffles
  • Milk Chocolates
  • Gift bags
  • Wrapping paper
  • Gin
  • A suit (seriously, yes – I’ll include a picture)
  • Sauce
  • Cards
Source: amazon.co.uk
Boxing Day

Boxing Day is one of the biggest shopping days in Canada – that’s not much of a thing in England. I found most shops closed, aside from grocery stores. There is a different tradition though – a boxing day dip! The friend I’m staying with has parents who live near the coast, where people run into the ocean on Boxing Day – sometimes for charity, sometimes just for fun. Sounds a little less cushy than our tradition!

Source: thenorthernecho.co.uk

My friend’s mum also told me about her grandparents, who were married on Boxing Day. A lot of people struggled for money back then, so they would get married on Boxing Day to take advantage of the Christmas leftovers. Smart!

And that’s it – all the differences between Christmas in England and Canada that I’ve found so far. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know! And Happy New Year to all!

Christmas in England

I am lucky in my career. I live in a gorgeous place, spend much of my time with people I admire, and tour incredible cottages on the regular. I am also lucky to live in a place with a bustling summer season, and a real estate partner I can take turns covering in-person business with during the slower winter season.

I decided to take advantage of that this year, and take a trip to visit a friend in England. I booked my trip for four months down the road (in the end of October), crossed my fingers, and waited. When the time finally came there were no travel advisories. I had been double jabbed, and I was all set to go. After six amazing weeks of exploring England, driving the North Coast 500 in Scotland, visiting endless castles, and taking my first trip to Ireland (Dublin), it was time to come home.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness in Drumnadrochit, Scotland – said to be a favourite haunt of Nessie!

There was only one problem… Omicron! My return was originally scheduled for December 15th, in time for me to be home for Christmas. By a week before my planned return the new variant had started to become a major news story. By a few days before? Cases were surging, and travel advisories were being issued. The UK was ahead of Canada in cases – Omicron was set to be the dominant variant in London (where I’d be flying out of) by December 16th – just one day after my flight. I didn’t want to risk flying home & potentially being part of the spread, so I hopped online and booked a new flight – for March! Thank goodness I did. Cases continued to surge, and I was able to book a booster shot here sooner than I would have been able to at home.

Spofforth Castle, Harrogate, England

Anyway, remote work it is! And there’s another way I’m lucky – aside from a few in person meetings like showings and listing appointments, I’m able to do the majority of my work online. I will have to post another blog about that… it’s amazing how much we are able to do remotely these days! And I have my partner Catharine Inniss on the ground in Muskoka to cover the rest.

If you want some information on the market, or if you’re looking to buy or sell, please don’t hesitate to contact Catharine at 705-801-2304, or to email me at len@cottageinmuskoka.ca.

A bridge at Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge, England

See you next time, when I talk about some differences between Christmas in Canada and Christmas in the United Kingdom! Merry Christmas everyone – I’m off to eat some pigs in blankets!

Kindness is the New Black

Greetings Fellow Humans,

I hope that you are all doing well, and coping with self isolation. These are certainly trying times for all of us. We are are all in the same situation with different circumstances. Some of us are coping well and some of us are finding self isolation very challenging, and most of us are somewhere in the middle, with good days and bad days, good hours and challenging hours.

I am continuing my theme of kindness for April. I say that kindness is the new black, and everyone needs to choose to wear it. Kindness applied to yourself first, will contribute to your strength and resolve. Self care will spill over onto others, and afford you the ability to help those around you.

Start with the outward display of kindness – taking good care of yourself. A routine is recommended by experts and will give you some structure to your day. Some days you will just be in survival mode, some days you will actually feel like you are accomplishing something.

Reach out to your friends and clients. Share your positive energy. And when you need some positive energy, reach out! A phone call checking in on clients and expecting nothing in return will help them and make you feel good. Do all the good deeds you can, from the safety of your own home.

Life is definitely not normal now, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot be grateful for the good things that we do have, and reach out when we need help. Please call me if there is anything I can do for you. We are all in this together.

Catharine Inniss 705 801 2304
Lakelands Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors, President 2020

REAL ESTATE IN TRYING TIMES

Greetings Fellow Isolators –

At a time like this, in Muskoka and around the world, a time unprecedented in modern human history, it is good to be reminded that we are not alone. We are all in this together.

We are all part of the human family and this COVID 19 is a world wide epidemic.

A doctor in Manhattan tells us that the sky is falling. Yes, it must seem so in New York. So far, here, we have been very fortunate. The sky is not falling here. Yet.

Your diligence in following protocol, is necessary. It is necessary to keep people alive. We are in an actual life and death situation, which needs to be taken seriously. We must model appropriate behaviour for others, and take leadership roles in our communities.

The province of Ontario has deemed Real Estate an essential service. You should expect that your REALTOR will be there for you, online. They will help you in person only under very carefully managed circumstances. So much can be done virtually now. If this had to happen, at least we have those resources.

Real estate services are important to the economy. And to people who have to buy or sell for health reasons, job reasons, family issues. =Learning to practice real estate while keeping safe, is going to take some creative thinking and some willingness to ’step out of the box’, while staying home.

We are being advised not to leave our homes unless it is absolutely necessary and then to take appropriate precautions.

Current events are going to tell us about who we are. We are about to find out where we are strong and where we need to improve, as citizens and as professionals.

Start with being kind. Kind to yourself, and kind to others. That shows strength of character and is more difficult in stressful times. And more necessary than ever! We are all in the same fallible, human family.

Thinking positively, being grateful for what you have and being kind opens, you to creative solutions. We need to learn how to move forward in the best way possible, and now is the time! This is a good time to learn all the skills that you have been meaning to, online.

Take your mind off yourself. Reach out and call your relatives, friends and clients, just to bring some cheer to their day. You never know whose life you are going to profoundly impact. Make it positive.

Catharine Inniss
The Lakelands Association of REALTORS® President, 2020

Violet Ann in Muskoka!

What do you really want to know? Muskoka Watershed Council wants to hear from you.

In cottage real estate we get asked a lot of questions: Is it weedy?; Eeeew! What’s that stuff?; Why don’t we see crayfish anymore?; My boathouse dock’s underwater – what’s with the water levels this year?; Is my water safe for swimming?; etc. It’s really a lot of fun to answer most of the time!
But here’s a chance to have some of what you want to know, perhaps monitored over time and have it reported on every 4 years!

As many readers of this weblog know, the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is a volunteer based non-profit organization with the mandate to champion watershed health in Muskoka; I am one of those volunteers.

MWC produces a Report Card every four years. The Report Card is a science-based evaluation of the health of the water, land, and wetlands in Muskoka and the municipalities that share Muskoka’s watersheds. Three Watershed Report Cards have been released to date (2004, 2007 & 2010)  We are also assisting the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve with the development of a State of the Bay Report for Georgian Bay, which will be released this year.

For the next Watershed Report Card due to be released in 2014, we want to hear from you, what you want to know about the health of our watersheds.
Click on the page below to ask your questions or find out more.

2014_RC_Request

Selling a cottage is more than selling a cottage (in Muskoka)

Just had the best experience ever. My wonderful client turned to me, as he was signing the offer on his new cottage and said “This is the most excited I have ever been in my life”. And I actually get paid to do this. Life is good!

Spotted in a Muskoka Cottage: Bonnet Chest

I’m sure the Bonnet Chest isn’t only a Canadian phenomenon. But, if you Google it, you will get lots of Canadian, and only a few US links. Even Wikipedia doesn’t know about them; searching for bonnet chest there will get you nothing. They are not mentioned in the otherwise excellent: The Heritage of Upper Canadian Furniture by Howard Pain. It seems that they may have been a Mennonite piece designed, of course, to protect bonnets. The design made its way into Canada from Pennsylvania and seemed to have become more popular here.

I have always liked their shape. Especially the ones with the upper section projecting out a few inches (chest on chest), highlighting the oversize drawers; makes me want to pull one open and look inside. There’s just something about the lines and the substantial size. So, a bonnet chest has been on my list of things to make for a long time. Recently I saw a fairly good example of what was once a lovely chestnut piece at a cottage we sold. Unfortunately our seller was keeping it, and it moved away.

Now recently, in that case, was more than two years ago. I went out the same week and bought some 4/4 curly maple. It took a couple of weeks a bit at a time to process the rough sawn wood into useable boards. But, it took over a year to build it. Not just because furniture making is done in my spare time. It’s because I was designing my bonnet chest based on ones I liked, while looking at pieces for sale on the local Kijiji and Craigslist.
And while looking, I saw one that I had to buy in Beeton. Over the years it had been pretty much reduced to a pile of water-stained boards, it was 90% apart, had had some type of birds (chickens maybe) living in the lower drawers and all the upper drawers and backsplash were gone – years ago and nobody knew where. But, it was only a hundred bucks or so, what was left was all made of butternut, and the money went to support Beeton hockey so I bought the pile of parts, headed to a sawmill and bought some rough-sawn butternut to replace the missing pieces and took it all home.
It was winter so we weren’t too busy with cottages and within a week or so it was done.
I feel great about saving this one; it could go on for another century or more, rather than rotting away.

Original (mostly) Bonnet Chest

We are VERY busy in the summer, and pretty busy the rest of the year, so I got back to the new chest only from time to time. I am fairly slow with carcass pieces to begin with. In addition to turning some 8/4 maple on the lathe for the legs, which took some time to get around to, I knew I wanted to hand-cut dovetails, front and back in all the drawers. This turned out to be 100 dovetails in all, which makes the piece cool in the builders mind, but added a couple of months to the project in “eked out” time.

Anyway, the bonnet chest is complete now, just as the summer is drawing to a close. We don’t have any bonnets, so we keep dog-leashes in one of the bonnet drawers of the old one, and not much at all yet in the new one.

My take on the Bonnet Chest, in curly maple

100 hand-cut dovetails.

Classic Muskoka Cottage & Boathouse; View From Above

We have a magnificent property listed at Pine Point on Lake Muskoka.

The key feature about this property is the land itself; the rare privacy afforded by 895 feet of Lake Muskoka frontage on this beautifully level point. Nevertheless, the buildings, specifically the boathouse, has found its way into a number of classic Muskoka books.

As an iconic Muskoka boathouse, the boathouse at Pine Point doesn’t dominate the scenery; it plays an important supporting role.

Iconic in summer.

Standing resolute to the winter cold and winds.

We wanted to feature all of it somehow; the boathouse, cottage and the truly wonderful property itself in our own way. So, up in a battery powered remote-controlled helicopter went a carefully mounted digital camera, and softly(whew) down it came with the following pictures on its memory card:

… beautiful!

Loss of biodiversity, is it important if we don’t see it?

As a volunteer, as well as being on the executive of the Muskoka Watershed Council, I am the videographer. This gives me a great opportunity to ensure that truly wonderful ideas and presentations are not lost after the words are spoken and the video projector is turned off. I record, edit and post to YouTube, lectures and presentations at Muskoka Watershed Council events.

A most important event is the biennial Muskoka Summit on the Environment. On June 6th and 7th I recorded the presentations over the two day summit. Broadcast, in part, by CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy, (search for Buying Into Biodiversity), these were world-class lectures, presented here in Muskoka. I am delighted to be able to ensure these are available to the world.

The first is now available at the following link on Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube channel: Loss of biodiversity, is it important if we don’t see it?

It was presented by Justina C. Ray Ph.D. of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Canada. Justina raises some of the most important questions and current thinking on biodiversity and explores how our thinking has shifted over time, making biodiversity loss less apparent to us.

Mice at your cottage – snakes may be your best friends.

Don’t love snakes? They are harmless, all except the Massasauga rattler, which is virtually harmless; and 5 are in trouble in Ontario. Learning to live with them near your cottage, even going so far as to create some habitat for them may be the most effective and natural way to get rid of those rodents – that you really hate.

I just finished editing, and posted a video on YouTube. Rob Willson of Riverstone Environmental presented at the Muskoka Watershed Council‘s Muskoka Stewardship Conference.

In about 40 minutes you’ll learn a lot about squamites, including what that term means to impress your scientist buddies. You will also be introduced to the actor of the snake family…

Hognose snake playing dead; all the while watching to see if you are appropriately convinced.