Winter

Every year I look to winter as my time to prop my feet up, grab a snack, and ease into a cozy atmosphere of hibernation. Even though January has yet to end, I haven’t taken any of my Christmas lights down. Call me a die-hard Christmanite. Thinking about it, I really don’t suppose the lights come down at all until sometime in April when the first bird appears and declares the arrival of our Canadian spring.

Canadian Winter
Canadian Winter

So, this time of year is my time. Why?

Some people find winter to be a miserable season. I’m in the other group. I don’t suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), nor do I hate the massive storms we receive at the hands of nature unleashing its wrath on humanity for abusing the environment. I love my 5:30 walk in the morning when the air is tight, the ice cracks under my boots, and the wind howls between the still moments.

Ah, winter! There isn’t anything like it.

I live for coming in from the cold to find a hot cup of apple cider waiting to warm me up. I love sitting by the bay window during a snowy evening to observe everything turn white. I get a thrill from watching the twinkling lights of the winter village we have sitting on the ledge of the bay window. I love driving through a whiteout, appreciating the inside of my warm car while another track of Star Wars: The Force Awakens plays in the background.

I can keep going, listing every single reason why I love winter—but what would that serve? Actually, maybe I should do that. Let’s see how far I get.

My parents' backyard
My parents’ backyard

Have you ever caught snowflakes on your tongue? Sounds silly, I know. I’ve done it. Have you ever slid down a hill at full speed in a toboggan with the fear of God stuck in your throat wondering if you’ll survive once you reach the end where a clump a trees awaits your arrival? Done it. Have you ever thrown a pot of boiling water into the air outside at subzero temperatures and watch it instantly turn into vapor? Done it. Have you ever dropped in the snow and made the greatest snow angel in your life? Yup, done it, too.

Gosh, then there are the times when I sit at the kitchen table with my parents and steal a glance out the window to enjoy the dark blue look to the evening. And then there is the time when I build a fire, and the smell of burning wood spills into every room of the house, providing another layer of coziness to an otherwise frosty night.

Yet, of everything I’ve described, I think my favorite part of winter is spending time with the family and feeling warm inside. Inside my home, and inside my soul.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you like winter? If so, what do you like about it?

Advertisements

Let’s Take a Walk

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The foliage changing colors brings me closer to nature. I want to sit in the woods, listen to the rustling leaves swirl, and smell the musty scent of moss floating from the log behind me.

A two-minute walk to the park next to my house.
A two-minute walk to the park next to my house.

For today’s Freedom Friday, would you take a walk with me? It won’t be long. I just would like to show you my neighborhood. Maybe even make you feel what I feel when I look at nature the way I do.

Living in farm country affords me time away from the big city. Not only do I take frequent walks in and around our neighborhood, but I also slip into the woods every so often to enjoy the silence away from it all.

Path leading to the woods.
Path leading to the woods.
Entrance to the woods.
Entrance to the woods.

Our first stop is the park next to my home. Every year at this time, it bursts with color. The mornings are as if someone had taken several buckets of paint and splashed them on all the trees. Yellows are like pots of gold. Reds are deep and rich. Why not? Maple trees line the perimeter of the park and invite the stranger to visit the inner sanctuary.

The woods begin at the park and continue for a mile in all directions, cutting across a street until it reaches the farms. I’ve strolled the distance many times, getting lost in its winding trails. The crunch under my feet stops me from going further. I look around and see trees surrounding me. They are tall and strong. The squirrels are gathering food for the winter. The birds have long left the area, searching for warmer climes, escaping the coming winter.

I turn east and head for the stream, which resides at the other side of the street. Other than the gentle breeze caressing my skin, the rushing water breaks the peace and makes my mind wander.

The woods.
The woods.
Looking high above between the trees.
Looking high above between the trees.

I wonder what it was like a hundred years ago, during the times when the colonialists settled the area. Was there ever a person who sat in the exact spot I am sitting, thinking about the coming winter, dreaming about a hot drink by the open fire? Had anyone lived there who came fishing here in the summer, craving for a good catch to bring home to the family for the evening’s meal? I’m sure there was. How could there not?

Then I see more leaves float from the branches, creating a bed for the chipmunks scampering about below. It’s nice here. The tree limbs overhead provide a comfortable roof. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel like it will rain. I can tell when that happens. The animals disappear, the air tightens and a certain smell hovers over everything until the first drop hits the ground.

It’s getting late. I head back wondering what I will have to eat. The other night my wife made fresh baked bread. Oh, how I would love that again. The sweet aroma is hard to resist. After a long walk, it also makes my house feel like home.

Home. What a beautiful word. Calming. Peaceful. Happy. Home.

Get the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy now!

What is your neighborhood like? Do you live where you can stroll in the open country?

My Vacation

A few weeks ago, I took a much-needed vacation. This means, other than the three articles I publish on my site every week, I didn’t write a word anywhere. I can safely say I enjoyed every moment, and I would love if I could do it all over again.

Ontario, Canada
Ontario, Canada (taken with my iPhone)

Instead of packing my bags and leaving this pleasant town I call home, my wife and I decided to stay local and host my mother-in-law for two weeks. Wow! What a great time that was. I don’t care what anyone says about mother-in-laws, mine is as cool as they come.

She’s eighty years old. When I suggested we all go watch Jurassic World in 3D, she jumped at the idea. She hadn’t seen a 3D movie since the Fifties where red and blue lenses made up the 3D glasses.

Her verdict? She loved the effects and the heart-pounding action sequences.

Okay, let me repeat what I said earlier—eighty years old, folks.

She also didn’t show any fear when I asked if she’d like to eat hot sauce on her food. She went all out and enjoyed it. In fact, you know what she said to me? She said, “I don’t know if it’s because I’m used to it, but the sauce is weak.” The hot sauce is the suicide chicken wing sauce I use to drown my meats in while I cook.

Ontario, Canada
Ontario, Canada

Apart from my mom-in-law visiting, I had a lot of time to spend with the family and hanging with friends. My kids had their yearend recitals at the performing arts studio they attended during the 2014-2015 season. Both came home with awards. My older one brought back the Most Improved Speech Arts & Drama Performer and my younger one took home the Most Outstanding Overall Performer playing Matthew Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables. I kid you not folks, the audience was in tears for his portrayal of the beloved patriarch.

Greek Salad
Greek Salad
Greek Lamb Dish
Greek Lamb Dish

The other part of my vacation involved food—lots of it. We went to our favorite sushi restaurant gorging on all the succulent all-you-can-eat dishes we could consume. The joy of this restaurant is having the ability to eat what we want and sharing the dishes among each other. It’s great. My mom-in-law didn’t wince once. She had salmon sushi even after saying the thought of eating raw fish didn’t appeal to her. She’s courageous, I’ll give her that.

The other place we went to was our favorite Greek restaurant. I don’t think I packed in so much food in one sitting. I had a lamb dish that simply rocked my taste buds. If I die, can I request this to be the first dish I eat in heaven?

Lastly, I took time simply being in a quiet place to exist. I allowed the silence to fill my soul with peace, and I took the opportunity to soak in the calm. Incredible what happens when I do that. All of a sudden, life’s trials don’t appear so big anymore. They still are there but they in turn become little troubles I could work through to a resolution.

Anyway, that was my vacation. I’m hoping to do it all again soon, but first I have to get my next release out the door.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Are you planning a vacation soon? Where are you thinking about going to?

Canada Day 2015

Canada Day has always held a special meaning for my family and I. Given we live in a small town an hour north of Toronto, our celebrations are not as low-key as one might expect. We have crowds from the surrounding towns. We have lots of food to consume. And we have fireworks.

This year was no different.

For those not familiar with the holiday, Canada Day is equivalent to the American Fourth of July. Instead of red, white and blue washing the crowds with color, we dawn our own colors to create a sea of red and white. It really is an awesome experience when traveling through Main Street to the lake in the middle of our town where all the festivities take place.

Canada Day Celebrations
Canada Day Celebrations

This year, my family and I took advantage of the silence on our street to sleep in until late in the morning before we decided to head to the lake. I can’t say how wonderful it feels to actually sleep in again after years of battling with insomnia. You can read about it from my previous articles I’d written about the subject.

We left home just before noon and drove five minutes to where the town had cordoned off the area to foot traffic. In this case, timing was everything. We found one of the last parking spots available. You can imagine how happy we all were when that happened.

Our leisurely walk began with a live band playing Celtic music on Main Street. While some of the crowd negotiated their way around the platform, we stayed and listened. I don’t know how anyone else feels about Celtic music, but I love the emotion behind the genre. Given my wife is also from Nova Scotia, when listening to the guitars and vocals, I’m right at home stomping and clapping along.

Celtic music
Celtic music

Booths and specialty tables outlined the street featuring various services available to the locals. One such booth was giving away free popcorn while another highlighted produce from the local farms in the area. I’ll have to write an article specifically for the farmers in our region dedicated to producing quality foods at low prices. I’m telling you, the fruits and vegetables are delicious.

The other part I enjoyed about our celebratory activities is that they are kids-friendly. Event participants had brought in blowup castles where the children could jump to their heart’s desire without hurting anyone. This was a great way for the little ones to expend all their energy before heading home. What parent does not like that?

Blowup jumping castle
Blowup jumping castle

We then headed to the lake where the activities shifted to a more grownup theme. There still were the face-painting tables and the free food samplers given to all visitors, but added was the live band that played modern music. More than any other place, the teens and young adults centered their attention here. It was great nonetheless to see everyone have a great time.

The lake in the center of our town
The lake in the center of our town

One of the most interesting parts of the journey was the cheerleading school that put on a show for everyone. Funny thing about it was how we found it. Actually—I found it. I heard the thump of a bass. I heard the clips of music strung together with a beat. I turned to my wife and said, “That’s cheerleading music.” Seriously. I ran to the where the sound was coming from and there I saw them, tossing each other in the air and making others believe they could fly. For a moment, I believed they could fly. I wasn’t sure how long the school had opened in town, but I’m looking forward to what these kids have planned in the future.

Town's cheerleaders
Town’s cheerleaders

Our walk ended with having a treat from one of the ice cream trucks parked nearby and a few photos of the town’s historical society. I once explained our town was a colonial settlement back in the 1800’s that eventually grew into a bustling commercial center for weary travelers. The historical society preserves the artifacts of that bygone era and our family had the privilege to appreciate them during these Canada Day celebrations.

Historical society
Historical society
Historical society pose for the camera
Historical society pose for the camera

And if you haven’t guessed, it didn’t end there. Like every special occasion, we went out to eat. If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you’ll probably know what type of food we had. I won’t describe it, but when we came back home, we were not only tired but stuffed!

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

How do you celebrate Canada Day or the Fourth of July? If not those, do you celebrate a similar holiday?

Our Anniversary Weekend

The cool thing about being married for over twenty years is that we finish each other’s sentences.

Me: Honey, where did you put my slippers?
Her: Did you check under the bed?
Me: Yep.
Her: Did you check the closet?
Me: Yep.
Her: Did you check—
Together: The bathroom?

The other cool thing about being married for over twenty years is that we can go on an anniversary weekend getaway without worrying about the kids.

Our walk by the marina.
Our walk by the marina.

In fact, just recently, that’s exactly what we did. For a number of years now, we’ve packed our bags, loaded the car and headed to wherever the wind would take us. This year we ended up going north into cottage country where the moose are aplenty and the wilderness is our friend. We booked a hotel in Barrie, Ontario and took each day as a blessing without worrying about what came next.

My wife took the liberty to grab the honeymoon suite with a gorgeous Jacuzzi in the middle of the room. I must say, she knows me so well. I should have been a water baby.

The first thing we did when arriving on the Friday night was to unpack, jump on the bed, then relax a bit before heading to our favorite sushi restaurant. It’s a tradition of ours to find a sushi restaurant and stick with it for life. We have a modest dive in our town that only seats twenty. The food is incredible, and we wouldn’t give it up for the world. Similarly, in the town where we were staying, we found a sushi place a few years ago that we always go to regardless of the drive.

I would say the best part of the trip is the unwinding part. Whatever we had brought on the trip, we left in the sushi restaurant when talking about the day. A funny thing happens when we do that. It feels like a cloud lifts and we officially hit vacation mode. In between the Salmon Maki and the Chicken Fried Rice, our life suddenly become less complicated after knowing we have a few days of relaxation to do whatever we want.

Salmon Maki, my favorite of all.
Salmon Maki, my favorite of all.
Seriously, Sashimi is incredible.
Seriously, Sashimi is incredible.

From there, we headed to the theater to watch Tomorrowland. My wife enjoyed it. I, however, was so tired by the week that I fell asleep about halfway through the thing. Interesting tidbit of the evening: A couple of teenagers were sitting next to me doing nothing more than kissing up a storm. I was surprised to find by the end of the night their seats hadn’t caught fire with me going up in flames next to them.

On the Saturday, we spent the entire day in the hotel room. Yes, some of you might be thinking what a waste, but if you knew the hectic schedule my wife and I have during the week, you would take a month in deep cryogenic stasis to regain your energy. Besides, it had a Jacuzzi in the middle of the room—I mention that, didn’t I? I don’t think I need to say anything else.

That evening, we headed over to Boston Pizza then took in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This time, I did not fall asleep. What a great movie.

It looks like an abstract but it's really the blue lights illuminating the outside of our hotel.
It looks like an abstract but it’s really the blue lights illuminating the outside of our hotel.
The marina where my wife and I took our walk.
The marina where my wife and I took our walk.
I'm not sure what this is, but it was awesome to photograph.
I’m not sure what this is, but it was awesome to photograph.

The next day, we checked out early. My wife suggested we try out the marina about ten minutes away. Wow, if there ever was an idea so awesome, this was it. We stayed there a few hours taking a walk on the boardwalk, talking about our future. We dreamed of having a boat someday. Actually, it was I dreaming about the boat and it was her saying, “You’ll have to take care of it. You know that, right?” My feet came back to earth and we continued hand-in-hand talking about other dreams.

We wound the day by heading home, sweet, home where we took the kids out to eat in the evening while talking about our weekend getaway.

I don't eat them often, but chicken wings sure hit the spot.
I don’t eat them often, but chicken wings sure hit the spot.

In the midst of it all, my wife and I eventually concluded as much as we love our getaways, there’s nothing quite like family.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Do you take weekend getaways with your significant other? What is your fondest memory?

Experiencing the Moment

I love playing with my camera. My camera has served me well over the years. During the past eleven years, since the time I’d purchase my first digital camera, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege to visit. From Niagara Falls all the way to Nova Scotia, I have an archive full of memories I’d love to share with you this Freedom Friday.

To start—I’ve learned a lesson. The lesson I’ve learned is this: To enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it. What I mean by that has a lot more to do with experiencing the moment than it is to relive the moment. Photography has a way of capturing a photographer’s imagination to the point where the subject becomes just that—the subject. I had that happen to me where I did what I could to capture the subject that I’d forgotten to capture one thing. I’d forgotten to live the moment.

Nowadays, I’m careful to put my camera away and take a deep breath to look at what’s going on around me. It’s amazing what I see when I do that. Gone is the worry of thinking I’d miss a shot if I don’t have my camera readily available. Now I see an event for what it is—an experience. And because it’s an experience, I enjoy myself more knowing it’s there to capture not with the camera, but with my heart.

Pretty sentimental stuff, eh?

Okay, I have a whole lot of photos I want to share with you, so I think I’ll start with a few of my favorites from the East Coast. My wife’s family comes from Nova Scotia. Every time I’m there, I end up taking a gazillion photos of the area. One of my favorite places happens to be Citadel Hill in Halifax. The first time I’d visited there, the clouds hung low and gray, and my family and I were afraid of a thunderstorm catching us unaware. Luckily, subsequent years provided a different experience. Here, have a peek:

Path leading to Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax, Nova Scotia
Path leading to Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax, Nova Scotia
Soldiers march in Citadel Hill, Nova Scotia
Soldiers march in Citadel Hill, Nova Scotia
Rock beach somewhere in Nova Scotia
Rock beach somewhere in Nova Scotia
Fishing trawler near Dartmouth
Fishing trawler near Dartmouth
Marshes in Nova Scotia
Marshes in Nova Scotia

Next up, Niagara Falls. I love this place. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Since it takes less than a couple of hours to get there from where we live, we end up going there quite often. You can read about some of our trips I’d written from past posts. Whenever we go to Niagara Falls it’s a mini vacation with lots to do and plenty of restaurants to visit during our stay.

Nightlife in Niagara Falls
Nightlife in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls' Canadian Midway
Niagara Falls’ Canadian Midway
Attractions in Niagara
Attractions in Niagara
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Canada
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls, Canada

Lastly, here is a collection of some of my favorite photos I’ve had hanging around collecting dust (not really). Some are random shots I’d taken in the heat of the moment, and some I’ve planned. Try to guess which is which, ’cause honestly, I can’t remember.

My view on the train one day coming back from the city.
My view on the train one day coming back from the city.
On the set of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.
On the set of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.
First snow of the season.
First snow of the season.
Buried in snow.
Buried in snow.
My love for making sushi.
My love for making sushi.
A game of Mousetrap.
A game of Mousetrap.
The story of the stationary Canadian quarter. This actually happened.
The story of the stationary Canadian quarter. This actually happened.

I hope you enjoyed this little slideshow of memories. Granted, they are my memories, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, too. Nevertheless, they are but a glimpse into my life and why I think experiences are special to have and to hold as captured moments of time to relive forever.

[Author’s note: In celebration of spring, I’ve changed the header color to reflect the season. I hope you like it!]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you like photography? Have you taken many pictures that remind you of the memories?

Time Is Precious

This has to be my favorite time of year. With the days getting shorter and the nights growing colder, I don’t miss the sweltering heat of summer. But I’m sure if I live through six months of frigid arctic weather, I would grow weary enough to want to have the sun back. Just, not right now, though.

The Woods
The Woods

I can’t believe how quickly October went by. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day telling how this month disappeared. Then again, I did have a book release, so that did make the time fly. Nonetheless, my friend felt time has been speeding along while all we’re doing is enjoying the ride.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the woods while the leaves were turning colors and I had the opportunity to have my camera with me. Actually, I went out to take a few photos, so the opportunity was a planned event. As I walked through the woods enjoying the scenery, I noticed how quiet it was. I noticed it before, yet it never hit me quite as dramatically as that day.

I sat on a log and took it all in. I could hear the leaves rustling in the wind. The squirrels were dancing along the perimeter foraging for food. And the air was still warm, left over from the summer.

The Woods - A week later
The Woods – A week later

A week later, I went back to that same spot and the leaves had all but changed to a brilliant orange. Gone was the multi-colored tapestry nature gladly spreads honoring those who venture nearby. In its place, a bed of leaves surrounded my feet. A cold wind ran through my jacket as I sunk my hands into my pockets. And the gray sky made everything barren-looking. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything changed.

I’ve been noticing that quite a lot lately. I’m not sure why that is. In the town where I live, construction has overtaken major roadways. What used to be a peaceful area now bustles with workers. They’re improving the area. At least that is what I think they’re doing. I notice it more when I have to drive through it, running errands.

How quickly things change.

The log
The log

This time of year calls for nostalgia, wanting for things to be the way they were. I miss those days when things were simpler, when I didn’t have all the responsibilities I have today. I’m longing for those people who were once in my life, but are no longer there. I miss them. Their ghosts come and go, yet the present remains the same.

Time is precious and there’s no escaping it. What is today will become yesterday. Let’s enjoy every moment.

[Another Freedom Friday post inspired by fall.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

How do you view time? Does this time of year also spark a longing for the way things were?