Cream Cheese

I remember my mom buying cream cheese for my dad.  I think it was not too long after we came to Canada.  I’d be six or seven at the time.

It was a special treat  ’cause we didn’t have the money to live lavishly.  In those days it came in a box, wrapped and protected.  The very sight of it turned me off.  White cheese .. didn’t even look “creamy” so how could they call it “creamed” cheese.  I had no desire to sample this deadly white, soft, spreadable goop.  Dad was happy.  More for him.

As the years went by I made the leap and quickly learned that it was the perfect companion to a bagel, super in dips and absolutely perfect on a RyVita slice. 

Yesterday morning  I was having my RyVita with cream cheese and, for some unknown reason, I had an instant need to know what kind of cheese it was.  I’d never thought about that before, but suddenly it mattered.  No, I don’t know why.

They say that curiosity killed the cat.   That’s the “They” that are responsible for many of the wise notions in life. 

I took the tub of cheese and, adjusting my glasses to try and read the blue type on a grey background, I  viewed with incredulity the shocking truth. 

Heavenly maybe. But not Cheese.

Cream Cheese is not Cheese.  No.  Not a drop of Brie or Gouda to be found.  Cream Cheese, fellow connoisseurs, is a delicious combination of milk ingredients (I get enough thanks), modified milk ingredients (huh?),  bacterial culture (yum,yum), salt, carob bean gum (my favourite), lactic acid (good for removing rust), potassium sorbate (a summer treat) and may contain sorbic acid (if there’s an industrial accident).

Why, it’s enough to put you off your dip. 

They can call it Cream Cheese if they want to but I’ll never look at a tub of the stuff the same way again.  Sorry, from now on in my books it will be simply known as white soft edible goop.

Hang on a moment!  That’s exactly how I saw it as a kid!   Who knew I could be that smart and not know it.

How Life Works

A little more than a week ago I was recognized with the Highlander of the Year award.  Strangely enough, life has gone on in a normal fashion.   You become yesterday’s news faster than a political promise.  And there is no walking on a “red carpet”, just plain ole indoor-outdoor. I’m thinkin’ that unless there’s a cash award attached to the honour, akin to the Nobel prizes,  it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see much of a difference in your day to day existence.  I was holding on to hope that the Highlands Chamber of Commerce could arrange  for a reduction in my County mil rate, or some other life-altering cash incentive.  But alas, not to be.

Some very nice people have sent notes of congratulations and still others have stopped to give me their best regards in person.  All very kind.  Most people, totally unaware of my new elevated position, have gone about their lives as if nothing happened.  How amazing is that?  A handful of people with whom I am familiar avoided mention of this auspicious recognition.  Wassup with that? 

Over the decades I’ve won my share of awards.  As I recall it all started with a “weatherman” badge in Scouts.  Such a heady moment that was.  I paraded that badge around for all to see, and then the allure of badges got the better of me and I went for many more .  I’ve been thinking back on those occasions and I wanted to see if I couldn’t better understand the dynamics at play.  I know, you’re thinking that this guy has too much time on his hands.  Not true.  I just have a lot of sleepless nights (see previous blog).  All this rumination led me to analyze the dispersal factor for the different groupings of people.  I can only blame this insane analysis on my years in advertising and marketing communiications.   My good freind, Rick Morgan, is a fine researcher and student of human nature, and he was always encouraging us  to understand the business  framework within which each of our cients were operating.  Taking a page from his book I have done a insightful rag-tag analysis of how life works.

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Sammy Lives!!

When ‘Becca, Ben and Michael were little there lived a small spider in Jane’s  kitchen.  He was one of those light beige, almost transparent types that, when fully grown, was smaller than your little pinky nail.  He lived in the top corner of the kitchen, away from the sink but closer to the kitchen table.  The little spider would go on short walks and the kids would always remark “there’s Sammy.”  Don’t ask me how he got the name, it just happened.  It got so that if we didn’t see Sammy for a day or two, we got worried.

Now this is going to sound very strange, but when the whole family moved from Ancaster to Lynden, Sammy came along with us.  And you know what.  Sammy didn’t seem to mind the new digs.  It was larger, airier and certainly there was more to feast on out in the country.  It was good.  Sammy and all of us settled in to a happy new routine.

You know that couldn’t last.

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Benefits of Bad Nights

Each morning, as I wake up, I mutter and grumble about not having had enough sleep.  On the days I go the radio station it’s about 4.15 am when I ooze out of bed.  The other four days I luxuriate in extended bed time until about 5 a.m.  But the truth of the matter is that I just don’t get the 7 hours that I’d like to have.  Sure.  Some days I can grab a power nap of 20 to 30 minutes, but most times I motor, oops, make that cough and sputter, through the entire day.

I’m certainly not alone in this complaint, and like most of those afflicted with this “awakeness” it’s something that I’ve had for most of my adult life.  I usually blame my dear old dad (may he rest in peace, and be enjoying great sleep-ins) for rousting me each morning, early, with the his cheery “come on lad, we’ve got a lot to do today.”  It’s not all his fault.  All through my working career in marketing communications I never really turned off the problems or challenges that we were working on.  Frequently I’d have middle of the night  notions that precluded any further sleep.  With the merry mix of of work/play that I have today the same holds true. 

In the interest of getting that extra hour of sleep I’ve tried relaxing pills, sleep aids, a glass of red wine at bedtime and of course, the old chestnut, changing the pillow.  Forget it.  They are all useless.

I’ve decided to change my attitude.  I found the real benefit to be derived from the “bad night” syndrome.

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Coals to Newcastle

Turns out I created a handbuilt clay art trophy for myself.  Some of you may remember Phusus.


Last night I was shocked out of my shoes to be awarded the Highlander of the Year award.  I felt there were some very deserving people being considered and some who, in my opinion, were equivalent to 3 of me.  Thus the shock.

According to the program “The Highlander of the Year Award recognizes the contributions and community leadership demonstrated by individuals for the benefit of the Haliburton Highlands.”  It goes on for a while and then concludes with “The Highlander of the Year is a community booster and a true ambassador for the Haliburton Highlands.”  Phew!  Better widen the doorway.

The award was ever more suprising considering that as M.C. for the evening I had spent close to a half hour recounting our foibles and sticking pins in some delicate areas of the County.  I guess it’s true, laughter is good medicine. 

The ladies and gentlemen attending the event represented all areas of County life including business, education, the arts, agriculture, NFP and charitable organizations and politics. 

We had great fun and fellowship.  Some very good people and fine organizations were recognized (and then there was me?).  The Chamber staff and their volunteers put on an outstanding program.  It moved along well and I don’t think there was any point in the evening where we lost the audience.  Great team effort.

It’s a night I’ll long remember.  Everytime I look at the trophy I created I’ll have a smile.  Huh.  Coals to Newcastle.

Non-tangibles make the day

Yesterday I celebrated another notch on the tree.  A year older.  Most people of a certain age greet their birth date in a somewhat bemused mindset.  You made it through another year.  A brief reflection of the kind of year it has been is O.K., but the demands of this day tend to loom with more importance.  Now this doesn’t mean you can’t take a few moments along the way to take stock and consider the year ahead.  Now there’s the real challenge on your birthday – considering the unknowns in the year ahead.  Excuse me, I shuddered.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about birthdays.  I let Hallmark do that for me.  It occurs to me that birthdays have one very important function.  They let the celebrant know that they are thought of.

Yesterday I was treated with a basket full of non-tangibles.  It was perhaps the most bountiful birthday I’ve had in a few years.  Social media sites like WordPress and of course the giant Facebook have made it possible for us to follow people with greater ease than ever before experienced.  But what made my day so good was the fact that people stopped and took time to share the greeting.  How swell is that.  My family, friends, former workmates, acquaintances and even my dear cousin Lin in England were able to take a moment to say “have a great day”.   There were some particularly kind greetings and they profoundly softened my heart, which for a guy who’s grandkids call him “Grumpa” (an endearing shortform for  grumpy grandpa) that’s something.

Is there a lesson in all this?  I know there is.  Take any and all kind words, whether it’s your birthday or not, and tuck them away for those days when your head and your heart need an infusion of  purpose and a bolster to the confidence you have  in yourself.

Non-tangibles don’t spoil.  They are fresh whenever they are picked from the basket.

Jane had a beautiful cake prepared for the occasion. The guy looks like he had a "basketful". Ooops, Joan didn't quite get out of the picture .. in case you thought she was tipsy!

"….It's Who You Know"

For the past few weeks there has been a furor in Haliburton County over the proposed division of the County into two different tourism regions.  You don’t need to know who’s going with who to know that dividing a county is a bad idea.  Tourism businesses, The County and special interest organizations have spent years promoting Haliburton County as a tourism destination.  Some would say that all this effort is just now starting to mature.  When the Ontario Government proposed taking a sword to the county and splitting it into different, larger tourism regions it was not well received.

There was some suggestion that our economic development department didn’t represent us well enough and that our resistance to the split was not loud and clear.  The issue caused the start of a letter writing campaign and was the subject of a number of press articles.  The fear through all this was that Queen’s Park wouldn’t pay attention to the voices of the people.

Enter Rick Johnson, our MPP.  Rick has been our representative for a year.  It is the custom for the Premier to call the representative and congratulate him/her on their first year in office.  The Premier asked Rick, and I paraphrase, “how’s tricks in your riding”.  Rick, the good representative that he is, told the Premier that people were good n riled over the issue of slicing the county.  Hocus Pocus.  The premier said he would look into the issue!!!

I know this doesn’t mean that we’re automatically going to win the day, but just think how fortunate we were that Mr. Johnston got an “anniversary call” and the issue got to le grand fromage.  On our own we would never have got that kind of attention.

Rick …. Happy Anniversary.  And Good Luck to us!!

Hey Hockey Fans

We had a roomful of hockey fans Friday night. They were were there to have some fun and support a good cause.  As the auctioneer for the “live auction” portion of the program I expected to be seated near the front so that I could access the podium and the microphone with some ease.  You can image my suprise when I ended up at Scotty Morrison’s table with his guests for the weekend,

Boy oh boy, if I’d sold my seat I could have made some real cash.  Seated at the table were some NHL greats: Ron Stackhouse and his wife Sheila, Ron Ellis, Mark Napier, Scotty Morrison and Ray Scampanato and his wife Maureen. 

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Friday Night .. Another Gig

Showered, shaved and a splash of cologne and I’m all set.  I took it easy on the cologne … I don’t want people’s nasal passages to heal over.  

Tonight it’s the 2nd Annual Scotty Morrison Hockey Tournament banquet.  Once again I perform as the pseudo-auctioneer, and we have some delightful items for hockey fans.  Of course, being proud as punch of our boy Matt Duschene (with the Colorado Avalanche), we have a signed jersey from Matt.  We also have a signed Hayley Wickenheiser Olympic Canadian Team jersey … I think that will be a biggie.  For fans of the Canadiens a framed 100th Anniversery poster signed by Frank Mahovalich, Yvonne Cournoyer, Serge Savard and Larry Robinson.  How sweet is that.

Last year the tournament weekend raised over $18,000 for Community Care Haliburton County and I would expect it will do at least as good this year.  Scotty puts his heart and soul into this weekend and because he is so respected (and, can I say “loved”?) people rally around in support. 

Our marvellous chefs at Rhubarb are doing the catering so we know the meal will be mahvaloos!  It shouldn’t go terribly late but if it does I can always go straight to Canoe Fm for the morning show (  Plan on lots of “back to back” music.

Gotta get on my horse.  I like to arrive early.  I want to beat the rush of retired hockey players and their physiotherapists.

Manufacture Time

I remember when we made the move to the Haliburton Highlands family, friends and business associates said, “how are you going to keep yourself busy up there”.   Time and again Haliburtonians chuckle at the concept of being out-in-the-sticks and just watching the maple syrup run. 

Virtually everyone I know up here has a schedule that would make your head spin.  They may have more than one job, they definitely have more than one volunteer commitment and they make every attempt to sandwich in social and cultural events. 

I was in a seminar yesterday that was conducted by a couple of  city folks and it was  pretty obvious they thought we had just wandered in from the woods.  Not that they were condescending or flagrantly insulting, it was in their tone and manner that you could sense that they thought we were borderline bumkins.  The body language of the group telegraphed to me that they had picked up on this.  The people in the room were hard working business owners, artists and entrepreneurs who, in my experience with them, are  as “with it” as you would meet in any community.

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