All posts by futureaccess

The 5 W’s of International Women’s Day


International Women’s Day celebrates women from all over the world. The logo is purple and white, and features the symbol of Venus. Venus is a symbol itself for female.

WHAT ?IWD-Poster-2013-Artwork

International Women’s Day is a global celebration that focuses on the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Various women, political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and celebrities, are usually invited to speak at various events on this day. Events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or banquets.


Events are held worldwide.

In some countries Women’s Day is a national holiday:

Aintwdfghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Eritrea, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia


March 8th. However International Women’s Day has been recognized since the early 1900’s.


2nd_feminism_quoteWe celebrate this day because it is a time to keep past women’s achievements alive, recognize challenges, and focus attention on women’s rights and gender equality to inspire all people to join in, and do their part.

If we all think globally and act locally we can make a difference. It is important to do your bit to ensure a equal, safe and enriching future for women and girls.

21st Century Relationships

For the better part of the 23 years that I’ve been on the planet, most of my relationships have been maintained through computers and different social media sites.  Gone are the days of meeting friends at the nearby park and playing tag or on the jungle gym until the street lights come on.  Now – and by “now”, I’m referring to 2015 and the last decade – kids, teenagers, and adults seem to rely on building and maintaining relationships through social media sites, video games, and cellular devices.

I jumped into the modern relationship machine when I was in the seventh grade and I created my first MSN Messenger account.  Remember those?  Where how much you liked someone depended on how many smiley emoticons you sent?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 2.04.24 PM

It was on MSN Messenger that many of my relationships – both romantic and friendly – were put publicly on display for others to see.  The trend of putting your boy/girlfriend’s name in your “status” blew up and was seen in almost every single conversation when you scrolled down the page.

 😀 ~*~*~* I <3 YOU M@++ ~*~*~ 😀

Disclaimer: I don’t actually love Matt – I don’t even know a Matt.  Little did I know – way back in 2003 – that  the initiation of my MSN account would forever change the way I, and everyone else in the modern world, built and managed relationships.

Let’s just get this modern day relationship building site out of the way – online dating.  Ew, there . . . I said it.  I know, I know – don’t knock it ’til you try it.  theholidayWell, I have tried it and it proved to be a horrible way at finding a semi-decent relationship and it never worked.  Online dating, for me, wasn’t good for anything except the occasional conversation with someone until they moved onto the next “Plenty of Fish.”  In general, this machine we call “dating” is a site where women and men can judge one another based on a simple photo and a small description of who they are and what they like to do.  How can someone truly value you and a relationship based on a description of who you are?  I personally think that every single person is worth more and is more amazing than any 140 character blurb could ever describe.  Yet, online dating sites seem to be the number one way for singles to find “meaningful” relationships – and hey, sometimes it works!  But if I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s not to judge a book by it’s cover – in this case, a person by their profile picture – yet that seems to be the motto of all dating sites.  How can you build any relationship off of something like that?

One of the only social media sites that I have continued to use over the last decade (crazy…) is Facebook.  As someone who studied media communications in university and has had the chance to work with Facebook both personally and professionally, despite the odd privacy flaw, it hfacebookas stood the test of time as the most popular relationship building sites in the world.  While the purpose of my Facebook account has changed over the years – there was a time where I posted a new status every few minutes – I mostly use my account to remain in contact with the friends and family members I don’t have the chance to see throughout the year.  Yes, it is disappointing that sometimes at Christmas, the conversations with my cousins will begin with “So, I saw on Facebook that you . . . “, I can’t deny that Facebook has allowed me to still be a part of my family members lives digitally since I can’t be there physically.  Don’t you agree?

Despite all of the benefits that Facebook has in aiding us to be in two, three, four places at once with our friends and family members, the disappointing fact is that we live in world where relationships no longer rely on and grow in face-to-face situations.  Before we even meet a person, we can look them up on Facebook and “prepare” ourselves with a quick overview of who they are – or at least what we think they are based on their online selves.  How are we ever going to have genuine conversations with our family members or friends? There are no surprises in life anymore.  Every important life event is posted on Facebook – engagements, weddings, babies – that we no longer wait for the “Oh my gosh, I’m engaged!” phone call.  Do we truly get to know a person when we meet or see them?  Do we think that we already know everything there is to know about them – their likes, dislikes, past, present, future dreams – based on their Facebook?

I take back what I said about Facebook’s only flaw being their security issues – Facebook has a lot of flaws.  For a site that was created to connect us all, despite time zones and distance, it has certainly disconnected us in many more ways.  Recently, I’ve  made a conscious effort to stop “Liking” so many of my friends posts on Facebook.  Why?  I want to make sure that I can genuinely talk to them about exciting things that happen in their lives when we see one another face-to-face.  I want them to tell me, not Facebook.  Some of my friends were shocked (which is weird…) by my choice and have a hard time understanding why I have Facebook if I don’t “Like” things.  I like to think that my likes and dislikes on Facebook and other social media sites don’t determine how much I like or dislike my friends – or anyone else for that matter.  Life isn’t MSN Messenger, anymore.



Love Songs Deconstructed: Take 1

Not So Lovely Love Songs – “Hello” Lionel Richie

I recently had a hilarious, and slightly uncomfortable, conversation with a good friend of mine about the fact that most of the catchy songs on the radio are actually pretty inappropriate when you take an honest look at the lyrics.  Even now when I hear a song from the 90s (my childhood….), I can’t believe some of the things I was allowed to listen to and sing out loud!  Yeah, Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” . . . it ain’t about a Genie . . . or a bottle . . .

This got me to thinking.  What other songs have I obnoxiously sang, around others, without consciously thinking of the innuendo?  Now, I’m a sucker for a good love song.  Even better if it’s catchy . . . and from the 80s.  There’s a popular little ditty by a lesser known singer named Lionel Richie called “Hello” – a sweet song about a man asking a woman to see him and his heart, right?  Yeeeaaaah, no.  It wasn’t until I watched the music video, for this blog post, that I realized there is a much deeper, creepier meaning behind the lyrics of this song.  Take a look for yourself:

If by chance you missed the creepiness unfolding, here is the premiss:  Lionel Ritchie – let’s call him Mr. Richie for fun – becomes infatuated with his female student.  Early on in the video, we find out that she is blind which makes his following her around campus all the more weird and uncomfortable.  Sure, sure – we could argue that there is some symbolism behind her blindness implying “her blindness to his love for her” (I blame my university film courses for making me even notice that symbolism). . . but for the sake of this post, let’s just call a spade a spade.

I’ve been alone with you (creepy)
Inside my mind
And in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips
A thousand times 
I sometimes see you
Pass outside my door (like.. to hand in a class assignment or something..?)

Hello! (Hi Mr. Richie)
Is it me you’re looking for? (Well yeah… class starts in 5 minutes)
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile (What smile? Its 8 o’clock in the morning – that’s what I would say, anyways…) 
You’re all I’ve ever wanted (Whoa…)
And my arms are open wide
’cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
I love you (Ok…. that escalated quickly)

I long to see the sunlight in your hair
And tell you time and time again
How much I care
Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow
I’ve just got to let you know
’cause I wonder where you are (I’m heading to make a complaint about you following me around campus)
And I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely?
Or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart (………….)
For I haven’t got a clue (Uh… not being my teacher for starters)
But let me start by saying I love you (Nope…. that won’t do it)

Now that I’ve ruined the loveliness of this love song for all of you, I would like to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

From a Photo on a Mantle to a Cemetery in France

Guest Blogger Richard Lombardi shares his journey to discover his family’s history.

Growing up I often heard stories about my Grandfather’s brother who died during World War II. All I knew was that he – Uncle Toofy, as he was called – had been in the Air Force, and that his bomber had been shot down. According to the story, he had volunteered for his fateful mission to replace a man that was unwell. There is a photo of my Uncle Toofy at our family memorial in Victoria Lawn Cemetery. I naturally assumed that he was buried there, and for many years I never gave it much thought.

Scan 1From 2003 to 2006 I taught elementary school in England. However on a summer trip home in 2005 I came across a photo at my Grandmother’s house. It was a photo of my Uncle Toofy. He was dressed in his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform. You can tell from his big, beaming smile that he took great pride in it. I began to ask my Grandmother about him and learned that my great uncle was not – as I had thought – buried in St. Catharines, but somewhere in France, and no one was quite sure where. I quickly went online and found my way to the Canadian Veterans Affairs website. Within minutes not only had I discovered the exact location of his grave, but I was actually staring at a photo of his tombstone. I was in complete disbelief at what was on the screen. No one in our family had ever seen his gravestone before and here it was. I quickly shared this information with the rest of our family, and told them all that I would be making a trip over the next year to visit the grave site.

Scan 5I now wanted to know so much more about my Uncle Toofy’s military service. Luckily, I was heading to Ottawa so I contacted the National Archives and was informed that I could request my Great Uncle’s military records. I made the request, and upon visiting the archives I was handed a box and shown to a table. I was unprepared for what I was about to discover. I figured if I was lucky there might be few documents about his service record. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I opened the box, and slowly turned over the file folder cover. Transcripts of interviews, medical records, test scores, telegrams, his original military application… it was all right there. I began to write down as much information as I could. Then I came upon a page I will never forget. It was a telegram dated June 14, 1944, addressed to my Great Grandfather. It read as follows, “Regret to advise that your son R one five six nine four six warrant officer second class Adolphe Joseph Ricci is reported missing after air operations overseas June thirteenth. It was surreal to be reading the exact telegram my great grandparents had read to learn about their son’s disappearance. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish they must have been immediately plunged into. I investigated further, and learned everything from the time, and location of the Halifax bomber’s departure, to the farmer’s field 6 km from Rouen, France that the plane had crashed into. There were seven of them onboard, and my great uncle was the only Canadian, the rest were from the Royal Air Force. This makes it possible that the story of him volunteering for the mission could indeed be true. According to the records it was his first and only mission as a navigator on a Halifax bomber.

If the telegram wasn’t emotional enough I then came upon my Great Uncle’s hand written will which was dated April 15, 1944. To see his hand writing was incredible; I was touching the same paper he once touched and instantly felt a connection to him. What could he have been thinking as he wrote those words? Was he afraid to die?

france-beauvais.-nice-colored-old-city-map-plan.-1909-wdjb--130651-pIt wasn’t until March of 1945 that the military declared him to be deceased. My poor Great Grandparents spent nearly a year wondering if he was alive. During this time, I learned through letters that were kept in the file that my Great Grandfather requested the names and addresses of the other servicemen on board, but he was denied his request. A grieving father looking to share with those that could relate to his pain, and to learn if they had any information that he wasn’t being told. After the crash the Germans buried them in a communal grave, and somehow in the aftermath of the war their grave was discovered, and they were repatriated to a cemetery in Beauvais, France.   A patch was found in the initial grave that had “RICCI” on it. Our family photo of the handsome young man in his uniform now had a story to accompany it. There was only thing left to do, I had to go to his grave site. But I would have to wait eight months before I was able to make the pilgrimage.

In early May of 2006 I had an opportunity to set out for the cemetery in Beauvais. As I took the ferry across the channel, I can remember feeling very emotional as I represented our entire family on this trip. Nearly sixty-two years had passed since he died and I felt honoured to be the first person to visit his final resting place. I picked up my rental car and headed for Beauvais. The drive gave me even more time to think about my Great Uncle and Great Grandparents who suffered so much. My Grandmother told me how my Great Grandfather was never the quite the same after his son’s death. He passed away “with a broken heart” in his fifties.

I knew the cemetery was somewhere in Beauvais but I didn’t have the exact location, or a great map! I drove into town and stopped in to pick up some flowers at a local shop. I don’t speak any French so asking directions to the war cemetery was quite the struggle. The man behind the counter gave me a small map and circled the cemetery for me. It was quite a way out of the city and when I finally got there I quickly realized it was a German soldier cemetery. It was strange, and I was a bit disappointed because I wanted the man at the flower shop to know I was a Canadian coming to pay my respects to one of our fallen heroes. I regrouped, grabbed the map and headed to the next cemetery – no soldier graves. By now the butterflies in my stomach were getting stronger and stronger. One more cemetery to try. As I approached the small iron gate I saw some Commonwealth Scan 3tombstones, and my stomach dropped; I was finally in the right place. It was a small cemetery, as war cemeteries go, and there were a mix of Commonwealth and French graves. It was difficult not knowing where his grave was, it was emotional to walk each row looking for the distinctive RCAF emblem that adorns the top of all Canadian Air Force war graves in Commonwealth cemeteries. About half way through the cemetery were seven graves that sat side by each. At that moment I knew that my journey was about to come to an end. I scanned across the top of each grave and there it was, the RCAF mark. I looked down and read the name, A.J. Ricci. I gently approached the stone, knelt down on one knee and pressed my hand against it. I had made it. There I was, representing my Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Mother, siblings, and cousins. Finally, after nearly 62 years a member of the Ricci family was reunited with our war hero.


Scan 7

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

The first ever Niagara Women’s Leadership Summit took place on Saturday, October 18th – Person’s Day, in fact! In case you missed it, our post today is a re-cap through pictures:


Julie Jill

Co-Chairs of the Planning Committee and two leaders in their own right, Julie Rorison and Jill Van Osch. Last year, Julie attended the Hamilton Leadership Summit for Women, and was so inspired that she brought it to St. Catharines.

Thank you Julie, we’re so glad you did!


Early morning registrants were treated to a relaxing start to the day with a yoga session by Rachel Crane of The Soul Workshop.

Here’s a shot of Rachel leading the way:



IMG_7465                 IMG_7464

Registration was a breeze thanks to our wonderful volunteers!


Jackie Labonte of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre started off the Summit with a traditional opening ceremony.


Our first key note speaker of the day, Kim Katrin Milan spoke about the value of women, and women’s leadership in particular. She left us with a powerful message:

“Share Everything you Learn”



Nicki Inch, Kim Katrin Milan, and Julie Rorison.


Our incredible group of volunteers – a sea of Green!


After a quick break for coffee we re-grouped for a panel discussion led by Carol Stewart-Kirkby. Our thoughtful panelists tackled some tough questions: What is leadership? But more importantly, What is Women’s Leadership?


Thank you to our panelists (from left to right): Betty Ann Baker, Josephina Perez, Wendy Sturgeon, Carol Stewart-Kirby (moderator), Rachel Crane, Christine Hall, Nadine Wallace


You can’t lead without a healthy lunch!


The afternoon was workshop time! Delegates selected two of eight diverse workshops. Here, a group discusses Building Resilience in Women Leaders, led by Sherry Campbell.


Sarah Pennisi and Frances Hallworth spoke about Networking for Social Impact.

Male Dom

Have you worked in a male dominated field? These women have!

From left to right: Elizabeth Zimmerman (moderator), Cheri Burch of the Welland Fire Department, Stephanie Thompson of General Motors Powertrain, Christine Hall of Christine’s Dirtworx and Andrea Bone of Just Junk



Over 200 delegates anxiously await the closing key note speaker, Wendy Southall – to this day, the longest-running Niagara Chief of Police.


No words could do this woman justice. From her eloquence to her powerful story of resilience, she is the epitome of a woman leader. Thank you!

Twitter was set ablaze by the wonderful reactions of our speakers, volunteers, and most importantly, the over 200 delegates who attended the summit. Search the #NiagaraLSW hashtag for more pictures, quotes, and reactions from the day!

We hope to see you next year!

Thank you to Breanne Burke for taking these fantastic photos!

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that lends itself well to traditions. Maybe you get together with Friends for a touch football game, or cram in four meals in one day, or maybe you choose to dine on a Ping-Pong table – Okay, you caught me – those all all from TV. If you’re really lucky, maybe you’ve got some hilarious traditions like our Bloggers, Donna and Carli. Just please, no Tofurkey.


Traditions Old and New

-Donna Shelton

October is my favourite month of the year.  Not only is it my birthday month, but it is Thanksgiving

After a busy summer – where I see next to nothing of my children, family and friends for all the social calendars filled with work and summer events taking everyone’s time –  Fall and Thanksgiving slow things down a bit and allow for some serious “face-time” with those I hold near and dear.

A few years back the time honoured tradition of hosting Thanksgiving was passed down from my mother-in-law Joy, to me.  This was a huge leap of faith on her part, and I love her for that.  Through trial and error, and trial and error again, I now think I have held a few family traditions and created a few new ones of our own along the way.

Not surprisingly,thanksgiving new traditions emerged once I took over. Joy and Emilee (my daughter) bring the desserts – this I believe was set as precedence the year I decided to go “healthy” and serve only fruit for dessert on Thanksgiving.  These two fabulous bakers ensure this never happens again.  Arlee, my eldest daughter, brings the veggie tray and wine, which now ensures that should the turkey cooking time run longer than humanly possible to wait, there are treats to sustain everyone a little longer.  I now double and triple check the weight of the turkey and the cooking time it will take.  FYI, there is a turkey brand that you can cook from frozen now!

As you can tell, I am no cook. Thus explains Joy’s leap of faith in passing this down to me.  However, I can prep and put a turkey into the oven – secret is…turkeys really cook themselves.  Once the turkey (which we name each year, don’t ask where that tradition came from!) is in the oven, Steve – my better half – ensures everything else is ready: homemade potatoes, stuffing, gravy from scratch, dinner rolls and two types of veggies for when everyone is ready to sit down to eat.

canOld traditions I have brought from my childhood; I always have cranberry jelly (and yes it must still hold the shape from the can), dinnerware from generations past, and when stacking the plates for pumpkin pie, I add an extra one for those no longer at our table.  I am always thankful when we can slow down, share a meal together and catch up on each others lives after a busy summer.

And so I share with everyone MY no fail recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner:

An open, grateful heart, close family, great friends, excellent food, fine wine and always, always, always dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Keep On Carrying On…A Tribute to Rosalie

– Carli Taylor

I think it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t be very difficult to imagine the look on my face as I sat at my Dad’s dining room table on Thanksgiving day a few years ago as he finally, finally…finally brought the turkey to the table. He was swearing, the turkey’s legs were incinerated and still smoking, there was oil all over the platter and I’m pretty sure it was the most god awful looking turkey I had ever seen…carli1

It’s funny how we don’t often recognize a tradition as a tradition until we’ve somehow moved beyond it. Maybe we’ve outgrown it, or found ourselves looking back on it, wishing to share it just one more time. In the spirit of Thanksgiving this is going to be a blog about traditions, but it is also about being thankful.

thanksgiving grandmaMy Dad’s side of the family is very small, and had only a few traditions that as far back as I can remember were never, ever broken. When we gathered, we gathered at Grandma’s. Maybe it’s because she didn’t ask for much. She didn’t insist on us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, having each child wait their turn to open presents or find their Easter treats, sing carols, or list the things we were thankful for… She just wanted to see all of us gathered around her table for Easter, Christmas and especially for Thanksgiving dinner.  Grandma Lee was a wonderful cook—as I’m positive most reader would agree their Grandmothers are. Her turkey was always cooked to perfection and her wet stuffing turned out to actually be delicious – which I discovered once I finally agreed to try it in my 20’s!  She also made sure to include a favorite dish for everyone at the table. Mine was corn, my sister’s was cranberry sauce. (For far too many years these were often the only things we would eat—but that was okay with her because after all, Grandma’s allow those kind of shenanigans!)

I think the hardest part about thinking through this blog, was realizing that I never appreciated those gatherings enough. Maybe there is a part of all of us that just expects these moments…traditions… to always be, or that you can somehow pick up and carry on with—or without them. Maybe I expected that the glue that sealed those traditions together would always hold…

spoonI remember looking around the table, trying to gauge the reactions on everyone else’s face when that horrifying turkey was practically thrown at the table. From horror, shock and annoyance to a twinkle behind their eyes, then the telltale look of control starting to slip and the pressing of lips together until finally, finally someone’s giggle slipped out. And then came the laughter…and for some of us, the tears.

You see, a beloved Mother, Wife and Grandmother had recently passed away, and we were trying to honor her love of Thanksgiving. Our first sign that we maybe hadn’t quite got it right? Location, location, location. I don’t think any of us thought twice about holding it at my dad’s place. To be honest…there was more room and I guess we weren’t quite ready to face her domain. We started to question the error of our ways when my dad’s brand new oven just stopped working. Stopped cold. But it was okay! My Uncle lives just down the road…another oven to the rescue!!

A few hours later, in stomps my dad, raw turkey in hand, and smoke coming out of his ears. Tell me…What are the odds that two ovens (that had previously worked in perfect condition) would be completely useless and mock us by producing a raw turkey? Apparently the chances were pretty high that day!

But it was okay!!fire Because my Father and Uncle had recently watched some crazy fools some really lucky people on Youtube cook their turkey in oil. Voila! A new tradition is born! Light the barbecue.

Holy smokes don’t ever cook a turkey in oil on the barbecue, okay!?

The laughter was needed. The tears were needed. Grandma…well apparently she really needed us to remember who held the best Thanksgiving dinners. And we do. And what any one of us wouldn’t give to be able to tell her that and to thank her for being our glue and giving us so many memories. I think enough time has passed now that it’s time to start some new traditions—maybe I’ll offer to host this year—after all, she did teach me how to make a mean turkey and so far my oven has worked in perfect condition. Plus, maybe it’s time to pass down her ‘special’ cranberry sauce that my sister still adores…for best results, I recommend cranberry free:


Do you have a Thanksgiving Tradition? Share it with us in the Comments section!

Images courtesy of Google

Question of the Month – Gratitude

October: Thanksgiving, family gatherings, gratitude. This month, we combine the theme of gratefulness with Person’s Day on October 18th; a day that marks women’s inclusion in the  legal definition of “person”, enabling us to be appointed into the Senate. We take time to think about the women throughout history and in our daily lives who have inspired traditions, and shaped a culture for women today. With mothers, sisters, suffragettes and activists alike in mind, we ask:

As a woman, what are you most grateful for?


Opinion #1

ecardTo be honest, there are days when I’m really not grateful to be a woman (we all have them!) Growing up, I very much envied the seemingly uncomplicated journey boys experience to get to manhood (so your voice changes, whoop-de-do!) And as time’s passed, I’ve found that maintaining female companionship is something that is far more complex than for male groups of friends.  Don’t even get me started on the thought of childbirth! Men get paid more, are more represented in politics, are not hyper-sexualized in the media, have never stuck a mascara wand in their eye… And the list goes on.

But when you work in a woman’s organization, write for a woman’s blog, and surround yourself with like minded feminists, it can be too easy to identify as a victim of gender.

It’s then that I think maybe, just maybe, some of those challenges I’ve experienced because of my gender have made me a stronger, more resilient and compassionate human being. If I hadn’t been the only girl on a hockey team full of boys, if I had never felt what it’s like to be brushed aside for being young and pretty, or the embarrassment of being thought of as just a sexual object to be whistled at and catcalled…I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I wouldn’t have the good fortune to be sitting at the YWCA, writing this post.

Like Eleanor Roosevelt famously quipped “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”!

Opinion #2


Gratitude: noun, the definition of gratitude is a feeling of being thankful and appreciative. 

For me, this is such a far reaching question, with an infinite number of possible responses – so I have narrowed it down for the sake of providing an easy read.
Quick answer: I am grateful for…..the invention of fuzzy towels, flavoured teas, spandex and daylight savings time.  I can’t be the only one that enjoys that extra hour.

Opinion #3

Over the years around Thanksgiving the thing I am most grateful for has changed. However, as I’ve gotten older I have realized that it is not WHAT I am grateful for, but for WHO I am grateful. And the person that I am most grateful for is my mother.


My mother is the strongest person I know. Life has thrown her difficult challenges, but she has always overcome them, and has gotten stronger with each situation. With a husband, three children, and three grandchildren my mother has always been there for each and everyone of us. With a close family like mine, and us all having  busy lifestyles, my mother is at the heart of our family. She reminds my family and I that there is nothing more important than family. I am grateful to have a mother that believes in me and supports me in all of my choices (even if she doesn’t agree with me). I am grateful to have a mother that is always there for me when I need a shoulder to cry on. I am grateful to have a mother that puts the well-being of her family before herself. I am grateful to have a mother that always goes above and beyond for others.

So here is to you Mom, thank you for everything you do and being exactly who you are, and Happy Thanksgiving.

“We want women leaders today as never before. Leaders who are not afraid to be called names and who are willing to go out and fight. I think women can save civilization. Women are persons.”

-Emily Murphy, 1931

Images courtesy of Google and Pinterest

A Fall Dish with Summer Memories

Fall is about comfort…

fall laneThe fall season is my favourite time of year.  Not only do scarves, baggy sweaters, and boots become acceptable for every day attire, but it also means cooking easy meals that warm you from the inside out.  To go along with my favourite season, I’ve chosen to blog about trying my hand at recreating a cheeseburger casserole recipe that I found online.  Casseroles are one of my favourite meals, not only are they tasty and include everything in your fridge, but they are a dish where the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time – all you have to do is throw the ingredients in a pot and get cooking!

Buzzfeed is one of my favourite websites for everything pop culture and international news.  Once in a while, they will post a blog with seasonal or themed recipes; which is where I stumbled across this yummy idea.  The link on Buzzfeed took me to a Chungah’s cooking blog, appropriately titled Damn Delicious.  Based out of Los Angeles, Chungah offers recipes that are quick and easy to make and yummy to eat!  I chose to prepare and cook the One Pot Cheeseburger Casserole – mostly because of my love for cheese.. and burgers.. but also because the recipe gave me the opportunity to use fresh, local vegetables and meats.

Are you ready to get cookin’?

Here is what you’ll need for Damn Delicious’ One Pot Cheeseburger Casserole:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef – I’m using ground beef from Viks Meats, our local butcher here in Grimsby.

1 oinion, dicedpic 1

Salt and ground pepper, to taste

1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce

2 cups of chicken broth

1/4 cup of ketchup

2 teaspoons of dijon mustard

1 box of rotini pasta – I used Catelli penne and it tasted just as good! *Note: Catelli also offers gluten free pasta in all the same shapes and sizes.

2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

1 Roma tomato – I used a tomato from a Sentimental Farms, a local and organic farm in Grimsby.

2 green onions, sliced

What to do:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat.  Add ground beef and onion; cook until the beef has browned (about 3-5 minutes), making sure to crumble the beef as you go along.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and drain the excess fat.
  2. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, ketchup, mustard, pasta, and add two cups of water.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through (about 13-16 minutes).  Even though the recipe only calls for 2 cups of water, I ended up adding about an extra cup of boiling water – the pasta wasn’t cooking very well.
  3.  Remove from heat and top with cheddar cheese.  Cover   until the cheese has melted.  Serve immediately, garnish with tomato and green onions.

pic 5
I really enjoyed this dish.  It really did taste like a cheeseburger, which gave me a chance to hang onto the remaining “summer” weather.  The recipe made enough casserole to feed a small army, so there are lots of left overs in the fridge and I have a feeling this is a dish that will taste better as the days go on.

Click here to check out the 19 other delicious and easy casserole recipes from Buzzfeed.  Enjoy!


Images courtesy of Google Images and Stephanie Fleming

Lessons from the Lunchbox: Back to School on A Budget

Fall-HarvestFall is my favourite time of year.  I love the ever changing tapestry of colours, pulling on well worn sweaters and snuggling under the blankets with the window open.  Growing up on a farm in the prairies, fall was a time of bounty and bringing in the harvest.  However, now that I am a parent, fall is largely shaped by ‘back to school’ responsibilities signalling a return to schedules, routines and activities.  Back to school also means ‘back to packing lunches’ and despite the cool stackables and highly processed lunch meats, my kids miss eating at home.  For me, being a mom means growing healthy kids.  Healthy eating on a limited budget is challenging, especially in the early years when my budget was pretty meager, falling well below the poverty line.

Yet, despite teat healthyhe constant struggles of trying to make ends meet and treading water just to stay afloat, some of my most fulfilling memories are embedded in those trying times.  Living on a budget stoked the fires of creativity and I soon learned how to make something from nothing, giving me a strong sense of mastery over my limiting circumstances.  I planted a garden, learned how to can, freeze fruits and vegetables, price match, and buy  local.  Visiting local farms to pick our own fruit is still an annual adventure, jam packed with numerous hands on learning experiences.  Homemade meals became feasts, adding yet another reason to celebrate the life we were building together, one discovery at a time.

pack my loveAlthough I still find packing lunches taxing, I have learned that left overs sometimes turn into sensational salads and home baked biscuits with jam and cheese are a welcome break from a sandwich.  Freezer pickles liven up a turkey sandwich and hummus is a super user friendly, healthy and affordable way to fill up empty tummies with a punch of protein.  Soups are another alternative as they are easy to make and can be frozen for a later date.  My daughter likes heating up this vegetable soup and taking it to school in a thermos because it is reminiscent of being at home.  As practical and pragmatic as it may be, the packing of the lunchbox is also a labour of love that ties us to the people and places that we call home.

Pizza Cinnamon ChipImages used courtesy of Google.

Recipes used courtesy of


Activism: When the Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

 What doejolies it mean to be a community activist?

We certainly see many examples of activism through the media such as people demonstrating in front of city hall or organizations such as Greenpeace that will draw attention to an environmental issue. We see celebrities put their name behind causes and political leaders striving to change to oppressive systems such as Nelson Mandela with Apartheid.

As much as I think this type of activism is extremely important and has had incredible impact on how we live our lives today, I think it is easy to overlook the importance of making a difference in your own community. So I suppose when I think of what it means to be a community activist it is about exactly that.  Community activists are the individuals, the unsung heroes you might say, in our community that go about making our communities better places to live.

These are the individuals that make sure that the neighbourhood school has a proper Handsroundedplayground. They have started up support groups, ensured that there are coaches for the sports teams and established breakfast programs. I hope you are beginning to see what I mean. To me community activism is about being involved in your community and helping to make it a better place to be.

I know that the theme for this month’s blogs has been leadership.  Community activism is a form of leadership as far as I am concerned. I have been a resident of Niagara all of my life and in that time I have had the privilege of seeing community activism in action. I have seen breakfast programs started, social service programs initiated, music and arts festivals develop just to name a few. All of these actions began with an individual or groups of individuals who saw a community need and did something about it. It is leadership in action.

Here at the YWCA I have the additional privilege of seeing community activism every day. I see staff members who go above and beyond to make sure that our programs and services are making a difference. I see volunteers, like those featured in our blogs this month, and the amazing work that they do to make sure our events and the issues that affect the women and families we serve are brought to the foreground. I see individuals like the brave women who have told their stories in the media of what it is like to live day to day with the realities of poverty.

I find that inspiring because for me, it shows that we all have capacity to have impact; we activismall have something that we can do to make our communities better. We don’t have to be a celebrity or part of a huge organization or a political leader to make a difference. We are surrounded everyday by ordinary people doing extraordinary things and I for one am grateful to every one of them.


Images courtesy of Google.