Category Archives: Outdoor Activities

Pug life

Vern, the man of the hour. Photo by Terri Flinn.

Vern, the man of the hour. Photo by Terri Flinn.

Tonight I’m doggie-sitting one of my favourite beings, Vern the Pug. He’s sweet and cuddly and I always love my adventures with him.

People usually point and smile, or stop to give a little pat-pat (to him – I don’t respond as well as he does). Babies squeal “puppy!” and girlfriends say “oooh let’s get one of those!” But every once in a while, something strange happens.

On my walk tonight, we passed through the puppy park (a guy shows up there a few times a week with a gaggle of tiny puppies – it’s pretty fantastic) and made our way through the neighbourhood. While standing on a quiet, tree-lined street, I stood patiently, waiting for Vern to do his business. Next thing you know, I hear the thunder of skateboards rolling past us and two twenty-something men came into view. “PUG TAKING A SHIT!!!” one hollered out, as if to announce it to the neighbourhood. And just like that, they were gone.

Guys, this is a big deal. I think I just met Captain Obvious.

We move along, making our way down Bloor Street. We pass the shops and various types of pedestrians, and get the usual nods and smiles. A minute later, as we pass a bar patio, I hear a whistle. “Hey there, cutie!” a voice rings out. I look to my right and see a toothless old sot winking in my direction. The gall! What am I, a piece of meat? Oh wait. He’s pointing at the dog.

Moving right along.

We hit the Wine Rack (Vern is familiar with this place and knows just where to sit in order to get a treat – I don’t take him there that often, I swear) and wander back home. As we stand outside the doors of our building while I search for my keys, I notice a man inside the building holding the elevator for me. How kind! I finally locate the keys and let myself in, rushing toward the kind gentleman.

“Thanks so much!” I smiled at him.

“Anything for a cute dog,” he replied.

And that’s how it is.

Love From Sarah


That girl.


Picture this:

I’m running. Wind in my hair and sun on my cheeks. It’s 6:30 a.m. and not only am I awake, but I’m actually outdoors. Moving around. It’s a civic holiday miracle. I begin my cooldown and start walking back toward my building when I spot my friend in the distance. She’s looking a little bleary-eyed and is standing listlessly on the sidewalk while she tries to will her dog to get it over with and just poop already.

“Hey!” I call out, waving.

She looks at me as if trying to figure out who I am. “What are you doing?” she asks. “Oh, I just finished a run!” I smile. She looks at me dubiously. Tells me I looked like a Stepford Wife. I can’t entirely disagree in my Lululemon outfit with a hoodie tied around my waist.

That’s when it hits me: I’m that girl.

That girl who’s out exercising before 7 a.m. That girl who is out enjoying the fresh air while any reasonable person would still be in bed, savouring every delicious morsel of sleep they can steal before the alarm clock goes off. That girl.

When did that happen? Well, since I took the first step in Operation Inside Out, things have started to change –  and it’s shifting much more than just my muffin top.

I’ve begun to realize how quick I am to categorize myself. I’m a creative-type. I’m a vegetarian (not anymore, but a story for another time), I’m a book worm, and the list goes on. And while some of these categories seem positive, others aren’t.  This is becoming quite clear to me. I never thought of myself as sporty either, let alone a runner. But I’m changing and I like it.

And it’s not just about the running. Take, for example, last weekend. It was a gorgeously sunny morning and I was drinking coffee and listening to music on the balcony with The Man and The Kitten. Blueberry muffins were baking in the oven (made from scratch, I should mention) and my heart was filled with joy. I danced around the apartment, waving my oven mitts in the air. A domestic goddess was I.

“Aren’t blueberry muffins and coffee and kittens just wonderful?” I asked The Man as I sashayed around the room (I ask him things like this – I’m that girl).

“Yes,” he replied. “Very… domestic.”

“Mmm, yes. Well I am domestic, wouldn’t you say?”

A pause.

“No…” he says. “You’re more of a Sex and the City, martini-for-dinner kind of girl.”

I stop, mid twirl. Shock! Disbelief! Mouth hanging open, oven mitt drooping toward the floor.

“But I make you pies! Do I not keep my apartment clean?!” Be careful, Man. This is treacherous ground you’re treading.

“Well… yeah…” he swallows hard, eyes darting wildly around the room. He’s looking for an escape.

You probably think I let him have it (I’m that girl), but I wasn’t mad. How could I be mad? In that moment I had characterized myself as domestic, but he’s not totally wrong. The truth of the matter is that I don’t fit into any convenient box, and why should I? I’m part Martha, part martini. I’m cool with that.

I never thought of myself as a runner either. Never thought I’d be out on the street at the crack of dawn getting the comrade-nod from the lady runner who’s one part muscle, one part bone and three parts spray tan. Never thought I’d see a fellow runner’s butt cheek as he whisks past me in his (much too) flouncy shorts before any sensible person is awake.

So I’m just going to forget the categories and focus on being Sarah. The vegetarian/non-vegetarian, sporty/non-sporty lesson in contradictions. The Sarah who The Man recently described as “an incredible writer with a sensitive heart.”

That matters. The rest can just be.

Love From Sarah


250 Campfires

One of the best things about summer is having a campfire. Or two. Or ten.

I figure over the last 30 years of my life, I’ve sat around roughly 250 campfires. I think that’s fairly impressive, and I definitely count myself lucky to have enjoyed so much time laughing, singing and generally making merry by the fire.

I’d even go as far as to say that some of the happiest times of my life were spent around a campfire. As a kid roasting marshmallows with my brothers and parents, at summer camp singing my little heart out, in high school flirting with cute boys, or as an adult having great conversations with my best friends.

Another thing I love is feeling young. And campfires can transport me back to the days (not so long ago, really) when I felt just like a spring chicken. Especially when I’m hanging out with my niece and nephew.

Now, if I’m going to write a post about something that makes me happy, it stands to reason that I’d include my brother’s three kids because they make me happier than anyone else on earth. They also make me feel young in more ways than one.

So the other day we’re at my dad’s place (otherwise known as Grandpa’s place) and Jack and Elizabeth are super-duper excited to have a campfire. Grandpa makes the BEST campfires. This whole week has been one treat after the next for my brother’s two oldest children, since they’ve been spending it with their Nana Lynn (my mom) and are obviously getting spoiled to bits.

When the fire is underway and I’ve had a few conversations with Jack, 6, about kindling, poker sticks and general fire safety, we gather around and enjoy the last few rays of sun on a summer’s day.

Jack and Grandpa do the manly bonding thing at the fire.

Elizabeth is more focused on marshmallows and her walking stick. Really though, who can blame her? I loved marshmallows as a kid too. You know, before I knew what they were made of and stuff.

Elizabeth takes a stroll with her marshmallows while she patiently waits for the coals to be in perfect roasting condition.

Now, I mentioned before that having adult conversations was a fun thing around the campfire. And as happy as adult conversation makes me, nothing can compare to the conversations I have with the kids. This is where I start to feel young again.

At one point, I tell Elizabeth that she has beautiful hair (which she really does) and she just looks at me and says, “Auntie Sarah, you’re the most beautiful girl in the whole world.” To which I reply, “well I think YOU’RE the most beautiful girl in the whole world.” Elizabeth, being 3 and utterly confident in her cuteness (rightly so), simply nods her head in agreement and says, “One day when we grow up, maybe we could put on a golden show! We’ll go on stage and sing and dance and wear gold outfits and make up. And we’ll be the only ones on stage because we’re the most beautiful girls in the world.”

When we grow up. My heart smiles.

Later that night, while the kids are getting ready for bed, I’m eating a cracker. They wonder why I get a snack and they don’t, but I remind them that I’m a grownup and they don’t actually like these crackers anyway.

“But why?” asks Elizabeth.

“Because they don’t taste good to kids,” I say, trying not to imply that non-sugary treats aren’t delicious too.

“Oh. They don’t taste good to kids,” she says, looking a little perplexed.

There’s a pause.

“But you’re a kid…” Jack says quietly, with the hint of a question mark in his voice. My heart smiles.

It reminds me of the conversation my brother told me about a few months ago. A friend of ours had just given birth to a baby boy and my brother and sister-in-law had told the kids. Elizabeth, in an attempt to be funny, exclaimed, “Maybe Auntie Sarah had the baby!” to which Jack replied, “No, Elizabeth. Auntie Sarah can’t have babies.” “Why not?” “Because she’s only a teenager.”

I love it.

I know this perception they have of me will change as they get older, but for the time being I just love it. I hope they think of me not just as someone who tickles them, cares for them and will do absolutely anything to show them how much I truly, deeply love them, but as a fun and young-at-heart aunt, too.

Sometimes I imagine my heart getting a few sizes bigger when I’m near them, kind of like the Grinch without the attitude. How could it not? Look at those faces.

See? Campfires make you happy!

Can we do marshmallows now? How about now?

All in all, it was a very happy day. And as per Elizabeth’s instructions, I’m practicing my song for our upcoming stage show.

Ahem. “We are goooooooollddennnn…”

Love From Sarah

P.S. At the beginning of the post I mentioned my brother’s three kids… Baby Aaron was chillin’ with his Nana Sybil at the time, so he couldn’t make it to the campfire. But I’m looking forward to a lifetime of memories with him, too!

Just like riding a bike

Yesterday I decided a few things.

One: create a blog about things that make me happy.

Two: do something that will make me happy (one of the reasons for the blog in the first place.)

So what would be my first happy undertaking? That was easy: going for a ride on my new bike.

Good thing I stopped where I did, or else this would be a post about swimming.

I recently bought a bike with the money I got back from my tax return. I hadn’t had a bike since I was about 10 years old, so I didn’t know how I’d fare, but it turns out that it’s just like – well – riding a bike. Isn’t it cool how you never really forget how to maneuver that thing? I can remember learning how to ride it and it seemed like a painfully slow process, although I’m sure it only took a week or so.

My older brothers had been on their bikes for ages before I learned to ride, and I inherited the little black BMX with the number 6 on the front that used to be theirs. I was so proud of that bike – one time my brothers and I were sailing down a steep hill and had to make a quick right-hand turn. I hit a patch of sand and skidded out big time, but somehow kept control of the bike. I’ll never forget my brother Jon throwing his fists into the air and hollering “YES! Sarah, that was AWESOME!” while I laughed, pretended the whole thing was intentional and thanked God that my drawers were still dry.

Anyhow, after Dad taught me how to ride my bike up in Pancake Bay one summer, I discovered that I was a natural. I loved riding my bike (first the little BMX, then the purple panda bike that had plastic wheels, making it entirely unsuitable for going uphill or stopping, but was so beautiful that I just HAD to have it, and then the teal-coloured one that would eventually be stolen after I left it at the park – go figure) anywhere and everywhere.

And now, some 20-odd years after my last one was stolen, here I am back in the saddle. And it feels great. At least it will once I get a tougher biker’s bum.

I haven’t been out very many times yet, so I decide to head down to the shores of Lake Muskoka in Milford Bay. As soon as I start out, I wish I had some water with me, but I press on, happy as a clam. I pass locals walking their dogs, kids on the way to the store to buy a popsicle, and try not to inhale too many bugs as I wave and say hello.

Now, part of the fun of being on your bike in the country is the peace and quiet. It gives you a chance to clear your head and focus on nothing but your beating heart and the open road. No music, no distractions. On the way to the lake, there’s a cute little cottage sign that says “So-and-so’s cottage down by the bay”. Cute. Happy.

The ride to the lake is great. I stop and take a few pictures, talk to a few more dog-walkers and turn around to make my way home. As I pedal, I notice that I’m humming to myself.

Hmm hmm hmmm HMMMMMMMMM where the watermelons grooooooow. Uh oh. Down by the bay, indeed.

Again, I press on. I figure this song will be stuck in my head for the remainder of the trip, so I try to embrace it. Have you ever seen a mime, swinging on a vine? haha laughing and biking is a great combo!

But as I pedal, I see that big hill in front of me. Obviously, I didn’t think of how I’d get back up it when I was gleefully sailing down it just minutes ago. And there it looms. Keeping this happiness experiment in mind, I resolve to bike up that thing, no matter how difficult it might seem. I shall be victorious.

I gear down (up? you know what I mean) and start the attack. At first I think I’m doing pretty well, until I notice that the song in my head has slowed to the pace of my pedaling “back… to… my… ho… uh… oooooooome. I dare… not… g…g…g…” And that’s when it starts: the Wheel Wobble. The one when you’re going way too slowly on your bike and your wheels start to wobble like you’re just going to fall over sideways.

I had to fight it. Even though I’m not back to my expert childhood biking self, I stand up on my pedals and give it my all. Finally, chug by chug, I get to the top. Victory is mine! No one in the world is as strong as I! I cannot be defeated!

My lungs are burning and my eyes are watering. There may or may not have been a car and pedestrian pulled over, faces filled with concern, about to ask if I need assistance while I was climbing that hill. Nevermind – I made it!

And as silly as that sounds, it made me quite happy. That’s happy undertaking number one.

Love From Sarah

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