Maple Leaf Land Shark

The Ramblings of an Ocean-Deprived Canadian


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Dec
26

12 Days of Oakville (Day 8)

Number 5 - Schools

We’re into the mad dash of the top 5. Aiming for New Year’s Eve. Perhaps this year (or next).

I wasn’t sure about this one, but in discussing family education issues with others I’ve decided it belongs on the list. Oakville schools consistently finish in the top 10% of the Fraser Institute rankings, and we have a wide range of options for the kids. They both spent their early years at a French Immersion school (Pine Grove) where they spent half the day in English and the other half in French - it’s the same curriculum as the single language schools, they just split it into the 2 languages. K has continued the program into high school; after some testing Dylan was designated gifted so we moved him to a school that specializes in gifted kids. It’s still part of the regular school system, they just decided it was easier to combine them into a single program instead of trying to run smaller gifted programs at each school.

I’m still on the fence about the gifted program, perhaps I’ll cover that another day (don’t hold your breath), but I like the option and hold out hope. It remains to be seen if he’ll continues the program into high school but we’re not in a rush for that. All in all, we’ve been very happy with the school systems here.

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Dec
22

12 Days of Oakville (Day 7)

Number 6 - It’s Close (to pretty much anywhere)

I don’t do well with deadlines. I think we can start to consider this my 12 Days of Arbor Day. Not that it really matters, these things make me happy year-round.

So the thing is, one of the reasons I like this place is that it’s close to just about everywhere. “Close to just about everywhere” seems kind of a stupid reason to like something, and it sounds like I like near a time warp or a Star Wars hyper-portal. When you think about it, we’re at the jumping off point to get going to pretty much anywhere: quickly. Going west? Head out on the 403 through Brantford. East? QEW or the 403/407. Going south to the US (or to the Buffalo Airport to save a crap-ton of money over flying out of Toronto) - QEW to Fort Erie. It’s like, from my house to “we’re on the road”, is never more than a “just stopping for a coffee” away.

Of course, it never works that way. If you know my wife, it’s always “I’ll be ready in 20 minutes” away. Which means I can’t stop for coffee. Because we’re late.

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Dec
22

Christmas Lights in an Ice Storm

Combination of Nexus 5 phone and Google+ Auto-Awesome but whatever, it’s still pretty!

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Dec
19

12 Days of Oakville (Day 6)

Number 7 - Remembrance Day Services

On November 11th, every town in Canada has Remembrance Day services and ceremonies (I can’t say that I know that for sure but I have to assume they do). Some are larger than others, I imagine in the smaller towns up north it’s probably just a few people hanging out at the lodge. Most places have a town square where they remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. We’ve got 2 such places in Oakville, the Bronte Cenotaph down on the corner of Lakeshore and Bronte and George’s Square downtown. The Bronte location was probably a lot more prominent back in the day, when the town existed for its shale farming (no really) and that godforsaken condo wasn’t down there (but I digress). It’s a little hidden now, sort of stuck in the corner under some trees. But it’s there.

Every Remembrance Day there’s a short parade from the legion to the Cenotaph (when I say short I mean short, it’s probably a quarter-mile if they go the long way), some speeches and a wreath or 2. There’s also a much longer parade and ceremony held at George’s Square; Dylan and I have been to that one for the last 5-6 years. I’m still not 100% sure he understands the purpose of the ceremony, he asked a lot more questions this year but it’s probably because I yanked him out of school.

I know I shouldn’t of taken him out of school, they have an assembly where the kids troop into the gym and spend some time “doing something related to the day”. I asked him what that was, and his response was this:

"A soldier comes in and tells some stories. Then the special needs kids go up on stage and tell us why they’re thankful for the soldiers. Then we go back to our class."

So I decided he’d get more by going out to the parade and the wreath-laying ceremony. The square is always packed, regardless of whether it’s a Sunday or a Tuesday or a Friday, it doesn’t matter. Every age is represented, it’s not just those with nothing else to do; people make a point of changing their schedules to get down there.

If you haven’t taken the time to get out to your local event, do so - whether it’s Oakville or not, it’s most definitely a way to feel closer to your community. I know I do.

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Dec
19

Polar Bear Dip - It’s On

It appears that Dylan and I will be getting cold and wet January 1, 2014. All for a good cause: raising money for World Vision. Won’t you please help change the empty looking number below?

You can donate at http://goo.gl/wXzixW - every little bit helps. Thanks!

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Dec
18

12 Days of Oakville (Day 5)

Number 8 - Bike paths and trails

Falling behind … must catch up.

This is a quick one - one of things about Oakvile we’ve enjoyed as a family are the variety of bike paths and trails in the area. When the kids were younger it was an easy way to get out of the house for a bit, get some decent exercise but not have to go far or make a big deal about it. We’ve got a great set of trails through the “forest” not 5 minutes from the house (no bears or moose sightings yet but we hold out hope) and with the Waterfront Trail on our doorstep we’re 1400km from anywhere. Maybe one of these summers we’ll strap on the packs and see what’s on the other end of that 1400km.

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Dec
17

12 Days of Oakville (Day 4)

Number 9 - Royal Bank of Canada, Bronte branch

I missed my daily post yesterday, no one seemed to miss it so I’ll just add in an extra tonight … I spent the day in downtown Toronto, and due to the two meetings I had on opposite sides of town I decided to drive. I’m still exhausted …. Anyway.

Number 9, day 4 goes to the Royal Bank of Canada, the Bronte/Lakeshore branch. WHAT? A BANK IN THE TOP 12 THINGS I LIKE ABOUT OAKVILLE? Can’t be. Shouldn’t be. Someone spiked the eggnog. But seriously, the staff at this branch are the most customer-service oriented I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with (in the bank capacity category). We opened our account there when we moved to town, and while there are closer branches with easier access (mostly to/from work) we wouldn’t dream of leaving.

It’s a pleasure to go in and do the weekly deposits, I actually look forward to going in and dealing with the tellers. They’re no George Bailey, but they’re pretty close to what small-town banking was back in the day, and I’m happy to be a client. Just don’t tell my friend Laurel because then she’ll expect me to stop bitching about the service fees.

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Dec
15

12 Days of Oakville (Day 3)

Number 10 - The Dog Rescuers

It’s hard to replace a family pet, so when we lost both Chelsea and Hayley over the course of a weekend I was pretty sure we’d never get another dog. At least not in the near future. Turned out it was a little over a year; Dylan and I were picking up dog food and it happened to be on a day when the Dog Rescuers had a table up at the pet store. We met Princess, a beautiful Belgian Malinois, and the thought of having another dog around the house seemed more real.

The Dog Rescuers is a non-profit group dedicating to rescuing and re-homing all kinds of dogs; there are (seemingly) hundreds of rescue groups in Ontario, lots are breed-specific (and all needed due to the number of puppy mills in our neighboring province) - the Dog Rescuers isn’t. They rescue all sorts of dogs from all over; they make sure they’re healthy and then find them the right home. The process often starts with fostering (a great lead-in to adoption), so we traded emails and one day we picked up Beauty, a black lab that had been used for breeding for a number of years and then discarded. For the first few days she rarely went far from her 10 sq ft space in the living room. When she went outside she was uncomfortable walking on grass or dirt, when she went for walks she’d stop the second she lost sight of the house - it was our first experience with a dog that had spent her whole life locked up. As we expected, we kept her for the summer, and eventually she was picked up by her forever home - and last we heard she was loving it.

Long story short - the Dog Rescuers told us about Happy, a border collie who was just coming into the program. We were foster failures within the week. About a year later Charlie, another border collie, came into the program; we offered to foster him and failed as foster parents even quicker the second time around.

The Dog Rescuers are all-around good people, from top to bottom. They run events year round in an effort to raise funds - it’s not cheap to run the program. If you are looking for a dog, or know someone looking for a dog, or just want to help out: look them up. And if you can, foster one for a bit, you never know what you might end up with!

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Dec
14

12 Days of Oakville (Day 2)

Number 11 - Downtown Oakville

I know, it’s not fair to say “I like Oakville because of Oakville”, it reminds me of trying to explain why the sky is blue. “Uh, well, it’s because it’s blue and the ocean is blue and the sky reflects the ocean and sometimes the ocean reflects the sky and if it was red we’d all be blind.” Cut me some slack, I have a degree in PE.

Downtown Oakville is the part of our burg that reminds me of the Main St type neighbourhoods of cottage country (but different). I have never bumped into a grumpy person down there; we’ve eaten at some great restaurants, hung out for coffee; but most often we’ve just walked around. I even got my last tattoo down there! (The studio moved to up near Walmart so don’t look for it.)

If you’re visiting from out of town, spend some time on Lakeshore between Navy and Allan, it’ll be worth your time.

Edit: I forgot: this evening, in the middle of the great Halton storm of 2013, I got my car stuck in the snow bank that filled the parking lot behind The Works. It wasn’t there when I got there… Anyway, just as it looked like I was going to be a downtown fixture until the spring, 2 guys appeared out of nowhere and pushed me backwards on to the street. Stopping to say thanks wasn’t much of an option so - thanks!

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