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Congratulations to Marisa and Shawn on their gorgeous wedding in Ocho Rios! How could you ask for a more perfect evening? We are going to go through our photos and post a collection of people’s thoughts here. Welcome also to Ivor and Serene Seepersaud, and to Donna Karran to the Seepersaud family web site. You can create your own stories if you wish, and perhaps you ought to give it a try.

We can do this posting because Jamaican weather chose Monday afternoon to pour rain and crash thunder in Ocho Rios. We almost chose to go to Dunn’s River Falls, which would have meant climbing Jamaica’s signature attraction (see the 1962 film Dr. No) in a thunderstorm. No thanks. Marisa made the right call.

Whether you are a Seepersaud, a Latchmansingh, a Ramroop, a Riwanna, a Narsing or a Sewnauth, you can use this site in ways Facebook just won’t let you do. This is done with an open-source piece of web software called WordPress. WordPress is estimated to power about one-sixth of all the sites on the Internet today.

I am aware of what Bob calls a folder permission issue when people try to register for the web site. It happends when you use the Captcha feature. Bob says we can resolve this easily with our web hoster, and he has done it with his MPP web site, but one ‘benefit’ of the issue if that it completely blocks computers in Russia, Poland and other strange corners of the world from being able to create phony accounts, and that makes this site completely secure for this unplanned reason.

Posted in Andrea

Summer 2014

The Larisa Grove back yard in full bloom

It was a very hectic spring at our home. On May 1, the Ontario government tabled its 2014-15 Budget, and on May 2, one of the opposition parties said they would not support it. The Opposition Party, the Conservatives, didn’t support any government bill, so that meant that a vote on the Budget would result in the fall of the government. This was not unexpected. On Friday May 2nd, the Premier called an election for June 12th, and we were off and running!

I managed the phone room for Bob, who did in five to seven days what took that many weeks to do at the last election in 2011: getting the campaign office; installing the wiring; getting the phones hooked up; bringing in the photocopier and the computers and making everything work; getting nominated; organizing the managers and the campaign team. And all that is before we took our message to the streets.

Bob ran against the same six-time loser of a candidate that he has run against twice before — and now three times. Bob is three of her six election losses!

Garden Arbour August 2014

Our new, custom-built garden arbour. The metal frame was assembled from a kit from the nursery, and Bob built the base from spare wood we had on hand in the shed.

It was pretty obvious from the very outset that the government had wind in its sails. The opposition, in an absolutely inexplicable mind-cramp of a decision, announced that if elected, they would fire 100,000 people in the public sector. To start with the entire Ontario Public Service is only about 64,000 people, which meant they proposed cutting off funding to police; schools; hospitals; mental health; cities and the like. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

To those of us working the phones, we knew instantly that Bob was going to win in our riding. He cleaned up in the various debates, and the month-long campaign went very smoothly. In retrospect, it now seems so quick. In the end, the Liberals were re-elected with a slim majority, and Bob won one of the largest victories in Ontario. We polled more votes than ever before; earned our highest-ever share of the popular vote, and thrashed our opponents by our largest-ever margin of victory.

The gazebo in summer, 2014

The last time visitors to this web site saw our gazebo, it was covered in winter ice. This is the gazebo as it is meant to be, where our friends come to chat and enjoy summer evenings in Mississauga.

I returned to my EduNational business in mid-June, and Bob hit the road to do his normal June round of graduations; picnics; barbecues; annual meetings; more graduations and other pre-summer events. Then it was Canada Day (July 1st), when elected members go like the clergy does at Christmas. The day after, it was off to the Legislature to elect the Speaker. The day after that was the government’s Speech from the Throne. The following week was debate on the Speech from the Throne. Then the Ontario Budget that set up the election was re-introduced, and Bob, as Chief Government Whip (as of March of this year) had to coordinate the government’s response. Two weeks, the government’s majority passed the Budget and just like that, summer started for Bob. He basically slept for the better part of two days.

A good time to visit us, and enjoy the back yard ambience

Irish shamrocks in our garden.

Our summer garden gives rise to wonderful indoor plants when fall and winter come. In particular, these authentic Irish shamrocks thrive outdoors from late may to mid-September, and make great take-home items for your living room when the cold weather returns.

Even though we normally start our summer in early July, August is nice here too. The weather actually wasn’t all that cooperative in July, but the forecast for August is great. Posted here are some photos of our back yard oasis and garden in full bloom. It really does look terrific this year with all the rain we have had.

I had wanted an arbour to allow my kiwi plants to climb and bear fruit. While Bob was at Queen’s Park working on the Budget, I asked a guy to come in and quote me a price. He wanted $3,000 to build an arbour. Neither of us felt the project was worth that amount of money. We went to the nursery, where I had seen some nice arbours in kits, and we bought one for about $300. Bob used up some spare wood we had in the shed, and built exactly the kind of base we needed to plant the kiwis at each side of the arbour. Today, after building it all by hand, and staining it against the elements, we did some digging in the garden and installed it. We re-used every bit of dirt we dug up. Even the nails in the arbour base were all recycled. And it looks just like what I had wanted, giving us a place for the pagoda that also serves to anchor the whole thing against the wind when it blows.

Side yars at Larisa Grove

With the July wet weather, the garden and the yard are home to thriving plants, and very happy cats. Our hedge, planted several years ago, now gives us a great deal of privacy and seclusion.

We have a great kitchen garden every year. We can harvest garlic; chives; dill; thyme; basil; oregano; rosemary; green onions; cucumbers; tomatoes; beans and hopefully some eggplant. We also have a nasturtium plant. You would recognize its leaves and flowers (all edible) on ritzy salads in high-end, avante-garde restaurants. Visitors for dinner are certain to have some ingredients picked moments before use. The hedge now gives us a great deal of privacy, and the trees are adding to the feeling of living in our private oasis. This year, we were joined by a family of squatters: raccoons who were looking for a home, and decided to rip out on of our roof vents and move in. It took a visit from the pest control outfit to remove them (safely and alive), and to repair the roof to keep them from destroying any more vents. The cats would watch for them through the screen door at night. Bebe would start to hiss when she saw them. We would turn on the patio light, and there would be mom and three or four of her young. They were not at all shy around humans, which is the main reason our cats are ushered inside at dusk. Obi-Wan has already had two skunk encounters.

Larisa Grove outdoor dining room on the patio.

Our outdoor dining room at Larisa Grove is intended to have a tropical look, with its potted plants and summer time setting. Dressed up for dinner, and candlelit at dusk, it is a great place to enjoy a summer evening with us.

One of the more idyllic settings for dinner in Mississauga (if we do say so ourselves) is on our back patio, especially when it is set up for an evening soiree with candles, and we do the full treatment for dinner. Bob has almost finished the weather vane, which will be installed this month. Aside from seating six, we sometimes bring out the kitchen table, and can serve 14 to 16 comfortably out on the patio. On occasion, when it’s looked like rain, we use Bob’s canopy, and have a candle-lit dinner in the rain under its roof. The cats keep any wandering field mice honest. This year, some of our guests who enjoy their own culinary adventures, may head home with some of our designer garlic. We have three varieties harvested this year: music; Mennonite; and Red Russian.

The cats, whom everyone always asks about, are both fine. Bebe turned nine in April, and Obi-Wan will be 15 in September. Obi-Wan enjoys his naps much more as he ages, but he is a healthy cat whose diabetes remains under control. Bebe has become a very affectionate grown-up girl cat who loves cuddling, and often sleeps on our bed all night. We hope everyone has a pleasant summer. Remember, if you enjoyed this post, you can write a comment below. We wish more of our friends would do just that. Click Reply, and add a thought or two.

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Tired of Winter

Want to trade humidity for cold?

Winter in Canada began with an ice storm in December, and has just not let up at all! While we did not lose our electricity in the ice storm, this unremitting cold is ensuring that we suffer in a uniquely Canadian winter fashion.

Aside from Bob fighting off a head cold, on Friday, the blower motor in the furnace had a bearing fail. Following a grinding sound, the furnace just shut off. Needless to say, our service guy did not have that exact Lennox motor on hand. As one may expect, there is no way of getting one before Monday. And so, the house just got colder and colder.

Oh, did we mention that for more than two months, the temperature has stayed below freezing, and a mass of frigid Arctic air has gripped eastern Canada for most of that time, going nowhere in a hurry. The masses of January and February snow have frozen and compacted into everybody’s lawn-glaciers, and we are way behind in the annual thaw.

So we have the electric heaters, and the gas fireplace doing their best to replace the central heating and keep the house above freezing at the coldest time of the year. Outside, it is about -15 degrees Celsius, with the wind-chill equivalent being in the -20 to -30 range.

The cats have developed an affinity to the fireplace, and we are wearing our windbreakers in a house that is between 10 and 15 degrees, depending on the room you are in. For all of you in Florida and Guyana, before you complain about heat and humidity, you might want to try a month of winter in Canada. If there is just one saving grace about this extended period of Canadian cold, it is that the creepy crawlies that live in tropical climates cannot survive even one Canadian winter. We hope to see our family in Canada once the weather warms up. You might want to skip the Toronto area until Easter.

Spring and summer simply cannot come a moment too soon for all of us heat-starved Canadians. Post a comment below.

Posted in Andrea

Goodbye, Christmas 2013

The 2013-14 Christmas Holiday Season is now officially in the history books. Over the January 11-12 weekend, we carefully dismantled the decorations and adornments in the house, labelled everything in its box, stored it back downstairs, and then cleaned and vacuumed. All traces of Christmas 2013 are now in storage. As always, the Christmas tree was last to go, its lights signalling the festive season until the very last minute as the Christmas music CDs get one last play while the takedown tasks are done.

Christmas Tree at Larisa Grove

With plenty of presents for friends, family and even cats, our trusty Christmas tree came out of storage for its 14th season helping us celebrate the Christmas Season. It is always the last thing to come down and go back into storage.

We had a lovely Christmas tree, and a warm and festive Holiday Season this year. Mom was at our home for almost two weeks. Zach brought Jenny for Christmas and for my New Year’s Eve birthday. The turkey came out just right.

Despite the ice storm start to the Christmas Season, the holidays were warm and pleasant. We never lost electricity, and even throughout Mississauga, everyone’s electricity was restored within hours for those few who were affected.

On the 23rd, we had Bob’s office staff over to get their presents and celebrate with us, and then for two days, Bob and I cooked and prepared for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We had a house full of family and guests on Christmas Day, including Bob’s Constituency Assistant Humaira, who is recovering from cancer treatment very well, and came with her husband Hamayun and one-year old baby Jibran. As well, Mississauga East Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla came with her daughter for Christmas dinner.

As is our custom, right after Christmas, we went into our cocoon and enjoyed some private time, doing little more than reading, watching movies and puttering around the house. It is one of two times each year where Bob gets to read up on what is new in web and software development, and try and keep his code-writing skills somewhere near what the state-of-the-art is at the time.

It takes the better part of a few days to decorate the house between late November and the first week of December, and two very full days of work to take everything down, and meticulously box and label it all so that we can find it next year. Christmas, for us, is contained in about 25 very full boxes lovingly organized downstairs. It works. There have been few frustrations as we carry everything upstairs and put it all back together 11 months later, and the extra effort is really worth it.

A new recipe

This year, we enjoyed some of our time in the ‘great indoors’ doing more than the usual bread-making. We do bread the traditional way, with traditional yeast, and two bread risings before baking it in the oven. No bread-makers and instant yeast in this house! I’ve published one of the recipes we enjoy from time to time, but had never shared prior to this year: our buttermilk bread. Click the link to see how to make it, and enjoy it. As the caption notes, we photographed those two loaves just a few minutes after they had come out lof the oven, and we had tasted them. Yummy!

Have a happy and healthy 2014, everyone…

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Winter 13-14

A harsh start to the winter of 2013-14

We were all looking forward to a relaxing Christmas this year. Bob had a very long autumn sitting at Queen’s Park, with more than the usual amount of travel and committee work. My EduNational business picked up smartly toward the end of the year, and it finished on a high note.

Bob’s big personal thrill of the year came when he was not only the starting goaltender in a hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leaf Old-Timers, but also delivered the Province’s greetings at the same time. Read his blog on the event.

Ice Storm 2013

Freezing rain coated tree branches with a layer of heavy ice. We did not lose any trees on our lot, but countless millions of Ontario trees were not as fortunate.

And then came the big ice storm of December 2013. A major weather system carried a huge mass of wet air up from the Gulf of Mexico through the heart of North America before colliding with a mass of cold air coming down from the arctic, and Toronto was frozen solid. Quite literally. Power lines accumulated ice and the weight snapped many of them. More often, tree limbs were coated with ice, and snapped off with the weight, bringing down power lines as the limbs or trees fell. The devastation of southern Ontario’s tree canopy will take a decade to repair.

Here in Mississauga, we did not lose our electricity at home, though some 50,000 homes were without power for periods of between a few hours and upwards of a day. Fortunately, it was not too cold at the time. As this is written, the ice storm was followed by a few days of relatively mild winter weather, which managed to let the ice melt and fall off many of the trees. But in early January, Ontario went into its first prolonged deep freeze, with temperatures of -25 degrees Celsius and a fierce wind that made it seem like -40 degrees.

Icy Gazebo at Larisa Grove

Our gazebo normally shines in summer sunlight, and here it is in bleak and grey December, coated with ice from the great ice storm of December 2013. Does not look like an inviting place to enjoy a cup of tea in the evening, as it was just three months ago, and will be again in April.

Toronto was not as lucky. Hundreds of thousands of residents went days without power. People went into city-operated ‘warming centres’ to stay comfortable. Toronto’s power was restored before the deep freeze hit, fortunately. The Ontario government put together a program to help compensate low-income people who may have lost food due to spoilage, with grocery chains scouring the country for gift cards, whose cost was shared among the various private sector sponsors and the government. As Bob says about some aspects of politics, it may not have been pretty, but it did work.

Then it snowed, and we shoveled and shoveled. Now the snow banks mean you really have to heave that snow to clear the driveway. Winter has come charging in like a hungry lion this year. One only hopes it will ease off, and we can have an early spring in time for what is expected to be an April or May election in Ontario for Bob, who will be seeking his 4th term in the Ontario Legislature.

Yes, Christmas did come!

Andrea at her desk

Sometimes Bebe comes to keep me company while I am working at the computer in the study. I wonder if she is reading over my shoulder.

But Christmas did come, and with it a few hectic days of cooking to have the family all over to the house on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Mom was staying with us through the holidays, an it was nice to have her around. After Christmas Day, we generally tuned out the world, and enjoyed a few days of sleeping in, reading books, watching TV, puttering around the house and going to bed early. It was lovely.

We did a nice Christmas turkey with all the traditional trimmings for Christmas Day. Zach brought over his girl friend Jenny. One of Bob’s fellow MPPs, Dipika Damerla, joined us with her daughter for Christmas dinner as well.

And we did some bread-baking, revisiting two of our very favourite bread recipes: buttermilk white, and corn bread. There is nothing quite like coming in on a cold day to a house aromatic with the scent of fresh baking bread.

Andrea and her birthday cake.

Zach brought over my birthday cake. There are still not so many candles that we need a fire permit to light them. I managed to blow them all out with a single breath.

On New Year’s Eve, everyone once again gathered to celebrate my birthday. It turned out to be a pleasant end to a year full of challenges, and a year that saw everyone here progress a bit. Both cats remain healthy. Obi-Wan turned 14 in September, and Bebe will be 9 years old in April. Obi-Wan’s diabetes was well under control in 2013. Bob and I remain healthy as well. For that, we have a lot to be thankful.

In 2014, we look forward to progress on EduNational for me, and a successful re-election of Bob, and of the government should an election be called. Happy New Year to all our friends and family, and we wish everyone a healthy and fulfilling year from our Churchill Meadows home in Mississauga. May we have the pleasure of entertaining more of our friends at home, especially once the weather turned warm again, and the garden flowers once more.


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Happy Thanksgiving

Fond goodbye to warm weather

Obi-Wan by the front door

Obi-Wan is practicing his Halloween scary cat stare as he poses with our autumn greeters by the front door. Obi-Wan and Bebe join us to say Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving to everyone!

Our autumn greeters have been at the door since the third week of September. There is a distinct chill in the air as daylight settles into darkness a few minutes earlier each day. The pussycats come in at dusk earlier and earlier. And in September, Bebe came eyeball to eyeball with one of the young raccoons that lives in the neighbourhood. It was just past dusk, and the screen door was closed, with the brick up to block the cat port. Our territorial cats keep a close watch through the window to see if any of the nocturnal creatures prowl through their yard in search of food. On this day, Bebe wander over to look outside, only to come face-to-face with a young raccoon on the other side of the screen door curiously looking inside, perhaps wondering how life is for the furry creatures who get to go inside the house.

Bob has been back at Queen’s Park for about a month, making his days long ones: out of the house at dawn and scarcely back before dusk. Our trees are turning colour, and starting to shed their leaves. On Thanksgiving Saturday, the lawn sprinkler maintenance team came over to shut off the sprinklers, and blow out the lines with compressed air. As Bob said, “We know the good weather is starting when they show up to turn the spirinklers on, and the cold weather is set to arrive when they come to turn them off.” Now we have our own shutdown routine to do: cover the air conditioner; turn off the water taps; box up the yard ornaments; take in the many tropical plants that make the back yard such a warm weather delight, and generally close down the Larisa Grove botanical gardens for the long Canadian winter ahead.

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