Pokémon : Toronto vs. Elmvale

In an attempt to embrace our latent millenialism and maintain the illusion that we’re closer to 20 than 40, JF and I are avid Pokémon Go players. Yes, it’s just as embarrassing as it sounds. But we can’t seem to stop!

When I reached Level 21

The celebratory screen shoot I took after reaching Level 21 before JF

Part of the appeal might be that it has become a competition. Mikaela vs. JF. Husband vs. Wife. Men vs. Women.

We’re (literally) running around to see who can get to level 22 first. I’m edging ahead but my recent lack of pokeballs has put me at a serious disadvantage – unable to capitalize on any creatures that appear on my screen.

Two days ago, I almost spent real actual money from the bank on virtual (e.g. make believe) pokeballs to catch a level 700 Staryu (level 700! Staryu!). I didn’t waste my wages, but I may have shouted « Noooooooooooooo! » on a busy Elmvale road.

Why did I run out of pokeballs, you ask? OK you didn’t ask but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s because Elmvale only has four pokestops – the source of pokeballs. And when you’re a grown up with actual things to do, you simply don’t have time go by those pokestops again and again.

Which brings me to today’s thesis : people in less populated are at a serious disadvantage in the game Pokemon Go.

In Toronto, there is a pokestop or gym at every corner. Our friends Mireille and Patrick took us to High Park, where we filled our virtual pokebackpacks to the brim with pokeloot and caught all sorts of rare beasts. Sometimes, I dream of going back there without JF to gain a serious lead in our pokebattle.

screen shots from the game

Left: downtown Elmvale. Right: downtown Toronto. Unfair!

Last weekend we walked through Allan Gardens and caught a Bulbasaur, Clefairy and Gloom in the span of 20 minutes. That same amount of time in Elmvale might yield a Rattata (rat), Weedle (weevil) and Pidgey (pidgeon). So basically, Elmvale gets rodents and pests. Toronto gets fairies and dinosaurs. I call no fair!

I’ve just re-read the words I (a 32-year-old woman) typed above. I feel deep shame but also a deep sense of injustice. Equality for the boonies! Equality for the boonies!

Snow falling on Elmvale

It’s snowing outside and some flakes might just stick. It looks like a giant used an enormous sifter to sprinkle icing sugar all over Elmvale.

I’m sitting on the couch with Odie. JF is re-stringing his guitar. I’ve lit a few candles, cranked up Lady in Satin, and put on some slippers. We’re admiring the fluffy white puffs as they plummet from the night sky.

Odie's head and my slippers

Odie’s head and my slippers

For the first time in months, we’re enjoying a weekend with no plans in it. So far we’ve made a surprisingly cathartic trip to the Midland dump, watched the first three (decidedly unredeemable) episodes of Star Wars, and puttered around the house.

On quiet days like these, I’m so very grateful for everything I have: a caring partner, a giant smelly dog, a loving family, a rickety (but safe and warm) home, amazing friends, a good job, Tobias, and easy access to delicious doughnuts.

Not to mention the hundreds of knick knacks that bring me comfort and joy. I’ve just put up a few well-worn Christmas treasures. And I ’m so excited to hang our Christmas lights tomorrow!

I hope you’re just as nestled and cozy (and lucky) as I am, wherever you’re reading this.

xo

Updates from my little life

It looks like my blog has settled into a new pace – monthly posts. I hope you all don’t mind!

Here’s some recent news from my little life.

We’re eating well, mostly

JF and I decided to eat better and cut out wheat, dairy and sugar for three weeks. The goal? Reset our habits. So long tostitos dinners, hello buddha bowls! Minus a few slip ups (ahem, sweet potato fries) we’re doing quite well. My energy levels are up and I’m feeling less bloated. My doughnut cravings subside a bit every day.

Kale salad - yum!

Kale salad – yum!

We signed up for an organic produce delivery service

In Toronto, I always wanted sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program but couldn’t seem to find the right one. I thought Elmvale was a CSA-free zone until my friend Doug sent me this link. Organics Live is reasonably priced, all organic and mostly local. And they deliver to my house every Thursday. It’s only been two weeks but I’m in love.

We’re advocating for a dog park in Elmvale

We want a dog park in Elmvale for the Odester. He loves playing with friends at parks in Wasaga and Midland. Imagine how often we could take him if it was down the street? If you agree, email our awesome councillor Katy Austin to let her know. She’s at katy.austin@springwater.ca.

Wedding planning is progressing

We decided to have our shindig at JF’s parents’ house (merci, Elise et Roger!) for so many reasons. It’s beautiful, it’s free, and it’s close to home. I’ve also picked out my dress, selected flowers, sent out a bunch of save the dates (thanks Eunah!) and made a few decorations with family members. So far, it’s all still fun. Ask me how I feel in a few months.

This is a bad photo of Owen and I, but it kind of shows our photo booth wall

This is a bad photo of Owen and I, but it kind of shows our photo booth fabric wall

We’re looking for a handyman

After months of grappling with house renovations (mostly JF re-sealed windows while I puttered in the garden) we’ve realized we need some help. So if you know someone who does drywalling, painting and minor electrical, please send them our way!

First target - the dropped ceiling in the mudroom

First target – the dropped ceiling in the mudroom

A local artist is making a stained-glass window for our hallway

The pane of glass above our door has been cracked since we bought the house. We’ve just comissioned a serious upgrade. Local artist Renée Havers is making a piece that should look a little like the inspiration image below. In the meantime, we’re making do with plywood. Sad face.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are probably other things to share, but my brain’s settling into post-dinner Star Trek zombieness. Suffice to say, we are well.

A biased introduction to the towns of Simcoe County

Many of my Toronto friends remain confused about Elmvale’s location. I routinely get asked if it’s near Blue Moutain or Huntsville. The answer is well, kinda. It’s somewhere in between.

Here's a map with Toronto, Blue Mountains, Elmvale and Huntsville, for context

Here’s a map with Toronto, Blue Mountains, Elmvale (in green) and Huntsville, for context

I think of Elmvale as the centre of Simcoe County. Not the cultural or economic centre (that’ll be the day!) but the actual geographical centre. We live 20 to 30 minutes from the following places: Midland, Orillia, Barrie and Wasaga Beach. Here’s my uninformed, totally biased opinion on those four hubs.

BARRIE (south of Elmvale)

SpiritCatcher_1024x768

Spirit Catcher

  • Claim to fame: nearish to Toronto. Also, where I work.
  • Populationish: tough to say because it grows by 1,000 every time someone sneezes. Maybe 150,000?
  • Cool stuff: surprising number of decent restaurants, Sir Games-a-lot, waterfront park, great Mayor, Georgian College
  • Less cool stuff: sprawl, unreliable transit

MIDLAND  (north of Elmvale)

Midland, retro edition

Midland, retro edition

  • Claim to fame: Martyr’s Shrine and Ste. Marie Among the Hurons. Also, where I lived in my teens
  • Populationish: probably about 15,000 most of the time, but 100,000 in July and August
  • Cool stuff: lovely downtown, random murals, cheap real estate, Midland Cultural Centre, awesome bowling alley, proximity to Penetanguishene (another cool town)
  • Less cool stuff: Lots of poverty. Also the waterfront could be nice if it didn’t have the grain elevator, lumber yard, giant mineral pile, busy road, graffiti and drugs

ORILLIA (east of Elmvale)

Opera House

Opera House

  • Claim to fame: Casino Rama. On the way to Muskoka
  • Populationish: guessing 30,000ish?
  • Cool stuff: great downtown, Mariposa Market, Mariposa Folk Festival, Stephen Leacock museum, OPP headquarters, opera house
  • Less cool stuff: keeps trying (unsuccessfully) to compete with Barrie – do your own thing, Orillia!

WASAGA BEACH (west of Elmvale)

The beach

The beach

  • Claim to fame: duh
  • Populationish: maybe 10,000 in the winter a zillion in the summer?
  • Cool stuff: the beach, the kitschy stores around the beach, proximity to Collingwood (which is lovely), paintball, go carts and mermaid hotel sign
  • Less cool stuff: driving through sucks. Also, noisy motorcycles zoom past my house all summer to get there.

In conclusion, if you’re planning to visit me OR Simcoe County (which you should!) there’s plenty to do. I suggest you go to all of the towns listed above, but also:

The view from here

I’ve struggled to write lately, because there’s at once so much and so little to say. Life – full of to dos, visits and meetings – is blasting by at warp nine. Yet, it all feels rather pleasantly humdrum.

But instead of letting you believe I’ve been eaten by Odie, my blog left to wither tragically, I thought I may as well share some updates from Elmvale.

1. The Lefaive girls are back in business

Gen has returned from the distant land of Guelph to eat mom’s food and work at ye olde Disco Harbour. It’s been great to see her more regularly.

10152461_10152418133966177_3664109521090512833_n

2. Odie is a sweet terror

He playfully flattens all children. JF says his wagging tail feels like a bludger to the crotch. He also accidentally crushes your toes when accosting you for affection. On the upside, he now knows how to sit AND walk on a leash (little victories!).

IMG_5995

3. Wedding plans are progressing

We have a location, a tent, a caterer, flowers, a dress and an officiant. Plus a lovely friend has offered to make 100 invitations by hand. Please make note of their loveliness when you get yours.

4. We’re regularly visiting the sands of our youth

We splurged and bought a Tiny Township beach pass for Tobias. I’m pissed at the cottagers who erect barriers (physical and metaphysical) to keep locals out – my family has been using these beaches a century longer than yours! – but glad this option for pseudo access still exists. Here’s to the smell of coppertone.

3183_10151304130796177_1713857898_n5. I joined another board

Yes I know, I was just whining about how busy I am. But I couldn’t say no. It’s with La Clé – an organization that’s vital to the health and well-being of the local francophone community. I’m delighted to represent both my hometown and my age bracket.

6. My garden has expanded

Helena and Owen devoted a whole day to helping me create a new garden bed in the yard. It’s looking a little sparse, but (finally!) intentional.

7. My choir did another concert

Minus a few terrifying bars, it was quite good. We were mostly on key and everything. And I always feel good after singing with friends.

8. The 2015 Humber High reunion took place

The gals from PR school do an annual general meeting. It always includes food and shenanigans. This time, we had a big breakfast then went to Body Blitz, sat around in warm water all day, and talked. It rocked.

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here's last year's AGM

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here’s last year’s AGM

9. I painted a wolf

Or rather, a wolf cutout, at Quest Art. Several acrylic-splattered howlers, including mine, will be available at le Festival du Loup through a silent auction benefiting both the gallery and local francophone musicians. Win win!

IMG_6006

10. We bought a Roomba

This shouldn’t be news, but this little round robot is so beautiful to me. He whirls around, bumping into furniture, happily beeping and sucking up dirt. We’ve named him Rambo and I dedicate this song to him.

I think that’s kind of it, folks! I figure since I’m getting as granular as dirt on my floor, it’s probably time to stop. The road goes ever ever on (how many nerd references can I fit into one blog post?).

The benefits of dog walking

Every morning, I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and put on:

  • A pair of wool socks
  • And then another
  • Long johns
  • Sweat pants
  • A tank top
  • A t-shirt
  • A hoodie
  • A down parka
  • Sorel boots
  • A long scarf
  • Some woollen mittens
  • And a toque

before filling my pockets with lavender-scented poop bags and kibble. Then I spend a solid 10 minutes trying to clip a leash on my very excited dog before michelin-manning it out the back door.

Every time that blast of cold hits my face, I think: “I’m a good dog owner, I’m a good owner, I’m a good dog owner” while gritting my teeth and dreaming about the fence we’re going to get as soon as the ground thaws. By about the tenth minute, we’ve reached a local trail and Odie is prancing about like a king. I can’t feel my nose.

FullSizeRender

There are no dignified photos of me in my dog walk getup, so here’s one of Odie in the snow, pre haircut.

The walk home – about half an hour later – is usually a bit more eventful. Cars pulling out of driveways, kids walking to school, and retirees taking out their garbage in their pyjamas. Odie, whose universe used to be limited to a backyard, greets them all by jumping on them.

But last week he suddenly started barking. I was puzzled until I saw the stout elderly lady who had slipped and fallen. She’d been on the ground in her nightgown for nearly half an hour in -35 degree weather. Her nose was bleeding, but she didn’t want a doctor. She asked for help getting up and into the warmth of her home.

I tied Odie to a post, put one of my billion layers over her legs, ran to get JF, and we helped her inside. After about ten minutes of hand-wringing over the possibility that she was concussed, I called the paramedics after all. Before leaving for work, I made sure they found her house.

On our after-work walk, Odie and I dropped in for a visit. Jean was fine, but her nose hurt like the dickens.

Morals of the story? Dog walking is a great way to meet people. Also, visit your older neighbours regularly. Also, spring will be awesome.

Digging around for his frisbee

Digging around for his frisbee

Homelessness in Elmvale

It’s the coldest night so far this year, and I can’t stop thinking about the young homeless man who lives in Elmvale. He used to sleep in the post office at night. Then we got this letter.

FullSizeRenderTonight, I chatted with him in the lobby of TD Bank. He looked pretty comfortable lying by the ATM, bundled up in his worn sleeping bag and parka, but I doubt he’ll be there long because the building has cameras.

Every time I see him, I think about how desensitized I was to extreme poverty while living in Toronto. Would I have noticed him, young as he is, if he’d been tucked into some archway at Yonge and Dundas? Probably not.

I also think about the invisibility of poverty in places like Elmvale.

Friends who work in social assistance say north Simcoe County has more than its fair share of challenges — addiction, violence, teen pregnancy and hunger. My mom, a former teacher, would come home with stories of students struggling and failing to break the cycle of poverty.

As I type in my pyjamas — with my partner, my dog/furnace, and my sleepytime tea — I am so grateful for the people and things I have. We are fortunate ones.