Category Archives: journal

Notebooks, diaries, journals

Source: have started many a January with a fresh diary, intent on getting my deep thoughts and the minutiae of my life onto paper. I usually last about three weeks. I’ve tried gratitude journals, sentence-a-day journals, free-flow writing, and the best I seem to be able to do is a purse notebook with measurements, business cards, calculations, menu plans and other really unimportant-in-the-long-term but important in the short (like, what size furnace filters we use, or the three things i need to pick up next time at at Home Depot.)  Many would just use scraps of paper for this kind of stuff, but I prefer keep it all bound and, you know, easy to find.

For list making and other kinds of basic notebook content, I’ve turned mainly to technology, namely my smartphone.

  • The Shopi app is fantastic for managing shopping lists and you can share it with someone else in real time. While I’m the main user, when Z goes to the LCBO, or grocer, or hardware store, he can quickly check the app to see what we need.
  • For keeping a record of daily stuff that I might otherwise consign to a diary-type journal, I use the Momento app which grabs all your posts to social media and puts them into one place, plus lets you add your own private posts. You can also get it to prompt you with reminders to diarize at specific times of the day (see “Gratitude” above.) So it’s kinda cool.

I really admire people who keep diaries for years, but I have accepted the fact that I’m not one of them. There are a couple of other note taking things that I’m experimenting with at the moment.

Travel diary

Every time we travel, I try to keep a diary. A couple of years ago, we went to Istanbul. Before we left, I made this funky sewn notebook that I intended to fill with memories. While there, I used a spiral notebook to remember what we did each day and collected ephemera that would go into the notebook.

It never got done. I think I managed to do one or two days of post-trip scrapping and it got pushed aside as real life intervened.

This year, I decided to try something different. We were in France for two weeks, and I took a little pouch with a glue stick and archival double-sided tape, scissors, various fineline markers, and a moleskine blank page diary. This didn’t take up very much space in my luggage. I kept receipts, business cards, and picked up postcards, newspapers, and brochures from the places we visited/dined at/drank at. Each day, I sat at a table and put everything into my notebook in words and pictures. I got behind a couple of days from time to time, but it was still fresh enough for me to be able to get down what was important. I intentionally made it suitable for public reading and we now have a great memory of our trip.

Here are a few shots of my journal.

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For my next trip, I’d like to experiment with a small, very portable printer that I can connect wirelessly to my smartphone and that would print 2×3 shots that I could add to the journal. I’ve been looking at a couple online (Fujifilm Instax and Polaroid ZIP) but haven’t actually seen a demo.

Thought journal

I recently read a post by Jessica Handler, a writing teacher, in Assay. Called My Favorite Essay to Teach: On Keeping A Notebook, she refers to an piece written by Joan Didion back in 1966. You can read it here [PDF].

Her notebooks contain scraps of dialog, observations, and none of it is necessarily true.

Didion talks about the contents of her notebook thus:

Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point. […] It is a difficult point to admit. We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing. [….] But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable “I.” We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.

I have started keeping a similar type of journal, although it’s mainly quotes from books and interesting words. But it’s small and very portable and I keep it with me and/or whatever books I’m reading at the moment. I also use it to make notes about conversations, teevee shows or other media besides books, and connections that occur to me. (My binge on HBO’s Six Feet Under is giving me a lot of food for thought and connections to other stuff in my life.) I’m only a few weeks into this one, but so far it’s working well. It’s a no pressure place. I’m never behind.

Finally, here’s a terrific compendium of various types of journals that I stumbled across the other day. Oberon Design, a maker of gorgeous notebooks, bags, and other accessories, has a section on their website called All About Journalling. If you’ve ever thought about this practice but failed at the obvious types, maybe one of these would appeal.

One last note: I’m thinking of taking my travel journal concept daily, as in everyday life. I plan to use the Hobonichi Techo Planner. Thin, bleed-free paper, purse-proof, lots of space. They were sold out within a day but I’m on the notification list.

Do you keep a journal? What kind? Please share in the comments.


Fall Friday recipe

Vegan? Catholic who abstains from meat on Fridays? Or just looking for a hearty fall recipe?

From Toronto Star
From Toronto Star

The Star posted a recipe for Old Style Pinto Beans the other day from a cookbook called Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing (affiliate link), and if you’ve got a reasonably stocked kitchen, you probably have everything you need.

There are instructions for both slow cooker (yay!) and stove top cooking, and uses dried beans with no pre-soaking required. (Well, they have to cook for a long time, but with a slow-cooker, that’s no problem.) I didn’t have pinto beans on hand so used my stash of romano beans instead.

There’s a facebook group and website that can help you find other ways to pump up the health factor in your diet. I’ll be checking them out.

2015 Reading Challenge – Canadian Edition

Here’s an interesting reading challenge that some of my Canadian readers might like to try!

Literal Life

Matilda, Roald Dahl; Illustration by Quentin Blake

Goal: diversify your reading!

While this challenge encourages you to ‘read Canadian’ (CanLit is fantastic!!), there are so many opportunities here to read beyond your comfort zones. New genres, new locations, new themes, new perspectives – each book you choose to read as part of this challenge has the potential to take you so many places, opening your minds in completely new ways. I would also like to encourage your to read diversely when choosing your authors and books.

The challenge is fairly straight–forward: find a book to read that fits each ‘task’.

With my own reading, I am not going to ‘double-dip’ (or triple-dip, etc.) my book choices. Meaning that I will not use one book for more than one task. Some people may prefer to mix-and-match the tasks, knocking off several tasks with one book. This is absolutely fine!! There are no…

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The return of the black dog


I got three things done this morning that have been on my to-do list for some time (one for months). It’s a good upswing in mood for me as the black dog has been visiting recently and I was starting to hibernate.

See how I used the secret code in that last sentence? Black dog? Because we still don’t like to talk about it, despite all the social media campaigns, the celebrity confessions, the it’s-just-like-any-other-disease comments. I’ve been getting a lot of support from the few friends with whom I’ve talked about it. But so many people just don’t get it. They want to solve the problem, and it just ain’t that easy.


This most recent bout was likely triggered by a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in one of my knees. I’ve been having increasing levels of pain and discomfort over the past few months, with respite from time to time (including, thank G*d, during our trip to Sweden.) But this last flare up found me in my doctor’s office.

I love my family doctor, and really liked the doc who was covering for him while he was on vacation. She sent me for an xray and ultrasound, but based on her examination, she said it was likely osteoarthritis. So I went for the scans and waited for a call back for another appointment.

What I got was the (very nice) secretary reading my results off of the computer screen, as follows : “Degenerative condition. Patient should continue with pain medication as discussed and get physio.” No offer of a follow-up appointment.

I’m 54, retired, overweight and not sporty in the least, but walk a lot: in my neighbourhood, on public transit, in travels abroad. I want to adopt a dog in the near future. We look forward to this empty nest season in our lives as active, and so the knee thing is kind of alarming. Feeling brushed off by my doctor’s office was the last straw. I was angry, and then, a couple of days later, on my way to my first physio appointment, the tears just welled up. I spent the next couple of days feeling not anger but fear and sadness. I found myself checking not once but twice whether I’d forgotten to put my antidepressants in my pill dispenser. (I hadn’t forgotten.)

The physiotherapist I saw was absolutely lovely, talked about the objectives of treatment (strengthening the muscles around the joint), and did some work on my leg and foot. My homework for this week was to apply heat to my knee a few times (which was lovely.) Next week she’ll start me on some exercises.

I realized this morning that I feel better when I accomplish things. So I’ve been forcing myself to get out of bed and work on my list. Yesterday I cleaned my desk (NOT an insignificant task) and made dinner. Today I replaced my broken Birkenstocks, shopped for groceries, and got my computer glasses fixed. I’m seeing a friend for a late lunch today.

This weekend, my loved one and I have nothing on our calendars. We’re planning to visit the McMichael Gallery, to which I have never been, despite seven years in Toronto. Next week, my personal September madness starts, with TIFF (where I’m seeing 17 films over 10 days), TSO opening night, and then travel to France, so I will be busy and occupied. And (hopefully) fully mobile.

I’ve recently started following the blog Momastery after someone shared this post. I think it’s brilliant. And her voice really resonates. In her About page, she finishes with this:

My job is to wake up every day, say yes to life’s invitation, and let millions of women watch me get up off the floor, walk, stumble, and get back up again.

Love each other, my friends.


Wanna know what depression feels like? This video is pretty much it.

Surname Saturday – Honsberger

I’ve been following up on a Goddard “stray”, Hilda Jane Goddard, my second cousin, twice removed. She was born to Samuel Goddard, a bricklayer, and Elizabeth Fuller in about 1900 in Folkestone, Kent.

This family photo shows her parents in the centre. Hilda is in the back row at the far right.


Samauel Goddard and Elizabeth Fuller, with family. Hilda is in the back row, centre, between her brothers.
Samauel Goddard and Elizabeth Fuller, with family. Hilda is in the back row, centre, between her brothers.

In the last quarter of 1918, Hilda marries Elton Snyder Honsberger, a signalman in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces from Jordan County, Ontario (near St. Catharines). In December of that year, Hilda gives birth to a son, Elton Eric Honsberger. Three months later, she and the infant sail from Liverpool  aboard the SS Melita, arriving in St John NB on the 6th of March 1919. Her husband is also on that ship with many other demobilized soldiers and their dependants. Canadian war brides were given free third class passage, and they could often return on the troop ship with their husband, which is the case with Hilda.

SS Melita. Courtesy

I had trouble finding them in the 1921 census. Finally, I decided to go manually through each of the census files for Louth County, Elton’s home before he went to war. I found them, with their surname transcribed as “Honsinger”, and they have a second child, Marjorie.

My cousin Squibs is descended from this family and she asked me to “keep an eye out for” Honsbergers. Given that Canadian census data is only available to 1921 at this time, next steps are to search local newspapers for obituaries or other news of interest. One of Hilda’s brothers, Stephen (seated in front row with the great hair) also came to Canada in the 1950s.

If you’re a descendant of Elton and Hilda (or Stephen), I’d love to hear from you!


I’m fascinated by war brides. Check out this link for more on the Canadian War Brides of WWI. There’s also a great site on war brides from World War II here.

Family Recipe Friday Redux

Last week, I posted some Christmas cake recipes from my grandmother, her mother, and her mother-in-law. I got messages from my mom as well as two of her sisters with more information about the traditions around these dishes.

My mom wrote (in the comments):

The dark fruitcake was used for birthdays – it had two eggs. However we had another fruit cake that called for a “pound of eggs”, about 10, and this was made only for Christmas and New Year and Lillian’s birthday, December 28!

Your e-mail brought back a lot of memories – of the whole family sitting around the kitchen table late November or early December making mincemeat!

Aunts Joyce, Edith, and Lilian at Edith's graduation from University of Toronto, 1956.
Aunts Joyce, Edith, and Lilian at Edith’s graduation from University of Toronto, 1956.

My Aunt Edith emailed me to say “When we were kids, the Christmas cake was made in 3 graduated tins – like wedding cake tins.  The largest cake was for Christmas, the middle-sized one for New Year’s (Lillian’s b’day?[December 28])  and when Joyce arrived the third one, for a few years, was her birthday cake. 

My Aunt Lillian wrote that the two larger fruitcakes were for Christmas and New Year and that she got the smaller one for her birthday, perhaps until my Aunt Joyce came along some years later in mid-January.

All three sisters remembered, as my Aunt Lillian put it, “the cheap fruit cake”.  Aunt Edith wrote “[The] other siblings’ birthday cakes were the much cheaper and less fruity (i.e. no peel, almonds, pecans, cherries, etc.) fruit cakes, the ‘fruit’ being basically raisins.”  My mother remembered that the cheap fruit cake had no eggs.

Of the mincemeat: My mother wrote that it was “not at all like the one you get in cans. We liked grandmas although we also liked the other. My father got a hamper from the place where he worked [Canada Packers] at Christmas and it included mince meat in a can.” Aunt Lillian noted that 1/2 the mincemeat recipe is enough to make 2 pies.

My uncle, James Ross Gear. (1934-1957)
My uncle, James Ross Gear. (1934-1957)

Aunt Edith also commented on the handwriting of the second and third recipes, which I did not recognize: I’m not sure who printed out the other two recipes, although my guess is that it was [my Uncle] Ross.  When he was at home with nephritis, he did a variety of things like knitting at least one scarf, hooking a rug, and so on.  I think he also began to copy  some of mother’s recipes on cards to fit into a recipe box.  However, the asterisk and ‘2 1/2 tbsp’ on the pudding recipe is my addition!  

My Uncle Ross died in 1957 of kidney failure at the age of 22, and so I never got to meet him. It feels nice to have something that he wrote, if that is in fact the case.

My grandparents William Gear, Daisy Goddard, and sons Ross and Bill.
My grandparents William Gear, Daisy Goddard, and sons Ross and Bill.


Treasure Chest Thursday

I’ve been browsing through some of the great Canadian local history databases lately.  For general Canadian history, has some terrific content. There are a couple of free databases there but the most inclusive one is Early Canadiana Online which requires a subscription. For western Canada, Peel’s Prairie Provinces is free and hosted by the University of Alberta.

Yesterday, while researching my Rycroft post, I popped the name “Goddard” into the search field over a Peel’s and found this postcard:

Buffaloes at Elk Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. [Fort Saskatchewan: ca. 1910].
The text on the back reads:

From: Ralph
To: Mrs W.D. Goddard
Address: Fragmew, Cheriton Rd., TolReston, Kent, England.
Message: “Very best wishes & happiest returns of 30 Dec. Just having another cold spell. Had a good time this xmas, will write more fully very soon. House still progressing very slowly, but hope in the * dim dark future to see it finished. Just off there now, C. going to hunt this morning. glad to say all well. Expect to go up to his Close New Years’ day when we anticipate a good time. A & his wife up at his shack whilst Sullivan is building his house quite a grand affair I can tell you. Hope all well. Best love from Ralph. Ballentyne Dec 30th”
I was excited to see this and posted it to the Goddard Association of Europe’s Facebook page. My Goddards come from Kent so I was wondering whether this might be an ancestor. Regardless, I figured it would be interesting to someone.
I did a little research on Ancestry and determined that William and Mary (Hyde) Goddard had a son Ralph. After posting, one of the admins who is a cousin of mine (and who blessed me with my Goddard family tree back to the 17th century when I joined a few years ago) contacted a Gail Goddard in Ottawa who’s husband is a descendant of these Goddards. While we’re not in the same family, it was exciting to link up this artifact with the descendants of the writer.  Gail writes “Ralph had arrived in Canada in 1907. In 1910 Hilda Mary Goddard came to Battenberg, Alberta (later called Gibbons) to join her parents and siblings. In 1912, she and Ralph were married.”
While the sites I mentioned above are not specifically genealogical, this demonstrates the importance of having a peek at other resources to flesh out local history of our ancestors and maybe come across something special!


Workday Wednesday

I’ve recently been responding to some hints on, those little green leaves that tell you that there are records in their database that may contain information about ancestors in your tree. In particular, I’ve been looking at the Rycroft family, my maternal great-grandmother’s mother Eliza Rycroft.

Eliza was born in 1842 and baptised in St. Oswald’s Parish, Chester in Cheshire, England in 1842. This parish was associated with the south transept of Chester Cathedral, inside the ancient walls of the city. Her family lived on Princess Street where her father Thomas was a pawnbroker. Her mother was Sarah Purslow. Eliza married James Dobb Price (also a pawnbroker) in 1866 and they lived next door to her parents. Eliza is noted as a grocer in the 1871 census. They had four children, the second of which was my great grandmother Emily Minnie Price.

Stephen Robert Goddard and Emily Minnie Price
Stephen Robert Goddard and Emily Minnie Price

Eliza died in her late 30s and the children were split up: the elder two lived with their grandmother next door and the younger two went to live with their father’s mother and her second husband, Thomas and Mary Ruscoe, in Toxteth Park (now Liverpool), about 30 miles away. A few years later, Minnie emigrated to Canada where she met and married my great-grandfather, Stephen Robert Goddard.

What interested me yesterday morning was that it became apparent that another Rycroft family member also came to Canada, specifically, the Toronto area.

Anne Rowe (1849-1904)
Anne Rowe (1849-1904)

Eliza was the first of five children born to Thomas and Sarah. Thomas William was born in 1848; Sarah Jane was born in 1850; John Stanley Ford was born in 1851; and Annie Eliza was born in 1854. Thomas is listed as a carpenter in the 1871 census. (Sarah and Annie work with their parents as “pawn brokers assistants”. John heads off to Lancashire to be an “assistant master” in a school.) Thomas sails for Canada on the Nestorian in the summer of 1872 and six years later, marries Ann Rowe in Toronto.

By 1881, they have a toddler (Annie) who dies shortly thereafter and an infant (Stanley) and are living in St. Patrick’s Ward where Thomas continues to work as a carpenter. By 1891, they have three growing sons (Stanley, Percy, and Jamie) and Thomas is now listed as a clerk. Jamie dies the following year at age 4 of diphtheria.

In 1901, Thomas is working as a clerk in a store and making $500 per year, well above others who live on his street. Stanley is a piano maker, making $200 per year, and Percy is a machinist, $200 per year. They are now living at 261 Church St (currently in the middle of Ryerson University) and Thomas is a warden at Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church. In 1904, Ann dies of general peritonitis.

Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Square, Toronto, c 1870-5.
Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Square, Toronto, c 1870-5.

I have been unable to Thomas Sr. in the 1911 census. But death records show that he died in 1912 of heart disease. He was living at 425 Wellesley Street.

In 1904, Percy marries Jean MacPherson and they have two children in the following two years, Dorothy and John. Then they move to Watertown NY where he is a collar-maker in the harness industry. I believe that they return to Canada but I haven’t verified this yet.

Stanley Rycroft (b.1881)
Stanley Rycroft (b.1881)

Stanley marries Frances Mabel Riches in 1907 and by 1921, they are living in Parkdale at 31 Prince Rupert Ave. Stanley works at Gourlay Winter and Leeming, a piano factory and makes $1560 per year. They have two children, Frances and James. I kwow that Gourlay Winter and Leeming go out of business in the 20s, so I’m not sure where Stanley ends up (yet.)

I haven’t taken this story much further, but I know that there are lots of references to Rycrofts in the local paper from those years that I haven’t begun to explore. Even better, I likely have some Rycroft cousins on this side of the Atlantic that I haven’t met yet. If you know or are related to any of these people’s descendants, please get in touch.


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Treasure Chest Thursday

Geneabloggers suggests daily prompts for writing about family history and I’ll be posting a few of these each week. Today: Treasure Chest Thursday.

We’ve been clearing out my mom’s condo as she moved into a retirement residence last year. I picked up this item, as it evokes a number of things from my childhood.

My mother is a retired ob/gyn and had her office in the lower level of our house. We lived right across the street from the hospital where she did her deliveries, and she operated on Mondays through much of her career. This arrangement was very convenient for a physician who was also a mother, something of a rarity in the 60s.

Dr Mom with the kids, June 1964
Dr Mom with the kids, June 1964

Her office was full of cool stuff. There was a cupboard that contained bars of baby soap, the smell of which still evokes strong memories. I think it was Johnson’s. There was a microscope and slides. There were glass jars of cotton swabs and tongue depressors,  examining tables with rolls of paper to fool around with, and a sort of secret metal door behind a sliding panel that contained financial documents and aging bottles of liquor they’d received as gifts. (My parents drank very little.) I was particularly enamoured with a four-compartment liqueur bottle that looked like this:


She also bought stamps in rolls and had brightly coloured stickers that went on overdue bills (this was before she started billing the provincial health department directly.)

past due stickerThere was a “cool” shoulder rest for her phone:



Not to mention all the magazines in her waiting room, including Vogue, Macleans, and National Geographic.

As I recall Mom had a few of these stainless steel trays, probably for sterilizing instruments. This one was made by Polar Ware, an early manufacturer of stainless steel items, situated in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. After she retired, they became holders of desktop detritus, pens, paperclips, safety pins, etc. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with mine yet, but I love the curved surfaces and clean lines.