A Brief History of Community Building

I was fiddling around on YouTube just now and rediscovered some videos that I made a few years ago during a Culture Days weekend. That got me thinking…

First, a bit of background. Culture Days was actually one of the catalysts that led me to stay in Kingston for good (the main catalyst was Kelvin). It was 2011 and my burgeoning love for community building inspired me to organize a Culture Days event here in town called KINGSTON THROUGH MY LENS. It was essentially a 10-day, city-wide photo project that aimed to visually share community stories. That year, I also sat on the first Kingston Culture Days planning committee. It was great fun.

Fast forward one year, and I decided to participate in Culture Days once again. I was in the midst of planning our wedding at that time, so I wanted to take on something a little more low-key. Enter: THE HAPPY POST PROJECT. My goal was to collect a whole whack of post-its with things that make people happy written on them, and to then display them at my favourite west end park in Kingston. The day before the installation, I did a full-day bike blitz where I biked around the west end and asked people to write down what made them happy. I filmed a series of videos to document the day. I also live tweeted the whole event using #HappyPostYGK. Reading through those tweets gave me great joy.

This past September, after a few years away from organizing community initiatives, I spearheaded the development of EDCAMP KINGSTON, which is/will be an annual unconference around education in our city.

Kelvin mentioned this morning that I have an “entrepreneurial spirit”. And I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my parents both being civil servants, I very well may have picked a more entrepreneurial route in life than teaching (though I did say that even within education, there is plenty of room for exploring uncharted territory). I inherited from my father a love for the city, and this has resulted in a tendency for me to develop random community projects.

Recently, I was listening to Episode 21 of THE SIMPLE SHOW, which featured this amazing community movement called NEIGHBOR’S TABLE. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a rendition of this in my own neighbourhood. I’m fairly inept on the cooking and hospitality front, so it’s going to be a much simpler version, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve shared the idea with some of my neighbours already, and I can’t wait until the warmer weather to get my dinner organized. I have high hopes for this little initiative!

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It’s been a really good week. Andy is communicating more with us, both verbally and with gestures. We can tell when he wants something, he is learning to wave, and he babbles constantly. He’s been saying “dada” for a few weeks, but now he’s saying “mama” too. At the start of the week he would only say mama when he was upset (because clearly Kelvin is the fun parent) but I am happy to report that sometimes he says mama now even when he’s happy!


Andy also had his first trip to the dentist this week, and we are getting into the habit of brushing after breakfast and before bed. He actually really enjoys this time because there’s something in his mouth, but we need to work on the whole concept of not eating the toothbrush. I think the berry flavoured toothpaste helps.


After a long hiatus, we returned to gymnastics, hoping that he’d be able to get more out of his time there. Alas, he is still not mobile enough for what they can do. I think we will hold off on going again until he is really walking steadily. He did enjoy crawling through the tunnel though, and kneeling on all fours on the trampoline.

In other exciting news, our house officially went on the market this week! And we tried out the new bubble tea place in town (it was great)!

Good eats: toast + jam

I don’t know what you’re like when you go on vacation, but when Kelvin and I go away, we always want to make sure that we try at least a few highly regarded eateries. This often entails a fair amount of time asking for recommendations, reading blog posts, and perusing the Internet, Yelp, zomato, or whatever tools we have at our disposal. We recently went on a day date to Ottawa, and during our brunch, Kelvin mentioned how we often expect restaurants outside of our home city to be at this next level because they have lots of ratings and reviews. More and more, though, we are realizing just how great the food scene is here. Back in our dating days, we dipped our toes into the food blogging pool, but that ceased rather abruptly once we both graduated from university. So, in 2016, we are committing to doing a better job of showcasing some of the places we’re eating in town and around. 

In this first post, we’re featuring one of Kingston’s newest spots – toast + jam, right next door (and connected via an amazingly beautiful sliding barn door) to established bakery Bread & Butter. Kelvin and my mother-in-law have become regulars at the bakery, stopping in almost weekly for goods or soups or sandwiches or their delicious apple crumble pie. Imagine their excitement when toast + jam opened up. Anyways, we headed over for brunch on Sunday, and here are our thoughts!  

 Walking in, we loved the space instantly. They’ve got a really open layout, and a wide variety of seating – two long bar height tables, a cozy fireplace and lounge area, and a smattering of tables around. We probably waited for 15 minutes for our table. In the meantime, I snuck over to bread and butter to sample some lemon squares. 

 

I ordered the Grilled Wilton, which was absolutely delicious and surprisingly filling! I opted for a side of roast potatoes, but one of our friends got the soup and she said it was great. We also ordered a side kale Caesar, which was okay, but I probably wouldn’t get it again. 
 
Kelvin got the Scrambowl, which was tasty, but I think left him hankering for a little something extra. A sizeable portion of the scrambled eggs also found their way into Andy’s mouth, which probably didn’t help. He said that he would definitely get a sandwich next time. I agree with him – sandwiches are the way to go if you want something that fills you up. 

  
At the end of the meal, we got our bill on a plate with these two delicious ginger cookies. That was definitely a nice touch. One that made me want more baked goods. How convenient that Bread & Butter is right next door! I ended up buying a blueberry lemon something or other that I devoured on the car ride home. 

All in all, a nice addition to the west end Kingston food scene. A touch on the pricier side for what you get, but we would come again. 

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So Andy has developed a propensity for edges. He loves all edges. Edges of tables, of sofas, of beds, of his change pad. He somehow managed to turn 180 degrees on his change pad the other day, and imagine his delight when he discovered all the things I had moved from the other end of the change pad…

With the slightly cooler weather (in the morning, at least…the afternoons are still ridiculously warm for the start of fall), we’ve been able to get out for walks more regularly. The falling leaves are a wonderful reminder that our favourite season is here. The season where we can layer our clothes and wear boots. I love fall.

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Today after lunch, we went for a walk to our alma mater. It’s our 5-year homecoming reunion this year, and we are really excited to be hosting our friends who are coming into town. We’re all going to the football game and so we needed to get some paraphernalia to show our Queen’s spirit (because all those cheapo t-shirts we got during sidewalk sale have seen too many days at the gym). We looked high and low for something for Andy, and eventually figured we could make him a cape with a Queen’s bandanna. Stay tuned for pictures. I think it’s going to be pretty hilarious :)

So this week I attended our quarterly 100+ Women Who Care meeting. I love being part of this group, because it allows me to learn about and also support some of the amazing charities that exist in our local community. As I was reading the reminder email, I discovered that they just started a brand new branch – 100 Kids Kingston! The idea is the same, but with a pint-sized twist. A commitment of three hours and $30 a year. Plus kiddies can learn to give their time to the community through the 100 minute challenge. Everything about this initiative is just wonderful!

Currently…
Can’t wait for the next instalment in the Limetown podcast.
I want to watch both The Intern and War Room.

Loving the City

I came to Kingston 9 years ago at the peak of my formative years – an idealistic 17-year old who had known the comforts of suburban Toronto for all of her conscious past. The plan was to spend 5 years here, get myself a superb education at one of the nation’s best universities, and promptly return to the GTA to settle down with a government-employed husband and raise 2 kids.

Clearly, God had other plans.

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That was me. During frosh week. In front of my residence, Chown Hall, which was at the time an all-girls residence (this has since changed, I hear). How do you know I’m a first-year university student? Well, I’m wearing a lanyard for one. And that lanyard isn’t attached to a student card holder in my back pocket; it is around my neck. Also, I clearly have no regard for the fact that my shirt and my shorts look terrible together. Knowing that over 100 other people are wearing a similar uniform probably helped.

I must admit. During the first two years of undergrad, most of my focus was insular. And by insular, I mean within a 1 km radius of Queen’s campus (save for the odd taxi ride to the local mall, since I hadn’t quite figured out how to ride transit that far). Exploring the city meant taking the bus to Loblaws for some groceries. Or doing silly things like walking up Montreal Street late at night to the KFC because we were craving fried chicken, only to realize we probably should have checked the store hours (this KFC is now a Rexall). I would say I had a very small view of the city I would be spending the next four years in.

Slowly but surely, this circle opened up. Volunteering and various practicums brought me into Kingston (and even Amherstview) schools. Curiosity drew me to local establishments and events. I began dating someone (Kelvin…who now happens to be my husband) who was born and raised in Kingston. Needless to say, I came to realize that there is life in Kingston beyond University Avenue. By the end of fourth year, with my degree in hand, I would say that I really liked Kingston.

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Kelvin and me at my BAH convo. Check out his outfit before he requests I take this picture off the internet.

It was at this point that the idea of staying in Kingston long term began to present itself. I opted to do my placements in Kingston during my year at the Faculty of Education, just to keep my options open. I began connecting with amazing people outside the university, and local organizations like the Kingston Arts Council. I wanted to hear and share stories from people who lived in Kingston, so I planned an event called Kingston Through My Lens.

Before I knew it, it was the summer of 2011. I had just graduated from the Faculty and had been accepted onto TDSB’s Eligible-to-Hire List. It was time to move back to Toronto, at least for the time being.

But again, God had other plans, and by the end of August, I found myself back in Kingston for good.

Two weeks ago, Dwayne Cline from Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton came to speak at our church (full audio here). A self-proclaimed rural boy, he never thought that God would call him to minister in the city. And yet, this firecracker of a speaker is living and serving and raising his kids in the inner core of Hamilton. He shared with us some thoughts on this passage in Jeremiah, one of Kelvin’s favourites.

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
— Jeremiah 29:5-7

Somewhere between buying a home here in Kingston, and standing in the shade of the beautiful Isabel Bader Centre, with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario, it dawned on me…I love this city. I love how creative this city is. I love that people are so willing to take chances on you and invite you into the city’s conversation. I love the food and the outdoor space and how “rush hour” means waiting 2 lights instead of 1 for a left turn.

But this passage got me thinking: How am I impacting the city that I live in? And how am I living intentionally in the place that God has called me to be?

If you had asked me in 2012 whether I felt I was doing this, I would have been able to say, without a doubt, yes. But since I started working more permanently, I feel like I have disengaged somewhat from Kingston. This was a sharp reminder that we exist, and our churches exist, to really minister to the community that God has placed us in.

I am challenged to demonstrate my love for this city by engaging once again with it and with the people that make it what it is. I want to take the time to really enjoy our local culture, and to listen to the stories of those I meet. But above all, I want to pray for this city, and to seek the peace and prosperity of this place we now call home.

Kelvin and I both have opportunities this year to make a difference in the lives of people who are here in Kingston – those who are here permanently as well as those who are just passing through. It’s about time we take them.

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It has been a whirlwind since we returned from Houston, to say the least. Sunday night, shortly after we landed, Andy’s grandparents hosted a 2-month banquet for him (it’s a Chinese tradition that you hold either a 1-month banquet or a 100-day banquet, but I guess we just decided to aim for something kinda in the middle). The next morning, we drove back to Kingston, eagerly anticipating a return to our routine.

So much for that routine.

Maybe it was all the excitement, but Andy’s sleep was completely out of whack. The first night we were back wasn’t too bad, but that was followed by a night of him waking every 45 minutes, then a night of him waking every 15-20 minutes. I relented in the end and just had him sleep with me. Thankfully, he slept like a baby last night, returning to his 2 am and 5 am middle of the night feeds. Maybe the poor little guy just needed more sleep.

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Today for our family time we headed downtown to Chez Piggy for lunch. It’s been a while since Kelvin and I have been there together (though we frequent their sister restaurant, Pan Chancho, quite a lot), so we thought that that, coupled with them releasing a new spring/summer menu, would be reason enough to visit. As usual, it did not disappoint. I had the open-faced oxtail gravy burger (yes, the gravy really tasted like oxtail), and Kelvin had the Reuben, which he told our waitress was the best Reuben he had ever had.

Andy woke up near the end of our meal, but he was calm enough (sorta) to give us a chance to head over to Minotaur. We’ve been hanging on to two gift certificates from the store (one dating back to 2011…) and we’ve had our eye on these Uncle Goose blocks for a while, so we picked them up.

(photo via pilot&capt.)

In other news, the May flies are now fully grown and an actual menace. They significantly decreased the enjoyment of our little stroll at Lemoine Point on Wednesday, and are causing us to move elsewhere for our walks, at least until the end of June. On the flip side, Kelvin was singlehandedly responsible for destroying at least a colony and a half of May flies on his way to Bath for his softball game last night. The front of our car looks atrocious covered with them.

9.

Hello from hot and humid Houston! Kelvin is off at his work meeting, and Andy and I are just resting at the hotel. Yesterday was jam-packed, so the downtime is much appreciated. Plus it gives me time to make sure I’m all caught up on the courses that I’m taking.

A lot of firsts for Andy this week – his first long car ride (to Toronto), his first plane ride, his first time using his passport, and even his first baseball game! We have learned a ton this week about travelling with a little one and how it changes the way that we travel. Case in point, thinking that we could drive from Kingston to Toronto in 2.5 hours – big mistake. We didn’t even make it to Napanee before his wailing cued us to the fact that he might be hungry. Thus began a 45 minute pit stop.

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One definite plus of having a baby while travelling – people love talking to you! And of course they always like to ask/guess what his age is. Estimates have ranged from 2 weeks (come on, he is totally larger than a 2 week old baby) to 4 months. I’m still terrible at guessing age, so usually I just straight up ask.

I’m not going to say too much about Houston here as the plan is to do an actual post on Houston, but if you are travelling with young kids, I would definitely recommend checking out the Children’s Museum of Houston. We went there yesterday (they have free admission from 5-8 every Thursday!) and were honestly blown away. There is so much to do there (for children from about 4 months on) and if we lived in Houston, I think we would definitely be there quite often. Also, go see the Astros play at Minute Maid Park. We ended up at a game yesterday rather serendipitously and it was honestly thrilling. What is it about sporting events, loud noises and really bright lights that make me feel like part of something bigger?

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Well, only two more nights here for us, then a night in Toronto (during which we will host Andy’s 2 month-banquet…yes, it’s a thing…hard to explain) before heading back to Kingston. Perhaps we will catch some Victoria Day festivities upon our return.

A Lack of Punctuality

So…the little guy is almost a week late. I must say, it never occurred to me that an expecting mom might experience emotional pressure (on top of the physical pressure hah) from having more time before baby arrives. Perhaps part of this is due to the seemingly endless amount of downtime that I have right now. I feel like I have literally done everything I can and am reading books voraciously. Everyone has been telling me to rest and enjoy this last little bit of peace before baby, but I must say, it is harder said than done!

Today, though, I did get a chance to spend some lovely time outdoors. Every so often, I head to Lemoine’s Point Conservation Area – it’s free and pretty close to where we are. Usually I go in the summer or fall via bike, but since it’s winter, and biking clearly is not an option for me right now (plus I have a flat…I should fix that…), I decided to drive over for a nice stroll. Ventured down a new path today and even met some friendly deer!

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There were quite a number of other people out on the trails as well. People with dogs. People with cross-country skis. People with food for animals. They were all very friendly, and it dawned on me that many of these nice folk come almost every day! Perhaps the little guy and I will join them for a daily jaunt :)

Anyways, keeping these fingers and toes crossed that I won’t be pregnant for too much longer.

Cycling on the K&P Trail

I’ve written about my adventures on the K&P Trail before, seeing as how it’s one of my favourite places to cycle. But yesterday, I managed to venture further than I’ve ever been! I travelled to the very end of the K&P trail, to where it meets the Cataraqui trail. That’s roughly 20 km from the trailhead in Kingston. From there, a short jaunt west would get me to Harrowsmith. Or, if I preferred, a slightly longer jaunt east would get me to Sydenham. I’ve outlined my ride from Kingston to Orser Road in a previous post, but I thought I’d add a few notes on the stretch north of Orser to where it intersects with the Cataraqui Trail. The KFL&A Trail Map shows me that the trail actually winds north past Harrowsmith and ends at Hartington, but I have yet to travel there.

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So in the map you’ll see that long stretch between Unity and Orser, which is roughly 5 km. The maintained portion of the trail used to end here, at Orser Road. However, as of two summers ago (I think), the northern stretch of the trail has been upgraded for easy access to the Cataraqui trail. In general, they’ve been putting some money into the trail. Within the last two years, they’ve also put interpretive signs and large trail maps along the stretch of the trail. The picture below was taken from the Gorway group website – the people responsible for making the signs.

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The kilometre north of Orser Road to Murton Road was tough for me – not because it was steep, but because the gravel was really uneven and bumpy. You pass through a field of hydro towers, but there’s not much else to look at in this short section. From Murton Road, it’s about 2.5 km to Scanlan Road and another 2.5 km or so to get to the crossing. This stretch is windy and quite scenic, with rock cuts and lots of wildlife. I saw 4 turtles (or maybe three…that last one I saw on the way back, and it may have been the same turtle) as well as frogs, birds, and other small creatures.

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There is a bit of a grade heading up towards Scanlan Road, and though it is long, it isn’t too strenuous. Past Scanlan you cross a bridge that goes over Millhaven Creek. Next time, I’ll make sure to take more pictures. This time around, I just wanted to power through and make it. When you finally arrive at the intersection, you are met with some signposts, and another trail map.

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I was pretty tired by this time (it’s the furthest I’ve ever biked!), so instead of heading into Harrowsmith, I turned back and pedalled towards Kingston. It was a slower ride (heading there I averaged 20 km/hour, but on the way back I was 1 or 2 km/h slower. Instead of going around the vista at Bur Brook, I sped down the street, hitting my max speed at 60 km/h. Kelvin was playing a softball game at Cloverdale, so I cycled there to watch a bit of the game. The hill on McIvor almost did me in (my legs were very tired by then) and ironically enough, Kelvin drove past me just as I was struggling up it.

In summary, I was very happy about this ride, and am excited to see where else this trail can take me. I’m hoping to explore more of the Cataraqui trail one day, and I’ll make sure to record more of my thoughts here. Anyways, it’s Canada Day, and strawberries are waiting to be picked at Fruition :)

Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area

More outdoor time this weekend! We didn’t venture too far this time around – headed along Bath Road/Hwy 33 past Amherstview. We ended up at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority’s newest conservation area, Parrott’s Bay, for a leisurely stroll around a surprisingly large wetland. Our exploration was much less intense than last week. In fact, I wore boat shoes and jeans (in retrospect, it was way too hot for them). Still, some absolutely beautiful encounters with nature.

The conservation area was small enough for us to do a loop within about an hour (click here for trail map). From the parking lot on Hwy 33, we headed first to the lookout. It was a fairly short jaunt to a cute little gazebo overlooking the entire wetland.

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We backtracked to where Trail 1 and 2 split, and headed north along Trail 2. The trails for the most part are well marked, but I would still suggest keeping a map with you (or a photo of it on your device). We continued on Trail 3 towards the bridge and were pleasantly surprised with what a nice walk it was. At the bridge, you get a view of the wetland to one side and Taylor Kidd on the other.

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The best part of the trail came directly after this bridge, when we headed into what seemed like a fairly mature forest with very tall trees and a high canopy. It reminded us of being in the forests in BC!

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We marvelled at the fact that we were still in Ontario and ventured on along Trail 4, then Trail 5. This place has an undisturbed quality to it, and perhaps doesn’t get as many visitors as some of the CRCA’s other properties. Most of the trails were in wooded areas, though a few sections wound through clearings. The boardwalk that is supposed to connect Trails 5 and 6 didn’t seem to exist, and the path was a little damp there, but it was nothing compared to the mud that we had trampled through last week. The trail eventually led us out to Bayview Drive, linking us up with Hwy 33. Despite having cars whizzing by us and only a shoulder to walk on, we found ourselves enamoured by the beautiful houses on the other side of the street. We made it back safely to our car, and headed on home.

Quite different from the conservation areas we frequent in Kingston, Parrott’s Bay is definitely a place we will be returning to. Next time, we might park at the lot along Taylor Kidd and explore some of the trails we didn’t get to on the north side of the conservation area. Either way, it’s a beautiful place.

One last picture for the post – pristine views of the lake on one of the most scenic drives around town.

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Dim Sum in Kingston

For its size, Kingston has a great amount of ethnic food. One cuisine that this city sucks at, though, is Chinese food.

This morning, after a few hours of garage sale-ing, Kara and I were famished. We were originally going to go to Dong Nai for some pho, but instead we ended up trying this new place on Princess called Dim Sum Kingston, right next to Izumo.

Today was their grand opening, and Kara and I were literally their first customers ever. We ordered five items: sticky rice in lotus leaves; fried squid tentacles; egg custard tarts; shrimp rice roll (cheung fun); and a fried tofu with mixed veg dish.

Our initial thought was “this menu is way too vast”. If I’ve learned anything from watching Restaurant Takeover, it’s that you need to pare down your menu. There really shouldn’t have been “Canadian food” offered at this restaurant.

Anyways, the first thing to arrive was the shrimp rice roll. I ate it before taking a picture, but I would describe it as being mediocre. It was clearly homemade and they used the wrong soy sauce. Not the greatest first impression but I still had hope.

The next thing to arrive was the fried tofu mixed vegetable…except they got the order wrong and have us tofu and minced pork. We sent it back and they apologized profusely. When it did return it had great “wok hay” – literally steaming hot from being in the wok.

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This was where we started to notice a bit of a decline in the communication between waiter and kitchen. None of our other items had arrived yet. A little later, our squid tentacles came. They were quite delicious – a little tempura-like rather than deep fried. (We learned later their deep fryer hadn’t arrived yet) They do get points for service though – the tentacles were on the house.

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Other than us, there was one other party in the restaurant. Many of the things they ordered were unavailable, such as the congee and pretty much anything deep fried. A nice thing happened while we were there – the couple from next door at Izumo came over with some grand opening flowers. That was very neighbourly, and made me want to go to Izumo.

We sat for a while longer, wondering where our egg custard tarts and sticky rice were. After about 15 minutes we asked about egg custard tarts (we decided to leave the sticky rice as we were pretty full). They ended up bringing us mini red sesame buns which I took back to share with Kelvin’s family.

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In summary, they forgot two of the five items we ordered and mixed up one of them. I have some faith that they will get better once they’re in business longer. Maybe I’ll visit again in a month.

After the Storm

This is what I woke up to this morning – thick snow and blue skies.

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The snow was halfway up the window in the spare room, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to shovelling my way out. Fortunately, I made it down my driveway no problem even without shovelling. Unfortunately, I did not have as much success going down my unploughed street.

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This evening, I put some clothes in the dryer and the machine made such bad noises it literally frightened me. Thus, I donned my hunters and headed out to clear the vent area.

Unfortunately, even they could not protect me. Snow was up beyond the top of my boots. I sank into the fluffiness, later opting to climb over the deck banister rather than walk around it to get back inside.

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Despite the cold and the wind, there is still beauty in the snow. Kingston remains a lovely place in my eyes.