Dogs have a Sixth Sense

sixth sense

I don’t own a dog, I don’t want to own a dog right now, but I love dogs. I have cared for many dogs over the years for family and friends. We love to host them in our home. My kids love them too. I believe the right dog is a great addition to any family. Caring for a dog – properly – takes a lot of work and time, which is one of the reasons I don’t want a dog right now. Dogs are wonderful and loving friends, and the more time I spend around them the more I am sure of their sixth sense.

What do I mean by that? So, there are the basic five senses, shared by humans and many animals (including dogs). Those are the ability to see, hear, touch, taste and smell.  The sixth sense is something almost impossible to describe. I see it as the ability to simply sense the unknown. Dogs have a special kind of intelligence and sensitivity that we take for granted, and the more time I spend with them the more I feel it.

There have been a number of special dogs in my life, all of whom have spent time at my house. All of them were very different, with their own quirks, and I was always intrigued by their means of communication with me and their level of intellect. That’s right, intellect.

The most special dog for me of course was Oscar. He came into our lives in March of 1999 and quickly became the love of my mother’s life (sorry Dad, it’s true). Oscar put his five basic senses to full use every day. He could see a bird high in the sky (in particular turkey vultures) and defend us mightily as he chased it away. He could hear sounds that no one around him could fathom and loved to cuddle up close to us when he took a snooze. Oscar’s sense of taste was most interesting, as I believe his favourite food was Challah bread, and there was nothing better than wet grass after a rainstorm, with all kinds of new smells to explore.

Oscar was the smartest dog I have ever met, and I think anyone who met him would agree. When he was a puppy I taught him how to sneeze when he wanted something, and he knew the name of all his toys. He wasn’t a fan of my parents’ collection of grandchildren, which we referred to as “things” around him. But Oscar somehow knew that these children were special, and he was always gentle around them. He just had this ability to sense things that always amazed me.

No one knew how to get comfortable and have a snooze like Oscar
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Baby Matthew loved naps with Oscar
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Baby Julia’s nap time with Oscar

I was lucky to meet two of my mother-in-law’s dogs. Soho was a feisty mixed breed who had strong opinions about everyone. She was loving to those she loved and nasty to those she disliked. My mother-in-law’s current dog, Mu Shu, has some rage issues and doesn’t always play nice with other dogs. But I feel like Mu Shu possesses that sixth sense more than other dogs I have met. He is deeply protective of his family and is extraordinarily loyal.

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Mu She thinking about life

Then there is Herzl, my sister’s crazy dog. No one will ever question Herzl’s incredible sense of hearing. A knock on the door or a doorbell ring on TV will send this canine into a hysterical fit. He definitely prefers to be around females. His favourite people seem to be my sister, my mother, me and Nessa (that’s right the baby). His love of Nessa is so strong that we often wonder if my little miracle baby could be the re-incarnation of Oscar. Herzl loved Oscar, and while he is not a fan of small children he has shown tremendous interest and loyalty to baby Nessa.

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These two love to spend time together
Nap time with doggies
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I have no idea what they were looking at here.

Other dogs have visited my house and stayed with my family over the years and left their impression on me.  Scooby, a little daschund, liked to sleep head first under the covers in my bed, with his bum sticking out. Did he get better reception that way? Buddy was a hyperactive Havanese who made me realize why this breed is often known as a bedroom slipper on acid. Cody and Cammy were brothers with quirky personalities. Cody had a bit of a personality disorder and didn’t like people for the most part. But he was gentle and sweet around baby Matthew. I learned from Cody that babies and dogs both love repetitive behaviour. They played for hours together with a wet kong toy, and it never got old.

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Cammy and Cody

I think we often underestimate the intelligence and astuteness of dogs. No matter how hard I try to understand and explain their sixth sense I just can’t properly articulate it. The way they look at us, the way they snuggle with us and the way they communicate with us are expressions of their unique role in this world. I really do not want a dog of my own right now, but I look forward to welcoming many more into my home and learning about their sixth sense.

My Family is Complete Again

My family

Yesterday morning, on a beautiful warm and sunny Sunday in the summer, David, Nessa, Julia and I (and our nephew Eliah!) got in the car and drove to the airport. Six weeks had quickly passed and it was time to collect Matthew at the airport. His fourth summer at Camp Kadimah was over and it was time to return home. As I watched his tanned and dirty face light up as he saw his family when he entered the arrivals area I knew my family was complete again.

My family
The three celebrating Matthew’s return yesterday, with Eliah too!

Three months into blogging people often ask me if I have found my groove, where I plan to take this blog or if I plan to tackle more controversial topics. They also ask me if this space is personal or if I am open to sharing thoughts or topics that are more private.

So far, the majority of my posts are light and consist mainly of my musings. For the most part I write about what I see and experience every day. But sometimes I write about a topic of which I am passionate, such as the role of women in society or childcare.

The post I take most to heart is the one I published on May 26, the day Nessa turned one. This delicious little baby, who is now 14 months old, is our miracle. The day she was born I knew my family was complete.

When Matthew flew off to camp last summer, and again this summer, I felt a void in my house. When he wasn’t home my family was not complete. We are a strong family of five. I learned over the past fourteen months that each of us contribute something different and special to this dynamic.

My Family
Saying good bye to his sisters on July 2
My Family
Matthew leaving for camp last summer
My Family
Matthew’s reunion with his sisters last summer

Many couples either choose to not have children or for various health-related reasons cannot have children.  I realize these people are in very different categories, but at the end of the day they are childless. For all the accomplishments in my life I am most proud of my children. They are rowdy, messy, often dirty and expensive. But they are also loving, intelligent, sweet and give the best hugs. My life would be nothing without my family.

In my May 26 post, I wrote about my struggles with infertility and my great desire to have a third child. I know that there are many women out there who are dreaming and wishing for just one child. That one child would be everything to these women and would complete their family. My message to you, is don’t give up.

I will never say that the dream is an easy one to achieve, but if you want to complete your family with a child then my advice to you is to keep trying. Every time I look at each of my three children I am reminded of how much they mean to me and how my family and my life are complete because of them.

So, now Matthew is home, and the sliced apples, strawberries, iPad and sports marathon have returned. The house is a bit louder and life more hectic with three kids in the house again. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sometimes I Need a Shot of Chocolate


Parents pass down many genetic traits to their children. It’s everything from hair and eye colour to height and hand dominance. I also believe that other traits are shared, such as athleticism and the size of their nose. Oh yeah, one more thing – the love of chocolate.

Some people are proud to come from a long line of famous rabbis or writers or doctors. For me, I come from a long line of chocolate lovers. My father loves it and my grandfather loves it. I don’t doubt his father (or mother?) before him loved this delectable treat too.

For me I don’t love just any chocolate. I am not a fan of cheap stuff with low-end ingredients. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a particular soft spot for Cadbury. But I don’t go for just any Cadbury product in the grocery aisle. It has to be made in Great Britain, where they clearly have a special recipe with a wonderful mix of cocoa, cream and sugar.

Cadbury’s best and simplest product is Dairy Milk, which is full of rich creamy chocolatey goodness. Thanks to my Aunt Jo, who lives in Manchester, my addiction is satisfied every few months when she visits us in Toronto. Once in a while she arrives with something new and exciting, like a new flavour (like caramel or mint, wow) or a new shape or size. My mother-in-law also discovered a few years ago that British Cadbury chocolate can be secured at Duty-Free at various international airports. So, I never go long without my Dairy Milk fix.

For my father, it’s all about high quality dark chocolate. It has to have a high cocoa count (preferably 72% or higher, like even over 90%) and must be fresh. My mother always carries a small cooler bag around when they drive up to the country house or on longer road trips. She fills it with loads of dark chocolate. She feeds my father if fatigue or a snack attack sets in.

And speaking of snack attacks…do not ever get in the middle between my father and some quality chocolate when he is having a snack attack. It’s like being on a hiking trail and discovering that you are on the path between a mother bear and her cub. Dangerous.

As children, my brother, sister and I always wondered where my father stashed his “good stuff,” that really good chocolate that appeared once in a while but usually was hidden away. One day we learned the truth behind the hidden chocolate – he stashed it under his bed. It was conveniently stored so that he could easily access it at night if he needed a quick snack, and it was kept far away from the kitchen so that we couldn’t find it. Now that’s dedication (or addiction?).

The first taste of chocolate is a rite of passage in my family. I saved the first sweet bite for my children until their first birthday, and each enjoyed in their own special way. Chocolate is something to be savoured, and it takes a certain level of maturity – like turning one – to consume it.

Matthew’s first birthday
Julia’s first birthday
Nessa’s first birthday a few months ago

Sometimes I just NEED some chocolate. A glass of wine or a cup of coffee just doesn’t do it for me. Give me a square of Dairy Milk or a rich piece of chocolate cake and I’m happy. And now that I have written today’s post guess what I’m about to do? You got it, I’m off to grab some chocolate.

Do you have Time Management Skills?

time management

It has been a very busy week, and I got the inspiration to write today’s blog post when I realized very late last night that I am not managing or balancing my time effectively at all (hence no blog post on Wednesday). With a husband, three children, a revolving door of houseguests and a freelance career I do not have enough hours in the day right now. Last week I asked, “Where did the Evening Go,” and this week I am asking another question about time management.

I remember when I got my first “real” job, when I was 24 years old and fresh out of graduate school. I was hired as a radio producer at an all-sports radio station. David and I had recently moved to Toronto from New York, secured a great condo in the heart of the city and by luck my job was a 2-minute walk from my front door.

I worked odd hours, with shifts often in the evenings and weekends or I filled in for the morning show or afternoon show. When I wasn’t at work, my free time was mine. Our apartment was easy to maintain and clean, grocery shopping and cooking were quick and easy and we had quite a bit of disposable income. I sometimes wondered what I would do with all my free time.

In the coming years, I secured increasingly senior jobs, bought a house and had children.  As my free time vanished and the extra cash in my bank account was depleted by my growing family I realized I had to learn some time management skills and find a way to balance my life.

Of course, life balance and time management are two different things, and today I will just focus on time. Oh time, something I just don’t have.

Who decided to put 24 hours in a day? And why only 7 days in a week? Would I manage my time better if I had, say, 26 hours every day and one extra day each week? Okay, I know I’m being silly and I am sure some rather intelligent and sophisticated people did scientific calculations to determine seconds, hours, minutes, days and weeks. Okay, so I can’t change that.

Should I sleep more? Or should I sleep less? Should I actually schedule every minute of my day so that I don’t spend too much time on any given task? Maybe I am spending too much time on some things, like grocery shopping and cooking, and not enough time doing other things, like playing with my children or (gasp!) exercising.

Because I am a freelancer now, or to make it more professional sounding, I am the sole proprietor of a business, I need to have a lot of self-discipline to ensure I secure work and then actually complete the work in a timely fashion. My hours are my own and my office is my house. And those work hours have to fit in and around my long list of other responsibilities. Some of those include caring for my children, chauffeuring my children to school, camp and activities, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. And sometimes, if I can manage it, I allow some time for myself. It all comes back to time management.

I am overwhelmed, as I believe are many other women who have a young family and a career. We represent a large percentage of the population, and no matter how proud we are of our children and how successful we are in our careers we have tremendous challenges when it comes to time management.

I welcome your comments your thoughts here, on Facebook or on Twitter. How do you manage your time? Let’s get the conversation started.

Do you know which Waze to go?


Do you have a sense of direction? Does anyone know how to drive or walk or cycle from point A to B? Do you own a map? What is one of the greatest inventions of all time? GPS technology. What is my most-used app on my smartphone? Waze.

My husband, David, has no sense of direction. I don’t believe he ever has. At the age of 44 David still does not know his left from right. If I tell him to go one direction he will undoubtedly travel the other way. And since he is a stubborn male, he refuses to ever ask for directions. This is the case when he doesn’t know where to go or when he is terribly lost. He prefers to feel his way. Really?

Thank goodness for the creation of the Global Positioning System, known to most of us as GPS.  It was developed by the U.S. military back in 1973. For the last couple of decades it has been widely used by the general population. I remember the early GPS devices, which did not rely on any cellular or data connection to help people navigate their way around cities and the countryside. My mother and I named our first device Martha. Martha kindly guided us through traffic and road closures on a trip to Los Angeles back in 2002, and I knew she would be one of my close friends for years.

David rejected those early commercial GPS devices and relied on a paper-based map that he draped across his lap on the highway or his preferred method, to feel his way. I believe that many people were skeptical of GPS technology. People who actually had a good sense of direction knew how to arrive successfully at their destination and those who were directionally challenged somehow found their way.

Most of us who embraced this new technology still knew how to get around on our own. Those early GPS trackers were limited and our own instincts often proved to be better. But with further advances in technology and the growing popularity of the smartphone, GPS was combined with the internet to create navigation software like Waze.

This was game-changing. While Martha was my close friend for years, Mr. Waze may be my best friend now. He doesn’t just give me directions to my destination, he gives me efficient directions. Waze takes traffic, construction and accidents into account when it calculates my route and updates it as I go along. It takes the thinking out of navigation, and I believe it has made many of us rely heavily on it. Maybe too heavily.

Even David has embraced Waze and has learned to depend on it. If David didn’t know his way around town before he definitely doesn’t now. Actually, does anyone know how to reach their destination anymore without the use of some kind of GPS technology on the smartphone?

Do a Google search for “GPS sends car into lake” or “GPS directs couple off bridge” and you will be amazed with the number of links that pop up. While I believe that most people are more intelligent than these examples, many of us probably put too much faith in GPS technology to direct us to our various destinations.

David actually finds his way now when he turns on Waze and I am much less stressed when I have to drive to a new place and don’t know how to get there. But if my smartphone battery is low or my data connection is weak I still have confidence in my own instincts and sense of direction to get me safely to my destination. I love GPS, I love Waze and so far, my brain has gotten me far in life. Between the three of them I am confident I will always reach my destination.

High Park-ing it this Weekend as a Tourist in My Own City

high park

400 acres in the city, with recreational facilities, natural landscapes and picturesque walking trails. It’s accessible by subway and close to shops, restaurants and in the heart of a beautiful city neighbourhood. It is maintained by the City and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike 365 days a year. I’m not talking about Central Park in New York (which is actually 843 acres) or Hyde Park in London (which is only 350 acres) – I’m talking about High Park, which can be found just west of the downtown core in my city, Toronto.

We stayed in the city this past long weekend and again hosted a pile of family. On Sunday afternoon, when most family had moved on to their next destination, we decided that Julia needed to get out and have a good run. Where to go on a gorgeous day in the summer, that is free and family-friendly, in our own city? High Park!

With ongoing renovations on the Collingwood country house, I am continuing my spring-summer-fall series of being a tourist in my own city. I will admit that instead of getting out and discovering the many hidden gems of my city every weekend we often laze around and just lounge in our backyard (which I will admit is an indulgence I love). The summer is not over yet, though how many of us feel that as we pass August 1st that the best of the summer has passed? I know that I still have weeks ahead to discover and rediscover some of the best spots in Toronto.

Back to High Park. I have visited this wondrous place a few times and have yet to explore many of its attractions. 160 acres of land were donated by John George Howard to the City of Toronto back in 1876. While Howard lived in his home, called Colborne Lodge, until his death in 1890 (he and his wife are buried near that home too), his land was turned into a park for all city residents to enjoy. More pieces were added over the years to create the current 400-acre area that is known to this day as High Park.

We only arrived at the park late afternoon and decided to focus on walking trails on the east side, with a final destination at the famed playground.

I knew that the High Park Zoo was sure to please both the one and seven-year-old. This is a teeny tiny zoo, along a pedestrian-only pathway. There are some interesting and friendly animals in this zoo, such as yaks, bison, llamas and of course the infamous capybara. If you are looking to visit a zoo with many exotic animals with acres and acres of paddocks and cages then this is not the zoo for you. If you want to learn a few things about a few animals on a stroll through the park then this is a must-see!

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Learning about the High Park Zoo
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Julia communed with a reindeer
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Their new friend the yak.
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Hello goose. Wanna play?

The highlight of the day for my kids was definitely the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground. This playground was the dream of local resident, High Park neighbour and community builder Jamie Bell whose vision was realized when this playground opened in 1998. This natural playground, built to look like a castle, is a dreamland for children. It is busy on a long weekend, but all the parents and children were in such good spirits to be at this park on a beautiful day that the crowded scene did not seem to bother anyone.

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She could swing for hours
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I need a tire swing like this in my backyard.
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This tiny tunnel entertained Nessa for a solid 30 minutes
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Selfie in the playground

My husband, David, does not like to walk in a straight line or ever take a direct path to his destination. He suggested we follow some of the nature trails on our way back to our car, and seeing that the park was busy with people and cars I followed his lead. We took a few wrong turns and tripped over a couple of tree roots, but it was a worth it. We walked through the off-leash dog area, which pleased my girls. At one point Julia saw three Chihuahuas, her favourite dog breed, and was thrilled to skip alongside them down the path.

We covered only a few of the 400 acres of High Park. I have yet to see the famous Sakura trees and their cherry blossoms in the spring or walk along the western shore of Grenadier Pond to see its ducks and geese. The french fries at concession stand #2, along Colborne Lodge Drive, are tasty, but that’s the only food I have consumed there. High Park is vast, with so many areas I really must explore.

So where to next as I continue my journey to be a tourist in my own city. I am open to suggestions. Comment here, post me an idea on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Everybody Loves Friday Night

Friday night

I know that the actual lyrics to this song are, “Everybody loves Saturday night.” Saturday night is fun, and it represents the middle of the weekend when many people can really let loose. But for me, it’s all about Friday night. That’s why I have changed the lyrics to, “Everybody loves Friday night.”

Before I explain why I l believe that everybody loves Friday night so much I think it’s important to give this wonderful folk song, written in 1957, its due. The inspiration for this song goes back to when Nigeria was a British colony, in the 1950’s. The Nigerian people were under curfew every night, and logically they were angry about this and protested. They won a partial victory, as the curfew was lifted one night each week – Saturday night. So, this is a song of celebration. I am sure you have heard it sung in many languages, including Nigerian, French, Spanish and Hebrew, to name a few.


Back to why I believe everybody loves Friday night. In many parts of the world, including where I live, in Canada, Friday is the end of the work and school week. It’s why the acronym, TGIF – thank goodness it’s Friday – is so popular. After a long and often stressful week, we can all rest our minds and bodies as the sun goes down and the weekend sets in.

For Jews Friday night represents the start of the Sabbath, which is celebrated every week in my house. It’s the one night that we always sit down together as a family for dinner, catch up on the week’s activities and take our time at the table. There is no rush to go anywhere, and it’s nice to just slow down. It doesn’t mean Friday night dinner is elegant or quiet – I have a very loud husband and three young and rambunctious children. Someone is always screaming, fighting or throwing some piece of dinner at someone else, but on Friday night it just doesn’t bother me as much.

Friday night is the start of the weekend, and I love the start of anything – like the start of a vacation or the start of the new school year (how many days until that happens?). There is something luscious about Friday night that I look forward to every week, and I savour every moment.

We have more family coming to visit us this weekend, and I have a fridge full of decadent food to feed them tonight. We are a big crowd for dinner, and in a few hours my house will be filled with people and the excitement of the weekend ahead. That’s why I believe that everybody loves Friday night.

Where Did the Evening Go?

evening go

Have you ever asked yourself that question? You start the day fresh, with so many ideas and plans of what you will accomplish at work and at home. That brief will be completed and handed in to the boss, dinner will be cooked and on the table at 6:30 pm and all the laundry will be washed and folded. Oh, and you will go through that growing stack of paper on the table in the hall. At the office, you put out fires all day and the brief is left half-written. You pick up dinner on your way home and throw it on the table at 7:00. One load of laundry is left in the washer and the stack of paper has grown again. It’s 11:00 pm, you are exhausted and ask yourself, where did the evening go?

Are the days getting shorter or is my life just getting busier? With three young children and a new career and professional life developing I know I have big dreams. I know I can’t have it all, but at least I can try to accomplish many of the tasks on my list. It seems so easy every morning when I have energy and a cup of coffee in me to dream about everything I want to get done that day, that week and that month. By the end of the day, most days, I ask myself, where did the evening go?

Children really have a great talent of destroying an evening. That’s right I said it. My children are the loves of my life, but wow, I can’t get anything done when they are around. The baby, as cute as she is, monopolizes me and my time when I am home with her. By 5:00 pm, like a typical 14-month-old, Nessa is whiny and crabby and claws at my ankles like a pesky dog. Her seven-year-old sister, Julia, refuses to go to bed lately, claiming there is no bedtime during summer vacation. My husband has been getting home from work late often, so dinner is only cleaned up after 8:00 pm.

By 9:00 pm dinner is usually cleaned up, the baby is usually asleep in her crib and there are only a few toys left on the family room floor. Julia is still running around the house screaming she is not tired and I may have remembered to put a load in the laundry.

When we hit 10:00 pm sometimes Julia has fallen over unconscious on a chair or the couch and I tidy up around her. Now it’s time to get lunches ready for the next day, send the daily email or letter to camp so that Matthew doesn’t think I don’t love him and switch over the laundry (if I remember that I put a load in in the first place).

At 11:00 pm my brain has fallen asleep but I think my body is still in motion. Maybe I will have a snack or take a shower. Maybe I will tidy Julia’s supremely messy room as she is still asleep on the living room chair. Then the baby wakes up and she is screaming and telling me I am a terrible mother for leaving her in her crib in that dark horrible room.

Where did the evening go? That’s where my evening went. Forget preparing for the next day’s blog post or going through that large stack of paper on the table, reading the next chapter of my book, catching up on old episodes of House Hunters on HGTV or cleaning the fridge.

And the next morning, as I wake up fresh and ready for the day I ask myself as I think about the day before, where did the evening go? And I tell myself that that won’t happen today because today is a new day and I will accomplish everything I set out to do. I will keep thinking that way because one day I will come through on my promise and one evening I will prepare the next day’s blog post, go through that large stack of paper on the table, read the next chapter of my book, catch up on old episodes of House Hunters and clean the fridge. When will that day happen?

My Local Sports Broadcast Crew Must be a Homer


Kinetic Motions is back to Sports Wednesday today. My son, Matthew, was my inspiration to devote at least one day each week to sports or a sports-related topic, and it’s challenging to be inspired with my muse away at camp. It did not occur to me that when Matthew is not home that there’s no one with whom to discuss strikeouts, trades and off-season signings. I have only, the internet, radio and television to get my sports fix, and that is just not sufficient.

And speaking of sports and radio and television, it occurred to me last night, while I watched the Blue Jays’ game on Sportsnet, that there is something comforting about listening or watching your home team’s broadcast. What do I mean by that? I will explain.

When I went to journalism school I learned that to be a good producer, writer or reporter, I had to be fair and unbiased. It was imperative to tell all sides of the story and be objective. But, that’s not the case in sports media, and it’s something I love about it.

When I flip on the radio or turn on my television for my local team’s hockey, baseball or basketball game, I expect the broadcast crew to be homers. Sports is about passion and excitement. If the play-by-play person didn’t shriek with delight when a goal is scored or a grand slam home run happens I would be terribly disappointed and would be less interested in listening or watching the broadcast.

I look forward to hearing Jerry Howarth’s “And there she goes” or Buck Martinez excitedly yelling, “get up ball” as he just wishes for the ball to jump over the outfield fence. I grew up listening to Joe Bowen screaming like a maniac “Holy Mackinaw” on the radio. Every city, large and small, with any kind of sports team, needs a play-by-play crew that roots for the home team.

The whole experience of watching the game is hugely enriched when the broadcast crew is a fan of the team. Last night, as I watched the Blue Jays game versus the Chicago White Sox, Rogers Sportsnet experienced some transmission issues. I don’t blame them – it happens sometimes, and it was clear they were trying everything humanly possible to get the game, with Buck and Pat, back on the screen.

While they worked on their technical issues they flipped a switch and aired the WGN broadcast of the game. WGN is a Chicago-based network, and it airs White Sox games. Naturally the play-by-play team were White Sox fans, and I felt almost empty and uncomfortable as I watched. My screen looked different, with the score and statistics graphics in a different location. While they were familiar with the Blue Jays players, they clearly did not know them personally like Buck and Pat do.

Every time the Sportsnet broadcast flashed on my screen I felt excited then disappointed again when WGN returned. Finally, the transmission issue was fixed late in the game, and I heard the familiar voice of Buck Martinez. I will admit that this was late at night and soon after I fell asleep and missed the rest of the game.

I’m a big sports fan, and it makes me happy that the people who broadcast the games I watch and listen to support my teams. They do a great job, and I love to listen to them and watch them. Speaking of which, there is an afternoon baseball game today, and as I sit at my desk and work I am looking forward to listen to Jerry and Joe on the radio, and maybe hear, “And there she goes” a few times. Maybe part way I will flip on my TV to hear Buck’s excited screams of “Get up Ball” as it sails over the left-field fence.

The Secrets of the Coffee Boutique


Ordering, brewing and drinking coffee has become an art form. For years, I was not interested at all in the beverage and preferred to consume only water and once in a while a cup of tea. When I was pregnant with my second child I became hooked on the taste of coffee and drank the odd decaffeinated drink. When I was pregnant with my third child I craved coffee and over the last year it has become a staple in my diet.

I don’t think I am unique in my change from scorning coffee to falling in love with it. It’s hard to walk more than a few steps in a big city without passing a large franchise like Starbucks, Second Cup or even Tim Hortons or a small boutique that offers its own exclusive roasted beans. Coffee is everywhere, and in a society that is always on the go, when we all feel there are not enough hours in the day, coffee has become our fuel.

I was at a party a couple of nights ago and this topic came up in the conversation. We were a lively group, enjoying a beautiful summer evening outdoors, so when one person pulled out his smartphone to share some Starbucks secrets with us we were game to hear.

Have you ever looked at the colour of your Starbucks barista’s apron? By the way, until a few years ago, had any of us ever heard the word “barista?” Starbucks recently revealed the meaning behind some special edition aprons. Most of us associate Starbucks with their signature green apron, but oh, there are other colours too!

If you see a rare purple apron, for example, you must be at a Starbucks in Europe, and it means your barista is a winner of the Europe, Middle East and Africa Barista Championship. In the United States, there is a Starbucks College Achievement Plan, and those graduates get a mortarboard embroidered on their green aprons. Then there’s the black apron, which is more common than the coveted purple in Europe, and it is given to baristas who are Coffee Masters.

So, I learned a Starbucks secret. Then I wondered, are there other coffee secrets? Are there secret menu items at my local coffee establishment to which I was not privy? A quick search on Google and I learned a few things.

I found an article from a few years ago from Yahoo that gave me some ideas of secret menu items that I will have to try. I like the “Red Eye” at Second Cup, which is their brewed coffee with a shot of espresso. Regulars at Starbucks sometimes order the “Marble Mocha Macchiato,” which is “white mocha on the bottom with no whip, shot on the top and mocha drizzle.” It is popular at Tim Hortons to order half-half drinks, such as a drink that is a half-brewed coffee and the other half cappuccino. The Yahoo article also mentions that officially, a “Double-Double” is not on the menu!

What are some other coffee secrets? Are there classified menu items that I should whisper to my barista the next time I visit my local café? I really would love to know. Post a comment here or on Facebook or tweet me @AliciaRichler.