Thanks for this

(this post is written on my ipad, so is likely festooned with typos. Sorry. When I make my million I shall buy a Macbook like all the cool kids.)

(it deserves pictures and links too.  That will need better than this iPad!)

We left the frozen prairies yesterday and flew to the Shangri-la that is Victoria BC. We almost didn’t make it; the fog was so thick and so low that the pilot didn’t think we would be able to land. But we landed OK (I saw the ground 5 seconds before we touched down) and before we were in the city the fog had burned off.

The rest of the day was spent walking around one of the truly beautiful Canadian cities in brilliant sunshine and +8C weather. I kept muttering, then saying, then shouting “It’s the freaking 8th of January!!” It was glorious. I don’t know why I put up with -30C weather in Saskatchewan every winter.

The 10 day blogger challenge had a rest day yesterday – no posts required, but we were all asked to meditate on the things for which we were grateful. I think the point is that we’ll be better writers if we write from a more generous and grateful posture. No complaints there.

It’s tough to meditate when you’re walking and gawking and staring into the sun though. But by the evening I had some time to sit and think and make a list. I decided to post it anyway. Here we go, in a rather jumbled order, but I want to let it flow and not get into ranking things.

– Independent Food Purveyors. I admit it. I am a first world, city dwelling, North American man. I have first world problems. I can eat anything and go anywhere. But I have a big problem with the pervasive sameness of chain stores and chain restaurants. I’m so sick of the Walmarts and Costcos and “Original Joe’s” of the world. So here’s a shout out to Willies and Big Wheel Burgers and Fry’s Bakery, three must eat places in Victoria. When I think of this city I think of you first.

– Farmers, Gardeners, Growers and Millers. You folks care so much and work so hard to take care of the land and make us the best food. Nobody knows you. Nobody gives you the credit you deserve. But without you we’re nothing.

– Mother Earth. Gaea. Nature. The Land. Call it what you will but please don’t call it “the environment”. You are beautiful. You are majestic. You are comforting. You are formidable. You are nourishing to body, mind and soul. I may be a city dweller but I feel a deep, deep connection to the land.

– My parents and sister. From my earliest memory, my mom thought I was brilliant and smart and could do anything. I’ve been driven my whole life to make her proud. I miss her so much. My dad teaches me acceptance every day. To accept people as they are and not as you want them to be. That everyone has their own definition of happiness and contentment. And my sister reminds me that relationships change and morph and grow over a lifetime and are worth working on.

– My heros and mentors. I’ve been so lucky to have met and been touched by amazing people. In this internet world, I’ve not even met them all face to face, but that’s OK (for now.)

Some are bakers (thank you Tracey and Nancy and Yvan and Michel and Didier and Eric and Fran and Amy and Leslie and Trent and Craig) some are former co-workers at SaskTel (that’s a whole other post), some are local business owners (hi Rod, hi Aimee.) Bob and Neil just inspire me to keep things weird.

But two people stand out. Seth’s writing and speaking has influenced me more than anyone; he’s pushed me to make a difference in the world every day for over 10 years now. And Bernadette inspires me to think deeply about the people I serve and to make a deeper, meaningful connection with them. They are as important to what the bakery has become as any baker or miller.

– My friends. I’m come to terms with the fact that I enjoy the company of many, many people, but I don’t have many friends. If it comes right down to it, I have three, but they are lifetime friends. When you get to the point in your life where you’ve been with some of these people for over 30 years, you know there’s something special there. So thank you Kirby, Renee, and Curt. I’m so glad our lives have been intertwined like this.

– My family. Oh my God how I love my family. To connect with another person the way I have with Cindy is the most amazing thing in my life. To say she makes me complete sounds so corny, but it’s true. She’s my rock when I am drifting. She’ll give space to figure things out but will also give the the kick in the pants I need to keep moving. She’s forced me out of my comfort zone so many times and out of my head when I’m too deep in my thoughts.

I cherish the relationship with my kids so much. I see so much of Cindy in them, and myself, but they are their own unique people too. It’s a miracle really. I love every day with them, good, bad and neutral and have at every stage of their lives.

Hmm…if the point of this exercise is to make my heart bigger, it’s worked. My chest is full to bursting. Now I’m off to enjoy another sunny, warm, ‘winter’ day!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Today is Day 3 of the 10 days to a better blog challenge and the topic is all about The Writer’s Environment.   What is your writing space like, what rituals do you go through, and so on.

I can’t bear to write about my space because it’s a complete and utter mess. My writing space is also my home office, where I do the books, payroll, filing and the like for the bakery.  Well, kinda.  I haven’t filed anything since Thanksgiving and hadn’t really done any book work in a month either.  So my office was a sty. Major cleaning was required.

It took a good couple of hours to get to where I could see a work surface, but once I got the momentum going I was really into cleaning.  Next up:  the bakery file system.  That needs cleaning too, but I needed to figure out how to print a list of all the folders in the file system.  How do I do that in Windows 7?

I Googled a solution and it turns out that I can do it the same way I could when I was 20.  The good old DOS “DIR” command.  Ahh, DOS.  I haven’t seen the lovely C: prompt in years!  And wow was it quick!  No windows, no icons, just a fast, complete data stream.  I spilled it to a text file, printed it out and I was set to cull. A simple command did the job.

I was inordinately happy.  That simple command line, short command, with switches even, took me back to my youth and my first days as a programmer.  It really got me reminiscing…

One of my first ‘professional’ jobs was as a Co-op student at SaskTel, back in 1986.  I would configure and install PC’s in peoples offices.  Back in those days, PC’s were expensive — $3000 or more, heavy, and they didn’t do much.  But if you had Lotus 1-2-3 you could run spreadsheets.  WordPerfect let you write reports (typically business cases to buy more personal computers!) And if you had DataEase you could build a full on database application.  Just memorize the function keys and all the commands and go!


Back then, if you were stuck on a problem you couldn’t just Google an answer. There weren’t even “Dummies” books.  Everything there was to know was in the big, bulky manual.  Or even a set of them.  Every cubicle had a shelf above the computer desk that was full of manuals for every software package on the computer and they weighed more than the computer.  Including the Operating System.  And the only real operating system was DOS.

I remember so clearly how I’d comb through the back of the manual, looking for the command, or series of commands I needed to get my computer to do what I wanted it to do.  Sometimes it would take hours but it was necessary and so much fun too.


And I very clearly remember all the support calls we’d get from users who wouldn’t read their manuals.  They’d never even take the shrink wrap off! Instead they’d call 4135 (how can I still remember that number?!) and we’d answer their question.

(My favourite all time call didn’t have anything to do with the manual — a lady called because she missed the disk slot — she’d stuck her floppy disk between the drive and the computer housing!)

With my computer today I can do amazing things.  I can write this post and instantly publish it to the world, while listening to the Australia – India Test in the background.  I can edit pictures in seconds and even record a video of me typing if I want.  All in seconds, from my tiny basement office on the frozen Canadian prairies.  But these days I’m always looking for the easiest, best way to do everything within the top 5 Google search results.  I miss the feeling of digging and digging to find the right command to do the simplest of things.

So I think Day 11 of this ‘blogging’ challenge might just be taken over with Day 1 of the ‘Learn Python (or Ruby, or Javascript) in 10 Days’ challenge.

I’ll be sure to write all about it.



Why I Write

I’ve been thinking hard today about why I write, why I want to write more and why I want to get better at this.  As can be expected, this is a work in progress, but here’s what I have so far:

  • I just plain admire writers.  Writers who make the complex seem simple. Who make me laugh.  Who make me cry.  Writers who inspire me to live my life fully and do great things.   I want to be one too.
  • Writing makes me extroverted.  Deep down I’m a really shy guy.   I’m not the person who’s going to make contact in a crowded room.  It’s a real force of will to make a phone call some days.  But I’m a bolder, more outgoing person when I write.
  • I want to teach.  I want you to bake great bread.  I want you to eat great bread.  I don’t ever want you to have a bad meal or a bad outing in Regina, or any city I’ve been to.  I want to be a better person and help you be a better person.
  • I want to entertain you. A nod.  A smile.  A belly laugh.  I want to be the guy who makes your day better.
  • I write to make sense of things.  There are a lot of ideas rolling around in my noggin and writing helps me make sense of my own thoughts.  I’ve written several posts that start as a problem and then have to be re-written, since the act of writing about the problem opens up the solution.
  • I write to silence my inner critic.   Left to its own devices, my mind will destroy me.  Oh yes it will.  90% of the time my lizard brain is telling me I’m no good, I’m a fraud who will soon be found out, and I’m better off just quitting everything and go for a nap.

Bottom line for me is that I write to touch people.  Whether it’s a blog post or a love note.  Whether I get a comment or it just fades away.  I want to make a connection with you and change you a little.

Even if it’s as simple as slicing your own bread.

Proper Meals

I was inordinately happy at suppertime today.  Ben and Robyn and her friend Josh were all home for supper.  Cindy and I made a nice, simple pasta dish, with a salad and garlic toast.   We started cooking at 5pm and sat down to eat at 6.

That may sound rather boring but we needed to be on vacation to pull off a standard, nothing fancy but made from scratch meal.

One of the things that I miss the most about life “before the bakery” is the absence of proper meals.  That is, supper made at home, served between 6pm and 7:30pm, and eaten at a table by at least two or maybe all four of us.  Our crazy sleep patterns mean that this very rarely happens.

Why is that?  Time, really.  Time of day, that is.   Cindy and I typically get home from the bakery between 1pm and 2pm and our bodies are screaming for lunch.  Aside from a snack at the bakery we really haven’t eaten a meal since 3:30am and that is typically a bowl of cereal or some toast.  So by lunch time we are hung-a-ry!

So a big lunch at 2 means we’re not really hungry at 5, so who wants to make supper then?  Not me, that’s for sure.  And maybe I’m up for a snack by 7:30, but I thought one’s not supposed to eat and then go straight to bed.  I try to get to bed by 8pm, 9 at the latest so a proper supper is always crashing in on my bedtime.

I think the proper solution is to make supper when Cindy and I get home from work, even if it’s at 2pm.  Then the kids have something to eat at a more normal time, even if it’s left overs.  And we get more time for things to settle before bed.

Now I just need to get the energy to cook after a long day of baking.  That’s a lot of time spent in a kitchen! But it’s worth it if that means we can eat better and maybe lose our ‘too much drive thru’ pudginess.

Travel Plans

Cindy and I are heading off to Victoria for a few days later this week for a rest and some warmer weather.  It was -33C this morning so even rainy and +6C will feel pretty darn nice.  And we get to visit with our great friend Renee.  AND, it’s off-season, so we got a suite in the lovely Oswego Hotel in James Bay for barely half what the Super 8 in Estevan costs these days.  Lovely.

Our hotel is just behind this little building.

I enjoy these little mid-winter getaways.  Victoria is a lovely city to walk in — lots of coffee shops, the best used bookstore ever, and some fine restaurants and bakeries.  Great breakfasts too.    But my highlight will be getting to visit Fry’s Bakery when they are open!

Many, many hours will be spent here.
Many, many hours will be spent here.

The past two times I’ve been to Victoria, Byron has been closed.  We bakers seem to take a break at the same time.  But I checked and he’s open this weekend.  I’ve already sent an email offering to tote flour and do dishes one night so I can watch him do his thing.  I hope he’s up for some company!  If he agrees I’ll be sure to have a full report on the Orange Boot blog.

There be a massive brick oven in there!
Thar be a massive brick oven in there.  Oh yes!

It’s entirely possible this is my only trip this year, unless the Bread Bakers Guild is going to offer a class I can’t refuse.  The next vacation I want to take is Paris, and that’s going to take some saving and planning.  Spring 2016 is my best guess for that one.

Having typed that though, I can’t imagine staying here all year.  Camping maybe? That would be nice…

Photos by Evan Leeson, Jen Arr and …argh! I went looking for the bookshop pic for a link and can’t find it again.  Thanks, flickr!  :(

Travel Rewards

Cindy and I are taking the kids up to Saskatoon today for a little R&R.  It’s harder and harder to sneak away these days, what with the bakery taking all our time and University, friends and the bakery taking all the kid’s time.  But travelling together has always been a big part of our lives and I don’t want that to change.

Ben Camping
Ben camping in Clear Lake, Manitoba, 1996


We instilled the travel bug in Ben and Robyn early in life.  It started with camping.  We took to Duck Mountain park when he was two weeks old and kept on camping and travelling — Waskesiu, Clear Lake and even the Winnipeg Folk Festival when he was 13 months old.  We even fit a car & motel trip to Vancouver Island in his first year.

When Robyn was born we had to switch from the tent to cabins for a year or so but by the time she was two years old we were back in the tent.  We went all over, from the BC Interior to the Ontario Border in the summer and up to the Cabin in the Woods at McPhee Lake in February.  We had a log book of the best parks and the best tent sites in those parks.

Maritimes 2010
Nova Scotia, 2010

By the time the kids were seven we wanted to see more of Canada so there were two long trips to the Maritimes and a month on Vancouver Island, still in the same small tent.  By the time Ben was 14 he was getting too long for the end of our four person tent but we still crammed in there.  It was unthinkable to use anything else.

I’m so glad we instilled the travel bug in our kids.  They’ve got it bad.  Both have been to Japan on exchange trips.  Ben’s been to Brazil twice.  They’ve both been to Europe.  And they took advantage of every school band trip and ski trip they could.  At any point in time one of them is planning a new trip somewhere.

U20 World Cup
U20 Football (Soccer) World Cup, Victoria, 2007. Six nations festooned on two kids!


Travel has helped us see and be part of other cultures.  It’s helped us appreciate what we have in Regina but also fueled the desire to bring the best of our travels back home.  Orange Boot Bakery exists because of all the awesome bakeries we discovered on our travels, from Saskatoon to San Francisco and Victoria to Mahone Bay.  Each one left us thinking “why don’t we have that at home?” and now,  in a small way, we do.

Awesome pergola outside Village Butcher in Oak Bay, Victoria BC. Still can’t convince our landlord to let me build one of these on our patio.


Make Something Happen

I’m nearly six hours into 2015 as I write this and maybe it’s too soon.  I mean, I just had my first real sleep in a month.  How I can I possibly reflect on such a crazy year?  But I had one of those “this must mean something” dreams last night so maybe it’s a good time to reflect after all.

I barely made it over the finish line yesterday.  I thought we baked way too much for New Years Eve and that over tired, ultra depressive funk set in.  We baked too much.  Nobody’s coming today.  What will we do with all this bread?  All our charities are closed!

But then the regulars started coming in to stock up for the next two weeks and when all was said and done, and I gave the last of the buns away to a fellow who came in after we cashed out, all that was left was a small box of sweets for Kylle and Scarlett (our heroic counter crew) a medium box for Joel (our amazing evening cleaner) and three loaves of bread for Cindy and I to take home.  We’ll have good toast for a few days.

We’re closed now for a couple of weeks for our annual January vacation.  It’s a chance to recharge, get caught up on the bookkeeping and the housework, maintain our equipment and maybe reconnect with my family a little.  And Cindy and I will need a few days to figure out what to do in 2015.  Lots of change afoot and pretty much all of it scares me.

Which brings me to the dream I had last night.

Muddy Waters


In the dream, for some reason, I wanted to book a big band into the bakery as entertainment.  Must have been for our Annual Open House in June.  I arranged for Muddy Waters to play.  A legend!  He’s long since passed on, but hey, it was a dream.

So it’s the day of the Open House and Muddy and around 10 musicians are coming into the bakery.  I’m scrambling around to get them chairs, and drinks, and snacks.  One wants a coke, the other a beer, the third ice cream.  That kind of thing.   I was scurrying around like Bilbo when the dwarves came by at the start of The Hobbit.

Then Muddy and I are sitting down and he gives me the performance contract to sign.  It’s for $20,000.   Twenty Thousand Dollars. Urp.

I mean, there is no way, in a year even, that I’m going to be able to put away $20,000.  Can’t be done.  What was I thinking?

So the rest of the dream is spent worrying about how I’m going to tell Muddy Waters, the Living Legend (in the dream, anyway), who has travelled all the way to Orange Boot, with a full band that there’s no way I can pay him.  That the concert can’t happen.  That maybe we should’ve talked about prices on the phone before they headed north.

How do you have that conversation?  When’s the right time?  How can I get him alone?  What if he gets mad – maybe I need backup!  How do I start?  What do I say?

And what do I tell all of you?  What do I tell the people who came to the bakery looking for Bread and Blues?

It doesn’t matter.  It’s got to be done.   So I wait until Muddy is off by himself, looking at a picture on the wall, and I go up to him.  Hey Muddy…

Then I woke up. Angry. Angry at myself.

The #1 thing that was in my head was that I was about to cancel an awesome concert because I didn’t have $20,000.  Instead, I should have tried everything I could possibly think of to come up with the money.  Make ten posters, a hundred phone calls and a thousand personal appeals to raise the money and make the concert a reality.  Be an Impresario.  The Guy Who Makes Things Happen.

I wandered down to the kitchen, made some toast (yum), spread on some of Jennifer’s Apple Jelly (thanks Jen!) and thought hard about the dream.  Am I really making things happen, at home and at the bakery, or am I hiding?

When an opportunity to do something amazing is sitting there right in front of me, will I take it?   Have I made a strong enough connection with you that you’ll be part of it too?

I don’t think I have.  Not this past year, anyway.  I’ve been hiding at the workbench and the mixer and the dish sink.  I’ve spend too much time hiring people to do what we already do, rather than hiring people to do new, amazing things. And I haven’t spent enough time connecting with people so that when all we need is a thousand people to kick in $20 each to Do Something Amazing, we can pull it off together.

I’m convinced that Cindy and I aren’t here only to bake bread and muffins.  We’re here to be part of your world, part of the community, so we can do great things together.  I’ll be working on that this year.

Over to you:  what Amazing Thing are you dreaming about for 2015?  How can I help?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Photo via the Chicago Tribune, on the Internet

Arsene Ben

Arsene Ben

Turning 18 can be a traumatic time for a young adult. These days, instead of representing endless possibilities, an 18th birthday can leave one staring into a huge, empty void. High level organized sports stop at age 18 for all but the tiny tip of the pyramid. With the end of high school comes the end of band, choir and musicals for most kids as well.

I never really noticed this until I watched Ben graduate from high school this summer. A nice banquet, some awards, a final concert or two, then it was over. I don’t think he’s touched his trumpet since and has only picked up his guitar a handful of times. Instead, it’s on to grown up things like working and figuring out his future.

Ben’s soccer career also made a big shift, although that took until October. His club team qualified for Nationals as Saskatchewan champions, so Ben spent Thanksgiving in Newfoundland squaring off against powerhouses from BC and Ontario. But then, it was over. The next level is University soccer, but Ben’s not interested. So his competitive ‘career’ is over, although he is loving playing on a recreational adult team once a week.

So I was thrilled when Ben was asked to help coach his former high school team. He worked with the rookie goalkeepers and gave pointers to the back line. It seems like he took a turn at some of the drills too.

Thanks to a solid midfield and blazingly fast forwards, his team won the City Championship last night and Ben was all dressed up on the sidelines. I think he was as happy with this medal as the one he won as a player in Grade 9.

The head coach insisted on suits for the coaches for the final game, joking that he wanted to look like Pep Guardiola. In my mind Ben looks a little like a young Arsene Wenger. Likely just a proud father vision there.

I hope Ben keeps coaching. That’s something that can last well past 18, or even 36. Who knows, maybe he can get me tickets to an Arsenal game one day.

Hmm. That Didn’t Work

me looking peeved. I’m new at “selfies” :)

When I got the notification emails that Posterous was shutting down and I should back up all my posts, I didn’t worry about it. Ignored them all.

“No worries!” said I. “I already pushed every post to my WordPress blog at time of posting. I’ll be fine.”

It turns out that the words pushed over, but all my pictures linked back to the copy at Posterous. Seeing how I was doing more and more short posts with lots of pictures, that means most of the posts I made from 2009-2011 now have big blank spaces where the pictures should be.


I guess that means I need to get off my butt and start posting more. OK! I’m up for the challenge.