Official Store Launch – merch to support Bitter Grounds

Official Store Launch – merch to support Bitter Grounds

I finally followed through on a project I started last year – merch to support the site. I spent a few months working on several design ideas, fussing over them, and looking at various online stores. Then all hell broke loose, and it was put on the back burner. Well, it is time to put all that work … er … to work.

Take a look at my merch Redbubble 

After looking at a few stores, I settled on Redbubble for a number of reasons – the most important being I’d already seen their products and liked them. A percentage of each sale goes directly to me. Shipping is available worldwide, so no matter where you are, you will be able to support Bitter Grounds and get something cool to show for it.

I haven’t had the store up long and already sold 4 items. A friend purchased 2 masks and was pleased with both the quality and design, so I feel comfortable recommending you “buy my stuff”. No idea who purchased the other items, but let me tell you, I was tickled when I woke up and found a pillow and mask sold during the night.

I have a few designs that will be up for Christmas only, so you might want to pop in now and then to see if anything tweaks your interests. What’s available? Lots of different items, like shirts, graphic ts, bathmats (I have a thing for cool bathmats), sweatshirts, socks, journals, magnets, stickers and of course masks. To see everything, you need to click the Redbubble link above,

Sampling of what merch is in the store

Masks? Yes, we have masks

Old pioneer airplane on a mask

Vintage images on masks look surprisingly good

Face mask with a cat silhouetted against night sky

Cat contemplating taking over the world

Black mask with "Coffee goes here" printed on it

Friend bought this one!


From my merch store - Canadian Maple Leaf Flag masks for sale at

Canadian Maple Leaf Flag masks ->

Most of the designs worked on masks. I’ve begun to focus on a lot of vintage stamps and aviation, so if you have a collector in your family, check out the store in a week for more philately and aviation related items. In the new year, I’m going to go heavy on both topics.

Shirts and sweatshirts too!

Coffee stain face with a lightbulb over the face

I have a couple “Coffee Stain Carl” images on the back burner

Graphic tshirt with large ink stains & slogan Carry/Spill/Repeat

Came up with this one after I dropped a bottle of ink on the floor.

Canadian flag sweatshirts

Show your Canadian pride with a sweatshirt

Most of the above designs were created over the summer months, while I was hiding out from the world. They started as doodles and sketches that gradually morphed into full-fledged shirt designs. I especially like Coffee Stain Carl (the first image). The original, was a coffee-stained note that I doodled eyes and a lightbulb on, giving me a bad case of the giggles. After refining the stain, tidying it up and finding the perfect lightbulb, CSC was born. A couple new images are in the works for the new year.

How about throw pillows?

Vintage airmail labels on a pillow

Vintage etiquette labels

One of the pillows sold shortly after it went up on the site! Colour me impressed.

Or journals

White hard covered journal with a circle stain face and light bulb

I designed quite a few journals because I use them all the time.

I have hardcovered journals scattered around the apartment. Each one is assigned a different task, so you can never have too many. You can grab soft covered notebooks as well.

Stickers, magnets, and water bottles

Magnet with Airmail symbol

Lots of stickers and magnets too

Water bottle with a skyscrapper photo on it

Dizzying optical illusions

Not sure if my fridge can hold any more magnets. Or maybe the magnets are holding the fridge together?

Bags of all sorts

Tote bag with a full picture of a dragon fly on a moss green background

Dragon flies are popular

Show your Canadian pride with a Maple leaf backpack

Or a knapsack?


Linear art work on a duffle bag

Took hours to get this design right

Black duffle bag with paint stains

Duffle bags look best with lots of colours

It’s been fun thinking of how to adapt my designs to viable products. The best part is how I can add and remove items whenever I want to make a change, so nothing will become stale on the store page. Drop by Bitter Grounds’ Shop and support the magazine. If you purchase anything, send me a photo when you get it. I’d love to hear from you.

Oh, and I have a truly ugly shirt design just in time for Christmas. A gift no one will re-gift back to you.




About a flu shot and web sites 2020

About a flu shot and web sites 2020

Get your flu shot!

Went for a flu shot the other day. Yes, I am one of those who diligently toddle off to get it every year. Normally my arm has a powerful reaction, the spot heats up and the entire arm aches for days but not this time. I do however, feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. Hell of a trade off. This too will pass.

But it’s left me feeling whiny and a bit childish so I think I’ll bunker in the apartment today and avoid humanity. Not sure I’m up to dealing with people. I feel like I have low grade malaise, just no energy to do a thing. I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s better than a case of flu. So, yea, I’ll take a flu shot over the alternative any day.

A masked emoji encouraging you to get your flu shot

Mask up & get your flu shot if you can. Protect your friends & neighbours.

Website organization

Instead of working on articles, I’ve spent the last 24 hrs thinking about this site. It’s time to rationalize the categories. I’m going to amalgamate Photography with the Typography and Design section. It makes more sense to have them together. They are related in themes and will be easier to keep the content fresh. It’ll be re-labeled Photos & Design.

Whither now philately?

A lot of time has spent on sorting out newsletters as well. I’ve begun to sign up for stamp related news releases from post offices around the world. It’s time to shake off the Canadian centric view and look at the glorious offerings around the world. Let me tell you, it’s a trip and a half. Some sites don’t translate well. I had to tap a couple of friends for help with a Hungarian translation. Between the too of them, they sorted me out.

I’m playing with an idea of doing a retrospective of stamps around the world from 2020, but that might turn out to be too big a project. But I did manage to line up topics for approx. 100 stamp articles for 2021. As well, I have a number of Christmas themed stamps ready to post. Keep watch in the Philately section them.

What about the rest of the world?

In my travels, I came across a superb website:

Logo for the website "Rest of the World"

Rest of the world – reporting global tech stories

Rest of the world breaks out of the annoying western obsession with Silicon Valley and North America. It offers coverage of important tech and social media issues affecting the world. Well written and insightful. I spent about 3 hours yesterday cruising their website. Subscribe to their newsletter and get the latest news delivered to your mailbox. You won’t regret it, especially if you are like me. I have had a growing dissatisfaction with the smug navel gazing of most tech news sites based in North America. They all report the same news, over and over. That’s partially why I haven’t posted a lot on the tech section of the website. I’ve become bored with technology. Too many sites offer what feels like breathless anticipation of the most insignificant changes but missing the bigger picture.

I’ll have to give thought to the Tech section. It needs a serious boot in the typeface. I will continue to write little reviews and offer advice because I enjoy doing it, but I need to look at tech issues beyond my borders. So many exciting things are happening around the world, it’s a crime to ignore them. I’d be grateful for any ideas pushed my way.

A wee bit of art news

I also discovered a new bit of software – Adobe Fresco and played around with it off an on. So far, I like what I see and will explore it further with my mighty tablet. If I continue to enjoy the software, I’ll drop a few articles about it.

Also in art news, I am arranging an interview with an artist friend. She’s the real deal and I’ve always loved her artwork. When things settle down a bit, we’ll get together for an interview about her work and the thought process behind it. I’m hoping she will discuss with me how she’s evolved as an artist over the years. Will be FUN.


So that’s the round up of my week so far. I originally started out writing about food. The article sat at 50 words for the last 3 days and didn’t get anywhere. I was despairing a bit that I’d never be able to finish it. But here I am. Sometimes you have to let you brain meander where it wants.

Not so fast on the tripe loathing

Not so fast on the tripe loathing

Dear Tripe Marketing Board,

I’m sorry, I’m so deeply sorry. For years I’ve maligned tripe with a certain glee and I recently discovered… I like … tripe. Yes, I know, I know, I owe you an apology. But I’m reeling and feel profoundly disoriented. What’s next? Boiled Brussel sprouts? Do you offer a recovery package for former tripe haters? Any advice on how to recover my equilibrium? Maybe you have a tripe welcome wagon parcel for former tripe haters.

Poster of a Victorian English pub selling tripe

It’s all tripe

I’m still in shock. For years I’ve loathed tripe. I tried it in the past and, well, let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It sat on the plate like a honey combed sheet of elastic bands, threatening me. The scars ran deep from the experience. On the weekend, a friend offered me a small bowl of tripe in a tempting sauce. I held the bowl for a few minutes, gathering courage to eat it. It looked so good. Only the adventurous experience great foods so I braced myself and slurped down the first spoonful.

The tripe was delicate and melt in the mouth tender. Flavourful and wonderful. OMG, am I really writing an ode to tripe?

So, dear Tripe Marketing Board. Am I forgiven?



Of bonfires, food and friends in a Covid world

Of bonfires, food and friends in a Covid world

Today, is about memories of bonfires, food and friends.  Lately, I’ve been feeling what I call the Covid crunch. It’s that urge to bunker into the apartment and pull the curtains. The gloomy weather shared my momentary affair with misanthropy. The quiet in the apartment can be overwhelming sometimes. I miss mom at the oddest moments. Lately, it’s been acute. I miss the sounds of her rustling about, singing to herself. It has become difficult to shake off the sadness.

They are very good people

They are very good people, and people I love, and am obliged to, and shall have great pleasure in their friendship
Samuel Pepys, Tues, 9 March 1668/69

My friends fit the description above. Two of my closest friends won’t allow me to sink out of sight. Val & Chris made a promise to my mom, that they’d look after me and make sure I didn’t implode with grief. They’ve kept their promise Mom, and I’d like to tell them you’ve released them from it, but Thursday’s meal reminded me of how comforting their persistent presence is and how needed they will always be, as are all the friends who gathered.

A bonfire, food and friends

… a bonfire for joy of the day – Samuel Pepys. Tues, 29 May 1660

Of food and friends - photo of the open garden with friends settling in

All settled in near the fire

Chris went above and beyond recently for those of us in their circle. He arranged a bonfire meal at Actinolite restaurant. If you’ve never been, call and book a bonfire meal -> The Actinolite is not just about eating. It’s about creating an atmosphere that fosters laughter and conversation. Nothing makes a meal taste better. They had little bonfires stoked around the garden, warding off the October chill. Tables were set apart, but all within eye view so we could safely chat back and forth. I can’t think of a better way to spend the night.

While Val and Chris arranged our evening, it struck me how something that used to be so easy to do in the past felt like they were mobilizing an army. Coordinating calendars, talk to the restaurant, juggling distancing requirements, watching the weather. That was the nail biter – would Mother Nature cooperate and let us have our night out. As it turns out, yes, she did.

Chris managed to grab photos of each course before we fell on the plates. It wasn’t easy in the growing dark, but he soldiered on. Many thanks to him for the photos I used in this article. I was too absorbed in the cider and wine.

The folks at Actinolite created cottage country in the middle of Toronto. So worth crawling out of my cave to enjoy! When I opened the fence to their backyard, I felt like I was entering the Secret Garden. We were so relaxed; you could feel the stress wash away with the first sips of cider.

… and syder 

and drink wine and syder – Samuel Pepys Wed, 31 Dec 1662

Friends were already there. I laughed when I realised, we were all so eager for a night together, many arrived early. Social distancing didn’t stop the smiles. Cider was offered first, with a healthy dose of bourbon to ward off the cool. I can’t remember the last time I sat in a garden with friends. The cider was a perfect start.

… an exceedingly good dinner

 … an exceedingly good dinner and good discourse. – Samuel Pepys. Fri, 8 Feb 1666

Photo of the chef from Actinolite restaurant cooking over an open fire

Chef doing chef things

The chef cooked a large part of our meal over an open fire. It was fun watching him fuss over the grill.

… bread wiped upon each dish

of putting a bit of bread wiped upon each dish into the mouth of every man … – Samuel Pepys. Sun, 8 Sept 1667

Photo of the author enjoying fresh baked berad

Bread and wine

Oh the bread. I stopped listening to everyone when I bit into my slice. The bread. Oh the bread. That’s as far as my brain will process the information. If possible, I’d put an order in for dinner tonight. And tomorrow night. I should title this “Of bonfires, bread and friends” instead of “food and friends”.

… with a good soup

and dined very handsome, with a good soup – Samuel Pepys. Mon, 15 March 1668/69

Photo of hot soup and bread

Soup and fresh bread

There is an art to making soup. Getting the balance of flavours right but keeping it simple and hearty is an under-appreciated skill. I don’t eat a lot of soup because it often goes so wrong. One ingredient masked, something messing with the flavour dynamics. Not this soup, it was rich and full of clean flavours. Another bowl and more bread wouldn’t have gone amiss.

… nature of vegetables

… all the way having fine discourse of trees and the nature of vegetables. – Samuel Pepys. Thurs 5 Oct 1665

Photo of fresh salad served at the Actinolite

Actinolite does a smashing salad

Actinolite does salad justice. I wanted to arm wrestle for the mushrooms lurking beneath the greens. I felt so selfish in wanting to grab the plate and scamper off with it. I shared, don’t worry. Between mouthfuls, we drank more wine and avoided all thoughts of Covid and politics. Chit chat wound around art, books, food, and catching up with old friends.

… a very great meal

… a very great meal, and sent for a glass of wine, – Samuel Pepys. Fri, 24 Oct 1662

Photo of the pot of beef and potatoes

Slow roasted all afternoon to preserve the tenderness

How did they roast the food for hours but still have it come out so tender? The beef melted on my tastebuds. The root vegetables had that hardy, fall flavour that can only come with the freshest vegetables. I knew there would be no doggy bags after this meal. We’d even be licking our plates. Fun thing about Actinolite, they applaud that level of food appreciation and actively encourage it.

Photo of main meal plated

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

… a good dinner …

and there to dinner, a good dinner, and were merry – Samuel Pepys. Sun. 14 July 1667

Photo of fresh house made donuts

There were more, but Chris didn’t have much time to grab a photo before we scarfed them down

Then dessert. Poor Chris. We ate most of the fresh, donuts before he had a chance to take a photo. After the meal, we lingered and talked, sipping wine, and enjoying the moment for as long as we could. The world slowed down for a while and everything was perfect.

Thank you to everyone at Actinolite, and friends who were there. But mostly Val and Chris. Mom would be so happy with the thought of that evening.

And so to bed

But we were friends again as we are always – Samuel Pepys. Wed, 24 Oct 1660


Yodeling cowboys, ramen, and grief

Yodeling cowboys, ramen, and grief

Photo of Mom as a child with her pet chicken Brownie - dealing with grief

Mom as a child with her pet chicken Brownie

Grief is a funny thing. One moment you’re doing fine, getting on with life and the next moment a memory flits across the horizon and you’re emotionally sandbagged.

I have a lifetime of memories that keep tumbling out at odd moments. Sitting on the subway and a laugh reminds me of a conversation with Mom or standing in the kitchen makes me remember the last time we cooked a meal together. We had a lot of laughs over the years . Lately, those moments have been popping up all over the place. They are … bittersweet. We’ll have no more moments of unbridled laughter at the silliest things. So many of those memories are tied up in events or jokes only mom understood. I’m holding each memory tightly.

Yodelling cowboys and Mom

I still have her YouTube account with all her favourite music.  I scroll through the lists occasionally, smiling at some of the memories. Music played all the time in our apartment. Christmas songs in July, opera singers during breakfast, Joan Baez over tea, old musicals in the wee hours of the morning, it was like she had a theme track running along with her life. That’s what bothered me the most when she died. The silence.

She also liked yodelling cowboys. Yes, yodelling cowboys. I’d come home occasionally to Slim Whitman yodelling away, Mom leaning back on the couch singing along. It was quite an experience. Mom and her music. Still makes me laugh at times

Soup and Mom

After her first operation, mom’s diet restrictions meant her food choices were limited and repetitious. To tweak her appetite, we explored different ingredients, things she never tried. She became quite adventurous during the last years.

Her favourite meal was soup. Good old-fashioned soup. She could eat it every day. I used to make little pots of it for her when she wasn’t feeling well. I enjoyed cooking for her. She was an appreciative audience. After a lifetime of cooking for everyone else, she liked the feeling of sitting around reading while someone else made dinner.

Mom always thought a noodle was a noodle. She didn’t grow up with the variety we have now. When I made her Ramen soup for the first time, it was a revelation. She was hooked on ramen noodles. Oh my, she ate a lot of it. Couldn’t seem to get enough. I taught her how to make it so she could have a fresh bowl whenever she wanted. It became her go-to quick meal.

Yodelling cowboys, ramen, and mom

One late night last year, around 2 am, I woke to the sounds of yodelling. I’d often hear her music in the night or hear her rustling around in the kitchen. It was like living with a little mouse at times. This night the music was a little louder than usual. I got out of bed to ask if she could nudge the sound down. I found her in the kitchen, making soup.

I stood in the door watching for a few moments. Slim Whitman was crying about lost loves, horses and I haven’t a clue what else. And mom, all 4’10″ of her, dressed in an oversized Tony the Tiger t-shirt and green plaid track pants, her grey hair standing up like Tin Tin’s, yodelling along.  Oh yea, yodelling and chopping carrots for the ramen soup simmering on the stove.

She was so happy at that moment. She turned and saw me, blushed a bit, and asked if she woke me. I said no, no. I was just getting up to get a glass of water. Just wondered what you were doing. Turns out, she had been playing Farmville 2 and became hungry. Of course, that meant another pot of soup. Those noodles were like crack.

I didn’t have the heart to ask her to turn the music down. I just shrugged and said it’s all cool and went back to bed.

Another stage of grief

I wish I could have more moments like that. Nights of her singing to herself and making soup; Farmville and Tony-the-Tiger shirts; Tin-Tin hair and yodelling cowboys. I miss every minute of it. I grieve over the reality there will be no more memories to make together. I’ll have to cling to the ones I have.

If you’re dealing with grief, whether over someone who has died or the dramatic changes that have occurred during the past years, check this site out for a bit of moral support.

Still contrary at 60 years old

Still contrary at 60 years old

I’m now past 60 years old. I always feel like I should start these posts with “Dear Diary, You’ll never guess what”.  Anyway. With my birthday firmly in the rear view mirror, I have a confession to make. I’m surprisingly content. Been a horrible couple of years, with stress beyond belief and I’m still grieving hard for mom. I miss her every day. I have the odd cry when I lean over to tell her something funny and she’s not there to laugh with me.

But over the past few months, a sense of peace has caught up with me. I realise saying this in 2020 is a certifiable act, but I’ve hit a sense of equilibrium. The years have been a frenzy of hospital stays, doctor appointments, helping mom with her exercises, making sure she ate properly etc. Anyone who’s taken care of an aging parent gets it, without further explanation. Now, I have time to .. do nothing. Sit on the balcony and just watch the sun set or prop my feet up, with a glass of wine one hand and a trashy novel in the other. All knowing I no longer worry whether mom is okay.

Don’t misunderstand. I would give anything to have her back. I miss her so much, it actually physically hurts at times. But that isn’t what reality allows. Mom had fun. We had fun. Together. We muddled along through her illnesses and had a lot of laughs along the way. Now it’s just me. Me and the million thoughts that run through my brain all the time.

Mom had things left unsaid. She wanted to share her thoughts with you and she was cheated out of that chance. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot over the past week. It seemed so unfair. But, as mom would say, no one promised fairness in life. She was very much a working class philosopher, in her own way.

I was lucky. I had to chance to listen to her and understand her life and struggles. So, I’m going to share my thoughts on what mom told me over the years, especially the last 4 years. Much of it will be seen through my personal lens. I’m not as kind hearted as mom so much of what I say may be a little more cynical than mom would have been. Mom had a soft heart.

Well, except when it came to Trump. Whoa! Talk about swear like a sailor. My mom, at 83, would rail against her contemporaries for being blind and selfish fools for supporting his style of politics. She was more concerned with the younger generations and what kind of world they will have, than she was herself. If she could have, Mom would have put on a pair of steel toed boots and kicked a lot of asses.

She was peculiar. And funny. And fierce. Life dealt her a pretty crappy hand. But she was able to be something I’ve never managed. Despite it all, she remained a contrarian optimist. I know, sounds like a contradiction, but stick with me over the weeks as I tell you about her, myself and our world view.

I’m debating about keeping the vlog portion. I’m not very patient when it comes to editing. It was something mom really wanted to do but cancer had the final say in the matter. I’ll likely keep it, for mom.

I tried scripting out what I want to say in the videos, but that’s just boring. You can listen to anyone read to you. I’ll have to figure out a balance. Something between me editing everything down into a  bland pudding to a full on me glaring at you through the camera lens.  I tend to get mouthy when I’m off script. I’d love to say I’ve mellowed with the years, but the opposite has happened. I’m to the point where I simply don’t have many fucks left to give. Mom had a lot left. She was the optimist in the house. I was the pessimist.  We balanced each other nicely.

Guess I’ll have to channel a bit of mom’s better nature before I turn the camera back on. Tap into this sense of contentment I’ve acquired.

So mask up folks. Take care of the people around you and buckle up. I have a lot more to say before I shuffle off my mortal coil.

Photo of the writer at 60 years old wearing a mask with black cat faces on it

Buckle up, I have a cat mask and no fucks left to give.