Kathy Toivonen

Artist and writer Kathy Toivonen finds inspiration for creativity from nature, culture, and history; and she often combines her interests to develop projects. For example, she has produced a series of hand drawn maps of historical and cultural interest in Northwestern Ontario that are embellished with raw charcoal drawings. With a background in graphic arts, Kathy uses bits of nature to enhance paintings and drawings to add depth and dimension. Her Finnish background and connection to nature, and her interest in culture and history often overlap in her books and articles. Kathy lives with her family in a rural setting west of Thunder Bay, where she keeps an eye open for signs of Big Foot.

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Recent Articles by Kathy Toivonen

Extra apples become cider
posted on Monday, Sep 25, 2017
Thunder Bay—If you want to experience a taste of the big apple on Park Avenue, you don’t need to go to New York City. Roots to Harvest is serving up apple cider from its location on Park Avenue in Thunder Bay. Roots to Harvest is an organization that pairs agriculture with youth through programs in employment, education and community. So when a local resident with apple trees and an overabundance of apples called to ask if the organization would like to have the fruit, the idea to market a potential…

POW logging camps of Northwestern Ontario
posted on Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Remnants at a logging camp near Hurkett, Ontario. | KATHY TOIVONEN Hurkett—For context, it must be noted that prisoner of war (POW) camps detained German army officers, German soldiers, and interned Japanese and Italian immigrants. From these camps, enlisted German soldiers, who were considered to be a low risk for escape, were offered a choice to work in logging camps. During World War II, there was a fear that Germany could be successful in its campaign against Britain and thereby release the German prisoners who might have useful intelligence to…

Canada’s 150th: A Celebration of the Past and Future 
posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
The land called Canada has been home to many indigenous people and cultures for over 10,000 years. Even the Vikings settled on the east coast for a time. In modern history, the country has seen many changes. So an argument can be made that 1867 is an arbitrary date to mark the birth of Canada.  There have been many noteworthy dates that shaped the Canada of today. The first Europeans, from France, laid claim to a part of the land around the St. Lawrence River in the mid-1500s. Then, in the mid-1600s, the land was declared a province of France. At that time, more Europeans traveled further into the interior through the Great Lakes. France then handed over the…

Ukrainian Easter Bread & Stuffed Eggstravaganza
posted on Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017
| KATHY TOIVONEN Ukrainian Easter Bread  This recipe was brought to Canada by a Ukrainian immigrant over 100 years ago. Rose Bunza’s recipe; contributed by Kathy Toivonen. Soak 1 level tablespoon of saffron in ¼ cup of warm water and let sit overnight. Scald 4 cups of milk, and then add: ¾ cup sugar  ¼ cup butter  1 teaspoon salt Cool until lukewarm.  While the milk mixture is cooling, dissolve 2 packages of dry yeast according to directions. When the yeast is ready, add it to the milk mixture.  Then add: 6 egg yolks, slightly beaten  1 ½ cups flour Whisk until smooth.…

Kids get a natural education at The Forest School
posted on Monday, Mar 27, 2017
In the rural community of South Gillies, there’s a tall wooden staircase that leads to a huge oval hobbit-like door. Through the door is a classroom like no other—you won’t find rows of desks and chairs like in a traditional classroom. Instead, in the centre of the room is a tree house and under the tree house is a puppet theatre. On the floor level is a window, and mosaics adorn the floor and walls. Every nook, hook, shelf and cubby is home to art supplies, books, bones, stones and microscopes. Then there is the other part of the school: the…

The legend of St. Urho
posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2017
Finland—If there is a holy grail for the imaginary Saint Urho, it would be the original hand-written poem, “A Ode to Saint Urho.” The poem was phonetically written, so when read aloud it would sound as if speaking with a heavy Finnish accent. The poem was scribed in the mid-1950s by Gene McCavic, an employee of Ketola’s Department Store in Virginia, Minn. The inspiration for the prose (and co-author) was fellow employee, Richard Mattson, who spun a tale of a Finnish Saint who had killed all the frogs in Finland. For over 60 years, the poem,…

Building on a dream
posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2017
Kaministiquia—Back in the day, some homesteaders in rural areas of Northern Ontario and Minnesota built homes of hand hewn logs. The motivation was, for the most part, practical: a warm dry place to call home—not too big and not too fancy. Often, the log homes were chinked with moss, mud or hair from cows and horses. Barns and outbuildings were made with rough lumber from portable sawmills, and over time, exposure to weather aged the lumber to a beautiful grey to black barn board.   An old log home built in the 1920s with lumber…

Sweet Treat Recipes
posted on Thursday, Feb 02, 2017
Cranberry Pecan Butter Tarts By Kathy Toivonen Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Filling: In a small saucepan, place the following and heat for 20 seconds on medium heat. 1/3 cup dried cranberries 2 tablespoons orange juice or rum In a bowl, whisk: 2 eggs ¾ cup honey or corn syrup ½ cup brown sugar ¼ cup melted butter 3 tablespoons flour 2 teaspoons vanilla Pastry: 2 cups flour 2 tablespoons sugar ½ cup lard ¼ cup soft butter ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt Cut together pastry ingredients…

Northwestern Fur Trappers Association celebrates wild fur
posted on Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017
Thunder Bay—The Northwestern Fur Trappers Association (NWFTA) will be celebrating 40 years with their 2017 convention from Feb. 24-26 at the CLE Heritage Building in Thunder Bay. The convention is a free event open to the public. Representatives from every part of the industry will provide information from harvesting wild furs to producing fur products.  The fur industry, both wild and farmed, generates millions of dollars globally. For example, the 2014/15 fur auction in Helsinki, Finland auctioned 13 million ranched mink from American Legend Cooperative in the U.S.; 2 million ranched fox from Saga Furs in Finland; and 1 million wild fur (beaver, mink, marten, lynx, squirrel and otter) from Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. in Canada. The business of wild fur brings in…

Karelian Rice Piirakka
posted on Monday, Nov 28, 2016
By Kathy Toivonen Rice Pudding for Filling 1 cup uncooked short grain white rice 1 cup water (or just enough to cover the rice) 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon butter Combine above in the top pot of a double boiler. Cook over boiling water from the bottom pot until the water is absorbed by the rice in the top pot. Then add 4 cups milk and 2 teaspoons sugar. Simmer for two hours or until all the milk is absorbed. Stir occasionally until the rice is creamy. Take off heat…

Nerd Night in the north
posted on Friday, Oct 21, 2016
Thunder Bay—True or False: Most people only use 10 percent of their brain. The above factoid is just one example of trivia offered at Nerd Nite, an interactive lecture and game series that invites professors and professionals to share their knowledge with the public—over a beer. Yes, beer. And that’s not the only anomaly of the unconventional learning experience. For example, the classroom is a bar, and the audience is encouraged to heckle the lecturer or to go on stage and add their two bits (or bitcoins) on the given…

Great Dog Portage
posted on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
KAMINISTIQUIA—My favorite trail, the Great Dog Portage, leads to a mystery; the Dog Effigy. The portage bypasses a series of rapids and falls between Dog Lake and Little Dog Lake in Kaministiquia, about 30 km west of Thunder Bay. The trail has been traversed for hundreds of years by the first peoples of the land; French explorers, American invaders, voyageurs, professors, and curious hikers. The historic portage is about 3 km long, but a 1 km (approximately) portion is regularly traveled and leads to the effigy. The Dog Effigy is…

Making magic at Willow Springs
posted on Friday, Aug 26, 2016
Lappe—If you can dream it, Willow Springs Creative Centre can make it happen. From its setting in Lappe, about 15 km northwest of Thunder Bay, you can tour the world, have Christmas in July, or transform a tree house into a space ship. Willow Springs Creative Centre is a not-for-profit organization located on the corner of Mapleward Road and Kam Current Road in a historic 1930s co-op store. Inside, the store’s original wooden cubbies and hardwood counter-top displays local art work and products for sale, including fresh baked goods. On…

History endures at Chippewa Park
posted on Tuesday, Jun 28, 2016
Thunder Bay—Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay is built on a foundation of history, culture and nature; and with so many things to see and do, the park delivers adventure for everyone. According to historical records at The Harry Kirk Archives and Records Centre in Thunder Bay, The Crown purchased 270 acres of land from the Ojibway people of the Mount McKay Reserve and then passed the land to the City of Fort William. Clearing of the land began in 1920, and one year later, the park was named Chippewa, the…

The Art of Outdoor Ovens
posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016
  Everything tastes better when cooked outdoors on a stone oven. | KATHY TOIVONEN Why is it that everything tastes better when it’s cooked outside with fire? Maybe it’s the hint of smoke or wood that you don’t get from a gas range. Maybe it’s the outdoor air, or the comfort that fire brings. For me, it’s all that plus the meditative effect of tending a fire and the satisfaction of making good food. You don’t need much to construct and enjoy an outdoor oven—just a little know-how about the…

Campfire Smoked Fish
posted on Wednesday, Apr 27, 2016
There was a time when pike was the preferred eating fish over pickerel (known as walleye for those of you south of the border). At least that was the case for the Finnish community living in the Thunder Bay area. Filleting was unknown to the Finns. They only knew how to scale fish and pike were much easier to scale than pickerel. Then, I’m told, around the 1940s, a woman who worked for a fishery in Port Arthur showed someone how to fillet a pickerel and word spread quickly. However,…

Northern reality check: Wolves kill dogs
posted on Tuesday, Mar 01, 2016
Kaministiqua—The soft blanket of winter’s snow disguises the harsh reality of the wild, such as wolf attacks on dogs. Some years are worse than others, but this year seems to be a particularly nasty one. Just look on social networks and missing dog sites—there are many references to wolf attacks. Possible reasons for the attacks include low deer populations and sightings of ‘brush wolves,’ or ‘coywolves,’ that don’t seem to be as afraid of humans. Whatever the reason, it’s a reality of living in the north. My dad was a…