Sunday, December 07, 2014

Christmas Challenges....

All festivities have their own particular challenges, I'm sure. However, as I was hanging out of the second story window of my house the other day, in the bitter cold, trying to reach the top of a twelve foot cedar tree, with my three-pronged cultivator, I decided that celebrating Christmas, in North America anyway, had more than its share of challenges.

Let me explain. Every year we put lights outside to decorate the house for Christmas. It's more about keeping up with the neighbours, or at least the more colourful and theatrical of neighbours, than it is about faith. It's also about cheering up those long cold winter nights with a bit of sparkle. Pagan rituals duly assimilated.

In other years, we used to decorate a small cedar tree on the front lawn with blue lights - OK, we are the more subdued neighbours. However, trees grow and what was once a child sized evergreen, is now a fully grown adult conifer, with attitude :) Yes, we could just wimp out and decorate the bottom part of the tree. But no, to do it right, we really have to start at the top.



This is how I came to be hanging out of our second story bedroom window in -5ºC for an audience of neighbours wondering about my sanity. Yes, I was still quite sane, although a little giddy from the height. Here was my logic:

1. a. The Plan - Throw one end of a string of lights into the top of an Emerald Cedar that was almost close enough to reach from an upper window. 1. b. The Problem - first, it took three of us just to open the window, after we had moved all the bedroom furniture to one side of the room. Fortunately, no one slipped a disc, pulled a muscle or sprained a something, however, we did bend a screwdriver or two!!

2. Adjustments to the plan - Just throwing the lights at the tree didn't work and I didn't happen to have a spare grappling hook in my back pocket. Sigh! What I needed was either longer legs or longer arms. Enter the three-pronged cultivator a.k.a. arm extender.

3. The re-purposed garden tool worked!!. The lights were anchored very close to the top of the tree. Now, all my husband (who was safely on the ground) had to do was wind the strand around the tree. Well, this bit of logic, needed some more thought as well. In fact, I had to use the cultivator more than once to lift the lights higher in the tree, at regular intervals, in order to get a decent spiral. This meant more precarious leaning out of the window. Maybe I was really losing my mind!!

Tree, upper window and moon :)

Finally, in a scene worthy of Romeo and Juliet, I leaned out of the window and said to my husband, two stories below, "You don't need me anymore."

He looked up and answered, "So, is this the end?"

Thirty-five years of putting up Christmas lights and we are still together. It's all in the obstacles and the surmounting there of...and maybe a spare cultivator and/or a grappling hook or two :)

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Ravelled Life.....

I realize that I haven't posted in almost a month. This is so unlike me. After three years of posting at least every other day and every day (sort of) in 2013, I am falling short for 2014. I can explain. You see, I needed a new sweater. Below is an explanation of how ravelling (knitting) in one area of one's life can result in the unravelling of the rest of one's life.



To begin with, the old sweater was still perfectly "wearable." OK, maybe there was an unravelled stitch here or there, but it covered up the "rolls" and kept the heat in. However, I was bored with it. Yes, after 23 years, I thought, really, I need a new sweater!! It's true, I could have gone out and bought a perfectly good sweater, probably for less than the cost of the yarn and definitely in less time, than it has taken me to knit this one. Knitting, though, is more about the journey than the actual product, even though, the product is often the reason the journey was begun in the first place - I know it isn't about reason - it's about escape, creative thought and dare I say Art (design).



The "adventure" actually began last March, when my friend, Julia, decided that I needed to start knitting again. Those who have knit most of their lives, know that there is more therapy in a knitted garment then a wall of psychiatric degrees. After winding a huge skein of yarn into a correspondingly huge ball of yarn, Julia handed me my "pill." Well it was white and it was round, but it was huge!!

I was now under an obligation. I had to do something with this offering. I thought about it for quite a while. I began a few projects, but nothing was ever right. Finally, in October, after I realized that I had arranged my spice cupboard in alphabetical order, I knew that I needed help!!



In less than a minute I decided to knit a sweater in Fairisle, using a pattern I had designed and knit several times before. The base colour would be white - remember that big ball of yarn - and using my general rule of thumb, "what colours do I have the most of?" I chose Coral and Mushroom. I really should have picked a third colour to work the sweater in four, not three, colours, but the other shades were getting low and well, there was the challenge of converting a pattern designed for four colours into a pattern of three colours. Knitters are also masochists, but you have probably figured this out already.



Apart from ripping back the sleeve several times, I am almost there. Today I will begin "and finish" the last sleeve!! It's a knitting thing. If the truth were known, there are more sweaters in closets knit for one-armed-bandits than anyone would like to admit :)

And so ends my excuse for not writing in almost a month. My creativity is obviously limited. If I write, I don't knit and if I knit, I don't write. Sigh!! Oh to be given the gift of many talents.

The pictures? Sweaters I have knit and loved and yes, I still have them. Why couldn't I have just worn one of them instead of knitting a new one?  You had to ask, didn't you :)

Have a ravelled day!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Oh Poltergeist, My Poltergeist....

I read an interesting article in the paper the other day, that became even more interesting when I realized that I had actually been "involved" in the situation over fifty years ago. Let me explain. The article was about a construction company digging up an old church parking lot and suddenly finding human remains, coffins, headstones etc. Yes, they had actually unearthed an old cemetery, in the heart of a bustling city.

What happened? Here's the back story. Fifty or so years ago I attended the school that was beside the church mentioned in the article. The congregation had just had a new church built on the site of an old wooden chapel, which was erected in 1853, before the town of Weston was swallowed up by Toronto's sprawling suburbs. In order to hold Sunday services while the new church was being built, they moved the chapel back, behind the site of the new church and beside the old cemetery.

Once the new church was finished, the chapel was abandoned, along with the cemetery, which no longer took internments. It was a haunting scene and it opened directly into the boys' playground. People rarely "fenced" things in back then (the world really was a much more exciting place), so what was to prevent a few mischievous students from going on adventures in the graveyard at recess. Technically they were breaking a school rule, but this made their forays all the more exciting. The missions, soon became treasure hunts, when these inquisitors actually "opened" a few of the shallower graves.

Imagine finding jewellery, gold teeth, the odd set of dentures and much more on your lunch hour! The various "finds" often became the afternoon's entertainment. I remember one of the miscreants, Peter, spending most of a boring science class regaling us with the antics of a set of false teeth he had just unearthed :)



Unfortunately, the fun and games soon ended. Once the trespassers were caught and strapped - corporal punishment - the looting subsided. In fact, when I returned for my last year at the school, I found the old chapel gone and the cemetery removed - or so we thought. In fact the school authorities had actually groomed the area and put up a volleyball net to create another play area for the students. This was the last I remember of the cemetery. Over time, the play area was obviously paved and used as a parking lot for parishioners.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Fast forward fifty years to 2014. This year the school authorities had obviously decided to build another playing field in the same spot as our old volleyball court, only this time it was going to be done right! Ooops, all of a sudden a few skeletons, literally, fell out of the closet or at least their graves. Years ago, the old cemetery had not been properly removed, as we had thought. I shudder now to think that we may have danced, or at least played volleyball, on their graves. These tombs were then further buried under layers of asphalt, to create a parking lot. Well, it worked for Richard III. Hmmmm :)

When I told my son this story, he said that it was similar to the plot line for Poltergeist. Except that in the movie, a housing estate had been built over an old cemetery, because the developers were too cheap to remove the graves. The ghosts took their revenge!

Fortunately, the current construction crew has brought in an archaeological team to properly remove the remains and give the spirits the respect they deserve. Shame on the church and the school for not doing it fifty years ago. Maybe you never really rest in peace, just in pieces :)

The picture? The relocation of a pioneers' cemetery originally in downtown Toronto. It's in Mt. Pleasant cemetery now.

Have a peaceful day!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Of Pumpkins and Rainbows

Friday night we had "lighting of pumpkins." Well, let's say we tried to have lighting of pumpkins. I tried outside, at first. However, the wind blew out the matches and the candles every time. Plan B - light them inside and carry them outside. It worked except the rain put out a candle or two before the "trick-or-treating" ended. I hate it when it rains on Hallowe'en.

The good thing (or maybe it's not so good a thing) we had chocolate bars left. Just had to have some today with our coffee.



And yesterday we had "walking through rainbows." The sun finally shone on Sunday, so we tried a new walking trail. This one is part of the Don river trail system, which actually begins at the Oak Ridges Moraine, almost an hour's drive north of the city. Unfortunately the trail is not continuous, as the Bruce Trail is, so you just have to walk bits of it here and there. We chose the bit that begins at Lawrence Ave, just east of the Don Valley parkway.



It's a very well maintained trail, paved with markers and bridges etc., however, it runs parallel at times to the expressway so the traffic is always visible and audible. The trail also runs under the highway at one point, after meandering through the iconic "rainbow" tunnel on the east side. If you have ever driven north from Eglinton Ave, you can't miss it.

Inside the rainbow :)

The "rainbow" has a story. It's a bit of whimsy and I am so glad that they decided to keep it. Life amid the hustle and bustle, the gridlocks and bottlenecks needs a reprieve. This is one of them!

Have an awesome day!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

William Lyon MacKenzie King

I walk almost daily past the grave of William Lyon MacKenzie King. Who? Well, yes, he did die in 1950, so there are probably three generations, who never really knew him. For the record, he was the Prime Minister of Canada, when the Liberals were in power, which was on and off for almost thirty years from 1920 to 1948.

Why do I happen to mention him today? Well, you see, there is a Canadian flag that flies over his busy grave site. That is, there are a number of MacKenzies and Kings buried there and there is also a plaque outlining his life and a basket of flowers, plus a wreath from last year, which I wish someone would remove - oh, why bother, winter is hard upon us and it doesn't look that bad on a sunny day. There is also a woman, whom I have seen on several occasions, talking to herself or maybe to William, at the foot of his tomb. Although, it's not a really large plot of land, it supports a lot of activity. People stop and stare, or read the plaque, or bow, as a nod to a pilgrimage completed. Plus there are the money lenders. Did I mention the coin - the nickels, dimes and quarters that are regularly left on his coffin - it's a busy and I might add, productive piece of Real Estate!!



But I digress. I was talking about the flag. Because the grave is a "government" site, (we are never really free, even in death) the flag, or at least those who maintain the flag, make sure that it flies according to parliamentary instructions. Most of the time it flies, majestically, at topmast. However, there are times, when we grieve as a nation, and the flag flies at half mast.

It flew at half mast for the death of Nelson Mandela and it was flying at half mast today, no doubt for the deaths last week of two cherished servicemen, who died in the line of duty, in Canada. Both were killed by radicals embracing Islam.

I am sure that MacKenzie King is rolling over in his grave this week. Would he have ever imagined the threats that we are under now? Maybe he would. He lived through Hitler. "The more things change, the more they remain the same." I have only to look at the position of the flag to know the state of our nation. To date, I have never seen it flown upside down.

Have an amazing day!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Art & Atitude

Both Art and Attitude are "A" words. Please, let me explain. Because I need a focus to get through winter, I have borrowed a meditating technique that I used a few years ago to, well, do just that - get through winter. That is, I created a post a day based on three words beginning with the same letter. I looked for (or created) opportunities in the day that illustrated these words and then wrote about the experience. It's a distraction and it works - sort of :)

However, three words, I think, are too many to really get the value out of each word and if the winter is going to be as long and cold as last year, I am going to need several alphabets to sustain me!! As a result, I have narrowed my concentration to one word (OK two for this post) and limited my posts to one every few days.  Doing the math, that would be 78 words every other day for a total of 156 days. I can see the snow melting now, before it has even fallen!!

So what was the result of a few days of channelling Art and Attitude? More time wasting :) I joined Instagram. I do take a lot of pictures and I like the idea of posting them and following other people who also post pictures. The question would then be, is this really "Art"? Well, that would depend on your attitude. Here are a few interpretive shots that I can't post to Instagram because they are on my MAC and I don't seem to be able to transfer them to my phone - more challenges and time wasting. If I wasted through winter, would I lose weight? Probably not :(


This is actually a colour picture. A grey bus shot at night, on a grey road, with a grey puddle looks pretty black and white to me, hmmmm. Anyway, I love discussing pictures, because - you guessed it - it wastes a lot of time. Questions, such as, why did the photographer cut off the head of the greyhound, come to mind? Is the picture some existential statement on the human race not really going anywhere? No, I would have shot the entire bus except that there was a car parked to my right and if I moved up to avoid the car, I would have lost the reflection in the puddle. How much of Art is really just accidental? - another "A" word.

Here's another.


I'm fascinated by shadows - but are they Art? Below is the original.


I'm undecided as to which one I like better.

My moniker on Instagram is infiknitbuzz. Please send me a picture :)

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Agitate......

........ is another A word that I chose for a day of channeling a few Octobers ago. Actually I may have tried to channel (think) it on one of those very busy days, that makes meditating virtually impossible, because nothing really got "stirred up." This is not a bad thing.

Wait, I did do a lot and I repeat, a lot, of cleaning and reorganizing back then and I am about to do more clearing out and re-arranging of "things" again, soon. It's sort of a controlled agitation which helps to flush out the "gunk" and free the mind for inspiration, I hope.

Also, I did take a "free" Principle Barre session at the Ballet School on Tuesday. However, I have decided that this type of muscle agitation can wait a while longer. It was a good work out, but at $20.00 a session, it's pricey.



Maybe not exactly agitation, but a least a worthwhile stroll, we walked in "Light Up The Night," last night. It's a fund raiser for all blood related cancers, in which my husband's company participates. Tons of people from tons of organizations took part and they raised a ton of money. All we had to do was assemble at Nathan Phillips Square and walk a designated route past the various hospitals carrying lanterns that lit up the night. It was an amazing parade, with a police escort! Unfortunately, it tied up traffic on University Ave. for quite a while. We may have agitated a lot of commuters at that point.




Finally, an agitation I could do without. Sadly a soldier was killed at the war memorial in Ottawa, yesterday and parliament was locked down. Terrorism is agitation at its worst. It has shaken us all up. I think that I need to channel "peace" today - maybe prayer and patience too. All things pass, but some take longer than others.

The pictures? lighting up the night in Toronto for a good cause.

Have a peaceful day.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Activate is an A word.....

When the days draw in and the temperature drops, I "die." I am not a winter person, but, by some accident of birth, I was born in a country with long cold winters, Canada. OK, it could have been worse, it could have been, Russia.

Over the years, I have had to devise ways of coping with winter. I did learn to ski and spent many winter Sundays, in good weather, skiing first with friends and later with family. However, my kids didn't really "take" to skiing or snowboarding and since my husband doesn't ski, there has been no real impetus to continue and I don't like skiing alone :(

What next? Yes I knit, cook, clean and run a business during the week, however, I need to keep active, partly because it passes the time and partly because it is, well, healthier than just "sitting around moaning."

I flipped through a few October blog posts from other years, to remind myself of how I had coped then. What's this? A series on "channeling." Who would have thought!! I had actually written a month's worth of entries on thinking, using an A-Z approach. That is, I would focus for a day on a word - actually in some cases 3 words - to keep my mind off the icy grey outside.



My first word back then was "activate." What can I say? This meditation actually worked, because after a few false starts - failed gym membership, abandoned work outs at home and office, I finally, started just walking. It was sporadic at first. I didn't walk in temperatures below -12ºC and I couldn't walk in the ice and snow. However, when Spring finally came, I committed to walking everyday for a month. Eureka!! I can now walk 5kms (just over 3 miles) in less than an hour. I have now started to trim down that time. Can I go from 60 minutes to 50 minutes or less? I also started to look up record holders in my age group. What was the fastest time?

Ironically, I found a marathon here in Toronto - The Toronto Women's Half Marathon/5K that has a 5K walking component. They posted last year's time for the 70+ walkers. The winner had done it in just over 45 minutes. Last week I did my 5K walk in 45 minutes. I think that I may register for the marathon in May 2015.

I'll keep you posted.

The picture? I saw this beauty on one of my walks. It feeds my gypsy soul :)

Have a great day!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brucing it up

That's Brucing, not sprucing. Let me explain. It begins with Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night. We started doing this a few years ago, when a friend couldn't make "the feast" on Saturday or Sunday. I loved it, because we were then "free" to go away for a day or two over the long weekend.



This year we had two brilliantly sunny days Saturday and Sunday. Although we didn't stay overnight anywhere, we did go hiking both days on the Bruce Trail. Saturday we hiked the Glen Ross side trail from map #18, if you follow the trail at all. It's a fairly strenuous hike and after a "party" the night before, I only managed the 4kms of the Glen Ross loop. We had planned to do a little more, but today was not the day.

Salmon?

Although, the colours were lovely, they were already starting to fade. In fact, some of the trees had lost their leaves entirely. Still the vistas were very pretty and the sun made everything glow. Even though the roads were busy, the trails were virtually empty. We passed just six hikers in the 2.5 hours we were out. In fact, one couple, who were hiking the entire Hockley trail plus side trails - a six hour romp - were hoping to get out before dark. I wished them luck. They might be the only people left there.



On Sunday we walked part of the Caledon Hills trail, which is map #17. This was an easier 6.6kms hike over varied terrain, which rose to the top of one of the hills for a gorgeous view over the valley. I know that a lot of people take a drive in the country to see the colours, but it's much more rewarding to actually get out and walk for miles surrounded by what many only see at a distance.

We stopped in again at the Farmer's market on the way home for more apples, carrots and a look at their pumpkins :)

Have a great day!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

More than just a fish & chip shop....

I love Mt Pleasant Ave. It's vintage Toronto. It still has two movie theatres, lots of interesting one of a kind shops, tons of restaurants and until last Wednesday, Penrose Fish and Chips.

Unfortunately, Penrose is now closed forever. Any business, that has been in business for 64 years, deserves a lot of credit, especially when you consider that this particular business started out as a "mom & pop" style small local eatery, that served the best fish and chips in the world!!

OK, the "mom and pop" changed a little over the years - but just a little. The last name, Johnston, never really changed. It had been the owner's name since the first Mr. Johnston returned from WWII and started a small fish and chip shop in Toronto. In fact, the first "mom," Mrs. Johnston, who had worked in the business for 62 years, passed away just a year or so ago.

What I hadn't realized was that the business had actually started out at Gladstone Ave. and Dundas St. and then moved to Mt Pleasant and Penrose Ave. I had for years presumed that Penrose Fish & Chips had always been on Mt. Pleasant. It wasn't until last night, when my husband, who had managed time to read the articles on the shop, mentioned that they had had their first shop very near my grandparents' house.



This was a eureka moment, because I always remembered a fish & chip shop near Gladstone Ave., when I was very young. After my father came back from the war, he would occasionally bring home a feast for all of us from this particular fish and chip shop. He would say that it was just like the fish and chips he had had in London. Well Gladstone's loss was Mt. Pleasant's gain.

However, in the beginning, it wasn't always about the food. It was often about supporting businesses started by soldiers, who had come home from the front and were given small grants, either to start a business or to go back to school. Yes, we all loved the fish and chips, but we also wanted Penrose to survive. We wanted to get soldiers back to civilian life; we wanted to move on!! My father also took his beat up old Plymouth to a mechanic on Dufferin St., who morphed his talent for fixing aircrafts, into fixing cars.

That's how we got back on our feet - one chip and one bolt at a time, with a mutual support system. With so much unemployment these days, we need to do more of this mutual supporting. Too many people are outsourcing their dollars to the Amazons of this world, forgetting that the bricks and mortar, mom and pop businesses got us to where we are today. Don't abandon them now!!

We didn't abandon Penrose and there were huge line-ups and even film crews, at the shop, on their last day. There's a lot to be said for staying the course, keeping to the basics, believing in who you are and delivering the most amazing customer service for 64 years.

Have an awesome day!!




Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Magic of Angels

Yesterday I needed a little magic to lift my spirits. My husband pointed out that the temperature would not get above 11ºC, no matter how hard it tried! Ugh!! This is the slow descent into Winter. Help, I needed a reprieve. I needed to be reminded that there is more to life than the daily "grind," the slow descents, the greys..... I needed "Magic Wednesday."

When all else fails, I turn to poetry, to see the world in a different light. My favourite poet lately has been Billy Collins. Today I found an amazing poem of his on angels -

Questions About Angels

BY BILLY COLLINS
Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

A Fall (not fallen) Angel

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.


There, that's better. Oh and I'll have a glass of unfiltered divine light - hmmm make that two :) -

Have an awesome day!!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Nuit Blanche Neuf - Deux

This is my second post on the ninth celebration of Nuit Blanche in Toronto, Oct 4/5, 2014. For me this all night Art show has always been about the people and the magic that it brings to the ordinary, everyday landscape of the city.



For example, this Henry Moore sculpture took on a totally different vibe, when I realized that the young person below was taking a running "slide" through the piece, while a friend captured it on video.  I love the way people create their own Art by interacting with what is there :)


My "Art" is trying to capture the "magic" of the night. Neon signs have always fascinated me. Here are a few.


This one is open to interpretation :)


as are these.


Finally, the moon and her minions, the lights that whiten the night.

Have a great day!!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Nuit Blanche Neuf

Last Night from 7:00pm to 7:00am Toronto hosted its ninth annual Nuit Blanche - an all night Art "party," in various pods around the city, that is totally free!! I have gone out for everyone of them and they are amazing. Each year is different. Often the locales change; the installations always change; however, the crowds, although different, never seem to change. They are made up of people of all ages and abilities, just milling around, in awe, at how different the city can be.

Toronto does magic really well for nuit blanche!! Here are some examples -


We couldn't actually figure this one out, but it was OCAD's contribution. The dots are coins in water with blue lights. Somethings in life maybe shouldn't be explained :)


This was not really an installation, it's part of a passageway at the AGO, however, the night turns the ordinary into the amazing, as I have said and my husband enjoyed this one.


This year, as well as last, the Art Gallery invited people to vote for three photographers. Each artist had about ten pieces of their work displayed in a gallery setting. The public could view them free of charge, because it was Nuit Blanche and afterwards vote for a favourite. We voted for the one above, an African photographer, who captured herself in a totally different setting. I wondered what Hemingway would have said about this matador.

We spent the rest of our time around Spadina between Dundas and Queen Sts. The crowds were manageable until you got to Queen St. However, we did see this maze.


It was a huge installation with thousands of beach balls that were actually globes. If you lined up long enough, you could walk through the maze and ohhh and ahhh as the lights changed through the spectrum. It was really a fairyland and a chance to celebrate the wonder that is our world!!

Here was another piece at Queen and John.


Magical islands in the sky. I am always stunned at the time and money spent for just twelve hours of glory!! It says a lot about how we respect art and its importance in our lives.

Unfortunately, we never really get to the other areas of the city that have equally amazing presentations. If I could only sleep all day and party all night, I could revel in each and everyone of them. Maybe some day :)

More pics next post.

Have an amazing day!!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Worlds of Wanwood....

This poem has been rolling around in my head for a week or so now. I usually remember it in autumn because its colours are more Fall than Spring. I know, often the very first sign of Spring is a haze of yellow, as the leaf buds swell, however, this is never as spectacular as Autumn's palette.



Every year seems to go out in a blaze of glory. Nature is so beautiful, just before she dies. Would that we had the same fate. What if we were born old and grew young - an eerie thought. Maybe the only way to capture this "fanfare" in our own lives is to create as much excitement as we can before the frost.



The poet is one of my favourites - Gerard Manly Hopkins.

Spring & Fall: to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


Have a colourful day!!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Drop everything and "hike"!!

Last Saturday the forecast was for 25ºC and sun. We decided to forego our usual routine of grocery shopping and house cleaning to savour the few remaining days of really good weather. In the morning, with lunch packed, we headed out to the Hockley Valley to hike that area of the Bruce Trail plus two of its side trails.



It was a gorgeous day!! The trails were a little challenging, with lots of switchback climbs and tricky descents, however, I particularly liked one trail  - Cam Snell - which went through some open fields and an abandoned orchard. It was very pretty. There were a few hikers on the paths, but not many. One person told us that she had taken a photo of a salmon swimming up a stream on a tract of the trail just south of us. I made a note that I should travel with address cards, so that I could ask for pictures.


I looked for salmon in every stream we crossed!!


Most of the pictures I took with my cell phone, because I had forgotten my camera. I couldn't believe it!


After a 4.5 mile hike we treated ourselves to drinks and a cheese plate at a quaint restaurant - The Black Birch - very close to the trail. It had a lovely outside patio that wasn't very busy. Unfortunately, I couldn't remove the power line from this photo, but the colours are lovely.

Our return trip is always through the Holland Marsh on #9 highway. This time we stopped at a farmer's market on the way home for apples, tomatoes and heirloom carrots. I couldn't resist the pumpkins, especially the white ones :)


Have an awesome day!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Essence of Escoffier

A while ago, I traded the ironing of my son's shirts for some of his tech savvy.  I decided, the other day, to cash in a few of the points I had accumulated and have him set us up on Netflix. "Take that, Rogers on Demand." Even though my husband and I are polar opposites as far as tastes in movies are concerned, I felt that I could make it work by trading off documentaries for Baseball movies every other session.

Unfortunately, we had watched every baseball film listed. Scrolling down the list, I found a documentary on the Knuckleball - he wasn't interested, he doesn't like documentaries. I was about to give up, when I saw the title "Julie and Julia." OK, it's not Baseball, but it is food and he does like food!! He also likes Paris and maybe even Meryl Streep!! I thought, I'll give it a try. "Sure, I don't mind," he yawned, thinking that he could always sleep through it!!

Of course I loved the film. It was all about cooking and writing - books and blogs, with wonderful scenes of Paris and dinner parties in New York. This is a movie, I could watch again and again, without him of course, although he did manage to stay awake the entire time.

Before the film and the "blook" - a book based on a blog, I remember my friend Brenda, who also loves food and Paris, mentioning Julie's blog. The concept was mind-boogling. To cook a meal a day based on Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then to blog about it, was an incredible challenge.

Picnic Dinner

I've been itching ever since to do some marathon cooking. I remembered that my brother-in-law had given me Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire, in translation, about ten years ago. I also remembered that, at the time, I took one look at it and realized, not only was it too difficult, but also every recipe, it seemed, had enough fat content to line both the inside and outside of every artery in my body!!

Hmmmm, maybe I could find a low fat or at least lower fat entry or two. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), I found the book and began leafing through it - there are 16 chapters - the first of which is Sauces, listed as: stocks, roux, basic sauces, small compound brown and white sauces, cold sauces, English sauces (in a French cook book!), marinades, brines and savoury jellies. In fact there are 280 sauces, beginning with Estouffade - Brown Stock, which is simmered for 12-15 hours (could I stay awake that long?) and ending with Red Wine Fish Aspic Jelly. Where does one begin?

The picture? A cold, mostly uncooked dinner. OK, I cooked the potatoes for the potato salad :)

Have a great day!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toronto Traffic

I try to avoid rush hour in the city. I am not a patient person in a queue and I am always looking for an escape.

Unfortunately, last night, I had to take my son downtown about 6:00pm to deliver a piece of artwork to a client. That meant gridlock down and back, sigh! I could avoid most of the traffic on Mt Pleasant by taking the side streets. The extension through the valley was fairly quick too, because the construction on the bridge was finally over. It was Jarvis St. that was the problem. City council, in all its wisdom, has decided to prevent left hand turns on most north-south routes during rush hour. How do you ever get to go east, when southbound or west when northbound? I was southbound on Jarvis St.  OK, how do I get over to Parliament St?

If you can't turn onto a major cross-street, and you don't want to drive 3 or 4 miles out of your way, you can either -
1. Pull into one side of a gas station on a strategic corner and drive out the other side.
2. Find a driveway to pull into. Back out carefully into northbound traffic and reverse your direction, so that you are able to make a right hand turn onto the cross street you need.
3. Make an illegal left-hand turn. This is how crazy it is.



Executing one of the above, I got us to where we had to be - Carlton St. about a block and a half west of Parliament. Fortunately, I could park on the street and wait for my son to deliver his art and return to the car. I busied myself taking pictures and watching the traffic build from the lights at Parliament. I was also planning my return journey. Technically I had to go straight ahead into the back up at Parliament, because the side street in front of me was one way going north. I couldn't turn into it. However, I could pull ahead and back into it, making it look as though I had just driven up the street, maybe :)

The trick now was to make a left hand turn into the gridlock. I pulled ahead. The car to the right moved up slightly, however, to my left was a streetcar and they don't (or can't) back up. So there I was stuck between two vehicles waiting for a light to change. Well, I had to wait for several lights to change - not sure why. Finally, I was able to pull through the opening and fortunately, there were no cars speeding past me in the westbound lane, to hold me up. Streetcars are unforgiving and they make this horrible clanging noise, when they are angry!!

The rest of the trip home should have been a breeze, except that there was a fire in an apartment building at Jarvis and Charles, which drew about ten fire trucks and closed the road. All traffic was detoured east to Sherbourne, where I had to double back along Bloor St. This is how a twenty minute drive can take over an hour in Toronto!!

Have a great day!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What to Write?

I felt today that I needed to write something - but what? It was actually easier to write last year when I accepted a challenge to write a blog a day for the year. In fact, I did write 365 blogs in 2013, maybe not everyday, but sometimes I wrote three in one day. This is often how the creative process works - sometimes there's nothing and sometimes there's a whole lot :) Somehow, when you know you have to write, you dredge up a topic or two and just start. When you don't actually have to do anything, you tend to wait for the perfect combination of topic and enthusiasm!

So maybe I have the enthusiasm today, but not the topic :) When all else fails, make a list!!

1. I could write on the new recipient of the Ignoble prize. He was written up recently in the local newspaper under the heading, "The Father, Son and Holy Toast." He's a researcher who has studied people who see images, often of a religious nature, in common, everyday items, such as food. I thought, oh, this is great! I can take some pictures at breakfast and bingo have a blog post. Except that I didn't see any images, religious or otherwise. Somehow, my toast was just that, toast. The milk in my tea hadn't curdled, so there was nothing there. Alas, the agnostic in me has prevailed and I am doomed to lead a life governed by practical science. Sigh, I did so want to believe in fairies :)

Killer Coleus

2. Maybe it's time for cupboards again. Now, that's not closets. There is a lot to write about, when we start stirring up the dust in closets. No, I was thinking kitchen cupboards and what they have to say about our personalities. You know, what is kept and what is discarded says a lot about a person. For example, I have a mason jar full of small candy canes that were left over from trimming a Christmas tree many years ago. Why are they still in the back of the cupboard and how come I can't just throw them out?

3. I could write about my new ballet class. Yes, I decided that I needed a little exercise and a lot more "grace," so I have enrolled in an adult ballet class on Wednesday mornings. I will leave this post for another day, when I can look a lot more graceful in those walls of mirrors that seem to be in every dance studio!!

4. I could write about an attack of the giant Coleus. Well, it's September and I stop gardening in July, so everything has grown out of proportion. The plants that take over, have and the plants that don't, have succumbed. It's the perfect analogy of life - in the ungoverned state, those that use a lot of manure thrive!!

5. Finally, I could write about, how I managed to solve the mysterious mechanics of a digital timer and get a program re-set for the furnace to come on again - the joys of Autumn :) Well, I can't really write about it now, because it hasn't really been solved. We are still battling temperatures of 27ºC at night and 10ºC in the morning. Time to call Honeywell.

Have an awesome day!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hanover...How did this happen....?

As predicted, it was raining Monday morning when we set out to drive back to TO. We would have planned another walk, except there was little chance that the weather would change, so we just hunkered down and accepted "the wrath of God."

Anyway the plan was to have coffee and a muffin at the little restaurant (which BTW doesn't do breakfast) attached to our resort. Sorry they only do muffins on the weekend and this was Monday morning. But there was this place on the highway near the golf course. A twenty minute drive brought us to a sign that said they opened at 11:00am...hmmmm. What about the bakery another 10 minutes away - also closed. That is how we managed to leave the Bruce Peninsula on empty stomachs and drive all the way to Wiarton for food!!

It was still raining when we walked up one side of the main street and down the other of this very typical small town, which makes headlines every February 2, when Wiarton Willy, the gopher turned meteorologist, comes out of his hole, or not, as the case may be. Obviously Wiarton's answer to Monday morning depression is to simply not go to work - almost every business on the main street was closed - sigh! Actually we did find a little coffee shop at the end of the strip which had coffee, muffins and a very eclectic decor in black and red that would wake anyone up on a Monday morning.

On the road again, as Willy Nelson would say, we headed home. Well, at least we thought we were heading home. The road was straight, what could possibly go wrong. Well, as Napolean met his Waterloo, so too did we meet our Hepworth. Somewhere, in Hepworth, ON we missed a sign that said, for highways 6 and 10 turn East here. Unfortunately, we didn't!!  Yes, we were travelling on a road marked "10", however, it was a township (or county) road not a provincial highway, even though it looked to all intents and purposes like your regular highway.



It wasn't until we were almost in Hanover that we realized our mistake. By then we were an hour and a half off course and completely lost. Not to mentioned embarrassed!! Well, Lord Simcoe, bless your little grid-locked heart, because technically we should be able to take anyone of these concession roads going east and get over to what would now be number 10 highway. No, it doesn't work that way. We may have a grid system for our roads, but they are still a labyrinth. I secretly believe that this is how they populated most of southern Ontario. Trap people on the grid and they'll just give up and start a town!!

We were close to that. After what seemed like an eternity we stopped at a conservation area for a bathroom break. The place was pretty much deserted except for one person in a car, in the parking lot. Normally, I would not approach anyone just sitting in a car, in the rain, at some random conservation area, in the middle of no-where, on a Monday morning, but we were desperate!! We tapped on his window. He was reading. We asked how to get to Flesherton. Well, our resource person wanted to know more. Where were we going? - Toronto. Were we from Toronto? - yes. Where abouts (local dialect) in Toronto? This was going to take a while - sigh! Finally, he got out his map, and together with our map, we both worked out a way to get us, at least, to Shelbourne!!

The rain by now had stopped, however, I took no delight in the scenery. After all, I was the navigator and I had failed!! It's best not to talk at these times, especially since it was now about 2:00pm and we were both starved. Finally we saw the signs for highway 10, found a roadside diner, had a bowl of soup and headed South to Orangeville. An adventure, yes, but one I could have done without!!

The picture? - It sums up the experience of the day!!

Have a good one :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Another "Oh no, what have I done moment?"

This oh no! moment came after lunch. There are these times in life, when we seem to move from the tediously mundane to the very cliff edge of existence in just a few minutes (OK, maybe half an hour). Let's begin with the mundane, lunch. It was difficult to find a decent sandwich shop in Tobermory for lunch. Everyone seems to do either wraps or pizza. Unfortunately, unless you have kitchen facilities where you are staying, it's hard to make a simple lunch for the trail. No one seems to do boxed lunches either, well, it isn't wine country!! Anyway, I did manage to find a coffee shop that had bagels and my husband settled for a wrap.

Rocky trail
Fed and watered, or at least "coffee-ed," we drove out to our next trail. This was in the national park just beside the one we were in this morning. Obviously the Bruce Peninsula has come to Ottawa's attention. We left our paid entrance voucher from the first park on our dash, hoping that there was some arrangement for day passes between the two facilities, because we didn't want to have to pay again.



With an air of complete confidence, we strolled up to the billboard at the entrance to the trail. This is where trail conditions are posted and a lot the other information, such as, notes about snakes and bears, just in case. Then we read the fine print. Paraphrased, it went something like this - "Please note that this trail is one of the most difficult on the entire Bruce Trail system. Know your skill level." Gulp! I was ready to turn back. I had visions of a path skirting rock faces, with no obvious means of hanging on!! This was not going to be fun!! My husband was not deterred. "When it gets too difficult, we'll turn back," he said. Whew! now if there were an accident, it wouldn't be my fault. He was given an opportunity to back out and he didn't - "Oh no moment" responsibility dodged again!!

Steep descent
OK, deep breath, move on. Actually, although the trail was narrower than many, with a number of patches of loose rock and one very significant rock face to climb down (and up on the return journey), it wasn't that much more challenging than the paths around Limehouse, which we had done before. "Say not that the struggle naught availeth," it did (availeth, that is)!! The magnificent views were worth every twisted footfall!!



The trail did not actually skirt the cliffs, as I had imagined, so there was little danger of falling onto the rocks below unless, of course, you got too close to the edge at the various look out spots. In fact, there were trees on either side of the path to cling to. Even with hiking polls, a little more support was needed at times, at least by us. We did, however, meet some young hikers with heavy backpacks, who were virtually "running" along the track - show offs :)


It was a great day and given that rain is forecast for tomorrow, we were happy that we had caught a window of good weather for this particularly stunning part of the Bruce Trail. Time for dinner, at the Grandview, again. Their blackened local white fish is amazing!!

Have a wonderful day!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Sunny Sunday...

Finally a day of almost complete sun. After breakfast at Craigies in Tobermory, we drove to the Fathom V National park, paid our entrance fee - less than $15.00 - sorry I can't remember it exactly - sun fever no doubt :) and began our walk. Here you have a choice of trails to take to the very popular grotto area. The easiest and most direct route is a wide crushed stone path good for strollers, wheelchairs and Sunday walkers. The "road less travelled" is a more traditional Bruce Trail trek - narrow, winding, and just so pretty. Part of this trail also crosses a very stony beach with gorgeous views of the sapphire waters of Georgian Bay.



Blue lake, rocky shore, billowing sky!


A very stony beach which I found a challenge. Needless to say my husband didn't!!



Further along the coast is the very popular grotto area.


This is a photographers dream. Can you see the clouds reflected in the still water of the cave?


A beautiful sunny morning!  Another hike this afternoon.

Have a wonderful day!!