Friday, July 31, 2015

Life's Little Moments

The message on our kitchen chalkboard says it all.

Life is made of the little moments.

Cardinal House chalkboard

The past week has been filled with many little and wonderful moments. Here's a quick snapshot of what we've been up to.......

My son Dallas, Richard and I headed down to The Beaches Jazz Festival last Friday. The festival has been running for 27 years, and was something my kids looked forward to each year. A 3.5 km stretch along Queen Street is filled with people who invade the neighbourhood to take in the sounds of the various bands. The restaurants are packed, food trucks and vendors line the curbs, and it becomes a sea of music lovers strolling each night.

Arsenals at Beaches Jazz

It was several years ago that we met Dr. Draw, an  electric violinist master (click HERE to view a youtube video). Eugene and his band play each year at the Jazz Festival, and it was five years ago that he performed for us at a private event we held - so it was great to catch a few minutes with him after his set. If Jagger played classic music on violin - he would be named Dr. Draw. This man has unbelievable energy and a very unique talent with the strings.

Ironically Dr. Draw played under a 'no stopping' sign; I couldn't help but think that there really as no stopping him.

We caught a few numbers by Paul James Band (here). This musician is like a cross between Springsteen and Bob Dylan. It turns out that Paul appeared with Dylan in 1999, and the two men remain friends. His energy had the crowd jumping and singing along with him.

And no matter where we go Richard runs in to someone he knows. It was while watching another band that he spotted a sound technician he knew. Kim and Company Band (here) was front and center at the edge of Kew Gardens park. This big band is a favourite for weddings and corporate events. And - WOW!!

Kim and Company Band
The smells of great food flooded the neighbourhood. We lucked out and managed to get on the patio at HogTown - ribs and fixins were on the menu. Thankfully we walked a lot. The sweet smell of corn was everywhere as festival goers wandered the street with grilled cobs in hand.

Then the next day..........

We shared dinner with special friends at one of our favourite restaurants - Cucci (here). My favourite appetizer there is mushrooms on toast - divine. It's always a special evening when we visit this local spot, and this time there was even a quick dance after dinner.

During the week.........

The weather was HOT ....... sizzling. But that didn't stop my sweet granddaughter Kya and I from having a girls day at Toronto Island. This is now our summer ritual for the past three years and Kya is a seasoned pro.
The island is a quick ferry ride over from the docks in Toronto harbour. You can see the planes land at Billy Bishop Airport and take in a breath taking view of the city from the deck of the ferry.

The CN Tower sits behind condo's along the lake edge.

Centreville is the amusement section of the island. They have maintained great old fashioned rides for small children. Kya's favourite it the log ride - this little daredevil has been taking the splash since she was three.
So off we went (twice) in the big log boat, floating along the river, then up and over the drop. Both of us squealing and laughing.

We rode the train, waved to everyone along the way and let our voices be heard when they rolled through the dark tunnel.

We took in the tea cup ride, merry go round and braved the ferris wheel (ha, we are both overcame our fear of heights) and roller coaster.

Pizza and ice cream provided energy for Kya to run around the water park. With temps hitting 35 degrees even Grandma got into running through the fountains there.

If you are looking for a romantic ride at the island, the Gondola is for hire (docked at the arc bridge).

We visited Far Enough Away Farm - Kya's LOVES this part of the island and goes crazy when she see's all the animals. We fed the baby swans at the pond, and then ..........we took one last zoom down the log ride before heading home.

Life's little moments all strung together to make incredible memories.

........... just in time for another weekend.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Garden Love


I'm in love with these beauties.

First blooms on our new hydrangea plants in the front garden make me stop and smile every day.
Tucked below her soft blue blooms are the orchid pink New Guinea impatiens.
They compliment each other so well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Refreshing Break

Yes, it's Wednesday and I'm finally getting around to posting about our weekend. I guess that means that the break away really was relaxing.
Last weekend was one of the hottest weekends we've had this summer, and we had already planned to grab a few days to relax near the lake. And - if you are a regular reader of the blog you will already know that means a drive down to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's so close by and yet feels like I've escaped to somewhere far away.

Our last minute decision to go (at the height of the summer booking season) left us wondering if we'd be able to find a place to stay. Luck had it that there was a cancellation at a B & B and we scooped up the suite. The Georgian Residence is a B & B that I've wandered past many times, but had not visited. What a delight!

 click photo to link to their web
The Georgian Residence - 58 Johnson St. Niagara-on-the-Lake

I took very few pictures, so some of the the images are from the web. Sometimes enjoying the moment is more important to me than taking out the camera. Although I will admit that I was itching to take pictures of the incredible breakfast each morning (more on that in a minute).

The B & B is right in the heart of NOTL old town. We parked the car on Friday night and didn't get back in to it until we left on Sunday. Everything was in walking distance.

Owners of the inn, Kate and Bobby, are the most inviting and welcoming couple. They work hard at keeping things in order and fresh, that is evident in every corner of the property.
The residence is circa 1830, and the charming couple have owned and operated the inn for the past ten years. There are three guest suites - one on the main floor and two on the second floor. We snuggled down in the Eckersley Suite that also features it's own walkout to a deck area. Each suite features a King size four poster bed, full bath, wet bar with fridge, and a sitting room complete with a wood burning fireplace (what a great feature for fall and winter stays).

The Eckersley Suite Bedroom - via The Georgian Residence

Sitting room with fireplace - The Eckersley Suite

The word for the bed and bath is Luxurious. This couple does not skimp on quality and you feel it in everything you touch.
Beds are well finished with an abundance of luxurious linens and comfortable mattresses. The bathrooms are stocked with fluffy towels and generous amounts of full size toiletries (shampoo/conditioner/bath gel/toner/lotion/hairdryer - even a candle to light while soaking in the tub). I'm sure if you forgot your toothbrush they would have one for you - they seem to think of everything.

One of the guest baths. via Georgian Residence

Apple TV, a'la all the bells and whistles, is installed in each suite. There was a large plasma in the sitting area and a smaller one in the bedroom. ipod stations in the bedroom allow you to play your own tunes.  

After a long walk in the very humid temps, we ventured back to the inn to take a quick dip in the pool before heading out to the Shaw Festival.

Breakfast is served at a communal table in the front dinning room. The room, which includes a wood burning fireplace, is richly decorated and features comfortable high back chairs. We lingered and chatted with the other guests while we were all indulged by Kate's incredible culinary talents. If you visit this B & B (and I recommend you do), plan to savour the morning and enjoy the breakfast. This is the point that I itched to take photos, but thought it would be rude to the other guests.

This is an older picture I found on the net of the kitchen area. The dining is now a private seating room for the couple and the breakfast is served in the front dining room. Note the detailed plaster cornices - that is the handwork of owner Bobby. Kate's much prized AGA stove sits under the stain glass windows to the left.

The owners of the inn are a precision team. Kate is cooking and plating the breakfast while Bobby serves the guests in the dining room. Their timing is perfect.
Did I mention that the early morning meal is three courses. Kate cooks on an AGA - which is a skill in itself. It is evident that she loves to cook and compliments each serving with detailed plating techniques.

Eggs Benedict - one of the mains at The Georgian Residence

Bobby quietly slips in and out of the dining room serving each course and constantly filling your cup with delicious coffee. He stops periodically to chat with all of us and provides information about the area that they've come to call home since landing here from Scotland ten years ago.

Dining Room at the Georgian Residence

After breakfast we wandered into the kitchen to give a well deserved verbal applause to Kate and Bobby. They are a welcoming and happy couple who will make your stay memorable, and make you dream of returning.

If you are looking for something different to do among the regular vineyard tours, take in the Land Rover Safari Wine Tour - HERE. Ride to the back fields of three award winning wineries in an open side Land Rover Defender. No one else in NOTL has back lot access to the vineyards. You know it's going to be an adventure because Bobby is at the wheel. Guests of the inn receive a discount.

Richard and I decided a long walk was in order before taking in two Shaw plays. We were entertained by Pygmalion at the afternoon theatre and then enjoyed Light Up The Sky for the evening performance. I have too many things to say about the plays so my critics review is simple - see them. They were marvelous. We saw Sweet Charity last month - it was incredible. Shaw Festival has so much to offer - HERE. We've never been disappointed.

The highlight was having a weekend long date with Richard and sharing the fun together.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pan Am Games 2015

July is turning out to be a month of celebrations here. Canada Day got the party started and we have welcomed the Pan American Games to Toronto this week. The opening ceremonies took place Friday night at the Rogers Centre - for those who do not live here this is 'The Dome' that is nestled next to the CN Tower. Concerts of epic proportions are held at this venue and last night it was a performance to welcome the athletes that had the town rocking.

Fireworks explode from the CN Tower marking the start of the Pan Am Games.

The building, planning and preparations have been lengthy in Toronto and the surrounding area. The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) may be struggling tolerating the highway changes made to accommodate the games, but the opening ceremonies has brought excitement to the city this weekend.

The Gold Medal 4 x100 relay team at the 1996 Atalnta Olympics carried the Pan Am torch across the city. Canadian track and field athlete Bruny Surin worked with the Cirque du Soleil team to help him overcome his fear of heights. The gold medal winner (attached by a tether) sprinted around outer rim of the CN Tower to pass the torch to Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey, who was wearing a parachute. 

1,168 feet (116 storeys) above the ground, the torch is passed and then .......

The magic of film creates the illusion that Bailey jumped with the torch, while a stunt double takes the step off of the ledge and lands on the domed roof of the Rogers Centre.
(More about edge walks at the CN Tower - yes, you can walk the edge - HERE)

Inside the Rogers Centre athletes parade their flags and wave to the cheering crowds. Cirque du Soleil presented the 150 minute opening ceremonies that featured 625 performers.

Over 700 Canadian athletes arrive for the games.
Canada welcomes the athletes to the Pan Am Games. (image Rick Madonik)

And of course no party in Toronto would be complete without participation from the CN Tower. Fireworks exploded from various points and created a spectacular picture of the city line.

Canada is off to a good start with 8 medals already - 4 of them gold. Let's hope that the home town crowds will bring good luck as we cheer on our athletes.

Good luck to all of the athletes from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America. It's your time to shine and Toronto's turn to roll out the carpet that leads to the winners podium.

image: Marcus Mitanis

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Let the party begin.

Happy 148th Birthday Canada.

Let the party begin.

 It's time to wave the maple leaf flag and apologize (because we are Canadian and that's what we do) for looking so great at 148 years old. 

So proud to be Canadian.


Where the Path Leads You.

The sun was shining and the air was warm one morning last week, so I skipped away from my normal routine and decided a walk at the lake was in order. I had it all planned - a slow, quiet walk with coffee in hand. Time to enjoy the vista, to stop and smell the roses. We have such a pretty view on our doorstep and I hadn't taken the time to enjoy it in so long.

The shoreline at Oakville, Lake Ontario

It was a morning of pretty scenery (which I'll share with you in a minute) and one of tranquility, but along the path there was more. A chance meeting with a woman piqued my interest more than the pretty landscape.

A brief morning greeting had me stopping to chat with the lady for awhile. We introduced ourselves to one another, spoke vaguely about our families - the basic things strangers share. Visiting the lake is her routine - wandering when the weather allows, sitting quietly to watch the birds skim only inches above the water (her favourite part) and to listen to the soft joyful noise of the church bells ringing. She has time to observe and take it all in, time to think - too much time. The woman is younger than me with a child half my youngest child's age. I would say her whole life is ahead of her, but life is hard and it will be shortened. MS limits her. She brings herself to the path in a motorized wheelchair.

Quickly our conversation extends beyond the view of the lake and becomes about life, kids, and God - it made me stop and breath deep.  After a bit of time I found myself standing there holding her hand and chatting. I don't think she could possibly know how incredibly bright she is - and how she changed my day.

Our conversation carried me throughout the remainder of the walk and the entire day. Well - and here I am, many days later still thinking about the real rose that I came upon. Suddenly the path was not just one along the waters edge, under the canopy of mature tree's. Sometimes the path leads you to look at a much bigger picture.

Shortly after I said goodbye and continued my walk, I received a phone call that was expected - but still unwelcome. A member of our family had passed away early that morning. I was walking along the rose beds at Gairloch Gardens and decided that I shouldn't just stand there and look at the blooms. The morning brought more of a need to actually smell the roses. While I was kneeling in the grass to breath in the scent of the roses, it was the perfect opportunity to say a prayer.

Roses at Gairloch Gardens

The bells at Saint Andrew's Church ring softly each morning.

Let the path lead you.........