Walking in Sunshine

Last week was a bad one for me … the kind of week where my goal was to get through it without hurting myself – or someone else.

It was a week of insomnia.

The garage made an unexpected jerk-move and leaped in front of me while I was trying to back out … smacking up the front-end of my car.  Yeah, I know.  It doesn’t sound right to me either, but I’m sure that’s exactly what happened.

A still-unidentified allergic reaction left my right eye red-ringed and swollen almost completely shut.  Meantime, the lack of sleep made my left eye twitch uncontrollably.   I looked outright scary.

Which brings me to the late night romp on the roof of the house with a flashlight in one hand and a broom handle in the other.  The broom was for self-defense.  I was alone all week and of course that was when one enterprising raccoon decided to climb on our roof and tear the cap off one of the vents.

It did occur to me as I crept along the roof, in my pajamas, in the dark, to confront a raccoon, that perhaps this could end badly.  The only good part in the entire escapade was that it was so dark outside, I couldn’t see exactly how high up I really was.  These things always seem to happen when Gilles is away.

No.  Last week wasn’t a good one, and I wasn’t a happy camper.

So, this week I decided to shake the stink off from last week and go on a field trip looking for a sunflower farm.  What could be better for lifting the spirits than spending some quality time driving down a peaceful country road and photographing fields full of bright yellow sunny heads?

Yeah, well, it didn’t exactly work out that way.

Oh, the driving up and down country roads part was pretty accurate.  My GPS – aka The Bitch – took me on a convoluted tour of the entire countryside before finally deciding to have mercy on my frazzled soul.

But it didn’t get better from there.

I had missed the peak bloom of the sunflowers.

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Look lively, Bob.  We have company!

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Company?!  Oh dear, we just had a shower and look a mess!

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I don’t see anyone.  Are you sure there are people here?

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Yoohoo!  I’m over here!!

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Shhh!  Be quiet out there!  If you wake everyone up, there’ll be hell to pay!

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Too late.  It’s going to be a long day.

Posted in Around Toronto, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, photography, Things I Like | Tagged , , , , , | 76 Comments

The Tower of Port Hope

The doors are ordinary and rather battered, but the building they are attached to is definitely not.

Port Hope8All along the St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, there are numerous communities with a rich history from the 1800s.  The town of Port Hope east of Toronto is one of those.

I discovered this old water tower in Port Hope by accident, while looking for an award-winning bakery known for its Canadian specialty – butter tarts.

It turns out that finding the building was the easy part. Trying to unearth the history of it was an entirely different matter.

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When I searched for “Tower of Port Hope“, I got links to a retirement residence located next door.

Further poking around the interwebs, I found “Greenwood Tower“, but it only provided information about the motel located on the property and not the water tower itself.

Finally I stumbled across a reference to the “Belgrave Water Tower” and found an article about the history of this wonderful 1877 building.

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Although in disrepair, the building is still stunning with its fan design of wrought iron in the lower windows,

… the ornate railings along the roof of the extension of the first floor,

… the widow’s walk and the balustrades around the windows on the third level

… and let’s not forgot those circular spoke windows on the top level.

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Although I couldn’t see inside the tower, it is said to have a wooden circular staircase that winds up to the 4th level, and deep below the tower is a brick-walled well that is 10 feet across and drops down about 75 feet (3 metres and 23 metres respectively).

It was built on a 30-acre estate known as Belgrave, and the tower provided water to the house and surrounding gardens.  I’m obviously talking about a local businessman with serious wealth.

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It may look derelict and abandoned, but a family of feral cats currently call the tower home. Pretty fancy digs whether you’re a cat or not.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.  Check it out and discover a world of doors.

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Grim Reality

I am just one of so many blogs written by retirees – our focus on maintaining an active and relevant lifestyle.  We are not ready or content to sit back idly with our thoughts locked in the memories of our youth, watching the world go by without us.

We are carving out new chapters.

However, there is another side of retirement that is rarely talked about – that grim reality of aging.  We start to lose those near and dear to us.

People who have shared adventures with us.  People who have made the world a brighter place for having been a part of it.

I was lucky to have taken early retirement in my mid-50s.  The past 6 years have been full of laughter, new discoveries, and escapades … but I’ve also attended a shocking number of funerals and memorials.

Yes, there is the inevitable passing of the generation before us … our aging parents and those of our friends … but with greater and alarming frequency, I am saying farewell to a friend.

Each occurrence creates a tsunami of emotion, reflection, and yes – even fear.

Today is one of those days.

Shortly before dawn on this gray summer morning, another friend slipped away.  He left behind the broken hearts of his family and friends … and so many memories of his ever-present smile.

Rest In Peace, Lester.

Posted in Memories, Random Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , | 107 Comments

Shades of Lavender

Although I haven’t been blogging much lately, I’ve been stockpiling stories and doors like a hoarder.  Although I hadn’t planned a Thursday Doors post, I couldn’t resist sharing a door I found unexpectedly this afternoon.

French lavender is currently in bloom.  I had flip-flopped several times this morning as to whether I wanted to make the 90 minute drive to a lavender farm called Terre Bleu north-west of Toronto.

I finally just jumped in my car and went … and I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a door.

Terre Bleu

I’m still puzzled as to why a farm that is wrapped in multiple shades of lavender would be called “Blue Earth”.  Perhaps Terre Lavande just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

To echo the sentiment of the door, may all your worries be behind you.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by The Doorman, Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

Posted in Around Toronto, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, photography, Things I Like, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , | 84 Comments

A Chocolate Failure

Don’t let the sign fool you.  Welcomed, I was not.

Cadbury

It all started while on a walk with Helen on the Trans-Canada Trail east of Toronto.

Helen will stop and read every memorial plaque we encounter on our travels – without exception – and on this particular day we found one honouring the maker of the machinery that puts the caramel in the Caramilk bar.

 

Cadbury?  Did someone mention my favourite purveyor of chocolatey delights?

The only online references I could find to Mr Lester were to his 2016 obituary which appeared to now be closed to access.  I did however discover that Cadbury had a chocolate factory here in Toronto.  How could I have not known this earlier?!!

When it comes to chocolate, I tend to move swiftly and decisively, so without delay I embarked on the journey to an area of the city known as Dufferin Grove.

I found a very large, nondescript box of a building … and a large, imposing security guard.

“No, there aren’t any public tours except for school groups.”

“No, there is no public access to the factory museum except for school groups.”

“Please, I must insist you stop taking photos … especially of the signage.”

So I skulked away quietly.

Sometimes adventures end in disappointment.

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Summer Time Crazy

I’m sorry.

I know I haven’t been around much.

I blame summer.

Maybe I’m just trying to make up for last year’s failure when I moped around with a broken collarbone for the entire summer feeling sorry for myself.  Or maybe it’s just a quirk of us Northerners who feel compelled to squeeze out every possible minute of summer fun.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been too busy cramming in maximum summer activity rather than trying to keep up here in blogland.  You probably didn’t even notice I was gone.

I’ve been golfing for the first time in 3 years.  In spite of having taken many lessons over the years, I’m still horribly dysfunctional with a golf club … but it sure feels good to be back after such a long absence.

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On this 9-hole course, there is a water hazard on 7 holes and 5 bridges to cross to reach them.

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… that means I will lose at least 7 balls if I attempt to hit over the water.  It’s virtually guaranteed.

Although we’ve had some hot and humid days, they’ve been generously interspersed with overcast skies and rain.  Lots of rain.

Usually by the end of July, everything is starting to look scorched and brown, but this summer all the lawns and gardens are lush and deeply green.

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This is my front yard.  It’s flowering like it’s on steroids.  Needless to say, it doesn’t normally look like this.  Note to self – flowering plants LOVE lots of water … or maybe it was the compost …

With summer comes a lot of time spent around water on boats both big and small.

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… but not this boat though.  I thought that if I waved in a friendly manner, they might offer to take me out for a ride.  Sadly, it didn’t work.  This is the marina at Toronto’s Ontario Place

For the first time in about 13 years, I made it back north to The Island where we spent our childhood summers in a small cabin.  The small cabin isn’t there anymore – replaced by a 3-bedroom cottage – but the memories overflowed.

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It’s a small island of about an acre, surrounded by Crown Land and no other person for several kilometers.  For this city girl used to the constant hum of traffic in the background, it was odd to be back in a place where the darkness at night was absolute and the only sound was the cry of the loons.

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Prelude to a major thunderstorm that crashed through the area.  My sister and I sat outside on the veranda to watch the storm – something my mother would NEVER have allowed us to do.  She didn’t like the water, didn’t like The Island, and definitely didn’t like thunderstorms.

Speaking of water,  the Great Lakes are still unusually high with flooded shorelines all along Lake Ontario.  It doesn’t even look unusual to me anymore.  That’s a sad commentary.

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Toronto Harbourfront 

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… and yes, Helen and I are still making slow progress along the Trans-Canada Trail.

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Trans-Canada Trail along the shore of Lake Ontario east of Toronto in Pickering

There are still many more summer days ahead of us, so please forgive me if I’m sporadic in my visits.  I’m going to be busy trying to squeeze out as many memories as possible while I can.

Winter is coming.

This post is in response to The Changing Seasons monthly photo challenge hosted by Max at Cardinal Guzman.  This is my 3rd year participating in this monthly feature.

Posted in Active Lifestyle, Around Toronto, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, Photo Challenges, The Changing Seasons, Things I Like | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 95 Comments

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

I finally did it!

After 2 failed attempts to test out the skills I had learned at a kayaking clinic, the weather finally cooperated with me for an exciting journey on the water of the Grand River, about 90 minutes west of Toronto.

I had heard about this kayaking trip – tagged as suitable for beginners.  Kayakers are picked up at the planned exit point in the Brant Conservation Area, and then shuttled upriver to the town of Paris where the launch spot is located.

The kayakers are then left to navigate the 12 km journey back down the river, as quickly or as slowly as they like.

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On an impulse, I boldly registered online … and then spent 3 days stewing about the wisdom of going out … alone … to kayak for an estimated 3 hours … with no previous experience … on a river riddled with mini rapids.

I was practically making myself sick with worry about it – but then again, anyone who knows me well would say that’s just my default setting, and therefore it was situation normal.

The launch spot where I was taken did not inspire confidence and my anxiety level spiked again.

I briefly considered whether I might want to change my mind.  It did, however, make it very clear which direction I needed to go.

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My launch spot was at the base of this small dam.  It was a rough and rocky start – literally.

At 9:30 on a Monday morning, I was the only person on the river.  Once I got over the initial panic of navigating the turbulent water, I settled into a comfortable stroke.

I would be an hour on the water before I realized I was holding the paddle upside-down.

My only company over the 12 kms were numerous turtles sunning themselves on rocks, teams of various ducks, gaggles of Canada Geese, and the bonus for the day – dozens of Great Blue Heron.

They reminded me of modern pterodactyls squawking out their alarm as they watched me warily from the shore before taking flight.

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Obligatory photo of the kayak nose. 

I came close to capsizing a couple of times and at one point managed to wedge myself onto some rocks in a particularly rough spot of turbulent water.

I flailed around madly, trying desperately to get out of the small whirlpool in which I was embedded.  I have no idea how long I struggled before it finally occurred to me to simply get out of the kayak and walk it over the offending stones.

I had to do that twice.  Needless to say, I got really wet.

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The exit point is now only 2 kms away and I’m sorry it’s almost over.

Quite frankly, it was over before I knew it.  As usual, all the worry and concern I had that this adventure was too big and ambitious for my skill level, turned out to be unnecessary.

I can hardly wait to do it again.

Posted in Active Lifestyle, Adventure, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, Things I Like | Tagged , , , , , | 131 Comments

Of Inns and Taverns

Last year I began to delve into a bit of Canadian history and the Rebellion of 1837, which I wrote about here.

In my research about the Rebellion, I had read of an account where the leaders of the Rebellion had gathered at a local tavern called Montgomery’s where they plotted their civil disobedience over several glasses of brew.  It appears that shenanigans will always be hatched over a few drinks.

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I later discovered that the Montgomery Inn still existed and was now operated as a local Historical Museum.  Of course I put it on my list of must-visit places in the city and yesterday I made that trip with a good friend.

We had a wonderful tour of this historic building, but to my surprise, I discovered I was there for entirely the wrong reason.

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Who would have guessed that on the wild shores of Lake Ontario in 1837, there would be two Montgomerys, each with a public establishment, but with vastly different political leanings?

The owner of the Montgomery Tavern was a Scotsman and Rebel sympathizer, while the owner of the Montgomery Inn, was an Irishman and staunch Loyalist to the Crown.  Not only were they unrelated, they were on completely opposite sides of the Rebellion of 1837.

That little tidbit was uncovered at the beginning of our tour, and it just got better from there.

Our guide did a brilliant job of bringing the history of the Inn alive, as well as detailing life in the mid-1800s.

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An addition built onto the original Inn housed the bar and communal room

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Only the bartender is allowed beyond this point

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The storage area in the bar area

Montgomery’s Inn was only one in a string of inns along this major transportation route in the mid-1800s and became an important meeting place for the nearby community of Islington.

I learned that it was common practice at the time for the wife of the Inn owner to be the person who actually ran the operation, while the husband tended other aspects of the business, like the surrounding farmland.

If the wife died, the husband either remarried and the new wife took over the job of running the Inn, or the Inn ceased to operate.  The latter is what happened when Margaret Montgomery died before her husband in 1855.  The Inn was subsequently leased as a residence to tenant farmers until the mid-1940s.

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Door from the kitchen to the bar

There is a farmer’s market held on the grounds every Wednesday all year round.  In the winter, the market is moved indoors.  I was able to buy bread, freshly baked and still warm, from the outdoor wood oven.  It was a popular item and snatched up quickly by the local shoppers.

The museum recently started a new program. On the last Thursday of every month, a liquor license for the bar is obtained and hot stew, cooked over the fire in the ancient kitchen, is served.

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I love how this Inn has continued to make itself a relevant part of the community in which it belongs.  I have a feeling there will be a return trip to Montgomery’s Inn in my future.

If you have a small historical museum in your area, I recommend that you pay them a visit.  During the height of tourist season, these places are often overlooked as destinations in favour of larger venues.  If you can get a tour, do it.  Chances are, you will be fascinated with the tidbits of history you will learn.  I know I was.

…. now I have to go and plan a visit to the site of the former Montgomery’s Tavern.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

 

Posted in Around Toronto, history, photography, Things I Like, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , | 103 Comments

An Early Morning Fog

I’m sitting here listening to the rain hitting the skylight, putting a question mark on our Canada Day plans this evening.

I’m glad now that I was up very early this morning and decided on the spur of the moment to head downtown.

Strangely, as the morning got brighter, fog started to roll in off of the lake.

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Fog rolling in from the west towards downtown

It’s not something I get to witness very often and I was mesmerized as it slowly engulfed the shore.

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Going …

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… going …

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… barely there …

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Gone.

Posted in Around Toronto, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, Things I Like | Tagged , , , | 84 Comments

June: Still Waiting For Summer To Begin

My presence on social media has been sporadic the past month as I try to squeeze in as much activity as I can before winter returns – which, based on current temperatures, feels like it won’t be long.

Even though we are now passed the summer solstice, it feels like we are still waiting for summer to arrive.  Temperatures continue to be below normal and water levels are extraordinarily high everywhere.

I’m not to be discouraged though. I’ve been busy exploring unfamiliar places …

… and trying to learn new skills.

 

Sampling some of Canada’s *finest* cuisine at the Midland Buttertart Festival …

 

… and spending quality time with family members.

 

The overly generous amount of rain we continue to receive is making yard work a nightmare.  I think all the weeds are sentient beings and plotting a hostile takeover.

It could be worse though.  In some areas, farmers’ fields are underwater and the city can’t keep up with maintenance of green spaces.

 

I don’t know what July has to offer, but I’m hoping there will be a lot less rain and a lot more sunshine.

Changing Seasons is a monthly photo feature hosted by Max at Cardinal Guzman.

Posted in Active Lifestyle, Around Toronto, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, Photo Challenges, The Changing Seasons | Tagged , , , , , , | 102 Comments