Changing Seasons: September Slides Away

What happened to this month?  One day it was sunny and warm as summer lingered here in the north. For a while, I was somewhat confused by all the school buses on the road twice a day … surely it was still mid-August.

Then I merely blinked and now we are in the final days of September.  It’s chilly, overcast, and definitely feeling like autumn is here.  As I try to warm up by the fireplace, I wonder where the month went and why was it in such a hurry to leave.

These are some of the sights from my September.  Click on a photo to enlarge.

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



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Open The Gates

It’s time for Thursday Doors and the hounds are at the gate!

Ok, maybe there was just a blogger at the gate, but it doesn’t have quite the same punch, even if I did have a camera.

Once I got past the stripper club with its lap dances, my journey into the Garden District earlier this week resulted in the discovery of some lovely homes, great doors, and interesting gates.


I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate– Arthur Wing Pinero

heritage-gate5One of the purposes of my visit downtown was to see the “Bernard Hughes” house built in 1873.  It too had a lovely gate to keep the riffraff like me from venturing onto the property… although since the gate was left ajar, it was practically an invitation to go inside.

I resisted the temptation – barely.


Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information on the property – like, who exactly was Bernard Hughes? – but I did find an earlier photo of the property before its major facelift.


Photo from

The house I found had lost its Morticia Addams vibe and even the original iron fence had been replaced.


… but thankfully its lovely front door was saved.  I had to check to make sure there was no one peering at me from behind the curtains, and I love the hint of another interior archway that can be seen through the transom window.


This has been Thursday Doors, a weekly photo challenge hosted by the Door Master, Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.



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Not Mr Roger’s Neighbourhood

My newest obsession is the list of Toronto heritage buildings I found online earlier this summer.  I’ve been poking away at it for a while, trying to make it user friendly so I can plan outings.

One of the interesting things I discovered on the list was an area of the city called the Garden District.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was the very same area I lived in when I first moved to Toronto back in the “olden days” when I was fresh out of university.


Trust me, there was nothing garden-y about this area when I lived there.

My curiosity prevailed and a quick trip downtown was in order.  I wasn’t surprised to discover that in spite of the new signs, it’s still pretty gritty in the old stomping grounds.

I had a tiny one bedroom, basement apartment in an old building on a tree-lined street. The street is still beautifully lined with trees, but I did a double-take on the sign outside my former 2-storey apartment building.

There was nothing *luxury* about the building when I lived there, and it’s even less luxurious today.


The small building now looks underwhelming with its scruffy cedars, metal mesh on the basement windows, and tall no-nonsense fence wrapped around the property.

Whatever charm it once had is now gone.


It was a pretty rough neighbourhood when I lived there.   A short distance away from my apartment was a low-brow hotel and stripper club.  Quelle surprise!  It was still there, although it’s received a bit of a face-lift since the early 80s.


The sign that once simply proclaimed GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! now seems to have found a new *enticing* angle. I haven’t decided whether they intended it to be ironic or not.

Back then, I was young and blessedly naive.  I didn’t worry about being robbed on my way home from the subway, or having my basement apartment being broken into.  I didn’t feel threatened by the people who obviously lived on the streets, or the occasional guy, liquored up from the Filmore, who would follow me home.

It’s different now.  I think aging makes us feel more vulnerable.  We’ve seen, heard, and been exposed to so much more – and a lot of it unpleasant.  That’s just a long way of saying I was acutely uncomfortable walking alone on the streets.

The groups of men clustered near the Seaton House, a shelter for men, didn’t help.  Was that shelter always there?!!  How could I not have noticed before?

But like many other areas of the city, the Garden District is slowly going through gentrification.  Beautifully restored homes are more common than not.

heritage-pembroke2So why is it called the Garden District?

The name was officially designated by City Council in 2001 in recognition of Allan Gardens, a indoor Conservatory sitting on the northeast border of the District.

Heritage - Allan Gardens.jpg

Photo taken this summer on the first day of Bike Rally in support of People With Aids Foundation

There is a lot of history in this area.  I think I will be back for many more visits … which makes me think how funny it is that we sometimes end up exactly where we started.



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The Island Life

My city has a wonderful little neighbourhood that’s precious to the people who live there, but carries a bohemian mystique for those who don’t.  I finally ventured into the heart of this treasure for the first time.

Sitting in Toronto Harbour, with a gorgeous view of the city skyline, is a cluster of islands known simply as the Toronto Islands.

Tucked away on the far east end of this archipelago is Ward’s and Algonquin Islands (which I will call The Island) – certainly the most unique neighbourhood I’ve seen in Toronto.


The history of this residential area is long and rather convoluted.  My description of it here is superficial at best.

From the late 1800s to the mid 1950s, the Toronto Islands was a thriving summer resort area. Hotels, hundreds of cottages, and numerous amenities lined the islands from east to west on lots created and leased by the city.


View of the Toronto skyline from Ward’s Island

By the end of the 1940s, people were taking up full time residency on the islands because of a housing shortage in the city after the war.

In the late 1950s, when the city decided to convert the islands to parkland, they began recovery of the leased lots and the buildings on them were demolished.


By the 1970s, around 250 cottages remained … all of them clustered on The Island.  These were residents who were refusing to leave and they began a long legal battle against the city to fight their eviction.

In 1993, the Ontario government finally ended the dispute when it passed the Toronto Island Residential  Community Stewardship Act (TIRS Act).  It placed the remaining island properties in a land trust and 99 year leases were sold to the residents.


The TIRS Act is complex and is administered by the trust.  When properties on The Island become available, they cannot go on the usual real estate market.

A special process was developed for the sale* of these properties to prevent land speculation and escalation in property values.  Properties can be offered only to those individuals on a waiting list … individuals who have paid to be on that list.

* the land is leased by the Island Land Trust, but the building on the property is owned by the tenant.  The TIRS Act uses a formula to calculate the value of both the lease and the building on it.

If you are lucky enough to get on the waiting list – which is capped at only 500 – it is estimated that it will take approximately 35 years for your name to bubble up close enough to the top to *maybe* be offered one of the leases that infrequently becomes available.


Owners of an Island lease are required to use the property as their principal residence although there is a provision for limited rental.

There are no motor vehicles in this neighbourhood.  The *roads* are only slightly wider than a typical suburban sidewalk and accommodates only pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

I nearly had a collision with another cyclist at one of these intersections … a terrifying event given my still-healing collarbone.


At the intersection of Bayview and Fifth St on Ward’s Island

During the years of dispute between the city and the residents, the cottages had fallen into disrepair because the city wouldn’t issue building permits.  That has now changed.

Large modern homes are starting to dot the neighbourhood, but small cottages still dominate the area.


The Island has a fire station and a water treatment plant exists on the west end of the islands, but all purchases have to be made on the mainland and brought back to The Island via the ferry service that runs all year round.


This post is part of the weekly photo challenge, Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.


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Enter This Way

This post has been inspired by Joey at Joeyfully Stated.  You see, she did a door post today on arches and because of it, I’ve had arches on my mind.

While technically these aren’t doors, they are entrance ways and I do have a fondness for archways.


University of Toronto


Casa Loma (2014) Toronto


Queen’s Park, Toronto


Soldier’s Tower, University of Toronto


Bruce Trail (2013) – Beaver Valley

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

Posted in Around Toronto, history, Photo Challenges, Random Stuff, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 75 Comments

Let’s Talk Food and Drink

If you’ve ever been to Ontario Canada, you’ve probably wondered at some point where to buy wine – or beer – or any liquor, actually.

Control of all Ontario’s liquor sales occurs through the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), although beer can be bought at outlets we creatively call The Beer Store.


Image from  My local outlet doesn’t look this nice.

Shenanigans at the Beer Store are worth a post of its own, but I’m not sure I want to venture down that rabbit hole.


Image from

At the end of October, Ontario will be taking a huge leap into the 20th Century (yes, I know …) by allowing wine to be offered for sale at selected grocery stores.  We’re definitely not talking leading edge stuff here.

The bidding process is not insignificant to be one of the 70 initially allowed outlets …eg the store must have at least 10,000 sq ft of retail space available with food items.   Only SEVENTY stores in a province that’s almost 1.1 million sq km (424,700 sq miles).  Obviously the Ontario Government has taken the position we can’t be overly cautious.

Ok, in fairness, a major chunk of the province is virtually unpopulated, but the population of Toronto alone is about 2.8 million – and that doesn’t include the ubiquitous squirrels and raccoons.  I don’t think I’ll be abandoning my local LCBO outlet anytime soon.

Anyway, I didn’t really intend to write this post about Ontario’s archaic liquor laws. This post was actually inspired by a little jewel the LCBO offers – for free – called Food and Drink.

It is a glossy magazine, available 5 times a year in the LCBO outlets, full of great photos, food related articles, recipes, and decorating ideas.  The Fall Edition – one of my favourites – will be available today.

Now, assuming you don’t live in Ontario, I would imagine you’re asking yourself why you should care.  Well, the magazine and all its recipes from previous editions are available online (click on the photo to go to the website)


My most recent foray into Food and Drink recipe land was a Chocolate Salami.  I’m not particularly a fan of either dark chocolate or dates, but the recipe called for Sambuca – an Italian anise-flavoured liqueur – and that was good enough for me.

I would show you a photo of the Chocolate Salami I made, but Husband discovered how yummy it was crumbled on French Vanilla ice cream and then it was bye-bye Salami.  Let’s just say it looked like the photo in the magazine … and that’s one of the beauties of Food and Drink.  My efforts usually look just like the recipe.

If you are interested in trying it yourself, click on the photo.




How could the Food and Drink be better?  Well … if only there was a hot line available for having fully prepared orders delivered to my door … now THAT would be a very good thing.


Footnote – Ontario wines have been available at a very limited number of Wine Rack shops located in some grocery stores for several years.  In addition, beer has also been made available since September 2015 in a small number of grocery stores.



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A Walk In The Park

Have you ever visited your government buildings?

Well, I hadn’t and my interest became piqued by a recent news story about some murals that had been uncovered on the ceiling of our provincial legislature.

That triggered a last minute decision to tour Queen’s Park * – the home of our provincial government.

Queen's Park2

Queen Victoria  watching regally outside Queen’s Park.  I love the chubby little horse on the top right.

The Art Nouveau murals date back to 1893, but were covered up several years later in a layer of horse hair, canvas, and white paint in an attempt to improve the acoustics in the Legislative Chamber.

The murals were uncovered this summer when maintenance crews were inspecting the ceiling after concerns that sections of the primitive acoustic covering were starting to sag and might eventually fall on the chamber floor below.

Queen's Park-2

Although the existence of the murals was known, the greater surprise was how well-preserved they were.

From the news articles I read about the murals, I was under the impression that the entire 4 part ceiling mural had been restored.  In fact, only one portion was uncovered.  It is expected that the recovery of the remaining portions will take years to complete.

Queen's Park-3

Small section of wall mural that was also uncovered

Queen's Park-6

The Legislative Chamber waiting for summer recess to end on Sept 12th

Because this is Thursday, I also have to toss in a couple of doors and I wasn’t disappointed by the beauty of the entrance into the Legislative Chamber …

Queen's Park-5

One of the building’s front doors (on the right side)  …

Queen's Park-7

I really like that bottom panel on the door … I’m assuming to prevent wear.

Side entrance into Queen’s Park …

Queen's Park-8

Oh, you wanted to see the front of the building too?  Ok, here is the centre block …

Queen's Park-9

The three large windows on the second floor are the Legislative Chamber.

* the land surrounding the provincial government building is called Queen’s Park, but the name Queen’s Park has also come to be used for the building, as well as the government itself  eg – “Queen’s Park has passed a law that ….”

If you are ever in Toronto looking for something interesting to do, free tours of Queen’s Park are available all year round.

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


Posted in Around Toronto, Photo Challenges, Random Stuff, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , | 90 Comments

When Neighbours Fight

Every American child knows the story about those Canadian rebels (still technically British subjects at the time), who stormed across the Canadian/American border during the War of 1812 and torched the White House in Washington.

What they might not know however, is that it was not an unprovoked attack.  In my completely unbiased opinion, Canadians just wouldn’t do that {said with the slightest trace of a smirk}.

American militia had attacked York (now Toronto), then proceeded to burn and loot many buildings … including the Legislative building.

The Parliamentary Mace – a ceremonial “wand” carried into the Legislature to signify that parliament is ready to conduct business – was stolen by the Americans as a trophy.

For over a hundred years, Ontario’s original Parliamentary Mace sat in a Washington museum until it was finally returned to Canada in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt.

It now resides in the lobby of Queen’s Park – home of the Ontario Provincial Legislature in Toronto.

parliamentary mace

The 1st Parliamentary Mace – made of wood and painted gold

The current Mace of the Ontario Legislature is a bit more ornate than the original and has been in use for over a hundred years.  It sports 2 large diamonds – the first diamonds mined in Ontario.

parliamentary mace2

This is actually the 3rd Mace – the 2nd was destroyed in a fire.  This one is made of copper and is gold-plated.

The War of 1812 was the only armed conflict between the two neighbours and both the Americans and Canadians celebrate it as a victory for their side.


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Thursday Doors: Past And Present Collide

Several months ago I found a list on Wikipedia of heritage buildings in the Toronto area. The oldest building on the list goes back to 1794 and the most recent dated at 1916.

I downloaded the list with the expectation of using it to plan some of my outings around the city, but I found it rather cumbersome to use.

Once an analyst, always an analyst … I’ve spent a considerable amount of time re-organizing the data so I can count the buildings in the list, tag which ones I’ve visited, and sort the buildings based on location.

I’m about half way through cleaning up the list and have already counted over 400 buildings.  However, out of this exercise, I identified a heritage site only a few kilometers from my home.

It’s the modestly named SS #3 School built in 1872.

I wondered how I could have missed this little one-room schoolhouse on a road I’ve traveled so many times.

Scarb Heritage School3

Yes, the building is level, the street is not.

SS #3 School has had an interesting history.  It actually operated as a school until the mid-1970s.

Canadians of a certain age will undoubtedly remember the TV show Mr Dressup – English Canada’s longest running children’s program.  It had been on the air from 1967 to 1996 when Ernie Coombs retired.


Mr Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan (from

In the old former schoolhouse known as SS #3, Ernie Coomb’s wife, Marlene, developed a daycare centre called Butternut Square … the name of the predecessor TV show to Mr Dressup, and the program that introduced Ernie to Canadian children.

“Mrs Dressup” had purchased SS #3 School and completed extensive renovations to the building, including an addition on the back that respected the original look of the schoolhouse.

SS #3 School

The addition, on the left, added to the original schoolhouse

When Marlene Coombs was killed in a car-pedestrian accident in 1992, the little schoolhouse was purchased by its neighbour, Whitefield Christian Schools, and is now a school for children from kindergarten to Grade 5.

I was graciously offered a tour of the inside by an administrator onsite preparing for the new school year about the start in September.  I quickly accepted.

Scarb Heritage School

This window is above the front door of the schoolhouse.

Unfortunately she was unable to tell me what the SS stood for in its rather stark name, but she was very knowledgeable about the building and its history.

The original high-ceiling room was divided during the renovation stage and a second floor was created.  This effectively divided the windows of the building between the two floors providing a rather unusual perspective from the top floor.  The walls and ceiling are still covered in the original stamped tin.

This second floor now functions as a kindergarten, while the main floor is a small auditorium.  For a 5 years old, I would imagine those windows are just about perfect.

In the bell tower, the original school bell still hangs … although from the broken and frayed rope, I’m guessing it hasn’t been rung in a very long time.

SS #3 School2

Now, you’re probably wondering ‘what about the door?’ … after all, this is Thursday Doors.

The plain, no-nonsense front door has had its knobs removed – entry to the building from the front is no longer possible.  The entrance is at the back of the building from the addition that was built, through typical safety glass school doors,  locked with card access only.

The tiny plaque to the left of the door, indicates this building as a Scarborough Historic Site.

Scarb Heritage School2

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

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Changing Seasons: August Summer Glory

No story this time … just photos from this month.  My summer hasn’t been an entire pity party – there’s been a lot of beauty experienced.  Click on any photo in each section to enlarge and scroll through.

From the plants growing wild in my backyard …

To the splendor of Northern Ontario in my home town of Cochrane …

To a hot and sunny day in the heart of Toronto …

This has been my August.  I hope your’s has been full of beauty too.

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

Posted in Nature, Outdoor Stuff, photography, Random Stuff, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 68 Comments