Water, Water, Everywhere

The big news story right now in Eastern Canada is the weather.

We’ve been having a lot of it – mostly of the monsoon-like rain variety – and that’s been translating into flooding. A lot of it.

The Toronto area has been relatively lucky, but in Eastern Ontario and Quebec, there are whole communities under water and the flood waters haven’t yet peaked.

When I posted for the April Changing Seasons, I included a photo of one of our flooded beaches.  Since then however, conditions have worsened.  This past weekend I ventured out to Rouge Park to see the impact of our wild weather on this section of Lake Ontario.

In short – it’s a mess.

The normally pristine beach is littered with debris washed up by pounding storm waves, as far as the eye can see.

Rouge Park

If I didn’t know that the shoreline isn’t normally right underneath the lifeguard tower, I wouldn’t have thought that the water level was unusually high.

The real water story however is in the parking lot – or what used to be the parking lot. Now it has been claimed by its neighbour – the wetland – which borders it.  The wetland has been swollen to overflowing by the bloated Rouge River which drains into Lake Ontario.

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In the brisk wind, the waves lapped dangerously close to the tops of my rubber boots.  I didn’t dare venture out too far into the deepening water.

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Even the speed bumps are underwater.

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Nothing is moving too quickly through this area right now … well, except for the ducks.  I admit it was amusing to see ducks swimming around in the parking lot.  That isn’t a sight one encounters everyday.

While I’m lamenting the cold, damp weather, I’m hoping for drier days ahead for less selfish reasons.  I’m hoping that all those people who have been forced from their homes due to flooding can soon return.

Unfortunately they will be looking at a horrible cleanup ahead.

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Only the ducks are very happy right now.

Posted in Around Toronto, Nature, Outdoor Stuff, Random Stuff, The Changing Seasons | Tagged , , , , , , | 88 Comments

Doors, Ghosts, and More

To followup on my post earlier this week about the Winter Garden Theatre, today I’m featuring the interior doors and doorways of its main floor sister, the Elgin.

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She’s an elegant Grand Dame, faithfully restored to her former glory … save for the evidence of modern stage lighting and sound equipment.

Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre21The inside of the doors featured in last week’s post of Thursday Doors

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Inside lobby doors

The fabric covering on the walls was reproduced from small patches of the original wall-covering found under 26 layers of paint.

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As with many old buildings, the Elgin and Winter Garden have their fair share of ghost stories. They include the “White Lady” purported to have been seen hovering at the top of the Grand Staircase, the “Lavender Lady” characterized by the scent of lavender that will inexplicably waft through the Winter Garden, and the mysterious movements of the elevator.

The three elevators are fully functional and original to the 1913 building.  It is operated by a manual handle on the inside of the elevator.  One of these elevators is said to occasionally travel between floors on its own – a technical impossibility.

Yes, we rode in the *haunted* elevator.  At first it was reluctant to move, but then suddenly started its descent without further coaxing.

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Outer door to the elevator

We were unable to visit the backstage of either theatre because there were productions in rehearsal, but we were given access to the original (non functional) washrooms on the upper level off the Winter Garden theatre.

After squeezing between the doorway and a privacy barrier immediately inside the door, I found a TINY washroom.  Ladies, I will no longer complain about the current size of the facilities available in modern buildings.

We were told that at the time, these washrooms were a bit of a scandal to the moral sensibilities of the day.  The Men’s and Ladies’ washrooms were located side-by-side in the lobby – not unlike placement today in most buildings.

At the time however, it was considered quite inappropriate that men could view a woman entering a washroom.

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I don’t like to end this post on the inside of an old washroom, so I’ll close with a view of the exterior doors, this time including the box office kiosk.

Elgin Box Office

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by the Head Door Man, Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

Posted in Around Toronto, history, Photo Challenges, Things I Like, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , | 83 Comments

From Vaudeville to TIFF

In downtown Toronto there stands the last operating Edwardian stacked theatre in the world.  The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres were built in 1913, eventually sank into B-movie obscurity, and then underwent a major restoration in the 1980s.

I had a chance to take a tour of these two grand theatres and both are visual treats, but today I look at the Winter Garden Theatre only.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

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Lower level

It sits seven stories above the Elgin and in between the two theatres, are layers of open lobbies accessible by the “Grand Staircase”, an escalator, or the original hand operated elevators.

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Like the Elgin, the Winter Garden was originally built to feature vaudeville shows and silent films, but the Winter Garden was given an entirely different look and feel, intended to provide premium acts for the upper middle class.

The theatre was decorated to simulate an intimate outdoor garden and is probably one of the most unique theatres in the world.

The walls are painted in a garden theme with leaf boughs and specially treated, real beech tree branches hanging from the ceiling.

Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre10

In 1928 when talking films were becoming hugely popular, the Elgin Theatre downstairs was equipped with a sound system, but the Winter Garden was simply closed and sealed up.

… and it remained sealed for almost 60 years.

In 1981, the property was acquired by the Ontario Heritage Foundation and in 1987 the process of restoring the theatre began.

Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre11

In the lobby of the Winter Garden

What they discovered inside the Winter Garden was a largely preserved time capsule, including a treasure of vaudeville stage scenes and costumes that had simply been left untouched.  It is reported to be the largest surviving collection of vaudeville scenery in the world.

Most of it is in a storage facility outside of Toronto, but several large impressive stage scenes are on display.

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One of three massive stage backdrops, made of linen, preserved from vaudeville days

The painted wall scenes presented a challenge for the restoration team and eventually they were painstakingly cleaned using raw bread dough.

The sticky dough was rolled in small balls along the walls to lift off the dirt and grime without damaging the delicate paint work underneath.

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In the lobby of the Winter Garden

Inside the theatre, there is a feeling of sitting under giant trees lit by small lanterns.

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I remember the slack-jawed awe I felt attending a performance in the Winter Garden shortly after it was re-opened in 1989.  It was – and still is – a feast for the eyes.

Although used primarily for small stage productions that don’t require an orchestra pit, the Winter Garden, like its sister the Elgin, is used for premiere events at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre19

If you ever get a chance to tour the theatres or attend a performance in this historic building, I highly recommend it.  The Winter Garden will be opening its doors to the public as part of the Open Doors Toronto event at the end of May.

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Spring’s April Appearance

The month of April is almost at a close and I’m already in full anticipation of May ahead.

April turned out to be crazy busy in all the ways that are good …. making plans, starting new things, exploring, and watching nature come alive again after another winter.

As usual, weather has taken centre stage.  We’ve seen a lot of rain and wind, particularly earlier in the month, with creeks running full and Lake Ontario stretching its boundaries.  Flooding hasn’t been a huge problem, although large sections of the beach in Toronto’s east end have been under water.

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Early morning at Ashbridge’s Bay

However, it’s said that April showers bring May flowers and this year flowering seems to be well ahead of schedule.  Spring has been exploding in leaps and bounds.

Blossoms

I wish all my photos turned out this well

If I didn’t have pollen allergies, this time of year would be perfection.

April has been about being outdoors more and I’ve wasted no time to explore some of the park land on the west end of the city which I don’t know well at all.

What’s curious about Lake Ontario’s shoreline is how it occasionally curves on itself creating unexpected perspectives.

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Humber Bay Park East

I like the optical illusion created by the curving shore which makes the Toronto skyline appear so close when in fact it’s quite a distance down the shore.

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Port Credit

The warmer temperatures have lured us out of our winter hibernation and the trails have been beckoning.   In particular, we’ve been chipping away at the Trans-Canada Trail heading north from Toronto.   The patches of snow that survived the thawing of early April are now gone and as the month comes to a close, the trees are already in a deep green haze.

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My new steed rides like a dream

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Abandoned rail track in Tottenham

With the warmer weather, humans aren’t the only things that have become more active. The chirping and calling of birds has once again become a common sound early in the mornings and throughout the day.

Humber Bay4

I’m not the only one who’s noticed the increased activity of the bird life.  My chubby, spoiled furball is also enjoying the wonderful arrival of spring as he spends more time outdoors.  There is just so much to smell and explore.  It surprises me that Theo hasn’t given himself whiplash trying to track the birds that flash by the backyard.

Theo2

This April, spring has come early and given us a taste of what to expect in the summer months ahead.  I can hardly wait!

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, Things I Like | Tagged , , , , | 66 Comments

From the Theatre to Slovenia

Photos of doors have started to stockpile in my library, so today I’m *spring cleaning* and featuring some doors that haven’t received any of the attention they deserve.

Up first are the front doors to the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre in downtown Toronto.

Elgin Theatre

The doors to this 1913 building aren’t particularly special, but I think the beautiful stained glass windows above the doors make this entrance stunning.

Elgin Theatre2

Just a few doors down from the theatre is the impressive former Bank of Toronto building.  It is currently closed and supposedly being refurbished.

This 1905 building is one of my favourites along Yonge St with its domed top and massive pillars. Unfortunately I don’t have a better photo than this grainy, washed-out *accident* that was the result of an ongoing conflict between me and my camera.  It stubbornly refuses to cooperate with my intentions vs my literal directions.

I’m grateful to the woman crossing the street who did cooperate with my intentions and looks casually, but elegantly, posed for the photo.

Bank of Toronto 1905

The doors on this spectacular building are your standard utilitarian variety … but taped to the door is a sign, and THIS TIME it occurred to me to take a photo of it. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

The sign speaks to the many homeless people in the city who seek shelter from the elements in doorways of downtown buildings.   The pungent smell of urine greeted me as I stepped up to take this photo.  I’m thinking that trespassing is the least of the homeless’ concerns.

Bank of Toronto 1905 - 2

To change the pace a bit, I discovered this pretty little cottage-like home one day during one of my random walks.  I liked everything about this weathered little building; from the tree shadows on the plain stucco to the heavy black hardware, but especially the discreet clover or club design above the lights flanking the doorway.

Red door

I found this beautiful old inn, now restored as a restaurant, in the small town of Tottenham while we were walking the Trans-Canada Trail through this area.  I did a silent *whoop* to myself when I spied four visible doors in one scene.

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Lastly, this one is especially for Manja.  This property was also found during our travels north of Toronto on the Trans-Canada Trail.  Ignore the locked gate with its No Trespassing, No Parking signs.  You are welcome here, my friend!

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

Posted in Around Toronto, Photo Challenges, Things I Like, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , | 76 Comments

I’m Late! I’m Late!

This week got away from me and it’s Thursday Doors on Friday.

Hope you aren’t crushed in the Friday rush hour.  Have a great weekend!

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Toronto, 1892 Confederation Life Building

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

Posted in Around Toronto, photography, Random Stuff, Things I Like, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , | 74 Comments

I’m A New Me

Donna at Retirement Reflections wrote a post outlining a Retiree’s Job Description.  I think she nailed it perfectly in highlighting the roles, responsibilities, and skill sets to be a successful retiree.

In our comment exchange, we talked about the need for versatility in skills, especially when it comes to handling the myriad of ‘surprises’ that pop up along the way.   I went so far as to suggest that I am not the same person I was 6 years ago when I retired.  Donna of course wanted to know why.

My glib comment unleashed a tidal wave of thought that could only be expressed in its own post.

The Old Me

My entire career was logic-based.

I studied Business in university, became a Chartered Public Accountant, and spent a major chunk of my working life in information management, privacy, and security.  It was a serious world of right and wrong with endless policies and procedures.

Not surprisingly, I was also a highly stressed person who was chronically sleep-deprived.

When I retired, I was OBSESSED with trying to define the next chapter in my life and I felt rudderless without some kind of a plan.  I participated in a newly developed retirement “outplacement” program which included a number of personality tests.

To my surprise, I scored very high on creativity and rather mediocre on logic and organization … the very things I built my career on.

When I challenged the veracity of the results, I was told that creativity shouldn’t narrowly be interpreted as artistic or musical talent, and that perhaps my challenge in retirement was to explore what “being creative” meant to me.

That conversation was a game changer.

The Transition

In trying to embrace my creative side, I took courses in cake decorating and interior design.  I went to Bartender School, discovered photography, and writing a blog about my hiking adventures on the Bruce Trail.

Each new thing I tried became a building block to the next one.  I eventually started this second blog to continue building on a new life of discovery.

The New Me

So, why do I feel like I’m not the same person I was before I retired?

By exploring my creative side, I discovered fun – something I realized I hadn’t understood in my stressed-out, high-octane lifestyle.

I discovered the magic inside the stillness of a single moment – the colours, the scent, the warm feeling of contentment.

The more I’ve experienced those moments, the braver I’ve become in seeking more.

I have a confidence level in myself today that I’ve never felt in my life, including the 14 years I sat at the executive table of a large publicly-traded company.

Six years ago I was sent out to find my creativity.  In hindsight, I realize I was given permission to use wings I didn’t know I had.

Posted in Attitude, Memories, Musings, Random Stuff | Tagged , , | 114 Comments

Practicing What I Preach

When I get restless, I tend to start poking around looking for something new to do.

It’s been both a curse and a blessing because sometimes I get entangled in things that I probably should have left alone.  However, since I like to look for the bright side of things, it’s more often than not at least an interesting experience.

This past winter I became rather listless and felt like I needed to crank things up a notch or two.  Inspired by Bridget’s success at finding new friends for social outings, I too went looking for like-minded individuals in my area.

I found an Over 55 seniors’ group which was active in outdoor activities.  Perfect!

While Helen was still wintering in Portugal, I went hiking with this group one cold day in February.  It was at a conservation area I had never been to and our group consisted of only 4 people – a perfect scenario.

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Hiking at Cold Creek Conservation Area with Seniors For Nature Outdoor Club

Except it wasn’t.

I didn’t feel that sense of *bonding* I was looking for, and so I didn’t sign up for any more outings.  A few weeks ago however, I acknowledged that I hadn’t given this group a fair chance, and decided at the last minute to attend their upcoming monthly meeting.

I trudged out, somewhat reluctantly, in the pouring rain to an unfamiliar part of the city. A big part of my reluctance came from an expectation that this would be a small cliquish-kind of group who all knew each other, and I would feel like an outsider.

It wasn’t … and I didn’t.

Seating had been set up for at least a 100 people in the community centre where we met. Every seat was taken, and people were crowded along the sides and back of the room.

This should have been a nightmare scenario for me, but it turned out to be the opposite.

We each had name tags which included the year we had joined the group.  These people – mostly retired, some not – are ACTIVE, and this was a lively bunch.  Newbies like me were drawn into conversations and introduced to others who shared our interests.

It was one of the most welcoming environments I’ve ever experienced as a newcomer.

I learned this group had started about 20 years ago, was incorporated as a non-profit with a formal Constitution and an operating Board of Directors.  It turns out I was sitting with the President of this seniors club and she was a spitfire.  At 80 years old, she had gone downhill skiing this past winter for the first time.

It was at this point that I knew I had found ‘my people‘.

She encouraged me to join their executive team in one of their vacant positions … and so in a moment of blind faith, I jumped in with both feet.  I am now the new Secretary of the Seniors For Nature Outdoor Club.  The name is a bit of a mouthful, but what’s in a name anyway?

I’m not sure exactly what I’ve gotten myself into this time, but I do expect, if nothing else, it will be interesting.

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Cycling last week with the seniors club

 

Posted in Active Lifestyle, Attitude, Friends, Outdoor Stuff, Random Stuff, Things I Like | Tagged , , , | 114 Comments

Back to School

When I go on an excursion to look-up Toronto’s heritage buildings, I take one of two approaches.  It is either planned as a precision military-like operation with a map of addresses strategically laid out, … or I wing it.

Today’s featured building was found while utilizing method #2 as I strolled down random streets that looked like they might be interesting.  I had no idea what I might find and this building – without any signage – was a complete mystery.  I eventually had to ask.

Welcome to Central Technical High School.

Central Tech - 1913

Completed in 1915, this is the main building of a campus that is now one of the largest high school complexes in the country.  This was a time when Canada’s industrial base was growing and there was increasing need for skilled technicians in all the trades.

This is still a very busy school with a student population of almost 1,600.

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The third floor was originally reserved for women and in keeping with the segregation of the sexes at the time, certain doors and staircases were designated for females only.

The crest over the main doors is the City of Toronto Coat of Arms and this is the only school which has that privilege since it was built entirely with city funds.

The ribbon under the crest has the words “Industry, Intelligence, Integrity” which I thought was the school motto.  I later discovered that it’s actually “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield“.  That’s a motto I could really relate to!

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The two gnomes gracing the tops of the columns represent both the academic and technical components of the school.  The gnome on the left is dressed as an academic writing in a book, while his partner on the right is dressed as a journeyman with a hammer and chisel.

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The doors look a little battered, but I was happy to discover that they hadn’t been replaced by plain utilitarian doors.

… and I couldn’t help but smile at the energy-efficient light bulb in the large light fixture over the door.  I’m glad they didn’t replace that either.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors weekly photo feature.

 

Posted in Around Toronto, history, Photo Challenges, Random Stuff, Things I Like, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , | 90 Comments

Animal House

It had the look of a haunted house – dark and forbidding.  The room beyond the ragged curtains in the window seemed to imply it was empty and abandoned.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885_

A woman walking by, however, stopped to talk to me as I took photos and informed me it was a fraternity associated with the University.  Odd, I thought.  Unlike its manicured neighbour next door, there was no visible signage.

Delta Upsilon

I later discovered it is the Theta Xi Chapter of the Zeta PSI Fraternity … the first fraternity in Canada dating back to 1879.  The Fraternity purchased this residence in 1885.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (6)

Students from both Ryerson and UofT (Toronto) call this frat house home.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (2)

In spite of all the winter-dead vines clinging to its sides, this is a gorgeous building with a impressive doorway to match. Not only is the main door a beauty, but when I ventured into the entrance way, I discovered there were also outer doors that had been propped open.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (4)Yes, I was feeling bold and brave enough to stomp right up to that front door.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (3)Unfortunately it wasn’t until I loaded the photo of the door into this post that I realized there was a sign taped onto the door.

I was too preoccupied with the Fraternity crest emblazoned on the window, and the overall *cool* factor of being in the entrance way, to actually notice and read the sign.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (5)

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (7)

This was an unexpected treasure found while on a random wandering around downtown where bits and pieces of history butt up against the new and modern.

Today’s post was inspired by Thursday Doors, a weekly photo feature hosted by the Grand Door Master – Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

Zeta PSI Frat 1885 (8)

The only clue as to the identity of this building was on a non-descript back door.

Disclaimer – the title of the post was chosen for entertainment value only and not intended to be a reflection on the behaviour of this fraternity or any its individual members.

Posted in Around Toronto, Photo Challenges, Random Stuff, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , | 93 Comments