Monday, 28 January 2013

Culture & Recreation-January

Rob Ford Watch was in full swing Friday. Kept an ear open to the morning show. Update came at 10:30   Ruling overturned. Alas. Cheaper than a by-election, I suppose. After the kerfuffle, settled into the afternoon with a little Bach. We do seem to take a lot of trouble pronouncing his name whereas we don't bother with anyone else.  Why is that? How many ways can you say Bach?

The only conversation was hockey so I amused myself with the bird that had landed in the tree.  I had been on the hunt for a pheasant and the usual sources no longer carried any kind of game bird.  In fact the young lad at the deli counter had no idea what I was talking about.  "A what?"  Then later, "What was it you called it again?"  Most amusing.  The plump bird in the tree may just have met my needs.  Cumbrae Meats to the rescue, though.  A fine butcher shop and we are fortunate to have one of their three locations right here in Hamilton.  It's unusual to go into raptures about a butcher shop but this one's rather nice.  Beautifully presented product; good quality.

A few cm's of snow fell Friday PM and surprisingly the traffic was moving.  It is customary to travel at top speeds of 60-70kmh when the flakes fall.  Easy to spot those without snow tyres.  Over to the other side of town to get the bird.  I behaved and didn't stop for cappuccino, chocolate dipped spun toffee nor Pad Thai.  However, Chef & Wife did have their mango shrimp on so picked up a portion for the fridge.  Shopping frenzy getting the rest of the menu. Some shelves bare and prices on the rise due to the arctic conditions south of the border.  Expecting a better Niagara Ice Wine harvest this year.

The more you can do towards dinner now the less the next day.  Simple philosophy.   Cafe de Paris prep began in earnest. Opportunity finally presented itself to take down the Xmas tree. I have had my detractors; keeping the tree up has been a bit of a hard sell.  I've enjoyed it.  Thought to tarp it, fully decorated, and drag it out to the shed until December. 

Mysteries of what appears to be complex cooking revealed.  No complexity to it at all.  Simple is good.  On this week's menu:

Aperitif~Cafe de Paris

scallops in white wine
pheasant with chestnut sauce
chocolate pots
cheese plate

Vin~Pouilly Fume

Will be posting all the details a little later at:   CAFE DE PARIS

["And for the rest of them, we'll have a large trough of baked beans, garnished with a couple of dead dogs." John Cleese (Fawlty Towers)]

CBC's Ideas for Friday evening.  Artists in Residence at the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland.  This particular episode focused on Jillian McDonald.  Every year the Distillery pays to have artists in residence and this is one of many that Ms. McDonald  has received.  Her previous projects include a Billy Bob Thornton  which defies description here but I will include the link to do it better justice Valley of the Deer   One distillery past project includes a special batch of single malt that will be aging, I believe, 100 years.  The project is a sort of treasure hunt to actually find where this special batch is hidden.  And even with all this talk of single malt, I failed to raise a glass to Robbie Burns. Tsk. Tsk.

Felt somewhat obligated to pay attention to Canadian politics again with the pending Premiership vote Saturday.  How long did this take?  An agonizing length of time.  So far so good on not focusing on Wynne's sexual orientation.  Think she entertained one question on the subject.

Set off Sunday to clear the gremlin behind the eyes.  Thought to finish the trail but first meandered through farm country. A little overcast and cold.  Found Edwards Cemetery dating from 1853.  It's surrounded by nothing but fields for miles.  Desolation and silence.  Reminded me of the Carol Shields novel Swann.  Things going on in farmhouses and nobody on the outside knows because of the isolation. 

Sinking headstones; a few crumbling ones. A young boy over in the far corner.


Silence until a little man on a bicycle came along the road collecting tin cans.  Thought it was a kid on a skateboard-it had that sound.  The collector was in fact crushing the cans.  Seemed like an awful lot of cans in the ditches. Cold!  Didn't feel a hike was going to happen.  Off to Haldimand through Blackheath.  Doubled back on Chippewa to Tyneside then #65. 

The middle tree looks vaguely human.  Very Wizard of Oz.


Pleasantly surprised to find work continuing on the Unity Road portion of the Chippewa Trail.  The gate was closed and not one, not two, but three earth movers sat idle on the path for the weekend.  Old railway ties were piled up ready for removal.


Over to Haldibrook Rd.  The pile of asphalt I mentioned last time has disappeared.  The site looks much better.  Passed by the other side of the Killman Zoo.  The alpacas were feeding; they looked rather comfortable in their coats.

Skaters and hockey players out on the Binbrook ponds.


This is a curious house that I often drive by.  Like its shape and the Widow's Walk.


Home to defrost.  Got an update on the Cheez Whiz shipment to Silver Screen Suppers . Jars arrived intact and a successful casserole was prepared; recipe provided by Mr. Francis of Caker Cooking  Well done,  everyone.
Finished up the day with the first part of Bennet's Smut. Bennet is partial to pheasant, too.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Culture & Recreation -Tour of the Neighbourhood Edition

Usual weekend run of books, food, exercise and people watching. Yes Virginia, there is life in the core.

(note to certain people; remember you can always double click the photos to see the slide show; you know who you are)

101 Ways To Kill Your Boss was not on the shelves so went with the autobiography of Bigfoot. Me Own Words and the follow up, Me Write Book by Graham Roumieu.  I am awaiting I Not Dead.  Very funny stuff.

From chapter One-Feelings:
Stop, Smell Rose  (accompanied by photo of hiker on trail)

Where you go Man on road?

Why you run when me want talk?
You manners bad 
So me learn you good
Tear off legs so no more run

Love is Sad (accompanied by photo of man on ATV)

Man on funny car
Me love!
Want for big foot wife
One day me catch
Try make baby but you head collapse like sock full of eggs
Me cry
Birds cry too
Me sad

Pulitzer worthy, no?  Also back on Alan Bennett~ Smut(two short stories). So with this and
the Big Foot books should be able to get on with Resolution #3: finish reading all the books in the house.  Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, Lynn Truss, Brothers Grimm, Virginia Woolf, Adam Gopnik, Lawrence Stern(The Life of Tristram Shandy) and I recommend the movie Tristram Shandy-A Cock & Bull Story with Steve Coogan and, finally, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which came to me gratis from the good people at General Mills cereals.  Perhaps if I read the book, I’ll become a more effective reader in the process.  I have great tomes on the shelves:  Gardening, Wine, Opera.  They’ve been consulted over the years  but never fully read.
The resolutions are working out well in fact.  I like Lorraine Sommerfield’s recent column on New Year Revolutions.  You buy yourself what you need for Xmas and have other people tell you what your resolution ought to be.  It’s a bold move.
Success so far with #1~stay out of Indigo; there simply isn’t time to read everything you want and it only reminds you that you could easily settle into a life of reading, travel, cooking and gardening; #2~start the day one half hour earlier-not to work but to remove yourself from the traffic buildup, to give yourself time to come down from all the bad driving out there, get the kettle filled and avoid walking into a beehive of activity where the take-out coffee and colognes have already filled the space; allow time for yourself in the early AM; and #5 ~learn (ie. get a better grip on) things through the blog:  proper names for things, better menu planning, history/facts, taking a better picture, spelling and grammar (I have never spent so much time looking for spelling errors).  No home should be without Fowler's Modern English Usage. I apologize if there have been any undue notifications in Inboxes; I only update spelling/grammatical/factual errors and no one should be getting notifications. 
Here’s a shot of the Birks’ Bldg clock now residing in the Farmers’ Market. 

I think it must have been very tempting to put the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse instead of the jousting knights given the state of the nation here in Hamilton. Passed what’s left of Ivor Wynne on the way in-just the North stand remaining and the hole in the ground that was the Board of Education Building. I don’t think we’re ready for a eulogy just yet.  A grocery store is going in beside the market and stall holders are a little nervous.  Stopped for some international cuisine.  Pheasant Night is approaching and I was looking for inspiration.  Thinking of scallops a la Elizabeth David to start, roast bird with chestnut sauce, the chocolate pots again (because who can say no to dark chocolate, cream, sugar, butter and brandy?) and a French cheese to finish.  We’ll see how ambitious I am in a week’s time. Lots of people in the market, library and the mall.
I set off for Gore Park.  (#4 coming along nicely~I even bought new shoes). The core is by no means dead.  I was taking pictures and was asked what my interest here was by a passerby.  I explained my distress with absentee landlords and why we can’t seem to get them to open a can of paint.   This man feels, “They’d rather spend millions than a few thousand in maintenance."  He felt it was about keeping family business going.  New-build contracts are more prized than maintenance. 

Here's a nicely done reno and there's no reason its neighbour couldn't be refurbished.

Hope something positive comes of this one.

We commiserated for a few moments and he went on his way.  You hear the maintenance cost thing a lot in the course of a week.  Remember people, read your Maintenance Manual.  There’s a reason you have to change filters and lubricate bearings. Wondering why your equipment has failed?  It is not a manufacturing defect. 

Thought for the day:  The lowest bid is not necessarily the best bid.  Remember it’s tax payers money.  Learn to tell the difference between apples and oranges.  

Wilson Blanchard owns a lot of buildings in the core and they have deemed a series of units unsound (above) and not worth any effort to restore. The plan is to tear down three buildings circa 1840’s and replace them with a high rise residential/retail/commercial mix. Another high rise is not what is needed here. We’ve all seen what happened in Toronto. The Lister Block was declared structurally unsound and it rose from the ashes. I’ve seen the inside before renovation and I joined the chorus. No one wanted it restored. After all it had sat vacant, slowly crumbling for decades. The newly renovated Lister opened for business in 2011. The team retained the fa├žade and have done a fine job with the building.

I think Blanchard is finding it a daunting proposal to renovate but it can be done.  Need to hook him up with Liuna.  Think he's finding the depth of the building a bit much.  He has done a nice job with the Piggott Bldg  (above).  Some nice stained glass in the foyer.


The South portion of King used to serve as the bus terminal for many routes.  The terminal was moved a block away and the master plan calls for pedestrianization of the South side.  People watching and coffee sipping.  It is within range of many shops and restaurants.  This plan is still in its infancy and it faces a few challenges. Gore Park is remodelled on what seems to be an annual base.  First grass and paths and fountains, then concrete, then back to the original design.  Gore houses the fountain, War Memorial, Queen Victoria’s and Sir John A’s statues.  

Vrancor also owns a fair bit of downtown property.  Bit of controversy here because the projects are taking forever to complete.  Starting to resemble downtown TO.  Work continues on the former Federal building & Homewood Suites.  There have been some rather nice loft and school conversions.

Residents are needed in the core but do we have to tear everything down and build highrises? Look at the South side of Main. Apartment blocks took over from Victorian rowhouses. We have lost old City Hall, the Birks Bldg, and most recently the Board of Education building. 

A recent piece in the local paper called for the removal of “zombies” from the park.  You cannot sanitize the city  by allowing only certain classes to populate it.  There must be space for everyone.  "If you build it theory" but where do the other people go?  All city departments have to be on the same page when it comes to reviving the core.

Heading down Gore to the Royal Connaught-currently serving as a movie set.  The weekend Spec states that we may have finally found another developer.  Let's hope so.  This is not easy on the eyes.

There are some fine building with lots of detailing you don't get on a modern building.

Got as far as Victoria Ave. and St. Christopher's Church. 

Doubled back  via Wellington and then King William.  This would make a great pedestrian only zone.  The Lister Block at one end and Theatre Aquarius at the other.

Hamilton's answer to Greenwich Village...

Hess Village by day...


George Street...

Note to self-one street at a time next visit.

After three hours, it was time to defrost with a cappuccino.  Working my way through a polenta tube.  It looks so unappealing but with the right ingredients, you can elevate it to new heights.  Pored over the Elizabeth David and honed the menu.  A little Nina Simone and Billie Holiday on the stereo.  Verve's Jazz Essentials is an excellent intro to Nina Simone.  Hockey back on; all seems to have been forgiven.  I abstained.  Finished off the evening with La Vie En Rose-french film on the life of Edith Piaf.  Two hours and half a box of tissues later, I was emotionally drained.

With practically no sleep from the wind storm that was still raging and having spent yesterday in a cold wind tunnel, decided against the hike to Davis and Stoney Creeks.  Friday AM would have been the best time for pictures but I felt duty bound to actually start work on time. Laboured under the delusion that Thursday was Friday.  Bit of a disappointment when I finally consulted the newspaper mid morning.

Went into Spring cleaning mode.  Morley was filled with anxiety over her own clutter and took refuge at the neighbour's minimalistic home.  I felt inspired to tackle my own piles of paperwork.  Coming along nicely (#10-check).

Finished off the day labouring over the Stratford, Shaw and Soulpepper theatre guides.  Prices have gone up and Stratford's pricing goes up again after Jan 31 so book now if you're planning a trip.  Tommy is on this year and it has its own pricing system with top tickets going for $175.  Bit of a push for a family to spend the day on those kind of dollars.  Musical pricing is sufficient and even this can run you $135.

Want to see everything; have to make some decisions.  Note that it's back to just The Stratford Festival this year.  They've ditched the great man even though they're putting on four of his plays.  (Off to the printers for new letter head and envelopes.) 

It's (-15C) and snowing again but I've ordered my tickets and I'm in warm weather mode. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Tour of the Neighbourhood~Chrysanth Show (I)

Feeling the need for a little warmth? Temperatures dropped this AM.  I hear tell of (-20C) for next week.  Here are some images from the Fall Mum show back in October.  The Gage Park Greenhouse in Hamilton hosts this annual event. 

The 2012 theme was The Jungle.  Madagascar, India and the rain forests of  South America  and Africa served as inspiration.

The soothing sounds of traditional music filled the rooms and transported visitors to far off shores.

Very nicely done.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Tour of The Neighbourhood-Miles/Chippewa/Haldibrook/Unity

"There is pleasure in the pathless woods...I love not man the less, but Nature more."  Byron (Lord)

With twelve degree temperatures in the offing, it was time to start the inaugural longer distance walks.  The Road2Hope this is not.  Hamilton hosted this event back in November and it was encouraging to see so many runners on the streets.  Taken me since then to gear up for my own marathon which constitutes anything beyond the noon hour power walk or my hourly workout.  

Started at Miles Road which I’d partially trekked down back in the Fall.  The fields were boggy from Friday’s rain, but, snowy patches remind us what season we’re in.  There is some industry on the left and it would be nice to see a few saplings planted here as there is an unfortunate view of their yard (read junk yard). 

Crossed Chippewa and the views continued with fields and farms.  The land either rises up or makes a steep drop to part of the Welland River that snakes its way through the fields.  Lots of “creekettes”.  Fast moving water at times but mostly just a steady trickle.  Nice soundtrack along with the creaking tree branches; very peaceful.  Not just moss on the bridge but graffiti which was rather distressing to see.  Occasional slick patches.

Nature alive and well with a sighting of a fuzzy wuzzy caterpillar and not one but two Cardinals.  Everyone gets excited at Cardinals or Blue Jays-it’s like a great, as yet undiscovered, tropical bird has been blown off its course and landed in the Northern hemisphere.  The land rises up with some earthworks. 

Looks like a farmer has been busy creating an unnatural embankment.  Great barn at the end of the trail.  Ponies off to the left.  Just missed them in the field on my way back.


Crossed Haldibrook Rd. which is very quiet.  There is a very uninviting entrance to this part of the trail and I wondered if it was private property.  It is not.  A clump of  dumped asphalt greets you and you have to climb over this to carry on.  

It should look like this:

 The trail narrows to less than an arms span and the trees are much more dense. 
Good shade from the summer heat.  The Kilman Zoo is on either side of the path and the woods belong to the zoo.  If you time it right you’ll spy the tigers lounging in their pen.
On the last bit of trail, couldn’t make out if it was a tiger or elephant roar.  Not sure if there are elephants at Kilman but I’m sure Bob Barker would have set up camp before now if there were any.  I would have preferred to start this stretch earlier because there was more snow here on account of the tree shelter and the trail undulates slightly.  Stone chippings line the trail and it’s harder work. 
It’s only a short distance to Unity Road.  Another quiet spot with farms on the landscape. 

Took the next portion just a few feet because we have to remember that the more you keep walking, the more you have to walk back.  Unfortunately, someone had dumped various bits of their automobile right at the start of this portion and I was less than enthusiastic about continuing .

Return trek and energy fading but picked up the pace after Haldibrook which was like a surge to the finish line.  Sighting of a pink sock on the way back that wasn’t there 20 min ago.  Always amazing to me where these random bits of clothing come from.  Perhaps this is where socks go to die after they've gone missing from the dryer.

Sighting of a snake which got very defensive about territory (it looked like it has been in a fight with something or other) and two woodpeckers.  What do they recommend for headache relief? Also some kind of finch-must consult an Audubon and get the proper names of these things. 


A few hikers here and there.  Think most people had gotten out earlier in the day.

Until next time.