Friday, 30 August 2013

August Pen Pal Reveal

The Saskatchewan sorting office was very efficient and this month’s parcel arrived first thing last Monday. I wasted no time opening it; a great start to the week.

Lyndsay sent a selection of treats that appealed to my love of pasta, chocolate and tea.

The box included farfalle pasta (I thought immediately of Vinyl Café’s Mr. Hartman-lover of fine food including farfalle, fresh Parmesan and aged balsamic vinegar) a True Bar granola, teas and a selection of truffles from a local chocolatier, Glad’s.  Lyndsay also included her signature recipe for Turkey Pesto Meatballs. 

I boiled up some of the bow ties and used a dab of pesto for a quick weeknight dinner (goes great with a little Shiraz). I followed that up with pesto-crusted grilled salmon with scrambled eggs; a delicious breakfast.   Perhaps I will now, finally, get around to making my own pesto!  Love the smell of fresh basil.  We will try the meatball recipe on our next theme night. 

I rationed out the truffles over the next six days; enjoyed the fruit fillings very much. 

I love the packaging on the teas. Very pleasing to the eye. The bag holds its shape while steeping and the little string is bendable so it can hook on to a larger mug.  I like the decorative leaf. There is very little drip with these bags.   Enjoyed the orange spice and capped of the tea break with the last truffle.Try teaforte .

And that leaves the granola bar which I like having in for when the 10AM munchies start.  It was chock full of fruit, nuts and seeds.  Very moist and tasty.

Thank-you, Lyndsay, for putting this together and for introducing me to some new flavours.
You can find some of Lindsay's thoughts on this month's exchange at her blog, Hudson & Olivia .

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Friday, 23 August 2013

People Watching-Niagara On the Lake~August

A Gazebo is not, after all, a meat larder.  (Thomasina in Arcadia)

The Bat Mobile went by in a blur; was that Joker behind the wheel?  Wasn’t sure if my eyes were tricking me; the cocktails and wine may still be speaking to me. It doesn’t do to overindulge when you’ve a full day of People Watching ahead of you.  So not quite up with the Sunday morning birds, but managed some form of breakfast before setting off to Niagara On The Lake.  Unfortunate scheduling on my part choosing an 11:30 show, but have since learned my lesson.

After a week of cubicle mode(where I tried to maintain holiday mode for another five days) I was more than ready to strike out again.  Many people had the same idea because the highway was unusually busy and the sighting of some clown behind the wheel of Bat Man’s car was a refreshing sight.  Better than watching the driver to my right fling his chewing gum out the window?  Your gum has gone has gone stale, do you A) wrap it in a tissue and place it inside your garbage compartment or B) fling it out the window and hope it doesn’t hit a passing motorcyclist?

Niagara Stone Road can be a breaking point for drivers and it’s got to be frustrating for the locals should they get stuck behind a tourist doing 40 kmph.  It’s confusing for visitors as the speed limit changes from 80 to 50 to 70 back to 80 then 50 again.  Then again, they are too busy sightseeing to pay any attention to speed limits.

Secured the last parking space in town.  The church crowds are out in full force and parking is a premium up until 7PM ish.  What are tourists doing up at this time anyway? When I’m doing B & B it’s a leisurely breakfast followed by another leisurely few hours. 


First stop was Trifles with two one act plays, Trifles by Susan Glaspell and A Wife For a Life by Eugene O’Neill .  Trifles reminded me of Swann, mentioned here before; things going on in farmhouses and no one on the outside knows because of the isolation.  Enjoyed this play very much.  The second play was regarded by the playwright as weak and while the acting is very good(how can you go wrong with Benedict Campbell?) the lines really don’t give the cast much to work with.  At the very least, it would be good idea to switch the play order.  You would come away more satisfied.  Spoke to a couple up from St. Louis-they were raving about Arcadia.

Seven and a half hours to kill.

Took lunch at The Prince of Wales, but, in the Churchill Lounge this time.  As mentioned, no smoked salmon on the menu in the Drawing room so it was time to seek out something different.  A wedding reception was in full swing in the banquet room and tables were jammed save for the chess table so made straight for it.  Enjoying the music when one of the guests approached the bar and asked for it to be turned off.  Well that got my back up (thought he was having a senior moment) until said guest sat down at his keyboard and opened  his American Songbook.  He was helped along with his drummer.  Very mellow lunch hour jazz.  Not sure it was appreciated by the staff, though.  It’s like Xmas carols in November; clerks struggling to maintain sanity.  That senior moment thing-something happens to seniors when the turn 80.  I've seen it time and time again. They regress and get and get very demanding.  True story.

Started with scallop ceviche which was served with carrot, black bean and avocado;  delicious.  Tricky to get avocado at just the right time; it can be rubbery or mushy or turning brown before your eyes.  Followed the scallops with the charcuterie platter-pate, terrine, house cured sausage and ham; came with house tomato sauce and pickled vegetable.  Warning, the sausage is hot and yes, the little green pickles have some heat.  The bread was soft, which makes a change from the usual stale, crispy slices most places serve up.   Sat across from the winner of the Patrick Stewart look-alike contest.  Good view of the street.

A couple came in for a quick pint.  They had wine tasting to get to and thought to get beer first to put something on their stomachs.  Historically, one would take a little food before a tasting, but, if a belly full of ale is more your thing then I’m not going to stop you.  The bartender was happy to have someone to talk to about local ales. 

After ingesting for a couple of hours, it was time to move on.  After many years in NOTL, you no longer need to browse the shops so walked down King Street and had a look at some of the older properties.  This gentleman was getting some shade at Parliament Oak School.

This old entrance is now a driveway to woodland.


A quiet corner in a back garden.

Walked through Butlers Barracks.  Someone has destroyed one of the historic plaques by taking a pen to all the soldiers’ heads.  One day the culprit will find out it’s their tax dollars that paid for plaques like this and they will be on a rant about vandalism having conveniently forgotten about their little jaunt through the park all those years ago.  No benches in sight so on to Victoria Park which was comfortably full.  Avoid this space on National holidays, though.  Made great strides with The Emperor of Paris by CS Richardson.  A nice read; very Spartan writing style.

The kids got a tad rambunctious and took refuge in the graveyard of St. Marks.  Quite a few visitors here today.

Time for coffee and a study in contrast.  Always go with Balzac’s when in Stratford or Toronto; they seem to take their coffee making seriously (have yet to try Kitchener or Liberty Village).  Ordered the very same thing as last time and was handed a plastic beaker filled with ice and mocha mix.  I looked at in disgust and questioned the server.  What is this?  Did you brew an espresso in the last 30 seconds?  Where is the milk? The server didn’t give a damn and looked at me like I’d just grown a second head.  What a vile drink.  I hate to say it but I think you’d be better off at Starbucks when in NOTL.  Interestingly, Tim Hortons was turned down for a spot in town, but, they let Balzac’s and Starbucks in.  The patio at The Queen’s Landing does a nice dessert and cappuccino.  If all else fails, head there.  Recommend the crème  brulee.

Some well planted frontages.


A family tried to convince one of their number that the Public Washrooms are OK but she would have none of it. I would agree with the family here.  Having considered publication of “Where To Pee In Ontario”, this would be one of the better spots.  FYI.

The Hanging Gardens of NOTL.

Quick whip through Crabtree and Evelyn.  If you can’t get to a shower before the show, then at least give yourself a spritzer.  Like my lipsticks, my perfume is being discontinued as Ms. Hicks’ contract is running out.  But let’s not turn this into this into an “exercise, salad & make-up post”.  I promise, no pictures from Sephora.  Not that I ever would; I’ve never been in there.


Time for Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.  This is an exquisite play and I cannot fault it at all.  It’s a mystery set in both the 1800’s and modern day, it alternates back and forth and is crammed with references to early English gardeners to Quantum physics and there is great line about throwing physicists off a cliff but won’t spoil the punch line here.  It ends beautifully; the music and lighting are very nicely done.  Would love to have seen Bill Nighy in the UK version.

Did you know they sell Preparation H at the gift shop?  Oh, yes.  In fact they had a run on it because the front row seats at the Studio Theatre are so damned uncomfortable you’re going to need it about a quarter of the way through the show.  (Just starting to get all the feeling back in the buttocks and it’s now Friday.) Suffice to say, pick anywhere but Row A.  Bottom line (excuse pun), a great show; wouldn’t want to see it at the Festival Theatre as some have suggested.  The studio is a nice, intimate space. 

Crawled home; this is the QEW remember and construction has been ongoing for what, four years now?  Not sure if I’ll be around to see it completed.

Until next time.



Friday, 16 August 2013

People Watching~The Distillery District & a tour of the neighbourhood

Having just emerged from the patch of weeds in the back, I find I’m a little behind with my posts.  August is a busy month, post-wise.  You see this all the time; writers in a panic over their posts.  And for what reason?  Do we have deadlines? No. Is the public crying out? No.

Back to those weeds which some of you call wild flowers.  And in any other environment I would agree. Went into the depths of the garden to discover a vast network of green things-climbers, early stage ragweed, walnut trees; red berried, poisonous, thorny, bushy life forms.  Out, damned plant!  I am surrounded by non-gardeners and their overflow sprouts in my garden.  They think it’s the other way ‘round.  Attempted to converse with the new neighbour but she was busy chopping the forest growing up between the fence.  I need her to know that I’m not responsible for that growth.  She declined to converse.

After a copious slathering of calomine lotion, the itching has died down and I’m ready to continue.  Now where was I?   Ah, the long weekend.  Yes, what’s it been now? Ten days?  Staggered out of bed last Friday AM; ten hours ‘til vacation mode.  People watching planned for Saturday-Angels In America at Soulpepper and a wander through the Distillery District.  On tenterhooks so what did I do but break out the Ovaltine and had an early Friday night. As with all vacations, believe it is the not doing that is important.  What am I not doing?  Getting up at dawn, regimented meals, dealing with instant gratification of the masses.  Less is more.

People love to stop and gawk.  Drivers have an equal desire to get from A to B in as timely a manner possible and to slow down and gawk at traffic accidents, construction sites or community events.  Such was the case Saturday morning; so close, yet so far.  Caribbean Festival in full swing and traffic slowed to soak up the atmosphere.  Patience, my friend. Remembering that Lakeshore was closed AND Spadina & King.  UGH.  If nothing else, it gives you time to take in yet another high rise development.

Should caffeine be considered an impediment to driving?  I dosed on a double espresso before departure. I did not want to nod off (as someone did) half way through the matinee.  As it turned out, there wasn’t much chance of sleep.

End of times, politics, death by AIDS.  All the hallmarks of a potential snoozer.  Not so.  Angels in America is a fine show and I would not do it justice to describe it here.  I use fine a fair bit but only if something’s deserving of it. This is an engrossing and highly emotional play.  As with all Soulpepper productions, there really isn’t anything you can fault them for.  Love the staging. Most people are familiar with the play or have seen the HBO production.  I had the benefit of no one sitting in front of me so it was like being in the play.   There weren’t any of the usual distractions-perfume, whispering, purse rummaging.  Why do people bring those enormous suitcases to the theatre?  What are you carrying in there? A family of refugees? The new warning to turn off cellphones seems to be working well.  My only issue with the theatre is intermission.  Make a B-line for the concession counter if you want to eat.  Service is slow and your best bet is to pre-order.  Do like the fact that we can take our drinks in with us.  You’ve really no choice. After waiting in line, there is no time left to ingest it.  All this was soon forgotten about-the Angel was coming and when she did arrive, she made quite an entrance.

End of Part I.  Time for dinner but first a browse.  The district played host to Art Fest this weekend.  Painters, photographers, jewelry artisans and bakers in addition to the usual artists who keep studio space in the district.  Saw a very nice piece and if I ever have $850 that I don’t know what to do with…  How does one price art?  Here is a sample of some of the artists.

I gravitated to more reasonably priced fare-Warkworth based Sprucewood Handmade Cookie Co. Picked up rosemary & cheddar and chocolate chip.  Small batch, heavy on the butter shortbread.  Delicious.  Next Art Fest is August 30-September 2.  This  one is billed as a fine art show.  Bring your cheque book.  Had a browse through John Fluevog Shoes.  Now I would say that my indulgence is shoes but this takes shoe making to another level.  How to decide  amongst them?

For those of you who do not know, the Distillery buildings have retained many of the original features and so even if you are not a shopper (I am not a shopper) it’s worth having a wander through the galleries, shops and studios to see some of the antiquity.  On to dinner.

El Catrin was opened at last, but the line up was long.  Like the look of the place.  In its previous incarnation it seemed it was only looking for a certain kind of patron and the hours didn’t jive with the demand.  All that has changed.  There is a nice open patio and they’ve made much better use of the space.

Something rare-people in my posts...El Catrin on the rights, Pure Spirits on the left.

Chose Pure Spirits. Couldn’t decide so took a bit of everything.  Recommending the tuna tartare.  This was very nicely presented, seasoned just right and came with taro root chips.  Next was chilled mango soup (lots of ginger & dill) followed by an enormous bowl of curried mussels. The restaurant serves fresh, warm bread and you’ll need it for the broth.  I may have drowned a utensil or two in said broth.  Like the lay out of the restaurant-one long bar who’s specialty is oysters.  Lots of brick and stainless steel.  Take a booth as the chairs are a tad uncomfortable.  You slop around on them and the low back has a tendency to dig into your spine.

Time for a whip through Soma.  Having visited yet another purveyor of chocolate, I stand by my position that their truffles are the best.  The chocolate cracks when you bite into it and the fillings are distinct unlike some truffles where no matter the names it all tastes the same.

Angels, Part II and two new people next to me.  Not perfume, but the heady bouquet of a Bounce sheet.  Cloying, isn’t  it?  They were in conversation with regular theatre goers who are well travelled. They’ve seen Angels in London and New York.  What did they think of this one? She thought one of the characters wasn’t “New York Jewish” enough.  What does this mean?  The character evens says his family is very secular so I'm not sure what she was looking for.  It seems like this “flaw” was really affecting her enjoyment of the play.   The actors all take multiple parts so it was fun watching them pop up in different roles. Lots of favourites here; fine performance all ‘round. 

One can only top this with the perennial favourite, Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding, which The Pater served up for Sunday dinner.  He thought I’d poisoned him with our feature cocktail, my version of Fresh 15.  Whiskey, Grand Marnier & Tanqueray gin.   The original call for 15 year old Glenfiddich, Triple Sec & Hendricks.  I found it rather refreshing.  Took a post dinner look at the stars.  Curse the light pollution!  Four stars out of billions?

Started off the week with a hike down the Chippewa which seemed to go much faster this time ‘round but dragged on the way back.  Jumping on my soapbox here to say, can we not do something about leash laws and scoop  laws?  Because being attacked by a dog does rather spoil an otherwise  nice hike through the countryside.  Finished up driving the last leg to Caledonia; it’s been many years since my last visit.  Town was quiet owing to a Holiday Monday but plenty of people down by the river.  Lots of well-preserved older homes.  Me being not so well-preserved, arrived home and promptly collapsed.  With what strength I had left, listened to Part 1 of the 2013 Massey Lecture. It doesn’t do to think too hard about Quantum Physics late in the day-it can hurt your brain.

Tourist in my own neighbourhood this week.  Westdale for a browse through The Book Worm and late lunch at The Bean Bar-very good grilled cheese sandwiches.  Finally went in to Hotti Biscotti as I was on the hunt for something for my Food Pen Pal.  Hotti are hand-made, soft-baked biscotti so there’s no fear of losing a tooth with the first bite.  Go with the chocolate; there’s much more taste that the plain. Someone chose to make a hands-free call at the computer pool library.    It took every ounce of restraint on my part not to throttle him.  Courtesy says no to broadcast telephone calls to help desks.  Tried to have a wander through Gage Park but, once again couldn’t get parked.  This time it was soccer Moms and Dads.   Wondering where the next closest green space is.  A Case of Exploding Mangoes going well; a good read.

Took the next afternoon in Dundas. Remember where we were LAST YEAR ?  You have been patiently waiting for Part II.  All in good time; I got a little distracted. Aiming for the Farmers’ Market; no one in town knows where it is or what it is.  Finally find it in the parking lot behind the library.  If you were driving by and blink, you’d probably miss it but it has a little bit of everything.  The primary draw on this hot and humid day was Rudy’s Palletta-mexican popsicles in watermelon & lemon or ginger & orange and so on.  Very refreshing.  Went to Picones for pasta(gluten free for the Pen Pal) and on to the Beanermunkey for a caramel & chocolate dipped pretzel. Delicious.  Plan to hike up in Greensville, however realize I was probably in the throes of heat stroke and should probably get some shade and water.

Piece in the paper on Webster’s Falls and how the visitors are dwindling.  You can no longer climb down into the Falls, you can no longer BBQ and parking is ten dollars.  I don’t mind paying if I’m going to make a day of it and I’m going to be using all the facilities but if you are set to do a quick hike to Tew’s Falls on public property, I can’t justify the amount.

Recovered nicely from the heat-there is no air flow in the valley. Eve of “back to work”; feeling much like Labour Day.  Wait for it…yes there it is, someone has fired up their lawnmower.  Calling for ban on grass cutting Sunday evenings after 7PM.  It’s not right. And who’s that behind the fence?  Who are you hiding from?  What are you hiding?  Something fragrant, perhaps?  Think they were hoping to be completely alone.  Sorry to disturb. 

Lingered in the garden(the lawn is, shall we say, lush)with tea, a book and biscotti until driven insane and inside by mosquitoes.  Important to keep in vacation mode for as long as possible.    

Until next time.