Monthly Archives: May 2012

Doors Open Toronto

I was in Toronto a recent Sunday afternoon and ended up visiting the Corpus Christi Church, which was open to the public as part of Door Open Toronto.

Opened in 1927 the church was famous for its stain glass windows by Guido Nincheri (1885-1973). The Last Supper, comprising of five panels hang over the alter .

Other stain glass windows flanked along both sides of the church illustrating significant biblical events related to Jesus, and a few other religious themes.

The church is also home to a side altar mural by artist William Kurelek (1927-1977). The artist cleverly utilized the architectural shape of the wall to produce an upper and the lower mural.

The upper mural depicts “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.

The lower mural shows Jesus standing in the midst of a  crowd in the setting of Woodbine park and showing the Toronto skyline in a distance. This is one of the most interesting contemporary religious paintings I have seen. Its use of big wide spaces and graphic details of the people is chracteristic of many Kurelek’s works.

When I was in the church, there was a constant stream of visitors of different ages and ethnicity. I thought: if doors can open, so can our minds and our hearts. If people can be drawn out of curiosity to visit a place to find out more, so can they attempt to interact with other people face to face to learn more about one another. Open minds and open hearts nurture mutual respect, eliminate stereotypes and bigotry. Maybe one day we can end all the hatred and senseless killings in this world.

An Evening of Gastronomic and Acoustic Delight

Our concert tickets to Ehnes & Beethoven’s Ninth (Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra [HPO] Masterworks Series) included a dinner at the Hamilton Club. This club has been at the intersection of James Street and Main Street since 1873. Once inside, one cannot but notice the paintings on the wall in the lobby, the lounges, and the dining rooms. The ambiance is proper but not stiff. relaxing yet not overly casual.

The dining room staff knew that we were going to a concert afterwards. (There were other patrons with a similar agenda.) The service was prompt and polite. At no time did we feel rushed. My husband and I both chose the leek and potato soup. The taste was very good, and the texture was enhanced by soft, creamy pieces of potatoes. I ordered a pasta dish with scallops and linguine, and my husband had salmon on soba noodles. The seafood was seared to perfection.

My dining highlight was the homemade butter tart with ice cream–a 3-inch tart with the most decadent filling inside a shortcrust pastry. I succumbed to the aroma of the butter. The warm tart and the cold ice cream woke up all my taste buds.

It was a short stroll from the Club to Hamilton Place, the venue of the concert, after this lovely meal.

James Ehnes performance was world class. He played Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61. I sat there spellbound by his “phenomenal control”–cannot find a better way to describe his mastery of the instrument, which was a Strad of 1715, other than quoting a London Times Review–and musicianship. Never occurred in classical concerts, but after the cadenza of the third movement (Rondo, Allegro), I almost wanted to break into an applause like what an audience would in a jazz concert. For encore, Ehnes treated us to Bach’s Sonata No. 3, third movement. Perfection!

The best part of this concerto was the seamless partnership between soloist and the orchestra. I think the credit has to go to the music director and conductor, James Sommerville, for enabling the orchestra to assume the same character and interpretation of this well-known concerto as that of the soloist. It was a unique dialogue of mutual respect and admiration through music, an utter delight.

Sommerville totally transformed the personality of the orchestra in the Beethoven Symphony No.9 in D Minor, Opus 125, “Choral”. Under the magic of his baton, the orchestra became the chameleon which led the audience in their musical journey through images from darkenss to light, feelings from untamed to loving, and reaching the glorious pinnacle of human unity and joy.  This unity would not have been possible without the HPO, the joint choral from Chorus Niagara and Bach Elgar Choir and the four vocalists working with Sommerville. The last movement left me with a scintillating sensation as I left the concert hall. My experience that evening had gone beyond gastronomic and acoustic. It was an indulgence of all my senses.

Sports drink, health drink, Dr. Oz’s drink

It must be a coincidence that Dr. Oz appeared on my radar twice this week. (I must have noticed him more often from my right peripheral vision when I open my Facebook page, but usually I don’t register.)

As the weather gets warmer, more people carry a water bottle in our walking classes and in our distance training. Occasionally, the liquid in our water bottles becomes a topic of conversation. Besides sports drink of various colours and concentration, there are other drinks we experiment with.

My walking buddy Bobbie brought a drink that she said was inspired by Dr. Oz. The ingredients were tangerine, grape fruit, lemon and cucumber. How to make: Cut a few slices of each ingredients, put in a jug, add a few mint leaves and add water. Press the ingredients with a spatula. Refreshing, but may not have enough carbohydrates, sodium and potassium etc. for someone who sweats a lot.

I often carry an orange liquid, which is my own concoction of orange juice diluted with water (to taste, and I never like it too sweet) with  1/4 tsp  of salt to 1 litre of drink. There is too much carbohydrates in most orange juice anyway. I have recently added coconut water to my list of sport drinks. Some brands taste more natural than others. Again I dilute it to taste and enhance it with salt. Despite its recent popularity, some studies have disputed the superiority of coconut water to conventional sports drinks. (Check out Scott Garuva’s review in Skeptic North.) My rule of thumb is to choose the least artificial drink as long as it helps me hydrate and replace my electrolytes.

Green tea is an excellent thirst quencher. My husband simply steeps a tea bag in his bottle and brings it on his walk.

Imagine: Put together my husband’s green tea bag, Bobbie’s ingredients (cut into slices), add sugar (5-6 tsp) and  salt (1/4 tsp)  in 1 litre of water, and this will become a healthy sports drink inspired by Dr. Oz.

Fort to Fort

After power walking for several years, I thought it would be time for a new challenge–hiking.  I joined the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) earlier this year. So far, I have not been disappointed. Through the websites and newsletters of the BTC and my local club–Iroquoia–I have found out more about the conservation of the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, the flora and fauna, the geology and have also gained some first hand experience by participating in their scheduled walks.

I have learned how to equip myself for a good hike, and this is different from power walking. I have also challenged myself walking on various terrain, such as trails that are hilly, rocky or with uneven footing. I have to use different muscle groups and pay utmost attention where I land my foot when I hike.

Even though I had walked and completed a marathon, the Fort to Fort hike organized by the Niagara Club enabled me to walk over 55 K over two consecutive days. The satisfaction  of this accomplishment was well worth the hard work.

The route spanned from Fort George, near Niagara-in-the-Lake to the old fort at Fort Erie. On Day 1, we were bused from King’s Bridge Park in Chippawa to Fort George and walked back to the Park. The following day we started walking from Fort Erie and walked back to Chippawa.

We started at the crack of dawn. On the first day, we walked on a section of the Bruce Trail forming part of the Niagara Escarpment.

The scenery looking down at the Niagara River was captivating.

It rained on the second day. In spite of this,  we could still admire the misty veil that hang over the river, as we walked along the well-paved trail along the Niagara Parkway. There were three pit stops on each day, and we were served delicious treats of cookies, cakes, fruits and drinks. The support was far superior to what I had seen in running/walking races.

The added post-hike bonus (not part of the BTC event) was a meal at Betty’s Restaurant in Chippawa. It certainly lived up to its reputation with its excellent signature fish and chips, prompt service and warm ambiance. Another interesting discovery was the Two Rivers Bed and Breakfast in the same town. The room was neat and tidy, and well equipped. Emina, owner operator, was hospitable and attentive. She even accommodated our request to give us breakfast at 6 a.m. so that we could leave for the hike. We were served a 5-star breakfast consisting of fruit juice, fresh fruit cocktail, hot breakfast from the menu, and coffee (a choice of regular coffee or Bosnian coffee, which was made the same way as Greek or Turkish coffee). Emina also offered us her home-made sour dough bread. I would certainly go back to these two places if I were in the area.

Betty’s Restaurant, 8921 Sodom Road, Niagara Falls, ON

Two Rivers Bed and Breakfast, 8006 Norton Street, Niagara Falls ON

How old are you?

I was flipping channels on the television, and landed on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight when Morgan was interviewing Dr. Oz. The conversation went something like this (not verbatim quotation):

Morgan: How old are you?/Oz: I’m 52./Morgan: Oh, you look 45 to me.

Then the conversation went on to Dr. Oz talking about his 7-minute routine every morning doing stretches and push ups to stay young and healthy…

I have given seminars on aging in Hong Kong and in Canada. I usually begin by asking the audience to answer a few questions: 1. How old are you? (give your chronological age) 2. How old do you think you look? 3.  How old you do feel like ? 4. How old do you wish you were now? My audience have ranged from university students to middle-aged adults, to seniors. Invariably they are surprised that the answers to the four questions are not always the same. Which one matters the most then?

There is a fear of aging in most societies to day. Trying to stay fit and healthy as one ages is one thing, but going out of the way to get a young-looking face is another. Japanese author Haruki Murakami is also a long distance runner. He honestly reveals  in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2007) his struggle to come to terms with the reality that after he reaches a certain age, he can no longer improve on his time no matter how hard he trains. The marathons take on a new meaning for him, after Acceptance. He continues to race, to try the best he can, to feel good about himself and sheer race time no longer matters.

It is not how old you are or how old your appearance suggests that matters.  Even the body (referring to stamina as well) cannot stay young forever. It is how you feel inside–and you are the only agent who can control that.  You already own the fountain of youth as long as you have an eagerness to learn, a curiosity for adventure, and an urge to expand your horizon. Above all, the sense of well-being and balance between your inner and outer self is ageless.

The Rail Trail

I was introduced to the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail by a group of walking buddies who walk with me on Saturday mornings.

The trail begins from Ewen Road, off Main Street West in Hamilton. Although the sign at the entrance is almost covered by the foliage this season, the rider on horseback is still visible–yes, this trail is open to horseback riding. Don’t be surprised, therefore, when you encounter the excrement of horses in the country section of the trail. Better still, train your discerning eyes for hoof marks. I am still waiting for the occasion to share the trail with a horse and its rider. The trail is surfaced with stone dust, hence bike friendly. I have never seen anyone on roller blades, isn’t this nice?

The trail I have walked so far have distance marking every kilometre. Between the 5K and 6K mark, already in the grounds of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, you’ll see the old railway track and a rail engine. Fill your water bottle or use the washroom NOW. If you miss this facility, you have to use only what nature can offer.

In the section close to the city, there are signs indicating the intersection with the main road. I never feel lost.

My most recent visit to the Rail Trail was for a casual walk. My mind was not on my workout. I allowed myself to bathe in the shade,  pause to savour the colours of the wild flowers,

and study this curiosity piece–half a grapefruit cleverly balanced on a branch to feed the birds. Mind and body are relaxed.

I have walked different sections of the trail, but have yet to complete the entire distance. Even though a motto of mine is “Never say never”, it is unlikely that I shall ever walk the Trail out and back, from Hamilton to Brantford and return. This will be an Ultra distance of 65 K. However, with proper planning, I may still be able to complete this trail in sections, or walk the entire trail one way.

The Carrot and the Trails

I walked on two of my favourites trails this Victorian Day Sunday–the Burlington Waterfront Trail, which continued onto the Hamilton Beach Trail after crossing the lift bridge.

The trails are paved trails and run about 10K from Spencer’s Smith Park in Burlington to Confederation Park in Hamilton.This is perfect distance for training for a half marathon. The beauty of walking on a trail is that one does not have to worry about traffic. I have spent many solitary hours walking on these trails, as early as 6 a.m. in the summer months, and  feeling quite safe. I share the trail with other walkers and runners, and I enjoy studying their various pace and forms. We acknowledge each other by a “good morning” and a smile, and sometimes a wave of hand. There is a sense of comradeship even we do not know one another. We seem to share a tacit understanding that we love to be out on the trails because we appreciate the fresh air and natural scenery. Cyclists overtake me, and how I wish they would all ring the bell to signal they are near. I have the least tolerance for people on roller blades, because they take up over half the trail with their wide strides.

This Victorian Day Sunday I power walked with my walking buddies, and covered 17K chatting away. This was reinforcement enough but a greater reward was awaiting- cheese bread and coffee at PaneFresco. There were only three bread sticks left when I got there, and I immediately scooped up two. For many of us, PaneFresco was the carrot that got us out and we all celebrated with our due reward.

PaneFresco is located at 414 Locust Street, Burlington, ON.

Impossible? Possible!

My walking coach Lee Scott posted the photo of the start banner at the recent Toronto Sporting Life’s 10K event in her WoW What’s Up Newsletter (May, 2012). It read, “You have failed only when you have failed to try. Act as if it were impossible to fail and it will be”. It has kept me thinking for a good part of the day of the things I have tried, and not tried.

(Acknowledgement: My thanks to Lee Scott, founder of Wow Power Walking for giving me permission to use her photo.)

I decided five years ago that I had to abandon my haphazard attempts towards fitness  I was very fortunate to find my sport in power walking. I still train with Lee and her fantastic team of coaches. With their support, I have walked uncountable mileage on roads, sidewalks, and trails. I have completed races–5K, 10K, 10 miles, half marathons and a full marathon, and all this was outside my realm of imagination until I held the finishing medals in my hands.

Power walking is now part of my lifestyle. The distance I walk has also become my life’s metaphor. I am so glad that I have given power walking a try.