Monthly Archives: June 2013

Travel Theme: SCULPTURE

The Travel Theme of Where’s My Backpack asks for Sculpture this week. I have seen many famous and impressive sculptures on my travels, but close to my heart are two sculptures in Hamilton, Ontario.

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This is Pebbles on the Beach by Janus and is located on the Hamilton Beach Trail (about 5 Km from the Lift Bridge). Janus grew up in Hamilton and her sculpture features three children playing with pebbles. I love their body language and the look of concentration on their faces.

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Another sculpture is located at the Hamilton West Harbour, near the yacht club and I go there after I have walked on the Hamilton Waterfront Trail. Setting Sail, as it is called, presents two persons on a sail boat. I have taken this picture on a cloudy day, but the sculpture still looks majestic to me. l

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I am pleased to showcase to my readers these two local gems. Hope you like them.

Walking in the Footsteps of Laura Secord: A Bicentennial Hike

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I usually think of chocolates when I think of Laura Secord. However, the Laura Secord hike organized by the Niagara Club of the Bruce Trail takes us back into Canadian history. The British and the Americans were fighting in the War of 1812. Laura Secord, neé Ingorsoll, was born in Massachusetts, U.S.A.  She moved with her Loyalist family (Americans who supported the British during the American Revolutionary War) to Upper Canada (now Ontario). She married James Secord and lived in the small village of Queenston in the Niagara Region.

One day in June 1913, Laura Secord overheard some American soldiers who came to her house talking about the plan of a surprise attack on the British soldiers in Beaver Dams. She set foot on a 32 Km (20 miles) journey, arriving at De Cew House on June 22, 1813 to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon about the American ploy.  Two days later, the British defeated the American at the Battle of Beaver Dams.

To commemorate Laura Secord’s walk, the Niagara Club of the Bruce Trail Conservancy organizes a Laura Secord hike every year. This year is the Bicentennial Hike.

My husband and I arrived at the meeting place–car park of the Niagara Region office–at 5:45 a.m. to board a bus which took us to Laura Secord’s Homestead in Queenston to start the hike. The town was asleep, but the sun was up, and the town was adorned with flags to mark the bicentennial occasion. Around the corner of the Homestead, General Brock Column came into view. We began our climb up the stairs beside the printing museum. It was a couple of kilometres of hills to reach the Queenston Park, where there was also monument to remember Laura Secord.

The Bruce Trail Main Trail began here. Our journey was to follow the white blazers of the Main Trail until we get to De Cew House in St. Catharines.

There were so much to see on this hike. The terrains were variable, hence providing interesting challenges. The part I liked the least were the muddy downhills. Otherwise, I enjoyed the occasional leap over a water puddle or a stream, and an incline when my hiking stick became an asset. We came to a hill where everybody had to climb down carefully, due to the muddy slipperiness. It was a relief to overcome this steep slope!

We continued by climbing over a stile to enter a private property, came out to walk on city roads, and walked over a bridge which crossed the highway. We hiked on narrow country paths, past a swamp,  on the edge of people’s backyard and through the vineyards of Niagara.

We looked out for historical features along our route. Besides Laura Secord’s homestead, 1-IMG_1413 General Brock Column and the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in Queenston, we walked through the Screaming Tunnel, which according to legend, a young girl died here and if you strike a match inside the tunnel, you’ll hear her screaming. The tunnel was dark and wet. There was such a eerie feel to it that we just hurried on.  For a few kilometres, we were walking along the banks of the Welland Canal. Only Canal #3 was in operation and to my delight, I came across a lift bridge, which had played a very important role in the industrial development of southern Ontario.

Our last lag was to hike around the campus of Brock University. When finally we saw the grounds of De Cew House of which only the relics of the foundation remained, we picked up our pace to cross the river, and were received by Laura Secord and her friend.

It was a long hike and it took us over six hours to complete the 32 Kilometres. The Niagara Bruce Trail Club provided the hikers with a wholesome lunch at De Cew House, and very hospitable reception on all the four check points. The greatest reward at the end of the day was the badge of the Laura Secord Bicentennial Hike to sew on my backpack.

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Vierdaagse: A Four-Day Evening Walk, Dutch Style

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The location was Dundas Valley Conservation Park in Dundas, Ontario. The time was the second week of June 2013. This was my first Vierdaagse (meaning a four-day event in Dutch), which was into its 23rd year organized by the Dutch community in our region. It has been a tradition in Holland to have a four-day walking challenge in mid-July every year in Nijmegen. It started in 1908 with a goal to promote sports and exercises. Depending on age groups, people walk 30, 40 or 50 Km each day over four  consecutive days. The Canadian 4-day evening walk event is more a symbolic version with a choice of a long (10 Km) and a short (5 Km) walk every day. Participants came out on four evenings to do the walk.

There was a sea of orange (the Dutch national colour) at the start line. When the bugle (allegedly the horn from a Dutch canal boat) sounded, walkers headed out on their respective routes. I walked the long distance on Day 1 and Day 3, and the short distance on Day 2 and 4. The longer route took us into the forest of Dundas Valley, which was shaded. The route was marked by orange ribbons tied on the branches of the trees. The short route was along the Rail Trail, from the Trail Centre to Sanctuary Park and return, and it was flat and straight. The weather was not the most co-operative, especially on the first day, but it did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the people who had come out, many bringing children with them.

There were sightings of deer every evening, but I was only lucky enough to capture one of them on my iPhone on the last evening. Due to the rain, the fungi were rampant on the trail and many people stopped to take a picture of this big one growing on a tree trunk.

Back in the centre, there was a stall selling Dutch treats, such as pooffertjes–tiny pancakes brushed with butter and sprinkled with icing sugar– and croquettes. I tasted the pooffertjes for the first time. Yes, there was a “poof” sensation when I put it in my mouth!

At the end of the fourth evening, I was awarded my badge and a souvenir. Printed on it was “1” signifying that it was my first walk. Looking around, there were people who have done over ten years and one person with “19” on his badge. I’ll try to be back next year!

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Travel Theme: RIPPLE

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme in Where is My Backpack this week asks for Ripples. This word is open to interpretations, both concrete and abstract. I have posted this photo before in the context of a post on a city hike, but I think it fits the theme very well. These are the ripples, marks of the waves left on the sand that has been swept ashore by the beach along the Burlington (Ontario) lakeshore.

The waves are powerful as they sweep towards the shore, but they become ripples when they recede back to the lake.

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A Word A Week Photo Challenge: VIBRANT

SONY DSCVibrant is the theme  for this week’s A Word A Week Photography Challenge posted by A Word in Your Ear from a small island in Malaysia. Vibrant means full of life and energy, and I think about the night life in Hong Kong. This is Causeway Bay at eleven o’clock at night and it is vibrant with people, traffic and the neon lights on the building. People do not pay much attention to the traffic signals. When it is the pedastrians’ turn to use the zebra crossings, the entire street is swarmed by people.

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Choral Music with Voices: Bach to Basics

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I have written that my favourite composers are Bach, Beethoven and Brahms when I describe myself on the acceptance of some blogging awards . Understandably, how could I resist a concert that presents the choral music of these three composers performed in the fitting setting of a church?

Voices, under the artistic direction of Ron Ka Ming Cheung, had chosen the Anglican Church of St.-Martin’s-in-the-Field in Toronto to be the venue of their year-end concert. The Church celebrated many beautiful architectural features such as stain glass windows, a hand-carved oak sanctuary imported from Belgium and wooden sculptures. I was particularly interested in the organ,  described to be “a two-manual with twenty-one stops by Casavant Freres”. This Church is renowned for its acoustics, and it is written that Glen Gould and Ofra Harnoy have made recording there.

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About ten minutes before the beginning of the concert, Ron Cheung came out to speak to the audience. He gave an introduction to the music which the choir would be performing, and he did it with interesting details and anecdotes that I seldom found in many programme notes. For example, when describing the Mass in C Op. 86 by Beethoven, he mentioned that it was a creative departure from Haydn and he dedicated it to the Prince Nicholaus Esterhazy. At the end of the performance, the Prince came up to Beethoven and exclaimed, “What have you done!” Beethoven took it as an insult and left Vienna immediately. He dedicated the Mass to someone else. (Wikipedia noted that this was Beethoven’s public disgrace.) However, Ron Cheung opined that it was probably Beethoven’s misunderstanding, because given the beauty of this piece, the Prince’s remark was likely one of amazement and praise. The choir presented Kyrie and Angus Dei, true to the spirit in Beethoven’s words, “gentle, with an overall serenity”.

The other work by Beethoven sung by the choir was the Hallelujah chorus from Christ on the the Mount of Olives Op.85. It was a less popular piece compared ot Handel’s chorus from the Messiah. Thanks to the conductor’s for pointing it out, one could catch the reference to Handel’s work in the accompaniment.

Brahms’s works were sung next. The Missa Canonica was the only Mass written by Brahms, based on a canon-like (“round’) form and worked on the melodic 7th interval, and conductor Cheung mused that it was like an exercise for counterpoint. This piece was not discovered until the last century. The choir sang the Kyrie, Sanctus & Benedictus, and Agnus Dei.  Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen from Ein deutsches Requiem Op. 45 completed the first half of the concert. It was a moving performance which mesmerized the audience.

It was all Bach after the intermission. The choir began with three chorales: Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Dein Will gescheh, Herr Gott, sugleich; and Verleih uns Frieden gnadiglich.  They sang Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied BWV 225, Excerpts were chosen from Bach’s huge works Mass in B minor BWV 232, and St. Matthew’s Passion BWV 244. The choir rearranged the members to present the two-choir pieces. Meticulous care in programme planning was reflected by having the Kyrie I and Dona Nobis Pacem to echo Beethoven’s beginning pieces, like “book-ends”, according to Ron Cheung.

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Interspersing the choral music was either a cello solo or an organ solo by pieces of the three composers. Organist John Stephenson provided an excellent solo performance and a brilliant accompaniment the entire evening.

Voices had chosen very challenging pieces to perform this evening. They took full advantage of the acoustic of the Church and sounded powerful for a choir with twenty members. I noticed that they had to work hard with the two-choir pieces after a long evening singing in a warm evening without air conditioning. I left the concert feeling that Voices had affirmed their reputation as one of the finest community chamber choirs in Toronto. By showcasing the 4th movement of Brahms’s Requiem, they have given a sneak preview of their calibre as it is their plant to sing the entire work at Easter next season.  I hope I’ll be among their audience.

Church of St, Martin-in-the-Fields, 151 Glenlake Ave., Toronto, Ontario

Exotic Indian Cuisine: Home-style Indian Cooking in Toronto

Exotic Logo My Indian friend and my walking buddies were discussing the difference between home-cooked food and restaurant-cooked food on one of our regular walks and she said that her favourite restaurant in Toronto could do exactly what she did in traditional home cooking. I like Indian food a lot, and it was only logical that she offered to take some of us for a try. Exotic Indian Cuisine is located in a quiet plaza in north Toronto. My friend knows the chef-owner Kishor well, and one of the treats for us is a visit to the kitchen to see how naan bread is made. The dough is tossed to the side of an open charcoal oven. The bread is removed when it is ready with a metal hook. 1-DSC02278 For appetizers, we have chosen chicken pekora, which is meaty and moist, and the vegetarian pekora, which is tasty, although I do not like the doughy texture. They are served sizzling on a hot plate. We also have a kachori (pigeon peas in whole wheat pastry), which is an interesting change from samosa. We have papadom dipped in various sauces.

We have so many dishes for main courses that I cannot remember all of them 1-DSC02280 The Dhaba chicken is described as “just like the taste of street stalls” in the menu and it is delicious. I also like the deep-fried okra, and cashew nut curry and the butter chicken. There is rice and naan to soak up the tasty sauces. We all agree that some of the dishes are not found in the menu of other Indian restaurants, and the style and taste too, attested by our Indian friend, is home-style. I always give extra points to Indian restaurant which serve kulfi , and Exotic Indian Cuisine does. I indulge in my pistachio kulfi. There is also the rose flavour ice cream to sample. I stick by my pistachio kulfi. There is something about spicy food in that I would crave for it after a while. Exotic Indian Cuisine will be high on my list when I have my next craving.

Exotic Indian Cuisine is situated at: 1850 Albion Road, Toronto, ON.  

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Travel Theme PEACEFUL: The Interactive Garden of Walt Rickli

The Travel Theme of Ailsa’s Where is my Backpack this week is Peaceful. This photo shows the setting in which I have discovered a peaceful surrounding for a quiet walk to engage in my own meditation.

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I am talking about the Interactive Garden of Walk Rickli, nestled in the serene grounds near Bronte Creek in Lowville Park, Burlington Ontario. Walt Rickli has made his name as a stone sculptor-philosopher, who has integrated into his art the beauty of nature and reflections in the mind. While I pace along the garden path, each sculpture invites me to pause, look and think. Many pieces on display have running water, the sound of which entices me to walk over, and I discover the stillness of the stone contrasting with the movement of the water. Many a visitor will find the ‘ohm’ moment here.

This is one of my favourite pieces.

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The exhibits are rotated during the year. I find on this day several sculptures depicting the native Inuit theme. I leave them to your interpretation.

Weekly Photo Challenge: FLEETING

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I was bee-chasing in order to take this picture. One moment it was hovering on one flower and the next moment, it was gone. Fleeting indeed!  To my surprise, however, instead of capturing one bee in this photo, there were two more bees that I did not notice at the time. Our attention can also be fleeting.

How long is the life of a bee? Honey bees who are busy in the summer live from 6 to 7 weeks, and bumble bees only a couple of weeks. One can call their lives fleeting too.

Kitchen Renovation (6): The Final Lag and Finish Line!

My excitement was beyond words when the cabinets arrived soon after the dry walls were finished and the tiles laid on the floor. The cabinet installer also started working on the same day. Watching him work, I discovered how exact the task was to ensure that seams and joints were aligned, the hinges on the doors were adjusted and tightened, and the shelves were placed to provide functional partitions. I was very pleased to see the two-tier lazy Susan trays which would give me all the space I had hoped for in the corners of the cabinets.

In the meantime, the painter came in. I had been expecting him for a while, especially the contractor told me that the painter had promised to complete my job before his three-week holiday in Australia. I could simply not bear the thought of my kitchen on hold for three weeks! To my relief, a jovial painter bounced in like a kangaroo (he told me he was Australian), decided on the colour with me and the job was done.

The final lag of the kitchen renovation was a piece of orchestration and co-ordination by the different trades, and the supervisor did a superb job lining them up. Once the lower cabinets had been installed, the countertop person was called in to do the measurements. He used an equipment that was similar to a surveying tool. That was an innovative procedure to me.

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It took two weeks for the counter top to be ready. The cabinet installer continued with his work and so did the electrician who put in lighting under and inside some cabinets.

I welcomed the counter top on its day of its arrival like a groom waiting for his bride. I heaved a big sigh of relief when it was brought in, because finally I could tell that it matched my choice of the floor tiles. The backsplash were installed the day after the counter top. Another day for grouting and cleaning up. The last item to go in was the kitchen vent.

I had no idea when I started to post about my kitchen renovation that it had taken some eleven weeks to have everything completed. Not bad, because I was given an estimate of nine to ten weeks when the job started. I had become used to cooking and eating in my make-shift kitchen in the basement, but it’s certainly time I moved to my new kitchen and caryy on. It would take me several days to wipe it down and return to the old routine with new appliances and new storage arrangements . If you were expecting drama from my renovation, you might be disappointed. However, it was an educational experience, nonetheless, finding out the expertise of the different trades and craftsmen, learning to be patient and how to communicate clearly what I wanted using trade terms.

Please don’t ask me about kitchen warming yet; just let me enjoy the sight of it first.

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English Afternoon Tea at the King Edward Hotel

English afternoon tea often leads one to imagine an elegant surrounding, fine china and expensive cutlery. One sips the tea, served with delicate pastries, sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and jam. This is exactly what the Victoria’s at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto offers to its patrons.

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We were seated in a spacious room with large paintings on the wall. Service was attentive  and never intrusive. While we studied the menu, the waiter left us with a box of tea to sample our choices. I selected my favourite, Lapsang Souchong, while my companions chose Darjeeling and Assam, respectively. We also settled for the King’s Tea, deciding that we did not need the other option with champagne included.

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Our tea was served in Wedgewood china. The sandwiches arrived next and the selection included beef, salmon, egg and chicken. I was slightly disappointed that cucumber sandwich was not included. A three-tier tray arrived with the scones, lemon macaroon, maple tart, cheesecake  and strawberry mousse. They were delicious. My companions and I relaxed and chatted. Quite naturally our discussion also touched on what is the proper way to hold a teacup, and whether to put milk into the tea first. My blog friend Janet has written an interesting post about that recently too. The Victoria’s  had given us a leisurely break from the busy world outside.