Category Archives: Leisure

Byward Market: Good Enough for A President

1-DSC02553

Every time I visit Ottawa, I always make a stop at Byward Market. Street markets always have a lure for me, and particularly at this time of the year, the fresh produce from the local farms tops it all. I’ll let this mosaic of colours speak for themselves.

Then the Byward Market also offers many delicious goodies, like the Beaver Tail,

and this delicious croissant with ham and egg filling and home fries.

1-DSC02573

The pastries and cookies at Le Moulin de Provence should not be missed. In fact, when President Obama visited Ottawa in 2009, he made an impromptu visit to Byward Market. After trying the Beaver Tail, he walked across the road to Le Moulin de Provence and he was offered maple leaf cookies for free. A huge photograph of the President and a video clip of his visit are still on display to-day.

One Book One Burlington (OBOB) 2103

1-IMG_1852

The Burlington (Ontario) Public Library has chosen Beach Strip written by local–Hamilton resident–author John Lawrence Reynolds for their annual One Book One Burlington event this Fall. This is a crime novel. A series of events and talks have been organized around it, such as meet the author, history of the Beach Strip and Burlington Light House, forensic sciences, crime authors panel and film noir, are taking place this month. Naturally, extra copies of the book has been made available to promote readership. Imagine, one can find a copy of the book on the local transit! I tip my hat to this marketing ploy.

I had read the book and discussed it with a book club earlier. I was there at the kick-off event, Meet the Author John Lawrence Reynolds, two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Mystery, to find out more. There were at least three hundred people at the hall of Port Nelson Church for the talk.

John Lawrence Reynold was forthright and entertaining in his talk. He lived in Burlington and knew the Beach Strip well. He said that it was his wife’s idea to use the Burlington Beach Trail as the setting for his book. He began jokingly by saying that as a male, the word “strip” has another meaning, but with his strict Christian upbringing, he did not feel comfortable placing the dead body of a naked woman on the beach; hence the victim was a man.

He spent a lot of time explaining his use of a woman’s voice. He revealed that his publishing team from agent to editor were women, plus his wife. They were giving him suggestions along the way. Besides, he justified his decision by adapting a Jane Austen quote, and Reynolds said, “A man must realize that he does not know any more about women than women know about men.”

Reynolds mentioned that many of his fictional characters were derived from people in his own experience, like the self-centred, manipulative Tina (Josie’s–the heroine–sister), who flirted with the taxi driver, Josie’s mother who was perceptive, and the shy Glynnis. He built Josie’s character to be the same as his male detectives in giving her persistence, courage and perseverance. He recognized that Josie’s had critics, likely because female and male characters were being judged differently. He believed that he had given her female qualities by her need for relationship and her sexuality.

The same applied to events from his own experience. Josie’s recollection of waiting at the canal for ships to pass came from a person he had known who enjoyed doing the same and waving at the boats that passed.  Josie’s blocking out her father’s death was related to Reynold’s experience of the Defasco (a big Hamilton steel factory) industrial accident many years ago.

Reynolds did not intend to send any message from his book. He just wanted a page-turner; a story well told was his goal. As a writer, he spent time on his characters and put them before his plot. He put them through the scene and trusted that the rest would follow. In this connection, he compared this approach to that of Ray Bradbury, who said that the plot was the foothold for the characters to launch.

There had not been any offers for a TV movie, and Reynolds spoke in a tongue-in-cheek manner that two more sequels may be in the pipeline, and the titles would be Beach Blonde and Beach Balls.

The audience seemed happy with the talk.  For me, it was educational to go into the process of  the creation of a fictional novel and the workings of an author’s mind.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: SAND and DIRT

1-1-IMG_0866

This picture of all the debris on the sandy beach may not be what beach and nature lovers want to see. It fits the theme for this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (Sand and Dirt) nonetheless. With each tide, the debris is washed onto shore and then back to the sea.

I leave the next picture to your imagination.

1-1-IMG_1461

A footprint here…Mine! It would be washed away by the next tide. Ephemeral our existence is in this world, how can we leave a cleaner footprint, and make this earth a more beautiful place for everyone?

1-1-IMG_0860

From Caledon Hills to Limehouse: End-to-End with the Bruce Trail Toronto Club (Day 1)

1-IMG_1853The Bruce Trail Conservancy’s Toronto Club End-to-End expected hikers to complete about 50 Km over two consecutive days. (There was a one-day option, but I decided to forego this ultra distance which would take me 10 hours of walking and took it easy instead.) My group met at Limehouse in Halton Hills. This small community of about 500 people were still asleep when we arrived. There were over ninety participants in this event and we were taken by bus to the start point which divided the Toronto Club section from the Caledon Club section.

The first lag was the paved asphalt surface of Credit View Road and then Boston Hill Road. We were flanked on both sides by farmland. We passed a cornfield and an orchard.  We walked over a kilometre before entering into the trail.

The footing and the trail surface changed as soon as we were in the woodland.

1-IMG_1860

It was more shaded, but it also meant more obstacles. Some trees that had fallen across the trail were there for us to walk over or duck under. I negotiated three such tree trunks within a short distance. I felt like a horse jumping over hurdles in a steeple chase.

This section soon ended and we were back on the road of Heritage Road, which led into the Caledon Trailway.

The Trailway had an old rail buried under it. It reminded me of the Rail Trail in Hamilton that I frequented. As another hiker remarked, “Once you’ve seen a rail trail, you’ve seen them all.”

After exiting the Trailway, we entered some private property by climbing over a stile, and out again, but not before we saw many apples by the roadside. They were likely from apples trees of an abandoned orchard in an area close to the Terra Cotta Conservation Area.

The forest is a mixture of deciduous and evergreen tree. This is  the military formation of tree planting.

1-IMG_1875

We had walked over 10Km and was glad to reach the first check point near Vaughan Road for some snacks. Leaving the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, we entered the Silver Creek Conservation Area for a totally different challenge and scenery.

This was also a very rocky section on high elevation.

I suddenly realized that I had been here before, when I came to this narrow rocky section. I was here in early spring here when it was still covered in ice and snow on what I called a treacherous hike.

1-IMG_1891

We were hiking by Silver Creek and the sound of the running water accompanied us for some distance. This was a well-maintained section by the volunteers of the Bruce Trail. We came across many bridges like this one.

One more rocky patch and the second checkpoint was in sight.

1-IMG_1897

This also meant out of the woods into more urban area of the trail. The remaining hike went through the grounds of Scotdale Farm, road ways and finally the Limestone parking lot was in sight.

Day 1 was now completed and we had accomplished 28 Km. The weather was most co-operative. What we needed was a relaxing bath and a good night sleep to recover for the following day.

Reference: The hike followed Maps 13 and 14 of the Bruch Trail Maps and Trail Guide Edition 27.

Thursday Special: Ottawa Celebrates Fall

1-DSC02559

This 900-lb pumpkin at Byward Market in Ottawa is my entry to Paula’s (Lost in Translation) Thursday Special this week, before I return from the capital to Toronto in preparation for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. I have had a good business-cum-pleasure trip the last few days and I hope I shall be blogging more about my visit. In the meantime, please join me in celebrating the harvest season with pumpkins big and small, and gourds of different colours and shapes.

1-DSC02557

Finally, do not miss out on the pumpkin cookies!

1-DSC02590

jupiter-widget_text

Thursday Special: Serendipity (A New Tea House in Burlington)

1-IMG_1311

The quotation of Henry James on a chalk board greets me and my friend when we enter Serendipity Tea House in Burlington, Ontario. It helps to dispel our frustration after driving around the block twice before we can locate this place.

My friend and I make the impromptu decision to have afternoon tea. We have heard about a new tea house and decide to look for it. Just as it is named, Serendipity Tea House is our serendipitous find. I want to make this post my Thursday Special (hosted by Paula) for this week.

We feel quite comfortable in this small café with clean white table cloth and fine table settings.

The lunch crowd has left and we have a quiet time before other customers for afternoon tea arrive. The menu offers many choices for tea, and a lot in the fashionable category like green tea, white tea, herbal and caffeine free. I am a traditionalist, and so I only have English Breakfast Tea, Darjeeling and Earl Grey to choose from. My friend and I both settle for Darjeeling.

We also order the Classic Tea. It was a gorgeous presentation of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries.  The cucumber sandwich is a real delight. The scones are warm and served with clotted cream.

1-IMG_1309

My friend and I chat over our tea for almost two hours. There is classical music in the background, the genre I like.  We feel we have our privacy even with other customers around in this quaint tea house. I had afternoon tea which was very enjoyable in a bigger hotel earlier this year; yet if I had to make a choice, I would come back to Serendipity.

POSTSCRIPT:  Serendipity Tea House has an entrance address: 477 John Street, Burlington, Ontario which is different from their postal address.

Serendipity Tea House on Urbanspoon

jupiter-widget_text

Supercrawl 2013

Hamilton, Ontario is a city undergoing rejuvenation and transformation. While I have blogged about the legacy from the past–the Lift Bridge and the Hamilton Farmer’s Market–I find it refreshing to read a young person’s perspective of the city and its events.

Bea's Bites

A couple weeks ago, I went to Supercrawl in Hamilton, a city about an hour away from Toronto.  Supercrawl was a two-day festival over Friday and Saturday, celebrating music, art, and culture. While I had heard about the emerging art scene in Hamilton, this was my first time experiencing it, and I was excited to explore Hamilton!

Each year, Supercrawl gets bigger and I can definitely see why. The biggest draw to Supercrawl for me initially is the music line-up. This year they had some big bands such as Passion Pit, Yo La Tengo and Said the Whale. But I fell in love with so much more.

Supercrawl took place along a blocked off James Street North, so there was no need to worry about cars except for one crossing. We spotted interesting art in strange places.

SupercrawlA functional merry go round made out of scrap metal.

Supercrawl-003Sculptures made out of…

View original post 303 more words

Weekly Photo Challenge: SATURATED

I was at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market. As it was fairly early, I found the stores saturated with stocks; just right for this week’s Photo Challenge: “Saturated“. The cheese store displayed a sea of yellow in different tones, the meat was pink and fresh, and the florist was saturated with colours too.

1-IMG_1733

1-IMG_1731

1-IMG_1732

1-IMG_1727

The Hamilton Farmers Market shares a long history with the City of Hamilton since its inception in 1837. It is open four days a week. Since it is situated in the downtown area of the City, it is a convenient location for office workers to shop for fresh produce, coffee and spices, baked goods as well as household items during lunch hour, and before or after work.

Hamilton Farmers Market, 35 York Blvd., Hamilton, Ontario. (Jackson Square).

Thursday Special: A Mud Run

This is not an Adult post, nor is it rated “X”

1-IMG_1765

A mud run? Who wants to get dirty in the mud?

I want to make this post a Thursday Special initiated by Paula, because it is a totally new AND special experience for me…even as a spectator.

On this beautiful day in early Fall, my friends invited me to join them for a road trip to Buffalo, NY. My assignment was to be their photographer when they participated in a mud run. We drove almost three hours from Hamilton Ontario to New York State. The event took place in Elegant Raceway Park.

Pink was the dominant colour at this event. Although it was not a fundraiser for cancer, survivors were offered complimentary registration, hence making it a popular occasion for survivors and their families and friends to have some fun. I was impressed by the beautiful team T-shirts and the colourful knee socks and tights around me.

Some participants wore tutus.

The run was a five-kilometre route with obstacles along the way–climbing up a rope fence, wading and crawling in mud pools, and sliding into a mud tub–just to get dirty!

Some people rolled and swam in the mud pool, while others tried to stay as clean as possible using different strategies, but it was all relative, for they still got dirty anyway. Most people seemed to be enjoying themselves even when they walked away dripping and caked in mud.  So did my friends!

The organizers offered some basic facilities for rinsing off the dirt and for changing. My friends felt comfortable enough to head out for lunch afterwards, knowing that they would have a thorough scrubbing when we returned to Canada.

1-IMG_1819

I am so proud of my friends. We are in the same age group and they have taken on the challenge to get dirty in this obstacle run. I should be up to it stamina-wise, but I prefer to stay clean and enjoy the experience vicariously. We do what we can and prefer, and I think this experience fits beautifully into the philosophy of my blog–Aging with Peace of Mind.

(Here is the where Paula talks about her conceptualization of this wonderful Thursday Special non-challenge “challenge”. I love this avenue to express ourselves.)

Jupiter's widget

 

Choral Music with Voices: Bach to Basics

1-IMG_1342

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.

1-IMG_1326

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.

1-IMG_1332

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

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.

1-IMG_1181

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.

1-IMG_1187

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.

Leslie Shimotakahara Reads “The Reading List”

I1-IMG_1248 heard about Leslie Shimotakahara through six-degree connections, bought and read her book The Reading List: Literature, Love and Back Again, A Memoir. In each chapter of her memoir, she relates herself to the character of a book, as she describes her struggle with her career and her relationships with friends and family members. She has included Thoreau, Wharton and Joyce as well as Faulkner, Woolf and Hemingway in her thirteen chapters. Ondaatje and Atwood also make it into her list, among others. I have also found out from her blog under the same title “The Reading List” that she has many insightful reflections weaved into the over sixty book titles she has posted on her blog.  When I heard that she would be reading from her work in Hamilton, Ontario, I went out, because I wanted to meet her and ask her to autograph  my book.

The reading was organized by Litlive and held at the Homegrown Cafe in Hamilton, Ontario. The venue was situated in the re-vitalized downtown area of the city, where artists and writers had moved to in recent years. It offered a casual but cosy setting for this reading event with about thirty people among the audience to listen to the works of six writers of poetry and prose.

1-DSC02294-001

My interest in meeting Leslie Shimotakahara stems not from the fact that I know a member of her extended family who has told me about the book in the first place. It is more because I am fascinated by her talent. Her writing has demonstrated scholarship and style. I admire her courage and frankness in revealing herself and her family in a memoir, though generally memoirs are written by people much older than she is. Her themes are multi-faceted and she has knitted them together seamlessly in her book.

I can relate to her feelings about academia, having come from academia myself. It would1-DSC02296 indeed be difficult if your goals and inclinations are not there to play the role according to the rules of the game, no matter how interested your are in the subject matter and the topic you are conducting research on. Now that I have met Leslie Shimo (guess it is all right to shorten her name like her great grandfather, Kozo, was referred to in her book). I can also identify with her disadvantage of having a young-looking oriental face. It would be tough to be a professor, a bona fida professor she was, in a small east coast town where the parochial outlook predisposed her students to take her at face value (ah, what a pun).  I wish I could tell her that I had been asked if I were a teaching assistant  by an overseas visitor I met for the first time in a faculty social after I had been a full member on faculty for some years.

Part of the revelation in the book was the Shimotakahara family history during the period of internment of the Japanese in Vancouver during the Second World War, and it was spearheaded by her father who tried to extract as much information as he could from her grandmother before she died. Her family saga could be representative of the hardship of many a Japanese families during those difficulty times. I cannot but marvel at Leslie Shimo’s artistry in blending her personal story against the backdrop of the past and present unrest in her family and in the world. The tension was palpable and she handles it with such ease.

She read an excerpt from the first chapter of her book. There she 1-IMG_1249was, back home to decide on her next move after leaving the ivory tower and after fulfilling her father’s aspiration for her –although it might not be hers– to obtain a doctorate and to become a professor. I am daughter as well as a mother. When I read that part of the book and listened to Shimo read, I  kept wondering: Is this an immigrant psyche, or an oriental psyche? I have to resort to Jung for an explanation of our collective consciousness.

Critics and publicity blurbs describe Shimo as “a recovering academic”. As I watched her friendly smile and how composed and graceful she was on stage, Leslie Shimotakahara was already “a recovered academic”, in my opinion. I congratulate her on winning the Canada Council for the Arts Canada-Japanese Literary Award.  I wish her well in her new relationship and I look forward to reading her next book.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: SPRING (River and Ruin Hike)

1-IMG_1265

Everything I saw on my hike on the River and Ruin Trail in the Lowville Park area in Halton Region, Ontario was a representation of Spring. I am therefore integrating this as my submission to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: SPRING. The moment we set out on our hike from the carpark, Spring was tangible. Photography could only capture what one could see. The green of the grass and the leaves is a Spring green, which looked so promising after the rain from the night before.  I could hear Spring from the birds’ singing and chirping, and the rustling of the wind, I could feel Spring from the cool, refreshing breeze, and I could smell Spring in the air. The flowering trees were starting to bloom and the open fields were covered with dandelions, bright yellow contrasting with bright new green.

P 1-IMG_1287 Other vegetation, from the fern to the May apple (with its bud hiding underneath the leaves), the trilliums to the marsh daisies are out. I saw the Bracket Fungi for the first time.

We also spotted the Garlic Mustard, an unwanted foreign specie because they would edge out the other plants.

We took the River and Ruin Side Trail, crossed a bridge to join the Bruce Trail Main Trail. We hiked to Kilbride, took a lunch break and hiked back, using a different arm of the side trail to see the ruin. The water level was high and we had Bronte Creek to our right for half of the hike. The ruin appeared as a surprise among the trees. It was the relics was a big farmhouse.

1-IMG_1269

1-IMG_1299

We had to use our imagination to think back two hundred years ago when this part was farmland and the residents were using out hiking trail to go to their general store in Lowville. What kind of bridge did they have back then?

Sporting Life 10K: Racing with 27,000 Athletes on Yonge Street

1-IMG_1223

About a year ago, I wrote my first blog post with a picture taken by my walking coach Lee Scott at the start line of the Sporting Life 10K race. This year, on May 12, 2013, I was standing behind the same start line with the banner over me. I was among the 27,000 participants getting ready to race down Yonge Street to raise funds for Camp Oochigeas, a camp in Muskoka for children with cancer.

The cold air that snapped back in mid-Spring did not chill the enthusiasm of the participants most of whom were dressed appropriately to come out early in the morning, warm enough to stand around waiting and yet not to get overheated when they were well into the race. There was a mix of short sleeves and long sleeves, plus of course, the cut-out garbage bags, which would be discarded along the way.

Athletes started to arrive around 7 a,m. They either huddled under the  scaffolding of buildings or went into the Sporting Life shop or a Starbucks nearby to stay warm. By 7:45 a.m. everybody lined up at the corral to which each person was assigned based on expected finishing time.  I was a walker and so I waited in the Orange corral. The gun went off at 8 a.m. for the first wave of elite runners and those who intended to finish under 48 minutes (Red and Yellow corrals) to be followed by the Blue, Green, Purple and Orange waves, the last of which waited until 8:40 a.m.

An awesome sight appeared in front of me as I power walked down Yonge Street. It was a sea of people on the busiest and longest street in Toronto.1-IMG_1226

We started from between Eglinton and Lawrence, headed south and then turned west at Richmond. All the streets were closed to traffic. The sense of ownership of the roads without  cars was unspeakable. At the club district, we turned south along Peters Street, which looked asleep in the morning hours. We went west again on Front Street, then south on Bathhurst and the Finish Line was on Fort York Blvd. just west of Bathurst. We had live bands entertaining us at each kilometre mark.

After crossing the Finish Line, we were gathered at Coronation Park, where volunteers handed us the medal, and where refreshments were waiting. This year, Nike gave each participant a sticker that they could put on the Nike Wall, and Nike would donate $1 for each sticker, up to the amount of $10,000. This year, Sporting Life aimed to raise 2.4 million dollars for the Camp. The Sporting Life 10K now reigns as the second largest running race in Canada and the race with the largest charitable donations.