Tag Archives: Burlington

Book Club Review: Beach Strip, John Lawrence Reynolds

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POSSIBLE SPOILER

I have a chance to read Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds through the book club of my local library branch, which is in support of the One Book One Burlington Event this Fall.  Our discussion surrounds some of the questions prepared by the librarians, with insight from a member who has taken part in the initial shortlisting of the book.

Most of us know where the Beach Strip is as a local landmark in Burlington and some of us have walked along it, including myself. (This is another reason why I read this book, because of the familiarity of the setting.) If you have been following my blog, you may wonder if I have an obsession about this area–the beach walk, the waves and the lift bridge. I tell my group that as I am reading the book, the scenery appears vividly in my mind’s eyes, even though I walk along the strip only in daylight and the crime in the book takes place at night. I figure out roughly where the author refers to as the first crime scene, and know exactly the location of an unexpected twist in the plot in which Josie Marshall walks on the lift bridge, looks at the guard on duty in the tower and throws the ashes of her husband in the canal. After that she walks on to discover a dead body, whose head is missing! I have not gone back to Beach Trail and the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge by myself since reading the gory details. Honestly, I need some company here.

When it comes to the plot, we have a perceptive remark that every ingredient one wants for a crime story is here. There is more than one murder, and the cops play a key role. There is more: Sex, flirtation, violence, a gangster boss, a suspected pervert, filial piety, sibling rivalry, extra-marital relationship and police corruption. Reynolds must be having fun with his canvas of the book, and puts a dab of this character and that character, as well as the various themes, viola! We are wondering whether with all these catchy ingredients the film right of a TV movie may be forthcoming.

The biggest misgiving we all have is the characterization of Josie Marshall, whose husband Gabe, a police detective, is found dead on the Beach Strip outside their house.  Josie does not believe that Gabe has committed suicide, as the police has told her. She takes it upon herself to find the murderer. There are too many inconsistencies. One moment Josie is grieving her loss and crying that she is feeling weak, but the next moment she is charging around talking to people and functioning like a cool and balanced-headed detective. Then she is in Vancouver with her sister, spent after all her experience. Next she is on a flight, calling and emailing all the people she wants to see to expose the murderer. This is all within three weeks of losing her husband. Mind you, she has seen at least two dead bodies in this short time. She appears like Super Woman.

The most upsetting part for us, all being female readers, is the stereotype of a woman’s strength to be her sexual appeal. It is only too superficial to see Josie deliberately wearing a tight top and a short pencil skirt when she visits the gangster boss. Reynolds says that he is experimenting with a female protagonist in this novel and when he tries to get into the head of the Josie Marshall,  it seems that it still comes from a male perspective. Anyhow, Reynolds will be appearing in an event to talk about his book. It will be interesting to see what he has to say.

The book is an interesting read, but likely not Reynold’s best. We think that it is selected for One Book One Burlington more because the setting is a local attraction, and Reynolds is a Burlington resident.  It is also easy to fit in other activities for this “one book one community” event which is gaining popular support in  the province.

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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.

A Blast with Burgers at The Works

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The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro opened in Burlington, Ontario last November. It has been quite the buzz of town since then. My husband and I arrived there at 6 p.m. and there were already a line-up there with about 20 people inside and outside combined.

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Fortunately, it was only a twenty-minute wait and on the positive side, we were more hungry and ready to enjoy our meal.

This was no ordinary burger place. When we finally sat down, we were given a menu which instructed us how to order our burgers in five steps. Step 1 was easy; we had to decided on the pattie. My husband chose beef and since I was in an adventurous mood, I picked elk. The second step appeared overwhelming. There were about 80 toppings grouped under six categories with names such as Born To Be Wild, World Tour, Veg Out, Carnivore’s Corner, etc.  I picked Dead Ringer from Top 10 Burgerhead Faves. The description of the ingredients said brisket, jack cheese, smokey BBQ sauce and onion rings, but I still could not understand the name. My husband chose Jamaica Jerk, which contained fiery Jamican jerk spices, sweet green chilies, Montery jack and ripe tomatoes. I was already tired after reading through the list. My thought: It’s too much brain work to order a burger.

Fortunately, the next step was easy, I chose my whole wheat bun out of three choices. For sides (Step 4), I ordered a salad and my husband ordered fried sweet potatoes to split and share between us. There was Step 5, called Add On, but since we had already decided to have an onion ring tower for starter, we did not bother with more menu reading.

We had time to look around the decor while waiting for our food.  There was an industrial feel to the place, The main wall had an artist impression of the Burlington Lift Bridge, It fit in with my conceptualization and I like this choice to represent the City of Burlington. There  were metal works for decor and pipes for partition. Waiters wore t-shirt with the restaurants logo in front and their motto at the back.

Our water was served in a 16-oz measuring cup. The friend onion tower ushered our burgers served on tin trays.

The fried onion rings came with a spicy mayo dip and a beach house dip. The onion rings were the best I had tasted for a long time. The burgers were tasty although the patties were on the thin side. It was a filling and satisfying burger meal.

The Works Burger Bistro, 443 Brant Street, Burlington, Ontario.

The WORKS - Gourmet Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

Chasing The Waves On An Urban Hike

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I never expected my first hike this season would turn out to be so exciting and dramatic. Yes, it was meant to be an easy warm-up hike from downtown Burlington to the Lift Bridge and looping back. But surprise was awaiting…

We started off as planned from the car park of the Burlington Central Library, headed out on Seneca Street through a quiet residential neighbourhood and turned into the Centennial (Bike) Trail. We headed west towards Brant Street and turned towards the boardwalk along Spencer Smith Park. When we were nearing the lake, we could hear the sounds of waves, but  it was only when  we reached the boardwalk that we realized the impact of the waves fueled by the east wind which was blowing in full force.

When a couple of us saw the waves rushing on shore and making huge splashes over the boardwalk, we were ecstatic. I took out my cell phone and starting clicking frantically away.

The white crested walls started to swell one after another across the bay and approached the shore. The roar got louder and louder, and the waves hit the rocks making a serious of deafening cracks as they broke. The water splashes rose about five feet above the guard rail. It was spectacular! Had it not been for our hike leader urging us to move on, we would have stayed there moving back and forth the boardwalk chasing the waves.

Walking along the  Waterfront Trail bordering the Beachway Park we saw the marks left by the wind and sand on the shoreline.

The Lift Bridge was finally in sight, and I took another picture here contrasting the old and the new bridges that had grown up with the City of Burlington.

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It simply was too windy and dangerous to work out to the pier and the lighthouse. We bid farewell to Burlington Bay and made our way back along the beach.

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The waves were rolling onto shore relentlessly, while we left our footprints on the sand.

The wind and waves continued to howl  when we were back at the boardwalk. The sky had cleared.  I could not resist the temptation to record again this powerful display of nature’s might. Now I wish I had a video to record this sight as well as the symphony of the waves and wind.

Leaving the boardwalk, we stopped briefly to examine the bronze statue commemorating the local servicemen who perished, and navy and merchant fleets sunken and lost at sea in the Second World War. Having witnessed the force of the wind and waves this morning, I could only imagine the perils that our servicemen had experienced when they sacrificed their lives  .

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Small Plate Dining (The Alex Restaurant)

The Alex’s Restaurant brings a new concept to the wining and dining experience in Burlington, ON by offering ‘small plates’. It is an ingenious creation because it has succeeded in setting itself apart from tapas, both in terms of serving size and continental influence. The chef has the freedom to create a menu which ranges from fois gras to mac ‘n cheese, or from flatbread to poached lobster.

Almost every item on the menu seemed enticing and the three of us randomly ordered what we thought would be interesting. When it came to serving, the waiter started by bringing us the salad and the flatbread, and they were followed by the chicken wings stuffed with fennal sausage, pan roasted basa with mash, and  mac ‘n cheese. The richer dishes, like the osso bucco and short ribs, came last.  They had quite appropriately helped us create the sequence of a tasting menu from our choices. We rounded off our dinner with a cheese board.

Each dish was nicely crafted both in taste and in presentation. The fine dining twist was impressive. There was lobster and shrimp morsels in the mac ‘n cheese. The basa fillet sat on mash potatoes infused with truffle oil. Then the surprise factor claimed victory when the modest bubble and squeak found its way into the menu as a side to the stuffed chicken wing. My favorite was the pork osso bucco with the meat coming off easily off the bone of the pig’s hock, and both skin and meat simply melted in my mouth. Taste and texture was all for indulgence.

When it came to service, we belonged to an early dinner crowd and found the tempo well paced and attentive. As the evening went on, we noticed patrons waiting for a long time before their food arrived, and the waiters looked rushed. This quibble aside, the ambiance was good for a gathering with friends or for a dinner date. With a good glass of wine, it  would be easy to carry on the conversation while the food arrived.

I still have many dishes I want to sample from the menu, and I will return to The Alex.

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The Alex Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pipes and English Tea

I went to a concert called “Just Pipes” presented by the Brott Music Festival 2012 at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church in Burlington, Ontario. It featured two local artists, Jan Overduin, organist and Matthew Jones, recorder soloist, and  the concert got its name from the musical instruments.

The Brott Music Festival, now running in its 25th year, is known for inviting very talented local artists to perform in local venues in Hamilton and Burlington. St. Christopher’s Anglican Church has hosted many of these concerts because of its beautiful pipe organ, and its ample seating.

Matthew Jones is a versatile musician. He is Music Director of the Timmins Symphony Orchestra. He teaches, records as well as maintains his career as a cellist and recorder soloist.

Jan Overuid is a multi-award winner and has appeared in many recital, radio broadcast and on television.

The first part of the  program consisted of four pieces of baroque music: Sammartini’s Concerto in F major, Handel’s Sonata No. 5 in F major, Telemann’s Concerto in C major and J.S. Bach’s Sonata in F major.

It was a delightful performance by both Jones and Overduin and they brought to life the baroque flavour in the beautiful church setting. Jones played the soprano recorder in the Sammatini, and the alto recorder in the other pieces. His tone was rich and he had superb control of the instrument. He even performed a fine balancing act by raising his knee and touched his thigh with the end of the recorder in the Telemann concerto–this was the stunt to get a high F#! Jones prepared the audience for this surprise when he introduced the pieces to us. He had a sense of humour, and  whatever was lacking in program notes for this concert was well compensated for by Jones’s oral presentation.

The organ is quite rightly described as “the orchestra in a box”. The variation of sounds it produced complemented the recorder playing. I was particularly impressed by the piece by Handel and the picturesque interpretation by both artists.

The audience was ushered to another hall during intermission and we were served afternoon tea.

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There was a selection of dainty fruit tarts, lemon squares, shortbread cookies and lemon poppy seed cake. The sandwich platter also had an interesting variety, including the cucumber sandwich which added authenticity to the afternoon tea menu. There were butter scones served with clotted cream and jam.

I wish to take issue with the program calling this High Tea. Except for the high table, this tea was anything but high tea, which should have consisted of savoury items such as Scotch egg, and even steak and kidney pie and served later in the day. I hope a true English would back me up on this, because on this side of the pond, North Americans think of “high” in terms of being “superior”, as in “high” German or “haute” couture. Well, English afternoon tea is served at low tables, strictly speaking. Calling what we had, the English afternoon tea, as High Tea does not give it clout; it is a misrepresentation.  I think that given the time our tea was served, and the menu, the program would have done better justice to the event by calling it Pipes and English Tea.

Now, let us not be carried away by our afternoon tea, because there was still the second part of the musical program to come. We were entertained while we were enjoying our tea by Jones and Overduin again. This time, the accompaniment was played on a keyboard.

The music was still baroque, except for the piece specially . composed for Jones entitled  Fantasia for Recorders. Jones played with different recorders: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, including playing with two recorders at the same time. He joked that he looked like a walrus. Above all, he demonstrated amazing dexterity when he switched recorders. Jones stole the show in this part of the performance. He was lively, almost athletic, in his playing. Regrettably, the keyboard could not keep up with him. It was also uncertain as to whether it was due to the acoustics of the room or to the limitations of the keyboard that the accompaniment sounded loud, even overpowering at times.

All in all, I had a very relaxing afternoon listening to baroque music and enjoying my English afternoon tea, that I refuse to call high tea.

Climbing a Stile in Style

What is a stile?

This was the stile I climbed over on my hike on the Bruce Trail this week. A stile is a ladder-like structure which gives access to the Bruce Trail when it crosses the property line of private property. On this day, I climbed over five stiles.

On this walk, we started from the entrance to the trail on #1 Side Road, east of Guelph Line in Burlington (Ontario) and hiked over 8K to Kerncliff Park. We stayed on the main trail for the most part, walking south and west towards Cedar Spring Road, but also included the Ian Reid Side Trail.

The hike was listed as “moderate” in the trail guide. This meant uneven surfaces with roots and stones. We were on rolling hills. There were a couple of times when we stepped or leaped over rocks. Challenging, but fun! My more experienced hiking friends said that for this section of the Bruce Trail, one could bring a walking stick.

This hike took me to the Fisher’s Pond. It looked dreamy to me this morning.

We walked past a big field, and would somebody tell me whether this was wheat, barley or oats?

We walked very close to some residential property, with its vegetable garden.

Its overlooked a majestic-looking tree.

What did I learn on this hike?

#1 When I am with experienced hikers, I can follow their example and try these wild raspberries. They are fresh and sweet.

#2  The tree on the right is call shag dog hickory.  The bark seems to be peeling off the trunk; hence the name. The bark is hard and sharp, and so do not lean on the tree.