Archive for June, 2014

Happy Election Day!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I have just treated myself to a lurid green popsicle, the colour of which is only found in nature on creatures who wish to advertise their inherently poisonous quality to potential predators.  I have been shunning sugar altogether until my recent jaunt to South Carolina (I blame my recidivism entirely on Jennifer Ward for reminding me of the existence of Key Lime anything)  I generally forgo the likes of popsicles as I tend to eat healthy foods and avoid the equal parts frozen sugar and shit on a stick that this treat represents, but I was splurging at the end of a fantastic day.

I decided to spend the end of June kayaking out to the Islands, which I had to miss last year due to the untimely breaking of my wrist, and that I almost forwent again today as it was slightly overcast and I was overcome by an attack of lazy.  I ended up rallying and I am very glad I did.  This is pretty much the perfect way to spend a day.  A journey to a peaceful and beautiful place made possible by a modicum of exercise that justifies the consumption of treats.  What could be better!

For those who have not been to the islands in a while it is certainly worth the trip.  From the kayak rental at Harbourfront it is easiest to hug the Western side of the bay close to the airport and to enter the narrows by Hanlon’s Point.  One you are in the islands themselves there is virtually no wind or current so the water is glassy calm and effortless to paddle.  I packed a little lunch for myself but I often hop out at Algonquin Island and eat at the Rectory Cafe, which has a beautiful garden setting and view of the lake to the south.

I often take a little wander through the island neighbourhoods.  The houses on Algonquin are generally larger and more spaced apart than the ones on Wards. Some are quite impressive

Some are less so, but the setting is still fantastic

The homes on Wards are tighter, smaller and more cottage like but still utterly charming

Here is the one I have been obsessing about for years

Here’s where I would like to have the ceremony if I ever got married.  In a church.

Ok, strike that.  Here’s where I’d really like to play bingo one day.

This to my mind represents a perfect day.

And significantly better than this person’s day, I suspect:

I am glad I have broken the seal on the Island paddle and I hope to do it again a few more times this season.  I cannot promise there will not be more technicolour popsicles in my future either.

I’m Going To Carolina in My Mind

Monday, June 30th, 2014

It is finally summer in the city and what better thing to do than immediately leave town?  And not to the lazy breezy piney north land, but to somewhere even more hot and humid than fair Toronto?

My friend Jennifer acquired a free hotel stay in Myrtle Beach some months ago during the bleak grey of the Canadian winter and asked if I would like to join her.  Knowing nothing of the place but for the distressing fact that it is pictorially represented by golf courses in any search you do on the region, I agreed.

Myrtle Beach has a number of things to recommend it:

1.  It has a 60 mile long, sugar sanded public beach

2.  It is cooled by ocean breezes that make the heat and humidity remarkably palatable

3.  There is fantastic fresh seafood on the offer

4.  The know all about Key Lime Pie

5.  The Myrtle Beach airport is a scant two hour flight from Toronto

6.  It is but two hours north of Charleston

That last point proved to be the most salient.  Myrtle Beach itself reminded me of what the illegitimate cracker baby of Ft Lauderdale and Niagara Falls might look like.  60 miles of beach hemmed by  60 miles of 1970s poured concrete monoliths and 1950s motor hotels with a strip of souvenir shops and wax museums.  My advice to anyone going to Myrtle Beach is to immediately leave Myrtle Beach.  Immediately south of the area you find Murrell’s Inlet and Pawley Island.  The former is a lovely example of the low country with swamps and shoreline and the latter is a sand dune of the softest sand and beautiful, if completely uninsurable, frame Nantucket like beach homes.   Murrell’s Inlet is also home to a restaurant called “Bliss” which served one of the best meals I have had in ages, including a truly wicked Key Lime Pie.

Further south still is Charleston.  I knew nothing of the place and was actually reluctant to make the drive, but Jennifer pressed and I am glad she did as Charleston is one of the most beautiful US cities I have even seen.  It reminded me of  Boston, only with a drawl.  The city is surrounded by water which keeps the heat to a reasonable level, it is the oldest city in the South so the architecture is gorgeous and easily walkable.  They have had the same incumbent mayor since 1975 who is clearly adored and brings a stability and pride to the area (I will say nothing more on mayors at this juncture).  The food is fantastic, there is a free trolley that tours you around the town and the waterfront is pristine.  I hope to get back there soon.

I don’t golf, and I am sure anyone who does would have an entirely different opinion on MB than I.  Here’s the difference between Myrtle and her southern neighbour:

The waterfront in Myrtle Beach


The Waterfront in Charleston

A typical building in Myrtle Beach

A typical building in Charleston

Myrtle Beach DOES have some fun things to look at, like the view from their ferris wheel

Charleston has some nice views as well

And no matter how you slice it in South Carolina you can find good old Southern hospitality, with a little faith and often pie thrown in for good measure.


Monday, June 9th, 2014

Färdknäppen sounds like a combination of two of my favourite leisure activities, but it is actually a revolutionary way of living that hails from Stockholm, Sweden.

Färdknäppen is a community owned apartment house comprised of 43 individual apartments that range in size from one to three rooms, including a small kitchen each.  The apartments share a large communal space including a vast kitchen, dining room, exercise room with sauna and a small photography lab.

There is also an office with a computer, printer & scanner for any work that needs to be done and two small guest rooms for visitors.  There are large gardens and a rooftop green space as well.  There is a communal laundry area and a small carpentry workshop where minor household repairs can be done.  Everyone participates in keeping the house clean and in preparing the dinner meal.

Why my interest in a community house in Sweden?  The concept of pooling my resources with friends to maximize our quality of life is one that we have been kicking around for a while.  We are, for the most part, single and those who have children know they will eventually (like it or not, dammit) be flying the coop.  We are independent financially but aware of the struggles of living along in this vibrant but expensive city.  We have discussed what options we have as we start to consider our “twilight” years.

This from the Färdknäppen website

The initiative to create Färdknäppen was taken by a number of middle-aged people, who were concerned about their future and what their living conditions would be as they aged.

You move into Färdknäppen when family and children no longer dictate your needs. In order to live in Färdknäppen you should be 40 years old or older and no longer have children living in your home. And you should embrace the idea of collective living in “the second half of life”.

The  advantages of living in Färdknäppen are many and of course different for different individuals. How much social contact and  “togetherness” one desirers varies from person to person and from one period to another.

The tenants at Färdknäppen can spend as much or as little time as they want in their private areas, but the sense is that the environment will engender a sense of community for each individual, and that in turn will ward off many of the trials (and indeed the loneliness) that can be present for the single aging person.

Kinda sounds like a bang up idea.  I think I am a little young to be considering such things, but I will certainly mull it over for the future.  Perhaps I am facing my future in an exciting and mature new way.

Or, I just like saying “Färdknäppen”.

Maybe a bit of both.

Playing With Fire

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

What should you do with yourself on a sunny. 26+ degree Sunday, the first truly spring/summer day in Toronto?  Well, I went to a glass blowing workshop, which involves traipsing into a smallish room off an alley featuring an opened doored blast furnace.  Sort of like what Hell might look like if run by a couple of delightful hippy women.

“Workshop” might be a bit of a misnomer.  The experience was far more remedial than that – it would be akin to calling the petting ponds at the aquarium a workshop in oceanography. We were given a brief description of the sequence of events and then we turned over to largely let the experts set us up then spend  a few minutes doing an activity that could best be described as “twiddling” to keep the glass turning, which is remarkably tiring.  I am completely on board with the limitations on our activities –  it would seem more than a tad unwise to let a bunch of sweaty novices run about with a blob of molten sand on a stick – but it was a little more hands off than I was expecting.  The class were there to learn how to make hearts which is exactly as complex as you may imagine – an extended amorphous globule with a divot.  You are handed a rod with the hot glass on one end once the instructor has rescued it from the fire, then you rotate it in the furnace to keep it evenly distributed (the aforementioned “twiddling”), then roll in some glass crystals to add colour and return it to the flame.  I was warned not to spend too much time adding the darkest one as if there was too much it could make the heart look black.  Clearly the instructor did not know who she was dealing with.

There was but one oven to we had to take turn individually, so while we had a small class of six there was still some significant down time.  To fill the gaps we were each given a T-shirt to paint.  It was a little day care-y for my liking (again, the women were LOVELY) made only more immature by my own T-Shirt artwork.












My partner in crime wrote “Ow” on his in red so I am not the only one who was up for a childish romp during playtime.

Shaped glass takes a long time to cool and is set in a separate oven to let the temperature come down slowly to avoid cracking.  We left the kiln and were to pick up our works of art a few days hence.  Here is mine.















I think there is chance it looked better as sand.