Sunday, October 13, 2013

A different type of community...

"I live under a stairwell, in a parking garage".  That's the answer I received when asking a woman where she lives.

My girlfriend, who's a hairdresser, volunteers at a drop-in for the home-less and hungry at a church in Toronto, and this week I was her assistant.   In the short time we were there, she gave 9 people a new haircut and we received 9 different stories.

This was my first experience in speaking and meeting people who utilize a "soup kitchen" and they all seem to come from various walks of life.

One fellow told us he spent 30 years in IT for a very reputable company before retiring.  A senior lady explained that her apartment is being converted into a Condominium and she would have to move out after having lived there for 25 years.  Her options, due to high rent in the neighborhood, might have to be a basement apartment.

I was touched by their stories but more so their attitudes.  None of them whined or complained.  They were very appreciative and thankful for their haircuts and conversations. 

The woman living in a stairwell was funny and witty.  The fact that she lives in a stairwell and sometimes sleeps outdoors in a park, didn't seem to bother her.  She figured, she'll get a place soon.
 Upon seeing a stack of books on a table, she asked me if I thought they were there to borrow, and perhaps she could take one and bring it back the following week, as she figured she could finish the book in a day or two.

The room was filled with people, some sitting by themselves, others in groups of 3 or 4 at each table.  Someone was playing soft music on the piano.

 I could sense that this is their community; their world.  Different from mine but still similar. 

I walked away feeling that they helped me more than I helped them.

The joy of giving is a simple pleasure.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cauliflower Cheddar Soup

Growing up, I was never a fan of soups.  Perhaps, I had not tried the "creamy " types of soup yet, as I remember the soup being filled "with stuff".  I was a very picky eater and a bowl filled with chunky, slimy vegetables, floating in broth, did not appeal to me.

Today, I love soup.

A few weeks ago, I visited the little Village of Millbrook, with my daughter.  We decided to have lunch at the local diner and my daughter ordered the the Cauliflower & Cheddar Soup.  It was delicious.

For the past two weeks we've had a marathon of soups for dinner.  I've made broccoli, tomato, carrot, leek, minestrone, farmer's soup and lastly  I decided to try and  re-create the Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup.  It was so good that I wanted to eat the whole batch by myself..

Here's the recipe.

Cauliflower Cheddar Soup  (use less or more liquid to determine the thickness)
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken in florets
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 chicken/vegetable bouillon cube + 1 cup of water ( or canned broth)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2  cups milk + 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch each of cayenne pepper, curry powder, white pepper and nutmeg.

  • In a large saucepan, combine the cauliflower, onion, broth and bouillon. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender.  Drain.  Puree half and break the rest into small pieces.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk. Cook and stir until bubbly. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes longer or until thickened. Reduce heat; add cheese and seasonings. Pour over cauliflower mixture. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes (do not boil). 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

High Park

Toronto never seizes to surprise me. There are so many places to see but we often forget to play tourist in our own city.

I arrived here in 1985, and had never been to High Park until I visited with my daughter, earlier this summer.

On a sweltering hot July day, we loaded our bikes onto the car rack, and drove into Toronto.

I'm glad we had our bikes as we would not have lasted very long on foot.

This park is fantastic.  Beutiful gardens, lots of activities for families.  There's even a small zoo.

I'd love to make another visit in the fall, when the weather is cooler, and to take in the autumn colors.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

 Light between Oceans,by M.L. Stedman, is a beautifully written story where you can hear the waves, feel the love and pain between the well developed characters. They are all so real. . I could not put this book down.    

Tom Sherbourne, a Word War 1 Veteran, returns to Australia and finds himself a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Island, a tiny island off the coast of Australia.  Not long thereafter, Tom marries Isabelle and they settle down on the isolated island.  At first life is blissful, but as time moves one Isabelle struggles with her pregnancies and gives birth to a stillborn son after two miscarriages..  During this period of grief, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a small crying infant.

The decision between two good people, seemingly right at the time, proves to have heart breaking consequences a few years later.

Light between Oceans explores motherhood, life & death, questions of right and wrong,  and difficult moral issues. 

Would we do what’s morally right even when we know it will break our loved ones spirit?  Or would be continue to be tormented, by what we’ve done wrong, in order to protect our own?

This was a great read with a story not easily forgotten.

 ☆ ☆ ✰ ☆ ✰

Monday, February 4, 2013

Afternoon Tea @ The Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Afternoon Tea amongst friends is a treat and always a pleasure.

I've tried many different Tea Rooms within the Toronto area and today it was time for Tea @ Royal York, where Tea has been served since 1929.
Royal York serves Afternoon Tea in the Library Bar where the casual elegance of star studded arm chairs and heavy curtains brings a comforting ambiance to the room.  The table setting is very inviting with the dainty china tea cups and silver cutlery.

We each got to choose our own loose tea and my choice was the the Montebello Apple Spice, which was served in a pretty floral china tea pot.

A fresh baked crumpet drizzled with honey, spread with Grand Marnier butter and accompanied by a generous side portion of berries was presented on individual side plates.  Nice start to our Afternoon Tea.

That was followed by an assortment of finger sandwiches also served on individual plates.  Though, the sandwiches were nice, they still fell short to the ones at Windsor Arms Hotel.  I prefer their filled pinwheeled sandwiches. 

Then came my favorite part, the 3 tier platter of delicate pastries and a plate of scones with devonshire cream.  The assortment of sweets was very generous and I'll admit to having one of each.  

Overall, this is a great place for Afternoon Tea.  The assortment of sandwiches and sweets were excellent and the library bar is very spacious so one doesn't have to listen to the conversation at the next table.

Afternoon Tea is all about a leisurely "get-together" with friends, or family, where the conversation never runs dry and you can't wait to plan your next visit.

So how did the Royal York compare to other Tea Rooms in Toronto?  So far, Windsor Arms Hotel still gets 1st Prize.  But, it is nice to try different places and there are still many to explore.

Here's my list so far.

Windsor Arm's Hotel:          Most Expensive but out of this world!
The Royal York Hotel:         Excellent!
The King Edward Hotel:      Probably very good until you've been elsewhere.
The Tea Room at the Robinson-BrayHouse - Excellent, affordable, afternoon tea in a charming setting.
Brooklin Tea House:            Terrible.. Just awful.  I was too polite to get up and walk away.
Hy-Tea (Pickering):             No comparison to the Tea Room at the Robinson-Bray-House, which is in the same price bracket. 
Victorian Tea Room (Port Hope) Last time I visited it was great.  Nice "English" Tea Room overlooking the city.  There has been a change in ownership so I will have to re-visit.

Friday, January 25, 2013

One night on a Jumbo Jet 747

Unique Hotel in Sweden

As if flying across the Atlantic wasn't enough, I decided to spend the night aboard a 747.  One major difference, this one would not take off.

In order to catch an early morning flight out of Stockholm, I had to stay one night in close proximity to Arlanda Airport. 

I had heard of the Jumbo Jet Hostel, situated at the Entrance to Arlanda Airport and decided to give it a try.  Hotels tend to be expensive around the airport, and though the hostel isn't exactly cheap by North American standards; it is an affordable option.  The 5 minute free bus ride to and from the Airport is an added bonus.

Once I got off the bus stop, the Plane was right in front of me.  The staff was very friendly and the basic amenities was all I needed for my one-night stay.

The plane has an observation deck on one of the wings, but due to the winter conditions it was not open. 

The rooms are on the small side, but very comfortable bedding and a flat screen TV.  I had a shared bathroom but there are also rooms for 4 people sharing with bathrooms in the hallway.

The cockpit room would be the most expensive and certainly a treat for any aviation fan.   It has a panoramic view of the airport.

There's a cafe aboard where breakfast is served, and a common sitting room.  Breakfast is served between 3:00am and 10:00 am.. It is self-help, and consists of hearty fresh breads, cheese, cold-cuts, yogurts, fresh fruit, boiled eggs, coffee and juices.  Perfect before heading out in the dark to catch the bus to the airport.

Overall, this was a new and interesting experience.

Monday, November 26, 2012

9 years later and I still enjoy it..

I've really been enjoying my yoga classes lately.

It's been about 9 years since I tried yoga for the first time and I remember how frustrated I was with it.  My mind couldn't seem to "slow down" and enjoy each pose.  I was constantly distracted and looking at the time.  I was so used to the fast pace of running, aerobics, biking etc. that yoga didn't give me the adrenalin kick that I was looking for.

But, I stuck with it and it has rewarded me with a great sense of inner peace, increased flexibility, strength, focus and a sense of accomplishment. It has become a lifestyle choice.

Lately, I've been noticing that my body seem to crave certain positions.  When the class is doing bridge pose; my body wants to do Full Bridge.  It wasn't that long ago that I found it too difficult.  It's amazing how fast we build strength.

I love ending my yoga session with  Halasana (Plow Pose).  It's so enjoyable and relaxing to stretch out my lower back.  There was a time when I couldn't imagine doing, yet alone enjoying this pose.

I'm not to fussy about the style of yoga; I enjoy many but my favorites are Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga. I have a tendency to get bored easily so a mixture of yoga practices is probably the best for me.

For the upcoming winter, I'm planning on trying some new Yoga Studios.  I think it's time I took it to the next level.