One of a Kind

Yesterday we went to Toronto to the One of a Kind fair, an artisan show where you can buy unique handmade products from all over Canada with artisans coming from far and wide. It is the third time we have gone to this fair and it did not disappoint! There was a fantastically diverse collection ranging from exquisite jewellery to edgy fashion, delicious salmon from British Columbia to butter tarts from just around the corner, wooden toys and huge wooden tables, just waiting to be put in a cottage for families and friends to gather around and feast, beautiful bedware, colourful handmade shoes, handcrafted soaps with beautiful aromas, paintings, prints, witty cards and so much more. So much to sample too, chocolate coated berries, crispy soy beans in many flavours, salmon pate on crunchy biscuits, melt in your mouth butter tarts, eye-watering balsamic vinegars, creamy goats cheese, rich terrines and duck pates, jams and spreads, pickles of more vegetables than I knew it was possible to pickle, we tasted and tried almost everything! We were tempted to buy so much but given that we are hardly cooking we restrained ourselves and did some other shopping instead, mostly birthday presents but the occasional indulgence for ourselves, Simon bought a great t-shirt perfect for Arrowsmith which he wore today. I will take a photo tonight for tomorrow!
And this is the link to the blog this time last year (and I hope this works!) – what a lot has happened since then and at the same time, seemingly not very much at all!https://fionaandsimonincanada.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/Today’s-news
December to March 2015 603 Today's news

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A short stop in Toronto.

Toronto called today, after a busy few days in Peterborough. Simon went to a pottery class last term with some Ausie friends and really enjoyed it so invited me to go when next they went, so off we went to the English Potter in Lakefield where I had to find my inner creativity! Not so easy when the last time I did anything pottery-wise was about 40 years ago! It was good fun and rather therapeutic, I shall post a photo of my Easter rabbit with hair like Simon when it has been glazed! We had lunch at the new pub in Lakefield, English must be the themeimage of the moment for it was very like an English local, despite the Canadian name, the Canoe and Paddle! The steak and mushroom pie was delicious! Onto the Lakefield furniture shop, not to buy furniture, beautiful as it was, but to see the dog in the shop! Such a gorgeous dog!

And now we find ourselves in Toronto! A short stop on our way to Winnipeg and then Churchill to see the Northern Lights. Arriving at lunchtime we found a Thai restaurant for a quick, tasty lunch, made our way to the Bata Shoe Museum to see the Native American shoes  the varieties of which depending upon the area of North America they came from I found fascinating but I don’t think Simon was nearly as interested as I was! Perhaps he will appreciate them more when he sees them when we go to an Inuit community in Churchill! I hope so! A pre-theatre dinner at Il Fornello and then onto see Robin Hood, a very English story!  Simon was worried he wouldn’t be able to follow it but he certainly did, laughing uproariously at the antics of Robin and his merry men. It was a Royal Shakespeare Company production and a great fun production it was. We would recommend seeing it!

Niagara Falls, frozen still we hope, tomorrow, but I fear the warm weather will have thawed them out! Niagara in the winter will still be very different from Niagara in the summer!

The end is nigh!

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The end is nigh!

Today was the End of School Year excursion, Simon left very early to get to Arrowsmith for 7.45 – I was thanking the rain as that meant he got a ride (thank you Lynette!) and I didn’t have to cycle or make sure he got the really early bus there! The downside of the rain was that we parents couldn’t go on our bike ride to Omemee – it was just too wet and we are not that confident as riders! Sorting and packing, a brief interlude at the gym and lunch instead. More packing with Simon tonight whilst he told me of the day out – a bus journey to Toronto to see the Medieval Times, a show involving horses, knights, a princess and one king. There was jousting and sword fighting, all whilst they were eating lunch, Medieval style, that is, eating with your hands – much to Simon’s delight! Simon said it was lots of fun and he really enjoyed it. I am sure he was born in the wrong era – he should have been a caveman, then he could grunt and eat with his hands, no-one would have worried about it or nagged him!
And just when I was on top of my writing assignments, I just can’t do it today – too much packing going on, so two assignments tomorrow – oh well!
And this is another photo from yesterday with our lovely Parents walking group (without Frances and Theo, we missed you!).

Toronto continued!

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Toronto continued!

As the sun went down and the temperature dropped we decided to seek out some dinner, wandering off to Chinatown. We found an authentic looking Chinese restaurant filled with Chinese diners which is always a good sign. After being seated near the toilets, as often happens to me, it was a while before the waitress came to take our order and then to check our order she shouted our order back at us. It put me in mind of the famous London “eating hole’ Wong Kee where we had a number of cheap and cheerful (and extremely hurried) meals! A feast of Peking Duck – delicious and enough leftovers for tonight too!
This morning we headed for the Lake side we found a lack of restaurants and cafes – perhaps the best breakfast places are only to be found in Sydney and Melbourne and that breakfast is a meal that Australians particularly love! We found a café where Simon could have waffles just by a cat and dog rescue place, Pawsway. We read about heroic cats and dogs saving families from fires, drowning after falling through ice and from bear attacks. I wondered all about all the fires but perhaps there are many more here because the heating has to be on for so much of the year. I couldn’t read all the citations as there were so many and some of them, where the dog or cat had died saving their owner, made me rather teary.
Onto the Greyhound, Peterborough bound, a fun game of mini-golf with friends and now I must away as Simon needs to sleep. Assessments start tomorrow – good luck everyone!

All turbaned up!

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All turbaned up!

We are enjoying being tourists in Toronto! After arriving on the Greyhound bus, finding our apartment, we set to find lunch. A small Japanese restaurant nearby had caught Simon’s eye on our way so back we went to find it. It was perfect and whilst lunching we decided to hop onto the hop on hop off bus to learn about Toronto. It was a good move, it took us around with interesting commentary, not as witty as in Ireland, mind you! Toronto has the third largest theatre district in the world, English speaking world that is, 99 public libraries including the Toronto Reference library which was the source of the facts for the original Trivial Pursuit, is the most multi cultural city in the world with the number one food market in the world! There aren’t many old buildings as there have been 2 great fires which destroyed most of them! The bus went very slowly so we decided to get off at Yonge and Dundas Square which was full of people in turbans! We got turbaned up too! Unfortunately, Simons unravelled so we couldn’t wear them all evening but we did enjoy the funny looks as we walked back to our apartment! The reason for the turbans was a Sikh festival to increase awareness of The Sikh religion. It was certainly effective.
A quick but tasty dinner at Joe Baldini’s, Sharing a big bowl of Pazzo Gemelli with everything in it, chicken, chorizo, prawns, mozzarella and red peppers! I think that the everything in it is what appealed to Simon! We made it healthier with a side bowl oh kale chips! who are we kidding?
Onto “The Lion King”, our reason for being here! It was just as visually stunning and clever as I had remembered and Simon enjoyed it too! He was on the aisle but this time he knew the animals came down the aisle at the beginning of the show whereas last time, when he was much younger, he almost jumped out of his skin when the elephant danced past! Simon would like the other Lion King films to be made into shows too! We will be having a Lion King movie marathon soon!
I have always wanted to walk home after the theatre so as not to break the magic by having to get the bus or hop on a tube or whatever other transport options there might be, and last night I got to do it!! It was quite magical to be immersed in The Lion King one moment and standing on the balcony looking over the sparkling cityscape only a couple of minutes later!
Today we hopped on the hop on hop off bus again, after a breakfast of crepes, ham and cheese for me and an indulgent mix of strawberries, chocolate and Nutella for Simon! We hopped off at the Royal Ontario Museum and spent some hours exploring all the exhibits as well as the exhibition all about the Forbidden Palace in China, which was fascinating. Simon was especially interested in the dinosaurs and wondered how do they find the bones and put them back together. I think it is just like doing a giant 3D puzzle! A career option perhaps?
A little lunch in Yorkville and then we hopped onto the bus again to go to the Distillery district. On our way there the heavens opened and after wandering through some of art and craft stalls, the poor stall holders were so cold and miserable and many were packing up early, we decided to call it a day.
Now we find ourselves sitting out on our balcony on the 28th floor in the warm sun! I wouldn’t mind a nice crisp Pinot Grigio at this point but a cup of tea will have to do!

So much more to shoes than I ever knew!

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So much more to shoes than I ever knew!

Yesterday, after a very early start leaving Philadelphia and my adventures with Stella, I headed back to Toronto. After a scary drive into downtown Toronto (I’m not sure what I was thinking since my sense of direction is terrible, that combined with not knowing Toronto and the speed of Canadian driving made for a somewhat nerve-wracking drive!) I was so happy to park the car and finding myself with some time, made my way to the Bata Shoe Museum.
When we visited Toronto a couple of years ago I was keen to go to the Shoe Museum but no-one wanted to come with me, so seizing the moment off I went and I am so glad I did! It was fascinating, 4500 years of history of the shoe in an exhibition called “All About Shoes”, too many facts to tell you here. However, here are two snippets which I enjoyed.
The phrase “well heeled” comes from the 17th century when the high heel started as a feature of upper-class fashion in Europe. “Well heeled” men, women and children wore high heels as a sign of wealth, style and status. Shoes became political in that only those who had been granted access to the French court were allowed to red high heels in the time of Louis XIV! Men abandoned high heels shortly after this, why didn’t women?
The other shoes that particularly caught my eye were in a section called “Spiritual Footwear”. The Kurdaitcha shoes, made of emu feathers and human hair, were worn by a respected elder, the Kurdaicha, amongst the indigenous tribes of Central Australia. The Kurdaicha, wearing the shoes, pointed a pointing stick at a wrongdoer and secretly send spiritual energy to kill him. I felt the human hair in the making of these shoes was rather chilling.
Other exhibitions included Native North American Footwear, with beautifully and intricately crafted beaded moccasins from all over North America. The exhibition explained how the footwear reflected the different lifestyles of different tribes depending upon which region of North America they lived in and whether they were hunters of buffalo or deer, nomadic or living in villages. I had no idea that so much could be reflected in a shoe.
There was also “The Shoe Project” which was set up to help women who had immigrated to Canada improve their written English and has resulted in beautiful, moving stories about their favourite or a particular pair of shoes such as the scarcity of shoes in a Syrian refugee camp or wedding shoes in Afghanistan.
Amongst the “celebrity” shoes were these simple Bata shoes worn, and donated, by the Dalai Lama when he visited Canada recently.
Having immersed myself in the Bata Shoe Museum I then had a wonderfully indulgent afternoon at the Stillwater Spa, after which I was not as stressed by driving out of Toronto as I was by driving into Toronto. But why is the speed limit seemingly only advisory in Canada, as, as far as I can tell, most drivers drive at, at least, 15 to 20 kms over the limit! And the sign by the roadside advises that if you are driving at 50 kms over the speed limit you will get your vehicle impounded and your licence removed! It seems to me the expectation then is that you can drive at 49kms over the speed limit without any problem!
Simon, in the meantime, is having a great time in Northumberland but I will tell you all about that tomorrow or perhaps I should wait until he gets back and can tell you himself!

Did you know?

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Did you know?

Did you know that Canada derives its name from “Kanata”, an Ouendat word meaning village or meeting place. This I learnt in the Canoe Museum which deserves to be visited by many more visitors. The rest of the quote reads “We are reminded that this land had been known and occupied for many centuries by myriad Native People with their own languages, cultures and histories. Europeans benefitted from Aboriginal knowledge of the harsh, often severe landscapes”. I think that sounded rather familiar to the Aussies visiting the Canoe Museum.
Another did you know – Florence Nightingale owned over 60 cats in her lifetime! I am not sure how she had time with all the crusading nursing reforms she was busy bringing about – I can’t verify the truth of this, since it was on a billboard outside a pet accessory store in Toronto!
And the most important did you know today is that there are currently 25 schools in the US, 18 in Canada, 4 in Australia and 2 in New Zealand who are implementing the Arrowsmith programme for cognitive improvement – I don’t know how many students there are in each programme but it must add up to a few hundred brains working on the programmes devised by Barbara Arrowsmith Young, improving their cognitive functions and giving themselves the best chance to realise their dreams. It is very exciting that there are more prospective schools currently planning to start the programme – the powerful combination of neuroplasticity and education is becoming a reality as is the realisation that for those students who put in the hard yards (as they say in Australia) there will be a fundamental change in their capacity as learners to learn.
The following is the address to view the lectures at the recent conference on neuroplasticity and learning which are very well worth watching:
http://www.eatonarrowsmithschool.com/conference-neuroplasticity-and-education

Just thought I’d add in another of our Toronto photos – shame we couldn’t get the top of the CN Tower in too!