Monday, 31 August 2015

Monday Moanings - August 31, 2015

Whine without the 'H'

It's that time of year again and oh what bliss it brings!

This morning finds my love and I bound for Niagara wine country on our annual pilgrimage in celebration of The Shaw Festival, wine and our life together. These excursions began not long before we were married in 1975 and have continued almost annually since then and always timed around our anniversary.

The planning begins with the arrival of the Shaw brochure. I peruse it off and on for several weeks before finally settling on which plays to see and how to fit them into four days. Then the tickets are booked and the hotel reservations made some time in early May.

This year we're taking in The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to Scriptures (Tony Kushner) - the title alone is almost an act of its own! - The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt (M. Bouchard), The Lady from the Sea (H. Ibsen) and we end with Peter and the Starcatcher (R. Elice). There is nothing like live theatre!

August is for taking stock of the wine cellar. The current inventory reveals that we're down by 94 bottles. How can that be I wonder? Must have been cold winter...

Next I spend a few more hours, reviewing wineries and wines, selecting the ones we will visit and the specific wines we want to taste at each winery. This is a much tougher job than it used to be thirty or so years ago when there were maybe a dozen wineries in Niagara. Today there are 84 according to VQA Ontario.

But we have our favourites, a stable of about 12 (and growing). We cycle through them over the years, visiting 8 or so each season. We are not just tasters but serious buyers who love the smaller wineries. It is not unusual for us to truck home 7+ cases of reds and whites, most of which are only available at the wineries. But this year we are going to cut back...

Yeah, well we say that every year. Here is our record of "cutting back" from past years:

2009: 75 bottles purchased
2010: 69
2011: 74
2012: 91
2013: 88
2014: 95!!!

On the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake today, I'm looking forward to priming the pump with two wineries: Cave Spring Cellars which we missed last year and Henry of Pelham where we've not been in several years.  Tuesday we can be found  checking out the Beamsville Bench appellation with stops at Angel's Gate, Thirty Bench, and one or perhaps two others yet to be decided.

The rest of the week is a mix of theatre and wineries and there's no shortage of cellers around Niagara-on-the-Lake. Oh and I'm looking for somewhere new too.

Already I can smell the grapes and hear the cannon shots that keep the birds away.

And did I mention the food?? Ah well that's pretty special too!

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 27, 2015

Meet me at the Fountain

All this week thoughts of the CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition or just The Ex) have been running rampant through my brain. I even asked my Facebook friends if any of them wanted to go with me to the Ex. No takers! Probably just as well - the Ex I truly wanted to go to was the one I went to in the 1960's.

The Dufferin Gate ca. 1960

Back then a bus to Jane and Bloor followed by two streetcars, got my older sister and I to the entrance at the Dufferin Gates. Once inside we had strict instructions from Dad, "Meet me at the fountain," so that was our first stop.

Then it was on to the Midway, passing by the Press Building, the Better Living Centre, the
Grandstand, and the Food Building. I'm not sure why but the Food Building was rarely if ever, a permissible stop along the way. Perhaps it was the crowds. Perhaps neither Dad (nor Mom on those few occasions that she came with us) trusted the quality of the offerings. Perhaps it was because they really didn't want us to have a taste of what we could not afford. Popcorn, candy floss and for a real treat an ice cream waffle or maybe a Tiny Tom donut are the only Ex-foods I recall ever eating.

The Midway 1966

But who cares? I was there for the rides. Being all of 8 years old my faves were pretty tame: the Ferris Wheel (in later years even the double Ferris Wheel), the carousel and it's souped up sister the Derby Racer, the Dodge 'ems and something called the Polar Express. The games of chance were always a huge disappointment for me. It looked so easy to get that dime onto a plate, or shoot down big yellow ducks as they moved across the shooting gallery, but I never even came close. And I wasted way too many dimes trying.

I well recall the year, Dad gave my sister and I $5 to spend on rides (rides back then were 25¢) while he went off exploring some of the buildings. My sister, six years my senior, had different tastes when it came to rides. Not only did she con me into going on the Wild Mouse, she put me in the front seat of those little two seater cars. It was the first and last time I would ever be on a roller coaster. Sheer terror!

The Wild Mouse, 1965

Fast forward ten years to 1975 and my time at the Ex was a little different. I went with my cousin Claire, who had come over from England for my wedding. We passed through the same Dufferin Gates then took in a hunter jumper competition in the Colosseum. Only then did we work our way through the Midway of rides, side shows, and games of chance.

Claire won not one but two prizes: at a shooting gallery she got all her ducks in a row and won a plush purple mouse a bit larger than a football; and then at a coin toss won a humongous plush polar bear.

Done with the Midway - there was no way I was letting her win anything more and we couldn't get on anymore of the rides with the thing either - we hauled the bear and the mouse over the bridge to Ontario Place.

Two attractive single women in their early twenties, one hugging a white bear and the other carrying a purple mouse walk into a bar...  Let's just say we garnered a lot of attention. From the savoury to the unsavoury, from the tailored suits to the stubble-faced sleazebags, we met them all. We refused all come-ons politely, then firmly. But when pressed too hard, we packed up the bear and mouse and moved on to the next bar.

We ambled, after a fashion, through the marina, took in an IMAX show at Cinesphere, and had wine with dinner in the restaurant with white table cloths. We oohed and ahhed loudly and giggled all the way through the fireworks. By now the bear had acquired a name, "Whiskey", as had the purple mouse, wait for it... "Mousey-mouse-mouse".

My Dad, Claire, Whiskey & Mousey-mouse-mouse, 1975

Yeah, well we lugged our menagerie back across the bridge to join the boisterous crowd heading for the streetcars. We hung on tight to the big bear and made it from streetcar to the subway, but missed the last bus home and had to walk from Kipling Avenue. As my late mother told it, she heard us long before she saw us. I personally have no idea what she was talking about.

Let's go to The Ex!
Meet me at the fountain...

...but beware of a bear and a mouse - they lead you astray and are very loud too!

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 24 August 2015

Monday Moanings - August 24, 2015

The Last Days of Summer

I had to drag myself away from this idyllic place this morning. My feet moved slowly. My backside yearned to be tucked into one of those chairs at the end the dock. But alas my both my backside and I had to settle for the cushy driver's seat of my car. And here I am back at the desk in my kitchen tapping out a "Monday Moaning".

It seems almost treasonous to moan about anything on an August day such as this. When I awoke this morning the light of the great day star sparkled and glistened in the puddles and droplets leftover from the night's showers. A warm breeze wafted in off the lake; the loons and ducks chattered back and forth with each other.

Back at home things were not all that bad either. I took my lunch out onto our deck. Though there was no lake in sight, no sounds of lapping wavelets along a rocky shore, there was no shortage of delights. I watched blue jays sweep in and out of the tray feeder, hummingbirds buzz in and out stopping just for a moment to sip some nectar, chickadees and nuthatches. The distant hum of highway traffic offered up a steady bass line while crickets kept up a staccato chirp. The neighbourhood dogs barked in sequence along the street as a cyclist whizzed by. And every now and then the breeze picked up the baton and conducted the leaves, still mostly thick and green, in a soothing chorus of rustling chatter.

While I happily admit that autumn is my favourite season, summer offers unique joys that I never want to miss, like my lunch on a deck bathed in sunlight and warmth; like a brief getaway to a lakeside cottage; like biting into fresh local corn on the cob, hot from the coals and dripping with butter (or even bacon wrapped!), or slurping a juicy bite of a Niagara peach.

One ought to make the most of days like this one...

...we know what's coming!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 20, 2015

In the moment, and on the day!

As Wednesday yielded to Thursday, a musical flourish rang out. The screen on my cell phone lit up the midnight darkness. And I smiled. This is the day!

Okay, so perhaps an electronic triplet of tones does not a fanfare make,
still for this common blogger, today is a day of jubilation.

                              Blogpost #250!

"What I'm thinking today - A collection of random thoughts, worries, celebrations and memories" debuted on August 11, 2011 with the piece "Opening Gambit" I was off and blogging at full tilt, posting almost daily for three weeks, before running low on fuel. Posts then slowed to an intermittent trickle and sometimes dried up altogether for months on end, with not even so much as a single photo.

The approach of my 60th birthday in 2013 put a pen back in my hand along with a renewed commitment to regular blogging. "Monday Moanings" first appeared on March 18th, 2013. Three days later "Thursday Thermals" appeared with a reflection on "Ready or not, here comes 60." Three months later during the Stanley Cup hockey finals, "or Thereabouts" replaced "Thermals" in the weekly lineup. And the rest is history, or perhaps just a legend in my own mind.

With the exception of those times when I'm travelling with my love out of the country, I publish a post to this blog twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. Almost without exception, each one is written on the day. I've tried writing them earlier then scheduling publication to the blog, but that never seems quite right. Clearly I prefer to be in the moment, on the day. Some days it's a struggle - ideas refuse to gel and words come slowly or not at all. Some days I have to leave it to my photos to do the job. But some days ideas, words and images come together as though they were a well rehearsed piece. Those occasions, though few, always surprise and amaze me.

I no longer write each piece out in longhand as I did when I first set out on this blogging expedition. Most posts are keyboarded at my desk computer. Rest assured this does not mean that my beloved fountain pen now lies dormant. It is pressed into service on special occasions, such as this one.

And I do always enjoy what happens, what flows across the page, whether it is to a place I intended from the outset or to some place I never imagined. So I'll keep on blogging, sharing my thoughts, worries, celebrations and memories in words and pictures with all of you.

I am grateful for all my readers and followers. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts. Thank you for the likes on Facebook, 1+'s on Google+ and blog comments. Bless you.

Life is about doing the best I can, enjoying each day as it comes.
And at the end of the day, it's about being content with what I have done and what I have not done,
so that I can look forward to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
(first written March 21, 2013)

See you Monday!

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 17 August 2015

Monday Moaning - August 17, 2015

Close Encounters of the Squirrelly Kind

My day has been hijacked by a red squirrel!

 First he built a nest in the BBQ. That was in early June. But it burned down...actually I tossed most of it over the deck then torched the remaining fragments (after having made sure there were no babies inside).

Then he began working on the hole in the deck wall where the water pipe used to be AND he also chipped away at the flashing on the garage door below. He was successful. He now had a home in the garage with two entrances/exits. How very clever!

For the past week we have played dog and squirrel. The resident canine is unimpressed. She hears him before we do. She sees him before we do. With great leaps and bounds over and around the living room furniture Sophie stalks her prize. She wants him as bad as we do, perhaps more so. We just want him gone. She wants him - well you know - shaken and not stirring...

But as fast as we tape up that hole in the wall, the little red ninja breaks through.
The latest patch over the hole involved wire caging material and duct tape. This held up a whole 14 hours!

Note: a hole that was once 1.5cm is now almost 5 times that!

I do so admire the little guy's industry, daring and persistence. But we cannot have squirrels in the walls of the house. It simply will not do. So my dear, cute friend a word to the wise - high tail it out of here or else accept a date with destiny.

My line in the sand!

It gets so exciting on a Monday in the country!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 13, 2015

An August Change

It began with a single leaf dropped on a pebbled forest path...

...followed by unsettling revelations at the warehouse store, Costco®

Hallowe'en?? That's not until the end of October!

These arrived at the beginning of July, but are multiplying at a great rate!

If I buy this now, I won't be able to find it in December!

Start saving now - this humongous doll house will set you back $230!

No words!

and then the need to light the evening lamps just after 8pm. The darkness is coming earlier now.

And while the first notes of the siren song of summer shriek in retail stores and murmur in the trees, the mid-August night sky puts on an it's own august  show of her own. The remnants of comet Swift-Tuttle glide overhead in a festival of shooting stars, the annual Perseid meteor shower. Last year's show was out-shone, quite literally, by a super-moon, but this year, this week, there was but a sliver of a new moon to contest the view.

Last year's super moon rise, August 10/14

So there I stood out on our deck at 3am this morning, my back pressed against the wall just as my Dad had taught me so many years ago. I'm sure I felt my hand in his as I craned my head upwards, watching and waiting. The experts said this was the best viewing time of all, when up to 100 meteors an hour might streak across the night sky. It was a perfect night for watching the heavens though at 11°C a bit cool. I stayed there for just over 20 minutes, until my body begged for sleep. I saw just three shooting stars, not the twenty or more I had hoped for. I was disappointed but the time spent outside looking up was not wasted. The Milky Way arched overhead, its majesty and mystery on full display. Have a look at this image from NASA.

The night sky is one of the few places left that still holds a profound sense of mystery. One of the joys of living in the rural routes is seeing the sky in all her glorious light. When I look up into that blanket of darkness pin-pricked with twinkling lights I am always awestruck, almost overcome with wonder and uncertainty, reverence and scepticism, amazement and bewilderment. And so it was last night as I waited and watched for the Perseids - I was filled with that same wonder and excitement, fascination and awe; steeped in history and science, silence and my father's handhold.

Though colour may be coming to some tree tops, don't be too quick to write off summer.  The meteorologists say it ends in just 18 days, BUT the astronomers say summer does not end until the equinox at 4:22am EDT on September 23rd - that's nearly 6 weeks away!

I'm hanging out with the star gazers. How about you?

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 10 August 2015

Monday Moanings - August 10, 2015

Sputter, Sputter & Whine

That's about the best I can come up with at the top of this week. My energy levels are lower than low. My inner critic on the other hand is high on her own fumes, happy to be throwing all manner of obstacles against any forward motion on the day. According to this mouthy broad there is no end to the list of my shoulds and oughts, incompletes and outright failures. As if that litany of criticisms were not enough, she has recently discovered that if she casts such charges within the dark cloak of aging, she can really cut me to the quick.

More frequently than I care to admit - more frequently than ever before! - my mind makes plans my body can't keep, or at least can't keep up with. My daughter's wedding last month offered a painful object lesson of just that very thing. I had great plans to celebrate and dance the night away, arise on Sunday to carry on the party at brunch and cruise straight on into Monday to another after-party.

This all sounds overly ambitious now, but at the time in my heart and mind  it sounded like FUN, exciting, wonderful fun! The reality was that what started out so very well on Saturday, all too soon gave way to fatigue shortly after 10pm that same night and exhaustion before midnight. By the time we left the dancing still in full swing at 12:30am, I couldn't see straight and not because of the wine. I had to encourage every step I took. I was deathly afraid of doing a face plant on the sidewalk.

Back in the hotel room I dragged my body into the bathroom to scrub the make-up off my face. In the mirror some old lady's face stared blankly back at me. "Your not one of the cool kids anymore," the critic charged, "you're just an old fart!"

There are times to shut the inner critic up, drop kick her out of earshot and that would have been one of them. But of course it was too late. She had landed the blow. I was crushed. I went to bed in tears. Sleep rendered somewhat clearer thoughts. Deeper rest and time put things right again.

There are also times to let the herald of negative self-judgement rant, let her barrage of outlandish insults pile up in some insignificant corner as crumpled up rejection notices. Sometimes there is a kernel of wisdom buried within that heap of complaint. For me that wisdom is about acceptance: I'm not thirty anymore. Dammit, but I'm just not. It's also about adjusting my plans and expectations of myself to the reality of my age. But don't think for a moment that this all means I'll be pulling up a rocking chair and some knitting anytime soon!

Some of my days are made for pull-out-all-the-stops action. Some of my days are made for do-nothing quiet. Most of my days are a bit of both in dynamic proportion. All of my days are made to be enjoyed, savoured, and celebrated.

And now it's time for me to silence my inner critic while I spend the rest of the day planning our next great adventure.


One of the cool kids!

©2015 April Hoeller