Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snow showers and Dreams of Garden Flowers

I was up and at 'em in good time this morning - I wanted to trot over to the National Home Show before I had to head out of town in the afternoon. It is a short walk south to the Direct Energy Centre which is the large building occupying the space in my balcony pictures just beyond the Gardiner Expressway and the Lake front.

It had snowed overnight but the temperature was above freezing as I set out. You can see that we had had a few inches of snow overnight but despite this it seemed as if spring was in the air - it was quickly melting.

I had been fortunate to have been gifted a ticket to the Home Show by a new acquaintance of mine who I had been trading Holland Landing tales with the night before.  I had not attended the show in years but was very interested to go, not because I have any home DIY project in mind, but because I remember the wonderful gardens the landscaping companies set up.  Just the ticket when snow is on the ground!   I was not disappointed.    It made me very happy to see the tulips and other spring flowers which were featured in just about each garden display as they are very easy to force into bloom at the required time of year for the show.  I was also able to meet up with my friend Ace , who was selling Quality Homes in their model home like he was dishing up popcorn at the movie theatre.

My favourite garden space was very Zen like with just a swirl of pebbly sand underneath a rock that was hung like a weight on a wire and suspended from a post and arm from above.  Surrounded with rectangular uprights and simple plantings, it got my vote for simplicity and inspiration.  What a wonderful spot that would be to sit and meditate or even think about future blog postings, perhaps nestled in a corner of a woodsy garden (nudge, nudge my Gopher Broke Farm friends LOL).

Also very inviting were these low lying chairs, which were very comfortable and called out to me to rest for a few minutes.


Another nice idea was a waterfall which fell out of a wall and into a planter below.  A variation on the theme of a magic tap, which my brother has installed pond side in his rural garden.  If you are not familiar with this comical (to me) illusion, it is a free standing garden faucet that pours water forth without any evidence of a water supply.  I think I prefer the variation at right, which to my eye is less comic and more soothing.

As those of you who were reading my blogs last summer know, I am very much into outdoor "living rooms". Much to my delight, at the show they had, in the garden section, something called a "glamcave". The room, built upon the idea of a room which you could retreat to in summer, a little along the idea of a gazebo, is fully enclosed so you can shut the world out, I guess. It contains a daybed and writing desk and some treasured items to create a focus of visual interest and spark creativity.   Hmm, a great idea and if I have the winning ticket to the lottery I just might find a spot for something like this in my new home.  I really liked the chandelier which was installed above the daybed.  It was nice enough I would buy one to install in my condo.

You can find out more about the National Home Show here - the last day is today, Sunday Feb 28th.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Luciana Souza - The New Bossa Nova

I have been listening to Luciana Souza all week and enjoying her music a lot.  I heard a song sung by Luciana on the radio one morning and as I usually do when I hear good music as I wake up - ran over to my desk and wrote her name down so I would remember later to find out more.  What grabbed me was that she was singing Bossa Nova music but it wasn't Bossa Nova music - she was singing songs by the likes of Joni Mitchel and James Taylor and Sting - but set to a Bossa Nova beat!  Superb!

As soon as I had a few minutes I went onto iTunes to hear more from Luciana and I was so smitten by her music I had to purchase one of her albums, but it was hard to choose from among the 12 she has recorded.  I settled on her 2007 Album titled "The New Bossa Nova", which is representative of her interpretive Bossa Nova renditions of some classics near to my heart.  I am listening to these songs as I write this blog.  If you want to see the names of all the songs on the album click the picture to the upper left - which is from the digital CD liner.

She has been nominated four times for a Grammy Award as best jazz vocalist in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2010.  The most recent nomination is for her 2009 released 12th album titled Tide.  It has a nice mix of more classic Bossa Nova tunes and one Neruda poem - Love Poem 65.  Listening to the iTune samples, I would sure like to get it.  Not sure how long I will be able to resist the "buy" button.  LOL

If you have not been properly introduced to Bossa Nova music you might want to check out my previous blog on the topic - Go here to read my previous blog on Bossa Nova music.

Luciana has come by her style honestly - she grew up in São Paulo, Brazil - the home of Bossa Nova.  Also as daughter of poet Tereza Souza and singer-composer-guitarist Walter Santos she comes from a family of Bossa Nova composers.  It is however, her own innovation to set pop songs to a Bossa Nova Jazz beat.  Listen to this You Tube as she talks about the Bossa Nova style of music and her contributions to this genre.

If you look at her discography (from the wiki here)  you will see there is an amalgam of Bossa Nova, Pop, jazz and classical influences.  She also blends songs with "regular" lyrics with poetry set to music.

She has 2 Cd's which feature poetry set to music: The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs, recorded in 2000 and Neruda recorded in 2004.  The focus on Poetry is evident in her rendition of the poem Sonnet 49 by Pablo Neruda.  I am still knee deep in an affair with the exquisite poetry of Pablo Neruda and this one is no less than the hundreds of others I need to get intimate with.  Before listening to the following You Tube you might want to check out
My previous blog discussing Pablo Neruda's poetry.

Sonnet 49 -- XLIX From: 'Cien sonetos de amor' ~ Pablo Neruda

It's today: all of yesterday dropped away
among the fingers of the light and the sleeping eyes.
Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps;
no one can stop the river of the dawn.

No one can stop the river of your hands,
your eyes and their sleepiness, my dearest.
You are the trembling of time, which passes
between the vertical light and the darkening sky.

The sky folds its wings over you,
lifting you, carrying you to my arms
with its punctual, mysterious courtesy.
That is why I sing to the day and to the moon,
to the sea, to time, to all the planets,
to your daily voice, to your nocturnal skin.

It's today: all of yesterday dropped away
among the fingers of the light and the sleeping eyes.
Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps;
no one can stop the river of the dawn.

It's today, it's today...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

BenchMark: Breakbench and The Toy Factory Lofts

BenchMark Blogs: the Art Benches of Liberty Village

If you have missed the previous posts explaining the Liberty Village Benchmark program and the art benches we have located in our village go here to fetch them all and read the earlier posts. . This is the 13th post in the series to feature each of our 19 art benches.

The bench I am featuring today is located on Hanna Street at the corner of Liberty St by the parking lot.  It is bench number 5 on the Benchmark Map which can be accessed here. Titled "Break Bench", it was created by Pam Lostracco, Christine Stephens and Craig Wing King and is sponsored by the TOY FACTORY LOFTS/ LANTERRA DEVELOPMENTS.  Lanterra Developments is one of Toronto's major builders of Condos, particularly in the downtown area.  The Toy Lofts Condo Building is a project of theirs.  On their site they have a wonderful flash presentation which gives a capsule summary of the historical highlights of Liberty Village since 1the mid 19th century to the present.

This bench was one of the first ones I noticed when I moved into Liberty Village in 2007.  I was at that point unaware of the BenchMark project and did a second take when I saw what looked like a red Persian carpet sitting on the corner with the park bench, as if it were in a living room.  At that time, there was also a small round side table in front of the bench with a book on it.  What a grand idea for a bench!

When I went back last summer to take photos, I noticed that some sod had made off with the table and book.  The carpet is all that remains to suggest the relaxed setting of a living room for a break from the stress of the day - and even it is looking pretty sad.   Perhaps this bench will be refurbished next summer as I know the LVBIA do a certain number each year.  Hopefully they can re-construct the missing bits and nail them down really well because there are idiots about, for sure. 

The Irwin Toy Building and Toy Factory Lofts

View from the South West
The Toy Factory Lofts are in the refurbished Irwin Toy Factory Building.  Originally the home of Canada's largest paper manufacturer Hinde and Dauche, the building was bought by the Irwin Family in the mid 20th century who earned the hearts of Canadian children for over 50 years.   Irwin Toys remained a family business and despite being well known and respected name in Toys, it fell on hard times and the company was sold to outsiders in 2000.   There is a happy ending though, 18 months later, when the company collapsed in bankruptcy his two sons bought back the name and 15 toy lines and has seen the company revive with a new line of i-toys.   Samuel "Mac" Irwin, son of the company founder, died at age 76 in 2003 knowing that his grandchildren were working with their fathers in the family business.  

The Toy Factory building had new owners at that point and was a Toy Factory no more.  But even better, it was destined to become The Toy Factory Lofts, which has been under "evolution" since that time. 

In 2004 the Toy Factory lofts project by Lanterrra sought to retain the architectural authenticity of the original building. It was and still is a mix of commercial residential space so as one news article put it (see here for a fascinating explanation of the difficulties and history of the project)
...sharing the corridors and green spaces will be slipper-clad artists taking Rover for walkies and office workers seeking a caffeine fix at Balzac's or a photon fix near the Jacuzzi....

There is a fabulous sketch on flickr here.  It shows the building as seen in prior to the renovation, in the period before the Liberty Village gentrification began, when it was a run down industrial area.  It was probably sketched from a view very near to where I shot the picture below.
View from the East

The other noteworthy addition to the Toy Lofts complex, and kitty corners to the "Break Bench" is the Balzac Coffee Roasters Cafe. It is the 3rd Cafe opened by this purveyor of premium coffees. According to Toronto Life:
Balzac’s romances condo dwellers with all the requisite touches: broad chalkboards, cane-backed bistro chairs and potent espresso...

View from the North East

I wonder what will go into this portion of the building, it is a large complex and while most of it is complete, this part is as yet untouched.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Art and Architecture: Hanging Mobiles and St. Georges Church at Lake Simcoe

Today's blog is going to be a bit schizophrenic.    For my art offering, I have the mobile which hangs in my bedroom in front of my east (downtown) facing window.  Then we are going to fly north of Toronto to the shores of Lake Simcoe during the summer time for my Architecture piece.

My brother gave this wonderful hanging mobile for Christmas probably 6 years ago and I have cherished it since.  He told me that it was created by an artist who he knew and whose work was mostly lost in a garage arson fire some years earlier.  I don't recall the name of the artist whose work this is, it is very similar to things I have seen by Alexander Calder.  Perhaps someone reading this blog might know the name of the artist who could have created this hanging mobile.

Illustrated better in the 2nd photo, the hanging "bits" are all black except for one of the "arrows", which is bright red.  The offsetting weight is a big round circle with a hole offside.  It is calming to watch it as I lie in bed.  It hangs beside my furnace vent and when the heat (or in summer the A/C) comes on it whirls around.  Makes a racket, I might add, as the metal bits clang together, but I seem not to notice that.

In order to get the proper lighting in front of the window I had to close my shade blinds, it gives an interesting background effect, to see the CN Tower and downtown buildings in silhouette, don't you think?

We will go to an entirely different location from my bedroom for the architecture part of this blog.  In fact I am going to take you out of Toronto entirely to a place about an hour and a half north, the Village of Jackson's Point on Lake Simcoe, an area within what we Torontonians affectionately refer to as cottage country.  It lies within the Town of Georgina, in south-central Ontario's York County.  It is actually only just at the nearest edge of potential vacation land and technically is still within the borders of what we know as the Greater Toronto Area or GTA.  Some folks commute to work in the City of Toronto from this area, but that has been a more recent development and mostly it is filled with summer cottage owners and retirees.

 At the edge of this village is a campgrounds,  Sibbald Point Provincial park, from which I have some very pleasant camping memories.  Also a friend of mine has a cottage in the area, so I have been there a few times.  I took these pictures when I visited my friend last summer.  Nice to be reminded of greenery and warmer temps and happy times.

From Wiki regarding Sibbald Point Park:
Two of the major attractions in the park were constructed by the Sibbald family during the nineteenth century. The family home was purchased by Susan Sibbald from Major William Kingdom Rains in 1835. She supervised its transformation from a small cottage into a rural estate, a process which was completed in the 1840s. She named the structure Eildon Hall after the family estate in Scotland. Today the building serves as a museum dedicated to life in rural Ontario during the mid-nineteenth century.

My photos today are from the St. Georges Anglican Church built in 1877, which is the 2nd major attraction of the park and the village of Jackson's Point.  This building replaced a simple wooden building, built under direction of Mr. John Mills Jackson, after whom the community of Jackson's Point is named.

The Sibbald Family donated the land for and arranged construction of this very pretty church on the shores of the lake beside Eildon Hall.  Built of hand cut stone, it is quite impressive.  There is a cemetery beside the church in which  famed Ontario humourist Stephen Leacock ,  novelist Mazo de la Roche as well as musician Jim Schwalm are buried.  

I found it to be a very tranquil place and quite enjoyed sitting there for while as I talked to my friend about his 3 month trip volunteering in Spain.  I should think it would be very nice to be laid to rest here beside the lake - not that I am expecting to need a resting spot anytime soon, I might add.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Changing Things Around

 OK, so I said I would not write another blog until Tuesday, when I do my Art & Architecture blog, but I am so pleased with my efforts to rearrange my stuff to make room for Lilly to move back in that I have to blog about it .  I was also encouraged when I read Linda's blog - she has rearranged her living room also.

View looking towards Lilly's bedroom door - my old office.
 If you are a regular follower, you might recall my happy blog of less than a month ago, where I spent the entire weekend in my home office.  Given that Lilly is reclaiming her bedroom for the next 4 months, I needed to figure out a way to contain my desk in the living room.  A writer needs a place to write, eh?

I was quite concerned that I would not be able to find a workable solution, after all my condo is only 740 sq ft and the living room is a small space with no less than 6 doorways to work around.

The living room before making room for a desk
I decided to dispense with the use of the sliding door to the patio.  It is winter and I will not be using my patio much until spring, although I am sad to say that Lilly will be using it regularly, as she is *cough* one of those who feel the need to place smoke in her lungs.

The dining room table previously was centred on the sliding door, leaving room to squeeze through to the right.
A comfy place to sit and watch TV or sit with laptop.
Cramped but workable, looking toward the hallway and front door
However, I do have another patio door from the kitchen and so no big hardship if I place the dining table in position blocking that one doorway.    In the photos you might also notice my sofa in 2 different configurations. It is a "convertible" - there is a separate seat size ottoman, which can sit on its own or can combine with the sofa to make it a chaise sofa - comfy for 1 or 2 and a good compromise for a small condo.

I am happy with the way the room works.   It is cramped but cozy and certainly serviceable until Lilly moves into her own digs next summer.   Next, what to do with the stuff in the guest room closet, I confess, my clothes have gotten used to taking the space of both room's closets!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Snow Tubing at Snow Valley

Last weekend I had a fun weekend of winter frolics with a group of friends I hang with up in the Collingwood area.  It was the first time I had been Snow Tubing and it was fantastic!  I am sure all you parents reading this blog from snow belt locations can remember tobogganing with the family.  Lots of exercise as you haul the toboggan up the hill and probably 2 minutes of fun as you zip down.  By the time an hour is up you have had enough, even if the kids haven't because you are the one hauling the toboggan.

Tubing removes all the uphill work but of course it isn't without a price.  The line ups for the lift was sometimes a bit long, but because there were 10 of us, it was filled pleasantly enough with chit chat, even if our toes and fingers got a bit cold.

 I took the photo above whilst being hauled up the hill on the tube tow.  It is far and takes quite a few minutes to get to the bottom.  If you click on the picture above you will get a better idea of how high and how far the tubing run is. 


At first we went down the hill individually, feeling a bit timid about flying down the mountain at the advertised 80 kph speed. Soon we discovered that it seemed even safer when you were linked with a friend, even though you were flying down the hill faster than you would on your own.

Although it was supposed to be OK to go down in groups of many more, we found that after we had flown down the hill in a group of 5, there was reason to believe we might become airborn with any more weight added to the mix.  When the group of 5 that I was a part of went down we bounced off  the fence barrier end of the run and was flung back down the little incline which is there as a stopper.  Fortunately, it was a mesh type screen not a hard fence, so there were no injuries, save a scrape on the hand of one fellow whose hand was caught up in the fence.

I found the You Tube following, published by Snow Valley which shows what it is all about. The Snow Valley people found someone who could make a video whilst flying down the hill - I was not because my hands were tightly welded to the tube hand holds. Have a lookey to see what it is all about and experience some of the exhilaration of the downhill ride.

I spent the rest of the Family Day long weekend staying with my friends at the Gopher Broke Farm.  We got to do a bit of snow shoeing, but mostly just had a lazy weekend and caught up with one another - I had not visited since the New Year holiday weekend.

I am going to have to beg off providing another blog for this weekend, the next post will be Tuesday for my regular Art and Architecture blog. I am going to be very busy over the weekend dismantling my office/guest room in order to make way for my daughter who is moving back home until the summer. Not quite sure where I will put everything, it will be a bit cramped around here for the next number of months for sure.  I guess I am entering the next phase of life: the return of adult children to the fold.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

BenchMark: Give Me Liberty and the Lamport Stadium Site

BenchMark Blogs: the Art Benches of Liberty Village
If you have missed the previous posts explaining the Liberty Village Benchmark program and the art benches we have located in our village go here to fetch them all and read the earlier posts. . This is the 12th post in the series to feature each of our 19 art benches in Liberty Village.

The bench I am featuring today is located on Liberty Street by the Lamport Stadium Parking Lot.  It is a new bench installed last summer and not yet on the BenchMark Map (LVBIA, take note)  If you want to see for your self - the Benchmark Map which can be accessed here - the bench is sort of where the "P" (for parking) is shown.
Titled "Give Me Liberty" is the work of Ian Amell and is sponsored by the Liberty Village BIA.  A few weeks ago I wrote about another of Ian Amell's benches - the smilies one -  "Face It".  You can read about the Liberty Village BIA at a previous TorontoIsMyTown blog or you can go to their web site here.

I must admit, the top bench  picture looks dismal (the blue sky not withstanding) - because it is winter and the only thing going for the location is the nice tree and a bit of grass in front of the parking lot.  Of course being winter there is no greenery in sight, but I guess we should be glad that there is not a mountain of snow covering up the bench.   The big white lump you do see is the winter covering for Lamport Stadium.  This year they got a "sports bubble " topper so that the stadium could be used in winter.

Allan A. Lamport Stadium, named for one of Toronto's past mayors, is a multi-purpose stadium on  King Street West between Fraser and Jefferson.  It was built in 1974 on the site of our long gone Women's Prison which is featured in the bench.  Until the BMO Field was built it was one of the cities major soccer fields.   Today, it is used mostly for soccer, with both Portugal FC and the Toronto FC's Academy playing their Canadian Soccer League home games here. The OUA's Ryerson Rams soccer teams also call the stadium home.  Also noteworthy, is that it hosts  the City's Caribana Celebrations each year. The stadium holds 9,600 people.

You would think for such a well used stadium it would have a better main entrance!  

OK, so lets get back to the bench.

Pictured on the right top side of the bench is the Mercer Reformatory for Women, which was demolished in 1965, nearly 10 years before Lamport Stadium was built on the site.  The only building remaining from the reformatory is the Superintendent's residence which is at the corner of Fraser and King Street, beside the stadium.

Mercer Reformatory for Women

On the left top side of the bench the artist has painted a picture of the Central Prison for Men, which was located further east in Liberty Village at King and Stratchan, right where we now have condominiums. 

The artist's comment on the bench: "When they had served their time they would have emerged onto Liberty Street."  which was how the street and our village got it's name.

Toronto's Central Prison for Men

The only building left today from the Central Prison is the Chapel building, which is located in Liberty Village Park, to be surrounded by Condo towers once all the residential buildings are finished.  I took the photo below from my balcony.   Rumour has it that the building will house a restaurant, but for now it is boarded up and will need a fair bit of work before it is able to be used for anything.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Art and Architecture: Trinity Square Park and the Labyrinth

Trinity Square is a public square nestled in the area just beyond Bay Street to the east of City Hall and just south of Dundas Street.  It is an oasis preserving the wonderful architecture of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity in the small area between a Marriott hotel, a (Hydro One, Fidelity Investment and CIBC) office building and the Toronto Eaton Centre.

I wrote a bit about Trinity Square when I blogged about the church when I visited during the Doors Open Weekend last year.   Go here if you want to catch up with that blog and the splendid architecture of the Church.

Aside from the church, there are quite a few features of interest in the square.  I don't have space in this blog for it all, so I will focus on the area containing the fountain and the small "river" of running water on the west side of and to the south the 3 arches and labyrinth.  There are a couple of other art installations and maybe they will be subject of a future blog.  I quite enjoy Trinity Square as this space seems to be such a varied feast for the eyes and psyche - all in this small courtyard.

The Fountain and Taddle Creek  
The fountain pours out of a spout on a wall adjoining the Bell Building.  The water flows onto a rock lined raceway which curves around and heads out toward Bay Street.  I understand that it is (at least in a symbolic way) retracing a small part of Taddle Creek, which is one of the City's buried waterways.   See more about Taddle Creek here at the Toronto Lost Rivers Website.

At risk of digressing, this site is well worth visiting:
The Toronto Green Community started LOST RIVER WALKS to help us discover the fascinating world of the watershed beneath our feet. This site is the start of a field book on the lost streams of Toronto. Bits of our city's history, both natural and built, are included. Those interested can take a virtual lost creeks walk, or better, use the information to take a self guided tour. Come explore nature hidden under our city and along its ravines and byways.

A Place for Weddings
The space is nicely lined with trees and a pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by.  The day I took these pictures it was anything but calm.  I lucked out and was able to observe an South Asian wedding in progress!  It was very interesting as the groom arrived on an elegantly liveried white horse (I guess no elephants were to be had).   The two family group was each facing off on either sides of the walkway and as the ceremony progressed and the couple were wed, the two families joined together into one big happy dancing crowd. It was Bollywood in Trinity Square that day!
The 3 Arches

The Arches mark out a pathway to the Labyrinth.  I am guessing from looking at the stone and construction of the 3 arches, placed in the centre of the square separating the labyrinth from the rest of the courtyard, that they are remnants of the Church building site, perhaps repositioned here when the Eaton's Centre was constructed.  I couldn't find any reference to them on the web, but perhaps someone who trips by these pages might know - care to leave a comment?

The Toronto Labyrinth
 So what is the big deal about a labyrinth?  Until I came across the one at Trinity Square I had thought that one would not come across a labyrinth unless one was in a dungeon in medieval England.  I had thought that that it was built like a maze,  so whoever was placed within it stayed put.  But no.  This labyrinth has no walls, so no danger of
getting lost in this one.

What then is the point?  I went on a wiki search and discovered that there is a distinction between the two: a maze refers to a complex branching puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center.  Therefore one might get lost in a "corn maze" but one should not get lost in a labyrinth.   I guess if you aren't to get lost there is no need of walls.  But what then is the point? 

From Wiki:

Many newly made labyrinths exist today, in churches and parks. Labyrinths are used by modern mystics to help achieve a contemplative state. Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind. The Labyrinth Society provides a locator for modern labyrinths all over the world.
And yes, we have a Labyrinth Society in Toronto.

The Labyrinth Community Network (LCN) is a group of volunteers who value the experience of walking or tracing a labyrinth. This is what they had to say about Toronto's Public Labyrinth:

In our modern, often chaotic culture and times the opportunity to step into an oasis of calm is rare. Labyrinths provide such an opportunity. Toronto Public Labyrinth is situated in the heart of Toronto’s bustling metropolis.  ... Modern-day uses are many. In hospitals, labyrinths are walked by staff, recovering patients and their visitors to relieve stress and aid in rehabilitation. Community groups and retreat centres use labyrinths for meditation, reflection, and exercise. School labyrinths can serve as an activity zone for students. They can stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving, and act as a tool for conflict resolution. The labyrinth remains a metaphor for the individual's journey through life.
 Nice to know that the Labyrinth is always open and the park is lighted in the evenings, ready to provide a calm port whenever we Torontonians need it.

I walked the path and as I started the journey I had a question in mind.  Food for thought while I walked.  It was pleasant to "walk within the lines" while I contemplated my question. I wonder if I could put a labyrinth in my living room?  hmmm.

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