wordless wednesday

Taken in downtown Almonte, Ontario, which was a whole surprise in itself, the delightfulness of it, its position on the Mississippi River, the mix of upscale this and funky, totally not upscale that… second hand shops, a book shop!, bakeries (yes, that’s plural), coffee and tea places, a diner, a pub on the river with patio and live music, apartments overlooking the rapids (so close I swear they must feel the splash on the balconies). There is a well-supported arts community, a beautiful river walk and fabulous views, a mix of architecture from not-been-touched-in-yonks-shabby-chic, to ultra modern lines (fewer of those so they stand out, but also fit it in). Feels like a place that has figured out how to keep the charm of the past while moving forward.

Note: the sky is only occasionally green.

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

jane’s walk — ajax, ontario — best parts


This year my Jane’s Walk was through a slice of Ajax , which wasn’t even established as a town until 1941, and then only by accident when a company set up shop in what was a field to make bombs for WWII. They made millions apparently… (40 million). And it was women from across Canada who made them. They arrived on trains from the west and the east and lived in dormitories built expressly for them (surrounded by 8′ walls and barbed wire).

Before that, Ajax was an unnamed area of fields, a scattering of farms, part of Pickering Township, east of Pickering Village, and west of the Town of Whitby. Then suddenly there are 9,000 people employed by Defence Industries Limited, all of them making bombs, and a wee town emerged.

After the war, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation built homes for returning soldiers. Our Jane’s Walk guide said they were meant to be torn down at one point but the residents put up such a fuss they were allowed to stay and are still the backbone of Ajax, lining the streets surrounding Harwood Avenue. (A few people on the tour grew up in, or knew people who still live in, those CMHC houses, and shared memories including how there weren’t a lot of cars initially and so the A&P would allow you to drop off a list of what you needed and they’d deliver.)

The best part is that in the centre of this beloved neighbourhood, where people still refer to houses by who lived in them decades ago, and in the very space where the women’s dormitories used to be, is now a park and community garden. Beans and tomatoes instead of bombs.


And a short walk away, the civic centre (Pat Bayly Square) features a memorial to the significant contribution by women to the war efforts of WWII.

The other best part is simply discovering a new neighbourhood in a town I very often drive past, assuming it can be summed up by a quick glance… because nowhere can be summed up that way. Everywhere has its stories, its nooks and crannies and spaces only the locals know about.

Importance of community is the best part of Jane Jacob’s philosophy, and the sense of connection to a place you thought you knew or a brand new place is the best part of any Jane’s Walk program. Keeping that in mind makes it possible to make all kinds of discoveries on your own anytime, anywhere.

Just throw a dart on a map and take a walk, reminding yourself that community takes many forms and is born in strange and wonderful ways.










wordless wednesday: summer postcards

Greetings from Lake Scugog!  (Where I have no idea if the fish are biting because I’ve never fished here nor do I intend to.)

Tho’ I can recommend the halibut at the fish place on hwy 7A near Reid’s, the chip truck on Island Road and the curried mussels at Marwan’s Global Bistro.

(If you’re not feeling fishy, have the pizza at Pickles and Olives.)

(And I have it on good authority that the pasta is divine at Jester’s Court.
Sit on the patio.)


— drop by Scugog Arts Council or the Kent Farndale Gallery or rent a ship and do some paddling or drive over to the island and sit on Goreski’s patio and watch the paddling (and other) ships come and go, or stop by the perfectly sized Pioneer Village, or if it’s Saturday bring your canvas bag to the farmers’ market or visit Caviar and Cobwebs for treasures or Meta4 for, for… well, you’ll see, or say hi to Bill at Books Galore, and whoever’s at Willow books, or go to the chocolate place for chocolate, fudge and/or gelato or take a walk along Cochrane Street or the waterfront or over to Reid’s via the waterfront walkway or just hang out in the waterfront park with that gelato or that book and catch a few summery zzzzz’s while the seagulls serenade you and never once poop on your head.

It’s that kind of town.


Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

wordless wednesday (summer postcards)

Greetings from what’s left of holiday cottages, a dance pavilion, and refreshment booths that once graced the traditional lands of the people of Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, land that’s part of the Williams Treaties, aka, the Whitby shoreline of Lake Ontario!

The holiday resort existed from about 1900 to the 1960s, with steamboats bringing travellers from Toronto for weeks-long holidays, and locals coming by horse and buggy.

I interviewed an elderly man many years ago, who told me he lived near the lake (the old wooden houses of ‘Port Whitby’ are still there) and how as a boy he would be sent to the pier when the fishing boats came in. He’d bring a bucket and a few coins and the fishermen would toss in a couple fish, enough for supper. He said the horses and buggies from town would be lined up and down the street to do the same.

I would love to hear stories also of when the Mississaugas lived on the land, and how it was they (were) ‘moved along’. No dance pavilion for them…


A friend of mine has lived here much longer than I have and remembers things being quite wild and woody. Much building since I arrived, but I also remember fields and woodlands running either side of main streets. Many of those fields are gone, but loads are still intact. For now. We’re lucky in that the countryside is still just a spit away, that the town is built around parks and ravines and has a river called Lynde Creek that runs through it, complete with salmon. I feel lucky to be surrounded by farms and (honest to goodness) farmers’ markets and that the lake shore remains mostly unsullied and the downtown, all leafy streets of Victorian era homes and shops, is walkable from where I live and takes me backwards through a century of neighbourhoods, from the 1970s to the 1870s. If you pay attention you can see how the town was layered, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

It’s funny that we complain about the layering that continues. It’s nothing new, it’s been going on since we built towns and cities. It happens in cities too. It’s called condos. Still, it feels annoying, and whether here or there, the problem is the same, when there’s an imbalance of ‘building’, when too many houses/condos are built without thought to building neighbourhoods.

I have a thing about neighbourhoods.

I’m fascinated by how people live in them, how they make them home, how they adapt, how they’re different, and the same.

I have a thing about small and middle-sized towns, factory towns a lot of them, and those that appear, on the surface ‘to be not much’. Nothing against cities. I had to be dragged away from one. But even in cities, it’s always the less travelled side of the tracks, not the shabby chic side, but the authentically, downright seemingly dull side, the places where crowds don’t go, that I always discover the sweetest surprises.

I’m rambling.

But isn’t that what lazy summer days and postcards… and the sight of old concrete stairs at the beach… are for…

It’s too hot to overthink a postcard. Mostly just writing to say hello.

And happy summer.  (happy rambling too!)




Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman








It’s official.

We now live in Honey Boo Boo Ville.

All we need is a quick change of signage and some new stationery.


Greed. Just greed. Lest we wonder how this happened.

Also, it’s a sign we need to seriously look at our values as a society… and maybe talk to each other occasionally, not merely at each other. The divide will simply become greater and greater until we learn to really see and hear The Other. Whether or not we agree is irrelevant. Respect is more important than agreement.

And less anger. More conversation, more questions, more listening, and maybe one day we can meet in the middle somewhere, or close to it.

There has to be something worthwhile that comes of this. It’s a yin yang world after all.


a post about nothing at all

I meet a friend mid-way between her town and mine in a town the size of a walnut that neither of us know.


The kind of place where you can buy a summer dress, ice cream and a box of worms in the same store. Time-saving ingenuity, this, and sadly lacking in larger urban centres.

DSC03749 DSC03750

My friend brings her dog, a border collie named Becky, whose goal, given the amount of attention she gives the trees and hydrants, is to pretty much own the town.

We wander through the cemetery (where it always feels too weird to take pictures) and talk about people who come to tend their loved one’s graves and those who don’t and how it’s impossible to judge these things.

A reminder about judgment generally.

I tell her about a certain Olive and Burt, who now reside in the ground side by side but for years it was just Olive that was buried and her plot was never without the most beautiful arrangements, Bird of Paradise, that kind of thing. I’d notice them when I went to visit my sister there. Then one day the flowers stopped. Soon after Burt’s name was added to the headstone.

Here people leave more ‘things’ than flowers and I wonder why that is. Stuffed animals, a yellow toy truck, one of those windmilly doodads you hold up as you run and it flutters… I wonder at the stories behind them all. My favourite is the solar powered dog light. No story required.

We walk down side streets where the houses are made for jewellery’d windows…



…and the porches for sitting a while.


And if you’re wondering where all the flamingos went, they’re here in this walnut-sized town.


We walk across Becky’s newly christened bridge…


… past places no one has the heart to tear down but which I would love to see used and maintained before they fall down.


There’s a gas station, a grocery store, a place to sit outside and eat fish and chips, a shady corner to park the cars…


…and a bakery that opens at 5 a.m. to feed farmers and town workers and people driving into the city, and people who come in later too, people who’ve known each other close to forty years and still don’t run out of things to say, who come to do nothing at all except wander in this nut-sized town and eat freshly baked cheese bread with a few deli slices on the side…


two days, one night, prince edward county (how to)

Begin in Kingston.

Go to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in the middle of beautiful Queens University campus. [Outside, marvel at those fresh faces and wonder what the lucky buggers will aspire to.] Inside marvel at the opening installations by Fastwurms and then continue marvelling as you enter the Ruth Soloway collection
—which itself is worth the trip. If you pick as your favourite, Jean Paul Lemieux’s Beautiful People, you won’t be alone. Prepare to zip through the sombre colours and dead pheasants of the Old Masters room, then be slowed down by the intricacy of lace, the Rembrandts, et al. Be grateful for the brains behind the short histories and various other details posted beside each painting, which increase enjoyment levels immensely. There is a room of African treasures, another of letters written in code and yet another of French street scenes.

Take a walk. Preferably by the water.

Have lunch at Dianne’s Fish Bar. Order the seafood poutine.

Also the ‘Jar of Yummy Stuff’: brown butter apple rice pudding and cinnamon whip cream.
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Avoid the 401 at all costs. Get on the scenic #33 and make your way toward the Glenora Ferry, a free service for cars, bikes, and pedestrians that runs every half hour off season [and every 15 minutes during the season]. Enjoy watching the fishing boats launch or just stretch your legs—the scenery’s delightful and the waiting time goes all too fast. The trip itself is five minutes, landing you, as if by magic, in Prince Edward County.

Make mental notes to come back and visit a thousand and one places you pass but don’t have time to visit today.

Stop to take a photograph of a toilet on someone’s driveway and discover the owner of the driveway also taking photos. She tells you that the thing appeared overnight with a note explaining how “You’ve Just Been Tanked” is part of a fund-raising campaign. Laugh merrily but know you will be thankful for every day you wake up and find there is not a toilet on your driveway. Ask for directions to Milford and realize you are on the right road.

Stop at the County Farm Centre where you can get anything you like: appetizers, socks, winches, neon orange road crew uniforms, helmets, strawberries, steaks, slippers, train sets, bird seed, clothes lines, sweaters, boots, apples, cheese, a garden hose, note paper, sunglasses, eyeglasses, frozen shrimp, hammers…

Also catnip. Get some.

Stop at the general store. Buy some chips.

Stop at the library. Play in the sandbox.

Be sad that a shop full of curious things isn’t open.

Arrive at Jackson’s Falls Country Inn and be welcomed by Lee and Paul and a dog named Shelby. Have a glass of wine, beer or cider in the front room. Or by the fireplace. Or on the porch. Or in colourful chairs overlooking fields and forest. Listen for the sound of the falls…

Drive a few minutes down the road to the Milford Bistro for dinner… or, on a fine evening, walk. When the Chef asks if, instead of ordering from the menu, you’d like him to just bring you food… say yes, yes, YES!! He will bring you wondrous things in exactly the right amounts at precisely the correct moments, including a dollop of chocolate ice cream, cherries and slices of roasted marshmallow between courses. You will wonder how it’s possible to enjoy marshmallow. You will be amazed and delighted.

When you return to the Inn, look up. You’ll see a sky that doesn’t exist where you live.

Sleep well in the absolute silence of your perfect room.

Awake to fresh tea and yogurt with pomegranate and walnuts; a mushroom omelette; toast and jam at a sunny table in what was once a one-room schoolhouse.

Talk to Lee about start of The County’s food, wine and arts culture. She grew up there. She’s one of the original food, wine and arts movers, shakers and founders. She is also Mohawk and enthusiastically shares plans for putting up a few tepees on a separate piece of property for those that might like that experience [although she adds that longhouses are traditionally Mohawk, not tepees, but they’re tougher logistically]. More enthusiasm as she explains the various themes, group events and dinners she loves to cater. Notice the art in every room. Notice the energy, the calm that presides even when the place is bustling with diners.

Take many photos around the Inn and know you will come back because where else do things line up this way…

On the way home, stop at Long Dog Winery; stock up on some excellent chardonnay and pinot noir.

Stop also at Keint-He Winery where you will kick yourself for not purchasing a book on Frances Anne Hopkins, a wonderful 19th century painter of Canadian history who more or less got overlooked in favour of all the boy painters of that era. Hard to believe, I know. Order a copy from your bookseller on your return home and send Thomas Schultze and Penumbra Press a note of thanks for publishing something so clever.

Have lunch at a little place on the water just outside Wellington whose name you now forget. Watch the swans and geese and otters while you eat a chicken Caesar.

Rue the flaw in humans that allows only one lunch per day as you pass some good-looking eateries. East and Main, and The Tall Poppy to name but two.

Head home before the sun gets too low and blinds you.

But first, one last thing en route… because you need gas, and also because you feel like doing something corny—stop by The Big Apple for the first time in your life. Ask about the bunny paraphernalia everywhere and find out the place used to be over-run with wild rabbits. Buy a pie for the neighbour that’s scooping kitty litter while you’re away.

And one for yourself.


More Travel:

Prince Edward Island
Niagara Region