Sunday, December 15, 2013

Let's have coffee sometime

Do you find yourself saying that to old colleagues or acquaintances as you rush by each other in a crowd?

I do.   

Let's have coffee sometime - or tea, or a fruit smoothie if that's what you like.  

Let's get together for an hour in real space instead of using any of those online social networks and related gadgetry.  Just remember that I rely on my feet or the city buses to get places, eh?

If the short hand has gone past 6, then let's chat over a glass of wine. That's 6:00 p.m. for those who grew up with digital clocks.

Let's meet in a quaint, quiet cafe or wine bar.  Sorry, I can't carry on a conversation in a sports bar or night club.  I'm worried that a handsome man might ask me to dance.  I'm still trying to get my groove back.  

Tell me what's happening in your life, your family, work and other interests.   

What creative projects have your attention these days?  Sigh… Unless that's one of your kids, could you please put your smart phone away? 

Are you working on any challenging projects?  

Have you taken any interesting trips lately? Okay, show me some of the pictures you took with your smart phone.  

What are you writing these days? 

How are you helping make life a little more bearable, enjoyable for your world, your community, family, friends or a significant other?   

Oh, sorry to hear you broke up with her.  

Let's do this again sometime.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Empty wine rack, overflowing heart

My wine rack is empty and my heart is full of joy from gifting bottles since my wine country tour.

Over the past three months, I have been preoccupied.  It was nice to meet up with family, friends or readers of my novel to chat, to see them smile as I delivered gifts of wine. 
It felt good to satisfy the list of requests or at least provide a suitable alternative.

It was an interesting endeavour and adventure.  

I'm not sure how soon I will be able to travel again or have the energy to organize such a project.  We're planning on uprooting le petit apartement.  Let the downsizing and de-cluttering begin (again). Problem is that Plan A of moving me and the cats to a smaller, affordable apartment have been put on the back burner.  Plan B will involve finding an affordable, roomy and secure home for me, the cats and the young adult children who are still residing in the crowded nest.  Current economic conditions or bureaucratic processes have not been in line with their plans.
The best laid plans of mice and men...

I have also been immersed in a few personal and professional projects, marking a few milestones, cutting back with some obligations, and reading.  I have also been enjoying the usual holiday season gatherings that require socializing, consumption of tasty foods - and various spirits.  

Permit me to pause, to wish each of my readers a happy, healthy holiday season.   May your gifting activities involve giving of your skills, your time and not due to imposed societal or consumer obligations. 

Ours will be a humble yet colourful, crowded and warm celebration this year. At least the cats didn't decorate our tree  >^..^< 

Until I am blessed with a well-balanced, gainfully employed significant other or a wealthy private patron (wink, wink), I will continue to work for a living. Goodness knows that one has to be a damn good writer in order to make a living as an author!

During lunch with an artist friend last week, the word "Transitions" came up.  We talked about changing one's name, acting one's age, maturing, becoming wiser and realizing that it's time to stop being a bottle blonde (for her at least)

During lunch with another friend, we discussed changes, relationships, careers and vocations - of being content with a decent pay cheque while having the time, energy and compassion to be of service to others.  

It is often demonstrated by characters in my novel, that one reason for existing on this beautiful planet is to be compassionate, to be of service to others.  

On that note, thanks for dropping by, for reading this far. You are very patient and kind :o)  

See you in the New Year.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wine Country Tour Day 3

This is the last entry of a series from my Niagara on the Lake wine country tour. 

If you haven't read them yet, hop on over to entries for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 2 part 2

By Day 3, I had enough wine tasting.  

I hadn't slept well the past 2 nights, was a bit cranky and was longing to return home.  I was wondering how the kids were doing and if they were taking good care of the cats

Our early morning hotel checkout led us into a sunny, fresh Sunday.  We were bracing for the long drive to our next destination, The Waring House.  

We enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch, part of which I assume was prepared by the cookery school students.  Thank goodness there was no wine tasting scheduled.

After lunch, my elderly friend and I agreed to get some fresh air and shake down our meal with a stroll through the back gardens.

We noticed a relaxing porch setting to one side.  

She pointed out a lovely bunch of Lavender, brushed her hands over the flowers, gave the leaves a pinch and a sniff.  I was happy to finally experience Lavender in full bloom after a disappointing attempt earlier this summer.

My friend was contented to sit on one of the garden benches as I wandered off to explore and take photographs.  I promised to return in a few minutes and accompany her back indoors. 

I came upon a gazing ball.  As hard as I tried, I could not hide while taking this photo.

I came upon evidence of a party the night before.

I happened upon one of their vineyards. 

I located other group members near and in the gift shop where I browsed the wares then finally bought some tasty jams.  

I returned to retrieve my friend, to escort her up the steps then to a strategic seat near the front of the building. 

As we waited for boarding time at the front grounds, I took more photographs of trees and berries.  The clouds were moving in.  My head was throbbing again. 

It was time to board the bus and move on to the next destination.

The next stop on our tour was Waupoos estates winery in Prince Edward County. 

I was starting to lag behind the group.  The clouds were becoming thicker. My mid-section was still feeling thick from lunch and the dinner from the night before and...

My iPad took several photographs of the handsome winery tour guide's feet.  Sigh...

On a serendipitous note, I was intrigued by the estate's name which is the native word for Rabbit. 

Apparently the natives called this area of Prince Edward County Waupoos due to the shape of this particular area of the island.  Thank you, Google and some guy named Archbishop Terry.

After our tour of the grounds and the cellars, we entered the gift shop.  I was tired and becoming overwhelmed by so many tourists in the shop. Go figure! I declined any offers for wine tasting yet purchased a variety of bottles as gifts since I still wanted to satisfy my family and friends' requests for Red and White wines.  I liked the names of Red Rabbit and White Rabbit.  I also liked the fact that the store offers free delivery if you purchase six or more bottles.  There was no way I was going to lug these to the bus and home somehow. 

We soon departed for a scenic tour, to visit a special place above the Bay of Quinte.

We arrived at an Ontario park called Lake on the Mountain where our driver carefully navigated the small parking lot. 

This was quite interesting.  We visited this little park where to the right and far below is the Bay of Quinte (notice the ferry), and to the left is a lake whose legend lives on with the natives and whose geological makeup is still a mystery.

At the Bay of Quinte lookout, I came upon another information centre plaque describing the Mills of Glenora.  

I suppose if I had more time and no timidity, I could have peered over the ledge to look for remaining buildings and learn more about this place called Glenora.  The best I could do was snap this photo, make a note to Google it then skitter back to the bus.  

Home sweet home

I was very happy to return home by taxi that Sunday evening, to see the kids and cats were in good form.  The "kids" were happy to see and taste the chocolatey treats I had brought them.  

You are likely glad to have reached the end of this journey too! 

So, did I meet my objectives for this tour?

  1. Test out my travel legs (in preparation for longer, more distant adventures);
  2. Meet new people;
  3. Perform wine research;
  4. Bring gifts back for family and friends who offered suggestions or made requests;
  5. Post something interesting in this blog that people would read and comment on. 
  1. I tested out my travel legs and confirmed that in future travels that I would want to have plenty of opportunities to stretch and walk around; 
  2. I met many new people from whom I learned about other interesting locations for bus trips, cruises and overseas travel;
  3. Ah, yes... Perform wine research.  Out of the three days and dozens of different wines we tested, I would say that I had plenty of time for research.  I will have to revisit some entries in the novel, applying factual information about orchards, vineyards and wine making in and around the region in the early 1970s. 
  4. Oh, yes!  I brought gifts back for family and friends who offered suggestions or made requests.  I also had some delivered plus made notes for purchases at Ottawa area wine stores.
  5. Post something interesting in this blog that people would read and comment on. 

On that last note, did you find this series and individual entries funny, interesting or inspiring? See the reaction check boxes below.  

If you enjoy my style of writing, you may like to read The Year of the Rabbit, a novel about fate, family and forgiveness, and hop on over to its related blog entries.  
Thanks for dropping by. 

Cheers and Bon App├ętit! 


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wine Country Tour Day 2 Part 2

This is a continuation of the Wine Country Tour Day 2 entry.

There's only so much you can fit into one day - and on one Web page!

After our busy half-day on Niagara on the Lake, some of us looked forward to an afternoon nap in our large hotel beds (our own beds).   We were unsuccessful due to other noisy guests, other people's children running and shouting on the same floor.  

I enjoyed a relaxing soak in the tub in my personal room and planned to get some beauty rest. Considering the circumstances, I did the best with what I had.

After a few hours, the group gathered in the hotel lobby, all in time for the bus trip for dinner at Niagara Falls.  The drive there was not very long. As we entered the tourist area, things picked up with signs and attractions.

Our driver skillfully navigated the busy streets. There were tourists everywhere. Go figure!  We drove down a side road to turn around and make an easier approach to the tourist centre parking lot. 

To my left, I caught sight of a lovely, calm looking estate above us, on the hill.  It was the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre.  Its serenity appealed to me in contrast to what we came through and were about to dive into. I had no time to take photographs but its presence was ingrained in my short term memory. 

We disembarked the bus and I escorted my 89 year-old friend along with a helpful gentleman who sped things up by pushing her on her walker as she sat with her feet slightly raised. Woo hoo!  We ladies then gracefully weaved our way through the crowd to an elevator in order to meet our group on the second floor. 

Our large restaurant table had a great view of the falls.  Our servers were polite, energetic and very accommodating.  Those of us who chose the Prime Rib menu item were intrigued at our server's statement that it would only be cooked to Chef's medium 

As we chatted and waited for dinner, I took photographs through the windows.

Niagara Falls is a marvelous sight of geology, the power of water and natural formations. 

So many tourists!

I was impressed and entertained by my dining companions' travel stories about places far and wide.  They provided me with encouragement, future inspiration and curiosity.  Palm trees in Ireland?  What?

When dinner arrived, the Chef's medium prime rib turned out to be rare. I did my best to chew and swallow while listening to my dinner companions.  The Shiraz I ordered with my meal did not help with enjoyment and digestion.  My head was throbbing.

Then came a dessert of Tiramisu, berries and chocolate sauce.  It was divine although I had visions of the gluttonous restaurant scene from Monty Python's Meaning of Life.  I became tired of sitting and eating.  I just wanted to go for a 30 minute walk.  I did my cautious best regardless.

After we finished dinner, I suggested to my older friend that we get a head start back to the bus.  A few gentlemen obliged with accompanying her while I skipped off to take some night time photos of the falls. 

The tourist attractions were lit up. I caught a shot of the Fallsview Casino and the Skylon Tower.  The Seneca Casino was flashing its electric colours like a whore in an attempt to lure gamblers across the river.  I did not feel compelled to take a photograph.  Casinos and their like do not appeal to me. 

We felt the chill of the night air as we waited for our bus to pull up.  Many of us were ready for the comfort of our hotel beds. 

The ride back was colourful and over-stimulating.  At least I was in the safety of the tour bus.  I thought about all the electrical power that goes into these lights, machines and attractions.  Could it be better used elsewhere?  

I am happy that I got to see the falls in their majesty and splendor.  It's one of those things to check off a list and be contented to say "Yes, I was there."  In the back of my mind, I was still thinking of that peaceful looking place on the hill.

I am glad you read this far.  Stay tuned for Day 3's travel log, more wine tour notes and photographs.  



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wine Country Tour Day 2

This is a continuation from Wine Country Tour Day 1.

Day 2 brought an early rise and roll call for boarding the bus on a Saturday morning.  We had places to go and wines to taste.

Our first stop was to be the Niagara College Canada winery and teaching school.  Since we were a bit early, our tour guide decided we could take a drive to the Welland Canal Centre, St. Catharines.

We saw no ships coming through the locks.  Sigh...

Since we only had 15 minutes to walk around and take pictures, I did not have time to defy the instructions on this sign.

I only had enough time to snap a photo of this historical plaque.

I did not have time to enter the visitor centre or gift shop.

Here's a tip:  When taking part in organized tours, it is important to know the rules and customs.  If one is late reaching the bus AND is the last one boarding, one will experience the "applause of shame". It only happened to me once.  

Finally, it was time to drive back to Niagara College Canada winery and teaching school.  

Notice the selection of cheese boards in the gift shop!

V is for Vidal.

Netting is for protecting the red grapes.  Little birds find them ever so tasty.

Thank goodness for natural pest control.

In the cellars we encountered barrels and vats of recent years' projects.

We were eventually led to the special room which had been set up for our wine tasting session.

I found the NCC to be one of the best tours of the entire weekend.  It was interesting to see the students taking part in conducting the tours and wine tasting events.  It was encouraging to hear that one of the requirements to qualify for the program was to have a passion for wine. 

I really enjoyed their white, red and icewine.  I am acquiring a taste for icewine.

Did you know that no wine may use the term “Icewine” on its label unless it is certified by VQA Ontario?  Take that, Champagne.

I enjoyed the wines so much that I purchased two bottles of each.  I figured that it would be a good gesture to support the college and bring back gifts for friends.

Next, we drove to the quaint and picturesque Niagara on the Lake.  Our guide told us we had free time to walk around, shop and grab lunch.  She gave us a firm deadline for returning to the bus.  

Sorry, I have no pictures of NOTL.  I had a tasty lunch though then picked up chocolatey gifts for the kids.  It would have been a more enjoyable visit if there weren't so many tourists ;o^

Next, we boarded the bus and headed for a tour of the Trius Winery at Hillebrand.

This is the Red room. 

This is the sparkling white room where we were told not to touch any bottles.  This wall of bottles is stacked six deep. 

Another cellar with more barrels. 

I thought the cement egg shaped barrels were very interesting.

Only one person tripped while navigating the stone steps back to the surface.  We next were led to a special room for another wine tasting session.  All I can remember is that the wines were very tasty and that I was getting tired.

We soon wobbled back to the bus and returned to our St. Catharines hotel for a rest and time to freshen up for dinner.

It was a long day and was not yet over.  Next I will share pictures and memories from our visit to Niagara Falls.

Thanks for reading this far!