Now that it is autumn, we are starting to get ready for the winter ahead, our first in Toronto in 19 years! I told you before about our patio heater. The plan is to eat outdoors as long as we can with blankets on our knees, the patio heater blazing, and a variety of lights and candles around us as it is definitely dark early these days. It is now October and we are finding that we prefer to have a sun downer in the garden around 5:30 and eat indoors as it is chilly chilly. We gave away our snow shovels to our neighbour next door, so bought a little electric one that should do for the front walk until Kelvin comes round to shovel the driveway. I bought some runners that are Goretex, and therefore waterproof, and some warm socks, for walking Oscar. I have some old boots, discovered when doing my Covid cleaning with Jill. I have lots of wool head bands and neck warmers from my skiing days, and Charles bought a toque/watch cap on Amazon. We both have new flannel shirts from Old Navy. I haven’t yet decided about snow tires. I did have some for my car but gave them away about 5 years ago as they were old and dry. I hate to leave it until the last minute, but will see what is what.
Meanwhile we have had a wonderful summer. One of the highlights was our visit to Immersive Van Gogh, an unusual presentation of Van Gogh’s art in a huge warehouse complete with very loud, but marvellous classical music to match the paintings that were projected on the walls. I had bought the tickets online for a May visit, but then with Covid they got changed to August. The exhibit was very organized and we were taken in right away because of course I had purchased VIP tickets. The large factory space had circles on the floor that you were expected to stay in while you watched the walls perform. There was also a raised platform that you could access for about 10 minutes. Many of Van Gogh’s paintings were moving on the walls and they truly became alive. I wonder what he would have thought of this. There were descriptions of the art and stories of his unusual life. Charles and I had visited his home town in Arles, France, about a year ago, and remembered much of what we were told while we toured. The entire experience lasted just over 30 minutes, although I guess you could stay longer. We loved it.
Disappointed that we had to cancel three summer trips, I decided that we should do some one or two day trips here in our province of Ontario. Langdon Hall is a glorious country house hotel about an hour from our home in Toronto. I booked two nights there and found a terrific package for this Relais et Chateau property. We hadn’t visited there for years. In fact before we were married I invited Charles to come there as my guest ( I had some sort of voucher) and it turned out to be the opening week of the hotel. It was before Christmas and it became my gift. As I recall, (it was over 33 years ago), the place was spectacular. We have visited many times over the years, but it had been a while. So I booked us and got a deal with two nights, two dinners and breakfasts, and if you know the food at Langdon Hall you would know what a treat that was. We arrived late August on a sunny warm afternoon. Because of Covid, I had to book the specific times for all our meals, although they were served outside in their gorgeous gardens. Lunch was for me shrimp, smoked trout, two appetizers, while Charles had delectable fish and chips. We drank some rosé because after all we were on a holiday.
In the later afternoon I decided to go for a swim in their nicely heated pool that is surrounded by gardens of fresh herbs and vegetables. Although the chaise lounges were comfortable, I did my laps. Charles was entertained by the young women in their revealing thong swimsuits. Well, one should not have worn one, as she tipped the scales probably at well over 200 lbs, but she, unabashed, strutted around with it all hanging out, and I mean all. These bummy suits as I call them must be worn by perfect bodies. And as it turned out there were two. One young woman had an athletic figure, and swam and got out of the water quickly. The other put on a performance for everyone including Charles. She pranced around, bent over, flirted with her much older partner and basically did an erotic show for one and all. She did have the figure, but… In the evening, I was curious to see what she would wear, and expected something spectacular, but was disappointed because in clothes she was rather ordinary.
After a nap, we dressed for dinner outside. It was a warm night and the place was decorated beautifully with pin lights that lit up the trees and pond. It was a fairyland. There were many tables, but social distancing was respected. We had amazing scallops, 45 hour beef which meant it was brewing that long, and yummy chocolate pudding. All perfect.
Our room during the day was filled with light and very spacious in the Cloister part of the Hotel, a newish addition. The next morning I had an early swim alone and that was superb, my favourite thing to do. Breakfast again in the garden by the frog pond, was delicious; scrambled eggs with lobster and champagne. We then went for a long walk in the woods on one of the trails, and after a rest, headed to the pool where they served drinks. We skipped lunch as breakfast really did it for us, and sat on rockers on the porch of the hotel and read our books. Lovely! Then dinner with the same menu choices so we could repeat what we liked the night before or try something else. I discovered a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand that I had never tried, made by the people who produce Kim Crawford. This one called Loveblock is now our house wine at home. We order it through Wine Online, and it is delivered very rapidly. Of course with Covid everything we buy, well almost, comes by delivery. The next morning after breakfast, we headed back to Toronto, and picked up Oscar from wonderful Aisha, his dog sitter. We felt as though we had been away for a long time. Nothing like a change of scenery.
I recently read an article on the editorial page of our national newspaper by a stripper or rather exotic dancer , who said that she really missed the dancing and performing, and couldn’t understand why the bars were closed during this stage of our recovery. How ironic. She missed performing! And there are all our well trained artists of the dramatic stage, opera, concert, musicians, many who have been studying for years not able to work. Yes, they have been appearing online in free concerts, but it just saddens me tremendously for them, not to mention the young artists on the brink of careers. So I was delighted with Tapestry Opera Theatre who started an initiative primarily targeted for long term care homes, that sent a travelling stage in a box complete with an opera singer, to perform a short concert. I immediately hired this travelling theatre act, and with my pal, Sharon, who offered her home as a back drop, invited some friends to come and enjoy the performance. And it was very enjoyable indeed with the wonderful young Sri Lankan/Canadian tenor, Asitha Tennekoom. They offered as well a concert with a cellist. Asitha arrived on a sunny Sunday afternoon with an other young man who helped put together the stage, and who drove the truck. It was brilliant. Bravo to Tapestry Theatre and Soul Pepper Theatre who created the box.
The other exciting online enterprise originates from the Metropolitan Opera. Sadly, the entire 2020/2021 season has been cancelled. I was just reading about a young Canadian baritone who was slated to make his Met debut, and that along with all his contracts, is cancelled. This is common among myriads of singers. Now back to The Met. They have been offering live concerts online with some of the greatest singers in the world like Jonas Kaufman (took place already), Sondra Radvanovsky, Bryn Terfel( coming up) and other greats, like Joyce di Donato and Renée Fleming. These you pay for, and at $20 US a show that you can see online for about 2 weeks, it is a good deal. One of the concerts with husband and wife duo Roberto Alagna and Alexandra Kurzak was gloriously shot in Eze, France, at the brilliant hotel Chevre D’or on the top of a mountain in the Riviera, with breathtaking views. Stratford Festival is offering a new streaming program called Stratfest which is also a subscription, and although there is a lot of free programming online of the arts, I am delighted that now there is a ‘pay’ option so that artists can make a little money and companies can try to survive.
What I miss most is that thrill, that excitement at the start of a live performance. There is nothing like it, and there is nothing like witnessing a brilliant performance live, and applauding, or shouting bravo. That wonderful feeling leaving a theatre and being so happy and exhilarated that you can’t fall asleep, reading and re-reading a program with the notes and photos of the artists. The savouring of the event is what I truly miss, and dearly hope will witness again in 2021. Meanwhile it is good that we can watch performers online. Sigh.
In this period of our waning summer and fall we have managed to continue with our dinners outside under the patio heater, sometimes with blankets over our knees, and leaves on the ground all around. At some point we will stop. But I am not in a hurry. although wet leaves and raw damp air is not inviting. We are still going to our favourite restaurant Azarias and sat outside with temps under 10c or 50 f, but it was fun and because we walk there from the house, we get a chance to warm up.
Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone and we celebrated with our friends, Liz and Wouter, who are in our bubble. We also had the fire roaring and our Hepa filter going, and the door open to the garden. I roasted a capon which was delicious and only just over 7 lbs., served with mashed squash, green beans with sesame seeds, and I made a delicious apple crisp. I think I once gave out the recipe, but it is very simple. Peel and slice tart apples like MacIntosh, put in pie plate then take one cup of flour, one of brown sugar and 3/4 cup butter or margarine and mix with fingers. It is very messy, but worth it. Then I sprinkle some cinnamon over apples, and cover with messy mixture. Put in oven at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the crust is formed, and there it is; sweet and tart. Nice with ice cream or just plain. I served some smoked salmon before dinner, and some wild mushroom soup hot in a cappuccino cup with a bit of yoghurt on top to look like it was actually coffee. It was a yummy dinner if I do say so, and we all gave thanks for our wonderful lives and especially our health.
I should mention some of my favourite things, because we are now looking closely at our live’s little things during these Covid times, and we are home a LOT. I simply love the new carpet on our stairs. The thirty-five year old carpet that was there was starting to look pretty worn, even though we mostly live downstairs in our home, except for our offices. I priced three different carpet places and only one was reasonable, from Dundas carpet. I couldn’t believe the first estimate of $8,000!!! for 15 stairs, then I had one for $4,000, still too much, then finally $1,500 which was definitely doable. And I love it. It is so bouncy, with its new under-pad, not to mention good looking. I simply like walking up and downstairs. Go figure. Life’s little pleasures. I also like our new toilet seat, talk about glamorous things. It just sets itself down very quietly and softly. I did enjoy smashing the old one down, but this is magical. Tells you how much we are staying at home and going a bit crazy. I also love the trees changing. The colours are remarkable. I am really appreciating the fall and taking many walks. I am watching our bird feeder more, and that is very exciting- ha ha, but I do love my cardinals and now the robber nuthatches, who are little piggy eaters for their size. I could go on, but I wouldn’t want you to get envious of my special delights. I did forget to mention the fires in our fireplaces. We actually have three in the house, but the basement one is not on our agenda. We have a small one in our bedroom and one in the living/dining room. We have wood for the winter which is neatly stacked in the garage. So every night we have a fire. The smell is incredible and the glow is so satisfying. I can’t imagine having a gas fire and deriving as much pleasure from it as ours. Best to remember to open the flue when starting, though, and to close it afterwards if you don’t want cold air rushing in.
Next blog I will tell you about a two day trip to Niagara on the Lake, a good concert from Koerner Hall on line of course, some Halloween decorations in my neighbourhood, and moving on into November’s chilly weather.