Visiting History in Niagara

Yesterday, my daughter and I took a few hours and zipped over to one of our local gems…Niagara-on-the-Lake. This quaint little town is a bustling zone of tourists this time of year which adds a bit more fun to the whole adventure. There were a few large groups of tourists there yesterday that seemed to want to huddle in the middle of the sidewalks, talking excitedly to each other or listening as their tour guide and interpreter gave them the historical low-down on the area. All the milling people gave me the opportunity to stop wherever I wanted, look like a tourist myself, and take a few pictures. The Niagara area is steeped in rich history. There is far too much to cover in one post but I will touch on the history of the region every so often so make sure you follow me so as to not miss a thing.

 

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake has had a few different names in its past, the first of them being Butlersburg after Colonel John Butler. Col. John Butler was a fascinating man who was both worshipped and despised. He and his son were known as “the devils of Niagara” by  Americans for generations. Butlersburg was later changed to Newark in 1781 when it became  a British military site and safe zone for Loyalists fleeing from the United Stated during the aftermath of the American Revolution. Once again changing its name, the town became known as Niagara. Niagara became the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the site of the first provincial parliament in 1792. During the War of 1812 the parliament was moved to York which is now known as Toronto.  During the War of 1812, Niagara was a central location. The town of Niagara was captured by American forces and burned to the ground.  The citizens of Niagara braved the storm and rebuilt the town. The main buildings were rebuilt out of the firing range of the cannons across the Niagara River at Fort Niagara. Yet another name change occurred in the 1880’s to its present name of Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you are interested in British-Canadian-United States history, then Niagara-on-the-Lake should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

 

 

 

In honour of Colonel John Butler, this tablet can be found in St. Mark’s Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Fear God
Honour the King
In Memory of Colonel John Butler
A sincere Christian as well as a brave soldier he was one of the founders and the first patron of this parish.”

Ontario Historical Plaque
Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler 1725-1796
By the end of the American Revolution John Butler’s loyalist corps, supported by British regulars and native allies, had effectively contributed to the establishment of British control in the Great Lakes region. After the disbanding of Butler’s Rangers in 1784, many of the men, including Butler himself, settled in the Niagara peninsula.

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a fusion of historical references and the bounty of the wine region that surrounds it. The Shaw Festival plays a pivotal role in the fabric of the community as well. There are grand homes of by-gone times that are lovingly restored and maintained as well as original inns and pubs known to be frequented by ghostly visitors. One of my favorites is the Prince of Wales Hotel that sits on one of the main corners of the Old Town. It’s too bad that yesterday was a rainy, overcast day and I only had my Blackberry to capture a few sights.

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Wales Hotel and the horse-drawn carriages are a beautiful representation of the history of the Town. Just up the street the wine industry makes itself known with the Shaw Café & Wine Bar. I must say, it always seems to be busy. I love the way the “new” presents itself in such a way as to blend in to the “old” to keep the image of the town historically quaint.

 

 

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

 

 

The rich history of the Niagara Region leaves me breathless sometimes. The realization that the area I have the luxury of living in is one of political and personal passion  for freedom as well as a battleground of war is almost surreal. Today the Niagara Region is known for our incredible wine and food industries as well as the gorgeous natural settings that surrounds us.

 

 

One of my favourite aspects of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the summertime is the copious amounts of flowers that the town is adorned with. Hanging baskets, gardens along the sidewalks, window boxes on many of the storefronts and a median down the centre of the streets that are filled to over-flowing with colourful blossoms. It is like candy for the eyes!

 

 

 

Sidewalk flower garden

Sidewalk flower garden

 

 

 

One of the flowerbeds contained this showy number – Brugmansia suaveolens. My heart skipped a beat when I spotted this specimen. I know, I know…I’m a plant nerd. It stunned me how many people walked by without noticing it until I stopped to take a photo. After taking my time inspecting this plant I turned to notice how many others were behind me admiring the plant’s beauty. Sometimes we are all so oblivious to the world around us that until we take note of someone else’s actions we miss the beauty around us. This majestic plant was putting on a show while no one was watching, simply for itself.

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

After a wonderful walk in the drizzly rain, scoping out the stupendous specimens along the way and the plethora of little shops we headed home while munching on one of my purchases…a bag of British-import Guinness potato chips.

 

 

On this Canada Day long weekend, I think of the history of not just the area I live but of the Nation I call “home” and all that came before.

 

 

 

 

 

“The upward course of a nation’s history is due in the long run to the soundness of heart of its average men and women.” – Queen Elizabeth II 

 

 

 

MidSummer’s Eve

This past Sunday, three of my fabulous co-workers and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a garden party event  for the Niagara Symphony Orchestra. What a day we had! It has been a long time since I have both volunteered and been immersed in the classical music scene. I loved the uniqueness of everyone we met throughout the evening. So much for the cliché of orchestra audiences being stuffy. These music lovers were wild with passion for the arts! I was intrigued by the colourful outfits, hats and the beautiful smiles that everyone brought with them. I felt very honored to volunteer at an event that nurtures the love of music.

I have included a brief video clip by CogecoTV (a local channel). This gives some background about the event and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra (NSO). * Just a side note – at 3:38 in the clip I am walking across the background. I look like I was on a mission! Eyes peeled for the navy blue long dress and blonde hair darting across the background headed to the back right. Woo hoo! I’m on TV!

Midsummer’s Eve

The lovely ladies I work with and myself had the task of putting together arrangements of peonies for the tables as well as looking after raffle ticket sales and being spotters during the auction. Each of these jobs made for a fun day. The peonies were gorgeous large blossoms that were oh so fragrant.

Midsummer's Eve Peonies

Midsummer’s Eve Peonies

Appetizers and dinner were prepared by chef Oscar Turchi of Savoia in St. Catharines, ON.  My mouth still waters thinking about how amazing everything was. OK, Ronni and I were less than impressed by the goat’s cheese appetizers, I must be honest. We thought we’d break out and try to be adventurous. I actually had a hard time swallowing it without gagging. It wasn’t the appetizer itself but the fact that I know I don’t like goat cheese but thought I’d try it again anyway. I know now that sometimes I don’t have to try, try again until I like something. How Chef Oscar and his staff managed to pump out the amount of food they did in such a short time while working from a tent is beyond me. Kudos to the chef and his team! All of the food and beverages were top-notch. Here is the menu featuring the companies who provided each item which was presented at our place setting:

Midsummer's Eve Menu

Midsummer’s Eve Menu

The evening wrapped up with a performance by the NSO which was beautifully executed. The sound under the tents made for a unique listening experience. Close to the end of the performance people were starting to get a bit fidgety since the mosquitos started to come out for dinner in full force. Slap! – scratchy-scratchy. The next morning I noticed that I certainly got my fair share of bites. The only drawback to the day , other than the mosquitos, was the excruciating heat and humidity. I was flushed from the heat and feeling as though I was melting. I know I wasn’t alone by the amount of programmes that were fanning the attendees and the comments by my friends. I was relieved to lay down in air-conditioned splendour at the end of the evening, that’s for sure!

The Midsummer’s Eve event was made a success by many people but there were a few that worked tirelessly to make this event truly memorable for all.

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Tick Alert

There has been a subject that keeps popping up in a lot in conversation lately…ticks. Just the thought of these horrid wee creatures sparks frenzied responses from people, myself included. For good reason too. Ticks can carry disease and cause chaos within the body without us even knowing we’ve become a host.

 

Let me freak you out a bit with a couple of tick photos. You’re welcome.

 

 

blacklegged tick

 

 

 

 

 

tick sizes

 

 

 

 

Ticks generally reside in tall grass and bushes, but this year they seem to be popping up everywhere.  It is a common thought that ticks are found only in the country or in wooded areas but lately have been spotted in city gardens and lawns. A warmer than normal winter has encouraged an increase in the tick population. Great, now I feel itchy. Ticks do not fly but they seem to have, in my experience, a great ability to jump as though they were spring-loaded. Once on the body of a human or animal ticks will find a prime location (usually armpits, groin area, scalp and the nape of the neck are preferred locations) and make themselves at home by boring into the flesh. Scratch-scratch. Tick bites are generally painless so aren’t always detected quickly which gives ticks ample time to get to work. For your viewing pleasure, I present to you a burrowing tick.

 

 

burrowing tick - source unknown

burrowing tick – source unknown

 

 

 

 

Once the tick has started to burrow into the flesh, there is a proper technique for removal. Trying to flick the tick off or scratch it off is the wrong method as the mouth-parts need to stay connected to the body for proper removal. If the head and/or mouth-parts separate from the body the bacteria will remain possibly causing infection. Removal with tweezers by holding as low on the head as possible and pulling back gently to extract the tick is the correct method. Removing with dish soap or Basic H on a cotton ball also facilitates proper removal, or so I am told by those that have tried this method. Putting a squirt of dish soap or Basic H (see side link to my website Live Love Be Green for more info) then placing the cotton ball over the tick for a few minutes will supposedly draw out the tick by making it stick to the cotton ball and make it slide out easier. Hope I don’t have to try this method out. I have however, had to use the tweezer-method. Last summer I had a tick attach itself to my shoulder blade. Of course one of the only spots not easily accessible for me to remove it myself. I had been working at a place known for ticks and had performed a tick check on myself before jumping into the shower after I got home. I was good to go – or so I thought. The next morning while getting dressed for work I had an itch on my back. I turned and looked in the mirror to see something dark stuck to my shoulder-blade. Ack! Thank goodness help was close by to remove the tick easily for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a diagram of the proper tick removal method using tweezers:

 

 

tick removal-courtesy of yahoo.ca  images

tick removal-courtesy of yahoo.ca images

 

 

 

Ticks can carry bacteria that leads to such illnesses as Lyme disease. Be aware of any strange symptoms you may experience if you have been bitten by a tick and report them to your doctor immediately. Early detection is vital with any illness. If possible, keep the tick in a jar with a lid after removal in case you develop strange symptoms. Your local Public Health will test the tick for Lyme disease if necessary.

 

 

 

 

A few rules to deter and detect ticks while out and about:

 

– wear light coloured clothing to be able to easily detect ticks

 

– wear long pants and tuck them in or secure if possible to avoid ticks climbing up inside your pant leg

 

– spray boots/shoes and legs with DEET or a natural tick repellent. You want ticks to think you smell unappetizing.

 

– check yourself and family members for ticks after outdoor activity

 

– keep your grass cut short and dispose of unnecessary debris

 

 

 

Don’t let ticks deter you from getting out and enjoying the beauty of Nature. Simply be aware and be proactive. Now quit scratching and go enjoy some fresh air and sunshine!

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t make us bite you in hard-to-reach places!” – The Tick (comedic superhero)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Eat Cake

In conclusion to my post The Countdown Is On ,  I have decided to invite you to share a piece of birthday cake with me and a few friends. To enjoy my 40th birthday even more – and drag it on even longer – I decided to throw myself a party. Why not, right? The premise of the party was to celebrate friendship. To have an evening to enjoy each others’ company, have some laughs and savour a few glasses of wine. Oh, and eat birthday cake of course!  Only a couple of photos were selected due to a fun wine tasting where all bottles were consumed plus a few extra. I’m sure you catch my drift. Let’s eat cake!

 

 

 

birthday girl cutting the cake

birthday girl cutting the cake

 

 

 

 

Normally birthday cake does not thrill me. Unless it is a unique flavour or light and airy. I decided against heavy chocolate or something sickeningly sweet and decided to make my own cake. In my 40 years on earth I have found that the best way to get what I want is to do it myself. Don’t you agree? So, I searched high and low (ok, I scoured through tonnes of cake recipes on pinterest) for just the right one. Here is the recipe I decided upon if you are interested – there were a few of you that have asked for the recipe after eating your slice – Orange Layer Cake. The homemade orange curd (filling) was delicious. This recipe is definitely a keeper.  I didn’t use the frosting recipe included but opted for a light cream cheese icing instead. My daughter was given creative license to add embellishment as she saw fit and put hot pink candy-covered chocolates and a fresh cherry on top for good measure.

 

 

 

Cake anyone?

Cake anyone?

Would you care for a slice?

This year, something changed inside of me. I realized that a birthday is no longer just about the person that was born on that particular day but also about those that they choose to share their days with. Those individuals that make us happy and that it feels good to be around. In the name of friendship, thank you.

`The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.` – Oprah Winfrey

Melancholy Weather, Meditation and Mraz

Upon waking this morning I was greeted by melancholy grey skies that eventually broke open, spilling heavy  drops down on my already muddy side yard and gardens. The work day was called off due to a 90% chance of rain all day. Rain days are always a mixed blessing. I can always use “alone time” and relish the freedom to do whatever I so choose without interruption. Sadly, that usually ends up being laundry, dishes or some other equally mundane task. On the other hand, I seriously enjoy my job and my co-workers so a day that is normally a work day without being on the job feels strange.

 

 

Today I decided not to feel any guilt and use it as a Me Day. To get back to certain past-times I love but have set aside for a while in pursuit of other things. I started my day with a glorious hot mug of Starbucks coffee and some reading material. I do love a good read yet I tend to only read at bedtime, having convinced myself that reading during the day is simply too indulgent. Not today it isn’t. I have devoured numerous different forms of written word today – fiction, blogs, words of wisdom collections, and health reference books in my library. I refer to my large bookshelf in my living room as my rotating library. Books are always coming and going either on loan, new additions, or rotated from boxes in the basement to refresh the material occasionally. I love books. The feel of old paper scented from years of  habitation in musty basements or my fresh-air and cooking smells infused home. There is nothing quite like the feel of holding a real book in my hands. E-readers are great tools but don’t give me quite the same satisfaction as an old, well-loved novel or heavy reference journal. I guess I’m a book-worm. I do feel somewhat guilty at the use of excess paper so I tend not to purchase a lot of new books but either borrow books from friends and family or purchase used books in the name of reusing an existing product. I ponder over which is worse; the use of paper for books, either recycled or new as opposed to the plastics and other resources used to manufacture e-readers/tablets and the electricity to run them as well as the disposal of the battery and the item itself upon its’ completed life span. Books are mostly 100% recyclable and last for incredible lengths of time if treated properly.

 

 

The gloomy day has also brought me the joy of reconnecting with my love of meditation and kundalini yoga. I enjoyed my hour-long session of awakening my kundalini energy. Blissful. I now feel as though I am glowing and warm with energy. I forgot how incredible the feeling of the warm energy rising up the spine feels and how alive I feel after practicing. Perhaps my early mornings will start with a yoga and meditation session instead of racing to the kitchen for coffee as soon as my feet hit the floor. That would be a much better start to preparing myself for the day. My body will thank me profusely for cutting my caffeine consumption, I’m sure.

 

 

kundalini awakening

It was time to infuse my environment with music. Jason Mraz’s music has aroused my senses this afternoon with his gloriously uplifting music. His cd “LOVE”, is definitely one of my favorites and always makes me swimmingly happy. Check it out.

 

I seriously love this song –   93 Million Miles but my fave pick would be Living In The Moment. When I’m feeling stressed out, “Living in the Moment” always brings me back to reality. Interesting how music can speak so strongly to our emotions, isn’t it? While my musical tastes are very eclectic there are certain artists and cd’s I reserve for certain types of days, moods, and activities. Sometimes I insist on loud and proud ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughn when I’m feeling feisty, or perhaps a hit of Ella Fitzgerald when I feel strong yet sentimental. I think the only type of music I don’t listen to regularly is country.  After growing up in a home where country music was the only type of music my parents listened to, I have had my fill. My sisters and I would escape to our rooms to fill our ears with artists like Wham, A-Ha, Madonna and Michael Jackson (that was me) to Duran Duran, Billy Idol, and Ozzy Osbourne. We tried our hardest to steer clear of country music and still do! I am not a country music-hater per say, just not a fan. You certainly would never find me screaming over some country stud muffin yammering on about dogs, trucks and his long lost girlfriend, that’s for darn-tootin’! There is a time and a place for every genre of music and I wholeheartedly appreciate the creativity and artistry of musicians. The world is richer because of music.

 

 

Today continues to be a day of things that bring me happiness and uplift the spirit. We all need to take a Me Day now and then. I think I’ll go give my kids a hug and tell them how loved they are. After that I will go to my other happy place, the kitchen. I’ll pour myself a glass of red wine and start on some onion bhaji, aloo ghobi, daal, a salad and homemade naan for dinner.  The perfect rainy day meal.

 

 

 

 

 

“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” – Plato

Sunscreen Dilemma

Lately, I have been thinking a LOT about sunscreen. To wear, or not to wear…that is the question.

 

 

The scale inside my brain is balancing slightly to the side of “not to wear”. Here is my logic as to why there is some confusion. My entire life I have not had a great track record of gorgeous tanned skin. A few folk refer to me as Ghost Girl because I have an extremely pale skin tone. I scare even myself in fluorescent lit change rooms with the blinding whiteness that is not my arms, neck and face. Fluorescent lighting is extremely unforgiving. As you have probably gathered, I am a rather health conscious individual that questions every product I allow into my home or on my body. Of course, I make a few exceptions here and there but only after knowing what I am dealing with. I am not paranoid but I choose to be informed. I question why sunscreen usage increases while skin cancer rates continue to climb. Should the outcome not be that skin cancer rates drop as sunscreen use increases? Therefore, sunscreen and all its pros and cons weighs heavily on my radar.

 

 

 

I am not interested in dealing with skin cancer. Let this be known. I knew someone when I was a teen that had part of both ears removed due to skin cancer and this really scared the ever-loving out of me. It made me aware of the risk factors that I am dealing with as a pasty, white girl who historically turns lobster red after 30 minutes in the sun. I slathered on sunscreen like nobody’s business through my 20’s, making myself even whiter than I’m naturally predisposed. Not a good look.

 

 

 

Unluckily for me, I am in a medium to high risk group for skin cancer.

 

Fair Skin  Having less melanin in my skin gives me less protection from UV radiation. Not only do I have fair skin, I also have light blue eyes, freckle easily, and burn easily. Strike one.

 

 

History of Sunburns  Childhood sunburns that resulted in severe burning and blistering. Yup, had a few of those. Strike two.

 

 

Excessive Sun Exposure  I spend a considerable amount of my time outdoors in the sun at work. I do try to find shady spots whenever possible but that isn’t always an option. Strike three.

 

 

Sunny and/or High Altitude Climate  I can scratch this off my risk list. Phew! Yes, it is sunny here in southern Ontario but not like it is closer to the equator that’s for sure.

 

 

Moles  I have my fair share of freckles but no moles. Another all-clear.

 

 

Family History  Another risk factor bites the dust.

 

 

Weakened Immune System  I work hard at keeping my immune system strong through healthy eating, stress relieving meditation, fresh air and supplementation.

 

 

Exposure to Certain Substances  Substances such as arsenic and certain pesticides. These aren’t always as easy to avoid as we would like. Even being vigilant within my own home, there are still those in our communities that don’t take these risks seriously and put everyone else at risk.  This risk factor is a tricky one.

 

 

How do you rate on the risk factor list? Do you take the risk of skin cancer seriously?

 

 

Now that risk for skin cancer has been determined I find myself reaching for a 50+ UVA/UVB sunscreen only to stop mid-reach to question the efficacy of such products.

 

I question the ingredients in each sunscreen. Yes, there are harmful ingredients in many sunscreens on the market. Just because it is on the store shelf does NOT make it unquestionably safe. It is when we start to question the safety of ingredients that the world of hidden substances starts to become apparent. Think back a few years to when it became a talked about subject that oxybenzone in sunscreen may mimic estrogen. While both sides of this argument have a valid point, I always cringe when I hear the FDA or medical community say “there is no solid proof to suggest it is not safe.” Um, I am curious where the solid proof to suggest its complete safety is then. Another questionable ingredient is retinyl palmitate. This is used as a stabilizer and has anti-aging qualities but can make skin more sensitive to the sun and may actually promote skin cancer. Like other consumers, I find this confusing and frankly, quite maddening. Isn’t the whole point of sunscreen to protect?

 

 

What about the fact that some researchers say sunscreens with octinoxate, oxybenzone, parabens, or camphor derivatives are killing hard corals which could negatively impact biodiversity and reef ecosystems? I don’t want to inadvertently cause damage to marine life while trying to protect my skin! There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

26 seconds

 

 

 

UVA/UVB Issue  UVA rays are present all year round. While UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, UVA radiation damages the underlying skin cells to cause premature aging, sun spots, and that leathery looking skin that honestly, who would want? So although sunburns are no treat (and I know from numerous experiences), premature aging due to cell damage is very unpalatable as well.

 

 

Chemicals + Heat = baked in exposure! Not only does everything you put on your body’s largest organ (that’s right, your skin) get absorbed within seconds but combine that with the heat treatment from the sun and we are literally basting ourselves with chemicals or unknown substances.

 

 

Skin Function  Our skin is an amazing organ. I am curious as to how well it performs its job of heating/cooling effectively, ridding our body of toxins and being receptive to detecting threats such as pain or insects and other assaults due to numbing our sensors (hair and follicle reception of unwanted things) while slathered in goop and the hair stuck to the skin.

 

 

Discomfort  I can withstand some discomfort in the name of safety and wellness but seriously, try to slather on a second (or third) application of sunscreen to skin covered in grass clipping, dirt, and mulch bits and sweat.

 

 

 

I continue on my quest for the perfect solution to the sunscreen debate. I now wear coconut oil on my face mixed with a tinted moisturizer made with organic ingredients. This keeps my face from drying out and/or becoming seriously sunburned. As for the rest of my exposed flesh I struggle with the idea of slapping on a product that I am uncomfortable with. I go between a few sunscreens that I am alright with but I still question long-term safety. I will always be on the lookout for an optimal skin protection regime and question, question, question everything I come across. It’s in my nature, I can’t help it.

“I was raised with the notion that it is OK to ask questions, and it was OK to say, I’m not sure.” – Peter Jennings