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 

 

 

 

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

Day of Smells

Yesterday. The Day of Smells. Every day is filled with smells you may say, but yesterday seems to be especially poignant in my mind. Let me explain.

 

 

 

Daffodils - Narcissus

Daffodils – Narcissus

 

 

 

Although the day was filled to overflowing with scents, there were a few that really stood out.

 

 

 

Starting my day as usual…freshly ground coffee. Mmmm, my favorite smell to start the day. Without coffee’s mouth-watering aroma my day is not the same. I even ran in to Starbucks yesterday for an extra fix on my way to work which is highly unusual. Alright, alright, I really needed a washroom before jumping in the work truck due to an overabundance of coffee already but I just can’t resist the deliciousness of wafting coffee aromas. “I’ll have a Venti Tribute Blend black, please.” Ah, just what I needed. Smell #1.

 

 

 

Smell #2 – crunchy, decaying leaves on the forest floor. I just love that earthy, rich fragrance. Breathe deep.

 

 

 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood

The fragrance of Spring is in full force. So many wonderful smells at this time of the year. More so than at any other time, I would say.  Hyacinth’s distinct smell perfumed the air yesterday. Such a heady fragrance.  The only issue was that while the hyacinth perfume was filling my nostrils another odour wafted in and altered the experience – skunk. Cough, cough…ew. There was obviously a skunks home in the vicinity. Wowzers, it was extra odoriferous.

 

 

 

The best smell of the day was a first for the season and another of my favorite smells – fresh-cut grass. Oh my. My head was swooning from the green ambrosia. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me? Ahem, sorry.  There is something so mesmerizing about the first whiff of cut grass for the season. Oh who am I kidding, I am always affected by it. Always have been. So much so that years ago two friends of mine from high school (yes, I’ve love the fragrance that long) gave me a fresh-cut lawn scented candle as a gift. It was pretty darn close to the real thing too.

 

 

 

The worst odor of the day was also the last. There was a strange, funky smell in the hallway outside my office door. It was a strong iron-like stench with undertones of wet pennies. Gag. I was on a mission to find what was causing the rancidity and I eventually found it. Uh-oh. My daughter’s hamster had died and left behind wafting lines of stank. It is shocking how quickly dead animals start to decompose. I had heard him sifting around through his bedding the day before. Perhaps poor little Marshmallow was preparing himself for the inevitable. Sniff. We have had a few hamsters as pets over the years and each of them had unique personalities. Marshmallow was by far my favorite. He was a gentle little creature and will be missed. Many tears were shed last night over not being able to say goodbye. Sometimes a final farewell is within the heart, not with words. This morning I had the task of burying Marshmallow in the garden. I chose his final resting place in a small garden filled with Black-Eyed Susan that my daughter and her best friend planted two summers ago. What did I notice while fluffing the soil afterward? The spicy aroma of cedars and warm earthiness of the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” – Gustav Mahler

Winter Skin Blues

This frigid weather is brutal on my skin! My back is itching like crazy and my face feels as dry as a desert. I have tried product after product trying to aid my visage to no avail. The closest I have come with a manufactured product has been the gorgeous line of Shaklee Enfuselle products. I use these products on a year-round basis because they are naturally sourced and chock full of great stuff for my skin. However, this time of year always gets my skin crying out for extra TLC, no matter what. For the past few years I have slapped on coconut oil religiously and it works pretty well. However, my kids balk at the scent of it and make gasping noises when they come in for a hug. Thanks, guys. It can’t really be that bad. In the container it smells delicious like a pina colada. On my face, not so much, obviously. Weird since I can’t smell it and my nose just happens to be smack dab in the centre of my face.

 

I think I have finally come up with a solution! The past few weeks I have been experimenting. I am sort of in an obsessive domain at present since the itching and stinging of dry skin is all-encompassing. I have tried a slew of DIY concoctions with varying success and have put ingredients from different skin care recipes together in my own formulations. I have figured out that exfoliation two times per week is necessary during the winter. I’m sure there are skin gurus out there gasping somewhere. Oh well.

 

 

Almost good enough to eat!

Almost good enough to eat!

 

 

 

Perfectoid Exfoliating Scrub:

*All ingredients are approximate amounts since I just put everything into a small dish and use immediately. This makes the correct amount for one use this way everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.

 

  • 1 tsp melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp used coffee grounds (or is it grinds? I am never certain)

Mix these few ingredients together and you are ready for superior exfoliating and moisturizing action!

Splash warm water on your face a few times – just water, no cleanser necessary. You will feel as though you are in a face wash commercial at this point. Turn off the tap to conserve water while applying the concoction. Scoop a bit of the mixture onto your fingertips and apply to face starting with the forehead and working your way down. Apply all of the mixture before starting to scrub. Lightly scrub in small circles starting at the forehead while leaning over the sink since bits will fling while you are scrubbing. Go easy. You don’t want to irritate your sensitive facial skin.  Allow the scrub to stay on your face for a minute or two for the most benefit. It is now time to wash off the mixture with warm water. Cool water is great for your skin but makes the oils harden slightly so it is much easier to rinse with warm water then follow with a couple splashes of cold water. Do not use any cleanser or soap to wash of the oil residue. This is beneficial to your skin and no, it will not cause breakouts.  Pat your face dry gently. Very gently.

 

You are finished!

 

For added moisturizing, I finish with a very light coat of either avocado oil or coconut oil (at night). If it feels too oily simply dab a tissue over your face to remove excess. If you wear makeup, now is the perfect time to apply. I usually add extra moisturizer to my tinted moisturizer for a more natural look anyway so this is a great way to cut out a step.

 

 

Why did I choose to use these particular ingredients? Other than they were some of the few ingredients that my very sensitive skin didn’t react wickedly to.

Coconut Oil –

  • prevents and protects skin against free radical damage.
  • aids in reestablishing the skin’s natural antimicrobial and acid barrier
  • easily absorbs into the skin and doesn’t feel greasy
  • helps to reduce inflammation

 

Avocado oil –

  •  avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which  help maintain healthy skin
  • heals and soothes skin
  • keeps skin young and supple
  • helps reduce itching, dryness, and inflammation

 

 

Sugar –

  • stripping away tired old skin by using an exfoliant is rejuvenating. Exfoliants smooth your skin and help increase the production of new collagen to improve the appearance of fine lines
  • sugar is rough enough in texture to help rid the top layer of dry skin
  • can be too abrasive and cause sensitivity if scrubbed to firmly. Go easy. If white sugar is too scratchy feeling, perhaps brown sugar would be a better option for you.

 

 

Coffee Grounds –

  • contains caffeic acid which is suggested to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects
  • stimulates collagen production
  • helps skin feel silky smooth
  • great use for used coffee grounds since I am not using them in the garden this time of year
  • What can I say? I love coffee whether it be in me or on me!

 

 

 

One of the best ways to assist skin this time of the year is ensuring you maintain a high level of water consumption. I drink a lot of water because I simply like water not juices. I must admit that I suck down far too much coffee which doesn’t help but I do try to compensate by drinking extra water for every cup of coffee I consume.

 

If you try out this DIY exfoliator, please report back with your comments.

 

 

“Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.”  – Rosalind Russell