Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Quiet City

I know this has nothing to do with my garden, or my Mimico Maison, but after writing about the Copeland clarinet concerto yesterday, I couldn't leave "Quiet City" out of the picture.  I don't think there is anything very useful I can say about this composition for orchestra, with trumpet and cor anglais soloists, other than to note that it truly is one of my absolute favourite compositions of all time.  (although I could tell you that the first time I heard it, I was driving, and was so mesmerized, and profoundly moved, I had to pull over to finish listening to it, for fear of distracted driving).
There is an interesting bit of background to be had on Wikipedia about the origins of the piece.  Otherwise, I simply invite you to listen and reflect.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Copeland clarinet concerto

Whilst driving to Paris yesterday, we listened to CBC radio two in the car.  As part of their Remembrance Day programming, they played a work that I haven't heard in probably a decade, but one which I absolutely adore - the Copeland clarinet concerto.  It was one of those things I had on a CD at one point, and which I became completely obsessed with....listening to it over and over again, several times a day for a couple of weeks, almost to the exclusion of any other piece (this is an old habit of mine with music I like).  Then, eventually and predictably, I hit the tipping point, where my obsessive interest turned against me, and I could not bear to hear it even a single time more.   Thankfully, the intervening decade appears to have reset the balance, and on hearing it yesterday, I was reminded of why it had triggered that mesmerizing, compulsive intensity of feeling in me.  And today, I was absolutely delighted to find a two-part YouTube video, of a performance conducted by Aaron Copeland himself, with Benny Goodman, for whom the piece was orginally intended, as the soloist.  I still can't quite get over how Copeland takes us from languid, pastoral tranquility, beautifully rendered, into a madness of jazz-age inspired, rhythmically propulsive driving energy....but he does, and very successfully.  If you can, make time to listen to both parts of the video, and hear that contrast for yourself.  If you haven't come across this piece,  do let me know what your thoughts and reactions are to it.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A trip to Paris this weekend.

Been a busy weekend.  Yesterday, in a moment of unusual decisiveness, I found a pair of lights for my kitchen, which is currently in the midst of a redecoration which MUST be finished for Christmas.  About 8 years ago, I stumbled across a lighting store on Broadview, that seemed to specialize in reproduction 1920s and 30s lighting, and found a perfect fixture for the downstairs hallway.  After lots of internet browsing for new kitchen lights, and no decision, I remembered that store, and decided to see if it was still there.  Unfortunately, it is no more, but across the street, Der Dietemann antiques had a whole windowful of art deco lighting, so we had a look inside.  The shop was overflowing with all sorts, and after a few minutes talking with the owner, Albert, I decided that a pair of simple schoolhouse lights would be ideal.  The store is going to fix them up to my specifications, and will even install them for me to the bargain, so I won't have the pain of fiddling around with wires.

Then in the evening, the trio and I had a gig, at a birthday party for a Hungarian octogenerian.  We did a couple of hours of foxtrots, tangos, Gershwin songs and the like, which came off really well despite challenges trying to get any time to rehearse.  It helped considerably that the audience was of an age and demographic to fully appreciate our repertoire!  We had some sing-along and clap-along going on, and if there had been more floor space, I think we could have seen the rug being cut up, so to speak.

And then today, Davey and I had a nice drive out in the country.  For a while now, I've been following the blog of Daryl McMahon, and so today, I finally made a trip out to Paris, Ontario, to see his work at a Christmas Open House at his beautiful home.  Can't show pictures of everything we brought home, in case they end up as Christmas gifts.  If you haven't seen his work before, you must check out his blog to see examples of his amazing work, and find a chance to catch one of his shows if you can.
Paris, Ontario is quite a lovely, old country town.  Lots of early industrial development along the grand river, and plenty of examples of early 19th century architecture, some beautifully maintained and pristine, and others looking much more Dickensian.  In it's day, it must have been a wealthy and bustling little town, and it's lucky that it's survived without too much unfortunate redevelopment.
Photo doesn't do these candle hooks for the Christmas tree justice.  They cleverly been made with decorative (non-functioning) candles, to avoid any serious fire hazard.  Check out Daryl's blog to see much more elaborate and spectacular examples of his work.
This fascinating house was really eye-catching.  The stone walls were  lined with regular courses of river pebbles, much like flints are sometimes seen as a facing of old houses in East Anglia.  I'd never seen this type of treatment in Ontario.

The front entrance was very much like a mausoleum - highly imposing.  The house stretched back into the large lot for ages, with one addition after another at the back.  Would love to take a look inside.

Meanwhile, back in Mimico, my kitchen is in a state.  The hole in the ceiling is the last evidence of the bathroom issues that have plagued me since labour day.  All fixed now, except this ceiling issue, which hopefully will be taken care of very shortly.

The cupboard doors are off because I'm finally re-painting the cabinets.  I have the day off work tomorrow, so will finish off garden chores, and hope to make some progress with these cabinets.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Before and After - house facade renovation

I'm delighted with the way the renovation on the exterior of my house turned out.  I had a section of very crumbly 85 year old stucco that needed replacing, and took the opportunity to also re-reveal the original facade of my house, which had been under a mask of vinyl siding for many years.  Here are the before and after shots, and a couple of pics of what is still surviving (and thriving) in my late October garden.
Before - vinyl siding galore

After - Tudor charm

cold nights have given this kale a nice colour

Rosemary in bloom

My bay tree is finally starting to look more like the ball standard that I want

A single nerine bloom

Beautiful white anemones are flowering profusely.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The new face of Mimico

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  Had a very nice trip to Sarnia for the weekend, with a great drive through spectacular fall colours on Saturday morning, some antiquing success and a delicious thanksgiving dinner.  Holiday Monday is providing some lovely fall weather, a slight chill in the air, but  beautiful sunny skies above, so I went for a walk around the neighbourhood.  Given the work I've been having done on the outside of my house in the last few weeks, it was interesting to take note of other renovations and improvements going on in Mimico.  The most notable, whilst not yet officially open to the public, is that Mimico Waterfront Linear Park is nearing completion, with paved surfaces and decked boardwalks now installed.  The good folks of Mimico weren't going to let the lack of a little thing like an official public opening stop them from enjoying this addition to the neighbourhood, so I joined the merry throng making use of the pathway.  The closest entrance is only about five minutes walk from my house, and I have to say, the trail that has now been more or less completed, linking all the way along the lake to Harbourfront, in the downtown core, is an amazing new asset for this community.  There is a curving, smoothly paved pathway, which will be great for cyclists and roller bladers, and then a very nice boardwalk section that is ideal for walkers.  Add to that, the really great views of downtown, and across the marina, as well as what look to be some areas reserved for naturalization of marginal plants to create a wildlife habitat, and you have a truly excellent way to help create that "waterfront living" experience that is top of mind for local real estate agents!  Now it feels like there is a bit of substance behind those claims!  Add to that the fact that work is finally starting on a new building at Superior and Lake Shore (which has been under discussion for nearly the entire decade that I've lived here), and that a very pretty new house a few doors down from me is nearing completion, I started to feel like things are really starting to move up in Mimico.  Here are a few pics from my walk:
Autumn colour on Lake Crescent in Mimico

Colourful fall garden on Queen's Avenue, Mimico

The fall colours in Southern Ontario are really intense this year.

View from the newly paved section of the Mimico Waterfront Linear Park

Marina in Mimico, view from Mimico Waterfront Linear Park

View towards Humber Bay

Looking east, from Mimico Waterfront Park, towards Humber Bay

Look at the nice new path for cycling or roller blading....

....and great board walks for strolling....

...or you could just sit down and enjoy watching the boats drift by.

This is the second phase of the park, and it really will add tremendously to the amenities in the area.

And closer to home, my own renovation project is nearing completion.  Here you can see the final colour scheme I selected for the timbers and stucco.  I'm highly pleased with the results....can't wait to see it all finished!

Everything is primed at the front and ready to be painted.

A new house, just a few doors down from my much more humble Mimico dwelling, is nearing completion.  Landscaping went in last week, and the results are starting to look really great.  So glad this house is tasteful!

And at the corner of Lake Shore Boulevard and Superior Avenue, it's down with the old....

...and it shouldn't be too long before the new condo arrives.

This heritage property is currently up for re-development.  The original estate actually became a post-war low rise apartment complex.  The proposals are currently being actively discussed in the neighbourhood, and I'm hoping a good solution for some positive re-development can be found.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Never say never, nerine

Back in the spring, I found some nerine bulbs at my favourite local nursery, Plantworld.  Recalling how beautiful they are in sheltered, sunny spots in the UK, even as far north as my home town of Aberdeen,  and knowing that they would never survive the frigid Ontario winter, I decided to experiment with planting them in a container I could overwinter indoors.  I was pleased to see strap-like leaves appearing, and watered and fed diligently all summer.  Two or three weeks ago, I was dismayed however, to notice the leaves looking decidedly yellow and about to die....which they promptly did.  I thought my experiment had failed dismally.  However, I'm pleased to report that I noticed today that a great big, swelling flower bud has appeared, as if from nowhere, and it looks like I'll have flowers after all!  The variety is Kodora, which from the packaging seemed to be a strong coral-red.  Stay tuned.
A single flower bud has emerged from my otherwise dormant nerine bulb.  I planted two bulbs, both of which put out some leaves, so perhaps a companion will emerge shortly.

Nerine Kodora

Perfect fall weekend

I thought the weather was going to be dreary this weekend but it turned out to be perfect - nice warm sunshine, perfect blue skies, and an undertone of crispness to the air.  Went on a jaunt to St. Jacob's to get out of town for a few hours.  The trees have already started to turn, and the colours are already quite impressive - every shade from lime green, through vivid yellow, pumpkin-like orange, all the way through to deep mahogany reds.  Hopefully they will be even closer to their peak for the Thanksgiving weekend next week.  I hadn't been to St. Jacobs in about a decade, and was a little surprised by the strip malls and general development since I was last there....but there were still plenty of Mennonite horse buggies and bonneted women scurrying around, and the smell of pig & horse dung was a constant companion all day, so at least it felt like we were truly out in the country.  The highlight for me was the hot, freshly made apple fritters and coffee that we snacked on, out in the sunshine!
A full spectrum of pepper colours

Beautiful fall flowers

Mega cabbages....sauerkraut anyone?

The St. Jacob's farmers market was bustling this weekend.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Michaelmas daisies, chills in the air, and a little Tippett.

Autumn has arrived!
Autumn arrived all at once here, this weekend.  Suddenly, there was a definite chill in the air, and the trees have started to show a little colour in the Don Valley.  This morning it was only 4 degrees  outside when I got up - definitely needed my cozy goose down duvet this morning!  On my routine Thursday with the boys at the end of last week, we even lit the first log fire of the season, as we settled down to watch Downton Abbey and tucked into apple crisp.  I think this is only a blip - rest of the week looks more seasonal.  Things are progressing with the house.....today some new laths were added to the sections of stucco which needed full replacement, and the metal mesh has been replaced.  Expect to see the new fresh stucco up there shortly.

What am I listening to this evening?  Something I haven't heard for years, but which I discovered towards the end of high school, and one of those things I listened to absolutely obsessively....I completely adore the last two minutes or so on this Youtube video!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A facelift on a 90 year old.

Right now, her face has just been revealed for the first time in a decade, and despite having accrued some of the "barnacles of old age" (to quote my dermatologist), I think my house looks absolutely beautiful, following the removal of her veil of vinyl (siding that is!).  I love the half-timbered look, and although it's a bit hard to see through the scaffolding, I know that when the team from Padgett's Plastering Services are finished, the house is going to be a real charmer!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Stucco before and after

Remember my crumbling 90 year old lime stucco?

The stucco above my bathroom window was very deteriorated, and the remainder of this side of the house had plenty of fissures and cracks that were only going to get worse.

Now the western wall of the house is pretty much finished and the scaffolding has been taken down and moved to the front.  It's been done using traditional lime plaster, as per the original.  It looks so clean and lovely!


I'm very excited to see what the house will look like under the vinyl siding, which should be removed shortly.  It's been there since I bought the house, so I'm really looking forward to seeing the house's original facade.

Meanwhile, in the garden, things are starting to take on a look of autumn.

White anemones in full bloom.

I replanted the window boxes a couple of weeks ago, and they are looking lovely now.

I'm very pleased with my bay laurel standard this year  - it's looking very healthy and is starting to fill out at last.  It has to come indoors for the winter, but never seems to mind.