Doors Open

Last weekend in the city of Toronto the doors of many buildings were open for public viewing. You can bet that Peter and I were interested in going to that event! It was hard to choose from almost 150 places when we had only one brief afternoon for exploring. So we pared down our list to one area – Liberty Village. It was accessible by public transit and had several sites open.

We headed to the village on the GO train – only one stop, with no Blue Jays fans to steal all the seats. As we walked up Atlantic Ave, the first open door we saw was Quest Chocolate Lab. That seemed like a perfect place to start. We followed the crowd around the space, passing up a chance to paint on a chocolate slab – what a waste of good chocolate that was! We carried on, thinking there must be free samples somewhere. But, after standing through a lengthy lecture on the culinary art of chocolate, we gave up and moved on in search of something better to sample.

Next we walked west on King St, thinking this must lead to the core of Liberty Village. We passed a huge soccer/rugby/football stadium named after Allan Lamport, one of Toronto’s early mayors, who fought against laws prohibiting activities like Doors Open from happening on a Sunday. Thanks Allan! Then we ran out of village so we turned around in search of the CARP/Zoomer Media building. Would there be free samples here?

Lamport Stadium

CARP/Zoomer is the epitome of all things senior: travel, movies, finance, sports, wellness, entertainment. A joyful old-person lifestyle is promoted through a radio station, tv programming, and a popular magazine. Outside the building we passed some classic cars, a glitzy sign, and a booth handing out mysterious tickets. Once inside, we were led on a quick tour along halls filled with posters of entertainers that everybody our age would recognize.

Then we were led into a studio where we became the audience for a live recording of an interview with one of Toronto’s mayoral candidates. We would be on TV! But who was the candidate? Not Allan Lamport for sure. We looked around and saw…Mark Saunders. As readers know, this is not a political blog, so I will just say that I was hoping for somebody else. As Mark gave his rehearsed political message, our eyes drifted to the little girl standing beside him, eating an ice cream cone. Where had she gotten that?

When we left the building, we discovered the secret of the mysterious tickets – free ice cream! Those cones were even better than free chocolate. And there were benches where we could sit to eat them.

Fed and rested, we were ready for more exploration on Liberty St. This small plot of land, cut off from the rest of the city by the lake on one side and a railroad on the other, was the home, in the 1850’s, to inmates of 2 prisons – one for women and the other for men. In between the buildings was a street where the prisoners could walk at liberty. Ahaa! When the prisons were demolished in the 1880’s, the area was designated as industrial, and factories producing machinery, electrical appliances, farm equipment, and weaponry during 2 world wars, sprang up. The name, Liberty Village, hung around.

In the 1990’s the factories began to close and the area slowly became gentrified. Factories were repurposed as condos, in good shape with new windows and fresh paint. Restaurants, boutiques and hair salons began to appear. Trees showed up in planters and narrow annual gardens ran along curbsides. A small but inviting park, with a unique sculpture representing the industrial past, found a spot for itself at the village centre.

Liberty Park: Note the repurposed factories in the background.

Then it was time to ride the GO train home. Even though we had only travelled one stop, Liberty Village felt like we had visited another era. And the ice cream cones were out of this world.


Herb Alpert and the Race To the GO Train

Peter and I have had some wonderful adventures in and around the city of Toronto, and we have been happy to share them with you. But sometimes things don’t go quite as planned.

A couple of weeks ago Peter saw an ad for a concert featuring Herb Alpert of Tijuana Brass fame. Come on, admit it, you remember them from 50 years ago too. Their music was everywhere; on the radio, in movies, and on best-selling albums you could buy at Sam the Record Man. Anyway, Peter was intrigued and Herb was performing at Exhibition Place, only a one-stop ride on the GO train for us. So we found a date that worked, on a Saturday evening, and I went online to order tickets.

Tickets were scarce at this late date but I found a couple and signed up through Stubhub, a ticket site I was not familiar with. The tickets were confirmed. The next day we got a notice that our date had been changed from Saturday to Sunday. Perhaps the Saturday concert had sold out while my order was still in cyberspace. Or perhaps my very basic computer skills had failed me. But it didn’t really matter – we were free on Sunday too.

Two days before the show we received our virtual tickets. I checked the information: Sunday at 8:00 pm…in Hamilton? – oops! After my panic attack ended, I realized that actually we could still take the GO train – just more stops. The trip would be 75 minutes including a short bus ride, instead of the original 10. Peter suggested we go an hour early and have dinner in Hamilton before the concert. It would be an adventure!

But on Sunday the train was late arriving at our stop: it was packed with Blue Jay fans returning from the Rogers Centre. We arrived at the Hamilton stop 10 minutes late -thereby missing the bus connection. The short bus ride would not be starting for another hour! So the extra hour we had planned for dinner was spent at a deserted bus station with no restaurants, not even a Timmy’s, anywhere in sight. For our dinner we drank a bottle of water and ate some nuts Peter found in his pocket.

We did eventually make it to the concert just in time, and Herb Alpert, at age 88, played his heart out on his trumpet. We knew most of the songs: A Taste Of Honey, Spanish Flea, The Lonely Bull, and songs from the movies: Zorba the Greek and Casino Royale. He did some numbers with his wife, Lani Hall, including This Guy’s In Love With You. Hall, quite youthful at only 77, went on to sing several well-known tunes in her silky smooth voice. Many of us in the audience joyfully sang along.

The concert went on past 9:30, past Herb and Lani’s bedtimes, and ours too. We rushed out to search for a different GO station, where the final train for the night would be leaving for Toronto at 10:25. We didn’t want to miss this train: the idea of no dinner And no bed was wayyyy out of our comfort zone.

A couple of security guards near the concert hall directed us down James St. and they said we’d better hurry because the station was a LONG way. Utilizing our best hiking skills, we set out at full tilt. As we passed another couple, we wanted to confirm our route. “Is this the way to the West Harbour Go station?”

The couple were like fairy godparents. They told us that yes we were heading in the right direction, that their car was parked in the next block, and that they would drive us to the station. As they navigated their way on a route we would never have found by ourselves, they told us that they had been to the Herb Alpert Concert too. We shared our appreciation for those older musicians who still played and sang with such passion.

As we arrived at the station in time for our train, we also shared our appreciation for the lovely people in Hamilton who had saved us from a night on the street with no food. Even Herb Alpert wasn’t worth that price!


One of Herb Alpert’s best-selling albums.

People In the City

In our great city of Toronto, one rarely sees our 2.8 million people all together at one time. But it got pretty close last Friday night.

A few weeks ago the family of one of our “children,” the musical family, invited us to a dance performance at Harbourfront. We had never seen flamenco dancing up close, and our impressions were superficial: lots of Spanish guitar playing and stomping around in flouncy skirts. Pretty basic I admit, but I also needed a new blog topic, and we are happy to go anywhere with our family, so we said yes.

After a quick supper, we headed for the GO train station and found the parking lot almost full. Then we noticed other people wearing Blue Jays shirts and hats. Ahaa…a Jays game was being played very close to our performance destination. The GO train was packed and the young crowd were hooting and hollering, flirting and fist-bumping. The game, against the Atlanta Braves and former Jay Kevin Pillar, had generated a lot of excitement. And a lot of drinking. At Union Station the crowd surged through the doors and headed in the direction we were going – towards Bremner Blvd.

Then we began to hear roars, louder and louder, and then Maple Leaf sweaters on the march. Of course! It was Game Five of the playoffs against Florida, a do-or-die event for the hockey teams, with the Stanley Cup on the line. Most of Bremner Blvd. had been closed, except for a narrow path crossing York St for pedestrians like us going south. The police were out in full force; in cars, on foot, and on horseback. The crowds were squished in, on both sides of York St, in fenced areas with Jumbotrons blaring from above. Maple Leaf Square had become Maple Leaf Coliseum.

South of Lakeshore Road the screams died down as we left both the Jays and the Leafs fans behind. The noise of cars and buses almost soothed our ears. But along Queen’s Quay the foot traffic picked up again and everybody seemed to be going one way – our way. We followed along into the Queen’s Quay terminal building and up the elevator to the concert hall – packed with adoring flamenco fans. The first number, titled “Galeria,” featured 5 talented dancers accompanied by the melodious guitar strings of 2 expert musicians. As the final notes of the piece sounded, the audience went wild, clapping loudly and belting out: “whoohoo!” and “Yayyy!” The well-known Spanish Dance Company was a real crowd pleaser. We sat back to enjoy and learn.

The performance ended with several rounds of applause, a standing ovation, and a new appreciation of this art form for Peter and me. Then we headed back to the GO train – with some concern. It was just after 10:00 pm. What if both the Jays game and the Leafs game ended simultaneously? We would be swamped, trampled on, stampeded! We picked up our pace. We determined that the Jays game had just finished. But the Leafs were into overtime. We silently pleaded: “Please don’t anybody score till we get on the train!”

We raced towards the GO station with other flamenco fans and and Jays supporters, and we all managed to find seats. As the doors of the train closed, Maple Leaf shirts began rushing up the stairs. Too late – Yes! We didn’t stop to think until later how the poor Leaf fans would be feeling: first the Florida team had kept them out of the playoffs, and now the GO system had kept them out of the train.

Such is life in a big city: how lucky we are to have so many world-class activities to entertain us, but unfortunate when they all happen at the same time.


Having Fun At the Grocery Store

Really? You are asking yourself if you want to read on, aren’t you? Go ahead. Have some fun!

Every Monday morning, armed with my re-usable bags, my loonie for the cart, and my list, I go to No Frills and load up on the necessities for the week: bread, onions, kleenex, milk, chicken legs and chocolate bars. It takes me only half an hour to navigate the aisles and check out because I know the route by heart. This store definitely has no frills; no fancy displays, no free dessert samples, nothing to distract me from my routine task.

But on Fridays, (or thereabouts), I go to the Other grocery store, the one With the frills – our nearby Sobey’s. Sobey’s has always been a fun place to visit; offering all the little extras that I might need when guests come for a meal or Peter and I want to up our Saturday night cooking game. Recently the store went through a renovation and now it’s… well let’s just say that I am thinking of moving in.

I have to admit that the renovation was no fun, not for staff or shoppers. It was a weekly hide-and-seek game for consumers. Where is the coffee hiding this week? What secret spot did the carrots find now? It must have been a nightmare for the staff but they seemed to manage. One time a clerk even joked with me. “Those pesky eggs, always sneaking off on us!”

But now? Now the store is glorious. I asked the manager to join me on a tour, but he was busy, so you can join me instead…

Walk in through the front door and choose from a variety of carriers: regular shopping carts with drink holders, smaller versions for a single shopper, baskets for a few items only. Or choose a “Smart Cart” if you dare. Then follow the delicious coffee smells to the Starbuck’s and order a latte grande. You are on you way to shopping joy.

First attack the produce section; grown in Canada and freshly-picked. Ready-made salads wait beside the hot table. Go ahead and buy dinner. You deserve it. At the bakery, choose a 1/2 pie – perfect for people who feel some guilt about their sugar intake. Check out the meat section, complete with a dry-aged beef refrigerator. Next door the fish market sells all kinds of freshwater and sea creatures. Pick up something you don’t recognize and surprise your grandchildren next time they visit.

Then scout out the boutiques. A wine boutique features Canadian wines from west coast to east. The only thing missing here is the table with the free samples. Drop in at the wellness centre where a wellness expert, Rachel, will help you choose a new hair colour. Visit the celebration area, selling greeting cards, balloons, and floral options, or seeds if you want to try growing your own. Finally feast your eyes on the candy display: tempting shelves of Hershey’s chocolates, licorice sticks, S’Mores kits, marshmallows and Sour Patch candies; the perfect way to get a sugar rush at the end of your shopping spree.

Then head for the cashiers who are always cheerful and ready to help pack the bags. Unless…you have bravely opted for a Smart Cart. I usually avoid these at the entrance, but last week I approached a woman boldly navigating one through the canned goods aisle. She said the carts were “super easy to use” as she demonstrated: use the device attached to your cart to scan the item, and pay with your credit card as you leave the store. If you ah…forget to pay, the cart lights up in fluorescent orange and the manager comes running.

Next week I’m going to try a Smart Cart. It might be fun. Maybe I could even meet the manager!


If you want to keep going, You Have To Keep Going!

Peter and I have adopted that off-hand anonymous comment as our philosophy of aging, for the past several years. And we see many others who live by it too.

We saw proof of it when we spent a month in Florida this past winter. Take 80-year-old Phyllis, for example. Every single morning at 8:00 am, rain or shine, warm or chilly, there was Phyllis at the pool with her little speaker gizmo, running the women’s aquafit class for an hour. She arrived, dressed in one fashionable bathing suit after another, some of them quite sexy. She would join us in the hot tub at the end of the class, and tell us about her favourite restaurants, tourist sites, and shopping outlets.

There were others in the class too who kept going, despite hardships. Joanne, for instance, was battling Parkinson’s disease and walked with a cane. After she finished the aquafit class, she went to ballet classes or boxing. Or Peggy, who was coping with severe bouts of arthritis, came whenever she could manage, and we all cheered as she stepped carefully into the pool.

Boxing for seniors

At the golf course we visited, the volunteer staff were well past 70 years old, and mostly from Ontario. They drove south each year, with their aches and ailments, and they were often on duty for 10-hour days, directing cart traffic, marshalling on the course, and dealing with people trying to butt in line. The grey-haired clerks at our local Walmart, stooped and limping, greeted us at the door or rang up our orders, and handed us the heavy bags with a smile.

These signs of resilience are evident here in Toronto too. It’s just not so obvious in bad weather when we tend to stay inside, avoiding rain and dampness. But we see it in the media: on TV, online, and in flyers. Merchandisers are hunting us down and clearly making a profit from our desire to keep going. They try to sell us every gadget and gimmick they can conjure up. In a recent pamphlet I found: compression knee massagers, pelvic floor muscle strengtheners, a help-me-up handle, and a stool stool. (OK, I’ll tell you -it sits in front of the toilet so you can raise your knees and “go” more freely… Sorry but you Did ask).

Friends have told me about other finds. Apparently there is a golf club made especially for people with Parkinson’s disease that has a spring-loaded device on the end of the driver and fairway clubs, so golfers can manage the long shots. When they reach the greens, they are able to chip and putt on their own. For cooks with arthritis in their hands, there is the “jar key” that helps open those pesky jars of sauce and pickles, so the cook can finish the recipe and impress the guests.

Jar keys

As for cars: the new ones have all sorts of driving assists so we can keep going on the roads too, despite arthritic necks and weak hip joints. My car beeps whenever I inadvertently drift just a tiny bit into the next lane, or if I get even a tiny bit too close to the car in front. My favourite assists are the ones that help me back up – the camera and the beeper. Now I don’t have to search desperately for a drive-out-forward parking spot. I can actually back up, with a little technological help, all by myself!

So dear readers, Keep Going. And if you have any devices or activities you have found useful, share them on our site.


Seventy At the Circus

Peter and I hadn’t been to the circus in ages. We figured we were just too old for juggling and clowns. But recently we got an offer where we couldn’t say no.

Our 3 young grandchildren were going to gather at our house. Our plan was to send them to the circus with their parents while we stayed behind at home to cook dinner and have a nap. But the parents had other ideas. It seems that They wanted to be the ones to stay home, (at our house) cook dinner and have a party! Well this was not just any circus; this was Cirque du Soleil. Peter had seen signs that it was performing in our neighbourhood about a kilometer from our home. It was time for us to join the kids and get educated about this troupe.

Agnes quickly googled the show, Kooza, and her attention was drawn to some contortionists and a couple of men in a large hamster wheel. Gavin wanted to know what snacks were available. Ben was skeptical: “I don’t want to see any more elephants!” Bit we promised him there would Not be elephants as he climbed into the van to join his cousins.

The show, on Lakeshore Road, is performed inside a big tent, with a smaller tent acting as an entranceway and mammoth snack bar. The kids stopped dead…Peter had to use his best bargaining skills to assure them we would return for snacks at intermission. Once seated, we discovered that the pre-show had already started. Goofy clown-like performers were interacting with the audience, enticing them onstage to hold ropes or perform other non-essential jobs, while the clowns “borrowed” their wallets or purses. Our kids were torn: did they want the thrill of being chosen to go onstage, or the safety of their seats with us?

Soon the lights went down and the show began with special effects: lights turned on with a magic wand, billowing curtains emerging from the shadows to reveal a 2-storey bandstand, and a big red box appearing with a body inside. The kids were stunned into silence.

As followers of Cirque du Soleil know, the acts were breathtaking. Three women in tight body suits twisted their bodies into contortions that Our bodies at 70 can’t even remember doing at age 3. A skimpily-clad woman executed incredible twists and turns around a scarf, high up in the air, and another delivered top-notch routines with several hula hoops at a time. The first half ended with four tight-rope walkers precariously bouncing along with several props, and then biking across the very high wire.

Then came another feat of agility – the race to the snack bar! Peter and I could hardly keep up with the kids as they ran towards their favourite treats: popcorn and drinks for 2 and ice cream for the third. They also mentioned hot dogs, but we convinced them that dinner was waiting at home, as we secretly crossed our fingers that the parent partiers had remembered to put the food in the oven.

The second act featured more show-stopping routines. An acrobat climbed atop one chair after another, rising several stories above the stage as he piled them up and up. Then he seemed to defy gravity as he balance on the top chair with only one hand, the rest of his body pointing skyward. It was gut-wrenching to watch.

The finale, the piece de resistance, was the hamster wheel, suddenly morphing into the WHEEL OF DEATH. A massive set of spinning beams with wheels at either end began rotating faster and faster as two acrobats ran counterclockwise, first inside the wheels and then on the outside; occasionally jumping, sometimes appearing to lose their balance, as the wheels sped up. The audience screamed in fear…and delight.

Then it was over.

At first there was stunned silence as everyone absorbed what we had just witnessed. Then wild applause and cheering. And finally heading home. The kids filled the silence of the van with their plans to climb on chairs piled high in their kitchens, and ride bikes outside on their clotheslines. Peter and I smiled to ourselves, realizing that nobody is too old for the circus.


Cirque du Soleil is performing Kooza in Toronto until June 18.

Socializing With the Birds

On Sunday Peter and I went to our first baseball game of the season, the Blue Jays against the Tampa Bay Rays. Was this going to be another ho-hum 9 innings of waiting for some action? No – because this year the Jays have upped their game. There are new team members, new rules and a newly-renovated home.

We hopped on the GO train early and joined a train load of other fans, everybody wearing their hopeful attitude and their Jays tee-shirt with the name of their favourite player on the back. One new name we noticed was Kiermaier; a recent trade, having played with the Tampa Bay Rays for the last 9 years, winning numerous awards. Right away we knew we were heading towards an afternoon of heightened rivalry. What other excitement would we find?

During the train trip the fans were busy dissecting the new baseball rules, mostly meant to speed up the game. Everyone agrees with this; 4 or 5 hours of sitting in the sun and doing “the wave” is too long for even die-hard fans. And how many $12 boxes of popcorn can you afford to eat, anyway?

One of the popular rule changes relates to a big timer, well-placed so everyone can see that the pitcher and the batter both have a limited number of seconds to step up and do their thing. No more scratching their crotch, talking into their hat, or searching for their son or daughter sitting in the bleachers. Just get up there and go for it.

After we arrived at Rogers Centre, Peter and I took the long way to our seats, wanting to explore the new amenities that had been built during the winter. The aim of the renovations is to get spectators closer to the action. In order to do this, 5,000 seats were removed and replaced by more venues for socializing, aka drinking at pub tables while you watch the game. The most popular one is called The Patio on level five. The patio aspect is accomplished with the help of a few fake plants and some round patio tables, but the view from up there is quite amazing.

The View from above

Next door to The Patio is Park Social, an area meant for families. There were little kids everywhere, climbing on the large Legos, playing the giant Connect Four game and throwing bean bags at the bean bag toss. Meanwhile the parents enjoyed a drink and the occasional glance at the baseball action down below. Everyone was happy.

The Park Social

We found expanded food choices too. For the kids at the Park Social there are grilled cheese sandwiches and flavoured shaved ice. Patio-goers can enjoy nachos and margaritas. For the fans of traditional baseball food there is the TWO-FOOT hot dog. How perfect can a menu be?

Grilled cheese

For fans who want to get Really close to the game there are 2 places, The Catch and The Landing, each one attached to a bullpen where the pitchers warm up. Home runs often land in these areas and baseball wannabes are invited to wear their baseball mitt in case they get a chance to do some real catching.

The Landing

As we settled into our seats with our loaded nachos, Peter and I looked around. The baseball feel is still there, but the experience is much more welcoming. For only $20 you can buy a General Admission ticket and wander around, taking in the tacky sculptures, admiring all the baseball memorabilia, enjoying some interesting snacks and maybe even catching a free baseball.

Tacky sculpture

Another tacky sculpture – with Peter underneath

During this year’s baseball season, go and spend some time with The Boys Of Summer.

Patio People


PS Thanks to everyone who wrote to say that the mystery bird in a recent column was a Muscovy Duck.

More Food… For the Brain

It’s been a couple of days since we all stuffed ourselves with ham and Easter eggs, or traditional Passover food. So I thought I’d give you another take on a food topic – our local food bank.

I wrote about this over two years ago, on October 6, 2020, after I had started a program with the food bank down the street. I first noticed that the children, wandering along aimlessly as their parents chose carbs, dairy, canned goods and protein, were looking a little bored with the line-ups and the tedium of it all. What could I give them to take home for themselves?

How about some food for the brain – reading? I approached the local library where the head librarian was delighted to give me children’s books recently culled from her collection. I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of books, but it all got sorted out and we were on our way to a successful literacy program.

Since then the numbers of families using our food bank have almost tripled. When the pandemic caused companies to shut down, more people were out of work and in need of a helping hand at their dinner table. Then the war in Ukraine sent refugees fleeing to our neighbourhood. And lately the stock market and food supply chains have felt the influence of world tensions in the far and middle east, causing unprecedented inflation. Parents have little money for food, never mind books.

Through all of this we have found lots of book donors. Many well-off families are more than anxious to clean out basements and attics if they think their beloved children’s books are going to a good cause. Grandparents tear up as they donate books, fondly remembering reading Good Night Moon to the grandchildren nestled on their laps. We discovered a Value Village nearby with shelves loaded with all sorts of children’s books in good condition, for only $1.59 each. Add a seniors’ discount on Tuesdays and the cost is just about $1.00 per book.

Then a local entrepreneur, looking for a project, found us. He partnered with his Rotary Club and together they located a couple of high schools looking for community hours for teen volunteers. The enterprising teens gather up more books than we can handle, so we have had to start buying second-hand bookcases for extra storage.

There have been other issues besides storage. Sometimes the weather wreaks havoc on our clients waiting in line outside, not always dressed for Canadian winters or spring hail storms. Sometimes clients become so frustrated that they try to butt ahead in the line. Occasionally a customer tries to utilize the services of 2 food banks in the same week. But, for the most part, people are pleasant and appreciative.

And the biggest improvement? I now have 3 other volunteers to assist. Jessica, a retired librarian, joined me almost 2 years ago. And Catherine, a former book store employee, signed up in the fall. Together we have access to more books, and we can spell each other off for vacations or family emergencies. And this past winter Agnes, my 11-year-old grand daughter who donated a lot of her favourite books, said she would like to help out too. She has first-hand knowledge of many books, and I often hear her telling a younger reader, “That was my favourite book when I was your age.” Ahh… the wisdom that comes with getting old!

Agnes sets out books at the food bank

Last Saturday, the day before Easter, the food bank was very busy. The buzz in the air was palpable as people grabbed up much-needed food for their holiday meals. And the looks on the faces of the kids as they reached for a new book? Priceless. We smiled, knowing that they would be sharing their book with their moms or dads, and that everyone would benefit from this literacy experience.


The Wild Life

Peter and I spent the last month in Florida, living the wild life. Are you imagining us playing beach volleyball while wearing our thong bathing suits, and drinking margaritas all night on outdoor patios? Well forgetaboutit!

But we did enjoy the other kind of wildlife…

For example, the view from our lanai: for those of you who have not visited the sunshine state, a “lanai” is he local term for screened-in porch. We enjoyed breakfast out there every morning, and drinks with friends before dinner. The lanai faced a body of water referred to by the resort brochure as a lake, but it was more the size of a pond or, in these dry times, a puddle. There were 5 such lakes on the property.

We wondered if there were fish in our lake because we often saw a man standing patiently with his fishing rod. He told us he caught small-mouth bass, and followed the catch-and-release protocol. We never actually saw this happen but he was there on several occasions. We also found a small fishing boat hidden among the shrubs, looking forlorn and useless. Maybe there had been fishing in the lakes at one time, before climate change.

The many birds hanging around the lake were distantly-related to the heron family. We saw cormorants diving aggressively into the water for food. We watched graceful white egrets stretching their long necks up or hiding them under their shoulder, a useful trick I wish I could master! And we caught a brief glimpse of a little blue heron, all glistening in different shades of navy, slate, and silver. But we kept watching for a peek at a special one – a pink spoonbill. I spent a lot of time running from lake to lake, hoping to get a photo for you, dear readers. But I was unsuccessful.

Until…one morning Peter called me to the window. “Sue, I think it’s here… the one you’re looking for… it’s pink!” I rushed outside, grabbing my phone and zipping up my housecoat. Quietly I tiptoed closer and closer, taking photos as I went. The spoonbill was a very good subject, striking all sorts of poses for my lens, and she hung around our lake for most of the day. (I apologize to anyone whom I have offended by naming this bird a “she” but she did look feminine in pink… Or maybe she is a “he” since male birds usually are more colourful than their female partners. This gender identity is all so confusing. )

The lakes attracted other forms of wildlife. We often saw turtles swimming and tortoises sunning themselves on the rocky shoreline in the afternoon sun. We sometimes noticed tiny geckos hanging on the outside of the screens in our lanai, and we had to step around them as we walked on the paths. Once we jumped back in surprise as a garden snake slithered past us on our way to the grocery store.

And of course you are hoping we saw alligators in the lakes. There were rumors about that, and I would love to tell you that one chased us across the grass. But the best I can do is relate the local lore about “Hunchie.” He was a 15-foot monster who lived on a nearby golf course. Many golfers gave up balls, golf balls that is, rather than do battle with Hunchie.

There was one other bird-like creature that we saw near our lake, but nobody seemed to recognize it. So, this morning, instead of doing Wordle, why don’t you figure out what kind of creature this is? Thanks!


Mystery bird

Trash Talk

As Peter and I packed recently to go home from a winter vacation in Florida, we realized we had a big problem – too much stuff!

We went a little overboard with the shopping. To be honest, I went a little overboard. Peter stuck to the essentials: socks and t-shirts. But I couldn’t resist the adorable golf tops and capris, and the cute sandals. I think that’s all, except for the beach bag… and the sweater. And did I mention the water shoes? You see the problem. We needed to sit on the suitcases to get them closed.

One thing we would have loved to bring home was recycling stuff. Although Florida has great weather, it does not have a great recycling program. In fact it has NO recycling program. At our resort there was one gigantic bin; the kind rented from Got Junk? for home renovations. And everything went into it: compost, glass jars, cardboard boxes, newspapers, plastic bottles, as well as all the other things that, in Canada, we would call garbage. It broke our hearts to casually toss wine bottles and kleenex boxes, knowing that they could easily be re-cycled or turned into another form of useful material. What a waste!

At home we really try, Besides following the recycling guidelines, Peter composts everything he can. He puts egg shells, coffee grinds, even the water from cooking pasta, into the compost bins. He says his compost worms are the happiest in the neighbourhood. We use a Soda Stream machine to produce our own soda water, we wash clothes with True Earth laundry strips, we have re-usable shopping bags in the car at all times. Meanwhile in Florida, plastic shopping bags are handed out like free advertising. During our vacation we kept them to use whenever we could, but at last count we had been given 53 of them in just 4 weeks.

We had time for counting plastic bags because we were unable to walk on the beach. Red Tide had taken over. What exactly is Red Tide? It’s an overgrowth of toxic algae which produces red blooms. The blooms give off fumes which cause eye, lung, and skin irritation in humans, and death to thousands of fish. Both the seriously-irritating Red Tide and the foul-smelling dead fish send tourists fleeing in droves.

What causes Red Tide? Unnatural weather systems, aka Climate Change – duh. And Another climate change disaster is floating towards Florida at a reckless pace. This one, a massive seaweed blob, the Sargassum Seaweed Belt, is expected to arrive in the Gulf Coast in early summer. It will deter tourists too, and it will be much harder to deal with. Scientists have already determined that the blob, 5,000 miles wide, can’t be used as fertilizer because it contains a poison – hydrogen sulfide. Nor can it be burned as waste because, once again, there are toxic fumes. So what to do with it? That is a whole lot of extra stuff to add to those already-full trash bins.

And that brings me back to our over-filled suitcases. Did I really need to buy all that stuff? Can I be sanctimonious about Florida’s lack of interest in recycling protocols, (which translates into climate change) when I am doing something similar? Except that, instead of throwing out bottles and bags, I will be throwing out slightly used clothes. Settling back into our lives in Toronto, I will need to reassess as I trade one outdated pair of capris for another newer, more stylish pair.

At the very least, I need to find a better place for them than the garbage bin.