Friday, 11 December 2009

"Mom's Book"

At last I have found time to scan and post a copy of what we in our family call "Mom's Book". This is a family history, written by my mother Janet Eleanor Scott Harding in 1985-86, centred on the life of her father George William Scott.

Because I don't have one server which can accommodate the whole book, I have broken it into several sections. Just click on each link in order and then use the 'back' button in your browser to take you back to the list.

When one shares family history, one always runs the risk of giving the appearance that everyone should be interested, much like forcing visitors to watch home movies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is simply a convenient way to share this information with those who might be interested. My mother's writing style is very readable and there is a wealth of information herein about life and people in Gananoque, Grace United Church, along with the family history.

I encourage every family to do two things: 1) write down the stories that you have heard your parents and grandparents tell and 2) write the names on the back of photographs


Friday, 4 September 2009

Finally - July weather!!

At last we're getting our July weather - unfortunately, it's been the last week of August and the first week of September. Hot, sunny days for boating and swimming. We've certainly been making the most of it with numerous 3 and 4-night outings. Here are some pictures of the amazing scenes we've been blessed with. Last night we attended 'The Mollycoddlers' at the 1000 Islands Playhouse and spent the night at the Playhouse dock. After a trip uptown to the Village Deli for breakfast, we headed out. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day - hot sun and no wind. Locals know that's a perfect day to head to Leek Island (Thwartway on the charts). Leek Island is a Parks Canada island without docks (there are some mooring cans in a sheltered bay on the South side. The west side of the island has a huge bay with a sand beach which extends out from the island several hundred yards. Unfortunately the waves that created the beach make it unpleasant when the prevailing west wind is blowing, but today there was no wind. We were alone in the huge sandy bay for most of the morning and then around noon the other boats started to pile in. Time for us to leave - we headed down river and finally stopped at Gordon Island (Parks Canada) for supper and then motored home.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Back in the land of the living ...

Finally kitchenitis is relieved and we're going to take some time for other things. Ripping out the old kitchen and preparing the space for the new cabinetry has been an all-consuming project but the new installation is done and it's time to relax a bit. Can't say enough good things about Corell Custom Cabinetry who designed, built and installed the new cabinets. Their attention to detail is terrific and they were very anxious to give us the kind of kitchen we wanted. It was somewhat gratifying to discover that the floorplan (which we had designed and built ourselves 30 years ago) couldn't really be improved upon. We did move the laundry out of the kitchen, though, and picked up a lot of pantry space in that area.

PetMom just got back from a visit with PetDoc & Noise in London and now we're heading out on the river for a few days. Friday night we're going to dock at the 1000 Islands Playhouse and take in "The Drowsy Chaperone". Heard great things about it, and we wouldn't miss it!! Then I'm accompanying Ramona Gilmour-Darling in 'The Alto's Lament' at the post-show cabaret. Then we'll spend the night aboard at the Playhouse and see where Saturday takes us.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Forever Plaid!

Hard to believe it was four months ago that I posted that I had been hired to play piano for 'Forever Plaid' at the Thousand Islands Playhouse and now it's May 12 and we open tomorrow. I began rehearsals only a week ago and we have a preview tonight and open on Thursday. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what I love about professional theatre, but I think it's just that it's so ... professional. Everyone in the cast and crew is expert at their job and you really get to feel that you are valued for your own expertise and contribution to the experience. I've been involved with a lot of shows, both amateur and professional and they've all been (I think) pretty good. However, a production such as 'Forever Plaid' reminds me of the craft of creating an engaging experience for the audience. Many audience members think, I'm sure, that the cast just memorizes the script and 'puts on a play' for them. Little do they realize that every nuance is carefully choreographed to highten the illusion that is the essence of theatre. A theatre audience is quite prepared to suspend reality for the couple of hours they share with you and believe just about anything you want them to believe. What magic!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Depressing news this morning ...

Picked up the paper this morning and the news was so depressing I feel like ... cancelling the paper:

S&R is closing - this will mean something to the locals.

Somebody built a house, telling the builders, pool installer, heating contractor they had won the lottery - guess what: no money - how come my creditors always ask for proof that I can pay? I hate it when they do that! Maybe I'll order my new Carver and tell them ...

And I guess pirates are not a good role model for children anymore.

And - this age of entitlement!! An ad company used an image of Woody Allen on a billboard - without asking him - and now is arguing in court that he has no cause for action because his reputation is 'no good anyway'. What?????? You screwed up by not asking him (misguided sense of entitlement??!!) - pay up! You're pirates!!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The SERVICE in Customer Service

Here's a 'good news' customer service story. When's the last time you heard one of those? They happen, but we don't tend to write about them. Here's the story -

Before we headed out on our cruise with our new Acer Netbook, we decided it would be a good idea to have a lock to secure it (hotel, stateroom, even on our own boat). I found a Kensington combination cable/lock on eBay for a reasonable price and, although they always seem to charge too much for shipping, I ordered it. It arrived very quickly and we followed the instructions to reset the combination from the default (0,0,0) to our own. Checked it out - worked fine - packed it away with the netbook for our trip.

When we arrived, I noticed that the lever which you flip to reset the combination had flipped itself and the numbers had changed. The short version - simply carrying the lock in the laptop case had changed the combination and there's no way of guessing what the new one is (you math people know how many combinations are possible with three wheels with 10 digits each). That's why they call it a security device!!

We contacted Kensington and they suggested contacting a locksmith - seems pretty expensive to reset a lock which can obviously reset itself again. A quick Google, and it was apparent that others have had this problem. An email to Kensington, suggesting that they were in some way responsible for serving their customers who had purchased a lock with an obvious design flaw, brought the following response: give us your mailing address and we will send you a new Kensington lock (the newer model which can't reset itself!!). Arrived today - works great - THANK YOU, KENSINGTON!! That's the way customer service should serve customers.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Congratulations, Tanith and Ben

We're delighted that Tanith and Ben won the silver medal in Ice Dancing at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, CA last week. We didn't get to Worlds this year, but we watched every moment breathlessly. While figure skating fans around the world moaned about the lack of coverage, we in Canada (blessed by the CBC) were able to watch every skater in every discipline both online and on Bold TV. Watching on CBC is the next best thing to being there - you even get to watch the Zamboni - we get a coffee during the flood and pretend we've popped out to Timmy's for a break. We remember when we used to have to wait for a phone call from the arena to hear results - that wasn't all that many years ago. Congratulations, Tanith and Ben - we're so proud of you!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Norwegian Dawn Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Here goes - the chronicles of our cruise last week on the good ship Norwegian Dawn. I won't interrupt the flawlessly-flowing prose with pictures (formatting's always a pain on Blogspot) - there's a link to the pictures anyway. Well, maybe I'll try a few small ones.

We started out for a Saturday morning departure (Miami) by travelling to Syracuse Thursday night. It wasn't much more expensive to stay at a hotel in Syracuse where we could park the car for a week than to park at the airport, so we thought we'd pamper ourselves by being in Syracuse already, rather than having to get up at 4 am to be to the airport by 8 am. The hotel was fine (Holiday Inn) and the shuttle was free, so that turned out to be an excellent idea.

Our flight to Miami and back was free - compliments of United Airlines, who gave us vouchers when they screwed up (and then unscrewed) our flight last March to Sweden. So we treated ourselves to a balcony cabin on the ship. We have discovered that having a balcony is kind of like having air conditioning in your car for the first time - you were fine before you had it, but YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK!! The flights to Washington (Dulles) and Miami were on time - connections in Washington were only about 4 gates apart! The Holiday Inn Express (Airport) in Miami sent a shuttle to pick us up and we settled in comfortably. There's not much in the vicinity of the airport, but we had a nice walk and picked up a few things for the cruise (soft drinks, in particular). Norwegian Cruises do not include alcohol or soft drinks and you cannot take alcohol aboard, but you can take all the soft drinks you can carry. In the morning we took a shuttle to the Port of Miami and checked in and boarded the Dawn. For some reason, nobody seemed to know that the main dining room was open for lunch so, while everyone else ate in the cafe we had a wonderful sit-down lunch in the Venetian Dining Room.

We watched the casting-off process from our balcony and were a little concerned that only two of our three bags had been delivered. Understanding that there were at least 2,000 bags to deal with, however, we figured it would eventually turn up and we had our supper. When we returned, there was a note on our door indicating that our bag had, in the x-ray process, revealed the presence of 'contraband' contents. NCL will not open the bag except in your presence so we were summoned to a room which contained at least 200 bags. Apparently, the x-ray machine cannot distinguish between diet Coke, Listerine, shampoo and a smuggled bottle of hooch. A lot of muttering going on in the hall outside that room!! We headed back with our 'contraband' to our stateroom. Our cabin was, for us who have very little to compare it to, very nice and complete. Small, compared to a hotel, but outfitted with every necessity. Bar-fridge, hair-drier, coffee maker, TV, spacious bathroom, couch, desk and chair - and a balcony with two chairs and a small table.

Sunday was an at-sea day so we had ample opportunity to check out the ship. We discovered that, as balcony dwellers, we were entitled to eat breakfast in a dining area not open to everyone. So, of course, we ate there! There was a more extensive menu of hot food from which to order and a buffet with fruit, cereal and baked goodies.

In the morning there was a meet-and-greet from the NCL Cruise Critic Roll Call group. It was very interesting to put faces with the screen names with whom we had exchanged info over the past month.

The show Sunday night was a variety show, featuring various performers who would entertain us throughout the week. The house band was excellent - rhythm section, keyboard and three horns. I won't get into who performed on what night, but the Jean Ann Ryan Dance Company productions were very fine - great singing, great dancing and slick production values. The magician, Greg Gleason, was top-notch - we're so used to special effects on tv and in movies that it's especially amazing to see things which have no explanation happen right in front of you. The comedian, Dave Keenan, was funny, but had a tiresome delivery and had material inappropriate for a crowd which contained many children. The Second City troupe left us in awe - it's still hard to believe that 5 people can sing a song they're making up on the spot based on an idea from the audience. No wonder we've always loved "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Monday morning we tendered in to Samana, Dominican Republic. We had made arrangements through a Roll-Call on Cruise Critic charter with Casa Dorado to take a taxi (30 minutes over the worst road that could masquerade as a road) to a small park where we got in an outboard and travelled (15 minutes) to Playa Rincon. The beach is absolutely gorgeous - word is, see it now before it gets developed. There's a small grill there and we had mahi-mahi and ice tea we stole from the ship. After some sun and a short swim (water wasn't hot) we caught a boat back to the taxi for the return trip to Samana. The boat-ride back was a little hair-raising, since the waves were 6-8 feet high. But ocean waves are much further apart than river waves so we weren't nearly as terrified as we had every right to be. All-in-all, we were very well taken care of. Through the Cruise Critic forum, arrangements had been made for us to drop off school supplies at a school on the way to Playa Rincon. We were warmly received and given a tour of the facilities. From what we saw of living conditions on the way to and from Playa Rincon, we were pleased that we had been part of this gesture.

Wednesday we moored at the wharf at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We did the obligatory outlet mall visit in the morning and then met Captain Mike at 12:30. Along with a family of 4, we were tendered out to his sailboat, Island Girl. There we met Andrew, his assistant, and we set off to sail to Buck Island. Once there, we donned snorkel equipment (masks and snorkels from Costco and fins from Mike), grabbed our Kodak underwater camera, and jumped in. Andrew took us for an hour-and-a-quarter swim (honest, we swam without touching for over an hour - salt water is amazing!). He gave us a guided tour of the cove and dove to the bottom to bring up sea-life to show us. He then very carefully returned everything to it's natural home - no souvenirs allowed - he said "we take nothing from here". After a snack we sailed back to Charlotte Amalie, where we purchased a CD containing nearly two hundred pictures Andrew had taken (in and out of the water) during our excursion. If you're going to St. Thomas, CONTACT CAPTAIN MIKE. We're going to if (when) we're back (unless we have our own boat!!)

We sailed away from St. Thomas and made our way (very slowly, apparently) to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Once again we docked, this time at Road Town. There arrangements had been made (again through Cruise Critic) to take a 40-minute ferry ride to Virgin Gorda. There we hopped on a shuttle which took us to The Baths National Park. The Baths are a collections of giant boulders which form pools and grottos which flood with sea water at high tide. The huge boulders and rock formations are worn smooth by rain and sea water and form a maze that leads to Devil's Bay beach. (If this doesn't sound like me, it's because I stole it from the BVI site!) We spent the day with Mark and Laura, from Plano, Texas, with whom we had connected through Cruise Critic and the meet-and-greet. After a quick bit of refreshment, we shuttled back to the ferry dock to return to Road Harbour.

Thursday was an at-sea day and we caught up on our nap-time and caught a few rays on deck. we went to a variety of early or late shows (7:30 or 9:30) depending on what time we felt like eating and what else was on for that day. We were really steaming when we were at sea - 21.5 knots. Considering we travelled over 2,100 nm, I guess we had to be going at a good clip when we weren't stopped. We had fun following our progress on our own GPS. Our new Acer netbook, loaded with SeaClear charts and scanned maps of the region, along with our Streets And Trips GPS locator, allowed us to follow our progress through the Caribbean and gave us a chance to test out the operation before using it to navigate in our boat.

The show Thursday was the Jean Ann Ryan troupe, in a show called Bollywood. It was a combination of music - dance - gymnastics - cirque-de-soleil -- an excellent production. We had no hesitation in giving them a standing ovation. Oh yeah - this was bound to come up. The cruise director, in a misguided fit of enthusiasm-building, insulted the artists and the audience at every show by ordering the audience to give a standing ovation. He even went so far as to intimate that the performers would give us a better show if they knew they were going to get one. Well, I've been attending and performing in shows longer than he's been out of diapers and I know that's not how it works. You give the performance - you'll get the standing ovation if you're worth it. End of rant ...

Friday we anchored off NCL's private island in the Bahamas - Great Stirrup Cay. Tenders took us in to the islands where there were beach chairs, umbrellas, hammocks, picnic tables, beach volleyball, ping pong. The NCL staff had brought over provisions for a BBQ so we had a complete buffet lunch. We got the feeling, although we've never been to one, that this is what an all-inclusive beach vacation is like. That's great, but a few hours was enough for us. We love being afloat and going places so we'll probably put our vacation dollars into cruising and travelling. Where it's warm! Except for Alaska! And the Antarctic!

We tendered back to the Dawn and met Mark and Laura for dinner in one of the specialty restaurants (The Bamboo). There are a number of restaurants on NCL ships that offer 'special' cuisine with a cover charge ($15 to $25). From the looks of the empty tables in the 'specialty' locations and line-ups to get into the 'regular' dining rooms, NCL may want to re-think this. We went to the Bamboo only because we had a 2-for-1 coupon, given to us when we booked our next cruise. Actually, we didn't book a cruise - we paid a deposit (only $250) for an future NCL cruise which we must book within 2 years and take within 2 1/2. That gave us an immediate onboard credit of $100 and the Bamboo coupon, along with other benefits (although neither of us thought the facial would accomplish much!)

Then we headed off to the theatre for the final show. Once again we were amazed by the magician, humoured by the comedian and entertained wonderfully by Brian Graves and the Dawn's house band. A great finish to a great cruise. We returned to our stateroom for the depressing task of packing our bags to leave in the hall for collection. In the morning we had a last breakfast in the Venetian and headed to the internet cafe for a last email. Then we made our way to the gangplank and through Customs. We had been warned that there was a taxi strike, but there were several waiting at the curb and we arrived post-haste at the Riu Hotel, South Beach Miami. What an 'interesting' hotel that is! Not quite European - not quite North American - just a couple of bricks short of either. First time, I believe, that we've ever stayed in a hotel in the developed world where a notice in the room said that water was not drinkable. And yet they had a dress code for dinner - long sleeves were required. I threatened to wear my swim trunks with a long sleeved shirt but cooler heads prevailed. And yet, in the dining room (which had an amazing buffet) there were patrons in jeans and T-shirts. Go figure!!

We had a few hours to walk along Miami south beach - both the boardwalk and the beach. It was windy and cool and it rained both times we went out. So we mostly watched TLC and got ourselves ready for our flight home.

We boarded our United flight on schedule, landing at Washington Dulles right on time. We grabbed a quick bite and had lots of time to make our connection. The flight to Syracuse was overbooked and they were looking for 11 volunteers to give up their seats. A free voucher sounded nice, but the earliest flight they could offer was two days later!! We boarded and settled back to enjoy the last leg of our trip. As we taxied toward the runway, suddenly the plane came to a abrupt stop. I commented that I used to do that too, when I was learning to drive. We then turned around and headed - you guessed it - back to the gate. Not a good sign. But then we backed away from the gate and proceeded to travel on just about every piece of tarmac at Dulles. Eventually, the pilot came on and explained that an access door had not been closed and we had gone back to have that seen to (I'm all for that!!). So we were 30 minutes late leaving Washington and still on time into Syracuse. The shuttle came and picked us up and our car was still there and still intact and full of gas. Couple of hours on I81, a short stop at the duty-free for a bottle of hooch for Dad and a quick welcome home at Canadian Customs.

The -11 (C) was a little hard to take this morning. However, the beer stays cold in the porch!

So, 'til next time - we're going to enjoy Life on the Bluff. Can't wait to get the boat in, but I guess we'll have to wait until there's no ice at the dock.

We were delighted at how our new little Acer netbook performed on the trip. It was much easier to manage, tucked in a knapsack, than a regular size laptop and we had a great time with the GPS. We didn't have navigation charts for our whole trip but around Miami and St. Thomas (we do have charts for all U.S. waters) we were able to confirm that the captain did indeed know where we were. And we have since discovered that we can scan maps from an atlas, asign reference latitude and longitude points, and they become GPS-sensitive maps. No good for navigation, of course, but interesting when somebody else is at the helm.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

We're back ...

We just returned from a fabulous week on the Norwegian Dawn - out of Miami to Samana (Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, Tortola and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL's private island). Weather was great (except for rain in Miami on Saturday - after the cruise but during our visit to Miami). We're a bit browner and a bit heavier but that's what you expect when you cruise. More details and lots of pictures to follow. Put a deposit down for our next Norwegian Cruise - we've got 2 years to decide when and where but it seems a sure thing that we'll cruise again and the Norwegian free-style is our cup of tea.

Update - pictures are up. Click on Norwegian Dawn link in Picture Links.

Friday, 13 March 2009

We're off ....

Headed out about 6:30 Thursday - clear sailing on Rte 81. We stopped in Watertown at Panera Bread for a bite of supper and arrived at the Holiday Inn Syracuse (Liverpool) at 9:30. The Park and Fly setup here is great - 30 days parking with your overnight accommodation, and a shuttle service (we're about 15 minutes from the airport). Note to Holiday Inn - your hotel is very nice, the staff wonderful, but you don't have enough coffee in the room for two people

Our flight is Friday morning about 10:15 a.m. - short hop to Washington Dulles - even shorter time to switch planes - and then on to Miami. Our accommodation there is at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport. They have arrangements there for a shuttle to the Port of Miami ($10 or less per person). Streets and Trips shows a 15 minute ride from hotel to ship. Looking forward to getting on board and putting the travel behind and just relaxing for a week.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Our newest toy ...

The netbook - after all the years of 'bigger is better' in computers, we've stepped down to an 8.9" screen netbook. The trusty laptop has been a constant companion while travelling - dumping pictures from the camera, emailing, checking up on the latest news from family and the world, even working on report cards. With 'Streets and Trips' and 'Autoroute' and a GPS stuck on the dash, we've navigated our way through Canada, the U.S., Sweden, Norway and Denmark. We now have navigation charts for all waterways in the United States and the St. Lawrence River and the Rideau Canal System so a small laptop was a logical alternative to a GPS navigation system for boating. We use the SeaClear chart-reading program.The most expensive 'amateur' GPS systems have a 7" screen, so a 9" screen on a laptop which would also serve our computing needs is a luxury.

After a fair amount of investigation, we decided to go with the Acer Aspire One Netbook. I found the HP netbook appealing (I have had only GREAT experiences with HP) but the extra HDD size (160GB vs 60GB) and the lack of speakers in the HP made our decision for us. The lack of a CD/DVD drive in netbooks is somewhat of a pain for installing software, but memory sticks seem to be filling the gap so far. Update ... just figured out how to share the DVD drive on another networked computer.

Skype has been installed and the built-in webcam and microphone seem to work fine so we're good-to-go in that department.

Speaking of 'phone', we cut the cord with Bell this week. We're now VOC with our cable provider Cogeco - unlimited long-distance any time of day in Canada and the U.S. and exceptional rates abroad (2 cents per minute to most countries!!) We have hesitated to leave Ma Bell, but were tired of the surprises when the bill came. So far, we've seen no difference except a $30 per month saving.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

It's official - The Festival of the Islands is no more ...

Sad news in the Gananoque Reporter this morning - the 17-year-old Festival of the Islands is done. Declining attendance and the misfortune of bad weather last year has racked up debt (small debt in the bigger scheme of things) that has made continuing the Festival impossible. Now is a good time, if you haven't already, to thank the hundreds of volunteers who have made the festival such an amazing event. Naming names would be foolish - there have been so many involved and even though a few names come to mind I would be afraid of overlooking someone. The beauty of the festival was that every contributor, great or small, made the festival work.

Over the past 17 years we have been treated to performances at the Waterfront Stage by some legendary performers - artists I certainly never expected to see perform in Gananoque: The Association, Great Big Sea, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, John Kay and Steppenwolf, to name just a very few. Although the waterfront stage shows were the showcase of the Festival, there were events all over town for the whole week for young and old. We'll miss the nightly parade of people with lawnchairs in hand, trudging down to the waterfront. Even if they didn't know who was performing, they knew they were in for an evening of great musical entertainment and a chance to meet with their neighbours and friends and others whom they had not seen since the last Festival. And let's not forget the fireworks - hundreds of boats and tens of thousands of people enjoying the most spectacular fireworks ever seen in this area.

A few years ago I wrote and recorded a jingle for the Festival, recorded at Summit Sound in Westport with the help of Cliff Edwards. We used an old Yamaha DX-7, a primitive Roland drum machine and the studio singers. I've only ever written one jingle and I still remember the first time I heard it on the radio! Gan-an-o-que doesn't scan easily, but it really ended up being quite tuneful. Give it a listen and think back to all your Festival memories. The hole in the middle is called the "do-nut" and it's left for voice-over announcement of daily events.

btw - as I tried to figure out how to post an audio file when BlogSpot only provides for video postings, I finally figured out how to create a video slideshow with an audio track. This video only has one image, but I know now how to add others. Get prepared for future postings!!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The kitchen saga begins ...

After 30 years of service, our kitchen is about to be overhauled. When we bought this house, there was a corner cabinet and a small cabinet with a sink and that was it. The first thing we did after moving in was renovate the kitchen. Money was tight, so the cabinetry was home-made, built in the driveway with a $15 table saw bought at a yard sale. Cabinet frames were ripped and sanded from #4 pine boards and V-joint pine was the order of the day. A suspended ceiling was installed to hide ductwork, plumbing and wiring and the whole job looked pretty spiffy. We've been through 3 fridges, 2 dishwashers, 2 stoves and a couple rounds of washer/drier and it's time to move on. The washer and drier are getting moved to a different room (built as a whirlpool room but that ain't gonna happen!). We bought new appliances last weekend (going with the current stainless craze) and have had two meetings with what will very likely be our cabinet guys. We'll still do a lot of the work ourselves, but we're at a stage in our lives where building our own cabinets again is not high on our list of 'things we need to do before we die'. More posts to follow as the planning continues and construction begins ...

Friday, 6 February 2009

Irving Berlin

On Sunday, April 26th, MacNeil's Landing Family Restaurant in Gananoque is presenting another in their series of Dinner Concerts - this time "Words and Music - The Music of Irving Berlin", with Mary Wonnacott-Hills, Don Price and Paul Harding.

Since purchasing MacNeil's Landing, owner Cliff Edwards has offered monthly dinner/concerts featuring local performers as well as artists from a broader field - Nancy White, Kelli Trottier, Denny Will, The Abrams Brothers and The Wilkins. Local performers have included Dennis Curtis, Roger James, David Tompkins, Diane Stapley, Maryanne Wainman, Scott Davey, Len Whalen, Tim Hallman, Dan Kasaboski, Doug Gravelle and Bob Arlidge.

Born in Russia and brought to the U.S. at age five, Irving Berlin dropped out of school in his early teens and taught himself to play the piano while working as a singing waiter from 1904 to 1907. He played almost entirely in the key of F-sharp, allowing him to stay on the black keys as much as possible. This wasn't unheard-of for a self-taught musician, since it's easier for untrained fingers to play the black keys (which are elevated and widely spaced) without hitting wrong notes. In a 1962 interview, Berlin said, "The black keys are right there, under your fingers. The key of C is for people who study music." Cecil Adams

Now I won't feel nearly so guilty when I play a song in the key of C!!!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

A lovely weekend in Toronto ...

Had a great time in Toronto this weekend. Driving up on Friday was a breeze - clean and dry highway and we arrived after the rush-hour so it was clear sailing down the DVP, across the Gardiner and off on Lakeshore Boulevard to our hotel. We had chosen the Four Points Sheraton because it's near the CNE grounds where the boat show is held - all right, it was cheaper than downtown!

It's still impressive for us small-town-types to drive by the Air Canada Centre, CN Tower and Rogers Centre at night - kind of like seeing the Eiffel Tower from the highway in Paris (well, not quite!).

The Toronto Boat Show is always interesting. We had a lottery ticket this weekend and told the Carver rep we'd be back Sunday morning if we won to buy the $759,000 yacht. This was the first time we boarded the luxury boats and actually found things about our own boat we prefer. We bought a few boaty things and did some serious investigation of chart plotting/gps hardware. We met up with Neil, from Gordon Marine, and decided that the Thousand Islands is the best place in this part of the world for boating. We didn't win the lottery, btw, so it looks like Daydream Believer for us this season.

Saturday evening we drove downtown, parked the car (see rant #4), had dinner and a drink at the Elephant and Castle and then headed to the Princess of Wales Theatre for a production of The Sound of Music. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we had followed the search for a Maria on CBC earlier this year and were anxious to see the production. We were not disappointed. We have not, actually, seen a professional production of S of M before. I've done dozens of performances of the show, however, so I know every note that's sung or played. Those who know me will know that my favourite music in the show is the French horn figure in 'Climb Every Mountain' right after the key change and the line "all the love you can give" - gives me goose bumps just to think of it now. Maybe in heaven they'll give me a French horn instead of a harp and let me play that line for eternity. And maybe Robert Russell Bennett (who did the masterful orchestrations) will be there to give me pointers.

These theatre spectaculars are tighter than amateur productions but often don't have any more talented actors/singers than we've seen elsewhere. Where they are outstanding is in the technical aspects of the production. The sets were amazing (I won't describe them, for fear of spoiling the effect for those readers who have yet to see the show). My favourite moment in the show has always been when the family Von Trapp begins to sing Do-Re-Mi at their home and then, in a miraculous theatre instant, they are on stage at the festival and we are the audience. Worth the price of the ticket just for that moment!

I was crushed to discover that Ted Simonett was 'out' for Saturday's performance. Ted is a Kingstonian that I had the privilege to work with in the early 70s in the St. Lawrence Summer Playhouse. Ted was a high school student, working at Rideau Marina, and played Jesus in 'Godspell' (picture) and Bobby Van Husen in 'The Boyfriend' in productions for which I was musical director. I have followed his career with interest right from those days through to his stint as the annoying neighbour in the Canadian Tire ads (remember the guy with the beard who always had the latest gadget?). He never came over to help me with my projects 'cos I ALREADY have all the Canadian Tire gadgets!! BTW, while we're on a 'Summer Playhouse' kick, I was also musical director for a production at that same theatre of 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown'; the title role was played by none other than Nicholas Campbell. Sorry - don't have any pics of that production.

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel this morning, we headed home. The highway had a bit of snow but was basically wet - until we hit Oshawa. From there it was 40-60 kph - there was a steady string of cars and trucks in the ditch. After a quick pit stop we poked along as far as Trenton and then decided it wasn't safe to proceed any further on 401. We switched over to Highway 2 and although the road was no better than 401 it was much safer and even faster. It was actually kind of nice to travel through Trenton, Belleville, Napanee. Hard to imagine that before 401 all traffic between Montreal and Toronto travelled that route.

We still made it home before dark and in time to see our skatergirl performing on NBC's Progressive Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular.

Don't read this if you don't want to hear my rant ...

Everyone who lives in a small town should be required to spend a few days in Toronto once a year, just to be reminded of the advantages of small-town life. We just made a brief trip to Toronto to attend the Boat Show and see 'The Sound of Music'. The positive points are made in the next blog. For this one, here's the rant (in no particular order):

1) Architects - I'm sure no architect has ever used a public washroom in a large venue (theatre, arena). Would you not think that by now architects would have figured out that womens' washrooms in these buildings need more facilities. Actually, in the Princess of Wales Theatre, the ladies' washroom has more facilities than the mens' (15 stalls [I'm told!], compared to 2 stalls and 4 urinals in the mens') but the ladies were still lined up right out into the lobby. And in the mens' there was a lineup for the stalls - however, every man who washed his hands (don't they all?) had to break through the lineup for the stalls to reach the paper towels.

2) Gridlock - if you're going to honk your horn at cars who block an intersection, you can't also honk your horn at cars ahead of you who are waiting for the intersection to clear before they proceed. Much as we'd like to think we can, you can't have it both ways. I have, in the last year at home, heard no more than two drivers honk their horn at another driver or pedestrian. In Toronto, apparently, it's a way of life.

3) No-left-turn intersections. 'nuff said!

4) $30 to park the car to see a show. I believe that would cost $3 at home.

5) The snow-plow operators' strike. Oh, they're not on strike? Coulda fooled me! 40 kph on 401 today.

6) Transport drivers who think we're wusses and then jack-knife their rigs and hold up traffic for hours.

7) Thoughtless drivers who park their cars smack in the middle of two parking spaces.

8) Hotels next to the Gardiner Expressway. Here's the view from our window:

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Our boating paradise

30 below and 2 feet of ice - hard to believe this is where we swim and play! However, January is half gone and the next thing you know we'll be touching up the dock from the winter's ice and splashing Daydream Believer for another season.

Got a call the other day to play piano for the Thousand Islands Playhouse production of "Forever Plaid" this spring. Three obvious reasons to be excited - first, musical theatre is a great love and professional musical theatre is a real joy; second, 'Forever Plaid' has great music and is a lot of fun; third, the production rehearses from the first of May and closes in mid-June so it won't conflict in any way with our boating season. So this year I get to participate fully in both of these activities. Bring it on!

Monday, 5 January 2009

The hills are alive ...

Just booked tickets to see The Sound of Music in Toronto on January 17th. We followed 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria' on CBC last summer and voted for our favourite Maria so we wanted to get to see the show. We're seeing Elicia MacKenzie as Maria and The Singer and Serdic are seeing Janna Polzin, so it will be interesting to compare notes. I guess the Mirvish family is finding the economy a little tight - can you believe you have to pay a $3 charge for the privilege of printing your own tickets? Times are tough!

We're doing a package on the weekend of the Toronto Boat Show and have a room booked at the Four Points Sheraton. With theatre tickets ($250) and hotel ($185), suddenly the complimentary ($15) boat show tickets seem pretty insignificant. Tickets for the theatre are in the 7th row - not dead centre, but not too far to the side. Should be a great weekend.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Home again ...

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

This morning we loaded up our bags and headed off to the StreetCar Noise had booked to take us to Heathrow. After a few breathless minutes of communication with the office when the passkey wouldn't unlock the car, finally the green light came on and the doors popped open. The trip to Heathrow was easy and check-in at Air Canada was a breeze (we had registered on-line yesterday and only had to check our bags). Security was thorough, as usual (doesn't bother me that they're making sure that everybody on MY plane is there legitimately) and I had a little mini-massage (no problem, sir - just a routine random scrutiny).

The flight left on time and actually arrived in Ottawa 45 minutes early. The only thing unusual on the flight was we that saw another jet below us. Though I guess we've always known they're out there, we'd never actually seen another aircraft in the sky before. The sight just made the whole notion of floating this 350,000 lb vessel in the air more surreal.

Although we had to wait for our gate to free up we were still in good time and through Customs by the time we were supposed to have arrived. Our bags slid down the ramp and we were off to meet The Singer, who had come to pick us up. Picked up the car at bro's parking garage, had a cup of tea at Singer & Serdic's flat (sorry - apartment) and then headed home. We stopped in Brockville at Swiss Chalet for the cheapest meal we've had out in a week - actually a nice bookend, since we had Swiss Chalet on the way to the airport when we left a week ago.

High Tea at the Lanesborough

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

As part of their Christmas Gift to us, PetDoc and Noise treated us to high tea at the Lanesborough Hotel this afternoon. We were afraid that we might be a little under-dressed (and outclassed, too, for that matter) but we were actually quite comfortable and had a marvellous time. The hotel is across the street from Hyde Park, right across the square from Wellington Arch. The hotel was awarded the Tea Guild award for 2008 - Best Afternoon Tea. And we found out why!!
We began with a glass of Taittinger champagne, accompanied by a generous dish of strawberries with cream poured over them. The sommelier helped us choose our teas - PetDoc and PetMom had the Ceylon Supreme, Noise had his favourite green tea and PetDad had the hotel's afternoon blend. There were dozens of teas from which to choose - black, green and white.
When we had polished off the strawberries, we were presented with a pre-dessert, consisting of an apple and pear mousse with a mandarin and mango jelly. With our palates cleansed, we proceeded with a tiered cake stand of assorted sandwiches, tea breads and desserts. The sandwiches were cucumber and cream cheese, curried chicken, smoked salmon, tuna, and cheese and pickle. These were accompanied by oven-fresh quiches (mushroom, onion and stilton). There were four small tea breads and scrumptious desserts which we cut in smaller pieces so all could sample.
Although we were quite full by the time we finished all of this, we managed to polish off the tray of scones and tea cakes - adorned with clotted cream, lemon curd and strawberry jam. All this was washed down with an endless supply of tea, poured by the attentive waiters as soon as our cup warranted. We were offered seconds of each of the above but we declined all but the tea.

Not having been to a pub yet today, we decided about 9:30 to head down Greyhound past the Queen's Club to the Colton Arms. It was absolutely delightful - exactly what you'd expect a neighbourhood pub to be like.

Tomorrow we're off to Heathrow for a 1:00 pm flight home, arriving in Ottawa at 3:45.

Happy New Year from London

Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's only 9 pm there, but it's 2 am here and we want to wish you a happy new year! We had some munchies at home and then about 9:30 we left to view the fireworks set off at the London Eye. The viewing area at Westminster was full when we arrived so we walked along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and then on down The Strand to Blackfriars Bridge. From there we had a great view of the fireworks and enjoyed them very much. It was wall-to-wall people from Westminster to the place we stopped to view the fireworks - first they were all moving in the same direction - then still to watch the fireworks - then back the other way to make their way home. There was a lot of alcohol and shouting but nobody really what you'd call misbehaving - only having a good time to celebrate the New Year. We were in a crowd of several hundred thousand people, shoulder to shoulder - certainly the largest crowd we've ever been a part of. We never felt nervous, but we did hang on to each other quite a lot. Our trip back to the flat was relatively easy - we had given some forethought to how we would get home and it appeared to pay off. We had a seat on the tube the whole way, while we saw a lot of trains with people packed in like sardines.

We were to the Borough Market this morning and we've got a nice pork roast to cook tomorrow and we'll have a nice dinner here at home.

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