“Then followed that beautiful season . . . summer.

  Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;

and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”  (Henry Wardsworth Longfellow.)




“Summer afternoon,   summer afternoon;  

to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   (Henry James)


Summer and the perfect time to become a flaneur and wander the streets in this old Toronto neighborhood.   The gardens of stately  homes heavy with the fragrance of old  fashion flowers.




The lovely lupine … a graceful wand of colour.

 A whisper of lavender …  the soul, the scent of Provence.

Graceful irises like pieces of the deep, blu sky flung into the garden.

A slender rope suspended between sheltering trees.  To walk barefoot in the park on air.  Summer is a glorious time in Trinity Bellwoods Park





Last week I had lunch with Michael Ondaatje.

Lunch in a warm, comfortable  pub in Toronto’s  Cabbagetown.  House On Parliament is the kind of place where old friends linger and talk into the quiet after-noon.  Across from our table tucked into a corner sat two elegant white-haired gentlemen.  One looked very familiar.    “That’s Michael Ondaatje”, said my dining companion.   My heart skipped a beat.  Sitting just a few feet away from me was a writer who had written books so extraordinary, so evocative their imagery has become part of me.

“She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them.  Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” -Michael Ondaatje, THE ENGLISH PATIENT.

Set in Tuscany THE ENGLISH PATIENT is the tale of a passionate love affair during the brutal conflict of the Second World War.  It was awarded The Booker Prize.   The movie received nine Academy Awards.

Lankan-born Canadian Michael Ondaatje is a poet, novelist, filmmaker, editor.  He is five times winner of the Governor General’s Award, The Giller Prize, The Booker Prize, the Prix Médicis étranger.  He is an office of the Order of Canada, making him one of Canada’s most celebrated living author.

“He came to this country like a torch on fire and swallowed air as he walked forward and he gave out light.” -Michael Ondaatje, IN THE SKIN OF A LION.

In l989 I was riding the ferry to Salt Spring Island.  Desperate for something to read I searched the book store shelves for a novel to fill the hours of travel.  IN THE SKIN OF A LION – the title intrigued me.   A love story and a mystery set in the turbulent 20’s and 30’s in Toronto.  I began to read and  left behind the boat passengers, the flapping sea birds.  I was IN THE SKIN OF A LION.

I passed by his table as we left the pub.  I stopped and quietly said “Thank You”.  He smiled and replied “Your welcome”.

On my bookshelves a few of the novels  by Michael Ondaatje – The Cat’s table,  In the Skin of a Lion,  Anil’s Ghost,  Divisadero,  Running in the Family,  The Collected works of Billy the Kid,  Coming Through the Slaughter.  And …

“If I were a cinnamon peeler

I would ride your bed

and leave the yellow bark dust

on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek.

You could never walk through the market

without the profession of my fingers

floating over you.  The blind

would stumble certain of whom

they approached

though you may bathe

under rain gutters, monsoons.”

– Michael Ondaatje THE CINNAMON PEELER



The weather report says temperatures in Toronto are going to hit 40°Celsius (with humidity) today.      The really cool dudes, the hipsters – those so cool they never say cool hang out in the second coolest street in the world – Queen Street West.  Little has changed on Queen Street West since  Vogue Magazine called it the second hottest street world wide . Read about it in my following reblog  QUEEN STREET WEST . . . SECOND COOLEST NEIGHBOUR HOOD IN THE WORLD


Sadly my favorite coffee hangout Clafouti has disappeared.  However, we aficionados  of Trinity Bellwood sip our coffee  a block or so away  at The Lucky Penny Café – General Store.


The Lucky Penny sits quietly on the corner of Shaw Street right across from the Artscape Youngplace.  Away from the hurly-burly of Queen Street we  sip our café lattes, catch a few rays on the patio,  then stroll across the street to the 100-year-old school building that is now Artscape ,  in search of budding Picasso’s.

Toronto is all about neighborhoods like Trinity Bellwood .  This is the fabric, the warp and weft, that binds Toronto together.







In a very old part of Cabbage Town.

On a very old narrow street.

There is a very old cottage

With rooms enfilade.

Wiggly, piggly creaking narrow staircases going up and down.

Nothing is new.  Nothing is perfect.

Everything  sublimely shabby with inherited memories.

Beautifully worn chairs  gossip in a corner.

Tables polished by generations of loving care.

Fire crackles and sparks glinting off  gold on leather bound books.

Everywhere on every wall paintings  and  photographs.

Three ancient Oriental paintings adorn the dining room wall.

Geishas  I think as I slide into the pictures and listen to temple bells.

A yellow japaned Chinoise desk whispers secrets.

Letters wrapped round with faded ribbons.

Faded photographs pictures from the past.

The little house folds its sheltering  walls around you.

These walls hold all the yesterdays, todays and promises of tomorrows.

This little cottage in Cabbage Town.


“Home is a name,

it is a strong one;

stronger than magician ever spoke,

or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration. ”  (Charles Dickens)

I’m walking the streets in Toronto, around West Queen West.   It’s a delightful way to look  for lovely old homes brought back to life by loving hands.   These  homes have personal grace.  They display not just renovations  but something more.

They flaunt   a little magic,

A  bit of sophistication,

And a goodly amount of charm.

No staid brass numbers for this beauty but an  address  beautifully scripted above the door.

Almost but not quite a painted lady – rather a romantic  house – pale green and lavender The gingerbread trim has been loving restored by caring hands.

Someone with  a sense of wonderment and just a little bit outrageous had the courage to paint this house in  their favorite colours.   Then they screened  it with an  enchanted forest.  A fair maiden stands hidden on the balcony.

Surely an artist lives in this house.  They have painted the columns all around  with vines and flowers.  Summer and winter they welcome one and all to come inside.

For years this house was filled with the laughter and excitement of families.   Reborn, i has become a tiny, elegant cafe.  The kind of place you would stroll to for an early morning espresso or perhaps a croissant.

There’s no place like home.  Just click your ruby-red heels together and you’re there.


I’m strolling along a street in Toronto,  going from Queen to King.    I walk slowly admiring  the wonderful Victorian Houses.  Their miniscule front gardens are  proud with flowers.  Sitting on a stoop is an ancient soul. Her face wrinkled with memories.  Beside her a very black and prim cat.

“Good morning, Madame.  You have a beautiful cat”.

She replies “Ahhh, yes, he keeps my feet warm at night”.

The prim, black cat knowing as only cats can know she is being discussed stretches tall,  casually walks down the sidewalk and throws herself at my feet.  Tummy rubs are called for.

On the other side of the fence a soft gray and equally prim cat has been watching.

“Good morning Sweetheart” I call.

We haven’t been introduced.  She ignores me.

Two doors down a third cat has been watching the street action.

“Good Morning Miss Scruffy”.

She turns her head, looks at me and then just closes her eyes.  She looks like ten miles of bad road.  Her black and white fur sticks up in spikes like some Goth hairstyle.  I look for chains and black leather.  She’s very young and has obviously been partying hard.  Miss Scruffy just wants to bask in the sun and sleep off  the excesses of the night.

“With Cats, some say, one rule is true:

Don’t speak till you are spoken to.

Myself, I do not hold with that –

I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.

But always keep in mind that he

Resents familiarity.

I bow, and taking off my hat,

Ad-dress him in this form: O Cat!

But if he is the Cat next door,

Whom I have often met before

(He comes to see me in my flat)

I greet him with an OOPSA Cat!

I think I’ve heard them call him James-

But we’ve not got so far as names

Before a Cat will condescend

To treat you as a trusted friend,

Some little token of esteem

Is needed, like a dish of cream;

And you might now and then supply

Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,

Some potted grouse, or salmon paste-

He’s sure to have his personal taste.

(I know a Cat, who makes a habit

Of eating nothing else but rabbit,

And when he’s finished, licks his paws

So’s not to waste the onion sauce.)

A Cat’s entitled to expect

These evidences of respect.

And so in time you reach your aim,

And finally call him by his NAME.”

So this is this, and that is that”

And there’s how you AD – DRESS A C AT.

(T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats)

(This blog originally posted April 29, 2010)


“To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children

To leave the world a better place

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded. ”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson, Poet, Philosopher, Journalist  1803 – 1882)

Toronto’s edgy West Queen Street West is a fabulous neighborhood.  Doorways beckon; come in, poke around, find a treasure.  This is a neighborhood of  eccentric shops and charming cafes,  art galleries and funky bars.

In a crowded, musty store filled with yesterdays memories I met Gabriel.    His horn was playing an illusive song.  The melody haunted me.    The words just out of my grasp.  I carried Gabriel away.    I placed him high, high on the wall.  He looks down at us and blows his horn.

I hear the words.

“Hallelujah   Hallelujah   Hallelujah”

(Gabriel is another Angel I have collected.  Gabriel hangs in my home away from home.  I am never far from angels.)


Our eldest grand-daughter is getting married in six days.    Two more sleeps and we fly to Toronto.   This will be an intimate fairy tale wedding in the romantic surroundings of a winery in Prince Edward County.

We wanted to give the perfect wedding gift.  Younger sister AJ was in charge.   She said “Cait and Angus would like you to make them something”.

A few years ago Cait celebrated am important birthday in Paris.  I had my theme.  In anticipation of the wedding I had found one dozen gorgeous Irish linen napkins at an antique store.    This is what  I made to hold these beauties.

This is how I did it.

I gave this Thrift shop find a coat of gray water based primer, then a coat of water base white flat paint.  When the white paint was dry I rubbed the tray with sandpaper to give it a distressed look.

I went to THE GRAPHIC FAIRY  downloaded the graphic with reverse letters because although I am using Mod Podge I am not decoupaging the letters on to the tray.

This is  how you put those letters on to the tray.  You copy your graphic on a toner based copying machine.  You will find toner based copying machines at libraries, some grocery and drug stores.   It appears they are a little old-fashioned for Staples.

I cut around the letters to eliminate as much of the surrounding paper as possible.  I brushed  the Mod Podge generously over the graphic and then put it FACE DOWN on the white tray.  I rubbed the paper gently to ensure the letters were sticking to the surface.  Then I sat it aside for a good 12 hours.  Over night is a good idea.  You won’t be tempted to peek.

The next morning I dampened the paper and gently started rubbing it away with my fingers.  This is when you’ll appreciate cutting away the excess white background.

Finished.  A few of the letters aren’t perfect, but it’s OK because this is supposed to look a little worn.

After you’ve wiped away the paper rubbings, and let the tray dry finish it with a light coat of wax.  Leave on for a few minutes then buff it up.  Presto.  You’re done.

This tray is just part of Angus and Cait’s Paris theme wedding gift.    In my next posting I will spill the beans on the rest of the gift.  Meanwhile I’m off to my almost second Home in Toronto.




Kensington Market  –  It’s fun, funky, fabulous.

Exotic spices spinning through air.

Bright eyed fish needing just that squeeze of lemon.



Heavenly chocolate desserts.

Nibbling a scrumptious treat on the street.


Vibrant and exciting.  Entire sides of beef parading down the street on broad-shouldered butchers.

A cave of a cheese shop spilling over with bounty beyond belief.

It’s not for the faint-of-heart.

The smells, the sights are raw.

The streets and shops gritty and grimy.  But never, never boring.

I love shopping the Kensington Market.