Swimming in Lake Ontario

I spent both last Sunday and today doing something that numerous people are scared of: swimming in Lake Ontario!  Port Dalhousie, a beautiful sandy beach and home to the Lakeside Park of Rush notoriety, is accessible by a single bus ride right from my doorstep.  On any sunny summer day (and most cloudy ones) the beach is busy with families building sandcastles, girls in bikinis sunbathing and a wide range of active people partaking in their various pastimes: beach volleyball, boating, running etc. None of them seems at all concerned to be running in and out of the lake right in front of a sign indicating that although today the water safe for swimming, tomorrow it might not.  And why should they be?

This is the same lake that I grew up just one block away from, constantly wrinkling my nose at the smell, and concerned that if one single drop of lakewater got on me I might melt, mutate or grow an extra limb.  E.coli bacteria is the main threat, washing into the lake after heavy rains from sources like agricultural run-off and overflowing storm drains.  True, the bacteria can cause ear, eye and nose infections or (only if enough lake water is swallowed) more severe gastrointestinal problems.

The reality?  Your sandwich is more likely to make you sick than swimming in Lake Ontario!

Lake Ontario has some of the safest beaches in the world, many adhering to the standards of the internationally recognized Blue Flag program.  Beaches along the Niagara Peninsula are monitored (daily for the most popular, weekly for others) by the Niagara Region's public health department with signs posted informing bathers of the water quality.  When signs are posted "unfit" for swimming its because E. coli bacteria have passed a Ontario standard threshold of 100 counts / 100 millilitres which is still less than half of (or twice as stringent as) the 235 counts / 100 millilitres that the US Federal Government deems safe.

Decades of contrary opinions are hard to ignore but these days you're far more likely to hear stories about E.coli poisoning caused by sandwich meat, tomatoes or mixed salad greens than you are horror stories of swimming in Lake Ontario.  Sure, I wouldn't recommend hitting up the beach the day after a large rainstorm .. but with the long broiling weeks of sun we've had, why wouldn't you make use of Ontario's under-appreciated assets?

If you're still wary - make sure to rinse off afterwords with a shower, don't drink the water & avoid sandwiches at all costs.


Runway Inspired Thrift/Closet Outfits

I have a secret!  Even though I spend most of my time in dirty shorts, I really love fashion.  I love to dress up, I love to photograph clothing and I adore runway shows!  Its partially nostalgia for my dressup box and partially aesthetic interest but fashion shows are fabulous inspiration!  Its not that I want to perfectly emulate a particular designer (or rush out to buy their overpriced clothing)I've spent years combing thrift stores and garage sales for a whole palate of colours and selection of silhouettes, so I watch a whole variety of shows from Europe to right here in Toronto and then use the themes I see to decide what section of my extensive wardrobe will be featured, what I'll box up in storage and what's given away.   
I'm not a huge fan of summer so I start looking towards fall clothing very early!  Although some designers are still stuck on the pretentious boxy, 80s, garish hipster nonsense, most are starting towards a gorgeous trend of returning to organic forms.  And I don't mean pale green, eco-washed organics but what I think of as being more base elements: leather, fur, rawhide... the colours oxblood, pansy and buff... and a womanly 50s hourglass silhouette with wide hips and a bustline.  Some other trends that began last season and I think will continue are: mixed prints (patchword, paisley, plaid) and textures (velvet, knitwork); belted coats, shorts and capes/ponchos and ruffles on just about everything.  This basically sounds like someone describing my wardrobe so I figured I'd put together as many looks from my own closet as I could!


Fancy a Cuppa?

Its been one of those days - chores, cleaning, editing photos, filling out forms, registering for school, sorting out boxes, uploading backdated posts .. all the tiresome things that I've put off doing during the heat wave.  While sorting I found my teapot and a very cute Union Jack tin that my former nanny sent me one Christmas.  I decided to fill it with teabags that had previously been stored, very unceremoniously, in a ziplog bag because I find there's something very gratifying, not just in drinking a cup of tea, but in the ritual of preparing it.


The Fryin Guys

@seannalexander and I tried to go for pizza, but Stromboli's was closed cause it was just too hot in the kitchen!  So we ended up walking a little bit further to Fryin' Guys for authentic British style fish n chips :-)


eco-ish spray paint

My friends had Madonna posters, I had prints of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Jef Aerosol...

One of my favourite memories from my teens is sneaking out of my bedroom window with Vince, Steve and Tori to tag hand cut Obey stencils all over Oakville.  We though we were so badass!  On another occasion a whole bunch of us stayed up most of the night in a garage painting t-shirts for Mikey aka DJ Busdriver - I converted a digital image of his turntable into a stencil, but Michelle and Lindsay were much better at the painting part... somehow a variety of people's different artistic talents all meshed well when it came to production line stencil-shirt making!  This went on for a few years in highschool until the ecology / global warming thing really kicked in at which point I swore off spraypaint along with spray glue (yeah I was a crafty kid), hairspray and all other aerosol products.  I found other ways to make t-shirts and still hand stencilled some images with vegetable dye but my interest moved to sewing and collage and I stashed my folder of stencils (although my love of Shepard Fairey grew exponentially during and after the Obama campaign!)  Then the other day two events coincided to bring me back to stencil cutting/tagging.  A friend of mine wanted to spray his name on a brand new guitar case and was going to do it freehand which I knew would look just awful... and I found that old folder of stencils which of course I immediately wanted to try out!
So... I did my research and thanks to Apartment Therapy I learned about Krylon's H20 Latex spraypaint. which comes in a dozen + colours.  It's better than traditional spraypaint because its an acrylic latex paint (lower toxicity than solvent based paints) with significantly reduced VOCs and propellants.   Chemical cleaners can also be avoided since latex paint is water soluble and cleans up with soap and water (within the first 20 - 40min).  On the other hand lower VOCs isn't the same as no VOCs and the single use pressurized cans are not recyclable and hard to dispose of properly.  Spraypaint isn't the best choice when you could use other paint products but for certain things like coating furniture, decorative/artistic uses and of course stencil.tagging - spray is the only way, in which case this Krylon paint is the best option!  It is a little thicker and drippier than regular spray paint - I'll have to see if any of the pro street art paints come in an eco-friendly option!
Since you know I love books and just have to recommend one on every topic:
-OBEY: E Pluribus Venom (Fairey, Williams, Levine)


Print Magazines

Shannon Butcher asked a great question about magazine subscriptions, that stayed on my mind all day.  I do indeed subscribe to print magazines - there's something delightfully satisfying about opening your mailbox (usually just full of bills and junk mail) to find a glossy, colourful, photograph filled and tangible piece of printwork.  The internet is great for many things, but you can't feel it, smell it, tear out pictures and articles that you enjoy, flip thru it on the toilet (well I don't anyways, not being addicted to a crackberry) or use it as a coaster, flyswatter, sunshade.  I have always, and will always, subscribed to National Geographic - infact it is that same magazine that inspired me to become a phototographer, explorer and scientist and taught me that those three things (images, travel, science) often mesh together beautifully hand in hand.  In addition to that, my parents / grandparents always give me a magazine subscription for Christmas, though which one seems to differ year by year.  I also just adore the newsagents that have walls and walls and walls of glossy magazines, looking for covers that catch my eye and speciality titles that I never knew existed.


faux silver dino pendant necklace

This is such a f***in awesome idea it just had to be done!  They're subtly witty and a great conversation piece and I agree with their original creator Brittni (check out her blog: paper n stitch) - I'm going to start wearing them everywhere.  In fact since I've got 10 different plastic dinos I plan to make pendants in 10 different colours for different outfits/situations.  I made a silver one using the only paint I had on hand - silver metallic acrylic paint, but I think I'm going to get some liquid gold and silver leaf for a real authentic look!  Then maybe some rainbow or polka dot ones for my zany days :-)


Crazy in the Deep

I've always loved Gnarls Barkley's song Crazy, especially for its captivating inkblot music video .. and when Adele's song Rollin in the Deep came out earlier this summer my first thought was "man that would make a great mashup with GB's Crazy - especially the syncopated off beats".  Well Divide & Kreate, a Scottish mashup / remix artist beat me to it and made Crazy in the Deep, which I've listened to repeatedly on my summer playlist.  Since I was on the note of musicians I love, and covers of the song Crazy I want to include the one by Don Ross, a Canadian fingerstyle guitar virtuoso.



Riding the Backroads

Yesterday was sickeningly hot .. EVERY road in the Hamilton / Niagara region was clogged with traffic after a truck fire at Fifty Rd. closed all lanes of the QEW.  The traffic backed up as far as the Skyway bridge, both service roads were basically parking lots and even HWY 81 (my usual alternate route through wine country) had slowed to a crawl.  Trying to get to St. Catharines on the motorcycle, without the benefits of a/c, a stereo or patience .. we were forced further and further away from the highway in search of a clear road -- finally, up the mountain, we found it!  Ridge Road: blessedly traffic free with a beautiful view of the entire region .. although it was way way way too hot to enjoy it.

So -- today being a much cooler, pleasant day suitable for am enjoyable motorcycle ride we took the same route back to Hamilton.  Heading out of Niagara we took King St. (hwy 81) to Thirty Road where a curvy jaunt up the escarpment took us to the smooth, gently winding, well paved, blissful stretch of road meandering through un-encroached farmland and terraced vineyards.  We cruised all the way past Ridge Road Winery to Devil's Punch Bowl which marks the end of Ridge Rd. and showcases a similar panoramic view, this one of the City of Hamilton and Burlington Bay.


North Side Gal

Authentic, electrifying, 50s style Rock n Roll with an American Roots foundation and some blues & country influence.. JD McPherson had me dancing all over my kitchen !!  I gotta get my hands on his album Signs & Signifiers


Ampisound (@traceurelements)

Parkour (PK) - a discipline that conditions both the body and mind to overcome obstacles encountered with speed and efficiency - has been a slight obsession of mine since I first encountered the concept on a trip to Paris in 2000.  Bolstered by videos and encouragement from my friend Vince (a French national himself) we took to the rooftops of downtown Oakville and never looked back.  Though I'd hardly consider myself a "traceur" (derived from Parisian slang "tracer" which means "to hurry" or "to move quickly), my love of urban climbing and urban exploration has reinforced my interest in this unusual non-competitive sport, which I've followed with much interest over the years.  

I've kept an eye out for well made parkour (and more trick-driven FreeRunning) videos and today encountered Ampisound a website produced by Scott Bass and its accompanying youtube channel: traceurelements.  Together this collection of videos, photos, blog posts and online community capture the reasons behind the movements and give a wonderful window into the life and culture of parkour traceurs.  


The Bearbucks

Someone sent me  @jillsobule 's hilarious quirky song as a response to my post about Genderfluid / gender identity and I thought it was so entertaining I just had to share.  Jill Sobule, a musician with a long and storied past, and now performing as Jill Sobule & John Doe - wrote this song after ordering coffee at a Starbucks in the Castro (the gay neighbourhood of San Fransisco) "I was confused why I was the only one that did not have a lot of body hair. I learned later that I was at "The Bearbucks""  It also features a goofy, x-rated cameo by comedian Margaret Cho



My friend Cassi and I love to do photoshoots, both impromptu and pre-arranged.  Our shoot today is a prime example of making use of your surroundings.  We walked over to Dundurn Castle, not to take photos of the residence itself but to make use of the surroundings - historic grounds open to the public are just full of interesting backgrounds and details: brick walls, wooden barn doors, recessed doorways and tree-lined walks.  Unless you knew (as I've told you) that it was Dundurn Castle, you'd think we had the run of an estate all to ourselves :-)


Photobooths (Real World)

I'm not talking about the iPad software .. I mean those coin-operated photo vending machines that used to be in every mall.  I have any number of these little passport sized photos from my childhood -- icons of fun times with best friends, lazy summer afternoons and Christmas holidays (basically the only times I ever entered malls) but as digital replaced film and cellphones could take pictures, the cult of the photobooth has died away.  To my delight, a friend informed me that the strange yet-to-be-renovated basement of Jackson Square had a photobooth, and off we skipped to find it!  Key to good photobooth pictures is a little bit of planning - we knew this one took 4 photos, and decided ahead of time what poses (stuck out tongue, kiss on the cheek, nice smile) that we were going for.  Success!  And for more photobooth culture:  http://www.photobooth.net/


Healthy Home Remedies

To me, the heat and activity of summer means endless rounds of getting banged up, bruised, tummy aches, irritated skin, so I was delighted when I found this: 100 Healthy Remedies That Are Right in Your Home

10 things from the list that I do always have in my home:

  • Water : Because dehydration can cause a range of symptoms from fatigue to headache, a simple glass of water can sometimes work wonders. Other problems that can arise from lack of water include increased heart rate, dark urine, muscle cramps, and nausea. To avoid these, make sure you get your eight to ten glasses a day.
  • Honey : From healing wounds to fighting infections, honey is said to be one of the most ancient and turned to remedies across the world. It is even used to combat diarrhea, indigestion, stomach ulcers and gastroenteritis. 
  • Aloe : Most commonly used for sunburn, it can also be used to treat wounds and other types of skin inflammation. There are even studies suggesting that aloe can help with constipation.
  • Oatmeal : Not just a healthy breakfast, the beta glucan in real oatmeal can help your skin. Use a washcloth wrapped with oatmeal and wrung into a sink to splash on your face for amazing results.
  • Oregano : Did you know that one teaspoon of this spice has as much antioxidants as three cups of broccoli? Simply add a little to pizza, pastas, sandwiches, and more to experience its benefits.
  • Chamomile : If you suffer from nervous disorders such as insomnia, panic attacks, and twitches, give this tea a try. It also helps with menstrual cramps and ulcers.
  • Bananas : Got a hangover? Grab a banana. Better than a cup of black coffee, bananas contain potassium, which was depleted during that long night of drinking. They can also help with upset stomach and nausea.
  • Cranberry Juice : Also used to treat the above, the juice can even help with urinary tract infections. Be sure to get an unsweetened, 100% juice kind.
  • Wine : The polyphenols found in wine actually can act as an antibacterial agent. They can help with everything from flu to diarrhea. Drinking more than one glass of red or white wine, however, can do more harm than good.
  • Black Strap Molasses : This lesser known healthy remedy contains tons of nutrients including iron, calcium, and copper. It is said to help with everything from arthritis to going prematurely gray.



People often ask me where I get my ideas - and while that tends to vary (books, stumbleupon, straight out of my head) .. there is one site I go back to again and again!  One Pretty Thing is a round-up type website, where the curator Rachel posts her well eyed finds a few times a day: showcasing a different theme every morning and the Daily DIY compilation every afternoon.  If you're stuck for craft, gift, decorating or recipe ideas I'd suggest taking a look!




This Weather is Giving Me A Headache

Here's a few I've found to (for me at least) quickly & effectively deal with headaches:
  1. Putting your feet in cool water diverts the blood supply from your head to your feet.  Bathe your feet in a basin of lukewarm water, then add hot water (optional: chamomile tea) every few minutes until it's as hot as you can stand. After soaking your feet for 5 minutes, pour in cold water until the temperature is back to being lukewarm.  Sit or lie down after as you may be dizzy.  
  2. Put a few drops of fresh lemon juice in a cup of black coffee or cola and drink it in small sips (not if headache is accompanied by nausea)
  3. Moisten a cloth with cold water, wrap around a bundle of rinsed peppermint leaves and alternately apply it to the eyes and neck each for about 15 minutes.


Ratso Italiano

At the Downtown Classic Car Show I got to sit in the incredible one-of-a-kind Ratso Italiano!  A completely from scratch hand hammered, riveted, fabricated and assembled steel hot rod from right nearby in Welland.  Revved up nice n loud .. looks like it'd be fabulous to drive.


Dover Sampler Printable

Ishi-jo wielding a naginata, by Kuniyoshi Utagawa


Exploring the Sandy Shores of Lake Erie: Morgan’s Point

Living in the Niagara area for about two years, I’ve found lots to keep me busy.  From the world-renowned tourist destinations (Niagara Falls, local wineries) to little known but breathtakingly beautiful spots (discovering the older Welland canals, Queenston Heights) I’ve had a great time adventuring!  So far though, one of my favourite days was spent discovering the only Great Lake I hadn’t explored yet: Lake Erie ..
I’d been missing the wild shores of Lake Superior and heard so many people talk about beautiful sandy beaches so I decided to go for a drive.  The area is lovely but the shoreline was almost all private homes and after one look at the number of trucks parked at Long Point and I almost headed back.  Then just to the east, I decided to take a right turn to find a better photo opportunity and stumbled upon Morgan’s Point!  The park is surprisingly diverse considering its size – I wandered back and forth from magnificent shoreline with bedrock shoals and white sandy dunes to tall grass meadows and shady green woodlots.

Publicly re-opened in 2005 after a significant restoration from its former life as a “trailer park and local dumping ground” this unique area is one of a few remnants of the oak savanna prairie habitat that once dominated the Niagara Peninsula and provides an essential stopover for migrating birds and monarch butterflies.  The rejuvenation was made possible by the Ontario Trillium Foundation among other partners and maintains one of the few remaining access points to the Lake Erie shoreline amidst a wave of privatization.

I love visiting naturalized parks because they have an air of wilderness: a number of rare and fragile species are protected in the ecosystems found here.  Staff have stopped cutting the grass and a meandering boardwalk minimizes human impact on the sensitive sand dunes.   I’m also a bit of a geology dork and the rocks along this shoreline show interesting relics of post-glacial deposits (and some strange dried red algae resembling a prehistoric creature’s skin) I was getting sunburned so decided to call it a day but the Grand Trunk Railway Corridor and Wainfleet rail Trails pass quite near by – I'll have to come back for more exploring!


Fred Astaire and..

..Rita Hayworth?  While he's usually linked to Ginger Rogers, and they are undoubtedly THE legendary dance duo .. I think one of Fred Astaire's best dance partnerships was with Rita Hayworth.  She not only complimented him, but kept up with and matched the master of dance step for step!  A stunningly talented dancer in her own right. Here they dance "the Shorty George" a tribute to George Snowden, the original Lindy Hopper


Cat n Fiddle

A British style pub at the corner of Augusta and John St S (Hamilton) featuring a great side patio.  Spent a lovely afternoon over a pint of cider, a quesadilla, and a good chat.


Heat Wave

two ways to beat this heat: 
1) have someone blast you with a hose 
2) hide in the shade of a bigtop-esque trampoline

..its too hot to write anything else..


Summer Lemonade

This variant on the Gin n Juice cocktail is a grown-up's take on lemonade.  Sweet, tart and refreshing with the added spicy botanical flavours of Gordon's gin: juniper, coriander and angelica.  I find gin to be a better clear liquor to mix with juice or soda than vodka because it has a bit more tangy bite and less rubbing alcohol feel.  (ugh shudders I hate vodka)

In a highball glass, pour 2 parts gin over ice and fill glass with 3 parts lemonade.  Garnish with lemon wheel slices.


Oh Canada