Sunday, December 4, 2016

North American Notes

Summer in Toronto was long and lovely this year.  In fact, the mild weather has really continued on throughout the fall up until now although we have been warned to expect a 'traditional' snowy winter!

Nothing screams summer for me more than watching tennis and I had a super day at the Rogers Cup tournament again.  Although I was disappointed many of my favourite players dropped out due to injury or the impending Olympics, I managed to get a ringside seat to watch Stan 'the Man' Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic hit a few balls around the court.

Shortly before my secondment to Medicine ended and I returned to my job at the English Language Program, I decided to have a long weekend away.  I headed north to Quebec City to stay in a monastery for a few nights. The Monastere des Augustines was a great find. The monastery, which at one point had over 120 nuns living and working there, has been turned into a foundation-managed boutique hotel and retreat as the handful of nuns still living there realized they wanted to preserve both their legacy and continue to raise funds to support work in the community after they were gone.  The building has been beautifully renovated and the nun's cells are now the hotel bedrooms.  There is a lovely restaurant serving locally-sourced, organic food.  It is also where breakfast is served in silence - a few people struggled with this!  I enjoyed exploring the old town and took the slow way home by train to see a bit more of the country I now call home.

Also in September, I managed to do one of those things that define you as a Canadian - I went to a hockey game.  My good friend, Guy, was over from Leeds for a few weeks working at the World Cup of Hockey here in Toronto so kindly treated me and some friends to a night at the rink.  Tickets for hockey games are usually very expensive and we not only had tickets, but seats in an executive box.  I was glad I had some Canadian friends on hand to explain the rules as I was a bit confused by the players staying on the ice for about a minute and then jumping out of the rink.  There were a fair few punch ups as well but I'm told this is 'sport'!

I continued to pursue my own new hobby of sewing over the summer and took a course in quilting.  However, when compared to some of the spectacular quilts I saw on display at Quilts at the Creek, I have a long way to go! These works of art were very impressive and something to aspire to.

Still, I am pursuing my craft and have now added lingerie to my repertoire.  In October, my skills were honed further when I attended a wonderful 'sewing camp' in the Catskill Mountains, a few hours north of New York. Joining almost 100 other sewists at Camp Workroom Social, I had a great time learning how to make bras as taught by Amy Chapman of Cloth Habit.  Not only was the weekend challenging and fun but it was set at the amazing Frost Valley YMCA surrounded by the most gorgeous trees and nature that looked at their absolute best with the fall colours being at peak.  In addition to sewing, I took part in a pyjama party, knitting, yoga, archery and a campfire sing song.  I was delighted to win the Camp Trooper Award for being determined to finish my project, which I did!

Before going to camp, my friend and I had a super few days exploring New York City.  We stayed in a cool and reasonably-priced hotel called The Jane.  The hotel is located in the West Village close to the Hudson River and Meatpacking District which meant we had ample opportunity to explore the nearby sights on foot and by bike.  These included the High Line Park and incredibly moving 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We also saw an off-Broadway show, "Love, Love, Love" starring Richard Armitage and had fun exploring the Garment District on the hunt for bargain fabrics.  In addition, we went back to school and took a class in Fabrics 101 at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

At the end October, I used my beginner-level fabric-draping skills to construct my Halloween costume and enjoyed scaring the small children in the neighbourhood as we handed out sweets to the hundreds that came by trick-or-treating.  Again, this year, I also enjoyed the pumpkin parade the day after and admired all the many pumpkin creations.

In November, I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friend in the pretty university town of Guelph and also headed up to Ottawa, where I managed to catch up with my friend, Fair, before spending a few days at the Canadian Bureau for International Education Conference.  During my stay in the capital, I had an out of this world experience when I happened to meet Canada's most famous astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield.

Next week, I jet off to the UK and will spend three weeks catching up with family and friends over Christmas and New Year.  I wish you all the very best for the holidays and a wonderful 2017!