What’s Your CNE Personality? Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto (August 18 – Sept. 4, 2017)


The crowds at the CNE don’t lie. Everyone loves the fair. It doesn’t matter if you’re two or 92, there’s something about The Ex that keeps us coming back every year. Even if just for the corn dogs and cotton candy.

What brings you to The Ex? Are you a thrill seeker who craves the energy of the midway, the culinary adventurer who is driven to sample the latest deep-fried creation, an animal lover with a hankering to be back at the farm, a shopaholic in need of some globetrotting retail therapy, or the cultural spectator who is captivated by the lights and showmanship of a good performance like the Aerial Acrobatics and Ice Skating Show? Whatever your CNE personality, you know the CNE will deliver. Here are a few of my highlights this year:

1.) Commemorative Book – History buffs have been able to see compelling online images of the CNE through the ages at http://www.cneheritage.com Now you can purchase the 2017 CNE Commemorative Book for $10. Stories and images highlighting everything from food, fashion and advertising at the CNE from 1879 will be the perfect addition to your coffee table.

2.) Warriors’ Day Parade – In this the 96th anniversary of the parade, many come to honour and show respect to our aging World War II veterans and those who have served and continue to serve in Canada’s Armed Forces. Every year on the second day of the Ex the parade makes its way into the Princess Gates starting at 10:30 in the morning. This year they commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid.

3.) Quilt of Belonging – In celebration of Canada 150 this gorgeous travelling textile art installation made of 263 blocks represents the cultural legacies of all the First Peoples in Canada and every nation of the world. Intricate beadwork and a variety of fabrics tell a resilient story of multiculturalism, solidarity and hope for the future.  Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion.

4.) Bandshell Concerts – Go for the amazing roster of musical talent on tap every night at 7:30. Burton Cummings and Band opened the CNE with a memorable record setting performance for what they say was the largest audience in the history of the CNE. Actor/singer and Toronto expat Kiefer Sutherland, Colin James, Brett Kissel, and John Kay and Steppenwolf are a few of the musical acts in the queue.

5.) Ribfest – Ribfest is smokin’ in the Bandshell Park, or you can feast on a giant turkey leg at Jumbo Smoked Turkey Legs and imagine you’ve just participated in the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament (which is, come to think of it, next door on the CNE grounds).

6.) Origami Canada Land — The Canada 150 celebrations continue in Heritage Court in the Enercare Centre with a stunning origami art installation by husband and wife artist team Yuri and Katrin Shumakov of Oriland fame.  The CN Tower and proud Canadian landmarks are fun to identify, then try your own skills at origami design.

7.) The Unity Pole – Don’t leave without finding Ojibway artist Kris Nahrgang’s story of his quest for unity expressed through symbols etched in the Unity Pole. Enercare Centre (near the lavender cart).

8.) International stage –  Be entertained by performances from around the world (Enercare Centre – Hall B). Germany’s DDC Breakdance, Asham Stompers, Sagkeeng’s Finest & Inuksuk Drum Dancers from Manitoba and Nunavut, Africa and Quebec’s Kalabante, and Canada’s Circ’Opera are some of the stellar lineup in lights.

9.) CNE Aquarama – Get out by the lake and enjoy the waterskiing extravaganza.



Special rates – Only $8 after 5pm Monday to Thursday


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Cobble Beach rocks the Concours d’Elegance

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Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Exquisite classic and vintage cars were unveiled at the 2nd annual Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, September 23rd. The 18th fairway at Cobble Beach Resort near Owen Sound, Ontario glistened like eye candy for the 5,000 refined car enthusiasts who had the opportunity to chit-chat with the owners, take selfies with their favourite cars, or test drive Porsche Canada’s new 911 models.

Judging started early on the show field, which overlooks Georgian Bay, where close to 150 rarely seen luxury cars spanning the past century, in 22 classes, from Museum to Muscle were on public display in the exclusive, by-invitation-only auto show. (Elite cars are selected to participate.) The origins of the Concours dates back to 17th century French high society, when the Competition of Elegance began with horse-drawn carriages strolling through the pristine parks of Paris.

Speed forward to the 21st century where the glamourous VIP Porter package provided roundtrip transportation from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport via a chartered flight to Wiarton Keppel International Airport in Wiarton, Ontario. This was followed by a scenic 10-minute drive by coach to the Cobble Beach Resort in the hamlet of Kemble. It was all very comfortable…and fast!

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Toronto Journalist, Glen Baxter (second from right)

“The cars this year are even better than last year, which I thought was going to be hard to do,” says Robert McLeese, owner of Cobble Beach Golf Resort and founder/chair of the prestigious Concours. “Our American friends have been very supportive, and we have some phenomenal cars, including our Museum class and Micro class. We have some really special vehicles, including a 1963 Mustang. It was a prototype, the #2 Mustang. We have the 1867 Seth Taylor (first car in Canada), which came out of the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, and we have a Delahaye from Colorado, a 135 that is a really beautiful car. Not to mention the Packards, the Cadillacs, and the micro cars, the racecars, and it just keeps going on.”

48 celebrity judges representing 15 states and five provinces selected three winners in each class, based on authenticity and quality workmanship, proper fit and finish of vehicle components, and interpretation of elegance and presence of the vehicle. 13 other awards were handed out, including Margaret Dunning Spirit of Driving and The Willis S. McLeese International Museum Award. Chief Judge John Carlson, National President, CEO, and Chief Judge of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada, says “The overall theme for this show is to have fun and enjoy some of the finest cars and scenery North America has to offer.”

Best of Show and People’s Choice went to the bold and sleek 1936 Delahaye Type 135, one of three remaining Figoni short-chassis coupes. Other winners include the 1904 Oldsmobile Model T French Front in the Antique Pre 1916 class, and the 1970 Ferrari 246 GT M Series Dino Coupe in the Sports Cars European to 1973 class.

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Best of Show – 1936 Delahaye Type 135 Competition Court Teardrop Coupe – Roger Willbanks, Denver, CO

Proceeds raised by the event go to the Sunnybrook Hospital Foundation to fund a rooftop helipad for the Toronto hospital. “Our inaugural year raised over $50,000 for the Sunnybrook Foundation,” says McLeese. “We are committed to giving our very best to support this important cause dear to our hearts and community. The Sunnybrook Helipad will directly affect County of Grey residents by providing trauma cases faster access to medical support, ultimately saving lives.”

Winning raffle tickets included a two-night stay at Cobble Beach with golf or spa, and a grand prize 10kt white gold, blue and white diamond cluster ring from D.C Taylor Jewellers.

The 3rd annual Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance is set for September 12-13, 2015.

(Originally published September 23, 2014)

The 5th annual Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance is September 16 & 17, 2017.

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Anne Frank travelling exhibit and theatrical production in Stratford, Ontario – 2015 Season


Treasures – 151 Ontario Street, Stratford, Ontario

Theatre season is in full swing at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Home to North America’s largest repertory theatre, it’s not uncommon to spot celebrated actors such as Colm Feore and Cynthia Dale both on and offstage, in the restaurants and shops in this energetic theatre town.

One of 13 productions on the playbill this season includes The Diary of Anne Frank, on stage at the Avon Theatre, one of four theatres in Stratford. It tells the compelling story of a Jewish girl and her family who went into hiding during the Second World War to escape the Nazis. The Diary of Anne Frank production runs until October 10.

This production coincides with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on June 6. In honour of this date, The Stratford Perth Museum is hosting a new travelling exhibit from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Anne Frank: A History for Today, runs until October 12th. See never-before-seen artifacts and learn the role Canadian soldiers played in liberating the Netherlands in 1945.


Stratford Perth Museum, 4275 Huron St., Stratford, ON

It’s easy to get to Stratford from Toronto by bus. The Stratford Direct Bus offers $25 roundtrip bus service from the Intercontinental Toronto Centre (225 Front Street West, corner of Front and Simcoe). Via Rail has daily service to Stratford as well. Plan an eventful day trip and pack in one or even two shows. The bus leaves Stratford at 5pm and again at 11pm.

If you’re planning an overnight trip, Ambercroft Bed & Breakfast is a charming 19th century farmhouse on a beautiful tree-lined street, within walking distance to all four theatres, shops, restaurants and the Avon River.


Ambercroft Bed & Breakfast, 129 Brunswick Street – circa 1880

(Originally published August 23, 2015)


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Toronto’s Tour de Dufflet: No cake walk

School’s out and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than doing two of my favourite things: cycling and eating dessert!  Dufflet Pastries’ annual Tour de Dufflet during Bike Month lets you eat your sweets guilt free, as you peddle to all three participating locations. (Distance is approximately 35 Km or more depending on your starting and finishing point.)

I received my $5 passport at my first location on Queen Street East. (You plan your own route and the order of locations you visit.)  The best part is that at each scrumptious shop you get to choose a delicious dessert bar and your choice of water, tea or coffee.  Gobble it down at Dufflets or take it for the road.  After you’re finished you receive a $5 gift certificate for a future visit.

Now if only there were a Tour de Chocolat and  Tour de Crème Glacée!


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Winter Wassailing in Herefordshire, UK

Traipsing through apple orchards and slinging back ciders in the rural hamlet of Much Marcle, England, I learned a thing or two about this renaissance beverage, and the eccentric rituals and traditions the local farmers are keen to uphold.  (Cider has alcohol?)

Read more in the winter 2015 edition of GoodLife Mississauga magazine.                            GL-Herefordshire Winter Wassail There’s also a bit about a wassail that happens on the Canadian side of the pond, on the island of Prince Edward County, two hours east of Toronto.




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Taste of Toronto takes off at Fort York

It was a fun start to Taste of Toronto, with plenty of free samples and celebrity chef sightings to go with your $20 cover charge.  Foodies can eat, drink, participate in Metro Master Class, and stop by the Taste Theatre to see your favourite chefs. (Mark McEwan – top left and Drake’s Alexandra Feswick – top right.)  CTV weatherman Tom Brown stopped by to wish away the rain.  (June 15-18) @TasteofToronto


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Garden Gazing in Toronto

I’ve never been a gardener. But boy do I love flowers. An obvious influence must be that my childhood century home in the country sat on just shy of an acre of green grass, with  a glorious potpurri of wildflowers and splashes of vivid colours no matter where I explored.  The sweet peas in the vegetable garden were one of my favourite flowers, and it was fun to cut bunches to bring inside and display in a vase on the kitchen table.  There were lilac trees, an intoxicatingly fragrant mock orange tree as sweet as candy, lily of the valley, peonies, irises, daffodils, and so many more beautiful colours and smells.

Garden gazing can be a peaceful, meditative pastime, and may inspire your inner artist to pick up a paintbrush, camera or notebook… or even get gardening.

Here are four of my favourite Gorgeous Garden Escapes in Toronto:

1.) Spadina House – 285 Spadina Road


2.) Toronto Music Garden – 479 Queens Quay West

3.) Allan Gardens Conservatory – 19 Horticultural Avenue


4.) Edwards Gardens – 755 Lawrence Avenue East

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