Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unearthing the mysteries of the mushroom  

I truly had a “SensoriuM” revelation on this amazing mushroom walk, given by Alexis Williams. I was so impressed with Sensorium's mission – to bring to fellow SensoriuM followers the chance to discover through our senses, both the physical and taste experience which we either ignore or know very little about.  Natalie, an engaging performance artist whose work involves space and place discovery and her partner Eric – a rock climber during summer and winter (ice climbing mountaineer too) arranged the car pooling up to Montreal’s Morgan Arboretum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. It was exceptionally well organized. The couple’s commitment to what they do (no one pays them) is palatable. I truly admire their spirit and innovative sharing approach that allows others the opportunity for holistic and stimulating discovery at every SensoriuM event. 
This particular outing introduced us (we numbered over 20 eager scouts strong) to mushroom maven and guru gal herself – the awesome Alexis Williams.

Although Alexis claims she isn’t a scientist, but rather a passionate forger, grower, eater and artist focused on mushrooms, her  vast knowledge thoroughly impressed us as did her primordial instincts, eagle eye and astounding fact retention regarding the complexities of the oft misunderstood and underappreciated world of the mysterious mushroom. She started by showing us her foraging tools: a basket, a special knife, an axe, her portable mushroom guide, and more. She explained  us the many ways different species multiply and how they live off trees, sometimes even eating the bark, and their role in creating the very soil we walk on. 
In fact, as we tread through the Arboretum’s Climax Forest in the grey fall wet weather – yes, it was a rainy day, she pointed out that the leaves we were walking on would disappear as compost, thanks to the mushrooms manner of decomposing that which falls on the ground. It was a day of colour with the fall leaves and the mushrooms; the hours flew by.  
She encouraged us to find mushrooms, and that we did. It was an interactive adventure that each of us took as we went on our discovery journey finding mushrooms with Alexis leading the way  - eyes peeled to the ground or looking waist-high as we witnessed tree trunks rising tall and those that had fallen.  




I had no idea that the world is populated with 5million different kinds of mushrooms and that there are 13 sex genders to mushrooms. On this walk, we had a “taste” of such mushroom mania; a myriad of mushrooms that delighted our senses. They provided a feast for the eyes; we also touched them, and smelled them and stood in wonder at the brilliant hues, even the dark brown brilliant ones. I loved the turkey tail mushroom with their fanning feature enhanced by rippling lines hued in turquoise. The inky capped one that left within two short days an inky trail at its life end was petite but impressive. In fact, Alexis has used its ink to dye her stockings. She was wearing one such pair with its brown stripes – thanks to this inky little mushroom. The disco lemonade mushroom with its brilliant tiny yellow spots clinging to down-on-the-ground tree trunks was an Alexis' favourite.  
Then there were the puff ball ones. We had fun playing with them. They emitted a surprising smoky plume from their tops as we squeezed them.  A row of black deadman’s fingers brazenly poked up from a log – each one seemed to be “giving us the finger” and the sky above. Far more regal was the artist conch mushroom; it was most impressive as it robustly juts out from trees. Alexis had etched a wonderful series of tiny criss-cross patterns in the one she owns. She explained that she can use it as a slow cooker by burrowing a hole in it, and that inside its layers is fluff. 


There was the honey mushroom, the spongy coral mushroom and so many more – some not edible – others were. 
As we reluctantly headed back to the chalet to enjoy the home brewed chaga mushroom tea (the big mushroom soaking in the big pot), we were most happy. We had gone on a magical mushroom tour set me on my own private journey to discover more next time I tread the forest floor. 



Below is a marvellous sampling of the prints Alexis makes from the mushrooms she photographs and turns into art. She’s an intrepid mushroom collector who utilizes every spore to grow more mushrooms; she makes complete use of these fascinating ‘creatures’. Their secrets will come out of hiding with Alexis at the helm.

Definition of a climax forest: 
Climax vegetation is the vegetation which establishes itself on a given site for given climatic conditions in the absence of major disturbance after a long time. Tropical evergreen forest is an example of climax vegetation, as are temperate forests, tundra, savannas, grassland etcetera... 
The SensoriuM is a collaborative artistic platform founded by multimedia and performance artist Natalie Doonan in Montreal, Canada in 2011. Le / The SensoriuM is an alternative tourism bureau of sorts that re-conceptualizes consumption through active participation in the production of social space. Le / TheSensoriuM presents participatory art performances with the aim of generating conversation. Through tours and tastings led by artists, participants are engaged viscerally, creating spaces for discussion. Tours and tastings are two major forms through which stories about place proliferate and Le / The SensoriuM offers chances to unsettle staid narratives. This approach to collective learning through walking and eating is a new take on an old theme. For example, Aristotle founded the Lyceum, a school of philosophy, in Athens circa 335 BCE. It is said that on the grounds of this property, he established the first zoo and the first botanical gardens. These became the field for his famous investigations in the natural sciences. In the mornings, Aristotle walked and exchanged knowledge with his students through discussion and debate in the gardens. This was continued through lunch, as they ate together. Aristotle’s ambling academy became known as ‘the peripatetic school,’ drawing from the Greek for ‘walking about.’ Today, the city becomes the field for peripatetic and culinary investigations. 
The purpose of Le / The SensoriuM is thus to activate public space through physical occupation and through open, ongoing exchange. As authors Jody Emel and Jennifer Wolch say: "Our political project is the creation of many forms of shared space.” 

For more information on the SensoriuM go to:  http://www.lesensorium.com   
or email /  info@lesensorium.com  


Mont Royal is smack in the middle of Montreal and forms the crowning landmark of  nature and man-made landmarks that beckons the entire city to come and have fun. Walking through its forested area on path or on the winter trails summer, fall, spring, and the cross-country skiing is most satisfying for all ranges of accomplishment - beginner and expert.
Did you know that when you enjoy this vast mountain where you can hike a half hour or 3 hours, your feet are treading a large volcanic-related incline?
Part of the Monteregian Hills noted for their greenery.

 This particular gentle mountain consists of three peak:: Colline de la Croix (or Mont Royal proper) at 233 m (764 ft), Colline d' Outremont (or Mount Murray, in the borough of  Outremont at 211 m (692 ft), and Westmount Summit at 201 m (659 ft) above sea level. The lookout is fabulous. Climb the 300 steps if you approach it from Pine Avenue.

The first Nations people used to make fires here. Nowadays, you can barbecue, and enjoy a great picnic by its man-made lake, called Lac Castor (Beaver Lake; no beavers here, just ducks).

This body of water is a wonderful way to enjoy the breeze and rippling water. I hopped on a row boat to row around this lovely little lake. It’s 200 metres (660 ft) in length and of 150 metres (490 ft) in width Beaver Lake is shaped like a four-leaf clover. Shallow, it is emptied in winter to serve as outdoor rink. Great recreational, activities including biking, tobogganing, bird watching and even a ghost tour are part of the fun.
The statues have their own history, so check out this website below for all information.
The website is: www.montreal.com/parks/mtroyal.html

Lots of photos to enjoy on the website. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Getting Older, Getting Wiser, Getting Ailments

Life is a bowl of cherries, and when we’re young, those cherries are beautiful and shiny red. As we get older, it seems those cherries begin to shrivel, turn brown and leave a musty taste in your mouth. Before you know the bowl is full of cherry pits. 

Let’s face it, our bodies seem to do the same thing, yet our minds (if there is no clinical illness) are soaring ahead with all kinds of fantasies, new ideas for our third career, even wishing we could travel the world and stay in the most unique accommodations. Some women even wish they could bear children at the age of 60. 

Why is this? Why are our bodies not in sync with our minds?
 I believe as the body ages, God wishes us to remain happy, and so we compensate for our physical ailments by allowing our brain to be flooded with renewed zest. Have you ever noticed how cheery and childish in a fun way older people can be. They say whatever pops into their heads, and they also reveal many of their wishes for escape. Maybe this is what keeps us going. In the end, it would seem the imagination is our most powerful engine, not our brain. So when those aches and pains set in, get your mind into the zone of great escapes, great dreams, perfect love for those you do love and send a lot out to yourself as well. I suppose the most harmonious way to age is keep fit, accept your new ailments, and all the adjustments you must make, and laugh, laugh, laugh.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


I love music, but there’s a time and place for it. Of course, please sing if you wish on the sidewalk. In the Czech Republic, people at any moment can simply stand and sing opera. How gorgeous! Moving and splendidly evocative of an epic period shining with stunning compositions that please the ear. And these spontaneous outbursts of vocal beauty are shared with us at normal hours during the day – not after 11 pm. Please play your instrument spontaneously if you want if the music is not heavy metal, but don’t inflict your radio music on me as your car whizzes by or comes to a halt at a red light. It is utterly intrusive. Worse still, my ears are treated to enormous radio pounding at all hours of the night, including and at wee hours of the morning. So I can’t sleep, and hundreds more on my block can’t sleep. This is noise pollution at its worst,. It’s enough to turn us off pop stars, because their fans are wrecking my right to have peace. What is it about people who think they must share their music with the entire street? I say, police should be monitoring this after 11 pm. Or do we need to educate more and create a course on correct decorum and civil behaviour regarding music. Whether the car window is up or down, the radio play comes blasting out. It’s bad enough we have cell phone conversations in public. Now it’s music in the car. What’s next?! Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Unachieved Talents Can Cause Frustration … but should they?

I’ve met so many talented people in my life – not only through my 17-year-stint as an arts’ columnist for a Montreal newspaper, but in so many casual encounters.
In more cases than not, the majority of people have expressed varying degrees of frustration at not being able to make it their life’s work. They can’t get recognition; they are not famous; no one appreciates their work, but mostly I hear the dismay at carrying a day job that has nothing to do with their artsy dream to achieve and be known for their art.

I’ve met bus drivers who sing gorgeously, corner store owners who play classical violin stunningly, daycare workers who paint passionately with excellence to match.
I, myself am somewhat of a creative person, having made 3 CDs with my songs accompanied by banjo and full band, created a board game for kids, written books for kids adn adults,  but despite public performances, and TV stuff etc,  no one really knows this. Am I frustrated? Not at all. I thank the lord that I was gifted talents that I acted upon - which did take a lot of hard work and persistence to get where I wanted to go. Yes, there a several film scripts buzzing through my head, - some even getting to the treatment stage and perking interest in a producer, comedic skits that drill holes through our society and evoke belly laughs (I think), but the fun of having a talent is having one or two or more and using them to fulfill your own imagination and need to enjoy yourself.
I would hope people congratulate themselves for doing what they like to do, and not feel good or that they have fulfilled your talent only if others see what you have created.
The world is a lonely oyster; you are the pearl inside. Open it and don’t wait for others to compliment your shining pearl. You know it’s there! And that’s good enough.

Monday, July 17, 2017

CONFIDENTIAL ASSIGNMENT (Directed by Kim Sung-hoon) *****

North Korean detective Cheol-ryung is guarding a Pyongyang laboratory. Cha, his one-time superior and his gang of thugs steal plates for printing counterfeit US dollars. To get the goods, Cha invades the lab, but not without brutally killing workers there, including Cheol-ryung’s wife. 
Cheol-rung  is ordered to go to South Korea to get the plates back.  But he's also personally motivated to get the killer,; after all, the thug killed his wife. He’s totally dedicated to his country, but is paired with Kang, a policeman who certainly does not feel the same way. While Cheol-ryung is tight lipped about the operation, and Kang is passionately curious and caring, the latter is left in the dark as to why his North Korean partner is really here. Is it really to find a murderer, or is it for something else?

The action is super, the comic scenes fetching and ironically - often touching. The plot is brilliant. I loved the fact that North Korea has its own unusual twist: the hero  is from there.
In the end, politics falls to the wind as both men are able to embrace one another and soften their own hard-lined thoughts about each other. This is a must-see entertaining winner with some political themes embedded in the story which are handled in humorous way, bolstered with snappy sparring between the two men. The chemistry between the two characters are great, mainly because their contrasting personalities are wonderfully exploited. There’s never a  lull in this ingenious script. It was in this year’s Official Selection in Hawaii’s International Film Festival.  Shown at this year's Fantasia Festival, it won best film.

Thursday, July 13, 2017



                                         A COCOON FOR SUBLIME RELAXATION

Nestled alongside the waterfall of the North Missisquoi River, the beauty begins. The setting with its never-ending cascade of scintillating pleasure instantly has its healing effect on all who enter the premises. You can hear and see the watery symphony at every turn.

                 Dip your feet in


 Snooze beside it as you stretch out in one of the spa’s riverside hammocks. 

                               Listen, watch, breathe it all in!                                                                       

I was so taken with this view, I sat for a good hour just listening to the waterfall and watching the birds dart among the trees.

Unquestionably, one of the Spa Bolton’s most distinguishing features is the harmonious integration of outdoor beauty within the spa’s interior. Take a look at the ceiling over the reception desk. Yes, that is a panel prettified with real moss that’s fed by the humidity from the spa. It’s colourful and enhanced by the wood-covering panels alongside it.  In addition, a  magnificent Medusa, carved from a litchi tree impressively adorns a wall. Fabulous to behold, it reminds us all how nature's growth can be transformed into a work of art. You can't miss  its striking effect, it as you enter the reception area.

No matter where you gaze, the outdoors is ever-present. Inside treatment rooms, it’s not just your body that will be massaged by the view, but your senses as well.

                                A Unique Place for your Massage
Surrender yourself to Spa Bolton’s natural magic, and soon personal epiphanies begin to fill your soul.  How utterly charming and ingenious that a series of adorable yurts is where you receive massages. 

 A flap lifts up over a screened portion so you can hear and see the waterfall. And that’s not all. Overhead, the sky comes into view via a small glass dome. Watch the clouds float by as you lie on your back, and drift into massage heaven. I had a wonderful full-body massage given by Guylaine, and although I had the choice to have it in one of the six bigger open-to-the river, tent-like yurts that were on higher ground, I was perfectly content with the breeze  that sifted in, and the sky above me. It was like a mirage; I was looking at a portion of sky painted by Michelangelo.  But within hours, the pools beckoned. 


                                               Pick your Pool
  Of course Spa Bolton is all about the baths! There’s a kidney shaped swimming pool with a waterfall you can activate with the press of a button. Two really warm Jacuzzis also operate the same way, and let’s not forget about the polar bear pool that you absolutely must use once you spend time in one of the two dry saunas or the steam room.

 Julie Paige, who has been working at the spa since it opened, knows everything there is to know about Spa Bolton’s healing powers. She insisted I do four alternating dunkings between the hot steam room and the “freezing” cold pool to help me with my arthritis. I did it, and for the first time, my knee no longer hurt. I escaped as well into the heated big yurts; there are two.


    Lie down down on a chair
    or one of the huge floor cushions.

Julie epitomizes the incredible friendliness exuded and the casual ease one feels with the staff.  “No one is a client here; each person is our guest.”
Indeed the hospitality of this homey spa was what I think I most enjoyed about the personal side of things, aside from my treatments.
I had an hour-long facial, masterfully given by Véronique.  She used Ella Baché’s tomato-based products from France. They felt divine.Véronique gently applied at least 10 different hands-on-my face applications. The mask which gave me a noticeable after-glow consisted of macadamia nuts, cranberry, camphor, and tomato. Best of all, while leaving it there to work its healing effect, Veronique began applying cream on my arms and hands while rubbing them. That’s a facial with a highly soothing added touch.


                                  Changing the face of my feet
I had an hour-and-a-half pedicure that was foot fabulous. Twelve steps were needed to get my feet into silky smooth shape. This included a UV lamp to solidify the gel nail polish and an exfoliant that went knee high – not to mention the zillion other things she applied to my feet along with massaging them one exceptional part included putting my feet in plastic bags filled with very warm melted paraffin wax. 

Véronique applied nail polish, appropriately named Elite 99, that actually changes colour depending on how hot or cool your body temp is. Now how cool – or should I say hot is that!!! From fuchsia for heat to orange for cool, my toes became my very own thermometer.
Truth is, you should stay here as long as you can. Fortunately, Spa Bolton is open until10 pm.  It is so romantic at night. 
Enjoy the many treatments and idyllic natural surroundings the area offers.

                            The Villa

I spent three nights housed in Spa Bolton’s 4-bedroom spacious country villa. 

You can book the entire villa for your family and friends. If you’re alone, common areas, including the two bathrooms, ground floor living room, dining room and kitchen will be shared with newly arrived overnight guests. But it is so big, it’s easy to find your own privacy. My room was lovely, and the bathroom next door was ever-so roomy.


                                        Outside was equally splendid

                                           A Site for a Visionary
Owner, Claude Provost junior, son of the late great hockey legend who played for the Montreal canadiens, is a man of vision. He saw the waterfall and fell in love with  the site. Formerly a mill sat here, (the waterfall reminds us of this). Claude was set on keeping everything natural when he began building his spa. Ingeniously, solar energy acts as a geothermal station for the building and water heating. In 2001, Spa Bolton was opened, and soon word spread about this unique place built with heart by a conscientious man keen on creating a healing environment. 

How lucky for us! I left wearing a smile that perhaps resembled the enormous wall mural that greets you at reception.

Spa Bolton offers a specified series of treatments and great packages that also include overnight stays. It’s open every day of the year, winter too!
Only an hour-and-a-half easy drive from Montreal,
The address: 883, route 245 south, Bolton-Est.
You can also call them at (1-888)944-4772.

Although Spa Bolton has wraps, snacks, soup and cookies, full meals are not served here. Julie suggested I dine at Auberge du Petit Randonneur in Potton. Only six minutes away by car, this one-of-a-kind dining hall is akin to a Quebec-style Downton Abbey. You can even sleep in one of its six expansive rooms, including a suite. Historical in feel, and resembling an enormous dance hall, the place possesses 140 acres of pastoral views. Hosts, Louise and Serge are about the nicest people you can ever find. They made me feel so at home, I spent over three hours there just talking and being given a tour of this impressive old-world mansion. Staying here did cross my mind.

My candlelight dinner with Serge and Louise

Together the couple cook up hearty home-cooked meals. They even make their own beans. I had the most tender fillet Mignon that Serge served me. His coup de grace is the sauce he makes from scratch with onion, and broth from the beef and more. I told him he should bottle it and sell it. He did bottle it, in fact, handing me lots to take home with me. How generous is that?  I liked the place so much, including their affable company, I went back for their big breakfast the next day. The huge portions of egg, sausage, ham toast, beans listed on the menu as a brunch breakfast hit the spot. In fact, every Sunday, Louise and Serge serve the best brunch this side of Bolton. Their home-made strawberry compost is to die!
Call to reserve: (450) 292-4444.

Another place Julie recommended was le Côte in Eastman, about 12 kilometres from Spa Bolton. Bustling busy, popular and noisy, this happening place is known for its meat, fish  and chips, mussels and innovative dishes. I ordered a bavette (flank steak) and a terrific tataki.

The parsnip soup was creamy good too.
I loved the barbecue popcorn with melted Parmesan cheese that was served in a little bag you before your main meal arrives. 


                                                        The crème caramel  was a taste treat.
Here is the website:  www.lecote.ca