Saturday, April 28, 2018

MORGAN ARBORETUM: A MYRIAD OF TREES TO TREAD AMONG



Majestic Growth in a Mature Forest Magically Enchants the Visitor



Morgan Arboretum (40 minutes from downtown Montreal) owned by McGill University since 1945, took over a mighty spread of land that once belonged to the wealthy Morgan family in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. A staggering 600 acres of formidable forest encompass this tranquil haven brimming with many natural gifts – most notably –  40 different native Montreal species, and  many more from other parts of Canada, including exotics from around the world.







 I set off April 27th, knowing the ground might be wet from the rain; it had been a rainy week. Still, I wanted to learn what I could about this tremendous tree-towering site. Along with the public, it’s often frequented by students involved with various research projects from the Macdonald Campus.


There are eight  easy well-maintained walking  trails, ranging from basically 1 to 5.8 kilometres 






 Three of them allow dogs off leash, but only after each dog has been evaluated by the Arboretums’ expert in dog behaviour and sociability to ensure safety for all.


I meandered along a 2-kilometre-patch loop of sorts which brought me to forests, plantations and collections – the latter including the stunning Canada Birch Trail (more about that later).
Of course the Forest Section offered dominant species that most of us come across in urban and country landscapes.
The Blossom Corner – part of the Collections – featured magnolias, linden, willow and virburnum. Also growing within the Collections was the Dale Field where eye-catching exotics captured my attention, such as the Sassafras, Honey-locust, Sicamore and Muscle-wood. Still the Douglas fir and larch  plantations were not slouches – despite the fancy names of the others. Suffice it to say the Arboretum is a lush, gorgeous landmark of greenery and every colour in between, but there are more muted hues at this time of year. Home to hundreds of locally grown deciduous, coniferous and flowering trees, the Arboretum is a lovely place to linger.





A willow tree in the Blossom Corner



 There's a vast variety of shrubs, most from Quebec, and Southernn Ontario, but  also from Asia.  Woodland blooms were  shyly peeking out of the ground as they greeted spring; others, like the extraordinary fire bush were audaciously visible.


Colt's foot


Fire bush

A birch stands over the quarry




Anne Godbout
I was being guided around by Anne Godbout, a keenly knowledgeable botanist, who has been a liaison officer for twenty-two years with the Arboretum. She led me to these above-mentioned distinct areas, starting with a forest mix of oak, hemlock, maple, pine, fir, spruce, ash, hickory and hemlock – to mention only a few species. Anne explained that 15%  of the tree growth encompasses plantations and 5% is collections, such as the Blossom Centre where  flowering trees and shrubs thrive so well; this special spot has its own micro-climate. 
The fact that there are twenty different soil types accounts for such proliferation of growth.  


Anne pointed out two different types of magnolia trees one from China, and the other is native to Southern Ontario. “We even have a single tulip tree here, Anne revealed. “We also have buckthorns and  native butternut trees along with all kind of fruit trees, like the  Canada plum and crab apple – of particular attraction to the birds”. There are more than 180 bird species here and; the trees make for great feeding and nesting. Even at this early spring time, there's nature everywhere. My senses were awakened in a variety of ways. 




I even saw a garter snake!





Barred owl



A feast for the ears and eyes with scents such as the pepper we smelled in one small spot transported me to another world.




        A lone Japanese lilac in the Blossom Corner, waiting to sprout its cluster of flowers, exuded imminent exotica



A Paper Birch-Obsessed Professor Leaves a Legendary Trail
Fifty years ago, after Dean W.H. Brittain's retirement (1934-1955) from Macdonald College; this celebrated founder of the Arboretum dedicated his life to studying paper birch trees. For him, this tree was a true national emblem. He traveled all across Canada with his collaborator, Professor A.R.C. Jones by plane barge, diesel tug and small riverboats and car, collecting birch tree seedlings. 
They eventually were transplanted here. 





This work led to the dedication of the Arboretum’s Centennial Birch trail in 1967. Last as part of Canada’s 150th celebrations, special projects offering food and shelter to wildlife contributed to the revitalization of the trail, fittingly renamed, the Canada 150 Trail. A newly created copse and unique branchery are just some of the conservation projects that spotlight Canada’s natural historical legacy while ensuring longevity of this wondrously white-trucked trail for every generation to cherish.





A Salamander in the Hand Assures Safety
The peeping and cackling sounds I heard came from the peepers and wood frog species that live in the quarry. The shrill peeping sound that rung through the trees weren’t birds but spiny peeper frogs that live in the big pond. There are lots of wetlands at the Arboretum. I got a few soakers myself. Dry or on water, the mix harmonizes in this magical dynamic ecosystem, and sometimes humans can help Mother Nature along, especially if there’s a road blocking the natural course of things. Here’s one example: Within the past few years, Anne described a unique project that truly unites amphibians to human hands.” Every night for these past two weeks and on, we carry salamander and frog and newts by hands from the forest across the road to protect them as they make their way to the big pond down the hill to lay their eggs which happens at the end of April.”  
Anne’s, pleasant manner, patience and explanations brought me closer to contemplating the Arboretum – a gentle giant of growth.  And as I pondered the power of this tree kingdom, I realized the discoveries are endless, if not magical here. One particular comment made by Anne poignantly proved this:
 “Trees are connected underground in a network with fungi. The mature trees nurture their young and some conifers exchange sugars with deciduous trees seasonally.”
It’s a mutually symbiotic process that ensures growth even between different species. (Read more about it on the website).

Indeed the Arboretum has miracles both seen and unseen; it’s a mysterious realm that beckons us back again and again to explore.

The website: www.morganarboretum.org.  It’s richly-informative. It includes easy-to-understand newsletters which make learning about the rich diversity of the Arboretum, guardianship and all projects most enjoyable.
For example: if you want to know more about how trees communicate and support one another underground via a fungal mycelia, go to the website, then click on  publications, and scroll to leaflets; choose the issue, fall 2016. The article about this natural neuro-type transmission is titled: Seeing the forest through the trees.  

The Arboretums' literature is excellent. Get the  trail map, and  make sure to grab the yellow Discovery Map. It's excellent!


An exciting variety of  activities for the public, including all kinds of interesting tours and learning experiences happen throughout the year – as many as four per month.
I want to attend “The Survive in the Wild Outing: Useful Plants
May 13th from 10 am to12 pm..

Call the Arboretum a: (514) 398-7811.
The address is: 150 Pine Street, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, H9X 3V9.



Thank you Anne for making everything so enjoyable!


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

ST. LAURENT HAIR SALON COIFFURE




Remarkable Results with your Hair Happens Here
I’m not one to go to hairdressers. I have unruly, wiry hair that makes scissor-wielding salon employees very nervous. Suffice it to say that stylists and I don’t really mesh; cutting and colouring my own hair has been my modus operandi for years. But that recently changed during a lucky chance encounter with Irene Weinstein, owner of St. Laurent Hair Salon Coiffure in Westmount Square.


Irene Weinstein







Time for a Radical Change
Throwing caution to the wind, I stepped inside her spacious salon. I was immediately put at ease. The calm yet cheery atmosphere was reflected in the clients’ smiles.  I felt relaxed here. It wasn’t boisterously noisy, just nice; I certainly didn’t feel like I was in a hair assembly line.


                                                                             







           Irene  pleasantly greets you

“I want to make you feel like you’re in your own living room”, said Irene who has owned St. Laurent for fourteen years. Formerly, Charles of Westmount, the salon’s now highly appealing white and red interior is the result of her extensive reno. Irene commented that the place has great synergy, and I couldn't agree more. Many factors contribute to this.













Thirty expert professionals, including hairdressers, colorists, make-up artists and manicurists make the magic happen. 





  Warm and authentic, St. Laurent was about to become a haven of  hope for my hair.

In the shampoo area, the smiles continued. Pablo, one of such happy shampoo specialist magnificently washed my hair using Awapuni shampoo; it’s specially formulated for treated hair. 

St. Laurent is a Saco-affiliated salon. Its full line of hair products is a beauty blessing for us all, as Saco – a London, England based company – uses all organic ingredients; they are all vegan! 





                                   St. Laurent's Saco product line embodies                                                                                 its distinct signature of outstanding hair care.                       





                  
A Spectacular Hair Cut!

Hedy was my appointed hairdresser. Her 38 years of experience here and abroad was awesomely reflected in her masterful handling of the scissors.



Every lightning speed stroke with the scissors was done with passion and heart. The calibre of expertise reflects in the type of professionals dedicated to enhancing our own distinct beauty at St Laurent.



Hedy happily handled my hair – all unevenly cut (by me). I began to see a transformation happening – snip by snip. And there were a lot of them. No lazy fingers with these talented hair dressers. As I looked around the room, I witnessed them transform, enhance and handle hair masterfully. They inspire confidence. They know just what to do, so surrender yourself. All of St.  Laurent’s hairdressers will offer you their advice and a free consultation. I walked out of there beaming ear to ear. It was an utterly enjoyable experience. Thank you so much St. Laurent Salon Coiffure for boosting my outer self image and my inner one too. I will be back!






Before the hair cut



After the hair cut



I was happy









St. Laurent Salon Coiffure’s  address is 
1 Westmount Square, suite C 260 in Montreal.
Call (514) 934-3000.  
The website is: www.stlaurent-coiffure.com





Sunday, April 22, 2018

MINISTRE DES POUBELLES (Directed by Quentin Noirfalisse) ***




Emmanuel Botalatala is the Minister of Garbage; he is also an artist who collects garbage for his own creative projects. He makes all kinds of collages from them. He teaches some teens to do  it – even his wife who has devoted her entire life to her artistic husband who seems to see everything through rose tinted glasses. He has hope for Congo and wants more than anything to be recognized by the government so that he can be assured he can pass on his art to future generations. It is a pathetic way to try to live, as artists there make nothing. (Screened at Vues d’Afrique Festival 2018)






L’ART DE LA RESISTANCE AU BURKINA FASO (Directed by Iara Lee) *****



Art in all its forms is the creative force that directly connects to the people. The message in each work of artistic creation holds the message of freedom and goodness; it is practically engraved in each work of art – be it in dance, painting, music, slam poetry and more. The forward looking movement for women is on the rise. A highly courageous people whose identity is unshakeable. They have devoted most of their energies to honouring the slain great leader, Thomas Sankara whose greatest friend, Blaise Compaore betrayed him and took over the country a ruled with a niron fist for some 24 years until the people had an insurrection of great success. In 2104, the country began its journey into freedom. Sankara has never been forgotten. He is called the Che of the country and grandfather of it. Burkina Faso is the little country that could and will achieve its goals of complete emancipation within each individual. (Screened at 2018 Vues d’Afrique Festival)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS WITH GEORDIE PRODUCTIONS


A WHIRLWIND TOUR DE FORCE OF MOVEMENT AND ACTING

Wow! Director, Mike Payette deserves to win his own trip around the world for masterfully getting his trio of actors to their long-distance destination! Based on Jules Verne's novel (written in1873), Geordie’s stage production of this classic story is an ingenious display of theatre at its very best! We were treated to a jaw-dropping journey of beat-the-clock time schedules that involved winning a hefty wager - it's full of herculean travel hurdles, mishaps and ominous obstacles. Great fun for the entire family! The trip was 80 days, but the production took two hours.
Three actors played over 20 different characters, differentiating them all with a prop in hand here, a hat on head there or tossed to another to wear with a coat shoved over shoulders and tons of sleight of hand to make it all happen – all the while rushing around or across the stage to conjure up the people we meet and points – or should I say ports of entry.
I was a amazed at the cleverest use of fabricated transportation which included trains, boats, (forget the hot air balloon) – though it was frequently suggested), even an elephant whose trunk appeared out of the one of the steamer trunks on stage. Two actors climb on top of the steamer trunk and off they go. How clever is that for stage illusion? In fact, these many steamer trunks had multiple uses: sitting on them, standing on them, hiding in them, holding and concealing stage props that could be pulled out within seconds, sometimes marking the number of days passing.




Great Acting
Above all, the acting was truly magical. Along with all the characters, the frazzled trio had to play and shift into new roles within a split second. I would say that stealing the world stage of this play is Danielle Desormeaux. She created within the blink of an eye, a series of differing people – her largest role being that of Passpartout who serves his master, Phileas Fogg – the main man traveling around his world. Clearly, Ms. Desormeaux is a comic genius; I could have watched her all night. I’m surprised Stratford hasn't snatched her up. 
One of the funniest shticks was the drinking scene she did as Passpartout with Mike Hughes while he played Fix of the Yard – a detective from Scotland Yard. The timing between the two was impeccable; and the laughs from the audience were non-stop. Fix the Yard doggedly pursues Passpartout, but is always one step behind master and servant. He keeps trying to snatch the suitcase holding thousands of pounds that he thinks Mr. Phileas Fogg stole. Trying to resolve this trip of calamities is Chimwemwe Miller. He did a fine job as Fogg who always keeps his cool. Mr. Miller is utterly believable, and his voice is notably commanding – similar to that of James Earl Jones.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the actor, Mike Hughes. He needs to delve into creating more characterization with the nine characters he had to interpret. Perhaps vocal accents would have helped and exploring further facial expressions to distinguish each very different role. Although his movement is sterling rich and awesomely agile, nailing the portrayal of each of those very different characters could be sharper.


Behind the Scenes

What a team of wizards to pull all this off! They included: production manager, Amy-Suzie Bradford, Danielle Skene and Stephen Alaire. Sound director, Rob Denton  (great job); Sarah Osmond, head of props;  and Sabrina Miller, set and costume designer –  a shining star in her field.  Multi-talented lighting designer, David Perrault Ninacs wondrously captured just the right amount of shadows and all intensities in between. This effectively enhanced the myriad of moods that came with each journey point. Since each episodic moment cut swiftly into another, each needed lighting contrast, and he did this perfectly.

Take the family to this outstanding production. Reserve now by calling (514) 845-9810. Remaining tickets are for April 28th and 29th, but let’s hope they add another night.
Visit the website. Note the wonderful active surprise it has created for the show itself. www.geordie.ca. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

BAROQUE SPLENDOUR ALL THE WAY WITH BORIS BEGELMAN


(Bourgie Hall, April 15th, 2 pm)

You couldn’t have ordered a better baroque concert than the one presented by Arion Baroque Orchestra this past Sunday, The generous offerings on the plate featured the exquisite musical tastes of Brescianello, Quantz, Vivaldi, Handel, Bach and Telemann. The program’s magnificent music filled us up, but we greedily hungered for more. We got it at the encore with a robust segment from  Corrette's "les sauvages" one of his "Concertos Comiques"; he wrote 25 of them.
So perfect was the matinee performance, so breathtakingly mesmerizing was it; and above all – so rare an experience for us to behold, witness and love the virtuoso brilliance of Russian violinist, Boris Begelman – we were beautifully bewitched by it all. And he conducted too.

Particularly impressive was Mr. Begelman’s herculean ability to perform Vivaldi’s exorbitantly difficult “Concerto in D major” in which the composer pays tribute (1772) to the sacred relic of Saint Anthony of Padova’s tongue. At one point, Mr. Begelman’ s fingers played right up to his instrument’s bridge – barely leaving a hair- length of room for him to bow -  but he did just that ascending with the stroke of the bow into successive high pitched notes that rung out as a bird peeping higher and higher. He is so amazing, and what was unusual was his unaffected, almost expressionless face as he played near-impossible passages that demanded rigorous bowing, contrasting tempi, and unbridled passion within the various dynamics. He poignantly achieved them all: fortes dropping to pianissimos within seconds; lilting mellifluous melodies and majestic sturdiness, as in Bach’s “Concerto in A minor”; and the sweet lushness  we all enjoyed, tantalizingly delivered in Telemann’s “Concerto in F major for three violins”. In this work, we witnessed two great violinists who are members of Arion, stepping out front to play as “soloists”. Hats off to violinists, Chlöe Meyers and Laura Andriani. Their playing captured our attention as their instruments both lustrously and capriciously engaged with one another, and at various times played with Mr. Begelman as a trio while the orchestra often strode in boldly or enchantingly  richly enhancing this delightful Vivaldi-influenced work.
Another first violinist of note is Tanya La Perrière. She passionately produced vigorous moments of sporadic violin dialogue with Mr. Begelman.
Indeed, Arion’s own virtuosity is indisputable. From gentle harmonious adagios to allegros and prestos of such alacrity, the orchestra displayed dashing technical skills to vividly convey the expressive emotions inherent in each piece. This calibre of performance exuded a sophisticated confidence – the kind that only comes with seasoned experience and excellence. Thirty-seven years old; Arion has garnered multiple prestigious awards for specific concert recording, including the covetous Opus and Felix – and this happening alongside numerous nominations).
Finally, one must praise the duet dancing of two fast fluttering flutes played by Claire Guimond and Alexa Raine-Wright. They effortlessly brought to life Quantz’s “Concerto in D major for two flutes.” Flying fast together in all kinds of directions – taking off like playful birds, their perfect harmony tickled our imagination; the flirtatious flutes joyously jaunted – conjoined as a pair. They not only melodically skirted about one another, but they also invited the orchestra into the fun, knowing a full flourishing sound of glory strengthens the validity of lightness and whimsy.

Order your tickets for Arion’s next concert. For all information,
call (514) 355-1825. Visit the website: www.arionbaroque.com

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

COPPER BRANCH



A Remarkable Restaurant Opens in Westmount
Starting in Montreal, Copper Branch now has restaurants in several parts of Canada. Renown for its complete commitment to plant-based cuisine, the company creates delicious dishes that reflect its forward-looking food philosophy. Each bite is an edible treasure where tantalizing taste and nutrition are in balance. Copper Branch contributes to bettering the world through healthy eating and various well-being projects it is involved in.



The Power of Hope, Inspiration and Hard Work
Byron Ruiz had been working in operations in Copper Branch. He believed in the company so much, and was looking for yet another challenge in the company, so together, with his life partner Christine Harries, co-owners, Michelle and Lorenzo DellaForesta  and with the blessing of Rio Infantino, president of Copper Branch, they opened up their own restaurant in Westmount, Quebec. They're all proud to be a part of the Copper Branch banner. Setting up the restaurant in Westmount demanded an intense renovation of the former framing store. Christine put her architectural engineering skills into high gear, and after about six months of rigorous work and everyone pulling together, the banner on a new Copper Branch location was happily hoisted.


Giving with Immeasurable Rewards
But the couple was not motivated by money to do this; rather it was brotherly love. Byron’s brother, Carlos had been diagnosed with T cell lymphoma, but his life-long hope never wavered. It had always been a dream of his to own a Copper Branch Restaurant – ever since the company first started in 2014.


Carlos Ruiz
“It is a gift for me to now be on board in a vital way with my family and friends supporting me all the time in the restaurant. My life really stopped when I got lymphoma and now it’s restarted. It is a total blessing for me to work close up and personal with it all – overseeing many aspects to our restaurant; I really love what Copper Branch is doing to better people’s lives. I also speak about cancer as well holding the Copper Branch banner. It has given me energy and a purpose. When I started here, my eating changed; lost weight and felt far more energized. The food we serve is prepared fresh and with much care. In fact, we are a community here – all supporting one another and spreading that key ingredient: love.”


Carlos with Christine Harries


A Menu that creatively involves the Customer
It’s kind of fun, but you can actually build your own dish with the many appetizing surprises Copper Branch has behind its counter. Substitute quinoa if you like in place of brown rice. I of course was mesmerized the healthy variety of offerings, and relied on Carlos to serve my companion and myself some of his recommendations. I totally loved the spicy black bean burger. The patty was made of black beans, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, brown rice and more. Its home-made South West Sauce was so tasty.  Perfectly shaped carrot keftedes that we dipped into aїoli creamy garlic set off other flavours of turmeric, fresh mint and fennel – to mention a few goodies in this number




Colourful and Inventive: the Taste of Health in Every Dish
Copper Branch offers four fabulous burgers and so many exotically tasty dishes. Even its sandwiches hold the promise of excitement. Imagine digging into the smoked tofu and grilled vegetable sandwich or how about the shitake teriyaki sandwich. I fell in love with the shitake mushrooms on first bite of the General Copper Bowl dish.  Carlos explained that these mushrooms are first dehydrated and then rehydrated. They were scrumptious and filling. I could have ordered a whole dish of them. 


New Astoundingly scrumptious Sandwich that Sent me into Lunch Lift-off Heaven
I returned shortly after the launch of Copper Branch's latest awesome addition: The  terrifically tasty maple bacon tempeh sandwich. I gobbled it up joyfully. Over nine layered ingredients and items go into this edible masterpiece, including, smoked maple tempeh, caramelized onions, Swiss Vegan cheese, BBQ mango sauce and sweet potatoes. The sauce is extraordinarily delicious; its addictive flavour brilliantly enhances the other items in the sandwich. The tempeh itself is marinated with tofu marinate, cinnamon and turmeric. Supremely healthy, YOU MUST ORDER THIS GOD-LIKE creation. 
I capped it off with the remarkable raspberry chia pudding that pours like a sauce into every spoonful. 


Five Power Bowls are offered with a base of several choices including brown rice, quinoa and Konjka noodles. Protein choices are exotic and include Tempeh, Smoked tofu, and Shitake. Flavours seem to travel the world: Greece, Asia, Mexico and the Mediterranean mix. You’ve got to try the basil dressing. It’s creamy and incredibly addictive. In fact, everything I had here was light, yet the variety of ingredients packed into each dish created a remarkable discovery experience for me. Layered with robust portions and flavours, each number had its own colourful presentation with interesting tastes – some spicy, some subtle, but never predictable or boring.





Carlos insisted I try the incredible gluten-free brownie made with cocoa and Zucchini. I was too full, so he handed it to me in his package and told me to make sure to heat it up with coffee. It was sensational! I also tried the cashew lime cheesecake; it was interesting. By the way, Copper branch coffee is an exclusive, organic home-made blend. It is Fair Trade, Swiss filtered and of the highest quality. It’s served with coconut milk, soya or almond milk. No lactose milk here. Copper Branch is a way of life. I’m on board.  





Good news!
They cater for personal and business events.
Copper Branch is located at 5003 Sherbrooke West, at the corner of Claremont in Westmount. Call (514) 379-4616.
They’re on Face book. Look them up at Copper Branch Westmount.