Monday, March 31, 2008

A week in pictures and a video

After you read this blog, you may think that I am a bit of a fibber, but this is the honest to God truth. I have presented above a few of the highlights of my life over the past week, and I have concluded that despite this long drawn out winter, and the high price of gas, and the endless litany of other complaints I might be able to go on about, all in all, I lead, and so do many other Canadians lead a charmed life. Even out here in the boonies - (eastern Ontario is by some standards considered a depressed part of the province), there is so much to do, and so much to appreciate. See if you can attach these descriptions to the pictures above:

  1. A half dead evergreen against a stunning blue sky starkly beautiful along one of the many scenic country roads leading to Ste. Anne's Spa;

  2. Mike, the self described "creepy janitor" (and very much loved) out with some co-workers letting off some steam and showing off his 50th birthday present;

  3. The new lady in my life - Sophie the trotting half Arab mare and her very talented trainer Karilee at Valleyview Stables;

  4. An antique, beautifully inlaid table at Queen's Crown Antiques in Peterborough with a price tag of $28,000!

  5. A display case full of antique glass knobs at Legacy Vintage Building Materials in Cobourg;

  6. My mother posing with Mike's new friend;

  7. A bunch of us red necks out enjoying a lunch break on the last good day for snowmobiling while appreciating the view from one of the many fine vistas in the Northumberland Forest;

  8. A bunch more door accessories at Legacy Vintage Building Materials in Cobourg - need something old and of superior workmanship - this is the place to find it!

  9. Another fine piece of furniture at Queen's Crown Antiques in Peterborough - definitely worth the drive from Toronto if you appreciate fine antiques.

Sophie showing off at the stable.

So there it is, a photo and video montage of a typical week in the country (and I even left some stuff out); imagine what you could do in a lifetime - Celebrate life in rural Ontario!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rituals and revelations

As a Catholic, Holy Week, and Easter have been a significant part of my religious upbringing. In my teens I was an altar boy at St. Margaret Mary's Church in Pine Grove. On more than one occasion my fellow altar boys and I stayed at the church right through the weekend. I wanted to be a priest - I wanted to be the first Canadian Pope. I suppose to a young man the pomp and circumstance, the mystery, the special powers the discipline and the structure of the church was intriguing and in some ways irresistible. And of course there was the allure of belonging, the friendships and the bonding, not to mention the long black cassocks we got to wear. Lately however, I've been questioning the role that church and religion has to play in my life. I suppose going to mass every Sunday does bring a degree of order to ones life - and there is a sense of belonging, and more than anything (sadly), I love going out for a nice greasy breakfast - a weekly indulgence that I almost crave after 6 days of (good for you but a little sour and bland) yogurt, fruit and healthy, fibrous cereal. This week on CBC Radio, I listened to a program about how most religious events were originally tied to the seasons and the lunar calendar. It made the holiness of holy week a little less holy to think that these dates are not tied to real events, but rather selected by "holy men" as dates that worked for the masses. For example, Easter, a time of rebirth, and renewal co-incides with spring. None-the-less, millions of people around the world accept these man made dates and events as times during which they are expected to follow certain rituals and act in certain ways. I wonder what is it that humans like so much about ritual? I suppose, if we repeat the same patterns over and over it helps to distract us from the fact that we are essentially alone, living in a fragile ecosystem in a massive universe of unknown origin spinning on an invisible axis in thin air around a burning ball of fire with old age and certain death as the end point? My revelation from all of this thinking; each of us came into existence naked, with nothing more than a beating heart, and in the end everything that we care about, everything that we accumulate will be be lost to us, including the beating heart. Is it any wonder that religion and ritual and their promise of eternal life everlasting, in exchange for faith and charity have so much appeal to us? I think not, but what alternative is there?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another milestone

This past Sunday my family celebrated the 80th anniversary of the birth of our incredible mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother mother-in-law, and wife. Still as sharp as a tack and as spry as a leprechaun, Nan marked this milestone with a gathering of 6 of her 7 children, 9 of her 14 grandchildren and all 4 of her great grandchildren along with spouses and partners at a grand surprise party at John & Nancy's Eddystone property this past Sunday. Family pets Massie and Simba provided entertainment for the family as photos were taken, ensuring lots of smiles into the bright sun of this glorious day. The afternoon party included a feast of culinary dishes from each of Nan's children and a series of skits. Yesterday, while many Irish or "wanna-be" Irish celebrated St. Patrick's Day, (the actual day of mom's birth), Nan received numerous visitors bringing greetings from far and wide, and then finished off the day with some green beer and chicken wings at a local pub with the die hard party contingent from Ste. Anne's Spa. Nan has been making a quiet, behind the scenes contribution at Ste. Anne's for the past 27 years. Guests at the spa will often bump into her as she freshens the flowers, tidies up and looks after the little touches that make the spa home for many visitors. In her lifetime, Nan has lovingly raised encouraged and inspired seven children, has been involved in countless charitable causes and is a talented artist. She is always on the move with a real penchant for travel. Love for Nan and appreciation for the many ways that she has touched so many people runs deeper than the deepest well. May she have many more years of healthy, happy life full of joy and contentment.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who's genes are you wearing?

This past week brought lots of beautiful new snow to the rolling drumlins of Northumberland County, making for a little frustration, but once the storm clouds cleared we were treated to some crisp sunny days highlighted with huge drifts making for incredible scenery and lots shovelling (exercise). The only real negative were the high number of cancellations we received from people who were spooked by the exaggerated news coverage of the storm. Needless to say, this was discouraging for all of us who worked to clear snow, and made sure we were ready, willing and able to deliver the services that we had been expecting to deliver. I'm sure to get a few lovely calls from those who didn't make it here to tell me how unfair our cancellation policies are, how heartless and reckless I am, etc., etc. For my part, I truly believe that winter weather is part of the Canadian experience that should be celebrated. As long as we dress for it and make provisions for it in our plans, we ought not let it paralyze us with fear, but I'm sure this isn't an argument I'm going to win with those who think I should take the full brunt of losses on account of "the weather".
To keep us smiling through it all we had a weekend visit from two of my mom's sisters, Libby and Diane. Both are quite a lot of fun, albeit a little eccentric. One of the things I love about spending time with family is how it helps to explain why we are the way we are, our quirks, our humour, our character. When my dad comes home to join us in the celebration of my mom's 80th birthday on St. Patrick's day I'm looking forward to hearing more about his family findings in Ireland. We also had a reunion with a favourite former employee, superb massage therapist, and life long friend - Pat from Peterborough, (pictured above with David at Swiss Chalet) in Port Hope on Friday night (yes we made the treacherous journey to Port Hope right in the middle of the horrific storm and lived to tell about it). However, we didn't hold Swiss Chalet responsible for the storm that could have derailed our plans. We had lots of laughs as we reminisced and gossiped about days gone by at the spa. Pat is a wonderful soul with a huge heart who has just recently discovered the Latino zest for life.
This past week I spent a good deal of time on line tracing long deceased family members through the 1901 and 1911 census records. There are some amazing tools available for researching genealogy these days. I love going back to the original records and imagining the people of that era sitting down as the information was being recorded. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, many of these records have been digitized, making them much easier to search. These activities brought me back to the first time I visited the Toronto Library to look up microfiche articles published about the sinking of the Titanic for a school project - I think I was about 9 years old. I've had a fascination with the Titanic ever since; somehow I feel as though I was there, and perhaps I was in another life - who knows.

Monday, March 3, 2008

One of my favourite things . . .

Great stories by real Ste. Anne's guests, our 2008 Testimonial Contest Winners. Enjoy . . .

My wife and I have been going to Ste. Anne's for several years now. Ste Anne's is a place that is close enough to our home but gives us a sense that we are escaping to another part of the world. When we drove up to the spa, for the first time, we felt like we had just arrived in a little inn in Tuscany. It was late in the summer and the spa set amongst that backdrop of green rolling hills was spectacular! The service is excellent, the food is always tantalizing and you always have little extra to complete the experience (e.g. meditation or yoga classes).We have recommended the spa to all our friends and will continue to do so. We would love our next visit to be in the winter to experience the spa at that time of the year. We have been to other spa's in Ontario and Ste. Anne's beats them all hands down! Thank you!

Ste Anne’s Spa holds a very special place in my heart as it was at this serene and indulgent retreat that I decided to share some of the most important news of my life with two of my closest girlfriends. , , To borrow an expression I’d stumbled across several years ago, my girlfriends and I have coined ourselves the ‘spah-yahs’. Living busy professional lives at opposite ends a bustling city, it’s often hard for us to find time to get together throughout the year. But one activity we can always count on to bring us together is our annual spa retreat, and for the last several years we’ve not wanted to enjoy this tradition anywhere but at Ste. Anne’s spa. , , It was at one our spah-yah escapes just over two years ago that I decided to divulge my special little secret. While sitting down to a decadent spa lunch, I announced to my girlfriends that my husband and I were finally pregnant with our first child, an event my dear friends knew we’d been trying to achieve for some time. With my celebratory news officially out in the open, the three of us sat there with tear-glistened eyes and bright smiles and gleefully toasted the occasion with glasses of sparkling spa water. , , It truly was the perfect way to play out the scene and I have since guarded a special mental picture of it that I remember fondly every time I think of or visit Ste. Anne’s.
My daughter was a real rebel when she was an adolescent. As a result, we clashed furiously and our relationship was a strained one. A couple of years ago she got married, and I decided to take her to St. Anne’s as a special treat and in an effort to ease the tension between us., , We stayed overnight in the wonderful little apartment in the cottage of the grounds of St. Anne’s. Over a delicious meal in the restaurant, we started to speak woman to woman –Because we were so relaxed, she showed a willingness to actually listen to me. We exercised together, dined together, swam and laughed together and sat talking in the hot tub. In those two days and one night we were able to finally reach out to one another and mend all those broken fences. Today we are extremely close: and I have St. Anne’s to thank for it. Thank you for making it possible.
I have been best friends with Cindy and Marian since high school. We have been there for each other in good times and in bad; laughing, sometimes crying, but always bonding along the way. One might say we are more like sisters than girlfriends., , Since our birthdays are quite close together, we have traditionally celebrated “growing younger” together. We have always walked away from these nights filled with love, enlightenment, and a list of ways to “better” ourselves in the upcoming year…, , In 2007, we decided to skip the traditional dinner/drinks/dancing routine and opt for a more relaxing birthday celebration – we decided to head to Ste. Anne’s for the day!, , Our drive from Toronto to Ste. Anne’s was fun and memorable. We filled the time reflecting on life, relationships (past, present, and for the single girl in the car – future), kids, work, hobbies, passions, and the other fun stuff girls like to talk about! , , We arrived at St.Anne's in perfect time and all lamented on the beautiful grounds (outside and in). After checking in and getting our lockers, the three of us signed up for a yoga class and a reading class in the yoga studio., , The three of us were the first ones to sign up for the reading class, and I remember commenting how amazing it would be if we were the only ones in the class. Sure enough, when we got there after lunch in our comfy robes – there were only three pillows beautifully arranged, head-to-head, on the floor. Each pillow was a different colour. We were so excited!!, , After the beautiful and moving reading session, our instructor sweetly gave us a basket filled with “relections” and asked us to individually pick a piece of paper and discuss what was written on it. Since she knew that we were all best friends, she gave us this special time alone and left the room., , We each picked a piece of paper from the basket. As Cindy began reading hers out loud, I realized that I had the exact same reflection written on my paper. To our amazement, Marian had chosen the same reflection as well! We couldn’t believe the odds of this happening and even read through the remaining slips of paper to see if this reflection was typed out more than three times. Incredibly, there were only three slips of paper bearing our chosen reflection…which was, “You are whole. Just the way you are.”, , What does Ste.Anne’s mean to me? , , Ste. Anne's means a lot to me, because during my visit to the spa, myself and my two best friends, received a unique birthday present which helped us with our onerous quest for self-improvement; the realization that WE ARE WHOLE. JUST THE WAY WE ARE. It was truly an experience we will never forget.

Ste. Anne's is a reminder of the most wonderful time of my life. , I was preparing for my wedding in the summer of 2006 and like all brides-to-be I was experiencing a healthy amount of stress. My 3 best girlfriends (and bridesmaids) told me that they had planned a special bride's day and that I was to be ready to go at 7:00am with bathing suit in hand. I had no idea what a wonderful day they had planned. , Our day started with morning meditation and a soak in the whirlpool. I was then booked for a 1 hr massage that melted all my worries away. While enjoying all the amenities at the spa, we got much needed girls time to laugh and reminisce about the years of friendship we have shared. , I felt so special on that day knowing that I had friends who loved me so much that they thought I deserved a day to remember at Ste. Anne's.
When I first came to St. Anne's Spa my husband gave it to me for Christmas. I had just finished chemo and it was an amazing gift to receive. I had no idea what St. Anne's spa was and I was very pleasantly suprised. It was a wonderful experience. I stayed overnight and was treated to so much luxury I really was in awe....I came home feeling like a new women who could face just about anything. The spa at St. Annes showed me a whole new way to relax. I have told several people about my experience. I had in the past tried other spas but St. Annes really outshines them all. Thank you St. Annes for making me feel like I have truly come out the other side.....I couldn't have received a better gift...Georgia Colquhoun

Ste. Anne's is getting my staff excited! Everyone at work was so cranky in January, I booked a group getaway for our whole staff to come next week. Each of them will have $200 in spa treatments, a chef come and cook us dinner, and most importantly this will bring us together as a team. I have never had so many people thank me, and tell me how excited they are with anything else I have ever done for my staff. We already have matching flip-flops to flop around while we wear our Ste. Anne's robes. Thank you for giving my staff, and therefore my business a boost. We can't wait to come!, Regards,, Rhonda MacDonald, The Southampton Pet Hospital
my wife and I have 5 children, i am a self employed businessman. just to have the chance to get away to your spa for a couple of days put an amazing spark in our world. being relaxed and pampered gave us both what we needed to let the stress go. as a result the conversations were perfect, and our connection as a couple, partners, and best friends. our ability to communicate was never better. we both had treatments throughout the day, then meet up in the waiting area (robes and all), chat a while, have a tea then off to another type of treatment (my first time and not the last)- back for lunch etc. i highly recommend your spa for any couple looking to let it all go, rejuvenate, and most importantly....reconnect....thank you for that!
Last summer, on a gorgeous sunny weekend, St. Anne’s gave me an experience that I know will remain as a special and unique memory for the rest of my life. I spent the weekend with my 86 year old mother and my 16 year old daughter. A three-generation celebration... 80 years separate my sweet mom and my darling daughter yet they are as close as sisters. Over 154 years of experience and memories between the three of us. This time of conversation, sharing memories, relaxation, and just communion with the girls, in such a beautiful environment was inspiring and eye-opening. Amongst the flower gardens, lounging by the pool, watching the wild bunnies in the evening, over high tea and sumptuous meals, in our jammies at night together, we talked and laughed. Even though we can finish each other’s sentences, there were so many stories of times that we did not know about, and we reached an even deeper love for the other with each rich reminiscence. It would not have ever happened without the serenity, comfort, beauty and harmony of St. Anne’s. Thank you for that.

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember a few of my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad . . . I wasn't feeling particularly bad, other than trying to fight off a bit of a cold that had been dragging on, but I certainly felt much better after spending the better part of the day with the ten winners of our 3rd annual Testimonial Contest this past week in Toronto. This wonderful group of customers - (a real cross section of Ste. Anne's guests), were so appreciative, so complimentary and so articulate in their enthusiasm for our product, that I was brought to tears. Our day started off at CHFI's Toronto studio at Bloor and Jarvis. Our "hostess" Shelby (also a Ste. Anne's guest, and a radio sales veteran), made everyone feel comfortable and relaxed. Conversation was lively as stories were traded around the table. While Shelby took each of the "testimonians" into the studio to record, our guests took turns in the massage chair and the make up table, getting ready to have their pictures taken. When lunch time came around we hopped in a stretch limousine for the short trip to Bistro 990 where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. By far and away, the greatest reward of being in the spa/hospitality business is the time we get to spend with guests and hear from them how what we do has had a positive impact on their lives. Over the years, we at Ste. Anne's have been truly blessed with thousands of wonderful, appreciative, charming guests. Thank you for this privilege! By the way, the woman sitting in the foreground in the group picture is 86 years young. She was amazing. I asked her what her secret to longevity was - she told me that she has a 35 year old living inside her who keeps her in line.