When I was a little girl, my dad used to take us walking in Moore Park Ravine. We called it "going to the forest." For an urban kid, it was pretty exciting.

I had that excitement in mind when Nate and I decided to head out on a walk this past Saturday morning. We headed to Moore Park Ravine and ended up rambling down to Brickworks in the Don Valley, where we bought some hot drinks and pickled beets at the organic market before heading home.

It was such a pretty walk; I absolutely recommend trying it.
Picture
Here's my advice: start at the east end of Heath St., where there is an entrance to the ravine. (You can't get in from just anywhere. You can either drive and park (for free) at the east end of Heath street, or, if you are using the TTC, make your way to Mount Pleasant and St. Clair Ave. and walk about one block north and two blocks east to find the entrance.

Remember to wear decent footwear. The path can be mucky, especially in the spring and fall.

Upon entering off Heath, you'll find yourself on a footbridge that spans the ravine. At the east end of the footbridge, veer left and follow the path that leads you down, below the footbridge, and onto the main path. On the main path, you'll see directional signs.

Walking south along the path will take you to Brick Works and the Evergreen organic market - if it's open. Either way, Brick Works is a nice place to turn around and head back, especially if you're not looking to ramble all day.

The southbound stroll will take you only about 25 or 30 minutes (going very slowly). And it's really beautiful. You won't be sorry.

* Creative Commons image of a stream in Moore Park ravine by Smaku from Flickr.
 
 
People often ask me if I miss Vancouver's "natural beauty." You know. The mountains. The ocean. The blah blah blah.

You know what I say to that? No.

No, I say!

I say no because despite the sprawl, the reputation, and the West Coast Haters, Toronto has plenty of natural beauty of its own.

Case in point: Scarborough Bluffs. I spent Saturday morning hiking (okay, walking) the bluffs with some girlfriends and even though I'd been there before, I'd forgotten how beautiful it is. It's like being on the ocean. Really.
Picture
* Giant red oak leaf found by Emily McNamee, who snapped this image on the ride home.

From below, the bluffs are pretty impressive. Their sheer faces look like hard rock, but they're super soft, and eroding fast. Walking beneath them, we felt a bit worried, actually. Like a chunk could fall off and brain/bury us at any time.
Picture
* Creative Commons image by Alex_Mc from Flickr
Picture
* Creative Commons image by jennyrotten from Flickr
Thanks to the erosion, there are lots of interesting shapes to be seen. I noticed a bit of rock that looked suspiciously like the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus... but maybe that's just my Catholic upbringing talking. :D

From above (you'll have to drive to a different point to get up there) there are pretty paths that overlook Lake Ontario, some beautiful fall foliage, and plenty of nice spots to picnic. Looking out over the lake reminded me of trips to Mexico. That's how huge the Lake can seem.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. But before you head out, some directional advice.
Picture
Alas, walks at the bluffs aren't exactly well marked or easy to find. If you want to explore the beach, my advice is to head to the bottom of Brimley Rd. (see the left-most X on my map). Park in one of the main lots there. There are public washrooms, and at this time of year, parking is free. In the summer, you'll have to pay.

If you'd like to see the lake from above, try parking on Underhill Dr. It's a little tricky to get find. (It's marked by the right-most X on the map.)

What else can I say? Ontario. It's beautiful. Keep it beautiful. Like the license plates. Remember those?
 
 
Picture
I've written an extensive post about my recent trip to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York already (for work), but I thought I'd throw up a short review here too, just because. Because I felt like it. Because I was in the mood.

And because the exhibit -- Why Design Now? --  was so darn inspiring.

First of all, we got into the show for free! The usual entry cost is something like $16 USD, but it so happened that they were letting folks in for free during the exact week of our trip. Thanks to New York Magazine for letting us know about the deal. (If you go to NYC for fun, pick up a copy of the mag while you're there. It's a great resource and will tell you about stuff that real New Yorkers do - as opposed to the usual tourist things.)

Audio tours were also free (as long as you have a decent photo I.D. to surrender in exchange for an iTouch). The audio tours really made all the difference. There was a lot to see and take in and being able to hear the artists speak and watch videos about how the products worked really helped me process it all.

Without the iTouch, I would have felt burnt out much sooner and would have missed a lot of great stuff about the exhibit, like this amazing, solar-powered sun shade that is both a lamp and an umbrella and opens and closes itself like a flower:
Picture
SunShade, prototype. Lianne van Genugten (Dutch, b. 1984), Lianne van Genugten Product Design. The Netherlands, 2009–10. Aluminum, polypropylene, flexible solar cells, nylon, LED light, acrylate. Courtesy of designer. Image from Cooper-Hewitt website.
 
But inspiration aside, here's the thing that struck me most about Why Design Now?:

The glaring question of WHY  these products AREN'T being made. Why are they mere prototypes? Why are so few of them actually available. WHY!? Imagine "invisible" solar street lights, environmentally friendly resins that mimic plastic, paper made of sheep's poo, biodegradeable food containers that can be microwaved and reused, silk that is harvested without killing the silk worm. Imagine it. See it. Read and hear about how possible and tangible it could be. And then ask yourself, as I did, WHY we aren't taking advantage of it, right now.

The glum, jaded skeptic in me thinks that the sad truth is that ethics don't sell. Many of these products mean consuming fewer resources, and frankly, spending less money. And the corporate machine doesn't want us to do that. Innovations like these mean change, and big companies and bullshit superstores don't like change. They live to preserve and growing the business they've already got. Who cares if we're all destroying the world, exploiting other cultures and making a market for sweat-shop labour, right? Sigh.

Why Design Now? is not really now, unfortunately. And that is a depressing thought.

Still, on the bright side, it's a great exhibit if you're interested in sustainability, design and innovation and a nice change from what you'll see at many big museums and galleries in New York. And maybe it will remind you of what is possible. If more of us got on board, we might actually be able to move forward and make real products instead of mere prototypes. It could all be very exciting. :)
 
 
Picture
My partner and I rented (or so we thought) this Wasaga Beach cottage for a weekend ski trip for ourselves and another couple last winter. All seemed legit and well. We sent a deposit cheque, corresponded via email and phone (with bdpike@rogers.com) and were looking forward to our trip, which was set to commence this weekend.

A couple of days before the trip I called to double confirm and to find out details in regards to key pick up, etc., and was shocked to find that the couple who rent the cottage - the Pikes - had "double booked" us (or so they claimed).

APPARENTLY, they had another group in for over a week, and that group had already arrived. Yes, they did have our deposit cheque, but they were still canceling on us (rather nonchalantly, I thought).

The husband - Bruce Pike - claimed this had never happened before (not in "six years" of operation), but if that's true, why weren't they more apologetic?

They said they'd try to look into other rentals for us, but frankly, neither he nor wife Dorothy Pike seemed fussed about it. We were supposed to go up there this coming Friday and finally heard today that we were out of luck.

Supposedly, they said they'd be returning our deposit cheque via mail. (What can I say? I should HOPE so.)

I don't know what to say about this except that I'm fairly disgusted. These people were not embarrassed about their "mistake" at all, which makes me wonder if it wasn't just a scam. Perhaps they had an offer for a longer and more lucrative booking and just bumped our weekend deliberately as a result? Regardless, we should have been informed. We heard nothing until we called them. And had we not called, we would have driven up there totally unaware of the problem.

They certainly didn't seem to value us as customers, which is really too bad because had the experience been good, we would certainly have recommended them and given them repeat business.

I know this is a bourgeois complaint, but as busy city people with jobs, this trip wasn't easy to plan. I have almost no vacation time and opportunity to travel, and it's so disappointing to see our reservation ignored in such a blatant way.

I guess with private owners you really never know what you're going to get. I'd advise anyone who is thinking of a Wasaga / Georgian Bay / Collingwood rental to steer clear of the Pikes and their "best kept secret" cottage. Secret's out: they're unreliable.

Best Kept Secret Cottage
Wasaga Beach
Wasaga Beach, ON L9Z
(705) 429-6043

*Photo by Mike Thorn from Stock Xchng.