Friday, October 17, 2014

Arepa Cafe (Toronto)

I'd been dreaming for a year about the Venezuelan quesillo at Arepa Cafe. Since tasting it for the first time while in Toronto for last year's conference, it has become my favourite dessert in the world. It's a melt-in-your-mouth cross between cheesecake and flan--just lightly cheesy enough with a burnt sugar taste in the caramel-like top layer. 

Venezuelan quesillo

The arepas and other menu items at this cute cafe make the walk or street-car ride up Queen Street West well worth it. I didn't even mind getting caught in a light rain without an umbrella, nor even being splashed by the passing car that sped through the puddle. Dining at Arepa Cafe made it all worthwhile.

sugar cane lemonade at Arepa Cafe

I had the black bean, avocado, cheese and plantain arepa. The mais flatbread reminds me of my southern mama's hot water cornbread, while the combination of blackbeans and sweet plantain was slightly reminiscent of Japanese mochi filled with sweetened adzuki beans.

black bean, avocado, cheese, plantain arepa with side of slaw

A wonderful contrast to my lunchtime dining experience at Burgers n Bistro, the service at Arepa can't be beat. Staff there show that they truly care about your every need and preference. Prices are in keeping with a modest cafe, making the menu very accessible to those on a budget.

The next time you're in the area, do check it out!

Grace in Small Things 81

being able to attend and present at this year's TESL Ontario conference, thanks to...

  • my colleague V, who kept pestering me and telling me that my ideas were worthy of sharing
  • getting the hand-holding I needed to find first-time courage from Brock University's John Sivell
  • J, who had to stay back in Windsor and cover my morning class
  • S, who covered my afternoon class (I wouldn't entrust their tender care to just anyone!)
  • now that it's behind me, feeling completely confident that I can do it again on my own

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Walking Tours of Windsor's Heritage Homes

When I returned to class on Monday, I found that one student had actually taken advantage of Doors Open Windsor to tour the Cooper Aeolian Organ Museum as well as the Windsor Community Museum. He had enjoyed both, but especially liked witnessing a restored organ being played.

Hearing him report on his thorough enjoyment of the tours prompted me to reflect...

"You know, ... um... we could take a tour of the architecture of Victoria Avenue if you wanted to." To my surprise and delight, the majority of them began to nod enthusiastically.

So we spent all of that week boning up on the styles we would encounter on our walk: Victorian styles and elements such as Italianate, Picturesque and Queen Anne; Romanesque Revival, Tudor Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, American Foursquare and Craftsman. We learned terms like "facade," dormer," "gable," and "wrap-around porch." We played with adjectives and their antonyms, like symmetrical and asymmetrical. Throughout the week we made the terminology and concepts our own through a great variety of activities--the labelling of pictures, matching exercises and surveying our peers for their responses to such questions as, "Would you rather live in an older home or a modern one?" and "Which style do you hope to see on our walk?"

By the time our field trip day rolled around, we were eager to undertake this great scavenger hunt for an American Foursquare, a Craftsman Bungalow and Italianate windows.

Using a self-guided tour booklet available as a free PDF,  we set out on a picture-perfect fall day at our first Queen Anne, now Hikari Japanese restaurant and learned the following before continuing our stroll southward:
From the outset, Victoria Avenue was intended to be a gracious, residential street. In fact, the Windsor Land and Building Company placed conditions on buyers of building lots, which stipulated a minimum setback of 20 feet, a house value of at least $3,000 (considerable for that time) and assurance that any business carried on would not be deemed a nuisance on a private residential street.  As a result, the earliest houses, built between 1890 and the Stock Market "Crash" of 1929, show diversity of design and, in spite of recent renovations, quality of material and fine workmanship. They were the valued residences of some of the most influential and respected families during this middle period in Windsor's evolution - doctors, merchants, lawyers, educators, politicians and industrialists whose ideas molded this municipality. 
Indeed we found excellent examples of all the styles we were seeking. A gorgeous American Foursquare has been lovingly preserved by a law firm right next door to us. While some Queen Annes have been allowed to deteriorate, or have been cut up into four and six apartments, others have been preserved beautifully. There were many examples of Tudor Revival and a few Craftsman homes. One homeowner enjoying a mug of tea on the edge of his chest-high unkempt wildflower garden that hid the lower half of his English cottage from view asked if I had a spare handout. I obliged as a student complimented him on the yard.

One highlight of our walk came when the owner of the only Italianate house came out to chat with us as her husband continued painting. He had, she reported, completed the arduous job of scraping all the paint off the entryway columns to reveal imported marble. The beautiful century-old wood on window trim had also been liberated of its layers of paint! The tiny eyebrow window in the roof shed light on a sewing room they used as a linen room, she said. We gave them a round of applause for saving an architectural jewel.

Our walk left me with a renewed appetite for my old game of viewing all the houses on the Windsor Heritage Register, ticking off twenty to thirty per summer/fall, and I stopped in Walkerville with my printed copy of the register in hand.

Back in the classroom the next day, we satisfied students' question, "What would these homes cost today" with a few minutes on and enjoyed a virtual tour of the inside of an unusual blue Georgian home designed by Albert Kahn. Oh, look! It has an eyebrow window, too.

P.S. If you enjoy touring pre-war homes and neighbourhoods or are interested in Windsor-Detroit history and architecture, be sure to check out the blog International Metropolis.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fun Free Event: Doors Open Windsor 2014

Since we spent yesterday in Greektown, my enjoyment of Doors Open Windsor 2014 was limited to today, Sunday. Other duties and activities pared down my free time today, as well, so I narrowed my priorities to a private home; I can see the insides of churches and breweries anytime. I chose the French farmstead that I've visited on my bike while ticking off properties on the Windsor Heritage Register, a hobby that motivates me to get out and cycle far and wide.

two houses were moved and joined to make one

items currently on load to Fort Malden
original floors

exterior of the now joined houses
With a little time left, we stopped to tour the street-scape of 200 block of Prado Place, another area designated on the register that we'd already toured on our bikes a time or two.
Clinker bricks!


unique curved chimney
If you didn't catch Doors Open this year, I hope you'll join in next year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grace in Small Things 80

this poster at the door of an Ontario Early Years Centre where parents drop off their tots

and this sign on the baby gate

discovering that my morning students have a keen interest in one of my hobbies--learning about the houses and properties on Windsor's Heritage Registry

feeling supported by a colleague, made to feel less alone in an area of frustration

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grace in Small Things 79

I have three students I've been urging to go to the next level because they are ready. They don't want to go. It's a nice problem to have, I suppose...students who want to stay in your class forever and ever.

Me today to the head of maintenance: "Can you cancel the fire department if the smoke detectors are set off about 30 seconds from now? It was just sparklers. I made the students take them outside."

(The answer was no, you can't cancel a fire alarm, but also that the gadget on my classroom ceiling is a heat detector.)

Ducks with a sense of entitlement flying up into the yard as soon as they hear me arriving home from work.

A full belly.

And a warm bed.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Grace in Small Things 78

The number of things I haven't had to go out and buy lately because my partner says, "I have one of those in my basement." LOL.

A gorgeous late summer day spent getting chores done with the door open, squirrels, sparrows and mallards coming for handouts. It will be soup weather soon.

Liking the people who sign my paycheque. I realize how rare and blessed I am in that way.

Laundry done, lunch box packed, lesson planning finished, chores accomplished. All by 6:00 p.m.

Feeling ever-so-slightly optimistic today about the planet and the possibility of turning around our destruction of it.

The County Diner (Tecumseh / Windsor)

I think I've just discovered a new favourite place to get a late weekend breakfast: The County Diner just out Manning Road on the outskirts of Windsor. The parking lot was full when we pulled up at around 11:30 a.m., a good sign.

Upon entering, we were promptly invited to sit anywhere; there were still two booths open. The menu is right on the laminated placemat, so no waiting for that (unlike, for example, Rise N Shine).

After ordering two coffees, we were given the option of milk or cream, and a generous amount of it came in a little pitcher. Coffee cups are clear glass. Interesting detail.

The standard 2-egg breakfast that I get everywhere is over $6 here but portions are more generous than at the 'under $5' places. Also, they don't charge extra for rye toast nor if you choose pea-meal bacon as your meat. I loved the huge plate, which allowed me to engage in my egg gymnastics routine of slipping the toast under the eggs without having to eat the potatoes first in order to make room for this trick. Yolks were perfectly in tact when they reached me, something not true at the last two places we've broken fast.

The server checked to make sure I wanted onions in my potatoes, another customer service plus.

Chuck's scrambled eggs came on top of corned beef hash (house made from scratch, he checked) and were served on a mini cast iron skillet nested on a wooden board.

What I like most, an element lacking at Skippy's, was that the home fries had been in the skillet long enough to achieve that crispiness around the edges, and the onions were nicely caramelized--to the point that the tiny bits were downright crunchy. Awesome!

The place is decorated with antiques and faux antiques, such as an old gum-ball machine, while vintage looking store signs cover all walls. But the interior still feels airy and clean.

Servers are super friendly and attentive, seeming to really enjoy their repartee with regulars. I'd drive out here for breakfast again in a New York minute.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hidden Artwork of Downtown Windsor

While killing a bit of time before a workshop yesterday, I happened upon some amazing "intentional graffiti," or graffiti-style murals.

First I had photographed a mainstream mural visible from a street, of which we have many gorgeous ones gracing buildings all over this lovely city.

Then I ducked into an alley and stumbled onto this:

And this one, in front of which I will definitely NEVER park my car. I promise.

By the time I spotted this one, I was starting to feel like I'd entered a gallery. I began slowing my pace.

Then I turned back and noticed this one.

There is some serious talent in this city, eh?

I think this was my favourite.

But this one is nice, too.

At one point I popped out of the alleys just in time to see the morning breeze lift a Pride Flag.

I love that downtown Windsor embraces its slight grittiness. If you want to stroll through this outdoor gallery and check out these and many more amazing murals, duck into the alley between Ouellette and Pelissier north of Wyandotte Street, south of Park. At least I THINK that's where I was.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Grace in Small Things 77

cool air, the smells of autumn

classes full of keen students...and waiting lists

being encouraged by my coworkers to ask for something I deserve

feeling like I'm sitting in an indoor jungle since bringing in so many plants for the winter

yummy thrift store haul

two dresses and linen tunic with ample pockets

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Grace in Small Things 76

a free and neutral net
a job I love
not only a roof over my head that keeps the rain off me, but... a setting so peaceful and restorative that every single visitor comments on that upon their first visit
teaching someone to read for the first time in ANY language--there's no feeling quite like it

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Grace in Small Things 75

getting off to a good start with our new downstairs neighbour

a pile of scrap metal items (left behind by former neighbour) magically disappearing from the curb within two hours--relieving me of having to haul it to the dump or ask the landlord to do so

a damp morning spent out in nature with my tribe

watching eagles, warblers, and shorebirds on their way south

a very nice 20 hours spent with my love between work weeks

Riverside Sportsmen's Club (Windsor)

I've blogged about this place before, as we ate ribs there once. This time we ended up there for a weekend breakfast.

Service was pretty good, though in no way comparable to the excellent service we got at Scoop's in Niagara Falls where our server seemed never to lose track of the level of coffee in our cups. Our food was also good enough that we'll probably return here for breakfast, especially since it's close to home.

One thing I found rather amusing was the evidence that this establishment may have had trouble at some point with people settling in and taking advantage of the coffee refills, or maybe even stashing away extra jam packets in their purses/pockets. I say this because of the "One free coffee refill" note on the menu and the fact that our server asked us if we needed jam, then brought exactly two packets of the requested type, no more.

Riverside Sportsmen's Club on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beans and Greens (Kelly)

Chuck has discovered a new dish that all the Italian establishments in Niagara Falls, NY have on the menu: beans and greens. Or maybe it's greens and beans. The place that makes the most delicious version uses more greens than beans. There are MANY recipes on the internet, and I've yet to find THE ONE to recommend to you. This was my latest attempt. I used kale this time because the store was out of escarole. The restaurant that makes it the best uses escarole. It's actually a sort of soup, though in this photo I have it on a plate.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Skippy's (Windsor)

Call it lazy or call it pressed for time, instead of posting my review of Skippy's here, I'm giving you a link to my TripAdvisor review.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Emo-Ne (Windsor)

Finding myself downtown too many hours past my last meal, I looked quickly around for anyplace to eat cheaply and quickly so I could get on with my errands. The only available parking spot on Pelissier happened to be in front of Emone, so in I went.

Service was prompt, the strawberry in the salad was a nice detail. The dish I had was generously laden with all sorts of crunchy veggies and bean sprouts, but the egg disappointed me a bit. Japanese and Korean restaurants often advertise a lovely hot noodle dish on the menu sporting a photo in which the yolk of the egg on top is still yellow. But when I order these dishes, the egg arrives 75% cooked through already, leaving no yolk to drip down into the noodles when I pierce it with the chopsticks. This was one of those disappointing occasions. But there was still a bit of runny yolk, so I survived.

The complimentary green tea was tepid and weak, but it's hard to complain about something you've not been charged for. Frankly, I'd rather pay and have it be hotter and stronger. Oh, well.

The music playing was clearly aimed at a young demographic, perhaps the many university students now taking classes downtown. It was somewhere between hip hop and techno. Or maybe there's a new genre I don't yet know the name of.

All in all, this was good value for my dollar. I would go back.
Emone Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Grace in Small Things 74

the lesson embedded in this

that the magical moments of my trip happened after wrong turns

like when I exited the gas station right instead of left

and chose the nearest unpaved farm road to turn around

then saw the enormous hawk on the wire RIGHT OVER MY HEAD

turned around again, I saw them



falling gently from the sky

twirling, dancing wide spirals downward

as a large fox darted from high corn to high corn just ahead

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Grace in Small Things 73

zinnias in a riot of hot colours

discerning dowitchers and yellowlegs without the help of an expert

driving alone for hours and hours through rolling pastureland

sun on my skin

being surrounded by tangle and brush

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grace in Small Things 72

being welcomed into the home of others

learning new things from someone who has lived and taught ESL a lot longer than I have

squirrels, chipmunks, orioles and cardinals coming and going as we worked

being invited to share in a delicious Thai meal

finding the courage to put money worries aside and give myself a very special gift (an experience, not a material possession)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Grace in Small Things 71

One of the best decisions I made recently was to spend some of my summer volunteering.

Another decision that is proving to be a good one is having set 9:00 a.m. twice a week as the time at which I do one of those volunteer gigs. It gets me out of bed, showered, dressed and moving early in the day.

This article helped me get back on the meditation cushion after a long period experiencing strong, strong resistance.

For today at least, I have broken free from a frustrating and very discouraging cycle of anxiety and procrastination, each of which feeds the other to a snowball effect--the end result of which has been utter paralysis. I think that the same article, along with a good meditation session, also helped me get back to the project I'd been dreading.

A dream in which a small bird with jewel-like colours flew over and sat on my head.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Grace in Small Things 70


We hardly ever get visitors at the city cottage. My friend said it is even more [I can't remember which adjective she used] than it looks in the photos and videos. More serene. More beautiful. More soul-nourishing. That's what!

And my visitors included CHILDREN!!! Children among my midst. Oh, yes. Children can be exhausting and trying, but they can also lift one's spirits like angels sent from heaven.

Oh, the fun I had shopping for child-friendly snacks last night at Meijer in the states. I had a blast picking out stuff I wanted to try with the convenient excuse that CHILDREN were coming: goldfish, dream animals, organic raisins in tiny boxes and fruit-at-the-bottom yogourt in little cups.

A group of young ducks was obliging enough to come by asking for handouts just when children happened to be standing on the riverbank with fistfuls of cornbread. (Of course I never feed bread to wildlife, but I feel no compunction about giving them cornmeal in a form that floats.)

A gift.