Tuesday, December 31, 2013

swinging on a moon

to everyone, a blessed and fun filled new year

Monday, December 30, 2013

tiki bar in winter

It's funny how you can walk past a place for years and not really see it. I wonder how long this 'mural' has been on the side of Joe Dog's, a popular bar on the main street of my town. In the 16 years I've lived here, I've never once been there. They have a large patio out front on the street, but there is also (I now know) a tiki bar and patio along the side between the two buildings. A patio with a view! I think they should cover the narrow space in heavy duty plastic and have space heaters so that on milder winter days patrons can sit outside. I don't know why they can do that in New York but not here.
Don't you wish you were on a beach like this for real?

see more flights of fantasy at Monday Mural 
this may not be technically a mural, but it tries.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

houses of gingerbread

There is no Sunday Stamps this week, but as I can't sleep....
I thought I'd share these delightful stamps of gingerbread houses that I was thrilled to get this week.

I looked up the story behind these stamps and from the USPS website I found that there are two other gingerbread houses stamps (featuring red and blue doors!)

'These stamps feature four different gingerbread houses set against a bright blue background. Made with gingerbread and royal icing, each house has sugary fruit slices for shingles, peppermint sticks for support beams, and round, candy-coated chocolate for doorknobs and holly berries, and yet each is unique.'

I didn't grow up with the tradition of making gingerbread  houses and was an adult before I even knew this was something to be done.  I guess the cookies were enough for my mother to handle. Anyway, I was never really fond of gingerbread. or icing. or candied fruit. or peppermint. I probably would have just eaten the Smarties and been happy with that.
A few years ago, I was in Rochester and stumbled on a gingerbread house display at the Eastman House. I have searched and searched for my photos from that trip and cannot find them. The houses were magnificent as I recall (you'll just have to take my word for that). There is a bakery near me that makes hundreds of these houses every Christmas and I often wander in just to look at them. I quite like gingerbread now that I am older. I don't really want a house to eat, but I do want those other two stamps.

Friday, December 27, 2013

hotels in the city

There has been a destructive ice storm in the Greater Toronto Area that has left tens of thousands of people without power - still, after six days. It is a massive undertaking to get the hydro lines back up, and the trees that pulled them down sorted, and the electricity turned on. I heard from one media source that it is almost 2 hours per home in some cases. The daily fresh snowfalls, the winds  and frozen tree limbs aren't helping.

For PostcardFriendshipFriday here are a few of the historically iconic hotels in the area where people may - or may not - be able to find a warm bed. Although, in reality, only three of these are still functioning as hotels.

First up, the "King Eddy" located on King St just east of Yonge St. It opened in 1903 with 400 rooms and 300 baths and claimed to be entirely fireproof (probably a rare thing in those days) It is possibly the best place in the city for High Tea.

The art deco Park Plaza is located in Yorkville and wasn't opened until 1936 after a delay of 8 years due to the Depression. Located on the fringe of the downtown core, the rooftop patio was a favourite place to see the view over the city.
The Royal York Hotel opened in 1929. Built in the Chateau style favoured by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it is located across the street from Union Station. It was a state-of-the-art hotel when it was built, with ten elevators, a radio in each of its 1,048 rooms, and a private shower or bath in each room.

For decades it was the most visible building on the Toronto skyline and even now, people of a certain age lament that "you can't even see the Royal York" for all the new condos going up.

Over in Hamilton, The Royal Connaught Hotel is an Edwardian gem built in 1916. At 13 storeys, it was the tallest building in Hamilton and the rooftop restaurant provided "breathtaking views over Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment". It was closed in 2004, but is currently undergoing a transformation as a ... condominium!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas 1912

While the Christmas snow lay deep and bright
May you be blest with all your heart's delight

I'm really not sure what to make of this odd photo postcard showing a vaguely Father Christmas-ish (or Phil Robertson) looking gentleman with fir boughs on his head, holding a doll dressed in what looks like a Chinese or Japanese dress and a ... white, long-legged dog?

This is from the Rotary Photographic Postcard Series

but then, you read the message on the back, sent to a Miss Williamson in Hastings, Ontario.
Mamma said she promised that I would write to you. She had no business promising anything like that because it takes a certain amount of my precious time to write a long postcard like this. I will be home for 4 or 5 days. Wishing you a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.  Robbie

Let's hope Robbie and Miss Williamson shared a history and a sense of humour!

All of us at PostcardFriendshipFriday share things in common.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas stories

From the cookies of last year, to the cross-stitch of this year, the theme has been about home made creations for these Christmas stamps.

Both were designed by Hélène L’Heureux
the iconic gingerbread people images on the stamps are so realistic, you can almost smell the ginger and nutmeg—and taste the creamy sweet icing, according to the Canada Post website.
But what initially caught my eye was the price on the new stamps, which no-one could really explain when they came out a few weeks ago. 
But now we know why. This week, Canada Post announced their radical plans to overhaul their flailing business which is losing customers at an alarming rate by raising the price by almost 60% to $1.00 for a domestic stamp. All domestic stamps have had a P on them since 2007, meaning you can use them any time for the current rate. But, when I went to stock up on the older-than-Christmas stamps (for Postcrossing, not any nefarious reason) I discovered you can no longer buy them.
There is more to the story but you can google Canada Post to read about it.

With all the snow we've had falling, I thought I'd also include this snowflake stamp from 1971. It was designed by Lisl Levinsohn, who thought it a bit ironic that a Jewish designer was asked to create a Christmas stamp. If you look closely at the centre of the snowflake you can see a six pointed star. While not exactly a Star of David, it is a fun secret inclusion in her intricate design.
see more Christmas stamps here

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas 1911

Christmas 1911
Wish you a Merry Chris
From Your
Lena Knoll


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas 1983

These are among my favourite stamps 
they are charming in an old world way, yet are not dated by their colours or style.

Christmas Dove (hedge sculpture)      Light of Christmas (street lamp)
World at Peace (Dove & Blackbird)
The Three Kings (chimney pots)          Christmas Post (pillar box)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

oversize stamps

It can be hard to tell just how large or small a stamp actually is from a photo on a screen.
Take this one from the 2011 series of headdresses of the Russian north which could be any size enlarged 
and this one beside the much smaller 2009 Kremlin series

(Personally, I think the Kremlins could have benefited from being just a bit larger)
I didn't find much description on the Russian postal website other than 'girl in head band' and 'man in winter hat'. 

see other oversized stamps here

Friday, November 29, 2013

Symboles régaliennes

Sometimes, I pick up postcards without really knowing anything about them, or exactly what drew me to it. Sometimes, they seem just so odd that I need to have them. Like this one of a porcupine. With a crown!

Without too much effort, I found out that the porcupine was the symbol of French King Louis XII. He ruled from 1498-1515. At first, the porc-épic seems an odd choice, after all he's not nearly as large or ferocious looking as a lion. But then, think of the little guy's personal archery arsenal with those quills! Louis XII inherited the porcupine from his grandfather, but it soon fell out of favour as being too militant and aggressive a symbol though not before it graced the Blois and everything that could be emblazoned with it. Like these.

His successor, Francois I, who ruled from 1515-1547, chose a salamander as his emblematic symbol of fire and cold.

there is an interesting blog post about the salamanders at the Château de Chambord herePostcardFriendshipFriday

Sunday, November 24, 2013

singers on stamps

These stamps from 2007 were only the second to feature living Canadians.

Each stamp is square, like an album cover (since these photos are from more or less 30 years ago). The photo is from a significant period in each singer's career with a font designed appropriate to the era. The design was also enhanced by using a MetalFX process that involves "underprinting in metallic silver ink, then overprinting with other colours. The result gives a lustrous sheen to the artists’ portraits." A Canada Post article on the stamps and the musical icons can be found here and other singers on stamps can be found through here

Friday, November 22, 2013

Casa Loma

The fate of Casa Loma has been up in the air during the last few years. But this week, one of the things Toronto City Council managed to succeed in approving was for Liberty Entertainment Grp to take over as the new operations managers of the main house and grounds.  There was some fear that it may end up having part of it turned into condos which seems to be a favoured solution to old buildings needing massive repairs and renovations. But the new plans - for a restaurant and events rooms as well as a museum and galleries for highlighting the stories and history of Toronto (something sorely missing and desperately needed) looks promising and exciting. Sadly, this news was overshadowed by council dealing with the Rob Ford scandal. 

Henry Pellatt was an eccentric millionaire who, among other things, founded the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883. He and his partners would later build the country's first hydro generating plant at Niagara Falls. His fortune would begin to unravel once he lost the monopoly on electricity when it became public. Then there was the war. In the end, he had to sell his castle after living in it for only nine years.
 circa 1914
circa 1954

It took over 300 workers three years to build the $3.5 million home. The start of WWI put an end to construction and much of the house was unfinished due also in part to the expensive excesses of Pellatt and architect E.J. Lennox. There is an elevator (for his wife, Mary, who was in a wheelchair), an oven large enough to cook an ox, vertical passageways to fit organ pipes and a central vacuum. There are ballrooms, a conservatory and a tunnel to the hunting lodge and stables (which themselves are outfitted with mahogany and Spanish tiled stalls). 

The tower and the attic are empty and the swimming pool was never completed, but the unfinished bowling alley is now a gift shop and the unfinished gymnasium is now a cafe. There is currently an ongoing exterior renovation and soon some more interior renovations (including air conditioning!) but it won't be closed to the public. So go visit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

where the key no longer works

There is a wonderful episode of Yes, Prime Minister (I know, they were all wonderful) where Sir Humphrey, the Cabinet Secretary, has some of his responsibilities taken away from him and reassigned. His key is also taken away from him and the locks changed so that he can't just wander into the PM's office from the cabinet office whenever he likes. I was thinking of this as the locks were changed at Toronto City Hall keeping the Mayor-in-name-only out of the Deputy Mayor's (new) office. Humphrey was more of a schemer than a bully, so it is unlikely that Ford will resort to the same antics. But there will be antics. We know this.

you can watch the episode here or you can read about it here

In the meantime, here are postcards showing City Hall as it looked in 1965 when it was built.

The council chambers located in the flying saucer bit in the centre of the two towers.

Measuring 155' in diameter and 40' to the peak of its domed ceiling, the clear-span concrete shell hovers over the circular central assembly space and semi-circular public gallery. A continuous band of glass between the upper and lower shells provides indirect daylight.

and in 1978, with Nathan Phillips Square looking slightly less bare
Nathan Phillips ("a mayor of the people") was apparently very popular  
(I don't remember as he was in office from 1955-1962) 
and the driving force behind the building of this 'avant-garde' new building 
(the excitement of the opening, I do remember)

Monday, November 18, 2013

a walk in the forest

What I learn from Postcrossing. This postcard arrived today from Dasha in Siberia.

Barnaul band type pine forest
This is in the Altai region where there are around 13,ooo lakes. There are five pine forest bands, with this one being the largest. It stretches for 400km but is as narrow as 15km wide in some spots.

There is an old legend about pine forests telling of the God of Wind that was flying above these lands in the Altai region and saw a beautiful girl with a wonderful name, Aigul (it means 'Moonflower' and is common in Kazakhstan). He decided to take her to his castle beyond the clouds and cajole her to marry him by showering her with marvelous presents. But the girl knew that it would be very hard to love him as the Wind frequently changed his character and mood, was frivolous and often flew away from home. Aigul heard the Wind sneaking up to her while smelling the unusu­al flowers he carried and scared of being torn off her native land she rushed home along the meadow. But the Wind turned into a hurricane, ran the beautiful runaway down, picked her up and took her away to his celestial chambers. Aigul was crying and where her drops of tears fell there appeared small lakes. The green bands from her braids flew down to the ground and where they dropped there grew forests to show her brothers the way to find their sister. Whether they found her or not nobody knows…

source with slight adjustments to the translation

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Boring is the theme Viridian has chosen for this week's stamps. While I knew what I would choose, I have been thinking about what is boring. After seeing some stamps too many times one can become quite bored with them though the stamps themselves may not be boring. Some stamps bearing a cameo of a monarch come to mind. 

Let me say, I love these Machin stamps, but if I were living in the UK I might be a little tired of seeing them. They have, after all , been around since 1967. Apparently, neither the Queen nor Arnold Machin would approve any changes to the design. Personally, I love the rich colours which make me think of Fiesta ware. I want to collect all the rainbow of colours.

But the most boring stamps I find, are the ones that bear simply a number. 

Like these from Sweden and The Netherlands. The ones on the right are from the 1950s and have interesting swirls descending from the letters 'g' and 'n'. The even simpler one on the left was designed in 1976. Like the Machin series, each denomination is a different colour, though for these the background colour fades from top to bottom. This series was in use until the Euro came and now is no longer valid, so we won't be bored by it any longer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

grave post - cenotaph

The population of Port Elgin was only 1,235 in 1911. By 1921 it had grown to 1,291. 
That was after losing 17 men in The Great War.

The only loss of life from Bruce County during the Boer War was Gordon Cummings, a native and school teacher of Port Elgin 
This monument was erected in 1903 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

ancient ships

Dar Pomorza - Gift of Pomerania - was a sailing frigate built in 1909 in Hamburg as a training ship for the German Merchant Marines. After WWI She was taken over by the French and at some point around 1929 she was to become an ocean liner, but that plan failed and she was eventually bought for £7,000 by the community of Pomerania and was used as a training vessel until 1982 when she was decommissioned. This year marks the 30th anniversary of her life as a museum ship. You can still visit her at the Maritime Museum in Gdynia. This stamp was part of a series designed by Stefan Malecki around 1965
For SundayStamps where the theme is ships or boats Here are some other "ancient ships" in a series from 1963, also designed by Stefan Malecki

left to right top row
14thC Koga - statek fryzyjski 
Cog - Frisian ship
15thC Karaka - statek handlowy
Carrack - merchant ship
16thC Galeon - okret wojenny
Galleon - war ship

left to right bottom row
17thC Polski - okret wojenny
Polish - war ship
18thC Liniowiec - okret wojenny
Liner - war ship
19th Kliper statek handlowy
Clipper - merchant ship

Friday, November 8, 2013

days of war and separation

There will be sweet birds calling when I come back again,
Songs of deep joy awaking, after the storm and after the rain;
There will be sunlight gleaming, skies will be shining and blue
When I am by your side, dear, when I come back to you.

with permission from the publishers of Cary & Co 
13 Mortimer St London
words by Edward Lockton, music by Eileen Summers.

I haven't been able to find a video or recording of this song anywhere, but there was a small review in a New Zealand newspaper

"A delightful love ballad that has met with a very favourable reception. Its message will find an echo in many hearts in these days of war and separation." 
March 1917, Otago Times, NZ

for PostcardFriendshipFriday on this Remembrance Week

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

trains in a flower bed

Every year at the end of October, the greenhouse at Gage Park hosts an impressive themed Mum and Fall Flower Show. This year, the theme was trains. Here are a few trains and signs planted among the displays.

The TH&B (Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo)  locomotive 103 was retired in 1956 but was spared from the scrap yard by an agreement between the railway and the city of Hamilton. It was accepted by the Hamilton Parks Board and moved to the south side of Gage Park where it  became a landmark piece for a generation of people in Hamilton.  Even in retirement the 103 was still used by the TH&B. Their sidings ran along Lawrence Ave., past Gage Park where the locomotive could easily be seen by engineers. Dispatchers used it as a waypoint when shunting cars. "Push 'em back as far as the ol' 103," was common radio chatter.

a previous photo essay can be found here.  but for the immediate future, I'm off to bed with my tea and honey and maybe a wee dram.... will visit everyone later.

some flowery signs for signs, signs