Opera in the beautiful Haliburton Highlands

The Highlands Opera Studio is quite an amazing undertaking, and it all happens between July 31st and August 28th.

For anyone not from the Haliburton Highlands the notion of world class opera in the midst of lakes and forests may seem a little odd. We find it quite appropriate for our very creative region.

It all began seven years ago when Valerie Kuinka and Richard Margison decided to start a program for very advanced emerging operatic artists. They wanted to concentrate not only on the goals of performance excellence, but also on networking and potential employment opportunities for young singers. All the young Canadian artists attending the month-long intensive program are on full scholarship. Participants are chosen through a rigorous cross-Canada (and NYC) audition tour. They end up listening to close to 200 applicants. On average, 15 highly qualified participants are chosen. These lucky participants bunk in with local families and get to enjoy some of the delights of our region.

Poster copy

The community of the Haliburton Highlands and surrounding areas have enthusiastically welcomed the program. The calendar provides lots of community interaction and audience education through opera pre-performance chats, concerts in local churches, and short concerts in local venues(Random Acts of Opera.) Three years ago the Highlands Opera Community School was established offering voice lessons, masterclasses, the opportunity to observe the Opera Studio participants, and potential involvement in the staged productions.

Tickets for the concerts are $30.00 and for the operas $35.00. Unheard of prices for this level of excellence. If you’re thinking that a little culture with your summer getaway might be a delicious combination … come and stay a while. Tickets will be going fast so don’t delay.

GuyTown a hit once again!!

For 22 years the boys have been getting together to celebrate our friendships and our family. It all started with my brother Peter and his good friend Rob, at my parent’s cottage near Killaloe. Somehow others of us got invited and it grew to become an annual celebration with my sons, Peter and friends … and then as others became of age, they too joined us.
The group has changed shape over the years and new attendees have joined us in that time. About a dozen or so good folks, around a campfire, a beer or two, great food, and stories galore.



We started in Killaloe, moved to yurt at one of the provincial parks, and then when we became permanent citizens in Haliburton, the boys made our home Guytown Central. Needless to say, Jane leaves for the weekend, with one rule remaining … make it the same as when I left it.
The Guytown Olympics take place each year, and this year my brother Peter and his team mate, Brad, my son, took the trophy honours.
Such a laugh, such good fun. Another highlight this year was my son Mark’s portable bar (R2 Bar2) that he created, complete with led lights for nightime enjoyment.
Mark brought his quadra-copter too. His shot from the ground level and above the trees at Eagle Lake at sunset is just beautiful. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMSvYXq9hZc.
Ken’s Saturday night supper was a TexMex homerun … individual meatloafs wrapped in bacon (3 kinds of meat in the loaf .. whoa!) plus beans with Chirizo sausage plus Cowboy Cookies, with bacon of course. Good thing we cut down to 2 meals a day!
Great cooperation and generosity by every member of the group make this a weekend to look forward to every year. Thanks guys for another great town meeting! Oh, and thanks Brent and Rob for taking the pictures this year.






Unexpected kindness

Friday morning was a lovely start to the day. The trip into town was well planned out, in order to fit with Jane’s schedule for her “Morning Glories” exercise class that she instructs. We were plenty early and it turned out I had lots of time to play with considering that I had two stops to make in the hour and half available to me.

A stop to the lumber store would get me a few supplies that I needed to finish off a flower cart that I am working on. The plan is to finish the project within the next week, as part of my extensive “honey do” list.

The main feature of the flower cart is a pair of 4 foot steel wagon wheels that were once owned by my parents. The were used as the wheels for their dock at their cottage in Renfrew County. They have sentimental value to say the least. They remind me of some very happy times on Lorwell Lake and memories of happier times with Margaret and Allan.

Following a successful stop at the lumber store, I headed over to the Shopper’s Drug Store in the Village Court. They open at 9 a.m. I was about 45 minutes early. With so much time on my hands, which by the way is a seldom experienced pleasure, I decided to pop into the Village Court Donuts & Cafe. You always get a friendly welcome and you can be sure to pick up some of the local happenings by listening in to the conversation at the counter.

I stepped in the door and, sure as shootin’, I met an acquaintance stopping in for a coffee and breakfast treat “to go” and we had a brief “how are yuh” type conversation. As I stood in line, I saw that their special of the day was an egg and cheese sandwich plus a coffee, all for just $3.99. I had an immediate attack of the hungries and decided that sounded just fine. I could sit by the window and just relax until the drug store opened.
I got to the counter, placed my order, on brown and with de-caf coffee. I was having a happy anticipation about breakfast.
Damn. I didn’t have any paper money on me and when I went to the change … I didn’t have enough to make $3.99. I felt rather foolish and said that I would have to settle for a coffee. I was quickly erasing the thought of egg and cheese and how simply wonderful it was going to taste.

Suddenly, behind me, a voice said over my shoulder, “I’ve got it covered. That’s fine.”

I did a head snap. Standing behind me was Amelia Edmunds. Shiny faced and with that beatific smile that she is so famous for. I mumbled my thanks and appreciation and Amelia said, in response to my still semi-embarrassed state, “you can catch me next time.”
amelia and the mayor
Like so many other people in Haliburton County, I am a fan of Amelia’s. Amelia has a wonderfully sensual voice and, importantly, she portrays great feeling when she is entertaining. (ameliaandthemayor.com) When the crowds respond to Amelia she always rewards them with that beautiful smile. That’s the smile she gave me Friday morning. That 1000 lumen smile, that kindness, made my entire day.

Thank you, I’ll catch you next time.

Sophie the Dawg

Sophie arrived last Saturday.  She’s a mix of husky, collie and some shepherd and lab thrown in for good measure.  She arrived from the Moosonee Puppy Rescue, located in Bracebridge.  They are good folks and their story is an interesting one.

Our first visit with Sophie

It’s just like being a new parent all over again.  Getting used to a change in household routine, constant potty training, behaviour modification for the chewing and biting and making room for the love and the responsibility for a little 7 week old bundle of cuteness.

I love being outdoors!

As any new parent or new pet owner will tell you, the big challenge is rearranging how you attend to all the new requirements within the reality of all that you are normally faced with on a day to day basis.  It’s taken us the past five days just to get our head around how things will work during this baby puppy period.  When she takes a nap I take full advantage of the clear space.  For example, she’s sleeping right now.

Welcome Sophie.

She will be a cared-for and loved addition to our family.  She is different from our Shiloh and although I still miss him with a terrible ache there is lots of room for a new love.

Welcome Sophie.

Cows and Sports fans

Stand up damn you!

I heard an interview on radio yesterday with a researcher from Scotland who is studying (a) whether or not the length of time a cow has been standing is a good predicator for when they might lie down and (b) whether or not the length of time a cow has been lying down is a measure of when they will stand up.  I must admit that I’d never thought about this animal mystery.  I didn’t even know there was a need.

It turns out that for (a) the answer is no.  They found that the length of time, past a certain measure, did not give any signal for when the cow might lie down.  The (b) part did demonstrate that cows who lie down for longer periods are more prone to stand up.  Suprise!!!   They also found that healthier cows spent even less time lying down before they stood up.  Oh, and yes, weather does affect the behaviour of cows … so the old saying that says cows, as a group, lie down before a rain storm may have some truth in fact.

All this heady  information made me wonder if sports fans watching TV should be studied in a similar manner.  Does the amount of time the fan spends lying prone on the couch give any good indication of when they might stand up?  This may be research that is confined to weekends and, in particular, during this NHL/NBA playoff season coupled with golf and baseball coverage for good measure.  Elements affecting the research could include how much beer and snack food is close at hand and whether or not the spouse is bringing required food and beverage to the watcher.  From a medical standpoint, bladder size will also be important.

The results of the research could be provided to the other members of the household, in an attempt to change behaviour patterns.  Or, like the information on cow behaviour, we could just leave the whole thing for animal psychologists to ponder interminably.  Hmmm.  Sounds like a good government grant opportunity. 

I think I just heard a bunch of researchers stand up.

Lookin’ good King Tut

I was browsing around looking for opportunities to get out the Haliburton  business incubator story to prospects in the GTA.   Somehow I hit on the AGO site. Like you and most other people I’m fascinated by ancient Egypt so I took a momentary detour to see whassup with Tut.

Lotsa chat on the site  and clever ideas on how to get engaged with the exhibit  but no pictures. What a let down. Suddenly, the thought came to me, what the hey, I’ve got pictures of my own.

Back in 1964, I think it was, I went to Egypt (ye gads, that’s 46 years ago), Jordan and Lebanon. That was back when Abdul Gamel Nasser was president of Egypt and the military controlled the country. That’s a reminiscence for another time.

I went to the Cairo Museum and paid a visit to Tut and the amazing array of treasures that came out of his tomb.  It was breathtaking.  The treasures were in plain glass cases and because of the lack of security the rooms were watched over by  soldiers with sub-machine guns at the ready.

I remembered I had some pictures that I had taken and the urge hit me to  dig them out.  Slides.  I took pictures on slides.  As we all know, slide packages are small.  It follows that they are not always easy to find when they have been mothballed in favour of digital media.  I looked high and low and still no little plastic cases.  I found a few of Beirut and Jordan but not one Egyptian shot.  I had some beauties.  Of course, once you have them, transfering them to digital is another journey, one which I don’t want to think about.

The only thing I could find was this momento.

The label off a quart bottle of Stella beer.  Brewed in Cairo by Stella Artois.  Nice beer.  The memory is not as strange as it may seem.  Stella was the only fluid you dare drink … unless you wanted the Revenge of the Nile.  It was 12 cents for a quart bottle making it a very affordable health protection item.  My companions and I willingly protected ourselves day and night.

The mystery of my King Tut slides is going to bug me.  I’m committed.  I’m going to continue the hunt for those slides.  But right now I’m feeling just a tad thirsty.

When the mind’s a muddle

Do you have those periods where there’s so much going on in your mind that you barely have time to think?
The past few days have been that way. I don’t know if it’s because income tax time is coming and I haven’t done the dirty deed yet, or if it’s the gooey miasma containing the multitude of tasks to be done.
Whatever it is it’s got a head lock on me.    One option is to rapidly retreat to someplace far away. My fear is that the “dogs” would follow me and make the effort worthless.  I guess it’ll have to be head down…drive forward.  I better find my bike helmet!  Sure as shootin’ there’ll be head butting into brick walls along the way.

In the Name of Her Majesty the Queen

That’s what it says.  Give Mike a pass without hindrence to go anywhere he wants. 

We just got our new passports.  And we got them with a sigh of relief.  There has been some question as to whether or not we would pass the scrutiny of the processing office in Scarborough.  That’s where our package went to.   Hold it. Let me back up a bit.

We took a day, when Jane and I both had an afternoon open, to travel to Peterborough to the passport office.  The very thought of going to the big city always leaves us a bit breathless.  We wanted to renew the passports before they expired and got into the rigamarole of forms and more forms.  It becomes almost unbearable.  

Such a nice building.  And on the main floor the first government service is the passport office.  Wow, they even had Walmart greeters.  Although to be fair, the greeters were young, personable and likely well paid by you and me.  After a very brief wait, and a good deal of jocularity with others who were waiting,  about the ins and outs of government, we were escorted to our processor.   A very nice lady.  She suffered our chit chat with the patience of a pre-school teacher waiting for her class to settle down.  With a well-practiced smile she guided us through the process.  We went through the forms correcting a number of misjudgements that Mike (yeh, me) had made.  Her smile told me she had worked with idiots before.  

The scary moment fell upon us when she peered at our photos.  Her “MMMMM” told us she was not thoroughly enamored with the prison shots taken for this occasion.   With a big sigh she told us that the photographer had allowed a shadow on one side of our faces.  By gosh, she was right.  And she was not happy, despite the fact that the slight shadow helped confirm we were not deceased.  

Before she had time to tell us she was not going to accept our photos, I took in air, puffed up my grisly appearance and wailed, “you’re not going to tell us we travelled an hour and a half to come here and it’s a waste of time!?” 

Aha!  Our processor had an ace up her sleeve.   She advised us she would go talk to a couple of other people to get their opinion.  We already knew what that opinion would be.  I could just hear her presentation of the offending images, “I have two photos that have terrible shadows on the faces of these scary people, contrary to the Passport Act of 1812, and I’d like your opinion on them.”    

She returned and confirmed that others saw the shadows and they too were deeply concerned.  I huffed and puffed a bit more.  But, because I appeared to be someone who might make a scene,  they would send them on to Scarborough and see what happens.  “Please be advised, in these dangerous times, you may be required to get new photos and start all over again.  Right.  Now go. ”   (I hope you’ll excuse the slight paraphrasing)

Yesterday, the two passports arrived in the mail.  Sweet relief.  My wife is happy because she now thinks she may actually travel to some exotic location where she gets to use the passport.  Personally, I was a bit disappointed.  There was no note with the passports congratulating us.  Something simple would have sufficed.   “Nice pictures, her Majesty will be pleased.”

Little Kids Rule

It was quite an amazing Easter weekend.  The weather was incredible and the world appeared to come to a halt for three days.  The traffic in emails and Facebook messages slowed almost to a halt … people were too busy soaking in sun and activities to be chained to “social media”.  Good for them.

It was no different at Eagle Lake.  We spent most of the weekend in the fresh air or sharing meals with family.  There was lots of chat and an abundance of good feelings.

There were 9 adults and three kiddies in our midst.  Two of the young ‘uns were our latest additions to the family.  Liam is just 8 weeks old and Aleicia is 7 weeks old.  They ruled. 

Liam "the toff" and Aleicia "the angel"

You can imagine how the schedules of two recent arrivals can take precedence over anything else that is going on.  They seemed to take turns making sure that the focus of attention was always in their direction.  No complaints from any of us!  I found it amazing that even at their tender ages “they get it”…make a noise, you get attention.

It was little bit of a trip down memory lane for me.  I’d forgotten how interesting discussions about bodily functions were.  You know things to do with spit up, gas, boogers and poop.  Poop alone  had excitingly different chapters for discussion.  As the years go by the conversations will evolve.  Ask anyone with a teenager and they’ll tell you.

All in all it was a wonderful celebration.  The world halted for just a short while.  Now, on this rainy Monday, we’re ready to get back in the cage with the gorilla.  Poop and all.

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