Dinner at Hessenland with a heaping of precision, consistency

7 Dec

hessenland1By Diva Heather Boa

ST. JOSEPH – There are two reasons to be a fan of the simply elegant European dining experience at Hessenland Country Inn: Precision and consistency.

With the ownership team of Liz Ihrig at front of house and Frank Ihrig in charge of the kitchen, there is a never-failing attention to detail that is almost spooky.

We’re here for a business meeting of eight women – the annual meeting of the Ontario Travel Divas, with a photography seminar provided by Erin Samuell of A Simple Photograph, division of blog ideas for the next year, and dinner. We’re in luck because the restaurant is open this weekday night to accommodate a Christmas party in its vast main dining room, with a wall of windows and patio doors that provide a picturesque view of the countryside near the shores of Lake Huron.

IMG_4928We meet in an intimate space at the front of the restaurant, and hear not a peep from the party.

Twinkling white Christmas lights in garland border the window and stockings carefully hung on the mantle serve as a backdrop to a table perfectly laid out with silverware, carafes of water set at intervals.

I could order with my eyes closed: Kalbs Schnitzel Wiener Art ($24.95), which is a Huron County veal that’s been breaded and sautéed, with just enough smooth, brown gravy to make it decadent. And on the side I choose spaetzle, a soft egg noodle that is delicious without adornment, and red cabbage, made interesting with clove and something sweet. This is the same order I have every time, and every time it looks and tastes just as wonderful (unless it’s Mongolian Grill night, when I choose a whack of raw meat and vegetables and take it outside to the grill for frying and spicing by Frank.)


On a visit this past summer, the kitchen also made a special order birthday Pavlova, a fussy dish with its meringue base, topped with fruit and whipped cream.

Our waitstaff finds the perfect balance between professionalism and friendliness, somehow always managing to appear when we’re in need but disappearing from the cozy dining space when we are settled.

Hessenland also serves its own beer, Hessenland Helles Bavarian style beer, and this spring will begin planting grapevines with the expectation of pouring its first glass of wine in 2018.

Hessenland is currently running pre-Christmas hours, Friday and Saturday for dinners only. Group reservations for 20 people or more on the remaining weekdays until Dec. 17, at which time it closes until Spring.




Trucks, trailers, tractors – oh my!

4 Dec


By Diva Shari Parsons

SEAFORTH – The rare treasure of a mild and sunny Sunday afternoon in November calls for a road trip. My hubby and I enjoyed the drive to Seaforth where we stopped at the annual Toy and Craft Show and Sale held at the Seaforth Agriplex and Community Centre. Admission was $5 a person for ages 10 and up.

Before we entered the Agriplex, we were entertained by the sight of what I called the “push-me-pull-you” car. Two front ends of two separate vehicles had been joined together, each end with its own steering wheel and driver’s seat. The perfect car for the person who doesn’t know whether they are coming or going!

seaforthtoyandcraft8Inside the Agriplex, children were greeted by Santa and the 2015 Seaforth Fall Fair Ambassador, Maranda Klaver, handing out candy canes and good wishes.

seaforthtoyandcraft9Farmers and little farmers-to-be were greeted by the sight of toy trucks, trailers, tractors and farm machinery in every size, shape and colour, including pink! There were wonderful static displays of model farms and farm machinery. For the collector, there were vintage toy farm machinery, Pepsi and Coca-Cola wares and vintage style signs. Sports fans could browse through a variety of sports memorabilia and collectibles. There were also a couple of booths promoting the 2016 International Plowing Match, taking place in Walton, Ontario in September 2017. One such booth promoted a quilt block challenge for which participants create a quilt block using only the fabric provided. The completed blocks will be judged and the winning blocks will be assembled into a quilt, which will be raffled off during the Country Side Meets Coastline quilt show being held in August 2017 at the Seaforth Community Centre.

A short walk across the road to the Community Centre presented us with a varied selection of choices for Christmas gift shopping. One wall displayed a heart-warming selection of wooden snowmen and penguins complete with twinkling lights. There were tables laden with a mouth-watering variety of home-baked goodies. My mouth said “yes-yes” but my waistline said “no-no”! A number of booths offered home-made Christmas decorations, one of my favourites being a wreath constructed to look like the fluffy white head of a cheerful snowman. If bling is your thing, there were several styles, shapes and colours of jewelry to decorate fingers, wrists and necks. Another table I admired displayed lovely wooden bowls and vases polished to glow with a warm shine. Any little girl with a Barbie doll would have been delighted by the selection of beautiful home-made gowns displayed at another booth. As I have an eye for colour, I enjoyed looking over the bright and colourful Tupperware items artfully arranged on a table.

If shopping made you hungry or thirsty, the Seaforth Agricultural Society operated a couple of concession stands that offered a variety of goodies to tempt your tummy.

The Toy and Craft Show and Sale offers something of interest to young and old alike and is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and maybe pick up a gift or two.





IODE Christmas House Tour: Decking the halls in Goderich

19 Nov

IMG_3251By Diva Shari Parsons

GODERICH – I usually prefer to spend glorious, sunny autumn days outdoors but the lovely weekend weather provided the perfect accompaniment to the 2015 IODE Christmas House Tour.

The tour consisted of five different homes – two modern and three historical. The homes themselves were decorated with both modern and traditional themes. The trend colour for this year appeared to be silver and aqua along with other glitzy metallics like gold, bronze and copper.

IMG_3239In the first home I visited, the master bedroom was a glistening ice palace of silver, white and blue. A guest bedroom was decorated in rich tones of spring green and peacock blue against velvety chocolate brown walls. The smallest bedroom was done in a rustic Canadiana theme with red, green and white engendering images of cozy, fire-lit wooden cabins. The living room was modern with silver and gold and touches of deep purple. I think the most eye-catching display was the long dining room table done in muted silver and gold with a centerpiece created using long, twisting and twining vine-like branches that were the colour of long exposed driftwood.

Visitors to the second home I toured were first greeted by the cheerful sight of a vivid IMG_3247orange VW Beetle topped by brilliant orange and purple presents. The large tree in the front room was festooned in glittering aqua and silver. The bright, candy-coloured decor in the living room took its inspiration from the beautiful quilt that the homeowner had created and hung on one wall. A small den featured a smaller tree decorated in the traditional colours of red, green and white. The eating area of the sunlit kitchen was sparkling with silver and gold contrasting with rich blue napkins and candles. The exterior of the home displayed its share of Christmas pizzazz too. A green topiary was accented with sparkling, icy crystals, chrome silver and fancy wrought iron. Large planters filled with evergreens, bronze, gold and copper flanked a side door.

IMG_3281Visitors to another home were welcomed by a cute black bear wearing a red and black plaid hat and scarf and holding on to a pine tree with one paw and a Welcome sign in the other. The circular front room featured a tall tree wrapped in clouds of white, silver and pale blue topped by a white heavenly angel. The dining room table was set with elegant burgundy, white and gold china. Each place setting was completed with the cutest little silvery-gold nest containing three little silvery-gold eggs. A life-sized doll of Santa relaxed in a chair in the corner of the music room. The warm and sunny kitchen table was decorated in a cheerful winter theme inspired by red cardinals.

Another cute little bear, this one sitting on an old-fashioned bobsled, complemented the updated rustic style of the Christmas tree in the fourth home I toured. The dining room evoked the sense of icy coolness with its white, pale blue and and glittering silver tableware and decor. The Christmas theme was carried out to the charming back porch. A variety of accent pieces were artistically combined to produce a “modern” take on a rustic theme.

IMG_3272The final home I toured used rustic style elements that had been designed with a contemporary feel. Large candle holders on the dining table and buffet were modern, stylized silver metal branches. The master bedroom was an ice palace of pale blues and silver. Unperturbed by the crowds roaming through the room, a large tri-coloured cat lay on the bed and attended to its grooming. One of my favourite pieces in the home was a triptych print of the head of a regal looking buck, which graced the mantel in the living room. The Christmas tree was decorated with over-sized red silk poinsettia blooms, which contrasted nicely with the white flocked branches of the tree. The country-cozy upstairs bedroom was the home for two friendly looking polar bears sporting handsome red and green Christmas bow collars.

IMG_3252Even the pool deck outside received a Christmas trimming. A stunning, tall silver and glass lantern contained a display of a snow-white pillar candle surrounded by white flocked greenery and glittering ice crystal branches.

After the tour, I wanted to go home, throw everything out and totally redecorate! My hubby may never let me go on another tour!

I want to say kudos to the IODE for a very well organized and thoroughly enjoyable event and to all the designers and decorators for doing such a fantastic job!

It’s here: The Christmas holiday season in Huron County

14 Nov

goderichparade17BY DIVA CAROLINE THUSS – Don’t get me wrong. I have been enjoying the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we’ve been lucky to have so far this fall but there is something about the holiday season that makes me crave a light dusting of snow, hot chocolate with a splash of Bailey’s and all the Christmas displays that neighbours and storefronts prepare.

There is so much going on in Huron County to get you in the spirit and it all starts this weekend! From the lighting of trees to Santa Claus floats in the local parades to the famous ladies night to get a jump of your Christmas shopping.

Here is a rundown of events:


Christmas in Bayfield

Friday, Nov. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 15

Lighting of the lights in Clan Gregor Square took place last night and the Santa Claus parade got under way this morning. FREE horse drawn carriage rides all weekend! Lots of shops are open for fun Christmas shopping.


Brussels Business Group & Municipality of Huron East’s Brussels Santa Claus Parade

Saturday, Nov. 28, starting at 5 p.m.

Come out and enjoy a great family evening. Visit with Santa after the parade and be sure to bring your picture for the colouring contest (ages 1 – 12). Free skating and face painting. Make plans to attend this wonderful evening.


Clinton Santa Claus Parade

Friday, Dec. 4, starting at 7 p.m.

A regular Santa Claus Parade with floats, bands, etc. and the “Jolly Old Man” himself!


Exeter Tree Lighting

Friday, Nov. 20, starting at 6:30 p.m.

MacNaughton Park, Exeter

Exeter BIA’s Exeter Christmas Open House

Friday, Nov. 20 to Sunday, Nov. 22

Celebrate the Christmas season in Exeter! Check out its fabulous shops and restaurants, then head to the Santa Claus Parade!

Exeter Lions Club & Exeter BIA Exeter Santa Claus Parade

Saturday, Nov. 21, starting at 7 p.m.

Come and enjoy a parade of lights along Main Street! Part of “Christmas Weekend in Exeter” festivities.


IODE Goderich Christmas House Tour

Saturday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 15

Area homes decorated for Christmas are open to ticket holders for touring. Saturday Nov. 14 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 15 from noon to 4 p.m. Refreshments at the Goderich Library. Tickets, $20, available at the Goderich Library or by contacting 519-524-6700.

Goderich BIA Ladies’ Night Out

Thursday, Nov. 19, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Enjoy refreshments, nibbles, free gifts, and in store specials. Why not treat yourself? You work hard all year round, but the holiday season is especially hectic, so treat yourself to a night out on the town, in downtown Goderich.

Festival of Lights Celebration

Friday, Nov. 20 to Sunday, Nov. 22

Let Goderich brighten your mood and gladden your heart with yuletide joy, glittering lights, charming displays and special events during this annual salute to the festive holiday season.

Friday, Nov. 21: Candlelight Ceremony at Lions Harbour Park to remember and honour those who are no longer present with us.

Saturday, Nov. 21: 6:30 p.m. – seasonal music; 7 p.m. Court House Park light displays will be turned on; 7:15 p.m. – Santa Claus Parade beings.


Hensall Kinsmen and the Hensall Fire Department’s Hensall Wreath & Tree Lighting

Friday, Nov. 27, starting at 6 p.m.

Folks gather at the Jennie Smillie Parkette for BCES choir performances and tree lighting. Hot dogs and hot chocolate are served following this at the Hensall arena, as well as games for the kids.


Christmas Show and Sale of Pottery

Saturday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 15, noon to 6 p.m.

Studio open house featuring new work in stoneware and porcelain by award-winning potter Robert Tetu. Choose from functional pottery or beautiful one-of-a-kind decorative items, all displayed in an historic general store.

Location: Beechwood Pottery, 44004 Bridge Road – 4 km north of St. Columban (Hwy #8) on Beechwood Line, corner of Bridge Road.


Lucknow & District Chamber of Commerce and Lucknow Kinsmen’s Lucknow Santa Claus Parade

Friday, Nov. 27, starting at 7 p.m.

Main Street is aglow with lights and music as our many floats usher Santa to town. Visit with Santa at the arena and get a free treat bag. Free skating from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the arena.


Shop Seaforth & Win – 2016 Edition

This year the Seaforth BIA is once again holding our Shop Seaforth and Win Christmas promotion, and its gotten the okay from the big man himself (Santa, of course!) to add to the prize pot. Four prizes of $mart Money to be won.

All you have to do is collect five receipts from any of our BIA business members, put them in an envelope with your name and phone number, and drop them off at the tourist information booth in the Santa Mailbox! It’s super easy, and the promotion runs until Dec. 22.

Seaforth Lions’ Santa Claus Parade  

Friday, Nov. 27, starting at 7 p.m.

Lighted Santa Claus Parade.

BIA No Tax Weekend

Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6.


Wingham and District Lions Club’s Wingham Santa Claus Parade

Saturday, Nov. 28, starting at 11 a.m.

Children are invited to meet Santa at the Fire Hall following the parade.


Poinsettia Festival at Huron Ridge Acres

Thursday, Nov. 19 to Saturday, Nov. 21, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Thursday, Nov. 26 to Saturday, Nov. 28, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Experience the wonder of thousand of beautiful poinsettias during daytime hours, the soothing atmosphere created with twinkling lights, candles and music during evening hours. Greenhouses are decked out to get you in the Christmas Spirit. 47101 Bronson Line, Zurich.




A kaleidoscope of colours, patterns and textures

10 Nov


By Diva Shari Parsons

GODERICH – The Huron County Museum played host to the Huron Tract Spinners and Weavers Guild’s annual show and sale this past weekend. The museum was also the location for the Goderich Quilter’s Guild first show and sale.

The museum’s foyer featured a variety of small weaving looms along with other spinning and weaving tools and materials. One spinners11lady was in the process of threading warp threads onto one of the looms. It all looked very confusing and complicated to me but she assured me that it was not. Then she explained how different patterns were achieved by the way that the machine was threaded, the sequence in which the foot peddles were pressed and the way in which the weft (right to left) thread was used. I nodded my head like I understood but my brain was as knotted as my threads would have been if I had tried to weave!

Another young lady, Alana Maaskant, was demonstrating how to spin wool using a spinners16foot-pedal operated Louet spinning machine, which is also known as a Dutch spinning machine. With the finished spun wool, she makes slippers with sheepskin lining and leather soles. Sounds cozy and warm.

I thought one of the most interesting and unique machines being used was an antique sock-knitting machine known as “the cranker”. Yarn is threaded onto pins on a circular metal tube and then a handle is “cranked”, which somehow spins and threads the yarn into different sized tubes. Monika Kropf was making a thin tube called an I-cord using leftover sock wool. The I-cord will then be used to weave rugs. Apparently these types of machines were often used in the home to make socks for the men who were in the wars overseas.

Along with the interesting demonstration of the use of various spinning and weaving machines, there were also a wide variety of spinners9hand-crafted articles for sale. Rugs, pillows, bags, scarves, slippers, blankets, jackets, vests and yarn, all in a variety of colours and textures were available. One of my favourite clothing accessories was a lovely cream and brown felted alpaca wool collar. I also loved the stunningly beautiful jewel-toned, hand-dyed, hand-woven, silk scarves. For the cuteness factor there was a felted penguin ornament and kits that you could make your own felted ornaments. The most unique product had to be the hand-felted goat’s milk soap bars – whoda thunk??

Along with the spinning and weaving, there were also demonstrations of quilting. Two ladies were hand-quilting a lovely rainbow coloured quilt that was stretched in a floor frame. Another lady was using a sewing machine to piece together coloured squares for a 9-patch quilt.

The walls of the exhibition room were hung with a wide variety of quilts in a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns. My 18-month-old granddaughter is known as a little monkey so I was spinners17particularly drawn to a crib quilt decorated with cheerful monkeys swinging from the trees. I was also amazed by the work that went into creating a lovely reversible quilt with Fall colours on one side and Christmas colours on the other.

The Quilt Guild had created a beautiful quilt featuring different piecing and applique techniques. The quilt was being raffled off with a percentage of the proceeds to be donated to the Huron Women’s Shelter.

All the wonderful hand-crafted items were certainly a feast for the eyes and a temptation to the pocketbook.

Goderich Little Theatre strikes it big with Steel Magnolias

7 Nov


This photo of the cast is courtesy of Heads Up Hair Team, which has done a masterful job of setting hair.

Photo courtesy of Heads Up Hair Team, which has done a masterful job of setting hair.

By Diva Shari Parsons

GODERICH – Big hair and big personalities were center stage on the opening night of Goderich Little Theatre‘s production of Robert Harling’s play, Steel Magnolias.

The evening began with the play’s director, Colleen Caesar, sharing the interesting factoid that while many of us may be familiar with the 1989 movie of the same name, the film was actually based on the play written by Robert Harling who wrote about the true-life story of his sister, Susan.

I was uncertain as to what to expect from a small town theatre company putting on a play whose story was first made known to the general populace through a well-known movie filled with famous actors. However, the Goderich Little Theatre surpassed all my expectations with their excellent rendition.

The stage was set to resemble the interior of a home-based beauty salon. I appreciated the clever use of a lower level for the placement of the stylist chairs, leaving the sight-line to center stage clear as this was where a lot of the action took place. With the exception of a few thematic prop changes that indicated time changes, the setting stayed the same throughout the play.

The brassy, bold and somewhat over-the-top character of salon owner, Truvy Jones, was humorously played by Lisa Hood sporting a bright blonde puffy hairstyle and slightly tacky, curve-hugging clothes.

My favourite actors were Leigh Ann Van Aaken as the mother, M’Lynn Eatenton, and Sherry Marshall as Claree Belcher, the former first lady of Chinquapin Parish. Both ladies portrayed their characters with such natural ease and realism that you forgot they were just the actors and not the real characters themselves.

I was very surprised to see a young lady that I know from my ladies’ fellowship group  – Courtney Henry – playing the part of the somewhat lost apprentice, Annelle.

The irascible character of Ouiser Beaudreaux was portrayed by Annie Coulter. Annie did a good job carrying out the physical demeanor and voice of her character.

Shauna Clark did a good job portraying Shelby, the young woman whose story is the centre of the play. I can’t describe her as being the main character as I found that each of the characters was larger than life and each of them had her own story to tell.

I was very impressed by the incredible amount of dialogue that needed to be memorized and by the almost flawless delivery of the famous Southern drawl.

My friend and I both thoroughly enjoyed this play portrayed with great humour and gentle sorrow. To top it off, I won a door prize! I highly encourage everyone to see this production.


If you go:

What: Goderich Little Theatre’s Steel Magnolias

Where: The Livery, 35 South St., goderich

When: Nov. 7 and 11 to 14 at 8 p.m. Nov. 8 at 2 p.m.

How: Tickets are $20 / $18 for members and $25 / $22.50 for non-members. Buy tickets online or at the Box Office, open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 30 minutes before each performance. Phone 519-524-6262 for reservations. Please note a credit card number is required for ticket reservations





Mike Janzen Trio delivers fun, sassy evening of jazz

2 Nov

mikejanzentrio3By Diva Heather Boa

GODERICH – Monster musicians. That’s how Al Mullin describes the Mike Janzen Trio, after their performance at St. George’s Anglican Church in Goderich last night.

I don’t know much about jazz, but I’ll take Al’s word for it that these three guys – a piano player, a bass player and a drummer – are up and coming musicians to watch. After all, Al is a talented trumpet player with The Howlin’ Dogs Vintage Jazz Band and has the credentials to make that call.

Indeed, Mike Janzen on piano, Ross MacIntyre on bass and guitar, and Ben Riley on drums have wedged this Goderich stop into a schedule that will see Mike head into Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio to wrap up his latest CD and Ross and Ben head off to Japan in two days.

Mike Janzen on piano.

Mike Janzen on piano.

From Sunshine Coast, with its upbeat sounds reminiscent of a lazy day under the hot sun, through Broadway tunes, country jazz, swing jazz numbers to an end with I’ve Decided, with its touch of gospel, this trio delivered fun and sassy, clever and brassy music. They were precise and tight at the opening and close of each song on the playbill, but spontaneity caught a hold in the middle, for a wonderfully entertaining adventure.

Ross MacIntryre on bass and Ben Riley on drums.

Ross MacIntyre on bass and Ben Riley on drums.

On a makeshift stage in the sanctuary, set against a backdrop of long stained glass windows under vaulted ceiling, they wrung sound from their instruments in what seemed like a million impossible ways. There were elbows running along keys and steel, sticks tapping every possible surface, and sounds I’ve never heard come out of a guitar before. Watching hands fly over keys, over strings was captivating. My heart raced without moving a stitch during some of the songs, as they reached a near collision of sound. Then they pulled it all back. It was quiet. Calm. Settled into a slower-paced classical / jazz piece or a familiar song from the Broadway musical Annie or Mary Poppins.

Then there were the oven mitts. In a bit of a tribute to his childhood piano teacher, who chastised him for not practising by telling him it sounded as though he were playing with oven mitts on, Mike Janzen donned oven mitts and played a fun little piece – which sounded pretty darned good.

The evening was a combined effort of the Riverview House Concerts, which has hosted Mike Janzen at a Toronto venue in the past, and The Livery LIVE series, bringing live music to Goderich. The next Livery LIVE concert is the East Pointers, a freshly formed trio of seventh generation Prince Edward Island musicians, performing on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. at The Livery. For more information, visit online.



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