Favourite Five stops on day trip through Huron County

30 Apr

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By Diva Heather Boa

Fuelled with a cup of coffee and the voice of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café for company, I headed out for a day trip to some of my favourite stops in Huron County. Today is a food-themed tour, a gathering of locally produced food to stock my fridge.

Stops along my three-hour, 120-km trip take me from Goderich through Hensall, Zurich, Dashwood and back to my lakeside home.

As I drive, the sun throws its warmth across the countryside and farm machinery massages the winter-worn earth, getting ready for another season of growing. Rows of mailboxes mark the ends of country laneways, hand-painted names clustered along family-owned farms. Small cemetery plots give evidence of lives lived.

Here are my Favourite Five stops for an afternoon day trip in Huron County:

  1. IMG_9752Laithwaite Apple Park, 35563 Huron Rd. (Hwy. 8), just east of Goderich. Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. This year-round farm gate store is tucked behind a scattering of sculptures George Laithwaite (1873-1956) fashioned from fieldstones, metal and cement. Inside the store, I usually have a chat with Ed Laithwaite about topics ranging from pesticide use to the disappearance of fruit and vegetable farmers in Huron County. Then I’ll buy apples, potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, onions, turnip or whatever happens to be in season. At the height of harvest, the shop overflows with squash, gourds and pumpkins for children to pick through. Today’s purchase: Courtland apples.
  2. IMG_9758Metzger’s Meat Products Inc., 180 Brock Ave., Hensall. Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, closed. The freshly butchered meats, rows of deli meats, display cases of frozen meats and variety of cheese hold so many possibilities for a backyard barbecue, intimate dinner or even a breakfast start to the day. Purchases by other patrons in the store include London broil, smoked pork chops and breakfast sausages. Today’s purchase: Tuscany turkey and prosciutto salami deli meat.
  3. IMG_9762Rader’s Homestyle Market, 38110 Zurich-Hensall Rd., Zurich. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There is also a store in on Stanley Street in Goderich.)The market’s namesake, Jerry Rader, is out front today, preparing the yard for the summer season. He begs off a photo, and refers my questions to his children, who now run the business. This is a neat store to poke around, with racks of giftware like scarves, purses and glittering slippers surrounded by frozen pies and gravies, fresh salads and daily lunch features. At the height of summer, the gardens will be bursting with flowers, there will be entertainment on the lawn – under that tent Jerry is putting together in the photo – and rows of local produce will be on display outside the store. Today’s purchase: A small container of baked beans.
  4. IMG_9767 copyCoastal Roastery Café, 17 Goshen St. N., Zurich. Hours: Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Watch Facebook and Twitter sites for expanded spring hours.) I’ve followed the owner of Coastal Coffee Company, Ben Gingerich’s, story from its start when he roasted coffee beans in a popcorn maker and used his wife, Brianna’s, hairdressing clients to test his small batches of coffee to their success in marketing the fair trade, locally roasted coffee in retail outlets and restaurants throughout Southwestern Ontario and at farmers’ market across the county. But I’d never been to his new 1,400-square-foot storefront and roastery in Zurich. Today’s purchase: A cup of micro-batch Nicaraguan medium roast coffee for the rest of my trip.
  5. IMG_9774Hayter’s Farm, 37467 Dashwood Rd., Dashwood. Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hayter’s is a delightful one-stop shop just on the outskirts of a small rural village. It’s delightful because on one side is frozen and fresh turkey products of all kinds, from breasts to sausages to schnitzel, along with frozen pies, sauces and berries, then on the other side is the LCBO outlet. All you need for an early barbecue in one stop. Today’s purchase: Turkey thigh roast and spinach & cranberry turkey burgers.

IMG_9778Okay, I said there were five favourites. However, I took a wrong turn and discovered a sixth: The Whole Pig, 37871 Dashwood Rd., Dashwood. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, call ahead to 519-237-3255 or cell, 519-851-3327. This shop is set up in a shed on the farm, with pepperettes and pepperoni in a fridge at the front entrance, an information table, and all the good stuff in a walk-in freezer. Just have a look over the lengthy order form, and a staff member will retrieve the product for you. My purchase: A package of four Chilly Hot Sausages.

Love Letters: Signed, sealed & delivered at Blyth Festival

26 Apr

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karenstewartBy Diva Karen Stewart

BLYTH – The Blyth Festival is my favourite place to escape to and last night was another enjoyable evening at the theatre. The new plays they present are always engaging and they have another great season opening up in a few weeks, but on this evening they were presenting a special fund-raising event. The play was Love Letters by A.R. Gurney.

Over five performances, this production will feature five separate couples. On this night, Jodi Kuran, who is the principal of St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School, and Phil Main, a well-known radio personality from CKNX, played the parts of Melissa Gardner and Andy Ladd.

Melissa and Andy began corresponding in second grade with thank you notes and postcards from summer camp. Their correspondence is evocative, and often funny. They establish a deep relationship through letters that chronicle humorous observations and their feelings from age seven through high school then college and beyond.

Andy loves to write. He talks about how letter writing is a dying art and how he feels most alive when writing letters. However, when he tells Melissa details of his everyday life story, she is not terribly interested, telling him to write about his feelings. When she suggests the telephone might be not only be a more modern way to connect, but also much more efficient, Andy disagrees stating “telephone calls are dead as soon as they’re over” while letters are “alive” and can live on.

Kuran brings Melissa alive through not only her voice, but also her timing and befitting facial expressions. She crafts a cheeky Melissa who has privilege of wealth but lacks the richness of deep family bonds.   She fights to expose the hypocrisies of the times, preferring to be a little rebellious even though it spins her in dangerous directions at times. Lost for most of her life, she becomes more vulnerable throughout the play showing, she is real and down-to-earth.

Main’s portrayal of Andy is reserved and low-key. He is the mature one, continually living up to his parents’ expectations of who he should be. In doing so he manufactures an artificially perfect family life. He is inflexible when it comes to deviating from respectability – a trait that emotionally devastates him.   But, through his relationship with Melissa he admits to himself that she is the only one who truly loves him for who he is.

Letters are vital lifelines for Andy and Melissa. Their correspondence through the decades – like many love stories – includes silences and reconciliations, marriages, divorces, children, career adventures, and deaths. They share intimate details of love, relationships and opportunities missed because of ego and pride.

Kuran and Main make the characters of Melissa and Andy their own. They share a long enduring friendship that brings a sweet chemistry to the stage. Kuran brings a bit of sass and Main remains stalwart throughout the production.

Love Letters is a lovely theatre piece,” says the director, John McHenry. “There’s no elaborate set or special effects, the focus is on the words; it’s heart-warming, poignant, and funny.”

I wish I could see all five performances as I can only imagine how real-life couples Bruce and Margaret Whitmore and Duncan and Lynda McGregor will each bring vastly different personalities to the characters. I don’t doubt Lisa Hood will bring a little sass to Melissa too while Quinn Ross and Shawn Van Osch will each bring an intensity to Andy in their performances.


If you get a chance to go:

Where: Blyth Festival

When:

Thursday, April 30 at 8 p.m. features Shawn Van Osch & Lisa Hood

Saturday, May 1, at 8 p.m. features Lisa Hood & Quinn Ross

Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. features Duncan & Lynda McGregor

Cost: $25. Order tickets by calling 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or visit online.

Psychic medium stirs up the past in dinner at Part II Bistro

23 Apr
Medium Kelly Elston reads the crowd at Part II Bistro.

Psychic medium Kelly Elson reads the crowd of women gathered at Part II Bistro in Blyth. Photos courtesy of Darlene McCowan Photographer.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – Tonight I heard from my dad and my grandmother, which is weird because they’ve both been dead for more than a decade.

As generally happens when family gets together, they wanted to talk about the people we have in common – my aunts and uncles, my mom and my two brothers – and pass on a few hellos. The messages played out kind of like a cross between 20 questions and charades, as they communicated through Goderich psychic medium Kelly Elson during a group reading held at Part II Bistro in Blyth.

From what I gather, Dad showed her a symbol that looks like the Roman numeral II, which in the language of the dead (my words, not hers) can mean he’s trying to talk about twins, someone who is a Gemini, somebody’s birthday, or the parallel of two things falling close together. After more questions, it was possible that something happened on a holiday, or two somethings happened on two holidays.

Bingo.

My father was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer on Labour Day weekend in 1999. And he died on Victoria Day weekend in 2000.

She also said he kept coming back to a Canada flag.

kelly peek 2What I didn’t tell the medium was that my dad made a stained glass maple leaf set into a stepping stone, which was donated as the centre piece for the IODE Maple Leaf chapter’s public garden in Goderich. After he died, someone stole that stepping stone.

She asked too if lily of the valley, those delicate white flowers found in the woods, mean anything to me because dad kept pulling up handfuls of them.

Maybe a bingo.

Flowers were one of my dad’s many passions. He loved trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and ferns from the forests, so he probably liked lily of the valley too. I don’t know for sure.

Kelly made her way around the room, telling the women gathered for this dinner what she saw – someone named John who smelled like a woodstove, about a hundred people gathered to pass on their thanks to a nurse, a father-in-law whose image appeared in black and white to signify he’s been gone for awhile, a grandmother holding a child in a pink blanket, a woman in an intense game of poker, and the images just keep coming.

The accuracy of some of her statements was quite astounding. There was instant intimacy in a room full of strangers and some of what was said should stay within the confines of that dining room.

Peter and Sarah Gusso, of Part II Bistro, were wonderful hosts, setting up the dining room in long rows of tables so that clusters of friends sat alongside strangers for the evening. The three-course meal included: spinach and bosc pear salad, with gourmet trail mix, Blyth spiced goat cheese and a maple-citrus-mustard vinaigrette; pineapple chicken atop a bed of coconut rice with volcano rice, all topped with a fresh salsa; brownies with coulis, plus a table tray of lemon tarts, coffee cakes and strudels.

Part II Bistro has a schedule of wine, Scotch or beer tastings, live music and other events. Check them out on Facebook or online.

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Ten reasons to visit Bayfield sometime soon

22 Apr

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Huron County readies for summer tourism season

21 Apr
Keynote speakers Rebecca Wise and Victor Barry of Cottage Life’s INNvasion’s reality TV show, talked about the growing trend for nostalgia and urged participants to think of all the senses - smell, sounds, touch, and tastes.

Keynote speakers Rebecca Wise & Victor Barry of Cottage Life’s INNvasion’s reality TV show, talked about the growing trend for nostalgia & urged participants to think of all senses – smell, sounds, touch, and tastes. Photos by Jenna Ujiye.

By Diva Karen Stewart

BLUEWATER – Tourism is the world’s largest industry with revenues of over $500 billion including travel, tourism and hospitality businesses. In Huron County, tourism is a major economic driver as we welcome over one million visitors to our region each year.

Recently, the Huron Tourism Association held its annual industry event. Over 100 tourism business operators gathered at the Community Centre in Zurich to listen, learn, and interact with their peers. By bringing together tourism operators to network and to sharpen skills, to learn about the County’s tourism assets and to talk about emerging travel trends we work to provide the best possible experience for our visitors.

This year’s theme was “Hospitable Huron – Weve got it, Lets flaunt it!” Our keynote speakers, Rebecca Wise and Victor Barry of Cottage Life’s Dining INNvasion reality TV show, talked about the growing trend for nostalgia and urged participants to think of all the senses – smell, sounds, touch, and tastes – whether in the kitchen or through decorating their public spaces. On the same note, Rebecca noted that her visit to Huron County exceeded her expectations, saying “You don’t know hospitality until you’ve stepped out into the rural countryside.”

Boxes and bundles of  new brochures are distributed to tourism operators throughout the county in time for the tourism summer season.

Boxes and bundles of new brochures are distributed to tourism operators throughout the county in time for the tourism summer season.

Heritage sites and stories, food, events and opportunities for outdoor adventures were all highlighted during three familiarization trips in the host municipality of Bluewater. Tourism operators gained a deeper awareness of just how rich in tourism assets that region of the county is.

One of the main activities during this annual event is the Brochure Swap. Participants are encouraged to gather related business brochures so they can promote each other to the world all season long. In

Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol Curator Patricia Hamilton (centre) receives the Tourism Champion Award from past recipient Jim Lee of Cinnamon Jim's and Huron County Tourism Co-ordinator Cindy Fisher.

Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol Curator Patricia Hamilton (centre) receives the Tourism Champion Award from past recipient Jim Lee of Cinnamon Jim’s and Huron County Tourism Co-ordinator Cindy Fisher.

addition, the newly re-designed 2015 Ontario’s West Coast Travel Guide was available as were the County’s specialty brochures including Fishing, Hiking and Cycling guides – each one a valuable tool that drives business in the County each season of the year.

And, finally, more proof of the good work folks are doing in the county was shared when two awards were presented. Huron County Museum and Gaol Curator Patricia Hamilton was honoured with the Tourism Champion Award, presented for demonstrating stellar hospitality, creative marketing savvy, inclusive partnerships and forward-thinking leadership and promotion of Ontario’s West Coast. And, the Maitland Trail Association, which

Roger Goddard and Suzanna Reid, of the Maitland Trail Association, accept the Tourism Development Award from John McHenry, an HTA board member.

Roger Goddard and Susanna Reid, of the Maitland Trail Association, accept the Tourism Development Award from John McHenry, an HTA board member.

celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, was awarded the Tourism Development Award for demonstrating leadership, creative invention, partnership initiatives, community impact and excellence in the tourism industry.

In Huron County, we’re open and ready for business. We look forward to welcoming you to Ontario’s West Coast for adventure, theatre, festivals, events, and food.   You’ll find heritage and culture sites that share stories of our deep rural roots and you’ll find new friends offering you a warm rural hospitality.

Visit ontarioswestcoast.ca today to plan your visit today.

Stories are part of the fabric of quilts, dresses & hats at the 2015 Quilt Exhibit

16 Apr
The quilt collection of Susan & Laurie Kraftcheck is featured in the 2015 Quilt Exhibit. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Sitter.

The quilt collection of Susan & Laurie Kraftcheck is featured in the 2015 Quilt Exhibit. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Sitter.

By Diva Heather Boa

EXETER –Joseph Hisey began his collection with a complete set of Edwardian women’s underwear.

Intricate jet beading adorns the back of this purple silk velvet caplet from 1895.

Intricate jet beading adorns the back of this purple silk velvet caplet from 1895.

In less than two decades, the fashion history instructor from Fanshawe College
has grown his collection to include not only nightgowns and petticoats with fine needlepoint, but about 200 pieces that represent developments in women’s fashion from 1849 through to current day. A number from the Victorian era are on display in the 2015 Heritage Quilt Exhibit at Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church in Exeter until Saturday, April 18.

The oldest dress in his collection dates back to 1849, a woollen dress woven in a stripe design of blue and orange with silk fringe. It was donated by the

A woollen dress is woven in a stripe design of blue and orange with silk fringe.

A woollen dress is woven in a stripe design of blue and orange with silk fringe.

family of a woman who brought what would have been her best dress from England to Canada. Then there’s the two-piece cream pont d’esprit dinner dress he discovered crumpled in a box at a flea market at Christie’s. Taking a chance, he paid $20 for the small bundle and found the delicate dress was in perfect condition with a label from Toronto’s Wm Stitt & Co. (circa 1900), estimated to be worth as much as $700. Other dresses have come from eBay, flea markets, auctions and donations.

Joseph Hisey, dress collector and fashion history instructor.

Joseph Hisey, textile and vintage clothing collector and fashion history instructor.

“I swore I’d never collect dresses. Coins take up so much less space,” Joseph joked. He keeps about five dresses displayed on mannequins in his home, with the rest carefully wrapped in acid-free paper and boxes and stored away. From time to time, he invites friends to help him air out the dresses and refold them so that they don’t wear along a fold line. In return, he makes an event out of it, providing commentary on the history of the dresses.

World War I Red Cross quilt.

World War I Red Cross quilt.

The 95 quilts in the curated show also tell stories of the women who pieced and sewed them together, and of the people who were important in their lives.

Among the dozens upon dozens of quilts that hang from frames or dowels is one with rows of red crosses and more than 600 embroidered names on a white background, probably created to raise funds for the war efforts. Each cross has a piece of paper with a number pinned to it, which corresponds to numbers in a binder, listing the names associated with that cross. The quilt’s owners, Janis and Peter Bisback, bought it at a Clinton auction in the 1980s and believe it was fund-raising project of the Hillsgreen Church.

Grace Manson died of tuberculosis before she finished this quilt.

Grace Manson died of tuberculosis before she finished this quilt.

Another quilt of colourful fabrics that mimicked petalled flowers from fine porcelain plates was made by Grace Manson, intended as a wedding quilt. However, she contracted tuberculosis and called off the wedding, dying in 1939. The unfinished quilt was finally completed in the 1980s.

The show also features the quilt collection of Laurie and Susan Kraftcheck, of Exeter, and vintage hats of Lynn Wilcox.

What: 2015 Heritage Quilt Exhibit

Where: Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church, 264 Main St. S., Exeter

When: It runs Friday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: Admission is $6. Lunch is available on site.


Funds raised at the quilt exhibit support the Bach Music Festival of Canada, with its 2015 Festival Season running from July 12 to 18. The season was recently announced and tickets are available online.

Date: Monday, July 13
Title: Back’s Goldberg Variations
Concert: Leopoldo Erice
Venue: Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church
Time: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 adults, $20 students
More information here.

Date: Tuesday, July 14
Title: Barn Dance Country Show
Venue: Festival Tent
Time: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 adults, $20 students
More information here.

Date: Wednesday, July 15
Title: Reverb Brass
Venue: Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church
Time: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 adults, $20 students
More information here.

Date: Thursday, July 16
Title: A Summer Evening
Concert: Bach Festival Chamber Choir and Orchestra
Venue: Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church
Time: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 adults, $20 students
More information here.

Date: Friday, July 17
Concert: Youth Arts Program Showcase
Venue: Festival Tent
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 adults, $5 students
More information here.

Date: Saturday, July 18
Concert: St. Matthew Passion
Venue: South Huron Recreation Centre
Time: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $30 adults, $25 students
More information here.

There will also be a brown bag lunch series from Monday through Friday at noon at Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church.

Diva left with a sweet taste of ‘Hamlet with Heart’

15 Apr

carolineBy Diva Caroline Thuss

How many eggs does it take to make enough pancakes to feed over 6,000 people?

This Diva and my family discovered the answer on my journey to the 48th Belmore Maple Syrup Festival this past Saturday.

Over 300 community volunteers come together to make this event happen. It started as a way to raise funds needed to replace the community centre’s roof and has growth dramatically

Even with all the pancakes, syrup and sausages, a youngster chooses a creamer as the favourite treat.

Even with all the pancakes, syrup and sausages, a youngster chooses a creamer as the favourite treat.

over the years. Visitors come from all over Ontario to enjoy the sweet taste of local products brought together to make a delicious meal. Over 200 eggs and 700 litres of milk are used to mix into batter about 600 kg of flour, 80 kg of sugar, and more dry goods.  The dry ingredients are mixed ahead of time so all the volunteers need to do on the Festival days is add the wet ingredients and then the batter is ready for the line cooks. The pancakes are topped off with more than 150 gallons of locally produced maple syrup. Served alongside the pancakes are over 4,000 pounds of local pork sausage, which my kids could not get enough of. This festival is truly a local food celebration!

It is definitely worth the wait (we were lucky to only wait 30 minutes) to watch the line in action as hot, fluffy pancakes on a conveyor belt are placed on plates in an innovative process that makes service the fastest it can be.

It takes an army of volunteers to prepare the meal.

It takes an army of volunteers to prepare the meal.

And there is no shortage of food. If you find that the two or three pancakes along with as much sausage your plate can hold are not enough, servers are waiting to deliver more hot yummy goodness directly to your plate.

The Festival takes place in the Belmore Community Centre, which becomes packed with all the visitors in attendance enjoying the delicious food, the local entertainment, fresh baking, and more.

My kids really enjoyed the kid’s activity room, which included face painting, a clown offering balloon animals, a variety of crafts, and a space to themselves.  A whole section of the community centre is packed with local vendors selling a variety of items including jewellery, woodworking, sewing, and pottery.

The kids were enthralled by the mysteries of turning balloons in animal shapes.

The kids were enthralled by the mysteries of turning balloons in animal shapes.

One of the most popular destinations is the demonstration that happens out back of the community centre of how maple syrup is made. My kids loved the smell of the sap bubbling away to become rich syrup.

Overall, I could not think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than enjoying the Maple Syrup Festival and the very friendly community of Belmore. This Diva will be back for the 49th year!

For more information on festivals and events in Huron County, visit Ontario’s West Coast website.

Homemade pies were a hit with visitors.

Homemade pies were a hit with visitors.

 

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