Lifestyle Magazine May/June 2024

Page 55



Aging Disgracefully

There are so many memes about aging circulating on social media. Some are thoughtful, most invoke a laugh or at least a chuckle. This one is the newest to catch my attention. But a previous favourite was a Hunter S. Thompson quote: Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Wow, what a ride!”

Your time on earth is limited.
Don’t try to “age with grace,” age with mischief, audacity and a good story to tell.

Without being overly foolhardy or stupidly daring, I love trying things that are out of the norm for “someone my age.” Life’s too short to take a cautious approach to most things. I think I’ve always sort of been this way but finally realized it when I met some new women friends who wouldn’t walk alone to a bathroom in a safe, nearly deserted area while we were waiting to pick up golf carts in Key West. They were also genuinely distressed at the thought that an iguana might be in the proximity (even after I explained that they are herbivores and more afraid of people than people need to be of them).

At first, I was incredulous and thought they were joking with me, but then I checked myself and realized that we all have different comfort levels — inside voice saying, “Don’t be a judgy Judy.”

I think it’s fair to say that Janet, Dorothy, Jean and Jack go forth without fear. I was privileged to interview all these SuperAgers for a story on page 44, exploring ground-breaking research being conducted at Western University. They are all immersed in active living and experiencing new

activities and environments. They stay vital and, in my opinion, you’ll want to emulate them when you read the story. I sure do. They prove the adages, “Age is just a number” and “You’re only as old as you feel.”

Speaking of new experiences, we have a new auto columnist joining our ranks. If the name Derek Botten seems familiar, it’s likely that you listened to him as a radio host on one of several local stations over the years. Now Derek is exercising his talents in another direction by covering all things vehicle-related for Lifestyle.

What about you? Like Derek, are you planning to try using your talents pursuing something new? Do you push the limits, whatever those may be within your personal framework? Or do you prefer to experiment carefully, minding your boundaries and valuing the comfort of the known?

It’s nearly summer, which seems to release something inside daring us to skip a little faster or jump a little higher, as we did when the school bell rang for the last time until autumn.

On my agenda — continue the quest to overcome my fear of heights by trying parasailing. Do you have something on your boundary-busting to-do list this spring or summer? Please let us know at the email address below.


Chris McDonell


Jill Ellis-Worthington


Derek Botten

Lisa Brandt

Mary Ann Colihan

Jill Ellis-Worthington

Sue Gordon

Bryan Lavery

Lois Quail

Kathy Rumleski

Sue Sutherland-Wood

Janis Wallace


Annette Gent


Lorraine Lukings


Jan McGrath



Wendy Reid


Bill McGrath


Wendy Reid



Richard Bain

Jesse Bellringer


Redding Design Inc.

No part of this magazine may be


is published six times a year. Copies are distributed through magazine stands and local businesses in London and surrounding area.
the written consent
the publisher. The publisher accepts no responsibility for unsolicited material. All rights reserved. Printed in Canada.
ON THE COVER LEFT TO RIGHT Paul Bilyea of Cardinal Cabinetry Co., Adrian Manton of 309 Design, Lisa Conley of 309 Design, Laurie Bilyea of Cardinal Cabinetry Co. Photography by Bain Images
AT 525 Huron Street, London
N5Y 4J6 • 519-434-8349

Our family-owned and operated business offers a large selection of top-quality flooring and tile products, superior craftsmanship, and exceptional service tailored to meet your renovation and new construction needs.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 7
CELEBRATING YEARS Providing Flooring and Tile Transformations to Our Valued Clients in Southwestern Ontario! Visit our showroom or call us today to connect with one of our Flooring and Design Specialists about your next home project. 519-681-7771
8 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 41 10 contents MAY/JUNE 2024 64 21 44 76 38 73 72 HOMES 10 DREAM LOTTERY Big House Little House 20 BUSINESS PROFILE Copp’s Buildall 21 DESIGN & BUILD Artistic Alchemy: Cardinal Cabinet Co. & 309 Design 26 SPRING HOME RESOURCE GUIDE 37 BUSINESS PROFILE Clancy’s Rainbow MARKETPLACE 38 OUTDOOR LIVING TRAVEL 41 TRENDS Where the Pros Want to Go 56 ROAD TRIP Exploring Elgin County WELLNESS 44 AGING Is London a Blue Zone? FASHION 48 SUMMER SUNWEAR Beach Bound Style BEAUTY 55 BUSINESS PROFILE Maria Bikas Salon AUTOS 61 SAFETY FEATURES Keeping It Between the Lines THE ARTS 64 SUMMER ROUNDUP Painting and Performance EATDRINK 68 THE BUZZ Culinary Community News 72 BUSINESS PROFILE Arva Flour Mill 73 RESTAURANTS Eddington’s of Exeter 76 RECIPES 5 Ingredients Mediterranean HEARTH AND HOME 78 THE EVOLUTION OF A GARDENER 41

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BIG HOUSElittle house


A modern home beside a park. A condo backing a golf course by the lake. A contribution to patient care in London. Those are the three big draws for the Dream Lottery — a win-win-win for all.

The grand prize is an inviting family home built by Bridlewood Homes in the Sunningdale area of northwest London. It offers access to a park, nearby schools, shopping and entertainment. A Port Stanley Kokomo Beach Club condo by Wastell is another dream prize. It is a 10-minute walk to the beach with lake views.

The hospital lottery has raised more than $57 million in the past 23 years. These proceeds benefit patient care through St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, London Health Sciences Foundation and Children’s Health Foundation.



OPPOSITE PAGE The prize home’s kitchen is on trend with two-tone cabinets, a waterfall quartz countertop and full-slab backsplash.

• Exposed wooden beams accent the vaulted ceiling in the open living/dining/kitchen space. • Descend the black, side-lit stairs to the “speakeasy” entertainment zone on the lower level. • A cozy reading room/office space has custom metal display shelves.

• Ambient floor lighting in the dining area showcases the tambour wall treatment and solid marble tops a metal dining table.


Step into the entry of this house and its immediately evident why Bridlewood is an award-winning builder known for quality custom homes exceeding the expected. Project manager Craig Gallo says, “It’s a great family home, a cozy house with four bedrooms upstairs and one below.”

“I wanted it to feel really cozy and natural,” says Victoria Morphy of 12|26 Design Co. “We used a lot of wood, stone and textures. It’s more natural, not just white. It gives a more lived-in feel. You feel you are wrapped up, and home is an escape.”

Layers of texture repeat throughout the home: wood floors, boucle upholstery, fluted tiles, tambour millwork and a variety of metals, including matte black and shiny bronze.

Layers of texture repeat throughout the home: wood floors, boucle upholstery, fluted tiles, tambour millwork and a variety of metals, including matte black and shiny bronze.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 11
Descend the black, side-lit stairs to the “speakeasy” on the lower level.

LEFT On the lower level, the mood is set by colour-drenched walls in black, smoked antique mirror tiles over the bar and sexy lighting.

MIDDLE A three-piece bathroom follows the lower level’s dramatic colour scheme. • Nine-foot ceilings, a 75-inch television and a black sectional are ready for binge time.

LOWER LEFT The main ensuite has a private water closet, large shower, double vanity and tub to create a spa-like retreat.

BELOW The primary bedroom features soft textures in the upholstered headboard, boucle chair and drapery. Black accents add punch in the bedroom and ensuite, where the faucets, glass shower door trim and sconces framing the mirrors also pop in black.

OPPOSITE PAGE Two smaller bedrooms share a bathroom and follow variations on the black and neutral scheme.

12 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024

In the open living/dining/kitchen space, beams in the vaulted ceiling add character, says Morphy. Custom built-ins of metal, with quartz dividers and black tambour backing, frame the fi replace. A soft drapery ups the texture and cozy quotients.

Ambient floor lighting in the dining area showcases the tambour wall treatment, and solid marble tops a metal dining table. “We’ve mixed metals throughout,” says Morphy. Dining chairs and island stools invite luxury lingering, covered in thick boucle fabric.

The front of the kitchen island and vent hood display inverted tambour, which is repeated in the powder room. It features sconces with alabaster diffusers, an echo of the stone motif.

“For the size of the kitchen, there is a ton of storage,” says Morphy. It’s on trend with two-tone cabinets by Del Priore Kitchens, a waterfall quartz countertop and full-slab backsplash. “We have a massive walk-in pantry,” says Gallo. It is accessible from the kitchen, drop zone and mud room.

One of Morphy’s favourite spaces is a reading room/offi ce space, with custom metal display shelves.

A landing upstairs leads to four bedrooms and laundry room. The latter provides a folding station, a deep sink and drying bar.

In the main ensuite, a private water closet, large shower, double vanity and tub create a spa-like retreat. “The quartz vanity counter drops down like a waterfall,” says Gallo. “There are automatic motion sensors for the lights.”

“The bedroom is open and hotel-like,” says Morphy. An upholstered headboard has been drawing admiration from visitors. The tambour, stone and soft drapery themes are also evident.

Two smaller bedrooms, each with large closets, share a bathroom and follow variations on the black and neutral scheme. Millwork accent walls provide focal points. The large window in one is framed architecturally by angled walls.

In the guest suite, a wall of drapery softens the window, and a boucle headboard offers comfy style.

Descend the black, side-lit stairs to the “speakeasy” on the lower level. The mood is set by colour-drenched walls in black, smoked antique mirror tiles over the bar and sexy lighting. Nine-foot ceilings, a 75-inch television and a black sectional from Modern Living London are ready for binge time. Metal built-ins display bottles in front of a back-lit mirror and black tambour millwork. The long bar runs under the window and provides storage and two bar fridges. A fl ex room, a threepiece bathroom and a large utility complete the basement.

In the garage, Gallo says the epoxy floors and work bench provide function and style — a complete package, which neatly sums up this house. 

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 13
45 York St. - 519.679.9000 1640 Fanshawe Park Rd. W. - 519.472.3648 2090 Dundas St. - 519.659.9989 4333 Colonel Talbot Rd. - 519.652.3575 45 York St. - 519.679.9000 1640 Fanshawe Park Rd. W. - 519.472.3648 2090 Dundas St. - 519.659.9989 4333 Colonel Talbot Rd. - 519.652.3575 photo courtesy of Think Copp’s for your decking project Think Copp’s for your decking project Windows & Doors 519-659-3550 SHOWROOM 535 First St., London Mon-Fri 9-5:30; Sat 10-2 • Free in-home quotes VINYL & WOOD WINDOWS DOUBLE & TRIPLE GLAZED STEEL, FIBREGLAS & WOOD DOORS VINYL PATIO DOORS with INTERNAL MINI BLINDS NEW OR REPLACEMENT 30 ®


For those who want to get away from it all without going far, a condo in the Kokomo Beach Club, in Port Stanley, is an ideal option. It’s a community within the town, with a club house, pool and fitness path.

The three-bedroom prize “Coast” model is the largest design in this development and is located in a pre-cast concrete, four-storey building clad in Hardie backerboard cement siding. A rooftop patio offers great views.

Entering the condo, the beach theme pops in art, colour palette and natural textures — a door with cane inserts for instance. Area rugs offer thick softness in woven rattan and rag styles. The main bathroom comes alive with large-scale blue leaf-print wallpaper.

Kitchen and bathrooms feature blue or white cabinetry and white counters and tile. The fridge door is wrapped in a

cane-like pattern with gold handles, and an apron-front sink sports a gold faucet.

A pendant light, topped with a pineapple detail and leaf-shaped paddles on the ceiling fan, continue the tropical vibe. Navy velvet seating invites relaxation in the living area. A balcony off the great room is a great place to enjoy the view.

Two bedrooms provide golf course views: one is decked out in teal, pink and fl amingo, while the other fl aunts blue, white and starfi sh. The main bedroom features a navy millwork wall, continuing the nautical theme. It includes a large walk-in closet and ensuite. Gold faucets, hardware and shower frame add some Miami glitz.

Floors throughout are stone plastic composite (SPC) for durability.

The club house includes a lounge, workout, yoga and party rooms, all designed in sky, water and sand hues.

14 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 OPEN SINCE 1980 Where solutions come to light.
May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 15 KARLENE DALE 519.670.1876 Drapery, Blinds, Shutters & Upholstery “Creativity Takes Courage “ BE BOLD... w w w c l a n c y s r a i n b o w c o m OC-64 Pure white 2131-50 Nimbus Gray AF-290 Caliente egar “ ...DLOB OC-64 Pure white 2131-50 Nimbus Gray AF-290 Caliente OPPOSITE PAGE TOP The prize condo’s beach theme pops in art, colour palette and natural textures. LEFT The kitchen features blue and white cabinetry, with white counters and tile. RIGHT One of the two smaller bedrooms is decked out in teal and pink, with flamingo accents. ABOVE A pendant light, topped with a pineapple detail and leaf-shaped paddles on the ceiling fan, enhances the tropical vibe.  LIFE ST YLE RE ADER S ME AN BUSINE SS.

ABOVE LEFT In the kitchen, the fridge door is wrapped in a cane-like pattern with gold handles and an apron-front sink sports a gold faucet.

ABOVE RIGHT The main bedroom has a navy millwork wall, continuing the nautical theme.

TOP RIGHT The main bedroom’s ensuite features gold faucets, hardware and shower frame to add some Miami glitz.

MIDDLE RIGHT A third bedroom flaunts blue, white and starfish accents.

LOWER RIGHT The club house includes a lounge, workout, yoga and party room.

BOTTOM RIGHT A wall of windows in the club house gym makes it ideal for workouts or yoga class.


On top of well-built prize homes with efficient layouts, part of the appeal for lottery supporters is seeing what’s new, unique and trendy in surfaces and furnishings. The design and build are complemented by the trades and suppliers.

Throughout the Bridlewood home, furnishings were provided by Modern Living London, helping Morphy realize her modern, cozy feeling. The soft window coverings were created by Covers Designers Edge. Formed Metal Co. made the custom metal pieces. As well as the kitchen cabinetry, Del Priore Kitchen and Bath created the bar, bathroom vanities and mudroom bench. Peter's Carpentry made the great room builtins and wall millwork.

In the Wastell condo, Flatout Flooring installed the durable flooring. Cabinets were created by Verbeek Kitchens and Bath, with countertops by Progressive Countertop. Creative Fabrications provided draperies. •


• Atchison Plumbing & Heating

• DLS Electric

• Ribtech Electronics Inc

• Pro-Stair & Railing

• Peter’s Carpentry

• London Major Appliances

• Core Forming Inc.

• Refined Flooring & Design

• Finishing Touch Flooring

• Nieman Market Design

• Del Priore Custom Kitchens LTD

• 12|26 Design Co.

• Dyck Exterior Installations Inc.

• Western Overhead Door

• Modern Living London

• London Roof Truss Inc.

• Covers Designers Edge

• Stage Windows & Doors

• The Lighting Shoppe Inc.

• Nieman Storage Solutions

• L.S. Couto Contracting Inc.

• London Stone Co.

• London Star Drywall

• London Central Painting

• Pushkar Wood Finishing Inc.

• Stylistic Glass & Mirror

• Formed Metal Company


• London Mechanical Plumbing & Heating

• DLS Electric

• Flatout Flooring Inc.

• Verbeek Kitchens & Bath

• Progressive Countertop

• Creative Fabrications

JANIS WALLACE has written for newspapers, magazines, scripts and social media on topics from music to dog food, fashion to décor, agriculture to gardens. She wrote a book about a theatre, a place she loves to be — in the audience or on stage.

16 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 17 We make custom builds and renovations simple! We focus on high-end quality finishes, superior craftsmanship and customer service to ensure every project is organized and stress free. Let us create the home of your dreams! We are Cara Design &

Just For Us

Bridlewood Homes earn kudos

With a long-standing reputation for building new custom homes of quality and distinction, Bridlewood Homes has been a proud partner of the Dream Home Lottery since 2002. Matching the hospital's commitment to the highest quality health care, Bridlewood promises the same excellence in its work and service.

Building in several prime areas of London and region, Bridlewood Homes’ communities are close to schools, shopping, sports and often park-like locations. The homesites are often the best London has to offer and are ideal settings for families to grow and thrive.

Bridlewood Homes creative excellence has been recognized by numerous awards from the London Homebuilders’ Association. Clients also attest to their process and

Bridlewood Homes’ creative excellence has been recognized by numerous awards from the London Homebuilders’ Association.

results. One wrote: “Right from the beginning things have felt right, and our experience has been exceptional.

Carmine (Gargarella, president) — as a builder, you have been accommodating, suggested creative improvements, and always made us feel comfortable about reaching out whenever we needed to. More, the Bridlewood Homes’ team walked us through every step of the process, and never did we feel like they didn't have our best interest at heart. You’ve made our new home feel like it was built ‘just for us.’ From the bottom of our

hearts, we thank you for that.”

Those words echo Bridlewood’s goal to help their customers realize anything is possible and guide them through what could be an exhilarating time! •

18 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 Bridlewood HOMES 519.652.1455 1.866.205.3912 Proud Partner of the 2024 Dream Lottery! Multiple LHBA Awards for Creative Excellence over 30 years HOMES | PROUD PARTNER OF DREAM LOTTERY

Clean, Tailored Style

Modern Living London is under new ownership

“Style, relevance and longevity. This is the trifecta that guides Modern Living London,” says new owner Gerrard Marra. The quality furniture lines they carry offer a customized, tailored product.

“I consistently hear that customers appreciate the tailored experience they have at Modern Living London. Staff take the time to ensure customers are confident they are getting what they need. That makes us unique,” he explains.

Gerrard believes furniture is an important element in any space. “Furniture is the jewelry of a home or space. It brings life to empty space and helps elevate the living experience.” Visitors to the Dream Lottery home can see examples of how Modern Living London’s furnishings make the spaces come alive. Consumers today want pieces

Visitors to the Dream Lottery home can see examples of how Modern Living London’s furnishings make the spaces come alive.

that last. Gerrard says the primarily Canadian-made lines offer quality materials and quality construction, providing that longevity. “They are customizable with different configurations and fabrics. The merchandise we feature will remain beautiful and relevant for many years.”

After purchasing the store in the fall of 2023, Gerrard refreshed the retail space. “It’s inspirational. When you walk through the doors, there is an elevated residential feel so people can envision the furniture in their home.”

Whether inspired by the Dream Home or the retail space, Gerrard wants customers to see value in the furniture. “The key is to find out what the customer is trying to accomplish and that sets us apart.” •


Get Ready to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Copp’s Buildall has a plan

Another long winter is finally over and suddenly it’s spring. Time to get outside and tackle outdoor projects. It’s never too late to book the experts at Copp’s Buildall. Toni Rubini, contractor sales and decking specialist, says their large fence and deck building team can accommodate your schedule. “Although we’re going into the busy season, we have good availability because we have a lot of builders, especially when it comes to smaller jobs.”

When it comes to a bigger job, like that expansive backyard deck you’ve always wanted, Copp’s also offers free consultations. They’re available to give professional advice on every aspect from design to build. And there’s a material for every preference. Perhaps you favour the beauty of real wood. Maybe the lower maintenance required for composite decking is more your style. They’re also excited about some new options this season. “We can provide a more luxury look at a lower price point. There’s a new manufacturer on the scene that focuses on renewable materials and keeping a low carbon footprint.”

Whether you want to DIY your project or hire the experts at Copp’s, Toni says it’s helpful if you have considered a few vital details. Ideas abound in Copp’s indoor display at the Dundas Street East location. “Homeowners who are coming in should have a rough idea of what they want. This can even be a photo of an existing deck, even one they found online. An idea of colour palette — greys versus browns. Measurements are also great.” Copp’s own custom design software then takes the concept out of your imagination and into 3D.

“We spruce up porches and railings, as well as install new fences and decks.”

They also work with a wide range of accessories, such as gates, hardware and fence post caps. “We spruce up porches and railings, as well as install new fences and decks,” Toni says. Paint, stain and wood treatment is all in store.

Once your oasis is complete, Copp’s has all the finishing touches to customize your space: fire pits, patio sets, umbrellas, barbecues, planters and more. Their special-order catalogue presents even more options. Visit to spark some fresh ideas for your warm weather haven. •

FOR MORE INFORMATION Copp’s Buildall 2090 Dundas Street 519-659-9989
TOP AND BOTTOM At Copp’s east London location, on Dundas Street, homeowners have an array of materials to choose from in the Outdoor Design Centre. ABOVE A beautiful outcome is guaranteed with Copp’s advice, expertise, execution and materials.

artistic ALCHEMY

An inspiring fusion of art and craft

ABOVE A blackened lead surround on an Optimyst fireplace (note the showroom kitchen reflected in a mirror behind the virtual but realistic flames) centres a bold room featuring custom cabinetry and wainscoting, exceptional light fixtures, dramatic paint and wallpaper and elegant, comfortable upholstery — demonstrating the artistic alchemy of Cardinal Cabinetry Co. and 309 Design.

This enables customers to come into the shop and interact with the team or just smell the wood. The furnishings and fittings are key. People can see in the showroom how things will work at home.”

CCardinal Cabinetry Co. and 309 Design have forged an alliance based on the love of art and fi ne craftsmanship. And their newly launched showroom, the only one in the region that combines kitchens, fi ne cabinetry and interior design, displays their many creative talents. This manifests as a sum greater than its parts — true artistic alchemy.

The space is divided into showrooms that highlight the capabilities of both fi rms. When entering, these rooms flow and engage the senses and make the visitor feel welcome.

Laurie and Paul Bilyea married after they met on the job, crafting cabinets and designing kitchens in their 20s after graduating from Fanshawe College. “We have complementary skills and great synergy,” he says.

Paul, a Red Seal-endorsed cabinetmaker and chartered industrial designer, and Laurie, with an extensive background in interior design, acquired Cardinal Cabinetry Co. a decade ago from the previous owner. They leased then eventually bought the Cardinal building with almost 25,000 square feet for production and sales.

Founded in 1961, Cardinal is the oldest manufacturer of cabinetry in London. Though appreciative of Cardinal’s heritage, this industry is cutthroat and often relies on mass-produced pieces brought in from overseas. The Bilyeas

compete with high-quality standards, a well-trained local team and support for the next generation through Conestoga College’s cabinetmaker apprenticeship program. “We have a capable, right-sized team of 40 people here,” he says. “When we took over the brand, we wanted to bring the product and client experience to a new level of quality.”

To do this, they engage the client in every step of the process. They are proud of their staff, many with expertise that spans decades. “We manufacture everything on site,” says Paul. “This enables customers to come into the shop and interact with the team or just smell the wood. The furnishings and fittings are key. People can see in the showroom how things will work at home.”

The Bilyeas, both vegans, believe in sustainable operations. They use bio-paint made from

plants and an advanced venting system for worker safety. Longterm plans include a digester to reprocess wood waste into soil amendments and divert this stream from landfi ll. Behind their facility they have welcomed London’s fi rst Black community garden, with the non-profit group Type Diabeat-it.

Their showroom goals are also ambitious. Paul says it used to be important to showcase every cabinet door type in room vignettes. But those days are over. “It was like Home Depot. The noisier the choices became the easier it was for customers to get overwhelmed and confused,” he says. “Here, the client is in a curated space. They can see how this all feels together and translates to an end vision. We have hit our mark.”

Laurie’s objective was to let customers think about how they want to live and have their homes express their ideas.

22 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024

CLOCKWISE FROM OPPOSITE PAGE The expansive showroom demonstrates a number of creative ways to live saturated in colour. • Sculpted metal handles and pulls are displayed in hardware cabinets that mimic jewellery store counters. • Open to the public, the showroom allows customers to see and touch finishes and furnishings. • “The Spice and Prep Room” highlights the beauty and functionality of Cardinal’s custom cabinetry.

• In what is called “La Cuisine Elegante,” a unique range hood surrounded by walls of granite with dramatic yet effective lighting illustrates a discerning curation of products and innovative possibilities for design, earning trust that each project will be flawlessly executed.

“When you walk through these front doors you are met with an experience. You are in a colourful, cozy, warm, textural space and can touch stone, metal and wood to see how it flows together with lighting and wallpaper,” she says. “This showroom gives people a chance to trust us. They may not like everything they see but they can trust us to execute whatever they want.”

309 Design arrived at 165 Exeter just before the pandemic when Adrian Manton desired new space. His downtown warehouse and workshop in a former power plant was too large. He and Lisa Conley, 309 Design’s interior design consultant, found a fit in Cardinal’s production facility. “Paul and Laurie trusted us,” says Manton. “We have paid our dues. I have been in this business for

32 years and Lisa for 20. And we are not in the same market. 309 Design brings a high-end clientele from across Ontario and Canada.”

Conley sees their new relationship as complementary. “Cardinal is a cabinetry production company that does a lot of work for new home builders. We do mostly high-end renovations, whether your house is Victorian-revival or mid-century

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 23 

Creative collaborators in art, craftsmanship and design, (l-r) Adrian Manton from 309 Design; Laurie Bilyea and Paul Bilyea from Cardinal Cabinetry Co.; and Lisa Conley from 309 Design.

• A floor-to-ceiling mural, by Meagan-Claire Kehoe, celebrates the Japanese art of kintsugi that emphasizes an artifact’s fractures and imperfections instead of trying to hide them. • The team affectionately call this space their “Japandi Room” for its mix of Scandinavian and Japanese influences. • The Exeter Road showroom is also a welcoming space for the newly formed alliance to meet with clients, surrounded and inspired by a range of design options.

modern,” she says. “We are a smallbatch, bespoke furniture company that uses unique and highly detailed fi nishes and melds everything together into something unique.”

She notes that Cardinal’s larger production team means that 309 Design can take on bigger projects. “We can do an entire home of cabinetry now, not just a kitchen,” she says. “So, there is real symbiosis.”

Adrian is fi rst, and always, an artist. He specializes in “unbridled creativity” that express the customer’s design dreams. He also likes custom fi nishes and thinks nothing of applying 10 coats of paint and wax layers to achieve the perfect patina. The result is a completely unique piece of furniture that becomes an instant heirloom.

The showroom is the exclusive regional supplier and stockist for Farrow and Ball paint. and also includes imported French, English and U.S. fabrics, hardware and high-end lighting, including the Visual Comfort Signature Collection. “Clients don’t have to go here, there and everywhere,” says Manton. “We can reduce their work by having everything under one roof. Our suppliers are very happy.”

“Procure” is how Conley describes their showroom operation. “We bring in fabrics, wallpapers, lights and specialty items that cannot be found anywhere else in London,” she says. “This is a creative

commercial space for designers. But it is not a hard sell. We can simply share our passion with others in the industry and are supportive of each other here. We are going to have events for designers when our reps come to town, so they can show their collections to 10 designers at once.”

In many cities, customers cannot access designer showrooms without a referral. But here, everyone is welcome. “We can help a new mom fi nd paint that makes a huge impact with a small budget,” she says. “Or maybe someone wants red cupboards. It might not be face-framed, but we can give you something affordable that is unique. We make cabinets here. Cardinal can help price this kitchen.” Bilyea points out they have the skills and equipment to spray Farrow and Ball paint on their vast range of cabinetry.

Manton, who works seven days a week, appreciates the social atmosphere

“We bring in fabrics, wallpapers, lights and specialty items that cannot be found anywhere else in London.”

of the new shared space. “I am getting to know people now,” he says. “We do all kinds of stuff that you can see on Instagram @309design like food, art and beautiful design.”

You can expect that this team will continue to grow inside and outside of the showroom. Current plans include recycled pavement paths and exterior event space enclosed by a Japanese-inspired Shou Sugi Ban fence. Just look for their brand-new shrimp-bisque-coral-coloured greenhouse at 165 Exeter Road. •

MARY ANN COLIHAN is an instructor of nature writing, memoir and fiction at Western Continuing Studies. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and The Writers’ Union of Canada.

24 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
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Lifestyle Home Resource Guide





Home is where the heart is. There is no truism more fundamental to this magazine than that simple sentence. We celebrate the home and all it represents in every issue because our home is literally a cornerstone in our life and our lifestyle. Yet as we grow as individuals, as a family, as a community our needs change and our dreams change. And so does our home.

Seeking more beauty, functionality, efficiency, safety, joy and countless other considerations are all valid reasons to invest in change. The following pages profile professional specialists who can help ensure your home reflects your vision for how you want to live your life. It should always be good to be home.


A Fresh Approach

Magnus Homes offers a new perspective

Since its founding in 2020 by Jaime Crncich, Magnus Homes has built over 40 homes. These range from efficient townhome designs to sprawling custom residences.

As a young woman in the construction industry, Jaime has a unique approach. Her passion for design and commitment to creating spaces where life flourishes is evident in every home. And her leadership brings a fresh and innovative outlook, ensuring that every project benefits from diverse insights and ideas.

Magnus’ small and dedicated team of professionals helps set the company apart with their commitment to quality and attention to detail. They believe that home ownership is a cornerstone of life and take great joy in being a

Jaime Crncich’s leadership brings a fresh and innovative outlook to home construction.

meaningful part of that journey.

The team understands that building strong and lasting relationships is at the heart of a successful business in this industry, so they work with trusted trade partners and suppliers, who are invested in crafting homes that are not just structurally sound but also thoughtfully designed for the way you live daily life. From the layout of the rooms to the selection of materials, every decision is made with your comfort and convenience in mind.

When you choose Magnus Homes, you’re not just investing in a house, you’re investing in a relationship. •

Kilworth Heights West Phase 3
40’-50’+ LOTS CUSTOM DESIGNS AVAILABLE BUILDING IN THE NEIGHBOURHOODS OF Kilworth Heights West Phase 3 City Convenience, Country Charm ~ Sol Haven Grand Bend Never Miss A Sunset WITH MAGNUS HOMES Quality Comes Standard 226-777-2058 • @magnushomes
Sol Haven Grand Bend Jaime Crncich, founder and owner of Magnus Homes.

Making Spaces Work

Amber Light Custom Cabinetry’s speciality

Clients often start by saying they’ve wanted to change their kitchen for years because it doesn’t work; it’s dated; they dislike it.

Yvonne McLeod, owner of Amber Light Custom Cabinetry, says her role is to bring joy to their home. “When you’re in a space every day, it affects you. It plays a part in your wellbeing. Chaos, physically and mentally, is having a lot of things, open shelves, clutter.” Using the psychology of design calms the chaos, improves mental health.

Subdued colours, more windows, better storage and improved ergonomics are some of the techniques to bring order. Reducing or eliminating pattern and texture decreases the “noise” of a busy space, as does storing items behind doors

“We use kitchens everyday, so they need to be orderly and convenient.”

instead of open shelves. “We use kitchens every day, so they need to be orderly and convenient. Sometimes I don’t change the footprint; I add drawers or change the paint to quiet the chaos,” she explains.

Comfort, family and connecting are current drivers in design.

McLeod says she often adds a dining table in the kitchen now, not just an island with seating, so it becomes a gathering place. For long-term appeal, she recommends making the more permanent elements neutral. “Layer in items and colour to personalize it.”

405 Main St S, Exeter • 519.301.2937 outstanding DESIGN • impeccable craftsmanship Building spaces worth loving !

Thoughtful Design

From concept to reality

For homeowners with a vision, Quantum Verdi Design has a team of experts ready to help make it a reality. “Most people have an idea of what they want but don’t know how to put the pieces together. That’s where we step in,” says Adam Mackowiak, owner of the home lifestyle store and design studio. “We listen to them and help with every angle to create a home that is beautiful and aesthetically in balance.”

This often includes elements the client hasn’t considered, Mackowiak says. An example is lighting, which he says is “the most important and sexy element in the house.”

The homeowner may have incredible art, for example, but without the proper lighting, it’s often not fully appreciated. “We discuss with them what they want to highlight and design the lighting for the entire house.”

The designers also help with many distinctive

features, from functional wine cellars to state-ofthe-art home theatres.

And with the merger, several years ago, of Verdi Design and London’s Quantum home furnishings and décor retailer, they can complete any space to suit the homeowner’s needs and lifestyle. They will also help source wish-list items from other places or even build custom pieces. •

“We listen to them and help with every angle to create a home that is beautiful and aesthetically in balance.”

Amplify Your Outdoor Space

Cottage Culture has pieces to help

Angela Roth, manager of Cottage Culture, explains the outdoor area should be considered as an extension of the living area of a house. As such, people expect the same function, design and comfort in outdoor furniture.

For larger spaces, divide it into zones of how you will use the spaces: cooking, dining, lounging and conversation. Roth suggests considering the flow from kitchen to barbecue to patio table. “Style is also a key factor — you want the design to complement your home and your personal style. Scale of the furniture is very important. You don’t want to overpower a small space with big, bulky furniture and vice-versa.”

Sometimes a complete replacement isn’t warranted or needed, Roth adds. “You don’t have to buy all new. Consider adding new items


to freshen up your existing furniture. If your existing pieces are metal, add warmth with some teak pieces. Accessories — such as rugs, lighting and plants — bring it together, give it the “wow” factor.

Working with a tight budget or small space, consider dual-purpose pieces, such as a lounge/dining set, like Samvaro. Or invest in designforward furniture for indoor/outdoor use, such as the Indus collection.

“One of the most popular requests is a swivel rocker and we’re excited to welcome some new pieces into our collection. •

148 King St. Hensall, On (226) 330-0330 FOLLOW US ON VISIT OUR SHOWROOM TODAY!
is also a key factor — you want the design to complement your home and your personal style.”

Safe at Home

Alarmtech takes care of it

Stephen Karchut, owner of Alarmtech, is in the business of giving people peace of mind. “I like making people feel safe, protecting what matters most.”

He bought the business in 2021 and believes in being a community supporter. “We are your local pros. We give back to the community. We live in the community.” That’s what makes Alarmtech stand out. As members of the community, “we’re here to make every space a safe space.”

Karchut describes three facets of security: property, life and environmental. Products include property (intrusion), life safety (fire and carbon monoxide) and environment (floods, sump pumps). Insurance discounts are an added benefit.

About 60 per cent of sales are residential. The majority are Baby

“We do an assessment of your home and property and make a proposal based on what is best for you.”

Boomers who “want something to simply work,” says Karchut.

Gen Xers “want to know how it works, how to use it and install it.” While Millennials “don’t want to do it. Install it for us.”

Karchut says choosing local is important. “We do an assessment of your home and property and make a proposal based on what is best for you.” Local monitoring is another key factor. Consider ease of use and the newest technology to make the right choice. Visit to learn more. •

Peace of mind. With Alarmtech Security Solutions 519.636.4652 | code HOME24

Dreamy Country Living

Hayhoe Homes makes it happen

Airy, spacious houses on large lots in a quiet community close to all amenities are a dream for families. Hayhoe Homes develops those dreams in its Mount Elgin Meadow Lands, building on its reputation for quality homes.

“We have a good network of trades and suppliers that we’ve been working with for years,” says Shale Gauthier, design and marketing supervisor. “People have high expectations of quality work. We have strong relationships with local industry. It’s what people know and expect from us — a good end product.”

The Turnbock model provides an example of Hayhoe’s workmanship. The 2,180-square-foot house contains four bedrooms, three and a half baths, an open-concept main level

“People have high expectations of quality work. It’s what people know and expect from us — a good end product.”

and a two-car garage — everything today’s buyer expects.

It also includes some unexpected features: oak hardwood and ceramic tile flooring as standard throughout; a cathedral ceiling in both the great room and primary bedroom; a grand two-storey foyer with hardwood staircase; and a secondary bedroom suite. “It’s nice to have a second suite for multi-generational living or an adult kid at home,” says Gauthier. “We found that is really requested.”

The kitchen features custom cabinetry. “It’s a clean, white kitchen,

with some glass door fronts for accent and a custom vent hood.” Buyers have options for cabinetry, flooring and minor layout personalization. “We deliver high-quality homes on time. We take a lot of pride in that.”•

32 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 HOMES | BUSINESS PROFILE in St.Thomas, Tillsonburg & Mount Elgin Inventory Homes For list of available properties visit QUICK CLOSINGS • REALTOR COMMISSION

A Clear Choice

Eco Architectural Glass for home and business

Innovative design drives the team at Eco Architectural Glass. The company is known for its custom glass installations: custom showers, interior and exterior railings, mirrors, windows, doors, office partitions, film applications and commercial projects, such as store fronts, curtain wall and Big Foot doors. “We have such an awesome team,” says Ashley Selin, residential project manager. “We love a challenge and take pride in what we do.”

For customers, that translates into quality workmanship and attention to detail.

Ashley says wine and gym enclosures have become more popular recently and custom showers that go beyond basic. “We love getting into the unique projects! Custom arches, notches and designs. It takes us out of our comfort zone to challenge the design and installation team.”

“We love getting into the unique projects! Custom arches, notches and designs.”

Open-concept living has sparked a surge in glass railings for stairways. Glass railings provide safety without blocking views. Often customers find inspiration on Pinterest and want to replicate it in their homes. “We find a way to do it. Whether it’s the design or installation, the team works together to meet the challenge. Customers appreciate the knowledgeable, accommodating, professional team.”

The commercial divison creates curtain walls, store fronts and aluminum windows. Specialty products include light diffusing panels, sunshades, custom stainless work and window film.

Big Foot Door products are large

enough to accommodate the mythical creature, but safe enough to keep it out, true showstoppers to allow indoor-outdoor living. •


Serving Up Port Stanley

Domus condos in lakeside village

Compass Point 52-unit condominium development is taking shape at Domus Developments’ Port Stanley Landings. “We are excited to say the first homeowners have moved into this unique community,” says project developer Mike Mescia. “The second construction phase is well underway, and construction of the community pool is on the horizon.”

The homes are themed with deep contrasting colours and materials, tying into the village’s lakeside character. Standard features include vaulted ceilings and gas fireplaces in the great rooms, tray ceilings in the primary bedrooms and oversized rear windows with transoms. These custom details provide an ambiance of space and breathability.

Kitchens showcase solid surface

counters and custom cabinets in a selection of styles and finishes. Main bathrooms have soaker tubs and primary bedroom ensuites have custom tile walk-in showers.

Interiors also include engineered hardwood flooring, carpeting in bedrooms and porcelain tile in the foyer, kitchen, dining room and bathrooms. Lower levels, including roughed-in bathrooms and full-size windows, may be finished as an upgrade.

Exteriors feature stone on the front and a three-foot stone ledge with Hardie Board horizontal siding around the side and rear. Homeowners enjoy covered front porches and rear paving-stone patios.

Landings is nestled in the northeast sector of this Lake Erie village, on East Street south of Dexter Line.

PHASE 1 & 2

34 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 HOMES | BUSINESS PROFILE NOW SELLING CONDOS WW W .P O R TL A N D I N G S . A 5 1 9 . 8 7 0 . 1 3 3 5 • 3 models to choose from – Bow, Port & Stern • plus many more standard features! Models Available for Viewing
Available for Viewing

Polishing Spaces Inside and Out

Edwards & Sons expands services

Edwards & Sons Property Maintenance is driven by the desire to do things better. Whether building decks, landscapes, creating water features or maintaining a property, the second-generation, family-owned company shows they care. “We want to be able to showcase every project we do,” says Matt Edwards. “We want to be proud of it.”

Edwards helps clients create “vacation qualities” in their homes so they don’t have to travel to feel on holiday. Outdoor kitchens are popular upgrades, as are more elaborate patios and a shift to composite decks that decrease maintenance and add longevity. Shade structures over barbecues, hot tubs and patios allow backyards to be used in all kinds of weather and extend their use for longer seasons.

For more than 30 years, Edwards

“It’s communications. It’s timelines. You deal with one point of contact who is there with you along the way.”

and Sons built a great reputation as outdoor specialists, building decks, pergolas, pavilions, outdoor kitchens, and fences. They are now offering additional carpentry services, including interior renovations from kitchens and bathrooms to entire floor overhauls and full garage structures. With this shift, quality and consistency remains a must when it involves the family name.

“We provide the same professionalism as we do for exteriors,” says Edwards.

“It’s communications. It’s timelines. You deal with one point of contact who is there with you along the way.”

“We are doing extensive and exciting projects,” says Edwards proudly. “We are always improving. Our best job is our next job.”


A Range of Options

Covers covers the gamut

Expertise gives Covers Designers’ Edge an advantage over the competition.

“We have a vast amount of expertise on our team,” says Kevin Fellner, president. “It’s a small team and our designers have all been with us a long time.”

Fellner bought the company in 2008 and continues to offer draperies, shades, blinds and shutters. “We specialize in draperies, an area we excel in. Drapery is a strong design element. It brings colour, aesthetic and softness to a room.”

Covers fabricates draperies and roller shades in-house. “It gives us a lot of control over what we do, with quality and timelines.” Shades are made one at a time, and drapery is sewn by local seamstresses with years of experience to create quality-crafted products to exact specifications.

Roller shades are a popular option because they are functional and budget-friendly.

Fellner offers tips for making the right window treatment choice. “Talk to somebody who has expertise. They can ask the right questions. Do you need sun control, light control, privacy? Know your needs and get good advice to fill those.”

Covers Designers’ Edge offers top brands and professional design expertise — giving customers the perfect view — any time of the day, any season. •

“Do you need sun control, light control, privacy? Know your needs and get good advice to fill those.”


Paint That’s On Point

Clancy’s offers a rainbow of options

According to Leisa Bertelsen, “Paint is the least expensive thing you do that makes one of the biggest impacts.”

As manager of Clancy’s Rainbow, London’s oldest Benjamin Moore store, Leisa has seen paint hues move in and out of popularity. Updated Dusty Rose shades, favourites of the late 1980s and early 1990s, are making a comeback. “Back then they almost had a purply undertone. Now they have a nice, warm brown undertone.” Rose Bisque typifies that trend.

Bright whites have dominated in recent years. At Clancy’s, Leisa says they’re noticing a shift in those shades. “It’s going into warmer whites now. We’re still seeing the bright whites, but people are starting to pick a bit warmer shades like White Dove, Cloud Cover and Ballet White.” Before adding colour, textured walls achieved with applied mouldings are also highly desired.

For accents, kitchen islands, powder rooms and other areas of the home that call for contrast or drama, they say it’s Hale Navy, a gorgeous deep blue. “It’s beautiful and has the right softness to it. It’s not too sharp but has a nice smokiness. It’s a comforting blue.”

Deep hunter green and softer blacks, like Black Beauty, are proving popular. A deep, rich colour that combines the two, Black Forest Green, is becoming a favourite.

Buyers are spending more time online, comparing colours and ordering their paint. It’s a holdover from the pandemic, says Leisa, that’s still some repeat customers’ preferred way to shop. “When they know what they’re looking for, ordering online and having it ready to grab and go really saves

TOP Trained decorators and designers, staff members are always ready to guide customers through the process of choosing the perfect paint. Manager Jessica Foster (left) helps Samantha, a customer. RIGHT As the oldest Benjamin Moore store in London, Clancy’s is committed to delivering the quality that customers have come to expect. BOTTOM Colour choices seem endless at Clancy’s Rainbow.

time.” With 3,500 colours to choose from, narrowing them down on the website is also convenient. Benjamin Moore’s try-before-you-buy option is a stress reliever. At $7.99 each, Leisa says tester pots “take some of the anxiety” out of committing to a shade until the customer sees it in their space.

Family-owned since 1983, Clancy’s Rainbow staff at both locations are trained designers and decorators. You can trust their advice on everything Benjamin Moore and beyond. •

“Paint is the least expensive thing you do that makes one of the biggest impacts.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION Clancy’s Rainbow 1030 Adelaide Street North 519-434-3201 595 Fanshawe Park Rd W 519-472-1116


1 Sunbelly aluminum privacy screens,

2 Gazebo,

3 Big Green Egg MiniMax Original charcoal smoker,

4 Custom metal fence with railing gate,

5 Custom metal firepit surround,

6 Colourful metal bird,

7 Citronella candle, campbells2.

8 Pergola,

9/11 Geraniums, assorted hanging baskets and annuals,

10 Decorative grey wood-look resin bunny pair,

12 Whimsical climbing bunny pot hanger,

13 Spoke lanterns,

38 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 outdoor
living 8 10 9 11 12 13 May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 39


14 Cottage-style birdhouse,

15 Covelo dining set,

16 Modern cube firepit,

17 Coldstream outdoor kitchen,

18 Cheerful metal blue jay,

19 Bright ceramic citronella candle,

20 Bellac outdoor kitchen with tap and sink,

14 15 19 16 17 20

OWhere the Pros Want to Go

Personal favourites and emerging trends

ur newsfeeds are fi lled with stories about “the newest European hotspots” or “five must-see Caribbean destinations” or “places to put on your bucket list.” But how do you know what type of travel is worth your time and money?

We asked four local travel agents where they want to go this year for the real skinny on don’t-miss destinations, and we got their views on emerging trends. Our conversations have been edited and condensed.

own agency 7Seas2See, specializing in small group and individual travel with a focus on customized adventures.

DC: Our big trip for this year has already happened, and it was very exciting for us.

Our fi rst stop was in Tasmania, Australia to be part of the excitement of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race. We aren’t boaters, but we thought it would be exciting to be there as part of the celebration.

My husband, David, really wanted to see Tasmanian devils, so we drove up to the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge that’s near their sanctuary. We love exploring nature and getting off the beaten path, so this was perfect for us.

We flew to Melbourne and did a oneday gold hunting excursion to the nearby goldfi elds. The next day we caught the Azamara Journey for an 18-night cruise to New Zealand. We had a stop in Sydney, where we did the city hop-on-off tour, and then visited several ports in New Zealand. We don’t typically do a lot of organized excursions — usually exploring on our own — but we did a deep-sea fishing excursion that was amazing.

We are also planning a trip to France late this year.

MICHELLE BRANCO joined the family business, Ellison Travel and Tours, in 2018, taking the reins with her husband Paulo Branco and Marcie Ellison-Outerbridge in 2021.

MB: We took the kids to Brazil in February. My husband Paulo is from Brazil, and we went there on our honeymoon, but this was the fi rst time with our daughters, who are four and seven. We visited with Paulo’s family in a beautiful coastal town called Recife. It has gorgeous beaches and is a great place to get out of the city.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 41 
DIANE COOK has worked in the travel industry for 40 years, eight of those with her
LEFT Fernando de Noronha, known as the Brazilian paradise • RIGHT Koblenz, Germany, on the banks of the Rhine and Moselle.
People want less cookie cutter and more customized trips. They want new experiences and to push their boundaries.”

We also went to a favourite place of ours: Fernando de Noronha. It’s an archipelago off the coast of Brazil. It’s still unspoiled and not commercialized, with only a certain number of tourists and vehicles allowed on the island. It has amazing beaches, with great snorkeling and diving.

We took a family ski trip to the Rockies in Canmore, Alberta for March Break. And we wanted to take a cruise to the Middle East on Windstar, a small ship cruise line, but we can’t do that now, so we are looking at taking one to northern Europe.

We did some great trips in 2023, which inspired a list of travel destinations for us. As a couple, we did a small ship cruise with Seabourn, which is why we want to do another one. We cruised the Mediterranean from Venice to Athens, with stops in Croatia, Montenegro and some of the Ionian Islands, which are lesser-known Greek islands.

Smaller ships like that can get into the smaller ports and coves of less touristy destinations. The ship was incredible, and I would recommend it for someone who wants to cruise on a smaller ship.

One of my favourite trips of last year was when I was part of a fam (familiarization) trip with travel industry peers to Andorra, which is a tiny country in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. It has fewer than 100,000 people. It was a ski trip, and they are putting a lot of money into

making it a ski destination. I loved the culture, Catalan language, and food. It was one of the best culinary experiences, both in resorts and cities, I’ve ever had. I loved that they have their own culture but with French and Spanish influences. It’s also an emerging hotspot for wellness retreats.

HEATHER WILKINSON, Trevello Travel Group, seen here with husband Ray, has loved her full-time career as a travel agent for 45 years.

HW: I work full-time and am in the office a lot, so we don’t tend to do a lot of personal travel. Since I specialize in European travel, I enjoy leading groups on off-the-beaten-path itineraries around Europe.

This fall we are planning one to Ireland for a small group of 10 or 15. We will visit smaller centres, rather

than bigger, busier tourist sites. We take a slower pace, spending three or four nights in one place and doing day trips from there instead of moving every night.

This one will be centered on Northern Ireland in the Donegal and Sligo areas, then will do parts of the Wild Atlantic Way over the two and half weeks of the trip. We tend to stay away from the big hotels and choose country manor hotels or B&Bs.

We keep the activities general so people can follow their own interests, whether they are foodies or like hiking — that kind of thing. And we plan more unusual and cultural activities, like a soda-bread-baking class, a musical or storytelling evening in a small venue that won’t take a group of 50 people.

I’m interested in going to Bulgaria and Romania in 2025. The food, culture and history are interesting to me, and this is something I’ve been following since COVID.

Another European destination that I’m looking at is Croatia. Not the islands that so many visit, but taking a group to explore what interesting things are 25 miles inland, because that’s very different.

We’ll be heading to the Azores in early summer. It’s the first time we’ve vacationed with our daughter and her family. There’s a lot for families to do — hiking, beaches and water activities — and the food is great.

42 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
LEFT Gulet boat in a secluded bay, Turkish Mediterranean. • RIGHT Miradouro da Boca do Inferno near Sete Cidades, São Miguel, Azores. GREECE

MICHELLE WHALEN has been in the travel business for 10 years, now as an independent travel agent with Uniglobe Enterprise Travel.

MW: I don’t have solid plans for travel this year. We did a wonderful trip to St. Lucia late last year, and we splurged a bit on a Sandals resort for five nights, then topped it off at a luxury resort called Jade Mountain. These high-level all-inclusives really are all-inclusive, meaning that they include activities that are usually extra, like catamaran excursions, water skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, paddle boarding and others. It can be a better value than anticipated. But I generally advise to go beyond the all-inclusive.

In some countries rent a car, but in a destination that you want to see but the style of driving greatly differs from North American norms, like Costa Rica, hire a driver for the day to see the area, so both of you can relax, enjoy and really soak it up.

Tack a few extra days onto trips before and after a resort visit to explore the city you fly in and out of. Flights are getting more expensive because of the price of gas, staff shortages and demand, so maximizing the time you are there makes sense.

Explore river cruises. You can get on and off the ship all day, so you can come back for lunch or dinner, change clothes and head out in the evening to explore the port differently.

Here’s another tip: Work with your travel agent to buy a Fast Track pass for airports. For $80 or $100 per person, you will be greeted by someone with a sign (no hunting for a taxi or shuttle), and you will bypass customs lines and get up to the front. I’ve had clients do this and it was a lifesaver. Not every airport offers it, but many do.


SMALL SHIP CRUISING, EXPEDITIONS AND ADVENTURE TRAVEL: All four agree that this is an emerging trend gathering steam. Wilkinson says that smaller ships are easier for people with mobility issues.

Cook, who specializes in off-the-beaten track travel, has clients who are starting to exhaust their bucket lists in a flurry of travel since 2021 want more custom, specialized itineraries that small ships and expeditions offer.

“People want less cookie cutter and more customized trips. They want new experiences and to push their boundaries,” agrees Whalen.

SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL: “Some people feel guilty about going to some countries, but their number one source of income is tourism,” says Whalen. She adds that going scuba diving and helping to rebuild a reef, volunteering in an orphanage, transporting a rescue animal to its forever family in Canada or taking a suitcase full of necessities to give away are all ways to help. Whalen recommends asking your travel agent about these types of opportunities.


TRAVEL: All four agree that this has been more popular since travel resumed in 2021. “After not being able to see each other for a couple of years, people want to get their whole family or friend group together for a week or two,” says Wilkinson. For this, traditional cruises and resorts are popular.


OR THE CARIBBEAN: Both Whalen and Wilkinson have been booking more clients, who

are tired of these usual warm destinations, into resorts in southern Spain and Portugal.

WELLNESS RETREATS: The experts agree that this is a trend that has shifted. Several years ago, there were a few but many have recently opened up. Ellison Travel recommends Zoetry Resorts or O2 Beach Club and Spa in Barbados.

DYING TRENDS: Last minute travel (now more expensive), booking late (Some destinations, like Rwanda for gorilla trekking, are booking up a year or more out.), destinations dealing with overtourism.

TRENDING DESTINATIONS: AlUla is a region of Saudi Arabia getting attention for its Byzantine architecture. “They are building several luxury resorts as an oasis in the middle of the desert,” says Cook. “It makes a great destination when combined with Jordan.”

Turkey is trending, adds Cook, because of pricing and it’s exotic but not too far away. “Those who want to gently push boundaries want to explore the history, food and culture. They know it from the Bible and there are so many cultures coming together.”

A gulet boat trip is especially enticing for those seeking unusual experiences. “It’s a small vessel that holds 12 passengers that stays close to the shoreline,” says Cook. “You can pull in and go hiking. The crew will catch fish and grill it for lunch. The cabins are small but comfortable. It’s a great group charter for six couples.”

Antarctica is seeing an increasing number of cruises. “Adventure tourism is definitely on the rise,” says Whalen. •

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 43 FOR MORE INFORMATION • 7Seas2See, • Ellison Travel and Tours, • Trevello Travel Group, • Uniglobe Enterprise Travel,
capital city of
at sunset.
Aerial cityscape image of Zagreb,

What do Jack Kerr, Janet Smith (a pseudonym for privacy), Jean Hewitt and Dolores Shackelton have in common? Though all are presently Londoners, they were born in different places, come from diverse backgrounds and have dissimilar work histories. Despite those differences, they all love to read, all have a positive view on life and are over the age of 80. They aren’t personally acquainted but all are contributing to science in a new and exciting way — participating in the SuperAging Research Initiative at Western University.

It turns out that London has a higher than usual number of SuperAgers. Head of the original study, Emily Rogalski, PhD, defi nes what it means to be a SuperAger: people over the age of 80 who cognitively function like people in their 50s or 60s.

A cognitive neuroscientist, Rogalski’s study originated in Chicago, with study centres in Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan. Angela Roberts, PhD, worked with Rogalski for several years before bringing the study to Canada at Western University in 2023. Canadian support study sites include Sunnybrook Research

Is London a Blue Zone?

Institute and University of Waterloo.

After the fi rst year of recruiting applicants and testing them, Roberts says that London and area could be a Blue Zone. “I’m hesitant to say it is yet, but considering the size of our city we have a surprisingly large number of people showing up as qualifying for our study.”

During the fi rst phase of intake, 70 people applied for the study, and 90 per cent of them qualified through three levels of testing: an initial intake interview and screening; cognitive and memory tests; and health tests, including an MRI.

This contrasts sharply with the fi ndings of Rogalski and her team at the University of Chicago. Over the 15-year lifespan of the research, thousands have been tested and 200 have enrolled. “Fewer than 10 per cent of individuals

At all sites, except London, women make up just under two thirds of participants. At Western, a little less than half (45 per cent) of those in the study are female. (Photos: SuperAging Research Initiative, University of Chicago)

who signed up [for testing] have the memory to participate,” she explains.

Rogalski says some of the numbers may be skewed because of different data gathering methods. “We probably need through 2024 to see if these numbers continue,” adds Roberts. “We will fi nd out if we have beginner’s luck or if we have a higher trend [for SuperAgers] in London.”

This area also seems to be a hotbed for SuperAger couples. “Compared to all other sites, we have a high number of married couples that are both SuperAgers,” says Roberts. Kerr and Smith have been married since 2007 — a second marriage for both. Fifty per cent of those participating in the Western study are SuperAger couples, as opposed to 10 or 15 per cent at other research sites. Why so many more in London? “That’s a question we look forward to exploring in 2024,” she adds.

Lately there’s been a lot of attention on Blue Zones because of a Netfl ix documentary series entitled Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones , which outlines — along with several books — Dan Buettner’s 20 years of research tracking down why people in certain areas of the earth live longer.

But living longer is only part of the

Scientific evidence says maybe








“I was suffering from severe snoring and met up with Dr. Rotenberg for a solution since I did not want to live the rest of my life with a CPAP machine. He suggested removing my tonsils and uvula. The surgery was flawless and I now sleep better than I have for over 8 years. I thank Dr. Rotenberg for everything he’s done and would absolutely recommend him he’s very professional and an absolutely amazing surgeon.”


Dr. Brian Rotenberg MD MPH FRCSC CCPE | | 519.200.9048

Continued from page 44

equation. “Life spans are longer, but health spans aren’t keeping up. People aren’t as excited to add those extra years if they aren’t years filled with health. This is our opportunity to do positive research. SuperAgers represent a good balance,” says Rogalski. The research initiative seeks to find out why some elderly people are doing so well, while others are dealing with Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia.

Physical abilities are not part of the definition of what makes a SuperAger. “These people aren’t all physically exceptional [in comparison to others their ages]. Many have arthritis, heart conditions or joint replacements,” says Dr. Rogalski.

So, how do you determine if you are a SuperAger or are on your way to being one if you’re younger than 80?

These are traits that the above-mentioned Londoners cultivated early in life and continue to practice to present day.

They are people who tend to be less sedentary; they are active but don’t necessarily work out; they stay busy.

For instance, Janet Smith, who is 95, estimates she walks a mile a day in Springbank Park, when the weather is good. She and husband Jack Kerr, who is 99, walk to the nearby stores and restaurants. Janet also takes care of many of the household tasks around their shared Byron-area condo, doing laundry, cooking meals and changing beds.

Dolores Shackelton is 86 and likes to walk to do errands near her home, going to the bank, the mall and to the community mailbox. She still lives in the two-story, four-bedroom family home.

It’s hard to track down Jean Hewitt. At 84 years of age, she’s often found travelling around the world. While in London, she is renovating her recently purchased home, doing much of the physical work herself, painting and plastering. “I don’t do ceilings anymore,” she chuckles, “because my son made me stop.”

They get regular sleep and have good sleep habits of going to bed and getting up at consistent times. (Dr. Rogalski adds that life-long sleep issues have been found to be a symptom of people who have dementia.)

As a lawyer living and practicing in Blenheim, Ontario, Kerr says, “I walked 20 minutes each morning, then walked seven minutes to work. Walked home for

A strong social network is a common trait among SuperAgers.

lunch, so I’d eat and then sleep for 20 minutes and wake up refreshed. I’d walk back to work and back home at the end of the day.” Daily napping is a practice that Jack carries on today.

“The SuperAger Research Initiative needs to diversify and Black people living anywhere in Canada are urged to see if they qualify on the study’s website:”

They have meaningful social relationships and a strong social network.

Kerr smd Smith play bridge with friends each week; Hewitt often travels with family and friends and is a long-time activist, which has nurtured relationships with like-minded individuals; Shackleton values family time at the cottage and is still active in the Girl Guides.

They tend to be resilient.

Some have overcome extreme obstacles and built resilience in the face of challenges.

Hewitt grew up as the child of a single parent in the government-funded housing of inner London, England. She remembers the privations of her early

childhood and how her life changed when she received a scholarship to a former private girls’ school. Education enabled her to reach further and gave her the courage to seek opportunities in Canada, where she earned a PhD, going on to become a teacher and eventually Superintendent of the Thames Valley School District.

Smith remembers being a child during the Great Depression, while growing up in Stratford. Though her family went through hard times, she remembers it as “a happy family life.”

Shackelton became a widow when she was 47. More recently she’s been dealing with one of her biggest life challenges, partially losing her sight to macular degeneration. She’s been able to make adjustments to compensate but says “giving up the car — that was major for me.”

They tend to deal with stress better than others.

Positive mindset is one reason but Roberts also attributes this to their “feeling in control of their lives, not life controlling them.” She adds, “They tend to be adaptable and flexible.”

They are curious people who seek life-long learning opportunities.

An avid Anne of Green Gables fan, Shackelton is attending a Lucy Maude Montgomery Conference in PEI in June with a friend from Japan. Having a long interest in de-colonization, she attends studies and meetings to learn more.

Hewitt — who was born in a bomb shelter during the Blitz — seeks to share her love of learning with others. She teaches women’s sexual health classes for the public health unit. She attends meetings of the philosophy group at the library and writes scripts for the Famous Five, a local acting group.

Kerr and Smith are voracious readers. “I’ve been a lifelong reader and always been a member of the library,” says Janet.

A surprising factor uncovered is that being a SuperAger could be genetic. Roberts says, “The brains of SuperAgers don’t age as quickly; their brains don’t tend to atrophy at the same rate.” The studies are homing in on “a special [type of] neuron called ‘von Economo,’ but we don’t know exactly what they do. Whales and elephants have high numbers of these neurons that drive social behaviour in these animals. Until recently, these neurons have been overlooked until they were found in

46 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024

SuperAgers.” Researchers hope to uncover what role von Economo neurons play in protecting some aging brains.

Why is London possibly a Blue Zone? Roberts thinks that a number of things about the area could contribute: an abundance of green space in and around the city fostering a healthier environment and encouraging active lifestyles; access to good education with a college and university in the city; accessible health care. There are many benefits to this research. Rogalski says that “SuperAgers change expectations around ageing,” and remove some stigma associated with it.

Roberts says the data should be used by planners and politicians. “Our argument is that London and regional areas should actively consider environment and community through the lens of aging well. This priority is not only shared by our group but by the Royal Society of Canada and the conclusions from a recent G7 Summit on planet and climate issues that was held in Canada. This idea of shaping climate, planning and environmental issues toward healthy environments for aging is catching significant traction globally and even within Canadian government research funding.”

In its second year at Western University, the SuperAger Research Initiative now needs to diversify, and they are appealing to Black people residing in Canada to apply to become part of the study. “The understanding we are gaining is from White Canadians, not Black Canadians. They make up a substantial part of the fabric of the Canadian story but are underrepresented,” explains Roberts, adding that this is true of all research on aging. Black people living anywhere in Canada are urged to see if they qualify on the study’s website: superagingcanada.uwo. ca. Plans for future phases of the study will include Indigenous Canadians, as well as those from a wide range of communities. •



1201 Western Road • 888-688-8368

JILL ELLIS-WORTHINGTON is fond of wordplay, with 35 years as a writer, editor and communications professional. She feels that a sense of humor is as important as breathing because there’s almost nothing a good laugh can’t make better.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 47
breast lift eyelid surgery liposuction breast enhancement tummy tuck Botox® injectable fillers specialty skin care products 1055 Fanshawe Park Road W., Suite 206 London, ON For a consultation call: (519) 438-1130


1 2

1 PrimaDonna’s Celaya one-shoulder swimsuit with underwire bra.

2 - 4 Pretty, patterned tops from Tommy Bahama.

5 Carve Designs’ easy-to-pack Gia coverup.

6 For before, during and after beach time, casual button-up dress and cover from Tribal.

3 4

7 Tribal’s flattering wrap-style one piece.

8 Damietta bandeau bikini top and Rio Minimalist bikini briefs from PrimaDonna.

9/10 Figure-flattering one-piece suits from Tribal.

11 Viking’s Chatham Eva two-strap sandal.

12 Clarke’s Breeze Sea sandals, available in eight colors.

13 High Tide II platform sandal by Vionic.

14 For beach walks or active swimming, Stinson top and Hoku swim skirt from Carver Designs.

15 Also from Carver Designs, Lorenzo swim short and Stinson top.


• 1/8 Aline’s

• 2/3/4 Studio Style • 5/14/15 Resonance

• 6/7/9 Grace the Boutique

• 10 Durkee’s Department Store

• 11/12/13 White Balmer Shoes



Style picks for fun in the sun

When the wheel of the year rolls around to spring, and we’re heading into those precious short months of summer, thoughts turn to time with family and friends at the beach or by the pool.

But what to wear? Bright and beautiful choices for summer fun, swim time and après sun from area shops.

Trying on bathing suits can be difficult, so we’ve gathered amazing pieces to try with your eyes for heading out on a shopping trip.

It’s time to dip our toes, read in a lounge chair and play on the beach. We’ve got you covered.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 49 8 14 6
7 15 9 13 Continued on page 50  10

sun wear

16/17 Saxx quick-drying swim trunks and Drop-Temp

All Day Cooling t-shirt.

18 Go from beach to dinner in this tailored Mr. Smith shirt.

19 Merrill Huntington, sport convertible sandal.

20 Lois Jeans Brand shorts.

21 Casual canvas shoes from Keds and Sperry.


22 Mephisto men’s leather sandals.

23 Suitable for orthotics, men’s sandals from Cambrian.

• 16/17 Buragina’s Men’s Fashions

• 18/20/21 Durkee’s Department Store • 19 White Balmer Shoes

• 22/23 Ovation Shoes

Continued on page 52 

Full elastic waist with drawstring Fade-resistant to chlorine and saltwater Quick-dry shell and liner DropTemp™ Cooling Hydro Liner BallPark Pouch™
50 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 16 16 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 51 y

24 From Australia’s Orientique Dresses, the Alyana pink summer dress.

25 Cool, comfortable, classy, an Alison Sheri dress.

26 The Nicossia summer dress from Orientique.

27 Accessorize with splashes of colour with Tony Pons floral bag and shoes.

28 Colourful and comfortable, Hispanitas casual sandals.

29/30 Naot offers a variety of fashionable sandals.

31 Maya scarf can be used as a coverup.

32 From Puffin Gear sun protection hat in 100% linen.

33 A jungle of colour in this offering from Tommy Bahama.



• 24/26 Unger’s Market

• 25/33 Studio Style

• 27/28 Shoes Boots n’ Bags

• 29/30 Ovation Shoes

• 31/32 Boutique Firenze

52 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 sun
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Continued on page 54  31 32 33
May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 53

Open Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm


215 Main Street, Port Stanley


565 Talbot St, St. Thomas 519-631-2253


189 Adelaide St, Number 3, London 519-649-4122



639 Southdale Rd, London 519-686-5217


78 Ontario St, Stratford 519-273-9377

53 Market Place, Stratford 519-271-1515



29 Talbot St E, Alymer 519-773-3941


76 Ontario St, Stratford 519-273-0005


77 Ontario St, Stratford 519-933-9398


23 Downie St, Stratford 519-273-6617


1325 Riverbend Rd, Unit 150, London 519-601-2668


215 Main St, Port Stanley 519-782-7467


1010 Gainsborough Rd, London • 519-472-8126


123 Ontario St, Stratford 519-271-6661

sun wear

34/36 Spanish label Lurdes Bergada: modern cuts with playful detail.

35 Pismo sneaker from Vionic.

37 The versatile lightweight tie-bottom topper.

54 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 Western Fair Market • 2nd floor The Barntique in Simcoe artisan leather handbags & accessories METICULOUSLY DESIGNED AND CRAFTED IN LONDON, ON
PAGE AVAILABLE FROM • 34/36 Cora Couture • 35 White Balmer Shoes • 37 Red Coral Fashions 34 36

The Future of Hair Care Looks Bright

at Maria Bikas Salon

It’s an exciting time at Maria Bikas Salon, where their mission is to make you feel fabulous with full-service hair care. Now celebrating 17 years in business, located across from Masonville Place at 1673 Richmond Street, Maria is building on the first-class service she and her team offer. She’s future-focused, nurturing the next generation of experts and using technology to provide the best customer service.

The next generation of creative specialists includes her amazing team of stylists as well as Maria’s daughters, Athena and Athanasia. Both young women are university-educated and building careers in the beauty industry, working with their mom as part of her talented team. Athena is a stylist and Athanasia is an apprentice stylist as well as front desk operations manager “I’m so proud of my daughters,” says Maria. “I’m delighted to create with them and work alongside them. The future looks very bright.”

Scalp care is a big focus at Maria Bikas Salon, where skilled professionals examine, diagnose and prescribe products for a variety of scalp conditions. In addition to itchiness or flakes, a scalp problem can sometimes signify impending hair loss. Analyzing and treating it promptly is important. “Athena knows first-hand what it’s like to have a scalp issue,” says Maria. “She is a Kérastase Care Coach.”

Maria adds, “We had a major event last year where we brought in a special scalp camera. It was a huge success. Follow our Instagram (@mariabikassalon) for the next date.”

To keep up to date with customer service, a 24/7 online booking system is now available. “Clients like to make an appointment when they think of it, not

Coming soon, there will be a Maria Bikas Salon app, putting the salon’s information and services in your hands.

necessarily during business hours. Our new system gives them that option,” says Maria.

Online shopping for professional grade haircare products is already available at Coming soon, there will also be a Maria Bikas Salon app, putting the salon’s information and services in your hands. Users create a custom profile, are eligible for membership incentives and have access to a voice system. Customers will soon be able to download the Maria Bikas app from the App Store or Google Play.

By implementing technology to enhance customer service and with her team and daughters by her side learning and taking on important roles, the salon continues to thrive and grow. Maria Bikas is optimistic about the future of her family, her business and the beauty industry. •

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 55
TOP Maria Bikas (centre) and her daughters Athena (left) and Athanasia. LEFT Athena Bikas styles a client’s hair. ABOVE Maria Bikas Salon carries high-end haircare products.
FOR MORE INFORMATION Maria Bikas Salon 1673 Richmond Street 519-850-8383



Two days of meeting shop owners in Elgin County served as a reminder of the inherent goodness of humanity. From Sparta to Aylmer to Port Stanley, my travelling companion and I experienced countless examples of people working together and supporting each other for the common good. Each establishment we visited not only showcased its own merits but also brought our attention to the excellence of its neighbours. The community spirit left us truly uplifted and hopeful.

We began our Elgin County adventure enveloped in the tasteful luxury that defines Lexus, floating down the bucolic back roads to our first stop, the historic town of Sparta. We had borrowed a TX500h, the largest SUV Lexus has produced to date, from Lexus of London, and were able to store a somewhat hilarious amount of luggage and coolers without difficulty. As the comfort and smooth handling of the SUV became apparent, thoughts of continuing to Mexico flitted briefly in our minds — it would be an easy trip in the TX500h. Putting this fantasy aside, we were almost disappointed when we arrived at our destination and had to slide out of the embrace of the sumptuous leather seats.

Sparta has a special charm rooted in its Elgin County heritage. First settled in 1813 by Quakers seeking peace and freedom, the village blossomed into a tight-knit community known for its

Creativity around every corner

simplicity and warmth. As we wandered Sparta’s quaint streets, we felt the gentle echo of its Quaker roots, from the historic Meeting House to the friendliness of its residents.

Our first stop was the Gathered Art Gallery, which showcases the work of 10 local award-winning artists in a heritage building dating back to 1846, Hiram Smith’s Tailor Shop. We admired the original plank flooring, pressed metal ceiling and wooden counters, complete with Hiram’s brass yardstick embedded in one and a wooden cash drawer in the other. We were warmly greeted by potter Joseph Sawicki and enjoyed browsing the collection while bathed in classical music.

Wishing we were clothed in period costumes, we crossed the quiet street to the Sparta House Tearoom, where we were transported back to a simpler time. Constructed in the late 1830s, the heritage building has undergone several transformations over its lifetime, including stretches as a hotel, general and hardware stores, as well as a funeral home. Our host Mark Roberts told us how his parents brought their British culture to Sparta by opening a tea house offering high tea, as well as cream teas and iconic dishes from the Isles. Those feeling nostalgic for Liverpool will want to make a pilgrimage specifically for the Scouse (stew). We indulged in high tea, which was comprised of dainty sandwiches, pastries, cakes and freshly baked scones. It was delectable. Be sure to book this popular meal at least a day in advance, as it is time-intensive to prepare. Unique teapots (469 at last count) adorn the rafters and the mantlepiece, adding to the distinctive ambiance. Whether craving a taste of Britain or simply longing for a nostalgic

56 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
Gathered Art Gallery, Sparta Main Beach, Port Stanley

teatime, the Sparta House Tearoom is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It can also be booked for special occasions.

A hearty welcome greeted us as we stepped through the door of Sparta Country Candles. Our cheerful hosts Mary and Pat Muscat courageously left behind conventional careers 32 years ago to pursue their shared passion for antiques. The journey led them to acquire Sparta’s circa 1838 general store, a rather large antique. What began as a modest operation in their kitchen, hand-pouring 18 candles a night, has flourished into a bustling enterprise producing hundreds of candles daily. Their dedication to craftsmanship and community shines within the restored premises, filled with unique home décor items, accessories and their signature scented candles.

Inspired to return to Sparta soon to see more of its sights, including the renowned Sparta Lavender Farm, we continued to Port Stanley, fondly referred to by locals as the Coney Island of Ontario. The lively Lake Erie port town is celebrating its bicentennial this year, commemorating Lord Stanley’s visit in 1824 and the adoption of its name. Although considered a resort town for the last 100 years, it is home to a vibrant year-round community, influencing the quality of shops, cafés and restaurants.

Rich smells wafting onto the sidewalk drew us into Pepper Tree Spice Co. Surrounded by fine cookware, chef’s knives and gourmet pantry items, we were swept up by the joy and enthusiasm of the owner Deb Kussman as she talked about her products and extolled her wonderful staff. Hailing from farm roots, she obtained her MBus. and had an early career in manufacturing. Unable to find quality spices and dried herbs in Canada, Mackey launched her business in 2010 after an inspirational trip to The

Spice House in Chicago. Her three retail outlets, including the flagship store in Port Stanley, offer over 200 unique spices and 100 proprietary blends, all organic and natural, sourced from premium suppliers around the world. A separate section of the store is a professional kitchen with a homey vibe. Here, guest chefs lead eager participants into exotic culinary landscapes. Classes are small and sell out quickly. Can’t get to one of their stores for your spice fix? Watch for the mobile Pepper Tree Spice Box, a fully stocked boutique shop on wheels.

On our way to dinner, we popped into Firehall Market and were surprised at the number of vendors that greeted us. Serving visitors and a dedicated local clientele, the market provides a variety of regional artisan products, including offerings from a butcher, baker and florist. There is a produce stand, cheese shop and vendors providing salads,

soups, sandwiches, barbecued brisket, cheesecake and vegan/GF foods to go. We had a delightful visit and mouthwatering samples of local cheeses with the proprietor of Teas ‘n’ Cheese Barbara Joan Johnson. She spoke about the warmth of the Port Stanley community and the desire of Firehall vendors to provide healthy, organic food that supports local farmers. The market is the perfect place to stop and pick up everything you need before hitting the beach or cottage.

Nestled within a veranda-encircled heritage house, Solo on Main sits opposite a tranquil scene of fishing boats in the harbour. Already a prominent culinary destination after eight years of operation, this family-run restaurant is committed to using the freshest local foods and all house-made ingredients. The ambiance blends relaxation and sophistication, fostering an atmosphere that hums with

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 57 
Sparta Country Candles Pepper Tree Spice Co., Port Stanley Sparta House Tearoom Firehall Market, Port Stanley

lively conversation. Our culinary journey commenced with the exquisitely seared scallops resting atop velvety celery root purée embellished with pomegranate gastrique and complemented by housemade bacon. A full spectrum of flavours and textures unfolded, rendering each bite a sensuous delight. Opting for the daily special as her main course, my companion savoured the pickerel with brown butter and lemon, a dish of delicate flakiness served with a harmonious medley of grilled potatoes and vegetables. Meanwhile, I relished the generously portioned flank kimchi — a tender teriyaki flank steak adorned with grilled red peppers and organic kimchi, infused with sweethot complexity. A glass of Tall Poppy Shiraz was the perfect accompaniment.

We walked the short distance to our cozy room at Kettle Creek Inn, originally a summer home built for the local justice of the peace in 1849. Our hosts, brothers Dean and Troy Vedova, captivated us with stories of growing up in the inn, where they now welcome guests with flair and good humour. We were sorry to miss meeting their adventurous mother Jean, who worked tirelessly with her late husband Gary to completely reconstruct and expand the inn since its purchase in 1983. With 10 guest rooms and five suites, the inn offers comfort for any occasion — a romantic getaway or a lakeside vacation. The four dining rooms cater to both intimate dinners and lively gatherings. Outside, the courtyard, gardens and gazebo are a perfect setting for patio dining in the heart of the village. Make sure to ask about Dean’s handmade beach glass jewelry for one-of-a-kind gifts.

Feeling refreshed, we rose early on Saturday morning and set our course northeast to Aylmer, the marketing hub

The Old Imperial Market in Aylmer, envisioned as a sustainable year-round celebration of Elgin County’s finest offerings, has met and surpassed its objective.

for the surrounding farming region since the 1860s. In the mid-1970s, Mennonites migrated from Mexico, joining the sizable population descended from Dutch, German and British immigrants. Nearby is an Old Order Amish community that emigrated from Ohio in 1953, adding to the town’s unique cultural tapestry. This mosaic makes Aylmer a vibrant and diverse community.

The Old Imperial Market in Aylmer, envisioned as a sustainable year-round celebration of Elgin County’s finest offerings, has met and surpassed its objective. Opened in October 2022, the Market’s name pays homage to its origins as a warehouse for the Imperial Leaf Tobacco Company. The soaring ceiling, supported by original timber framing,

sets a spacious and welcoming tone. In only one and a half years, what began with just seven merchants has blossomed into a bustling marketplace of 37 rotating vendors, offering a diverse array of goods. From local produce, baked goods and meats to handcrafted home furnishings and wooden bunkies, the market truly has something for everyone.

In our short time at the market, we met a host of remarkable individuals enthusiastically pursuing their passions.

Amanda Drenth explained how By the Fireside evolved when their autistic son found artistic expression in welding (see his stunning metal leaves), opening up a path of creativity for the whole family.

Harbourtown Fudge, formerly a popular long-time staple in Port Stanley, is now found exclusively at the Market and completely satisfied our cravings for sweets. Locals come to JJ Steel Works for onsite custom engraving and cutting. Owner John Reimer also crafts bespoke metal furniture and firepits for summer enjoyment. A visit to Wanda’s Spicy Connection invigorated us, thanks to the vibrant energy of Wanda herself. She offers a tantalizing array of fresh, homemade spices and exotic spice fusions. Helping friends who did not have time to cook 

58 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
Solo On Main, Port Stanley By The Fireside, Old Imperial Market, Alymer By The Fireside, Alymer Wanda's Spicy Connection, Old Imperial Market, Alymer Kettle Creek Inn, Port Stanley
May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 59 Your Community, Your Market A SUSTAINABLE YEAR-ROUND MARKET. LOOK FOR THE RED PORCH ROOF! FEATURING VENDORS SUCH AS: bythe residecanada EVERY SATURDAY 8am–3pm 516 John St North, Aylmer ON 226-313-4311 After Designs Home Decor 519-777-9651 By the Fireside Home Decor 519-281-5266 Harbourtown Fudge Fudge & Confections 519-630-6600 Mamasim Prepared Meals & Snacks 519-777-8259 U-Do Designs & Creations Custom Gifts & Clothing 226-503-8512 LaNoisette Bakery Breads & Baked Goods • 519-601-1651 LIVE MUSIC!

inspired T.L. and Dave Sim to create Mamasim, “meal support for busy lives,” offering healthy, ready-to-go meals. Try their market sandwich, a delicious compilation of ingredients from other vendors. This epitomizes the collaborative spirit that permeates the market.

Wishing to explore Aylmer a little further, we were pleased to investigate Durkees — “a small-town department store with big city selection.” Established in 1925, this busy store caters to all fashion needs, boasting a wide array of men’s, women’s and junior apparel for every occasion. A short stroll away, Campbells II blends unique home décor pieces, greeting cards, housewares and children’s/baby products. Committed to providing quality items, many sourced from Canada, they aim to spark inspiration to infuse shoppers’ homes with warmth and character.

We left Aylmer reluctantly, knowing there were still many hidden gems to discover. With a promise to return, we headed back to Port Stanley, aware it held a few surprises of its own. The day had turned cloudy, and we needed some fashion inspiration. Studio Style provided

us with a joyful immersion in colour therapy. The palette of artfully arranged jewel-toned separates told us we were somewhere special. Owner Kim Ariesen, with a background in design, has been involved in fashion for 43 years. She provides classic, timeless pieces that transition from season to season. Her main goal is that people love their purchases, and they do. The shop was lively with customers who expressed how much they enjoyed shopping there. Ariesen is constantly looking for ways to give back to her community, including a recent fashion show in support of Hospice of Elgin.

A few doors down, painted wooden furniture and maritime objects outside a quaint store drew us in to meet proprietor Ann Stevens. The Little Beach Shop has been serving the region for over two decades. Committed to the environment and the importance of repurposing items, she carries Fusion Mineral Paint, so locals can give new life to old objects. Before we left, she insisted we pay a visit to the Art Emporium, nestled at the end of the road. This artist-run gallery is home to the Boathouse Gallery and Gift Boutique, showcasing the works of over 30 talented local and regional artists. The boutique houses a diverse array of handcrafted items, making it a destination for art collectors and souvenir hunters alike.

For a creativity boost, you can sign up for art classes with professional artist Maksym Nechytailo, who recently emigrated with his family from Ukraine.

To cap off our trip, we opted for dinner at Two Forks, conveniently located across from the Port Stanley Festival Theatre. The restaurant’s stylish post-and-beam décor exudes sophistication, while the cozy fireplace adds a touch of warmth. An immense preserved sturgeon skin, displayed on the flue, caught our attention — a definite conversation starter. We were weary after two full days of touring and sought out comfort food from the varied menu. The plump, tender mussels bathed in pesto immediately perked us up, especially when paired with warm, homemade bread to soak up every drop of sauce. The poached pear salad — a delightful blend of greens, pomegranate seeds, local cheese and floral-infused pears — and the Anderson Cream Ale beerbattered Lake Erie pickerel and chips we shared were every bit as delectable as they sound. We could not say no to dessert and indulged in the classic crème brûlée, flawlessly caramelized and adorned with cocoa and fresh blueberries. It was simply divine — the perfect finish to a wonderful trip to Elgin County. •

Lois Quail travelled with support from Elgin County Tourism, which did not review or approve this article.

2024 LEXUS TX500H


• Pre-Collision System (PCS)

• Forward Collision Warning

• Automatic Emergency Braking

• Risk Avoidance Emergency Steer Assist

• Lane Departure Alert

• Lane Tracing & Centring Assist

• Pedestrian & Bicyclist Detection

• All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Management

• Automatic High Beam System

• Road Sign Assist

Vehicle Supplied by Lexus of London

60 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
LOIS QUAIL is an avid cyclist and adventurous traveller. She has an appreciation of life’s finer things and simple pleasures, including time with her sons, chickens and grand pianos. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT • Jon and Vicci Coughlin, Harbourtown Fudge, Old Imperial Market • Two Forks, Port Stanley • Kim Ariesen, Studio Style, Port Stanley • Dave and T.L. Sim, Mamasim, Old Imperial Market.

Keeping It Between the Lines

Today’s cars are designed for safety

Before my recent experience, the last time I shopped for a new vehicle was in 2010. I decided to retire that vehicle a year ago, and when I started looking at current offerings, I was blown away by the improvements to automotive safety.

I’d seen YouTube videos of test crashes in controlled environments to know how much safer our current rides are. Improved body designs, front and rear crumple zones and airbags have gone a long way to reducing fatalities. Better seat belts, padded dashboards and safety glass seem easy to understand. But when I started searching the market to purchase, I learned more about what the engineers have been doing behind the curtain. So many safety innovations are mostly hidden from view.

Vehicles are being produced with increasingly powerful engines. Most come from the factory with fuel injection and some are available with turbo chargers and superchargers. Meanwhile, voluntary industry groups, like The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, are researching and guiding member corporations, while encouraging public safety policies and advocating for technological innovation in automotive design and manufacturing.

Controlling all that extra horsepower has led to providing improved braking systems and so much more. “Driver

The sensors and systems adapted from breakthrough technologies used to create autonomous driving vehicles have trickled down to many of the newer cars on the market.

assistance” systems include features to mitigate incidents due to changing road and weather conditions or driver error, including:

• Collision warning sensors

• Blind spot hazard warnings

• Multiple cameras mounted to give visibility in all directions

• Automatic collision avoidance braking systems

• Lane keeping assistance

• Adaptive headlights

• Adaptive cruise control

• Electronic traction control

The sensors and systems adapted from breakthrough technologies used to create autonomous driving vehicles have trickled down to many of the newer cars on the market. This is like having another six or eight pairs of eyes on our surroundings as we drive. Who could argue with that? But the first time driving

a new car with features like these can be a bit alarming. When new buzzers sound, lights flash and the steering wheel seems to have a mind of its own, you might worry about who is in charge. Remember, they are there to help us have a safer drive to our destination, and as most of these features are “set and forget,” you will quickly get used to them.

Acura West’s general manager Paul Jennery was proud to talk about his brand’s commitment to safety, “both in deterrence and mitigation.” He pointed out that not only will the Acura’s body structure protect passengers in the event of a collision, the AcuraWatch system helped Acura achieve a top-rated TSP+ (Top Safety Pick) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for the 2024 model year. “In the event of a collision, our state-of-the-art front airbags act like a catcher’s mitt to create side panels, so the head does not roll off the airbag under impact,” he explained. “These are supported by side, knee and side curtain airbags, along with pretensioned seatbelts.” These retract slack with the speed of an airbag deployment.

Kevin Laurie at North London Toyota introduced me to a Toyota innovation called “Toyota Safety Sense” or TSS. There are a few levels offered with increasing amounts of tech available per level. For instance, the TSS 3.0 system warns drivers of hazards as they

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 61
Spring comes sooner than you think.

approach intersections, as well as pedestrian alert sensors when making right-hand turns. Emergency Steering Assist keeps drivers in their lane while avoiding hazards, such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other vehicles. There are also more sensors directed at low-speed collision avoidance to prevent rear-end fender-benders or worse.

Lexus of London sales manager Jack Ji says, “You can trust all the many safety features in a Lexus vehicle,” while noting that they are standard across all the lines. “You don’t have to pay more for them.” This may provide great value but also some peace of mind when considering how much to invest in personal safety for you and your family. It would be lovely to live in a world where collisions are a thing of the past, but we’re not there yet.

Indeed, manufacturers seem to think that the less input humans have the safer the roads would be. This may be true because sensors and computers don’t have bad days, poor sleep, distractions from other humans and are never running late for an appointment. For those of us who love to drive and admit we need nudges now and then to mind our speed, lane position or following distance, new auto technology is very much appreciated right here and now. •

DEREK BOTTEN is a gearhead, who is a former local radio broadcaster and motorcycle show promoter. He currently does voicework and writing from his home studio to finance his motorcycle and classic car habits.

62 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
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Painting and Performance

A Summer Arts Roundup

April showers, as promised, bring us May flowers, and our local arts scene follows suit by blossoming in beautiful and exciting ways. This is no happy accident. Rehearsals and preparations have been going on for months far from public view. As with bulbs and seeds that lay beneath the soil and trees that have been leafless through winter, the dormant season is long behind us. The sap has been running, the creative juices flowing and the resulting artistic activity is now on show.

The following is a short overview showcasing some local highlights. Websites have been included to lead you to more details and schedules, as well as ticket information. Area summer theatre companies offer a multitude of plays, some running into autumn and others for limited runs. Make a plan to avoid disappointment.

Live theatre offers a unique performance every time the curtain rises, and whether you’re looking for a belly laugh or a toe-tapping song or a story that draws a tear to your eye (and sometimes all of that comes together in one show), there’s something for everyone.

Paint and other media applied to a board or canvas, on the other hand, is a more static and permanent method of artistic expression. Yet these can move, inspire, and evoke memory or hope as much as any story. We’ve found a couple of intriguing art shows worthy of your attention.


Defying the odds, Blyth Festival is celebrating a major milestone half a century in the making. This is the 50 th year of presenting all-Canadian plays in the heart of Huron County, and this season of celebration kicks into gear on June 12 with fi ve new plays making

their world premières, all developed locally, telling community stories. historic and fi ctional.

Presented in cherished Blyth Memorial Community Hall, Saving Graceland  concerns a newly retired couple’s challenges impeding their annual pilgrimage to the Collingwood Elvis Festival. Another senior couple get into deep water celebrating 50 summers at the same lakeside cottage. The Golden Anniversaries Resort to Murder  is a laugh-a-minute murder mystery set in an old family mansion on Lake Huron.

Taking a more serious turn, The Trials of Maggie Pollock  is the true story of the last woman in Canada to be convicted of witchcraft. Born in Blyth and tried in Goderich, her case went to the Supreme Court in 1919.

The newly built outdoor Harvest

Stage adds an appropriate dimension to two productions. Onion Skins and Peach Fuzz: The Farmerettes is another new play telling the incredible stories of young women who left cities to work as labourers on Canadian farms as part of the war effort during World War II. And bringing things full circle, The Farm Show: Then and Now by Theatre Passe Muraille with additional cast member from the 2024 Blyth Festival Company — is an adaptation of the infl uential play that was the impetus for founding Blyth Festival back in 1975.


On the bucolic outskirts of Grand Bend, Drayton Entertainment’s Huron Country Playhouse has another exciting season planned. Hit Main Stage musicals Fiddler on the Roof — a poignant and timeless take on coping with change and tradition — and Jersey Boys — the behind-the-scenes story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons — will leave you humming tunes long after you’ve left the theatre. And you might be dancing while you sing after experiencing Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical, which is based on the movie about a busload of outrageously entertaining drag queens crossing the Australian outback.

64 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024


The South Huron Stage will feature the jukebox musical Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream, including 25 vintage doo-wop standards, in a story about a band competition. Doris and Ivy In the Home is Norm Foster’s witty take on love and friendship and “senior living.” For the younger set, and the young at heart, Peter Pan: The Panto is a rollicking combination of songs and slapstick comedy in the British tradition, with plenty of audience participation. You know the story, so be prepared to boo and cheer.


Recently named artistic director, due to the unexpected passing of Simon Joynes, Liz Gilroy takes the reins of this sweet little playhouse on the water. Gilroy, a theatre veteran and a Joynes protégé, is maintaining the theatre’s commitment to produce Canadian stories.

The Beaver Club returns after a smash hit run last summer. Four disparate women embark on a riotous crosscountry road trip from Toronto to Newfoundland. Comedy is also on tap with Norm Foster’s They’re Found In Trees, ostensibly about birding but is more about friendship. The Perils of Persephone was written by Dan Needles, another favourite playwright best known for his Wingfield Farm series. The world première of Bigfoot! — with three explorers looking for signs (and maybe some redemption) in the rainforests of British Columbia — promises laughs as well.

Hurry Hard, a very Canadian play involving the tribulations of a curling team and an upbeat musical — about our country’s favourite crooner, Funny Valentine, A Michael Bublé Tribute by Jay Davis

his four-piece combo — rounds out the lighthearted summer itinerary.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 65
and The comedic cast of The Beaver Club at Port Stanley Festival Theatre. From left to right: Susan Johnston Collins, Rennie Wilkinson, Danielle Nicole, Sarah Machin Gale. LEFT Gil Garrat, artistic director, on the Blyth Festival’s new Harvest Stage. (Photo: Claire Scott) TOP RIGHT The musical journey of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Jersey Boys, will play at the Huron County Festival in Grand Bend.

PortStanley FestivalTheatre 4202

Don’t miss a show this season!



May 21 to June 1

Last year’s smash hit is back! Don’t miss this riotous road trip from Toronto to Dildo Newfoundland!


A Michael Bublé Tribute

June 4 to June 15

Brings to life the music of the finest Canadian crooner of our time.

parts of the province and beyond, you’ll find over 200 juried paintings (selected from as many as 700 competition entries). Staged for the first time in the Grand Bend Legion Community Hall, custom designed lighting and display walls provide optimal viewing. Artists can sell their works, with commissions going back to support GBAC cultural activities in the community, including a school music program, a community pottery facility, kids summer camps and grants to arts boosters.


June 19 to July 13

A story of friendships, ladies’ underwear, new beginnings, hope & birds!


July 17 to August 3

A play about curling, underdogs and rising to the occasion.


The 2024 season in charming Stratford promises to be a lively one, with a dozen productions on four different stages.

Three Shakespeare plays (Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Cymbeline), the Victorian comedy London Assurance, Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen and Edward Albee’s 21st century The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? all offer new interpretations of theatre classics. The hilarious musical La Cage Aux Folles is also back, and its message continues to resonate 40 years after it took Broadway by storm.


August 7 to August 24

Truth or legend? Reality or hoax? A magical mystery tour of adventure & romance!


August 28 to September 14

Taking you back to 1989 for a comedy about fossils, radioactive material, cows, toxic dumps & damage control!

A musical comedy, Something Rotten! (about some Shakespeare rivals back in the day) and the North American première of Wendy and Peter Pan (a new twist on the familiar story) offer fun for young and old. Three world premières: Salesman in China (about Arthur Miller’s direction of his Death of a Salesman in Beijing in 1983); a new adaptation of beloved Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners; Get That Hope (set in Toronto’s Little Jamaica) round out a stellar lineup.


Presented by the Grand Bend Art Centre, this is the 27th edition of one of Ontario’s foremost shows and sales of representational painters. Attracting artists from all


This art exhibition by Ben Benedict offers a critical exploration of the landscape genre, drawing upon the history of art making in southwestern Ontario. Benedict brings over 30 years’ experience as an arts professional and visual artist. This show celebrates his work as a mixed media artist (bricoleur) working in the London Regionalist Tradition. Benedict’s work draws upon his own experiences and memories, with artwork ranging from small intimate scenes to large scale master works. The exhibition is being held in downtown London’s SATELLiTE Project Space, an arts and culture facility operated in partnership by Fanshawe College and Western University. •

66 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
The graphic “Coming Storm” is from Ben Benedict’s Variations in Landscape exhibition at London's SATELLiTE Project Space. At Stratford Festival, Steve Ross (left) and Sean Arbuckle star in the musical La Cage aux Folles. (Photo: Ted Belton) An entry from this year's Paint Ontario show and competition in Grand Bend, "Summer Reds” is an acrylic by Jacintha Krish.

Presented By

Thursday, July 18, 2024 • 5-7 pm

EXHIBITION – JULY 17 - 27, 2024

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 67 BenBenedic * SatelliteProjec ART EXHIBITION OPENING RECEPTION
BENEDIC T “A Bricoleur working in the London Regionalist Tradition” Wednesdays - Thursdays - Fridays: 2 - 7 PM Saturdays: 12 - 5 PM SATELLiTE Project Space 121 Dundas Street London, Ontario New Location: Grand Bend Legion Hall May 3 - May 20 Over 200 Curated Paintings | Sculptures Neil Aitchison


When dining out, the food is just one part of the experience for most customers. While a few may be very particular about their food, most people just care whether it is good or bad and if the restaurant is reasonably priced or expensive. I don’t offer critiques, but I tell servers about my dining experience honestly and factually when they ask. No one misses ambitious, self-absorbed, over-priced restaurants, with their complacent amateurism and culture of oblivious mediocrity. For example, I should have asked the price of the lunch special before being exhorted for $52.00 for a disingenuous pasta dish with chewy, overcooked (likely re-heated) lobster tail segments and charred beef tenderloin scraps. Big mistake.

Just as egregious, I have heard credible reports that some restaurants no longer offer tap water to paying customers. On the other hand, when my dining partner and I sat down recently at a now-defunct white-linen restaurant, the server asked if we wanted still or sparkling water and we opted for the latter. The server kept pouring it until we were practically drowning. It was overkill — especially when the bill arrived. These behaviours are gouging, lack transparency and are unconscionable.

However, what draws people to restaurants is a combination of factors, such as hospitality, ambiance, generosity,

The Buzz

Culinary community notes

dining-as-theatre and comfort. Dining out is a social experience, an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, friends or colleagues in an environment of comfort.  Sometimes, I visit restaurants geared toward high-brow epicures, where the food and plating are like accidental crime scenes, but I seldom return. I prefer restaurants with the best farm-to-table eating — without nonsense, pretension and affectation — where aspirational chefs don’t prioritize aesthetics, fashionable vegetarianism or omnivorism. Nor do I buy into the paradoxical hipster subculture over quality and taste.


Pupuseria Rosa’s Latin Food is the little kitchen inside London’s Corner Variety at Dundas at Clarence. It’s a humble, hidden gem that packs a big flavour punch. There is limited seating — a few tables and some bar seats at the windows. We love the tamales (the braised pork tamale is especially flavoursome), the curtido (spicy Salvadorian slaw), and well as the quesabirria tacos — filled with mozzarella and shredded steak, topped with cilantro and onions — served with a side of consommé. We are partial to the corn dough with cheese and pork pupusas. The tamales are a revelation — silky smooth and delicious. There is a nice variety of sauces on the side, like pico de gallo, that carry varying degrees of spice, so that you can choose your heat profile.

Other great places to eat pupusas and Latin American cuisine are La Parrillada Grill, True Taco at Western Fair Farmers’ Market , Casa Blanca Restaurant and Soho’s Tacos & Tequila

Marvin Rivas  fêtes patrons at his welcoming Latin American-inspired  Che RestoBar. This chic hot spot features exposed brick walls, a granite bar, massive light fixtures and a hidden ivy-clad courtyard. A distinctly Peruvian flavour permeates the menu, featuring ceviche mixito with avocado, sweet potatoes, red onions, pomegranate, passion fruit, leche de tigre and lime juice. Yucca poutine and Panka coffee-marinated hanger steak, with a delightfully herbaceous chimichurri, are also great choices. Che also has exciting wine and exotic cocktail lists.

As a proudly family-owned establishment, Variedades La Michoacana is more than just a grocery store — it celebrates Mexican culture and is a hub for the vibrant Latino community. The warmth of a tight-knit family atmosphere envelops you when you enter. The shelves, adorned with colourful displays of authentic Mexican and Latino grocery products, are carefully curated to showcase the flavours of Mexico. Fresh pan dulce (sweet bread) is available on weekends; carnitas on Saturdays and tamales on Sundays. It is spotless and has a super friendly staff. 675 Adelaide Street North

LEFT TO RIGHT Pupuseria Rosa’s Latin Food • True Taco • Che RestoBar • Soho’s Tacos & Tequila


Most Thai restaurants cater to a predominantly Caucasian clientele, which often leads to compromising their cuisine by toning down the long, gradual development and release of flavours, a unique attribute of Thai cuisine. I always look for Asian restaurants that don’t make overt concessions to Western palates. Contrary to common belief, not all Thai dishes are spicy, and every region in Thailand has its unique cuisine.

Pad Thai has gone from being virtually unknown to a ubiquitous restaurant and take-out staple in a few decades.

When ordering pad Thai, I have a benchmark for authenticity and expect fresh, firm, medium-slender rice noodles with a particular bite profile. Properly cooked, pad Thai noodles are never starchy, gloopy or stuck together. They should be dry with separate strands, much like correctly cooked fettuccine. Peanuts and nearly raw bean sprouts add a required, reserved crunch as counterparts for the rice noodles. A well-prepared pad Thai divulges its flavour profile incrementally with restrained sweetness and bursts of salty, sour and tart citrus flavours.

Pad Thai derives its colour and aromatics from coconut milk, tamarind paste and fish sauce. It is ideally an unassuming brownish-red shade, studded with bits of ginger, garlic, julienned vegetables, bean sprouts, chilies, cilantro, toasted peanuts and scrambled eggs.

An excessive number of non-Thai restaurants feature pad Thai (or variations) on their menus, yet these offerings have only a passing acquaintance with the correctly executed dish. In knowledgeable hands, additional lime, fish sauce, chili pepper and rice vinegar are optional and offered as condiments.

We love Meesai’s Thai Kitchen in Byron for its must-try pad Thai, panang curry and pad phet (red curry). They take their food seriously, and we are eating our way through the menu.

Thaifoon’s tasteful take on ancient Thai culture has impeccable, exuberant flavours and an eye for detail and presentation, making it the premiere upscale go-to Thai restaurant in downtown London. The kitchen’s oeuvre consistently showcases Thailand’s regional flavours of hot, sweet, sour and salty. The menu has spicing techniques and aromatic infusions of curry-inspired recipes that suggest India. Savoury curries surpass expectations with richness and variations on spiciness tempered with velvety coconut milk and fragrant aromatics. They offer two styles of pad Thai: a classic version and street-style, with pineapple.

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Karen, owner Meesai's Thai Kitchen • RIGHT Meesai's Thai Kitchen's Rice noodles cooked in a secret house-made pad Thai sauce. • ABOVE RIGHT Summer rolls.

A top-shelf cocktail list includes mangotinis, lycheetinis and mai Thais. The Thaifoon location in Masonville Place is an entirely different ballgame.

Mai’s Cafe & Bistro is a Wortley Village neighbourhood staple, emphasizing genuine Thai taste. The menu offers a satiating medley of traditional Thai cuisine and an unexpected assortment of inexpensive bistro fare, including an all-day breakfast. Kay, Mai’s sister, is a hospitable and knowledgeable presence in the dining room. The tom-yum (hot and sour lemongrass) soup and the spicy drunken noodles (stir-fried rice noodles with chicken breast, fresh chillies, sweet pepper and basil sauce) are satisfying.

142 Wortley Road

Bangkok Pad Thai is a Richmond Row stalwart with a casual atmosphere, pleasant ambience and friendly service. Despite the name, pad Thai does not seem to be their raison d’être, but the restaurant remains a well-known crowdpleaser, with satisfying Thai food and reasonable prices.


Artisanal baking is handcrafted and produced in small batches, using locally sourced ingredients, and is more than likely traditional. There continues to be a lot of innovation and conversation around the artisanal bakery renaissance, so be sure to check out the Downtown London’s Scratch Bakery and Patisserie Trail, which features both self-guided and guided tours, which I sometimes lead.

The Arva Mill House Bakery has relocated to Cheapside and Maitland Streets. It changed its name to the Old North Sconery and Market. The Red River Cafe now operates

in the former Arva Mill House space.

Pastry Culture left Covent Garden Market and relocated to the Richmond Street and Sunningdale area.

Culbert’s Bakery, a beloved downtown Goderich business, is expanding its operations to the former Pastry Culture space.

Olha and Anatolii Prytkova’s family-owned  Happiness Cafe, on Wellington Street across from One London Place, features European-style coffee and desserts. They have opened a second location in the centre of the Covent Garden Market. The baking is done from scratch, featuring seasonal and specialty cakes, French macarons, cupcakes and chocolates. Also on offer is a selection of high-end donuts, such as pistachio, crème brûlée, salted caramel, mango and passion fruit.


Jerry Pirbil’s landmark Marienbad Restaurant and the adjacent Chaucer’s Pub celebrated its 50th anniversary in March, having brought Eastern European flair to London’s downtown area for five decades. The kitchen’s forte is schnitzel. The perfect schnitzel has a dry crust that rises like a soufflé and shatters with the touch of a fork, revealing the tender meat within. The menu offers a variety of classic schnitzels, including crispy Jäger schnitzel (hunter schnitzel) with mushroom sauce; Franz Josef schnitzel stuffed with ham and cheese and lightly seasoned with mustard, and the classic Wiener schnitzel.

Also in March, La Casa Ristorante on King Street celebrated its 30th birthday. Consistency and familiarity are the hallmarks of the La Casa experience, with menus rooted in the Italian tradition. Former restaurateur Syl Basacco did his homework by studying and copying

many of his mother’s recipes from back home in Ceprano, Italy. Its longevity is a testament to the quality of the food served.

Garlic’s of London celebrates seasonality and the unique characteristics of local terroir. Celebrating 30 years (as of March) on Richmond Row, Garlic’s remains a perennial favourite for its delicious and accessible cuisine, made with seasonal and high-quality ingredients. Owner Edin Pehilj expresses his commitment to farm-to-table cuisine on the menu and in the dining room with professional, hospitable and knowledgeable service. His commitment to integrity and consistency has earned him longevity and loyalty.


Some of our most exciting dining choices around London and the city’s periphery are immigrant-owned mom-and-pop restaurants waiting to be discovered by diners beyond their usual patrons, who most often share a culture with the owners. These restaurants offer dishes that recall tastes from their homelands or fuse new flavours.

A dish you might find at one of these is Fuqi Feipian, a popular offal (lung and heart) dish in Sichuanese culture. It has recently become popular in Western countries, especially among diners at authentic Chinese restaurants. The best iteration of this offal dish can be found locally at Szechuan Town on Oxford Street, specializing in the “tinglynumbing” mouth sensation of Sichuanese cuisine, comprised of sweet, fragrant, spicy and salty ingredients.

“Our pizza dough is something we’re proud of,” says Keith Brett , co-owner of  8 Piece Pizza and ANNDining, located next

FLocal lavour

70 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024
SOUTHWEST ONTARIO ANNUAL CULINARY GUIDE DRINK THE WHERE TO EAT & GUIDE Explore & Connect @ Restaurants • Specialty Shops & Services • Farmers’ Markets • Craft Beer • Local Wine • Craft Distilleries

to each other at 190-140 Ann St. The vibe at ANNDining is upbeat, featuring a contemporary venue for sharing dishes that are grounded in relationships between food, culture and tradition. There is an innovative cocktail program, and a live DJ mixing together as the evening progresses.

The pies at 8 Piece Pizza are handmade; the owners spent over two years perfecting the recipes. These rival the excellent offerings at the upscale  Pizzeria Madre and the Wolfe Brothers’ Through Thick and Thin. The latter offers Detroit- and New York-style pizzas.

The no-frills HOUSE Craft Burgers, which features sizzling smash burgers loaded with flavour, has opened in the former premises of the Toddle Inn and  Renato’s. Ivy Ristorante closed its doors at the end of February. Cintro on Wellington has opened in the space formerly occupied by both Beach Burger and  Wich is Wich. Cintro is offering Asian street food by day and elevated Asianinspired dining by night.

I always hear great things about  The Early Bird and recent visits bear this out. The chefs take pride in preparing proteins in-house using various curing methods, such as smoking, grinding and pressing. One of their signature dishes is the turducken club sandwich, made with smoked turkey breast, fried chicken, duck breast bacon, maple mayo, sliced tomato and greens. Try the Reuben, made with Montreal-style house-smoked beef brisket, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese, on toasted rye.


Breakfast diners are generally small owner-operated businesses, attracting a broad spectrum of the local population. Throughout the 20th century, immigrant families often owned and operated diners. London has several notable examples offering classic diner food, such as Del Mar Restaurant, Harry’s Restaurant,  Richie’s Family Restaurant , High Lunch,  Malibu Restaurant, Campus Hi-Fi and Billy’s Downtown Deli. Archie’s Fish & Chips on Wharncliffe also serves an excellent all-day breakfast. •

BRYAN LAVERY brings years of knowledge as an award-winning culinary experience facilitator, food writer, chef, restaurateur, mentor and hospitality consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that should be told, Bryan welcomes your tips about the area’s cuisine scene —

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Eat In or Take Home

Arva Flour Mill

There’s another delicious reason to visit the historic Arva Flour Mill. The Mill is already a destination for “true artisan flour” produced on site, but now the new Red River Café is open and showcasing the freshest baked goods made by local bakeries that use the Mill’s flour. “The Red River Café is a natural extension of the Mill,” says owner Mark Rinker, who, along with his wife Jo-elle, purchased the Arva Flour Mill in 2021. Since then, they’ve thoughtfully added to the Mill’s offerings while preserving its 204-year legacy as North America’s oldest water-powered flour mill.

2024 marks Red River Cereal’s 100th anniversary. The hearty and nutritious Canadian breakfast staple is now part of the Arva Flour Mill’s family of products, and, naturally, it’s on the menu at its namesake café.

Supporting local businesses is an important part of Arva Flour Mill’s commitment to preserving the Mill’s heritage and its role in the community. Red River Café’s menu features the following products from area businesses who bake with the Arva Flour Mill’s flour:

• Croissants from Artisan Bakery, London

• Scones and cookies from Scotian Isle Baked Goods, London, and the White Squirrel Bakery, Exeter

• Pretzels from Opa’s Pretzels, St Thomas

• Hand pies and cinnamon buns from Green Haven Bakery and Market, St Marys

• Muffins and sausage rolls from Rose and Daffodil Bakery, Ingersoll

• Coffee made from Patrick’s Beans, London

Mark also describes another tasty menu item — the Miller. “It’s a sourdough English muffin from the Hearth Loaf in Ilderton topped with Metzger’s bacon in Hensall, a brown egg from a farm in Strathroy and local cheese.”

There are also made-from-scratch items on a daily basis that use Arva’s own products to make banana bread, lemon loaf, savoury and sweet waffles, as well as gluten-free items.

The Red River Café is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring a small breakfast and lunch menu for takeout service. Visit the Mill store in person or online ( to stock your pantry with locally-sourced natural and organic products. You can taste the reasons why so many local bakers rely on Arva Flour Mill’s artisan

FOR MORE INFORMATION Arva Flour Mill 2042 Elgin Street, Arva 519-660-0199
products from
businesses that use their flour as an integral ingredient. Scratch-made items available on a daily basis at the Red River Café, using the Mill’s own products, include banana bread, lemon loaf, savoury and sweet waffles and gluten-free items.
ABOVE AND BELOW Arva Flour Mill serves scratchmade area TOP AND INSET To celebrate and recognize Red River Cereal’s 100th anniversary, Arva Flour Mill has named its café after the iconic brand.

An Exeter Experience

History meets innovation at Eddington’s

James Eddington fits the traditional definition of restaurateur perfectly — a skilled professional accomplished in all areas of his business. On a late winter day — nearing the end of his fourth renovation at his award-winning restaurant Eddington’s of Exeter — he was found helping the construction crew in the kitchen, which was getting updated ventilation, air conditioning and wiring.

These latest renovations to the century-and-a half-old mansion — converted to a casual fine dining establishment on Exeter’s Main Street, which opened in December 1997 — will ensure that both the inside and outdoor patio are accessible.

The dining rooms have seating for 85, while the patio seats 100. The latter is expected to open by the May long weekend. An area for an open fire grilling station is planned for the summer season to provide more choice for guests’ palates and add ambiance to the outdoor dining area, which has its own bar and space for live music three days a week during the summer. “I love cooking on an open flame; I love the rawness of it,” says Eddington, amid the hammering and drilling. In fact, there isn’t an area of his business he doesn’t get excited about.

There are five chefs at the restaurant and Eddington enjoys working alongside

The din of the kitchen and the sounds of forks on plates, glasses tinkling, guests chatting and laughing enchanted him then and still fill him with wonder and joy.

them. He has been known to serve, mix drinks and, in days gone by, play a few tunes on his guitar for the pleasure of the guests.

Last fall he took a full day just to peel peaches for preserves. “Blood peaches are a lot to process. I did a lot of preserves this year. It’s definitely a labour of love. They are small little bright red, flavourful peaches. But after 12 hours of peeling

and pitting peaches…it’s a lot of work,” he says, understatedly. The peaches are also pressed to make syrup that will go into a seasonal cocktail. Just one example of how local flavours, products and produce are at the soul of the establishment.

Eddington opened his eponymous restaurant after getting his first taste of the business at 14 as a busser at the Clog & Thistle in Ingersoll. The din of the kitchen and the sounds of forks on plates, glasses tinkling, guests chatting and laughing enchanted him then and still fill him with wonder and joy. “Sometimes I still go down to the basement, just to hear it.”

He notes the mansion has an historic charm which complements an elevated menu that reflects his farm-to-table philosophy. “I try to plant as much specialty produce as I can,” starting with using traditional seeds for produce, such as heirloom tomatoes and heritage kales, which eventually become part of the authentic food served.

While menu items change with the seasons, a staple at Eddington’s is Chicken Appleby, a breaded herb breast of chicken, brie cheese, caramelized apples, roasted potatoes, alongside a seasonal accompaniment. “We’ve had it on the menu for 25 years, and it’s still our biggest seller,” he says. “We have a standard menu that we


do all season, and then we do a two-week menu rotation depending on what is fresh and ripe from the garden.

Eddington’s favourite item is a seasonal salad. “Those can be switched bi-weekly by what’s fresh and what’s green.” However, he also enjoys the Mushroom Linguini pasta, with specialty mushrooms from Goderich’s Weth Mushrooms, roasted garlic, fresh rosemary, cream sauce, asiago and parmesan cheese. “The mushrooms are the star of the dish.”

Local craft beers and wines are increasingly served at the restaurant, and now Eddington is hoping to expand into Ontario-based spirits.

A quest for the best is still what drives Eddington through long hours all year long, and he loves to experiment, but has learned not to let anything get too complicated. “You can do really good things with simple ingredients. You go through years and there are different food trends, and I realize (just)…go back to simple foods using quality oils, using quality proteins and fresh vegetables.” •

KATHY RUMLESKI is a journalist and writer based in London for more than 20 years. Her award-winning work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and on media websites across the country and beyond.


A spirited story

While spirits are served at Eddington’s of Exeter in the form of an Old Fashioned, Manhattan or Peach Bellini Sangria, an otherworldly spirit has inspired conversation around the dining tables and even inspired a song.

It’s said the ghost of Maude May, who purchased the 1870s Italianate building with her husband William around 1900, causes items to move unexpectedly or crystals to disappear from the chandeliers of the restaurant. “We’ve had some crazy stuff happen. She’s been the spirit of the house,” says owner James Eddington.

Eddington lived in the building when he first purchased it, and this guitar-playing owner penned a tune for Maude called “Alone in the Dark,” while in one of the upstairs rooms.

Maude, described as a friendly ghost who watches over the establishment and its guests, was even featured on a beer can named Beer of the Spirit.

74 LIFESTYLE May/June 2024 519-243-5040 519-243-5040
Eddington’s of Exeter • 527 Main St South, Exeter • 519-235-3030 •
Diners enjoy the al fresco dining experience on Eddington’s spacious patio, complete with bar, grilling station and space for live entertainment. INSET James Eddington, chef and owner. The Italianate mansion, constructed in the 1870s, opened as Eddington’s of Exeter in 1997.

It’s said the ghost of Maude May, who purchased the 1870s Italianate building with her husband William around 1900, causes items to move unexpectedly.

While most diners enjoy hearing ghost stories, one tale may leave listeners with goosebumps.

Eddington recalls a psychic arriving at the restaurant unannounced from British Columbia and mentioning a near-death experience. The man gave him an interesting gift and some puzzling information after spending a fair bit of time onsite.

“When he left, he (gave) me a little tool kit,” recalls Eddington, wondering why the visitor would give him something like that. “This clairvoyant said, ‘She left you her most prized possession.’” He says the psychic also mentioned that the item would be somewhere in the house but disclosed nothing further.

About a month after the visit from the psychic, Eddington made quite a discovery. Pondering the event and the tool kit, “I started singing ‘Alone in the Dark’ — in the same room where I wrote the song,” says Eddington. The thought that he should look under the old tongue-andgroove flooring came to him. And he had the needed tools in hand. “I started prying up the floor right there,” continued Eddington, “and underneath it was a wedding ring.”

“I never believed in ghosts until I moved here.” • Patio | Restaurant | Golf Course | Driving Range 519-236-4030 72538 Bluewater HWY #21 Zurich, ON N0M 2T0 CONTACT US Experience

Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients Mediterranean

Like legions of others, I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver for a long time. He is an enthusiastic advocate for healthy eating, most notably using his platform as a celebrity chef and successful restaurateur to push for nutritious school lunch programs. He has had tremendous success as the unpretentious host of dozens of different TV shows and has authored a similar number of popular books. A number of those best-selling cookbooks stress a “quick and easy” approach. This is not Oliver’s first “five-ingredient” book, but I found 5 Ingredients Mediterranean: Simple Incredible Food more streamlined and easier to follow, with clearer photography.

“My main intention with these recipes is to empower you with simple, easy and delicious food,” writes Oliver in his introduction, “but without copious amounts of ingredients, long shopping lists or a whole load of washing up.” For the most part, he has succeeded. I don’t usually stock some of these ingredients in my kitchen, but they are not hard to find. I can see using a number of these recipes throughout the summer.

Dietitians of Canada confirms the many health benefits of what is generally called “the Mediterranean diet,” and this book includes recipes from 22 countries ringing the Mediterranean Sea. Health benefits include reducing risk of developing heart disease, improving blood glucose levels, as well as lowering blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Research shows the Mediterranean diet may prevent or reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and glaucoma. Whole foods are essential to this diet, and to Oliver’s food philosophy; he presents easily followed directions to bring rich European and

African flavours to them.

The five ingredients listed in each recipe are shown in order of usage, with beautiful but straightforward photos along the bottom or side of each recipe page. Recipes also include a nutrient breakdown. Chapter by chapter, Oliver includes an enticing variety of Mediterranean flair: salads, soups, sandwiches, vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood entrees. Oliver doesn’t forget “sweet things” for treats and desserts. This is a hefty tome but lays flat nicely when opened, with 306 pages of recipes and helpful notes.

I had great success with both recipes excerpted here. The Couscous and Chicken Bake proved to be an uncomplicated one-pan meal, but the fusion of somewhat ordinary ingredients filled my kitchen with such a wonderful aroma one would think that many different spices had been added. I hadn’t cooked with red onions for a while (Note to self:


don’t rely so often on yellow onions), and I think that made a huge difference. Thanks also in good part to the tzatziki marinade, the chicken came out of the oven moist and beautiful, and the pan looked great going straight to the dinner table.

The Apple Tart was so simple to put together that I almost felt guilty serving it to a group of friends over for coffee.

Oliver suggests serving it with ice cream. Although I did not, when is that a bad idea? The crispiness of the ready-rolled puff pastry, the sweetness of the apricot jam and the tartness of the apples made an interesting and satisfying dessert. It also was very appealing on the table when my guests arrived. This recipe serves eight but the four of us did not leave much.

As promised, the grocery shopping, preparation and clean-up were minimal. And don’t let the five-ingredient restriction lead you to assume there are not bold and adventurous flavours in this collection of recipes. Jamie Oliver has delivered another winner.

SUE GORDON has taught baking to high school students, including running an alternative school’s commercial bakery in Carcross, Yukon. Now a retired nurse and educator, she is enjoying trying new things in her kitchen and garden. Jamie Oliver




Couscous is used across the Mediterranean in so many wonderful ways — here I’m putting it center stage to create the most outrageous bake, with a crispy outside and beautifully fluffy center.

16 oz jarred roasted red peppers

1½ cups tzatziki

2 lbs mixed chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on, bone in

4 red onions

10 oz couscous

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whiz one of the jarred peppers in a blender with 3/4 cup of the tzatziki and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Pour over the chicken and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Peel and quarter the onions, place them in an 11-inch non-stick ovenproof frying pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a medium heat for 10 minutes, or until dark and gnarly, turning regularly, then remove to a plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the pan, then add the marinated chicken and brown for 10 minutes, turning regularly. Place the onions back in the pan, tear in the remaining peppers, then roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, just cover the couscous with boiling kettle water, season with salt and pepper, and cover. Leave to hydrate for 3 minutes, then fluff up with a fork. When the time’s up, remove the pan from the oven, tip over the couscous and carefully pat down to compress. Roast for 10 minutes, then confidently and carefully turn out onto a large plate or platter and top with dollops of the remaining tzatziki. Serve straight from the oven and let everyone dig in.



Inspired by the classic French tartlets you can find in patisseries, I’m using store-bought pastry for convenience. Topped with vanilla ice cream, this is a lovely little number to have up your sleeve.

1 x sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (about 11 oz) (cold)

7 oz apricot jam

4 eating apples

1 tablespoon flaked almonds vanilla ice cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Unroll the pastry sheet on its paper and place on a baking sheet, then score a 1/2-inch border around the edge (don’t cut all the way through). Heat the jam in a pan over a low heat for 30 seconds, just to loosen, stirring occasionally. Very finely slice the apples into rounds, discarding any seeds (use a mandoline, with a guard, if you have one). Toss the apple with the apricot jam and arrange nicely, in layers, inside the border, hiding any smaller tattier bits of apple underneath. Cook at the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes, or until beautifully golden and cooked through, scattering over the almonds for the last 5 minutes. Slice up and serve topped with balls of vanilla ice cream.

May/June 2024 LIFESTYLE 77
Excerpted from 5 Ingredients Mediterranean by Jamie Oliver. Copyright © 2023 Jamie Oliver. Photographs by David Loftus. Published by Appetite by Random House ®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


There are ages and stages for everything

When you think about it, there’s nothing horticulturally significant about the May 2-4 weekend because the weather is still iffy, and yet many of us still use that date for planting. Less traditionally, I’ve heard that lowering one’s bare bottom onto the soil can also be an indicator. If it remains pleasantly warm, it’s safe for tomato plants. (As intriguing as this sounds, your neighbours may be alarmed, so please choose your moment judiciously.)

Not everyone has a green thumb, but people’s interests often change according to their life’s journey. Personally, I look back and see distinctive stages that I passed through to become the gardener that I am today.

For me, learning to cook and learning to garden went hand-in-hand. As a young singleton in Ontario, I had an idyllic kitchen-garden in mind that would have worked better if I led a privileged life in the south of France. I bought plants impulsively, including some for a “sunny windowsill” so that I might snip off herbs as required. The main issue here was that I did not have a sunny windowsill.

I quickly learned that those wizened basil leaves would not be yielding pesto after all, and the plants that were thriving outside (chervil, marjoram and a Little Shop of Horrors-sized lovage) were not exactly being used in daily rotation. I also discovered that working 9 to 5 was proving a serious obstacle to behaving like a genteel Edwardian and drying dusty, beribboned herbs in the kitchen was also not nearly as exciting as I’d thought. In August, I noticed a patch of chives growing independently in a crack near the fence but when I chopped some into an egg sandwich, I felt no sparkle.

Gardening (like cooking) is all about resilience. Over the span of a Canadian winter, one can develop a type of amnesia reserved for previous gardening disappointments, and by spring it’s time to start afresh.

Taking the time to enjoy the call and response of birds outside and watching fat bumblebees lower themselves drunkenly into flowers is a perfect way for anyone to start the summer.

in nature. We built raised beds, which were easy to maintain, and planted tidy rows of vegetables, sunflowers and nasturtiums in the corners. There were sensible herbs, like tarragon and thyme. This garden was a huge success, and the boys watered it carefully, sometimes excitedly discovering a garter snake or a toad. I also created perennial borders, and a friend gave me more hostas. These were slow but satisfying garden times. However, not all memories are in soft focus — there was one unfortunate incident when I noticed one of my sons happily modelling with some pliable “clay,” which turned out to be a token, scraped from beneath the soil, left by a neighbourhood cat.

My second gardening persona presented itself when I married and bought a house. Experts were consulted and actual garden plans were drawn up. But with a frenetic daily schedule and weekends overflowing with errands and shopping, by 4 p.m. we just wanted to flop outside with a drink, not be misting aphids away. As a result, this phase soon degenerated into what I call the “Three Hostas and a Japanese Maple” years. We were also renovating an older home, so again serious garden plans had to wait.

Time passed and with two little boys on the scene, I was determined to set out a garden that we could tend to, especially since the boys were becoming interested

Fast forward to The Mature (not Master) Gardener that I am today. I now have time to devote to working outside and plan my projects carefully. I’ve learned to be patient and to cultivate plants native to our area because these (no surprise) will truly thrive. For years, I tried unsuccessfully to coax Scottish heathers and Himalayan poppies along, but the clue was always there in the name. These plants were not intended for southwestern Ontario. I am also wiser in other ways, so a well-researched list is a must before hitting garden centres. Yes, online checking provides quick information, but a list helps anchor me against impulse purchases. (Because like bad boyfriends, you sometimes don’t want to know the facts.)

I read recently that women are drawn to gardening, both as a meditation and as a nurturing instinct, particularly in midlife. This may be true, but taking the time to enjoy the call and response of birds outside and watching fat bumblebees lower themselves drunkenly into flowers is a perfect way for anyone to start the summer. •

SUE SUTHERLAND-WOOD has contributed to many publications and her short fiction has won awards. Read more of Sue's work on her blog




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artisan, handcrafted vendors for our last Sunday of the season.

3 Miles South of Grand Bend on Hwy 21 | 51 9-238-8382
on long wknds & July-August & Sept. 15th erym ark et .com
Bring Mom to the Market!
The sweetest event of the year! Ice cream in every way that you can imagine!
Local Craft Beer, Cocktails, Wine and more! Live Music, Vendors & Food Trucks.
and amazing Food Trucks!
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