Spring in Burlington Ontario

Spring in Burlington Ontario
Discover Burlington this Spring

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013-14 Burlington Performing Arts Centre Professional Series Launch

There is something about being in a darkened theatre with a hushed audience that creates such a sense of anticipation.  Adding to the suspense is that no one knows what great acts are going to be announced, so the atmosphere was electric at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre season launch on May 8.

Executive Director Brenda Heatherington was the M.C. of the launch event and she encouraged the attendees to forget their trials and tribulations and be transported by attending a live performance. While I watched the season unfolding on the screen, I was amazed by the eclectic mix of live performances that we will be hosting right here in our very own theatre in Burlington. 

Here is a rundown of the season, however we suggest that you check the site often as new performances are added regularly throughout the year plus some like Bruce Cockburn are already SOLD OUT!  In fact what I have found really helpful is to sign up to get their Enewsletter by email so you don’t miss out on seeing some of your new or old favorites.
This year there are a few new series added for the young or young at heart.  

Dib and Dob
photo courtesy of Burlington Performing Arts Centre
I know the moms and grandparents in our building are looking forward to attending some of these with their wee folk.  The Cushion Concert Series is for children ages 2-5 years and promises to be a great way to spend some quality time with your little ones enjoying puppeteers and classic children’s stories.  The Family Series will captivate all members of the family with memorable performances that will spark your imagination. 

The Studio 440 – Cabaret Series held in the intimate Community Studio Theatre allows the audience to feel like part of the performance you are that close to the stage.  This year there is a mix of folk, blues, or country and you can enjoy a drink and the show.  Since I am a closet country fan I am psyched for the Kira Isabella (love Songs about You) and Tim Chaisson concert in March 2014!

The Alcan Quartet
photo courtesy of Burlington Performing Arts Centre
Back by popular demand is the Classically Yours – Sunday Brunch Series hosted by former co-host of CBC Radio’s As It Happens, Barbara Budd, one of the most recognized voices in Canada.  Enjoy a tasty brunch with your friends before the recitals, be delighted by the intimate musical experience in the community theatre and stay after the performance for an enlightening conversation with the featured artist.  What a great way to spend a leisurely Sunday!

Harry Manx
photo courtesy of Burlington Performing Arts Centre
The Main Stage will once again be filled with some of the most electrifying and diverse performances found anywhere.  Some old favorites from the 70’s & 80’s will take me back to the day like Gino Vannelli, Colm Wilkinson (the original Phantom), John McDermott, Jesse Cook and Harry Manx.  Besides music there is also the comedy of One and Mac King, a variety of theatre including a solo performance of Hamlet, One Noble Journey:  A Box Marked Freedom, A Beautiful View (which I want to attend with my BFF) and dance with BBOYIZM, the Nutcracker, and Les Ballets jazz de Montreal and The Peking Acrobats.

I would be remiss if I didn’t feature Burlington’s own Melissa McClelland and husband Luke Doucet performing in Canadian folk rock band Whitehorse just prior to Valentine’s Day - gift now solved!

After the season was unveiled the audience was treated to something very special, a performance by members of Leahy!  Here is a little Leahy trivia for you… they come from a family of 11, they are from Lakefield, Ontario and the group is comprised of eight siblings -all musically inclined including the next generation.  We were enthralled when their children came out and danced and playing the fiddle – thanks to Adele, Greg, Ben, Mary, Cicelia and Michael.  This was a great preview of their Christmas performance which always sells out quickly, so mark December 11 down on your calendar and bring the family. 

Bruce Cockburn – Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8pm - SOLD OUT
Chic Gamine (Studio 440 - Cabaret Series) – Friday, October 4, 2013 at 7:30pm
The Robert Cray Band – Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 8pm
Jesse Cook – Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 8pm
Rose Cousins (Studio 440 – Cabaret Series) – Friday, October 25, 2013 at 7:30pm
Gino Vannelli – Friday, October 25, 2013 at 8pm
ONE (Theatre Series) – Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 2pm
Hamlet (Solo) (Theatre Series) – Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 2pm
Joel Plaskett (Acoustic) (Studio 440 – Cabaret Series) – Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 7:30pm
Harry Manx (Studio 440 – Cabaret Series) – Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 7:30pm
Nathalie Vachon: Imagination on the Loose! (Cushion Concert Series) – Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 11am 
The Alcan Quartet (Classically Yours… Sunday Brunch Series) – Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 11:45am
Les Ballets jazz de Montréal – Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 8pm
The Celtic Tenors – Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 2pm
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites (Family Series) – Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 11am
Colm Wilkinson: Broadway, Christmas and Beyond – Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 7pm
Leahy Family Christmas – Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8pm
Nutcracker – Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7pm, Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2pm and 7pm
John McDermott – Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 2pm
Peter and The Wolf (Cushion Concert Series) – Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 11am
Rosanne Cash – Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 8pm
Blackie and The Rodeo Kings – Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 8pm
Mo Kenney & Matthew Barber (Studio 440 – Cabaret Series) – Friday, January 31, 2014 at 7:30pm
Whitehorse – Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 8pm
2012 Honens Prize Laureate, Pavel Kolesnikov (Classically Yours… Sunday Brunch Series) – Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 11:45am 
Dib & Dob and The Journey Home (Family Series) – Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 2pm
Measha Brueggergosman – Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 8pm
One Noble Journey: A Box Marked Freedom (Theatre Series) – Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 2pm
Mac King – Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 8pm
Tim Chaisson & Kira Isabella (Studio 440 – Cabaret Series) – Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 7:30pm
Sierra Maestra – Friday, March 7, 2014 at 8pm
Take 6 – Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 8pm
De Temps Antan (Studio 440 – Cabaret Series) – Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:30pm
A Beautiful View (Theatre Series) – Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 7:30pm
The Peking Acrobats – Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 2pm and 7pm
Pinocchio (Family Series) – Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 2pm
Dichterliebe: The Poet’s Love (Classically Yours… Sunday Brunch Series) – Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 11:45am
Bboyizm – Friday, April 11, 2014 at 7:30pm
Jill Barber – Friday, May 2, 2014 at 8pm
Pinocchio in My Suitcase (Cushion Concert Series) – Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 11am
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 8pm

To order your tickets call 905-681-6000, visit www.burlingtonpac.ca, or visit the Box Office at 440 Locust Street.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Day in Burlington

What can inspire us to cook more?  Can a global day of action give us the boost to head back to our kitchens feeling a little more creative and confident? 

Burlington is hosting a city-wide day of events to mark the global Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Day and it’s FREE to anyone and everyone!

Food Day Revolution Burlington Banner

Jamie Oliver is the internationally renowned chef who fascinates us with his cooking shows and impressed us with his determination and creativity as he worked to transform American school cafeterias.  His passion for cooking “from scratch” has stayed strong over the years since his first spotlight on tv when his chums would venture up the stairs to his loft kitchen to help him whip up some delicious morsels.

So what’s he up to now?  In addition to creating an empire dedicated to teaching and giving back to the public, he is launching his second annual global Food Revolution Day on May 17! 

This day isn’t about getting fancy with ingredients and kitchen tools, it’s simply about  celebrating real food, where it comes from and how to cook it. 

Cooking with Kids
As lead volunteer food ambassador for the day, on April 12th I gathered eighteen children ranging in age from 8 to 13 to independently cook 4 recipes to validate that home cooking can be economical, fun and delicious!  An amazing peace settled over the kitchen as this group started slicing, peeling and sautéing up their feast!  We now refer to these recipes as the Burlington “One Meal Together” collection and we’ve shared them with you on our website.

Fresh VegetablesWhether it’s an organic farm tour, a chef-guided tour of inspiration at the farmer’s market, multiple chef-led cooking demos, a teen girl cooking class to boost energy and moral or the online videos from experts showing great ways to make food preparation easy, there is something for everyone on Burlington’s Food Revolution Day.  All of this is made possible because individuals and businesses believed in the Food Revolution message of keeping cooking skills alive by sharing knowledge and generously donated their expertise and resources.

Visit our Burlington website, get registered for the event(s) you’d love to attend and feel free to contact me with any questions!     

My email and phone number:  sue@treadpowerfully, 905-580-9777
Twitter: @FoodRevBurl
Facebook: Food Revolution Day, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
See Burlington featured on the global site

Sue Abell, Guest Blogger

Sue Abell is a mom, wife, personal trainer, fitness instructor and owner of a fitness and health organisation in Burlington.  Although she had launched several challenges in her group over the years, she saw that the Food Revolution was an opportunity for passionate foodies in her community to unite and create even bigger change.  After healing herself in 2009 from a painful stomach condition under the direction of Laurie Burrows, a friend and holistic nutritionist, Sue fell passionately in love with chopping and creating “real food”.  Although Laurie passed in 2012 their quest continues even stronger to inspire others to take back control of their daily health, happiness and joy of life by simply...cooking.  It’s a Food Revolution...thank you Jamie Oliver for this day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother's Day Events and Gift Ideas in Burlington

This Sunday marks Mother’s Day, the time of the year when we celebrate the wonderful women in our lives, be it our mom, grandmother or another mother fiqure.  It’s a time to say thank you and remind those close to our hearts why they are special to us.  Everyone has their own way of celebrating and as a mom myself I can only say that if it’s from the heart then it’s perfect for me.  If you are looking for some ideas on how to celebrate this Mother’s Day, we have rounded up a list of great gift ideas, special events and dining options that are sure to please.

Any mom will tell you that they don’t need a gift but if you want to impress here are some great choices in a variety of budget ranges.

Royal Worcester Mug at Springridge Farm
This fun mug by Royal Worcester comes in 3 themes and is available at Springride Farm. This one pictured is 'shopping trip' but they also have 'gardening girls' and 'fountain of youth'.  At $12.99 each it’s a simple and affordable gift.   There are lots of nice treats for mom at Springridge including - Mary MacLeods shortbread cookies, honey, jams, Ontario canned peaches, and of course jewellery/bling from the gift loft!

Wondrous Nature Bouquet at Brant Florist

If you are a traditionalist and are looking for a beautiful floral arrangement then look no further than Brant Florist.   Ken from Brant Florist tells us that the Wondrous Nature Bouquet is one of the most popular selections and I can see why – it’s stunning.  Of course there are plenty of other options available but you’ll want to order early as this is a busy day for flower shops.

Foxy Necklace at Joelle's
Our friends at Joelle’s in Downtown Burlington have a beautiful jewellery piece available that not only will be a lovely gift but also supports a great cause. The necklace is made by Foxy Originals (Canadian company), from solid pewter, silver coated. 100 percent of the monies raised from the sale of this necklace go to Incite to help provide support, encouragement, guidance, direction and opportunities for empowerment for single moms and their children in our community. If you are shopping for a mom to be, Joelle’s has great maternity wear section full of stylish choices.

Travel Bottle at Anise Apothecary
There are so many awesome gift ideas at Anise Apothecary it was hard to choose just one but this travel "bottle" ($30) is perfect for a mom on the go.  The 'Greens Your Colour' hot/cold bottle is the ultimate insulated bottle. It comes with a tea strainer, so you can make your loose tea directly in the bottle. It also comes with an ice strainer and will keep liquids both hot & cold longer. It's BPA free of course, and the silicon seats keep the it 100% leak proof. A separate shaker ball can be purchased in store for $3.00 to make protein shakes & smoothies right in the bottle. 

Timbuk2 Scrunchie Tote at MEC
Practitioners of yoga (or any mom on the go …) will love this gift idea from Mountain Equipment Co-op.  The Timbuk2 Scrunchie Tote ($84) is super-roomy and  accommodates everything you’ll need – yoga gear, bag lunch, water bottle, energy bars, etc. Plus there’s a hidden zip pocket to stash your phone, wallet, and jewelry. The waterproof base keeps your belongings from getting soppy, so you don’t have to worry about setting it on the wet floor of the changing room.   Pair that with a Prana ECO Yoga Mat ($49) for the environmentally conscious yogi. It’s made from thermoplastic elastomer (100 TPE), a recyclable plastic that doesn't produce harmful toxins during manufacture.

Casteleyn Belgian Chocolatiers
For the chocoholic, there are plenty of stops on the Burlington Chocolate Trail.  Take mom out for a day on this self-guide trail of chocolate delights or visit one or more of the participating businesses including chocolatiers, cupcake shops, chocolate spa treatments and more. If you are wondering what a day on the trail is like check out the guest blog by Christie Ressel on her experience.

Fresh Produce at Centro Garden MarketMother’s Day marks the return of the Centro Garden Market in Downtown Burlington from 9am - 12pm. This year they will have a new local organic vegetable farmer as well as a other vendors that will do cheese, preserves, honey, latin icetreats, canning, soaps, teas, organic vegetable seedlings and seeds, and Jimmy from Tamp with his slow hand pour/drip coffees. Rem & Dez' lemonade parkade will be back as well with their gang of entrepreneurial friends! Be sure to also sign kids up for the Mother’s Day Workshop on May 9th  or 11th where they can create their own special planter for mom. Reserve your spot by email or phone.

Mother’s Day weekend you will find a wide variety of events to attend starting on Saturday May 11th with an array of theatrical performances.   Drury Lane’s  "The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd", a Tony Award winning musical comedy based on the British class in the structure in the 1960s hits the stage at 8pm, and tickets can be purchased by phone or at the box office.    Over at the The Burlington Performing Arts Centre mom can enjoy the Bay area's pre-eminent men's a cappella chorus, Harbourtown Sound with their presentation of "Rock Your World" at 7:30pm on May 11th, or The Burlington School of Classical Ballet presents "Cinderella" at 2pm on May 12th. Tickets for either of these shows can be purchased online, by phone or at their box office.  If you can’t make these shows, consider checking out the 2013/14 season line up which will be on sale Thursday May 9th.  Also taking place on Saturday May 11th the Burlington Civic Chorale: Canadian Odyssey will be performing at 7:30pm at St. Christopher's Church.  The evening features Fiddler Jill Wiwcharuk, and Canadian and Acadian folk music performed by The Celtic house band and the Burlington Civic Chorale singers.

Tulips at the Royal Botanical Gardens
Are you planning to get outdoors to spend the day (or night)?  There are lots of opportunities starting with a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens for the Tulip Festival.  Explore the gardens alive with the the colourful tulip display, the gorgeous azalea collection, and catch the fresh green tips of new growth on the evergreens.  Follow this up with a visit to the Rock Garden to listen to the sounds of Phunktown 5 performing 12pm – 3pm and on May 12, The Soul Project will be performing 12pm – 3pm.

If looking for an event geared to children that mom can enjoy too consider heading to Crawford Lake Conservation Area for Pajama Night!  An early evening event that includes a night creature hike, storytelling in the longhouse, a fireside gathering, snack and a craft so grab those jammies and plan to attend.  Pre-registration is recommended.

For those making plans to head out on May 12th for Mother’s Day, here’s what’s happening around town.

For the active mom who wants to get out her running shoes and support a worthwhile cause there is the 4th Annual Iron Dames Lace up for Love Mother's Day 1km/5lm Walk/Run. Starting at 9am on May 12th, the day supports the WELLSPRING Birmingham Gilgan House’s New Cancer Exercise Facility. In addition to the race, there will be gifts for every mother, kids finishing awards, face painting, refreshments, Mother’s Day market, and draw prizes.

The Wildflower Walk for Mom takes place from 1pm-3pm at Crawford Lake Conversation Area.  Celebrate Mom’s special day with a beautiful spring slideshow followed by a guided wildflower walk and a serving of Nature’s Tea.  Register in advance to secure your spot.   

Ireland House MuseumThe Museums of Burlington will be the enbracing the British drama with a Mother's Day Downton Abbey Tea & Springtime Event from 11am-4pm at Ireland House at Oakridge Farm.  This “Downton Abbey” tea includes live musical entertainment, special guests, and costumed interpreters!  There is FREE admission to view the grounds and museum including taking part in the historic cooking, gardening and craft workshops, artisan demonstrations, and other outdoor activities (including the new nature trail). Tea times are sold out but there is still lots for mom to enjoy.

The Royal Botanical Gardens will be offering a  Mother’s Day Afternoon Reception from 2pm-5pm. Enjoy treats from a light followed by a shuttle to the iconic Rock Garden to take in the spring blooms.  Reservations are required; please call 905-527-1158 ext. 513.

For the culinary inclined, there are plenty of dining options across the city including Mother’s Day brunch – bon appetit!

Alloro; 11am-1pm – Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch
Beaver & Bulldog; 10:30am-2pm - Mother’s Day Brunch
Downtown Bistro; 11am-3pm - Mother’s Day Brunch & starting at 5pm - Mother’s Day Dinner
Garden Café at RBG; 10am-4pm  - Mother's Day Brunch – SOLD OUT
Honey West; 11am-4pm - Mother’s Day Brunch
Ivy Bar & Kitchen; Mother’s Day Brunch
Jake’s Grill & Oyster House, Lunch & Dinner Specials & Moms receive a special gift
Celli’s Osteria – All day Buffett seating’s at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, & 7pm
Martini House; Mom’s meal is on us, restrictions apply. One Mom per table of four.
Pepperwood Bistro; starting at 10:30am - Mother’s Day Buffet
Red Canoe Bistro; 10am, 11:30am, 1:30pm - Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet
Rude Native; Mother’s Day Brunch
Siam Dish; Free “sauce” (Pad Thai or Curry) with every Mother’s Day reservation
Spencer’s at the Waterfront; starting at 5pm - Mother’s Day Dinner
Stone House Restaurant; starting at 11am - Sunday Buffet        
Water St. Cooker; Sunday Brunch

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More than just Flowers – The Royal Botanical Gardens offer Paradise in our Backyard

Reflecting Pond at Royal Botanical Gardens
My passion for gardening started fairly young and came from my Scottish grandfather who lovingly tended our beds of roses, irises, peonies and perennials.  I recall doing a regular tour of our small backyard, marvelling at the fragrant roses, and the brilliant colour of the confetti irises.  When I got my own home, putting in gardens was my first priority and I poured over books and catalogues selecting things with little knowledge of their size, bloom time and invasion capacity!   I could have benefitted from the knowledge and inspiration from a visit to or taking a course from the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG).  What a resource we have available in our own backyard! 

Now that I am working in tourism I am fortunate to visit the RBG regularly and always come away with a treasure, whether it is something for the garden from the gift shop, a new variety of perennial to plant in my garden or a future event I want to attend. Did you know you can call the gardening information service,  which is a help line for your gardening challenges.  Where was this 30 years ago when I planted snow in summer and it grew everywhere?!

For gardeners or admirers of beautiful things there is always something in bloom at the RBG.  Right now the magnolias are out in the Rock Garden and the forsythia is blooming throughout the gardens.  At the main RBG Centre the early tulips and bluebells are starting
Lilacs at the Royal Botanical Gardens
to burst with colour.  If you click on the bloom list which is updated regularly, you can discover what plants are in their full splendor. This week is the annual auxilary plant sale so it is a perfect time to buy something new for your garden or pick up that perfect mother’s day gift (how about brunch at the RBG?).  Later in May the Arboretum will be ablaze with a wide variety of lilac species – one of the most extensive in the world.  Being a May bride (a few years ago) we picked bunches of lilacs for our reception hall and now whenever I visit the arboretum it takes me back – the scent is intoxicating!  As the seasons progress don’t miss the peonies, irises, wisteria, perennials, roses, grasses, hostas, Veggie Village and more.  A handy tool for you to download is the visitor guide which highlights the blooms and includes garden maps. 

Cardinal at Royal Botanical Gardens
Even if gardening is not your favorite pastime there are many activities that will draw you to the RBG.  Hike along the 27 km of trails, and check out the Marshwalk Trail where you can view the Bald Eagles and their eaglets born this March.  Visit the Cootes Paradise fishway, pack a picnic and enjoy the natural areas, bird watch, try your hand at painting or photography with subject matter everywhere you look.  While visiting, stop in for refreshments at one of the three on-site restaurants. My personal favorite is the Rock Garden Teahouse with its lovely view over the gardens and it will be beautiful this week with all the tulips in bloom. 

If you plan to visit often for the blooms, festivals and courses your best value is to become a member of the RBG.   This entitles you to free admission, discounts on courses and services, member magazine and enewsletter and much more.  I hope someday soon to get in touch with my creative side by taking a watercolour course at the centre. 
You can get and stay connected with RBG in a number of ways through, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, or sign-up for their enewsletter

Enjoy a visit or two to the RBG, bring your friends and family and get inspired by the natural beauty around you.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Burlington Ontario Chocolate Trail

Burlington is a city that has many wonderful things to offer. Restaurants, shows, lakes and shopping – it’s no wonder so many have fallen in love with it. While I knew that Burlington offered a variety of activities, I was shocked to find out that they also offered a Chocolate Trail. For a self-proclaimed chocoholic like myself, I have to admit that upon hearing the news, I almost broke into song and dance.

Reaching across the entire city, this trail has vendors inviting you to taste their sinfully sweet desserts. It’s a tour that can fill an entire day.  Eating chocolate all day long? I felt like I had just won Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.

My friend and sweet tooth sidekick, Ashley joined me on this delicious venture.

sweetness bakery cupcakes
Our first stop of the day was Sweetness Bakery located in downtown Burlington. A nut-free bakery, this little slice of heaven specializes in cupcakes, custom cakes and other baked goods. They even have Food Trucks that can be spotted about town on a regular basis. Who needs an ice cream truck when you can chase cupcakes instead?
While at SB, Ashley and I sampled their Brownie Explosion cupcake. This cupcake will Change. Your. Life.  Not only is it a delicious chocolate cupcake with beautifully whipped chocolate icing on top (which has also been infused into the center of the cupcake), but it’s also topped with a chunk of brownie drizzled in chocolate sauce. If that doesn’t make you drool, the sheer size of it will. When being presented with this chocolate delight, Ashley and I both had our eyes widen and stomachs growl.  Because this dessert is large in terms of height, it did take us a minute to figure out how to even take the first bite. After deciding there was no lady-like manner to accomplish this task, we simply cut one in half and dove in. I’d be lying if I said chocolate wasn’t covering our faces.

After parting ways with Sweetness Bakery and seriously craving the world’s tallest glass of milk, we stopped in next at Blair Lancaster Spa for their chocolate pedicure treatment. Having never heard of a chocolate pedicure in my life, I have to say that my interest was peaked.

First off, for those that have never been to Blair Lancaster Spa, let me tell you, you’re in for a treat. This cozy spa is extremely inviting to walk into. After picking out our pedicure nail polish from a mass selection, we were asked to sit down in shiatsu massage chairs while warm neck wraps were prepped for us. In between my chair and Ashley’s, chocolate treats awaited us as well as chocolate chai tea. Yummy. From there, our feet were soaked in a fabulous bubble bath infused with chocolate herbs to help detox our bodies. Once relaxed and exfoliated, our legs and feet were given a luxurious massage.  Let me tell you, after that, I never wanted to leave. Ever. From there, our feet were groomed and our selections of hot red and pink were painted on our toes. The entire process took an hour and a half and was heavenly from start to finish.

dessert at red canoe bistro
Having forgotten to bring appropriate footwear after the pedicure, Ashley and I waddled our way over to Red Canoe Bistro in spa flip-flops to grab a bite to eat and taste the dessert offered as part of the chocolate trail. A cozy and intimate restaurant, Red Canoe Bistro was the perfect place to retreat to on the rainy day we were having. Treated to rich, indulgent main courses (gourmet mac n’ cheese anyone?), the dessert equally matched. We were served chocolate espresso brownie. Rich, moist and topped with a berry – it was the perfect sinfully sweet dessert. I’m pretty sure each bite taken induced an eyes widening, ‘can you believe how good this is?’ look at each other. Everything in Red Canoe is made fresh to order also, making everything we ate taste that much better. The service was also extremely personable and quick – always a bonus in any restaurant. This place is a must visit if you’ve never been.

cupids cupcakesNext on the agenda was Cupid’s Cupcakes, a boutique that takes pride in using no
preservatives in their baked goods. This charming place offers catering and online ordering. The sample that Ashley and I picked up was their princess cupcake, a chocolate cupcake with a strawberry purée icing and sprinkles. The strawberry purée that had been infused in the icing was phenomenal – unlike anything else I’d tried before. It was fresh, sweet and surprising to the taste buds! It won both of us over instantly. While we only split a mini cupcake (as we were stuffed from lunch), if we had larger appetites, many more cupcakes would have been devoured. This boutique features a different flavors everyday and has a large calendar up on the wall as you walk in so you can schedule which flavours you’d like to sample as they’re made during the week. As much of what they have is made fresh daily, if you purchase cupcakes that are a day old you receive 25% off, or 50% if they are two days old – a sweet deal!

mrs. b's gifthouse
Following our cupcake sampling, we were off to Mrs. B’s Gifthouse – one of my favourites of the day.   When walking through the front door, you’re not only welcomed by the incredibly delightful staff, but are instantly carried away by the warm, gooey scents of chocolate and fresh biscotti baking in the back. Ushered to the back, we were shown the famous biscotti – what the store is known for.  Explaining I hadn’t been a fan of biscotti in past because of it’s hard texture, Mr. B immediately said that I must try theirs. It was sensational. Not only did it taste delicious, but it was soft, chocolate coated and melted in my mouth. Heaven. I’d never tried one like that before! Theirs are always made fresh daily and have a faithful following in the community.  Those that stop in for fresh biscotti everyday also get a cup of coffee on the house.  It’s the perfect pairing! My delight with this boutique didn’t stop there. In addition to the fresh baked goods, candies and gift baskets are also made to order. The candy, I had to sample. Fresh licorice dipped in milk chocolate and sprinkled with caramel. It’s as good as it’s sounds. Marshmallow lollipops and other novel ideas for kids are also scattered throughout the store. The gift baskets too are something to marvel at. Beautifully wrapped and custom filled with goodies from the store, let me tell you, they are the perfect gift. This store is a must-visit.

The last stop on our chocolate trail was Christy’s Gourmet Gifts. Originally mentioned in
christy's gourmet gifts brittle
our Burlington Gift Guide, this tasty stop is sure to get your taste buds going. While the store offers such sweets at wine and beer brittle (hello!), we sampled the chocolate brittle while in their store. A family run business, they often create gift baskets and treats for corporate clientele. While the wine and beer brittle is out of this world, the chocolate brittle was just as delicious. The homemade recipe melts in your mouth. Literally. When having it, the Lays slogan of, “Bet you can’t just have one” comes to mind.

The Burlington Chocolate Trail was everything I was hoping for and more. Ashley and I had a fabulous time touring some of the delicious spots this trail has to offer and recommend highly that you try it also.  All that is required of this fabulous day is a deep love of chocolate and a life-sized glass of milk.

For more information see www.burlingtonchocolatetrail.caThe trail features five artisan food producers with a wide variety of chocolate treats; three chocolatiers making amazing creations; two restaurants featuring decadent desserts and two spas where you can relax with a luxurious chocolate treatment.

Guest Blogger
Christie Ressel
Author, Christie Ressel
Christie is an International Image Consultant, Editor, and expert shopper that helps women find their own signature style. She is the Editor­in-Chief for FashionTranslated.com. She and her company, Personal Power Image http://www.personalpowerimage.com) are regularly featured in the media and press such as CosmoTV, Chatelaine Magaine, Huffington Post, Lucky Magazine, and more. Having delivered hundreds of lectures and interviews across North America on style and fashion, and seen even more closets --  she is the go to fashion and style expert.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Burlington Ontario – A cycling friendly community.

If you are a family looking for a safe path to cycle, a competent cyclist hoping to join a riding group or an advanced distance cyclist searching for challenging terrain, you’ll find it in Burlington!

A bicycle friendly community.  In 2012 Burlington was awarded the bronze designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community by Ontario’s Share the Road Cycling Coalition.  Read on and discover why Burlington earned and deserved this honour.

Lids 4 Kids Event at Burlington Mall
Lids 4 Kids
Safe cycling begins with a properly fitted helmet but tightening and adjusting helmet straps can be a feat worthy of Houdini.  Each May, cycling in Burlington kicks off with the Lids 4 Kids event held at the Burlington Mall.  Halton Regional Police volunteer their time to give away and snuggly fit over 300 bike helmets on young cyclists.  They also run a safe riding rodeo.  Local bike mechanics inspect bikes and do minor repairs for free.  Lids 4 Kids is the ideal way for a family to begin the cycling season. 

Burlington has many paved cycling paths away from traffic, but with its panoramic view and downtown location, the WaterfrontTrail is a magnet for families with young cyclists
Cycling on the Burlington Ontario Waterfront
Cycling on the Burlington Waterfront
.  You can safely bike from Spencer Smith Park across the canal into Confederation Park and be treated to spectacular scenery that changes with the weather and time of day.  From the sun sparkling on the waves, to the roar of the waves on a windy day, or the buzzing of jet skis in the water, every day can be different and entertaining as you cycle the Waterfront Trail. There are many waypoints where you can reward the family with an ice cream break or make it an outing and enjoy the famous fish and chip dinner at Hutch's on the Lake. The walls are decorated with historical autographed pictures and jerseys from area sport teams. 
Families are also discovering the same wide, paved, car-free, cycling paths inland.  I use the Centennial Bike Path to get to the library and to shop by bike!  The path runs from the down town core to BurlOak Drive and is one of my favourites.  Using the branch paths, I bike to a wide range of stores including the Burlington Mall, various restaurants or for quick grocery runs.  There are a lot of schools on the Centennial Path so kids could even ride safely to school.  Environment Canada proclaims a bike is the best way to get around for short trips.  It’s true!  I've discovered that for distances less than 5 km., cycling is faster and more efficient than using the family car.  The Centennial Path is the ideal way to get across Burlington safely by bike.

Cycling on Burlington's Multi-use Trails
Cycling the multi-use trails
To turn my ride into a workout, I'll cycle to the end of the paved path at BurlOak, and take advantage of the new wide bike lanes on BurlOak, cycling north to Upper Middle joining a fabulous paved path following Bronte Creek. This is a spectacular route to enjoy, especially majestic and colourful in the fall. Using a combination of side streets I rejoin the Headon Path east of Walkers and cycle back to Brant Street on the paved multi-use path. There are a lot of branches to take you almost anywhere you need to go in northern Burlington and it is a fun way to burn calories and keep fit!

After you've become proficient on the paths and bike lanes in Burlington, there are many opportunities to join a group ride. If you've been hesitating to participate in a group ride, don't!  It's a fabulous way to meet like minded cyclists and there's a group for all cycling levels.  I was hesitant to join my first group ride at Mountain Equipment Co-op's (MEC) weekly drop-in ride.  There were a half a dozen riders going down Brant, along Lakeshore then up Snake Road into rural Burlington.  We all got back together, spent 15 minutes talking in the parking lot and had a great time.  It’s for “cyclists looking to learn about group riding and to meet other friendly roadies.  We meet and finish at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Burlington.  Rides will be between 1.5 to 3 hours long, covering 30km to 60km depending on weather and daylight.  No one will be dropped.” I've become a regular and look forward to it each week.
The oldest activities club in the area, formed in 1973, is the Halton Outdoor Club.  They
Share the Road Cycling ride in Halton
Share the Road Ride
have cycling groups that ride on trails (a totally different experience from road riding) and a separate group of on-road cyclists from April to October.  Riders often stop for lunch and break up into groups of varying speeds for riders of all levels.  Some say variety is the spice of life so the Halton Outdoor Club members do year round outdoor activities such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, kayaking and canoeing.

Another well established group, the Oakville Cycling Club, focuses on group road rides some departing from Burlington.  They have ride categories of varying speeds and distances, so you can be certain of finding a group compatible with your skill set.  You can “test” ride for free but once you’re hooked, a membership is mandatory.
Riding with a very large number of cyclists is a blast and gives you a real sense of community.  In September, there’s an opportunity to ride with 300 cyclists in the Share the Road Ride in Memory of Greg.  The ride originates from the Kelso Conservation Area, has variable distances of 30-50-100 km with the OPP present at key busy intersections.  Snacks and fluids are provided at stops along the route.  Following the ride, cyclists can enjoy a meal and festivities.  Share the Road hosts several rides throughout Ontario.  You can find details at www.sharetheroad.ca.

Welcome Cyclists Sign
Welcome Cyclists Sign
While cycling in Burlington, keep an eye out for the Welcome Cyclists! signs.  They are popping up like dandelions in spring.  These are bicycle friendly places to eat, visit and even sleep.  You’ll find these signs at all of Burlington’s community centres because they are equipped with tire repair kits and pumps.  I know this because I’ve had to use them! 

With its varied landscape, protected bike paths and many cycling groups, its no surprise that growing numbers are discovering cycling in Burlington as a safe, clean, healthy inexpensive even trendy way to get around town and keep fit.  Give it a whirl.    

Guest Writer - Gene Wasik
Gene Wasik
Gene Wasik is a resident of Burlington, a McMaster grad and an entrepreneur who has grown 2 start-up companies into national million dollar organizations.  Gene discovered cycling as a stress relieving outlet and grew to love cycling for its many health and relaxation benefits.  He is currently a director of Share the Road Cycling Coalition, a provincial wide cycling advocacy group and the author of “Bike Burlington,” a blog covering “Everything and anything to do with safe cycling in Burlington, Ontario.”  When travelling Gene always checks out the local bike sharing programs.