Saturday, February 28, 2009

Looking back in time

Many, many years ago, I learned to ski. I grew up on a farm in Nashville, Ontario and on our farm we had a big hill. My dad and his friend John Beevor got it in their heads that they would make our big hill into a big ski hill. They hired a local excavator to make the last part of the hill very steep, and using an old truck chassis, they put in home made rope tow. As kids we had lots of fun going down the hill, and grabbed hold of the rope tow to get back up to the top. On one occasion, my sister Anne got her scarf tangled around the rope and soon found herself hanging from high above the safety gate that was supposed to stop this home made contraption from courting disaster. Luckily for Anne the safety gate didn't perform it's intended function, the rope kept going, and she was pulled up to the top pulley (made out of an old tire rim), where her scarf was severed, and she fell to the ground, cheating death by a thread (no pun intended). More often than not, I believe we went down the hill on toboggans rather than skis, none-the-less, we had hours and hours of fun on that hill. Years later, I took up skiing with some high school friends at Blue Mountain. Back then there were just a couple of runs, a couple of lifts, and a dated old ski lodge. Once I got a taste for it, we went on to ski at Mt. Ste. Anne, and at Stow but eventually lost interest and sold my equipment. Fast forward 20 or so years, and my youngest sister Marijo and her friend Brian invited us to join them back at Blue Mountain for some skiing and to check out the newest trend in spa living at Le Scandinave. I was amazed at how quickly my skiing skills came back (how hard can it be - gravity does most of the work?). I was amazed at all the changes at Blue Mountain - now a world class recreational village, and with all the changes in boots and skis. We had a great time, and much to my surprise, I think I might pick up an old sport that was on hold for 20 years. The trip to Le Scandinave was interesting. Located a stone's throw away from the ski hills there is a collection of rustic building surrounding a series of outdoor soaking pools at temperatures ranging from 55 to 104 degrees (F). In the buildings were steam rooms, saunas and relaxariums. Guest could also book a massage, but that option was sold out on the day we were there. The aqua-hot/cold/rest treatment ($40/person) provided a great way to sooth burning shins after a day of outdoor adventure. Winter can be so much fun if you just embrace it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ste. Anne’s Spa - Economic Stimulus Plan

It seems the news these days is just full of doom and gloom about the economy. I can't help but wonder if some, if not all of this "hyper-gloom" is fuelled by the media's insatiable appetite for salacious news. Now, as billions of taxpayer dollars have evaporated in the U.S. as part of George W's bank bail outs, billions more dollars are being set aside to "stimulate" the economy. But wait a minute, all the talk of doom and gloom is having the opposite effect on the economy - it's causing people who have absolutely no reason for concern to hesitate, claw back and contribute to a shrinking of the economy. This is where the real danger lies. For a consumer/taxpayer, this can be a very stressful time. It used to be our job to stimulate the economy, and we were having fun doing it. Now we're being told that on the one hand we overextended ourselves by using too much credit, and on the other hand, we’re now not spending enough, so the politicians, who love spending more than anyone, are going to take over this task. Yikes!

My advice – ignore the government, ignore the media, and look out for number 1. Like they say on airplanes - make sure you have your oxygen mask on before you try to help others.

Here is my 4 point "Spa Economic Stimulus Plan"

1. Be charitable. I'll start. If someone you know has lost their job within the past 3 months as a direct result of the greed of the oil companies and the banks (both of whom caused this problem, always seem to be raising fees and prices and recording record profits, but never mind that), send me an email, and I will do my best to get them out to the Ste. Anne's Spa for the day, on me;

2. Keep spending. Even the worst pessimists are only able to imagine a 10% unemployment rate as a result of the current economic slowdown. That means that 90% of the population are still employed. Those of us who are employed must not sit and wait for the government to stimulate the economy – we can do a much better job if each one of us does our part. This is a great time to be buying things, lower prices, reward programs, low interest rates, you name it - shop, spend, save!

3. Be positive. Enough with doom and gloom already. Let’s stop supporting news organizations that feed on fear and negativity. Stop tuning in to all news networks that go out of their way to spread fear. Avoid engaging in conversations that accentuate the negative – accentuate the positive. We are part of the most fortunate generation in the history of mankind, living in the most blessed civilization on earth. We need to celebrate this every second of every hour of every day.

4. Pass it on. We need to get back to the business of being. Send a link to this blog to a friend. Do something to cheer someone up without them knowing who did it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Who would have thunk it?

I wasn't there, so this story comes to you third hand, but as I know it, about 35 years or so ago a brave man named Remberto Navia took the incredibly courageous and loving decision to move his wife Gelma and their young family of 3 boys and 3 girls from Ecuador to what he hoped would be a better life in a land far, far away known to him as Canada. Remberto passed away three years ago, but his youngest boy has grown into a man named David. Had David stayed in Ecuador, it's hard to imagine what course his life would have taken, but I often wonder if he would have taken up snowmobiling, motorcycling, horseback riding, long distance running, hospitality and marketing. My family and I have had the pleasure of having David as a part of our lives for the past 17 years and have come to know him as a happy, caring, thoughtful, sensitive and giving man. This past week he moved into his office at the spa in his role as Director of Operations where he will return to a role he loves, and where he is loved by the thousands of spa divas who visit the Ste. Anne's every year looking forward to his warm embrace and his heartfelt greetings of "Hello Honey", "Hi Sweetheart", in hopes that they will hear his big laugh echoing through the halls. David turns 39 tomorrow. Happy Birthday my friend! (Pictured above, David on his trusty stead, Noche Luna, who has been his most recent partner in mastering English riding).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Divine Brown rocks the house in Belleville

I'm not usually a big Valentine's Day kind of guy. Once in a while I'll spring for some roses, but I subscribe to the school of thought that sees any day as a day to show that you love someone, and paying twice the going rate for flowers on one day of the year doesn't always mean as much as doing something thoughtful when it's not expected or demanded. For those who do ascribe some meaning to this day, and for those who are in relationships with them, for God's sake make the effort. It really doesn't take much to let someone know you love them, even if they create a little pressure for you to do so. Love really is one of the easier tasks we have in life. Off the soap box, and back to my story - my youngest sister, Marijo, sent me an email a couple of weeks ago asking if we'd like to join her and her boyfriend for a night out in Belleville. To be quite honest, I wasn't really paying attention when I agreed to the date, and so didn't know that I was agreeing to a Valentine's Day deal, and I also had no idea who the headliner, Divine Brown was, but I'm always open to trying something new, especially when it comes to live entertainment. Now as it turns out, this wasn't really something new for me. When I lived in Toronto back in the 80's I dated someone who took me to see some amazing black performers in some incredible, intimate venues. All a foggy haze now - I couldn't tell you who we went to see or where, but these memories definitely reside in that warm fuzzy (smoke filled/alcohol hazed) part of my brain. The show at the Empire Theatre in Belleville will fit quite nicely into that group of memories. Man, this woman can sing, and she got this crowd up on their feet clapping their hands and swinging their hips like nothing I've ever seen in Belleville before. We had a great time. As she said her good byes for the night she thanked Barack Obama for the audacity of hope as she brought the audience into the show in a "we believe" chant. Divine and her fellow entertainers, black and white, were absolutely incredible - full of love and rhythm and joy and energy. What ever possessed our ancestors to treat people of colour with anything but love and respect? When did the human race learn to hate? I guess it's the same old fear that drives us to back ourselves into a corner whenever we come up against something that we haven't seen before or that we don't understand. Thank God for Divine Brown, Barack Obama, and rhythm and blues. Amen!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Opera, wine, and the moon rising

On Sunday afternoon, the folks behind Westben: Concerts at the Barn, hosted an afternoon cocktail soiree high atop the Northumberland Hills at Oak Heights Winery. In hopes of discovering a scenic drive to our destination, I set my GPS to the coordinates for the winery, only to have to double back after my friend Garmin tried to take me through 4 feet of snow on roads that are only maintained in the summer months. Ian, Sally, Phyllis and Chef put on an outstanding event complete with wine, martinis, a scrumptious selection of hors dourves, games and of course, engaging conversation. Not to be outdone, Brian and Donna of Westben put on an exclusive 30 minute concert for their guests along with Robert Longo and Gabriella Prata. While I enjoyed the music, I must admit I did sneak outside once or twice for a little night air and to slip Massie (my faithful canine friend warming my seat in my truck) a few bones from the succulent ribs that we had earlier enjoyed. Singers Robert and Gabriella spent the night at Ste. Anne's, where they said they felt more relaxed than they had in a long time. Years ago the cast of Showboat used to visit the spa on Sunday nights to recuperate their vocal cords in the eucalyptus steam room, until one of our guests spotted them and unabashedly asked them if they would mind singing happy birthday to her parents. Oh dear - so much for becoming a celebrity hideaway! On Monday morning I set my alarm clock for 6:30 hoping to start work a little earlier and possibly get motivated to start back into a morning workout routine. It was a glorious day for a walk, as I was able to see the full moon rising to the west, and the sun rising in the east. Mornings can be so wonderful, although today, with freezing ran beating down on my windshield, I would have probably been just as happy hitting the snooze button and stealing another hour of beauty sleep. Suffice it to say, I still haven't found the motivation to exercise any more than a bit of brisk walking, but then, there's always tomorrow!