Well, this is the question that my family and I went through in the past few years. Yes, we wanted to move out of the Toronto area, with its hustling and bustling life -- we wanted a slightly quieter way of life. A place where your local eatery would recognize you and, like the song goes “where everyone knows your name”. A town (yes – not a large city) that was friendly, encouraged the arts, had a certain amount of wildlife and nature, had the necessary infrastructure to maintain your health and welfare – a place where the local merchants owned their store and took pride in the products they sold.
So over the past few years, we visited many small towns in southwestern Ontario that we felt might fit our needs for the simple life we longed for. Trust me, there are some beautiful towns and villages in Ontario! We traveled as far east as Brockville, as far south as Niagara-on-the-Lake, as west as Windsor and many towns in-between. After thinking that our vision of paradise might not really exist, we came back to a town that we frequently had visited to see the swans. Every year, we would drive 1-1/2 hours west so that my niece Holley and I could watch the graceful swans. The river, the swans, ducks and geese were always a refuge for us after a busy, frantic few months. One day in May, we came back to see the swans and found a perfect new home – in Stratford in Perth County, Ontario.
In July, we moved to beautiful Stratford and we couldn’t be happier. The house is a beautiful old home that has a wonderful front porch. From our front porch, we can watch the swans float by from sunrise to sunset, and watch the joggers, walkers and dog-walkers follow the trail around the lake. We don’t need to use alarm clocks as the ducks wake us up with their quacking. We can drive almost anywhere in town and it takes us about 15 minutes. There is great live theatre at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and numerous music festivals, let alone the celebrations of local produce at the famous “Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival”! We can watch the tour boat go up and down the river, and many nights the H.M.S. Razzamajazz boat goes by with live music! What a life! Like my friend Jenny said, “it sounds like you live at a resort” and that is what it feels like. We can buy most of our groceries at the Stratford Farmers Market every Saturday and what a joy that is -- to actually meet the people who grow our vegetables or bake our sweets! In addition, many of the local businesses are run by Amish and Mennonites who take great pride in their products. But best of all, we know that we are reducing our carbon footprint and supporting local business endeavours – life can’t get much better than this – we are truly blessed!
Just last week, Stratford was voted one of the top 10 Canadian places to retire. The article states that Stratford has more parkland per capita than any city in Canada. But Stratford is inviting to more than only retirees, it also encourages business and families, as well as offers plenty of programs for kids. For example, Gallery Stratford (our most famous art gallery) has art courses that range from age 2 – 102! In addition, the University of Waterloo has now opened a Stratford campus which offers educational programs as well as research opportunities. Stratford has something for everyone!
From our front porch, we will tell you all sorts of things that we can see or do – such as share with you some photos of our local white swans and our one elusive black swan, the cygnets as well as some ducks and geese. We also have one unique black and white goose (not really sure what it is) but we will see if someone can identify it for us. My sister, Dawna Robertson, is a wildlife soapstone sculptor and artist extraordinaire. From time to time, Dawna will write a blog here about her most recent new sculpture and show pictures illustrating the progress of the piece.
I love garden parties (as well as all things floral and pretty -- as you will see from all the photos I take) and we will show you how we entertain on our front porch. We want to exchange our favourite recipes with you, both food-related and some natural home products that Holley and I make. Dawna and her daughter, Holley, also create beautiful line drawings which they sell on Dawna’s website. My Mom Ann and Dawna also design original jewellery, mostly with semi-precious stones. The jewellery is for sale on Dawna's website as well as at the Rock Shop in Kleinburg. I also love repurposing old furniture by painting and sometimes tiling it. We all love do-it-yourself projects so we will share some of these with you, too. As you may have guessed, we tend to be an artsy family – all of us having different passions but all of us wanting to learn about more arts and crafts. So think about do-it-yourself projects that you have done and send us your pictures, questions and ideas.
As we venture off our front porch, we will be visiting some of the small towns near here, as well as some of the Amish and Mennonite villages. Stratford has great tourist attractions and lots of fairs that we are going to try and visit. We will be comparing some of the great food products available and are going to have a “Best of” category. Do you know who makes the best Coconut Cream pie or the best Peaches ’n Cream pie in this area? We do – and we’ll let you know in an upcoming blog. I know we may talk a lot about sweets, but we do love fresh vegetables and savoury dishes too! For example, we found a local baker who makes the best ever shepherd’s pie – winner’s name to be announced in a future blog! We'll also highlight some of the best restaurants in the area -- some with wonderful culinary delights and some with simple, good old home cooking.
So thanks for taking time to read my first blog of My Life in Perth County! We hope you will visit us again soon!
Cheers for now!