Beautiful tiles (and vases)!

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One of the great benefits of travelling is that you encounter all sorts of different people with different talents and interests.

One of our great joys for the past few years is to go to Stratford, Ontario each summer with some very dear friends for the Shakespeare Festival where we obviously enjoy Shakespeare plays and others as well.

While in Stratford, we have downtime in which we manage to go to the local places and check what they have to offer. A few years ago we chanced upon the old train station in Stratford and noticed a sign for pottery. Little did we know when we entered it and came upon Mary Philpott (now Mary Philpott Mateljan) that we had just found a rare gem that Stratford seemed to be hiding.

MK and I love Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement and the art and furniture which go along with it. When we walked into the pottery studio operated by Mary, we were absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of the tiles hanging on her walls.

The studio or “atelier” as she now calls it is really quite the basic pottery studio and that is one of the reasons for its charm. The charm of the location is so unbelievably enhanced by the potter herself. She is not only, if I may inappropriately say, beautiful, but also a beautiful person with an amazing personality. The simple interior of the establishment only embellishes the tiles that are displayed on the wall, in baskets, etc. Visible within are numerous works that are in various stages of the evolution from clay to actual tiles.

This past summer, Mary explained to us that she was marrying the Frenchman that she had lived with for some time and was going to France to have a sort of internship experience followed by a showing of the work she had done. Now her work is going to have the addition of the possibility of a certain French influence from Provence.

We love to be surrounded by beautiful things, the work of Mary Philpott Mateljan is amazing and I took pictures of some of the items we have purchased from her. Not only do we have some of her tiles, but also a vase. Our friends have a collection as well that graces their lovely screened in porch overlooking their back yard. So, if you are ever in Stratford, Ontario, one heck of a lovely town anyway, look for the old train station and the Verdant Tile Company.  You won’t be disappointed.

Ilsa, the Canadian Masseuse

I had said that I was going to read the Sunday paper, and once again I got waylaid.   My memories, since I mentioned Stratford, started flowing.  I thought about my second massage experience.

I seem prone to encounter some of the world’s most interesting people and I managed to do that when in Stratford, Ontario a few years ago.

For years, idiot that I am capable of being, I was totally against having a massage.  After my first experience at a bed and breakfast in Wisconsin, I realized that once again I was mistaken about something.  I will say that at least I did follow my own personal family tenet of “never saying never,” something I have told my boys incessantly. It seems that it is, as superstition will have it, not a good idea to say “never” for it seems to come back and hit you in the face.  So I didn’t say never to massage and I did try it and I did like it.  After my first one I thought to myself, “What took me so long?”

So here we were in Stratford on vacation, I think it may have been our first year there and Mary Kay suggested a massage.  I thought it was a great idea.  My experience ended up being on e of those iconic story moments that just keeps getting retold.

We arrived at the “Spa” and I went upstairs (I was first) and met Ilsa.  Ilsa was not particularly tall, not particularly old, not particularly anything out of ordinary.  The thing I did notice was her very heavy northern accent and her muscular, stocky figure of a person.  Honestly, I hope this isn’t being mean, but she looked like the typical “good woman for a plow.” She looked like the person I would never ever challenge to a competition of any physical nature.

So, I get undressed, feeling somewhat uncomfortable since it is only my second massage, and chitchat with Ilsa about life in general.  We went through the usual talk of what to wear under the sheet, my not being sure what was expected and I ended up removing everything.  The atmosphere in the room was pleasant and professional.

Some may be expecting something crazy considering the direction I am going in and frankly, that is not going to come to pass.  The major moment of the whole event was one of the first questions Ilsa put to me as I lay naked under the sheet, “May I touch your bum?”  That set the mode/pace for the rest of the massage and frankly disarmed me completely and put me at ease in an odd way.  I told her that she certainly could; there are a good number of muscles in that region that could certainly benefit from some attention.

Ilsa’s physical stature and status (she was very much in shape) helped her provide me with a great massage and she was totally professional in her role as a masseuse.  That comment of hers literally made me drop any feeling of being uncomfortable, it was just too funny for words, and I was totally putty in her very strong hands.

We talked about all sorts of things during this time, I would say that such conversation is akin to the small talk one has with a hair stylist (hard to believe I remember this, considering my state of being follicularly challenged)  when undergoing that process.  Somehow we got on to the subject of Mary Kay.

We talked about all sorts of things and well, got onto acupuncture which is an art/science that Ilsa practiced.  We talked about living in general, our bodies changing as we age, etc.  We talked a bit about romance, not that Ilsa was hitting on me, but as Mary Kay has reminded me more than once, I don’t ever notice when someone is flirting with me, I seem to be incapable of recognizing it.

Ilsa talked about how acupuncture can do all sorts of things, Mary Kay had had it when she was recovering from a terrible break of her humerus (in the arm) years ago and had issues with the muscles in her other arm that were being overworked.  She talked about the benefits of it in all areas including romance…

My massage over, I felt great, I put my clothes back on, thanked Ilsa, went downstairs.

Mary Kay went up, had her massage.  I didn’t hear all that much about it except that she got an added extra, acupuncture…

Thus ends my iconic tale of massage, you may fill in the blanks.

A Christmastime Sunday

TheManger scene with Ali's headless donkey


It is about eight o’clock in the morning and I am awake with my coffee enjoying the silence in the house.  It is hard to believe I slept this late, it doesn’t happen very often.  I have my coffee in hand and am about to get the Sunday paper.  I always used to really enjoy the Sunday paper but I find it harder and harder to read it.  Maybe it is just me but the writing style has changed in such a way that it does not hold my interest.  The advent (nice choice of words considering the time of year) of the Internet seems to have hastened a “demise” of the printed newspaper anyway.  At this point, Mary Kay and I don’t agree, I would actually drop the newspaper subscription and read it with my app on the iPhone or iPad.  Such is life.

Ali hasn’t yet asked to go out, she is still snoozing at the foot of the tree which I just illuminated.  I don’t know if my feeling is justified, but I feel so much safer now that the LED lights are doing the Christmas decorating.  I don’t feel as funny about having the lights on.  It was nice, as well, to only have to string two sets of lights together (although they have numerous LED bulbs) to really light the tree.  Ali, for some reason, really likes to sleep by the tree, which she generally pretends doesn’t exist.  In her puppylike exuberance at the age of ten, she “flashes” by the tree in our living room and either brushes by it or allows her tail to whack it, the result being fallen ornaments.

Ali is also guilty of having done a little Christmas damage yesterday when we had our family Christmas get together and birthday celebration for Mikey.  She had been eyeing the Fisher Price manger set we had bought Samantha.  What originally caught our eye was the border collie it had along with all the other animals.  It is a favorite of Samantha’s as she can press the star on top of it and play “Away in a Manger.” Ali had been eyeing the little animals, thinking they were for her.  I had chastised her for it.  Yesterday she got a hold of the donkey and now he is headless!

Ali is a firm believer in consistency so she is a bit out of it in the hubbub chez Koerner.  Mikey’s arrival, which should have had her going crazy as he is one of her favorite people, had her snubbing him for the most part.  Yesterday, Samantha’s snack which was on a coffee table in the family room attracted Ali’s attention.  Ali will normally not pay any attention to that as she knows it is off limits, but yesterday she came close to checking it out.  So we have to keep a better eye on her.  Her predecessor, Freckles, was known to pop up on the counter and just plain old remove entire roasts if you weren’t looking.  The odd thing was that she would do it and there would be no mess, no evidence of the struggle to get the household “prey.”  I remember fondly that pork chop on my plate, some neighborhood fracas called me outside and in the interim my dinner disappeared!  With Ali, that just doesn’t happen.  I guess she feels we aren’t paying her enough attention at the moment.

My original intent this morning was to write a quick blurb and get on with my business.  It strikes me funny how sometimes the memories and stories just flow out out a person like water from a spigot.  And like that water, you need to deal with it immediately or it will evaporate away.  Good thing I was using my keyboard to note it.

We are going downtown with dear friends today to see “A White Christmas,” a play currently being done in the loop.  It should be a great time, we always have the most amazingly fun time with Tony and CC.  They are intelligent, personable, have great life stories, put up with the antics of the Koerners, and are delightful to be with as they don’t have any particular agenda and make these excursions so delightful.  We have even been traveling with them on  a yearly basis to Stratford, Ontario for the Shakespeare Festival, which is always  an amazing trip.  Not only are the plays very entertaining and thought provoking, the restaurant forays, the occasional shopping and sightseeing are also enjoyable.  So Mary Kay, Tony, CC, and I shall drive downtown and enjoy a play and the winter wonderland sights of the city today and it should be a good time.

Off to the kitchen to make more coffee, get the newspaper either by walking outside or seeing if the canine wonder shall perform today.  Sundays are not good performance days for her as the paper is usually too large, but my first glance at the paper makes me think that it actually might be possible as it looks miniscule!