Event: What’s Happening These Days in Kitchener-Waterloo

Anytime is a good time to visit (or move to!) the Waterloo region (see my Design*Sponge Waterloo city guide here), but Christmas time is especially charming. The streets and stores are decorated, and it seems to me that the people around town are happier than their usually happy selves.

Here is some of what is going on in the next few weeks in the region. If you know of any other events, please add them in the comments!

What: Tree trimming party
Where: Langdon Hall
When: Nov. 25th (tonight!)
Cost: Bring an ornament for the tree at Langdon Hall, then enjoy a drink and music. Learn more about Langdon Hall’s tree trimming event here.

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What: Christkindl Market – At this traditionally German market in downtown Kitchener, you’ll find wooden German ornaments, delicious treats, and plenty of Glühwein.
Where: Downtown Kitchener – City Hall
When: The market is on from December 3rd to 6th.
Cost: free to attend

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What: The Grand Philharmonic Choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah
When: Dec. 12th, 7:30pm
Where: Centre in the Square
Cost: regular tickets $24-$74, tickets can be purchased here

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What: The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Yuletide Spectacular
When: Dec. 18-20, various performances
Where: Centre in the Square
Cost: regular tickets $19 and up, tickets can be purchased here

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What: Christmas at Castle Kilbride – Marvel at the gorgeous Victorian decor at Castle Kilbride. Go for a tour or enjoy an apple cider and entertainment at a Merry Victorian Christmas
When: now until Jan. 3
Where: Castle Kilbride – Baden, Ontario
Cost: tours – adults $6.50 (see more here)

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Waterloo: KW Symphony at the Centre in the Square

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend one of Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Beethoven concert at the Centre in the Square, and I’m pretty excited to share my experience with you. This was the first time I had ever been to a symphony. I have been to the ballet, I go to random concerts, and I’m a regular theatre goer, but the symphony…I was a total newbie! Was it ever good!

The Beethoven concert that I attended was the first of a three-part Beethoven marathon. It covered his piano concerto no. 1 in C major and no. 4 in G major. The second and third shows, which occurred on the Saturday, covered additional concertos. Full disclosure – I don’t really know much about Beethoven or his concertos…even though it may have just sounded like I do!

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The evening started off beautifully with an appearance by the Grand Philharmonic Choir. With them leading (and taking centre stage), we all sang O Canada. From there, the Symphony’s conductor, Edwin Outwater, welcomed everyone, and began the concert. Obviously, I couldn’t take pictures during the performance (obviously), the photos I’m sharing here are pre- and post-concert. They should give you an idea of the orchestra’s organization and presence on stage.

White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-2I am convinced that pianist Stewart Goodyear has magic fingers. Watching him play (via a close-up video streaming on a screen) was incredible. He was completely poised, played without any sheet music, and really seemed to love every moment of the concert. I really enjoy watching people who are so passionate about their art.

I have always appreciated the arts, but watching this talented team of musicians work together so seamlessly was pretty amazing. I know actors do it on stage, but this seemed like a completely different approach to team work, you know? Alone, noone could have achieved what was created as the whole.

White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-11Version 2I enjoyed the concert for more than just the music. The traditions and routines of the performance also caught my attention. The fact that the musicians wore black made their wood instruments really stand out. The pianist, wearing tails, artfully took his place at the piano on a black tufted bench. The conductor graciously thanked his orchestra for the performance and made certain that they shone throughout the evening.

White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-10the view from my seat – amazing!

Now, as Waterloo region is a major tech hub, we were treated to yet another something special. A while ago, the region hosted a 36-hour hack-a-thon in collaboration with the KW Symphony. Hackers came together and worked with the musicians and the space to create new experiences. The winners of the hack-a-thon were Adam Fancey and Justin Safa who developed Fractal Orchestra. Essentially, they recorded the performance and ran it through a too-complicated-for-me-to-figure-out program which created algorithms-or-something-equally-complicated that then led to pretty images. Pretty images – very cool. I know I’m not doing justice to their complicated work, so if you’re interested in the details, I’d encourage you to visit their new website. Here’s a look at some of their creations:

Fractal-Orchestra-1 Fractal-Orchestra-2images via Fractal Orchestra

I know the images aren’t as clear here as they are in real life, so I’d encourage you to learn more here. They really are interesting pieces of modern art.

Now, on to my initial thoughts of the venue. This was my first time attending a show at the Centre in the Square, and I was pretty impressed by the architecture and decor. The stage was wonderfully lit, the wooden seats were modern and well-maintained. The reception areas outside of the concert hall surprised me, too. They were full of over-sized loung-y grey casual sofas and sleek gold side tables. The audience definitely made use of these spaces pre- and post-concert as well as during intermission. It was really good to see the large space filled with excited audience members.

The lighting was also something to note. Totally modern! Completely hip! Who knew? Kitchener-Waterloo continues to surprise me with its approach to design and architecture. I feel proud to promote this city (read this).

White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-5White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-6White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-8  White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-7  White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-9 White-Cabana-KW Symphony-Centre in the Square-3At some points throughout the concert, I caught myself thinking about how great it is to live in Kitchener-Waterloo. Attending the symphony at the Centre in the Square was easy, convenient, and approachable. I’m curious about whether or not my Waterloo region readers have had similarly positive experiences. Do tell!

Many thanks to Kari at the KW Symphony for generously arranging my visit. Learn more about the events being held at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square.

Travel: A Day in Stratford, Ontario

A couple of weeks ago, I took a day trip to Stratford, Ontario. The drive is about 45 minutes from Waterloo, and it’s an extremely easy and pleasant ride along one road (basically). As has become the norm, my TomTom came along for the ride and proved to be very useful especially for navigating the streets of Stratford. I’ve only been to the city a couple of times, so I’m still not familiar with the roads.

The main purpose of my visit was to watch Stratford Festival‘s production of The Sound of Music (How do you solve a problem like Maria?), so that’s where my afternoon began. I found free parking along the lake (such a bonus!), and walked over to the beautiful Festival Theatre. The architecture of this place always interests me. The pointed rooftop, the pretty front rose garden, and the round stage (it’s open on three sides which makes viewing from all angles a pleasure) make this place stand out.

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The Sound of Music was a highly entertaining show, and since I was lucky enough to get centre seats about 10 rows from the stage, I felt completely spoiled!. I watch the Sound of Music once a year (it’s always on around Christmas, isn’t it), so I was quite excited about seeing a live performance (I am 16, going on 17…). I was itching to sing along to every song, but I resisted.

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Stephanie Rothenberg was stellar as Maria, and the cast of von Trapp children were absolutely unbelievable. Beyond the impressive acting and singing, the choreography was fun, and the stage and set design were cleverly put to use. It amazed me to see so much variety and action on a relatively small stage (These are a few of my favourite things…). Pre-performance, I was curious about the whole curtains-into-clothing transformation, and the play got it spot on (Do-Re-Me)! I loved watching the set transform (simply and seemingly effortlessly) with each scene. That’s part of the fun of live theatre, isn’t it?

2015playbill_SOM_089_recsm 2015playbill_SOM_182_recsmphotos via Stratford Festival

There’s plenty to see at the Stratford Festival, so there really is something for everyone (festival shows and schedule here). I’ve heard good things about The Alchemist and the Taming of the Shrew. Shows run into the fall, so there’s really no excuse to not plan a visit!

A matinee worked beautifully for my Saturday schedule. Post-theatre, I was able to walk around town, pop into some shops, and stroll lazily about before dinner. I’ll show you a bit about how I spent the rest of my day, if you’d like to see…

Balzac’s is a beautiful coffee shop in a charming building with detailed ceilings and lovely lighting. It also serves up some delicious coffee! Imagine that! I love it when places get decor and food right. The Stratford location was Balzac’s first, but it is also has opened up locations in Toronto, Guelph, Kitchener, and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Collectable posters represent each location.

White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontario-5White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontario-6Bradshaws has just about every kitchen item you’d ever want. After touching just about every cool kitchen gadget, I got stuck staring into the case of Alessi items. Oh, and I also found a lot of pretty white things…

White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontario-12The Artful Badger is a well-designed men’s barbershop-beauty store shop devoted to “classic shaving goods and other affordable luxuries for the modern gentleman” (I’m obviously not as eloquent in my description as The Artful Badger website!). The store carries face care and beard care items from the UK and United States along with stylish scarves and umbrellas. This is the perfect store to visit pre- and post-Movember. This gentleman’s store is unlike anything I have seen in Kitchener-Waterloo, and I absolutely loved how all the products were neatly displayed. White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontarioi_16 White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontarioi_14 White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontarioi_13Rhéo Thompson makes an extremely delicious chocolate mint smoothie chocolate. If you’re in Stratford, you must go pick up a box of these gems! They’re unlike any chocolate I’ve had, and on my next visit to the city, I’d really like to go on one of their tours. Chocolate…who can resist?

White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontario-3After a tour of shopping, it was time for dinner. I feel very loyal to Pazzo (Taverna and Pizzeria) as I’ve always had great service and excellent meals (at both restaurants; Pazzo Taverna is upstairs, the Pizzeria is downstairs). If you go during the theatre season, I’d recommend that you make a reservation in advance. On this visit, I dined at the Pizzeria, and I was once again impressed. Service was spot-on, and my meal was delicious (mushroom toasts, margherita pizza, Pimm’s Cup, wine, espresso…all very tasty with fresh ingredients). (side note: Pazzo means crazy in Italian).

White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontarioi_15And there you have it…a bit of a tour of Stratford, Ontario! I just have one more photo to share with you before I let you go enjoy your day…

White-Cabana-Stratford-Ontario-1I spotted this white brick wall and knew it would make a good backdrop for a jump (dress and jump last seen here).

Do let me know if you go for a visit! I’d love some more recommendations for my next trip, too!

Thanks to Ann and Amy from the Stratford Festival for helping to arrange my visit.

Travel: My Waterloo City Guide on Design*Sponge

Another blogging/writing/publishing dream came true for me a couple of weeks ago, and I’m so excited to share it with all of you.

I have been reading Design*Sponge since its creator, Grace Bonney, began publishing posts 10 years ago. Ten! She has been such a leader in the blogging world, and like many of her readers, I find so much inspiration on the pages of her blog (and her book, interviews, etc.).

DesignSponge-headerOne of my most favourite areas on Design*Sponge is the city guide section. These guides are written by travel enthusiasts who want to share the top-of-the-top that their cities have to offer.  In the past, I have used the Paris guide, the New Orleans guide, the Tampa guide, the Pittsburgh guide, the Dallas guide, the Halifax guide, and, most recently, the Orlando 24-hour guide. I totally put my trust into these guides, and they have yet to let me down!

DS-4Well, a few months ago, I wrote and submitted a Waterloo region guide for Design*Sponge, and it was published last Tuesday! (Insert shrieks and jumps for joy!) You can read my Waterloo guide right here. I am so proud of this article. I moved to Waterloo two years ago, and I have enjoyed living here ever since. I was very excited to share news of the region with Design*Sponge readers.

waterloo_cityguidetemplateI was beyond excited to see that Grace shared my article on Twitter and favourited related tweets, too. Eeek!

DS-2     DS-1Thanks to those of you who have read my Waterloo city guide and for those who have added their favourite spots in the comment section, too.

Travel: Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario – Part II

Yesterday, I took you on a tour of Langdon Hall’s interiors, showcasing the delicious breakfast I enjoyed and the details in the guest rooms. Today, I’m taking your outdoors. Let’s go!

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-6White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-5Rox-Anne and I enjoyed a tour of the garden with Mario, Langdon Hall’s head gardener. It was an impressive tour because Mario knows everything about everything in the garden, and his passion for his work really shines. Mario showed us how plants are thoughtfully arranged in order to maximize sight lines, use, and growth.

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-3here, Mario is telling us about how he and his team purposefully left space between the plants so that air could circulate around themWhite-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-9here, Mario is teaching us about sight lines and layering techniques; he thins out the grassy water plants so that the view beyond is not hiddenWhite-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-2the climbing hydrangea in this section of the garden is so pretty

The garden tour happens every Saturday at 10:30am for Langdon Hall guests. I know it’s easy to sleep in and linger over breakfast, but the tour is really fascinating, and I’d definitely encourage guests to take it. I honestly felt like I was in a Martha Stewart magazine as we walked through the various gardens.

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-7   White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-4Now, I know Langdon Hall guests are meant to be professional and poised…

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-1 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-8 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-13 White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-11but I couldn’t resist going back to my jumping roots in the presence of such incredible backdrops. It only took two tries to get the photo below (thanks, Rox-Anne!).

White-Cabana-Langdon-Hall-10I hope you enjoyed the two-day tour of Langdon Hall. Do let me know if you plan to visit (or if you already have visited).

See Rox-Anne’s photos and review here.

Thanks to Kate M. for showing us around Langdon Hall. Photos by Jordana unless otherwise indicated.