A Mind Break

Yesterday I had a mind break – a mini vacation of sorts.

I spent the afternoon sitting in a lawn chair overlooking the crystal blue waters of Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is the very beautiful town that sits on at the tip of the Niagara River right where it joins Lake Ontario.  There is a very small public park that is perfectly situated so that you can watch the sail boats quietly skim down the river and into the Lake.  A perfect setting to sit and relax, people watch, and drink in the calming effect of the blue sky against the blue water.

We watched people come and go – some on vacation – others local to the area.  We witnessed a small wedding party taking pictures – we chatted with a family from Philadelphia who were enjoying swimming at the small beach – and we watched both young and old enjoying the view – enjoying the walking path – and enjoying the fresh air.

I realize that I need so much more than an afternoon “mind break” – I very much need to totally detach and take a full vacation break – and I plan to do that very soon hopefully.  However, given the circumstances right now – I am in the last stages of planning a major fundraising event during the Toronto International Film Festival – this was a good start  – and certainly better than not breaking at all.  And when you do this – it helps you to realize the importance of relaxing and breaking away from stress.

Taking breaks is so important.  I hope to build that into my future plans on a regular basis – because I know that the old saying “work hard – play hard” is dead on!  I think I am good at both – but it seems that I have only taken time to do the “work hard” lately.

As we watched families enjoy their time together, I remarked to my sister that it reminded me of our growing up years when we would take family vacations – when we would stop at a beach and have fun skipping rocks, and swimming – even in a very rocky bottom beach.  It just didn’t matter to us as kids – and it didn’t seem to matter to the families yesterday either.  What fun – what enjoyment – and what memories they are making!

I look forward to more valued times of relaxation!  It was a beautiful day – I slept so well after enjoying the fresh air and the quiet calming of the water!

So beautiful!

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Windsor Smith

I have been so  very fortunate to have had so many of the experiences that i have had over the last few years!  I have traveled around the world, met extremely interesting people, and learned a great deal about the way others live in so many different cultures and contexts.  I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything!  Most of this comes from my work in international NGO’s and my involvement in public relations and developement.

One of my favourite trips was to Los Angeles a year ago for an event at the home of Windsor Smith, who was working with Dignitas International to raise awareness and funds for our work in Malawi.

Windsor is a very well known interior designer – she calls herself a lifestyle architect – I love that – it implies so much more than decorating – it implies building a vision for surroundings that meet the needs of your lifestyle.

What an experience it was to attend an event in her home, and in addition to spend the morning with her sitting at her  table over coffee  and talking about Dignitas and about her beautiful home.

Although ALL of the rooms are amazing, it is really the kitchen that is the heart of the home!

This picture featured in House Beautiful is exactly how it is in reality – well maybe there is a little staging with the vegetables on the sideboard, but the table was set just like that for us!  The lovely wingback chairs on each end cry out –  sit here!  The long country table was rustic and warm and it was clear to see that people would just naturally gather around that table  to eat, drink and converse.  When I commented on how much I loved the long table, Windsor told us that since everyone always ended up in the kitchen she decided to make it the main eating area – she has no formal dining room.  It really works – I loved it!

Back to the entrance.  On the evening of the party Windsor had those big beautiful black doors thrown wide open and you entered into this grand foyer that was elegant and yet not too large that you felt you were lost in it.

And if you look through to the living room you can see she has painted the walls a dark brown and has a ping pong table in the room. She and her husband have teenage boys so her view make it work for family living – she didn’t see the need for an additional formal living room.

Her great room is the room where the TV is and where there are big stuffed couches and cozy chairs with book shelves behind and french doors out to the back yard pool and patio.  In the day the sun shines in and reflects off what I recall to be yellow grasscloth wall paper (might be wrong on this as I am going by memory)  What I do remember is a full length floor to ceiling mirror leaning up against the wall with a fabulous orchid in front of it – stunning. You can see the edge of this mirror on the left side of the picture below.

As you walk through the great room into the kitchen you pass through a sitting room/game room – with bubble gum pink paint on the walls!  Who would even dare – but it is stunning!!  It is bright and cheery and warm and a bit crazy!  Sitting on the couch is like sinking into a hundred feather pillows – wonderfully soft but not so much that you are not comfortable.  The colour choices are so interesting- blues and golds and deep rose velvets  – the look so formal in style, but the colour just makes it fun and relaxed .

I don’t know which room is the most interesting because everywhere I went I was transfixed by what I saw, and what I felt.  It was calm, but not boring, cozy, but not overly casual, comfortable and warm.  The house is a show piece there is no doubt about it – but you do not feel that the house can not be lived in – in fact it begs to be lived in.  Who puts a ping pong table in the living room!

What room did I love the most?  Well, I loved the pink room because it was so interesting, but I have to say – the kitchen was the heart of the home – it just said come on in and relax and lets be together.  And at the end of the night when the party was over and there was just a few of us left – that is where we gathered to order pizza and sit around and talk and eat and it was so much fun!

Thank you Windsor for opening your home to Dignitas and to all those who joined that night.  We had a great time.  And your house is beautiful!

James Orbinski and James Fraser  with Windsor Smith.