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I took my Grandson to Stratford for his Birthday

A woman-friendly portrait studio...

It turns out Josh and I were not in Stratford alone. We had a Journeywoman angel to watch over us. Her name is Irene Miller, a member of our Journeywoman Network and a wonderful photographer who lives in the area. When she heard about our birthday plans she wrote to ask how she might help in the planning stages. I, in turn, visited Irene's website and was so impressed with her work that I immediately commissioned her to 'shoot' a birthday portrait of Josh in the Stratford costume of his choice.

Irene's second floor studio is located in a Victorian (former) furniture factory on 163 King Street. It's easy to see that she has had great fun decorating the premises. Irene loves antique chairs; she's rescued them from auctions and estate sales then prettied them up and welcomed them into her elegant Parisian-style working space. She keeps champagne in her fridge for clients that come to be photographed in her Elizabethan and vintage clothing collection. Subjects like Josh get juice and cookies and the affectionate company of the building's resident cat. Our relaxed photo shoot took less than an hour, my grandson thoroughly enjoyed the process and the fabulous, finished portraits were delivered to our hotel that very evening. I'm thinking of coming back with my girlfriends. All of us preening in vintage wear for Irene's camera should be a hoot. Tel: 519.271.6500 Email: Sessions by appointment only. Irene's fees are very affordable.


Terrific toy stores...

Stratford has several excellent toy shops that kids will love. Happily not one of them is a 'big box' store. Their stock is unique and their service the attentive friendly sort you might find in a much smaller town. We toured each one of them looking for just the right gift to bring home for Josh's younger sister.

Family & Company (6 Ontario Street) bills itself as 'Canada's most unusual toy store' and I agree completely. The fun starts even before you walk into the shop. Imagine zany 'electric pink' and 'florescent green' sun umbrellas perched over board game tables set outside on the sidewalk. Walk in and you are surrounded by toys, floor to ceiling. It's hard to know how to start but that's where one of the 30 toy experts (high school students) take you in hand, find out what you need and walk you around to pick your pleasure. Looking for a magic trick? Family and Company has it's own little theatre tucked away in a corner where tricks are performed and explained. Teenage DJ's spin records and announce 'in store' contests. Staff walks the floor choosing winners and handing out candy treats. Grandma made a note to come back all my herself to do her December holiday shopping. Website:

Quark Soup (119 Ontario Street) is the perfect little spot for gifts that both young boys and grownup men will appreciate. It's owned by a cool guy who loves unusual things and he'll happily explain 'stuff' to the youngsters that are interested. Josh loved the t-shirts that change color in the sun, the blog lava lamps, all the brain twisters and the survival whistle a young explorer can wear around his neck ($1.99). Yes, grandma bought him one.

The Holiday Store (10 Downie Street) is huge and filled with a sense of celebration and wonder. As you walk in the door Christmas displays and decorations are front and center. What fun to shop in August and see a huge Santa at the entrance and Father Christmas in amongst the displays. The toy department is filled to overflowing and includes one of the largest selections of board games I've ever seen. For those who are Monopoly fans, there are countless unusual versions available. The staff is polite and best of all, some of the games and puzzles are left open ready for young minds and eager hands to explore.


Famous swans are just five minutes away...

We kept one of the most famous Stratford activities for last -- feeding the swans who swim just a five minute walk from Ontario Street. Stratford's first swans were released onto the Avon river in August 1918. Of course since then the swan population has grown considerably. Several of the swans are even considered royalty -- descendants of Queen Elizabeth II's royal herd. I imagine that almost anybody, young or old who visits Stratford walks (or in Josh's case, runs) beside the picturesque Avon river to see these famous swans and to feed them. Josh and I just loved the experience and I named my grandson the Pied Piper of Stratford because he dropped kernels of corn as he moved and the hungry ducks and swans formed a long line behind him picking the path clean.


Too soon our birthday celebration drew to a close. At Pizza Pizza we feasted on pepperoni topped slices and mystery purple pop in a bottle (don't tell his mom) and headed for the train station. Josh slept most of the way home. He may have been tuckered out but he was definitely a happy little boy.

P.S. A week later a copy of The Stratford Gazette came by mail. In it was an interview Josh and I did with journalist, Tori Sutton about our 'fun filled' stay in Stratford. I smiled and sent it off to my girlfriends.

Women's words on grandmothers...

'I loved her home. Everything smelled older, worn but safe; the food aroma had baked itself into the firniture.'
(Susan Strasberg, 1980)

'A home without a grandmother is like an egg without salt.'
(Florence King, 1989)

'I'm a flower, a flower opening and reaching for the sun. You are the sun, grandma, you are the sun in my life.'
(Kitty Tsui, 1983)

"Grandma was a kind of first-aid station, or a Red Cross nurse, who took up where the battle ended, accepting us and our little sobbing sins, gathering the whole of us into her lap, restoring us to health and confidence by her amazing faith in life and in a mortal's strength to meet it.'
(Lillian Smith, 1984)

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