Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker, by Beryl Bainbridge, is one of the best stories I've read in awhile. The characters don't say much, but their loneliness and fears and pettiness were fascinations that drew me right into their lives. These are grim times. England, during the Second World War, where so much is scarce. Men at war, food rationed, materials hard to come by, daily pleasures a distant hope. The book itself is pretty spare, less than 200 pages, with events taking such a sudden turn at the end I had to go back and re-read the passage more than twice to confirm the twist.

This was Virginia's pick for bookclub and I was surprised when a few people vehemently disliked the novel. Such a brilliant story, such neurotic and pathetic characters, subversive humour, rich metaphor. Oh well, no accounting for taste.

One area our tastes did agree, was the deliciousness of the lasagna. So good we asked for the recipe.


meat sauce
Freezes well. To turn it into a Bolognese sauce, add 1/2 milk or cream along with the wine and stock.

1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped pancetta
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 lb (500 grams) ground veal
1 lb (500 grams) ground pork
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of white wine
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes, drained and chopped

HEAT oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the pancetta, and saute for one minute, until it is beginning to soften. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for 15 minutes until vegetables are very soft and beginning to brown.

STIR in garlic and parsley and cook for three minutes. Increase heat to medium high. Add veal and pork, stirring to break up clumps of meat. Saute until meat loses its pinkness, about 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.

ADD wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated and mixture is juicy, about 4 minutes. Stir in stock, tomato paste and tomatoes.. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for one hour.

UNCOVER and cook for 30 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

14 lasagna noodles
6 cups of bechamel sauce
8 cups meat sauce
2 cups parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp butter

- Boil lasagna noodles (aboout ten minutes) 10 minutes, then put in a single layer on a tea towel or parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Spread a thin layer of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan, set a layer of noodles and then cover with 1/3 of the bechamel sauce and half of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of parmesan.
- Repeat. Layering once, finishing with the meat sauce and 1/2 cup of parmesan. Dot with butter.
- Bake 45 minutes in oven until a crust forms and sauce is bubbling. Cover with foil the last 10 minutes if crust is getting too dark.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Rob turned 62; Alex turned 26.

A weird little numeric palindrome. How many times in a lifetime does something like that occur in the life of a parent/child? Definitely worthy of celebration.

The last time we had a co-celebration was the year Alex turned 4 and Rob turned 40.

We invited family for a reverso party. Alex suggested he and Rob exchange clothes, but had them change heads instead. It was just a matter of putting life-size photos of their heads on a cardboard stick, and then switching them around.

We served the meal in reverse, starting with coffee and liqueur. Then cake (one vanilla cake with chocolate icing and once chocolate with vanilla icing), and dinner last. Fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Seu George - Life Aquatic

I was stumped on what to get Rob for his birthday until I learned that Seu George would be performing David Bowie covers the very same night.

When we first saw him in the film The Life Aquatic, we were entranced and charmed by his acoustic guitar and tenor voice singing the lyrics in Portuguese.

During the concert Seu George talked about how Wes Anderson had telephoned him at home in Brazil and asked if he would like to participate in the film. Had he heard of David Bowie? Seu George had not. The first day of filming he recognized his fellow actors not by their names, but by characters they had played: there was the guy from Ghostbusters, the one from Jurassic Park.

The first song Wes asked him to play was Rebel, Rebel, which they would film in a half hour; it was one he hadn't yet learned to play. Redubbed later in the studio, it remains one of the film's highlights for me.  I also love his version of Changes and Oh You Pretty Things.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Zubin: Are you understanding?

When Zubin's five day intensive was announced several months ago I signed up right away. It began the day after sadhana ended, and several of us from the thirty day challenge were back for more. In fact, the studio was packed to the maximum and floor space was at a minimum. Marlene and Neron assisted and for the most part, people were aware and respectful of each other. The large class would often break into halves, with one group working on something complementary to the other, and then switching it up.

Are you understanding? A phrase the teacher used repeatedly.

The first night we worked at the wall, with the reminder that Iyengar used it is a teacher. Just standing with our backs to it, pinning the corners of our shoulders. Trying to broaden horizontally so the top of the back of our thighs align perfectly with the wall, and using a brick in virbadrasana so our knees must pin it to the wall.  Although Zubin had made these demonstrations on his previous visits, I was glad to experience once again how a seemingly simple thing can have profound implications.

He also reminded us we are bigger than our problems, and not to fixate only on fixing a sore shoulder with a specific pose, but rather to approach yoga with body, breath, and mind.

Body, breath and mind entwined for me in moments and I was able to glimpse my skin breathing, mind in body, breath in mind.

To incorporate into my home practice:

  • Stand in tadasana with palms facing back; lift arms backwards.
  • Raised arms with arms behind the ears.
  • Stand sideways, arms-length away from wall with palms pressed flat and fingers pointing down.
  • Stand with back to wall, arms-length away and then press palms flat and pointing down. Work towards arms aligned to shoulder height.
  • Squeeze yoga brick between arms, placed at wrist and palm, with palms facing up; keep arms straight and eyes of elbows facing toward each other. Raise arms above head without brick falling

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

October and November garden

The witch hazel and maple blazed in the backyard. Today the leaves on the back Trompenburg maple are stripped bare, and the witch hazel's are curled and brown. In the front, the dragon's blood is still scarlet.

Unseasonably warm temperatures meant the nasturtiums lasted until November 12 this year. The toad lilies weren't as noticeable as in past years, but begonias made for an exotic touch. The peach dahlia lasted well into October but was gone by Halloween.

I found myself transplanting in November, switching up the hellebore and cedar. It is a more pleasing alignment for the eye but I'm not so sure the cedar itself will like it under the maple. We'll see, can always switch them back in the summer. Also moved a hosta in the front from under the hydrangea bush to the other side. The plant will definitely prefer it's new location, and I'll be able to see it better.

Notes for next year would be to plant more of the begonias in the back yard, they were hardy until well into November and in the summer the foliage was gorgeous.