Friday, July 31, 2009

Cruisin' - Day 1: U.S. South Shore, Wilson

When I woke up on our sailboat this morning one of the first things I saw when I opened my eyes was a beautiful Kingfisher perched in a neighbour's rigging. Then I went up to the BPYC clubhouse to do my morning stretches and saw a Kingfisher lying there, flat on its back, its small breast pulsing rapidly. It looked to be the same bird I'd admired earlier, wounded from flying straight into the plate glass window. I watched it frantically flap its wings and realized my presence was probably stressing it out, so I backed away and went ahead with my yoga with the hope the bird would recover. When I left, it was still flat on its back, flailing its wings, with its fragile neck at a hopeless angle.

Despite the inauspicious beginning, the day has been wonderful. And it's actually hot! After weeks of sub-normal temperatures I feel like I've suddenly stepped off the plane onto hot tarmac for a winter vacation in the sun.

Rob and I set sail from Bluffer's Park by 7:30 a.m., motoring for a few hours. It was surprising to see the Toronto skyline lingering still, at 11:30. By coincidence, when the skyline disappeared and we couldn't see land on any horizon, the breeze came up. We hoisted the sails and turned off the motor. Bliss. Quiet. Solitude. No one around for miles. We were only progressing at 3nph, the lake entirely flat. Cruisin'.

Now I can't get that song out of my head, "Cruisin' on a Sunday afternoon.... cruisin' couldn't get away too soon..." and that sighing back chorus that sounds like a soft summer breeze.

We officially crossed the border at some point in the afternoon and tied up on the U.S. South Shore around 2:30, feeling lucky to have nabbed the last available spot on the dock at Tuscarora Yacht Club in Wilson. Checking in was easy - the videophone was out so we just phoned in to Customs. We've started our holidays with a club cruise and expect quite a few more Bluffers to join us - 20 other sailboats from BPYC should safely arrive by tomorrow.

There are a few clubs here, a marina, a State Park and a township of about 1,200 souls who must be quite content to live with such a picturesque view.

Wine today is an Italian DOC Red, 'Rosso Piceno' that I picked up because it was 2005, Italian and had a lovely label. This is a bit on the acidic side and will definitely complement an alfresco meal... when I get around to assembling one. Cheese, almonds, olives, focaccia and fruit seem perfect for this occasion!

But first, off for a bike ride in the town.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For Matrimonial Purposes

You don't need to be born Indian to enjoy For Matrimonial Purposes, a novel about trying to find true love while navigating through the complex norms of arranged marriages and international borders.

The book provided lots of insight into the quandries facing the 'modern' Indian woman or anyone caught in a huge cultural shift. Tradition is not easily cast aside.

Anju's journey makes for hilarious reading and left me with happy tears by the end.

With last year's success of 'Slumdog Millionnaire' maybe the book has been optioned....

I think this would be a great international success as a film. As a book it is perfect summer reading! Light, interesting, captivating and 'feel-good'.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hanging Out

I love inversions. They literally turn your world upside down and bring on a new perspective.

Headstand is one of my favourites, but I haven't been incorporating it into my daily practise because every once in awhile I screw up my neck. Generally I now save headstand for supervised classes.

So it was a real treat last night to hang out on the ropes at the yoga studio. Headstand, forward bends, down-dog.

Being upside down and well-supported, but not putting weight on my neck or head produces a real floating sensation for me.... I feel my spine releasing tension and my neck and head just "letting go".

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Celebrating Marian's 80th

80th, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Three generations celebrated Marian turning 80 (Rob's Mom, Alex's Granny & my Mum-in-law).

Wonderful dinner, complete with speeches and toasts to the birthday girl! Fine china and silver was set and the feast shared with all the family - and what a feast.... roast leg of pork, grilled pineapple, scalloped potatoes & the famous 7 layer salad. Chocolate truffle cake.

Followed by fireworks in the evening and a wonderful brunch in the morning.

Best of all was being able to celebrate a long life, well-lived.

Happy Birthday, Marian!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Babes' Summer Reading

Six of us got together at Bluffers' Park Yacht Club to share what we've been reading so far this summer. Some classics, a few epistolatory tales, chic-lit, murder mysteries, literature and non-fiction.

Never a shortage of books to read - hearing recommendations makes the list grow even longer!

(blurbs courtesy of Google Books -
titles link to more information)


Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows
January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

Sunday List of Dreams, by Kris Radish
Connie Nixon is no stranger to making lists. In fact, she has rewritten the list of her deepest desires no fewer than forty-eight times. And each Sunday, for as long as she can remember, she’s tinkered with it. But actually doing something about her desires is a different story—until the night she comes across a box belonging to her estranged daughter…and makes a stunning discovery. It turns out that her seemingly straitlaced Jessica is part owner of one of the most successful sex toy shops in America.


Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
In this ambitious fourth novel from Whitbread winner Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum), private detective Jackson Brodie-ex-cop, ex-husband and weekend dad-takes on three cases involving past crimes that occurred in and around London.


The Edge of Winter, by Luanne Rice
As winter gives way to spring, and spring to summer, a secret will emerge that has lain buried in the depths just offshore for decades, a secret that will galvanize the small seaside community. For the waters bear their own vestige of the past--and their ceaseless rhythms may point the way to hope and new beginnings.

Silks, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Collaboration with his son has helped put this series back on track (excuse the pun). From Dick Francis and his son, Felix, comes Geoffrey Mason, a defense barrister whose true passion is riding his Thoroughbred. Mason's two lives collide when a fellow jockey is accused of murdering a colleague with a pitchfork.

Talk to the Hand, Lynne Truss
When did society stop valuing basic courtesy and respect? In the spirit of her runaway hit, #1 "New York Times" bestseller "Eats, Shoots and Leaves," Lynne Truss analyzes the apparent collapse of manners in our daily lives, and tells us what we can do about it.

Reading Birth and Death, by Jo Murphy-Lawless
Using historical records from Irish hospitals and the writings of Irish doctors, this book analyzes the core beliefs and practices of obstetric science.It reveals a belief in the incompetence of women with regard to childbirth and traces the effects on women of such a radically gendered notion. The author argues that the problem of exercising personal agency which women face stems directly from the way the science has worked.


Hurricane Punch, by Tim Dorsey
Supposedly hilarious tale about a serial killer. Save yourself before it's too late!

Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A portrayal of the power of romantic imagination, as well as the pathos and courage entailed in the pursuit of an unattainable dream, The Great Gatsby is a classic fiction of hope and disillusion, which encapsulates the spirit, excitement and violence of the Jazz Age.

Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews
Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris – "he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" – Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the children’s long-lost father, Cherkis.

Liz P.

We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child's character is self-evident. But such generalizations provide cold comfort when it's your own son who's just opened fire on his fellow students and whose class photograph--with its unseemly grin--is blown up on the national news. The question of who's to blame for teenage atrocity tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian.

Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson
One hundred years ago, come September, a hurricane ripped through Galveston, TX, submerging most of the low-lying city, killing unknown thousands of its residents, and forever changing its economic destiny. The sheer magnitude of the disaster practically guarantees that any book about it will be fascinating, but Larson goes further...


Dancing Naked at the Edge of the Storm, by Kris Radish
Meg Fratano has just witnessed the unthinkable: her husband of twenty—seven years making love to another woman. In her bed. And all Meg wanted to do was watch. Quietly, secretly, watch. Then she realized her life would never be the same.

Too Close to the Falls, by Catherine McClure Gildener
Welcome to the childhood of Catherine McClure Gildiner. It is the middle of the 1950s in Lewiston, New York, a small and sleepy American town very near Niagara Falls. No one is divorced. Mothers wear high heels to the beauty salon and children pop Pez candy and swing from vines over a local gorge. But at the tender age of four, it becomes clear to her Cathy's parents that their rambunctious daughter is no ordinary child and they soon put her "to work" at her father's pharmacy. Already able to read road maps, she accompanies Roy the deliveryman on his routes. In memories that are by turns hilarious and deeply moving, she shares some of her more fantastic deliveries -- sleeping pills to Marilyn Monroe (in town filming Niagara), sedatives to Mad Bear, a violent Tuscarora chief, and fungus cream to Warty, the gentle, and painfully lonely operator of the town dump.

Elm Creek Quilts Series: The Winding Ways Quilt, by Jennifer Chiaverini
Jennifer Chiaverini's bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series continues with The Winding Ways Quilt, in which the arrival of newcomers into the circle of quilters heralds unexpected journeys down pathways near and far.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Great Gatsby

If it wasn't for the absence of references to ATMs and the Internet, The Great Gatsby could 'pass' for something written in the post-digital era.

The descriptions of luxury and over-indulgence are at the same time nostalgic of the Jazz Age and straight out of current lifestyle magazines about the rich and famous. No shortage of 'guests' crash these stylish parties, where "The bar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names."

How does the mysterious Gatsby make his fortune and connections? There is a murky, dark side to chasing the money that will pay for the estate and the parties and the lights.

Jay's wish is deceptively simple: Daisy's love and adulation. Of course, life is complicated.

The love story has no happy ending.

All the party-goers that were so eager to drink his liquor are absent at Gatsby's funeral. As are his 'business associates'. There is not even a telegram from Daisy. Less than a handful pay their last respects.

Originally published in 1925, the book was not a critical success. One reviewer from the Brooklyn Eagle attempted to impress her readership with a biting criticism, "I could not find one chemical trace of magic, life, romance or mysticism in all The Great Gatsby." Several others dismissed the novel, but Gilbert Seldes celebrated the publication and wrote, it "is a brilliant work, and it is also a sound one; it is carefully written, and vivid; it has structure and it has life. To all the talents, discipline has been added."

The book was not a commercial success, either. In fact unsold volumes were still in a warehouse when Fitzgerald died in 1940. It wasn't until the 1950s that the book skyrocketed to the bestseller list.

The author himself blamed the commercial failure on the fact the "book contains no important woman character and women control the fiction market at present." Interesting comment.

Francis Cugat was chosen to provide the jacket art and the Art Deco style perfectly suits the tone and spirit of the novel - in fact, in this particular instance the illustration preceded the novel. "Cugat's rendition is not illustrative but symbolic, even iconic: the sad, hypnotic, heavily outlined eyes of a woman beam like headlights through a cobalt night sky.... In Cugat's final painting, (Daisy's) celestial eyes enclose reclining nudes and her streaming tear is green - like the light that burns all night at the end of her dock... " (Matthew Bruccoli)

Monday, July 20, 2009

East York Blooming Contest

Went on a judging spree tonight for the East York Blooming Contest. Checked out 11 different gardens, mostly under the Environmental category.

Judges attended an orientation earlier this summer at Maple Cottage where we were instructed not to discriminate against any colour, variety of plant, or style of garden, but to judge what we saw according to the guidelines in the point schedule. In the environmental category I viewed tonight, that meant considering the design, use of plants & hard landscaping, condition and maintenance of the garden, along with colour and texture.

Like a good judge, I stuck to the point schedule, which meant my personal favourites didn't necessarily get the top scores of the evening. Although I had to wonder about how one or two of these sites came to be nominated, overall the gardens were quite lovely.

My favourites weren't necessarily the biggest or most exotic looking, but the ones that had a touch of whimsy; that laid a welcome mat out for birds & pollinators (plants with nectar or berries and blossoms, ponds, fountains, bird baths); or displayed an easy elegance translating into informal, low maintenance (not no maintenance), with a splash of colour.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tea Tasting

Spent this evening at a tea tasting.

I thought it would be a bit of a stretch to talk about tea for two hours, but the time flew by.

All tea comes from the Camelia sinensis plant, which is cultivated in 60 countries. Generally the top leaves of tea bushes are plucked and processed.

At one time, tea in the great houses of Britain was so prized only the lady of the manor held the key to the tea chest for fear of the servant's pilfering. Now it is so ubiquitous we've come to take it for granted. Yet one tea plant continues to be precious, yielding only about 80 bags of tea per year. Tea consumed in Canada is equivalent to about 270 cups per person.

The tasting was led by one of first soon-to-be-certified tea sommeliers in Canada, Nora Gubins, otherwise known as 'Tea Queen'. The perfect venue was provided by T Cafe and Lounge at Bathurst/Bloor.

The Tea Queen provided backstory and great insight into the different types of tea, including:
- White
- Green (e.g. Sen cha or Mat cha)
- Oolong
- Black/known as 'red' tea in China (e.g. Darjeeling or Lapsang Souchong)
- True Black (e.g. Pu'erh)

All the teas we tasted were high quality and the flavours very distinct from one another.

Such a wide variety of tastes, styles and approaches to processing!

Tea tasting and wine tasting have a lot in common, including the concept of terroir.
True appreciation engages all your senses..... the colour of the tea in the cup (full range from white gold or pale amber or green or deep ochre). Looking at the tea leaves in the pot (are they 'dancing', floating, or evenly distributed? What is the scent, shape, and colour of the dry leaf? The aroma of the tea before it passes your lips? Tastes included seaweed, grassy, herbaceous, stone fruit, smoky, peaty, and chestnut. Is the mouth feel astringent due to lots of tannin, or is it velvety due to little?

Fun to discover and taste for the first time was a true black tea, called Pu-erh, which comes in a cake form (see left). This tea can be aged in earth for decades, with tea connoisseurs and speculators willing to pay up to thousands of dollars per cake.

Although I seemed to be in the minority, I also enjoyed tasting the Lapsang Souchong, otherwise known as 'Russian Caravan Tea'. This very intense, smoky flavour first came about when Russian caravans transported the black tea through the Himilayas. The leaves ended up taking on the smell of campfires over the course of the long journey.

And a word of advice. Don't throw out your tea leaves after one steeping! Many loose teas, such as oolong, are improved by second and third steepings because it adds to the complexity of taste.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood)

Biking along the path on Ward's Island, someone has put up some homemade signs identifying trees. Tulip Tree, Yellow Wood, Red Beech, Dawn Redwood.

Seeing the signs posted made me stop and take note of the trees just a bit longer than I might have without the label.

Do I really need a sign to make me stop and pay attention?

It made me wonder about what a different world it might be if we posted signs about natural phenomena vs. commercial products.

It also made me thankful there aren't billboards everywhere on Island.

The lack of advertising is probably a big part of the reason it feels like you've officially left the city. I hope some bureaucrat somewhere isn't dreaming up the idea of raising additional funds for parks with ad revenue from billboards. I'd definitely show up for that protest.... with a sign.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sea of clover

Sea of clover, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Another benefit of the City strike - less lawn mowing in parks! Means the clover can get longer. I love the heady perfume & watching the bees darting about in the long grass.

You just have to be careful about not dropping things like lithium camera batteries. I did - and then searched for 20 minutes, retracing my steps. No success. Rob came back to the same spot and from his higher vantage point was able to locate the battery in 5 minutes. Salvaged!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oh What A Night!

I remember dancing my heart out to this tune when I was a kid. I had a small plastic portable record player and landed the needle-drop on the K-tel vinyl that had this track. Over and over. Probably drove everyone in the vicinity crazy. But I didn't know that the same singer/ songwriter duo that did Oh What A Night was the same that did Walk Like a Man, Can't Take My Eyes off of You, Sherry, Under My Skin, Big Girls Don't Cry and Who Loves You Pretty Baby.

You probably know by now that the group is The Four Seasons - the singer Frankie Valli, and the songwriter Bob Gaudio. The group is one of the best-selling off all time, with record sales of more than 175M worldwide. Their influence is indisputable.

Jersey Boys tells the story of the boy band's coming of age, cleverly staging the plot in Acts through Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The music is great and the story is compelling, with a few interesting bits of trivia.... including how the actor Joe Pesci hooked Bob Gaudio up with the group. At 17, the songwriter was worried about becoming a one-hit wonder, because it had been a few years since he made the top of the charts with Short Shorts. Talk about early success.

The production has been playing in Toronto for almost a year and people have been telling us for months to go see it. Finally got around to it last night. Four of us went (Rob & me + Alex & his girlfriend). Despite the long run and the fact it was a Wednesday night, the theatre was almost full to capacity. This morning I woke up with the soundtrack running through my head and it lasted most of the morning. If that's what you call a Jersey hangover, it's a great side effect!

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries...

Diane 06 09 022, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Snacking onboard last weekend.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Festival of Fire

286169777210, originally uploaded by TO_Lou.

The night was cool and crisp, and the fireworks display was an awesome finale to the Festival of Fire.

Fellow Bluffer Louise shot the photo from Hanlan's Beach, where a group of us from BPYC gathered to watch the fireworks.

Click on the photo to see more of the series.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mead Moon - July

July full moon, originally uploaded by KurtQ.

July’s full moon is often referred to as the Mead, Blessing, and Lightning moon.

According to the Farmer's Almanac, since July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur, it is also known as the Full Buck Moon.

It is often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month's Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

According to

The moon is full tomorrow – on Tuesday, July 7, 2009 – at 9:21 Universal Time (4:21 a.m. Central Daylight Time)... that means the full moon happens tonight, because the moon turns full before sunrise tomorrow.Like any full moon, tonight’s moon lights up the nighttime from dusk till dawn. However, the July 2009 full moon distinguishes itself from other 2009 full moons, because it’s the smallest, farthest full moon of the year. This year’s Thunder Moon lies at more than 252,000 miles away.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Sail

Diane 06 09 075, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

5 days holiday on Toronto Island come to an end with a great sail home.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Rob and I saw a play at the Ward Island Playhouse called 'Vigil'.

The premise is straightforward... A nephew comes to stay with his dying aunt. They have a lot of unfinished business between them, although they haven't seen each other for more than 30 years. He rushes to be with her in her final moments, but a full year passes while he is on on his vigil.

The black comedy featured two performers, but sometimes felt a bit like a one man play. The aunt was left to grimace and mug through most of the piece & had only one line for the first half. After intermission things take an interesting turn.

The audience was small, but appreciative. My seat was front row, and less than 6 feet away from the actors, making me feel as though I was sitting on the stage.

Afterward we rode our bikes back to Hanlan's. The clover and the cottonwood seeds glowed eerily at the side of the road and the moonlight bounced off the lake to light our way back home.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Daily Practise

I'm trying to do my yoga and meditation once a day, even when I'm on vacation.

It's an interesting exercise.

Sometimes people try to strike up a conversation when you are in the middle of a vinyasa. It's a public space, so why not?

Anyway, this morning I was on the beach, totally getting into the waves and sand. I was tucked out of the wind in a somewhat secluded corner, with my mat on a wooden deck platform that had a slight tilt to it, making it wonderful for forward bends. I tried a few handstands from downward dog but couldn't manage to stay up for long.

Some naked guy walked by but I didn't take much notice. It was a clothing optional beach, after all. (I opted to keep my clothes on.) Otherwise it was pretty empty.

Being in a different place on a platform that was a bit off-kilter brought a different mindfulness to things, and I was totally getting into it. After about a half hour or so I took corpse pose.

Then Naked Dude came over and asked if I could put some sunscreen on his back.

"Um, I'm kinda in the middle of my meditation."

"Uh, okay then, maybe later?"

Then I sat on my pillow for about twenty minutes but couldn't get Naked Dude out of my head.

Talk about distractions!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer Reading

The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews, tells the story of some very deeply wounded and resilient souls. Mental illness, family dysfunction, love and loss. Lots of sentences have "yeah, no" in the same breath. An aunt, fresh from a break-up in Paris, comes back to help her sister out and ends up taking her niece and nephew on a road trip ending somewhere near the Mexican border. Along the way she wonders what her response should be to her sister's plea to help her commit suicide. Not exactly light reading.

Hattie's niece asks her to share a secret:

Okay, I said. I had sex with my swimming coach when I was sixteen and he was thirty-seven and then I blackmailed him and told him I was pregnant and needed five hundred dollars for an abortion or I'd tell his wife that he was a pervert and he gave me the money and I spent it all on acid and mushrooms and quit the swim team. ..... You can't tell anybody, I said.
.... I worried that I had chosen the wrong secret to share with an eleven-year-old. I apologised for being indiscreet.
The characters are an odd combination of wise, deeply flawed, strong and vulnerable. No one is perfect - and no one pretends to be.

I would recommend this book to anyone who liked Lullabies for Little Criminals; it is along the same vein.

I'm just beginning Hurricane Punch, which looks to be a great summer-trashy kind of tale. It's about serial killers and it is supposed to be "insanely funny."

I picked it up because the cover made it look like a delectable treat. I'll give it 50 pages... hope it isn't too fattening!

Update July 3: Actually reading this turned out to be somewhat similar to eating pork rinds. The first few are quite delicious but the experience turns mildly disgusting. You continue with the mild hope that things will get better but then abandon any possibility and toss the bag away when it is still 3/4 full.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blogging from the Boat

Happy Canada Day!

This is fun! Tied up on Hanlan's Point and blogging and sipping wine while my socca is setting. The Peanut Soup was delicious for lunch and there is still lots left over for dinner. Socca will be a perfect accompaniment.

Earlier in the day Rob and I pedalled over to Toronto Island Marina and listened to a live band play some great covers: Neil Young, John Prine, the Stones, Van Morrison and the Band. We hadn't expected anything to be open so we didn't bring along any money and ended up having to scrounge some change. Between the two of us we came up with enough for a beer. Kinda fun, taking turns sipping out of a plastic cup. The band had a jazz flutist, adding some unexpected notes to great classics.

The island is a bit deserted right now, what with the city strike. But even though the city ferries aren't running, the tenders to the various marinas are still too-ing and fro-ing. Still, hardly anyone is about. It's fun to have the beaches to ourselves.

I'm sipping a Monastrell. This Spanish wine is made from grapes that are hand harvested from vines that are between 20-25 years of age and then aged in oak for 6 months. Yummy.
Fireworks later, if there are no thundershowers. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Update July 5 There were fireworks that night but also no wind, so the smoke hung in the air, obscuring the show. A few days later the conditions were perfect for the Festival of Fire, We watched from Hanlan's Beach with some friends from the club.