Sunday, May 31, 2009

Poppy

my
Poppy, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Looking forward to the poppy fireworks, soon to come!

Tree peony


Tree peony, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

The trouble with peonies is that they don't last long enough! This photo was snapped a day or two too late. The first morning I saw the bloom it literally took my breath away... this was the first year it blossomed after planting it three years ago and I didn't quite expect to see the sudden opening of petals. That morning the flower wasn't quite open so I didn't run inside for the camera. Then three days of rain came beating down. Maybe I missed the picture-perfect moment but. Still. Gorgeous!

Safety Day

We had Safety Day down at the club Saturday. I wasn't going to go but it ended up being extremely memorable!

We got a full tour of a fire truck and some of the ladies even got a tour around the parking lot with Mr. May driving. He was fully dressed in fire gear but I had to go check out his calendar shot, so here he is on the right. Apparently we giggled even more than the Grade One students had a few days before.

Also memorable was working the fire extinguisher. After all these years I've never had to operate one, thankfully. For some reason I thought that once you pulled the trigger it would just keep on spraying until the canister was empty but that's not the case. I also learned when you spray a liquid fire like diesel you are aiming just above the liquid and just below the fire, at the air in between.

If you are leaving a building that is on fire close any doors behind you. Even just a regular door will take thirty minutes to burn, so taking this simple step buys a lot of time and helps to keep a fire from spreading.

Someone from Toronto EMS gave us a CPR and defibrillator demo, and we also watched a man overboard drill. Definitely need to do a practice run-through on the water this summer. Had a few throws of the life saver ring and tossed the rope bag around. Hopefully I will never need to use these tools in a life saving situation but at least now I've had some hands-on experience.



The day ended with Alex, Liz, Darcy, and Dylan joining us for dinner, a tremendous thunder storm and an amazing double rainbow. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, so this photo is from a fellow Torontonian on Flickr.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Free Concerts!!!

A few months ago now Rob and I went to Hugh's Room and saw Kevin Fox perform, and it was the perfect place to sample some new tunes from his CD, "Songs for Cello and Voice." You can hear a lot of those same songs, performed live in the Glenn Gould Studio, just by clicking here to visit CBC concerts on demand. (p.s. to some of my friends, you don't need iTunes to enjoy this, just click and listen!) If you're only sampling a few tunes, check out "Fool in Love" "My One and Only" and "Sweet Dreams" (the Annie Lennox cover).

When I was there I discovered a band I hadn't heard before called Autorickshaw. Their concert was recorded live at the University of Waterloo, where they joined forces with the Penderecki Quartet. "Bollywood strings and east/west masala" is how singer/composer Annamalai Reddiyar described the music. String quartet + tabla mix for a totally unique rendering of Leonard Cohen's song "Bird on a Wire" in which they indulge us for a full ten minutes. That's followed with some Ravel, a bit of Bartok, and the beautiful and original composition "Maya," a jazz fusion tribute to a Hindu goddess. It sounds like a jarring mix but it flows quite nicely, I think because it is the same instruments and musicians just "playing" a bit differently.

If you are looking for something to do while you are sitting in front of the computer, here are some of my favourite 'fun' sites
Mr Picassohead to drag and drop bits to make your own 'Picasso'
Vai Avanti to mesmerize you with its shifting sands
Fridge Magnet Poetry to collaborate over poetry on a giant online fridge
and while you're at it, Create Your Own Snowflakes...

Life is so full of distractions it's a wonder I get any real work done.

;-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Disguised

A recent podcast from the New Yorker Fiction section was entertaining me on my way to work this morning. Nathan Englander read Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Disguised” and discussed it with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.

Here is how the story begins: two young Jews marry. She is only 17, and he is still so young he doesn’t yet have any whiskers. A few months later, the young man leaves his bride behind without a word. Under Jewish law, the wife cannot remarry without a death certificate or divorce papers, so this is a life sentence of loneliness for our heroine, Temeril. Months later, after no word about her husband, the young girl sets out to track him down. It turns into an odyssey as years pass and the young girl turns into a young woman. In a foreign land, she recognizes a face in a street. A woman, with fuzz on her cheeks, who looks familiar... the stranger is so startled at seeing Temeril she drops the eggs in her arms and runs in the opposite direction. Could it be her husband after all these years?

That’s when my iPod conked out, so I had to wait for the conclusion.

Divorce. Gay marriage. Transvestitism. Not topics you would expect from Singer, although sex is a frequent theme. And cross-dressing was something he talked about in Yentle.

Wow. What a story! If you want to know how it ends, go visit http://www.newyorker.com/fiction.

I can tell you it is well worth the trip!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

French Wines

I stumbled upon a fellow blogger's entry about her Dream Vacation in Paris and thought, that's something I can afford. A dream about a vacation! It was a lovely entry, with great places and corners to visit, like the Medieval Garden.

So I'll share some notes about some recent French reds as I'm planning my dream vacation. As much as I'd like to tour the vineyards of France, I think mine would be to tour organic tea plantations of the world with a few stops at star observatories in Hawaii.

While I'm daydreaming maybe I'll make an investment in fractional real estate with a French vineyard........

Fantasies are so affordable!

.... and so are these reds....

Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone. $14.95 at the LCBO
The 2007 vintage gets 88 points from the Wine Advocate. "As proprietors of Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the Perrin family has demonstrated exceptionally high standards for nearly a century."
Deep red colour. Swirls nicely in the glass. It's dry, with a great aftertaste. Doesn't need a meal to feel complete, although I imagine it would go nicely with barbecue chicken. One of my regular stand-bys.

Calvet Saint Emilion Bordeaux $17.95 at the LCBO
I had this a few weeks back and liked it quite a bit. The aroma was my favourite part of the experience. Here is a bit more depth in the way of tasting notes from someone at cellartracker.com who gives this a score of 88
Color: Deep red. Nose: leather and minerality dominate with red and dark fruits. The smell is a bit green as well. Reminiscent of a Loire valley red. Flavor: Very tight and tannic yet, but showing alot of body and potential for development. The finish is long and gripping with strong tannins over the top of a vegetal back tongue. If you can put it away for a couple of years, this seems like a killer value for the price.

Madiran Laplace $14.95 at the LCBO
Red wine from Madiran "has a fearsome reputation. The wines are made from tannat, a red grape that's indigenous to Gascony and the foothills of the Pyrenees. Historically, Madiran was cruelly tannic (hence the name tannat) ... the Laplace brothers [Pierre's sons], together with cousin Patrick Ducournau, invented micro-oxygenation [which] involves the dribbling of small amounts of oxygen into fermenting wine, rounding out the tannins and promoting fruit flavours - in short, making Madiran softer and more approachable at an earlier age..." (Paul Huggett, gourmettraveller.com.au, Aug./Sept. 2008)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Babes AGM

Went off to Nicki's cottage in Haliburton for the Book Babes AGM — a weekend full of my favourite things! Food, wine, books, laughter and time with friends.

We had great weather. The trilliums were out in full force. Unbelievably tall this year. They looked to be about 1 - 2 feet high. Masses of white with the occasional blush pink on the petals.


Hummingbirds everywhere.











The book was Late Nights On Air, so it was appropriate somehow the local radio DJ played a song dedicated to our group on Saturday afternoon.

Food all weekend was fabulous. 'Make Your Own' Pizzas, Nicki's fruit salads, Nicolette's waffles, Judi's selection of fruit & cheeses, Debra's ginger rice and shrimp, and Virginia's pork tenderloin (recipe for the marinade is a few cloves of garlic, 1/3 dijon mustard, 1/3 honey and 1/3 soy sauce). I made some socca. Everyone brought nice wine, and Louise treated us all to an Amerone. Sadly not all of us could make the AGM itself but everyone made their recommendations for books this coming year. The eclectic selection includes some nonfiction, a Pulitzer Prize winner, some light reads, a historical mystery and a book of short stories. It should provide some good conversation and a great excuse to get together in the months ahead.

Nicki also gave me some Lady's Mantle for my garden so I now hope to have a little bit of Haliburton in the backyard!

Coming back to a full day's work today I disrupted a morning meeting because my stomach was growling so much — not being fed on the hour like it had been all weekend.

God it's good to laugh so much! And so nice, just hanging out with the Book Babes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Scree Garden


Scree Garden, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

I can't believe this was all covered in snow only 3 months ago.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Late Nights on Air

There's a lot to like about Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay, winner of the 2007 Giller Prize.

The times — the early 70's and a pipeline proposed to run through tundra — the voices that tried to stop its progress out of concern for what it would do to animal migration and indigenous people. Now the damage has been done but it is small comfort for those looking back to say "I told you so."

Radio itself, and the chance to have complete and total freedom because no one really kept an eye on the hinterlands. Neophytes and has-beens working side-by-side and inventing their own industry.

The landscape — snow in July, tiny willow trees that take decades to grow a few inches, miniature pink blossoms hidden in the rock. Vast empty space. Ice. Perfectly still water that a canoe can float on like glass. "On the lake the ice was green, the snow lavender."

The characters, but the women in particular. Quirky, growing into themselves. Distinct. Interesting.

... And the dynamics of love. Lovers give up pieces of themselves. "I've seen couples like that. He won't let her do things and she likes that. He'll get her to do other things, and she'll like that too." (Teresa talking about Dido and Eddy). In this story, love itself creates blind spots, leaves you vulnerable and open to damage. Sometimes the wounds don't heal. Sitting on the sidelines doesn't work because love pulls you in, even when you're not aware it's happening "... being in love with someone and not knowing it."

Hay has been compared with Allende and I can see why, not only in creating such strong women characters but also the many paradoxes of love. How it complicates everything, yet makes it all worthwhile; diminishes us and yet makes us bigger than we are. Sometimes simultaneously!

The book will be the subject of discussion at the Book Babes AGM this weekend - I'm looking forward to hearing how the Babes liked it (or not... but how could you not?). We'll see.


Listen to a podcast of Elizabeth Hay talking to Shelagh Rogers about life in Yellowknife and Late Nights on Air.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jeremiah, Ohio

Enjoyed hearing the poet Adam Sol read excerpts from the book and also enjoyed hearing responses of others in the audience as they reacted to the work. Listening to the poet read inspired me to revisit the static words on the page.

A novel in poetry form. A road story. Two guys on a road trip. One definitely crazy. Or is that holy? Or holy-insane?

In the Old Testament the Book of Jeremiah is the story of a prophet's Lamentations. Warning against idolatry and predicting destruction, he goes unheeded. Taunted and put into jail, Jeremiah witnesses the "destruction of everything he knew, the exile of the Jewish elite to Babylonia and the fleeing of the remainder to Egypt."

The poet resurrects Jeremiah to present day and transplants him into the American heartland. He and his skeptic disciple, Bruce, travel together to the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Centre destruction. Jeremiah arriving too late to save the sinners. Also ending up in jail, deserted by his followers.

Echoes of Midnight Cowboy: "Jeremiah's preachings on the bus/ weren't loud enough to cause any disturbance / but just after we hit the Turnpike/ he started to shiver and /vomit on his shirt."

Not an easy read. Bruce ends up more than skeptical - he calls 911 to say "that my old friend has lost his mind/ and I'm worried," severing their relationship and putting Jeremiah into more official custody. Is he protecting his friend or silencing Lamentations?

The story is as much about Bruce as it is Jeremiah. Bruce as Everyman. Is he changed by the journey? Are we?

Monday, May 18, 2009

May Long Weekend


May, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Hanging out on the boat all day, reading my book and watching the swallows swoop in the sky. Not a cloud in sight.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Alpine Plants


Alpine Plants, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Picked these up at the TBG Hardy Plant sale because I thought they were cute, and the plant tag said they would work well in sun or part shade. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I didn't pull the plant tag out quite far enough to see the plants were to be planted in 'scree.' Which meant quite a bit of digging (for Rob), as well as a few trips to get the limsestone and coarse sand. And sod, because we decided we didn't want a scree garden that was quite that large just yet!



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Backyard Mystery

Spent most of the day in the garden, getting my hands dirty, digging holes and moving plants around. It was raining off and on but I didn't mind, it saved me the trouble of bringing out the hose for translplanting.

At one point a flock of about 30-50 very small birds came by. It was just after a strong downpour and the rain was still falling gently. The birds were darting and flitting about. I've never seen anything quite like them.... small, about 2" - 3", eating bugs from the underside of leaves. They were about the size of this red-breasted nuthatch. The males had red and yellow on the wing and the females were mostly grey with a bit of black. The song was quite musical. I've been hunting all over to see what might be migrating but haven't had any luck. They were absolutely gorgeous! I stood in the rain for about half an hour, looking up and trying to spot them in the branches. Rob and Alex popped their heads out for a bit and the three of us enjoyed the view together. The tiny birds were hard to see since they didn't stay stationary for very long, so we didn't even try to get a photo. Busy birds. When the rain stopped they flew off en masse.

I searched through some field guides and bird sites but no luck. Maybe it was an irruption from the boreal again?

Found some great birding sites - even if they weren't able to help me identify this particular flock.

WhatBird.com takes you through the steps of identification (location size, primary/secondary colour/ bird call). This was a fun site and you are able to download software to your BlackBerry or handheld.

Then I thought I would check local sightings and found Outdoor Ontario Toronto Reports but didn't see any news about flocks passing through.

Oh well. I may not ever know the name for the type of birds I saw but they were amazing and I was so happy they stopped by - even briefly!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hot Docs - Canada

Special Jury Prize - Canadian Feature: Waterlife (D: Kevin McMahon; P: Michael McMahon, Kristina McLaughlin, Gerry Flahive). 

This was the only Hot Docs award winner I viewed and I have to say - I respectfully differ.  I didn't see all the Canadian entries but surely there were far more worthy films for this prize. No doubt in my mind that this was beautifully shot and well crafted (outstanding sound design).  But aren't we at a point that goes beyond raising awareness about the dismal state of the Great Lakes?  There is the question of audience and theatrical release.  Who is going to pay money to see this at their local Cineplex but people concerned about the health of the Great Lakes?  This is all a bit too "101"  lamprey eels are a problem, zebra mussels are a problem, petrochemical industry on the shores are a problem.  Unfortunately this really isn't news.  Lots of attention spent on Lake Michigan, St. Clair, Huron Erie.... but it seems Lake Ontario was skimmed over as if it were merely a mud puddle.  What about the issue of Pickering and its impact on the watershed? The only call to action happens just before the credits roll and it is a website address.  Gee, thanks. This opens in select theatres across the country in June.

Two Canadian films I saw and got far from more were 'Broke' and 'Laughology.'

Broke was intriguing.  It took a look at a cast of characters that come and go in a pawn shop.  The owner, his side-kick and the regular customers.  It didn't offer any pat answers or easy judgements, but it was a slice of life many of us don't see. Unfortunately this film will likely never have a theatrical release, but here is a YouTube clip.

Laughology was seriously hilarious.  This film will air on CTV sometime in September. What makes us laugh?  Why is laughter so good for us?  What role did it play in our evolution?  Why is some laughter more contagious than others?  In the end, why 'think' so much about what is funny?  I have a feeling the Director was expecting a lot more uncontrollable belly laughter from the audience... maybe they would have gotten more laughs if they would have held the shots of people laughing just a touch more longer.  It is infectious after all.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!


IMG_0997(2), originally uploaded by Things We Love.

From Alex' card...

Hot Docs - India

Slumdog Millionnaire was one of my favourite films last year, but it was fiction. These two documentaries weren't quite as entertaining but they were certainly illuminating.

In Children of God the South Korean director focuses his lens on the story of two boys trying to scrape together enough coins to feed themselves and their little sister. It is a sobering look at young children fending for themselves on the streets of Katmandu as their mother escapes in a stupour of alcohol. The crematorium is nearby, and they scavenge from the offerings made to the dead. The boys take to the city streets and the euphoria of sniffing glue, but by the end of the film one returns to the steps of the temple to care for his sister. The director plans to return in a few years to see the story of their lives unfold. It makes me wonder about intervention though - couldn't he also use this as an opportunity to improve their lives?

Hair India takes outsourcing to a new level in this fascinating exposé of a lucrative Indian export: hair. This Italian film travels across continents, culture, class and religions as it chronicles the demand for long lengths of human hair and shows how it is collected through devout temple offerings. Scenes shot of the "Great Lengths" corporate jet, fashion shows, Hollywood and Bollywood stars, wealthy young Indians dancing in nightclubs in Mombai and Indian slums and temples - what an amazing world we live in!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hot Docs - Sundance

Sat through more than a few films at this year's Hot Docs that were overly long, meandering, or self-indulgent. But I also had the pleasure of seeing some phenomenal gems that will leave long lasting impressions.

Here are two that are probably going to end up on the shortlist for the Academy Awards 'Long Documentary.' Both also opened to critical acclaim this year at Sundance.

The Cove is about a group of impassioned activists that risk their lives to bring awareness to the plight of dolphins in Taiji Japan. The main protagonist is the dolphin trainer for Flipper, who now feels somewhat responsible for popularizing dolphin tricks and SeaWorld and looks to undo the damage by spreading the word on the cruel realities of the industry. The film makers end up capturing atrocities on film that made the entire theatre weep, but at the same time the story didn't leave me feeling powerless to act.

Big River Man is a portrait about a 53 year old, overweight alcoholic that attempts to swim the Amazon. And succeeds. Along the way he goes insane, taking a few people along for the trip. (As an interesting aside, the film was financed by Olivia Newton John because of its environmental angle). It makes me wonder how could such a heroic feat could have received such little media attention. Glad Martin Strel's crazy journey down the Amazon was captured on film for posterity.



Friday, May 8, 2009

Flower Moon - May


Full Moon and Budding Tree, originally uploaded by DWinton.

May full moon is also known as the Bright Moon, Dyad Moon, Planting Moon and Frogs Return Moon......

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spanish Reds

Uno, Dos....

Tried these two Spanish reds, here are some tasting notes:

Jean Leon Terrasola
Crianza
$16.95
*** out of 5
After-taste of cherry cough syrup. Generally I like Tempranillo so maybe this was the secondary grape? From the Cataluna region.

Description
A blend of 88% Tempranillo and 12% Monastrell (Mourvèdre). This wine is always dominated by Tempranillo, but the secondary grape is selected based on the performance of individual varieties from vintage to vintage.

Interesting fact: The wine's namesake, Jean Leon, was a Hollywood Restaraunteur who in his later years left everything behind to sail around the world in his yacht. Which explains the compass rose on the label, I guess. Maybe this one would taste better on the boat?

According to the Epicurious Wine Dictionary
crianza
[kree-AHN-zah]
The Spanish term meaning "breeding" or "upbringing." "Con crianza" or "vino de crianza" on a wine label refers to the AGING a wine receives. The exact rules are defined by the governing body of each DENOMINACION DE ORIGEN (DO). If a DO has no specific rules, a crianza wine must receive a minimum of 2 years aging either in a tank, an oak barrel, or a bottle. Many of the DOs require that 1 of the 2 years be in oak barrels. By contrast, red RESERVA wines require a minimum of 3 years of aging with at least 1 year in oak barrels;



Montecillo Reserva
$19.00
**** out of 5

Really en
joyed this. Also made of tempranillo grapes, this wine was harvested in the Rioja Alto area.

Tasting Note

Ruby-red, rustic appearance; cherry and cigar smoke aroma; medium intensity red cherry flavours; moderate tannins and balanced acidity, velvety texture.
Most Rioja wines are aged in oak barrels and then in the bottle.
The climate and soil type of La Rioja, can be split into three regions with slightly varying climates. The areas are known as Rioja Baja (low) Rioja Alto (high) and Rioja Alavesa. These three areas produce wines of different qualities. The Rioja Alavesa area makes most of its wine from the tempranillo grape. This combined with the climate and soil of the area produces a fruity wine which is normally drunk while still young. The heavier reds come mostly from the Rioja Baja area. These high alcohol deep flavoured wines are the characteristics most associated with Rioja. Most of the Rioja Baja wines are produced from the gamancha grape variety. The wines considered the stars of La Rioja are mostly those found in the Rioja Alta area. Wine from Rioja Spain
So next time I will look for the Rioja Alta area on the label.