Friday, January 28, 2011

Leaving Home

Imagine you have spent half your life on the road, traveling in primitive conditions but celebrated by royalty.  Everyone's favourite child prodigy.  Performing on demand to enhance the ruler's reputation, to please your father.  Then, growing to maturity, it is time to please yourself for a change.

Tom Allan painted a picture of the young Amadeus at the TSO "After Work" series.  In his early twenties Mozart was likely entering a stage of rebellion.  "Leaving home", ending his years as a servant and entering a period of freelancing and freedom.  According to Allan, Mozart was literally kicked in the butt by the Prince of Saltzburg who fired him uncerimoniously. 

This concert was part of the Mozart @ 255 festival.  In honour of his 250th birthday,  we listened to two different pieces that were composed by the genius:  Symphony 34 in C major and Piano Concerto No. 9.

Jeunehomme was written when he was just 21, and still a servant in Saltzburg.  Mozart had already composed a solid body of work by this time, but in this concerto he challenged the musical conventions of his time.  The piano interrupts the orchestra in the beginning, stops dead in a later movement, becomes entirely unpredictable.

The piece was reportedly written for a Frenchwoman, a traveling pianist.  I wonder if there was a romance between the two?  It would take at least a week for an accomplished musician to learn to play, especially since it went against established form.  It would have taken quite a bit of musical direction to make sure it was played just right.  And there is such a range of emotion, such personality and yearning.

Jenome, sometimes spelled Genomai or Jenomy certainly inspired him.  Yet there is no evidence such a person actually existed.  It does make for juicy gossip, though, doesn't it?

Some call this his first real masterpiece, his musical coming of age:

Chilean Red

Beautiful ruby colour in the glass & "nice legs" on the swirl.

Quite a nice dance on the palate and a lovely finish.... I'm enjoying this more for the mouthfeel than for the aroma and taste.  When I take a deep sniff, though, I'm almost having an allergic reaction (eyes watering, nose running).  Am I coming down with a cold or *gasp* developing an allergy to red wine?  Time will tell. 

Rock-solid, with nicely integrated structure for the vintage, allowing the full-bodied core of loam, blackberry, fig sauce and raspberry to stretch out, with lingering mint and cocoa notes on the plush, fleshy finish. Drink now through 2011. Smart Buy. Score - 90. (James Molesworth,, Nov. 15, 2010)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude was originally published in '67 when Marquez was 40 years old. He won the Nobel Prize for literature about 15 years later and is still considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.

This is one of my favourite books ever, so I was happy when Grace picked it for the BPYC book club January selection.

I was so surprised when I found it such tough slogging this time around, feeling as though I was plodding through with a strange combo of delight and confusion.

So very many details, twists and turns, and all recounted at a furious pace.  Grace said his intention was "to write this with a brick face," in the same manner as his mother told fantastic stories.  Dead-pan.

And there are many magical details, like the musical clocks in the village houses that chime in orchestral chorus, or 17 bastard sons that mysteriously show up on the same weekend, or the beautiful girl whose natural perfume drives men literally mad.  Outrageous sparks and really interesting twists.

Recurring character names through the generations had me constantly flipping to the family tree plotted just inside the front cover.  Then I just gave up, thinking it didn't really matter who was who anymore...

Every character in the book is enveloped in solitude at one point, in one way or another, whether it is a physical or emotional separation.

I will have to revisit this dog-eared copy again, in another 15 years, to see how I enjoy it then!

I don't speak a word of Spanish but I still enjoy the cadence of Marquez in this clip.  I can imagine him telling the story of Remedios the Beauty to a spellbound audience.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spirit Moon - January

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Sometimes when the full moon passes over the skylight, it is so bright it wakes me up.

Ojibway call this moon, Spirit Moon, or Gichi-manidoo-giizis.  My grandmother (father's mother) was Ojibway, and although I never really had a chance to meet or speak with her, I feel a connection to the tribe.

This time of the year, with the blanket of snow for reflection, the moonshadows are especially bright, even in the heart of the city.

And speaking of moonshadows and great spirits.....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recent Reds

Two wines I want to recruit by the case for my cellar. 

Rob brought both of these home for me to try - he sure can pick a good one (or two)!

L'Hermitage de Pranzac is a medal winner at the 2007 Concors General Agricole in Paris.  It was quite delicous, and these  Bordeaux Wine Enthusiasts predict it will get better in the next 3-5 years (just like me, I hope :-))

Gran Feudo is made from a blend of tempranillo, cab sav, and merlot on a Spanish bodega that's been in the Chivite family since 1647.  Nice, round taste and balance with a finish that lingers pleasantly; this is a great blend.

The Maple Leaf Forever

Rob and I spent a very convivial evening enjoying great food and conversation with some friends from BPYC.

The first time we got together the theme was 'Spanish', and Caroline cooked a paella right in the hearth that was so beautiful it took my breath away. 

This time Rebecca and Tom hosted and the theme was 'Canadian'.   Each course ended up with a flavouring of maple:  Apple Bacon Rumaki drizzled in Maple Syrup, Pacific salmon planked on maple, and maple pecan pie. 

I brought the appetizer course and wanted to use quintessential Canadian ingredients, so thought I'd concocted a unique Canadian twist when I came up with Apple Bacon Rumaki drizzled in Maple Syrup.  The recipe turned out to be online.

Icewine was the aperitif (Royal DeMaria Vidal Ice Wine 2008) I  paired with tastings of Benedictin Bleu cheese,  smoked lake trout, peppercorn pate, and maple syrup and ice wine jelly.   The peppercorn pate won hands down for favourite pairing with the ice wine. 

Rebecca grilled the salmon with a maple plank and the result was really buttery, melt-in-your mouth. The wild rice was cooked to perfection.  Peninsula Ridge Fumé Blanc 2008 from Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery was a great match!

Caroline's dessert course was served with a Ground Cherry wine from Quebec called 'Amour en cage' that was the colour of light toffee.  It combined perfectly with the maple pecan pie.  This was served alongside blueberries, strawberries and raspberries that were soaked in Drambuie.  The berries were a tart contrast and the last bite at the table. 

How fortunate to live in such a great country where we can pull together the ingredients for such a memorable feast!

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    A Night at the Inn

    photo credit
    I was on the road, coming home and it was snowing big flakes and I was really, really tired and it was getting dark and I'd already worked a 12 hour day.  So when I saw what I thought was a charming Inn, I pulled over.

    Not quite what I was hoping for.... there was no phone or TV or alarm clock in the room, just a bed, with the bathroom across the hall. Forget about room service or even a coffee in the morning.  But I was way too tired to gamble on how far a drive it would be to the next hotel.  So I rented a room - $97 - yikes!  I was the only guest in the hotel, "except for the kid that's works for the chef, and you probably won't see him around".

    Not much to do, so I settled into the common room, which had a TV with an 11" screen and a place to pop in a VHS cassette.  I had to sit pretty close in order to watch the one single channel, and it happened to be playing a weird gameshow called 'A Minute to Win It'.  Contestants go to a bootcamp and train so they are ready to perform humiliating tasks in under a minute, in front of a huge studio audience and however many eyeballs are staring in the home audience.  Cash prizes.  And of course the host asks, if you win big, how will you spend your money? The first set of contestants wanted to win cash prizes to pay for the daughter's removal of body hair (I'm not making this up).  I think she actually said something about "every single inch of body hair" and she was young, pretty and provocative so the statement got some very nervous titters out of the audience.  She was paired with her mom, who was also attractive and wearing a low-cut top.  The challenges involved a lot of bending over and a fair amount of cleavage.  The two walked away with $1000 in prize money, so I guess they earned enough to pay for the hair removal.  Next up, the stakes were higher - money would be used for noble causes. Medical treatments for a fatally ill sister-in-law and a home for a recently divorced dad and his kids.  I wasn't sure exactly who in this scenario was being exploited, but I started rooting for all of us just the same.

    The fact I was drinking a very pleasant red helped my mood.

    And then the program was interrupted with Obama's Tuscon Memorial Service:

    As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
    After all, that's what most of us do when we lose somebody in our family — especially if the loss is unexpected. We're shaken out of our routines. We're forced to look inward. We reflect on the past: Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices that they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in a while but every single day?
    So sudden loss causes us to look backward — but it also forces us to look forward; to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. Full text here

    I don't know if it was the long day, or the contrast with the previous program, but the President soon had me in tears.  And that's when the only other tenant walked in to say hi.  Poor guy.  I just had to tell him Obama often seems to have this effect on me.

    So I poured "the kid" a glass of wine, and it turned out he has his chef papers and was working as a sous chef... we talked about things culinary for almost an hour... about his training, what he had prepped in the kitchen that day (duck comfit), and some of our favourite food books (Kitchen Confidential, Heat)

    The worn furniture, the teeny t.v., the baseboard heating... 

    Still, not too shabby.  Not at all.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011


    I am hyper-extending my hamstrings in uttanasana (and likely a lot of other standing poses, such as wide-legged forward bend prasarita).  The hyper-extension is resulting in a bit of a pain at the top of the back thigh.

    So, now I know what's causing it and will back off.  The thing is, I was so stiff when I started out I didn't think it would be possible for me to hyper-extend.  Now years of doing yoga has changed my body, so I need to rethink how I approach things.

    I went googling for an illustration of the 'wrong' way but instead came across the 'YogaTed'.... very cute!  But also sad, because the artist has developed Parkinsons and no longer draws.  Cards and stickers are available from Ruth White Yoga

    Yoga Ted should help me keep things in perspective - in more ways than one.

    photo credit

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Another Kind of Bird Call

    Bird Calls: "It wasn't supposed to sound like Charlie Parker. It was supposed to sound like birds-- the first part."
    - Charlie Mingus, In His Own Words

    Charles Mingus is recognized as a major 20th century composer, whose entire works have been acquired by the Library of Congress - a first for jazz, and a first for an African-American composer. Mingus left behind the largest legacy of composition in American music after Duke Ellington.
    - Jazz Education

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Life Is Short, Pray Hard

    Top sellers on the charts in Europe!!!

    The cynic in me thinks it is just beause this audience wouldn't want to illegally download monks singing......

    but the sound really is transportive.

    This documentary showcases the monks that celebrate in song.  Beauty is in the background of almost every shot.....the architecture of a place 800+ years old,  the golden iconography...

    Still, there is one on-camera interview that breaks my heart, with a monk talking about how he left marriage behind, and how very hard it was for him to make the sacrifice.  Really?  Why is this a pre-requisite?  I just don't get it.  He says it was a struggle to think why God would want him to give up marriage and earthly love and I was practically yelling at the TV...  "Don't do it!!!!" 

    Such emphasis on death and the next world, when there is so much to celebrate.  I know it is far from perfect on planet Earth, but there is so much to truly Wonder.

    Jackie, a good old friend of mine, recently shared this thought with me, and I find myself turning the phrase over in mind after watching this documentary:  "drink wine, honour the God of all, and let the world be the world".  

    So here is a taste of their 6 hour, daily meditation.  Don't let the ghoulish skull stop you from watching, the sombre sound is transcendent.

    If you get a chance, check out the film, "Top Ten Monks, directed by Dana Perry (HBO’s “Boy Interrupted”)


    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Berry Beautiful

    How beautiful and amazing it is, that on a dark, cold and snowy winter night, after driving home in the warmth of a car and listening to music pipe in to your calm and solitary environment, the only other sound the wipers drumming back and forth keeping time, snowflakes dancing in time, and you get home safely and it's bright and welcoming, and your family is there to greet you and then you open a fridge and eat a whole handful of fresh ripe beautiful bursting berries?

    Miraculous, all of it, from start to finish.


    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    More of my fine-feathered friends


    Hanging out at Bluffer's Park Sunday we spotted several pairs of Buffleheads bobbing along the surface of the water, bouncing on top of the waves, looking almost weightless.  They were constantly diving under the surface, usually with one "standing sentry" to keep on the look-out for predators.


    Cooper's Hawk
    I had a long black coat on with a fur ruff, so maybe I looked a bit like a bear because they stayed a fair distance away.  It might also have been the Cooper's Hawk soaring up in the Bluffs that kept them cautious.

    I was on the watch for another type of sea duck.  Harlequins are known to fly south to overwinter here for a few months, but so far no such duck-luck.

    Despite the cold we had plenty of company and there was lots of foot traffic along the trails,  people running their dogs along the sandy beach, and dogs running their people.

    Jill R. and others at BPYC have started a feeding program for the Trumpeter Swans in the area, hand-feeding them corn.  It is a beautiful sight to see the flock.  When the lake was frozen over they were skating along the surface.  Now they float up to the mini-icebergs in the basin and wiggle their way up to waddle across.  Not quite as graceful out of the water but still majestic.

    Sunday, January 2, 2011


    photo credit

    Such a pleasant, round & shapely adjective!  I've enjoyed saying it in recent weeks and I must say I've put it into good practise over these holidays.


    friendly; agreeable: a convivial atmosphere.
    fond of feasting, drinking, and merry company; jovial.
    of or befitting a feast; festive.
    Interesting..... The last time the artist Arcimboldo was on my mind was last year's resolutions and ideas of Less is More.  
    .... So, a toast to more conviviality in 2011....  tempered by a dash of moderation...

    Two performances, 30 years apart, proving that feeling good doesn't do no body harm....