Monday, June 27, 2011

The Tale of the Unknown Island

Happy endings.... or beginnings?

Then, as soon as the sun had risen, the man and the woman went to paint in white letters on both sides of the prow the name that the caravel still lacked.  Around midday, with the tide, The Unknown Island finally set to sea, in search of itself.

The Tale of the Unknown Island
by Jose Saramago
winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1998

illustrations by Peter Sis

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hanging out

6 a.m. Sunday morning
“Did you see the swan hatchlings?”

click to  enlarge
People at the club were all aflutter about the new cygnets.  Just a day old, little grey balls of fluff wobbling about, hiding under their mother’s protective wing. Except for one that was adventurous and heading off to the edge of their island platform.  Not quite sure who is rejecting who, but time will tell.  The father sat a distance away, preening its feathers.  I think I counted 5 chicks in all.

Alex and Penny joined us for the best dinner yet of the summer.  Two wonderful salads (pumpkin stuffed pasta with garlic  and fresh Ontario strawberries with St. Augere blue); roasted red pepper and grilled steak.  Rob tried rubbing olive oil on the meat prior to barbecuing and it held in the juices nicely.  For dessert:  ½ a chocolate and pecan tart with a spoonful of vanilla bean ice cream.  Mmmm.  

Photo credit
As night was falling, a beaver was sighted waddling onto shore.  I approached as quietly as I could, managing to get about 5 feet before trying to take a photo.  Glossy black and HUGE, it retreated to the water, swimming a bit and then heading back in to pick up a twig or two.  5 or so humans chasing after it like shorebirds, trying to get a decent shot.  Dusk was descending, so I only managed to capture an image that looked like the Loch Ness, all fuzzy and out of focus.

(aside:  Bob C. was passing by when I said “best tart ever” which started a cascade of tart jokes.  Imagine the creative riffing that took place when the beaver was sighted!  I felt like I was at a stand-up comedy club for a bit.) 

Slept overnight on the boat and woke up to this glorious day. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Monte Antico

This bottle of wine was winking at me on the cash-out desk at the LCBO.  Monte Antico.


But a screw top.  I'm not really a screw-top snob with New Zealand or Australian wines, but I admit this was the first Tuscan one I saw. (insert lewd screw-top joke here)

The cashier vouched for it - on sale, a dollar off for $14.95.  She also said this label has recently made it on to the Essentials list (previously it was in the Vintages section because it wasn't made in high enough quantities for the Essentials list).  I'm not sure where Michele lives, but she gets it for $10.

After the week I've had I wasn't planning on cellaring the bottle; so really the screw-top was not an issue.  Seeing as how as soon as I got home I'd be sampling.

The label itself is raised-embossed, with a lovely Tuscan scene emblazoned in red (how suitable for a chianti!).  Sure looks good on the table.

The grapes are a tasty meld of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sav.  A fruit fly has inexplicably shown up out of nowhere and is now floating in the pool of red, adding a bit of protein to the earthy Sangiovese (some people say that grape tastes like soil... maybe that is why I like it so much!).

Deep red colour, tastes of dark berries, thoughts of Tuscan hills......

Tony Aspler gave this a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Solstice Book Club

Summer Solstice I was blessed with a memorable evening, enjoying the company of both my book clubs on the deck of BPYC, with the author in attendance.  Hearing him tell the stories behind the stories brought me an even deeper appreciation for the work.

The author was Anthony de Sa and the book was Barnacle Love.  This first novel was shortlisted for both the Giller and Toronto Book Awards.  Recently optioned by Nellie Furtado to be made into a film.  And now I have a signed, first edition that I will treasure in my personal library.  Anthony also donated an autographed copy to the club.

The title story, Barnacle Love, is told to advance the plot and deepen our understanding of the characters; the way it's told is a wonderful technique of mixing memories into the present tense.  Georgina recalls in detail the painful memory of the night her wedding bed was made and how her mother-in-law sabotaged the sacrament by leaving barnacles.  The wounds were so deep they were bleeding crimson through her wedding dress the next day.

All who attended are looking forward to his next book... Carnival of Desire.  Anthony read a few pages so we'd have a sneak preview of the manuscript that has just been delivered to the publisher.

I blogged about my first introduction to this author and his collection of linked short stories at the Heliconian in January 2010.

I loved the book so much I recommended it to both my book clubs and it found its way onto the official reading lists.  Months later, via his blog, I discovered Anthony had paid a visit to a book club so approached him with an invitation to ours. He agreed and I looked forward to the event for weeks.

Anthony was incredibly generous with his time and attention, and incredibly candid about growing up as a first generation Canadian.  The linked short stories draw from his past, but he was quick to point out they've changed to the point of being fiction.

To go with the Portuguese theme I asked my colleague Nuno for  recommendations and then picked up some very tasty treats in Little Portugal:  barbecue chicken (Churrasqueira do Sardinha at 707 College)  and delicious pastries (Golden Wheat Bakery and Pastry at 652 College) pasties de nata, natas de cei, palmieres.  What a feast!
Give a listen:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Putting things into perspective

In the distance, the CN Tower, under the arching boughs.  The yellow wildflowers in the foreground were captivating.

Being back on the Island after a long winter was like quenching a thirst.

Saw some Baltimore orioles - always a treat.  And a very graceful guest visited us to say hello in the morning.

Morning yoga, bike rides before the crowds arrived.

Feasting on in-season strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The cottonwood fluffies were so thick they looked like snow in spots, edging pathways on the ground.   Glowing like specters in the magic hour.  Hanging delicately in overhead branches.  Waiting for the whisper of a wind.

- click on any of the photos to enlarge -

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Full Moon in June

Full moon
In June

Image credit
Rhymes so nicely, I'll just have to celebrate with poetry this month!  Watch for the lunar lushness to come into full-fullness on June 15 at 20:18.
The Owl and the Pussycat was one of my first bedtime stories.  I still remember my mother's dramatic recitations.  From solemn to swooning... over the top and perfect for the single-digit set.  This is supposed to be a "nonsense poem" but I don't see anything non-sensical about it!  Full of wise advice and touching on so many critical subjects:  love & marriage, sailing, dancing in the moonlight and fine dining with runcible spoons!

This June moon is known as the strawberry moon so it is a perfect excuse to eat the fresh fruit (with a runcible spoons, of course!).  Ontario strawberries are in the stores now and bursting with flavour.  Not quite as big as their Southern cousins, they have such an intense flavour.  Just 2 or 3 grains of sugar are more than enough to enhance the natural sweetness.  And of course, the roses are starting to open, right on cue. (June moons are also known as Rose Moons)

Image credit
The Owl and the Pussycat 
(Edward Lear)

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."

image credit
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"

They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

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"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
 Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

Image credit
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.

They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Empty nest syndrome

Juvenuile robin
I was sipping my coffee on the back deck a couple of weeks ago when a bird landed on the railing.

"AWK!" It flew away fast.  If it had eyebrows they would have been raised in surprise.  So much to take in when you are trying out your new wings.

The speckled breast made it look like an exotic new species.  I wasn't entirely sure what kind of bird it was until the parent called.

The birds training their young ones.  I don't speak Robin, but I'm pretty sure the advice was not to get so close.


The cardinals flew the nest the end of May.  I didn't see the chicks leave, but I did see and hear the parents calling them from the nest.  Both the male and female were trilling away, only about 30 feet.  The chicks were chirping furiously and occasionally one of the parents would fly in and out.  Not feeding them but coaxing them to try to find some bugs on their own.  The chicks were a bit slow to take the hint, but by the time I came home the nest was empty.  I miss them after weeks of studying their habits.  Such a beautiful pair - what a privilege to watch them build their nest and then fly in and out to feed the chicks.  Sorry to see them go - and I didn't even have time to start taking them for granted!  I think I caught a glimpse of the juvenile male, wobbling in its flight path, a strange mottling of colour.

The chickadees were the last to vacate.  The parents vigilantly flying in and out of the birdhouse, feeding their young long after the cardinals had left.  One day, loud squawking and a big kerfuffle in the morning; no chirping by the end of day.

I hope these pairs return to nest in my backyard next year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June Blooms

Tree peony - 9 blossoms this year (late May)
Gorgeous! (Late May)

Poppy fireworks
Josephine clematis


Saturday Night At the Movies

Do we know how to throw parties at BPYC or what?

It was L's turn to host the annual dock party and their theme was 'Movies':  Bob and Milly greeted everyone with a bag of popcorn and we hopped from movie to movie, boat to boat.

Quite the buffet:  Wendy and Raymond did Memoirs of a Geisha (Wendy made her own sushi, served sake, and greeted guests in a kimono); Dick and Maureen did Pirates of the Caribbean (hot wings and talking parrots); Sex in the City with Bob and Margaret (Cosmos, New York style pizza); Blue Hawaii with Stu and Jennifer (shots of rum); in Chicago with sexy Louise and dapper Paul (spicy sausage).  So many more great movie themes (Sea Biscuit, Batman, GI Jane, Slumdog Millionaire), fabulous decorations, yummy food and lotsa fun.

We were watching old movies projected on a sheet hoisted into the rigging.  Buster Keaton, Olivia De Havilland, Carmen Miranda, Fred Astaire...

Liz P. was my guest, and good thing!  She ended up winning the Poker Run.  Dinner and a movie for 2.  We took first with three tens. 

Before we knew it, it was 1:30 in the a.m. The party lights were reflecting off the still water.  Those people on L were still raising a ruckus, but I had to turn in to be in quasi-shape for yoga at 9 a.m.

Rob and Alex were off in Montreal, enjoying their Christmas present from me... a weekend at the Grand Prix.  Boy-bonding. I heard the weather wasn't great, but the race was fabulous.

Still, I know where I would rather have spent Saturday Night... at the movies...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Proof that Other People Exist

You know.  Well.  Some weeks are just longer than others.

Happily came home to a perfect antidote. My first copy of 'Other People Exist'.  Laugh-out-loud-in-my-backyard funny.  Scare-the-birds-with-weird-laughing-sounds funny.

I can't remember how I came across the 'Other People Exist' blog, some mutual link somewhere.  The zine is available only through snail-mail, limited editions.  Sign up fast before it goes pdf!

I would scan and print but that would definitely be a copyright infringement, so I really must urge you to order your own copy.

I'm sticking my cheque in the mail for Year Six.

And I must say, this zine goes well with Hendrick's Gin.  Both are small batch & hand-crafted.

Sip slowly.  Savour.  Juniper, coriander and citrus peel infused with rose petal and cucumber.

"A most iconoclastic gin.  It is not for everyone."  But those who like it, like it a lot.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

After Work - TSO concert

Photo credit
Tonight it was Rachmaninoff played by Yuja Wang - she received a standing ovation for her performance.  When Allen introduced her, he said she could well be the greatest living pianist. 

Born in Beijing in 1987, she moved to Canada to study piano at 14 and is becoming internationally known for her 'prodigious technique' and charismatic stage presence.  Being a knock-out doesn't hurt.  These performances were her TSO debut but she has already headlined with the London Symphony, La Scala, New York Philharmonic, and other venues of renown.  In October 2011 she makes her Carnegie Hall debut.

Piano Concerto No. 3  is the most challenging of Rachmaninoff's repetoire. It's been said this opus demands "a pianist with strength, dexterity, control, and stamina - and big hands" (Bazzana).   Yuja's fingers flew across the keys and she was literally lifting in the air as she played the last chords.  Very dramatic performance.

Rachmaninoff composed this in 1909 and played it on his North American tour (which included a 2 night stop in Toronto).  The 3rd was one of the last of his works composed in Russia.
The 1917 Russian Revolution meant the end of Russia as the composer had known it. With this change followed the loss of his estate, his way of life, and his livelihood. On 22 December 1917, he left St. Petersburg for Helsinki with his wife and two daughters on an open sled, having only a few notebooks with sketches of his own compositions and two orchestral scores, his unfinished opera Monna Vanna and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel. He spent a year giving concerts in Scandinavia while also laboring to widen his concert repertoire. Near the end of 1918, he received three offers of lucrative American contracts. Although he declined all three, he decided the United States might offer a solution to his financial concerns. He departed Kristiania (Oslo) for New York on 1 November 1918. Once there, Rachmaninoff quickly chose an agent, Charles Ellis, and accepted the gift of a piano from Steinway before playing 40 concerts in a four-month period. At the end of the 1919–20 season, he also signed a contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company. In 1921, the Rachmaninoffs bought a house in the United States, where they consciously recreated the atmosphere of Ivanovka, entertaining Russian guests, employing Russian servants, and observing Russian customs.
 His busy concert schedule in North America left little time for composing. He died in Beverly Hills in 1943.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hidden Gardens & Private Spaces

This majestic tree had a trunk that looked ten feet across.
Wandered about Cabbagetown on the Hidden Gardens and Private Spaces tour with Nicki, Liz and Helen.  Sunday was the perfect day to meander.  Most of the gardens were small, with people making great use of the space by adding mirrors, creating vertical interest, or using tiers to create the illusion of space.

There were a few places where people had paid landscapers and the residents weren't quite sure of the names of the plant in their backyard; there were other spaces that were stamped with the gardeners' unique design. Both equally loved by the owners.

Very new looking - these should weather nicely
I'm thankful people share their backyards so we can explore... to see what grows in the same zone or to marvel at how much difference facing south can make to bloom-times.  It's also fun to see plants that are favourites flourishing in other spots, or discover new specimens, like the slow-growing Japanese Umbrella Pine. 

Ideas and inspiration
- stained glass?
- iron rail fence on the vertical for clematis
- coleus?  Japanese red maple?  Umbrella pine? (Apparently Woodhill Nursery is a good source)

The waterfall pushed these posies into the corner

Wonder just what he's grinning about in the brunera?
Japanese Umbrella Pine - needles look  like plumage.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sailpast 2011

Thunder and lightning brought the ceremony for Sailpast 2011 inside the Clubhouse.

Bagpipes played the Board up onto the stage. There is nothing quite like being escorted this way, it is a real attention grabber... especially indoors. 
Rob was MC and kept things light-hearted, joking about Noah's Ark while the storm rumbled in the background. Awards for the previous year were given for outstanding contributions to some very deserving clubmembers. In naval tradition, Amazing Grace was piped in the memory of the dead and it truly brought a tear to my eye.

As a new member of the Board of Directors, I shared the honour of raising the flag for the club burgee; others raised the Canadian and American flags.

When I hoisted the burgee, it was exhilarating, seeing it climb up and into the grey sky. This was the first flag I've ever raised, and I will remember the honour whenever I watch it fly over the summer.

We shared glasses of champagne, orange juice and strawberries to usher in the sailing season. The thunder showers cleared in time for us to sail past the Commodore.

Later, dinner and dancing.

This was a "three outfit" event:  ceremony, sailing, dinner/dance.  I have turned into such a girlie-girl, enjoying the excuse to change costume from the formal flag raising to the sailing and then to the dinner.

Turned in early, sleeping soundly onboard.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Monday night sail

So nice to be able to head down to the lake and hang out on a week night. Really have to try to do that more often!

The lake was flat and winds were light. Alex, Penny and Karl came along; it was a very pleasant evening.