Sunday, December 30, 2012

A memorable year


2012 was a year of change and transformation. It was the year Marian died, and the year Alex graduated university with honours and started his full time job. The year I attended a reunion to mark 30 years after my own college graduation. And the year Rob and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.

I started last January with a resolution to more consciously balance my work and personal life. Work put this to the test with one major announcement following after another. The Ontario Budget announced my organization was to see the privatization of government services; the Premier resigned; one reorganization followed another; resignations of key executives and department heads continued to a crescendo in December. Constant upheaval made for interesting times.

Some wonderful travels with Rob - across Canada on the train, in our sailboat to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a memorable day-trip to the Albright Knox Gallery, a weekend in Wilson New York and just plain hanging out in Toronto and on the Island

Book Clubs provided me with welcome diversions.  Discussing the books of the month is always interesting, so many different points of view and new perspectives make for deeper appreciation. Whether it was the original Book Babes or BPYC, the regular get-togethers were a touchstone. I have come to appreciate the company of these women very much over the years.

After almost eighteen years as a constant companion, our cat Mixie died... Griskit adopted our family shortly after and quickly became a source of laughter and amusement as we watched her grow from a kitten into a big, furry feline with lots of personality.

Lots of Home Improvements, including a front garden makeover, a kitchen reno, and new sliding doors to the back ravine.

And yoga helped me think about balance in my life. I invested time and effort to take my practise to deeper levels: continuing my daily exercises, weekly classes, attending the Yoga Conference, Yoga in the Heart of the City, the workshop with Zubin and saddhana with Marlene.

I'm hopping back through the months of blog entries. I am certainly blessed with a full life, and thanks-full for it.

Wondering what 2013 will bring.

2013 sounds like a distant date in the future but it's only hours away.













Saturday, December 29, 2012

"My Book of the Year"

This reading testimony from notable book-lovers published by the Globe and Mail has me adding titles for my reading list.

The long nights of January - February make an ideal time to indulge.

Non-Fiction

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinphoche (recommended by Alan Lightman). "... there is a great deal to appreciate here about the impermanence of earthly phenomena and the causes of mental suffering... also includes practical discussions on how to meditate."

Human Happiness: A Memoir, by Brian Fawcett (recommended by Stan Persky). "Fawcett's reflection on memory, relationships... happiness transform local matters into wise meditations on life and death."


Fiction

Pinboy, by George Bowering (recommended by both Brian Fawcett and Martin Levin).  This memoir was described as "readably entertaining, wise, and frequently fall-down funny... his most accessible book, and maybe his best."

Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel (recommended by Kirchhoff and Clark). I loved Wolf Hall and have wanted to tackle this sequel for several months, but I'm a bit daunted by its thickness. Mantel doesn't coddle her readers, either, and makes no apologies about not being an "easy read."

Sabbath's Theatre, by Phillip Roth (recommended by Catherine Gildner). " Mickey Sabbath is an adult finger puppeteer in his sixties and a self-confessed 'whoremonger, seducer and sodomist'... Only Roth could make us feel at one with such a debauched character."

Recommended by Peter Stoddard, who read 145  novels this year as chair of the Man Booker Prize. These titles were noteworthy but didn't make the shortlist:
  • Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway "... a London tale of mud, magic and a bid for global domination through the agency of golden bees."
  • Mountains of the Moon, by J.J. Kay "... a debut of powerful, original prose about a woman piecing together her life with a new name after a prison sentence.
  • This is Life, by Dan Rhodes "... the best light book of the 145, starring a baby called Herbert who is temporarily acquired in Paris through an accident of contemporary art."


Poetry

Omens in the Year of the Ox, by Steven Price (recommended by poet Lorna Crozier). "This poet can write anything, from free verse to sonnets, from prose poems to the blues...People who ask about the future of poetry should read this book."

The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things, by Lorna Crozier. Because of its beautiful title.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Moon - December


December 28 at 5:21 am the full moon will be at its fullest.

Also known as the Cold Moon, and Long Night Moon.

There is snow on the ground, pretty and white, a Boxing Day gift. The branches of the trees are outlined in white, and as the squirrels pass they cascade bunches of snow.

Griskit was playing in the white stuff, swiping it away to see what laid underneath.  Her yearning for creature comforts and the warmth of being inside won out over curiousity.  Now she sits gazing out into the back ravine.

Snow is so pretty in the moonlight.







illustration

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. ~Thich Nat Hahn

My present this year from Rob is a beautiful tetsubin teapot, a gorgeous green, emblazoned with a dragon fly. It rests on a stand with a tea light underneath, that keeps the tea a perfect temperature.

The cups are little works of art, a nice weight in the hand. The cast iron warmed by the tea inside.



The gift was complemented with two kinds of tea - a delicately flavoured white, and a black tea with orange. Perfect for contemplation on a winter's night.

Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things. 
~ Chaim Potok

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I think back to the different Christmases in my life - growing up, then starting my own family.  There were years of frantically driving between three cities in one day.  Later years, a hectic pace with visiting company, usually hosting at least one dinner.

I'm used to hustle and bustle, busy-ness at Christmas.

This is the first Christmas the Rob, Alex and I have spent alone at home.

Christmas Eve we enjoyed an amazing meal, the table all set and glittering with our best china and crystal. Just the three of us, unless you also count the cat and the fish. We opened presents and enjoyed each others company. Slow and unhurried.

Stockings Christmas morning. All day in my pajamas (luxury!). Carols on the radio, candles shimmering, the tree adorned.

Enjoying Christmas Present, wonder-full.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Solstice Wine Tasting - 2012


What better way to celebrate the longest night than feasting with friends. I love planning these annual wine tastings and usually learn something new as a result of the research and preparation that goes into hosting. Then I get to discover even more when people bring fantastic new wines to my table with such delicious food pairings. This year was outstanding for new insights.

The theme was Progressive Wine Pairings, built around concepts presented by Jerry Comfort's Progressive Food Pairing Seminar I attended in November.

Before we got started with the meal, we played with the 5 tastes on a plate to see how food altered the taste of the wine. A taste of a sweet apple changed the character of the wine for the worse. Sour lemon enhanced the flavour. Bitter radicchio made a nice contrast.  What happened with umami mushroom was interesting - a lovely match at first with an aftertaste of bitter.  Throwing salt into the mix balanced the different tastes - it took the bitter edge off the umami, it added new dimension to the sour lemon.

Direct demonstration of some newly discovered pairing fundamentals: avoid serving food sweeter than wine; sour food is wine-friendly; a little bit of salt works magic; 'balanced' food will complement just about any wine.

I chose the Beringer wines for the 'five tastes' pairing because Comfort is their rep. These wonderful wines are less than $20 a bottle:

  • Beringer, Founder's Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2010
  • Beringer, Founder's Estate, Chardonnay, California, 2010



Off-dry and Light Styles of Wine 
Fontella, Chianti, Italy, 2011
Leon Beyer, Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, 2010

Caroline made a delicious, spicy shrimp Thai dish (recipe in comments below).  The Gewurtztraminer was fantastic pairing.  Chianti worked okay, but I suspect a Zinfandel would have been even more pleasing.

Crisp, Light Intensity Wines 
Louis Jadot, Bourgogne, Chardonnay, France, 2010
Monte Antica, Toscana, Red Wine, Italy 2008

Nicki paired artichoke dip with the chardonnay and Grace paired smoked salmon and trout with the chianti. Both matches were delicious, and they worked equally well with either the white or the red.

Strong-Intensity Whites/Light-to-Medium-Intensity Reds
Kim Crawford, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2012
Santa Digna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2011

Wendy chose cream cheese and salmon, Annika had pita chips with feta lemon dip. True to the theory, both red and white matched well with either of the foods.  At least one red wine drinker was being won over by the whites.

Leira, Albarino, Spain, 2011
Liberty School, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, 2009

Kaarina chose spicy Thai shrimp with mint raita for the white and Louise had an amazing platter of cheeses, bread and olives. All so good!

Strong Tannin Red 
Terre del Barolo, Barolo, Italy, 2006

At the seminar, Comfort made the point that strong tannin reds demand a thoughtful pairing.  The wrong choice can destroy the taste of the wine.  Liz brought a perfect food companion:  thinly shaved beef on a slice of baguette, spread with dijon and horseradish; topped with carmelized onion and a dollop of aioli.  Amazing!

Dessert Wines 
Royal DeMaria, Vidal Icewine, Ontario, Canada, 1998
Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro, Spanish

Virginia paired ice wine with a delicious baked apple and cranberry fruit crisp (recipe in the comments section below) and Nicolette had chocolate with moscatel.

A perfect finish to our solstice feast!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Solstice Wine Tasting - Planning


This year, I'll be hosting the Solstice tasting on the day of the solstice itself. I always look forward to this; it is such a feast and lots of fun. I invite my guests to bring a bottle of wine and a food pairing.

I was wondering what to do this year when I went to the Food and Wine Show in November.  I attended this session with Jerry Comfort and got really excited by his demonstration of how food affects the taste of wine.

As a result, I'm inspired to take a bit of an unconventional approach to my Solstice tasting this year... Past themes have been wine and cheese, wine and food pairings, and things Italian.  Typically at a tasting I have followed the advice to serve light whites first, then move on to reds.  I've also observed the tendency to pair according to flavours, or regions.

There are 2000+ flavours, and only 5 tastes, so pairing according to taste instead of flavour opens up the range of options considerably. I think it is a bit less intimidating, too, seemingly more simple.

The Progressive Food Menu designed by Jerry Comfort has 4 different taste categories, with red and white wines in each group.

So I'm going to present the wines by category, with a red and white wine served side by side; along with the suggested food pairing.

I've never been to a tasting like this so it really is my own take on the Progressive Food Menu.

Fingers crossed, I hope it works! I have ten guests coming; I wish I could accommodate more people around my table.

Off-dry and Light Styles of Wine Category 1

Light, fruity whites (no oak): riesling, gewurztraminer, viognier, white zinfandel, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc
Fruity, low tannin reds: rose, nouveau beaujolais, pinot noir, light sangiovese, zinfandel, chianti, merlot, shiraz

Pair Sweet/spicy/protein (umami) dominant foods with light wines
> Chinese spicy szechuan, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauces
> Mexican spicy enchilada sauces, fruit salsas, chocolate mole sauce
> Pasta with tomato sauce, cream sauce or mushrooms
> Thai foods, sweet Thai chile sauce, coconut curries
> Seasonings like chili, peppercorns, ginger, garlic
> Japanese sushi with pickled ginger and wasabi
> Indian foods:  spicy curries, chutneys
> Fresh mozzarella, brie, smoked cheeses

Crisp, Light Intensity Wines Category 2

Crisp, light whites: pinot grigio, champagne, riesling, sauvignon blanc, viognier, unoaked chardonnay
Fruity, low tannin reds: rose, beaujolais, pinot noir, merlot, sangiovese, chianti

Pair Acid/Bitter/Protein (umami) dominant foods with crisp and fruity wines
> Bitter, astringent salad greens: arugula, watercress, spinach, radicchio
> oily fish:  sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel, salmon
> Shellfish, lobster, crab, and shrimp with lemon
> Smoked fish: salmon, trout, sturgeon, eel
> Oysters with vinegar, lemon or cocktail sauce
> Asparagus, artichoke and mushroom
> prosciutto and melon
> caviar, ceviche
> fresh goat cheeses

Most Versatile Category 3

Most whites: pinot grigio, gewurtraminer, chenin blanc, riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay
Most reds:  rose, pinot noir, merlot, syrah, zinfandel, sangiovese, cabernet savignon

Pair balanced foods with most whites and most reds
> Properly seasoned roasted, grilled, sauteed meats, poultry, seafood
> Salt-based ingredients: olives, capers, bacon/pancetta, preserved lemons, and cheeses like feta
> Acid based sauces with proper seasonings (red or white wine sauces, mustard sauces, lemon/lime sauces, vinegrettes, verjus based sauces
> veal/poultry or seafood picatta with lemon and capers
> pasta, lasagnas with ingredients listed above
> soups, stews, ragouts, casseroles with salt-based ingredients and acidity
> cheddar, gruyere, fontina

Dessert Wines Category 4

Recioto, Madiera, Sweet Sherry, port, muscat, riesling, vin santo, sauternes, tokaji, ice wine

Pair desserts with sweet dessert wines
(never serve food sweeter than the wine)
> chocolate desserts, flourless chocolate cake, brownies, mousses, truffles
> creamy desserts:  creme brule, cheescake, pastry cream, ice cream
> fruit dessert:  stone fruit, apples, pears, citrus, tropical, berries
> caramel and nut desserts
> pecan pie, almond tart, cakes, cookies, pastries
> strong blue cheeses

Kitchen Reno - Complete!

Done!

Monday was Day 20, and the work was 'officially' done.

A lick of paint here, the kick plate radiator under the sink. a faulty light replaced. Voila!

It looks far more spacious, has extra cabinets, more counter top, efficient appliances, a pantry, a great view of the garden. It's easier to cook in, find what I need, and to clean up afterward.

Even Griskit seems happy with the new arrangement.





  



Monday, December 17, 2012

A Christmas Story


I am missing Marian.  She died January 23rd, 2012, and this will be the first Christmas we celebrate without having her visit.

Last year she was in palliative care, but still up for a party and presents, with family gathered at her side.

In previous years, she would come to stay at our house for a week, a Snowbird up for a quick visit from Florida.  

Christmas morning Santa left us all stockings – Rob, Alex, Marian and me.  Each stocking would have an orange in the toe, a candy cane, a little toy, and sometimes a book.  A couple of years ago, Marian’s held The Final Confession of Mable Stark.  

I had picked it up because of it’s colourful and interesting cover. It reminded me of childhood or years gone by.  

After she finished it, my mother-in-law observed, “you haven’t read this, have you?”  I admitted I hadn’t.  She said I likely wouldn’t have picked it out for her had I known it had such questionable content.  “Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I'm not quite sure what to think of it."  Then she returned the book to me and asked me to read it so I could tell her what I thought.  The book went back on my shelf, and I forgot all about it.  Just last week it's colourful cover pounced back out at me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Marian, with Christmas coming, so I finally pulled the book off the shelf and started reading it. 

It’s entertaining, and involves a series of misadventures with men and tigers.  It turns out the novel is written by a fellow Torontonian and based on the life of a real circus pioneer. 

I feel like we're sharing the story, even though we may not have actually discussed the book. I wish I’d read it sooner, it would have made for an interesting conversation.  Questionable content and all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wow

Easy seems to be the word on my mind as I  dust the shelves and organize the cupboards.  I'm sure there will be a few tweaks in the weeks ahead, but I try to place things where they would be used for easy grabbing and easy putting away.  Easy reach.

I really like having pull-out drawers for the pots, pans and cooking utensils.  So easy to see what you need.

I try to keep the counters all clear, but it didn't make sense to store the blender and toaster out of sight.  Morning smoothies are more likely to happen if they're easy to assemble.  I'm somewhat tempted to get rid of the toaster, we use it so  infrequently, but I know I would miss it just the same. Such an easy breakfast, porridge and toast.

Right now,  Rob is installing one of those pull-outs under the sink so the garbage and recycling are easy to access. From the sound effects, not such an easy installation.

This has been such an interesting endeavour, the kitchen reno.  To really think about everything in the space... where it sits, what's its function, is it built to last, what about the colour and shape and texture?  So much attention and care to details.  I had no idea what I was in for!

I can see how home renovations can become addictive. The exercise calls on the basic instinct to tame the wilderness and bring order into chaos. To become masters of our domain. And here I am, reaping the benefits of generations seeking shelter from the storm.

Salt in the cupboard - absolute luxury! Fire at our beck and command, just a twist of the nob on the stove. A flick of the switch and daylight floods the room on a dark winter evening. Water on tap. Exotic foods from across this amazing planet. The radio brings the best of music into my home and I can choose the station and style of music.

Such riches, such ease. Quite phenomenal.

Chianti

A Tuscan red for less than $12?

Kaarina tipped me off via email and I asked Rob to clear the shelf at the LCBO on his way home of the Fontella Chianti 2011.

Perfect for the holidays!




Friday, December 14, 2012

Now You're Cooking With Gas!


Throughout the kitchen reno I was preparing meals in the basement in a makeshift kitchen.  Laundry tubs doubling as a place to do dishes, the hotplate and microwave set up in a separate room, the fridge on the main floor.  A very inconvenient 'working triangle'!  

Finally cooked a meal in the new kitchen on Day 19 of the reno , when the new gas stove was connected.  I spent most of the time running up and down the stairs between the basement and the main floor collecting pots, knives, spices etc needed to make a meal. 

I kept turning the different burners on and off, checking out how the flames or simmer or on high.  Who needs a fireplace?

Our first meal cooking with gas was a big spicy bowl of thick udon noodle soup with tofu, chicken, scallions, and baby bok choy. A bowl of hot soup on a cold dark night warms me to my toes! We then ended up slurping downstairs in front of the tv.  

Over the course of the reno I’ve mainly prepped meals using the hotplate, relying on old favourites like curry or pasta, but I did try a couple new recipes.  There was one recipe I think will enter regular rotation: 

Japanese Mom's Chicken


8 chicken drumsticks (skin on!)
1 cup water
1/2 cup balsalmic vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised
1 small hot chile pepper, slit open, seeds

DIRECTIONS
1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan over high heat.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes
3. Remove scum that rises to surface
4. Increase heat, turning drumsticks frequently in the liquid, and cook until the liquid has reduced to a sticky glaze.
5.  Arrange the chicken on a serving platter, remove the garlic clove and chile from the liquid, and spoon the glaze over. (remember it is a glaze not a sauce so there is not a lot of it!) 

The liquid will thicken to a glaze if you are patient. It just takes a bit of time. If you feel your chicken is cooked (and going to overcook) remove it before going on to reduce the liquid. If you do it this way rather than thickening with cornstarch you will get a richer glaze and not need to add stock or broth instead of the water. It just takes patience. 
New kitchen is almost complete!

Day 16  - painting completed
Day 17 – tap & plumbing installed, corner tile replaced, painting of door frame, we moved fridge in
Day 18 – working tap, cabinetry for under-counter lighting
Day 19 – stove in place, 2nd treatment of floor

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kitchen Reno - Day 15



The old wall is a colourful sunrise. Layers of different paint and a splash of wallpaper tell the story of different palettes over time. The bare wall evokes memories of Alex as a baby, toddler, grade schooler, high schooler, university student... It strikes me how much I mark the times of my life by the age of my son.  I'm tempted to leave this part of the wall unpainted, but forget to ask Bob to leave it untouched.  Later in the week it's painted over.  It's strange how this mundane act feels like a sudden loss.

The backsplash went up on Days 11 and 12, with grouting to follow.  

The cork floor was treated and buffed to a nutty brown. 

By the end of the week painting had begun.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hallellujah

The concert lasted a full four hours, and Leonard Cohen often sang from bended knee.  I feel like I spent the evening in the company of an old friend.

In the huge Air Canada Centre last night, surrounded by the massive crowd that came to see him perform, he spoke directly to a thousand individuals, not just a single crowd.

He couldn't perform his entire songbook, but so many of my personal favourites were there...

Tower of Song (I ache in the places where I used to play)
Anthem (Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in)
Suzanne (She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China)
Marianne (I forget to pray for the angels, and then the angels forget to pray for us)
Dance Me (Dance me to the end of love)
A Thousand Kisses Deep (The quiet is the thought of you, the file on you complete, Except what we forgot to do, a thousand kisses deep)
Hallellujah (Hallellujah Hallellujah Hallellujah)

Rob introduced me to LC, o so many years ago.  We played his 'Best of' album often, and I especially remember Sunday mornings, soft light coming in through the windows, listening to Suzanne, and thinking about how you know that she's half crazy, but that's why you want to be there.  Of course, that 'Best of' album was only up to the late 70's and there would be decades more of amazing songs and poetry.

Over the years I return again and again to the music and poetry.  Such profound and profane thoughts, co-existing perfectly.




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Kitchen Reno - Day 10

The space is being transformed before our eyes.

Every night we come home and a little more progress has been made. The first room we visit is the kitchen to see the latest improvement.

The second week started with installing the ventilation hood and mudding the corners to the kitchen entrance (Day 6), then the ceiling molding (Day 7), fitting a wall cabinet (Day 8), installing the granite countertops and sink (Day 9) and then the floor (Day 10).

Even though there are more cabinets installed, it seems like a bigger room.  Apparently Griskit has been hanging out watching Bob at work and they've become good friends.

Last weekend we chose the taps and tiles, this weekend we're trying to settle on the colours for the wall, ceiling and trim.

I can't wait to see everything done and finished, with the appliances in place.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Sadhana - V

After a weekend yoga intensive, I signed up for Sadhana with the intent to take my practice to a deeper level, to get a better understanding of pranayama, and to hopefully get a few insights into how I could be a better person.

30 days later I can say I met the first two goals. Now I question the notion of 'a better person'.... that's a 'B' person, an 'A' person.  I think I have modified this notion to 'best self'.  I'll leave the judging to someone else.

Although I still have a long way to go with shoulder stand and revolved triangle, there is no question my poses have improved.  I feel closer to inhabiting them. Marlene is an amazing teacher, very observant and deeply talented.  Her adjustments to what I was doing were incredible.  It meant a lot to me when she remarked that the difference in one of my poses was like night and day.  That's as close to a compliment that you'll get, because she sees complimenting students to be a bit self-congratulatory (not really saying the student is good but rather that your teaching is good).  But Marlene is totally remarkable. We are lucky to have a teacher at her level here in Toronto.

Every morning we started the classes with an Invocation to Patanjali, which ended with the phrase "lift your hearts, bow your head, salute the Lord within."  I confess, I spend a lot of time in my 'head', my ego in charge. I took this as a daily reminder not to worry so much about the ego, not to think so much. Just 'be'.  Not attach to the outcome, which you can't control but can only influence.  To stop seeking outward, and instead, look inward.

The Invocation is humbling, but still, I think it would be fun to start or end a yoga class with this song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee someday.

God and man played hide-and-go-seek. 
God told man, "Now man, don't you peek." 
man counted to ten, and then looked around, 
But God was nowhere, nowhere to be found. 

Man looked on the mountain. He looked across the sea. 
He looked in the stars, in the skies, in the trees. 
He looked in the wind, in the sun, on the ground, 
But God was nowhere, nowhere to be found. 

So man made an image and he gave it a name, 
But this man-made god brought nothing but pain. 
Man started shouting "God! Where can you be?" 
"I'm right here man, inside of thee." 


Oh, man was so shocked, he was really surprised. 
'Cuz he looked everywhere, but right there inside. 
Now when man found God, man found love, 
And man found out what we all are made of. 

God is in you and God is in me. 
To love all of God is to love humanity. 
God is in you and God is in me. 
To love all of God is to love humanity. "




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reflecting - Full November Moon

Sunday I was wondering about yin and yang and a google image search offered up the sun, the moon, and the stars.  How powerful and magical is that?  The sun and the moon are always there, it is just we usually only see one at a time.  They shift shapes, eclipse one another, bring light into darkness and darkness into light.

The moon is officially full November 28 at 9:46 a.m.
November moon is also known as:  Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon, Snow Moon.



Yin Yang Sun Moon

Yin Yang Sun Moon

Yin Yang



 Sleepyhead

As I lay awake in the white moon light,
I heard a faint singing in the wood,
'Out of bed,
Sleepyhead,
Put your white foot now,
Here are we,
Neath the tree
Singing round the root now!'

 I looked out of window, in the white moon light,
The trees were like snow in the wood--
'Come away,
Child, and play
Light with the gnomies;
In a mound,
Green and round,
That's where their home is.
Honey sweet,
Curds to eat,
Cream and frumenty,
Shells and beads,
Poppy seeds,
You shall have plenty.'

 But soon as I stooped in the dim moon light
To put on my stocking and my shoes,
The sweet sweet singing died sadly away,
And the light of the morning peeped through:
Then instead of the gnomies there came a red robin
To sing of the buttercups and dew.

- Walter de la Mare 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life Is About Losing Everything


The selection this month was Nicolette's:  Life Is About Losing Everything, by Lynn Crosbie.

This was the second month in a row where Liz and Nicolette were in agreement about a book.  A rare occurrence, even after 6+ years.  They had little positive to say.  Most of the readers around the table found it to be self indulgent, wandering, in dire need of editing, totally forgettable.

Two of us, myself included, found the book to be lyrical and poetic.

Reviews from across the country are equally diverse.  Canadian Lit is a small enough community that many were guessing at who's who in the parade of thinly disguised characters.


The stories are true, but lovesick and slanted.  
(from Scenes D'un Reve Casanier, Life is About Losing Everything).


I wondered if some of this was true or just metaphor for bad relationships (S & M, heavy drugs, sex with a robot and with a tiny boy toy).  Some of it was funny, some morbid.  The psyche here is in recovery.

If you come to this expecting a linear story or conventional form, then it will be sure to disappoint.  It's meandering, frustrating, takes unexpected turns.  Like a surreal dream.  It is a bit like a Jackson Pollock in that it is visceral, experiential, dark.

This is something I can see returning to, to read in small bursts, like a book of poetry.  Out of sequence, wherever it falls open.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sadhana IV

Thursday was a backbend class, and usually I feel lighthearted afterward.  I did this time as well, but it was very short-lived.  By 10 a.m. I felt very heavy-hearted and it lasted the rest of the day.  My arms and legs felt like they weighed a tonne.

Friday was a restorative class and much needed.  The rest of the day and evening I felt great equanimity.  Even after getting yelled at, at work, and then suffering a particularly bad commute on the way home.

Saturday, the practice was very intense.  Strong inversions (headstand 2, handstand, arm balance).  By the time we got to shoulderstand I was exhausted. So tired, in fact, that on the drive home I was almost falling asleep at red lights.  At 8 a.m., I crawled back into bed for a 'nap' that lasted 2 hours.

Today was pranayama.  I feel rejuvenated, centred, aware.  Why can't I feel like this always?  Why is this sense of well-being not at my beck and call?  Is there a way to make it so?

For now, I will savour it as it comes.




Morning Snow

Yesterday, Caro said it was a winter wonderland north of 7, and my mom left a message for me saying her backyard in Kitchener was under a blanket of snow.  This morning, a light dusting in the garden brings the colours and textures to new dimensions.  After all these years, I notice the geraniums are actually blushing an autumn pink.

A haiku in photo captions:

Light frosting of snow

Dusted sedums, wooly thyme

Pink geraniums 


Friday, November 23, 2012

Kitchen Reno - Day 5

Monday morning when I left at 5:30 a.m. for my yoga class, I thought I better take a snapshot of the kitchen all cleaned up for demolition.
Day 2
It served us well for many years.  It was kind of funny, walking out and knowing things would be drastically different when I got back.  Probably similar to watching a favourite old car putter off to the scrap heap.  Twenty years together, well-used, and looking forward to saying goodbye.  On some level I think I actually felt guilty.

Okay, so this is elemental:  things must be destroyed for something entirely new to take its place, for building and renewal to begin.

The first night, when we got home, the cupboards were stripped bare.  Surprising how much progress was made in a day.

Day 3
By Day 2, the old floor was uprooted and new entrance roughed in.  Day 3, some of the new electrical had been done and the old plumbing taken out.  Day 4 - new cabinets!

Day 4
It was a shock to see the new cupboards in place, had not been expecting to see them mounted so quickly.  I really liked the look of them except for the fact there seemed to be gaps and problems with alignment.  How hard would it be to fix?  Was this the way it was going to look?

Momentary panic set in.  Turns out the spacing needed to be adjusted.  There was one error that would involve replacing three panels due to misalignment.  I was happy not to have to fight over it, the contractor was in complete agreement.  By end of Day 5, the offending panels were replaced.

Bob J. is the contractor and doing amazing work. We started planning back in March, it just took awhile to lay the groundwork (remove radiators, replace sliding doors etc.).

Watching as these long laid plans take shape is exciting, but also a bit unnerving.  Seeing something in your mind's eye vs. reality..... I can't help but hope for a reasonable match. Definitely looking forward to having a little pantry and extra drawers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November garden


Most of the leaves in the ravine have fallen, but there are still darts of gold spiraling to the ground in gusts of wind.

The toad lilies lasted until the second week of November, and a solitary white clematis reaching for the fence November 18.

Autumn colours burst - deep reds on the Dragon and Barberry - gold in the hostas.  


Henry  -  November 2

Red Dragon - November 17

Barberry - November 17

hostas with golden chimes - November 18