Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rest in peace, Marian

I am so glad we celebrated her life, well-lived, on her 80th birthday.

Indeed, we celebrated many birthdays and Christmases together.  Marian was a woman of many talents. She ran her own antiques business, traded antique jewelry, had a foray into real estate, served on the Board of Governors of Sheridan college and on the Sudbury Health Council. A talented seamstress and great chef.  A wicked sense of humour.

When I first met her 30+ years ago, how formidable she seemed.  Someone who didn't suffer fools gladly. I look at photos now and I am older than she was when we first met. There's one shot of her in the garden, looking so glamorous.  Long, gorgeous legs and a great smile.  A bearing that reminded me of the best of Katherine Hepburn.

Her greatest and most fierce accomplishment, the one that brought her the most pride, was without a doubt her family. Five children, their spouses, and children, and grandchildren, with the first great- grandkids on the way.

She will be missed.  She brought us all together at least once or twice a year, and I hope the tradition continues.  When we are all together, I'll continue to see her in the lifted corner of a smile or hear her echo in someone's voice.

Rest in peace, Marian.

Marian H. C.

(July 23, 1929 - January 23, 2012)
Passed away with her loving family by her side on January 23, 2012 at Providence Centre at the age of 82. Predeceased by her husband Dr. John R. Cowan. She will be greatly missed by her children, Robert (Diane), Sheila (Jim), Lois (Mark), Brenda (Bill), and Gordon (Linda). Lovingly missed by her 9 grandchildren, Alex, Meredith, Spencer, Arden, Ryan, Patricia, James, Christina, and Sarah. Marian was 8 of 9 children born to Peter and Frances Ryan of Halifax, N.S. and is survived by her sisters Sheila MacDonald and Evelyn MacDonald. A memorial service will follow in the chapel at 2 p.m. We are so proud of how strong and determined she was with her battle with cancer and she will remain in our hearts forever.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Lunar Year!

The Year of the Dragon begins Monday, Jan. 23 and is to be marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. Chinese New Year is a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity and to eliminate any negative chi from the past.  
What will the year of the dragon bring for you?

The stamps commemorating this year of the dragon are small works of art!

...when the dragon of Chinese astrology arrives with the Lunar New Year on Monday, the mythical creature will bring with it optimism and hope for better times ahead in 2012. This year is considered especially auspicious because it is the year of the water dragon, something that happens once every 60 years.

The year 2012 is the year of the Water Dragon. From the reading of the stars and element relationships in the paht chee chart, this year is going to be a transformational life-changing year! Generally, there are more goodies in store for you in the year 2012 than 2011. It’s a good year to improve oneself, take calculated investment risks and to build wealth...

Canada Post breathes fire into the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dragon Stamps

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Robbie Burns Dinner

BPYC held a Robbie Burns Dinner last night to celebrate the Bard. My own Robbie looked quite dashing in his kilt and did a great job as MC.

Seated at the head table, I got a first-hand look at the proceedings... and the haggis, which was far more appetizing than it looked. Someone said it was spiced lamb burger (which is a more attractive term than sheep intestine, but likely the same thing).  Served with turnips, roast beef, mashed potato and gravy.

"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it,
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."
Selkirk Grace

The single malt scotch was put to good use, for toasting the haggis, Burns himself, the lassies and the lads.

After a wonderful meal we enjoyed some classic fiddling and step dancing, sang Auld Lang Syne and hugged good friends.  Later we danced to the celtic sound of an aptly named band, The Drunken Sailors.

Burns was a prolific poet despite his relatively short life, and he lived during a period that saw two Revolutions (the French and American).  Deeply passionate, he was a noted womanizer and fathered several children with several different women. It's also speculated that the strong emotional highs and lows in his work are the consequence of manic-depression.  One thing's sure, he did not have an easy time of it and struggled in poverty for much of his life.

Then let us pray that come it may
(as come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall beat the gree an' a' that
For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that

Friday, January 20, 2012

Warning: sex and violence

this gorgeous creature
 is gracing our living room
Hardly words you'd expect to hear at a garden club meeting.  Tena Van Andel entertained us with stories about this exotic flower.

Sex?  Because of the word's Greek origins. John Ruskin, the English philosopher and sometimes prude, felt the word 'orchid' should not be uttered in mixed company.

Violence?  Because  In Greek mythology, Orchis was the son of a nymph and a satyr. During a celebratory feast for Bacchus, Orchis committed the sacrilege of attempting to rape a priestess, resulting in his being torn apart by wild beasts, then metamorphosing into a slender and modest plant. Valentine florist creations

Every year, new orchids are 'discovered'.  But they've been around for 76M - 84M years.  Homo sapiens are relative newcomers, at just 300K - 400K.

The orchid industry generates $9B worldwide - annually. Astounding.  In Canada, don't get caught smuggling this exotic species, because the fines run to $500K and 10 years in jail.

These are beautiful flowers.  Rob is the one at our place that has the orchid-thumb.

His mom gave him a grassy orchid for his birthday this year, and it has been blooming for 2 months straight, its' graceful boughs arching in the living room and catching indirect sunlight.

Rob and I were wondering what those odd growths were that seemed to be appearing on the older phalaenopsis.  Keiki's, that's what.

Old Vine Red

A very thoughtful guest left this as a hostess gift over the holidays.


Deep red colour in the glass, wonderful legs.  On the pour it bubbles up with effervescence. And guess what?  It smells grapey.

Local to Sonoma County, California.  From Marietta Cellars & family owned.
We take pride in the fact that since 1978, we have made quality wines and sold them at honest, fair and consistent prices without relying on mass marketing, advertising, or gimmicks.  In short, our wines sell because of what's in the bottle.
I'll drink to that!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See was the BPYC book pick; an excellent choice.

The evening made me appreciate, once again, how much I love getting together with these women to talk about books.  And how fortunate I am to be living as a woman in the country and time period I do.  Privileged, indeed, to even know how to read and how to write.

Nine of us showed up to discuss the book, which was a fascinating account of a friendship between two women in China during the 19th century and the secret language they shared. Nu shu translates to  'women's writing' and is central to the plot of the novel; a way the characters share their dreams, hopes, and disappointments through the decades of their friendship.

foot binding was finally outlawed by
 the Chinese government in 1949
The novel's most unforgettable aspect to me were the accounts of foot binding.  I knew it was a brutal practice but wasn't aware of the extent of the violence.  In fact, 1 in 10 girls died of the ordeal.  At age 6 or 7, they would have their feet bound, their toes broken, and be forced to walk for weeks on end to acquire the most ideal shape.  These perfectly shaped 'lilies' would help make women eligible for marriage into a good family, but it was never a guarantee.  Those with 'normal' feet could not hope for position and would be doomed to work in fields or serve as common prostitutes.  Still, I wonder how mothers could inflict such pain and suffering on their daughters.

Another theme in the book was the nature of friendship between women, and woman's inhumanity against woman (a twist on man's inhumanity against man).

The past few days the topic of violence against women keeps popping up.  Monday night, I was listening CBC radio and learned about a movement in Canada to limit revealing the sex of the fetus during the early weeks of pregnancy.  It seems that many ethnic communities here still persist in aborting female fetuses.  This is the kind of attitude that has led to gross imbalances in the ratio of men to women in China and India.

Take a look at this Ted Talk clip, it is worth the 20 minute investment.  (I also came across this Monday, through a Facebook friend).

I do..... I love, I love, I love being a girl.  The planet needs more girl cells.  Don't you agree?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Boat Show

I'm looking forward to using my boat show "finds".

I drooled over the newest Catalina 35 and Hunter 33, both fine cruising specimens.  Hopped on and off a number of sailboats, including Benateaus, Bavarians, and a Catamaran.

A new boat is definitely not in our immediate future, but sails and furling are.  Since we plan to keep our Catalina 30 for a few years the new sails are worth the investment.  I wonder what's the ideal point to trade up and in for another boat?

Since I couldn't buy a new boat this time around, I opted for a Yup Delight Glo Pebble.  It is actually pretty mesmerizing, the LED light cycles through a rainbow of colours. This will be a nice light feature in my garden at night. I imagine I will see these at the yoga show in a couple of months, since the colour spin is related somewhat to chakras and advertised as colour therapy on the package.  Apparently the eggs are being considered by the Toronto School Board for use with autistic children, since they have a calming effect and at the same time are practically indestructible.

Roughly 105+ more sleeps before Yondering splashes back into Lake Ontario.

A book at the Nautical Minds booth caught my eye, "It's Your Boat Too".  Maybe it will help me get over my fear of docking!

Picked up a ceramic grater, used it to make my curry tonight and it worked really well with the raw ginger, as well....

Friday, January 13, 2012

King of the Blues

"Give me the strongest one you've got behind the bar." I needed something with a good kick.

"How's this?" he said.  "Strongest in the world."

I tasted it.  "That'll do.  Nicely.  Gimme 4 ounces."

That is, of a really good blue cheese.

"King of the Blues," he added.

To complete the pairing, I came home and rummaged for the Christmas port and came across the one we'd opened last year, a '78 Fonseca.  How could I have let that languish?  There is some sediment in the glass but otherwise it seems to have survived the neglect.  It is a beautiful, deep ruby colour.

And it goes perfectly with the Roquefort Agro.

Did you know European law dictates that true Roquefort must be aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzo?

Made from raw sheep's milk, this cheese was named 'king' during the Age of Enlightenment by French philosopher Diderot:

According to Roquefort legend, one day a shepherd was enjoying a lunch of bread and ewe's milk cheese, when in the distance he saw a beautiful girl. He left his lunch in one of the Combalou caves to follow after her. Upon his return to the cave (without the girl), the shepherd found his cheese covered with mould. Very hungry, he decided to taste it. Of course, the cheese was delicious, and thus, the first Roquefort was born.

As for Roquefort's documented history, the cheese was first mentioned in 1070. In 1411, Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of the cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. By the 20th century, Roquefort cheese was famous throughout the world. I Love Cheese

.... and now, a different taste of the Blues from the French Quarter:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Buddha Bowl

For Christmas, my brother Dave & his wife Therese got me this wonderful tea mug.  It takes both hands to hold, it's so big.  And it is absolutely unique, no two are exactly alike because each is manipulated by hand.  As I hold it, I can feel the dents from the fingers that originally pressed into the clay.

Right now the 'buddha bowl' is filled with a totally relaxing blossom tea... chamomile and pretty blue cornflowers, with peppermint and lemongrass.  Ahhhhh.

I needed a special yoga practice tonight to help chase this heavy feeling from my limbs.  All day I felt I was walking in a waist-high river of molasses.  I feel lighter now, unburdened, and ready for a good sleep.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Artist

My Christmas present from Alex this year was dinner and a movie, so I cashed in tonight and we went to see The Artist, grabbing a bite at the Bloor Street Diner before the show.

Funny how simple stories can be so complex. On one level this is a love story. On another cinematic historical fiction. An allegory for artists, and for finding your unique voice. A story about the struggle of adapting to changing times. An account of overcoming pride.

Body language and dance speak louder than dialogue... altering the channels of perception made me more alert to other ways of telling the story.  Plus - the dog is adorable (actually, that part is played by three different Jack Russells).

It was great fun hearing my son talk about the visual humour and the director's approach to character development in the film.  Alex is perceptive and articulate,  I throughly enjoy the time I spend with him!

It will be interesting to see how many Academy Awards nominations this garners (I wonder if it made the deadline for release?)

And I absolutely love the closing line,
"With pleasure."

When so few words are spoken, those that are said aloud become all the more significant.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Full Old Moon - January

First full moon of this New Year!  January 9th, 2:32 a.m.

Wolf Moon or Old Moon?

The stories and names of each full moon change depending on where you live....

"The reason for the name Wolf Moon is simply because in that month the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Amerindian villages. In Europe on the other hand, January's full moon is called “Old Moon” where as February's full moon is called “Wolf Moon.”

In other areas, the First Full moon is also called "Ice Moon" or "Moon After Yule". 

In central Asia, its name is "Paush Poornima", meaning Fasting month, Hindus consider the day highly auspicious, where some communities fast in that period. 

For the Buddhist in Sri Lanka it is called “Duruthu Poya” which marks the first visit of Lord Buddha to that Island. 

In Japan, this same first full moon of the year is called “Birth Moon.” It is also considered the official birthday for everyone over the age of sixteen. Divination, feasting, and rituals for luck and health are popular events.

For the Chinese whom have arguably the oldest continuously used lunar calendar in existence. Their festive New Year's celebration begins on the first new moon after the sun enters the sign of Aquarius. The clearing of debt before this holiday is an important part of its observance.

In Thailand for instance every full moon is celebrated with a party, called Koh Pha Ngan."

Continue reading at 

This Django Reinhardt composition asks the musical question,
"How High the Moon"

illustration credit: watercolour

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It all begins with an exhale

Thanks to Cyndi Lee for sending this timely reminder my way via email. Also posted at Hands to Heart

Find a comfortable seat and let’s begin.  Place your attention on your breathing and notice your exhale.  Let your mind ride out on the breath and mix with space.  Rest in the gap.  Trust that the inhale will come in naturally.  Repeat without reproducing.  

This is how it all begins; with an exhale.

Every life and every death begins with an exhale.  We come into the world with a cry and go out with a sigh, each of these expressions floating on the out-breath.  

Then, comes the inhale.  Our natural urge to nourish, to draw in prana, is how we feed ourselves through inspiration, activity, contemplation and community.  This is the arising aspect of vinyasa.

And in between there is a tiny suspension with tremendous potential and that is where we abide.  It’s not so easy because it requires open attention that is relaxed.  It’s not the same as waiting and not the same as doing nothing.  There is richness here in staying steady without holding on.

And then we let go again.  Dissolving is an essential part of our practice.  It seems like the exhale might be an ending but it’s always a beginning.  It is the only way the gate opens for the arising to happen.  

This practice is the ground.  After doing this formal practice, you can begin to integrate it into asana and every single other thing.  Your practice and your life will become indistinguishable. 

OM illustration credit:  evjeny kiselev

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Revolution

Yesterday at BPYC someone asked me what my New Year's Revolution would be.  An unintentional but enlightened slip of the tongue.  A properly placed commitment can dramatically improve your life and change your outlook.

Who has it
My revolution this year is to improve my approach to work/life balance and lighten up. Or is that a New Year's revelation?

Since my August promotion the hours I put in have been creeping up, and as much as I like my job I don't want it to become a lifestyle!  I sought - and got - some great advice from a senior executive in my organization whom I admire and who seems to do work/life balance well.

Here are some great take-aways from our conversation together: pick the number of hours you are willing to work in a day or week and stick to them by heading out at a regular time, regardless of whether all tasks are finished (how could I forget something so fundamental?); set aside time to answer email instead of letting it interrupt other tasks (there is that myth of being able to multi-task again); and keep a personal work journal to reinforce your lessons learned and insights gained.  I was also warned there would be a period of adjustment but to stick to the plan through the pinch.
Goal setting tools

Online advice abounds about how to work less.  I especially liked the 6 Rules to Work Less and Get More Accomplished. I guess it is about developing some good work habits with the same sense of mindfulness I apply to my morning routine of meditation and yoga practise.

If you know how to change your habits, then even a small effort can create big changes. 

You Tube interview with author John Tierney
A book that counsels strongly against New Year's Resolutions is Willpower.  The authors point out we only have a limited amount to go around, so not to squander it.  The Notables Globe review by Amy Knight says this book is worth 'at least ten therapy sessions'.  The synopsis in this New York Times Review shares key messages, but I think I'll be going for the full-length edition of Willpower.

Hamlet's Black Berry was also on the Notables list and dovetails nicely with my resolution.  The author gets his family to agree to an Internet Sabbath and shares the essential discovery, "In order to benefit most from new technologies we need to use them less."  In work terms, this will translate to a more focused approach to responding to email.

I've heard a few people say their resolution is to "laugh more often"...  and why not add some of that at work, too?  I've long promised myself I'd check our a laughter yoga session, and there are some here in Toronto.

This is becoming a worldwide movement., as John Cleese explores for the BBC:

For mundane and inspired ideas to add to your list of resolutions, check out this Generator.

illustration credit:  Revolutionart

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bonne Annee Soiree

What a wonderful way to ring in the New Year!

Caro feted us with a feast of crepes: Crêpe cake Béchamel et légumes; principal À la coquille Saint-Jacques; Crêpe déssert, Suzette. The wines were expertly paired. Champagne with the first course and a pinot noir/pinot gris from France with the Saint-Jacques. I didn't learn until very recently that Carolyn was a personal chef at one point in her career.  I should have guessed!

An amazing meal!  Cozy by the fire. Great company, of course! And my first ever winter moonlight hot tub.

A grandfather clock led the countdown into the New Year.

I love leisurely meals.... this was such a slow meal it folded over into the next morning, when we cleansed our palate with champagne granita & cassis.

Eventually Rob and I found our way to the Commodore's Levee at BPYC, wishing our fellow sailors a Happy New Year.

Even the trumpeters' were back after a long absence; with two young females and two young males promenading.

Altogether, an auspicious start to 2012!

illustration credit