Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's official!

Sailing season has begun!  Yondering is in the water.
Walking down the dock, none of the masts were up on Sunday morning.  We're waiting for new furling, so instead of hoisting we were swabbing the decks.

Enjoyed an amazing day watching the swallows and reading a book in the sun.

Friday, April 27, 2012

C'est Bon

What a great day at work!  It was a long week, tough slogging, but then as if by magic everything seemed to go well today.  Some key initiatives approved for moving ahead, key partner meetings progressing, and barriers to projects seeming to disappear.  Almost spooky.

At lunch I popped by the new Loblaws on College Street for a salad, and I admit, to check out their now almost-famous Cheese Wall.  I ended up walking out with a mouth-watering selection:

  • Devil's Rock Creamy Blue Cheese, cow's milk (Thornloe Ontario)
  • Juliette, artisinal goat cheese (Saltspring Island)
  • Manchego, sheep's milk (Spain)  

Dinner tonight is a cheese plate, fresh fruit (apples, pears, raspberries), nuts, olives and Ace crackers.  Everything in moderation, of course.

To go with my decadent feast, and perhaps inspired by the Luncheon of the Boating Party this week, I picked up a lovely Bordeaux (Saint-Emilion)  on the way home.

Now all I have to do is arrange and serve.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Luncheon of the Boating Party - 3

Tonight we discussed the Book Babes book pick, Luncheon of the Boating Party. Although this wasn't my selection, I'd been a strong proponent, having read the book before and sincerely enjoyed it.  My recollection was that the BPYC book club had also been unanimous in a positive review, but memory is selective.  In fact, there were mixed reviews.  Same thing tonight.

Many people just felt there wasn't enough substance to grab them and pull them into the plot.  Not enough mystery or depth.

Personally, I don't think the author of this book professes it is great literature, but it is a great backstory to an interesting period in history.  Reading it whet my appetite for Impressionism, food, libation.

Luncheon of the Boating Party was a very difficult painting to orchestrate.  Eight weeks, with the quality of the light limited not just by the season, but by the length of the sitting.  The light just right, the gazes perfectly choreographed.  It took great effort to concoct such a perfect moment in time.  The essence of conviviality.

Context is everything.  Just coming out of the Prussian war and its horrible deprivations, this painting depicts a beguiling portrait of a life of ease and plenty.  Not something many were experiencing at the time.  Is it shallow to seek those moments?  Maybe, if it is at the exclusion of all else, but I ask you, what's wrong with the company of good friends, great food and wonderful wine?

Caillebotte - 1875
The Impressionists have found great favour today but were outcast in the formal world of art when they made their debut.

Tonight we also talked about the work of Gustave Caillebotte.  Nicki saw his paintings in Paris and says they were absolutely astounding in person.  Seeing something in one dimension is so limiting, but in person, far more of an impact.  Scale plays a part.  Usually we see something on a computer screen or in a book, when displayed full size it is much bigger with a far more imposing presence.  Size matters, but it is also the layers of colour and the dimension.

Maybe one day I will experience the work in 3D, I hope so, as nothing quite beats seeing the real thing.  Especially in Paris.  So I am posting a copy of one of Gustave Caillebotte's stunners, in the hope I may one day be close enough to touch the original.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mixie the Cat

She has been with the family since 1994 and died today.  

Alex was at home with her and called me at work with tears in his voice.  We've had this cat since before he was in Kindergarten, and he can't really remember a time when she wasn't around.  I still remember when he struck up a conversation with a girl he just met, he must have been about 7 at the time, and his opener was, "I have a cat named Mixie," as though that would be enough to suitably impress.
Mixie was a great cat, well tempered, affectionate, and gorgeous.  We picked her up at the Humane Society, her chart said she was a 'rescue cat' but didn't elaborate, and they estimated her age to be 1.  That was eighteen years ago.  We figure she may have been a Norweigan Forest Cat or possibly, part Maine Coon.

She lived her long life happily.

I'll remember her enjoying the garden, rolling in the clover, catching snowflakes on her tongue, digging in the dirt, and going out to the pond to drink like a lioness. 

1994 - 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

... A sudden, irreversible urge to lead a more spontaneous existence....

Bobby McFerrin's instrument is uniquely his own.  His voice, his timing, his improvisation... no one elses.

Last week's concert was unlike any other I've attended.  He called for volunteers from the audience who were serious about dancing to come on stage and perform.  I didn't think anyone would, but four different girls from different parts of Roy Thomson Hall took him up on his offer.  It was improvisational dance and vocals, a spontaneous combustion.

Music for me is like a spiritual journey down into the depths of my soul.  And I like to think we're all on a journey into our souls. What's down there?  That's why I do what I do.
- Bobby McFerrin

When he invited singers from the audience at least ten people rushed to the stage.  People were eager to sing everything from opera to classical arias to rap to jazz.  Bobby would ask people's names, and then depending on their ethnicity, he would become Roberto, Robbie, Bob.  There was lots of laughter as well as vocal improvisation as he played with each. As he said, musicians are one of the few professions that get to play for a living.  Such a generous spirit, he shared the stage and gave the volunteers a night they will remember forever.  

I was half-hoping for 'Don't Worry Be Happy', but didn't expect he'd perform the tune.  That hit was more than twenty years ago.  McFerrin is known as much today for his musical collaborations with Yo Yo Ma and Chick Corea, as well as for conducting symphony orchestras around the world.  Accomplished and diverse, he has won ten grammy awards.

Listening to Bobby McFerrin sing may be hazardous to your preconceptions. Side effects may include unparalleled joy, a new perspective on creativity, rejection of the predictable, and a sudden, irreversible urge to lead a more spontaneous existence.

True dexterity and a taste for exploration. A great sense of humour and joy. What a very uplifting musical evening!

When I came home I popped 'Don't Worry' into the CD player and it became an ear worm for me the rest of the week.

Here's another favourite:

Musical Chimes

The idea is that the little bowls collect rain drops and then tinkle together when they fill and spill.  Still haven't heard them in action, but they sure are pretty!

When I saw these in Granville Island I knew I had to find a way to get them home.  Fortunately, it wasn't as much of a challenge as I thought it would be to pop it in a box and carry on.  Now I have a great reminder of our trip in my back garden, even though it turns out they are available online from Amazon

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April showers

There was a light drizzle this morning.  It looks like the day will be cloudy but no more rain in the sky.  A good day to get out and pull some weeds.

At the garden club last Thursday, I picked up a couple of interesting tips from James Graham who came to speak about frugal gardening:  
  • To get an early jump on slug-eating-hostas, mix one part ammonia to nine parts water into watering can and water your hostas.  The slug larvae will disappear and the ammonia ends up acting as a fertilizer.
  • When potting, skip the expensive potting mix.  Rip up newspapers and put them into the bottom of the pot.  Use topsoil, but mix it with either dried leaf debris or un-composted compost (banana peel, coffee or tea grounds etc).  This will nourish the plants and reduce requirements for watering.
  • Strips cut from nylons/pantyhose make great plant ties and are fairly invisible.
  • To block weeds and as an undercover for mulch, cardboard works great (just be sure it overlaps and there are no gaps); cover with mulch.  The liquor store is a good source of free boxes and they are a good weight for the purpose. 
I've lost lots of tulips over the winter to the squirrels but they seem to leave the daffodils alone.  Some of the prettiest daffs in the garden, big-headed like peonies, are just too big-headed for their own good and are toppling over. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, I'm sure...

Budding: tree peony, late tulips 
Blooming:  tulips, daffodils, muscari, hellobore, primrose, foamflower, bleeding heart, violets, pulminaria 
Done blooming:  bloodroot, purple star flowers

Thanks to Alex for the photos; my point and shoot just isn't doing it for me these days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

25 books - a silver anniversary!
The BPYC Book Club celebrated 25 books with 25 delicious red velvet cupcakes specially baked by Annika.

Each muffin was adorned with a miniature book cover of one of the titles we'd read. (This photo was snapped with my cell phone and didn't turn out so well - hopefully someone else has a better shot.)

o yes, the book, The Sea Captain's Wife, was enjoyed by all.  An appropriate pick for a sailing club!

I didn't even realize I'd be celebrating 2 silver anniversaries this month!

Our group has sampled a good mix of titles:  historical fiction, memoir, non-fiction, suspense.  Almost half the books are by Canadians - three of whom have been able to attend the meetings in person.

2 1/2 years have passed in good company.

Book Meet Title Author Published Host
Nov 2009 Crow Lake Mary Lawson 2002 Maureen
Jan 2010 Origin of Species Nino Ricci 2008 Diane
Feb 2010 Life of Pi Yann Martel 2001 Robyn
March 2010 The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo Stieg Larsson 2005 Annika
Apr 2010 Three Cups of Tea Greg Mortenson 2006 Anne
May 2010 The Last Station Jay Parini 1990 Rebecca
June 2010 Prisoner of Tehran Marina Nemat (Attended) 2007 Margret
July 2010 The Kitchen’s God’s Wife Amy Tan 1991 Wendy
Aug 2010 All over but the Shoutin' Rick Bragg 1997 Dianne G.
Sep 2010 Splicing the Light John Stewart  (Attended) Joan
Oct 2010 Book of Negroes Lawrence Hill 2007 Carina
Nov 2010 Luncheon of the boating party Susan Vreeland 2007 Maureen
Jan 2011 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García 1967 Grace
Feb 2011 My Secret Daughter Shilpi Somaya Gowda 2010 Wendy
March 2011 Water for Elephants Sara Gruen 2006 Carina
Apr 2011 Any known Blood Lawrence Hill 1998 Annika
May 2011 An Embarrassment of Mangoes Ann Vanderhoof 2004 Rebecca
June 2011 Barnacle Love Anthony De Sa (Attended) 2008 Diane
Aug 2011 Recap of our summer read
Sep 2011 The Help Kathryn Stockett 2009 Anne
Oct 2011 Sarah's Key  Tatiana de Rosnay 2006 Maureen
Nov 2011 The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot 2010 Joan
Jan 2012 Snow Flower and The Secret Fan Lisa See 2005 Wendy
Feb 2012 Year of  Wonder Geraldine Brooks 2001 MajLis
March 2012 Before I go To Sleep S.J. Watson 2011 Annika
April 2012 The Sea Captain's Wife  Beth Powning 2010 Maureen
May 2012 The Art of Racing in the rain Garth Stein 2008 Margret
June 2012 At Home Bill Bryson 2010 Carina
Aug 2012 Recap of our summer read
Sept 2012
Oct 2012
Nov 2012
Dec 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sea to Sky Country

Hi-Way 99 travels along between the sea and mountains.  Today Rob and I rented a car and travelled along the route between Vancouver and Whistler.  When we left, the morning sky was clouded over and looked like rain, but the weather took a turn for the better and the sun came out to glisten on the water and paint the mountain tops.  A picture perfect day!

When we got to Whistler we rode in the gondola.  At least half an hour to the top of Whistler!  I thought we were already high, but the car kept ascending and ascending.  Incredible.  Then we rode in a glass-bottomed gondola to the Blackcomb peak.  It felt like flying, up close enough to touch the clouds.

peak-to-peak experience

glass-bottom gondola

Sky to Sea Country

Shannon Falls

Howe Sound

Touring Vancouver

Thursday morning, Rob and I have breakfast at The Public Market, listening to a street musician playing some Neil Young covers, and then we hop on a Big Bus for a tour of Vancouver:  Gas Town,  Chinatown, Robson, Davie, and Stanley Park among the stops.

At home in Toronto the magnolias died a premature death because of the drastic swings in temperature, so  I'm rejuvenated to see cherry blossoms and magnolias in bloom all over this city.

After doing 1.25 times around the Big Bus circle, we  get off at Stanley Park and don't get back on again.  With 45 minutes between buses, and a less than reliable schedule, we figure it's not worth the wait.

Totems in Stanley Park, a visit to Vancouver Library, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden in Chinatown, and a walk across the Granville Island Bridge.  After six hours walking, our feet are aching, but it somehow seems a fair enough price to pay.

squirrels at work?

Ming Dynasty garden in the heart of downtown

Vancouver's fabulous library

Friday, April 13, 2012

Granville Island

We spent the afternoon and evening exploring Granville Island.

After the train, our room at the Granville Island Hotel seems palacious. The views from our windows are gorgeous.

Lots of boats - sailboats, houseboats, tugboats, skiffs, kayaks, dragonboats. It's fun to watch the water traffic,

Very artistic community, with the Emily Carr University and Canadian Federation of Artists making their home here.  Carvers, weavers, ceramic artists, painters.  The Public Market close-by.

It's easy to walk everywhere and there is no shortage of cool stuff to buy.  I'm tempted by several vases, tea pots and mugs, but I'm already well-stocked at home.  But there is a garden thing-a-ma-jig - I've never seen anything like it, and it's only $60.  Several small copper bowls on sticks that catch raindrops and musically bounce against each other in the wind and rain. Just not sure I could get it home.   It is very heavy and I'm not sure how it could fly as carry-on.

At night we're out for a scrumptious meal at the Sand Bar, bumping into the singer/songwriter we met on our train trip who just happened to be seated at the table next to us.  Happy coincidence.

view from hotel window
view from Sand Bar restaurant

view from hotel window

Manitoba Mystery

The Legislature is unbelievably grand for this city of less than one million inhabitants.  

Built using Manitoba marble, the same stone that’s used on the capital buildings in Ottawa, and topped with by a Golden Boy. What has me laughing, though, is a secret that wasn’t revealed until about ten years ago, when Frank Albo was a young university student and looked up to contemplate two winged sphynxes decorating the façade.

He made the connection that typically, that duo would be the mark of a temple. Further research turned up other symbols:  horned beasts, medusas, skulls, fibernaci references.  Far too many to be mere coincidence. He wrote a paper about it, speculating freemasons actually designed it as a temple when it was built between 1911-1920. His thesis quickly circulated at the university and then on to the politicians at the legislature itself. 

The paper has spawned a book and documentary.

The politicos don't acknowledge or deny the findings, but people the world over are now fascinated by Winnipeg's Secret Code.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

O Canada!

We're traveling The Canadian with a deal of 75% off the regular fare.  I can't believe our luck!  

Four nights, four time zones, five provinces, one amazing country!  So vast and diverse.  Traveling by train, seeing and being here in these places makes me appreciate how special and vast Canada truly is. Slow travel by these days' standards, but a jubilant triumph of speed when the tracks were laid 100+ years ago.  What a difference a century makes.  Yet, the country is so unspoiled along the way, many of the sights must be much the same as they were at least a hundred years ago.

It is so nice not to be in a hurry to get somewhere, just to go for the sake of the journey.   To take pleasure in each others company.  We spent each day gazing at the landscape and soaking everything in...  

What a wonder-full way to spend an anniversary!

Train travel highlights.....


lounge car in caboose
full-on retro style!
Across from Union station we sat for the prix fix dinner at Epic in the Royal York, one of the oldest hotels in the city.  Rob and I enjoy our three-course meal  (note to self:  a deconstructed salad is a great theme to play with and Riesling makes for a great pairing!)

As we are checking in, one of the porters calls out to us, suggesting we divvy up and share one suitcase in the room and check the other bag.

photo credit
Then we’re onto the train, stuffing our stuff into small quarters. We're in the caboose, steps away from the lounge and observation cars.  The room is comfy but when the beds are pulled out there is just 2 feet or so to navigate.  Still, it seems luxurious; our own private space, a large window, a sink and toilet (shower down the hall).   

We enjoy champagne at the foot of the CN Tower and then set off into the night, the full moon chasing us as we sit in the dome observation car.


We wake in Northern Ontario to a clear, sunny morning. During the day the beds fold away and chairs come out.  Space enough to do some yoga.

The scenery is incredible.  So many lakes!  Conditions so tranquil the surfaces are like perfect mirrors.

Out the window I can see that pussy willows are coming in season.  Stands of birch dance by in a blurr.  And jack spruce, black spruce, white pine.  We see several sand hill cranes and at least one bald eagle.  Lots of ducks, mergansers most likely.

Like Rob and I, many fellow travelers are taking the journey as an end in itself, to relax and enjoy the scenery. Lots of different characters on the train!  Some people can’t fly for health reasons, like the guy with the recent brain aneurism. There is a punk-dressed girl who is returning for her fifth year of tree-planting.  Accents reveal several Americans, an Australian couple, and a few Brits.  

VIA also has a program where musicians ride free if they provide some entertainment, so we’re enjoying some live music.

We gain an hour when clocks are set to Central Standard Time.


The train pulls into Winnipeg and we get off to explore the city with a bus tour while they switch over to a new crew and replenish supplies.  We are at the Forks, so called because this is the meeting place of  the Assiniboine and Red River. 

Rob has often talked about Winnipeg and the Prairies because he was born and raised here until he was 17.  Still, I’m unprepared for the wide boulevards and grand homes along Wellington Avenue.  30+ golf courses within the city itself, a huge park with bison and a downtown that has doubled for Chicago in Hollywood films.

Right now I am enjoyed the view from our room, staring into the prairie’s vista.  Blue skies, puffy clouds, a golden carpet.  Becalmed.  I can’t help but think of Kuralek.

At the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border we will be at the midpoint of the transcontinental journey.
We pass at least three potash operations in Saskatchewan.  

The wind begins to pick up, putting whitecaps on ponds and spinning turbines on the farm equipment in the fields. The snow looks like a meringhe crust whipped up in some spots, drifting in others.

The sun takes a long, long time to set on the flat horizon.  Pink and gold.

We gain an hour when clocks are set to Mountain Standard Time.


The mountains start to come into view as we enter Alberta.  Seats on the two domed observation cars are coveted. Roughly 120 passengers and 50 seats.  Let's just say some are more inclined to share than others.

I feel that Kate Bush song in my head and to my fingertips.  WowWowWowWowWow.

Looking in one direction means you could potentially miss the other, equally stunning view out of the other window.

The scenery is mostly pristine and uninhabited, but along the way there are some cattle farms, logging operations, a pulp and paper mill, some gas wells and clear cuts.

The warm temperature is softening the snow and making it look like a soft, inviting pillow.

The Jasper train station is almost the same as it was in 1925. We are able to get off and explore the town.

A raven lectures me from the top of an old building, making popping and clicking sounds, full of ancient stories.  If I could only speak that language...
Back on to the train, where we see elk, bald eagle, and rocky mountain sheep enjoying the park at it's elevation of more than 13.5K.

Incredible!  Mount Robson is only visible 12 or so days each year, and we luck out to catch its full towering view.
Tonight the sun sets behind a mountain and there is only a brief burst of pink behind the Rockies.

We gain an hour when clocks are set to Pacific Standard Time.


Waiting for the shower door to open so I can take my turn, I'm staring out the window when the half moon pops into view from behind a mountain in Chilliwack.

Huge flourescent yellow ears seem to be sprouting from the forest floor.  What are those woodland flowers?

Coming into New Westminster, urban landscapes take over.  Within thirty minutes we've arrived at Vancouver station.

Pink and white cherry blossoms bursting.

We have arrived!

Eating in style

The meals on the train trip were so delicious!

I had to see how much space the chef and cook had to work in to prepare their 150 meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I caught them between sittings to take this shot.  Totally spotless after having just plated 50+ meals and waiting for the rush to begin for the second sitting.

Not much room! About maybe 55% the size of a train car.  Very efficient and not a spot of wasted space.

I kept a record of the mains I was served - each of these could easily have been served in a three star dining room.  With the bonus of incredible scenery.

perfectly fluffy cheese omelette with hashbrowns
blueberry pancakes
oatmeal with fresh berries

smoked salmon and potato pancakes

angus burger
yorkshire pudding cups with prime rib

prime rib
grilled duck

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Happy 25th!

To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, Rob and I are taking a train trip from Toronto to Vancouver.

Slow travel seems an entirely fitting way to honour the passage of time.

25 years!

Incredible how time flies, unbelievable, scary, wonderful, magic.  

It really doesn't seem that long ago that we held hands on a balcony in Zihuatanajo Mexico, impulsively getting married when we were on vacation.  The wedding may have been an impulse but we'd been living together for a few years and engaged for several months. Our friends Liz and Darcy were there to witness, and we celebrated officially with our family and friends with a big bash a few months later in July.

I am happy to be making life's journey with Rob, I can't imagine what my life would be without him by my side.