Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mimico Cruising Club

Rob and I joined a club cruise, and headed to Mimico Saturday morning.

This is the furthest west I've gotten - usually travel east. Very bumpy on the way over... in fact the halyard hit the sky coming just out of Bluffers and we had to return to the mast crane. Grieg and Garth were there and helped fix us up, so we were back out in record time.

It's been about 5 years since we joined  a cruise and I forgot that tradition calls for everyone to share appetizers the first evening.  Luckily, I had enough cheese and sausage on hand to share.

I'd also picked up a selection of apples for a tasting: fuji, royal gala, granny smith, delicious, golden delicious.  Very distinct tastes, colours, and textures.  They really did have to be sampled soon after they'd been sliced, though, because the flavours became less intense the longer the flesh had been exposed.  The two that held up best were the Fuji and Granny Smith, something to keep in mind for future salads and such.

I love apples and apple picking.  We used to get a kick out of visiting The Big Apple when Alex was 'single digits', and still try to make it to Pieter's Appleyard in the autumn. According to these apple facts 7,500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world.  Even eating an apple day, it would take 20+ years to sample them all. But I digress...

We've got our dinghy motor fixed so hope to explore the creek before sailing back home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Alex snapped this photo of Griskit - about 4 months old.  Great shot of a blissed out kitty.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Infused Botanicals

I ran in to the LCBO to pick up some London Beefeater Gin but the pretty blue Saphire bottle caught my eye instead.

"Oh, you got that one," Rob said, expecting instead to see some strolling gent on the label. "A lot of people don't like the taste."

I was sceptical. Except for boutique brands like Hendrick's, I figured they'd all pretty much taste the same.  I sipped my next G&T with more awareness and enjoyed the slightly bitter taste.

The bottle is traveling with us on the boat, and after several days I noticed some etchings on the side of the tinted glass.

What gives Bombay its distinct taste are these infused botanicals:

  • Juniper Berries from Italy
  • Lemon Peel from Spain
  • Coriander from Morocco
  • Angelica Root from Saxony
  • Orris (Iris) Root from Italy
  • Grains of Paradise from West Africa
  • Cubeb Berries from Java
  • Cassia Bark from Indo China
  • Almonds from Spain
  • Licorice from China
The exotic flavours are vapour infused, rather than boiled together with the spirit, which yields "subtle aromatic flavours for a cleaner, crisper, more balanced taste."  From a recipe created in 1761.

The Bombay bottle is a great colour and the etchings are quite lovely.  It made me think of those bottle crafting kits a from a few years back, where you cut the glass and polish the edge.  Sure enough, there are some for sale through etsy "recycled botanicals."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Island Time

Perfect sail over to the Island - strong wind, rolling waves, sunny, and a brand new main sail.  When we got to the gap, racers from RCYC were heading out, and we had a close-up view of the floating parade.

Rob and I lucked out with a city view on a finger dock at Queen City.  Penny and Alex ferried across and when night fell, we toured the islands on our bikes.  Glowing light through cottage windows, stars above the boardwalk, indigo horizon from the pier.  What a wonderful night!

In the morning we had a big breakfast at the clubhouse, and on the way back to the boat, the book mobile was open for business.  I picked up a beach read and will be heading out to Gibraltar soon to listen to waves.  If it's not too cold, a jump in the lake... I love these summer days.

Throughout July Rob and I have taken Fridays off and these long weekends are wonderful.  So far, we've spent them all on the boat, and weather permitting, at the island.  It's almost starting to feel like our summer home. Last weekend was a mix of QCYC and RCYC, the weekend before a mix of anchoring and tying up at Hanlan's Point.  No two trips are ever quite the same.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At Home

I love trivia and historical facts, so I knew I would appreciate being At Home with Bill Bryson. Exploring his rectory, room by room, he recounts fascinating details about things we so often take for granted.  Salt and pepper, upholstered furniture, the telephone....

I'll often read a novel or book and think how it would translate cinematically... this time I was thinking what a great rich media experience it would be, embedding hot spots about the room and having people click and explore.

This was Pat's pick for the Book Babes and it generated lots of discussion and laughter.  In my kobo I've annotated 19 pages so far and I'm not yet done reading the text. I can see myself buying a hard copy of this to keep to keep handy, to pick up and graze and snack as time permits.

As much as I enjoyed reading it, I'd often hit a wall and feel as though my brain and thoughts were suddenly bloated.  I'd over-indulged, binged, and not been aware just quite when I'd crossed that line.

I'm not going to transcribe all of my annotations or I'd be re-typing the book, but here are some of the quotes I found irresistible:

  • Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up.  
  • That's what history mostly is:  masses of people doing ordinary things.
  • People moved around the house looking for shade or sunlight and often took their furniture with them, so rooms, when they were labelled at all, were generally marked 'mattina' (for morning use) or 'sera' (for afternoon).
  • By 1851, one-third of all the young women in London - those aged from about 15 to 25 - were servants.... another one in three was a prostitute.
  • Virginia Woolf's diaries are almost obsessively preoccupied with her servants and the challenge of maintaining patience with them.  Of one she writes: 'She is in a state of nature, untrained, uneducated... so one sees a human mind wriggling and undressed.'
  • Where Edison truly excelled was as an organizer of systems.  The invention of the lightbulb was a wondrous thing but of not much practical use when no one had a socket to plug into.  Edison and his tireless workers had to design and build the entire system from scratch.
You get the idea.....  the work is very tangential, loosely organized, very non linear, and absolutely enjoyable.

I think Nicolette summed it up well as, "the perfect bathroom reader."

Saturday, July 14, 2012


This week, when "Yoga in the Heart of the City" broke for lunch, I headed to the vegan and macrobiotic eatery Kale for nourishment.  One of my favourite items on the menu was the spicy tofu burger, topped with avocado.  Delicious!

Practise makes perfect

The week-long 'Yoga in the Heart of the City' was aptly referred to as 'an intensive.' Putting a chunk of time aside to focus on asana and yoga accelerates progress and helps to inform and transform daily practise.

Most of us can't head off to an ashram for two or three months.  We are householders, with lives and commitments that keep us 'in the city', and that's where we need to learn to practise yoga.

It's taken me quite awhile to get to the point of practising every day, but for the past year I have been doing a combination of yoga/meditation. As a result of the intensive I plan to make some changes.

bhujangasana (cobra pose)
Twice Marlene pointed out I was walking around with my hands crossed in front of my body or slightly hunched.  This type of posture is often seen in the cardiac patients that come to seek treatment.  Backbending and poses that expand the chest are the asana prescribed for their condition.  Heart problems do tend to run in my family, so I will take some preventative measures and weave more backbends into my daily practise. And try to stop walking around with poor posture.

I'm toying with the idea of switching up pranayama with the sitting meditation I'm doing, but I'm really attached to my Buddhist meditation (ha ha - buddhists are supposed to practise non attachment).  I'll have to thnk more about how I incorporate more pranayama into my routine

Since I've spent hours analyzing revolved or reversed triangle and looking for new ways to approach this pose,  I'll add parivritta trikonasana at least a few times a week.

And I felt really invigorated by new approaches to being upside down, with pincha mayurasana (feathered peacock pose or elbow balance),  salamba sirsasana versions (headstand) and adho mukha vrksasana (handstand).  So, definitely more inversions.  Combining a backbend with an inversion in a pose like urdhva-dhanurasana (dance-wheel), over the back of a chair and with the help of a belt, would combine the best of a few worlds.

Last but not least, something I have told myself at least once before... and that is to include a conscious savasana (corpse pose) at the end of asana practise.  B.K.S. Iyengar commented that this asana is the hardest to properly master.  It takes some discipline, because at that point the session seems finished and it is time to run off to the next part of the day.  Someone at the workshop said something that stuck with me, "I do savasana when I lie down to go to sleep at the end of each day.  This pose will be the last pose I ever do in this life, and it will lead me to what lies beyond."   These insights will help me bring new awareness to savasana.

illustration of savasana

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yoga in the Heart of the City

I took a week's vacation to replenish at a workshop held at the Toronto Yoga Centre.  After the first day I came home feeling exhausted and a bit defeated.  After the second day, I still felt exhausted but a bit less defeated.  To tell the truth, if this had been pay-as-you-go I might not even have shown up for Wednesday.

This was hard work.  Where was the jubilation and exhilaration I had felt when I attended in 2010?  Immediate gratification wasn't on the itinerary.

We started each day with one hour pranayama, followed by 2 hours asana.  The full day program included afternoon classes in symbolism, where we further explored the meaning behind the poses.  When we introduced ourselves the first day after lunch, I discovered ten of the thirteen who had signed up were in the first or second year of rigorous teacher-training and had to attend because this was part of their curriculum. What had I gotten myself into, I wondered?

I reminded myself that I was there because I wanted to deepen my daily practice, and  I also wanted to spend more time with Marlene, a gifted and inspiring teacher.

B.K.S. Iyengar in Parivrtta Trikonasana
One more day to go and I can say I've now been able to take certain concepts and feel them on a visceral level that will transform the way I approach my yoga.  This workshop has definitely renewed my practice.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle) seems to be my nemesis.  I only need to hear the words and my whole body tightens up, which makes it even harder to take the shape of this asana.  What is it about this pose that defeats me?  I spent a great deal of time analyzing that and trying to understand new ways to approach the conundrum.  I fixated on the pose for quite some time, forgetting there was another dimension to this question.  My visceral revelation was that the pose itself is just a small part  of my yoga, the real yoga is the pursuit of the answers to those questions.  One of the insights I had was to try to find the triangles in space and let that space support me. Of course yoga is far more than asana, it is transporting those attitudes and insights to other parts of your life.  As Iyengar himself would say, life is yoga, yoga is life.

Everyone was working with different poses in different ways and today we shared some of those insights and revelations.  It was incredible to hear everyone speak from their heart.  There were many powerful stories in the room and great diversity.  People from other countries, different faiths, some working through the loss of loved ones, a few established teachers speaking about what drives them... I felt humbled and very connected to those other souls who just days before were perfect strangers.  What had changed was my level of understanding of their journey, and comprehending we were all  sharing the same path to some extent.  This feeling of connectedness is also yoga - the 'union'.  I love catching a glimpse of this, however fleeting.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Remarkable Women

Instead of a book, I chose a theme:  any biography or autobiography of a woman.  Which led to a wonderful summer evening talking with the remarkable women from my book club(s) about our picks at BPYC.  More than one observed how many more biographies seem to be available at bookstores and on library shelves about men.  Yet women are the ones doing most of the reading these days.  Go figure.

Here are some of the titles we talked about:

Oprah by Kitty Kelly:  Both Laura and Kaarina admitted they weren’t going to finish this one.  The author didn’t seem to have anything nice to say about one of the most successful women in America today.   The book disclosed one sordid story after another:  Oprah's teen pregnancy, how her father isn’t really her biological father, how she stalked past boyfriends...  it was so unbalanced it left both our readers feeling “a little bit dirty.”  Perhaps since this unauthorized biography recounts what others have said and written, Kitty doesn't need to worry about a libel suit.

Keeping Peace by Mary Pipher: The subtitle is Confessions of the Worst Buddhist in the World.  Pat said this appealed because it fit in with her current studies while on sabbatical, but also and perhaps more importantly, because the book itself wasn’t overly long. The autobiography is written by the author of Reviving Ophelia, who recounts how the fame and bookselling tours that accompanied her time on the bestseller list contributed to a breakdown.  Meditation helped her regain her mental health.  The book delves into her daily practice.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by  Rebecca Skloot :  Nicki said she would recommend this book, and those of us who had already had the pleasure agreed it was a worthwhile read.  What struck Nicki most was how Henrietta’s family was not fully informed about the consequences of their decisions.  Discussion quickly turned to the history and nature of informed consent.  Things have come a long way in the past 100 years, but sometimes the subjects of these studies really don’t have the capacity or educational background to understand what’s printed on the forms they are signing.

Politics of Equality by Agnes Macphail:  Deborah’s choice was in part driven by the name of the Toronto street where she lives.   Our first female Member of Parliament (elected in Ontario 1921),  Agnes wasn’t so much an advocate for women’s rights as she was for human rights.  Outspoken about the two party system and prison reform, she dedicated her life to her causes.  Although Macphail never married she had 

Nellie McClung by Charlotte Grey:  Nicolette chose this installment from the Extraordinary Canadians series.  Although Macphail and McClung were contemporaries they lived in different provinces.  McClung was for women's suffrage, temperance and sterilization of the feeble-minded.  She presided over a mock parliament and proclaimed:   If men were all so intelligent as these representatives of the downtrodden sex seem to be it might not do any harm to give them the vote. But all men are not so intelligent. There is no use giving men votes. They wouldn't use them. They would let them spoil and go to waste. Then again, some men would vote too much...Giving men the vote would unsettle the home....The modesty of our men, which we reverence, forbids us giving them the vote. Men's place is on the farm...It may be that I am old-fashioned. I may be wrong. After all, men may be human. Perhaps the time may come when men may vote with the women--but in the meantime, be of good cheer. Advocate and Educate.

The Sum of Our Days by Isabelle Allende:  Miriam's pick featured the autobiography of a favourite storyteller.  This is Allende's third memoir and it goes into some detail about the cast of characters in her own life.  From Miriam's reaction, this didn't seem to resonate as much as the author's tales of magic realism.

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff:  I picked this book because I was intrigued by the cover that depicts the back of a woman’s head, her hair woven with pearls.  Most first-hand accounts from Cleopatra have been destroyed, along with statues bearing her likeness.  It was standard operating practice for conquerors of the day to erase the previous rule.  From the image of Cleopatra on surviving coins, we can tell she wasn’t a remarkable beauty. This Pulitzer-winning author uses other sources to puzzle together the life of the last great Empress of Egypt. Cleopatra’s intelligence, charm, political savvy, and incredible wealth were among the charms that attracted both Caesar and Marc Anthony to the woman who would bear their children.  I was surprised to learn she was a contemporary of Herod and lived within the half-century before Christ.  I didn’t realize ancient Egypt and ancient Rome were so clearly adjacent to new testament times.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Full Thunder Moon - July.

Sunday night someone said the moon was full, and I politely disagreed.  It was an egg shape.  Waxing.  But full?  Definitely not!  They insisted, so I guess the moon was full enough for them.

I watched it rising from the lake and above the trees down at BPYC Monday night and it looked full enough to me.

But it is 'officially' full on July 3rd around 2 p.m.

After a long weekend on the boat I am inclined to call it a Sailor Moon. Hot as it was, the lake is still not warm enough to swim.  Maybe next weekend?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cavalia - Odysseo

What a feast for the senses!

Many years ago, I attended a performance of this company with the hope of matching the way I felt when I saw Cirque du Soleil for the very first time - overwhelmed by wonder.  Although the show was a unique combination of acrobatics and horsemanship, it didn't quite live up to Cirque.  Sometimes it seemed like a series of stunts on horseback.  I delayed getting tickets this time around but word of mouth convinced me to give Odysseo a chance.

The show was well worth the price of admission.  The staging was spectacular and the choreography was almost flawless.

I was in a dream state the entire performance.  The dance between night and day, male and female, human and beast.  Contrast but also union.  Near the end of the performance, the stage fills with water and the horses gallop under a night sky.  Unforgettable. Transcendent.

Afterward we went back and into the stables.  The horses are such gentle creatures, with big huge eyes.     Gorgeous animals.

Days later I am still wondering, "how did they do that?"  Getting all those horses to perform on cue must be a feat of magic.

In creating a show in which more than sixty horses are either performing or training at all times, Cavalia takes significant steps to protect the well-being of its horses. Many of the show’s routines emphasize the natural tendencies of the horses, enabling them to find pleasure in play and performance. In addition to the dozens of performers and stagehands, most of whom become palpably attached to the horses with whom they work, Cavalia also employs a team of twenty people simply to ensure the constant care of the animals, from a stable manager, two veterinary technicians, a blacksmith and several grooms, to other personnel who help with everything from maintaining the health of the animals’ hooves, coats and manes, to such enjoyable activities as play, exercise, and training, as well as pampering when the day is done through showers, grooming, massages, treats, and more.  World of Cavalia