Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon - August

August 31 was an excuse to do something you'd do at least "once, in a blue moon".

Rob and I spent it at BPYC with Liz and Darcy, watching the moonrise as we ate dinner.

Next Blue Moon?  2015!

Yonder creations' Blue Moon on Water

Julie London


Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis) Cowboy Junkies

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy holidays!

Kicking off a week long holiday. Tonight is the first night.

I started with a yoga class, thinking I was in for a restorative session and ending up doing demanding standing poses followed by challenging arm balances, shoulder stand variations, twists, and poses I don't know names for.

Opened up the last bottle of my Pinino 2005
This was one of those classes that made me wonder what the hell I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  On or off the mat.


art deco glass
When I got home I poured myself a glass of Brunello into a Lalique crystal.  Not just any crystal, but a work of art Rob bought his mom for her birthday 35+ years ago.  I find it so touching he used one of his first pay checks to get something so special for his mom.

I know, I know, it is a bit incongruous.  Yoga followed by wine.  Some might say it defeats the purpose, but I like living a life of contradictions.  It's not always a case of either/or; sometimes it's a case of  'and'.

Why not?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Sense of An Ending

It may be a slim volume but there's lots to savour in The Sense of an Ending.

The use of language, the symmetry of events, the mystery of time and memory.

It was the Book Babes selection this evening. Liz' pick.  She served a light supper and  Christina made Margaritas. It was a chance to catch up with people - Laura heading off on her travels, hearing about Nicki's wine-tasting, what's up with Pat's sabbatical.

Very convivial evening.

And one of the few books in many years that both Liz and Nicolette agree they enjoyed.  The only person that had a lukewarm reaction was Debra, who listened to the story on audiotape.  Maybe this is just one of those novels you need to read, instead of hear.

It is a fascinating way of telling and retelling a story.

It is not really plot-driven in the typical sense, but the novel does revolve around remembering and recasting a series of events based on rediscoveries, selective memories, and the sudden shock of new information.  Different lenses in time and the clarity or soft focus brought by point of view.  Or the same events, repeated with different characters, like the  two different suicides, years apart.

And because it is slim enough, it is easy to re-read.  The second time around I appreciated the literary technique all the more, but also the insights and ponderings.

"History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."

"Give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical."

"But time... how time first grounds us and then confounds us."

"May you be ordinary, as the poet once wished the newborn baby."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wake up and smell the coffee

Slept on the boat, and in the morning the cat nudged me awake.  

Rob had made his specialty morning coffee.  We've been enjoying it for months and it's become part of our morning routine. He makes it using the coffee maker we picked up in Tuscany, with skim milk steamed and frothed, topped with grated chocolate.  A daily indulgence!  Somehow it tastes even better on a Friday morning on the boat.

I wonder why that phrase, 'wake up and smell the coffee' is so often used in a negative way?  I guess it is the person is lost in their dreams and coffee is meant to be a sharp smell that snaps them back to reality.  But hey, reality can be pretty excellent sometimes and coffee smells great.

August refresh

The goldfish are the same colour as the nasturtiums.  On another day, with a better lens, I may be able to capture the image of the still flowers and the darting fish below, magic reflections swimming just below the surface.


A bit of a refresh was needed in the front garden.

As much as I loved the roses bushes in the front yard, they just weren't working.  They were hiding the red dragon maple and blocking the view of the garden just in back.  And they needed a fair amount of dead-heading and maintenance in summer months - not great for someone who works full time and sails in off hours.  In winter they looked like a tangle of twigs.

I wanted to remove the bushes but I was very conflicted about taking them out.  Conceptually I wanted them gone but I just couldn't bring myself to actually do it, so I hired someone for the dirty work.  I have to admit it was nice walking down the street and seeing all the work completed.  Kathy did a great job and I will likely get her help again in the future.

To fill the new space, I'm looking for some low lying juniper or dwarf blue-green conifers and lots and lots of bulbs for spring.  That way I will have all season interest and fairly low maintenance, a perfect combo.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summertime and the reading is easy

on pour this evening....
Straccali, Chianti, Tuscany DOCG $12.95
Montecillo, Crianza, La Rioja, Spain $14.95
Christian Moueix Merlot, Bordeaux $14.95
Flat Roof Manor Merlot, South Africa $11.95
A small group of BPYC Book Babes got together to talk about their summer reads and enjoy a summer night on the deck.

There were some titles worth putting on the 'to read' list, along with some wonderful wines to complement the conversation.

Grace is reading La Sombra Del Viento, by Carlos Ruizzafon, in Spanish.  The author is slated to visit the Toronto Public library this coming autumn.  I may try to delve into the English version of The Shadow of the Wind.  I like the concept of a Cemetery of Lost Books, and the idea that a story has the power to change your life forever.  This novel combines genres of thriller, history, mystery and comedy... Spanish fusion!

Annika talked frankly about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, originally written by Muriel Barbery in French and translated into English.  She really didn't like it much but suggested it would appeal to several of us at the table, having gotten to know some of our literary tastes.  I've heard the title before and it really sparks for me.

Kaarina read a passage from The Tin Roof Blowdown, by John Lee Burke.  The man can really paint a picture with his descriptions.  He takes the reader into the heart of the Katrina disaster.  The scene Kaarina shared was totally surreal, shocking, and darkly comic.  This prolific author has written 33 books, with this particular title from a series featuring Detective Dave Robicheaux.

Maureen was exploring Paris Without End, by Giola Diliberto, an account of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway.  This is billed as 'the true story of Hemingway's first wife,' and it brought Maureen to revisit For Whom the Bell Tolls.  Her choices had us discussing The Paris Wife, The Moveable Feast, The Old Man and the Sea, and the sheer pleasure of rereading old favourites.

Wendy was into thrillers this summer, including Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  The heroine plots her own murder as a way out of a terrible marriage.  Sounds intriguing...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

La Tour de By

I believe this is the nicest glass of wine I've poured myself all summer.

I went poking about for a bottle of red and plucked this off my shelf.  To tell the truth I wasn't sure about whether to save if for a 'special' occasion, so I double-checked with my sommelier (a.k.a. google).

She told me it was best to drink 2007-2012.  Good thing I checked, I would hate to have had it slip past the best-before date.  Live for the present!

2003 is a recommended vintage, too.  What a happy coincidence.

I'm feeling a bit guilty now, maybe I should have planned a meal around this bordeaux, it's so scrumptious.   Lamb is a recommended match.  So is ossau-iraty or roquefort cheese...  I'll have to pick some up on my way home from work tomorrow.

Beautiful garnet colour, nice legs, great dimension, and amazing finish!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Kiss

I've never read any of her novels and Rob was a bit surprised to see me with The Kiss, by Danielle Steel.

This is her 53rd best selling novel.

Someone at work recommended it as a light summer read, and I thought, why not?  The woman has sold more than 500 million books, she must be doing something right.

It held my interest to the bitter end, maybe because I felt like shouting at the characters for their stupidity.

It is a story of unrequited love between two people who are otherwise married to absolute cads.  The woman, Isabelle, is a recluse devoted to nursing her gravely ill son. Her love for her son traps her in a joyless marriage, because she fears she would have no other way to take care of him (this is France, free medicare and a generous social state).  She meets a man on one of her few evenings out, who happens to be rich and powerful.  They connect, form a deep friendship and  continue a chaste relationship by telephone for five years, until.... they arrange a weekend in London to visit art museums.  Two separate rooms (no sex, of course!).
After two wonderful days together, they finally kiss.  That's when a bus hits their car, killing 12 people and leaving them near dead.  (How's that for punishment?)

In hospital, they lay near each other and hold hands and speak of their loveless marriages.  The man realizes he will never walk again and will likely never be able to have sex; he decides he is not worthy, lies to her and stops seeing her.  Months go by, they never stop loving each other, or thinking about each other, and it seems they will never unite.

435 pages of obstacles to overcome.  Until literally, the very last paragraph, when the author finally allows them to requite the unrequited.    For a bit I thought they really weren't going to get together after all, until....... well, here's the climax, the very last words in the book:
... He had tried to protect Isabelle, but he couldn't anymore.  She had a right to choose her own fate, and this time maybe even his. 
Isabelle smiled at him, and whispered "hello" as she kissed him and he held her tight.

Beautiful painting.

Crappy book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Retirement planning

A book called, 'Free at 45:  How to retire early and happy' caught my eye at the library.  A quick and interesting read, it gives some great advice on preparing for retirement, regardless of age.

Although I enjoy my work, mostly, attending some recent retirement parties has put the subject in my mind.  Many of our friends at BPYC are happily enjoying their retirement years, living wisely and well.

Financial planning is one aspect... market forecasts these days are bleak and it is hard to project what will happen long term.

Rule of 72
  • How long will it take for your money to double? interest percentage times the number of years it takes to double a principal amount of money is approximately equal to 72.
4% rule
  • Safe withdrawal rate:  you can sustainably withdraw about 4% of your capital in a diversified portfolio each year for about 30 years.
  • Is that 4% enough of an annual allowance to live on (combining it with CPP, OAS, company pension etc).

Who really knows if my company pension and personal fortunes will withstand the challenging fiscal times ahead? 

The flip side, though, is why wait until retirement to do the things you want?  Who says you will have the wealth, health, or inclination when the time comes?  

One of the things I liked about the book is that it challenged me to think about the things that bring me real happiness and enjoyment.  How am I currently spending my time?  Am I enjoying it?  Luckily there isn't a big discrepancy for me between what I love to do and the activities that fill my day.  I feel blessed to have many diverse interests and active pursuits in addition to challenging work that I enjoy.

There was some good advice about living frugally.  Not living 'cheaply', but spending money wisely: thinking twice before making purchases, and looking for value-priced alternatives.  Why buy something cheap if you'll only have to replace it sooner?  Why spend more for the higher priced item if it doesn't give you a noticeable return on investment?  Common sense advice that bears repeating.  These days Rob and I will often judge a big-ticket item by whether  or not it is worth working a few extra years to pay the sticker price.

There is a section about putting the numbers together that I'm still slogging through about identifying start amounts, withdrawal rates and end amounts.

I particularly like this advice:
When you begin to consider retirement, take a month, or even six! - off.  Use vacation time or take an unpaid leave of absence and test drive your retirement.  Live on your retirement budget and do the things you planned to do to be happy and see how it goes.  Then go back to work for at least a month after your break.  Write up a list of what you liked or didn't like about working and about your test retirement.  This is a great way to identify worries and put your mind at ease about when to pull the plug and retire completely.
I see myself working for at least another 10 years, but it never hurts to plan ahead.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Long, hot summer

Snaps from my back garden in early August.


Calla lilies - will they bloorm?

... my favourite pot of the summer!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

BPYC Weekend

The weekend was grey and blustery, so although we had planned a to sail over to the Island, we decided instead to pretend we'd just spent 10 hours sailing to BPYC as a destination.

Great weather for watching DVDs, reading, blogging, and walking along the shore.  This is a beautiful spot, rain or shine.

Saturday night there was a basin party, with all three yacht  clubs taking a turn to host.  First, it was to Cathedral Bluffs for dinner:  pulled pork, corn on the cob, barbecue chicken, and cold slaw.  Then, on to Highland for the first band of the evening (7 - 9:30), and to  BPYC (9:30 - midnight) for the second. I literally danced all night!

Sunday morning, the gentle rocking of the boat and waking up, realizing where I was and that it was the weekend - not a workday - so I could dip back into catching the magic fragments of my dreams.  Flying carpets, Parisian coffee houses, international intrigue.

There was a window for sailing on Sunday, but we decided to enjoy another lazy day dockside.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Water gardening

.. or is it water weeding?

Down at the dock, just behind our sailboat Yondering, were two floating masses of milfoil almost large enough to name as independent islands.

Eurasian water milfoil has been living up to its reputation as an invasive species in Bluffers Basin.  Introduced to North America in the late 19th century, this is now one of the most widely distributed invasive aquatic plants on the continent.  The problem is that it grows so densely and rapidly, destroying habitat for native plants and making the environment less hospitable for fish.  It's also a problem for swimmers and boaters.

Unfortunately, once milfoil gets established it is next to impossible to permanently eradicate.

Our basin Federation does take some measure, using pesticides once or twice in the season. But you can't use toxics so lethal they kill everything in the environment.   It's a delicate balance.  BPYC has invested in a water rake system that tears the milfoil up at the root, but that leads to other problems:  floating masses and unwitting propagation.  The green demons are spreading!

Time for some old-fashioned weeding.

Worried that these pests would tangle with our inboard motor, we grabbed the club skiff and a couple of rakes, motored to our slip, and started pulling green masses from the water.  Enough to fill the tarp that was laid out on the boat bottom with several bushels.  Then we motored back to the mast crane, hoisted the stinky bundle in the air and unceremoniously dumped it in the growing pile of weeds on shore.

My forearms are now covered in a rash - I hope the aloe onboard takes  care of the itching.  Next time I will wear some rubber gloves.

Some areas actually hire divers to hand weed.  Hmmm, maybe this is something we can put on the duty roster....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wilson New York

Long weekend!

We left the dock Friday morning at the same time we usually head to work, so the sail over to the south side of Lake Ontario was doubly delicious.  I spent the day in my p.j.s, lounging above and below deck, reading, drinking tea.

After tying up at Tuscarora we biked in to the 'main drag', where hundreds of motorcycles had come from miles around for Bike Night.  Our foldable bicycles brought us some compliments, but they looked a little geeky parked next to the Harleys and Indians.

Early to bed, and not-so-early-to-rise.  Saturday the local business association was putting on a farmer's market and wine tasting.  I picked up a bottle of mead for novelty's sake.  It's not exactly sauterne, but it will be quite summery served chilled with a few frozen strawberries.

We took a few dinghy rides into the marsh.  The territory reminded me a lot of our own Rouge Park as we floated past 2M / 7F  high bullrushes.  We turned the motor off to try to catch some of the wildlife:   turtles basking on old logs, herons fishing and fish jumping.

A contingent of Bluffers was invading the Island Yacht Club for their annual fundraising festivities.  We joined in for the Cheeseburger in Paradise party, everyone dressed down in their tropical finery.  The band had a chance to play one set before the skies opened up to thunder and lightning.  It was quite the downpour, cooling everyone off from the 35C / 95F degree heat.  Bring it on!

Another highlight was the Poker Run - dinghy riders dressed as pirates, gathering cards from participating venues - highest poker hand wins.  Although Rob and I didn't race, we did get to enjoy the hospitality at Madview.  The host, Isabella, gave a tour of her property, both inside and out.  Great gardens and lots of different corners set to enjoy spectacular views.  It was hard to believe she picked up the property for $65K ten years ago.

Sunday night the lake was so turbulent the boats were bouncing at the docks.  Some spots were so rough people actually left for land to avoid being sea sick.  We were in a semi-sheltered spot but it was still pretty turbulent.

We set sail to return home Monday.  Favourable winds for almost eight hours, a wonderful sail, and no need to turn on the motor at all.  It was astoundingly clear.  We could see the CN Tower as we left Wilson Harbour,  and used it to guide our path home.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chianti Classico

I like to imagine Rob and I drove past this field when we were visiting Tuscany last September... maybe that's why I find myself picking up Peppoli fairly regularly.

Right now I'm sipping it in a Tuscarora slip, hiding from the mosquitoes.

Bluffers Moon - August

What a way to celebrate the first moon in August!  Swimming off the side of Yondering at the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs. and then watching the full moon rise over the lake.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lightning Moon - August

The first full moon of the month will rise around 11:28 p.m. on the first day of August.  

Grain moon, sturgeon moon, red moon, green corn moon, dog moon?  How about Lightning Moon?

It was great pleasure searching for full moon paintings to help honour the day, so many beautiful images to choose from.....

Full Moon Over the Pier

Full Moon Over the Sea

Spirit of the Night (detail)

Very Full Moon

Full Moon Over the Pier E. Giupponi
Full Moon Over the Sea Eric Tanghe
Spirit of the Night John Atkinson Grimshaw (special thanks to blogger codlinsandcream2 for posting about this moon-obsessed Victorian-era artist and helping me discover his work)
Very Full Moon Glenn Brady