Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why Men Lie

Quite a lively conversation for Debra's book club pic, Why Men Lie.

It wasn't that we found the subject controversial, just that there were so many ways of interpreting events and plot turns.  Did it happen?  Didn't it happen? Adding one more layer to an interesting story.

Ambiguity leads to false conclusions within the plot itself:  Effie sees JC with women and quickly jumps to conclusions, especially since he doesn't mention context.  It turns out the prostitute he befriended was someone he was trying to convince to lead him to his estranged daugher; the woman who bends to kiss him lightly on the lips is revealed to be the daughter discovered.

JC commits errors of omission, forgetting to mention upcoming departures. And lies of convenience, such as when JC contrives a story that will bring him to Effie's doorstep for the first time.

Of course, different men have different reasons to lie.
Conor... told her up front there are always necessary lies - benevolent deceptions, he would call them. "Everybody has the capacity to lie, he said, 'But the biggest lie is always why we lie."

"So tell me, why do we lie?"

"Ask your brother... he'll know all about the Noble Lie."

"Have you ever been married, Conor?"


For Sextus,  "Truth isn't all that it's cracked up to be." 

I found Why Men Lie a great combo:  an easy read with depth, compelling characters and an interesting theme.  By the time I'd read this, I'd long forgotten details from The Bishop's Man, but like the idea of interlocking stories, and common events retold through other eyes. 

Otherwise mixed reviews for the evening... Some preferred The Bishop's Man.  Another disliked the story entirely.  Someone commented the ending was too abrupt.   Another took exception because they felt MacIntyre was far too self-congratulatory on having written from a female point of view. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Full Hunter's Moon - October

Cats, bats, owls... hunters all.
The Hunter's Moon was officially full at 3:50 p.m.

Watch Space Camera video live tonight for an up-close-and-personal view, or gaze from a distance the old fashioned way while the storm howls, adding even more atmosphere to a spooky night.

Halloween is in the air.


Sunday, October 28, 2012


Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh visited the Yoga Centre here in Toronto.  A longtime student of BKS, he is a gifted teacher himself.  Marlene, the centre's most senior teacher, holds him in great esteem. Spending a few days with him I understand why.  He was able to teach a room full of students and give new insights to all of us, regardless of our level.  Three days is not a long time, yet I am taking away insights that I know will carry through the lifetime of my practice.   

Day One:  The first night we laid the foundation for the next few days by focusing on standing poses.  In fact, the whole first hour was spent exploring tadasana.  The wall was a useful prop to bring greater awareness to the back of the body.  It helped me reference what 'straight' really is.  Zubin mentioned some B.K.S. classes spent 5 full days on this pose before progressing to others.  It isn't the number of poses you can do or the complexity or even how well you do them, as much as the awareness and consciousness in the pose.  Feeling the bone, muscle, skin and bringing intelligence to the body.  Over the next two hours we worked in some additional standing poses, finding tadasana in each.  And before our last savasana, we took tadasana again.  How different it felt, how much more dimension.
Yoga flow

Day Two:  The second day was longer and for me, more tiring than the first.  Backbends and forward bends. I seemed so close to getting new movement in my upper back, opening my shoulders and the back of my legs.  The goal though is not to overdo one area at the expense of another, and to bring awareness to the whole of the body when doing the pose - front and back, top and bottom, inside and outside.  Manipulating arms and legs to get access to the spine, paying attention to hands and feet as the nerve endings they are, feeling the flow of energy and the affect of the different asanas on the body and the breath. Emphasis on alignment, of course. But also of connection to your own body.  It's not about doing poses that look good on the cover of Yoga Journal or rushing to take the final stage of the pose, it's more about understanding what it takes to get you there, and then to integrate the whole of the body, mind and breath in the present moment.  You can only do the pose in your own body, understanding its condition.

Day Three: There are no poses or sequences 'for the knee', or 'for the back', because you should not be working body parts in isolation. The asanas are meant to bring the body back to neutral.  You can rejuvenate after spending all day at work with an active mind and tomasic body by using the poses help to reverse that condition, healing by bringing the mind to rest with an active body. Using blocks and changing hand position with adho mukha svasana totally opened the shoulders. Supporting the head in uttanasana and adho mukha svasana while keeping the legs and arms active can help to rest the mind. The strong root of the leg of supta padangusthasanaa is something to keep in mind with sirsanaa.   In between poses, we would again return to tadasana, to feel how differently the body felt as it responded from one asana to the next.
I'm glad someone was taking notes!  They will be shared and distributed at some future date.  I'm sure as I am reviewing I will be able to pull more wisdom.

Zubin is saddened that the Oxford dictionary currently defines Iyengar yoga as 'yoga done with props'. When he shared this disappointment, one of the students resolved to use her contacts to update the description to 'using props to bring intelligence to the body'.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cold Comfort

I have an antique icebox at home, from the early 1900's.  In the scheme of things it really wasn't all that long ago that a family needed the services of an iceman to keep it replenished.   And that family likely included four or five children.  The icebox had to be used wisely.

For the  most part, I now take my fridge for granted, along with food that comes from all over the world at all seasons, brought home and stuffed into an overflowing compartment.

My fridge seems to be a black hole of sorts.  Or maybe a very cold compost unit.  Things get lost in there!  It is so deep the goods at the back are out of sight and out of mind.  I'm embarrassed by the food I throw out.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, close to half the food produced worldwide is actually wasted. It's a shocking statistic.  Part of the problem is packaging that forces people to buy more than they need, poor planning, not using up leftovers... I'm guilty and hoping to change my habits.  Design helps make a difference.

The kitchen reno is a great opportunity to re-think refrigeration and get an appliance that can be used more consciously.

We decided counter-depth was the way to go to help keep foods more visible. Originally I thought a side-by-side model would work in my kitchen because of the shallow doors,  but then one of my book buddies warned me against it.  They'd purchased this type and couldn't stand the space that was wasted by dividing the fridge right down the middle. Another drawback for me was that at least one of the doors would be opening at an awkward angle.  The half-width also limits the size of trays that can be chilled for entertaining.  So bottom freezer it was.

There's not a lot out there for counter-depth freezer bottoms. Liebherr's European styling looks great. The BioFresh technology is similar to SubZero, keeping foods fresher for longer.

I figure I'll be saving money because #1 I'll know what's in my fridge #2 it will stay fresher longer #3 it has Energy Star ratings.

Consumer Reports didn't rank this one, and depending on the source the brand gets mixed peer reviews.  I'm starting to get a bit suspicious of those sites anyway, wondering how many comments are left by the marketers themselves. The salesman we're using has told us he hasn't gotten any complaints on the Liebherrs he's sold (and says his customers wouldn't hesitate to let him know if there were problems). I guess we'll see.

In the meantime I'm reading up on how to best organize the fridge once I get it, and rethinking where and how I shop for fresh produce.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ovens, stoves, cooktops...

I truly hate my current electric stove.  Two of its burners stopped working about four months ago and we haven't gotten around to fixing them because the kitchen reno was "just around the corner".

Picking out the new stove was surprisingly challenging.  Was it even a stove?  Should I go with a separate cooktop and built-in wall oven? Googling makes it easy to hear other people's opinions and from the comments at various sites I decided on a range.

Such a range of choice on ranges!

I narrowed options by choosing a gas top, dual fuel with an electric oven, so that considerably cut the options, but there was still so much to choose from.

At one point Rob and I were both lusting after a red Bertazzoni.  We loved the way it looked.   It would be like having a piece of Italy in the kitchen.  Perfetto! The fact it was painted in the Ferrari factory was an additional enticement.  At $6K it was blowing my budget, but I  rationalized that prorated over the next 20 years it was a more than reasonable price to pay.

We were about to put our money down when we walked into the showroom and saw the Wolf on sale. Professional Series, excellent performance, built to last, and almost $2K cheaper.  It may not have been painted in the Ferrari factory but it did have nice red buttons.

Then I checked out Consumer Reports.  The Bertazzoni performance was rated surprisingly low, the Wolf rated almost 3x higher.

Another model was also catching my eye.  Not only was it half the price of the Wolf it was outranking it on Consumer Reports.

The one that first caught my attention was recommended by CR, and had some additional features - a 5th burner, an extra oven, and a slow cooker  One drawback was the high back.  I also wondered about having the larger oven on the bottom - wouldn't that make it harder to get heavier dishes in and out?

In the end, we went with The Kitchen Aid, Architect Series, Dual Fuel, frameless style. We lucked out because a sale happened to be on, which lowered the price another 20%.  This model has a warming oven.  Great for plate-warming, cuing the next course warm, dehydrating, proofing home made bread, and drying flowers.  The stovetop has a reversible grate for integrated wok cooking.

I'm feeling confident about my decision and hoping the oven will last for at least 20 years.  I'm sure by that time there will be even more options to choose from.

If all goes well, the new oven should be in my new kitchen in 6 - 8 weeks.  I'm looking forward to having four burners that actually work!  Maybe I'll pick myself up a nice red wok with all the money I saved.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kitchen Reno - finally!

Some visitors to my kitchen don't pull punches, making comments like "This is the worst layout I've ever seen!" or "How do you cook in this space?"  It's true, it's less than ideal.  The working triangle is pretty crunched, with a traffic path cutting through dead centre. There's nothing wrong with a compact mise-en-place, but the fridge door can't even open up all the way.  I have more drawers on my sailboat than in my home kitchen!  

There's a lot I like, though:  the view to the backyard being a major attraction; the colours and painting of the cupboards that Rob did for our DIY kitchen reno more than ten years ago; and how we maximize every square inch of available space.
We considered enlargening the footprint by cutting off the side entrance, but easy access to the basement in muddy boots is useful for gardening. 

So we're keeping the existing footprint, but rejigging the triangle.  One option involved closing off the sliding door entrance to make room for more counter space and additional cupboards.  As much as I wanted more working space, I wanted to keep the existing view even more.

We've lived here for 20+ years.  The thing that attracted us to the property in the first place was the ravine, with the view of woods and garden.  It's a daily pleasure to look out back. I just couldn't bring myself to shut  out the floor to ceiling view, so it is staying. 

Unfortunately, the kitchen table has to go to make room for the additional counters, so we won't have a breakfast nook anymore.  The table was a magnet for clutter, anyway, quickly crowded with the wooden fruit bowl, magazines, newspapers.  We love sitting there, connected to the outdoors.  To make up for losing the eat-in kitchen, we're expanding the view of the garden in the dining room.

New sliding doors go in this week, hopefully with minimum disruption and producing the desired effect.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

End of the season

What a glorious fall day!  Warm, sunny and windy. Perfect for a sail.  But the window before Haul Out is shrinking, and we couldn't put it off anymore.  Only 6 days. Having to work for a living, today was the day to take down the sails and de-mast.  Rob went down ahead of time, Alex and I went down later in the afternoon to lend a hand.

About ten salmon were in the water in front of the club by the willows, making the water look as though it were boiling with their shenanigans.  The cliffs were golden in the autumn light.

The 'last' sail this season was Thanksgiving Monday, and it was a beauty!  We had plans for more and kept the mast and sails up hoping for one last dance on the lake.  Last weekend we motored through the gap, bounced around without any wind, and turned back in again. Yesterday was rainy, and today there was just too much work to do.

It is always disappointing to take down the sails and the mast, truly the end of the season.

What a good sailing season though, great conditions.  We spent almost every weekend on the boat, sailed to the south shore and back for the August long weekend, and then venturing west, for a week at Niagara on the Lake.

Being on the water is so relaxing, it's  a different pace.  Everything slows down, even as I'm heading down the hill on Brimley to BPYC and catch that first view of blue, checking for sails on the horizon.

Maybe if I take some boating courses over the winter I won't miss it so much?  Or maybe we should just break down and splurge on a sailing vacation for the chilly dark months to lift our spirits?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mongrel Mash

Rob and I went with friends to Hugh's Room and lost track of time listening and watching Carlos del Junco. Sometimes I wondered whether this virtuoso was playing two harmonicas at the same time.  Amazing technique with old favourites like Got My Mojo Working, Some Sweet Day, Amazing Grace.  Then on to modern blues, a bit of roots, acoustic folk.  Quite a range, so it's a suitable graphic to show a crazy mongrel mash up on his latest cover.

Carlos signed my copy of this CD, and the inside jacket proclaims:
I have always enjoyed playing material that has a rootsy and bluesy base but that is also stylistically wide-ranging and eclectic.  This makes it hard to pigeonhole my music and can make for a challenging experience on first listen.

Great breath control.  He really punches the individual notes with great precision, then goes easily to double and triple stops, octave leaps, overblows.  WoW!  Watching him made me want to just pick up and wail away on a harp... if only!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Half Blood Blues

Half Blood Blues was my pick for the BPYC book club.  I'd read this one in April so had to refresh my memory for our discussion by revisiting the beginning and end chapters.  What really struck me this time around was the use of light.  As Sid moves toward sharing truth,  rooms become illuminated; earlier in the story, characters hide in darkness.

No one in this novel is exactly as they appear.  The Jewish character is a blonde and blue-eyed Aryan type, Sid 'passes' for white, Hiero is ebony-black but surprises Americans and Europeans alike with his native German.

There are lies and partial truths, told sometimes for the sake of survival, but more often for the sake of ego or vanity.

As the story travels back and forth between decades, Sid's great betrayal is slowly revealed.  The guilt is so overwhelming it becomes physically unbearable for him at times.  When he makes his confession to Thomas he doesn't expect forgiveness and knows sharing the long-held secret won't change the past.

In Sid's mind, the act of hiding the visas years before is the sole cause of Hiero's imprisonment in the concentration camp.  Although there is no denying this was a major contributing factor, it wasn't the only cause, it was a series of events.  Sid needs his own understanding as much as he needs Hiero's forgiveness.

This book will turn up again in March as a Book Babe pick, and I'm sure there will be a new layer of interpretation the next time around.

Friday, October 12, 2012

il dolce far niente

Friday night, a fine night to contemplate il dolce far niente.  Italians have known the sweetness of doing nothing for centuries.  I love the phrase.  I think the first time I stumbled on it was in Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert... the phrase then survived the screenplay and editing room floor to make it into the film version.  The other night I was watching 'The Big C' on Net Flix, and there it was again, our heroine planning a trip to Italy to research the concept first hand.

gato il dolce far niente
I'm image googling il dolce far niente.  I love the wild card thrust of an image google, regurgitating everything from art nouveau, romantica, erotica, and of course the obligatory kitty cats that seem to turn up in any random image search.

I like this definition:
An example of dolce far niente is what someone would say to describe that they are laying on a blanket gazing at trees in Florence.

It definitely
loses something in the translation to Arabic and I bet it sounds less than relaxing
إلى حد بعيد دولتشي لا شيء يذكر.

Strangely, when I paste the Arabic into the google news search it yields nothing.

Many more results with an Italian news search.  I can't really translate any of it but in my minds ear it's a lovely, soft murmur in an Italian cafe.

Other stumbles:  there's a restaurant named Far Niente in Toronto, yet nothing by that name in the app store, not yet anyway.  Anyway, do I need an app for that?

Chianti Classico is a nice match for this not-so-frivolous past time.  Rocca delle Macie, 2010.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rob, Alex and I had a five hour drive ahead of us, so I brought along plenty to read.   Shouldn't have bothered, though, the scenery was stunning, I couldn't bring myself to stop looking out the window.  So many gorgeous colours!

Lois hosted a Thanksgiving Bacchanal at her cabin in the woods for many in the Cowan clan.

What a beautiful spot, high in the hills.  The night sky is one of the least light-polluted in Eastern Ontario, and an observatory is opening nearby.  No one around for miles, mist rising from the rolling hills in the morning.

The Thanksgiving meal was delicious, and the hospitality continued into the next day with breakfast in the morning.

Sunday, we spent a leisurely drive back home. Every once in awhile the wind would scoop leaves off the trees and they'd leisurely twirl to the ground.  Autumn light is golden.

Rob and I were also able to squeeze in a sail at the Bluffs today, the depth was just 6'8" out of the gap, with the sandy bottom of the lake well in sight.  Still lots of green on the cliffs.  Weather permitting we'll be sailing to the Island next week.

I spent time contemplating my blessings today; the people I know and love; the 'good' and the 'bad';  the perfectly imperfect.  Life is amazing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Indian Summer

The waterfall maple and toad lily enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures today.  The smokebush hasn't even started to blush,  the primrose is holding its colour, while the bloodroot has turned lime green.

Looks like temperatures will be dropping and we'll be wearing sweaters this weekend, enjoying fall colours and celebrating Thanksgiving.