Friday, May 31, 2013

Along came the rain

Going past the huge flowers on my way out the door this morning, I sniffed their perfume along with a hint of rain in the air. I took a long look at the Tree Peony blooms, knowing it would likely be farewell until next spring.

I don't always know these 'last times'...   sometimes I get a sense, and I linger a bit longer in the moment, maybe to savour the last swim at the beach at the end of the day, or the last sail of the season.

Other times it is only looking back, and realizing that was the "last time," that I tasted something, or saw this friend, or even said goodbye to a loved one.

Is knowing something is the "last time" a gift or a curse?

Aware that we are aware.  Not in an existential way that puts a layer between you and the experience, but in a conscious way that brings you more into time.

And is the perfect moment when the flower is at its peak perfection, or is it when we appreciate how perfect everything is in the moment? Whether the flower is a bit wilted, and the petals have drooped, but you can still say to yourself, "how lovely, how perfectly lovely."

As the petals fall off the tree peony, the poppies are bursting open and the peony bush is not far behind. Life is full of these moments.

Perfectly full.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tree peony

I'd been away for the weekend and couldn't believe how much the tree peonies had opened in less than 48 hours.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013 Book Babes AGM

It was a three and a half hour drive to Haliburton, leaving just before dusk and watching the full moon rise. Liz and I arrived late Friday, long after dark, but well in time to enjoy a glass of wine and some laughter with friends.

Nicki hosted another AGM. The whole weekend was enjoyed at a nice pace. Well planned, but seemingly coming together with ease.

Twelve of us gathered to pick another year's selection and enjoy each other's company. It was a bit cooler this year - definitely no swimming in the lake! But great weather for a fire in the wood stove, for sleeping in, and for sitting on the deck listening to the wind in the trees and watching dappled light on the lake.

A leisurely breakfast was followed by a late lunch at Louise's and accompanied by a discussion about Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. The novel was unanimously enjoyed for the plot, the lyrical language, the well-drawn characters, piercing insights into relationships and love. I've been meaning to get around to reading this novel for quite some time, and can only say I wish I'd read it sooner. I'm only half way through and in no rush to finish. It is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time, and I don't feel the need to rush through pages to race to the finish. 

Dinner was slow-cooked ribs, risotto, grilled tiger shrimp, asparagus & tarragon, a quinoa salad. Comfort food.

We also chose our books for the coming year and decided to switch our meeting dates to the first week of the month - which works nicely for me because the 'other' book club meets on the third Tuesday.

Looking forward to our ten-year anniversary in September.

Sept:  Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazaro
Oct: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller
Nov: Working the Dead Beat by Sandra Martin
Dec: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Widow and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Jan: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Feb: Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
Mar: Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Apr: Trust your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
May: the Painted Girls- by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Jun: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Jul: Why Be Happy When You Can be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
Aug: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Haliburton Full Moon - May

I was surprised when dusk came and the moon started to climb, full, on the horizon. Full again, so soon? I've been so focused and preoccupied by work all week, I totally forgot the lunar calendar.

Liz and I were driving up to Haliburton for the Book Babes AGM, and the moon followed us all the way, glimmering on the lakes and strobing through branches in the trees. I kept pointing my camera out the window, scenery blurring, hoping to catch an image that would do moonlight some honour.

We arrived to sounds of laughter and light casting shadows from cabin windows, Nicki smiling and greeting us on the porch.

Looking forward to this weekend!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Seasonal firsts

What a great long weekend!

First sail (strong wind, flat water), first backyard barbecue (steak!), first fire in the chiminea (Rob, Alex, Penny & I gathered round).

Two days digging, stubborn dirt under my fingernails. A good tired feeling. A soak in the tub. A lonnnggggg sleep.

Bare feet on the dock. Three big carp - yawning underwater. Goslings so young they still have the shape of the egg before they hatched. Trumpeters inspecting the hull of the boat. A loon's call on the lake.

No wonder there are fireworks tonight!

Filthy Rich

The bags of mulch and soil didn't look all that big at the garden show, but they sure seemed big when the forklift deposited them at the end of the driveway: 3 x3 x 3, or '1 cubic yard' has equated into several wagon loads dumped and deposited in the back garden, with offers made to friends, family and neighbours to come and share.  I hope to be able to whittle away enough to be able to physically lift the bag intact so I can store it out of sight for use next year.

Planted - nasturtiums in the garden  and iris by the pond
Potted - lewissia cotyledon, orange begonias and hostas
Transplanted - an evergreen conifer & astilbe switched places in the back garden and the euphorbia was moved to the front (beside the red maple)

Blooming now
Bleeding Heart
Forget Me Nots
Grecian Windflowers
Lily of the Valley
Solomon's Seal
Sweet Woodruff

Buds on
Clematis (Nelly Moser)
Peony Bush
Tree Peony

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tonight We Love


Standing ovations tonight as the Russians gave the TSO's strings a work out. Bows flying and likely strings a-popping.

We were listening to Korsakov and Tchaikovsky at The After Work series. Thanks again to Tom Allan for his interesting trivia.


When Tchaikovsky's  shared the score of his first piano concerto with his mentor, Nikolay Rubinstein, the pianist told him it was "banal, awkward and unplayable." Only if Tchaikovsky made changes would he agree to perform it. Tchaikovsky took his Opus 23 to Boston, where they played it as written, to great acclaim. Eventually, Rubinstein did play it, as written, because it became a favourite in St. Petersburg as well as abroad.

You may find the melody of Opus 23 familiar. It was also one of Liberace's faves, "Tonight We Love."

I didn't realize it, but can't say it comes as any great surprise to learn that Tchaikovsky, like Liberace, was gay.
Despite his natural preference, at 29 Tchaikovsky fell sincerely in love with a female soprano and they became engaged. She unceremoniously dumped him for a baritone, based on rumours and suspicions. Rubenstein ended up having to break the news to his protege.

Tchaikovsky lived most of his life as a bachelor, but did attempt marriage again in his thirties. It was very short-lived. The late 1800's and early 1900s were not favourable times for homosexuals. The Soviets tried to erase the evidence of his homosexuality from the history books, but things have a way of resurfacing.

My grandmother loved both Liberace and Tchaikovsky. I remember her being inspired to play after watching Liberace on Merv Griffin. Funny how some things stick in your mind. I wonder if Grandma would be dismayed or blase to find out about their hidden lives.


About ten years before he composed the groundbreaking Rite of Spring, Stravinsky was living with Korsakov and was no doubt influenced in some way by the Russian Easter Festival overture. This piece borrows heavily from pagan themes and folk music so was more than a bit subversive, given its title.

Monday, May 13, 2013

RIP Mr. Fish

We've had Mr. Fish swimming in our living room for more than a year. I ended up bringing him home from a birthday party. Wendy had made centrepieces with live fish and when she asked people if they'd like to take one home, I couldn't resist.

Mr. Fish provided hours of enjoyment. Watching him change shape against the concave/convex glass was like watching a lava lamp.

Griskit would put her paws on the rim of the glass bowl and take a drink. The fish didn't seem to mind. She is a curious cat but left the fish alone because she hates to get her paws wet. The two did co-exist pretty happily for about a year.

Although we'll all miss the fish to some extent, I know Rob won't miss changing the water in the bowl!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

My mother. She goes to church everyday, and twice on Sundays. She watches Dr. Who and Star Trek and does Sudoku and plays solitaire Scrabble.

My brothers and sister and I are getting together to celebrate Mother's Day and honour the lady in question.

An only child, she had six of her own, has 15 grand kids and 4 (or 5?) great grand kids. So we can let her know how much we love her, I asked those willing to think of a toast, or a happy memory they would like to share with everyone.

I've been thinking of some of my own.........

Of how she used to sing "Moon river" to help me get to sleep some nights. Of when we played Chinese checkers together by lamp oil in the carport to the sound of crickets chirping in the summer.

My mom is a great storyteller. Her specialty is telling stories about the cats she's had over the years. Once, long ago, I came across a short story she was writing and was astounded by how good it was... it's not that I was surprised she could write, just that I'd never seen that side of her. She is also a good visual artist. One Halloween she painted a huge poster of a witch and cat and it filled the front picture window. Another year she fixed my sister and I up as these fantastic cone-creatures. Craft-paper cones, painted with odd faces and our arms sticking out the ears. Her talents go on to include an amazing singing voice, a great sense of stye. She worked for a yarn magazine for awhile and designed all sorts of creations: afghans, blankets, sweaters. She decorated and redecorated our house several times, designed and redesigned the kitchen and landscaping. Lots of creative energy.

A couple of years ago when she was staying over my brother and I took her to yoga. We were regular practitioners, but she outdid us and everyone else in the class, for that matter. Flexible. Strong.

She also has a stubborn side. Enough to deny she's had a stroke or two. She refuses to go on heart medication after a heart attack because she doesn't believe in medication. Yet she still smokes 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day. It really bugged me for awhile but now I'm resigned to it. Really, why not?

I'm still not sure what I'll be saying tomorrow, I'll sleep on it. I have to admit though, I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone else says, and to getting together with family to sing her praises.



It was a great celebration, and really touching to hear everyone's happy memories piled in heaps on Mom. She seemed a bit uncomfortable at first, not used to being the centre of attention, but then joined in with the reminiscences. Every one of the kids and grand kids had something to say. In a way, I wish we had recorded the proceedings but that may have caused people to feel self-conscious or feel like they needed to perform.

As wonderful as it was for my Mom, I think everyone went home feeling like we'd made something special for each other. The grand kids got to hear about when their parents were young and growing up, (although they might still never actually believe it), and they got a chance to participate and contribute. And us 'kids' got to remember some of the good times, and just being together. People spoke sincerely, and with love.

A very special Mother's Day.

Meyer's Lemon

On a dreary February day, a colleague gave me some Meyer's lemon tea. I couldn't believe how lemon-y it was.

When I spotted the real thing at Longos, I snatched a bag full.

It was delicious with lemon Pelligrino - bellisimo! And tonight I used the zest with garlic on pan-seared chicken, seasoned with Herbs de Provence and covered with slivered almonds.

Meyer's are a bit more sweet than sour. The orange skin is due in part because of its cross with Mandarin.

Googling Meyer's lemon recipes is making me hungry and thirsty!

If there are any left at the market I'll make this Lemon Fettucine, or maybe Tilapia with Brown butter and lemon sauce.... or a lemon mojito.... or....

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

Just finished reading this for the BPYC book club, and as the meeting is not for a few weeks, I thought I better get down my first impressions before they fade.

The ending is grim. In fact, so is the whole book. Three funerals, severely dysfunctional families, mental illness, addiction, spousal abuse, infidelity, prostitution, child abuse, self-mutilation.  There are 34 characters in all, some with more redeeming qualities than others, but all of them seem to be unaware, self-centered or just plain mean. Barry seems goodhearted and driven to make the world a better place, but he dies in the first few paragraphs of the book.

The hole Barry leaves behind becomes the frame for the story. The 'casual vacancy' is the empty seat on the local council that must now be filled, with all the petty intrigue that entails. The absence of this man becomes a way of seeing into the hearts he leaves behind. The local GP (Parminder) who secretly loved her co-counsellor, the disadvantaged student (Krystal) who he tried to save. Their lives are thrown off-balance by his sudden death, and that begins a domino effect. The local GP makes an error in judgement that leads to the death of a patient (who happens to be the grandmother of the student); the student makes another error of judgement that leads to the death of her baby brother; and then the loss of Barry, her grandmother and baby brother culminate with Krystal taking her own life.

I found the adolescent characters to be more sympathetically drawn than the adults. The harm they cause is malicious. But they are reacting to circumstances and conditions the adults in their lives created. Their parents' choices are thrust on them and this somehow absolves their actions from full accountability.  The reader is quicker to forgive their sins (well, at least this reader).

The story's unlikely hero is Sukhvinder. Daughter of the GP, student of Barry's, friend to Krystal. Sukhvinder suffers dyslexia, bullying at school, the scorn of her mother, and cruelly punishes herself by self-cutting. In the end, she tries to rescue the boy and his sister, but fails. But in this cast of 34, she is the one who best succeeds in reversing a downward spiral.

In some ways I wish I didn't know the writer was JK Rowling, as I couldn't help but look for connections with Harry Potter. But then, I'm not sure I would have read it, otherwise.

The first week it was available, the book was already on the Bestseller lists. Interestingly, even the publishers were forbidden to read The Casual Vacancy before it was released, if you can believe the hype.

Rowling is pronounced 'rolling,' according to this interview. In it, she says her novel is 'Trollopee."  I'm not sure whether I agree, as I haven't read either Anthony or Joanne yet.... must get around to it someday.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May Bouquet

I can't remember all these flowers in bloom at the same time in previous years: cherry blossoms, windflowers, bergenia, primrose, violet, blood root, variegated tulips, pulminaria, daffodils....

blood root - May 2nd
Last year, on April 1, the blood root was starting to unfurl, and previously it was April 16  2010. This year they opened the end of April (photo taken above on April 28); were still popping on the 2nd; but by May 5 they had just dropped their petals.

Things are blooming a 2-3 weeks later this year. Bloom times are more in line when checking back to May 1, 2011. (Coincidentally, that was also the day of the Hardy Plant Sale, that I also plan on visiting later today).
cherry blossom - May 2nd

Just finished
Cherry blossom
Purple/white 'star flowers'

Blooming now
Hellebores (for at least 3 weeks)
Daffodil - May 2nd
Primrose (last couple of days)
Bergenia (1 week)
Windlfower (3-4 days)
Variegated Tulips (2-3 days)
Violet (2 days)
Pulminaria (1 week)
Trilliums (can just see the white inside the bud)
Daffodils (several different kinds, taking turns)

Buds on
Tree Peony