Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More Food for Thought

When Alex was at home full-time, we made it a point to sit down to a home-cooked meal as a family most nights. But now, during the work week, things are so harried and rushed. Alex often doesn't make it home at all, I'll be working late, Rob will be at the boat. If we all happen to be at home, something gets concocted slapdash. Pasta, rotisserie chicken, and take-away sushi have become staples of late.

Lunches? Usually something on the run, eaten at my desk while multi-tasking. Breakfast? What's that?

Holidays on board the boat were entirely different. Planning and provisioning and trying new recipes.  Food definitely tastes so much better on board! Maybe it is being outdoors in the open air, maybe it is just fewer distractions, or maybe it is just feeling unrushed and taking time to prepare and savour meals.

Standout meals on the August trip for me: tandoori paneer with mango raita; Porterhouse steak and roasted sweet potatoes with ginger; cucumber and emmanthal sandwiches with mayo and basil; artisanal cheeses, especially the blues; a Granny Smith apple from a cool icebox.

I need to bring good eating back into my daily routine. Nourishing food, conscious eating, enjoying dinnertime company... even it is only me sitting down solo.

Time to go recipe hunting...

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Caught by Lisa Moore is a slim novel that tells a big story.  This is the same author who wrote February, the 2013 winner of Canada Reads.

Moore has a way with words, able to capture a character in a gesture or defining moment. Slaney, the escaped convict, eating cookies from  his mother’s cookie tin. Patterson wearing shirts' sizes he has long since outgrown. Ada poking someone into a corner.

The word caught repeats itself as a motif, like a musical round or a tide. Everyone is caught, to some extent, in this fast-paced story about drug-running and smuggling set in the late 70's.

What I personally loved were Moore's descriptions of boats and sailing, which quickly evoked sensory moments that sucked me into the story and made me participate in the moment:

"They should have been going ten knots at most and there were times they were going twelve. The wind was thirty knots and it felt like it might tear them asunder. They loved it. It terrified them. All the wave-sparkle and the crashing down. The knocking from side to side..." (p.212)

"The mast in silhouette, a needle swaying gently like a metronome. And the soldiers lounging on the deck, black against the orange and azure sky." (p 257)

What also struck me was the ending, so much like a beginning. It made me think of other recent novels I've read over the summer, with endings that finish as openings. Especially Mantel's closing lines in Bring Up the Bodies, "There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one." 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summer nights

Summer nights, moonlight sails, dockside, the moon rising over the water and peeking through the trees, golden shimmers on water, calm reflections, stars above. 

Technically it is just past midsummer but it does feel as if the season's end is soon approaching. Cool summer nights, shorter days. September is not so far away.

full moon sail with Alex and Rob

Toronto Island - Ward ferry dock

BPYC and a waning moon

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Passing remarks

Alex and I often commute to work in the morning, either getting a ride from Rob or taking the subway together. We travel east, and then I get out to go south at Yonge and he stays on the train to continue on to his office.

This morning it was the subway. We were just chatting away about work-a-day stuff. When we got to Yonge, he said "Bye Mom, have a great day!"

The subway doors closed, and then a stranger came up and said, "How nice that your son can talk to you like that. I have a two year old right now and I hope we can do the same when they get to that age."

I thanked her, and said I felt very blessed indeed.

It made me feel great all day, this innocent passing remark that put so much into perspective.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer Reads

Full moon and book club on the same night, down at BPYC. A wonderful evening.

In what is almost becoming an annual tradition, members of two of my favourite book clubs got together to talk about their summer reads.

Kaarina recommended  Sussex Drive, by Linda Svendsen, as a superb satire, although the first 100 or so pages are tough slogging. The main characters bare a strong resemblance to the current residents of our own number '24,' although the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Christina is making her way through the Book Babes 2013 reading list: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller,  Trust your Eyes by Linwood Barclay; The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Widow and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson; and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Nicki took time to sing the praises of Terry Fallis' Up and Down and Best Laid Plans and Kaarina quickly seconded the recommendation. But it was Kate Atkinson's Life After Life Nicki had planned to talk about: as the character is born and reborn, the story unfolds that is told from different perspectives. The tip is to "watch the dates" at the chapter headings to keep oriented.

Cynthia was visiting us from White Rock BC. An early, but former member of the Book Babes, her current book club is so serious they assign questions for the book's discussion well in advance. The club was split in their reviews of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, but Cynthia highly recommended this story about a WWII bombardier's struggle to return to 'normal.'

Maureen talked about two different works of historical fiction she'd recently enjoyed. The Conductor, by Sarah Quigley, gives insight into the life and times of Dmitri Shostakovich as Nazi troops storm into the Russian capital. The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan is about how the painter Degas changes the life of a destitute dancer when he brings her to life on canvas.

Maj-Lis gave a very tepid review of The Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood, acknowledging that it had received high ratings elsewhere,  not all the stories within the story held her interest. Kaarina "loathed" the novel but Maj-Lis "didn't hate it." Others preferred different Atwood novels... Grace weighing in strongly for Alias Grace, not just because it was her namesake but because of the setting, the twists, and the turns.

Grace shared her discovery of Suite francaise in her local library and how the work of Irene Nemirovsky was published posthumously. She enjoyed the story as much as the behind-the-scenes discovery of the long forgotten manuscript, tucked away in an attic. But we were all far more interested in New France, a book Grace recently published with the help of her daughter Elaine.

I shared some recent reads, including Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel; Night Circus, and another strong summer favourite, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is written with a distinct voice that makes the years 1535-1536 feel like time travel.

Ermine furs, rubies and golden books are passed from one Tudor Queen to the next. The embellishments on the treasures of the Crown morph as the letter 'K' becomes an 'A', becomes a 'J.' Anne's lions become Jane's panthers with the simple trick of replacing heads and tails. The metaphors are stunning.

Mantel's interpretation of historical events are that Henry would turn himself into a public cuckold so he could marry Jane within ten days of the public beheading of Anne Boleyn.The charges brought against her can be seen as ludicrous. Yet the Court quickly ruled that she was guilty of treason for plotting the King's death as she carried on affairs with more than four men, one of them her brother.

Such events don't happen without considerable maneuvering in the Court, and Mantel's take is believable, horrific, and logical.

Cromwell is fascinating. This is a man who had read Machiavelli in the Latin and found The Prince wanting. A self-made man at the time of Reformation, his motives are simultaneously rational and vindictive.

Cromwell has the will to raise himself from the gutter and turn the unmaking of a Queen into a personal triumph.
"He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged." (p. 330)
His powers manifest best when he satisfies his personal appetites, the King's, and players' in the Court. There is more than political acumen at play, it is political engineering.

Thus is history made.

The ending is a brilliant segway into the next novel:
"The word 'however' is like an imp coiled beneath your chair. It induces ink to form words you have not yet seen, and lines to march across the page and overshoot the margin. There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one." 

Sunday, August 18, 2013


We spotted this heron on a dinghy ride on Toronto Island yesterday. It was fishing minnows, quite successfully. Along the same stretch we saw a kingfisher and pair of cardinals.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a great detective story.  

Robert Galbraith published it to strong reviews, with an initial modest run of 500 to 1500 copies, depending on the source. The publishing house that took a risk with an unknown author has been well rewarded. Since the true identity has been revealed, the book has become a bestseller.

The last line , “I am become a name,” makes me think Rowling was delighting in assuming a new identity as much as she was reveling in creating a new character.
As a writer, publisher, and editor, the thing that I find both reassuring and depressing about l'affaire Galbraith is that it showed just how difficult it is -- even with a very good, very well reviewed book -- actually to get yourself a best-seller, unless you have a lot of luck or the kind of platform that J.K. Rowling has, and that very few other authors could even dream of. The Cuckoo's Calling was published by a first-rate commercial publisher, was given excellent press, had a great response from both professional reviewers and folks on sites like Goodreads -- and was sitting at an Amazon ranking of about 5,000 on the day that the news of Rowling's authorship broke. At a guess, I'd say that a ranking like that indicates daily sales through America's various commercial booksellers of about ten copies a day. Definitely respectable, but not leaping off of the shelves by anyone's measure. David Kudler at the Huffington Post
Rowling's  adventures in publishing are as interesting as the novels themselves. The riches brought by the Harry Potter series; the assured success of The Casual Vacancy, and the outing of The Cuckoo’s Calling. What else does this literary magician have up her sleeve?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Night Circus

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern was an entertaining read.

I loved the idea of the story before I even opened the cover to the first page. A traveling circus that only takes place at night, with real magic disguised as trickery. A long-standing duel that evolves into a love story between rivals.

The visual descriptions of the black and white circus are pure confection. I was imagining how different scenes would be rendered by different film directors. Tim Burton would bring the spinning clocks and Ice Palace a sinister underglow,  Ang Lee would bring passion to the scenes with star-crossed lovers, and Wes Anderson would be able to bring his quirky sensibilities to play with an interesting cast of characters.

One of my favourites was Bailey. An audience member who falls in love with the circus itself, who, because of fate's twists and turns, inherits the responsibility of taking over its management.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

I can’t say I whole-heartedly recommend the book. I found it to be overly long, despite the enjoyable descriptions. The editor should have insisted on trimming one-third to one-half the pages. My other complaint was the scrambling of the timeline and telling the story out of sequence. Although the technique calls to mind the shuffling of a Tarot deck, it added more confusion to the story than suspense or counterpoint.

This is one of the Book Babes upcoming picks for January, so I’m getting a jump on the reading.

Good Reads rates this one 4 out of 5 stars, but my personal take is....
*** out of 5. An entertaining summer read. Candy floss fiction.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Salad Greens... and Oranges and Reds

The purslane is plump and green enough for salad, but I haven't gotten around to harvesting it yet. 

I have enough edible weeds to choose from to make a delicious salad:dandelion, creeping charlie, chickweed.

My lawn and garden are pesticide free, so a good rinse under the taps should do it.

Toss in a few orange and red nasturtium petals for a bit of colour and we're all set.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Here comes the sun

Early to bed, early to rise.

We left Cobourg before 7 am to get an early start on the ten hours home to Bluffers. What a fabulous trip and rest-full holiday.

Five hours later: the water is calm and the wind is fair. Right now I am able to get a bit of blogging in below deck, but the motor was just turned off and the sails are up. I can hear gentle splashes on the hull.

Time to head up and enjoy the moment while it lasts!

post script: we arrived at our BPYC slip at 6 pm, with the last 5 hours being among the best sailing the whole trip...  the main sail was a bit worse for wear, though. After the heavy winds we had along the way it was torn in places and needed to be taken in for repair.

Swing Time

Saturday morning, Rob and I met up with fellow Bluffers Bob and Margaret, and headed to the Buttermilk Cafe for breakfast. After indulging in Eggs Benedict, I picked up some fresh veggies and sausage at the Farmers Market.

By noon we were at anchor in front of the Cobourg Yacht Club. I have to find some slang that conjures the right feeling of being at anchor for me.... "swinging on a hook" sounds violent and "gunk-holing" sounds stinky. I think I'll use "swing time," sounds like a holiday, breezy, a dance, a childhood flight in the playground. Perfect.

We spent the day watching other boats come and go through to the marina and wall. Some, like us, dropped their chains and just stayed for awhile. We read and lolled around on deck, and Rob rowed the dinghy ashore and to pick up some chicken wings for dinner. Sun set. Stars rose. The moon hung a crescent in the sky.

This holiday we spent 6 days at anchor and 4 in slips. I loved it! Not only are the neighbours a lot less close, it's more economical without the dock fees, and the views are a whole lot prettier.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Homeward Bound

That's the thing about most sailing holidays. You have to think about making your way "back." We contemplated leaving our boat at Waupoos and visiting weekends. One drawback would be that it wouldn't be at the club during the week for an after work sail. Maybe next year?

As it was, we were in for a long haul back. It would take at least 30 hours to cover the distance between Waupoos and Toronto, and we'd need to do it over 4 days. We hoped for good weather and fair winds. Nothing straight west, please, preferably south, and 10 knots.

Sitting on a dock in Cobourg on Saturday morning, after sailing 22 of those hours, I can report a ratio of 22:1 ideal sailing conditions. As in, one ideal hour, 21 not-so-great hours. But nothing compares to a fair wind,  the waves a meter or so, and the skies a clear blue. That one blissful hour makes up for the remaining 21, when you are either motoring in no wind or being tossed about the deck in strong wind and waves.

Thursday: We left Waupoos after a swimming a few laps around the boat, and once we anchored in Sandy Bay, finished the day’s sail with another swim. Between dips, it was 9 hours. Although we did manage to get in a bit of wing-on-wing through Long Reach, it was mainly motoring. We traveled alongside Mike on Sun Glimmer and ate dinner together on deck before the bugs drove us into separate cabins. I keep searching the night sky but still nothing compares to that night in Hay Bay, watching meteor’s tails leave golden dust in the sky.

Friday: We were 13 hours on the water and met a full range of conditions. No wind at all to 20 knot westerly winds.

The first 6 hours no wind, we caught Internet signal again! I took advantage in the cabin and blogged and sifted through pictures for a few hours while we motored  in a light drizzle.  This is actually only the second time since we got a boat that I’ve stayed below deck when we’re underway – the first time I got terribly sea sick and I’ve avoided it ever since. When we got to the Murray I did weed duty so as to avoid another incident where someone had to dive to get the weeds off the prop.

Then came the one ideal hour. Perfect. Puffed up sails, marking good speed of 6 knots, a genteel heel. Wind and sun in your face. Invigorating to stand on deck and take in the view.

After that, things got a bit rough. The south-west wind became west and picked up speed, frothing the waves. The boat slamming into 2 meter waves, coming very close together. Not a comfy ride. That was the next 6 hours. Fun at first, but then the boat's progress slows and you feel you'll never make it to your destination and you hope the motor holds up and it gets a bit less bumpy when you have to drop the main.

Arrived, got a slip, and slept a very good deep sleep.

Friday, August 9, 2013


A few months ago I flew past this coastline in a matter of minutes. Monday we sailed 8:30 to 3:30, moving at a much slower pace.

Tacking at 6 knots per hour at a heel of 20 degrees, one of the winches flew over the side, winking at us from the water. Unfortunately we lost sight of it when we turned the boat around to scoop it up with a net. Hopefully another sailor will glance the bright yellow handle and salvage the treasure. That leaves us with two (non-floating) winches on board.
We anchor among 20 boats just off Waupoos Island, and stay for three nights.

Many are flying the BPYC burgee, and we spend time with Commodore Mike B; Kaarina and Mike P; Bob C; and Caroline, Dick and Maureen.

Great eats! Our first night, Kaarina brought some treats: Prince Edward County artisinal cheeses and a Waupoos winery merlot.  The second evening Kaarina and Mike hosted a boat party and Caro brought pizza – the first pizza I’ve ever eaten on a boat, made on a boat. It was absolutely delicious and made me wish for an onboard oven of my own.

Swimming in the cool, clean water was refreshing. Every day we took the plunge. The water felt extremely soft.

One day we even managed to make it to shore. A trip to use the showers, do some yoga, pick up some ice, buy some artisan cheese at the Blue Moose cafe.
In the evenings, the sky was bursting with stars. I kept peering up, hoping to see a Perseid meteor streak by. There were a few distant travelers but no stardust tails. Monday night, we watched unexpected fireworks over the water, lit from shore. Wednesday night there was a severe thunderstorm in the distance, over Belleville. Sheet lightning and lightning bolts erupting less than 5 seconds apart for well over an hour. I watched on deck, midnight approaching, dozing off between the thunder claps.

Hay Bay

(Sunday August 4) After five hours sailing we dropped anchor here in Hay Bay. Going through our ship's log, past visits are noted when we sheltered from a storm in 2008, and again in 2009.

As dusk fell, the fish started jumping and splashing and a pair of osprey and a solitary Great Blue Heron perched along the shore.

We lit a few citronella candles but the mosquitoes got so thick we sheltered inside the cabin for the next few hours. When I poked my head out later the lake was so still, stars were reflected on its surface. It seemed even the darkest corners held pinpricks of light.

 I called Rob up and we searched for Perseids meteors. Within ten minutes we saw three, one seeming extremely large and dragging trails of stardust. A wake in the night sky. Incredibly magical!

We stayed on deck for some time after, hoping to see a repeat, but no luck.

For the rest of the week, we kept searching the night sky and although we saw several more shooting stars, nothing came quite as close.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Close calls

Sailed from Cobourg to Belleville on Saturday, another ten hours on the water. Mostly clear skies, but strong winds.

For the most part, sailing trips bring carefree days, but we had more than a couple of close calls that day.

At one point Rob went to drop the main and I insisted he tie himself to the mast because the boat was tossing like a bronco at the rodeo. The waves were almost two meters high and the boom was swinging like crazy. I'm not sure whether I inhaled the whole time I was at the helm, trying to steady the boat into the wind. I think our next boat will have furling on the main!

When we finally reached the Murray Canal it was a great break from the bluster, but along the way we managed to catch a small island of weeds. Rob ended up diving to set us free from the tangle. There is a much stronger current than you'd think, and when he rose to surface, he met the dinghy bottom and then came up for air between the lines, gasping for breath.

Both times I felt time slow and called on angels and ancestors to keep him safe. Happily, no disasters.

Drama aside, it was a great day on the water. At one point the white caps looked like gulls following in our wake. Later, we saw a flock of five Trumpeter swans bopping in the waves. Dazzle on the lake like dancing diamonds.

The scenery en route changes from open water, to marsh, to canal, to bay. It's very pretty to watch how the shore connects to water. Unlike the trip from Toronto to Cobourg, a lot more houses and cottages dot the landscape. I imagine what it would be like, to look out their window, and watch the sailboats gliding by, blue water, blue sky.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Yondering wandering... and wondering

Are there people who can plan their sailing holidays? By 'plan', I mean that they book off the time, but they also set their direction and itinerary and stick to it. They actually follow the plans they've laid.

Rob and I definitely don't fall into that category. Our work-a-day lives are scheduled enough, thank-you-very-much.

We loaded up Yondering on Wednesday night for our summer holiday and when we woke up Thursday morning still weren't sure if we would be heading across the lake to Wilson New York, traveling east to Waupoos, or cruising west. We would go where the wind would take us. A romantic enough notion.

Yet, when it seemed the South Shore would prevail we changed our minds. We've gone there the last 3 years.

So in the morning I signed out of the club with the destination 'west ?'

Once through the gap, though, we promptly set our sails and committed to the east.

So here we are, tied to a slip in Cobourg.

It was a pretty good sail, we only needed to turn the motor on for about four of the ten hours. I read and dozed and woke and read and napped and stood at the helm and snacked and read and looked at the water and watched the Toronto skyline slowly disappear in the distance.

I could feel my tension evaporating. Maybe it contributed to the storm clouds overhead. Friday morning, listening to the weather on marine radio, days and days are forecast with "Cloudy. 40% chance of rain. Thunder showers." Again we were changing our minds about whether to stay in Cobourg another night or head out.


And it is a good thing, because the thunder showers have started. We're snugged in here with a plan to head out at 5:30  tomorrow morning, traveling toward the sunrise. 

Today we will pedal our bikes in between raindrops, maybe watch some DVDs, and if and when it clears up, hang out on the beach or just wander.

A relaxing holiday weather or not.

Wonder and wander with Yondering.

Red sunscreen

July 27 - Fall colours are already beginning to show, with the occasional red leaf dotting the garden.

This article from Harvard talks about some fairly recent discoveries about chemicals at play. It's not always photosynthesis at work, sometimes it is the plant protecting itself from intense bursts of light followed by cool temperatures. Sounds a bit like the what we've been experiencing lately.

Weather-wise, it has been a strange summer, with floods, and heat-waves followed by chilly days.