Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fluffy Flakes No Wind Early Morning Snow

Wednesday morning - woke up to a blanket of snow. A winter confection!

Much easier to appreciate the snow pre-Christmas.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ice and Fire

Temperatures are dropping, and a thin crust of ice is forming over the top of the pond.  The goldfish were swimming back and forth, as though seeking the direct light of the sun and then returning to warmer shelter. Glints of orange, like fire under the ice.

Cold enough the snow isn't melting on the frozen ground. Cold enough for winter coats and gloves. Cold enough to warm yourself from ice beside the fire.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's next?

Over the last few months I've been thinking about what's next for me at work, and having some conversations with Senior Executives along the way. I work in a great organization where people are generous enough to share their insights and lend support.

Some were frank and shared info about their own journeys. It was comforting to know that several, even the most successful, didn't have a plan when they started their careers.

Advice that lingers, whether applied to my current position or the 'next'...
  • Don't panic! Focus on what you are passionate about and what you enjoy... 
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  • Be authentic. Don't try to be someone else.
  • Let people know you are looking, and what you are looking for.
  • Look for where you are able to add value.
  • Use your network. And remember your network has a network.
  • It can take up to two years to make a move... and the more senior you are in an organization, often the longer it will take.
  • Are you willing to make a lateral move? Are you willing to take a step 'down' to gain exposure or get your foot in the door? Moving up isn't always the only direction.
  • I went on many job interviews before I landed this latest, and prefer this one... so not being successful (in a competition) isn't necessarily a bad thing. It takes time to find the right position.
  • Who you work for is almost as important as what you do. Maybe even more important.
  • Try to focus on a specific area/stream and if you are serious about pursuing it, identify gaps in your skill set and address them.
  • Be strategic about references, let people know what you are applying for and what you need to highlight.
  • Don't be afraid to make cold calls, even if a position isn't advertised.
  • Ask and be open to feedback, but remember you don't necessarily need to agree.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

お誕生日おめでとうございます or, Happy Birthday Alex

To celebrate Alex' birthday at home, we had miso soup, vegetarian sushi, nori maki rice crackers and Tamanohikari Omachi Junmai Daiginjo Sake.

Followed by red velvet cake and ice cream, of course!

Sat with Penny and Alex after the meal and went through baby photos.  There was a shot of Rob at 13, which we compared to a shot of Alex at the same age. What a difference between generations. Rob at 13 looked more like a young businessman, buttoned down for his school photo with hair cut short. Alex at that age with his skater-boy long locks, arms akimbo.

We don't pull the old photos out often enough, that's for sure! So many wonderful memories. I can't believe we didn't snap a few photos for the digital age. Too busy celebrating, I guess.


English Food

The menu for the BPYC book club was so great, I asked Kaarina for the recipes. Her theme was 'English Food'. While it is true Britain's national dish is now officially 'curry', we had more traditional and lighter fare. I've never had an Eton Mess before (pictured above).  Kaarina served hers in a beautiful glass ice bucket that made the dessert look especially festive.

Copied and pasted Kaarina's response verbatim for future reference.

Thanks K!


For the salmon:

I won't bother with the poaching business again. Lot simpler to bake it. Brush filets with EVOO, S&P and bake (skin down so you can leave the skin in the pan) at 400 for about 15 minutes. Make sure it's still a bit pink inside because it will continue to cook off heat. Cut into serving pieces and pour on parsley sauce. Garnish with parsley. Serve extra sauce in a gravy bowl.
The following Parsley Sauce recipe is the one I used. Be patient whisking it — it takes a while to thicken. But it does. Do not add more flour. (I didn't use mace or cream because I didn't have any.)  

If you do want to poach, here's a brilliant court boullion (I threw mine down the sink. Arghhhh!!!) I used black peppercorns, 'cause I didn't have any white ones.

I tossed one bunch of watercress with two cucumbers and half cup chopped parsley. Cut the cukes in half lengthwise, take out the seeds with a teaspoon and slice into half moons. Dressing: Olive oil, white wine vinegar, bit of honey, Dijon, S&P, one peeled and slightly smashed whole garlic clove. Remove garlic before dressing salad.

Eton Mess

There's tons of recipes on the Brit food sites. The TorSun one is the closest to what I did because I think less is more with fresh raspberries or whipped cream. I did not use a raspberry liquor but I did add a titch of vanilla to the cream. Quick dessert if you get store-bought meringues; however, you only need sugar and egg whites so they're cheap and easy to make a few days ahead.

Take a look at this one, too — with 0% Greek yogurt, it's practically guilt free if you don't count sugar! This is may be the recipe I followed for the meringues, tho who knows. I looked at so many of them.


Alex Farms — Ask for Farmhouse Stilton. Apparently, there's a big demand for it for Christmas, so stock up soon. (About $29 a pound.) Give it more than 3 HOURS before serving. What we had was not running off the plate yet. Of course, the club house is cooler than most kitchens.
It's made from raw milk, there's only one dairy that still makes it, called Stichelton Dairy. Stiltons come from Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire counties.   


Vintages has 10-year-old Tawny Port on sale $29.95, down from $34.95 until Dec. 1. Should be better than the general listing Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port I served Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Life After Life

Life After Life was one of the most fascinating and well written books I've read this past year, but it was also one of the least satisfying and most frustrating. Kate Atkinson manipulates time and theories of reincarnation to tell an interesting story - one where Ursula, our heroine, is born and reborn repeatedly into the same time and family. 

Each birth eventually ends in death, and as "darkness falls," Ursula will be reborn to repeat events and the opportunity to make different choices. Sometimes it is a big choice that turns her fate, like the choice of a lover or husband. Sometimes it is something deceivingly small, like the decision to buy a yellow dress, enjoy a first kiss, or drop a purse in the street.

The book also abounds with evidence of the power of the individual to influence and change the lives of those around them. Just by being at the side of her childhood friend at the right place and time averts a tragedy that would have rippled at least two families' lives for decades. Life is so random. Or is it?

Technically outstanding it still demanded a huge suspension of belief with the premise. Philosophical references to Nietzche and Buddhism add an extra layer to the speculation, if not the credibility, of the storyline.

On one level I saw it as a writer having fun with the fates and destinies of her characters. But it was definitely thought provoking. Is all this birth and suffering meaningless and pointless? How do we break the endless cycle?  Should we simply embrace our fates without judgement? Are fate and destiny altered by choice? 

Many of the incarnations were dark and depressing - rapes, suicides, domestic violence, murder. Yes, those things do happen but many of us are fortunate to live relatively uneventful lives. Ursula, for whatever reason, seems impossibly cursed.

This was Kaarina's choice for the BPYC Book Club, inspired by a summer get together, when Niki spoke about the book and piqued our curiosity. Of the 7 of us there last night, 2 didn't like it, 2 loved it, the rest of the reviews were mixed in the sense that the readers liked the book almost as much as they didn't like it. A couple people confessed to not finishing it, although I'm not sure whether 'finishing' actually mattered, because the end is the familiar rebirth, and so it seems to go on an unending cycle.

Kaarina also treated us with an outstanding English meal with French and German accents to reference the geographic settings in the novel: poached salmon, cucumber and cress sandwiches, watercress salad and with different wines to taste (French Beaujolais, German Reisling). A decadently creamy trifle and an extraordinary Farmer's Blue Cheese with Port.

All this, with an amazing full moon rising over the clubhouse, made for a really amazing night!
Checked out my copy from the Toronto Public Library digitally for reasons of convenience. Although now that I've heard about Toronto library hardcovers with bedbugs and additional recent reports of books on popular loan carrying herpes and cocaine, e-copies have even more appeal.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just Breathe

Day 20 into this 30-day sadhana.

Frustrated with my progress in some of the poses, struggling with struggle, wondering at times whether indifference or acceptance is the better approach.

Observing the more frustrated I become with a pose the more elusive it becomes. Realizing that sometimes when I am content with a pose, I've somehow stopped doing it. Seeking the repose in a pose.

Noticing ... that just hearing the name of some of the poses causes a reaction before even taking their form... that I am entering the poses I like with a relaxed and welcoming state vs. the poses I don't with a hardening or resistance.

Wondering... although the names of the asana are a great shorthand, could a class be taught without labeling the poses, what that might bring about? Could it be done? Would the experience be more in the moment? At what point would I realize I was in or entering into a pose and then name it? How do I get out of my head?

Just Breathe.

breathe illustration

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Working the Dead Beat

Working the Dead Beat - 50 Lives that Changed Canada was Virginia's pick for November, and a good one! It was a collection of 50 of Sandra Martin's obit columns - not nearly as depressing as it sounds.

Summing up a whole life in a few pages is an art, but it also distilled recent history, because the obits focused on people who had died between 2000 and 2010. There were Prime Ministers alongside actors, entrepreneurs like Ed Mirvish beside early feminists like Doris Anderson.

I read it totally out of sequence, of course, and found myself drawn more to certain sections than others. Rogues, Rascals and Romantics made for interesting reading. Also included: Icons, Builders, Private Lives Public Impact.

One of my favourite quotes in the book, "His life was his art. Alas, it was not a masterpiece," said of Scott Symons, an author I've never read (or aspire to read). But it's a great quote.

Definitely worth picking up but I'm not likely to finish reading it cover-to-cover.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Glenn Frey turned 65 the night we watched him in concert November 6. Until I read the Sun review, I never connected their sound to a genre, but now the label sticks: So-Cal country rock.

Over the years,  I pumped plenty of quarters into jukeboxes to hear their harmonies and lyrics.

When we watched the documentary, "History of the Eagles," I was struck by how many of their tunes I'd loved while growing up: Desperado, Take it To the Limit, Witchy Woman, New Kid in Town, One of These Nights, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Tequila Sunrise... and of course, Hotel California.

The concert started very simply, with Glenn Frey and Don Hedley sitting on amps on stage, and reminiscing, playing 'Whatever Happened to Saturday Night.' One of their earliest, and one of few songs each band member had a hand in writing. A very nostalgic sounding song, and a bit surprising coming from a group that hadn't yet hit their thirties.

One by one, the Eagles took the stage and continued to entertain for the rest of the night. Joe Walsh growled away later in the first set and totally rocked the second. By the end of the concert, when they hadn't yet played their signature song, we knew we were in for an encore. It was generous:  Hotel California, Take It Easy, Rocky Mountain Way and Desperado were a perfect way to end the evening.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Liz and Darcy invited us for dinner. An unexpected, very welcome invite.

The meal was so excellent I'll have to try this one at home:

Very elegant, but also quick and delicious!
  • HEAT a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high. Add 2 tbsp pine nuts and toast lightly, about 2 min. Transfer to a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp capers to pan and cook 1 min. Reduce heat to medium, then add 3 cups trimmed and quartered brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are tender- crisp, 5 to 7 min. Add 1 cup seedless grapes during last 2 min of cooking. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp lemon zest. Transfer to plates.
  • WIPE pan clean and heat over medium-high. Pat 4 skinless salmon fillets dry and sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt over both sides. Season with fresh pepper. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan. (The pan should be hot enough that a drop of water sizzles.) Add salmon fillets and cook 1 to 2 min. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 2 to 4 min. Flip fillets and cook for 30 sec more or until cooked through. Serve over brussels sprouts and garnish with pine nuts.

Classic Comfort Food

Foodie Night!

With the boats out of the water, early darkness and chilly nights, the time seemed right for a comfort food menu.

When I picked the theme, I knew mashed potato would be part of the menu, but I didn't decide on the main until just the day before: Beef Burgundy, when I was flipping through The New Best Recipe.

"Does it Have to be Burgundy?"  The Cook's Illustrated verdict was that Pinot Noir was just as good, and saving a splash for the braise just before serving would make it even better. Very true. Adding brandy to the pearl onions and mushroom garnish was also a nice touch.

To prep the meal I made a herb bouquet with cheesecloth, something I've always meant to try but never seemed to get around to doing. So easy! And it definitely added a great flavour dimension to the braise. Three hours slow cooking in the oven made the house smell wonderful.

Appetizer course was Caroline's Mac and Cheese, another Cook's Illustrated recipe. It was so delicious I just had  to double check it was the same recipe. My cookbook was published in 2004 and wouldn't you know it, the version's evolved since then, with recommendations to start the dish with undercooked macaroni before baking. Yummy.

Salad course was served after the main, a dish of fresh spinach greens, caramelized butternut squash and toasted walnuts, all drizzled with maple syrup.

Maureen brought the dessert course. Pear Mincemeat Crumble with vidal ice wine and ice cream. A beautiful blend of flavours, temperatures and textures.

When Maureen went hunting for the right match at the LCBO they called one of their experts to assist. She said she was looking for a Burgundy, and the helper responded by saying they didn't carry many wines from England. What?!! Usually LCBO staff are quite knowledgeable about their wines, if not their geography.

Tasting Notes

I cooked with a Pinot Noir from Ontario called Coyote Run, pleasant but no real competition for the French burgundies served with the meal.

Chateuneuf du Pape, with its big fruit flavours, always a treat.

Bordeaux was a match too. 

Rodney Strong Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County was outstanding... made me want to visit the region.

photo credit for Beef Burgundy

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vyana Vayu

"Work in a way that doesn't 'bruise' the vyana vayu," was a phrase Marlene shared at the beginning of the class, having heard it from Iyengar as he taught advanced students in Pune, India.

Vyana vayu, or “omnipresent air" ... is not associated with any one area of the body, but rather the entire body, and even extends outward into the area surrounding the body, also known as the aura.

How I understood it this morning opened a door to effortless effort for me. Concentrating only on one part of a pose is a necessary beginning and way to focus attention, but doing only this, can cause you to lose the opportunity to have the body working in whole. Focus on something, yes, but know that one part doesn't work in isolation from another.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall back

Sunny but cool today. We gained an hour and turned the clocks back.

Frost in the morning was a reminder to tend the autumn garden and do some raking, weeding, planting and emptying containers for the coming winter.

Surprised and delighted that the nasturtium are hanging in this late in the season, but the petals are definitely drooping. Toad lily is still looking perky. A late pink rose looks a bit incongruous against the autumn-gold hydrangea.

I dug in some bulbs: juanita daffoldils in the front and back gardens, magic star double lily beside the tree peony, crocus here and there, and some big blue aliums nestled in with the Solomon Seal.

Juanita Daffodils tucked away until next Spring
In between planting the front and back gardens, I left the box of bulbs on the back steps and came inside for a late lunch. While I was looking out the rear window, I saw a squirrel run by with a bulb in its fat cheeks, taking the opportunity to grab its own quick snack.

click on any photo to enlarge