Sunday, May 31, 2015

May gardening

Early May I planted some natives, (may flower and bunch berry). During the May long weekend 50 nasturtium and 50 coleus found places, along with Jack Frost bergenia, purple cone flower, black eyed susan, asters and bergamot.

Alex and Rob planted a Trompenburg Japanese Maple that was tagged to show growth of 1 meter wide to 1 meter tall, but when I googled it, other sources project 3 meters in height. Time will tell.

The tree peony was truly amazing this year! More blooms than ever, and unbelievably fragrant. A thunderstorm pelted them into a bedraggled state by May 30, but we were able to enjoy the bounty for a week. The first saucer-sized flower came into bloom May 22.

We also managed to get the deck stained and front stairs painted. The last time I attempted the job myself it took a couple of weekends, so this time I called up Carol & she took care of it in a couple of days.

May 28
May 30

The hostas are perfect, as yet undiscovered by the slugs; and the greens are all so fresh and lush.

  • alium
  • bergenia
  • bleeding hearts
  • daphne (May 20)
  • daffodils
  • euphorbia
  • hellebore
  • May apple (May 28)
  • poppy (May26, first bit of orange)
  • pulminaria
  • siberian bugloss
  • solomon's seal
  • sweet woodruff
  • tree peony (May 22 - May 30)
  • tulips

May Sails

Rob had Yondering ready to sail by the long weekend, and we took her out for the "shake down" May 16. Sunny, flat water, and light fair winds - perfect conditions.

Two days later we were out again. Warm air and cold water produced a thick fog that descended quickly once we were out from shore. It's such a dreamy sensation being enveloped in a cloud, but not so fun when you can hear power boats cruising at top speeds so close by. Back to our slip.

We headed down to BPYC after work May 27 but there was absolutely no wind, so we plunked the canoe into the water and paddled in and around through the Federation docks. It was easy enough getting the canoe in, much harder to hoist it up and out.

A cruise was planned for the last weekend in May, but we opted out due to weather forecast. Saturday morning looked wonderful, but by the afternoon, big thunderstorms and pelting rain made me appreciate the comfort of my living room. Cold wind on the nose for the return Sunday sail wouldn't have been much fun, either.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Blank canvas

On Sunday a group of us from BPYC spent the afternoon in an art class. Maria, the instructor, is actually a grade school art teacher, but turned out to be a perfect fit for us. She brought along everything we would need to complete three different projects: paints, canvases, brushes, palette knives, and most importantly, her encouragement. After a short demo and general advice, she wandered among our tables to lend an eye or  hand when invited.
Seventeen participants, most of us from the book club, sat four or five to a table. I found the blank canvases a bit intimidating at first, but took a leap of faith and dipped my sponge into the paint. A circle of white, expanding to iridescent blue and deepening to midnight, became the background for five birches bathed in moonlight. The birches were created using masking tape to create negative space around long, straight trunks. A credit card turned out to be the perfect tool to blend the hues with gentle curves. We waited for the paint to dry, and then removed it for the big reveal – hoping none had leaked under the adhesive.
It worked!  I was pleased with my artistic effort, and It was great fun to wander around and look at others’ creations. There was so much variety in the execution of the simple theme. I could almost see the little kids coming out in people’s smiles.
During the afternoon we also played with making a few more canvases. Flowers in a field, and hydrangeas in a vase. I didn’t get around to the hydrangeas, but it was a fun approach  that involved blowing bubbles with a straw. The flowers in the field were another technique, using palette knives to give shape to the paint.
Maria’s projects were well chosen. Not only were they simple, they incorporated basic techniques for maximum effect. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we hope to have Maria return again in the fall or winter to lead us through another session.
It made me happy to see how an idea I’d had a few months earlier had taken shape. Last New Year I had made a quiet resolution to take a few art classes. I thought it would be fun to get a group together, and reached out to my BPYC book club to see if there were any takers. There was lots of interest, so I then reached out to a teacher to try to organize an afternoon. The person I found was a bit pricey. That’s when Laura B. stepped up. She found someone willing and able, who could do it for a great rate. Who knows, the session may have inspired more than a couple of members to pick up brushes again. We may need to have an exhibition some time in the future.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Babes AGM 2015

What a wonderful weekend at the Book Babes AGM.  Nicki hosted again, with six of us on Friday night and nine of us on Saturday.

I was lucky enough to be at the first meeting almost 12 years ago. There have been some fresh faces come and a few familiar faces go, but there is a strong core.

The AGM is definitely part of the glue that holds us together, and I'm grateful to Nicki to keep herding us cats throughout the years and also to the AGM.

It's great to have a reason to get together, and it's definitely not just about the books!

We chose the coming year's selection but also had a timely discussion about ways that we might renew and reinvigorate our get-togethers. As a result, we'll try a few new things this coming year, and hang on to some of the tried and true things that help to make the club so special.

In addition to a great discussion we also managed to get a nice walk in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest and a trip into town to check out the public library. We popped in to a Thrift store and some of us got some fantastic bargains - Nicolette treated me to a straw boater and Liz managed to pick up some Brazilian leather shoes.

Great fun, great food,  and lots of laughs.

Book clubbing

Can Lit was on the menu in April and May, along with some very compelling characters.

Best Laid Plans, Terry Fallis / BPYC Book Club (Kaarina's pick)
Who makes the perfect politician? In this political satire, it's someone who doesn't want to win in the next election and ends up in the seat by a wicked twist of events. Once in the Legislature, Angus McLintock has nothing to lose. He's not interested in being re-elected, he's not beholden to anyone for funding his campaign, and he doesn't abide solely by party loyalties. Improbable events become somehow plausible. An entertaining premise and a timely read, given our upcoming election.

Flee, Fly, Flown, Janet Hepburn / Book Babes (Nicki's & Judi's pick)
Two senior residents escape from their long-term care home. They're also Alzheimer patients without their meds. The road trip is sometimes comic, often tragic. It is the story of a quest with archetypal imagery thrown in for good measure. Told from the point of view of Lillian, one of the escapees, I often doubted the authenticity of the voice and its portrayal of the disease.  The character goes in and out of the present and past and is at turns beguiled, confused, terrified, competent, incompetent.  Very thought provoking.

House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout / BPYC Book Club (Lisa's pick)
I started reading this without any preamble or idea of genre, loading it on my e-reader without the benefit of a book-jacket blurb. At first I thought it was science fiction, but by the second chapter it was reading very much like a memoir. And that is exactly what it is. The story of a back-packer turned freelance journalist, who is kidnapped in Somalia and spends a horrific fifteen months in captivity. That she survived and lived to tell the tale is a miracle. Amanda Lindhout has since founded the Global Enrichment Foundation to empower Somali women through education.

Cabbagetown, Hugh Garner / Book Babes (Louise's pick)
First published in 1950, written about the Depression era. I read the '68 version in the early '70's. And now again in 2015. The language is a bit stiff sometimes but the story does stand up, decades later, as a gritty and realistic depiction of tough times. Many reviews rank it alongside Grapes of Wrath or the Tin Flute. The original Cabbagetown was razed in the late 1940's because it was such a slum. Regent Park was built in its place and the buildings again torn down in 2010. The street names and many of the neighbourhooods are so familiar. I'm glad to have reread this story.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Barber of Seville

COC Four Seasons is a gorgeous performance space, offering not only surface appeal but outstanding acoustics. The perfect venue to experience our first opera, the Barber of Seville.

The production itself had mixed reviews for sets, costumes and stage direction. If I were an experienced opera-goer I might have brought a more critical eye to the performance, but I was happy just to be there and take it all in. Our perch in the balcony had been upgraded for free to orchestra seating, so we had a great view of the stage and the comic events. 
The Barber of Seville  is 200 years old: young lovers scheming to be together and thwart the plans of the older, powerful male to dictate their destiny. Figaro, the Barber of Seville, comes to their aid and the pair are wed in a grand celebration for the opera's finale.

The stage was crowded with colourful players as they took their final bows.

The music is so familiar, having been the soundtrack to so many Saturday morning cartoons (Bugs Bunny in The Rabbit of Seville).

Some of my favourite operatic moments were when the three principal performers are each singing their own parts, clearly not listening to the others, voices rising, expressing entirely different points of view, tenor and soprano and baritone seemingly deaf to each other but harmonious at the same time.
The next day my ears are still hearing the music.

The COC has developed guides to help make opera more accessible:

COC Opera Study Guide
COC Listening Guide

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Alex sent me a note that this photo he took of Griskit ended up on Mashable and has about 200,000 views now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hot Docs

The world is such an amazing place. During the span of a few days I watched a Sri Lankan captain a freighter across the transatlantic, a chef gain his third Michelin star, Haitian dancers at Carnivale, a Buddhist play the role of Christ in a Passion Play, the sad life of an Elvis impersonator, and the mysterious disappearance of an eco-terrorist.

Hot Docs is the largest screening of documentaries in North America. The directors are often on hand before and after the screenings to give a behind-the-scenes view. Rob and I attended almost a month ago now, but am still thinking about the documentaries we saw:

There were some traditional 'films'.... shot on film and not developed until much later, so the directors weren't entirely certain what they were capturing or how it might come together. Very few people work like this in today's digital age, where you can see what you've got immediately and adjust or plan accordingly. After the footage was developed for Kanaval there were a few reels that were overexposed, so the filmmakers worked with the lab to give those scenes an other-worldly effect. It may not have been premeditated but it was effective.

Digital shooting seems to lead to incredibly high shooting ratios. In the doc, For Grace, more than 300 hours were captured to produce 90 minutes; Jesus Town was 10 hours of shooting every day for 5 months with 2 cameras for the final 90 minutes. These films are shaped in the editing process as well. Even after deciding on the storyline, there are an infinite number of choices in how to tell the story.

With documentaries you don't always know how events will unfold. You might go in with preconceptions but have to be open to the twists of fate. Is the presence of a camera and crew changing the choices the subjects are making on the film? Can you control what will happen next?

We also saw a few docs that recounted events after-the-fact, so the art of the documentary was how it pieced together available found footage or first-hand interviews with people who had direct experience. So many different points of view. What really happened? Will we ever know?

For Grace was shot on 2 DSLR cameras and then edited on a desktop computer. You don't necessarily need to invest a huge amount of money in gear and crew to get incredible results. The film started as a video short for the Chicago Tribune lifestyle section.

Hadwin's Judgement re-enacted and re-imagined scenes brought to life using an actor and was inspired by a non-fiction book.

Orion, a Brit film, was on the festival circuit and had premiered within the previous week at Tribeca.

I'm signing up for the Doc Soup/Hot Docs combo. Great value per ticket price, but also a great way to expand my point of view.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Zubin - 2015

The Yoga Centre hosted Zubin May 1- 3 for an intensive. I booked early and looked forward to attending because the last time he visited in October 2012, it was quite illuminating. Marlene says watching Zubin teach reminds her of Guru-ji, which makes sense since Zubin studied many years, starting at an early age, directly with Iyengar.

The weekend was more of a tasting menu, an introduction to concepts and techniques that we could incorporate into our practises. 

The class was packed. I think over 70 people filled a room that feels tight when 30 bodies are present. Despite cramped quarters I could usually get a good view of the demos and hear what was going on.

By the end of the three days I was exhausted - partaking in the Commodore's Ball Saturday night was fun but it may have made Sunday's session even more challenging.

Zubin is amazing to watch. As he does the poses he seemingly brings attention to every fibre, inspiring us to be aware of our own skin, muscles, bones, front, side and back body. He encouraged us to explore what happens in different asana with different hand and foot positions, to feel and experience within our own body rather than copying someone else's pose.

Try to bring everything into the pose: the awareness of how previous poses are helping to shape the present; the way the skin wraps the muscle and muscle wraps the bone and the bones align; how effort balances with rest; which direction the energy is moving; the way the shape of the asana is affecting the shape of the breath.

It's very humbling, indeed, to watch a master undertake the poses with such grace and power. I admit to taking some solace when I saw many experienced teachers grappling, as I was, with the instructions. A lifetime's work.

some technical notes....
  • In tadasana, isolate the back of the pelvis and spread it outward
  • In adho mukha savasana, remember to wrap the upper arms and shoulders outward while the forearms move inward
  • Supta Padangusthasana is contained within 60% of poses - don't underestimate it's importance
  • Virasana rejuvenates the legs after long walks or long periods of inactivity
  • The foot postion in Virabhadrasana 3 should be the same as prone savasana
  • Remember the head is part of the spine and keep them on the same plane, even in backbends
  • In some poses, the buttocks are an extension of the legs, in others they act as part of the torso
  • Stop wavering in headstand! Align the legs with the torso
  • In shoulder stand,  work to broaden the diaphram
  • In setu bandha sarvangasana the chest should expand and the energy move like a waterfall

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

Alex came over and brought the ingredients to make a delicious Mother's Day breakfast - fruit parfait, smoothie, croissant, bacon and eggs. A very special breakfast.

It's funny, when he did come over and I gave him a hug, he seemed a lot taller than I remembered.

This is the first Mother's Day he hasn't been living at home, and I appreciated the effort to continue the tradition. Every year for the past 15 at least, there has been something he's made. Burnt toast, a bowl of cereal. The offerings have gotten a lot tastier over the years!

Last Pictures

Last Friday when I woke up, instead of my usual morning meditation/yoga, I drove out to High Park to admire the cherry blossoms before heading off to a full day at work. They were gorgeous! Like pink clouds that had come down from the heavens. Despite the early hour, there were plenty of fellow admirers. City TV, two bride and groom photo shoots, several beauties among the blossoms. The petals were starting to fall, so I'm glad I managed to make it out before it was too late. Some things you just can't put off! For rest of the day I felt so happy I was almost giddy.

The same evening Rob and I headed to the Aquarium with Liz and Darcy to listen to jazz and take in the incredible sights. The band was playing standards I'm trying to learn on the ukulele (Stand by Me, Walking After Midnight) and lots of other great tunes. We were able to wander around with a glass of wine in hand, something not possible except at special events. All in all a fantastic day!

Which brings me to the 'last pictures'. Saturday morning I was driving in the neighbourhood and there was a beautiful magnolia dropping the last of its petals. It looked as though it were standing in a pink lake. Breath-taking! So I stopped the car, grabbed my camera and got out to take a photo. I guess I was a bit too excited because the camera flew out of my hand and skidded across the road. Unfortunately it wasn't able to power on to take the photo I wanted. Hopefully the camera is still under warranty and can be repaired. If not, it took some great last pictures.

Blossoms in High Park
Beauty shots
Ripley's Aquarium

Other-worldly face

Dragon fish

Jelly fish

Gone native

Before heading to Markham Civic Centre for the annual plant sale, I chose some woodland wonders from the plant list. I arrived about a half hour after the start, and the bluntleaf waterleaf, wood lily, evening primrose, red trillium and wooly blue violent were already gone. The only plant on my list available was the Canada Mayflower. A great consolation though, were the Jack in the Pulpit and bunch berry I brought home.

Bunchberry (also known as creeping Dogwood)

Bunchberry and Mayflower both prefer moist conditions so may not do well in my garden, which I only water weekly in times of drought. Both also produce white flowers in spring and red berries in autumn. Pretty specimens that I've tried to grow before.  Maybe I should give them a bit more peat to soak their roots in this time around.

Mayflower (also known as Canadian lily of the valley)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring time!

Watching this time lapse video of the ferns and trillium coming up in the garden, I realize why we call it 'spring time'.

The ferns look like creatures exploring new territory - periscopes and all! And suddenly a trillium sproings from under the debris.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Full Flower Moon - May

My garden and neighbourhood and city all look incredible right now. Magnolias in full bloom, cherry trees blossoming, ferns sprouting, blood root unfurling, trillium, tulips, daffoldill, scilla. It is exciting just to walk or drive down the street. Spring is such a miracle.

Moon is full May 4 at 3:42 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Latin Jazz at the Toronto Symphony

The World Premiere of Sinfonia Afrocubana by Hilario Duran brought 86 musicians onto the Roy Thompson stage for a Latin Jazz celebration. The original jazz trio (piano, bass and drums) was accompanied by Bata drums, Guiro, kettle drums, snares, Xylophone, and of course the full string and brass section.

Bata drums are instruments first used in sacred and religious music, and it was likely the first time these had sat with a full orchestra.

Our host for the evening, Tom Allen, explained how Cuba came to its unique musical personality. First an island of indigenous people, taken over by Spaniards, it became a home and not simply a production centre for the latest crops. The African slaves on this island could earn their freedom, and many did. By the time the French Haitian landowners fled the revolution on their island for the safety of the Cuban shore, half of the Black population were free men. Music was a mix of African beat, Spanish rhythm, religious hymns, and French influence. Ships regularly delivered their cargo to none other than New Orleans, and each time they returned, they came with more music from the American Jazz world:  blues, jazz, dixieland. No wonder, then, why the music has such a unique sound.

Hilario's Sinfonia got a standing ovation by many in the audience. Introduced the way it had been by Tom Allen, I could hear samples of its heritage from beginning to end and recognized a bit of flamenco, American blues, a touch of Gershwin. Definitely a full sound, sometimes almost cacophony, and at others a whispered melody. Like the history of Cuba itself.

Families of the trio were in the audience, included one little girl of about 7 that called out to her father on stage in the quiet between movements. An unintentional grace note.

There were two other pieces of music played that evening, symphonic dances from Bernstein's West Side Story and Ginaster's: Malambo from Estancia. Roberto Minczuk was the conductor and I could feel his exuberance all the way up in the back of the house.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Blood root

Rob gave me a time lapse camera that is weather resistant - perfect for outdoor shots of gardens growing!

It looks like the plant is breathing, or waving. Extraordinary!

What a great Christmas present. The gift that keeps on giving.