Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." I love that John Lennon quote! So apropos for sailing vacations.

Winds blasting to 40 and 50 kms an hour delayed our departure and changed our destination. Five days in Wilson New York turned into three days on Toronto Island. Not exactly what we planned, but...  love those island views!

Taking the helm on the way over, I kept pointing Yondering toward the island when we were on a starboard tack. Losing the wind when I steered in the direction I wanted to go. Telling myself, "Remember... let the wind fill your sails. It may take longer to get to where you are going, but isn't this nice, what's your hurry?" Yes, indeed.

Instead of our usual anchorage we tucked in around the corner to a slip park-side at QCYC. As soon as we were tied up we cycled one end of the island to the other, taking in the sites. Out to Hanlon's Point, out on the Pier, along the boardwalk, through Ward's, back over the bridge to Algonquin. Stopping here and there to enjoy the sights and walk the bikes. The plaque at Hanlon's reminding visitors that this is where Babe Ruth hit the first home run of his professional career. A symphony of sound: gulls reading graffiti on the pier shouting the carved hearts of lovers' names. The clackety-clack of the boardwalk as our tires play the keys. Chimes in gardens.

Watching the sun set from the cockpit as it changes into a sparkling view of the city skyline. The view of the city from the island is so spectacular I'm surprised it isn't over-crowded with visitors.

Later enjoying a bacon wrapped filet mignon with crumbled blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, roasted potatoes with dill, salad greens. Meals after a day spent outdoors taste so much better, don't you find?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

M dock.... garden?

This spring, it had become apparent that the garden at the base of M dock desperately needed some rejuvenation.  This fact was noticed by my next-dock-neighbour Laura B who talked to slip-mates, and then went to the Board with a proposal for renewal.  A call for volunteers and donations of plants and supplies went out – and quite a number of club members ended up in garden gloves one sunny morning, with shovels and trowels in hand.  Hours later, there was a dramatic difference.  The neglected space was beautiful again, with native plants for pollinators, new branches for birds to nest in, and colourful perennials to brighten the day.

The spirit of the club was so evident to all that morning as we worked side-by-side. The concept of "self-help" was demonstrated in the"what can I do for my club" action taken by these many members.  After the groundwork the night before, (several hours of weeding and tilling the soil to prepare it for planting by Laura and Ed) over a dozen club members participated in the project.

I donated a mugho pine and several coreopsis... plants I'd put in my home garden if it were sunnier.

All docks were represented with members offering donations of plants and/or the needed materials such as soil, sod and mulch in addition to their time and effort.  Many hands truly made light work.  It took some effort and we had to get our hands dirty but, we all had a chance to chat and get to know each other a bit better while having fun. We made our small corner of the world a better place for all to enjoy, members and guests alike.

Oh yes, Laura B. also prepared a very tasty drink called a Strawberry Shrub 
(a popular cooling beverage in Victorian times.)
4 C sliced and crushed strawberries
1 - 1 1/2 C of sugar (to taste)
1 cup of vinegar 

Combine the crushed strawberries and sugar.  Stir well and let sit in the refrigerator overnight to bring out the juices. In a medium saucepan bring the mixture to a low simmer for 10 minutes.  Near the end of the simmer add the vinegar.  Let cool then strain out the solids in a very fine strainer.  Refrigerate the syrup (should yield approx. 2C).  To use, pour into a pitcher, add Perrier or your favourite sparkling water, add ice and enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

To Have and To Hold

Since picking up the ukulele a couple of months ago, I’ve been fairly diligent about setting aside time to play most days.

The Scarborough Uke Jam (SUJ) is great  because I can play along and mostly people turn a forgiving eye and ear to my learners’  gaffes.  Blog TO mentions it as one of the Top 5 places to learn ukulele in Toronto.

I've been enjoying learning how to play this accessible instrument, but mostly I've been trying to teach myself via books and the internet. You Tube has been such a magic treasure chest, with Ukulele MikeCynthia Lynn, Ukulele Play Along, and some very talented players to inspire.

I wanted to accelerate my learning a bit, so signed up for a beginners workshop in June, taught by Paul B., the same person who leads the SUJ.

There is a saying, “practise makes permanent” and it’s true. My self-taught persistence has ingrained habits that are proving hard to break. At the first session of the workshop, Paul B. pointed out to me that how I was holding the ukulele neck with my left hand could make it difficult to change chords without a pause. When I tried the new position it seemed obvious why it would work better, but try as I might, I keep sliding back to the old fingering.

Here’s some good online advice I’ve come across about holding the instrument:
- Paul B. on You Tube giving a demo (he was the instructor at the beginners workshop and leads the Uke Jam at the Stone Cottage)
- holding exercises ("you don't want to be thinking about gravity when you should be thinking about music.")

So I am trying to bring the same level of awareness I’ve developed in yoga to how I hold the ukulele, but it is frustrating to have to continually remind myself to reposition the left hand. Lately, more than once I have fantasized about taking my cute little soprano and smashing it to bits, rock star style. Then I take a deep breath and remind myself about non-violence and non-attachment and try to refocus on the music.

After all, it’s about the music, right? Relax, find the notes, feel the rhythm.  

As to the question of how to hold the uke, the most important thing is to pick it up in the first place.

Friday, June 26, 2015

June garden

I could watch the shadows dance and the light play in the garden for hours... and I do! June is especially lovely because everything is so green.

The Rodgersia loves the new spot I gave it, tucked out of the wind by the deck. The plume is quite amazing this year, I can't remember it being so showy. The foliage is equally striking, with great big leaves.

Other flowers are blooming, too. The poppies popped, the beauty bush came and went, and the clematises (clemati?) are coming along quite nicely. Corydalis! Roses! Sage!

And pots of parsley, rosemary, thyme and basil by the back door, a quick reach from the kitchen counter.

I also potted begonia, Kong Coleus, and a Dwarf Golden Hinooki False-Cypress. They all seem to be thriving in their new digs.

Rodgersia Sambucifolia


Ice Blue clematis

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Murder Mystery Month

Murder mysteries were coincidentally the June selection of both my book clubs.

Death at La Fenice was set in modern Venice, and a pleasure to read just for the scenery. The author, Donna Leon, lives in the Veneto capital, and knows the city’s crags and nooks intimately.

The vivid descriptions of the streets took me back to many of the corners I’d visited as a tourist, but  the familiarity of a true citizen’s eye gave me new appreciation for what it would be like to live and work in this historic centre.  I didn’t really try to solve the who-done-it as the plot unfolded, however, the murderer isn’t as much a surprise as the motive.

Grace picked the title for the BPYC book club, and one of the interesting turns the conversation took was the difference between real justice and the legal system; whether it is ever right to “take the law into your own hands.” Commissario Guido Brunetti walks a fine line between the two.

The book is the first of a franchise and was made into a TV series. The Commissario Brunetti novels are all situated in or around Venice. They are written in English and translated into many foreign languages, but not into Italian, at Leon's request.  

I recommended The Luminaries to the Book Babes. A story of intrigue during the Gold Rush in New Zealand, it got rave international reviews and won both the Man Booker Prize and Governor General’s Award. 

At more than 800 pages I thought it would make an engrossing and extravagant  summer read. Instead, it turned into a feat of endurance: I first opened the cover in June 2014; continued reading in July but put it aside; picked it up again in the fall; read over the Christmas holidays; and finally finished in the spring. Since it was my pick,  I felt obligated to finish.

There were eight of us at the meeting, but only Nicki and I actually finished the book. There were no  arguments about whether  the novel itself was brilliant, because it definitely is... but brilliant doesn't mean it's engaging for  ‘regular’ readers. The same responses are noted again and again at Good Reads, a reliable gage of popular tastes.

The Luminaries may be one of those books that improves with a second or third reading, but I’m not motivated to return to it for at least a couple summers! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Shuffle off to Buffalo

Rob and I went on an architectural tour of five Frank Lloyd Wright designs, ate dinner in an Ethiopian restaurant one night and a Prohibition-era speakeasy the next, took a Harbour tour that included a trip down a lock, did some bird watching, visited a wonderful gallery and took in the Allentown art festival.

When I was a kid, all I knew about Buffalo was what I saw on TV. So I associated it with nightly news about "fire in Tonawanda!" and Mighty Mouse cartoons with Commander Tom. My only other trip was to visit the Albright-Knox gallery back in 2012, a quick jaunt from the expressway with no visit to the downtown. Unfortunately, I didn’t update my opinion of Buffalo until last weekend, but I'll never think of the city in quite the same way again.

Even though we had booked our trip for the purpose of an architectural tour featuring the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, I was surprised by the grandeur of many of the buildings. An art deco masterpiece at City Hall, imposing mansions, and the setting for architectural precedents, including: the first steam grain elevator; one of the first hotels designed by a female architect; the first Frank Lloyd Wright boathouse;  the only FWL gas-filling station (incidentally, the combustible gas was to be stored just above a working fireplace).

Frank Lloyd Wright is well-known and appreciated for his organic architecture and skillful manipulation of light, which we got to appreciate first hand at Martin House, Greycliffe, the Boathouse, Pierce-Arrow filling station, and Blue Sky. Looking at photos is one thing, but inhabiting and interacting with the space is the best way to experience architecture. The way you  feel interacting with FLW designs is something else entirely. Some attribute it to the way he would compress entrances, others point to the direction of the light or the way the natural space extends outside to the inside. I thought Taliesin West was exceptional because of the desert, but Wright was also able to carry off the same transcendence in a northern climate. His dwellings are completely livable, with rooms positioned for the best views and places to make the most of your moments.

gardener's cottage at Martin house
When we visited the Martin House there was mention that the artglass for the main fireplace would be installed within the next two years. I think a return visit, just to see that completed, would be well worth the trip.

Wandering the streets of Allentown for the festival was an experience. Estimates were for 200,000 visitors over the two days, and there were plenty of artists and vendors displaying their craft. It reminded me a lot of our own One of A Kind festival, but held outdoors.

Saturday evening we ate at the Lafayette, a historic building  completed between 1902 and 1926, and one of the first hotels designed by a female architect (Louise Blanchard Bethune). We enjoyed delicious food in a room that had been used as a speakeasy during Prohibition, so I ordered a Sidecar off the cocktail menu in honour of the occasion. Butterwood Sweet and Savoury had wonderful ambience, and if I were visiting on a Tuesday or Thursday night, I could also have participated in a Paint Night.

Sunday morning we were strolling the waterfront looking at the naval exhibits and we happened upon the Miss Buffalo about to depart on a river cruise. Thankfully, the Penn Dixie organization was willing to take two Canadians aboard at the last minute. As we toured along the shoreline we enjoyed commentary about the birds, geology, and fisheries. The three-hour tour included a view of the Buffalo skyline, deserted grain elevators, a wind farm, a traverse through a lock & swing bridge, and a close-up view from the water of the Boathouse. Along the way we saw lots of waterfowl, including terns, gulls, great herons, blue herons, night herons, an egret, and a snapping turtle.

After that, it was off to the gallery to take in the works of Charles Burchfield, Phillip Burke, and sculptures from the Spong Collection.

Although Buffalo is the second largest city in New York State, its numbers are still fairly small with a population of about 260,000. Skillfully restored buildings stand beside others that look in need of quick rescue. Right now, the city is on the edge. lt could be ready for a resurgence or a desperate fall. Hopefully it will manage to continue its upward swing.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sailpast 2015

We were celebrating the 35th  anniversary of Bluffers Park Yacht Club.  Rob and I were in attendance at the party for the 25th, with all its fireworks and fanfare. Rob wasn’t able to attend this year because the opportunity of a fishing expedition on the Bad River was called the same weekend, so I had to make do without Yondering’s skipper.
A bright, sunny day with light wind brought perfect conditions for the ceremony. I enjoy seeing everyone dressed in blue and white as a nautical nod to tradition. The day was a bit cooler than expected, but jackets kept us comfortable by the water. The order of events are now part of the BPYC ritual: the piper piped; the Board was introduced; we honoured our missing in a memorial address; the flags were raised; awards, awarded; and the start of the season toasted with a strawberry mimosa.

Dick called on several of the founding members that had built the club to raise the flags. Very appropriate, I thought, for the anniversary.
Caroline kindly extended an offer to me to crew Awful Beloved, which  had just had new main and jib sails rigged. This was AWs season shake down, and the skipper was up on deck tweaking the halyard for a bit, while I made myself useful as the helm. We sailed past the Commodore and gave the traditional luff as she inspected her fleet.
Upon return to the dock, I left Caroline to get ready for the evening party and take up my station at the cocktail bar. Kaarina’s chosen concoctions for this event were Salty Dogs and Caesars. I ended up pouring gin and rimming glasses with Malden sea salt flakes and lime zest. Very tasty!  Although I was busy with the pour, I did manage a few breaks to the oyster bar, to slurp some freshly shucked.
I consider it a small miracle that the club managed a sit down meal for close to 200 people. The largest number of attendees on record! Despite the volume, all the plates made it to the tables with the cold food cold and the hot food hot. A truly delicious meal, which I enjoyed in the company of Caroline, Kaarina and Mike; Aldo and Alex. We skipped the dessert course for drinks on Alex’ and Aldo’s boat, tunes cranked high and sometimes singing along.
Then it was back to the clubhouse to dance for a few hours before a solid sleep on the boat. My first overnight of the season.
Salty dog:
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz aperol
2 oz grapefruit juice
Splash of tonic water
Rim with
sea salt flakes (Malden) sprinkled with grated lime zest

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Full Poppy Moon: June

The moon is full today at 12:19. 

Known as the Strawberry Moon by Algonquin tribes, sometimes the Rose Moon by Europeans, and also called Honeymoon.

But since I have no strawberries or roses yet appearing in my garden, for me this a Poppy Moon, in honour of the beautiful poppies I saw blooming in my garden this morning.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Four days were definitely well spent taking an Alternative Dispute Resolution course through Stitt Feld Handy, accredited through the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. There was an emphasis on role play with the observation and guidance of professional coaches, with ample opportunity to put the techniques and tools we were learning into practice. Evenings were spent reviewing case study material in preparation for the next day.

There were a high percentage of lawyers in attendance, which makes sense, since a good number of cases these days are settled through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration before heading into the courts. You don't need a degree in law to open a practice in ADR, and the industry isn't regulated, so anyone can hang up their shingle. There are professional associations, including ADR Institute of Canada and ADR Chambers that help promote the work of their members.

Principled negotiation is based on a Win/Win approach that instead of focusing on position, focuses on interests. Readers of Getting to Yes may recall the story about the orange:
There were two chefs who each needed one whole orange for their dish. However, there was only one orange available. What they agreed upon was to split the orange in half. One chef went away and used only the juice of his half, while the other chef used only the rind. Had they focused on the other person’s interest in the orange, a better, mutually beneficial agreement could have been reached. Genius. Survive Law
A good mediatior can help parties who seem to have competing interests discover if there are any shared interests that can be used to identify a creative solution that will benefit them both.

Most importantly, if something isn't in your best interests, don't settle.  Two key concepts for me were 'BATNA' and 'ZOPA.'

Going into a negotiation, identify your Best Alternative to the Negotiated Alternative (BATNA). Flesh it out and do your research. Good examples are buying a car or house, where you identify other like-products and know their value. If you can't negotiate something better than your BATNA, don't. Walk and go with the BATNA.

You have your BATNA, and the person you are negotiating with will have theirs. Where is overlaps is the Zone of Possible Agreement, or ZOPA. Some deals have a zero ZOPA and others have a wide range.

Usually it is best not to reveal your BATNA - unless the other side is seriously underestimating what you may have in your back pocket.

The course will definitely help me in my work of stakeholder relations and partnership development, and I'll certainly be able to apply it in my personal life as well. Who knows, I may even pursue the Executive Certificate in Conflict Management.

illustration of negotiators