Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

This is our first Christmas morning without Alex, but I saw him last night, tonight, tomorrow night. So I am happy to be spending much of the holidays with him.

Rob and I exchanged gifts with some spiced eggnog this morning, with carols on the radio and the cat curled up beside us.

I was a bit nervous about my gift to Rob because we usually make such decisions jointly, but he is excited about going on the Jazz Safari to New York City in March. Whew.

No Safari tickets just yet, so I wrapped up two books: Essential Jazz Recordings - 101 CDs and Lonely Planet, Make My Day NYC. Both should give us hours of pleasure as we wait for the trip.

Rob gave me books as well:  The Big New Yorker Book of Cats, Ian Brown's Diary of My Sixty-First Year, colouring books (The Time Chamber and Secret Garden), and Gin, the Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival in 300 Distillations. Hours and hours of pleasure!

When I developed my sensitivity to wine last year, I looked for substitutes. Sake was one, but gin proved to be more engrossing. I didn't blog much about it, but it became a strong interest in 2015 as I sampled from different distilleries. Ungave, the Botanist, Sipsmith, Tanqueray, Haymans, Citadell, Hendricks, Victoria, Beefeater, Dillon's (loved the rose, hated the unfiltered).  This year, I opted to delay celebrating the Winter Solstice with a tasting with plans to host a Gin tasting for the Summer Solstice.  Maybe I will even distill my own small batch, as the book by Aron Knoll comes with instructions!

Full Christmas Moon - December

A full moon for Christmas!

No pictures of snowy white this year, the grass is still green and the temperature 10C.  Very different from recent years.

The moon 'officially' full at 6:15 a.m.

Now at mid-day, all is calm and all is bright!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Play's the Thing

I think this year I've seen more live theatre than in the past five years combined.

Dramatic, comedic, experimental, amateur, musical and even amateur musicals. I loved them all. Well, mostly. One regret was Sherlock, spectacularly awful, with the headlining actor forgetting his lines and a mashed up script with uncomfortable staging. Shows like that make me appreciate other productions.

I try to save reading the reviews and comparing notes for afterward, so I can enjoy the experience unfolding before me as it happens. The less I know going in to the theatre, the better. Other than knowing the general gist, whether it is a tragedy or comedy, I prefer to be surprised and form my own opinions.

Our friends' son debuted in a couple of plays, occupying the starring role in the second, a rom-com called 40 Carats. Dylan has always been a great mimic, but still I was struck by how perfectly he fit the roles.

This was the year I discovered House Seats, where you pay an annual subscription fee to qualify for free tickets when productions become available. I saw a great variety of shows this way. Stories by Alice Munro was performed by a troupe from San Francisco, who essentially read through two short stories by Munro, word for word, as they enact scenes. Bombay Black featured a male starring in the female role, a puzzling casting choice. Empire was a Cirque training ground, with a couple of acts lifted from their past productions.

One of the most interesting experiences this year was Elizabeth-Darcy, performed at the historic Campbell House. We happened to go on Jane Austin's 175th birthday, and watched Pride and Prejudice come to life, courtesy of two actors. With minimal costume changes and strong performances, they inhabited more than ten different characters, gender-bending quite believably.  Scenes took place in different rooms of the house, and the audience literally followed their story from place to place. I felt as though I was invisible. It's great when the audience gets their own superpowers.

It's also great when there is the opportunity to poke behind the scenes. When we booked Can Stage productions, we chose performances with 'talks.' Harper Reagan offered a chat with the playwright Simon Stephens, and it was interesting to hear comments from writers in the audience about  how difficult it was to get their own works staged. Simon was somewhat sympathetic but made no apologies for his international success, and why should he?  Domesticated, an ironic black comedy, had an after-show chat with performers. Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, happened to be there, and questioned the feminist message of the play; Paul Gross, who had the role of the philandering husband, talked about dramatizing how this particular archetypal male would soon make himself redundant.

Last summer, when I went out for a walk at lunch, someone handed me a coupon for a reduced ticket price to see Kinky Boots when it was new in town. Since I hadn't been to see a big-scale spectacular in a very long time, I thought it was overdue. Kinky Boots turned out so be much fun I actually subscribed to the entire Mirvish season. The best spectacles leave me singing and humming their tunes, feeling good, hopeful, and openhearted.  Next week is Cinderella, and I'm looking forward to how they will show the glass slipper, and the pumpkin coach, and the evil step mother...

Harper Regan  (March)
Stories by Alice Munro (April)
South Pacific (May)
The Mumberly Inheritance (June)
Kinky Boots (July)
Empire / Spiegelworld (August)
Motown (October)
40 Carats (Oct)
Sherlock (Nov)
Bombay Black (Nov)
Domesticated (Dec)
Elizabeth-Darcy (Dec)
Cinderella (Dec)
Traces (Dec)

post script 
Cinderella was so much fun! Little girls in pink frothy dresses were sitting behind me, squealing and laughing all throughout the performance. Great staging, particularly when Cinderella's dress changed into a ballgown. No puffs of smoke or fairy-helpers, Cinderella twirled and it seemed the dress turned inside out... only a small fabric add-on. 

The last day of the year, we saw Traces, a troupe who combined acrobatics and trapeze with singing and dancing on skateboards. 90 minutes flew by...

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

The unreliable narrator leads the reader through some interesting twists and turns in the telling of their tale. I thoroughly enjoyed the book when I read the story last summer, and planned to refresh my memory before heading to Laura C's for the book club discussion. I didn't get the opportunity for a refresh, but five months later, the lasting impression is definitely the voice of the narrator. 

As the five of us started talking, details came back quickly. The psychological thriller has been on the NY Times best seller list for almost a year. Highly entertaining and well-crafted. 

The reader only needs to get a few pages into the story to understand the narrator is seriously twisted, and it is easy to jump to faulty conclusions. Early judgements lead to false assumptions, and to me that is the neat trick of the book, its reminder that we are not immune to faulty reasoning that can easily lead us into treacherous places and relationships. 

Although it was a small gathering, it was a very nice evening spent with Laura, Pat, Virginia and Nicki. Munching on homemade stilton shortbread cookies & mac and cheese with the Christmas decorations all set out, and a fire burning in the hearth. Cozy.

O's Little Book of Happiness

A compilation of bite-sized articles about happiness, and how people find it in simple moments and joyous epiphanies. Fairly sweet and rich, so it's best not to take in more than one or two at a time.

- Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.
Margaret Lee Runbeck 

- We notice that the moment to be happy has already arrived. It's here, now.
Martha Beck

- It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
Agness Repplier

Perfect bathtub reading! All except for the quiz, which needed a separate pen and paper. What women's magazine doesn't have a quiz lurking somewhere? I couldn't resist taking this one, which congratulated me for being a happy person. There are days it aint necessarily so, and happiness becomes a conscious choice. The mini-essays were useful reminders for those kind of days.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Checked this one out from the Toronto Public Library Overdrive app, as an audio book. This was one of the first audio books I've listened to start to finish. Excellent medium on the subway, when it is so crowded coming home there isn't room to hold a book open in front of you, and your eyes are too tired anyway. Although when you nod off or attention wanders, listening to an audio book, it's hard to find your place again.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened is read aloud by the author, who has a bit of a high, squeaky voice that sounds as though it has been sped up. Parts of the memoir were hilarious, and there were some tragic chapters that seemed dropped in out of the blue (to make the author more lovable and less whiny?). Not sure if I would classify this as a great book to curl up with, but as an audio book it was a good listen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Revolving and evolving

YCT has posters up now showcasing Iyengar in his younger years from Light on Yoga, and when they went up, my gaze went first to Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose).

I must have attempted this at least one hundred times over the years, but tonight Neron gave emphasis to approaching it in a different way, and I was actually able to maintain the pose without toppling to the side. Not perfection, by any means, but I was actually able to raise my arm, something that has eluded me in the past.

The difference for me tonight was in finding centre, by keeping my head more in line with my trunk. I was so surprised I wasn't toppling over that I almost toppled over. I will try again a few times this week, hopefully this wasn't an isolated occurrence! Shoulder stand also felt better tonight - maybe from the triumph of the parivrtta trikonasana.