Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday afternoon

Where did the day go?
I watched the light dance on the stones and grass most of the afternoon!

The cool then hot weather has brought some perennials to rebloom, including a few bleeding heart and the fragrant daphne.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Poetry on the Summer Solstice

It was a very memorable evening, the weather perfect for the first day of summer. It was my turn to host BPYC book club, on the night of the summer solstice, just one day after the full Strawberry / Honey Moon.

People came to share one or two of their favourite poems, along with a short explanation of why they held special meaning. What a pleasure to hear everyone read their selections. Poems read in French, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, and even ancient Greek. The invite had been extended beyond the regulars, and there were some new faces and even some male voices: Rob entertained everyone when he recited the Ballade of the Skunk, dressed in character, with a moustache and odd hat; Neil, Laura's son, surprised and impressed us all with a scene from the Illiad at the end of the evening.

Poetry from 1600 B.C., the Renaissance, and contemporary times. Mournful, melancholy, joyful, musical, hopeful, funny. Many of the poems were special because they had been childhood stories or mother's favourites. Some were tied to heritage, others to travel, some to song, others to rites of passage or moments of quiet and contemplation. Inviting poetry into our lives, listening to the words, appreciating the moment, spending time in great company.

In honour of the strawberry moon, I made strawberry/cherry/basil bruschetta and strawberry/mango salsa. An easy bean salad from Noble Pig. Delicious bites from the Sultan of Samosas. Caroline brought some doubles from Michidean.
A bubbly brachetto called Acquesi, with notes of strawberry (such a pretty bottle!).
The Poems:

by Tomas Tranströmer (Swedish poet, who won the Nobel prize in literature in 2011)
Chosen by Maj-Lis S.

by Eugene Field (American poet, 1850 – 1895)
Chosen by Barb P.

by Al Purdy (Canadian poet, 1919 – 2000)
Chosen by Laura B.

by Leonard Cohen (Canadian poet and singer-songwriter, 1934 - )
Chosen by Kaarina L .

by Robert Frost (American poet, 1874 – 1963)
Chosen by Laura B.

by Souvankham Thammavongsa (Canadian poet, 1978 - )
Chosen by Ann M.

The Journey
by David White (English poet, 1955-)
Chosen by Gwen H.

The Linden Tree 
by Jan Kochanowski (Polish Renaissance poet, 1530-1584)
Chosen by Halina W.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins (English poet and Jesuit priest 1844-89)
Chosen by Maureen G.

by Emile Nelligan (Quebec poet 1879-1941)
Chosen by Caroline L.

by Alan Gould (Australian of Icelandic descent, 1949-)
Chosen by Cheryl C.

by Mellinger E. Henry, collected by RW Gordon c1925
Chosen by Rob C.

by John Masefield (British poet, 1878 - 1967)
Chosen by Rob C.

by e.e. cummings (American poet, 1894-1962)
Chosen by me!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Solstice Full Moon in June

Let's hope the full moon before the summer solstice doesn't trigger the total insanity and hallucinations predicted by a ranting astrologer. I'm hoping for the usual strawberries and Honey.

According to the Farmers Almanac:

A full Moon hasn’t landed smack on the solstice since 1948.  But that’s what’s actually happening on Monday, June 20.
This has visible in-your-face consequences. 
First, there’s the solstice …
  • The solstice is, of course, the day with the most minutes of sunshine. 
  • It’s when the midday Sun is the year’s highest. 
  • The sun rises at its leftmost spot on the horizon and sets at its rightmost position.
  • The setting sun sprays into windows at a strange angle, and touches bits of furniture that are not illuminated at any other time.
  • The Sun’s path across the sky makes its longest and most curvy arc.
  • Check out your shadow at 1:00 PM, like Puxtatawney Phil.  This Monday that’s your shortest shadow of the year.
Then you have the full Moon.  By landing exactly on the solstice, this Full Moon doesn’t just rise as the Sun sets but is opposite the Sun in all other ways too.
The Sun gets super high so this Moon must be super-low. Even at its loftiest at 1 AM, it’s downright wimpy-low. This forces its light through thicker air, which also tends to be humid this time of year, and the combination typically makes it amber colored.
This is the true Honey Moon.
The moment of full Moon is early Monday morning.  So it will look equally full on Sunday night and Monday night.  You get two chances to enjoy the Solstice honeymoon.

Our Musical Brain

An early summer night in Koerner Hall, listening and watching an outstanding trio, interspersed with informal lectures about music's powerful effects on the brain.

Everything that night seemed touched by grace - the building's architecture, the light flooding the lobby, the green-green of Philosopher's Walk just out the windows, the music, the smiles of strangers, Rob's company.

from Musical Toronto:

Music Illuminates Human Consciousness At Koerner Hall

By Robin Roger on 

Our Musical Brain: An Evening of Science and Music with The Gryphon Trio and mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah.

Many prominent scientists have had a strong affinity with music.  Einstein claimed that his greatest joy in life was music, and his wife reported that he would strike chords on the piano as part of his brainstorming process.  (Though his primary instrument was the violin).  What made these two fields complementary for him seemed to be the feeling of awe that each inspired.  “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.” Einstein observed.
Einstein confined his love of music to his recreational life, playing such works as Mozart’s violin sonata in B flat in amateur chamber music events and hosting musical gatherings in his home.  Two Canadian scientists who were professionally trained as musicians and then found ways to integrate music into their research lives presented highlights from their work to a packed house at Koerner Hall on Thursday, at Our Musical Brain, An Evening of Science and Music, a celebration of the launch of the Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind and Consciousness at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  Just before the presentation, it was announced that the Azrieli Foundation is gifting this program with $5 million.
Laurel Trainor, who is the principal flute of Symphony Hamilton and the CIFAR Senior Fellow, Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness (McMaster  University), studies perception, cognition and neuroscience of music.  Robert Zatorre, CIFAR Senior Fellow, Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness (McGill University), is a cognitive neuroscientist at the Montreal Neurological Institute, who was originally trained as an organist.  Dividing the evening, they each presented brief highlights of their research, demonstrating their findings with performances by The Gryphon Trio and mezzo-sopranoJulie Nesrallah, the host of CBC Radio 2’s classical music program, Tempo.
For music lovers, it was a chance to hear music that was chosen to illustrate a scientific point rather than to meet popular programming demands, including excerpts from two compositions by Astor Piazzolla and for science buffs it was a chance to look at charts, graphs and brain images plus clips of musicians being scanned and monitored while playing their instruments, including  one of  a cellist being inserted into the middle of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner with a cello designed to fit inside the scanner with her.
The Gryphon Trio gave stellar performances of entire movements including the Lento maestoso — Allegro quasi doppio movimento from the Dvorak Piano Trio in E Minor, Op 90 and the Allegro moderato from Beethoven’s Archduke Piano Trio, and also served as gracious guinea pigs as they demonstrated short musical experiments such as playing a phrase with an error performed on the beat and then the same phrase with an error performed off the beat, or playing half of a well-known tune so that the audience could then silently imagine the rest of the tune and indicate to the presenter when they imagined the tune was over.
As the evening was designed as a celebration for a wide spectrum of donors and supporters, the research was necessarily condensed and slightly popularised, which meant removing more critical nuances of the study design and results from the presentations.
A video showing 14 month old babies being bounced in snugglies worn by researchers who could hear a particular beat in their earphones followed by the same baby being placed in a situation where his or her cooperation was observed was intended to demonstrate the fact that shared listening to music with a synchronized experience of the beat, promotes pro-social behavior.  It raised many questions about confounding factors such as the different developmental stages of the different babies, the musical environments of their early life, the in-utero exposure to music (as we know that babies can hear music in utero), and the presence or absence of secure attachment of the baby to his or her caregiver.  The fact that there were no caregivers present in the video clips was also puzzling and of mild concern to me, though I’m sure the material was not presented to raise such questions, but only edited to show the highlights of the study.  Still, I am always happy when science demonstrates the benefits of music, providing evidence that music deserves funding and bolstering the point that music should be part of every stage of life, starting with conception.
Other aspects of music touched upon included the central place of rhythm in allowing humans to predict, which is critical to being prepared and contributes to survival, and the shared neurobiology of pleasure of food, sex, drugs and music, all of which recruit dopamine in the brain’s reward system.
Though possibly unintended, the evening suggested another important area of investigation, the link between music and humour.  There were many witty and amusing moments during the event.  The video clip of pianist Jimmie Parker studded with data monitors on several parts of his face, so he looked like he’d been at a piercing parlour, then asked to smile and look surprised brought images of the Maori Haka war dance to mind.
Robert Zatorre showed he could improvise when the audience feedback regarding which phrase of the music of a set of three was the most pleasurable produced confounding results, by suggesting that some of us should consider coming into the lab for further study.  And the evening began with the incident that occurs so frequently at public presentations that it deserves its own grants and studies: the technology failed.  In this case, Julie Nasrallah’s headset microphone was not working during her introduction, which she didn’t realise until she was surprised by the offer of a hand-held microphone.
It’s nice to know that however capricious the technology of our concert halls may be, the piano, violin and cello will always work.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Hilarious. Billed as a "low show in a pretty box" by its own writers, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder was twisted fun.

The hero advances through levels of society and is richly rewarded for carrying out his simple strategy: eliminate all the D'Ysquith who stand between him and the castle. The audience is on his side because he has grown up in poverty and deprived from his rightful heritage by the same arrogant Earls and pompous ladies who are uncerimoniously disposed.

The same actor (John Rapson) played eight roles as members of the  D'Ysquith Family who are conveniently eliminated. My favourite was the cartoon-pitch portrayal of bodybuilder Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith, who takes teeny steps and hops about in shorts that are far too tight. None of the targets are likeable. From appallingly bad actors to staunch eugenicists, they seem to deserve their fates. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fragrant garden

The beauty bush is bringing bees to buzz, and scented geranium are now beside the little pond, nodding their spicy heads. 

I kept pots to a minimum this year - one on the deck and another nestled in the hostas - splashes of colour in the green. Purple petunias and red geraniums smell a bit like pepper.

And the front yard! No poppies or peony right now, but the willow hedge is blooming, and there is such beautiful clover I hesitate to cut the grass. The sage is flowering, and when I walk past I bend down to pluck a leaf and rub it over my teeth and tongue for a pungent awakening.

I get up in the mornings and head outside to see how the plants are doing, sometimes watering and sometimes just standing and staring. Morning meditation.


Work in progress:

One day I was looking at the scrubby lilacs and thought I would take them down in autumn. Next thing I knew I was by the fence with clippers, clipping away. Rob joined in with something more heavy duty, and before we knew it, a whole new view into the neighbour's back garden opened. I planted some ligularia and Nine Bark in its place. Now that the fence is gone from the top of the retaining wall, I'm trying to train Virginia creeper to tumble down the side of the hill and into the ravine. 

Heliconian Tuesdays

The Heliconian Literary Lecture Series has been billed as a cross between a traditional book club and university course without exams. What I appreciate is the opportunity to hear authors speak about their books, in an intimate setting. 

There were some memorable moments this year
… watching Linden MacIntyre charm the room and hearing his perspective on the upcoming federal election (he was careful not to name names and prefaced statements with the fact that he didn’t have an opinion, but if he did…)
… seeing Julian Porter graciously try to save the day when a wonky projector bulb refused to display red, turning the reproductions of his favourite paintings a ghastly hue
… listening to Catherine Gildner’s verbal retelling of events in her memoir, and realizing the details were sometimes a bit different than what was published (I guess that what is meant by “truthy”)
… enjoying the voice of Elizabeth Hay as she spoke about building her characters and settings
… realizing Michael Crummey was also a very fine poet, and hearing him read from his latest collection
… learning more about JFK and his speech writer "Ted" Sorensen from Andrew Cohen
… travelling vicariously with Kathleen Winter aboard a ship as she journeyed along the legendary Northwest Passage
... meeting Jane Urquhart before her on-stage conversation with Sandra Martin (well, actually, I didn't quite know for sure who the person was that filled my water glass, but she looked familiar!) 

Tues, Sep 29
Linden MacIntyre
Linden MacIntyre
Tues, Oct 20
Julian Porter
Julian Porter
149 Paintings You Really Need to See in Europe
Tues, Nov 10
Catherine Gildiner
Catherine Gildiner
Coming Ashore
Tues, Jan 19
Lynn Thomson
Lynn Thomson
Birding With Yeats
Tues, Feb 23
Elizabeth Hay
Elizabeth Hay
His Whole Life
Tues, Mar 22
Kathleen Winter
Kathleen Winter
Tues, Apr 12
Michael Crummey
Michael Crummey
Tues, May 10
Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen
Two Days in June
Tues, Jun 7
Sandra Martin
Thomas King
The Back of the Turtle

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sail Past 2016

BPYC Sail Past 2016 

This year was the first Sail Past since I've joined the club that I haven't attended, as there was a conflict with the Book Club AGM. 

Rob was Master of Ceremonies again this year, however, Yondering was not able to participate in the festivities either.

Yondering's cabin early June
The mechanic has been slow delivering on his promise to have the engine back in the boat and running. Extremely frustrating! The latest word is by mid-June, which will be 7 weeks into the sailing season.

I much prefer the view of the boats on water this year than I do of Yondering's cabin at present.

A friend got in touch with me because he was looking for some haiku for a magazine he is publishing. I put something together in the haiku style and for awhile was sailing in memory. So, thanks to Ross for asking!


white sails puffing clouds
city jewels glint above
boats foam blue water

billowed sails pillow
blue skies embrace water's edge
clouding skies unfold

brightest white and blue
mirroring above below
both sky and water

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book Club AGM - 2016

Another successful AGM at Nicki's Haliburton home (thanks, Nicki!).

A wonderful weekend, a bit later in the year than usual, so no trilliums but several Jack in the Pulpits. The sun shone, and there weren't too many bugs, and the night sky was a curtain of stars, and we had fabulous food, and fabulous drink.

Nicki hosted Virginia and I on Friday night, with Louise and Linda dropping in for dinner and a lemoncello dessert. On Saturday, Liz, Miriam, and Nicolette arrived and we all went for a walk in the Sculpture Forest where we saw the cairn Virginia had built with her class at the Haliburton School of Arts last summer. We also went to the thrift store, where I made some real finds, including a surfer skirt and jean skort, both which will be perfect to wear on the boat.

Somehow I have managed to live more than a half century without knowing about French butter cellars, a wonderful invention from a few centuries back, that helps to keep butter spreadable and soft. When I returned home I promptly ordered one from Amazon. I also learned a trick with a soft-boiled egg, which is to smack its bottom against your plate after it has been cooked for 6 1/2 minutes and then run under cold tap water. At that point, the egg will stand nicely without wobbling on its side. Virginia was emphatic about not peeling the egg, but using the spoon to lift it out cleanly from the shell. Thankfully I wasn't the only person who needed schooling in this regard, Liz also took a lesson.

Saturday afternoon I put together a gin tasting and laid out a sampling of herbs and spices typically found in gin (juniper, lavendar, coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, anise). We sampled Boodles, Hendricks, and Ungava. Personally I like them all as they are very distinct from each other. Boodles has no citrus and is in the London Dry style, Hendricks is a newer style with rose petals and cucumber notes, and Ungava uses the botanicals of the Canadian North. However, the house favourite was Ungava, hands down. Cocktails were made to taste-drive the favourite: traditional G & Ts with dried hibiscus or G & Peach Tea.

I had also brought some Lafage Rose, which we enjoyed as a group at one of our meetings last year. Such a pretty bottle, with a glass cork, making it suitable for reuse. People started frantically searching online for LCBOs that had it in stock, because apparently it was dwindling. Someone actually got the son of a friend to drive to an outlet in Brampton to pick up a case for future use because it was in short supply. By the time Sunday rolled around, Nicolette alerted us that a few hundred bottles had arrived at the Summerhill store. There may or may not be a few bottles left. This will be a nice, chilled, summer sipper.

o, we picked books too:

  • September: HERO'S WALK by Anita Rau Badami (Nicki)
  • October: SALT SUGAR FAT  by Michael Moss (Nicolette)
  • November:  THE DRESSMAKER by Beryl Bainbridge (Virgiinia)
  • December:  MIDDLE AGED BOYS AND GIRLS by Diane Bracuk (Liz)
  • January: THE NEST by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (Debra)
  • February: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari La Pena (Laura)
  • March: STATION 11 by Emily St. John Mandel (Pat)
  • April: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (Miriam)
  • May: Bring your favourite poem! (Diane)
  • AGM: LEAVING TIME by Jodi Picoult (Louise)

Honourable mentions: Medicine Walk by Richard Wagonese - End of Life Bookclub by Will Schwalbe - Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis - Children of the Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay - Still Mine by Amy Stuart - The Piano Maker by Kurt Palka - The Illegal by Lawrence Hill - The Story of my Teeth by Valeria Luiselli - The Year of Wonder by Elizabeth Hayes - River God by Wilbur Smith - Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Friday, June 3, 2016

Taking shapes

This week was a morning yoga intensive, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. five mornings before work. More than once I wondered why I had thought this would be a good idea, especially when I was tired walking up the stairs at the start of the session. The first half hour of the first day was especially long, one eye on the clock and wondering if someone was playing tricks with the minute hand on the other side of the wall.

It got a bit better as the week went on, however, as the week went on the poses also became more vigorous and demanding. By Thursday I promised myself to take off work on Friday, and instead of going into the office, to go home and pour a nice long bubble bath and ease my aching muscles.

I don't remember sanskrit names for all the poses we did, but there were some I haven't done in a long while. What was it called... google mages for "yoga lie on side grab big toe raise leg' showed it is properly called Akarshanasan (I kinda liked that one). Backbend with the crown of my head to the floor and arms and legs raised in Matsyasana (I didn't like that one quite so much). 

One of the highlights of the week for me was heading straight up into pincha mayurasana to the perfect balance point, not needing the wall for support. Another was when I was in uttanasana, and instead of looking at my knees I looked up toward the top of my thighs - it was like suddenly finding the secret door to another three inches. Finding strength in a backbend over a bench to do upside down push-ups, definitely surprised me. On the last day, I even did a full supta konasana straight to the floor, without a bench (this is a big deal for me, as for years I have needed props). What a difference that made when I next did shoulderstand/ salamba sarvangasana

It was nice to surprise myself with what I could do when I put my mind to it... or is that when I left the preconceptions in my mind out of the equation? 

To quote some Whitman, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

Marlene handed out a list of words for us to think about after the first day and then again on the last, so we could reflect on how the different poses spoke to different characteristics. I definitely found multiples within the different asana.

Journey Inward


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Yorkville Eats

Yorkville has a lot of great restaurants, and heading to the Heliconian Literary Lecture series this past season put me in the neighbourhood at least once a month.  Usually I don’t go out to fine restaurants, preferring gatherings with fellow foodies at home. Extravagant meals, cocktails, and fine wines are more affordable when you prepare them yourself. But a  rave review about a tiny Yorkville bistro with big flavours and a huge heart really enticed me.

I made reservations at Chabrol for Kaarina and I before the next Heliconian lecture, and ordered the lentils alongside artisanal cheeses. Since we didn’t finish with enough time to savour dessert, we made reservations to return just a few hours later to try the tarte aux pommes, made to order with Calvados sabayon, with ultralight layers of pastry that “turn glossy and buttery-golden and the apple slices darken to tart, caramel bliss.” It lived up to its reputation!

... best seats in the house at Buca
I also wanted to try Buca, which had long been on my list, and we visited the next time we were in the neighbourhood. When the maître d’ greeted us I explained we were only there for cocktails and small plates, and he seated us with the best view in the house – perched on stools peering over a marble counter and into the working kitchen. Lots of staff dressed in gleaming white, glinting stainless surfaces, and exotic ingredients being prepped and plated. What a mouth-watering experience!  I also sampled cured fish and gnocco fritto, which I’d never tasted before. The cured fish was a trio of colours, textures and tastes to be enjoyed mindfully. The gnocco fritto is Italian street food, tasty buns coloured with squid ink that turned our smiles black.
Gnocco Fritto

Next time it  was Mark McKewan’s ONE Restaurant in Hazelton Hotel. Fantastic ambience and great service. After that, the patio at the yoo-who café Sassafraz to people-watch with Kaarina and Shelley while we shared grilled cheese and charcuterie. 

By ordering appetizers and small plates, we were able to experience some great restaurants without breaking the bank. Scheduling the visits before the lectures was also good, because we had to head out at a certain time so couldn’t linger in the restaurants. Although I admit, I did top up the meals with Heliconian cheese and crackers.

I might not attempt making calvados sabayon or gnocco fritto at home, but I did leave with some take-aways:
  • I don't need to wait for company to plate 3 or 4 small 1 oz. portions of artisanal cheeses for an evening treat (Chabrol)
  • Pizza Burrata: thinly rolled pizza dough, preserved tomato, burrata cheese, basil, and fine olive oil (Buca)
  • Grill mushrooms by getting cast iron as hot as possible, then finish with either balsamic or good quality olive oil (ONE)
  • Gin cocktail with rhubarb club (Sassafras)