Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Full Strawberry Moon - June 2018

In honour of the full strawberry moon, I propose a toast with a Strawberry Pimm's Cup.

Ontario strawberries are in season! Luscious and intensely flavourful - so superior to the imported cardboard fruit trucked from afar.

- 1.5 oz of Pimm's Cup #1
- .5 oz of London Dry gin
- 2 oz of tonic or gingerale
- 1/4 cup fresh strawberries
- dash of balsalmic vinegar reduction
- ice!

*The next full moon will be overnight on Wednesday and Thursday of June 27 and June 28. That's because the full moon occurs at 12:53 a.m. EDT (0453 GMT), so depending on which time zone you live in, the full moon will be at its best late Wednesday (June 27) or in the wee hours of Thursday (June 28).Jun 4, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018


Missed a few of the lectures this year, but was also able to take in a Thursday night when Cheryl had an extra ticket to spare.
Although I hadn't read some of the books I was still able to enjoy insights into the writers' creative process or approach to their work. Many of the books I hadn't read were added to my 'must read' list. 
Next year, it is the Thursday night series!
Tuesday, Sept. 5 Alexandra Reisen: Unearthed Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden
Thursday, Sept. 14 Gary Barwin: Yiddish for Pirates
Tuesday, Oct. 24 Kevin Patterson: News From the Red Desert
Tuesday, Nov. 7 Wayne Johnston: First Snow, Last Light
Tuesday, Jan. 9 Zoe Whittall: The Best Kind of People
Tuesday, Feb. 27 Iain Reid: I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Tuesday, March 6 Janie Cheng: Dragon Springs Road
Tuesday, April 10 Rachel Cusk (Speaker Sandra Martin): Outline; Transit
Tuesday, May 8 Anosh Irani: The Parcel
Tuesday, June 5 Moshid Hamid (Speaker Suanne Kelman): Exit West

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Thank you, Andy!

Andy and I worked together 30+ years ago and would often share stories over lunch. He was 15 years older than me and was a great source of advice early in my career, and a ballast for some early turbulent days on the job.

He also introduced me to Iyengar yoga on a few of those lunches, where we went to a nearby gym and he taught me the virtues of tadasana, finding balance on the heels and balls of my feet, holding my shoulders back and lifting my chest  Those lunchtime lessons had a profound effect, and although we lost touch, when I was looking to find a yoga teacher, I sought out someone who specialized in the Iyengar method.

We bumped into each other fifteen years later at the Yoga Centre, when I went to buy some wooden yoga blocks for home practice. He was looking forward to retiring from his government job so he could go into teaching yoga full time. And when life's turns brought me back to YCT as a student, I sought out his classes. On many Thursday nights I appreciated his acerbic wit and irreverent approach, and took a few workshops with him. When he decided to retire from teaching I asked for his phone number so I could take him out for a beer.

That little slip of paper stayed in my wallet for a number of years, and I came close to calling the number but never did. At the gala this year, I asked Stephanie how he was, because I knew they kept in touch. He was not doing well. In fact, he was battling cancer and in palliative care, but was taking visitors.

When I visited him, I was happy to see the Andy I remembered - wearing a long white beard, looking for all the world like a yogi reclined in a hospital bed. We caught up with each other, and swapped stories. Patricia, his wife, in their back garden, peeked from behind an arbour and raised a glass of wine in a photo. She had died a few years before and he still missed her. He talked about travels with his nieces and nephews.

I visited a few more times. I asked him for advice about preparing for retirement, and he talked about Steven Covey and 7 Habits and how a holistic view of all dimensions of a person - physical, spiritual, intellectual, social should all be taken into account, and not to neglect those dimensions. What is work giving you, beyond the pay check, that may need to be fulfilled?

There were always visitors in Andy's room. Family, friends. I bumped into people from the yoga centre. Andy didn't complain and spoke highly of everyone at the hospital, but he did say although the food wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. He enjoyed sushi and it was often in the room or on order, and I even brought some it along once, in lieu of flowers.

Treatment continued. Weeks went by. He learned he would never have full mobility and would be paralyzed from the waist down. He tried to plan ahead for the day he would be released from palliative care, and then realized that day wouldn't come.

Jane told me on a Friday, the last day of a yoga workshop, that Andy had made the decision to end his life the following Monday. I went to visit him that afternoon. I brought an audio speaker so I could play him a Monty Python song I thought would suit his irreverent spirit - "Always look on the Bright Side of Life." He smiled when I played it, and closed his eyes and listened, and when the words of the song came to, "Always look on the bright side of death, just before you draw your terminal breath," I realized that really was Andy, an eternal optimist. I put my hand over his and said, 'thank you.'

He died of natural causes the following day, lethal injection not necessary.

His funeral was the following week. There were many of us there from the yoga studio as he taught and mentored both students and teachers. There were also his family, his neighbours, his friends, people from the train club, wood workshop buddies, and someone from the Bladder Cancer Society. People got up to speak and tell stories of the time they spent with Andy and what a difference he had made in their lives. As they spoke I came to know more aspects of his person.

He was a man of many dimensions and led a full life. For his train buddies, he had become President of their association for a number of years. For nieces and nephews, he had introduced them to travel, ideas, and good food. For neighbours, he had provided a place to come together and share stories and drinks. He had become a spokesperson and ambassador for the Bladder Cancer Society and helped inspire and support others.

I am grateful we had a chance to connect again and I was able to learn more about his world and passions.

He introduced me to Iyengar yoga, and I will always be grateful I had a chance to let him know it made such a strong and lasting impact, and to thank him in person.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Clear Sailing

What a blessed beginning to the sailing season!

Beautiful blue skies, a flat lake, and gentle winds christened the shakedown sail on May 21. Taking the helm, I felt for the wind on my face to help guide me in pointing the boat to catch the perfect puff of the sail. After a few hours sailing we anchored just off the beach to listen to the burble and murmur of the crowd.

Rushing home after work on a Tuesday night, no other boats on the lake to enjoy the crisp wind and clouds in the sky.

Sailpast - the best in years! Rob emceed and looked so handsome as he delivered his address. The sun was out for the ceremony but the cool breeze kept everyone comfortable. Strawberries and mimosas to toast the start of the season, and new docks. The BPYC fleet out through the gap and sailing around the Commodore to luff their jibs. Caroline, Laura and Wendy served up a tapas feast and Kaarina and I poured Spanish G & Ts at the cocktail bar. After years of bad weather and circumstance, this day seemed absolutely perfect in almost every detail.

When Dave and Karen visited from St. Louis Missouri we took them down to the Bluffs and the boat,  and then over to Cathedral Bluffs for dinner and a view of the lake.

Dock party! Wendy again preparing a feast, this time an Asian theme, with potstickers and rice-wraps and chicken and skewers and and... Joanne had decorated a green alcove with paper lanterns that were illustrated with sailboats and faerie lights were strung.

Four hours on the lake on a Saturday afternoon, winds taking us over 6 knots, I laid down to look at the sky and found myself drifting in and drifting out of a welcome afternoon nap, warm in the sun.

Maybe the fact we can't enjoy this all year long makes the start of the season such rapture.

Looking forward with anticipation to summer days on the lake.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Don't give up, give in

The yoga intensive this week was 6 am to 9 am, before work.

The asanas and sequences were very demanding. Strong inversions and back bends; by the end of the week, strong inverted backbends. I don't recall most of the sanskrit names, but we were: doing chataranga dondasana to upward dog; camel (ustrasana); moving from headstand to a half camel; dropping back from shoulder stand to a backbend; moving from uttanasana to revolve with one leg in the air.

Some of the poses were demonstrated first and I wondered if they were in my range of possibility. We often worked with partners and ran through a number of attempts. I was grateful for partner support and surprised that by the second or third attempt, I could  do with minimal help.

Holding for long periods, I tend to rely on determination and sheer stubbornness.  Marlene has used the phrase "Don't give up, give in," many times; this week I felt more than once that I was passing through a wall and simply giving in. Euphoria? Endorphins? Sudden effortless effort.

Thursday night a massage and Friday I took a holiday, visiting the Toronto Botanical Gardens and then visiting a friend in palliative care. I couldn't help but think about how very briefly a flower blooms, a season lasts, our lives are lived. Moments ephemeral and eternal.

Don't give up, give in.

illustration: - Yoga Pose Paint Splatter One by Dan Sproul

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Curated Dinners at AGO

I love the curated dinners at the AGO. So much thought goes into the preparation of the menu, the visual presentation and the food & wine pairings.

Last November, Laura and I enjoyed the The Roaring ‘20s NYC curated dinner inspired by Florine Stettheimer, Painting Poetry. The menu featured classics from the era: Oysters Rockefeller; chicken consomme; waldorf salad; turkey roulade / pistachio, currant, potato; salmon scallop mousse / sauce mousseline, peas; and the sweet ending fruit salad and mint sorbet. Paired with gorgeous french vintages. So delicious!

This last week, I indulged myself again and Liz and I went to the Kusama #2 Curated Dinner. What a masterpiece of a meal! Each course seemed to surpass the last. I enjoy when the chef and sommelier introduce the course and provide additional context about the ingredients and preparation before the course is served. It builds anticipation and heightens appreciation.


Passed hors d'oeuvres and a selection of sakes

Blackbird Baking Co. Artisan Bread
Miso-Sesame Infused Butter, Sunomono

Beet-Cured Trout Gravlax, Horseradish, Dill, Lemon
Suggested Pairing: Raimat Albariño, Costers del Segre, Spain

Asparagus, Wild Leek, Sea Asparagus
Suggested Pairing: Domaine de la Villaudière Sancerre, Loire Valley, France

Lobster Broth, Seaweed
Suggested Pairing: Alta Maria Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, California, United States

Jack Daniel's 90 Day Dry Aged Rib Eye
Bone marrow, miso, sesame, spring vegetables.
Suggested Pairing: Caymus Red Schooner Voyage 4 - Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina vinified and bottled in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California

Rhubarb Sake Jelly
Shaved Foie Gras

Matcha Chiffon
Black Sesame Meringue, Miso Caramel, Hojicha Ice Cream