Saturday, January 30, 2016

One thing leads to another

Our sailboat needed a slip, so we went to Highland Yacht Club to see about membership. When I mentioned to a colleague at work that we were thinking of joining, he said Bluffers Park Yacht Club was much better. Better bar, better view, and more affordable. Ciairan was so enthusiastic, I actually thought he would get a finders fee for bringing new members into the club. Thanks to him, we checked it out, were accepted, and found a friendly dock. That was more than ten years ago, and BPYC has become so much more than a place to put our boat.

In the many years since, we've become part of a community. The self-help philosophy helps keep annual fees low, but more importantly, the club is a reflection of its members. Fresh paint on the deck, flowers planted in the garden, swans fed.

And an active social calendar. Just this past month, I've participated in such memorable events at the clubhouse. The Commodore's Levee, with live music and mingling to celebrate New Year's Day. Trivia Night, with laughter and learning. BPYC Book Club with engaging conversation. Open Mic, with new and experienced musicians sharing some of their favourite tunes (including the yet-to-be-named-BPYC-strummers). And also Robbie Burns Supper.

The dinner for the Bard was organized by our Amazing Grace. She found the piper and dancers, coordinated volunteers and arranged the itinerary. The Address to the Haggis was dramatic, as the knife pierced the casing and steam rose into the air above. Later, sharing the Immortal Memory, Grace called on three women from Burn's life: his mother, wife, and patron. She embodied their characters as she fiddled, quoted Burns', and reminisced about Rabbie. Rob was Chairman of the dinner, so I ended up at the head table, with a great view of the proceedings.

I am so thankful for the wonderful friendships we've made with fellow sailors over the years. It may have started with the common interest of boating but has bloomed to sharing others: food, wine, theatre, art, music, birding, books. New discoveries and connections.

An example. Just yesterday Caroline organized a road trip and Laura, Kaarina and I were happy to follow her itinerary. Visiting Guildercroft with its antiques and handcrafted furniture. Then on to an afternoon of tastings. A trip to the newly opened Second Wedge Brewery, a flight of beers paired with Canadian cheeses, a tour with the brew master. Lunch at the Urban Pantry. Tasting wine in her neighbours' cellar, who crush grapes they order from California and age their own wine in barrels: chardonnay, albarino, syrah, zinfandel, cabernet. Casks tapped and wine spilled onto a gravel floor. Such delight on a winter's day.

So this January morning, looking over the events of this past month, I can't help but be thankful that more than ten years ago we choose to join BPYC. How different would our lives be if we had chosen a different club? And how much richer our lives have been, shared with these others.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Reads

Cold days, long nights. Time to read! A string of fiction about mothers and sons, and good and evil. Then on to non-fiction, with questions about the meaning of life and death, the meaning of true creativity, and living our best lives.


His Whole Life, Elizabeth Hay: The way this author writes about place and belonging is quite special. This novel travels between a cloistered apartment in New York City and the open spaces of the Ottawa Valley. The characters remain the same in the different environments, but we see their nature's differently, witnesses to a literary form of optical illusion. I am looking forward to hearing Hay speak at an upcoming Heliconian lecture.

The Mountain Story, Lori Lansens: Book Babes selection this month. The question posed was, "Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors".  How did knowing that one of the characters would not survive shape your reading of the book?"  More than half of us admitted to being influenced and then guessing throughout the story who would be the one to die on the mountain. Morbid curiousity! Lansens drew some great characters in the telling of this story but it is definitely not one of her best books.

We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver: This is the book that brought Shriver to the international literary stage when it won the Orange Prize in 2005. A mother looks back on moments with her son, and the atrocities he has committed, with a mix of horror and guilt. Annika let us know the movie was on Netflix, so part of the BPYC book club discussion was about the film adaptation. Shriver herself was impressed. 

Purity, Jonathan Franzen: Started this with a library download, made it through Part 1, and then the novel disappeared when time ran out. It's a popular one, so I need to wait for availability. Deceptively easy, breezy read. Lots of irony and subversive humour, but dark.

After reading three dark fictions it was time for something more uplifting......
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert: You can listen to Gilbert read her own words in the audio book, as she urges her audience to pursue living creatively while revealing some of her own tribulations as an author. Gilbert is a generous soul and not of the school that creative pursuit needs to be dark and painful if you choose a path of love and joy. I liked the stories and quotes, but couldn't dog-ear any of them for future reference from my digital copy. Regular, diligent practice is key. And humility and patience. Google is helpful finding Gilbert quotes on creativity as she has inspired many.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande:  Gawande is a doctor who has asked some provocative questions in his previous books, and this one, about aging and death, questions our options as we come to the end of life. "For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn't matter whether you were five or fifty - every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality - about what it's like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn't, where our ideas about death have gone wrong." Full of wise questions.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Full Wolf Moon - January

Wolves howling outside villages on cold winter nights, making their hungry presence known. A beautiful sound on tape but I can easily imagine it casting terror in human hearts.

As I'm playing the sound my cat is extremely worried, ears pinned back, belly close to the ground.  Several minutes later, the cat is still on guard, even after I've switched to another kind of Howling Wolf, Meet Me in the Bottom; and with the Stones in '65, How Many More Years. 

The moon is officially full January 23rd at 8:46 pm.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Byhalia, Mississippi

Such powerful performances and incredible script. The play was mounted on a shoestring and performed in very humble surroundings, but it is one of the best productions I've seen in a very long time.

We went to the Storefront Theatre for the World Premier of Byhalia, MIssissippi. The unassuming venue holds seating for less than 50, and when we booked tickets it was with the caveat that latecomers would not be seated due to the intimate nature of the theatre. The play is opening in 7 cities simultaneously. Very strong performances from the Toronto troup.

Rob and I sat in the front row, but all the seats placed the audience right in the middle of the action. For the closing scene, I was only ten feet from the actors. They were crying, I was crying, hell, the whole damn place was crying. It's been a long time since I've been moved to tears by a story.

And what a story. A white couple is expecting their first child, and it is born black, in the heart of Mississippi. To say complications arise is an understatement.

It is story of true love, family, and forgiveness. Absolutely brilliant!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Sage advice, which I aim to apply both at home and work.

My other resolution is to use diet to tackle my high triglycerides & cholesterol. I eat well (very little fast food or processed foods), and exercise every day, so the doctor was saying my high levels are likely hereditary versus lifestyle induced.

I've successfully lowered my cholesterol in the past with dietary changes, not by cutting out bad fats so much as by adding good ones (olive oil, avocado, nuts).  My mom also did this effectively with a morning concoction of: 1/4 cup 1% cottage cheese + 1 tbsp of olive oil + tbsp flax + tsp. of psylium + dash of cayenne pepper.

So the doctor and I agreed to an experiment to see if adding a concoction might help to improve my results.

I have had the same blood test results for the last year; triglycerides so high that a reliable reading for LDL isn't possible. I'm aiming to schedule a follow-up in spring, which should help motivate me to keep eating this concoction as either a morning or bedtime snack:
  • 1/3 cup All Bran Buds mixed with Greek yogurt OR
  • fruit or veggie smoothie with Metamucil (psylium) or Benefibre (Inulin)
Maybe I'll even add some olive oil and cayenne pepper.


My doctor helpfully gave me a sheet with some tips for adding fibre:
  • Sprinkle 1/3 cup of All Bran Buds over your favourite cereal or yogurt
  • Choose breakfast cereal with 4 grams of fibre per serving
  • Choose whole grain breads with 2 or more grams of fibre per slice
  • Choose whole wheat pasta and brown rice more often than white
  • Add 1-2 tbsp ground flax to cereal or yogurt
  • Choose vegetables and fruits as snacks more often
  • Fill half your plate with a variety of vegetables at your meals
  • Have whole fruit instead of fruit juice
  • It is important to add high fibre foods gradually and increase intake of water.
  • Aim for 25 - 35 grams daily
2 types of fibre
  • Soluble: slows down the amount of time food spends in our digestive tract. Counters diarrhea. This type of fibre can help lower LDL cholesterol and help control blood sugars.
  • Insoluble: Helps to speed up the amount of time food spends in our digestive tract. Counters constipation.
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