Monday, December 12, 2016

Office with a View

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
Kate Chopin, American author (1850-1904) in The Awakening (1899)

Though my office lacks windows, through my door I can look past the cubicles and out onto magnificent masts and water that passes out to the lake and the ocean beyond. The view inspires my imagination to take split-second restorative journeys. What a marvelous window on the world!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Of Seraphim and Cherubim

A song was heard at Christmas
to wake the midnight sky:
a Savior's birth, and peace on earth,
and praise to God on high.
The angels sang at Christmas
with all the hosts above,
and still we sing the newborn King,
his glory and his love.
Timothy Dudley-Smith, English hymnwriter and bishop of the Church of England, in "A song was heard at Christmas" (1978)

Angelic voices soared heavenwards this evening as the Children's Choir presented a carol sing-a-long at Christ's Church Cathedral. I appreciated that they wholly encouraged the less than angelic voices in the audience to join in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

It's Weather

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
Andrew John Herbertson, British geographer (1865-1915)

If you squint, it looks like a snow flurry. I had to look three times and I still couldn't accept that it was rain that glistened on the rink-side tables. I had neglected to look out the office window before heading for the locker room -- why would I need to check on the weather in advance of my second skating lesson? It's December, and we all know that it's cold and that it snows in December. I guess that's the climate of southern Ontario in December. The reality of weather jolted me out of my knitted hat, scarf and mittens. Although a couple of intrepid skaters braved the wet, I simply drank my hot chocolate looking out through the sparkling window -- squinting my eyes.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Night Playtime

My childhood may be over
but that doesn't mean playtime is.

After work, I put on some skates and joined the young'ins on the rink. Boys showed off their prowess with fast swooshes that reminded me of peacocks fanning out their tails. Girlfriends held tight in triplets trying to keep each other upright; and little ones walked pushing a safety cone in front of them across the ice. It all seemed so familiar -- although I used a chair not a safety cone to aid my balance when first on skates on a rink my dad made in the backyard. Good memories as I meandered around the little pond.

Pulling off the skates, I retired to the bar for my Friday whiskey tasting. Tonight Glenfarclas brought Friday to a close. I preferred the younger 10yr old to its fiery 12yr old sibling. Tasting notes on the company's website suggest flavours of Christmas cake, raisin, nutmeg and cloves -- for all of which I could concur -- but also mentioned tobacco and matchbox. I'm sure matchboxes have a scent/flavour but I couldn't conjure it up in my mind and thankfully didn't taste either in my Friday evening drams.

The charcuterie platter included a banana-bourbon jam, which paired divinely with the brie (and the whiskey), so I must do some recipe research to re-create it. Surely now, visions of besotted bananas will skate through my dreams. Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lesson 1

A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic and political activist (1856-1950), in Advice to a Young Critic

Throwing most of my cautious nature aside, I plunged onto the ice this evening for my first skate in about 20 years. My last memory of being on ice was the surreal experience of skating beside the Nile in Cairo. It was almost as warm here with unseasonally high temperatures so I could enjoy a hot chocolate outside before lacing up the skates. Once on the ice, the teacher's first instruction was to fall down: I froze because falling was the last thing that I wanted to do. A friend had written with advice: "Remember to always be relaxed and if you are going down, then DO NOT fight the fall. Enjoy the fall and roll, allowing the entire body to enjoy the ice!!! This will avoid from anything breaking!" Instead of "enjoying the fall", I fought it. I somehow got down rather ungraciously . . . only to have the teacher then instruct us to get up! Suffice it to say that after failing the first two tests, I had no dignity left to worry about so I just had fun. I need to work on my "rocking horses" and my "squiggles" but Chuck Berry singing "the Twist" in the background certainly helped my backwards skating. I'm looking forward to Lesson #2 so stay tuned! :-)

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Friendship is like a violin; the music may stop now and then, but the strings will last forever.

What a sweet day! As we opened each box containing donations for the church's annual Cookie Walk, an ambrosial scent wafted out. Heavenly! As much as the cookies, I delighted in the connectedness of our little community as the everyone pitched in to contribute to making it a great event.

Coming home, my email brought a message from my former boss who forwarded two news articles from Egypt that reported on a display that I curated.

Al Bawaba: Archaeology: Promotion of the Museum of Islamic Art in Canada
Museum Aga Khan in Canada opens exhibition for art museum

The exhibit celebrates the re-opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo after it was badly damaged by a car bomb in January 2014. I wasn't able to attend the event yesterday when museum officials from Cairo visited Toronto and 'opened' the photo exhibit, but I felt immensely proud to see it appear in the Egyptian press. It gave me a tangible feeling of connection between my two homelands. The music may have stopped but the strings of connectedness continue to resonate.

A friend at the museum shared with me this photo of the installation. It is a keepsake.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

In the Spirit

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas . . . but if the white runs out I'll drink the red.
Day Two of the Four Winos 2016 Wrapped Up tour had us  relishing the warmth and cheer inside the wineries of the western half of Twenty Valley. The temperature outside was bone chilling and the few flurries certainly heralded Christmastide.

We learned that roasted chestnuts pair very well with a Vieni Winery riesling. The chestnuts were an added bonus: we also enjoyed the pancetta wrapped chicken with pesto with the winery's 2013 Red Trillium Ripasso. Yummy.

Fielding Estate Winery is another favourite stop. Today, we broadened our horizons beyond their "G" wine (Gewürztraminer) to their riesling that came paired with an apple, goat cheese and honey tart.

We all loved the warmth and decor of the new tasting area of Rosewood Estate Winery. Sitting amidst beeswax candles, casks, stained glass and under a stenciled and beamed ceiling we experienced a new flavour combo of a savoury brownie with a merlot. It works.

We can always count on the chefs at Vineland Estates Winery to create something outstanding. Today it was morsels of southern fried chicken with buttermilk waffles and pickled icewine cabbage. They created the pairing for the 2015 "Castaway" Rosé.

Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery warmed us with another delicious soup: a butternut squash soup topped with duck confit and pumpkin seed oil that they paired with the 2013 Falcon's Nest Pinot Noir.

And at Angel's Gate Winery, while the Cuban Ropa Vieja stew presented hearty repast to take the chill out of our bones, looking over a pool of cabernet merlot to the terrace below one could almost imagine that it was spring again. Ah spring . . . that will bring the next opportunity to travel Twenty Valley with the Get Fresh passport. The 2016 Wrapped Up programme was another winning weekend for the Four Winos!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Grape Artistry

Wine is bottled poetry.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer (1850-1894)

As the first flurry of snow just begins to blow tonight, earlier in the day the vines still hung heavy with clusters of vintage 2016 grapes as the Four Winos headed out with their "Wrapped Up in the Valley" passports for another oenological and culinary adventure. As we sampled the vintners' artistry created with the palettes of previous years' crops and talked with them a bit about their work, I realized that theirs is discipline that melds art and science.

At one of our favourite wineries, Kacaba Vineyards and Winery, we chatted about the characteristics of different vintages as we quaffed its 2014 Cabernet/Syrah paired with succulent slow braised beef with chocolate, and red wine gravy served over creamy polenta.

And Di Profio Wines paired their 2015 Gamay Noir with the "More than just Pulled Pork" for pure artistry. Twenty Valley has produced another wonderful season for the senses.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Spirited Research

There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.
Raymond Chandler, British-American novelist and screenwriter (1888-1959)

One benefit of the new job is an on-site cafe/bar hosting a broad selection of whiskeys. I have set a goal to work through the list sequentially to assess my favourite. I sampled the 12-year old Glendronach tonight and then spied a similarly named bottle on the shelf. Searching the menu, I did not find the "peated" Glendronach listed, suggesting that there may be several more additions to my research. While I'm not fond of peaty whiskeys, it was good for a peated varietal, substantiating Raymond Chandler's thesis that there isn't a bad whiskey.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Days by the Water

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does. 
Margaret Atwood, Canadian author, in The Penelopiad (2005)
"Welcome," says the barista. "Welcome," says the water.  A new life chapter begins on the waterfront. How refreshing and positive it feels! I'm watching ferries and planes as the sun sparkles on the lake. Everything is alive with movement. This is going to be grand! So stay tuned. :-)

Friday, November 11, 2016


How lucky I am to have something that makes saying Goodbye so hard. 
Winnie the Pooh 

Farewell. No doubt I will return as a visitor but today marked my last day as an employee of the Aga Khan Museum. I shed not a few tears; yet gazing out the bus window tonight I realized how blessed I am to feel heavyhearted. For four years I have been swathed in the camaraderie of the AKM family that has bonded through blood, sweat, tears and laughter. It has been an honour to work with such an outstanding team of incredibly talented people to create an exquisite museum with an important mission. Farewell good people. Farewell.

Monday, October 10, 2016

One Final Visit

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet (1854-1900) in The Picture of Dorian Gray

At three in the afternoon I thought everything was in order for tomorrow's meetings and so I rushed out of the hotel for one final visit to the chateau de Chantilly. Indeed I had the opportunity to see other corners of the domain and the musée that I had not yet seen. The bucolic sheep pasture with the temple of love in the background refreshed my soul.

I was able to enjoy more of the spectacular art collection amassed by the Duc d'Aumale. I enjoyed my two hours. As the church clock strikes nine, signalling time for sleep, the body will join the senses and the soul and be refreshed for the new day that awaits. Bon nuit. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Le spectacle spectaculaire

We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.
Brad Meltzer, American author

Walking up to the chateau of Chantilly I was struck by the brilliant vision of Duc d'Aumale who must have said, "Make it so." From the ruins of a palace largely destroyed during the French Revolution, he created an architectural masterpiece, filled it will art and books and then left it all to the people of France (and their foreign visitors).

My colleague and I were hosted for a private tour of the Musée Condé. The art collection is, well, spectacular. Said to be second only to that of the Louvre, it is exhibited exactly as the Duc d'Aumale presented it to his dinner guests.

In the afternoon we were treated to "le spectacle" Metamorphoses in the Grand Stables. Seeing how well the horses were treated gave me some understanding for the causes behind the revolution. Set within this magnificent equine palace the show brought together 3 musicians, 7 riders, 1 dancer, 15 horses, 6 ponies, and 2 donkeys.

Before the show, we an an opportunity to visit with some of the magnificent performers. These are some of the most handsome fellows I have ever seen.

Of course, for me, the donkeys stole the show. :-)  *I must credit this adorable photo to my colleague.

After the show, my afternoon concluded with la crème de la crème of Chantilly cream, spun at the Hameau within the gardens of the chateau. A local shopkeeper had insisted that this is the best of Chantilly cream and I must agree. They kindly provide their recipe: it's a simple mixture of 50cl non-pasteurized cream, 20gr of vanilla sugar and 20 gr of icing sugar. Of course, the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference and government regulations has made it difficult to find anything unpasteurized. This only leads me to the conclusion that I must indulge while I am here.

By the way, the Hameau at Chantilly inspired Marie-Antoinette's  little hamlet at Versailles. Being a peasant, I am very pleased to eat cream with my cake. ;-) I thoroughly enjoyed my day à la Chantilly. Tomorrow the work begins but today was spectacularly pleasant.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Un peu de crème

If you're afraid of butter, use cream.
Julia Child, American chef and author (1912-2004)

This afternoon's chocolat chaud arrived with "just a little creme" as I find myself in Chantilly, France. While work brings me here, I have a few hours to acclimatize from crossing the Atlantic in a cramped bus seat. (Makes my Go train commute feel first class.) Thankfully, I landed in this land of soft, silky, and edible mountains that soothe any irritations.

My weary bones also get to rest in a sublime hotel. Check out the view from my bathtub.

Today I walked miles around the Domain de Chantilly, peaking into stores and checkin out the farmers' market. Tomorrow I will visit the chateau and its art collection which is said to be second only to the Louvre. It's the prettiest town. So far everything is la crème de la crème.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Restoration Therapy

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Hippocrates, Greek physician (460-370 B.C.)

A tough week of working extended hours and facing commuting nightmares left my soul feeling rather weary at the end of day, so I treated myself to a little culinary therapy. Good food and a glass of wine at the neighbourhood Italian restaurant soothed my spirit. I walked home with a smile and the renewed belief that life is good. I just needed to remind myself.

Cheers! :-)

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Fitting End to Summer

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), American writer and illustrator (1904-1991)

While officially there might be 17 days left in summer, Labour Day marks its end in my psyche. As a fitting conclusion to what feels like the briefest of seasons, Cat and I enjoyed a laid-back, final gin and tonic. An empty gin bottle most certainly marks summer's end. Cheers to Summer! See you next year! :-)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Where's There's Smoke

If you knew
what you will know
when your candle
has burnt low,
it would greatly
ease your plight
while your candle
still burns bright.
Piet Hein, Danish scientist and poet (1905-1996)

Someone must have told the head of security that my birthday falls in August because he showed up at the staff monthly birthday celebration today with a fire extinguisher. ;-)

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Calm of Infinity

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.
William Blake, English poet and artist (1757-1827)

Standing in an over-crowded commuter train that was running late, I closed my eyes and brought to mind this vacation snapshot. The infinity markings on the water, inscribed by a quiet canoe paddle, had intrigued me at the time. Remembering their peaceful calm soothed my agitated spirit, loosened the jawline and hushed the mind.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Big Reveal

A friend is like a quilt: designed by heart, pieced in time, sewn by hand, and bound to keep you covered.
I can now share four of the reasons for the paucity of blog posts over the past few months. The quilting I've been doing had to remain secret until presented this week. Now is the time for the big reveal. The teapot and teacup runner mixes Kaffe Fassett and traditional florals.

A panel of Laurel Burch's "Embracing Horses" became the centrepiece for a colourful quilt for a colourful young woman. Helen Hubert, the "Caledonia Quilter", did the longarm quilting matching the quilting design to the curves of the horses.

For the six-footer, I made a masculine panel quilt of stallions and mustangs.

The backing fabric looks like stars so I inserted a series of stars for some extra visual interest. The star block also appears on the front as cornerstones. Helen's quilting design includes cowboy boots, stetson hats, and bucking horses.

The quilts are for an equine family so all needed to include horses. It took some time (years) to find just the right equine accompaniment for the panel featuring Cicely Mary Barker's "Laburnam Fairy". For backing fabric I actually found one with pink (a favourite colour) horses.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rainbows Over Alberta

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.
Lord Byron, English poet (1788-1824)

Rain and wind have been moving across Alberta's wide open vistas for the past few days. Returning to home base from an afternoon visit to a quilt shop and coffee with a crafty family member, we drove under the arc of a rainbow. Heavenly.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Moving Mountains, Lively Lakes

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.
Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist (1902-1984)
I was treated to a trek to Jasper yesterday with lunch beside the aquamarine Lac Beauvert. Being embraced by the the mighty mountains, I feel so small physically and yet so enlarged spiritually.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Full Moon Setting

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.
Mahatma Gandhi

What a wondrous sight to wake up to: a lake bathed in the cool morning mists with the full moon reflected in its waters. The beauty takes my breath away. And it is so easy to breathe deeply and relax. Day 2 of Vacation 2016 started off perfectly.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

See Ya' Later Alligator

Good friends never say good-bye; they simply say, "See you soon."

Cat came to the door to see me off. There's no hint that she's holding a grudge for taking her to the vet for her pedicure or for leaving her while I take a little vacation. She knows that she will be spoiled royally at her home-away-from-home -- and fittingly so! ;-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves—say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo, French poet and author, in Les Misérables (1862)

My dear family and friends reached out and made today very special. I feel truly loved and truly blessed. And, yes, the fire department was on stand-by due to the number of candles on the cake -- but who's counting? ;-)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Life as a Peach

Life is as peachy as I make it to be.

Yesterday I was treated to a day at Niagara on the Lake and a fantastic trip down the rabbit hole with the Shaw Festival's performance of Alice in Wonderland. The set designs and costumes are magical. The story perplexing. I have been trying to make sense of Alice's experiences, trying to distill meaning from each of the vignettes that replay in my mind. I've come to the conclusion that I need not seek a moral in everything, in the vein of the rather confused Duchess. Some things in life are just meant to be enjoyed -- such as the peaches purchased from the roadside vendor. Nothing says "August" as sweetly as the peach.

Wishing everyone a peachy day!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hello Weekend

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.
Sam Keen, American author and philosopher

Glorious colours and tastes of summer topped my evening sangria -- the perfect start to a long weekend. Ahhhh.