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 (Gew├╝rztraminer) 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" Ros├ę.

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.