Friday, November 30, 2007

An evening with Bach

We went to another concert last night, in the same church where the last one was held. This time it was Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Magnificat, performed by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Some impressions:

1) Men should not be altos. The alto soloist was a man named Daniel Taylor, and while he sang well, on the lower notes where a woman's voice would have given the song a rich, full sound, his voice faded out because he was singing in his falsetto.

2) There are people out there who are as into Bach as some people are into different rock bands. I had to laugh when I looked down into the ground floor audience (we were in the balcony) and saw one man singing along and completely grooving to the music - a feat made more remarkable by the fact that the entire performance was in German.

3) Something is lost when you can't understand a word of the songs being sung. Translations were provided with the program, but you can't really appreciate the music if you're focusing on the words written on the page.

On the whole, we enjoyed the evening, but I would only give it a 7 out of 10. It was good, but it wasn't remarkable. The whole performance lacked heart, which is unfortunate because the music deserved better.

This and that...

There's something very satisfying about having a productive day. I'm already loving my new job - yesterday I reorganized a storage room, and organized the maintenance requirements for all of the meeting rooms. It made the day go by so quickly! I also applied for a junior supervisory position that just opened up, so here's hoping that something comes of that.

I wasn't so busy yesterday, though, that I couldn't finish up our Christmas letters! The guys in the print room printed them off for me (and did a great job, I think), and I folded and stuffed them in the cards, all ready to go as soon as I remember to pick up some stamps. I love Christmas!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Continuing Saga...

Imagine my surprise, if you will, when I turned on the tv last night while taking a break from catching up on my french course, and there on the screen was Rick Mercer, accompanied by Shawn Graham, premier of New Brunswick, learning to make chicken bones at the Ganong factory! I nearly died from laughing. If I wasn't already a believer in the phenomenon of synchronicity, I definitely would be now. You can check it out for yourself here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Becoming a Floater...

It's official - today I (sort of) started a new position in the company that I work for as the new Office Services Floater. It's not a promotion, but it is a change that I hope will provide me with more to do each day. I say that I 'sort of' started because I am currently training the person who will be working at reception in my place. So I will gradually be doing less at reception and more in the servery, the mailroom and the fileroom, floating between the different areas as needed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another ideal day...

I love Saturdays! It's the only day of the week where the only thing I have to do is what I want to do - for the most part :)

Today that meant making some more soap, this time a batch each of lemon chamomile (on the right) and clove (on the left).

Then I made some Christmas cookies, a very yummy lemon sugar cookie with lemon glaze. Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Glaze: 3/4 cups icing sugar, 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp water

Mix butter and sugar together well. Beat in egg. Add milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into Christmasy shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned. Let cool slightly and then glaze.

I even planted my amarylis! I'll try to remember to post updates on its progress. Now if I could just get work done on my French course, I'd be all set!

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like...


I love the fact that even though I haven't lived at home for years and years, my mom still sends me care packages! I just received one in the mail today filled with all kinds of Christmas goodies, including, but not limited to...

...these adorable Christmas tree ornaments...

...these Christmas decorations (isn't the reindeer cute?)...

...chicken bones, a chocolate-filled cinnamony East Coast Christmas tradition...

...a Christmas amaryllis...

...and finally this beautiful china cup! Mum is a tea drinker like me (or I'm a tea drinker like her?), so she knows how much I love china cups.

Thanks, Mum!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Winter wonderland...

Today was the first snowy day of the season, and everything is beginning to feel (and look) Christmasy! Yay!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A night of Tagore

What a wonderful evening! Last night we attended a concert put on by the Talisker Players called the Harp of Fire. It was amazing! The concert was a set of songs inspired by the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, a late nineteenth, early twentieth century Indian poet and philosopher, pictured below. It was held in a church on Bloor Street, shown on the right. The music was phenomenal - I really can't say enough about it.

One song was particularly moving, called 'Baajay koruno shurey...' or 'The plaintive tune'. The music was performed by a string quartet and a flute, with the lyrics sung by mezzo soprano Krisztina Szabo. It's sung in another language (I don't know which one), so I had no idea what the words were, but as I was listening I was filled with this sense of longing and grief. The music and the singing worked together so well that the entire audience was spellbound, even after the song was finished. Then I read the translation of the Tagore poem provided in the program and everything came together:

The plaintive tune, heard from afar,
Is the music of the path kissed by your feet,
This, my wandering mind, is unquiet,
I know not why.
As the fragrance of jasmine flowers
Spreads restlessly in the fretful air,
So my mind, in slow sorrow
Grieves in the extreme dark of our separation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No respect...

It's funny - I'm having a hard time creating this post, not because I don't have anything to say but because I have too much! It's been a busy, eventful weekend, though I don't have any pictures to show for it...

I'm so glad that I've gotten involved in the Friday night gym program. It has given me a little bit of insight into what life it like for these kids. This past Friday we had to cancel because of an incident that took place at the school basketball tournament prior to our program. I don't know the particulars, but it caused the tournament to run a little late. As we were standing there waiting to find out when the game would end, three kids ran in to ask the principal if he could give them a ride to the nearest subway station. They had had something to do with the incident at the tournament, and were afraid of what would happen to them if they had to wait at the bus stop. It turns out that they were right to be afraid. The principal wouldn't give them a ride, and as our kids started arriving they reported that there was a very one-sided fight going on down the street near the bus stop. Since our program is a drop-in, open to anyone, it was decided it would be best to cancel so that it couldn't carry over and affect us. What really got to me was the way the kids just accepted the beating the others were getting as a normal part of life. You step over the line without the ability to back it up and you get 'rubbed'. That's just how it is. No wonder it's so difficult to reach these kids with a message that promotes peace and forgiveness as the best way to handle things - it's a totally foreign concept in their 'respect' dominated world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The new house...not ours :-)

So the week has improved significantly since Monday. TC got back from his trip down home, and brought these pictures of Mum & Dad's new house being built:

This is the view from the lot, before everything started going in.

The foundation...

The crane to lift the house on to the foundation...

And here comes the house! Or half of it anyway.

Doesn't that look like fun? I'm glad I wasn't the one having to back half a house up that driveway!

There it goes!

And there it is! Pretty neat, I think.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Conscious positivity

This is definitely one of those days... I slept through my alarm this morning, leaving myself 20 minutes to get ready for work and get out the door. I then managed to zone out on the subway to such an extent that I missed my stop and had to get off at the next one and backtrack, which made me late. It's a cold, wet, miserable day - the grey kind of day when it's not really raining, but is misting so heavily that it wreaks havoc on your hair and you wish it would just rain and get it over with.

So to counteract all this negativity, I want to share 2 things that happened recently which reminded me of what I like about living in Toronto. One of the things that I like is the diversity of people and experiences in this city. I was reminded of this last night when I was invited to supper with some friends, one of whom is from Zimbabwe. She cooked us a traditional meal of oxtail and cornmeal, which has a name that I can't really remember but was very yummy. We ate with our hands - a new, messy and fun experience for me. I've only known this woman for a couple of months, but I have already learned so much from her.

Another thing that I like about living in Toronto is that you never know what you're going to see. This morning on the streetcar on my way to work I saw what I thought was a cyclist going down the sidewalk, which isn't that unusual a sight, but the more I looked at him the more it seemed that something wasn't quite right. As he came closer I realized that he wasn't riding a bike, he was riding a unicycle! And I thought, if I could ride a unicycle I would ride it to work every morning too :-)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Working 9 to 5...

I have been wondering why I've felt a little down this week, and the reason dawned on me this morning - I no longer get to see the sun. The reception area where I work, while very open and bright, has no windows, so I don't see outside except on my way there and back. And it's now dark when I leave the house in the morning, and dark when I get home. I'm not getting my vitamin A! Or is it vitamin D? Whichever one that exposure to the sun produces.

The more I experience of the 9-5 world of office work, the more I'm convinced that it's not a natural way of life. Most people in North America, myself included, spend the majority of their day doing something of no real value, in the sense that their profession exists as either a result of or an outlet for our surplus wealth (dog grooming, anyone?). We send our kids off to be looked after and taught by others, and relegate the elderly and infirm to "old folks' homes." Most of the population, and particularly the urban population, has never produced any of their own food, and has no idea where it actually comes from except in the abstract sense - they know that milk comes from a cow, but they don't know where that cow is. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with being a city-dwelling dog groomer who sends their kids to daycare, has their parents in a home and has never seen a cow. I just can't help thinking that there must be a better way. I don't know what that way would necessarily look like, but I think it would involve a great deal of simplification in our lives. It would be necessary to completely re-examine, on both an individual and a societal level, the values that cause us to spend so much of our time, effort and money on things/services that we don't need, and often don't really want.

Just a thought...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Concrete, concrete everywhere...

One of the things that I have had the hardest time getting used to with regards to living in Toronto is the vast amount of concrete everywhere I look. Yes there are trees and parks, and some of them are quite lovely, but always there in the corner of my eye or above the treetops is more concrete or brick. There are only 2 places in the city where I can forget that the concrete jungle exists. The first is called the Beaches - a beautiful park on the shore of Lake Ontario - but since it takes about 45 minutes to get there I don't get to see it very often. The second place, on the other hand, is on my way to work. For a few seconds every day as I walk from the subway station to the office, I can look to my left and see this:

No concrete anywhere within sight, and it always smells how a field is supposed to smell - in summer there are wildflowers that bloom along the sidewalk, in fall there is the smell of decaying leaves, in winter the crisp smell of snow, and in spring the smell of wet earth. So for a few seconds each day I can forget that I live in the city and feel refreshed by this little bit of greenness.

Then I blink, and look to my right and see this:

And I am swiftly transported back to reality. But those few moments do wonders for my nature-starved soul!

Hats, Hats, and More Hats...

I've been crocheting up a storm lately, getting into the world of hats! I've never made hats before, and am having a great deal of fun figuring out which yarns and hooks work best with which patterns. Here's a look at the ones I've made so far:

This is the good copy of the hat I gave to our friends who are expecting the baby (a girl, as you can tell).

These are 3 versions of the same hat made while I played with hook size and yarn tension. The first one would probably fit a 4-5 year old, the second one is huge, and the third one fits me nicely. So all I need to do is find a papa bear, mama bear and baby bear and I'll be all set!

This is my first attempt at creating my own pattern - it looks a little fez-like in the picture, but the top rounds out when it's actually on someone's head.

I think this beret is adorable! I just need to find a 5-7 year old girl who could wear it.

This last hat is not quite finished. There's supposed to be a ribbon going through the little gaps you can see about 2/3 of the way down, but I don't have it yet. I'm thinking a pretty blue would be nice.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

An Ideal Day

I have been having a fantastic day! I slept in this morning, and then all I've done today is putter around the house, cooking, crocheting and even getting some work done on my French course. Oh, and I did go get groceries - a process which was greatly simplified by the menu plan I came up with. No more wondering what to get each week! I had my list ready in 5 minutes, walked to the store with my little cart while enjoying the crisp fall air, and was back out of the store within half an hour.

I made these granola bars yesterday with a recipe from a friend of mine. If I'd been thinking I would have taken a picture before I wrapped them up, but it's too late now :-) Then today I made spaghetti squash with feta-stuffed meatballs, which we'll have for supper tonight - a new recipe I found here. It says to make your own tomato sauce, but I cheated and used some pre-made stuff. I also had to cook the spaghetti squash a lot longer than the recipe called for, which made dinner a bit late, but well worth the wait. The best thing about it is that almost everything can be done ahead of time, so all you have to do just before is saute the spaghetti squash and put the meatballs in the tomato sauce and heat it up. It was very yummy! We had a friend staying with us for the weekend, and though none of us liked squash we all loved this dish. And for desert...

...pumpkin pie! Again, I cheated and used canned pumpkin, but it was much quicker that way :-)

All in all, an ideal day!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fun socks

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy these socks! Mum sent them to me earlier this week, along with some King Cole decaffienated tea, which is only sold out east but I absolutely love. I wore them to a birthday party last night (the socks, not the tea), but by the time we got home the toes had started to unravel. At least I got one night's use out of them - which is essentially a year's worth of wear and tear, since I can only wear them once a year, so that's not too bad I guess :)