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Archive for December, 2012

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This week, as I was frantically working, I happened to come across a video on my newsfeed. A friend had shared a short video of Beaker singing Ode to Joy. I’m always up for a laugh, particularly at work when I’m mired in my professional problems and a little frustrated. The video was a short, and funny, and I was hooked.

In the end, I think I watched this video 20 times. I was so caught up in it that at one point I took off my headphones, only to discover that every one of my coworkers had left me. They had abandoned me to my own devices, and frankly my devices had me in complete abandon as I listened to Beaker and then various other groups play this song.

I know it sounds trite, but I love the Ode to Joy. It definitely marks me as someone who doesn’t really understand classical music that I would count this song among my favourite classical pieces. But I just can’t resist it. There is something so infectious about this music. The way it builds, and becomes lighter. The way the notes soar upwards. I can’t help but go along for the ride.

Listening to this song makes me wish I hadn’t given up on music; it makes me wish that I had stuck it out, found a new teacher, one who could actually teach me to read music, and then learned how to express my joy by joining in. I move my feet, my hips and my arms. No other piece of music can make me want to interact with it the way this one does.

And I do, and I don’t think I’m alone. In my travels through YouTube I found another video, this one of a flash mob in Spain. The music builds in a familiar way, getting ever lighter, faster and always more joyful. As the musicians gather in a public square, and the music becomes more powerful, and harder to ignore, people out for drinks, walking their dogs, or doing their shopping stopped to take a moment to enjoy the music. I was struck by how joyful the crowd became, and how so many people felt the urge to be part of that music too. They danced, they sang, they climbed poles and retaining walls, while pretending to conduct, or at least keeping time. When it’s all over, you realize that nearly everyone has participated in this performance in some way, and everyone is happier for it.

I won’t lie, I spent most of the next day listening to and watching parts of this video. I then went home and downloaded 10 different versions of Ode to Joy. I’m completely addicted!

While this has been a great year for me, I know that it has been a difficult year for many, including some of the people I love the most. We’ve all lost people close to us, we’ve had to deal with change and loss of different kinds and at different levels of intensity, but I hope that you can watch these videos and take the time to enjoy and celebrate the peace of the season, and the feeling of joy that this music can give us, if we open ourself up to it.

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English: The end of dinner

English: The end of dinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was walking Cadie through a darkened park yesterday thinking about how sluggish, over-fed and tired I feel. Let’s be honest, this over-fed, bloated feeling as I flit from one celebration to another is the epitome of a “first world problem” so I don’t want to complain, or sound ungrateful. I know I’m very blessed, and this is my favourite time of year. Still, I miss the warmer weather, the longer days, and my solitary walks along the trails with my little girl. I miss them so much that I thought I would dedicate today’s blog post to some of our favourite places, as I dream about how the days will be a little longer starting Saturday.

1) Cherry Beach. We don’t get there often, but it is the perfect place to watch the sun rise over the city. Especially in the winter: the wind is cold and brisk and gets the blood pumping. Cherry Beach has some of the city’s best views; whether you’re looking out over the lake, or back towards the city.

The view back towards the city from Cherry Beach

The view back towards the city from Cherry Beach

2) Sherwood Park. Sherwood Park is a great place. It’s a huge park, with a long, off-leash walking trail. It’s only a thirty minute walk from our apartment, so Cadie and I tend to go a lot. Less in the winter because of the shorter days, and the sidewalks are pretty mucky with salt, but we always have a great time once we get there.

Hello old friend, nice to see you again

Hello old friend, nice to see you again

3) The Brickworks. This is one of those places that I would hear everyone talk about, but I had never been there myself. This last fall I went with my friend A. The two dogs had a great time, and I was shocked to discover that it was within 20 minutes walking distance of our apartment. Guess what our new favourite place is? That’s right, Cadie and I were there almost every night from September until the time change at the end of October. I’m hoping we can get back out there for some weekend walks in the winter.

Some places deserve to be remembered

Some places deserve to be remembered

4) Mount Pleasant Cemetery. On our way home from a walk along the Brickworks trail we would always cut through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. This fall they changed their policy, and now dogs are allowed to walk through, provided they follow certain rules. I  know it sounds macabre, but I love the cemetery, and I’m thrilled that dogs are now permitted to walk through. Every where I look I see something old and beautiful. Trees that have been there for years, and people who have done amazing things.

In Mount Pleasant you’ll pass Sir Frederick Banting, Alexander Muir and William Lyon Mackenzie King, to name only a few. I’m also told that the cemetery is the resting place for some of Canada’s top generals from WWII. But I don’t just go to gawk; Mount Pleasant is a lush “living cemetery,” full of people  jogging, reading, strolling, and looking at the same things I’m looking at. It’s also one of the few places in midtown where you cannot hear the traffic. It’s might be a cemetery, but it’s a magical place.

5) Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens. When I first came on this small park it was dark, and I was walking quickly up Yonge Street. The front gate was so imposing and stately, I was sure I’d fallen in the book The Secret Garden, except for the fact that the garden isn’t secret. So I recommend that you take in this garden, if only to see the gateway in all its splendor. It’s a highly manicured park, often with tennis players in their whites moving around the back part of the park. It is definitely a place that you should see.

Garden escape

Garden escape (Photo credit: AshtonPal)

6) Sunnybrook Park. This is a huge park, connected to Toronto’s parks and ravine system. It’s not close (it takes nearly an hour to walk there), but it’s full of nature trails, an off-leash area and even some stables. Cadie and I have been known to spend a whole morning taking various trails, just to see where they would take us. This is the park where Cadie first overcame her fear of going into the water. We usually drive, park, and walk through the park to the off-leash area. But sometimes we walk up Bayview, and get the best of an urban walk, and a nature hike.

Cadie, grabbing a quick drink.

Cadie, grabbing a quick drink.

When I find myself feeling locked in I just try to remember that soon the days will start to get longer, and Cadie and I will be back on the trails. Are there any other trails that we should get to know this winter?

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tin

Festive containers for festive cookies

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to share some holiday love with some girl friends. We had a holiday bake-off. The idea was that rather than getting together for some gossip and goodies we would spend an afternoon together, baking, gossiping, and eating. I know it sounds like almost the same thing, but it was really nice to work together.

sandwiches

Cres-sandwiches, the perfect light lunch

We’re bakers of all shapes and varieties: my friend W, who wasn’t able to make it, is an excellent creator of traditional treats. My friend A  is an excellent creator of vegan treats. I’m more of a free-form baker, and I am often disappointed that creations don’t work out. Then we also had a couple of girls who don’t bake at all.

Lemon scone with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream

Lemon scone with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream

I remember the character of Marilla Cuthbert telling Anne Shirley that she and Rachel Lind could live together, provided they didn’t have to share a kitchen. While I agree that sharing a kitchen day in and day out is too great a trial for even the best and most adaptable cook or baker, I see the value in sharing a day in the kitchen. You get to see how other people manage their time while their baking, how they complete different tasks, and how they manage to keep their counter-tops clean so that they can keep working. We shared kitchen wisdom, recipes, tips and tricks, as well as new products.

Butter tarts with tons of taste, and no butter

Butter tarts with tons of taste, and no butter

We had all of this knowledge sharing, a nice visit, and some of the most delicious treats. We started our afternoon with cres-sandwhiches, vegan chocolate cupcakes, and vegan butter tarts—no Christmas would  be complete without butter tarts. We ate this while my free-form peanut butter cups cooled in the fridge.

Candy cane cupcakes--yum!

Candy cane cupcakes–yum!

After lunch we helped J make one of Martha Stewart’s recipes: Lime Melt-aways. These ultimately became the hit of the party. J isn’t much for baking, but she’s a good sport, and she’s a hoot so it was fun to watch her bake. So with a little help from A she was able to get the dough prepared, and into the fridge to chill, before finally slicing the rolls and putting them in the oven.

Lime Melt-aways, I'll bet you can't eat just one...

Lime Melt-aways, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one…

While we were waiting to move on to the oven stage of J’s cookies Penelope, J and I started assembling the empire cookies. She had pre-baked the sugar cookies, so that all we had to do on the day of was combine two together with jam in the middle, and top with icing and a chocolate square.

Can you resist the Empire (cookies)

Can you resist the Empire (cookies)

We all had a great day, and we each walked away with a tin full of delicious, vegan, holiday treats. Now I just need to learn how to stagger out these goodies.

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I’m out!

English: Rest. Mural in lunette from the Famil...

So I’m out this week nursing a very sore back, I hope to be up and running again next week.

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