Diary updates for 2013

Nov 20th, 2013.  It has been an active two weeks.  We attended the Commodore's Ball, Andrew Chung's excellent choir and Silverthorn Symphonic Winds performance, had "sausage night" with Ian and Ursula, my usual weekly tennis, swing band and jazz choir, had a visit with Moe Scott, attended our second Quebec Square Dance, did a course in defibrillation using the AED machines, had Lara and Lis and Ryan here for fish soup one afternoon, and drove to Barrie to have lunch with Brian and pick up a computer servere rack for Rob.  Had a tire repair to do on the Suzuki, and had to put a gallon of coolant into the truck to get heat out of it.  The vehicles are closing in on a decade of service; I might begin thinking of the right sort of replacement vehicle(s), likely one between the two of us and maybe get an additional Zip Car membership.  But what sort of vehicle?  Will we want to pull a trailer in the coming years?  Hmm...

Nov 6th.  We've had our first couple of light frosts. There's nothing left to harvest from the garden except swiss chard and kale, and all the old plants are pulled, the planters dumped, etc.  I did my haul-out shift on the 26th, and our own boat came out early the next morning.  I gave up on the HYC guitar circle for now, since five of them split off to do a Monday thing; I'd been lobbying for a different day, but didn't get what I asked for, so I left them to join a Community Swing Band on Tuesday evenings, which is a lot of fun.  They gave me the 3rd trumpet chair; there are four of us, a full section, and we make fine brass harmonies.  Six saxes sit directly across from us, and they comment on how rich and wonderful the full chords sound with no missing parts.
Andrew, Fifi and Christoff took us to a sushi buffet to celebrate and thank us for Andrew getting his first paycheque as a certified and hired teacher; I helped him at many steps along the way with his teacher's college application, advice and assignment editing while he was in school, and a bit of hand-holding while he waited anxiously for news that he'd get an interview - Greg Martin and I put him through a mock interview to prepare for it - and finally get hired.  
We've had Marg over for dinner, and we will join Ian and Ursula for "sausage night" this Friday. 
Adam is home from teacher's college in Ottawa and will do a practicum at Henry Hudson Sr. P. S.  When he graduates and gets hired next summer, I'll go through my teaching library looking for material and books that might be useful for him.  I held onto most of my stuff when I retired in case I changed my mind or wanted to go back, but after four years of retirement and financial stability, the odds of that happening are becoming more remote. 
Tennis continues with a small group of die-hards as long as the courts are dry - one net remains up for the winter - with one game scheduled for Friday afternoon; and the yacht club's Commodore's Ball is this Saturday evening.  On
Sunday evening we'll attend a choral and brass concert of Andrew's groups, with him conducting. 
I've been reading my grandfather's diaries from 1929 onward.  He was 28 by then, had graduated from Dalhousie in medicine and already worked in Edmonton and in Alabama, and was in Lisbon doing language and medical studies for a year, on his way ultimately to Angola.  He'd write entries almost daily...it was a simpler, less busy time, I guess.  A lot of trivia, but gives me insight into his life and times.  Maybe he'd use these entries as reminders for when he'd correspond in letters with family and friends in Nova Scotia.  I'm thoroughly content to write my own entries once a fortnight; although my life seems busier, there's less that feels as though it needs to be recorded, somehow.  It's an interesting comparison, and as I continue reading, there might be more insight into the difference between living in 1929 (and onward) versus 2013.

Oct 23rd.  I'd say that October has been an eventful month, but for the fact that every month seems event-filled.  Our days are pretty constantly full.  In the past three weeks, apart from dinners with Ian and Ursula, Lawrence and Joan, and Lara, we finally got Aaron out for a sail and then had one beautiful sail ourselves on the 14th.  Two days earlier we'd tried to take Entera out and had to turn back.  Entera, who was here from Santa Barbara, was breaking out of her usual pleasant surroundings to take a trip to see friends and family.  She was our couchsurfing host there two winters ago, and we were able to reciprocate here in Toronto for five days.  She met Sol and Marcie, who were here for Thanksgiving dinner, an annual tradition.  A few days later, Mom arrived, and we spent a week visiting her eastern family members, including a trip to share Rob and Cynthia's first meal in their new house (Deb's fish soup), and lunch with Tom and Lloyd.  Brian and Theresa stopped here for burgers one evening, we visited a bit with Janice, and Mom rehearsed with us in our jazz choir and performed with us on Sunday afternoon.  Lis came along to hear us, and she and Ryan stopped back at the house afterward for a taste of Dock 57.
While Mom was visiting with Janice one day, Deb and I dropped Awelyn's mast in about two hours - pretty slick work.  Now we face a weekend of preparing our boat and cradle for haul-out, and I'll do a six hour shift on the docks
in the cold and rain this Saturday, the 26th, setting the slings for the crane under each boat so that they can be lifted from the water onto their cradles in the club parking lot. Tennis and all our musical activities continue, and I try to balance my time between trumpet (mostly working on old jazz standards and playing with a group of jazz musicians at a jazz jam every few weeks), piano at home and sometimes at the yacht club, and guitar, using Youtube and the guitar circle as my focus.  We're down to one jazz choir a week now. November will be a month of music, reading, studying Vietnamese, getting our fill of sitcoms and movies, winterizing the house and working the garden, putting it to bed for the winter. 

Oct 1st.  I managed to get the "Helpx summer" slideshow done.  It's here.
I performed David Warrack's "Abraham" at Metropolitan United on Monday the 23rd,
right downtown near Yonge and Queen.  It was a powerful and memorable composition, one of the first four segments he's written for a new "interfaith" oratorio which encourages Muslims, Christians and Jews to come together through their common progenitor.  Sheila encouraged me to come along and volunteer because I'm a good reader with good pitch and reasonable volume.  I was initially reluctant, partly because of commuting for rehearsals but also because I wasn't sure that I was really a good enough singer to carry it off; however, I was thrilled with my own performance and with the choir's performance.  My own voice opened up, and the eighteen voice choir, filled with professional singers and much bigger voices than mine, filled that cavernous church with sound.  We were recorded; I'm hoping to get the sound file to share with family and friends.
Vanessa Quensiere came to stay with us for a week, a young 34 year old French woman taking a sabbatical from her stressful retail job in Paris.  She worked really hard at digging holes in my garden, and when her work was done each day she toured Toronto avidly, taking excellent photos and keeping a blog of her travels.  She's an example of why we enjoyed being Helpx hosts this summer.
This past weekend Deb and I went to the
100 Mile Peninsula, courtesy of a marketing effort by the nine municipalities of Windsor-Essex to attract retirees to live there.  They put us up for two nights at Caesar's Casino hotel.  We began our weekend with a tour, tasting and lunch at Hiram Walker's gorgeous "Whisky Palace", with a great recount of the history of Prohibition and the Italian mob at this Detroit/Windsor crossing.   A $7 bottle of CC in Canada would sell for $75 in the U.S. in those days - my friend Rod is convinced that his father, who owned a boat on a stretch of shoreline and lived in a Victorian house in Hamilton, made his fortune bootlegging from 1920 to 1926, when he returned to England (possibly on the run from competitive rum-runners) and bought half of his hometown. 
We explored the "Speakeasy" room in the basement, where Al Capone and his cronies sat in safety and security to discuss purchase of cases of Canadian Club Premium.  I took Deb's photo with her arm draped over a cardboard cut-out of Al Capone.  Someone like Rod's father would then be hired to take on the risk of getting the cases across the river.  We're told that the river bed, then only 6 feet deep, was littered with bottles in those days, but there are probably few left; it has since been dredged to accommodate boats with deeper draft.  However, I have fellow scuba divers who've done drift dives in the Detroit river and pulled out old bottles.
We had dinner at a famous Italian joint with excellent food, dating from those days, as do many of the Italian families who still dominate the economy and social scene. They tour organizers drove us all over the peninsula in a limo for two days, and fed us lunch on the second day at Oxley winery after a tasting of four excellent wines - the first tasting where I was so impressed with the wines that I actually bought two bottles and had to hold Deborah back from buying four! I haven't been this impressed at any winery in Ontario, B.C. or New Zealand; the two we brought back are so good that we'll have to save them to share with genuine wine connoiseurs. 
We had dinner on Boblo Island, and saw how the current developers are trying to bring it back from its decline after once being a major playground in the area. It's a beautiful little island, but development has been hobbled by financial issues and access.  In general, however, we're pretty impressed with the safety, high quality, low prices, great climate, and burgeoning municipalities here on the 100 Mile Peninsula. It seems as though there is an excellent chance for real estate appreciation, with the border crossing development that is happening here right now, continuing industrial activity, influx of retirees to a location that is on the same latitude as northern California and boasts pretty fine weather year-round by Canadian standards, and the ongoing agricultural bounty.

We went with open minds, eager to learn how we could improve our lot and maximize the pleasure of our remaining years by relocating.  We could cash out of our bungalow in Toronto and buy a home there, the same or a little better, for half the price we'd get for ours; but after all the work I've put into our garden, difficulties with public transit (when we get too old to drive) and the likely impossibility of replacing all our friends and current activities, we've realized that the chance that we'd relocate is fairly remote.
Kenton and Sarah have just had their first baby on Sept 29th, a daughter they named Ella Sophia Gilchrist, which sounds quite lovely.  Like her cousin Callum, I'm sure she will be the subject of many photos and videos in the days, weeks and months to come.
One of our couchsurfing hosts in California, Entera, will soon be in our neck of the woods and we expect and hope she'll be here to enjoy a reciprocal stay with us shortly.  She's in NYC and will go on to Buffalo, possibly to be hosted by another host/surfer friend of ours, Karen Yan.  I've written about each of these ladies in earlier diary entries. 
Our regular activities continue: getting the garden ready for winter; playing and singing at Matthew Parker's jazz jam every few weeks, playing at the HYC guitar circle weekly, singing at Sheila's jazz choir, and still playing tennis with highs of 23 and lows of only 12 even through the first week of October.  We'll have  another sail tomorrow, and after that consider whether to hold out for another one, or to drop the mast - I'm told that half of the sailors on my dock have already dropped theirs.  Yacht club social events continue in full swing, and even though we know that the dreary winter weather is on its way, we have enough joy in our lives, routine and otherwise, to keep us getting up cheerfully each morning, always interested in what the days and weeks ahead will bring.

Sept 16th.  This has been the Summer of Helpx.  I was stalling on writing this diary entry, thinking I'd make a slideshow of all our Helpx helpers this summer, along with the many other things we did.  We've had, if I'm counting everyone correctly, at least ten Helpx helpers and two couchsurfers, and we still have at least one Helpx helper lined up to come before September is over - and yet another who thinks he wants to come after Mom has come and gone in October.  Maybe after the Helpxers are all finished for this year, I'll do the slideshow.
It's been very good and very helpful, a thoroughly successful experiment: we've had lots of cleaning and yardwork and some useful repairs done, reshingled the shed roof, cleaned and shined one sailboat, and sold it.  Now that September is here I've moved into Frostbite League at the tennis club which runs until the end of October; we're back at choir, and the guitar circle at the yacht club had swollen to nine players last week.  I'm going to sing in a very challenging performance on the 23rd, in a fairly small choir introducing a new musical creation called "Abraham" by David Warrack, who is a pretty well-known pianist and composer in Toronto.  I got shanghaied into that by our jazz choir conductor, Sheila Brandt-Bennett, who is one of David's go-to sopranos.  They met when she closed out a career doing leads in London's west end musicals with her husband at the time, Nigel Bennett, who is quite a well-known actor on both sides of the pond.
After Rod got home from England, he was delighted with the way I'd organized Helpx helpers to stay in his home while he was gone, and all the heavy-duty cleaning and yard work they'd done for him.  Deb and I did some of that ourselves, working alongside the Helpxers, and made daily visits to supervise and direct them.  Rod is a bachelor, a single Dad, and a busy writer and substitute teacher, so there was a lot in his house that needed to be done. 
Partly to show his appreciation, he gave me a Yamaha pf85 keyboard with weighted keys that he'd dragged home from England almost a decade ago and never used.  It was leaning up against his furnace with the plug clipped off to prevent the hazard of trying to plug it into a Canadian wall socket.  It is a 220/240 volt keyboard, but I put a new plug on it and found a transformer just the right size, replugged that for N. America as well, and the keyboard now works fine, with good piano sounds and a nice Rhodes-like electric piano setting as well.  It is a huge improvement on the little Casio I bought from another friend for $20 last spring, but not as portable - it's incredibly heavy, actually.  And/or, I'm getting old and weak.  But I've created a nice little rehearsal space in my basement and set the Yamaha up there permanently; I can play there when we have guests living upstairs that I don't want to disturb, and the other evening Ondrej came for a visit and became the first person to join me in a jam there, playing the guitar that I recently repaired - didn't even need to plug him in, because the keyboard's volume can be set as low as I want, unlike my upright grand piano in the dining room on the main floor.  We have nice acoustics and acoustic ceiling tile in the basement room, with lots of electrical outlets and good light; some previous tenants who worked at Long & McQuade used to have the room set up permanently as their band rehearsal space.  I can see it slowly returning to that purpose.

Aug 24th.  Mom has moved into her new house in Camrose.  I spoke to her by Skype to her cellphone, but she didn't have a landline for several days and won't have internet access for a whole month...bizarre. 
We've had a French couple here since the 17th, Jean and Marine.  Jean has a couple of weeks' holiday from his job as a union technician for an auto manufacturer and then has to go back, while Marine, a young female quality control engineer, has been laid off and has opted for a six month stint in B.C. training sled dogs, apparently.  They've worked hard since they arrived, and are several days ahead of their commitment.  Jean and I stripped, repaired and reshingled the shed, much better than it was before - added felt and drip-edge this time - but it took us four very full mornings to complete the job, even with a bit of help from my Chinese neighbour who dashed over to help with the tearing off. 
The newly repaired guitar is working beautifully.  It has new strings, and sounds great.  We had a lunch date with Chris and Mishi, and took our new Helpxers sailing.  Another couple arrived, Rebecca and Greg; we installed them at Rod's and gave them a list of chores to try and accomplish while they are here.  Rebecca is a professional house cleaner, so that should be great for bachelor Rod, who has a lot of cleaning to do as well as a lot of yard work and gardening.  They'll spend about 90 minutes a day working for him, and then they'll be tourists in Toronto; they'll also attend a special concert at Fort York called Riot Fest, which takes place in a few different cities, I guess. 
Ondrej will return on Monday for another five days, and he'll also work mostly at Rod's.  He's got himself a job at a Starbucks on campus at U of T, and rented a room for September 1st, and I guess his next Helpx host wanted more hours than he was able to contribute on top of his shifts at Starbucks.  He's a good kid, so I'm happy to help him out a while longer.


Aug 14th.  We've done a lot of visiting back and forth with friends, and I rebuilt a broken guitar.  Rod got out of bed in the middle of the night and put his foot through a nice and fairly expensive classical guitar; it wasn't worth paying for the repairs at 12th Fret, so I tacked the job myself, and it turned out quite well.  Now it's mine.  I also lucked into a hard shell soft lined guitar case that someone had left at the curb, which is perfect for the guitar and also held some brand new nylon strings and a spring capo - great find!  Rod is on his way to England now for a month, and we'll watch his house and get some Helpxers to do his cleaning and yard work.
We had a couple of young couchsurfers from Belgium and India via Pennsylvania for two days, and now we have a young man from Czechslovakia, Ondrej.  He's a nice young man who is looking for a job to take advantage of his one year work permit. 
I'm still playing tennis, and music, and gardening.  We participated in an attempt to break the Guinness record for the most participants in a Zorba the Greek dance, and we had an Island Party jointly with the yacht clubs - a meal, not great for the price, and dancing to a pretty good duo that played keyboard and pan (steel drum) and guitar, while they both sang.  They used backing tracks on a laptop to get bass and drums background and some extra instrumentation as well.  It feels a bit  like cheating, given the  attitude I and my fellow musicians held thirty years ago
about playing live music:  is it "live", or not?  But that's basically what a lot of solo and duo working musicians are doing these days in order to make a living, because entertainment gigs don't pay enough to pay a complete band; and it's better than just a DJ because at least they sing live, and play along, do instrumental solos and interact with the audience.  The pan player was an excellent, jazzy musician.
We delivered David's car to the airport and he and Margaret headed for home in Alberta after their two weeks in Scotland.  I'm beginning changes to the gardens, front and back, with the help of my Helpx helpers - extending the garden beds and planning new locations for flowers and vegetables for next year.


Aug 5th.  Wrote a short article for my yacht club about our week serving the Tall Ships in June, and created a slideshow on Picasa.  It includes some pretty nice photos.

We spent yesterday at Lis and Ryan's, having a family BBQ with Rob and Cyn, Dianne, Lara and Miranda.  That was a good reconnection; today we'll reconnect with Brian and Theresa as well - Dianne plans for the seven of us to meet down at Riverdale Farm.
The coming week is filled with a tennis round robin tonight, music with HYC guitar circle and then with Rod and Martin, two couchsurfers coming tomorrow for two nights, and our next Helpxer arriving on Friday.  Next weekend includes an annual street festival called Taste of the Danforth, at which they plan to set a Guiness World Record for the largest Zorba the Greek dance.  I could be persuaded to get to my feet for that...and then our yacht clubs are holding their annual Island Party, complete with a steel band - looking forward to that.  Life gallops on at a breakneck pace.
 

Aug 1st.  We just delivered Jean-Benoit to the subway.  He's headed for New York for six days before returning to Lyon, where he will prepare for the next year of his engineering program.  He was a great help to us in reclaiming the garden, and he helped me take down half of the Manitoba maple behind the shed, to get more sunlight onto the vegetable garden.
Our next Helpx helper, a young man from Czechoslovakia, will arrive on the 9th; and then we'll have a slightly older couple from France arriving on the 17th, and they will be here until the end of the month.  We have yet another couple from the U. S. coming at the same time; the lady in that couple runs a professional home cleaning business in her home town, so I'm going to employ them in Rod's house a bit while he is in Spain.  Jean-Benoit did some work for Rod for two mornings as well, for which he was grateful.  Helpx is great!  I wish I'd clued into being a host myself a few summers ago.  Deborah and I have been helpers now for three winters, but only became hosts this summer.  Now I could easily see myself moving into a larger home and being able to stay on top of the yard work with the help of Helpx helper guests.
Last weekend Deb and I went to Buffalo to stay with Karen Yan for two nights.  We spent Saturday doing the annual Garden Walk, and on Sunday we went to the AMSF AGM.  We continue to stay busy socializing almost every night, with Ian and Ursula, Rod, the Rotarians, Sheila, Moe and Jennifer, and other friends.  The guitar circle sets are tightening up and I've been playing lead guitar -
I was surprised and delighted only three weeks ago when the riffing I was doing on my un-plugged guitar suddenly began to come to life under my fingers, and the other guitar circle band members snapped their heads around and said, "Hey!  We've found our lead guitarist!"  I have a small Marshall amp and a "gummy bear" transducer pick-up that sticks to the body of my $50 Beaver Creek guitar with a bit of putty.  The sound could be better, probably with a more appropriate amp for a nylon string guitar; but it works, and I've had fun.  Last Monday I bounced between guitar, keyboard, harmonica and trumpet, as well as lead vocal on some songs; the downside is that it is just way too much gear to haul.  I want to focus on guitar and just play piano for myself at home, but they want the other instruments to be included on some songs as well.  There is certainly a lot that I can do on keyboard in terms of signature riffs and solos (not to mention organ sounds, etc) that I can't yet do on guitar, and that might always be the case.
Sailing has been hit and miss.  We tried three times to take Jean-Benoit for a sail.  The first two times the wind was from the east, and when that happens the waves build across the entire length of Lake Ontario, so it gets really lumpy on the water; the wind was not strong enough to power us through the lumpy waves, so we couldn't really sail, although we put the sails up for him and gave it the old college try.  On the third time there was even less wind, although what there was came from the south; and it began to rain as we arrived at the club, in spite of the forecast for clear weather for the afternoon.  So the poor guy didn't have quite the sailing experience we'd all hoped for.
However, the garden harvest has begun: mostly beans and tomatoes for now, some swiss chard and some eggplant.  If we could get a zucchini and some okra, we'd have a nice ratatouille.  Still keeping my fingers crossed.
And the tennis has been good, perfect weather for it the past two weeks, now that the heat wave has passed.

July 19th.
  Our young French Helpx helper Jean-Benoit, the fourth we've hosted (of maybe eight or nine before the summer is over) is working out very well. On Wednesday he plowed through our lawns for two hours, had to do multiple passes with our little push-mower, and a lot of raking, which I normally never have to do - I usually let the clippings lie and be absorbed back into the soil.  On Thursday he beat back the overgrown hedge to the shape it was intended to be.  Today he restored our patio, pulled the fierce weeds from between the stones, added more gravel, cleaned it right up - it's ready to host visitors now.  He has saved Deb and I each three hours of hard work in the terrible heat, already.  We were able to spend our morning garden time weeding instead, and I tied up tomato plants and exposed them to the sun again from some monster field weeds that were already higher than the tomatoes, in just the month that we were gone.  I've never seen those before; no idea where the seeds for those come from...blown on the wind?  Donated by bird droppings?
We're already eating amethyst beans, swiss chard, arugula, and the first red tomatoes.  The strawberries are done, and it took some doing to find the plants in the long grass and weeds that had grown right through and on top of the landscaping plastic; but the raspberries are coming on and I've eaten one or two already.  I suspect they're a bit late because of the cool spring.  We have small finger and regular eggplants growing, and the okra plants are stretching up - now that the weeds are no longer depriving them of light, we should soon get blossoms and fruit. Our first small zucchini has also appeared, so with all these constituent veggies, delicious ratatouille will soon be on the menu. And we'll have a nice green tomato and ground turkey curry - I'll pick up the green ones that I knocked down while weeding, and put them into a curry stew that Deb first made last fall.  I can't wait to taste it again.  This evening we had a delicious fish and fennel soup with Moe and Jennifer, using fish that Deb bought on a team buying site, and our own new red potatoes, to go with a fine salad that they brought which included dried cranberries - nice tart/sweet touch.  Meals that include anything from our own garden always make me beam.

July 15th.  What busy month!  We spent a week in June serving as Liaison Officers (a kind of Port Captain) to the Peacemaker at the Tall Ships festival at Harbourfront.  The Peacemaker is a gorgeous ship operated by the 12 Tribes organization, who have fifty communities in various corners of the world.  It was fun getting to know this group.  When they cast off and left port, we drove to Alberta to visit family and help my mother who has sold her house and needed help to prepare for her move.  I enjoyed being at the annual family campout.  Got back just after midnight this morning, after another three long days of driving - the final one was fifteen hours behind the wheel.  No mishaps, just a couple of close calls: a guy who decided to pass coming head-on on a two lane highway - fortunately there was a shoulder for me to get around him - and a skittish doe who almost joined a dozen of her kind who littered the shoulders of highway 69 in the Upper Peninsula. 
  
Today I saw my yard  for the first time in three weeks - it's a jungle.  It's a rainforest.  I've never seen it like that in July.  You could lose a long-eared rabbit in my lawn.  So we're very slowly opening mail, unpacking, pacing ourselves in temperatures of 33 degrees, 42 with the humidex, which threatens to continue for most of this week.  We have many friends who are lining up to get together and catch up, and various club events and activities, tennis, sailing, the jazz jam and the guitar circle...it's a merry-go-round with no end; but we will have to remind ourselves to consider our busy lives in a positive light, and be careful not to complain.  A carousel is a cheerful, bright, colourful musical thing, is it not?  So much for being retired, mind you; but there's a young Helpx helper arriving from France tomorrow, Jean-Benoit, so we'll get on top of the chores and have the garden whipped into shape before the end of July, and still have time to take him sailing as well, I'm sure.  

June 17th.  We sold Tiger Moth yesterday, for a good break-even price: what we paid for her, plus what we put into her in terms of parts and maintenance, both paid and my own.  I'm pleased; yet again, my web-page-with-photos approach to selling boats holds up, and I've bought and sold a dozen boats now in the past twenty years, sometimes selling for friends as well.  Most move quickly because of the web page and because I know what to expect in terms of price offer; this time I actually predicted to the dollar to Deborah ahead of time what my buyers would offer, and when they did, I accepted right away.  When buyers make an offer, they feel tense about whether they're doing the right thing, and whether their offer will be accepted, whether their price is offensively low, etc.  It feels like a moment of conflict.  When the seller accepts, there's a sense of relief and elation, and the sale process goes forward quickly and happily.  In this case, within a half-hour of accepting, I was already helping my buyers, Jeffrey and Lillian by giving them everything I could thing of from my shed that would help them with the boat, and by towing it to its new home for them - fortunately, they will sail out of SBSC, so it was a short trip.
     Chances are we'll stumble upon just the right small trailer now, and drag that home to fill the huge empty space in our driveway.
     Last Thursday we sang at the Liberty Grand for our third (the choir's fourth annual) appearance.  We sang four songs: Peace Like a River, I Will Sing Joy, Monday, Monday, and Both Sides Now, in honour of Joni Mitchell who is much in the news these days with an hour long CBC special interview with Jian Ghomeshi.  We were treated to a fabulously delicious meal, free scotch and bottles of wine - especially worth the effort when the dinner is the icing on the cake, the cake being the chance to perform some well-rehearsed songs to an appreciative audience.
     We've done our eaves, I did an oil change on both vehicles in the driveway even though I swore a few years ago I wouldn't bother doing that myself anymore, we mowed and hedge-trimmed, and had Sol and Marcie here for Father's Day lunch.  He brought Deb a new ukulele made of very pretty bubinga wood.  The weather is gorgeous and my garden diary is filling up with photos and ideas as all the different plants take their turns blossoming - excellent peonies, irises and lupins during the first half of June.  We're slowly whittling down the mountain of junk in the basement - next problem is to figure out what to do with Deb's "Auntie Anne's" paintings, which are the last things that came into our basement after she died recently in her nursing home in Montreal.  After that, one of my goals is to keep plowing through the letters and papers my Dad saved, reminding myself of his life and times, and absorbing things I hadn't known about what was going on in his life when I lived elsewhere, which was the majority of my adult years, and in the years when I was too young to know what was going on.  Another goal is to convert our music collection of hardware, LP's, cassette tapes and CD's to digital format, and possibly even find them all a home in the cloud, or at the very least, on a massive hard drive.  I like the idea of being able to access them from anywhere, and share them with friends and family.

June 5th.  Our young Spanish couple, Jessica and Carlos, turned out to be extremely quiet and polite, quite shy, perhaps, and very helpful.  They did mowing, weeding and windows, and cleaned two sailboats.  We took them for a sail, and we helped them get set up with transportation within Toronto, Canadian banking, currency exchange and SIM card details.  It's a good symbiotic relationship to have these young European travellers come and stay in our house.  We wish we had more for this first two weeks of June, but so far nobody has applied for this stretch of time.  Still, the ones we've had gave me a good head start on my spring chores, so it was a great idea to become hosts ourselves.
     These days are filled with music and watching the garden grow.  I'm creating a garden diary so I'll know what to move where next fall, for the following spring.  The garden has definitely taken shape and is becoming mature in character.  I'm planning a special bed that'll feature tulips in a row in May which are overtaken by German irises by June and Cana lilies by July; and the other beds all have plants that fit well together, will be well spaced by next spring, and blossom in a happy sequence through the season with a minimum of fuss.
     We continue connecting with friends two or three times a week, and we've gone square dancing one evening with Pat and Clare, who are listing their home and preparing to move to their beautiful new year-round "cottage" in Uffington.  Clare got laid off from his job with OLG after forty years, just months away from when he was planning to retire - but they gave him a 22 month severance, so he came out well ahead!  He finds it a bit wrenching to separate from people he's known like family for so many decades, but he's getting used to it.
     I created the spring/summer Halyard for the yacht club and we finally got it published.  Tennis house league has been running for a few weeks, one jazz choir has had a final wrap party and the other is preparing to sing at the Liberty Ballroom, an annual gig that marks the end of the season for that choir as well.  The yacht club guitar circle has continued past Launch Day and looks like it has the momentum to continue through the summer - last night we played outside at the picnic tables, and we might sometimes play in the cockpits of our sailboats - I'm hoping that one day we might even raft up three boats on a beautiful evening out beyond the beach, and sing across the lake.  Sailpast is this coming Saturday, and the following weekend we'll go to Lis and Ryan's for a BBQ on Father's Day - Jenn's birthday party too, we hope.  The Tall Ships will hove into sight two weeks from now; that'll be a week of sailing and Harbourfront fun for us, before we visit family out west to mark the middle of our year.

May 21st.  Our first Helpx helper, Matthias Vogt, left yesterday after eighteen days .  He helped us put in the garden for the season, as well as by mowing, hedge-trimming, dandelion digging, car-washing, bicycle servicing, and so on - even some vacumming.  We made some significant structural changes to the garden project, including setting up a new container gardening experiment and digging out a ditch.  We've used landscaping plastic for our strawberry bed as well this year, and extended its use on the main kitchen garden; we've become faster at knowing how to roll it out and apply weight to keep it from being blown away.  We've had our tulip season, with probably only one further week to go; peonies will burst forth in a week; irises are in bud; our golden globe flower from northern Norway bloomed with fifteen blossoms this year.  I'm photographing everything to determine what needs to be moved or repositioned this fall for next spring's emergence.  I don't buy plants (except vegetable seedlings), I just trade them; but it is fun to develop the ornamental garden just a tiny bit more each season, and enjoy the result each new spring and summer.  I need to remember to go to Rosetta McLain gardens frequently too - I wonder what tulips they have?  I've driven around the neighbourhood looking with envy at some other colours and varieties that friends and neighbours have in their gardens.

Our next helpers, a young Spanish couple, will arrive this Saturday, May 25th, and be here until the 31st.   Preparations are slowly ramping up for the arrival of the tall ships, our volunteer gig for mid-June.  Our own ship has its mast up and we went for our first sail of the season with Matt three days ago, on Sunday.  The jazz choirs are still singing and gearing up for some end of year concerts, one of which is the usual annual gig at the Liberty Ballroom; I've been to my second local jazz jam with some Humber jazz program graduates, which I've enjoyed, and the yacht club guitar circle look like they want to keep things rolling through the summer months, which is going to be fun.  They're up to three organized sets of fairly danceable music, just beginning a fourth.  They were delighted when yacht club members returning for the summer season sat in on their last rehearsal and responded very positively to what they heard; the musicians' confidence is growing and they seem to be getting quite a kick out of their own efforts.

April 30th.  Awelyn, a.k.a. "Deborah Wind", went into the water on Saturday the 27th.  The next day we had Aaron here overnight and then he left for New York to visit his uncle before joining his parents in Quito for the summer.  He'll be back in the fall, hopefully with Edwin and Any, and we'll take them all sailing.  My first tulip has bloomed, and our musical activities are back in full gear with our jazz choirs, guitar circle and a "casual jazz jam" that I joined one evening and have been invited back to - they like the mellow sound of my muted trumpet with my French horn mouthpiece.  In two days our first Helpx volunteer will arrive, and we'll prep the garden for planting together, and get the mast on Awelyn.  This weekend the Liaison Officers for the Tall Ships will meet - they'll be back to Toronto in June; and the rest of the weekend will be devoted to Opening Days at the tennis club: whacking the ball and enjoying BBQ lunches.  Deborah will visit her Mom and sisters for five days beginning on Tuesday.