Artists, Arts, Canadian life, Musicians

Talented People Doing Fabulous Things

I was privileged to sit with two famous and very interesting Canadian musicians at separate, but wonderful, events in late November.

Blog Photo - CPAC Susanne Hou

The first was violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, winner of prestigious international awards and a busy performer. Susanne’s talent has been acclaimed by musician Yehudi Menuhin as “absolutely phenomenal”.

Blog Photo - CPAC Awardee Susanne Hou1

In November, Susanne was one of three outstanding individuals who received the Professional Achievement Award at a gala in Markham, Ontario. (More on this event and awardees later.)

The other performer was Liona Boyd, a critically acclaimed classical guitarist whom you met on my blog earlier. 

Blog Photo - Liona Boyd on right

Blog Photo - Liona Photo from her FB pageLiona has released more than 20 CDs of her music over the years and has been performing across Canada in 2017. 

She was back in Toronto for an author reading and an afternoon tea celebrating her new memoir and CD ( both titled “No Remedy for Love”).

Blog Photo - Liona Book Launch Reception1

The reading was held by the Verity Book Club. The afternoon tea was hosted by two remarkable women, Isabel Bassett (consultant, former government minister and network TV boss) and Nancy Coldham (women’s advocate and founding member of Toronto’s Verity Club) and organized by Marilyn Mirabelli.

Blog Photo - Liona at Afternoon Tea 1

Despite a hectic schedule, Liona was fresh, funny and inspiring.

Blog Photo - Liona Book Luanch Reception2

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Back to the gala, now, where my husband and I were pleased to be guests of CPAC (formerly known as the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada).

Blog Photo - CPAC Gala 2017 Dignitaries on Stage

Executive director Andi Shi has invited us to this important event every year, but I was in no shape to attend. This year, I was determined!

Blog Photo - CPAC Gala1

Blog Photo - CPAC MIng gets Award

At our dinner-table was award-winner Dr. Ming Li, a researcher, university professor and co-author of a book on “Kolmogorov Complexity”. He explained his work to us – simply, thank goodness – and told us about the randomness of things like lottery-winning numbers.

Blog Photo - CPAC Gala Ming

Across the table from us were awardee Alissa Wang and her proud parents. 

Blog Photo - CPAC Alissa and Parents

Alissa is a law student and Ph.D candidate with many achievements in her relatively young life. One of them is a research and educational project on Asia’s WW2 history.

Blog Photo - CPAC Gala 2 winners

To our right were violinist Susanne Hou and her friend Frank — delightful dinner-companions. Susanne explained that her international performance schedule is demanding and trips back home have become more and more rare. 

Blog Photo - CPAC Gala with F, S, HG and Me

CPAC is a vibrant non-profit organization based in Toronto, with 30-thousand members across Canada. It helps internationally trained professionals in several areas: recognition of their credentials; cultural integration; career and business advancement in Canada and globally. 

Bravo, awardees. Bravo CPAC!

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Photos 6, 8, 10, 11 from CPAC

 

 

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A Good Home, Artists, Authors, Canadian Authors, Canadian Homes, Canadian life

AT HOME WITH AUTHOR YVONNE BLACKWOOD

Yvonne Blackwood is best-known for the books she’s written about her African travels: “Into Africa A Personal Journey”, and “Into Africa – the Return”.

The former bank manager loves books. Writing them, and reading them. 

Blog Photo - Yvonne with Book

Not surprisingly, there are many books in her home north of Toronto. The photo above shows her in the bedroom “nook” overlooking the wetlands behind her home. 

“I can watch the geese frolic there all year except for the winters. A bookshelf stands in a corner and it is chock full of my favourite books along with books bought but not yet read.” 

Blog Photo - Yvonne wetlands2

More recently, Yvonne authored a humorous book “Will That Be Cash or Cuffs?”

Blog Photo - Yvonne at Desk

Long before that book, however, Yvonne wrote two others.

“One crisp autumn morning after exiting the train, I walked briskly up University Avenue (in Toronto) to my office. I noticed a tiny park next door to a large courthouse, and a gang of squirrels were frolicking and having a good time there. The crab apple trees in the park had lost all their leaves.

“It was a beauty to see the slender branches covered with thousands of little ripe crab apples. Some were strewn on the ground and the squirrels were feasting on them. Suddenly, an idea came to me; write a children’s book about squirrels living in a city!”

But she couldn’t find a publisher. Last fall, she “dusted off the manuscripts, edited them”, found an illustrator and published the books herself. 

Blog Photo - Yvonne Nosey Charlie 1

Two Nosey Charlie books – for children 3 to 8 — were published earlier this year on Amazon’s platform, Createspace.

Blog Photo - Yvonne Nosey Charlie 2

How is writing for children different than writing for adults? I asked.

“The big differences are―because it’s a children’s picture book―pictures show the readers a part of the story, therefore, there is no need to spell out everything in prose; you use fewer words. Each book has less than fifteen hundred words.

“You also have to be a bit more careful with the words you use. Although you never ‘talk down’ to children, at the same time you do not use too many big words, and you do not write long, complex sentences.”

BLOG Photo - Yvonne with NC Book

As Yvonne enjoys the summer in her house and garden, there is still more news on the way.

Blog Photo - Yvonne Clematis Vine

A third Nosey Charlie book  will be published in September .

Yvonne says:  “I’ll keep writing the stories as long as I remain inspired and the readers continue to love Charlie.”

Congrats, Yvonne!

 

 

A Good Home, Canadian life, Cooking, Floral Arrangement, Hospitality, Humour

Hospitality Advice From the Undomestic Diva

My best advice for Staying Alive if you’re Undomestic:

Marry a man or woman who can cook.

Not that you have to marry him/her. Just beg the person to live with you – especially at mealtime and most especially when guests come to visit.

If you’re resolutely single, make sure that all your close friends are chefs living nearby.

blog-photo-hostas-and-clematis

Advice on Arranging Flowers:

Grow hostas. Not for the flowers, but the leaves. Grow hostas in pots or in a garden bed, but do grow them.

Their large green leaves make an easy centrepiece on your dinner or lunch table.

Should you feel aspirational, you may want to arrange them: place flowers in the centre of the vase. 

Advice on Inviting Guests to your Home:

Never invite tall people to your house. They are bound to see the dust of ages in spaces where you can’t reach/have never thought of cleaning. If you’re tall, then the same advice goes for very short guests. They’ll see the dust-balls in the corners of every room.

Advice for Guests:

Ask questions. If an Undomestic Diva invites you to dinner or lunch, there’s only one question that needs to be asked: “Who’s cooking?”

If, for example, I tell you I’m doing the cooking, you must instantly remember a previous and very urgent commitment for that date. If, however, I indicate that my husband is doing the cooking, you’re safe. Just show up on time, with a bottle of wine.

Blog Photo - Dinner on Plate

If, per chance, you are determined to visit me, then do what my close friends and relatives have done over the years: phone back and say, “We know how busy you can get, so we’re going to bring part of the meal.” That way, you’re guaranteed to have something edible or at the least, unburned.

Listen, friends — it’s not that I can’t cook at all. It’s that everything I’ve ever cooked for guests turns out badly. As for flower arrangements: the photo above was my best ever. I decided to quit while I was ahead!

 

 

A Good Home, Amaryllis in Bloom, Canadian Families, Canadian life, Christmas, Flowers

Time for Something Cheerful

Friends:

As you may know by now, I love sharing cheerful posts, especially in challenging times. So here’s one, with pictures provided by the wonderful Hamlin Grange.

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First, you may recall that I save our Amaryllis bulbs each year, hoping to get them blooming again at Christmas. Amaryllis are a Christmas tradition in this part of the world.

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms CU1

The trick is to cut the flower stem off after blooming, and allow the plant to keep growing in its container. Take it outside in the spring, and only stop watering in late summer. Then I shake the soil off the roots, and store the bulbs in a big paper bag in the cold cellar.  

But – once again — I forgot all about them. Till late June. And discovered they were growing — in a peculiar colour.

Husband and I planted the alien creatures right away in a big ugly container …

Blog Photo - White Amaryllis 2 - July 2017

Blog Photo - White Amaryllis 4 - July 2017

… and hoped that beautiful changes would take place. 

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms 4 - July 2017

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms 3 - July 2016

And here is the outcome: Christmas in July.

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms 3 - July 2017

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms 2 - July 2016

Whoever said “better late than never” was not thinking of this, I’m sure. But after the 3 weeks just past, these flowers are such a cheerful sight, we wanted to share them with you.

Take care of yourselves, all of you. Thanks also for your kind wishes. I’m not back to form yet, but speaking more clearly today, moving around a little and taking no risks. The new cast is providing more support, the sun is shining, and my family and friends have been wonderfully kind. I’m thankful for every blessing.

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Photos by Hamlin Grange.

ps: Some photos are mistakenly labelled 2016. Pls. ignore.