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


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!


Photos 6, 8, 10, 11 from CPAC



A Good Home, Couples Farming, Musicians

At Home at Salmon Brook Farms

Have you visited the blog for Salmon Brook Farms, home of Lavinia and Rick Ross?

Blog photo Lavinia and Rick story Daffodils

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Rick in Vineyard house in BGBlog Photo Lavinia and Rick Vineyard

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Rick preparing tomatoes for canning

They grow grapes, flowers, fruit, berries, vegetables and other produce.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Rose

They love cats.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Cats

Their Subaru, Seabisquit, has driven nearly 435, 000 miles.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Seabisquit the Subaru

They are musicians who encourage their readers to support other local musicians.

Blog Photo Lavinia playing guitar

I follow their blog, primarily maintained by Lavinia, and email back and forth with her, but realized recently that I knew little about her as a musician and writer.

So I listened to her CD. Lavinia sings folk music and plays the guitar beautifully.   My husband and I played it repeatedly on a drive in the countryside.

“Where did your love of music come from?” I asked Lavinia later.

I grew up hearing everything, from the Appalachian mountain and assorted older folk music that my parents enjoyed to the current folk and rock & roll from the 60s and 70s that my brothers were listening to.  I would sit on the swings and sing & swing away when I was very young. 

Blog Photo Lavinia at age 5

I remember when I was about 5 or 6 years old trying to mimic the sound of the trumpet in “Trumpeter’s Prayer” by making air buzz through my teeth.  I can’t remember how to do that now.   I simply enjoy creating, and expressing it.  It is part of me. 

Lavinia has performed at various events, garnering recognition along the way.

My “lifetime achievement” award came from a young child.  When my first (and only, so far) CD came out, my old friend Margaret suggested that I send a copy to her friend Ruth, whom I had never met.  Ruth played it for her granddaughter who remarked, “That must be God’s mother singing!”   

Blog Photo Lavinia

 Margaret promptly reported that comment back to me, and I was stunned.  Children, especially the younger ones, are in general brutally honest.  To me, this child’s comment is the most meaningful endorsement I have ever received on my music, and will be difficult for anyone to top.

Rick and Lavinia, though coming from different musical genres, have also performed together. It’s helped their working relationship on their farm in Linn County, Oregon.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Rick performing
Photo of Rick by Nat Kennedy, Connecticut

I  was exposed to the blues through listening to Rick, and had to learn to do a bit of that myself, as we often played for audiences who had come to hear him play blues and were not so interested in quiet folk music.   I had to stretch myself. 

As for the farm, like the music we have some things we work on together, but still maintain our own departments for which we are mainly responsible.There is still give and take, different points of view, and some bickering, but most importantly now, the shared vision of making our farm a beautiful, productive and peaceful place in our retirement years.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Pinot Noir

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick tomatoes

And the cats?

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story The Indoor crew

The cats are definitely characters in their own right, and are more like living with eccentric roommates than pets.   Friends for a short time, remembered for a lifetime.   Wise old souls and teachers, comforters in hard times, playful little elvish creatures who help us see the lighter side of life. 

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Miss Nod

They teach us how to be better people.  Their lives, and all the memories they leave behind after they depart, are all woven into the fabric of our own, becoming part of the legends and history of this place we call home.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story cats Marcus and Lucio

Four years ago, their home life changed drastically. Earlier than planned, they became caregivers to Rick’s mother.

A friend who took care of her elderly mother with Parkinson’s described her own experience as “the quicksand years”, and I understand now what she meant.  We rebuilt the house to accommodate Gladys, and had to move twice in one year. 

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Gladys' room

Although we loved Gladys very much, the experience stretched our coping ability with her, ourselves and each other to the limit of what we were capable of handling, even with help from Hospice in the last 3 months and additional caregivers coming in to help.  Physically and emotionally, it took a serious toll on my health, and I wanted little to do with anyone for some time after she died.  I needed peace, quiet and downtime from responsibility, which can be difficult for friends and relatives to comprehend. 

We are not the same people we were previous to caring for Gladys.  We survived the experience and I think have come out the better as individuals and as partners for it.

Lavinia’s blog is beautifully written.  So I ask: “I know you’re not performing at present, but are you writing?”

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story old apple tree and tunnel

Although I am taking a break from performing, I am still playing music for myself, working on songs as well as working on a collection of essays, pictures drawn in words of things I remember from my life.  I am finding that reconnection to earlier parts of my life an enjoyable exploration.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Rainbow over SBF

Writing is the thread that sews the remnants of life and soul together.   

Photos from Salmon Brook Farms Website.