Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Cuke Runneth Over

Last year, I lost all my cucumber plants to a hungry and persistent bunny. This year, I decided to share. I would plant two hills, and between them, I should have enough surviving cucumber plants for our own family's modest needs. Well, this time around, Mr. Bunny decided he preferred the zucchini. Still acutely feeling last year's loss, I was reluctant to cull, even after it was obvious that all the cucumber plants would survive. So this is the picture I came home to, after my week away. The cucumber plants are raging through the garden with a vengeance. We've started harvesting and have been eating cucumbers daily. We've even made a small batch of pickles. For this first week, supply and demand are more-or-less balanced but I'm sure this situation won't last too long.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Week at the Ithaca Suzuki Institute

Kate and I have just come back from another road-trip to Ithaca, for the Ithaca Suzuki Institute. I wrote extensively about the institute's program and touring Ithaca last year, so I won't bore you with all the details again. I will simply say that it was, again, a week of terrific instruction and inspiration for Kate. She had private, group repertory and orchestra classes, and she attended optional play-ins and concerts. The elite Preludio students performed in a fantastic all-Kreisler concert at the beginning of the week. Kate got to play in two group concerts this year, including the final play-down which (for her) started with Bach Double and ended with the Twinkle variations.

Kate had a packed schedule this time around, so we didn't have as much time for touring, but we did make it out to the Cayuga Nature Center, with nice easy hiking trails and the truly awesome 6-storey treehouse shown above.

We also escaped Ithaca College's cafeteria, where we had the unexciting but inexpensive meal plan, to eat in downtown Ithaca. We had good meals at Viva Taqueria and Moosewood Cafe, and Kate indulged in a spectacular chocolate ricotta mousse at the latter. I love walking around Ithaca Commons, with all its restaurants, bookstores and cafes. The photo above shows Kate in front of a stop on the Sagan Planetary Walk, named after the late Cornell astronomer and author, Carl Sagan, whose books I loved as a teen.

We are back home now, and Kate is getting a well-deserved break from violin practice. I am frantically trying to catch up with both housework and real work before we depart next week on our next vacation.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Weekend with Family

We took an extra-long Canada Day weekend to join Joe and Jill in Montreal. They're in Canada for a short time, and though I saw Joe a couple of months ago, we hadn't seen the rest of the family since we were in Singapore for Christmas 2008. Julia and Kate were thrilled to spend time with cousins Oliver and Martin, who are growing into smart, active boys with loads of personality! The girls were willing to babysit, so we even had an evening out at a Tapas restaurant in Old Montreal with Joe and Jill. Mom has almost fully recovered from her surgery (we were all teasing her for giving us such a scare earlier in the year), and Dad cooked plenty of good Chinese food, as always.

As an extra bonus, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal was on and we caught a few of the outdoor shows. Todd ducked into the Montreal Guitar Show for a couple of hours to check out the incredibly expensive handcrafted guitars made by top luthiers. I consider myself lucky that we managed to leave Montreal with only one new guitar, a nice but much less expensive acoustic guitar for Kate which ironically we found in a bookstore. Well, it had been a bookstore but now it sells musical instruments too, and we really did go in looking for books ....

We happily had the chance to spend time with many of our other Montreal cousins. Some joined us for a day at the amusement park and the rest we saw at a BBQ hosted by Beryl and Rob, who graciously gave us accommodation on our last night in Montreal. Now, Rob is a Master of Meat, and this photo above should convince you if you had any doubts. This is his pride and joy (after his three beautiful daughters, of course), his handcrafted smoker complete with wireless thermometer so that he can check the status of his meat in the comfort of his living room.

Apart from the horrible traffic between Montreal and Toronto, it was a terrific weekend, with great weather, great company and great food!