Category Archives: journal

Choral report: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Choir is one of the best couple of hours of my week.

This Sunday, our offertory was based on the second reading (Revelation 21:1-5a). By Edger Bainton, And I Saw a New Heaven is a beautiful piece that we have sung a number of times.

Bainton captures the text beautifully in his melodies, harmony, and dynamics.
And I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.

And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying: “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”

During Communion, we sang Tómas Luis de Victoria’s Jesu, Dulcis Memoria. This is a personal favourite of mine and it vies for the top of the list of pieces I’d like sung at my funeral.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast!
Yet sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy Presence rest.

First completed book: a readathon update.

Just finished Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession by Apostolos Doxiadis. It was the first book I reached for and it was a great kick-off to the readathon. The book was full of pencil markings, annoying as it is a library book, and I spent the last 100 pages erasing the marks. (Someone else will have to do the first half.)

I started off the day with a latté, cinnamon raisin toast, and some sharp cheddar.

The book is fiction, but a very lifelike tale of the joys and trials of mathematics, or in particular, being a mathematician. I recommend it for anyone interested in the field, or with a scientific bent. It is out of print but I ordered two copies on AbeBooks to scatter around to mathy people in my life.

Next up is The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes. I met author Amy Thomas at 221B Con a couple of years ago and bought her first two books, which she kindly signed. The readathon was a good time to get at least one of them read!

The Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Approaches


This will be my second read-a-thon and I’m excited to get going. It runs for 24 hours, around the world, and starts simultaneously. (In Toronto, we’ll be starting at 8 am on Saturday April 23.) More details are here.

I like to have a list going in and this time I’ve chosen some shorter books to keep me interested and motivated, and so that I can change up as I need to. These are all books I’m reading as part of a Goodreads challenge hosted by The Roundtable group.

There is a Facebook group for the readathon as well as a Goodreads group.

If you’re planning to participate, leave me a link to your blog or your Twitter handle in the comments. I’ll be tweeting at @jannie_b.

Dipping into Evernote for Genealogy

I’ve been researching my family history for 30 years, and have had Evernote on my computer and mobile devices for 3 or so. But other than using it to clip the occasional newspaper article, I’ve never harnessed the (apparent) power of Evernote as an overarching organizational tool for managing my research.

As part of my 2016 Genealogy Do-Over (GDO), I decided to get serious about Evernote.

Aside: My Evernote setup. I have the desktop version running on a Mac (running OS X 10.11.2). I also have Evernote on my aging iPad and on my iPhone 6. I use the Chrome browser on all devices and have the Evernote Web Clipper extension on my Mac which means I just click the icon to initiate a new note. I will very likely hit the wall on storage and will upgrade to the Premium product even though it breaks this Canadian’s heart to buy anything in US Dollars these days.

Here is a log of my learning process:

  1. I had a peek through the GDO social media sites and found an excellent piece by Colleen Greene on how she uses it. My temptation was to just take her process and make it mine, but quickly realized that this was a rather hasty decision if Evernote and I are going to be best friends going forward. But I liked her note naming and tagging conventions and mentally tagged these for consideration going forward. (See what I did there?}
  2. I decided to do a quick setup on Evernote, creating a notebook stack called Genealogy that contained three folders (for now at least): Maternal Line, Paternal Line, and Research Tools. (Thank you, Colleen.) I had an old notebook called “Genealogy” that was my holding cell for everything related to family history that I had clipped in the past, and I stuck that in there too with the intent of sorting the notes into their proper homes at some point, say, when I get tired of watching Evernote tutorials. I immediately saved the Colleen Green page above into the Research Tools notebook, and tagged it “evernote” and “tools”.
  3. I googled “evernote for genealogy” and right near the top of the search results was this treasure trove of possibility on the Cyndi’s List site. Templates! I love me a good template. Saved the page into my Research Tools notebook and then spent a few hours going through it.
    1. I had a look through Thomas MacEntee’s article Evernote: Your Virtual Genealogy Assistant for a good review of the features of Evernote. I immediately created a contact called “Evernote” and added the email address to which I can send content to my Evernote account. I also learned from Tonia’s Roots that you can add @<notebookname> or #<tag> to the subject of your email and the note will get automatically filed in the correct notebook.
    2. I found Colleen Greene’s helpful piece on Research Logs and Note Links, the second in her series on Evernote for Genealogy, so I decided to just go through her six-article series and mine it for the nuggets. There’s a free downloadable template for her research log that she uses for each person in her tree. It’s a little complex for my needs but I will create my own template at some point. I don’t want to duplicate what I have in my tree software in Evernote, but simply make it a place to store media, articles, and research goals and checklists.
  4. Finally, I reserved and checked out How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity by Kerry Scott from local public library. It looks pretty comprehensive and I’ll be perusing it for more ideas. If it looks like something I’ll want to refer to regularly, I’ll purchase a copy.

My next steps are to develop some templates for research goals. I don’t want to duplicate information in Evernote that I already have in my genealogy software, but it will be the best place to capture the outstanding research questions that are active at any given time.



Vancouver Redux

I’m out west for another two weeks. I’m basically a “fixer” for my hard-working spouse. Or maybe a concierge-with-benefits. My thoughts on the morning of the first day:

Packing: I keep telling myself to make a packing list so that I don’t forget stuff. Perhaps it was because we didn’t leave home ’til 6 pm yesterday and I had the whole afternoon to organize myself. But I had to drop off Ollie at boarding, and finish my Coursera assignment and so time reverse-telescoped I guess. I carefully set my noise-cancelling headphones to charge (and then forgot to pack them.) I stashed my fuzzy slippers in my suitcase and then, at the last minute, went to pack my street shoes and they were nowhere to be found (did I leave them in Ottawa?). I didn’t have a reasonable alternative.  So now I will either be wearing boots for the next two weeks or will be shopping. I blithely decided not to bring iPad but forgot that it’s the best way to read the paper first thing in the morning. Forgot my computer glasses.

The travel: We (I?) had cocktail hour before we left home with some cheddar and nuts. Then a glass of wine in the airport lounge with a small salad. Then a G&T and nuts on the flight. We were upgraded into Air Canada’s newish layout of their B777-200LR‘s business class, with fully reclinable seats in a little pod. Dinner took forever to be served and I was headachey and sleepy. I had to be woken up to eat. After the meal, I flattened out and slept for whatever time was left of the flight(an hour?) By the time we landed I had a migraine and major body-ache. We were met by the car service and as I drank the little complimentary bottle of water, I could literally feel my cells expand. Or whatever. I was clearly dehydrated.

The apartment: We’re trying out a new place, close to Yaletown. It’s a shorter walk to work and closer to a lot of stuff I’m interested in (Art Galleries, Library, Cathedral). It’s a smaller place than the last one and is lacking in the fab view, but it has a heated saltwater pool and spa on the roof so there’s that. Apparently a gym but too but I am unlikely to need further details. Today I’ve got to stock up on some basics like soap (body, laundry, dishwasher) and food. It’s the Chinese New Year plus Family Day today and apparently a lot of places are closed. But first, I need to find something to eat and some coffee.

My personal plans for the next two weeks are to:

    1. continue my genealogy do-over with some initial population of my new software and a review of documentation (source citation) methods.
    2. do lesson 2 of The Story Course
    3. get my February reading done:
      – Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant for my IRL book club
      – Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler for the Goodreads CBC book club
      – The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, a terrific novel I’m listening to
      – How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity: my current organization obsession. Just grabbed this from the Toronto Public Library.
    4. Get to the Contemporary Art Gallery (just around the corner from me), walk the seawall around Stanley Park, visit the Bloedel Conservatory, taste-test spirits at the Long Table Distillery, and a lot of wandering.

Vintage Canadiana: Eija Seras

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures has been catching up on all the episodes of Backyard Bounty on the Cottage Life channel. Hosts Marty and Bam Bam drive around southern Ontario visiting yard sales, homes of collectors (aka hoarders), country thrift stores, and people who have a lot of stuff they want to get rid of. Marty also runs an antique business at Modern Hipster Antiques out of Ingersoll (online or by appointment) and I believe London ON that often features finds from the show, along with lots of other great stuff. He posts items for auction at a facebook group and I enjoy seeing what he’s got going, and occasionally bidding.

This little set caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. The signature etched in the bottom of each piece is EIJA CANADA and for some reason, it captured me. There are three separate pieces: a mother and babe, two children fishing (with string and spear), and two children sitting with a dog.


I did a little research and found out that the artist was Eija Seras, a Finnish-Canadian modernist artist.

“Seras produced a range of Inuit figurines, hand sculpted from terra cotta clay, in the late 1960s through the 1970s based on her four years living at the U.S. Air Force base in Goose Bay, Labrador in the mid 1960s….An Eija Seras chess set was exhibited during an official Canada Week exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, in 1969, and the artist was awarded the Canadian Design of Merit citation in 1974 by the National Design Council of Canada for her native figures.” (Source)

From an expired listing on Etsy, I read “This miniature Inuit (formerly known as Eskimo) family set  [not the same as mine] was handmade in the 1970s. They were created in Windsor, Ontario, by Canadian artist Eija Seras. Each figure was molded in clay, hand finished, fired, painted, glazed and signed by the artist. Seras’ Inuit clay figurines were featured in galleries both in Canada and internationally. Today, these charming and unique pieces of Canadiana are increasingly hard to find and collectible.”

As I googled her name, I also came across her immigration record:

Incoming Passenger list for the Carinthia Cunard), sailing 23 Sept 1959. Liverpool to Montreal
Incoming Passenger list for the Carinthia (Cunard line), sailing 23 Sept 1959. Liverpool to Montreal (

 It shows Ms Sera as a single female, born in 1927 (so she was 32 at time of sailing), occupation as artist, and as being in transit from Finland. The only other record for her is on the 1974 Voter’s List in Toronto, living at 266 Manor Road East, with occupation “Sculptoress”.

There are a few of these floating around on auction sites. They’re also by Seras.

seras chess set
Eija Seras Chess Set. Source:

Many of the sites listing her work include her with Inuit artists, but this was clearly not the case. I’d be interested to know anything more about her and her life.

If you’re interested, I paid $35 plus another $10 for shipping. And I may be starting to collect more of these lovely little items as I find them.

2016: Ready, set, go!

Late in December, I spent some time thinking about my priorities for 2016 and the areas I wanted to focus on. On a whim (and on sale), I’d bought a couple of notebooks from the National Gallery of Canada and I knew immediately how I’d put them to use.

The first is my organization journal. It’s divided into six sections, one for each of my focus areas: Home Organization and Decor; Writing; Genealogy; Reading; Creativity; and Estate Planning. I roughly divided the book into six sections and am using each section to organize my to-do lists, next steps, notes, etc.

  1. For Home Organization and Decor, I am starting with the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home challenge. It gives me manageable chunks of work to do each day and I’m already seeing excellent improvements (it starts with the kitchen.) It will also include the things we need to do around the house (recovering furniture, any purchases, and maybe a kitchen reno, although I’ll need a whole new notebook if that goes ahead. Get the plan here: Free 2016 Printable Declutter Calendar: 15 Minute Daily Missions

  2. In the Writing section, I’m happy to say that I have started Sarah Selecky’s Story Course to kick-start my writing practice. It’s a series of five detailed lessons on short-story writing, with a lot of exercises, reading, and thinking involved in each one. I am also using her daily writing prompts on days that I don’t work on a lesson. Most daily sessions of writing are 10-20 minutes of “free-writing” and I’m happy to say that I’ve written all thirteen days of the year so far, in the second notebook of my purchase. If you’re interested in something like this, check it out here.

  3. My third focus area is Genealogy. I’ve been working on my family history for years and my online tree is huge. The problem is, I haven’t always been as critical as I could about links that I find and I don’t know how accurate all my data is. At the same time, Ancestry has announced that in the next year or so it will stop supporting its software Family Tree Maker, which is what I’ve been using to keep my info on my computer. It syncs to the Ancestry trees in the cloud, and everything was working fine. I have decided to move to another computer-based genealogy package called Roots Magic.
    So I am taking this confluence of events to follow
    Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. This (free) program guides you through starting over with your genealogy, putting aside everything you’ve done before (except for source documents), and doing everything properly (especially source citations.) I’ve purchased Roots Magic and MacEntee’s workbook (not required, but useful for me) and am thinking about what practices I want to use going forward, before I enter one single name or date into Roots Magic.
  4. My fourth focus area is Reading. Each year I participate in a number of reading challenges, plus I’m in a book club and a books-on-film series at TIFF, so I need to juggle books to meet deadlines. This section of the journal will help me with that. I’ve printed and pasted a couple of reading challenge diagrams into it already. But I’m also including in this section reading I do for other learning. For example, I’ve started a course on the Microbiome through Coursera, and while most of the work is online, I’m using this area to remind myself of deadlines and rough out assignments. Finally, Goodreads takes care of my reading lists and reviews and stats.
  5. Next we have the Creativity section. This is an area of my life that I enjoy but I have been lax about actually turning out any creative (or not so creative work.) I now have my own studio space that is pretty organized (thanks to uber-organizer Rosalind at Simply Home) but I still have some things from the basement that need to be brought upstairs. I have a pile of mending/alterations that need to be done and some jewellry to be repaired, and then I want to get on to my own creative work.
  6. Last, but not least in my brain (although possibly least in my heart) is Estate Planning. The big “R” word is starting to be heard more around here and so we need to get our financial ducks in order. We have a new investment manager at the firm we’re with and there will be lots of paperwork over the next month or so as we get a plan in place for the last third of our lives. Also taxes. And up-to-date wills. These all have to move to the front-burner this year and I’m the one who has to drive it.

This kind of planning has proven really useful, even halfway into the first month of the year. It helps me to keep on track and always know what I want (or need) to do next in each focus area. I plan to blog separately about some of these endeavours as I make progress on them. Stay tuned.

Last week in the west.

I arrived in Vancouver on November 15, to join my husband who’s (maybe) settling out here for a while. His job is very western-Canada focussed and they’re on a high-profile, fast-moving project that is more difficult to manage from our homebase in Toronto.

I’m heading back next Monday, a couple of weeks in advance of his return. There are bills to be paid, home things to manage, a dog to cuddle, and family to see. Choir. Hair cut. Plus Christmas is coming up.

We have been rented a lovely condo out here in Coal Harbour. And I’ll miss many things about life in this city.

  1. I never tire of seeing sea planes taking off and landing. And sea gulls. Fog. Mountains. This city is gorgeous (if you live anywhere with a view.)
  2. Living without a car. The man can walk to work and everything we need to buy for day-to-day life is steps away. We have a transit pass, and a car2go membership for when we need to travel farther afield. The airport is easily accessible on the Skytrain. Our parking spot sits empty.
  3. Elder son has been out here for a couple of weeks and it’s been great spending time with him. He has a bachelor pad in Toronto so we otherwise need to book time to hang. Younger son will arrive after I leave to spend the last week with Daddy-O.
  4. Sushi. I have been remiss in not starting to eat sushi the moment I arrived here. My sis was out for a few days and she’s just not that into it (plus can’t eat soy sauce) so I didn’t get on that train right from the start. Last night, the man was out for dinner so boy and I picked up a platter from Oysi Oysi around the corner. And the three of us will hit Sushi Itoga tonight.
  5. Public art. Well, Toronto has lots too, but it’s nice to live with another city’s art for a while. I’ve included a pretty window (not public) just because.

I love living in different cities, and will always take the opportunity to rent an apartment over a hotel. Next summer, we’ll spend two weeks in Marseilles, and we can’t wait. Anthony Bourdain has cast a spell over the man and, well, there you have it.

But going home is the best.

Sunny Sunday

We’re battening down the hatches here in Vancouver, expecting some cold weather and snow this week, so we decided to take advantage of the sunnier-than-average day and head out on the town.

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Catholic liturgical year, and so we walked over to Holy Rosary Cathedral for the 9:30 mass. It’s a lovely neo-gothic church, small for a cathedral (in my limited experience). The women’s choir sang with the Assistant Organist Catherine Walsh and they were joined by a violist whose name wasn’t printed in the bulletin. (At 11:00, trumpeter Katherine Evans was to be present with a number of Telemann pieces on the program.)

After mass, we wandered over to the Vancouver Centre Skytrain station and purchased a Compass card, the transit payment system here in Vancouver that recently launched, and then rode south to the King Edward station. We grabbed a coffee at Starbucks until Pronto opened at 11:30, where we had lunch.

pronto lunch

It’s across the street from the Park Theatre (our ultimate destination) and had good recs on Yelp. Zouheir had an excellent sandwich and so-so soup. My pasta special was dry. Seemed like leftovers, put in a bowl, topped with cheese, broiled, then some tomato sauce spooned on top. But my glass of wine was just fine.

But then we saw Brooklyn at the theatre, and all was forgotten. Based on a novel by Colm Toíbin and with screenplay by Nick Hornby, it was a lovely film, beautifully shot, great cast, and a heartbreaking story. While I had read the novel some time ago, the film particularly resonated with my husband, an immigrant multiple times and familiar with the pull of the old (and the new.)


I missed my book club meeting in Toronto today. I had suggested that we read an aboriginal author this month, and chose Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. This was before I knew that I would be in Vancouver, so I sent in my comments by email last night. I started:

This book is as close to a “10” as I can imagine. From a structure, story, and writing perspective, I find it pretty much perfect. I read Indian Horse, his previous novel and rated it 4/5 on Goodreads. I recall that it sat inside me for days after I finished reading it and I suspect this one will too….

Wagamese has received multiple honours for this novel, and they are well-deserved. Highly recommended.

Finally, a petition has been initiated to ban battery cages (used in raising chickens) in Canada. Please visit this link to find out more and sign the petition.

Friday Seven: Vancouver edition


  1. I’ve been in Vancouver for five days now and don’t seem like I’m adjusting to the three hour time difference. I’ve been waking up between 4:30 and 5:00 am PST and am pretty much nodding off by 10:00 pm. I wonder if it has to do with the dearth of sunlight here. The condo has a gorgeous view, but it’s northwest facing and so doesn’t get any direct sunlight, even on the few occasions when the sun is visible in the sky. Perhaps I should  have brought my Golite with me to dose myself with rays during the day.
  2. We have a lovely condo apartment with a very well-equipped kitchen. I’ve tried a few new recipes, and hosted an old friend for dinner on Wednesday. I worked with him at Bell Canada in the 80s and we’ve kept in touch ever since. I made Za’atar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce, mashed yams and green beans, plus a cheese plate and a lemon tart purchased from the Urban Fare across the street. Martinis and red wine were also consumed.

    We're on the cheese course here. I probably could have dimmed the lights a little...
    We’re on the cheese course here. I probably could have dimmed the lights a little…
  3. We’re in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver, right on north shore of the peninsula, overlooking Burrard Inlet. It’s lovely to see the water and the view constantly changes with the movement of the sun and the weather. It’s a great area for walking as everything we could need is close by. Z walks to work every day, the aforementioned grocer is right across the street, and I’m steps from great walking paths along the water.
  4. I brought a couple of small knitting projects with me, as well as a book called ZENSPIRATIONS, CRÉATIONS DE MOTIFS by Joanne Fink. I picked this up in Paris when we were there in September. It suggests a process for creating your own art for colouring and it’s a nice compact book to spur on some creative work.
  5. The apartment is very quiet, with a couple of notable exceptions. During the day, there is a persistent tapping sound that seems to be coming from another unit. It sounds like someone is lightly hammering fine nails or something. It’s most noticeable in the bedroom. I’m wondering whether someone is making jewellry or working on some other small craft in an adjacent suite. Also, I thought a seaplane was taking off this morning, and realized that it was in fact the very loud washing machine that I had just started.
  6. I’ve been trying to find out something about the gorgeous bronze medallions embedded in the sidewalks on some streets in this area. If anyone has a lead, I’d be interested. Haida or Coast Salish perhaps?

    Medallion embedded in some Coal Harbour sidewalks.
    Medallion embedded in some Coal Harbour sidewalks.
  7. How about that investigator on this season’s The Good Wife??
    Jeffrey Dean Morgan

    That’s my seven for today! Visit This Ain’t the Lyceum for more.