I’m staying in tonight. Spending the last day of the year with my main squeeze, my only squeeze, who has mopped the floor three times this holiday season and knows how to make a bed better than any hotel maid. He has many tricks but these are two you appreciate after a long marriage. That he makes me laugh daily is why this party girl is content with our plans to cook up Nigella’s champagne risotto and tick off happy moments in our cosy abode. I promised him chocolate mocha creme brûlée. I too have other tricks but that’s one of them.
Last day of a very rich year. Rich in lessons. Rich in moments. Rich in howling at the moon or the tv screen. A year I almost threw my phone in the toilet for surely nothing good was worth reading on it, or in my still-delivered-daily newspapers.
On the first day of this year, I made a toast with my family present, a toast to buoyancy in heavy times. I’m thrilled to say I think we made it. The world is not broken. Aim for the light.
Here is my Best of 2017: or what I can remember after the holiday coma.
Favourite moments on the page:
In a year rocked by revelations of terrible deeds, one author’s words screamed at me from the page. Of course it was Alice Munro (Lives of Girls and Women). “There is no protection, unless it is in the knowing.”
from Felicity by poet Mary Oliver, this line from her poem Moments: “There is nothing more pathetic than caution, when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.”
from The Girls by Emma Cline: “That was our mistake, I think. One of many mistakes. To believe that boys were acting with a logic that we could someday understand. To believe that their actions had any meaning beyond thoughtless impulse. We were like conspiracy theorists, seeing portent and intention in every detail, wishing desperately that we mattered enough to be the object of planning and speculation. But they were just boys. Silly and young and straightforward; they weren’t hiding anything.”
from Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips: “She doesn’t picture them as Arabic—she has been wondering, of course. But they do not sound like that kind of terrorist. They sound like young, obnoxious white men—aren’t they always young white men?—and she is not sure whether this makes them more or less dangerous than fanatics on a jihad.”
Canadian poet/novelist Steven Price wrote the kind of big fat novel you want to hide out by the fire with and speak to no one but the characters on the page. I loved it, and read it in the moody month of March and I wish to return to exactly that sensation every time I read. By Gaslight was my favourite read of 2017.
Favourite moments on the stage:
Come from Away was the first show I saw early January 2017. What a start to my year of theatrical highs, thanks to an early birthday present from my sister. My 2017 personal theme of buoyancy was shared by those actors on that stage delivering the most heartfelt piece of Canadian theatre I have seen in years. Come from Away later opened on Broadway and scored seven Tony nominations, and won for best direction of a musical.
The Shaw Festival’s Michael Therriault as Bill Snibson in a note perfect production of Me and My Girl
The brilliant new musical Life After featuring a sensitive and intelligent performance by lead actor Ellen Denny who brought me to tears. “If you grow, then you know it was worth a little bruising. And it’s alright, as long as your height gains in inches what you’re losing.” I’ll be watching everything playwright Britta Johnson does now.
Kristen Thomson made me howl in The Crow’s Theatre production of A Wedding Party
In the lobby of the small but mighty Coal Mine theatre, following a fantastic production of Superior Donuts, I was introduced to Sarah Polley (there, along with many other actors, to wish the cast well following the show). Polley has zero airs. That she penned a brilliant piece in the New York Times later this year made me even prouder of this true Canadian gem.
The entire cast of Soulpepper/Bad Hats Theatre coproduction of Peter Pan lifted me high into the rafters of imagination. I felt blessed to have seen it, alongside my nine-year old nephew who told me after the play he wished he could learn swordplay to take on Captain Hook. I’m with you, Henry.
the kids of the youth programme at Wavestage theatre who truly nailed my favourite Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, in particular the mature performance of young Lucas Guesebroek as Marley
Is it cheating to say I loved a performance on ice? A stage of sorts, no? My six-year old niece Charlotte sparkled and held her own in a year end skating show that also featured dazzling performances by Canadian Olympians. Made me itch to get my old skates out. See you on the ice this Saturday.
Favourites on screen: A near impossible task for this film nerd as you regular readers will know by now. Best place to start is my Scrumptious Films list from TIFF 2017 for my favourites, many now released in theatres.
In addition, these films all impressed and moved me in some way:
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
The Big Sick
I, Daniel Blake
Land of Mine
The Man who Invented Christmas
Favourite moments lived (in no particular order because memory doesn’t work like that!)
Moving was an unwelcome theme this year. Moving kids from residence to home and back to university and out of apartments and then to another country and my own belongings to pack up while my house was under repair from a flood and then unpack when it was done and through all of it, the kindness of family and friends who didn’t know they saved me from myself with their extra arms (my godson Ben who responded so swiftly when we asked for help moving heavy stuff that he surely deserves a medal, my sister Mary who arrived, flood-ready with rubber boots and towels in the middle of the night, my friends who offered houses and food and come sit in my garden).
My entire wedding party gathered at the start of the year here in our home to, among other things, recreate our wedding photo from 25 years ago. One of my bridesmaids brought a surprise. She unzipped her winter coat and there underneath was the dark red velvet dress made, along with all the others by my mom way back when women did these kinds of heroic domestic duties. We all shared laughing fits when she told me it didn’t zip up quite as readily in the back but she still wore it with panache. Later that night, my other bridesmaids brought out letters I had written about this crazy man child I adored, way back when taking a pen to paper and gushing about love was still in fashion. Both my girls were there to listen to it all. When I showed a movie I made about our wedding to my mom, who sometimes forgets, she said, “weren’t we lucky to have that talented man to make your sparkly dress?” I won the lottery that night. Yes indeed.
My eldest graduated from University of Toronto this year (Victoria College) and was able to celebrate this with her grandparents, who graduated themselves from this very institution six decades ago, and other cherished family members who attended the university. After a glorious day on the lovely campus, as we drove away, came this from our newly minted graduate: I learned a lot here. This was a good place for me. Later, my daughter told me her beloved Pappou, who hasn’t been well and was unable to attend her ceremony, gave a long diatribe about having no mother or sisters (he grew up an orphan, and was raised by his four older brothers) and then told her, our family needed more women. You were born and you are a smart woman, We need more like this.
I will be in a bad mood if you don’t come. Blessed are you if you get that kind of text from your sister.
Barenaked laps in a lake that time forgot in Algonquin late summer. I was there for a solo retreat courtesy of my brother John who joined me on the first night for a beer. Did he himself deliver that perfect sunset? Or the autumn Ontario heat wave that made warm water that felt like a hug? Who knew I needed it that badly that moment?
Dancing in the aisles to Earth,Wind& Fire with Peter and the girls. Best moment of the summer, second only to a spectacular weekend of wine, theatre, friends and gorgeous weather in Niagara over the Canada Day weekend.
Attending McGill Homecoming and I get to sit in a dazzling new Montreal resto (Jatoba) and hear my own McGill kid tell me, over the course of a fantastic meal, about the hardest paper she’s ever written, and did I say yet it is likely the best I’ve written too?
A three-way tie between the absolute glee when we sat down together in my dining room for our annual Christmas book club table with all our wee trinkets for one another- you’d think we were opening diamonds; when my pal Jo went to dig her dish gloves out of her purse to do all the dishes and everyone pitched in to dry; the recitation of A Night Before Christmas by another member Jill, complete with perfect eyebrow punctuation.
Sitting beside my folks at Christmas dinner. My dad clinks a spoon to his wine glass; we all stop talking. “Let’s remember this is a good country. And I’m lucky to have my wife.”
Picking up my kids in the airport following their six week Summer of 17 Sisters backpack trip. There is no better moment than seeing my kids in that airport. Not by a mile.
There are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out.
-Michael Thompson, Homesick and Happy
I wish all my readers a magical year ahead. What adventures will it hold? I know one thing. It will be more fun with you along. #WeRallinthistogether
Happy New Year.
One year ago I was at a bookstore signing copies of my brand new food memoir. It’s been a wild ride since; some of it away from my home office as well as my kitchen, thanks to a summer house flood that rendered the place wonky with exactly the wrong kind of mayhem.
Houses mend, as do spirits. Before too long, what pained becomes a mere blip in a year resounding with buoyancy.
December is now here and with it, a house full of red and readiness (almost) for family and friends coming home for the holidays. Oh how gorgeous that sounds: home for the holidays. Someone should write a song/book/film/play about it? Wait…what? You say it’s been done already? Well then, I’ll just focus on my own version: another shipment of my books has arrived, marked for new readers. Are you one of them? My store is here. It’s an easy process and you’ll have your books by Christmas* if you order by December 18th. with love and sugar home for the holidays.
Here’s a little film I produced* to give you an idea what’s between the pages. You already know the film nerd. Now meet the home baker, owner of too many aprons and a kitchen never this clean.
*Baking cinematography by Gayle Ye. Editing by Sydney Cowper. Home movies by me. I’ve been making movies off and on for years since the days of sitting with brilliant editors at Global Television in my first (professional) iteration as a storyteller. My love for the medium began in a scholarly forum, but my homegrown offerings are anything but: my films are little peeps—making them hatch is my happy place, second only to spontaneous lick-the-spoon soirées with my favourite humans. Sorry Lucy, dogs can’t have chocolate.
For Canadian orders only. Outside of Canada, email me at email@example.com for your copy.
All you need is…donuts? A short message from Anne.
See here for information on how to order Landed
We’re all in it together, folks.
Our guest blog today is courtesy of Janet Land, a Toronto actor and author of a fascinating new book sure to entice history buffs.
By Janet Land
My father, William “Bill” Land, served in WWII and kept a journal, which I fortuitously discovered some years ago. I wanted to share his unique experiences with a larger audience to contribute to WWII awareness. From the culturally diverse places Bill was stationed in, to the people he met, to his surprising observations along the way, I was compelled to document and share these findings as examples of humanity during a time of such global conflict.
What happens when you grow up with the Bogeyman narrative playing out large in the culture around you? Literary darling Emma Cline grew up in California where the Manson drama was the defining event in the zeitgeist of her parent’s adolescence. The story of the charismatic sociopath was too familiar to her as a novel protagonist so she decided to focus on the peripheral players in the story, and conjured up a character who might have been on the sidelines of a dangerous cult. This became the starting point for her critically acclaimed debut, The Girls, which kept me enthralled on my sickbed this week. Read More
April is National Poetry Month.
We almost missed it, didn’t we? There are so many distractions in this fine city. Last night I was at Hot Docs 2017, with Last Men in Aleppo. There are two more screenings of this. Highly recommended. I cannot think of anything else this morning.
Thank goodness for Henry, a clever boy I love, who gave me one of my most favourite gifts ever last year: a collection of his own poetry.
Meet the under ten set’s new poet laureate.
Hooray for Henry, you’re our Friday inspiration.
For more on poetry…
from a year ago:
from two years ago:
from three years ago:
from four years ago:
from five years ago:
2016 was a year to say goodbye to my youngest off to university, and to my childhood home where my parents lived for almost six decades. A year of frights that came deep in the night, some that lingered longer than others: my mother and my oldest child suffered accidents, as did my father-in-law. Caring emergency workers and excellent medical supervision mean we have them all yet to cherish this holiday season.
We will toast them tonight, but first, a peek at some of my favourites of 2016: Read More
My food memoir hit stores this week in Toronto. After a sneak peek event for family and neighbours in my garden this summer, the official launch arrived.
Dreams. They’re worth having.
Love and Sugar Launch Countdown Week
Writers work alone. Maybe there’s a writing circle for support, or rituals known only to their editors. Support, when it comes, is crucial. Just ask Canadian literary star Miriam Toews, who scooped the $50,000 Writers’ Trust Fellowship earlier this week.
The fellowship affords me an extravagant amount of time to write, and time is the most meaningful gift a writer can receive.
Time, yes, was needed for my with love and sugar project, for inspiration to root into shape.
Inspiration is a small bouncy ball that flies at you, you who often forget your catcher’s mitt. A lost single glove in the gutter. The sign on a church billboard as your car stops at a red. Overheard trails of conversation while you wait in line. The pink elephant in your home office.
Inspiration are the pair of pom-poms, cheerleader red, worn by parents who mark up your advance copy with sticky notes.
Are those mistakes you found?, Author Daughter wonders.
No, they are all the things I love, responds Agent Mother.
Inspiration is a think tank interested in accountability and croissants or yogurt parfaits as meeting tools. Show up and spew might be the theme for our bi-monthly meetings: mostly, it’s thinking out loud, coffee, giving feedback, coffee, sharing failures, coffee, applauding success (however minute). Did I say coffee? Made by someone else? Handed to you as you slump to your seat? Good morning. I have nothing for you today. Wait, okay, maybe I do.
Inspiration is a team of bakers with their own m.o, each answering the call and delivering up delights on a tray. No, I didn’t pay them. But taste testers and bakers were as much as part of this journey as anyone else.
Inspiration is a vat of booster fuel from life coaches, self-avowed and otherwise, ready to jumpstart flagging engines, cross the city in a mass book delivery wearing a chauffeur cap and feather boa (is there a better delivery uniform? Let me know), or remind you that yes, you really did do it.
Here are a few heroes with the love and sugar breakdown.
What’s your favourite sweet thing to eat?
Stephanie Black: Cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce and homemade whip cream. Skip the fake cherries please!!!!
Before I had dairy intolerance I’d say old-fashioned butterscotch sundae at a 50’s diner would be ideal.
Lisa Simone: Chocolate Fudge Layer cake- icing not buttercream-sweet fudge OR two fresh Polish Panczky- doughnuts with plum filling and lots of liquid icing sugar dripping down the sides.
Cindy Andrew: My grandmothers carrot cake with cream cheese icing!
Janet Land: O’Henry Chocolate Bar and Pecan Butter Tarts. I can’t choose!
What’s your favourite sweet thing to bake?
Stephanie: In Haileybury, Ontario at my grandmothers, she would bring me homemade chocolate chip cookies (we made earlier that day) and a glass of milk while I read Archie’s with the dog beside me.
Lisa: Rice Pudding- although I never eat it.
Janet Land: Aunt Mickey’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.
Cindy: My grandmothers carrot cake with cream cheese icing!!!…
A ritual you love?
Stephanie: A favourite ritual today is Shabbat dinner when we work together in the kitchen, light candles, pray, and say thanks and ask each other what we are grateful for, and what kind action was shown to us or what we did kind for someone else.
Lisa: A daily favourite is setting the table right before bed so it’s ready for breakfast, or preparing the strawberry French toast on weekend.
Janet Land: Making family weekend breakfast: french toast, crisp bacon, fresh strawberries, fresh OJ, fresh coffee.
Cindy: Today it is hard to find time where everyone has a few hours at the same time to get together but we make it essential at Christmas.. sporting our Santa hats, we pile into the car with the dog and a football and head to the tree farm. We grab some cider and a few saws and head out into the field for the perfect Christmas tree… singing carols which embarrass the kids until they just join in and love it… It still take a few hours to find the perfect tree (easier now that the kids are older and can toss the ball around while we hunt, but when they were 2 and 4 no matter how many layers of clothes we put on them, they froze and it never ended well until visiting Santa in his hut at the end…I love this part of Christmas… we are together, outside, playing and seeking that special tree.. some days it’s too tall and we have to cut off a few feet, some years it’s small, but every year it is our perfect tree and my perfect time with the family!
Thanks for sharing all.
ARE WE ALL HUNGRY NOW????
HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE. For those joining me on Monday at my launch, I promise Christmas cookies. (firstname.lastname@example.org to rsvp)