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what remains

By April 20, 2019 Life

You are all I need to remember

You are all I need to know

Your hands find mine

when all the other maps are muddled

In the dark you light my way

twas ever so and ever shall be


Happy Anniversary #62, Mom and Dad.


More reading:

I lived here once

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Paris is all mise en scène.

By April 16, 2019 Headlines, Life, Travel
mise en scène at one of the booths at this year’s Paris Art Fair

Drop yourself anywhere in Paris and your immediate view is a film set lit avec plaisir for even the weariest heart. Each step forward, backward, and around a fabled corner and still the same miraculous mise en scène. How can we not stop and embrace right there in the middle of the street? Are we not directed to by this very stage? How can we not revisit those leaner frames we inhabited once? We were here decades ago when I ignored parental protests and scampered about these very streets with my Sorbonne student-boyfriend and considered (with great sobriety) never returning home. Paris does that to you.

The pastry shops do that to you. The chocolatiers are no mere extras either but take their proud place centre stage. There are hundreds and hundreds of food artisans in Paris and patience will get you a taste test in the middle of a charming square while your traveling companion (crazed wife) drags you from neighbourhood to neighbourhood for sinful samples. (Check back later this week in this space for my favourites)

Dining in this city is notorious for a few things: snippy service (I experienced nothing but gracious welcomes), beaucoup wine (who needs water?) and status as a UNESCO world intangible heritage. In 2010, the UN cultural organization singled out French gastronomy worthy of the same kind of protection as historically significant sites or natural wonders. Certainly, the foie gras ravioli I experienced at the historic Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie in Les Halles (‘tasting’ is too boring. Here we “experience” the food) was worthy of some kind of protection from overeager dining companions. As was the grilled duck and asparagus cooked for us another evening by our host; dear friends whose idea of hospitality was champagne and strawberries as evening starters to set the mood at sparkling and fluffy warm croissants with coffee and melon from their local market waiting for our sleepy morning kitchen entrances. I’m in, merci beaucoup and Ooh La La and that’s all the French I can remember until you pour me another glass.

Paris in spring means Paris and people. All of them wearing les baskets that are not the runners you are wearing right now to walk the dog.

Every kind of tourist is here along with us but the city holds these players with grace. We joined a few in a pastry class as we learned how to fold the dough encased in blocks of butter. Huge blocks of butter. Did I say yet that I love this city?

We mingled among them as we oogled the Impressionist Masters and wondered how we could go back in time (okay this was just me wondering) and warn these models in painters studios that someday their bodies would be out of fashion and tell them that’s just one way the world has lost its way.

We walked by them splayed out on lawns with their wine glasses the night we came to see the Eiffel Tower do its hourly dazzle. (Paris by night. Yup. It’s all true).

We joined them in the procession into Notre Dame, and formed a hushed collective as we stared up into the glorious soaring space. No one is tacky here: we are all immediately humbled, whatever our belief systems, for this iconic cathedral has always been a living monument, one revitalized by writer Victor Hugo.

The greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man in genius…

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

That any of it would ever be gone wasn’t even a whisper. That I tried my hardest to ignore the rules about photography but failed when I saw this Joan of Arc statue…well I’m glad I did today as I look at those stunning images of flames and mourn along with the rest of the world as this spectacular mise en scène is blackened with smoke.

Paris, like my home town, has other smudges. On our first day of many walkabouts (my calves are as tight as my beltlines) we were stopped and searched and not permitted to walk along her most glamorous avenue thanks to recent rioting by the “Yellow Vest” protestors: their outcry continues as it highlights problems France has wrestled with for many years. That their protests involve violence is sure to affect Parisians and tourists alike. Parisians are not tilted by any of it. Today at least, there is solidarity and support over a landmark known around the world.

We flew to Paris en route to London. Along the way, we met up with these two, who are currently students in all things Euro, and proceeded to explore that ancient city for days on end. Check back in this space for my Best of London when I’ve recovered.

PS: Je t’aime, Mark. Je t’aime, Kazumi. Je t’aime Connor (and of course, Buddy!) Forget the boulevards, the Arc, the museums and the Art Fair. Forget the tower. Forget the artisanal wonders. You guys are the best in the city.

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Shut up and drink your gin

By February 19, 2019 Life

Bad houseguests. We’ve all had them.

Mine snuck in without any sort of invitation and began to knock about, trying a little sneeze here, a little ahem, ahem, there. Me? I just too busy boasting about my Shiny Health Record; a badge worn along to every gym outing, every downward dog. Every time I drowned myself in lemon water instead of wine and turned down the baguette with Brie.

I didn’t notice the Winter Beast moving right in and taking up residency. She announced herself soon enough; brought along a drum kit and began to bang on it incessantly and screech: I’m here, bitch. Get ready to dance with me. It’s your turn now.

I never got a diagnosis. Was it influenza? Who knows? Who cares? A fever took hold of me as something large and unwieldy parked on my chest; everybody told me to rest. That was great Comedy, that there. Back in the day I was growing babies in my womb, I got the same advice: rest. Laughed then too. Sistahs: you know of what I speak. WHO CAN REST?

My mind raced every night. If I had read something before turning off the light, the words would form drunken cheerleading routines I couldn’t follow. If I watched any kind of video, it was hardly cinematic glory playing out but scrambled signals in one never-ending loop.

Winter twinkles and we are rosy-cheeked children in awe of pretty icicles.  Winter roars and we fall down, some of us, just for a while, but when we fall, it’s not snow angels we make.

We are shivering robins, all of us, no matter how shiny our shields. Vitamins Schmitamins. Broccoli Schmoccoli. Flu Schmoo.

A week goes by and the wretch moves out but I’m no fool to think she’s beat. Arrogance is for two-year-olds who learn the potty early. The rest of us need to be fully aware of our vulnerabilities. Many are sick in ways they cannot bear, and unlike me, are fighting invading beasts today, yesterday, and all their tomorrows.

 

Three things saved me in this lost week of winter:

1.Old musicals. Oliver (1968). Is there anything better?  As we head into Oscar weekend (look for my rant tomorrow), it pays to scroll back to past winners like this classic, adapted of course from Charles Dickens. You won’t find a better cast.

Shut up and drink your gin, snarls Fagin, Close enough, as I stirred lemon into my lemon ginger tea. In my stupor, I imagined swimming in vats of it, humming along with Oliver Twist and his Where is love?  Check out my Fever remedy.

Pathetic, meet Anne.

2. A fellow baker friend who knows my worst stories is going through my cookbook as a 2019 project. She kept sending me pictures of her process and the results. I would stare at the pictures and think of those days in my kitchen, baking one chocolate cake after another to determine the most delicious. It was the happiest moment of my days, those emails from that dear friend.

That, and the Friendly Greek* saying this:

3. I can’t even hug you, as if he was just of reach of a sunny field to play. This was enough to radiate warmth as I shivered in my covers, as mad as any old hag, muttering to the Winter Beast,

CONSIDER YOURSELF AT HOME? NOT.

 

* He missed his birthday amidst all this silly drama. Kitchen, get ready. I feel a chocolate cake coming on…

See CHOCOLATE CAKE

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Highs of 2018

By December 31, 2018 Film, Headlines, Life, Performance, Travel

Is there ever a time you can’t muster a high? When you scoff at such a list; mind blank and steeped in bleak forecasts?
Are you screaming YES?

This was a year maybe a high might be hard to find.

A year to confront aging. A unknown father rushes in moments before a school holiday concert and mouthes “sorry” to his annoyed wife. As he brushed past me (proud aunt in the front row) to take his seat down the row, I found myself breathless-he was so very very young, this tardy father. Suddenly I was seized with panic. I was that wife, when? Yesterday, wasn’t it? We were the parents with little ones in concerts we never missed. Now I’m…what? Old?
NEVER. Have you seen me do my ab exercises?  MOVE ON, NOW.

I was silly and stern and strong this year. Sad and deliriously happy. Woeful and wonderstruck both.  Age is my friend after all, even if nobody gave me Time for Christmas. Hint for Santa: I only want TIME and you can bring it without wrapping as our blue bin is full.

A funny thing happened on this adventure in adulthood: there’s always a high. We go high when they go low, says Michelle Obama.

What makes me high? (My lawyer has advised me to refrain from the truth when crossing the border). Here is the secret: stories.

Here are some stories on page, stage and screen that shone for me in 2018 and maybe a few from my own story. Read More

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A toast for 10

By November 4, 2018 Life

Our dog is ten today. Lucy was an Obama puppy, born on that lucky day of the 2008 US presidential elections. Since then, we celebrate her benchmarks outside of political calendars, which seems especially prescient given the extreme anxiety surrounding this week’s American mid-term elections. It feels wrong to celebrate anything with so much at stake, unless of course sense prevails in the ballot box. Still, celebrate our pup we will.  All good parties start with a toast, no?

  1. She forgives easily. That Lucy is displeased from time to time is one of the easier lessons, as she droops her head over her chaise lounge, in a funk only teenager moping can compete with. #beentheredonethat! They’re young adults now and I’m battle worn and ready. Like them, forgive me she does, and it’s swift: a rub of the tum and she’s my BFF once more. Here’s to forgiveness.

  2. She boasts a discriminating palate. Lucy likes bacon, green apples (sliced please, and if you could, remove the peel first, and spread a little peanut butter on it, oh aren’t you a dear?), bacon, grilled cheese, bacon, cauliflower, scrambled eggs, and is that bacon I smell? She doesn’t eat these things often thanks to a prescribed vet diet but when they’re on offer, she’s no fool. Not for her everything that falls to the ground, choosy pooch she is. That we could all be so disciplined, especially with stale Halloween candy bars.

  3. She is gentle with kids, especially the exuberant variety that take Her Highness of All Things Fluffy under their wings, dragging her to and fro. Here’s to tolerance. She sniffs out loneliness and lends her charm to seniors. Here’s to compassion.

  4. She loves the seasons as much as I do and is no wuss about weather. Here’s to resilience.

  5. She knows when to duck out of divisive debate, scooting out of the room and up the stairs when the volume goes up, a skill I’m only good at with a wine glass in hand. She has grasped that silent staring is more effective than any noisy arguments. Here’s to diplomacy.

  6. She guards her family with ferocity. Visitors, no matter how benign, are all the same to Lucy: announced first. No surprise visits for us. That’s a bonus for this writer in sweat pants.

  7. She remains game for any kind of outing, anywhere, anytime. Lucy is my kind of party girl. Just call me ready.

  8. She loves all humans but being with the girls is always her jam.

   9. She can sleep anywhere, on anything, or anyone with soft enough centres.

10. She’s our best welcome. Here’s to love.

* birthday photos courtesy of Bow Wow Walkers

For more on a dog’s life, read:

I love Lucy…most of the time

The third kid

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A good catch

By June 14, 2018 Film, Life, Performance

As Summer offers up her breezy welcome, I salute the Spring that was, the Spring that sprung me loose, for a time, among olive groves. Did I manage to catch enough? Moments, not olives. Here follows a few that sustained me before the days became long and sunny:

Watching the sweet new documentary about Mister Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbour with my guy, both our faces stained with tears, all of us there in that theatre suddenly children again, we agreed we were the lucky ones who grew up with this gentle spirit leader, even if the experience was again peering at the snowglobe: the world will never be like this again. Go see this film, out now in theatres, my favourite from Hot Docs 2018.

Fun Home. What a theatrical masterpiece, featuring three actors playing a character at different stages of her life; the production we saw received rapturous applause. Mine was mostly for Sara Farb for her solo, I’m changing my major to Joan. Who doesn’t remember that first thrill of amazing sex, no matter what your orientation?  Here’s the Toronto cast:

 Other theatrical highs for me this past spring include the exuberant cast of Wavestage’s Beauty and the Beast. I’ve rarely seen that show done with such joy, helped along with the mad skills of a young choreographer who juggles gorgeous wedding photography on the side. More reason than ever to admire these hustling millennials. Yup. I said millennials. They are more than a trend colour.

Every social gathering is now lined with small screen binging currency. What have you seen? What are you watching? My answer this spring is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Yes, it is marvellous, and reason enough, along with Mozart in the Jungle, to keep an eye on Prime. Both are antidotes to The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes, I’m watching that too and who could not as it is beautiful execution at every turn, even as it is harrowing.

 

To rid myself of too much angst, I go to a handful of NHL hockey games every season. Let’s leave stats and scores for the whiz kids like my nephew John but here’s a confession: it’s mostly about the collective experience for me. Are there any left? Where hollering and whooping with the rest of the crazies is better than…just better? We may be shouting Go Leafs Go but here’s a handy translation: Fuck Gloom. We’re for Glory. World Cup mania is about to hit. I’m ready. 

Driving my youngest kid home after her university year wraps up and she has to say goodbye so of course there’s tears, and me maintaining control of the wheel on the 401 when there is a sudden cry in the car: she’s looking at her phone as an email just came in from her school with her marks. And her smile is as wide as the road ahead.  I turn up the radio and we’re rocking all the way home now.

Hearing my father express his enduring love for our mother on their 61st anniversary with this simple grace note, when I wake up in the night and reach over, she’s there, warm beside me. 

Two months later, they were together at University of Toronto, where Mom showed off her medal received, along with other classmates, for their 65th reunion from Victoria College.  I sat beside Mom as she smiled at her two old chums across from her, all of them singing their school song there in Burwash Hall, and she told me she didn’t want to leave quite yet; there was strawberry shortcake after all.  Memory isn’t like my ten year old dog, Lucy; she our faithful door butler/surest secret keeper. Memory flirts ferociously, flutter here, flutter there, where did I put my keys? I don’t know how to find my way there anymore… But old friends and school songs and holding hands like college coeds?  That’s the there there.When my young nephew Henry came over to muck about with our dollhouse, his current set-up for the miniatures that inhabit our children’s library were configured as a band surrounded by fans. He was hearing music in his head when he set this up. Imagination just needs a door.

Then came Greece. Leaving for a spell is easy when you have people. Not rows of uniformed help. Rather, friends. A certain kind of friend who says yes when asked if she can be your surrogate caregiver while you are away. You know there’s work to be done and people in need, and without a back-up, your absence would produce challenges too hard to bear. So you ask. Her response, I would be honoured. Every day I was gone, she was here, quietly offering up intuitive leadership with efficiency of which I can only dream. My siblings cleared a way for me to travel. My friend Eva made it easy for my soul to fly.

 

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world. 

-Mary Oliver, To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

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Easter Checklist

By March 29, 2018 Life, Rituals

  • No Coat Stroll

  • Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

  • Mitten-free hugs

  • Cherry Blossom Countdown Start-up

  • Judy Garland/ Fred Astaire approved Easter bonnets

  • Early rising becoming a thing of pleasure

  • Umbrella chic 

Easter peace to all my readers.

Enjoy the long weekend wherever you are. 

Things that caught my eyes and ears this week:

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Pie and sun= heaven

By March 27, 2018 Life, Recipes, Travel

By the time March arrives, the Canadian landscape out my writing window offers little inspiration. Bleak skies begone! Behold a bevy of bougainvillea!

Wrap me in it and set me alight on a frisky wave. A strawberry daiquiri to go? Surely you jest? I like your style, and yes, I’ll have another.

Sun, sand, salt: how I love thee! Friendly winds whipping up waves for those unfazed by losing a bathing suit in the fray…this is the stuff of winter daydreams. An invitation to join my sister on vacation in Captiva, Florida, was an easy yes for this writer.

While in this charming corner of the planet, I had occasion to taste two delicious desserts. You know already what the next part is, don’t you? Read More

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Hearts for everyone

By February 14, 2018 Life

It’s that time. You know it. I know it. Time for some softness in the twilight of winter (just go with me, winter whiners. Spring is closer than you think). Every year about this time, I fall for a new love poem. Here’s one for those of you needing inspiration in the romance department:

The Emperor

by Matthew Rohrer

 

She sends me a text

she’s coming home

the train emerges

from underground

 

I light the fire under

the pot, I pour her

a glass of wine

I fold a napkin under

a little fork

 

the wind blows the rain

into the windows

the emperor himself

is not this happy

 

You might also enjoy:

Four years ago this month, for poetry fans: speak sweetly my love  &  a flame in two cupped hands

 Five years ago this month: Cole Porter wrote the story of us

 Twenty eight years ago this month:

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A love story woven through time

By February 11, 2018 Guest Bloggers, Life

Valentines week begins today. Spread the love.

 

Today’s guest blog is written by actor/writer/producer Stacey Bernstein.

I met Stacey when we worked together at Global Television in the newsroom. I include her story this week, when love is in the zeitgeist. There are all kinds of love. This one touched me. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Needlepoint legacy

by Stacey Bernstein

 Thirty years ago my Mom started this needlepoint project after she left my Dad. I always said my mother, a talented interior designer, could knit a building; she was an incredible crafts person. She could refinish furniture, reupholster furniture, draw, cook...she was a wonder woman to me and everything became more beautiful with her expert eye, skill and magical touch. A decision to return to school and balancing work left her little time to continue with this massive project of which she only got a sixth of it done.

 About ten years ago, when I downsized Mom from one apartment to another, I found the needlepoint tapestry in a drawer and was wowed by the potential: there was no design on the canvas. It was something she was copying from a book. I loved it instantly and I begged her to finish it but she felt she just didn’t have the the time to work on it anymore. She gave me her blessing to take it and if I could ever find someone who could continue the work then she would be most happy to pass it on. Read More

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