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Pay attention: life ahead.

By June 16, 2017 Life

Age spots come with time, as do smarts. Being smart on the right day is a bonus of middle age. Being smart to soak it all up, it being this delicious brew of parental pride, and poignance for a life on the speed track. Being smart to pay attention to every detail of a glorious day and to thread together the beginnings…

And the benchmarks.

Paying attention is harder these days. Our eyeballs are begging for relief. I found them in the faces of graduates, paired off to be presented to the gowned academics smiling at each one with genuine encouragement.

We live in an age of terrible global truths; here there was nothing but hope. The graduates faced the audience for a few seconds before descending the steps. Each bore grins I’d like to string up on kites to sail high over the gorgeous University of Toronto campus. Some gave modest waves, no different than iterations a few decades earlier at the kindergarten door. Others bowed with grandiosity; a few sported swagger I’d like to borrow on one of my less than shiny days.

Earlier in the day, we were invited to an awards ceremony ahead of the convocation. Need some inspiration in your routine? Pop in to one of these events and douse yourself in a little wonder. Honours degrees with wide ranges of major and minor combinations: all weird and wonderful. Kinda like our newest grad. A devout curator of street fashion, new music and ideas, our eldest has wonky sleep patterns developed since reading late into the night as a skinny kid. Her paintings dot the walls here; her mess, as considerable as her kindness, dot the floors where she once practiced ballet, over and over, those slippers tracing patterns in a life sure to hold beauty. This year she will cross the globe to pursue a career in public health.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
( I am large, I contain multitudes.)

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass

Thrilling for this writer was the thoughtful address given to the awards participants by Professor William Robins as he encouraged this group to engage in communities throughout their lives, especially local ones, and to be compassionate towards themselves.

You are here at this ceremony because you are extremely smart and keen individuals. Your families and your teachers expect, and have probably always expected, great things of you and no doubt you do too. I bet most of you have deeply internalized these expectations such as your own sense of identity cannot be easily separated from the marks of success that are recognizable by others. There is a lot of pressure to succeed and there will no doubt be disappointments and setbacks. These can often lead to feelings of inadequacy and doubting your own worth. At such moments, I encourage you to find compassion for yourselves, to take a moment and think about what it is like when you bash yourself, when you judge yourself and find yourself wanting. Think about what expectations lead you to be harsh on yourself. What would it be like if you could remove that judgemental criticism? So I encourage you to practice a generous kindness not only towards others, but towards yourselves.  Because there will be times when you need it, and because you’re worth it.

Prof. William Robins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, University of Toronto

Back at home, we drank sangria and, as is our way in these parts, toasted the long line that came before: Kate knows well enough hers is a family that values learning almost as much as chocolate.

All over the map in June right now appear dots now connected as one jump of joy at completion: WE DID IT, said the chorus of gowns.

But wait, doesn’t this mean leaving a posse behind? Yes, it does. Sort of. That cosy group will disband. Others will form. Be assured of the terrific possibility of newness again. And if your facility with goodbyes is poor, take a shot, as my fine young friend (and 2017 grad herself) Alison Chang did, to say goodbye to her university friends in song. Her ode to her USC university friends is one I’m going to borrow for my own cherished smartypants. It’s not goodbye. It’s just see you later.

June. We love you so far.

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Rain plan

By May 4, 2017 Life

We’re in for a major dump of rain. Rain makes things grow.  And it’s your excuse to…

Throw a party. Invite a new friend.

This guy, one of my kindred spirits, will get you started.

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Get feverish about tulips.

Or go for drive to see all the spring blossoms around the city before all this rain brings them down.

Read

Two thoughtful longreads:

Ann-Marie MacDonald’s short story, The Claim, part of the Globe’s 150 series of stories celebrating the country’s history in fiction.

Brad Pitt on becoming a better man, listening to Frank Ocean, and starting therapy in this month’s GQ.  Favourite quote?

I wish I could just change my name

-Brad Pitt

Photo credit: Ryan McGinley

Make yummy things

 

All things mango

Mocha doughnuts

My favourite all season salad

Baked Maple French toast 

Double vanilla cake with warm blueberry sauce 

Clean out your crib and donate it all.

Here’s one place to donate.

Dance to your spring jam

I grew up surrounded by classical music in this house. These days, unless I’m driving, I find classical music to be a balm when my soul is weary. Here’s a great list of summer concerts where you can drown in  classical music.

Dream up some fun summer plans that require wearing a big hat.

 What’s your rain plan? Hopefully it doesn’t involve a wet basement. Crossing my fingers for the residents of  the Toronto Islands.

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Very Married

By April 20, 2017 Life

It was an April morning like any other in Toronto when my parents pledged to take care of one another in front of friends and family at a midtown church. Sixty years later, the front of the church stands yet; behind it, an enormous hole where construction has begun on new condos. Change is a constant in this city. To become attached to any one pile of stones is sure to bring heartbreak.

Attach instead skin to skin.

 

Today my dad reaches under the table for my mother’s hand at an intimate family lunch in their honour. Beside me, my mother giggles. For a second I allow myself to be her University of Toronto chum, pondering the merits of this very tall suitor, who courted her for more years than he would have liked before she said yes.  He would have to promise first to have many children for this only child was resolute about wanting a brood. That we would be unwieldy and prone to spontaneous outbursts was likely not what she imagined. Yet here we are, doing that celebrating thing we can’t seem to give up, and here’s Dad at the head of the table once again, reeling out the first chapter.

“I was suggested by somebody that I should run as as a Member-at-Large in first year so I went to the meeting and there was this good looking blonde who got nominated as the woman head of the year. I went out to Charles Street on the first football game and here came the blonde with her friends and I said to myself, I better sit by her because we’re going to be on the executive together: this was the beginning.”

We’ve heard this one before. Indeed, we’re arrogant enough to think we know all the chapters, one spectacular constellation to guide us in the fog. Of course we don’t.  It is theirs alone, inside every embrace.

 

But we do have the main, the heft, the long thread of this gorgeous narrative weaving through all of us.

Today, I had the immense honour to toast this couple and what I told them was this:

Your story is unending. It is in me when I wake up and when I close my eyes at night. It is the story of us, and lives within your five children and eleven grandchildren. It will be the story their children and all future generations know. It is the story of devotion and strength, of tremendous commitment and good humour. It inspires me and sustains me; my own marriage exists on the shoulders of yours.  

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

 

Diamonds really are forever.

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Easter peace to you all

By April 16, 2017 Life, Rituals

“Mother of all bombs” dropped this week. Did you shake where you stood as I did hearing the terrifying physics of this first-ever weapon deconstructed on a radio programme? I was in my kitchen, chopping carrots.

Far away is right here in 2017. There is no far away.

Be relentless about peace where you stand if you’re lucky enough to live in Canada.

To all my readers: Happy Easter.

 

 

More on Easter:

Three years ago:

You’re never too old for egg hunts

How deep is your love?

Four years ago:

Green Eggs and Ham

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Pink isn’t just for millennials

By April 3, 2017 Headlines, Life

Millennial pink has reached the zenith of zeitgeist gushing.  Didn’t know pink was a thing? Me neither. The Friendly Greek wore pink shirts decades ago; in my closet are several pink purses.

On at least two occasions, I wore a large pink hat.

None of this makes us anything remotely on trend. How can you be hip in a red blazer fit for a tour guide?

“No one really agrees on what shade millennial pink actually is. Nonetheless, we think we figured it out. Essentially, it’s a subtle, muted pink — not too bright, but also not too blush (blush is also the “new neutral,” have you heard?) How did this fad begin, you ask? It could have been when Apple released the “rose gold” iPhone in 2015, or when Pantone named rose quartz the “Color of the Year” in 2016. Either way, it’s a thing, and we’re here for it.”

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“Gone is the girly-girl baggage; now it’s androgynous. It doesn’t hurt that the color happens to be both flattering and generally pleasing to the eye, but it also speaks to an era in which trans models walk the runway, gender-neutral clothing lines are the thing, and man-buns abound. It’s been reported that at least 50 percent of millennials believe that gender runs on a spectrum — this pink is their genderless mascot.”


nymag.com (Read here for a complete breakdown of the trend)


“A color becomes popular because it’s symbolic of the age we’re living in. These are turbulent times. People are looking for calm.”

-Laurie Pressman, Pantone Colour Institute (more from Bloomberg here)

“I don’t like it but I can see why it’s popular. This is how I feel about a lot of things pitched to my demographic. Still, better than Boomer Pink, which locked Millennial Pink in the basement without a job and is inexplicably snide about it.”

Alexandra Petri, Washington Post


Running out to purchase things in hot colours never works much for me (who has time?) but some manage to pull it off.

Around here, some pink is year round.

And other pinks show up when it’s their season to strut.

Easter brings out the shine in pink, and my mother’s gorgeous pink candles.

I’m not fussed if pink is out of fashion decades from now (or how about next week, thanks to the Trump green invasion), certain as I am of the longevity of Anne’s Seasonal Kitsch that keeps me from losing my mind cued up and ready for the uncharted curves ahead.

Pink is not about the feminine or the frivolous.  (art by Kate Dotsikas)

For me, it’s the pucker up* we long for…

…and in the eyelids of sleeping babes. I’m for those forever.

Come on now. Show me your hip side. Got any millennial pink in your collection? Share in the Have your Say section below.

*photo credit: Jane Langford

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Shamrock daydream

By March 17, 2017 Life

If today is a day for parades, and pubs with green beer (dumb-no such thing exists in Ireland), then let it too be a day to toast a country of my ancestors. What I took away from a 2011 family holiday to Ireland was a great affinity with mist and magic.

 

Another visit is surely ahead for us. Until then, I snuggle down into my Irish woolies (purchased on the Aran Islands, easily a favourite spot on that incredible trip) and let my mind drift into fairy realms. That’s my St. Patrick’s Day: convening with dead writers.*

 

Lovers on Aran

The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas

To possess Aran. Or did Aran rush
to throw wide arms of rock around a tide
That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?

Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves’ collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

 

Another good way to celebrate is making this.

 

We found versions of this date pudding with whiskey sauces across Ireland and I have loved it ever since. Want a recipe? There’s one waiting for you in my book. Hope you have your copy.

 For more on our trip, catch our goofy side here.

* Irish fiction is flourishing. Read more on the writers of the new wave.

More fun for your weekend:

  • So you think an English literature degree leads nowhere? Meet this Canadian CEO who might change your mind.
  • Hanging with a girlfriend posse from a more innocent time is therapy for me (see you tonight, ladies!**) and I suspect many others. Faithful friends are among the best things in life, along with dark chocolate, spring mornings, and this song. That’s why I cried when I read this story of a friendship gone wrong.
  • New York City women have a new hang out. The Wing is “your throne away from home; a sacred space where you can work, get to inbox zero, shower, get a blow-out, store your stuff, take a conference call, make a new friends, or even stage a small coup. All in one place”. Here’s how it started.
  • Emma Watson, star of the new film Beauty and the Beast on whether Belle is trapped in an abusive relationship
  • Elsewhere in the landscape of age-old folk tales: I’m going to see this ballet on Sunday and I can’t wait. Pinocchio is on through March 24th in Toronto.

**Bringing treats. Duh

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March Roar

By March 3, 2017 Film, Life, Performance

YIPPEE! MARCH IS HERE!!!!

No, I’m not heading to the beach for some of this and that.  I’ll be at school this month (more on that to come) and yes, there are reasons to kick up my heels yet.

Read More

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January Jollies

By January 24, 2017 Film, Life, Performance

Forgive me, readers, for neglecting you

January is the month to clear out my brain the house, staring back at me in spartan disbelief. It’s breathing room time.

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I like soaking in the bath in January. The rest of the year it’s shortcut showers.  Indulging comes easily as the new year dawns, for January is the month of the always anticipated getaway with my book club, an event we dub the Favourite Things weekend. Who doesn’t love receiving gifts just because?

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Also in January, my birthday, and too, an anniversary of the day we chose to get married twenty five years ago.

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Silver anniversaries deserve some sip and sizzle.  Gather the bridal party and toast an imperfect union that endures yet, mostly because of a sustained diet of laughter. Rooting out the good and setting it to the applause setting appears to be our recipe. Then again, it could just be called fuck the flaws, you’ve still got mojo. That we still impress one another more than hurt one another is evident—the capacity for the latter lingers unless we pay close attention.

We get excited together easily about things we love. Thankfully, not all of them are caloric.

I am still unsure if I should be flattered or concerned that, after watching our wedding video, our girls (home for the occasion) remarked: you know, you guys haven’t changed at all. Note: they were NOT referring to our outward appearance. Let’s do all pics from waist up, shall we?

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I am still a kid, despite attempts to pretend otherwise. All the adult posturing falters when splendour is about. Finding it yet is the secret to living.

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Here is the list that has me excited this month:

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  • A glorious global parade of pink hats and shared vision for a better world. My girls were plenty inspired. That’s a good thing. Forget the rest. It’s too big a pile of bullshit. Just massive. Read the signs instead. They will fuel me as I work this month on some fantastic new initiatives.

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  • Billy Campbell is back and the six-part series he stars in is touted to be chillingly perfect.  Cardinal, debuting tomorrow night on CTV. A long time ago,  a dear friend and I dished over Billy Campbell in a show we both loved called Once and Again. So glad he’s back. We will be dishing again in commercial breaks. Billy Campbell is a great antidote to winter blues. Just saying. He also loves Canada so much he moved here.
  • The Oscar nominations are out and some very solid cinema has been recognized.  Getting out to see these films will help ensure other great works get made. Stay tuned for my Standouts Series coming up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, see Moonlight. See Manchester by the sea. See Lion. See La La Land. Fall in love, in lust, in something. Some of the nominated films are on iTunes and Netflix. Here’s one I loved, but fair warning: I love everything this guy does, including rocking a red suit in this film.

  • I saw Hidden Figures with my eighty-four year old parents. That’s a celebration right there. Hot dogs delivered right to their seat. No, it wasn’t Christmas. Just garden variety kindness from popcorn stand employees.
  • My sister Jane splurged on my birthday gift with theatre tickets to Come from Away, a sold-out show now headed for Broadway. I predict a huge tourism boost for Newfoundland. The show was moving and well-crafted,  a complete joy from start to finish. I’m guessing lots more ink is about to be spilled on this successs story.
  • In the next week, I will see two more promising shows including one starring Sandra Shamas, in Toronto with her What Now show.
  • This video. This father and this daughter. Yes, it’s adorable and she’s irresistible with her very own Youtube channel. A Shirley Temple for our time. Her family seems incredibly supportive yet,  I fear for her future. Just saying.
  • My tailbone, injured right before Xmas after a spectacular slide down icy front stairs, is on the mend. Pilates and yoga classes are back on my calendar. Creaky knees be damned.
  • Am thinking I need a new cover for my book. This adorable kitchen elf from Halifax, Canada is guarding his oven door so no one takes the cupcakes out too early. Recipe for said cupcakes is from my food memoir, with love and sugar.  Have you got your copy yet?

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  • This punch we served to our wedding party at our intimate anniversary event. Sign up for my buzz sheet and I’ll send you the recipe.

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What’s popping in your January ? Please share. Inspiration comes from all corners.

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I am going for buoyancy this year. What about you?

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Best of 2016

By December 31, 2016 Art, Books, Film, Life, Performance

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:image-3 Read More

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when you know they get it

By December 25, 2016 Life

“Can I give out my gifts first?”

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Merry Everything. Have a safe and peaceful holiday. 

 

For more holiday reading:

I spy, you spy…Christmas

Toasted Pecan Shortbread

My walls are hot

Prep the elves

Les Misérables: A Playmobil Movie

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