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Best bakers in Canada: a fan report

By November 3, 2017 Headlines, Life, With Love and Sugar

The Great Canadian Baking show debuted Wednesday night here in Canada and this baker was keen to check this out with my own baking lens. With me: an enthusiastic group of baking fans —we had us some big fun dishing on this Canadian version of this hit British show—and among my guests, a dear friend of many decades, a friend yet to ditch me through all the wonkier stages of my life, including the development of my food memoir. Anyone left standing after that? Friend for life.

Robyn Stafl drives a car as big as her heart— her love of surprising others with thoughtful gifts and gestures would be enough to keep her around (and she has a chauffeur hat to boot), but every posse needs a funny bone and ours is a shared skewer to all things pompous. Whatever our adult successes, we will always be giggling from the school locker room, waiting for the weekend where mayhem is sure to erupt… with our names attached. My lips are sealed.

Robyn is also queen of her own kitchen (when she has the time: this baker is also manager, lease reporting at Allied Properties, a commercial real estate company). Like me, Robyn loves to mess about with sugar and create sweet moments for her family. Emails from my old friend have subject lines, just checking in, how can I help, what do you need? but my favourite has to be: everything tastes better with ice cream. What’s not to love?

Did we like the show? Here’s a sample of our evening. Bubbles and such to start, and then…we’re off.

To watch, you’ll need a password. Subscribers to my monthly buzz sheet will receive that today. What are you waiting for? Sign up here now.

Happy Baking, all!

It’s Friday and here’s what caught my eye this week:

 Is sexual exploitation institutionalized in the entertainment industry? Is that arena so steeped in archaic ways? Do people who are aware of exploitation have no moral compass?There are many ways to interpret the flood of accusations that the Weinstein exposé unleashed. Its possible to suggest that a disgruntlement with Donald Trump has led to the exposure of figures who are symbolic surrogates for the U.S. President, and some sort of instinctive cultural cleansing is unfolding. It’s possible to joke bitterly that, since Spacey plays a scheming, ruthless president in House of Cards, the public has higher standards for fictional presidents than real ones.

What I know for sure: look to our own circles for the good men. Search for answers in art.

  •  Two stunning ballets are playing this month on stage at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto, and they are both personal favourites; The Winter’s Tale and Nijinsky. If your take on ballet is The Nutcracker, these two dazzling ballets will rightly adjust your frame. The National Ballet of Canada continues to draw in new audiences around the world and just came back from repeat standing ovations in Paris on their recent tour. Critics were particularly impressed with Guillaume Côté, now a father of two. Here he is with his baby. Go ahead, be charmed with this tweet. I know I was.

  • I love this artist who corralled her siblings and friends to star in her own music video and caused an online stir. Halifax sensation Ria Mae is my new jam. 🎶I believe everyone’s with me.

HAPPY WEEKEND. RESIST HOLIDAY CREEP. Daylight savings means dark mornings and dinner hours but there’s a blaze of red on the trees now and it ain’t tinsel. NOPE.

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Yes. You can go back…almost

By October 25, 2017 Life, Travel

Thirty years ago I left Montreal with the kind of longing you pack away but never leave behind. It was here film became a passion, and broadcasting a career path to pursue. Here I learned life begins after midnight, or it did for those college years, where hours stretched into the horizon. Away from home, away from a city where everyone seemed to know someone in my large family— few from my high school came here out of province then— in this exotic place, I was free to dance, dally, and doze if I wanted. Check. Check. Check. We were never going to grow old, fat, or faded. I don’t remember all of it. That’s why journals were invented.

Alas, once I settled on a career in media, I knew my French, merely functional, wouldn’t get me far enough in this bilingual town. Back to Toronto I went, degree and radio demo tape in hand, and the rest you know ...

It’s helpful to forget a little. Now I have a daughter having her own love affair with this magical city. Life on campus is as charmed as ever. McGill Homecoming twinkled for a weekend of memories. Can you go back?

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An early Thanksgiving

By October 6, 2017 Life, Travel

Being chubby is okay when you’re naked in an Algonquin lake. Floating is for round people. So there, skinnies. We own this activity. Are there Olympic medals for floating? Read More

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Notes from Athens

By August 31, 2017 Life, Travel

I am here in this ancient city to oversee yet another move. It’s been a year of heaving stuff.  None of said stuff is my own. I’m still trying to figure that out. When I do, I’ll let you know.

My eldest will begin an internship here in Athens on Monday.  While she’s at it, she may just unlock the secret room to her father’s character. We all have them. His may just be in the country of his birth. There could be profound truths. Or maybe she’ll just learn how to make the most delicious snack this side of the Atlantic.

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Summer moments: mid-season stretch

By August 3, 2017 Art, Life

Moments—as a writer and producer, I mine them— and this plaque on my desk is a helpful prompt. As a criminal lawyer, my partner in things beyond crime (love, kids, mortgage, insane movie marathons, late night ice cream dives) navigates those who have seen their lives changed by a single moment.

Today is THIRSTY THURSDAY. I’m hungry for your moments. Share some below of your summer bliss moments. Here are some of mine:

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Guest Blog: a doctor’s hobby

By July 31, 2017 Life

GUEST BLOG: Summer is a time many of us pursue hobbies, or at least dream about doing so. Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of someone who makes his hobby a year round pleasure.

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Canada 150: the canoe is not a cliché

By June 29, 2017 Life

No one is going to accuse you of cultural appropriation if you lower yourself into the bowels of a canoe. Canoe culture is real and part of our historical threads in Canada, as trip enthusiast Kate Dotsikas writes for Voyageur Quest, the only place in this country that you really want to organize your next canoe trip.

The canoe is sleek and unfussy. You need only a paddle (and a cushy thing for your knees, if you’re my vintage).

My paddle’s keen and bright

flashing with sliver

 

Wildlife is rarely disturbed by a paddler if your dip is quiet.

Meditative for a solo paddler, canoes accommodate crowds too. Dumping is allowed…once.

If you want to know about someone, take them on a canoe trip. Lily dippers are the ones to look out for. They can get back into your good graces only if they join the trippers’ chorus on the lake. Knowing the harmony will win you an extra marshmallow come dusk.

In my side of the family, there isn’t anyone who missed a canoe lesson from our chief canoeist, Marion Langford, today celebrating her 85th birthday.

Over the decades, my mother has given paddling lessons (dockside and in the boat itself) to her five children and their spouses, and all her eleven grandchildren. Once a camp program director, always a camp program director.

The loons on the lake have surely come to recognize the hairstyle and sure stroke of my mother. Neither have changed much. She’s not a cliché either. Happy Birthday Mom. Dip, dip, and swing.

As for the rest of you, any virgin paddlers out there, find a lake. Glide awhile. No need for flag waving. It’s all here.

 

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Canada 150: Bare Naked Nation

By June 28, 2017 Life

 

BARE NAKED NATION

Folklore demands the loon as our brand
a call every Canadian knows
a call to their mate a dip and a date
a smack to their snap turtle foes

We have no quibble with iconic dribble
though truth here be told is amiss
for the face of our coins should feature our loins
the skinny dip mister and miss

From Tofino to Truro a bare naked bureau
disrobing with absence of dread
diving white tushes scatter the fishes
velvety swims before bed

In light of the moon in lieu of the loon
we toast the innocent dip
for cottaging duty is baring your booty
bountiful modest or ripped

A chunky dunk splash a chubby dub blast
or Auntie Anne’s entry to date
Let’s honour and have it humdrum or havoc
CBC hear us debate

Grant us the order no bylaws no borders
we really don’t need to make signs
We just want the status even this wiseass
even the fools who make rhymes

Make us a symbol of national pride
give us our lake waters calm
Let us declare
twilight as bare
skinny dip Canucks are da bomb

Anne Langford © 2015 (written on the occasion of a wedding shower for my niece to introduce her partner to Canadian culture)

 

 

 

 

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Summer begins now

By June 21, 2017 Life

floating picnics…magic forest hikes…dreamy rowboats… gelato twilight…breezy backroads…ferry me away…what are you waiting for?

 

 annehome1@rogers.com or order your copy here

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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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