Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gone Swimming

Summer cottages in North America are a very different entity from what they are in England. A cottage here is a cabin you go to, for weekends or often weeks at a time, often hugging the edge of a lake, where city dwellers can escape the heat and humidity and frolic in cool, deep lakes and wander pine-scented trails. Not all cottages are made alike, and they range from the deeply primitive to the most luxurious, but for the most part they are a delicious escape and often redolent of a past age, and a more innocent and childlike existence.

It's the slap of a wooden screen door, bare feet and limbs, sunshine, watermelon, swimming, backgammon, roasting marshmallows, conversations over breakfast that carry into the day, picking wild blueberries, baking a pie with those blueberries, canoeing, the call of the loon (the bird, not the family member), stargazing, hiking, jigsaw puzzles, melting brie in the sun, napping and laughter.

Happy Summer everyone, I'll be back in 10 days.

Photo by D.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Song of the Day

Life, she is busy and good as I prep for another vacation... but there is always time for music.

And there is always time for the Gershwins and Ella Fitzgerald.

How Long has this been going on?
(Ira and George Gershwin)

I could cry salty tears;
Where have I been all these years?
Little wow, tell me now:
How long has this been going on?

There were chills up my spine,
And some thrills I can't define.
Listen, sweet, I repeat:
how long has this been going on?

Oh, I feel that I could melt;
Into Heaven I'm hurled!
I know how Columbus felt,
Finding another world.

Kiss me once, then once more.
What a dunce I was before.
What a break! For Heaven's sake!
How long has this been going on?

Dear, when in your arms I creep,
That divine rendez-vous,
Don't wake me, if I'm asleep,
Let me dream that it's true !

Kiss me twice, then once more.
That makes thrice, let's make it four!
What a break! For Heaven's sake!
How long has this been going on?

The rendition by Ella Fitzgerald is what gives me shivers. That warm, bronzed voice... what a classic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Appreciating Clouds

Some pictures from Lake Huron, 2006...

... to celebrate my membership in The Cloud Appreciation Society. Yes, I'm sporting this little badge proudly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Macro Indulgence

A little more fun with my camera.

I usually avoid carnations, but the colour of these drew me to buy them. I was helpless in their spell. They are so soft and meringue-like, I just want to dive right in.

It could be said that a close up shot of pussy willows that shows the dust particles is possibly too close up.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day

I am most blessed to come from a long line of good men and women. Here are some of the gentlemen who have had a deep impact on me:

My English grandad Rex and his father Walter in the early 30s:

My dashing English grandad in his youth:

My uncle Jeb and my dad, as boys, in 1942. Their dad was away during the war and sent them these little uniforms for Christmas. This is a wistful shot...

My grandad Rex and my Italian grandad Pietro, on holiday in 1972:

My dad, John, and me in 1969:

And two years ago, me and my dad... he was just getting over a nasty bout of cancer. Still with us, cancer free:

My dad is the smartest, wisest, most knowledgeable man I know. He lives to help others and it took me a while to learn to accept that help. I love you Pop - Happy Fathers' Day!!

Tagged... and a bit slow on the uptake

Sir B of Bachelor at Wellington tagged me lo these several days ago. Thank you Sir B - I was honoured to be on your list. At last my answers are ready to these five cheeky questions:

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

This question turned into an interesting process. I always keep my appointment books, so I pulled out 1998 and had a peruse. So, June 1998: I was a year into my current arts marketing situation (a couple of positions lower than where I am) and the learning curve was extreme... I was just about to start a three-week vacation in New York and then in Port Elgin on Lake Huron… I was heavily involved in planning a car rally with my dear friend Dave (we’ve held three so far, but not for a while now)… and I was taking piano lessons and part of a book group (I belonged 12 years), neither of which I am doing any more. I was also shopping for vacation clothes... which I'm still doing (see #3)! Life was good. It still is.

(Weirdly I discovered that it is exactly 10 years ago that I had my first issue with vertigo. Long story short: I will never have a chiropractic treatment again.)

2. My five favorite snacks

Only five? Oh the humanity!!

i) Sliced mango in a bowl. Once the slicing is complete, I roll up my sleeves, take the pit, lean over the sink, and go at it like a cave woman to get every last sweet and succulent morsel.
ii) A royal gala apple, quartered and cored, smeared with all-natural peanut butter
iii) Frozen raspberries, yoghurt, raw almonds, pepitas and ground flax seed
iv) Fresh strawberries and a bowl of freshly whipped cream
v) Good dark chocolate

3. Five things on my to do list today

i) Give Tibby a manicure and pedicure
ii) Spoil my dad
iii) Scan some photographs for a Father's Day blog post
iv) Head into work for a few hours (yeah, it’s Sunday, but I’m between vacations and the work – she piles up)
v) Make a list of vacation clothes shopping

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire

i) Be scared out of my wits. I don't want that much money… with it comes massive complication.
ii) I would resign from my current job. I love it, but I’ve been 25 years in the work force, and this would give me the opportunity to turn my energies elsewhere.
iii) I would ensure that my family (including me) were well set up for any eventuality in the future. I don't like the idea of being tied down by my possessions and material responsibilites, but I would certainly indulge in travel to more forgiving climates and having a housekeeper. I've cleaned enough for one lifetime!
iv) I would take all the rest of the money and create a foundation to support my most passionately-felt issues, with literacy, education and school arts' programs being at the forefront.
v) Okay, okay, I admit it: I would hold one honking big party, invite all my friends (bloggy and otherwise) and we'd spend all night drinking, dancing and rolling around on thousand-dollar bills. Everyone gets to keep what sticks! Hee hee.

5. Five jobs that I've had

i) Chambermaid (good novel fodder)
ii) Theatrical dresser
iii) Fashion show copy-writer
iv) Graphic designer
v) Webmistress

6. Five bad habits of mine

i) Pulling things out of drawers and cupboards and not putting them back
ii) Over-multi-tasking
iii) Excessive use of exclamation marks!!
iv) Saying “yes” too often
v) Procrastination

7. Five places I've lived

i) Tripoli, Libya
ii) Kuwait City, Kuwait
iii) Rome, Italy
iv) London, England
v) Toronto, Canada

8. Five random things people wouldn't know about me

I copied four of these from a previous meme as they work well for this too.

i) When I wake up in the morning, I lay very still at first, but energetically wiggle my toes. It feels great. But it can be a surprise to someone who doesn't know about my little routine and thinks I'm still asleep but having a toe "situation". Hee hee.
ii) Peacocks have eaten out of my hand.
iii) My left elbow is very rough unless I constantly slather it with lotion.
iv) When I'm doing house-cleaning I often interview myself about my best-selling novel (currently in process).
v) If I was an X-Men character, my name would be Sway, and my nemesis would be Dr. Convince-o.

9. Five cds that I'd have to have on a desert island

This is impossible! Oh well, here goes:

i) John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
ii) J. J. Cale: Gold
iii) Moby: 18
iv) Lone Star (movie soundtrack)
v) Don Giovanni (Raimondi, van Dam, conductor: Maazel, Paris Opera Orchestra)

Thank you Willow

Thank you for the honour, Ms Willow and fellow Libra, an honour which is all the sweeter as Life at Willow Manor is everything I love in a blog... charming, informative, stylish, warm and welcoming. I'm so happy to have you as my bloggy friend!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

His Kind of Woman (1951)

This deliciously over-the-top, noirish thriller, with large doses of comedy, has lived more in legend for me than in actual viewing for a long time. I saw it once as a kid, and then again this week, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies. It holds up well... with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell perfectly paired with their dark, heavy-lidded, curled-lip good looks and their insouciant cool.

The plot is interesting: A gambler, played by Mitchum, is drawn into a plot whereby a notorious off-shore gambler is making his return to the U.S., but needs a new "face" to avoid detection. Russell is the dame, and she gets to sing a couple of songs too. A great supporting cast includes Raymond Burr, Jim Backus and Vincent Price, who has a great time chewing the scenery as a Hollywood star who decides to transfer his action hero persona into real life.

It's directed by John Farrow (Mia's father) with costumes by Howard Greer. I mention the latter credit as Jane Russell's dresses are so gorgeous, and she looks so gorgeous in them. When I was growing up, watching old movies with my folks, the costumers, make-up artists and composers were always our favourite credits, because we had learned to recognize the names and would always call them out. "Ben Nye!" "Max Steiner!" "Edith Head!" "Adrian!" Yes... a strange family in some ways. Hee hee.

Mitchum and Russell were to be paired again the following year for Macao (1952), which has one of the great taglines: "A sultry chanteuse, a hunk on the lam and a fortune in stolen gems." I'm sold!

What I don't get is why Mitchum and Russell didn't make more films together...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sanctuary Song... and a Storm

We are in the midst of the most gorgeous thunderstorm. It has been thundering and lightening for at least half an hour. The windows are shaking... I love a storm!

Earlier I had the good fortune to see Sanctuary Song, part of the Luminato festival going on in town. This was a short (45 minute) new opera, in one act, with a cast of four. It tells the story of Sydney, a female elephant who is captured quite young and comes to America to work in a circus and later - when she is injured - a zoo. At the zoo she is cared for by the same keeper for 23 years, and he becomes her only friend, as in all that time she sees no other elephants. At last she is taken to live in an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, where, for the first time in decades, she will live with grass, trees, room to roam, and... other elephants.

The plot was inspired very closely by a PBS documentary called "The Urban Elephant" which tells of the real-life Shirley and her final move to the sanctuary with her zoo-keeper and the emotional reunion with her elephant friend Jenny, who she had not seen in 23 years. The obvious joy in recognition was a very moving part of the program, and a certain proof of the depth of emotions that these - and other animals - feel.

The opera was so beautifully performed, with video projections, a very small orchestra, and touching performances. There were no elephant costumes, rather simple body language and sensitive, evocative music. Yes... I had a good cry.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cake time

Here is the latest cake. This was two layers of vanilla sponge, with lemon curd in between the layers, buttercream all over to form a crumb coat, and then rolled fondant all over. The little decorations were fondant too, as is the twisted border at the bottom of the cake. There was no piping or flooding involved. All it took was some cut out shapes, including my new alphabet set. I love them! I'll be using them again. And you'll notice I didn't cover the board with fondant. I just didn't feel like it. However, I missed that finished look, so I'll certainly correct that next time.

Quote of the Day

"A man who travels alone has time to reflect and observe. A man, furthermore, who has been trained by the most rigorous and secret organization in his country and whose instincts have been honed by years of self-discipline will see things others travellers barely register."

From Devil May Care, the new James Bond n0vel by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

In the tenth chapter of one of my favourite books, How to be Idle, by Tom Hodgkinson, chapter nine is titled "5 p.m.: The Ramble".

"In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the era of romantic poetry, countryside walking became the thing. The nature poets Wordsworth and Coleridge were great walkers. They ambled all over the coast of North Devon and Somerset in the years immediately following the French Revolution, and later wandered the Lake District. Walking for them was a crucial part of the creative act; it was when they thought, dreamed and also gathered images. Rural rambles were central to their new poetic philosophy, expounded in Lyrical Ballads (1798), of getting back to nature and simplicity."

"Indeed it was on a walk along the North Devon coast, just a few miles from where I sit at this moment, that Coleridge stopped off at the now famous Ash Farm, took opium and conceived and possibly wrote 'Kubla Kahn.'"


The thing that amazes me about cartoonists like Robert Weber is the ability to say it all in one image. I love this one, and it's going - framed - in my kitchen. It does say it all: the frantic pose of the frazzled cook (we can only imagine what her hair looks like now); the burning, sizzling, steaming culinary disasters on the stove; the lobster scuttling away... but what I love most of all, is the well-meaning smiles of discovery (about to fade away) on the faces of the guests as they hesitantly but curiously peer around the kitchen door.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Quote of the Day

"It was a wet evening in Paris. On the slate roofs of the big boulevards and on the small mansards of the Latin quarter, the rain kept up a ceaseless patter. Outside the Crillon and the George V, the doormen were whistling taxis out of the darkness, then running with umbrellas to hold over the fur-clad guests at they climbed in. The huge open space of the place de la Concorde was glimmering black and silver in the downpour."

The opening paragraph of Devil May Care, the new James Bond n0vel by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming (I've just read the first chapter and that's an important distinction).

Click on the picture for a bigger, more Cardulicious view.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Quote of the Day

"In that singular light every little tree and shock of wheat, every sunflower stalk and clump of snow-on-the-mountain, drew itself up high and pointed; the very clods and furrows in the fields seemed to stand up sharply. I felt the old pull of the earth, the solemn magic that comes out of those fields at nightfall. I wished I could be a little boy again, and that my way could end there."

From Willa Cather's My Ántonia (1918). I read this last week, after reading about it on Phil's blog. It is told through the memory of Jim Burden and his childhood on the Nebraska prairie. There he meets Ántonia, a young Bohemian girl, whose family is ill-equipped for immigration and too poor to manage well their harsh new life. I can't remember the last time I was so moved by a book. It left me deeply sighing and full of longing for something I can't define. The language is beautiful and the the characters are fully-realized and will stay with me a long time, especially the heroine of the title.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Lovely Animal Story ~ Stratford 2008

Watson's Chelsea Bazaar in Stratford, Ontario, is an extensive and irresistible china shop. When you visit you will see, individually or grouped, four lovely slim-line tabbies (not the Tibby variety!), all from the same family.

The story goes like this: the owner of Watsons was out walking along a river one day with his big black lab, a male dog. The dog disappeared into the undergrowth and returned with a very small kitten in its mouth. It went back three more times. The mother was nowhere to be found and the man and the dog found themselves with four little kittens of the same litter, most likely dumped.

That dog took the kittens under his paw and cared for them and bathed them. They all (cats and dog) live amicably in the shop. Here are three of the cats, as I found them last week, all grown, asleep on one of the main counters.

My Mouth is Literally Watering

My favourite newly-engaged couple, J & S, not only managed the pick-up of my new bottle of Cardhu in Edinburgh, but have treated me to... wait for it... champagne-flavoured Marmite AND The Little Book of Marmite Tips! Fresh off the plane. My cup overfloweth. What bread is worthy of it? I have to ponder this. Hee hee.

Thank you guys! SOB!

Whimsical Things ~ Stratford 2008

~ a handsome young man lurched by me on a unicycle. He wore a t-shirt that read "Not even Newton can save us."

~ wandering the Shakespearean gardens on morning, I could hear the bell ringers at St. James' Anglican Church practicing. It took me a minute to realize that the melody they were playing was "I'm in the mood for love."

~ listening to a breeze rustling leaves is one of my great joys. I spent many hours listening to the wind in the willows as I lay under them last week.

~ sitting at lunch in the York Street Kitchen, I overheard four lovely white-haired ladies discussing the new Sex and the City movie. One of them said "I liked the writing on that show, but the way they go on about it, you'd think they'd invented sex. They should have consulted us!" (Loud laughter ensued).

~ an armada of 12 swans sailed by me into the low afternoon light.

~ watching Psycho one night was more terrifying than ever... and gave my subsequent shower an extra piquancy.

~ the performances I saw of Cabaret, The Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet were all strong... with unforgettable moments in Hamlet that still haunt me. Thanks Will. (More detailed reviews will follow).

Pictures ~ Stratford 2008

Tibby helping me select some books to take with me.

A walk along Lake Victoria. Gracious homes, willow trees and lovely pathways surround this lake, and in winter the water is lowered for freezing and skating. This was the one overcast day of the week.

A bridge leads to this little island, a favourite photograph spot for wedding groups.

The Festival Theatre, very 1950s in architecture, reflects the look of the tent that housed the initial season.

This sculpture honours that first tent and the locals who worked to raise it.

A lazy afternoon with a great book and my favourite chocolate.

Down the Street Pub, where actors and audience gather after in a sari-curtained ambience for some really good food. There are smarter spots with plates the size of Rhode Island and portions that would fit in a thimble. You can keep them! This is my favourite place to have dinner.

York Street, which backs onto Lake Victoria:

York Street Kitchen, my favourite sandwich spot anywhere...

... with surely the jolliest interior.

St. James' Anglican Church:

Trattoria Fabrizio still makes the best cannolo I know, which I enjoyed while reading a biography of Elizabeth David.

Watson's Chelsea Bazaar, a great spot to pick up a deal on china. It's a rambling hodge podge of lovely patterns and friendly staff (and great cats).

Lots of Christmas shopping took place last week. ;)

Rheo Thompson Candies, locally owned and famed for their chocolate mint smoothies.

They have the most colourful displays. More shopping. :)