Monday, March 31, 2008


At a sumptuous five-course dinner last week at Tundra restaurant, a fellow-writer friend of mine came up to me during the fourth course (two vodka shots and four glasses of wine in) and murmured that she had (holding up three elegant digits) three fingers of Cardhu single malt scotch left and that she had determined that she and I were to finish them together.

Readers will recall that Cardhu is no longer available for purchase in North America. Sigh. No, make that... GROAN.

Delighted at the prospect of imbibing the heady nectar once more, I was inspired to google the Cardhu distillery again and, to my delight, found at last some useful information about the place. Apparently Cardhu is the only distillery to be founded by a woman, Helen Cumming, in 1811, on a farm high above the River Spey. She never sought to enlarge the operation, being chiefly concerned with quality. They carry this concern on to this day. It is on my list of to-visits and in the meantime shall enjoy a final wee dram with my friend, accompanied – on the advice of the distillery – by some fine Parma ham and black figs.

Whose Idea Was This?

We have a press approval at work which might happen "any time between 6 and 8 a.m." so here I am up at this wretched hour, my bed - the vile seducer - whisperingly reminding me of how warm, enveloping, wonderful it is. Argh!!

Anyway... now I've lost my train of thought. And I had a good post idea all set up. D'oh!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

And One More

The Red Shoes (1948)

"We had all been told for ten years to go out and die for freedom and democracy, for this and for that, and now that the war was over, The Red Shoes told us to go and die for Art."

(Director Michael Powell)

How can I put into words what Powell and Pressburger films mean to me? They are heightened, magical, romantic, sensual overload, yet often firmly rooted in something very real.

The Red Shoes was on today (what a bumper crop on TCM, perfect for a day of cleaning and puttering). The divine Anton Walbrook is one of the most unforgettable characters in any film in my memory. His driven, single-minded, elegant, charming and handsome ballet impresario is a perfect foil to the lovely Moira Shearer's mysterious and danced-obsessed ballerina. The whole cast is perfect, featuring several real-life ballet dancers, the colour is unbelievably rich, and the dance sequences are thrilling. Art and artists are served above all. I love this movie! I really have to get it on DVD. I bet Criterion have it. Mmmmmmmmmmmm... Criterion (declaimed Homer Simpson-style).

Recent Films

Play it Again Sam (1972)

Linda: Allan, the world is full of eligible women.

Allan: Yeah, but not like Nancy. She was a lovely thing. I used to lay in bed at night and watch her sleep. Once in a while she would wake up and catch me. She would let out a scream.

(Diane Keaton as Linda and Woody Allen as Allan.)

A friend of mine saw this on Broadway when it premiered as a Woody Allen play. When Herbert Ross directed the film, he used the original theatrical cast. Woody himself is a neurotic (shocker!) film critic, who – abandoned by his wife – is trying to get back into the dating scene, with the help of his married friends (Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts) and the ghost of Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacey.)

What can I say? This is at one moment fall-off-your-chair funny, and the next moment heart-breaking. The script is brilliant and the delivery is perfect: the actors play it all straight and that’s what makes it funny. I heard a good anecdote recently from a Canadian director about the famous theatrical couple, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. They were appearing in a production of Arms and the Man and there was one moment that Lunt found most frustrating, as he expected a laugh when he asked for a cup of tea, and never got it. Fontanne pointed out: “But you’re asking for a laugh. Just try asking for a cup of tea.” He did and he got his laugh.

The Pink Panther (1963)
"... When I went on my first zsrafari... frazari... wild animal hunt." (Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala)

This was the first Pink Panther movie. Apparently Peter Ustinov was originally cast in the supporting role of Inspector Clouseau (David Niven’s part of Sir Charles Lytton was the official lead) but he dropped out. When Peter Sellers took over, and as filming continued, the part of Clouseau grew and grew. It was a surprise to me today (thanks TCM!) when I saw it that David Niven got top billing. This remains as funny as when I first saw it. Again, played straight and so funny. The delightful, glamorous settings, outfits and the gorgeous Capucine and Claudia Cardinale all make it a most perfect 1960s fluff-fest. I read tonight on that all of Cardinale’s scenes were over-dubbed as her English wasn’t up to par. I had no idea! It was so convincingly done.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
The story is simple and charming. The dowdy and middle-aged Guinevere Pettigrew has been fired repeatedly from jobs as governesses. She finagles her way into a job as “social secretary” to a man-juggling, adorably manipulative starlet, the wonderfully named Delysia Lafosse. The entire story takes place over a day. And what a day it is!

The script is based on a 1938 novel by Winifred Watson, which was originally optioned at the time by Universal, hoping to cast Billie (Glinda in The Wizard of Oz) Burke as Miss Pettigrew. Instead it sat fallow these many years and has just been released with the wonderful Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, Amy Adams as the dizzy Delysia Lafosse, Mark (Mr. Knightley in Emma, 1996) Strong as Nick Colderelli, and Ciarán (Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, 1995) Hinds as Joe Blumfield. I don’t know the original novel but the authoress described it as “full of merriment.” The film has great production values, much merriment and some moments of great poignancy. Ultimately it is very light and already feels like a dim memory.

Indiscreet (1958)
"I like a man with a glass in his hand. It's very becoming." (Ingrid Bergman as Anna Kalman)

Another wonderful film directed by Stanley Donan. From Ingrid Bergman’s delicious apartment to Cary Grant’s…. everything, this film is a sophisticated delight. For those of you who haven’t seen it: Ingrid plays a famous stage actress living in London who begins an affair with an American diplomat, Cary Grant, who she at first resists after he tells her he’s married.

What can I say: every woman should know the joy of being looked at over lunch the way Cary Grant looked at Ingrid when she served up whatever it was she cooked in those two tiny saucepans. (Fish? Omelettes?)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

"A lazy swim."

Actor Ed Harris on being asked "What does love feel like?"

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part Seven (Final!)

This was cake day, so after a morning meeting at work, I came home to meet Laura and James and complete the cake. This involved tiling and adding the lettering. First thing was to place the tiles on the life-size paper mockup that Laura had printed out early in the process. We picked the best, most consistent tiles.

Then we carefully transferred them to the cake, gently squidging them into the buttercream. And here it is, all finished, with colour-flow lettering in "Kelmscott", a William Morris font, applied to the fondant base with royal icing. Laura applied a lovely orange ribbon with tiny white polka dots to the surround of the fondant-covered cake board.

Here is a close-up of the tiles.

Then it was careful transportation time. I said the same thing I say each year to James: "If you drop it, no worries. It's not worth the aggravation." He didn't drop it. :)

And here is the cake before the fireplace in a lovely room at Trinity College, where it was consumed with much wine and excellent company.

To sum... this year all the separate details like the buttercream and the colourflow icing all seemed to go especially smoothly. I think it was the tastiest cake we've done too. I guess once you do this often enough, it gets easier. Even the cutting went well. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the empty cake board. It was surprisingly neat. Many of the guests wrapped up tiles (those who got them) and took them home. This cake fed 70 with several second portions!

Thank you dear Laura and James for being such wonderful cake collaborators, and - most importantly - dear friends. And thank you readers for your interest and encouraging comments. Watch this space about a year from now! Hee hee.

Now I'm going to curl up with Tibby and give the last half of this bottle of wine a good home. Happy Earth Hour everyone!

Earth Hour 2008

There has been a quite outstanding reaction to Earth Hour here. It seems gazillions of people have signed up to do something to mark this time, starting at 8 p.m. tonight. I'll be home tonight after a very busy day. And, in keeping with the Buddhist book I am reading (all new and very interesting to me), I am going to mark Earth Hour by turning off everything (including my computer) and laying in the dark meditating. I might also pop my head out the window and check out the stars (I doubt it'll help much as all street lights are staying on so probably ambient light won't be too affected, but who knows.)

I'm almost dreading it because my mind tends to work on super overdrive. It doesn't always look this way to the outside world. I think for the most part I seem very calm and serene. It's really not true. My thoughts feel like they are shooting around my brain like popping corn or something. (Mmmmm... popcorn. I think I shall make some tonight in my big saucepan.) So... when I do try and meditate it takes a long time to let the "thinking" stop and the being just happen.

I shall report back to you all and would love to hear how/if you plan to mark Earth Hour.

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part Six

The cake was filled with lemon curd, courtesy of Mark (one layer featured his special Limoncello lemon curd)...

... and then the three layers were coated twice with swiss meringue buttercream.

Now it awaits tiling and finishing in the morning.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Uh Oh

9:05 p.m. Back from work.

9:15 p.m. Thought I'd treat myself to a healthy dose of day dreaming

9:20 p.m. That felt good. But just remembered cake must be filled and buttercreamed tonight.

... and have work meeting at 11 a.m. tomorrow (yes, a Saturday)... and cake event is in afternoon.

9:25 p.m. Too late to panic or day dream.

9:26 p.m. Shuffling in a surly manner into the kitchen to show sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter who's boss.

Quote of the Day

"Careful what you ask for. I might become Eve Harrington to your Margot Channing."

Me last night, on the suggestion by a colleague that I take over a speaking engagement for him.

Which reminds me of a time a few years ago at work when I started finding pistachio nut shells under my desk. Now mind you, this is in an office where someone would have to come right in, and around my desk (which faced the door), so there's effort involved in that AND in missing the rubbish bin under the desk and having the shells end up on the floor. This happened sporadically and in a series of (to my mind) amusing e-mails to the entire company I suggested several options, the last of which was that "someone is Gaslighting me, i.e. being Charles Boyer to my Ingrid Bergman, but with different accents and a slight lack of black-and-white glamour."

I love movies, if for no other reason than they are so great for quoting purposes.


I finally baked something from my new Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes Book: Chocolate and Cherry Brownies (page 165). They were very simple and turned out wonderfully dark, rich, moist and darkly chocolatey, with an occasional little sensual burst of cherry to enliven the tongue.

The brownies took up the remaining Callebaut chocolate chips, the last hunk of Callebaut and the rest of the Ghirardelli chips. Imagine my feeling of unease at the realization that I was out of baking chocolate supplies (still tons of the regular eating stuff around.) I made another trip to my favourite shop (don't remember name, shall check it out next time) in the St. Lawrence Market. And as part of that trip, I picked up a small tub of these lovely dark-chocolate covered almonds. How do they get them so nice and shiny? Tempered chocolate I guess. They taste even better than they look.

Damn you delicious chocolate-covered almonds and your irresistible dark delicous chocolatiness!!! DAMN YOU! (They're on my desk at work... and I'm not alone in my delight in them. My co-workers are being even friendlier than usual in their regular visits. Heh heh heh.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part Five

The last and third vanilla-flavoured layer is baked and photographed below. The layers will be trimmed to 15" x 15". On Friday night the cake will be filled with home-made lemon curd and then coated twice with a generous amount of cooked buttercream icing. On Saturday the tiles will be placed as you would if you were tiling your bathroom. That's why we need fairly generous amounts of the icing - to hold it all on!

Once this last layer is cooled and covered, I'll be off to bed. Stay tuned...

Channelling Marlene

I was walking past the fire station today. It's not hard to do as I work right next to it. I mean, when we have a fire alarm, the trucks come screeching out of their wide driveway and immediately screech to halt outside our building. But on this occasion the guys were moving the trucks around to wash them or practice their ladder climbing - I'm not sure which as I got too discombobulated. As I walked past one of them, the doors opened and out got three firemen. I am not exaggerating when I say these were three of the most strikingly attractive men I'd seen in a long time. Each in a different way. Each said "Hello!"

And what was my response? Something like this:


Poise abandoned me. I'm not sure if they looked surprised or I was just so startled by myself that I'm remembering it badly, but as I stumbled past I made a mental note to self: Watch some Marlene Dietrich movies. Of course if I'd sidled up to them in a oyster-coloured silk, bias-cut, mermaid-tailed, spaghetti-strapped chanteuse gown with a fox stole over my shoulder and murmured "Eef you really loffed me you vould keel yourself" they'd probably have had me arrested.


Widmark Over Sardines

Many things make me think of my dad (currently holidaying with my mum in Mexico). But two things come to mind particuarly. One is Richard Widmark. The other is sardines.

Today it was announced that Richard Widmark passed away yesterday at the age of 93. He was the actor my father referenced years ago when I was very little, to explain to me how someone might play a certain sort of character in film or on stage, but be very different in real life. He'd seen Widmark play his signature psychopaths on screen and then appear in interviews as a modest and charming man. When he told me all this I hadn't seen a Widmark movie and when I finally saw him in his first screen role as Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947, directed by Henry Hathaway) I wasn't with my father. We finally saw it together last year and shivered together at his psychotic gaze and that manic giggle as he pushed an old lady in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs. I also love him as the good guy/doctor/cop in Panic in the Streets (1950, directed by Elia Kazan), up against Jack Palance's particular brand of bad guy. He had a long, respected career and I'll stop almost anything to watch a movie if he's in it.

Tonight I have a lot of baking to do, so I knew I wasn't going to prepare myself anything too complicated. Then I espied a can of sardines in the cupboard. I thought of my dad and Richard Widmark and pulled them out. One of my dad's themes is the healthiness of fish oils and sardines in particular. Wise man. However it can be a challenge to get a kid to eat them so my dad turned them into a joke. He would mash up a can of sardines, throw in some mayo and put them on toast. He'd often dice some cucumber and throw that in too. He then dubbed it "compote d'herring", which he would declaim - and still does - in a thick French accent. I have to tell you, it's very tasty.

So tonight, I had compote d'herring on toast with a cup of tea and watched a bit of Kiss of Death as the first layer for Saturday's big cake baked.

Thank you Richard Widmark and thank you Pop!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Song of the Day

I have the CD John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman playing and a glass of merlot in my hand. And... a small piece of dark chocolate before me which, not only is very good with red wine, but is the perfect complement to Hartman's voice: dark, chocolatey, smooth and completely seductive. I hear it and I melt. Sigh. This song will definitely appear on "my life soundtrack." It's magical too, that Hartman only starts singing about half way through the track. Before that and throughout, you get the wonderful Coltrane. Mmmmmmmmm.

My One and Only Love
(Guy Wood and Robert Mellin)

The very thought of you makes
My heart sing,
Like an April breeze
On the wings of spring
And you appear in all your splendor,
My one and only love.

The shadow's fall and spread their
Mystic charms in the hush of night,
While you're in my arms.
I feel your lips, so warm and tender,
My one and only love.

The touch of your hand is like heaven.
A heaven that I've never known
The blush on your cheek,
Whenever I speak,
Tells me that you are my own.

You fill my eager heart with
Such desire,
Every kiss you give
Sets my soul on fire
I give myself in sweet surrender,
My one and only love.

Quote of the Day

Dorothy: "I've been wondering, what's your line, Mr. Malone?"

Ernie: "My line? My most effective one is to tell a girl she has hair like a tortured midnight, lips like a red couch in an ivory palace, that I'm lonely and starved for affection. Then, I generally burst into tears. It seldom works."

Dorothy (laughing): "You idiot."

Jane Russell as Dorothy Shaw and Elliott Reid as Ernie Malone in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds (1953).

SPOILER: He gets the girl. :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part Four

We spent most of the day on the cake and got all the decorative tiles finished. Yay!

Below: Laura pipes between the burgundy and white petals to create some emphasis.

Below: James shades the leaves with tinted piping gel (all edible).

Post-flooding, Laura repipes the stems and outlines the leaves.

Below: James pipes finishing touches on the leaf tiles.

Below: James pipes the outlines of the lettering for the cake. Once the outlines were dry, the letters were flooded with softer icing, but it will all dry hard.

Below: The finished leaf tiles.

Below: The finished flower tiles.

Below: finished lettering.

The cake board has been covered with fondant. Later this week I will bake the lemon cake layers and hope to have the cake assembled by Saturday morning. Lemon curd will be spread between the layers and the cake will be covered with cooked buttercream. Laura and James will return Saturday for us to finish the decorating. They'll also be building a box for transportation. We've yet to find one we can buy that really does the job. It has to be a very secure box and not too awkward for the strong arm of the team (James) to carry.

Below is the life-size printout of the cake design. You can see the side bits as well.


The day has dawned in a fittingly beautiful way - not a cloud in the sky, everything bathed in a golden-pinky hue... the promise of spring (at last) and - for those who believe - the promise of so much more.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Thai Chicken Satay

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
1 clove garlic, chopped finely or crushed
1 tbsp veg oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fish sauce

Cut the chicken breast into strips, no more than 1” thick and about 4” long. Combine all the rest of the ingredients thoroughly and toss the chicken in. Mix thoroughly and let marinade for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

If you plan to skewer your chicken as satays, pre-soak your bamboo skewers in water for several hours. This prevents them burning.

When you are ready to grill (either on a bbq or on a grill pan), mix the chicken in the marinade once more. Then, if you want, insert bamboo skewers into the chicken strips. Or, just grill them as is. They will only take a couple of minutes each side. Obviously you want them cooked through, but not over-cooked. They come out so tender and juicy.

An alternative is, just before grilling, brush the satays with a little coconut milk.

Serve on a salad and/or with a little bowl of peanut sauce.

Some Pictures

A while ago I was given a tube from Soma Chocolates (lousy website, wonderful store). It was a blood-orange/Madagascar dark chocolate mixture that was coated in more dark chocolate. Really, really delicious. And the sort of thing you can't scoff, but have to eat in small slices. Really, and this is me talking. I mean, if it's scoffable, I'll scoff it. But a bit of this goes a long way.

So for this weekend's cake marathon, I bought another Soma tube. This is the Gianduja variety: slow-roasted hazelnuts are cradled in a hazelnut/milk-chocolate mixture and coated in dark chocolate. It is this tube that is photographed below. They have a Sicilian pistachio variety that I shall have to buy my mother when she returns to the country as pistachio is one of her very favourite tastes. So, all I'm saying is, if you are in the Toronto vicinity - treat yourself! And there is much more chocolately wonderfulness for sale at Soma apart from these tubes. A short intense shot of their drink of the gods is always a must, especially in the cold weather.

The tubes are about an inch across and about a foot and a half long. This tube is half-eaten as you can see. And here are two small portions of it, in extreme closeup...

And because I was treating myself, here is a picture of my new favourite mug. It's a Denby mug, but I think it's part of a discontinued line so I picked it up for practically nothing. It's very easy to hold and the curved rim is perfectly designed. Plus it's purple. What more can I say?

And from today's wanderings: the beach at Oakville looking back along the coastline of Lake Ontario to Toronto. I've marked where the CN Tower is.

Knox Presbyterian Church was just so outstanding against the intense blue sky. I feel like a pit pony at times, that's been underground for months. What a winter this has been. So even though it was very cold today, it was wonderful to see that blue sky, which made the white trimmings of the church really pop.

By the lake in Oakville there are lovely old homes that the local historical society has plaqued with the names of the original owners and their occupations. On this first one you can see the plaque on the white fence. It says: 1837, James McDonald, Carpenter. See all the snow we still have?

This one below says: 1835, David Patterson, Shipbuilder.

I'm going to retreat to my DVD fireplace and warm myself by its cathode rays.


For a few weeks I've wanted to give myself a day like this:

1. to be alone
2. to take my camera
3. to just head out with no idea where I was going
4. no car

So... I am heading to the train station and just seeing where the day takes me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part Three

It was a busy day for the cake, probably the worst day as doing flooded icing can be so tiring, especially when you don't do it too often. Laura and James arrived about 10am and after a cup of tea we got going. We traced the basic outlines of the tiles onto parchment, making about 40 of each of the two tiles. We'll only need just over half that, but it's good to have some back ups!

Here Laura has some outlined tiles with firm royal icing and is starting to flood... which is to say she is filling the outlines with softer, more runny royal icing.

Flooding is very hard on the hands. You squeeze and squeeze that piping bag. We got terrific cramps and took turns spelling each other off. You can see below how hard Laura was squeezing that piping bag.

Here are the tiles in their first iteration, resting up on my bed. (They'll be moved to the spare bedroom tonight so I can sleep!) There is still a lot of work to be done to them to bring them to life. That will be Sunday. Yet again, Laura and James prove to be the most wonderful collaborators.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

"This stretch of road runs between nowhere and not much else."

Gordon Tootoosis as Wesley Birdsong in Lone Star (1996).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part Two

I think we've settled on this tile design, known as "Longden", attributed to Philip Webb, c. 1870, from Morris Marshall Faulkner & Co. The original 4-up tile was 6" square. We are going to make the individual quarters into 3" tiles. We're doing a smaller cake this year, as we think this event will be a bit more intimate. A 15" cake on a 19" square board. 5 tiles across by 5 equals 25 tiles plus 20 more for the sides (which measure 3" tall).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Top Ten Wellerisms

Probably my favourite literary character of all time is the endlessly patient cockney man-servant of Mr. Pickwick (Pickwick Papers by Dickens). Both Sam and his father have the habit of switching their "V"s and "W"s, and even Mr. Weller Sr. is not sure how is name is spelled. Sam is a fount of useful metaphors (not sure what else you would call them) and here are my top ten:

10. "He wants you particklar; no one else'll do, as the Devil's private secretary said ven he fetched avay Doctor Faustus.”

9. "There's nothin' so refreshin' as sleep, sir, as the servant-girl said afore she drank the egg-cupful o' laudanum."

8. "I think he's the wictim o' connubiality, as Blue Beard's domestic chaplain said, with a tear of pity, ven he buried him."

7. "Business first, pleasure arterwards, as King Richard the Third said wen he stabbed t'other king in the Tower, afore he smothered the babbies.”

6. "Werry sorry to 'casion any personal inconvenience, ma'am, as the house-breaker said to the old lady when he put her on the fire...."

5. “Vether it's worth while goin' through so much, to learn so little, as the charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste."

4. "Fine time for them as is well wropped up, as the Polar Bear said to himself, ven he was practising his skating."

3. “I'm pretty tough, that's vun consolation, as the wery old turkey remarked wen the farmer said he was afeered he should be obliged to kill him for the London market."

2. “Oh, quite enough to get, sir, as the soldier said ven they ordered him three hundred and fifty lashes."

and… my number one Wellerism is…

1. "Now we look compact and comfortable, as the father said ven he cut his little boy's head off, to cure him o' squintin'."
(Illustration by Phiz)

The Big Cake Project 2008 - Part One

Some of you may have been following last year when Laura and I made our "Viking Ship" cake inspired by Edward Burne-Jones' stained glass design.

Well, it's that time again, and the Big Cake Project 2008 is on.

Watch this space for more details.

In the meantime, here are the last three cakes we made for the same annual event. The first two, "Trellis" and "Fruit" are based on William Morris patterns, and the third is "Viking Ship." The top image shows the original inspiration, the second image down is the finished cake as we interpreted the design, and the third image shows a detail of the finished cake. Click on the image to enlarge.

All Over the Map

So I just finished reading The Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan Opera by Joseph Volpe. A fascinating journey from apprentice carpenter to General Director over forty-odd years was experienced by me as strangely light reading. It is very obviously written in the style of his ghost-author and doesn't sound very authentic at all. What is authentic is his drive, confidence, ego and a very large chip on his shoulder. Pretty much everyone else in the history of the world is more flawed and near-sighted than he is. He does admit to the occasional lack of judgment, but nothing compared to all who have come before him, his colleagues and - no doubt - all who will follow. I'm glad I read it. I admire the man for what he has managed to accomplish (not the least of which is the firm and effective handling of the various powerful unions with which he had to negotiate lo those many years), but he makes a fatal error of criticizing Rudolf Bing's two-volume memoirs of being the chief guy at the Met. Yikes. He also names names and lets them have it for their general lack of ability in a very shameless manner. I wonder if any lawsuits came out of this publication? I don't recommend this book unless you are a major opera fan and curious about the Met in general.

I've just started The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley-Robinson. A fiction, whose premise is: what if 99% of Europe was wiped out by the Black Death.... and the Chinese and Muslim populations swept westward? The history of the world from that time to the present is told. I'm very curious!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

So... my cold has left me with no sense of smell. It is an odd state of affairs. Then, last night after my shower, I emerged from the steamy bathroom and detected the scent of the chili I had been cooking earlier. I celebrated by taking a finger of Cardhu to bed with me. (Still have a little bit to go in the bottle. I'm eking it out most admirably.) It felt wonderful to be warm in bed, with that extra warmth from the scotch spreading through my body. I could smell/taste at about 50% of regular capacity.

Then... this morning - it had gone again! Very odd. I don't want to go on about it, but it really has been the oddest cold of my experience.

I worked till 9pm, so I didn't watch Rome and I didn't cook the chicken. I will catch the episode on the weekend and the chicken will wait till tomorrow night. Another day to bring my nostrils back to quivering power.

Quote of the Day

"You're maudlin and full of self-pity. You're magnificent!"

George Sanders as Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fasten Your Seatbelts...

Tonight on TCM: All About Eve (1950). I'll be watching. :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Promise of Spring...

Pussywillows, Cat-tails
(Gordon Lightfoot)

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rainpools in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside, the dust gets in your eyes
Reveling, disheveling, the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Slanted rays and colored days, stark blue horizons
Naked limbs and wheat bins, hazy afternoons
Voicing, rejoicing, the wine cups do bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Harsh nights and candlelights, woodfires a-blazin'
Soft lips and fingertips resting in my soul
Treasuring, remembering, the promise of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

A beautiful poem, an unforgettable song...

As for the pictures, above are some short pussywillows on top of my television, and in front of a set of William Morris "Foliage" curtains. I have a very large arrangement of long pussywillows on my dining-room table. It's so big it was a bit Blair-Witchy looking. So I hung some Easterish ornaments on it - see below - and now it is not so intimidating. Speaking of The Blair Witch Project (1999), I saw it, with my dad, when it was first released. He leaned over to me half-way through and whispered "I want the witch to get them." For weeks later, we'd call each other up and scream: "Josh!!! You've lost the f*%cking maaaaaaaap!" My relationship with my father is very genteel. This was an amusing exception. Well... amusing for us anyway.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lucky Me!

Cor! This is what my friend J brought me back from Scotland. It was a wonderful surprise, considering I'd spent her time away reconciling myself to the fact that she'd not be able to fit an honest-to-goodness kilt-wearing laird into her luggage for me. This has to be the next best thing! Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes... a goodly amount of which call for their Maya Gold chocolate, which is probably my favourite chocolate. Yum yum! I shall have to try a recipe this weekend, and hopefully by then my taste buds will have been restored to rude health.

Quote of the Day

Gregory: "I knew from the first moment I saw you that you were dangerous to me."

Cameron: "I knew from the first moment I saw you that you were dangerous to her."

The dark-chocolate-eyed Charles Boyer as Gregory da Fink and Joseph "Gosh, thanks for arriving in the nick of time" Cotton as Cameron, in Gaslight (1944), starring the beautiful Ingrid Bergman and seventeen-year-old Angela Lansbury in her film debut. Thanks Turner Classic Movies.

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs

I was hanging some new photographs in my living room and paused to sit in a wing chair, one I don't often sit in. From that vantage point I can gaze upon a very large, framed copy of this painting.

It is called The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Sir Frederic William Burton, R.H.A. (1864) and the original hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland.

It is full of romantic longing and it is delicious to ponder the story behind the painting.

The actual theme is the Danish ballad of Hellelil and Hildebrand, Prince of Engelland, one of her bodyguards. Her father ordered his seven sons to kill Hildebrand, but he only succumbed after he killed the father and six of the sons. Hellelil died shortly after, supposedly of heartbreak.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You Speak Wisely, O Shedding Ones

My brain: walnut-sized.
Yours: largest among primates.
Yet, who leaves for work?

("Cat Haiku" from an email I received many moons ago)

What the - ?!

So I was checking out Delia Smith's website yesterday, and was semi-stunned to see a McDonald's ad right in the middle of her home page!! I've removed her link from my blog - dagnabit - in my own teeny form of protest!

What in Sam Hill is going on?

First Nigella, whose shows have always been so relaxing and distracting, does a series called Nigella Express, in which she uses plastic bottles of lime juice, a studio set, and some hired friends to show busy mums everywhere how they can entertain at the drop of a hat in the middle of the week (what lunatic would agree to even doing that if they are that busy??!!) Then, Delia comes out with all this food-express idealogy... and lets McDonald's advertise on her website.

I'm not saying any of this shouldn't be allowed. I just won't spend whatever precious moments I have at the end of the day listening to someone tell me to use pre-shredded, packaged cheese. When I have to save time I know how to save time. I watch what I consider good food programming to really learn something about good cooking. And I like to watch something that relaxes me. A tense Nigella is not the Nigella I have come to love!

My Friend B

My friend B is a special friend indeed. Yesterday she sent me a cheery message about snow and winter with a wonderful picture of her little snowman. She built this on the railing of her deck in the back garden. He's only a foot tall. She made his arms from the seed pods on her Siberian iris, his smile from peppercorns and his eyes from allspice. I think I see a baby carrot for a nose. Isn't he adorable? And this before she left for work. She starts work a little later and gets more done in a morning than most people do in a week (in my lazy opinion anyway). One of her (lucky) colleagues mentioned once how he loved sticky toffee pudding. She surprised her workmates shortly after one morning with a fresh-made batch. Anyway, with my cold and another fall of snow, I was trying hard to stay in the winter spirit. This snowman, with his sweet expression helped. THEN... when I got home I found the new issue of Martha Stewart Living in my mailbox. One of B's Christmas presents to me was a subscription. And this issue is all about spring with a beautiful arrangement of tulips in a pussywillow basket on the cover. I felt warm just flipping through the pages. Thank you B! xx Speaking of Martha Stewart, I was on her website today, linked from an email I received about Easter treats. And what do you think they had? A Guinness ice-cream float! Guinness and vanilla ice-cream. I might eschew the classic Easter dessert this year and just go for this. Hee hee.

Speaking of snowmen, each Christmas season, the day I put up the tree, I always celebrate the conclusion of it by watching the short animated film of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman (1982). You may know this, but if you don't it's worth catching, especially in the winter. A very sweet tale. I think there are subsequent versions of it (one narrated by David Bowie) but I've only ever seen the 1982 version and there is no voice-over, just the singing of a choir boy during the flying sequence. No more spoilers from me!


I haven't done a steam inhalation treatment since I was a kid. I did a couple last night and one this morning. It made a great difference to The Worst Cold I Have Ever Had.

I poured a tablespoon of Vicks steam therapy gop, whatever it's called, into a large bowl and added some boiling water. Sat with my head over it, covered with a towel and inhaled through my nose and through my mouth, alternating. What a head rush. It immediately cleared my sinuses. Ahhhhhhh... relief.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."

From St. Francis of Assisi. I really love this quote.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs."

Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Song of the Day

Cover Me
(Bruce Springsteen)

The times are tough now, just getting tougher
This old world is rough, it's just getting rougher
Cover me, come on baby, cover me
Well I'm looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me
Promise me baby you won't let them find us
Hold me in your arms, let's let our love blind us
Cover me, shut the door and cover me
Well I'm looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me

Outside's the rain, the driving snow
I can hear the wild wind blowing
Turn out the light, bolt the door
I ain't going out there no more

This whole world is out there just trying to score
I've seen enough I don't want to see any more,
Cover me, come on in and cover me
I'm looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me

Outside's the rain, the driving snow
I can hear the wild wind blowing
Turn out the light, bolt the door
I ain't going out there no more

This whole world is out there just trying to score
I've seen enough I ain’t gonna see any more,
Cover me, wrap your arms around me, cover me
I'm looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cookies Good. Cold Bad.

I am holding the cold at bay, at great effort and with the assistance of some sort of echinacea drops, Vit. C, warm salt water, aspirin and lots of warm clothes. It hasn't fully taken hold, but it's hard to say where it's headed next. Hee hee.

In the meantime, here are yesterday's cookies. They are very moist. I made them from a Martha Stewart recipe that calls for 3 tbsp of sour cream with the usual ingredient suspects. The chips are a mixture of Callebaut and Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips, so they are not very sweet, just how I like them. And no, that is not a rough-hewn barn floor they are on. Rather it is my rough-hewn coffee table, which no-one can really damage. That's why I like it.

Quote of the Day

“If thou remember’st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into,
Thou hast not lov’d.”

Silvius in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Proclamation

I refuse to turn my clocks forward!


(Okay, no I don't. Sigh.)

Quote of the Day

"Can one desire too much of a good thing?"

Rosalind, in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

The Art of Sleeping

The snow is continuing to fall very thickly. The lamb is cooking, the chocolate chip cookies are baked and heavenly. Old Tibby is sleeping through it all.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Snowed In...

Last night I walked to the theatre and the snow was falling in huge flakes. It was like something out of a Christmas movie, and as the rush hour traffic faded away, the snow muffled all the sounds around me and it was magical. I saw a production of As You Like It, a Shakespeare I'd yet to see live. It was very well done. The setting was - I think - Appalachian, with really good original music that I could have used even more of. The first act was very long, and the seat very uncomfortable, to the point of making me crazy with wanting to fidget. For the second half I sat in the empty back row of the small theatre and that was a huge relief, to be able to shift around when I wanted to. The design of theatre seats is quite the business... no point in cheaping out on them.

Walking home afterwards was even more magical. The snow was still falling... and it continues today, but much heavier, with the snow going horizontal and occasionally rising upwards (!). I'm considering myself snowed in. All week colleagues were wheezing and coughing and refusing to stay home. I am feeling the dreaded tickle in my throat so am bolstering myself up with supplements and lots of tea. Thank goodness I was attacked by a need to stock up the larder this week.

I already zoned out this morning and watched Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall (1957) on TCM, with Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft on the run from a couple of thugs. It was suspenseful and the actors were all perfect. I loved how Ray (a very appealing everyman with that husky voice of his) and Bancroft (playing a gorgeous model) blindly trusted each other and almost giddily enjoyed their falling-in-love, not seeming to be properly concerned about the gun-wielding pyschos on their trail. Love conquers all!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Poem of the Day

Heart’s Burden

I don’t know how this spark was born,
I felt it deep within me glow,
And with your voice and with your words,
It caught and burned, I feel it grow.
And now this spark becomes a flame,
A spell that holds me close and tight,
It climbs and licks and will consume me,
I’m yours by day and through the night.
No other light glows within me,
But this one that you have planted,
All else is ashes by your pyre,
My other joys you have supplanted.

This heart so lately safe from burning,
Now for you is ever yearning.


Intrigued, Intimidated and Excited

At last, I am going to read the bible.

I've always meant to do this. At this point in my life, I have no faith. So I am approaching this as a book first and as a major religious tome second. My mentor in this project, J, has told me I shouldn't read it cover to cover. He is leading me through it (and beside occasional distilled waters) so I am in good hands. J has a very strong faith and is tolerant of my cheeky remarks and saucepottish ways.

Another thing: I'm going to read TWO bibles. The King James version, and the NIV (new international version) at the same time. Yep, getting the lingo down here. Next stop is at the Anglican Book Centre to pick up my books. Even though I have a King James edition, I will probably buy a larger-print version to save my rapidly-aging eyes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


The "Up" series, in case you haven't experienced it, is a series of documentaries, latterly led by Michael Apted, which follows the lives of a group of unrelated people, visiting them every seven years.

The first documentary "Seven Up" (1964) profiled a large group of English children, all seven years old at the time. The next time they were visited they were 14, and so on. The first time I saw this series, it was "28 Up". In each documentary, they show parts of the previous programs, to catch up the viewer with the subject. The last instalment was "49 Up" and the next one, "56 Up" will be released in 2011 approximately.

It's a funny, insightful, and incredibly moving series. The children were picked from different economic and social backgrounds... the point of the experiment being to test the Jesuit saying "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." Does this hold up? If you don't know the series, it's worth catching and seeing what you think.

Since the success of "28 Up" (the first of the documentaries to be released in cinemas I believe), other countries have started their own series and in years to come we'll see the fruits of those labours.

The Wee Blog is One Today

Happy Birthday Dear Blog!
Happy Birthday DEAR BLOG!
Happy Birthday Dear Blog!

By sheer coincidence, I discovered it was a year today that I baked some scones and started a blog. Blog, blog, blog. What a year it's been. Thank you, Blog, for being such fun and a place where I can blether on in my particular way. And thank you dear readers for... well, for reading and - very importantly to me - for your varied and always-welcome comments.

Blog onwards and upwards!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If I know Mary as well as I think I do, she'll invite us right in for tea and strumpets."

Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber (1994), one of my favourite, "turn-off-the-world" movies. Speaking of strumpets AND crumpets, my friend Mark and I wrote a tandem tale once called "Sand and Crumpets". It was set in Nevada, just outside Las Vegas and the story told of the most magnificent brothel ever built, called Palazzo d'Erotica. It was like something out of Bazz Luhrmann gone wrong.

My episodes tended to sound like: "The white MGB had recently been overhauled, its rich red leather upholstery and burled walnut appointments were a joy to behold. She gunned the motor into action and tore off down the gravel road to the highway, leaving a cloud of dust in her path, as she was wont to do."

Mark's sounded more like: “'Now,' said Mike in a deep well-modulated growl as he leaned over to Luisa’s dainty shell-like ear. 'Let’s cement the deal.' He ripped off his shirt, miraculously without tearing off any buttons."

We had so much fun writing it, and it got us both through some stressful times at work. We've started a new one set in the Australian outback. Rose, a gifted ballerina newly transplanted from England, struggles to survive the blistering heat and salt-water crocodiles of her new homeland. She is a sort of mail-order bride but Mark's already got her husband going walk-about or whatever... anyway, the rough-hewn brute has disappeared and I have no idea what is going to happen next! When Mark returns from his London/Wales trip, we'll continue the story.

Song of the Day

Fields Of Gold
(words and music by Sting)

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Among the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Among the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
As you lay in fields of gold
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold

I love how Eva Cassidy sung this.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Triple Sigh

Three talented, irresistible Italian men... from the top: Ezio Pinza, Giorgio Tozzi, and Rossano Brazzi.

What luck that we can still hear the great operatic bass Ezio Pinza in the original Broadway cast recording of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Then we have the melifluous Giorgio Tozzi providing the voice for Rossano Brazzi for the film version in 1958. (A 2001 television version had me very apprehensive, but I ended up loving it too.)

Today on Bravo! they showed Only You (1994) with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. It's a romantic comedy AND a fantastic travelogue of Italy... so I recommend it. And early in the film, they show this clip of the wonderful Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza in a rare opportunity to see the creators of the roles in a television rendering of "Some Enchanted Evening."

Also from South Pacific, here is my song of the day... of the month... of the millenium. What a golden age it was for musicals. And like any golden age, it will never be repeated.

This Nearly Was Mine
One dream in my heart,
One love to be living for,
One love to be living for
This nearly was mine.

One girl for my dream,
One partner in paradise,
This promise of paradise
This nearly was mine.

Close to my heart she came
Only to fly away,
Only to fly as day flies from moonlight.

Now, now I'm alone,
Still dreaming of paradise,
Still saying that paradise
Once nearly was mine.

I'll keep remembering kisses
From lips I've never owned,
And all that lovely adventures
That we have never known.

One dream in my heart,
One love to be living for,
One love to be living for
This nearly was mine.

Close to my heart she came
Only to fly away,
Only to fly as day flies from moonlight.

Now, now I'm alone,
Still dreaming of paradise,
Still saying that paradise
Once nearly was mine!

Don't Look!

The only reason I shop at Loblaws now is the occasional President's Choice product that I still haven't weaned myself off. Nothing wrong with Loblaws, I'd shop there a lot more, but it's a bit further than the other two supermarkets (who also happen to be open 24 hours, not that that's necessary either). Plus I have the St. Lawrence market which is a treasure trove of fresh produce and all sorts of organic stuff. Anyway, I really like the PC organic peanut butter, so I ambled down to Loblaws this afternoon to stock up. Those jars have quite the long shelf life. The cashier muttered something about me liking peanut butter.

"Why yes... yes I do," I replied. Then I looked at my conveyor belt of purchases. It was really odd. Bison burgers, three jars of peanut butter, smoked oysters and a lint roller. Do you ever have shopping expeditions like this? At Christmas you can always explain away the five pounds of butter, icing sugar, four packs of eggs, candied cherries and ground ginger... I mean, it's baking season! But other times of the year are trickier. Yes, yes... I'm very concious of what other shoppers might think of my choices. Just as I notice what they buy too. It's not so much judgment calls, as wondering what they're going to do with five sacks of rice and two packets of black string licorice. That's what someone on the neighbouring cash had today. I sense a craft project in the works.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Good Reading

... for this morning. I think I'd like to move back to the U.K. and work for the BFI.,,2261165,00.html

Anyway, after my early rise, I'm back to bed.

Night of the Puddy Tat

I ended up watching The Day of the Jackal (1973), Fred Zinneman's film of the Frederick Forsyth book. Now, I'm not sure how accurate this is, but when I first saw the film as a kid, my dad told me that Forsyth, broke and unsure what to do next in his life as a foreign correspondent, ended up living with a friend for three weeks and spent the time typing up the manuscript for The Day of the Jackal, which went on to huge success. This is a great film. It has a documentary feel and is a thriller of the first order.

The star for me, as much as I love Edward Fox, is Michel Lonsdale. Or is it Michael Lonsdale? I never know as he is perfectly bilingual and plays either French or English wonderfully. He crops up in the most delightful places... not difficult when you see on that he has made 197 films. That's huge! After Day of the Jackal, I think I must have next seen him as the enigmatic Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979). And the last time I saw him was at the Toronto International Film Festival in Gentille (2005), which - if you can find it at your more esoteric video stores, is really worth catching. Very French and very charming.

After Day of the Jackal, TCM was showing Three Days of the Condor. But it was really Night of the Cat as Tibbles and I spent some much-needed time together. I have worked late so often this week that I think he feels a bit neglected. Poor old moggie.

Quote of the Day

"There comes a time that a piano realizes that it has not written a concerto."

Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards in All About Eve (1950).