Sunday, October 25, 2009

Question of the Day

Could MadMen get any better?

I just watched episode 11 of 13 of this current third season. And now I have to wait another week to see what happens next. It's great writing, acting, art direction, the works. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grateful for the Week that Was

Friday to Thursday was a memorable week and one for which I am grateful.

~ a 15-hour work day left me energized, which just goes to prove how much I love my work.

~ I attended a class given by a great and beautiful lady of the theatre who spoke inspiringly about joy, playfulness and collaboration in creativity, which spoke to me powerfully, and - no doubt - to many others in the room.

~ a two-and-a-half-hour train ride found me seated beside a man I didn't know. We talked about a gamut of subjects including friendship, death, finding "the one", and the pleasure of travelling solo and making new friends. Our conversation lasted well past the train ride as we kept each other company for a few more hours before saying goodbye, perhaps for ever.

~ I indulged in watching a photographer friend at his craft and pondered again the joy of creativity.

~ A dozen yellow roses arrived in my office.

~ This evening I took a long walk through the city, with Ella Fitzgerald and Bruce Springsteen keeping me company on my mp3 player, but only just loud enough not to be disconnected to everything around me.

~ I found a Guinness-infused Christmas pudding in the store. It's too small to serve on Christmas day, so I shall serve it one evening this fall, one cold evening when I am dining a deux.

~ Hugging an elderly lady of my acquaintance, I pondered how sweet and cosy she smelled and how there are lots of cuddles given, but not enough to the old ones in our lives.

~ As I walked beneath a canopy of trees full of turning leaves, the sun beat down and bathed all around me in a golden glow.

~ My bed was warm and welcoming.

~ Buying chocolate for friends, I also bought just one big, dark truffle to pop right in my mouth.

A good week indeed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


"and she put her face against my face,
put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets,
against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me,
to see who I was,
a long quiet minute-minutes—
then she stamped feet and whisked tail
and danced deliciously into the grass away, and came back.
She was saying, so plainly, that I was good, or good enough."

From The Poet Goes to Indiana by Mary Oliver

The photograph is of a little horse I bought - and treasure - no more than 2" long. It was made by Duncan MacDonald, a Celtic stoneware sculptor from Scotland, now based in Ontario.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stratford Sunset

More beauty from this small and charming south-western Ontario city.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Quelque chose que sans un pli, sans une tache,
J'emporte malgré vous,
et c'est. . .
Mon panache."

From Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Is this a Cup of Tea I see Before me?

(Otherwise known as the Stratford 2009 report).

I saw four plays at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this year over three visits, the last one being yesterday. Each one was highly worthwhile, if not just for the delights this small Ontario city has to offer.

The Importance of Being Earnest was presented in a new production at the Avon Theatre, unique among the Stratford stages for its nifty proscenium arch. Desmond Heeley's set and costume designs once again presented something that looked as if it had been in storage for about 30 years, but that was part of its charm. A very traditional, pretty production, it was a delight in that the language was allowed to speak for itself, as it were, and so, in many instances, I felt I was hearing Oscar Wilde's words for the first time. Brian Bedford directed and also starred as Lady Bracknell. It was very refreshing that he, with his entire cast, avoided mugging, and thereby let the comedy work successfully. My (face) cheeks were aching from laughter as we left the theatre.

Whips! Swordplay! Nudity! Zastrozzi , by Canadian playwright George Walker, was a heady, sexy, rollercoaster packed with wit and violence. Cor! I didn't get the play entirely, but that is not unusual. There is much I don't get, but I don't let that bother me. I just let it wash over me and I take in what I can. A sort of Renaissance serial killer, the title character seeks to kill all artists who displease him. Now there's a conversation point right there. This performance also marked the first time I had been inside the festival's studio theatre. It's an intimate space with highly raked rows of seats. Not for the prone-to-stumble or the highly vertiginous.

The highlight of the season for me was a new production of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. The brilliant Anthony Burgess translation was interspersed with some of the original French. I'm not sure that tactic worked: it felt more like distraction than assimilation. Santo Loquasto designed the show in period style, which was delicious, lots of feathered hats and lacy collars. At the top of the show was a bit of business with a contemporary hoodied teenage boy being enfolded by a friendly troupe of theatrical acrobats. I found that pretty silly but it was probably designed to appeal to the many school groups who probably attended. Perhaps Cyrano is part of the curriculum. (It was certainly rammed down our throats in tragic style when I was school. Yet, I survived to love the play despite the best efforts of my embittered, burned-out teachers.) Colm Feore was Cyrano and he was deft and funny. His final words were so beautifully played. The director was Donna Feore (Colm's wife), who did such a great job on Oklahoma! two years ago. Amanda Lisman (who was Julia in the previous evening's Zastrozzi) was a girl-next-door version of Roxanne, and I was left wanting. Christian was played by Mike Shara and, what can I say: can anyone make Christian interesting? I much preferred this actor as Algernon in Earnest. This played at the Festival theatre, and it might not have been life-changing, but I enjoyed it.

Yesterday was Macbeth, strangely one of only three Shakespeare plays the Festival is mounting this season, out of a total of 14. Only two years ago the festival changed its name (and brand) from the Stratford Festival, to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The reason is probably something to do with the economy. But it's a bit of a surprise after having recommitted themselves to the importance of Shakespeare to their company, to have this swing of the pendulum. I saw Macbeth last time the festival produced it. That was mightily uneven, with a magnificent Lucy Peacock chewing the scenery in a most thrilling way all round Graham Abbey's extremely lily-livered Macbeth. Just because Lady M. is the powerful character she is, doesn't mean that Macbeth is a cream puff. He's a respected warrior... it's just that his wife is even tougher. For this season's production, artistic director Des McAnuff set Macbeth in an undetermined African nation, around the middle of the 20th century. All well and good, with some enjoyable costumes, but that setting indicates a wide range of cultural possibility. I assume he had something more specific in mind but maybe that was best left unsaid. It bothered me and I think if I was African it would bother me more. Could you identify a play as being set somewhere as vast as "Europe"? Where, dammit? Poland? Italy? Scotland? Very different places. It also bothered me, because, clever as it was in parts, the setting was a big distraction, and I - who knows this play pretty well - was really confused by what was going on. Colm Feore (playing this in rep with Cyrano) was a slippery sort of Macbeth, one I couldn't quite pin down, and this might be a good thing, I'm undecided as yet. He seemed almost too intellectual at times. The motive for his drive seemed to come out of nowhere. It certaintly didn't seem to erupt from his Lady, who was played by Yanna McIntosh, and was about as terrifying as the cup of tea on my desk. She had a great wardrobe though, especially her banquet gown, a magnificent deep red silk, with a wide sparkly neckline. Mmmm... shiny.

Lesson learned this summer: If you haven't booked anywhere for dinner in Stratford (and usually if you haven't, you're toast), a saving grace is Molly Bloom's, an Irish pub with pleasing grub, Guinness and friendly service. I can walk or drive you there, but I can't remember to tell you the street it's on. So Google it if you are so inclined.

Below: Intermission at Cyrano. The Stratford bar serves Jackson Triggs merlot, a blog recommendation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

More of an excerpt really:

"The old and the new, the liberal touch and the patriarchal one, fatal poverty and fatalistic wealth got fantastically interwoven in that strange first decade of our century. Seveal times during a summer it might happen that in the middle of luncheon, in the bright, many-windowed, walnut-paneled dining room on the first floor of our Vyra manor, Aleksey, the butler, with an unhappy expression on his face, would bend over and inform my father in a low voice, (especially low if we had company) that a group of villagers wanted to see the barin outside. Briskly my father would remove his napkin from his lap and ask my mother to excuse him. One of the windows at the west end of the dining room gave upon a portion of the drive near the main entrance. One could see the top of the honeysuckle bushes opposite the porch. From that direction the courteous buzz of a peasant welcome would reach us as the invisible group greeted my invisible father. The ensuing parley, conducted in ordinary tones, would not be heard, as the windows underneath which it took place were closed to keep out the heat. It presumably had to do with a plea for his mediation in some local feud, or with some special subsidy, or with permission to harvest some bit of our land or cut down a coveted clump of our trees. If, as usually happened, the request was at once granted, there would be again that buzz, and then, in token of gratitude, the good barin would be put through the national ordeal of being rocked and tossed up and securely caught by a score or so of strong arms.

In the dining room, my brother and I would be told to go on with our food. My mother, a tidbit between finger and thumb, would glance under the table to see if her nervous and gruff dachshund were there. 'Un jour ils vont le laisser tomber,' would come from Mlle Golay, a primly pessimistic old lady who had been my mother's governess and still dwelt with us (on awful terms with our own governesses). From my place at table I would suddenly see through one of the west windows a marvelous case of levitation. There, for an instant, the figure of my father in his wind-rippled white summer suit would be displayed, gloriously sprawling in midair, his limbs in a curiously casual attitude, his handsome, imperturbable features turned to the sky. Thrice, to the mighty heave-ho of his invisible tossers, he would fly up in this fashion, and the second time he would go higher than the first and then there he would be, on his last and loftiest flight, reclining, as if for good, against the cobalt blue of the summer noon, like one of those paradisiac personages who comfortably soar, with such a wealth of folds in their garments, on the vaulted ceiling of a church while below, one by one, the wax tapers in mortal hands light up to make a swarm of minute flames in the mist of incense, and the priest chants of eternal repose, and funeral lilies conceal the face of whoever lies there, among the swimming lights, in the open coffin."

From Speak, Memory, An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabakov

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Enough Already

This summer I painted my entire place. Every last sodding square inch of it. And what an agony the choice of colours was. And now that it's done I've been spending far too much time basking in my achievement in an effort to avoid the next big project: the Big Slipcover Challenge. This is a challenge I have given myself: To slipcover my sofa and one wingchair as part of a learning process. Like so many other things I do, I will only do it once, then I will lose interest and start torturing myself with a new challenge. I could buy a new sofa and wingchair, I could have them professionally recovered... but oh no, it's like a low-simmering fever in my addled mind. I *have* to do this and I've been blethering on for far too long about it.

Watch this space. The paint swatches are gone. The fabric swatches are coming in. And I have till Christmas to get both pieces done.

A Walk on Cherry Beach

It was a lovely evening for a walk.

Bottoms up!

Looks like Cirque du Soleil is back in the 'hood.

See the tiny seagull on the left?

Just a few low-lying clouds to appreciate.

The sunset was lovely, but my camera battery died as I watched the sun sink behind the CN Tower. Came home and listened to Bruce Springsteen as I did laundry. Nice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

That Demmed Elusive Tibblesworth

If he's not asleep, he's fidgety. So I was amazed to get two good headshots of the dashing redhead tonight as I visited my folks for Thanksgiving.

(And that's my holey sock in the bottom picture. I was holding the camera over and in front of Tibby, and he was momentarily mesmerized by the camera strap.)

Thanksgiving Day in Canada

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melody Beattie (I read this quote the first time on Willow's blog).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rainy Day + Melancholy Music = Happy BPG

De t'avoir aimée
(Charles Aznavour / Buddy Kaye)

De t'avoir aimée, aimée comme un fou
Aimée a genoux, bien plus que debout
À n'en plus dormir, à n'en plus manger
Que me reste-t-il, de t'avoir aimée ?

De t'avoir aimée, de l'âme et des yeux
À en oublier, jusqu'au nom de Dieu
Pour ne plus avoir, qu'un nom à crier
Que me reste-t-il, de t'avoir aimée ?

Reste que ma voix, sans écho soudain
Restent que mes doigts, qui n'agrippent rien
Reste que ma peau, qui cherche tes mains
Et surtout la peur, de t'aimer encore
Demain presque mort

De t'avoir aimée, aimée de douleur
À m'en déchirer le ventre et le cœur
Jusqu'à en mourir, jusqu'à m'en damner
Que me reste-t-il, de t'avoir aimée ?

Ne me reste plus
Qu'un amour que tu
Viens d'écarteler

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cottage Memories: Bruce the Bat!

Bruce had a great time and was very popular, as usual.

Here, driving out of town, we both appreciate "Simpsons' Clouds".

Lazy mornings, before the sun was fully beating down on the dock, were spent reading.

Bruce kept a watch on the bar. Good job Bruce!

Which left him exhausted and hammock-bound as the rest of us swum and kayaked.

He roused himself in the late afternoon if baking was taking place.

Cocktail hour was his finest.

Playing Suduko for about five minutes before we decided life was too short for any more of that nonsense.

At dusk the bats came out and Bruce enjoyed watching them through the window.

And basked in the final sunset with his new headdress (Hallowe'en costume potential here) and a new girlfriend.

Cottage Memories: Sunset

It truly is the most remarkable light show, and Nature is its inventive producer. Each night was different, and more spectacular. What I find lurid in pictures is awe-inspiring in reality.

None of these pictures have been enhanced.

Cottage Memories: Kayaking

There were wonderful kayaking moments this year, indeed entire hours' worth.

I'm a magpie for sparkly things, even if they are just in the water...

It takes just a small bit of trapped earth to help these trees grow, some of which are very old, but very stunted by their shallow earth.

Close up of determined plants!

Kayaking before breakfast one morning... can you see the moon still in the sky?

Jackpines... my favourite!

Very happy toes.

Cottage Memories: Wildlife

I love dragonflies, so it's handy that they like to perch and rest while I take my pictures.

On the arm of my chair...

On a journal...

On the rug I was sunbathing on...

This heron was very bold too. It was wonderful watching him fish off the swimming platform.

The beaver was seen by one of the party when out kayaking one day, but I just saw his house.

From the car I saw a young wolf, which was a thrilling moment. Later, a friend who lives in the area and came to visit, informed us of a recent development: wolves have been breeding with coyotes and what has emerged is a pack animal, like the wolf, with the smarts of the coyote. When describing the animal I saw, he felt sure that it was an example of this hybrid. We also saw lots of wild turkey, some groundhogs, a couple of thankfully bashful water snakes and, of course, a whole slew of chipmunks. Every evening the bats emerged to skim their way across the water of the lake, eating up all the insects. Thanks bats!

Cottage Memories: Food

I've spent a lovely evening watching Bette David in A Stolen Life (1946). I'd never heard of it. She could just sit and recite the phone book and I would be mesmerized. In this movie you get two Bette's for the price of one, as she plays identical twins who are very different personalities. The special effect split screen of the time is very impressive. My friend J recommended the female impersonating stylings of Charles Pierce on YouTube and I've been enjoying them.

Was it only three weeks ago that we were cottaging? After a cool, grey summer, it was a stroke of luck that we had 15 days of undiluted sunshine. I'm an official cloud appreciator, but this was a treat. It's been tricky sifting through the many pictures. But here are some... food first. So much kayaking, swimming, and fresh air, that everything tasted extra good.

Oh, so did the wine.

Salmon and buttered brown bread.

Prosciutto panino after swimming.

Prosciutto makes an encore.

One of the guys made this magnificent comfort food, a sort of chicken orzo bake. I've received the recipe!

No holiday would be complete now without Betsy's chewy pecan cookies. So good, especially with maple-walnut icecream.

These pork chops were the best ever: marinaded in olive oil and some pounded anise seed, salt and pepper, then grilled. The tomatoes were heirloom varieties brought by a friend who lives year-round locally. Grown in her garden, they were scrumptious.

I took a small round box of camembert, punctured the top rind with a fork, soaked it in chardonnay, sprinkled fresh thyme over it, then sealed it up again and baked till all melty and wonderfully winey. Best eaten next to a large body of water in the company of excellent friends. Note to self: make about 5x the amount next time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'll Take One Super Power Please

And if I could it would be time travel, although I'm unlikely to be blessed in that particular respect.

The young 'uns have Harry Potter... well, the old ones do too for that matter, I've read them all... but the grown up ladies have an equivalent, a series of books, each new instalment of which we lay in patient wait for. (Boy, that was an awkward sentence). And our wait, for now, is over. Diana Gabaldon's Echo in the Bone, the seventh novel in her Outlander series is out as of a couple of weeks ago. Hooray! I am in the midst of it. 120 pages in and two saucy scenes to offset too much military action, so all is good. And yes, time travel is at the heart of this book. Also full of action, violence, sex, and heartache: what's not to love?

I saw The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) last week, at last, just before it disappeared from movie theatres. This adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's novel (which I loved) was a bit lighter than expected and I don't like what they did with the ending, but it was well done, and visually stunning. It was fun to see bits of Toronto playing the part of Chicago. If you see it, in the scene after Henry first meets Clare in the library, and they're sitting in a park gazebo kissing, well, they're right here, in the gardens of St. James Cathedral.

Mangia e Bevi!

The exhortation is one I am obeying, frequently, as this fabulous Italian hole-in-the-wall is a local of mine.

Recently Libras congregated to celebrate their birthdays (three of us all born within the same week of each other, the same year) and we did so here. Mmmmmmmm. Heavenly scents and tastes. Unpretentious and genuine, it gets my two pizza-stained thumbs up.

We were too excited with hunger for me to get pictures of everything... but you get the idea I think. And, note to self and you all out there: a salad and a pizza between two is PLENTY of food!
There were five of us and we did ourselves proud with a lot more than that.

This anchovy pizza was sublime.

Little semi-freddi:

We knew we had to have the tiramisu, but were so stuffed, we took this way out, which is my favourite way to eat dessert, it not being my favourite sort of food, believe it or not.

And yet, one more morsel, the bocca dolce, to indulge my inner child, because - as a child - that romantic couple kissing on the front of the Baci box, was the ultimate in glamour and romance.