Friday, April 30, 2010

Fat Evenings

Fat mornings are fine indeed... but I also love, on rare and precious occasions, a fat evening. Remember when you were little and sent to bed at a time when older children were still allowed to play outside? I remember it being daylight and being sent to bed! Laying there listening to the squeals of the bigger boys and girls playing seemed quite cruel.

Now it's a rare treat to retire to bed early in the evening, noticing the lowering light change the glow in my bedroom. I hear the joys and tragedies played out on the basketball court outside my downtown building. I hear sirens and laughter and the distant hum of traffic. If alone, I indulge in a neglected book. And perhaps my latest joy: Green and Black's organic cherry-studded dark chocolate. I recommend.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It Almost Makes me Wish...

that I drank coffee... or milk...

This photograph was taken at the Queen Mother Cafe in Toronto, where I sat with a friend last Sunday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Two Weeks in Spring...

and what a difference two weeks makes. It does my soul good.

Inspired by the lovely Zuzana and her wonderful comparison photography on her blog, here are three sets of two pictures each, showing before and after.

And there is so much more to come.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hi Def Heaven

"There is a dark side even to perfection. I like that."

(Von Aschenbach in Britten's opera, Death in Venice, with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper)

After a season or two of high-definition broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, fed live to cinemas around the world, I finally attended one last year: Anthony Minghella's production of Madama Butterfly. Being a fan of live opera I was a bit sceptical, but several trustworthy friends raved about them and my own experience exceeded expectations. Not designed to replace the live experience, these broadcasts offer an affordable way to witness opera and other live performance from other parts of the world. They are well filmed, and often feature special interviews, behind-the-scenes insights and short documentaries.

Minghella's Butterfly was a stunning piece of theatre, utilizing puppetry and a fresh look at a beloved classic. It's not out yet on DVD but it will be, and - when it is - I recommend you take a look at it, if you haven't already.

Around the same time I saw All's Well That Ends Well directed by Marianne Elliott, live from the National Theatre in London. I so enjoyed it, and my interests being what they are, I next saw (just last week) the new Alan Bennett play, The Habit of Art. This is set up as a play within a play. We witness a run-through rehearsal of a new play about W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten meeting (fictionally as they never patched up their friendship) late in their respective lives, with Britten seeking absolution for addressing - operatically - the tricky subject matter of Death in Venice, the opera he was then writing, just a couple of years before his death.

Nicholas Hytner directed Richard Griffiths (as Auden) and Frances de la Tour (as the stage manager), and if you add Alan Bennett to that you have the same team that created - and later filmed - the wonderful History Boys (2006). I hope they film The Habit of Art. Alex Jennings plays Britten in a manner that I imagine Dirk Bogarde would have played, if he had played him. And yes, now I'm thinking of Death in Venice (1971) the movie. The Canadian Opera Company is performing Britten's Death in Venice next season. I'm sure this play will come back to mind at that time.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to see these newly-visioned or newly created works from around the world. I can't wait for more!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fat Mornings

For a Monday morning post, this is a bit of wishful thinking...

"Faire la grasse matinée" means literally "to make a fat (or thick or deep) morning", in other words, to lie in, to linger in bed (alone or in company), or sleep late and deeply. I love this idea and indulge in it whenever possible, for my own sanity, and as part of my attempt to follow in my hero's footsteps. That would be Tom Hodgkinson, author of one of my favourite books, How to be Idle. If it isn't on your bookshelf yet, I suggest you amble down to your local independent book seller and treat yourself. There are more offerings from Tom, but I think this is the one must-have.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I'm lucky enough to be able to come home some lunchtimes. I relish the creation of my salads on those days. Usually on the weekends, when I have more time, they become more elaborate affairs. The basics are usually crisp romaine and fennel with an olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper dressing. Add ons become like ice cream sundae toppings - I just love playing with combinations of them and they usually come from the following list: pepitas, hard-boiled eggs, blanched sugar-snap peas, toasted slivered almonds or sesame seeds or pine nuts, ground flax seed, slivers of last nights grilled meat, curls of smoked salmon or prosciutto, ack... the list goes on. And from early spring to late fall, it's my meal of choice, for lunch or dinner.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

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

(St. Francis of Assisi)

I've quoted this before... but it certainly bears repeating.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What's Your Preference?

I was thinking today about flowers and the vases we choose to set them in. A friend of mine once told me that she often yearned for white roses in a Waterford crystal vase on a highly polished table. On occasion her wish came true. My favourite setting belongs to a very wealthy woman of my acquaintance who has an oak-panelled dining room. The room is simply furnished and in the centre of her large refectory table sits a large, rounded pewter vase filled constantly with dark red roses. It's a stunning sight, and my ultimate flower/vase setting.

Mine? Well, I keep it simple and suitable to my modest, but much-loved, home. Occasionally I'll put fresias in a cranberry vase, but my regular weekly treat from spring to fall are white daisies in a shapely art-deco green vase. On the gloomiest day, they're most cheering.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Born a Magpie

My jewellery drawer (top drawer of my dresser) had become a nightmare. Over the Christmas break I - tongue clamped between teeth - carefully polished all my bits of silver and individually bagged them to keep them from tarnishing, on the advice of a jeweller friend. I never put them back in their boxes so it was a bit of a disaster. Today I did that, and all is... well, top drawer.

The first piece of jewellery I ever received is in the small pale pink plastic box in the centre of the drawer...

A gift from my Italian nonna when I was just a baby:

The ruby and gold heart is still protected by the original pink cotton batting that it came with.

What a thrill when I was allowed to wear it as a child! And what an even bigger thrill when I was allowed to take full-time possession of it.

And today, on a whim, I googled Gioielleria Fanuele and found that in 2005 it celebrated its centenary and is still going strong. When I next visit Rome, it's on the agenda.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So Long Woolies

All the winter scarves have been washed and put away. Bruce the Bat is looking forward to mosquito-filled nights...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Who's hot tonight... Strindberg's hot tonight!"

(Helium in Absinthe and Women, one of the small masterpieces by those crazy kids over at Killing my Lobster and Milky Elephant.)

And by the way... the new Strindberg and Helium episode is... GULP... almost here! I can't take the suspense!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Never discourage anyone... who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Enchanted April

"All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her. The sea lay asleep in it, hardly stirring. Across the bay the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in colour, were asleep too in the light; and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colours of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword."

From The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. My St. Lawrence neighbourhood may be no San Salavatore, but I'm loving photographing its emerging spring colours.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Breath of Spring

Pourquoi me réveiller
ô souffle du printemps?
Pourquoi me réveiller?
Sur mon front je sens tes caresses,
et pourtant bien proche est le temps
des orages et des tristesses!
Pourquoi me réveiller,
ô souffle du printemps?

Why do you awaken me?
o breath of Spring?
Why do you awaken me?
On my forehead I feel your caresses,
and yet very near is the time
of storms and sorrows!
Why do you awaken me,
o breath of Spring?

(From Massenet's opera Werther, to a libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann; translation by Randall Garrou.) Last fall I saw Ramón Vargas sing this aria, and it left me longing for spring, although not wishing time away... and here it is!

I can't get enough of spring this year, of the painfully wonderful blue, of the water, of the fresh air, of the soft blossoms who are nowhere near their height yet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Strange Harmony of Contrasts

There was, in one clump, the oddest selection of news headlines today, none of which I would have predicted.

~ Travel chaos from volcanic ash cloud worst since 9/11
~ Bizarre rule could lead to world shortage of cricket bats
~ Nude performers at NYC museum being touched by patrons
~ Stranded John Cleese takes US$5,000 cab ride to Brussels

Fig Jam + Fresh Scones = Bliss

The red fig jam has been a hit, on scones and anywhere else I can smear it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring in the Hood

A minute from my front door is this short walkway, whose annual blossoming has only just begun. I mean to capture it in full bloom. You can just make out the CN Tower in the far distance.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


What can I say, I love photographing them... the promise of spring. These were all taken from my walks to Cherry Beach and along Toronto's Martin Goodman Trail.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lake of Shining Waters

"From the marsh at the head of the pond came the clear, mournfully sweet chorus of the frogs. There was a little grey house peering around an apple orchard on a slope beyond, and, although it was not yet quite dark, a light was shining from one of its windows.

"That's Barry's pond," said Matthew.

"Oh, I don't like that name, either. I shall call it - let me see - the Lake of Shining Waters. Yes, that is the right name for it."

From Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I read the first two books in the series when I was nine years old. The BBC had just shown its Anne series, with Kim Braden as Anne and Barbara Hamilton as Marilla. We were just about to emigrate to Canada and so I watched and read with avid interest. The books remain favourites of mine today, telling as they do the moving story of the red-haired orphan who finds a family of her own with the spinsterish brother-sister team of Matthew and Marilla on Prince Edward Island. When I visited PEI a few years back I was disappointed at the crassness of Anne tourism, but no matter - I still have the books.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bright Star, the Film

I had suspected another luke-warm costume romance, but was gob-smacked instead by this wonderful offering from Jane Campion - I should have had faith!

Bright Star (2009) is is based on John Keats' young romance with Fanny Brawne, who inspired the following sonnet:

Bright Star (1838)
Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

Abbie Cornish plays a real young woman, prickly, romantic and made strong by her convictions and love for the poet, played to perfection by Ben Whishaw. Kerry Fox is Fanny's loving and sympathetic mother, in a time and society which dictated she should have been less accommodating to young love and more steadfast in her ambitions for her clever, beautiful daughter.

If you're up for a change from the saccharine and predictable prettiness of most costume romances, try the shining and bewitching Bright Star.

*** SPOILER ALERT (in case you're not up on Keats' story)
You'll also witness a scene of grief quite heart-breakingly believeable. Keep a hankie on stand by.

Thanks for the recommendation, Mr. W!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


The recent unseasonably mild Spring weather brought out shorts, thong sandals and summer bags. Bruce the Bat continues to exhibit his shared bag obsession with me. I love this sturdy straw bag with its suede handles. $15 in Stratford at the end of last summer.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Country Auctions

I was most satisfied some time back when I attended a country auction, the real deal. I bought a large set of softly coloured glass cordial glasses, and they serve nicely as champagne flutes. The locals were very friendly to us townies. It turned out that a local lady had passed away at a great age, with no heirs. All her estate was being sold off, and most of the local folk were there to buy a small remembrance of her. It was all sweetly done. I was very amused the next day, as we drove through small local villages, that as we visited the local antique shops, the same items I had seen at the auction were now laid out, at four times the price. I am very much enjoying that lady's cordial glasses and think of her each time we toast out of them.

Country auctions: I recommend!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Walk on Cherry Beach

A favourite walk.... again.

Big canal.

Part of me is sorry that the rough and tumble docklands are to be tarted up. There'll be more roller bladers and bikers to dodge as I take my walks. Sigh. And so it goes.

Return to Me

I recall the movie Return to Me (2000) movie coming out, and noting that it didn't do very well at the box office. It's not your typical Hollywood hit material. Directed by Bonnie Hunt, who also co-wrote it and plays a supporting role, it sort of meanders sweetly around a lot of standard plot features, but does so with a lot of heart and an impressive array of appealing characters played by a star cast. I loved Bonnie Hunt as the sweet and strong sister-in-law to Marisa Tomei in Only You (1994), and in Return to Me she plays Megan, a similar wise-cracking and supportive friend to Minnie Driver, the female lead, who plays Grace, a young Chicagoan who gets a new lease on life with a heart transplant. David Duchovny is the male lead and he plays an animal-loving, architect widower, with a gorgeous house and a great dog... you can see the appeal I trust? It's no Citizen Kane, but this is a feel-good movie that had me crying three separate times. Excellent!

Megan: You're going to get a heart, I know. And you'll be able to do all the things you never could before. That's what you've gotta concentrate on. Think of riding a bike, and going to Italy... and dating really handsome men. That, I know, has to happen for one of us.

Grace: I'm getting a new heart, not a new ass.

Officially a chick flick, but recommended to me by a man. I'm suggesting Only You to him for our next viewing. Only You stars Robert Downey Jr. along with Marisa Tomei, but the true star of the film is Italy. If you ever need a dose of Italian travelogue, this is the film to go for. That and the red dress Milena Canonero designed for Tomei.

Thank you Blogger!

It seems that the search feature on my blog is working again... thank you Blogger! I have so missed being able to check if I've blogged about something... after 771 posts, it's impossible to remember these things off the top of my head.

As a keen blogger, I cannot say how good this feels.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Emergency Pud!

Here's my recommendation for an emergency pudding situation: the wonderfully easy, perfectly yummy Blog Princess G's individual nipple trifles.

Layer left-over cake or what-have-you in as many martini glasses as guests. Two makes a nice nipply number.

Layer fresh raspberries over the cake. Soak all with raspberry wine. Top with freshly whipped cream. Add a carefully set aside perfect raspberry on each trifle.

Indulge in the soft, melting sweetness!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pink Things

Here's a happy find: pomegranate juice, and not from concentrate! It's like a vitamin B shot. I dilute it, four parts water, one part pom. Yum yum.

When I was a baby, my aunt and uncle bought me this painted wooden egg cup. I still use it for my eggy brekkies.

Lemon and raspberry water is keeping my water intake up. Plus, it's so pretty!