Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Computer is Broken

So I get to buy a new one!

Blogging remains sporadic until I am securely up and running.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Currants soaking in cognac, and a mound of lemon and orange zest. The stollens are underway and I'm drunk on the scents.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday at Home

Two weeks ago at the One-of-a-Kind Show, I bought a new pair of sheepskin slippers. Now, as a bit of a polar bear, I don't feel the cold easily. But wintering in Toronto sometimes brings the sorts of days and nights that are just brutally cold. And wearing my new red slippers is like walking on marshmallows - so heavenly! I breakfasted in my pyjamas before the tree.

The big mug.

Night time twinkles... I can't get enough of my table top tree. It's five foot tall. My parents found one for their home (available at Metro, for you Toronto types) that's only two foot tall and already set in a holder - so cute! Apparently as my dad was carrying it home, people were stopping them to admire it, and - yes - even pet it. Small things have that effect. Of course I'll get pictures of it sometime soon.

Indulgent Saturday

I was drunk yesterday... on music.

It was the HD broadcast of Don Carlo (yes, Italian version) from the Met. We sat through all four and a half hours during the afternoon. The singing was superb, and Nicholas Hytner's production was clearly and powerfully directed. This was great operatic theatre. Don Carlo is one of my top three operas, so you can imagine how intoxicated I felt at the end. And I know the French version is more official but the Italian version was the one I fell in love with (listening to Giulini's recording) so I'm biased emotionally. Actually emotional bias is my most prevalent in any situation - it doesn't require rationalization. My favourite character in all opera is Rodrigo, so to see/hear him sung by the hotness that is Simon Keenlyside was a delicious treat. The rest of the cast wasn't too shabby: Marina Poplavskaya (Elisabetta), Roberto Alagna (Carlo), Ferruccio Furlanetto (King Philip), and Anna Smirnova (Eboli). Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted.

Earlier this fall we've seen René Pape as Boris Godunov and Anna Netrebko in Don Pasquale. And Rheingold in the Met's new Ring by Robert Lepage, with the amazing Bryn Terfel as Wotan. Not in New York? No excuse mate, not with these hi-def broadcasts. Yes, obviously, it's best to see anything live, but this is great performance made available all over the world. A whole new world - I love it. And the National Theatre performances are available from London too. We've missed the first two this year, but are getting tickets for the rest. I'm a bit of a convert as you can tell... heh heh.

More delicious treats after, with a visit to Yorkville, and walking past Pusateri's windows (they're a very fine food store).

Leering in their cheese window:

The destination, Trattoria Nervosa:

For Prosecco and clam linguine:

And home to let it all marinate in my happy mind and tummy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Garlicky Good Times

There are few scents more heavenly than garlic softening in butter.

I do this to the garlic before making garlic bread, to avoid any sharp bits.

Dinner for two on the sturdy coffee table: spinach salad with toasted pine nuts and pecorino, then a rosé vodka sauce over penne. And very buttery-garlicky, vampire-repelling bread.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Seriously, Those Neck Tendons Have Me Worried

Coronation Street is 50 years old today. I've only started watching consistently quite recently, so I don't know much about the real history of the street, but I know that Gail has a gift for picking lousy husbands and I'm wondering how long it will be before Deirdre's neck tendons snap.

Darkness Reigns

Is it any wonder that my blog is looking so dark these days? If I'm not at work, it's dark. It's dark when I awake, light for a short while in the morning while I walk to work, and dark when I leave. I shall endeavour to brighten things up this weekend with some day time photography, and a catch up of all the busyness.

I'm longing for the shortest day, and that turn of the solstice, and the soothing knowledge that days are lengthening.

Evening in the 'Hood

Meeting at friend at the Distillery District for tea at Balzacs, famous for... coffee. I love sitting up in the balcony, keeping an eye on the comings and goings, in my ace-girl spy fashion.

The Distillery District's huge tree with balls the size of my head, and I have a big head.

I love how this building ends in pointy fashion.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Delicious Evening

... listening to Chet Baker (with the best CD cover ever: see the hint of Eiffel Tower in the bottom right?) and Don Byas and drinking wine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Days are Flying

Last week was the Service of Lessons and Carols at St. James' Cathedral, and here were the lights in the beautiful cathedral gardens afterwards. You can sort of make out the light-entwined bandstand in the far background.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shortbread Help Needed

My favourite catalogue has to be Lee Valley Tools. Their enthusiastic descriptions are wonderful bathtime reading. For a few years now I've coveted this, the snowflake shortbread pan. So, on a little Christmas shopping trip, I treated myself:

I tried the recipe included with the pan, even though butter wasn't the main ingredient (flour was). Here is the dough pressed into the pan and pricked all over with a fork:

It was easily turned out after cooling in the pan for 10 minutes, and cut into nine pieces:

Nom nom! Aren't the patterns cute?

But here's my dilemma. I don't like the recipe much. So can anyone provide me with a great shortbread recipe, with butter as the number one ingredient?

Yours hopefully,


I Have my Priorities Right

I went shopping and on the list was:

~ anise seed
~ soy milk
~ paper towel

What I came back with was:

~ bed sheets
~ chocolate
~ knickers

The desk drawer at work is back to how it should be, overflowing with goodness:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saying "Yes" to the Universe... and Black Cats

On October 12 I took a vacation day from work. It was the day after Canadian Thanksgiving and a glorious weekend for fall colours. Taking inspiration from my friend Barbara, I'm trying to say "yes" to more.

Taking off on my own, I went - armed with my camera - to Riverdale Farm (more on that in a later post), which is in the middle of Toronto's Cabbagetown district.

The colours were outstanding. The sky was never bluer.

Across from the farm is the St. James' Necropolis.

I stepped inside the crematorium chapel, which was quiet and dark, almost a relief from the blinding sunshine and reflective leaves all around me.

I sat for a while, thinking. I thought about the fading away of my faith and how it might be reborn in a different form. I pondered my reading on Buddhism and particularly on meaningful meditation. Each morning on waking, prompted by what I have read, I whisper to myself, "This might be the day I die. Today... is a good day to be alive."

I thought of how my mind is too full of ideas and the future and the past. And I conciously (almost out loud, but not quite) said to myself: "How I would love 10 minutes, just now, to be completely in the present."

At that very moment I heard a small miaow. And a little black face with big green eyes popped in from the side door of the chapel. A young black cat, more teenager than kitten, came running down the aisle, hopped onto my lap and, purring, climbed all over me. I was enchanted. As he settled onto my lap, purring and making puddings with his paws, I thought, "Hold it, I've just been practically accosted by a black cat in a crematorium." Well I'm not superstitious but I did say something out loud. "Well, cat, if this is my last moment, if I'm about to drop dead, you know... it's okay. This is pretty good."

He continued purring, and I continued petting him. As he'd been climbing over my shoulders and down into my lap I got a couple of blurry pictures of him.

And then he dropped off my lap and gave himself a bit of a wash before looking back at me...

... and headed out the front door of the chapel. This was my last picture of him.

I'd asked the universe for 10 minutes of being in the present, right in the moment. I got them. And I don't know what happened that day, if I became more open to the gifts of the universe , or just a happier person, or was visited by a very sweet spirit in the body of a young cat, I just know that life has been better since then than ever, however many hours, days or years I have left.

There will be more thoughts on this, I'm sure, in later posts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Christmas Countdown

I've missed my little blog. And it feels good to have a quiet evening and an opportunity to start the process again.

I've been busy, but even when I've had a bit of free time, I've felt uninterested in blogging for some reason. But it seems the long nights and the desire to cocoon has resparked my interest.

And speaking of sparks, do you like my advent candle? I was so charmed by this tradition when I read it about it some time ago on the lovely Zuzana's blog, that I felt compelled to start my own. I told Zuzana about my interest a year ago, but I hadn't found my candle! It took a while, and then found it by mail order from the U.S.

I've had it nearly a year, and tonight I lit it.

What joy it will be to sit in contemplation each evening for just a short while, while my candle burns down to the next number of the month, all the way to December 24.

Thank you, Zuzana!