Friday, December 28, 2012

Save the Ginger

I think my ginger roots always look like manatees.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hey, What Smells so Good Around Here?

Why... it's me! (Bathing helps too).

This BBC documentary series made me nostalgic for the days when I wore perfume regularly. Scent-sensitivity being what it is (for me and others), I haven't bought scents (apart from the occasional vanilla oil) for years. However, Dahlia Noir (by Givenchy) is delicious and doesn't irritate my nose at all. And I wear it sparingly. And not to theatres or cinemas or work.

The series is fascinating, if you'd like to know the history of perfume and the interesting characters that still work in scents.

Start watching here, on YouTube. It's all there.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Little bit of Cabin Porn

Have you checked out the site yet?

Here's my little cabin, made from a kit from Lee Valley Tools, a catalogue I love almost as much I as I love L. L. Bean.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Stratford Goes Gangnam

So, the talented casts of Stratford Festival's 42nd Street and The Pirates of Penzance have produced their own homage to Psy (now over 1 billion hits on YouTube) a in this goofy, irresistible video. And here's my early Christmas present, a very clever idea from The Stratford Festival Shop: a Christmas tree ball, stuff full of scraps of fabric from the 42nd Street costumes. Off the cutting room floor, I guess. :)


Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Days Start Now

I woke today, on the first of twelve days in a row that I will be off work. After so much intensity, it felt good. I puttered busily all day, including doing some gift wrapping. I love this groovy paper from Indigo. And I only noticed now, that I downloaded some piccies, that it matches my tea mug!

Really? I'm blogging about this sort of thing? REALLY?

Yes. My brain is on vacation too.

Green Love

I got them on sale. And... they`re GREEN. (They're Josef Seibel Palmira boots).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eclectic, Yes?

I'm burning the candle at both ends more than usual at this time of year. But tonight I'm up late, wired by a completely satisfying night at the theatre.

As I muck about on my blog, I was amused to see this month's search terms... those very eclectic phrases typed in to Google, or whatever, that brought readers here.

From most to least popular, they are...

~ silvana mangano hairy
~ elgin theatre box seats   
~ indy car ginger bread house
~ anatomically correct gingerbread people
~ cranbrook campus
~ glass ornament chocolate bar
~ incessant
~ bald eagle with babies

The Word Indeed

Last year's Word Festival at the Young Centre was a glorious celebration of Shakespeare and the Bible. This year, to honour the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth, the centre is offering a four-day feast to all lovers of... the word.

There are staged readings, live streamed readings (check it out here), some improv and - opening tonight - Dickens' Women, a one-woman, one pianist show that is a must see if you can still get a ticket.

Miriam Margolyes, who I first experienced playing her award-winning Flora Finching in Christine Edzard's excellent adaptation of Dickens' Little Dorrit (1988), takes us on a journey through Dickens' life, his influences, and how it all played out in a rich array of women characters. Considered by many to be a chauvinist (and this is well supported by some of the excerpts in the piece), he also managed to present surprising characters, some of which were very two dimensional, but many of which were deeply human and flawed. I don't want to say too much about this in detail, because part of the appeal of this excellently crafted performance, is the delightful surprises that emerge. In fact, there are more surprises than I expected, because, as Margolyes moved smoothly from excerpt to story to excerpt, I felt I'd never read Dickens before. The most successful voice actress that Britain has produced (apart from her films, she's recorded a lot of audio books, documentary voice overs and animated character voices), she is able to extract from and illuminate a moment that is so exquisitely thought out, so compassionately examined, that it left me breathless and entirely engaged. Sympathetic piano accompaniment was provided with modesty and charm by Peter Tiefenbach.

Dickens' Women plays each evening until this coming Saturday night. Tomorrow (Thursday) there is a talk back with Margolyes, but after tonight's performance (and I suppose she'll do this for every other), she signed copies of her book on this same topic, which is $20 including tax. After Saturday, the show travels to Chicago for five performances, ending a 10-month tour that will conclude Christmas Eve.

Another fine evening at the Young Theatre.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I'm Moving to Maine...

... okay, well not really.

Yes, I'm too busy to blog, too busy to change my header from November to December. And decidedly too busy to move to Maine, but I sort of wish I were.
Here's my new daily smile, getting me through the busyness.

I only have one question... where are the golden retrievers? The chocolate labs? They're the number two reason I love the L. L. Bean catalogue.

UPDATE:/// There are puppies!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quote of the Day

"They tell you that a tree is only a combination of chemical elements. I prefer to believe that God created it, and that it is inhabited by a nymph."

Pierre-August Renoir

I know a tree is more than that too. You can read about what I saw of the Impressionists (and a night at the opera) on my other blog, Ars Borealis.

Quote of the Day

"According to the established rites,
wine and water are brought
with less ceremony than before.
There are no fresh glasses
and the waiter does not pour
a specimen measure.
But the first courses
arrive soon after -
ravioli annointed with butter,
carpaccio with a chrism of oil -
and the condiments are distributed:
parmesan shaved
from a nubbly, fulvous block,
a sesquipedalian peppermill waved
by the nimble attendant of the kitchen hatch in final blessing.
He watches, and his companion
watches him watch,
the flexing of supple back
and sturdy haunches
as the waitress raises
and twists the head
of the wooden phallus,
scattering seed.

They scarcely need
the waiter's intoned
Buon appetito."

From the book-length poem, The Song of Lunch by Christopher Reid. This has been filmed, and I am gnashing my teeth in desire to see this.

If you've ever loved, have ever lost, or left, met again, shared lunch, or anything that sounds remotely similar, I suggest you read this pointed, funny, sad look at two lovers meeting again years after their relationship ended. Of course, it's hard not to read without imagining Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in the roles, but that's no problem at all. And check out Emma Thompson - the woman gets more beautiful with every passing year.

My Elixir of Great Music

I don't know why previous listenings and viewings over my early years didn't impact me, but now the 19th-century Italian opera genius Donizetti has me in his thrall. From Maria Stuarda (Canadian Opera Company a couple of seasons back), to Lucia di Lammermoor (COC, then again a Met production, and the COC is doing one again this spring - can't wait), Don Pasquale and now L'elisir d'amore... I get drunk on this music for days, drive my workmates nuts whistling it (yes, I'm a whistler... strong lips... rrrrrrrRRRRRRrrrrrrrr).

It says a lot for the energy and talent of University of Toronto Opera School students that a Saturday evening performance of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore managed to be delightful, funny and sweet, just weeks after I saw the Met's HD live performance, which was as perfect as I could imagine.

The Opera School consistently produces work that bodes well for the future of the art form, and all on the remarkable sets of Fred Perruzza, who - surely on a tiny budget - never fails to enchant.

The Met production boasted three of the cast from another Donizetti a couple of season's back, Don Pasquale. Anna Netrebko (dashing and sexy in a riding habit), Mariusz Kwiecien (as Belcore he was a handsome bully, and a potentially abusive boyfriend for Adina) and Matthew Polenzani (breathtaking in his big aria) were all in top form, but it was Ambrogio Maestri (oh God, what a name) as Dulcamara (last picture) who stole the show; a perfect basso buffo with everything you could ask for in a great singing comic actor.

This just couldn't be bettered.

Impressions from Montreal: Opera

Le Vaisseau Fantôme (The Haunted Vessel) is better known to me as Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, one of my favourite operas, and last week Montreal Opera was presenting it in one of my favourite productions (from the Canadian Opera Company). I was already planning a weekend there, so figured the timing would be excellent, and it was.

Cursed to sail the seas unendingly, only able to come ashore once every seven years for one day in which he must find a woman to love him unto death in order to release him from his curse, the Dutchman's lot is a rough one. This tale of the ultimate outsider who can only be redeemed by the necessarily blind and unquestioning love of a woman is rife with neurotic possibility. The music is sublime, of course, and the ending always poignant.

This Christopher Alden production luckily works in massive barn-like theatres like the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, as well as purpose-built opera houses. The slanted box-on-its-side, lined with rough wooden floors and chair pegs, has a Shaker feel to it and pushes the action and the sound out into the auditorium. The only set pieces within the set are a large wheel and a spiral wrought-iron staircase that comes up through the floor and disappears into the ceiling. The one set plays all parts and it works perfectly to portray an insular society, into which a mysterious sailor is likely not to be welcomed. The lighting by Anne Militello is creepy and glorious. One minute the stage is flooded with blood red, another with an acid yellow.

The Dutchman and his Senta are intensely sympathetic. Daland, Senta's greedy father, and the rest of her village, are suspicious and tribal in their attitudes to outsiders. When the villagers celebrate the return of their men, the rowdy Steuermann chorus is eerily disciplined in its barely contained rage. The villagers' costumes denote a 1930s Fascistic feel, with the Dutchman and his ghostly crew in what looks to be concentration-camp garb. The women are dressed in bilious green stoles, and all the characters bear raccoon-like eye makeup.

I wasn't blown away by the singing so the least said, the better. But I was here to witness again a thoughtful and potent production. And that's what I got.

Montreal Impressions: Art

ONCE UPON A TIME... IMPRESSIONISM (although on the website they spell it with two "n"s)
October 13, 2012 to January 20, 2013

In a long line of fabulously wealthy Americans amassing art, Sterling Clark and his French actress wife, Francine, amassed a remarkable collection, and - while their Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachussetts undergoes expansion work - 74 of the paintings are touring Asia, Europe and, in its only Canadian stop, Montreal, at the Museum of Fine Art.

I'm not a particular fan of Impressionism, nor of the big shows, but my last experience here was so excellent, I thought I'd give it a go.

From the website:

"Seventy-four paintings by Bonnard, Corot, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Millet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley and Toulouse-Lautrec, including a selection of twenty-one outstanding canvases by Renoir, and the Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (on view exclusively in Montreal) will be shown at the MMFA. The inclusion of academic works by Bouguereau, Gérôme and Stevens, among others, will enable visitors to see how the new ‘modernism’ challenged official painting.”
I was a bit taken aback when I got into the ticket line when a friendly volunteer informed me that there were no timed tickets, so there seemed to be no control as to how many people toured the venue at any one time. I don't know if it's a Montreal thing, but everything seemed to flow well. I still spentt most of the time ducking, bobbing, weaving, and apologizing as I listened to the excellent audio guide. But the exhibit was excellent.

The canvasses were stunning. There is that faint surprise when you see a picture you've viewed many times or on tea towels or postcards suddenly loom large and in living colour before you. It was Rousseau's Farm in the Landes (1844 - 67) that brought tears to my eyes. Of course, it's riddled with trees, which are pretty much my favourite thing in the whole world. The life in the painting and the obvious devotion he poured into it over 20 years is palpable.

Anything with trees in it captivated me, like Monet's Geese in the Brook (1874).

I learned that Renoir's A Box at the Theater (At the Concert) (1880) originally had a male figure standing to the right behind the young ladies. Apparently you can still see his form somewhat in the red curtain backdrop. I can't.

But I love the contrasts in black and white, in sauciness and demureness, and how the younger girl's nose seems to be coming in dangerous collision with the other lady's elbow.

The rebellious Impressionists are now achingly mainstream. But an exhibition like this, excellently laid out, lit, paced... dispells the chocolate box overkill and instilled in me a renewed awe for some of our greatest artists.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sweet November

I'm not looking forward to winter. I wasn't looking forward to November. But... strangely, as it draws to a close, I'm enjoying this dark, in-between time of year. I'm grateful for evergreens, giving colour to otherwise naked parks and walkways. The sky has been more blue of late, even as the days get shorter.

Tonight I was headed to hear a concert by a young singer, but I got caught up between two appointments and a late, after-hours pick up for work. So I missed the concert and walked home from the streetcar, my eyes burning with too much computer work and too much tiredness. The snowflakes started falling and I noted the twinkly lights in many store fronts. I realized that Christmas is four weeks yesterday, but I have been working so hard I had hardly noticed the sudden onslaught of holiday decorations and songs in the shops.

I saw the flakes fall on my black pea jacket as I walked the quiet streets. It was getting late and I wasn't - for once - in the mood to cook for myself from scratch. I picked up a shawarma at my favourite local, where the smiles are as warm as their yummy hot sauce.

At home I got into my dressing gown, put on my warm slippers and collapsed in my big red chair. I was melancholy and happy all at once. After I'd eaten my shawarma I sat in my little anteroom, the twinkly lights were on, and I played my ukulele. What a sight I must have made.

I've never cared much for November before, and I've missed most of it this year, but still, it's pretty sweet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blustery Walk to Cherry Beach

I had to walk down to the beach today to clear out my brain cobwebs. There were very few people out. I think Grey Cup fever has Toronto in its grip, so apart from the occasional helicopter and a few other walkers, it was remote. A bit too remote perhaps. In the winter months, I usually keep more inland, especially to avoid the bitter breezes off the lake. Oh... I don't like to wish time away, but I do long for spring. I think this winter will be a long one.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Bzzz on the Cupcakes

This is why I was too busy to blog this week... cupcakes! I made them (mostly regular size, but some minis) for a party for a busy, beekeeping lady. This happened over three evenings after work. Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting were topped with marzipan bees (with slivered almonds for wings and cocoa-coloured piping gel for stripes), and fondant flowers and leaves. They all went.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eleven Moving Pictures

A couple of years ago, I took a picture of dawn from the train leaving Montreal. This time it was sunset. Gazing out of moving windows is one of my favourite things to do. When the crescent moon appeared high up, I watched it almost all the way back to Toronto.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken."

Jane Austen, Emma

Here's a little disclosure... I'm blogging remotely from a train en route to Montreal for a weekend of much-needed pleasure and relaxation. And I've just started reading The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler.

Like Liver?

How about liver... with bacon? Mmmm... bacon. (Insert Homer Simpson drooling noise here).

I like liver in many forms, but - inspired by how I've had it in restaurants recently - I tried this technique and it's one of the best things I've ever tasted. The onions and bacon softened and cooked together, then were pushed aside in the pan to let the liver just cook through. So tasty and warming.

And I'm still in a soup mood, making the broccoli, ginger and lemongrass soup copied from The Sandwich Box. Yum. One of the benefits of cold weather is the warming food it inspires.