Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In the Midst of the Frustration...

... of waiting for spring, of yearning for sun, of too much work and too much work outside of work, and - yes - too much play...

... there was a silence at home this evening. I sat at my computer finally catching up on some personal e-mails, and, as I revelled in quiet stillness, I detected the gentle hooting of a mourning dove. I've missed that sound all winter. That sweet sound accompanied my softly clacking keyboard for about half an hour.

This reminds me of what's important, but then it makes me ponder the things I do that aren't. I need to think about this, except... I don't have time. People are crazy. Or maybe it's just me.

So grateful for bird song.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quote of the Day

"I look a girl in the eye, and it was a very long love story with thunder and kisses and lightning. I live fast."


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another BPG Stream of Conciousness

(Let's not even get into music or fashion or politics... my latest example of seriouslybehindthetimesitis is... Downton Abbey.

I watched the first episode when the series premiered, decided I didn't like it, and that was that. Flash forward three years and everyone I know with at least half a brain loves this show. Finally I was convinced by a certain friend to give it a shot. And did we ever. Three of us gathered for the first of at least three marathon catch up sessions. We gathered at 6 p.m. at my place and blasted through season one, ending the evening at about 1:30 a.m. And my thoughts went a little like this...)


OMG! What a cast! I had no idea. I love the earl, he was such a bastard in Daniel Deronda... mmmm lovely eyes. Lady Cora... [inhale] how long was it since She's Having a Baby? Ordinary People? I loved her clogs in that. Another gin and tonic? I feel old! Her eyes are so blue. God. Mary! Oh! OMG Maggie Smith. What a cast. Did I say that? I love these chips. Okay, no-one said that in 1912. Did I remember to record Mr. Selfridge? OK NO-ONE SAID THAT IN 1912. Okay, I'll stop saying that. Hahahahaha. I have to write that down. Oh, repeat this bit. Pause it while I get the pasta on. Beautiful horse. Pamuk! Whoa Pamuk! Oh God, play that bit again when Mary first sees him. Ha! MARY! OMG. Wow. Mrs. Miniver. Awwwww. I'll get dessert. Thomas and O'Brien you bloody bastards I hope you get it right up the hooter. Wow. I'm pretty sure no-one said that in 1913. Awww William. Uh oh. God, what a car. Wait, how is it now 1914? Oh, Mrs. Patmore! OMG. ARGH!!!! O'Brien! EDITH!!! bitch bitch bitch! O. M. G. Mary. ooooooo


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quote of the Day

"In the struggle between yourself and the world, side with the world."


Monday, April 15, 2013

Beautiful Walk

My friend B suggested a walk along Duffins Creek in the Greenwood Conservation Area. The weather forecast had called for blazing sun. What we got was an overcast day with no wind. The colours and light were soft. There were many beautiful things to soak up:

... soft buds...

... whorled bark like the surface of a raked Japanese garden... I see a face in the tree, do you? Two eyes, a sticky-out nose and then it's also sticking its tongue out!

... the chartreuse of baby trees...

... a tree whose random roots made it look like a baby brontosaurus... see the front legs?

... silvery grasses...

 ... we've had a lot of precipitation this spring, and the creek was running swiftly...

... leaves, bark, slopes, trees, beautiful moss...

... a stunning view. Imagine it in a month... or in the fall..

... who let in the crazy tree hugger?

... cracked ice sheet...

... good news...

Not only is B full of great ideas, she also surprises you at the end of a long walk with a picnic of piping hot tea, cookies, chips and grilled cheese sandwiches. AND... a drop in on the way home to the Lindt chocolate outlet (I stocked up). Thanks, B!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Finding it Hard to get up Monday Mornings? This Might Help

I saw this in Sobeys (one of my local supermarkets).

Quote of the Day

"There are countless hiding places, but only one salvation; but then again, there are as many paths to salvation as there are hiding places."


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013


Mmmm... good food and excellent company. We ate cheese straws (puff pastry embedded with parmesan, ementhal, sesame and poppy seeds, then twisted and baked... they were so long and fun to eat); rich wild mushroom soup with creme fraiche, salad topped with edible petals; salmon en croute; lamb cake (bought from the St. Lawrence market) and truffle tart sprinkled with my edible gold stars, because... there's something about Easter that brings out my inner girly girl. Hee hee!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Music and Opera Catch Up... Hey! Where're You Going Now?

The older I get, the harder winter is to take. It's too cold and dark. So, I retreat into even darker auditoriums and give myself over to the antithesis of the withering winter emptiness: music. Having said that, and with spring almost (not quite) upon us, there will be less days and nights in dark halls, and more days, face turned upwards towards the sun. Art, music, opera, theatre... Thank you for getting me through these last few months. Now I need... water, trees, sun. Light.

Music, in its most outrageously absorbing and intense format, becomes opera. There was plenty of it: Elsa van den Heever and Ramon Vargas were ravishing in Il Trovatore (at the Canadian Opera Company); there was also a clever Fledermaus which pulled out the Freudian undercurrents that lurk in all societies; in this case it was early 20th-century Vienna. It made an operetta I don't much care for much more interesting.

Elsa van den Heever was thrilling later in her Met debut, which I watched live in HD at my local cinema, her Elisabetta up against Joyce di Donato's beautiful Maria in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda. I love me a bucketful of Donizetti, and the music is glorious, but the Catholicism gets bashed over our heads way too much in the final scene. We get it already! Catholics: good; Anglicans: bad! Blimey, an editor would have been useful there. Also in HD from the Met I saw Sondra Radvanovsky and Marcelo Alvarez in Un ballo in maschera, a fantastic David Alden production, which set the story in the early 20th century, more beautiful and more meaningful than a Ballo has ever been for me before. The word "diva" of course means "goddess" and it's a perfect word for the sublime Susan Graham who was at the heart of Berlioz's epic Les Troyens. Was it four hours or five? Four I think I don't recall. I'm not sure my bottom could take too much more, but it was very beautiful, and the entire cast was perfection, with Brian Hymel (he was Don Jose here in Toronto a few years back) stepping into the killer role of Aeneas, almost effortlessly. Another epic afternoon was Parsifal. Five hours of Wagner. Great music, don't like the libretto, dripping as it does with some creepy, twisted religosity. Jonas Kaufmann hardly seems to exert any effort when he sings. He spent much of this performance shirtless (excellent) and we watched his diaphgram keenly. Again, it all seems effortless. Rene Pape was towering as Gurnemanz. I took a few naps, almost on purpose, as I was planning ahead for the latter part of my day: I fled the theatre after the curtain calls, just in time to meet my friends for a movie and dinner (my scheduling secretary must have been stoned). The Met in HD season concluded for me with a rare showing of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini. The sets and costumes were all medieval lushness with touches of Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite flourishes, I was in overload heaven. The music is beautiful but having heard it once, I don't need to hear it again.

Molly Johnson was growly and glamorous at Massey Hall (but could they have turned up the heat? I sat with my coat on. I am not a nostalgia-filled fan of Massey Hall. People rhapsodize. I've only ever been uncomfortable in that space, although the good news is that a recent donation of land next to it means that it can be updated. I think washrooms, bar area and heating/cooling systems will be addressed).

Poculi Ludique Societas, who recreate theatre from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, performend A Medieveal Chistmas: Go We Hence to Bethlehem's Bower at St. Thomas's Church. It was, as might be expected, a tad bawdy, and I was riveted by the angelic face of Alice Degan (as Mary), who looked - with her sweetly hooded eyes and long, blond tresses - like Mary stepped from a painting of the period.

Nothing about music here, but the Service of Lessons and Carols at Trinity College Chapel had us sitting at the back on these elevated throne-like seats. Nice! The candles were haunting as usual but we used to hold them through the entire service. We were bade to extinguish them very early. Sigh. I love candles in church, especially holding them, as it gives me something to concentrate on. I know, I'm doomed.

More recently, I took a long lunch hour and indulged in the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. These concerts (at least two a week during the season) are varied and generous. I was there for Christopher Mokrzewski (musical director of Against the Grain Theatre) and his program of Bill Evans/French inspirations piano works. Messiaen, Ravel, and Poulenc were interspersed with Evans in a captivating, virtuosic performance. To be in that space with that music, the great wall of glass beside us showing the city traffic silently undulating up University Avenue was mesmerizing. What a gift.

Did anyone make it to the bottom? In case you did, here's your reward.

Theatre Catch Up... Hey... Where are you Going? Would it Help if I Interspersed Some Cute Puppy Videos?

A long and rambling post covering recent theatre, music and opera was lost in the doom-laden Blogger void. Anyway, here is a shorter and incomplete version of my recent recap!

I'll start with theatre...


Each year, around the holiday season, Soulpepper Theatre has been alternating (annually) their wonderful production of Parfumerie (read my thoughts here) and A Christmas Carol (adapted and directed by Michael Shamata). This past December 28 was the first time I'd seen the latter. It was excellent, managing to suspend my obsession with the British film of 1948, as beloved as that remains. The cast mainly took on multiple roles, with Joseph Ziegler as Scrooge, excellent both as his twisted unhappy self, and his enlightened, joyous self at the end. John Jarvis was the three ghosts and Jacob Marley, and, after expending all that energy, looked still full of vigour as we watched him cycle away after the performance, over the cobblestoned streets of the historic Distillery District which houses the Young Theatre.

Written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1893 or 1895 (he also wrote Reigen in 1897, better known to me as La Ronde), directed by Morris Panych (who was behind the above-mentioned Parfumerie), it was lovely to look at, but, the piece never really took off. Anatol is a serial boyfriend, living in 1900 Vienna. He's unable to settle down with any one woman permanently. Well, why should he? There's no reason proposed in the play. There was little depth to the shallowness. Schnitzler's La Ronde will be presented by Soulpepper this year. I'm curious to see it.

Another winner from Soulpepper. Tom Stoppard's first, brilliant play was a great night out, on a cold Toronto night. We stopped first at Mill Street Brew Pub, which was extremely busy, but our reservation found us placed right in front of the fireplace. My back got very toasty and I was so happy. When we got to the theatre, we found that the theatre-in-round set up that Soulpepper had used for A Christmas Carol is still in place. It works! Ted Dykstra and Jordan Pettle (pictured below by Cylla von Tiedemann) were the title characters respectively, and worked off each other so well with great charm and humour. What seemed like the entire Soulpepper company rounded out the various players. It was one of the wittiest nights I've experienced in a long time, as Stoppard's/Shakespeare's two goofy guys loped dimly and hilariously through the on-stage/off-stage carryings on of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Joseph Ziegler, such an excellent and moving Scrooge over the Christmas season, directed. What a mensch.



If you can't fly to London regularly (I can't) and you have the remotest interest in excellent theatre, I urge you to try National Theatre Live, as it transmits select productions into cinemas around the world.

This play was adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon's novel), and was a riveting piece of theatre, seen through the thought processes of an austistic teenage boy, played brilliantly by Luke Treadaway. Niamh Cusack was his teacher, but everyone in the cast was perfect. This sort of performance from NTLive makes me so, so wish they would release the performances on DVD. The Met does it with their operas; I just wish this was available to witness over and over.

Shakespeare's Timon was new to me. It starred the versatile and brilliant Simon Russell Beale as Timon, a rich man who loses everything... and more. In Act II he railed at his lot, and it was stunning. And, set in present-day London, very timely.

Arthur Wing Pinero's play had John Lithgow in the title role, a kind, thoughtful man whose life goes off the rails in a delicious and stylish farce. I could have lived without the added musical interludes, but it was such fun overall. I love good farce. There's not enough of it.

This was actor Stephen Beresford's first play - I mean, he wrote it! I don't this it will be his last. This splendid family dysfuncion-fest had Julie Walters as the impossible and wonderful mother, and Helen McCrory and Rory Kinnear as her troubled adult children. What a cast - what a show! I'm sure the National has the same struggles financially as other performing arts institions around the world (or do they?) but you wouldn't know it by the lavish attention to every detail. The set for this play was as star in itself.

Alan Bennett's new play had me bouncing with anticipation. And then... not so much. It's the first piece of Alan Bennett's ever that I haven't been captivated by. In parts it's moving, nostalgic, hysterical, outrageous, but as a total it never came together for me. Occasional plot holes and inconsistent behaviour from the characters left me feeling cold to the whole thing. Of course with performers like Frances de la Tour, I was also thrilled I hadn't missed it. She leads a great cast, including my teenage crush, Peter Egan, who is still doling out the hotness factor.

Grumble, Grumble... But Who Should I Address it to?

A year ago we were surrounded by blossoms. Today we are on day two of relentless rain, except now it's freezing and ice pellets are falling. The streets are treacherous. The shy daffodils should never have poked their heads above the ground. Who can I complain to?

A Toronto Walk

A walk along Queen's Quay, past the Redpath factory where a freigher was offloading her raw sugar.... the CN Tower... the Hockey Hall of Fame... back home, from where I can still see the tower. And dinner at last: takeaway turkey chili from Brick Street Bakery in the Distillery. Yum!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Insert Handy Curse Right Here

The long, admittedly unwieldy post I was composing about the recent theatre/music/film I have experienced is lost to the blogosphere.

I shall recompose it later this week... after I have recomposed myself.

(And by recent theatre/music/film, I'm talking pretty much an entire winter's worth. As I stumble, blinking like a freed pitpony into the spring, I lose much of my interest for most indoor activity, and seek instead sky, trees and water.)

This Year's Big Cake Project - Final

The big cake, of course, wasn't a big cake at all. It was over 100 cupcakes, divided up by display to honour three different William Morris walllpaper patterns. You can read more about the plan here. The event was at University College on the University of Toronto campus. Laura and James's display was so striking. Someone said it looked like the William Morris cupcakes had been put into a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I sort of see that. It went well, and we're done for another year. Of course... plans are already afoot for next year's project. Thanks, J and L!

Monday, April 8, 2013

This Year's Big Cake Project, Part Three (if you Count my Blethering)

Day two of the cupcake project... This was baking and finessing of decorations.

I used most of the three jars of Soma cocoa powder. It's deep, dark and mysterious. And I was mesmerized as I sifted. Or maybe that was the shiny bowl. Or lack of sleep. Anyway, I was happy. Finding four opened bags of flour in my baking cupboard made me wonder what the hell I get up to sometimes. You see James's hand as he brought the cupcake toppers to life with painted detail.

The cupcakes were baked in one day (120 of them). Then ganached (Callebaut 51% for a change) and then frosted. I barely had room for them.

The final result will be posted tomorrow.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Friday Night Bison

Vegetarians, avert your eyes!

On Friday night, after my walk, meat was needed, and it was supplied. A bison steak. Damn, it was good.


Friday evening, I needed to walk so badly. Just walk and walk and let the air clear my head. I needed to hug a tree, and I did. Spring is on its way but that walk back home from Cherry Beach, with the wind in my face, was brutal.

Pretty much a year to the day that I thought I should retire the old Sauconys... I've got the new ones. Just as comfortable... good companions on the regular 5k and 10k walks.

Bring on the spring, the walks, the trees... bring it all on.