Tag Archives: NaBloPoMo

Food. And The End. (Day 30!)

It probably goes without saying what a complete thrill it was to see Thomas Keller speak live and in person tonight at the Toronto Reference Library. If you’re not certain who the heck Thomas Keller is, see if these names ring any bells: The French Laundry, per se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, ad hoc, Michelin Three Stars, and on and on and on. I had the foodgasmic pleasure of dining at ad hoc (whose tag line is “for temporary relief of hunger”. Indeed.) in the Spring of 2008 during my first trip to Napa Valley. My very best friend in the whole wide world for the last 18 years was getting married and we had dinner at ad hoc to celebrate. Ad hoc is all about comfort food and *I* am all about comfort food, which means we were a match made in heaven from the word “go”. I mean, any restaurant that has “Buttermilk fried chicken with brussels sprout hash, autumn squash, cippolini onions, chive biscuits and peppered anson mills grits” is, without a doubt, my kinda place. In fact, prior to eating at ad hoc, I wasn’t a huge duck fan, but being the adventurous eater I like to be, tried it there. Essentially, I could have put my face in the dish from the sheer goodness were I not afraid that my mug would end up splashed across TMZ.com for the world to see1. Let me just say that the smells were so good in that place that I could have possibly married them.

The Cookbook Shop had apparently been “stalking” Chef Keller for ten years. Ten years spent trying to get him to Canada, to no avail. Until tonight. His new cookbook, ad hoc at home, was recently published and he is touring in support of the book on, you guessed it, comfort food. I was ticket #65 and thought it would be a small, intimate group listeners, but there were more than 450 others who had the same idea I did — it was packed! The price of  the ticket included a signed copy of the book and when I walked in, he was surrounded by about ten people, with boxes everywhere, signing the books. I found my spot and he casually walked to the front to begin the chat. He said more than once how nervous he was and that his comfortable place was next to the stove, which I totally get being the expert chef I am2. He spoke at length about how kitchens are all about teamwork, and rituals3, and how he enjoys eating seasonal foods because he hates eating the same thing all year. I tend to agree — it’s no different than loving the changing of the actual seasons — food seasons are just as much fun to anticipate! He told a little anecdote about going into Pusateri’s today and seeing a lady buying peaches. He walked up to her and said “Don’t buy those peaches. They’re all dehydrated and don’t even have a smell”, to which she apparently stared at him and bought it anyway. He said she was also buying cherries. Cherriesand peaches in November? His point was that we should think about the seasons when we eat just like we think of the trees changing or the snow beginning.

Chef Keller was sweetly nervous and was much more reserved than I expected he’d be. There was a Q&A session and, of course, someone asked him what he thought about Canada and the Canadian food scene4, where he answered that he didn’t know much about it, but that he wanted to eat at The Black Hoof — and so do I, because who wouldn’t want to eat a horse tongue sandwich?! I ate beef tongue in Montréal, so why not horse tongue in Toronto? But I digress. The announced that Chef Keller would stay and personalize the books afterwards and so I sprinted to the back, after having sat myself in the front. The line-forming was mayhem and I had flashbacks to the five hours — FIVE — I stood in line to meet David Sedaris. David Sedaris is one thing — I would stand in a -30C blizzard with snow up to my eyeballs for the chance to speak to David Sedaris for even ten seconds (well, I would pretty much do *anything* to see David Sedaris), but, while Chef Keller is widely regarded as the best chef in America, I wasn’t about to spend the next four hours waiting for him to sign my book “To Carmen”. So home I went, happy as a lark, to eat my comfort food of a fried egg sandwich. 🙂

Speaking of food, this week’s New Yorker is their annual “Food Issue”, which means lots of foodie goodness. I was perusing the mag on the way to Chicago and nearly fell off my very comfortable Air Canada flight with economy class in-seat TV when I saw that Calvin Trillin contributed an article on the national food of Québec, poutine!! Firstly, it’s the New Yorker. Enough said. Secondly, Calvin Trillin. Calvin Trillin ranks up there as one of my all-time favourite writers extraordinaire and humourist who wrote one of my all-time favourite books called Travels with Alice. Thirdly, an article on the infamous snack food known as poutine in my beloved adopted country written by Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker. Z.O.M.G. It couldn’t possibly be any better unless David Sedaris was his writing partner, at which point I’d probably roll up into the fetal position on my floor and simply cry out of sheer happiness. For your reading, and listening, pleasure, I’m linking to an exerpt5 of the article in the mag and a clip of the podcast of Mr. Trillin speaking about the article. As good as it gets, fo realz.

And that, my friends, officially brings me to the end of this daily blogging madness for which I signed up called NaBloPoMo. My writing muscles have officially been flexed and it was awesome! Through sleep-deprivation, traveling, and a creative writing class that required me to write entire 1,000 word articles weekly (!) in addition to my daily blog posts, I still managed to accomplish blogging every single day for 30 days (check the badge on the right, yo)!! Let me just say that it takes brass balls to achieve this, and although I know all of you at least one of you6 out there will miss my daily posts,  fret not! I’ll be back soon enough, but this time without the mad dash to the finish line whereby I’m wheezing and puffing like a 97 year-old woman. Because you deserve better. 🙂 

Now that NaBloPoMo is kaput, there are about eleventy-thousand things I’m going to do. I’m going to a) decorate my Christmas tree, b) eat before 10pm, c) sleep, d) reconnect with friends who thought I’d fallen off the face of the planet, e) not lose my job, f) tidy up my house that is in complete disarray, g) take a leisurely bath so as to finally use my favourite Lush bathbombs7 and h) go on the date I’ve been putting off for 30 days, which may or may not include “g”. 😉

To those of you who stuck this out with me, thank you for reading my occasionally narcissistic drivel (but also some good posts, too!). I’ll miss seeing y’all here every day, but the next time I bring this kind of cockamamie idea up, please call the po-po — I will seriously need to be arrested. For now, I need a big blogging break. Don’t wait up!

 

1 Think headlines such as “maid of honour starves herself for so long just to fit in her bridesmaid dress that she chows down like a pig in a trough”. Or something like that.
2 Not!
3 And of which I am also a HUGE fan — maybe I missed my calling, after all.
4 A question I’m asked *all* the time and one I just don’t get. Why is it so important for Canadians to know what Americans think of Canada? You’re a lovely, beautiful place, so stop looking for constant approval from your next-door neighbour, already!
5 Because I’m not a subscriber (yet…Santa!), I can’t download the article in its entirety. Sorry. 😦 
6 You know who you are.
7 Which, for the record, are the Avobomb and Comforter Bubble Bar combined. H-E-A-V-E-N.

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T-3 Days And Counting (Day 28)

You probably already know that I’m traveling this weekend. You probably also know that I’m hanging with friends and, of course, shopping. Let me just say that I went to a two-story — TWO-STORY — Target today and nearly cried. My heart began to race, I started to sweat palpably and actually had to pause for a moment to catch my breath.

Purchased were sock monkey Santa flannel PJ’s, affordable batteries (ahem), and a new release DVD for $3.99. Someone please remind me again why I live in Canada?! 😉

This post doesn’t really count and is totally phoned in; however, considering I’ve been out all day and am about to go out to paint Chicago red, I consider it a valiant effort.

The best part of this post, though, is that there are only TWO posts left before I get to wrap up this daily blogging madness and reclaim some semblance of a life!

So, until tomorrow, lovely blog readers.

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Can’t Blog. Shopping. (Day 27)

Ten bucks if you can spot me (hint, hint). If, however, you have vision troubles and are unable to find me ;-), you’ll at least get an idea of where I am. Where I am is likely in front of Tarzhay1 somewhere in the city of Chicago, freezing my bum off and likely having just been trampled trying to acquire that $49 50″ flat panel TV of which they likely had only two. 😉 Wish me luck.

1 By which I mean the most *amazing* store on the planet, Target.

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Happy Thanksgiving! (Day 26)

I had every intention of penning a verbose message this Thanksgiving, but the immobilization caused by the tryptophanic residue in my bloodstream has currently hurled me inexorably couchward.

I wanted to say a lot today. I am sure that some of you are more than tired of me and my vapid, but cheerful(!), blog posts, and while I’m sorry you’re bored, you must surely have a cold, shriveled little heart that cannot tolerate my gratitude! I feel like I have a lot to be grateful for, like my amazingly loving and supportive parents who, even though I packed up an moved 1,600 miles away, still love me just like I was sitting in their house being the demanding princess I can occasionally be. 🙂 I am grateful for being able to live in Canada and, while I know I won’t be here forever, I have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its fantastic peeps — I wouldn’t trade a single, solitary moment of my time here and will always say only excellent things about the country, even when they continue making fun of my accent. 🙂 But what I really wanted to do today was to show some love to YOU, my blog readers. You, the people who take the time to stop by here and read my drivel, to leave comments, to send emails, and reply to tweets. Those of you who stop by, lurk, and say nothing at all.

When I started blogging a few years ago, I loved it, but did it really just for myself. I never took it seriously. Then people actually started finding me and reading me, and I had no idea that my site would grow into a community of people I love and treasure—not just online, but offline, too.

My blog friends have sent me some of the nicest emails I’ve ever received. They have encouraged me in the midst of relationship issues, the ending of friendships and worries about my future. They have made me laugh and cry all at the same time. Some of them have crossed the line from “e-friends” to just plain friends. Friends I speak with regularly, friends I can’t wait to see again. Friends who fill my email box, my Facebook wall, and my snail mail box with love and care and friendship.

Blogging has reconnected me to old friends and to people I had no idea were reading or paying attention. It has opened my eyes to people and alternate points of view points and goals and books and careers and ideas and plans. And for that, I can never write an adequate post.

So, if you’re here, on this page, I just want to say Thank You. I am thankful for you. I am grateful for all of the little things, with seemingly insignificant moments that make my life so much sweeter.

I wanted to say all that, but all I can really manage at this moment is a giant Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I love, and am so thankful for, you all!

xo.

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Apparent Signs Of Loneliness (Day 25)

I *should* be packing for my trip to Chicago, but instead, I’m blogging, damnit, because when I say I’m gonna do something, I do it! Anyway.

Of our five senses, the one that can change my emotions more quickly than any other is my sense of smell (also, when I see hot guys, but I digress). To this day, certain smells bring back memories of specific times in my life and even particular moments in time or physical buildings, in some cases. I have an absolute love affair with candles. In fact, I have a candle closet in my house1. I am *all* about changing my candles out either seasonally: lotus flower, peony, lily, gardenia, jasmine, lemon or grapefruit for Spring; green apple, orange blossom, berry, or cucumber for Summer; clary sage, pumpkin, ginger, or persimmon for Fall; and fig, star anise, balsam, frasier fir, or red currant for Winter. With the exception of a few days during the summer when it’s hot2, I always have a candle burning. They just make me a very happy (and calm) girl.

Which is why I was so utterly disturbed by what I recently heard. I was at a party when I overheard someone say that “girls who burn candles are lonely. Candles are the new cat”. Ex-squeeze me? A-Baking powder? If that’s true, on both counts, I’m totally f****d, what with my candle closet, and near cat adoption and all. I wonder if there’s any truth to this? Could I be lonely and just not know it?! I certainly don’t ogle my candles like I would a guy, nor would I try to become, shall we say, intimate with my candles. Can we all say “3rd degree burns”? I certainly don’t support this theory, but it’s out there, circulating around the world and unfairly labeling me all the single ladies! As if.

1 Check the photo, yo.
2 By which I mean 24C/78F

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Do You See What I See? (Day 18)

Away from the light of day, there exists nearly an entire self-sustaining city. The tunnels, stations and people that encompass the three1 subway lines of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) are daily staples of the third most heavily-used urban transit system in North America2. It is also now officially3 the most expensive and least government funded urban transit system in North America, as well. I, along with 1,499,999 of my fellow TTC riders, could likely go on a diatribe that the likes of even Herman Melville hasn’t seen, but I’ll spare you the colour commentary and keep my nose planted firmly where it belongs, i.e., in my Wordpress blog.

Political opinions aside, beauty can be found in plenitude in subterranean Toronto. I am lucky enough to have a car5, so I don’t take the subway that often; certainly not daily and usually only when it snows, so I don’t run down animals or small children with my non-snow-driving-Texas-girl-self. However, I’ve seen my share of subway stations in Toronto and am always awed by some of the thought and cleverness that I see in the art underground. Also, I’ve seen some very odd things down there and clearly, when people are kept from sunlight day after day, weird things happen. But I digress.

My goal is to see, and photograph, each and every subway station before I leave Canada, so to that end, I’m posting a few snaps from some of the stations I’ve seen to date. I hope you the whimsy as much as I do.

1 Yep. Only three. And I could literally walk between two of them in about 10 minutes.
2 Behind New York City Tranisty Authority and Mexico City Metro
3 As of November 17, when the fares were (yet again) increased thusly.
4 By which I mean “Dear TTC, stop hiking your fares and your ridership just may increase organically”.
5 Yet unlucky enough to have to pay the city of Toronto $60 annually just for the privilege of owning a car in a postal code that begins with an “M”.

Spadina Summer Under All Seasons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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Let’s Bowl, Let’s Bowl, Let’s Rock and Roll! (Day 17)

Today, I did something I haven’t done in at least 15 years — I went bowling. I know it may be hard to believe that it’s been such a long time, what with my youthful, fresh faced good looks and all, but don’t be fooled; I shall be turning another year older in less than a month, and I will now be able to say I’ve bowled with the help of computerized scorekeeping, as opposed to my prior bowling experience where we kept score with rocks and chisels. Anyway. 

My team went bowling as an exercise in futility teambuilding, and teambuilding it was, as in “I’ll beat your azz with my mad strike skills” or “If you don’t send me that deck1 post haste, I’m going to whack you upside your head with this giant ball”.  Speaking of bowling euphemisms, I may or may not have committed a serious freudian slip when I uttered “man, I reeeally don’t want to touch these dirty balls2“. But that’s neither here nor there.

There are 17 people on my team, but only three of the female persuasion, so, of course, we had some serious girl power to spread and representin’ to accomplish. I’m happy to report that I, along with my fierce female colleagues, scored some serious pointage and bowled surprisingly well. We even beat most of the boys (natch). Think perfectly straight lines down the lanes and and breaking 100. In fact, it would probably be fair to say that my bowling skills brought all the boys to the yard.

As an aside, I do not recall bowling being quite so strenous. I’d guess that’s because I was just a wee tyke the last time I partook in the activity, but I nearly threw my back out today. Sadly, I was one of the youngest people in the joint3, too. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cuddle my soaker tub along with about twenty-two gallons4 of epsom salts. 😉

1 I’ve been using the word “deck” since the wayback machine that was my first job out of university. The top of a ship, it does not mean, although I could not locate a single actual definition of the word “deck” in business, so I’ll define it for you: it means “powerpoint presentation”, as in “decks of cards”, or “decks of paper”, as it were.
2 I said it due to the pig flu going around. I did, damnit!
3 True story. There was a group of seniors next to us bowling the everliving daylights out of the ball and I’m not joking when I tell you that they were at least 70. God bless ’em.
4 Or, for my Canadian friends, about 82.5 litres of epsom salt goodness.

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Toronto Gives Voice To Art (Day 16)

(Note: I have no idea why my font is both microscopic and not the normal WordPress font; however, I am far too exhausted to try and figure it out right now. I *can* say that after a quick forum search, I was informed that you are unable to modify fonts on the WordPress.com platform unless you have serious knowledge about CSS, which I do not. WTF? Does that seem silly to anyone else but me? It seems like pretty basic functionality in, I don’t know, 2009. Le sigh.)

You know how you can walk down the same street every single day and not notice something that’s been there forever? I try to be an “explorer in my own city”, which is really still very new to me, but I consider myself to know my ‘hood pretty well. Very well, actually. This week, though, I noticed something different on a lamppost across the street from my building. I noticed a hot pink sign, not necessarily because of what was on it, but because it was hot pink, natch. When I realized it wasn’t just another flyerplastered on a post announcing the next rave at The Guvernment or that male models are in serious need, but something from the city of Toronto about art, no less, I stopped to take a look.

The sign said simply “artbuzz” with a phone number and two other digits, and was near the Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial (sign # 1-3). I’d walked by the very large structure before — it’s huge and not something you can miss; not to mention, I’ve lived nearby for two and a half years and, being the consummate tourist I am, had to check it out. That was long ago, though, and I’d never noticed any pink signs. So, I did what anyone would do and phoned the number hoping upon hope that it wasn’t some kind of porn line or ruse to steal your credit card number. Alas, no! You get a lovely little tale about the work of art, how the idea was conceived and anecdoates from either the artist or art experts. Don’t believe me? Try it! Call 416.338.3331 and punch in 1-3. Pure art goodness.

Artbuzz1 was commissioned in 2002 by the Cultural Services division of the city of Toronto as an audio tour of the city’s outdoor art. Why no one has notified me of this goodness prior to today is beyond me. I have walked all over this city in the time I’ve been here and have never, ever noticed any other pink signage, with the exception of said male model necessitation. Ahem. The odd sign is still affixed around the downtown core, but apparently fifteen pieces were included with the project launch — including Montréal artist Gilbert Boyer’s curiously obscure granite plaques in the ground called “I Looked For Sarah Everywhere” in St. James Park at King and Church (sign # 2-1), as well as at the elevated wetlands in Sunnybrook Park (sign # 1-6). What this all means is that there are fourteen other outdoor art pieces I’ve yet to see. Fourteen! For shame. It, of course, may or may not have something to do with the perpetual foot of snow on the ground six months a year, but that’s neither here nor there. Artbuzz is definitely one of Toronto’s (many) best-kept secrets.

1 I scoured the intertubes trying to locate a website for artbuzz and I can assure you after an exhaustive search that one does not exist.

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The Queen Is In; Healthcare Is Out (Day 15)

The book has officially been rewritten. Literally. And a most important, and historic, rewrite it was. Canada’s 47-page  immigration guide, currently called A Look at Canada, but newly named Discover Canada, and given annually to 250,000 new immigrants, has received a major facelift. Last updated in 19950 when the Liberals were in power, the new guide has apparently taken a less progressive position, which probably isn’t surprising given the current party in power. No longer will new immigrants learn that various cultural and ethnic groups live and work together in harmony, even though Toronto is the multicultural capitals of the world. No longer will newcomers be taught that all Canadians are free to maintain and share their cultural heritage and to participate fully and equally in the national Canadian life. They won’t understand the difference between what’s known fondly in Canada as the “cultural mosaic” and the opposite ideology that is the “melting pot” of the United States. Say goodbye to aving an understanding of Canada’s role on environmental issues, its land and, shockingly, health care1

Instead, say hi to more information than you could ever want about the (British) monarchy’s role in the government of Canada, as well as the history of the Canadian military. I knew Canada had an army, but I thought he died last year2?  All kidding aside, the new guide references the Canadian military’s role in Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, as well as the significance of the poppy, which I always wondered about before moving to Canada. New immigrants will learn about the role of the aboriginal3 people, who Terry Fox was, the Exclusion Act and, that, in order of importance, you should have a complete and thorough understanding of hockey, Canadian football, and curling4. 😉

One of the coolest things I saw in relation to the announcement of Discover Canada was a wordle highlighting the featured words from the new guide (the top cloud) compared to the words emphasized in the old guide (the bottom cloud). Wicked cool for a word nerd like moi! 

citizenship_guide

Naturally, Canadian Immigration practice tests were part of the articles accompanying the announcement of the new guide. Of course, priding  myself on the fact that I have soaked up every bit of information about Canada that my already over-taxed brain can possibly manage, I elatedly took the test. and I think you’ll be pleased to know that I scored a 90% (!!).  

Citizenship

Actually the only question I answered incorrectly was a question that was British Columbia specific — something about naming three city councillors in Vancouver — as the test was published by the Richmond Public Library. As if — I live in Toronto, for the sake of Pete! Scratch that question, though, and I would have scored 100%! And with that score, shouldn’t I automatically be granted citizenship? Seriously.

0 Disclaimer: I saw two dates for the current publication while researching — 1995 and 1997. Since I didn’t even know Canada existed then (kidding!!), I can’t say for certain which it really is. Let’s just agree on “late 90’s”, k?
1 Isn’t this sort of a Canadian hallmark and/or signature? How can this possibly be left out? To save trees?
2 A Canadian told me that quip, I swear! 
3 Or what Americans call “Indians” or “Native Americans”.
4 I still have yet to see a curling match, but it’s my list of things to do. I better get crackin’ if I ever want to pass the immigration test!

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Hell House (Day 14)

Picture this: it’s Halloween Eve 1990. You and your friends are costumed up, ready for a night full of debauchery and immoral self-indulgence. You’ve been dying to scream your heads off at one of the plethora of haunted houses that springs up every October, but you’re especially psyched about going to the new kid on the block called, forebodingly, Hell House. You drive up and think to yourself “how scary can this really be, being that it’s at a church and all”. You pay your $20 bucks, walk in, and are guided from room to room from tour guides dressed as demons. The scenes seem exceptionally gruesome and startingly real: date rapes (and subsequent suicides) at raves, fatal drunk driving crashes, school massacres a la Columbine, and abortions gone wrong. Sound like the haunted house you signed up to see? Not likely.

Scaremare was the first “Hell House” of its kind and was, not surprisingly, created by none other than Jerry Falwell in the late 1970’s. It’s still in existence today. Scaremare, whose tagline is, incidentally, “Don’t be a stranger”, spawned copy cat Hell Houses around the country, most notably by Keenan Roberts of Colorado, who infamously created and sold Hell House outreach kits0, and Temple Hell House in Temple, Texas, ironically near Fort Hood where 13 people were recently shot and killed.

The familiar and distinctive voice traveled over my speakers into my ears and, as per usual, my heart did the little dance it does when I hear him. My boyfriend, Ira Glass1 of This American Life, was interviewing George Ratliff, the director of a wee documentary so powerful that it was selected to play at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival. The film portrays the story of Trinity Assembly of God2, a fundamentalist church outside of Dallas, Texas, and their version of Hell House. Trinity’s version of the script depicts sin as it’s defined by the religious far right, the consequences of committing those sins, and the salvation gained from redemption should one choose to commit their life to God. In general, the idea is to assert that non-believers do not pass Go, do not collect $200 and basically go straight to hell. The audition process for Hell House is apparently pretty fierce, and the cast and crew (all recruited from the church membership) are woefully large.  Scripts are written, sets are built, souls are saved, and money is made. A Facebook page even exists.

I’ve embedded this year’s Hell House trailer (yes, they even have a trailer) for your enjoyment. The video is pretty intense, but worth a look. Check it and I’ll see you on the other side:

Aprés Hell House tour, attendees are taken into what’s called the Decision Room. They are asked “if you died tonight, do you know where you’d go? Would it be heaven or would it be hell?”, and are given six seconds — SIX! – to decide if they want to bail (by which I mean remain one of the damned) or “go pray with a counsellor”.

According to director George Ratliff, approximately 13,000 people went through Hell House in 2008 alone and more than 700 churches have bought the Hell House outreach kit. Shockingly (well, to me, anyway), Trinity Assembly estimates that 1 in 5 Hell House attendees choose to either become Christian or recommit themselves to the church. Commit, indeed.

0 Uh, right.
1 Holy hotness, batman!
2 I searched high and low for a website for this church (by which I mean Google), but found zilch. Apologies for the non-linkage.

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