Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Romanesco Cauliflower

I love the fractal patterns in this cauliflower. Tastes good, too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Literary Weekend

I had the great pleasure of seeing Margaret Atwood at the Kitchener Public Library yesterday. Actually, I saw her via a live video feed, in a room adjacent to the library auditorium where she was speaking. The overflow crowd was enthusiastic all the same. It was enough to be next door to greatness.

When I saw the announcement months ago, I planned to show up early for the ticket distribution that took place two weeks before the event. I arrived 15 minutes before the doors opened, figuring that would surely be early enough. After all, we're talking about a reading by a novelist who writes serious literature, not a U2 concert. By the time I got to the front of the line, I was told the auditorium tickets were all gone and there were only a handful of overflow tickets left. I managed to snag two for myself and my friend Fei Min, and I saw over 50 people in the line behind me go home disappointed.

Margaret Atwood read from her new work, Year of the Flood, but much more enlightening and entertaining were her comments during the Q&A period. She covered utopian and dystopian literature, the purposes of blogging and Twittering, anecdotes from her early writing days, and much more. I didn't envy the interviewer, as this is one very sharp and quick woman. It must be tough keeping up with her.

We then lined up with the rest of the crowd to get our books signed. I had the new one, while Fei Min had her cherished copy of Alias Grace, which might very well be my favourite Atwood work, of the ones I've read so far. (I'd read this novel during the long hours breastfeeding Kate right after she was born; it was so compelling and disturbing that I didn't manage to get the sleep that I so badly needed at the time.) Fei Min and I then spent the next hour rehashing the event over a couple of sushi rolls. All in all, it was a terrific way to spend a Saturday!

This afternoon, I headed over to Victoria Park for the Word on the Street Festival. I picked up a few books for the kids and listened to a couple of readings. The highlight for me was attending Shane Peacock's reading from his first Boy Sherlock Holmes book, Eye of the Crow. I already knew he was a first-rate writer, but I discovered that he is a superb speaker as well. He spoke about his passion for Victorian England and his inspirations for this series. He also warned would-be young writers that it's very hard work to write. I believe him, as his books seem to be meticulously researched. After the reading, I got Kate's copy of Death in the Air signed. She couldn't come with me to the reading because of a previous commitment, but she was thrilled to see the signed book when she returned home in the evening.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mac 'n' Cheese

I'm way too tired to write a book review, knitting pattern, or anything else requiring much thought, but I've been getting gentle reminders from various sources that I should keep my blog up to date. So the best I can do is this: Kate's fabulous home-made mac 'n' cheese, which I had the honour of helping her make. It was better than KD, really.

Why am I so tired? I guess it's the back-to-school chaos: getting used to waking up before 7am again, rushing to Office Depot because one of the kids absolutely needs a binder/notebook/glue-stick by the next day or else she is doomed to failure for the school year, dashing out to the grocery store after realizing there is no lunch food except granola bars in the house, being told about a parent-teacher meeting just as it was about to get started (with the reassuring words, "But you don't really have to attend, Mom"). However, things are starting to get better. Life isn't exactly returning to "normal", but we're starting to establish a new routine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My TIFF Experience

On Sunday, Todd and I went to TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival for the very first time. It's sad, really, that we've never ventured there before. I always had the impression that tickets would be expensive and difficult to get and that it would be worthwhile only for serious art film aficionados or celebrity chasers, but I was wrong on both counts.

We left early on Sunday morning and arrived in Toronto in time to pick up our tickets and line up for our first movie, Up in the Air, at the Elgin Theatre. There's Todd, in the photo above, with the much needed Starbucks latte. We got in line an hour ahead of time, and already the line was several city blocks long, but the wait was worthwhile, as we did get good seats together.

It was a great experience to see a movie at the beautiful Elgin, the ceiling of which is shown in the photo above. Up in the Air, directed by Jason Reitman (of Juno fame) was superb. I loved everything about it: the acting, the story, the humour, the cinematography. It's definitely Oscar material. All these years, I've never really understood the George Clooney love, but in this film, he is fabulous.

After lunch and ale at Les 3 Brasseurs, which these Torontonians insist on calling The 3 Brewers, we returned to an even longer line-up in front of the Elgin to wait for The Joneses. This movie, directed by Derek Borte, shows consumerism taken to an extreme. Unlike Up in the Air, The Joneses was merely good, not great, but it was still entertaining and thought-provoking. A bonus was the fact that this event was the world premiere and consequently featured celebrities walking the red carpet. The director, joined by various members of the cast including David Duchovny and Demi Moore, appeared on stage after the screening for a short Q&A session.

So was it worth it to travel to Toronto, stand in lines for hours and pay twice a normal movie-ticket price to see films that will be available everywhere in a few months anyhow? Definitely yes! There is something thrilling about seeing a film for the first time with 1500 other enthusiastic people. The other filmgoers we met in line were generally friendly, polite and well-informed (typical Canadians, I'd like to think). Though we weren't all that concerned about spotting celebrities, we were impressed when one fellow sitting next to us said he saw Penelope Cruz the day before. A couple of minutes later, his friend passed by in the aisle and told him that she just saw Geddy Lee from Rush, prompting Todd to say, "Wow, I'd rather see Geddy Lee than Penelope Cruz anyday!" I have no doubt that statement was said with complete sincerity.

All in all, it was a terrific day, and next year, I'll have to figure out how to abandon kids and work for a much more substantial TIFF experience.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Craft Update - September 13

I went to the K-W Knitters Fair yesterday. This stupendous annual event is really the best of its kind in our area, and probably in the entire province. I could have spent the whole day there but given my tight schedule, I had to power-shop. I bought, among other things, four skeins of Tanis yarn. Unfortunately, my photo does not do the yarns justice. The colours are various shades of glorious grapey purples and brilliant oranges. Buying high-end hand-dyed yarns in colours other than blues, reds and neutrals is extremely out-of-character for me. Orange yarn?? What the heck was I thinking? Really, the Tanis yarns had such beautiful shading that I just couldn't pass them up.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This Day Eight Years Ago

The September 11 disaster will be a perennial choice for the "What were you doing when ... ?" question. As with John Lennon's death and the Challenger disaster, I can remember vividly what I was doing the moment I heard the news.

Shortly after 9am, word was spreading through our office about the attacks on the twin towers. Soon after, a television set was set up in the common area and a crowd was forming around it. The managers probably concluded early on that nobody was going to get any work done that day.

Just before 10am, I got a call from Todd, who had arrived in Los Angeles a couple of days earlier. He had just woken up, as it was 7am in his time zone, and he had not had any news of the day yet. After I told him what I knew, he looked out his hotel window and saw armed officials patrolling the streets. Later in the day, he found out that the conference he was to attend in San Diego was cancelled, as was his flight home.

That evening, I spoke to my mother in Montreal. She had spent the entire day trying to reach our many relatives in New York City. We found out the next day, to our great relief, that all were accounted for, including a cousin who worked on the ground floor of the World Trade Center.

Over the next few days, I worried about how Todd was going to get home. Though I didn't have any real concern about his safety, we figured that being out of the country at that time was not a particularly good idea. Todd and his colleagues decided to rent a minivan and start driving in the general direction of Canada. After a few days in the car, they reached Des Moines, where they were finally able to get a flight to Toronto. Five days after the disaster, Todd arrived home. A friend of ours, who lives near us and who was also in southern California for a different business meeting, decided to wait it out at a beach resort. He arrived home shortly before Todd did.

I worried also about my Muslim friends, many of whom I'd met during my graduate studies, and hoped that the fallout wouldn't affect their families greatly. One of my saddest moments was seeing a former high-school teacher on the CBC news, several weeks after the disaster, talking about the daughter and son-in-law he lost when the towers collapsed. I'd always remembered him as an energetic, funny and powerful man, but that day, he seemed so fragile and broken.

As a child, I'd spent several summers in New York City, and I recall my aunt proudly pointing out the antenna on top of one of the towers. Her son, an engineer, had been part of the design team. I haven't been back to New York City in 30 years, but I would like to return one day soon and see how the city has changed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Day of High School

Kate started grade 5 yesterday, but today is Julia's very first day of high school! By 7:30am, she was dressed, had eaten breakfast, and had all her stuff organized and ready to go. What happened to my kid??!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Summer in a Nutshell

It is definitely time to revive this blog, and I'll start with, "What I Did During My Summer Vacation." One thing I did was work, as I wasn't fortunate enough to have the whole summer off, but I still had plenty of time to spend with family and friends. My cousins Beryl and Rob spent several days with us, and the girls had a great time with Emma, Amanda and Olivia. We went into Toronto with them after their stay here and spent an afternoon at the Ontario Science Museum.

Julia had a terrific two weeks at summer camp with one of her friends from school. She claims she had a great time, despite the fact that she and her cabin-mates got caught in the biggest and wettest storm of the summer during their three-night out-trip. She then spent the rest of the summer relaxing at home and doing some volunteer work at the library and at our neighbourhood pool, reading with kids and assisting with swim lessons. Julia seems to enjoy working with younger kids, as long as the group doesn't include her sister.

Kate also had two weeks at a different summer camp with one of her good friends. This camp had a small lending library and Kate made it a personal mission to finish one Nancy Drew mystery each day at camp. Not surprisingly, she earned a "fastest reader" award from her camp counsellor. She told me that she did put the books aside long enough to swim, canoe, learn to make a fire, and do the usual camp activities, and she is looking forward to returning next year.

Todd and I had the opportunity to enjoy a kid-free weekend with our friends Mark and Sharon. We spent a couple of days in the Niagara Region, tasting and stocking up on wine, eating excellent food, and playing Settlers of Catan and Pandemic. I also got through at least a dozen novels and produced a decent crop of lettuce, peas, beans, eggplants and cucumbers this summer, though tomatoes were disappointing. Tomorrow, it's the start of a new school year!