a toronto moment

28 August 2009

Last night I’m with my daughters and my sister and brother-in-law and nephew and niece and my cousin and a good friend and we’re at Ontario Place, sitting up on a hill to see old favourite Blue Rodeo play. Not long after the band kicks into gear I’m struck by the wonderful moment that  has presented itself.

The city skyline is to the right of the stage.  The lights of the ferris wheel and midway at the “Ex” (Canadian National Exhibition) are to the left.  The familiar Cinesphere globe and Lake Ontario are behind us.  The band is in great form – giving us the perfect mix of “Greg songs” and “Jim songs” and the band is as hot and edgy as they ever were.  The August night is delicious as only a late summer night can be.

After a really rough and overwhelming week, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.  And I’m still feeling gratitude for the magical Toronto moment with the the most wonderful company I could ask for.

Blue Rodeo “busking” at the ROM – Must have been another Toronto moment

Tonight I made a big ol’ pot of marinara sauce.  It’s stage one of a mid-week lasagne project.

See, a few months ago, I casually stated on a facebook meme (25 Things About Me) that no one makes lasagne as good as me.  (Well it’s true.)  Following that, a number of friends campaigned for the recipe.  One friend got to campaigning too, but not for the recipe.  No, she would love one of my famous (now infamous) lasagnes.  And well, even though she said she wasn’t being serious, I should have made her one, without hesitation, because she has had me to her home numerous times for warm and wonderful meals.  And she’s a wife and a mother of two young girls and she’s a journalist, and frankly busts her ass to run that household and maintain her career.

Anyway, out of the “goodness of my heart” I post the recipe on facebook, and weakly suggest to my friend, “how about Minute Minestrone Soup?” because I was working six days a week at the time (albeit no husband, no kids) and as its name implies, the soup, while quite delicious, is  SUBSTANTIALLY faster to make than one of my giant monster pans of noodles, sauce, veg and cheese, which would have consumed the bulk of my only day off in the week.  (I know, wah wah wah.)

Well, as it happened, my friend was riding her bike to work in downtown Toronto.  And she got doored.  And very nearly lost her finger, which subsequently had to be re-attached surgically, in the same week she and her family were to head off on an anticipated vacation in Banff.  And as anyone who loves to feed her family with home cooked meals would understand, she finds herself in a bit of a sitch.  (That’s not even mentioning the journalist who types for a living part.)

So anyway, tomorrow is stage two: assembling the monster.  And a mini monster to send home with my mother next time I see her.

I CAN be domestic once in awhile.  Man does that sauce smell good – I better go have another spoonful, just to make sure.

It was one of those weeks.  I’ve been having a lot of those lately. 

Friday afternoon comes, and I’m finally presented with that longed-for three-day weekend which I recieve as if it’s a bundle of new line-dried sheets. And I haven’t even left the office yet when my sister sends me a text:

“What are you doing?  Want to do something?”

Heavens me, of COURSE I want to do something!

Before I catch the bus to go home, it’s decided.  Cathy will come into town and stay over and we’ll have a sister night. 

Not long after she arrives, we step out into my immediate neighbourhood and pick up two bottles of Zinfandel, a pizza from the little Italian restaurant around the corner, and have a glass of wine on their patio while we wait for it.  On the way back we pick up a movie I’ve been wanting her to see, and stroll back with all the goods and enjoy the sisterly gab that goes with it.  By three in the morning, the week that has preceded all this has melted away and we’re crawling off to find sleep.

Saturday morning, we wake to sunshine and August 1st (Lammas) breezes.  I make us coffee and more sisterly chat goes down over checking email and sharing news.  We get dressed and stroll into the Beaches to get us a pedicure.  While sipping more coffee, Cathy gets a light summery red polish and I get fuschia.  We enjoy foot scrubbing and leg massages and warm towels and silly magazines.  Over the walk back we admire our good lookin’ feet (thanks Mom) and Cathy soon heads back home and to her family.

I’m not in the door five minutes when Mia calls and asks, do I want to have dinner some time this weekend?  Because she’s just been to the market and has bought new corn and field tomatoes and peaches and cherries and and a big fat steak.  I say why not today because it’s luscious and sunny and given this particular summer we can’t count on this sunshine again tomorrow. 

Later I get myself together and pick up a couple of Scottish beers and a bottle of chilled Italian white at the LCBO and go to Meem’s.

She’s making homemade cherry pie when I get there.  We have the beers and more familial catching up and move outside and then switch to white wine.  Her garden is lush and green and overgrown and showing all the benefits of this rainy summer.  I envy that she’s got bedding hanging out there. 

She hands me a tablecloth…

Mission Hill ChardonnaycroppedWebSize

 Little bit of heavenWebSize

 homemade cherry pieCompressedCroppedWebsize

Wanna talk about the perfect summer meal?  Fresh corn on the cob.  (The kind that makes you go “mmmmmm” with every bite.  Field tomatoes.  (Sprinkled with fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil doesn’t hurt them either.)  Barbequed steak, medium rare, over a big plate of arugula, which you drizzle with olive oil and squeeze a wedge of lemon.  Salt and pepper. 

Mia comes from the part of the family that makes homemade pie.  (So does my mother.)  (I don’t.)

Homemade cherry pie.

We ask ourselves several times: could there be a more perfect meal?  (We decide no, and toast again.)

I take the streetcar home, which takes longer than the subway, but it’s above ground. 

And it’s summer.  And all is well again.

I sleep over at Cathy’s on Saturday night, so that we can get up early and go to the market, then head up to Tobermory to catch the ferry.  Before we’re out the door, Julie calls and says there is a wicked storm going on with six foot waves, and the ferry ride – if it runs – would be so not pleasant.  Since we’re all packed, we decide to drive around up to Espanola and cross the bridge onto the island.

I’ve done this drive before, and like the last time, enjoy the gorgeousness of the landscape, particularly around the Espanola area.  Not long after leaving Barrie, we start to notice small Inukshuk and other rock sculptures along the side of the highway, appearing regularly all the way to Espanola.  We are also struck by the rock cuts through which the highway threads.  Each jagged surface looks as if it contains dozens of ancient faces.

As soon as we get on the island, it seems, the sun bursts through and by the time we get down to the cottage, it’s warm, still and sunny.  We arrive ten minutes before we we’re expected, and have an enjoyable catching up with Dad and Julie before our first wonderful meal of the week: chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and greek salad.  And wine. 

I get the front bedroom to myself, and next morning, I lay there and listen to the rain falling, and relish the thought of five days of not going to the office.  In fact, I lay there for probably an hour just enjoying that.  On getting up, I have to re-think my planned reading spot.

rainydeck

It’s okay – when you find a place that rejuvenates you, any corner serves as a good reading spot.  I really don’t do much else other than read.  Until Lainey and I go for a walk to look at the balanced rock sculptures she and Chris made the day previous.  We make a few more.

elainerocks 

A little later, Cathy and I decide we need to get some Guinness in the house, and maybe we’d like to have gin and tonics for Happy Hour.  We’re hoping the little LCBO outlet in Sandfield has some of the former.  If not, we’re prepared to drive to the bigger store in Mindemoya.  But we don’t have to drive further than Sandfield!

On the way back, we take a picture of the sign indicating “Smeltzer’s Road” in honour of our cousin Lisa who is also visiting elsewhere on the island.

The sun comes out in the late afternoon again, and we soak up some of it on the deck. Dad barbeques the steaks we brought, which we eat with asparagus, salad and cooked cabbage and more wine.  Later, Cathy and I lurk our loved ones’ facebook picture albums while Chris makes a stop-motion movie with his camera and some of Grandpa’s jellybeans.

Tuesday the weather is dreary and chilly again, but Cathy and I brave a brisk walk out Lakeshore Road.  Then more reading.  And talking.  And Guinness and nacho chips and Cathy’s fresh made guacamole for Happy Hour.  Julie cooks up a mess of fish for dinner, which we have with green beans and wonderful salad.  We chat, and chat, and pick the remains of the salad and then all go to bed early.

crazy like a diamond

26 May 2009

Last Sunday, Mom and I enjoy our first outside meal of the season with Mia and Sam on their back deck.  Most of the conversation is centred on springtime, and things like lilacs and herbs and lilies of the valley and peonies and raspberries and soil and tomatoes and warm sun.

After our dinner of fish tacos and spinach and arugula salad and white wine, I become enchanted with a tree several hundred feet beyond Mia’s back fence, the leaves on which are glittering as light plays on them.  It’s as if thousands of diamonds are dancing in and amongst those branches.  In May, the air is still clear, and the sunlight filters through and leaves a translucent shimmer on everything it kisses.  Like that tree. 

Closer in, the diamonds rest quieter on Mia’s rosebush, and as the sun begins to sink in the sky, the diamonds disappear, one by one.  I watch until the last one goes.

**************************

Last night I’m walking down Kingston Road on my way home, and coming toward me a block or so up is a man, doing a theatrical Gene Kelly imitation all over the sidewalk, as graceful as his seventy-five-ish and so-not-Gene-Kelly limbs can manage.  My initial reaction is instinctive: “Oh gawd, the crazies always find me!”  But as we approach one another I realise Gene Kelly is just expressing happy, and we both chuckle at his marvellous silliness and he dances on by.  

Anyway, it’s May, and that’s enough to give you diamonds on the souls of your shoes.

I’m poking around in the freezer thinking I might have a piece of a baguette in there.  When it becomes apparent that I don’t, I close the door wondering, “What am I going to put the butter on?”

Yesterday on the bus I’m reading a new magazine, the first of a subscription my sister Jane ordered for me before she went back to the UK.  It’s called “Clean Eating” and it really is a lovely read, full of luscious looking ideas for healthy, “clean” meals.  Anyway, I’m reading the editorial page and I’m caught up in my tracks.  The editor is writing about a recent visit to her doctor, in which the doctor hits her with an unexpected question:  “What’s your five year plan?”

The piece went on to discuss her thoughts of a five year plan, and included those of several of the magazine’s contributors, all of which were based on pursuing a healthier, more wholesome life.  And this is great, but I was struck by the idea on a broader level.

Setting goals is something I am always getting after my writing students with.  I believe you take faster, more defining steps toward achieving your dreams if you actually set those dreams out.  Write them down; itemize them, categorize them.  I believe in this theory because I know it to be true based on my own experiences.  I know that during the happiest periods of my life I had definitive goals to work towards – whether they be related to creative endeavours or major life changes.

And yesterday, sitting on the bus, I was hit over the head with the realisation that I haven’t thought about my own personal goals or any such five year plan in a long time.  I was caught up, thinking, “where do I want to be in five years’ time?”  Like the writer in the magazine, the answers that immediately came up were rather lame, vague ideas about health and career.

So this is something that’s going to take some serious writing and thought to work out.  I need a fresh list.  Big and small; long term and short term.  I think it merits a new ‘carry around’ journal.  I have some old holdover goals with which to start – but it’s time to reassess, and refocus.  Where DO I want to be in five years?

It’s a scary question, full of wonderful possibilities.