Archive for June, 2010

The first page of my “Thoughts Book #3” (AKA my journal), 1991, age 15 – gad, what a stuck-up, pretentious, superior little snot I was.

Me, age 15 – this was my extremely cultivated ‘Annie Hall’ look – of course none of the teenyboppers and idiots at my junior high got it.

Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to share parts of what really should be kept locked away in a dusty storage box, or possibly burned? Yes, I am going to share parts of my journal, age 15 (recently unearthed from my childhood stuff in my mum’s basement), cringing all the way, for your reading pleasure and possibly (I hope) just a little flicker of recognition of yourself at this age.

Flipping through the book, I see that I very organized-ly divided it up into sections and articles, including such gems as “Things I Like,” Things I Hate,” “My Favourite Kid’s Names,”  “How I’m Going to Raise My Kids,” “Special Section: All the Songs I Love and Why” (all Simon & Garfunkel, by the way – I was going through a mega S & G obsession at the time), “My Future Family,” “Daydreams,” “My Studio Apartment,” “Another Special Report: Why I Personally Do Not Care for New Kids on the Block Music,” “Pros and Cons of Getting My Hair Cut Short,” “My Wedding,” “Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and ‘The Rhythm of the Saints’ Discussed in Yet Another Special Section” (told you I was obsessed), “Special Section: My Dreams,” along with random thoughts, lists, play ideas, etc.

As I flipped through the book, a few pieces of scrap paper came fluttering out, with this idea for a play written on them (I’m copying this verbatim – no editing):

Setting: a New York City cafe, mid-1970s

It is a small, cozy cafe. No one is inside yet. One waitress sits in a chair, looking bored. There are three round tables.

A very intellectual-looking couple walks in (could be two women). (Hair in a bun, turtlenecks, glasses, art books, et. al.) They are discussing films all the way in. (Intellectual gibberish, difficult to understand.) They order incredibly disgusting-sounding health food.

Then, three Jewish men come in. [This was during my aforementioned Jewish obsession time.] One of the men orders: “Three bagels. Three bagels! And coffee all around.” They are funny.

As the play progresses, the two tables talk (separately, of course), and sometimes interplay subtly with each other without even noticing it. Then, after the characters are well-defined, one of the Jewish men and the intellectual woman at the other table say in unison (but without noticing it): “You know, last night I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that Groucho Marx came into this cafe for lunch one day.” Then, Groucho Marx (Tara could play him!) [Tara’s my sister] comes in. (Complete with cigar, the eyebrows, etc.) No one notices him. As the people describe their dream, he does whatever they say he’s doing.

Very funny play. [end of scrap paper]

Hmmmmmm. Could use a little work, but I think I may have a good idea going there…


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Sometimes, when life gets busy and crazy and just seems all about laundry piles and dirty dishes and mundane and/or grown-up stuff and rushing this way and that, and  it’s important to just stop, breathe and take time to appreciate things – however small some of them may seem – in your day. I decided to do that – right now.

1) A fresh cup of coffee in my favourite mug

2) A cat in her sunbeam

3) Playing ball with my almost 10 month-old son

4) New-to-us kitchen shelves from the amazing giveaway pile in our building’s basement (found, set up and organized by my incredible husband – thank you, Joshua!)

5) Nicely browned bananas, just ready for baking into a chocolate chip banana coffee cake

What’s making you happy, right now?

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Yes, so I’ve been away for a while, both from home and from this blog space for quite a few days! Life is a bit tumultuous and in limbo at the moment, and our big family vacation to Posthill Lake (north of Kelowna) could not have come at a better time. From last Friday to last Monday, it was all about eating (lots of it), drinking, visiting, laughing (lots of that, too) and relaxing with my dad and stepmum, my sisters and our boys.

This time away also made me think about two things: one, how very refreshing and mind-clearing it is to be off the telecommunications grid for a few days, and two: how much I learn for my own little patch of lawn/yard/garden/earth.

With no email to check, no cell phone messages to respond to, no TV or DVDs to watch, no internet to surf, no Facebook statuses to update, no Twitter to tweet on, no radio (well, we could have brought one, but we didn’t) and not even an old-fashioned land line, it was nice to see what took technology’s place. (I should add that we were not totally off the grid – we did have running water and electricity… the perfect happy medium!) And that was chatting, and relaxing, and reading, and looking out a the lake, and well, just some quiet and companionable silence. I saw a Coleman ad recently that said: “The Coleman Camping Site: The Original Social Networking Site.” I know it’s an advertising slogan, but it’s true isn’t it? There’s been so much talk about how the more ways we have of communicating, the less we communicate meaningfully.

And there’s something so special, and so unfortunately rare now, about sitting around a fire and talking without someone checking their iPhone, or texting someone, or even jumping up to get the phone. It also made me think about how many moments of my day are spent running to the laptop to finish an email or look up something online. What if I took an “offline” day once or twice per week, and didn’t spend most of my time after Keaton goes to bed catching up on emails? I think I’ll try it!

Being away also made me think about how much, especially with little Keaton getting more active each day, I wish we had an outside space of our own. (It may also be that I’m getting a little stir-crazy in our apartment!) I love our apartment, but I do miss house living where you can just walk out your door and there’s a little piece of earth to call your own. In our heritage building we don’t have a balcony, just a really sketchy fire escape (which we have ventured out onto drunkenly, and also for photo shoots, possibly also drunkenly). There are parks in our ‘hood, of course, and there is a churchyard next to our building, but it’s so public and covered in dog poop, so it’s not much of a substitute. I would love to be able to fling open the door of our home to breathe some outside air, or have a little garden where I can grow herbs and vegetables, and where Keaton can play. Or even where I can just go outside in my pajamas and have a coffee. *sigh* Maybe someday, when Vancouver home prices have calmed down and Joshua and I are less in debt!

In other news, I think the crowns and pennants were a hit with the birthday peeps:

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Before we get to the recipe… I’ll be away from this space until next Wednesday, as I’ll be vacationing with my sisters, dad and stepmum, et. al.. Yippee skippy, I am looking forward to eating, drinking, fishing, swimming (or maybe it’ll be too cold) in the mountains and forests of our fair province. June is a month full o’ birthdays in my family, and this past week my dining room table has been covered in a mess of craft and sewing stuff as I made crowns, bunting and bookmarks for my sister, my brother-in-law and my other sister’s boyfriend for their birthdays. I was also hoping to make Keaton some pants, but that absolutely did not happen. How do those crafty mamas do it? It seriously took me so long just to sew fabric triangles into some bias tape. Sheesh!

Anyway, on to the recipe. This is the cake that was featured in last Friday’s This Moment photo – made in honour of a visit from my best friend Heather. Luckily I see her often, but even a regular get-together with a best friend is occasion to celebrate with some lovely coffee cake, don’t you agree? It was my first time making this recipe, and I was so impressed – it’s from one of my never-fail cookbook staples, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin. Try it; you’ll love it.

Oatmeal Cake with Penuche Frosting

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 cup oats, ground fine in a blender

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup milk

– Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, or use an 8 x 8 inch square cake pan.

– In large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well-blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until light and creamy.

– Thoroughly combine the flour, ground oatmeal, baking powder, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat these ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk, until well-blended. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 50 – 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cool (I actually was impatient and didn’t wait at all – we ate the cake when it was still steamy, baby!).

– Make the frosting:

Penuche Frosting

6 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tbsp milk

1 cup icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For topping: 1/3 cup finely ground pecans or walnuts

– In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until melted and blended with butter. Slowly pour in the milk, mix well and bring the mixture to a boil. Scrape it into a medium bowl and cool 10 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread over the cooled cake. Top with the ground nuts.

Delicious with a nice big cup of coffee!

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I feel at my best, my sparkliest, my most alive, my sunniest, my most 100% Christy when…

…I have a creative writing project on the go (such as my latest children’s novel, above – just want to get the #$%@ thing finished, though!)

…I have a nice, juicy book to read (still in the midst of my Marian Keyes kick)

…I have another creative project or two on the go (knitting, sewing, etc.) that I’m not feeling frustrated with (yet)

…I take the time to cook and eat good, nourishing, delicious foods

….I’m acting silly and laughing my head off

…I’m well-rested (totally self-inflicted, but that’s pretty rare these days)

…there are fresh flowers in the house

…my workspace is tidy and organized (it certainly isn’t right now!)

…I’m in the fresh air and can hear the birds singing

…I’m going to Nia class regularly

…I’m dancing in general (even to Cyndi Lauper in the kitchen – I have a firm belief that dance parties can change the world)

…I’m surrounded by close friends and family (and acting silly and laughing our heads off, as above)

…when I have a glass of wine on the go and the promise of more to come (v. important)

Many of these things never actually happen all at once, but I know that I’m at my most optimal state of being when I have the above things going on in my life. If not (and too often I don’t), I become grumpy, tired, grey, and totally unproductive. And that’s not fun for anyone. I decided to make this list to remind myself what I need to keep calm and carry on.

When do you feel at your optimal state of being?

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From How to Eat Like a Child: And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up by Delia Ephron:

Peas: Mash and flatten into thin sheet on plate. Press the back of the fork into the peas. Hold fork vertically, prongs up, and lick off peas.

Animal crackers: Eat each in this order – legs, head, body.

Sandwich: Leave the crusts. If your mother says you have to eat them because that’s the best part, stuff the crusts into your pants pocket or between the cushions of the couch.

French Fries: Wave one French fry in air for emphasis while you talk. Pretend to conduct orchestra. then place fries in your mouth at once and chew. Turn to your sister, open your mouth, and stick out your tongue coated with potatoes. Close your mouth and swallow. Smile.

The other day, as Keaton and I were sitting at the table and enjoying breakfast together, I was thinking about the differences in how grown-ups and children eat. Not just what they eat, but more specifically how. As I sat there chowing down on my Red River cereal (with a splash of milk and maple syrup) with a boring old tablespoon, I remembered how my sisters and I used to eat our oatmeal with big wooden spoons, just like Goldilocks. We were huge fans of the Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre*, and we loved how Tatum O’Neal, as a spectacularly ringlet-ed Goldilocks, ate the three bears’ oatmeal with, yes indeed, a big wooden spoon. I loved the soft clunk of the raw wood against my teeth, and how the oatmeal stuck to it. So much better than a boring old metal spoon. My sisters and I were also fans of eating with other less conventional dishes and cutlery, such as drinking iced tea out of measuring cups, orange pop out of brandy snifters (we didn’t ask our dad first), and eating our Zoodles right out of the pot with teeny tiny baby spoon. (We also sometimes ate gummy worms and Coke as cereal, but that’s a whole other story.)

When we’re kids, our imaginations rule our lives, rather than social norms. When we grow up (I’m totally generalizing here; I am very fortunate to be friends with many self-actualized people who wonderfully thumb their noses at social norms!), we tend more and more to do what’s “proper” – drink coffee out of mugs, water out of glasses, eat food off plates with forks and knives, and a napkin on our lap. For the most part, kids want to do what’s “improper.” And that’s so much more fun, isn’t it?

So, that morning as I sat eating my Red River cereal with Keaton, I put aside my boring old metal spoon, and grabbed a wooden spoon. I loved the soft clunk of the raw wood against my teeth, and how the cereal stuck to it.

Keaton, at nine months old, still has all this to discover. How cool. I can’t wait to drink chocolate milk out of wine glasses with him.

*Note on Faerie Tale Theatre: Any other children of the 80’s remember these? They were totally low-budget re-enactments of fairy tales, produced by Shelley Duvall and featuring stars of the day such as Robin Williams as the Frog Prince, Jeff Bridges as the prince in Rapunzel, Mick Jagger as the Emperor in The Nightingale, and our favourite, Tom Conti and Liza Minelli in The Princess and the Pea. Brilliant. To this day, my sisters and I still quote that one. We watched and re-watched the Faerie Tale Theatres hundreds and hundreds of times. We wore out the Beta tapes from Hammond Video, I’m sure. At one point my mum actually took them and hid them because we were so obsessed – also, she didn’t feel that they featured very good female role models. For my 30th birthday a few years ago my sisters bought me the complete DVD collection of the FTTs – a gift that I will cherish forever. And The Princess and the Pea is still my favourite. Tom Conti’s eyebrows, seriously.

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This Moment

Inspired by SouleMama‘s Friday ritual – a photo, with no (or in my case, maybe a few) words, from the past week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

Coffee, delicious cake, a best friend and a baby – what more could a girl ask for? *sigh*

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