Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Moth

Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes sad, always thought-provoking. "The stories are true stories told from the storytellers' lives and must be told live, without notes." has featured hundreds of people from all walks of life. Firefighters, sleepwalkers, voodoo priestesses, philosophers, "everyday people," and famous names like Malcolm Gladwell, Erica Jong and John Turturro.
Podcasts are available at iTunes, with new stories uploaded weekly. There are Story Slams, the Main Stage and the Annual Moth Ball, all designed to help us remember just how extraordinary the ordinary can really be.

The Oscars

The Oscars were an incredible show this year! The New York Times was pretty critical and I think the Globe and Mail also made a few jabs about the way the awards for best acting were presented, but I thought it was the best in a long time. Not overly long, well presented, and a gorgeous set. The producers were after a feel of intimacy and it really seemed to work. The Swarovski crystals were breathtaking.

There were lots of worthy contenders this year for Best Picture, Acting, Writing, and I was able to see most of the nominees.

Slumdog was a fabulous film, but I am not sure it really deserved the sweep it got, running against films like Frost/Nixon, Doubt and Milk.

And what about Revolutionary Road? That didn’t even make the Oscar list. Winslet and DiCaprio gave amazing performances, reprising their roles as doomed lovers. The chemistry they shared in the Titanic ten years ago paled in comparison with the depth of their “Revolutionary” performances... It would be great to see them paired again, hopefully sooner than another decade.

Also had the pleasure of seeing this year’s winner of the Documentary Feature at Toronto Hot Docs last April. “Man on Wire”, was ingenious in the way it wove together news footage, found film and re-enactments to create a suspenseful piece. Interviews with the participants years after the event were juxtaposed with the historical footage to create something tender and bittersweet. The Director spoke at Hot Docs about how challenging it was to capture the energetic Philip Petit on film for his present-day interview as he seemed truly incapable of sitting still.
Need to get around to seeing Milk and Benjamin Button. I have to admit I was glad Pitt didn't win, even though I didn't see the movie... it wasn't exactly an informed reaction. I was hoping Rourke would get it for the Wrestler, he played the part so well.
I wish Oscar worthy pictures were released more regularly during the year, instead of launched just prior to Academy voting time. You tend to get treated to a lot of these fabulous films in a big Holiday cluster.
Oh well, Hot Docs is coming up soon....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spinach and Goat Cheese Lasagna Rolls

for 6 "Risollo"
(cannelloni in photo)


  • 20 ounces fresh spinach, tough stems removed
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pureed
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese (about 10 oz)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, packed
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste


Parmigiano-Reggiano Bechamel Sauce (optional)


Tomato Concasse (optional)
  1. preheat oven to 35o degrees F
  2. Fill a large pot with boiled salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Thoroughly rinse spinach leaves and place in a large pot over medium heat until completely wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Drain, cool completely and wring dry with hands, removing as much water as possible. When you think you're done, wring again!
  4. In a small saucepan saute garlic and shallots in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until just softened. Stir in parsley and thyme, cook for 30 seconds more and remove from heat.
  5. Put garlic/shallot mixture into a food processor with the spinach, goats cheese, parmesan-reggiano, lemon zest and eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated and the cheese/spinach is thoroughly mixed. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Place the lasagna sheets in the boiling salted water and cook a few minutes until al-dente. Drain and arrange separately on parchment paper or plain towels, with the 5" side closest to you. (cover with parchment paper if not using right away or pasta will dry out)
  7. Divide the spinach/cheese filling amongst all the lasagne sheets, leaving 1/2" margin on 3 sides and 1" on the side furthest from you. Fold the long side of the sheet in on top of the filling, and roll the lasagne sheets. Place in a non-stick or greased pan seam down.If desired, cover completely with bechamel sauce, or brush all sides of the lasagne roll with extra virgin olive oil.
  8. Cover with tin foil, put in oven and bake for 15 minutes; remove tin foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until heated through. Cut into slices and serve on a bed of fresh tomato sauce.
  9. Garnish with a bit or all of the bechamel and/or tomato concasse

- recipe Sarah Harrell, the Veg Company

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Get the Jump on Spring

Nicki and I went to the Toronto Botanical Garden to spend the day listening to horticultural lectures and take in some garden porn. I love that phrase, it seems somehow appropriate, all these impossibly gorgeous fluffed-up shots of seemingly unattainable levels of perfect gardens. No bug-bitten leaves, everything in perfect bloom.
Just what I need in the middle of dreary February... some inspiration and the reminder that hey, maybe all this white stuff will melt eventually, and the crocus and snowdrops will start popping their lovely heads out of the ground. I can't wait!
I picked up some tricks to try to amend my soil, and some suggestions for plants to try on my ravine slope where even the most invasive plants seem to struggle. Some great floral design tips. And a pot of lovely yellow daffodils for my window sill.
Spring will come.

Friday, February 20, 2009

National Art Gallery

Finally! Rob and I spent an afternoon at the National Gallery and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The building itself is beautiful, I can see why it is billed as "a work of art." Visually adjacent to the fortress of the library that lays within the walls of the Parliament's impenetrable stone buildings, the gallery front is a vaulted glass structure that welcomes visitors to explore within. Natural light cascades through the core of the building to floors below. Courtyards offer a respite from gallery fatigue. The architect, Moshe Safdie, still takes an active interest in maintaining the building, originally constructed in 1988.

The collection began in 1880 and has grown to several hundred thousand pieces, with only a small percentage on display. Maybe that explains the lack of Emily Carr or Group of Seven (although we luckily have a lot of Group of 7 at the McMichael in Toronto). Lots of Montreal artist Betty Goodwin showing at the time of our visit, I enjoy her wit. And also 'discovered' another Canadian artist, James Wilson Morrice, (a painting of his on the right) who was one of Canada's first modernist painters (1864-1924). He had such a talent for painting light. There was a painting on display he did of an open-air cafe in Cuba in the early 1900's that made me feel I was sitting at one of the tables. There were also several voluptuous reclining nudes with soft round eyes gazing with such desire in the direction of the artist... it made me wonder how he got any painting done!

We had a tour of the Impressionists, Fauvists and Post Impressionists led by a young and very earnest and passionate guide. His enthusiasm was contagious. What a dilemma artists must have found themselves in when the camera came onto the scene, a mere machine capturing in an instant what they had struggled so hard to replicate. It was fun to walk close-in and then far away from Monet to see how distance affected perception. Or to circle the Rodin sculpture to take in all the angles. Calder's tree mobile was expertly displayed, so when you walked underneath it gently swayed around your head. Being able to interact with the art definitely enhances the pleasure and experience.

One of the funnest was the post-modern piece by Duchamp, 'Fountain,' in the exhibit "readymades." The original was an actual urinal pulled from the wall of a public washroom, grimy and filthy, trying to make its way to display at an NYC exhibition. A great commentary about art, the meaning of art, the marketing of art. The original was tossed into the Hudson River, but a nice, clean, porcelain copy purchased by Duchamp in the1960's is now on display. I think we may have lost something in the translation, although Duchamp probably laughed his way to the bank. What the hell, by then he probably needed something to fund his retirement.

Masi Serego Alighieri Bello Ovile Rosso di Toscana

Sure glad Rob can pick out a great red wine!

Can you really go wrong with a Tuscan red at $17 ?

Good baked fruit flavors and a hint of vanilla finish (must be the oak from the barrel). Tastes like a cool summer day to me.
Wine Spectator describes as strawberry and dried cherry aromas leading to a medium body, with fine tannins and a fruity finish. Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo. Best after 2010.
Score: 89. —James Suckling, October 15, 2008

Monday, February 16, 2009

Crispy Tofu Squares with Spicy Peanut Sauce

These tofu chunks are lightly fried and hugely satisfying. Even Alex liked them!

The photo at right shows them served with walnut pesto, but the spicy peanut sauce is what we used for dipping.

I'm thinking of trying this with an Indian paneer and Tandoor sauce, mango chutney on the side.

  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp crushed unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • oil for frying
  • bamboo skewers
  1. Cut tofu into 1/2" squares
  2. Combine flour, breadcrumbs, peanuts and dried spices in a small bowl
  3. Toss tofu squares with beaten egg, then roll in dry mixture until completed coated
  4. Skewer,then deep fry in oil over medium-high heat until crispy and browned.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chili paste (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Process all ingredients except fresh cilantro in a food processor until smooth (or put into a mason jar like I did and shake-shake-shake). Taste, correct seasoning, add cilantro. Heat in small saucepan until reduced by approximately 1/3 and thickened. Serve hot.

- Recipe Sarah Harrel, The Veg Company

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cold Moon - February

gold orb suspended
in the inky black sky of a
winter morning… moonshadows
shimmer softly in snow, muted
diamonds dance sparkle
glint glimmer glance

Monday morning when I got up at 6 a.m. I actually saw the full moon in the sky. It was absolutely amazing and totally unexpected. Hard to believe the moon could cast such a strong light at that time of day. There really were moonshadows and glinting diamonds...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mister Pip

Mister Pip made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize and won of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book.
Matilda, the young black girl narrating the story says, “the… book ... supplied me with another world at a time when it was desperately needed. It gave me a friend in Pip. It taught me you can slip into the skin of another just as easily as your own, even when that skin is white and belongs to a boy alive in Dickens’ England. Now, if that isn’t an act of magic I don’t know what is.”
I find it interesting that the author is a white man telling the story of a black girl hearing the story of a white boy told by a middle-aged man more than a century ago (and read by me, a white woman “of a certain age” on the other side of the planet).
This book is full of the magic of stories and shows just how important stories are in enriching our lives.Mr. Watts takes on the role of teacher, although he amiably admits he has no experience. The curriculum is formed through the telling of stories, “We had no books. We had our minds and we had our memories, and according to Mr. Watts, that’s all we needed.” Watts, the only white person on the island, reads from a copy of the book Great Expectations and invites parents and grandparents into the class to tell stories and share their knowledge. Through Dicken’s book the listeners are introduced to Old England, alien concepts and a culture and climate they have never seen. The stories of the guest speakers, on the other hand, bring the students to see different points of view about the world around them.
The island is feeling the affects of countries at war, and “redskin soldiers” come and burn the islander’s homes along with their possessions. The actual hard copy of the book Great Expectations seems to exist no more. Under Watt’s guidance, the students set about retelling the story by small, remembered fragments and piecing it together. Later, when another warring faction of “rambos” come, all listen rapt as Watts tells his life story – which curiously parallels that of Pip.At one point Watts says, “Great Expectations… gave me permission to change my life.”
The essence of story is alive on so many levels it is almost dazzling.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Melting Snow

Melting Snow, originally uploaded by Things We Love.
On Sunday it was warmer here than Florida.
The snow is melting fast! A few more days of sun and warm temperatures and it will all be gone...
Today marks the full moon - since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east often called February's moon the 'Full Snow Moon.' Others referred to it as 'The Hunger Moon,' since harsh winter conditions made hunting difficult and any stored food was almost depleted.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Perrin Reserve

I've enjoyed sipping this Côtes du Rhône over the last week.

Beautiful deep red colour; swirling in the glass shows 'good legs.' I can smell a fair bit of spice and taste some pepper and red cherry. Fairly long finish. A bit acidic (which to me means it would be great with dinner... something on the light side, like grilled chicken).

I checked it out online, and apparently the New York Times called the 2004 vintage of this Côtes du Rhône its #1 red wine under $10 in 2006. Here in Ontario,of course, it is a bit pricier, but at $14.95 it's still a good buy.

Côtes du Rhône are the basic AOC wines of the Rhône region, and exist as red, white and rosé wines, generally dominated by Grenache. This particular wine is made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault grapes by the Perrin brothers of Chateau de Beaucastel. According to the Wine Doctor, their winery is considered by many as one of the top estates, if not "the" top estate of Chateauneuf du Pape, in the southern Rhône region.

The winery vinifies 13 different varieties, this is priced in the mid-range. Cheaper still is the La Vieille Ferme, which the NYT recommends you "buy in magnums for parties."
(I have to agree, I sampled more than a few glasses at Christmas celebrations this year and it's yummy.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Oddly disturbing
This is one of the latest Lululemon ads & appears on the back of February Yoga Journal. I thought it was charming and funny when I first saw it, but now that I look at it again, in the context of selling yoga gear, it seems crass.
The style reminds me of graphic Russian propaganda in the Stalin era, the colours are definitely borrowed from the American palette, the branding is blatant and understated at the same time.
I love Obama, I love yoga, I think Lululemon is a great company, but still, the whole thing together is a bit creepy.
On the inside back cover there is a short interview with Bikram Choudhury, the guru who has trademarked his method and opened franchises worldwide. He has a lot of fans, but probably more critics. Here are a few Qs & As (I would link but it isn't on the Yoga Journal website yet).
Q. You think yoga should be in the Olympics?
Sports give kids discipline, but you can't always do them. But we can do yoga at 100. With yoga, kids won't do drugs, smoke, drink, go to jail. Competitions will increase yoga's popularity. We can make this world heaven if every child does yoga.
Q. What's the biggest misconception people have about you?
People wonder why I have Rolls Royces, a diamond wristwatch, live in Beverly Hills. I don't want to live in a cave in the Himalayas and meditate for myself only. That's no good for society! I want to spread yoga around the world....
I guess there is nothing inherently wrong with making money, it's a fact of life. Both these instances don't quite sit well with me, because they are commercial enterprises with the end-game of maximizing profits, capitalizing on an essentially spiritual practice. Like Tammy Faye and Jim Baker.
Well, better this than selling guns and starting wars to stay in business.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

Celebrated Chinese New Year with Rob, Ross and Virginia by going out for Dim Sum.

We put some coins in a small red envelope for the lion who danced by our table to the sound of loud drums and gongs and clanging cymbals. Rob was going to put it between his teeth and have the lion take it but then thought it might not be the proper way to invite prosperity... although it just might scare away the evil spirits.

This is the Year of the Ox which is my Chinese Zodiac sign and also happens to be Obama's. So hopefully this will be an auspicious year for us all....

The tasty little dishes kept coming and the wine kept flowing.

Dim Sum is definitely a food to eat with your eyes... you see it on the cart and if it looks appealing, grab the basket (oh - sorry, politely grab the waiter's attention and then get him or her to place it on the table).

Some things we let drift on by. You can just tell it probably won't sit well on the Western palate. Chicken feet, for instance. Maybe they are delicious but they don't look appealing, in fact they look like a lot of work for very little reward.

Other plates look great, like the bright green seaweed.

My personal favourites include the panfried pork dumplings with coriander, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, deep-fried coconut shrimp, baby bok choy & those warm pork buns.

I'm sure it is all remarkably healthy, especially when served with copious amounts of Pinot Grigio.

We ended the meal with lovely toasts and the promise to see more of each other in the year ahead. (Facebook doesn't really count!)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Old Friends

I had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old friend Saturday. Janine and I had some catching up to do after 8 years and shared some great conversation over a few bottles of great Italian wine (a Ripasso and an Amerone). Where did the years go? I guess we've both been busy, raising families, establishing (and re-establishing) careers. There have been a few battles - health, jobs and otherwise. Overall it's been a good fight!

Lots has happened during the in-between years. Our sons have gotten a lot taller.... at least four or five feet taller...... Nothing tells the passage of time quite like the growth of a child into a teenager.

Janine opened a packing box with some old clippings and shared some of the poetry I wrote in high school. I recognized the handwriting right away! I was expecting to cringe but it wasn't so bad after all. So earnest and hopeful, discovering things for the first time.

Going through the box we also came across something written by a high school friend that died a few years ago. Judy committed suicide. It was such a shock to hear, because any memories I have of her are of someone smiling.

'She was the last person I would ever expect'.... 'My how time flies'..... 'where have all the years gone,'..... 'life is so precious,'.....

Phrases repeated by so many others become cliches, but that doesn't make them any less true.


Love the magazine, Zoomer! Smart, and focused on the interests of people 45 years old and up.

How can you not support a magazine that challenges "everyone in society to look at aging with new eyes and create A New Vision of Aging.... It isn't about about denying your age or refusing to grow up. It is about redefining what aging means, whether you are 40, 60, 80 or 100 plus.... Longevity experts tell us that people are open to new ideas and seek out challenges live longer, healthier and happier lives." (Zoomer, March edition). Plus it's Canadian, eh?

Okay, I'm in... whether I like it or not, I'm getting older. I'm still a far cry from 60 but I'm looking to see more positive depictions of older women reflected in media. Margaret Atwood, Helen Mirren, Lauren Hutton, Emma Thompson, Adrienne Clarkson... bring 'em on.

The magazine features articles on the usual subjects of health, food, fashion and sex, but from a more mature perspective. How is this for a fun fact: "Doctors perform CPR better and with more confidence if they listen to 'Stayin'Alive' while they do it," apparently the Bee Gees song is 103 beats per minute, very close to the perfect CPR beat of 100 compressions per minute.

The website for Zoomer still leaves a lot to be desired. But page through the March print edition, with Margaret Atwood on the cover.

I'm getting a subscription for my mom, with full borrowing rights, of course!