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Posts Tagged ‘review’

Out with the Old, In with the Yew

December 17, 2014 2 comments

This is not a foodie blog, because I’m not a foodie, which is not to say I don’t like food.

I like it alright.

My taste buds simply haven’t evolved much since my university days, when my roommates mocked me for my iceberg lettuce salads, which consisted of one part lettuce, and three parts Kraft Creamy Dill Cucumber Dressing.

Flash forward a few years, let’s leave it at nine, teenage daughters notwithstanding, and I’m frequently disappointed in restaurant meals, often prepared like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or else a fish in Mardi Gras beads.  Salmon in a cajun spice, for instance. I could be eating halibut, sole or marshmallows, it’s hard to tell with the cajun spice hollering at me.

What’s the point?

So when Chef Ned Bell sent our dinner club an array of appetizers at Yew, which consisted of food that tastes like it looks like it should, except better, I felt I was home at last. But in a nicer, newer, home, with sous chefs and parades of cute waiters, who presented our courses with a flourish.

 

Ned Bell and Ride78's Christine Fletcher

Ned Bell and Ride78’s Christine Fletcher

The meal started with a lobster and smoked sable fish salad, suspiciously void of greens and large on orange and avocado. Salad greens are more more trouble than they’re worth, so I was pleasantly surprised – salads, you’ll recall, not being my thing.

 

Who takes pictures of their food in restaurants. Me, that’s who.

Then came albacore tuna with ginger and apple. I’m pretty sure it was albacore – Jana was in the midst of discussing invariable moments of nudity that occur at her parties, the first of which I’m attending this Saturday night, so I was understandably distracted. Sorry, Ned.

And then.

Mussels, in the most delicate, lemon-infused broth imaginable, and baskets of salty french fries. These weren’t just any mussels. The secret to happiness itself was embodied in those little white bowls.

Oh. My. Waistband.

 

photo 6

 

 

When we collectively declared that we couldn’t possibly eat another morsel, plates of stollen arrived, with a sidekick of rice ice cream (If I have that wrong, it’s the Chardonnay talking), drizzled with caramel sauce. It’s amazing how, given a ten minute interval, my stomach can reinvent itself as hungry.

All this to say, there’s talk of our dinner club becoming the Yew Club. We’re ready to commit.

(Did you like my surreptitious mention of dinner club? It involves women of tremendous athletic achievement and brains, and me.)

 

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Lean In, Loser.

September 23, 2013 1 comment

photo

I took an entire day off of work to host my book club last week (I work from home on small contracts, so no work means no pay). Since the book was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, in which the COO of Facebook encourages women to go for gold in their careers, and stop settling for less, this was ironic.

Two things occurred to me while I was stashing shoes under beds and spearing mini bocconcini with toothpicks: There’s no way Sheryl Sandberg could be in a book club, let alone host one. And secondly, the Cyndi Lauper anthem that I grew up with, girls just want to have fun, does not apply all women. So we have our differences.

But I digress. Back to the book.

I was prepared to love Lean In. Feminism just happens to be my thing, don’t let my SAHM status fool you. I’m quick to support anything that advocates more women in power positions and equally represented everywhere (I’m looking at you, government). But before you think I’m just another jaded housewife, jealous of successful women like Sandberg and her ilk, let’s get a few things straight:

1. I am a jaded housewife.

2. I am jealous of successful women like Sandberg and her ilk.

3. I would feel differently about this book if I was twenty-one year-old graduate of Barnard College, and about to start my MBA at Harvard (naturally).

Because unlike Betty Friedan‘s The Feminine Mystique, which was more universal in nature, Sandberg’s book is most applicable to women in privileged positions. Take, for example, her advice for women to take risks with their careers, like she did when she left Google to work for the then little known start up, Facebook. Perhaps that’s easier for someone who counts Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey among her friends.

While it’s not Sheryl’s fault that she had the highest grades in her Harvard business class (and felt she had to hide them). Or that Larry Summers, the white house economic advisor, kept jobs open for her, in the hopes she would move back to Washington. Or that she rubbed elbows with (or was patted on the head by) people like Tip O’Neill. This was her experience, and it’s the only place she can write from. But her advice would have a softer and broader landing if her life wasn’t so charmed.

Yes, the woman is brilliant. Yes, she has worked hard for every inch of progress. But for those of us with resume’s that don’t read like a who’s who of Silicon Valley or People magazine, it seems full of unobtainable goals. If there’s one thing women don’t need, it’s yet another brass ring, dangling out of reach.

I love that she wants to improve the world. I agree it would be better with more input by women. She gives great advice about sitting at the table and encourages women to be more assertive. She advises women to ask for raises and recognition when warranted. And most importantly, she encourages women to continue with their careers after having children, even when the cost of childcare seems to override the decision. Ahem. All valid points. All great advice.

Where were you when I needed you, ten years ago?

Her many good points aside, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Sandberg’s shiny house is more like the diamond variety, consisting of Ivy League schools, complete with Gloria Steinem on speed dial. Comparatively, straw and mud huts require constant attention.

I wish I could tell you what my book club thought about Lean In, but I was outside barbecuing salmon when they had the discussion. So really, my book club is like the advice Sandberg dishes out: good in theory, but at the end of the day, we all need to eat. Sometimes, real life gets in the way.

My 2012 Time Capsule

January 9, 2013 6 comments

my-new-years-resolution

Before I look forward, I need to do a shoulder check.

Life as a parent means primarily a life of never ending errands, punctuated by making meals and driving to after school activities, so I like to look back to prove to myself my life isn’t one long grocery list. There are other things that move me forward as a human being; a growing and learning and therefore interesting human being – it’s just hard to remember them. Although my life revolves, irrevocably, around my children, I still want to have a little orbit of my own. A part that is separate from my mothering role, so that when they fly the coop I won’t streak out of the Milky Way altogether.

Normally, when I reflect on a year, I figure out what ages and grades my children were in, and go from there. So 2009 was the year of grades 5, 3 and kindergarten. From there I recall the teachers, who largely made up my social circle that year, and then recall the activities they were involved with, the coaches of whom completed my social circle, and so on.

Exciting stuff. I will inevitably do this with 2012. But of course, there was more to my year than how much homework my children did or didn’t have. Fantastic moments that were sandwiched in between orthodontic appointments and marinating pork tenderloin. Some of them involved amazing friends and family members, while others were found in quieter times within the pages of a book or in the stillness of the forest. It’s not an exhaustive list, but here are a few highlights of my 2012:

  • It was a year of real estate: I didn’t move mountains, but I moved our family to a new neighborhood. A simple sentence that explains six months of headaches. Not so much a highlight as much as an achievement, but let’s not quibble over details.
  • I found wisdom, epiphanies, and triumphs in stories – too many books to list, but The Dovekeepers, When God Was a Rabbit, The History of Love, and Cloudstreet were a few of my favorite reads.
  • The wise powers at Lululemon advise me to do something everyday that scares you. I did one thing in 2012: I sent my rough draft of my novel to an editor. It took 364 days to work up to it, in my defense.
  • What’s a year without a soundtrack? If using the stereo of my youth, I’d have worn out the needle playing Bon Iver, Hey Rosetta, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Kathleen Edwards over and over again, but luckily the digital versions are showing no signs of wear. The concert of the year easily goes to The Lumineers, who lit up the Vogue theater like no band I’ve seen.
  • I started swimming with a masters group. In my first week I swam more lengths of the pool than I had my entire life. And I’m old, so you do the math.
  • We vacationed in beautiful paradises, both near and far, but 2012 will go down as the year that I finally went to the city that Frank Sinatra crooned about. The one that is the setting for so many movies, books, and reality television shows that I felt like I knew it like the freckles on my daughters nose. I had to resist the urge to tell my cabbie to take Atlantic Avenue rather than the Long Island Expressway to get to JFK. It was weird.

There. It’s recorded for posterity – moments of magic amongst the mundane – these assorted flickers of joy help to distinguish my 2012 from the thousands of carrots I’ve peeled. They may pale in comparison to watching my children grow into astonishingly astute beings, but these moments, purely mine, help me to appreciate my little shooting stars even more.

The Vestal Verdict on Vampires

November 29, 2012 1 comment

(Sigh) – It was just okay. I liked Breaking Dawn Part 2, but I didn’t love it;  much as I wanted to. Yet it’s one of those things where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – like a Jackson Pollock painting, the splotches of colour don’t mean anything in isolation, but together, the canvas is captivating. You can’t think of this movie as its own entity, but rather as the final farewell to this cast of vampires and werewolves we’ve come to admire, or at least, enjoy looking at.

This last installment of the Twilight series seemed to miss a hint of the magic that laced the others. I missed the love triangle between Jacob, Edward and Bella. The alternate tension invented for tension purposes (between the same three, but because of Renesmee) can’t compete. And as this tension has waned, so has the (almost, at times) witty dialogue. I wanted more of Charlie, and less of the vampires from all corners of the earth. Edward has lost some of his magnetism, but that could be the most recent Kristen Stewart sex scandal’s influence on me, I’m not sure.

But still.

There were many things I did like. Here are a few:

-sitting in a movie theater in a plush seat, with no one pulling on my arm, shoveling popcorn into my mouth

-watching beautiful vampires with perfect skin (shame about the eyes)

-its dramatic cinematography and incredible scenery, filmed in the very same woods and trails where I love to run (albeit not as fast as Bella and Edward, but a girl can dream)

-the concept that the unlikeliest of loves can persevere

So even though this last movie wasn’t all we Twi-hard fans hoped for, it was still great to see them; the Cullens, Bella, Jacob, and Edward, and all of their beauty, with their problems that are not of this world; projected on a gigantic screen for us to admire, forcing us to leave more pressing issues at the ticket booth, at least for two hours.

My daughter and her thirteen year-old friends agreed in unison that most of all, they were sad the saga had come to an end. I would concur, but at the same time, the story had clearly run its course; arguably one movie ago. It was time to say good-bye.

Bring On Culture Days

October 5, 2011 3 comments

Culture Days kicked off last Friday here in British Columbia. I’ve never heard of Culture Days before, but the CBC hosted a big street event to kick it off. It included a panel discussion on social media and how it’s affecting journalism, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

Frankly, it didn’t matter what the panel was talking about, they had me at Jian.

That's him!

For the benefit of my American reader, Jian Ghomeshi is the Canadian male equivalent to Barbara Walters before the plastic surgery. He hosts the best radio show ever aired, Q, where he interviews authors, musicians, and anyone else who might be more interesting than your average Agnes. Usually his guests possess more talent in their pinky finger than I have in my entire body; and I am always inspired (as well as green with jealousy).

It airs weekdays mornings, so Jian’s smooth voice fills my kitchen while I’m scrubbing pots and cleaning the oven and doing all of those other glamorous jobs that earn me the big bucks. Jian squeezes blood out of a rocks during some interviews, and with others is sweetly star-struck and deferential. I’ve acquired a long list of books and albums I want to buy as a result of his show. So much for free entertainment.

Jian brings me up when I’m feeling down, and brings poignant moments to my day – and thus my life. So I feel like I know him, and should he know me I’m certain we would get along like my old volleyball teammates between games. It was worth a trip downtown to see my old friend in person, since he resides in Toronto and my chances of bumping into him at the mall are slim to none.

Culture Days did not disappoint. The CBC had gone all out with tents and sets and stages; there were almost as many red-shirted CBC workers as senior citizens and teenagers milling about. There was more energy in this city block than there had been since the Stanley Cup riots, and I was very happy that I had forwent grocery shopping in order to be there.

George Stroumboulopoulos was hanging around the event – just hanging around! Only in Canada would a network star be able to do this. I only stalked him for a half hour to get my picture taken with him. Of course, I panicked when he asked me my name, and butchered its pronunciation. He asked me to repeat it, as if it mattered to him – so sweet. When saying goodbye he actually bowed. Amazing to encounter a television personality completely unaffected by his popularity.

Stalking Strombo - and then acting like an idiot - was so worth it considering I will have this photo forever

If you think I’m name dropping, that’s because I am. Since my life is very rarely exciting, I’m okay with it. If things pick up in the future, and I’m meeting cool people every weekend, I promise I won’t put them on my blog. Maybe on Facebook, but not on my blog.

CBC capped off the day with a free concert featuring the Stars, Midway State and the New Pornographers, hosted once again by Jian, who only slightly overshadowed the musicians (and I’m a fan of New Pornographers, just to give you an idea of his charisma.)

New Pornographers

I’m not sure what other events Culture Days had on its roster – the fact that this was the kick off implied there was more to them than this action packed day in front of the CBC building – but this would be hard to compete with. And my entire weekend entails attending soccer games.  This would be both the beginning and end of my Culture Days.

But I am a freakishly proud Canadian, riots and all, and so I say long live Canada, and long live the CBC, without an ounce of sarcasm.

Alzheimer’s or Not, She’s Still Alice

May 18, 2011 6 comments

Alice is a fit and healthy fifty year-old Harvard professor when she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Still Alice is a first hand account of someone diagnosed with this disease far too young, and like any first hand account it educates us about perspectives. Smart and instantly likeable, as Alice goes through the stages of her disease so does the reader. Her loss of lucidity is evident as you are treated to the inner workings of her mind.

As Alice says in a lecture at an Alzheimer’s convention in one scene, just because they are living with this disease doesn’t mean the rest of the world should write them off.

“My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter.”

And so this book is not only a great read, a personal journey of a beautiful character and her family, it also educates us about a terribly shattering dementia. I love learning as I read, it’s my favorite form of multi-tasking.

Life is no fairytale, and if diagnosed with this disease, it would be almost impossible to see any light. Yet the author manages to bring a touch of grace to a tragic situation. Relationships can evolve in curious ways, as happens to Alice. Without sugar-coating, this story illuminates that Alzheimer’s is not an ending, but rather a challenge which forces you to live your life differently.

In her first novel, incidentally written at Starbucks while her child was at school, Lisa Genova has created a touching story about a woman who endures this hurdle with dignity. She fights to hold on to the person she is, and lives in the moment as best she can.

I couldn’t put this book down, and when I did I was in a hurry to get back to it. The best books leave us with lessons learned in life, albeit through someone else’s experience. From Alice we learn to persevere, to enjoy the good, and to love hard.

And of course that lesson that never gets old – to live in the moment and for the moment.