Monday, August 31, 2009

DON"T put your beak in there!

So I hung a hummingbird feeder out in the spring and never saw a one of the little buggers. Defeated, I never bothered to bring it in to change the sweet water inside and all summer long I kept looking at the damn thing as it gradually filled up with insects and the water turned rancid and still I did nothing. I felt a little guilty (not overly so) and worried it would be quite an unsavoury snack for any creature that did manage to stick a beak or other appendage small enough to insert in the feeding holes. So this morning as I trekked out to the shed fridge to grab a carton of orange juice around 6:45, I spotted him. There he was, hovering over the feeder. Damn, I thought, don't stick your beak in there - you won't like it one bit. In a flash he was gone, hopefully as a result of my presence and not because he got a taste of the fermented month's old goo. Now I fear I have blown my chance to attract hummingbirds. What bird in their right mind would ever come back for a drink in my backyard after getting a whiff of that feeder? The hummingbirds are on their way south now, so there is a window of opportunity to attract them before they are gone for the winter. It is now soaking in hot soapy water in my kitchen sink and I will attempt to make up for my lazy feeder habits by putting out a fresh batch of sugar water for them tonight. I start out every spring with such noble intentions, but as the summer wears on, I wear out. I get tired of weeding, replacing the water in the bird bath, deadheading the flowers, in fact just about any chore related to the garden at this point has inched it's way down to the bottom of my priority list. I am defeated by the weeds, the grime build-up on the patio furniture, the overgrown shrubs, the broken walnut shells all over the yard courtesy of the constantly munching squirrels and cleaning the pool and that is when I know, fall is almost here. I couldn't handle summer all year long - too much work. The outside requires so much maintenance all summer, nothing gets done inside, so the interior of the house is crying out for some attention now too. Sounds like I'm complaining - I guess I am, but I'm only human and sometimes the chores just seem overwhelming. The truth is, my priorities have changed and writing and golf seem more important to me these days. So I say to the hummingbirds - better come soon because I won't likely be changing that feeder again before winter and to the weeds, I say go crazy, and to the rest of the garden, I say - die already! I'm about ready to hang up my trowel and clippers for the season and as the days grow shorter I will be heading inside earlier, I'll start to have to close the windows at night and my enthusiasm for gardening will go into hibernation until next spring. And please - for just one year could we skip Halloween? I am so sick of that holiday. Ever since Emma outgrew it a couple of years ago, I dread that night. I don't give a crap about the costumes, the mounds of junkie candy, the carving of the pumpkins and consequent smashing of them by angry kids with nothing better to do or no where better to go. Hmmmm, I didn't start off this blog with a rant in mind, but now it looks like that is where it is headed. Shall I continue or stop now? OK, I'll back off, chill out, quit my whining. I do feel a little better though, so maybe it wasn't a bad idea. Welcome September - sounds like I need a change of scenery.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Arriving at Gate C....my grown up girl!

I love the scene in the movie Love Actually right at the beginning of the film when Hugh Grant is doing the voice over and he talks about how whenever he feels depressed about the state of the world, he just goes down and hangs out at the Arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport and watches as the arriving passengers are greeted by their friends and families. It is there that he is reminded that "love is all around". I had to go to Pearson Airport today to pick up my daughter who was returning from Scotland and I was earlier than I needed to be, so I got to do just that. I sat and watched as people arrived, their eager and anxious faces scanning the crowd for a familiar face. I am pretty sure I welled up with tears at least fourteen times in an hour as I watched the joyful greetings of lovers, friends, grandparents and grandchildren and parents and small children. It was really uplifting - all that love and happiness radiating around a few hundred square feet. It was almost addictive. I couldn't wait to finish up the show with one before I was on to the next one. A stand-out in the crowd was the sight of a very old east Indian woman - a great grandmother who had to sit while two of her very tiny great grandchildren leapt onto her lap and flung their arms around her neck, smothering her cheeks with kisses. I needed a tissue after that one. The second most emotional one for me was a rather geeky homely looking man about 40 who stood with his large bouquet of flowers in anticipation of his arrival. I was curious about him, so I kept an eye on him until I suddenly saw his face light up as his sweetheart arrived, a woman about his own age, not much better looking than he was, easily 60 lbs of extra cushioning on her aging body - he turned and half-ran toward her and she to him, and they embraced, tears flowing down her cheeks as she accepted his flowers and he was so happy to see her, it was like a scene from a romance movie. I had to turn away before they noticed I was now crying too. Then it was time for my own anticipated reunion with my lovely daughter Emma - I watched her round the corner from the baggage pick-up, she looked taller than when she left and she looked more mature and she was smiling. I knew in an instant her trip had been a great adventure and we hugged as she talked, eager to launch into her stories, and I couldn't wait to hear them. This was her first trip abroad without her parents tagging along and I sensed immediately it would not be her last. The first thing she said was that she had not been ready to come home - it had gone too fast and she was smitten by the travel bug. I'm glad she had such a positive experience and I am even more glad that she wants to venture around the world. She already wants to go again next summer - this time to London and Stratford. In the same breath as she said that, she also launched into how she was going to try and earn money working part-time to help pay for it. Good thing - because although it's great that she wants to see the world, it is equally great that she understands there is a price to pay for the privilege. To say I am proud of her would be an understatement. At least it seems she got some of my genes - not just the negative ones! Welcome home kiddo - glad to have you back.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wonder where he worked at Night?

So we're in the elevator at Tiffany and the thick-New York accented lift operator suddenly turns around, surveys the crowded car and must notice that he has a captive audience, so proceeds to break out in song in the most professional sounding baritone, like he just stepped off a Broadway stage and between the 4th and 1st floor entertained us with a chorus of  "Fly me to the Moon."
That is the kind of New York moment that makes a visit to this one-of-a-kind town more than just a faded memory.  It makes you want to come back to this buzzing centre of the universe again and again.  Never a fan of the obvious cliche, I can't help but say the one thing I hate hearing people say, but there is no other way to describe this town - there is an "energy" here that you just don't find anywhere else in the world.  (even if it is in America).  After 4 nights and 5 days, I have had my fill of this crazy city, but it doesn't mean I won't be back.  The elevator operator, the sad story of the struggling Nepalese cabbie, the waitress who works in Greenwich Village but makes the trek everyday from Brooklyn - those are the people and the stories that make this place magic and real and like no other.
Just now, a female airport worker is shouting at her daughter on her cell-phone, in that loud brash New York accent we are so familiar with - she has no idea that half the departure lounge is listening to her conversation and she cares even less.  She is a character in a play, a real piece of work, a native New Yorker - I'm guessing she lives in Queens or Brooklyn, and she lives in a tired old walk-up in a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone else's business and she talks this loud because in her world it is the norm.  Pretty sure I'm dead-0n.  Her face hasn't seen a facial (ever) her lips only ever get painted for weddings and funerals and her family loves her just the way she is.  She should be wearing a badge that says "ordinary New Yorker".  
Sooooo unlike the freak show of women we saw at Fred's at Barneys for lunch yesterday.  We were told it was worth checking out since, it is "the" spot to check out the "ladies who lunch" on the upper east-side.  Not sure how much lunch they actually eat as they are all so thin they would blow away in a nano-second in a town like Chicago, but on Central Park West they are "ordinary" in their own world.  They sport the shiny faces of the recently snipped, pulled and stitched at the hairline, collagen filled lips looking like those African women with the plates inserted in their lips, except the plates have been taken out and the remaining plumped and swollen mouth leaps off their face, always arriving one step ahead of the rest of their bodies when they enter a room.  It was truly a scary sight and I realized at that moment, although I love visiting New York, I could never ever live here.  It would just be too damn much work to try to compete, and truthfully, I wouldn't want to.
I felt sorry for those gals, hanging desperately on to the pathetic remains of their faces and their constant state of starvation.  Doesn't sound like living to me.  We watched as a mother-daughter team at the table across from us ordered up the signature "cone" of pomme frites, a large cobb salad and a bowl of the "skinny chicken soup" (apparently fat-free) and then proceeded to eat 2 french fries each.  The cone easily held 50 fries, but they only ate 2 EACH!  As we observed the bus boy clearing the table after they left, I wanted to say - "We'll eat em," but I do actually have some decorum, so I said nothing.  They didn't even finish their low cal salad and soup OR their aspartame-laced iced teas.  Clearly, they weren't very hungry.  
Alternatively, Peg and I completely polished off our grilled wild mushroom salad and Margarita Pizza (we shared one of each) and even considered dessert, but decided to head over to Rockerfeller Center and check out the desserts at Dean & Deluca.  I believe a piece of German chocolate cake was devoured, but I don't really remember.
We took a break in between for a much needed nap and then headed across town again to The Spice Market for dinner.  It was supposed to be our big blow-out night, but since we had spontaneously turned Tuesday night into our big swirl, we were fairly toned down last night.  It was just as well, because my wallet was getting pretty thin and we weren't feeling quite as celebratory after the previous evening's over-indulgence in all things alcoholic.  Go figure!
So, a final walk in Central Park this morning, a quick look at John McEnroe filming a morning show segment outside the ABC studios and another Whole Foods breakfast and it was time to pack the bags and head home.  We had a great time and once again, I am eternally grateful to my BFF Peg for turning 50 and inviting me to celebrate it with her.  Happy Birthday to my precious friend of 30 years.
Aging beautifully ever since.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Morimoto Swirl

The girls are a little subdued this morning following a bit of a swirl last night, but it was fun while it lasted. We had a craving for some good sushi, so the concierge in his infinite wisdom sent us to Morimoto in the meat-packing district and we couldn't have been happier.
We're pretty sure the food was amazing, but it may have been enhanced by the cocktail and champagne we drank before dinner. By then, we were pretty happy to eat anything, although I was still sober enough to know excellent Japanese cuisine when it is presented to me. Our waitress was fantastic and zeroed in on what she figured we would like and every plate that arrived looked and tasted better than the last. The place had a very lively atmosphere that became even livelier with the arrival of Food Network star Guy Fieri and his posse. They seated the host of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives directly across from us, so we couldn't help but notice him and his bleached blonde hair.
Peg's husband Bob had just recently eaten dinner in his Santa Rosa restaurant, so she figured that entitled her to go over and chat with him and ask to take his photo, which he kindly obliged. That of course was after she tried to discreetly shoot one with her Blackberry from where we sat. The unfortunate blurry result shown above may have had more to do with the third drink, but we'll never know for sure. Back in the day, 3 drinks would have been a "start", now they were more likely to finish us off. So instead of calling it quits there, I came back from the ladies room to find she had ordered a fourth. That's when I knew I was in trouble.
Our waitress, noticing how much fun we were having, suggested we hit a club called the Standard afterward and for a brief illogical moment we actually considered it. Then some of our remaining brain cells kicked in and we poured ourselves into a taxi and headed back to the hotel where we snuck in the back door lest anyone in management see her (us) staggering toward the elevator.
It was the perfect ending to a pretty perfect day. Not sure we are feeling so perfect this morning, but we still managed to hit Central Park for our morning walk, so we can't be hurting too bad. They are filming a scene for 30-Rock this morning outside the back door of the hotel - so we may get lucky and catch a glimpse of Alec Baldwin or Tina Fey and since we both love that show, that would be a great memory to take away from this week as well. So far all we have seen is the crew and the spread set out by the catering services - seems those stars eat a lot!
We will continue the day with lunch at Barney's covering off the third B and a private tour of the 4300 square foot penthouse suite here at the hotel. Tonight, we are heading to The Spice Market for the "birthday dinner" and our final "swirl". Will tell you all about it tomorrow.
If I survive.....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back Room Bargains - Is it a Crime?

Psssst! Lady - wanna buy a handbag? Gucci? Prada? Chanel? Woo Hoo! Now we're talking! Left the upscale Fifth Avenue shops today and headed downtown to Canal Street where we were told we could find the designer knock-off bags. I know. I know. It's all wrong , bad, possibly even criminal but there is a recession going on still and we needed new bags for the fall season. So sue me! It's not like any of you have never done it, and if you haven't, I'd highly recommend it, if even for the entertainment value.
So there we were, looking as conspicuous as we possibly could in this down scale neighbourhood and it wasn't more than a minute before we were being guided into back alleys and hidden back rooms to view the wares. It was all so seedy and underground and we fearlessly allowed ourselves to be led into low ceiling basements that stunk of damp and urine and at the end of a long hallway, locked doors were opened to reveal walls of designer bags, fans blowing to keep us cool in the unventilated spaces, while Asian women who could barely speak English stood guard at the door while we perused the merchandise. Women of all ages and races pawed through the labels, examining the bags for flaws or how authentic they looked and once they had chosen their favorites, the bargaining would begin.
Such subterfuge, such daring - now we were having fun! The picture above shows you just how much fun we had! The one problem we had was after our haul, we were heading to the Village for a late lunch and we looked a bit obvious as the knock-off bags we bought were stuffed into bags that looked for all intents and purposes like green garbage bags! This would not do, now that we were hanging out in a much nicer hood. So we did what any woman in our shoes would do, we went and bought shopping bags (the black & white polka dots and squares you see in the corner of the photo) to hide our crime and stuffed our illegal booty inside them and proceeded to blend in better. The garbage bags really had to go!
We ended up with 5 bags and 2 wallets - Gucci and Chanel - Peg got 3 bags and one wallet and I departed Canal Street with 2 bags and one wallet. Now I'm covered for fall/winter and even next spring. All that for $90. Now that's what I call a recession busting solution. I'm not so sure about the certificates of authenticity that were stuffed inside the bags, but I won't tell if you don't.
Mission accomplished!

Two B's out of 4 so Far

So, where were we? Ah yes, yesterday afternoon. After a brief recovery period from scraped knees and tired legs, we decided to hit Fifth Ave for the afternoon. Figured we'd hit at least 2 of the 4 B's (Barney's, Bergdorfs, Bloomingdales and Bendels. As much as we TRIED to part with some cash at Bloomies and Bendels, alas, nothing seemed to need to leave the stores with us, so we hit a few more shoe shops in between, stopped for a snack and drink, then headed to Tiffany, sure we would find a birthday bobble for Peg, but even Tiff's could not open our wallets. The store was crawling with people, which for a Monday afternoon seemed crazy, but I didn't notice too many little blue bags heading out the revolving door - so maybe we weren't the only ones feeling uninspired.
I have been quite taken of late with the Frank Gehry collection there, but even that seemed a bit tired now. We did enjoy exploring the unique and "out there" stuff at Henri Bendel but the price tags were beyond our budget. I nearly succumbed to a hard sell at the cosmetic counter after a buff young salesman insisted I try his magic wrinkle cream on my fine lines around my eyes. "Whatever do you mean?" I asked. "What fine lines?" With a bit more persuasion, he had my glasses off and was slathering my "fine lines" with a thick cream called Freeze 24/7. "Hmmm, with a name like that, why not just inject a little Botox?", I asked. "This is way better than Botox." he claimed. "Well, go ahead and after you're done, I will wander around the store and if I notice a difference by the time I am ready to leave, I may be willing to shell out $95 for an ounce of your miracle goo," I told him.
As we wandered from floor to floor trying on purses, hats, weird head pieces, fondled cashmere and silk, tested perfume and checked out the unique jewelry, I kept glancing in various mirrors along the way to see if I suddenly looked 35 again. "Peg, have a look - what do you think?" He had also put some on the inside of my palm so I could compare the difference there, but when I asked Peg to pick which hand he had applied his magic potion, she chose the wrong one, so I knew I would be keeping my $95 for something more substantial. Sorry - no sale.
Back to the hotel, empty handed, we chilled for awhile before it was time to head out for dinner. Something simple we mentioned to the concierge, maybe just a salad and pizza - so he sent us to a little joint called Angelo's at 55th and Second and it was fine, but not as good as our dinner the night before. Angelo may want to reconsider the decor and although he claims his pizza is authentic Italian, we have had better.
We were pretty tired out by now and although we know it is almost criminal to end the evening early while in New York, we did. But not tonight. Just got back from our morning walk in Central Park, grueling cross-fit work-out and hill-climbing torture (thanks Peg - I needed that) and are now preparing to head out to Canal Street for little knock-off shop and then over to the Village for the remainder of the afternoon. Still not sure if we will see a show tonight or go out for a later dinner - but we want to keep our plans loose and flexible in case something presents itself.
So, on that note, I'm off to the showers. It's a dirty sweaty town and I match it right now.
Later.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bandaged but not Broken

Peg! My God woman - get off your knees - there is no reason to praise the Gods that brought us all this good fortune. What? You aren't thanking the lord - you just fell down? Tripped on the curb half a block outside the hotel? Well, here let me help you up, no blood yet - just a couple of scraped knees - you'll be fine.
That being the ONLY negative thing that has happened since our arrival here in NYC yesterday afternoon - think we can consider ourselves lucky so far. We have been getting the royal treatment here at The Four Seasons Hotel in honour of Peg's 50th. They put us on the 41st floor, corner executive suite, sent us wine and champagne and a wee birthday cake (that we only tasted and sent away) and have forced us to gaze upon the most spectacular view of Central Park I have ever been privileged enough to have here.
Our concierge - Randy sent us to dinner at a great little restaurant last night - Fishtail in the David Burke Townhouse near Park & Lexington. We supped on fresh grilled yellowfin tuna and grilled veggies after downing the loveliest bottle of Carneros Chardonnay from California. It was a perfect ending to a long day of travel and a good beginning to our adventure here.
As I pushed a button to open the window treatments this morning, the park view beckoned us to come see her, so we got our walking shoes on and headed out the door toward the park. We decided to do a 3.2 mile trek but took a wrong turn somewhere along the route and ended up doing quite a bit more, ending up at the North end of the Jackie Onasis resevoir with a good 30 block walk back to our intended destination at Columbus Circle for breakfast. It was a pretty good work-out so by the time we got to the Whole Foods at the Time Warner building, we were ready for some food. There was some major tree damage throughout the park from the remnants of Hurricane Bill, so the chipper trucks were out in full force cleaning up the mess. Too bad - some real beauties came down.
Back at the hotel now for showers and making plans for the afternoon. Gotta clean up Peg's scraped knees and - oh - doorbell just rang - more goodies arriving. A big bottle of gourmet strawberry lemonade and a tray of fresh strawberries and cookies.
Wondering if Peg might consider turning 50 again next year.....to be continued.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Wanna Be a Part of it!

Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today....for New York City of course.  Just checked in here at the Toronto Island Airport and so far I am totally charmed by this quaint little method of flying out of town.  A quick ferry ride (like 2 minutes) and you're here.  Soooo much more relaxed than flying out of Pearson - what took me so long to discover this oasis of travel paradise?  After I rode the ferry and went through security, I took a few more steps into Porter Airlines comfortable and quiet departure lounge where complimentary coffee, tea, juice and snacks awaited me. Not just coffee either - a latte!  These guys are totally scoring points with me.
Finding it hard not to eat the free cookies, but there was a day, when I may have scarfed down a few.  I am sitting here enjoying my drink, writing my blog and now I just have to wait until I am called to board my plane.  Next time I would know better than to arrive so early, but since I did not know the lay of the land, I have some time to kill.
The only disadvantage I can see so far is that Porter only flies into Newark, but even it is a bit closer to Manhattan than JFK, so it's not so bad really.  Not as close as LaGuardia, but good enough.  For $99 each way - what can you expect really?  The odd thing is, with this first class treatment, it is worth the little extra drive into town at the other end.  I would have had to be at Pearson even earlier and battled the crowds, the long lines and no free latte.  I'm sold.
I feel like I have discovered some secret mode of travel that most Torontonians have yet to experience, although I know many have.  So dear readers, stay tuned for the "Deb and Peg Take Manhattan Adventure" over the next 4 days.  That is if we ever leave the luxury confines of The Four Seasons!  I know we will, but it is certainly not the kind of hotel one is anxious to leave. 
The big apple may never be the same.....it's up to you New York, New York!
 

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tennis Anyone? Ignore the Tornadoes!

It was a dark and stormy night...here in Toronto, but no bloody tornado was going to stop us from driving to the Rexall Centre to watch the lovely and talented Maria Sharapova grunt and squeal her way through yet another win on her way to the quarter finals of the Rogers Cup. Whew! that had to be one of my more lengthy run-on sentences - good thing I don't have an editor sitting next to me with her big red marker, chopping it all up into bits. It's my blog and I'll run-on if I want to. Yes, there we were, my friend Terri and I wheeling our way up the 400 highway, watching the sky, as a light show of astronomical proportions lit the way. The whole sky north of Finch was dancing with lightening bolts and the black clouds to the west were moving in faster than we could outrun them. Gee, did it even occur to us to turn back? Surely, the tennis would be cancelled - but some little voice urged us to continue on our journey, slow as it was with the traffic all but stopped. Then the rain came down in torrents all around us and even that thorough soaking wasn't enough to put us off. I just had to see those gazelle-like legs in person and some wimpy little funnel clouds weren't about to stop me. Forever the eternal optimist, I suddenly noticed a very slight lightening of the sky in the west after about an hour into the drive that would normally take 20 minutes. "Look over there, I motioned westward - the sun is trying to burn through those clouds. Let's just get there and see what's going on - we made it this far - may as well carry on now." We pulled into the York University campus, wound our way toward the VIP parking and were halted by a barrier. "No one is allowed in," the road guard told us. "We'll see about that," we said under our breath. We circled around and quizzed a few official types and finally we managed to secure our VIP parking spot and eventually were adorned with official badges and wrist straps that would allow us into the coveted Rogers Lounge and private box. The staff at the Rexall Centre were busy mopping up centre court from the rain and it was official - tennis would resume. Now, I'm not sure I would have worked so hard to find my way there, if I only had tickets for the nose-bleed section, but I was really reluctant to pass up this once in a life-time chance to hob-nob with the rich and famous and possibly a few players in this elite setting. And it was worth all the effort. There was a full bar, full hot and cold buffet, red floral arrangements on every table, air-conditioned facility with bar stools lining the windowed box or you had the option of sitting outside with your drink, full wait service that took care of your every need. All that and....those legs. What god decided to give her those gorgeous gams and give me mine? Anyone who has ever lamented their short legs, cannot help but be a least a little envious of Maria Sharapova's loooonnnngg tanned "up to there" beauties. I hate her. OK, I don't hate her, but I look at her long lean muscled appendages and curse the gene pool I came from. Now don't go get all - "you should be grateful for what god gave you" crap. Call a spade a spade. I got ripped off and Maria took the good ones and that's the reality. Then, to rub salt in my wounds, she can hit a cross court backhand so hard and fast, it is a thing of beauty. All in all it was a fun night and a shout out to my good friends, Terri and John for making it happen. No storm scares a die-hard tennis fan - and I wasn't alone. Although the stadium was not full, there was a sizable crowd. They brought their umbrellas, they cheered on their favourite player and none of us were worse for the wear. Game. Set. Match.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Countdown Begins

In 24 hours I will be driving my daughter, my "precious jewel" to the airport as she is about to begin her first overseas adventure with a group of other young women. As I mentioned a few blogs back, she is heading to Scotland for a tour with an artsy bunch from her arts camp (Camp Centauri). Their first stop will land them in Edinburgh, where they will immerse themselves in all things creative at the world renown Fringe Festival. The next leg of her journey will take her to Inverness to a writer's retreat, where they will soak in the Scottish countryside and spend their days honing their writing skills. In the evenings, some well-known Scottish writers will arrive to listen to their readings and critique their work. Hey - wait a minute - I should be going on this trip, shouldn't I? I did try to sign on as a chaperone to no avail - aahh well, it's her adventure, not mine, as it should be. I had my own adventures when I was her age, although not nearly as glamorous. My first trip across the pond was a school trip when I was 16 to England. It was my first taste of life off the continent and I was smitten. I hope she feels the same way when she gets back. I am not worried about her - not the way my own parents were when I slung a pack on my back and headed to Europe at 19 to discover the world. I had no itinerary, no real plan - just a sense of adventure and my life savings in traveller's cheques, a copy of Europe on $5 a Day, and waaay too much stuff in my back-pack. After about day 3 - I sent half the stuff I had taken back home and then I could really move with that thing on my back. I could haul it up into the back of a pick-up with ease and with our thumbs as our preferred mode of transportation, we were off. We did buy a rail pass for part of the journey, but for the most part, we relied on the kindness of strangers (and sleepy transport drivers looking for someone to keep them awake). Those were the days. Now, I am glad she is scheduled and she of course will not be venturing onto highways and biways in hopes of a ride. Doubt anyone does that any more. I was lucky - I survived. No - my little girl will have the latest in luggage, a backpack with wheels, no Canadian flag stitched on the outside (not the thing anymore) and she will remain safe and scheduled. The cost of her trip is three times more than I spent in more than three months in 1977. Imagine that. My biggest wish for her is that she comes back a changed person, more worldly, more educated, travel bug firmly installed in her psyche and full of tales of her new world experience. Just like I did. She is ready. And oddly, so am I. You go girl.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wasting away again in Margaritaville

So nice that summer has finally decided to grace us with her presence. As a pool owner, I appreciate it even more, since I finally am actually using my pool to cool off. We renovated our pool about 3 years back and when we did, we got rid of the ancient old clunker of a heater. It was not located in the proper spot according to code and we thought we would save on the expense and the environment by using a solar blanket instead. Great idea in theory, but when the summer months are cool and rainy, the solar blanket doesn't stand a chance. Like this one. With a few hot days, the water has warmed up nicely and for the first time this summer I was glad to have this pool. I also indulged in my annual (whether I need it or not) float around the pool in my floaty thingy, cold drink at the ready and worked on my tan. I know that people without pools think that people with pools do this sort of thing all the time. But, au contraire! I use the pool, but more for a quick dip to cool off after cutting the lawn or weeding the garden and more recently for exercising, but never to just float around like a slacker. Usually, pool owners are busy entertaining around the pool, or watching the kids frolic in the pool, or maintaining the gardens around the pool - rarely enjoying the pool. So it was lovely this weekend when I did and if I closed my eyes I could almost imagine I was somewhere tropical, as long as I didn't open my eyes and look at the swaying walnut tree branches over in the corner or the cedar tree by the gate - the native greenery a dead give away for a Canadian back yard. And admittedly, there was no pool boy with a tray of pina coladas, but I did take the odd trip to the beer fridge in the shed and that was pretty good. So when I finish writing this, I may go out and give it another shot - this hot weather will be fleeting and I wrapped up work early for the day - what the hell? Summer is short and this year it was late. Get it while the getting is good. Margarita anyone?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Julia - you naughty Scamp!

If you haven't already seen Julie and Julia, go - go this weekend - go soon. I tried to see it opening weekend but the theatre in my hood had a power failure, so I had to wait until last night. It now will be added to my top 20 list - not sure who I will have to bump off the list, but in any case it warrants being added. It was funny and heartwarming and sweet in the way a good movie should be. Meryl Streep was more Julia Child than Julia Child was - I swear. I learned something about Julia Child and her lovely relationship with her husband that I never knew before. That part of the story came from letters that were written from her husband to his brother and from Julia to her sister and they were published a while back. Although she was a famous cook book author and television personality, she was not exactly a looker. I think that is what made her marriage so sweet and special. He seemingly adored her and if the casting was accurate, he was much shorter than her - not such a stretch, as she was so tall, so they looked a little awkward together. I'm not sure if the script writers took a few liberties, but apparently it wasn't uncommon for her husband to come home for a "nap" midday (aka - a little afternoon delight) when they lived in Paris and she was attending the Cordon Bleu cooking school. The way it was presented in the film was charming and subtle and endearing. It was as though she was always startled and surprised by his affections toward her, but she loved him equally and unabashedly. Of course, the other aspect of the film that was near and dear to my heart was the plot line, where a young 30 yr old blogger from Queens - Julie - decides to start writing a blog where she cooks all 500 odd recipes from Julia Child's , Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and then blogs about the experience. She created such a massive following on her blog, it was made into a book and then this movie. How's that for horseshoes up your ass? I watched as she started with no readers, other than her mother and as the weeks passed, a few more and before you know it, she has a huge following and publishers and writers are calling her to ask her if she wants to be interviewed, published, etc. Every blogger's dream come true. Including mine. However, her idea was unique, I'll give her that and she had a focus - a theme. As I tend to skip all over the map, I don't see any book potential, but it did give me food for thought (pardon the pun) and I am thinking maybe I need to re-invent this blog. I'll keep you posted. For now, it's August, it's hot, and it's not the time for new beginnings.... maybe in September. Any feedback or ideas are most appreciated. Lay 'em on me!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pushing Limits and Facing Demons in a Chevy

My kid is still sleeping and I wish I were too, but I just can't afford to waste that kind of time anymore. I will admit however, I am a little tuckered out after the whirlwind that was my life over the past 48 hrs. Emma and I were invited to participate in the "Chevy Equinox Wonderland Adventure". The idea was to spend two days participating in activities that were perhaps a bit out of your comfort zone. It sounded like something I was keen to try, so I said "We're in!" For years now, I have sworn off amusement park rides as several summers ago, we took Emma to a big one in Lake George, New York and she dragged me onto this brutal spinning thing so many times, I tore a ligament in my rib cage that still bothers me to this day. So when the first "activity' involved Behemoth, Canada's biggest roller coaster, at Canada's Wonderland, I started to wonder if I was really so keen after all! The nice folks organizing this adventure assured us it was not an absolute pre-requisite, but I succumbed to a little peer-pressure from my good friend and fellow blogger, Cindy - aka - Halifax Broad and got in the long and winding line to what I feared was certain death. (If not death, then some form of projectile vomit all over the other passengers.) Even my 14 year old daughter had the sense to say no to this first feat and was happy to hop on a few other less terrifying rides while her mother faced her demons. Fortunately, I did manage to keep the contents of my stomach inside me, but my throat was sore for hours later from the screaming that started with the first vertical drop and didn't end until the last. I only opened my eyes once or twice when cornering, and prayed the entire time for it to end...and I am not one to pray as you know. After completing that totally "out of my comfort zone" step in the two day odyssey, I must say, I felt I was ready for anything. What could be worse? Legs all rubbery and shaky after getting off, I wiped away a few hysterical tears and moved on. Would I recommend the ride? Sure - to my worst enemies - absolutely! I know there are people who actually enjoy this type of terror, but I, alas, am not one. I am glad I did it - proving to myself I could, but I'm pretty sure I won't be heading back down that track any time soon. After a nice lunch, we were given the keys to our brand new 2010 Chevy Equinoxes and loaded up with our gear (golf clubs, tennis racquets, luggage etc.) with room to spare, for the remainder of the adventure - heading to Muskoka. First stop, Maple Lane Farms in Bracebridge for a little horseback trail-riding. There were more sedate activities offered - a peaceful boat cruise or a yoga class, but in keeping with the theme, I chose horse-back riding, and I'll tell you why. When I was about 12, I stupidly saddled and rode an unbroken horse. After about 20 yards, the thing bolted, I hung on for dear life until the horse stopped and started to buck wildly, until I was thrown. As if that wasn't bad enough, it then proceeded to give me a hard kick in the thigh just to make his point and I sported a nice black and blue horse hoof impression for weeks afterward. That was the last time I was on a horse. I have always been afraid of them since. It was time to face yet another of my demons. The four of us were assigned our "gentle" beasts, helmeted up and mounted them. Their names were Kramer, Willy, Mickey and my horse - FLASH. "You've got to be kidding me," I said. "Oh, no, don't worry, he's not like his name at all," I was assured by our trail ride leader, Deanna. I tried to believe her. As I sat on Flash, got my instructions on how to work the reins and the staff worked to adjust the stirrups, I tried to image myself in a calm place, not wanting Flash to sense my fear. He reared his head back, one evil eye gazing back at me, checking to see what kind of human he had to spend the next 90 minutes hauling around. It really was kind of evil - his eye - not all sweet and docile like some animals - I felt uneasy. As much as I tried, I did not feel all "Nice horsey - here's a sugar cube horsey" - all "my little pony" sweet-like toward him. It was as though he looked at me and said, "Remember who's in charge here - bitch." I was sunk. We moved along slowly, all four of us inexperienced riders getting a feel for our animals, the horses, tucked in closely in a line behind one another. I couldn't understand why Flash wanted his face so close into Kramer's butt, surely not the most pleasant smelling part of his anatomy, but Deanna explained they do that so the swish of the horse's tail ahead of them helps keep the flies cleared from their eyes. The flies apparently more annoying than any aroma that may be wafting their way. The trail followed along until we reached the edge of a wooded area, and a path into the forest, the recent rains, leaving large patches of muddy areas that the horses managed to make their way through. I was nervous going through those patches, imagining the horse's legs sinking so deep in the muck, they might never get out, or worse, at that moment, being thrown off into the oozing wet goo myself. At about the half way point in the journey, Emma's horse, Willy, who was in the rear, decided he wanted to break away from the group and take the opposite fork in the trail. I turned to see the two of them heading up an embankment, Emma calling out "Deanna - Willy is going the wrong way - what should I do?" My daughter was in trouble and I was helpless to do anything. My husband had warned us ahead of time that horses are unpredictable and I was now eating his words. The drama ended fairly quickly as Deanna shouted instructions to Emma and Willy sort of side-stepped down the slope and got back in line with the rest of us, but it made me edgy. We headed back into the woods after that and as we came out, had to cross a stream which apparently the horses actually enjoy, but they needed a little convincing at first. So there we were, all "Wow - just like a scene out of Brokeback Mountain" - minus the gay sex and on our way back toward the stables. As we headed through some long grassy areas and some spindly trees, Flash suddenly started rearing his head, jumped out of the line, shaking his head back and forth, turning in circles and generally acting all crazed and now I was the one calling out to Deanna. "There's something wrong with Flash - he's freaking out here - what should I do?" She turned and looked toward us and before I knew it she was off her horse and running over. She took him by his bit and worked to calm him. "What was that all about?" I asked, my heart pounding with fear. She figured he probably got stung by a bee - that was her best guess. I rode the rest of the way back to the stables, waiting for something to happen again, but we made it back without incident and by now my butt was ready to dismount. Not quite as bad as a spinning class, but too much longer and I would have had something to really complain about. Next stop in our Chevy Equinox - Windermere House on Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. Cindy and I are both avid tennis players, so we had our racquets with us and hoped to find time to play before dinner. There were a couple of young race-car drivers (aged 19 & 21) on the adventure who challenged us to a match. I asked one of them what his rating was and he didn't know what I was talking about so I knew we stood a chance. Truly a case of Cougars vs. Cubs - and we had the Ace in our pocket. We knew it, but they didn't. We had a laugh when they asked us how and when we met and it turned out to be before they were born. The 19 yr-old was a dead ringer for a young Richard Gere and that became his name to me for the rest of the adventure. He fancied his serve was modelled after Andy Roddick, but Cindy and I figured his six-pack was more accurately closer in style. So sue me - it was hard not to notice. I may be married, but I'm not dead. We had fun pouncing the boys (on the court) - they were humbled, and it was time to head up to our beautiful rooms to get showered and ready for dinner. Emma had been chilling after her afternoon playing cowgirl and we were ready for a little R & R on the terrace looking out over the lake. Our hosts were waiting, gracious as ever, sushi ordered and interested to hear about our adventure so far. Windermere House is a fabulous place to stay in Muskoka if you are looking for the perfect retreat from the city. It has been completely re-built since the fire a few years ago and it is four star all the way. No complaints about our accommodation - that's for sure. Dinner in a private room followed and we soon realized the day had drained us - it was time for sleep. Breakfast was coming early, followed by an 8:15 tee time, so this adventurous gal was ready for some shut-eye. Now I will admit, and any of you who know me, will agree, golf is not exactly out of my comfort zone - but hey - two out of three ain't bad! It was out of Emma's zone though, so it wasn't entirely cheating! She does not golf (yet) however, she sure enjoyed driving the golf cart and even tried putting a little. I must have been unfocused out there, because I had a pretty dismal round but I so enjoyed the company (Cindy & Jack) and the course (Windermere Golf & Country Club), it didn't matter. The day was hot and after 18, it was time to head back to the resort and load up the Equinox again for the drive back to the city. If we could have, it would have been great to stay longer, but it was time to go and the open road was calling. The drive was easy and quick (the vehicle was nice and peppy) and comfortable, the satellite radio keeping us awake and entertained on the way back to Canada's Wonderland bringing the adventure full circle. It was a great experience for this "mommy blogger" and one my daughter will never forget. I have to give two thumbs up to the organizers and thank all the sponsors - it was a great adventure.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hot and Bothered

I am beginning to think my entire summer has been jinxed by the gods of broken crap! If you have been following, you know of my appliance saga - the dishwasher repairman finally arrived this morning to put me out of my dish-pan hand misery. Well that is not exactly true because I always wear rubber gloves to do the dishes. (another thing you faithful readers know about me) The night before we left for vacation, I mowed the lawn and about 2/3's of the way through that job the mower started to make a foreboding clunking sound that told me something was about to go poof and it did. I turned it off and collected a belt of some sort out from under the blades and made a bee-line to my neighbour's place to borrow theirs to finish the task. Thank god for my wonderful neighbours - shout out to Stacey and Chris - always there for us in a pinch! Which leads me to today's fiasco. Ten years ago we had central air conditioning installed - one of those direct vent set-ups that is mounted to the second floor wall and is directed into the bedrooms. The thing does a terrific job of cooling the entire house and has been appreciated over the years when summer days are just too much to bear. As those of you who live in Ontario are aware, this summer has been one of those where the A/C has not really been needed all that much...until last night. Since it is mounted high up on the wall close to the ceiling, it requires a remote control to operate. That remote is always in either one of two places. Has been for 10 years. But not last night. Noooo - that would not co-ordinate very well with the rest of my mechanical melt-downs this summer. The search was on. We looked high and we looked low. It was no where to be found. Perhaps the cat got a hold of it we thought - hence began the search with flashlights under every bed, chair, sofa, table etc. Nothing. Then the search through every drawer, basket, cupboard. Again, nothing. Well, we managed to sleep through the night with the help of ceiling fans. Just pretend we're in the tropics I thought. In the morning, I would call my cleaning lady and see if she knew it's whereabouts - maybe she had placed it somewhere new. Calls were made - nobody could help. I still can't believe the unit has no override switch to turn it on. I called the folks who installed it 10 years ago and they don't carry that brand anymore. However - they were helpful and managed to locate a replacement remote for the low low price of $125. We'll take it! And mount it on a god damn pedestal! It won't be here until the end of the week when the humidity will likely be gone and it won't matter anymore, but at least we will have it when we need it next. Fortunately for Emma and I - we are heading out of town for a couple of days Windermere Resort in Muskoka that will have air conditioning. Doug will have to survive with fans. He is always less bothered by the heat than I am so it seems fair - sort of. So now I am taking bets for what will go next. The washing machine? The dryer? Get your bets in. The odds are in your favour!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sharon's Last Hurrah?

On the car radio the other day I heard a little tidbit about Sharon Stone appearing on the cover of some French magazine this month - topless. I didn't think much of it until they also added - she is 51. Now that piqued my interest. What, I wondered do Sharon Stone's breasts look like at 51. The same age as me. The difference being of course that hers have likely been lifted or enlarged or god knows what and mine have not been altered. I was still curious. I figured I could just google the picture, but alas, no amount of googling produced the photo I wanted to see. That of course makes me even more determined to see her 51 year old boobs so I can make a comparison. It's probably just as well I can't find the shot, it would likely only lead to disappointment. It's not that I am terribly unhappy with my own set of aging beauties, I just wonder if I am normal or if other women my age look perkier or saggier or whatever. I realize size plays a role here, with gravity playing an even larger role, but I figured seeing the "potential" for a pair of 51 year old knockers might be interesting. As is often the case with bits on the radio, I missed the name of the french magazine. All I heard was she was wearing a black dominatrix outfit, with her breasts fully exposed. Maybe Sharon Stone just doesn't warrant much media buzz these days. Typical to most women this age, she has become invisible. Even exposing herself to the entire country of France (one place where women in their 50's are still considered sexy) has not boosted her up the google or Twitter popularity poles. I just can't find any information anywhere. A believer in fate and karma and all that stuff - maybe I am not meant to see her, lest I get some crazy notion I can transform my own - if not with surgery, maybe one of those air-brushed photos women have taken for their spouses or boyfriends that never gets hung on a wall or placed on a desk with the other family photos. Better yet, maybe it is a sign for me and for all women to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else and just love what we have despite the self-imposed flaws we place upon ourselves. On that note - I will stop looking for that shot of Sharon Stone - they wouldn't likely be real anyway. Thank god for push-up bras. As long as I'm wearing one of those - no one would guess how old they really are.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

No Daughter of Mine shall aspire to this!

It is 1:42 pm. I just finished chatting with my darling daughter for the last few minutes as she had just gotten out of bed at about 1:20 pm. That is correct. 1:20 p.m. That may or may not have set a new record for the time of day she got out of bed - in any case, it's pretty damn close. I pride myself on not being one of those militant parents that insist their teenagers get their lazy asses out of bed in the morning during the summer months. In the winter, I let her sleep in on the weekends only of course. She is actually very proficient at getting up when she has to. If she has an activity or lesson to attend - she is up - no problem. On days like today, with no real plan, she sleeps late. I have heard teenagers need extra sleep - who am I to argue? When I was a teenager, I was never allowed to sleep until mid day - I had to get up and get to work at my part-time job or failing that - there were always plenty of chores to be done around the house. The list was endless. For several years between the ages of about 12 and 15, I was paid $5 a week to wash my father's car every Saturday morning. This was no ordinary wash job. I had to do the complete works - the kind of job that people pay over a hundred bucks for now - I believe it is called "detailing". No piece of chrome would be left untouched. I should have bought shares in Turtle Wax, that's how much was required. That car had to be sparkling clean, ready for showing, to whom, I'll never know - it just had to be perfect. If it wasn't, I had to go back in and correct any overlooked flaws in the job. I didn't collect my five bucks until it was immaculate. Inside and out. I hated every minute of it. But I had no choice. It was my job and it had to be done. My daughter barely knows how to wash a dinner plate, let alone an entire car. I blame myself for this. I have gone waaaay to far to the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to chores. I had far too many and she has far too few. So in the end, it turns out, I am still doing it all. Just like when I was a kid. I let her sleep half the day, I don't give her enough responsibility around the house and I know I need to change something soon. In her defense, she is actually pretty co-operative when I ask her to complete a household chore. I just don't ask her enough. "It's quicker if I do it myself," I say silently under my breath. But in the end I am not doing her any favours. She will leave the nest one day and unless I prepare her for what is to come, she will end up living like a slob, or as she says, "Don't worry mom, I plan to make enough money to be able to hire people to do everything." Wow - what a concept! You go girl! What she doesn't realize, is that luxury comes with age and bigger salaries. It does not necessarily happen right out of the gates after university. (Or does it?) I have heard of recent grads landing big jobs that pay big bucks right away, but I have to figure that is not typical. It can also happen if you are in a two-income situation early on - but a girl should never count on that. I hired my first cleaning help in my late twenties, in my first marriage. We had a two bedroom apartment and unless we hired someone to do it, we would argue over who was or wasn't going to scrub the toilet. Wish I could say that simple solution saved our marriage, but at least it saved plenty of arguments in the 4 1/2 years we were together. Before we got professional help, it would take him an entire Saturday to do the damn job as he would take about 16 breaks after every swipe of a dust cloth over a table top. I could do the whole place top to bottom in about 3 hours tops. Waiting around for him to do it was out of the question I soon realized. Enter - Mariska! For a paltry $35 every two weeks, she came in every second Friday and polished the place up - I haven't cleaned a toilet since. Well almost. There have been the odd weeks or months when I was between cleaners, or trying to cut back but they have been few and far between since then and I will admit, it is one luxury I would hate to have to do without. It is utterly thankless. Martha Stewart used to say one should take pride in their cleaning. Well - blah, blah, blah to you lady - I would rather be golfing. That crazy ex-con nearly had women convinced we should actually enjoy scraping toothpaste blobs out of the sink - what the hell were we thinking? Talk about going back in time. No thanks. So when my daughter says something like that to me, I honestly think she is right. What is the point in learning to clean the house? I don't want her to aspire to it. I would prefer she never has to do it. At the very least, maybe she'll marry a neat-freak - then he can do it. However, I digress. She should know how to do such simple tasks as washing dishes, dusting, vacuuming, making a bed and so on. And she will - soon, I promise.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Soooo needed a Fix!

It took a few days, but I eventually got over my blogger withdrawal this past week. It may have helped that I managed to golf (my other addiction) five rounds of 18 in six days, but let's face it, a girl needs something to distract her when she is cut off from the world. I know now that I am addicted to the computer, my social networks and blogging. Without a soul (besides my husband, daughter, assorted clerks and strangers) to talk to all week, it was like a limb was missing and I was having phantom pain in the spot where my computer should be. I kept a travel journal on Emma's laptop and that kept me somewhat occupied over coffee in the morning, but it wasn't the same knowing no one would read it and toss me any feedback. It was like a one-way conversation and I noticed I didn't even enjoy re-reading my own crap. It was hard to believe I was somewhere so remote, I had to drive miles to an Internet cafe just to check my email. I could have taken the time to write my blog, but tee times were awaiting me and it just wasn't the same sitting in some little non-descript office at the resort's admin building. So I decided to just leave it for the week and see how I would survive. I'll tell you dear readers, it was not easy. Who knew that in a little over 7 months, my (almost) daily blogging would become such a habit? Even on days when I find myself searching for something to yap about, complain about or simply reflect upon, I do enjoy the process. Guess I do like writing more than I realized. Maybe I just have years of stored up thoughts just waiting for a place to land - I don't know. All I know, is my holiday is over and the next time I book a week off, I'll be sure to check ahead and make sure they have WiFi service. I could never be one of those cottage owners without TV or computers. Phones - I could do without those - I hate phones - especially when they ring and disrupt my writing. Send me an email - I much prefer the way they arrive, gently and unobtrusively, giving me the ability to respond when I feel like it. At least I have call display and can decide if I want to answer the damn thing or not. Oh - and I highly recommend a Friday to Friday vacation. I just got back a couple of hours ago and now I still have the whole weekend to enjoy before the work week begins. I have never liked getting home from holidays on a Sunday night, knowing I have no time to unwind before Monday morning. On that note - just want to say - it's good to be back and connected. Talk to you again soon.