Thursday, December 29, 2011

Anyone for a walk

I walk every day.

That should read, I have started again to walk every day.

The last 2 days I have gone up to Charise's house, down Northmount, at 14th street turned to go past the Festival of Lights, and then across 19th and back to my house. That takes about 1 1/2 hours.

I had to take a tour through the Festival Lights. When I was driving by, someone in the back seat noticed that you can go through the fence and walk on the foothills around the lights.

In the daylight I checked it out. Children were sledding down the hills. There is a light sprinkle of sand on the snow, not enough to give full traction so there was slipping here and there -- just enough to give my inner drillmaster the right to bawl me out for taking risks.

Before that route, I walked up to the Children's Hospital from my house and then back again. That takes one hour. I am in dire need of walking, enough so that I should be taking both routes in the day, not just one.

Any route will do. I am not walking that fast. By the end I do have a small sweat going, but I never break into a run and always walk slow enough that I could talk.

Wish some of you lived close enough to join me.


Friday, December 16, 2011


Our mom bought us masks in Venice
From Mary

This weekend I finally took a picture of my kids all wearing the masks I bought them in Venice.

Arta and I had two days in Venice, most of which was taken up on organized tours.  Amongst other things, we visited the Dodge’s Palace, took a ride in a gondola, saw two different Murano glass workshops, and had quick walks through two church – San Gorgio Maggiore and St Mark’s Basilica.  

At San Gorgio maggiore there was a really cool Anish Kapoor installation.

Venice was the only city that we got to “stay overnight”.  Most evenings the boat was travelling to the next port.  So the evening spent in Venice, we walked its streets and bridges.  Instead of stopping for dinner, we just had a gelato every few blocks.  We may have had 4 cones by the time the evening was over.

The most surprising part of the evening was walking over the Rialto Bridge and having a handsome gentleman say to us, “Good evening ladies.”  We looked up, and it was Greg, standing outside shop that Wyona had wandered into (the Rialto Bridge is one a very few walking bridges in the world that is lined on both sides with shops). 

Can you imagine how hard we laughed?  What are the chances we would run into each other? 

I had planned to buy my kids something made of glass in Venice, but instead, after shopping and passing a dozen stores or more selling masks, I decided on masks for the kids.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Halloween Revisted

Our mother left us home so she could see scary sights in Italy

From Mary

Naomi and Xavier both chose unusually coloured pumpkins this year.

Rhiannon stuck with the traditional orange.

Grandma Pat and Leo helped with the carving since I was off on my Mediterranean cruise.

For Halloween, I got to visit Pompeii and see the human remains that have been discovered there.

That was spooky too.


Christmas Memories

David Camps asked his mom and dad to talk about Christmas Memories, so their family sat down and went around their small circle, both Bonnie and Joaquim sharing memories from the past.  When it came time for David's turn he confessed he had no Christmas memories.  His mom asked him if he could remember where he was last year at Christmas, and as soon as he remembered that he was in Catalonia, he too could bring some Christmas memories.

He will have more than enough memories for this year, if he decides to do the same "Christmas Memories" talk with his parents.  He came to Bonnie with a surprise -- to him.  He had read in a book that you can take the pine cones from the forest, paint them, sprinkle glitter on them, and use them to dress a holiday tree. 

"Did you know you can do that mom?", he asked 

In the same craft book, there is also a discussion of how to cut oranges, put a string through them, dry them and hang them on a tree for decorations.  Bonnie phoned to ask if I had ever done that.  The oranges that she quartered and strung look more like rotting compost than a beautiful craft as they hang alongside the glittering, painted pine cones.

Ah, sweet Christmas memories.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Sweeet Chocolate Christmas

Tempering chocolate
From Mary

Here is my hand, hard at work on Saturday.   

We dipped 4 batches of fondant, 2 batches of caramels, 2 batches of truffles and 1 batch of fondant left over from last year that was still in the freezer (mint, water fondant).   

The day seemed to breeze by with 2 dippers and 2 rollers.   

I can never go back to just 2 people trying to get everything done.

We even put a little sprinkle of red sea salt on top of half of the dipped caramels.  Mmmmm.

There was one hitch.  I turned up the heat in the frying pan and my colleague, not knowing it was turned up for a few seconds, scraped the bottom of the pan with her hand and was burned by it.  Ouch.  I wish it had been my hand and not hers.

Another hitch.  I have Arta's plastic and metal molds.  I wanted to finish up the melted chocolate, so I filled the metal molds, even putting a nut in the middle.  I couldn't get the candy to come out of the molds.  After Arta and I talked on the phone, I froze the chocolates that I couldn't get out of the molds, since I had tried every other way I could think of.  

 Later, Leo hit the back of the molds with a hard rubber hammer -- and voila.  The chocolates popped right out.  Now I don't have to discard those molds into the pile of things I am never going to use again, which is what Arta told me to do with them, seeing as she couldn't make them work either.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Faust and Don Giovanni

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

In the midst of Christmas festivities, here come 2 more NY Met Operas Live in HD.

Dec 10th: Faust
Read the NY Times Review

Dec 17th: Don Giovanni

Read Mark Ronan's Theatre Reviews
 or even better, the read the New York Times Review
Don Giovanni Encore on Dec 17
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

See you at the movies /opera.


For a more in depth critique, a family one, take a look at Rebecca's blog about the Faust performance.

If the link doesn't work try:

Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout

... good entertainment ... free for U of C Students ...
$15 for others
Thomson Highway’s Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout is playing at 7:30 pm at the Reeve Theatre until December 10.

I am going to slip over and see it again this week.

The last names of the protagonists represent B.C. First Nations tribes: Ernestine Shuswap, Isabel Thompson and Annabel Okanagan.

The figures wear Greek masks – really abbreviated masks that only cover their cheeks and forehead, the rest of their faces heavily painted.

The coyote, raven and otter appear as trickster figures. The big kahuna of the play is Sir Wilfred Laurier, who made a visit to the First Nations people in B.C. in 1910. He promised to take action on their concerns. A few months later he lost the federal election and their troubled relationship with the federal government is still a point being addressed.

The play is a mix of Greek, Christian and native mythology and the mix kept me on my toes all evening.

Mak and I looked at the stage setting before the play began. I couldn’t figure out why there was a large five dollar bill on the curtain, until half-way through the play when I figured out – yes, Sir Wilfred Laurier’s face is on that bill. The play is fun and vivacious ... and also political and sad.

Hard not to be laughing when you hear that Ernestine Shuswap is to cook a rainbow trout for the banquet, since no one from the east wants to eat salmon.

Isabel Thomson is to bring 624 Saskatoon pies so she spends a lot of time onstage, picking berries.

Annabel is boiling beaver for the feast but tells us at the end of the play, her food really stinks and she finally admits she should have stuffed the beaver with berries.

And Delilah Rose Johnson wonders why she has to hem table clothes for the event since she and her people have been sitting on the ground and eating their food for 6,000 years.  Why the change now?

Did I like the play?

I am going again before the weeks is out – trying for tomorrow night.  Here is a review from a 2009 production in Vancouver if you wish to read more about the play.

Email me if you can join me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Riding Lessons

Xaiver and Naomi have been taking horseback riding lessons once a week for 6 weeks.  

They have 2 weeks to go then Christmas holidays.  

We’ll see if we can keep it up in the New Year.  

The stable is only 20 minutes from our house and has an indoor riding arena.  

They are loving it.  

Naomi rides William (said the French way) and Xavier rides Billy (again said with a French accent).  

They have learned how to ride with feet in and out of the stir-ups and how to trot.  
They have done a little jumping and are learning how to “bounce” with the horse when he trots.  

I don’t know the technical term for that.



Reading with Grandpa

Rhiannon listening to Dr. Seuss
Kelvin has been in Montreal with Catherine for two months.

He is staying one more week to hear the the Jarvis family doing Christmas concerts.

Kelvin and I were asked how many grandchildren we have.

I said thirteen.

He said fourteen, with an assurity that I didn't have.
... Hebe and Rhiannon ...
 ...two of fourteen ...

I asked him how he did that math.

It was easy for him, because he knew to count the addition before little Mike Johnson was born.

Here is number fourteen -- Hebe, reading on the couch with Catherine, Rhiannon and Kelvin.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Pitmen Painters

"So you want to see the  The Pitmen Painters?", Wyona asked us over the phone yesterday.  The choice was between that and going back to see Legally Blonde again, since Wyona's keen eye had figured out that the person who used to play Bob Gaudio in The Jersey Boys, was now playing Emmet in Legally Blonde.  That was a fine second choice, but we decided instead to see a play that was new to us, and one that is getting good reviews.

You can read the link to the review to know how the critics feel about the play.  I confessed that just before the intermission a few quiet tears had rolled down my cheeks and Rebecca confessed that she had choked back a few sobs at the same moment.  The play is insanely funny, the dialogue exquisitely fine tuned and the thematic material still relevant.  A wonderful way to finish off the theatre in London this time.



p.s. from Rebecca....

scene from Pitmen Painters

One of the great things about the show was the way it incorporated the art itself.  Each time one of the guys did a painting, it would go up on the easel, and then they would all talk about it (perhaps 'critique' is a more accurate word).  They projected a large version of the piece above the stage so you could really see the thing they were talking about.  And the discussions about the paintings were hysterically funny (and sometimes moving to the point of tears). 

But each painting, once discussed, stayed on stage (in The Hut where the men worked, just leaning against the walls).  The layers of paintings built up over the play so that by the end of the thing, you felt so familiar with the paintings you had seen.  I love this image from the play... it is one of the first paintings they did/talked about, and so i can't see the image without breaking into a smile.

At the end of the play, i was left thinking.  I have started buying the CD for each musical we go to.  My thinking is, "Hey... I am in London, and just paid to see a huge group of people come together to produce a moment of theatre.... why would I NOT get the CD?!"  Each time the tunes come on at home, i am flung back to the space of the performance. So... after THIS show, I turned to Arta and said "I am sure there is no CD, but this play makes me want to buy a book of the paintings!"  :-)   and there is indeed such a book (available on amazon).  If you want to read more on the painters themselves, you can follow this link
(and then click on 'About' or 'Artists' to see more).  I am most definitely going to try and take my kids to this one!

Nose at the Window

Wyona made some perfect cruise bookings.  The cruise companies changed itineraries, gave her minimal compensation and we were left with an insane return flight schedule to Canada.  Instead of going London – Calgary, the sensible thing to do, we are going London – Berlin – Barcelona – Frankfurt – Calgary.  There is some sunshine lining every cloud.  Because of the change in schedule, I have seen Berlin – not on my itinerary, but there it was before me today -- grey and I didn't get out of the airport -- but my passport is stamped, "Berlin".   

As well, my nose was pressed to the airplane window for the 15 minutes while we flew over the Mediterranean along the coast of Spain.  The blue of the ocean was cut by the curve of the land, and then the deep violet of the mountains behind were set off by the pink clouds in the sunset.  I was shaking my head, not believing I was seeing such beauty.

We tried to have supper at the hotel tonight, but true to Spanish custom, the dining room doesn’t open until 8:30 pm – far too late for us to begin a meal.  While we were talking to the maitre de, he drew his elastic barrier that runs between 2 silver poles in front of us, as though we were going to bolt and get into his dining room ahead of time.  Wyona, Greg and I took a vote and decided to have a genuine German sausage breakfast in Frankfurt tomorrow, instead and to call our foray into Wyona’s candy stash, supper.  At first, we thought we would walk into the community tonight and find a restaurant, but he clerk at the hotel desk reminded us it is Sunday today – only downtown Barcelona stores are open.  As well, this week are two holidays – one on Tuesday and one on Thursday.  So, he said, most people have taken off Monday, Wednesday and Friday and are just making a week of it.

I am looking forward to the German breakfast.  This morning I had English mustard when I went with Wyona and Greg to the Star Alliance Lounge in the airport.  I thought I was adding regular French’s Mustard to my plane, but at the first taste of it, and after I had recovered from that choking pungent taste, more akin to a eating mustard plaster than to tasting Canadian home-style mustard, I decided to give a new look to breakfast possibilities – thus the journey of looking foward to a German breakfast tomorrow.  Ah, the sweet cleansing of the sinuses for today.

I am hoping for another eating surprise tomorrow.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

London in December

Rebecca thought we had keys for the house in London when we returned from South Hampton.  We didn’t.  That is the day I stayed for a few hours with 6 suitcases in the dental surgery apartment  across the road, waiting for her to come home.  The next day, we went off to the theatre and we  thought Rebecca had keys for her own house to use when she returned from her pottery class.  She didn’t.   That is the day she climbed over the fence to break into her own house.  How can Rebecca go to the locksmith, have 10 keys made, and soon there aren’t enough to spread around.  The only person who is safely able to get into the house here is Duncan, who carries his key as the fob on his winter jacket.  So he is good for entry into the house, as long as he is wearing his ski jacket when he goes out.

We have two more full days here.  Two other full days have passed.  We split up and go our separate ways when our interests diverge.  Greg went off to have lunch with old colleagues.  Rebecca, Wyona and I went to see Legally Blonde – not that Rebecca doesn’t know this play.  She teaches it in Law and Film.  But this is musical theatre and has the camp that the movie misses.  She was not the only one in the theatre laughing, nor the only one in our row.  Some jokes are like the old Laurel and Hardy movies.  No matter how many times you see the sequence, you still laugh.  When she asked us afterwards, which are your favourite parts, we begin to list them and can’t stop.  The opening scene where the possible engagement of the protagonists is being celebrated, the scene in the restaurant where Emmett and Elle Woods are having conversations with cross-purposes (him about moving on, and her about finalizing their relationship), Elle’s work studying the tome, LSAT for Dummies .... there isn’t a scene that doesn’t have the charm that keeps people coming back to that show again and again.  “How could this piece of musical theatre beat out Love Never Dies in he Olivier awards,” we ask you other over and over.  But when you wipe all other musical theatre off the map by taking 7 out of 8 awards – there doesn’t need to be more evidence than that for the reason people.

That night, Greg and I split up again.  Wyona went to see the musical, Backbeat, about the early Beatles and Greg and I went to Three Days in May, an exploration of Churchillian politics and Hitler’s attempted take-over of England. 

Ah, sweet London theatre.