- I’m listening to the new Heavyweights Brass Band disc Brasstronomical that just dropped last night. We’re big fans around here, not just because they’re a hot local indie group, that crosses genre lines, but the sousaphonist Rob Teehan was Michael’s teacher for four years and had a huge influence on his decision to pursue his music dreams. Here’s a little promo vid:
- i’ve got a couple of great books on the go right now. You’ve already heard my thoughts about the Neil Young memoir, but I’m also reading I The Divine: A Novel in First Chapters by Rabih Alameddine. Zouheir read his masterwork The Hakawati a year or so ago and has been raving about him ever since.
- If any of you use the Kobo ereader, there’s a coupon code for 30% off selected ebooks, good until March 9. Lynn Coady’s The Antagonist is there and it’s a terrific read. I’ve just picked up the Priscilla Uppal memoir Projection : Encounters with my Runaway Mother which is on my to-read list this month. Be sure to use the coupon code MARCHOFFER.
- Thinking about a Toyota Venza. Any views yay or nay?
- Since my Goddard meet-up two days ago, I’ve re-invigorated my search for more cousins that I know are in the area but that I’ve never met. My great-grandfather Stephen Robert Goddard had a brother Samuel who had four daughters. I’d really like to see if I can find some of their descendants. Their married surnames are Bessey, Beecraft, and Young. The girls were born in the Toronto area between 1888 and 1893. PLEASE get in touch if you think we’re related.
- Look what I found at Value Village this week:
And I bought it because this:
- On my way back from Barrie on Wednesday, I popped into the factory outlets to check out the Villeroy & Boch store, home of our china pattern. We don’t have room for more dishes really, but I picked up a couple of the large coffee mugs (of which we only have 2) so that there’s no more early morning pre-caffeinated contention for them.
While I was there, I also stopped in to Crabtree and Evelyn to buy some small tubes of their beautiful hand cream for my purse. I have this thing about wearing gloves in the winter (as in NOT wearing gloves) and my hands are appalling. Or maybe it’s just age. Anyway, the young woman working there introduced me to their hand recovery product, a gritty scrub that is also moisturizing. After the demo, I realised that my hands felt better than they do in our high-humidy summers. SOLD (and on sale.)
Today was pretty much a write-off. I managed to miss my sleep window last night and didn’t crash until after 2 am. And this after the stop-and-go traffic for an hour and a half on my way back from Barrie yesterday.
I didn’t make progress on any of my projects, but rather got sucked into a genealogy vortex for a couple of hours this morning, lay down on the sofa to read after lunch, and crashed for four hours. Awoke to darkness except for the glow of my herb garden.
And isn’t she beautiful? My mom gave it to me for Christmas and I had to find a place in my cluttered kitchen/study to put it. I finally got it set up a couple of days ago, and today I noticed some shoots starting to emerge! I see fresh herbs in my future.
I missed Ash Wednesday mass yesterday with my outing, which was coordinated with others before I realized what day it was. My Lenten intentions this year include … gulp … giving up sweets (not including fruit or other naturally sweetened whole foods.) And of course to follow the prescribed fast days. How does this play out for me? No frozen yogurt bar halfway through the afternoon. No ordering meaty pizza on Friday nights. No chocolate bars or baking pies or putting Nesquik syrup in my afternoon iced coffee. No apple fritters at Tim Hortons when I’m on the road. I should probably avoid my organic nut and seed bars because, lets be honest, they’re full of honey and are really just a protein-heavy, gluten-free candy-bar.
There is a debate among Catholics of good faith about whether Sundays during Lent should be a wild card, exempted from the fasting and other promises. I’m going to call it a “no” for this year at least, as I suspect I am fairly addicted to sugar and getting it mostly out of my system for 40 days in a row is probably better than a little binge every seven days.
I had a momentary debate with myself about the Foundry Cider I pulled out the fridge to go with my dinner. Sugar? Na. But I thought I’d check the nutrition label and found that there isn’t one. But there’s this instead:
I don’t want to be legalistic about all this. We’re also called to acts of charity and spirituality, for which I have planned. But there are good reasons why Catholics have these traditions and rules. Every time I crave something sweet over the next forty days, I am reminded that my suffering is nothing. And that’s great preparation for the highest of feast days that we approach.
After connecting on Facebook a few weeks ago, I headed up to Barrie to meet a cousin in my Goddard line. Tom’s great-grandfather John and my great-great-grandfather William were brothers who emigrated to Canada from Kent, UK around 1870. They settled in Vespra Township near Craighurst (north of Barrie). Tom’s ancestors moved north to Temiskaming and mine moved south to Toronto. He and his wife Joy just spent some time in the UK, including Kent, visiting some of our ancestral towns, and since they were returning home through Toronto, it was a great time to meet up without the 6 hour drive! We arranged to get together at the residence of Lillian, widow of Ernest Goddard, another descendent of John, and Tom’s second cousin. She lives in Barrie in a retirement residence built on the site of the Royal Victoria Hospital where she was born.
I know….it’s complicated.
Tom came with his wife Joy and son Jon (who lives in Collingwood), and there were murmurs about maybe a Goddard family reunion sometime in the future.
For my driving time today, I queued up my current audiobook, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young. When I first started listening to it, I was a little annoyed by what seemed like a lot of plugs for his various projects including Pure Tone (now Pono) and LincVolt. But as I continued into the book, I began to realise how passionate he is about these initiatives. The memoir is a kind of stream-of-consciousness thing, like he’s sitting next to you and reminiscing about his life. But it’s strangely compelling, and was the perfect antidote to the huge traffic mess that greeted me on my way home.
There was a terrible accident on the 400 today just south of Barrie. All traffic in both directions was diverted off the highway and what should have taken me twenty minutes (Barrie to Cookstown) took an hour and a half. Luckily, I had Neil chatting with me in the car and that kept me alert and interested. (The audiobook is read by Keith Carradine, who sounds great although not like Neil, and pronounces Sault Ste. Marie with the “l” sound in it.) But more about the book once I’ve finished it.
I’ll probably associate Tom and Neil and the scent of the lavender hand cream I bought on my way home in the same space in my brain. And in honour of Tom (he’s a sheep farmer), I share something that I spotted in my Facebook feed tonight:
As the lights darkened in the TIFF cinema Monday night, I leaned over to my friend and said “We’re so lucky to live in this city.”
We were there for the season opener of the Books in Film series. Eleanor Wachtel had just introduced Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and special guest flown in from Lahore for the screening of Mira Nair’s film based on the novel. From his brief comments before the film, it was clear this was going to be a highlight of the series.
No spoilers here. This Man Booker nominated novel is a must-read. But it was an interesting exercise in teasing out the differences between the experience of reading and that of watching a film. The novel has two basic acts: Changez (the protagonist, pronounced Chong’-iz) at Princeton and working as a financial analyst in New York City; and Changez after he returns to Lahore. The novel is written in the second person: Changez is telling his story to an American while sitting in a cafe in Lahore. We don’t know much about the American and the ending is not tidy.
In the film, there is a third act that ties the story together. There are other significant changes, and much more of a back story. Hamid stated that movie-goers don’t want to leave the cinema not knowing what “the ending” meant. But more than that, he had interesting things to say about the experience of reading versus watching a film.
In his view, a book leaves greater space for “imaginative co-creation” on the part of the reader. And particularly so in this novel where one half of the conversation is missing. Readers are required to imagine a lot, to create their own reality, to “engage in make-believe, or imaginative play for adults.” He said that film is more “pre-chewed”, with less space for the viewer to enter into their own minds. Hamid stated that “books and film are completely different art forms.”
There was more. A discussion of the meaning of a beard. Nair’s changes to the screenplay to highlight powerful women. The importance (or not) of 9/11 in the novel. How one’s identification as part of a group can be (always is?) uncomfortable.
This was an evening to remember, and one of the reasons that I love my adopted city, and TIFF in particular. If you’re a reader and love film (and live in Toronto), single tickets are now available for this terrific series.
- Last night I attended the Open Book Literary Salon hosted at The Spoke Club. Moderated by Becky Toyne, the discussants were writers Michael Winter, Stacey May Fowles, and Brian Francis. Sadly, the promised “relaxed, salon atmosphere” didn’t really materialize. The ambient noise from other areas of the club required the use of microphones, even in the small space, and it was really more of a panel discussion with a few questions from the audience than any kind of salon experience.
That being said, there were a few worthwhile gems. SMF often writes to “work something out” for example, “why I like CSI or Rihanna”. BF is motivated to keep writing because he feels responsible for his characters, not wanting to leave them in limbo but finish their stories. He also noted that you need to allow yourself to have a crappy first draft, but just get the story finished. No one will ever see it and it’s the second draft where the magic happens. MW suggested we analyze why we like the books we like (to read). This will help with your own writing. And both BF and MW encouraged people to read a lot, and read what you like, not what you think you’re supposed to read,
- Before the salon, my friend and I ate at WVRST (609 King W), a lively place that sells artisanal sausages, fries, dips, and an interesting selection of beers (and cider). You place your order at a counter and your meal is brought to you. Seating is on long communal tables and while it got a bit noisy by the time we were leaving, I’ll definitely be back.
- Last Sunday, the choir was ready to sing our first hymn in Icelandic. It took us a few weeks to get the pronunciation down as there are extra letters and letter-combos that we had to master . Because we sing at the back of the church from a loft, the sound is lovely. Here’s a video clip of the group Arstidir singing it in a train station:
- I was crushed to miss Jonathan Crow playing a Beethoven Violin Concerto last Friday due to ill health, but surprised when TSO member services called me offering me other tickets through their missed concert program. How lovely is that?
- This Monday is the first evening in the TIFF Books-on-Film series. Eleanor Wachtel will be interviewing Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I’ve both read the book and seen the film, but am looking forward to hearing Hamid’s view of the translation from page to celluloid.
- I’m heading to Barrie next week for a day to meet some distant cousins. Thanks to the Goddard Association of Europe‘s Facebook page, I’ve linked up with descendants of the brother (John) of my gggrandfather, William Goddard. I’ll also spend some time in the Barrie Public Library’s local history room, and if weather permits, visit the cemetery where a number of Goddards are buried.
- I spend part of last week clearing out my mom’s condo, getting it ready for sale, and I came across this blast from the past:
My mom’s famous “Chicken Rice Roger” came from it, and I suspect some other recipes as well. They’re in pretty bad shape but I’m gonna look for new(er) copies as they’re the kind of cookbook that makes for a fun read. There’s a 50th anniversary edition published in 2010 (we’re the same age!) that I might just break down and buy.
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I’m not a big fan of white fish: tilapia, sole, haddock etc., but i love salmon and steelhead trout, and my partner absolutely adores this accompaniment for oily fish. I usually double the recipe and triple the amount of cooked rice if I’m making it as a side dish (rather than stuffing.)
Lemon and Rice Stuffing
(from The Canadian fish cookbook! by A Jan Howarth):
1/3 cup butter
1 c. minced celery
1/3 c. minced onion
1-1/2 c. cooked rice
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Melt butter in a frying pan and sauté celery and onion for 3 to 4 minutes until tender-crisp. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Makes 3 cups. Use to stuff fillets or whole fish.
Two nights ago, I made two large fillets of steelhead trout and had a lot left over. Today, I made a quiche using the leftover trout and some asparagus with this recipe. I added an additional egg and some extra milk (I used goat milk) to fill the pie shell. It turned out very well and I’m pleased to have used up leftovers as we’re both out tomorrow night.
When I was visiting my mom in Ottawa last week and we were reminiscing, i reminded her how much I loved her chicken cacciatore. I seem to be able to conjure the taste in my mind, and it’s one of the favourites from my childhood.
I mentioned this to my husband upon my return and he decided to prepare it for Sunday dinner after I returned from book club. I have her old recipe files and notebooks, and I found it in her “Do it yourself Cook Book”, a blank-ish notebook designed for home cooks to record their tried and true recipes.
It was wonderful, with exactly the same taste as I remembered.
Here’s the recipe. Mom noted that it was from the “Old Good Housekeeping” cook book.
6 tbsp oil
2-3 lb broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
1 cup minced onions
3/4 cup minced green peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 28 oz can tomatoes
1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup chianti [yikes...we never had wine in the house]
3-3/4 tsp salt [bizarre quantity - reduce this by at least half]
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Sauté chicken in oil on all sides until golden.
Add onions, peppers, garlic; brown lightly.
Add rest of ingredients and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is tender.
Serve with rice.
Makes excellent leftovers!
For a variety of reasons, I haven’t been very active in the genealogy community here in Toronto for the past year and a half. But things are calming down and I made it out to the local branch meeting last night, spurred on by the change to hear Carolyn Abraham speak. She’s the author of The Juggler’s Children: A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us that was recommended to me by a friend who is also researching her family history. She spoke compellingly of the advantages of using DNA sequencing in researching one’s family history and I’m excited to start reading her book. Abraham is a freelance journalist and in her role as a science writer, came face to face with the potential of genetic research while writing about the Human Genome Project. Her book will hit my reading list very soon.
The second half of the meeting was a mini-presentation about researching your family history through books. With vast numbers of volumes being digitised, there are a lot of resources online for finding and ordering or downloading books of family histories. In particular she mentioned the following sources:
One of the attendees also mentioned Our Roots / Nos Racines as being an excellent source of local histories, and another recommended the Books collection at Family Search. I have also used Early Canadiana Online and Peel’s Prairie Provinces with great success.
Can a book change your life? Or at least, change some fundamental way that you view the world? I would argue that after reading this prize-winning novel A Beautiful Truth, something has shifted within me about the way that I think about consciousness and the animal kingdom.
On a very superficial level, the novel is about chimpanzees, with three main story lines: a childless couple adopts a chimp and raises him as a son; scientists study a group of chimps living in a contained but somewhat natural environment, observing their behaviour and teaching them to use signs, computers, and image boards to communicate; and researchers carry out experiments on chimps in a prison-like facility, exposing them to viruses including the common cold and HIV.
But the magic of this novel is how McAdam weaves these stories together and develops well-rounded characters out of some of the chimps, characters for whom you care deeply. It’s also the first time I’ve read an author writing from the point of view of an animal.
My book club met yesterday afternoon to discuss the novel, and it was the widest set of ratings we’ve ever given a novel. Some found it slow and difficult to read, particularly the sections written from the point of view of the chimps. One had issues with the “adoption” concept: why would a childless couple choose to adopt a chimp rather than a child, or simply not adopt at all. Some (like myself) confessed to crying during the difficult climax. But I think that all of us learned something. We had a terrific discussion about the issues raised by the novel around animal-based research, the level of intelligence (for lack of a better word) of chimpanzees, so eloquently exposed by this book, and the moments of absolutely thrilling prose.
Kin Echlin, the author of Elephant Winter, writes
McAdam’s language reaches into that mysterious place where a word ends and a feeling begins. A Beautiful Truth is a story about love and beauty and our dreams for our children and our inescapable loneliness. The characters, human and animal, are sad and honest and true. I could not put this novel down, and only when I finished it could I breathe again.
Personally? I gave it an almost perfect rating. I feel like I’ve stepped through some door that can’t be closed. I’ve explored the website of the Fauna Foundation, a sanctuary for chimps and other animals located near Montreal, where McAdam did some of his research. I’m looking for other books, movies, and documentaries on these beautiful beings so that I can learn more.
I may have an activist burgeoning inside of me. Leave me recommended resources in the comments.
- I have to admit that after 30 years of marriage, Valentine’s Day has something of a been-there-done-that feel to it. We love each other madly, but really don’t need a day to revel in it more than we normally do. But here’s a shot from a year or so after we were married and spent six weeks in France and England. On the left is Zouheir’s younger brother.
- I’ve successfully found a home for the memorial cards I blogged about a few weeks ago. The contact I made through ancestry.ca resulted in a referral to a granddaughter of Samuel, one of the younger siblings of the deceased children. He moved with his wife to Winnipeg MB in 1915 and his granddaughter lives on the west coast. I’ve popped the cards into the mail for her.
- Last week, I booked a table at a downtown resto for tonight through the Opentable system. Earlier this week, I got a message from them saying that we were seated in the bar, there were no more spots in the dining room, and that we were limited to an hour and a half as they needed the table. I cancelled. And tweeted about it. The restaurant replied to my tweet saying “sorry for the confusion, it’s just an estimate for 2ppl that we try to communicate. You can take as long as you want.” Sorry. Too little too late. Sadly, i’m sure they’ll be fully booked tonight and really don’t care.
- We’re seeing Heartbeat of Home, part of the Mirvish subscription series, tomorrow night. This is not something I would buy single tickets for, but Richard Ouzounian gave it 4/4 stars so we’ll see what all the fuss is about. We’ve booked a table at Portico before, a new restaurant (to us).
- I’ve made contact with another branch of my ancestry! My maternal grandmother was a Goddard, and thanks to the intrepid work of members of the Goddard Association of Europe, I have connected with a third cousin who is a sheep farmer in northern Ontario (near New Liskeard.) My second great grandfather William and his great-grandfather John both emigrated to Ontario from Kent in the UK around 1870. The children of Willam came south to Toronto and his grandfather John Jr. went north to Temiskaming. Very exciting! We’re hoping to meet up sometime in March when he’s passing through Toronto.
- House of Cards season 2 is now available on Netflix. This may be our Valentine’s Day watching tonight. Yesterday, President Obama tweeted
Here’s the trailer for the new season:
- I’m still loving my Bulletproof Coffee every morning. Check it out if you’re looking for a way to feel energized and productive. I’m gonna post more on this topic soon.
Lots more Seven Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!