Category Archives: family

Family dinner

Three of us attended a family party this evening for one of my aunts. Michael had a rehearsal with a brass quartet that he’s subbing for in June and then a gig at a Danforth café with a young singer-songwriter, so he couldn’t join us.

I made a card for my aunt using an article in a 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, where she was written up, along with her friend Louise, for their Guide badges.

My my brother and cousin and their families were there, along with other aunts and uncles. I always enjoy seeing these aunts who have been so supportive of me since I was a child. Now they attend all their great nephews and nieces events.

After the party we dropped by to hear the end of Michael’s set and drove him home with us.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I’ve moved my blog again, this time to WordPress. Blogger was getting increasingly unwieldy and I was having to deal with a lot of spam comments.  Wordpress seems much more elegant and has a better user interface. I’ve spent too much time today setting it up, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Please consider subscribing, using the link to the right.
  2. Last night was Michael’s final high school music concert. It was long and extremely hot in the packed auditorium. There were eight of us there to support him as he played a tuba concerto written by Johnny MacMillan, a Grade Nine student at the school. As well as the concerto, which he played with the Senior Concert Band, he also performed with the Men’s Chorus, the Mixed Vocal Ensemble, and the Senior Stage Band (bass trombone).  My brother and three aunts came out, and Michael’s first tuba teacher, Rob Teehan, was there which was a real honour. I also had a chance to meet Michael’s flat mate for the next school year in Montreal, who also dropped into town from Burlington to hear him play.
  3. I’m heading out to Ottawa next week to hang with my mother so I spent a lot of time today catching up on paperwork. This weekend I need to wrestle the laundry into order and stock the fridge for the men-folk who will fending for themselves. I would love to get the interior of my car cleaned before the trip, but I’m afraid the wet weather will preclude drying of my cloth upholstery, so that will have to wait.
  4. My new computer arrived earlier this week, a MacBook Air, but haven’t had time to get it out of the box and set up yet. I’m finally switching back to the Mac ecosystem after a number of years on Windows. The rest of my devices are Apple, and given that most of my work is done in the cloud these days, it probably makes sense to integrate. I have always preferred the Mac user-interface and design quality but for a while I needed to use software only available in Windows.
  5. I want to get started on a little article for the newsletter of the  Goddard Association of Europe, of which I am a member. Captain Nichola Goddard was the first Canadian female killed in the line of duty (in Afghanistan) and I just got a copy of her biography (Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard by Valerie Fortney).
  6. I’m participating in the Sea Change Program started by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. I have been reading Leo’s blog for years and have come to really respect him as thoughtful teacher and thinker. More about this next week!
  7. I will also post about my experience of the COC’s Dialogues des Carmélites. It was beautiful and moving and well worth seeing if you’re in Toronto and love the opera.

    Courtesy Canadian Opera Company

Seven Quick Takes Friday


1. Oh look! My computer remembered my password to log into my blogging site. It’s been a long time, but perhaps spring is pushing me to get back in the game, so to speak.

2. It will be a busy summer. Boy number one has written his last undergraduate exam and will be coming home from Queens next week. Boy number two is aching to get outta town, but he has to finish grade 12. He’ll be at McGill in the music performance program next year, and already has an apartment and a roomate. So we’ll have them both through the summer no doubt, and that may try our patience at times, but we’re hoping for payback of an empty nest in the fall.

3. I need to get my ass in shape. Seriously. I may be at a personal worst weight-wise at the moment. Am considering getting a hipster city bike if I can find a decent one for a reasonable price. Must also ramp up the walking. With no dog in the house, I have little motivation to get outside and just cruise the ‘hood. 

4. I have a couple of house projects launching: we are in the process of swapping my office and our dining room. The latter will go into half the living room, and the former will now be in the room off our kitchen. I want to make these pseudo-built-in bookcases to fit one wall:



We also need a new mattress, which is the best time to upgrade to a king bed. Every time we sleep in a king in a hotel, we remark how much better sleep we get. I’ve found the mattress I think I want and now need to find a bed to put it on. I kinda like this one:

Source: via Janet on Pinterest


5. I picked up this book when I was placing an amazon order the other day. It was written in 1959 and I’d seen a review of it somewhere. It’s rather retro, but still has some excellent advice for women today.

6. I learned how to create a form using Google Drive this week. My book club needed to vote on a book for our summer “big read” and I had the feeling that previous in-person discussions were kind of difficult to manage. The votes are coming in and it looks like the chosen book will be…. not telling! I’ll announce it at our meeting this Sunday.

7. If you’re a friend on Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of these items already. I’ll need to figure out how to keep the blog fresh with new content, but this is at least a start. Sorry it’s been so long. 



Seven Quick Takes Friday: Iris Murdoch Edition.


  1. It’s the late Iris Murdoch’s 92nd birthday, and I happen to be reading her novel The Nice and The Good.  First published in 1968, it’s a tale of a complex household in Dorset that includes a married couple (Octavian and Kate), their two children, an elderly uncle, a divorced friend of the wife whose ex-husband works for Octavian and her twins, a widow (friend of Kate) and her son, a housekeeper, a refugee scholar who lives in a cottage on the property, a cat and a dog.  Also in the cast of characters is a friend of Octavians who is in love with Kate, said friend’s girlfriend who he is trying to break up with, his manservant, and an ex-lover of the divorced friend. There is also a suicide (murder?) victim who works for Octavian. I had to make a little cheat sheet about 50 pages in to the novel to keep track of who everyone is.  But it’s a good read and I’m about halfway through.
  2. Our 18-year-old nephew, Marc, from France has been here for three weeks.  He did two weeks of English language lessons at a terrific school here in Toronto, had done the requisite trip to Niagara Falls, spent a weekend at our cottage, and has hung out with our boys in the evenings when they’re at home.  He’s really easy-going and has been a pleasure to host.This weekend will include the new Harry Potter movie and a day at Canada’s Wonderland with Alex.  He heads home on Tuesday with (I hope) great memories.  We’ve been encouraging him to consider University of Waterloo for graduate studies (he’s in Computer Engineering) and I know he’d love to return to Canada at some point. (Photo is Marc and Z at….guess where?)
  3. We’ve finally hired a cleaner to deal with our house as I have simply not been up to the task. The “deep” clean was thie past Monday and apparently we had a remarkable amount of dust throughout our house (she feigns surprise). Gleaming Glenn will be back each Monday to keep us sparkling and it will let me focus on decluttering.  
  4. Z was a witness before the CRTC earlier this week at the Usage Based Billing (UBB) consultation.  He’ll be back next week for more. It brings back my old days at Bell when I was involved in a number of regulatory proceedings, responding to interrogatories and preparing witness testimony and backup. I loved that work and have enjoyed discussing the current hearings. I’ve been following the twitter feed with much interest (#ubb for any geeks out there.) We’re such romantics!
  5. I’ve started a family history wiki, private to family members at the moment, where I am trying to compile data, photos, stories, etc about my ancestors.  If you’re in my family and would like an invite, drop me a line. It’s still in a fairly preliminary stage and it’s my first time creating a wiki (I’m using the free version of PBworks) but I think it has great potential to become a repository of multiple types of information and a way to pass on the family history after I’m gone.
  6. Michael is taking Grade 11 Physics at summer school to free up a period in his schedule next year to permit more practice time.  He’s half-way through the course and it’s going very well. A tiring exercise (five days a week, 8:45-3:30), he gets a full year credit in less than a month and, frankly, keeps him occupied through the summer.  The teacher is excellent and he seems very focussed on doing a great job. He’ll have three weeks break, and then two weeks of music camp to top off his summer, a week of jazz with his trombone and a week of band/classical with his tuba.
  7. One of the big results of our visit from Gleaming Glenn was his tidying of the boys rooms. Michael was so happy, that he did a whole bunch of additional decluttering and has decided to move all his instruments upstairs, along with the digital piano. He asked for a smaller desk so that this could be accomodated, and we found one at Value Village for $14.99 (less 20% student discount):

    It is basically particleboard with an ugly faux wood-grain base.  Two cans of RustOleum Universal spray paint (black) yielded this:


    Another few hours to cure and it’ll grace his room.

Read more Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.


Seven Quick Takes Friday


  1. The boys are both away from home this week and it’s been nice, in a wierd kind of way. Alex is up at the cottage witih his girlfriend and they’re due back sometime today. Michael is working at the Toronto District School Board’s Music by the Lake camp for elementary school students. He’s a junior staff assistant, asked to work sort of last-minute-ish as they needed a trombone player. From the few texts we’ve received, it sounds like he’s having a good time. We’ll pick him up tomorrow around noon and then he needs to study for his exams next week.
  2. Saw the absolutely thrilling production of Alice in Wonderland last night at the National Ballet of Canada. I’m not a big ballet afficianado…I’ve only ever been to The Nutcracker (multiple times, from childhood) but this got such raves that I thought it was worth checking out.  I’m a convert! Originally a production of the Royal Ballet, it’s full of surprises with stunning sets, props, and effects, and the score by Joby Talbot is terrific.

  3. Saw an old friend from high school on Wednesday evening. It’s been years, yet we fell into conversation as if it had been a few days. Isn’t it wonderful how that happens?  I’ll see her again tonight as we’re both attending Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, courtesy of Opera By Request, in which a mutual friend (also from high school) is singing.
  4. The annual Luminato Festival starts this weekend and we’ve actually lined up tickets to some events this year! On our calendar:
    – One Thousand and One Nights, a new theatrical production of these Arabic folktales. It’s actually being staged in two three-hour segments, but we’ll see one of them.
    – We tried to get tickets to hear Lebanese author and creator of the script for 1001 Nights Hanan al-Shayk, but they were sold out. I’m hoping maybe they’ll repeat the event. 
    – Next weekend, we’ll see “a raw and shocking re-imagination of Racine’s classic play [Andromache] from provocative Scottish director Graham McLaren.” Z studied the play in school, but I am completely ignorant, so I should probably do a little reading about it … 
    – I’m keen to take in the free installation by architect Philip Beesley called Sargasso. It was at the Vienna Biennale. There’s a little promo video about it at the link that’s well worth a watch.
    – Next Friday is a free outdoor concert in David Pecaut square featuring kd lang. Yay! 
    Can you see why I love Toronto?! 
  5. Next Thursday, I’m heading to Stratford with two gal pals to see Seana McKenna in Richard III. As Richard III. The play did NOT get great reviews, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

  6.  Our garden is actually looking somewhat acceptable this summer. There is still a whole section to tidy up, but I’ve started putting mulch down after I pull weeds, and the grass seed I picked up at Costco on the spur of the moment is doing really well in filling in some of the patchiness of the lawn. Being on a corner lot, everuthing is basically exposed, so it’s been kind of embarrassing to have this wild and wooly thing happening on our property.  
  7. Just finished a terrific book, Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin. It’s the story of a young Irish woman in the 50s who emigrates to Brooklyn and finds herself stuck between her old and new lives.  It’s a compelling portrait of that time, relations between Irish, Italians, Jews, and African-Americans in this bustling city of immigrants. As a genealogist, it gave me some insight into what it must have been like for single women to come to the “new world” for a better life, without family, having to make new friends and find their way on their own (or, as in this case, with help from her parish priest.)  I highly recommend this quick read.
  8. Bonus: I am desperately trying to break my habit of putting two spaces after a period. There has been so much mockery of old-school people like me who were taught that in the last century, and it’s terribly ingrained. But I’m trying.

Visit Jennifer over at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!


Extremely Bad Advice: Game of Phones

I sent in this letter to Steve Murray, a humourist at the National Post, after he put out a request for problems that he could solve. My letter and the first part of his answer appear here. Click on the link to read the rest!

May 26, 2011 – 5:16 PM ET

I put up with years of my husband whipping out his BlackBerry and dealing with email or whatever important stuff appeared on it. Parties, anniversary dinners, museum visits with the kids … the damn thing was always there. Now I have a similar (but sexier) device and said husband takes me to task for occasionally playing Angry Birds before bed or checking email during breakfast. What’s a modern gal to do?

STEP ONE Call me old-fashioned, but I think you should probably get a divorce. While I have heard of couples where one uses a BlackBerry and the other an iPhone, they’re usually from some liberal heathen metropolis like New York or some sort of New York-style city. Back in my day -a couple of years ago -that kind of thing was unheard of, and for good reason. You must feel the stares of people in the street, the hushed admonishments behind your backs. You guys are literally not compatible, so I have no idea how you even get through a day, talking about software glitches and apps over the dinner table. I just pray I’m not too late with this advice and you haven’t had kids yet. Will you give them an Android just to split the difference? The mind reels.

Read the rest at


Stanley H. Clark: 1933-2011


I found out about Stan’s death via Facebook while we were in England.  He was a high school music teacher extraordinaire.  While I didn’t take music classes at Glebe, I played percussion in the Senior Concert Band and piano in the Stage Band. The Stage Band recorded an LP, played paying gigs, including in a flotilla on the Rideau Canal, travelled to Cuba, and was an all-round fabulous place to play great music, hang with friends, and get through those teen years. 

I have reconnected with many high school friends through social networking, and there is a special bond with those who were in the Stage Band. Stan’s family have put up a Facebook page where many of his former students have shared their memories. As announced on that page:

Stanley H. Clark
Mus. Bac., M.Mus, ARCT, Conductor – Royal Regiment of Canada (Capt. ret.)
Teacher – North Toronto, Parkdale and Glebe Collegiates
Conductor – National Capital Concert Band

After a lifetime of glorious music and marvelous adventure, Stanley H. Clark – teacher, composer, maestro, father, friend – has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Stan’s legacy lives on in the lives of children, grandchildren, countless students and fellow musicians who were inspired under his baton.

No regrets, no condolences. This was a life well lived. Please share your stories and memories at In memory of Stan, support of music and arts in our schools would be appreciated. We suggest or or an investment of your time.

A celebration and final blow in Stan’s honour will be held at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, from 12:00 to 4:00, Saturday April 30th. If you’d like to play, bring a music stand; downbeat at 2 p.m.

I would love to be there.

As a side note:  Our son Michael plays in the stage band (among others) at Lawrence Park CI here in Toronto and with the Youth Big Band. Whenever I go to a concert or gig of his, I get extremely nostalgic for my own high school days. He has an excellent school music teacher who is also a brass player, and someone who knows how to swing.  It makes me immeasurably happy to see his pleasure in playing jazz, and love that he loves the same music I did at that age (and continue to love.) He is looking to music as a career and I know how inspiring great teachers are.

I’m a household hurricane…


Looking forward to seeing my sister and her family tomorrow as they pass by on their way to Southern Ontario.  They’ll have dinner and spend the night, so I’m on a mad cleaning and shopping spree.  Having people over is a great reason to get out that vacuum and tackle the dog hair and the popcorn that’s fallen between the sofa cushions.  

Sis been recently diagnosed with a gluten issue, so it’s also a great chance to try making some corn tortillas for our Mexican supper tomorrow night. Will also be checking out the gluten-free cakes at Dufflet tomorrow morning, and I’ve found some gluten-free oats to make porridge in the morning. (Yes, I know, oats don’t have gluten, but apparently typical crops can contain traces of wheat so these oats are grown and processed to be completely wheat-free.)

Tonight, I descend to the basement to deal with the man-cave, aka, Michael’s music and entertainment room.  It is a big mess of instruments, cases, music, empty pop cans, video game boxes and controllers, dirty socks, and possibly dirty dishes. Also, his spit container, for when he does whatever he does with his instruments to release built-up whatever. And dust. We need to turn it into a serene sleeping space.  We have one other bedroom down there that just needs a vac and dust.  

So, I’m off to Costco, Loblaws, and the hardware store.  This’ll probably be it for blogging today!

[Cute pic courtesy of the Graphics Fairy!]

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Haven’t done this for a while, but here we go:

  1. I’m in Guelph for a workshop on Scottish Genealogy with Dr Bruce Durie, Course Director of Genealogical Studies at Strathclyde University.  He’s visiting the Scottish Studies department at the University of Guelph and I’m looking forward to getting some tips on researching the Morren branch of my family tree.
  2. I”m staying at a rather low-end hotel close to the university campus and didn’t sleep all that well last night.  The air conditioning system is extremely noisy and the room is rather poorly furnished with lumpy pillows and a tiny bathroom.  Don’t get me started on the vile in-room coffee. I don’t know why I even bother brewing it. There is breakfast offered in the lobby but I am seriously considering just skipping that and hopping across the street to Cora
  3. just announced some new records:  The Canada School Directories. I found a Goddard ancestor in the Annual Register and Business Directory of the Sons of England Benevolent Society for the Dominion of Canada which is a terrific find because I knew very little about him. There also appears to be some old case law in Ontario from the late 1800s with the name Goddard which I will be following up on.
  4. I’m looking forward to our trip to England in a couple of weeks. We’ll be staying at the Queen’s International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle for the first four days and then will travel in Kent. I still need to book some accomodation for those last four days so must get on that this weekend.
  5. We’ve also booked travel to Stockholm at the end of July, for just the two of us. It will be the anniversary of Zouheir’s mother’s death in August and there will be a mass said for her. All of her children will be there and we’re planning a two-night cruise to Helsinki together which should be lots of fun and a great way to be together with everyone freed up from cooking and hosting:  a very suitable way to celebrate this remarkable woman. It will be my first visit to Sweden and I am very much looking forward to seeing Stockholm, as well as visiting with my wonderful in-laws.
  6. My boys are doing well. Alex’s second year at Queen’s is drawing to a close, with classes ending in a week and then exams start on the 15th of April. He’ll be working as a Section Head at Crestwood Valley Day Camp in July and August and is hoping to do some French study in France in May and/or June if he can find a place to study and get credit. Michael is hanging in for the rest of Grade 10, still busy with Music and working hard to focus on his other schoolwork as well. He’s got a gig with the Youth Big Band this Sunday at The Rex (Noon) and concerts with Hannaford coming up as well. He’ll also be playing in a masterclass with Patrick Sheridan. He’s looking forward to two weeks at Interprovincial Music Camp in August: one week of Jazz (bass trombone) and one week of Band/Orchestra (tuba).
  7. One of the perks of being an opera subscriber is the occasional freebie. Earlier this season, on the evening of the municipal elections (and presumably low ticket sales due to the high anxiety around that election), I got comped two box-seat tickets for Death in Venice which was a terrific show, in all it’s depressing glory. Next Monday, we’ve got invites to a working rehearsal of La Cenerentola (Cinderella).  This is not one of the operas in our subscription package, so I’m excited to be able to catch a freebie, even if in it’s un-final form.

Check out some other quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Introverts and Extroverts in Love (Psychology Today, March 2010)


… here’s some amateur advice from a professional introvert.

Remember that your way is just one way: Introversion and extroversion are of equal value. One is no better than they other; they’re just different. Once you recognize the differences, respect them in yourself and your partner. No eye rolling, no snide remarks, no guilt trips, no apologies, no shame.

Embrace the differences: Yin and yang, make it work for you. The extrovert can bring new people into your lives, the introvert can create peaceful spaces in the home and the relationship. The differences can enhance your relationship if you work with them rather than fight (over) them.

Set guidelines for socializing: If you don’t want to socialize much, then your extrovert is entitled to the freedom to socialize solo, no guilt trips. And if you like deep, intimate conversations with your friends, do you really need your partner there? The rule in my marriage is that neither of us is required to participate in any particular social event, but we do grant special requests when the other says “pretty please.”

Take responsibility for your comfort outside your comfort zone:  First, figure out how to make the best of any situation, since you can’t avoid everything you don’t love. Maybe meeting new people is easier if you do something–flea market, street fair, gallery opening–rather than sitting around making get-to-know-you chit-chat. Maybe you feel better about parties if you and your partner agree in advance how long you’ll stay, or even take two cars. Then speak up, step up, take responsibility, no whining. The same goes for the extrovert.

Figure out the phone: The telephone can be a surprising source of tension. Must one person answer every ring because the other doesn’t want to? My husband uses his cell phone exclusively so if I don’t feel like answering our home phone (as is the case 97.9 percent of the time), he doesn’t care. And while he will e-mail during the day for necessary discussions (i.e. dinner) , I call sometimes, too, since that’s more convenient for him–although he agrees that I’m terrible on the telephone.

Negotiate quiet time: My husband is an early bird and I’m a night owl so we each get daily solitude that way. (I work alone, but that’s different from unwinding alone.) I also travel alone on business and he doesn’t mind being an occasional  bachelor. Actually, he kinda likes it. Some solitude is important for everyone, especially introverts.You don’t have to apologize for this, but you do need to be gracious about it. For example, insist on quiet time after work if you need it, but your partner should then get your undivided attention for equal time. If you have kids, which we do not, you have another layer to the negotiation.

I read this piece when it first came out and it rang so true! I am a true introvert, married to a raging extrovert, and much of this applies. I laughed out loud at the section on the telephone….he has to answer the phone regardless of what the display says, and I, like the author, ignore it the vast majority of the time.

I’ve hit paydirt in a way because I’m at home all day alone, with kids and spouse at school/work, so I get lots of peace. I find it extremely distracting to have anyone else in the house with me during the day. My stress and headache frequency went way down when I stopped working the regular nine-to-five and I’ve come to believe it has a lot to do with being able to be alone more.

Would love to hear from others in a similar introvert/extrovert situation.