Monday, August 31, 2009

Bookstores I have loved

I visit bookstores the same way that some people visit cathedrals. It's rare that I leave one without some religious experience or other.

So imagine my delight when I found another candidate to add to the list of bookstores I have loved.

McNally Robinson, at the newish Shops at Don Mills is a divine undertaking. It's a family-run independent bookseller with stores in Winnipeg and Saskatoon and believes in the values of community bookselling.

The 20,000 square feet of space is a hive of activity, too. There are regular author readings, live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and a wonderful looking restaurant called Prairie Ink that tries, as much as possible, to source local produce. You can join Stuart McLean, host of the Vinyl Cafe, there for brunch on September 29th.

Almost as soon as I discovered it, I started fearing for its demise. Please shop there.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Make Me A Supermodel

Full confession.

Another of my summer guilty pleasures was Make Me a Supermodel, hosted by the preternatually hot, Tyson Beckford and so modelicious she can barely move her lips, Nicole Trunflo. Unlike America's Next Top Model, this show takes models who are already working in the industry and helps them up their game.

It was candy. But good candy that doesn't get stuck in your molars.

There were tantrums. There were tears. And there was beauty. Lots and lots of beauty.

Nearly every week, one of the kicked off models would cry because they "wanted it so bad." And the other phenomenally beautiful models would hold them, without moving their faces. It was extraordianry.

The winner (spoiler alert) was an 18 year old (not this guy) from Oregon. This guy above was a model-ballet dancer. Possibly the best body I've ever seen. Except for the other guy who also got kicked off.

God, I can't wait for the next season.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kiss the Cook

Oh the irony. I had butterless popcorn for dinner while watching Julie and Julia last night.

The film was an homage to love and all things culinary.

A bow to butter. An elegy to lobster. A brava to boeuf bourguignon.

Judging from the reaction of the mostly female (and she-male) crowd, most of the audience was as charmed by the food porn as they were by the performance of Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

Food = comfort and the fact is we're hungry for well made food in this country. Twenty minute suppers have replaced the slow and loving preparation of a good roux.

Back in the eighties, during my brief but stellar Martha Stewart period, I was a big proponent of the slow food movement. I made my own pasta from scratch. Ground fresh tomatoes within an inch of their life to make the most perfectly piquant tomato sauce. Pressed shortbread into molds to form perfect cookies. I was a machine.

Today I've lost all that and my life is all the more bereft for it. Truth is I'd be nothing without pre-washed salad greens. I can't remember the last time I put butter on my bread. I think chocolate mousse is an African Canadian land animal.

I need to find me some slow food. Fast.

Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dharma Friends

I really should learn to trust that the Universe is looking out for me.

It never ceases to amaze me that the right people seem to turn up at the right place and the right time. Just when I need them most.

Last week, while doing two things that scare me -- driving on the highway and infiltrating a group where I knew not a soul -- I was assigned a passenger for my little red Suzuki Swift (Lady Bug) by the group I was infiltrating.

It could have been a horror. But it decidedly was not.

I liked him on sight. He was sweet, gentle and an excellent conversationalist. He also couldn't read a map to save his life, which endeared him to me immediately, since this is also a skill that I have failed to master.

Despite directions that said, in all caps, IF YOU'RE IN ORILLIA, YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR, we went to far.

We were fortunate enough to lose our way and end up in the parking lot at the Stephen Leacock House. I've never been there. Now I have.

Anyway, not long into our trip, we discovered a remarkable commonality. We've both been lifelong meditators. Dharma friends, if you will. His proclivities fall to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, while I've done more work in the Tibetan and Burmese traditions. We shared some Zen experience, as well.

Throughout our week together, we met many times and even meditated together one morning. On our return journey, he invited me to an upcoming meditation retreat.

I hope I don't forget this. "The gift of the Dharma surpasses all gifts," as that old Dhammapada says. It really does.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One time at Gay Camp

Yes, it appears that Madonna was summering in Haliburton last week.

For more fabulous shots, and to book a photographer that can make anyone look good, go here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In spite of ourselves

Love is in the air. So I'm sharing one of my favourite love songs of all time. Click here to listen.

And here are the lyrics, in case you need to sing along.

She don't like her eggs all runny
She thinks crossin' her legs is funny
She looks down her nose at money
She gets it on like the Easter Bunny
She's my baby I'm her honey
I'm never gonna let her go

He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies
He ain't too sharp but he gets things done
Drinks his beer like it's oxygen
He's my baby
And I'm his honey
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

She thinks all my jokes are corny
Convict movies make her horny
She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs
Swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs
She takes a lickin'
And keeps on tickin'
I'm never gonna let her go.

He's got more balls than a big brass monkey
He's a wacked out weirdo and a lovebug junkie
Sly as a fox and crazy as a loon
Payday comes and he's howlin' at the moon
He's my baby I don't mean maybe
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

(spoken) In spite of ourselves

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That work-life balance thing

Advertisers are like hillbillies. Once you work at one agency for any length of time, you'll find that through the laws of natural attrition, you've got kin at most agencies in the city. They wear a lot of black and they even look like you.

I had dinner with a three agency types last night.

Two of us still work together but the other two are now elsewhere.

One's a big mucky muck, high-powered type. She collects a big salary, but it comes with big expectations. The other could be Prime Minister of Canada and still find time to coach little league. She's that organized. She talks faster than I can think. Last year she closed the door on advertising and went client side, to a major domestic charity.

Once we'd exhausted the inevitable topics - who's sleeping with who, and who's been caught sleeping with who -- our talk turned, as it often does, to that elusive work-life balance.

High mucky muck was checking her Blackberry periodically through the evening. Why? Because her agency corporate culture encourages over-work. It's not unusual, she said, to receive and respond to work emails at 10 p.m. at night. In fact, she told us, one of her direct reports had responded to one of her messages (nothing urgent, even) at 2:30 in the morning.

As someone who has been at the bedside of someone who took their last breath, I can say this with complete confidence: No one, on their deathbed, ever thought, "Hey, I should have worked more weekends".

That's not to say that you don't give a solid day's work for a day's pay. Or that you show up on time and give it everything you've got.

But really -- is that all that there is?

I sure as hell hope not.

I know people who are logistics specialists for international development agencies. In huge refugee migrations of tens of thousands of people, my friends are responsible for calculating and ensuring the fair distribution of rations. If they don't do their job right, people will die.

That sounds like something that should keep you up until 2:30 in the morning. But selling tampons? Or packaged soup? Or cell phone plans?


Addiction to work is every bit as damaging as addiction to other substances.

Okay, that's it. Back to work.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Putting Six Feet Under to Rest

After a marathon viewing session over the past two weeks, I finished watching the final season of Six Feet Under last night and I feel bereft.

It's like saying goodbye to my TV family.

Those of you who know me know that I'm an early-to-bed early-to-rise kind of girl. So you'll be surprised to know that I stayed up until midnight watching the series finale, and a few extras that came with the DVD. I also had myself a good cathartic cry, which made for some deep, dream-filled sleep.

I doubt that there's anything on TV today or ever that could surpass the writing quality of Six Feet Under. It has a power to delight, intrigue, and challenge. It never takes shortcuts or takes the viewer's intelligence for granted.

And while it's a show that began every episode with a death, it was clearly and profoundly about life and about living your own perfectly flawed truth.

I love the seamlessness that watching the series on DVD affords. But now that I'm through, I'm looking for another series to follow. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Ultimate Co-Dependent Love Song

Someone I dated gave me this song on a mixed tape. I think it says a lot about the energy that draws us and repels us from people who circle our orbit. It's called Gravity.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Phoning it in

I hate talking on the telephone.

Ironic, perhaps, for someone who worked on advertising for Bell for nearly four years, early in my career.

What I've noticed, is that most people decidedly do not dislike talking on the telephone. They seem to enjoy it. I envy them.

I wonder what it would take to help me enjoy talking on the telephone, too. If you've got any tips, let me know.

Truth is, it would help a lot.

I have friends all over the country and the world. Keeping in touch with them via email is one thing, but actually hearing the inflection in their voice while they tell a story is quite another. God invented Skype for exactly that reason.

My friend C in Ottawa is a professional phone talker. She thinks nothing of having an hour long conversation on the phone. In the past, during calls she initiated (of course), the battery on her hand-held would inevitably die mid-sentence -- much to my relief. She consider an hour to be a short call.

Other friends are quite good at it, too.

My friend Barb can talk on the phone, prepare graphic files for studio and bread a schnitzel all at the same time. She's an expert multi-tasker and great at staying in touch on the phone.

I actually find talking on the phone quite awkward. I feel like I need to fill the pauses with something, and I can never think of anything to say. It kind of stresses me out a little.

If I'm talking to someone who lives in the same city as me, I'd much rather make a plan and meet them somewhere for coffee.
It feels far more natural to me.

Anyway, maybe this is why I take to silent meditation so easily. Hold all my calls.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Next up on the summer reading series

If David Sedaris was a girl (and some might argue, with conviction, that he can be a most fetching one) he'd likely be Sloane Crossley.

I recently finished I Was Told There'd Be Cake, a series of essays on modern life -- most particularly Sloane's modern life.

She is a sometimes columnist for the Village Voice and has appeared in various publications like the New York Times and Salon. Her book is an often hilarious collection of musings from a self-proclaimed neurotic. It's part Sex in the City and part Mary Tyler Moore.

It's her first book, so there's some unevenness in her prose, but there are a few selections that will have you shooting coffee out your nose. They're that funny.

In particular, I loved her story about amassing a sizable collection of plastic ponies (you need to read it to find out why) and her account of being hunted down by a childhood friend to stand as her bridesmaid.

This is the perfect summer beach read or while being held hostage on the Go Train during rain storms. Sloane is cute as a button and she's going to be really famous one day. This book is in development as a series for HBO. You can tell everyone who loves the show that you read the book ages ago.

Less satisfying, I'm afraid, was Augusten Burrough's A Wolf At My Table.

I love Augusten for precisely the same reason why I like Sedaris -- for his humorous take on sensitive and often serious subject matter. But Augusten's tale of his abusive father hasn't been tempered with the passage of time. His was no Leave it Beaver childhood but, up until now, he's managed to eke out some humour from the situation. But here he seems to have grown even more bitter over the years -- so much so that it's difficult to read. Not recommended, I'm afraid.

Instead, pick up Sellevision if you want something fun and frothy to bring to the cottage with you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Always wear clean underwear

I thought you might like a secret peak at my drawers.

I discovered this local underwear maker at the One of a Kind Show a few years ago. It's called The Candi Factory. The designer has both a degree in philosophy and a degree in fashion design from the Parsons School of Design in New York. The result is, quite naturally, some of the cutest underpants on earth.

I'm wearing some now.

All the underpants are made right here in Toronto, and by some miraculous feat of construction, the colour never seems to fade and the elastic seems never to sag. They fit perfectly. And they look really cute when you take your slacks off at the end of the day.

Cost per pair is a reasonable $20, but here's the thing. If you join their email list, you'll periodically get an offer (which I did) with some special price attached.

Do it. It's nice to support local artists.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Things I'm Grateful For Today

A sunny weekend without any humidity.

A clean house.

Last night's delicious dinner of homemade Thai Red Curry.

The invention of ginger ice cream.

A four day work week.

Finishing The Time Traveller's Wife -- an engrossing and compelling read.

Making my way through Season Five of Six Feet Under -- one of the best written shows on television. Ever.

The end of the garbage strike.

Cracking the spine on a fresh, new book.

The fact that Lady Bug is getting her exhaustpipeectomy today, and she'll be good as new.

My co-worker gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on Thursday and everyone is happy and healthy.

My health.

Eight work days until my next vacation. Woo hoo.