Taking Stock – May 2020

I’ve swiped this great idea from Pip at Meet Me at Mike’s. It’s a fun way to look at what’s interesting and important and it’s very grounding to take the time to stop and think about my answers based on the past month.

Taking stock:

Making: knitting rainbow scarves for wee nieces’ Christmas presents
Cooking: easing into summer salads and trying to make do with the not-exactly-right ingredients because a trip across town for one specialty item seems frivolous — but is it still a Nicoise salad with a different type of olive?
Sipping: Hidden Temple Gin with Elderflower tonic; tastes like candied flowers and goes down way too fast
Reading: I’ve still got all the Zola to read but my author of the summer (in which I read through the entirety of their available work) for 2020 is E.M. Forster
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No Mo’ FOMO

I just bought a dress online. I had decided in Before Times that in 2020 I would not buy any new clothes unless I was replacing something that was no longer wearable. For instance, I bought new socks when all of my regular ones seemed to lose their elastic at the same time and kept scrunching down into my sneakers and bunching up under the arches of my feet. So the dress was totally unnecessary and a broken promise to myself, but it was super cute, very me, and something that I’d wear a lot.

If I actually had a place to go to that required wearing a cute dress.

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Bookish – In Which I Offer Mini Reviews for Many Books

Nobody reads my book reviews anyway, so I figure it’s totally okay if I cheat and pile a bunch into one post. I just want a place to record everything I’ve read because otherwise I’ll pick up the same title five years from now and read it again, and seriously, there are too many books to read, I’m not reading something twice unless it changes my life in some way.

So here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

Crow Winter
Karen McBride
This novel about a young Anishinaabe woman returning to her family home after the death of her father reads more like a young adult novel with traditional characters from the spirit world coming to life to help her come to terms with her loss and save her community. Beautiful artwork throughout by the author. A good entry point for readers of colonial descent to learn more about First Nations culture.

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Book Review — Lonely, Count Me In

Lonely: A Memoir
Count Me In: How I Stepped Off the Sidelines, Created Connection, and Built a Fuller, Richer, More Lived-In Life
Emily White

This pair of books by Emily White came to me at a strange time. Earlier this year I came down with a very weird case of laryngitis. Part allergic reaction/part bizarre cold (it’s entirely possible that I came into contact with Covid-19 before the official counts started), I was without a usable voice for six weeks, during which time I tried to go out and be social but failed miserably because I couldn’t talk loud enough to take part in any kind of conversation. I was feeling isolated and lonely (I’ve never found social media to be particularly “social”) and picked up Lonely thinking it might offer some solutions.

White was a Toronto environmental lawyer who left her practice to become a writer. Her loneliness did not stem from actually being alone with no social supports, however. She had family, friends, co-workers, and neighbours, but felt disconnected from all of them. She explores the differences (and similarities) between depression and loneliness, as well as the stigma attached to the admission of being lonely in an extroverted world. Ultimately she deals with her loneliness by getting out into the world where she meets her partner and is able to move away from the anxiety that has crippled her.

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Book Review — The Authenticity Project

The Authenticity Project
Clare Pooley

While most of us would acknowledge that we don’t share our true selves with the people around us, even the ones we love the most, are we more inclined to share our true thoughts with strangers? What about if we knew those strangers might come back to haunt us?

When artist Julian Jessop pours out his heart in a notebook and leaves it in a cafe for someone else to find, ideally also sharing their own story and then passing it on, he didn’t expect that the book, and the readers, would find its way back to him and the cafe. In its travels the green notebook collects Monica, the anal retentive cafe owner; Hazard, a… well, a bro-dude douchbag; then Riley, an Australian landscaper; on to Alice, a Mommy instagrammer pretending to have a perfect life; and then Lizzy, the busybody who brings the happy collection of friends, and the lies within their “truths”, crashing down.

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Lockdown Dining – Miku

Miku Toronto, part of Isolish
10 Bay Street, unit 105
(647) 347-7347
dinner for two: $130 plus tax

While restaurants are not able to open their seating areas, none of us in Toronto are hard up for take-out or delivery dining options, and that includes high-end offerings from almost all cuisines. There will always be pizza and wings, but a new service called Isolish is teaming up with fine dining restaurants to offer 4-course meals for delivery. So you can still eat posh during lockdown, but in your own dining room.

Working with a variety of restaurants around the city, Isolish offers a unique one-off meal for delivery, with each restaurant offering their 4-course menu on a specific date. A portion of the proceeds goes to Daily Bread Food Bank, making the prospect of a fancy feast even more alluring.

On April 30th, the participating restaurant was Miku, and for $65 per person we got a marvelous 4-course meal comprised of beautifully-detailed dishes. Some of these are currently on Miku’s To-Go menu for anyone interested in trying them outside of the Isolish promotion.

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Book Review — wow, no thank you.

wow, no thank you
Samantha Irby

Is it possible to make a career out of blogging? More specifically is it possible to make a career out of blogging about your digestive issues? Comedic writer Samantha Irby has not only done that but has translated her hilarious blog Bitches Gotta Eat to three books of essays (plus an ebook about New Year resolutions), as well as writing gigs for television shows such as Shrill.

Irby’s latest book wow, no thank you. continues on the themes in her previous titles, with fun new content as she writes about her life in Kalamazoo, Michigan where she is now a married homeowner with two stepkids. The essay Detachment Parenting talks about how she should not be a role model for kids, and A Guide to Simple Home Repairs speaks for every one of us who were never taught how to be handy when faced with issues such as “what do gutters do” or “what is that damp looking shit on the ceiling.” I was less enthralled with Late-1900s Time Capsule which details every song Irby would put on a mixtape and why. Not because Irby isn’t funny and earnest as she explains her selections, but because if her choices are not your particular groove, it probably won’t resonate. Continue reading “Book Review — wow, no thank you.”

Zoom Is in the House — Live Theatre Online

My husband Greg and I are fortunate enough to not be overly affected by Covid-19 and the associated lockdown. The one major change the shutdown has caused for us is the cancellation of all live performances. Our day planners are sad patchworks of crossed out and canceled concerts and theatre events.

So when Factory Theatre announced a live, online, one-night-only performance of a show we had tickets for, we figured sure, why not.

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The Misanthrope’s Guide to Covid Grocery Shopping

At 8 weeks and counting, you’d think we’d have the basics figured out. After all, for most of us, if we don’t have a dog, grocery shopping is the only reason to leave the house. And maybe because purchasing essentials is the only reason we’re leaving the house, interacting with others has become kind of terrifying.

Headlines such as “Why shopping for groceries is no longer fun” or “We’ll never shop for groceries the same way again” make it clear that a meandering stroll through the aisles is now a thing of the past. There is no lingering, no reading labels, no picking out the non-bruised apples. You need to get in there (after standing for 45 minutes in line), get your stuff, and get out as fast as possible.

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Book Review — The Cure For Hate

The Cure for Hate: A Former White Supremacist’s Journey from Violent Extremism to Radical Compassion
Tony McAleer

Anyone who lived through the punk scene of the late 80s/early 90s probably remembers the nazi punks. Devolved from their enlighten anti-racist skinhead brethren, these boneheads made a game out of showing up at punk or industrial gigs and starting fights in the mosh pit. They’d strut, arms linked, down Yonge Street to stand outside gay bars threatening patrons with violence (incidentally, no matter how tough of a nazi skinhead you think you are, that 6’4″ drag queen is probably a better street fighter than you’ll ever be). I knew (and punched) a fair number of nazi punks in my time, but from the perspective of supporting friends who were gay or people of colour, I never really grasped what made these jerks such angry racists.

Turns out… not much.

Tony McAleer had a good childhood; supportive parents, private schools, trips abroad. But because his father was vaguely neglectful (and I’m not judging here, really, but McAleer’s teenage reaction to his doctor father’s absences seem out of line given how bad his life really wasn’t), he became an angry youth who found friendship and support within a music scene that morphed at some point to make hate its main focus. From there he moved further into the white supremacist movement, becoming the face and spokesperson for many organizations both in Canada and the US.

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