Sunday, October 23, 2016

walking through st-henri

A rainy walk through St-Henri, one of the Montreal neigbhourhoods you probably won't find in a Michelin guide.

And a new Five Roses bag!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

random October thoughts

Yesterday evening we had one of those whipping rainstorms that tore the autumn leaves from the trees, so this morning I looked at the leaves still left on the branches a bit longer.

Then I decided to wash the sheets and hang them out to dry, so I could take this picture to help me remember how yellow the trees are in October when I'm sleeping on these yellow sheets in the winter.

And today -- a first --  I measured my tea with a tea caddy spoon. It was a gift and it's the perfect size for exactly how much tea I want.

I used to measure tea with a teaspoon. One teaspoon plus a tip of teaspoon more. This morning was a before and after moment. Before was teaspoon. After is tea caddy spoon. You think I'm kidding? In a world with so much misery and stupidity, who cares about a spoon? No one. You're right.

But I take my sanity where I can get it. The colour of the sheets and the leaves. The shape of an etched pewter bowl and a graceful handle.

I have yet to write about a trip to the sea and a chimney that was dismantled in September.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jonah in the whale / Matane 1963 / Gaspé 2016

I once had a boyfriend who would every now and then get maudlin about this amazing, humongous whale he used to visit on camping trips with his family. It was a whale you could walk into! It was like being Jonah in the whale! For a long time I assumed it was part of a museum exhibit.

At the time that I knew him he was a grad student and balding. I only mention his thinning hair because I'll never forget coming home one day and finding him napping on the sofa with a cabbage leaf on his head--which he'd heard stopped hair loss.

After I'd heard his story about the whale a few times, I tried to coax him to bring the memory a little closer toward adult territory. We could have talked about the Jonah myth. He could have sung a bit of Porgy and Bess. “Now, Jonah, he lived in a whale...” 

Or we could have discussed what Joni Mitchell meant by Jonah in a ticking whale.

He could have made me a mixed tape of Jonah songs. People did that in those days -- collected songs on a tape cassette. They did it for themselves. They did it as a gift. It took coordination and patience, putting a vinyl album on the record player, dropping the needle at the beginning of a song, lifting the needle off before the next song began, sliding the LP into the sleeve -- holding it by the edge and centre so you didn't smudge the grooves with fingerprints -- getting another LP ready.

On the romance scale, getting a mixed tape ranked high. A person had to think about you and choose which of their favourite songs they wanted you to hear.

Though people didn’t only give each other mixed tapes for romantic reasons. Someone might believe they superior taste in music and their friends could stand to benefit, so they would give them mixed tapes they'd made to educate/indoctrinate them. I had one such friend who's no longer a friend.

Some years ago R and I were taking the #132 around the Gaspé peninsula (northeastern Québec), and near Matane I saw the whale of my old boyfriend’s childhood.   

It's a tourist shop. He might even have seen it when it first opened in 1963. He would have been... nine yrs old? I don't know if he ever saw it as an adult, because -- at least when I knew him --  he never updated his impression of how amazingly huge it was.  

A couple of weeks ago R and I were driving by and we stopped there, but the shop was closed. I asked R to get inside the whale for a picture.

I wonder if the old boyfriend ever took his kids there.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

book launch for Five Roses!

If you didn't already see these pictures, here's a replay of the lead-up to the joint book launch of Five Roses and What Milly Did, a children's book by Elise Moser about Milly Zantow who pioneered the recycling of plastics in North America. Yes, an adult novel and a kids' book--why not? Elise and I are friends and we decided to have a launch together.

My novel has some sad and desperate events in it--sorry, that's life--but in the novel there's also a pastry chef who makes delicious desserts. With that in mind, we decided to have cream puffs at our book launch. (That's not my kitchen but the dining room because I needed an 7' table as a work space.)

I decided to fill the puffs with vanilla custard which has to be whisked constantly so that the eggs don't clot in the milk as they cook.
How many eggs? Here are the egg shells drying before I crush them to add to my garden for extra calcium.

I injected the cream puffs with the cooled vanilla custard--but had made so many puffs that I ran out of custard. I ran out to buy cream to whip.

I could have iced them with chocolate but that would have made them even messier to eat and I was intending to bring them to a public place. I drizzled them with caramelized sugar instead because it hardens--and adds crunch to the delicate pastry and rich cream filling.

I wish I had a picture of them at the book launch, but the photographer had put away the camera to eat a few.
Here are some of the pictures he did take. Elise is on the left; I'm on the right. We're talking about our books. The venue was Bar Palco. Charles-Etienne who moved furniture and set up mikes for us was a charm. We had an attentive, friendly, convivial audience. It was fun!

So many smiles!

Monday, September 19, 2016

surviving parental disapproval

I wish I'd had my camera because she had such a good-natured face.
This is what her hat looked like:

Yellow fake flowers and a straw hat she'd smashed onto her grey curls. She was sitting on a bench outside a pharmacy, singing in a quavering, crooning voice that reminded me of the popular Québecois singer, La Bolduc (1894-1941).

It's not a style of singing that's attractive to our modern ears. It sounds almost like complaining, except that the accompanying accordion or fiddle is in party mode. The woman outside the pharmacy didn't have an instrument, but in the interlude when one would have been playing she stopped singing and danced her fingers along in the air. She rocked on her bench as she sang. She was short and chubby and her feet didn't quite touch the ground. Her hat was ugly but cheerful. She was enjoying herself, even as she seemed aware that people were edging away. She couldn't stop herself. She had to sing.

Then she noticed that I was listening and she broke off. Oh, I'm sorry! I don't know all the words. I make up the ones I don't know. That's awful, isn't it? I should just shut up.

That's okay, I said. What's wrong with making words up? To my ears it seemed the words she'd made up matched the rhyme and rhythm of the song. And if some of them were nonsensical, many lyrics often are.

No, no, she insisted. My father used to say that only an idiot would sing if she didn't know all the words. He said that was the proof I would never amount to anything in life. She rounded her eyes at me and bobbed her head to make her point. And then she began singing again, wagging her hands in the air, rocking on the bench, smiling.

She was 70 or 80 years old. Her father was probably dead. She had outlived him and she was singing -- out in the city where anyone walking by could hear.

But also still hearing the voice of parental disapproval. It leaves such an echo.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Five Roses Book Club Resource

For those of you who belong to book clubs and are considering discussing Five Roses, the lovely team at Dundurn Press have made a resource package, including a map (!) highlighting where events in the novel take place.  Here's the link:

And also, for the fun of it, here are a few pictures and sketches of the neighbourhoods described in the novel. I took the photos. Sketches courtesy of Robert Aubé. I see the photos as factual documentation but the sketches strike me as being more quintessentially true. Whatever truth is.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Harlequin romances, demolition of a highway, eggplants

I want to bake a cake but I only just remembered to take butter out of the freezer.

So... here are some random pictures.

This one is a card a friend sent.
Yes, I mean snail mail. Remember envelopes and stamps and writing letters? Why don't more people write letters? Are they saving the trees? I really don't think the trees mind if you write words on the paper. My day is made special whenever I get a real letter or a card in the mail. But there seem to be only a few of us who still indulge.
The card is the book cover of a 1949 Harlequin romance. Look at that title. And the men with striped and spotted wings sprouting out of their ears. How was this ever billed as a romance? Looks dystopian to me.

And can you guess what this is?

It's the last of the Bonaventure Expressway that was built in 1967 to stream traffic from the south shore into the city. The noise and dust from the demolition is astounding.

The highway didn't only go into the city but right through it. Which is one good reason, I'm thinking, to get rid of it.

I took the opportunity to find a new angle on the FARINE FIVE ROSES sign. Here it is with its reflection in the Lachine Canal.

We stopped for a drink in one of the pseudo-post-industrial bars that are cropping up near the Lachine Canal. That is not R's hat but mine that I put on his head.

In other news, the garden gods--groundhogs, squirrels, and other critters--decided to leave me a few eggplants this year. It's the first year I've been able to bring home eggplant. So I'm happy.

Butter not soft yet.