What I’m grateful for, 2021 version

I saw a Tweet today that said, “COVID is just like Sex and the City – it keeps coming back, and it’s worse every time.” That kinda sums up December 2021.

Last weekend I was with the Bell gals @ The Chalet (which perches atop a now almost scandalous private ski club), making tacos, drinking wine and playing Exploding Kittens. In the dark during a power outage (fun!). And this weekend I’m afraid to go to the grocery store, ordering K95 masks on-line, and thinking about another Christmas alone with hubby. What a difference a week makes. Thanks Omicron.

So in the midst of this shitstorm, I’m trying to focus on the blur of 2021 and what I am grateful for over the past 12 months:

Mahone Bay. Tops the list, of course. After 20 months away, G & I got to Mahone Bay in late July and stayed until early October. It was lovely there every single day, even when it rained. Living on the ocean is good for the soul. And we got to visit with Anne & Mark, absolute bonus.

Nothing beats the view from our deck in Mahone Bay.

Cape Breton trip. We took a fabulous vacation in Cape Breton, did the Cabot Trail (Caper Gas anyone?), stayed in a magical cabin in Ingonish with a hot tub watching the sunset over Cape Smokey. Spent some fun time with Mark & Anne in Port Hood – lovely beach and sunsets. Although it was a LOT of driving, which meant our day in Baddeck was basically spent with me sleeping in our hotel room.

Yes, the Caper Gas slogan is “Drive ‘er”
Our view of Cape Smokey – even better in a hot tub 🙂

A Gentleman in Moscow. I listened to this audiobook last winter, and it was truly the perfect pandemic lockdown book. Count Rostov faced his imprisonment in the Metropole hotel in Moscow with grace and humour; I can’t say it inspired me to do the same, but I appreciated that book so much. One of my favourites of all time now. Read at the perfect time, in the perfect way, listening to it on my daily walks to the grocery store, all masked up. Reminds me that when you read a book is sometimes as important as the book itself – like reading The Time Traveller’s Wife while visiting Chicago, it made me love the book even more as I walked around its setting.

Count Alexander Rostov is my hero

Silly sweet romances. Especially by Kristen Callihan and Tessa Bailey. I ate them up on my e-reader and on Audible. Also grateful to the Libby library app, which saved me a fortune in audiobooks. I am profoundly embarrassed by my Mahone Bay addiction to Linda Lael Miller cowboy stories, but they were what I needed at the time, apparently. I take that back – I am no longer embarrassed by my reading/listening choices. Fuck you if you’re judgmental about what people read. It’s month 21 of the fucking pandemic you fucking ass caterpillar!

I will read anything by these women. Loved Kate Clayborn’s Luck of the Draw series too.

Firefly coffee sessions. My pal Sharon turned me onto this great creative writing team. For between $10 and $50/month (whatever you can afford), you can participate in a 30-minute creative writing session every morning via Zoom, Monday-Friday. The sessions start with a question (“if you were a weather system, what weather would you be this morning?”), and then a writing prompt. You write for 20 minutes, and the facilitator ends the half hour with a poem. It’s a gentle and thoughtful way to start the day. We all have our favourite facilitators – mine is Asifa. Asifa is like starting the day with a hug. And she has great taste in poems, which are the best part of the session IMO. Everyone is encouraged to turn their camera on, on Zoom, so it feels more personal. And almost every single attendee is female – I think I saw one dude, once, clearly second-guessing his decision. And I love Lori, who has the lovely green-painted feature wall. I feel like I know Lori just because of that green wall.

Asifa = morning hugs.

Old El Paso tacos. For real. Very old school, but I’ve rediscovered the taco kit, and G & I are addicted. And they are an entire meal (with veggies!) in 20 minutes, start to finish. I took them up to The Chalet last weekend for Friday night dinner. They were a hit. And Candy has now turned me onto the soft tacos too. My sister introduced tacos to our family after she went away to U of Waterloo in the early 80s. Tacos will always be early 80s to me. And sis still makes them, to this day. Her vegan kid fills them with a black bean mixture instead of ground beef, and I could totally get down with that.

Sushi in Paula’s backyard this spring. As Wave 3 seemed to calm down, and spring fever hit, Paula and I got together in her backyard, for her birthday and then another time after that, ordered in local sushi and gorged on it. A lovely setting, very safe, with great food and much needed best friend company. What a luxury. I am also now a huge fan of seaweed salad. I can’t remember the name of the sushi place on Queen East, but it is damned good. Dragon rolls, umagi. Yum.

Sushi on the back deck, with Lu’s water bowl …

Rug hooking. I lost a bit/lot of hooking inspiration during the pandemic, but it came back in full force in Mahone Bay. Sitting in that brightly lit condo, facing the ocean, with natural light streaming in … that’s my inspiration space. I started on a new rug with many happy colours. It’s still down there, waiting for me to finish it this upcoming summer 2022 (fingers crossed). (Does anyone else think 2022 sounds like sci-fi? For some reason 2022 seems so much farther in the future than 2021.)

My comfy rug hooking space w/ inspirational view
Can you hook while drinking beer and eating popcorn – yes!

Sweetie making coffee. It’s the small gestures that mean the most. Hubby gets the coffee ready every night, so I just need to push the on button in the morning. Invaluable for those 8 am Condo Board meetings via Zoom. He has various little signs he sets out against the coffee maker, letting me know it’s set to blow. They are adorbs. I have promised to rug hook that fish for him. It’s his signature. I remember him passing me notes in the library during law school, when we were supposed to be studying, with that exact fish on them.

Beautiful art. We added to our collection, here in TO and in MB.

Lynn Misner, Power House Art Gallery, Lunenburg
Cape Breton Gallery, Inverness (photo of Inverness Beach)
More Lynn Misner, we love her
My birthday present to me – Birds of a Feather, Morgan Jones, Collective 131 Toronto

Colouring. I don’t do this enough, but again, I seem to be inspired by Mahone Bay. This was one lovely afternoon in September.

All from Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here

Eating out. You don’t know what you love until you miss it. Going out to eat with pals is such a simple luxury, and one we didn’t have for months and months. I’ve had only a handful of meals here in TO in 2021, but they were all fabulous. And with fabulous friends and colleagues.

Steak frites @ Biffs with Paula & B – July
Momos at Momo Hut w Paula – October
Grouper soup @ Hanoi Three Seasons with Paula – November
Butternut squash ravioli with prawns, Cactus Club Sherway with Janet – December

Burnt Church! I got to visit Paula at her family cottage in Burnt Church, NB, for the very first time, over a long weekend in August. And got to meet some of her family. Places and people I’ve heard about for 20+ years. It was a blast (except that P had a HORRIBLE tooth ache the entire time). We made poached salmon & homemade mayo, which totally changes my mind about what mayo is. It is spectacular. We went to The Gully (beer was imbibed in the truck on the way, yikes). We played Left Right Centre with her bro & sis-in-law, both of whom are more fabulous than Paula led me to believe. And P’s poor beleaguered kitty cat Em – simple-minded, needy yet aloof fluffball – bonded with me out of desperation. That cat hates P’s dog so so so so much.

Poached salmon, boiled potatoes, yellow beans & homemade mayo. Delish.
The Burnt Church church (no longer there! dude bought it and moved it!)
Sweet simple Em, starved for affection, would NOT leave me alone in bed
The Gully

The brilliance of Crystal Pite’s Revisor

I saw Revisor last night with Holly. It’s the latest dance from choreographer Crystal Pite, with story by Jonathon Young. A Kidd Pivot production.

And it blew me away.

I’ve been a fan of Pite since seeing her award-winning Emergence at the National Ballet of Canada years ago (and I’ve seen it every year since when it’s on offer at NBC). It’s a ballet about insects in a hive and what is means to be part of a community. And it’s beyond fabulous. And … tattoos.

Revisor is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play, The Inspector General – a farce, a comedy, about the absolute corruption, oppression, greed, and tyranny within an unidentified “Complex” in the interior of Russia.

Revisor took me a while to get into. The first part of the performance is effectively a retelling or imitation of the play, with recorded dialogue and Russian costumes (and dance, yes). It tells the story of the people who operate the Complex and their purpose – holding prisoners, torturing dissidents, rounding up the masses. And their ultimate purpose is looking out for their own asses when they get word from a “trusted source” that an inspector from the “Centre” is coming to check them out.

After about 20 minutes of watching this story play out, I started to wonder what I had signed up for. A Russian farce about corruption and tyranny wasn’t really what got me out of the house on a Saturday evening (both Holly and I being homebodies on the weekends).

But then Revisor transformed (revised), brilliantly, into a dance performance showcasing the inner machinations of the creator who is adapting the Russian play for a modern audience. The female narrator, representing the creator (both Jonathan as writer and Crystal as choreographer and director, I assume), identifies the key figures in the story and its plot points and translates them into dance movements that drive the heart of the narrative, that reach into the heart of the characters’ motivations.

It reminded me of something very prosaic, but it’s the best analogy I have – the “reveal codes” function in WordPerfect. WordPerfect is a long-gone  word processing program people my age used in the olden days; your document is displayed on screen, but with a command, you could “reveal codes” to see the coding behind your document’s formatting. That’s what Revisor did, it revealed the thought process behind transforming a 19th century Russian farce into a 21st century modern dance. It strips away the costumes, the dialogue, and the farce of the first part of the performance and lays bare the creativity and inspiration behind the dance. It stops being an imitation and becomes a very personal, beautiful, and affecting dance performance that, I think, is also an indictment of our modern world.

At one point towards the end of the “reveal codes” piece, the dancer who plays the character of the “subject” (the Revisor mistaken for the Inspector) is left alone on stage. Having learned about the atrocities at the Complex, her (yes, it’s turns out the Revisor is and always was a she, another revision) movements convey her pain. A moment very reminiscent of Heart of Darkness (the horror, the horror, said Kurtz).

The female narrator says repeatedly, as the subject moves about the stage in pain and confusion, the subject is moved. Meaning, the subject is physically moving, the subject is being moved and directed by the creator, the subject is emotionally moved by discovering these atrocities. And the subject is also the creator, moved by the original play and how it resonates in current times. You cannot watch Revisor without believing that it’s inspired by the venal corruption of Trump, his greed, and his debasement of democracy and all things decent.**

And it’s so clever. “Revisor” has so many meanings. First, it’s the Russian character from the original play – the “subject” who shows up at the Complex from the Centre and is mistaken for the titular Inspector. Actually, he’s not an Inspector at all; he’s a revisor – he’s there to change a comma in the Centre’s charter.

And then the creators fundamentally revise the play in the second part to create the “reveal codes” stripped down version of the story.

In the middle of the “reveal codes” piece, the creator also starts pausing – rethinking and editing her own creation – with the narrator chanting that she wants to make one “simple revision”. Again, it’s all about the process of creativity, honing and fine-tuning as one expects a great choreographer like Pite does again and again. The artistic process of determining, in a final piece of art, what stays and what goes.

I haven’t even touched upon the dance, the movements, the fluidity – and sometimes the scary spasmodic jerkiness. I realize I don’t even have a vocabulary to describe it – it’s transfixing. Jermaine Spivey was a wonder as the Postmaster Weiland, a bureaucrat who has seen and read too much and is literally being torn apart with the knowledge of everything that’s going on and not being addressed on the surface.

Last night was the last performance, I’m afraid. If it was on again tonight, I’d be trying to get rush tickets to experience it all over.

**As an endnote, if you really want to get scared about how bad it could get under Trump’s autocratic regime, read Graeme’s blog on how Trump is literally contemplating starting a civil war:


And the rug hooking continues

I spent this Saturday afternoon starting to finish my nine (!) rug hooking projects that I’ve completed since last summer. So happy my sister-in-law Anne introduced me to rug hooking and Deanne Fitzpatrick’s studio in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Since then … hours of calm creating these rugs. And a few hours of frustration. The Wave (picture below) was a real challenge for me.

Graeme keeps asking … what are they for? They aren’t for anything. They are for me. What are you going to do with them? Who knows. Anne says some of them can be used as coasters for my coffee.

But the next thing I need to do with them is finish them. They need to be steam-ironed, cut to size, with edges crisply folded. Then the backings get sewn up nice and neat.

Turns out I really like 3/4 of that finishing process – and I got all rugs 3/4 done. But the sewing is not my forte, I’m afraid. I can sew, it’s the “nice and neat” part I struggle with. Looks like I had a seizure when I sewed up Mr. Sheep below. It’s a bit scary, but who looks at the back anyways? Right? I’m hopeful, but not at all convinced, I’ll get better as I work my way through the other 8 rugs.

Pictures below:

Fun compare/contrast – here’s a picture of Anne’s Wave, from the same kit (granted colours do vary). But she really made it her own. I love it. Plus, her stitches are beyond perfect and I’m jealous.

Anne has since finished it:


Anne’s rug hooking is at a level I don’t even aspire to. Perfect stitching. She creates her own patterns! Come on.

Graeme says I’m horribly envious, but I like to think that I am unburdened by the strive for perfectionism that afflicts Anne (aka content to be crappy!)



The Winter’s Tale

Ballet buddy Barb and I went to see The National Ballet of Canada’s production of The Winter’s Tale on Wednesday night. Although we were both English lit majors in the day, and read our more than fair share of Shakespeare, we knew absolutely zip about this play.

I wasn’t particularly psyched to go. The posters for the ballet were pretty monochrome and blah (sorry NBOC, but I was uninspired):

And I knew it was a long ballet – 2 1/2 hours with intermissions. I was tired, work was tedious and overwhelming; it seemed like a bit of an imposition to go. I trudged along to the Four Seasons with low expectations and low energy.

Hold the phone. It was beyond fabulous and invigorating, and I haven’t stopped talking about it since.

I can’t decide what I loved best about this ballet:

  • the choreography, a perfect meld of traditional and modern
  • the performances – esp. Piotr Stanczyk, whose descent into jealous madness is told on his face and through his off-balance contortions throughout (he’s a gifted actor as well)
  • the score by Joby Talbot
  • the exuberant (I think I stole that word from the NBOC programme) second Act – I need that music and those images on a loop in my brain from November 1 to Feb 28, every dreary winter:


  • the scenery and silk staging for the violent seas
  • Jamie Street’s awesome death as Mamillius (that kid can die like nobody’s business)
  • plus let’s not forget the gorgeous costumes – it is not a monochrome ballet at all – the jewel tones in Act 1 were awesome

The TO Star loved it also (4 stars/4 stars):


If you can manage to go (only 3 performances left), please do.  Clearly Shakespeare could not make up his mind whether this was a comedy or a tragedy, so he threw it all in, plus the kitchen sink. And Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet tells the great mess of a story, emotionally, with precision and remarkable beauty.