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Paris-It’s a Love-Hate Kind of City-Part 1

Café_de_FloreI’m jerked awake  from a fevered slumber as the hotel door bursts open, ” What the f**k is wrong with these people?! I can’t get a f*****g cup of coffee!

Realizing what had just happened at the cafes next door while I was curled up in the warm blankets of my Paris hotel room makes me laugh out loud, and then I cough.

Did you ask for your coffee in French sweetie? Or did you walk in and say, ‘Can I get a large coffee?‘”

At the first place they didn’t even f*****g acknowledge me!

Did you ask in French?” I said, sitting up in bed and grinning at him.

No.”

Honey, if someone came up to you at home and asked you for something in Mandarin, you’d be pissed they weren’t speaking one of our national languages.

He carried on his rant, letting the truth of what I just said sink in knowing, but not admitting that I was right. “At the second place they just said, “Non” (imagine the worst french accent ever), “Cafe this big“. He holds up his fingers like he’s going to pinch a baby.

You may want to try using your French while we’re here honey, or find a Starbucks.

EmbracingCoffee_web-824x549

Less than half an hour later he discovered there was coffee at the hotel, and he lugged up three cups to our suite while I got ready to go out for the day.

My partner was appalled by not being able to order a drink without food, a mammoth sized coffee and the slow service at restaurants. His discomfort was my entertainment. You see, I love the complexities of French service, social interaction and just being in such an amazing city.

To watch someone rage against their own ways while being hosted by ‘others’ was rather entertaining. While he was stewing about how he was going to score his next ginormous caffeine fix ( this morning he had two pots of coffee ),  I was marveling at the architecture, lounging in the warm comfort of the reading room at Shakespeare & Company, and people watching from the famous cafes on Boulevard Saint-Germain. I was in my glory.

My partner now fondly refers to anyone from France as a Euro-Weenie. We differ in our perspective regarding the French as we differ with regard to our politics.

The French, like any nation/culture have their own way of doing things. A way of eating, drinking and socializing that has earned them a place in history as gracious host to a generation of writers and artists who shaped the western cultural world. I can respect that.

Merci pour la petite cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

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Classic Style – Keep it Classic

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“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.” ~Jane Austen~

What I’ve recently recognized about the world that we live in is that it lacks imagination. For all of the nouveau trends in food and dress, ‘retro’ is a rather civilized way of making lack of imagination seem trendy.

Style is an easy example. Ankel length, full length, wide leg, narrow leg, graphic prings, stripes, florals…it’s all been done before.  Other than (thank God) changes in more practical fabric, it’s really not that different.

And then there’s food. One of my pet peeves. At a summer luncheon, I was served a house-named caesar salad. It boasted a poached egg atop a large disk of crispy parmesean which required explanation and directions with regard to how to actually eat the damn thing.

Let me be clear. This was NOT a caesar salad. The taste was similar, but it was not a caesar. It was delicious and did not disappoint my senses. The establishment could have at least given this wonderful creation the credit it deserved and called it something unique. As for the waldorf salad in a current epicurian rag-mag, it is not a waldorf salad. A waldorf salad has a specific dressing, walnuts, apples and lettuce. Eggs and cheese and pecans do not a fucking waldorf salad make. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, at least come up with an original  name!!!

My ultimate annoyance is the caesar. Gimme some voddy and clamato. Rim it with celery seed and plop in a celery stick.

When messing with the classic caesar came into vogue over a decade ago, I was sitting at Fran’s in Toronto waiting for my date. We were headed to a Bonnie Raitt concert at old Massey Hall, and I was hungry. A great drink to order prior to a meal (when you’re freaking starving) is a caesar. It’s ok to have a cocktail while you’re waiting, but not so much a meal, and a caesar is pretty much an appetizer in a glass.

So I ordered my caesar and people watched. Enter the spicy bean. Like I said, I was hungry. So, I chomped down on the offending bean and almost died choking. I downed my glass of water, my caesar, and had to order another just to stop from choking again. Please no bean this time. Celery if you have it.

Please, do not garnish my classic cocktails with pretensious garnish that need to be groomed, pampered, handled with cutlery or introduced and explained.

Cocktail bars and great restaurants need not rely on old names for new, delicious concoctions. They need to get creative.  Don’t sell me either caesar unless it’s true. Do tempt me with new concoctions with new names. Imagination is sexy darling, dreadful surprises are not.

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Farmer’s Markets: Hipster Paradise or Community Refuge?

Twelve dollar nut-milk and dairy-free cheese. Fermented cabbage, kombucha everything and an old shipping container decked out with an energy guzzling refrigerator stocked with locally made craft booze.

It’s a hipster haven, and on the surface, it’s annoying ‘AF’ (as my child’s generation would call it).

It’s the farmer’s market at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. A man-made ‘natural’ oasis in the middle of the city.  The Saturday morning farmer’s market is well-curated, and the food court is pretty damn tempting.

To be quite honest, this market had me at Monforte Dairy and Hinterland Wine.

A country girl at heart, I yearn for my connection to the earth. After all these years, I have to admit, that I can come across as a city girl too, and maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to the bucolic civility of a rustic market just off seconds from the Don Valley Parkway.

Rural life tethers us with  invisible thread, connecting us to seasons, the earth, and the natural order of things. There is comfort in that.  I believe it’s the main reason why, even here in the city, where many children and adults  don’t know how to plant a seed or cultivate a garden or preserve food, that every walk of life  flocks to farmer’s markets.

As pretentious as  all downtown markets seem, they’re a sight better than our lives here in a city where anonymity is sweet, but the bitterness of a community lacking heart overpowers that sweetness. Markets are a small gesture of humanity within the  momentum  of the economic machine that is our lifestyle.

Our food sources connect us to the natural cycles of life, and to the intimate relationship that we have with our physical bodies. Food – the great equalizer. We break bread together as a symbol of opening our minds, hearts and homes to those whom we gather with.

Feeling some connection to that food is life-affirming and spiritual nutrition. Even if it just means it didn’t travel across borders to get here, and we received it from the same hand that harvested it.

If you have yet to make your way to your local farmer’s market this year, I encourage you to do just that. I reminds you where we are within the seasons, the community, and the planet as a whole.

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Sweet Summertime

Summer solstice is almost upon us. You know, the phase of this trip around that sun that marks the true onset of summer.

We’ve all seen the social media posts with funky patio lights and carefree al fresco dining; vintage glassware, impossibly perfect outdoor furniture (that would wither with one rainfall), and no mosquitoes.

This side of 40, we all know that it’s never that perfect. But it can come pretty damn close.  The secret to enjoying summer, or anything else at this stage of the game, is a certain dude-ish je ne sais quoi.  A few flowy, funky, retro tops to hide a multitude of middle aged sins, and plenty of liquids.

The idea of cottaging, camping and celebrating everything that can be celebrated is a great idea, but the reality can be a little tiny bit exhausting.

So I’ve created a little backyard oasis which includes a couple of sets of dated christmas lights which are now trendily referred to as ‘fairie lights’, a water feature from my partner’s ex’s house, and a load of carefree climbing vines.  I added a few palms just to remind myself that when winter arrives, so do the snowbird deals to the Caribbean.

Creating your own, personal oasis leaves plenty of time (no snakey fifty kilometre traffic nightmare into the muskokas or Haliburton Highlands) to tear off your work-a-day clothes, throw on something loose, pour an icy cold gin and tonic and turn up the Jimmy Buffett in the backyard (before and after work, although you might want to substitute coffee before work).

In order to make summertime a little bit more summery and a lot less hectic may I recommend a few of my mid-life-mid-summer-secrets?

  1. The muu-muu. Call it a caftan, or whatever you like, but it’s a lifesaver. No bra. No panties. No public entertaining in this either, but you will feel somewhat goddess like with a generous heap of nonchalant I-could-give-a-craplessness.  Mrs. Roper to the rescue.

2. An easy cocktail. I recommend a simple gin and tonic. Either Tanqueray with Lime, or Hendricks with cucumber. Either works. Poured over ice, it’s simple and refreshing.

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3. Non-alcoholic beverages. Let’s face it, middle-age and empty nesting lets us fall into a relaxed way of being that does not always require assistance. A simple pitcher of pink lemonade in the refrigerator or a sumptuous hot tea can do the trick. My favourites include T by Daniel’s Night in Rio, or Tazo Wild Sweet Orange.

yellowtea

4.  A damn good book that you can sink your teeth into. This could be a post unto itself, but I’m going to stick with just one book for now. If you are a mid-lifer, empty-nester, or a woman who feels like change is on the horizon, I highly recommend, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  Reading this will make you 100% confident wearing your muu-muu. I promise. No gin required.

women who run with the wolves

5. Fire. Yes, that’s right you need some fire. It’s primal, it’s hypnotising, and it can bring you back to yourself after a long day at work. If you have the space, try a firepit, maybe a chimenea, and for smaller spaces, try a little fire-pot.

chimenea

6. Soundscaping. A water feature can add that lovely trickling sound that makes you think that you’re somewhere other than your urban cage. If there’s no room for that, or no budget, try some of the 1990’s Dan Gibson Solitudes tracks cranked up to drown out the neighbour’s nattering,

Celebrating the sunshine is quintessential to summertime, and creating your own oasis optimizes all of that joyous vitality that the season brings. Wishing you the relaxed kind of muu-muu, gin-drinking, pink lemonade, feminist-reading kind of summer you deserve.

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The Art of Living; I Had Wine and Sunflower Seeds for Dinner

burn with desireLife has been such a shit-show lately, that I made the executive decision (after a long day at work and a bad haircut), to have a liquid dinner. I know, I know, ‘Liquid Lunch’ sounds better, but the truth is, it was a liquid dinner. Oh, and I had a handful of sunflower seeds.

Liquid as in white Bordeaux. As in, I-pretend-to-be-strong-but-I-need-a-hug-but-there-are-no-appropriate-hugs-to-be-found, kinda liquid dinner.

It’s a sin to drink vintage wine alone. Alas, a woman has to do what a woman has to do. Besides, if I weren’t alone, I’d be with some young, ballsy stud muffin, and that my darlings would be a bad, bad thing. Bad as in, despite the temptation, my true love is worth more than that. As in, I think I’ve finally grown-the-hell-up.

Le freaking sigh…

You see, a big part of who I am is the savoir faire that I’ve acquired during a lifetime of hard-learned lessons that most folks never see in a lifetime. Combined with a calling to serve, I have an intimate knowledge of the ticking clock, counting down to an unknown end.  I do believe that despite my over-the-top caring and anxiety, I have at least gleaned the porch-light of nirvana and the art of living.

Each day I stare mortality in the face, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to remind my sassy-assed self  what truly matters.

You’ve all heard Thich Nhat Hahn’s wonderful saying;

No Mud, No Lotus

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve had about enough of this mud business. You’ve had enough of being knee deep, slogging through the stinky stuff. You’ve had enough, enough, enough…Enough anxiety-riddled panic attacks, insecurities, and weeping.

Lessons in  life  come like lightning bolts from the ground; people you never expected to learn anything from other than how to control your temper and keep your patience,  become fast teachers like beggars at a feast.

This week, I had what I like to refer to as a ‘Jazz Hands’ moment.  After an hour on the couch, I decided that I’d had enough. I’d had enough beating the hell up on myself, holding my tongue, holding my breath, and holding the damn bag of responsibility for every one else like I was some iron, emotionless maiden.

E-freaking-nough!

My sense of humour, and my ability to be silly, light-hearted, and unapologetically sensual are my gifts. I am not patient, graceful, or saintly. I’m merely capable of being myself. I am just who I am; simple, straightforward, and as lovable as hell.

That’s also why I know that during days like today, it’s ok to be silly, to drink a bit too much, to flirt with my honey, to joke around, appreciate the cut of a fine garment, an interesting mind, or even admire the courage it takes some young gentleman to ask an older, sexy, wise, broad like myself out on a date…for the second time.

This life of mine has always been about living fully and completely. It’s been about giving all of my heart and soul to everything I do, even though I know people will be careless with them. It’s always been about giving my best, so that at the end of the day I have no regrets. I leave it all out there, hoping that the people I care about know that I’ve given all of me.

If you’ve  forgotten how wonderful it is to rejoice, to be silly, and to really let yourself go and enjoy life, you need to step back and give your head a shake. Life is short and precious.

If circumstance and relationships have caused you to make yourself small; careful of your words and wants and actions, if you’ve left your tender heart alone to cry for the suffering of those who are dear to you, you need to remind yourself it’s ok to move on.

You need to step out of the shadow of the past so you can create something you love.  Like the rest of the world you need to know that your gifts are alive, appreciated, and loved. But first, you need to love them, to hold them up as an offering to the powers that be, and honour the simple gifts that you bring to your lover, your friends and to your work.

Silliness is the art of living in the moment, despite being immersed in the awareness of our own shortcomings, mortality, and limitations.

Silliness, humour and the ability to see a lighter side combined with a heart that aches for those who are suffering, is my gift to the world. Whatever your gifts are, my wish for you is that you recognize them, and that you have people in your life who honour them in such a way that you feel loved.

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A Good Excuse for Ladies Who Lunch

clunyFrom the beginning of time human beings have gathered around food; hunted, gathered and prepared as a community while sharing stories, passing down wisdom, and nurturing the divine within each person.

Food then, is not just nutritional sustenance, it is a tangible vehicle through which we come to know and care for one another.

Our lives have become so busy that the cultivation, preparation and intake of food has been condensed to a faceless speaker and drive-thru window. Not good.

I work too much. I rush too much. I eat too much pre-packaged, prepared, processed food, and it makes me sad.

For the “Ladies Who Lunch”,  it’s been ten years, maybe twelve. We’re not really quite sure, and we don’t really care darlings.  What we know is that every year we can count on Summerlicious and Winterlicious to encourage a ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ afternoon of catching up with one another over a slow, delicious meal.

You see, sometimes a gal just has to get together with her pack of women. You know, the intelligent, beautiful gals who raise her up when she can barely lift her own head and who raise a glass to her every success, even if that success is just making it through the day without flipping the bird with her well-manicured hands.

We take time out of our busy lives to connect  with other intelligent, compassionate and kind women who know the same joy, pain, frustration and daily triumphs that women feel deep down in their bones.

Lately I’ve been neglecting moi. Yes, I’ve been time-starved. It’s made the-little-old-laid-back-lush that is yours truly, anxious and neurotic. The freak show that is currently performing in the three-ringed circus of my mind is a shit-show of the most grand order, requiring pharmaceuticals, but settling for the odd gin and tonic after a long day of being held hostage by the nine-to-five grind.

Summerlicious with the girls is something which requires planning, research, multiple telephone calls, and always last-minute-begging to change reservation numbers and times. It’s the event-planning equivalent of herding horny cats during a midnight rainstorm. But we’re fabulous cats, and it’s always worth the effort. Besides, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice patience and not-being-attached to outcome.

Given my state of mind this year, I was pretty sure that I was going to forgo the event unless someone else picked up the ball and organized the event. Alas, I decided at the last-minute to create the event in the most simple way possible. Choose the venue, make a reservation for six, and go forward. Usually I take requests for locations on a first-come-first-to-be-called basis, and then dial a zillion numbers until I find a place which will take a Saturday Summerlicious reservation for a dozen or so. Not easy.

We started with a reservation for six and ended up with eleven ladies at our table. Cluny Bistro was more than gracious accommodating our group (We will all be back, and appreciate your patience). Some arrived early, some arrived late, but in the end, we all managed to take a few hours out of our busy lives to connect and share that face-to-face interaction that I’ve been so starved for, for so long.

Lunch with the ladies is something we say we’re going to do, but never get around to doing it. One of my friends and I have been planning lunch together, and had to think back almost four months since our last visit. Four months is pretty darn good. This year I’ve had multiple reminders that taking time to spend with friends who nurture me is something I’ve neglected for far too long. Months turn into years, and years and years…

Summerlicious may be a marketing ploy to open our wallets and spend more money, but we’ve used it as the excuse we need to come together, try a new restaurant and remind ourselves that our friendships matter, that we do not need to exist as solitary, stone angels who do it all.