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Archive for the month “December, 2016”

Fixated on Food

I know it’s that time of year and we are glad for some relief from everyday reality, trying to obliterate from our minds the news of Cannes and Berlin, the confusing horror of Aleppo and the election of Trump. So we all need some holiday spirit(s) to blur the grittiness and sorrows of these perplexing days. Although most people are looking forward to family gatherings, shiny decorations and window displays, it seems I’ve been deep into chocolate treats.  

Besides, Lindt chocolates have had an amazing sale, and I have overindulged in boxes and bears and balls. However I must admit that I had been scarfing up those delicious balls for sometime now. For my Toronto grandsons who like to be surprised with a tasty confection, I have explored chocolate dipped marshmallows, sprinkle- enhanced iced pretzels, macaroons the colour of candy floss, decorated cookies on sticks or even a reliable chocolate chip cookie or two, only rarely falling back on commercial offerings such as sun chips! in a pinch.

With the renovation of Pusateris nearby and being diverted to the Bayview Mall, I have been lured into Lindt’s chocolate dream factory .The purveyors of this delicious nibble are smart cookies. They ensnare you with one freebie, and once you sample, you are hooked , whether swallowing their freebie whole or savouring and sucking it slowly as the two parts divide into a tasteful duo in your appreciative mouth. The balls come in a variety of flavours from cacao to orange to strachetella, all with that same structure that like a truffle, encases that delightful secret: a centre core of smooth and rich delectable chocolate. One ball is rarely enough as the slow ooze, my preferred method, seduces you to maintain and prolong the delectable sensation that has your tastebuds begging for more.

Maybe it’s not such a great sale as the woman ahead of me spends $35 on those amazing balls in shiny wrappings. My bill this time is only $13.But like the siren call, these babies tantalize and hypnotize with their chant of chocolate so you might actually imagine yourself as a pasha on an island far, far away, fed off the exotic riches of the land and you are queen of all things good, deserving of the treats that have been so elegantly
crafted for your royal palate. But chocolate, good chocolate is so damn sinful. 

For many years I’ve been purchasing a chocolate Lindt Santa advent calendar for my grandkids. Hidden behind each day of the month of December, a variety of shapes and sizes will appear, from mini balls wrapped in glittering foil to minuscule scrumptious bears with red ribbons at the neck ( if you are lucky) to tiny perfect gold- wrapped chocolate bars. I rationalize that the calendar reinforces their math intelligence because the child must search for the right number before poking out his edible prize. To my grandson newly arrived from a Philadelphia, he proclaims, “ I like this game.’? The regulars insist on opening several , even beyond the inscribed date, ecstatic should they wind up with one of those tiny perfect bears, the little balls abandoned besides the rarer more detailed confection.

Although no longer children who openly drool, for some reason to binge during holidays , we have given ourselves permission to devour deserts, rewarding ourselves for surviving our workday endeavours. At my husband’s festive lunch party this past week, his assistant provided him with not  one but two homecooked apple pies, huge slices of apples in a nicely browned beige crust.He was so eager to taste his gift, he rushed home and immediately cut cleaved the pie in eights, scarfing up nearly a quarter of it. His weary work junior lamented that an hour of two of quiet would be her exquisite treat; my husband was pleased that he could offer her a spa certificate, not exactly eatable but truly delicious.

 In the final week before holidays, my mind has veered into baking my formidable chocolate chip cookies which I rationalize are healthy because they have oatmeal. However in these hectic days, I also find myself purchasing cupcakes at our favourite cupcake store Bakes and Goods. They use Belgium chocolate and also offer a proper, not overwhelming ratio of creamy buttery icing to lusciously light cake in numerous flavours such as cookies and cream or caramel drizzle or kiwi. Then there are the brownies from Pusateris that are really large and chewy and chocolately… But do not forget the superlative chocolate ring from Harbord bakery. And please,  I beg you not to be misled with the poppyseed that pretends to be chocolate but requires closer inspection or the time to discern the actual name of the item tenderly enclosed in clear plastic wrap. In deed, I think the chocolate ring serves as good breakfast eating because it doesn’t resemble a cake but has a sensible circle open in the middle. Wherein a health- minded soul could heap with berries, although strawberries with real whipped cream might be an enchanting way to commence the day. 
In deed, my breakfast on my birthday this week will be a platter full of dripping chocolate croissants from Douce France who actually import their dough from France and bake it here, recalling for our family a summer in Beaulieu sur Mer : where we trundled off to the local café to kickstart our vacation rambles in the south of France when our kids were little. Memories of Patachou now defunct, where my first grandson learned to love their impeccable chicken pot pie. My daughter correctly raves about Pain Perdu’s almond croissants too that mingle crunchy, sweet, flakey and soft. One whiff and we are back barefoot on the coastal beaches.True, all proper in this season of indulgence.

I remember my exquisite childhood birthday cakes, my mother used to bus down to St. Clair for at Patisserie Francaise years ago. For a special lunch, she would make party sandwiches on their pink and green bread, exciting the artist in me. Sadly, however, she insisted on using my birthday supper as an occasion to invite and cook for her relatives, some wrinkled and bespeckled ancient great aunts and uncles with weird sounding names like Meneel. I hated the intrusion of people I hardly knew who only arrived to devour my mother’s hard spent hours of cooking for them- or so it seemed to me. Worse yet, no one brought me a gift or even a bouquet of flowers for my mother. And when her gentle Auntie Bayla quietly asked for a second slice of my coveted treasure, I carved it so thinly that it would not stand upright and the airiness of the cake practically sent it heavenward without much volume to attach it to any party plate.I too shocked myself by the absurd spareness I had achieved

I think back to my bad eating habits, Hostess potato chips and a coke every day after school while I watched American Bandstand supine on the couch . My mother who was whisper thin encouraged us, my sister and me, and besides, the pharmacy next door to our store was a ready source of all things sweet and fattening. Every week in our home, there was a chocolate from Margo’s bakery, small size 90 cents, large $1.10. If not available, SaraLee stood in for a dinner closer for chocolate obsessed eaters.

But back to present day and my chocolate gene that has been satisfied way too often in the last few weeks as I have not ignored a nod, smirk or an invite from a shop or counter that displays and lures with the riches of the season. Macaroons, cupcakes, truffles, Buche Noel ( from Dufflet for my birthday) and now has expanded its variety from hazelnut and caramel to vanilla mousse. So delicious.I do not care a fig that it is a Christmas cake with all of its symbolism. But Dufflet as well must have realized the intrinsic worth of this piece because I’ve noticed miniature versions tempting shoppers before the grand date of the 25th. You can eat with your eyes, I’ve often , told my kids. But here, eyes and mouth grow large and gobble- slowly.

Sadly even as we indulge, the bad news will be there after the holidays and reverie has quietened down.We will have to contemplate not only extra pounds, clothes that do.not close around our midsections but an unstable world. At least the sweetness of moments of indulgence will endure and hold at bay unsavoury and unswallowable thoughts.

Finding Suitable Clothes

Iris Appel in her oversized glasses and bold boas has been in the fashion news later. And although I’m never impressed by too loud or. Overly extravagant clothing , at age 95, she is worth a second look. In a recent interview, she addresses the fact that there are not really great choices in clothing for “ mature” or older women. I absolutely agree. Whether checking out cheap pieces or even ready to dole out big bucks. I find it frustrating to locate something that wows- even subtlety.In fact, most outfits are geared towards much younger women, and surprisingly, prices are such that I gasp, incredulous that those who still own their youthful shapes have the big bucks to pay for these adventures in fashion.

I’ve always looked at fashion as wearable art. When the trend turned clothes inside out so one could see how the piece was put together , coupling the process with the product, I was impressed. People have always appreciated fine craftsmanship and design, but to declare it on the outside rather than keep it hidden in the seams of a garment required a fresh and interesting approach.Today, a zipper will not recede behind a placket, but may be employed as part of the sartorial statement. Come des Garçons years ago exaggerated , folded and used cloth in unique ways, changing and obscuring the actual shape of the wearer. Now I’m not asking for such dramatic inversions, but something that flatters the female form: that has sadly softened, sagged and morphed over time.

Clothes matter and many people I know still “ dress up” when they have occasion that requires more than jeans- although designer jeans or ones festooned with jewels or embroidery can look pretty spectacular. Maybe that also means more attention to fixing one’s hair, a special piece of jewellery or a dress kept at the back of their cupboard only taken out when a little glam is required. But unless you are an executive who is presenting to an audience on a fairly regularly or consulting with clients, it’s unlikely you put great effort into work clothes on a daily basis. In fact, my daughter tells me the techies at her firm look as if they have rolled out of bed, hair askew and in combinations that might as well be their pyjamas.

However, if you are over 60 and hit the shops, it is difficult to discover something chic and wearable.so I hope that like me, you have hung on to some old pieces, now considered “ retro” to which you can return when you need to dress up just a little.

Clothes hold special meaning- at least for me. My earliest memory of an outfit is of a rose red suit my mother knit for me when I was 13. I had been invited to a bar mitzvah. That would have given her a 6 week leeway so likely she would have begun her work months before the event because a pleated skirt that swirls has hundreds and hundreds of stitches alone. Sometimes.I imagined her like the elves that appeared at night in a fairytale , spinning hay into gold thread. When she completed the skirt, I recall it felt heavy but hung perfectly with three levels of symmetrical pleats overlapping. . The jacket to me resembled a Chanel double- breasted trimmed topper with the most luxuriest of wools, in the barely affordable angora wool. She would have been able to purchase only one tiny ball ( no doubt scarfing it up on sale and saving it for a later creation) so likely the trim at the edges must have been composed of only two, or maybe three rows. I worried she wouldn’t be finished in time, but she of course, she did. And in spite of all the rich girls attending the festivities, I felt proud and elegant in my suit.

Of course since then, there have been other dresses. Of special note was a three piece velvet ensemble tastefully enhanced with a few well placed gold embroidery pieces by a now defunct company called Mondi. I first glimpsed the outfit in the pages of a magazine, and gasped out loud. I thought it so beautiful, the textures so rich, yet elegant that I knew I must possess it

As if captured by an addictive drug, I searched for that outfit everywhere. But sadly when I located a shop where the startling ensemble was sold, the price was prohibitive. So I stocked that outfit, visiting it every few months, hoping it would not be sold, and maybe should I be lucky, find the cost reduced. Months passed and seasons changed along with the trends. And eventually the pieces did go on sale and then thankfully, deeper reductions were added ( although I could not comprehend why some socialite hadn’t fallen in love with the ensemble) , until my guardian angel must have whispered in my ear, keeping it safe for only me from the hands of other covetous shoppers, until I could seek my reward for patient waiting.

When my husband and I were invited to have dinner on the royal yacht Britannia when Prince Charles and Diana were still together, I proudly wore the exquisite jacket and matching cami, renting a long skirt as required by royal protocol. Although Diana looked spectacular in her own black silk dress with the hugest pearl earrings I’ve ever gasped at, I felt great in my ½ outfit, my Mondi fantasy.

I like to be noticed in my clothes, again not brazenly, but to be considered well put together. For that, I commandeer my artist’s eye, and consider the colour or tones ( usually white, black or a subdued shade), a contrast of textures rough and rich and something eye catching. Besides my passion for art, perhaps my obsession, harks back to the millions of paper dolls I cut out as a child, creating new and unusual dresses for them. I don’t recall playing dress up, for likely my mother’s old clothes were stored at the back of her cupboard awaiting an opportunity to be taken out for a stroll; and not rearranged or dragged about by her child in play. But my mother would comment on the overwhelming heap of paper scraps that overflowed everywhere. And she too often demurred about the days of her youth, when she helped her own dressmaker design uneven hemlines, snoods, decades before they were popularized in pedestrian fashion.

Yet now as a “mature” lady myself, I ponder that it cannot be that difficult to hide the overflowing 😊figure flaws one assumes with age, and I don’t mean squeezing the body into Spanx so you cannot breathe or pee. I’m talking about flattering necklines and shifts with dropped waists that do not remind one that their mid sections have expanded and that their boobs no longer are perky. For women my age, shopping for a new frock is a horror, not a delight and so we must return alas! to scour our own cupboards making do with a golden oldie or begging a dressmaker to let out seams so that the over stretched cloth will conform to a now enlarged body.

I truly don’t get it: why designers haven’t cottoned on to the needs of my boomer group, most with a bit of cash to pay out for a beautiful flattering dress. No wonder, there is such a focus on dieting: so that you can fit into a younger style; or conversely just throw on shapeless items to avoid revealing any strange dislocations in your form. I guess that is the reason for your aunt Minnie in Miami wearing terrible tropical muumuus. The For my generation whose heads at 69 and 70 still feel bright and active and young, the fashion industry should take a hard look and create anew for us

Stupid People

As I get older, I seem to get more crochetty. But perhaps there are more things that cause my blood to boil and more media distribution to relate tales of stupidity.

My daughter lives in a picturesque town outside of Philadelphia. Besides bird sanctuaries, downy paths to traverse and solid old stone houses, there is a caring community that will jump with home cooked meals should there be a birth or death. However, some of these kind folk hold religious beliefs that are in conflict with modern medical knowledge.

My two grandkids. ages 3 and 20 months came home ill from daycare – which everyone knows is the worst place to catch germs. However, with breathing issues and explosive coughing that lead to vomiting, the 20 month old wound up at the doctor’s. Shortly after, her little brother began to scream about his ears.which wound up being the site of infection. In the posts on FaceTime both adorable munchkins appeared lethargic and very sad, their pathetic little heads propped together on one pillow. Almost well, they were about to return to school when the doctor called: to inform. my daughter that both had pertussis or whooping cough. And so the children were quarantined for another week.

How ironic that unvaccinated children are allowed to wander the community, infecting while the victims of this stupidity are locked in. Now, I have no problem that kids who have been ill must refrain from spreading the germs, but to allow the perpetrators of the sickness to move freely in a society like so many Vika mosquitoes is unconscionable. And it makes me furious at the parents who refuse to vaccinate, ignorantly calling on some outmoded reason to validate their dopey contentions. Worse yet is a government that permits these violations to occur.

Not surprisingly I saw many Trump signs along the forested roads and charming alleys in Pennsylvania. And now with the election of this man, I again cannot but wonder at the stupidity of people who have voted for the man who now threatens the security of our children. Not just in the US, but in Canada and world wide.

Watching Meet the Press last Sunday, I heard Vice President- elect Pence, compared by John Oliver to a Salem witch hunter, downplay the telephone call Trump took from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, referring to it as one of fifty calls of courtesy that week.. Beyond that rationale , perhaps worse yet was the dialogue with Chuck Todd , an apparent jeering, an outright patronizing and indignant quality to Pence’s words whose born again Catholic views prevail in his outmoded attitude towards women’s rights, especially abortion. On the same show Kellyanne Conway as well presented with that smug arrogance of the victor, unable to concede gracefully. Although Todd reminded her of the split in the nation, Conway ignored an opportunity to show humility but continued to berate the Press who did not take Trump’s pursuit of the country!s highest office seriously, she scolded. When Todd asked about putting the country first, suggesting Trump divest himself of his businesses while in office, Conway took the opportunity to again lecture and absurdly crow,” You know Chuck, he put the country ahead of everything else [by] running…”!! Taking a shot at the media, Conway was nicely told by Todd that” …that every knee- jerk push back is going to blame the media”!In deed pundits are suggesting that Trump used the media, rather than the other way around. John Doyle in the Star writes that Trump’s “ bombast and off- the – cuff blustering and rudeness is what gave CNN and other outlets staggering high ratings..” To the shame of the profession, focusing on this outrageous man was great for business and ratings so they overloaded the network, gave him airtime so his “tell it as it is” mantra instead of attacking his bigotry and lack of knowledge that just became de rigeur and was accepted in the homes of too many brainwashed Americans. So says Doyle in Monday’s Star,”He played the TV news outlets like fools.”

So not so stupid there.

But read Sara Kendzior in the Globe today ( Monday, December 5) about the fears of a Uzbekistan refugee whose only crime in his country was to teach about environmental problems. ( of course, we now know according to Trump that are none) or Dov Marmur on the rise of Anti- Semitic outbreaks across America. Marmur underlines that these attacks are” the consequences of xenophobia, misogyny and racism”( Toronto Star).

There is that old poem by Martin Niemollera prominent Protestant pastor eventually incarcerated by Hitler’s goons , that proclaims,

“ First they came for Socialists..Trade unionists…Jews…

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Although Trump’s vitriolic words have been downplayed as not meaning what he has said, we do in fact follow the words we choose to put out in the public arena , transforming them into action. Consider how years ago the language of inclusion was put in place, for example, firemen was broadened to include “firefighters” so both men and women might participate in the profession. . As we speak so we behave.

These stupid people who believed Trump was a panacea to “ make America great” should have realized the only thing Trump wants to make great is himself. Where a big mouth is the main quality for election, one can only despair. What do Trump’s voters think, if in deed they think at all, of Trump’s rumination to put a Goldman Sachs banker in his cabinet. And with Trump’s boast to bring back refineries and restore the use of coal, do they worry their children may again return to working in the mines: images of Charles Dickens come to mind.

These are troubling times when a person of Trump’s demeanour, but more importantly values are not only permitted but encouraged.

I realize protests do little good and the horse has all ready left the barn. Perhaps what we can do is to continue to talk and debate in multiple forums so the old ideas of diversity, equality, opportunity, and kindness will not die within the next four years. Although we live in a free society , with Trump’s lambast at the Hamilton cast ignored and the ongoing( thank you Lorne Michaels) critique on SNL and the memory of Barack Obama’s election , that civility and clear thinking can eventually be restored, people must persist in finding positive role models for their children, ignoring the elephant in the room.

So last night Saturday Night Live does what Saturday Night Live often does best, to  poke fun at the political and the powerful with satire: here suggesting the President-elect has a penchant for firing off tweets with the impulse control of a toddler. And President-elect Trump, in turn, does what President-elect Trump does, almost immediately, tweeting out an attack on Saturday Night Live: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad”

Sad indeed. No sense of irony. Wash, rinse, repeat.

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