July 30, 2011

El Camino del Norte

One morning last October, six weeks into my nannying job, I checked my email on the way to work.

I was still bleary-eyed and sleepy, but I don't think that accounts for the tears that jumped from my eyes when I read an email from my friend Kirsten, asking if I might be interested in doing a pilgrimage with her next summer, in Spain.

I sent an instant, "YES!" response. For some reason, it just felt right. And then I spent my entire work-day day-dreaming about what I would pack. I haven't doubted that gut response once since then, although my to-pack list has certainly been fine-tuned.


Now it is July 30th, and we are getting on a plane bound for Paris, before beginning our trek across the northern coast of Spain.

I don't fully know what to expect, but I know it will be good, when all is said and done. My head and my heart are ready for this experience that will be unlike anything I've ever done.

If there is internet along the way, you will hear from me. If not...there may be a lot to say when I return in a month.

July 28, 2011

Pack it Up, Pack It In, Let Me Begin

This is my packing list for Spain.

As a list, it looks long. As a pile, it is medium-sized. As my life's belongings for four weeks, it seems small. It weighs in at 26 lbs (including the pack itself) and I am hoping to trim it down to 20... Any suggestions on what to cut?


Toiletries (soap, sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit)
Tool/knife
Dish set
Flashlight

Underwear x5
Socks x5

Gray walking shorts
Beige beach shorts
Green capri/pants

Blue ulti T
Burgundy ulti T
Longsleeve blue T
Sweater
Sports tank
Sports bra x2
Sundress
Red wrap
Swimsuit
Rain jacket
Hat

Sheet
Pillow
Pillowcase

Passport belt
Journal
Pilgrimage route guides
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Pens
iPod & charger
Camera & charger
Plug converter
Pilgrimage totem/icon
"Whining Free Zone" Button*

*I bought two of these. Mine is already on my pack, where I will see it every time I reach into my bag. Hopefully my commitment to being a grown up (instead of a whiny baby) will be easier than I anticipate.

July 25, 2011

Bueno, Noce. And Buena Notte.

Yesterday was the last day of Summerlicious, Toronto's prix fixe restaurant extravaganza. And for me, it ended deliciously and delightfully at Noce, an Italian restaurant across from Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen.

First course: cocoa egg spaghetti with fresh ricotta, lemon zest, and olives.

Second course: black angus steak medallions with arugula and cherry tomato salad.

Dessert: chocolate with embedded biscuits, raspberry purée and mascarpone cream.


Um, amazing?

Yes.

I also sampled octopus - totally more palatable than anticipated, and tiramisu, which I like despite its coffee taste. I don't understand coffee, but that is a challenge for another day.


I am half-jokingly beginning my "carbo loading" (general overeating) for the Spain trek. As I wiped my plate with the last of my steak, my date noticed...

"Well done."
"Yeah... not sure if I am proud or a little bit ashamed."
"What would you be ashamed of?"
"Gluttony."
"No, be proud!!"


It was indeed a good night.

July 24, 2011

Timewaster of Amazingness

Chilled with the famil-am this weekend. Spent part of Saturday morning sitting on the couch with my little brother (This is the one situation in which I insist on being an annoying older sister. He hates that I call him my "little" brother, and pick me up and shook me like a rag doll yesterday to remind me that while younger, he is bigger. But I can't do it. He's got to be my little brother. Sorry, dude.) and hitting "StumpleUpon" over and over and over on his laptop.


Finds included:

The Aurora Borealis. He has now suggested we go for a trip up north, just to see them "for real."
A whole bunch of great quotes. (Oh, Tina Fey!)
Hilarious celebrity portraits. I think my fave is Paul Rudd's. (warning: some portraits are suggestive...)
This 8-bit music video. I don't like the video, but I'm digging the song something fierce.

I will not get StumbleUpon for my laptop, because I cannot handle the temptation to keep clicking.

It's kind of addictive.

July 22, 2011

I Need A Dollar

Lately, every time I walk past someone on the street, or turn down a request for change, this song starts playing in my head.



I wonder, if one of them started singing it, would I pay them more attention? Be more likely to give a dollar or two? Care a little more?

July 20, 2011

Patience, Young Grasshopper

It is 10:10pm. As soon as I send this, my light is going out.

Somehow, the cottage weekend did not refresh my body the way it did my heart.

I have three videos I want to share and an entry about nothing important that has been half written for MONTHS. And maybe a nannying wrap-up/pre-Spain ramble?

They all will wait.

Because right now, my eyeslids are tired.

(do you remember this line, Vanessa?!)

July 19, 2011

Can't Wait For The Knock-Out

Sometimes there are crystal clear moments in my life where it seems like Jesus is saying, "See? I am doing things."

Three times in the past week, I have caught myself thinking, "Wow. This would NEVER have happened three weeks/months/years ago!"

It is deeply heartening to see change and progress in my own life and the lives of those I love. It feels to me like Hope has landed a few solid punches on his opponents, the dreaded duo of Fear and Discouragement.

July 17, 2011

Quality Time With People I Like

Back from the cottage. The four of us had a blast.

The only sadness I felt was when the other couple I'd invited couldn't come - which is actually very sad.

And when we got eaten alive by mosquitoes after dousing ourselves in DEET and standing in the smoke of the campfire. I only ate TWO MARSHMALLOWS.

As evidence of some of the good times we had, I give you a small selection of the many hilarious quotes from Amelia, my American friend who is married to an Indian, neither of whom have done the Canadian summer cottage thing before.

I like to be on time. For vacation.

Woah. This gives a whole new meaning to the toilet as throne!

(thirty seconds after saying goodnight)
Amelia: Gasp!
me: What?!
Amelia: Oh, sorry. I have a problem.
me: What?
Amelia: I fall asleep really fast and have tiny dreams.

There's a lot of goose poop here. I'm pretty sure we were making out with it with our feet last night.

I'm trying to convince myself that if I had a baby, my life wouldn't be ruined.
(caveat: Amelia loves both babies and their moms. This is not an insult against either group of people. It's just an out-of-context quote.)

Your blog isn't really "laugh out loud." It's more "think in head." T-I-H, if you will.

This [cottage] makes me want to accumulate worldly wealth.

Amelia: I wonder if I should have strawberry ice cream or mint chocolate chip.
Varun: That's an American problem.
Amelia: You mean first world.

I feel like I'm trying to whip a cow with a toothpick. (pause) I stole that from Varun.

I really like being dry. It's my favourite part of not being wet.

July 15, 2011

The Cottage. The Weekend. The Joy.

In precisely two weeks, I will be packing my bags for Spain. Currently, I'm packing for a last-minute trip to the cottage. A trip I'm hosting.

This may be my first grown-up cottage trip. As in, no "adults" except for my friends and I. Definitely no kids.

This has the potential to be epic and glorious. I will be happy with lazy and sunny and disaster-free, so that I don't have to sever all ties with the cottage owners.

Ahhhh, I can already hear the lake!!

July 12, 2011

Two Plays In Two Days

So Toronto's Fringe Festival is on. I didn't go last year, and I never went in Vancouver... I always intended to, except how do you know which plays are good!?! But when someone else says, "Hey, let's go!" it is very easy to say yes.

And it turns out, we went 2 for 2.

Sunday night: Hypnogogic Logic, a comedy from the Montreal troupe "Uncalled For."

Basic premise: Man falls asleep and has crazy dreams, following the strange non-logic that we have all experienced...

Thoughts: As my date pointed out, "Dreamland kind of offers a blank slate." Nothing is off-limits, but there isn't precisely a storyline either. At least not one that makes sense in our wide-awake world. What it IS, is slightly bizarre and laugh out loud funny. And easy to relate to - we've all had dreams with that vaguely-known cousin, the house that is really a cruiseboat, and the strange conspiracy theory. And then we walk out the door onto the main stage of a concert, and WE ARE THE FAMOUS PERFORMER.

At least, I have.

Conclusion: I liked it. Laughed a lot. Surprisingly non-offensive. Worth the $10 ticket.






 


Monday night: Padre X, a one-man drama by Marc Moir, from  Winnipeg's Looking Glass Productions.

Basic Premise: A Canadian WWII chaplain tells his story.

Thoughts: In pre-show conversation, I commented that one-man shows make me nervous. You have to be really excellent to carry the audience for almost an hour and a half.

"Plus," I added, "I have a soft spot for World War II... (Date looks at me strangely) That did not come out right. I mean, it will bother me a lot if it is bad."

It wasn't. I left wanting to hug my grampie and somehow undo the hell that too many people lived through.

Conclusion:
Excellent performance. Thoughtful and historical "info-tainment." Highly recommend it if you are at all interested in WWII. Worth more than the $10 admission. (if you go, just note that the intermission is not actually long enough to get up)

A Strange Thought This Morning

This past week has been so full of activity and people and goodness that I am actually looking forward to spending over two hours on public transit tonight. I am ANTICIPATING it with joy.

Priorities for that time include:
- sitting
- being silent
- praying
- celebrating the good things that are happening around me
- writing another blogpost


I do most of my writing on transit these days. Some of it sitting on a porch watching children run around, an occasionally (less than once a week) on a real old-fashioned laptop. I am grateful for this little iPod, that is for sure.

July 6, 2011

Things I Thunk

Someone liked my last list/entry. Someone else texted me regarding my lack of "blogginess" recently. So here is another post, another list. Written on the subway, a collection from Beth's brain today.


Sometimes it seems that celebrities adopt babies like they are adopting a really expensive pet.

I need to join a book club. Or force my friends to read the same literature that I do, so we can discuss it.

I feel like I'm running out of original ideas for my Dear Stranger blog. Is it me, or have I truly seen the majority of Toronto's characters?

I don't get to sleep in tomorrow. Probably not the next day. Definitely not the day after that. Sunday, perhaps?

A photo of yesterday's police funeral procession brings tears to my eyes. I think, "My brother is somewhere in the crowd with tears in his eyes..." - and now as I type this there are more tears in my eyes.

I love little kids. Especially in short doses. I love being called "Miss" and having my hand held by sticky fingers. I love their candor and curiosity.

Perhaps I am wrong about career choices for the fall. How long can I afford to be unemployed?

Even on a lovely hazy summer day, I am capable of thinking things that frighten me.

Ice cream. Tonight I will eat ice cream with Lynsey.

July 5, 2011

Things I'm Looking Forward To This Week

1. My first hospice volunteering shift.
2. A three-day work week.
3. Lynsey's arrival on Wednesday night.
4. Massage therapy.
5. Girls' night.
6. Wendy's wedding celebration.

July 2, 2011

Marben. I Think It Means "All Things Amazing."

I am neither a food critic nor an interior designer, but I feel the need to share a small slice of my excitement over last night's dinner experience at Marben.


Things I Loved:
  • The rustic/masculine ambiance. From a giant painting of a falcon, to bathroom sinks deeper than my arm is long, to the woven-wood artwork along the length of the ceiling and the rusted/antique implements used in light fixtures... it felt to me like a hunting lodge. A high-class hunting lodge.
  • Thick napkins. This is just important.
  • Frequent refilling of water glasses. Out of a lovely decanter/jar.
  • The kitchen view. I sometimes was distracted from our conversations by the angle I had into the food goings-on.
  • Their use of locally grown, organic foods. They name their producers on the menu & on a tall chalkboard, and clearly cultivate relationships with them. This started a great little convo on the importance of stewardship and thoughtful food purchases.
  • Tapas-style sharing. For an indecisive person like me, it's glorious to get a taste of multiple dishes. 
  • Friendly and knowledgeable staff. When we asked our waiter an ingredient question he didn't know, not only did he say, "I'll find out for you," but thirty seconds later, a chef stood at our table and not only told us what was in the coleslaw, but explained the entire recipe/process for making it. And then wrote down the specific brand of cheese that we'd all adored (Fifth Town's "Wishing Tree") on a menu to take with us.
  • All. The. Food. We shared: arugula & beet salad, rabbit macaroni & cheese, merguez sausage, a burger with fries & coleslaw, and a cheese plate. But you know what? None of those titles does them justice. Never have I had such delicious beets. My first taste of rabbit floored me. Sausage that isn't splattered with fat!?! That burger was not just a burger. And cave-aged sheep's milk cheese. DAAAAAAAAAAAAAANG.
  • The bread with oil & vinegar. HOW could I forget. Fresh bread with soybean oil and baco noir vinegar. With a hint of maple syrup. So simple. Sooooooo tasty. 
  • And of course, the company. The only thing better than amazing food is amazing food with amazing people.

The One Thing I Didn't Love:
  • My drink. Meh. Seriously, just drink water and eat their food. EAT. THEIR. FOOD. 



Sigh. Blogging this twelve hours later is making my mouth water all over again. Karen took photos, which will be up on Facebook and I will find a link to, if possible. Her food descriptions will also be far more accurate and technical than mine.

Anyone want to go for dinner? Or lunch. Or brunch. Apparently their brunch is phenomenal. I would expect no less.

What A Strange Dream

I climbed over a rooftop with my grandmother, but then caught her in my arms when she fell off.

Showed my family where I used to live - the attic of a castle manor in Vancouver.

A fox came up and sniffed my legs - everywhere it touched I developed strange boils with blue rings around them. I made my uncle shoot the fox then went to the emergency room and got medicine.

The next day I was driving somewhere in a car.


(why do I remember these pieces but not the rest?)