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Saturday, December 30, 2006

the sun still shines for you

My grandmother was graceful.

I don’t think I ever heard her complain. She made nice comments, asked direct questions, and would occasionally drop a sharp and witty comment without changing her tone. Her laugh was quiet but I felt like she must be roaring inside.

When I was little we would spend time in the garden together. She would sit on a lawn chair while I brought her cans of dirt soup. If she ever got tired of this game, I never noticed, as she always played along in eating whatever I gave her.

For most of my life she has lived several provinces away. Living in New Brunswick earned her the nickname “far away grandma”. For a long time I knew her through Christmas cards, a note scrolled in perfect handwriting, and short phone calls.

Everything about her, her writing, her tone of voice, has always felt strong and confident. Years after her husband’s death she never slowed down once. She was even part of a bowling team.

This summer she flew to Vancouver for my cousin’s wedding. When we decided to dress up in Indian dress for a party she didn’t hesitate. She picked out a soft pink outfit in India town, a simple outfit at a reasonable price, and joined right in. I think I only ever saw my grandma wear soft pink, her clothes always spotless and without wrinkles.

When she pulled out her Indian pants from their package we discovered each pant leg was the size of her whole body. Rather than get upset she laughed. I never saw her show any kind of resentment.

At the party she looked stunning. She was a small woman, glowing in soft pink. My tall, dark haired, gorgeous cousin often took her by the arm, and was always making sure she was okay. When the photographer asked us to get into Charlie’s Angels stance, my grandma pulled a fierce face and put her hands into the shape of a gun. Her personality was full of good surprises.

She died this morning. It’s hard to accept. I spoke to her on Christmas morning and she sounded chirpy and well. My brother had thought of sending her a gift basket and she was happy about it.

I’ve been in a bit of a daze about it. The pain comes in waves. But like my grandmother, I’m going to be strong and confident. I’m going to take long walks, enjoy small pleasures, and maybe even go bowling once and a while.

Rest in peace Zillah Young, you’ve walked a long way.

ready for the party

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Friday, December 29, 2006

smiles for sale

My friend is scanning the room with his camera.

He pauses on me a second. I'm sitting in the corner of the room, using my hand as a microphone, and singing along to Elton John with great enthusiasm.

It's the last night of my Vancouver holiday and I decide to give it my all. I sing, dance, smoke, drink, play a fierce game of scrabble and eat all the chocolate and custard off of my friend's birthday cake.

In the basement apartment I'm surrounded by the people who used to be a part of my daily life. Now they're reserved for the holidays and special occasions. I like these people. I like the quiet conversations that break out in between the drinking and laughing. I like that most of us have known each other since before we hit puberty.

At four in the morning a taxi speeds me over the Lions Gate bridge towards home. "I have a flight at seven in the morning," I tell my cab driver. "I might as well just drive you to the airport," he says. He's right, but I'm not quite done packing.

An hour and a half later I'm climbing inside the car with my mom behind the wheel to drive to the airport. My dad comes along as well, as he'll be flying to New Brunswick to see his mother who just had a heart attack. Life is unpredictable.

Once we're there I check my bags, still smelling of vodka, and find it hard to stop giggling at my sorry state.

As the plane takes off I leave a lot of people I love behind. I leave my old life, and take some of it back with me. I take a handful of good memories and a sense of security.

Getting off at my stop in Toronto, I practically fall over trying to balance my bags, and stumble off of the subway laughing. The conductor sticks his head out of the window and grins at me under his sunglasses.

I walk down the platform smiling as the train flies past me. As messed up as this world is, I've got a lot to be smiling for.

alexie and gill
turkey dance
muumuu and mojitos party
my little greek
feel the love
keeping warm

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

santa baby

santa baby

I must have been an awful good girl, because this year Christmas brought me a new camera, great art supplies and a lot of hope in a very artistic new year.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

eat your heart out

I never miss an opportunity to feed peope.

So when I spoke to my aunt a few weeks ago, I offered myself up as caterer extroardinaire for her annual Christmas party. A woman with three children and very little time on her hands, she jumped at the offer without hesitation.

I festively planned a menu for approximately 30 people, and came up with this spread...

Chicken masala skewers
Turkey meatballs with rosemary and pine nuts
Baked brie with wild cranberry and walnuts, served with toasted fruit and nut bread
Red tortilla chips and fresh mango salsa
Smoked salmon and goat cheese blinis
Quesidillas and sundried tomato pest
Vegetables and fresh tzaziki
Tomatoes and bococcini on sourdough
Gourmet trail mix with toasted pecans, raisins and cranberries

Fruit platter
Assortment of chocolates
Mini pecan tarts
Mini lemon tarts
Mini apple tarts

The verdict? Delicious.

my aunt and I
turkey meatballs with rosemary and pine nuts
chicken masala skewers
sweet spot
out of the oven
you're such a tart

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

take a moment

I’m sitting in front of the butchers paralyzed by nostalgia.

In front of the butcher two young children are riding small mechanical horses. They’re happy, and their father looks proud. In the background a woman grabs a meat pie behind the glass counter and wraps it up for a customer.

It doesn’t feel that long ago that my small body climbed up on those horses and rocked my bright blonde head back and forth. And even though it's been years, I can still taste the butcher's cordon bleu chicken and pepperoni sticks that I ate through elementary school.

There are some things that never change. Sitting on the bench in front of the butchers, I feel completely immersed in my past and present. The air feels damp and smells like rain. The florist is still selling flowers, the tills of the Supervalu grocery store are still ringing, and the bakery is still selling the same cakes it sold throughout my childhood. By the time my dad walks up to me I'm soaked in familiarity.

I always find it strange being home. I grow overwhelmed by all the memories that come back to me. Some memories make me smile, and others only make my stomach turn. I had a good life growing up, but spent a lot of my teen years sick with insecurity.

And then there's the weather. The long dark days and constant rain make my body heavy and my mind weak. I find myself always cold and uncomfortable. Vancouver is beautiful, but the moment those grey clouds take over the landscape is lost. Luckily I have a mother who knows my cold blooded nature and packs my bed with all the blankets she can find.

There are certain joys and warmth you can only find at home. I love being with my family, crawling up on the sofa with my mother and father and watching movies. I relish in family meals more than anything. The other night my father grilled burgers while my brother and I went out to buy wine and vodka. After dinner I decorated our tree in an intoxicated state with red decorations, dancing around and trying to place them evenly. We were listening to Christmas Carols, my brother and father sat and watched while my mother sifted through old decorations.

Later that night I shook my body around on the dance floor with two close friends. For the first time in months I felt myself let loose, while my limbs went limp, and my body took on the music. The rest of the room faded while I remained with the beat of the music and the smiles of two familiar faces. Moments like these are precious.

I’m eating well, sleeping longer, and letting my mind rest a little. The New Year is going to demand a lot of strength and I plan on plowing through it.

And I'm taking a moment to be thankful. Thankful for everything I have, and for a silly holiday that lets me spend time with people I love once a year.

christmas tree

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Friday, December 15, 2006

a personal note

Dear beautiful room mates,

My flight to Vancouver went smoothly and I'm now settled back in Vancouver. I sat beside a girl on the plane who liked talking about food, so all went well. There was some minor turbulence, but not enough for me to run up and down the aisles screaming about death.

Since Air Canada makes you buy your meals I was pretty hungry and chewed a lot of gum. Luckily, back at home, my lovely mother had a roast chicken in the oven. Needless to say, I had around four helpings.

Thank you both for helping throw an excellent Christmas party last night. I feel nothing but pride for our happy little home, and it was nice to welcome some good people in to celebrate. Sorry about breaking a wine glass. Jack Daniels doesn't make me a very graceful lady.

Robyn, I thought your gooey rice krispies squares were excellent. Carla, that was one amazing music mix.

Have I mentioned how much I love you?

In the past couple months I've been overwhelmed by the closeness I feel to you. I was pretty sure I didn't like people all that much beforehand.

Thanks for being yourselves,
Merry Christmas,

p.s- Please throw out perishables-especially the egg nog-before leaving. And feel free to indulge in that Toblerone and chocolate coconut balls I left in the kitchen.

love my ladies

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

the gift of giving

Tis the season to be greedy, and I'm dreaming of a pair of sexy black leather boots.

But, beyond my ego driven needs, I'm also excited about giving. You should be too.

To get in the spirit, please pay a visit to Kate Baggott's site. Kate is an inspiring woman, a great writer, and friend of my mother. She writes a blog for women recovering from child birth for B5 Media called Babylune.

To celebrate her first year of blogging and the Christmas season, she is buying her readers the gift of giving.

Visit Kate's site A ChristmasGift and celebrate the joy of giving to World Vision.

Happy holidays everyone. Beyond the commerical hoo-ha, I wish you all lots of love, warm memories, inspiration, egg nog and rum.

May we all end the year with pride, a strong sense of self, and a dirty grin on our faces.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

one bite at a time

I tap my spoon on the caramelized surface and it breaks like a sidewalk in an earthquake.

If anything can shake my world up it’s crême brulée. I slide my spoon into it’s custard centre and lift it up to my mouth. My mother’s spoon digs in beside mine and lifts up a small piece.

We eat in silence and exchange smiles. Our spoons lift and drop religiously into our sacred dessert.

We're sitting in an Italian restaurant in Toronto's Little Italy, and the chef has insisted we have crême brulée, regardless of how full we are.

I can remember almost every crême brulée I’ve ever eaten. I remember a night where my mother and I couldn’t sleep, both restless at around two in the morning in our old country house in France. We tore open a package from the fridge, stuck our store bought crême brulées in the oven and under the broiler, and tasted late night ecstasy.

And while it’s always been hard to steal my heart, I couldn’t but fall for the young musician with dark locks, who worked as a sous-chef in our small town. One night I was walking the small cobblestone road to the statue on the hill to watch the sun set. I had a book and my camera with me. I passed by the back doors of the restaurant where he sat outside with the other cooks, and my friend, the dishwasher. In checkered pants and a white button-up shirt he grinned and asked whether he could heat himself up a crême brulée. Everything about him seemed excited and passionate. This must have what persuaded me to get him into my life, into my bed, and why I still have trouble getting him out of my head.

I’m a sensualist and I like other sensualists. If it weren’t for the pleasures of food, fashion, music and touch I would be a lifeless creature. If I couldn’t dress up every morning, paint my face, blast Ray Charles and eat something sweet, getting out of bed would be an effort.

As I grow older my passions become more and more clear. I have recently made the decision to switch into a more design-orientated program than journalism. I’m aiming for fashion communications so I can focus in on fashion journalism and bring my true interests to life.

I was afraid to tell my mother, the writer, about my motive to leave. I have always wanted to be the intellectual my mother is, to be the literate writer she raised me to be. But, as she often tells me, I am my own person.

In elementary school I took part in a club called Night of the Nobles, where every member had to take on someone famous, portray them and dress as them. My mother pushed me to be Beatrix Potter, a writer, or a dancer. Instead I put on a glitzy gold dress and went as Marilyn Monroe. Surprise.

I tell her this over dinner and she understands. I am who I am. I like what I like. I like writing, but it is not my life, and I can't digest the news well enough to pursue that stream of journalism.

Maybe I'm addicted to change. Maybe I'm young and don't know what I want. But life is too short not to eat crême brulée once and a while and taste what life has to offer.

winter morning
stopped in my tracks

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Friday, December 01, 2006

the girl who couldn't sleep

I can hear my mother breathing in the next room, alseep on the big floral couch.

I can smell the lotion on my skin, and feel my body, tired yet strong, soft yet solid.

I can see heavy scrapes on my knuckles. They are pleasant reminders of my struggle to push myself up a wall while rock climbing this week. I was weaker than most, but I came out feeling so strong.

Above my computer is my bulletin board; I see photographs of myself, a photo I took for the school paper, a pamphlet for a Pilates studio that turned down my exhibit, and the number of a waitress who came over for several strong vodkas and good conversation the night before.

On my desk is a punk rock CD from the pizza chef at work, a philosophy text book, airplane tickets, a book on fashion and my sketchbook.

There are times where I see my identity strewn all around me and it fills me with warmth.

This is who I am, and I like and accept all of it.

I am not perfect. Failure shakes my hand every day, and I grip it firmly before moving on.

It's late at night and the winds are howling outside. The lace curtain on my window dances a little with each gust.

The corner of my purple comforter is turned over, asking me to crawl in, and I think I'll accept its invitation.

photo by Maja Hajduk