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Thursday, March 29, 2007

love from all over

Happy Birthday mom,

Some send their love, some send memories, and we're all thinking about you today...

beauty in the south


Although you're often gone
To your place in Garonne
You stay close to my heart.

You find inspiration,
Write great dissertation,
That's where you got your start.

Your house in Castelnau
Feels just like a "château"
To your visiting guests.

You entertain with flair,
Always a Camembert
With red wine at its best.

Today is your Birthday
And I wanted to say :
I wish you all the best.

Have a wonderful day!

Bon Anniversaire Yvonne!

-Marie Laure in Vancouver

when we had a picnic in Paris

"To my mommy # 2, wishing you birthday wishes on your special day. My childhood would not have been the same without you're warm and loving soul. So many wonferful memories with you and Gilly...from France to Alberta and even Whistler and Victoria! And I can't forget about our fabulous New Years Eve parties, throwing eggs out of the window!
I hope you have an amazing day and year, and i can't wait for the four of us to get together again for lunch.
Have a happy, happy birthday Yvonne,
Much love always,
Alexie (daughter # 2)"

-Alexie in Victoria


"Subway is crowded this morning. Great people watching though. Isn’t that the cute one in our class? It is! She’s just out of high school. Stream of humanity pours from the subway. “Hi!” “Oh, hi there!” She’ s very friendly for such a pretty girl. No attitude here.

Dressed in purple rushing across the quadrangle.
“We have a free class, want to go to the Great Hall?”
“No, I’m going home to wash my hair.”
She’s way too speedy for me.

Think I’m falling for her.
“We have a free class think I’ll go practice my typing.”
God, I took typing in high school and technical school and worked for six months as a typist. “Yeah, I need the practice too.”"

-memories of Yvonne when he first met her, from Rob Young in Vancouver

mom and dad

"When I think of you, Yvonne the first thing that comes to mind is the saying, "Good things come in small packages". There are so many great things about you. A tender sweet soul, easy to talk to about anything. Easy to be with like a walk on the beach. Courageous and spontaneous, travels anywhere at the drop of a hat, which I so admire. I haven't known you that long, but seems our souls have.

And as a picture is worth a thousand words.................I think this one says it all

mom and wanda

Happy Birthday Sweet Sweet Woman!!!!"

-Wanda in Ontario

maman et ses moules


Hugs and kisses,
Mum and Dad"

-Edward and Kay Wetherall in Ontario

mother daughter

"Obviously my memories of your mum are limited to your year in Norn Iron! but I will always cherish those evenings spent in good company with feta salad & wine, putting the world to right from the kitchen table in a little flat on Bachelors Walk!!
Yvonne is one of the most generous, intelligent, wise & unique women I know & I am blessed to know her & call her my friend."

-Karen in Northern Ireland

my mother dances on tables..

"I have terrific memories of your Mom, even from back when I was much younger - she is always just plain cool: artsy and warm, open to laughter and intellectual talks, always with an eye for neat details. Random memories: When I was only 11-years-old or so, she let me watch while she rehearsed a slideshow for an art history assignment, and it made me
feel like I was part of the group of smart adults. She would take you and your brothers to the movies and then cheer when
your Dad's name would appear on-screen. I remember her pointing out little details in life, the way plain yogurt tasted so refreshing with tortilla chips, or the way the tiles in the renovated kitchen had paw prints forever embedded in the clay.

Those are my random assortments, of which there are many many many more. Lastly, I always think she looks like Meg Ryan."

-Jenn Jamieson in New Jersey

keep right

"Yvonne, in her long flannel nightgown, looking like a pixie child and not the wise font of knowledge we know her to be, sits outside on the steps of our friend's home in the countryside of Mt Currie, B.C. We (who are first of all friends, but also book club members, are gathered together on the morning after a night of wine, discussion & laughter) are all cozy within, sipping coffee, while she sits transfixed, oblivious to the cold in the dawning light. Probably she has been there awhile while we slept, absorbing the truly magnificent and breath-taking beauty of the mountain and the surrounding wilderness. Of course she is clutching her notebook and earnestly writing down the thoughts and ideas that the the quiet beauty has inspired.

Joyeux anniversaire, ma chere Yvonne, de ton amie Christiane
Call me soon so we can go for a walk & a cafe au lait."

-Christiane Boulet in Vancouver

sweet maiden

"It was a beautiful fall day when Mama Young offered to drive me across town. She and Gillian were headed in that direction any way and I had an errand to run.

We took a route I’d never been, unfortunately traffic along that portion of Queen West was a nightmare. But, it didn’t matter I felt like we were exploring.

Once the quick errand had been run we unanimously decided that lunch was in order. Greek Town on the Danforth was not far off so we decided to roam until we found the perfect bistro. And did we ever.

An elderly Greek restaurateur was alone on the floor as he was helping his daughter out for the afternoon. He kindly sat us and immediately took a shining to Yvonne. She spoke with him about her trip to Greece with her husband and friends. He was elated.

“You’re a pretty mama,” he kept complimenting her. He was so engrossed with Yvonne’s charm and beauty that it took him a moment to realize there were other patrons at the table. We were giggling and nodding along with her. He just had so much to say to her.

After our delicious meals had stuffed us to the brim our new Greek friend brought us a complimentary honey dessert.

With three women, three forks and one dessert – there were no survivors.

It was an afternoon I’ll never forget.

Mama Young has this way about her, she has such an adventurous spirit and she’s always seeking. She knows life is a process that you should learn from but enjoy. She’s a gutsy Irish lass on a beautiful path. I’m inspired with the way she always takes a moment to enjoy her surroundings and she always makes new friends along the way. And for this I greatly admire her.

Happy Birthday Yvonne, may it be delicious.

With love, Robyn"

-Robyn, my room mate in Toronto

maman and me

Happy Birthday beautiful, I love you like crazy.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

so you want to be an au pair?

I came, I saw, I nannied, and I conquered.

But what was it like? Do I recommend it? Do I really think young women should sell their souls to work as a nanny in Paris?

I've been getting many emails from women looking to work as an au pair in Paris, and to make things easier, I've put together a series of FAQ.

How did you find a family?
I found the family I worked for through, where nannies and families each set up a profile, then you look for your match. It costs 60$ for a 30-day membership that gives you access to their contact info and photo galleries.

How do you find a nice family?

Unfortunately the most you can do is to speak to them on the telephone and get some reference letters. It's hard to tell if they will be the right fit for you or not until you've worked for them a few months. You have to keep in mind that they don't own you, and if things get really bad you can always leave.

Any warnings?
The French culture is much more serious, with many rules of politeness. Try to be as adaptable as possible, and embrace the family and the culture as your own. It's difficult at times, but you can learn a lot.

Also, the children will quite possibly be huge brats. Demand respect right from the start so they don't walk all over you. If they're disrespectful, let them know that you'll tell the parents, and make a point of doing so in front of them. But don't be too hard on them, treat them like friends and you'll end up having a lot more fun together. Teach them about your own culture, bake cookies, play games, and be a positive part of their growing up.

Did you become fluent in French?
After a year of having my French corrected by a six and an eight-year-old, my French improved considerably. I was very comfortable in my last months in France, and it became easy to express myself and play with French humour.

Did you have to take French lessons?
Yes, I did a semester of French lessons at Ecole France Langue. Most au pairs are required to do this to have a valid reason for staying in the country. While the classes were early in the morning, and not the most exciting, it did allow me to get a Student metro pass. A student metro pass is the cheapest of all passes, and allows you to take the bus and metro all year long. I think it costs around 200 euros for the entire year.

Does the job pay enough to get by?
Barely. I dug into other funds and had some help from my parents. Paris is a city of luxury, and it's hard to spend little unless you're doing little. (Although I am a huge lush with expensive taste in food and clothing...)

Do you have any regrets?
My year in Paris was incredibly challenging. There were many instances where I felt like packing my suitcase, lifting my nose up in the air, and saying "Adieu!" But no matter how long, hard, and exhausting the days were, I was in Paris. I used the Eiffel Tower as a reminder that I was living my dreams. I have no regrets, I came out stronger with a broader sense of the world.

Would you recommend it?
If you like kids, love Paris, and want to do something different with your life, go for it. But be prepared to want to tear your hair out, scream, and run away very quickly. The job demands a lot of patience and time, and pays very little. You have to devote yourself to a family you don't even know, and follow their rules.

Eiffel by night

If anyone has any more questions, feel free to email me.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

i've got dreams

Peter Mansbridge stands tall and smiling, his face flawlessly powdered and glowing under the studio lighting.

He's the poster child of The National, CBC's favourite straight-faced anchor man.

Standing before us, he's Mr.Cool, answering our amateur questions with experience.

He talks about covering stories back when we were toddlers, and I realize his resume allows him to be so calm and collected.

The group of us stand looking up to him, arms crossed, faces eager, all female journalism students looking to make it in the field.

He looks down on me, eyes sparkling under the lights.

"It's good to dream big. It's good to want to sit up here one day," he says.

I laugh. Minutes before, I sat in his chair, posing for a photo, and basically told him his job would be mine one day. Serious personalities tend to make me especially facetious. At least I made him smile.

"It's good to dream big," he continues, "but you have to start small."

He started out as a small town radio host. He never even finished high school. He taught himself to be a reporter, and climbed his way to the top because he had a strong voice and even stronger ambitions.

I realize that if I want to dream big, I have to start working. I need to read more newspapers, watch the news, attempt to understand politics, and expand my knowledge as far as I can. Then I can put my face out there.

Months ago I thought I was going to leave the journalism program. But as soon as I saw the bright lights of broadcast, felt the camera in my hands, and experienced putting a piece together, I was sold. It's quick, it's meaningful, it's visual and it gets put out there immediately.

So I'll take the advice from the big man with the blue tie and powdered face. I'll start small, but I'll keep dreaming, because it's always what I've done best.

anchor woman?
CBC The National

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

i'm sorry, i can't hear you

"I need to hear your voice in this piece," says my feature writing teacher, looking up from the article I've printed out.

My voice? Where did it go? After a year of having my writing taken apart, I've started to whisper.

We've spent a year working on our writing, and I struggle to advance when I still don't know what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing right. I should be screaming eloquently in my own voice at this point, but I seem to be choking on my own words.

While one person may love my metaphors and smile at my similes, another will pull out a red pen and tell me to revise my work.

There are also the conflicting rules of journalism. While broadcast journalism encourages a cheesy play on words, magazine writing shakes its big wordy head in dissaproval.

I want to advance in my writing, to dig deeper, to touch upon more of my thoughts and to burn up the page with my honesty.

But with two essays, two feature stories and my own writing under my belt, I'm starting to feel burried.

I've got to dig myself out and find my voice.


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Sylvia Plath

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

peeling the onion

I peel off the first layer and I'm smiling.

I peel off the next layer and I'm vulnerable, a young woman afraid of commitment. I sit in a heap of failed relationships and don't know who to blame.

I peel off another layer and find myself quiet. Too shy to stand up for myself when conflict only makes me uncomfortable. I remain silent.

I peel alway a thick layer and find myself back in highschool, wishing I knew how to be happy, trying to understand why everything hurts so much, my pillow case stained with tears of mascara.

I keep peeling, through the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, to find there's something really good underneath it all.

Underneath every bruise, insult, lie, heartbreak, headache, hangover, mistake, embarassment and fall, I'm still standing strong.

I'm stripping myself bare, learning to look back on my past and accept every part of me.

I peel layer after layer, smile at my imperfections, and grow more comfortable in my skin.

they say she's a dreamer

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Friday, March 09, 2007

the sweet escape

As the train rolls out of the city I breathe a little easier.

I dig my head into a fashion magazine and don't lift it up until the train stops in a town an hour away.

When the train comes to a halt, I stumble out with two heavy bags. One is filled with books, and one is filled with Mexican food, fine ingredients for tonight's feast.

I spot my proud Northern Irish grandfather standing in the distance, wearing a long jacket, a smart cap and sunglasses. My grandmother is in the station, her blonde hair glowing, lips lit up with lipstick, and her entire outfit co-ordinated in green. After embracing she picks up her cane and we walk to the car. We drive to Port Hope, the small, heritage town my grandparents live in.

I have come down to Port Hope to make a feast. My brother, living in a neighbouring town, has just turned 25. I haven't seen him in months and demanded we celebrate. What better way than a Mexican feast?

My grandparents are confused. "What are we making? Burritos? What is that?" They ask, the Northern Irish accent dancing through their voices. They've bought two loaves of French bread to go with the meal, and argue about whether or not I drink ice tea, and how my grandfather forgot to buy pop. I smile and tell them wine and water is all I need.

In their small kitchen I cut up avacado, make guacamole, blanch tomatoes, and make my first fresh salsa. I heat up Mexican re-fried beans, vegetarian burrito meat for my brother's girlfriend,and tortilla shells. I caramelize onions and fry orange and red peppers. My grandmother mixes a salad with fruit and nuts and poppyseed dressing. My grandfather moves slowly around the room, sets the table, and pours me a glass of red wine.

By the time my brother and his girlfriend arrive the feast is ready. Over the evening we laugh and eat until our stomachs hurt. My brother says his cake is too sweet and so I eat his icing, forever the little sister. The pack of candles only has 24, but looks like 25 lit up on the cake, and he wishes for world peace.

They leave before it gets late, and I scrub refried beans and meat off dirty pans while my grandmother watches the news. The small TV in the kitchen is always on, my grandparents absorbing news every moment they can, muttering and cursing different politics.

I slept soundly that night. More soundly than I have in months. My grandparents home is the only place I can sleep through the night without waking. It's something about the large size of the house, the safety, the antiques, the old throw pillows which tell me to relax.

The next day the sky was blue, and I walked through the town and the small shops, before coming home and making my grandmother lunch, then heading back to the train station.

It was a quick stay, but necessary. Family is more important than anything to me, and I'm learning how to express it. In the end, it probably did me more good than anyone.

Back in the city I went to work, and spent the night as bartender, shaking cocktails and pouring wine, a black apron tied around my waist.

At the end of the night I took a taxi to a hotel where my other, older brother was staying. He's in town for work and flies out this morning. We drank in the stylish lobby, spilled our hearts, and I left him with a hug and a wave.

It's been a sweet few days, a celebration of life and family.

nannie and poppie
the burrito fixins
25 candles
wishing for world peace
stylish grandparents
proud home
knock if you dare

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

baby let your guard down

A giant of a man approaches me wearing an apron, blue suit pants and shiny, pointy toed caramel loafers.

With a large animated grin he yells something in Russian. My face goes blank.

He pauses, “ with Mischka?”

I hesitate a moment before I realize who he's talking about, “Micheal, yes, I’m with Micheal!”

It's Tuesday night and I've agreed to help a Russian friend of mine cater an event at the CBC building for the premiere of a documentary.

The grinning Russian leads me to a room filled with people chopping and preparing beautiful plates of exotic hors d’oeuvres, yelling back and forth in thick accents.

I stand beside a young Russian girl and spread fig, caramelized onion, blue cheese and grape onto crostini. Everything smells good. We sample, and it tastes even better.

Before I know it we’re heading out into the crowds, laden with trays, serving off bite size tongue teasers of mango salad, duck and apple, coconut satay chicken, shrimp ravioli, and other artfully displayed tid bits.

The crowd is ravenous and attacks the plates like hungry lions. I spot a huge clunk of mango salad on the floor, and worry that if we don't get more food out soon enough, someone will go home in a stretcher.

The Europeans in the crowd ask me questions in Russian, I smile and shrug my shoulders, put food in their faces and head back to the kitchen.

When all has been said and done, and dessert is circulating, we head back to the kitchen and celebrate. I clink glasses with pretty young Russian girls, an older woman with a girlish laugh and swinging hips, my friend and the grinning Russian.

The caterer is happy with the work and we head to Colburn Lane, a newly opened restaurant for another glass of wine. There I meet the head chef, the owner, and fall in love with the clean, dark, modern space. In the bathroom I look at my reflection, black blouse and pants, and the song sings "Baby, let your guard down." I nod my head.

My life has embraced the unexpected these days. With spring break last week, the world was mine, and I painted the city a passionate shade of red every day and night. I took on the town with friends, young handsome men, ate dim sum, drank martinis, smoked like a chimney and remembered what it was to feel young again.

And the adventure continues. Yesterday I bumped into my friend the caterer and we headed out for sushi.

This man knows food, as well as every restaurant or club worth going to. Not only that, but he usually knows the entire staff and a few of the customers.

Wanting good sushi, we went to Toshi Sushi, one of the few sushi restaurants in Toronto owned by Japanese.

We dined on the house marinated salmon salad, cooked oyster lined with spinach, spicy tuna rolls, barbeque smoked eel rolls, deep fried fresh mackerel, tuna carpaccio with fried onions, and washed it down with hot sake.

With all my concentration on the mind numbingly delicious barbequed eel, a young Asian man with long black hair walked to the back of the restaurant, his son behind him.

“Susur! How are you?” Yells my friend. Susur? I looked up and tried not to choke on my eel.

Susur Lee was the second Canadian chef to appear on Iron Chef America. In Toronto he is well known for his restaurants Susur and Lee, which I’ve been dying to try, but still saving my pennies before I can dive in.

And so the meal continued, and I blushed as I exchanged words with a chef I had only read about.

After our feast we made our way up the street for some less authentic sushi. Blowfish is a modern sushi bar with a DJ and a fine twist on traditional Japanese food. They offer flavored Sake, as well as Saketinits, martinis made with Sake and a little flare.

We sat at the bar and tried mango sushi, and I gave in to a Lychee Saketini, made with lychee, prossecco and passion fruit flavored rum. The meal came with a complementary bowl of hot and salty edamame beans, a much tastier version of classic bar nuts.

We finished the night French martinis at Lolita’s Lust, and a quick tour of globe, a newly opened restaurant featured on the Food Network.

I’m grateful for breaks in routine, for taste buds, for adventurous people, and the fact that I'm such a lush for life.

Sometimes I have to let my guard down and give the world a taste.

free flowers