Posts from January 2020

Paris 1984

January 31, 2020

French photographer, Brassai died in Paris in 1984, and the Renault Espace hit the streets. I’m not sure what else happened in Paris that year, but I really want this t-shirt. And I’ll take a pair of boyish 80s jeans, too. Bon week-end!


January 30, 2020

My grandfather hated cheese. I’m not sure if it was the taste or the smell, but cheese, even the mildest ricotta, never entered the home. I have a vivid memory of my grandmother eating a block of Cheddar a week after my grandfather died. It’s kind of amazing the compromises we make for the people we love. She loved cheese. But she loved P.A. more.

cut above

January 30, 2020

Once a year, I get a hair cut. It tends to fall in the dead of winter, when my skin and nails and locks are dreary looking, and I feel an urgent need for a pick-me-up. I call around a smattering of salons, and beeline it to the one with a stylist free. Because it’s a once-a-year-thing I make sure to have her/him chop a considerable chunk. This is the inspiration for 2020’s cut. Chances are, my hair will be in a top knot by March.


January 28, 2020

When in doubt, these winter months, of what to place on the table, may I suggest the simple offering of a soup and a sandwich. There are few things more comforting than a grilled cheese sandwich, and soup, in a little cast iron pot is quite delightful. Here’s a nice list of soup cookbooks, as well as Nigel Slater’s recipe for carrot and tomato soup. As for the sarni, splurge on bakery bread, and a cheddar worth getting gooey over.


January 27, 2020

There’s a community of women who live in a low rise building above a public library in downtown Toronto. They gather regularly to share food and support. These women come from various corners of the world –– Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria. One just lost her son in a drive-by shooting. I know Khairia through a community program we’re involved in at our children’s schools. This weekend, I went to dinner at her home. I brought Khairia a plant that flourishes with very little care. And thanked her for welcoming me into her home. What does one say to a woman who has just lost her child? Over fifteen women gathered in her small living room. Each woman greeted every other woman in the room, moving gracefully from right to left. “Hello, I am Athena. Alhamdulillah.” It’s the only Arabic I know. Dates were passed around. And samosas. Some women sat on cushions on the floor. Others sat on beige leather sofas. My friend Lily and I sat on upright chairs. “You need some injera to soak up the lentils,” Lily said, gesturing to the table of food. So much food. Dhals. Chicken legs. Four kinds of rice. Beetroot and eggs. The woman to my right, Eritrean, lived in Rome for decades. “I make a great cacio e pepe,” she tells me. I need the bathroom, and I’m ushered passed the tiny kitchen of pots and pans and down the stairs to where we entered. I hear children’s voices at the end of the corridor and go and say hello. “My kids share a room and they have bunk beds also,” I tell them. “And they always squabble over the bathroom light. The little one wants it on, and the older ones want to turn it off.” They all smile at me. Their bathroom is spartan, with one small picture on the wall. I notice four toothbrushes and a bottle of mouthwash by the sink. What do you do with your son’s toothbrush when he’s no longer alive. It’s just too much to think about. When I return, the plates are being cleared. I gesture to Lily that it may be time for us to go home. And just as we turn to leave, the women prepare for prayer. Six small mats are placed down on the carpeted floor. And nine women come to the middle of the room to pray. I am surprised by how the other woman go on chatting and eating and clearing plates as their friends pray. I wonder what they’re thinking. Praying for. A few minutes later, they roll up their mats, and go back to their conversations. “Your plant doesn’t need much water. Maybe once every two weeks. And some sunlight would be nice.” Lily and I say our goodbyes. And walk out into the rain. Homeward. To our families.

all weather

January 24, 2020

Back in the Autumn, with Winter looming, I started to think about winter activities that would make the season more bearable. Should I take skating lessons, get into cross country skiing, buy snowshoes? One of the lifeguards at my local pool swims in lake Ontario all year around. That I’d never do. But I admire his sense of adventure. Passion. Discipline. I admire people, so passionate about something, that they’d endure any weather for it. And who find a way to embrace the elements, and weave them into what makes the activity fun, challenging and unpredictable. Variations in weather keep the activity fresh and exciting. I admire people who make the most of Winter. I’m still searching for my version of the lake swim. I used to run in any weather. And maybe one day I’ll return to it. In the meantime, I bought a pair of cheap salopettes. So, at least I’m warm as I walk the city’s snow-covered streets.

sand dollar

January 23, 2020

Sand dollars are so beautiful. I remember diving for them as a little girl in Bermuda. Sand dollars and sea cucumbers! It’s extremely rare to find an intact sand dollar washed up on the beach. We brought back several fragments from our recent visit to Anna Maria Island, but it’s a dream of mine to find a whole one. In the meantime, I am dreaming of this chaise, which looks decidedly like a piece of a sand dollar.


January 22, 2020

I am a collector of quotes, I have been for as long as I can remember. I used to scribble lines from poems, books and films in all my diaries. “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” was a favourite in my teen years. Gooey, I know. Then came the intellectuals. The big thinkers. Sophocles. Anaïs Nin. Rumi. I’d scribble their wisdoms on scraps of paper, with nowhere near the maturity required to grasp their meaning. These days, I’m more likely to quote Ellen than Sartre. And when I see a quote I like, I’ll still scribble it down. Atticus seems to be following me, or maybe I am following Atticus. And this Hemingway wisdom is a lovely reminder. “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”


January 21, 2020

Colleen Leach’s ‘lady faces’ are just charming. There’s a splash of Matisse, and a sprinkle of Klee in so many of them. I especially love Leach’s painted bowls; I see them filled with nests of Carbonara. They’d look equally fabulous lined up on a kitchen wall, watching over the cook as she tosses in the cheese.

screen time

January 20, 2020

I love going out for dinner with a friend. French fries. A Cabernet. Three, four hours of uninterrupted, juicy conversation. Equally, I love not going out for dinner. And not talking. Sometimes, movie dates, are the perfect date. Yesterday, my friend Maryam and I whizzed over to the cinema for an impromptu, late morning screening of the Susan Sontag documentary. We grabbed teas, (popcorn for me) and had five minutes to natter before the trailers kicked in. During the film, we giggled at all the same moments. A little dog yapping in the audience was one such moment. As we walked out into the crisp, cold daylight, richer, fuller and more educated for having seen the film, we threw some first impressions at one another. And then minutes later, parted ways. Sometimes, it’s nice not to talk. Sometimes, it’s nice to share an experience that takes us away from everyday life. A yoga class. A concert. A walk through a museum. An hour or two of one’s day. Where the focus isn’t on each other’s faces. But rather some other face, on a screen, on a canvas, in the sky.

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