A Food Memoir and Some Music

My regular readers may have noticed my lack of baking blogs lately. That’s because I had my cholesterol tested last June and it was borderline. Borderline is worse than bad, as borderline means you should watch it, whereas bad means you absolutely must, but either way you feel guilty when you don’t.

But there’s nothing to say that you can’t read about food. I absolutely devoured this month’s Literary Salon selection – Stanley Tucci’s bestseller, Taste: My Life Through Food. (goodreads link) This is a book for both foodies and non-foodies alike.

I must admit, I didn’t even know who Stanley Tucci was, other than that guy who ate his way through Italy last spring on those CNN TV specials – Searching For Italy, where he would visit a different city each week and explore their food culture, of which I only caught the episodes on Florence and Milan. (It’s been renewed for season two next year) He was sort of a replacement for the late Anthony Bourdain, but they must have known he had the book coming out. (His wife is a literary agent in London.) So when I saw the reviews were unanimously positive, I put it on reserve. As well as being an author, he has starred in 70 movies, although the only ones I can recall are Julie and Julia (where he played Paul Child) and The Devil Wears Prada, and also The Hunger Games. He’s the kind of nondescript actor you can easily overlook, but his book is one of those interesting reads you can’t put down.

Growing up Italian, food was always important to him, especially pasta. There are a few recipes scattered throughout the chapters, but maybe you have to be a pasta-lover to fully appreciate them. It may be blasphemous, but to me all pasta tastes the same. Yes, I know, the different textures help pick up the various sauces and fillings, but to me it’s all just pasta. But I do have a mild allergy to garlic, so I might not be the best judge.

I had many Italian friends growing up as I attended a Catholic high school. Their food was different than the meat-potato-veg fare we ate at home. Their desserts were different too – I remember in particular a cake so liquor-soaked you could get drunk on it. While Stanley Tucci came from Italian roots, he grew up in the suburbs of New York. I had to laugh when he wrote about his class-mates wanting to trade their peanut butter or baloney sandwiches for whatever tasty leftovers his mother had put in his lunchbox, scoring some extra Twinkies in the process. (My favorite was always those chocolate Hostess cupcakes with the cream filling in the centre, which we did not get very often.)

As Stanley Tucci has just turned sixty, the first few chapters are about growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. When he was thirteen his father took the family to Florence for a sabbatical year, (in the TV episode he took his parents, now in their eighties back to revisit the city), so the first time he ever ate in a restaurant was in Rome. They did not eat out very often in Florence, as a high school art teacher’s salary did not extend to dining in restaurants, but his mother cooked wonderful meals at home.

It’s hard to imagine not eating out in restaurants, but if you grew up in that era, most people didn’t, other than MacDonalds or a diner or burger joint. I was 19 before I ate Chinese food, let alone experience any other culture. My mother’s nod to pasta was spaghetti with Campbell’s tomato soup as the sauce. Ragu was a big improvement. By high school my Italian had stretched to pizza.

There’s a chapter about the food and catering on movie sets (I haven’t quite forgiven him for eating puffin in Iceland, even if there are 8 million of them), and a chapter on cooking during the pandemic while at home with his wife and children – he has two young kids and four over 18. He lost his first wife to breast cancer in 2009. He met his second wife at her sister’s (Emily Blunt) wedding (they bonded over their shared love of food) at “a venue that could be George Clooney’s villa” – there’s some name dropping, but in a fun jesting way. “A man who resembles Colin Firth” was very helpful in taking him to ER when he was nauseated after his chemo treatments. And Ryan Reynolds, what a kind soul to lend him his New York apartment while he was undergoing radiation treatment.

On the tv episodes I often wondered how he stayed so slim? He says he has always had a fast metabolism, but the last chapter of the book deals with his 2017 bout with tongue cancer. For a person so devoted to food, to have such a diagnosis must have been devastating, especially having been through cancer with his first wife, and now having a young family with a two year old and a baby on the way. After surgery, chemo and radiation, he endured 6 months of tube feeding, and then two years of not being able to taste food, and a heightened sensitivity to hot and cold. But he came through it, being all the more appreciative of surviving, and being able to taste once more.

This is an entertaining read, as well as a revealing personal memoir. The descriptions are witty and funny and it’s just lovely writing. One small complaint, which spoiled it for me a bit, was the number of swear words. It seems to be a fad these days, but to me it’s just not literary, and if that is the only adjective you can come up with to describe a dish or restaurant, then you must be channeling Anthony Bourdain. So for that I subtract one star….and maybe another half-star for the lack of any reference to gelato.

And now for the music part – I saw Billy Joel sing this in concert when I was a poor student in the 70’s – back when Italian food was a plate of homemade lasagna and a bottle of Mateus.

“A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead
We’ll get a table near the street
In our old familiar place
You and I -face to face

A bottle of red, a bottle of white
It all depends upon your appetite
I’ll meet you any time you want
In our Italian Restaurant”

Fifty Years Ago Today

“It was fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play….” 

No – if my memory serves correct, the lyrics are, it was twenty years ago today.

You know you’re getting older when the Beatles are considered senior’s music and many younger people don’t even know who they are.  One youngster upon hearing an early Paul McCartney track remarked that he thought the singer would go far. If you haven’t seen the cute British movie, Yesterday, it’s based on the same premise – a world where no one knows the Beatles music.  (Aside – British actors must get annoyed when every lead role goes to the lovely Lily James.)  

I recently turned old enough that the government is now sending me money – along with an information package that I’m now eligible for free drugs and pneumococcal and shingles vaccines and reminders to get routine tests done so I don’t become a drain on the heath care system someday.  I’m right smack in the middle of the baby boomers, and the problem with my generation is that there are so many of us.

I came across this list in a magazine geared to boomers the other day, and yes, we are still a marketing demographic.

How many do you remember?

Suddenly I’m fifteen again in the kitchen of our old farmhouse waiting for the bus, with the radio tuned to the local FM station. It’s 7:30 and I’m wearing a mini-skirt and trying to grab a few bites of breakfast with the smell of perked coffee in the air. I’m sure my mother sat down and enjoyed a cup when we were all out the door and peace and quiet reigned once more. Maybe she changed the station to some easy-listening music.

The bus stopped frequently as practically every farm had kids and my brother playing lookout at the window could see the flashing lights down the road, thus giving me a few extra minutes to gather my books and fringed suede purse, (all the rage then.) The bus picked up students for six different high schools in town so it was crowded. (Did I mention there were so many of us?) As we were the last ones on we often had to sit three to a seat, and someone from another school would reluctantly move over to make room, but the advantage to being scrunched in like sardines near the front, was close proximity to the bus-driver’s radio and more top ten hits. I got in at least an hour of music a day that way.   (A few years later when I was in my senior year, the peak had thinned out and there were empty seats. Now there are only three high schools left.)   

Even though we lived in the country, we weren’t country music fans, unless you counted cross over artists like Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle, so the only one I recognize from the country list is Charley Pride – Kiss an Angel Good Morning, but I know every one of the top ten billboard hits. 

Of the movie list, I only remember seeing Billy Jack (with my cousin) and Fiddler on the Roof (my mother’s choice), both rather forgettable, other than perhaps one memorable song each.  We didn’t have the money or the wheels to go to the show very often.  I think Love Story was out that year too, a more popular film for teens, but not all movies were good, then and now.

We might have had better music but would I want to be that age again – no!  Too much homework, and not enough money.

Many of my fellow boomers are retiring.   My dentist recently retired and when his millennial-aged children took over the practice, the first thing to go was the oldies-but-goodies radio station. During my last checkup I heard Spirit in the Sky for the first time in decades, (possibly not the best soundtrack for a root canal.) Now it’s some variation of that horrible rap music.  I turned the radio on the other day and heard this snippet of a lyric, “I held your hair back when you were throwing up.”  Now, there’s a romantic visual.  Contrast that to “Well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean…”    Not that all those hits on the list were great though – Knock Three Times on the Ceiling was pure cheese – the same thing could be easily handled today by a text message.  

My financial adviser recently retired – I’ve been with him since I was 32 and took an “Investing in the 80’s” evening course he taught at the local community college.  We had a meet and greet to introduce me to his much younger replacement, and I swear we both had tears in our eyes reminiscing about old times and 12% interest rates and that $150 dot.com stock I once sold for $10.  I only saw him once a year at RRSP time, but he was someone you could count on for wise advice, well except for that one stock whose name escapes me, although it caused much angst at the time. Now I have to start all over again with someone else. The same with my doctor, my accountant, my hairdresser.  I’m already on Lawyer Number Three. The previous two died young, and as the replacement is the same age, I’m worried. You see all that expertise and work ethic walk out the door, and it can be unnerving having to adjust to someone new, whatever their age.   

That’s the other thing about being in your sixties.  People YOUR OWN AGE start to die on you – cousins, work colleagues, the spouses of friends. You start to read the obituaries online.  I lost a work colleague last week, a kind soul who always used to call me SISTER, and I felt incredibly sad that I hadn’t gone to visit her, hadn’t even known she was that sick. 

I remember the head nurse of chronic care once saying that the key to a successful old age, was being able to adjust to change and loss.  No wonder they say, “old age isn’t for sissies” but really what is the alternative? Another approach is accepting the limitations that come with age, not necessarily giving up but pursuing more realistic and meaningful goals. I won’t be backpacking in Europe anytime soon, but I might still become a rich and famous novelist and rent a villa in Tuscany and invite all of my blogging friends…..

It also helps to have a passion in life, a sound mind and good health. It’s hard to enjoy yourself at any age if you are in constant pain or suffering from any of the many indignities of growing older – bad knees, hips, cataracts, etc….many of them fixable, but reminders all the same.

Now that I’m officially “young-old” my mother must be “old-old” although she has never really seemed her age. She has certainly been an inspiration when it comes to aging (she built a new house at 72, took up painting at 87 and has had several solo exhibits) but somehow I doubt if I’ll see her age. I have more of my dad’s genes, hence the need to start taking better care of myself. (You might have noticed there have been no baking blogs lately…..maybe next week)

If there’s one thing that scared me when reading Keep Sharp – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s new book about building a better brain, it’s that our habits in middle age (good or bad) help determine how we will live our old age. Number one was exercise. Some people were motivated to make positive changes during the pandemic, others waited it out like hibernating-couch-potato-sloths addicted to multiple streaming services. I recently signed up for Netflix – the last Canadian holdout – as I figure it’s going to be another long winter ahead.

If anything I think the pandemic has aged us all to some extent. We stay home more, get more sleep, take afternoon naps, watch more TV, have tea and toast or Meals on Wheels/Door Dash delivered when we’re sick of cooking and fill our days with errands and appointments to minimize exposure……plus scan the flyers for bargains as food costs soar! I’m sure I’ll be taking up bird-watching any day now – seriously, I have three sets of binoculars and this is on my Bucket list for next year. If old age is for the birds, I want to see them!

Apparently albums are back in style again for music connoisseurs, so I’m thinking I might pull some of those old records out of the basement and crank up the stereo (Pioneer with vintage 70’s turntable – make me an offer) and listen to some Carly Simon if “it’s not too late.” Let the Music Play!  

PS. A neighbor of mine lived to be a vibrant 105, but she was always young at heart…

#The Colors of Fall – Wordless Wednesday

Let your photos(s) tell a story.

Not all fall colors are found on the trees.
Some drift down on the soft autumn breeze
While Anne delighted in the beauty of the season
Jane’s flare for satire was fun for a reason
Some folks like apples – red, juicy and round
While others admire the gourds on the ground
And some just prefer to paddle around
Admiring the foliage with all of it’s hues
While others prefer the more mellower views
Some are just happy it’s red plaid weather
While others plan to escape altogether.
Enjoy the last days of autumn in all of it’s cheer
For that cold nasty white stuff will quickly be here!

Ducks Unlimited

It’s certainly been lovely weather for ducks lately.  I’ve never seen a year with so much rain, but ducks seem to be in short supply.  I’ve been searching for ducks for my mother to paint, but they’re also such fun creatures to watch, with their waddles and dives, and their graceful swimming.  

On a warm September day, we visited a waterfront park, where we found this lone duck swimming in the blue water of the bay…

While his brethren were all down at the end of the parking lot enjoying the pop-up pool from the last torrential rainstorm. 

Maybe the eats were better?

There were warning signs not to feed the ducks, especially bread which is the equivalent to duck junk food, but we met an old man who came to the park every day to do just that. I suppose if you’re 95 you’re allowed to break the rules. He buys five dollars worth of french fries, and potatoes are vegetables so they might qualify as vegetarian fare, but my research shows they’re not recommended either. 

After a short swim, they congregated on the grass to dry off and take a nap.

I like the mallards with the green heads the best, but I wonder if that one with the blue stripe isn’t a bit of a rebel, like you see with people who have a single stripe of purple in their hair.

The black and gray ones are striking too.

While we were chatting with the old man, the ducks suddenly all rose up together, as if on some secret signal, and flew over the bay.  Too bad I didn’t have my camera ready as I was standing in the middle of a flurry of duck wings and it would have been a great shot. I wondered who, what, and why they had made for the water.  

As a tribute to the popularity of ducks there are more duck idioms than you can count….as easy as duck soup, a lame duck, like water off a ducks back, to take to something like a duck to water, to be a sitting duck, to be a lucky duck, to have all your ducks in a row ….another thing I have not been lucky enough to photograph.  

And who can forget that scene in the Chinese restaurant from The Christmas Story, where the waiter chops the head off the duck because it was smiling.  Duck a la orange may be popular and people may rave about it’s crispness, but no, just no.  I’ve had it once, at a dinner party, only to be polite, but also because there was nothing else to eat, and found it very greasy.  Besides, how can you eat Donald Duck?

Ducks Unlimited is an organization committed to the preservation of wetlands.  It’s been around forever and there’s a Canadian chapter, and I always thought it was a noble cause, but after reading on their website that the majority of members are hunters, I may have to rethink that.  It does seem somewhat hypocritical, maybe just as bad as eating duck at a dinner party?

I did however enter mom in their art contest a couple of times.  It’s not that the prize was great or anything, the winning entry was put on a postage stamp or something, but I though it would be good exposure.  They weren’t interested in folk-art paintings however, as the winners were always so technically perfect they could have been photographs. 

When we visited the small pond at the children’s animal farm, a few years ago, it was overrun with ducks and geese, hence this painting…

Duck’s Unlimited

but all of a sudden most of them disappeared – relocated somewhere else for population control.

Last year the pond water was so thick with green algae scum that it looked like grass, and I could only find these two.

This year when we visited, on a late October day, they were irrigating the water.

These may be the same pair, but at least they have cleaner water.   

With the reflection, it looks a bit like a Monet painting.

I’m not sure how they decide which ones are penned up?

Last stop, was a small inland lake, but as you can see no ducks in sight…..

…..although there were plenty of Canadian geese. There’s never any shortage of them.

This lake was the inspiration for an older oil painting of my mother’s, one of my fall favorites.    

And lastly……

Can you believe these duck sweatshirts were all the rage here in the eighties? There was an entire store devoted to them, in a whole range of colors, for men, women and children. I had an aqua green one which I think I wore once. Not sure if that is a duck or a loon on the logo, but it’s close enough, although loons are a whole other post – the call of the loon being a much more haunting sound than quack quack!

The Howling

It happens the same time every year, once the signs of fall start to arrive – the air is crisper, the days grow shorter, the nights cooler, and the leaves start to turn. After being dormant all summer, it lies in wait for those few ghostly weeks leading up to Halloween to commence the howling.  It’s like the smell of wood-smoke in the air signals that it’s time for all spirits to come out and play.  

I live in an old house, and old houses tend to be haunted, so I’m used to it by now.  The creaks and sighs of an old house are part of their charm and character, but I admit the last few years have been trying.  I’ve lost my patience with the beast.

The noise starts out low…a mere groan…followed by a continuous howling moan……which crescendos into a whistling sound, somewhat reminiscent of an old tea kettle then at the end it’s shrieking like a banshee…..then silence….complete silence….well not always, there may be a small hiss or two after the grand finale, as if it’s exhausted all it’s efforts.  Just to let me know it’s there, signing off.  

I can’t even tell where it’s coming from, as it seems to move from room to room, following me around like some long lost shadow. I can sense it’s eerie presence just over my shoulder but when I turn, there’s nothing there. Maybe it’s slunk back into those solid plaster walls. Sometimes I even wonder if it’s coming from outside as there have been sightings of coyotes in the neighborhood.

Photo by Joshua Slate on Pexels.com

It’s intermittent – so you’re always on edge, and like all things that go bump in the night, it’s worse when you’re lying in bed, imagining all sorts of things flitting about in the dark.  

It’s exhausting dealing with such a creature.  I can’t get any sleep.  I want it gone!

So I finally called in one of those companies specializing in the exorcism of such matters, a Ghostbuster-type firm if you will.  (I can read the skepticism in your eyes from here, but I was that desperate.)  Fortunately, I had recorded it for them on my cell phone, as evidence, as best I could in the dark, because as you know ghosts seldom appear in broad daylight.

They came – with their flashlights and meters and paranormal paraphernalia – and examined every nook and cranny for the origin of the noise, but after several hours they left baffled, after googling (googling mind you, after I paid them all that money!) leaving me with some crazy theory about the “harmonics” of old houses and how they settle over time.  They told me I just have to put up with it, and I admit once Halloween is over, the sound does tend to dissipate somewhat.  Maybe it hibernates for the winter, like a big fat bear, which might explain where all the leftover Halloween candy disappears to…

They did leave me an option, but’s an expensive one. I can either move or replace….

The Beast

Happy Halloween!

PS. HaHaHa….I can’t believe they were foolish enough to fall for that stupid “harmonics” theory.  I planted that on the Internet just for fun.  I used to hang around outside…

but after she stopped doing Halloween I was forced indoors. And now here I am, living in the furnace until next year – my wispy appendages tucked up to fit inside the boiler and when the burner blower kicks on I do what I do best – howl!!!!!!!!!! It’s not a bad place to spend the winter – it’s warm and cozy – if you don’t mind hot water heat.  Personally I’d rather have the type with duct work, as think of the fun I could have then! A spook in every room, instead of having to float up through the radiators. I think I’ll have another chocolate bar….

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Some of you may remember this jingle from childhood, especially if you’re a baseball fan:

“Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd,

Buy me some peanuts and CrackerJacks. I don’t care if I never get back,

Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s a shame

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out, at the old ball game.”

You may even remember Crackerjacks – that sickeningly sweet caramel popcorn treat with the prize in the bottom of the box, and yes they still make it, although the toy is now a digital code to an online app.

The baseball playoffs have started and the remaining teams are battling it out to be in the World Series. My team has already been eliminated, but not before I watched 28 consecutive nail-biting games in the month of September. The Toronto Blue Jays hung in there but finally lost out to the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees by a one game lead for the Wild Card spot.

Watching baseball can be addicting, especially when you start to structure your day around whether it’s an afternoon or evening game, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fickle fan. I only tune in when it gets towards the end of the season, and only if the Jays have a shot at going further, and only if I like the team members, so that’s not every year as they’re constantly trading players. They had a good bunch of guys this year, some of them real characters, and you could tell they were having fun out there – but isn’t it always fun when your team is winning.

We only have one major league baseball team here in Canada, so there’s not a lot of choice when it comes to which team to root for. It not like hockey, our national sport, where there are seven teams competing. But who wants to hang out in a cold arena when you can have summer sunshine, fresh air and the smell of twenty dollar popcorn. The Skydome roof can be closed in twenty minutes if it looks like rain.

Unlike the Toronto Maple Leafs (who haven’t won a Stanley Cup in so long that no one remembers when), the Blue Jays have won the World Series – twice in fact – in 1992 and 1993. I still remember some of the players from those years, Pat Borders, Roberto Alomar and who can forget that game winning home run by Joe Carter. I was in Toronto for a conference that year and missed the parade by one day, but some of my work colleagues went and it was a wild and crazy time.

I’ve never been to a live Blue Jays game, although when I was there five years ago, my hotel was full of fans in their blue jerseys, and I debated skipping my course and going to the game instead (I was close to retiring anyway) but like a good little employee I did not, and they ended up losing anyway. The seats in the upper stratosphere are cheap, but you need a sherpa to guide you, and advance tickets require too much planning and mega-moolah for the hotel room, parking, and overpriced food and beverages.

Me in my “sponsored” baseball t-shirt and cringe-worthy Twiggy/sixties pixie hair cut…

People are often surprised that I watch baseball, considering I’m so nonathletic, but then I played girls little league when I was a kid – for three long years – where I was the worst player ever. My parents made me play, as my cousin next-door played, but she was almost as bad. I struck out every single time. I can still hear the “easy out” chants in my ear when I came up to bat. My “official” position was left field, where I was mostly bored. Luckily few balls ever came that way for I was just as bad at throwing. Usually I spent the time daydreaming, and if I could have, I would have brought a book.

I’ve hated sports ever since, especially anything requiring a ball and hand-eye coordination, like tennis, badminton, volleyball etc and I still have horrors of high school gym glass. I seemed to lack the stamina required for exercise, although to be fair to my younger self, I didn’t know at the time that I had a heart murmur.

When I say my parents forced me to play, I mean I never spoke up and said I didn’t want to – I guess when you’re a kid you don’t feel like you don’t have a choice – it’s like piano or swimming lessons, they just sign you up. I was relieved when I was allowed to quit. Maybe they realized that striking out all the time was not good for a child’s self-esteem, but I don’t think parents really thought about things like that back in the sixties. I quit because my cousin quit. I can understand why soccer is a much more popular sport these days, as it requires less skill, although many girls play hockey now too. I think of my poor mother carting us around every night, but then I suppose she thought we might be bored without some kind of structured activity. My father hardly ever saw a game as we had a dairy farm, although he did catch a few weekend games the year my brother lost the provincial championship,

We had a big backyard on our farm and I was much happier playing the occasional game with my cousins next door, until someone broke a basement window, and we had to relocate the diamond to the little field in between us – if there weren’t any cows grazing in it. The backyard pickup games didn’t resume until decades later when there were grandchildren….funny how much more indulgent grandparents are.

Anyway, the end result of my short baseball career was a life-long aversion to sports. The only benefit was some knowledge of the rules of baseball, whereas I’m clueless when it comes to hockey or football and all those penalties.

A few observations on the sport…

My what a vast discrepancy in salaries there is. Yes, George Springer might be worth $25 million a year, (150 million over 6 years) but those two 22 year old rookies, Valdimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, (worth $600,00), were just as valuable for a whole lot less, not to mention doing just as well in the home run standings. That’s the thing about baseball – anyone can step up to the plate.

Photo by Mandie Inman on Pexels.com

Speaking of the players, I can handle the wild haircuts (Lourdes Gurriel looks like a pineapple), and those ugly lumberjack beards, and the longish hair, but the spitting – just no. If there’s no crying in baseball there shouldn’t be any spitting either.

Every game counts – the Jays missed the wild card spot by one measly game. Yes, I know a team needs time to gel and they didn’t a home stadium for most of the year – due to the pandemic they played in Dunedin and Buffalo until mid-summer – and home town enthusiasm means a lot, but a little more effort earlier on would have made all the difference.

Even baseball has it’s politics. While it’s generally minus the all out brawling of hockey, the #Cardgate episode illustrates just how overheated things can get. The opposing team picked up the play card the Blue Jays catcher had accidentally dropped at home plate and kept it. When the bat boy was sent over to the dugout to retrieve it, their player refused to give it up. The next night, said player got hit in the back while up at bat, by some rookie Jays pitcher, and a “heated discussion” ensued with the pitcher being ejected from the game. The ensuing debate went on for days, demonstrating poor sportsmanship all around.

Speaking of controversy, some of those umpire calls were so controversial, I wonder how long it will be until an electronic strike zone makes the calls at home plate. Apparently, the technology already exists.

The season goes on way too long – April to early November. The Jays played 162 games and won 91, but when the World Series is wrapping up to the threat of snow flurries, that’s crazy. I know they have to sell a lot of tickets to pay for the big salaries, but it must be exhausting for the players, especially with all the traveling and a game almost every day. Baseball is a young person’s game. Anyone over 30 is an oldster.

To be a major league baseball player you must have a unique sounding name, something that will roll off the sports announcers tongue with a melodious flare. The game announcers themselves all seem to have the same alternatively soothing/melodramatic/mesmerizing tone of voice. Sometimes I just like to listen to the ballgame on the radio, in the background, as a kind of nostalgic salute to childhood when my dad would have the ballgame on on Sunday afternoons. But then I grew up listening to Ernie Harwell voice the Detroit Tigers for 42 years, starting in 1960, back when Canada didn’t even field a team.

My mother told me a story about growing up in the Depression. The kids in her neighborhood all played baseball in the empty lots around town, girls and boys together. As her family was too poor to own a radio, her older brother used to sit outside the neighbor’s window, and listen to the ballgame on their wireless. The neighbor’s wife would graciously turn the volume way up so he could hear the announcer through the open window. I can picture that little boy sitting on the grass in the summer heat dreaming of baseball glory. (In 1939 when she was 13 they were finally able to afford their own radio.) Sadly, my uncle threw all his baseball cards away in the 1960’s, including the Babe Ruth ones, thinking they were worthless.

It will be a long six months until the boys of summer return.

PS. For anyone who remembers “candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize” here’s a link to an old tv commerical for CrackerJack.

PS. Thanks to Ally for pointing out this Carly Simon version of Take Me Out to The Ballgame. The song was written in 1908 and popular in vaudeville shows a century ago.

Alice Through the Plexiglass – Adventures in Pandemic Shopping

One of the things I most looked forward to after the pandemic restrictions were lifted was a dose of retail therapy, and not for stocking up on toilet paper or essentials, but the good old-fashioned, fun kind. No matter what they may say about the variety and convenience of online shopping there’s just something about in-person shopping which appeals to my creative soul, even if it’s just browsing through the stores to see what jumps out and says “Buy me! Buy me!”

Many people like the idea of having something nice waiting for them when they get home from work, or they just like the idea of getting packages.  But to me, the frustration of having to send things back, far outweighs the convenience.  I only order online, if I’m fairly sure I’m going to keep it, just need a different color or size than what’s in the store, or can’t find it anywhere else.

I prefer to see exactly what I’m getting, feel the material, assess the quality.  I have bad luck with ordering clothes online, as I’m a hard to fit size.  It reminds me of my grandmother ordering from the Sears and Eaton’s catalogs when she was older and a shut-in.  It would look so appealing in the photos but inevitably it would all go back, and she would complain of having all this money to spend and no way to spend it.  What would she think of the zillions of online choices today?

But how often do you keep things instead of dealing with the hassle of returning them? My only clothing purchase this spring consisted of four pairs of capri pants. (I’m always in search of the perfect capri pants.)  I ordered two sizes in two colors and couldn’t decide which fit better, so I kept them all.  They were already on sale, and then the store emailed me a voucher for $30 off if I spent $75 on regularly priced merchandise before the end of July, but the clothes in the store were so ugly I couldn’t find anything to buy.  And don’t they always reel you in with those special offers?

I’ve done my fair share of shopping in my younger fashionista days, starting from my teen years trying to re-create the looks in Seventeen magazine on a student budget for our monthly dress-up days (the rest of the time, we wore ugly navy and white uniforms), to my university days living in downtown Toronto where I was too poor, and too busy, to enjoy the fashion world at my feet, to my working years when I would while away many a Saturday afternoon at the mall trying to assemble and coordinate a professional wardrobe, right down to the accessories.  In the eighties, to get ahead, you had to look put together.    

I’ve always been a shopper.   Growing up in the country with no wheels, my sister and I would accompany my mother on her weekly trips into town and hit the clothing stores while she did the grocery run.  We did a lot of looking and not much buying, still it was fun to check out the latest trends and styles. 

When I was student in Toronto, the campus was near downtown, and we would occasionally go down to the Eaton Centre mall, but you would only buy if you needed something specific, like if there was a formal coming up, or you needed a new winter coat or boots.  Mostly we went for the frozen yogurt banana splits at the food court, which was a new trend we thought healthy, or to try out a new restaurant like the Magic Pan or the Great Canadian Soup company.  I lived on Bloor St. in third year so it was closer for us to go shopping at the corner of Bloor and Yonge, but again it was a lot of browsing. 

It seems strange today, when young people have so much, but back then you didn’t expect your parents to supplement your wardrobe.  It was enough they paid your tuition and residence.  The $1000 I made each summer (yes, $2/hr) had to last for living expenses and food for the whole year.  I find it funny now to look back and think that that my entire wardrobe fit into a small dorm closet, (we lived in jeans), but maybe I’ve come full circle now that my wardrobe has shrunk considerably and I’ve reverted to what is basically a capsule wardrobe.    

I’ve blogged about my love of shopping and clothes before in Thanks It’s Vintage, and also my  frustration with finding stylish clothes for older women in Twenty Pairs of Black Pants.  Sadly, to say my wardrobe has deteriorated even further with the pandemic.  I’ve lived in yoga pants, track-pants and an assortment of t-shirts and tops, which have become so shabby with continued washing, that I’m embarrassed to be seen in them.   Not to mention, the need for new underwear, socks, pajamas and running shoes.

So it was with some excitement that I hit the stores when they finally reopened in July – yes, we were in lockdown for almost six months.  And even before that, although I may have made a few quick trips to the mall last summer and before Christmas, they were quick in and out, don’t touch anything and certainly don’t try anything on affairs. 

So imagine my disappointment to be confronted with this…..

Are these left over from last year or this year, and who looks good in gold anyway, unless you’re a contender at the Olympics?

Or this…

The trendy colors for fall are supposedly to be plum jam, mallard blue and red henna, but is there a reason these are on clearance?

Or how about no color – this is from a popular store that I usually walk right by as the quality is so poor.

Neutral is almost as bad as the endless sea of black and white we see every year. Not that there’s anything wrong with black pants.  There were years when my entire wardrobe centered about black pants and an assortment of cute tops, but where were all the cute tops?

I felt like poor Alice who had fallen down the rabbit hole into a strange new world where nothing made sense.  Except I wasn’t poor – I had money to spend after two years of pent-up consumer demand, and an economy I wished to support!

Or how about this sweater, from an expensive lady’s store?  What kind of animal is this?

Is it the dormouse?

I know I haven’t shopped in awhile but is this what passes for fashion these days?

I remember the poncho look the first time around in the seventies and have no desire to re-live it. Besides wool makes me itchy just looking at it.

My grandmother knit me an afghan like that once.

The long drapey look may be popular, but you have to be tall to wear it.

TWEEDledum and TWEEDledee

This muted plaid one isn’t too bad, minus the fringe, but wouldn’t your arms get cold?

Plaid pants remind me of high school, a bad idea then and now.

I think I’ll stick with the classic black ones.

Now I admit, it’s been years since I’ve looked at a fashion magazine.  I used to take my copies of Glamour and Mademoiselle to the beach on summer weekends to keep up to date with the latest styles, necessary as we were always a year behind our American friends. The August and September issues were much anticipated as they were thick with pages of the new fall looks. Those magazines used to have style and class, but I eventually stopped buying them when they started to veer into Cosmo territory.  It was fashion I wanted, not relationship advice.  But it’s apparent I have my work cut out for me if I want to get up-to-date fashion wise. Is there such a thing as a decent fashion magazine anymore?  

I’m still mourning the death of the department store.  (Sears R.I.P.) It was one-stop shopping for everything, like socks, underwear, pj’s, shoes etc.  After a short tour of what’s left of our only mall, I managed to find one pair of summer PJ’s in a lingerie store geared to young people.  It had a stupid saying on the t-shirt (Stay Shady with a palm tree) but it was blue and a comfortable cotton and not too ugly, but I struck out with the socks.  Even the sporting stores only had those short things that fit inside your shoes.  How hard can it be to find a pair of simple white socks to wear with running shoes? 

Discouraged, I went in search of a new bathmat, in a light blue, but even that seemed elusive.  

Bath mats and towels only come in gray and neutral this year.
Isn’t the world gray enough?

Maybe that’s the problem – I’m a boomer who craves color and quality and the stores are geared toward millennials, who want neutrals and cheap prices and prefer to own minimal stuff……soon we’ll have stores selling nothing.  Sounds like something right out of Wonderland.   

The day wasn’t a total waste though. I did eventually find some white socks, although heavy winter ones, not the lightweight type I had been searching for. I also returned to Old Navy and bought some more face masks – as I’m sure we’re not out of the rabbit hole yet.  

After several hours of wearing a mask on a horribly hot and humid day, I’d had enough of the stores and was happy to go home and put my feet up (in my new McGregor socks), and brew a cup of tea. While browsing for books online, I found a nice pair of classic navy-with-white-piping winter PJ’s on the Chapters/Indigo website. Great reviews and great price as they had sent me a 25% off birthday coupon – click. When they arrived Canada Post, the quality and fit were good. Who would think of looking for pajamas in a bookstore? They even came in a cute drawstring bag, as it was gift-ware and the stores are starting to stock (and decorate) for Christmas, even though it still seems like summer here. There should be a law against that before Halloween.

Speaking of Halloween, I found quite a few Chesire Cat face masks available online. “We are All Mad Here” seems to be the second most popular choice, and isn’t that the truth.

PS. This post would have been much better if I had re-read my Lewis Carroll, but Alice was never a favorite of mine – as a rather serious child I found the books nonsensical and full of jabberwocky. From a quick check on Wikipedia, once Alice steps through the Looking Glass, just like a mirror, everything is reversed – running makes things stationary, walking away brings you closer, ugly clothes become pretty etc. You probably need magic mushrooms to believe that one…

Summer Garden Recap

The lawn is littered with leaves from the windstorm last week. The tips of the leaves are starting to change. The sun is still warm but the air feels cooler and the days are getting shorter. Summer is over. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the past two months, but thought I would post some garden pictures from the last few months as a last look at the season.

We’ve had so much rain this summer that the vinca outgrew the pots….a bargain that I will definitely be buying again next year.

And the color went nicely with the pink Knock-Out roses.

The dipladenia did well too. Like it’s cousin the mandevilla, it’s a tropical plant which thrived in this year’s sauna-like weather.

I bought a blue lightweight collapsible patio hose, (in the background below), but it rained so often, that I only used it a couple of times.
This was the first year I bought begonias – only because I couldn’t find pink geraniums.

Sometimes they looked okay, but sometimes they just had too much rain or not enough sun or something.

I think I prefer geraniums.

The clematis did so well, that for the first time it actually grew over the arch of the arbor.

It was lush with greenery, but not with flowers.

Sometimes seed packages can be misleading….these look blue and pink to me?

But I got deep purple morning glories and fuchsia zinnias…..

These morning glories turned out pink, but I could have sworn that package was blue too?

My neighbor’s lotus flower was only out for three hours….they have short life-spans….but it was perfection while it bloomed.

A sunny break from all that pink…

More mellow yellow….

The new lavender plants did well, the new rose bushes not so much….

As for the vegetable garden, I’ve never seen so much lettuce, all from four boxes of seedlings and two packages of seeds. I didn’t have to buy lettuce all summer and even had enough to share with the neighbors. Same with the tomatoes the whole month of August….from two seedlings, one beefsteak and one Roma, although the beefsteak were on the small side, probably from lack of sun.

I was pleased with my Brussel Sprout plant too….a new experiment for me.
Fellow blogger, Dorothy, of Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen, (see recipe for sweet and sour brussel sprouts), advised me to prune the leaves off so it resembled a pineapple, as that helps the plant to concentrate it’s growth towards the sprouts. The few I have been able to harvest were tasty little things, but they were difficult to remove from the stem, so I think they have to mature a bit more. I hated brussel sprouts when I was a kid – the smell of these min-cabbages reminded me of my grandmother’s house – but they are full of vitamins and antioxidants, so I’ve learned to appreciate them.
While the rain made everything flourish, and it was nice not to have to drag the hose around watering, the heat and humidity and mosquitoes made sitting outside unpleasant, both day and night. So much for enjoying the garden or the beauty of nature.

We’ve had very few of the sunny blue-sky, low-humidity days that I remember summer being about. I don’t mind the hot temperatures, but the humidity just saps my energy, and the gloomy skies don’t help either. I took to walking in the cool of the evening, but even then some nights the air was so thick I couldn’t walk at all.

Even now, the end of September, the weather continues warmer than usual. We haven’t had any those brisk, frost-warning fall days yet. Usually this time of year, I’m more than ready for the change of seasons, but not this year. It’s like I’m still waiting for the real summer to happen. It was the summer that wasn’t summer. Will this be the new norm?

I don’t mean to be a whiner, in view of the many areas of the world facing drought and wildfires, but it makes me wonder if we’re ruining the earth, or maybe have already ruined it?

There’s still time for one last bonfire…..under a full moon.

And one last look at the lake…

And also time to plan for next year….

PS. I have no idea why there are two different sizes of font in this post, and some of it showed up as captions? It was all in regular font in the draft version – maybe I’ve been away too long…..

Blog Anniversary

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

WordPress recently congratulated me on my five year blog anniversary, but it’s really been four years since I started blogging. The first year I didn’t post at all – I needed a rest from the stress of simply creating a website! It was a big step for me, a person who had not written anything in decades. I now have 206 posts – I’ve posted regularly once a week (Wed/Thurs) for four years, although I took a month break in the fall of 2019, which I don’t think anyone noticed.

It may seem strange to celebrate your blogging anniversary by taking a break, but I haven’t posted in a month. I keep meaning to. I have drafts started but the weather has been too hot/humid/rainy to get the pictures to go with them. How hard can it be to get sailboat or duck photos? Both have been scarce sightings this summer. I had to resort to my vault for this one.

Great weather for ducks, but where are they all?

Of course that may just be an excuse for not feeling motivated to write. Canadians like to complain about the weather – it’s either too hot or too cold, but I don’t ever remember a summer this horrible weather-wise. We’ve had weeks and weeks of never-ending heat and humidity with humidex readings so high it makes you not want to go out at all. Maybe the ducks just feel too listless and lethargic to go swimming.

Plus, I’ve had company for the month of August (lots of eating, barbecuing but no baking, talking and catching up – I’m rusty at the talking part), so my writing routine has been interrupted, and I can’t seem to find the time to get back at it. I tend to be a bit OCD about meeting my weekly deadline, but it’s amazing how quickly you can get out of the writing habit.

I’ve enjoyed blogging too much to quit totally, but I’m not going to attempt to meet a weekly schedule anymore – I’m aiming for maybe twice a month. But I’ll be still be here lurking and reading of course! In the meantime, those macrons in the heading photo look good. No turning on the oven in the dog days of summer!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

PS. I hope you are able soak up the last days of summer. For musical inspiration, head over to Ruth Soaper’s blog for a slideshow of morning on her farm, Morning Has Broken. I’ve always loved that Cat Stevens song.

Photo by Travis Rupert on Pexels.com