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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soft Tacos in the Suburbs

I'm a city girl.  I wasn't always this way.  I grew up in a suburb but I've always felt more comfortable among a walkable landscape of old buildings, skyscrapers and lights.  I breathe a little easier amongst many different faces and cultures and sounds and sights.  For me, the city is a place where I can strike a balance between my own place of quiet at home and the energy and life waiting outside.

That being said, last night I happily ventured out to Stoney Creek to visit with my dear friend Kristin and her daughter Madelyn.  This was a new adventure for Kristin and I.  We usually meet for a weekend brunch that starts early and ends somewhere between lunch and supper.  Put us in a room together and we will talk for hours. Meeting for dinner on a weeknight was a speed date for us.  When we worked together, Kristin and I used to frequent Quesada for burritos at least once a week.  (I had a bit of a pinto bean burrito fascination back then.) She had planned a lovely Mexican feast for our dinner at her beautiful home.  We had the most delicious soft tacos made even better with the soundtrack of her gorgeous daughter in the background.

Maddy is hilarious!  This happy little girl is a testament to her kind, creative, smart and amazing parents.  Here she is showing me how to relax.  She's got it down pat.  Put your feet up and let your arms go.

She's seriously lovely! Earlier that night, I had been tickling her and playing peekaboo.  While Kristin and I were chatting she started tickling my feet and proceeded to work her way up my back.

Maddy checks in to see if I am okay from the tickling...

Then she goes for the neck!

Are you done Maddy?

It was a great night with the Roy family and I can't wait to see them again  - no matter the area code!  Maybe Maddy will come tickle me in the city someday!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lilith Fair 2010

Last time I hung out with Makeda, we dealt with rain and protests and cars on fire.  We also had a lovely spa day.  This time around Makeda had twisted her ankle and we were going to Lilith Fair  in a ridiculous downpour of rain at the Molson Amphitheatre.  We braced ourselves with an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and then made our way over to Ontario Place and the Molson Amphitheatre.  Somehow I wasn't worried, I knew I was in for a good time with this hilarious lady!

In between rain showers.

We sloshed our way to our seats in our electric blue ponchos and laughed at the fact that we were sitting in the first row of seats that was not covered by the massive awning of the amphitheatre.  But the elements really didn't matter much as Chantal Kreviazuk belted out beautiful music from behind her piano.  Makeda and I were just getting warmed up!  There was a quick break, some street meat, french fries, a battle with a ketchup dispenser and then Lights came on and played a great set.  We met up with Deanna and Raquel who assisted Makeda in ringing out her flowing black skirt of rainwater.

Makeda rings the water out of her skirt and Deanna tries to catch it.  I'm still not sure what she was going trying to catch it for.

The rain started to slow down a bit just in time for Makeda and I to enjoy a classy dessert.

The perfect outdoor concert dessert.

One very classy lady.

All of a sudden, the lights went down and the crowd went cRaZy for MARY J. BLIGE!!!  I was freaking out when she sang U2's One and then I pretty much lost my mind when I heard the opening guitar rift to Stairway to Heaven proceeded by her singing the ENTIRE song as if it was hers to begin with.  It felt like we were at a completely different show. 

Raquel and Deanna before Mary J. Blige.

The *best* picture I was able to take of Mary J. Blige.

Raquel and Deanna after Mary J. Blige.
Makeda and I sans electric blue ponchos and blissed out with scratchy throats after singing along with Mary J. Blige.   

Under an almost full moon, Sarah Mclachlan came out to close the show.  Makeda and I were on our feet for all but one song and then sang our hearts out for Ice Cream.  Someone captured that exact moment on youtube here.  If you listen carefully you can hear Makeda and I.

Makeda in her happy place singing Ice Cream.

After the show - dry, frizzy and filled up on good music, Ring Pops and friendship.

I love my Toronto in the summer!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, the immigrants and me!

Lucky me got a pair of free tickets to last night's Bon Jovi concert from motabhai Karim.  I called up my bestie Shafik to ask him if he wanted to join me.  He said yes and so we had a date!  Minaz and her sister Faiza joined us too.  I quickly realized I was going to be in the minority at a rock concert amongst this trio that I lovingly refer to as the immigrants.

Shafik, me, Minaz and Faiza.

Minaz, Faiza and Shafik all grew up in Nairobi, Kenya before moving to Canada.  In the past when they've hung out, they'll talk about people from "back home" and the conversation continues with me flipping my neck back and forth through their hurried chatter.  I tease Minaz all the time about being an immigrant when we hang out as a family.  She'll know about all kinds of fruits and meals that my parents liked to eat in Africa.  Mom, Dad and Minaz will talk animatedly about Africa.  I attempt to keep up while I avoid trying weird looking fruits that my Mom has found at the local African/Indian grocery.  I'm pretty sure no one was going to try to take fresh produce into the SkyDome so I knew I was in for a great night! 

 Our lovely benefactor with one of his many rock and roll stank faces!
On the way to the concert, we did a very Canadian thing and indulged in a dinner of the finest street meat! YUM!

Shafik shows no mercy!

We entered the Dome and arrived at our great seats!

 We sat in the front row of this section.

I really didn't have any expectations for opening act Kid Rock.  Truthfully, I was looking forward to him singing "Picture" (preferably live and on key) and that would have been enough for me. 

Kid Rock was ELECTRIC!  He has so much energy and charm and even though I couldn't make out a lot of what he was singing at times, he had me pumped!  His band was fantastic! We were all impressed!  He sang (very well), played a great version of "Everyday People" on piano along with drums, guitar AND deejayed!  We were off to a great start!

Then he slowed things down and sang "Picture" with back up singer Shannon Curfman whose voice filled up the Dome.  She was incredible! A couple songs later, a shirtless Kid Rock said good night to a crowd who were on their feet.

While waiting for Bon Jovi to come out, the immigrants started with their chit chat catching up about the other immigrants they knew.  Minaz and I talked with a group of Korean students who had received tickets as a thank you for volunteering at the Toronto Green Community. (If you want to learn more about TGC, Minaz does a great job of showcasing them here.)

Minaz and the Koreans.

Back to the concert...the lights went down, everyone was screaming, flashes were going off everywhere and we feasted our eyes on this...

The boys from Jersey did not disappoint especially the delicious Jon.  One of my favorite moments was dancing next to Minaz and hugging Shafik during "I'll Be There For You."

Who needs a dog?

I'll leave you with some more pictures from the night and will say that even though Richie Sambora chewed the same piece of gum throughout the night and whilst singing, he was great as the lead on "Lay Your Hands On Me" and redeemed himself (a very tiny bit) in my eyes.  Jon was amazing and adorable and you'd never know he was 48 years young with a torn calf muscle by the way he danced and sang and smiled that gorgeous smile.  Ending the night with "Living on a Prayer" was bliss!  Thank you for a great night Karim!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heart on a cloud...

For our birthdays of late, Rishma and I have been giving each other the gift of time and seeing a play or musical together.  We started out with Dirty Dancing in 2008. The next year, we saw Oprah's The Colour Purple and tonight we took in Nora and Delia Ephron's Love, Loss and What I Wore at Toronto's Panasonic Theatre.  The performance starred honourable Canadian Andrea Martin, Mary Walsh (whose voice I could listen to all day), Louise Pitre, Sharron Matthews and Paula Brancati from Being Erica. 

What I've learned about spending time with Rishma is that the night is never about the activity you have planned.  It often has to do with the events and experiences that surround it.

The night began with Rishma and I on opposite sides of an intersection.  We engaged in an air hug while yelling back and forth to each other at what was the longest red light in the history of two women who hadn't seen each other in months.

Next up was an express dinner at Oja where I divulged what I think is an addiction to group discount websites like Groupon, DealFind and Living Social.  Rishma's thinks we need to discuss it further over a Groupon dinner...We split the J14 combo with cucumber, avocado and yam tempura maki.  It was perfect for two ladies in a hurry.  YUM!

Dessert was a throwback to our childhood at Bulk Mine.  Rishma and I met as kids and both sported long braided pigtails.  Rishma's were so long that she sometimes sat on them.  I used to laugh quietly to myself whenever I saw that.  If that happened today, we'd burst into giggles and high five.  Feast your eyes on our loot and the store window that lured us in.

We arrived at the theatre and braced ourselves for the trek up to the balcony only to be told that we had been upgraded to the tenth row orchestra!  Score! 

After dropping off a quick donation of purses to the Dress Your Best program, we headed to our seats just a few minutes before the lights went down.  The show was average with moments of high hilarity and humour.  Rishma and I both agreed that there were a lot of generational jokes that we couldn't identify with.  For two women who have spent a lot of time in New York City we were lost amongst the endless amount of references to the Big Apple.  It was worth it for me to see Andrea Martin and Mary Walsh up close. 

After the show, we still had so much to catch up on and ended up walking up and down the same two city blocks for about half an hour before deciding to take our chatter to the car.  Rishma had parked up on the clouds level in the neighbourhood Green P.
90 minutes later, in a fit of weeknight adult responsibility, we said a tentative good bye.

Good night dear friend.  Can't wait to see you again!

Myself and Rishma after an aquafit class way back in the day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter IntlSecret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

July's book club pick is Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. It was Sheba's choice and as hostess she had us gather on what felt like a lush sunken patio at Bairrada.  Seven of us gathered around a picnic bench on a hot Friday night to talk books and enjoy a Portuguese meal.

Gowda captures melancholy perfectly. At times, reading this novel is like riding waves of sadness. The story begins in a small rural village in India. Kavita has just given birth to a baby girl amidst a culture where boys are revered and girls are thought to be a drain on the family resources. The new baby is quickly taken away and "disposed" of. So begins our education into the inequality between the sexes in Kavita's culture and tradition.

When she becomes pregnant again, Kavita's husband takes her to a clinic where the gender of the baby can be determined.

"The morning of the procedure, Kavita is anxious, her stomach unsettled. She holds a protective hand over her swelling abdomen as they approach the clinic. Outside the door is a placard - SPEND 200 RUPEES NOW AND SAVE 20,000 RUPEES LATER - a transparent reference to avoiding the wedding dowry associated with a daughter."

Kavita births another daughter whom she is able to save by taking her on foot into Mumbai and leaving her at an orphanage. Kavita gets pregnant again and she and her husband welcome a son.

The other mother in this story is Somer. She's an American physican who isn't able to carry a pregnancy to term. Married to an Indian, they decide to adopt a girl from an orphanage in her husband's home town of Mumbai. As you may have guessed, they end up adopting Kavita's second daughter.

This is a story about motherhood and all the joys, fears, accolades and disappointments that being a mother means for both Kavita and Somer. Two women in two very different countries living very different lives. It is also about defining family and finding one's self.

My only critique of this book is that Somer's journey and the experiences of her family are largely absent and perhaps devalued. For me and from my experience, her journey was the most foreign, least traditional and most complicated. I wanted to know more about Somer.

I recommend this book for those of you who enjoy contemporary Indian novels, value family and don't mind going along for the ride.

I also recommend the Bairrada patio anytime.  It's the perfect place to catch up with friends.  Here, Marta and Judy are good sports as Sheba tries to caputure the height of the trees that dwarf the patio and provide some relief from the sun.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, July 19, 2010

Snail Mail Tale - Fold and Seal Stationery!

I love Fold and Seal Stationery and as soon as it comes in my mailbox, it seems to be on the way out...

Lucky for me, my Canadian penpal Zoe got my name in the My Stationery Is Not Stationary swap on swap-bot. As you can see, she makes gorgeous handmade envelopes.

And inside her envelope was some beautiful stationery including some Fold and Seal, some cute grammatically incorrect Japanese stationery (a fave of mine) and some notecards as well. THANKS ZOE!

A lovely envelope from Felicity featuring some summer thirst quenching lemonade.  Lemonade in the summer sunshine is the best!

Inside was a great note and a friendship bracelet.  I love that it can be fastened with a button.  The ladies on the note remind me of the Sex and the City gals had they been painted back in the flapper girl days. Gracias!

I just want to take my flip flops off and walk through the grass on this handmade envelope from one of my Fill'er up Canada! swap partners. 

Love the lined notebook inside!  Perfect for lists and various to-dos!

Another notebook and pen from another Fill'er up Canada! partner.

Becky decorated this envelope with gorgeous stickers (that I couldn't capture well on my camera) for the Totally Random Mail swap.

Pure randomness inside including some Fold and Seal stationery, great quotation stickers, ribbons and notecards.

A private swap postcard from a fellow Postcrossing member in Switzerland.  Oh to breathe in the air atop a lovely Swiss mountain...

Love from Cape Town in the form of a postcard from my brother Karim.

The Opera House in Sydney from Megan's travels there.

A Fold and Seal letter to the wonderful Felicity. 

Another Fold and Seal for Passion.  Love the WHAMs, THOKs and BIFFs all over the front!

A letter for my Maji in Calgary. Sigh.  Melanie shared some of her handmade envies with me.  She fastened them from a book of graffiti art.  This envelope was perfect for Maji.

Hope you are all off to a great start this Monday morning!