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Pickle Me This

October 11, 2015

Always thankful…

IMG_20151010_132838But at this moment in particular, I’m thankful for good health, pumpkin soup, sunny days, music to dance to, tea in the pot, too many pies, hometowns and home towns, time, walks, pumpkin festivals where they shoot pumpkins out of cannons, the turkeys who give their lives and also the gourds, those precious moments when the children play together, for harvest, last precious weeks of the farmer’s market, my daughters’ teachers, Crowded House, going to bed early, hoodies, pancakes, groceries, holiday Mondays, for a Canada we recognize, for uppity women, vandals and pot-stirrers all of whom keep it interesting, for the literal pot-stirrers for the gravy, for my children’s incessant chatter, Tabatha Southey, for the people who write the books and the people who sell them, for autumn leaves (the un-ironed ones) and how the sun shines through them, for my mom and my dad and my sister, summer memories, that Taylor Swift songs are so easy to play on my guitar, for my Dyson, for all the kindness, for cheese and beer and wine and ice cream, for precious friendships, Friendsgiving, for Motown music, chestnuts, husbands, lingering baths, and every mortifying thing I’ve ever done that I can no longer remember.

Happy Thanksgiving!

September 22, 2015

The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Day the Crayons Came Home

True confession: I don’t love The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywelt and Oliver Jeffers, quite as much as I loved its predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit. The premise is the same but it’s just not as fresh. However my children are quite nuts for the book, and during the first few days after we bought it, Harriet insisted on taking it to bed every night. So when I heard about Small Print TO’s Crayon Creator’s Club event this weekend, I knew we had to be there.

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And so on Saturday morning, we headed down to The Lillian Smith Library (which is the most special twenty-year-old building in the universe) and my children posed with the enormous crayons adorning the entrance. We were able to buy a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon (can you believe we didn’t have it yet) and listened to the story, before the children were let loose to do some purple crayon-ing of their own. (We also learned that Harold actually grew up to be a graffiti artist, ala Bansky.)

After that, we reassembled for The Day the Crayons Came Home, which is about Duncan’s crayons that have been lost, abandoned or broken over the years—left behind on holidays, stuck between couch cushions, puked up by the dog. In the end [SPOILER ALERT] Duncan welcomes his colouring implements home by building them a crayon fort that meets all their special needs now that they’re in altered states. And then each of the children got to work constructing a crayon fort of her or his own.

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Next up: the door prize. Guess who was quite thrilled to win a crayon that is taller than she is? (And she doesn’t mind in the slightest that it doesn’t actually colour. If it were made of wax, it would have been even to carry home than it already was.)

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All in all, it was a most rewarding morning at one of our favourite places. We posed out by one of the gryphons for posterity.

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And speaking of Lillian H. Smith and crayons, I’m quite excited about the All the Libraries colouring book by Daniel Rotsztain, coming next month from Dundurn Press, featuring drawings of every single Toronto Public Library Branch for your colouring pleasure. You can learn more about the project and see some drawings here.

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September 3, 2015

Meet Mitzi Bytes

my officeOh, it has been so hard for me to keep this secret for more than two months now, that my novel, Mitzi Bytes, has found a home and will be published by Harpercollins Canada in Spring 2017. I have spent the summer working on revisions that have made a book I love even better, and I’m just so thrilled in general.

The news went out today: “Canadian rights to Kerry Clare’s debut novel MITZI BYTES, a grown-up Harriet the Spy for the digital age—a novel about the perils and pleasures of living a secret life online and the risk to friendships and family when that life is revealed—to Editorial Director Jennifer Lambert of HarperCollins Canada for early 2017 by Samantha Haywood at Transatlantic Agency.”

The timing is particularly meaningful to me. Ten years ago, I started the Creative Writing Masters program at the University of Toronto with the intention of writing (and publishing?) a novel. And while I did write a novel (and learn some things, and make some excellent friends that were worth the price of tuition), the novel was not a triumph. After getting some feelers from the universe, I determined that said novel was boring and plotless. So I decided to give up on it, which is the same as “moving on,” and it was the best decision that I ever made. Because the book really wasn’t good enough, and I’d rather publish no book than a crappy one. And while there was some frustration and sadness about this (and I felt a bit left behind by colleagues who went on to publish first and second books), there is plenty else in life (and in literature!) with which one can occupy oneself. So I did. I also wrote another novel and (guess what!) that one wasn’t good enough either. And I wasn’t sure fiction writing was ever going to be my scene.

And then last summer, this idea that had been rattling around in my brain (inspired by a point in previous abandoned novel even!) finally took hold. One evening at the end of last June, I was talking about the idea with my family over dinner and there was just something to it. (That something might well have been, wait for it, PLOT. Who knew?). And then I got out of washing-up duty and sat down to start writing. In hindsight, and in foresight even, it was a terrible time to start writing a book: Harriet was home for the summer, I had other stuff on the go. But when is ever not a terrible time to start writing a book?

Around the same time, I started jogging. “Just keep going. Just keep going,” was my mantra for both. And thankfully, jogging was the thing I eventually gave up on (moved on from?), after the day I burst into tears in Queen’s Park because I hated it so much. The story, on the other hand, kept going and growing. I met my goal of writing 1000 words a day. I hit a brick wall at the end of the summer, 70,000 words but I didn’t know how to tie it all up. I am not great at writing endings. So the book was put on hold throughout autumn as I was busy with teaching and other things, and then one day in December as I was walking down the street (of course!) it occurred to me how the story could end. And then it was done. It was done, and I loved it. This, THIS, is the novel I’ve been waiting for, the book that I was meant to write, and if you’d told me a decade ago that it would take so long, I would have been devastated. But from where I stand now, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

After expert feedback from awesome readers, I worked on my second draft throughout February and March—Sunday afternoons at Robarts Library as the campus outside turned into spring. And feedback from my editor, Jennifer Lambert, showed me the way toward draft three, which I am so ridiculously pleased with and got done because I had childcare one morning a week all summer long and made the most of it. (What a pleasure to be working on fiction for which one is contractually obliged to produce. That fiction writing is top priority—this was a new one for me.) And so here we are, and there will be lots of more work ahead, but I am so excited and pleased and feel very very lucky.

I can’t wait for you to read it!

July 19, 2015

Summer Days

IMG_20150719_174417Sunday night, we are sunburned, all of us (oops) and everything is gritty with sand. On the cusp of a new week, a summer going swimmingly, but much too fast. Last week Harriet began the first of two weeks of day-camp at the museum, just for the afternoons, and she’s having a great time. She comes home and tells us stories about Hatshepsut and how blacksmiths fashioned knights’ armour. We’re enjoying our mornings together, hanging out with friends and going to the library, but there has been no time to clean the house and it’s become a disaster. All the sand we brought home today isn’t helping. And our weeks are hung on a routine that includes the farmer’s market, soccer, hammock afternoons. Yesterday for the second Saturday in a row, we went to Christie Pits pool to cool off from the heat, and it was perfect, straight out of Swimming Swimming. Though it was still plenty hot when we went to bed, and got even hotter when we lost power at 1am, our trusty box fans silenced. Out the window the sky was so bright, and I decided there’d been some kind of disaster, or that this was going to be a blackout lasting days and in our attic bedroom it would only get hotter and hotter. Although lights in tall buildings on the horizon suggested otherwise, but my mind was taking me to crazy places. Only settling down when Harriet woke up at 3 concerned that she’d gone blind like Mary from Little House on the Prairie, because she couldn’t see anything. By this point, Iris had taken over my spot in bed so I went to sleep on the couch, awakened by Harriet and every electrical appliance in the house when the power came back on around 4. At approximately 4:46, the sunrise began, and I watched it from my living room window, and the night was declared an official disaster.

IMG_20150719_174815Though I roused myself for a trip to Centre Island today, a day with our friends that was so absolutely perfect. No line-ups at the ferry docks, happy children (who spent the day pretending two flat stones were smartphones via which they had fascinating conversations), splash pad fun, swimming at the beach, and lots of relaxing. Iris slept in the stroller en-route to Ward’s Island, and once we were there the thunderstorms threatened for days by the weather report finally arrived, but we were sheltered by a big old tree that mostly kept the rain off as we ate dinner and drank beer and began to feel exhaustion set in in the most terrific way. Followed by ice cream, of course, and the ferry at the dock’s so we caught it back to the mainland and that might be one of my favourite journeys in the world, how we’re always sated. How every island day always seems like the best one ever. But this one really really was.

July 7, 2015

No Rain

IMG_20150624_081645I ran into someone last week who remarked upon photos of my family on Facebook which give the mostly-correct impression that we are good at spending our days. Though it’s not always the whole story, and I let her know about the weekend previous, when it rained for two days, all our plans got flooded, and I cried because the soup I made tasted just like dirt. She asked me why I don’t take pictures of that, or blog about it, and that’s a good question, but the answer is mostly, why bother? It was bad enough living through it once, so why on earth would I want to re-experience it by writing it down?

IMG_20150629_162615Whereas the last few days, summer proper, have been glorious. No rain. We had a very good week last week, adjusting well to school’s out. I love not having to schlep anyone out the door in the morning, and the day continues on apace. Harriet watches movies through Iris’s nap while I get some work done, and I begin the rest of my work once the kids go to bed, though the problem with this is that they’re going to bed later and later. But alas. I am also in love with our teenage babysitter, whose alarm at Iris eating dirt the other day was totally adorable.

IMG_20150704_123110On Friday, we spent a morning at the park with friends, perfect weather, shaded by trees so we didn’t even have to apply sunscreen. The children played and got dirty while their mothers talked about books and writing, and life seemed very much in balance. On Saturday we had a busy day of Fringe Festival and then the book launch for Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony at Little Island comics, which was fantastic. And that night we hung out on our friends’ amazing rooftop patio celebrating the 4th of July in the company of excellent Americans (3 out of 4 of whom were under 6). We went home before we’d drank too much so Sunday wouldn’t be a disaster.

IMG_20150705_100242And it wasn’t! The #SummerofRavines continued with an exploration of the St Clair Ravine, which was amazing, up through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and along the Beltline Trail to Oriole Park, which has a fantastic playground so the children were delighted. My secret plan is to trick them into liking nature rambles, and so far so good. We were even home again for nap, which is my definition of a proper kind of day. I spent Iris’s nap in the hammock revelling in wifi, putting the finishing touches on 49thShelf’s 2015 Fall Fiction Preview, which you can read here.

IMG_20150629_195833And now I have decamped for a few days visiting my parents in Peterborough, which is the first time I’ve ever done such a thing solo, so dependent am I upon my husband (who needs to stay home and go to work). This is the longest time we’ve been apart since 2003, which is kind of ridiculous, but I like our life this way. But on the other hand, it’s nice to know how much I’m capable on my own and also to have the experience of missing each other. It’s novel. The good news is that nobody threw up in the car, and also that we have a car, which means when I needed an emergency bookstore visit tonight to pick up a copy of The Folded Clock: A Diary, by Heidi Julavits, I was able to do so with alacrity.

I’m now reading Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan, which feels summery to me because I read Goon Squad at the cottage a couple of years ago. It’s reminiscent of the later book, but a bit off-putting too, so I’ll be reading the Julavits alongside it. And yes, I get holiday book nostalgia a lot. I read Elizabeth McCracken’s amazing Thunderstruck last summer the day we came home from our cottage (I remember walking home from the subway reading the book once I’d dropped off our rental car) and now I’m yearning to read another of her books when we go away in a few weeks. I’ve got The Giant’s House and Niagara Falls All Over Again on order, one of which I’ll be reading along with rereads of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and something by Laurie Colwin because I’ve been thinking a lot about funny, smart novel by women writers—the kind of book I want to write. So I’ll be reading for pleasure and also for inspiration.

June 24, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me

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June 17, 2015

Nobody ever believes in love

Stuart-and-Kerry's-wedding-(86)Nobody ever believes in love. I certainly didn’t. Ten years ago right now, the day before my wedding, when my husband-to-be and his mum were running errands in their town, they ended up waiting for ages at the bank. I was at home waiting for them to come back, and when they didn’t, I started to feel sick to my stomach. It was terrible. I was convinced that halfway there they’d had a heart-to-heart, and Stuart had confessed he didn’t want to go through it all, and now they were driving around in circles trying to come up with the kindest way to let me down. I was convinced of this not because I lacked faith in Stuart or in our relationship, but because it just seemed too easy, too simple, too lucky, that our wedding, our marriage would transpire. Because there were no flies in the ointment (except that we were both of us unemployable, and neither descended from moneyed stock, sadly).

“Marry a good man,” answered Anne Enright in this weekend’s Globe and Mail Books to the question, “What the best advice you’ve ever received?” And I did. Ten years on, it only becomes more clear.

I still don’t believe it totally. Perhaps the problem is that I’ve spent my life reading fiction. It occurred to me as I contemplated writing this post that it would be very novel-like (i.e. the way that life goes) if three days from now by husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and was leaving me for somebody whose forehead wasn’t perma-wrinkled and rashy, maybe some whose abs were less rippled than mine (by which I mean rippling in the breeze, of course). Years ago, I read a line from an article about divorce—”‘Barring some catastrophe,’ Bonnie says, placing a hand on her husband’s khaki-clad knee. ‘We are going to have a successful lifelong marriage.'”—and it turned out I knew of Bonnie, though by the time I came across the article, she was already divorced. I don’t know if there was any catastrophe. But still. I am so fascinated by declarations of undying love and gratitude in the acknowledgements pages of backlist books by authors whom I know to be no longer attached. “To Pablo, my everything. It begins and ends with you.”

So I don’t know. But here is what I do know: ten years ago I married a good man, and I love him more and more all the time. And more than that, I like him. He is my choicest companion for any endeavour, from the Valentines we spent in the hospital ER while our three-year-old had an enema to dreamy vacations far across the sea. He is kind and patient and fun, smart and interesting. Everything good that I have ever made has been co-conspired by him. He is supportive, hilarious, imaginative, good, hard-working, generous, and adorable. I am absolutely nuts for him, and really, I could adjectivise him all day. And he loves me back. He doesn’t just say it, but he shows it. Simple, easy, lucky. Can you see why I’m not sure?

I worry about writing down these things in case I come across as more irritatingly smug than I usually do, if such a thing is possible. But in not writing it down, a different kind of narrative takes hold. The kind that presumes that it is not possible to be married to someone for ten years and to love them more and more all the time. That marriage is a sham, it doesn’t work, that everyone is cheating, or longing to. Which is so far from my experience, in which my marriage is the bedrock of my entire life. Solid ground, I think. The surest thing I know.

Or do I? I think so. But it’s a kind of faith, marriage, believing in somebody else, believing in oneself even. That’s all it is, but then it’s everything. It’s all we’ve got, but then there’s all we’ve got—with a focus on the muchness. Ten years ago, we had no idea. We were two weeks away from moving to Canada, making a start here, I was embarking on graduate school, Stuart applying for permanent residency. The year we got married and the year after that, we lived on groceries from No Frills, $50 a week, mostly chickpeas because we couldn’t afford meat, and things made from soup mixes because we didn’t know how to cook. But we learned. It was such a long time ago.

DSC_1017But things started to happen, the way they do when you start leaving your twenties behind. We figured out what we wanted to do and how to do it. We decided what our priorities were going be. It wasn’t all uphill—there were job losses, plenty of failure and disappointment, stupidity, illness, and mistakes. But all these things are better weathered together, and we’re better for them. Better for having kids too, our amazing daughters who are even harder to believe in than love is, because how can the world really be capable of such miracles as that? Life begetting life, first principles, but I don’t get it at all. All this extraordinary amazement at the most ordinary things, and when I look back on the last decade it overwhelms me. It makes me think there is no such thing as ordinary after all.

You never know what’s around the corner, though I think that’s a blessing far more than a curse. “To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next,” writes Rebecca Solnit in her essay, “Woolf’s Darkness,” which is also an epigraph of my novel. (The other epigraph is from Harriet the Spy.) And while I could never have forecasted the past ten years in my wildest dreams, I think I would have hoped for them, if I’d dared to. For our incredible fortune, by which I mean Stuart and me, and that we found each other at all in a world so big and swarming with other people.

May 19, 2015

Four Things That Saved Holiday Monday

1. We went to Kensington Market, and I finally found a copy of This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad at Good Egg.

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2. We went to Fika, where I had an iced tea latte and baked goods, and this notice was posted. Plus they have an entire wall decorated with repurposed paperbacks.

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3. We found a wallet full of cash on the sidewalk and were able to return it to its owner, who was most relieved and had just been about to cancel his credit cards.

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4. We went out for sushi, and a family with a 20 month old sat at the booth behind ours. The little girl and Iris spent the entire meal hugging and kissing each other, and by the time the sushi was done, we were all singing songs from Annie.

May 18, 2015

Night and Day

Night

We are going through a difficult period. I like framing it this way because it suggests an ending, as opposed to, We are going through a difficult eternity. “It’s just a phase,” we keep saying. “Things will get better,” but we’re beginning to sound less sure of this. It has been so long. Nearly two years since I’ve had unbroken night’s sleep. And since we came back from England, things have been awful. Iris moved downstairs into Harriet’s room to sleep, but her nighttime wake-ups have continued, plus it’s started taking her sometimes up to an hour to fall asleep, she requires us lying down beside her to do so, and then she gets up again at 11, at 1. She won’t settle unless she’s in bed with us, which would be okay (and I’m certainly not going to fight a screaming nearly-two-year-old in the middle of the night) except that then she flops and kicks and pinches my upper arms. It is unpleasant. And last night we had a babysitter booked so we could go out to a movie, but Iris refused to go to sleep. Or she would be asleep until we dared to rise and leave the room, and then her eyes would snap open and there we’d be again. Eventually, I gave the babysitter $20 and told her to go home, because we’d missed the movie. And it seems like the baby is holding us hostage, when I dare to frame the whole thing like a power struggle (which I shouldn’t do—it only makes unpleasant realities worse). We can’t go out together to anything that starts before 9pm, because no one else but Stuart and I has the patience to put Iris to bed, and now that she’s only staying asleep for 2hrs after that (if she goes to sleep at all), the world seems to have shrunk to the size of an acorn. I know that there are far worse problems to have than this one, but perspective can be hard to come by when one is having melodramatic thoughts about being subject to tyranny. Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about baby sleep books called The Trajectory of a Downward Spiral, but the trajectory of this plot is more like a head smashing into a wall. Repeatedly.

Day

IMG_20150516_124948But. We have had the most wonderful weekend. A weekend whose wonderfulness is currently under threat as I spend this holiday Monday morose and bereft at the end of Mad Men. The children watched Annie and ate goldfish crackers in Harriet’s room while Stuart and I watched the final episode this morning. It was so absolutely perfect. Overwhelmingly good. I feel about this show like I’ve been immersed in the narrative for six years, swimming around inside it and examining from all angles. I can’t believe it’s over, but then it isn’t really. We rewatched an episode from Season 1 on Saturday night, and it occurred to me that I’ll never really be done with it. But still, I’m sad there is no more to look forward to. So many of my feelings were invested in these characters. It all mattered a lot to me.

IMG_20150516_194237On Saturday, we celebrated summer things with a trip to the Wychwood Barns Farmers’ Market and ate delicious food, and delighted in the fact that our children are old enough to play unattended (in mud puddles, no less) while we sit on a park bench. We also delighted in that our children were so thrilled to take the bus to the market, but were also cool with walking home. So many of my plans for this summer are inspired by Dan Rubinstein’s book, Born to Walk, and I appreciate that Harriet is big enough to be venturing further afield on foot, to be discovering her pedestrian legs without (too much) complaining. But there are also wheels, and so after Iris’s nap, she went on a bike-ride. We’re going to shed the training wheels this summer, we’ve resolved, but this is just one more thing we’re not sure about how to teach her to do—along with shoelace tying. After that, we did our planting, mostly flowers because the squirrels thwart our efforts to grow anything more substantial. Some kale and basil, but otherwise impatiens, and suddenly our deck is beautiful again. The silver maple that shades our house and yard in magnificent bloom. There is a hammock set up underneath it.

IMG_20150517_103545Yesterday, we went on our first ravine walk of what is to be many, as we’ve declared 2015 as #SummeroftheRavines. Once again, this is a plan born of Born to Walk—to explore these wild corners of our city. We didn’t have much of a plan and climbed down into the Rosedale Valley via the path behind Castle Frank Subway Station. Unfortunately, Bayview Avenue cuts off our access to the Don Valley, which we weren’t expecting, so we had to climb back out of the ravine in order to get to where we really wanted to be, and by this point, it was nearly time to quit.

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IMG_20150517_123639But we had fun and the weather was beautiful, and once again, there are very little complaining. We’d compiled a Ravine Walk Bingo sheet, which gave our walk some incentive, as did the promise of lunch afterwards. We went to the House on Parliament and had the most delicious meal, our first patio of the season. And then back to the hammock. I’ve been reading H is for Hawk all weekend, which is not a great read for the emotionally fragile, I am realizing. But it’s really good, deep and layered, and totally weird. So intense. It is possible my whole family will be relieved when I’m finally completed it.

IMG_20150517_143321Which brings me to right now where I’ve just been delivered lunch. (“Um, if I’d known you were having lunch in bed, I might not have brought you breakfast there.”) And it’s up to me to save this day from my lugubriousness and histrionics. Iris has started being capable of having actual conversations (albeit stilted ones, usually about dogs), which is extraordinary, and clearly her brain is going wild these days. If I’m able to muster perspective, it would be that these development changes are responsible for our sleep woes. If I am able to focus less on the woe. In a few weeks she will be two. Harriet turns six next Tuesday. For our family, the next month and a bit is a season of happy birthdays and anniversaries and so so many reasons for cake. (Another? My sister is having a baby tomorrow.)

It all goes by so fast.

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January 3, 2015

Christmas Vacation

harrietOne of many reasons that members of our family are unlikely to ever take the world by storm is that our greatest talents really are for leisure—we’re experts at doing nothing, or just enough of something with requisite amounts of sofa-lying for good measure. We often visit cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries but rarely for more than an hour or two at a time, and never without a trip to the cafe AND the gift shop. Going out for lunch is our main occupation, and we always have dessert. We are really very good at enjoying ourselves, and so the last two weeks have been an absolute pleasure.

Two things: first, that I finished things up so that there was no work at all to be done for a week or so, and second, we turned off the internet. For a week, there was no checking of email or twitter, which opened up vast pockets of time in every day for all kinds of things—reading, playing, baking, carol-singing, and doing the Globe & Mail holiday crossword. On Tuesday we bought the newspaper because we were curious about what had gone on in the world, and it was odd to flip through the pages and discover news items we hadn’t heard about elsewhere.

windowWe spent the first couple of days of our holiday trying in vain to kick the cold that’s been embedded in our heads since the beginning of December. On the Sunday, we went down to the Bay on Queen Street to look at the Christmas windows, which were wonderful, and then went into the store and realized that department stores were the perfect way to reconcile our hatred of shopping malls with the joys of Christmas consumption (glittery lights, perfume smells, shopping bags with string handles, and 1 kilo tins of chocolate. Also, I now own tights without holes in the feet). Speeding home on the subway in time for Iris’s nap and for me to meet friends for an exquisite afternoon tea at Dessert Trends Bistro.

frankOn Monday, we went to the library (because holidaying doesn’t always have to happen on a lavish scale) and then had smoked meat lunch at Caplansky’s Deli. I also went out for dinner with my friends and drank far too much wine. On Tuesday, I don’t think we did anything, partly due to the wine. Throughout all of this, Stuart and I were watching movies and episodes of Midsomer Murders in the evening (because we are 85 years old) and Harriet watched How to Train Your Dragon Two during Iris’s nap times. On Christmas Eve, we went to the Art Gallery to see the Art Spiegelman exhibit and had a lovely brunch at the Frank Restaurant, which we save for the specialist of occasions. On the way home, we picked up our turkey, which we fastened into our stroller. That evening, we had chicken fajitas for Christmas Eve dinner for the 10th year in a row, and left a snack for Santa.

xmasmornChristmas was so good. Not only did we not have to leave the house, but we got to have my mom come and visit! The children got excellent presents and had fun playing with them throughout the holidays. I received great books, nice clothes, and other lovely things, including a La Cruset butter dish I’d been hankering after and new Pyrex. We all also received new CDs (because are 85 years old and like to do 20th century things) and so the holiday has been extra-filled with music—some of which was even made after 1987, which is very rare for us. My mom arrived and played with the children (which was not very difficult—she arrived bearing her present of a trunk full of dress-up clothes) while Stuart and I set about cooking the best Christmas dinner ever. The joys of Skype brought us the company of Nana and Granddad in England, and our adorable Alberta relations.

playOn Boxing Day, we went to the ROM, and partook in a yummy dinner of leftovers—Stuart makes the best turkey sandwiches on earth. Iris also slept until 7am for the first time in her whole life, which was mind-blowing, but also a bit terrible because when her sleep for the subsequent week was abysmal, I wanted to pitch her out the window. The next day, my dad and his partner arrived, and we all had an excellent time with them. And they played with the children while Stuart and I cooked up another very good meal—the greatest turkey pot pie of all time whose secret recipe was duck fat. The day after that,  we drove out to my aunt’s in the West end, stopping en-route to buy ice-skates for Harriet and I, which had the potential to be a boondoggle. And then we had a very fun dinner with the best kinds of relations on earth—cousins.

anniwMonday was the best day—Harriet and I headed downtown to meet our friend Erin and watch the new Annie film, which we’d been looking to after avidly viewing its trailers for the past month AND after watching the old Annie every day last summer. The reviews for the new Annie were terrible and all wrong—the movie was wonderful. (That one of the critics referred to the 1982 movie as “an abomination” perhaps suggests that some people had no business reviewing either movie, both of which were masterpieces, in my humble opinion.) We all had such a good time watching it, exuberantly applauding as the credits rolled. And then we met Stuart and Iris and took the subway to Erin’s new house in Bloor West Village, which is very conveniently located near the new Book City (which was bustling and full of wonderful books.)

On Tuesday, I had to take a certain someone to a dermatologists to have a wart examined, which wasn’t so memorable, except that we got to stop at HMV on the way and buy the Annie soundtrack, a move supported by all members of our household. Iris can now sing “Tomorrow”, which is really something to behold. We also love Sia’s version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and the bizarre and catchy “Moonquake Lake”, with its memorable hook—”she’s a fish and he’s a boy.” That night our friends Jennie, Deep and Lilia came for dinner and the best time was had. They were kind enough not to complain about our music selection.

sk8Rumours of boondoggles were averted on New Years Eve when Harriet and I went skating at Christie Pits—Harriet had the best time and loved it, which was good but also troubling as it means that I have to keep going skating. We went again yesterday and both of us were vastly improved. A third jaunt is scheduled for tomorrow. New Years Eve was our traditional chocolate fondue and ringing in the UK New Year before the children went to bed. And then Stuart and I proceeded to play board games (and ping pong, until Harriet came out of her room and asked us to stop because the pinging and ponging was too noisy) until we were done, and then we went to bed and brought in the new year lit by bed-side lamps, turning away from our respective novels for a moment as the clock ticked over to 2015. Which is the best way to ring in the new that I could ever have imagined.

africaNew Years Day was boring—what a wondrous indulgence is that in this day and age? Although we did have our first meal of the year at Fanny Chadwick’s for brunch, which was delicious, and Iris has been transformed into someone who is fairly respectable about restaurant behaviour from all her practice this holiday. And Harriet and I got to play Scrabble for Juniors, which is almost as excellent as spending New Year’s reading in bed. Yesterday we went to the ROM to see the Wildlife Photography exhibit. And yes, more skating. Today we’re doing nothing, which might prove to be a bad idea but feels pretty good from where I sit (on the couch, wearing jogging pants, watching snow falling outside). We’ve kept things a little special with scones with jam and Devonshire cream, because I had a jar of the latter in the fridge and we had to use it up—not the worst task to be charged with.

teaAnd I’m writing it all down now mostly so that I can remember it, the holiday we were so desperate for and which so delivered. I’m writing it all down because all these ordinary things (libraries and lunches) are so easy to forget, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to forget either that we’re so blessed with friends and family and each other. If how you spend your days are indeed how you spend your life, then these past two weeks are an indication that we’re doing something right.  And it’s something to hold on to as the lights of December fade—let the next few months be something more than just a countdown to spring.

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