What’s that, you say? A three-day weekend? And we’re not on the road? OMG! I smell an in-house writing retreat coming on!
To that end, nibbles: watermelon, pineapple, peaches, plums, naval oranges, plus the usual crisper full of apples.
Plus: a freshly made batch of refried beans, peach and tomato salad, fixings for the godlike tuna melts with comte cheese that Kelly made this afternoon, fixings for zeytoon parvardeh, burrito wraps, two pounds of coffee (that’s the unit it comes in!), puddings, applesauce, olives, ice cream sandwiches, fresh ice cubes, red onion, green onion, onion onion, tomatoes, lettuce, and garlic. I would mention the caneles but they didn’t actually survive into Saturday.
The mountain of toilet paper is purely coincidental. It was on sale, okay?
Lawrence M. Schoen has invited me over to his blog today to talk about one of my most memorable meals. It took some time to settle on a specific repast. As many of you know, Kelly was a wine columnist for Chatelaine for four years, and during that period amazing restaurants were all but lining up to pour well-crafted booze and buttery entrees down our throats. Her throat, mostly, but sometimes a plus one got invited. I have had some exceedingly fine plus one meals.
Here’s a selfie of the two of us the day after the meal in question, though, as a teaser. Notice how pleased we look with… well, with everything? And who’s that dude photobombing us?
Lawrence, by the way, is the author of the upcoming Tor novel Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, which will be out on December 29th. This may be an exceedingly fine time to have a novel out, unless you hope to see it on everyone’s Best of 2015 lists, so I’m hoping your curiosity will be piqued by the cover and you’ll check him out when it’s released. Some of you probably got bookstore-themed gift certies from Santa, didn’t you?
The current read-aloud project here at Chez Dua is Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives, by Daisy Hay. Kelly was making tobacco panna cotta yesterday (the recipe is in Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes) and was therefore stirring milk. For hours. I read while she cooked, and this let us plow through to the point where Percy Shelley drowned.
Reading this book has been a long process of (re)discovery of the various specific ways in which a woman’s life could suck in the 1800s. This seems to apply universally to everyone associated not only with Shelley but with Lord Byron and Leigh Hunt, who feature prominently in the book. As far as I can tell, Keats was the only one of the bunch who didn’t eventually drive a woman to throw herself off a bridge. But, to be fair, he died young.
Hay hasn’t really delved into Mary’s character all that much so far. She’s talked about her reactions to a lot of things, notably all the moving around she did with Shelley, her troubled relationship with her half-sister Claire, and all of the children she lost. It’s a disappointing lack. But I’m hoping now that Mary’s a widow, the analysis of her will get deeper.
If not, we’ll be in the market for an excellent Mary Shelley bio. Heck, we may be anyway. Recs, anyone?
Something I did in October when I was in Vancouver was to tell everyone I know that I’d be at Caffe Calabria in the mornings, writing if I had the place to myself, and socializing if anyone cared to show. I met Barb there. Badger came, as did Emily from our old condo. I figured I’d see some of the cafe regulars, but it turned out there are a shocking number of them: I saw both Toms, for example, the alternate-energy physicist and the religious studies professor. An aspiring YA author, Jenny, was there both mornings. I caught Adita and Harry, the snowbirds whose daughter is a poet, on their last day in Canada. Oscar was there (what I know about Oscar is TMI for the Internet), and Yespat the engineer. I even exchanged friendly hellos with a trio of people I think of (not that this reflects well on me, but their voices carry and all they do is bitch bitch bitch some more) as the Friday Snark Club.
The sheer number of people I had a “Hey, how are ya?” relationship with and the delight that came with seeing them made me realize how many connections I’d built up just by going to work at dawn in the same place, 6-7 days a week, 2 hours a day. It drove home that I hadn’t even begun to do that particular kind of in-community root-growing here.
This lack of effort was no accident–in fact, I had it scheduled for November. I didn’t put much effort into a cafe hunt in May when we first moved to our new building. I knew there’d be guests coming and then travel and more guests and more travel, and the publicity push for Child of a Hidden Sea and then the film festival and more travel atop that. It was a thoroughly awesome summer and autumn, but I wasn’t keeping to the sort of schedule that makes it possible for me to settle into a routine.
Of course it was impossible I’d score another place quite as perfect as Calabria. It was 300 meters from my door, it opened at six in the morning, and Frank Murdocco’s eclectic curation of 20th century music is uniquely delightful, irreplaceable.
But! Now that October and all those trips are in the rearview, I’ve been going to a recently opened cafe called Portland Variety. The coffee is excellent, the atmosphere is right, the staff is lovely, tables are plentiful and the music leans to jazz (which is easier to tune out than pop, satellite radio’s litest hits or the go-to choice at Jimmy’s Cafe, the Doors.) I’m comfortable working here for hours on end, and there are starting to be other morning regulars. It’s not obscenely close to home, but the route back to the condo leads past the grocery, and that’s a significant plus.
It’s promising, in other words. I have high hopes that at last I’ve found this particular piece of my workaday puzzle.
Kitten updates have been few and far between lately, I know, because Kelly and I were scampering around to a variety of movies at TiFF, with my always delightful and thoroughly brilliant cousins, Alicia and Joe. What’s up with the kids is, basically, that they are cute. Supercute, even!
We experimented a little with leaving the bedroom open to them at night while we were en vacance, but they are still too rambunctious. No big surprise there. CinCin’s headed back to the vet in about ten days for spayage and shots. I’ve also rearranged the top of the cat tree known as Beetlejuice Station. This might, eventually, occasion a new video.
This past staycation has been the best vacation, for me, in quite a long stretch of time. It offered the perfect mix of tourism, intellectual stimulation, good company, downtime, and amazing foodie experiences. Among other things, we tried a huge number of new restaurants: Khao San Road, The Harbord Room, The Senator, Fusaro’s Kitchen, and Byblos. Each of these is as deserving of a review as all the incredible films we saw.
It was illuminating, and has made me consider what K and I require in a break where our entertainment isn’t curated by a savvy, film-loving family member. Next time we have a stretch of time off at home, this shall be the model, I think: buy lots of tickets to lots of things, make a list of restaurants, and lure out various lovely people to partake with us.