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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Feed a Grandchild

The phone rang. It was my Nova Scotia daughter saying, "Do you have time to listen to Livvy play "Oh Susanna"? Well, of course I do. Burton (11) and Livvy (8) started studying piano last October and have been chewing up the scenery ever since. So Livvy played (perfectly, I must say), "Oh Susannah," and then "B-I-N-G-O" and then two other pieces. I was so proud of her. As I was finding ever more complimentary words for her playing, she interrupted me: "Nana," she said, "when we come to Toronto this summer can we go to the Mandarin again?"


"Of course," said the Nana.


"Oh good," says Livvy, and it's fairly clear that the Mandarin is at least as large a draw for the Toronto trip as are Nana and Papadino. For those who have not had the pleasure of the Mandarin experience, it is a Chinese restaurant chain in Toronto and other southern Ontario cities. It offers a huge buffet that includes, for the benefit of timid eaters, a station with roast beef, hamburgers, hot dogs, mashed potatoes, and other items not usually recognized as typical Chinese dishes.


One summer we took Burton and Livvy, visiting from Nova Scotia, twice to the Mandarin. Livvy is a picky eater. On our first visit she stood with me just aside from the main buffet line, gave a glance down the length of their endless steam table, and wailed, "There's nothing here that I like!"


I was patient (I was a good Nana that day) and said there were no rules except that she had to choose at least SOME non-sweet food before she could have dessert. And whatever she chose she had to eat (Nana and Papadino don't believe in wasting food). I left her to her own selections and she returned to our table with a plate of white rice, mashed potatoes, French fries, and a roll.


Then she had seconds on all those "foods." Her brother, Burton, took on the role of taster for her and came up with a couple of items he thought she might like to try, just for variety. A sprig of broccoli. One baby carrot.


Finally it was dessert time. The Mandarin sets out half a dozen ice cream flavours, and patrons serve themselves as much as they want. Livvy was in heaven. She ate three large bowls of ice cream, one after another. No wonder the Mandarin is her favourite Toronto hangout!



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oh, those fifties!

I saw a photograph of my past recently. It was a picture from the National Geographic, not a shot from my family albums. And wherever they took that picture, I'm glad I'm not there. But seeing it tumbled me back to the past: the early-50s cars, the drugstore's trumpeting sign of "Borden's Ice Cream" and a fountain with not just Coca-Cola but fountain Cokes, the ones made with Coke syrup (also good for nausea and vomiting, you remember) and seltzer that bubbles out of the faucet into the little curved glass with ice and the syrup. You can have a cherry coke or a lemon coke or a vanilla coke if you want, for no extra charge. And one scoop of Borden's vanilla to go with it, in a metal inverted-cone dish, like a wide, short-stemmed martini glass, the dish lined with a heavy white paper cone. For a dime you get the ice cream and the Coke and the opportunity to sit in the back of the drugstore where the tables are and the teenagers are and you can pretend you're part of the group because for a few minutes, for half an hour, you are.


You get your dime by stopping by the family business on the way to the drugstore. You open the unattended register, take out a dime, and write your name and the amount ("Ann--$0.10") on the paper roll that advances when the till is opened. Nowadays, dimes are harder to get.


They've remodeled the old Opera House in my home town, I'm told. It's the third floor of the row of street-front stores on the east side of the courthouse square. When I was young it was not an opera house. It was, if anything, a storage space for the street-level stores beneath it. Whose idea was it (and better yet, whose money was it?) that turned it back into an opera house? And now tell me just who will be using it? The days of divas traveling to outlying areas are long gone. Will this become a tourist go-to place? A Vacation Destination? A historical wonder not to be missed? Well, stranger things have happened.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 14, 2011

More Thrill-a-Minute Adventures

The story so far: Otello and I peeled vegetables. I walked. I fell on the ice and damaged my sternum. I went to my Continuum class. I walked from there to the subway. This brings us up to ten-thirty on Monday morning.


The next excitement for that day was my toning group. Eight of us meet once a month to tone and chant and work with the voice in any way we can. After warming up and toning OHM (the room resonated with thrilling overtones), we move to a new exercise. Our leader asks us to think of a song—any song at all—and imagine it as the sound track for the movie of our life. The song that popped into my head was Zip-pe-dee-doo-dah. And it wasn't until later that I remembered that it was, of all things, a Disney song. I am not a fan of Disney, in any of its corporate appearances. But there you are: me with a cheerful, upbeat Disney song as the soundtrack for the movie of my life.


So then someone chose a song about a train and New Orleans, which everyone but me seemed to know. I'd never heard it before in my life, while the others could sing the whole song by heart. That directed my thoughts to popular music and my [lack of a] relationship with it. It's long been clear that I know nothing about popular music after about 1956. In fact, it was only since I married my husband, with his amazing collection of popular music recordings (from the origins of recording through 1980) that I've learned to identify the occasional Beatles tune.


So what music DO I know aside from classical music and the popular songs of my junior high and high school years? (Can you sing Mairsie Doats? I can.) Then I remembered. Because of my children I know Jane Oliver (our house fairly reeked of Jane Oliver torch songs when someone's high school romance ended badly) and the Nylons. Also, in 1969 or 1970 I had a Joni Mitchell album that I listened to a lot.


So there. I do know a few pop names, though I doubt that anyone else knows Jane Oliver, and the Nylons are over the hill by now, having drifted off into an a capella sunset. That leaves me with Joni Mitchell. And Mairsie Doats.


Well, all of this thinking, occasioned by Zip-pe-dee-doo-dah, managed to clarify a bit of my relationship to popular culture. Wasn't THAT exciting?


After our toning we crossed Yonge Street to go to the Aji Sai for lunch. Could it get any better? Continuum (all about my body), toning (all about my sounds), and then a lunch with friends in a little Japanese place where they recognize us and greet us as old friends just because we eat there once a month!


But this is not the end of that day's excitement. After lunch I took the subway downtown to Sears. There I was, sternum still hurting, flowing body, tuned in to the sound of the universe, looking at: vacuum cleaners! We have a perfectly good upright that I hate and will not use. (My husband bought it when I wasn't with him. I said, "You use it, because I won't." So he has used it.) But I knew that if I had a vacuum cleaner that suited me, I would pull my own weight in the cleaning derby.


Have you looked at vacuum cleaners lately? They look like robots. Like implements for a space mission. It's all about bells and whistles and chrome trim. They are disgustingly ugly and pretentious. One Sears model cost $100 extra for a light that changes from red to green (or vice versa) to indicate an area where there is more dirt. It senses extra dirt. It senses extra dirt!!!


I bought an outdated model, $200 less than any of the others, exactly because it lacked most of the unneeded features and it had less chrome. Its biggest drawback, according to the saleswoman, is that after drawing out the electrical cord you have to manually hook it around a peg—otherwise it will spring back into its hole. When did we become a society too lazy to hook a cord around a peg? Anyway, I avoided all the parts I didn't want and saved a bundle, some of which I then spent on having the thing delivered. I'm looking forward to vacuuming with a machine that doesn't fall over when I use the hose attachment.


Now I'm still at Sears, still in the midst of my exciting day. Navigating my way to the subway takes me through the basement of the Sears store, where I see a display of sheets and towels. I think, "There's something around here that I'm looking for." Then I remember. I want a towel. One white towel, better than my other towels, just for me. I've had it in my head for months but never think of it. Here I am in towel-city. Towels on sale. Big fluffy towels, regularly $28, on sale for $14. I almost pass on by, knowing how awkward it is to buy things (especially with a damaged sternum): take off the green felt shoulder bag, then take off the backpack, where my wallet is. And then load up again when I've finished my purchase.


So I almost pass the towels by. And then I think "WWMHD" (what would my husband do?). Well, since he is a firm believer in retail therapy, I know what he would do. He'd buy half a dozen towels. So I bite the bullet and buy my one white towel, even though it means unloading and reloading the day's accumulation of stuff. Even though I have a damaged sternum.


And all of this is only the beginning of that week's excitement. You can see that it will be impossible for me to catalogue all the excitements of my life! It's taken three weeks just for me to get this far. I'll have to start keeping some of my exciting moments to myself.


And when I'm internalizing all that excitement, will I start bouncing as I walk? I'll let you know.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Thrill a Minute

How exciting my life is I can barely tell you.

Where shall I begin?

"At the beginning" you may say,

but that's much too far away.

That's in the distant past.

And besides, the beginning

is not the exciting part.

The ending is what's becoming exciting,

on many different levels.

Take, for example, Saturday, March 8, 2008,

when I got to spend the day

(after my cursory but animated reading

of two newspapers)

in the kitchen preparing

beautiful market-bought raw materials

into a feast for friends

(and the market was exciting, too,

as always, but that was Thursday's thrill;

if I start going backwards,

I'll end up at the beginning

and, as I said, that part's less exciting).

So Saturday I was alone with the Met broadcast

(Otello with its love duet at the beginning

that almost compensates for

Desdemona's tragic death at the end).

And perhaps if Otello had been shrunk

by a good shrink

(Gabriel Byrnes comes to mind)

he wouldn't have allowed himself

to be swayed by Iago.


So that was Saturday's excitement.

Sunday was even better.

And then Monday.

But I'll have to tell you later.



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor