Saturday, 28 November 2015

Shabbat Music Break

Our final Shabbat Music Break Broadway Style recognizes one of my favourite theatre going experiences of the last two years. My infatuation with Idina Menzel is well-documented, but seeing her in this incredible production was stupefyingly mind-blowing. If/Then tells the story of Elizabeth, a 40-something who has moved back to New York following the breakup of her marriage. Her life is mapped out for her depending on the choices she makes and the people she meets. The play is a bit like the movie Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow, in that it follows the same character on two distinct life paths that are dependent on the options presented. Ms Menzel is always a revelation, and the music has been perfectly tailored to her immense vocal talents. I tend to weep every single time I see her live. It's kind of a thing between her and me. If/Then has begun a national tour and will hit Toronto in the spring, and while Ms Menzel will not be in the cast, it is still an incredible theatre experience. It is not a show for the lazy theatre goer and it is not a show for those expecting big, brassy production numbers. It requires attention, thought, and perspective. It is very adult and very brilliant.

Here is the "11:00" number. I convulsed with tears.

If/Then (2014)
Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey
Book: Brian Yorkey

Song: Always Starting Over

Friday, 27 November 2015

My Husband The Plumber

There is never a shortage of issues confronting us when we arrive at The Southern Home following our annual eight-month hiatus. This isn't surprising. As with any home ownership, things break and crumble with age and weather. In past years, we have had to deal with washing machines that have walked across the floor locking us out of the laundry room, leaky toilets that have left us puddles on the bathroom floor, a garburator that rusted through causing a lake in the kitchen every time the dishwasher was in use, dead palmetto bugs big enough to saddle, broken light fixtures, a defrosted freezer, hurricane shutters that won't open, and twice we had leaks from upstairs neighbours causing enough significant damage in our unit that we had to re-drywall, re-plaster, and repaint. Ah...the joys of condo life. We have been here long enough to know that there will always be some fresh hell sent to challenge us or just plain aggravate us upon our arrival. Of course, this year was no different.

We arrived in the early evening on Saturday. We really weren't planning on arriving until Sunday morning, but heavy rain throughout our drive in Florida really repressed any notion we might have had of stopping for a meal, snacks, or bathroom breaks. There was a dogged determination apparent in The Husband's demeanour that basically said "Enough of this f***ing drive already. Let's just get there." As a result, we were both quite spent upon our arrival and in no mood for bullshit. But, bullshit has a way of finding us. While I got to the unpacking, The Husband set to the task of attempting to open the hurricane shutters. The first two were no issue, but the main one's lock was rusted through and stuck like a son of a bitch. No amount of brute strength, banging, jiggling, or angry cuss words were going to move it. When after countless attempts he finally broke the key off in the lock, I think his angry epithets were heard down in South Beach. Knowing that this was a lost cause in the dark, he moved on to check the rest of the apartment figuring that he would deal with the shutters after a good night sleep. All seemed well until he turned on the main water. (It is a condo regulation that we absolutely must turn off the water when leaving for extended periods of time. The plumbing in this building can only be described as f***ing crap, and as such we have had major leaks over the years. Turning off the water is supposed to help alleviate some of those concerns.) I heard an odd whooshing sound coming from the bathroom and then a plaintive call that sounded like a cow singing James Brown's "I Feel Good." 

Me: "What the f*** was that?"

The Husband: "The toilet is singing to you."

Me: "I'd prefer it didn't but if it has to, I would prefer James Taylor to James Brown."

The Husband: "I don't think it is offering a choice."

While the toilet kept up it's mournful wailing, I kept the faith that this was a temporary situation akin to the broken key currently jammed into the lock on the shutters. The major difference was that the lock while aggravating, didn't have the ability to keep us up all night bleating like two cats in heat. We were simply too tired to deal with it and we were certainly not about to call a plumber at 9:30 pm on a Saturday night. I had no desire to contribute to some pipe jockey's kid's college fund. We climbed into bed with the sounds of Marley's ghost wailing in the background.

But, I married one of the only Jewish handymen. He is really good at fixing things and refused to be waylaid by a broken key or a melancholy toilet. The shutters were successfully opened the next morning, and while he did manage to remove the offending key, he is succumbing to having a professional come to service them and replace the lock. The toilet was another matter. After ascertaining that the flapper inside the tank wasn't sealing properly, we figured out that the offending noise was being caused by a decreasing water line that in turn caused the toilet to run and sing. The flapper needed to be replaced, but given that we had a myriad of tasks to accomplish on Sunday, like groceries, we decided to leave it for one more day. That was a mistake. On Sunday evening, the moaning increased to levels that would have made Tibetan throat-singing monks envious. At 1:00 am, I arose and turned off the water in the toilet. I had to awaken The Husband (how he slept through it I will never know) in order to tell him so that he wouldn't accidentally make a mess the next morning. By first light, I was at Walmart hunting for a replacement flapper. 

My husband the handyman went straight to work. Five minutes later it was Goodbye James Brown; Hello Sounds of Silence.

The Husband is many things, but never once before have I mistaken him for a plumber. He isn't crazy about getting his hands dirty and toilets are not really his thing. But he is my superhero when it comes to stuff like this and I have nothing but admiration for his myriad of hidden talents. If I had known about this when we first met, I might have encouraged this side of him. There is big money in being a plumber. But for now, I think that he will content himself with today's win. Anyway, my parent's toilet is sounding like Barry White. He is going downstairs to silence that one too. 


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving American Style

I plan on spending my day marvelling at huge balloons floating through the Manhattan skies and I plan on watching a football game or two. This isn't my holiday, but gratitude is important and should be acknowledged.

  • The ability to live and love in the moment
  • The small graces bestowed upon me and my loved ones 
  • The completeness of the natural world
  • The warmth of a good laugh
  • The catharsis of a good cry 
  • The genius of creative thought
  • The wonder of presentation
  • The blessing of talent
  • The capacity to make choices
  • The acceptability of failure
  • The emotional release of a well-place F-bomb
  • The gift of imperfection
  • The potential of continuing education
  • For difficult discussions and easy decisions
  • For moral clarity
  • Understanding of differences and acceptance of similarities
For all of this and so much more, I am grateful.

A song for the day. My all-time favourite non-Hebrew song about gratitude. It's worth spending a few minutes listening to exquisite beauty. Happy Thanksgiving.

Music and Lyrics by: John Bucchino
Performed by: Art Garfunkel

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Almost Wordless Wednesday

My final Almost Wordless Wednesday for Blogapalooza comes from earlier this year and serves as a reminder as to why I love the Southern Home so very much. This shot was taken while we sat on our balcony. This little guy just kept stopping by for regular visits during the latter part of March. He was fun and frisky and we were in awe. The best experiences in life are the ones you simply can't anticipate.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Road Tripping Redux

The Husband and I have completed our annual pilgrimage to the Southern Home and I must say that every year the drive down is filled with more tedium than excitement. Not that I am looking for excitement, mind you. I had enough of that to last me a lifetime the year that we were waylaid for six days by a massive snowstorm in the midwest with nothing to eat but Pizza Hut. (None of us has set foot in a Pizza Hut in more than twenty years.) No, I am perfectly fine with the mundane. But I must say that even after all the years, I am struck by how the little things on a road trip seem to stick with me. This year was no different and offered up a few choice impressions.
  • I have never been in the United States for their Thanksgiving. (Sorry Canada. Ours is a pale imitation.) Not ever. I have always envied Americans and their observance of this most secular of holidays. It is an amazing concept. A holiday that cuts across religious lines, is quintessentially American in its origins, involves an entire nation, and allows for gluttony on a national level. What's not to like about that? Watching Americans prepare for this holiday from afar has always been filled with envy and a twinge of sadness. But seeing it up close, even from the limitations of the Interstates, is a revelation. Our hotel was decked out in harvest paraphernalia. The roads were jammed with college students returning home for the holiday in cars packed to the windows with bags of dirty laundry.Thanksgiving specials and flyers were in the windows of even the tackiest of gas station souvenir shops. (I made do without the two-for-one turkey jerky offered in South Carolina.) But my favourite Thanksgiving interlude on the road came from Canonburg Pennsylvania. By sheer chance, (it is almost creepy how by chance this is) we have stopped in the same small town for four years running. It must be that we come through the same stretch of road at approximately the same time every year, given our penchant for starting out early in the morning, or we are just looking for a Subway so that we might be able to eat something vegetarian that doesn't taste like rubber.Whatever the explanation, we once again stopped in Canonburg in order to eat and pee. This year, the only other patrons of the shop were a father and his young son all decked out in pilgrim costume, complete with hat. (I have to say that the hat made the ensemble.) The boy was talking animatedly about John Alden, Myles Standish, and turkey. It reminded me of those days long ago when my own boys would participate in school productions and chatter incessantly about all they had learned. If ever we question the reasons for making holidays fun, interactive, and filled with family and friends, one need only to have watched this little guy exude excitement for the day. It was truly special.
  • The border was quiet when we crossed. We were the only ones in the Nexus line, but the heightened security given the Paris attacks was intense and not surprising. We were grilled for several minutes as to the registration of our car, what we were carrying, our professions, and why we were travelling back and forth this winter. We were asked for dates and about the contents of our belongings. We didn't mind, but this was the Nexus line. One can only imagine what the non-prescreened people went through.
  • There was many a deer sighting on the road this year. Some live, many not. Bambi and his extended family were actually quite brazen in their appearances, foraging at the side of the road as if it were a Hometown Buffet. It was almost as if they were saying "Hey, we're not turkeys. We have nothing to worry about at this time of year." Of course they probably weren't thinking about the constant barrage of 40-tonne trucks barrelling down on them at every pass. There were deer parts littering the highway all the way into the Carolinas. I suppose Georgian and Floridian deer are smarter than their northern cousins, and stayed away from the Eisenhower-inspired death trap.
  • This must be the week that American snowbirds make their way south en masse. It is migration week. So many RVs. So many campers. So many retirees with absolutely no idea how to drive the monster trucks they have purchased. Some are hauling their entire lives in a bus; others are merely hauling SUVs, boats, bikes, and seadoos. It is a wonder any of them reach their destinations safely given the fishtailing, swerving, and odd lane changes. There were times I hung on and just  quietly uttered the Shema hoping for the best. 
  • As per usual, The Husband and I fought over the radio. I am perfectly happy with my Broadway channel, while he just drives and stews until I change to a different station. I don't mind The Bridge, but the playlist is limited and I draw the line at the constant repetition of Eagles and Fleetwood Mac tunes. I mean really? How many times in 24 hours does one need to hear Say You Love Me? I say 4 is plenty. So we switched to The Coffee House, a channel that plays hits reimagined acoustically. But Sting waxing with poetic angst on Message in a Bottle put me over the edge. We returned enthusiastically to Broadway. I was struck by some of the ironic music experiences we had. Carly Simon's Anticipation played as we were stuck in a traffic jam outside of Charlotte, and Carolina Day by Livingston Taylor was on as we crossed the state line between the two Carolinas. Coincidence? Probably, but it was still weird.
  • The Sunshine State was definitely not. We crossed into Florida and the rain started....hard....and it stayed that way for the next 5 hours. The only positive is that we had no real impetus to stop so we made it down in two full days rather than two and half. 
It is so nice to be here. Of course there are a myriad of problems in the condo that need to be addressed. Aren't there always? A defective toilet flapper is causing one kimode to wail like James Brown. The storm shutters have a rusted lock, meaning that we can't open one side. A call to the experts is on the docket. But the season has begun. Hello South Florida. Nice to see you again.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Meatless Monday

Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest. Today I offer one of the easiest soups I have ever made and possibly one of the most delicious. It is seasonally timely and would be a perfect addition to any Thanksgiving table that my American friends might be setting this week. Enjoy.

Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup


2 onions chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
Salt and freshly crack black pepper
1.5 litres hot vegetable stock
Parsley or thyme for garnishing


In a large pan, fry the onions in oil until translucent and soft. Add squash and carrots and stir, cooking for a further 5 minutes. Add thyme and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour over stock and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender or a liquidiser, blend to a smooth soup. If too thick, add a little more stock until desired consistency is achieved.

Divide soup into bowls and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche if desired and parsley or thyme.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Multitasking Mayhem

Are you a multitasker or a uni-tasker?

Most women I know tend to veer toward the multitask side of the equation, myself included. But I have begun to wonder if by multitasking I am doing many jobs half-assed rather than one singular chore well at a time.

An example:

This morning I was drying my hair, applying what little makeup I wear, and blogging on my laptop all at the same time. I am a master of dexterity and possessor of a keen mind, right?


Of course all of that was only possible before the dryer cord pulled all of the hair products into the sink, powder spilled all over the counter, my keyboard became stained with foundation, and I slipped across the wet bathroom floor as I scurried to clean it all up. My great strategy for increasing productivity devolved into a tangled wet mess that left me bruised, dirty, and added at least a half an hour to my morning routine.

Here's another:

Last Friday morning, I needed to run out to pick up a challah for Shabbat dinner. I figured that I could knock a few other things off of my to-dos, so I made a list. (Classic multitasker behaviour.) I headed to the bank, the drugstore, and finally to Sobey's in order to fulfill the items on said list. I came home feeling very self-satisfied only to discover that the only thing I had forgotten to purchase was the f***ing challah. You see, I hadn't thought to write the word challah on my list because I figured that it was the raison d'être of the entire excursion, so why bother? I had to head back out to get the challah, once again adding at least a half an hour to my plans.

It might be easy to dismiss my clumsiness and forgetfulness as age, but frankly I think it is symptomatic of another problem. I am wondering if my mind has become far too cluttered to handle the multitasking I used to achieve with relative ease. I am forever stuck in a latent stress mode over a myriad of chronic issues that cannot easily resolve themselves. No matter how much I meditate, no matter how hard I search for tension releases, no matter how strenuously I exercise, there are and will always be backburner questions that continually invade my subconscious. This isn't unique. We all have some version of the same truth. The decluttering of one's mind is often a much more difficult task than the decluttering of one's physical space. I can't have a garage sale to rid myself of the flotsam and jetsam scattered throughout my psyche.

The Husband is a uni-tasker and has always had tremendous problems handling more than one chore at a time, so he doesn't even try. When I told him of my little mishaps, he took it as validation of his way of being and challenged me to take a step back and slow down the process. I probably can't alleviate all of the stress, but perhaps I can achieve an easier coexistence. At the very least, I can simplify enough so that  I don't end up on the bathroom floor with wet makeup all over my clothes.