Scrapbook #23: A good weekend.

Some weekends are better than others, and the one that just passed was one of them. It started with a night at an arena watching some favourite bands. It was the kind of show where, at the end of the night, they cut the mics and the entire arena sings along to the last song. Like this:

And then there was some baking. Crack Pie and a Red Velvet cake. These were then brought to a Christmas party in the evening and devoured by 10 of us. Everyone contributed something to the meal, so there was rack of lamb and two kinds of potatoes and roasted beets and smoked salmon and cheese and wine. Some fruit too, for good measure.

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There was a good brunch that involved breakfast sandwiches with two types of sausages and perfectly fried eggs and hash browns made with fingerling potatoes. And coffee:

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It was somebody’s birthday. (Hint: not mine.)

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There was a little bit of decorating for Christmas, the kind where you don’t really have room for a tree, and you won’t be there on Christmas Day anyway, but at least you can stick some branches with red berries in a vase to make your home feel more festive:

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And then, after all of that, there was a Christmas concert, but not just any Christmas concert, one put on by the Wainwright-McGarrigles where they sang Christmas songs and quasi-Christmas songs and ended the night with a group sing along to Silent Night.

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December! You are always a good month.

Scrapbook #22: It Chooses You.

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Work is busy these days, and so this week has felt long, and I’ve been despairing a little bit about my lack of time to work on Projects, although the truth is that I am currently between Projects, in that space where I’m waiting for comments on the one that’s completed and in the thinking stages of the next one, although the thinking I’m doing is more akin to daydreaming about how perfect it will be when it’s finished, and not at all about what I should do to get the damn thing actually started.

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There aren’t any leaves left on the trees. It snowed for the first time in Montreal on Thursday night, but very briefly. We went to Vermont on the weekend and there’s this route home we take sometimes that goes through the Champlain Islands. You’re driving on one long skinny road (causeway?) surrounded by water on both sides. It was windy, and despite the cold and rumours of snow, there were windsurfers out in the distance who seemed to be sailing as fast as the car. I like this drive. It makes me feel hopeful.

Miranda July reading from It Chooses You

Something else that made me feel hopeful this week was seeing Miranda July on Monday, who was in town to read from her newest book. Sarah took the picture above (and also provided me a ticket!). It was a great reading. It Chooses You is a collection of interviews Miranda conducted with strangers met from Penny Savers classified ads, but it’s also a book about creating, the Internet, feeling stuck and trying to be open to the universe and feeling silly about it, but then still stumbling upon moments that just make fantastically cosmic sense. It’s a lovely book.

Universe, I’m open to you, or whatever.

Scrapbook #21: Summer 2011

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I’m trying to pretend it’s still summer, but the mornings are especially chilly and it’s dark by 8 pm, so I’m ready to admit that fine, we have moved into early fall. But this summer? It was a nice one. Quiet. It was a summer of eating dinner outdoors. Many on our own balcony, but probably even more in parks. I can’t count the amount of meals we had at Parc Jeanne Mance, either at a picnic table or sitting in the grass, usually by the tennis courts. We would go to the grocery or get take out, stop at the SAQ for a bottle of wine, and head over to the park with 2 glasses, a knife, maybe plates or a cutting board if we remembered. We usually forgot. Sometimes we would forget the glasses too, no matter how many time we’ve done this. There were other parks too. Poutine in Parc Lafontaine. Pizza by the canal at Atwater Market. On the hottest day of the year we got takeout and ate it on the grass in Parc Laurier and there were so many others around us, everyone avoiding their unairconditioned homes.

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There was also lots of ice cream, thanks to the fact that I live within a 10 minute radius from the best ice cream places in Montreal. My favourite is Kem CoBa, which is conveniently also the closest. Their soft serve was amazing.

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There was a lot of travel. San Diego, Las Vegas, the desert, Toronto on many occasions for weddings or meeting new friends, a camping trip in Vermont, the State Fair in  Syracuse, a cottage weekend in Magog. Weekends in Montreal felt kind of precious and rare.

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I didn’t write much. I brought a massive print out of my novel on vacation to San Diego thinking it would be the perfect place to work on it – I could laze out in the backyard and read through it, take notes. But I didn’t touch it and then I didn’t touch it for the month of July and half of August. We needed a break from each other. I am happy to report that we’ve reconciled. I missed it.

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I read novels written by women. I kind of consciously did that. The Keep and The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan, The Wife and The 10 Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer, Torch by Cheryl Strayed, The Astral by Kate Christensen. The Chairs Are Where the People Go by Sheila Heti, although that wasn’t a novel and it’s co-authored by Misha Glouberman, who is not a woman. I either felt like gulping down books in a few days or not reading them at all.  And I listened mostly to “Defender” by Bird of Youth, the new Snailhouse album and old CD’s in the car because my iPhone converter broke and I haven’t replaced it. And we’ve been playing guitar a lot at home, so maybe there hasn’t been a lot of new music, but there’s still been a lot of music.

So yes. It was a nice summer. Let’s see what the fall brings.

Scrapbook #20: Let's go to the Fair!

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With Labour Day approaching, Andrew and I felt like taking a little trip. We weren’t sure where to go, but decided that it had to be relatively close to Montreal, in America, and somewhere we’ve never been. A few days before the weekend, Andrew said, “I know, let’s go to Syracuse, New York!” and I said “….”. But then he told me we could eat at Dinosaur BBQ and stay at an art deco hotel and I said “Okay!”. And then when we found out that the New York State Fair was also going in Syracuse, well, I ran to the car.

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Scrapbook #19: Camping

First: A quick reminder that the Fiction Funnies event I’m reading at is Wednesday – tomorrow! It would be lovely to see you, fellow Montrealers. (Details: here or here or here.)

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It’s a rare thing, these days, for me to go more than 24 hours without Internet access. 3G means I can check email or write a Twitter update or Facebook status or Instagram my surroundings pretty much anywhere as long as I’m willing to pay data roaming fees, and I am often willing to pay data roaming fees. (Sigh.) But then occasionally I’m somewhere where I don’t even have the option. The middle of the desert, for instance. And, most recently, a few days in the woods in Vermont. Amazing tall trees, lakes and rivers to swim and canoe in, but no Wifi. Vermont always feels kind of magic to me – there are bakeries and craft beer pubs and bookstores and farmer stands in just about every little town you happen to pass through. We experienced all of those things, and then because we were camping, also threw in equal measures of fresh air, campfire, outdoor cooking and reading. It was really, really nice.

Here are a bunch of pictures. Continue reading

Scrapbook #18: Summer.

These summer days are passing by in waves of frantic activity followed by humid, languid sloth. What is summer if not a chance to fit in as much travel into as little time as possible and if you’re not doing that then pushing the boundaries of just how many hours you can spend laying around a park and drinking a bottle of wine? I’ve been doing both, although I could do with more of the latter – I’m admittedly a little tired these days and feeling behind on things I want to do, even if some of those “things” are not particularly important, like “bake a pie”. Still – no complaints.

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But I’m feeling quiet, blog-wise. I was in Toronto over the weekend for a dear friend’s wedding. The weekend was perfect: the weather was beautiful, the wedding made me weepy-happy, I ate fried chicken and waffles at The Stockyards for late brunch the next day and we got to see Soraya and Chris twice as we passed through Kingston between Toronto and Montreal. On our way home Andrew and I stopped along the St. Lawrence River – the light was nice and it seemed a shame to be in the car. I dipped my feet in the water and it was warm and we decided we might as well go swimming. I wore my underwear and one of Andrew’s t-shirts and we swam in the warm, wavy water and when we were done we wrung out our clothes and got back in the car. Drove into Montreal later than expected, so I was tired at work the next day, but for good reason.

It’s best to do these things in the summer, to soak up all that lovely golden light. I hope you’re doing the same.

Scrapbook #17: The desert.

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Andrew and I made our first trip to the desert early into our California vacation. We spent our first days in Laguna Beach and Encinitas, and while there was something intoxicating about the ocean, the amazing and cheap Mexican food and the surfers walking barefoot around town (actually that last detail weirded me out), we wanted to see something we hadn’t seen before. Andrew had recently heard of the Salton Sea, so with that destination in mind we drove inland.

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It’s strange how quickly the landscape and the climate changes within the span of an hour or two – from ocean breezes and lush plants to unescapable sunlight and pale green and yellow, low-lying shrubs.


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The desert didn’t look the way I imagined. I pictured vast, empty stretches of whitish, bleached out sand and the occasional cactus, but when we pulled the car over to explore, the dirt was hard beneath our feet. Dusty and dry. There was more vegetation than I expected, but not many cacti.

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I liked the feeling of being in the desert. It’s kind of scary, prickly – you feel so small. There is so much open land, hardly any other cars on the road, and the heat is astounding, a huge, thudding presence, but dry so that you don’t really start to sweat until you’re back in your car with the air conditioning cranked up. We liked to press our hands against the insides of the car windows to feel the warmth.

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Scrapbook #16: Ooh, Las Vegas


On Monday morning Andrew, Chris, Soraya and I left San Diego and pointed our car towards the Mojave Desert. After a few hours of driving through arid, prehistoric looking landscapes we ended up in a place that is possibly even more surreal than the desert: Las Vegas, Nevada. We stayed at the Luxor, the Egyptian themed hotel complete with gigantic shiny pyramid and a fake sphinx.

Vegas is one of those cities I’ve always been interested in visiting simply for the spectacle of it, and it lived up to my expectations, but in a slightly different way. I knew the city had been cleaned up, but I was still surprised by the amusement park-ness of it all, and how little remained of its seedy underbelly. Maybe it’s strange that we wanted to see evidence of its seediness, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was something even more repellant about its shininess, the cartoonish replicas of famous monuments, all those excuses for pure consumption. Of course there were the people standing on the streets shoving pictures of naked women into men’s hands and there was the zombie looks of people staring into the slot machines, but it was strangely well managed, creepily well organized. In less eloquent terms, it was icky.

That being said, it was still so much fun. Considering that we were a group of non-gamblers with no interest in going to any shows or clubs, and on top of that, are also cheap, the odds were high that we wouldn’t enjoy the city. But we weren’t worried – it’s not hard to have a good time when you’re curious about your surroundings and quick to laugh. So, we walked up and down the strip and explored the casinos while Soraya pointed out which ones were used in what movie, we broke even at the slots, we had a stupidly indulgent buffet at the Bellagio and then gawked at its fountains, we went swimming at the pool at the Luxor. I tried my hand at the 20 dollar trick. We spent one dinner eating bad food court Chinese at the Excalabur and people watched. We took lots of photos. We went off strip and had diner breakfasts (red velvet pancakes – no joke) and we visited the Hoover Dam in sweltering heat and then had slushees to cool down.

The drive through the desert was also worth the trip alone, but I’ll save that for another post. So, Las Vegas – a place I’m happy to have experienced, but I think I got it out of my system for a long time.