metro mama

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First Stop on the Elizabeth Hay Blog Tour!

Several months ago I recommended a book I loved, Elizabeth Hay’s Giller winning Late Nights on Air (now available in paperback).

Yesterday Elizabeth began a tour up North, the setting of Late Nights on Air, retracing her steps in Yellowknife and the Yukon. I’m so pleased to tell you, she is also embarking on a blog tour: she'll write about her travels as they take place, guest posting on several blogs with her updates.

This is the first stop on the tour; other participants include The Book Mine Set, The Library Ladder, and Pickle Me This (I will round up all of the posts at the end).

So without further ado, over to Elizabeth…

April 28/08

In Ottawa a deep, cool rain soaks the flower garden, but Great Slave Lake is still frozen fast, I’m told. Longjohns are in order.

I’ve made a list and feel rather like Huck Finn, not that I’m taking a fry pan. Besides longjohns, I will pack a warm hat, low boots, a neck warmer, scarf, gloves. Also sunglasses and sunscreen. My old friend John Stephenson, who has lived in or near Yellowknife since 1973, tells me that the thaw hasn’t really started, though snow has begun to disappear. He underscored the need for sunscreen: you get a double dose of rays standing on the frozen lake, direct and reflected.

This will be my first trip north since 1988 when I was pregnant with my son Ben. Yesterday that same red-headed boy came home from McGill for the summer. Another sign of the passage of time: John, who spearheaded this visit and did huge amounts of organizational work, won’t be in Yellowknife when I arrive; he is having a hip replacement operation in Victoria on April 30. That we won’t see each other is a great disappointment. He and I, along with two others, did the six-week canoe trip on the Thelon River in 1978 that forms the basis for the fictional canoe trip in Late Nights on Air.

The first stop, however, will be Whitehorse in the Yukon (not to be confused with Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.) We arrive Tuesday evening and the itinerary set up by the Yukon Writers’ Festival is a northophile’s dream. The prospect of seeing Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Mayo, Carmacks and Dawson City has rekindled the wanderlust I had in my twenties. To see the Yukon for the first time in my life, to revisit Yellowknife for the first time in twenty years makes me feel not just lucky but rejuvenated. How can it be anything less than fascinating?


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Metro Reco: Rockabye

I am so happy to see talented bloggers getting book deals. Case in point: Rebecca Woolf. I’ve been reading Rebecca’s blog, Girl’s Gone Child, since I started blogging. Her son Archer is almost the exact same age as Cakes. She went through hell worrying about delayed speech, as I did. As I do, she has a wild past, which we learn a little more about in her rockin’ memoir, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, on sale now.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca last year in Chicago. I didn’t get to talk to her much (the girl was in demand!) but she is as hip and sexy and real life as she appears on her blog. We invited Rebecca and Dana for beers in the middle of the day, and true to form, they quickly accepted. I wished I’d had a whole day to sit in a dark bar with those two. It would have been wildly entertaining, I’m sure.

Anyway, about the book. What I love most about Rebecca’s book (and her blog) is her fearlessness, and her frankness: the messiness of the urine-soaked counter as she disbelievingly lines up a half-dozen positive pregnancy tests; her rage at being knocked up at 23; her doubt surrounding the sustainability of her relationship with new-ish lover Hal; her determination to throw away the books and parent by instinct.

Deftly written, Rockabye captures the humour and strength its larger-than-life author. It is entertaining and unreserved. But above all, it is a testament to her magnificent love for her family, Archer and Hal.

As much as I loved reading Rebecca’s memoirs, I’m more excited to read her first novel. She is a wonderful writer: this is just the beginning--she has a brilliant career ahead, I’m sure.

You can check out Rebecca’s website here. Thanks to Parent Bloggers Network for a review copy of Rockabye.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Like Riding a Bike

There’s a reason for the expression, “it’s like riding a bike.”

This is kind of embarrassing, but today I climbed on a bike for the first time in fifteen years!

I’m not an athletic woman. I like to walk everywhere, but beyond that, the only thing I usually exercise (except for the occasional kegels) is my elbow.

McHotty has been on my case to start exercising for a long time. He, of course, goes to the gym almost everyday, bikes miles to work, and is super-fit. I feel like a slob beside him. Luckily, the super-flu I just recovered from knocked nine pounds off my frame in a week, making up for a winter of many fine cheeses. But I’m still not too happy about how I look with clothes off.

So today, with the beautiful weather and unexpected TTC strike, I decided it was time to get back on the horse. We have a fantastic bike path at the end of our street; the beach is five minutes away; we have a brand new bike trailer from MEC. There were no more excuses.

I was a little unsteady at first: I weaved back and forth like a drunken clown. But it really didn’t take long to get the hang of it again.

At first I gripped the handlebars with white knuckles. My muffin-top popped out of my low-rise jeans, and I realized my ass-crack was showing, but I was too afraid to let go to make adjustments.

After ten minutes or so, I felt more comfortable—even daring to let go with one hand to yank down my t-shirt—and we made it to the beach in one piece.

On the way home, I pedalled fast, and with the wind and the sun on my face, I felt like I was 12 years old again.

But how much do you want to bet I will feel like I’m 112 tomorrow?


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Party for Petite

I’ve mentioned before, one of the books I’m really excited about this season is Catherine Sanderson’s Petite Anglaise, which I devoured in manuscript form in two sittings. Catherine Sanderson’s voice in her book is just as engaging as the persona of her hugely popular blog, also titled Petite Anglaise. She’s charming and intriguing; she’s also honest and vulnerable.

The book goes on sale in Canada on June 17. I’m not allowed to review it until then, but here’s a description, to whet your appetite:

A long-suffering Francophile, Catherine Sanderson spent years pining for the romance and allure of France from her dull surroundings across the Channel. Finally, she lands a job in Paris (albeit at a satellite office of a British accounting firm), a handsome Frenchman (who is increasingly preoccupied and less available), and a charming apartment with sweeping views of the city skyline. Soon after, she gives birth to a baby girl and the dream seems complete. But the triple whammy of motherhood, stale romance, and the daily grind begins to sour Catherine’s Parisian fantasy.

One slow day at work, she reads an article about starting a blog and–voilà–Petite Anglaise is born. Initially, the virtual Catherine muses about expat life and the adventures of raising a bilingual toddler, but before long the blog evolves into a raw forum to air her most intimate desires. Petite becomes a powerful alter ego and the blog a haven for her to think out loud, miles away from the real world and its consequences. But when the real world and the virtual one collide, sending Catherine into a tailspin, she must reconcile her life and her creation.

Fizzing with the candor, wit, and panache that have drawn millions to her blog and attracted the attention of publishers around the world, Petite Anglaise offers a decidedly fresh twist on the classic story of reinvention abroad: how a young woman transforms herself wielding the power of a mouse.

As a blogger, Catherine’s story is fascinating to me, and I want to share it with my fellow bloggers. To celebrate the launch of the book we’re having a brunch for bloggers, on June 6, at a downtown French restaurant. Save the date!

Not a blogger? Want to come and meet some of your favourite Toronto mommy bloggers? The first three folks to email metro[underscore]mama[at]hotmail[dot]com will win an invitation to the event, as well as an advance reading copy of Petite Anglaise. Catherine will be joining us live from Paris via webcam to say hello and answer our questions. And I have to mention, this brunch is taking place the day before her wedding--how’s that for dedication!

Now go, get emailing, and we can talk about the book some more over some croissants in about a month’s time. À Bientôt!


Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekend in the City

I’m feeling about 80% better now, and I had a lovely weekend. Friday night I went to a charity event for the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, a fantastic organization that provides a 24-hour crisis line for women. Sadly, they receive 50,000 calls per year. Such a high number, isn’t it? Want to help? Click here.

There were these fantastic belly dancers at the dinner, and I had an impromptu lesson.

In case you’re wondering, I’m the one on the right.

Saturday I had to ignore the gorgeous weather and hole up in my office to finish my last paper of the term. I was so resentful about being stuck inside, I wanted to throw up. I have really had it. I managed to finish by 5:00, and now I’m finally done for the term. I just have a three-credit course on the Bronte’s this summer, and then school’s out forever! Am I ever done.

Our next-door neighbours redeemed the Saturday for me. After I finished work, we headed to their patio for dinner. Cakes joined us for the first course. She really loves parties these days. We each had little plates of antipasto and Cakes nibbled hers so politely. She’s starting to have very good taste—we’d put some cheddar on her plate, but she ignored it and stole McHotty’s “party cheese” instead. She also swiped all of his olives. Cakes went to bed a seven, we plugged in the monitor, and enjoyed a nice steak dinner and a few bottles of wine in the backyard. Ah, summer’s back, and I’m happy happy happy.

Sunday we took Cakes to Riverdale Farm. If you’ve never been, you must go. It is fantastic there. We watched a cow being milked. The goats are pregnant—if you go in a month, there will be baby goats. It’s one of Cakes’ favourite places.

After the farm, we went to brunch for the first time in ages, at Leslie Jones. They have a great patio at the back, and were very welcoming to Cakes. We had this fabulous french toast, with ricotta cheese and caramelized pears. Mmm. Cakes was an angel. She will be three in a month, and I am really loving this age. She’s really talking well now, and she’s hilarious. You can take her out in public. She can walk a long time without getting tired. Anyone else finding it’s getting a hell of a lot easier?

Monday, April 14, 2008

High and Low

Well, last week was pretty rough, but it ended on high note.

After passing out in the shower on Tuesday, I crawled into bed, not to emerge (except to pee, check email, and post hello to Toronto Life readers—yeah, I’m so OC) until Saturday. I had the most wicked virus ever—the fucker knocked me on my ass so quickly, my head was literally spinning. I had chills, aches, blinding headache, and a complete and utter lack of energy. One day I couldn’t even read. I had to take four days off work, making me feel like such a shit. I had to take my first extension ever for my paper. I was worried sick that I wasn’t going to be able to spend any time with my dear friend Tanis, coming all the way from Alberta to see her bloggy pals.

But I woke up Saturday morning, and I could actually go down a flight of stairs without needing a nap afterwards. I made it to the big blogger meetup at Panorama Saturday night. It wasn’t the evening of debauchery I’d planned--I had to stick to a bottle of Perrier and I was home in bed by eleven--but I’m just thankful I got there at all.

I gave them their own key, and I woke up Sunday morning with Mama T and Tanis in my spare bed--how hot is that? Sunday afternoon, Tanis and I hooked up with Anne and Sandra for a lovely afternoon at the Distillery District. It just wasn’t enough time, but I’m so glad we had Tanis here in person, even for a short visit. She is not as smart, funny and beautiful as she appears on her blog--she is ten times more so.

Miss you already, darlin’.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Welcome Toronto Life Readers!

Hello to anyone coming here for the first time from Katrina Onstad's article in the May issue of Toronto Life! Make yourself at home.

My husband (known as McHotty here) and I are parents of an amazing three-year old girl, known as Cakes.

I’m just finishing the hell that is grad school, and have started a new career in publishing.

We’ve lived here in Leslieville for three years now. Despite the swat teams, we love it here, and are extremely committed to bringing up baby downtown. Despite the unpleasant incident described in the article, for the most part the restaurant owners and shopkeepers here in Leslieville are lovely, and more than welcoming. Just a few examples: Kubo Radio, Joy Bistro, Bonjour Brioche, Doll Factory by Damzels, Brick Street Bakery, and the Mercury Espresso Bar.

Do you have your own favourite child-friendly shops and restaurants? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll do a post rounding them up.

Want to hear from more blogging parents? I’d like to point you to the new and improved version of Mommy Blogs Toronto: Better Than A Playdate. Playdate is a group of smart, hip Canadian parents, blogging about everything from current events, to sex, to restaurant reviews, to celebrity gossip. It’s a lot of fun.

Thanks for visiting!


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Not So Sexy

Picture me in the shower this morning, skin glistening, all soaped up. Then picture me sprawled face down on the floor. Yes, I actually passed out in the shower this morning, bashing my cheekbone on the marble threshold. Ow. Remember how I got wickedly sick at the end of last term? This time I was determined that wouldn’t happen. I was popping the Cold FX like no tomorrow, going to bed early, going easy on the vino. But I woke up yesterday thinking I was dying. I spent the day huddled in bed, not even able to read for more than twenty minutes at a time. Today I’m actually worse.

This really sucks. I feel terrible about calling in sick when I’m so new to my job. I still have an essay to finish. Redneck Mommy’s coming in a few days. Can’t. Be. Sick.

So, McHotty’s taking me to the doctor this afternoon to try to score some antibiotics. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Bits and Bytes

I don’t have a coherent post or anything, but I have all these little dribs and drabs floating around, so I might as well scoop them up into one braindump.

Cakes attended her first art show opening last night. Our next door neighbour is a talented sculptor, and invited us to the opening of a show last night, urging us to “bring Cakes along!” We took his word and brought her, with great trepidation, arriving five minutes after the start of the event, in the hopes hardly anyone else would be there yet. She was very well behaved, but we didn’t push our luck, and made it a short visit. It was a good show to start her with--she was actually allowed to touch one of the pieces:

This isn’t the same one, but it’s similar. It was so lovely and soft, and fragrant smelling--I wanted to take my clothes off and roll on it.


After the show, McHotty and I snuggled up for a movie. I love me a zombie movie, and I Am Legend is good one. Will Smith is utterly believable, the rabid zombies are scary, and the scenes of post-apocalyptic Manhattan are extraordinary. A very suspenseful flick.


Muxtape is very cool, but it doesn’t beat the real thing. After a tipsy conversation about music during my last pub night, one of my buddies came to class with a mixed tape for me! How awesome is that?


My family is cracking me up these days.

For example, a conversation between Cakes and I the other night:

Cakes: I don’t want to go to school anymore.

MM: We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Cakes: We’ll talk about it RIGHT NOW!

A conversation between me and McHotty:

MM: Cakes’ hair is out of control! Did you send her to school like that?

MH: No, she had a horsey tail when she left.


Speaking up cracking me up, I’m loving this new blog, Canadian(ist).


For all you Torontonians, what do you think should be Redneck Mommy’s top three sightseeing priorities next weekend? We only have a day. I was thinking Distillery District, and a little shopping on Queen West. Maybe a beer at the Black Bull if we get really lucky. What do you think?

Happy Friday everyone! Anyone up to anything exciting this weekend?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Metro Reco: The Outcast

Last night I attended a reception for Sadie Jones, author of The Outcast, her first novel.

This is my favourite recent read, and it’s a stunning debut for Jones.

Set in a small town in 1950’s England, the novel’s protagonist, nineteen year old Lewis, returns home after his release from jail. His return triggers a series of fateful events for the members of his family, as well as those of Kit Carmichael, long admirer of Lewis, and long-suffering daughter of a tyrannical father who also happens to be a highly-respected pillar of the community.

Jones’ characterization is strong; the novel perfectly paced. The story is tragic and devastating, yet ultimately hopeful.

The novel has such a cinematic quality; I can’t wait to see it adapted for film. There’s a fantastic trailer created for the book--see it here.

I had a chance to chat with Sadie briefly last night, as she signed my book (she is lovely by the way). I mentioned a future film version of the book, and we pondered the question, who could play Lewis? No one immediately comes to mind; a fellow blogger who attended the event with me, says it would have to be a newcomer. I’ve slept on it, and still can’t come up with anyone suitable; it will have to be someone young, and there should be a different actor for the young Lewis. For those of you who have already read the book, who do you think should play Lewis?

Sorry the picture is so blurry--I was playing with my camera settings to avoid an obnoxious flash! I'm so inept with my camera.

I have an extra signed copy of the book for the first person (with a Canadian address) to email metro[underscore]mama[at]hotmail[dot]com.

Update: Sorry, I already have a winner for this book! But we do have a couple more green books up for grabs, over at MBT.


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