Books, books and more books

My name is Nathalie Foy, and I am a book addict.  Also, a stationery addict.  Also, I buy too many pens.  I may be developing a similar habit with perfume; the jury’s still out on that one.

I willingly admit to buying way too much of what I have listed above, but in no way will I cop to the label “hoarder” or call what I have “clutter.”  It’s precious.  I have these absurdly abundant collections of things because they are a passion, not a problem.  It’s true that the sun will burn itself out before I have occasion to write a note in each of the thank you notes I have collected, but that’s ok with me.  I like to have a selection to choose from, and as long as stationery designers and etsy are still in business, I will keep adding to my collection.

It’s true that I will probably not get around to reading every single one of the books I have bought and that have piled up on my TBR shelf, and some of them (a very rare few, because I do read reviews and do my research before buying a book) will be duds that I give away after reading.  However, the books I read get marked up and annotated and they bear the trace of my having enjoyed them.  I have a terrible memory, so the marks I leave behind serve as an external hard drive.  You can’t do that to a library book, and I’m terrible about returning them on time, anyway.  I gobble my books, but the wonderful thing about gobbling books is that they survive the process and go on to live long and happy lives on a new shelf, in alphabetical order, so that I can easily find them again.  And I do go looking for them again.

arthurTrue story: I gave away a set of books once.  All of the books from my Old English class in graduate school and some Middle English books from undergrad.  I tossed the notes, too.  I felt assured that I would never, ever in my life need to look at those books and notes again.  Along came my kids who developed an interest in Beowulf and King Arthur and The Hobbit, which draws heavily on Old and Middle English, and where, oh where, were those books?  The collections of Old English riddles that I translated?  My notes on the Arthurian matter and where history and legend meet?  Gone, and I have regretted it for years.

Of course, I could have gone to a library for everything that I wanted, but I wanted my own books, with my notes and my marginalia.  My memory.

I don’t have a lot of patience for clutter or disorder.  A place for everything, and everything in its place.  I work to make that true for 90 80 70 percent of the house .  There are towering piles of books all over our house, but I look at them with nothing but fondness.  I enjoy putting order into the piles and sorting and shelving and relishing all the delights past and still to come.

 

 

Plan Ahead to Stay Green

Eldest is currently writing a science report on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  I’ve put a link instead of a picture because, frankly, I find it too offensive to post a picture of what we have done to our oceans.  It is to weep.

This month’s posts have been loosely about renewal and rebirth, but before the riot of green that is spring, we are surrounded by the heaps of garbage that emerge from the melting snow, the bleak brown land reminding us of our hidden winter sins.  Chip bags, candy wrappers, pop cans, water bottles.  Oh, the water bottles.  As T. S. Eliot wrote,

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering          
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

I am no fan of spring, and even less of a fan of the sins that the forgetful snow exposes.

Food and drink packaging has to be the easiest green sin for a parent to fall prey to.  We were recently asked to review a food product that I had to decline to review because the ratio of food to packaging was so poor.  In this enlightened age, packaging seems to me to be proliferating, not disappearing.  Why manufacture, sell or buy 24 mini-bags of crackers instead of one box?  Why??  How much more time or effort does it take to throw them into a reusable container?

Don’t answer that.  My rhetoric belies my own waste.  How many times have I failed to plan ahead and had to buy snacks and drinks on the run, leaving a trail of garbage in our wake?

untitledLast year, when the kids’ school instituted a full-time boomerang lunch (all litter goes back into the lunchbox to be disposed of at home), I embraced it wholeheartedly.  I had been a pretty eco-conscious lunch packer even before that, but now I aim to be letter perfect.  Everything goes into reusable containers for lunch.  I avoid at all costs individually wrapped snacks.  Granola bars are not healthy anyway, and if we want a treat, we go to the bakery some days after school and eat the treats right off of the shelf.  The drink boxes, about which I still feel a twinge of guilt, can at least be recycled at school.

This year, also, I made a conscious decision never to leave home on weekends and after school without packing food and drink that would also limit our garbage output.  Sliced fruit, a tub of raw almonds, some quickly-cut slices of cheese.  Water bottles.  It takes less than a minute to prepare and assemble these things, and it saves a world of whining and pleading about vending machine and snack bar “food” at the various rinks and arenas where we often find ourselves on weekends.  Less waste, better food.  Win win.

I am not an eco-warrior, or trail-blazer or even an exceptionally good consumer.  But I am a planner, and planning has made a huge difference this year.  Now, if I could just learn to love drinking coffee out of a reusable, portable mug….

 

When Your Kitchen Goes from Functional to Diva in one Afternoon

You know how it is: you are expecting guests, baby shower guests, for instance, and all of a sudden, your house begins to appear … less than perfect.  There’s nothing like the expectation of company to make you see your house in a whole new light; you are suddenly hyper-aware of the many faults and foibles of your kitchen.  And guest bathroom.  And back door.  And front steps.  And….

There’s the kitchen faucet which works perfectly until someone new comes along and tries to move the spigot.  Then the aerator just pops right off, and he or she gets drenched.

And the freezer, which has to be closed with Velcro because it pops open every time the fridge door closes.

And the back door out of the kitchen, which only opens on alternate Wednesdays, unless there is a full moon, in which case you have to wait until the next solstice.  Its handle went missing for three whole months once.  Just flew off.

And the powder room toilet which flushes perfectly well because you’ve paid to have the plumber come back three times, and each time he’s told you, “It’s fixed!” And it is fixed, unless you forget to manually lift the flusher after you’ve flushed, in which case, you end up with a flood in the basement, like last weekend, for instance, when there were 30 kids running around the house.  At least shower guests can be depended upon to be able to read the sign about the proper care and feeding of the Temperamental Toilet.

And the front porch steps, which you don’t ever notice from day to day but which look absolutely dreadful when company is coming because they are crumbling and have lost all their paint after a winter of having hockey bags dragged up and down them.

Sigh.

In some ways, I take a quiet joy in knowing just how to negotiate my diva kitchen sink spout that has to be handled just so, and, yes, even in knowing how best to care for The Temperamental Toilet.  I know the sound of that toilet when it is well and when it is ailing, and we rush to its aid when it’s ailing.  It’s just what we do.

And really, it’s not so different from having kids with diva tendencies that you don’t notice, until you do.  Some things you aim to change, others, you live with.

The last of the shower guests left at 5:00.

At 6:00 the doorbell rang.  A painter to give us an estimate for fixing the front steps.  I take no joy in peeling paint.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Are Coming to Toronto!

tmntThe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are coming to Toronto, and we are going to meet them!  And you can too!!

Youngest is very excited, and since Eldest is doing a unit on graffiti in his art class, he’s also going to come along to witness the Street Art Battle.  Four graffiti artists will be put to the challenge in a live competition to channel their “inner Ninja Turtle” and pay a fitting homage to each of the Turtles – Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo – named after renaissance artists.

Fans of the series that airs on Nickelodeon and YTV can watch their favourite Turtles come to life on 7X7 ft. canvases, and then vote online to determine the winning design that will be made available for purchase as an exclusive t-shirt at Walmart Canada this fall.  (Check out the link for more details.)

Here’s what you can do if you come along:

• Meet and take photos with the Turtles: Michelangelo and Raphael

• Share + Show + Get Promotion: Show your #innerninjaturtle on Instagram

for a chance at hundreds of instant prizes including toys, dvds, and be

entered to win an ultimate turtles prize pack ($300 value)

• Face painting

DATE: Saturday, April 5, 2014

TIME: 10AM – 3PM

LOCATION: Yonge-Dundas Square

1 Dundas Street East

And if you leave us a comment about your kids’ love of the Turtles, we can enter you for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle giveaway. 

How to Cast, Rehearse and Perform a Play with 30 Preschoolers in Three Hours

kingYoungest celebrated his sixth birthday this weekend, and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his party, he said, “Put on a play with my friends.”

A full three years ago, Middlest had chosen to do a play for HIS sixth birthday, a fact that I had all but forgotten.  So what was surprising about Youngest’s request was not so much that he wanted to put on a play but that he remembered that such a thing could be done with friends at a birthday party.

I guided Youngest to the theme of medieval knights and castles because he loves to dress up and do sword fights, but also because I had a dozen copies of Castles: How They Work on hand from a previous party!  The book has since gone out of print, so I had to shop for the rest of the books that would go into the guests’ loot bag.  I found Marcia Williams’s retelling of the stories of King Arthur, which was perfect, but I couldn’t get enough copies of that book, either, so I also picked up her retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Now, The Canterbury Tales are not exactly every child’s cup of tea, so I read Williams’s version to make sure that this book would be a good pick to send home with the kids at the end of the party.  Not only was it a great pick, it became the foundation of the three plays that the kids performed on the day.

Youngest is mightily fond of farts.  Honestly, I have never met a boy who delights in the gas we pass more than he does.  The Canterbury Tales is well-stocked with stories with farts, but I stayed well away from those for the plays.  Instead, I adapted The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, and The Knight’s Tale to be performed by 6-10 kids in a 10-minute performance.  Thirty kids; three plays; thirty minutes.  That means stripping the story to its bare bones, making sure that there is plenty of action for the kids to perform, and including as much humour and audience participation as possible.

I learned this technique of performing plays with young kids from their fabulous playschool teacher, who regularly works with the kids to perform plays as part of her playschool programming.  Briefly, here’s how it works: the Narrator tells the story, and the kids act it out.  It’s that simple.  In this way, the Narrator has (theoretical) control of the action (this came in handy during the sword fighting scene), and the kids have close guidance of what to do and say.  The kids can create their own characters and story, which is what I did for the party three years ago, or you can narrate a story that you have prepared.

acnt

Here is how I stripped down and adapted The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale:

Chantecleer the Rockstar Rooster

Pertelote the Rockstar Hen

The Fox

The Chickens

In the courtyard of a castle there lived a rooster, Chantecleer, his wife Pertelote, and a brood of happy chickens. Chantecleer was very proud of his very fine voice, and the whole castle depended on his morning call. He and Pertelote would greet each day in perfect harmony, and at the end of the day, all of the birds would curl up to sleep.

One morning, before the sun rose, Chantecleer began to moan and groan in his sleep. The noise woke Pertelote, who then shook him awake. He had had a very bad dream. He dreamed that an orange monster with pointy ears, a long, pointy nose, white, sharp teeth and a bushy tail had chased him around and around and tried to eat him!

Ask Audience: What could it be?

He was sure that the dream had a meaning and that it meant that he should not sing his beautiful song that day.

Pertelote told him that was nonsense. She said his bad dream was because he had eaten too much the night before. She told him not to worry and to hurry up and get ready for their morning song. She gave him his microphone, and they both got ready to sing.

Ask Audience: Are you ready for their song? What will it sound like? Sing along if you know the words.

PLAY first verse and chorus of “What Does the Fox Say?” (heh heh)  Chickens dance and sing.

Well, the Fox did NOT like this song, not one little bit. So he hid behind a bush to watch for his chance to eat Chantecleer and put an end to this nonsense.

Chantecleer saw the fox hiding and was very afraid. Pertelote was afraid. The happy chickens were afraid, and they all crowded together. Chantecleer began to run away, but the clever Fox said,

Stop!

He told him he had come to make friends and to hear his singing, which was famous even all the way to the forest. Chantecleer was very proud of his voice, so he was easily tricked into trusting the fox.  The fox said that his voice would sound even better if he did one special trick. The Fox showed him exactly what to do: close his eyes and stretch his neck way, way up.  So Chantecleer closed his eyes and stretched his neck way, way up.

And the Fox snapped him up and carried him off to the forest. He ran this way and that. The chickens ran after him, trying to save Chantecleer, but they could not keep up.  They stopped to catch their breath.

Oh! Poor Chantecleer! It looked like his goose was cooked, but Chantecleer was not just any pretty chicken. He had brains and he planned to use them.

He said, “Stop, Fox! You have outrun them now. You can slow down and tell the chickens that they might as well go home.” The Fox, who was not the sharpest crayon in the box, was quite happy to boast of his success and he opened his mouth to reply.

FREEZE

Ask audience: what will happen next?

Chantecleer flew free and flew to the top of a tree.

Poor Fox. He tried to flatter the rooster back to ground, but Chantecleer was older and wiser now, and crowed triumphantly at the monster from his dream.

Actors take a bow.

Beautiful literature, it is not.  However, it was a whole lot of fun to rehearse and perform this story with a group of 4-6 year-olds.

Here is what we did to prepare:

Props and costumes: Chantecleer, egg carton chicken masks, toilet roll microphone, fox nose and ears.

Props and costumes: Chantecleer, egg carton chicken masks, toilet roll microphone, fox nose and ears.

1.  Invite guests to attend the party in costume and tell them that they will have a chance to perform in a play.  Have extra costumes on hand.  (We have years’ worth of Halloween costumes.)  Lots of knights and princesses came to this party.  One child came as a dragon, so I added a dragon to one of the plays.  I needed a brood of chickens, so Youngest and I made chicken masks from egg cartons ahead of time.  All of the chickens wore princess dresses.  No problem.  The play is large; it can contain multitudes.

2.  After all the guests arrive, gather them in a circle and tell them, very briefly, the story for each play.  Then ask for volunteers for the roles.  Kids can also choose to just watch the plays.  The first stage of casting is done.

3.  Work with groups of 6-10 kids at a time.  Rehearse in a space separate from the rest of the kids so that there are no distractions and so that the final production will be new to the kids in the audience.  Tell the story briefly again, and finish assigning the roles.

4.  Now begin rehearsing.  The Narrator stands “on stage” with the kids and narrates the action of the play from downstage, nearly in the wings; the kids act out what is being narrated.  As you go, elicit what their characters would say.  Some kids will be eager to say lines.  Some will not.  You can narrate for the kids who would prefer not to speak.  Some kids will decide that they don’t like the role they chose.  Switch roles.  Some kids will decide they don’t want to perform.  That’s fine, too.

5.  Rehearse each play separately, then assemble all the kids for the Final Performance.  I invited parents to return for the last hour of the party to watch the plays.  Each group takes a turn performing its play.

6.  Have fun.  Expect hiccups.  Roll with it.

The party was a three-hour whirlwind, and while I rehearsed with the kids, my husband and the parents who had stayed for the party supervised those who were not rehearsing.  They grazed at the food table, they played, they did not kill or maim each other with their toy swords.  I knew we would not have time for cake, so after the performance, we sang “Happy Birthday,” then each guest went home with a book, a bookmark made by the birthday boy, and a birthday cookie made by the amazingly talented Christy at DolceDesserts.

photo 1

And then I sat down and did not get up for a good, long time.

Guest Post: Roseanne Carrara on Ruins & Mezes: Touring the Eastern Mediterranean and Morocco

Each year, for March Break , I adapt a famous story for the kids, substituting animals for the title characters, and changing the settings as need be. Each tale sets us longing for travel. One dream: to trace the faces of Easter Island’s Moai statues beneath the moonlight, as do the bears in our version of the Bible’s Jacob & Esau story, The Coronation of the Easter Bunny Bear. Another: to visit the churches, greens, and pubs of Ireland frequented, secretly, by A Study in Emerald’s leading snake, Sir Lochrann Holmes and his buddy McUaitson. Three: an eco-tour of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, whose funds would support the health of the wild salmon population while opposing the trophy hunting of bears, black, white, and grizzly. Maybe, we’d even glimpse a rare white mooksgm’ol, the inspiration for Ahma, the Spirit Bear, our treatment of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Nothing, however, has gotten me closer to phoning a travel agency or booking online than this year’s Bearicles, our take on Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The kids and I spent hours mapping the eastern cities of the Ancient Mediterranean (Tyre, Antioch, Ephesus, Tarsus), comparing them to a current map (Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Turkey), and plotting a long, eventful trip of our own! Forays into Mediterranean cooking inspired us all the more. To complement the story, we made Lebanese manakish (flatbreads), Syrian ma’amool cookies, Turkish pide (pizzas), lemony Greek calamari , and baklava! I even went “West” one evening by myself, making a complicated Moroccan tagine. For the kids and I, it was “ruins” and “mezes” (little tastes) all week.

So if money, vacation time, and social and political upheaval were nothing to worry about, my ideal family get-away would be a historical and culinary tour of the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Jerusalem) with an extended lay-over in Morocco on the way back home!

1. First stop, Greece, for a view of the Acropolis  and an Epitourean experience in Athens. We’d have a taste of loukomades, a wind around the spice and seafood stalls of the Varvakeios market, and an Ancient Greek dinner. Our next sleep might be in Mytilini, Lesvos , where we’d tour the Medieval Castle, the Ouzo factories, and have a fish feast in the old harbor.

Ephesus

Ruins of Ephesus

2. Then, Turkey, where the perfect tour has already been planned for us by Truffle Pig. We’d get lost in the streets of Istanbul, visit the Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace, balloon around Capadocia, and visit the ruins of Ephesus, especially the Temple of Artemis, featured prominently in Bearicles. Then, off to Gaziantep for cooking lessons and lots of experimenting with Turkish flavours and food!

3. After a look at the Roman ruins of Apamea , Syria, we might tackle a week-long tour such as this : a taste of baklava and a visit to the souk al-Tanabel market in Damascus, a Bedouin dinner in the desert near the ruins of Palymyra, and dinner and a few cooking tips in the “gastronomic capital,” Aleppo.

4. Next up, Lebanon, with a sure stop at the Temple of Jupiter in the ruins at Ba’albeck. This Taste of Lebanon Culinary Journey offers what we’re after: a seven day journey in which we’d sample Lebanese cuisine, learn how to make sujuk sausage, kibbeh, and Arabic bread, and pay a visit to both a sweets castle and spice fields for za’atar.

5. Our last stop in the East is Israel. First, a glimpse of the ruins of the Knight’s Castle in Arsuf. We’d follow this up with a serious tour of Jeruslaem, including, of course, the Western Wall . We’d love to finish up with one of Tali Freidman’s culinary tours of Jersualem’s famous Mahane-Yehuda market.

Turkish Spices6. Last stop, a long lay-over in Morocco, North-Western Africa, where we’d visit the famous Casablanca, ride camels, explore the ancient medinas of Fes, get lost in the spice markets. This would be the ultimate place for a serious family culinary tour, hosted, ideally, by the inspiring Peggy Markel . In Marrakesch, the Atlas Mountains, and Essouaria, we’d learn to cook in the famed tagine, bake bread in wood-fired ovens, eat figs, and see how argan nuts are collected and used for oil.

I can just see us passing through customs after a few good months of travel: bags full of spice jars, pockets filled with sand and rocks, four sizes of tagine, a selection of metal tea pots and cups (for the bears, of course), bottles of ouzo and olive and argan oils, dried salted fish wrapped in paper, silk scarves, wicker hats, sketches of ruins and the sea, stretched waistbands, tanned, happy faces, yes, and hands, four pairs of them, blessed with the ability to re-create most everything we’d tasted in the Mediterranean we’d come to know.

::

Roseanne Carrara blogs at The Lunchbox Season  and Summer of Funner . These also have a Facebook Page. Her professional site is In Defense of Burning .

 

 

Vacation of our Dreams, Times Three

untitledEldest wants to go to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Middlest wants to go on an African safari.  Youngest wants to go to Disney.

Me?  Any and all of the above, with just one child at a time.

If time is a parent’s most precious resource, quality time alone with each child is even more hard to come by.  In the vacations of my dreams, I get to take one child on his own on a life-changing adventure.  And since I’d be more than happy to do all of the above, I’ll let the kids decide.

I am a traveller who is pretty well wed to her itinerary.  I like to plan carefully, cover as much ground as humanly possible, and leave with no regrets of opportunities missed or sights unseen.  One of my favourite passages from Jennifer Coburn’s We’ll Always Have Paris comes after she and her daughter have decided on a whim to do things out of order, swapping the days for museum visits.  After going through the Museum of Modern Art in Rome, she says to her daughter,

 “There isn’t a piece in here that I am not one hundred percent in love with….”

“Aren’t you glad we changed the days?” Katie asked.

“We didn’t change the days; we let the days change us.”

Days that change us is what I’m after.  I’m willing to step outside of my safety zone to do that.

I’d also love to step out of my usual roles.  I am the voice of Chores and Homework and The Almighty Clock.  I am the Referee.  I’d really like not to be The Referee.  Yes, a dream vacation would free me up from the roles that pin me down.

Aside from the benefit of not having to be on sibling rivalry duty, time alone with each boy would make the vacation our own special thing.  I love having our own special thing.  My boys all know that I love them, but there’s no substitute for a private joke, a special treat or an amazing memory for cementing that love.

Oh, I’m loving this dreaming so much I just want to go off and plan it!  Not Kilimanjaro, maybe, but local hike.  Not a safari, but a trip to the zoo.  Not Disney, but Canada’s Wonderland is on our doorstep.  Some in-our-own-back-yard special things.

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn

untitledLast week, when the publisher of this book offered 4Mothers a review copy, I did not think things would move quite so quickly.  I said, “yes”; it arrived by FedEx the next morning; I sat down intending only to have a quick look at it, and by that evening I had devoured most of the book.  I could not put it down.  And I could not wait to tell you about it.

Jennifer Coburn’s memoir is about her travels through Europe with her daughter, Katie, and “We’ll always have Paris” is her mantra as she plans for their first trip.  It’s a wistful kind of thought, as is, indeed, her prompt to take the plunge and travel alone with her daughter.  Coburn’s father died when she was still in college, and she begins to fear her own mortality.  She begins to fear that she must hurry up and make special memories for Katie.  Just in case.  If, she thinks, anything were ever to happen to me, my daughter would have the memory of this amazing trip and would be able to say, “We’ll always have Paris.”

As the years pass (and she continues to fail to die the dreaded early death!), so begins a tradition of taking a summer month to travel to a country in Europe.  Her husband is unable to travel with them because of work, so these are strictly mother-daughter trips.  Coburn is a wonderful guide, not only through the cities she recalls, but also through her daughter’s perception of the cities.   We see Paris through the eyes of a nervous mother, who clutches tightly her maps and itineraries, and an excited girl who just wants to immerse herself in the experience.  I especially loved the scene in the famous Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, which offers a bed for the night to book-loving travellers.  Because Coburn is a writer, they are offered the “deluxe” accommodation, and eight-year-old Katie pleads with her mother to take the offer of this experience.  While Katie falls immediately to sleep, unfazed by the standards of hygiene, her mother frets and tosses and turns.  Mother and daughter are excellent foils, and it delighted me to read the evident pride Coburn takes in her daughter.  What made the book especially riveting, though, is how Coburn interweaves the tales of their travels with memories of her late father.  She deftly ties in themes from their experiences to memories from her childhood, and I marveled at how skilfully she wove together the joyful and the difficult strands of her past.

I shut the book and began dreaming about where I’d love to take my kids.

And that, as it happens, is the subject of our posts this week.  Along with our guest Roseanne Carrara, we are doing some blue sky thinking about where we would go on our dream vacations with our kids.  Money and time are no object.  There are no constraints.   Where would you take yours?

Guest Post: Roseanne Carrara’s Evelina

Evelina BasicAbout eight years ago, I found this bag at Danier. I love the pebbled texture, the pockets, and the zippers, which give this otherwise conservative doctor’s duffle a rocker-chic vibe.  The buckles on either side can be left open for maximum storage, which means, they’re always open. I call this my Evelina bag because of an experience I had in a washroom at L.A.X.  Applying lip-balm at a mirror, I was surrounded, suddenly, by a pair of beautiful women, impeccably clothed and coiffed.  Standing there in my ripped jeans and tee, oily-haired and hung-over from my first-ever girls-get-away post-kids, I felt out of my element.  So, I was surprised when they began to compliment me on my bag, asking where I’d managed to find “the sister to the Chloe Paddington,” but “without that annoying padlock!” Apparently, I was carrying a streamlined knockoff of a hot designer purse. When they returned to their own gossip, walking back with me towards the gate, I realized that these women weren’t the fashion editors or stylists I had supposed, but well-paid escorts on their way back to Toronto from a weekend in L.A.  So, I found myself identifying with 18th-century novelist, Fanny Burney’s, Evelina. Lost in the dark in London’s Marleybone Gardens, Evelina is escorted back to her friends by two very savvy prostitutes.  In my case, though, there wasn’t really any excessive rouge or outlandish frippery to make these modern women, once scrutinized under the lights, any different from the rest of the jet-set with whom they travelled.  Now, according to Purse Blog, the Chloe Paddington has had something of a renaissance!  I’m starting to wonder if I will have any more Evelina days….

Evelina Contents

Evelina, Contents:

1. I’m trying to memorize Bach’s Italian Concerto and the first three Messiaen Preludes. Sometimes, I tote them around with me for a quick study. To fit the music into the bag, I roll it up and secure it with one of my daughter’s sparkly ribbon hair ties. The pencil was a freebee from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

2. I’ve been using a hot pink pocket agenda not as a planner but as a micro-journal, documenting my exercise, daily accomplishments, if any, a sudden idea for a poem or a story, and the little things the kids or others might have said or done which have made me truly happy. I mark my place inside with a ticket from a Cyndi Lauper concert.

3. I’ve been storing my earbuds around a champagne cork, a souvenir from my 40th birthday in February!  Of course, on balance, if you travel with earbuds, you also travel with hot pink ear plugs. Bobby pins, bobby pins, too!

4. My sunglasses have a spring-green interior and a bit of sparkle hidden in the tops of the frames.

Wristlet Close-Up

5. My phone, cards, cash, transit pass, children’s tickets, and home-made mini-photo-book all fit inside this Christmas gift of a burgundy-pink Coach wristlet.

Make-up Bag Close-Up

6. This spotted leather pouch holds far too many “essentials”: a travel bottle of Neutrogena Sesame Oil; Brambleberry Rose Lip Balm; a hand cream tester; a travel jar of Cocoa Butter Body Butter; Mac Hot Tahiti lipstick; Flowerbomb perfume rollerball; Benefit They’re Real! Mascara; a pill-case full of Advil; and Anis de Flavigny Violet Drops.

Keys Hankies Book Close-Up

7.  No more baby wipes! Not even a tissue! This vintage lily-of-the-valley handkerchief was a wedding gift from the ever-inspiring Amy of Viva Vintage Clothing. The monogrammed “C” hankie belonged to my paternal grandmother, Vita.

8. The old Coach kitty-cat keychain serves as a reminder of our tabby, Van Winkle, who only ever cowled to the chorus of Billy Jean’s Not My Lover.  The animal-print keys were cut at Royal Home Hardware in Cabbagetown.

9. Since I’ve set The Week in Radio, my novel-in-progress, during the week of the Canadian Opera Company’s first full production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, I’ve been poring over the English National Opera ‘s Wagner Opera Guides, such as this Die Walküre.

10. In one kitschy golden notebook, with a pretty-ugly pen, I’ve started sketching out the novel’s final scenes.

Roseanne Carrara blogs at The Lunchbox Season and Summer of Funner. These also have a Facebook Page. Her professional site is In Defense of Burning.

The Warehouse, The Next Generation

My Dad used to call my mother’s handbag The Warehouse.  I grew up certain that entire episodes of Mission: Impossible and MacGyver could be filmed using the contents of my mother’s purse.

Mine is nowhere near so capacious or fun, but I do have a few tricks in my bag.  Nothing sharp, after forgetting The Rules and having my wonderful Swiss Army knife taken away at the airport.  Sigh.  No bottles with more than 100 ml of liquid, ditto.  Luckily, my favourite hand lotions come in small vessels, and it’s a delicious luxury to have that fragrance on hand.  What mother’s bag is complete without first aid?  I’ve got a complete wee kit.  Hockey arena stubs, naturally.  I have more lip gloss than I can use in a lifetime; three travel with me.  The keys to my Dad’s condo, on a key ring from Egypt, where we lived once upon a time.  A picture of my kids in my wallet, because apparently wallets more often get returned if lost when there’s a picture of kids inside.  Love notes from the kids.  Sticky notes, because you never know when you might have a page-flagging emergency.  A book; always a book.  Today, it’s Cold Comfort Farm, because Samantha Ellis made me want to reread it.  A deck of cards for hurry up and wait rooms.  And, pen addict that I am, I travel with several choices of pens and ink.

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OK, I’m totally kidding about the ink wells, ink pot and and quills!  But that pencil case is full of pens.