Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Mrs Maloney

Thank you for teaching me the easy way to peel an apple, and also how to sew a zipper into a dress or a pair of pants, contrary to the instructions in the pattern package and definitely more neatly and accurately. These skills have walked with me through my days of many apple-peelings and dozens of zippers put in, fruits and frocks both handily completed with a minimum of waste and fuss.

Thank you also for your steadfast love of a dying art. When I came to Home Economics 8, mine was among the last of your all-girl classes, automatically assigned to 5 months in the kitchen and 5 months at the sewing machine, to learn the high school version of womanly arts. The boys got 5 in the auto shop and 5 in the woodwork shop, I think. That was the way it was.

Mrs. Maloney, I remember your smartly tailored dresses, worn with nylons and heels to every class. They matched the outfits worn by the women pictured in our textbooks (copyright 1957). These women brandished feather dusters and fierce smiles as they put the finishing touches on home sweet home in the moments before the man of the house arrived from work. While the rest of our teachers wore polyester pantsuits and platform boots, you alone kept a proper appearance.

Mrs. Maloney, why did you make us write a 5 step plan for every dish we prepared in your kitchen? I recall that it took us four classes to prepare for hot cocoa and cinnamon toast and one to cook and eat it. I can't remember ever cleaning up after, although we must have. Your counters, sinks and stovetops gleam in my memory, providing me with a standard that was and still is impossible to live up to in real life.

I remember the blouse I sewed in your class - a demonstration garment of epic versatility. It had buttons and buttonholes on the front and a zipper on the back - a blouse that allowed the wearer to enter from the back and exit from the front, or vice-versa. In the construction of one blouse, I learned about standard garment closures, quick escapes, and how to very nearly split a shirt into two separate pieces.

Dear Mrs. Maloney, forgive me for snickering at you when you reminded us in class to "trim the hairy ends" of our seams. Accept my apology for calling you "Moldy Maloney," and gossiping to my friends about you. The rumour was that you were widowed, your husband killed by the same pearl onions and peas in cream sauce that you taught us to cook once we had mastered hot cocoa and cinnamon toast. I realise now that you were not so very much older than we were. It cannot have been easy being our teacher. I hope that Mr. Maloney (past or present tense) appreciated you more than we did.

Dear Mrs. Maloney, most of what I learned in your class, I have forgotten. But the zippers and the apple peels stuck with me, and remain useful to this day. Because of you I know the magic of scotch tape and machine basting, and the fact that quartering and coring are best done before peeling, at least for people who want to make a pie in fewer than 5 days.

Dear Mrs. Maloney, when I heard that you died, I was grown up, with a real home of my own. I wondered if you remarried and had children. I thought about how how you must have felt perplexed every day at the indifference of your students. I wondered how you felt when the school district split your dying art nearly in two, and how you felt about the new names and new books for "Foods 8" and "Textiles 8," and the arrival of boys in the kitchen and sewing room.

I hope you weathered the storm of the 1970s. I wonder if you ever wore jeans to school, and if you found at least one student who appreciated you, hairy ends, 5 step cooking plans and all. I wish I could tell you that I do now, even if I didn't then.

Thank you, Mrs. Maloney, for your legacy. Every muffin, pancake and pie I have ever made is partly thanks to you. Every costume I sewed has been easier and tidier because of what you taught me. I have never again constructed a button-front zipper back blouse, but if I have to, I know how.

Thank you for being authentically you, for making an impression that has lasted. Thank you Mrs. Maloney. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

question: did you have a Mrs. Maloney?

mompoet - not her real name

Thursday, September 29, 2011

writing playshop

It's Port Moody Festival of the Arts time. The Shoreline Writers' Society will host a writing playshop on Sunday from 5-7pm at Cafe Divano 101 Klahanie Drive in Port Moody. It will be a fun evening for adults and kids. Drop in any time from 5-7pm to write playfully and have some fun with words.

question: how do you play?

mompoet - wordfully, wordfully

Friday, September 23, 2011


When I was a little girl I loved this sketch from I Love Lucy. Fiona's friend reminded me of it the other day.

question: what's your old favourite?

mompoet - remembering

Saturday, September 17, 2011

the flowers I never got

Friday afternoon, I'm finishing lunch at the pub in Sechelt with my friends. We're here for our annual women's weekend. My cell phone rings, and I see the number on the display is my office in Burnaby. I answer, and a voice says, "Does your husband know where you are?"

I figure out it's my co-worker Diane. She explains that I have just received a huge, HUGE, bouquet of flowers. Didn't my husband know I was not at the office? Did I want them to phone him to pick them up and take them home? Hmmmm, my husband does give me flowers, but usually in person, and he knows I'm not at work today. I ask Diane if she will read the card. It sounds like there is a small crowd near the phone, all curious about the flowers.

"They are really nice," Diane said, "birds of paradise even. This has to be an expensive bouquet." Then she tells me that the flowers are from my sister. The card says, "Happy birthday Sis, love Debbie." I start to laugh hysterically. I have a sister, but her name is not Debbie, and it's not my birthday.

"Did you check the address?" I ask.


It turns out the flowers are for someone with my first name and a last name similar, but not the same. It's a name I'm frequently called by accident, but it's not my last name. The address and postal code are correct. The phone number is for the library next door, and the office title is for another city department - not the rec centre where I work.

Diane asks me if I want her to take a photograph before they send the flowers away. YES PLEASE!

Diane emails the picture to me, with a note saying that someone from the real flower recipient's office is coming over to pick them up.

question: can a gift be just as much fun, even if it's for someone else?

mompoet - even better, I think!

Friday, September 16, 2011

eggplant dip by the sea

So here I am in a big house by the sea with some of my favourite moms. It's out 10th annual September weekend away together. We have a limited roster of activities when we go away:

-wear pajamas
-cook and eat
-drink wine
-go for a walk
-read a book
-drink wine
-wear pajamas
-repeat for 3 days

Thursday evening everyone arrives with appetizers for a coffee table supper before we head for the hot tub. I was lucky enough to come in Thursday afternoon, so I prepared my appetizer here at the house.

My friend Diane gave me this recipe for eggplant dip about a month ago. I have cooked it four times already. It is SO GOOD!

You begin with a big beautiful eggplant. They are delicious right now, and inexpensive. Wash it, then score the skin so it doesn't explode in the oven. Is that an old wives' tale? I have heard of - seen in fact - exploded baked potatoes. I suppose an eggplant could also explode. Score it well and thoroughly, please.

The eggplant goes in a hot oven (I set it for 425F), for about 40 minutes. You will know it is ready when it kind of collapses. This means the flesh is cooked and falling away inside the skin.

Do you like eggplant? I know that a lot of people do not. I think a lot of people who have never even tasted eggplant do not like it. Perhaps it is because cooked eggplant flesh is not usually very attractive. Here's what's inside that eggplant when you take away the skin:

Suspend all judgement about whether or not this is beautiful. It's going to be delicious. Chop up the eggplant flesh into small chunks, and also chop up some garlic (3 cloves in this case).

Heat 3 Tbs dark sesame oil in a skillet and saute the garlic for a minute or two, then add the eggplant and saute it together for a couple more minutes.

Whisk together the sauce, and stir it in to the eggplant mixture. Stir fry a minute or two longer, then remove from heat and stir in 4 or 5 big leaves of fresh basil, chopped.

1 Tbs soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
a good squeeze of rooster chili sauce (Diane's recipe calls for minced serrano peppers)

Here's what it looks like, served up with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. It's good on almost anything, but I like it with sesame ryvita crackers.

It really does taste wonderful. My thanks to Diane for the recipe, and to nature for the wonderful goodness of eggplant. Thank you to my friends for sharing a lovely meal and a wonderful weekend, and to the sea, for its constant presence and yearly reminder of good things that last.

question: do you like the awesome aubergine?

mompoet - eggplant afficionado

Saturday, September 10, 2011

monday in NYC

Monday was cloudy with a chance of thunder showers. I put a folding umbrella and light jacket into my handbag and headed out into the muggy day. The hotel shuttle took me to the Walmart Super Centre, where we had picked up most of Fiona's res stuff on our first day in NJ. The alarm clock ipod dock had not worked for her, and needed to be returned. Funny, she set it to go off her first morning in residence and it didn't. She and her roommate were almost late for freshman orientation that morning. They tried again the next morning, and confirmed that it still didn't work, so Fiona gave it to me and I took it back to my hotel. On Thursday morning I had my first opportunity to sleep in. Guess what? At 7:15am the clock started to alarm, inside the box, on the emergency backup battery. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what was making a noise. NERTZ! stupid alarm clock. Well, I was up early after all.

Back to Monday. The nice lady at Walmart gave me a store credit because we couldn't find the receipt for the alarm clock. We can use it at any Walmart in the US, so we'll take it to Walmart in Bellingham where they sell cheap Smart Pop microwave popcorn and also cheap beer. The shuttle picked me up and I got a ride to Secaucus Junction train station, where I grabbed a train into the city. I connected to the subway near the train station, and rode it down into Lower Manhattan. The subway is amazingly easy to use and always full of people, so it feels safe. All of the city maps have the subway lines and stops clearly marked, and google maps will tell you which train to take and where to transfer if you're planning your trip ahead of time. Here's a picture of the above-ground part of a subway station near Times Square.

The only thing I didn't like about the subways is how hot the underground stations get in the summer. It's like waiting in a pizza oven. The trains are air-conditioned so it's a relief when you get inside. They take you swiftly to wherever you want to go, and there are local and express trains.

I took the Staten Island Ferry out to see the Statue of Liberty. The ferry is free, and passes very close to the island where the statue stands. The boat was full of visitors who crowded along the statue side of the boat to snap photographs. At Staten Island we all got off, then raced up the ramp to re-board for the free ride back to Manhattan. When I have more time, I'll go find out what there is to see and do on Staten Island.

Battery Park is right beside the ferry dock, so I walked through part of the park next. It's a very large park, which deserves another day's visit. I found a quick, healthy outdoor lunch at an unfortunately named food stand, jumped on a kids' playground toy that made xylophone sounds (much fun) and looked at memorials for those who served in the Second World War and Korean War.

To the north, I could see the Freedom Tower under construction at the World Financial Centre. I follwed a pedestrian walkway up to the World Trade Centre site. All along the way there were new parks and playgrounds and small scale people-friendly places, even a community garden just steps from the site of the 9-11 calamity and the memorial and new development that is being built. At the World Financial Centre I entered a walkway that took me around the perimeter of the memorial site. You'll see it all on TV and in the newspaper this weekend. Two huge reflecting pools stand in the footprints of the towers, with waterfalls going into them and a treed plaza surrounding them. The new buildings form a quadrangle around the outside. Their mezzanine lobbies are open to the public to walk around and view the memorial site.

The people there were all quiet. The mood was very reverent and sombre. I'm glad I saw it, and I left feeling kind of emptied out. My thoughts were of the people who died and those who lived through the worst day of their lives here. I was also processing my goodbye to Fiona the evening before, and my impending journey home. As soon as I got away from the site, I found a place to sit on a bench and I phoned Fiona at the university. She was having a very good day, meeting the remaining students from her class who were arriving and moving in. She had gone for a workout at the gym which she says is wonderful, and was getting ready for her first floor meeting in her residence. I wished her well on her auditions the next day, told her how much I love her, and said goodbye from New York - next call will be from home.

After all that I needed cheering up, so I headed back to midtown to the friendliest, happiest, loveliest public place that I know in New York. I'm not talking about Starbucks either. Bryant Park is a place that Al showed us when we visited in January. I hung out there for about an hour and just watched the people. I also visited the most lovely public bathroom in the world. It's just as nice in the summer time as it is in the winter.

Bryant Park revived my spirit. I had thought I was going to grab takeout and return to the hotel for supper, but I was feeling regretful that Fiona and I did not have time to squeeze in a visit to Yum Yum Thai restaurant, so I took myself there for a very nice supper.

Then I went back to the hotel to relax, pack and get ready to go home. It was really a very nice day, exploring New York City 100% by myself. In case anyone wonders if I was really there, I did snap a photo of myself in the restaurant bathroom, using my new ipod.

question: where have you explored all on your own?

mompoet - Goodbye New York. See you again soon I hope.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

saturday in nyc

After a manic week of travel, arrival and multiple, sometimes overlapping obligations and commitments, Fiona and I each took a day to ourselves. She stayed at the university, slept in and explored campus with her roommate. I went sightseeing, then met up with my Aunt Barbara..

I took the subway up along 8th Avenue, then walked through Central Park to the side where the Metropolitan Museum of art is. The park is a gorgeous, peaceful oasis full of people. It's funny to see so many runners all in one place that you have to wait to cross the street as if they were driving cars!

I spent the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I knew it was going to be big and beautiful, but I could not have imagined how big or how beautiful. I will surely return to this lovely place and try to just take in one or two exhibit areas at a time. My survey style visit was overwhelming. Another surprise for me was the number and variety of artifacts in the museum. Besides paintings and sculptures they have musical instruments, furniture, dishes and glassware, and fixtures from heritage buildings. The other part that was astonishing was the attention to detail and the variety in styles of exhibit and other public spaces. Even the stairways are beautiful. Every room is designed and arranged to complement the works in that room. There are some standout spaces like the big sunny glass-roofed courtyard in the centre of the main floor, and the rooftop garden. I think my favourite find though was in the Egyptian exhibit. In one gallery there were miniature dioramas from a king's tomb. They illustrated life in ancient Egypt. I found them fascinating.

After my museum time, I got lunch from a food truck, and lounged on the stairs of the museum with a few hundred other people, enjoying some music and watching the crowds drift by. Then I was off to meet Aunt Barbara.

I have never met my aunt before. My Dad's family was reunited after many years of him not knowing his 2 half-sisters. I'm grateful that we now have this connection. There's lots of catching up to do! Aunt Barbara and I met in Times Square, and went on The Ride. It was a lot of fun! After that, we went out for supper. Aunt Barbara's father was my paternal grandfather. I never met him, so I wanted to ask Aunt Barbara about my grandfather, and about her growing up. She was gracious in answering all of my questions. She brought photos of herself and my Aunt Lucy, her sister, as little girls, and a photo of my grandfather. We had a good time together, talking and getting to know one another.

I made it back to the hotel around 10pm, full up with impressions and emotions. I don't know if I have ever taken a trip so rich and so demanding all at the same time. I'm glad for the opportunity, but found I needed quiet time each evening to process the experiences of the day. I went to sleep full up with new ideas and experiences.

question: have you ever had a reunion?

mompoet - a day of beauty and connection

Monday, September 05, 2011


There is a lot to do and see in New York, but the top of Fiona's and my list is Broadway shows. Fiona is the expert who has guided me to see a lot of wonderful productions. Our dream coming to New York this time was to see The Book of Mormon. Never mind that it is sold out for months to come, we wanted to see it. They have a lottery for 22 discount tickets at each performance, so we showed up and put our names in and did not get drawn. But we also lined up 3 hours before showtime in the standing room queue. Two hours before the show they sold a couple of dozen standing room tickets, and we got 2. They are very inexpensive ($27 each).

We went away until showtime. Fiona shopped at Colony, the best place for sheet music and books. I found a place to sit, knowing I wouldn't be sitting for the next two hours, and called home to say, "Hey, I'm going to Book of Mormon. Pinch me."

We went into the theatre just a few minutes before curtain and were instructed to wait in the lobby or at the side until 2 or 3 minutes to curtain. I went to the bar and brought a double sippy cup of white wine. At Broadway shows you can take candy and drinks into the theatre. The drinks are in sippy cups. I saw a man pay $27 for scotch on the rocks in a sippy cup. Just before curtain time, we took our standing room positions along a railing behind the back row of the orchestra seats. I dropped my purse at my feet and clutched my sippy cup, ready to enjoy the show.

I knew the songs already, having listened to them on a download that Fiona got a few weeks ago. The show was awesome. It's totally vulgar and irreverent, and also smart with beautiful music and great performances, and a tender heart. It was a surreal thrill seeing the show on our first night in the city. It was amazing.

After the show, Fiona left with her friend who also got standing room, to meet her roommate who was at another show. I grabbed the train back to my hotel. What a night! What a show!

Later in the week we saw Follies, starring Bernadette Peters. I saw a local production last fall with my mom in Vancouver. The Broadway version was thrilling. I love, love, love Stephen Sondheim. Bernadette Peters was splendid, as were all the others in the cast. Astonishing music and a show so smart and tender and real. After the show, Fiona and her friends waited at the stage door where they met Bernadette Peters. Amazing.

I am so lucky to have the opportunity to see these performances. A lot of people don't ever see one show on Broadway, and I've seen more than half a dozen. One day, I hope I'll be coming to see our daughter on the stage. One day, I know I will.

question: have you ever stood up for a show?

mompoet - standing up with my sippy cup


Here are a couple of pictures taken at the university.

During the week, the train runs from the university (that's the train station in one of the photos) to New York City about hourly. It's a 35 minute ride. On the weekends students take a half hour bus ride. Fiona's res building is old school, built in the 60s, but that means it has spacious rooms. She shares with one roommate, and they have a view of the Manhattan skyline out their window. Eighteen thousand students are enrolled, so it's a big place, but the freshman musical theatre class is just 21 students, so a small group.

 It's a beautiful campus full of friendly people. Fiona is going to love it here.

question: what school is your school?

mompoet - old school, new school, good school

family visits

Just a couple of photos here, mostly so my family at home can see my family here in NY and NJ. Here are Al Riggi - a friend who feels like family; Aunt Barbara, Dad's half-sister; and Andre, Sophia and Isaac, our little cousins, grandchildren of Dad's other half-sister Lucy. This trip has been so full with experiences. Meeting and reuniting with family has been a wonderful part of it. It's good to know Fiona has loved ones close at hand while she is living so far from home.

question: what family do you have nearby today?

mompoet - love is everywhere

Sunday, September 04, 2011


We made it to New Jersey just fine, and Fiona's at university. Our trip here was not exactly as planned. When we got to Charlotte on Monday night, we found out that the Amtrak rail line was underwater at Trenton, NJ, so our train trip fromPhiladelphia to Newark was cancelled. I got on the phone in the middle of the night and booked a rental car at Philadelphia Airport. Fiona and I drove from Philadelphia up to Montclair, with a stop at Walmart in Secaucus on the way to pick up her bedding and other stuff that she had ordered online. We made it to the university around 6:30pm and met her roommate and her roommate's mom, and bless them at the residence, they allowed Fiona to move in that night even though we arrived a couple of hours late. The girls' room is quite spacious, with a wonderful view of the Manhattan skyline and the Empire State building out their window. They stayed up and got it all set up that first night. It's really cute. Their suitemates (2nd year students) will move in this weekend.
I got a chance to meet some of the other moms. One of them has started a Montclair MT Moms facebook group, which is nice. Fiona has been spending her nights in her new home while I go home to the hotel each night. We've been running errands and visiting friends and family who live in the area. There's also been time for sightseeing and shows. We saw Book of Mormon on Thursday evening, and Follies this afternoon. Fiona and her friends met Bernadette Peters at the stage door.
My days visiting the university campus help me know that it is a good place where Fiona will be safe and welcome. The other students who I have met are lovely young adults. We are leaving her in a good place.
I have one more day before I fly home. Fiona and I said goodbye this evening. We'll talk on the phone but I won't see her again until Christmas. I feel sad, proud and confident. This is the beginning of Fiona's adult life, and a new shape for our family.
question: have you been on a journey of change recently?
mompoet - saying goodbye (we made it!)