Movie: Take This Waltz

I didn’t expect this film to resonate with me as much as it did, perhaps because I have never been married, but I could understand Margot’s (Michelle Williams) vacillations between her husband Lou (Seth Rogen), and her neighbour Daniel (Luke Kirby). Lou is a good guy– he seems steady, reliable, funny, with a warm family (we never see any of Margot’s extended family, which I found odd), but the excitement of their relationship seems to have fizzled to amusing but childish games, and Margot’s ‘I love you’s to Lou are more childish still (‘I wuv you’ in a lispy voice).

She seems stuck, uncertain of her career, wanting to write, but not writing what she wants to; married, with no kids but possibly wanting some, and as the director Sarah Polley remarked, she’s not comfortable in her own skin. She’s not confident. Reverting to childishness could be a symptom, but then occasionally she does show bursts of adult certainty. ….more under the cut (spoilers exist)….

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Chicago’s Eats – My favourite meals in the Windy City

I can’t say enough about the delectable food I sampled while I was in Chicago. I don’t think I ever had a poor meal, and some of the meals were incredibly memorable.

A small cafe a few streets from the hotel yielded a huge spinach salad for my first day, enough to keep my energy up for over five hours at the Newberry Library. That night, my parents and I went with my aunt and uncle to Topo Gigio, an Italian restaurant in the Old Town. I had the fish special, and it was tender and delicious. We also visited a nearby spice merchant, and spotted the Bistrot Margot (more on this later).

Our hotel was right next to Ditka’s, and I ate there once, having their New Zealand lamb chops appetizer. I also learned first hand that when you ask for a Jack Daniels on the rocks, it’s not like a Canadian bar where they give you 1 oz. I almost didn’t make it down the stairs from the lounge after two drinks!

After dinner at Gibson’s… it was a little chilly in the restaurant, hence my pashmina and cup of tea.

After our trip on the tall ship Windy, we went to Gibson’s steakhouse for dinner. If there were celebrities in attendance, I didn’t see any, but I was probably too busy looking at the gorgeous old 1920s decor… when I wasn’t trying to decide what to eat. Eventually I settled on some oysters to start, and the smallest steak they had on their menu. That’s one thing I can say about American restaurants — you get a lot of food for your money. And at Gibson’s, that means a lot of steak.

Now, one of my favourite meals in Chicago was one of the most unexpected. That is, it was a completely chance occurrence, as we’d gone to visit the Art Institute (and stand in awe in front of Georges Seurat’s painting ‘Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte’ — well, that part was perhaps just me) and after several hours of looking at art (more on that in another post, as I could go on about art for ages… you know me!), we were starving.

The best tea cup I’ve ever seen.

Right across the street from the Art Institute was a crowded and large pub. We didn’t go there. Instead, we went to the Russian Tea Time. It took a bit of convincing mom that there was something on the menu she could eat, but once we were there and eating, she was quite happy. Dad had a flight of the house vodka – 3 flavours (coriander, black currant tea and lime), 3 oz – and a beer. I opted for tea, and they kept filling my glass. It was really lovely strong dark tea, and I drank quite a bit of it before the end of the meal. I had potato latkes (with sour cream and apple sauce) for the first time, and they were excellent. Of course, I was so hungry from having eaten very little before we went to the Art Institute that probably almost anything would have tasted good. ;) The service was good; our server was very definitely Russian. I think he was a bit nonplussed when we laughed after he asked my father if he wanted more vodka. You see, 3 oz of vodka, plus a large beer, was more than enough alcohol for an afternoon… but I guess we ought not to have laughed. (and my dad says it was excellent vodka.)

And finally, one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had was at the Bistrot Margot on our last evening in Chicago. I wish I’d thought to take photos of the meal, but I was too busy eating… that’s my excuse. I had a vegetable risotto to start, and it came with a soft-shell crab. For my main meal I had a smoked duck breast with green lentils. And dessert was a delightfully delicious crème brûlée. I have a fondness for French food (as you might have guessed), and I was even happier at the Bistrot Margot when I saw that the menu had its dishes labeled if they were gluten-free. It made it a lot easier and I didn’t have to guess. Also, as it was our last evening, I decided to celebrate with a glass of champagne.

Now I’m starting to feel a bit homesick for Chicago… I know I’ll go back, and I’ll be well fed when I do!

 

How do you learn a second language?

A friend of mine turned me on to duolingo.com, and already I’ve been having fun learning (and refreshing my memory of) some more French.

I’ve tried to dedicate myself to learning a language before, but to be honest, I think that the only way for me to really learn a language would be to immerse myself fully. I’d have to force myself to only speak the language. The linguistic equivalent of tossing myself in the deep end of the pool without water wings.

Have you successfully learned a second language? How did you learn it, and do you have any tips?

“I need people of strength, and gumption!”

So shouted the docent aboard the tall ship Windy as we departed Chicago’s Navy Pier. He needed volunteers to raise the sails of the tall ship, and thus, with gumption (but no strength), I volunteered. For the record, though he said otherwise, strength is needed in order to raise a sail. Fortunately I had my father to assist me, or it would have been the slowest sail raising ever.

Obligatory family photo.

I hadn’t done any sort of sailing since ninth grade, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it: the wind in my hair, the rock of the ship, and looking out over the water. Of course, being on Lake Michigan, the view of Chicago’s skyline was rather spectacular.

‘Ready the cannon!’

After the sails were raised, the program began on the main deck, and we learned about the life of a tall ship sailor. Unlike seafaring vessels, tall ships (and others) sailing the Great Lakes didn’t have to worry about food or water– the water of the lakes is fresh, and food was to be had from many ports. This closeness was good, but also difficult if you were a sailor not keen to follow orders. Like a small town, word would get around, and a truculent sailor could find themselves without work.

We learned a great deal more, but of course if I gave it all away, that wouldn’t be fair. ;) And as a special bonus, the docent, Orion, and his friend Patrick, gave us a musical treat. (see video at the bottom of this post.)

Jessie tells of the woman immured in the lighthouse.

As I like stories, and my family was attending the baseball game (yawn), I came back to the Windy for another excursion the next evening in order to hear some ghost stories. The docents (Zack & Jessie) were fantastic storytellers, with blood-chilling tales of a ghostly ship, a woman immured in a lighthouse, and several more. I’m not sure if it was just the tales that were blood-chilling, or if it was the weather–windy and overcast.

I loved both trips, and I think that one of my favourite parts of the cruises was watching the docents interact with the kids on board. During the first cruise, a young boy was keen on listening, but was shy, and slowly began to move closer in to hear the tales. The docent noticed this and made a point of including him when he addressed passengers. And in the evening’s cruise, rather than give the usual warnings for kids to behave themselves, the docent shouted, “Children! Look after your parents! Make sure they don’t get into any trouble!” Also on that cruise, a boy and girl were very keen to hear ‘R-rated stories’ (or, as one crew member put it, ‘Arrrgh-rated?’), and they were able to pick from the chest of stories. Delightedly, the boy picked the scariest one.

And fortunately, being aboard the ship as the sun was setting made for some gorgeous shots of the Chicago skyline.

TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME

I just picked up (or rather, UPS shipped me, from Amazon) the Ziggy Stardust 40th Anniversary LP/DVD-Audio edition, and I am in heaven. ZS was the first Bowie album I owned (on CD, the Rykodisc version) and it’s always been a favourite of mine. The only way to listen to it is to put it on from Five Years and listen all the way through till the end of Rock N’ Roll Suicide. If I had to choose a favourite track or two, it’d be Moonage Daydream, and Rock N’ Roll Suicide. This is one of Bowie’s albums where I don’t have a song I skip over.

My precious.

Yes, I am a Bowie geek. Need a listen? Check out the streaming of the album on NME.

If you need me, I’ll be listening to Ziggy.

Book Review: Beneath the Shadows

Beneath the ShadowsBeneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t been to the area in which this book is set (North Yorkshire), but I have been on the moors, and the atmosphere that Sara Foster creates is perfect for what I remember of driving across the moors towards Whitby.

Part of my enjoyment of this book was its setting, the small cottage in Roseby, snug and cluttered, the sort of place where I’d like to live someday. The other was the mystery that kept me turning the pages. Why would Grace’s husband leave? and why would their baby daughter be outside the cottage in her pram when he wasn’t there? The mystery unfolds, and I was glad to be kept guessing, as often (in most books) I can figure out the puzzle before it’s revealed. However, I definitely caught some of the foreshadowing, though I won’t give away which bits, as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.

Now that I’ve read this one, I’ll have to go pick up her other work, and I hope that she’ll be releasing more books soon.

(review copy from netgalley)

View all my reviews