Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jesse's Big Day

Last weekend I celebrated Jesse's ninth birthday with a ride on the Duc d"Orleans.

Jesse and I always have a lot of fun when we hang out and this was no exception. We headed down to Sarnia on a sunny but blustery day. Considering it was September 13th, it was COLD! That was a bit disappointing as hanging out on the upper (open) deck would've been a nice option. But the wind, and sometimes rain, kept us on the lower deck for most of the trip.

The Peanut, as I like to call him, did not let that effect his enjoyment of the trip. He soaked it all in! We had lunch on board and cruised down the river to Corunna and back. When we did venture out onto the deck, it was really fun to look down the river and see things from a new perspective.

After our cruise, we took a drive over to Port Huron. Jesse was really patient as we picked up a few things I needed in the States. We landed at Cracker Barrel for dinner. I know Mr. Jesse enjoys playing checkers and thought he'd like the table right by the fireplace for a few games. I was right. He's a tough competitor, but he won a game and I won a it was even.

When our waitress discovered we were celebrating a birthday, she let him pick any dessert on the menu! He was thrilled. I always enjoy my special days with the kiddos, spending quality one-on-one time with them. They are pretty awesome additions to my life!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reflecting on TIFF

As a fourteen year veteran of TIFF (in the words of the etalk reporter that interviewed me!) I feel obliged to report on this year's event. I have had a lot of feedback from friends and family that say they look forward to my TIFF photos each year. This year did not supply stellar results. However, it was a very fun day with friends.

In September 2000, my friend Lisa asked if I'd like to go to the Toronto International Film Festival with her. Earlier that year, she had returned from a trip to LA where she got tons of autographs outside Elton John's Oscar party. She was enamored with Hollywood and the idea of seeing the stars up close and personal. While I admired her book full of scribbles and the stories that accompanied it, I could not imagine why she wanted to go to Toronto. I asked "Who are we going to see? Jim Carey?" She then explained that TIFF was a big deal. Second, only to Cannes. Well, well...that changed everything.

Together with our other friend Janice, we booked a hotel and set off to do some star gazing. We were really not sure where we would end up, who we would see or what we were we came prepared, with ball gowns. Ha ha ha. So hilarious as I look back on the experience.

The first premiere we attended was for "Almost Famous" which remains one of my favourite movies. There were about 25 people there to see the stars parade in on the red carpet. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jimmy Fallon, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson... it was all very exciting. Fortunately we had left the ball gowns at the hotel.

After that first night, we picked up this new hobby and were riding the subway like native Torontonians - navigating our way to the different premieres. At the advice of our entertainment reporter, Janice Zolf, we had drinks at the Four Seasons hotel the next morning. (Drinks being $11 orange juice!) She suggested we might spot some celebs there. And, it paid off. Lisa returned from the washroom in a flurry of excitement, encouraging Janice & I to go to the lobby as Dan Aykroyd was there. We met Dan as well as Mike Bullard and Al Waxman.

Over the years, our "gets" got better and better until our books were filled with the who's who of Hollywood. The best autographs are the ones that come with a story. Like the time Keanu Reeves surprised us all by showing up in a cab. When Lisa dropped her sharpie and Sissy Spacek picked it up for her. When Benicio Del Toro paused to ask if I was ok when the people behind me were particularly pushy. When Pierce Brosnan spoke and took my breath away. And when George Clooney (best celeb ever) signed for hundreds of waiting fans with a broken hand!

Two years ago, Lisa and I decided we were retiring from this annual event. The crowds just kept getting bigger and you had to arrive earlier to get a good spot. And, sitting on the sidewalk isn't as easy as it used to be! So, in 2013 we did not attend TIFF. We both admitted that we missed the adrenaline rush that goes with that weekend. So, when my friends Karen and Kim asked about going with me this year...I said sure!

It was fun to take 2 noobies with me and show them the ropes. TIFF has become a huge deal in Toronto now with King Street completely closed down the day we were there. While we were waiting, we were interviewed by etalk, scored some free lipstick from L'Oreal and free coffee from McCafe as well.

We managed to snag a few autographs when the stars arrived, but happened to be in an area they tended to skip over. Boo to that. Tina Fey, however, walked straight toward me with sharpie in hand. She was ready...and so was I.

Another TIFF has come and gone. Will I return next year? Not sure yet. But, it is kinda fun that most any movie I watch, I can say ..."I have their autograph".

Thursday, September 11, 2014


September 11th is a date that will be recalled with infamy. It is one of those pivotal moments that is frozen in time. One that you'll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the dreaded news.

On September 11, 2001, I was working in the newsroom at CTV London. My shift started at 10:30am, just in time for the noon news. I was tuned in to the radio on my way to work when I heard that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. My first thought was that it was a small hobby plane and, though tragic, not a lot of harm done.

When I walked into the station, I was met by commotion in the hallway. People were gathered around the water cooler talking about what had happened. It seemed two planes had crashed into the twin towers in New York. There was a lot of confusion about the facts, with rumours swirling about multiple targets.

I walked into the newsroom and observed clusters of people gathered around TV monitors. Other than the audio from CNN, the place was eerily quiet. I made my way to the control room where our noon producer was watching her screen intently. "The tower just collapsed. I can't believe this!" She said it in disbelief. We were all in disbelief. The scenes on the monitors were like that of an apocalyptic movie.

I remember being scared. I wasn't sure why this was happening or what would happen next. I remember wanting to talk to one of my family members - but I couldn't seem to reach anyone. I remember my co-worker insisting this would lead to war and he would be drafted. I remember being unable to walk away from the constant barrage of information and horrifying pictures on TV. I remember that when I did walk away, I found myself in the staff lounge watching Sesame Street. It was the only channel that was not taken over by the carnage in New York.

We didn't produce a newscast that day. We flipped the switch to CNN and followed along with the rest of the world. In retrospect, I was situated in a really unique spot to observe the biggest news event in my lifetime unfold. Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The "unofficial" end of summer...

Labour Day weekend typically signifies the "unofficial" end of summer. Even though autumn doesn't arrive until mid September, there is definitely a shift that happens when the calendar flips. The kids go back to school, the days are shorter and it just starts to feels like fall.

As one last hurrah, I had some friends over for a campfire on Sunday night. At the beginning of the summer, I anticipated many campfires. A campfire every weekend. They are, after all, one of my favourite things about summer. Well, I had one on the July long weekend and one Labour Day weekend. Hardly one every weekend, but that's how it goes sometimes.

My brother had been describing some of the yummy pie irons they made while on vacation and I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. So, I borrowed the  irons from my parents and stocked up on some "fillings".

The result was some tasty treats. We had pizza pie irons and all kinds of dessert concoctions. What fun. Especially for the pie iron virgins in the crowd!

Campfires always bring together good friends, good food and good conversation. This one did not disappoint. And, it turns out, it wasn't the end of summer after all! This week we've had some of the hottest temperatures of the year!