So: oh, Canada

I’ve been in Canada since Friday. Gotta say it’s been great to be back. I’m always so happy to cross the border, probably because coming here remains the decision that changed my life the greatest.

Marrying Bruce, immigrating here, reestablishing my career, and choosing to become a Canadian, are the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

The trip started exactly as planned: relaxing, pampering, reading. We flew to Toronto with a old friend, had coffee with a newish friend and had a wonderful time with a group of friends we wish we could see more often. But we started planning Bruce’s next big birthday so perhaps we’ll all be spending quality time together in December 2014.

Last night was Bruce’s niece Amanda’s wedding. Of course she looked beautiful and we are all so excited to have Marc in the family, not just because he’s a winemaker.

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the happy couple signing their paperwork

A great party! And it was great to catch up with Bruce’s family and have something exciting to celebrate. Tonight we’ll all gather for some pizza and wings and hang out some more.

It’s been a lovely trip. But now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head to The Beer Store and LCBO for supplies. And pick up some Canada Day decorations.

Enjoy your Sunday, eh.

So: oh Canada

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Bienvenue au Canada!

Last night I was so happy to finally arrive at Toronto’s Pearson Airport (YYZ), that I actually got a bit misty. Customs and Immigration only took minutes since being a Canadian passport holder let me skip to the automated machines. Whoooohoooo! The super nice officer said, “Welcome home, ma’am”  as he barely glanced at my passport. The taxi driver who drove me to my hotel was happy to tell me all about what has been built, torn down or is currently under construction since I’ve been here last. And when I got to my hotel, I received an upgrade to a nicer room. There was room service to be had and it was delicious. A fine welcome back all around.

After a great night’s sleep, a productive breakfast meeting with my colleagues, and a successful (and fun) work meeting, I headed out to meet up with Fransi Weinstein from Three Hundred Sixty-Five (seems to be a week for bloggers to meet up with each other). It was just a short walk down Bloor Street to meet at her favorite Starbucks, one with big windows, bright light, and lots of academic energy from all the University of Toronto students filling the cafe.

view from the Starbucks where I met Fransi

view from the Starbucks where I met up with Fransi—yes, that is the CN Tower

A couple of details that might help our meeting make more sense: Fransi and I were introduced to each other years ago, but when I lived in Toronto, we never met or worked together. We do know a lot of people in common. And we both work in the same business. We had a lovely chat, filled each other in on a lot of stories, shared details (like which hotel I stayed at in NYC), answered each other’s questions, and made a pact to meet up when Bruce and I come back to town at the end of May for a wedding. I even managed to get a bit of excellent advice. It’s pretty darn cool that I’ve made a friend who I’ve admired from a far for a long time.

After that I went back to my hotel to collect my stored bag and went to the nearest TTC (Toronto’s subway) station to head out to the western edge of Toronto and get picked up by my favorite five year old, my godson Ben, and his wonderful momma.

Bay station in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood

Bay station in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood (I also love the Hays X-Case with all the Canadiana on it)

It’s pretty sweet  to hold hands with a five year old, especially when you know that someday soon he will be too cool show much affection to his old Auntie Julie. (Well, until he turns 19 when his momma says I can take him out for his first beer in a bar.) Once we reached his momma’s car, we zoomed to their house and he decorated my sunglasses case with stickers of fancy fish and characters from the movie Cars. It is now a one-of-a-kind work of art and a very special souvenir of my trip to Toronto.

I’m lucky to be working from their house tomorrow. I have reviews to write and conference calls to do, a meeting on Monday to prep for, as well as whatever else comes my way in the course of the day. I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to be able to work from pretty much anywhere, even a friend’s dining room table in another country. And I am thankful for wifi, cell phones, and many other modern conveniences that allow me to set up shop and be productive.

Being here until Sunday (and then leaving directly for a meeting in NC) will give me the opportunity to catch up with old friends, visit places that I love to go, and have a proper girls’ day on Saturday with a ladies’ lunch and shopping. As grueling and chaotic as business travel can be sometimes, it’s opportunities like these that make me very grateful to do it. And as nice as staying in a hotel can sometimes be, give me a guest room or sofa in a friend’s home any day. Especially if their five year old promises to provide a personal Rooster-style (can’t wait to hear it) wake up call in the morning.

 

PS: Bruce assures me that the Gs and the urban farm are doing fine despite none of the Gs really wanting to go outside in the rain this morning and the temperatures dipping to 38° F tonight (whole farm operation is covered). He tells me that he is writing the blog on Saturday so please stay tuned.

 

 

So: deja vous

I need a travel exorcism.

Or maybe American Airlines needs new planes. A better maintenance schedule. A back up plan when there are mechanical issues. Something.

Right now I’m waiting at gate #3. My flight is delayed 2.5 hrs so far. Funny, I think this is the third time in a row this has happened to me.

In fairness my new pal Tom Horton sent me a lovely “I’m so sorry” email and gave me 2,500 AA miles. I’m sure he (and his marketing team/agency) think it’s an awesome PR move. I am glad for the miles, but I’m not sure they’ll be enough for some people.

Just like my hotel from last night. They left every guest a breakfast pack on their door and had Starbucks in the lobby. However, they didn’t explain why. As I checked out, every guest asked about the restaurants. And asked if their were health code violations. A terse “an investigation is ongoing” and “I assure you that the food and coffee provided was made off premises” was all the explanation offered. I still feel queasy. And I bet some travelers will make a big scene. I’m going to write the GM a note and let him know what I thought of my experience.

But lest you think I’m just bellyaching, I’m actually very grateful. My team at work is kicking ass without me, just as they always do when I take my show on the road. I was in a great city today. With people that I absolutely enjoy working and spending time with. It was a much better day than yesterday. The taxi drivers were fantastic–and told me a lot about their city.

Here are a few photos I took from the zooming cabs:

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And I’m looking forward to getting on the commuter jet to my next destination. Meeting two awesome colleagues there tonight. Meeting new colleagues tomorrow. Seeing some people who mean the world to me.

So wait I will. Patiently. You’d be surprised just how much I can get done with pen and paper and this little phone.

If you still haven’t figured out where I’m going, here’s another hint: it’s my home and native land. Ok, not really since I’m a naturalized citizen, but that’s how the song goes, eh!

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(Thanks to Bruce for helping solve the travel mystery)

Sow: cupcake tree

Ok, there’s no such thing, but believe me, if there was I’d certainly add it to the collection of plants in the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. Baking’s always been something that I love to do. However, I find that as the years march on, eating the stuff I make is no longer all that appealing to me. And I don’t have as much time as I’d like to make more elaborate desserts. How nice it would be to head outside cupcake carrier in hand and pluck the number needed fresh from the tree. Hopefully they’d have a grafted version with vanilla, red velvet, coconut, and chocolate all growing together.

white cupcakes, decorated and ready to go

white cupcakes, decorated and ready to go

Since my dream tree doesn’t exist, last night my old friend Duncan gave me a hand. He and I have been pals since I was old enough to use the mixer and turn on the oven. Betty plays second fiddle to Duncan when it’s cupcake time. What?!? I don’t grab a Barefoot Contessa/Nigella Lawson/Martha Stewart/other famous baker’s cookbook and start from scratch?

Hell no.

I’ve done it. And when it comes to cupcakes, Duncan Hinds is what everyone wants despite Sprinkles’ success. Why? Because eating a cupcake makes you feel like you’re 6 years old again when that cupcake was HUGE and you were so excited it was all yours. (By the way, that’s my theory for the size of the Sprinkles ones too. They are huge even by adult standards.) Unless your mom is Martha Stewart, Mom’s cupcakes were probably lovingly made by taking a box of cake mix made by Duncan Hinds or Betty Crocker, mixing it up with eggs, oil and water, pouring it into the cute little papers and baking them up.

My mom always made homemade icing, which I love, but over the years I’ve found that over the years my dear coworkers on either side of the border don’t really notice it’s homemade. They are too busy devouring every last crumb in seconds. So Duncan to the rescue again with his wide selection of frostings in cans.

devil's food cupcakes

devil’s food cupcakes pre-frosting

cupcakes pre-frosting

white cupcakes pre-frosting

Last night I made white and devil’s food cupcakes. 36 to be exact. Frosted and sprinkled, just like many moms made for class birthday celebrations when I was a kid. They’re for our department’s January birthday celebration and even though there are more than there are people attending the celebration, I guarantee they’ll all be gone. First of all, they’re free food and second of all, Creatives love to hit the ‘way back machine and remember their childhood.

Cupcakes also take me back across the border. My friend Reesa and I made cupcakes for occasions of all sorts: bridal showers, dinner parties, any holiday you can think of, birthdays, you name it, we’d make a cupcake for it. Usually the baking was accompanied by several glasses of wine, but always there was copious amounts of laughter and plenty of catching up.

my "helpers" are supervising

my “helpers” are supervising, surprisingly Guinness is actually in the kitchen, George and Godiva are handing back

Lest you wonder what the exhausted hounds were doing while I was up to the elbows in dishes and cake mix, all three of the 3G Network were curious about  what was going on in the kitchen. George was an especially good helper once I spilled a small bottle of sprinkles and most landed on the floor. We should have called him Hoover.

packed up and ready to head to the office

packed up and ready to head to the office

PS: If you have any doubt about my love of baking, check out my linked in profile. Not sure if potential employers consider baking an asset, but if they do, they’ll be pleased to know that it comes highly recommended by former coworkers.