Make it personal


Our Deb Williams reflects on the lost art of the letter, and explains why she misses Christmas cards:
It’s a crisp winter morning, and I’m standing by the bay window, looking out onto a fresh blanket of snow. It seems to hug even the most fragile branches. Today is a good day to spend a few quiet moments sending out my Christmas cards.

I believe my love for writing first sprouted in my early teens when I spent hours writing letters to pen pals and friends away at boarding school.

Humid summers in India were spent corresponding with cousins in England and aunts in Australia. Every time a letter arrived, I – for a moment — saw myself in their worlds. I read of the sticky, red earth of the Australian outback and the vicious geese at St. James Park in England. I would later discover both for myself.
In my late teens, my correspondence turned to love letters. They related messages of the heart that were simply too precious to be sent through an impersonal e-mail, and too discreet to be revealed over a crackling long-distance phone call.
Even after I got married, I left love notes around the house for my husband to find. Our courtship has been documented through cards, letters, and little notes. I believe a woman can never have too many of those. There are few things more precious than the arrival of a love letter, regardless of age or gender.
Sadly, I look around today and see that the world has changed. These days I dread bringing in the mail; it’s mostly bills or flyers. Where have all the letters gone?
One of my fondest memories of Christmas is sitting with my dad and stringing all the Christmas cards together. As the Yuletide season approached, wishes flowed in from all over the world. I had a stamp collection that was the envy of many of my friends. I realize now that these weren’t just cards; they were chronicles of people lives, their hopes and thoughts. Sending cards for a birthday or a holiday was a personal and intimate gesture. 
Now we live in a world of Facebook and instant messaging.  It is an impersonal space where it’s easier to settle for a generic broadcast than to labour over something personal and endearing. This is a space where there are no Christmas cards or love letters. We have forgotten how to build relationships, to grow together, and how to truly share our lives with each other. We live in a world where friendship has an expiration date and love is frivolous. It’s time to realise that life doesn’t have to be this way. 
With a gentle smile, I turn away from the window. Maybe, this holiday season we all will try a little harder, to make it a time for family, friends, and above all else – we will make time to spend together.





A wife –a life

Deb WilliamsDeb Williams reflects on the plight of the trapped Chilean miners and their wives. She muses on what she values in life as a woman and a wife:

If someone told me that in the blink of an eye I would be separated from my husband for four months, and that I would anxiously wait as he fought for his life, I would tell you you’re crazy; it would never happen. But as I write this, there are women facing this very predicament. The families of the 33 miners trapped in Chile battle frustration and fear every day. But through it all, there is also hope. 
Life will set many obstacles in our path. Some test our courage and others our self-confidence. They teach us perseverance and unrelenting patience. 
Women can give life, so we know what it means to lose it. We understand better than our male counterparts that it must be nurtured and treasured. Women are mothers and teachers, so let us teach well and inspire those around us. 
Be passionate, kind-hearted, and gentle. The world around you is beautiful. Take the time to experience nature and all her splendour. Enjoy the challenge of a good hike and the serenity of a quiet hour spent in contemplation surrounded by scented jasmine. If you love it, paint and let your home be your gallery. Read books that will nourish your soul and help you grow. Ask your husband out on a date. Take time to step aside and watch your children grow. Learn the meaning of La Dolce Vita and live by it.
Stand tall and strong, and walk with a big heart. Accept who you are and love yourself for it — flaws and all. Endeavour to be a better person, but treasure the person you have become along the way. There will be times when you think you must stand alone. Don’t. Reach out and you will find support all around you.
If life were a song, would you dance to the vibrant beat or choose to sit it out in a dim corner?

A soulful read

 As fall approaches and the harvest comes in, Deb Williams retreats to her books and kitchen. Here is her review of The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Deb has also included a brief interview with the author.

 The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, reviewed by Deb Williams:
This is the time of the year when my reading preference changes from light summery bliss to books that are rich and soulful. The School Of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister can be best described as just that. 
As Bauermeister releases aromas which gently toy with the reader’s senses. The story follows Chef Lillian’s Monday night culinary class and the eight students who meet there. As garlic starts to simmer and wafts of fresh basil mingle in the air, each character’s story delicately unfurls. Through the pairing of spices and the student’s stories, the reader is taken on an adventure of self discovery.
Lillian gives each student the opportunity to find closure, peace, and redemption by allowing them to learn the recipe for a life brimming with romance and companionship.
The School of Essential Ingredients is a book that nourishes, moulds, and brings to life characters many of us can identify with. It has a little something for everyone.
Bauermeister’s latest venture has cemented my philosophy that good food and laughter will always be found in the same room.
Deb WilliamsErica Bauermeister agreed to share some thoughts with our readers:
DD: How did you  create the characters in the novel?
EB: I knew I wanted to write a book; I knew it would have eight characters and a teacher, but I didn’t know who they were. It was like building a house and simply believing that people would move in. And one by one they did.
DD: If you were to make a dish that best represented your personality, what would it be?
DD: I think it would be pasta sauce from scratch, which is also my favourite thing to make. I love opening the refrigerator and looking at what I have left over and then figuring out how to turn those ingredients into a sauce that is new and different and special. I think this is what we writers do as well – we take all the bits and pieces of the world, all the small things we notice on a daily basis, and turn them into something coherent and meaningful, and – with any luck – original.
DD: What is your message to readers who are interested in cooking –what can they prepare themselves for?
DD: The point of the book is the characters and what they learn about themselves and each other through their time in the cooking school. My hope is that whether you are a cook or the queen/king of take-out, you will walk away with a new appreciation of your senses, a new appreciation of how much we might not know about the people we encounter in our lives.
Bauermeister nourishes the reader with her tale. She helps us realize that the joy we find in our life is worth holding onto.

Memories from the net

Here’s a very personal book review from our Deb Williams, as she remembers her childhood idol, Andre Agassi:

This isn’t just another book review. It’s a story about Andre Agassi and me. Although we have never met, I grew up idolizing him. Growing up in India, becoming an avid sports fan is the norm. When others played cricket, I chose tennis. I still remember the humid Indian summers spent pounding the courts and practicing my backhand. I did it with great enthusiasm, because like Agassi, I wanted to win a Grand Slam. And like him, while others fine-tuned their aces, I practiced returning serves. But tennis wasn’t encouraged at the time, nor was it a female sport of choice. All that, along with a sudden knee injury playing tennis, brought my career on the courts skidding to standstill.
But my passion for the game never diminished. Like millions of fans, I followed Agassi. I loved him for what he represented. From garish outfits to his first Wimbledon, I considered him great sportsman and a welcome change. When he cried at his last U.S. Open, I cried too. Flushing Meadows will always be André’s home.
A few months ago I was watching the news when the little ticker tape on the bottom announced that André’s new tell-all book revealed that he not only despised tennis, but he also had to fight a drug addiction during his professional career. My world crumbled. This man, who I looked up to, who inspired millions around the world, hated tennis — the very sport I loved so much more because of people like him and his wife, the great tennis star Steffi Graf.
I rushed out and got my hands on the nearest copy of André’s Open. I thirstily drank up every page. It’s a book that will break your heart and then uplift you like no other. It speaks volumes of his character. I understood that maybe even I would not have enjoyed tennis as much as I do, if I had had an oppressive father screaming in my ear every day.
André’s Open follows his struggle not only to find his place in the world of sport, but also himself. This rebel from Las Vegas who dropped out of school went on to become the oldest tennis player to win a Grand Slam. It is definitely a no-holds-barred book, tell-all — from teen-age sweethearts to the regimented trainer who accepted him as a son.
André speaks of his love for helping children and starting The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for troubled children. He discusses his close relationship he shares with his own children. But there is one part of the book where he speaks of his addiction to drugs that will always make me see him in a tarnished light.
Open will leave you reaching for some Kleenex. It is a triumph for Agassi to show the world he was far from perfect. The most touching part of the book is his speech at his last U.S. Open — one I remember well.
“The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what I have found. Over the last twenty-one years I have found loyalty: You have pulled for me on the court, and also in life. I have found inspiration: You willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I have found generosity: You have given me your shoulders to stand on, to reach for my dreams – dreams I could have never reached without you. Over the last twenty-one years I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you for the rest of my life.“
Deb WilliamsI do not want to give too much away, but I can say this: even though I was devastated by his statements, I know that come the summer I will still walk onto the tennis court. And as I set up to receive a serve I will spin the racquet just as Agassi did, because he was and always be one of the game’s greatest masters. I will always have tennis and tennis will always have Andre Agassi.

Another Hot Doc

Barrel-chested and alcoho loving Strel was the "Big River Man"Entertainment editor Deb Williams reviews another of her favourite documentaries. This has been a stellar year for documentaries. Try to catch one at your local theater.
Slovenian endurance swimmer, Martin Strelconquered the Mississippiin 2002 and the Yangtze in 2004. John Maringouin’s documentary Big River Man depicts Strel’s attempt to swim the Amazon River, a feat he accomplishes in 66 days at the age of 53. Barrel-chested, alcohol-loving, Strel undertook the challenge to highlight awareness about the depletion of the Amazon rain forests. Maringouin treats audiences to an emotional journey. He shows Strel’s sense of humour as well as the inner madness that drives him to battle the Amazon.
Big River Man is a swashbuckling documentary. Strel shows that one man can make a difference. One of the earth’s greatest champions, Strel believes no feat is impossible. Big River Man proves that the human spirit can endure fear, disappointment, and exhaustion to triumph over all odds.
Deb Williams -Documentary loving!This is a documentary for those who enjoy something other than the blood, guts, and monotonous violence that frequently feature on big screens these days. It has heart and hope.