Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  May 4, 2021  

Meanwhile Issue 6

Mother's Day is on Sunday. This is the second MD we will be celebrating during the pandemic. “Celebrating” may be too ambitious a word to describe how we mark special occasions in these unusual times. Still, we all do what we can under the circumstances, while still adhering to the protocols that epidemiologists and doctors have suggested to keep us all safe. That’s the thing about humans: we are resilient and despite everything we endure with a smile and hope for a better future.

And speaking of special occasions (and of resilience and beaming smiles), Steffi and Lisa (SnL) mark their one year anniversary of creating and hosting Check In From Away. We could not imagine life without their infectious good humour and genuine charm. Congrats, SnL!

And in this issue, introducing our new frame-worthy illustrations of all four Mirvish theatres: Moms everywhere would love to have one or a collection of all four.

While We Wait …

By Desiree Proveau

I’d consider myself a craft dabbler. I try a lot but tend to lose interest quickly, leaving many unfinished projects in my wake. My skills haven’t advanced much in any particular medium but I have an abundance of materials, tools, and very basic skills for when inspiration strikes, or a global pandemic confines you to your home. Anyway, knitting was one of the first crafts I got into and is probably the one that has produced the greatest number of unfinished projects and leftover materials. I’m not a good knitter and I have no idea how I have accumulated the amount of yarn that I have, but it’s immense, and currently bulging out of a cupboard in my living room that no one is allowed to open. There’s not enough of any one type to really make anything, so I just keep pushing that door closed, unwilling to get rid of it no matter how annoyed my husband becomes. “It might be useful for something!”, I tell him. 

When I discovered the punch needle I was immediately vindicated over my yarn hoarding because punch needle takes virtually no skills, uses up all kinds of yarn, and works up so fast that I never lose interest in a project. My daughter Eloise even has a project going it’s that easy. So if you like the look of knitting but not the time commitment or skill required you should read on.

Punch needle is a type of embroidery needle that allows you to use yarn to make a variety of artworks, pockets, purses, pillows, toys, and rugs. The options are endless. The suggested backing for this type of embroidery is monk’s cloth but you can also use linen, wool or burlap and I’ve been experimenting with other second-hand fabrics I’ve collected over time that have a similar weave. I’ve also read that you can use fabric scraps instead of yarn to punch with but I haven’t tried that yet.

Here are a few of the pieces I’ve made using leftover yarn from my stash. Both sides look great so it’s up to the maker to decide which to display. One is more like a shag carpet, and one is flat.

If you want to try punch needle you’ll need:

  • A punch needle (I use an Oxford brand size 10 that I purchased from
  • Yarn in various colours
  • Backing material such as linen, wool, burlap, or monk’s cloth.
  • Old wooden frame or locking embroidery hoop
  • Staple gun or tacks
  • Darning needle

Let's get started!

Step 1 – Stretch your fabric around the wooden frame until it’s taut like a drum and staple or pin it into place with tacks. This takes a bit of elbow grease and you might want to ask for a helping hand to get it as tight as you can.

Step 2 – Draw your design using a marker of any kind (it’ll get covered later).

Step 3 – Thread your punch needle with yarn of your choice and start working. Size 10 has worked for all of my remnants and you can double up the yarn if it’s too thin.

Step 4 - When you’re done, take it off your frame, roll up the raw edges, and sew them into place using a blanket stitch or for a speedier process,  you can just sew another material to the back using a sewing machine or hand stitch.

Check out this link for more detailed information and tutorials.

There’s also a ton of tutorials and inspiration online. My favourite is @Bookou on Instagram which is where I discovered this craft and purchased my materials when I first tried it out. 

My favourite part about punch needle is the ability to take discarded yarn and fabric scraps and make them into something beautiful. Second-hand shops and many grandmothers’ houses have remnant wool available. Wouldn’t it be great to save it from a landfill while making yourself a wonderful new throw pillow! If you give it a go, remember to let us know. 

Now, crafting isn’t everyone’s jam.  My dear friend and long-time colleague Sarah Sisko does not share my love of craft but what we do share is pandemic-induced crippling anxiety and a great desire to break free of its clutches. Sarah has found a place in her home where the fear does not follow, and that place is her kitchen. In search of a coping strategy, Sarah has found so much more. Read below to hear her story, it’s a good one.

When we were forced to close our theatres and sent home from the office indefinitely, I found myself much like everyone else: in a state of shock. Many other emotions soon followed over this initial period of stasis however one in particular was at the forefront: FEAR! 

To cope, much like others, I sought refuge in pasta, wine and yes, I will admit it... Tik Tok. So after I decided to put down the glass of red wine and stop doom scrolling on my phone, we came across a Netflix show that I could watch with my two young children that wasn't G-rated or animated.  Zumbo's Just Desserts, created by the Australian star pâtissier Adriano Zumbo, transported us into a Willy Wonka-style world and offered us an escape while confined to our condo. 

From there we were hooked on baking shows.  

Cooking has always been something I've enjoyed. An appreciation for good food started at a young age hanging around the kitchen with my Croatian grandmother, Baka.  Dining at her house was always an event and a celebration of flavours.  She taught me the importance of quality ingredients, patience and hard work. Before she passed, we spent many hospital visits in her final months going over her recipes which she entrusted to my sisters and I to protect and to carry on. 

So, after watching endless baking challenges and seeing other amateur baker's creations, I thought why not? I could give some of these things a go, while I unexpectedly have this time on my hands (well as much time as a parent with young kids can have). 

The first challenge was cinnamon rolls drizzled with cream cheese icing. I surprised myself, my kids and husband and it propelled me to try new things that I thought I couldn't possibly do: Montreal-style bagels, baguettes and even a mirror glaze galaxy cake for my daughter's eighth birthday.  I needed to up the wow factor for her, feeling guilty we weren't able to have a proper party with her family and peers. 

By this point during the "great pause" we found ourselves in, I decided to join the sourdough baking craze and grow a starter I purchased from Kensington Sourdough.  After a week of nurturing and growing the starter it was a success! From there, I was obsessed with making focaccias in various varieties , boules, slider buns and loaves that kept us going and yes the waistline growing.  I shared a lot with my neighbors and father. 

Progressing to each challenge I imposed on myself and desperate to engage my children and limit their screen time we explored further in the world of baking and confections. 

My daughter was delighted when I tried French macarons for the first time. It was a triumph given the fact that while making these precious little desserts, my food processor started smoking, the thermometer broke, my toddler was screaming the whole time and it was a full moon! 

My baking impressed my sister who is a sought-after food stylist in the city and whenever she was in a bind and needed 100 slider buns, a Japanese rainbow mille cake, pink floral swiss rolls, souffle pancakes, coco bread etc., I was happily there to assist her.  

My most recent challenges have included a pavlova and a cheese burek from scratch that I know would make my Baka proud. 

It is great to feel inspired and have something to focus on until we return to the stage.

Wow, Sarah, just wow! You have taken pandemic baking to new levels. I have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of Sarah’s cooking and baking and I cannot wait to get back there! We both received our first vaccine doses today within 15 minutes of each other so I’m counting down the days till we can share a home baked treat and a much missed hug! Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tale with us. 

Until next time…

Have you turned to arts and crafts during this pandemic? We’d love to hear from you. We’d especially like to see photos of your creations. Don’t be shy. It’s time you blew your own horn and shared your work with others. If we feature your work in future issues of Meanwhile, we’ll reward you a $100 Mirvish gift card. Email us at

Check In From Away

It was on May 5, 2020 that SnL released their very first Check In From Away. This issue’s episode features some of the past guests of the 30 episodes online chat show. But this time, the tables are turned and the guests are the ones that ask SnL questions about their lives and what they’ve been doing during the pandemic (other than making Check In From Away). Hijinks and hilarity ensue.


The Stay At Home Show 

Person relaxing wearing striped socks in the foreground with mug. Cutout of a house with chimney with the words The Stay at Home Show

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it daily. Premiere Doug Ford can’t go an hour without saying it. Mayor John Tory may say it even more often: “Stay Home!”

In case you still haven’t gotten the message, Mirvish Productions is launching a brand new theatre show, the first of its kind to open in Toronto. The Stay At Home Show is an immersive new theatrical experience where the spectator is the star and where the goal is a healthier world for all.

Seeking great entertainment custom-made just for you and those in your household? Looking for insights that you may have been too busy or distracted to notice before? Want to experience life on a higher plane while contributing to the health, safety and well-being of all humanity?

The Stay At Home Show is the perfect show for you!

Want to enhance the experience? Enjoy a three-or-more-course meal before or after the show (lovingly prepared by you or someone else in your household).

You can do it all without leaving the comfort of your home. (That’s not to discourage you from enjoying a refreshing daily walk in the great outdoors. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you do so. The phrase “stay at home” means do not congregate with others who are not in your household. Stay safe, keep yourself and others safe.)

Best of all, one ticket price allows you multiple viewings. It’s the show that keeps on giving and giving and giving…

But hurry: The Stay At Home Show will only be here for a limited time. Enjoy it while you can. You know you’ll be talking about it for the rest of your life.


Tickets to The Stay At Home Show are only $10 each  There are no taxes, no service charges, no other fees whatsoever.

But if you’re looking for a richer experience, choose our Premium package. It’s the same as the regular ticket but more expensive. At only $100 per ticket it’s a bargain at double the cost. (You may want to don formal wear to complement your Premium package. But you don’t have to. You have full flexibility to do what you want, as long as you stay home.)


All proceeds — 100% to be exact — support The AFC, a national charity with a mission to help Canadian entertainment professionals maintain their health, dignity and ability to work. They provide compassionate support to everyone working in theatre, film, TV, dance, music, live performance and more. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of industry members have turned to The AFC for help. During this challenging time, The AFC has responded to the need in the community with $1.4 million (and counting) in emergency financial aid, alongside other crucial support programs and services. Find out more and get involved at

Each The Stay At Home Show ticket comes with a tax receipt for the full ticket price.

The Stay At Home Show tickets make brilliant and appropriate souvenirs of these unprecedented times. Buy one for your scrap book or to frame and hang on your wall of mementos. They are amazing gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, any occasion. (Note: no print-at-home tickets will be available, nor can you flash one of these tickets on your smartphone screen for admission. These tickets are the real thing: honest-to-goodness paper tickets printed on state-of-the-art Boca printers, which will soon probably go the way of the Gestetner printers, meaning obsolete.)

Quantities are limited. When they sell out, they sell out. These rare tickets will go on sale on May 4th and will only be available until May 15th. Don’t miss out, order yours, and may the force be with you!

To order your The Stay At Home Show tickets, go to

All funds are in CAN $ and will benefit the AFC - charitable registration 118777457RR0001. A Charitable Tax receipt from The AFC will be emailed shortly after your donation is made.  Your souvenir ticket(s) will be mailed to you the old-fashioned way within five business days by Mirvish Productions. Donation deadline: May 15, 2021. Souvenir tickets have no cash value and cannot be returned, exchanged, refunded or re-sold. 

Reader Arts & Crafts

Thank you to the readers who heeded our call to share their arts and crafts activities during the pandemic. Here are some of their stories:

I loved your While We Wait column about crafting in the last issue of Meanwhile.

From the ages of 12 to 15, my first arts and craft passion, like the subject of your column, was painting ~ original work, not paint-by-number. I even won a few prizes for my paintings. Then fashion took over my life, and in my leisure time I began to sew. I also designed and sewed clothes for my kids. From there, I evolved into quilting, which can be extremely artistic, very colourful and immensely more satisfying than trying to fit my hips.

Then, after a number of years of almost daily travel for work, and being away from home for long stretches, I decided I needed to learn how to bead. Those little beads and needles fit far better in my suitcase than the sewing machine. And I loved all the BLING!

Now I am 74, and in the current situation I am home all day. 

I feed my need for connecting with like-minded people by joining amazing bead societies in the UK and here in Toronto, through groups on Facebook. Seed Beads and More is the most exciting and inspiring one. At last count, there are over 17,500 of us in this group alone. If you feel the need to create some amazing work, you are welcome to join us.

Lori Finney

PHOTO CREDIT (clockwise): Vessel design by River Rose, Pendant design by Chloe Menage, Bracelet design by Susannah Thomson. All stitched and beaded by Lori Finney.

My Covid project for the past year has been making and donating face masks to the Sunnybrook Hospital Gift Shop, which raises funds for patient care projects. I am one of many volunteers who make the shop possible. I just reached the 700 masks mark.

All the masks I make have three layers and a nose wire. I use mostly upcycled fabrics from my daughter’s vintage clothing business, as I also do a lot of her mending and alterations of vintage finds (another craft that I love to do).

For the time being, under the new stay-at-home orders, no volunteers are allowed in the hospital. But all volunteers continue to make goods for the gift shop, which we will deliver once the hospital grounds are open to non-patients.

Despite having found this worthwhile activity to occupy my time and as an outlet for my creativity during the pandemic, I still can’t wait to get back to attending theatre shows.

Anita Winkler

PHOTO: The various masks made by Anita Winkler out of upcycled fabric from vintage clothing. The masks are donated to the Sunnybrook Gift Shop, where they are sold to raise funds for patient programmes.

Have you turned to arts and crafts during this pandemic? We’d love to hear from you. We’d especially like to see photos of your creations. Don’t be shy. It’s time you blew your own horn and shared your work with others. If we feature your work in future issues of Meanwhile, we’ll reward you a $100 Mirvish gift card. Email us at

A New Song from Cara and Melanie

Cara Hunter and Melanie Doane are back with their third video for a socially distanced world. This time it is a rendition of the optimistic and inspirational “I Can See Clearly Now”, originally written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash in 1972. Nash was the first non-Jamaican to popularize reggae in the US. Born in Houston, TX in 1940, he had a brilliant career internationally. He lived in the US, Jamaica and England. He died last year at the age of 80 of natural causes in his hometown.

Melanie Doane, the Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter, music educator and actor, and Cara Hunter, the actor and singer who has starred in many of Toronto’s big musicals, from Les Misérables to Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, first contributed to Meanwhile in the December 21st issue with their cover of “Song for a Winter’s Night” for our Holiday Extravaganza video concert. Their second offering, just in time for Valentine’s Day,  was “I Will Always Love You” in the February 9th issue. (You can go back and watch their first two videos on our YouTube channel

Like they did with their first two outings, they shot this new video in the open air in Cara’s driveway, standing six feet apart and accompanying themselves on ukuleles. We called them our wintertime troubadours. They now become our spring troubadours, harbingers of a healthy and wonderful warm weather season.

Cara and Melanie’s “I Can See Clearly Now” is so uplifting you may find yourself singing along. To encourage you to do so, we’ve provided the lyrics as subtitles on the screen.


At the end of Cara and Melanie’s video, Melanie introduces her unique music program and charity, Doane Uschool , through which she has provided music lessons to children in the GTA for over 10 years regardless of their financial circumstances.

Self-financed for the first seven years, Uschool became so successful that – incorporated in 2014, and now a registered charity – it now gives weekly instruction to over 900 students in 55 classes.  

Group of students and instructors with their musical instruments

Other highlights include recordings with Jann Arden and the Barenaked Ladies, and performances at Koerner Hall with Emilie-Claire Barlow.

During the pandemic Melanie has organized weekly Zoom classes for all of Uschool’s students, produced a new weekly TV show called Uschool TV, and just wrapped the annual student songwriting contest. 

Music is always worth fighting for, but the mental health advantages of weekly music lessons has proven to be especially life-changing this year. You can imagine what it means to both parents and kids alike. 

If it is within your means, please support the Uschool music programme and help keep students playing and singing.

I want to donate! take me to Canada Helps

New Theatre Prints

Illustrations of Mirvish TheatresWe are delighted to introduce beautiful new prints of all four Mirvish theatres by illustrator and actor Bianca Alongi.

Through her Casabianca online gallery, she has created whimsical Toronto street scenes of popular and out-of-the-way coffee shops, food markets, boutiques, neighbourhoods, parks, bookshops, bars, street posts, park benches, shop windows, and even an assortment of bicycles leaning against brick walls. Drawn in black ink and watercolours, each illustration is printed on museum-quality thick and durable matte paper.

Exclusively for us, Bianca has captured the facades of the Royal Alex, the Princess of Wales, the Ed Mirvish and the CAA theatres in solo prints as well as one that features all four with the title “Toronto Theatre”.

They are offered to you for $20 each, or buy a collection of all four solo prints for $60. Each print is 8 1/2” x 8 1/2”. Perfect to display in your home or as a gift for family and friends.

take me to the shop!

Shipping is an additional $12 per order. Or choose free curbside pickup from the Princess of Wales Theatre.

(A footnote: “Casabianca” is an appropriate name for artist Bianca Alongi’s gallery as it means the house of Bianca, but it is also the name of an 1826 poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans about an actual incident that occurred on August 1, 1798 during the Battle of the Nile between British and French fleets. Aboard the French flagship, L'Orient, was the 12-year-old son of the ship's commander, Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca. Giocante, following his father’s strict instructions not to move until he was told to, remained at his post even though the ship had caught fire and all around him was chaos and mayhem. Giocante did not realize that his father was already dead, but such was his love and obedience for his dad that he did not move. When the fire reached the ship’s gunpowder magazines a massive explosion destroyed it, everyone on it, and damaged many nearby ships. The poem’s first two lines — "The boy stood on the burning deck/ Whence all but he had fled” — was for many generations of British schoolchildren as well-known as the Lord’s Prayer.)