Thursday, June 30, 2011

30 Clicks and Counting

A weed is no more than a flower in disguise, Which is seen through at once, if love give a man eyes.
James Russell Lowell

Peddling along a bike trail beside a busy expressway full of commuter traffic, I enjoyed the sight of the beautiful, violet blue weeds that peered above the wild foliage growing beside the trail. Surely a Tinker Bell or two must live within such an enchanting muddle. Their effervescent colour enlivens what might otherwise be a mundane ride on city streets to the gym.

I am congratulating myself for the significant milestone of riding 30km on my new bike. Although my thighs feel like I'm lifting a heavy tree log with each step, I am enjoying my new gym membership. The gym comes with the added bonus of also being home to the public library full of books, CDs and DVDs. With all these materials available for free I won't be bored as I lounge across the sofa allowing my legs to recuperate. ;-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Pumped

It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigour.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator (106-43 B.C.)

The truth is that I was pumped, past tense, after a 4 km bike ride to the YMCA, where I found first-rate equipment, a near-empty pool, no blaring music, and no annual contracts, and so I eagerly signed up and had a good work-out, the first in a year and a half, and then biked back the return 4 km. Now, four hours later, I can just barely hold myself upright in the chair but, although the body may be deflated, my spirit remains upbeat. I don't possess the vigour of the jackrabbit that appeared in the neighbour's driveway at dinner time, but I aspire to it. How much vigour will I have tomorrow? -- that is the question. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

I'm sorry to say so
But, sadly it's true
That bang-ups and hang-ups
Can happen to you.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s a great balancing act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

Will you succeed?
Yes you will indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

kid you'll move mountains your name buxbaum or bixby or bray or mordecai ale van allen o'shea, you're off to great places!
today is your day!
your mountain is waiting, so ...
get on your way.
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Lots of proud parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, and an aunt or two filled the auditorium tonight to acknowledge the achievements of high school graduates who are about to take flight and soar in new directions.

Your mountain is waiting and the vista is grand! 
We're all proud of you Justin. You're a fine young man!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

All Things Divine

All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy; and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other things. For things have been co-ordinated, and they combine to make up the same universe. For there is one universe made up of all things, and one god who pervades all things, and one substance, and one law, and one reason.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (121-180 A.D.)

Before and after raising to the imperial throne, Marcus Aurelius studied and lived his life according to Stoic philosophy, writing his thoughts about life and death in his Meditations, a text read by all Classics students, philosophically bent or not. Philosophical arguments can make my head spin, but I clicked with Aurelius and the Stoics who believe that each of us shares a spark of divinity within us and, if only for this reason, we should respect one another, even in our enemies . . . I mean those we despise

Roman philosophy met with reggae music in our very traditional church sanctuary of wooden pews and stained glass windows as the minister incorporated a very non-traditional music video into her sermon. Victor Wooten's philosophy and upbeat music resonated with me so I thought I would pass it on.

"I saw God the other day. She looked like me. He looked like you."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Introducing The Stealth

Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. 
Albert Einstein

With a little fortitude and some good weather, neither of which are very plentiful around here, future posts will feature adventures on "The Stealth", a snazzy black cruiser that has my gluteal muscles resonating already after a short three-kilometre ride home from the bike store. As Mark Twain wrote, "Get a bicycle. You'll not regret it if you live." Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sensual Bread Making

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
James A. Baldwin, American novelist (1927-1984)

With the exception of making buns about a decade ago when bread makers were all the rage, I have not made bread since the Summer of my tenth birthday, but the art of bread making is something that I have wanted to master, I suppose because homemade bread embodies the essence of life. Its soothing aroma, its bronze, crispy crust that crunches heartily with each bite, and its understated scrumptious flavour seem to embody the good in life. Thus, four decades after my first attempt, my list of 2011 resolutions was topped with "bake bread". Today I took a little step towards that resolution.

Somewhat daunted by the seemingly complicated and time-consuming process required to make a good loaf, I started my learning curve with a simple recipe handed down by an Italian grandmother that has since spread like butter on an oven-fresh slice throughout the blogosphere. Nonna's Crusty Bread was tested and raved about by Katy on Food for a Hungry Soul who promised that it was the easiest, crustiest, and tastiest recipe in her experience. I'm quite happy with my results. I loved the feel of the dough as my hands tried to coax it into shape and it was such a thrill to pull the bronzed loaves from the oven, so with this successful first step I have the courage to try something a little more complex. Stay tuned.

As promised, here is the result of my first ever strawberry pie. I underlined the strawberries with leftover chocolate which got a little thick in places, making cutting a little challenging and teaching me that in some cases, even with chocolate, less is more. In my next attempt, and there will be a next attempt, I will use the chocolate to decorate the plate.

Strawberry Pie

1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar *
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water

1. Wash and haul strawberries. Stand a layer of complete berries in the pie shell.
2. Puree the remaining berries and pour into a medium saucepan. Add water. Mix together sugar and cornstarch together and then combine with berries.
3. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then pour mixture over berries in the pie shell.
4. Chill for several hours, or overnight, before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

Source: Inspired by the Strawberry Pie II recipe on
Notes: * original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar but I thought that might be too sweet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Local Strawberries are Ripe!

Doubtless God could have made a better berry (than the strawberry), but doubtless God never did.
William Butler, 17th century English writer

Is there anything that symbolizes Summer better than the strawberry? I mean real strawberries grown locally, not the imitations flown in from 3,000 km away. They may as well come from the Moon!

When Dad walked in the house laden with two flats of bright red strawberries from a local farm, Mom got busy preparing several pints for the freezer so that their summer sweetness can be enjoyed in the depths of winter while I got busy making a crust for a pie. Over the stove we consulted on the creation which will be featured in tomorrow's post . . . if successful.

But to give you a hint I present our dessert this evening concocted from the pie's leftovers. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy 19 + 1

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.
Simone Signoret, French actress (1921-1985)

Happy Anniversary to SIL and cute her husband! (He was always the cute one in the family. ;-) ) Celebrating 20 years of marital bliss tomorrow, the years fly faster than I can count

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Yield: 24 strawberries

16 ounces milk chocolate chips **
2 tbsp shortening **
1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves

1. Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries. (I held the strawberries by their leaves to dip them into the chocolate.)
2. In a double boiler, melt the shortening and then add the chocolate chips, stirring until half the chips have melted. Remove the chocolate from the heat and keep stirring until smooth.
3. Holding the strawberries by the toothpicks (or their leaves), dip them into the chocolate mixture. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into styrofoam for the chocolate to cool. Alternatively, lay the coated strawberries on a wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

**Note: Using the original recipe's measurements, I am left with half a pot of chocolate sauce which is not a bad thing since there are bananas in the house, but it is not necessary if you just want to dip a pint of strawberries so I would suggest halving the amount of chips and shortening.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweet Sweat

Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment.
Heywood Hale Broun, American sports commentator

I've read that felines have a heightened sense of smell and yet Cat can often be found with her nose in Dad's boots or curled up in his hat so I can only surmise that on some higher plane sweat smells sweet.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day Dad!

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And, He called it . . . Dad
"What Makes a Dad", Author Unknown

Thanks for "being there" through the (many) years, Dad, and making us an ice rink in the backyard and teaching us to skate with the help of a chair.

6:30 P.M. Update: I wanted to make Dad a special meal for Father's Day so I started with some of his favourites: steak, salad, and lemon meringue pie, improvising from there.

Years ago, I improvised on the recipe for Tenderloin Magnifique by using rib eye steaks. The delicious memory of those steaks lived on in my mind and today I finally had the opportunity (and all the ingredients) to refresh the tasty recollection of a succulent steak loaded with duxelles and topped with Bernaise sauce. Magnifique!

Setting out to make Dad's favourite lemon meringue pie I found, a little too late, that I didn't have enough lemon filling to fill the crust. If we were French, I might have passed off the skimpy pie as tarte au citron; alas, we are not French and skimpy pies are not de rigueur -- in our family the deeper the filling, the better the pie.

At this point I should also admit to using packaged mix because it's quite tasty and worry-free but a second box of lemon pie filling was not to be found on the shelf. Mom came to the rescue suggesting the addition of strawberry jello, adding it after it has begun to thicken. The result was quite successful, in taste and in presentation.

Beef Tenderloin Magnifique
Serves: 4

1 beef tenderloin (or 4 rib eye steaks)

Rub the tenderloin with salt and pepper. Place in pre-heated oven at 450F (230C) for 40 minutes (20 minutes for steaks). While still warm, cut the tenderloin into 2 inch rounds. Spread a tablespoon of duxelles on each steak. Cover with bernaise sauce and broil 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

(Make this well ahead.)

2 1/2 tbsp (40 mL) butter
1/2 tbsp (5 mL) oil
3 tbsp (45 mL) shallots or minced onion
1 lb (500 gr) fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
dash of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Saute shallots in butter and oil. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are dry (this takes 20 minutes). Remove from heat and add seasonings.

Bernaise Sauce
(If pressed for time, use packaged Bernaise sauce.)

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry white wine
1/4 cup (50 mL) wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced shallots or onions
1 tsp (5 mL) tarragon
1 tsp (5 mL) chevril
fresh ground pepper
3 egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) melted butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh parsley, chopped

1. Combine wine, vinegar, shallots, tarragon, chevril and pepper in small pan and cook over low heat until the liquid has reduced to about half. Strain and cool.
2. Beat egg yolks until frothy in double boiler. Beat in vinegar mixture. Place pan over hot, but not boiling water. Do not let water touch bottom of pan.
3. Add butter slowly, about a teaspoonful at a time, beating constantly. Add additional pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir in fresh parsley.

Source: Planning an Affair by Verlie Reyner and Maggie Thompson. ISBN No. 0-920878-02-4

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Complex Character

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

The elegant Mock Orange appears pure in the simplicity of its buds; yet in its form as a luxurious, fully open blossom it is ravishing with more than a hint of licentiousness not to mention its intoxicating fragrance exuding into the hot summer night. Contemplating the multiple personas of this little flower I appreciate the complexity of characters that make up each of us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bedtime Reading

On a friend's recommendation, I ordered Tahir Shah's enthralling account of living in a rundown mansion in a rundown area of Casablanca. His account of corrupt bureaucrats, sly architects, sledgehammer-wielding workmen, and furtive household staff make me thankful for our experience in Egypt. Some of the characters are familiar but we lack the mischievous jinns (spirits) inhabiting Dar Khalifa's plumbing and vacant rooms. Ilhumdulila!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.
Robert Muller

Cat has forgiven me for yesterday's transgression. She has allowed me to stroke her. I'm happy that we are friends again . . . at least until next month. :-(

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm Sorry

There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found
While journeying east and west -
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Look at that face. Cat is cross with me because I took her to the vet for a pedicure. I know she's proud of her long nails, which she often stretches out for viewing just so she can relish the fear and awe expressed by the lesser beings who feed her. I also know that she dislikes doctors. But I did the dastardly deed anyway and, being full of guilt and remorse, I began apologizing long before I had even packed her into her travel bag. Hours later I'm still apologizing but to no avail. Cat's in a mood and I'm guilty as charged. I'm sorry Cat. Please forgive me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grandma's Garden

I remember Grandma's garden
The beauty and the grace
Of all the lovely flowers
In that dear, sweet place
I remember Grandma's smile
As she planted, pruned, and tilled
Laboring with love and laughter
As this world with joy she filled
I remember Grandma's patience
When we ran amid the flowers
With her beauty all around us
We would spend those precious hours
I remember Grandma's garden
And I'm happy in the knowing
That when she knelt there in the soil
It wasn't just flowers she was growing.
Erin Kilmer, "Grandma's Garden", copyright 2004

Flowers have sprouted up naturally as a blog post theme over the past week and it continues today as I cleared drawers and came across a photo taken many summers ago in my Grandma's garden. Preserved by her Brownie camera are her beloved roses, the pink flamingo that I remember well and, lo and behold, even a couple of her elves had maneuvered themselves poolside from her elaborately tiered rock garden that seemed magical in its shaded and secluded corner.

Another photo celebrates four generations of the female line in our family. It's nice to look back on photos full of smiles. And, yes, purple and gold are still favourite colours -- but I don't wear them together anymore. ;-)

Monday, June 13, 2011

No Need to Pretend

Always keep that happy attitude. Pretend that you are holding a beautiful fragrant bouquet.
Earl Nightingale, American motivational writer and author (1921-1989)

Every month our local flower shop creates a dazzlingly bouquet for Mom and so with today's June arrangement the bouquet's plastic sheath only enhanced the colours that beamed out joy and cheer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Study in White

White ... is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black...God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.

G. K. Chesterton, English author (1874-1936)

I never thought of white as a gaudy colour but looking across the garden I have to reconsider when spying the white peonies that are most definitely ostentatious, flashy and splashy. There is nothing subtle nor simple about them.

Similarly, the peace lily is no meek wallflower; rather she stands proudly wrapped in her whiteness as if brazenly calling out, "Look at me! I'm ever so divine." When gazing into her complex inner being, her divinity is irrefutable as she bears a striking resemblance to Artemis.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How the Cookie Crumbles

The day you decide to do it is your lucky day.
Japanese Proverb

Did you know that fortune cookies, that quintessential finale to a meal at a Chinese restaurant, were probably invented by Japanese Americans in California sometime around 1900 and that you won't find fortune cookies in China? Well, even if they're not authentically Chinese I'm going to believe that my fortune is irrefutably accurate. Stay tuned. ;-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Robin's Cheer

Stay, little cheerful Robin! stay, 
And at my easement sing, 
Though it should prove a farewell lay 
And this our parting spring. 
Then, little Bird, this boon confer, 
Come, and my requiem sing, 
Nor fail to be the harbinger 
Of everlasting spring.
William Wordsworth

Returning home at the end of a long workweek, rain saturated the view from the windshield yet the robin's red breast blazed through the drizzle and fatigue to bring a smile bright as the robin's song.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beware the Panther!

Prowling his own quiet backyard or asleep by the fire, he is still only a whisker away from the wilds.

Jean Burden, American Poet, Author

Cat is a miniature panther prowling the depths of the kitchen's jungle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nature's Keys

If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl.
Annie Dillard, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author

My kindergarten teacher, Miss Broker, instilled in her students a fascination with nature. I remember a hike in King's Forest, for which Mom has different memories of kids piled into our station wagon and a stern Miss Broker in the passenger seat, and I remember calling the maple tree seed pods 'helicopters' and watching with excitement as they spun in circles to the ground. Isn't it amazing the memories and smiles that can be conjured up when glancing down at the ground and paying attention to something so simple as a maple key? Delight revisited.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ode to the Peonies

The bee emerging from deep within the peony departs reluctantly.
Matsuo Basho, Japanese Haiku Poet, 1644-1694

A long day working indoors seemingly doesn't leave time to find anything awesome to write about, until I return home and am directed to the garden where a "Wow" escapes from my lips even before I have inhaled the heady scent of the peonies.

Overnight their tight round buds have opened gloriously into delectable confections.

Flamboyant ruffles and intoxicating perfume must entrance the mightiest of drones.

Who dares to dispute that peonies reign as queen of the garden? Not I.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Path to Eloquence

Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
Albert Einstein

It's so exciting receiving boxes by mail -- well, in this case the box arrived by courier because Post Canada is doing what it does best: it's on strike. One never knows what will be inside the plain cardboard box, hence the thrill of the unknown. Today's box held the treasure of a fragment of knowledge. My hope is that the examples of the great authors will guide me on the path to eloquence. Stay tuned. ;-)

Blogger is doing maintenance so I'll have to upload my photo later.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Soul Food

Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.
The Koran

Lupines shone in the evening light creating their own multi-coloured brilliance. How could a soul not feel nourished by such beauty?

Certainly, the bee shared my sentiments. I was fascinated as he whipped its wings furiously to stay afloat, breathing in the fragrance before diving into the nectar.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Dark and Stormy Morning

BOOM. The thunder rumbled, the skies brooded in black and the rain beat down on the roof most of the morning. Welcome to a summer weekend in the homeland. ;-)  Oh well, it was an awesome display and I enjoyed the drama as water cascaded over the eaves.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Work is a necessity for man. Man invented the alarm clock.
Pablo Picasso
It has been a very long time since I worked shifts as a short-order cook at the steel plant, driving the family car to work at times of the day when only shift workers were on the road. I remembered those times fondly as I drove to my first job in the homeland in 15 years. For one week I will fill in as a personal care worker for a sweet and fragile 82-year-old woman. I am very happy to be working again and (so far) am keen to be on the road and off to work by 6:30 A.M. I am once again in the community of the employed. Yeah!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Whatever we are waiting for - peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance - it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, Author

Cat and I are settled in, back in the homeland. We are content and truly grateful.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mushrooms and Bagels

A bagel is a doughnut with the sin removed.
George Rosenbaum

Following my New Year's resolution to expand my culinary horizons I grilled portobello mushrooms for the first time. OK, so it might not be a big jump off the culinary diving board but these do make a splash.

A recipe for Marinated Portobello Burgers appeared in yesterday's local newspaper so off we went to the grocery store. I had a slight problem with my buns. I wanted something more tasty than a regular hamburger bun but couldn't find anything that suited until I spotted the 12-grain bagels. Unfortunately, I forgot that bagels have holes. Forgive me. I've been away for a while.  The holes made the burger a little messy to eat, but they were very tasty nonetheless.

My aunt gave my mom some rhubarb from her garden and my mom has been waiting for me to come home to make the crust. It was yummy too.

Marinated Portobello Burgers
Makes: 4 servings

4 large fresh portobello mushroom caps (about 4 oz/125 g each)
1/2 cup (125 mL) red dry wine or balsamic vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL) minced garlic
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) EACH dried thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper
4 whole-wheat or multigrain hamburger or kaiser buns
1/4 cup (60 mL) honey Dijon mustard
4 small lettuce leaves
2 medium roasted red sweet peppers, halved

1. Place mushrooms in a resealable plastic bag. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix wine, garlic, oil, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Pour over mushrooms and seal bag. Marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, turning occasionally.
2. Remove mushrooms from marinade and broil or cook on hot barbecue for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until warmed through and softened. I broiled our mushrooms in the oven, which required about 10 minutes of cooking time before the mushrooms were al dente.
3. Halve buns and toast or warm on grill; spread cut side of buns with mustard; place lettuce on the bottom half of buns, top with grilled mushrooms, roasted red pepper halves and top half of the bun.
4. If desired (of course it's desired!), top each cooked mushroom cap with 1 tbsp (15 mL) chevre (soft goat cheese) and return it to the grill to warm cheese before placing on the bun.

Source: Mushrooms Canada