Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blowing in the Wind

A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.
Anne Bronte, British novelist (1820-1849)

Dad and I bicycled against a strong breeze past a field of Queen Anne's Lace.

Stopping to enjoy their sight and sweet bouquet, I realized that they are like snowflakes--each one is divinely unique.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Free and Untrammelled

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel . . . the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood.
Susan B. Anthony, American civil rights leader, 1896

I'm not sure that I am a picture of free, untrammelled womanhood as I bike around my hometown but it feels good to get some exercise, particularly after a lazy day spent in bed, and particularly today when I can congratulate myself for surpassing 100 kilometres on two wheels with this evening's ride to visit my favourite dog.

Friday, July 29, 2011

To Every Thing There is a Season

God is a meticulous clockmaker, So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.
Shams-i-Tabrizi, Sufi mystic (died c. 1248), 37th Rule of Love

With tears of frustration at being unable to care for herself, my 82-year-old charge cried, "Why am I still alive?" Her question wasn't rhetorical; she wanted an answer. Her soul quieted when I suggested that it wasn't her time yet, that God still had a purpose for her even in her frail state. With a purpose, we are "Energizer bunnies", propelling ourselves to and fro, doing all that needs to be done, but the trick is to keep up that positive energy when we don't see the big picture nor our purpose in it. Perhaps what motorizes us during those times of doubt is openhearted faith.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Forty Rules of Love

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
Shams-i-Tabrizi, Sufi mystic (died c. 1248), 14th Rule of Love

Many moons ago, I joined friends at Cairo's Opera House, all of us entranced by the Mevlevi "whirling" dervishes from Turkey as they performed their remembrance of God ceremony with its mystical music and dance. Their performance exuded spirituality, felt throughout the audience, so unlike the "whirling dervish" shows on Cairo's dinner boats that are all about athletics and showmanship. Now, years later, on the recommendation of one of those same friends, I read Elif Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi that sets the origins of this ceremony in Konya, Anatolia, by the great Sufi poet Rumi and his beloved friend and spiritual guide Shams of Tabriz. The novel provides an introduction to Sufi philosophy of divine love's presence in each of us.

The novel weaves past and present together with two interlaced stories. I have to agree with many reviewers who comment that the story of the unfulfilled 21st century housewife lacks depth but I didn't read it with such a critical eye, rather as illustrative of how the principles expounded by a thirteenth century mystic remain as true and as exemplary today as they did in the time of Rumi. Shafak intersperses the namesake 'forty rules' throughout her novel and, realizing that each of these Sufi aphorisms deserves contemplation long after the public library's due date for my copy, I spent the day writing out each one; so don't be surprised if they feature in future blog posts. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, check out this book. ;-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Crust of Bread

If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.
Robert Browning

Growing up, the end slices of bread loaves were usually relegated to the birds, but at some point--I suspect when I was introduced to a French baguette--I became a crust lover, reaching covetously for the end piece when the bread basket is passed around. I made Nonna's Crusty Bread again, mixing the ingredients together last night, letting it rise overnight, and baking it early this morning so I was able to enjoy my favourite part for breakfast. It provided a fine start to the day. And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go raid the bread bin to savour the other end as a bedtime snack.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Changing Gears

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.
Charles M. Schulz

I told the salesperson at the bike store that I wanted a woman's cruiser, with no confusing gears to muddle the enjoyment of a bike ride. Facing a steady wind that had bay sailors happy and hilly urban terrain that goes unnoticed by motorists, I sure am glad that I listened to her advice and bought a bike with gears. I may not be using all 18, but a ride is certainly more enjoyable with the five or six that I do use.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Today we mourned the passing of a good soul and celebrated her long life with much music and inspiring words. Mother Teresa's quotation settled in my heart as a good protocol for a good life so I will paste it on my mirror that I may be reminded of it each day, every day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Congratulations Angele & Eric!

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
James Keller

Weddings are special times, catalysing family members to gather together to celebrate love, union, and genetic fellowship. Angele and Eric provided a beautiful reason for marshaling the Time Traveller's clan from far and wide in a joyous atmosphere and a spectacular setting. Thank you for the opportunity to join you on your special day. May the two of you create beautiful music together, full of tones sometimes dulcet, sometimes atonal, but otherwise melodious and lyrical. As Shakespeare said, "Play on!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Canada Proud

My upbringing in Canada made me the person I am. I will always be proud to be a Canadian.
Jim Carrey

My homeland's foreign policy of late has had me to the point of saying I would turn in my passport, but this trip to the capital has re-inspired national pride with this morning's marching band and bagpipes stirring my blood, with the afternoon's long walk along the Ottawa River breathing in fresh air filled with the scent of trees in the absence of strewn rubbish, with the visit to the War Museum reminding me of our past peace-making missions recognized globally with a Nobel Prize, and finally with this evening's sound and light show on Parliament Hill that speaks to all the principles that I have always thought make Canadians Canadian, renewing my faith that those principles are still alive.

Mosaika's laser show is a must-see for its spectacular artistry and thoughtful presentation of history and culture that have formed each of us. The show concludes with the national anthem, which (quite uncharacteristically) I sung along with, tears welling in my eyes. After years of living overseas, careful not to use the word "about" for the risk of exposing my nationality, tonight I could cheer that I am proud to be Canadian.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


It is through the cracks in our brains that ecstasy creeps in.
Logan P. Smith, American essayist (1865-1946)

Give me a glass of chardonnay, a simple meal of salmon and fresh green beans, and extraordinary art, and I am euphoric. There's a tingling at the base of my skull, there's a smile creasing my face, and a mind alight with all its synopses firing, all due to a great experience at the National Gallery of Art and its exhibit Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome.

I'm a big fan of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, walking miles in Rome from church to church and gallery to gallery, and even the length of the Stazioni Termini for a special exhibit, in order to fall under the spell of his mesmerizing works. Unfortunately, all I can share with you is the giant image of Judith and her maidservant carrying away the head of the evil Holofernes, which isn't even by Caravaggio but one of his followers, Orazio Gentileschi. The show has a limited number of Caravaggio's works but it remains a tremendous opportunity to see amazing art brought together from museums all over the world and it does include Caravaggios that I've never seen before.

The gallery's architecture is stunning and the cafeteria serves great food. What else could one ask for . . . except for a few more chairs for the weary of body, if not spirit. Oh, and permission to photograph the permanent collection like that offered by many other national collections.

The National Gallery of Art provided a world-class experience! Bravo!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
Winston Churchill

Greetings from the nation's capital! The Time Traveller and I spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening walking around the government centre enjoying the picture perfect weather, the architecture, and the striking views across the Ottawa River. We could only guess that foreign visitors would also be suitably impressed. No doubt, we have our problems but this afternoon's stroll reminded us that we are very fortunate.

I was 14 years old when I last visited the capital and I have to admit that not much of the city looks familiar, so everything is being appreciated with 'new' eyes. Walking around the parliament building I was really impressed with the neo-Gothic turrets, buttresses, windows and gargoyles. The interior also has beautiful details, enough that I think it warrants a Travel Tuesday post. Stayed tuned.

The stone carvers crafted a building full of magical details wherever one looks. The Time Traveller spotted this beautiful detail at the front entrance, calling it the heraldic emblem of our government . . . and he calls me a skeptic! ;-)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tender Tootzies

Show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on.
Joe E. Lewis, American comedian and singer (1902-1971)

Today was 'spa day' for Cat and I, a trauma for Cat but a treat for me, thus she's curling up hiding her paws with injured pride while I'm wiggling my fingers and toes admiring their flashy red colour.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Easy Rider

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

After biking almost 80 km around town, mainly to the gym and back, I peddled in a designated bike lane for the first time this evening. What a treat! I just wish they were not such a rarity among my hometown's streets. Oh well, I will count my blessings for the ones that do exist.

Next Day Update:

 After my ode to bike lanes in yesterday's blog, today's editorial cartoon in the Toronto Star newspaper presents a sad commentary on the future of the city's bike lanes under its new, conservative, mayor.  Meanwhile, city hall in my hometown is nixing development of mass transit. Obviously, cars still rule the roads at a price of $1.30 for a litre of gas, but how long can we afford not to support alternatives?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Name that Flower

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
William Shakespeare

One of my hometown's main attractions is the grand home, built in 1835, of politician and land speculator Sir Allan MacNab. I had hoped to join an interpretive tour of his newly re-created kitchen garden for a Travel Tuesdays installment but I incorrectly read the announced tour timings so we found the garden shed locked and no gardeners about.

With the garden gate standing open and welcoming for free visits, our stroll along the paths of the large and rather parched garden was enjoyable, if not informative. Shakespeare dissuades us from classifying beauty and I breathed in the aromatic scents and lovely colours of all that I saw, but my inquisitive side still wants to know the name of all that enchanted me. So I turn to my kind readers, who no doubt have more garden sense than myself, and ask for help in identifying these beauties.




4. Identified as "Lamb's Ear" by Stacey. It formed a thick border along one of the garden's plots but I'm unsure if its purpose is for cooking, healing or beauty.

5. John helps out with the name of this beauty, "Sea Holly". Wikipedia says that Elizabethians thought this plant to be a strong aphrodisiac, giving me a whole different perspective on the Victorian Mr. and Mrs. MacNab. ;-)

Sorry Shakespeare, but the cute names add to the attraction of these flowers.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Family Barbeques

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Monk

Past summertime family gatherings are fondly remembered, not just for the barbequed hotdogs and hamburgers, the potato salad, and the deviled eggs that constituted summer cuisine, but also for the squeals of kids running barefoot through the grass, fathers and uncles standing around the charcoal talking about cars and fish, mothers and aunts sitting in a circle of lawn chairs, some with little ones cradled in their arms, sharing tales of joy and worry. As I looked around the family gathering today, I could take comfort in the familiar as little has changed but that another generation has been added and it's not me running barefoot under the sprinkler squealing as the cold water trickles down my back. I really should try that again. ;-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tea with Aunt Helen

Our lives are like quilts - bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love. 
Author Unknown

Mom and I visited with my great aunt Helen, sharing family stories, past and present, over a cup of tea while munching on her fall fair cookies. Aunt Helen is an award-winning quilter so there is always a new project to admire, made with love for her family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Curative Waters

Water has a unique curative property which is not found in any other liquid. Adequate intake of water drives out the toxins from our body and make the body healthy.
The Rigveda, ancient Hindu hymns (1700-1100 B.C.)

I tried my best to update my Travel Tuesdays blog with a post from an Underground Railroad safe house located a few kilometres from the family homestead, but dense foliage and "No Parking" signs thwarted me so the visit will wait for another day when a long walk from the nearest parking spot won't seem so daunting.

The drive did take us into the countryside along tree-covered Sulfur Springs and Mineral Springs roads, bringing us to the eponymous sulfur spring. Data inscribed on the plaque states that one gallon of this water contains 15.77 cubic inches of sulphretted hydrogen in addition to a whole lot of salts, said to have curative powers that can be bottled and taken home from this roadside fountain. I demurred, thinking Dad wouldn't want the stinky stuff in his car, as he kept the windows rolled up as I took my photos.

And speaking of curative waters, take a look at this extraordinary art installation by Liz Ingram.
Photo by Bernd Hildebrandt
I feel energized just looking at a small photo; it must be breathtaking seeing it in its full-scale grandeur. The story behind Confluence Through the Looking Glass can be read here and be sure to watch the video of the installation of this huge image full of exuberant energy.

10 P.M. Update: I'm going to need some of that exuberant energy to do some extra reps at the gym following tonight's baking.

Mom and I are invited to a pot-luck dinner tomorrow night and we're taking Beta version of the jello-topped lemon pie that we created a couple of weeks ago. The new and improved version features fresh raspberries and blackberries under the strawberry glaze. Fingers crossed that it tastes as good as it looks.

And we couldn't leave dear ol' Dad with no pie, the whimpers would be heart-breaking, so a traditional lemon meringue pie awaits his dinnertime. He might share if his grandson came to visit. ;-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dressing Up

Cock your hat - angles are attitudes.
Frank Sinatra

Even when it's not your own nuptials, the prospect of attending a wedding causes a stir of excitement as it presents a rare opportunity, other than Halloween, to dress up. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Halloween, but nothing beats the confidence boost of looking smashing in a new outfit, reveling in a whole different side of my personality than my day-to-day white shirt and beige skirt persona.

I love hats so I'm thrilled that they are back in vogue thanks to the recent royal wedding. Our upcoming wedding may not be royal, but it certainly will be a momentous and festive event for the family, deserving smashing attire. I have a new dress that I can't wait to wear and this evening Mom and I transformed a simple sun hat into an unique and stunning chapeau (even if I do say so myself).

I'm thrilled with the results of our foray into millinery craft and I envision many more hat transformations in the future.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Childhood Memories Revisited

The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival . . . because when you are unhappy, you also throw unhappiness all around.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Indian spiritual leader (1931-1990)

Taking a quiet moment, sitting on a curb to share a pizza and pop, the Time Traveller and I savoured small-town spirit, as young and old gathered with friends to enjoy a summer folk festival at their local park. Existence was full of camaraderie and happiness.

In the amusement area, the clankitty-clank of the little train running over the iron track reverberated in our memories, both sensing that we had ridden this very train decades ago, at a time when the little red engine wouldn't have been considered a quaint antique.

A couple of kids playing in the creek reminded me of my own childhood adventures, seemingly miles from home, catching polliwogs in a quiet creek, now erased by a high-speed highway that I travelled on this very day to arrive at and enjoy this small town's folk festival. I guess that progress. In any case, existence, past and present, is happy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Divine Cat

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.
Sir Terry Pratchett, English novelist

Cat's divine nature has never been questioned from the day she allowed herself to be rescued from a life on the gritty streets of Cairo, walking alongside the Time Traveller until he found a proper carriage to transport her divineness in the form of a Hob-Nob box, which suited her finely as she is quite fond of boxes, blessing our lives with spontaneous laughter ever since. She is the divine Diana, goddess of the hunt, fond of fingers and toes and balls and string, but not so fond of cameras thrust in her face. We are not amused.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

I walked out of the gym into a panorama of heaps of clouds, so fluffy and weightless, so unlike myself, who stepped onto the scale out of curiosity and jumped quickly off out of dejection. The awe of the clouds lifted my spirits from the ground and I peddled home. Tomorrow is another day . . . at the gym.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Garden Splendour

Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Gospel of Luke 12:27, The Sermon on the Mount

I am of few words these days; what use are words before such beauty?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Summer Sunday

Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sipping lemonade after service I looked up at the azure blue sky arching over a resplendent giant oak, arching over the grand old church, under whose wing I sought shelter in the cool of its stone arch.

Returning home, Sunday lunch comprised a piece of pie and a cup of coffee, tea for the folks. I can recommend the recipe found on that wonderful compendium AllRecipes website as it got the thumbs-up from Dad.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

3 cups (750 mL, approx. 1 quart basket)  strawberries, quartered
3 cups (750 mL) rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground allspice
1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch, or as needed
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter, diced

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
1 tablespoon (15 mL) milk
1 tablespoon (15 mL) white sugar

1. Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cornstarch, and flour into a bowl; stir until the flour and cornstarch are smoothly combined. Let the filling stand for 30 minutes. If the filling is very juicy, add an additional tablespoon of cornstarch.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

3. Divide the pie pastry in half; roll out half into a circle on a floured work surface, and line a 9-inch pie dish with bottom crust. Roll the remaining half out into a 10-inch circle on a floured work surface, and set aside.

4. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pie dish. Scatter diced butter over the top.

5. Cut the remaining crust into 3/4-inch wide strips (use a scalloped edge pastry cutter for a prettier crust). Moisten the rim of the filled bottom crust with a bit of water, and lay the two longest strips in a cross in the middle of the pie. Working from the next longest down to the shortest strips, alternate horizontal and vertical strips, weaving the strips as you go. Press the lattice strips down onto the bottom crust edge to seal, and trim the top crust strips neatly. Brush the crust with milk, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cover pie edges with aluminum foil strips.

6. Bake pie in preheated oven for 15 minutes; lower temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove aluminum foil about 15 minutes before end of baking. Turn off oven, and allow pie to rest for 15 minutes with the door open, and 15 more minutes with the door closed. Allow to cool completely on wire rack for several hours or overnight; filling will thicken as it sits.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

The First and Last of the Season

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
George Santayana, Spanish-American philosopher (1863-1952)

Dad and I bicycled to the Saturday farmers' market this morning, more for the fresh air than anything else because the refrigerator remained well-stocked, fortunately for us with vendors being few and the range of produce being limited, this being still early in our homegrown season and the first summer holiday weekend, inciting a mass exodus onto the highways to be anywhere but home.

Fewer people meant that a table draped in red gingham plastic and blue plastic chairs located beside the homemade sweets table was vacant and we could sit and enjoy some apple crisp and two cups of coffee, fuel for the ride home.

We did score the season's first field-grown beefsteak tomatoes, precious cargo on the route home, where they were transformed into lip-smacking good toasted bacon and tomato sandwiches. Gourmet meals may make for interesting culinary adventures but they really don't measure up to the soul-nourishing flavour of this simple fare.

After lunch, Mom and I raided the neighbour's rhubarb patch, taking away Spring's last red and green stalks for the noble purpose of baking a strawberry-rhubarb pie, pairing sweet fruit with tart vegetable, creating a delicious unity more ambrosial than the sum of its parts -- at least that is what we're hoping for as we wait for tomorrow to taste the fruits of our labour. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

This land is your land,
This land is my land,
From Bonavista
To Vancouver Island,
From the Arctic Circle,
To the Great Lake waters,
This land was made for you and me.
The Travellers' Canadian lyrics
to Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land

Due to work commitments, my first Canada Day celebrations in the homeland in 15 years were pretty low key, wearing my red t-shirt with Canada emblazoned proudly across the chest, watching homeland television, a.k.a. CBC, to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge escorted in their Landau by a hundred regal red Mounties mounted tall on black steeds, the Snowbirds soar overhead, and new Canadian music, much of which I didn't understand. It's good to be back.