Friday, September 30, 2011

The Laughing Elephant

Laughter is but a frown turned upside down.

The first attempt to quilt using a sewing machine has been fraught with many frowns as various techniques have resulted in less than stellar work; but no matter how I tried, I couldn't frown as I worked on the jolly green elephant. Somewhere deep inside, my inner child is laughing. :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Inspiration doesn't really work like that - you're not looking out for it. Inspiration is something that tends to capture you rather than you capture it.
Joan Armatrading, British singer and songwriter

I wasn't looking for inspiration but I was captured this evening as I happened upon this video of Matt Cutts (a Google geek) encouraging folks to change their lives by taking a 30-day challenge. I felt energized by the idea of doing something -- but what?

I would love to challenge myself to write a novel, but I'm not yet ready for 1600+ words per day. I have heard of other people who have gone without sugar for 30 days, but that would really put a dint in my enjoyment of life. I could challenge myself to ride my bike every day, but that didn't feel like enough of a personal stretch.

Then, on Matt's blog, I came upon the challenge of writing a letter, with pen on paper, to connect with people who have made a difference in my life. This is a perfect personal challenge because I am very bad at keeping in contact with friends and colleagues even though I do think of them often and, for whatever reason, the act of writing with a pen on paper seems far more personal and meaningful than sending the same words via an email. So I am all set for October 1st; but first, tomorrow's challenge is to find some beautiful letter writing paper (for inspiration).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back in the Saddle

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali author and poet, and Nobel laureate (1861–1941)

After a hiatus of almost two weeks, I was finally able to board the Stealth and make my way to the gym. The path is a familiar one, but its appearance has changed with burgeoning daisies whose beauty caused both myself and the Monarchs to pause a while.

The Michaelmas daisies may be considered weeds by most, but they're glorious beauties to me . . . and the Monarchs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Difficult Can It Be?

Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.
Sophia Loren

The problem with taking lessons from masters is that they make everything look so easy. Case in point is Chef Michael Stauffer who whipped up a pot of fresh papardelle pasta (think noodles bigger than spaghetti, bigger than linguini, and bigger than tagliatelle) for a crowd of twenty before our very eyes. My list of New Year's resolutions includes "Make pasta" and, since I only have 95 days left to accomplish my goals, I had better get to it. Chef Michael's demonstration certainly didn't dissuade me, or knock some sense into me. How difficult can it be?

It is certainly worth the effort. I loooove pasta. I just wish it made me look like Sophia Loren! ;-)  This evening's Go Cooking class presented the buttered papardelle under Overnight Braised Heritage Beef and Glazed Turnip. A soul-warming dish for the cold nights to come.

Monday, September 26, 2011

In Thanks for the Apple

Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.
Song of Solomon 2:5 (New International Version)

Is it only among the peoples of the north that the sight of a red apple brings warmth to the heart, and the aroma of apples and cinnamon baking in the kitchen embodies the comfort of home and family? A little research shows that this ancient symbol of love is being baked in modern Greek and Italian homes too, so it would appear that the phenomenon of apple pleasure is not confined above latitude 42 (the homeland's southernmost point). Certainly, there is nothing simpler than an apple sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and set in a warm oven for half an hour, and there is nothing more comforting, soothing, or restoring. This is my paean of love.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Elementary Afternoon

I trust that age will not wither, nor custom stale my infinite variety.
Sherlock Holmes, paraphrasing Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, scene 2

Certainly, Sherlock never grows stale. It was my treat to join the family's theatregoers for today's matinee performance of "The Final Adventure". Fine acting and staging made for a fine afternoon. Elementary, of course.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rainy Afternoon with Cat

You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.
Jane Pauley, American television journalist

Rain ushered in the first day of Autumn (the 23rd?! How and when did that happen? Where was I? Hibernating, I guess.). With the cool gray skies dampening the windows, Cat and I curled up in the easy chair this afternoon, I with my knitting and she with her dreams of tuna fish and cheese, hence the smile on her face. All seemed at peace in the world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Art of Seeing

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
Jonathan Swift, Irish author and satirist (1667-1745)

Mom received three gladiolas as a gift from a vendor at the Ancaster Farmers Market yesterday. Looking over my coffee cup at breakfast this morning, I was struck by the beauty of the stems in the vase in the sunlight.

The flowers are also beautiful . . . but it took a little more coffee to raise my head up to their level. ;-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ontario's Bountiful Table

Local food is so much more than the best tasting, freshest, most flavourful and healthiest food option. Each piece comes with a story of people, geography, math, a season, a place, travel and history.
Lynn Ogryzlo, Cookbook author and locavore 

Luck brought news across my computer screen that Lynn Ogryzlo would be signing her latest cookbook at the Ancaster Farmers Market. With rain sometimes coming down as a downpour, sometimes as a sprinkle, Mom and I nevertheless set off and had great fun.

I love Lynn's Niagara Cooks and, just flipping through her newest volume, The Ontario Table, I am inspired to explore more deeply the province's farming communities. The Ontario Table is part cookbook, part travelogue, and part philosophical treatise as Lynn urges people to take the $10 Challenge: "If every household in Ontario spent $10 of their grocery budget on local food each week, there would be a $2.4 billion influx into the economy each year." It shocks me to think that there are so many households that don't spend $10 a week on local food. What are we eating?

Well, Mom and I evened out the average a bit today! ;-) Even with the rain and a bit of mud on our shoes, we had a grand time browsing through all the offerings of vegetables, fruits, meat, cheese and baked goodies at the Farmers Market and returning home with a trunk full of farm fresh, good food. I'm inspired!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Touch of Colour

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Albert Camus, French author, philosopher (1913–1960)

Tomorrow may mark Autumn's arrival but Mother Nature has already begun to paint her fall masterpiece, and it's beautiful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Butter is Better

Learn to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!
Julia Child

Watching Chef Ken LeFebour of "Chef & Wife Gourmet to Go" catering company whip up a dinner of the unfamiliar made for a very enjoyable evening tonight at our local newspaper's office. His motto is "Butter is better" and Chef Ken's style is seasonal food, using local farmers and growers as a source of fresh ingredients. He let his 17 guests, who watched his every move, in on his sources, so you can bet that I'll be making a trip to the Ancaster Farmers Market to procure some squash, arugula and mouse melons -- that's not a typo: mouse melons look like miniature watermelons and are about the size of cherry tomatoes.

For tonight's event he presented: 1. Baked Squash, Ontario Brie, Pear & Sage Salad, 2. Sumac Seared Venison Tenderloin with Sour Cherry and Whiskey Jus served with 3. Potato and Thyme Galette and a 4. vegetable medley and followed by 5. Green Tea & Cardamom Poached Watermelon with Lemon Grass infused Sabayon. Sommelier Robert MacGregor paired two wines nicely with the food and, with a creative touch, paired the dessert with an elderflower cider from Sweden. Perfect!

Mom and I had so much fun this evening that I came home and registered for the last remaining seat in next week's class. Stay tuned! ;-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Earth's Bountiful Plate

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
     or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
     or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
     that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
     and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12: 7-10 (New International Version)

On the second Sunday of Creation Time, the sermon asked the congregation to talk with the Earth, to question our over-use of its bounty, to help those who do not have an equitable share of that bounty, and to give thanks for being blessed with abundance. I couldn't feel more fortunate than contemplating tonight's dinner plate full of healthy, tasty, local food. We are most certainly blessed.

Last weekend, my cousin and his wife shared an extremely easy recipe for an extremely tasty pork tenderloin along with the sweetest tomatoes from their garden. The season's first apples were purchased at Springridge Farm yesterday on my somewhat circuitous homeward journey from the fall fair. I arrived minutes before closing time and didn't have time to explore what appeared to be a very fun farm playground so I'm looking forward to another trip . . . perhaps at pumpkin time.

The last of the season's fresh peaches ended our meal on a soft, creamy note. Farewell and adieu, fair peach of Niagara.

And now for the recipes:

Marinated Pork Tenderloin
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoons steak seasoning spice
1 teaspoon dried garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
pork tenderloin (1 small tenderloin served 3)

1. Place pork into a resealable plastic bag. Pour in balsamic vinegar, spices and olive oil. Seal bag and rub the marinade into the meat. Marinate overnight, or at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 375 F. 3. Place pork and marinade into a glass baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour. Internal temperature should reach 145 degrees F (65 degrees C).
3. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, create a gravy by transferring the marinade to a pot and mixing in 1-2 tablespoons of flour.

Spiced Apples
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium apples, peeled and sliced

1. In a medium skillet, combine the first six ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened.
2. Add apples; simmer, uncovered, until apples are just tender, stirring gently. About 8 minutes.

Source: Taste of Home

Potted Peaches
3 tbsp (45 mL) sugar
3 tbsp (45 mL) water
2 cups (500 mL) peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced small
1 farm fresh egg
1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar
1 cup (250 mL) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream
Peach wedges for garnish

1. Warm the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
2. Add the peaches and remove from heat.
3. Stir well and let the peaches steep in the sugar water until room temperature.
4. Strain, reserving liquid and chill in the refrigerator. (Note: the reserved liquid is not used to complete this recipe. I don't know what to do with the peachy sugar water, but it's yummy.)
5. Beat the egg and sugar together in a bowl over simmering water just until thick, about 2 minutes.
6. Removed from heat and add mascarpone cheese; blend well.
7. Whip the cream until soft peaks form.
8. Fold the cream and strained, diced peaches into the mascarpone mixture to form a marbled effect.
9. Spoon into four custard cups and chill well.
10. When ready to serve, top with a peach wedge. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Lynn Ogryzlo's Niagara Cooks from farm to table. Definitely check out this beautiful cookbook that is far more than a recipe book: it is a celebration of local farms and their bounty!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way. 
Rollo May, American psychologist (1909-1994) 

Glancing briefly at a map to get my bearings, I set off on a road trip to the Acton Fall Fair, only to get lost half way there in the largely unknown (to me) city of Guelph. My first instinct was to find a Tim Horton's coffee shop, buy a 'medium regular' and drink it out in the parking lot so that no one would think that I was lost as I poured over the map. I also admit to another psychological quirk that I never turn around and backtrack when lost in a foreign city, and by now it was futile to try to find my long way back to the corner where I suspected I made my error. Unfortunately, my map didn't provide the detail required to get me out of Guelph and there was no gas station in sight. Quirk #3: I only have faith in gas attendants to know how to get where I want to go. I thought about using my cell phone to ask Dad long-distance, "Where am I?"; but, instead, I made the completely illogical decision to drive just a little further knowing full well that it was a pretty stupid thing to do.

    A few turns later, I found myself on a country highway. I was still lost, but the scenery was beautiful. Thankfully, the names of the crossroad hamlets along the route appeared on the map and told me I was headed in the right direction. And, hurray, I did find the fair. As proof, I've posted photos on my Travel Tuesdays blog. (Text to follow.)

For the return trip, I decided to bypass Guelph and take a different route home. I wasn't exactly lost, but I also wasn't exactly sure where I was. Nevertheless, I was quite happy having my eyes opened to new vistas.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Autumn's Bouquet

Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day - like writing a poem or saying a prayer. 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American writer (1906-2001) 

Every month, Teresa and Clare at our local florist create a bouquet of gorgeous flowers and striking greens for Mom. The autumn colours of September's creation radiate warmth while the cabbage plants proclaim the beauty of the bounty, so often unseen. From all directions the bouquet presents an ode to Fall, and it's glorious.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pick-Me-Up Daisies

Daisies are like sunshine to the ground. 
Drew Barrymore

These yellow daisies cheered me on as I fought against wind and laziness to get myself to the gym this morning. Fall is definitely in the (rather brisk) air, yet their appearance along my bike path seemed so summery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is the oldest you've ever been, yet the youngest you'll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts.
The rain held off just long enough for us to enjoy Mom's birthday lunch with a beautiful view overlooking the lake. Between the tasty Greek cuisine at Baranga's and the yummy white chocolate-raspberry swirl ice cream cake brought by S-I-L, none of us are looking for dinner. ;-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gurgles and Grins

A new baby is like the beginning of all things - wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities. 
Eda J. LeShan, American writer and counselor (1922-2002) 

Heartwarming is the sight of baby grins and the sound of happy, self-amused singing from the crib -- not to mention watching the antics of parents trying to elicit smiles for the camera. This handsome little guy hosted me to an afternoon full of laughter and charm and I enjoyed every minute and I'm still smiling hours later. Thank you! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What garlic is to food, insanity is to art. 
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Irish-born American sculptor (1848-1907) 

Stratford is a magnet for lovers of Shakespeare and now for lovers of garlic as it opened its third annual Garlic Festival this weekend. S-I-L joined me for this culinary pilgrimage, which turned into a circuitous "Dee-Tour" as we meandered through multiple road projects and wrong turns -- there and back. Oh well, it was a beautiful day to be driving in the countryside.

We arrived with just enough time to check out the vendor tents and learn a little about the multiple varieties of locally-grown garlic, snapes, and how to grow this species of the onion genus. All of the varieties are much more interesting than the lily-white, taste-deficient Chinese model that has overwhelmed markets in Egypt and Canada alike. In both countries, it's worth the effort to search for  local bulbs.

All festivals have their own brand of food on a stick and so the Time Traveller challenged me to find garlic on a stick. It appears that there is still an entrepreneurial opening in the stick market, even though garlic fudge and garlic ice cream have already been taken. I did find battered and deep-fried garlic, which tasted pretty good and fulfilled my festival fat quota. It accompanied the garlic shooter, consisting of grated garlic, soda water and lemon.

The festival even had a 'midway' in the form of a stunning 1908 Vulcan steam engine with a whistle that brought smiles to kids, young and old.

This is my first fall fair of the season that lasts until Thanksgiving. There's so much to look forward to! Stay tuned! ;-)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Handsome Walk

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash? 
Robert Brault, American writer

Handsome is my good buddy. He loves me because I rub his hunches, I scratch behind his ears, and I let him take me for walks in the park. ;-)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Of Brooms and Journeys

There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough. 
Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) 

There was much talk of 'frosh' weeks, past and present, as the Nephew leaves home to embark on a new life chapter and as a friend's daughter sets up a home away from home and we reminisced about our own university days. Near our alma mater, the St. Jacob's broom-maker seemed prepared for an influx of Hogwarts freshmen.  

The workshop certainly seemed magical as corn brooms were 'combed' clean in what appeared to be the same machine used when Hamel Brooms opened in the village in 1908.

And the magic continued as we walked along the Grand River and spotted a great heron on the far bank. How majestic! How assured!

And then he swooped up and headed for new adventures somewhere unseen further along the river, still looking awesome and destined. Wishing good luck and every success to J, J, and O (in Ottawa) as they head off on exciting journeys; I think you are all awesome and destined for wonderful things!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Sunshine

Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. 
James M. Barrie, Scottish author of Peter Pan (1860-1937)

The clouds passed over M-I-L's garden intermittently this afternoon as we chatted over lemonade, blueberries and peach coffeecake, yet the setting radiated sunshine with her sense of colour.

The intricate pattern of the sunflower centerpiece captivated me and a few bees as well. We all enjoyed a sweet, sunny afternoon.