Monday, April 30, 2012

The Last of April Rains

She waits for me, my lady Earth, 
Smiles and waits and sighs; 
I'll say her nay, and hide away, 
Then take her by surprise. 
Mary Mapes Dodge, American author of children's books (1831–1905), in "How the Rain Comes–April" (1874) 

Finally, after a long day under a blanket of cloud, the skies opened and soaked the earth. Mom's irises stuck their tongues out to catch the drops.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Get Fresh!

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
Samuel Ullman, American poet and humanitarian (1840-1924)

On our second day of roaming the countryside with our Get Fresh passports, foraging fine foods and new vintages, our eyes (and mouths) were opened to some wonderful surprises. We unanimously declared GreenLane Estate Winery the "Freshest" as they paired their 2010 Riesling, a Cuvée award winner, with Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls. A fresh 'citrusy' wine with fresh greens and a chili lime sauce made for an exceptional Spring combination.

Good fortune provided a veritable feast at the megalomaniac - John Howard Cellars of Distinction as the winery welcomed passport holders to participate in the two other events being hosted in their cellar at the same time. First we enjoyed their 2011 Homegrown White with Mediterranean Seafood Delight. Then our eyes turned towards prosciutto and cheese offered by Niagara Food Specialties. A slice of prosciutto wrapped around the end of a bread stick brought exclamations of rapture; this is the best prosciutto that I have ever tasted (and I've eaten a lot of prosciutto). What a find! I'm hoping to make a road trip to Niagara Falls to sample their capicolla and bresaola, so stay tuned!

Another surprise came at the end of our day. By this point, we had sampled 21 different wines and enjoyed their pairings over the past two days and we understand how wine and food complement each other. At Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery we experienced firsthand how food can bring a wine alive. I wasn't impressed by my first sips of their 2011 Top Bench Rosé. Then I sampled Chef Bourget's delicious Parsnip and Empire Apple Soup. With my next sip of wine, my eyes popped opened with all the wonderful flavours that rushed around my taste buds. It seemed as if I had quaffed two different wines. It was an eye-opener.

The Twenty Valley Tourism Association and the 24 participating wineries will be hosting the "Get Fresh in the Valley" passport event again next weekend, May 5-6. All I can say is: Don't miss it! Get Fresh!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

20 Valley Pairings

Wine is one of the agreeable and essential ingredients of life.
Julia Child, American chef and cookbook author (1912-2004)

The wineries of Twenty Valley are hosting another great passport event this weekend and next weekend, with many highlighting their newest vintages. As with all the passport events hosted by the Twenty Valley Tourism Association, the wine tasting is accompanied by delicious nibbles. Bonus! This season's "Get Fresh in the Valley" passport offers 24 pairings and a chance to meet a lot of friendly people who obviously enjoy having visitors stop by to taste and chat about their wines. Spring means lots of fresh whites and rosé in time for summer meals outdoors so we are tasting a different selection than offered with the Fall passports. There are also a few reds thrown in just to make the mix more interesting. A new and fun addition to the programme is collecting recipes for each tasty morsel to create a "Get Fresh" cookbook. These events just keep getting better and better! Well done 20 Valley!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Blossoms of Virtue

Flowers bring to a liberall and gentlemanly minde the remembrance of honestie, comelinesse and all kindes of virtues.
John Gerard, English herbalist (1545-1611)

Looking up into the blossoms of the Japanese cherry tree I was struck by their beauty that I could only describe as 'sweet' or 'innocent'. Memories of images in my grandma's Ideals books came immediately to mind. I had soaked up those lovely pictures as a child. Even then, I understood that the goodness portrayed on their pages was idealistic, perhaps even imaginary, and not a reflection of the 'real' world. Yet, every once in a while, in this imperfect world, we chance on a glimpse of honesty, comeliness, and virtue.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vitamin F

Friendship is like vitamins, we supplement each other's minimum daily requirements.

My mom received a note from a friend, a retired nurse, and I thought I would share its health alert:

"Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health. Dr. Oz calls them Vitamins F (for Friends) and counts the benefits of friends as essential to our well being. Research shows that people in strong social circles have less risk of depression and terminal strokes. If you enjoy Vitamin F constantly you can be up to 30 years younger than your real age. The warmth of friendship stops stress and even in your most intense moments it decreases the chance of a cardiac arrest or stroke by 50%. I'm so happy that I have a stock of Vitamins F!"

Thank you for being one of my Vitamins!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hope Blooms

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.
Author Unknown

As recent cold, snow, and hail threaten fruit blossoms, the lilac opens a smile. This harbinger of spring laughs in the face of adverse weather and blooms with hope.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Never Say Never

Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.
Michael Jordan, American athlete

Long ago my mother advised me, "Never say 'never'". I generally follow the dictum and surprise myself when I do something that I never thought I would. (Sometimes I even enjoy it!) I was quite certain that I would never quilt by hand: it's finicky, it's slow, and it's painful. Having pricked my finger several times today, I can confirm the pain factor. And, yes, it does call for a little attention to detail and, yes, it takes a little more time but . . . I like it. I find it calming. Who would have thought? Certainly not I. Removing the word "never" from our vocabulary stimulates all sorts of worthy experiences. So maybe one day I will eat haggis. ;-)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caring for Wondrous Creation

When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.
David W. Orr, American environmentalist

Happy Earth Day! The power and beauty of creation shines through the stained glass windows in our church's south transept. Stopping to ponder the astounding beauty and miracle of creation fills me with awe and a deep sense of calm. A favourite hymn that I learned as a child is "For the Beauty of the Earth". I find myself humming it when walking in the forest or sitting beside a lake. John Rutter, whose musical compositions make my soul sing, has set the words to new music. His anthem is ethereal; particularly when sung by children:

Holy One,
Breath of Creation, stir in us.
Open our hearts that we may see,
all of creation’s glory.
Open our hearts that we may know,
life is holy.
Open our hearts that we may love
with wonder and awe and reverence.

Creating One
We understand that we live within creation,
all woven together by the sacred breath of life.
We confess the times we have chosen to forget;
we name to you our careless greed
when habitat has been denied,
when invasive species have been introduced,
when thoughtless destruction has been allowed,
even encouraged.

We name to you the flight of bob-o-links,
the thump of bullfrogs,
the discreet beauty of the painted turtle,
the majesty of elm trees,
the upright strength of the ash,
—all of your creation that is diminished and threatened
by our disinterest, by our complacent greed.

Forgive us.

Help us to discover the second chance
of a growing awareness,
a deepened understanding,
an active love.

May we live wisely, with reverence for Creation.
May we live gently on this earth,
giving room,
sharing space,
providing for all.

We celebrate the steps taken to redeem this earth,
the tall grass prairie replanted,
the wild turkeys returned,
groves of trees re-established.

Bless us as we better love your creation.

To you we give our praise and thanksgiving
for all that delights,
for all that teaches,
for all that is wondrous,
for all of creation.
Thank you.

Pat Milliken, from "What is Creation Saying to Us?"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Life in Stitches

What I make with my hands, I give of my heart.

What fun can be had for $5! The price of admission to the Binbrook "Country Classics" Quilt Show even included a cup of coffee and a lovely swatch of fabric tied around a 'thank-you-for-coming' Life Saver. Each of the over 200 quilts displayed over church pews and from the rafters was unique and all were inspiring -- from the century-old 'crazy' and 'courthouse' quilts made from worn-out, old clothes to the fabulous rooster quilt recently created. I came away with so many ideas that I can't wait to get started on my next project. Each of us in our little group that spanned three generations, from novice to master quilter, enjoyed the time spent surrounded by so much beauty that had been made with so much love.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welcome Home!

Candy might be sweet, but it’s a traveling carnival blowing through town. 
Pie is home. People always come home.
"Pushing Daisies", American TV show (2007-2009)

My nephew returns home this evening having completed his first year in university. There's a lemon pie waiting for him in the frig just so he knows that he's loved . . . at least by his aunt. ;-)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Companion Cat

Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance.
Dan Greenburg, American author

I feel like I have sat in the living room chair for two days straight, computer on my lap, writing and re-writing a job application. Let me re-phrase that, my back feels like I've been sitting in a chair for two days straight. Through it all, Cat has kept me company, stretched out across the back of the chair. Although she can be a distraction, Cat helps me maintain a sense of perspective. "Don't take life too seriously," she reminds me. "Watch my tail curl in a question mark. Isn't it time for a treat?" Indeed it is. Thank you, Cat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Burgeoning Blossoms

Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet and author (1749-1832)

The pear tree blossoms gloriously and hope has me already tasting the summer fruit. Pears! Peaches! Cherries! Apples! I can't wait!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quilt Cake

In the crazy quilt of life, I'm glad you're in my block of friends.

Our quilting group celebrated the birthday of our "nonna". Every week she has us in stitches with stories of her large Italian family. She had just completed a smashing black and white quilt for her granddaughter so I made her a 'nine-patch' cake with white buttercream and black Wilton frosting. Between the conversation and the treats we might not get a lot of quilting done, but we have a good time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Humour

There is hope for the future because God has a sense of humor and we are funny to God. 
Bill Cosby, American comedian

Today, the second Sunday of Easter being Holy Humour Sunday (also known as Bright Sunday or Laughter Sunday), the Reverend Liz urged the congregation to open our hearts to God's sense of humour and not miss out on the joy of creation. Later in the afternoon, I happened to see a robin in the bird bath. I stopped what I was doing to watch.

He splashed about and was having such a good time that a sparrow came to join in the fun. The robin didn't mind at all having others share in 'his' pool.

And then a dove came to visit and have a drink. What expressive faces these small creatures have! My red-breasted friend enjoyed the water for a good ten minutes. Those few minutes spent sharing in the joy of creation continue to fill my heart with smiles hours later.

Imaginative God, you smiled and the sun burst through the shadows of chaos;
you chuckled, and the platypus splashed in creation's fountain;
you laughed, and all that is good and beautiful was given shape by you;
howling with laughter at death's foolish belief that the tomb could hold your awesome love, your love burst forth in resurrection power as the stars pealed with joy,
You know better than we do, Amused God, what important people we believe we are.
Believing we have to be serious all the time, we miss out on the joy of your creation. 
Clinging to the despair which is our best friend, we ignore Jesus, who can bring us home to your heart.
Forgive us, Heart of Joy, and make us open to the startling and upside-down ways in which you work.
Fill us with Easter's laughter; fill us with the love poured into us through Jesus Christ.
Thom M. Shuman, adapted

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Lucky Day!

Give luck a chance to happen.
Tom Kite, American golfer

Four of my numbers came up on the Friday-the-13th draw so I'm $20 richer . . . if you don't count the $40 I've spent over the past two months buying weekly tickets. I know the odds are against me ever winning the lottery, but if I don't buy a ticket how will I know if I'm lucky? How's that for logic? I should go right out and buy another ticket because today I've been twice-lucky. Out of the blue, Cat let me clip her nails -- on one paw. She had watched me clip my own nails and let me reach over to do hers. WOW! This is a major feat! A feat that may mean a lot less stress for both of us and money in the bank for me if we don't need to make monthly visits to the vet for manicures. Fingers and toes are crossed that my luck continues and she'll let me work on the other paw tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Little Brother!

It takes two men to make one brother.
Israel Zangwill, British writer (1864-1926)

We've shared a lot over the years since those baths and I'm strengthened knowing that he's there for me when I find myself treading water in the 'deep end'.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dad's Treat

There is only one difference between a long life and a good dinner: that, in the dinner, the sweets come last.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author and poet (1850-1894)

When a small white box wrapped with many rounds of white string appears in the kitchen we know that Dad has picked up treats from the local Italian bakery. Butter tarts are a favourite sweet around the ol' homestead; has been since birth, I'd say. According to Wikipedia, butter tarts are "one of Canada's quintessential desserts". I didn't realize that the rest of world has missed out on this buttery sweet confection. Poor souls!** Variations abound as cooks add raisins, walnuts or (gasp!) pecans to the delicious gooey core of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and egg. I'm told that there are 14 different butter tart varieties available on the Butter Tart Trail, a tourism route in Wellington North Township, just over an hour's drive away. I'm thinking I need to do some culinary research this summer. ;-)

**For an American view of our culinary invention see, My Maple Coma: In praise of the Canadian Butter Tart".

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Photoshop Moment

There are three key things for good photography: the camera, lighting and... Photoshop.
Tyra Banks, American model and talk-show host

The Time Traveller requested a photo of Cat. Should be simple request -- but for the fact that it's near impossible to hold a camera in front of Cat and have her hold still. In her mind it's play time. And so our photo session ended with twenty images of a black blur and three images with something of a discernible cat. Unfortunately, the backgrounds were decidedly unphotogenic. Thank God for Photoshop! With some digital tweaking Cat becomes queen of the realm, which is purrfectly appropriate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Fashion

Well-apparell'd April on the heel
Of limping winter treads...
William Shakespeare

This time of year brings a fashion dilemma: what to wear? The Sun is shining, daffodils and hyacinths are blooming, and tree branches have a misty green hue to them. But this colourful glow is immersed in air still hovering around a wintery 8 C. Brrrrr.  Pondering the closet options, I couldn't bring myself to wear my warm wool suits of blacks, deep purples and rusts and yet I am too sensible to wear just a light blouse. To the rescue appeared a summery scarf of pinks, blues and greens. Tied around a turtleneck I could join the daffodils in celebration of Spring and still be warm.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Life

And he departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.
St. Augustine, Christian philosopher (354–430)

God of all our hopes, we come to this place as a broken and fragile people.
We come to this place as an expectant and hopeful people.
We are looking for signs of new life.
We are listening for Good News.
Open the tomb to us; show us the Rise One.
People of God, hear the Good News: In life, in death in life beyond death, God's love for us endures forever. Our hopes are fulfilled; we are forgiven and offered new life in Christ.
Thanks be to God!
Easter Prayer, Melrose United Church

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Promise of Renewed Life

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
John 3:16

You know our hearts, O God, and you know the ways in which we turn away from you and turn our backs on the suffering of others. On this day of death, open our hearts to the beating heart of the world. As we remember the events of that Friday long ago, help us to see the instruments of death and destruction that break the bodies and spirits of all your people, in all times and places.

Good Friday Prayer, Melrose United Church

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Welcome the First Dandelion

It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.
Henry Ward Beecher, American Congregational minister (1813-1887)

The bright face of the first dandelion popped up from between the paving stones, basking in the Sun's rays. After the long winter it is a cheerful sight. The first one is welcomed as a sign of summer, but as one becomes a few, and a few become several their welcome will be short-lived -- yet according to an old wives' tale rubbing dandelion flowers all over your body ensures that you will be welcomed wherever you go and all your wishes will be granted. So, "Welcome!"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Odyssey on the High Seas

Not all who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien, English author (1892–1973)

If only Penelope, Odysseus' much-stressed wife, had the tools to track her husband's 10-year voyage home from Troy as I have to track our shipment of household goods! My brother and a guy-who-knows-a-guy led me to where I could see pictures of my Clipper ship and watch its path on the Ionian Sea. What a great resource provided by the University of the Aegean! I wouldn't mind accompanying our boxes as they have just visited Athens and are on their way to Trieste. Right about now I can imagine them passing by the island of Ithaca. Perhaps Penelope is looking out to sea and is watching their passage too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Food, Good Wine, Good Friends

With years a richer life begins, the spirit mellows: ripe age gives tones to violins, wine, and good fellows.
John Townsend Trowbridge, American author (1827–1916)

Buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici: today I lived a little "dolce vita" as my out-of-town friends joined me for a mini wine tour in the Niagara peninsula, concluded by a fabulous lunch (and more wine) overlooking the cabernet-franc vineyard of the Good Earth winery. Peppering our conversations were sketches of good times spent in Italy and here we were in the homeland living out the old Italian axiom of perfection: good food, good wine and good friends. Life is good. Life is sweet. Grazie!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Breaking Bread with Friends

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.
M.F.K. Fisher, American food writer (1908–1992)

One of the strange truths of life is that foreigners will reveal to you great places in your own hometown. This evening out-of-town visitors introduced me to the "Earth to Table Bread Bar" on Locke Street where tasty rye and coriander bread is available alongside, what I'm told is, a great local beer. Beyond grazing on the freshest arugula salad and munching on slices of delicious pizza, there was lots of fascinating talk of books, health and hinges. With the Sun still shining at 7pm and our bodies full of good food, we ventured past the ghost of a Coca-Cola sign that once adorned the side of a long forgotten drugstore for a walk amidst trees and gravestones. Only with friends can you share such pleasure.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

3 Cheers for Jesus!

As the Sun with longer journey
     melts the winter's snow and ice,
with its slowly growing radiance
     warms the seed beneath the earth,
may the sun of Christ's uprising
     gently bring our hearts to life.
John Patrick Earls, American Benedictine monk

As we processed around the church with the children leading the way, waving palm branches and singing "Hosanna in the highest" and "Hosanna to the Lord", everyone was smiling and all spirits were upbeat. With the hymn "He Came Riding on a Donkey" the mirror image of a mighty emperor riding a gilded chariot pulled by giant steads in a triumphal march of victory into Rome with cheering crowds lining the roadway came to mind. There was an 'Ah-ha moment' as I understood the juxtaposition of riding into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey, never ridden before, with simple cloaks as a saddle, yet still to the cheers of adoring crowds. Here was not a stately emperor but the saviour of the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed and the culpable. Three cheers for Jesus!

Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart and live in me.