Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tut's Tomb Revisited

A place for everything and everything in its place.
Benjamin Franklin, American polymath (1706-1790)

Mom compared the storage room to King Tut's tomb and I have to admit that there is a resemblance. I can appreciate the huge task faced by the pharaoh's priests as they tried to fit everything the king needed for a comfortable afterlife into a few small rooms. In my case, all the "wonderful things" have been put in their places and the order makes me happy. After months of organizing, packing, unpacking and re-packing, I can finally say, "Mission accomplished." Yay!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Old Fogey Adventures

You know, many people believe that we archaeologists are just a collection of old fogies digging around in the ruins after old dried up skulls and bones.
Stephen Banning (played by Dick Foran) in The Mummy's Tomb (1942)

I probably looked like an old fogey to the sixty 10-year-olds gathered in the classroom today to hear me talk about archaeology, although I felt pretty hip with the 'Brittany Spears' mic hooked on my belt rapping about my PowerPoint slides. ;-)  Hopefully these young minds came away with the understanding that archaeology is not about tomb raiding and treasure hunting. But one never knows because their questions ended the talk with an interesting conversation about the ethics of buying, selling, and stealing antiquities. After the day's excitement, this old fogey will now return to the study of her broken bits of pottery: the real adventure of archaeology.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Magical, Mysterious Mashrabeyya

Protect your brother's privacy for what he knows of you. 
Arab Proverb 

We unpacked a little bit of Cairo today and now the sunlight coming in the front window is filtered by a lovely wooden lattice screen, called mashrabeyya. The balconies of Cairo's medieval houses have exquisite mashrabeyya screens that kept out the hot sunshine but allowed in cooling breezes. It also provided privacy from the inquisitive eyes of neighbours and strangers, yet allowed for a good view out to the action on the street. Described as, "Delicate and beautiful, like silken masks drawn discreetly across the faces of comely maidens, they came to symbolize the legendary mystery of the Orient" (The Magic of Mashrabeyias), I'm happy to gaze upon a little bit of the Cairene magic here in the homeland.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Inhaling Bliss

Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.
John Ruskin, English art critic (1819-1900)

The air in the garden's back corner is thick with the fragrance of peonies. Breathing deep I feel like Dorothy in the field of poppies on the outskirts of Oz: I could curl up in the perfume's soft contours and fall into a blissful sleep, forgetting the cares of the week. I think I may just do that.

Zzz z z z . . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We ♡ Egypt

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1882-1945)

Our thoughts and prayers are with Egyptians as they vote in their first "real" presidential election today and tomorrow. It is an exciting time; but it is also a worrying time because the education system has failed 80% of the electorate. May whoever wins the presidency work to safeguard Egypt's nascent democracy, work to remedy her other social, economic and political problems, and not work simply to get re-elected.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Welcome Summer!

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
Henry James, American author (1843-1916)

Meteorologists may beg to differ but for me the May 24th holiday marks the beginning of Summer. The Victoria Day weekend signifies that it is now permissible to wear white summer dresses and shoes. Hurray! because it's certainly warm enough for light cotton sheaths! It's also time for outdoor lunches with friends and after-dinner tea on the patio, watching the evening shadows lengthen. Welcome Summer! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hallo, Rabbit

"Hallo, Rabbit," he said, "is that you?"
"Let's pretend it isn't," said Rabbit, "and see what happens."
Winnie the Pooh

A couple of bunnies are regular visitors to the backyard. I have seen one sunning himself in the centre of the lawn as if he had not a care in the world. Dad spotted this fellow crouched under the hydrangeas. I suspect he had just nibbled away on my little herb planter. He didn't run when I stepped forward with the camera, but he did seem to say, "Let's pretend that I'm not here, shall we?"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Disappearing into Yellow Depths

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
Rachel Carson, American marine biologist and environmentalist (1907-1964)

After a morning spent in the office in front of a computer and an afternoon in the car sitting behind the wheel crossing miles of crowded black-top, the day was drawing to a close without a photo. I was tired and had little enthusiasm for going out in search of a daily highlight. Then I went out to feed the birds and found myself staring into the depths of a yellow iris. Her inward path seemed endless and the wonder of it grounded me. It really doesn't take much effort to find wonder . . . particularly in the garden.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Life on Skids

Life in a box is better than no life at all ... I expect.
Tom Stoppard, British playwright (b. 1937)

Yay! Last seen in Luxor, after two months, I finally got a chance today to see again the boxes holding mementos of 14 years of my life . . . and they look better than expected. The old skids are worn out from their journey halfway across the globe, but they have done their job and held the stacks of boxes in one piece to the journey's end. The strapping and plastic wrapping are in tack and there's no sign of water damage. I am so relieved! I cannot thank enough all the people who have helped me along the way, from Luxor to Cairo to Alexandria to Hamburg to Montreal to Toronto to home. I couldn't have done without the help of every single one of them. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clearing Skies

Afflictive emotions - our jealousy, anger, hatred, fear - can be put to an end. When you realize that these emotions are only temporary, that they always pass on like clouds in the sky, you also realize they can ultimately be abandoned. 
 The 14th Dalai Lama (b. 1935)

With the necessary documents tucked under my windbreaker as protection from the rain, we entered the Canada Customs building at Toronto Airport. The long journey of our household goods from Luxor to their new home nears its end, but I was anxious that something could still go wrong and the morning's rain only served to reinforce the anxiety. But with all the paperwork in order, within 15 minutes we were in and out of the building bearing the customs clearance stamp. Ilhumdulila!

Exiting the building we noticed that the clouds had cleared and there were blue skies above. How else to interpret the weather change except as a heavenly message?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Birthday Cheers

Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever, and we'll meet now and then when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end.
Richard Bach, American author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1936-)

Cat and I wish the Time Traveller a Happy Birthday.
And the Time Traveller and I wish Cat a Happy Birthday.

Based on the vet's estimate of Cat's age when she first attached herself to the wandering Time Traveller, the two of them share the same birthday. I would have liked to photograph her with a party hat, but Cat won't have any of that nonsense. Instead, her divineness deigned to pose regally for her birthday portrait.
Happy Birthday Cat!
Happy Birthday Time Traveller!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Quiche Only a Mother Could Love

Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.
Julia Child, American French chef (1912-2004), in My Life in France

Mom loves mushrooms so I planned to use a new recipe to make her an extraordinary deep dish mushroom quiche for Mother's Day lunch. Oh, it was extraordinary alright! Its tasty egg custard leaked all over the baking sheet. I count my blessings that it wasn't all over the floor of the oven! Mom, being the great mom she is, was supportive as always and complimented my efforts as "delicious". Thanks Mom! Once my wounded pride has healed, I will try this recipe again and when I get it right we'll celebrate. In the meantime:

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Market is Open!

Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts. 
Charles Lamb, English poet and essayist (1775-1834) 

Dad and I ventured out early to the season's first farmers' market. Vendors were few as most crops have yet to poke their heads out from under their earthly blanket; nevertheless the trip was fruitful because the products for sale were fresh and local. I have been waiting impatiently for the asparagus and it will be featured in tomorrow's dinner. We shall test Lamb's prescription for gentle thoughts.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Floral Landscape

All gardening is landscape painting.
Horace Walpole, English art historian (1717-1797)

On this beautiful sunny day, S-I-L invited me out for drive to the nursery. We were greeted by a sea of colour. What a glorious sight! Visions of summer are dancing through my head as S-I-L returns home to 'paint' with flowers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Promise me you'll never forget me because if I thought you would I'd never leave.
A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (1928)

Truly, I feel bad when I don't make the effort to create a blog post. Some days I can forgive myself because "Life" has made it truly impossible to stop and enjoy a joyful moment; but, for the most part, missing posts are days that I just haven't bothered to look for joy. Not only have I missed a chance to acknowledge the day, but I feel that I've let down all of the kind people whose  regular visits to the Chocolate Box amaze and delight me.

So this evening, after a bit of a busy day and just as darkness fell, I went out into the garden perfumed with hydrangea snowballs and found the perfect image for today's post. I forget you not and thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Of Petals and Paths

Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.
Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American poet (1883-1931), in On Self Knowledge

Petals soften the stone pathway and lend a little enchantment to a familiar walk. The path of life is similarly changeable with just a sprinkling of a few, or perhaps even several, kind words.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shifting Focus

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet (1803-1882)

You never know what wonderful things you'll see when you shift your focus just a little. This morning I took a photo of a stained glass window to use its central image of Jesus with children in a church publication. Not until I came to edit the image this evening did I see the noble hare, the surreptitious squirrel munching on a nut and the beloved collie. What a heartwarming vignette that I might have otherwise missed.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Praying Without Words

Bach gave us God's Word.
Mozart gave us God's laughter.
Beethoven gave us God's fire.
God gave us Music that we might pray without words.
Engraved on an old German opera house

Just as "David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets" (1 Chronicles 13:8), our choir, children, and congregation sang praises accompanied by organ, flute, cello, recorders, piano, and bells all brought together in today's beautiful "Celebration of Music Sunday" service. And in the quiet back corner of the garden the white bells of the Lilies of the Valley continue to ring out.

May the God of melody and harmony light your path,
May the song of the Spirit play in your heart along the way,
And may Jesus Christ, our promise of new life, take your hand and lead you in the dance, now and forever.
Celebration of Music Blessing, Melrose United Church

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For Pie and Tart

I want another slice of rhubarb tart
I want another lovely slice
I'm not disparaging the blueberry pie
But rhubarb tart is oh-so-very nice
John Cleese, "The Rhubarb Tart Song" (1968)

Have you ever seen a rhubarb flower? I hadn't until today as my aunt harvested a bunch of stalks for me. Now, I know a few people who don't like this tart vegetable -- unless you happened to be in the US where it has been legally designated a fruit -- but I happen to love rhubarb and am so happy that my aunt also passed on several recipes. The first one tested is Rhubarb Butter Tarts.

I know the butter tart purists out there will be roiling at the thought of the addition of rhubarb, but give it a chance because it is quite good.

Surprisingly -- or perhaps not surprisingly -- few people have waxed eloquent about rhubarb and the meaning of life for use as my introductory quotation. But I found John Cleese singing praises of the rhubarb tart. Perfect! Yes, I realize that the homeland and jolly ol' England "are two countries separated by a common language" and that this is actually an ode to rhubarb pie, but I was desperate for a quotation . . . and it's great humour.

For those who missed the words: 
"The Rhubarb Tart Song"

I want another slice of rhubarb tart
I want another lovely slice
I'm not disparaging the blueberry pie
But rhubarb tart is oh-so-very nice
A rhubarb what? A rhubarb tart
A what-barb tart? A rhu-barb tart
I want another slice of rhubarb tart
The principles of modern philosophy
Were postulated by Descartes
Discarding everything he wasn't certain of
He said, "I think therefore I am rhubarb tart"
A rhubarb what? A rhubarb tart
Rene who? Rene Descartes
Poor mutt, he thought he was a rhubarb tart
Rhubarb tart has fascinated all the poets
Especially the Immortal Bard
He made Richard the Third call out at Bosworth Field
"My kingdom for a slice of rhubarb tart"
Immortal what? Immortal tart
Rhubarb what? A rhubarb Bard
As rhymes go that is really pretty bad
Since Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee
Laid down the axioms of abstract art
Even Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrain
Prefer to paint a slice of rhubarb tart
Wassi who? A Wassi-ly
Kandin who? A Kandin-sky
And how he get in there for a start?
Read all the existentialist philosophers
Like Schopenhauer and Jea-Paul Sarte
Even Martin Heidegger agreed on one thing
Eternal happiness is rhubarb tart
A rhubarb what? A rhubarb tart
Jean-Paul who? Jean Paul Sarte
That sounds just like a rhyme from Lionel Barte
I want another slice of rhubarb tart
I want another lovely slice
I'm not disparaging the blueberry pie
But rhubarb tart is oh-so-very nice

And now for the recipe:

Rhubarb Butter Tarts
Yield: 12 tarts

pre-made tart shells
1 cup rhubarb, chopped
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Scald rhubarb with boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes. Then drain.
3. Add butter, sugar, salt and syrup to rhubarb. Stir thoroughly until butter is melted and sugar dissolved.
4. Add egg and vanilla.
5. Fill tart shells three-quarters full.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

Source: a friend of my aunt.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Tears

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.
Charles Dickens, English author (1812-1870) in Great Expectations

The garden's new growth stretched out its green limbs to capture heaven's nourishing tears. The plant's obvious elation is echoed in the background chorals of robins and sparrows.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Joys of Cherry Wine

“How does one become a butterfly?" she asked.
"You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."
Trina Paulus, American author of Hope for the Flowers

The air this morning was full of Japanese cherry perfume and tens of butterflies flitted from blossom to blossom. It was quite a sight and a difficult one to capture with the camera because they preferred the upper blossoms and alit for mere seconds before somersaulting to another branch. It has taken me all day to identify these Monarch lookalikes. I believe I have finally solved the mystery: they are Polygonia comma, otherwise known as Eastern Commas. Wikipedia informs that Eastern Commas seldom procure their nectar from blossoms; instead they prefer rotting fruit of which there is an abundance still hanging in the tree. These fellows had found a source of cherry wine and were happily drunk, bringing smiles to the firmly rooted earthlings standing below.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Future is Now

If suffering brought wisdom, the dentist’s office would be full of luminous ideas.
Mason Cooley, American professor of English and aphorist (1927-2002)

Lately I have visited a few dental offices, sitting in their uncomfortable chairs lined up around the waiting room walls, and reading their out-dated magazines. Just your normal, boring trip to the doctor's or dentist's office. Imagine my surprise walking into the office of a 3-D dental imaging firm, with everything a vision of white and chrome, and finding very few chairs and not one magazine. Instead, I found two computers. I was at a loss. What am I supposed to do? Should I read the news? Find interesting blogs? Watch You-Tube movies?

Reading a magazine in the traditional dentist's office is a private act. That privacy is lost with a desk-top computer and the Internet. Doing any of the above acts in a public area filled me with some unease so I decided just to sit and look out the window. Meanwhile, the preteen boy sitting beside me stared intently at the computer screen and clicked and typed away -- doing I'm not sure what but obviously entertaining himself. He didn't have the same sense of boundaries that kept me looking out the window. Today's visit gave me a glimpse into the future and it was exciting; but I also felt like I was on the outside looking in.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When a Friend is Sick, Bake!

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
Helen Keller, American author and activist (1880-1968)

Sadly, a friend is going into hospital for a mastectomy. As friends gather round, most feel helpless and useless in the face of her tough physical and emotional trauma. Age-old wisdom says: when a friend is sick, cook; so Mom and I and other quilting friends have prepared meals to stock her refrigerator with nourishing food. Since cookies provide comfort to six- and sixty-year-olds, I searched for a healthful recipe and found "Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies". Full of raisins and cranberries and oats they certainly look healthy. Hopefully our friend is feeling just as healthy and outrageous very soon!

Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies
Yield: about 3 dozen

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I omitted)
2 large eggs
3 cups old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dark raisins, for topping
1/3 cup golden raisins, for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined.
3. Gradually add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and oats.
4. Add raisins and cranberries.
5. Combine raisins for topping in separate bowl and set aside.
6. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons (or use ice-cream scoop), 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets.
7. Place 1 mounded teaspoon of raisins on top of each cookie.
8. Bake about 12 minutes, until cookies are golden brown, but still soft. Cool on sheets before serving.

Source: Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog. Originally a Starbucks recipe.