Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pucker Up

Outside the day had been gray and drizzly but it was sunshine yellow inside Cafe Limoncello as we celebrated Auntie's 89th birthday with some lemon gelato. What an elegant presentation: so impressive and yet so simple as freezing hollow lemons.

I'm having a strange reaction to today's photo. My mind is playing tricks: I see a beautiful lemon ice but my mouth is tasting garlic shrimp in some kind of Pavlovian response. Weird. Wonderful.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Dollar Treasure

I love old books. They tell you stories about their use. You can see where the fingerprints touched the pages as they held the book open. You can see how long they lingered on each page by the finger stains.
Jack Bowman, English actor

Today I joined Mom to volunteer at the used book sale that supports a local seniors programme. Helping to organize boxes upon boxes of books on every conceivable topic, I sorted novels from self-help and histories, and textbooks from autobiographies. As I worked, my hand paused over Old Patchwork Quilts and The Women Who Made Them, written by Ruth E. Finley in 1929. I'm not sure now where it was stuffed in the sale's jumble but, as I scanned the pages of drawings documenting early American quilt patterns, I knew that I had found a treasure.

I did not spot the book's dedication until I had a chance to sit down in the comfy chair this evening and open it for a leisurely read. For Christmas in 1968, "Muriel" presented Finley's treatise to "Marion" with the note, "I know you will treasure this book." It seems that Muriel was passing on a favourite book that she had owned before she married, when she was living in the Toll House in Copplestone village, Devon. An internet search tells me that the Toll House was built in 1830, a little more than 50 years before Finley was born. A some point in time after 1929, her book came to reside in old toll house from a New York publisher. How and when it crossed the great pond again, this time to Canada, are intriguing questions. I'll never know all the stories that this little treasure holds but I am happy that it has come to reside with me on my lap. It's almost as if Muriel presented the gift to me. Thank you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dancing with Heart

Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another. 

A friend forwarded the link to "Where the Hell is Matt? 2012".  It made me smile and gave me hope for our crazy mixed-up world so I want to pass on the good vibes.

Matt was in Cairo during my last sojourn in Egypt and I remember the news stories questioning whether he would be safe filming in Tahrir Square. I didn't 'get' Matt at the time; now I do. According to his website, "Matt thinks travel is important. It helps us learn what we're capable of, that the path laid in front of us isn't the only one we can choose, and that we don't need to be so afraid of each other all the time." I couldn't agree more.

Furthermore his website states that, "Matt would like to see the Transportation Security Administration disbanded and replaced with a new system that doesn't train people to mindlessly obey pointless rules. He believes brief conversations with well-trained humans who make direct eye contact would be a better way to keep people safe without sacrificing their dignity and liberty."

With his positive-thinking foreign policy and his sensible homeland security plan, this man should run for President! There's hope! So let's all dance with our hearts!

Go on . . . get up out of the chair and do a twirl across the floor. Dance like no one's watching. . . . it feels goooood. :-)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Library Appreciation

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.
The Whole Earth Catalog (1980)

Between the on-line catalog and reservation system and the breadth of literature available, our local library system continually amazes me. Having lived in countries that do not provide their citizens with similar open access to knowledge, I know how lucky I am to have this precious -- and free -- resource. Whether I've wanted a how-to manual, a historical commentary, or a novel, the library has provided it. I just opened The Paris Wife by Paula McLain tonight and I'm captivated by the tale of Hadley and Ernest. Thanks to the public library I am treated to a fascinating journey to 1920s Paris for no cost. Can't beat that value!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seams that Bind

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That is what makes a marriage last /more than passion or even sex!
Simone Signoret, French actress (1921-1985)

Today we celebrated a major achievement: Mom completed the top of her beautiful nine-patch quilt.

This masterpiece of one-inch squares pieced together with thousands of seams has been three years in the making. It's an amazing piece of work and I do plan to calculate just how many carefully stitched seams Mom made to hold it all together. It's done! It's stunning! Mabruk!

Monday, June 18, 2012

For the Birds

The swallow is come!
The swallow is come!
O, fair are the seasons, and light
Are the days that she brings,
With her dusky wings,
And her bosom snowy white!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet (1807-1882), in "Hyperion" (1839)

The conclusion of today's quilting class coincided with the last stitch in the swallows that swoop across the quilt's background. Judging by the number of birds that fill the 'sky', the quilt should emanate happiness and good fortune. I hope both stay with me as I move on to quilt the borders and sew the binding. The end draws near. Stay tuned. ;-)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Forever Fathers

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.

Ah yes, I visited another cemetery -- although today's visit was not to enjoy the artistry of tombstones or to contemplate their inscribed sentiments. Today's visit, as Dad took some flowers to his parents' resting place, acknowledged that fathers live eternally in the spirits of their children, grandchildren and great-children, ad infinitum. In this I am truly blessed.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stories in Stone

I always remember an epitaph which is in the cemetery at Tombstone, Arizona. It says: "Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest." I think that is the greatest epitaph a man can have.
Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1884-1972)

Although this might be revealing a personality quirk that I should keep under wraps: I enjoy visiting cemeteries. I appreciate the art of the tombstones and the history and poignancy of their inscriptions. Historian Robin McKee's "Stories in the Stones" 1812 tour expanded the interesting family histories beyond what is recorded on the epitaphs and revealed the history beneath Hamilton Cemetery's undulating landscape.

Here was what was planned to be the "Last Stand" of the pro-British forces against the invading American army 199 years ago. The beautiful undulating hills are, in fact, a series of earthen embankments designed for mass killing. As fate would have it, the invading army didn't make it to Hamilton; in a surprise predawn attack on June 6, 1813, the Americans were routed at the Battle of Stoney Creek, just a few miles to the East.

The two-hour tour was packed with fascinating snippets of local lives, some of which have international significance. For example, if Robert Land's wife, Phoebe, had not had the conviction that perhaps her husband was still alive 10 years after she was told he had been killed and if, with that conviction, she had not made the arduous journey with her children from Nova Scotia to the isolated Burlington Heights, Charles Lindbergh would not have been born. I didn't know that! And that's why I'm looking forward to Robin's next cemetery tour.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hardihood of Spirit

I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life -- it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.
Frances E. Willard, American suffragist (1839-1898) in How I Learned To Ride The Bicycle (1895)

Stealth made its inaugural voyage to the gym today as I fought and overcame my innate appreciation of sloth. Thanks to climbing onto its seat, I have achieved higher moral standing.  ;-) 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thankful It's Over

There are good days and there are bad days, and this is one of them.
Lawrence Welk, American musician (1903-1992)

Some days I count but one blessing: thank God it's over! Today's trauma, and drama, involved Cat and her manicure. We tried, for the first time, to soothe her manicure angst with a little pill. However, it seems that Cat's constitution is stronger than a little pill. It did have some affect . . . two hours after we returned home from the vet's office. By then I needed a little pill to soothe my guilt-ridden angst of seeing Cat staggering about and meowing at her befuddled brain. As I write this post at day's end, Cat lies curled up beside me, sleeping off the pill and the day, and I'm thankful for her warm furry presence . . . and for the day's end.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jelly-Roll Anxiety

Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Susan Jeffers, American best-selling self-help author

The fear factor in making a jelly-roll type dessert ranks up there with changing a fuse in Egypt and drilling a hole in the wall to hang a picture. However, in this case, if something went terribly wrong with this new adventure, embarked upon just hours before the church potluck dinner, I had a 'Plan B': if my Strawberries and Cream Cake Roll cracked or fell to pieces during the process, I would throw all the pieces into a large bowl and cover the mess with more whipped cream and call it "Strawberries and Cream Trifle". I figured I couldn't loose.

As it turned out, I could loose: the cake roll looked so spectacular that the plate was bare before Mom and I could get a piece. I'm told it tasted good too -- but that is just hearsay. I had wanted to take a photo of one of the slices to document the achievement but there wasn't a chance for that, so I'm posting the quick shot I took before heading to the social even though it doesn't show the lovely roll of the angel food cake.

The directions provided by the browneyedbaker are so easy to follow, I can only urge you to "feel the fear and do it anyway" and try it yourself. I'm going to make it again just to get a taste.  ;-)

Strawberries and Cream Angel Food Cake Roll
Yield: 10 servings

For the Cake:
9 egg whites (Not knowing what to do with 9 yolks, I used 1 carton + 2 tbsp of "Simply Egg Whites")
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
1 tbsp powdered (icing) sugar

For the Filling:
2 cups of heavy whipping cream, chilled
6 tbsp powdered (icing) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups diced strawberries

Powdered sugar, for dusting top of cake, optional (but necessary)

1. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, line a 15" X 10" baking pan with parchment paper. (I used a cookie sheet that was about 15" X 17" and it worked quite well -- and we gained more servings.) Lightly coat the paper with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Add vanilla and cream of tartar to the egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Fold in flour, 1/4 cup at a time.

4. Carefully spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cage springs back when lightly touched. (My cake took about 23 minutes.) Cool for 5 minutes.

5. Dust a clean kitchen towel with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Turn the cake out onto the kitchen towel. Gently peel off paper. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. (Mom and I with 4 hands were able to roll from the long side. Otherwise the roll would have been very tall and impossible to serve several people.) Cool completely on a wire rack.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the cream on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the strawberries. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

7. Unroll rolled cake; spread filling to within a half an inch of the edges (you will have some filling leftover). Roll up again. Place seam side down on a serving plate; sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, if desired. Serve with any leftover strawberries and cream filling. Store leftovers (what leftovers???), covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

Source: BrownEyedBaker blog (adapted from Taste of Home Recipes).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Quilts in Bloom

If you give a woman a quilt, you warm her for the winter. If you teach a woman to quilt, you warm her soul for life.

There seems to be something about rain and quilt shows. Just as the Saturday of the Binbrook quilt show, it poured rain today; but no matter: it was cheerful and dry indoors as the Hamilton Quilters Guild presented its "Quilts in Bloom" quilt show. Such an event happens only once every three years, so everyone eagerly awaits the exhibition, and I can see why: the quilts are stunning, the demonstrations are insightful, and the vendors have bins upon bins of wonderful fabrics. My head was spinning with all kinds the ideas for my next quilt and I came home with a stack of lovely Japanese florals to piece together. I'm inspired! My soul is warmed. Thanks, Mom. Now I must finish the two quilts that are currently under my needle. Stay tuned. ;-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Sweetness in January

Don't marry a girl who wants strawberries in January.
American proverb

Today's photo makes my mouth water. The strange weather we've been having over the past few months had me worried for the local fruit crops but the strawberries this year are large and sweet; albeit about ten percent more expensive than last year. Dad bought a flat out at Murphy's today and I processed them this evening. Our plan is to repeat this process a few times until the freezer is stocked full so that we might enjoy their sweetness, even in January.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Comfort and Warmth

Quilts are like friends - a great source of comfort and warmth.

Having seven nearly-complete quilts spread out across the tables at today's class is a rare event that needed to be documented. Because each member of the group works on a unique project at a unique pace it seems quite special that we are all approaching the finish line at the same time. The photo suggests that we are an industrious group during our three-hour classes and I suppose I should not reveal the truth about how little I accomplish in comparison to working at home. But our chit-chat and comraderie produce as much comfort and warmth as the quilts we are sewing.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ever-Present, Unseen Spirit

Some souls think that the Holy Spirit is very far away, far, far, up above. Actually he is, we might say, the divine Person who is most closely present to the creature. He accompanies him everywhere. He penetrates him with himself. He calls him, he protects him. He makes of him his living temple. He defends him. He helps him. He guards him from all his enemies. He is closer to him than his own soul. All the good a soul accomplishes, it carries out under his inspiration, in his light, by his grace and his help.
The Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, Mexican mystic (1862-1937)

Pinwheels demonstrated for the children that even though our breath is unseen, it exists. So, too, the unseen Holy Spirit permeates our being. It is the Spirit within that urges us to care for the earth, to reach out a helping hand to the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted and console all who mourn, to forgive our enemies, and to embody hope. Yet the sermon reminded that the Spirit does not demand us to accomplish great feats beyond our capability; sometimes we simply need to bring a cup of tea to a colleague having a tough day.

We are a diminishing congregation but the stone walls of our church reverberated and hearts soared as we sang today's closing hymn, known by its choral affirmation, "Here I Am Lord". Our experience is mirrored in the video below, filmed in the ancient Hexham Abbey in Northumberland, England.


Saturday, June 2, 2012


We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.
Epicurus, Greek philosopher (341-270 BC)

Thanks to the hard work of an impressive cadre of volunteers, the church fundraiser for the new boiler and solar panels was a resounding success. Actually, I'm not sure how much money was raised but I had a great time so it was a success in my books. I haven't tasted spanakopita, horiatiki, or baklava this good since our last trip to Greece. The entertainment comprised the choir singing ABBA hits from the movie "Mamma Mia" because that was as much Greek as they could handle. Great fun was had by all -- even if they didn't let Dad break any of the church plates. Opa!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Treble in the Kitchen

Hors d'oeuvre: a ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
Jack Benny, American comedian (1894-1974)

I donned my new apron and got to work making a couple of savouries for tomorrow's fundraising dinner. We were asked to bring a little something to accompany the imbibing of a little wine by silent auction participants.

I think these Savoury Palmiers will fit the bill nicely. They are so tasty and easy to make that the recipe needs to be shared. It originates with Ina Garten in her Back to Basics recipe book, but I found it on the Munch + Nibble blog.

Savoury Palmiers
Makes: about 40 pastries

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (used feta)
1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sun-dried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.

2. Working from the short ends (unless your sheets are square, in which case just start on one side), roll each end to the center. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

3. Repeat for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover both rolls with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place them face-up 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm. (They taste best warm, but they're also pretty good at room temperature.)