Friday, November 30, 2012

Je me souviens

Truly happy memories always live on, shining. Over time, one by one, they come back to life.
Banana Yoshimoto, Japanese author

I came to a halt before one of the mall's shops. Mais oui! Je me souviens de Versailles. Excusez mon français but, oh, the memories come rushing back and what little French I know bubbles on my tongue. In another Christmastide, twelve years ago now, I strolled through Versailles' grand hall of gold, mirrors and crystal in my little grey beret. Later someone informed me that only tourists wear berets in Paris. Ah well. C'est la vie. I felt chic nonetheless. As I stood before the shop's window, I smiled at all the wonderful memories unexpectedly triggered.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Fruitcake Time!

Your friends are the fruitcake of your life – some are nutty, some are soaked in alcohol, some firm, some sweet, but all together, great to have in your life!

I thought everyone loved Christmas fruitcake . . . until I searched for a quotation for today's post and found more satire than odes dedicated to this dark, dense, and ambrosial treat. One comedian itemized 10 things to do with fruitcakes, and his first suggestion is: "Bury them in the back yard for future archaeologists to discover." Well, that's just fine by me. I know treasure when I find it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I am standing on the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her
until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: 'There! She's gone.'
Gone where? Gone from my sight that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she
was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living
freight to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her;
and just at the moment when someone at my side says:
'There! She's gone,'
there are others watching her coming,
and voices ready to take up the glad shout
'There she comes!'
And that is dying.
Charles Henry Brent, Canadian missionary bishop (1862-1929), "The Ship"

The creative writing class is drawing to a close. Our penultimate assignment was to write about our experiences with death and dying. Listening to the stories read aloud, I was humbled by the expressions of my classmates. One left us with Charles Henry Brent's poem, "The Ship". It's a beautiful gift that I wanted to share. Walking out to the parking lot, I looked up into an awesome passageway leading into the heavens. That, too, was a gift.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sweet Savoury

Savory . . . that's a swell word. And Basil and Betel. Capsicum. Curry. All great. But Relish, now, Relish with a capital R. No argument, that's the best.
Ray Bradbury, American author (1920-2012) in Dandelion Wine

I relished these savoury shortbreads, scrumptiously flavoured with cheeses, spices, and nuts. Shortbread has long been a Christmas tradition at the ol' homestead and I maintain my grandmother's simple recipe of just butter, flour and icing sugar to be the epitome by which all other shortbread are judged. However, having been introduced this past weekend to the savoury shortbreads of the Provisions Food Company, I will now make a new prize category. Provisions has transformed the sweet into a savoury: what a delicious combination. Go figure!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vineyard Adventures

Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.
Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist in Brida (1990)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Everywhere we went.

Take a look at the Rosewood's Cab Franc, glistening once again,
with notes of raspberry and blackberry aglow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,
Warmth from e'vry stove

But the prettiest sight to see
Was the hibiscus floating free
On a spark-ling brut.

A pairing of mushroom soup with Riesling that shines
Is the wish of sis and me

A Bigmouth Merlot and a Bravado Cab-Sauv
Is the hope of Bro and Fraz

And all the while, he said with a smile:
"We're Napa of the North . . . sans attitude"

With apologies to Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, and especially composer Meredith Willson. The wines and the nibbles and the great company just has me singing praises of the "Wrapped Up in the Valley" event. Congratulations and thank-you to one and all at Twenty Valley.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wrapped Up in 2012

Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living.
Robert Mondavi, American vintner (1913-2008) in his autobiography, Harvests of Joy

It's that time again; time for sampling good wines accompanied by tasty morsels: it's Wrapped Up in the Valley 2012. The Time Traveller joined our wino threesome on another enjoyable tour up and down Twenty Valley.

Joe at Kacaba Vineyards and Winery was a highlight of today's tour. Never before have we been offered a taste direct from the stainless steel tanks. In addition to this preview of Kacaba's 2012 Sauvignon blanc, Joe offered a delightful commentary on various aspects of wine-making from hand-picking grapes to the bottling operation inside a flatbed truck. It's obvious he loves his work. And the wine? Suffice it to say that we pre-ordered a case of that Sauvignon blanc. It should be ready come Easter.

Visiting the home/winery of Sue-Ann Staff is always a pleasure. We love her big, friendly collie-cross dog, Bricks (or is it Brix?), who greets visitors with a wagging tail and a big smile. We love her stunning chandeliers. We love her mom's flavourful artistry with grilled cheese sandwiches (today's creation featured delicious, homemade spicy peach chutney). And we also love her wines. The 2011 Riesling "Loved by Lu", so-named in honour of the grandmother who taught Sue-Ann how to care for the vines, glistens with fresh fruitiness. Its sparkle is matched only by Sue-Ann's friendliness. Meeting the vintners and learning the stories behind the wines is what really makes the "Wrapped in the Valley" event so much fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

In Gratitude

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.
A. A. Milne, English author (1882-1956) in Winnie-the-Pooh

Happy Thanksgiving to my dear American friends! Know that I am grateful for your presence in my life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Making Sunshine

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, American author (1867-1957), in Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder - Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Over the past few days fog has blanketed our mornings with gray. Sometimes it's so thick that it envelops houses just across the street beneath a cloak of invisibility. Its heaviness slows down traffic as well as our energy levels.

This morning, though, I broke through the gray with some summer sunshine preserved in a bottle. We had been asked to provide squares for an open house for a local community agency. I came across a very easy recipe for Oatmeal Jam Bars on My Baking Addiction blog, which I tweaked a little to suit the special bottle of apricot, peach and pear jam that was on the shelf. The squares turned out very tasty and they are so quick to put together that I thought I should share.

Oatmeal Jam Bars

1 (18.25 oz) package of yellow cake mix (I used spice cake mix because I thought the cinnamon would add a touch of 'zing' to the flavour -- and it did!)

2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

3/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup raspberry jam (I used almost 2 cups. I made one batch with the apricot jam and another with blueberry)

1 tablespoon water (The apricot jam was very thick so I used 2 tbsp of boiling water. I used less water with the blueberry jam)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Line a 9" X 13" pan with foil and grease.

2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, cake mix and melted butter so that it makes nice clumps and there is no dry mix left. Press half of the oats mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

3. In a separate bowl, mix jam with water. Spread over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the top.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-23 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Cool before cutting into bars.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shower Christening

Everyone who's ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.
Nolan Bushnell, American engineer and entrepreneur

The ol' homestead's hot water heater passed away late last night with an hour-long gasp as its warm waters drained out across the basement floor -- and thankfully down the floor drain. I'm told it died of natural causes. Unfortunately, it could not be laid to rest -- in the back of a service truck -- until this evening when the Reliance undertaker came to call. There's never a good time for these things to happen and I needed a shower before heading off to class. S-I-L stepped in giving me the opportunity to christen her lovely new shower. Darn! I forgot the champagne! I planned to write an ode of appreciation, which I began to compose as I lathered, but I forgot it too. So I, and my classmates, bid you a simple "Thank you".

Sunday, November 18, 2012

All Are Welcome

It only takes one cat – or person – to make another feel welcome and special.
Laura C. Monteiro, American author, in Mariah Makes a Friend (2012)

Our church is 87 years young. We celebrated Anniversary Sunday with a special gift from the estate of Peter Haworth. Born in Lancaster, England in 1889, he arrived in Canada in 1923 and, it seems, immediately began creating stained-glass windows for a multitude of churches across Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta. We are blessed to gaze upon his work each week and to have received, some eight decades later, five of his original sketches for the magnificent windows that so vividly illumine the Bible stories.

Even before the sermon 'provoked' us to love and good deeds, the congregation sang out with committed voices:
Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone.
To heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear
the image of God’s face.
Let us bring an end to fear and danger;

All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cookie Queens

She went to the window. A fine sheen of sugary frost covered everything in sight, and white smoke rose from chimneys in the valley below the resort town. The window opened to a rush of sharp early November air that would have the town in a flurry of activity, anticipating the tourists the colder weather always brought to the high mountains of North Carolina.

She stuck her head out and took a deep breath. If she could eat the cold air, she would. She thought cold snaps were like cookies, like gingersnaps. In her mind they were made with white chocolate chunks and had a cool, brittle vanilla frosting. They melted like snow in her mouth, turning creamy and warm.
Sarah Addison Allen, American author in The Sugar Queen (2008)

Sugary frost coated Mom's car this morning as we set out just after 8 A.M. for the church. A splendid array of cookies of every flavour, shape and size was lined up ready for shoppers when the doors opened at 9:30 and very few were left when they closed five hours later.

Spicy gingersnaps, velvety shortbread, nutty brittle and oh so much chocolate laden the tables. There was lots of fun, and a few (broken) samples, to be had. And once again the church coffers are rolling in dough. (I had to say that.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sleigh Full of Goodies

Mom and I loaded up the car early this morning, taking this year's donation down to the church to set up for tomorrow's Christmas bazaar. What a haul! Most of the cookies appeared here last year, but there are a few new ones that I'll try to post the recipes for . . . after the bazaar. Tonight, it's early to bed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

It is right that we take time to remember, O God, and to lament the sacrifice of so many. It is not the minute or hour that we take to call their deeds to mind that vindicates the giving over of all their tomorrows. It is what we do with our todays that speaks volumes. Amen.
A Liturgy of Remembrance, Melrose United Church

Gathered together in a service dedicated to remembrance, we lit a Candle of Thanksgiving, a Candle of Peace, and a Candle of Hope. The hymns, Last Post, O Canada, Reveillé moved us all. Perhaps most importantly, the congregation sang out "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace".

May we all strive to be channels of peace.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Art of Chickens

If I didn't start painting, I would have raised chickens.
Grandma Moses (aka Anna Mary Robertson Moses), American folk artist (1860–1961)

The Time Traveller treated me to a day at the fair. Not just any fair, but the grand-daddy of them all in these parts: the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, inaugurated in 1922. It runs from November 2nd until the 11th. Today was selected so that we wouldn't miss the "Poultry Show" because the Time Traveller is quite enamoured with Rhode Island Reds and Muskovy ducks. How can I fault him when I took well over 80 pictures of the chickens, ducks, and geese. The artistry of their plumage was so striking in design and colour.

Just check out those boots!

And the bustle on this turkey!

And I love the colours in of the Polish cockerel's jacket and his matching cap. Stunning!

More subdued in looks and demeanor is this white crested couple, but they were so sweet curled up together that I had to take their photo too. Actually, they remind me of Albert Einstein.

The other exhibits provided lots of interesting info and free food samples. We came home with a bag of big P.E.I. potatoes and a bag of carrots. The most exciting event, however, took place in the Coliseum where we watched a few of the horse competitions. The massive Scottish Clydesdales have always awed me but to see their powerful bodies gracefully prance around the ring added to their impressiveness. As if designed to accentuate the contrast, the Clysdesdales followed the Roadster Pony competition. The difference in size couldn't have been greater, but the Roadster Ponies were just as impressive.

We had a great time and came away impressed with the agricultural achievements of the homeland. It's well worth the price of admission. Thanks TT!

A friend followed up on my mention of the Clydesdales, writing:

When I saw your reference to the Clydesdale horses it reminded me of a radio programme that was broadcast quite a few years ago about a couple who 'relocated' their stock of Clydesdales from the Isle of Skye (Scotland) to Cumbria (The Lake District) by riding / walking / ferrying the horses the entire journey ! Sadly, the programme seems to have disappeared from the BBC archives, but I managed to find a magazine article about the adventure:

I have now added the Cumbrian Heavy Horse Centre to my bucket list. What a fabulous experience that would be, to ride one of those wonderful animals!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cross-Country Shop Hop

It is in his pleasure that a man really lives; it is from his leisure that he constructs the true fabric of self.
Agnes Repplier, American essayist (1855–1950)

Five women jumped into Dad's car and set off at 9 A.M. for a day-trip shopping adventure. We covered a lot of ground from Stratford to Shakespeare to Kitchener and on to St. Jacobs before heading home eight hours later. The hours flew bye as quickly as the clicks on the odometer. What fun we had perusing stashes of 'fat quarters' seeking out gems for our current projects or inspiration for future projects. I discovered some pharaonic-themed fabric that can only be described as exquisite. I will enjoy mulling over an equally exquisite design perfect for them.

Each shop offered a unique inventory of cotton fabrics and patterns so all five of us looked forward to each stop along the journey. What's more, as we collected a stamp in our "shop hop passport", we received a gift of a small piece of fabric that combine to make a lovely Christmas tree. What a nice touch!

To the shop keepers who put on such a fun marketing event: Thank you! I'm sure they climbed under their own quilts this evening and fell fast asleep.

If you happen to find yourself in the neighbourhood, stop by:
Ye Olde Fabric Shoppe, Stratford
The Quilt Place, Shakespeare
     **and be sure to stop at Rose Marie's Family Restaurant for hearty home-cooked meals at very reasonable prices.
Creative Sisters Quilt Studio, Kitchener
Reichard's: The Quilter's Store, St. Jacobs
Although it didn't participate in this year's Shop Hop, I can also recommend Quilt Essentials, located at 1340 King North in St. Jacobs.