Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween Cat

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam, 
May luck be yours on Halloween. 
Author Unknown

Cat often dances a Halloween jig across the floor with her back arched and her tail up, but would she do it for me with the camera poised for a perfect Halloween blog shot? Noooooo. Her expression was one of disbelief: "You're asking meeeeee, the Divine Cat, to dance for youuuuu, a mere mortal? I think not." Nor would she deign to be wrapped in Cleopatra veils or be photographed with the loot basket -- although she did investigate it once the camera was put away. Halloween is all about imagination, so I must leave it to your powers of visualization to conjure up images of other, not so divine, cats on this all hallows eve.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Witch's Smile

What does a witch ask for in a hotel?
Broom service.

You may wonder why the witch is smiling (notwithstanding the bad joke): it's because she's seeing the first sunlight in five days. It broke through the gray, rainy skies just about sunset this evening. Ilhumdulila!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Travels of the Inexplicable

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.
Tim Cahill, American travel writer

The day began with a lovely walk through a misty graveyard with the Time Traveller . . . don't ask me to try to explain our relationship. ;-)

Driving along misty highways, I then met a friend and we wandered the main street of old Elora, a picturesque, nineteenth-century town set along the Grand River.

Along our route we opened many doors into numerous boutiques, a French creperie, and a patisserie, all the while chatting, getting caught up on the news. C'est bon!

The town is caught up in Halloween spirit, sometimes in an odd sort of way as with this mermaid taking her shark for a walk. Don't ask me to try to explain. ;-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Warming on a Cool Evening

Life gives us brief moments with another .  . . but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a lifetime.
Author Unknown

On a cool, wet evening, the Time Traveller and I met with Cairo friends at TT's favourite Thai restaurant. Lots of laughter and shared memories coupled with delicious coconut mushroom soup warmed body and soul.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's Your Favourite Colour?

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
Dave Barry, American author and humor columnist

M&Ms didn't exist in Canada when I was a kid; instead my treat was called Smarties, sold in boxes of colourful hard-shelled chocolate pieces, made by the Rowntree company. I loved the sound made by shaking the 'beans' in their box. Then I would open the box and pick out one or two -- I think I even shared a few with my brother ;-) -- but I always saved the red ones until last. Obviously I was not unique because somewhere in time the commercial ditty rose:  
"When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last? Do you suck them very slowly, or crunch them very fast? Eat the candy-coated chocolate? But tell me when I ask: when you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?"
If you remember the ditty, I bet you will be singing it all day now. ;-)

M&Ms emigrated from the US to Canada in 1980; by that time I was in university. They were a delicious treat -- one which I didn't dare allow myself too often -- but because M&Ms are sold in small bags that make only a boring crinkle sound, they can't replace Smarties in my heart.

Notwithstanding my heart, Mom predicts that these cookies will sell very well at the church bazaar.

M&M Cookies
Makes: about 30 cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup golden shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups candy-coated milk chocolate pieces*

* Note: I have not tried using Smarties, so I can't comment on the relative merits of Smarties vs M&Ms.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, shortening, butter and vanilla thoroughly. Add flour, salt, and baking soda to creamed mixture. Blend well. Add 3/4 cup of M&M candies.
3. Drop dough by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet. Slightly push a few candies on top of each dough ball with remaining candies.
4. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes.

Source: All Recipes website

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day of Rest

We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (121-180)

This was a no-cookie day. After a very thoughtful church service about doing whatever we can to help our fellow man (i.e., Love thy Neighbour), the Time Traveller and I took a leisurely drive into the Niagara Peninsula, sharing memories of the concord grapes from our youths.

The Time Traveller wanted to buy some so we ducked into two vineyards, but no one was working. Then we visited a winery, where the grapes offered at the tasting bar lacked flavour; but perhaps that's the secret of good wine, because the wine of our youth (made with concord grapes) was pretty bad. Finally, in Vineland, a roadside vendor had baskets of the vine's last harvest. TT simply had to fight off the bees to carry a basket away.

Driving a little further, we came to Port Dalhousie where we took a quiet walk along the long pier, admiring Lake Ontario's vista, the lighthouses, and the ships anchored in the distance, waiting to enter the Welland Canal to continue their journeys to Chicago and other western ports. In the foreground we contemplated a mallard couple, paddling through life, together.

After a great dinner of mussels at Murphy's restaurant, we walked back out along the pier and sat on one of the memorial benches, each dedicated to someone loved, and each welcoming visitors to stop, rest, and enjoy the world around them. We watched the sun set into the lake's molten surface and were thankful we were raised in such a great land.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

For Love (and Chocolate)

Forget love... I'd rather fall in chocolate!
Author Unknown

This is how it all started. I could immerse myself in today's chocolate dough. I came across this recipe on the Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker blog and reading her story I knew I had to try Aunt Viola's cookies because I related to the story of childhood raids of Christmas cookies stored in the family freezer. I snarfed countless chocolate macaroons from the depths of the chest freezer weeks before holiday guests came to visit. Nor was my brother an innocent bystander, even though he may try to convince our mother otherwise.

The first batch turned out pretty good, although not quite as illustrated on the original recipe. Oh well, in my imagination they look like chocolate snow-covered mountains. For the second batch I thought a little more chocolate was required . . .

So I added some white chocolate boulders to the mountain and crowned each with a heart. You might have guessed that these will be taken to the bridal shower, although I could say that the hearts represent a love of chocolate.

Chocolate Cookies with Boiled Butter Frosting
Makes: about 30 cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup shortening
1 - 8 oz bag white chocolate chips, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Beat sugar, egg, milk and vanilla together.
3. Sift flour, salt, cocoa and soda together and add.
4. Melt shortening and add last. Beat until smooth. If desired, add white chocolate chips.
5. Drop by teaspoonful on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

(Makes enough frosting for 2 batches of cookies.)

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Boil sugar, butter, milk and salt vigorously.
2. Remove from heat and beat in vanilla and powdered sugar.
3. For firmer frosting, wait for about 1 hour. Spoon frosting onto cookies.

Source: Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker blog

Friday, October 21, 2011

Which Way?

By the time a person has achieved years adequate for choosing a direction, the die is cast and the moment has long since passed which determined the future.
Zelda Fitzgerald, American novelist (1900-1948)

Coming down the convention centre's escalator with Mom and two aunts, we faced a dilemma: which way to turn? I suspect that Zelda would have turned the other direction, but we choose right to join hundreds of (mainly) ladies waiting to enter the 'stitchery show', now called the Creative Festival. I enjoyed joining the sisters on their annual excursion and came home with a lot more fabric than available at the other exhibition. Just goes to show that for a good time, hang out with family.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Loving Leftovers

Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.
Thomas Fuller, English clergyman and historian (1608-1661)

With a bit of leftover pie crust and a little leftover lemon pudding and meringue I could make a couple of tarts for dinner tonight. Just a nibble. Just enough. Admittedly, Dad chaffed a little at the fact that the pie itself was heading out of the house for my brother and nephew to share as a welcome home after their long journeys. (I also left them a pan of lasagna and garlic bread 'cuz who wants to make dinner after exhausting travels.) Do you hear the violins playing in the background? That's the angels in heaven performing because I'm such a good sister/aunt.  ;-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Three Graces

I seek constantly to improve my manners and graces, for they are the sugar to which all are attracted.
Og Mandino, American essayist and psychologist (1923-1996)

The ancient Greeks may have identified their personifications of feminine qualities as "Beauty", "Joy" and "Good Cheer", but I am thinking that the Three Graces should be redefined as Chocolate, Strawberries and Cream.

This insight came to me as I stirred up a batch of White Chocolate Strawberry Chunk Cookies. Now, I will admit that white chocolate is not real chocolate, and that the cream is, in fact, cream cheese, but the result is nonetheless divine.

White Chocolate Strawberry Chunk Cookies
Makes: 5 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1 pkg. (8-ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1-1/2 tablespoons lime zest, grated (about 1 lime)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. (12-oz.) white chocolate chips
1-3/4 cup fresh strawberries, finely chopped to about the size of chocolate chips * **

* NOTE 1: Because I wanted to freeze these cookies, I used dried strawberries found at the Bulk Barn.
** NOTE 2: If using fresh strawberries, don't chop the strawberries until shortly before you're going to add them to the dough.)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese, and 2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and lime juice and lime zest. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Gently fold in chopped strawberries (if using fresh, drain any accumulated juices first) and white chocolate chips.

3. Gently scoop into balls on a greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute before removing to wire racks.

Source: The Recipe Shoebox

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Spice

A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.

I will apologize now for inundating the Chocolate Box with cookies, but baking cookies is the preoccupation of Mom and I until mid-November's church bazaar. Today Mom made dozens of zucchini cookies and, with lots of pumpkin puree in the freezer from Thanksgiving, I decided to try something new and different as well: glazed pumpkin spice cookies (which are quite good even without the glaze). As I drizzled the icing, I was lost in thoughts of sugar and spice and the upcoming bridal shower. Furthermore, I (heart) pumpkin!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Makes: about 3 dozen cookies


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

"Base Coat" Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar **
2 tablespoons milk  

"Top Coat" Spiced Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar **
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
orange food colouring, if desired

** Note: I found that more icing sugar was necessary to make a full-bodied "icing" rather than a "glaze".

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt.
3. In the bowl of stand mixer, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until combined.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low/medium speed just until combined.
5. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough on baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cookies completely on a rack.

1. In small bowl, mix powdered sugar with milk ("Base Coat"). Add more sugar or milk to reach the desired consistency. Use a brush to spread on completely cooled cookies.
2. Prepare spiced glaze ("Top Coat") while first glaze is hardening. In small bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Add in orange food colouring, if desired. Drizzle over the top of the first glaze.

Source: The Accidental Cook blog

Monday, October 17, 2011

Life's Cure-All

When life doesn't work out quite right,
just add some chocolate and everything will be fine.

This evening's trial of a new almond cookie turned out rather bland in taste and in appearance; but all were saved by a drizzle of chocolate. As Matt Lauer reports, "Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two but can't remember what they are." ;-)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bears and Sweets

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?"
Winnie the Pooh

As the skies drizzled, Mom and I had some fun visiting our favourite kitchen store, The Keeping Room, for some cool gadgets being met at the door by an almost unrecognizable friend.

The guardian Bear usually greets customers decked in apron and chef's hat, but today she was trying to stay dry under a plastic granny kerchief and poncho. I've never asked her name, but I think she is one of the visiting chefs. With purchases in hand, we then wandered across the street for lunch. A nice treat.

We continued our fun this afternoon when we made some sweets for an upcoming bridal shower in the family. We have all kinds of sweet ideas, but we'll heed Pooh's advice: “When having a smackerel of something with a friend, don't eat so much that you get stuck in the doorway trying to get out.” :-)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mums' Laughter

Give thanks for the rain in your life
which waters the flowers of your soul.
Jonathan Lockwood Huie, American author

The autumn chrysanthemums in the front garden are still laughing with yesterday's rain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


No credit can be given for predicting rain – only for building arks.
Louis V Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO, IBM

The weatherman's forecast was correct: the rain began this morning and continues to fall as I write this post, 12 hours later. King's Forest melted into a beautiful melange through the windshield. Now I will make a prediction: tomorrow will be even better. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Walk in the Woods

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
John Muir, American environmentalist (1848-1914)

The weatherman advised to enjoy the day to the fullest because rain is on the horizon for tomorrow. Under sunny skies and colourful bowers, the Time Traveller and I walked the carpeted trails through Lawson Nature Reserve, entering a world quiet but for our voices.

At our feet lay a magical world of flashy mushrooms and a watchful turtle peeking out of boggy waters.

Looking into the depths of the forest floor is like looking into another world; a world of multiple layers of life . . .

. . . and dazzling colours. Hmmm . . . that's just like our world!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halcyon Day

There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection, when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; . . . when everything that has life gives signs of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil moments. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather, which we distinguish by the name of Indian Summer.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet (1803-1882)

A beautifully clear and warm Indian summer day shone down on the annual Thanksgiving weekend Artfest in Vineland as we enjoyed hours browsing the artisans' tents . . . ok, if truth be told, perhaps we did more than browse. ;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, Catholic Benedictine monk

Today's sermon instructed us to thank God for enough, because we are blessed with enough even though our commercialistic society bombards us with messages that we don't have enough and so we must acquire more otherwise we are not good enough. To my way of thinking, an attitude of gratitude is good for my soul. As Melody Beattie writes: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

And I certainly have much to be thankful for (family and friends) . . . and I certainly have enough (turkey, potatoes, soup, and even pie) to feed us for the next week. ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
May your life be bountiful with enough!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where are You, Brother?

Forever on Thanksgiving Day
The heart will find the pathway home.
Wilbur D. Nesbit, American poet (1871-1927)

In the days of yore, each family member had a role to play in the turkey dinners of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Dad was in charge of the turkey, the kids were responsible for making bread crumbs for the dressing, and Mom was in charge of everything else. ;-) The night before the big event, my brother and I would sit at the kitchen table with a bag of Wonder Bread, breaking each slice into bits. I missed him today as I sat with the loaf, making much smaller 'crumbs' (I'm told) than as a youngster. As I write, Dad is turning the bread into his famous dressing, of which there is never enough. It is heart-warming to relive the old rituals.

And because I love my brother, even if he's not there to help with the dressing, I made a lemon meringue pie as an alternative to the traditional pumpkin pie. I'm such a good sister. ;-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Essential Pumpkin

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.
Jim Davis, American actor (1915-1981)

In readiness for the upcoming feast, tonight's projects involved prepping the sweet potato and pear soup and roasting a pumpkin in advance of tomorrow's baking binge.

Cat, who is famous for her Halloween-cat jig across the floor, showed some interest when introduced to her first pumpkin -- as much as a cat will show interest in anything. She's more interested in things that move . . . like fingers and toes . . . of which she will have plenty to feast on as the family gathers around the table.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

X Marks the Spot

We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major responsibility of it is participation.
Wynton Marsalis, American musician

For the first time in more than a decade, I participated in the homeland's democracy, feeling quite privileged and crucial marking my X on the ballot. Our democratic system certainly isn't perfect but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it beats the alternatives.

As ballots were being cast, I prepared an aromatic bath for our plump Thanksgiving turkey. Let the preparations begin! The menu has been set, the frig is over-full with market veggies, and there are pies to bake and soups to simmer. Can you tell that I'm excited? :-)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Sunday Drive on Wednesday

The road was new to me, as roads always are going back.
Sarah Orne Jewett, American novelist, in The Country Road of Pointed Firs (1896)

The country road, although known to me since childhood trips to grandma's house, seemed unfamiliar as I cruised along well below the speed limit, enjoying the sunny day, the fresh air, and the autumn colours. I felt like a tourist seeing it all for the first time. Glorious.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Enchanted Garden

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.
Elizabeth Lawrence (1904–85), American garden writer

Standing in front of a local church waiting for the door to be opened, I looked down and got lost in the magic of a memorial children's garden. Surely fairies must dance among these dewy blue bells just as I had seen in the Ida Rentoul Outhwaite illustrations of my childhood. Time does not dull the sense of enchantment.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

First Letter

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak.
John Donne, English poet (1572–1631)

The first letter of my 30-day challenge is in the post and now I am wondering if I can find postboxes in interesting places, such as those that appear in an India tourism ad on TV, in order to take a fun photo documenting each day's post . . . I suspect not, as the boxes in my hometown all seem to be outside malls or nursing homes, but it will give me an added challenge.