Category Archives: family
Today is Family Day where I live. A long weekend, a chance for families to spend some time together. Not the Spring Break-kind of vacation time, but perhaps a chance to see a movie, or make a trip to the ski hill (there is still snow up there although not much left in town). If people can manage to arrange their busy schedules to make quality time happen, I’m all for that.
In our house, the easiest way to make quality time is to set the table. Does that sound old-fashioned and corny?
We are passionate about food in all its forms – growing it, cooking it and eating it. That too is weird for lots of people, I realize. What can I say? I was brought up in a house where meal time was important and where a nice meal was a big deal. Everyday meals were not to be taken lightly either.
Growing up I didn’t think of us as not having much, but according to my parents there were times when things were tight. I loved Tuna Casserole and shepherd’s pie for dinner, so what did I know?
I don’t think I realized tuna could be eaten another way than from a can until I was much older, and I thought everyone made shepherd’s pie in their electric frying pan just like my mom. Seasoning was what counted, and she knew how to make flavourful meals.
Many of our meals today are simple – we eat salad for dinner at least a couple times every week. When we invite people for dinner we apply ourselves, offering something fun and colourful. It might be simple if it’s dinner before a movie, or it might be Sunday roast with all the trimmings; it’s always an occasion worth celebrating, just like at the family table when I was a kid.
Anyone around my table are like family – I want them to feel comfortable, taken care of and happy.
They shouldn’t feel guilty having seconds, and they needn’t worry about offending if they push the mushrooms or onions to one side. I am happy they could be there and enjoy the time – that’s what counts.
So how’s about we make every Monday a Family Day? You get the cutlery and place mats, I’ll grab the tuna casserole. I’ll meet you at the table.
It’s all over the news. Fifty years ago Man landed on the moon for the first time. All the media outlets have been nostalgic this week – where were you? What do you remember about that week?
I was almost 4 years old in July 1969. As it turns out, the day of the moon landing is my earliest memory.
I remember sitting on a couch beside my Dad, with a paper bag on the floor between us. Groceries were packed in paper bags back then, and we saved them to use for other things. This one was holding peanut shells. My dad was shelling peanuts as he watched the TV.
I remember seeing the men bouncing on the surface of the moon. I remember hearing my Dad’s voice; he was excited, amazed, impressed. Even without anyone telling me, I could tell what was happening was a big deal.
Just as important to me though, was learning how to shell a peanut. Learning to push my thumb on the seam so it cracked open like pea pod was the secret. But my thumbs were little and not very strong. I don’t remember if I managed to get one open on my own, but the day was my first memory of what I would learn was “quality time” with my Dad.
It’s funny, how food was part of my very first cohesive memory. Was I destined to become a Gourmand?
I also find it striking that a memory of my Dad and I watching TV would feature as an historic event in my life. Daddy was in the TV business. I wonder what he was thinking. We never talked about that day in detail. I wish he was here today, it would be a fun conversation.
Such are the ways of the world. As we live our lives, we have no idea most of the time what will be important, what will last as a memory for us and maybe even the future world.
Sometimes it’s the littlest things – like learning to open a peanut. Sometimes it’s a man landing on the moon. Sometimes, it’s the man you remember.
Ninteen years ago today, I got up with my best pal and went for a coffee. It was a big day, and she knew it. After all, she had been a big reason for the day being so important. If it hadn’t been for her, I might not have embarked on one of the best decisions of my life.
We had a glorious walk in Stanley Park to start the day, and later she sat beside me as I wrote my vows. That afternoon she was there too, all decked out, as I set out to form a new life. I’m so glad she was there. One always wants one’s best friends to be a part of momentuous occasions as well as everyday life.
You see, my best friend enabled me to get a first date with the man who would be my husband. We did a double date, us two girls with him and his best friend. I knew right then there was something special between us. We all stayed close and became a kind of family for many years.
Today I have another best pal, as the one from all those years ago is gone now, but her spirit lives on. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. She reminds me every day to stop and smell the flowers, take in the moments that make life special. She listens to my ramblings and supports me through thick and thin.
Can you guess who I’m speaking about? It’s my Chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The one from nineteen years ago was named Satchmo, as she was a great singer of the blues and a lover of life. Her successor is Ella, the queen of jazz (and a friend of Satchmo’s in another life). Both of them have been the best companions anyone could ask for, and they helped me to be a better person.
Satchmo was the dog I had when I met my hubbie. He had a wonderful Doberman Pinscher named Paul (after Paul Simon – do you see a theme with our pet names?)
Our first date was to take our dogs for a walk, something that immediately endeared me to this man who seemed an unlikely candidate to hook up with for the long term.
His dog was very well-trained, as they both went to school to learn about training assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs. I was told to hold a chestnut in my hand for a while on the walk and then Hubbie threw it in the bushes down the slope to the beach. “Find it!”, he said to his Dobie.
Paul leaped over the edge of the slope and crashed his way through the brush. When we reached the bottom of the hill we saw his trotting back towards us, looking very proud. He sat ramrod straight in front of us. “Thank you”, said Hubbie, with his hand out. Paul spit out the chestnut, which had been marked with an x for verification. How impressed was I?!
It took almost 3 years for us to tie the knot, going through the trials and tribulations of life along the way. But our dogs were there with us – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
When Satchmo went blind from a congenital defect at age 8, Paul helped her walk straight by nudging her on the sidewalk and he protected her in the park when we saw other dogs. They became soulmates just like Hubbie and me.
And now, almost 22 years after that first afternoon walk, having shared memories across the country and back with two more dogs and a little girl who is now married, we are still going.
I am so fortunate to have experienced so much love. Even more fortunate to have found my soulmate with whom to share all that love. But more than anything, I am grateful for the Brown Girls in my life – they have taught me how to love and live well, and given me more love (and laughter) than I could ever have imagined.
There is an old Harry Nillson song called “Me and my Arrow”, from a movie called The Point. I remember the tale and the song, every morning as I walk. I try to cherish those friendships appropriately.
Here’s to living the life your dog expects of you.
From the beginning, I was a Daddy’s girl. My little brother and my mom were close, and my dad and I had a special bond I was his Princess.
I inherited many character traits from my father but being a foodie wasn’t one of them. Rather, I helped make him a foodie with some of my adventures.
When I was a kid, we ate simply. Both my parents were from the Prairies where meat and potatoes are the norm. Exotic spices were not a part of our pantry until my teen years. A fried egg sandwich was a funky dish.
The most unusual childhood dinner I remember was finan haddie, from a can. It was served with toast, and canned tomatoes in a bowl on the side. My dad liked it. I thought it was fun – different tastes and textures than meat and potatoes. My mom told me years later she was embarrassed to serve it, because it was mostly out of a can.
Back before there were so many snack choices, it was easier to have a favourite. We made popcorn in a pot on the stove, shaking it so as not to burn the kernels. To this day I don’t go to the movies without having popcorn. Our other favourite was Cheezies; when I spent a year in France during my university studies I was over the moon when my dad sent me a bag of them in a care package.
Gradually our tastes expanded. I learned of many new ingredients and techniques from my European travels, and my dad sampled new dishes as my mom expanded her cooking repertoire and they ventured out to different restaurants. By the time I was a young adult, my dad was even cooking meals.
Some of my best memories with my dad were our Friday night dinners when we both lived in Vancouver. I would go to his apartment and we would whip up whatever new dish he had discovered. I would bring wine and dessert, and we would talk till the wee hours, trying to solve the problems of the world.
I wish we had more Friday nights. I wish I had been able to have coffee with him more often. I wish we could still go to a movie and share popcorn. But most of all I just miss his company.
At least I have all those memories. Every time I eat all those foods, I smile and think of all the times we shared.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
When I was a kid, I was weird.
- I liked wearing a flowery embroidered purple tunic with just about anything (it was my favourite top).
- I wore horizontally striped socks with skirts.
- I carried a book bag years before any of my schoolmates. What I thought was cool never synced up with what was considered cool.
- I was a complete clutz, not coordinated at all.
- I was taller than most of the boys in my class, and I didn’t wear a bra until senior high school.
My mom always let me be me. She would check with me as I got older sometimes, maybe offering another alternative for consideration, but she supported my final decisions.
Mostly, I liked being weird. I have always enjoyed quirky things, new adventures; they attracted me. It’s a lot of why I became such a foodie, wanting to try new tastes and understand how to incorporate them. Becoming a sommelier was a perfect fit – it’s a bit of a nerdy pursuit, learning all that history and geography and tasting wine but then spitting it out.
When I took up gardening, I found another weird way to express myself. Just like that embroidered top, the flowers that attract me are unique:
For some people, all this is just too much of a difference. It can scare them away. I have been very fortunate to find some wonderful friends over the years, but often I’ve encountered folks who just don’t know what to do with me, or how to respond to all my weirdness.
I remember asking my mom one particularly tough day at about the age of 15, “All of this is just a phase, right? It will pass, I’ll grow out of it, won’t I?” Without hesitating, she answered, “No dear, it’s not a phase. You’ll have to learn to live with it.”
I think back then I figured she was kidding. It took me another few years to realize that I was born NOT to fit in. The more I tried to be a part of the cool crowd, the more they disliked me. I should have connected the dots, knowing that my tastes were different. Once I understood that others who had similar (equally weird) tastes were my tribe, then I stopped trying to explain the differences as a way of being accepted.
On this Mother’s Day as I strolled through my garden, and as I crafted the olive-wood smoked oil & vintage balsamic vinaigrette for our salad with dinner, I was thinking of my mom and her encouragement of my true self.
She was always a traditional Mom, making great cookies and putting notes in my lunch and sewing my Hallowe’en costumes… but the best thing my mom did for me was help me understand who I really am.
Thanks, Mom. Cheers!