Category Archives: winter

Lions and lambs and lettuce

March is a mixed up month. I never know if spring is really here or if winter is just gearing up for her grand finale. The days get longer but if it’s grey they can still seem gloomily short, in my opinion. As a result, one day I feel like eating salad for dinner – celebrating the sprouting tulips and sunshine – then the next day stew is on the menu, to ward off the damp and cold of a frosty day.

March with lion and lamb

It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In Canada those little lambs aren’t the ones eating ivy, though, for the snow could still be on the ground.

A silly aside here – does anyone else remember the old song, “Mairzy Doats”? The story goes that one of the songwriters was inspired when his 4 year old daughter came home  singing her version of a nursery rhyme, simple cute jibberish to his ear. He wrote:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey

A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?

The lyrics of the song’s bridge provided a clue to undoing the code:

If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,

Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

Then we can translate the final line as

a kid’ll eat ivy, too; wouldn’t you?

But that’s a matter more for the month of April, don’t you think?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the month’s maelstrom of emotions, I decided to focus on the gentler lamb image and find something “springy”. More light, more new things – that’s what was needed. I found it in my Tower Garden.tower garden

Now I plant lettuces and herbs inside and get to watch them grow in the wonderfully cheery tower brightened by LED wands. It’s a delicious sort of magic being able to eat homegrown lettuce in the month of March, without having to brave the whistling winds and half-frozen dirt that comprises my garden plot at the moment.

It’s still a bit early to plant my seeds for the outdoor veggie garden. Experience has taught me that I’ll end up with leggy shoots that can’t stay up in the continuing winds of later spring. Their stocks will mold or break in the damp outside world and I’ll have to start over. For now, I am just plotting out my plan, choosing which seeds will be featured and how everyone will fit in the space.

In the meantime, at least I can feel nourished by what is to come; I don’t have to subsist solely on the stock of the winter larder, or my winter spirit. Having a bit more colour in my diet helps me notice the colour in the world. It cheers me and brings back my sense of humour.

On that note, I’ll close with the other quote I found about March. It sums up my sentiment quite nicely.

March is the month God created to show people who don’t drink what it feels like to have a hangover.  – Garrison Keillor

march with cocktail humour

Is it too sunny for stew?

Okay, here I am, with February in full swing. As I look out the window today I see blue sky and forsythia buds. The tulips sprouting have pushed over a few of my garden sculptures overwintering outside.IMG_4472 It doesn’t seem like stew is what I should be thinking of for dinner, but that’s where my head is at. Am I giving in, or is it right to be wary of winter’s deceptive nature?

Most of the year I am an optimist, but in February I need a boost. The chocolate of Valentine’s Day helps, and donuts or pancakes at Mardi Gras generally carry me through till the Girl Guide cookies arrive in March. As these bones get older however, they feel the cold more often and don’t warm up as fast.

Maybe I’m moping because I’m missing the wonderful Wine Festival this weekend. Vancouver hosts the International Playhouse Wine Festival at the end of February, and it used to be one of my yearly calendar appointments. French wine fancy cellarI had hoped to get back this year, but it wasn’t meant to be. I shall be drinking my French wine at home this weekend.

So, that’s settled then. I’ll dig up a few old favourite recipes in my French folder and open something suitably decadent and heartwarming to pour in a glass. If all goes well, my pairing will not only warm the cockles of my heart but also the tips of my toes.

Got any French recipes that you want to share? I’m always looking for a new classic to add to my list… Have a favourite wine? I’d love to try something new.

Ideas so far:

Or maybe you’ll try one of these recipes, and if it’s your thing, a glass of wine to accompany it. In which case, Cheers! Thanks for virtually joining my table.

(I’m feeling a bit like the Galloping Gourmet on television, looking for some unsuspecting audience member to join him for the meal. Ah well, virtual company is better then no kindred souls at all.)

The Galloping Gourmet

 

Sunshine & Lollipops in Winter

January. Short drab days and long cloudy nights. Not even a twinkling star to cheer one through the darkness. My Prairie girl soul takes offence to so much grey; it aches for the sea-blue skies and blinding sun on snowdrifts.

My best remedy for what seems to be a seasonal malaise is to cook. I especially like to use citrus flavours in winter, as they help to awaken the senses and brighten things up with their acidity and even their colour.

One of my favourite January pastimes is making Seville Marmalade. I have always loved the stuff, thanks to my maternal grandfather who hails from the Scottish side of my heritage. His habit of stuffing things in my tiny mouth whilst babysitting me as a toddler is probably the largest single contribution anyone made to my palate. Marmalade, green olives, watermelon… he opened my eyes and tastebuds to the range of flavours in the world.

I have written about my marmalade making in the past, and the wonderful author of the recipe I use, in my post Wishing for Marmalade Skies . I did make marmalade this year again, adding a wee dram of Johnny Walker Black Label to the pot just before filling the jars. Next year I intend to submit a sample in the international competition in Dalemain, UK. I’d like to attend their Marmalade Festival too, at some point.

For those who aren’t marmalade fans, I have another recipe for you to enjoy. I adapted a tart recipe from Ottolenghi, a fabulous chef to use for winter inspirations with all his Mediterranean flavours.

img_2979.jpg

Orange Polenta Cake is perfect for sharing, whether for afternoon tea, happy hour (with a bit of Asti Spumante) or as a dessert after a nice stew dinner. 

There is a wee bit of a marmalade flavour from the caramelized oranges on top but the cake is buttery and having a bit of caramel sauce with it almost makes you forget it’s winter.

It is a new year, and spring will come eventually. In the meantime, I’ll keep cooking and persevere. The smell of the oranges cooking will remind me of sunshine and lollipops and all things bright and beautiful.

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.

Yoko Ono

Winter Storm Food

Now may not be the winter of my discontent, but it certainly is the heart of the season. Thankfully we have passed what is usually the coldest day of the year (January 15th), but it started to snow again this morning and I broke ranks. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I guess this is a common phenomenon. As I sat curled into the couch with Ella at my feet, I read articles of severe winter experiences from all over, and the one that struck me the most was from Newfoundland. They just received a record-breaking 70 cm of snow in one night (for any American readers, that’s about 3 feet!) One of the things people stock up on when a storm approaches – at least on the east coast – is chips.

#stormcheezies

I’m not a big potato chip fan, but sitting there munching my Cheezies I had to chuckle.

Traditionally, I bake on a snow day. Once Ella roused me for our afternoon outing and she got me out of my funk, I did manage to make the house smell good. A batch of Tropical Delight Cookies is sitting on the counter waiting for Hubbie to get back from work as I type.

Maybe I should change the name of these to “Storm Cookies”?

Winter is a tough season. We need to have the energy to keep shoveling but we have to remember our resolutions not to overindulge. Between our snowbird friends that have flown south and the bad roads, it’s hard to organize entertaining much. But short days and grey skies make for gloomy times.

This is not the exciting 50 shades of grey…

I say we deserve a few chips or cookies to get us through to February. It does make us feel better. I follow the philosophy of a wise bear and his friends – his best love was hunny, but the principle is the same.

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.

“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

New moments, old memories

I love ice skating. As a kid I saw competitive skaters like ballerinas, and both were akin to fairies in my mind. I didn’t have the guts to take up the sport to that level – I could hardly walk and chew gum at the same time – but I always loved it as a duffer. I’ve had the good fortune to skate outdoors in the Rockies, and in Charlevoix, Quebec. Even as a duffer it is magical.

Tonight was our first Girl Guide meeting of the new year, after our Christmas break. The tradition for our unit is to have a skating party at the community rink in Kelowna.

It’s fun to see the girls after all the excitement of the holiday season, with their stories of what they did and what Santa brought. It’s a thrill to see them skate, some of them for the first or second time.

I also love this meeting for the memories it brings back…

  • my Dad lacing my skates nice and tight before a family skate, and pushing my mitts into my coat sleeve cuffs till my fingers hurt against the mitten seam.
  • Skating at Mayfair Park in Edmonton on the lake, then along the Bow River when we moved to Calgary – outside among the trees, with speakers that blasted music to skate along to
  • Playing “crack the whip” and trying so hard to not be the one to let go! (Then laughing hysterically when we all slid out across the ice)
  • Skating with my little brother on his bob skates (once he had graduated from the plastic bathtub on a rope towed by my parents
  • Watching my mom skate so gracefully (she competed a bit as a girl) – the figures, the spins. She taught me how to skate backwards – that was as fancy as I got.

My mom came to my skating party when I was a Brownie. She broke her leg that night, catching her blade in a gouge in the ice made from all the hockey play on our little community rink. It was a dramatic end to the evening, and it sure made for an interesting Christmas that year but thankfully we smile about it now.

I didn’t tell the girls about how my skating party went when I was a little Girl Guide. I did watch for gouges in the ice, though. I took pictures of them all, and gave them thumbs up as they wobbled and skidded and then skated – hooray! New moments in the memory books.

And I was sending good thoughts out to my mom, feeling thankful for the memories. And wistfully smiling at the same old warm feeling, remembering times with my dad, now gone.

All that in an hour, on a not-so-cold winter night. Life is good.

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