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Family – for a day

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.

In the summertime, we set our long harvest table and host events. Gluttons for punishment, we are, but they do say misery loves company. Cooking for many is even more fun to share!

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.

 

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.

A Bit of Razzle Dazzle

Sundays. The day of the week that is all about quality time. In our house, that often means time around the table, with homemade delicacies. This time of year those delicacies involve part of the wonderful bounty we enjoy.

At the moment we are blessed with an embarrassing amount of raspberries. I could lie under the bush and just let them fall in my mouth, but I think the neighbours would talk. So instead, I made raspberry financiers.

These delightful mouthfuls look, smell and taste decadent but they are amazingly easy to make. They also work well with delicate fruit like berries. Many recipes will end up looking like a dog’s breakfast when you mix in berries (no offence to my dog, but presentation isn’t her thing). Here, you can place the berries on top of the batter and they will bake right in.

They are not a diet item. I bet the calories you get from inhaling the fumes of the butter browning are enough to blow most diets. But trust me, these are worth having a cheat day. Share them around, package some up if you have to and drop them off to a friend.

Tomorrow I’m making Cherry Clafoutis, to use up some of the cherries we picked. The peaches have only just started, so there is no rush to bake with them yet, thankfully. There isn’t enough time to work out and cover all those treats!

Happy Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and my Arrow…

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 & I at Lake Louise in 2001

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

  Ella & I on a morning walk

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.

‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

In our house, Christmas was a big deal.

Decorating the tree was a major undertaking, usually requiring a few days to get everything tight. (Yes, we were a “one strand of tinsel at a time” kind of family.) Gifts were all thoughtful, and their wrapping was to be done with care. Everything was meant to be savoured.

Christmas Eve was inevitably busy, with last minute gifts to wrap amidst visiting friends. But once dinner was done, we settled in. Final preparations were near.

Every year of my childhood we read Clement C. Moore’s classic, once the cookies were set out for Santa.

Santa had to get a sample of each of the baked goods we’d made that year. I remember my mom explaining he probably wouldn’t have room to try them all, having to see everyone around the world.

I used to be able to recite all the verses… my favourite was

My mom usually read the story, but one year we were lucky enough to have Gramps there – he knew The Man in Red personally, so that was extra cool.

As soon as the story was finished, my brother and I would kiss our parents good night, and then it was off to bed to await the magic. I don’t remember dreams of sugar plums but I did sleep well.

I still get up in the morning to check and see what Santa sampled.

I hope there is magic in your heart too – you do know that Santa checks in anyway, even if you don’t put out cookies, right?

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