Category Archives: cooking

Hair Raising Experience

The first story I told the hairdresser

today was about something that happened over ten years ago

that led to another story that happened over forty years past

so what was

the connection

you may ask

one was a type of intervention

based on concern

fuelled by experience

while the other was how odd

the lady was when she thought

we had misbehaved

but hadn’t

done anything except cook

a meal for friends

that had been reported on by neighbours watching the coming and going of a baked beans roaster and how in a year from that another event took place that really was another decision based on lack of experience

all of this told

while wrapped up in a plastic salon covering and trying to overhear what the client beside me was telling his hairdresser as he listened to my stories and laughed about the dog having such a big fat neck that her collar had to be

loose

enough

so she could be led around but also able to shake

it

off

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The Odd Little Spark

Tonight there were only two of us at the bonfire on a very quiet August night.
Last week, at a different bonfire there were over a dozen adults plus an assortment of children on a not so quiet August night. The atmosphere at both bonfires was a concentration on the flames and the conversation flickered and fanned itself, dying out at times and then bursting up into little stories or commentaries, even small jokes, an update on the game running televised but unwatched in the house.
Tonight, a quiet night, is a night to let thoughts surface. Instead of coming home to sleep it is a night to drink hot tea and eat whole wheat bread and Sarah’s strawberry jam while writing out the swirl and range of thoughts that surface unbidden. Thoughts from every angle, corner and folded crease just announce themselves and flutter around much like the over excited children at the other bonfire on another night, the noisy one.
Tonight, as it all flew by I wondered if any of these thoughts would catch my interest and ignite a story or a poem. Although interesting enough to me in my mind’s eye, none of the thoughts or images are the right material to expand upon. The other night, I worried about the fire sparking off a dangerous flame as the children whirled about showing off, cooking burnt marshmallows and running around with charred hotdogs on long metal sticks. I found myself mentally reviewing emergency first aid in case it was required and thankfully it wasn’t.
Neither bonfire was mine so as a guest at each one all I could do is share the cool dark night, the brightness of the flames and follow the flow. Hours later at home, on the quiet night, comforted by the second cup of hot tea and homemade jam with fresh, soft bread I write this odd little post that came out of the smoke, unbidden.

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Self Medicating

Looking today for(any) inspiration I reached for my daily journals. One journal is for my stream of consciousness and is often filled with things that are cluttering up my life involving cleaning, errands, bill paying and other things grownups have to do.
Another little journal is a record of the books I’ve read with a very brief comment about them. This helps me remember what I have in fact read as titles and author names sometimes are forgotten or confused. It seems I’ve also recorded many books and comments about them in my stream of consciousness journal, forgetting to put them in my reading journal. It appears that I’ve read a fair bit over the past year of journal keeping.
Another journal is for my weight release and eating habits which are incredibly boring to read but somehow, after a period of time seem to be effective, slightly, but hallelujah anyway.
Also there is a tiny little pocket journal decorated with a jaunty Christmas reindeer to record my efforts to walk more despite the aggravations of arthritis and other issues.
My journals are self obsessed and at this stage of my life that is perfectly understandable. There were the years, another lifetime, when demands were otherwise. ( Honestly I could write a book about it!)

Oddly enough there isn’t a journal about writing and there really should be one. Creative writing for me has numbed and withered on the vine so I will start writing about writing again and let the air get at it despite the irritants, rashness and discomforts of it all.

Thanks for listening, dear blog.

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Shelf Life

Here and there and everywhere little sentiments are in the forefront of my rather significant collection of favourite books on my bookshelves. A picture of  my Dad and myself, another of my mom and a niece, my ( retirement) brass school bell,  “Mumma’s” delicate rose and blue china cup, my son’s baby photo, a neutral faced  theatre mask, a carved wooden angel holding a bountiful floral garland, two die-cut cards from my son, figurines of dogs, birds, old souls and a snow globe shaker containg a picture of my sweet departed cat, are a fair representation of what is gathered there.

These things sit usually at the corners of the bookshelves but often are moved to centre place when access to the books hiding behind them are sought. Books are so plentiful that they are stacked vertically on the shelves rather than horizontally. Another bookcase might be purchased soon if my budget can stand it.

My books are organized at this moment in my life. The two top shelves are dedicated to classic literature as I feel that is only fitting for Shakespeare and those I’ve grouped with him there. On the next level are two full shelves of Canadian literature full of strange, often grim but treasured thought. On the shelves beneath contemporary American and European literature balance each other well.Further down, the two lower shelves begin to appear archive like holding assorted children’s books, art books, (several) books on the monarchy, some of my Aunt Bea’s book club books, baskets of CD’s and a few photo albums. Dear Maeve Binchy has an entire lower shelf dedicated solely to herself as she helped me survive my divorce twenty eight years ago. She provided the wholesome comfort of gentle romance when I was dashed and broken by my own decision to remove myself from my marriage. She stays on her shelf for all time, not ever in my lifetime to be culled in a book clearout as she deserves a permanent home.

The really old books that I collect are relegated to my bookshelves built into my bedroom. Among this assortment are my treasured old school readers, honoured for being the delicate rare taste of literature I was exposed to as a very young child. Along these shelves are little ornaments my mother kept so special in her heart. Things like little wooden shoes that have their own story,small framed pictures of Dad, my brother and an eccentric uncle, little flower vases she liked are arranged amongst the books and Bibles stored there.

All the cookbooks I’ve collected fill another full bookshelf in the small family room beside the kitchen. Several of these books are hand written or collections of recipes from my family’s heritage pasted into old scrapbooks. Many books about gardening and healing are also propped up there. These shelves are decorated with some funky pottery and woven baskets.

The spillage of books and sentimental clutter often needs to be tidied and refreshed. At the moment,  a good couple of hours dedicated to decluttering, putting things away, sorting through some recently acquired books from the used book store and other housekeeping duties is most likely a good idea. If only I had  the luxury of a daily domestic helper, like Maeve often described in her books these things might be more consistently done.  It is perhaps better that I do this work myself. After all, I know where things belong.

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Pumpkins Stacked At The Door

A cold heavy rain fell last night and made the glorious fall colours look a little deary in the subdued daylight. Despite the darkening effect I was still cheered by the sights, sounds and chill of a cool autumn day. Pumpkins at the door of many local village houses or piled at the end of farm gates are a comforting display as everyone gathers for the holiday weekend. Later these pumpkins will be hallowed out and lit to add to the time honored rural celebration of Halloween.

This time of year is a favourite experience for me full of sensory and nostalgic pleasures as I recall all the hard work of gathering in the last of the garden produce, picking up the windfall apples, canning applesauce, bringing in the plants we could save from the frost, taking in the washing from the clothesline with cold, half numb fingers and doing any number of odd jobs to ready the farm for winter.

As the weather changes, the memories surface. My mom never, ever stopped working at gathering in the last of the fruit and vegetables available on our farm. She used everything in canning, freezing, baking and cooking. My dad worked long hours at a factory in town and farmed full time as well. My memory of him at this time of year is the sight of him walking down the lane way to the barn to do his chores at night and the lights turned on in the barn as he spent long hours tending to our animals.

Mom and Dad would take our apples to the neighbour’s cider press, make barrels of sauerkraut using our great uncle’s sauerkraut “maker” and load up the cold cellar with the potatoes, onions, squash and apples that had been temporarily stored in the outdoor shed until the temperature threatened to freeze everything.

Apple and pumpkin pies, baked in quantities and stored in the back pantry are vividly recalled as I can smell the spices in the air and picture the fluted designs of my mom’s pastry crust. Dad would watch the hockey game and his favourite singer, Juliet before reading over his lessons for Sunday.

The rest of us in the family were involved in late crop harvest, school, music lessons, concerts, cooking, baking, cleaning, going to church as a family, in a swirl of duties and expectations as time went by. The wide range of ages in my siblings made our roles stick for life. I will always be the baby sister even though I have a much younger brother. My sister will always be somewhat in charge.

The sight of pumpkins stacked by the door, the denuded garden patch and the reality of the cold, heavy rain as it drenches everything reminds me of many things as well as humbles my spirit. I truly love this time of year.

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Two Markets, Two Markets To Buy Great Stuff….

At the very edge of an ancient woodlot, beside the old mill pond and behind a heritage general store, the Coldstream Market in Middlesex Centre, Ontario quietly conducts friendly business. There are a few signs pointing the way in the immediate area and a general newsletter outlining details of the local initiative was sent out earlier in the rural mail. About five or six people set up their displays on the back of pickup trucks or card tables under the shade of the towering trees. It just happens, like a pleasant and simple event during the growing and harvest season and I just love it.
The selection today was canned chili sauce, relish, handcrafted linens, all kinds of vegetables, homemade catering samples,maple syrup,eggs, flowers, homebaking and jewellery.
I came home with chili sauce made by my next door neighbour, eggs from the lady who goes to my church, vegetables from another neighbour just a little further down the road, bread from our Komoka bakery that specializes in gingerbread and a beautiful bracelet made by a young designer, Mylie. I decorated my front porch with an assortment of squash and made myself the best tomato sandwich from fresh flax and soya blend bread. I bought the gorgeous homegrown tomatoes from the catering fellow who lives in my Grandpa Walter’s house where I used to play fifty years or so ago.
Usually I am rather late getting to the market (as I am a retired writing night owl) but this morning I was one of their early birds. I had time to visit with everyone…and I know (almost) everyone and their brother and sister there…. and savour the laid back experience.
With time on my hands I also made a short trip to the slightly bigger Ilderton’s Farmer’s Market just down the road. This market has only started up this year and seems to be in a very good location for attracting customers. A festive fall mood of decorated haywagons, displays of pumpkins, tables of a variety of goodies such as homemade candles, vegetables, a couple of jewellery displays, baby wear, gourmet garlic, flour products from a local mill and frozen meats all tempted the visitors. A scavenger hunt was even organized for the little ones as they examined the plentiful displays with their parents. My purchases were gourmet garlic, a knitted baby hat and some frozen meat. I get a charge out of this market too as although I know many people there I am also making new aquaintances as a result of the friendly market atmosphere.
Stocked to the gills for yet another week I do not need to do anymore grocery shopping and I’ve even made a few purchases to put away for Christmas gifts. I have a feeling that I am a favourite shopper at both of these markets as I tend to go a bit crazy and buy an abundance of lovely things.
The people involved in these small local farmer’s markets are the real treasures as we share the morning together. Making contact with all these hardworking, friendly and talented people is delightful…and to think that I’ve bought several funky creative bracelets from the up and coming jewellery designer, Mylie…. while she is in the sixth grade…. is just way cool.

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My Hungry Games

Some nights the internet server doesn’t cooperate with my writing blog habits and flickers into a blank screen. Often, my high strung senior cat drapes herself over the keyboard or lurks behind the laptop lid watching me type and considers her chances to bite down on my fingers as I try to type. Consistently, I sit for awhile considering what to write about and usually snap it all off and try again later when something interesting pops into mind. Tonight, the deterrent to my writing is that I’m thinking about food. I ate my breakfast about noon and my lunch about seven p.m. so my supper hour is just kicking in apparently.
I am perfectly capable of making something interesting for myself and most likely I will. It is just very inconvenient to mess up the kitchen . It would be quite silly for a mature woman my age to jump in the car and drive all the way into town to get something as all the restaurants are closed except for the fast food places. My desire at the moment ( 12:03 a.m.) is for fluffy, hot, buttery mashed potatoes, creamy coleslaw, tangy meatloaf with chili sauce and chocolate pie with just a little whipped cream. There is a big possibility I will make this for dinner tomorrow and ensure that there will be leftovers for late night weekend munchies.
This leaves me with my go to late,late night meal with the ingredients at hand. Toasted bacon, cheese and tomato sandwich, with mustard and ketchup on the side, a dill pickle or two and some chocolate cookies I have stashed in the pantry for emergencies like this one and a big pot of tea. The dear cat, endearingly curled up asleep now beside my computer screen having given up on immediate attention and settling instead for mere proximity to my tapping fingers, is welcome to share a wee bit of my toast. Afterall, that’s what friends do.

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A Slice

Do you have pecan? Do you have lemon? Do you have raisin?
The requests never faltered despite all the delicious pies in front of him my pie customer kept asking for a type of pie that we had run out of at the church barbeque. Picture a beautiful old park in a rural village with towering pine trees, beautifully maintained heritage grounds and a large covered pavilion for outdoor picnic events and you have captured the charming setting of our chicken barbeque. Several hundred tickets are sold in advance and the community shows up in wonderful support of our fundraising dinner. A great deal of homemade pie is required.
When I arrived to take my shift as pie lady everything was neat and tidy, well organized for the onslaught of impending customers. All kinds of pies were precut, plated and well shelved in covered protection from the elements and hornets attracted to the sweet delights. A long counter of ready to take pies were covered with plastic sheeting to repel the few raindrops that dropped from the darkening skies. fortunately, the storm blew over to the west. The plastic was not clear but rather white, slightly transparent stuff. You could see the pies and reasonably guess what kind they were but they were slightly obscured by the plastic.
It was interesting to watch people scan the length of the counter searching for their favourite, best looking slice. Everyone was good humoured and understanding of the need to keep the food covered and after a few moments of choosing and pleasant chat they accepted their pie and went off to enjoy it. All except this one man who I mentioned earlier. He asked about almost every slice available and had me running off to check the pies in waiting on the indoor shelving to seek after his favourite kind of pie. At first I thought it was rather amusing but due to my healing foot issues the comedy of it all wore thin in a few minutes. I don’t even remember what kind of pie he finally settled on as we were so busy with the backlog of other pie customers I had to let him suffer and go on with helping others. Whatever piece he finally got I hope it didn’t come with an attached hornet hidden in the filling. Honestly, I hope it didn’t.

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Unique Stay Awhile Style

First time inside the door today and I was gently overwhelmed by the adorable vintage feel of the small place but within seconds I was ready to order a nice lunch at The Bag Lady Variety. Located  at Pall St. (at Maitland), in London Ontario, Canada it is the sweetest little retreat , somewhat off the beaten track of regular coffee shops and diners. I honestly felt like I had been dropped into another time period. The feel of the place is very relaxed and I noticed several people writing in journals, reading and get this.. interacting with other friendly customers! Two large store front windows open up the view to an established leafy neighbourhood while the decor inside is retro comfy. Seriously, when I came home I got all of my crocheted throws out of the blanket box and draped them around just to mimic the mood of the place.

The yummy food is prepared in a tiny open kitchen which is fascinating to peek through at while watching three of four people maneuver very carefully around each other as they work behind the counter.  Lots of takeout orders were rustled up while I was there blissfully relaxing at one of the old-fashioned kitchen table sets. I think the local professional crowd of workers are loving the convenience of takeout lunches but the laid back, sit and daydream types like myself  delight in the atmosphere as much as the food. My lunch was homemade tasty and the coffee was good and hot. Oh, and they get points for having the right kind of soft folksy music playing too.

I know I’ll be going back when I’m in town doing my daytime artsy theatre/writing adventures Monday through Friday 7:30 am-4:00pm (as if I’d ever be up at 7:30 am nowadays..ha!), or on Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am-2:00pm. I purchased a gift certificate for a lucky friend and a really good brownie for the road. You can’t have too much of a good thing!

It was a rather special experience today as it felt like I was among friends…including the charming staff and the patrons.

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Wuthering At A Later Date

Bright sun, a gentle cooling wind and deep blue skies mean that the season is just starting to change and I will be out of excuses for not writing every day. After all, if I don’t write everyday I’m just plain lazy. The time is ripe for shaking things up and getting a move on.

Well, that didn’t work.

Instead of beating myself up for my extended vacation from creating stories and poems I intend to just go with the flow. I will read into the late and early hours, doze off with my reading lamps blazing and jolt myself awake at 5:30 am to put myself finally to bed. Sleeping in, ignoring the world outside my door until I get organized enough to grind some fragrant dark roasted coffee beans, read my emails and blogs that I follow and day-dream for most of the remaining day. It is time to soak up the glory of the back yard and garden even if there are  a few towering goldenrod weeds obscuring the view. It is time to cook all the gorgeous fall treats that I particularly like such as soups, sauerkraut, fruit cobblers and fudge. It is time to do all kinds of things. The ideas, emotions and sensations of this time are enough to paint my imagination so that I can draw inspiration from it later.

When the sheeting, driving rains come and the ragged branches tap piteously at my dark, icy bedroom window, then I will pull out all the stored and preserved  material and rock my writing.

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