In Remembrance, In Love

Such a long, slow slide from winter to spring this year.  I still haven’t washed or put away all the heavy sweaters yet; the cotton ones don’t seem to be enough!  The winter jackets are in the cedar boxes, but the scarves and even a toque still wait for washing and blocking before hibernating.  The afghan rests on the back of the settee as one’s ‘toeses may frozes’ when watching Netflix.  And while the bedroom window is permitted to be open, an inch or two, and the heat most definitely has been turned off until October, I am not allowed to change from flannel to percale sheets yet.

IMG_0705Some of my bed mates like to be cosy!

Perhaps it is because spring has only inched her way back into our lives.  Perhaps it is the weekly notes and phone calls I receive about another friend, another family member facing accidents, illness, dying.  Perhaps it’s simply another and more obvious sign that I am growing older, much against my will, but there is a wistfulness to this season I don’t remember in other springs.

The hyacinths were lovely, the tulips are slow in developing.  The magnolia trees and cherry blossoms have been brilliantly showy.  The children are thrilled to playing in the streets again.  We are planning our first weekend at the cottage on wheels.  But I am still wistful.

I feel the day zoom to a close even as the early morning robins beat the rising sun to wake me.   I am watching the minutes rush by even as I look for the chestnut tree to finally come into all its leafy glory.  I watch our young neighbour gleefully zip down the sidewalk on motorised scooter even as my mind’s eye sees him pedalling his so-much-smaller ‘race’ car.  I am still wistful.

I look across the breakfast table at my husband of 42 years today and remember every detail from 06:45 to 01:30 of that day and night.  I remember my father knock, knock, knocking on my door and telling me to get up, I was getting married and he was pretty sure my mother, who was still sound asleep, needed me to do something.  I remember running around all that afternoon, doing last minutes errands, nearly being smashed by a truck as I left a parking lot, going to the hairdresser on my own (which was oddly lonely).  I remember arriving back home to find a refrigerator and even the service porch full of food for the reception that was to come in a few hours but absolutely nothing for the bride-to-be (I was told the pizzas were particularly yummy).  I remember a phone call, just before running upstairs to bathe and dress, from US Customs, assuring me we were really were going to be allowed to bring all our wedding gifts into the country, and then asking me when the happy occasion was.  “In about two hours.”  “Oh.  Well, then.  I’m glad I didn’t put off this call until Monday morning!”  I remember every single person who celebrated with us there that evening, and especially those who are not ‘there’ any more, and I remember some who were not there then that I wished then and now could have been, and I remember every single one of the funny and odd and sweet things that happened or were said to me, to us, that day and evening.  And perhaps it is these memories I should credit the most for why I am still wistful.

This spring has made me feel time is moving too fast, even as it moves so slowly to bring sunshine and flowers and fully-leafed trees back to us.  I truly am enjoying what is now, which brings pleasure and even moments of joy.  But I am missing what was then, and so I am, and perhaps in some way will always be, still wistful.

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because I carried white roses that evening….

 

 

 

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Dear David Lebovitz

Mother’s Day is coming up and my in-law family is gathering for a late lunch/early dinner.  Not as many people as there have been; two branches from the 3rd and 4th generations have other plans, but there will be enough people at my sister-in-law’s home to have fun and, as always, good food.

I tell you this because I am in charge of dessert.  Well, I volunteered because I had just finished a pot of coffee when I consulted with here, and I thought beating and whipping and baking would be fun.  Also, Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry.

When I recovered from the caffeine hangover, I realised I had no idea what to make.  My stand-bys have stood-by often for this group, plus I was already on tap for baking up a batch of my husband’s new favourite cookies.  The batter has many ingredients, and makes a lot of cookies (5 dozen plus, which for two people is A Lot of Cookies) so I needed something that wasn’t going to demand a great deal more of my time, and further empty my baking cupboard.

You don’t know this about me, David – you don’t mind if I call you David, do you? I feel we’re already intimate friends because I follow your blog assiduously – but I was not myself for about 18 months.  I fell ill and in the course of the treatment, I was injured. Recovering from those experiences, plus regaining my strength, and getting my mind back, I wasn’t me.  (Just as an aside, once you hit the Swingin’ Sixties, general anaesthesia is a bitch; avoid it if at all possible, and especially in repeated lengthy doses.)

Not being me for 18 months meant not a lot of time in the kitchen, and what time I was in there was limited.  And so were the cooking choices I made.  Having strength, the ability to read and remember, and just plain joy in being back in the kitchen has lead me to try things I never had before.  I mean, I made a Bara Brith!

So, as I’m trying to convince myself I can do something swish for eight people for dessert for Mother’s Day, your latest blog post crossed by in-box.  It wasn’t about dessert, as you probably know, but it reminded me of where you’re rooted – in the chocolate bar.  Kidding…but I really did love “The Sweet Life”.

So I look up what dessert-y things are archived and I see ‘ice creams’.  And I think about this past Sunday when we went to Churn, which is the ice cream shop attached to Lloyd’s Taco Factory (not really a factory, just a great walk-up restaurant. Also, ‘Lloyd’, for tacos? Loco name, great food.). One of the ice cream choices was a sandwich – homemade cookie, their ice cream – and they looked so good.  I had had my heart set on a cup of coffee ice cream and a churro so I went with that, and it was a delicious choice, but I was already plotting to come back for the sandwich.

Which I still may do but… not until this homemade batch is gone.

Are you bored yet, David?  Sometimes my stories get a little long and meander-y.  When I’d be on the third or fourth detour in my tales, my father used to imitate Archie Bunker when he got frustrated with Edith’s story telling.  Just as funny when my dad did it.  But let’s get back on track.

I found a recipe, your recipe, for the Easiest Ice Cream Ever.  It really was easy to make, and because it doesn’t need an ice cream maker, I could put off worrying about the noises mine is making.  Sort of like a chorus of teeth grinders accompanied by a small cement truck.  So that alone would have lead to me to give this recipe a go, but the combination of chocolate and banana made me smile before I even began.

I bet the ice cream would have been even easier to make if I had thought a little about bowls and cups and booze before I got started.

This is why I brought up being ‘out of it’ because I never would have just started a brand new recipe Before Illness without reading it all the way through and creating the mise en place (which I only do for new recipes & Chinese food).  However, After Illness (B.I. & A.I.), different story.  Sometimes.

For example, the small matter of Bailey’s.  Don’t have it.  Rarely have it.  Also, don’t have dark rum; husband drinks the light stuff.  And I decided to double the recipe because I had two bananas that were perfect for blending, which meant I needed even more of the liquids.  Given that this is supposed to be the Easiest Ice Cream Ever, and given that I was still wearing the t-shirt from yesterday I threw on this morning when the doorbell rang at 8 o’bloody clock and it was spotted with vodka sauce (I make a nice one) from supper last night, and given that ‘Easy’ did not include showering, changing, and going to the liquor store, I decided the creme de cacao leftover from the pear, ginger, and creme de cacao jam I made last fall would work just as well.  Except, of course, I didn’t have 180ml of it left!  I did, however, have a bottle of Grand Marnier hiding in the back of the cupboard so I filled up the required amount with that. And then I thought “…but Bailey’s is creamy, and he’s calling for milk”, so I decided to use table cream, 18% butterfat content, for which I have to go back home to Ontario (Canada) once a month or wait for family to come visit bearing litres of cream, rather than milk.

So I’ve combined the cream and the creme de cacao and the Grand Marnier into a measuring cup, and I’m melting dark chocolate chips (also from Canada because, and don’t tell my American friends, the chips in stores here just aren’t that wonderful), and I’m smooshing bananas in a medium bowl with a fork.  And then I look at the recipe again and see that I was supposed to melt the chocolate in the milk/cream whereas mine is sitting in a measuring cup with the booze.  Sigh.  So I carefully, slowly pour the dairy/booze into the warm melting chocolate, whisking as I go to make sure it blends and doesn’t leave chocolate lumps.  Now it’s time to mix this chocolate mix with the bananas which, I gotta say, David, aren’t willing to just be mixed.

The whisk isn’t doing the job, so I get out the hand mixer, and after putting the beaters in, twice because I never get them in the correct side on the first try, and using the low setting – let me emphasise this, ON LOWEST LOW – I try to ‘mix’ the soft, pre-smooshed bananas in the bowl with the chocolate liquid deliciousness.

Now that I’ve changed my shirt, and wiped off three cupboards and the counter top, and prayed there’s still enough mixture left for the all the ice cream I need to make (eventually) 8 ice cream sandwiches, I still didn’t know how to blend this stuff together.  As I was wiping chocolate spray off my 25-year old immersion blender hanging above the work area, I said “merde”.  I use the damn thing almost every day but today I forget I have it?

Worked a treat.  Leaving me with one measuring cup, one fork, two beaters, one immersion blender, one double boiler, one medium mixing bowl, and a t-shirt to wash up.  Not quite as easy as I might have thought, given the name, but my husband thoroughly approves of the taste.  Even if I did forget the rum.

The mixture is in the freezing now doing it’s freezing thing.  And as soon as I finish this letter to you, I’m going to bake the cookies (seriously, the best-tasting, more-work chocolate & toffee chip cookies ever; the extra time is worth it) so they will be the right temperature for assembling and wrapping the ice cream sandwiches for Sunday.  If you’re interested, I’ll post pictures of the completed goodies.

In the meantime, thanks for your wonderful blog.  I have longed for Paris all my adult life, and you make it seem to close, so vivid, so delicious, I know I must get there. Someday.

 

 

 

November Has 30 Days. Sigh.

It’s two-thirds gone and I can hardly wait for it to be over.  November is not my idea of month.  It’s more like a jail term for the infraction of loving blue skies and colour.

I have a friend who LOVES November.  In part because his birthday is in November, but also in part because where he lives (Australia), the weather is warmer and sunnier and the cricket season is underway.  I think it’s why we broke up; well, complete opposite ideas about November and the fact that he was a cricketer.  (If you can’t explain how a game is played in three sentences or fewer, including how scoring happens, however much I love you, we have a relationship challenge.)

Anyway, to return the to dull greyness that is November here… I stand at the kitchen window and look out at the sad piles of leaves, sunk down by sleet and rain, and remember what they were once, hanging on the maple and oak trees in the neighbourhood.  I watch clouds, heavy with precipitation, scudding across the sky, hiding any hope of sunshine, thinking they seem very satisfied with their gloominess.  I watch the barometer fall, almost as fast as the thermometer, and wonder if it’s actually possible to sleep for 29 days.

I would wake up for (American) Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin pie, doncha know??  Plus, eat enough turkey, and you just fall right back to sleep again!

My girlhood hero, Anne Shirley (she of “Green Gables” fame) agrees with me, but Lucy Maud Montgomery puts it so much better than I:

“November is usually such a disagreeable month as if the year had suddenly found out she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it.”  

Some might think I’m railing against November because it means another year is slipping to an end, and as I grow older, there are fewer and fewer Novembers to come to me.  But if that hypothesis were true, I would feel the same about December, more so perhaps, because it is the end of the year.  December, though is bright.  Even if there are snow squalls and icy roads, bone-chilling temperatures and outrageous heating bills, there is a brightness to a month that encourages us to put out and turn on our brightest lights.  We fill our homes with the smell of pine and gingerbread.  We spend our time and money looking for ways to please our family and friends with gifts, not to mention a little something or two for ourselves.  We eat too much and drink too much, and love every mouthful.  And even if we think we can’t stand the holiday season, there is always, always, one moment, one sight, which makes us think… ‘so this is how the Grinch’s heart grew so big’.  From the movie:

“I’m all toasty inside. And I’m leaking.”  

I think we’re all looking forward to becoming toasty inside… As soon as we get over November.

 

And just so you know…  this is a month and a vista I could live with always… Thanks for sharing it over (Canadian) Thanksgiving, Michael & Rita.

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Harvest Bounty

Just sitting here, letting the cooling breeze of a mild October evening roll over me, as I survey the rows and rows of jars headed for the basement where they will live until needed through the next several months.  It is a little exhausting but mostly exhilarating to look at them, knowing that I did this.  I did this!  Well, with some help from Jeff who provided a much needed third hand at time, and lots of muscle at others, for the heavy canning pots I’m still not permitted to lift and/or carry.  This to me is the bliss of autumn.

I am not a fan of August heat.  One can only take off so much clothing before one is arrested, whereas in autumn one can slip on another sweater, or even wear shoes and be comfortable in every way.  Plus, in the fall, there is something special about the blue sky, a much more vibrant colour than summer skies, or so I think anyway.

What I do love about the end of summer and beginning of fall is farmers markets, overflowing with fruits and vegetables, overflowing with the chance to make great jams and pickles, chutneys and relishes.

canning pot

I didn’t have the chance to make much last year, being ‘hors de combat’ as it were.  I am grateful to my sister-in-law, Karen, for sharing a little peach jam with us, as well as several containers of peach slices for the freezer.  Can you say peach cobbler with ice cream??

This year, however, I went to town!  Or rather, the farmer’s market quite a few times.  I made bread & butter pickles (dear lord, but why would anyone buy them in jars from a supermarket when these are easy-peasy and soooo delicious??) and dill pickles.  Many thanks to the farm couple who told me about using dill weed instead of fresh dill; there was NONE to be found at market that Thursday morning but there must have been 20 tonnes of pickling cucumbers for sale.  She said she only used dill weed now, instead of fresh dill, and loved the results.  So, I gave it a try.  I mean, if you can’t trust your farmer, who can you trust, eh?

They were right.  The pickles are firm and crunchy, and exactly the right amount of dill-ness, combined with two or three cloves of garlic for some great eating pickles.

Earlier in the summer, I make strawberry jam with fresh pineapple.  Perhaps because it was fresh pineapple, and not tinned, the jam has turned out to be more jelly-like than expected but it tastes really, really good.  Definitely a keeper recipe.

strawberries

I also took advantage of cherry season to make fresh cherry jam with pear.  The idea of combining those two fruits sort of surprised me, but as I like both, decided to give it a try.  Oooh, so good.  A little runnier than expected (natural pectin is a challenge for sure!) but so wonderful.  And, with the ‘gift’ of a $2 4 quart basket of apricots, I made an apricot & golden sultana conserve, which is not sweet and makes a great glaze (when judiciously thinned with a little juice or rum) for pork or chicken, as well as a kickass jam for crumpets.

A conserve, if you didn’t know as I didn’t know either, is a jam with either nuts or raisins added.  I prefer raisins.  I can hear my mother from here hollering “Nuts!  Go with nuts!” She hated raisins.

One of the other two jams I made were a repeat from 2015 which Jeff & I both loved – pear with ginger and creme de cacao.  The ginger really gives it a snap, not sweet at all, and the creme de cacao is a nice way to drink in the morning.

The second late summer jam was new to me.  Deliciously ripe and juicy peaches and pears run into each other at the end of summer, if you’re lucky.  I got lucky this year, so made some peach and pear jam.  The thing about this one is that it’s nothing but fruit so you get great flavours, some running down your chin off the English muffins.  Mmm.

As for more savoury choices, I made plum & apple & raisin chutney with lots of spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice.  The plum-only version is thicker and darker, but this one is wonderful with ham.  Oh, so wonderful with ham.  Breakfast tomorrow for Jeff will be a Croque Monsieur sandwich with this chutney, a blatant attempt to get a couple of pairs of new shoes… and I think it’s going to work, that’s how good this stuff is.

I forwent making Governor’s Sauce this year (Governor’s Lumps my father used to call it), which I suspect I’m going to regret later this winter, but I did make chili sauce and that’s all yummy goodness.  I have to say that my chili sauce turns out different every single year, and sometimes quite dramatically different, even though I use the same recipe — my mother’s, of course — every year.  This batch is different because I used Roma tomatoes because that’s what was ripe in Jeff’s garden in quantities large enough for cooking.  I like it but I think I’ll go back to “regular” tomatoes next summer.

And, especially for my dear Uncle Bruce, mustard relish.  He loved my mother’s mustard relish, and it’s taken me a long, long time to balance the ingredients out just so, so to make a batch that’s as good as hers.  Well, maybe I should say ‘almost as good as hers’.  He has a BIG birthday coming up later this year, and our gift to him is several jars of mustard relish, some pickles, some chili sauce, some jams… Gifts from the pot and the heart.

I still have pickled beets to make but having learned a very important trick from my mother later in her life, I can do those any time.  I used to spend hours trying to make balls of beets from fresh beets every year and they never turned out the way hers did – they were lumpy and too big and basically ugly.  We were at the table at the cottage when I told her my tale of woe and she started laughing so hard, she started to cough and choke, and then started to laugh again.  “I used tinned beets, you dumpfkof!”  She loved me most when she called me that.

So pickled beets and citrus onion marmalade (which I love but which my bestie Lynn also loves, by the quart jar) are still to come.

Harvest Bounty

 

Bags of veggies frozen, some pureed strawberries for trifle at Christmas (and other trifling moments), and some containers of soup, and that, I think covers it.  I feel so accomplished for doing this, but more importantly, I feel connected.  I feel like my mother and grandmothers are watching out over me, keeping on eye no the pots with bubbling goodness inside, the canning pot with boiling water to help preserve everything safely.  I feel their hearts and minds, and especially their hands, lightening the work, sharing the stories and joy.

Come by sometime for toast and jam, or apricot glazed pork loin, or chili sauce and mustard relish on your bratwurst.  I’ll be glad to open up a jar for you.

 

Bliss

As summer rolls to a close and I’m starting to think warm and cozy thoughts about sweaters and mohair throws on the chesterfield, I also started thinking about how summer feels different in this fourth quarter of my life.

When I was a kid, summer was all about the cottage, swimming and playing Red Rover on the beach.  It was about riding bikes down the winding gravel road to McKenzie’s for an ice cream cone (and a couple of hours’ peace and quiet for my mother).  It was about fishing on the weekends with my father so that we could have fresh-caught bass, fried in butter, served with hash browns and scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and about a loaf of bread, toasted and slathered in peanut butter.  It was about catching frogs and trying to catch lightning bugs.  It was about lazy hot afternoons lying in the shade of the birch tree reading “A Boys Own” that once belonged to my father.  It was about endless games of “May I” and Sorry, and trying to avoid playing Monopoly with my capitalist brothers.  It was about finding a snake in my underwear drawer, a bat in our sleeping cabin, and the dog discovering skunks are not great playmates.  It was about roasting wienies and marshmallows until burnt and then promptly burning the roof of your mouth, on each one!  It was about being blissful, even if you didn’t know what bliss was then.

I didn’t really have a summer last year, or not much of one any way, so I had looked forward to this one quite a bit.  In many ways, it didn’t disappoint – we spent several weekends at the lake and to my joy, Jeff caught a very large bass which we shared with family for breakfast one morning.  And I did the summer things I used to do with my mother – strawberry jam in June, pickles in August, with mustard relish and chili sauce to come this week.  But it all felt… different.

For one thing, there’s the matter of “other things to do”.  We had to re-arrange schedules a little bit for one weekend visit.  Nieces and nephews are busy with jobs and not at the lake all the time.  Nor are my two brothers and sisters-in-law, and even my aunt & uncle have moved into ‘town’ from the lakeside.

For another, instead of the utter peace and calm of almost every day and evening of my childhood – other than the noise of children playing and fighting and doing other non-mechanized childish things – our summer visits this year were filled with noises of motors and fireworks and raucous, drunken laughter into the early morning hours.

I’m not turning into a cantankerous old lady (I hope!) when I say this but there is much to be cherished about the unfrenzied, unplanned, mostly unplugged summers of my childhood.  I think it’s rather sad to see today that there are so few long, lazy days of summer for children.  Or adults for that matter.  I think we would all do well out of having many more long bike rides down winding gravel roads for maple walnut ice cream cones, putting a few fireflies in a jar, roasting a few marshmallows on pointy sticks around a small bonfire, watching the sun set.

We could all do with a little more bliss.

So Many Candles, Matches All The Love

Today is my birthday. It’s also one day short of the anniversary of “when things went wrong”.  Let’s focus on the birthday for a moment.

I love birthdays, I always have.  A birthday in summer, away from the city and school friends, meant I never had a kids’ birthday party except for the year I turned 8.  That was the year I decide to invite all the kids along the beach where our cottage is.  Mostly that was family or my “summer” cousins, and all but three of them were boys, but I wanted a party!  It wasn’t until my aunt called my mother and asked if she “could help with Dia’s party, there were going to be so many children there!” that my mother knew anything about it.

Won’t lie to you… Mum was mad.  But she was also actually kind of cool about it.  I don’t think she’d ever understood that out of all of us, I was the one who didn’t get that kid birthday event, or even birthday gifts (other than, and thank goodness for, grandparents’).  Our summers were tied up in swimming and games on the beach and just having the usual kid fun, that my birthday, MY special day, just sort of… slipped away.  Aside, of course, from always having hamburgers and angel food cake with my grandparents; god, I love angel food cake, especially with whipped cream and bananas, like Gram used to make every year.

So, going back to the party, the kids all showed up, we ate copiously of corn and potato salad and hot dogs, and there was watermelon, and a chocolate cake (knowing that angel food cake was coming on the weekend with my grandparents and father).  We played silly games I didn’t know my mother knew, we went swimming (of course!), and I got real life birthday presents from kids.  That was so important to me.  None of them were big or expensive, but they were fun or silly or sweet (Cam, I still have the elephant!).

I have had other lovely birthday parties and surprises since, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them immensely.  And I’m looking forward to a whole lot more – I hope!  But last year… not so celebratory because I couldn’t drink and wanted to eat very lightly before going into hospital the next morning.

I was facing surgery (hysterectomy) for suspected uterine cancer.  Two uterine biopsies were inconclusive (bloody painful but inconclusive), although an ultrasound did show a couple of polyps/lumps.  Combined with a few months of bleeding, my age, and the ‘best by’ date having expired some years since on my uterus, my gyns and oncologist and I decided surgery was the best choice.

Oy veh.

Good news first.  Although I did have cancer, I do not now.  The operation removed the tumour, and other than a Pap smear every six months for four years, and an annual chest x-ray (when uterine cancer does metastisize, it is almost invariably in the chest; this is how my angel food cake baking grandmother died) for the next four years, I’m not living with a fear or shadow of cancer.

I am however, living with what happened during and after the hysterectomy.  First my bladder and/or kidneys were nicked in the surgery, which meant 24 hours after the first surgery, I went back under general anaesthesia to have stents put into my kidneys, where they stayed for just over a month, four weeks of which time I was catheretised. Having the stents removed was my fourth experience in the O.R.; the third one was the scary one.

Number three is when I almost died.  Not going into all the details, but if I say that basically my abdominal muscles blew up, no one noticed for maybe 36 hours, and the fact that I was septic (dangerously infected) when they finally did, will you understand some of what was going on? What was supposed to have been four or five days in hospital turned four rounds of surgery, three of them in four days, one of them in the middle of night because I was so injured/ill.  I was in ICU for four days, hospital for three weeks (lying immobile for most of that time, post surgery three) and prison for a month.

The facility prefers I call it rehab; I don’t.  I was so angry, so distraught at being sent there rather than home after so long in hospital, I thought I was going to cry myself to death that first night.  Except I couldn’t really weep hard because of the wound.  The surgery that was done to save my life didn’t leave enough of me to suture close so a “wound vac” was used, and that gizmo was part of my life from August 23rd to the end of December.  With it, amongst other challenges, I couldn’t bend over – and I still can’t, really.  The damage to the muscles was so severe my doctor says I cannot lift or push anything more than 5 – 10 pounds (less than 5 kilos) forever.

In hindsight, and albeit still grudgingly, I understand I needed some time to learn how to move with Giz (as he was fondly referred to in our house) and to re-gain some of my completely depleted strength.  I also know that Jeff also needed time to figure out how to take care of me at home, because when I was finally! released at the end of September, I really needed care.  Three times a week, wonderful nurses came to the house and change the dressing in the wound, keeping Giz doing his job of “sucking” me closed.  As a result, my scar isn’t an “outie”, it’s an “innie”, making my abdomen look like my butt.  Seriously.  Cover up the other bits and you can’t tell the difference.

It was early this spring that I finally felt I was getting my mind back.  The body healed a whole faster than my head did, although I don’t consider five months so fast!  A combination of some 10 hours of general anaesthesia, shock from having so much go wrong, discombobulation at being away from home for so long, and a near-complete lack of remembering what had happened to me, has given me a form of PTS.  Mild but disconcerting, and it lead to some severe sleep problems (once I was off the meds – those kept me sleeping a lot!), and most disconcertingly, kept me from reading books.  I could manage magazines (over a few days) and newspaper (slowly, through the entire day) while I was in prison, but I couldn’t do books again until November.  Me, without books. It’s just so… wrong.

I live a belly button free life now, but I’m living.  I’m cancer free.  I’m getting, slowly slowly, back to who I was and, with the continuing help of my docs, and a huge amount of love and support from Jeff and extended family, not to mention a wonderful and surprisingly large group of friends, I’m working on being even better than that.

Birthdays are about celebrating life.  This birthday is going to be especially celebratory. Here’s hoping I can blow out all the candles!!

 

Ever look at someone, waiting for them to say something intriguing or informative, and all you can think is, “I know what her favourite hobby is – sucking lemons!”  Or maybe you’ve endured lunch with the friend of a friend who will not stop talking about something that is so wrong, so untruthful you just want to stick your fork in their tongue, pay the bill, and leave for Costa Rica (assuming you’re not already IN Costa Rica, in which case you leave for Singapore).  Perhaps you decided to get together with friends you haven’t seen in five years or more, haven’t had much contact with them at all, and over drinks you start to wonder if you hadn’t been drinking enough before when you all hung out or are you not drinking enough now to get through the evening.

I’m asking these questions because of The New York Times and their second most stupid act ever.  They started a column called “Say Something Nice” in which people are supposed to say something nice about 45.  I sometimes call him “Buttercup”; former Mexican President Vincente Fox calls him ‘the President of the Electoral College of the United States’; now that he’s begun to refer to himself as – and this just slays me ‘ ‘T’, that may be another choice for me.  In any case I will not ever use his name or his supposed title (although I might go with President Fox’s choice, if forced).

And I cannot find anything nice to say about him.  I can’t.  One should respect the office, and one does.  One cannot, and does not, and cannot see a time when one would,  respect the man.

The previous occupant had many, many faults and while I think he did some amazing things, he also made some real blunders in doing the job.  Don’t we all??  However, he never once made me feel that his blunders or mistakes were about greed and avarice, about denigration and disrespect, about lying to save his ass.  And never once did he make me feel the whole world was going to hell in a hand basket.  He made it easy to respect the office and the man.

So when I heard about The New York Times wanting us to say something nice about 45, I laughed derisively.  Then I thought about that lemon-sucking woman, and the lying lunch companion, and the friends who seem to be drunk when I am not, and I realized I’m not saying nice things about them either.  And maybe that’s what I should be focusing on. Finding something nice to be saying about those people who seem honestly to be giving a crap.

The fact that it’s about a crappy man, or some of his crappy programs, shouldn’t be the point, or at least not the entire point.  They’re doing things, working on thing, promoting things that I believe they believe.  And what they believe (aside from the terrible lies they’ve heard and re-told about both 44 and 45’s opponent, and on which I call them out every time) is not… well, it’s not what I believe at all, but it’s also maybe not so completely wrong either.

There is a true disconnect in the western world right now.  It’s happening in the U.S., in Canada, in Australia, and through pretty much all of Europe.  If you’ve read any history at all, you know it’s nothing we haven’t endured before, although this time it’s with 24 hour media, fake or not, and with some really ugly weapons of destruction.  Is it possible that if we really worked at it honestly, this time is nothing we can’t move beyond?

Not fix.  We can’t “fix” this.  Some of us believe in a living minimum income, universal health care, universal family leave & child care, a shattered glass ceiling, that black lives matter, that industrial agriculture is slowly killing the earth & that processed cheese slices are not actually food, and that both table manners and cursive writing are essential to reasonable public discourse and subsequent follow-up.  Some of us believe 180 degrees differently.

What we seem to be unable to do is work beyond those disagreements, to find ways to support human beings and not throw them on the trash heap.  And, personally, as I’m not prepared to throw too much more on the trash heap, I’m going to try to say something nice about my 180 degrees people.

Don’t ask me what right now.  I’m trying to be nice, not saintly.  But maybe, just maybe, if more of us can take a deep breath and be nice, for just a moment, the moments will come easier to us, and maybe those moments will start coming to those who are at 180 degrees from us.  Fewer sucked lemons, and fewer ugly lies, and fewer nice people being pulled into ideas not thought through would be very nice indeed.

And if all that happens, maybe I can quit my over-consumption of solacing butter tarts cold turkey.

 

 

Light the Candles, Feel the Love

It wasn’t my plan to take so much time off blogging.  Some time, yes.  This much time, no.  I have reasons – no excuses, but pretty good reasons – but they’re for another blog.  This one is about family, and specifically two members of my family who are celebrating birthdays today!

Let’s start with the oldest my sister Andrea — although she will quickly point out in her comment that she is younger than me.  In this context, she is the older of the two birthday celebrants.  Andy Pandy.  Andrea Joy.  Andrea with the string of last names we won’t go into here.  She’s also known as Mom by three amazing kids, grown up kids now, who adore the hell of her, as they should.  To me, she’s my hero.

The hands she’s been dealt in the past couple of years, the work she’s done to try to get back on her feet, the support she continues to give other people even as she needs a lot for herself… that’s a kind of bravery I’m not sure I have.  Not without a lot of things being thrown at walls and a lot of single malt being consumed anyway.

Andy made a great attempt at living and working out a dream, and it turned into a bit of a nightmare through no fault of her own.  This forced her to make other decisions that I think she’s been happy with, but have also put her back at the starting line again.  The cool thing is, she’s up for the race.  She relishes having challenges and takes them on like nobody’s business.  But she would be great for somebody’s business (Hello, Calgary!!  Are you paying attention??) and I want things to work out for her.

But in the meanwhile, I hope she is having a great, happy, delicious birthday.  I hope she knows that she is loved and admired.  I hope she knows that some art thief is going to lose his balls someday for what he did.

Love you, sis, for all 60 years and I hope many more.

As for the other birthday… my daughter (who has a mother but who lets me share).  Durita and Andy never met, which is sad, but perhaps also good, because I think they might have stories to share I’m not sure I want shared!  They would like each other though, having the same sort of “yes, I’m going to do this!” attitude.

My Darling Girl is in law school in Copenhagen, living with her “man” Toki (I’m still not prepared for this), surrounded by a circle of wonderful friends (two of whom, Maria and Gunn, we were thrilled to meet last summer), and still and always loved by her ‘original’ family in the Faeroes.  And by me.

We met on my birthday, which makes  her the best gift I ever received, and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about her and how she’s filled my life and heart.  Of course, the fact I have a photo of her in every room in the house probably helps me keep track of that but still…

The sun sets very late in Copenhagen this time of the year, and I hope she & Toki and all their friends are taking advantage of a summer birthday eve.  I hope she knows I would love to spend a birthday with her again.  I hope she knows how valued and missed she is by Jeff, and by me.

Happiest Day, Darling Girl.  And many, many more.

 

 

 

Being A Little Overwhelmed by Achieving a Goal

I am an author.

I have been saying for several years now, when asked what I do, “I’m a writer”.  It’s an easy phrase to toss off, until the inevitable follow-up question arrives.  “Oh, what do you write? Would I have read anything of yours?”  Fortunately for my ego, I can respond by saying I have been a magazine writer and editor, I wrote opinion pieces for my local newspaper, I was a radio journalist for a while, but now I’m trying my hand at both fiction and a memoir.

It is the memoir that was finished first, and it is the memoir that will be published and launched in just a couple of days. I chose October 1st because it would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary and this book is so much about them.  And about my siblings and their families, and my extended, and so many friends, so many meals.  It was a work of love in very many ways to write.  Now it’s a work of faith to present it to the public and see what they have to say.

Oh, my friends and my family have been supportive in ways I truly was not expecting.  And that is both gratifying and humbling. What will be interesting is to see who else buys the book, who are the people I don’t know who might want to read my stories, cook my food.

Given the tiny sliver of success this first book has provided me, I am already considering how to follow up the experience, how to broaden the experience, so that not only do I continue to tell stories and share food, but create opportunities that will lead to stories and meals I cannot even imagine right now.

I have begun the process with the tentative step of a new blog (not that I’m giving up this one — that would be silly. And I need it!) and we’ll see how things develop over the next few weeks.

I’ll be back after the weekend after the launch (what a full first four days of October we have!!) with photos and stories and I expect a great deal more gratitude.  And somewhat calmer nerves.

The illustration commissioned for the front cover of GOOF, CARPETBAG STEAK & DIVINITY: A Memoir With Recipes.  The artist is named Kaoru Shimada or KART.

The illustration commissioned for the front cover of GOOF, CARPETBAG STEAK & DIVINITY: A Memoir With Recipes. The artist is named Kaoru Shimada or KART.

Six Months… What Goes Through My Mind in Six Months…

I should kick myself in the arse for being so… well, indecisive about continuing this blog.  Not because I don’t enjoy writing, because I do.  And not because I don’t appreciate the generally positive feedback I get from it, because I do.  But maybe because of two people and one idea.

The two people are ghosts from my life and while I try to ignore them or pretend they have little, if anything, to do with my present, they always seem to just pop up and annoy me with their ghostly presence.  They are likely see this post and knowing that – again –  I’m sharing something of myself with them is, well, icky.  But the reason for even establishing this blog was to bust some ghosts and mostly, I’ve done that.  Mostly, I’ve learned to step back and breathe, to take a second or third or tenth look at a problem and then either write about it OR accept the fact that some things in life, baby, you just can’t change.

The idea is different.  The idea was that maybe now I’ve busted those ghosts I can move in another direction.  What that would be, I wasn’t not sure but still….

But there’s more to writing this blog than just exorcising some bad ideas, some bad relationships. I write because I seek inner clarity.  I write as a way to express myself, and find myself, and be myself in a world where sometimes the masks are pretty heavy, stuck in place.  Of course, sometimes I write just pap and crap, and that’s okay!!  I love a good gossip or picture magazine at times.  But sometimes, I need to find words to figure out what the hell I’m feeling, and to get rid of the bad ones, and snuggle up to the good ones.

I’m keep a gratitude jar this year.  The idea is to jot down one small thing every day that’s made you feel grateful or happy or some other positive crap, put the notes in a jar, and at the end of the year, count ’em all up.  Well,  30 days does not make 30 notes but there are some in the jar, and there will be more than 185 by the end of the year (that’s more than 1 every other day, fyi for my arithmetically challenged friends!)

Maybe it’s been the jar, maybe it was getting a letter today from someone I did NOT expect to hear from, maybe it was a lot of PMing with a long-time colleague that just turned into silly fun… but I’m feeling really positive and lucky and peaceful this week.  A feeling which will last if the Seahawks win on Sunday.

Anyway, I’m back. I’ll be here a lot.  I hope to hear from you soon.  And I hope all the monsters under your bed are gone!