Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quiltin' in the Fall

This is Mrs. Mitchell's in Violet Hill. If you click on the picture, you will see "snow" slanting across the photo. The corn stalks are frantic, as were the guests who were arriving on this day in OCTOBER!!

There is a funny story about my friend Ingrid and I being snowed in just about every time we go to her Condo in Collingwood. We laugh about it each time we wend our way up north. By Duntroon, there was very little laughter as the trees were plastered with snow that was sticking.

We did get to "quiltin" in the fall. We didn't get snowed in, but it is very weird that this happens to us on a regular basis. Ingrid is taking me skiin' with her if the snowfall is insufficient this year :)

We can recommend the hot mulled apple cider and the collection of wild mushroom soup.

When you can't finish your sausage with cinnamon apples, roast potatoes, spaghetti squash, carrots and broccoli, they send you home with a swan. In the snow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scotland Blogs

The Hermitage Signpost

[Photo credit: Pikaland.com]

Check out this blog from Scotland:

Rima Staines

"Illustrator, Painter, Maker of Things and Teller of Tales".

I hope that when the Professor is finished with all his digging for my ancestors that I am related to Rima! Her opening banner is absolutely fascinating.

Sit and enjoy this for a bit while I'm off to the country to finish some "Quiltin'" today...be back soon.

Watch Rima's illustrations in this video: The Woods
It is that time of year after all....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blue

Blue Berries on my Variegated Porcelain Vine
Click to enlarge

"What is Blue?

Blue is the color of the sky
Without a cloud
Cool, distant, beautiful
And proud.
Blue is the quiet sea
And the eyes of some people,
And many agree
As they grow older and older
Blue is the scarf
Spring wears on her shoulder.
Blue is twilight,
Shadows on snow,
Blue is feeling
Way down low.
Blue is a heron,
A sapphire ring,
You can smell blue
In many a thing:
Gentian and larkspur
Forget-me-nots, too.
And if you listen
You can hear blue
In wind over water
And wherever flax blooms
And when evening steps into
Lonely rooms.
Cold is blue:
Flame shot from a welding torch
Is, too:
Hot, wild, screaming, blistering Blue-
And on winter mornings
The dawns are blue...."


[from: Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Morning

There is nothing about morning that I like. There is especially nothing about Monday morning that I like...until I read The Star and one of my favourite columnists, Lorraine Sommerfeld. This column always makes me laugh out loud. What a way to start the week! I just love Lorraine's sense of humour and there is always something that resonates with me in her witty writing.

A cat in the hat is one thing, but this puss is pushing it
Lorraine Sommerfeld
Monday, October 27, 2008

Last weekend I was taking an intensive learn-to-ride-a-motorcycle course. Two solid days outside on a bike, my body being pummelled as muscles I didn't know I had were being contorted into shapes I didn't know existed.

I told the household to clear my schedule. There would be no meals, no laundry, no attention from me. I would be rising very early, and coming home late, and I would be crabby. It seems the only thing odd about this was the fact I wouldn't be home.

After the first day, I dragged myself over the threshold and dropped into a hot tub. By 7:30 p.m., I was nodding off and headed to bed. I told the boys to switch to headphones, told The Poor Sod he could watch Ultimate Fighter on mute and not miss a gory moment, and I was not to be disturbed unless the house was on fire. The only way I would get through Day 2 was with a lot of rest.

I passed Ari's bedroom and saw JoJo, our rather dim-witted cat, sleeping on his bed. Maggie, our calico genius, curled up at my feet, and I was out like a light.

At 3:30 a.m. I snapped awake, dreading what I knew was happening. I needed to be asleep. I heard a faint meowing. I glanced down at Maggie, who glanced back at me. We both knew who this was. The mewling was followed by scratching.

Sighing, I figured she was locked in Christopher's room. I got up, Maggie at my heels, and went to open his door. Nothing darted out. I heard the cry again, followed by more scratching. It was coming from Ari's room, but his door was open.

I went back to get my glasses because I can't hear without them.

Maggie was standing in front of Ari's dresser, woefully shaking her head. Trying not to wake Ari, I removed the bottom drawer of his dresser – sometimes at the cottage, the cats hide back there. Nothing.

Again, the crying, and the scratching. Tossing Ari's duvet over his head, I snapped on the light. I removed the other drawer, now remembering a story I read of a cat trapped in a wall.

Did I love this cat enough to tear down the wall?

Suddenly, Ari was standing beside me, now quite wide awake and grinning.

"What are you doing?" he asked, not the slightest bit disturbed to find his mother and a cat staring at his dresser in the middle of the night, which was dismantled yet still meowing.

"JoJo is trapped, and I can't figure out where she is," I told him, thinking I would pull out the dresser.

Without a word, Ari reached over and pulled open another drawer. JoJo's black head popped out like a gopher, she stared at us, then hopped out.

Ari started laughing, as I tried to figure out how long she'd been asleep in there. His drawers slide shut at a touch, and she must have trapped herself.

Disgusted, Maggie trundled back to bed, and I followed her.

Your ability to fall back to sleep is inversely proportional to your desperate need to actually do it. I knew I couldn't think about not sleeping, so I worried about money for a couple of hours, before finally falling asleep 15 minutes before the alarm went off.

Exhausted I showed up for the second day of riding. Another student asked how I was doing.

"Well, I was fine until the cat got stuck in my son's drawers," I told her.

And I thought riding a motorcycle was hard.
Lorraine has a blog and you should at least look at these two of her past entries. They will perk you up on this irredeemably dark, rainy October Monday-Monday.

October 17th. Dennis Quaid & Ellen Degeneres

October 16th. Maddow Band Wagon

Thanks Lorraine for making my week. I LOVE your sense of humour.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Digging Up Ancestors

The Professor has a science blog, Sandwalk, that rarely has anything of interest to the unscientific among us [other than the topics that I give him],but this week he got diverted by some genealogical digging that he was doing and came up with some very interesting [for me] results. Not only do I wish that my father had lived to know these facts, but also, I can't help but wonder what Susan Williamson could do with these charts, photos,.....ah the artistic possibilities of it all. I will be following the more artistic side of this disclosure.

One of Ms. Sandwalk's ancestors is William Playfair (1789 - 1823). Her great grandfather—the great-great-grandfather of my children—was John Playfair Leslie. John's mother is a direct descendant of William Playfair.

William Playfair was an interesting man for many reasons. He is most famous for inventing statistical graphs; especially pie charts and bar graphs. These were printed in his famous book, Commercial and Political Atlas, published in 1786. Two examples of figures from that book are shown here.

But that's not all that Playfair did. His biographers call him an "engineer, political economist and scoundrel." I won't talk about the "scoundrel" part except to mention that it's probably an accurate description. One of the more legal things he did was to participate in the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. (See William Playfair for some of the less legal activities.)

William Playfair was born in Scotland and lived with his older brother John Playfair in Edinburgh. John Playfair was a distinguished Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. Their other brother was the architect James Playfair.

William Playfair was trained as an engineer with Andrew Meikle, the inventor of the threshing machine. Following his apprenticeship, he joined the company Boulton & Watt in Birmingham, England. This company operated a large plant that manufactured steam engines. William Playfair was assistant to James Watt.

It was during his time in Birmingham that Playfair made the connection that's so important to readers of Sandwalk.In Birmingham, William Playfair associated with the members of the Lunar Society and attended their meetings. In addition to Matthew Boulton and James Watt, his bosses, there were other members whose names may be familiar; Josiah Wedgewood, Joseph Priestly, and Erasmus Darwin. Erasmus is Charles Darwin's grandfather. Josiah Wedgewood was Charles Darwin's other grandfather.

I keep hoping that one or more of my ancestors would have known Charles Darwin or even been related. No such luck. This is as close as it gets. My wife and children have an ancestor who hung out with Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgewood.

I'm jealous.


All material used by permission of the author!:)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Firebush in Fall

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!


by Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Have you tried..........


Have you tried the Natura cloth yet?


Overview

All Purpose Cloth
- For cleaning
- Natura
- Home Hardware
- Extra large
- Natural
- The wonder cloth
- Made from 100% natural wood fibers
- Anti bacterial, stays fresh, no sour smell
- 8 layers of soft, supple, super absorbent cleaning power
- Air dry only
- Supporting Tree Canada Foundation
- Ideal for washing dishes, cleaning counters, appliances, tubs, tiles, floors, cars, boats, RVs and yet soft enough for sticky hands
- Natura's 8 layer weave is durable, long lasting and ideal for those touch cleaning jobs
- Rinses easily
- 40cm x 40cm (16" x 16") ***image not exact

I first saw this cloth at a cousin's house and not having a Home Hardware in my closest vicinity, I found one when I went to renew my passport. I can't say enough about this little wonder cloth. It is made of WOOD fibers!!! When you first take it out of the bag it is big and stiff, and when you wet it, it fluffs up and becomes a very soft, pleasingly absorbent material. It really doesn't smell yicky. You can put it in the washing machine, just don't put it in the dryer...air dry is fine. It really is a wonder cloth. This is a shameless plug for Home Hardware, but I guarantee you'll love this little hummer.

Only in Canada you say??? YAY!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quote of the Week











'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'
Thomas Jefferson 1802


'I believe that Republicans are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever again allow Republicans to control the issues of their currency, health care, Supreme Court and corporations the party will deprive the people of all self-respect and property until their children wake-up shamed and homeless on the continent their fathers and mothers loved so dearly.'
Alexandra van Bever 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Evolution of Nancy

See this beautiful, smiling, spit-fire, cracker jack woman????


This is Nancy Donaldson

See her necklace? She made it.

Want to take a class and learn this technique...and other jewelry ideas?

Irene and I are going to try to take a class with Nancy on one of her days off....[Wednesday]. If you think you would like to join us, please let me know and we'll set a date. Otherwise you will just have to admire ours - when we make one, or something else...this one requires an anvil!

P.S. I'll drive.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend Workshop

This weekend I was involved in a most wonderful workshop. Carmi
set up a class with Jane Wynn exploring all things metal. Over the two days,we met at an historic Toronto landmark,Zion Church, Cultural Centre, a spirited location which boasts vaulted ceilings, fantastic lighting, space and local amenities.

Jane's Book "Altered Curiosities"

The workshop was so well organized that it was a true pleasure. Everyone had their own table, every word could be heard, every demo could be seen...it doesn't get better than that. Oh wait!...yes it does...the convivial group of women. Perfect.



Jane and her husband Thomas drove up from the Baltimore area and were thus able to bring along tools that otherwise are way too cumbersome to travel-teach with. The first day [Captured! Bezel Setting for Found Object Jewelry Class], we became acquainted with butane torches and metal tripods for soldering. This is equipment that I must have...(field trip!)....as well as a stand that holds the Dremel tool and makes it into a drill press....another outing.


Jane is an adorable artist with an easy manner of teaching, it was all so calm, engendering each one to set her own pace. The group mixed well and being among so many talented women is always inspiring.

Day two was learning the techniques of pouring resin to embed objects in bezels. It is an exacting, calm and "in the zone" sort of procedure. Bubbles in this case are a girl's worst enemy. As in most artwork, it all looks easy when you see a piece of jewelry. You always think..."I could do that". Perhaps, but the process of getting there takes a long time to learn, accomplish and refine. Practice makes perfect and Jane has her techniques down to a fine art!





Pipe Dreams Class































































There was time to shop too!


The entire group so happy with our class and "Everyone Loves Jane!"

Thanks to Carmi for her excellent organization and hard work in setting up this event (no small feat),and to Jane and Thomas for making the trek to the cool climes of Canada to teach. It was a great fall weekend spent learning so much. The refrain from the entire group is likely...."More Please!" Loved being with all of you. Til' we meet again.

P.S.
Check outMartha's Blog to see her great samples!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Treats

By the time you are 60 years old you figure you've eaten just about everything known to man. Not so. I have never had Frozen Custard until this past week.



There is a little old fashioned, flag-waving, brick shop, wooden floors, lazy fans overhead, fireplace for the winter, in Vienna.....Virginia, not Austria, that sells one of the most delectable treats you can imagine.
Since it was almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it tasted even better. What IS frozen custard you ask.........

Frozen custard is a cold dessert similar to ice cream, made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar. It typically contains 10% butterfat and 1.4% egg yolk.

Using a process called overrun, air is blended into the mixture of ingredients until its volume increases by approximately 20%. By comparison, ice cream may have an overrun as large as 100% - meaning half of the final product is composed of air. The high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk gives frozen custard a thick, creamy texture and a smoother, softer consistency than ice cream. Frozen custard is most often served at 26 degrees Fahrenheit (a full 16 degrees warmer than the 10 degrees Fahrenheit at which ice cream is served).

Frozen custard is usually prepared fresh at the place of sale. The older vintage custard stands tend to have a dozen or so standard flavors that change gradually over time.

I was giving thanks for Pumpkin, Vanilla, and on another day, Vanilla with Hot Fudge Sauce! I'm now officially on a diet having eaten my way through the DC area. It was worth it. Until Monday when I hit the gym again.

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Poetry

I just had a phone call from Calgary in response to the Cautionary Tales posting. This one came to the mind of a high school pal of mine. Thanks K. This is quite the role reversal !!! No wonder we never read this genre to our kids. Macabre.

Disobedience by A.A.Milne

James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he;
"You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don't go down with me."

James James
Morrison's Mother
Put on a golden gown.
James James Morrison's Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James Morrison's Mother
Said to herself, said she:
"I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea."

King John
Put up a notice,
"LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON'S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
LAST SEEN
WANDERING VAGUELY:
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN
TO THE END OF THE TOWN -
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!"

James James
Morrison Morrison
(Commonly known as Jim)
Told his
Other relations
Not to go blaming him.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he:
"You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me."

James James
Morrison's mother
Hasn't been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?"

(Now then, very softly)
J.J.
M.M.
W.G.Du P.
Took great
C/0 his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
"M*****," he said, said he:
"You-must-never-go-down-to-the-end-of-the-town-
if-you-don't-go-down-with-ME!"


Thanks to OldPoetry.com

After Midnight - Awake All Night


I don't know if it was the two cups of tea I enjoyed while watching Coronation Street, or the stimulation and late hour of getting into a documentary on TVO. The Masterworks series on "J.J.Cale". I had not realized the affiliation and inspiration this musician has had on the Rhythm and Blues community. Eric Clapton and J.J. have joined up in concert, and if you enjoy this music try and find the Masterworks doc. "To Tulsa and Back" - on tour with J.J.Cale. They may air it again. I wish I had taped it.

J.J.Cale and Eric Clapton in concert


At 2 a.m. I was in iTunes purchasing the entire album of these two. "Road to Escondido". "After Midnight" and the ever controversial "Cocaine"....I happen to have always loved the beat, melody and blues of this song, and Eric Clapton spoke about it not being an endorsement, just a statement. If you link to the videos you can also hear these tunes. Enjoy. Have a good weekend. I'm off to a huge workshop. See you Monday. Taking a nap now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

While having lunch in Charlottesville last weekend, one of "The Other Girls" was prompted to recite a poem she had written in grade school in the style of
Hilaire Belloc
I was enchanted by her rendition. It was every bit as good as an original Belloc, and even more astoundingly, could be remembered word for word, inflection by inflection and phrase by phrase by it's author. I have vague memories of the style...perhaps Lewis Carroll? If you have never experienced this poet..........
A cautionary tale is a traditional story told in folklore, to warn its hearer of a danger. There are three essential parts to a cautionary tale, though they can be introduced in a large variety of ways. First, a taboo or prohibition is stated: some act, location, or thing is said to be dangerous. Then, the narrative itself is told: someone disregarded the warning and performed the forbidden act. Finally, the violator comes to an unpleasant fate, which is frequently related in large and grisly detail.

The genre of the cautionary tale has been satirized by many writers. Hilaire Belloc in his Cautionary Tales for Children, presented such moral exemplars as "Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion", and "Matilda, Who told lies, and was Burned to Death".
Rebecca by Hilaire Belloc
Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably

A trick that everyone abhors
In little girls is slamming doors.
A wealthy banker's little daughter
Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater
(By name Rebecca Offendort),
Was given to this furious sport.

She would deliberately go
And slam the door like billy-o!
To make her uncle Jacob start.
She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild;
She was an aggravating child...

It happened that a marble bust
Of Abraham was standing just
Above the door this little lamb
Had carefully prepared to slam,
And down it came! It knocked her flat!
It laid her out! She looked like that.

Her funeral sermon (which was long
And followed by a sacred song)
Mentioned her virtues, it is true,
But dwelt upon her vices too,
And showed the deadful end of one
Who goes and slams the door for fun.

The children who were brought to hear
The awful tale from far and near
Were much impressed, and inly swore
They never more would slam the door,
-- As often they had done before.

It is even more amusing that our poetry session preceded a rather unfortunate "biting" incident by a couple of unruly boys in an upscale chi-chi shop. I'm sure there is another poem that could be constructed à la Belloc serving this memory.

Illustration: "The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches" from Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffman, 1858.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Home again, Home again

Whenever you leave a place, someone always says "What will you do when you get home?"

I'm not sure why unpacking takes so long? Perhaps it's because the trip, and the anticipation is over and now it's all about laundry, putting back, and waking up in Mississauga with a flipping Conservative in our riding. That's enough to make me tired and wild at the same time.

I spent a restorative week in Washington...if you think we're in trouble politically.... My hosts were threatening to come and live in our guest room if things go badly in the next election for them. Now, I'm not sure that we have much more to offer....except health care.

We did "girl" things all week and watched old Paul Newman movies and political commentaries and shopped.

We visited Charlottesville,VA, but didn't see Monticello:) That will mean we have to go back! The street you see pictured is pedestrian only and full of antique book shops, vintage clothing, bead shops, artistic galleries, wonderful restaurants and especially delicious cupcakes! The sort of place that fills up your senses!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Away for a bit


See you in a few days.


I have to admit that I found this photo somewhere and now I cannot find or recall the site. I was browsing and instantly loved this photo. To Whom it may concern...[Photo Credit Unknown]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Side Trip

When we travel to Ottawa we always like to do a little sightseeing if we can. This past weekend we had a delightful drive "Up the Gatineau" as we valley folk say. This pilgrimage is to see the changing of the leaves. It was a dreary day, not quite at peak, but sometimes you have to go early. If the weather persists all the best leaves get blown away.



"I don't like the look of those clouds said Mr. Gumpy"


Amazon.com Review
Mr. Gumpy, who charmed us in Mr. Gumpy's Outing, is ready for another day trip--this time in his lovely red car. Once again, a veritable menagerie clamors to be included, and that's fine with amiable Mr. Gumpy: "All right. But it will be a squash." The day progresses nicely--until a dark rain cloud moves in. When the inevitable happens--the car gets stuck--no one is willing to help push.

"Not me," said the goat. "I'm too old."
"Not me," said the calf. "I'm too young."
"Not me," said the cat. "It would ruin my fur."

And the excuses go on. Luckily, in Mr. Gumpy's life, there seems to be a happy ending to every day, and so there is to this day.

John Burningham has been creating one award-winning picture book after another for over three decades. This captivating book is no exception. Winner of several awards, including The New York Times Book Review Outstanding Children's Book of 1976, Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car will delight children of all ages for many decades to come. Uniquely appealing illustrations pair with soothing, yet exciting text to build a story young readers (and listeners) will return to time after time. (Ages 2 to 6) --Emilie Coulter



This picture was taken because of those clouds. If you stood on a chair you could almost touch them with a stick.



"in Mr. Gumpy's life, there seems to be a happy ending to every day, and so there is to this day."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gatineau in the Fall


In the fall of 1900, a young man, his head filled with dreams and ambitions, climbed the Gatineau hills on his bicycle. He stopped near Kingsmere Lake. Intrigued by the similarity between the name of the location and his own, he decided to build what would become known after his death as the Mackenzie King Estate.

This man, William Lyon Mackenzie King, grandson of the rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie, was already dreaming about becoming Prime Minister of Canada. To reach his goal, he worked his way up. He was Deputy Minister of Labour in 1900, Member of parliament in 1908, Canadian Minister of Labour in 1909 under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Leader of the Liberal Party and the Opposition in 1919, and elected Prime Minister of Canada in 1921. he remained Prime Minister for close to 22 years and still holds the record for longevity.

A few months before King's death, the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and Town Planners awarded him an honorary membership in recognition of his contribution to the planning and development of Canada's Capital and his skill in landscape architecture.

King the politician was also an artist deserving of wide recognition for his work as a landscape architect. His government left a significant legacy to the capital of Canada, including such key elements as the Gréber Plan, Gatineau Park and Kingsmere Park, which later became the Mackenzie King Estate.

The Moorside Cottage
In 1928 King moved his summer home to Moorside, where, until 1943, he received such distinguished guests a Winston Churchill and F.D. Roosevelt. At Moorside, he expressed his romantic nature by laying out formal flower beds, a rose garden, a rock garden, a flower-filled pond and by planting thousands of trees. He also erected picturesque ruins.
Today, in Moorside cottage, there is a cozy pine paneled tea-room where you can enjoy a delicious lunch.
[National Capital Commission]

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Letter

For many years now I've had a little book called "Gift Of A Letter" by Alexandra Stoddard. The book is dedicated to "one of the most intimate and touching of human expressions": the letter.


This book reaffirms the pleasure of actually writing. If you are like me, you spend so much time typing on the computer that when it comes time to jot a note, you notice an appreciable decline in your penmanship.

I completely share the author's love of fine stationery and good pens. My preferred thing to write on is actually rough newsprint-grade yellow legal pads with blue lines. I need a pen that glides. I have a collection of embossed Crane note papers which I can barely stand to use, I prefer to gaze at them in their perfect boxes in pristine condition. That is a situation that I am vowing here to change.

Lately I have received so many notes and letters that it has given me a whole new appreciation of getting a sentiment in the mail. We are lucky enough to still have at-the-door delivery, and I can't tell you how nice it is to get something other than bills. The book exclaims..."A letter is a gift. It can turn a private moment into an exalted experience. Unlike the phone, a letter is never an interruption. A letter doesn't require immediate attention' it can be saved and savored for the appropriate time and place. Whenever I answer the phone, I am at the mercy of another person's schedule....A letter is a treat with no strings attached."

Daily, over the past few months, I have relived so many memories. Letters have given me a connection to those moments long since past, that I can hold onto. Letters that bring such beauty and meaning to daily life are indeed a precious gift.

I have a book "My Dearest Friend". The personal correspondence of Abigail and John Adams. Their correspondence spanned forty years....that is dedication, indeed. "This is history at its most authentic and most engaging".

My mother kept all the letters that I wrote to my parents when we were living in Switzerland. I plan to put all of my most important letters together in a special box and spend some time on a cold winter night reliving my own history.

Write a letter to someone. Set up a cozy spot, with your best paper and pen....a cup of tea. Relax and really think about the recipient. You'll be transported. It's such a good gift to give.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to Vote


By clicking on the following link, and entering your postal code, you will see an overview of your riding that shows you how to vote strategically.

Strategic Voting

I think this is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE this time. STOP the insanity!!
Just enter your postal code and you will see which candidate has the best chance of winning and saving the environment....among other things!!!

Thanks to:
Vote for Environment Canada
Hat tip: Lori Beach

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dancing with The Professor


Monday nights are now 'Dance Night'.

Prior to our daughter's wedding, we enrolled in several rounds of dance lessons through the City of Mississauga. The first class was "Ballroom Dancing" Beginners. The instructor started with the Passo Doble. If you've been following Dancing with the Stars, you will recognize this as a rendition of a toreador with a cape, and a rather unfortunate bull. Our best guess is that the instructor in this session had been doing classes for so long that she was bored and decided to ramp things up a bit, after all, what do beginners know?? Subsequent weeks were confusing and frustrating and we thought it was all our fault...totally hopeless dancers. The class was a total loss, but we decided that since we had a mission to accomplish, we would sashay on and change teachers.

The second series of classes were remarkably better and the new teacher had the common sense to start with the waltz and introduce dances that are slightly more useful. We did well enough to enjoy dancing at the wedding and certainly had more confidence on the floor.

Ballroom dancing is not what people need to be taking to dance at weddings. The nature of the dance itself requires huge amounts of space, everyone going in the same direction, using the same method. It is NOT what the average couple do in social situations. I had a discussion about this with the director of programs and a new class evolved......"Dancing for Special Occasions". Luckily, the director of programs had also been involved in the Passo Doble debacle and completely understood the issue. Well, now that a new class has been initiated, we simply had to sign up, as did the director of programs. It was a great hit and the only thing was that now there was no ulterior motive, or imminent special occasion to prepare a routine for. It is good exercise.

This fall, friends have coerced us into yet another round of dance class and once again, I dangle the carrot of post-class chicken wings and beer at the local pub. The Professor, always the reluctant participant, can easily be swayed by food. You have to understand his dilemma. He is waaaay taller than I am, has size 14 feet, and his only claim to fame with musical ability was playing "the sticks" in Kindergarten. By now we are on a first name basis with the instructors who are not only questioning their own abilities to get the steps across to us, but also our apparent ardor of attending classes on Monday nights from 8:30-9:30 p.m. Again, pub food can be, and is, a huge motivator.

Even more humorous was this week's class where The Professor, voted the least likely ever to dance, has become the instructor's partner for demonstration purposes. He has one other major problem. He doesn't get "the beat", which is pretty amazing since he did specialize in "the sticks"...isn't that percussion??? I have to squeeze his shoulder and count so that he can get started. It's actually quite hilarious if you have my own twisted sense of merriment. Luckily for teaching purposes, the instructor counts out loud and prompts the waiting class.

So now, not only did he have to perform in front of all the other students, but he also had to dance with me and my friend whose husband was away on business. This is quite a bit of dancing. Don't feel too sorry for his feeling awkward in front of a class, after all, he does it for a living! The odds at the Pub were also in his favour as the wings and rancher fries were split three ways this time instead of four, so the reward was worth the sweat.

I must say, he looked rather good! Now all we need is another wedding!

[No, that is not us in the photo!]

Monday, October 6, 2008

Julian Lloyd Webber


Julian Lloyd Webber is one of the world's most renowned solo cellists. He is the younger brother of the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Star of the County Down/Lady D'Arbanville Julian Lloyd Webber

If you like the cello.....try

From his album "Cello Moods"..."Nocturne No.2 in E Flat, Op. 9 No.2"

From the album "Andrew Lloyd Webber: A Classical Tribute"
"Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat"
and from the same album
"Song and Dance: Tell me on a Sunday"

iTunes. .99cents each! Happy Sunday. Well, actually Monday...I'm a little off my postings as I'm on the road again. Back on track today! Happy Monday.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Is Art Important?

I received the following letter via email. I thought it was so clever that everyone should see it. I taped a session on BRAVO last night in which a panel of people concerned with cuts to all the arts stated essentially the same things. Something to think about. I have already voted at the advanced poll today. Needless to say I am not a Conservative.

September 28, 2008
Dear Mr. Harper

I am pretty sure that I am an ordinary Canadian. I've checked the Stats Can website, and other than the fact that Joe and I earn a little less than the national average and seem to have picked up an extra kid along the way, we're really, really ordinary.

This is why Sir, I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn that you had made a statement that the arts "don't resonate" with "ordinary Canadians". I had suspected, after your 45 million dollars in cuts to the arts, that they didn't resonate with you... but all ordinary Canadians? I listened as you lashed out at artists, claiming that we stand around at "rich galas" complaining that our subsidies aren't big enough, and I could hardly speak. Although Joe and I both work in the arts, we've never been to a gala (though I hear that your wife is honorary chair of the National Arts Centre Gala) and although we both pay taxes, we've never received a subsidy or a grant... so I'm really not quite sure what you're talking about.

Joe and I added up the number of people we know working in the arts. It was virtually everyone we know (with the exception of our friends who work in Health Care, but that's a debate for another day) and not a single one of them are as wealthy as you, although most of them pay more taxes. Sorry. That was cheap. I'm still mad about your tax breaks for the richest Canadians. I'll try to get a hold of myself and stick to the facts.

The fact is that last year your government invested 3.3 billion dollars in the arts, which would be shocking except for the fact that (as reported by ACTRA's national president Richard Hardacre) the arts returned the favour by providing 1.1 million jobs within cultural industries and contributed $86 billion to the GDP. To put that in context, Margaret Atwood noted that the arts industry employs roughly the same number of Canadians as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities - combined. I see you Sir, day after day after day, talking quite rightly about jobs lost in manufacturing and the industries named above and how our country needs to make financial investments in their businesses to create as many jobs as we can, and dude... you're absolutely right. Job loss in Canada is a huge thing and boy, should the leader of this country ever be trying to prevent any further loss any way he can... and Mr. Harper... that's what makes your cuts and your statements so darned confusing to me.

I've thought and thought about it, and I've come up with some possibilities for why you're doing what you're doing.

1. You are trying to lose the election, and throwing away the votes of 1.1 million "ordinary" taxpaying Canadians by trashing them, their integrity and their industry in public is just the beginning of your master plan. (In which case Sir, I can only say "AWESOME START.")

2. You had no idea that the Arts industry was an actual industry (I mean, not like cars or oil) or that it employed that many Canadians, and when you walked off stage after making your statement, you had to ask someone why your entire campaign staff was lying on the floor seizing in a pool of their own cold sweat.

3. You're still sort of scarred about that day in kindergarten when the teacher said that Bobby's fingerpainting was nice and didn't say anything about yours, and then on top of it he got the be the carrot in the school play when the teacher knew you wanted to be the carrot and would make a way better carrot than him and ever since then you just haven't been able to see what the big deal is with the whole art thing.

4. Maybe Gordon Pinsent has always sort of annoyed you and this is a revenge thing.

5. You made a strategic decision to say that. You sat down and decided that there were an awful lot of Canadians (a lot more than 1.1 million) who would really, really want to stick it to artists. You figured that there must be an awful lot of voters who don't read books, don't go to the movies, don't listen to CD's, don't dance or watch dance, don't read magazines or newspapers, don't listen to the radio and wouldn't touch the TV with a ten foot pole and therefore don't have the arts "resonate" in their lives.
(Well. That or you were hoping that there were a whole lot of Canadians who didn't know about the 1.1 million jobs/ $85 billion dollar industry thing or were hoping they were stupid enough to be tricked. Good luck with that.)

Some time ago, when I made a political comment in this space, someone said to me that if I were going to state my political position publicly - even if I did so without condemning the views of others, that I should expect to lose the support of people who didn't agree with me. They felt that if I said I wasn't a conservative (or a whatever), that I should expect to lose the readership of conservatives (or whatevers). This person maintained that simply not being on the same page politically was enough to justify not continuing to support me professionally. This is a position I was absolutely stunned to read and still don't understand. I feel that politics belong in public. That ones political positions are a reflection of ones moral and ethical concerns, and that as long as no-one is condemned for their views or insulted for their beliefs, that everyone wins when politics are discussed in the pubs, kitchens and blogs of the nation.

That's something I've kept in mind as I listened to your speeches throughout this campaign. I reflected on how your political positions were reflecting your ethics, and kept a clear head - listening to your positions and promises. I stuck to my position, which is that it is possible to disagree on matters of personal choice while still liking, respecting and enjoying the people with whom you debate or disagree, and I believe that it is unchecked politics, unexamined policy and an unconcerned nation that let politicians run amok and invites corruption of all forms. In short, Mr. Harper... I think that the cornerstone of all good politics is respect. Respect for positions that run counter to yours, respect for jobs that are not like yours, and in this case, respect for all Canadians.... especially as you ask for our votes.

I would submit, Mr. Harper, that suggesting to all of Canada that a particular 1.1 million Canadians who have helped to pay your salary for the last several years and whose money you would like the privilege of continuing to spend, are not "ordinary Canadians" is the absolute definition of disrespect.

Further to that, claiming that you represent "ordinary Canadians" (we'll overlook the number of galas you're at in a year) while the 1.1 million of us who are working in film, music, writing, dance... are not only excluded from your definition of "ordinary Canadians", but according to you "don't resonate" with the people who are.... Well. I think it was rude. Darned rude. The Canada that I thought I lived in doesn't have some Canadians who are worth the efforts of the Prime Minister, and some Canadians who are not. The sort of Canada I want to live in has always had a society based on respect, the respect we are supposed to show each other and the respect that leaders are especially expected - or maybe owed to give their constituents was entirely absent in your statement, and a leader who is that rude to his fellow Canadians, boldly and in public - isn't observing the cornerstone of civil and progressive politics... respect.

In light of that, and remembering that ones politics are a reflection of ones morals and ethics - I'm afraid that not only have you lost my vote (Oh, fine. You didn't have it anyway) but greater than that and with every cell that I posess... I humbly withdraw my respect for you as a leader, and submit that there's just got to be a lot of "ordinary Canadians" who feel the same way.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Writer.

(PS. I am going to consider it seriously hypocritical if you keep playing music at your events, hiring writers for your speeches and getting graphic designers to make those pamphlets that keep landing in my mailbox. If art doesn't resonate... they why are you using so much of it? Just saying.)

(PPS - For the Non-Canadians who are thinking "huh?", Mr. Stephen Harper is our Prime Minister, and the leader of the Conservative Party in Canada. During our last election he formed a minority government, winning 124 of 308 seats, and 36% of the popular vote, which means that roughly 2/3 of voting Canadians didn't vote for him or his party, and chose an option to the left. (There are no options to the right of Mr. Harper.) This is possible because we have a multi-party system. Mr. Harper and the other party Leaders, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois (a federal party that only runs in the enormous province of Quebec), Stéphane Dion of the Liberal Party, Jack Layton of the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party (I'm leaving out others, but they don't hold seats in parliament) have been campaigning since The Prime Minister asked the Governor General to prorogued Parliament earlier this month (that's sort of like dissolving the current session so they can start fresh with a new government after the election) and calling an election for the 14th of October. (We do it fast.) In Canada, we don't have set dates for an election. We hold them whenever the party in power thinks it would be a good time or they run out of time (at least every five years) or whenever a government loses a confidence vote (which is essentially like getting fired.) We have no term limits - you can be Prime Minister for as long (William Lyon MacKenzie King served a total of 21 years as Prime Minister) or as little (Sir Charles Tupper was Prime Minister for 68 days) as the Canadian people allow you to serve.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:09 PM

http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An Odd Couple

It may seem odd to pair the late Luciano Pavarotti and Zucchero. They were really devoted to each other, and sang together as often as their schedules allowed. Zucchero always dedicates his song Miserere, to his late friend. I love the combination of these two and this song, now sung solo, closed the show we just saw in Toronto (after 4 curtain calls!)

Va' Pensiero
From the Opera "Nabucco"
by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)


Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate [Go, my thoughts on golden wings]

English version

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Cross the mountains and fly
Over the oceans.
Reach the land find the place
Where all children go
Every night after listening to this lullaby.

There you'll find their heroes alive
Protecting their innocence
Bless them all 'cause their simple soul
is so pure and wonderful.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Let this beautiful dream carry on
For all night long.

Lend them your golden wings
Every fear will fly away
Take them by the hand
Help'em find an easy way
Lead them back to the light,
back to the light
Where they once used to belong
Where they can remain
Children as long as they want.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Cross the mountains and fly
Over the oceans.
Reach the land find the place
Where all children go
Every night after listening to this lullaby
Every night after listening to this lullaby.


It turns out to be almost impossible to get a proper translation of these songs.
I'm going to take Italian lessons.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Coupons

I haven't been going to Michael's that much lately. This week however, there was a 40% off coupon and I needed a rather expensive regular-priced item.

Upon our arrival at the store on Sunday, we came to find that they have flyers in the stores, but not the coupons. The Professor was really, really mad at me for turning around and leaving the store empty handed because I wanted to get the coupon deal. I don't get the Mississauga News, because it's usually just full of flyers :) (I know, I know)...so now I am in pursuit of a newspaper close to the Michael's. After a cruise through the neighbourhood headed for home we learn that the flyers are not in the papers sold at the newsstands....only the one's delivered. I relent on the hunt and soothe our souls by a whirl through Streetsville, (incidentally where the Mississauga News is published and printed) and find a Shwarma place beside a cupcake place...all is right with the world!

It's Monday. Tuesday is garbage day. The next door neighbour has used her coupon. I put out an email plea. The same neighbour gallantly crosses the road to another neighbour and bargains her coupon away from her. Yeah!

In the meantime, while I have the neighbourhood rummaging through the recycle bins, I remember seeing a comment on Carmi's blog about Flyerland.ca, so I investigate further and find out that indeed you can print off the coupons and redeem them in the store.

I'm a happy camper. I have lots of coupons now, but I have to make a daily trip to Michael's, because you can only redeem one coupon per visit. The staff know me well, the neighbours wave as I drive off with my coupons in hand. I love a bargain. I wonder if the price of gas offsets the coupon savings?

Flyerland.ca

Make sure when you want a coupon, you click on the coupon link. It is a different link than the flyer link.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Date Night with The Professor

We are going to see Zucchero tonight at Massey Hall. Now that The Professor is well into his dance lessons, I'm thinking he needs to be exposed to all sorts of funky dancing. Tonight will be hilarious. Zucchero is such a strange guy. He's rough around the edges, mostly disheveled, sings in Italian...by the way, I should probably be careful what I post. I have NO idea what he's saying in these songs, but the beat, the energy and the musicality is so much fun. Dan Ackroyd likes him too! Carmi or Giovanna, I await the translation :)


I will be bopping like the back-up singers tonight and The Professor will be praying that no one in the audience was in a current lecture of his. He likes anonymity in public:) If you can sit down while this music is on, there is something terribly wrong with you! You gotta' be a Hoochy Coochy Man!!!!

End of the Pears

I know, I know, you're sick of pears....so am I. This is the end. Just so that you know...apple season is here! Just kidding!! I feel like this last week has become a food blog. I just keep staring at pears and I can't help it. You'll be glad to know they are all gone now!


And when you are coming to the end of the road with pears.......

Gingered Pear Jam

Add ginger and citrus and enhance flavour of this pear jam.

3 pounds of pears
1 orange
½ lemon
½ cup diced candied ginger
1 package powdered (1¾ oz.) fruit pectin
5 cups sugar

Core and finely dice pears to make 4 cups. Put orange and lemon through food chopper, or process coarsely. Combine pears, orange, lemon, candied ginger and fruit pectin. Bring to boil. Add sugar and bring back to full rolling boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim with metal spoon. Cool 5 minutes, skim again. Put in sterilized jars and seal. Process according to manufacturer's directions

Always be sure to use ripe pears

This is such a great photo thanks Cheryl
[photo creditfree range living]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Again, Pears


I told you I got a FLAT of pears!!!

Now that we are empty nesters, The professor and I do a very decadent thing. We go to Longo's and get an especially wonderful salad. It has baby spinach leaves, red onion, pear slices, bleu cheese, and a sprinkle of "craisins" for a touch of sweetness. They almost always have it in their ready made-up-salad section and we almost always get it when we see it. If you have a plethora of pears to use up you can always have a do-it-yourself salad fest and make this oldie but goodie from Marion Kane in the Toronto Star....years ago.

Salad with Pecans, Blue Cheese, and Pears

Marion says: "A flavour-packed salad that looks as good as it tastes. Smith uses Late Harvest Riesling vinegar for the dressing but raspberry, sherry or the yummy fig with lemon version I found at Loblaws will do. This makes extra dressing; store in the fridge in airtight container. you can substitute a crisp, tart apple for pear."

½ cup pecan halves
1 Tbsp maple or corn syrup
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup fruit vinegar [raspberry is great]
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 heads Boston lettuce [these days I'd use baby spinach or mesclun mix]
2 oz (50g) blue cheese crumbled
1 ripe Anjou pear, peeled, cored, cut in matchsticks

Preheat oven to 350F.
Spread pecans on baking sheet. Bake about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add maple or corn syrup. Stir to coat. Return to oven 5 minutes. Cool.
In bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, vinegar and olive oil until blended. Add salt and pepper.

Remove tough outer leaves of lettuce; discard. Wash and dry inner leaves; tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in large salad bowl. Just before serving, add only enough dressing to coat lettuce; toss. Sprinkle with pecans, cheese and pears.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.