Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Perfect timing

Just when I needed some artistic inspiration. Leonard is at it again ...."Old Ideas".

Perfect time for some golden old mellow. Available today on iTunes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just a bowl of cherries

Life is just a bowl of cherries. Thanks to Lauren A's recommendation, I still had a huge bag of frozen cherries from Costco that stared me in the face every time I opened the door to fish out yet one more "clear-out-the-freezer-item". The weekend was uneventful, between snow showers, cozy to be inside. There was tons of figure skating on television and my favourite Sunday evening crop of shows....The SAG awards, Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, PanAm, and I previewed the latest HBO "Luck" with Dustin Hoffman....

How about a cherry cobbler?


6 cups tart red cherries, pitted
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
4 teaspoons cornstarch


1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a saucepan combine filling ingredients and cook, stirring until bubbling and thickened. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish. Meanwhile, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until it is crumbly. Mix together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture and stir with a fork just until combined. Drop topping by tablespoonfuls onto filling. Bake for 25 minutes until browned and bubbly.

Lauren A. {the beet hater} will be glad to see that I added a pastry topping to her version of the low-fat dessert delight.... "Cherries on Vanilla Yogurt Ice Cream". Lauren, I think I've improved the weekend treat :) You knew I would :)

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
Photo Credit: http://bakinandeggs.com

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I have to go back!

"Founded by American collector and heiress to the Post cereal empire Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is one of the premier art collector's museums in the United States. The museum features the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia and a world-renowned collection of eighteenth-century French decorative art and furnishings. The collection includes Fabergé eggs, Russian porcelain, Russian Orthodox icons, Beauvais tapestries, and Sèvres porcelain. Encircled by woodlands, the twenty-five acre estate provides visitors a tranquil oasis of luscious formal gardens."

"A portrait of Catherine the Great of Russia hangs on the stairway at the mansion. Mrs Post's marriage to Joseph E. Davies took them to Russia in 1937 and 1938 when he was U.S. Ambassador, and there Mrs. Post developed a love of Russian decorative arts."

Thank you David P. for reminding me about this wonderful place. I will certainly try to make it to "The Style That Ruled The Empires".

Picture/quote Credit: http://washingtonspeaks.blogspot.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

From her viewpoint

If only history had been taught like this in school. As the Professor points out, I wouldn't have had time to read a tome such as this when I was in high school, but I don't think I would have forgotten the historical content, had it appealed this much to me then.

Catherine, her life from being a German princess, to Russian despot, as seen from her point of view....well, as much as can be gleaned from her own and others memoirs and letters. The perfect historical novel, written by a witty scholar.

This is a huge book, but it is going really quickly and I am smitten with it. Today is the perfect dark day to curl up and pretend one is part of the Russian court.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Russian Food

Start with a VODKA Tonic!
Start EVERYTHING with a Vodka Tonic

There are many versions of Borscht. This is one that I imagine is the closest to the one I ate. It is like a bowl of liquid jewels! Catherine the Great would have approved.

I love cooking beets in the oven. They usually take much longer than one expects, I always count and hour either which way, unless you have a pressure cooker.


4 beets, washed, or 2 cups sliced canned or jarred beets
4 cups meat or vegetable stock
1 minced clove garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper
Chopped fresh dill for garnish


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast until tender, about 30-45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice into strips or julienne.

In a medium pot, bring stock to boil, add beets, garlic, sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serve hot with boiled potatoes and chopped dill for garnish, or cool quickly in an ice-water bath and refrigerate to serve cold garnished with dill and sour cream.

The menu served at "Frank" coinciding with the Chagall exhibit had this on the menu. The brisket served with potatoes and sauerkraut was as inspiring as the art work!

[Apologies to Lauren A. and all those who HATE beets! :) ]

recipe credit: http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/polishsoups/r/beetsoup.htm

Friday, January 20, 2012

All things Russian

I'm so happy that I defied last weeks slushy snowstorm and braved a trip on the train and subway to see the Chagall exhibit at the AGO. It was a real history lesson for me as well as a visual inspiration. I am currently reading all things "Catherine The Great", and, as synchronicity would have it, Chagall's Russian ancestry intertwines perfectly with my obsession.

Double portrait with wine glass

There is nothing like seeing the vibrant colours of the real thing, but these were two of the most dramatic paintings in the collection.

A friend pointed me towards an audio presentation about Chagall that is very much like a lecture you might hear at Chautauqua. This is Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde. Well worth the time to reacquaint oneself with this part of history.

Hat Tip: JS

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If only for a day

The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster of temperature here in Southern Ontario. This year, I ordered a parka, online, from LLBean. It has been really, really cold the past few days, and I have never been happier with a jacket than this one. It is snugly and very warm, and has that fabulous two way zipper that allows one to sit in the car without your coat around your ears! Every time I go outside, I say ...I LOVE this coat!

If I had only ever worn this perfect parka for one day it would have been worth it.
I have been collecting quite a few items from LLBean. Big corduroy shirts are my other favourite items. They also deliver lickety-split.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back to the Ballroom

Back to Ballroom Line-dancing classes. We reviewed what we had covered last time, and this is one of my favourite melodies. I always come home with this "ear worm". Even if you can't understand the lyrics, how can you not enjoy this melody. Now if I could only master the steps :)

"Ay Amor"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

From Here To The Moon......

When your children and their children live very far away, these things mean so much. It all started of course with the book, which you can order from Amazon.

I got my mug from "Winners" ...one of those flukey moments, but now you can order the mug from Amazon. It's made by Konitz.

The other night, I was watching Letterman and it just happened that Dolly Parton, sang this song. Synchronicity.

These make wonderful gifts for new babies, or just Grandmas that miss their own babies.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Mushroom Soup Challenge

Life is full of challenges, but none quite as daunting as the "Mushroom Soup Challenge". The Professor picked up two flats = 24 cans of mushroom as opposed to one flat of mushroom and one of tomato. He swears the Mushroom was in the Tomato spot :)

We've had the famous tuna casserole with potato chips, and a version to use up frozen meatballs, as well as one evening just eating it as SOUP. We still have 21 cans to go.

Personally I grew up with mushroom soup on pork chops and chicken and I know that the "purists" find this really disgusting, but to me, it's a bit of comfort food. Luckily it's cold and wintery now....perhaps I'll donate one flat to the food bank, which would take us down to 9 cans, but in the meantime, make sure that you mention what your way of using the soup is.

I may even invite you over for dinner!

Friday, January 13, 2012

How Canadians Learn their Colours

I remember as a child similar festive occasions with cousins when your activities went relatively unnoticed by the adults. It was so easy to just sneak off and busy oneself with all the new and exciting nooks and crannies to explore. With a not-yet-1-year-old and a not-yet-2-year-old alternately crawling and running around a big house, it's easy to take your adult eyes off things for a few moments amidst all the merriment....

It may have all started with a rousing rendition of Skinamarink....not sure, possibly the sippy cup got confused with the wine glass???

Okay Wyatt, here's the deal. Some adult left all this recycling here in the kitchen, so I suggest we try and get our colours right and really impress them....first...go for the GREEN can!

Okay, great, now the BLUE one. Good Wyatt!!!

Red is such a Christmassy colour....tip it up boy!

Oh for heaven's sake. Boys and their beer! I'm going to try for the white wine.
Very refined.

That's our girl!

Disclaimer: No alcohol was consumed by underage drinkers in this post. The men in the family get every last drop!

Photo Credits: Auntie T.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Got my "singing voice" back

Lately I've been seeing the oddest things as "signs"....I'm not sure 'signs' of what, but long time friends showing up out of the blue, hawks, from the tops of oak trees in the back yard waking me...

then, on the way home from "5 Guys Burger and Fries" radio blasting Sixties on 6...in the brisk sunlight...an oldie from "The Hondells"...where I found that my singing voice has returned...meaning, the END of pneumonia! This is THE most official of pronouncements. The sign here is probably what in the WORLD were you doing in Five Guys?????

I was belting it out and returned home to find a "Groupon" coupon for Scooters...it's a sign, I'm sure of it. I'm also sure that if I'm driving the scooter, The Professor is going to have real trouble with the moves required in the song :)
First gear... it's all-right
Second gear... a lean right
Third gear... hang on tight
....Faster...It's all-right!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Best Bar none

At a recent Christmas gathering, I was introduced to the latest Charles Pachter book, "Canada Counts". You may remember this Toronto artist's "M is for Moose"?

I have a copy waiting for Zoë, but more importantly, within it, I also have a taste tested recipe for Nanaimo bars. "Ma Soeur" made this version of what we nationally claim to be "ours", not unlike hockey. These confections are one of my daughter's favourites, and indeed, SHE, who doesn't cook, made Nanaimo bars herself this year.

The book is amazing, and, as Hélène pointed out to me, the visual teaching value of numbers is wonderful. Ma soeur was the kindergarten/primary teacher that everyone asked for. She was part Mary Poppins and part Nanny McPhee which made her very effective, if not magic with 5 & 6 year old children. She also wore neat clothes, another reason to abide by her recommendations :)

I'm not sure which recipe I have followed for years. I'm sure it wasn't with chopped almonds in the base layer. This recipe is the one I will follow from now on. As I said, it was taste tested and as "bars" go, this is the best so far.

The official City of Nanaimo recipe.

I highly recommend this book, not only for the recipes...Strawberry-rhubarb pie too, but also for the enduring Canadian images so beautifully represented in numbers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

So many challenges

The problem with bloghopping is that you can get a bit over stimulated if you don't keep yourself in check. It all started with Ludgera and her idea about the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt. Of course Ludgera will diligently have this quilt whipped up by next week.

It reminded me that some time ago, obviously in a moment of madness, I purchased a similar project called Dear Jane...a civil war quilt. I don't even know where the book is at this point, but it's somewhere in the quilting pile.

Back to the theme here....Ludgera's blog led me to Fussycut. Angela's listing of all the interesting things she's doing got me not only intrigued about knitting and finishing my afghan, but also the the Instagram project. "The January Photo a Day Project"

Mary Ann Moss (Happy Birthday today!) is now into Instagram, so I had to find out all about it to quell my curiosity. Turns out, I'd already installed the app and had a few followers, but never truly understood the drill! I'm going to try and use this one exclusively with the iPhone.

Roben-Marie, like many others is doodling, and I've just about finished my on-line class with her inks, so I have a raft of supplies.

As I was scurrying around the house trying to find suitable photo subjects, The Professor and I had a discussion about whether or not everyone does EVERYTHING, or just one of these things. I tend to want to do EVERYTHING at once instead of focusing. That was the end of the discussion.

Nancy is doodling too. Have a look at The Sketchbook Challenge.

As for me....I'll be dreaming and scheming (quilting, knitting, photography, doodling) as I tackle a few Monday household chores and then face the canvas tree skirt that takes up the entire dining table. The afternoon sun is the best light.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Don't Forget! Tonight is the Premiere of Downton-Abbey Season 2

Why do all the good shows come at once! We only have two television sets and the VCR is constantly on record. We have no way of ever catching up. After having nothing to watch since Christmas specials, there is now "The Crimson Petal and the White", the first two episodes of which I reviewed last night. THE steamiest version of Victorian England that will ever be aired on t.v.

Tonight of course they've put all the teasers out for "The Firm", "Luck", "The Good Wife", "Pan Am" and of course "Downton Abbey". We'll be recording and no doubt running up and down stairs while flipping and flapping the remote! Let me know if I've missed anything.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Resolution: I will not sign up for any more classes until I have finished

Most of the bits and pieces are back where they stay until next Christmas. I'm not sure why, but there is always a lot of rearranging even though it all goes back in "exactly"? the same place each time. Why does it expand???

It has been so long now that I can't even remember when I had the fat idea to paint a canvas tree skirt by Catherine Holman.

It seemed like a great thing at the time. I was in the thick of folk art painting and the pattern was by one of my favourite folk artists. She has subsequently specialized in cupcakes....my kind of woman! In the day, I even took a course from her in an effort to ape her fastidious style.

So, it is now 2012, and this is a picture of a picture of the fabled tree skirt

These are a few more of the pictures in the packet that would be used to complete the project.

This is a photo of what has been completed to date and shoved under the tree, for more years than I can count, with the unfinished portion well to the back!

This the paint that is required to finish the project. It's in a Christmas cookie tin that hopefully brings seasonal inspiration.

And this is all that I have to finish!

This cannot be put away one more year without at least the skaters on the pond! My eyesight is not getting any better, which by the way, might explain why even Catherine Holman is making BIG cupcakes.

I'll be at the dining room table in the full daylight...see you next Christmas! :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

One down

I usually decide whether or not to read books based on the New York Times book review. For "The Night Circus", the cover alone enticed me to read the book despite the nebulous review by Stacey D'Erasmo. I have to say that after reading this one, I concur completely with her interpretation of the text. I think someone else mentioned that it was a lot of people waiting around a circus for something notable to happen.

This is one tome, that I think is already in the works and will make a spectacular movie. As I flipped along, I was mostly intrigued as to how one might design and construct sets as per the descriptive. I'm not sure if I'd recommend this one. You may borrow my hardback copy if you wish.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What a difference a Year Makes

Trying to take a picture of a 2 year old is like trying to nail jello to the wall!

We are never quite sure what the story is that she is telling with her action packed drama...something about a cat and a kangaroo....the cat obviously wins.


Happy Birthday sweet girl.
Zoë Jane, 2 years old today! Yeah!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Artist: George Lepape (French 1887-1971)
*Denise Poiret at "The Thousand and Second Night" Party.
Gouache, 1911

Photo Credit: The Web