Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Cookbooks are not just for cooking…Cookbooks are for inspiration, for lifting the spirit and freeing the mind, for brightening the outlook as well as your parties and table conversation…for understanding people and places, for revelation of the past and for the interpretation of the present…for culture, education, for inviting the soul, reviving memories, reliving experiences. Cookbooks, like poetry, are for the intensification of precious moments. Where, except in cookbooks and in lyrics, does one find so much emotion distilled, charted and recollected in tranquility? ---
(Anonymous, quoted in House Beautiful.)

‘Tis the season for cooking and baking. Actually I don’t know any season that isn’t for my family. But you know what I am talking about. The winter holiday season is upon us. And it is time to leave the computer and turn on the oven.

Each November I make a dozen fruitcakes from a recipe handed down by my paternal English grandmother. This one is a light, melt in your mouth, lemony, almondy, fruity, raisiny, shortbready, yummy cake. It keeps for months in the refrigerator and had been declared “better than fudge.” Now, if you are a purist and prefer your fruitcake rum-soaked and heavy with currents and fruit peal, then my cake may not interest you.

Perhaps I could offer you some of my shortbread. I make several batches with finely chopped pecans, shaped into small log shapes, baked and rolled in white sugar. On the other hand, if you prefer the traditional Scottish shortbread, (butter, sugar, flour and nothing else, for heaven’s sake), made in large circles that are then cut into individual serving pieces, you might not reach for my "pecan logs."

Instead of plum pudding for Christmas dinner, I like to serve lemon meringue pie or cheesecake or a lovely concoction of meringue, fresh berries and whipped cream. All are deceptively light and luscious after the capon. Oh, did I say capon? Yes, after too many winters of eating leftover turkey and broccoli casseroles I finally began cooking a capon as the alternative option for our family Christmas gatherings. While a plump, twelve pound capon, with wild rice and almond stuffing and a maple syrup glaze, may seem like something of a sacrilige, it suits us just fine.

Most of the time I cook without a recipe. Having spent enough years learning the rules, I can now modify then at will. It is just more fun that way. But when it comes to Christmas fare, I follow my old recipes carefully. Each year, I drag them out of their folders, spattered, yellowed, mutilated scraps of paper. And each year I think, I really must rewrite these recipes, better still put them on a computer file. But there is something precious about seeing my mother’s handwritten notes for the pecan logs, and my grandmother’s barely legible scratching of her fruitcake recipe. And the capon recipe is one I clipped out of a newspaper at least a decade ago. When I pull it out of the file, all crinkled and stained, I am reminded of all the past Christmases to which this little recipe has contributed, and has never failed to delight.

Sometimes, ritual is repetition; other times it is a variation on a theme. I subscribe to both. But when it comes to my favourite Christmas recipes, there is no substitute for the original. Once the seasonal baking is past I will carefully return each little piece of paper to its appropriate cardboard folder. I know I should transfer them to a document in my computer. I just don’t know how to archive memories.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Kreativ Bloggers Abound

My dear friend, and fellow (mmm, another gender biased term) blogger, Tessa, of Nuts and Mutton fame, has just bestowed this beautiful award upon me. It is most humbly accepted and appreciated. Actually, its greatest value is in the recognition that blogging is quickly becoming one of the most fascinating areas of creative output on the internet these days.
There are rules and conditions attached to this award, as follows:
1. List 6 things that make you happy.
2. Pass the award onto 6 Bloggers you consider to be Kreativ.
3. Link to the blogger who gave you the award.
4. Link to the blogs receiving the award.
5. Notify the recipients.
So Forthwith, these are a few of my favourite things, tra la.

1. Quiet, lazy mornings, with coffee and newspapers (fireside in winter, lakeside in summer)
2. Walking in the sunshine on a country lane
3. Chardonnay at sunset
4. Reading, writing, or playing bridge in the evening
5. Blogging at midnight
6. Grandchildren at any hour

Since I am new to the Blogging World, I have only just begun to discover how many clever, invigorating Blogs are being written daily. It is primarily through Tessa, my Blog mentor, that I have learned about The Fabulous Geezer Sisters, The Huffington Post, and the Happiness Project. From other sources I have been directed to the TED blog, and the Sensual Gourmet:Omnivorous Ramblings by an habitual Eater. (I couldn't resist the title, if for no other reason.) And last but not least, right back at ya' (God, please don't let me sound like Sarah P.), is my favourite, Nuts and Mutton.
The fascination of these blogs is their originality and energy, some by professional writers, others by wanna bees, and just regular folk, who have something to say. While many of us live inside our own heads, more than we care to admit, some of us, some of the time, are eager, indeed, compelled to shout out...Notice this or that idea, event, commentary, or better still: Notice me, my words, and how much I have to share with you.
I do believe that inside each of us is an artist seeking an audience, applause, and approval from others. Otherwise, what's the point.? Remember how one of the highlights of our Primary years in school was "Show and Tell." This outward seeking and sharing is the very opposite of narcissism. And the very nature of the Kreativ Bloggers Award, whereby it requires a reaching out and a recognition of, at the very least, six other Bloggers or Bloggettes, reinforces the communal generosity in all of us. Hurrah for all of our sensual and omnivorous ramblings.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Stewart, Elbert, Ainslie
England, 1942
Three brothers, my uncles, served in the second world war. Two of them came home. One of them married a beautiful English girl, Patricia, the mother of Carol and Cheryl. A wedding photo shows the couple on their wedding day. One of the attendants at their wedding, Elbert Dowd, standing on the far left, is the brother who never came home.

The following article is a duplication of the news story that was published in the Ottawa Evening Citizen, Thursday, October 5, 1944, written by Doug Howe. With the Canadian Corps on the Adriactic Front.

"Canadians in Italy Recall Gallantry of Late Lt. Elbert W. Dowd, Ottawa

The two engineers said they could talk about Lieut E. W. “Ebby” Dowd for a long time.
He came from Ottawa. He used to play football for Queen’s University while he was getting his degree in engineering. He came overseas as an engineer officer. [After two years in England, he took part in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns.] He came out to Italy with a squadron and became a reconnaissance officer. He was killed September 1, 1944, during a reconnaissance two miles out front of everything else Canadian. That wasn’t the first time “Ebby” Dowd or lots of other Canadian engineer reconnaissance officers had been away out front, but that was the time he got killed doing the same sort of thing he had been doing for months.

Spr. George Harrison of Toronto Was Ebby Dowd’s driver operator in his scout car. He was the man who saw Dowd wounded by a piece of shrapnel and got him back to medical attention a lot faster than it is easy to believe. He had been with Dowd on many of his reconnaissances, like the one he made in daylight over the Foglia River at a time when the Canadians were wondering who and what the Germans had in their Gothic Line positions on the other side. Dowd had made that reconnaissance on his own initiative. There were a lot of things that had to be found out about river crossings and minefields. So Dowd and Harrison parked their scout car and slipped down the slopes leading to the floor of the broad, flat Foglia valley.

“We got across all right,” Harrison said. “We made the reconnaissance and we’re back when we bumped into a patrol of Cape Breton Highlanders, and the infantry outfit we were working with. Dowd turned around and showed them the ford he had found.”

“Everything was quiet at that time, until we heard a German voice calling to us. They had snipers lying around there and this German lad was picking himself some grapes. He thought we were some of his mates. By the time he recovered from his surprise we were escorting him back as a prisoner.”

“The Reconnaissance on which Dowd was killed was one we were making along the road towards Tomba di Pesaro. There were Germans all around the place and he went along as he always did, standing up so that most of his body was outside of the turret. He had his own idea about mined roads. He said if we didn’t hit one, there weren’t any there, and if we did hit one, then we’d know where they were. That’s the way we were going along this time, two wheels on the road, two in the ditch. For some reason the Jerries hadn’t bothered us until this one shell came over."

Three pieces of shrapnel hit the side of the car. The fourth struck Lieut. Elbert Watson Dowd.

In keeping with the day, I just want to add a link to the now famous video "A Pittance of Time." It is worthy of a yearly viewing along with the famous "Flander's Fields."

In Flander's Fields John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.

Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep,though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Monday, 10 November 2008


There are lots of lines about HOPE being quoted these days, including some of Obama's memorable words. Here is one of Emily Dickinson's famous pithy poems, perhaps a little more sentimental than her usual style. But, hey, in this "defining moment" in history, "faith, hope and love (aka charity)" are just what we need, in abundance, and from all the sources we can gather.

And while I couldn't find any images of Barack with feathers, I did find one of Michelle, representing the values of her husband. Please note her corsage of purple feathers.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
....Emily Dickinson....

Sunday, 9 November 2008


For any of you who have the longing to visit (or revisit) Paris, the way I do, here is an article by Michelle S. Kurlander. I subscribe to the Bonjour Paris newsletter and her article on Obama's November 4th victory initially caught my attention, with the title, "I guess I am not moving to Paris." From there, my meandering eye found this little article. Who knows, maybe Obama will begin to make all good things happen. Maybe 2009 will be the year to sip wine in Paris and speak of love, hope and prosperity for all. That idea is worth stuffing into one of my dreams. How about your dreams?

Saturday, 8 November 2008


I had another discombobulating dream last night. Once again I was lost, confused, and dislocated from my environment. It all began with me in a school setting of sorts, none like I had ever actually been in before, even though my childhood and subsequent career were primarily school based.

I ventured out of the staff lunchroom to wander through a mall that was somehow connected, by various passages, to the school. In anticipation of my necessary return, I tried to remember the landmarks as I wandered on my solitary excursion. Nothing eventful happened, not even a grand shopping spree, even though I am always looking for that next, great pair of shoes. (Hmm...Remembering a previous dream where my feet had been so scantily shod.)

When I attempted to return to the school base, I kept getting lost down hallways, stairways, strange rooms. I would retrace my steps and try another direction. With each futile attempt I was becoming more frantic. I felt trapped. Somehow, I guess because I was completely enclosed in this mall environment, I had no way of distinguishing left or right, east or west. I had lost all compass points. And furthermore, unlike Ariadne and her famous spool of thread, I had not received any warnings, any assistance, taken precautions, set in place any safety measures, to ensure a safe rewinding of my life and location back to where it was before I dared to venture forth.

I obviously need to give serious thought to the “stuff” of my dreams. And I should heed my mother’s admonition to carry, not only clean underwear, but also, a ball of twine.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008



Just when I thought that
I was through with love,
And love with me,
A windmill in my mind
Begins to spin with thoughts of thee.
A wind so strong it splays the shafts
Of tears that spring within,
Repressed desires, rise again
And activate new fears.
These thoughts of you, a touch, a tone,
A hand that knows itself,
And knows what regions of my life
To reach and to engulf.

If I were any other self
I’d shrink and disappear
In order to avoid the risk
Of loving one, for fear
This loving was a phantom
The windmill generates
‘Till when the wind dies out
Then, we are left inviolate.

Monday, 3 November 2008


"She's got the whole world in her hands."

In case you are not familiar with this site, please check it out. In particular, I recommend you watch the video of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's "Stroke of Insight". While the video (picture) "is worth a thousand words", Dr. Taylor's words themselves are also very powerfully delivered. Please dont be daunted by the 18minute length. Once into it, you may wish it was even longer.