Posted in General, humor, humour, Uncategorized

Oh, dear! Self-Isolating!

So, let’s start with a light-hearted story.

It had been snowing and we had been out shopping – oh, yes, this was before, what does Trump call it, the Chinese Disease? How ignorant! No, he’s changed to the Invisible Disease. Before COVID-19, anyway.

Not only had it been snowing, it had rained on the snow and then frozen some of it into ice. That slippery substance.

We got out of the car, not together: My Beloved out of her side and I out of mine. I said across the top of the car, be careful and follow in my footsteps. So, we edged towards the trunk which was open and had bags of foodstuffs – reusable bags, not plastic ones. Sobey’s nowadays has no plastic bags in the store, so you have to use your own. Reminds me of going shopping with my Mum before WWII where Mr. Fruen would cut some rashers of bacon off a slab, place it in a piece of newspaper and hand it to us to put into our bag.

I led the way very carefully across the icy patch where I could put one foot after another onto a patch of sand I had previously thrown down. The rain had melted some, however. Which again had refrozen, so it was a patchwork of sand patches. Hm! One step after another, I edged my way towards the steps where I could see safety, reminding My Beloved to step into the steps I had gone. I had almost reached the steps when a foot slipped and I couldn’t move forward or backward without fear of not only falling here, but sliding all the 50 metres down the driveway on my butt. I had done that on my front some years prior, much to the delighted chuckle of My Beloved. So, as I seemed to be temporarily stuck, My Beloved decided I was there in perpetuum. She tried to move around me, safe on her boots with spikes in the heels.

Nope! She was who ended up on her butt, sitting on wet ice, soaking up the water in her slacks. I must point out that My Beloved has knee and back issues which prevent her from getting up from the ground without support. I was the support.

Nope! I, or rather we, could not raise her from her decidedly cold, wet perch. Well, I said, there’s only one thing around here which will help. Silva, the car with the open trunk and rear-view camera. Oh, I had to shut the trunk on order to have the camera showing where I was going rather than up into the cloudy heavens.

So, I went back and put it into reverse and hoped the accelerator wouldn’t stick as I edged towards My Poor Beloved. And that the brake would work. Slowly, Silva backed up, even more slowly, as we approached the target. Well, perhaps that’s the wrong word: the supplicant, might be better. With her feet just about under the rear fender (bumper for you Brits), the brakes worked. Together, we were able to get her hands into the trunk and she could pull herself up. Then, by stepping very carefully on her spiky heels, she reached the steps and we got Silva unloaded and parked.

So you may be wondering what the featured pic is at the top of this post. One day, at the end of February a knock at the door meant the UPS man had brought a totally unexpected box. On opening it, we discovered all of the items shown: a bag of Liqorice Allsorts for Gramma, a Toblerone for Grampa, some caramels for both, two bags of seasonings, a jar of marmalade for both, I think, but it could have been for Grampa, and some photographs of her, ourselves with her, and a framed one with her between us. And additionally, a beautiful card telling us she had been passing by a store, went in and suddenly saw a number of items she knew would appeal to her grandparents. So she bought them, packed them and UPSed them. Out of the blue from a granddaughter – yes Cierra.
And we were so astonished we cried.

But, back to the present, two weeks ago, after shutting the door of the Commercial Enterprise Centre, where I volunteer, we went into self-isolation.

Actually, we have had lots of practice at this. For some forty years, our risk management consulting business has been run out of our home, so the two of us have worked very easily and satisfactorily side by side for all that time. We’ve never had an issue ending in a nasty argument. Reasonable discussion has always ended well. And we’ve never gone to bed without saying I love you – and meaning it. So, the only difference is that we cannot go out together and, say, shop. Or go to the theatre. Or go to church.

I say, only difference: however, it is not until the first two weeks have passed that we realise how large a difference it is. Previously, we have been able to go out together to shop, to the theatre, and to church. And to other places, like a friend’s place for dinner. One day, a week ago, it was Sunday, Saturday had been gorgeous, at least we Nova Scotians though it had been. It was; it was a pleasant eight degrees Celsius. So was Sunday. But the wind was strong and the anticipated pleasant walk along the beach would have been rather cold, so we sat in the car, opened the windows for fresh air – and fresh, or rather windy, it was – so My Beloved’s window got closed fairly quickly, and we took in the view from inside Silva.

Look at the beautiful blue sky in the photo; it looks so lovely. But the beach was empty except for a lady and her little child and they look huddled up. That didn’t surprise us. Nor you? Oh, you may see two others and a dog way down the beach. Certainly, those on the beach are maintaining their required 2-metre distance of separation.

I believe that only one person now is allowed to go out to get essentials, such as food or medicines, but we don’t: (a) for people of our age (87), it is much too lethal if you get it and (b) we order from the store, pay online, then, at an appointed time, go to the store and they put it in your trunk. So far, we’ve had to do this only once. Before we did that, a couple of friends had bought and delivered a few items, but we don’t ask them any more, as we consider it too dangerous for them to go to the store for us and we don’t want to put them in danger.

Yesterday, I phoned a large order of food at the Superstore and they have given me an appointment of Saturday, April 4th between 10 and 11am to drive to the curb and they will put the order in the trunk. Times are interesting. 

I have been taking the non-regular walk with my Nordic poles when weather allowed, say ‘Hi’ to the odd walker or dog-walker across the other side of the street, saying how sad it is we can’t stop and chat these days, and, two days ago, after returning, I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves and sat on the main deck in the sun for another good hour. This afternoon, I simply walked around the main deck 50 times, registering 1,600 paces in 15 minutes.

Also, I have been preparing a PowerPoint presentation for every Sunday service for four years now and, as we have now gone to on-line ZOOM, I am still preparing it for every Sunday, only it’s changed to Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist. If you’d like to join us, go to our web site http://www.stnicholasanglican.ca/virtual-church/ and click on the church at 9.30am Atlantic Daylight Savings. In the UK that would be 1.30pm and in San Francisco, 5.30am so, note the time difference.

Other volunteer work includes being Chair  (Beryl is the Treasurer) of a large Adult Literacy/Numeracy network and up until a few weeks ago, too, we were still busy with it. Not now: it is basically totally shut down, but at least one of our teachers is maintaining contact with students virtually. 

Although I didn’t like our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he was elected and though he has started employing shut-down and financial assistance somewhat, in my opinion, a bit late, I have been impressed recently both by the new emergency programs enacted and his daily conversations with the nation followed by answering of press questions outside his residence. An American friend recently told us that Canadian citizenship is a certainty now simply because of the way he has been handling the COVID-19 issue and his daily reports – particularly as compared to Mr. Trump. And as for the economy: it will recover. That’s my prediction having seen “Black Monday in October 1987, in 1994 and 1998; the Latin American, then the Asian currency crises, then during 2001-2003; the Tech Crash, and of course, 2007-2009; the global financial system meltdown” to quote from a financial advisor friend. All of those My Beloved and I rode and came through safely, so I still believe the economy will recover.

A really big event occurred two weeks ago, before we were self-isolating: My Beloved applied for and got her Blue card to hang in the windshield, so we can now park in the best spots. Large benefit for an unfortunate life-changing mobility issue, which she has dealt with without complaint for well over a year now.

Our dining-in has been very varied, for our freezer has been overly-stocked for ages and it is about time we started using some of our comestibles. A daughter and son-in-law, Tanis and Robb, buy us a whole lamb from an old school and military friend, Sharon, every year. So far, every year, anyway. No guaranties, I guess. So we still have a lot of Brutus left. But, for lunch, I will vary it from yogurt and unsalted roasted almonds or cashews to peanut butter and tomato sandwiches to the plate below.

Lunch: beefsteak tomato, a pickle, pickled dill carrots, jalapeno Monterey Jack cheese; banana for desert.

And with that, I bid you keep safe and free from the COVID-19. By the way, you did know how it was named by the WHO, didn’t you? Of course, you knew it was from coronavirus disease of 2019.

Blessings on you all.

Posted in Dining, General, humor, humour, Uncategorized

Crossushi, Raw Water and Mouth Cooking

I like to think of myself as a Foodie -sometimes a gourmet and sometimes a gourmand, but always a Foodie.

But recently I came across an article in the Oxford English Dictionaries Word of the Day mentioning crossushi, raw water and mouth cooking and I wondered what they were.

Crossushi, it turns out, is manufactured by a bakery in New York and is a cross between a croissant and sushi as we know and love it: a sesame-seed-topped croissant with smoked salmon, wasabi, and nori seaweed. Well, I could certainly handle that as a Foodie.

Raw Water is something quite different: it is unsterilised water taken by those who do not believe there should be chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals in drinking water. Well, I drink that all the time, since we obtain our water from a 200-ft/65-metre well in our property. The only chemical of distinction in our water is arsenic. True. But I have been drinking it for well over thirty years now and I still have quite a head of hair. But others, apparently, simply get their water from streams and open water. Nah, that’s not for me.

Now we get to Mouth Cooking. Oh, my, after I discovered what that was, again, courtesy of OED, “A viral YouTube video called ‘Cooking With Your Mouth’ features a chef preparing a Christmas turkey stuffing entirely with her mouth – from dicing onions by chewing a big bite to zesting lemon by scraping the rind against her teeth to mixing a raw egg by swishing it around her gums” I decided that was distinctly, definitely outside the realm of this Foodie.

Yes, I have often shared a fork, say an escargot from My Beloved’s dish, or a spoon, say a small piece of my grandson’s chocolate torte, but chewed food out of another’s mouth? Not for me.

The article went on to posit whether Shakespeare was a gourmet or gourmand. Perhaps we will never know for sure, but judging from the many times food is mentioned in his thirty-nine plays one might consider he was, like me, a Foodie. Consider some of his lines:
Eight wild boars roasted whole for breakfast, and but twelve persons there. (Antony and Cleopatra)
Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers (Romeo and Juliet)
Do you think because you are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? (Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night)
Then again, Drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things………nose painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but takes away the performance. (Macbeth) [Nose painting, by the way, is the reddening of one’s nose through drinking.]

Interestingly, Jennifer Beard wrote a book of recipes based on Shakespeare’s works and one was Shrewsbury Cakes taken from that Twelfth Night quote above https://anaspiringhomemaker.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/shrewsbury-cakes-an-elizabethan-cookbook/.

I cannot end, of course, without recognising that we have had two of our daughters here over the past two months, both providing a huge help in the weeding and planting of flowers. One grandson has also been here helping with some of the heavier chores, such as chopping and stacking wood. They all will be gone towards the end of next week, but shortly after in August, another daughter and her two daughters will be arriving from California. It is possible, hopefully, that a fourth daughter will be arriving by herself (children all grown up and husband cannot get away from work) for a week or two just before the other daughter and granddaughters leave. Too bad our son will not be able to make a trip here from Victoria, BC, but, in September a dear friend from England arrives for three weeks. And, obviously, we will have more adventures for Foodies over the next two or three months.

Last night, one daughter, one grandson, My Beloved and I each had a more than 2-pound

lobster and My Beloved’s fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. Oh, that makes me, with good wine to slosh it all down, like the printers, an all-in-one gourmet, gourmand and Foodie. And if you know our family, you always leave a last slice of new bread to the very end, when it is smothered in butter and Marmite. Oh, yummmmmmy!

And I leave you with some words from this Foodie:

I go to the market to buy me some bacon
but when I get there, my tummy starts achein’,
for I see all the goodies lined up on the shelves
and to them my eyes are drawn all by themselves:
Hershey dark choc’late and Breyer’s ice cream
and things that I love and not just in a dream
like peaches and crumpets and jams with great flavour
and spices which I in my curries can savour.
As I pass by the shelves I select this and that
much more than I came for – and that’s a true fact.
I’ve seen so much choice that my will’s got forsaken
and I choose so much more than the one slab of bacon;
my cart is so laden with peanuts and Ruffles
to get to the car I can barely do shuffles.
It’s not till next morning as I stand on the scales
the neighbours for far sure can all hear my wails.
So, gourmand or gourmet or plain simple Foodie
fill up my tummy and I’ll never be moody.

Posted in General, humor, humour, Uncategorized

What a Difference a Play Makes!

Yesterday, My Beloved and I went to our excellent downtown Neptune Theatre to see
– and hear, of course –
Jonas and Barry In The Home

Jonas and Barry - IMG_20180128_1608275.jpg

It was hilarious!

The playwright, Norm Foster, a Canadian – a Maritimer, actually, coming from New Brunswick – has written 59 plays, I believe most, if not all, are comedies, and in any year has at least 150 productions in Canada. I have seen only two or three, but thoroughly enjoyed laughing through them.

Barry is a curmudgeon, as Jonas initially calls him, having come into the seniors’ retirement home on the basis that his daughter, who works there, wanted him closer so that she didn’t want to go to see him at his house, only to find that the place smelled of rotting flesh, he having died two weeks previously. Jonas gradually gets Barry to open up and meet “girls”. Jonas is quite the flirt and has a libido as wide as the horizon. (At one point, he admits to Barry that one evening, he looks at himself and sees “an old man’s penis”, small and flaccid.)

Jonas continues to build Barry’s confidence up throughout the play and Barry eventually turns into a man-about-town. And interesting to us was that Norm Foster himself played Jonas. The essence the Director wanted to leave with us at the end of the production was make yourself happy first and then others will be made happy by your attitude.

If you should ever have the opportunity of seeing this, or any other Norm Foster play, do go and see it.

And after the matinee performance? Dinner, of course. At a restaurant to which we had never been, but just 100 paces from Neptune’s door, East of Grafton, a tavern of sorts.

We, apparently, should have had a reservation, for they were full, the hostess told us, except for two seats at the bar or at one of the high tables, where the stools have no backrest. So, we were in a quandary, trying to decide if we wanted to stay in one of the two uncomfortable places or leave, when a young server came up to the hostess and told her he could find us two seats at a table for four, which, we presumed, the people had reserved and not turned up. Ah, God works in mysterious ways, even on the floor of a pub.

We ordered a bottle of Malbec, one of our favourite wines from Argentina, and perused the menu. On our way to the Neptune performance, we had glanced at the menu on the window, so it did not take long for me to decide on the Salmon Tartare and Fish and Chips. My Beloved pondered over it longer, because we could not find the Open Face Lamb Sandwich on the menu, but which we had seen on the menu on the window. “Oh,” our server told us, “that is only on the lunch menu, however,” she continued, “I will see if the chef will be able to put one together for you.”

Our lovely young woman quickly returned and informed us that the chef said he has one lamb sandwich left and My Beloved can have it. Oh, seems like God continued to work in mysterious ways in the pub!

My Salmon Tartare came with a couple of toasted slices of French bread and was more than delicious: wonderfully sushi-ish, ground up salmon mixed with some form of creamy sauce, possibly with dill involvement. My Beloved had a couple of bites and declared it to be as good as I had.

My Beloved’s Lamb Sandwich arrived.

Open face Lamb Sandwhich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to My Beloved, the lamb was sitting in a bowl of bread and it did not really live up to its promise – not that I heard it promise anything – but the lamb was a bit dry, she said. Perhaps it had been sitting on a shelf since lunch.

As far as my fish and chips was concerned, I had been informed that the remoulade on the fish was unavailable last night. That didn’t make any difference to me, as I had no idea what a remoulade was, so I didn’t miss it. The haddock fillet was quite large, larger than those we have been able to get fresh recently, and cooked just nicely: that is, still a little moist inside, so it is not at all dry. And the fries, oh, they were excellent. Small, thin and well deep fried. Mmmm! I shouldn’t have had them. I should have ordered a side salad. I’m sure glad I didn’t, though.

Fish & Chips.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to you, My Friends, I bid you bon appetit with whatever you are about to eat and leave you with the following thought……

bacon-quote-quotes-Favim.com-640819

or, Shakespeare said….

A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.

Henry IV – Part 2 – Act 4 – Scene 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Minus Temperatures Not Welcome

I know when I see -3C (yes, below freezing) on the dashboard of Lava for the first time in around twenty years that I am no longer away from Nova Scotia and in Palm Springs, California for the winter. Lava dashboard -3C - IMG_20171215_1232295

Yes, although forty or fifty years ago I might have enjoyed the prairie minus thirties or forties, that was when we were raising five kids and it was fun taking them tobogganing or watching them play hockey outdoors while our feet froze. Today is different. There are no kids around to raise. But one is coming with a grandkid and a dog from Atlanta to spend Christmas and New Year with us. It will be fun – but mostly indoors or simple walks.

I am too old to enjoy shovelling snow and scraping car windows – not that I have had to as yet – but my friends here say that I will have to ere winter is out. And, from past Nova Scotia experience, I remember that snow does eventually arrive here, even though one memory is of mowing the grass on the day of Christmas Eve. However, maybe I will not have to do much, as the fellow who ploughs our driveway has agreed to come after he has finished ploughing all of his clients and shovel the front deck and around the cars.

Having said I do not look forward to shovelling snow, I went for a walk yesterday at Peggy’s Cove. Some of you have been there in summer, a few may have been there in winter, but few have been there as I was yesterday with a a howling wind, -3C with a wind chill of -10C, crashing waves on the rocks, BUT blue sky. It was magnificent!

The following is a slide show and 6 pics will rotate:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now, many of you who have received my Scribblings over nearly 20 years, will expect to see something about food, so let’s see what we can do. Which would you prefer of the following two meals:

Stand-up-spoon pea soup with fresh out-of-the-oven bread (mmmmm!) and butter!IMG_20171111_1819294

OR:

Hospital dinner the night before having a pacemaker inserted –
(cold beef sandwich with egg salad sandwich, apple sauce, a cookie, a banana and tea – OK, they did provide this as a special as the real dinner time was long past).IMG_20171115_1224460

All right, you don’t have to answer that question and it’s time for another home-made dinner of hake and spinach salad, which sounds and smells good to me.

I hope you enjoyed reading and looking at this. See you in another post soon.

By the way, if you want to see me on Facebook, I am going by the nom-de-plume of Nuntius Muse.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why five-year olds are smarter than I

Do you remember when we used to telephone a friend or a business colleague?

That’s if you had a phone. We were fortunate to have one – they were hard to obtain just after the World War II. But, as my Dad was involved with a number of activities such as being secretary of the chess league, secretary of the Lay Readers’ Association, substitute organist at our church, Image result for telephones of the fortiesbesides being a school teacher, he was able to get one. None of my friends’ parents had phones. Even my dear Beryl’s parents, whose father was a principal in a school, had no phone. This was 1946 and just after World War II in England. Beryl tells me that her parents did not get a phone until after she had gone to university. Wow! Doesn’t that seem unreal? My grandkids just cannot understand a world in which there were no telephones.

What it meant in reality for me was that if I wanted to go out and play with one of my friends, I had two options: get on my bike and go to see if he was home; or, stay at home and wait to see if he was going to come and visit me. So, we used to pre-plan and arrange when we were going to play, where we were going to play, at his house or mine, or whether we would get a group of us together to play soccer or cricket, depending on the season. Later, when we were teens, during summer, at almost any time, we could go to the church tennis courts and find someone to play.

And we used to write letters longhand, or cursive, as it is called today. Something which schools are now abandoning. I had a toy typewriterImage result for toy typewriters of the forties which had a rotating centrepiece, made of lead on which the letters of the alphabet were set; lower case on the upper row and upper case on the lower row. You rotated the wheel to the desired letter, then struck a key (note the two keys, one on each side of the wheel) which launched the wheel forward to strike the carbon ribbon. The letter was then imprinted on a sheet of paper you had inserted on a roller. The keys shown in the picture were fake and merely made it look like a typewriter. I got pretty speedy at whipping the wheel around to the correct place and wrote letters to aunts, grandparents – and my parents.

I first was introduced to the beginnings of modern communication technology in 1956 when Beryl and I immigrated to Moose Jaw, Canada. My first job immediately on arriving, found for me by a friend, was as newscaster from 6pm until midnight on “CHAB Moose Jaw, 800 on your dial.” In those days, as newscaster, you were also the news editor and I would have to review the teletype (TTY) or Telex machines

Early Telex Machine

to see what news Associate Press, Reuters or Canadian Press had sent out and, if any of significance, cut it out of the paper  roll and clip it together with other snippets, (the origins of cut and paste), which I would then go to the microphone every half hour and read. It was also my job to insert local news on the AP or CP machines, each having its own network requiring a different TTY.

It was not until several years later, after Beryl and I had moved to Winnipeg,  that I found myself writing editorial satirical verse for the Winnipeg Free Press, that I bought a typewriter for myself. I believe it cost twelve dollars.

After moving to Montreal in 1974, we bought one of the original Atari gaming computers. It had PacMan and other games, including one simulating star wars-type planes battling each other.  Our children loved it. I loved it.

In 1978, I parted ways from my employer: Beryl and I incorporated Melanber Inc. as an independent Risk Management consulting firm and we very soon realised we

Typeball

needed a good typewriter. So we bought a Royal. It really wasn’t so different from my toy typewriter: instead of a rotating wheel, it had a rotating and pivoting typeball. However, there were a number of different balls, quickly and easily exchangeable, allowing you to use different fonts within the same document. Another innovation, pioneered by the IBM Selectric, I believe, was that the paper stayed still and the ball moved across the paper. And, of course, the machine was powered by electricity, so it was really pretty fast at typing.

Xerox 820.jpg
Xerox 820-II with a printer in background

Two years later saw us spending an enormous sum, close to ten thousand dollars for a newly introduced Xerox 820-II computer and daisy wheel printer.  From the picture alongside, note that  beneath the monitor is a box with two slots: one for the Operating System, which was a brilliant one, far better than Windows, called CPM (Control Program/Monitors and later “Control Program for Microcomputers”), and the other slot for Wordstar, a word processing program, or Supercalc. a forerunner of programs like Excel. Many a night, Beryl stayed up printing a 50-page report. When I may have typed a word in, say, italics, a code would stop the printer, the daisy wheel would have to be changed and then changed back again after printing the one word to the original font.

In those days, we knew a lot about computers and programs. Things began to change.

Image result for pic of shoe phone
The shoe phone

The world started to change: computers became faster and able to manage data much more efficiently. And then came the mobile phone. While the TV series, Get Smart, popularised the shoe phone, the Germans produced mobile phones for the use of its rail and mail service and offered first class passengers mobile phone service in the mid-1920s. During WWII, the military used mobile phones and some American cars were installed with mobile phones in the 1940s, but these were bulky and the network could hold only three or so conversations simultaneously.

Motorola produced the first popular and more user-friendly mobile phone in 1973, but it weighed 1.1kg and was 23cms long. Hardly a truly mobile phone. But look where phones have come since then.

Today, the smartphone is a mini-computer and, while I have been able to master some of the apps which are on my phone, I have to call one of our grandchildren to find out how to work Twitter and how to use hashtags. I had no clue. Just watch how a 5-year old manages a small handheld video game. There is no way I can use one. I have absolutely no idea of how video games work. Mind you, I really have no interest in them since my Atari became dinosauric in technology criteria. It’s still in our basement, so maybe I should go and bring it up and see if I have progressed or regressed. I think I know which it would be!

And that 5-year old will still be smarter than I.

Posted in Uncategorized

Best of Times with Friends

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

“Life can be enjoyed at many times in many ways, but, to me, the best time in which to enjoy life is dining with friends.” – Me

My Beloved and I just held a lovely dinner party. We love to entertain, but there is also joy in the preparation: the planning of a dinner party; whom to invite; which days can all come; who doesn’t like or cannot eat what; choosing what nibblies for their arrival; what courses to offer; what wines to offer; what party favours to give them as they leave;  and yes, even joy in cleaning up afterwards with My Beloved.

The mixture of guests has to be planned with knowledge of each one’s personality. Consider the style of humour of each. One given to racy jokes cannot be mixed with another who is more conservative. If one is garrulous, will others be able to opine? Maybe one who becomes more and more verbose as more and more wine is consumed should not be invited. We didn’t have to disinvite anyone!

So, after changing the date and bringing it forward, all our chosen guests managed to be free on the same, but different Saturday from the one first chosen. How fortunate was that! We chose three couples, so we were eight in all, but My Beloved and I were the only ones who knew them all. No couple knew any of the other guests, yet it worked out as we had planned and hoped so very well. Everyone contributed to the evening’s conversations, which, while some of it may not have been sparkling, none  was jejune, yet nor was it esoteric and, to add to the entertainment value, there was much mirth.

My Beloved and I worked together on the menu, but she, and she alone rules her kitchen at such times, prepared the entire meal from nibblies to dessert; my sole contributions being mashing the potatoes and coming up with and preparing the party favours. Oh, and making of the wine. I suppose that counts a little toward the success. Although, with today’s safety consciousness, people do not drink as they used to when we were wild sixty years ago. I could make a really entertaining From time to time... on that subject.

One other small contribution I claim was to ensure that a roaring fire was going in the fireplace by the time the first couple arrived. If I say that one good lady hogged it warming her back to it for some minutes on arrival, despite the fact that the temperature was well above freezing, I say it only because I recognise a fellow hogger. I love to stand in front of a fire with my back to it – in fact, frequently, after getting up of a morning, I stand with my back to our en suite French windows letting the sun play warmth on me before getting into the shower. No, you don’t want even to imagine such a scene.

img_20161112_1809338Nibblies comprised an assortment of nuts, barbecued and others, a cheese ball and crackers, and peppery pâté on cucumber slices. Some drank white, some red wine, one chose a beer, and one chose not to drink any alcohol, just iced water from our well.. There was some ‘getting-to-know-you’ conversation and some surprise chuckles before we were called to the dinner table.

No nonsense about where to sit around our dinner table: you sit where you find your nameplate, having been carefully chosen by your host and hostess. And, hey! they all got along with no food fights. No throwing of the soup or the bowls. But what was the soup? Butternut squash and apple soup. Mmmm! Rather tasty.

img_20161112_1922340
They’re not smiling as they wanted to get back to their main course – or was it their discourse?

The main course followed, consisting of pork tenderloin with pear and cranberry sauce, carrots, peas and mashed potatoes. I must admit that in enjoying the food and conversation so much, I almost let the fire go out. Ah, but the Boy Scout in me returned in time to save the fire.

Nobody seemed to complain about the dessert, a luscious dark chocolate mousse. Oh, I have a sister-in-law who cannot stand chocolate, but she is the only person in the whole world I know who does not like chocolate. Her loss!

Coffees and teas and more water all round before one couple had to leave. Usually, that is the sign for others to leave, but not that evening. We sat around discussing the planet’s problems, from ecological to political to social. I cannot be sure we solved any of them, but we had a good time and laughs trying to do so.

Eventually, all good things must come to an end and, after giving the departing guests their individual favours of spicy hermit bars in neat little party bags, My Beloved and I cleared the table, save for some cups which would not fit into the dishwasher, and packed the mashed potatoes and tenderloin left overs away, set the dishwasher going and sat down with a glass of wine each. And, I let the fire dwindle to a nice glow.

Our friends are all so nice; we love them all. They are such gracious and loving people. As I said at the beginning of this essay, the best way to enjoy life is dining with friends. We thank God for them.

Then, feeling very satisfied, we went to bed the next day – yes, after midnight.

I can tell you, I did not get up a few hours later and stand with my back to the sun, as it was a foggy morning, so you don’t have to imagine anything unappealing.

 

 

 

 

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Remembrance Day – Why I am proud to be Canadian

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The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is reserved in 52 nations of the Commonwealth, mostly territories of the former British Empire, as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day.

And here in Canada, all Government offices, most businesses, all the large stores, virtually all enterprises except some restaurants and pharmacies are closed today. This is what makes me so proud to be Canadian, that much of the country shuts down to honour the Canadians who died in, and the veterans of, the Great War 1914-1918, Second World War 1939-1945, Korean War 1950-1953, Persian Gulf War 1990-1991, Afghanistan War 2001-2014 and the many UN Peacekeeping missions. And honour them we do.

Thousands turn out for services at the local cenotaph or legion and, in Ottawa, tens of thousands attended the National War Memorial service where dignitaries laid wreaths, followed by other organisations and, of course, the Silver Cross Mother. The Silver Cross Mother is chosen by the Canadian Legion from the ranks of grieving women who lost a child serving in the Canadian Forces.  This year she is Colleen Fitzpatrick of Prince George, BC. Her son was wounded badly in Afghanistan when stepping on a roadside IED. He died back home in Edmonton, Alberta, two weeks later.

Commentators are saying this year that, as they have been watching the Ottawa ceremony over the past two decades, the interest and crowds are getting larger and younger, with many of the millennials attending. If this is so, then Canada has much of which to be proud.

Were I a cynic, I would say that all the businesses shut down just to make a long weekend: that is false, however, for in other years when Remembrance Day does not fall on a Friday or Monday, the same stepping back from day-to-day business in order to revere and honour those who sacrificed themselves and the veterans who served their country is shown.

Which is why I am so proud to be a Canadian.

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I like dining……more gourmet than gourmand

I like dining in. I like dining out. I like dining.

The word I have used above is “dining”. It doesn’t say food; it doesn’t say snacking. While I like food, I am not much of a snacker and my food has to be delivered in relatively civilised and refined places. I am not one who will buy a hamburger at a food truck and eat it standing on the street. I am one who might buy a hamburger in a well-known chain of restaurants and sit down and eat it there. My preference, however, is to enter a restaurant with or without a reservation and be seated by the maitre d’ in order that I can then “dine” well.

Or, I do not have to ‘dine’ in a restaurant, as it could equally be in a home, could be ours, could be someone else’s, and dine on well-prepared food. Food that has been chosen by someone and prepared by someone for the relaxation and refreshment of others.

I like to think of myself as a gourmet rather than a gourmand. Perhaps a number of decades ago I might not have minded the moniker of gourmand, but not in recent decades. The difference is that I no longer eat when I am full, see food and continue to eat, as is the habit of a gourmand. Gourmet, epicure, gastronome, bon vivant might more appropriately be applied to me, although bon vivant sometimes includes one who enjoys parties. That’s not really me, although once I am there at a party, I seem to enjoy myself. It’s the getting there that is ofttimes a challenge.

Let me provide an example of fine dining I recently enjoyed very much.

It has been a few years since we last dined at Gio, in Halifax, so we thought it was about time that we returned there. A daughter and her 11-year old son were staying with us, My Beloved and I were all going to the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and Gio, being a short walk from the BNS Centre, was a good choice.

IMG_20150702_170201Christy, who took our phoned reservation, was at the reception desk when we arrived. She very cheerfully greeted us and proved to be a delight throughout the entire two hours of dining. She was very knowledgeable about the menu items and the wines.

After preliminary drinks of Kir Royale for our daughter, Pinot Grigio for My Beloved, a sort of Virgin Singapore Sling concocted by the barman for our grandson and a bottle of 2012 Cotes du Roussillon VillagesIMG_20150702_170219_hdr – a Grenache, Syrah, Carignan blend – by Carmel & Joseph for me, although I, of course, shared it with the ladies after they finished their preliminary drinks, we looked around. Everything impressed. The ambiance was attractive and totally different from that which we remembered several years ago. And now splendid! Bright, cheerful and well-spaced tables, although we were seated at a booth at a large window. And beautiful lights.

IMG_20150702_173412_hdrWhile we were waiting for the drinks, Christy brought us an amuse bouche, cucumber tomato gazpacho with arugula pesto in IMG_20150702_174747_hdra bowl.

As appetisers, our daughter chose the poutine with polenta fries. She found the poutine gravy and cheese tasty, but the polenta fries disappointed: nice and crisp on the outside, but as soon as they were touched by fork or mouth, they crumbled under the crust. She assigned an A for trying, but a C for result. We all sampled the fries and agreed with her summation.

IMG_20150702_174718_hdrOur grandson and My Beloved chose the seafood chowder and declared it was full of different seafood, including several mussels. And was deliciously creamy. It was definitely not a stand-up-your-spoon-in-it sort of chowder.IMG_20150702_174656_hdr

I elected to sample the catfish tostada, which was pan-fried catfish on toast with refried beans, guacamole, jalapeno crema, and a grilled lime on the side. I thought I had made the best choice, but that’s only my opinion.

15 - 16Christy was at all times attentive to our needs and brought us some focaccia bread for dipping with some olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. The bread was excellent and obviously homemade.15 - 24 (1)

Following the plates being cleared, Christy appeared with yet more complimentary items, three for the adults and one for our grandson. They comprised a very tasty little shotglass of sorbet to clear the palate and the grandson downed his as if it were a shot!

15 - 26The menu is very extensive, the Chef being innovative and adventurous, and it had taken us all a little while to decide on our mains courses. However, our daughter chose the Beef, seared tenderloin  and tempura cheek, with pancetta-stuffed roesti potatoes, Brussel sprouts, and sauce chasseur. Although it was all very tasty, she said she just couldn’t get enough of the potatoes.The tenderloin was tender, and just cooked and rare – just as requested! Our daughter prefers her Brussels sautéed: however, these were steamed.

Our grandson and I both ordered the Elk, which came having just been seared, leaving it IMG_20150702_181907_hdrtrue blue on the inside and double-wrapped on the outside with bacon. It was exquisitely tender, tasty and not at all gamy. The accompaniments were beet and Beemster (a cheese) pierogi, lemon and caraway crème fraiche, cabbage, elk sausage (small pieces in addition to the tenderloin), oyster mushrooms and sauce soubise (a sort of onion sauce based on Bechemel). Everrything made my mouth water for more.

15 - 30My Beloved chose another appetiser as her main, the Wild Boar, cornmeal crusted tenderloin, with corn relish, blue cheese egg yolk and apple walnut butter. She declared it to be very good.

Christy again appeared with some complimentary extras comprising a pineapple-orange soda soufflé for each of us. Wonderful server and wonderful service.15 - 31

IMG_20150702_185146_hdrThe grandson had to have some dessert, of course, and selected an ice cream concoction with wafers and seven or eight miniatures of the soufflé.

It was a superb dinner, made all the better an experience, as our daughter treated us to this feast fit for a Gourmet.
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It’s almost a year now, but love of her stays in my heart

How we grow attached to our cars! They are inanimate objects made up of thousands of pieces of metal and plastic or, if you are lucky, wood, too. Yet they are sexy. We caress the steering wheel, we stroke the hood, we don’t let anyone smoke in them and, yes, we even talk to them, gently, sometimes angrily. And we love them.

Thousands of pieces of metal and plastic were brought together in a Chrysler plant some time in 1997 and  the sum of all those pieces was delivered to a dealer near our home.

I fell in love with her one summer day.

There she was, in all her silvery glory in the dealer’s yard, her lovely eyes appealing to me. Yes, we knew at once that we were meant for each other. She had a sliding roof and all sorts of electronics. I weIMG_20140513_132252ll remember the salesman taking My Beloved and me out to her and pressing the key to unlock her. “Oh,” he said, “there must be something wrong with the alarm, for it should have sounded when I pressed the key.” “Not at all, ” responded My Beloved, “He’s already found out how to silence that while you were putting the papers together.” If there’s one thing I cannot stand with alarms, it is that they make rude noises when you approach or leave the car doors. I consider such noises impolite and a lady, such as she I had just purchased, should never have to utter such rude sounds.

This 1997 Chrysler LHS (then Chrysler’s top of the line auto) had no name and we could not come up with one which seemed to suit her. Until, a few days later, we drove across the continent from Nova Scotia, to pick up My Beloved’s sister and husband at Seattle airport and immediately on to Victoria, British Columbia, for our son’s wedding. We had crossed into Maine, passed through Hartford, Connecticut, the Adirondacks, by-passed Chicago, and entered Montana, all at sort of around the legal speed limits. However, Montana had no speed limits, so….

……yes, you guessed it. I had to discover what this LHS would do. So, foot pressing on the accelerator, she moved up quickly from a sedate 130kph, through the 150s, then through the 160s and 170s to 180. She was flying along, so she and we agreed on the name Fly.

But, again, as she got to 180 kliks,….

…..Oh no! The engine cut back and she slacked off to 170kph. I depressed the accelerator again. And again, like the beautiful woman she was, clockwise went the needle until, once again it registered 180kph. Oh, no! The engine cut back and I realised she had a governor preventing her from showing me the full extent of what the lovely 4.2 litre heart under her hood could do.

Despite having a governor, Fly was fast enough for us generally. She did Trojan work for us and we enjoyed the wondrous ability she had of traversing the continent seamlessly from Nova Scotia to Palm Springs, California, with a fully loaded trunk and back seat, a round trip of 17,000 kliks, including detours to visit family in Atlanta or Denver or Vacaville, six times, including one memorable trip along the real Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Fly flew other long trips to Montreal and often to the neighbouring province of Prince Edward Island and served us magnificently, whether we were travelling near to or far from home.

But, there always comes the day when, as she grew older, much like us humans, she had aches and pains, some of which cost a lot of money in the auto hospital. And there is no national health program for distraught cars, so we had to pay for the fixing. Then came the day, the very sad day when it was just not worth the money to fix Fly, who seemed to have died overnight, peacefully in her sleep. We phoned the car funeral home; the hearse came, loaded her beautiful silver body on to the back of it and…..

……we teared up as we saw her depart down the driveway, through the trees, and off to car heaven.

Our sadness is ameliorated by knowing that all her parts are donatable to other cars and will live on.

RIP Fly – 1997-2014

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What do you say in an elevator?

I had a friend, Barry, who would stand, while waiting for an elevator, as close to the door as possible without touching it. When the doors opened, the individuals would be greeted by this face staring at them and saying “Good morning, all!”

Of course, he didn’t always get a laugh or a reciprocal greeting, but he never got punched in the face.

So what do you say when riding in an elevator? Do you say , “Good morning,” or “What a great day it is,” or do you just turn around and stare at the floor numbers as you ride up or down? The point is, we should all be taught from childhood that small talk is acceptable, useful, courteous and, often, fun. Yesterday, I was in the Dollar store buying a box of Beef broth My Beloved needed for a sweet potato salad. I chose the line in which just a couple of young woman were buying a stick each of chewing gum. So, I should be out quickly. However, it developed that they were in the line-up really to buy three gold balloons and three other balloons, all of which had to have the helium injected by the cashier. Oh, my! This is going to take a while, I thought. I turned around and faced the man, a Spanish American, and said to him, “I always seem to choose the slowest line!” He responded by saying he did, too. And we started a little conversation. Then a voice from the next cash desk said, “I can take the next person.” As a result of that little friendship we had struck up, the gentleman backed up out of our line, smiled at me, and asked me to go over to the new line, holding back others behind him, before he himself followed me.

It was gracious of the man. But would it have been the same reaction had I not introduced some small talk? I think it may well have been different.

Back to the elevator, so many people are afraid to offer even the smallest bit of small talk. Or, they might feel embarrassed; or they could be in a bad mood. What is small talk? A dictionary definition misses the point, I believe, when it defines it as “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions.” [Emphasis added]  In my opinion, while it is useful on social occasions, it is more necessary in day to day contact with people whom we do not know or those whom we may know from work, but who are not our friends. More than one article has been written about the necessity of small talk in business, particularly in two situations: in interviews for a job; and in negotiations. The person who is able to open up with commenting on a current news event, the traffic hassle getting here, how the Leafs actually won a game, or even the traditional standby, the weather, is going to be more interesting for the interviewer or other party in a negotiation. The interviewer can get a better feel for the person inside the body sitting in front of him or her. The atmosphere will more likely become more friendly and, in the case of a negotiation, who doesn’t prefer to do business with a person you like, a friend, rather than someone other.

Small talk is not a waste of time: it establishes a good first impression and imbues a person with confidence. When you talk about movies, travel or the concert you attended last night, it shows you are a friendly person, one who is easy to talk to or converse with.

So, next time you negotiate a ten million dollar deal, make sure you look the person right in the eye (eye-contact is important) and say you murdered your grandmother last night. It is reported that President Franklin Roosevelt occasionally greeted a guest by saying that and the response was usually a polite nod of the head, until one person actually replied, “She probably had it coming to her!”

So, next time you are in an elevator, look around at all other passengers, speak up and say a big “Hello and good morning!”