Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas 2015

Just to bring everyone up to speed.

Doug was diagnosed with thyroid cancer late May of this year. He had no symptoms, and they actually found the cancer while having a look at his heart (which is fine, more than fine, it's SUPER fine, because as Doug keeps reminding me, his doctor said "wow, you have the heart of an Olympic athlete.")
He had his thyroid surgery on August 24th (yup, our 30th wedding anniversary, proving God has a warped sense of humour) and while it slowed him down (first time anything has) he recovered really well. 

The next step was the restricted diet - no iodine, i.e., no iodized salt or sea salt, no dairy, no egg yolks, no fish, seafood etc. He lost ten pounds in 2 weeks which he claims has improved his hockey game, so SILVER LINING. Next, the radioactive iodine treatment in hospital, which he got last Tuesday. Following this, he has to be in total isolation because he's radioactive, so he drove up to our lakeside cabin with books, art supplies, cards, laptop, his keyboard and lots of food.

I'm on standby in case he runs out of anything or if he forgot anything (but I'll have to knock, lob it at him and run away into the woods.) He'll be back home on Sunday, so we will have our Christmas dinner when he returns.

He doesn't have Internet access in the cabin, so let me thank you all on his behalf for the many kindnesses and shown to us and all your good wishes. We really are very lucky. That being said, I will be really happy to kick 2015 to the curb.

Here's to a happy, healthy new year in 2016!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Buddy is Home

I collected Buddy's ashes today. Such a small box to contain a dog with such an oversized personality. I'll be honest, it was difficult being there. A family was leaving as I arrived, grief etched on their faces, so my composure dissolved before I'd even walked through the door. But the women who worked there were lovely, hugs and Kleenex were passed around, and I got through it. They really are angels, doing the work they do. It's so appreciated by those of us who are grieving and not quite in our right minds.

As I drove away, I looked down at the clock and it read 11:11. (My sisters and I joke that when we see 11:11 on the clock, it's our Nana saying hello from the other side.)

Hi to you too, Budster. You're home now, little guy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Montreal Walkabout

Missing Buddy something fierce today, so I decided to walk to Atwater Market.

Met a pleasant looking older woman who was walking her two little dogs, so I stopped to pat them.

Our conversation moved from dogs (nod nod) to Barbados (nod nod) to children starving in Haiti because 3/4 of the population believes in voodoo so they take babies into the woods and leave them to die because they're NOT CHRISTIANS (wait, wha-at?!)

After several minutes of this nonsense, I finally said, "Surely you don't believe that God punishes children because their parents are not Christians?" And she said, "No, no. It's not God. It's the devil."

The dogs were cute at least.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

R.I.P. Buddy

Buddy died in my arms last night, at home, peacefully and quietly. He had been diagnosed with cancer last May, and it slowly invaded his body, ultimately affecting his heart and lungs. The vet said Buddy would not make it to see the summer, let alone live through it. But live he did, tail wagging and eyes sparkling, and I made sure he had the best summer ever. He ate steak and fresh strawberries, swam and retrieved endless sticks, chased chipmunks off the deck and napped on the couch. And then I had to let him go. I woke to my new reality of life without my beloved Budster. No gentle snoring in the corner of our bedroom woke me this morning, no nails clicked behind me on the hardwood floor as I made my way to the kitchen for coffee. My home feels so empty, and my heart is broken, the price one pays for loving so fiercely. We sign up for this reality when we bring that puppy home to share our lives, but damn it's hard to say goodbye.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer flowers

Playing around with the Canon.

Love the sharper images this lens provides.

All under the watchful gaze of The Budster.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Carefree Summers

I was born in the fifties. Helicopter parents were non-existent. Most of our parents were barely out of their teens themselves, so benign neglect skirting the cliff edge of negligence was par for the course, which was usually where you'd find the young fathers on weekends. "Go outside and play!" was our mothers' mantra. "And don't come back until I call you for supper, the street lights go on, or you're bleeding." The moms slathered on baby oil, held reflectors under their chins and discussed the merits of Toni® home permanents while we made our own fun.

Someone always had a soft red, white and blue rubber ball, or an India rubber ball which bounced a lot higher, but left bigger bruises after Dodge Ball. We played Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, Tag, and a game with linked elastics pilfered from the junk drawer. Some called it Chinese Jump Rope, but it was actually a Korean game called Gomujul. We called it Jumpsies.

Every girl had at least one skipping rope and knew several songs. Taking a turn in Double Dutch took mad skills. You had to choose the exact moment to leap without getting snarled up or neaned in the noggin, as my grandmother put it. Then you'd sing:

I'm a Girl Guide, dressed in blue.
Here are the actions I must do.
Stand at attention, stand at ease,
Bend my elbows, bend my knees.
Salute to the captain,
Bow to the Queen,
Turn my back on the dirty submarine.

Ordinary Movings was a game you played alone. You'd bounce a ball against a wall, and call out and perform various actions. There was a tweedle and a twaddle move at the advanced levels. We'd also pilfer our mother's lingerie drawers for a single stocking, load it with a ball, stand against a wall, and whip it back and forth over our bodies while reciting:

Have a cup of tea, sir.
No, sir. Why, sir?
Because I have a cold, sir.
Where'd you get the cold, sir?
At the North Pole, sir.
What were you doing there, sir?
Catching polar bears, sir.
How many did you catch, sir?
One sir, two sir, three sir...

And....more bruises. Hula hoops weighted with sand were used in contests difficult for girls like me without curves but easy for the older girls, who could mesmerize the boys as though they'd tossed them opiates.

Everyone knew "One, two, three O'Leary" and:

On the mountain, stands a lady,
Who she is I do not know.
All she wants is gold and silver,
All she wants is a nice young man.

Except we changed the "nice young man" to "ice cream cones" because ice cream always trumps young men when you're seven. We played with intense focus and competitive spirits, and there was strict enforcement of the rules, no exceptions, even for younger siblings.

There were apple trees to climb in the orchard next to us, forts to build bikes to ride and roller skates to be screwed onto sneakers with metal keys. If we felt really ambitious, we'd organize an impromptu game of baseball on the local school diamond, and grab mitts, balls, bats and players as we ran like a pack of feral dogs to the local park. If fall meant games of conkers, summer was for marbles, and winner-take-all tournaments. I had excellent hand-eye coordination and killer instincts, so I usually came home with my purple velvet Crown Royal bag filled with booty (which had a whole other meaning back then, as did thongs, which were worn on our feet.) It drove my mother crazy when I swaggered home, as she found competition unladylike. All's fair in love and marbles, I'd argue.

If we were lucky enough to scrounge up a nickel each, we'd head to the local general store where I'd freeze with indecision. I could buy one bottle of Coca-Cola, snap it open on the side of the big red cooler, and it would be gone in a couple of gulps. Or I could get one Popsicle, or a Jet (chocolate covered orange sherbet), or a lemon fountain with a licorice straw, which meant hacking up a lung full of powdered sugar. I always opted for penny candies, because a nickel bought a lot. As I shifted from foot to foot, the clerk would fill a small paper bag with black balls, Pixie sticks, Bazookas, wax lips, candy buttons, licorice pipes, BB bats, and sometimes, a bonus bag of salted sunflower seeds. We'd head home, pile on the hammock, crack the sunflower seeds with our teeth and spit shells into the grass, as we chattered like the birds overhead.

Eventually street lights would flicker to life, and our mothers would holler for us to come in to bathe, and slather our sunburns in Noxema cold cream before bed. But we'd always sneak in one more game of hide and seek on the way.

Olly olly oxen free!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cycling Through Life

Michael Palin said one of the most important days of his life was when he learned to ride a bicycle, and so it was with me. 

And every spring since, there has always been that one day that marks the turning point, when a whiff of freshly thawed earth and new grass hits me, and it's so intoxicating I am as sun drunk as a gamboling lamb. 

As a child, warmer weather meant two things; I could replace the scratchy wool tights under my school tunic with knee socks once it hit 50F (mother's rule, strictly enforced) and I could haul my bicycle out of storage and once again pedal to infinity, and beyond. I remember my first proper two-wheeler in the early '60s. My parents led me into the living room and there, leaning against the white brick fireplace, was a new royal blue bicycle, complete with a bell and long pink streamers. I was so overwhelmed I froze, then sobbed, confusing everyone. They couldn't know, but I understood the significance of this moment. 

This wasn't just a bike, this was freedom, the means to become an intrepid explorer and go far beyond our dead-end street in the suburbs. 

Susan Anthony said, "She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life."And I believed it, even at that young age. I would master my life with that beauty.

My friends and I rode our bikes everywhere, a wild posse bent on adventure. You can't be sad when you ride a bike. It's the human equivalent of a dog hanging his head out of a car window. Nothing dampened my enthusiasm; not when the local bullies stepped in front of me on the road and the leader yanked the streamers from their rubber plugs, not when I wiped out and Zambonied the pavement with my face. I knocked out a front tooth and scraped the skin off my forehead the day before my Kindergarten photo was taken but in the shot, I'm still grinning from ear to bloody ear.

Later on, a bike brought me to my evening job at the doughnut shop across town, and my summer job at the golf course at 4:45 a.m. to prepare coffee for the early birds. It kept me employed and fit. Rolling down hills at dawn with the wind in my hair was as close to flying as a young girl could get.

When I graduated from university and landed a grownup job, I bought myself a 3-speed, black Raleigh with gold lettering, complete with bell, headlight and wicker basket looped on the handlebars. For a while, that bike was my entire social life. Every chance I got, I'd head home from my demanding job at a Toronto ad agency, load a sandwich and Newcastle Brown in the wicker basket, and head down to the island ferry. As we chugged across the water, the bustle of the city was left behind. I'd cycle around the island on those soft summer evenings, eat my picnic dinner on some grassy spot overlooking the harbour, and ponder my future while chilling with the ducks.

Years went by, I moved to Montreal, got married, had kids, and ended up in the suburbs where cars ruled the road, and racing bikes or mountain bikes were piloted by serious sports enthusiasts in matching spandex. The Mighty Raleigh gathered dust.

Now the kids are launched, and I am back in the city where bikes are de rigueur.  People commute to work, meander through parks, or visit farmers' markets on their bikes. Montreal is made for cyclists. I pulled my Raleigh out of storage for old time's sake, and she's still a sturdy, reliable old gal. I replaced the leather seat with a wide gel cushion to accommodate my wide gel cushion. The wicker basket is frayed but still serviceable, and the bell works. It's now a retro bike, dubbed a "crowd pleaser" and revered by hipsters sporting beards and man buns. Where once I was mocked for channeling Miss Gulch, I have circled back to cool. It's the preferred method of transport for artists and poets. When I fill that basket with flowers, a baguette and a bottle of wine, I'm living in a French novel.

I was in the process of booking a full bike rehab when my husband surprised me with a fire engine red electric bike. I'm not exactly sure how it works. It's like a scooter without the mojo. Apparently you can pedal it, or you can let it haul your carcass home if you run out of gas, metaphorically speaking. I'm just looking forward to climbing back in the saddle. My sweet Raleigh will be on standby because old school is on trend right now, and frankly, I need the workout.

Albert Einstein said "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." 

Einstein pondered the Theory of Relativity while he rode his bike. 

So maybe it's time to dream big, pedal hard, and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Buddy is Busted

Doug and I had a date night tonight. 

A dinner out. 

A new place around the corner. (Lucille's. Very nice. Most Excellent plate of oysters on the half shell, calamari, steak and lobster rolls. A lot of extreme facelifts all around us, and I don't mean renovations to the restaurant. But I digress.)

We were gone...maybe two hours, if that. We were with Buddy all day, and in fact, when I went to the gym this afternoon, Doug waited until I got back before he did his errands so Buddy wouldn't get lonely. 

I took him for a long walk, fed him, and played fetch the monkey with him for twenty minutes. Even though that monkey was soaking wet with dog saliva and smelled like corpse, I picked it up and flung it over and over again because it made my furry little friend happy.

To Summarize: The Budster was well fed, amply walked and played with, so he wouldn't have the energy to get into mischief.

And yet he still felt compelled to do this tonight. How did he get in there, I hear you asking? Don't you make sure all doors are closed securely, knowing he has a history of murdering paper when he's alone? Well, someone (hey, no names, no finger-pointing, but there are only two people living here and it wasn't me) left a door ajar.

You tell me. Guilty face? Or unrepentant miscreant?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Italian Wedding Soup

How have I not heard of this before? I've gone to Italian weddings. I've eaten my share of soups over the years. And I've made my share of soups over the years. Soups like Corn Chowder, or Parsnip Carrot Ginger soup, or Tortilla Soup with Avocado, toasted tortilla strips and a sprinkling of cheese.

But this Italian Wedding Soup?

Best soup ever. Ever.

This is an outstanding soup. One of those soups that sits in the tummy like a warm hug. It fills your up without you feeling stuffed, and stays with you a long while. This came via my friend Julie Kentner who lives out in Winterpeg, so she knows from soup.

The original recipe came from a blog called thekitchn.

Try to find escarole if you can. I wasn't sure what it was or whether my local IGA would have it, but you'll likely find it in the lettuce section. It's a tad bitter, but once you cook it as directed, it gets sort of sweet and infuses the soup with a certain earthiness. I'm making it tonight, but I have to substitute escarole for something else (they were sold out! is it really that popular? is it because it's listed as "scarole"? is that really the French translation or was the label guy just lazy?)

 Here's hoping a mix of rapini and Swiss chard works as well.

If you have homemade stock, bring it, baby. If not, I like to use Knorr chicken broth or Campbell's in a pinch.

Here's the recipe. I changed a couple of things from the original. Most notably, I can't eat oregano, so I substituted basil. You can look at the original by following thekitchn link above to see the other cheeses etc. they recommend.

(Also, it says it serves 6-8. In what universe? We ate most of it in one sitting. Nom, nom, nom.)

Italian Wedding Soup

3/4 pound ground meat (I used a mix of beef, veal and pork or use turkey, chicken)
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
3 large eggs, divided
1 cup Parmesan/Reggiano grated cheese, divided
1 TBSP fresh basil or 1 tsp dried (so sue me, I read it wrong, I used 1 TBSP dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced (I used a Vidalia, which is sweet)
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch greens (such as escarole) trimmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
 (about 6 lightly packed cups)
Red pepper flakes
Lemon wedges

Combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/2 cup of grated cheese, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Mix thoroughly with your hands, then form the mixture into small balls, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. You should have 20 to 30 meatballs, depending on how large you form them.

In a large Teflon skillet, heat 2 TBSP olive oil over med-high heat. Add meatballs in batches and cook, turning, until browned all over, which will take only 3 to 5 minutes. (A bit pink in the middle is ok because they will finish cooking in the broth.) Place them on paper towels to absorb the oil.

In a large soup pot, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of oil over med-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, taking care not to let them brown (it will be as bitter as my grade one teacher Miss Campbell who clearly wanted to do anything but teach, and did not appreciate my inquisitive young mind) so, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Add the greens, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the meatballs and cook another 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the last 2 eggs and the remaining 1/2 of grated cheese and whisk with a fork to blend.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot soup, stirring constantly.

Cover and simmer just until the egg is set, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately and add a dash of red pepper flakes and a squeeze of lemon, if you wish, which I did.

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Hahahahahaaaa (wiping tears) leftovers, good one.