Sunday, January 29, 2012


Mon amour teases that I am an escargot.  I prefer to think of myself as mindful.

I am moving more slowly.  Purposefully so.  I not only "take the walk", I "take in the walk".  I stop to see the new buds or display in the store window.  I smile at passersby.  I delight in the unexpected.  I pick up lucky pennies. 

Noticing is always the first step to appreciating.  Being truly grateful requires that we truly experience what is before us.

No need to change the "what" to change the "how".  Only to begin.

Head down and rushing, as we move through our daily rounds, won't connect us with anything, except maybe those lucky pennies. 

Savour each moment. 

You may even find you want to share some of them with others. I do.

"We do not remember days; we remember moments".  Cesare Paves


All good things, k

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Write Path

How will you know.

You will know when the struggle disapears and the walls fall away.  When that niggling doubt is replaced with a calm knowing.  When the doors swing open as you arrive, the dots start to connect, and it seems that the whole world is cheering you on.

Over the past few days I have:
  • received messages of gratitude and encouragement for my words
  • connected with a new friend offering to help guide my desired blog enhancements
  • been asked to proofread a book that is being adapted and translated
  • had dear friends make me aware of a writers retreat and urge me to attend
  • wondered whether I should go - while mon amour just went ahead and enrolled me
Everywhere I have found inspiration and confirmation. 

That's how I know I am on the right path, or, for me, the "write path".

"I must write it all out, at any cost.  Writing is thinking.  It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living."  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

All good things, k

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bring Yourself

n ordinary handwriting, in which letters, words, etc., are set down in full, as opposed to shorthand or to typing

I write in pen.  Longhand as it is called.  While I’m not so sure about the “ordinary” part, the “set down in full” resonates.

Writing this way means that, for me, it has become a two-step...pen on paper...fingers on keyboard.

I’ve found that there is something that gets lost in the transition from paper to screen.  Perhaps it is remembering how I felt when the words first arrived.  Perhaps it is the ambience that surrounds me as I write and draw .  Perhaps it is something I can’t quite put my finger on.  Or, perhaps that is it – “I can’t put my finger on it”.  I can’t infuse the look and feel of the way I write into a computer.  Neither the style of writing itself or the little pictures that often accompany it. 

So, in the quest to move, ever so slightly, closer to the genuine article.  To truly bring more of myself to this endeavour.  Behold the drawings.  Through the magic of scanning (and the even more magical ability of mon amour to hook up said scanner and teach me to use it) you can now see what I see when I look at my pages.  Well, minus the incomprehensible (sometimes even to me) writing and the odd crumb.

And isn’t that the point. For all of us. To bring as much of ourselves as possible to everything we do.

                     Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

All good things, k

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winter Wonderland

I have never really liked winter.

Vancouver born and raised, I'm not used to really cold temperatures. As for snow, we generally keep ours on the mountains, where you can go and visit it whenever you want, and then drive for a few minutes and come back home to bare streets. So finding myself spending a lot of time in Quebec and Ontario has been quite an experience. I'm not used to a world of heavy coats and boots. But, now I have a coat that looks like a sleeping bag and boots that are utilitarian and always covered in salt.

I do however love Christmas. For me, it always meant lots of decorating and baking, in preparation for gathering family and friends. A time of rum and eggnog in my glass and my children round the tree. I enjoy every moment. This year was to be different. My children would each be at opposite ends of the earth and I would be in between. That was until we got a wonderful invitation to travel to Eastern Europe to be with my son and his love. We bought tickets and before long we were off, my packsack laden with small gifts, cookie cutters, and an icing set. Sort of a Mama Claus.

It was there that I got a whole new appreciation for winter. These people know how to make the most of it. The squares were filled with christmas markets. Holiday trees and twinkling lights gave no doubt as to the season. Outdoor grills were covered with sausages, pans of perogies, and pots of sauerkraut. Breads were baking in the wood fired ovens. The air was rich with the scent of hot wine. So many of the things that I love about summer...farmer's markets, sidewalk cafes, gathering for a glass of cool wine....just layer on some warm clothes and mull the wine with oranges and spices. A true winter wonderland.

And, just when I thought it couldn't get any did. On Christmas Eve my daughter and her husband arrived, having flown half way around the world to surprise us, knowing that nothing could make me happier than for us all to be together. Oh, maybe one thing. When they asked me to read "The Night Before Christmas", just as I have always done on Christmas Eve. 

"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles." Author Unknown

Time to Write

You have such a busy life...where do you find the time to write?

I find the time to write, because, for me, it is the time to write.

Sometimes I would love nothing more than to write and draw all day.  Occasionally, on a weekend, I can. But, I write a little every day.  Seven days a week.  I have created a practice of rising very early each morning, in order to give myself an hour or so, pen in hand.  I can thank Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, for this.  What she calls “morning pages”.  But ideas can come at any time.  I’ve been known to stop in my tracks while walking in order to capture a thought.

Over the past couple of years I have managed to fill several journals, many sheets, and all manner of scraps of paper – you’d laugh if you saw some of them, with my bits and pieces of writing and little drawings.  I’ve been squirreling them away in a drawer, unsure if, how, or when, they would ever see the light of day.  All I knew was that I enjoyed writing them.  And that is always reason enough.

Life must never be too busy to do what is in your heart.  That little voice telling you to paint a picture, collect stamps, write a song, learn Italian, is saying that this is an important part of who you are.  It is not to be denied, trivialized, or put into a drawer for another day.  Today is the day.

"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein."  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

All good things, k

PS...Heartfelt thanks to all of you who reached out to encourage this new adventure of mine.

My First...Album

Yesterday we spent the day with friends. After mugs of truffle and thyme mushroom bisque and a platter of crusty baguette, cheese, pates, and onion confit, we set off for an afternoon and evening in our neighbourhood, Ottawa's Byward Market. 

First stop a great music shop, specializing in both new and used, including a great section of vinyl. Yes, vinyl has "got it's groove back". And this past year our friend has invested in a great sound system and a beautiful new turntable. Who doesn't miss the album. They took up more space, but gave more space - more space for artwork, pictures, liner notes and so much more. 

I was happily flipping through the records and then came to a stop. The Monkees first album. Or more to the point, my first album. Christmas 1966 from my grandma and grandpa. Before you laugh, this was the first of four consecutive number one albums in the US for the group and took the top spot on Billboard for 13 weeks. It has sold over five million copies. And, I had one of the first. 

Sadly, all my albums were stolen once upon a time. But, here on the shelf were the four smiling faces that brought me back to my childhood bedroom and the little record player that folded into a little handled case. Perfect for carrying to over to a friends, with your albums tucked under your other arm. 

It didn't take much encouragement to buy it again, with the promise that he would give it a spin, when I next visit. I can't wait. In the meantime, I'll just be sure to keep it out of the sun. 

"The four building blocks of the universe are fire, water, gravel and vinyl. Dave Barry


Behind the Scenes at the Museum

When we were children, you could punish my brother by not letting him watch television, for me it would be taking away my books. When my son was young he once commented “my mum always has her nose in a book”. And I do.

Perhaps it is genetic. 

A few years ago, I reconnected with my cousin. We hadn’t seen each other in many years. After exchanging a few e-mails, I invited her to come to dinner. She arrived with a big bag of books. 

What I didn’t know, was that my cousin has been for many years the buyer for Black Bond Books, an independant Canadian bookseller. What she didn’t know, is that for many years I had lived close to one of the stores and had almost exclusively purchased my books from, what I had always thought of as, their impeccable selection.

Since then she has shared many wonderful books with me. Here is one I devoured recently, “Behind the Scenes at the Museum” the debut novel of Kate Atkinson. It is the story of Ruby Lennox, written in the first person, chronicling her life from conception, beginning with the words “I exist!”, and those of four generations of her family, in twentieth century England. 

A brilliant piece of work, it deservedly won the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year and the 1996 Boeke Prize. It also won my heart. 

Curl up on a winter day, brew a pot of tea (a slice of fruitcake wouldn't be out of place either), and settle in with Ruby and her family. 

All good things, k

Adopt Me

Yet another kindred spirit.

Last weekend we bundled up and went for a walk in our neighbourhood. Happening upon a used book store and never being able to resist the pull of books, we popped in for a quick look.

There is no such thing as a “quick look” in this shop. Oh, if you only had a moment and were on the hunt for something specific, the owner could certainly put his hand right on it and help you on your way. He knows every book on every shelf. But, if you’re like me and just dreamily walk along the aisles, you had better unbutton your coat - you’ll be there for a while.

This is a special store. It seems that each book has been considered, merits determined, and if, and only if, it passes the “this is a fine book” test, can it be lovingly placed among the other fine books. All the great classics are there. Your favourite childhood books are there too. Some of the best examples of writing in all genres.

I purchased three books. One is a gift for my seafaring friend. The second, Leo Buscaglia’s “LOVE” written in 1972, and carried around in a fringed boho satchel by an adoring teenager. Re-reading it through my 54 year old eyes was such a great experience. I remember my 15 year old self, long blonde hair, beads, flower print skirt, over the knee chocolate brown suede boots (oh, how I loved those boots), the scent of Loves Fresh Lemon that I spritzed on each day, and feeling that Leo had it right. That I had found a kindred spirit. I still feel that way.

The third, a tome containing a collection of plays, short stories and poems of Oscar Wilde. When I opened it, I found an inscription “Christmas 1987 - Andre, we hope you enjoy this. Thanks for being such a good friend. Your friends, Bruce and Carolyn”. Andre, if you happen to be reading this, and somehow this book slipped away and you’d love to have it back, just let me know and I will see it is returned. In the meantime, I will look after it for you.

Knowing a true book lover when he sees one, the owner said “look at this” and handed us a beautiful leather bound book, with pages like I’d never seen or felt before. It was printed in the 1600s and is very valuable. For the right person, it will feel like the greatest find. It was a special experience just to touch it.

“Please tell me that you have a child that loves this as much as you do and wants to take it over when you retire.” “I have a family” he replied, “but none of them want the store.” “Adopt me.” I said, as I smiled, clutched my bag of books, and headed back out into the chilly street.

“Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.” Leo Buscalgia

Thank You

A dear friend's father passed away this week. It was a life well lived and in his final hours, as in his life, he was surrounded by his large and loving family. What most of us would hope for.

A religious man, we thought it appropriate to visit a church and light a candle in his memory. We walked the chilly Warsaw Stare Miasta from church to church. Pausing at each doorway to remove our hats, before taking in the grandeur. But, the candles remained elusive.

After visiting several, we entered the last church and found a small group of nuns seated in the pews. We had observed them over the past couple of days, walking in their brown habits, throughout the village.

The Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice, or Felician Sisters, are a branch of the Third Order of St Francis. The active-contemplative order was founded in Warsaw, Poland, in 1855 and named for a shrine of St. Felix, a 16th century Franciscan saint especially devoted to children. The Felician Sisters have always sought to harmonize a deep spiritual and community life with dedication to diverse acts of mercy. Their Foundress, Mother Mary Angela Trszkowska, was beatified in 1993.

We quietly took seats. Just then the room was darkened, lit only by the lights of the christmas tree placed at the front. A moment later the room was filled with sweet voices, as their song rose to the high ceiling and filled the space. And then, as suddenly as it began, it was over, and they stood and made their way out.

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you", that would suffice. Meister Eckhart

Five minutes earlier or later and we would have missed this special moment. There were no candles to light, but we knew we'd found the place to say our prayers of gratitude for his life...and for ours.

Laurie Colwin's Gingerbread

Have you ever felt close to someone that you never met. And sadly never will.

With a few sentences Laurie Colwin became my friend. Years ago, I would open my Gourmet magazine and go straight to her column. I have always read cookbooks, just as though they were novels. Hers truly were. A little bit of life, love, common sense, and then something delicious that you wanted to dash into the kitchen and begin to prepare. Laurie filled minds, hearts and stomachs.

These were not recipes that would require you to head off in search of exotic ingredients. Most likely you had everything in your very own cupboards. No need to be an accomplished chef or baker either. You could do it.

Laurie’s food writing was compiled and published in two books “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking”. Search for them. You won’t be disappointed.

Laurie passed away on October 24th, 1992 at the age of 48. I will always remember the moment I heard and my first thought of “her beloved husband and daughter”. She wrote of them often and I didn’t want to imagine the hole that this “heart of the home” woman would have left.
But, she also left us better for having had her in our lives. And she lives on in the hearts and kitchens of many.

I will leave you with a few of her words and her delicious recipe for gingerbread. Perfect for a winter day.

"I love gingerbread in its true cake form – moist, spongy, and spicy... It is strictly home food, but no one makes it any more. Those who crave it get their fix from mixes, and if you give them the real thing, they appear confused. Why doesn’t their gingerbread taste that good?

There is nothing to be said about mixes: they are uniformly disgusting. Besides, gingerbread made from scratch takes very little time and gives back tenfold what you put into it. Baking gingerbread perfumes a house as nothing else. It is good eaten warm or cool, iced or plain. It improves with age, should you be lucky or restrained enough to keep any around.

Gingerbread exists in some form or other all throughout northern Europe. Florence White’s classic Good Things in England, for example, has twelve recipes. Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, published in 1824, has three. It is definitely food for a cold climate. Its spicy, embracing taste is the perfect thing for a winter afternoon. Ginger warms up your stomach (and is believed by many to purify the blood). When you serve it, once they have stopped giving you a funny look, people often say: 'Gingerbread! I haven’t had that since I was a child.' "If you are feeding sophisticates, you can either take them back to childhood and serve it plain with a little whipped cream, or fancy it up by adding crème fraîche and a poached Seckel pear.
I use either light or dark brown sugar. Light brown makes a slightly spongier cake, and dark brown creates a more sugary crust. I also add two teaspoon of lemon brandy, a heavenly elixir easily homemade by taking the peel from two lemons, cutting very close to get mostly zest, beating up the peels to release the oils, and steeping them in four ounces of decent brandy. I have had my bottle for thirteen years and have replenished the brandy many times. Besides the ginger, the heart of gingerbread is molasses. Now, there is molasses and molasses and there is the King of Molasses, which is available in the South but virtually unknown in the North. [This may have changed since 1988.] It comes in a bright yellow can and can be ordered by mail… Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup. You do not need Steen’s to make gingerbread, but I see it as one of life’s greatest delights: a cheap luxury."

The following recipe makes one nine-inch cake:
1. Cream one stick [1/4 pound] of sweet [unsalted] butter with 1/2 cup of light or dark brown sugar. Beat until fluffy and add 1/2 cup of molasses.
2. Beat in two eggs.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste, but I like it very gingery). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice.
4. Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy. If you don’t have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin.
5. Bake at 350 degrees [F.] for between twenty and thirty minutes (check after twenty minutes have passed). Test with a broom straw, and cool on a rack.

"This will feed six delicate, well-mannered people with small appetites who are on diets and have just had a large meal, or four fairly well-mannered people who are not terribly hungry. Two absolute pigs can devour it in one sitting – half for you and half for me – with a glass of milk and a cup of coffee and leave not a crumb for anyone else." Laurie Colwin

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Mission

Music is the soundtrack of our lives. 

Let me set the scene. Winter evening, logs crackling in the fireplace, candles softly burning, wine in our glasses, listening to piece after piece of wonderful music. And then, late that night, mon amour's final selection. With the first note, I was captivated. Unable to speak, tears began to fill my eyes, as the hauntingly beautiful music filled my heart. 

The Mission is the soundtrack from the film of the same name. It is the amazing work of Ennio Morricone who composed, orchestrated, and conducted the score. It was selected as the 23rd best film score in the American Film Insitute's 100 Years of Film Scores. It is almost impossible to I won't. 

When we married, we played three of the selections “On Earth as it is in Heaven”, “Falls” and “Gabriel’s Oboe”, as our guests were being seated for the ceremony. 

One evening very soon, turn the lights down low, light a candle, and put The Mission on...turn it up. I believe you too will find it a very special experience.

The Love of Humanity

It's just a part of me. After more than 35 years of working and volunteering in the not-for-profit sector, it is as much who I am, as anything else about me.

I've seen a lot of change over the years in philanthropy and the voluntary sector. But the most heartening is that more and more, people around the world are getting involved. Caring and sharing. Locally and globally.

Philanthropy etymologically means "the love of humanity". There are as many ways to care as there are important things to care about. And, there are no "small ways". Every act is one of significance.

The what and the ways continue to evolve, but at the heart the reason remains the same.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill

It is a very special gift when you are surrounded by those who share the values that you hold dear. I am thankful every day for the people and experiences that have shaped my life. And, while it never feels like enough, I know that we have made a difference in the lives of others too.

Salad Dressing

I didn’t have to think long about what recipe should begin this new year. Many of us will have enjoyed holiday food of all kinds over the past few weeks and are now ready to settle back in to a life of slightly less excess for a while. I said "slightly". As Oscar Wilde said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation".

Whether as the beginning or end of a feast, or as the main event itself, salads are beautiful, delicious, and full of good things for you. They can be simple as a few leaves of lettuce, or as fulsome as a salade nicoise. As fresh as a gathering of just picked herbs, or as savoury as a melange of roasted root vegetables. What brings it all together...the dressing itself.

I have never understood why people buy bottled dressings. But shelf upon shelf in the grocery store attests to the fact that they do. I’m often told how good my dressings are, but rather than run off into production and add another choice to the already vast array, I’m just going to encourage you to make 2012 the year you make your own.

My guess is that you already have everything you need.
Make it in a small dish, shake it up in a little jar, or do as I often do, and prepare it right in the bottom of the salad bowl. Infinitely changeable there are just three basic ingredients – oil, vinegar, and a little mustard.

1 tablespoon, or as I would say, “a dollop” of mustard – dijon is lovely, but so are many others
2 tablespoons or so of acidity – red or white wine vinegars, balsamic, lemon juice or a combination
5 tablespoons of oil – olive oil is the standby
And a good grind of salt and pepper

Combine mustard and vinegar, and then slowly drizzle in the oil. You can stir it, shake it, use an immersion blender, whatever you like – I prefer a whisk. A few quick strokes and there it is golden and delicious, just begging you to stick your finger in for a quick taste – which I highly recommend. This is when you’ll know. You’ll know that you love it just as it is. Or you’ll think that tonight I might like a touch of sweetness, so you'll add a sprinkle of sugar or a teaspoon of honey. Perhaps you’ll crave a little crushed garlic, some chopped herbs, sundried tomatoes or olives, a grating of parmesan or a crumbling of roquefort...the possibilities are endless.

When family and friends say "this salad dressing is so good". You will smile and say "I made it".

Bon appetit!

A new year...a new beginning

Does the world need another blog?

Well, need it or not, here it is, for it seems it is me that needs to blog. And if, in creating this space, I can bring a little happiness, a new thought, a reflective pause in the midst of a busy day, or a bit of conversation (albeit one-sided) at a welcome moment, some small thing of value - that will bring me immense joy. And so, I begin.

A year or so ago, I began a weekly post on Facebook. You guessed it...on Sunday. Each Sunday evening I would write a few lines describing moments of my day. Painting a picture that was simple, and yet, somehow meaningful, because it reflected not just the moments themselves, but more importantly the way in which they were experienced. With gratitude.

I looked forward to it. And so, it seems, did others. On the one Sunday that I didn’t post, people reached out…"Where are you, is everything okay?"; "My day didn’t feel complete without reading it."… and so I never missed another Sunday. 

And, as time went on, I heard my own voice and those of others saying “You should have a blog!" Each time, I felt a warm little glow… the kind of feeling that can only mean one thing… "say YES".

I didn't know the first thing about how to go about it.  But, somehow I have managed to create what is before you.  I've learned a lot and there is so much more to know - it will come in time. 

"Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action."  Napoleon Hill

A new year...a new beginning...I look forward to sharing it with you. 

All good things, k