Okay…so, have you read Ray Bradbury’s book, Dandelion Wine? This is going to really help you to understand this Category better. Take five…see if you can find yourself a copy. Douglas Spaulding will quickly become one of your favourite protagonists! I just know it!
As December approaches, many of us have celebrated our Covid birthday celebrations. It was different, wasn’t it? Several of my friends are enjoying really significant birthdays and yet I chose not to celebrate with them, given the risks and the concerns around gatherings. It makes me sad that I am missing them during really special times of their lives, but I am really determined to keep the people I love safe.
Halloween was really different this year. For one, Max wasn’t home with me. I haven’t written his tribute as a post yet because I’m just not ready, but on October 31 of last year, Max reinjured himself for the final time. While he managed for another year, almost, it was a different year for him. It was quiet and his walks were shorter and more thoughtful than ever before. He really struggled through this year, the year of Covid. What I am most grateful for, however, was the fact that I was home with him around the clock and that I shared his last year with him, immersed in love. Snacks were readily available and begging was allowed. I’m sure he found this confusing.
This year, on Halloween night, I headed over to my grandson’s to celebrate ‘revised’ Halloween, where everyone in his neighbourhood was a hero, making fun for children and parents by creating a new normalcy. I was really impressed. This year, three, Steven was going out as Rider of Paw Patrol and so, his Gramma dressed as Chase, one of Rider’s Patrol. We are creating so many memories.
I took some photographs of the magic that was created by my neighbours before heading out for the dress up event shared with my grandson.
Door to door was magical, as so many neighbours made special effort to create magic for the little ones. There were all sorts of contraptions for passing out candy safely and all of this ingenuity contributed to the celebration of the night. I’m grateful that Steven was able to enjoy a night of fun. In the midst of a global pandemic it is really special to make positive memories.
This afternoon, while at the river, I decided to stand still beside one tree for an hour and document what I saw. This was an amazing exercise as I was able to reflect on springtime at this location and what I have observed since the snow melted and things came to life.
Steven (my grandson) and I discovered a nest in this tree quite early in the spring. An adult Robin was seen nesting for a matter of weeks and next, we noticed an adult Cedar Waxwing, her banded eyes, popping up above the nest. Today, mother Robin was the first bird that I spotted in the tree.
One of her ‘fledged’ was redundantly chirping from a higher branch…so…in a matter of minutes…
I watched the adult deliver the goods and saw the youngster move from branch to branch, eventually leaving and finding rest in a neighbouring tree.
The Cedar Waxwings seem to have some investment in this tree…its location…its resources because they were agitated, but not dive-bombing, because I was there. I always think that photographs of Cedar Waxwings look ‘fixed’ or manipulated. These birds look so unreal. But, no, this is how they look and the experience of them in real time is even more fantastical. These are only three representative photographs.
The Grey Catbirds are still very skittish, but this batch seem to be getting to know the lady who stands around and really does no harm. I found that they were more courageous today, even doing their remarkable call that secures their name, in my presence.
I kept looking over my shoulder into the brush behind me because Yellow Warblers were playing couples chase games, weaving in and out regardless of the blustery wind. I haven’t had a clear photograph of a Yellow Warbler this year, so I was delighted when I turned back to the tree and saw this little guy fully present and almost looking at me. Quick! Snap!
A female Eastern Kingbird took time to land and say hello, and then in her typical style, she took off, circled, landed, took off, circled, landed. I saw a male a short while earlier, but won’t include him here because these were all visible in a single tree.
A quick photo after noticing a Least Flycatcher…of course she turned her back on me and disappeared into the wood immediately after this shot.
And what would one nesting tree be without a female Brown Headed Cowbird? I’m sure that at this time of year, she is ferrying about, taking note of what birds are feeding her progeny.
And finally, as I looked down at my feet, this Northern Flicker was happily consuming ants on the pathway.
I managed to garner a few more mosquito bites than usual, but I enjoyed standing still to observe what birds might visit a single ecosystem over time.
As I continued on my circle at the river, these were a couple of the sights I took in. Another magical afternoon! Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper balancing on fencing in a huge wind. I got some really comical photos in this series.
Another clutch of Mallards…
The two juvenile Bald Eagles were holding on for dear life as their nesting canopy was swinging in the wind. I didn’t see Mr. or Mrs.
Advice to my readers…sometimes, just sit/stand still. You will be amazed.
I was running behind, having spent some time taking care of ‘matters of consequence’ on the home front. Once turning in toward Westhills Starbucks, I felt the excitement, even in the pouring rain, of getting out to Many Springs and discovering our wild flowers.
We missed Wendy. We missed Carla. And, we missed Darlene. And, we missed Darren, too! Oliver and Cam, glad you could join! We shared many remembrances as we made our way from our meet-up and headed for the Bow Valley Parkway and then on to our hike. Only one other group was out on the trail while we were there.
Everything was lush and the colours were more saturated as we wound our way past Middle Lake and on to the parking. Only a single ‘Bear in the Area’ sign, so nothing to be concerned about.
I don’t think we saw as many orchids as usual, but we certainly saw many more wild Tiger Lilies.
IT POURED….especially as we made it back to our cars. Thank you, Val and Cathy for sharing this time. It almost feels sacred.
When the ladies send me their shots, will publish them here…photo credit: Val Vine and Cathy Szata.
The only people who ever read this blog are people who know and love me. Some of the content is simply ridiculous. My readers know, all too well, that I am also all about ritualizing my life…circling a pond every day, watching an eagle’s nest every day, following the nesting narrative of a Suburbian vent every spring…and it goes on and on.
Well, this spring there has been a twist at said vent. If my readers look back into my archives, they will note that the vent has changed shape over the years as one piece after another has dropped off. This, I believe, has contributed to the evolving bird narrative that makes up the history of the vent. I’ll make it easy for you. (Laughing my head off.) Here are the links! I’m now going to pour a glass of wine. After all, it’s Friday!
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a new sort of drama unfold as I’ve observed a single adult Pigeon nurture two wee Pigeons to life, one egg being tugged out of the nest, fairly early in the game, or we might have had three. (And yes, I did see Pigeons, this season, but some distance from my house, in the act of copulation.) I’m really getting an education!
It’s interesting what rituals birds hold, as watching Pigeons has been very different from watching House Sparrows or Northern Flickers. Every evening around seven, I hear the adult (I like to imagine that it’s Mom.) cooing from the top of my roof. (I know. I’m almost certain there are some surprises-not-surprises up there on my roof, as a result.) No other Pigeons show up, though, just the one mauve iridescent adult. This has been very-much a solitary exercise. And who knows…what the heck is she feeding them? Pigeons have always struck me as being a little dumb. Are they?
Well, this year, I’ve seen the funny little guys….and of course, I’m going to document. These aren’t great photos because they are taken through the screen of my kitchen window. Every year I learn something new about birds while washing up my supper dishes or while making my morning coffee. Life is so very good and so very interesting.
Mom thought this little guy was being a bit too adventurous this evening and from no where, a big flutter and the two disappeared into their cave.
This is the sweetest….if you look at the silhouette, you will see her. I’ve never seen her on my roof. She is very discreet. But, I’ve captured her presence, singing the evening lullaby to her two little ones.
While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.
Ox Eye Daisy
While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars. It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.
A blessing that has come to me during these strange times is a weekly check-in with my siblings and Dad on Sunday, after I attend my ‘virtual’ Mass with Bishop McGratton. 10:00 am Comox Time, 11:00 Calgary Time, 1:00 Ottawa Time. These conversations are always so pleasant and I feel so grateful. While these are not ‘real time’ connections, they are more than we’ve chosen to do over the past many years, through our years of separation from one another.
I love my family. I miss them terribly. But, we are making the best of things. I hope that my readers will make sure to connect with family as much as is possible through these strange times. Happy Sunday!
“It took ages to coordinate our schedules but we finally all made it to the very inviting and interesting home of Kath for a delicious clam chowder feast, visit with Max, studio tour, and big catch up!
Along with the chowder, Kath treated us to Rappie, a traditional Acadian dish she recalled from her childhood. It’s made with shredded potatoes and fatty pork – yum! Tammy and Jas brought homemade pickles, spring flowers and a canned treat. Karen brought Red River bread she’d made, and we enjoyed Christmas baking brought all the way from Nova Scotia by Stephen made by his mom, Betty. Oh, and I didn’t get the memo about drinking at noon being OK but Lauraine brought vino from the Rockyridge growing region in Calgary’s NW. Steven made the very same selection!
What a tasty and heartfelt meal. My only quibble with our gathering was there just wasn’t enough time to visit thoroughly with every one of these wonderful people ❤️”
I’m posting Karen’s bread recipe here. It’s amazing! Red River Bread Photo Credit: Wendy Lees.
Red River Bread
2 cups water
3/4 cup red river cereal
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast (fast rising works great)
4 1/2 cups flour
Combine 2 cups water in pan with cereal. Boil then simmer 5 mins or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add butter, molasses and salt. Cool completely.
Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast and proof for 10 minutes.
Combine yeast with cooled cereal mixture.
Using a wooden spoon mix in all of the flour to make a stiff dough.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Form a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, covering the whole ball with grease. Cover with wrap and let rise (can use oven to proof) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until ball doubles in size.
Punch down dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough in half and shape into loaf pans. 8×4
Cover and let rise for about and hour. Then bake at 375 F. 30-35 mins.
Loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from pan and let cool. Enjoy!
Tammy and Wendy, Stephen and Steven and Lauraine, brought yummy things. I wasn’t archiving at the time, but, my buddies were. The following two photographs, though, were mine taken this morning. The next time you pickle, Tammy, I want to be there. They got eaten tooo fast for a photograph!
Photo display I made, in order to acknowledge my family.
Thank you, Jas and Tammy for the springtime flowers! So beautiful when it’s -40 outdoors.
Check out the jar of pickles in the photograph, below. This one must be Tammy’s shot. I’m sorry I didn’t get an image of the plate of baked goodies Stephen and Steven shared. Oh man! So good!
The photo journal above is a collection of photographs taken by Wendy and Tammy. We always have so many laughs when we gather. I’m grateful for all of you! Being with friends and sharing conversation/food/beverages and/or live music/dancing is so life-giving.
Please take note of Max (I snapped that one), only an hour after the lunch…completely played out!
While speaking with my sister, this morning, she reminded me that today, January 15, is the anniversary of the day our brother, John, went into hospital. It was from this date, onward, that our family was sucked into the vortex of the medical system and diagnostic testing. As it would turn out, our brother would celebrate his last birthday in Peter Lougheed Hospital.
I begin this particular post, writing about my brother, because I’m thinking about comfort food and what happens when people gather with foods that are familiar and rooted in memory. These foods will often vary depending on cultural context…sometimes an affordability context…regardless, if my readers look back into their journeys, they will find foods that mark various moments along their journeys. Stories and narratives will endlessly surface of childhood and Mom or Grandma or Great Gramma’s cooking.
For example, if I type the words, FRIED BOLOGNA (Baloney) SANDWICH…what memories are evoked?
We brought foods to hospital and those we love, also fed us. My brother enjoyed jello and Cozy Shack rice pudding during those end days. He also enjoyed fresh ju-jubes for the duration of his hospital stay. My sister-in-law sent loaves. John shared birthday cake. Spaghetti was brought from home. Things we create in the kitchen, we have control over (usually). Sharing food creates a feeling of joy, constancy and being rooted. I am grateful for how food brought some pleasure to my brother in his last months. Now, the remainder of this blog post will explore one particular recipe that comes from my memory banks and my Acadian family’s tradition.
Our little Airforce family found itself in Quebec and New Brunswick for two of its postings. These postings gave some proximity to my Great Grandparents, Mamie (Sugar Arsenault) and Papie (Gabriel Gallant) and my great uncles and aunties.
My Grandmother, in back and my mother, directly in front of her. Jimmy Fardy, my Mom’s cousin is directly to her right.
My Mamie, with my mother in her arms.
Mamie and Papie.
I knew when I went to Prince Edward Island that I was among some of the dearest people who were in my mother’s life. I knew, also, that when we traveled there, my mother was home.
Memories of that little Summerside house on Front Street are connected with wood stoves, home made rolled cigarettes, potatoes grated and cooked up into pancakes, horse drawn milk delivery wagons, coal chutes, seaside smells carried on the wind, bingo chips, coffee, bottles on the kitchen table, loud laughter and kitchen gatherings.
Shortly after the session, I sent my Mom’s youngest sister an e mail. “I was telling Dad about a cookbook that was mentioned at a Library program I attended last night. It’s called Feast: An Edible Roadtrip. I asked the speaker if the recipe for “Rapeur” (don’t know the spelling) was in it. One Acadian lady sitting next to me said it was called Rappi Pie hmmm…Dad told me that you make Mamie’s recipe and I was hoping you might send it to me. I know it’s a big job to make and that it needs a special touch to turn out right, but I would like to share it with my daughters. If you would be so kind…I’d really appreciate it. Kath”
I sent that note in 2015 and received an expedient reply that included these steps. I quickly learned that the spelling of the recipe was Rapure and that its translation is coming from the word grate in french.
to grate some cheeserâper du fromage
This recipe was followed by one through the post…thank you, Auntie Pat.
Some time during the Christmas break, I decided to invite a small circle of friends to the house to share some Clam Chowder, also made in my mother’s east coast tradition. Clam Chowder also varies depending on where you grew up in eastern Canada.
With the invitation to my friends, came an opportunity to try making my very first Rapure, without any of my matriarchs present for help. My friend, Hollee, was visiting from Vancouver in order to attend her Auntie’s 100th birthday, so she became my cheerleader as I endeavored to bring my east coast traditions in comfort food, to life. I remember, well, this dish being prepared by my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my Mom. It is important to me that I share this, along the journey, with my children. One thing I decided, after looking over the recipes and speaking with Hollee, I was going to borrow my daughter’s food processor!!
The Rapure brought back particular aromas in the little PEI kitchen of my memory, pork and onion fried up on the wood stove, along with a scoop of lard. This dish, along with my mother’s Meat Pies, was very much a symbol of home for me.
Nervous, the night before, I spent a lot of time seeking out Youtube videos, learning for the most part, that the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were using chicken stock and chicken in recipes that they called Rappie Pie.
On the Arsenault Facebook group, I put out an all-call for recipes and these are some from the Rappie Pie tradition.
These were the posters’ connections with their recipes.
Judy Arsenault I recently made a Rapure from the cookbook Abram-Village Handcraft Co-Op Recipes (which I purchased from the Bottle House (PEI) that my cousin use to own) and it didn’t turn out. Has anyone used this recipe from this cookbook? How did it turn out for you
Thelma Arsenault Hack I have varying results with rapure, regardless of the recipe. Choice of potatoes makes a difference – I don’t think ‘baking potatoes’ work as well. And whether the grated potatoes are rinsed and dried well makes a difference. It’s a lot of work and very frustrating when the results are not good. I’ll be interested in what others comment. Good luck to you.
Jim N Wendy Spain This recipe was made by my great grandmother Catherine (Lefave) Doucette, from Nova Scotia. I recently typed it as shown, for a family reunion. 🙂
With great courage, Hollee and I peeled 10 lbs of potatoes and I chopped up the pork roast into 1 cm cubes, setting aside the pork fat to coat the roaster surface, keeping all chilled and prepared for the morning’s culinary adventure and the visit with my friends. I decided to stick closely to my Auntie’s recipe.
At 7:00 am…I began my processing of the potatoes and put my pork to browning.
I’m going to log my notes here, for future reference. I had my daughter’s food processor set for grating and tried both the medium grate and the fine grate. In future, I would use the fine grate setting. Whoosh…out spewed the gratings of ten pounds of potatoes. The kitchen smelled yummy and CBC radio was turned up, as the pork, onion, salt and pepper were bubbling in the 350 oven. (use the roasting pan for this)
Once the potatoes were done, I quickly covered them with wrap so that oxidization wouldn’t happen. (green bowl) I cut up my cheese cloth and began the process of removing starch from the potatoes. (I will use my red bowl for this next time.) I transferred my shrunken potatoes into my large soup pot. Once finished the cheese cloth step, I added the yummy pork and onion to the big soup pot and mixed and mixed and mixed some more.
This is the step where I decided that in future I would use the fine grate. I remembered my Great Grandmother’s Rapure being smoother in texture, but being coated with crunch. This is what my kitchen looked like, right before beginning my Clam Chowder.
From the mixing stage, I pressed the mixture into my roasting pan…nicely greased with some cubes of pork fat (not all), and pulled from the oven. (don’t burn your hands, here) I roasted the Rapure at 275 for an hour and turned it up for three hours at 350. Next time, two hours at 350 for me!
Thank goodness, Wendy brought a salad as it made the appearance of the square of Rapure look more appetizing, on the plate. I began apologizing before we even sat down because I knew already that the topping was TOO crunchy.
My guests are such dear friends that I could tell them I expected them all to try a piece, as I was very much in the mood to share my PEI nostalgia. They all carried on, without complaint. I love them so much! Photo Credit below: Wendy Lees.
Later, I discovered that the crust softens with just a short wait after removing from the oven, so I would serve it a little differently next time, and definitely crust up instead of flipping it over (lol). I have been happily nibbling on the leftover Rapure ever since and I am generally really happy with the flavours and it very much reminds me of Mom, my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother.
See the next post…the feast…for the treasured gathering.
When I remember my brother, I also remember the family meals that brought us together. I remember celebrations and loud responses to the yummy-ness of food! Much of the recollections of family come with the memory of food. I am so grateful for this.
Thanks to Lauraine, who remembered that her mother made ‘Snowballs’, those red cherries wrapped up in coconut buttery sweetness and rolled in graham cracker crumbs. Isn’t comfort food amazing?
As I sort and toss, a practice that seems to be going on forever, I am getting to the end (I THINK) and I might have some valuable advice to give to young artists. I may not have a hope in Hades of ever really getting my art on a roll, but for you young sprouts, now that you live in a digitized world, please try to keep a record of your progress. Second to that, take quality photographs.
An artist who really inspires me with his practice is Mark Dicey, on Instagram. @paddlecoffin If you don’t follow his work, he is absolutely breathtakingly amazing.
Part of this revisit, just last week, included digitizing my grade nine-eleven sketchbook from 52 years ago! Cough! Sputter! It’s never too late, right?
Today, I came upon a white envelope filled with some very poor quality glossy photos of some flower paintings I did for a Tribute Show for my parents. The subjects were all based on their country gardens in Frankford, Ontario. It was an exhibit dating back a lot of years, hosted by the West End Galleries in their Edmonton location. (I have that date in my art archives somewhere.) I remember, at the time, hearing other artists poo poo painting flowers, as a subject. One person gave me permission and that was Ed Bader. Thank you, Ed. At the time, I was painting my own series of poppies as a response to losing two former students to a tragic car accident. Ed pulled together a series of books featuring a number of very significant paintings created by important historical artists, dealing with the subject of flowers. He was covering for another teacher at ACAD back in 1997.
This morning, I took photographs with my phone of some of the these teeny photographs. Now, I can toss them as I’ve got a bit of a record. As more flower paintings/sketches surface, I will post them here. If you paint flowers, I give you permission. There are a myriad of subjects for art and through any subject, you can address the ideas that are floating around in your head. It’s all valid, representational or not. Make art…and keep a record of it.
These images are all fuzzy/unfocused, cropped badly to replace their original wonky formats…likely bad colour…but, they are illusions of the originals and they make me happy. I learned a lot painting these…and they are a mere sampling of the many works present in that show. I wonder where they are now.
Yesterday I heard two presenters say that Remembrance Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.
Like everyone else, I am disappointed that the Don Cherry fiasco stole so much from the highlights of a beautiful day remembering those soldiers in our families and in our Nation who offered the ultimate sacrifice in past wars, Afghanistan and because of selfless service.
I was really pleased about attending the commemoration at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium this year and taking in the various rituals, but indoors, while cozy warm. Last year, we headed to the cenotaph downtown and it got a bit cold at times, although it was also an amazing experience. Next year, the field of crosses.
The seats were assigned, as we arrived. This created a sense of calm and order. Beautiful music was provided by the HMCS Tecumseh Band along with Jeanette Embree, Detachment Commander, CF Recruiting Center, Director of Music, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve. What a lovely repertoire.
I thought about my Dad while singing this hymn. I used to sit next to Mom in the Protestant Chapel pews while Dad directed or sang in the choir. I felt them beside me yesterday…and I felt surrounded by my family, many who have served. My Great Uncle Joseph Gallant gave the ultimate sacrifice, as did my Great Grandfather John Moors. This hymn was a perfect one to bring everyone home to me.
While we were prompted to save our applause until the very end of the laying of the wreaths, two of our Veterans from the Colonel Belcher caused our hearts to stir and we broke into wild applause. I cried my face off at these points in the service, as well as during the Last Post. Our friend, Helena, laid a wreath on behalf of the Alberta Retired Teachers. We were very proud of her for representing us.
After the commemorative service, and as we were leaving, I noticed that Ralph MacLean, the 97 year old Veteran who had served with Canadians in Hong Kong in 1941. Please follow the link and listen to his story on the Memory Project. Through various circumstances and very quickly, I connected with Ralph’s son, daughter and grandson, author of Forgiveness, author Mark Sakamoto.
I won’t soon forget the kind hearts of Ralph’s family.
I had the opportunity to exchange quite a number of stories with Ralph and I feel that it was a huge blessing to meet him. I will be visiting him at the Colonel Belcher.
As I took my evening walk, slow around the circle because Max is ailing badly, I took in the beauty of the day, my friendships with Janet and Pat, my children, the freedoms I enjoy. I thought about my family and their huge military connections. I contemplated including their photographs here…but, I’m leaving the images of their faces and my research in my heart. I’ll leave it all up to peace…the sky…the river. I will always Remember.