I was included into a circle of friendship some time in 2002 and I’ve relished every opportunity to share moments of laughter and conversation with this circle since. I’ve recently organized my photo albums and woven throughout the pages are amazing sights we’ve shared; early spring wildflower walking, hiking, hot tubs and teaching detox sessions of every sort. I feel so grateful as I think about our journey. This photo…an early scanned archive from 2003, hiking Elbow Lake and Rae Glacier.
Because I recently enjoyed another remarkable feast with these friends, I wanted to plunk a post here, in recognition of time well-spent and good food shared.
Darren, Wendy’s husband, is the primary chef at these feasts, although Rebecca and Wendy get their fingers into the process where and when they can. Here’s a sampling of the treats that have been served us…this dinner, in 2002.
Butternut squash soup with a parmesan crostini with sage leaf.
Roasted peppers and fennel with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.
Roast pork loin with pork gravy and raspberry reduction.
Potatoes poached in cream and dill.
All followed with coconut cream pie
Delish! With gratitude always, to friends who are in our lives through all sorts of times and all sorts of food!
Although the clouds were close to the horizon for the blood moon and the eclipse, I caught the last minutes out my own window once I arrived home. A beautiful night, shared with people I love.
You may be glad to know that I have sought out support for my grieving and the big losses of this past year. Thing is…in short, I’ve been given permission to write it out, paint it out, cry it out, sand it out…do it out…whatever it takes. I guess it’s not for others to judge the form that grief takes in others, so don’t worry on the mornings when you see twenty blog entries…it’s my manic grief finding expression…and if I can find a way to breath, then my readers can as well. I guess I’m asking you not to suggest when to empty my closets. Thing is, you folk need to know that I’m not sharing my dark nights with you here…in fact, the only clue you really should have that something is going on, is the extent of my writing. I’m keeping a private journal for the dark moments. I’m painting a mandala for my mother in the deadly quiet moments. I’m painting again. (Thanks, Mom.)
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
Action is key in my life…taking action of any sort that is not harmful to others is typically alright with me. I’m not one to have in my language, words like boredom, fear or helplessness. I’m all about ‘doing something’ about everything. It will be helpful though, if I have the support of my family and friends as you observe this very phenomena…it is likely not that unfamiliar to you, in regards to ‘moi’…please don’t judge me because if I feel I need to do something differently ‘for your comfort’, then I will struggle needlessly. I’m tending, lately, to be alone…at home, but also in crowds.
I am the one who is NOT contributing to a conversation, and when I am, I am not doing it very well.
I am the one who is arguing with confrontational atheists, likely because they are rattling the cage of the very thing that is getting me through this, my faith.
I am the one who is booking into countless programs in the city…more so than ever before, if that is possible, as a way of not staying home where I hear every now and then, “Oh, it’s time to skype with Mom.”
I am the one who is blogging about ridiculous things and taking photographs of step-by-step recipes.
I am the one who is enforcing by-laws about back yard fire pits and front yard cats.
I am the one who becomes confused over more than two instructions/directions and I am the one who will stare blankly at you, rather than ask for clarity.
I am the one who loses track of the number of cups of coffee I have sipped while watching birds at my bird feeder, wrapped in Mom’s flannel nightie…and in her flannel house coat…ten sizes too large, but, as close as I can physically get to her.
I am the one who could not host a Thanksgiving feast at my feast table this year because Elma would not be there…for the first time in a zillion years…because this year, as my own mother was battling pneumonia, dearest Elma was quietly slipping into the arms of heaven also.
The news of the world continues to roll…a giant super storm on the other side of the world, gives me pause and I bow my head for strength for India. So many mothers. So much loss. But still…in all of this…there is BOUNTY. Here, I am warm…I am sheltered…I am well-fed…I am blessed with my three beautiful children. There is bounty everywhere I look. This year in Alberta, a bumper crop for the farmers. The fields look glorious this harvest. The trees are golden and the sky, blue. I am safe and blessed.
I received a phone call from Bobby…spoke with Bee…messaged Adrienne…left a voice mail for Mary-Lou…spoke to Yvonne on telephone…made a cell phone call to daughter, Cayley, on the coast…chatted with Glo and Bill Webb…skyped with Dad and Val, JP and Eliane and Louis…texted Margy. Wendy asked, “How was today?” and…invited me to Beanos. The circle of friendship continues to close around me. It seems that a feast table is a metaphor for something much larger.
With gratitude, I went to my daughter and son-in-law’s for dinner…we prepared a whole wad of recipes we have never enjoyed as a tradition at the feast table. I have collected some images here. It was a wonder-time with Erin, Doug and thankfully, James. I feel blessed.
In preparation for this post, I’m hoping that you will listen to Canadian story teller, Stuart McLean, as he tells his story, Dave Cooks the Turkey on this podcast. (click the text that appears blue) I know…you don’t feel that you have 35 minutes to sit and put your feet up with your cup of coffee or your glass of wine, but I am really recommending that you click and give yourself that time! And after this story, anything that could happen today (because bizarre things always happen with family dinners), nothing will compare and you will know that even though your Thanksgiving dinner may NOT look like that captured on the cover of a Good Housekeeping magazine cover,
your memories will last regardless…your time with family and friends will always be treasured! Be grateful!
And here is my story…
It was the day before Thanksgiving. I had everything under control. Instead of having all of the fussing about to do in a single day, I began to plan early. The house was clean…toilet paper and scented candles in the bathrooms…the turkey was into its third day of a highly monitored ‘thaw’! I skyped with my father and sister the night before the Thanksgiving feast and they were somewhat concerned about one of the elements in their oven, worried that it might not be functioning. I, on the other hand, was worried that at 13 kgs, my big bird may not be completely thawed for the big day.
Next morning, after Mass, I prepared the stuffing in a big pot on the stove top. The smells of onion, celery, butter, poultry seasoning and fresh sage filled the house. MMM-mmm! The turkey had fully co-operated; completely thawed, I loaded the cavity with dressing and popped it in the oven before noon. Awesome!
‘The bird’ was placed into tripled aluminum roasters since I had nothing quite large enough to accommodate its round robust form. I tented the roaster with heavy duty foil, planning to cook the turkey at 325 degrees and uncover it for that golden brown colour during its final hour. I cooked giblets on the stove top just so that my daughter would have some nice browned residue to create a deep rich gravy, knowing that the aluminum roasters would not provide the same juices as my old roasting pan. The house wafted with the beautiful smells of turkey, dressing and cranberries bubbling on the back burner. All was well with the world.
The remaining food preparation was under way and I had time to get out with Max and enjoy a perfect autumn day. The leaves were dancing in a blustery wind and it felt as though the day could not be more perfect.
Sounds romantic, right?
The guests arrived and ‘pre-function’ foods abounded. Wine was served and the voices of loved ones began to lift and weave throughout the house. There was good fun, lots of laughter and I felt as though everything was in perfect synch…that was until I went to pull the aluminum foil tent off of the turkey in order to achieve that amazing golden brown and ready it for resting.
OH NO!! WHAT??? I couldn’t believe my eyes! The bottom element was dead…the top element lit up… and the turkey, once uncovered, just barely started on its way to a Thankgiving feast table! Conversations continued to whir around me as I stared dumb-founded at this naked looking bird staring up at my dropped mouth! I’m laughing as I report this to my readers, but suffice it to say, I was shocked!
No problem! Plan B! (My father always said, “Just make certain that you always have a Plan B!) My daughter, who had just arrived with her festive carrot/turnip casserole and her hot pan of apple butterscotch pudding, took the pan of turkey and along with a dear friend of mine, headed out the front door and to her home to get the turkey roasting in her oven. From there, they headed for Soby’s and returned just as the potatoes were being mashed and the brussel sprouts cooked to perfection. Five Soby’s roast chickens were unloaded onto the kitchen counter. The packaged gravy was stirred up at the stove. My son proceeded to carve the chickens up to look like turkey and the feast was served out in perfect time. It was almost seamless…the transition from catastrophe to celebration.
I absolutely cherish my friends and my family. Thanksgiving dinners are the ultimate with me. It is not in the perfection of the bird, however, that we need count our success or depend for our traditions. It is by the hugs at the front door…it is the tears that we share. It is the pats on the back and the genuine listening. It is in the telling of stories. Sharing drinks and food of any kind invites the ritual of love. And last night, I was surrounded in the warm cloak of love. Thank you, dear children…my precious cousin…and my friends! Seventeen wonderful folk and roasted grocery store chicken! Whoot!
When finally the guests were all gone…I enjoyed the quiet of sorting the kitchen…washing up…putting away the clean dishes. It was nearing one o’clock in the morning when the phone rang. Quiet tired voice across the line…my daughter. “225 degrees…keep it covered…yeah…all night.” And we both laughed.
1 large turnip and buckets of carrots A bag of cooking apples peeled, cored and chunked 2 tbsp butter 1/4 cup brown sugar Dash of cinnamon
Topping: 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup flour 2 tbsp melted butter
Cook turnip and carrots until tender. Amounts may vary depending on the gaggle of people you invite. Mash with butter. Slice apples and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon. In a large casserole dish, layer the turnip/carrots and apples. Combine the topping ingredients and put on top of turnip, carrots and apples. Bake at 325°F for 1 hour.
Having lived in Milano, Italy; Diana and Umberto’s contribution to dinner was Strawberry Tiramisu. It was a heavenly dessert and you can see why! I consider this couple to be one of the most well-read and ‘smart’ couples I know. I found their stories at our feast table in good humour and so amazing! I am grateful for Diana and Umberto!
Among my most precious friends, is 94 year old Elma. She was born in Clearwater, Manitoba in 1917 to a young Swede, Alma Swanson and farmer, Fred Fisher. Given the circumstances of her biological mother, Elma ended up raised by her new family in Atlee, Alberta.
We have been blessed to have Elma in our lives for over twenty years and consider her to be one of the most important people to share our family feast table. There’s not a single Thanksgiving dinner where the youngest of the gathering do not line up at the door for their annual Elma-photo op. This year Elma was assigned apple-slicing duty and potato cutting duty. And as aways, she did a fantastic job!
Thanksgiving is coming and the preparations begin for the feast! I rubbed tung oil into the table today, as a part of the house work that was avoided successfully during the staining of the fence last week! I also got some other fix-its accomplished and I’m finally, at 4 in the afternoon, ready to do such chores as cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming. Projects!
It is ‘magical’ October! I have been blessed so much this autumn and thought that I would add a brief entry to keep a record of just some of the goings-on.
I spend many hours outside! Some people go off-roading…I go off-leashing! I have met many wonderful people out on these dog romps and seen many beautiful things. Just two days ago, I was standing out in a snow-covered field as a flock of fifteen white swans flew over me in perfect ‘v’ formation. I was left breathless; it was such an awesome sight!
Max and the family have been filmed and interviewed for the program, At the End of My Leash. The experience was super-fantastic! We received so much professional knowledge and support and it was just so much fun to be working with the crew. I am really impressed by the team and by the philosophy behind the dog training. Every day is a work-day where Max is concerned! I want our relationship to be a really wonderful one and so the changes in me and the new techniques are all really really important!
A couple of the most spectacular events during the process included driving out (on the first snow) to a ranch in the mountains where we watched a true cowboy, Tom, work with his border collie, herding cattle. Their relationship was so special! The setting was magical…the people so open and generous and Max was beside-himself with excitement.
Another surreal event was when we met on the last Saturday of filming at an off leash park where at least ten border collies and their owners joined us for a romp in the hills. Seeing Max with so many like-minded buddies was a hoot! I wore a smile on my face the entire time.
The woman I have to truly thank for all of this is the lady who worked tirelessly for a year to repair my broken finger through occupational therapy. We used to laugh as I shared stories about Max and his antics and finally she asked if I had ever considered applying for the program. I submitted an application months and months ago…and finally heard at the end of the summer that there was an interest. So….thank you, dearest Kristen because this was the experience of a lifetime….and it will make all of the difference for my buddy and me!
Autumn is something else…my favourite season! A big thanksgiving dinner was had with my true friends…the pumpkins are lined up and awaiting carving! My students at school are wonderful and many outdoor chores have been completed. We harvested awesome vegetables from our garden this year, painted the trim on the house and studio, closed in the backyard and stained the fences! A great and active season! I am very very happy and looking forward to every day that I am given! Happy October!