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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Sunday
Malibu Hotel

The sun just broke through the morning clouds bringing warmth and new life to the ocean. Not that it needs it. Birds are everywhere, their presence indicating a basically healthy ecosystem. It also tells me that despite not seeing much in the water, there’s a great deal of life in the ocean. None of this is familiar, from the crash of waves on a choppy day to the glint of sun off water or the gulls floating above the shore. I am here to attend a wedding but right now, that’s the least memorable thing about this trip.

On the way down to breakfast yesterday I passed an old photograph of Malibu Colony. It was taken from the north looking down toward the Adams House and beyond to LA. The houses were small then and pressed close to the beach, low against the wind. A two-lane highway separated the houses from a bit of farmland, a road house that is still there, and a series of empty fields that says all that’s needed about land values in those days. 

It was a very different place and yet the ocean still dominates, the hills still face the water. The narrow road still provides a winding lifeline to the city, although it’s less adequate than it was a hundred years ago. Life is easier here now, if only because the residents have discovered, and packaged, the true value of the land. These rows and rows of pink houses, mansions on the bluff, and motels of all stripes exist because we enjoy the beauty of this place, but also because we love to walk to the edge, lean over as far as we can, and wonder what’s out there.

In my mind, this town at the edge of the continent is an outpost, our leaping-off point into the unknown. What an appropriate place to start a marriage, at the edge of the familiar, loved ones sending you off with well-wishes and heartfelt blessings. 

* * *

We met for brunch at a café down the road from the hotel and I was treated to my first insider glimpse of Malibu life. Despite its unprepossessing location on the strip the parking lot was full of Mercedes. This is a mall, and it is treated with respect.

Squinting against the summer glare, I thought I’d stumbled into a supernova. Instead I was surrounded by women with blindingly white hair, their helmets and war paint and sleek-fitting uniforms overwhelming. Perfect hair, boobs, makeup and noses all packed into bodies at various stages of preservation. I let them pass.

Hands grip the boat’s side
golden skin on the water
summer sets so fast.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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I’m looking for a good German plum cake recipe. There are (of course) many versions available online, but the problem with that is you never quite know what you’re getting, and I only have the one batch of plums.

There’s also an added complication. I am looking for a plum cake recipe because I made one as a teenager, and it was astoundingly good. Flavorful pastry base, creamy plum filling, and delightful streusel crumble on top. Now, that remembered experience is the standard to which I hold all future plum cakes. 

Was it actually as good as it is in my mind? Maybe not, but I think so:) My mother also remembers the cake. It was her favorite type of German dessert, from when she lived in that country once upon a time. She brought home a classic German cookbook, source of the original plum cake recipe. 

I hold out hope that she still has the cookbook, and can find that recipe, but until then, I am on the hunt for the kuchen of my dreams.

* * *

Photo by Alexandra Kikot on Unsplash

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I thought today might be a workshop or writing day, but instead it turned into a computing and sewing day. That’s fine, I’m happy I made progress with what I had.

* * *

On that same note, last night’s dinner was a medley of things we had in the fridge. They are also the sorts of flavors I associate with summer: fresh herbs, tomatoes from the garden, and sweet corn. 

I was reminded of a dish I had in Boston years ago, a delicate, almost ethereal ravioli stuffed with shrimp and corn in cream sauce. The corn’s sweetness is complex enough not to seem one-note, and elevates the flavor of the shrimp. It’s a good memory, and while I don’t remember the year or the restaurant or the other eleven items on the tasting menu, that dish made a lasting impression.

* * *

We also decided to try our hand at homemade pasta. The same friends who lent us the KitchenAid ice cream attachment also lent us their pasta rollers. Taste and texture were good, and the process was fairly straightforward, considering I’ve made pasta only once? before. 

I used this dough recipe: Fresh Pasta Recipe

Notes to Future Me: use the eggs we get from our local source, the ones from Costco were a little too small and threw off the ratio; knead more enthusiastically; and use more flour than you think you should for dusting the sheets before rolling and cutting.

* * *

My father asked how I made the sauce. I have a fairly casual relationship with most recipes, but here it is, more or less. If you don’t have all of the ingredients, substitute red peppers for tomatoes, dried basil for fresh, or whatever’s in the pantry. That’s what I did:)

* * *

Creamy Summer Shrimp Fettuccini

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped into bits
  • 1 shallot, sliced fine-ish
  • 1/2 C. corn kernels, cut from cooked cob, frozen, or canned
  • 1 C. cream
  • 1 T. lemon juice, or to taste
  • white wine, whatever you’re drinking, a splash or three
  • shrimp, big handful
  • cherry tomatoes, handful, halved
  • basil, six giant leaves from the garden, sliced 
  • reserved pasta water to taste, plus backup cornstarch if you add too much
  • salt, pepper, Parmesan
  • fettuccini

Instructions

  1. While the pasta water heats, sauté the bacon and shallots until translucent.
  2. Add corn, cream, lemon juice, white wine and cook down for a couple of minutes, until slightly thickened. 
  3. Add shrimp, cook until opaque.
  4. Add the tomatoes and basil and heat through.
  5. Adjust the sauce for flavor and thickness with salt, pepper, more wine, cream and/or and pasta water. If it’s too thin, mix up a slurry of 1 T. cornstarch and a cup of cold water, add until you have enough liquid and cook until thickened.
  6. Serve over pasta, topped with grated Parmesan.

* Note: I would say that have moderately-sized hands. 

* * *

Photo by Tim Cooper on Unsplash

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Yesterday I took a brief break to check on my butterfly weed (blooming happily!) and noticed an interesting beetle by the door.

“Ooh,” I asked myself, “could that be a firefly?”

It could. It was.

Last night, between brightly-colored expressions of Canadian joy (aka celebratory fireworks), we spotted brightly-colored expressions of firefly joy above the cedar hedge. The lone Lampyridae had a hard time competing, but he gave it his best shot.

* * *

I have great memories of family nights outside in the garden when I was a kid, watching hundreds of fireflies looking for love. It was magic.

We don’t have hundreds now, but I’m working to make our yard as firefly-friendly as I can, particularly around mating season (aka now). Here’s how:

Save The Fireflies

Some of the things you can do:

  • turn off outdoor lights (who can get any action when that giant porch light is acting like the worst wingman ever?)
  • leave logs and leaves on the ground (I’ve totally got this covered)
  • add water (we have birdbaths, so check)
  • say no thanks to pesticides (no problemo, that stuff’s nasty)
  • let your lawn grow (skip mowing this weekend? yes please!)
  • add trees (I’ll see what I can do to keep the ones we have happy)

Time to recapture a bit of that summer magic.

* * *

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Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

Today would have been my grandfather’s eleventy-first birthday.

Paul Johnson loved golf, travel, photography, his Swedish heritage, fishing, the beach in Florida, women, and a good game of bridge, not necessarily in that order. He and my grandmother married in secret for the usual reasons, then again two years later when he was able to support them both. (She wore a light blue dress, again, for the usual reasons.)

One terrific part of life is that you can choose how you want to look back. When I think of my grandfather, I don’t dwell on the Parkinson’s and how it took so much from him before it finally took his life. I think of his smile as he watched a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, the heart-felt yet hilarious haircuts he used to give my long-suffering brother, and the way he remembered to call me Princess even after he’d forgotten my name.

He saved sand dollars from the beach, enjoyed hot dogs with sauerkraut and introduced us to tomatoes with sugar, always kept a bag of butterscotch for the grandkiddos, tolerated both hijinks and shenanigans with good cheer, and had the best laugh, right from the belly.

He was a wonderful grandfather.

* * *

Photo by T. Johnson. Location: Pine Grove Mills, PA. Date: Summer 1974. Probably.

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I learned some sad news last night. Nothing personal, exactly, but it affected me all the same.

Jean-Claude Chartrand, the chef at our favorite restaurant, has died. 

I feel for his family and for those he led. His loss will reverberate throughout the community. And yes, I also feel some personal sorrow. His restaurant is lovely, and going there always felt a bit like coming home. 

* * *

I met Chef Chartrand once or twice in person, but mostly I knew him through his food, and through the warmth and care that showed in his restaurant.

L’Orée du Bois is located in a converted century-old farmhouse, and the dining areas are cozy rooms with exposed wood and windows that overlook the garden, the smoke house, the patio, and the forest.

They added a timbered patio we haven’t been able to try yet, and lined the path through the forest beyond the herb garden with benches, lights, and a fire pit. 

It might be odd to say because I’m an American English speaker with roots far from here, but everything about this French Canadian restaurant suits me. I’ll be honest, it was one of the things that convinced me that I could make this new country a home. That I would fit here.

Because to me, that Québécois restaurant at the wooded edge of Gatineau Park, anchoring this southerly edge of our neighboring province, is perfect.

* * *

L’Orée du Bois is the place we go when we want to celebrate, or take visitors out for a dinner that is both special and comfortable.

The food is inventive, delicious, often surprising and frequently local. It is the type of establishment where wine pairings are spot on, the staff are thoughtful and friendly, maple pops up on the menu with reassuring regularity, and typical haute cuisine rules about avoiding ingredient or menu substitutions are meant to be broken.

My kind of place.

Many of the ingredients are sourced from local producers. Admire a hand thrown butter dish? Enjoy the mushroom medley or the red deer medallion or the fiddleheads? Chances are good that it was made or farmed or harvested nearby. I didn’t know Chef Chartrand, but it was clear he cared about his community.

* * *

When my mother came to visit, we took her there. Chef Chartrand came out to the dining room to speak with us, making sure that everything was good and that we were happy, then stayed to chat a bit under a framed chef’s hat signed by Justin Trudeau and his family. My mother is hard of hearing, and restaurants can be awkward places to talk. The chef was kind and thoughtful and helped make her evening special.

The last time we took my father (he has been several times) we were given a tour of the kitchen, the wine cellar, and sent home with a selection of handmade chocolates.

L’Orée is where Mr. Man took me the first time we visited Ottawa, even before we started talking seriously about moving here. It’s where we went after we bought our house. When I became a Canadian citizen. And the day we married, we took pictures in the herb garden out front while waiting for our table.

Thinking we should expand our horizons, we tried other restaurants, but always came back. The alternatives were always… something. Too crowded, too cold, too bright, too self-important, too self-consciously avant-garde. Too much something, and not enough L’Orée du Bois.

We always went back.

* * *

As the pandemic took hold and lockdowns began to stretch from weeks into months, we worried that the restaurant might not make it. When they opened for takeout, we went as often as we could. Celebrating the holidays without family this year, we ordered bag after bag of take-out to get us through the season. 

Smiling staff handed out hot mulled wine as we waited for our pickup. It’s that kind of place. 

* * *

Information on Chef Chartrand is limited but the announcement mentioned that a staff member tested positive for Covid-19. Just days later, Chartrand was gone. 

L’Orée du Bois chef Jean-Claude Chartrand dies days after his restaurant closes due to a COVID-19 case among staff

Jean-Claude Chartrand, the celebrated chef and co-owner of L’Orée du Bois, has died, just days after a worker at his much-loved West Quebec restaurant tested positive for COVID-19.

For more details on Chartrand, his life, and his community, see this article in Le Soeil (Google translate).

I am sorry for his family, and the region is poorer for his loss.

* * *

We have vaccines. We have hope. But please, for yourselves, for those you love, and for the health of our collective future, stay careful. Stay safe.

We may be close, but danger still lurks. We have not yet reached the edge of the woods.

* * *

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

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Saturday mornings always remind me of cartoons and classical music.

We didn’t have a television when I was growing up (or junk food like sugary cereals), which was great for reading and not quite so great for social integration. (This was before there was a smartphone in every pocket, terabytes of entertainment at every turn, and the splintering of society. But I digress.) 

* * *

I did manage to absorb a decent amount of after-school programming and advertising jingles at friends’ houses, and Saturday morning cartoons when we visited our grandparents.

They had a cute little house in Chicago, with a TV room in the back. That’s where I slept when we visited, and I loved it because it meant I could wake up early and start the day with a deliciously sweet diet of cartoons. My brother would join me soon after, and we’d watch until the rest of the house was up. 

* * *

Most Saturdays, though, we’d wake up at home. What those experiences had in common was classical music. Cartoons have used classical scores for decades. My father is a big fan, and likes to start the day with classical music, played loud. Especially on Saturdays. One of the first albums he bought us as kids was Peter and the Wolf.

To this day, I can’t hear that Prokofiev tune without smiling.

I wasn’t the only one indoctrinated by the classical/cartoon connection, of course. Many of you were right there with me. Click through for a fun thread that identifies a number of the more recognizable pieces.

Or perhaps you are looking for a 2+ hour collection of cartoon music? Then this is your lucky day!

* * *

Since I’m thinking of my father and music, here’s a link I think he might enjoy:

I have no idea what most of these shows were (United States Steel Hour?), but I hope that he does, and that some of this music brings a smile to his face, too.

* * *

Happy Saturday!

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

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For today’s installment of #ThingsILike, I give you maple syrup. (Honestly, is there anyone out there who does not enjoy this delicious treat from the northern woods?) Lucky me, it looks like this year’s wacky weather patterns have resulted in a veritable tsunami of syrup!

For those of you not intimately familiar with the process of maple syrup production, it goes like this:

[Maple] trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in late winter and early spring. Maple trees can be tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.

Here’s a video to showing a basic tap and bucket assembly, but I’ve seen outfits with setups running what look like miles of bright blue tubing directly from the trees to the sugar shack.

Even with modern improvements, this isn’t the sort of agricultural process that can be exported to alternate climes. The trees require cold winters and sap production levels depend on spring temperatures finely balanced between colder nights and warmer days.

It turns out that the weather this March has been pretty near perfect, at least if you are a sugar maple. Waking trees drink up groundwater during the day, convert the stored starches in their roots to sugar, and pump the resulting sap up their trunks and into waiting sap buckets.

Collect, boil, repeat, at least until the sap stops running.

Making syrup requires a lot of work and patience. The old fashioned way involves big black kettles and a steady supply of wood to keep the fire going. Even with new, more efficient boilers, reducing sap to syrup takes hours.

My mother took us to a friend’s sugaring party when I was a child. My brother and I ran from tree to tree, hauling half-full buckets through the snowy woods to the kettle and back. The fresh sap tasted like the Entish draughts of my imagination, its clear cool taste instantly refreshing. We also poured hot syrup onto plates of snow to make maple taffy. Freaking amazing.

As luck (or clever planning?) would have it, I am located in the heart of maple syrup country. Quebec and Ontario are the largest maple syrup producers in Canada.

If you happen to be in Ontario this weekend and you love maple syrup as much as I do, you’re in luck. It’s Maple Weekend and I plan to stock up for the year. Because delicious!

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