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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

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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