Beauty in the Ordinary

This is not about being brilliant, or extraordinary, it's not about wanting to be famous, or making headlines, or trying to impress...this about sharing a 'gift' each day with the lift the spirit of people when they read this blog, to show them the beauty in the ordinary.
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Raold Dahl

Friday, April 30, 2010

Just had to share!

J.  Look what my clever daughter Jessica just baked at work!  What a hoot!  and I'll bet they are delicious too!
So V.  The weekend is almost upon do we end this week of 'food'?
What is on for your weekend?  We have 'Mayfair at Fort George' here in NOTL...Maypole dancing, Fife and Drum Band, Fireworks, Music and Great Food is promised.  I'll have my camera...will  let you know how this goes!

And just to end the week on a happy note:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I will only...
Hold those in my heart,
Have things in my home,
and put food in my mouth,
that nourishes me.

J.  I wrote myself this little mantra about three years ago.  It was a realization that came after a few years of feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis.  What I came to understand, with a lot of guidance from V., was that I am in control, all the time, of how I feel about....well, just about everything.
I've framed this little quote and it hangs in my downstairs bathroom.  I read it every day as a reminder that I am the captain of my ship.

Last night was dinner with the family, and a family friend at Lindsay's.  Our first barbeque of the season...small amounts of steak, sausage, salmon and trout, perfectly seasoned and tenderly cooked.  Accompanied by a delicious, fresh potato salad of baby-red potatoes (skin-on to retain as much of the nutritious benefit as possible), thinly sliced red onion, scallion and jalapeno pepper and a wonderful fresh green salad.  Food to nourish the body and companionship to nourish the soul.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


J.  A cup of tea...hard to explain the mountain of significance this seemingly insignificant beverage holds for my sister and I.  When we are together we drink gallons of the stuff.  Mint, Peach, Sleepy-time, Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe...the list is endless.  Always accompanied by good conversation which, interestingly enough sometimes is silent, and occasionally with something sweet.
Here are two recipes that blend perfectly with an afternoon cup of tea.  I call the first Victoria's Scones because she gave me the recipe.  She will say that someone else passed it on to matter...we should all share our recipes all the time.  They are a no-fuss drop scone, simple to make and scrumptious.
The second came from my late mother-in-law, a delicate butter cookie flavoured with vanilla that melts on the tongue. These have become a family tradition and we bake them often.  If you make these, watch them carefully, all that butter browns quickly and they look their most perfect when  just a delicate shade of yellow.

3 c white flour OR
1-1/2 c each white flour and whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
2/3 c vegetable shortening
2/3 c currants
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp baking soda
Sour Milk
1-1/4 c milk
2 tbsp white vinegar

1 Sift all dry ingredients except soda.
2 Cut in shortening.
3 Add currants.
4 Add beaten egg (saving a little to cover tops)
5 Dissolve soda in sour milk and add to dry mixture just to moisten.
6 Drop by small handfuls onto ungreased, floured baking sheet.
7 Brush tops with beaten egg (if not enough, add a little milk).
8 Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 mins
Does not double well.  Try not to mix batter excessively.

¾ c sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
10 oz butter
1 pkt vanilla sugar
3 c flour
Icing sugar and jam to finish
  1. Mix all dry ingredients
  2. Rub in butter
  3. Add eggs and egg yolk
  4. Roll on lightly-floured board and cut into 2-1/2" disks
    1. With a thimble, cut a smaller hole in half of the disks
  5. Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 325 for 12-15 minutes until pale yellow
  6. Sandwich with jam and dust with icing sugar

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

J.  I know this has absolutely nothing to do with food, but I just had to tell you about Happy.  This morning, on my walk, I met Happy.  An eleven year old American Pit Bull.  His owners were walking in the opposite direction as me this morning and when they saw me approaching, immediately leashed Happy.  As we passed, I mentioned that they certainly did not have to do that on my behalf.  Happy's dad then proceeded to explain that he has been chastised on more than one occasion for having Happy off leash.  This dog, in the entire time we chatted did not move more than three feet away from his owners.  This charming couple then went on to detail how Happy got his name.  They found him, on the Niagara Parkway, eleven years ago on New Year's Eve.  An abandoned puppy, covered in bites where the coyote's had 'been having a go at him' as his mum explained, they took him home and he has been a source of joy ever since.  Obviously, Happy and this couple were destined to meet.
All the while we chatted, Happy stood with his head pressed firmly against my knee...the most serene, sweet dog I have ever seen.  Cheers Happy!  A pleasure to have met you!

V. Growing up in the South of England allowed us many happy days at the seaside. Our father's family lived 40 miles north on a tiny island off the Thames River, called Canvey Island.
Dad used to pile us all into the car, usually in the middle of the night, with pillows and blankets and our favourite teddy's, and off we would go to visit Nan and Grandad.
It wasn't a long drive, but back then the motorways weren't built and the long narrow roads to London took much longer than it would today.
Once there, my favourite memory would be of all of us eating cockles out of a little bowls swimming in tangy vinegar. Our mother, God Bless her, would always order Welks! ...something I don't even want to remember!
But the cockles, Oh they were heaven! Alive, alive Oh!

Monday, April 26, 2010

J.  I am so matter what I put on the table, be it Kraft dinner (with ground beef,  yes he loves it), or an asparagus and pancetta risotto that I have poured over for thirty minutes, my husband loves what I put before him.  Now, to be completely honest, dinner is an event for us...always with linens and a glass of wine on good china....never in front of the TV (unless it's pizza and American Idol...but that's a whole other post), this is when we come together at the end of the day to discuss, well...whatever...but he is always, always, always appreciative.
Tonight was sauteed rainbow trout with a tomato, onion and avocado salad and oven fries (we are trying to keep him away from gluten).  Delicious, even if I do say so myself. I pined for the baguette to mop up the dressing from the salad, however...all good!
I am reading Julia Child's, My Life In France, right now and the thing I love the most about the book is her relationship with her husband, Paul (yes I feel that intimately connected to them I can call him Paul).  They were true lovers...of each other and food.  And my amazing husband,  thank you for enjoying and appreciating and participating!

Just a quick aside, when Julia Child died, my daughter Jessica was a sous-chef in a vibrant downtown Toronto restaurant.  It was a crazy, hectic, fast-paced evening when someone came into the kitchen, in the middle of service, and made the announcement that the Queen of Cuisine had left this earth.
Jessica tells me that the kitchen fell into a warm, melancholic silence and tears were seen welling in the strangest of eyes.  This was a woman that left her pan-seared mark on our world.  Bon Appetit!
J.  Well done V.  My favourite!
Here in Niagara on the Lake, we are fortunate enough to have access to St. David's Hydroponics, and as such have been able to enjoy their red, yellow and orange peppers (sorry, I don't do the green me it's just an unripe vegetable!) for the past month or so.
I've tried as many recipes as I can think of to use these beauties, but they still remain best eaten raw.  The utter sweetness of them is mouth-watering! And, aside from the nutritional value (there is significantly more vitamin C in a European bell pepper than a large orange), I think shiny, plump peppers are one of the prettiest vegetables ever!
The US food and drug administration has approved the following descriptors for bell peppers..."fat- free, saturated fat-free, sodium free, cholesterol free, low-calorie and high in vitamin C."

St. David's also grow eggplant.  One trick my daughter taught me, and no, not the chef, the other one...was to slice an eggplant as thinly length-wise as you can...quickly brush it with olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pop it under a hot, hot broiler.  Watch them carefully and when they start to brown, turn, re-brush with oil, re-sprinkle with salt, back under the broiler until they are crisp and Voila...eggplant chips!  As delicious as any potato chip...and much better for you!

It is so wonderful to be coming out of winter and into all these beautiful, delicious spring vegetables!

First Taste of Spring

V. Good Monday Morning...
Spring is in the air and this week and J. and I are going to talk about food...and what a wonderful way to start with the welcoming in of fresh local asparagus that is being picked from the growers fields and arriving at your local markets.
This is best season for asparagus, with it's bright green stalks and tightly closed compact tips they are our first official taste of spring.
So simple and elegant, so easy to prepare.
Full of folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, and beta carotene, a true heart healthy food.

The Grocery Goddess has announced their arrival and I'm off to fill my market basket in preparation for an asparagus soup for tonights dinner.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

V...This is what my house said to me today....

Your heart is like this old house
whose windows have been closed for so long,
But now have swung wide open letting in all the sunshine
that has been patiently waiting to enter.
And there is no hurry to fill every inch of this space.
The light moves slowly and gently
as the suns warmth is graciously received
as if it had never been shut out.

A wave of peace settles in this old space ,
this old heart of mine,
and as its walls move and shift
it hears the birds song,
and the cracks begin to heal.

In knowing
that it has been made strong,
it is once again

J.  Here's how my weekend is shaping to town to take my niece for Afternoon Tea at The Windsor Arms Hotel as a pre-wedding treat...hats and all!  Hope your weekend is as delicious as mine promises to be!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

V. Being creative with what is already available and turning it into something beautiful has
always inspired me to look at everything as a 'possibility to please'. Old grain sacks used to cover bolster pillows...then adding something so simple as a monogram...made beautiful from something so ordinary.

I think the French have been doing this for years...tea towels for a picnic!

I never would have thought... a stairway runner!

something that was once used to cover barrels can now be used to cover your comfy chair...

So before we get ready to toss something into the garbage...perhaps we should take another look at it. Let's look with the eyes of creativity...we just might see something lovely waiting for us to be discovered.

J. Silk, not just any silk, but Peace Silk.  Also known as Ahimsa.
Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons and unwinding the single silk strand onto reels. Only a few moths are allowed to emerge to continue the population of silkworms. The rest are killed by being boiled in their cocoons. This is done so the silk fibres are not broken and can be reeled off in a continuous strand. 

However, silk can still be spun like other fibres and the moths allowed to emerge from their cocoons.  Peace silk, also known as "vegetarian silk", gives us silk but lets the moth to live out its full life cycle. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibres, instead of being reeled. The resulting yarn is soft, fluffy, and light like a cloud. This is the best silk for warmth and therapeutic use.  Spun soft and lofty, silk is as insulating as the finest down. 

May your silk always be peaceful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

J.  Cotton...turkish, egyptian, pima...doesn't matter as long as it's 100% cotton.  Can't stand those velour, micro-something bathrobes you put on after a shower and you never feel dry!  So spend a little more at the beginning and buy the most pure you can afford, wash them separately in hot, hot water (but no fabric-softener please, it inhibits absorbency) and they will last a lifetime and just get softer and softer and softer...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

J.  So now we are talking about Earth Day...let's talk about linen.  My most favourite fabric on this beautiful planet.  There is nothing sexier than a man in linen trousers and a soft linen shirt in the summer...nothing more elegant than the perfect white linen shirt with a pair of jeans and high heels...nothing more luxurious than linen bedding...nothing more sensuous than drying yourself with a course Italian linen bathtowel...nothing more nostalgic than a monogrammed Irish linen handtowel and nothing more heady that a linen-vanilla perfume...enough said?

J...and because it all begins with your own two hands....

V. Hand in hand we go J. and we have done for as long as I can remember...and on these pages we speak softly of things that fill our hearts and lives...we are just two who want to show the sacredness in all things...from the rituals of morning coffee served in the very best of what we the meals we prepare honouring the people who work hard to nourish us by growing as J. says 'the purest form'. So, hand in hand we go, come with us, we will not rush through each day, we will honour our time here...

So for Earth Day this will be my pledge...

To remember each day to be humble, knowing that I am a visitor here on this earth,
and to be respectful of my host.
To not take for granted the songs of birds, nor the ocean waves.
To not turn away and ignore that which is less than beautiful, for it is in those places where we develop our depth of understanding.
To know that each day my life is an expression of the Divine.
And to be responsible for my choices, my words and my actions.
To live and act, in everything I do, as will bring out the
very best in others.
To remember the act of love that my big sister J. taught me,
of holding another's hand,
and walking side by side...together,
knowing that we can make a difference on this Earth for the better of all.

J.  So here is my pledge for Earth Day:
To consume only what I need in the purest form I can.
To be gentle and kind to the animals and plants that sustain me.
To walk consciously in the world so as to avoid all things harmful.
To replace and heal where I can.

Monday, April 19, 2010

V. I believe this beautiful place we live on, called Earth, will survive, no matter what we do to it...but the question is...will we still want to live on it? It will change and evolve and change again...I just don't believe we will want to be here if we keep on doing all the things we are currently doing.
So we think about recycling, eating locally to keep emissions down by long distance trucking, riding your bike instead of taking the car, don't fly so often, etc., etc., yes, all the small stuff...and we can go to bed each night thinking we are doing our bit...but are all of these things just a band aid...I think so...they are just a cover up to keep us busy thinking we are actually doing something to help...I think just distractions from the really big things out there that are taking place that we have no idea about. But I will do them just the same, and when information reaches me that even whispers of the 'really big stuff', then I will ask questions until I get answers and then I will ask some more. Once we know something it can never be unknown..I think someone famous said that, I just can't remember who, but I do believe it to be true.
When the news flares up of a politician or sports celebrity having an affair, take a look for the small print somewhere it will probably read about a bill being passed that allows for the dumping of toxic waste in our oceans or the sale of our water to some other country, and do not believe that you cannot make a difference...stick your head out the window, like that fellow in the movie, and shout..."I"M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!"

And as for the dolphins, how wonderful to be with dolphins in there natural habit, it is a gift, the sad part is that these dolphins are so full of mercury because of what we dump in the oceans...also go see the movie 'The Cove" directed by National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos...and tell the world... this isn't the small stuff...this is something that has been hidden for for all of those out there who visit Sea World or some other so called water amusement park...think about the real price that really had to be paid to see 'Flipper' jump through a hoop!

above photo by Angiephotozzz

Okay...I'm getting ready for Earth Day..all this green stuff.  But really, what should it mean? are way better at this that I me out.  I get this planet is the only one we have and that yes, we should always tidy up our messes, but in the grand scheme of things (think this volcanic eruption in Iceland) do we puny humans really make that much of an impact?  I really don't mean to sound facetious, but it does make me wonder sometimes, given the money we throw at environmental issues.
By the way...the header photo...those dolphins...just came to ride in the wake of a friend's boat in Florida last year.  He drove like a maniac, created all this wake and they hopped in and followed us for a half an hour.  Animals at play...totally joyful!

Friday, April 16, 2010

J.  I don't have a dog...I have a grand-puppy.  She, Miss Daisy, belongs to my daughter and son-in-law.  She doesn't actually look like this, but she certainly has this attitude!  This is what she really looks like:
She's an absolute doll!
J.  I received two interesting items from my daughters yesterday, both speak volumes to me about their passions as young women, their depth of thinking and most importantly, to me, their love of the well-written word.

I don't know where this first one came from, this tender glimpse into the dynamic of a family.  It speaks to the frailty of existence and complexity of relationships


We're eating at the fanciest restaurant anyone can imagine in Winnipeg.  We're waiting, a mite ruffled, for our mains when they surprise us with an amuse-bouche puff-pastry with innards cheesy and tart-and we're startled and pleased.  The walls are deep blue or brick and beyond the tall windows is the warehouse district, it's sturdy old buildings fashionable now.  And the snow.  It's late November.  Three weeks ago at another dinner the man I love smiled and regaled us - me, his kids - with his birth.  He was an accident.  Just twenty months between him and his older sister.  He doesn't seem to mind his haphazard entry to the world.  Now he's sitting at this capacious table with my family and he gives us more of the story.  His parents, come after the war, failed to flourish.  There were twenty-four hours, he says between his mother and a back-alley abortion when friends brought to the apartment the $300 they'd gathered to take his family through the winter.  Money saved him.  For that and so many other occurrences, I have him here, close to family.  I'm just eighteen months younger than my sister, I tell him, but we were all planned.  I feel my mother rustle at my elbow.  My older sister regards me.  I've heard the stories of her lugging diaper pails.  How hard it was.  "Well..." my mother says.  I have a mouthful, something arcane, delicious.  And feel dislodged, suddenly the unexpected guest, no place setting for me.  How is it I didn't know, when it makes such sense?  It makes sense.  I've felt always wanted and unworthy.  How is it she didn't tell me, I wail quietly across the tablecloth.  And she reminds me how her own mother broadcast her accidental status, how little she was wanted.  I want to ask what she felt, carrying me;  don't.  Not yet.  Remember how welcome my own son was, from when he was a twitch in my belly.  I know how poorly she was loved, how richly I was and am.  And how love surprises us, unexpected.

The second is an article written by J.K. Rowling for the UK Times as Britain prepares for it's upcoming General Election.  Her reasons for still not voting Tory and the still-dire status of single-parenthood in that country (although I fear the same situation exists in Canada and the US too) caused by prejudice and not lack of but inadequate government programmes.  As Ron would say "Bloody Hell!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Qualify For Membership In The Reign of Heaven

Compost everything and frequently turn it to air.
That includes your headaches, rashes, your unspent rages.
Children enrolled in narrow rooms need release,
then show them the rest of our place, you know...
Orion's Belt, Andromeda , the journey of the planets.
Look into the eyes of animals.
It matters.
Can you paint them on cave walls?
Search a secret place where the hermit thrush has gone to die,
and flute there.
When grandiose persons try to enlarge by talking,
diminish yourself, mute and honest as an oval stone.
Be alert at the dusk moment when light turns over,
Be there when Venus rises,
and at moon's wake
Your presence is your membership.

V. as J. sends nourishment for our's a little something to nourish our soul.
This beautiful art work by Elena Ray...and inspiring poem by Hannah Main-Van der Kamp.


J.  I read in the paper this morning that KFC have just introduced (in the US) the "Double Down"
"A breadless mass of bacon, cheese and gooey sauce mashed between two slabs of fried chicken." reports The Globe and Mail.

Lord save us!
Well, if KFC have thrown down the gauntlet, I will respond with

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

J.  Here are the components of my front garden.  I added the birdbath yesterday.  Trying sooooo hard not to get ahead of Mother Nature!  All this lovely sunny weather we are having right now is so tempting though.
I really want to take a crack at the back garden soon with some pots of lavender.  I'm very lucky here in NOTL as we have a lavender farm Busy Bee Gardens, run by a darling young couple Melissa and Robert who have volunteered to help me select the right type for my garden. They also make all kinds of lovely lavender products and essential oils which you can buy online

I was considering painting the back deck, but after lots of reading about painting it, I've decided the upkeep might just be a little OTT.  So now, stain the deck or allow the pressure-treated wood to turn that lovely grey all by itself?  Decisions, decisions!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Answer to Quiz

Yes, it is my head on Goldie's body.
I think she would love me, for choosing that photo of her with her son, Oliver Hudson, at his wedding on a Mexican beach.

The above photo of Goldie is from the front cover of her memoir...'A Lotus Grows in the Mud'.
It is one of the most beautiful books I own. I love everything about it.
It writes...
"In this candid and unconventional memoir, Goldie Hawn invites us to join her in a look back at the remarkable people and events that have touched her. It is a joyous - and sometimes surprising - spiritual journey of the heart in search of enlightenment.
She writes intimately about the challenges of love, anger and fear, and the vital importance of compassion and integrity....about her unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding.
Most of all 'A Lotus Grows in the Mud' is an unforgettable trip through a life well lived by a woman well loved".

I think this is how I would love to be remembered.
J.  I'm right there beside you V.  Fabulous, but exhausting weekend!  Nine people for an afternoon of friends being together and watching Phil win the Green Jacket with Thai food as our theme.  Hours of chopping, chopping, chopping followed by woking, woking, woking!
My brilliant daughter Jessica flew around the kitchen with me in attendance as sous-chef and the result was sublimely delicious.....but what a mess! Crikey!
So this morning, I'm sleeping in and then it's off to the garden with Frances.  Unloading the dishwashers can wait.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

V. I've been in my little house two weeks, it's been painted, cleaned and scrubbed. New curtains and window shades are hung, but the new light fixtures still dangle from the ceiling, I'm plucking up the courage to connect the wires myself...maybe tomorrow!
I have started a new job, and I need to tend to my garden and back patio area soon...but tomorrow this is what I am going to do....
I'll be back fresh as daisy Tuesday.

To end the week!...Just for Fun....

V. If the national enquirer can do can I...
Just for fun...have you ever wanted to paste your head on someone else's body...well go ahead...take a risk...and just do it!
I'm not sure why I picked this body, I could have chosen a young, voluptuous totally toned bod to stick my head on...but I love this picture...and I love this hot young guy...and we look sooooooo happy!

Come on guess whose body this is...I dare you! There might be a prize!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

J.  Six months ago today.

So You Thought You Could Leave Me?
When the Universe was created, billions of years ago, in that single instant every atom that has ever, and will ever exist was created.  Every atom that composed you came into being. 
You were there then and you will continue to exist until the Universe is no longer.
  You are the Earth, the Birds, the Stars, the Flowers, the Butterflies...mostly the Butterflies.
And that is why wherever memory exists, so shall you the amazement of seeing you saunter down the staircase in your adapted mini-dress as I, all of ten-years old, sat with eyes wide and mouth even wider. the joy of sitting at the end of your bed early in the morning as you sang out loud to Englebert Humperdink and swooned about how you "really fancied him".  
And I, in my childhood ignorance wished I could "really fancy him" too because of how beautiful it made you look. the heart-stopping excitement of going to town with you to choose the gown for your first Ball. the wonder of seeing you the day you gave birth to your daughter. Sitting in your fairy-tale draped bed, coiffed, manicured and holding this perfect baby-girl. the ease of coming together, after long and distant separations and having it be as it always was, easy and comfortable and loving. seeing you look at your husband in your frailest moment and see only that young, beautiful man you married and have him look right back at you with the same vision.
And so the list goes on and on and on...
So you thought you could leave me?...I don't think so.
The sister you named Jacqueline

J.  This is the most feminine kitchen I have ever seen designed by Kelly Geisen of Kelly G Designs.  I could so live with this!  I think it's the mirror and chandelier that most speaks to me...might have to do something about this!

J.  Here is the inspiration for my garden this year.  I absolutely adore the white trellis brimming with 'Little Lamb'  hydrangeas and "Sweet Autumn' clematis, the white impatiens and hydrangeas all punched out by the dark furniture and black deck and bannister.  And...piece de resistance...a delicate fairy-leafed, fire-red Japanese maple.

Style at Home, May 2010

J.  Way to go Jamie for making nerdy cool!  How can this not make you smile?

Friday, April 9, 2010

1st Option via Finely Inc.

J.  A white Aga...sigh...stove envy again...
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