Friday, December 23, 2011

My last project for the year... my new motto for next year.

It comes from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The original passage reads:

“Have I told you about the tension of opposites?” he says.

The tension of opposites?

“Life is a series of pulls back and forth.  You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else.  Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t.  You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.

“A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band.  And most of us live somewhere in the middle.”

Sounds like a wrestling match, I say.

“A wrestling match.”  He laughs.  “Yes, you could describe life that way.”

So which side wins, I ask?

“Which side wins?”

He smiles at me, the crinkled eyes, the crooked teeth.

“Love wins.  Love always wins.”

I first read this a few months ago, and I've thought about it a lot since then. When I feel pulled in so many different directions, the last three words help keep me from flying apart. In the end, it isn't how successful we are, but how much we love that matters.

Here's to winning in 2012.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Since I will be away from my computer for the next two weeks, I'm posting my New Year collage a litte early. All the best for 2012! 


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas ferns and clove oranges

I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in many weeks, I have no projects to finish, no articles to write, no tests to study for, no deadlines to meet. You can imagine the bliss!

Of course, there is Christmas to prepare for. Thankfully, over the years I've managed to simplify my Christmas traditions, which in a funny way has enriched them as well.

For example: I avoid the malls like the plague at this time of year and bake all my gifts instead. With some carols playing and the whole house smelling of melting butter, sugar, and chocolate, I always feel like I'm receiving more than I'm giving. It only gets better with the satisfaction of filling the tins and watching people's eyes light up as I hand them their goodies.

My aunt dropped off these empty tins for me last weekend: a not-so-subtle hint!

Yesterday, after I handed in my last school project for the term, I made it my mission to find a little Christmas tree. The lady at the florist's informed me, in a snooty voice, that nobody wants to carry small trees anymore. "They don't make any profit." I guess she didn't realize she was talking to the Paper Bag Princess. I looked around the shop a bit and found Christmas ferns in four-inch pots. Four pots clustered around one that's slightly raised make a very passable Christmas tree, as you can see.

An old gold shawl of mine makes a gorgeous Christmas tree skirt. All the decorations come from the dollar store, including the angel. (Ok, she cost more than a dollar, but I couldn't resist her sweet face and feathery wings.)

The only drawback to a Christmas fern is that it has no scent. I was going to wait until closer to Christmas to get some fresh greenery, but at the market this morning I found an armful of fir and pine, eucalyptus, and twiggy branches for the bargain price of $4.99. Along with some red berries and white chrysanthemums, I was able to make up two bouquets.

To add to the Christmassy scents now filling my little queendom, I'm making clove oranges. Tie a bit of ribbon around an orange and use a couple of pins at the north and south poles to keep the ribbon in place. Decide on a pattern that you like and with a toothpick, poke shallow holes where you want the cloves to go. Stick in the cloves. Fill a bowl with them or hang them from your Christmas tree.

Finally, I'm decorating my shoji screen divider with these glittery red ornaments (also from the dollar store).

This is the time of year when I most sorely miss having my whole family around. But as I told someone just today, every time I try to create something beautiful, or to do something good for other people, I like to think that it's also transformed into something beautiful and good in the lives of the ones I love best. And somehow, this is also the time of the year when it's easiest to believe that. 


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ambleside and Advent

Sunlight is precious here in the Pacific Northwest, especially at this time of year. This afternoon some friends and I drove to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to walk on the beach and catch the last of the sun's rays over the water. Here are some images I captured. Enjoy and have a wonderful first week of Advent!

The patience of a fisherman....he had some crab traps out too.

This one had to be thrown back because it was too small. Claws still look pretty wicked, though.

I loved the whorls and textures of this piece of driftwood - Mother Nature's sculptures.

And here's a man-made sculpture: Overflow IV by Jaume Plensa.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Waiting for the stars to come out

"Some of us believe that God is almighty, and may do everything; and that he is all wise, and can do everything; but that he is all love, and will do everything - there we draw back."

This quote from Julian of Norwich ties in neatly with a poem by Canadian writer Jean Little that a friend of mine passed along to me this weekend.

November can be a trying time for people - I know it is for me - the days are short and dark and cold - and the brightness of lights and decorations often only remind me of family and friends who are too far away, and of Christmas wishes that won't come true for too many.

But this poem helps, especially knowing that Jean Little wrote it at a time in her life when she knew that she was going completely blind. She tells of its conception in her memoir, Stars Come Out Within.

Creator God who simply spoke
And mountains heaved and morning broke
Creator God, who with a word
Fashioned ocean, cloud and bird,
God who could have, from afar,
Made people for this minor star
Using just the power of speech,
Remaining distant, out of reach,
God I love and praise who came
Yourself to hold and mould our frame
Forming us from common soil
With joy and playfulness and toil,
Saving this shaping till the end
Thinking perhaps to find a friend
For converse and for company
Finding instead your family,
Teach us who draw back so much
That love comes close enough to touch
When, failing, in despair, we ask
To pass to other hands the task
Of healing, so beyond our power,
Remind us in that anguished hour
That you who fashioned us from dust
Are with us still, have earned our trust,
And share with our humanity
Not only lonely agony,
Not only morning, star and bird
But, if we take you at your Word,
Love that's not just dutiful,
But jubilant and beautiful,
Love that sings while suffering
Because love cannot help but sing.
When the world's pain becomes so great
We rage or weep or turn to hate,
Redeem us even as you planned.
Give us the grace to understand
You have us still within your hand.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Circle Craft

I took advantage of this holiday Friday to check out Circle Craft's annual Christmas Market (on now until Sunday November 13). Over two hundred artisans from all over British Columbia and the rest of Canada gather under one roof to exhibit and sell their finely designed, high quality wares.

In all the years I've lived in Vancouver, this was my first time to go. Since art and design are so much more prevalent in my life these days, I went more to look than to buy. There were many items that were true works of art, such as these handtooled leather book covers from Sandstone Crafts in Salmon Arm. Unfortunately for me, they had the prices to match.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find some old friends whose goods I can actually afford.

Milsean (booth 300) operates out of Aldergrove, BC, where I lived for many years. The old firehall at 264th Street and 29th Avenue is now the family-run factory where they make their famous demerara butter crunch, Leprechaun's Gold, Blarney Stones, and other delectable goodies. Out front there is a tea and coffee shop, decorated in the same caramel and chocolate tones as the candy - quite simply the best place in town to sit and while away the afternoon.

At Circle Craft today I was pleased to see that they still have the same good deals on their 8-oz bags of sweet things: $25 for three gold foil bags, perfect for gift-giving. They also offer ten of their 1-oz bars in a drawstring gift bag for $15.

Tuscan Farm Gardens (booth 641) was there too, and it's great to know that their new location in Abbotsford is once again open to the public, with a garden, shop, and soon-to-come bed-and-breakfast. Their handcrafted toiletries, honey and teas are infused with homegrown lavender and other herbs. Tuscan Farm Gardens is part of the Passport to Christmas farm tour in the Fraser Valley, so if you are out that way this November and December, be sure to drop by.

Sweet Thea (booth 312) is a new discovery - most known for her wedding cakes, she also makes tarts, pies, and festive breads like stollen. I bought a stollen from Thea, who advised me that over time, the sugars in the fruit will gradually seep to the surface, making the bread more and more moist. Look for her at various farmers markets and bazaars throughout the coming seasons.

If you have a bigger budget, I highly recommend you try Chocolatas (booth 409). Years ago, Wim and Veve Tas opened their home-based chocolate factory and shop in Abbotsford to my girls' club. Wim himself showed us how he makes his chocolate and let us taste as many as we wanted. His creations are almost too pretty to eat, but when you do eat them, they literally melt in your mouth, and feature daring flavours like black pepper and Earl Grey.

So if you are looking for some pretty, unique, and relatively inexpensive Christmas gifts, check out these BC-based exhibitors, as well as Manifest Design (booth 500), the Montreal jeweller where my mom bought these beautiful earrings set in adonized aluminum at the Rue des Artistes jewellry fair in the Old Port last summer; and the clever and whimsical photo art at Alphabet Photography (booth 217).

Other attractions at Circle Craft are the live entertainment stage (today's line-up included highlights from The Nutcracker ballet); a food area; and Totally Amazing Glass live demos.

I'm going to hide my stollen now so it can ripen in peace for Christmas! 


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Thank you, Miss Ramos

This is one of those thank-yous left unsaid until too late.

I just got the sad news that one of my dearest teachers and mentors passed away last night.

Miss Ramos was in charge of our Grade 5 homeroom - if memory serves me correctly. What I remember most clearly about her are her sweet expression and her smile, and the way she would listen attentively to everything I confided to her during our regular, one-on-one chats (for which she always obligingly pulled me out of math class).

Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. It's only now that I'm starting to appreciate how privileged I was to have the teachers that I did - intelligent, talented, creative, sensitive women, strict but fair, funny and kind, courageous - and unforgettable.

Thank you, ladies. Your reach extends further than you know. The lessons you taught are now being passed on to a whole new generation of young women on the other side of the ocean.

But part of me will always stay a little girl, learning in your classroom.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cold nights, hot toddies

Fall has set in with a vengeance, and along with the chilly weather has come its nasty little sister, Miss Sniffles.

To fight them both off last night, I cracked open the bottle of Sortilège that my parents brought me from Quebec last spring. 

I'm not much of a whisky drinker and don't intend to start being one, but I have to say that a hot toddy made from this liquid gold, along with my other favourite golden things (honey and lemon) is just the thing you want to cradle in your hands and sip on cold nights.  

I've long heard that a hot toddy is the fail-safe remedy for colds, and now I know it's true.  This morning I bounced out of bed feeling brand-new, my itchy throat and stuffy nose gone the way of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. 



1 tablespoon honey
1 ounce whisky
1 lemon wedge
1 cup boiling water

Mix everything in a mug or Irish coffee cup and drink up!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Solving the affordability crisis: Smaller homes on smaller lots

We drive smaller cars nowadays to conserve resources.  According to Kathleen Higgins of Delta, BC, we need to employ the same strategy when it comes to land and housing.

“Using residential land more efficiently, while still providing affordable, ground-oriented living, must become a priority, especially in Metro Vancouver,” says Kathleen. “Organic and gentle densification has to occur without huge development fees, so that people with large lots who want to live in a smaller footprint, and make room for one or two other home owners, can easily do so.”

Kathleen is a lawyer who has seen two of her seven children move away because they couldn’t afford to buy property in Delta. According to an April 2010 report from the Delta Housing Task Force, a whopping annual household income of $113,000 is now required to purchase a single family home in Delta. The situation is the same across the province, where real estate prices have risen 149 percent since 1976, as stated in this recent article in the Vancouver Sun.

“When the time comes for me to start a family, I want to be able to own a house,” says Kathleen’s second son James.

But the prospect does not look good. In the November 2011 issue of Vancouver Magazine, Tyee Bridge reports extensively on how the housing shortage is forcing an entire generation of young adults to move out of the Lower Mainland, or even out of province — or stay in Vancouver and resign themselves to being permanent renters instead of homeowners.

One solution, the Higgins believe, is “Smaller Homes on Smaller Lots.” Together with his father, John, who has a masters degree in architecture, James, a student of architectural technology and building science, has worked out a plan to turn their property into three smaller dwellings, each on its own lot.

John and James have created this short Youtube video to explain the plan in detail.

Their design provides for south-facing windows to take full advantage of solar heat, rooftop solar collectors, and rainwater collector systems. One unit is designed specifically for seniors, with wheelchair access and a low-maintenance courtyard in lieu of a garden.

If more people could once again afford to live on their own property in or near urban centres, Kathleen believes the advantages would not just be economic but environmental and social as well. Fewer people would clog up the highways trying to get to work from outlying areas. Communities of permanent homeowners, rather than renters, will prove to be healthier and more stable in the long run. Aging neighbourhoods would be revived by young families living in intelligently designed homes. And BC’s young workforce, our most valuable resource, would be able to stay in this province instead of taking their skills elsewhere.

Kathleen has worked on this concept for years and applied to be part of the North Delta Area Plan Committee to further promote it. She has also run twice for Delta Council, to spread the "smaller homes on smaller lots" message.

“People need to see that it is possible,” says James, “and that there is more than one solution. This is only one idea - imagine what more other people could do.” 


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dutch babies

Nothing can get me out of bed on a Sunday morning like the prospect of pancakes - even if I have to make them myself. At the end of a busy week, there's something immensely luxurious about having enough time in the morning to make a really good breakfast. Some people like omelettes, others prefer waffles or French toast. I like those things too. But my favourite is pancakes.

I've tried many pancake recipes over the years and am always on the lookout for more. This latest one is from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life.

When we first heard of this book, my sister and I wondered out loud, "She's barely thirty years old - what could she possibly have to talk about in a memoir?"  
Turns out, to write insightfully about life, it's not how many years you've lived, but how much you can squeeze from those years, that matters. Molly has had some interesting, enviable experiences (studying and working in Paris, for example) but on the whole, her life sounds just like yours and mine...starting over in a new city, trying to carve out a career, making friends, finding love, learning how to say goodbye...and through it all, being comforted, nourished, and enriched at a dinner table with beloved faces around it and a good meal on top of it.

The truth is that life is mostly ordinary, but if we keep our eyes open and our hearts and minds alive to every moment, then there's something beautiful and wise that can be extracted from even the most mundane things. As Molly puts it, "In the simple acts of cooking and eating, we are creating and continuing the stories that are our lives."

Molly, bless her, is also a self-declared firm believer in recipe-sharing, so I'm sure she wouldn't mind at all if I pass along her recipe for Dutch baby pancakes.  Here's to living ordinary life to the full - especially on Sunday mornings.

Adapted from Molly Wizenburg,
A Homemade Life
Serves four (or two really hungry people)

This is a baked pancake. You will need an 8-10 inch cast-iron skillet or a metal or glass cake pan or pie plate. You will also need a pastry brush and a blender.

2 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half-and-half
pinch of salt
lemon wedges and confectioner's sugar, for topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

If using the skillet, melt the butter over low heat. If using the cake pan, melt the butter in the preheated oven. Use a pastry brush to coat the sides of the skillet/pan with the melted butter.

Blend together the eggs, flour, half-and-half, and salt. Pour the batter into the warmed skillet/pan and slide into the preheated oven. Bake for 18-25 minutes. The sides will rise and puff quite dramatically.  It's ready when the puffed sides are golden brown, and the middle part looks set, though flat, and covered with a glossy sheen of butter.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Cut into wedges and drizzle generously with lemon juice and confectioner's sugar.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Mushroom memories

Nine years ago, at about this time, I got to stay, along with my sister and brother-in-law, at a little house in Florence.

Our hostess, Auntie Gretchen, and my sister's mother-in-law Nadia had been students together in Rome.  Their sons, Simone and Raffaele, are the same age and close as brothers.  And so, by affinity and also because she is innately gracious and hospitable, Auntie Gretchen took my sister and me to her bosom as part of the family.

For our first night under her roof she cooked us a dinner to remember: an arugula and prosciutto salad, followed by mushroom lasagne.  Dessert was a nod to her American heritage - lemon meringue pie.  We sat at her kitchen table watching her slice and squeeze the lemons, and grate parmigiano reggiano over the salad.  The kitchen simmered with warmth that chilly October night and smelled deliciously of garlic.

But mostly I remember that mushroom lasagne, about which I still dream, and sometimes try to duplicate, without success.  I've slowly and painfully come to realize that in order to come up with a lasagne that comes even slightly close to Auntie Gretchen's, at the very least I would have to be in Florence, with access to the same milk, cheese, mushrooms, and pasta that she used.  At most, I would have to be Auntie Gretchen.

This is where James Barber's cooking philosophy comes in handy: "You use what you've got."  So when my dreams of mushroom lasagne clamor to be transformed into reality - as they did this weekend - I roll up my sleeves and do my best with what I've got.  So here it is.  It's not Auntie Gretchen's Lasagne, but it's Maria's Lasagne, and my fondest wish for it is that it will become part of a great mushroom memory for someone, somewhere.


6 cups sliced mushrooms (you can use a combination of any kind you like, but try to use more flavourful varieties such as crimini, portobello, or porcini)
1 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dried mushrooms, reconstituted in 1 cup hot water
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter together in a large skillet until melted.
Saute the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant.
Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.  Add the reconstituted mushrooms along with the water.  Cook for 5 minutes more.  Season according to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside.

For the Béchamel sauce:

5 tbsps butter
4 tbsps all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, scalded
grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and whisk in the flour 1 tbsp at a time.  Cook, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes.  Add the scalded milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.  (Watch carefully and whisk often so it doesn't burn.)  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagne:

Grate 1 cup of mozzarella cheese for the topping.
For oven temperature, follow the package directions of your lasagne of choice.
Place a layer of cooked mushrooms (including broth) in the bottom of your lasagne pan.  Add a layer of lasagne, then a layer of Béchamel sauce.
Keep building the layers until the pan is full or you run out of mushrooms and sauce - whatever comes first.
Sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top, cover with foil and bake according to package directions.

Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Buon appetito!


Friday, October 07, 2011


The cornucopia, also know as the horn of plenty: a symbol of abundance and nourishment, it's the traditional centrepiece for Thanksgiving dinner.

This is my cornucopia.  It's full to overflowing, yet I add more to it every day.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!


Saturday, October 01, 2011

Wine and cheese

Eighty three years ago, some church bells rang out in a Spanish city, and a man had a vision - a vision that cost him blood, sweat, and tears, but has since changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including mine.

Vale la pena, as the man would say.  It was worth it.

To mark this anniversary, some friends of mine threw a wine and cheese party.  What could be simpler and more elegant?  Lay out some cheese and fruit, heat up some bread, uncork some good wine - et voilà, an instant celebration.

St. Josemaría, I think, would approve.

Happy Feast Day!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

A day in good company

I spent this morning at the Word on the Street literacy festival in downtown Vancouver, where I picked up a free book with a label pasted on the inside cover proclaiming that this was a Travelling Book.  I can enter its ID number at to see where it's been, and I can follow where it goes after I read and release it.

I love the idea of travelling books.  In fact I just plain love books and everything about them.  I love books about books, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I also love movies about books, like 84 Charing Cross Road, which started life as a book and is based on a true story. Tonight I finally saw this movie in its entirety, from start to finish, and I enjoyed it very much. 

It's a movie about the beauty and wisdom to be found in books - especially old books - if we have the patience to look for them.  But it's also about the power of the written word to bring people together, forge friendships, cross cultures, bridge oceans, span time, and make the world smaller.

No spoilers here, just a few lines quoted in the movie that I found particularly moving.

The first, a poem by W. B. Yeats.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. 

And the second, an exerpt from one of John Dunne's Meditations.

"..all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another."

Good night, sleep well - tread softly - and happy reading.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

About inspiration

Three weeks into school, I've learned a few important principles from my design teacher.  One is, "Design doesn't start on the computer - it starts in your head," with the help of good old-fashioned pencil and paper.

Another is that in order to figure out your own design style, it's worthwhile to look at others' work. What are you drawn to and why?  It's not about imitation - it's about inspiration.

For those of you who are as interested in etymology as I am, the word inspiration comes from the Latin roots in + spirare ("to breathe").  Inspiration, then, has a lot to do with life - a sort of reminder, I like to think, that we are beings with souls, capable of appreciating beauty and of making beautiful things.

Looking at a lovely thing can be daunting, it's true.  There's the temptation to think, "I could never do that."  But wasn't it Thomas Aquinas who said that a difficult task becomes easy when you see someone else do it?  It's a call for experts to be generous and share their wisdom.  But it's also a reminder that we should ask questions, be attentive, and never stop learning.  Because inspiration, ultimately, leads to perfection.

Here are a few man-made objects that inspire me.

Taken with my camera phone on a recent field trip to Chapters to judge books by their covers.  I realized that I'm drawn to textured surfaces, simple colour chemes, and luxurious details like embossing and foil stamped letters. And, of course, intriguing titles.

"Time, sun-baked time, time that keeps on slipping, slipping, elusive time, time like the stone Romanesque eyes peering from behind a clump of leaves, the startled pagan looking toward a transformed future. Art historians refer to this recurrent motif of the face in the leaves as 'the green man.'" ~ Frances Mayes, A Year in the World


Sunday, September 11, 2011

You can't step into the same river twice. Or can you?

My nephew, now seven years old, just started Grade Two at a new school.

My sister tells us that for the first week or two he was like a little lost soul, hanging friendlessly around the edges of things - a vision that had the rest of us scrambling to set up a family phone conference, so we could give him a pep talk.

Don't wait for them to talk to you, we advised him.  Say hello first.  They're probably just as shy as you.

And then it was my turn to go back to school - somewhere I haven't been for longer than I care to admit here.

I found myself sitting on a bench, under a tree, on a leafy, green campus, and I thought to myself, "I've been here before."

Maybe it wasn't the same physical place, but it was definitely the same head-space...the itch to open the shiny new textbook in the bag beside me, the fluttery feeling - half eager, half scared - at the thought of finally taking the plunge and learning exactly how much I still don't know.

It's the same heart-space, too. The hesitant smiles between new classmates (oops, colleagues, as they'd like us to refer to each other in this program). Shy offerings of glimpses into past lives. And then your first shared laughter, and the relief of knowing that you're probably going to get along just fine.

With apologies to Heraclitus, there's a blessed sameness in life.  What you think is a new experience is just the same one you had when you were seven, then again at seventeen, and on and on - for as long as we keep learning.

And so this week I learned that going back to school is just as scary and exciting for a grown-up as it is for a kid.

And I learned that a new box of pencil crayons can still make me smile big.

I learned to stop moaning that I can't draw, to just put pencil to paper - and surprise myself.

And I learned that a bench under a tree at school is still a great place to make a new friend.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To market with Mom

When I was little, Mom would take me grocery shopping every Saturday.  As a reward for good behaviour, she would buy me a bottle of ice-cold Magnolia chocolate milk, which I would drink once we got back home, while I watched The Osmonds and The Muppet Show.

Years later, after we moved to a new neighbourhood, I would still accompany Mom to the nearby palengke (wet market) on Saturday mornings.  This was good training not only in budgeting and menu planning, but also in overcoming squeamishness and developing a strong stomach.

There was the butcher's stall, with slabs of fresh meat piled high on the scarred wooden boards.  One time, a man came up with an entire slaughtered pig across his shoulders and dumped it on the counter in front of me. 

Then there was the chicken stall, where you could prod, poke, squeeze and even sniff the various parts before you made your selection.  And the fish stall, where you pointed out the swimmer you wanted and got to watch as it was cleaned and gutted before your eyes, scales flying like shrapnel every which way.

Our last stop was the fruit and vegetable stand, where two old ladies (one short and fat, the other tall and skinny) beamed at you as they weighed out your onions and tomatoes, long beans and bitter melons and eggplants, mangoes and bananas.

Mom and I live in different cities now, on opposite sides of this vast country we now call home, but when we get together we still try to keep up the old tradition.  Like today.  We drove to Jean Talon Market and went slightly crazy over the colourful mountains of late summer bounty.  We bought peaches and plums, sausages and honey, and - bonus of the day - zucchini flowers for tonight's pasta.  And of course, no trip to the market would be complete without a treat at the end of the afternoon.  In memory of those long-ago chocolate milks, I selected a vanilla and chocolate gelato.

Feast your eyes on the photos, and look forward with me to a lovely and fruitful fall!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Instead of a computer screen, this is what I'll be staring at for the next few weeks.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and see you here again in September!

Monday, August 08, 2011

To me, Montreal means family, food, and fun.

Today, I had all three.

After yesterday's rain (which everyone accused me of bringing from Vancouver) we woke up to a perfect day: blue skies, fresh breeze, and almost zero humidity.  Lovely for a stroll through Westmount.

Then we headed to the Old Port in search of a food cart that was written up in last Saturday's National Post.  The lobster roll far exceeded our expectations: a thick wedge of brioche stuffed to overflowing with sweet, plump chunks of lobster meat, dressed with just a hint of mayonnaise and diced celery.  The clam chowder, dreamily creamy and thick with potato and clam, was also very good.

Au revoir until the next adventure!

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