Monday, March 29, 2010

Beautiful Evening

I spent the first part of it cleaning my folks' place in anticipation of their return on Wednesday, from their winter in Mexico.

Okay, that's not the beautiful bit.

Now I sit with a book, the Ink Spots singing in the background (thanks for the recommendation T!), the vanilla candles burning and my mouth watering in anticipation of a late dinner... roast organic chicken on a bed of steamed leeks. Hurry up and finish cooking, dagnabit!

If I Didn't Care
(Jack Lawrence / Milton Ager)

If I didn't care more than words can say
If I didn't care would I feel this way?
If this isn't love then why do I thrill?
And what makes my head go 'round and 'round
While my heart stands still?

If I didn't care would it be the same?
Would my ev'ry prayer begin and end with just your name?
And would I be sure that this is love beyond compare?
Would all this be true if I didn't care for you?

If I didn't care honey child, mo' than words can say.
If I didn't care baby, would I feel this way?
Darlin' if this isn’t love, then why do I thrill so much?
What is it that makes my head go 'round and 'round
while my heart just stands still so much ?

If I didn't care would it be the same?
Would my ev'ry prayer begin and end with just your name?
And would I be sure that this is love beyond compare?
Would all this be true if I didn't care for you?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

One Earth Hour and The Long Day Closes

After the cake event of Saturday afternoon, I had a dinner party to attend. And I had offered to make dessert! After all the baking and decorating I needed to make the simplest thing, and so I decided to make a key lime pie. But I wasn't impressed by the layer of dust on top of my graham cracker box. So what to do? Well, I'm a big fan of Betsy's baking and one recipe of hers that I love is her chewy ginger cookies. But when I made them, I had mistimed things and ended up going on a longish trip, leaving most of them uneaten and coming back to somewhat stale cookies. Not wanting to waste them, I ground them up and froze them in freezer bags. On Saturday morning I used some instead of graham crackers to make the pie shell. I added some lemon juice to the lime juice just for laughs, and the pie turned out great! The hint of ginger was a great addition to the flavour, and - of course - it was served with a large dollop of whipped cream. I can't wait to try Betsy's ground up ginger cookies as a base for a cheese cake!

On to dinner: What I love about my friend's stylish condo is that it seems out of a movie, with a step down living room. Wasn't that feature in just about every Hollywood apartment? He sets a great table too, and the evening was filled with lively conversation and wonderful food. We noted Earth Hour and ate by candlelight only.

Today I cleaned. Oh, the cleaning. The kitchen alone took all morning. But now the whole place is back to normal, the cake decorating supplies are put away and I sat down at last with a cup of peppermint tea and pondered the next two weeks, which promise to be a bit slower than the last few.

And I will at last have time to catch up on my favourite blogs.

The Big Cake Project 2010, Final Part

Well, instead of doing this colour version of Willow Boughs...

... we felt this one looked more edible!

We spent Friday morning painting leaves with edible tinted piping gel, before repairing to Mangia e Bevi for pizza. Here you see Laura's elegant hand at work.

The afternoon was spent stacking the cake layers with lemon curd and buttercream. A coat of buttercream went all over the cake. We were delayed in this process by a chilled buttercream situation that I might go on about at some point, but not now. Bottom line is, we showed the buttercream who was boss and all was well. We were then ready to place the painted tiles. Here are the first two placed, according to the printed pattern.

We didn't take any more pictures during the process as we just needed to get it done, and our hands felt permanently buttery... not conducive to holding cameras.

The finished cake on my dining room table:

And positioned at the event:

I think it's the tastiest one yet.

Some stats:
~ The cake took 30 full eggs and 20 more whites (all free-run)
~ It weighed approximately 35 pounds
~ It measured 16" x 16" and was just under 5" tall
~ It took 45 woman hours to complete
~ Only two people remarked the willow leaves looked a bit like pea pods. I was one of them. Heh heh.
~ Laura is a great cake collaborator, cool under pressure and, as usual, a complete delight to work with!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tree Hugging Moment

Der Lindenbaum
(Schubert / Müller)

Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
Da steht ein Lindenbaum:
Ich träumt in seinem Schatten
So manchen süßen Traum.

Ich schnitt in seine Rinde
So manches liebe Wort;
Es zog in Freud und Leide
Zu ihm mich immer fort.

Ich mußt auch heute wandern
Vorbei in tiefer Nacht,
Da hab ich noch im Dunkel
Die Augen zugemacht.

Und seine Zweige rauschten,
Als riefen sie mir zu:
Komm her zu mir, Geselle,
Hier findst du deine Ruh!

Die kalten Winde bliesen
Mir grad ins Angesicht,
Der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe,
Ich wendete mich nicht.

Nun bin ich manche Stunde
Entfernt von jenem Ort,
Und immer hör ich´s rauschen:
Du fändest Ruhe dort!

The Linden Tree
Outside the gate's a fountain
And an old Lindentree,
Under its shady branches
My dreams were sweet and free.

I carved in its old bark,
So many phrases dear.
In times of joy and sadness
It always drew me near.

Today I still must wander
All through the gloomy night
'twas then that in the darkness
I closed my eyes so tight.

And I heard branches whisper
As if they called to me:
Come to me weary traveler,
You'll find your peace with me.

The frigid winds were blowing
Against my face and me.
My hat flew into darkness,
I did not turn to see.

Now I am many hours
Away from this old tree
And still I hear it whispering
You'd find your peace with me.

(Dietrich Fischer Dieskau sings it beautifully here.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Baking Before Blogging

Below this cheery daffodil, that has opened up with his friends on my dining room table, lay two of the three cake layers I baked tonight. One more tomorrow, each measuring 16" x 16", and then they'll be filled and layered tomorrow evening. Friday morning Laura will arrive early (we've both taken vacation days from work) and we'll work on our willow leaves and stems. Nearly there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

"All that other stuff, all that history? To hell with it, right? Forget the Alamo."

Elizabeth Peña as Pilar Cruz in Lone Star (1996)

A three-hour meeting after work leaves me craving the American south-southwest. And if I can't get there now, at least I can visit it through one of the truly great films. If you haven't seen it, I really recommend it. I see it twice a year maybe, and I get something more from it each time. Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Peña, Kris Kristofferson, Frances McDormand, Matthew McConaughey, Gordon Tootoosis, the great, hot dry expanse of Texas, the masterful directing/writing/editing hand of John Sayles, a soundtrack I never stop playing and an ending that takes my breath away and redefines the notion of love.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fenugreek, Chickpeas and Lamb - oh My!

Saturday evening saw the end of our wonderfully spring-like weather. I was esconced with a friend at Jam Cafe, currently my favourite restaurant, eating their organic chicken, with a mustard/lavender sauce, the taste and scent of which is heavenly. And to start? Well, when I called to reserve, I was asked by the charming owner/chef Av Avtikian how I was. I replied "I'm fine, except for a severe lack of fritto misto." And so I had that too, and it was deelish as always.

The chicken:

My favourite ceiling:

And now that the weather is all icky and cold and wet, I am retiring early tonight with my newest cookbook.

I have no idea what fenugreek is. But apparently I need to purchase some pronto. I'm sure the St. Lawrence Market will come through for me. I'll pick the ubiquitous lamb and chickpeas at the same time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Big Cake Project 2010, Part One

Today, cake decorating started on this year's big cake project. After some discussion we decided that instead of William Morris's Willow pattern, we're going to recreate his closely related Willow Boughs, a slightly more naturalistic image, and one I love.

Here's the wallpaper.

And here were the four bags of icing sugar I started with this morning, to make a large bowl of royal icing.

Once tinted to the green of choice, we put parchment over the wallpaper pattern to trace the outline of the leaves in icing. Two full sets are being made. Part of the second set will help decorate the board the cake sits on, and also it's good to have extras in case of breakage. There's always breakage!

Then we thinned the remaining tinted royal icing to flood the interior of the leaves. They don't look like much right now... but just you wait. It's amazing what a few more steps can do. The cake board is covered with tinted fondant, held in place by some piping gel brushed over the board.

And after all that, my pals headed home, and I headed back to Cherry Beach to clear my head. I love the appearance of buds... and the promise of spring.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A few Pics of Inspector Tibblesworth

Tibby's (and my) parents have been in Mexico for two months. Knowing they're missing their huge ginger tabby, I thought a few pictures of the old moggy would please them. I took these some while back, while Tibby lay in my mum's arms, which he loves to do every evening.

The top of Tibby's head, which I could kiss for hours. You can see his nose on the left of the picture:

Tibby, the big baby, with my mum:

This photograph makes my dad laugh each time he sees it:

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Walk on Cherry Beach

And home for grilled Thai satays on salad.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Insanely Unfair, and a too-Often Told Tale

Today I heard that a young woman I know has succumbed to cancer. It was a rare form, and in one that young (she was in her very early 30s), it took hold very potently. She fought it traditionally for a year, then bravely informed her husband that she would forego chemo, which had made her life hell, and live whatever life she had left with quality and dignity. They took on alternate therapies and the last time I saw her, last September at our cottage holiday, she looked like a million dollars. She shone over our festivities with such style and I thanked her for bringing some badly needed glamour to our happily scruffy group. With delight she pointed out that her slinky top was from this garage sale, her jeans from Goodwill, her earrings from another yard sale, etc., with nothing costing more than $5. She looked as though a professional stylist had made it all happen. And only her smooth, lovely bald head would give you any indication she had been, or was still ill.

For one so very beautiful she had a surprisingly powerful personality, a great sense of humour, and had chosen to live outside the big city, in a very small community where she found a wonderful home with her husband and dogs.

I've sighed many of those long, shuddering sighs today, and all the petty problems seem so very petty tonight.

Oh, for comfort for her loved ones! This really is insanely unfair, but such is life it seems.

From the top: sunset in the Kawarthas; sun on the water on the same lake; bulbs just outside the front door this afternoon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some Recent Theatre

When I was in Montreal, I took in a wonderful performance at the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier. The title, La Princesse Turandot, leapt out at me, and it turned out to be taken from the opera Turandot by Puccini, and the play Turandot by Carlo Gozzi. I noted later that Gozzi's Turandot was later translated by Schiller who in turn inspired Puccini. And I'm currently enjoying reading my first Schiller play, Mary Stuart, in preparation to see the opera of that title by Donizetti. Funny how these things go.

But back to Montreal, which proved yet again that it is theatrically such an exciting city. I took in a 10 a.m. performance (you read that correctly) which, I should have anticipated, was rife with high-school students. It was basically me and several hundred teenagers and a few teachers. The simmering hormones seemed to be erupting noisily and messily pre-show and I feared the worse. But I had no need to worry. The second the performance began the audience was completely silent. I'm sure this was in part due to the preparation they were given, their own willingness to get involved, but in most part, surely, because of the engrossing, wonderfully entertaining performance. Part commedia dell'arte, part opera, and all French, it was in turns hysterical, cute, terrifying and moving. As I know the plot well and retain a little French anyway, and because the acting, clowning and pantomiming was so superb, I was aware the entire time of what was going on.

How I'd love to see it again!

I see that next on their program is Robert Lepage's Lipsynch, his nine-hour play which I intended to see here in Toronto last summer but just never go around to. Grrr... I really must get myself better organized than I have been of late.

Back to the Toronto, and performances here inspired me to delve more into their inspirations. Verdi's Otello starred my favourite tenor, Clifton Forbis, and I spent the next evening savouring the Shakespeare play at home. A play at Hart House about Canadian author Robertson Davies, The Peeled I, inspired me to pull out Tempest Tost, his wonderful story of an amateur production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. More Shakespeare... and I do intend to sit one evening and read that play, which I have never yet really got into, although I've seen it live twice.

And now I'll go to my Schiller, with a small slice of Parnoosh's date/almond wheel, my favourite sweet treat just now that I am not indulging in chocolate. Here is my rationale: I'm not going to let myself replace dark chocolate (which we can agree is good for you in small doses) with super-sugary treats (which aren't my thing anyway). But these wonderful Parnoosh wheels are made simply of dates and raw almonds pressed together. There are other varieties too, like dates and pistachios, all very yummy, very healthy, very Biblical, and very sensual in a Song of Songs sort of way.

The photograph at the top is of a favourite mug of mine. The lower photograph was lifted from the website of Théâtre Denise-Pelletier and I believe it was taken by Hugo Bélanger.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Before I Retire to the Rest of my Evening...

Here is just one more post. It seems we have a plan for the Big Cake Project 2010. We're going to recreate William Morris's Willow wallpaper.

I may have given up chocolate for Lent, but I haven't given up buttercream, lemon curd, or cake.

Stay tuned.

The above image was lifted shamelessly by me from this excellent site.

William Tyndale

Continuing from my blog post about a book I have just finished reading, I was fascinated to learn something about William Tyndale, whose earlier translation of the bible from the early 1500s was used intact for large amounts of the King James version (1611). Another quote from this most excellent book, which I recommend whether you are a believe or not:

"There is an important point here. Tyndale enthusiasts have calculated that 94 per cent of the New Testament in the King James Bible is exactly as Tyndale left it. Therefore, the argument goes, the Jacobean Translators were in some ways little better than plagiarists, promoting as their own work a translation that belonged essentially to another man, a Protestant martyr, who died a horrible death, attacked repeatedly and mercilessly by Thomas More, and who nevertheless reshaped the English language, who framed the phrases we all know: 'Love suffereth long and is courteous, Love envieth not'; 'When I was a child, I spake as a child, I imagined as a child'; 'eat, drink and be merry'; 'salt of the earth'; the 'powers that be'; 'as bald as a coot'; 'Our Father which art in heaven', and so on."

I'm just saying... it's a good read!

Damn, I Love Them!

I tried Mandora tangerines this week, but was disappointed at their bitterness. So I returned to my Mineola oranges and have been consuming them two at a time, like a scurvy-ridden sailor.

And, fellow bloggers, I'm wondering if you're having the same problems I have had with Blogger. I'm getting so frustrated with it. The search engine on my blog doesn't work and comment counts for older blog posts are showing zero. I think it's all falling apart. I'm investigating Wordpress and for now will do a big back up of this blog. I'd hate to lose all my posts. Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's Rained all Weekend but...

how cheery that my umbrella matches the inside of my bag.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Call me... No-merit

I have just finished reading an excellent book: God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson, a great fan of the rich language of this mighty book. His own relatively small book is a passionate look at a fascinating time in British history, which just makes me wish I knew more about it. The Jacobeans were by all accounts a remarkable lot, and the team that worked to translate the bible were a mixed bag, whose final achievement is all the more remarkable for the size of the group and their differing backgrounds. There is a fair bit of humour in this account as well, including examples of guesswork by the stumped translators when tackling some of the Greek/Hebrew texts.

From one of the lighter parts of the book, here's a quote:

"Some Puritans maintained that the names of the great figures in the scriptures, all of which signify something - Adam meant "Red Earth", Timothy "Fear God" - should be translated. The Geneva Bible, which was an encyclopaedia of Calvinist thought, including maps and diagrams, had a list of those meanings at the back and, in imitation of those signifying names, Puritans, particularly in their heartlands of Northamptonshire and the Sussex Weald, had taken to naming their children after moral qualities. Ben Jonson included characters called Tribulation Wholesome, Zeal-of-the-Land Busy and Win-the-fight Littlewit in The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614), and Bancroft himself had written about the absurdity of calling your children 'The Lord is Near, More-trial, Reformation, Morefruit, Dust and many other such-like'. These were not invented. Puritan children at Warbleton in Sussex, the heartland of the practice, laboured under the names of Eschew-evil, Lament, No-merit, Sorry-for-sin, Learn-wisdom, Faint-not, Give-thanks and, the most popular, Sin-deny, which was landed on ten children baptised in the parish between 1586 and 1596. One family, the children of the curate Thomas Hely, would have been introduced by their proud father as Much-mercy Hely, Increased Hely, Sin-deny Hely, Fear-not Hely and sweet little Constance Hely. Bancroft, and this royal translation of the Bible, could give no credit to that half-mad denial of tradition. It was one that travelled to America with the Pilgrim Fathers. Among William Brewster's own children, landing at Plymouth Rock, were Fear, Love, Patience and Wrestling Brewster. It is one of the ironies of America's relationship to the King James Bible that, at the very beginning of the Massachusetts colony, the thinking of the colonists and of the Bible, which would in time come to seem like their national text too, could not have been further apart. The Pilgrim Fathers would undoubtedly have taken the Geneva Bible with them."

Monday, March 1, 2010

You are all Mine...

... little scallop. You and all your delicious little siblings. This was dinner tonight, quickly cooked up with toasted sesame seeds, a dash of sesame oil, a wee touch of soy sauce and a big squeeze of lemon. This was all served on a big salad.

It seems to me, the older I get, the more the passing of the seasons, and the months in particular, are marked by my rotating obsessions with fruit. Right now, it's the mineola orange, which is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. I get the tangerine part: the loose rind, the wonderful sweetness; but I'm not getting the grapefruit vibe from this fruit. However there is a depth to the flavour that is wonderful. I've just had two and am eyeing the last two in the fruit bowl. But I shall save them for tomorrow. Just saves lugging more of them home.