#Fall Colors – Wordless Wednesday

Let your photo(s) tell your story. Not all the fall colors are on the trees.

A visit to an apple orchard…
A bin outside the grocery store….
My neighbor’s peppers….wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too!
Admiring the nursery stock while buying bulbs
A burning bush catching some afternoon rays…
Ivy creeping along the back fence…
Sumac on my daily walk…
Pumpkin spice and everything nice…
Cider House rules…because an autumn day calls for cider and donuts!

Rural Roots – My 4-H Calf

This would have been the 170th year of the largest county fair in my region.  Traditionally held mid-October on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, it attracts over 50,000 people every year – except this one, when it was cancelled like everything else.    It originally took place near a tavern in 1850 and featured only cattle and horses.   Now it has its own permanent fairgrounds and features the usual fair fare – midway, exhibit halls, livestock barns, grandstand shows and more junk food than you could possibly eat.

Brigden Fair - old pic

Everyone wearing their Sunday best…..in 1900?

My ancestors immigrated in 1846 and I like to think of them attending those early years.  My dad remembers the fair being a highlight of his Depression childhood when he would be given the princely sum of 25 cents to spend as he wished.   Back then everyone went to the fair, and they still do.

It was our tradition growing up to attend the fair on Thanksgiving Monday, (we had our big turkey dinner on Sunday), in order to catch the noon parade.   After a tour of the exhibition halls and a walk through the midway my dad would spend the rest of the afternoon in the cattle barns watching the judging of the livestock while we womenfolk would head for the much more interesting horse competitions.   

Bridgen fair cattle 2 (3)

We would meet up at 5 pm when they would be awarding the prize for the last show of the day – the 4H Beef Cattle Grand Champion, with the winner headed straight to the abattoir.  (This is probably TMI for all the vegans out there, but it’s a fact of rural life, you eat/sell what you raise.)  

So imagine my surprise to come across this ceramic creature when I was buying fall bulbs at a city nursery.

Calf ceramic

Sure it made a nice fall display, sitting there on that bale of straw, but at $198 I can’t imagine anyone who would buy it?   Farmers aren’t known to be too sentimental about their livestock.   Now if it was a horse maybe….

This cute little fella reminded me of my short-lived 4H calf.    For those of you who are city folks, 4H (their motto is head, heart, hands and health) started out as a rural Boy-Scout-type organization, fostering life skills in youth ages 7-21, learning by doing etc.   Although they have branched out into other programs, they are still going strong in many rural areas.  According to last years Fair Exhibit Prize Booklet we have a local 4-H sheep  club, a 4-H beef club, a horse club, baking club, quilting club and one for the younger set age 7-9 called Clover Buds.

We never belonged to 4H growing up in the sixties, as life was busy with school, chores and my brothers had baseball and hockey, but my sister joined the 4-H cooking club one year when she was 12.   They met on Saturday mornings at a neighbors farm to prepare a dish, but she was to try out the weekly recipes at home.   She was teased so mercilessly by my siblings, over such delicacies as Welsh Rarebit and Blueberry Buckle, that one night at supper she burst into tears and declared, “You guys never want to try anything!”  And it was true, we weren’t very adventurous.  (I can be absolved as I was always a picky eater who had zero interest in cooking.)  The Purity cookbook states that Welch Rarebit is a cheese sauce and egg on toast concoction, but it might have been the dry mustard/cayenne pepper/Worcester sauce we objected to.   The Blueberry buckle wasn’t too bad, more cake-like, but we were pie people.   Then there was the long blue calico dress that had to be sewn for Pioneer Days, which involved many tears and much work, and was tossed aside after a few hours wear.   So that was the end of 4-H until one summer afternoon when we were bored to tears, the way kids used to get when there wasn’t a constant source of entertainment streaming at them 24/7.

The Barn in Winter (2005)

The Barn in Winter – painting by Joni’s mom 

While my brothers helped with the chores when they got older, I wasn’t out in the barn that much – there was nothing to do there.   Sometimes there would be a new batch of kittens, and if my cousins were over, we might jump in the hay mow which we weren’t supposed to as the middle section had rotten floorboards under the bales.   My dad had Holstein milking cows then and I remember the pails of milk being lined up in the hallway, but you had to stay out of the way and you definitely couldn’t go near the milking stanchions or you might get kicked by a cow.  Occasionally, we would take the dog for a walk back the lane-way to get the cows for milking, but mostly they came up on their own, like clockwork.   Here I am with Sally Ann, the oldest and head cow, and the only one with a name.

Cow - Sally Ann barn helper (4)

I’m really liking this jacket I have on.   L.L. Bean still sells this type of barn coat.  

So we decided one bored afternoon that we would train our own 4-H calves and parade them around the barnyard on a rope, like they did at the fair.   Here’s a photo of mine.

calf my four H (4)

What surprises me about this picture is my outfit – I’m wearing a cute white eyelet top that surely was not part of my regular play clothes.   And my hair, a towhead after a summer of sun.   Now cows aren’t the brightest of animals to begin with, and the poor little thing was not very obedient, so the 4-H calf was abandoned after a few short hours.   Judging from the size of my brother in the background, (my mother is supervising and taking the picture) I’m likely seven years old, much too young for a 4H calf anyway, although I don’t recall my older siblings lasted any longer with theirs.

Although not obvious in the picture, the calf had a big ugly goiter on its neck.   I wish I could say that’s what first inspired my interest in pursuing a medical career, but I just found it yucky.    Besides, it was really a horse I wanted anyway.

I don’t know what happened to my 4-H calf – it was gone in a few weeks.  It’s unlikely you could treat a hypothyroid calf back then, and you certainly couldn’t sell it for veal.  (My mother served veal exactly once, as we all refused to eat it on principle.)   Although I took a veterinary medicine course in 4th year (an easy elective we called Barnyard) I’ve never dispensed any thyroid for animals, large or small, although I’ve seen some strange meds (Ventolin inhaler for a horse?) as we had a veterinarian’s office close by.   Most likely the calf went on to the Big Barnyard in the sky.

My dad eventually sold his milking herd and switched to cash cropping and beef cattle, as they were less work than milking twice a day.   A milk quota is worth a million plus now, and the majority of dairy farms are mechanized and large scale.  Those small family farms hardly exist anymore, it’s a way of life which has mostly disappeared.    

Ghost Barn – painting by Joni’s mom

So, when I visit the nursery for plants next spring, I expect to see that ceramic calf on sale for a substantially reduced price, and I hope to be able to attend the fall fair again next year.

PS. I should add that our animals were treated humanely, with grazing in the fields, and no antibiotics or growth hormones. We also had free range chickens for eggs long before it was popular. I guess you say we were organic before organic was cool.

Me and my pet chicken…

PS. No matter where you may sit on the vegetarian/carnivore spectrum the decision to eat red meat or not is a personal choice. In the early 80’s my brother married a vegetarian (or a herbivore as my young niece delightfully described her, they must have been studying dinosaurs) which was not that common back then when 10 oz. porterhouse steaks were a fixture on restaurant menus, but nothing was ever said by my dad who raised beef cattle and my mother just added a few extra dishes to the holiday table…mac and cheese for Thanksgiving, deviled eggs for Easter and rice….yea bring it on! Not that my new SIL expected anything, but you know, to be hospitable. I know I lucked out in the parent department as my folks were nice easy-going people who were always willing to set an extra place at the table….but I wonder if people generally were just more tolerant to differing viewpoints back then? Now it seems like you can’t even give a dinner party without a long list of someone’s dietary restrictions and an accompanying lecture on why they are right!

The Great Canadian Butter Tart

Butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian dessert.   Like other iconic Canadian foods such as maple syrup and poutine, they originated in 17th Century Quebec, where the wives of early French settlers made use of the available ingredients of maple syrup and dried fruit to whip up a treat to make life in the wilderness a little more bearable.   Their experimentation led to the evolution of the modern butter tart, although most recipes today do not call for maple syrup.   

As Canadian as maple syrup….

This decadently sweet tart consists of a filling of butter, sugar, syrup and egg, baked until the filling is semi-solid, ie nice and gooey.  Raisins or nuts are added, with the raisin debate being a whole other topic, along with the degree of consistency, runny or firm.  Butter tarts tend differ from other sugar-based pies such as pecan pie in that they have a runnier filling – no cornstarch or flour required.  

Other than those basic ingredients, there are as many variations as there are family recipes, many dating back to the pioneer days.  Butter tarts were all the rage in the early 1900’s, appearing in many cookbooks and have since become an ingrained part of Canadian cuisine.   There are several butter tart festivals held every year, including one in Midland which sells over 50,000 tarts, with the contest portion attracting bakers from all over to vie for the Best Butter Tart title.  Like a rib-fest for dessert lovers you can walk around and sample to your heart’s content.

My inspiration for this post came from a trip to the bakery which used to sell my favorite version (past tense intended).    Their pastry is good, but I had noticed the filling kept getting skimpier and skimpier, and the last batch, which was pre-ordered and boxed before being paid for, were basically just pastry shells with a thin scraping of filling , and at $10 for 6 tarts they were certainly no bargain.  My second favorite source, a local coffee shop, sells tarts with plenty of filling but their pastry is thick and hard as a rock.   Maybe those two could marry and produce the ideal butter tart progeny, or….maybe I could make my own, for a lot less money too!  

My mother made butter tarts when I was growing up but they were usually reserved for the fall of the year when she was deep into pie-baking and made use of the left-over pastry.   A batch or two often graced our Thanksgiving table along with the apple and pumpkin pies.   So I got out her old recipe, which was vague in the way that my mothers recipes often are, (she was never one of those cooks who measured) and we proceeded to experiment.  

My mothers recipe…..more or less…..

 They turned out as we remembered them, not overly sweet, with the multiple eggs making for a firmer consistency, but I thought they needed more sugar.  I didn’t have my glasses on, but if I had read my own notation, it very clearly stated that!   As for the bake 10-15-20 minutes, her oven is temperamental so I left them in longer in an attempt to get the crust brown and the filling got too firm….but the end result was a perfectly good butter tart.

Mom’s old 1950’s tart pan.

The recipe made twenty tarts, and try pawning off tarts during a pandemic when we’re now back in our smaller social bubbles and they are encouraging people not to congregate for Thanksgiving (which is next weekend here in Canada).   

Anyone care for a butter tart?

Moving on in my search for the Great Canadian Butter Tart, I wasted much time googling and then referenced back to my old farmhouse cooking bible, the Purity Cookbook, first published 1911, and there was the recipe for the best butter tarts ever!   

Unlike the previous recipe this one called for corn syrup. I used the dark corn syrup for color. It had been so long since I bought corn syrup I didn’t even know it also came in a colorless format. I omitted the salt and lemon juice as I like a sweeter tart.

I added a bit more sugar to taste, and a bit more butter as there was some left in the bottom of the dish.  (I am my mother’s daughter after all.)   I pre-baked the store pastry shells for 5-10min, as I was using her oven and then added the raisins. (no need to presoak the raisins).

Those of you who might die if you ate a raisin (which is but a wrinkled grape) can use nuts or nothing if you prefer.   The pioneer women used currants. 

 I baked them for exactly twenty minutes and they came out with the perfect degree of runniness.   The pastry was a bit browner than I would have liked, but flaky and good for a no-name store brand.  If using my oven, I may not have pre-baked the shells and would just have left them in for 20-25 minutes.  Live and learn is the lesson for an inexperienced cook like me, with a perfectionist streak.

All in all, both my mother and I gave them a ten – and thought they were the best butter tarts we’d ever eaten – simply perfect in taste and texture.  They were even good after a few days, although I stored them in the fridge and heated them for ten seconds in the microwave.   The recipe made twelve, enough for a sweet treat with a mug of hot tea every night while watching the evening news. Most days you need that to carry on. 

Tea and tarts….

Keep calm and Butter Tart On – maybe a slogan for next years festival?   

The Library Book

 This months literary salon pick is a non-fiction book titled, The Library Book, penned by Susan Orlean, a long time staff writer for The New Yorker.   With those credentials you know it will be good, and I must say this was one of my favorite reads this summer.   But then the library has always been one of my favorite places, especially during the COVID crisis when their curbside pickup has been a real lifesaver – transporting me to another world for awhile.   

Jane Austen quote re libraries 2 (2)

(Quote by Jane Austen)

While I do not have my own library at home, just random bookshelves, I’ve been a proud library patron since the age of seven when we took a class trip to our newly opened village library.  Although small in size with just two rooms, a children’s section and the adults side, I thought it the most marvelous place and was excited to have my own library card.   I could already read by then, having started with the Dick/Sally/Jane books, but here were shelf after shelf of books, each with a different story just waiting to be told.      

Jane Austen quote re library 2(4)

(quote Jane Austen)

As a quiet middle child I could always be found somewhere with my nose in a book.   My mother would take me and my younger brother to the library every Saturday (after his hockey game and penny candy treats), and I would stock up on books for the following week.   The library was one of the few buildings in town with A/C and I can still recall the blast of cool air which hit you when you entered the vestibule, plus the distinctive musty smell of books.   The librarian, an older woman named Mrs. Sekritis sat behind a tall circular desk, and she would often comment on my choices as I grew older.  While our little library stocked picture books for children and adult fiction for grown-ups, the selection for Young Adults (if that genre even existed back then) was limited – perhaps only L.M. Montgomery (I read the whole Anne series) and Louisa May Alcott (like many girls Jo was my heroine).   And so I read the classics way too young, Dickens, the Brontes, whatever sounded interesting on the book jacket.  Occasionally, when I would come across a YA book, I would find it fascinating reading about kids my own age, so different from my rather isolated life growing up on a farm. 

I still get the majority of my books from the library, as I read so much it would be too expensive to buy them all, and our small local  library is excellent at ordering in anything you might request, plus the librarians there are all such wonderful people.   I seldom visit the larger downtown branch where the service is impersonal and the reserve lists long, except to browse the large print books (easier for reading outside with my aging eyes) of which they have a better selection.   But whichever branch I visit, I still consider the library a sacred place.       

But back to The Library Book.

The Library Book - Susan Orlean

Goodreads/Publishers Blurb:

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?       
 
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
 
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
 
Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.
 
Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.   
 
Discussion:   
 
As mentioned on the cover blurb, this 2018 book is a little bit of everything – true crime, history, biography and first rate journalism.   The story of who lit the fire is fascinating and interwoven among the various chapters.  She delves into the history of library fires over the years from ancient Egypt to the famous book burning of the Nazis in WW2, plus the destruction of thousands of books in wars including recent ones like the Gulf war – a list of the lost libraries of the world, so many words destroyed forever.  She covers biographies of  librarians, a different breed who must love people as much as they love books and the future and expanded role of libraries in our communities as beacons for the homeless and social services centers, as well as branching into art, music and technical programs such as maker spaces.   (Even our small branch has a technical support person on staff but I’m not sure I could listen to that annoying 3D printer all day).   I was aware of the history of the Carnegie libraries, but not the reason behind it.   As a young boy Andrew Carnegie couldn’t afford the $2 fee for the local lending library, so he spent the last third of his life giving money away, funding a legacy of 1700 libraries for future generations of readers.   In much the same way that Bill Gates spent a decade funding literacy in third world countries.   If you want to change the world, books can help, one mind at a time.   Introducing your child to the pleasure of books and reading is even more important now in this time of COVID, when education seems so perilous. 
 
And lastly I loved this book for it’s perfect prose, here’s a sample from page 309. 
 
“The library is a whispering post.  You don’t need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen.   It was that affirmation that always amazed me.  Even the oddest, most particular book was written with that kind of crazy courage – the writer’s belief that someone would find his or her book important to read.   I was struck by how precious and foolish and brave that belief is, and how necessary, and how full of hope it is to collect these books and manuscripts and preserve them.  It declares that all these stories matter, and so does every effort to create something that connects us to one another, and to our past and to what is still to come.  I realized that this entire time, learning about the library, I had been convincing myself that my hope to tell a long-lasting story, to create something that endured, to be alive somehow as long, as someone would read my books, was what drove me on, story after story:  it was my lifeline, my passion, my way to understand who I was.  I thought about my mother, who died when I was halfway done with this book, and I knew how pleased she would have been to see me in the library, and I was able to use that thought to transport myself for a split second to a time when I was young and she was in the moment, alert and tender, with years ahead of her, and she was beaming at me as I toddled to the checkout counter with an armload of books.  I knew that if we had come here together, to this enchanted place of stucco and statuary and all the stories in the world for us to have, she would have reminded me just about now that if she could have chosen any profession in the world, she would have been a librarian.” 
 
and another excerpt from pg 93 
 
 “In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone has died is to say his or her library has burned.   When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect.  Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by out experiences and emotions; each individuals consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve catalogued and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived.   It is something that no one else can share, one that burns down and disappears when we died.  But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it – with one person or with the larger world, on the page or in a story recited – it takes on a life of its own.”
 
And so we read on…..
 
Postscript:  I was moved recently by this video which fellow blogger Annie (AnnieAsksYou) posted, so I’m going to share it here.   It’s a short clip of congressman John Lewis, who died recently at the age of 80, accepting the 2016 National Book Award for young people’s literature for March, his story of the civil rights movement.  As a young black teenager in 1956 he was denied the privilege of a library card as the library was for whites only, but he had a teacher who encouraged him to “read my child, read.”     
 

#Pandemic Picnic Table – Wordless Wednesday

Let your photo(s) tell a story.

The scavenger find….

The paint…
The end result….
The pandemic picnic table is now ready for….
The Guests!

PS. Although we’ve been having glorious weather lately, once the yellow-jacket wasps descend in September outdoor entertaining is basically over for the year. The slightest morsel of food or drink convinces these persistent visitors to overstay their welcome.

The paint is Lowe’s Valspar Seasonal Exterior color-matched to Michael’s Americana Decor chalkpaint in Serene Blue. Although it has a turquoise tint in different lighting, it’s actually more blue like the paint photo. I like the way it appears to change color depending on the time of day and amount of shade versus sun. I have an old blue and yellow beach umbrella to fit the center hole once I scavenge an umbrella holder.

A Waterfront Walk

In an attempt to hold onto summer for as long as possible, I’ve been walking along the waterfront recently.  While none of these parks are close enough for my daily constitutional, they are more scenic options when I want to add a few extra steps to my exercise routine or work off some calories from the fall baking.   Plus a change of scenery is always good, never more so this pandemic year.  

Centennial Park - Sign Great Lakes Waterfront Trail

Our first park was designated in honor of Canada’s centennial year, 1967, and occupies prime real estate along the bay – a handy venue for all those nearby condo owners.

Centennial Park

Strangely, on this beautiful late Friday afternoon there are few people around.Centennial Park - flowers

Just a few seagulls preening for a photo-op.   The flower beds in the park grounds have been sadly neglected this year due to the cancellation of most maintenance services, but the urns are still pretty.

Centennial Park - Seagull

This Diva let me get real close…Centennial Park - Seagull closeup

until she got annoyed (see Wordless Wednesday) and flew away. 

There’s a fountain where you can stand in the mist and get cooled off.  Centennial Park - fountain

And a cute garden bench/sculpture for the little ones. Centennial Park - Bench turquoise

If you follow the long boardwalk all the way around, there’s a boat ramp and a small marina on the other side of the bay, with an over-priced outdoor restaurant where I had one of the worst meals ever and never went back, despite the scenic view.

Centennial Park - Marina and  restaurant

The big yacht on the right is mine…..someday…..

There’s a tour boat which offers lunch and sunset cruises up and down the river, although not this year.  Centennial Park - boat - Duc du Orleans

Let’s hop over to the Beach Park now. While it may be unusual to have a beachfront park in the middle of a city, a few forward-thinking city founders, aided by a very generous donation from a rich benefactor back in the Great Depression, ensured that beach access would be available to all, not just those lucky enough to own a house with their own private beach. Of course at the time of the purchase, the park was at the edge of city development. In addition to the 3000 foot stretch of sandy beach, there’s a hundred acres of trees with walking trails, a children’s animal park and a small inland pond perfect for winter hockey. (We may return here later this fall for a leaf-peeping tour.)

This is a picture of the beach in the 1950’s before the parking lot was paved. Sadly there has been so much erosion from high lake levels in the past few years, they may have to un-pave the parking lot to salvage some of the sand.

Canatara Park - Birch tree

I was upset to see that half of my favorite birch tree had collapsed onto the ground, it’s roots uplifted by the pounding waves.

Canatara Park - rocks

There’s so little beach left at this end of the park that they’ve installed a new row of arbor stone to try and prevent any further erosion.

The groynes are all under water now, but the sailboats were out, and so were the kayaks. Canatara Park - kayaks

In my younger years, many a summer weekend would be spent under a beach umbrella with a book and a cooler of snacks and beverages.

Let’s go further up the lake to a place I blogged about a few weeks ago in On The Waterfront. While the dance pavilion may be long gone, you can sit in the gazebo or on a park bench and admire the view.

We picnicked in this park every summer Sunday when I was a kid, but the beach is washed away now and the waterfront shored up by expensive arbor rock.  Brights Grove beach

The road in front of it is so narrow, Brights Grove beachthat I wonder how long it will be before it’s closed and people won’t have access to their property.   The waves were so wild during the winter storms last year they were lapping at the porch of my favorite house.  Brights Grove Park - house

Switching venues now to the park where the river meets the lake.

Bridge park

The darker blue water denotes the deeper shipping channel used by the Lakers – the big freight boats.

Bridge Park - sailboat

This area is lined with park benches where you can watch boats heading out into the lake. It’s always a popular spot because of the refreshing lake breezes even on the hottest summer day, plus the chip trucks and ice cream parlors nearby.

Let’s follow these tubers downriver to the marina. (Note: tubing is a dangerous sport due to the swift current here but people do it anyway.)

Bridge Park - tubing

This larger marina has berths for sailboats during the season. If I was ever fortunate enough to own a waterfront condo I wouldn’t want one with three floors though, even if I could tie my boat up out front.

I wonder if the condo owners ever worry about the high water levels, which is even more of a problem downriver. So let’s visit our last park downriver – unfortunately it was an overcast day.

The clouds get in the way…..

There are small strips of parkland here and there along the river road, with lots of ancient willow trees lining the banks.

Downriver park - willow tree

In some places the water level is so high the grass around the tree trunks is  swampy, and it’s only a matter of time until they are washed away too.  Many of the docks are almost level with the water now, surely a worry for the homeowners. 

Downriver park - sunflowers

These cheerful sunflowers are announcing fall….

My mother enjoys going for a Sunday drive along the river and looking at all the big houses, but we hardly ever see anyone sitting outside. I wonder if people who have waterfront property really appreciate it?

I’ve always felt a sense of calm being by the water, probably the legacy of two sets of water-dwelling ancestors. I could sit for hours with a coffee and just enjoy the view. Unfortunately the only park close enough for me to visit on a regular basis, is overrun by a gazillion Canadian geese, year round. The constant aggravation of having to watch where you step and/or clean your shoes is not worth the trip, although I did visit last March to take a picture of the two resident mute swans. They need to relocate some of the population and train the rest of them to migrate south like good little geese should.

I hope you have enjoyed this waterfront tour as we say goodbye to summer for another year.

My favorite picture even if there are clouds in the sky!

Peach Galette

The expression “life is a bowl of cherries” translates to life is wonderful or things are going very well. For the sake of simplicity, let’s change this slightly to “life is a bowl of peaches” so I have something to write about this week and can experience first hand how truly wonderful this new block editor is supposed to be.

Peaches in a Blue Bowl

This months recipe is a peach galette. Galette (from the Norman word gale, meaning “flat cake”) is a term used in French cuisine to designate various types of flat round or free-form crusty cakes, with a combination of sweet or savory fillings. A fruit galette is a French tart made with one flat piece of pastry that is wrapped around a fruit filling. Being free-form it’s easier than pie and for those of us not adept at making rich flaky pastry, a store bought pie shell is perfectly acceptable. The aim is to make it look rustic, like something you would serve under the shade of a tree in Provence.

Photo from Victoria Magazine July/Aug 2018

As my favorite vendor is no longer at the Farmer’s Market, I made the trip to their farm to pick up a box of peaches for making jam. I’d ordered ahead and specified over-ripe seconds as I had already sanitized the jars in the dishwasher that morning. As in years past, the seconds were a bargain at $10 for a big box of peaches.

Canning Peaches

Except….I’d already paid for them and the clerk had put them in the trunk of the car before I realized they were small, cold and nowhere near being ripe. Where were their usual big juicy peaches? I might have gone back in to inquire but the storefront was crowded and there was absolutely no attempt at social distancing. (How much effort would it take to mark the floor with tape and only let so many people inside, especially with the higher COVID numbers in some of these agri-food areas?) So I grumbled and left and five days later they were starting to spoil and get soft and spotty on the outside while the insides were still not quite ripe, but cut up they were, and two batches of freezer jam produced, with extra sugar to make up for the lack of juicy peachy flavor. It hasn’t exactly been a stellar year for most fruit here, with everything behind due to the cold late spring and snow in May.

After making the jam I still had 24 peaches left so a small peach crisp was created and then some peach trifle, both with good results and more sugar (but no pictures as I forgot before they were consumed), and then the “piece de resistance”, the famous French galette, and there were still a few left over for eating. It was the box that kept on giving…..even if it wasn’t a vintage year.

Now the head chef (moi) was not above borrowing a recipe from another source, said source being the Lifestyle section of the local paper, so here’s the recipe.

The filling called for 5 peaches cut in half, pit removed and sliced, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp flour, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and ground ginger. I doubled the sugar but it still could have used more. I left out the ginger as it had expired in the last decade. I made this at my mother’s and her spice rack is suspect and her oven temperamental, but she enjoyed peeling the peaches as it reminded her of life on the farm and canning every summer.

The Tenderflake deep dish pie crust I bought, did not look any too deep to me, as by the time the fruit was piled in the middle,

there was not much pastry left for crimping the border.

The pastry is folded over the fruit, aiming as I mentioned, for the rustic, not too perfect look.

The finished product was not pretty, the filling having bled a bit around the edges, and gotten rather burnt in spots while trying to brown the pastry, having to be scraped off by a kitchen knife before any photo-ops ensued. Plus the lighting in her kitchen is not good at all, not flattering to anyone, least of all a French galette. It did however taste better with some French vanilla ice cream.

It was by no means a Michelin five star job, but the best I can say is I tried and the end result was certainly rustic. Maybe next time with apples? The same can be said for the block editor. It’s certainly doable – but do I want to do it? I think I’d rather stay with the classic.

(This is the first post I’ve drafted in block and I seem to be using a hybrid of block and classic, with things popping out at me and the draft itself shifting from right to left to center for no discernible reason. If it was closer to Halloween I’d swear it was haunted.)

On The Waterfront

      Last fall I attended a museum exhibit called On The Waterfront, where they displayed a number of old photos and postcards of the waterfront from days gone by.   I thought I might share a few of these, for those interested in history and vintage memorabilia.      

Grand Bend Beach Beauties

In this postcard, we see swimmers enjoying the beach in Grand Bend in the 1920’s.  One hundred years later, it remains a popular beach resort, but my how bathing suits have changed, although these may have seemed daring in the flapper era.  

On the Waterfront - Grand Bend Dance Pavilion

Imagine paying five cents for a dance – if you ran out of money, you were done for the night and maybe went for a moonlight stroll instead! 

Many of the waterfront amusements then involved dance halls or pavilions which attracted people for the nighttime entertainment, as much as the beaches did during the day. 

On the Waterfront - Dance Pavilion - Stag Island

My great-grandmother lived across the river from this resort and dance pavilion.  One of my father’s earliest memories was of hearing the music floating across the water while being babysat – with the probability of a cookie and a reassurance that his parents were not too far away.   Built in the the early 19th century, it hosted parties coming down river on  steamships to attend the dances and stay at the hotels and cottages.  Long torn down, it is now the site of a private clubhouse with a beautiful wood floor which would make a perfect dance floor. 

On the Waterfront steamship

Before there were bridges and motorcars, you, and your horse and carriage, could also hop on the ferry to get to the party.  

On the Waterfront - Ferry with Horse

Fast forward to the Big Band era…

Kenwick on the Lake

Care to jitterbug anyone?

When my parents were dating in the late 1940’s, they attended the Big Band dances at this venue on the shores of Lake Huron.  Opened in 1946, it had an outdoor dance floor, as dancing under the stars was very popular back then.   It attracted big name bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, and Glen Miller who played to crowds of up to 3,000 on weekends.   My mother recalls going for a hamburger and a Coke at a nearby diner after the dance – hamburgers were 25 cents, a sum they could barely afford. 

Moonlight Serenade – by Glen Miller and his Orchestra

Kenwick Pat Boone (4)

By the 1950’s as musical tastes shifted, it attracted the likes of rock and roll’s Bill Haley and the popular crooner Pat Boone.  I’m certain my parents did not attend this crowded Pat Boone concert, as I was born a few days later.    

By the 1960’s when we used to picnic in the park there on summer Sundays, there was nothing left of it but some broken cement from the dance floor and a few crumbling walls.  Now, it’s a tennis court, with a historical plaque marking the site, although a few years ago they held The Simply White Dinner (link) there, and dancing under the stars resumed for one enchanted evening. 

When we see pictures of young people congregating on the beach this summer, partying and having fun in the midst of a pandemic, it seems crazy, but youth is ever optimistic.   Although, looking back at these old photos, it does seem a much more romantic time.  Perhaps music and moonlight never go out of date.       

 

 

August

      August has always been the most depressing of months to me.   Summer is already half over and the threat of cold weather looms in the distance, heralded by chirping crickets, cooler nights, and heavy morning dew.  Those hours of evening lightness are no more – it’s dark at 8 pm, a warning of much worse to come.   A bit melodramatic maybe, but hey, it’s Canada, we live for summer here.     

      It starts with the clouds.  You may wake up to a flawless blue sky, but soon those big puffy August clouds come rolling in, spoiling a perfectly nice beach day.     

seagull

Oh, they’re pretty in a way – it’s best to look at things from Both Sides Now.  (Musical interlude – Joni Mitchell wrote this song on an airplane looking down at the clouds, although it was first made famous by Judy Collins.  I find the lyrics gloomy, but then it’s become such a strange world, I really don’t know life at all….) 

Then you start to see the odd tree branch dipped in paint.  There’s a big maple tree on the main street which always starts to turn in early August.

fall leaves tree

Then there are the back to school ads, a perfect dilemma this pandemic year, although some kids may be looking be looking forward to returning and seeing their friends.   Classes don’t resume here until Sept 8 after the Labor Day holiday weekend.   

While the stores may beckon with fall clothes, I really can’t justify shopping for anything but essentials when there’s nowhere to wear it,  but just being in a store for some hands-off browsing cheered me up immensely.    

It hasn’t been the best of summers, with my health issues in May/June (my favorite time of year), the hot humid weather, July’s multiple catch-up appointments and the isolating pandemic solitude.   The normal distractions which might bring joy – street festivals, summer theatre, concerts – have all been cancelled.   

Plus, August is my birthday month, which is depressing enough, as I’m wondering how I ever got to be that age?

Yes, that age.   (BTW, Paul McCartney wrote that song when he was just 16, but it was not recorded until the 1966 Sgt. Pepper’s album, the year his father turned 64.  The lyrics reflect his view of old age – gardening, grandchildren, an annual vacation on the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear….but even that is out this year.)      

I remember my father when he turned 65, saying he wished he was 16 again and looking at him and thinking, you’ve got to be kidding, they’re paying you to stay home!   Yes, it’s nice to be retired and collecting the old age pension but it also means you’re old!   While I wouldn’t want to be 16 again (too much angst), my stress-filled 30’s are looking pretty good, and someday I may look back and wish to be my current age.  I know I should be grateful to be still alive, relatively healthy and COVID-free, when so many are not.  (End of whining). 

Although it may feel like summer has slipped away without much in the way of enjoyment, there are still a few weeks to relish the rest of the season.  Here are a few things to love about this time of year.

A trip to the Farmer’s Market is always fruitful…. 

Plums yellow

Plums, peaches and nectarines.

Peaches

The glads for sale are a riot of color but the pinks are still my favorite.  

glads

It’s melon season.

Watermelon

melon

And tomato season.

Tomatoes

And cherry pie season.

Cherry pie

And let’s not forget corn on the cob, slathered with butter for those lucky folks who can eat it.  

corn on the cob

The new ice cream place is doing a booming business, although they don’t have gelato.   Does anyone really need all those weird exotic flavors when chocolate reigns supreme?

chocolate ice cream cone

Note these are mostly food related, but it’s mostly healthy food and food can be enormously cheering!    You can walk off the ice cream and cherry pie with a stroll On The Waterfront. (see future blog)

seagull water beach lake

and watch the boats go by.

water boats lake

Having the beach to yourself on an August day can be a reflective type of solitude,

waves canatara

with only the annoying screech of seagulls to interrupt your thoughts.  seagull

You can go beach-combing and gather enough shells,

seashell wreath (4)

                                               The Inspiration…

to make a souvenir of summer! 

The Beachcomber - AMc

                                                     The Beachcomber

PS.  WordPress congratulations me on my third anniversary of blogging (once a week, Wed/Thursdays, 154 posts, 84 new followers give or take a few persistent vitamin sales people).  This was posted in the classic editor but I’m wondering why the photo captions are no longer centered?  And why I can’t shrink photos?  And where is the word count so I don’t ramble on?  I couldn’t post video either?   It seems like some of the basic functions are gone.   Onward and upward to the dreaded block editor, eventually, but for now I’m enjoying these last days of summer.