View From The Glen

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Storm Clouds

We sat on the veranda watching the storm clouds roll in last night.

One minute the sky was grey-blue and there was a bit of a breeze.

The next thunderous scowling blackness swirled in, settling over the glen. The wind rose, the animals huddled, and the light changed, becoming at once more vivid and more flat.

Most spectacular.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

If there's one thing we all agree on in this family it's that fruit pie rocks. Some of us prefer apple, others peach, others fresh raspberry. But when the strawberries are ripe at the same time as the rhubarb, there's really only one kind of pie.

Erik is the pie lover of the family. Any pie. All pie. I've seen him happily polish off most of a fresh pie without even blinking. With ice cream. His favourite is Cherry, which we rarely have because he and Grampa are the only two who really like it. But actually, all of them are okay in his books. I joke that I could put cardboard in pastry and he'd eat it, an assertion he denies vehemently.

But since he likes pie so much, I thought he should learn to make it. Today was lesson one. I made the pastry, he made the filling.

It was delicious.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wha To Read (aka: Summertime Blues)

I love reading. Love it. Which is why it's odd that I haven't been doing very much of it recently. Recently being - oh the last six months or so.

When I ask myself why, there is no good answer. I have been spending a lot of energy writing this past year and maybe that's where the book mojo has gone. But there is more to it than that. I find more and more that though I still buy new books that I absolutely MUST READ (The Bishop's Man; Devil's Brood;  Nikoloski; New York) they sit unopened on my shelf because I am not quite prepared to crack open something new.

Am I getting conservative in my advancing age? Perish the thought!

I used to read everything and anything. In my mind I'm still up for it, but the reality is proving different. I'm half-hearted when it comes to new books, don't give them a chance and if they don't grab me in the first 50 pages, I read on with reluctance.

When I do sit down to read, I want to know it's a good book, and often end up re-reading favourites. This fascinates me because I often have a different perpective upon re-reading books. But it's not exactly open-minded, is it?

Making my reading list for the summer, I was consious that the only "new" book for me was Dan Brown's latest - and even that is at the bottom of the pile. I did just read Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed for my book club, which provoked some excellent discussion last night over fresh fruit and wine, but I'm left trying to  figure out if it is me or if there is just nothing out there to inspire me right now.

What books inspire you? How do you pick them? Have you ever picked a book by its cover alone and loved it? (I have).

Dish the dirt, I want to know.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Denise & Julia

I can't believe I am doing this: opening an excellent bottle of French Bordeaux on a Sunday afternoon so that I can COOK with it.

It started a few weeks ago when I had the house to myself one weekend and settled in to watch Julie and Julia. When a thunder storm and torrential rain drove the menfolk back home (Anna toughed it out - said it was like sleeping in a river), Andrew watched the movie with me, and afterwards declared that the one thing he'd love to try in the entire world was Julia Child's recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.

But I already make a (very good) Boeuf Bourguignon, I said in mild astonishment.

But Julia Child's is supposed to be the best ever, he replied.

Well okay then.

And so it is on this sweltering June afternoon, I am browning beef and following to the T Julia's recipe. (Which I might add uses more dishes than mine does, which will mean more cleaning up later). And though my wine rack is creaking under the shiraz and cab and malbec selections I have, there is no french Bourdeaux. Not even a Burgundy or a Beaujolais which I could justify substituting. Just this single bottle I have been saving.

It is inevitable. I open this fine wine while I wait for exactly four minutes for the flour to "brown and cover the meat with a thin crust" in the oven. And I will pour three cups of this wine into the beef and put it back into the oven for three hours.

But first I take a small glass myself. And it is delicious.

Reminding myself that I can always buy more wine, I reluctantly add the rest of the bottle to the casserole dish.

Father's Day, after all, only happens once a year.

(Let's be honest. I add most of the rest of the bottle - reserving a amount conveniently glass-sized that I will drink later).

Happy Father's Day, Honey.

UPDATE: For all those of you who have been asking, yes, it was worth it. I can't decide if it was better than my usual recipe because of the recipe, or because I followed steps and took no shortcuts, or because I used better wine. But it had a divine flaviour and the meat literally melted in your mouth.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Inch by Inch

Planting is done for another year. It's an arduous task to get everything in - the chard, the carrots, onion sets and potatoes, tomato plants and sweet peas, broccoli and cabbage. The herbs, the salad, the garlic, the hops, the corn. Tilling, planting, hoing, trellising and mulching. Usually in weather that is either too hot and sticky, or too cold, with black flies or mosquitoes and often both buzzing around like you are an all-you-can-eat buffet.

An arduous task. But a rewarding one. 

Sowing seeds and picking stones

Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
Cause the time is close at hand
Grain by grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature's chain
Fuel my body and my brain
To the music of the land

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rains come tumbling down

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother Earth she'll keep you strong
If you give her love and care
Old crow watching hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there

And sitting back watching it all grow...That feels really good!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Another fabulous year at the Upper Canada Village Medieval Festival.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Third Little Pig

Le troisieme petite cochon dit: je ne suis pas fou, fou, fou

Grace did a great job in her first french play at school. Loud and clear and sooo adorable in her little pink snub piggy nose as she told off that Big Bad Wolf.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I heard from a friend I haven't seen for years over the weekend. It was great to hear from her, to hear about her life over the past 12 years or so, to reconnect, and I look forward to finding out more about what she has been up to.

We were in the navy together. The last time we spent together was the summer of 1995 in Quebec City where we worked together at the Fleet School. I haven't thought much about that summer - the last summer I spent in the navy as it turned out - for some years, but hearing from her over the weekend unleashed memories that showed up unexpectedly this morning on my morning run.

Quebec City was where I finally gave in to the coaxings of friends and took up running with them, going (over the course of six weeks), from a out-of-breath in five minutes runner to a 10-12 K every other day runner. That has stayed with me, though I am more a slow 3K in 20 minutes three times a week runner now. And as I ran with the dog this morning along the wet pavements of Glengarry, past the sheep grazing in the pasture, past the growing wheat, and around the puddles into the pink sunrise, I recalled vividly the morning runs of 15 years ago.

We lived in the Old Quarter of Old Quebec City, a fabulous place for a bunch of mid-20's naval officers. We would get up early, and run west along the road through the lower town. Up, up, up all 398 rock cliff steps of the Cap Blanc stairs we'd go until we reached the plateau where we could ease into a long run across the still dewy Plains of Abraham and back to the old city. The last leg was a pleasant downhill finish through the steep cobbled streets of vieux Quebec, the city glowing beneath us, and the St. Lawrence sparkling in the distance.

That's what I was thinking about on my run this morning.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Golden Girl In The Sunlight

April was National Poetry Month and being the kind of Mom I am I made the kids study poetry. I wrote about Grace's poem (Daffodils) and Erik's (Charge of the Light Brigade), but not about Anna's.

There was a reason. Anna read both The Lady of Shallot (Tennyson) and  The Highwayman (Noyes). But I was holding off because I was awaiting the results of a poetry competition.

Back last summer, Anna wrote a poem which she subsequently entered in a nationwide competition. She was shortlisted earlier this year for publication, and in mid May the award winners were announced. Anna got third prize for her poem Golden Girl in the Sunlight. We received a free copy of the book (Over The Moon) and she also got a cheque. The excitement around here was pretty high as is always should be on seeing your name in print for the first time.

And though I won't quote the poem here for copyright reasons, I thought it much more appropriate that Anna's contribution to National Poetry Month be something she had done herself.

Anna, you're my Golden Girl.