Sunday, August 15, 2010

Honey and Chocolate, Part Deux

My beautiful big jar of raw honey was slightly crystallized. So I softened it in a panful of hot water. Googling the problem, to ensure I was remembering the solution correctly, turned up a wit:

Q: How do I soften old honey?
A: I buy her bottles of skin lotion regularly.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Honey and Chocolate

Got your attention?

Watch this space. Experiments of the most delicious variety are taking place.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wild Leek Sausages

Ralph's Butcher in Norwood, (and Warkworth) Ontario offer a wide variety of sausage flavours. We drive back through Norwood after cottaging.

They come four in a packet for $5.74 and they're BIG. Don't be alarmed at the packaging date. They remained frozen until this weekend, when - on our one day of no humidity - I grilled them...

... and ate with leeks wilted with butter, some slivers of mint and a sprinkling of parmigiano.

The other two types of sausages I bought at Ralph's were under-seasoned. I wondered if that was a mistake, seeing as when you're eating sausages you expect a healthy dose of salt. But the wild leek variety were delicious, and even more amazing at room temperature. What is it about cold sausage that is so perfect? I love them either sliced on a salad, or made into a sandwich with very good wholewheat bread and butter (nothing else). That slightly spicy, chewy, fatty, yummy goodness is perfection in a picnic panino. Must... have... more...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Incoming Kisses... NOT! (Sigh)

The softest place on earth: the top of Tibby's head. Except, when I visit him, I can't kiss him any more because I'm a bit allergic.


Hey... where are my kisses?

Instead, I swirl a finger in the axis of snorgleness, on Tibby's neck and cheek, the second softest spot on earth.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Lost Recipe

Have you ever had this happen? That you had a recipe that worked for something, and then you lost it or forgot which one in your crazy binder of recipes it was? That has happened for me and the lost recipe is for simple tea scones. This would not be an issue if I didn't have so many scone recipes. I'm working through them till I find the right one again. Here was yesterday's attempt:

Oh sure, they look pretty nice. But they're not it.

However we forced a few down with some fig jam. To make sure this doesn't happen again I'm chucking all the chocolate chip recipes, except for - you know - the ONE.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grapey Goodness

I've been freezing grapes for cooling treats during this very hot spell. I also put them into my wine glass before pouring the Chardonnay. They work like ice cubes, see? See? Yes, I know, the whole world has known this trick, but me! Well, your secret's out now! Ha!

It feels good to be in the club.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cue the Venetian Blinds

One day of no humidity was a delicious treat, but now we are back to thick, heavy, smoggy days with terrible air quality and not a break in the heat in sight. I don't enjoy August for the most part.

Sunday evenings are the one night of the week I have to watch television, and now not just for one, but two, reasons. First we have the start of season four of the excellent Mad Men on AMC. It continues to be the stylish, brilliantly written creation we have all come to expect.

I've also started watching Rubicon which is another original series that has just begun, and it runs for the hour just before Mad Men. It's about a discreet spy agency in New York that seeks to discover what the bad guys might be planning, while potentially being infilatrated by other bad guys. Think along the lines of Three Days of the Condor and Enigma. So far Rubicon is intriguing and moody, with many shots featuring shadows of venetian blinds falling across the tortured and intelligently handsome visage of our hero, James Badge Dale. It also stars Miranda Richardson, always worth the price of admission. I'm a bit confused already in regards to a few plot points, but that's typical for me. I'll figure it out with a little help from my friends.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cool Toronto: Islands Ferry

I love taking one of these... it's like a mini vacation!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

La nostra casetta

Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta
che tutta ascosa nel verde ci aspetta?
Nido a noi sacro, ignoto al mondo inter,
pien d'amore e di mister?
Al tuo fianco sentire
per le silenziose
stellate ombre, salir
le voci delle cose!
Dai boschi, dai roveti,
dall'arse erbe, dall'imo
dei franti sepolcreti
odorosi di timo.
La notte escon bisbigli
di minuscoli amori

a perfidi consigli
che ammolliscono i cuori.
Fiorite, o campi immensi, palpitate
aure marine, nel lunar albor.
Ah... piovete voluttà, volte stellate!
Arde in Tosca un folle amor!

Do you not long for our little house
that is waiting for us, hidden in the grove?
Our refuge, sacred to us and unseen by the world,
protected with love and mystery?
Oh, at your side to listen there
to the voices of the night
as they rise through the starlit,
shadowed silences:
from the woods, from the thickets
and the dry grass, from the depths
of shattered tombs
scented with thyme,
the night murmurs
its thousand loves
and false counsels
to soften and seduce the heart.
Oh wide fields, blossom! and sea winds throb
in the moon's radiance, ah,
rain down desire you vaulted stars!
Tosca burns with a mad love!

From Tosca, the opera by Puccini, with a libretto by Illica and Giacosa. I copied this out from the EMI recording (1965 with Callas), but there was no translation credit. Check out the labels for this post. Yum.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Favourite flask, with a William Morris pattern on it ("Daisy"). Thanks M!

Apple/sage sausage panino. The sausage came from the butcher in Norwood, Ontario. I used some apple jelly too, just a thin smear. Deelish.

Sweet Ontario yellow plums.

I love picnics for the tin plates... makes me feel I'm on safari or something. I found these palm tree ones years ago. The stainless steel tumblers were brought back from India for me from a friend.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recent, and not so Recent, Films, and Some Vaguely Connected Ramblings, Dagnabit!

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
(From The Go-Between, a novel by L. P. Hartley)

I recently watched Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (The White Ribbon - A German Children's Story, 2009) on DVD and it was breathtaking. From the opening scene, I was transported into this uncomfortable pre-WWI Germany, and, even when I tried to remind myself that I was watching actors and that there was a cameraman and crew standing by, I could hardly believe it. Michael Haneke directs this beautifully photographed, black and white film, in which the children of a small village suffer repression and punishment meted out by their elders, while a series of disturbing and violent events take place over the course of several months. Who is behind it all? The concept of a generation of angry and conflicted children growing up to become Fascists is lurking behind this film, without beating you over the head with it.

Speaking of the intriguing fashions and bad behaviour of 1930s Germany, this past spring I revelled in the Canadian Opera Company's disturbing and magnificent production of Wagner's Flying Dutchman. Although this romantic opera was premiered in 1843, it's been given a powerful interpretation by director Christopher Alden. The setting is a 1930s Fascist-powered village, and the production remains as chilling the third time out as when it first premiered in the 1990s. I complemented that viewing by starting to read Brigitte Hamann's biography: Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Hearth of Hitler's Bayreuth. Well, to be honest, I haven't finished it yet. I need breaks from the depressing aspects, as fascinated as I am by the characters involved. What a family! And now that Wolfgang (one of Winifred's sons) has died, the mantle of Bayreuth has passed to two of the family's women. Idea for a reality show: Wacky Wagners. I'd watch.

Speaking of repression, I'm listening, as I write this, to an excellent CD, Two Roads to Exile, which features works by two composers who suffered different exiles under the Nazis, and deserve to be heard widely and thoroughly: Walter Braunfels and Adolf Busch. It's recorded by Toronto's ARC Ensemble. I recommend!

The - for some - elegaic pre-WWI period is beautifully portrayed in The Go-Between (1970), Joseph Losey's film of a Harold Pinter screenplay based on the novel by H.P. Hartley. What a pedigree. The American-born Losey is God-like in my view from his Don Giovanni (1979) alone, and made most of his films in Europe after self-exiling himself after fleeing the House Un-American Activities Committee. An unusually hot summer before WWI is made even steamier by the clandestine relationship between the upper-class Julie Christie and a common labourer played by Alan Bates. Of course their affair is secretly carried out with an unwitting young boy (Dominic Guard) acting as a messenger go-between. I first saw this film as a teenager (I was nursing a bit of a thing for Edward Fox at the time), and it was on again recently on television.

More despair under the yoke of a shitty regime: El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes, 2009) is an Argentinean film which beat out The White Ribbon for the 2009 Oscars. (Whatever that means, for the Oscars have meant nothing to me since 1996 and the Brave Heart best-film-best-director joke-fest). The past may or may not be a foreign country for Ricardo Darín as Benjamín Esposito, whose piercing blue eyes, despite their bassett-hound lugubriousness, certainly hold some secret regrets and desires. But the past does turn up some shockers in this turgid, somewhat over-wrought film, that I'm very glad I saw.

Shocking only for how it takes a severe turn for the worse is Io sono l'Amore (I am Love, 2009). It stars the always fascinating Tilda Swinton as a Russian woman who has married into a wealthy Milanese family. Milan, and other parts of Italy, are shown as you might not have seen them before on film. Certainly the sun beams down on Tilda's golden head most becomingly, and sets off her stunning couture wardrobe, but thankfully it does so without the golden-syrup glow of the Merchant-Ivory films. All until the bizarre hill-side love scene which unfolds like an early 1970s soft-porn movie, all close ups of taut buttocks and soft nipples (hey! Continuity!) and dandelion blossoms in a soft-focus haze. Ugh. Pre-love scene the first part of the film is very good. And then... all goes horribly wrong as a story as old as time unfolds in the most unconvincing way. I was so disappointed, as great care and love had obviously gone into the making. One thing I appreciate about a great film score is when you don't notice it. It was hard not to notice John Adams' score that at one point was so over-wrought, that I nearly burst out laughing. The last five minutes were agony. I really, really wanted to love this, but I didn't, and I don't recommend it.

"She can't help it. She never had enough love."
(Timothy Spall as Maurice in Secrets and Lies)

Unlike Io sono l'amore, Secrets and Lies (1996) unearths a more modest British family, with humour and pathos, beautifully wrought. I caught it again recently on television and it made me laugh and cry in perfect tandem. Director Mike Leigh is another film God. Timothy Spall was wonderful in Pierrepoint (2005), the story of the last hangman in Britain. You have to be in the mood to see it, if one ever can be in the mood for such a grim, if brilliantly told, true story.

There were so many other movies I saw last year and didn't blog about. Here's a quick round up!
To correct my thinking, the film Sunshine Cleaning (2008) is no relation to Little Miss Sunshine (2006) except for the word "sunshine" and Alan Arkin, who is always a major appeal. Amy Adams continues to be versatile and heart breaking with the most vulnerable and beautiful blue eyes. Emily Blunt is fantastic, and I was surprised that she pulled off The Young Victoria (2009) so well, although I wished in that film they hadn't felt the need to add some artistically licensed drama. I loved Sunshine Cleaning: it was dark and funny and moving, and – at times – really gross.

District 9 (2009) was a classic tale of outsiders and suspicion, featuring an extremely unlikely hero and a real-life setting (Johannesburg) which seemed scarier than the alien beings themselves. Produced by Peter Jackson, but no Andy Serkis in sight. Depressing.

Weirdly enough, Star Trek (2009) featured the best-behaved (i.e. quiet) audience of my recent experience, either in the cinema or in the theatre. Opening night was packed full of remarkably young Trekkers and the movie was so much fun. I loved every minute of it, certainly it exceeded all expecations. I didn’t get all the time shifting and Vulcan-exploding subteleites. My companion, who had prepped me for some plot sublteties over dinner beforehand, assured me a sequel was in the works. I’m there!

"Religion is flawed because man is flawed."
(Armin Mueller-Stahl as Cardinal Strauss in Angels and Demons, 2009.

It was fun to see bits of Rome in Angels and Demons and this was definitely an excellent large-popcorn-empty-brain experience. They've fixed Tom Hanks' hair.

Alpha: Now, you must wear the cone of shame.
Dug: [hangs head] I do not like the cone of shame.

Bob Peterson voiced both dogs in Up (2009).

My favourite movie of last year, the first 10 minutes of Up had me crying in my popcorn. After that it was laughter and tears and a good time had by all.

Albus Dumbledore: You must be wondering why I brought you here.
Harry Potter: Actually sir, after all these years I just sort of go with it.

I'm still going with it too, and will till the very end. I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), but can't really wait for it all to be over.

Brüno (2009) was no Borat (2006), which made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to throw up.

LN: [to Roderick] They bought us a stroller.
Burt Farlander: What's wrong with a stroller?
LN: I LOVE my babies. Why would I want to PUSH them away from me?

Maggie Gyllenhaal as LN and John Krasinski as Burt Farlander in Away We Go (2009).

I almost really loved this film. But something, like that stroller, pushed me away. Some of the performances felt very true and honest. Others felt forced and hammy. The script was brilliant in parts, forced in others. I wanted to like it, I really did. Ultimately I was disappointed.

If you've reached this point in the blog post - good for you! It only seemed marginally longer than this year's Oscars.

Quote of the Day

Halloran: You don't want that junk. Diamonds would only cheapen you.
Margie: Yeah. But what a way to be cheapened.

Brad Dexter as Halloran and Gloria Grahame as Margie in Macao (1952), more famously known for being the second time that Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell co-starred. They should have made more.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cool Toronto: Hanlan's Point

Of the options available for visiting the Toronto Islands (North America's largest urban car-free community), my favourite is Hanlan's Point. At the busiest time, this quiet parkland is never crowded. And there are so many trees for hugging!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An Outing with Bruce

Easily distracted at home, I decided to take my writing to the Toronto Islands. Bruce came along for the ride. We took the ferry to Ward's Island, as I'd just missed the one for Hanlan's Point. The islands don't allow cars, so it's a pretty idyllic spot.

On the ferry.

We picked up a burrito at the Island Cafe.

At our table. The writing went well. Bruce sends a fond hello to his friend Harry the Bat!

A late-afternoon ferry back to the mainland.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Peaches and Pork

The small Ontario peaches are here at last and perfectly ripe. I'm eating a lot of them, as you can imagine. Summer fruit once more has me in its thrall! Today I cooked some of the farmers' sausage I bought in Norwood, which is a village about half an hour drive from the cottage we were staying at. Delicious grilled in a salad with one of these sweet peaches, thinly sliced. I still have a packet of wild leek sausages and sage-and-apple flavoured ones. I shall report as they are cooked and consumed. Heh heh.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Style and Substance

Café Maroc continues to delight. What a perfect spot to cool off on a hot afternoon. It's very Rick's Café Americain, wouldn't you say?

I always visit the washroom whether I need to or not, for obvious aesthetic reasons.

Mint tea and Maroc frites with chipotle mayonnaise.