Sunday, June 30, 2013

Scone Recipe

Years ago I had a recipe for the soda scones my mother used to make while I was growing up. We've lost the recipe! While I search out a good replacement, I have found a new favourite slightly sweet scone. Light and delicious, I tried this for the first time last weekend. It's better than this one. Yum, yum... thank you Delia Smith.

Here's Delia's recipe, with a few little alterations of mine.

4 tablespoons of buttermilk, plus a little extra for brushing
8 oz (225 g) self-raising flour, plus a little extra for dusting (*To make self-raising flour if you live in North America and can only find all-purpose flour, I add one and a half teaspoons of baking powder to each cup of flour)
pinch of salt
3 oz (75 g) butter, at room temperature
1½ oz (40 g) golden caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 425F. (Yes, it's a hot oven, but you'll read lower down that you're going to bake the scones on the top shelf). Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then rub the butter lightly into the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs, then add the sugar.

In a jug, beat the egg and buttermilk together and add three quarters of this to the flour, mixing the dough with a palette knife. When it begins to come together, finish off with your hands – it should be soft but not sticky (if the dough seems too dry, add a little more buttermilk, a teaspoon at a time).

When you have formed the dough into a ball let the dough rest for five minutes. Then tip it on to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a circle at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick – be very careful not to roll it any thinner; the secret of well-risen scones is to start off with a thickness of no less than an inch.

Cut out the scones by placing the cutter on the dough and giving it a sharp tap – don't twist it, just lift it up and push the dough out. Carry on until you are left with the trimmings, then bring these back together to roll out again until you can cut out the last scone. Place the scones on the baking tray, brush them lightly with the rest of buttermilk/egg mixture and dust with a little flour.

Now bake on the top shelf of the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are well risen and golden brown, then remove them to a wire rack to cool. Serve the scones thickly spread with your jam of choice (raspberry is my favourite) and lots of clotted cream. If you can't find clotted cream, I use freshly whipped. If you are not going to eat them all at once (shyeah), make sure to freeze them. They don't keep fresh more than a day.

You'll Need a Tray

I can't see penne arrabiata in a menu ever again without thinking of this.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Magnificent Mad Men

Mad Men finished its season (just one to go now) on a high note.


Peggy and Ted finally consumated their intense attraction, but it didn't go the way she expected. Peggy is ultimately the character who most intrigues me. She is a remarkable woman of her time and it is her story I most will miss when it's over.

What will happen to Joan? Is she aware Bob is gay? Does she care? Probably not. Roger has been more present in her life of late. It's the ridiculous romantic in me, for - even though he's a rogue, he's so entertaining and she knows what he's like - I love to think of them ending up together. After all, she's raising his child.

I wonder if we'll have any interesting returns in the last season. I always hoped Sal would return. Will we hear anything of Peggy's and Pete's child? And what of Pete? He has become incredibly amusing in his awfulness. Part way through his conversation with Bob, he seemed to soften, and I wonder if that is actual compassion or just self-serving vanity and the hope of a future weapon to use over his younger and handsomer colleague.

Meghan has been such a devoted wife, so very patient, obviously too patient, because now, with the cancellation of the California move, Don has dealt a heavy blow. She has given up so much for her husband, who is now a walking shambles. Will she stick by him? I think she might, but it'll have to be under her terms. Don, after some effort to avoid contact with daughter, finally reveals something of his past to his three children. It was a stunning final moment. I was emotionally shaken up by his desperation and left longing to know how much more he will reveal. My guess is: nothing. His revelation in the presentation to Hershey was almost surreal. Show creator Matthew Weiner is masterful, and left me literally marvelling at how he builds a show, a season, an episode, how the arcs work, how he paces it. He's a genius.

This is such a great character piece. I'm so invested in what happens to everyone after the series is over. And of course I've been mulling over in my head how Weiner and his team will choose to tie things up. My guess is that we'll have a Star is Born sort of ending. That hint was given when Don proposed the Hawaii tourism ad in an earlier episode of the season. The pile of clothes on the sand... the footprints leading into the surf. He thought it was a blissful escape, but the clients saw James Mason disappearing into the ocean. Is that how the series will end? We won't know if Don dies or if he goes on to reinvent himself yet again. What I would love is for Weiner to give us an ending like an 80s comedy, and tell us, with captions over the faces, what happens to every single character. BUT... I know that won't happen! When it is over, I'll decide for myself, and I'll put it here. Sigh. How long do we have to wait? Waaaaaaaah!!

Image "borrowed" from AMC's Mad Men site.

A Walk in the Hood

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Great Day With the Best Dad

Father's Day was so much fun. We started off the morning with croissants, tea and coffee in L'Espresso Bar Mercurio, a blog favourite, which now has a vintage Fiat 500 right inside the front entrance.

Then we headed to the Bata Shoe Museum as my dad had never been there. Amazing items! There was a beautiful exhibition of Matteo Brogi's photographs of people and their shoes, some famous, some not, only photographed from their knees down, often in their place of work.

Then onto the displays. The earliest shoe was in fact a reproduction (there are very few of those in the museum). This was the shoe of the Ötzi man (c 3300 BC). The description read: "The sole of this replica shoe, like the original, is made of bearskin, the upper is of deerskin and the internal 'cage' is of twined linden bark. The shoe is padded with grass for insulation. During field tests, it was found that the shoe was comfortable, did not give the wearer blisters and was effective in temperatures of -5 to -10 degrees C." That shoe is seen below, top row, middle. To the right of it is a (Chinese I think) overshoe that was worn to stomp down the snow around a dwelling. It came right up the leg, almost like wearing a straw barrel.

The bottom image illustrates Dutch "klompen" which sounds even more endearing than "clogs." The three shown were worn by a woman from Marken in the 19th century. From left to right: her intricately carved wedding clogs, her decoratively painted clogs for church, and her somber clogs for funerals.

There were other amazing examples of shoes through history and the excellent displays told us somethings we already knew, that the evolution of sumptuous high heels were to indicate that the wearer was wealthy and had no need to work physically; and some things we didn't, such as the fact that reptile skin became popular during the World War II years because it wasn't a material that was affected by war-time needs or rationing.

Then it was celebrity shoe time! Here are some of my favourites: Top row from left to right: shoes worn by Marilyn Monroe (red), Elizabeth Taylor (silver), Judy Garland (in The Harvey Girls), James Stewart, and - on the far right - Queen Victoria's dancing shoes. They were tiny! In the bottom row there are the ballet slippers of Dame Margot Fonteyn (Nureyev's were beside hers and his were remarkably small) and the simplest shoes of all, a pair of plastic flipflops belonging to the current Dalai Lama. And yes, photography is allowed, but not flash.

Last time I was on Bloor at Bay we ran into a pot protest. This time the road was closed down for the Yorkville Exotic Car Show. Niiiiiice. Among the Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches, there was a stunning red Bentley convertible (middle row) which had us both drooling.

We made our way through the crowds for lunch at Lee Chen (still a blog favourite) and then to the Varsity to see Much Ado About Nothing (2012, below). Filmed in black and white over 12 days in director Joss Whedon's own California home, I suspect this film will be either loved or hated. Purists might bristle. I didn't. The setting is entirely contemporary and the language suffers only a little from editing and the casual way in which it is spoken. But that very natural delivery is part of the charm and proof that Shakespeare is timeless, relevant and magical. The very goofyness of the Hero plot is not important. The intent and the emotions are beautifully put forward. The actors are attractive but believeable. The comedy is very downplayed, and the imagery is ravishing, leaving me in a dreamy state.

All in all, a great day. But none of it inspires my gratitude more than the man who inspired the day. Thanks, Pop, for being the very best! I love you very much.

Still below from Much Ado About Nothing.

I Love Great Packaging

(Thanks M!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

They Might be Coming to a Port Near you!

The tall ships were back but I avoided the crowds and just lurked around the Peacemaker on a hot and sunny afternoon. Toronto is the only port to host all the ships as they start their tour, and last Sunday the Parade of Sail took place, as the ships left harbour. Cannons were fired, smoke was billowing and from my rooftop it looked like Toronto Harbour had turned into a pirate cove. It was completely thrilling! The Peacemaker was very close to the tall trees of Sugar Beach, so I couldn't get a full shot of her, just... bits! And speaking of Sugar Beach, those willows have really filled out. I shall have to get some shots of them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fare Game Deserves a Fair Chance

Blog favourite Jam Café has closed down.

*long, shuddering sigh*

In its place is Fare Game, in which they serve, as you might have guessed, game meats. There are other items that are surprising on the menu, like pad thai, and I can only assume they're there so that patrons that are squeamish about game can attend with their game-loving pals.

I love game.

My friend and I had the grilled calamari to start. Nom nom. I had the venison ossobucco after, and was given a massive serving. But... as you can see, I managed just fine. Those bones were sucked CLEAN. It was ravishing, richly flavoured and tender as can be. Dessert was a delicately mint-flavoured crème brûlée.

The location has always been tricky. I found their website temperamental. But the food is delicious and the service is very friendly. I hope you'll give it a go! I'll be back for certain.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

And Lo God Said...

Actually, He didn't. Or maybe He did. Maybe He said, "BPG, the days are now shortening, verily shorter shall be the days. So make ye hay while the sun shines, and even when it doth not shine. Make the most of these days, BPG, and thou shalt be pleasing to My eyes, well not really, but - honestly - use some sun screen thou great fool."

My new habit, after a day of work and before I begin busy evenings (I've got several personal projects on), I sunbathe on the roof for an hour or so. I gaze up and I appreciate some clouds.

The Junction

Three friends hit the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto's west end. First and most importantly was a return visit to A Changing Nest. This delightful consignment store is a treasure trove of irresistible items for your home. I hadn't got a few feet before I saw... the vase. A Grueby-style vase by, I have theorized from looking at the bottom, The Arts & Clay Company in Woodstock, NY. It came home with me, along with some other smaller items, but not the cat. Isn't he/she adorable? What a sweet expression. If you visit A Changing Room, be sure to visit the Potting Shed, which is an extra building on the property, full of lovely cottagey items. Grrr, can't wait to get back there!

More fun shops (including a furniture purchase by one of my friends) and then we headed off to dinner at Queen Margherita Pizza at its Baby Point location. I can't link to the site as my computer's security is telling me the site is dangerous. Such good food. Appetizers were a creamy polenta with a rich, meaty sauce, and fried zucchini with shrimp. Yum. The pizzas were excellent and the panna cotta was lightly milky and a perfect sweet finisher. The building is a former bank and has a great atmosphere, very family-friendly. But does the sound ever echo! So if you're looking for quiet, romantic dinner, I'd give this a miss. If it's a noisy outting with friends, definitely go. The food is so worth it.


Monday, June 24, 2013

I've Seen him do Things With That Hook

It's a good day for humour and opera.

And then there's the Onion. Hee hee!

Back on the Train

A wet spring and a recent stretch of intensely sunny weather has made southwestern Ontario lushly green. The promise has been realized. I spent my train trip gazing out the window. On the bottom left picture, you see the Grand River, and hugging its bend is the little town of Paris, Ontario. At least until a few years ago, there was a small cafe that looked out right over the water. It was called Café de Paris! I hope it's still there.

Bruce and I caught up on magazines and celebrated that Parenting magazine has given Ugly Dolls a Best in Play award. Good for kids... and middle-aged, er... characters.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Downton Abbeython, Part the Last

We did it! A seven-and-a-half-hour marathon yesterday caught us up. Now we can walk proudly with those who survived the last episode of season three.

John! Sybil! Anna! O'Brien BITCH BITCH BITCH! Thomasssss! Albert! Edith! Peter Egan's in it! Matthew! OMG! JOHN BATES I STILL LOVE YOU!!!

The last episode of season three was sort of shocking, except I was suspecting what was going to happen. Why? Well, because Downton is a big, shameless soap opera and there were too many obvious hints. It's got all the subtlety of a ton of bricks, but what fun!

*bouncing on chair*

And to eat, as this was our last 'thon, I served a proper tea with little sandwiches (yes, including cucumber), home-made scones with jam and clotted cream, and lashings of hot tea. Yeah... it was fun! I even polished the silver!

Okay, Now I'm Scaring Myself

It's a theory not universally considered (well, really just by me) that once I was going to start reading again, I wouldn't stop.

Last November, in another attempt to read a complete book, I started The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. I was on a train. I was full of good intentions (never a good sign). I didn't get past the first couple of pages.

Last Friday, also on a train, I finished the book... that I had started MERE DAYS PREVIOUSLY.

*seated dance of mojo-reclaiming triumph*

What has also returned to me, along with the ability to read an entire book, is a sense of relaxation, an ability to be constructively lazy. I think Tom Hodgkinson (secret boyfriend numero uno) would be proud. I like to think he would.

As for the book, it's a tender, delicious read, and I imagine it would be very enjoyable to those who haven't read Jane Austen (or at least seen the movies). But if you have, the threads that tie the book club members to Austen's tales are well woven and fun to recognize. I saw bits of the movie on television one night, and I suppose the most noticeable difference is that the characters are much younger in the movie than the book. Oh, there's a shocker.

*middle-aged smirk*

Thursday, June 13, 2013

BPG, Proud Reader

Still basking in the return of my reading mojo, I took a bit longer than a couple of days to finish Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time-Traveler's Wife).

The book started out with great promise. Grief, ghosts, and a slew of unexpected characters.


Elspeth, a middle-aged woman, dies leaving her downstairs grief-stricken younger lover, Robert, and an OCD-riddled upstairs neighbour, Martin. Her considerable estate is left to 20-year-old twins, her nieces whom she has never met. Her will states that they must live in her London flat for a year and that their mother (Elspeth's twin) must never step foot inside the flat. The nieces live in Chicago but are soon transplanted to the flat, which is part of an old rambling house on the edge of Highgate Cemetery.


Okay, that was my ghostly sound. Because, it isn't long before the ghost makes herself known. Can anyone guess who it is? Up til this point it's riveting, although the twin nieces are like the child from The Demon Seed, or something from an episode from the original Star Trek series: small, thin, with white-blonde hair, dressing often in all white or other babyish colours. They're a... tad creepy. But, they also resemble their mother and her twin sister. So of course it isn't long before Robert falls for one of them, Valentina.

That's where it all starts to unravel for me. Valentina's sister, Julia, is the dominant of the pair, and won't have Valentina doing anything on her own. The twins are so incapable of experiencing life separately that they've remained virgins, and are likely to stay in that condition indefinitely. Virgin-state aside, they are puerile in the extreme, almost incapable of adulthood, low-functioning, and - as previously stated - pretty dull. SUDDENLY... the other characters decide that Valentina is suicidal in her desperation to separate from her sister. I didn't get that idea at all. But.. SUDDENLY she is helped by her dead aunt's ghost to come up with a morbid plan. Her aunt will pull her soul out of her body and she will fall dead. Everyone will grieve. She will be buried in the family crypt (conveniently above ground). Then, her soul will be sort of squashed back into her slightly decomposed body (they experiment on a kitten first, with negative results) and - hey presto! - she can live, er, her own life. It seems a little extreme doesn't it? Yes, yes it does. Why not just get some therapy, buy a bus ticket, get the hell out of town, whatever?

What's more insane is that Robert goes along with the plot. So, this meek little girl, despite knowing the heartbreak she will cause her family, knowing she will be believed to be dead, won't be able to get a passport or get a drivers license, work or do anything which requires official identification, goes through with her crazy scheme... except it doesn't quite go to plan. Sigh. Her slightly decomposed body IS habited once more and comes to life. Can anyone guess who inhabits the body and runs off with Robert? BLIMEY.

Ohhhh, I so loved how this book started. Not so much how it ended. But Niffenegger remains a fantastically compelling author.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Quote of the Day

"What is more basic than the need to be known? It is the entirety of intimacy, the elixir of love, this knowing."

From Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two Things I Don't do Often but Love When I do

1. Go to baseball games
2. Drink beer

I drank beer at a work event. Then I drank more beer at the game.

Here are four reasons I love attending live baseball games:

1. It's a beautiful sport.
2. It's redolent of long summer evenings, and conducive to talking and relaxing while watching
3. You can eat and drink all through it.
4. There is always something new to learn.

But there are four reasons I don't do it more often:

1. Arriving and leaving the Rogers Centre (formerly and always in my heart known as the SkyDome) is horrible. The hallways resemble maximum security prisons.
2. Concession tactics mean the only water available is Dasani, which is vile. And you can't bring your own water. So it's alcohol or soda. Pffff. Alcohol please.
3.  Players now wearing long pants. What happened to the long socks and short, TIGHT breeches? I used to love watching the pitcher, weight on one leg, standing there like a David. Sigh. Those were good times.
4. Plastic grass.

By the way, at last Friday's game, which is the one I attended, the Jays beat the Texas Rangers Wankers 6 to 1.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Burger: Good. Hunger: Bad

My new favourite burger. The PJH at Pacific Junction Hotel, in my hood, starring jerk flavouring. Also, some of the best nachos ever. Attach drool cups.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dogs in the Hood

Roads were shut down as the annual dog fest that is Woofstock took over the downtown St. Lawrence neighbourhood (also my hood) this weekend. Dogs of every size and shape comingled for the most part very amicably. The fountain in Berczy Park (usually off limit to dogs) is opened up to them for this weekend only. SO much fun, as were the costume shows and the many stalls selling doggy goods and treats. There were more hands to pet dogs than dogs, so most had a bevy of fans making a fuss of them! This puppy had had enough and just lay down in the middle of the street.

Cloud Appreciating Over Cherry Beach

See the CN Tower? It's always there.

Friday, June 7, 2013

69 Years Young

My dad's bear, Rupert... working those William Morris patterns like a pro.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I don't remember the name of the place, but it was on Queen Street West. Yeah, I know, not very helpful.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Pantry Items

Summer salads? You're about to be bathed and moisturized most indulgently. A recent gift bag included the organic Monasterio olive oil, from Navarra. I won't be cooking with it... it will be eked out with great pleasure as is. Olive & Olives, from which the gift bag was purchased, has a website, which describes the oil like this:

Produced by the masters of Hacienda Queiles, Monasterio ... is a blend of arbequina and arroniz olives which are a local variety. This olive oil is produced for the Monastery of ''Cistercience de Tulebras" and the result of hard work between the Mother Superior and the producers of Hacienda Queiles. 

It's very smooth and almost creamy.

The balsamic vinegar, Leonardi Oro Nobile, is from Modena, and is also delicate... the first vinegar I've actively liked, and I'm being active with it! It has a touch of sweetness which renders the temptation to add a drop of maple syrup or honey to my salad dressing unnecessary.

The gifter, knowing me well, included the chocolate pearls. Seriously. Drool cup. STAT. Thank you!

My treasure box (gift from Barbara) has been emptied, the contents are now well sealed in the fridge (moisture and chocolate don't mix well). Until the fall, there will be less chocolate consumption. It just never seems like something I want to eat in the summer. Oh, unless it's in frozen, creamy form. Heh heh.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Downton Abbeython part three

Part three in the big catchup has taken place. Downton Abbey is such a fun, soapy costume fest! Poor Edith! Chilly Mary! Kind Earl! Wonderful Carson! OH MR. BATES!!!

We've watched up to and including part three of season three. By my estimation we have about seven hours left and I'm hoping we can get them done all in one afternoon/evening. Can't wait!

Suddenly I Feel Like Shopping... not for These... but... Shopping!

I've been trying to work out what the current shoe trend reminds me of. I pondered why only very young, coltish women look good in them. Then I figured it out - hoofs! Except of course, that's already been figured out... and if you look at the bottom right image, shoes exactly like hoofs are now being designed.

The origin of fashion elements is a very cool study. I wonder how many women - who wear those big scarfs wrapped around their necks year round - realize that they're burka-inspired?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Long Days, Short Nights, Soaking it in

Forget-me-nots cluster around a tree. And speaking of not forgetting, remember the frozen pond? Today it had a couple of quackies paddling around, a boy and girl. Below, Cherry Beach in blazing sunshine. It felt so good!

Fat Evening

A few days of humidity and then lashings of rain... the air has cleared, the plants are happy, the sun set gloriously, and I lolled on the bed.

A Night in Toronto

A sold-out run indicates another triumph for Against the Grain Theatre. Their Figaro's Wedding, with a new, updated and English libretto (which set it in Toronto), traversed that fine line between laughs and poignancy that is a hallmark of Mozart's original masterpiece. Set in a downtown wedding venue, with the audience as guests who moved between two rooms to enjoy the action, this was a fantastic evening of biting wit and beautiful music. This is the third production I've seen from this small and potent group, and I urge everyone not to miss whatever they come up with next.

Here's a sample of the catchy social media they have used so effectively to draw in the sold-out audiences.

Pre-show we had dinner at Pomegranate, somewhere I've always wanted to try, being a fan of Persian food. The lamb was very tender, in fact all the food was perfectly cooked, and there was lots of it. But there was something wanting in the food, a certainly blandness in everything, even though it all looked very colourful. The fact that the bread was very generic seemed to me to be unforgiveable. Toronto is a great bread town! I wonder if the chef is Persian? One of my companions doubted it. I enjoyed myself but am unlikely to return.

Happy Birthday, Mister Maru!

On May 24, Maru turned 6. In case you don't know this interwebs sensation, Maru is the subject of one of Japan's most popular blogs, and a YouTube star. Handsome, well-loved, box-addicted and goofy... I give you Maru!

Two Lovely Women, Two Lovely Outings, Both Kind of Wrapped in Dim Sum... Attaching my Drool Cup as I Type

I went with a friend to the graduate show at the Ontario College of Art and Design... plus shopping for watercolour supplies at Above Ground Art Supplies which is right next door. Is there anything more alluring than the promise inside an art supply store? Well, I can think of a few things, if pushed, but I was in temptation heaven, and got all I need from that lovely, creaky old building. After, we retired to Sky Dragon in Chinatown, where it was too late to witness the little carts of dim sum being trolleyed around, but we still had a blow-out feast. I particularly enjoyed the steamed pea shoots. Gorrrr!

A week later my mother and I had a fantastic day together (ok, it was officially a Mother's Day celebration but we don't need to be told when to celebrate, but I don't mind another excuse). We visited a favourite museums, the Gardiner, and then saw Kon Tiki, a movie I'll blether on about in another post. Before the movie, we went to Lee Chen, which we had discovered together this past winter. It's on the west side of Yonge, just north of Bloor. The broth was as fresh and delicious as before, but this time we discovered the "bao," a Chinese sandwich you can build yourself, on a very soft, steamed bun. We had the pork option, deciding that for our next visit we'll try some of the others... a sort of bao taste test. Okay, my mouth is really watering. Let's just look at some pictures while I blot my chin. (Heh, heh, just kidding... sort of).

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Peter Sellars is a rare talent, a brilliant director, and a loving and compassionate human being. I was lucky to attend this discussion and another. In both instances this last winter, where I got to hear him talk, he brought me to tears. Then I saw his production of Tristan und Isolde, and was blown away by this game-changing production. A large video screen dominated the stage, and showed video artist Bill Viola's stunning moving images. The singers, including Ben Heppner as Tristan, were accompanied sublimely by the COC Orchestra, and I felt those musical vibrations go right through me. Film + opera. My cup overflowed.

I've said it before on my blog - but for me the purpose of art is to take you places you weren't expecting to go. It's not always positive but it's always an adventure and sometimes (we hold out for those rare occasions) it's transformative.

Here's the video. I really hope you'll take the time to watch it. You don't have to be an opera fan!