the left coast

I always knew that someday I would return to the west coast. Toronto winters were wearing me down. My little house in Leslieville sat on the corner of my street with 130-150 ft of sidewalk that had to be cleared all too regularly through the winter months. This Vancouver girl never quite adapted to the task…but I tried, oh I tried! I suppose hiring someone or moving to a condo may have sufficed but eventual escape was on my mind. I dreamed of all of my girls converging to closer geographical locations.

I took a hard look at the life I wanted going forward. I stumbled upon a quote that resonated with me by Doris Lessing…

“whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

It seemed to me that I had a daughter that desperately needed to fly on her own that had been living with me and another one in the west who could use some help. My middle kid is also in flux as her little family will be searching for a new job post-graduation.  I had also long dreamed of spending time in France with my sister…( more on that later)

I wanted to have a little place near Stanley Park that could be rented out if needed. Living in Manhattan for a year had taught me I could nest in a tiny space as long as I had a big park close by and the city at my doorstep.

On top of it all, I needed to figure out how to stretch the $$. I worked hard to find the “perfect for me” little apartment that will be undergoing a makeover, with a new kitchen and bathroom. I am now in the middle of an urban garden, just steps from the ocean and my favourite park in the world. Restaurants, shops and bike paths are at my doorstep.

I loved another quote I came across today….”There are three things we cry about in life, things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.” Douglas Coupland
BRAINY QUOTES

So when I start to feel bummed out, like when I found all this amazing Christmas stuff on sale and there is NO MORE ROOM at my little INN–I remind myself there are still many good things to come. IMG_1720

 

 

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catching up on last summer…

It’s been another long gap since I last posted. So much has happened and I am intent on drinking it all in and savouring all the details…even the not so fun ones. Packing up the last of my things, throwing out, selling off and handing over my home was far more difficult than I ever imagined, both emotionally and physically. Could not have managed without so many people there to help. How grateful I am for all of them.

Every once in a while a sadness hits me of leaving behind so much in Toronto. It was an intensely rich time in my life. Leaving friends and neighbours and most of all my youngest daughter and my eldest granddaughter has been hard but it felt like the right time to move on. I’ve focused on living in the present,  while honouring my past and I’m working for a new future. I remind myself that I’m grateful to have put down roots deep enough that Toronto actually does feel like home to me in many ways. ( Some western Canadians can imagine such a declaration.)

By the skin of my teeth the house was cleared out, with my Lindsay and friend Piotr clearing up the last items and giving the house a high gloss finish. I had a plane to board for Marseille on June 29, 2015.

I arrived at my sisters lovely villa in an ancient town in the Luberon, Provence. The village built into the mountainside is Saignon. My sisters paradise in France. We spent a week together and she was off to Canada, leaving me to take care of business ( which was great fun ) more tk

Moving On?… C’est La Vie

my back is aching and my head hurts when i think too deeply so I am just going with it. In 1 week I will be on a plane to Marseille. My sister will pick me up at the airport and whisk me off to her little piece of paradise in Saignon

Right now, I have to somehow survive the packing and dumping. I think my brain actually skipped over this whole process when i put this plan in gear. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and fear to work through this part. Ugh. I hate it! I have stretched out the fun part as long as I could. Longingly staring at my lovely living room. (This means I have to squint hard to ignore the cluttered shelves and surfaces so I can focus on the light and height of the room.)

Am i excited? Sure …I think so. I’m actually blocking out a ton of dread.  I love this city of T.O.  it’s become home to me and I will be leaving behind neighbours, friends and a beloved daughter and granddaughter…and Gert the Golden Doodle. The city is amazing and diverse and of course the food options are endless.

Hmmm. I am really not sure what is around the next corner. I only know I am trying to embrace the adventure–or at least WILL TRY to embrace it when I can get through the sorting, keeping and dumping of the miscellaneous mess that has been my life so far.

More TK of course!

BOOK GIVE-AWAY….the American Way of Eating

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I was riveted by an interview with the author, Tracie McMillan and Jian Ghomeshi  back in April and fascinated by the author’s year long undercover research into the topic of how food/produce travels from the field to the table. The publisher, Simon and Schuster has donated a  copy to give away to one lucky reader and I will mail it out to one of you by June 15.

The book is intelligently written with numerous insights. The author goes undercover to get an inside account of what it takes to work in the Californian fields, Walmart, the world’s largest grocery aisles and serve up food first hand to hungry Americans at Applebees. It’s a glimpse into the realities of FOOD PRODUCTION AND DELIVERY and raises questions around the entire system food systems in North America. Early on in the book, Tracie discovers that farm worker wages could be raised by 40% and would only increase the average American family’s produce bill by $16 per year. She goes on to carefully explain why there are so many obstacles to make this happen (see page 28-29).  This book is also a fascinating history around the grocery industry itself . Each new job includes a calculation of  real life budgets of covering life’s basic needs based on her wages and there is a detailed analysis at the end of the book and a broader look at the reality of realistically making ends meet and the percentage of income we devote to this basic necessity.  There are acts of generosity from her fellow workers along the way and it is a sober reminder of the reality of living when every single penny counts. It was an uncomfortable reminder of when every cent that flowed through my household was crucial to my family’s well-being. Were it not for greatly subsidized living standards via the generosity of family and friends and church, my children would have had a far different early childhood.

This book is important and I think it is well worth the time to digest it.

I would love any feedback on how you managed through the tough times and or if you would like a free copy of the book mailed to you. I will contact one lucky contributor by June 15 to mail out their copy of the book.

best, t

Full book description below:

VIDEO

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table

by Tracie McMillan

Scribner | February 21, 2012 | Hardcover

In the tradition of Barbara Ehrenreich‘s Nickel and Dimed, an ambitious and accessible work of undercover journalism that fully investigates our food system to explain what keeps Americans from eating well-and what we can do about it.Getting Americans to eat well is one of today’s hottest social issues; it’s at the forefront of Michelle Obama‘s agenda and widely covered in the media-from childhood obesity to store brands trying to make their food healthier. Yet most Americans still eat poorly, and award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan wanted to know why. So, in 2009 McMillan went to work undercover in our nation’s food system alongside America’s working poor, living and eating off her wages, to examine how we eat.McMillan worked on industrial farms in California, in a Walmart produce section outside Detroit, and at an Applebee’s kitchen in New York City. Her vivid narrative brings readers along to grueling work places, introduces them to her coworkers, and takes them home to her kitchen, to see what kind of food she (and her coworkers) can afford to buy and prepare. With striking precision, McMillan also weaves in the story of how we got here, digging deep into labor, economics, politics, and social science to reveal new and surprising truths about how America’s food is grown, sold, and prepared-and what it would take to change the system.Fascinating and timely, this groundbreaking work examines why eating well in America-despite the expansion of farmer’s markets and eat local movements-is limited to the privileged minority.

Father’s Day give-away!!!

There is a certain guy I know that decided to throw caution to the wind, travel far outside his comfort zone and have a life changing experience. If there is a man in your life that you are looking to inspire or if you want a vicarious life adventure then this is the book for you.

I HAVE A BEAUTIFULLY BOUND BOOK TO SEND FREE TO ONE LUCKY READER – randomly chosen and 2 ebook versions as well ( please specify your preference). All you have to do is subscribe to my email list or just send me a note to enter. If you have a story to share of your own life adventure…even better! 

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Now, back to Bob’s story…I laughed, I cried , I howled…well really I laughed. Not much crying involved. I must admit I was also inspired — but mostly I got into the food descriptions, and I know there are a lot of you out there who will too 🙂 READ ON….

Adventures with Knives: Surviving 1,000 Hours of Culinary School  

by Bob Foulkes 

Staring down a milestone age, Bob Foulkes was not content to experience life from the comfort of his easy chair. From competitive running, cycling, and swimming to travelling the world and extensive volunteering, Bob had experienced his fair share of adventures. Then he turned 60. Semi-retired, restless, and yes, bored, Bob was ready for his next adventure.

Inspired by Julia Child’s passion for food and a certain French animated French ‘Rat’, Bob takes his leap and enrolls in the six-month culinary program at Vancouver’s renowned Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. And so begins his next adventure — 1,000 hours of intensive training in the art of classical French cooking.

In this hands-on program where students are expected to work hard and put in long hours, Bob — the oldest student in the class, by a long shot — faces the many rigorous mental and physical challenges of culinary training with grace, humility, and good humour. As he learns the ropes in the kitchen, he makes some unexpected discoveries about himself, his relationships, and the meaningful role that preparing and sharing food has had in his life.

Filled with technical and personal details of Bob’s culinary education, this behind-the-scenes account of life in a professional training kitchen is both eye-opening and inspiring.

Adventures with Knives is now available from Indigo.ca in paperback as well as fine independent bookstores…and in electronic reader form http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BobFoulkesAdventuresWithKnives

Bob’s book has also been nominated for TASTE CANADA’S CULINARY NARRATIVE CATEGORY. 

Also if you are in Vancouver visit the Pacific Culinary Arts restaurant and or bakery. Both are amazing!

Mother’s day weekend and collateral baking damage

The sun stayed out for Mother’s Day in Toronto and it was a pure decadence to wander around the neighbourhood and be treated to 2 dinners out. I began the morning with a breakfast experiment that had been setting up from the night before. The recipe claimed to be some sort of fancy french toast- but really it was bread pudding dolled up with lots of berries and some creme fresh. I tried to cheap out with the whole wheat bread sitting on the counter, and it was OK,  but I do think using a nice italian bread or brioche or old croissants would have been much more satisfying. I still have plenty of leftovers and I can’t think of where/whom I can pass them on to. Here is the full recipe and it looks great–I suppose I should stop fiddling with things and go by the book at some point. (warning- just don’t try to make it healthy with whole grain bread!) FRENCH TOAST- Overnight

Later, Lindsay treated me to lunch. We have found an “all you can eat Sushi” spot that is actually quite amazing. At $12.99 it is hard to beat. If you are in Toronto, try it out– California Roll on Bayview.  Even Maddie the 2 year old loves the seaweed salad , edemame and rice. She handles chop sticks better than some adults I know.

In the evening we took a neighbourhood stroll and ended up at one of those fresh ground, organic and locally sourced burger joints that opened up last year next to some grotty old school noodle joints. Still it’s fun to see all the variety out there. Madeline insisted on pedalling her miniature bike the entire way. Since she is still pretty shrimpy and the bike is very low, it was quite a feat to keep her on track through the craggy sidewalks and over the street car tracks. 

There are two junk stores that we pass by everyday. It’s hard to believe that purchases have ever taken place in either store, but I must say the fully lit windows in the evening looked weirdly magical tonight. It’s difficult to assertion any regular retail hours since the hand lettered signage is spare on details, but every once in a while a pile of junk ends up on the sidewalk signalling they are open for business.

And finally, bedtime brought out the Gramma Wood wig. It’s a family favorite. This legendary matriarch of the Harker Family, Ione Wood, dyed her hair red almost to her last days on earth. She was one amazing woman and  she always sported good shoes, a matching purse and a professionally styled hair-do that had been sprayed to last a week. The wig apparently came in handy after swimming. For some reason little kids cannot resist it’s charms. She was Gramma Wood to all who knew her, regardless of actual family ties. I miss her always and suspect that she is somehow watching over all the kids still, and likely squirrelling away liquorice and quarters for the next time we all meet. 

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hump day first week at culinary school

Ok, I admit it. Standing through an entire 3 hour class without leaning, slouching, no hands in pockets and ( WARNING TMI ALERT) oozing buckets of menstrual blood is not my idea of fun. Top it off I had a migraine most of the day; but I still loved my classes and the experience… but  I was very happy to head home on my scooter ( in the rain) by 4 o’clock… but “I digress” 

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First up was my baking class. I did not get to make cookies, or pie or anything. Instead we were tortured by the 2nd year students baking next door. The smells were amazing. I did however get to follow along with everyone as we were warned of the perils of the giant mixers, procedures, store rooms, honour codes, and keeping your sh*thole clean…according to my old German Chef instructor. He was amazing. My first 15 minutes of fame resulted from either being old, or smart…but I was the  only student in class who understood how to measure on a counterbalanced scale, meaning I got to tutor one half of the class while Chef helped the rest. I know it really does not sound like a blast, but it was! really …i swear it was.

The second class of the day was Intro to Fine Dining ( Service etc) and Wine ( last 7 weeks). I think I will stick with the under 19 set and smell intently and record other student’s impressions of the wine. Some of you may not know that one of my few claims to fame is that I have never had a drink in my life. It seems pointless to break a streak at this point. There will still be plenty to learn about grapes and regions and blah blah blah…and I am happy to soak it all in. I do have a bloodhound type nose so I should do just fine.

When I walked in the door I flaked out for an hour and still woke up with a headache. I resorted to my old favorite drug of choice, Imitrex and all is well.

topped with balsamic glaze
topped with balsamic glaze

Pizza tonight , using my NEW PIZZA PEEL. When I purchased school supplies yesterday I decided to splurge on the wood pizza peel . I needed to explore the bottom of the oven technique that Jules from Stone Soup recommended. It worked perfectly this time with NO BURNS. For $15 it was money well spent!

  • I made the dough up in the food processor first ( SEE TERRONI PIZZA POST or the STONE SOUP LINK above )
  • Turned oven on to preheat–tried 400 degrees this time
  •  fried up some onions in one pan and mushrooms in another on high heat.
  • Removed the HOT PIZZA STONE ( 400 Degree preheating) from the oven and placed the rolled out pizza dough on it.
  • Top bottom dough with a bit of EVOO.
  • Spread small amount of grated old white cheddar ( or whatever you have on hand) on the dough,
  • top with onions and mushrooms
  • sprinkle feta cheese on top. Season with pepper and salt if feta is not too salty.
  • Pop pizza in oven for approx 12 min. ( check )
  • If using the BOTTOM of the OVEN TECHNIQUE, remove pizza from the stone using the wooden peel
  • –or just remove from the rack
  • squeeze balsamic glaze over the top if desired.
  • MUSHROOMS are amazing when paired with a blue cheese or brie type as well. Just add on when you remove from the heat. The delicate cheese will melt and not burn off this way.

EAT

a weekend with Ms. Madds

This weekend, I had a 2 1/2 year old to myself– 4 days and 3 nights. As I write her mother is spending her last evening in NYC celebrating the completion of her undergrad degree. This is a big deal for Maddie to be without her mommy overnight, but we seem to be having a good time in spite of it all.

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Friday night we heard the familiar music of the ice-cream truck. When my kids were little I  used to curse the guy that would drive into our townhouse complex nightly. I felt like a meanie, as I rarely had any spare dollars to spend on frozen rockets and overpriced ice-cream. Well guess what? Somehow I have the $ now to buy ice-cream almost as large as a 2 year old’s head…even if I have to raid he college fund to do it!

On Saturday we wandered around the neighbourhood. We especially love http://www.bobbetteandbelle.com/ and the little flower shop next door. We hit a French bakery for bread and spent the next hour at the playground. The evening was spent eating a cold hotdog at a baking fundraiser for kids to go to camp.  Sunday we mostly stayed home,  watching endless YouTube loops of Kitties and owls and doggies and monkey with a few Barbie Princess and Mickey Mouse cartoons thrown in for good measure.

We also baked shortbread cookies…rolling out the scraps of dough and pressing the cutters into them 100 x each. I use the easiest recipe on earth and for once she can eat the play-dough. I have posted the recipe along with a fancier version from Rouxbe. The key is to USE REAL BUTTER. This is not the cookie to skimp on the butter.

Madeline’s culinary preferences include Cheerios, macaroni, peanut butter sandwiches, crackers and cheese and scrambled eggs and toast. She also likes grapes, apple, a few bites of banana and mandarin oranges. Now I recall the reason my regular dinner making went off the rails and has yet to recover. Give me a crowd of 10 or even 50 and I am a happy to cook all day long. Make an appetizing, well-balanced meal every night is a challenge I have yet to perfect.

Joy of Baking —   Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

 In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer or food processor beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  

Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated or pulse in processor.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out between parchment or floured surface. Cut shapes and bake until lightly browned 8-10 min. 

http://rouxbe.com/recipes/1939-lemon-filled-shortbread-cookies/text