Hard Times Come Again No More

14 Sep

I was camping at The Ovens this summer with my Sister and our boys. We had eaten dinner in their restaurant (fabulous by the way) and then roasted marshmallows at our campsite.  The boys were playing Bingo and we were chatting over beers, when I heard live music at the Miner Diner, the restaurant where we had eaten only an hour or so before.  I’m a sucker for live music.  

I walked over and peered through the screen door and listened to the lyrics of the song that the man sang while playing a steal guitar.  The sounds of that guitar, the appearance of the man who somewhat resembled Willy Nelson, along with the lyrics to the song he sang, struck me.

As we pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
Let us all taste the hungers of the poor.
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears:
Hard times, come again no more.

As we seek mirth, and beauty, and music light and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say:
Hard times, come again no more.

It’s a song that the wind blows across the troubled wave.
It’s a cry that is heard along the shore.
It’s the words that are whispered beside the lowly grave
When hard times will come again no more.

It’s a song and a sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Hard times, come again no more.

I stood at the door watching this man play for a captive audience and I couldn’t help but think of my dad as he sang that song.

Tonight I think of the song again, and I think of my dad who died September 13th one year ago.

Indeed, hard times come again no more.

Lyrics written by Stephen Foster

Music performed by Scott Ainslie, do yourself a favor and click here and hear the sample on the bottom right of the page.  I’ve since purchased the CD. It’s amazing.

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You’re gonna love this story…

11 Sep

Pour yourself a drink, and get ready for your heart to ooze out goodness and love, because I have a story for you…and boy…is it a goodie!

So- You all know that my Colin loves to cook, he loves archery, drawing, pretty much all things that normal little nine year old boys don’t like.  I mean, he also loves hockey and swimming and girls in bathing suits, but the kid is not typical.  And I sort of love it.

He’s been cooking for some time and especially loves when I put odd ingredients in a basket and give him a time limit to come up with something edible, just like his favorite show on the Food Network, Chopped.

This summer he was addicted to Chopped Grill Masters, and especially became a huge fan of Chef Kent, a charming cowboy who cooks on his ranch in Texas.  Chef Kent won his round and made it to the final episode.  Colin stayed up until midnight to watch Kent win.

Only Kent didn’t win.  And Colin cried himself to sleep, no joke until 1:30 am!!

His emotions were so raw, like his girlfriend broke his heart or his dog went missing. As a mother that was hard to watch.  Colin only went to sleep when I told him that I would find Chef Kent on-line (you all know I’m somewhat of a web whore) and that I’d find him, and I’d buy Colin his cookbook or I’d give him a donation and that so many people in the world had probably fallen in love with Kent just as he did, and Chef Kent would be fine.  I think I might have even promised him.

I could still hear Colin sniffling and his pillow was still damp with tears when I found Chef Kent’s website and discovered that in fact he did have a cookbook, and I thought, surely I will get the ‘mother of the year’ award for this.  

I filled out the on-line form, only to discover that they don’t ship to Canada.  I thought…Sweet baby Jesus this can’t be happening.  I mean I seriously pictured Colin’s face as I told him that I lied, and that I really am a shitty mother.

Panic set in and I did the only thing I knew how to do.  Beg.  I hit the ‘contact me’ button on his site and I thought I would tug on the heart strings of cooking cowboy from Texas.  Someone who was likely famous by now, who probably had no clue where Nova Scotia is, let alone Mahone Bay!

My e-mail went like this:

Hi Chef Kent, My nine-year old son Colin is still crying in his bed because you were chopped.  He loves to cook and he especially loved you!!

I’m trying to console him and said that I would find you and give you a donation or buy your cookbook for him, but you don’t ship to Canada. Please would you consider it? I’d be happy to pay the extra for shipping! And just to guilt you into it, I’m attaching a picture of him, the first one is of him playing Chopped (I’m constantly asked to put weird food in a basket for him), and the other is of his mustard and bacon chicken, one of his specialties.)

Anyway, you were great, we loved all your sayings! I think you should run for president! I wish you and your wife the best success.

I mean, who could say no to that face!!

I went to bed, hoping that he didn’t already have an assistant who opened his e-mail.

I woke up and got myself ready for work, waiting for the babysitter to arrive.  I let Colin sleep in, seeing as he was up so late.  I peeked in his room to find him sleeping, his eyes still puffy from crying when the phone rang.

Unless you heard the thick accent of the Texan on the other end of the phone, you would not have believed it.   As a matter of fact, I thought for a second it was David playing a prank, except for the fact that the caller addressed me as Ma’am.  I thought, David wouldn’t have thought out the details to that extreme.  Ma’am, with his southern charm, this can only be Chef Kent!

Can you believe it?! Not 6 hours before had I requested that he send me a cookbook and now he was calling!   I got Colin up to Share the news.

“Colin, guess who’s on the phone and wants to talk to you?” I asked, barely able to contain my own excitement.

“Chef Kent??” He responded.  Talk about anti-climactic. 

“Umm, ye… yeah…it is.”

They talked, he was shocked and I tried very hard to control my bladder.

Chef Kent expressed his gratitude to Colin, told him a cookbook was on its way,  and said not to worry about him, he was gonna be just fine.

Yesterday, it arrived.

You would have thought it was the Christmas Wish Book.

Colin looked through to cookbook, and looked at the picture, and you wanna know what he said?

“It’s really him.”

The end.  Doesn’t you heart just feel better now?

1/7th Vegan

9 Sep

Have you ever seen a picture of yourself and thought, “I’ve got the lay off the beer?”  Well, that’s me, usually at the end of every summer.  And it was certainly me recently, when I downloaded pictures off my sons phone.

This is me, doing an on-line course I was doing this summer, and it was the most fun course I had ever done, mostly because I participated in the webinars, poolside, while drinking beer.

I mean, that’s my kind of course.

Anyway, now that summer is over and I’ve settled down to do more blogging, I’m looking at all the pictures realizing that I have to make some small changes, one of those changes is illuminating my daily beer habit. Not that I drink a lot, but during the summer, I have at least one a day.

Another thing: meat. This summer, I must have eaten a cow.  I mean, every day it was barbecued something, and while, I love meat, and I’m not going to apologize to anyone for that, I decided to give my intestines a bit of a break.

Once a week, we’re going vegan. Who can’t go meatless for just one day?  Surely we can.  Just do me a favor, and don’t tell my husband.

All you vegans are probably rolling your eyes (Gail Crosier, I can see you now…sigh).  But 1/7th vegan is a start.

This idea came in the spring when we had a vegan potluck at work in honour of Carolyn who is vegan but can never enjoy any of our delicious potlucks.  The food was out. of. this. world.

We all agreed that this was our best potluck yet, and we can do a potluck!

Here is the recipe for my roasted potato and pine-nut salad.  

Bag of mini new potatoes sliced in half, tossed in olive oil and roasted

1 jar of roasted red peppers, sliced

1 yellow pepper roasted and sliced

1 sliced zucchini roasted

12 olived slices

a bed of greens

1 cup of pine nuts toasted

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8th cup rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp grated garlic

salt and pepper

Simple Sushi

5 Sep

The kids and I took a weekend this summer and went on what we dubbed, “Food Tour 2012.”

We each decided on a place that we wanted to go and enjoy a meal.  No surprise, Colin chose sushi.  No surprise because he’s constantly surprising me by his choices.

We went to Sushi Nomi in Dartmouth Crossing and we split several different variations.  It was delicious.

And of course, after having sushi, you continue to crave it days after, so we went to the Superstore and purchased everything we needed.  We thought, how hard can it be to make sushi at home?  Apparently, it’s pretty hard.

Again, no surprise, Colin was the best at it.  He was the first to take a bite.  We waited anxiously for his reaction.  “It don’t look the same but it taste just as good.”  He was right.

Could you not just eat my Colin’s cheeks right off his face? I digress.

But it did get me thinking about sushi and how hard it is to make, which is such a shame because it is so darn addictive.

And then, as I was looking at all the ingredients just sitting there, I remembered our Theme Night Dinners and how Jen’s husband, Wayne, made us deconstructed sushi as a side dish.

I immediately invented the Sushi Salad.

Certainly I’m not the first to come up with this salad, but around these parts, we steal ideas and call them our own.

So- Introducing, for the first time ever, Sushi Salad…you’re welcome.

Cooked sushi rice

sliced smoked salmon

slices avocado

julienned carrots, cucumbers, red peppers

toasted sesame seeds

toasted and chopped nori

For the dressing- mix together the following

tsp sushi grade soya sauce

tsp rice wine vinegar

dab of wasabi

sprinkle of sugar

Picked ginger if you fancy (we do not fancy)

How to be a tourist that the locals won’t want to run over.

26 Aug

I mean tourists no harm.  We need you. You help our local economy.  I want tourists to come, and enjoy the beauty around us.

But here’s the thing:

There is such a thing as a tourist being so cool, that we locals find you adorable.  We want to invite you in our homes and feed you.  We want to share beers with you at our favourite pub.  We want to share our heritage with you, and make you fall in love with our town so you’ll want to find a real estate agent.  We want to exchange e-mail addresses with you.  We want to show you our appreciation that, with all the places in the world, you chose to spend your vacation and your money at our shops, eating our local fare.

I mean, we love you guys!

And then there are the tourists that we want to run over with our cars.  We want to yell at you.  We want to say, “See those strange lines in the road?  Yeah, those. We call those ‘cross walks’.  You don’t have them in Quebec?  Well we do.  Kindly use them, especially when you go at a snails pace, and when we’re trying to teach our children not to be so stupid.  See, when you do that, I want to run you over to prove to my children why you shouldn’t do it.”

Those are the tourists that decide, instead of parking and walking and enjoying our architecture and our lovely houses, they drive, super, super slow.   They’re the ones that think that us town folk are paid to reenact life in a small community.  You know, to be super quaint and nice, with no other jobs to do.  We’re just faking having to go to the grocery store to feed our family.  So, no, by all means, take all the spaces in the grocery store.  I’ll park up the street and walk with 5 bags of food.

I always think, that when you’re a tourist, the good kind of tourist I mean, you follow the, When in Rome do as the Romans do philosophy.  So, we let people in the line of traffic after a billion cars go by, because we know that, they may have to get to work.  We walk a little briskly when crossing the street because people are waiting for us.  We say hi to each other generally, because, in a small town, you likely know everyone, and if you don’t know them, you probably know their cousin, or dated their brother, so we just say hi.  So sometimes, we when say hi to a tourist by mistake, it’s perfectly ok to say hi back.  We are not going to mug you.  This is not a test.  Hi is not that hard to say.

We need each other.  We need you to come and give our local businesses a boost, and you need us to pay taxes for those roads you drive so slowly on, for police to keep thugs away, and to keep the pub going until you get here.  We can coexist when we show appreciation for each other!

Please, enjoy our town as we do.  We hope you love it.  Just follow some common courtesies, and no one will get hurt.  We might even become friends, and one day, I may return the favor and become a tourist in your town.

I promise to be the good kind.

Cool nights, hot grill

18 Aug

The grill- It’s the go-to in the summer.  I’m not sure that I’ve turned on my stove in two months.

But the grill, that’s gets all kinds of use, and usually, the bbq’er is wearing a swimsuit or a towel. Thou that’s not manditory.

This night we grilled a smorgagebordge or “stuff” and it worked.

If you’ve not read it before, here’s my go-to marinade for steak. There is almost always a Mason Jar of this liquid-gold in our fridge. I throw some in a Zip-lock bag with meat and we’re good-to-go.

On the grill

Flank steak (in my magic marinade)

1 Halved Avocado

2 Pitted Ontario peaches (seriously, you’ve never had a peach until you’ve grilled an Ontario peach)

1 Zucchini (slices in thick slices)

2 Potatoes (parboiled and them slices)

1 Red peppers

1 head of romaine lettuce

Everything drizzled with olive oil with the exception of the meat.

For the Marinade 

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

juice from half an orange plus the zest

1 TBSP of fresh minced garlic

1 TBSP of fresh minced ginger

1 spring of chopped green onion or scallion

1 tsp salt and pepper

Throw it all in a sauce pan and boil for 5 minutes or so.  Cool and store in a jar until you need it.

And in honor of summer, and the fact that, in 2 short weeks, school goes back in (can I get a whah-whahh??!) I thought I’d post something to celebrate…dinner…at a table…no buns to be seen…and the fact that there is a kid sleeping, yeah, just disregard that,  he’s been at a sleepover.
You get it!

And another after-school message brought to you by…

19 Jul

OK- so I’m going to get all dramatic up in here and tell you this long drawn-out story, but I could save lives here so please, please continue to the finish!!

One of my most feared things is fire.  I can’t explain it, but I’m scared of fire, fireworks, bonfire, matches, basically any kind of fire frightens me, as if in my past life I was involved in an accident that involved fire.  I know, weird.  And because of this vice I check the stove 4 times before leaving the house.

For the past 2 days we had this strange smell in the house.  David and I could only explain it as the smell of a match blown out.  For two days we went throughout the house sniffing like freaks, trying to find the origination.

I became obsessed with it.  Was it the propane? I checked the barbecue, the bug killer, our fire place? Nope.  Was it the dryer, the dishwasher, the iron.  Negative.

For the past two nights I didn’t sleep well.  I’d wake in the middle of the night, shake David and have him smell with me.  Do you smell anything? He’d say no while still asleep.

After not finding the source, I thought it was just my neuroses, until a friend came over and I asked her to smell it too. It wasn’t just me.  And together, the three of us spent much of the night trying to find the source of the weird smell.

Today, we woke to the smell upstairs. It was much stronger than it was the night before.  I really panicked now.  David and I would be gone all day and while the kids would be with a very capable babysitter, I felt very uncomfortable.  David decided that he was going to have the fire chief come over later today to find the source.  Gotta love small towns.

Just before I left to take the kids to their golf lesson, I saw David filling up a big bucket of water.

“Did you find it?  Did you find the smell?”

He ignored me and hurriedly moved to the back patio.  I grew concerned.

You wanna know what the source of the smell was?

Four days ago, David extinguished his cigar in my potted plant on the back patio.  And for 4 days it had been smoldering in that pot in the dry soil, until it finally ignited the roots of the dead plant.  The soil on top contained what could have become flames.

That potted plant is right above our propane tank for the fireplace, and right below Evans bedroom window.

Scary stuff.

David emptied the water in the plant and it erupted in steam. The ceramic pot was hot to the touch. We were lucky.  Close call.  Lessons learned:

Don’t smoke, but if you do, it’s dry as hell out there, so don’t just throw your butts in the woods, out the car window, on the ground or in potted plants, because they could start a fire and devastate your family.

Oh, and you probably should water your plants too.