Thursday, December 22, 2005

Just wondering...

why are Ziyi Zhang's pretty brown eyes aqua-blue in the 'Memoirs of a Geisha' posters? Is Crystal Gayle singing the theme song?

Just wondering.

Swooning Naked Monks

I'm listening to the 'Ballads of the Swooning Naked Monks', otherwise known as 'Carmina Burana' by Carl Orff. The most famous bit 'O Fortuna' is the music they play in movies when the hero escapes imminent death and things all around blow up.

In a past life, I had the oppurtunity to perform this in a chamber choir. It was one of the most moving musical experiences I've ever had. Wildly crazy about Orff already, I was doubly thrilled to be singing the poetry of a bunch of vagabond monks and vagrants who were the authors of the 25 poems that Carmina Burana is based on. The poems revolved around 3 things: Spring, drinking and love. Perfect material for a green, tender maiden like moi to be studying. I did my best to acquaint myself with all three.

(You can't really expect me to be too serious about music that has lines like 'my virginity makes me frisky'. )

As moving as it is to listen to the 'O Fortuna' verse while Mr. Hollywood Hero is swinging on a telephone wire and saving Miss Hollywood Starlet from the scorching her lovely locks, it is hundred times more moving to be inside the music, surrounded by your choral comrades, voices lifted, pissed off at Fate.

But my favorite moment is the the 20th song 'Veni, veni, venias ' with it's robust vocals and percussion angst that spills into the vulnerable solo vocals of 'In truitina '. So tragically lovely. Sigh.

So here's to a bunch of swooning ,naked (well, they were defrocked) monks. If I had some mead, I 'd raise a glass of that to you but since isn't noon yet I'll raise my cuppa coffee to you.

BTW, I'm drinking Kicking Horse's Fair Trade Kick-Ass coffee. Nice, strong morning blend. Goes very well with a slice of pumpkin-persimmon bread.

Have a swooningly lovely day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice Part Two

I decided I needed to spend the few hours of light left on the shortest day of the year outside wandering about the seawall. I needed to properly welcome winter, as unwinterly as it may be. The rain that pelted the Rusty Coast this morning had quieted down. It was so warm that by the time I got to the seawall I had already unwrapped my scarf, taken off my jacket and gloves. I hadn't even bothered putting on a toque. It was dreary and grey. I cursed the lack of snow and the balmy weather. It's going to be hard to find any ice-climbing next week without a huge drive. I know it's supposed to be mild out here but if this weather were a 8-year old, it would get picked on every recess. Winter looked like something the cat dragged in.

I looked across the channel and on a post, perched like the King of England, was a blue heron. I thought about my friend Karin who has a strong connection to these regal birds. She had recently sent sad news of her dear feline's passing. It all made me realize that I had much to be grateful for. The grey that was so dreary was now not so. I looked over to the small island in the channel and smiled. It's trees were crowned in winter mist. With an impossibly slow sweep of its wings, the heron took flight. The sky's greying was now a myriad of silvers and pewter. The air was crisp and alive. I smiled and thought. 'It's a grand day to welcome in winter!'

When one welcomes winter, one needs the right nourishment. So I walked down to McLean's Fine Food store, a dangerous place for a belly like mine. My mission was to find cheese and olives. But instead of going straight to the cheese counters, I tortured myself by going up and down all the aisle. So many wonderful food delights and so little time and money. The cheese counter was a slow tango of decision making. Do I want something mild and tender? Or do I want a ripe, pungent kiss of blue-veined opera? In the end I chose the Pecorino Pepato Isola Siciliano, but I did flirt a bit with the Gorgonzola. With cheese and a container of assorted olives, I headed back home.

The universe had another plan for me.

Did you know that Christmas is coming soon? Really. It's within days. With a few hours of daylight that I had left in the shortest day of the year, I decided that had to find some gifts for our neice and nephews. Now, not to say that I haven't been thinking about them, I just kinda thought that the right gifts would just find me eventually. But that doesn't seem to be happening so I wandered about through used book stores and small local shops looking for something that would say, 'Tah dah! The perfect gift!' I really, really thought that I could find a barely used copy of 'The Little Prince' in perfect condition just sitting there on the shelves. Or a fair-trade Peruvian hand puppet that any little girl would immediately fall in love with.

No such luck. But I did run into my dear friend Tim, a brilliant poet and ancient, warm soul, who was busking with his pennywhistle in front of the library. He had an umbrella of candy cane red and white opened and tucked into his belt and a huge smile and hug for me. Life is good.

Then DH calls and tells me he has the rest of the day off and I can take the car to find gifts at the mall. Typing this now, I don't know how got to thinking it was perfectly fine that I spend the few hours of light on the shortest day of the year in a MALL!?!? I chalk it up to my missing my afternoon tea and therefore suffering from a lack of civilizing caffeine.

Going to the mall only reminded me why I don't go into malls, especially during this time of year. I'm no Scrooge. I love giving gifts, almost as much as I love receiving them. But mall gifts? I wanted to give them something that would reflect some facet of DH and me. I reminded myself the first rule of giving: Give a person something that they want, not what you want them to want.

(But doesn't every little girl want a fair-trade Peruvian hand puppet?)

So I braved through the crowds and the processed music and found gifts for the kidlets. I attempted to leave the parking lot but someone must have rearranged all the entrances and I ended up getting lost. I eventually found an exit and as I was waiting at the stop sign, a big, white van pulled in and a pair wonderful, smiling familiar faces popped out of the window. The universe had granted me the gift of another chance meeting with friends!

After an impromptu coffee visit with my friends, I headed home with my belly grumbling. Poor belly.

There wasn't much in the fridge but it was all that I needed. A bunch of brocolli, half an onion, a few carrots, a German smokie and, of course, the cheese and olives from this afternoon. I made a simple soup for our winter solstice dinner. I cut up the smokie and pan-fried them until they were crusty and brown, added chopped onions and carrots and let that all saute. Deglazed it all with a bit of white wine leftover from last night. Then I added the brocolli, florets and stalks cut into bite-sized pieces. I pitted and coarsely chopped a handful of moroccan salted olives and threw those in. Then I covered it all with boiling water, along with a can of chickpeas. I let it come to boil then let it simmer for a bit. The olives, smokies and veggies did a good job making a quick broth. A few sprigs of thyme and oregano from the kitchen garden, a few grinds of pepper and dinner was ready.

Unfortunately, DH had work tonight so I dined alone. I ate in my newly curtained dining room. The curtains do help to keep the chill out of that corner. The soup complimented the pecorino cheese so very well. I paired the cheese up with the walnut bread. The earthy, nuttiness of the bread held it's own against the strong peppery sheep milk cheese.

It's been a grand day. A day of unplanned gifts in so many ways.

Welcome Winter! I hope you enjoy your stay!

Happy Winter Solstice!!

Winter solstice is upon now, though it feels very unwintery on the Rusty Coast with temps up to 11C today. I will wax poetic about this glorious annual milestone a bit later. I will leave you with this quote from Billy Shakespeare for now:

Blow,blow thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind,
As man's ingratitude.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Please pardon the mess...

What do you expect from someone who decided to start a new blog just days before Elf Hunting season begins?? So the house is a minor catastrophe. How the heck did my knitting crap get all over the freaking place and how come last week I couldn't find a single yarn needle and today there's a colony of them that have taken the coasters as hostages??

I can explain. I've been making 'Happy Birthday Jesus!' gifts all weekend. This year it's brittle. Partly because I love brittle and so if I love it then everybody else loves its. Dems the rules. Also because I had pretty much all the ingredients and my bank account is a bit barren.

I made pumpkin & sesame seed molasses brittle, plain ole peanut brittle, spicy pecan brittle and an almond toffee. Miracles of miracles, there's actually some left for gifts.

So the kitchen got a bit messy and then I had to bake bread yesterday. It was supposed to only be a bread morning but it ended up being a bread day. All day and into the night. I made 3 loaves of walnut-kamut, 3 loaves of seed & multigrain, 2 loaves of fruit-anise seed bread and a patridge in a pear tree. But it was neccessary. We were completely out of bread. Nada, not a crumb. I didn't know what to sop my soup up with. I mean, I make soup just so I can sop it up with bread. We cannot soup without sopping!

Somehow a relaxed morning of making a few loaves of bread ended up turning the house into a Atkin's Dieter's nightmare. Not that I'm complaining. It's just that by the time I pulled the last of the bread out of the oven, my DH called and said he was on his way home and I realized that a whole day had already risen and baked! I hadn't even had a shower yet!

I pampered myself with half a loaf of walnut-kamut bread accompanied with a good couple knobs of butter and a thick slice of real Derbyshire cheese.

Dinner was a spicy pork & eggplant Thai-sort-of soup and walnut bread. I just browned a pound of lean ground pork, then threw in the last of a batch of roasted eggplant, a few sliced mushrooms, carrots, onions, a smacked loonie of ginger, a couple of cloves of garlic . A couple glugs of chinese cooking wine, a couple healthy jizzes of fish sauce, a spoonful of sambal oelek, a few szechuan peppercorns were added once everything was cooked up. I added enough boiling water into the pot to cover the ingredients plus and inch and let it simmer for 10 mins. If I had them, I would've added some scallions and some lemongrass. Cilantro wouldn've been nice too.

I also had a bag of brussel sprouts and a few stalks of gai lan than were close to their due date. Those I cut up and sauteed with some chopped garlic. Upon serving, I just added the greens ontop of the soup.

This morning I breakfasted on the seed and multigrain bread and a couple slices of parmigiano reggiano. There's something so satisfying about bread and cheese. Especially if the bread is homemade and the cheese is good, honest cheese. I buy my parmigiano in chunks no bigger than my fist. If you only enjoy parmigiano in the grated form then do yourself a favor and cut yourself a slice. It's the only way you can get the full-mouth experience of parmigiano reggiano. A good chunk will have these amazing naturally formed salt crystals that crackle as you bite into them. The taste is earthy and sexy. Like the unadulterated sweat of a Roman slave boy...oh, sorry, got carried away. Anyways, it's really good.

I supposed this makes me a parmigiano snob. If you want to use that dessicated cat puke in those green containers that is being sold as 'Grated Parmesan Cheese' on your jarred pasta sauce, go right ahead. I mean that chunky ketchup backwash could probably be improved by the horse musk aroma of that processed lactose atrocity. But if you're going to go through the trouble of making a homemade sauce then why do you want to slap it across the face and spit into it's mouth? I know, it's expensive but think of it this way: You've gone through the expense and time of making a homemade sauce, a good couple shavings of parmigiano regianno will help your sauce bloom into a savoury blessing. Well at least it won't make it taste like cat puke!

So today I'll clean up. I'll even put up a couple of curtains and sequester my knitting crap to only one corner of the living room. Maybe I'll even have time to take a shower before the DH comes home. A girl can dream can't she?