Monday, October 12, 2009

The Promise of Living

I had an entirely different post written for Thanksgiving but in searching for something else, I found the libretto for "The Promise of Living" from Aaron Copland's opera "The Tender Land." It seems more fitting...

The promise of living
With hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving
Our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing
With faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing
Our love with our neighbor.

The promise of loving
The promise of growing
Is born of our singing
In joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year I’ve know these field
And know all the work that makes them yield.
Are you ready to lend a hand?
We’re ready to work, we’re ready to lend a hand.

By working together we’ll bring in the harvest,
the blessings of harvest.

We plow plant each row with seeds of grain,
And Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a arm
Bring out the blessings of harvest.
Give thanks there was sunshine,
Give thanks there was rain,
Give thanks e have hands
To deliver the grain.

O let us be joyful,
O let us be grateful to the Lord
For his blessing.

The promise of living
The promise of growing
The promise of ending
Is labor and sharing and loving.


(While I love the libretto, I actually prefer the instrumental version... I also have a weakness for old home movies... even when they're not my own...)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Alter Egos

It's the season of disguises and secret identities and I am thrilled that my not-so-secret alter-ego will be blogging in support of one of my favourite organizations

On October 30 and 31st, with the help of some mad scientists, the Charlotte Street Arts Centre will be transformed into a haunted house. Over the course of the two days there will be events for the whole families from haunted house tours for the kids to a battle of the bands for high school students to a Danse Macabre for the grown-ups.
There's a lot of great stories and people behind this new fundraiser and in the lead up to the event I will be blogging about them here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Flying Machine

Oh! Say! Let us fly, dear,
Where, kid? To the sky, dear.
Oh you flying machine!
Jump in, Miss Josephine...

Just before we left the orchard yesterday, we heard the roar of a prop engine and saw this strange vehicle rolling across the horizon. And as we were all trying to figure out what it was, it took to the sky...
I think every person, young and old, on the hillside stopped and watched in a mixture of awe and delight. My friends' daughter put it best: "It's Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang."

It was the kind of thing that seemed more likely to happen in the world of Roald Dahl than here in our little corner of the world.

It's hard to be cynical in a world that surprises you with stupendous flying machines.

Apple Picking

Took advantage of a beautiful autumn day to head out to the Everett Family Orchard to pick some apples.

Commemorating the picking of the first apple.

Kicked over my apple bag while in my photo frenzy. Made these bags last year for Denis and me. Perfect for holding about 10 pounds of Cortlands.

There was no way we were leaving without getting this snapshot. Love the look on Denis' face.

And LOVE this picture of Denis. He's my quiet friend, if you can believe it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Good Lovelies

Last night Denis and I hit Crumbs for a show by the Good Lovelies. Their self-titled album has been in constant rotation on my playlist for the past week and their live show did not disappoint.

These girly-girls ("we have a strict no pants policy.") come armed with a van-load of instruments, pitch-perfect three-part harmony, clever catchy tunes and hilarious repartee. It would be impossible to be gloomy while watching them dissolve into a genuine and spontaneous giggle fit on stage.

I kind of want them to follow me around with their banjos and banter.

They have a Christmas album coming out in November and I cannot wait!!

Really... the banjo is completely under-rated...

Doing a cover of the Boswell sisters "Heebie Jeebies".

Who wouldn't want to spend the evening with these girls?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vagabond Song

Bliss Carman Middle School officially opened last night so this morning, at the start of a new month, this poem seems appropriate...

A Vagabond Song

THERE is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

~Bliss Carman~

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another opening to another show

September brings a new season of shows at the UNB Art Centre at Memorial Hall. Tonight they unveiled Neurotica: a journey into the obsession of the mind.... by SilverFish Photography Collective.

SilverFish is a diverse group of Fredericton photographers who exhibit together usually a couple of times a year. They work with a variety of techniques and equipment from digital and Polaroid, vintage equipment and mixed media. For this show 10 photographers took on the challenge of obsessions - with the mundane and the bizarre, with beauty, with sex and with self.

The result is a cohesive show thas still allows each artist's own voice and style to come through.

Loving Rachel Brodie's pieces exploring the love of and fear of home.

It was interesting to see Chris Giles' work in digital. More accustomed to seeing him explore older techniques.
My lovely and amazing friend Lori Quick not only mounted the show and designed and produced the catalogue, she's also one of the SilverFish photogs. She first told me of her idea for this show over coffee back in February or March. It's wonderful to watch a piece grow from an idea through to a fully-realized installation. Lori explores our obsession with beauty. Across the mirror are the little questions and self-doubts thast fill our heads, particularly as women. On the dressing table are flip-books of photographs detailing all those rituals we go through in our obsessive pursuit of perfection.

I love that Lori so frequently brings an interactive element to her work, inviting viewers to become participants.

A portait of the artist and her mother. You can check out Neurotica at Mem Hall until October 23.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Autumn's Here

A morning meeting at the Crowne Plaza provided a good excuse for a morning walk along the river...

How do people live in places without changing seasons?

Glad the clock on City Hall is working again...

I can't imagine living somewhere land-locked. It's not the ocean but the St. John River is alright by me.

Monday, September 21, 2009


J. B. Priestley was a self-confessed grumbler. “Probably,” he wrote, “I arrived here a malcontent, convinced that I had been sent to the wrong planet. I was designed for the part, for I have a sagging face, a weighty underlip, what I am told is a ‘saurian eye,’ and a rambling yet resonant voice from which it is difficult to escape. Money could not buy a better grumbling outfit.”

In the 1940s, the born grumbler had fallen in love with someone who was not his wife, his marriage was crumbling, he suffered a colossal flop at the theatre and much of his public writing was a grumpy criticism of the austerity of post-war England. But despite all of this - or perhaps because of it - in 1949, he published Delight a collection of essays capturing the wonder and beauty of everyday life.

He begins with Fountains (“I doubt I ever saw one, even the smallest, without some tingling of delight.”). He meanders on to the sound of a football… walks in pine woods… new boxes of matches… streets like stage sets… preparing for old age and the Delight that never was; in total 114 little meditations on delightful things.

I first discovered Delight a dozen or so years ago buried in the stacks of the Vaughan Memorial Library when I was a student at Acadia. In the intervening years, I have, every so often, tried to locate it but inexplicably it seems to have been out of print for several years in the U.S. and Canada. From office to office I carried a Xeroxed copy of my favourite chapter: Making Writing Simple (“any man who thinks the kind of simplicity I attempt is easy should try it for himself, if only in his next letter to the Times.”) But Delight in its totality eluded me.

Enter the wonderful folks at Powells books. Today I arrived home to discover a brown paper package peeking out of my mailbox (delight!). Inside was a 60th anniversary edition of Delight published this year in the UK. There they were, like old friends: “Detective stories in bed” and “Mineral water in bedrooms of foreign hotels”, “Locusts I have known” and “Making stew” and on and on.

Being re-united with a favourite book? Pure Delight.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ingredients for a Lovely Fall Sunday

10. First edition of The Amateur Naturalist's Handbook

9. Writing cards and letters
8. Purple asters everywhere

7. a cookie jar full of Tollhouse cookies

6. Freshly-laundered quilts

5. The smell of woodsmoke
4. Latin chicken & rice with olive salsa and avocado sour cream
3. Phone calls home
2. Diamond silk & merino yarn

1. The music of Alexi Murdoch

Now off to the less lovely fall ritual of combing seed pods out a squirmy pup's curls...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Comforts of Home-Cooking

I love new recipes. I really do. But there comes a point, usually around the beginning of autumn, when coming home and preparing Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breasts with Eggplant Panzanella and Raisin-Pine Nut Vinaigrette just seems a bit much.

In my quest to get back to basics, I headed for my oldest cookbooks. There was my grandmother Allaby’s copy of Lily Wallace’s New American Cookbook, circa 1945, stuffed with her notes and held together with packing tape. (Turns out I’ve inherited her habit of ticking off the recipes I’ve tried.) There was my mother’s Betters Homes and Gardens Creative Cooking series from her early years of marriage. Techinicolor and vaguely terrifying, this series had chapters like “High Society Suppers with Franks & Burgers!” and “Meals Men Like.” (hmmm… perhaps I should dog-ear that one for later…)

And, of course, the pi├Ęce de resistance: the Grand Manan Cookbook. This cookbook was compiled by the local Hospital Auxiliary back in, well, back in a time when people belonged to cookbook-publishing Hospital Auxiliaries. So I thought: why not borrow a page from Julie and Julia and cook my way through this? This seemed like a smashing idea until I randomly opened to my first recipe: Eudervilla Morse’s recipe for “Pork Cake.” Now I’m sure Eudervilla was a lovely person known far and wide for her culinary skills but I could not possibly make a cake that began with the instructions: “Put salt pork through food chopper.” The facing page was no help. Mabel Richardson had contributed a recipe for something called “Husband Cake”. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what I’d be expected to put through the grinder for that one…
(Incidentally, no grinder was required. Tomato soup did, however, play a starring role. Tomato soup cake would not do.)
So as I usually do when in a pinch (culinary or otherwise) I turned to my family. They wouldn’t let me down. And sure enough, there’s no place like home and no recipes like home-cooking.
I started with one of my mom’s go-to weeknight dishes: Souper Skillet Pasta. As the spelling suggests, this recipe came courtesy of the folks at Lipton as a vehicle for their onion soup mix. The night I cooked it, I excitedly emailed my mom to tell her. The response came back: “Which one was that again?” Which one was that?! To me, the name alone conjured up vivid memories of afternoons with the sun low in the sky, coming home from piano lessons or doing my lessons at the kitchen table. How could my mother not remember? Of course, as soon as I described it she said, “Oh, yes, I can almost smell the kitchen in the old house in Seal Cove.”

Then came my grandmother Ingalls’ chicken pot pie and batches of ginger snaps. A few weeks ago I revisited my mother’s beef stroganoff. My mom and I polished off the leftovers during lunch at my kitchen table the next day. “I have to start making this again,” she said. “I forgot how good it is.”

That’s the thing about this time of year. You get to remember how good it all is.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Look to the cookie.

There’s just something about autumn in New York. I know at least a half a dozen people who have gone to the Big Apple in the past couple of weeks. And while a stroll through Central Park, shopping at Henri Bendel or a cannoli in Little Italy is not on my agenda any time soon, I can at least bake the quintessential New York biscuit: the black-and-white cookie.

In the beginning the black-and-white cookie was created as a way for bakeries to use up their extra cake batter. In texture and consistency they’re really more of a spongy little cake than a typical cookie.

I bought my last black-and-white cookie at William Greenberg Bakery on Madison Ave. I ate it in a yellow taxi on my way to Laguardia after a pre-Christmas weekend in Manhattan last year. William Greenberg’s black-and-whites are some of the best around but the folks at Zabar’s on the Upper West Side are no slouches either. This, if the internets are to be believed, is their recipe.

Get ready.

Put on some Woody Allen movie music. Nothing puts me in a NY state of mind like this.

Preheat your oven to 375. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or grease them but, really, if you bake and haven’t invested a couple of dollars in a roll of parchment paper what are you waiting for? You will thank me.)

The cookies.
(have all your ingredients at room temperature)

1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp lemon extract
2 ½ cups cake flour
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs, milk, vanilla and lemon extract. Mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet mixture in batches mixing to blend after each addition. Remember: this is going to look more like a thick cake batter than cookie dough.

Place spoonfuls about 2” apart on the sheets. (A true black-and-white cookie is an enormous and overwhelming thing. I find an ordinary dessert spoon creates a nice medium-size cookie that’s not too much but not so tiny that you’ll go bananas before you finish frosting them.)
Bake until edges begin to brown, 15-18 minutes. This is a good time to forget everything your mother ever taught you about salmonella and lick the batter off the beaters.

Cool cookies completely before frosting.
The Frosting.

4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/3 to ½ cup water
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp corn syrup
1-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
Boil a cup or so of water. Place the sugar in a large heat-proof bowl. Stir in about 1/3 to a ½ cup of boiling water to create a thin icing. (Be careful not to thin it too much! Because then you will have to add more sugar. And then more water. And then more sugar until you end up with enough icing to cover everything in the kitchen including your dog. This is bad.)
Frost half the flat side (i.e. the “bottom”) of all the cookies.
Place the bowl over the pot of boiling water to create a double boiler. Stir in the chocolate and the corn syrup. If you find the icing isn’t as dark as you want, add a little cocoa.

Ice the remaining halves of the cookies. If you find the icing getting dry, just whisk in a teaspoon of hot water to bring up the sheen again. Let the icing set.

Because these are little cakes, they will get stale more quickly. Store in an airtight container, share with friends and polish them off within a couple of days.
And Jerry Seinfeld is right. The key to eating the black-and-white cookie is to get a little of the both sides in each bite.
Look to the cookie, Elaine. Look to the cookie.