It was “Back to the 50’s” music for Dad and me at a Sunday night concert on the lawn of Annandale House in Tillsonburg, Ontario. This is my cousin Jim Foris’ band and every so often he does a guitar solo, so I’ve nicknamed him ‘Fingers Foris’.
Watching Jim play reminds me of my younger days when I was a teenage groupie to Jim’s band in the 1970’s. They were called “Sinister Brigade” and did rock and roll covers from the 1960’s and 1970’s. All through highschool I went to see the band play at various small town community halls. I got to go to these dances because my older sister, Rosemary, was dating one of the band members. The band members were: Jim Foris, lead guitar; John Foris (Jim’s brother), bass guitar; Danny Van Maele, drums; Jerry Neirinckx, electric organ; Bob Helsdon, rhythm guitar, and Brad Bradburn, lead singer. They were all good-looking guys and I’m sure some of the girls in the audience would have liked to be groupies too, especially the non-related kind. Too bad for them, they all had girlfriends.
Back to this night and the 50’s music. Dad was having fun clapping and singing along to the music. Dad would have been just twenty-two at the start of the 1950’s. This was my Dad’s music, but it is also my music because this was the beginning of rock and roll, a music that changed the world and is still played today. It was so good to see my Dad, in his eighties, out and having fun. If there would have been a dance floor, I’m sure he would have got up and danced.
My Dad was never stuck only in the music from his era. Growing up, we often listened to CKLW from Windsor, Ontario, a radio station that played all the new rock and roll music. That’s why he knew the lyrics to some of The Beatles songs. I remember once, on a summer’s day, Mom and Dad were taking us to the beach, most likely Turkey Point. As we drove along the main drag, Dad had his window rolled down (no A/C in those days) and was loudly singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the young girls walking by in their bikinis. Perhaps not a bad way to meet girls, but not for a married man! Needless to say, we 4 kids were mortified! And my poor Mom! Now, it’s rather a funny story, but it sure was embarrassing then.
Then in the 1970’s..
Left to right:
Jerry Neirinckx, John Foris, Danny VanMaele, Bob Helsdon, Jim Foris, and Brad Bradburn
Now in 2020…
Left to right:
Fran, Nathan and Margaret Underhill, Jeannie Assel, Roberto Anger, Dan Demeester, Art Vandendriessche and Jim Foris
It’s spring and the rhubarb is growing in the garden. I pulled some stems (pull rather than cut) to make the first of the season rhubarb custard pie. We always had a rhubarb patch wherever we lived. And eating that very first rhubarb pie was a special treat.
This is my Mom’s recipe and it’s so easy. You make the custard by creaming butter, sugar, and flour; mixing in the egg yolks; adding in the rhubarb and lastly folding in the whipped egg whites. If you can’t find fresh, try frozen rhubarb which is available year round.
You won’t often find an all rhubarb pie for sale — strawberries are usually added to the ones you find in the bakery section of the grocery section. But let me tell you that a rhubarb custard pie is far superior.
Spring is rhubarb season and is one of the first edible plants in your garden. Rhubarb is a cool weather crop but needs sun to grow. The big leaves help protect it from the sun. If you keep harvesting the stalks, it should keep producing into early summer. Just remember, the leaves are toxic to humans and animals, so take care, and I just recently learned that if your rhubarb patch freezes, the whole stalk can become toxic! You can find rhubarb at some grocery stores, farmers markets and sometimes by posting something on your Facebook looking for neighbours who might have some to share. A lovely woman from Springfield area gave me rhubarb and a plant (crown) to plant in my garden by such a Facebook post. And once, on a walk down the alley, I talked with a neighbour who had a big patch in their backyard. We got talking and he offered me some rhubarb. I went off to do my errand in town and when I returned there was a bag of rhubarb. I still eye that rhubarb patch when I’m out for a walk. Maybe I should offer to make them a pie!
Our other favourite way to eat rhubarb was by making it into sauce. Just chop up the rhubarb, add sugar to taste and cook in a pot with a little bit of water. There was almost nothing better than a bowl of rhubarb sauce with a piece of fresh buttered bread. There are lots of recipes that call for rhubarb — cakes, squares, jams, take your pick.
Helen’s Rhubarb Custard Pie (8 inch pie plate)
4 cups rhubarb cut in 1/2 inch pieces
Sprinkle with salt, let stand for 10 minutes, then rinse.
In a large bowl cream:
1 cup sugar and
4 tablespoons butter.
Add 4 tablespoons flour and mix.
Add 4 large egg yolks and mix completely.
You may need to add an extra egg yolk if mixture seems too dry.
Add drained rhubarb and mix together.
(It will be a rather dry mixture, but that’s okay because of the egg whites)
Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and
Fold into rhubarb mixture.
Pour into single unbaked pie shell so that the filling comes to top of crust edge. I brushed some egg yolk on pie shell to avoid the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’ , but it’s not necessary. If you have too much filling, bake remainder is a small dish.
Bake at 450F for 10 minutes
Bake at 350F for 25 minutes
Let cool and enjoy.
My Mom was a great baker and thanks to her, I like to think I am too. The Five Roses Cookbook was our go-to cookbook. I’m wondering if she bought it for me since I was interested in baking and cooking. I don’t remember Mom having any other cookbooks at that time except for her hand-written Hungarian recipes. But I can’t really remember back to when I was about 12.
We adapted an orange chiffon cake by substituting coffee for the orange juice. I wasn’t a fan of citrus so Mom suggested we use coffee. The cake was a hit and became a a family favourite for birthday cakes. We topped it with a chocolate icing glaze.
I’m a fan of Anna Olson, and in her book Back to Baking, she has a Chocolate (Coffee) Chiffon Cake. There are a few differences: she uses cake and pastry flour and icing sugar, both which would probably make the cake slightly more delicate. I think I’ll try her recipe for comparison purposes, but I can just swap these two ingredients into the tried and true recipe I already have. I’ll just add some cocoa.
Coffee Chiffon Cake
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 egg yolks
3/4 cold, strong coffee
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
6 egg whites
Stir flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in large bowl. Make a well in centre of dry ingredients and add in this order: vegetable oil, egg yolks and coffee. Beat with electric beaters until smooth. In separate bowl, add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat until you get stiff peaks. Gradually pour batter over egg whites in 3 or 4 additions, gently folding in until just blended. DO NOT STIR.
Pour batter into un-greased 10″ tube pan*. Bake in moderate oven (325F) for 55 minutes. Increase heat to 350F and bake 10 minutes longer. Invert pan and set onto cup, letting cake hang until cool. Frost with a think chocolate frosting by drizzling over top and letting drip down sides.
*I learned from the British Baking Show that you can make a chiffon cake in a regular cake tin if you don’t have a tube pan.
Anna Olson variation: add 5 Tbl cocoa powder to dry ingredients for a mocha cake (chocolate & coffee).
Although I haven’t tried this, I think this cake would be good with a 7 minute Frosting.
Seven Minute Frosting
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
a few grains salt
1 egg white
1/3 cup boiling water*
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix everything, except vanilla, in top of double boiler (or metal bowl), over 2 inches water simmering water. Beat with electric mixer at medium high until stiff enough to stand in peaks — 7 minutes. Remove the top of double boiler off the heat, add vanilla and continue beating on high until stiff enough to spread. Spread the frosting on cake while still warm.
*In Anna Olson’s recipe she uses ice water instead of boiling water so that the mixture heats up gradually while beating frosting allowing the sugar to melt evenly before the frosting starts to gain volume.
This is a family favourite cookie that our family started making for Christmas around 1970. It comes from the Five Roses Cookbook – the first cookbook I remember using at home with Mom. I probably was about 12 years old and she felt this was something I could do on my own. I had already mastered brownies! My Mom was a fantastic baker making delicious traditional Hungarian delicacies, but she also liked contemporary baking. One of my favourite memories is baking with my Mom, most often at Christmas, when I would make my way home from British Columbia.
Enter this recipe for Butter Balls, a most uninspiring name for a shortbread-type cookie. Of course we made a few changes and I’ve tried a few variations since. This recipe incorporates those variations: walnuts and chocolate chips were the Surprise that Mom and I did, and the Twist was substituting with pistachios & toffee bits that I started in about 2016. The Measurements are Imperial because Canada hadn’t adopted Metric yet.
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1/4 – 1/2 t salt (depending whether your butter is salted or not)
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks (egg yolks only to make cookie more delicate)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts were traditional, but pecans or pistachios are great)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or Skor toffee bits
In large bowl cream butter and sugar by hand, mixer or food processor. Add egg yolks and mix well. It is a stiff dough, so a Danish whisk is very good.
Mix the salt into flour, then gradually add to butter mixture. Hold back 1/2 cup of flour to make sure you need it all. But remember dough will be stiff, but moist. Mix well so that all flour is incorporated. Add chocolate chips and nuts or toffee bits until fully incorporate.
If you have time, chill the dough — this ensures that the flour is fully hydrated and chills the butter again which makes your cookies flakey.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls by rolling in palm of hand. Place cookies on lightly greased pan or parchment paper or reusable baking sheet (cucina/silplat). Leave spaces between cookies as they do expand.
Bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes. They will turn a very light brown and there maybe be some cracking. Check your cookies to see if they have baked through the middle. Place on a cooling rack.
When cool, either roll or use a small sifter to dust with icing sugar.
With every bite of cookie, I think of Christmases past, baking with my Mom, and sharing these with family and friends.
My best Mother’s Day story. After I moved to B.C. I didn’t spend too many Mother’s Days with my Mom. But once I happened to be travelling home to Vancouver from St. Lucia via Toronto where we had a stop-over. In those days there was flexibility and sometimes the check-in agent could make a change to your flight — without any change fees. It was Mother’s Day weekend so I asked if I could change my flight so I could see my Mom. Perhaps she was a Mom or a daughter or just a very nice person, but my story pulled at her heart strings. She went to work at her computer and changed the last leg of my flight by a couple of days! Now this was before cell phones, so I don’t know if I’d already talked to my sister Rosemary, who lived in Oakville, to see if she could pick me up, but I had to arrange that before I lost my flight home. It was just the best gift I could give my Mom and I am forever grateful to the Air Canada agent.
My Mom, Helen, passed away in 2005, but I like to post a picture of her on Facebook like so many other people do. So this post is for you Mom.
The story behind the picture: Mom & Dad came to visit Dennis & I in Victoria – probably circa 1998. We drove up to Sooke to go for lunch at this very picturesque restaurant along the ocean. I didn’t often take black & white, but I was getting artsy with my new Pentax SLR Camera that used film. Too bad this was the same film I had in the camera when we went to Butchart Gardens!
Last summer my friend Peggy and I drove to Paris. Yup, there’s a Paris in Ontario, Canada. It’s a small community situated by the Grand River. Its main street has oodles of charm with its historic buildings, interesting shops and hanging flower baskets.
We had lunch on the patio at the 2 Rivers Cafe overlooking the river. There were canoes speeding effortlessly by propelled by the strong current. I had asked a ‘local’ for a restaurant recommendation and he definitely got it right. Peggy had a burger and a beer and I had a delightful poached chicken sandwich with fig jam, pears and brie and a cold glass of pinot Grigio; both were served with a side salad. Most everything on the lunch menu was $12 – $15.00, so we easily dropped $50.00, but I’d definitely go back – maybe in time for brunch next time. A perfect summer moment.
With lunch out of the way, we wandered along main street popping in and out of the one-of-a-kind shops. There’s also a permanent market in the former mill open 7 days a week. There’s a coffee shop that opens out to a deck where you can stop to relax and regroup. There is lots of brick and high, high ceilings to enjoy and the best part about an indoor market is that you never have to worry about one of those summer downpours or the stifling heat and humidity we so often get in southern Ontario.
The giant hanging baskets of pink petunias and the street level containers filled to overflowing with grasses and summer annuals really give the town a wow factor. There’s also a nod to its French namesake and you will find some Eiffel Towers in various forms including some Christmas decorations.
Paris has managed to make its small town attractive to day trippers from Brantford, Hamilton, Toronto, London and all points in between including my home town in Tillsonburg. Paris is worth the drive anytime, but there are a couple of annual events you may want to take in — ‘Spring in Paris’ in June and their Christmas market in December. Spread your wings and take a trip to Paris – no passport required.
I’ve had this blog for awhile, but I haven’t written anything for a long time. Let’s see if I can start posting once a week.
Quick update: I’m still in Tillsonburg, running a rooming house and working part-time sampling wine & spirits in the LCBO stores (government liquor stores). I’ve got a garden, mostly flowers but a few veg, and do my art. Where the time goes, I don’t know.
I finished painting some greeting cards and delivered them to The Anchor Shoppe. Carol, the owner of the store, carries a variety of local arts and crafts, even though its basically a 2nd hand furniture store. She also has a couple of my paintings. There’s an eclectic mix of things for sale — metal garden birds, raw edge benches, jewellery, lanterns — all sorts of decor items for your home, cottage and garden. It’s one of the more interesting stores in town and the price points are very reasonable.
It’s Monday, so there was drop in painting at Station Arts. I’m working on a watercolour painting of a funky chicken and rooster couple. It’s getting there, but still some work to do. Same story with a couple acrylic paintings I started in a recent course.
Well tomorrow is another day. What to do? I think gardening is in order as I still have some plants to put into pots.
These are pics of the cards. I called the first one “We’re Here!” I imagine them standing outside someone’s open door as un expected visitors (if they were human that is). The others don’t have titles.
A couple of new and modern looks for your photographs is sublimation printing or facemounting. Go to the link below for an article prepared by Opus Art Supplies (Vancouver, BC) to see what it’s all about. This technique is becoming more popular and you can find suppliers locally that can do this for you.
These methods provide a very modern look that will set your art apart. There is no need for matting, glass or a frame making it a lightweight piece of art. These techniques are very durable and long-lasting.
Sublimation printing involves ‘printing’ the image onto clear-coated aluminum or onto a high-gloss finish of white-coated aluminum. Facemount printing ‘starts with a pigment-based ink and fine art digital paper – either resin-coated gloss photo paper or Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl. The print is then laminated onto an aluminum composite backing, and faced with a clear adhesive, permanently mounted to acrylic’.
I’ve seen these methods used by members of my photography club and used in a recent exhibit at Tillsonburg Station Arts. The method you choose will depend on the subject matter and colours invovled. Do you want the metal to show through? Do you want a bright glossy white background to make your colours pop? Bright colours are stunning when faced with acrylic.
Thanks to Opus Art Supplies for this excellent article on these methods.
It’s August and I’m in London visiting my very good friends, Marlene & Wayne. It’s a time for lots of conversation, good eats, nice wine, movies and friendship. I always talk too much because I’m conversation deprived in Tillsonburg. So information gets shot out at an accelerated speed, subject vary wildly and sometimes don’t go too far. We have lots to catch up on.
Friday night we settled in for a movie — Wayne was at the controls of Netflix and there was Marlene, their daughter Kelly and I. Right from the start it was a weird movie – crude, rude and awful but Wayne wouldn’t tell us what it was called. We had to overrule him to get him to change it. We ended up watching “Girl on a Bicycle which was mostly in English with some subtitles. I liked the movie, but it was all that great – Marlene left partway through.
Saturday, Marlene cooked up some eggs Benedict for breakfast — good start. She made a cranberry coffeecake and I was rolling pie crust for a couple of blueberry pies. Those are waiting for us for Sunday night dessert. After that we just hung out at home, check out the flower garden, listened to CBC radio, read, had a nap – just a lazy day. We had a 65th birthday party to attend later for Robert at his and Claire’s house which is just up the road. Nice party, new people to meet plus some familiar faces. Over the years I’ve got to know some of this crowd as they are mutual friends. There are lots of gatherings at Wayne and Marlene’s so I’ve made some acquaintances. The party was a little subdued which I’m sure was connected to the weather. Yesterday was overcast all day – no rain, but no sunshine. So it wasn’t the summer deck party they were hoping for.
Home about 10 pm – Kelly was back from work and we settled into a movie — “Snow White and the Huntsman”. A heavily CGI’ed movie, rather dark, but I quite liked it. I enjoy a fantasy movie from time to time.
Sunday and Wayne cooked mush for breakfast. Marlene and set off for the garden centre .. lots of great plants on sale — I bought a pretty pinky coleus to add to a planter at home. I was tempted to buy more, but I’m not exactly sure whether I’m going to Windsor or just heading back home. Plus I spend too much on flowers and I need to watch that.
We stopped at Angelo’s, a great Italian grocery and specialty store — beautiful deli, bakery and produce plus all the other grocery items. I picked up a few ‘tube foods’ — tomato paste, anchovy paste, Hungarian goulash paste – great stuff to have in your kitchen toolkit to jazz up my cooking. Marlene picked up fixings for sandwiches — Tuscan Ham, Portuguese rolls, a Kale-vegetable salad for the most delicious fresh sandwiches. Now some relaxation time – Wayne doing a Sudoku, Marlene sitting in the sun to read and I’m writing this blog.
No matter what we do on a weekend, it is always such a treat and retreat for me. I feel like I’m back in the real world and I always feel re-energized. This is my sanctuary.
It’s about 4 o’clock and still lots to look forward to — a dinner of lamb and salmon, a bottle of wine, some blueberry pie and an evening of tv of some sort – probably a movie. Tomorrow is back to work for them, I’ll do a little shopping and then head back to Tillsonburg – filled with happy memories.