Category Archives: Here’s what’s new with me.

Back to the 50’s with ‘Fingers Foris’ and his band

It was “Back to the 50’smusic 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 Rhubarb Season

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 Best Mother’s Day story

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!

Day-tripping to Paris…Ontario, that is.

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 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.


Where to begin…or start again

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.

This is my painting of birches that I called “Be Still My Heart”.  There’s a lot of texture in this painting that doesn’t really show in a photograph.  

Just another weekend in London, Ontario

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.

“David Bowie Is” a fantastic exhibition at the AGO in Toronto Canada

Jian Ghomeshi, the host of Q on CBC Radio 1 is a big fan of David Bowie.  I am too. On Q, Jian had the chance to talk to two of the curators who created the original show for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London England. It was interesting to hear how they put it together having to pull from 10’s of thousands of artifacts. Thankfully, Bowie saved everything, but unlike you or I who might also save everything, his stuff matters.

If you go to Q’s Facebook page, Jian took a short video along with his comments.  Jian being such a big fan probably knows more about Bowie than many of us.  I posted a message to Jian and urged him to go back to the Exhibit and give us more visuals and more comments for those fans who won’t able to make it. The AGO in Toronto is the only stop in Canada and the next closest stop is Chicago.  Seeing the exhibit through Jian’s eyes with his personal comments and back story, could be the next best thing; your own private guided tour.

I saw Bowie for the Ziggy Stardust tour. I was with my brother Dennis and his girlfriend and my cousin Ron.  Bowie put on a spectacular show both musically and visually even though it was at a massive concert stadium in Detroit.  Back then, Detroit was a thriving rock and roll city.  I must be getting old(er) but I’ not sure whether I saw Bowie a 2nd time…I think I did.  If I did, it was probably a concert in Vancouver because that is where I lived for 30 + years. I don’t often go see more than one concert by an artist, but I think I might have made an exception for Bowie.

“David Bowie Is” is much more than about his music.  It shows how he created the music, the costumes, the fashion and the art.  I can’t wait to go see the exhibit to get a chance to see inside the man as artist.

What do Morocco, Edinburgh and Whitehorse have in common?

Moroccan Pouffes-Bohemia

What do Morocco, Edinburgh and Whitehorse have in common? Well they are all places where I travelled. I happened to come across an on-line store selling Moroccan poufs. And so my train of thought started chugging along and this post is the result.

My friend Susan L. bought a pouffe (aka pouf) when we were in Morocco. She bought it as we made our way back to the ferry returning us to Spain. She’s a real shopper who can make a snap decision! I don’t know if she still has it, but it looks like they never go out of style!

Imagine an Edinburgh store called Bohemia carrying Moroccan poufs. But then again Edinburg is very cosmopolitan. When Susan and I we were in Edinburgh on another trip we were quite excited to see a Turkish restaurant near our hotel. Susan and I had travelled to Turkey on our first major trip and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed. Actually it was Canadian Thanksgiving and we thought it would have been quite cool to eat at a Turkish restaurant while visiting Edinburgh, much better in my mind than sitting around a big turkey dinner back in Canada.

Edinburg did give a nod to Canada by hosting a fabulous Canadian art exhibit. And in that art gallery was a Camera Obscura – a delightful new finding to both of us even though we were both kind of camera buffs. If you ever get a chance to see a camera obscura – do take the time. You could easily even build one like they did in Dawson City where I went several years later with another friend named Susan. We were attending a music festival and had driven up from Whitehorse with her kids. We stayed in a perfectly adorable camper parked at her friends place. We were in the land of the midnight sun!

Hmnn…from Morocco to Edinburgh to Dawson City. I think it all makes perfect sense!

Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House

Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House – yes breakfast, not brunch.  Something I’m not all that familiar with.  When on my own, I try to sleep past breakfast and move straight to brunch.  In Vancouver, I often walked over to my favourite restaurant to eat brunch at The Wild Garlic.  Luckily I was in Vancouver in March 2012 and enjoyed a couple of brunches with friends and dinner out with some good friends who were also regulars.  It was a small, friendly restaurant where the people who worked there were always happy to see you arrive.  Big hello’s, how are you doing?, and even some hugs when I had to say goodbye. Little did I know that the restaurant would later close. Sad news indeed.  This little café served the best breakfast in the City.  Perfect basted eggs, perfect fried potatoes, some grilled Italian sausage, perfect toast and a damn good cup of coffee, bottomless.  And the price couldn’t be beat.  When I first went, the price was unbelievably cheap at $3.50 and over several years the final price was $6.00.  The quality stayed the same and even at that price, it was a good deal.  The menu also offered eggs benedict, French Toast, omelettes – most items had a hint of garlic and sometimes a nod to Sandy, the owner’s Hong Kong heritage, with barbequed pork or bok choy. I wonder what she is doing now that the restaurant is closed.

It was my go-to place where I would take my friends and family, but most often I went on my own, read The Georgia Straight, a section of The Globe & Mail or The Vancouver Sun and sometimes I’d take one of my novels. As much as I enjoyed taking my friends, I truly enjoyed going on my own. I never felt lonely or sad to be eating by myself because I always had someone to talk with. It was an open-style kitchen so I got to know the chefs too.  In the morning it was an older Chinese woman and later the young male chef would arrive to start prepping for the dinner crowd. The waitresses were friendly – always smiling and very efficient. But I digress, as this post is about my Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House.

These musings didn’t start as a post, but instead it was an email that I sent to a friend.  This is what I told her about my early Sunday morning:  “Up, too bright and early for me.  I’m working at Prospect House, so I’m cooking breakfast.  There’s only one resident this morning, Norman, and myself.  I should have asked him if he wanted to sleep in this morning, because he seems to be doing just that.  It’s 8:10 and he’s not down yet.  Usually, the residents show up right on time for meals.  Oh well, the coffee is ready, the bacon is keeping warm on the stove and I have time for an email.”

And there I go, and digress again.  Back to Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House.  My email continued:  “Well Norm is downstairs for breakfast – a little sleepy, but he’s having his first cup of coffee and I’m about to fry up some eggs.  As the cobwebs cleared from his head we had a nice chat over breakfast.  I was much more awake than him because I had now been up since 7:30 am, cooked breakfast and had finished one cup of coffee.

I tried to hold back my chatter – I was wide awake and anxious to talk.  I asked Norm if he knew the term ‘full bifter’ or ‘half-bifter’? Or does it have two ‘f’s’ and spelled ‘biffter’?.  He did not.  This is a term I’ve used for some time and found out it was also in use by my Scottish friend Ronnie.  We tried to find out the origin of the word and I think Ronnie even asked a librarian friend all to no avail.  I use the term to mean something like ‘everything on it’ as in a pizza, the full bifter would mean the pizza had every possible topping.  A full English breakfast or fry-up could also be called a full bifter when it has eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, fried potatoes and toast.  A half-bifter might only be several of those items.  I think this was too much information for Norm while he was still trying to wake up so I went back to eating my breakfast.”

Now as I’m writing this post, I have a sick feeling about the word ‘full bifter’.  We used to call the toilet or outhouse ‘the biffy’.  I hope ‘full bifter’ isn’t related to this term.  I leave it to your imagination to figure out how those two terms could be related.  But again I digress.

As I write this, I’m half listening to Michael Enright on The Sunday Edition on CBC 1 that plays from 9 am to 12 noon.  Right now there is a feature about MS focussing on the question of whether it is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D?  It seems to mostly affect people of European ancestry which includes many of us that live in Canada.  Is it the northern climate?  Is it a white persons’ disease?  In Canada 133 people get MS while in India only 1 person will get the disease.  India is a Vitamin D rich country and is a different ethnicity.  The show is also featuring interviews with people considering the ‘Liberation Therapy’.  Time to stop writing and listen to this interesting program.

It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. There is a deep blanket of pristine white snow which fell through the night and most of the day on Friday. There are some snowflakes fluttering out of the sky. It’s a perfect day.

Just call me Mom

Just call me Mom.  I’m working at a group home in Tillsonburg.  This is my 2nd weekend and only 4 people around (7 residents in total).  I arrived this morning about 7 am so they got cold cereal and toast for breakfast, but I did make my favourite bannana crunch muffins in time for morning break!  Only two for lunch so I made toasted western sandwiches.  Tonight for supper I’m making a home-made chicken pot pie with biscuits.  The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa recipe book and I made it once before for my sister Rosemary, her husband and my Dad  and it was really good – especially the biscuits! 

All this cooking is reminding me of when I used to cook for the harvest gang on our tobacco farm.  At this place they get 2 additional snacks so I’ve got to come up with more ideas.  Not only am I the cook, but I have to stay overnight at the house – I hope the bed is comfortable.  The residents are very nice and friendly and they like my cooking.  Last weekend I made them chicken paprikash with rice and a pear crisp and they loved it.  Hey maybe I’ve found my new niche.