FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Back in the days when I was single, my group of friends and I were just starting into our chosen careers and professions. A number of us had ventured into independent living, which back then meant we were on our own and not living at home with our parents. Besides earning a living, paying rent and slaving at our new careers, we were also finding ourselves boss of our tiny domain and mastering the art of feeding ourselves.

At first, it was easy stopping at the deli or fast-food or take-out and grabbing something for dinner. I’m sure we all had a collection of favourite take-out menus near our phones.  There was also the backup option of stopping in to connect with family and taking home Mom’s version of a “doggie bag.” Eventually we all tried our hand at real cooking. A few of us knew a couple of stand-byes, thanks to our Moms.  These were the recipes that never fail. Ohers in our group learned by trial-and-error, eventually testing the “perfected” meal on eager friends, who would eat anything they didn’t have to prepare or cook.

Mike was an University of Victoria student completing his Bachelor of Science degree. He had often boasted that he had two go-to recipes that had never failed him yet and had dazzled each girlfriend-of-the-day. Impulsively, he invited the group to dinner at his place on the following Saturday, where he promised to amaze us with his culinary skills. Since we were all building our own collection of go-to failproof recipes, we enthusiastically accepted.

Mike’s place smelled heavenly. Something tomato-ey was simmering in a cauldron on his stove top. Something chocolate was baking in his oven. Wearing his oversize apron that stated in huge letters, “HUG ME, I’M THE COOK,” he ushered us into his tiny apartment.

“Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes. Help yourselves to a glass of wine and I’ll go put the finishing touches to the meal,” and grinning, he disappeared into his tiny kitchen.

Carrying an enormous bowl of pasta drenched with meat sauce to the table, Mike’s shout of “Dinner’s ready!” had us carrying our glasses of wine and nabbing a chair at his round table. Chunky pieces of hot garlic butter French bread were in the massive wicker basket. A huge container of crispy mixed greens and a platter of oven baked ribs completed the dinner. This was definitely a feast for kings or six very hungry friends. Dessert was generous squares of a  still-warm, rich, dark chocolate  brownie served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. In those days, none of us worried about calories or waist-lines—we just enjoyed eating our way through the entire experience.

As we relaxed after dinner on Mike’s sofa, easy chairs and carpeted floor, I remember Ellie asking him if he ever not had his go-to meals and had to improvise with the ingredients.  “What?” Mike exclaimed. “When would I not have tomato ketchup or dark chocolate in my cupboard? These are basics for any serious bachelor.”

I thought of Mike the other day. After obtaining his degree, Mike got serious, took a break and traveled to Paris. There he enrolled at the prestigious cooking institute, “Le Cordon Bleu.”  After a number of years honing his culinary skills at various well-known restaurants in Europe and Canada, Mike came back to the West Coast.

We had all kept in touch and whenever all of us were in the same place at the same time, we would get together for one of our “go-to-never-fail” group dinners. When it was Mike’s turn, our international chef never failed to produce a memorable meal:  mixed greens, lightly tossed with a lemon juice/olive oil dressing, platters of oven-baked ribs made with home-made tomato ketchup, handmade linguine with the special meat sauce, crusty chunks of  hot garlic butter French bread.  Despite his cooking for royalty, world leaders and 5-star restaurants, this was our requested meal whenever Mike cooked. It was still his “go-to-never-fail” entre and  one that drew our group together with laughter and memories of “remember when?”  Others would bring the wine and I was the designated dessert person bringing in my version of rich, still-warm, dark chocolate brownies accompanied by a tub of vanilla ice-cream.

No matter how many years passed, the strong bonds of friendship held, now including spouses and partners. I think that’s probably why, comfort food combined with family and friends, are so much a part of my life.

The Talent Club

I admire and appreciate talent.  I have been fortunate meeting and chatting with writers who can mesmerize with their words and totally hook you into their stories. I enjoy musicians who are creative in weaving their notes on a whole new level–one that the composers never thought of doing. I appreciate artists who can dip their brushes into paint and show you an imaginary scene or object that looks so totally real.

Oak Bay Village is mere steps away from my home. For the past 3 years, the Municipality supported the arts and displayed visible, tactile art along the Avenue. There have been several that has caught the eye and piqued the curiosity. This year is no exception.

One whimsical piece is called “Busking in Town Square.” Created by a Canadian artist, Douglas Walker, it utilizes recycled musical instruments such as trombone, trumpet and sax plus teapots, urns and kettles, juggled by amusing and eccentric characters. I have to smile each time I pass by. The photo shows only a portion of the sculpture depicting Douglas’s fun with his collection of recycled objects, collected from thrift shops and scrap yards.                                         IMG0266A

Another beautifully sculpted piece is called “M’akhotso” meaning “Mother of Peace.”   I like it because the artist, Linda Lindsey has captured the serenity, dignity and beauty of a native woman, wearing a sarong. With her hands clasped beneath her chin, the woman balances the World on her head. Linda’s 40 years passion for sculpting is reflected in M’akhotso and her commissioned pieces found in collections across Canada and the USA. This international artist also finds time to teach and share her knowledge with students in Italy and Canada.                   .IMG0246A

Writers have always attracted my attention. Writers who can capture a child’s imagination are special. Little kids are particularly difficult to “hook” their minds long enough to grab their imagination. It’s like the famous “elevator chat” when a writer is trying to hook an editor or publisher before he gets off–that’s a maximum of 2 minutes. For a small child, it needs to be within 30 seconds to a minute. This book, “Why Dragons cannot Go Shopping,” written in playful, humorous rhyme by Jacqueline Rioux and illustrated with amusing, colorful pictures created by my cousin, Sandra Mar, is a book that should be on the home book-shelves  for young children. It is available on Amazon and can be ordered through your favorite bookstore. Best of all, this entertaining book can be read and re-read aloud without ever feeling jaded and weary, especially after reading it for the 999th time!

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Nicola Furlong is a fantastic writer as well as a patient teacher for her craft. She has encouraged numerous new writers to persevere in her writing classes. Nicola has also taught classes in the mysteries of self-publishing. Relaxing with hockey in the winter and creating her colorful garden with its palettes of on-going, seasonal blooms the rest of the year, it seemed natural for this chocoholic writer and gardener to evolve into another field–that of artist. Below are her newest pieces—the intricate workings of her Steam Punk Art and her colorful Steam Engine. Check out Nicola’s website for more art http://www.nicolafurlong.com and also find her art on Redbubble, http://nicolafurlong.redbubble.com

Nicola's Steam Punk Art

Nicola's Steam Engine image1[6647]

 

 

Cherry Pits of Life

My parents did their best, instilling lessons on their off-springs–lessons that would allow us to survive when we left home to be “independent.” Along the way, Life’s darn annoyances or cherry pits kept popping up. It emphasized we didn’t know everything and the route we chose would hit minor bumps when we didn’t expect any. I’ve carefully kept a list to share with you ’cause I bet you’ve encountered these too.

  1. You think you’ve picked the shortest line-up at the supermarket because the lady only had 5 items on the counter. However, she thought two of the items were on sale and the cashier sent the bag-guy to check. Next, she had problems with her debit card because she punched the wrong key and had to start again; then, she hit the  wrong account so had to begin again. Finally, she couldn’t remember the correct sequence of her unbreakable 5-digit pin number because she glanced behind her and realized there was a long line of people waiting. After 15 minutes, I was still in line because my buggy load had all been put on the counter, ready to roll along eventually. . .

2.  The  pain in your_________ and  the ache in the____________ had been  an absolute pain-in-the-butt  forever. When the day of the doctor’s appointment finally arrived, this mysterious ache/pain magically disappeared.

3. This “Murphy” fellow must be a very unique individual to foil each and every “perfect plan” without even trying. Mr. Murphy seems to have the uncanny knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

4. I’d like to thank Michael Seidel (https://www.mwseidel.net/2018/04/08) for this bit of observation: “Don’t you love it when you’re parallel parked and the cars in front and behind you have each left your car 2-inches to maneuver?”. . . .I was hemmed in by two huge black SUVs and not a lot of wiggle-room. But patience, skill and probably a lot of luck got me out of there without a single scratch on any of the vehicles. My Dad would have been beaming. . .

5. That blood-and-guts book that you enjoyed is a book that your best friend hated and voted a big, fat thumbs down! He’s passed along his deep, philosophical, brain-wrenching novel for you to devour it as he did, but it’s a huge yawn for you after the first 5 pages.

6. The rule of the household is to replace the toilet paper roll when it’s nearing the end or at least, have a new roll within reach. Somehow, this rule never works when You reach for that roll of near empty T-paper.

7. The light turns green and you’re in the L-turn lane, ready for your chance to turn. You’re patiently waiting for on-coming traffic to pass and the pedestrians to finish crossing AND just as you see it’s clear to turn—before the amber light turns to red—one more pedestrian, with his cellphone pressed to his ear, steps off the curb and slow-walks across the intersection.

8. You’ve  circled the block umpteen times—optimistic that there will be a parking space. You see a car pull out just as you’re coming down the street, but quick as a bunny, one of those teeny-weeny cars jump two lanes and dives into the space that’s meant for a real grown-up car, not a half-pint one!

9. We all have that one go-to-can’t-fail dish that has never failed, no matter what you do or didn’t do. BUT, the first time you really, really  want to impress is the day your fave go-to-can’t-fail dish fails.

10. You’ve seen this particular item everywhere. It seems you’re constantly tripping over opportunities to purchase one, but you talk yourself out of it because you see it everywhere, so there’s no hurry to purchase one now. Naturally, you finally decide to buy one for a friend’s birthday and that’s when there’s not a single one anywhere. I think that’s a marketing conspiracy, don’t you?

I believe cherry pits are meant to test us on patience. Life is not supposed to run too smoothly—after all, that would be very boring. Enjoy your day, but watch out for those sneaky pits. I know there are many more out there. What’s yours?

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Thank you to Bess, Lillian, Madge, Ellen, Pat and Georgie–they wanted to read this Mother’s Day tale again. It was first posted in May 2015. Thank you, Gals!

I got in this “Mom” thing late in life.  By the time I met my Hubby, his son was almost 18 and at a sort of rebellious age. T knew his own mind, had definite ideas about his Dad’s love-life and buried himself in tinkering with his numerous cars—one at a time, of course—while hanging out with his friends and girlfriend.

I wasn’t into being anyone’s “step-Mom” and figured I simply had a nice friendship with someone I liked; who had decidedly different ideas on leisure activities; who trusted me to navigate the alien streets of Vancouver to visit his parents and who was brave enough to continue ball-room dancing with a partner who had 2 left feet to begin with and still had 2 left feet when we finished our classes. When J finally popped the question, there was no hesitation in accepting as we had known each other for a few years. By then, the thought of having a 21-year old step-son was not as daunting as I had first thought.  T had evolved into a responsible and kind adult. While J and I enjoyed our engagement period, that became a lengthy one, T got married to his high school sweetheart and started a family.

The day I married T’s Dad, I officially became wife, step-Mom and Grandma to a 2-1/2 year old grandson and an 8-months old grand-daughter.

Today, my 2 oldest grandchildren are hard-working, responsible young adults who have definite goals in mind. My two younger grandchildren are active girls who love everything in their world, especially their big brother and big sister.

Moms have a tough job. They deal with not only the good and positive stuff of motherhood, but also the negative things such as colds, flu and things kids get into as well as the day-to-day running of an active household.  And for many others, juggling in a full-time job as well. When Mom-job and day-job collide, she manages to deal with both while keeping calm and relatively sane.

I feel very blessed to be a step-Mom and Grandma on Mother’s Day. I got there the easy route.  To all the other Moms out there, know you’re doing a great job. To all the Grandmas, you know you’ve done a great job when you gaze on the happy faces of your grandchildren.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you—give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

Amazing Memories

We can go through Life and encounter amazing experiences or memorable moments that we clearly remember years later. I’m not sure why that is, but clearly,  some things make a deep impression on us. And sometimes, it’s the unexpected–the good unexpected, that makes the memory special.

Today was my going-to-the-supermarket day. I had checked the supplies, looked over the fliers and made out my list. Hovering over the apples, the lady next to me, gave a huge yawn. Well, as we all know, yawns are contagious and before I knew it, my yawn matched hers. We gave each other an embarrass smile and I made my way over to the broccoli. This time, I yawned and she giggled.  Glancing over, I saw her by the tomatoes and she had just finished a huge yawn.  By this time, we were buddies, bonded by veggies and yawns. She grinned and commented, “Produce is very boring. Too bad they can’t jump up and dance to grab our attention!” A deep masculine voice, emanating from the mountain of yams, replied, “I’ll do my best for you Ladies.” And the store employee, setting out the yams gave a brilliant Michael Jackson “moonwalk”, finishing with a dazzling twirl and a tip of his imaginary hat.”  We just had to applaud this unexpected performance. A boring veggie day was definitely not on his agenda!

Little kids are known to do the unexpected. When they’re at the ages of 2-5, it’s an “untouched” time of their lives because they form their own conclusions on things they observe. Yes, they do learn from television shows, books, parents and other kids, but it’s always a revelation to hear them explain stuff as they see it. As I strolled to the Village, a little 3 year old was crouched over an event he was observing. While his Mom stood patiently to one side with a little one in a stroller, her son was giving her and his little brother, a running commentary.

“Look Mom—that itty-bitty ant is pulling that dead fat fly away by himself. Yuk–it’s dry and falling apart, but he’s not taking it away for food. . .looks like he’s clearing off the walk.  Ooh-look, now there’s two other ants and they’re pulling this piece of fruit somewhere. Know what, Mom? That first ant is no bigger than the other ants. Wonder how they know what to do? Do you think they have a work board like we do, Mom?. . .Look Rudy, can you see the ants? Wish you were bigger so you can come here to look too.  Mom, Mom? Did you see that worm?  Can we stay longer, Mom?. . . .I wanna see what. . . ”

Me too, Kid—I want to hear what else you’re seeing. . .Don’t ever lose that wonderful enthusiasm.

In my City, “Tim Horton’s”, aka “Timmy’s”, is the doughnut place to dash to when that craving for fried dough hits. Now, there are newer very good, but smaller bakeries,  producing great doughnuts who can give Timmy’s a run for its money. But, it was Timmy’s that I encountered a very precocious 3 year old, who had an amazing knowledge of doughnut “holes.”   The little girl sat at the table beside me.

“I’m holding the table for Mommy.  She’s bringing me a treat,” the tiny Munchkin informed me. “Is your Mommy bringing you a treat?”

“My friend is bringing coffees and doughnuts,” I told her.

“Mommy’s bringing me my bag of holes and my juice.”

“What are  holes? And how do you eat a hole?” I asked.

“You know when the big bakerman makes those big round doughnuts with a hole in the middle? My brudder told me there’s a little bakerman who punches out the middles. That’s the holes. He makes them for himself  ‘cept when he needs lunch money and has to sell some to buy his lunch.”

“I never knew that,”  I told her. “That’s really amazing. How does your brother know this?”

“Cause he got to see where they make doughnuts. I’m not big enough to go to school yet, but I want to see this too!  Jimmy shared his bag of holes with me. They’re just like the big ones ‘cept they’re teeny-weeny.”

Phooey—days later, I can’t seem to get rid of this image of a little bakerman,  punching out doughnut centres and selling the holes for lunch money.

Another memory that is safely tucked forever in my mind. My parents gave me a jade ring when I graduated. It had a simple gold band with a plainly set green jade stone. I loved that ring. One winter,  I approached my car in the parking lot and began to brush off the snow that had accumulated  while I was at work. Later that night, I realized I no longer had the ring on my finger.  Sick at heart, I realized that my gloveless hand had been so cold, the ring must have slipped off while I was sweeping the snow off the windshield.   My Dad told me, “If that jade ring was meant for you,  it will come back.” After a sleepless night, I gave myself an early start and somehow ended with the same parking space I had the day before. Stepping out on the snowy lot, I carefully checked the grounds. There, partially buried in the snow, was a hint of green. Dad was right. It was my jade ring waiting for me to reclaim it.

We all have “Special Moments” stored in our brains and tucked in our hearts—moments that can be treasured and replayed at our leisure;  moments that were unforgettable because we lingered to capture those amazing minutes.

Friends

Friends come in many shapes and sizes. I’ve found that it’s not their shapes and sizes that makes a friend, but the size of their hearts.

As with anything in Life, there is a certain chemistry that steers a person to another. There is that same interest in a hobby or an activity that captures the attention—similar tastes in foods, a certain adventurous spirit, an attraction to the same kinds of music or art and so much more. But, there are also differences that attracts as well and this becomes a learning experience for both.

There are different kinds of friends.

There are Casual Friends—these are people who pop into our lives briefly, but are likeable and personable. I include among them  the produce person, the baker and my favourite cashier at the supermarket; the friendly barista at the frequented coffee-bar or the wait-person at the bistro who knows your preferences; the same people I briefly encounter on my walks. An exchange of “How are you? Great weather for walking!”  makes the start of a day an enjoyable one.

There are Fun Friends I like to do things with—-they are more than casual friends. They are my concert friends, my art friends, my writing friends, my line-dancing friends,  my burlesque-fit friends and my going-out-to-eat friends. I’ve learned a lot being with my fun friends.

Finally, there are the True Friends. If you have one or two true friends in your life, then you are a rich person. I am extremely fortunate to claim a few true friends. Nothing else matters because your true friend(s) is/are always within your reach. This is a friendship that may have been forged in your childhood or as recent as a few years. No matter what has happened in your life over the years, TFs are there for you. Even if you live in opposite ends of the country, there’s always that joke or  message in your email or even a long-distance phone call. And yes, nowadays, that on-screen face-to-face video call. Even if you haven’t seen each other in a number of years, TFs connect immediately, as if you had only seen each other the day before.

TFs are a combination of fun friends as well as true friends. It doesn’t matter if you spend only an hour or a full-day because the time spent is always enjoyable and amusing. They can talk you into doing something you’ve never considered and you realize afterwards, it was fun. They leave your rainy day filled with rainbows and sunshine.

TFs are supportive, comforting and good listeners if there are problems. They may offer solutions or just lend a shoulder or merely listen. Help is there if you need it. I know that they know I’m there for them too.

I like most people I encounter from day-to-day and I delight in my fun friends. But, I feel most blessed with my few true friends who have been with me through all the ups and downs of my life.  They are the ones I adore, appreciate and enjoy very much. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best:

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Mr. Murphy and Costco

 

I always enjoy my excursions to Costco.  It gives my Volvo a nice run along the highway and I get to check out the books, samples, snacks, food and yes, sometimes even clothes. I have a list of things I need to get when I go to the Super C. And then, there is my mental list that I check. Chocolate, of course, is on that second list.  There is a certain route one takes to get to that particular aisle and by golly, there was my sack of Dark Chocolate Almond Nuggets—healthy because there is dark chocolate, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Not sure about the chia seeds, but everything else sounds tasty as well as healthy. Normally, it takes me at least 90 minutes to check out everything on both my lists as well as enticing stuff along the way.

I checked my needed things and swooped down the aisle of dried fruits and nuts to get my dry tart cherries for trail-mixes and baking. Browsed through the books and picked up one by John Sanford that I hadn’t read yet. Zinged down to the paper towels and hauled 2 huge packs into my cart. Whipped around the corner and straight down a clear aisle to move into line at the cashier, but not before grabbing a pack of 3 reading glasses with a discount of $6. Since I recently had cataract surgery on both eyes, distance was awesome but the close-ups needed a nudge.  These reading glasses were perfect at $12 and a  great bargain to boot!

This trip was phenomenal as my entire time in the store was 35 minutes. I was ready to roll out the door, load up the car and head back down the highway, EXCEPT I COULDN’T FIND MY CAR.

Has this ever happen to you?  Everything is humming along, tickety-boo and then BAM—that happy flow goes kablooey. The morning had started out so well—blue skies and sunshine, but between the time I parked the car, entered the store and exited, the weather had turned colder with a very brisk wind. As I wandered the rows of cars and trucks in the humongous parking lot, the wind got brisker and colder.

“I know that feeling!” called a cheerful voice as I wandered the aisles and looked hopefully for my familiar silver Volvo station wagon. “I finally found mine because I pressed the alarm button on my remote,” the cheerful voice offered helpfully. She found her car with no problem and unloaded her cart.

I had already tried the alarm button on my remote but I couldn’t hear  my car. There were several other vehicles that had flashed their lights and sounded their alarms, but those were other people’s cars.

“Lost your car, too?” queried a short, plump man anxiously peering down the aisles.

“Yep,” I replied, “looking for my silver Volvo wagon.”

“Haven’t passed any yet, but I’m searching for my red Honda. And if it isn’t here, then it must be stolen. Hondas are on the ‘wish’ list for crooks”

“I passed a red Honda two aisles that way and just past the gas sign,” I offered helpfully. The frazzled Honda owner pushed his loaded cart towards that general direction, frantically pushing his remote’s alarm button. His grateful smile said it all as his car responded with a nasal honk.

“Yoo-hoo!” a silver-haired woman with her loaded cart of garden flowers, waved to grab my attention. “Hello, Hawaiian dancer,” she beamed at me. “Don’t worry, Honey—your car is here somewhere, just keep pressing that alarm button on that remote thingy. I’m sure you’ll find the car before you freeze to death in this wind! Good luck, Hon,” and my Hawaiian dancing classmate stopped at her car and proceeded to unload her “treasures.”

I met up with two of my former work colleagues, who waved “Hello” and gave me sympathetic smiles. Apparently the phenomena of “losing one’s car in Costco’s parking lot” happens quite frequently. Passing a large cart depot nudged my memory that I had parked near a huge cart deposit when I ventured into Costco a gazillion years ago. Carefully navigating down one aisle, I pressed my remote’s alarm and practically did a happy dance when I heard the familiar cry of my Volvo!

Happily reunited with my “Silver Bullet,” I made a couple of mental notes to myself.        1)  park somewhere closer or at least, near a distinctive parking lot landmark and           2)  bring a friend along on the next trip to remember where the car is parked!

As for Mr. Murphy, aka “Murphy’s Law”—just as you think it’s smooth sailing, it’s not. Murphy’s just around the corner and ready to crimp your perfect day.