Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday Moanings - September 30, 2013

That's How the Cookie Crumbles...

Aw shucks!
After some sixty years plus, Mr. Christie's Bakery in Etobicoke shuts down today. A sprawling factory at Park Lawn Road and the Lakeshore, this factory and, more importantly, cookie outlet store has succumbed to age and neighbourhood development. Some 500 employees have to find new jobs.

For a time back in 2002, the cookie outlet store was a welcome refuge for my sister and I. We were struggling through the early days of discovery of Alzheimer's Disease in our mother. It was a wild roller coaster ride and we never could be sure of what lay around the next corner, but we knew where to get good cookies! A hop, skip and a jump away from the condo Mom was staying in at the time stood the long arms of  Mr. Christie. He beckoned with sweet aromas of fresh baked cookies in bulk packages at bargain prices.

My all time favourite was Dad's Oatmeal Cookies. They were the best for dunking in a tall glass of milk. Others may champion Oreo's as the best dunker, but not me; Dad's Oatmeal all the way, though Chips Ahoy held a solid second place in the milk dunking class. Animal crackers came in a box decorated with drawings of jungle scenes and with a white string handle just perfect for a child's hand. There were Arrowroot cookies, Pirate peanut butter cookies, Ritz crackers, Stoned Wheat Thins, Triscuits and even Bits & Bites.

Sometimes the labels were crooked, misprinted or just plain wrong (Triscuits with a Ritz label); sometimes the cookies were a tad overdone or the tops and bottoms of the Oreos didn't line up; sometimes the cookies were just broken (that meant the calories leaked out, right?); none of this made any difference to the taste. Both my sister and I had two teens at home back then, who, after a quick "How's gramma?" question, asked "What cookies did you get? Hope you got more Chips Ahoy!"

Though it did nothing for my waistline, the store offered respite care in critical moments. It was comfort food and good therapy. Today I send a heartfelt "Thank You" to all the folks who worked at Mr. Christie's.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - September 26, 2013

Autumn Overture - Hitting all the High Notes

My favourite season is a symphony, a classic tone poem of colour and form, tempo and texture, light and shadow; always changing, always moving toward its inevitable conclusion. The opening movement of this annual performance has been nothing short of magnificent this week in southern Ontario. The high notes of bright sunshine and warm days have been modulated by cool nights and even a scattering of frost. Early morning mist blurs the fledgling grace notes of colour before lifting to reveal ever-brightening yellows and reds.

And it's just way to lovely for me to sit inside writing. The opening to this season of gratitude will not remain so gloriously melodic, and I don't want to miss a single note.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 23 September 2013

Monday Moanings - September 23, 2013

Spit & Polish Day

Yes it's off to the dentist this morning. I've diligently flossed my teeth ever since I got the reminder call last Thursday. How does one remove the evidence from six months of dutifully brushed but unflossed teeth? Ah well, twas ever thus.

Dentists and I have never had even a comfortable relationship let alone a pleasant one. I tolerate them, sort of. I vaguely recall screaming my way through childhood dental appointments. Sheer terror gripped me, so much so that the guy refused to work on me. It hurt dammit!! And lying back in that chair was not a position of power, at least not mine.

My mother went across the hall to the family doctor and got a script for phenobarbital (a barbiturate). I guess that must have worked, but the anticipatory fear remains to this day. I will fold my body into the contours of the dental chair but be absolutely rigid. The TV and other cutesy stuff on the ceiling will do nothing to quell the rising anxiety as the chair reclines. Yeah, I visualize cool stuff to calm myself (better than a barbiturate any day!);  a beach, the mountains, a sensuous garden, but I still leave with a sweat line down my back. Oh joy, oh bliss - NOT!

Tomorrow will be a better day, much better. It begins with yoga, followed by a road trip up to Orillia to meet up with a buddy from high school. Wendy, (lovely painter and paintings!) and I are taking in the Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition at the Orillia Museum of Art and History and then treating ourselves to a long lunch. Back home in the evening, my love and I are at the ROM for a"Behind the Scenes" tour with the curators and researchers. It's a full day, but I won't get there without first tackling my fear and surviving the dentist.

It's time to kick off into the first week of Autumn. Let's get at it!

p.s. Between my hectic flossing schedule this past weekend, I got all the wine catalogued and slotted into the cellar. 53 white wines were added, and 35 reds. We celebrated with wine, of course; a Hernder Estate 2008 Cabernet. My worries that this $11.95 bottle might have gone beyond the point, were happily unfounded. It was luscious!

Text and flower photo ©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - September 19, 2013

Days of wine and...
       well, more wine!

Niagara-on-the-Lake 2013
It's an annual event for us, set to complement our wedding anniversary and I'm pretty sure that out of 38 such celebrations there have been at least 25 drives over the Burlington Skyway through Stoney Creek and on to Beamsville, Vineland, and Jordan Station, then over the Welland Canal and into Niagara-on-the-Lake. We always take up residence in NOTL, this year at the Shaw Club Hotel - see last week's post about breakfast - and set off from there on a wine tasting and buying tour. It used to be a very simple itinerary, one that did not require much planning at all, but in thirty-eight years wine has come of age in Niagara and the list of wineries is nothing short of eye-crossing. According to the current Wine Country Ontario Travel Guide, there are 42 wineries in the Niagara Escarpment and Twenty Valley and another 33 in the NOTL region.
So this trip takes some planning, about four days of planning. I research wine awards and wineries, I inventory our wine cellar to see what we need, and I review the tasting notes I've made (if we hated it, I'm not buying that wine again and if we loved it, I want more). All of this research comes with me and I take my papers with me into every winery we visit; not so much as to impress the staff as to signal that I am seriously interested in more than just sampling some wine - I'm there to buy. I do not profess to have wine connoisseur's palate or experience. I'm often at a total loss as to how to describe the kaleidoscope of flavours I taste in a wine and I've never experienced the length and breadth of flavours extolled by a winemaker. There is great rejoicing when I discover that the winemaker and I agree on just a single note. In other words, I am an amateur, albeit an organized one.
To be fair I really should write a post about each one of the eight wineries we visited this year, but honestly I don't have the time and I'm not sure I have the audience either. So here are some notes on the ones that impressed us this on this year's tour:

Kew Vineyards 2013
Kew Vineyards - the new kid on the block, very new.
The tasting experience was accompanied by a cheese board, a selection of 3 (or was it 4?) lovely cheeses and bread to go with them. The pace was unhurried, aided no doubt by the fact that we were the only ones there at the time, and wonderfully civilized. And the wines? From some of the oldest vines in the region, planted in 1975 (the year we were married), the riesling and chardonnay are lovely, but the 2012 Marsanne Viognier is the jewel in the crown - outstanding! Thank you Liisa, for taking the time to showcase your wines and winery in such a professional and approachable manner. See you next September!

The Foreign Affair 2013
The Foreign Affair Winery - a new winery for us, though not a new kid.
This winery made it onto the list because we wanted to explore their exclusive amarone style wines, fermented from dried (appassimento) grapes. Warm, rich sensory memories of sipping great Italian wines in Venice and Rome came to mind. Noelle was our tour guide for the tasting and she, like the staff at Kew, knew her wine, from vineyard and grape to process and final product. Check out the 2008 Chardonnay, 2010 Temptress and 2011 Dream. Thank you Noelle for leading us into this amarone world and for letting us taste a $110 bottle of wine. We didn't buy it but we did bring home 9 bottles of Foreign Affair wine.

Tawse Winery 2013
Tawse Winery - had not been here in a couple of years.
Tawse has garnered several awards in the years since our last visit, not the least of which is the Canadian Winery of the Year for three straight years (2010, 11 & 12). I'm really sorry I didn't record our tasting guide's name (the bill says 'serve 55'), but she gets kudos for deviating from the official tasting menu, to offer us a wine that she felt would be of more interest to us. In other words, she listened to us, and she was right; the 2011 Gamay was wonderful and we took home 3 bottles. We also bought 6 other wines including the 2011 Lenko Chardonnay which at $44.95 wins the prize for the most expensive bottle of the trip. This gal also tasted the wine from the newly opened bottle before offering it to us. Might not seem like a big deal, but single bottles of wine can go off making for a very unpleasant experience and winery staff often don't take a moment for this important step. Well done! We'll be back.

Cattail Creek - an honourable mention (over 4 years since we were last here)
There are some great reds going on here, especially the 2011 Gamay Noir. Also a 2012 unoaked (stainless) chard got our attention. The young gal behind the counter was honest - she admitted to not liking a particular wine (we did agree with her that anything over a 2 is really too sweet) and for her honesty she deserves credit. It tells me she actually knew the wines instead of just knowing about them. She didn't rhyme off memorized winemaker's notes before we'd even tasted the wine. This is a pet peeve of mine because I never taste all those things in a wine and it makes me feel stupid when my taste buds don't measure up. Also I'm likely to smile and nod, put my wine glass down and leave. Anyway Cattail Creek staff: Nice, really nice! Keep up the good work.

Okay folks, I've got to get back to work. There are 88 bottles of wine (down from the 91 trucked home last year  - we're cutting back I guess? LOL) to be catalogued and slotted into the cellar. Thank you Niagara wine country for an idyllic five days. Same time next year.

(text and photos ©2013 April Hoeller)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Monday Moanings - September 16, 2013

I'm having one of those days!

Niagara-on-the-Lake 2013
Maybe it's because I spent much of last week in an idyllic setting of flowered streets and intelligent conversation offered in soft, almost hushed tones. Maybe it's because I spent much of last week enjoying wine tastings (more on that later) interspersed with visits with the likes of Somerset Maugham, Oscar Wilde and others at the Shaw Festival. Maybe it's the weather - damp and cold here today. Maybe it's just me.

Whatever the reason the fact remains: I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. I'm irritable and whiny, grumpy and inconsolable. Harumph! The first target of my bad side this morning is diet. I'm tired of policing every little bit that goes into my mouth! For over a year now I've measured and weighed and recorded (myfitnesspal), every gram, every millilitre, every carb, protein, fat and fibre of every meal. Only vacations have been exempt from such meticulous scrutiny. For over a year I have busted my buns, and other muscle groups, at the gym at least three times a week. As you might have guessed, these too are recorded in detail (endomondo) with info from a heart rate monitor. I train in my zone and push it too with high intensity intervals. I wear a Fitbit, a sophisticated pedometer that tracks my every step, and more, and I aim for at least 7000 steps a day.

My blood sugars are great and that's a very good thing for diabetic me, BUT I have not lost a single pound! Please do not take this as an appeal for weight loss advice and diet plans. God knows once this post is seen by Facebook, I'll get all kinds of free advice. And there's another target for a rant today - all those very annoying adverts streaming into the middle of my newsfeed, most of which are bogus. Spare me from snake oil companies offering quick fix berries, cleanses and belly fat melters. Yee Gads!!

No, this is just me on a Monday, moaning. Katie Scarlett O'Hara and I know that tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow I go to my first yoga class led by my friend and woman of many talents, Elaine Jackson (  I have high hopes for this new venture and along with those aspirations, I've got some low anxieties too. Not to worry; it's all very typical for an introvert meeting a new situation. By tomorrow all will be gone with the wind!

Things are already looking up - I got this post written and considering all the growling and hand wringing that preceded cold fingers meeting the keyboard, that is an accomplishment!
Time to get rolling; a new week has begun. Enjoy!

Vineland Estates Restaurant 2013

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - September 12, 2013

Breakfast on the Porch

It's our last morning in Niagara-on-the-Lake, our last very civilized brekkie out on the porch at The Shaw Club Hotel. I must say it's been lovely to enjoy eggs benedict, or brioche French toast, a truffled omelette, and even the simple continental of creamy yogurt with fresh berries and nuts, toast with Greaves marmalade and muffins.

Breakfast is often such and rushed and usually boring affair six mornings of my week. I do make an effort on Sundays to up the ante a little with a great omelette and even greater latte, but the rest of the week I break the fast with fibre loaded concoction of dry oatmeal, bran, protein powder, almond milk, wild blueberries or rasps, psyllium husk (I told you it was fibre loaded! And let's not discuss why.) enlivened with cinnamon and vanilla. Sounds just awful as I write it all down, but actually it's not that bad. It just doesn't stand up well against the eggs benedict which came to my table all decked out with thick slabs of peameal bacon, two perfectly poached eggs and a generous pour of sunshine from the hollandaise. What a great way to dress up an English muffin!

Treat yourself to a nice brekkie this week -- the start of so many days deserves the uplift.
More on Niagara-on-the-Lake, the wines, the food, and the Shaw Festival, later next week.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Monday Moanings - September 9, 2013

Wine Time

This week finds us in Niagara Wine Country for a sampling of the latest fermentation from vines, a little bit of culture courtesy of the Shaw Festival and some great food. Our traditional celebration of our years together began yesterday, when we were treated to a structured tasting and pre-harvest lunch at Thirty Bench Wine Makers - a very civilized beginning to 5 days of absolute pleasure. In the evening it was off to see Our Betters (Somerset Maugham), the first of a quartet of plays on our list at the Shaw Festival.

Today the Shaw is 'dark', and so the entire day is dedicated to wine. We are not just tasters but serious buyers who love the smaller wineries. It is not unusual for us to truck home upwards of 70 bottles of reds and whites, all of which are only available at the wineries (ie. not produced in quantities to satisfy the demands of the LCBO). There are five vineyards on our list today, three are our faves - Vineland, Malivoire & Cave Spring - one we've not been to in a few years - Tawse - and one new one for us - Kew. I've got the list of wines currently in our cellar; I've got the tasting notes from all the wines to cross our palate; and, I've got a box of crackers for consumption between wineries. Now it's off to a good breakfast then out to the vineyards. I can smell the grapes and hear the cannon shots that keep the birds away. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!

So while my love and I are out among the vineyards today, enjoy some images of past adventures in the grape stomping grounds of Niagara:

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - Sept. 5, 2013

Time flies!

Thirty-eight years ago today I was enjoying the last day of my life as a single woman, or as read in the banns of marriage, "a spinster of this parish."  All of 22 years old and already a spinster. Imagine that! The old language would seem to have credited me with far more experience than I actually had. I was still living at home in 1975 and like my older sister before me and my younger after me, I went directly from my parents' home to married life without ever truly experiencing the world as a single woman.

I have never lived alone and had to fend for myself. Now this never bothered me back in the day. I was thrilled to be marrying my high school sweetheart, the love of my life. The wonderful world lay before us and we wanted to live it together. We still do, even though the world isn't quite as wholly wonderful as we thought way back then.

If I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now of course,
September 6, 1975
I'd have taken some time on my own, just a couple of years to learn something about it all. On gloomy days, with both my love and I being now in our sixties, it worries me that the day may well come when I will have to go it alone, and I don't know the first thing about it.

It's best not to get too caught up in such solemn truths, yet it's also folly to deny them, so I'll just render these grim realities a brief nod of acknowledgement, then carry on through our days together.

Thirty-eight years ago my boyfriend and I went out on our last date as singles. The midnight curfew was still in effect but I scared the bejeezus out my folks by returning home at ten. The colour slowly drained from Mom's face and Dad walked toward me, arms outstretched,"Everything all right, dear?"

"Yup, everything is perfect."
And it still is.

Grow old along with me! 
The best is yet to be, 
The last of life, for which the first was made: 
Our times are in His hand 
Who saith "A whole I planned, 
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!''
Robert Browning


Monday, 2 September 2013

Monday Moanings - Labour Day 2013

This is how I'm spending my Labour Day:

With word of caution:

And one request:

It's time to push off into a new week, a new month.
Wherever you are, have a great ride this week.