Friday, 30 October 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 30, 2015

Hallowe'en - the 2015 Edition

My love and I returned Sunday evening from a whirlwind 12 day trip to Japan. The laundry has been
done and the luggage put away until the next adventure, BUT my brain is still at sea. So while today is not Thursday, it is close enough to be Thereabouts! And Hallowe'en sits on the doorstep waiting for pumpkins to be carved and lit.

In Japan, Tokyo in particular, Hallowe'en is big deal, and mainly for big kids, aka adults. It's an occasion to dress up and have fun. No door-to-door trick or treating, just neighbourhood celebrations in the streets and restaurants.

Back home in Canada, Halloween remains, for the most part a children's festival. Costumes have to be both fashionable and endurable. They have to fit over snow suits and galoshes. They have to maintain their integrity in some of the wildest winds and torrential rains. Past years have brought rain and wind, cold and snow, and on occasion, even a balmy evening. According to the latest weather forecast, the night of the Great Pumpkin will be warm with a chance of rain and an asteroid.

There is nothing like a Hallowe'en in Canada!

In my elementary school days, there were no costume parades or parties yet there was no shortage of Halloween themed activities - from art and music to reading, writing and yes even arithmetic. The whole week was haunted with decorations, songs, stories and math problems all featuring ghosts, goblins, witches and jack-o-lanterns. It was fun and a great run up for the big night.

Hallowe'en 1987

My preferred characters for Trick or Treating were pirates, gypsies and tramps (no thieves - lol), and the outfits were hobbled together from stuff in the house an hour or so before heading out. The one exception was the very special year my parents bought me a pirate costume. Dad made the eye patch. My Mom was not a seamstress, but she did know a thing or two about makeup. There was an awful lot she could do with a burnt cork, baby powder and red lipstick. She also had that big jar of cold cream for getting all the stuff off afterwards.

Beyond the orange and black wrapped molasses candies, apples, peanuts in the shell and packages of sunflower seeds, many of the treats were homemade and every kid knew which house in the neighbourhood had the best ones.
For years, our house was #1.

My mother's speciality at Halloween, at any time actually, was conjured up in the kitchen. She made popcorn balls - rounds of white popcorn held together by molasses syrup boiled to the hard crack stage. With buttered hands, so the hot syrup didn't stick, Mom quickly assembled the hardball sized treats. The hot syrup always burned her hands no matter how fast she worked.

Gone now are such delectables, even the apples and peanuts are absent from the treat bag. We've all had to buy into the commercial brands. There will be zombies and vampires out tomorrow night and probably lots of Princesses of Arendelle, but very few pirates and tramps. And it's been a very long time since I've heard anyone utter my childhood chant, "Shell out! Shell out! The witches are out!"

I've got to get out there and buy the treats and a pumpkin.
Be safe out there, and have a "Spook-tacular" time.

And a favourite song from my childhood:
It's Halloween, the lamps are lit
around the fire the children sit
telling ghost tales bit by bit
and sister Jane says, "hush"
who's that creeping cross the kitchen floor
who's that peeking round the bedroom door
who's that SCREECHING like his throat is sore
It's a GOBLIN!

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 12 October 2015

Monday Moanings - October 12, 2015

No moaning at the table today!

Today is
"...a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."
So reads the decree enacted by Parliament in 1879. Though the date has moved around a little - at first it was November 6, then it was the 3rd Monday in October - on January 31, 1957, the government proclaimed that National Thanksgiving be celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October.

Sir Martin Frobisher

But it is Martin Frobisher who is credited with celebrating the very first Thanksgiving in Canada. In 1578, the Englishman and privateer set out on his third voyage to the New World in search of the Northwest Passage. The expedition encountered fierce storms and heavy ice. One ship sank, crushed by sea ice, one ship deserted the fleet and sailed back to England and the remaining thirteen ships were scattered by the storms and currents. By some great miracle they all met up again at the anchorage established on Frobisher's first voyage - Frobisher Bay (now called Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut).

 "... Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Counsel to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankful to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places ..."

While not a harvest Thanksgiving it was a celebration of homecoming and gratitude for being alive and protected.

Our family celebration was Saturday. As always, it was a feast of plenty, perhaps even a feast of  "too much". I worked too much, I made too much, and we all ate too much. Yet it was also a cornucopia of good conversation, great laughs, and the best company.

It was a celebration of Thanksgiving for the blessings of life, for the great privilege it is to call Canada our home and native land.
Thanks be to God!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 8, 2015

Thanksgiving - the View from  the Kitchen

Thanksgiving Weekend stands on the doorstep bidding me come, enjoy, celebrate, and give thanks for the harvest; urging me to make the feast.

For both the early pioneers and the indigenous tribes, this time of year in North America was one of both deepest gratitude and fervent hope. Come wind, come weather the land had yielded her best and barns were full. But would the bounty be enough to sustain life through a winter of unknowns?

I have not known such a tenuous life, none of my family have. Sure we've had our struggles, our lean times, but we've always been able to gather together at Thanksgiving amid an embarrassment of riches.

I am as humbled as I am grateful for this bounty. I've companioned others whose lives been flipped upside down by a sudden reversal of fortune and I'm now of great enough age to be keenly aware that good living does not grant any immunity from calamity down the road. A winter of unknowns may give warning but never asks permission to visit, let alone stay a while.

My kitchen these days before the feast is cornucopia of aromas, a sometimes frantic place with a spoon-wielding, dish clattering, occasionally foul-mouthed chef at the centre of things pulling it all together. No one ever claimed that celebrating harvest time was easy! But it is fun.

Bacon - there's got to be bacon!

Celery, onions & parsley for sage & chestnut bread stuffing

Wild & Brown Rice with chorizo, hazelnuts, apricots, green onions, parsley & thyme

Mix it all together and stuffing #2 is done!

Today the cup of my life is overflowing with good things. The kitchen is awash in dishes, but I'm pumped. The Family centrepiece of my harvest will gather around the table on Saturday. We will eat well and probably too much. But more importantly we will celebrate love and life with joy and laughter.

I am humbly grateful to be able to cook up a storm in my own kitchen, looking out the windows of my own house to a landscape that is decked out in autumn splendour.
I am blessed. We are blessed.

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 5 October 2015

Monday Moanings - October 5, 2015


At the top of this week, I'm dithering; just rocking back and forth in my wagon. Ahead of me lies a week crammed to the gunnels with stuff to do, so much stuff that I'm feeling overwhelmed by it all. I don't know what to do first and while I dither away, time flies away and so the needle on my angst meter crosses the red line. One of the things I've noticed since 'Going over 60' - I am easily overwhelmed when my ordinary week gets complicated with special events.

This week, in addition to the usual, there is a Thanksgiving Feast to prepare for the family celebration on Saturday. I know how to do this. I know the tasks - I've been doing Thanksgiving for ... well let's just say... a long time. And it is a joy, a cooking extravaganza that puts me in my favourite place in the house, my kitchen. I can handle this, for the most part, without red-lining.

BUT in just eight days my love and I set off on another adventure, this time to Japan. I know how to prepare for these treks. I know the tasks - I've been globetrotting for a while too. It's a joy, an extravaganza of anticipation and then discovery where the unexpected is often the greatest pleasure. It's also a lot of work - not just planning and packing but briefing the house sitters and getting in supplies for their stay.

AND tonight we're head to the city for the second time in 24 hours to see a play, Cracked: New Light on Dementia. I'm hoping to find some some touch stones for the memoir about my journey with my mother through Alzheimer's. While perhaps not a joy, this will be a discovery with maybe an intriguing turn to the unexpected.

Now put these three very special events, Thanksgiving and Travel and Theatre in the same week that has the usual two blog posts, gym and chores...

And yes, I do know the best way to 'eat the elephant' of tasks before me, is 'one bite at a time'. But I'm having trouble taking the first bite - where do I begin?

Well with a Monday Moaning of course!

It's now just past noon and time for me to kick off into the week.
Let the cooking begin!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 1, 2015

Waiting out the Storm - Once More

source: Earth Wind Map
I have been watching with increasing interest (perhaps approaching the status of addiction), the development and progress of Hurricane Joaquin (see wind map above). I check for updates on winds, position, forward movement and storm track several times a day (okay, okay, umpteen times a day). Some of my best cyber-friends these days are Intellicast,  John Kassell,  and the National Hurricane Center.

source: Intellicast
I have always been a follower of the weather, storms and hurricanes in particular.  I like to think that I come by this interest in the weather genetically.  My father was a meteorologist and although forecasting was not where the bulk of his career was spent, it was where it began and ended.

Dad loved watching the sky, noting the cloud formations and how they were moving.  He loved storm watching.  At every opportunity he would cajole his three daughters (we were not always the most willing) out onto the enclosed front porch to watch the lightning and count off the seconds until we heard the thunder.  I confess that these were not always happy and carefree occasions.  Sometimes the wind and the rain along with the natural pyrotechnics were just a bit scary.  Particularly that one time when lightning struck the hydro pole not fifty feet from us.  Suddenly there were four white-faced people, one adult and three children, all trying to get back through the narrow door into the house. It's comical now, but at the time anything but funny.  So I do have a healthy respect for the forces of nature, but a storm chaser's heart.

Fulton Walk, Breezy Point, 1970
Now back to hurricanes - My late mother's family who had a cottage on the southern tip of Long Island -- Breezy Point, New York.  From the time I was five years old until 1976, with only two exceptions, we spent at least two weeks every August 'at the beach'. Stories about hurricanes past were the stuff of legend, or at least I thought so as I sat in awe listening to the tales of howling winds and rising waters; how the ocean and the bay waters met in the parking lot behind the cottage, how the Sugar Bowl always went out with the waves; how the ocean waters rose up to the front steps.  It was all so very exciting and fascinating to my young ears. Sadly it was a hurricane, Sandy in 2012 that brought fire along with wind and rain. Much of old  Breezy Point was destroyed, including the old family cottage at 147 Oceanside.

Oceanside and Fulton Walk 2012, after Hurricane Sandy

Most hurricanes and tropical storms head up the eastern seaboard in early September. Back when I was there, we had always packed up and headed back home across the border in late August.  But in 1971, on August 28, Tropical Storm Doria caught up with us.  She struck at night and I remember the howling wind and the driving rain.  Sleep was impossible so we gathered round the dining table watching the chandelier sway and playing Pokeno.  Then the tea and cinnamon toast came out. It the was the best!

I don't think Dad sat down for more than five minutes.  He was in his element: tapping the barometer, taking observations from the back deck and listening to the National Weather Service radio.  When there was a momentary lull in the wind and rain, we listened to the "plink plonk symphony" orchestrated by 5 saucepans and multiple drops from the leaking roof.

The centre of Doria passed just after midnight as I recall and around 1:30am Dad announced that the pressure was rising, the winds were abating and it was time to go to bed.  In the morning which dawned clear and bright, we were drawn down the boardwalk to the ocean by the roar of the surf. The sea was still boiling and the pounding had created deep cuts in the sand. As we made our way back up Fulton Walk,  the neighbours called out to Dad and said, "When we saw the lights go out at your cottage, we knew all was well and the worst was over."

Hurricane Joaquin brings with him that great memory and one more -- the marriage of the weatherman and Irene, my Dad and my Mom.  Mom died in August 2010 and Dad's been gone since 1984. I'd like to think that together they are at the helm of this one and will steer him clear of causing major destruction while maintaining the thrill of it all.

National Hurricane Center Bulletin

Current forecast models put Joaquin, now a Category 4 storm (an extremely dangerous storm), off of Breezy Point around 8am Tuesday, but the path remains uncertain. What is sure is that it will bring heavy rain and serious flooding across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic.

Be careful out there and if you are one who is told to leave, do so!

I will be here, waiting out the storm.  If I get out the Pokeno set, how be you get the tea and cinnamon toast?  Together we can wait and watch and pray that all will be well.

©2015 April Hoeller