…..and thou

“Nothing is better than a picnic.” ~ Zooey Deschanel

Picnics. Does the reality of an actual picnic live up to its hype? I love picnics—at least the concept of them. Eating out in the fresh air. A blanket spread on vast greenness. A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a chunk of good cheese, some fine chocolate……………okay now for the not so romantic reality. The reality of most picnics is that they are a lot of work. Time and planning and a great deal of preparation go into something which is supposed to be simple fun with convivial friends and good food.

The first step is deciding where to have the picnic. At the local park? At the beach? In your backyard? And how will you eat–at a picnic table, in lawn chairs eating off your lap, or on a blanket spread on the ground? How many people will be invited and what will be on the menu? Is it going to be potluck, a wiener roast, or a steak barbeque (which these days seems to be limited to millionaires with the price of beef and lack of sales on the more expensive bovine cuts). And most importantly–what about dessert?

The picnics of my youth were wonderful affairs. And do you know why? Because all I was expected to do was show up. Maybe help carry a few things from the car to the picnic site—but all the other variables—who was coming, what was being served, where we were having the picnic were planned by someone else. And that someone else always turned out to my mom.

I never once heard her complain. Not while she was frying up mounds of chicken (she made the best fried chicken in the world). Or while she was making copious amounts of potato salad, fourteen pies (I may be exaggerating a bit here—but only a bit)and all the other fixings that went with a good picnic. She did not complain while she was packing it all up in coolers or wrapping the hot stuff in newspapers to keep them hot.

I have planned a few picnics. I have complained as I made a few salads to go with the inevitable bucket or three of the Colonel’s chicken. I have not been a particularly happy camper in figuring out all the logistics—the who, what, where, when and how of the picnic, nor have I been particularly gracious when it came time to clean up.

I love the idea of a picnic. I love the idea of eating outside. But I do not like heat and humidity. Or bugs of either the flying or crawling variety. I like the picnics that I see the fictional characters of Downton Abbey partake in. But they had servants and cooks. And I believe they may have used crystal and china and silverware at their picnics. Not Styrofoam plates, plastic knives and forks, or paper cups. According to Alice Walker, “Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors” so they are well versed in the practices of the picnic even when picnic weather is not forecast.

I have wonderful memories of picnics when I was a kid. Particularly the one we would have every year to celebrate the Crawford Reunion. (My mom was a Crawford.) It was usually the second Sunday in July—and in the latter years that it was held, it was at Lakeside Park (in Kingsville, Ontario for my blog friends).Tables upon tables had to be corralled so there would be enough to seat the families of my grandpa and all his brothers and sisters and their families. (I cannot readily remember how many but there were at least ten).

We always had a banner affixed with a badge proudly bearing the Crawford tartan announcing our reunion to one and all (and woe betide anyone who tried to take one of the tables under the banner). The reunion itself, for a kid was lots of fun. It was the granddaddy of picnics with lots of people who you were related to in some manner or other, games, and of course, food galore. And when you shared what you brought with the others sitting around you, and they shared what they brought— it was a true feast.

I leave you with a rather romantic view of picnicking from Omar Khayyam who penned this in the 12th century with no mention of fuss and bother, bug spray and sunscreen, or mess and logistics:

A book of verse beneath the bough,
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Ah, wilderness were paradise enow!

What are your best picnic memories?

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Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Put Another Log on the Fire

My newspaper column for this week:

Ten days before Christmas. By the time you read this, the timeline will have shifted. Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Remember when we were kids and ten days was a lifetime, and Christmas seemed to take its jolly time to get here? I read an explanation the other day about why as we get older things seem to move faster—something about events no longer being new to us so we experience them at a faster pace. I am sure that explanation makes sense to someone somewhere, but it did not really resonate with me.

I do find that different things have become more important to me over the years. Things I would have glossed over or not paid any particular attention to when I was younger. As I get older, I may not get wiser, but I do find myself being more reflective and more thankful for the present. Sound like I have taken one too many bites from Oprah’s gingerbread, or delved too deeply into Deepak Chopra’s philosophy, or heaven forbid, taken a page out of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now? (I find all of his books to be dense, or maybe I am the one who is dense.)

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to attend two small parties—one with my Writers’ Group, and another with some friends whom I have known since high school. The warmth of being surrounded by good friends (with good food in our bellies topped up with a little wine) was wonderful, but the loveliness of the moments spent with friends was brought to the fore even more vividly by a suggestion I read this morning in my search for a topic for this column. I turned to a book that my husband gave me over a decade ago called “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” and recognized in number 303 a truth that had been borne out by my experience over the weekend.

My little book of joys suggested in number 303 that “When you have friends over and there’s Christmas magic in the air, don’t let the evening end early. Throw another log on the fire.” In both instances, the hosts of the evening “threw another log on the fire”, if not literally, then figuratively. I stayed up long past my bedtime listening to shared stories and taking part in something that needed no screen, either computer or television or phone, to keep me entertained. The art of conversation and conviviality is not lost—and the closeness of friendship shared is one of the most potent elements in the magic of Christmas.

On Saturday I was fortunate to share some tea with a couple of friends at Tim Horton’s. The coffee shop was filled to the brim as it so often is. Our peals of laughter brought us to the attention of other patrons, who I am sure wondered if we had brought a flask to spice up our hot drinks. We had not—we were just enjoying being in each other’s presence. We joked, occasionally elbow jostled, and left on a higher note than the one we had come in on.

Life is full of these moments. My dream for Christmas Day is that I be surrounded by family and friends and that the warmth of the day envelope us all. But I have learned to appreciate the random moments when my family is just sitting around watching a movie, or sharing a meal and laughing together. Or those moments when you realize that the friends that surround you are the most important thing—and that sharing our lives together is what life is all about.

I have used the word “share” many times throughout this column—and though I could have called on my thesaurus to find a few derivatives of the word I did not—as there is no greater word than share. We share our lives and we are richer; we share our food and drink and we are sustained; we share our laughter and we reach that ultimate goal: happiness.

This Christmas season I am counting my blessings. And the blessing that wins out over everything else is the people in my life. They help me keep what little is left of my sanity; they bring joy to my life; they are the magic of Christmas.

Am I getting sloppily sentimental? Perhaps. But is there a better time of year to realize that sloppy sentimentality? I think not. So put another log on the fire, even if you do not have a fireplace.

What is one of your Christmas blessings?

Published in: on December 16, 2014 at 12:47 am  Comments (23)  
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Slow Learner

Why did it take me
So so long to realize:
Friendship is precious ?

 

Published in: on July 6, 2014 at 9:49 am  Comments (15)  
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If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time………….

WordPress Krista asked today: “If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of your life would you return to? Why?”

First memory: Second year university. Early Monday morning. I just returned to my dorm room from spending Sunday at home with my family and eating a wonderful dinner. It was 5 a.m. and I nestled fully clothed under my covers after taking care not to wake up my roommate. I was totally caught up in my school work, I had lots of friends, I liked my boyfriend at the time (he did not smother me), and all was right with the world. I want all to be right with the world again.

Second memory: The night I met my husband at a dance in the spring of 1980. We have been together ever since.

Third and Fourth memories: When I found out that my sons (one born premature in 1986 weighing 2 pounds 51/2 ounces and the other in 1991 at 3 pounds 5 ounces) were going to live healthy “normal” lives.

I am not sure I would return to these times to relive them, but they live on in my memory forever.

Published in: on April 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm  Comments (12)  
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Happy 4th of July to my American Friends and Neighbours

The friendship that Canada has with the United States is one that overcomes petty jealousies, comparisons, and squabbles. When someone says something is distinctly Canadian or very American they are reflecting the truth, but superficially.

Americans and Canadians are not the same. Yet in so many ways they are. I celebrate our friendship and the following quotes seem very àpropos to our relationship:

“Friendship is born of that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~ C. S. Lewis

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet.” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~ A.A. Milne

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” ~ William Shakespeare

I live about 30 miles from the Windsor-Detroit border; I went to university with many Americans and count some of them as my best friends; I wish all of you a Happy 4th and let us celebrate our similarities and bask in our differences—that is what makes us both interesting!

Peace Arch Park - 26

(Photo credit: David Chilstrom)

Friends are Bliss

Walden.

Walden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just received a thank you card in the mail from a friend and this is what was on the inside:

“Friends

They cherish each other’s hopes.

They are kind to each other’s dreams.” ~ Thoreau

I thought that it was just beautiful and had to share it–here is to cherishing your hopes and being kind to your dreams!

Friends are bliss. Does anyone want to argue with me?

 

Published in: on May 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm  Comments (28)  
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You’ve Got A Friend in Me

Friends

Friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few thoughts on friendship:

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive.”  ~ Anais Nin

I am grateful to my friends for so many things, and without them my world would be one-dimensional.

I would never name all my friends for fear that I would leave someone important out—but you know who you are if you are reading this. And if you are not a friend yet, my heart is open. It is open because the friends that I have opened it.

I echo the sentiments of Cicero when he wrote:

“How can life be worth living, if devoid

Of the calm trust reposed by friend in friend?

What sweeter joy than in the kindred soul,

Where converse differs not from self-communion?”

Or more simply in the words of a Hallmark card:

“You paint my life brighter

And make my life lighter.”

I am inspired today by the book “Friendfluence” by Carlin Flora. The subtitle of her book is “The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are”. I have just started reading her book and pulled the quotes in this post from it, but I am interested see what conclusions she comes to. I know that my friends have influenced me in what I read, how I write,  and what recipes I try. I have friends who encourage me to exercise, friends I laugh with, and friends who most importantly are there when I need them.

I sometime wonder how I have deserved such friends—I am humbled by their friendship and eternally grateful.

I used to think I could stand alone and face things by myself. I cannot—I need my posse of friends to keep me from falling off a path that is at times rocky. They smooth the way.

Today, my bliss is in the celebration of my friends. Could you survive without yours?

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 10:28 am  Comments (29)  
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Exotic Bliss ~ Saturday Recipe

super bowl

super bowl (Photo credit: sinosplice)

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that the recipe I am providing today is a bit out of my league. First of all, it has way more than five ingredients and a few more than three steps, as well as being slightly exotic. But it is so delicious I could not resist sharing it with you.

On Super Bowl Sunday, I went to a hockey game with friends, and after the game they made us this delightful meal. It hits so many high notes, I barely know where to begin~the chicken was bronzed in the sauce, and the medley of ingredients served to provide a powerful  but delicate punch.

I am not a sports fan, but have been to a couple of Windsor Spitfire games, and am beginning to understand why people enjoy hockey. It is fast-paced and exciting. I was in an arena that held as many people as my small town (6000 or so). The noise is phenomenal, but it is a companionable noise, and the feeling of community is palpable. My only argument with hockey is when they throw down their gloves and go at it, or smash into the opposite team members with anger. That is when the spirit of the game is lost (for me).

English: Tajine pot. Français : Un Tajine

Tajine pot.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This chicken recipe was so good that even I, the queen of easy cooking, am going to attempt it. We had couscous under the delectable “stew” and chunks of butternut squash on top. My hostess forgot to put the slivered almonds on top (they were ready—but like me, she sometimes forgets one ingredient when she has guests), and to be honest they were not missed—but I imagine they would provide a nice crunch.

So without further ado—I present you with:

MOROCCAN STYLE CHICKEN

12 chicken thighs, skinned and boned – cut into chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons dried currants

2 tablespoons of honey

2 or 3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (or a little more)

1 and 1/2 cups bottled salsa (mild or medium)

1/2 cup of dried apricots chopped or figs or prunes or a combination of these

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup chopped or slivered almonds

Method for Crock Pot:

Cut each chicken thigh into 4 or 5 pieces. Set aside.

In a large metal bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic, salsa, water, currants, apricots, honey, cumin and cinnamon.  Add chicken pieces and stir well.

Transfer to crock pot and cook for 2 hours on high and then 4 or 5 hours on low. Stir occasionally.

Serve over couscous or rice. Follow directions on package for cooking.

Top with chopped or slivered almonds. Serve hot!

Cucurbita moschata 'Butternut'. Original descr...

P.S. You could cook some chunks of sweet potato or butternut squash and serve on top for colour as well as nutritional value.

Do you have a recipe that is “out of your league” but you would be willing to try because the results are so delectable (or dare I say it, in keeping with my theme: blissful)?

Published in: on February 9, 2013 at 11:31 am  Comments (62)  
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Weekend Bliss

English: Looking down a rural dirt road after ...

Snow covered trees dressed in winter bling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

~Winter Bliss~

Snow gently settles on fragile branches

Clothing bare branches

stripped of leaves by the season;

Dressing them in winter bling.

 

This little “poem of sorts” by a self-described “poet of little merit” (me, in case you were wondering) was inspired by yesterday’s lovely snowfall. There was no howling wind. Big puff balls of snow lazily fell out of the sky, covering the dull brown earth and dormant grass. It turned a world of cold days, blustering winds, and bundled to the nose weeks into an instant, if fleeting winter wonderland.

Friends

Friends (us someday) (Photo credit: aftab.)

I was invited to lunch with two friends whom I have known for decades. We ate a lovely lunch and settled in the living room which featured a large window looking out over a tiny forest of trees made fragile due to old age. The trees in spring and summer show their age as many no longer wear their leaves of youth, but in the winter snow they were transformed to their youthful beauty.

Sips of tea (okay it was really wine), convivial conversation, laughter, and a fond but sad parting made for a wonderful February Saturday afternoon when troubles were momentarily forgotten.

What is your favourite way to unwind and enjoy friends?

Published in: on February 3, 2013 at 11:06 am  Comments (41)  
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~ One ~ Happy New Year! ! ! ! ! ! ! ~ Resolution 2013 ~ Finding My Bliss

12 O'Clock - FuijiFilm Finepix S2950

12 O’Clock – January 1, 2013 (Photo credit: ladytimeless)

What a party we had–I will do a synopsis of it soon–but the food, wine, music, and entertainment were fantastic and the hundreds and hundreds of guests incredible!  Now if I can just get Robin to come down off the table, and Vanessa to move over in the kitchen we will have breakfast. While I am waiting for the bacon to cook, I am going share my resolution and a few random thoughts with you:

In the past I have made serious resolutions; quirky resolutions; philosophically based resolutions; and finally refused to make resolutions on the grounds that doing so might incriminate me. This year I am trying a new tactic in the hopes that I will not be one of those statistics that they come out with every year saying that 92.4% of people give up on their resolutions 3.4 days after making them.

Today I resolve to find my bliss. I put it somewhere and I am sure I am going to find it again. I found my brother’s missing Christmas gift the other day (only five days after Christmas) so I am sure I am going to be able to find my bliss. So what is bliss? I figure it is something that I can probably spend the rest of my life discovering as it takes on so many guises: happiness, contentedness, serenity, delight, harmony, and in some corners blessedness. Now wouldn’t it be nice to be blessed?

The Encarta Dictionary says that bliss is “complete happiness” or a “state of spiritual joy”. I am thinking here that I may never need to make another resolution again—just finding my bliss will encompass all those things I want to accomplish. Losing those five pounds that I lost and found again? Bliss. Eating healthy? Bliss. Being content with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book? Bliss. See how it works? No more having to bother to make a resolution every year—this one encompasses all.

~Looking Back to Look Forward~

One of my favourite columnists is Mitch Albom with the Detroit Free Press. He has written some books, and from the sales figures, he is a pretty successful author. But, I find that he writes best in column form. He is succinct, pithy, and at times amusing. His column from Sunday, December 30th is one I am saving, and I am going to share a couple of paragraphs that really spoke to me, and I hope you will find engaging as well.

He said, “When all was said and done, 2012 was completely different from years before it, yet very much the same, because certain things are true no matter how long we live.

English: Mitch Albom was autographing for his ...

Mitch Albom 。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News stories come, news stories go; nothing is as great as it sounds and nothing is as bad. Technology is replaced by more technology; celebrities replace previous celebrities; science discovers something, then searches for something else.

And the only thing that truly affects your year is how you lived within your own house, how you treated and were treated by your loved ones, and how you helped the people and community around you.”

Then he asked the question: “Judged by that, how was your 2012?”

I think that if we take his observations into account, we are equipped to handle 2013 in perhaps a more thoughtful way. I know that I am guilty sometimes of not treating the people I love most in the most loving way. They get the brunt of my frustration and they do not deserve it. They are the people who are here for me, and will continue to be in my corner. So, in addition to finding my bliss—or actually as a part of finding my bliss, I am going to try to treat my loved ones the way I want to be treated—in effect passing the bliss around a little more.

Mitch is right–the only thing that truly affects us is how we live within our own house and how we treat our loved ones and the community we live in.

Happy 2013, and may you all find your bliss, however you define it!