Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Loch Lomond

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This photo of Loch Lomond in winter was taken by Scottish photog, Raymond Carruthers. He calls it "Buoys in Blue" and it's one of the many wonderful moody photographs he has posted on Twitter and Flickr. Check out more of his work here

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Westminster Win Brings Onslaught of Memories

Last week I was watching a live-streaming broadcast of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in NYC on my iPhone - wonders will never cease!!

Anyway, I managed to capture a screen shot of the Best of Breed, a female I later found out is GCH Mephisto's Speak of the Devil, a Canadian (Vancouver) bred boxer from a kennel which we knew back in the day when we were also showing boxers (though never at that level!) and Mephisto hadn't yet made the move to BC from Ontario. (I'm talking 40+ years ago) By the way, GCH is Grand Champion.

This is the screenshot from my phone

This is the official show photo that appeared in my facebook feed from Mephisto Boxers

The blurb on the Facebook post mentioned that Devlin, as she is commonly known, was Reserve Winner at the American Boxer Club show at only 9 months old and subsequently was #1 Working Dog in the USA. Here she is at 3 years of age, winning her second Best of Breed at Westminster. 

The judge was Ms. Judith Ann Smith and this win was on February 16, 2016. Devlin went on to place second in the Working Group, losing out to the Samoyed* which then lost out for Best in Show to the German Shorthaired Pointer. Best in Show judge was Canadian, Dr. Richard Meen.

* This Sammy, GCH Pebbles' Run Play It Again Ham, by the way, is also a Canadian dog and a multi-winner of Best of Breed at Westminster. Click here for a pic.

Here's a somewhat better photo of Devlin from her 2015 win:

I haven't kept up with dog shows/judging in the last 40 years, but way back when it was considered unusual for a female to win a high-profile dog show such as Westminster because males were considered to portray more definitely the breed traits that were the standard. 

By the way, it is completely possible that Devlin is distantly related to our very first boxer, Ch Scher-Khoun's Night Song (Sasha) because I believe that Monika and Walter Pinsker of Mephisto Boxers owned a pup, also their first, from that same 1968 litter. 

Scher-Khoun Kennels was owned and operated in Thornhill Ontario by Ben and Shirley DeBoer, who bred Can/Am Ch. Scher-Khoun's Shadrack, son of Can/Am Ch. Milan's Fashion Hint. Both of these dogs, well-bred in their own right, would be considered the basis of many modern North American boxer lines. 

Sasha was also a Fashion Hint daughter and did well in the Canadian dog show circuit in spite of being both non-flashy and owner-handled. We bred her twice and then retired from dog breeding and showing, deciding to concentrate on our young growing family instead. 

Those were the days!

Milan's Fashion Hint

Shirley DeBoer with Shadrack

Thursday, February 18, 2016


One of the joys of library membership is the opportunity to bring home cookbooks of all kinds and leisurely scan them for inspiration 

On New Year's Eve morning, when I was at the library to pick up a book on hold, I took the opportunity to scan the shelves where new books are displayed and, what do you know, I hit a goldmine. Four wonderful new cookbooks to bring home and drool over (not literally - put your mind at ease!) for the next three weeks. 

These four were all so different, I decided to share them here. Please note that I did not try any of the recipes. (Yet)

The Urban Homesteading Cookbook
Forage, Farm, Ferment and Feast for a Better World
Michelle Catherine Nelson

The Urban Homesteading Cookbook

This is one of the strangest cookbooks I've ever looked through. The Canadian author is a passionate ecologist with a Ph.D. in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture. You might think that she lives out in the wilderness, but no, she and her partner live in a Vancouver city-centre high-rise one-bedroom apartment. In this book, she explains how she came to be interested in how it is possible to feed ourselves in a sustainable way even while living in a busy city. 

The cookbook is divided into sections: 

Foraging: finding, identifying edible creatures and plants, especially invasive species, and then using them in the kitchen and on your plate. Such plants as stinging nettles, Japanese knotweed (lots of this invasive species to be found on Ferndale Rd. in Muskoka), evergreen tree tips, cattail shoots and sorrel. Invasive creatures such as garden snails, frogs and deer. Enjoy recipes such as Brown Butter Fiddleheads with Caramelized Cattail Shoots, Tree Tip Syrup and Roasted Japanese Knotweed Panna Cotta 

Keeping: the author suggests keeping/raising small farm animals in the city - chickens, rabbits, quail, even geese - for the purpose of eventually eating not just the eggs, but the animals themselves. She also recommends raising small insects such as bees (for honey, not to eat), mealworms and crickets. There are recipes for Rustic Roasted Rabbit, Honeyed Coconut Granola, Insect Flour (using boiled mealworms or crickets) and Dark and Stormy Chocolate Cupcakes, using Insect Flour. Be brave!

Growing: everybody knows we can grow plants in the city. Look at all the backyard, balcony, and rooftop gardens there are. Many people have solariums in their apartment and even those that don't can use lights to grow greens year-round. Sprouts, micro greens and herbs are all possibilities and adventurous gardeners could also try mushrooms and edible pond plants such as Azolla (have you even heard of this plant?) lotus and watercress. Try recipes such as Roasted Sunchokes with Honey Balsamic Glaze, Rabbit and Kale Stew, Fig and Fennel Clafoutis and Smoked Chili Water Lotus & Taro Root Chips with Lemony Herb Dip.

Preserving: tips and how-tos for things like making jam, canning deer, drying herbs, making fruit leather, and duck confit. Enjoy Burdock Lavender Bitters and use it to make a Bees Knees Cocktail. Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary in Olive Oil is one of the more approachable (for me) recipes. There is also a section on fermenting where we can learn how to make a sourdough starter, or beer and cider, along with recipes to make pickled beets, cucumbers, seaweed and cabbage. Finally, there are recipes for making and using yogourt, kefir, ricotta, paneer, queso fresco and mozzarella cheese. Use the ricotta and mozzarella cheese in the recipe for Chive & Cheese-Stuffed Daylily Buds.

There are lots of photographs and many basic tips for the newbie. One of the photos shows the author snuggling a rabbit and I have to confess I found it a bit disturbing, given there are North Carolina grand-bunnies in our family. I know people eat rabbits, but I'm not one of them, especially after giving my heart to them. That is one of the contradictions of being a meat-eater, I know. For me, it wouldn't really be a big step to vegetarianism, but it would be an annoyance for the rest of my family, so I'm saving that life choice for the future. 

In spite of my preferences, I would say this book has many excellent ideas for adventurous cooks who are interested in living sustainably and who have time to indulge in foraging, gathering and animal care.

True North
Canadian Cooking from Coast to Coast
Derek Dammann and Chris Johns

True North

This book is authored by two of Canada's foremost culinary heroes, Dammann, a chef extraordinaire and Johns, a well-respected food writer. They are joined in this culinary tome by photog, Farah Khan whose photographs are spectacular, worth having the book out from the library just for those. But wait, the recipes are also so exciting.

The book is organized into areas: 

Orchard and Vineyard

Canada has such a diverse geography, it seems sensible to divide it up in this way to organize the recipes. So we go from things like Clam Chowder and Mortadella-Stuffed Squid to Wild Garlic Pasta and Wild Pheasant with Immature Juniper, Speck and Pine Mushrooms; from BBQ Lamb Shoulder and Smoked Caribou Carpaccio to Swiss Chard Gratin and Beer-Battered Beans; from ....well, you get the picture. interesting recipes to look at, but not for the average cook. Fun to look at though!

Thug Kitchen
Party Grub for Mother-****ers
by who knows? Maybe they were ashamed to put their name to this book?

Thug Kitchen Party Grub

Okay, this cookbook was definitely off-the-wall. It offended even me with all the swear words. I suppose the publishers were trying to appeal to the younger demographic, which is interesting since it is inscribed at the front with a quote from Julia Child. 

I don't want to put anything off-colour onto this blog, so here's a tamed-down list of the chapters:

Breakfasts and Brunches
Small Bites, Dips and Stuff to Throw in Bowls
Salads, Sauces, and Sides
Potluck Staples and Main Dishes
Desserts, Drinks, and Sides of Sweetness

If you manage to get past the language and don't mind being called "a mother-****er" more than once (not my cup of tea!) you will actually come across some decent recipes. Who knew!!

How about starting off your day with Lazy-Morning Frittata and Savory Tomato and Nectarine Cobbler? If you're planning a party, the Roasted Beet Hummus looks yummy or maybe you'd like to try baking some Spring Rolls. Instead of deviled eggs, why not try Deviled Chickpea Bites? 

Surprisingly, the entire cookbook is vegan. Who knew vegans would have that kind of foul mouth! The Carrot Dogs and the Tempeh and Spinach Calzones were both tempting. And the desserts all looked yummy too, if only you could see past the potty-mouthed language. Who really needs that in a cookbook?

150 Irresistible Desserts in
All-Time Favorite Flavors
Tish Boyle


Now this!! I've saved my favourite for last. This is a cookbook to really value. One that will definitely be coming to this home again and again because there are so many helpful hints and fabulous recipes to try. I just hope not too many other library patrons discover the wonders of Flavorful ;)

Tish Boyle is a US Florida-based pastry chef and food writer. She has a ton of experience and she's not afraid to put her name to this beautiful book. The only downside is the dearth of photographs. The few photos that are included, however, are outstandingly drool-worthy.

This cookbook starts with the Basics (things like tempering chocolate and toasting and candying nuts) and continues on to 

Berries and Cherries
Sweet Cheese

OMG! There are so many recipes I'd like to try. I need my kids to move home again with their families so I can feed them all these treats!

Vanilla Tres Leches Cake
Creme Brulée Cupcakes
Sweet Cherry and Peach Crisp
Apple and Almond Tart
Key Lime Pie
Espresso Macarons
Better-than-Hostess Cupcakes

Those are just a few that got my attention. There are many more! 

Seriously, my waistline can't stand all the recipes I have my eye on. But I'll try a few now and again because I can bring this book home as many times as I want and I get to keep it for 3 weeks each time! Let me know if you're coming and I'll bake us a treat!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I hope I never have to drive in Ethiopia. Meskel Square, Addis Ababa.

Keep in mind, though that this video has been speeded up to look impressive. The other thing you might be wondering about? All those blue and white cars and vans are taxis.

Thursday, February 11, 2016



When a novel has been nominated for so many awards, it seems like a good decision to borrow it from the library:

Scotiabank Giller Prize - Shortlisted

Governor General's Literary Award - Fiction - Shortlisted

International Dublin Literary Award - Longlisted

Selected for the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2015

Selected for New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2015

Selected for the National Post's 99 Best Books of 2015

Selected for the Globe and Mail's Best Books of 2015

Selected for Vogue's 10 Best Books of 2015

Selected for NPR's Guide to 2015's Great Reads

Admittedly, there was some controversy about Cusk's novel, Outline, being nominated for two of Canada's foremost literary awards because, although born in Canada, she lived most of her childhood in Los Angeles and moved to/has lived in the UK since the age of 7. Not much Canadian there, just a birthright, but enough to get on the big literary lists and deservedly so, in my opinion, because Outline is a case of stellar writing. 

If you would like an example of good prose is, pick up this book. Outline leaves in its wake seven previous novels and three non-fiction works, so Cusk is certainly an experienced writer. I would also suggest that she has an outstanding editor and, together, the two have created the magic of Outline

With not a lot of action, it's not the tale itself that's exciting. We know very little about the main character, a woman, whom we first meet on an airplane, striking up a conversation with her "neighbour". Our narrator, a writer, on her way to Athens to conduct a writing workshop, is a skilled listener, and through her conversations with others, we gain insights into their characters.

The wonderful thing about this book is the writing itself - articulate and luminous. How about this paragraph, for example.

She leaned closer, scrutinising the place where his finger pointed, while his eyes fixed themselves on her face, which was young and beautiful, with long ringlets of hair on either side which she kept tucking behind her ears. Because he was pointing at something that wasn't there her bewilderment was long-lasting, and in the end she said she would have to go and get her manager, at which point he closed the menu like a teacher finishing a lesson and said not to worry, he would just have an ordinary beer after all. This change of plan confused her further: the menu was opened again and the whole lesson repeated, and I found my attention straying to the people at other tables and out to the street, where cars passed and dogs lay in heaps of fur in the glare.

Three sentences, but what sentences! And what judicious use of punctuation. This is a writing style that I really enjoy.

The Country Life

I liked Outline so much that I signed Cusk's previous novel, The Country Life, out of the library and, no surprise, found the same kind of stellar writing. The main character in this book, Stella, is an introspective young woman who, without telling them why or where she's going, leaves her urban London family, job and husband and takes the train "to the country" to become a helper for a disabled teenage boy, living with his wealthy family. We, the readers, are the lucky onlookers as she wades through her insecurities, culture shock and ill-considered decisions. It's a rollicking ride and wonderful entertainment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How to Help Every Child Fulfil Their Potential

So many great videos out there! This one encapsulates what Karen has been saying for a long time and explains why it's important to praise kids for effort, not results.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Constance Beresford-Howe: Update

Today's Globe and Mail has a lengthy and informative obituary for Constance Beresford-Howe, who I mentioned in a blog post last week.

Constance Beresford-Howe, author. c. 1985. (Christina Harding.)

Written by the well-known journalist, author and reviewer, Judy Stoffman, it explains a great deal more about Beresford-Howe's life and the books that she authored. Click here to find it at the Feb. 6 online edition of the Globe and Mail.

Sadly, her husband, Christopher Pressnell, eight years her junior, survived her by only two weeks. He died on Thursday, in the middle of an operation for a bowel obstruction. They said his heart stopped.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gross Science

Gross Science is a WGBH/PBS Digital Studios/NOVA YouTube series featuring "bizarre stories from the slimy, smelly, creepy world of science".

Here's one that the kids might have fun with: using your iPhone as a microscope. Be prepared to buy a few inexpensive supplies first.

More inspirational videos at the Gross Science YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a west-African landlocked country of about 274,000 square kilometers and a population of a whopping 17 million plus. French is its official language. You might recognize its former name, Republic of Upper Volta and remember that it won independence from France in 1960.

Location of  Burkina Faso  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)– in the African Union  (light blue)  –  [Legend]

Since then, it has been an area of political instability, with more than one coup d'état and just recently, on Jan. 16, 2016, in the capital city of Ouagadougou, there was a jihadist attack at a luxury hotel, with many deaths and injuries. 

I would have to say that this tiny country of Burkina Faso is just about the end of the earth for me. I will probably never travel there. So when an amazing photo of painted walls in Burkina Faso arrived in my Twitter feed, I wanted to share it. I almost wish I could visit Burkina Faso, just to have an excuse to say Ouagadougou in everyday conversation. 

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Let's hope that this tiny country can hang on to its valuable cultural assets and traditions through any future upheavals. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

The amaryllis that I've been nurturing now for about 5 years decided to bloom just in time for today. Four blooms on one stalk, with a second flower stalk emerging. So bright and cheery on a winter's day.