Friday, December 27, 2013

The Christmas sneak thief and other stories

We had a fabulous Christmas in Vancouver with my brother and his family. The highlight for them was a surprise visit from his wife Laine's two brothers, who flew out from Toronto on Christmas day. They arrived with a suitcase full of gifts, just in time to join us for Christmas dinner.  It was a total surprise for everyone and Laine and her mother, who was visiting too, were so thrilled.

Here's the whole group.

There was a mystery though.  We couldn't find the tin of shortbread I'd packed to take over to Vancouver with us.  I'd made it specially to take to my brother as it's a family tradition.  The night before we left, Harry and I went out for dinner and came back to find that Geordie (the monster dog) had dragged the bag of stocking gifts off the kitchen table and torn things apart and eaten a whole package of dog biscuits.  Fortunately everything else was salvageable and I repacked the bag. But I couldn't find the tin of shortbread cookies.  Thinking I'd packed it in another bag we headed off, but it was not to be found.

It was only today, back in Victoria, when we were moving things around in the living room that I found the tin under the coffee table.  Somehow the sneaky dog had dragged it under there and made a valiant effort to open the tin.  Here's what it looked like.

Note the teeth marks and the distorted edge.  Amazingly he almost managed to get inside the tin, but not quite.

Fortunately, the tin remained closed so we can now share the treat with others.  But not with Geordie. He's in the dog house--again!

As it turned out, we didn't need to bring shortbread because son Jamie made a batch to share. And it was a lot prettier than mine, with pink swirls in some and green sugar on others. He's turning into the family baker.

Here's hoping your Christmas was full of love and joy, as ours was.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Five course dinner with wine pairing

My friend Liz and her husband Ritchie have started a wonderful seasonal tradition.  She invited three other couples to dinner at her house and asked each one to bring one course for the dinner, along with a wine pairing.  Liz assigned a category but that was all and so the meal was a surprise--but what a wonderful surprise. Here is her table, elegantly set for dinner.                                                                                         The wine pairing with each course is something that I've heard of but never experienced. It was fascinating and really pleasant to have a small glass of different wine to complement the food.
We began the evening with with a flute of Vouvray bubbles and a toast to all the chefs.  (See below.)    

I intended to take a photo of each of the courses but I was too interested in the food and wine to remember to do that.  So I'll just tell you what we ate. The first course was Miriam's  Middle Eastern soup with chick peas and chicken served with spicy cracker triangles and a lovely gently sweet Gewurstraminer to balance the spicy soup.

Next up was the salad course and Lynne and Bill served a Caprese salad, slightly warmed so the cheese was soft, served with a New Zealand Savignon Blanc. This wine had a grapefruit flavour the complemented the cheese.

My pasta course was a lemon and cream and herb linguini and I chose an Italian Pinot Grigio as a foil for the creamy sauce.  

Liz did the main course of beautiful scallops in a ginger sauce with couscous and pod peas, with a lovely California rose wine, called Chat on Oeuf to accompany it.  (The name is a take-off on Chateau Neuf and the bottle has a photo of a cat sitting on an egg.) 
For dessert Liz made individual souffl├ęs made with Saskatoon berry syrup, served with the same bubbly wine that we began with.  

The meal was leisurely and lovely, lasting about four hours in all as we had breaks between courses when the different cooks got up from the table to prepare or finish their dishes.  It was a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends.  But I wouldn't want to do it too often. Wine pairing is nice while you're doing it but can lead to drinking a bit more wine than you're used to.  I'm feeling less than tip top this morning.

Maybe we'll make it an annual tradition--and try to keep the glasses only half full.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Visitors from Japan

We've spent the last two days with a lovely couple from Japan.  Aiko (on the right) was a homestay student with us about eight years ago, when she came to Canada at age 20 to study English.  Now she is married to a sweet guy, Munehito (Mune for short) and they came on a whirlwind trip to Canada for their honeymoon.

We were so happy to be able to put them up for a couple of days and to see Aiko again.  I think the high point for Aiko was seeing Geordie and Maggie again.  When Aiko lived with us they were young dogs, aged four and seven, and they bonded so strongly to her.  For years whenever Geordie would see a young Japanese woman on the sidewalk he'd want to run up to see if it was Aiko.  Can you imagine the reunion? It was really special. 

Here's Aiko with Geordie on the pillow in the kitchen, and with Maggie in the back yard.

Aiko and Mune experienced some Canadian weather while they were here. Yesterday we walked across the road in the frost to Haliburton Farm to see the vegetables. (And here's the kale photo I promised. It's very healthy in spite of -- or because of -- the cold weather).

But this is what we woke up to this morning -- about three inches of snow. Aiko and Mune had so much fun taking the dogs out to the park for a playtime.   Mune loves dogs just as much as Aiko.  In fact they are planning to get a Border Collie puppy in the spring.  And they will be wonderful dog owners too. 
Even Maggie perked up and became puppyish with this young couple staying in our home. Here she is walking the the park with Mune.  You can see how the dogs are racing around in the snow.

And look at this! Maggie's actually leaping in the air with her Frisbee.

It was wonderful to welcome Aiko back to Canada and to meet Mune, but we're sad to see them go so soon. They are off to Vancouver for a couple of days and will then fly back to Japan.  We will miss them and so will our dogs.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bird spotting

This morning my friend Kath and I took the dogs for a walk across the road at Haliburton Farm.  On our way back we saw a pair of tiny birds flitting around.  I'd actually seen them before but not being a birder I didn't know what they were.

Kath identified them as a pair of Ruby Crowned Kinglets.  Here's what they look like. The photo is not mine, it comes from a website on bird identification by the Cornel Lab of Ornithololgy.  This is the adult male and he's really very tiny.  He and his mate are in constant motion, darting down onto the road and then up into the bushes, flicking their wings as they go.   Isn't he just the cutest thing?

When we lived in the city we didn't pay much attention to birds but up here on the hill there's much more evidence of bird life, especially across the street at the organic farm.  Tomorrow I'll show you what they're growing there now.  Hint:  it's a very trendy vegetable and the word begins with K.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

FInally finished

Just as we'd hoped, the upstairs apartment was finished in time for Sue to move in before Christmas. But it really was down to the wire.  We had to bring son Jamie over from Vancouver to help us with some of the sanding and painting and cleaning for the last few days.  Without his help we wouldn't have made it.  

Here are a few photos taken on Friday night as we were doing the final cleanup.  

And for contrast, here's one taken in early July when we were just starting.  The fridge is in the same place in the renovated kitchen shown below so you can see what a major change took place. Work included opening up behind the cupboards Harry's looking at to create a large laundry, storage room, opening up doorways and taking out a wall between the kitchen and living room.

The bathroom reno was an afterthought so I don't even have a "before" photo, but it's now very clean and contemporary and makes good use of  tight space.

It's been a long haul but we are pleased with the results and Sue is ecstatic. She's been having a tough time over the past couple of months with serious facial and jaw pain but we're hoping this living space upgrade will help set her on the road to recovery.