Mastering the Masters Menu

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For anyone who has ever heard of Tiger Woods, yesterday was a monumental day.  I know this first hand because a friend of mine is well-versed in spinal fusion surgery after having the same surgery done a couple of years ago. There is no easy road to recovery.

Spinal fusion surgery is not like getting your tonsils out. This procedure helps to alleviate chronic back pain by connecting two vertebrae that were once separate working parts and eliminating the movement in between them. For Tiger to have that surgery two years ago and come back to win the 2019 Masters Tournament is astonishing!

In true form, I planned my Masters menu and even included a “wedge” salad. I had planned to do my meal preparation in the morning and put the final touches on at my friend’s house while watching the tournament but Mother Nature had other plans. Tee times for the final round were moved to Sunday morning due to an impending storm so my meal prep was done in my kitchen with my laptop precariously perched on my far counter so I could watch as I cooked.

Shrimp Cocktail is always on the menu and I opted for Spinach Pinwheels (shown above), Wedge Salad with homemade Fresh Herb Dressing, Meatloaf Sliders, Crockpot BBQ Ribs and Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars. It may have been a bit of overkill for the small guest list, but it was delicious. I even had a few pinwheels for breakfast this morning and the sliders are teed up for lunch!

Here is the recipe for the pinwheels for those who were asking. Happy Monday everyone!

Spinach Gruyere Puff Pastry Pinwheels

It’s like Spain, but different

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My community food project has come to a temporary end. Each winter from October to April, I organize volunteers to make freezer crockpot meals for our local Food Bank. They have been extremely well-received by the Food Bank clients and I have had an overwhelming response when it comes to getting volunteers to prepare the meals. Yesterday was no different.

The local RBC gathered eight people to come and help with the final chop on Sunday and, as well as donating their time, they donated $1,000.00 to the crockpot project that I call Dollars for Dinners. I had assumed all of the choppers were RBC employees until I was made aware the husband of one of the employees is the Mayor of one of our local communities.

The more I talked about the inception and growth of my project, the brighter the glow of the light bulb became over his head. Before the hour of meal preparation was over, he thought it would be a great idea in the fall to have all of the Mayors of our communities do a chop together. Instead of the “Running of the Bulls”, it will be the “Chopping of the Mayors”.

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I’m excited for this idea to become a reality. This, I’m sure, will have some sort of media coverage which means more light to be shed on the poverty in our area as well as a great opportunity to get more donations to help our neighbors survive the winter season!

Always in like a Lion

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“It will take time, but the strength that comes after will be beautiful,  I promise you.” ~ J.E. Rivera

In my emotional register, March always comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb.  Although my parents passed away eight years apart, March 7th and March 9th are very difficult days since they mark the days I lost the two most important people in my life.  My dad died on March 9th in 2006 and my mom died on March 7th in 2014.  When I look at those dates, I am shocked to see so much time has marched on since they were with us.  It seems like yesterday we were all together and I can still hear their laughter as our family shared some wonderful times.

But time has a way of taking moments and turning them into memories in the blink of an eye.  The pain of loss never goes away but, with time, there is a beautiful strength that comes with the perpetual grief.

Through the years my parents  have been gone, I have come to understand that pain can be turned into power.  I have taken that gigantic sense of loss and molded it into my ability to overcome an immeasurable atrocity.  I have survived the worst and I spend each day being stronger than the last and I can now see the beauty in that strength.

When old houses make new noises

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I consider myself very lucky to live where I live. Not only is my neck of the woods considered to be one of the most desirable and most beautiful vacation spots in Canada, I won the house lottery when I was looking for an affordable rental back in 2000.

I had just moved back from having lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year and April is not the nicest month to be trekking through Central Ontario looking for a place to live. It was an unseasonably harsh winter that year and I received a tip from a friend about a little house that would be advertised for rent in the near future. My parents and I drove two minutes out of town and ventured down the snow-covered driveway to get a closer look.

The snow was piled high in front of the house but I trudged my way through the banks and climbed a mountain of snow to a window that looked into the kitchen. I was smitten. After making my way around the house to peer in the rest of the windows, I had surmised the kitchen was the biggest room in the tiny house and I knew I was meant to live here. I rented the house for four years before I finally convinced my landlady to sell me the property. She loved having me as a tenant so she agreed to deduct the rent I had paid from what was deemed a fair price for the property and I became a homeowner in 2004.

Fast forward to today. Although this six-hundred square foot gem has been my refuge and the place that has allowed my greatest amount of creativity, it is beginning to show its age. This tiny building, nestled into almost three acres of property, was crafted in 1940 and designed to be an out-building of a long-forgotten farm property. It has given yeoman service as a principal residence but lately it has begun to make noises I have not heard in my almost twenty years as a resident.

There are now creaks in places where once there had been silence. The clicks from the baseboard heaters have become much more pronounced and, when the mercury slips down below minus 30 degrees Celsius, the argumentative pops and bangs from the house are much louder than I remember.

Through no fault of its own, my house has aged. If I consider how much I have changed since I have lived here, I should not be taken aback by the deep wrinkles and age lines of the place I have called my home for almost two decades. Although it is tiny in square footage, it is a giant in its presence on my property. I can only hope its perseverance is as strong as mine and we can tackle a few more years together on this land we call home.

Hold my attention

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Facebook is alive and well with ads for the latest Masterclass contributors. For those of you lucky enough to NOT be sucked into the vortex of Facebook, Masterclass is an online platform for creative people, giving them the chance to learn from their famous mentors. The one who caught my attention and made me investigate this latest phenomenon was Margaret Atwood.

The beginning of her video makes me want to quit everything I have been doing, my job, my charity work and my social life, to just write. When she rewrites the beginning of Little Red Riding Hood by starting with, “It was dark inside the wolf”, fireworks went off in my head. Expletives poured out of my mouth, tripping over each other to be heard and, more than once, I had to pick my jaw up from my lap. Those six words made my entire novel seem like a four-year-old wrote it.

One minute and eight seconds into her official trailer, she said the three words that make writers lose sleep, “Hold my attention”. As an avid reader, I know exactly what she means. If a writer veers into a mundane few chapters, I am more than happy to put the book down and I will eventually forget I started reading it. But if a writer can keep me on the edge of my seat, I am in it for the long haul and I will lose sleep to finish reading that book.

Writing is a tough business, but as Margaret says, “You become a writer by writing. Do it, and do it more. Do it better”. Many people, just like me, have written books. Many people, just like me, believe so much in their story and are convinced it will be published one day. But many people, just like me, are one tiny dot in a portrait created by stippling. We are a minute speck in a massive painting. But the more we write, the bigger our speck becomes. The more we write, the more our words have a chance of being discovered. And the more we write, the more we will master the art of holding your attention.

The needs of the one

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It was the eve of 2019. A creature of habit, I sat in my living room with my Christmas tree lights still on, my dog occupying the space on the other end of my couch and my gourmet dinner for one in the process of cooking.

With the new year only hours away, I spent my new years eve at home, ruminating about the year that has just passed and the one that was inching closer to being a reality. As with every calendar year in the past forty-nine of my life, last year had its wonderful moments and its challenges. Each one of those memories made me realize I am not completely the person I want to be.

I don’t make resolutions but I do take moments to recognize my strengths and my weaknesses and make a promise to myself to focus on the things I need to work on, to nurture myself as much as I do others and to be selfish sometimes and put myself first.

With my fiftieth birthday approaching, it’s time to make this my best year yet. It’s time to cut out the things that aren’t working and it’s time to fiercely embrace the things that truly make me happy.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2019.

Follow the bubbles

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I have learned many things about the ocean and its inhabitants by watching documentaries and television shows.  I have been amazed by the palette of colors the ocean is able to use to paint itself, the varied species of creatures who contribute to life under the sea and the vast array of reefs and wrecks still waiting to be explored further.  But I learned more from the bubbles than I did from the documentaries.

Scuba divers follow their bubbles to the surface when they don’t know which way is up.  When they are so far into their dive they become immersed in their surroundings, those bubbles are the true measure of reality.  Divers can become so convinced the path they are following is the best path for them and they become disoriented and swim sideways, not realizing their journey may put them in peril.  Sometimes the simplest solution is the one that helps the most.

The more I began to think about that, the more I realized those bubbles represent the most important people in our lives.  When we find ourselves a little lost or unsure of where we are headed, we look to those people for support and guidance, knowing they will always lead us to the place where we can once again catch our breath and feel like we are above the surface of our problems.

The ocean diffuses the light, just like life diffuses our perceptions.  We may feel weightless in the ocean, we may feel hopeful and trust our feelings, but our feelings can play tricks on us just like the light can alter our judgement.

No matter how lost you feel or what your brain may tell you, trust those bubbles.  They will always lead you in the right direction.