ZEN AND THE ART OF PAINTING A HOUSE

 

“Ah!  The wonderful thing about a house is not that it provides us with warmth and shelter; but that it slowly builds within us a reserve of contentment, shaping, deep in the heart, the immense darkness from which dreams emerge, like water from a spring . . .”  Antoine de Saint-Exuprery.  WIND, SAND AND STARS.

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The house had not been painted since it was built more that fifty ago.  It had endured the relentless sun. The lashing with bruising rains. The scratching of salt-laden winds. It had not been treated kindly.  Its sheltering strength taken for granted. Each year a little more paint peeled  away exposing the first growth cedar.  The colours faded.  It looked forgotten.  Neglected.  Uncared for.IMG_2063

The house was examined. Suffered indignities as it was poked and prodded.  Were the boards too warped?   Had the eaves rotted?   Board after board was slowly, carefully scraped and sanded .  Beneath the neglect the wood was as fine, as true as the day the house was built.

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So began the rejuvenation of this house.

 

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Every hour spent in the exhaustive process a grateful return for the years the house had provided not only shelter but an enveloping  sanctuary;  a place of quiet joy, of contentment, of love.   The mind remembering the friends and family who had become part of this home.  He recalled the celebrations; the birthday dinners, the excitement of his daughter flying in from a far country,  the supreme happiness of his son’s wedding, the simple pleasures of suppers in front of the fire.  This is the zen in the art of painting a house.

 

 

 

 

(This is stage one of the painting of this much loved house in the country.  My desk is littered with paint chips and photograph ideas.   I am searching for the perfect colour to compliment the river stone front and the elegant new windows. It is desired the house respect the vernacular of its country setting.  This returning a house to its former glory is very exciting.  to be continued …….)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO MAKE SUPER QUICK, SUPER EASY PICKLED RED ONIONS

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How can anything that looks this good, tastes so delicious, be so easy to create.      It took me just ten minutes and a few ingredients to make these pickled red onions that last for several weeks in your refrigerator.

Pickled red onions add zing as a condiment on barbequed  hamburger or tacos..   Rich meat sandwiches such as pulled pork benefit immensely by this intense layer of flavour.

Pickled red onions add glamor to staid potato salads and egg salad sandwiches practically beg to be included in this gorgeous combination of flavours.

Toss a few of these ringed beauties into a lettuce or grain salad.  Beguile sturdy greens such as kale with pickled red onions and some crisp smoky bacon pieces.

A jar of pickled red onions would make a thoughtful hostess gift.  Who wouldn’t have a jar of these beauties residing in their refrigerator.

For this sublime recipe simply click on PICKLED RED ONIONS  and start slicing your onions.

 

 

 

 

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH HOME MADE ICE CREAM

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She was nine years old and had never tasted ice cream.   In the bitter cold of  a North Saskatchewan winter she had tasted frozen cream.  Milk was delivered in the dark early mornings by a horse-driven wagon and by the time it was rescued from the stoop the milk had a raised  cap of cream on the top of the bottle.  A quick slice of the knife and frozen cream became the occasional treat.  War time ration restrictions meant many food items  weren’t available and those that were  (such as sugar) were rationed.

It was the endless  days of summer holidays.   She had spent a glorious day with her cousins playing in the sweet smelling hay loft.  Hot, sticky with prickly bits of hay they opened the heavy ice house door and entered  a dark world of sawdust covered blocks of ice.  The older children chipped at the ice blocks. The rest quickly filled a bucket with the pieces.  They paused to brush the sawdust from a few of the chips and slipped the delicious coldness into their mouths.

The cream custard  filled the metal container.  The wooden bucket was packed with ice and rock salt.  The handle was turned and the alchemy of making of ice cream began.

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She never forgot this first taste of home-made ice cream. Years later when she opened her restaurant  she wanted to  share this experience.   Her beautiful Italian  machine  churned out batch after batch of ice cream.  There were forays into different flavours but in the end she decided to  create one absolutely perfect ice cream dessert.

First she made tuiles aux  amandes – wafer thin cookies studded with sliced almonds.

Then she took pecans and crisped them with butter and sugars.

More butter and sugar and cream became salted caramel sauce.

Finally she made her ice cream.   One perfect flavour – vanilla.   Vanilla ice cream studded  with tiny bits of chopped pralines.

She filled the tuiles with the ice cream.  Poured the golden caramel over.  Added a flourish of whipped cream and finished it with a scattering of glittering pralines.  Voila!! The most perfect of ice cream desserts.

 

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I made vanilla ice cream at our restaurant ROXY’S BISTRO every day for seven years.  It is the perfect ratio of cream, milk and eggs.  I share this recipe with you.  Simply click on VANILLA ICE CREAM.    The praline ice cream extravaganza is a bit over the top but the very best thing about ice cream – you can be as creative or as simple as you want.  These days I walk out to the strawberry patch and pick fresh berries.  In a few days the blackberry bushes will share their bounty with  all who are willing to brave its thorns.  But occasionally – just for old times sake – I do indulge and make praline ice cream in tuiles aux amandes with salted caramel sauce and whipped cream.

 

FRENCH TEA TOWELS … TORCHONS!

 

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“”I’ve brought you something from Paris”.

She wiped the gray dust of Paris from her valise.  Unfastened the buckles.  Out tumbled yards and yards of linen.

 

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“This is what I found the second time I went to the Sunday Flea Market.    It’s  métis – tea toweling.  It’s made to the exact width and all you have to do is cut along this woven line in the weave and voila  you have your towel.”

 

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I caressed the fabric, feeling the glazed finish that protected the fibers.

“It’s beautiful. There’s enough fabric to make  a set of four tea towels.”

The fastidious French kitchen required tea towels to be in sets of four, each with a loop for hanging.  The quartet of towels were used for separate tasks – hands, glassware, dishes and cutlery.

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The well appointed French kitchen had a towel rack with four hooks.  Each hook labeled for the corresponding towel.

Mains, verres, couteaux and vaisselle” said my well-traveled friend. “You’re clever with a needle.   Embroider your initials in red.     If you ever send them to the blanchisserie (laundry) you identify your tea towels.”

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I will cut and sew and embroider my tea towels.  I will hang them from loops in my French butler’s pantry.   I will take joy, much joy in the simple beauty of a tea towel.

 

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STATELY BEAUTY

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It was her custom to visit the garden in the early hours.

To watch the sun turn the mountains  violet blue

And glory in the quiet elegance of the morning.

 

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It was her custom to visit the garden in the early hours.

To watch her lily reach toward the sun.

To grow and grow and grow in stately beauty.

 

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It was her custom to visit the garden in the early morning.

To take possession of her flowers.

Instead she put her silver secateurs  aside

And left the lily for all to share its stately beauty.

 

 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE BROWNIES WITH SEA SALT

 

 

 

This is a truly serious brownie recipe for serious brownie eaters.  It is downright decadent as a good brownie should be.  It contains walnuts, a double helping of chocolate and even cocoa. Every sinful bite of these mouthwatering brownies is worth the calories.  You will never, never be able to eat any other brownie.  This will spoil you beyond belief.

I first started making brownies more years ago than I care to remember.  My  brother Jamie was mad for brownies.  Especially straight out of the freezer.  It all came about when I began stashing these rich, rich brownies in the freezer.  Then when he would visit me I knew I would have his favorite treat on hand.  I discovered the richer I made the brownies the better they would freeze.

Chocolate icing is not good enough for these over-the-top brownies.  It has to be ganache, and the proper French recipe.   No butter added.  No corn syrup.  The real thing.  Simply chocolate and whipping cream.  Hence the name truffle brownies. As if ganache for icing isn’t enough the gorgeous concoction is sprinkled with glittering flakes of sea salt.  It’s all about the ying and the yang in cooking.   If you’re concerned about calories, omit the ganache.  You’ll still have a delicious brownie.   But why would  leave the icing off.  Life is too short not to satisfy your chocolate craving with these sinful, decadent, brownies.  Click on DOUBLE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE BROWNIES for the recipe

Published in: on June 27, 2014 at 12:57 pm  Comments (12)  
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CLAFOUTI’S … where you’ll find the best croissants outside of Paris

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There is the most delightful coffee house.  It’s tucked into the marvelous old buildings  on West Queen West in Toronto.  They make these incredible croissants.   It is my absolutely favorite place.  The Tin Man  popped in to check it out.  Get the scoop on  TALES AND TRAVELS OF THE TIN MAN.  Just keep reading and enjoy.

CLAFOUTI : Toronto – Canada

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THE TIN MAN writes about my very favorite place in Toronto!!

Originally posted on Tales and Travels of the Tinman:

It began by a chance meeting in the virtual world of Blogging….and so the journey continues…

We booked passage on Uncommon Journeys Canadian Panorama cross country Train Excursion……..two weeks…yikers I thought….

Our Second Day was to be spent in Toronto….not caring for Large Cities….I saw her looming before us…construction cranes everywhere..

You see, in Canada,  there are two seasons:  Winter and Construction

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Virginia of BEL OCCHIO’S BLOG had already told us of Queen’s Street and Clafouti…home of the BEST croissants outside of Paris…….off we went

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Pure Victorian Delight……….peace, tranquility and not one construction crane in sight…..only the rumble of quaint street cars going by….

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Then we turned the corner and there it was…………Clafouti….mecca of the Croissant and the Crookie………….more about that later…….

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We came to the well worn steps leading to her front door….

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Inside………the aroma of fresh baked goods and coffee….

Clafouti reaches out and throws a…

View original 158 more words

Published in: on June 26, 2014 at 9:16 am  Comments (2)  

BUDDHA AND STRAWBERRY JAM

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She weighed the strawberries.

Measured the sugar.

The wisdom of tradition whispered to her.

This is state of mind.

This is a way of being.

 

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Her thoughts weighed heavy on her wrists.

She filled the jars

With the warmth of the sun.

The perfume of the crushed berries.

The  blue she had grabbed from the sky.

The music of the wind across the fields.

 

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This alchemy of jam.

This seeing things without distortion.

She placed a flower on Buddha.

This she thought is the zen of strawberry jam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STRAWBERRIES AND THE SUMMER SOLSTICE

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The early sun caught the ragged edges of the mountains.

Across the fields the river mist staggered into the ditches

Fleeing from the brilliance of the morning.

She turned her face to sun and thought

“And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, comes perfect days.

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how

The heart forgets its sorrow and ache.”

She stepped into the field.

The field sweet and calm.

 

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She gathered the luscious, ruby-red treasures.

Filling box after box with strawberry and cream.

Strawberry short cake.

Strawberry jam.

Then tucked a white strawberry flower into her pocket.

“Mr. Lowell is right” she thought.

“It was going to be a rare day for picking  strawberries.

A summer solstice day.”

 

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We pick strawberries on beautiful Westham Island.  This tiny island of lush farmland is located in  an arm of the Fraser River just outside our small village of Ladner.  You reach the island by a single lane bridge that  occasionally opens for passing boats.

(James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) was an American romantic poet, critic, editor  and diplomat.)

 

 

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