Monthly Archives: September 2013

That’s life :)

THE FINAL EXAM

At Pennsylvania State University, there were four sophomores taking Chemistry, and all of them were ‘A’ level students. These four friends were so confident that on the weekend before finals they decided to visit some friends and have a big party. They had a great time, but after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and were only back at school early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final on Monday, without studying, they decided to wait until the exam was over, and then they’d explain to their professor why they’d missed it. They said they’d visited friends, but on the way back they had a flat tire. As a result, they missed the final.

The professor agreed they could make up for the final exam the next day. The guys were excited and relieved. They studied that night for exam.

The next day, the professor placed them in separate rooms and gave them a test booklet. They quickly answered the first problem worth 5 points. Cool, they thought! Each one, in separate rooms thought this was going to be easy — and then they turned the page. On the second page was written………

For 95 points:     Which tire? _________

 

Turn a meal into a feast

As the readers may have noticed, I’m a big proponent of the practice of gratitude! Here are lines from the author Melodie Beattie that I love very much:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melodie Beattie

Be grateful…be blessed!

 

The Magic of Fall…

Fall is a very special time in North America! There’s a sense of urgency everywhere to take full advantage of the sunny days with blue skies, and the still warmer temperatures than what is around the corner, as winter gets closer. People try and get out as much as they can, to enjoy the most popular activities of the season which are apple picking, pumpkin and sunflower events, viewing the ‘changing of the colors (or leaves)’, also known as the ‘turning of the leaves’, all expressions for the changing of the color of the leaves on trees anywhere from yellow, to orange, to red, to burgundy, and all the shades between. Fall is spectacular, especially on the east coast of Canada and the United States!

2013-09-28 15_50_12

Today, I went apple picking at Maniadakis Organic Orchard. The owner, Emmanuel Maniadakis is a very hard working horticulturist, a leader in organic practices in these parts. I tasted and learnt the difference between Cortland, Spartan, Smoothie and Gala varieties of apples, and found that I liked the ‘smoothie’ the best, not too sweet, tart and crisp, it was pretty delicious. Good thing apples stay well long, because I picked and bought a whole lot– it will be a while before they finish!

To the left is a fully laden ‘Smoothie’ apple tree. A joy to behold, and a delight to taste!

 
photo (1)While I went apple picking to the south of Montreal, a friend went up north, into the Laurentian mountains. This stunning picture of trees seemingly aflame is from today! The riot of color has to be seen to be believed…people make sure to plan timely outings in order not to miss these vistas. It’s not a good idea to wait too long and take a chance with rain and strong winds as these make the leaves soggy, and often make them fall before their time!

2013-09-28 17_58_42 

Although in the south it takes longer for the leaves to turn, nevertheless, I too saw some fantastic views. Here’s the picture of a beautiful tree, slowly changing colors! Some spectacular reds were too far for a good picture.

With the Canadian Thanksgiving upon us, it’s time now to bring home a pumpkin (the American Thanksgiving is on the last Thursday of November) — it’s time to go to a pumpkin farm next, and soon… 🙂

 

What’s that, again?…fougasse, what?

The city of Montréal draws a lot of affection and interest from people all over the world! North Americans, especially, are struck by its European charm, and appearance — it seems, indeed, like a piece of Europe, stuck in North America! And, it’s not just the appearance of the buildings, the streets and the French language signs everywhere, but the fantastic food choices from the continent that abound here, amongst other things! If you live here long enough it’s possible that you may become pretty selective in your everyday food choices, and with a little experience are able to distinguish between the excellent and the ordinary. Let’s take something as common as bread, for instance. Why would I buy an ordinary loaf sold in a grocery store, when there are ‘artisan bakeries’ (boulangerie artisanale)  where the bread is made by skilled craftsmen who make high-quality and distinctive product in small quantities. (And yes, they exist in many towns and cities, but not as plentiful as here.)

2013-09-27 16.40.47 One of my favorites is ‘fougasse d’olives noires’ — a kind of bread stuffed with black olives, and this one is also spiked with rosemary — super special :)! This isn’t your breakfast bread to make toasts with. Just take a look at the left, and see what I bought today from the specialty food store, Fou d’ici — the name is roughly meant to imply ‘crazy about local produce’, its owner had explained, when the store first opened in 2011.

2013-09-27 16_59_13

The fougasse* is traditionally from Provence, and may be found baked with cheese, olives or anchovies. Some versions are sculpted or slashed into patterns resembling an ear of wheat, and some like a leaf, as shown in the pictures. It has many similar sounding ‘cousins’ in almost all European countries, with a slight variation in recipes and names.

A fougasse d’olives noires is perfect with some good quality extra virgin olive oil, for dipping — here’s some in the picture, in my favorite oil dipping dish, with a puddle of aged balsamic vinegar. In fact, I’d bought some cheese as well to eat it with but didn’t even get to open it! Bon appetit!**

*Fougasse (pronounced foo-gahss) was traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven. The time it would take to bake gave an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread could be loaded.

**Bon appetit – This is what the French say to their companions before beginning to eat! This lovely expression literally mean ‘good appetite’ but freely translated says, ‘Enjoy your meal!’ We should all use these niceties more often, I think! 🙂

 

Quotes from wine lovers :)

One of the most famous wine-lovers, Benjamin Franklin*, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and its first Ambassador to France, has said: “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” 🙂

2013-09-06 17_35_26 (1)To the left, a convivial table between friends :)! In my experience and opinion, deep friendships develop around a table like this…with wine, and foods that complement wine, as the main focus! After all, you wouldn’t waste so much time, effort and energy with someone you had nothing in common with, or didn’t like at some level. With the latter, sharing a coffee is enough — a wine-mate and a coffee-mate are two different animals 😉 — hmmm…and that’s food for thought! Anyone we’ve shared a  good bottle, or bottles, of wine with, becomes a part of our history, and thus, always has a place in our life, and our heart ;)! Conversely, not sharing time over a bottle, makes it that much harder to cultivate a friendship!

Another, seemingly astonishing, quote is from the Talmud: “Wine is at the head of all medicines: where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary.” WOW – I love it!

I’ll close this post with a quote from American country and bluegrass performer, Kathy Mattea: “A gourmet meal without a glass of wine just seems tragic to me somehow”…and there are many of us who share this view! 😉

*Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, was a polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”). A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas, or simply speaking, someone who is very knowledgeable. The term Renaissance man/woman may also be used to describe a person who is well educated, or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields.

 

Shikoku – the 88 temple pilgrimage

A very dear friend of mine, and her husband, left yesterday for Shikoku, in Japan, for a pilgrimage that can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 months to complete!

shikoku_map_22The pilgrimage consists of visiting 88 temples, in a 1.200 km loop around the island of Shikoku. These temples are said to have been established or restored by the Buddhist monk Kūkai, better known by his posthumous title Kōbō Daishi. The map to the left gives a good eyeview of the island and the trek. Some diehards walk the entire distance, while some others use bikes, motorbikes, cars or buses to complete it.

 

imagesPilgrims, known as ‘o-henro-san’ (henro means pilgrim) can be spotted in the temples and roadsides of Shikoku clad in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dōgyō Ninin, which means ‘two traveling together’ — the other traveler being the spirit of Kōbō Daishi. The white gear, and pointy hats, identify them as pilgrims, making them very special in the eyes of the locals who then are very helpful and hospitable to them.

This pilgrimage is more than a thousand years old with over 100,000 visitors each year, through the year, in all seasons. It isn’t exactly a walk in the park so do your homework if you wish to go. Preparation would include learning at least a smattering of Japanese, to look for lodgings and food between temple visits, and training for fitness would be equally important if the trek were done by foot! Are you thinking of going? Well, then, sayonara (farewell in Japanese)! Don’t forget to write home 🙂

 

Ah…Europe, how we love Europe :)

A friend showed me a travel article written by Calgary-based writer Lisa Montforton from June this year, called ’32 things I learned while travelling in Europe’. I so enjoyed the article, and just loved the facts she shared, from a personal trip taken with her daughter earlier in the year. Even though, I’ve travelled through Europe several times myself, I still picked up new information about the food and drink habits, and the culture of certain areas. She seems to have a great sense of humor and injects her wit, tongue in cheek, into most unexpected places. Here’s her description of breakfast, as eaten in France, Italy and Spain ;)!

europeUnder the heading, ‘Breakfast of Champions’, she writes: ‘Don’t expect to go out for a breakfast of pancakes, waffles or eggs and bacon on the continent. In London, yes. The French generally prefer a coffee and cigarette and/or a buttery croissant. In Italy, it’s an espresso* or latte with a roll and a cigarette and in Spain, Café con Leche and a sweet churro’. I have to say her description just cracked me up–knowing how big North-Americans are on our breakfast :)!

There are many more gems in there…I must check out her other writings!

*If you’re wondering about the asterisk on espresso, it is because I’ve been to countries where espresso is just considered a coffee that’s stronger than usual. Espresso is in fact a particular way of preparing coffee.  In other words, all espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. Espresso is made by forcing a shot of hot water at high pressure through very finely ground coffee. This results in a brew that is more concentrated, thicker, darker, and stronger in flavor than brewed coffee, And it’s eSpresso…not eXpresso 😉

 

Autumn or fall :o?

September 22, and it’s officially fall in the Northern Hemisphere! Known as autumn in the rest of the world, it is called ‘fall’ in the United States and Canada, because of the sun’s continuing falling position in the sky. As the days get shorter, the sun continues to ‘fall’ closer to the horizon until the Winter solstice on December 21st. Before I discovered this fact, I used to think that the word ‘fall’ signified the falling of the leaves from the trees, during this period!

The word ‘autumn’ dates back to ancient Rome, and is also based on the sun’s position in the sky as it refers to the Autumnal Equinox.

2013-09-21 18_20_22As the picture on left shows, the view from my balcony has changed, just as the colors of the leaves are changing! No mistaking the advent of fall — tomorrow is its official arrival! During this time I always feel a shift in my energy, and have a very strong need to nurture myself, and to take my cue from nature and its slowing down, and ‘going inwards’. Most people don’t realize their deep connection with nature, and consider the inner changes we feel at this time as a malady. If nature has its seasons, certainly we do too–being a part of it!

How do YOU feel about fall? How do you feel about the changing seasons, on the whole?

I love and enjoy each one to the hilt! All aspects of them, from the foods, the changes in temperature, resulting in the variety in clothes, to the festivals, fairs, celebrations that each one brings :)! Eagerly anticipating all the gifts fall brings!!! Pumpkin pie, anyone ;)?

 

The choices we make…

…take us to the heavens we find :)! In life, a day or a moment will always come when there will be only two choices before us – to chicken out and maintain the status quo, or to take courage in both hands and break from the old mold, which we have outgrown, and which now is only causing constriction and pain by not permitting any growth, nor even allowing in air to breathe. Which way will you go that day? Will you choose to fear the unknown and shrivel up and die…or will you risk the unknown, grow wings, and fly?

imagesCAUU7B82

~*~*~*~

French-born American author Anais Nin wrote:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~*~*~*~

 Wishing you wings…applauding your flight 🙂

 

In defence of ‘wanderings’ :)

Here’s a poem I like very much, ‘LEISURE’, by W.H. Davies! It was during a neighborhood ‘wandering’, in a moment of leisure, that I spotted this little scene in a park, and it brought so much joy to my heart, and then peace, to my soul! Sharing the poem, and my picture here! Enjoy:

2013-09-08 13.59.54

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

 

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care, care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

I hope this sharing will motivate the readers of this blog to find that time, ‘to stand and stare’ — it’s the simple things that bring joy to the heart, and peace to the soul! 🙂