The luncheon of all luncheons

10348391_10153380068748975_1004306591516893963_nIn the middle of every November, about six girls show up at the extension service office to line up. Always, it’s a cold day, made all the more so by the blue shade that lives against the building at 10:30 in the morning this time of year. But these girls, they bundle up, chatter enthusiastically and shake their legs in a vain effort to produce heat.

Always, in the middle of November, the wait is worth it.

That’s because we’re talking about the Annual Homemaker’s Tasting Bazaar.

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Clean as a whistle

irish springWhen it comes to shopping, I would stay my brand loyalty is fickle at best. But there are a few staples in my house that will always be stocked in our cupboards: Pantene shampoo, King Arthur flour, Red Gold tomatoes, Weisenberger grits and Irish Spring soap. I was looking at a cake of it this morning in the shower and realized just how many memories are embedded in that little bar.

I.S. and I go back, way back to the early 1980s when I was about 4. It all started with the Irish Spring commercials. They would feature a man and woman who both had singsong Irish accents. They would be riding horses, walking a springer spaniel while competing in a dog show or doing something else that likewise required a certain amount of pedigree. These people were attractive, well dressed, so happy they were nearly giddy. Then they’d pass by one another and — woo, wooo — whistle at each other. The somehow asexual sexual tension was amazing.

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Documenting thanks

dining tableThis week is all about preparing for our annual Canadian Thanksgiving feast, which we are celebrating with 17 of our friends this Saturday. I love hosting this party, not just for the cooking but for the time I get to spend with friends. As I am brining, rolling, pinching, dicing and stirring, I am thinking about all the things I’m thankful for this year and, because I think it’s important to document, I thought I’d do that here.
So here is my list. I am thankful:
• That my husband is healthy.
• That I don’t feel like I have to automatically knock wood if I say my husband is healthy because I don’t feel that superstitious anymore.
• That his health scare made me understand gratitude.

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Distance makes the marriage

Kim-Basinger-4-196x300If I were ever held at gunpoint and my captor said he would let me go if I could tell him the key to maintaining a solid marriage, I would totally get away.

“The answer is obvious,” I’d tell him, pursing some Kim Basinger lips.

“It is?” he’d ask, pushing a lump of greasy hair out of his sleep-crusty eyes.

“Easy,” I’d say. “Being apart.”

“That’s very accurate,” the man would say, clipping off my PlastiCuff. “You can go.”

“Excellent,” I’d say, rubbing my wrists.

Then I’d pull some intricate karate move on him and restrain him until the FBI arrived.

I was thinking of this while I had my eyes closed on the plane last week. I was mid-flight from Detroit to Lexington, and it’s possible, given the absurdity of the idea that I have Kim Basinger lips, that I was partly sleeping. But dream or not, when I opened my eyes, I knew my answer was right and was never so excited to see my husband.

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The soup cure

brothI spent yesterday morning in my mom’s kitchen making wonton soup. It was a cloudy grey day and just seeing the wind whipping the trees made me feel even cozier standing by the stove. I’d made the chicken broth for the soup the day before and the room still smelled faintly of its warm, heartening scent. Now it was time to mix the filling for the wontons.

I learned how to make this soup from my sister-in-law Jennie, who is Filipino. She made it for us on a bad, hard day when my dad was dying. None of us had an appetite, but Jennie knew we needed some sustenance. So she ran to the grocery, got the ingredients and then went to work pinching. Soon, we were all helping her and were wonderfully distracted.

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Lady Luck stops for a visit

10726305_10154649221220212_1291623985_nI can say, with 100 percent certainty, I got lucky this weekend. And no, not that kind of lucky, you dirty birds. The kind of lucky that makes you so grateful you want to fall on your knees and cry.

It all started last week, when I told my new friend Becca that William was going out of town for the weekend.

“Have any plans for Saturday night?” she asked.

“Coming to your house for dinner?” I responded. “Blink, blink.”

“Absolutely, come on over.”

This was a truly coveted invitation as Becca and her great husband Rick are excellent cooks. As such, when I arrived at their home I felt hungry and bubbling with happiness. In parking my car, I noted their driveway was on a considerable slope that led downward toward a forest. Knowing I would be backing out in the dark, I parked high up on the slope and went inside to meet my friends. Rick had put together an incredible Thai-themed, five-course meal and, a few minutes after I arrived, asked Becca and I if we could pick him some Thai basil while he grilled the chicken satay.

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To do or not do the drive-thru

I was sitting in the porch with a group of my girlfriends a few months ago talking about the new liquor store that had come to town. We briefly discussed the wine selection, and then I started complaining to my friend Meredith that, after I’d chosen my vintage, my purchase kept getting interrupted because the clerk had to attend to the drive-thru.

I am inside, mind you,” I said. “I made the effort to walk in and get my own stuff. So why do I have to wait?”

But it was crickets in response. Not realizing I’d put my foot so deeply in my mouth, I broadened my rant to lambaste drive-thrus in general.

“First, there is the spelling issue,” I said, high up on my high horse. “Seeing ‘thru’ is enough to give me cramps of the lower bowel. It’s like the ultimate sign that our civilization really is on its way to perpetually riding on space cruise ships and drinking our meals through a straw WALL-E style.

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Breaking up is hard to do

mixerI hate to admit it, so won’t do it too loud, but I kind of want my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer to kick the bucket. I feel bad about it and know it means I’m kind of a crap person, but there it is.

My wish for her demise isn’t, I will say, because she hasn’t been a truly loyal companion over the last 10 years. Any day of the week, she’s ready to rock, dutifully spinning or whipping anything I put inside her: egg whites, cake batter, buttercream icing, pie dough, pizza dough, cookie dough. Even when I make bread dough, she’s always game, even though in the world of mixing athletics, it’s the equivalent of completing a triathlon. So thick is the dough sometimes, it causes her to limp forward on the counter, similar to those runners who lose all control of their bodies near the finish line and are reduced to jerking, rather than intentionally moving.

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Goodbye, Virginia

ashtrayA few weeks ago, my little brother Matthew, his wife Jennie and I were sitting in our back porch. It was about 3 in the morning and we’d just spent the last hours catching up. Not catching up as in “How’s the basement reno?” or “How’d your garden turn out this year?” but really getting down deep in there, addressing questions of happiness and health, fulfillment and disappointment, the future and the past.

Matthew and I have always taken time to do this, no matter how little we get to see each other during the year. All we usually need is one good late night to get reconnected in that nitty gritty way.

So when I brought up the issue of Matthew’s smoking habit, we were already in the calm place where we can tell each other anything. He was actually having a Benson & Hedges he’d brought from Alberta at the time, and I was well on my way down my fourth Virginia Slim.

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Good riddance, eighth month

flowersWell God bless us all, August is finally done. Definitely my least favorite month of the year, I associate it only with stifling humidity, searing heat and back to school. We all took our summer vacations in the pool-cool months of June and July. We all celebrated with frosty drinks and Slip‘N Slide. But in the last week of August? The Slip‘N Slide is ripped. The leaves haven’t changed but their green is fading. The gardens are tired and weedy.

I know that if I’ve learned any lessons in the past few years, it’s to never wish time away. And, boy, when it comes to August, I try. But as its 31 days inch forward, it’s tough to be patient.

I actually didn’t always feel that way in August. In fact, Manitoba’s August is Kentucky’s July. First off, school never started until after Labor Day weekend so August still represented the second half of summer holidays. Also, August in Manitoba is quite lovely — still sunny and pleasantly warm, fun summer festivals abound, and the harvest is in full force.

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