Journey to the salmon store

RIVM-estimates-2012-smoked-salmon-outbreak-costs_strict_xxlWe had ourselves a mission. Or, least, I had assigned everyone one. The goal was to make the seven-mile return trek to New Victoria Fish in Montreal. We’d all applied sunscreen, filled water bottles, had cash in our pockets. Peter had his sports sandals velcroed, my mom had her sneaks on, William was sporting his Ferrari cap. It was game time.

We’d had the salmon lox they sell at this fish store one summer before. Peter, who is a master at ferreting out the most character-filled places, had heard about it from a friend, and he and William had checked it out. I had been out doing something, either running or stuffing my face, the two things I do best in Montreal, and missed the errand. But I’d heard about it ever since:

“You walk in and two old men are standing there. They say nothing to you. You tell them what you want and one starts hand slicing the fish. They continue to say nothing. Until one holds out a long knife, the blade as long as your arm, reaches over the counter with it, and offers you a huge sample of the salmon.”

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To Cheese, my love

o-GRILLED-CHEESE-facebookSometimes column topics take hours to come up with. Sometimes they punch you in the face. This week, the punch happened. Because? Cheese. Duh. My most favorite food in the world (tied with bread). How is it possible I’ve never written about my deep love for it? Come up with an ode, ballad, even limerick on its behalf? Well, the time has arrived. Presenting: Cheese, a love letter.

Dear Cheese,

I love you.

Just kidding. You know that. Obviously. Haha. Tell me something I don’t know, right? Haha. This flowery lavender stationary was your first clue, right? Haha. Sorry, I’m a little nervous talking to you. That’s where this annoying laugh is coming from. For the record, I don’t usually have one.

Ahem.

Anyway, how are you? I’m fine.

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Jupiter after dinner

Jupiter_and_its_shrunken_Great_Red_SpotLast night, my husband gave me Jupiter for dessert.

It had been a lovely Memorial Day and we were finishing dinner on the deck under what had become a dark and starry night. I looked up and there was The Big Dipper directly overhead, clear and bright. William started pointing out other constellations, his knowledge vast and exact, and I tried to follow his finger to see where he was looking.

William has a telescope that has lived unused in the bedroom upstairs for the nearly 12 years I’ve been here, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to dust it off. I brought it downstairs to the deck and William got to work, looking like a teenager in the dark as he popped off lens caps and adjusted knobs.

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The power of the sparkle

IMG_3098I spent part of my Sunday draping my best friend Kristin’s daughter in jewelry. I was in Winnipeg spending some time at home, and my favorite little 6-year-old in the world had come over for some tea and scones. We all noticed that, upon arrival, Greta opted to explore upstairs rather than stay in the kitchen where the tea party was taking place. Upon joining her there, I think I figured out the reason why.

“Would you like to put on some jewelry?” I asked her and she immediately nodded. Then she made a beeline for my mom’s jewelry drawer, one she hadn’t seen in at least a year, maybe two.

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A life in cookies

1107530Gabrielle and her best friend Emily are downstairs right now making chocolate chip cookies. As I sit upstairs listening to the pots rattle and the cupboards close, I wonder if there is anything better when you’re a teen. I mean, yes, I guess there are a lot of things. But having the kitchen to yourself to make a sweet snack makes for a lovely rainy afternoon.

Some of my earliest kitchen memories come from helping my mom add (too much) vanilla and watch her beat the eggs so we could make a batch. I always used to marvel how shiny and delectable the chips became even before they were baked, like they’d somehow been awakened.

The best part was parking myself on the kitchen floor to watch them bake. It may well be that I was a simple child, but I sat there for the duration of the 15 minutes it took for them to puff and spread. It always seemed like a bit of magic. Not as impressive as Shrinky Dinks, perhaps, but hell, you can’t eat Shrinky Dinks.

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Facing exam season

exams-300x214For the past few weeks, we’ve been sending Gabrielle upstairs to her room to study. I can’t say it’s earned us any points in the parenting popularity contest, but Gabrielle has finally had to hit the books if she wants to keep her 4.0.

Seeing her lumber up the stairs though, hearing her sigh, seeing her struggle to develop her own studying strategy, boy, has it brought things back. Because there is no greater mental torture than exam season, is there? For me and my slow brain, it was four weeks of intense study every spring from grade nine on, hours each night with just me and my binders of notes.

As I remember it, exam season broke down into four mental states, each wildly different from each other. See if you agree.

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Shards of wisdom from an old lady

strawberry-closeupYesterday, I turned 39. It wasn’t a birthday for the record books, I’ll tell you that for free, but it did prompt some useful reflection. And so I present: Things I’ve Learned in 39 Years:

  • An air popcorn maker really does make the best popcorn. Plus the butter tray on top. Come on.
  • Fish emulsion is the very best fertilizer for my garden, introduced to me by my friend Rick. Warning: it smells and looks exactly like it sounds. Mix it with water in an old water jug so it doesn’t stink up your bucket and doesn’t splash on your leg when you pour it. You don’t want that stuff on you.
  • Watching a great movie, one that lets you re-evaluate, immerses you in art and makes you feel like maybe even you can produce some, is always a worthy way to spend your time. Best ones I’ve seen lately: “The Big Short,” “The Revenant,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Carol.”
  • A lilac bush will make you happy every spring and remind you what the end of the school year smells like.
  • Always freeze more strawberries than you think you should. And eat as many as you can with your stepdaughter when they’re in season.

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A desk of one’s own

deskWell don’t I feel like a princess. I’m sitting upstairs in Gabrielle’s playroom at what is now my desk. I’ve got my pens. I’ve got my daytimer. I’ve got my dictionary. And post-it notes have started breeding on the wall in front of me.

I cannot believe just how happy this little space has made me in the past few weeks. It was discovered when we were having some work done to repair the ceiling in the basement. Normally, I work in the dining room, where I would have been exposed to a whole lot of noise as they worked. So I hauled my stuff up to the second floor, intending on working on the guestroom bed (yay, laptops).

But then I spied this beautiful white desk. Our plan had been to have Gabrielle use it as she was assigned more and more homework (which has happened). But we overlooked an essential element of teenagerdom: 16-year-olds don’t want to leave their bedroom for nothing. So while she’s worked at the little station in her room, this little wonder has sat empty.

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Dinner is served, ooh la la

IMG_2833Today is my husband’s birthday and, as such, it will be a busy one in the kitchen. But I have all of my grocery shopping done, which is always such a cozy feeling, and now it’s just me, a humming oven and my cookbook.

This year, I’ve decided to up the ante on the birthday meal by using a French cookbook. And by French, I mean cuisine style as well as the language in which it’s written. We picked it up at our favorite restaurant in Montreal, Leméac, but so far it’s remained closed.

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Brave new world

stick-shift-lessonA few weeks ago, I sat in the passenger seat of my little car and held on to my hat. Beside me sat my stepdaughter Gabrielle with her hands on the steering wheel, looking like she was about to burst. It was her first lesson in learning how to drive standard and we were in the parking lot of a nearby golf course.

“OK, now as you lift up — easy does it — on the clutch, you press on the accelerator,” I said, mimicking the movement with my hands to underscore the point.

“See what I’m doing here?” I added, performing the movement again, looking like a confused traffic cop.

She looked over politely, though I could see the thought surfacing in her I-scored-a-32-on-the-ACT-while-still-a-freshman head: “Relax, old lady. I got this.”

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