Mountain top reading

Mount Royal picnic site

Me voici dans les environs ou il me plait prendre mon petit-dejeuner-le-matin de temps en temps.  L’arbre dont son nom j’ignore (en francais je viens d’apprendre les noms des arbres et c’est un bouleau!) Je continue – cette arbre, le bouleau, est fixe dans une niche [ je pense c’est le bon mot] entre un plateau [??] de roche ou je me trouve assis.

[Hey, my incredibly awkward beginning to this blog – in the original version – seems to flow much better when I expressed it en francais.  Malheureusement, je suis assis devant le clavier chez mes parents et icitte, les accents, grave et aigu, les tres mignons cedilles sur les c, sont cachees qq-part et c’est pas ecrire en francais sans les accents. Pas de tout, pas de tout, pas de tout.  Et puis….. je retourne a mon originally-blogged language which is Capital E-nglish (with a little help from our German friends).]

[This is the original beginning to the mountain-top reading blog of Sunday, August 4 re-written when I saw that the original beginning had language that just-didn’t-flow, way-too many commas and well, it just didn’t please me in the way that this place that I sometimes eat breakfast at and linger and read at…not a great linguistic construct, that, but at least it’s a parallel construct…this place pleases me, but the description, not-at-all.  Here, I’ll bring my breakfast hot-from-home, and, when my schedule permits, I continue here and read books.  The birch tree which is rooted right in the middle in a small space between this large flat rock reminds me of a large rock along the Dickie Lake Road which has a similar birch growing, somehow, in a small space.  At first glance, both trees – the Dickie Lake birch and the one pictured here – seem to be growing right out of the rock.

The view from my picnic table looks down over a large picnic area which is situated just above (or behind) the chalet and the belvedere.   I can sometimes be distracted by others in the vicinity doing various martial arts, or throwing frisbees or playing catch with their kids.  But in the morning, at 8:30am,  it has the advantage of bird sounds and amazing light, and I climbed maybe 160 metres of elevation (with my bicycle) to get here, so I have an appetite and am already somewhat focused for my reading.  Not many users in this large area in the morning and the other users of this area, if any, are usually alone and into their own meditative pursuits.

What am I reading up here?  Well, if it’s in my Goodreads recently, I may have read parts of it here.  Last summer, which was before I discovered the advantages of this particular picnic site spot, I was bringing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek on my bike rides up the mountain.  But this summer and fall, I’m reading novels – literature, I hope.  Right now I’m reading a Michael Crummey novel set in the fictional outport of Paradise Deep in Newfoundland.  And then I have my regular 4 track Bible reading program which in September has me in Isaiah, Proverbs, Luke and Hebrews (some top notch Biblical writing, to be sure).  I’ve been reading a 1950’s Short History of Christianity by Martin Marty and “Credo” by Hans Kung.  Books like that I’m not reading in a hurry, but at a pace where I can contemplate what the author is really saying.  There is another book that is so complicated that I have to be in a spot where I can really concentrate before I can make any progress in aligning my thinking with that of the author.  This would be my best reading spot and probably the one where I am least likely to fall asleep mid-page.

And this is me re-establishing my Sunday blog on the Labour Day weekend, 2016.

Barbados Booking High

Eastern Caribbean Map
Eastern Caribbean islands

This afternoon I’ve been on an anticipatory Friday afternoon high, but not the typical release that comes with the venue of a holiday weekend ahead, but even more – a Barbados Booking High!

In the last two days I spent hours looking at travel possibilities, trying to balance Carol’s expressed needs for all-inclusiveness and a book-reading perch with a view, with my needs for both comfort (and nothing is more comfortable than a happy wife) and adventure.

Over 3 of the last 4 years we’ve spent a post concert (“One 12”, 13, and 15) pre-Christmas holiday in Dominican Republic at an all-inclusive, ditto for 2013 and in last year’s version we took a step in the Ted adventure direction by branching out from an old favourite – the 7 mile, Negril Beach and combining a stay at a budget all-inclusive with acceptable Jamaican cuisine (we had memories of going to Merrils for short stays with family) with a slick hotel down the beach which was strictly a-la-carte once you got beyond breakfast.

With 2015’s holiday successfully breaking us out of the package-all-inclusive mould, I started planning this year’s version.  I prefer to start with something that I already know somewhat for having been there once – Barbados, and going on variations from there.  Our first and only trip to Barbados had been a home-stay (thank you, Lashleys) and we made great connections that trip with relatives of our friend whose home we were staying at, who took us on a day’s tour around the entire island of Barbados.  We felt the wind at The Crane, saw the surfers at Bathsheba, and rounded, by way of the hilly north to the flat and gentle waters of the (over-developed) west coast.  All that and lunch at our hosts lovely central-Barbados hilltop home.  Beijans are nothing, if not hospitable.

When I checked out flights to Barbados yesterday, the prices were quite good by pre-Christmas standards.  I kept that in mind, but I didn’t ye

First Night Hotel - clean, modern and on the beach in Barbados
First Night Hotel – clean, modern and on the beach in Barbados

t know what I was going to do with it.  Travelzoo is an email letter that sends out weekly travel deals.  It always piques my interest to look at travel options that are also available at good prices. This week’s Travelzoo deals had a St. Lucia resort that got me checking into how I might get there.  In the process of trying different flight possibilities of combining a Barbados flight with a pond-jumper over to St. Lucia, I saw that some of these Liat flights were not direct connections but stopped over in Fort-de-France (Martinique) or St. Vincent.  In the end, I took St. Lucia out of the equation entirely when I saw an all-inclusive (my wife’s guaranteed approval) available at a very acceptable price per day that had impeccable rooms and great reviews on the food…in St. Vincent.

St. Vincent is now where we are really going for the week following the concert in December.  We are taking a return flight, Montreal – Barbados, relaxing for the afternoon and evening at the pictured hotel quite convenient to the airport (South Beach Hotel) and then heading back to Grantley Adams after breakfast and lunch for the 40 minute flight with Liat to St. Vincent.  From that point we are in the hands of the all-inclusive hands of Buccament Bay Resort.  A couple of hours after arriving this will be our westward sunset view from the resort on the beach.  There is a reef and crystal clear water right off the beach at the resort, so my relaxation WILL be including colourful fish-gazing.  Oh yes, bring it on!


Update:  September 23.  We decided to forgo the unknown of St. Vincent & Liat air connections for the comforts of an all-inclusive on the west side of Barbados.  Looking forward to walking miles along the beach in Barbados, hanging with the Brits at The Club and swimming in the clear waters with the sea turtles.

Swimming with turtles in Barbados

Cottageday 1 Ambitiously realistic

Day one of my cottage vacation has me delving into the books from first light in the bedroom window, with James Alan McPherson “Elbow Room”.  This is a Pullitzer prize-winning short story book from a black American author who died earlier this week.  Ted deems it “prize-deserving and thoroughly enjoyable”.  Its city settings totally out of context with life in Muskoka.

After swim, breakfast, run, breakfast, swim, I reclined in zero gravity (??) next to a maple sapling and checked out the maples in Donald Culross Peattie “A Natural History of North American Trees”.  This writer, who died in 1964, has the perfect educational background for me:  French Poetry at University of Chicago and botany at Harvard before working for the Department of Agriculture”.  [See inside jacket photo]

Culross Peattie bio
Culross Peattie bio

The language usage is outstanding.  Noted: rachitic, elegiac, dietetic, mayfly, wraithlike, sesquipedalian.  Searching for the Latin expression used by Peattie, “Horribile dictu” I came across the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary, available for a 14 day trial – SOLD!  Will be looking to expand my knowledge of words over this vacation.

Here’s a two paragraph quotation from Peattie which I cite, not particularly for the language, but for the subtle yet precise way that the author expresses an opinion on the landscaping uses of the Silver Maple Tree:

“A tree with so many charms has naturally been planted far beyond its natural range, and everywhere within it.  In the South, where it is rare as a native tree, it is common as a street tree. In the West, even in southern California where deciduous trees usually find little favor, it is a favorite, for it cannot grow without lending grace to any spot; it makes a railroad station look like a home, and adds a century to the appearance of a village street. It is the fastest growing of all our Maples, one of the fastest among all trees suitable to our climate, be they native or exotic.  It is as charming in its childhood as in age, and in its youth goes through no awkward stage.

Yet landscape architects have little good to say of it.  They complain of the insect pests that attack it, and of its comparatively short life, as well as the breakage of its brittle and too-long boughs under wind and ice damage.  They urge that it be planted, if at all, in the full knowledge that it’s quickly achieved effects will not last long, and that more permanent if slower plantings be started at the same time.  It may be that we should always listen to cautious and sensible people and not allow ourselves to think too highly of a tree that will perhaps only live three times as long as we do.”

Natural history and language brought together, like Annie Dillard also capably accomplishes in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”.  A treat to consider Culross Peattie’s writing and learn natural history, American history and language, all together.

book cover photo Donald Culross Peattie: A Natural History of North American Trees
Excellent language use forces a first day cottage blog

Prepared for a cottage vacation



The above view is a good summary of what I expect of my 10 or so days at the cottage this summer.  Taken from the hammock where I read, read, read, it looks over the water where I swim, swim, swim and when conditions are right – Windy, mais pas TROP venteuse – I set out on my Laser sailboat.

Today, I am all packed, as when I did the wash yesterday I assembled the appropriate clothes directly into my suitcase.  I kept telling myself that this year I will keep my expectations of what I am going to do at the cottage simple – besides the above, we’ll be eating, running or walking a lot (1/2 marathon to prepare for this fall) and after expending all that energy, sleeping so soundly, like only the cottage environment allows me to do.

Other years I may have included non-traditional cottage tasks, which strangely, I never accomplished.  Some of them:  Learning another language, making speakers – an alternative sound system for my truck, doing calling for an August market (this year it is Sept. 10); so many projects / so little time – the cottage is not conducive for THAT!

It is always a pleasure to make the 6-8 hour drive to the cottage.  Because of the anticipation.  Passing familiar places that you just see once a year.  Much of the route is itself cottage country.  Once past Ottawa we’ll be passing lakes on the left and the right, past Round Lake (Camp Mishewah – camp of my youth), through Algonquin Park, and stopping to provision along the way (but not over-doing the food purchases this year).

And arriving – unloading the trunk – it is all going to be in the car trunk this year – but for the canoe paddle which must go in the back seat. It will be such a quick unload; and then we’ll put clothes in a drawer and pull out one of three bathing suits and swim in the lake – just for fun – we’ll leave the laps of exercise up and down the shore for tomorrow.

To throw you off my trail a bit...
To throw you off my trail a bit…

Pain ressusciter

Ce matin pour ma fête, j’ai voulu commencer avec un petitPain_ressuscite_vector déjeuner fabriqué des aliments que j’ai déjà en main. Donc, s’il me reste un pain italien bien sec, des oeufs et du lait avec la date d’expiration demain, c’est bien evident l’affaire que je peux facilement confectionner. Le pain perdu!

J’ai cherché mon blogue avec le tag ‘breakfast’ parce que j’ai déjà une simple recette pour pain perdu (French toast) écrite dans la série “17 Favourite breakfasts” (mes dix-sept petits déjeuners préférés).  Après avoir fouetté un oeuf dans un quart de tasse de lait, j’ai gratté (rapé?) dedans un petit peu de noix de muscade et j’ai saupoudré légèrement mon affaire de la cannelle.

Il me reste du gras d’un rôti de porc cuisiné hier.  J’ai eu peur que le pain va goûter de l’ail mais, finalement ce n’était pas le cas.  Le pain bien sec a ‘gobber’ le mélange oeuf-lait comme un éponge. Le pain perdu n’était pas cause perdu (lost cause?) mais un réussite total!

Donc, je suggère humblement que les Larousse et les Roberts du monde francophone ajoutent au lexique ‘pain ressusciter’.

Yerba Maté

This morning I broke open my first-ever package of the tea-like infusion: yerba maté.  When I bought this at Asiatica in December, I had in mind that this drink was associated with Che Guevara – Cuban Revolutionary from Argentinian roots.  Why did I suspect this?  Because my Spanish teacher over at the community centre was always sipping from his tea thermos of maté, and a sideline of my Spanish teacher was performing Che Guevara monologues.  The maté was part of his Che Guevara thing.  Googled yerba maté and Che Guevara – yes, the two are connected.  Yerba maté is a common drink among Argentinians.

somewhat revolutionary (for me)

What is yerba maté?  These are the ingredients in my pouch:  yerba maté (the leaves from the bush?), goji berries, seabuckthorn, carrots, rosehips, natural flavour.  Infused, my maté smells mildly of turpentine but is pleasant to drink, somewhat revolutionary (for me) and might be assumed to have positive medicinal effects, at least as much as drinking liquids is generally a good thing, and maybe more.

I’m tempering the revolutionary nature of this drink this morning by having a slice of bread slathered with peanut butter and subsequently coated with strawberry freezer jam 2014.

That’s about my speed.  Now to the hills (going X-country skiing, not hiding out).

Favourite breakfast seventeen

The favourite breakfast that will finish my seventeen favourite breakfasts series is particularly well associated with Christmas for me. It’s not a breakfast that brings back fond memories from my youth – it only began for me as a newly-married man, so it is a breakfast that comes from Carol’s rich culinary tradition – corn porridge.

This Christmas morning, 2014, in Mississauga, Marilyn cooked up the white corn to make a most delicious corn porridge. For want of corn porridge in these recent years, I was looking around for milk for my porridge to swim in while everyone else had proceeded to the table with their bowls. Part of the richness of corn porridge is that it is made with con-densed milk, so no 1 or 2%, skim or homogenized need be applied.

Perfect start for this perfect Christmas with family.

Corn Porridge

Favourite breakfast sixteen

This is the second last in my 17 part Favourite breakfasts series.  Started it on Facebook and then, when I created my own blog site I reposted the first four in the series on the blog and am soon concluding the series.  Several breakfasts are currently fighting it out to be the series ultimate (doesn’t mean greatest, just means last).

This morning my brother, Greg, is picking up sausage on my behalf in his hometown of Anonymousville (it’s a long name with lots of esses in it) and taking it to Eden High School in Saint Catharines, Ontario.  I would be making this run myself, but Jireh Gospel Choir is in concert this evening in a beautiful theatre in Assomption, Quebec – ben trop loin-distance pour moi de tracer ce trajet moi-meme – so I found the next best reliable substitute to make this delivery of 3000 lbs of sausage (give or take).  Thanks, Greg.

So while Greg is QEWing past Stoney Creek I am writing this blog and when I finish and post this I will home prepare a Ted McMuffin. Fry up some of that ready-cooked bacon that I sell at St. Catharines market (November 29th is the next market date – you can order now at 1-877-886-8372 or along with an egg.  When I turn the egg over I put on some cheddar cheese (aged) that I purchased at giant warehouse club store so that it melts (the cheese, that is) on my egg.  Insert in toasted english muffin – or as we call them here, muffin anglais (hmm, muffins are masculine…) Done.

This breakfast is appropriate today because long ago in a land named Breslau, Ontario, I would make two of these in my kitchen at home and eat them as I drove my product-laden truck to Saint-Catharines, Ontario to sell said sausage produce at the market.  So today, I am eating the road breakfast in honour of my brother who is on the road to Saint Catharines.

When Carol and I drive the 401 to Toronto and places beyond or  the 417 thru Ottawa to the 17 to the 60 to South Portage Rd to Brunel Rd 2, left thru downtown Baysville across the S. Muskoka River up and through a rock cut that is ever young seen from my older eyes and then right on Echo Rill Lake Rd to the cottage that mom and dad found when I was very young (pre-rock cut days).  When we go that way, or the former, simpler route to Toronto we also usually stop at the restaurant whose name is scottish that made the egg on a muffin anglais creations famous and we buy one each of their famous versions.

So, nice memories recreated with food or drink – see previous blog – somewhere Septemberish.  Getting hungry and ready to go back to bed before it is too late.

Egg **Muffins, whether made at home with superior bacon or bought when off to somewhere distant is favourite breakfast sixteen in my 17 favourite breakfasts series.CarolSmile

Favourite Breakfast fifteen

Favourite breakfast #15 in “17 Favourite Breakfasts” series is a way of a approaching a breakfast buffet that I’m going to call Buffet-Local:

This morning in the D.R. I assembled the pictured plate from the section of the extensive buffet selections that featured Latin American choices. We have (counter-clockwise starting at 3h00) pumpkin, stewed tomatoes, spinach (much like callaloo) and onions with bacon, beans, papas, queso frito and mangú (mashed plantain or, perhaps, banana). One unidentified item in the middle of the circle – I’ll take another look tomorrow at the titles on the buffet hood. I had my cafe con leche because that’s probably what the locals would do.

In Milan (great hotel buffet breakfast memories from 2009) my buffet-local breakfast featured chunks of Parmesan or possibly Grana Padano cheese.

I love bringing back a vacation memory by adding these items to my breakfast palate back in Montreal. Done that with Grana Padano many times since prep – cutting into cubes – is so easy. Won’t be cooking up the pumpkin & plantain, stewing tomatoes, cooking callaloo or frying the cheese at home – so I better enjoy that when I’m here.


French toast

French toast
French toast

Favourite breakfast #14 is French toast.

You might say it is my up-and-coming, new favourite breakfast, not because I’ve never had it before, but because quite possibly I’ve never made it myself before.

The impetus for the eggy-bread this morning was a fridge that was ripe with some traditional french-toast accompanying fruit that was already cut up and prepared (peaches) or just generally on standby (huge blackberries) or half-gone-bad (strawberries). Then there were 2 & 2/3 slices of bread from a Greek bakery that I had taken to work one day (but didn’t eat lunch that day) and then taken it to Ontario, but again, ignored it. It was good bread – it just needed a new get-up. French toast would be that vehicule.

I checked one cookbook for a recipe and then I just Googled it and chose the simplest recipe – though I only read one. Besides the bread (white is best, in my experience) all you need for the most basic French toast is 1 egg and 1/4 cup of milk per each person. (example 2 people – 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk – lest there be confusion due to the conjunctivity). Then the author of the recipe I was using suggested nutmeg and cinnamon could be added. I grated a very small part of a nutmeg and sprinkled a very modest amount of cinnamon into my solution. You need some grease in the frying pan. The fridge wasn’t swimming in butter so I chose sunflower oil.

I won’t give the rest of the instructions – I think you can figure it out.

This isn’t a breakfast that needs sausage or bacon, but I had some previously-barbecued old-fashioned maple-smoked sausage taking up fridge space. I cut it in thirds longitudinally and laid it in the still hot frying pan to warm. I didn’t want anything too smoky with my peaches, strawberries and blackberries. the maple-smoked that Dettweiler’s make is milder and fit the bill perfectly.

If I had posted a picture of the finished plate of french toast, fruit and sausage (with several pours of maple syrup on top) it wouldn’t have pleased anyone but a hungry truckdriver. Let me just say that I put 2100 km on my Sierra pickup in the last 4 days and this truckdriver was just too hungry to take a picture.