Wednesday, 24 February 2016


The choreography of the kitchen - I peel, you scrape, wine spills, bag splits, beans simmer, sink slurps, petals fall, flour drifts, crusts split, aromas spread, lights flicker, chocolate melts, glass shatters, sauce thickens, finger bleeds, cheese ripens, crumbs fall, sweat drips, spoon bangs, meat glistens, oil spatters, wine breathes, garlic mashes, lettuces float, silver shines, apron snags, you sneeze, I sing 'oh, my love, my darling', and dough rises in soft moons the size of my cupped hand as planet earth tilts us towards dinner.  From Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes.

As Jim and I donned aprons for our day-long cooking class in Rome, Chef Stefano Cirillo spoke of two ironclad Italian cooking rules:
1. Never more than five ingredients, and
2. Fresh, fresh, fresh.......always fresh!
have never forgotten those rules which have now been emphasized by more than one Italian chef. That day marked our first cooking class ever "in Italy" and what a day it was. One of the highlights of our first trip to bella Italia. On the return flight to Canada, Jim and I promised each other to try a new Italian recipe once a week. That pledge over the years has morphed into what we now lovingly refer to as Italian Fridays. 

Cooking in Italy is a beautiful, love-filled family ritual with traditions passed down from generation to generation. I know of no Italian family who does not have at least one "legacy" recipe handed down from Nona. With no Nona and no Italian blood to which we can legitimately lay claim, Italian Fridays are completely experimental and expectations, as you can imagine, flexible. Armed with Italian cookbooks generously gifted by family and friends, recipes from my Passionate Cook classes and pages from cooking classes enjoyed in Italy, Jim and I choose our Friday repertoire. The chaos and laughter then begins!

One early favourite were our golf ball-sized, rubbery gnocchi. Such an epicurean delight! My teeth have never been the same. Jim and I communicate on Italian Fridays with hands waving and gesticulating. Who knew it was contagious? Scary that we actually understand each other. Frances Mayes refers to the "cooking dance". How correct she is. Upon moving from Thornhill, the different configuration of our new kitchen in Uxbridge threw we two wanna'-be-chefs into bumper car mode until we learned the new cooking dance steps necessary to survive each other. Oh, and then there is the wine. All Italian meals are accompanied by, thankfully, is Italian cooking! If the meal is terrible, who cares?

Are we improving? For sure. Practice makes perfect, right? We even serve our experiments to family and friends.....our guinea pigs. Thus far no one has died! Good sign, eh? We must be improving!

A stack of Italian cook books now sits on our kitchen counter ready to be perused by we two wanna' be Italian chefs. Italian Friday calls and needs planning. Addio per ora!

Saturday, 20 February 2016


This was the year in Arizona that wasn't to be. Given the insane exchange rate and plans for an extensive European trip this coming September, Jim and I made a painful decision to forgo our Cave Creek home rental this spring. But wait, though! Thanks to dear friends, Cathy and David, who wouldn't hear of us missing time in our favourite state, a gracious invitation was extended and we have just enjoyed ten glorious days in the sunshine, not to forget also the laughter-filled company of good friends.  My love affair with magical Arizona has once again been renewed.

So why Arizona? Quite simply, I love the outdoors and The Grand Canyon State is all about the outdoors. Humidity free and bug free, it is the land of walking, hiking, horseback riding, golfing, 

swimming, eating outdoors and sleeping with windows open to the cooling night breezes of the Sonoran Desert. Did I mention sitting outside under firy, blazing sunsets followed by diamond-studded midnight black skies? Pure bliss!

One could travel to Arizona for years and not scratch the surface of sites at which to marvel and adventures to be had. From desert landscapes to pine forests to 12,000-foot snow-capped peaks, much of the world's most spectacular scenery is to be found within these 114,000 square miles. Breathtaking sites such as The Grand Canyon and Sedona; 

quirky little towns like Jerome and Tortilla Flats; the sophisticated metropolitan areas of Scottsdale and Tucson; and the spiritual, cultural and historic presence of Arizona's Indian cultures. It is all here for the taking.

For me, it is the Sonoran Desert that will forever make my heart soar. The peace and inspiration of this desert landscape never fail to nourish my soul. As daytime progresses, brilliant Arizona sunlight constantly alters the soft palette of desert colours. Look once, turn around, look again, and it is a different scene that greets your eyes. My favourites, the majestic saguaros, silently encourage me to stand taller. Animal and plant life surviving in this desert climate inspire me. In spite of the harsh conditions, life is to be lived. And when the desert floor comes alive in late March/early April with spectacular cactus blooms, I am reminded that there is beauty in every circumstance and every person.

Tomorrow, we fly home. Thank you Dave and Cathy. Thank you Sonoran Desert. Thank you Arizona. I am inspired; I am at peace and my soul is nourished.

Friday, 5 February 2016


Our easy winter has me totally stressed out. 

Two years ago a catastrophic ice storm brought Ontario to its knees during the Christmas season. Few who lived through it will ever forget the tree strewn roads and highways, the downed hydro lines that left thousands without power and in the dark for days, the streets closed due to the risk of falling ice from high rise buildings and offices, and the many frustrated stranded travellers.

Oh, and let us not forget last year's winter. Mother Nature treated us to ongoing snow storms from November until March. Commuting was often a nightmare; the rate of heart attacks experienced while shovelling almost daily snow falls, increased dramatically. Add to that the polar vortex that plunged us into record breaking, sub-zero temperatures. Ski hills experienced reduced attendance not due to lack of snow, but because of the bitterly cold, windy conditions. By the end of February, most Ontarians were afflicted with that bug-eyed will-this-ever-end look. I still haven't warmed up!

And now we enjoy the anomaly of this winter. Since November, the number of heavy snowfalls and days with frigid temperatures can be counted on one hand. Snow generally falls in the form of light flurries; rain is a more common forecast than snow.  Travel on dry, clear roads is a pleasure. Remind me again why I put my snow tires on in November. Green lawns are visible almost everywhere in Southern Ontario. Wonder when my tulips are going to pop up? Sunny skies and temperatures hovering just around the freezing mark are the norm. My winter boots and hats remain lonely and rarely used in our hall closet. This past Wednesday, Jim and I headed downtown in the afternoon; the outdoor temperature reading on our dashboard was 16 degrees C. What? In early February?

So why the stress? you ask, head shaking. 

You are kidding right? Mother Nature never gives us something for free. Like a gentle song building to an ear shattering crescendo, I cannot help but wonder to what snowy, icy, frigid crescendo is Mother Nature building? Winter is not yet over. What are we being set up for; what does she have in store?