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Poem of the Week: Oh, The Water by Dorianne Laux via Poetry Mistress Alison

You are the hero of this poem,
the one who leans into the night
and shoulders the stars, smoking
a cigarette you’ve sworn is your last
before reeling the children into bed.

Or you’re the last worker on the line,
lifting labeled crates onto the dock,
brown arms bare to the elbow,
your shirt smelling of seaweed and soap.

You’re the oldest daughter
of an exhausted mother, an inconsolable
father, sister to the stones thrown down
on your path. You’re the brother
who warms his own brother’s bottle,
whose arm falls asleep along the rail of his crib.

We’ve stood next to you in the checkout line,
watched you flip through tabloids or stare
at the TV Guide as if it were the moon,
your cart full of cereal, toothpaste, shampoo,
day-old bread, bags of gassed fruit,
frozen pizzas on sale for 2.99.

In the car you might slide in a tape, listen
to Van Morrison sing Oh, the water.
You stop at the light and hum along, alone.

When you slam the trunk in the driveway,
spilling the groceries, dropping your keys,
you’re someone’s love, their one brave hope;
and if they don’t run to greet you or help
with the load, they can hear you,
they know you’ve come home.

​For more information on Dorianne Laux, please ​check out her website.
All these poems come via Alison McGhee who lovingly curates them,
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Random Musing: Bike to Work (hell)

My bike to work week started a good month after the official start which is the end of May early June. I took my time this year because there are a lot of mental preparation that goes into even getting my bike out of the bike locker.

First, I have to get down to the bike locker and then somehow I have to get myself to go in. Even though I pass the bike locker every single day, actually getting in there is a little like climbing Everest itself.

Once I wrap my mind around this I have to start considering the key to the bike lock. Where is it? Bike lock keys belong to the world of tiny keys that unlock mysteries in tiny places everywhere. And let’s face it, all keys look alike.

Then I have to remember where I put my panniers. By now I’m already feeling like I’m doing a gigantic 5 kilometer ride up a very steep hill and I haven’t even gotten on my bike yet.

When I finally have the bike, the lock, panniers, helmet which I didn’t have because I drove over it with my car last year, then I’m ready to consider next steps. What am I going to put in those panniers? How do I stuff my work clothes in there and look presentable? Well, that’s easy. I don’t. I’ve accepted that I look like a complete red-faced sweaty woman with wild hair who by some grace of good luck doesn’t stink. At least I’m assuming I don’t.

When I finally get to the biking part I conveniently forget the misery that was last year’s biking season, mainly the complete uphill relentless slog that is Willingdon, Patterson or anything that takes you to “Metrotown”.

Last year I cried. Real tears not fake ones. Why oh why oh why am I doing this I kept thinking to myself? So I’m not sure what made me think this year would be any different.

It’s true, last year’s biking got me ready and able to do the Juan de Fuca Trail fairly effortlessly. I lost my winter fat, I felt fit. Also, I like not driving my car because traffic is crazy and it fills me with rage and it feels good to pass people sitting in their cars when I’m flying down the big hill I have to come up in the mornings.

So having gone through the herculean effort of getting me and my bike ready for the ride, I finally did it this week – twice. The first time was evil. I foolishly believed that my winter (and spring) of doing nothing would prepare me but it didn’t. I also thought that maybe I was still fit from last year. That also turned out not to be true.

So it was hard. And today’s was even harder because I was still exhausted from two days before. But I’m proud to say there were no tears. Was there grimacing? Yes. Was there drool running down my chin? Yes. I’m hoping that the drooling will end by the end of next week when I’ll have three more rides under my belt. Wish me luck.

 

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Lemon Drop (martini, of course)

The Lemon Drop Martini is a thing of beauty. Perfect for breezy summer evenings, a drink on the dock, or backyard BBQ, it’s great anytime, anywhere as long as someone else makes it for you! That’s the key. It needs to be delivered on a tray in an icy, frosted glass.

In an attempt to cheer myself up this last weekend, I cooked like crazy and Dave made Lemon Drops, (several I might add and which turned to Lime Drops when we eventually ran out of lemons). It was nothing less than a perfect collaboration. And guess what? I climbed out of my downward spiral of OH MY GOD the world is going to hell and other self-inflicted sadnesses that seemed determined to take me down. unnamed.jpg

Here’s how to make these lovely little gems.

For one Single Lemon Drop
Ingredients:
11/2ounces vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3/4 ounce fresh lemon (or lime) juice
4 to 5 ice cubes
lemon twist

Chill martini glass in freezer for ten minutes. Pour vodka, triple sec, sugar and lemon into martini shaker with ice cubes. Use lemon to rim the glass and dunk in sugar. Shake martini shaker, pour, drink, enjoy and repeat!
Cheers!

While Dave made these I prepared an appetizer of avocado, prawns and aioli with a twist of lemon, followed by fresh tomato bisque soup finished with whipped cream, and then the final course, pasta with fresh pesto. The next night I made paella. I’m happy to say that all this food and drink celebration beat back the sads and I had a fantastic weekend enjoying something of a culinary and liquid renaissance!

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Italian Grandma Pesto

101 Cookbooks is my new favourite vegetarian cooking website. I love the context and details provided for each recipe. There  isn’t so much that it’s too much to read but there’s exactly enough to give you everything you need to understand the “why” of cooking something a certain way.

I’m not a lover of commercial pesto and rarely eat it but this pesto is simple and fabulous. The trick is to hand chop everything. You can get the full explanation of why it is so much better here but my own feeling is that the unevenness of hand-chopping makes each bite a little different.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic
  • one small handful of raw pine nuts
  • roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and freshly grated
  • A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
INSTRUCTIONS
Chop Ingredients
The official chopping protocol from 101 Cookbooks is below. As I’m incapable of being able to follow any recipe to the letter, we simply chopped the large bunch of basil, the handful of nuts, and garlic and then slowly added in the parmesan and then made sure it was properly mixed. The 101 Cooks method leaves you with something of a pesto cake (yum!). We prepared some elbow pasta, mixed in the pesto added salt and pepper and presto Pesto!
It was delicious.
  1. Chop the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. In the end you want a chop so fine that you can press all the ingredients into a basil “cake” – see the photo up above. Transfer the pesto “cake” to a small bowl (not much bigger than the cake).

Form a Paste
  1. Cover the pesto “cake” with a bit of olive oil. It doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons. At this point, you can set the pesto aside, or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Just before serving, give the pesto a quick stir to incorporate some of the oil into the basil. Francesca’s mom occasionally thins the pesto with a splash of pasta water for more coverage, but for our gnocchi this wasn’t necessary.

 

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Poem of the Week: To My Daughter on Her Twenty-First Birthday, by Ellen Bass

When they laid you in the crook
of my arms like a bouquet and I looked
into your eyes, dark bits of evening sky,
I thought, of course this is you,
like a person who has never seen the sea
can recognize it instantly.
They pulled you from me like a cork
and all the love flowed out. I adored you
with the squandering passion of spring
that shoots green from every pore.
You dug me out like a well. You lit
the deadwood of my heart. You pinned me
to the earth with the points of stars.
I was sure that kind of love would be
enough. I thought I was your mother.
How could I have known that over and over
you would crack the sky like lightning,
illuminating all my fears, my weaknesses, my sins.
Massive the burden this flesh
must learn to bear, like mules of love.

For more information about Ellen Bass, please click here.
A big thanks to Alison for curating these gems and sharing them with the world.

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Random Musing: The Plant Artist

I only know his name through others who have mentioned it in passing. However, in the 12 years I’ve lived here, I have often seen him wandering  the numerous trails surrounding our community (although increasingly less so as the area is developed and green space replaced with housing). His presence is  most often announced through the plume of sweet tobacco smoke that always accompanies him on his walks. Often you see him sitting in amongst the trees and plants, head set on, legs crossed, thin, quiet. He acknowledges you but I rarely got the sense he wanted to chat. So I would nod and move on.   Sometimes I would see him early in the morning  sitting on a log, lost in thought, headset on, taking in the view from the top of the hill that overlooks Indian Arm.  Wherever I found  him, either deep in the forest, often in  the company of a neighbour’s dog, or out front, sitting surrounded by the tall summer weeds, it felt to me that nature was necessary for him. That he needed to be a part of it.

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His property stood out from others for the extraordinary beauty of his garden. Large, wild, exotic, beautiful plants flourished under his care. I imagined that he spoke to them, urging them forward. Be bold, he would say to them. And they were.  His garden was so beautiful it was almost outrageous. How could that much wild beauty exist in one small place.  I often walked by his place feeling as though I was looking at a painting or a piece of art work.  And I imagined that all the time he spent meditating in the forests he was gathering strength and inspiration to images.jpegbreathe life into his own family of plants and flowers, his own creation.

I heard through the grapevine that he was sick. Already thin, he seemed to get thinner, smoke with a bit more fury. Still I would see him in all his favourite places and then I heard he had passed away.

I never really spoke with him, I barely knew him. I only benefited from his unique gifts as I think many of us here did.

I often think about how we all live in these neighbourhoods passing each other every day like ships in the night. And then suddenly you realize someone is gone. They’ve left.  I was inexplicably sad to hear that Randy had died. We had gone through multiple rotations of spring, summer, winter and fall together, cells mutating, bodies changing, anonymously passing each other.images-1.jpeg

I like to shout out the names of people who have died when I’m driving, or walking or thinking. To me it’s the only tangible thing we have of those who leave. Their names, out loud connect me to what they offered in beauty, laughs or love. Randy was an artist. That’s how I think of him. And when I say his name I’ll conjure the natural beauty he ushered forth year after year in the little space that he called home.

Thanks Randy.

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Creamy Curry Lime Cauliflower Soup

I found this recipe on 101 Cooks and it is FANTASTIC. Not only that, it’s every bit as easy as it claims to be. I didn’t have yellow curry paste so I used a good heaping tablespoon of curry powder. It gives you the option of coconut milk or cashew milk. I used coconut and squeezed two limes into after it was done with salt to taste. My topping was crushed raw cashews and finely chopped green onions and it was deeeeeeee-licious. There are some great recipes on 101 Cooks so hurry over and check them out. I’m definitely going to be going back for more!

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101 COOKS PHOTO CREDIT

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons yellow curry paste, or more to taste
3 small new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large head of cauliflower florets (~1 1/2 lb)
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
, plus more to taste
1/2 – 1 cup cashew milk or coconut milk
1 lime

to serve: croutons, or (as pictured) toasted pine nuts, fried shallots, hemp seeds, and more of the yellow curry paste whisked with a bit of shallot oil

Pour the olive oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, stir in the onion, and garlic. Sauté for a couple minutes, just long enough for things to soften up. Stir in the curry paste, potatoes, cauliflower, and salt, and allow to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add 4 1/2 cups of water, and bring just to a boil. Dial back the heat and simmer just long enough for the cauliflower and potatoes to get tender throughout, another 5-10 minutes. Immediately remove the soup from heat, and transfer to a high-speed blender (in batches, if necessary). Alternately, you can use a hand blender directly in the pot. Stir in the cashew milk. And here’s the make or break step – add more salt if needed, and a good amount of fresh lime juice. Adjust until the seasoning is balanced and just right. It should taste bright and sharp, and delicious. Serve sprinkled with any/all of the suggested toppings.

Serves 8.

PREP TIME: 10 MIN – COOK TIME: 15 MIN

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