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The Wrath of Grapes

Looking out of the kitchen window, I can see grape vines in the yard.  This neighbourhood in Toronto  had many Italians, as evidenced by the grapes vines  on metal structures that create canopies for porches, cars and backyards. Some are still maintained, and others left to fend for themselves. The vines that are visible from the kitchen window are fending for themselves and  doing quite well. There are an abundance of grapes – I’d venture to say a ridiculous amount.

The vines  have wrapped around the electrical wires that connect electricity to the house from the back lane. The wires are quite weighed down. As my friend is moving into an apartment today that actually opens into the backyard (mine does not), I thought I’d take the opportunity to go through her new place into the backyard. No problem, I thought, I’d  simply cut  back the vines on the wires to make sure we don’t end up running out of power the hard and dangerous way.

My first lesson about grape vines is that they are tough. Too tough to cut with the kitchen knife and scissors that I brought outside with me. The second lesson is that they wrap themselves around the things they are growing on in a very intricate fashion. They have wrapped their grapey tendrils, along with the vine itself, around the wires for about 10 feet. Around and around and around. This is not happening as I had planned.

Moving on to plan B – lighten the load. I start cutting the grapes from the vines, reasoning that at least this will lighten the weight on the wires. I think I got about 15 lbs of grapes off the vines. They’re sweet but sour, with seeds and of the wine variety, I think.
Here is what they look like on the counter:

italian grapes

Anyone know how to make wine? I probably have enough for a few bottles. Truly, I’m guessing. But if you have or can make wine, perhaps you can send me a message. I hate to waste food. It breaks my heart.

Fava Beans on Arugula

On Violetta’s request. Please note that my recipes are just estimates – I cook from instinct and testing, not from measuring.

favabeans

Fava Beans on Arugula

A bunch of fresh fava beans in their pods – if it’s a full meal, have about 10 pods per person, which is about 40 actual beans

Arugula – enough for the number of people you are having – about 2 cups per person

Shallots – 1 shallot for every 10 pods – you can sub garlic or onions here, too.

Olive oil – about 2 tsp. per 10 pods

Butter – just a dab when cooking for flavour

Salt & freshly ground pepper

Here’s how:

1. Cut pods from the fava beans by cutting along the seam and removing the beans. They are about 2/3 pod and 1/3 bean- with about 4 beans per pod. What you see in the picture above is about 10 pods, and I ate them all.

2. Put ice into a bowl with tap water and sit it near the stove.

3. Boil some very salty water – I put two tablespoons in – this won’t affect the flavour as there’s still an outer pod on the bean. Put the beans in the boiling, salty water for 3 minutes. Remove beans from the boiling water with a sieve or slotted spoon and immediately plunge the beans into the ice water. Leave them there until they cool.

4. Peel off the outer shell of the beans and discard. You’ll then have just the very green bean centres, which is what we’ve been after this whole time.

5. In a saucepan, add olive oil and a little bit of butter. Enough oil to cook the beans, and the butter is just for flavour. I used mostly olive oil.

6. Finely dice up a shallot and add to the pan and sauté for a minute or two on high heat until the shallots get translucent.

7. Add the beans and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. 7 if you like them softer.

8. Arrange the arugula in a bowl. Spoon the hot fava beans onto the arugula, and let sit for a few minutes until the arugula wilts slightly.

9. Add salt and fresh ground pepper and enjoy!

 

I love you, he said

It’s a lovely summer evening. Maggie, my lovely dog, insists she needs to go out. I get her things and we embark on a walk in the warm summer evening. It’s after 11 pm, so there is a gentle breeze. Delightful.

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On our way to the corner, she sees two men crossing towards us at the light. One of them looks at Maggie. She looks back. There are people she choses to meet, and tonight, he was the one. She walks right up to him as he and his friend arrive on our side of the street. Without a thought, he kneels down and smiles.

After petting her, he looks into Maggie’s eyes and says,  “I love you.” Just like that. It isn’t too soon, there is no uncertainty and he doesn’t need to sleep on it. He knows. Just like that. He knows that it’s really, really easy to fall in love. It wasn’t his plan. He was probably just going for beers with his friend.

Maggie loves him, too. She puts her front paws on his knee, which is conveniently on the sidewalk, and kisses him right on the mouth. Sealing the deal. He smiles. Maggie does, too, in her doggie way. They are having a moment, like a scene from a romantic comedy. It has nothing to do with me or with his friend. We both stand by and watch the sparks fly.

After the long lingering looks, he realizes that it has been a while. He gets up suddenly, acts cool and pats her one more time. Then, he and his friend walk away – never acknowledging me at all.

If  Maggie has people say “I love you” on first meeting, she’s  increasing the love on the planet by just being here. That’s okay with me. Every time I take her for a walk, I realize I’m the bringer of the love, and it’s not a bad job to have.

Die Another Day

During a dinner party this week, I went to the kitchen to retrieve my glass of wine. There, I found a fly in my drink. Not a small, fruit fly but a full-sized housefly. He was swimming vigorously in the glass of blush wine and trying to get out. I am calling him a him, because he looked like a guy fly. But what do I know – perhaps I’m wrong. Or I’m being sexist. Or just have no clue how to determine the gender of a fly. Anyway, he looked like a he to me, so he’s a he for this story. I’ll call him Monte. A solid fly name, don’t you think?

After watching him struggle, I thought, my friend, you will die another day. If you were my mother, my dog or a bird, I wouldn’t hesitate. Life is a gift. I try not to be species-ist when it comes to life. We should all get a shot at living as long as we can. Because life is awesome.

I grabbed a paper towel and curled the edge into a ramp for him to walk up. A concept that he clearly didn’t understand, because he didn’t grab on. Instead, he swirled around underwine (as opposed to underwater,  a distinction needs to be made, I think). So I went at it again with a dry corner, trying to push him up to the air with the paper towel. Still nothing. He fell off again, spiralling again.

Out loud, I told him he would stay living today. Turning the paper towel to a dry edge, I finally scooped him out of the wine. He landed on his back, wings down. Damn. So I slowly used the final dry edge to flip him over. He stood for a second, then started walking around. After shaking off his wings, he flew away. Today wasn’t his day to go. It felt good to save his life.

I drank the rest of the wine, in case you were wondering.

It had the sweet, sweet taste of salvation.

The Mushroom Caper

Last Thursday, while shopping, the local Fiesta Farms had a mushroom growing kit for oyster mushrooms. I was just buying some mushrooms for the barbecue and thought it’d be fun to grow them.

It’s a coffee-grind base infused with mushroom spores. The first two days, nothing happened. And then there were these spores growing:

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Then, a day later, this (sorry, it’s sideways – I will fix that later):

photo (3)

 

The thing is, mushrooms grow so rapidly that it’s frightening – to me, anyway. I’m currently taking a time lapse video of the growing mushrooms in my kitchen that will be posted tomorrow.

In one day after the above image, they’ve quadrupled in size. I’m mildly concerned about going down to the kitchen and having a Little Shop of Horrors moment. A giant, angry oyster mushroom that’s taken over the kitchen and wants to eat. Luckily, they don’t have teeth and survive on water. Two things that mean I avoid a horror movie scenario.

According to Wikipedia:

“The fungus kingdom encompasses an enormous diversity of taxa with varied ecologies, life cycle strategies, and morphologies ranging from single-celled aquatic chytrids to large mushrooms. However, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at 1.5 million to 5 million species, with about 5% of these having been formally classified.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fungus

Creepy – millions of species that aren’t plants, animals or bacteria that we don’t even know about. Some edible, some poisonous.

They are creepy things, mushrooms. But I love them.

Stay-cation: A week of silly fun and getting ‘er done

This past week, I have been on a stay-cation. Like a vacation without vacating. Just staying home, going out of the city for a day or two, cooking and walking the dog.

In preparation, I made a list of what I wanted to get done.  Which I typically don’t do, since I view a “to do” list as a “didn’t do” list, that makes me feel angry that I didn’t do it. But this time, I realized it could be a  “still have time to do” list.

After a very busy spring that included producing a mobile app, directing two videos, writing and performing in a theatre show at the Toronto Fringe Festival, I had time for stuff I meant to do and have been putting off since January. An entire week! The list included with visiting old friends, writing, cleaning the closets. Here’s what I learned from this week:

1. That list of things I’ll do when I have time is long. Longer than a week. Write a novel? Finish a screenplay? Create an exercise routine that accounts for my damaged knee.

2. Many things were done. Highlights from my list included getting a massage, on the deck and finishing a spec script for Parks and Recreation (tons of fun!).

3. Lists should include fun. Adding things like  falling asleep in a deck chair  made me enjoy the list (a first!).

4. Getting things knocked off the list gave me momentum. The “one day, this will get done” has been replaced by “I did it.”

5. Time stretches when you honour every minute. Realizing that I have lots of time to do things and not wasting time makes me happy.

6. Silly diversions are important. Currently, I’m making a time lapse video of oyster mushrooms that are growing from a kit in the kitchen. They are growing really fast – I’m sure of it. Now, I’m finding out and I’m giddy just thinking about it.

7. The list is not a list of failures. It’s just a list. Funny that I can make lists for my work projects but not for my life. Until this stay-cation.

Mostly, I got to reflect on my life, where I’m going, what I’m doing.This was the biggest gift of all because I don’t often take time to do that.

And not rush around. Just get up and decide – dog park or garden centre this morning? What a luxury. That’s all there is for life – the beauty of every moment, and I’ve found it again.

 

 

Dear Internet

I love you.

There, I said it. I don’t care what happens next. I love you.

I love your stories, compassion, your mixed signals, your anger, your joy, the bitter sadness and utter joy I feel around you. Your seriousness sits next to the mundane. I love that I feel like I’m part of the human race when I’m around you – that there’s a place for me to express myself and hear other humans do the same Also,  you let me buy a BBQ easily without a ton of driving or find out facts like the capital city of Greenland that otherwise would take weeks.

Sure, there are people ready to argue about everything and downright call for the demise of another for saying pretty much anything. I know that’s not most of you, internet. It doesn’t sway my love of the people you connect me to – the kitten-video-posting, dinner-picture-uploading, status-writing, news-information-creating, hopeful, loving, angry hoard that I’m now that much closer to because of you.

Keep up the crazy, my love.

Fringe Show – Set Painting

It’s all coming together and it’s feeling like a really good show. Funny. Touching. Moving.

Moving into the final stretch – I’m at the dining room table after a 3 hour rehearsal, working on the program.

Wanda is painting our set chairs a lovely set of pink.

Maggie is sleeping – as usual. Here’s a photo, live at the scene:

the_spinster_set
This is the chairs beforehand.