27 November 2012


There are some songs that reverberate. For me, this is one of them. Like many, I knew the Tears for Fears version first, I was a child of the 80s after all, but hearing the Gary Jules version while watching Donny Darko that the song really resonated with me. It's when I really heard its lyrics, when I understood its weight and soul. Years passed, and then I found myself in the home of friends. It was a house of congregation, loss was fresh and grief was insurmountable. We ate, we drank, we cried, we were silent, we talked, we mourned, and in the background, the eldest cousin played this song on the piano over and over again. I simply cannot hear this song anymore and not be brought back to those hot days three summers ago. And today, I found this via here:

You may have already seen it. You may or may not have cried. Of course I did. It was the second time today I cried after seeing something on the internet reminding me of that time. I was browsing Buy Olympia, and came acrossThe Littlest Birds Sing the Prettiest Songs, an illustrated songbook. I read the title and burst into tears. It's a pretty little song that was sung in honour of one of our friends, and another song that I can't divorce from that time, that person. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to. I relish these reminders, these connections. I haven't ordered the book yet, but I know it will live on our shelf, its pages bent, the cover scuffed with the wear of many hands and many years.

I can't help but wonder what other songs that will follow me through life, become makers or mark me.

What She Said: Doris Lessing

"I often think how my life would have been different if I’d done other things; because the thing that shaped my life is that I had a child. So that means that you’re not very mobile. And it had good or bad sides to it. The bad side was that I didn’t live in Paris or New York, which I would have liked to have done for a bit. The good thing was that because a child was such a discipline I did not get part of this very attractive life in the clubs in Soho. Which I wouldn’t have survived, believe me. Because it was enormously exciting. You musn’t judge it by the Groucho or something like that. It was full of flamboyant characters, all of them alcoholics, all of them very witty."

from a 2005 interview with The Reader Online

5 November 2012

my heart is a banjo

I have a confession: I don't know much about music, especially contemporary music. For example, I know that there are bands out there called Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons, but if you played me a track from either of them, I wouldn't be able to tell who played what. This is why when I go to karaoke, I almost exclusively sing songs from before the mid-90s. There are some contemporary artists I love, but I don't search them out and once I fall in love, I'll listen to them over and over again. I turn CBC Radio One on when I get up and it stays on until at least lunch, sometimes all day. Despite the best efforts of Jian Ghomeshi and the good folks at Q, my musical education has been stalled.

These days, I've been listening almost exclusively to Old Time Mountain Music. I borrowed it from a friend years ago, ripped it, returned it, and mostly forgot about it until recently. I can't get enough of this mountain music bluegrass, especially Ola Belle Reed. The song below is on the collection. (Don't bother watching the video, but just listen to her. Amazing, no?)

I did a little sleuthing, and it looks like there are a couple of Ola Belle Reed collections and I'm going to add this one to my Christmas wish list.

I don't know what it is about this kind of music, but it speaks to me. It is raw and honest, it comes from a place of beauty and hardship. I have no connection to where this music was made, but I wish I did. Perhaps my heart is a banjo. I don't know.

3 November 2012


Like all good things, my high over Initiation Trilogy has finally ended. I had expected that I'd blog all about it as it was happening, but I wanted to savour it, enjoy the moment. I didn't want to inundate you with previews and reviews, though I will post about them soon.

I was Cinderella at the ball, and now I'm surrounded by pumpkins. So what to do with pumpkins? Carve them up!

Yesterday, I did what I started doing when we lived in Edmonton. Chopped up, steamed, then pureed our jack o'lanterns to freeze for winter baking. It's a big job, even though we only have two pumpkins (I'm sure this will change when my youngest becomes aware and wants to participate in the ritual carving, too), but it is so worth it.

There is seasonal food I make that relies on these pumpkins and I could barely wait. I know I'm not alone in eating a lot of pumpkin and squash this time of year, so I thought I'd share a couple of recipes in case you're looking for some inspiration.

I was told the other day that the jack o'lantern pumpkins have no nutritional value. That may or may not be true, but they are so sweet pureed that it doesn't really matter to me if they're good for me or not. They taste delicious, especially in baking, and for me, that's what counts.

First up, is the chocolate pumpkin loaf. I make this many times over the Autumn and Winter. So good:

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Loaf

1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch ground cloves
170 grams (six squares) chopped bakers chocolate

1. beat butter and sugar until fluffy
2. add & beat eggs one at a time
3. stir in pumpkin
4. in separate bowl, mix dry ingredients
5. stir in pumpkin mixture alternating with water, fold in chocolate

Bake at 350F for 60-75 minutes

Next up is a soup that can be made with any squash, though the batch I made on Thursday was made with sacrificial jack o'lantern pumpkin. I love this soup not just because of the tangy, rich flavour, but also because the colour is a perfect Autumn gold.

Golden Soup

1 large onion chopped
1 large yam chopped
1 small squash or 3-4 cups of chopped pumpkin/squash
5-6 cups of water (or stock if you're feeling fancy)
1 cup red lentils
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. soften onion, add yam and squash, sauté for a few minutes
2. add water, bring to boil
3. add lentils and herbs and salt
4. boil/simmer until veggies are soft
5. cool a bit, puree, return to pot, stir in lemon juice, and serve

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

6 cups of frozen bread chunks*
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
2 cups of milk/cream**
1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves

1. Mix up everything in a deep casserole dish, add bread and stir so it's all covered.
2. Let it sit covered in fridge for a few (6-8?) hours. I mix mine up in the morning for that night's dessert.
3. Stir and bake uncovered at 375F for 30-40 minutes.

*I keep a large ziplock bag full of stale and heels of bread in the freezer, so my bread pudding is a mix of homemade bread, store-bought multigrains, and stale hotdog/hamburger buns and french bread. If you use unfrozen bread, then don't have it sit for as long before baking.

**I try to use 1 cup coffee cream and 1 cup 2% milk, but it all depends on what I have in the fridge. Whipping cream? Oh yes. The fattier the better. Only 2%, well then, that'll have to do.


So, those are some of my favourite pumpkin recipes. I still haven't perfected my pumpkin scone recipe. If I do this year, I share it. Tell me, what are your favourites?