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Christmas Letter 2018

December9

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The Christmas season is upon us. As I speak Doug is roasting his 4th or 5th turkey for an event that he caters each year at this time. Our first Christmas of 2018 was in November celebrating with Doug’s co-workers at Petals West. He loves the hustle and bustle of his work and is already sourcing roses for Valentine’s Day!

My second Christmas was with my precious sisters earlier this week. We celebrated early because Kimberley and Michael are leaving soon for a six week visit in Australia to visit Danielle, Dylan and Dylan’s family. Our third Christmas will be Monday evening with the dinner that Doug is preparing for. At the end of the evening we light white tapers and sing Silent Night with the dinner guests.

We started the new year of 2018 in a flurry, taking down the Christmas tree on Boxing Day because we flew to Mesa, Arizona a day later. I went with Jer, Jen and the girls, Bekah and Seb and Grandma Jean. Doug and Kate arrived on the weekend.

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Doug found us a great condo where a Christmas tree was still up when we arrived. The occasion was the wedding of Doug’s nephew Justin.  All the Grisims were together for a rehearsal dinner on Friday Dec 28th and then the beautiful wedding the following day. The venue reminded me of a Tuscan villa and not surprisingly the food was fabulous. The next evening Doug, his Mom and siblings with a couple of nephews and nieces thrown in for good measure celebrated New Year’s Eve together, an event that has not occurred in a very long time.

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I arrived back home in enough time to throw a load of laundry in the washing machine and repack my suitcase because Doug and I were off to Portugal with good friends. Unfortunately the good friends did not make the trip due to unforeseen circumstances. In spite of missing them and feeling sheepish about it all, Doug and I had a wonderful time staying right on a beach in the Algarve.

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We took an overnight trip to Seville, Spain but otherwise stayed along the southern coast.

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The weather wasn’t tropical but it was pleasant and I am happy whenever I can walk along a beach.

We celebrated Doug’s birthday in late January and then Sebastian’s and Josie’s second birthday in February. Bekah’s May date came next with Jen and I following close behind. July brought Kate’s celebration as well as Isabelle’s, who turned five. Jeremy takes up the rear with a September birth date.

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In May there will be another milestone to celebrate as Jer and Jen are rounding off their beautiful family with another baby at that time. We never tire of our role as grandparents. We adore the Wee Ones and find joy again in every little thing when we are with them.

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Late February and early March was our annual sojurn to Isla Mujeres.

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Along with lots of family and good friends we reconnect with each year, long-time friends Melinda and Richard spent most of a week with us and it was a special time.

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When our traveling days were curtailed for the early spring, we focused on another wonderful blessing to our family. Doug and I drove back and forth to the lake meeting with a cottage renovator and hauling bead board and flooring in the back of Doug’s truck. By May long weekend we were able to set beds up and even though it is not yet finished, we felt luxurious with all the space and rooms and beds for everyone! I was also able to ask some girlfriends out for the occasional weekend.

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We attended four wonderful weddings in the summer-two of them in the same family!

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The first three were young members at our church and the fourth was that of our nephew Bronson.

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Since I had been so sick the summer before, Doug gifted me with a summer do-over and I spent a couple of weeks all by myself out at Lester Beach. I cannot adequately express, how drawn I am to our special piece of heaven.

In August Kate and Doug flew to Toronto so that they could attend the Rogers Cup together. Kate’s fav tennis player didn’t make the finals but Doug’s Nadal did.

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Come September, we had the traveling bug again and taking advantage of cheap flights out east, we visited Charlottetown PEI for our first time. Both the hospitality of a friend we met on Isla and the quaintness of the island ensures that we will visit again in the future.

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Another trip to Toronto for the Food Bloggers Canada conference and extended stay with Richard and Melinda rounded out the fall. Thanksgiving was once again at the beautiful lake home of Kim and Michael.

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The first weekend of November Bekah, Seb, Doug and I took a road trip to Minneapolis. Doug found us an Air BnB in a neighbourhood we loved and we explored many of the breweries and restaurants. Doug’s brother Jim and fam met us for breakfast and then Jim met us again that evening at Surly, a favourite Minneapolis Brewery. Bekah and I went to a Idina Menzel and Josh Groban concert and Doug and I took in a Vikings game. We not only had “nose bleed” seats, we were in the very top section in the very last row! Since then, it seems like Christmas preparations began soon after, which brings me full circle.

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Going backwards for a moment, Kate graduated with her Masters Degree this spring and we used it as an excuse for a family party. Little Brown Jug where both Bekah and Jeremy are employed allowed us to throw the party there and it was a wonderful celebration.

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Jeremy is head brewer at LBJ and acknowledges the blessing of being employed in a career which he loves. Wife Jen has launched her own business and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness instructor. In some classes the participants carry their babies in a front carrier, soon Jen will look just like them! They love their little house in Wolseley where Belle’s school is a short walk away and the park where I used to take the kids when they were toddlers is just down their street. Isabelle is a beautiful, sensitive and kind wee one who adores her little sister. Josie is a character who loves to tell long animated stories and always goes for the big laugh just like her Daddy.

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Bekah too loves her work as the General Manager of Little Brown Jug. Having gone to school for International Development Studies, she is surprised that she loves business the way she does. Sebastian’s workplace is in the same neighbourhood, he is on the front lines of Siloam Mission and has signed up for the Reserves! They too have a home in the west end and it is big enough for all of us and additional guests to stretch along one long table for this year’s Christmas dinner.

Kate is carefully considering her options for her career but is leaning towards a not-for-profit where she can serve the minority communities that she is so passionate about. The gang collects together at Life is Good (the name of our beach house) all summer and for Sunday suppers the rest of the year.

I am chugging along with my small business, always delighted when a new client approaches me. Each day holds a different set of tasks and I amazingly still absolutely love what I do.

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Doug and I are still devoted to our neighbourhood church and we host a small group in our home, a couple of times a month. They too make up our family.

If you are reading this, you are important and loved by Doug and I and we can never adequately express the gratitude that we have for our many friends and enormous families. Peace and Christmas blessings to you all.

Kath’s quote: “God bless us everyone!“- Charles Dickens

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Love never fails.

 

Jatujak, Thai Street Style Food, Kingston Rd, Toronto

October3

The part that I love most about being a food blogger are the friendships I have made over the years. They happen quite by accident like the morning a beautiful tall and shy redhead asked if she could sit in the seat next to me at my first blogging conference in Toronto. Little did I know that years latter we would still be kindred spirits. She calls me her angel, a title I don’t take lightly.

She lives in the same neighbourhood that I stayed in last weekend so it was easy for her to pick me up and find a spot not far away. Asking if I liked Thai food, I responded with a resounding yes!

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We started with a Mango salad appetizer. The ribbons of mango were perfectly sweet and the slivers of red onion and crushed cashews added appropriate crunch. Acidity came from freshly squeezed lime juice and the freshness popped out with the subtle use of cilantro. I would visit Jatujak a 1,000 times for the taste of that salad!

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My favourite Thai soup arrived next. I am not used to a red Tom yum but the carefully simmering of a variety of hearty ingredients was soothing and delicious.

I had read that Jatujak was one of the best Thai restaurants in Toronto, and the culinary measuring stick is often Pad Thai.

Jatujak brings street-style elements to its pad Thai dish. Made with stir-fried rice noodles, with egg and a house tamarind-based sauce. You can get the Pad Thai with just the noodles, or with the option of adding tofu and vegetables, chicken, beef or shrimp.

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I added chicken and tofu also made an appearance. It appears under the Lunch Special section of their menu and this enormous portion was only $8.95! It was so good, I am vividly remembering the tastes now that I am back home in Winnipeg.

Although the time was brief with my lovely friend, our hearts connected once more.

Kath’s quote: “Food makes travel so exceptional, because you get to taste what it’s actually supposed to taste like. To eat the real Pad Thai or finally have a proper curry is something pretty amazing”. -Meghan Markle

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Love never fails.

Mezes, The Danforth, Toronto

October2

I spent this past weekend in Toronto at Food Bloggers Canada (more on that later). On Saturday evening my Bestie M and I met her husband halfway between his work and their home where I was their guest for the weekend. We started at a place called Allen’s that maintains the tag line “Air Conditioned” not “where good friends meet”, not “why not tonight?” but “air conditioned”. I got such a hoot out of that! The beer was ice cold and I chose my favourite Canadian brand Moosehead, whereas R selected a cream ale. M stuck to her fav white wine. The place was hopping and the vibe very comfortable so we stayed and enjoyed another.

By the time we walked down and across the Danforth to Mezes, the place was lined up to the sidewalk. In a very small way, I felt in solidarity with the fellow pedestrians and diners. The memory of this summer’s violence was too acute to have faded, and yet here we all were strolling the Avenue and gathering on the side walks when hunger struct us.

Out of the many Greek restaurants to choose from, Mezes was the first choice.

The emphasis here is on sharing; a kind of collective dining that transforms a meal into an experience. Mezes promotes the most genuinely Greek method of dining: order multiple dishes, celebrate variety, and sample everything. There’s a remarkable unfussiness to the process that enthuses more vigorous conversation, and rippling laughter. While their list of entrées is considerable, it’s their Mezes they hope you’ll try.

Try, we did. With the guidance of our waiter, who encouraged us to take our time, start with a variety of dips and fried anchovies and go from there. If we were still hungry, we could keep ordering.

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First up were a small trio of Mediterranean dips: an amazing Tzatziki, a fish roe dip called Taramosalata, a chick pea Homous, and Melitzanosalata which I thought was very similar to my favourite baba ganoush. All were delicious with garlic pita and then when that was all gone, with the fresh baguette delivered to our table. We had watched in fascination when platters of flat cheeses were set on fire and then doused with lemon at neighbouring tables.

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Next I tasted fried anchovies for my first time. They were prepared like calamari with a more pronounced flavour. I had not had anchovies since I miss-ordered them in Positano Italy (see link here).

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I had been out for a big lunch and passed on the lamb chops although the nibble that I had was divine.

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I opted for sharing this fantastic salad as well as a very big surprise…

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these white beans recommended by our server had been slow cooked in a luscious tomato sauce.

Every thing was washed down with a couple of lovely house wines. It was a wonderful evening. We hailed an Uber home as the streets got increasingly crowded with folks from nearby neighbourhoods.

Kath’s quote:“The Greeks’ fierce pride in their heritage has kept the basic culture intact. Whether a slave under Roman rule, a captive under Turkish domination, or a newly arrived immigrant, the Greek is always aware that he is the direct descendant of men like Plato, Homer, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Aristophanes. The Greek who begins life in a new land on the bottom step of society as a dishwasher needs only to remember how Aesop left a legacy of poetry while cooking as a slave.”-Theresa Yianilos

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Love never fails.

 

Hamilton Stopover

September20

D and I recently took advantage of the reasonable airfares provided by the new Swoop airline. We had a stopover in Hamilton en route to Halifax and then Charlottetown. We don’t particularly like airport food but love to check out an unexplored city, so we used the stretch of time to jump in a cab and head to a Portuguese restaurant in the vicinity. Toma La-The Portuguese Pitstop was a 10 minute ride from the airport.

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While visiting Portugal this past January, we feel in love with their Super Bock beer. Since the pitstop doesn’t have a liquor license, we had to settle for a non-alcoholic version that was still delicious and satisfying. As was the passion fruit soda.

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We were so delighted to find our favourite Portuguese choices on the menu that we “over” ordered, selecting 2 enormous dishes that were quite obviously too much food. But we were delighted with the half chicken dinner. We learned that all meat was marinated the night before, therefore, it had absorbed all the natural seasonings. The famous Portuguese style BBQ Chicken was served with their very own “Toma La Piri Piri Sauce” and a choice of sides. The chicken was slow-cooked over an open fire charcoal pit for the authentic Portuguese tasting chicken! We chose a hearty salad simply tossed in oil and vinegar in addition to these fascinating potatoes. We had discerned that the potatoes has been roasted in a tomato sauce, but how did they get every potato to be exactly the same size?

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For the second platter of food, we were in a real pickle: we didn’t want to miss out on the Portuguese potatoes but we were also hoping for hand-cut fries like the ones we enjoyed while we were away. Alas the fries were frozen so we didn’t miss out on any delicious potatoness (not a word, I know). There were two pork chops on the platter, so we could have easily share a half pork chop dinner and a 1/4 chicken dinner. But the succulent chops had also been marinated over night and cooked over live charcoal, so we didn’t protest too much.

After our early dinner, we flew to Halifax, rented a car and drove 3 1/2 hours to Charlottetown. D really appreciated the left overs for a late evening snack so we wouldn’t be tempted to fill up on junk food.

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Our server mentioned that their pastries were made fresh daily and we knew that Portuguese confections were exceptional. We couldn’t purchase these Pastel de Nata in pairs so we settled for a half dozen. We groaned as our mouths remembered the flaky pastry and the luxurious filling. D enjoyed another one en route to PEI and then there were exactly three to share with our Charlottetown host.

That first stop commenced a long weekend of amazing eating.

Kath’s quote: “The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.” -Antonin Carême

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

Ascari Enoteca (Toronto)

October26

I felt badly that I had missed their anniversary. When they married over thirty years ago, there was a very small gathering of parents and siblings but we were one of two couple of friends. I realized that the significance of my visiting on that weekend was not lost on them when R said sincerely “Thanks for being at our wedding” for I stood beside M as her maid of honour. The night of their anniversary, I was at another restaurant across town with my friends from FBC 2016. They were at a little spot in their neighbourhood. The next evening they cooked filet mignon’s with all the trimmings. So my opportunity to celebrate with them came on my last evening in town. They suggested Ascari Enoteca, not far from where they lived. They had visited there before. Ascari Enoteca is named for famous Italian race car driver Alberto Ascari. The Enoteca (wine depository) was celebrating half price wine night and the little spot was jammed with Monday night diners. In fact, I could hardly follow our conversation over the din. This did not embarrass me as friends R & M are half a year older than me and our conversations often centre on a part of our body which is no longer working. ascari1 M had told me about an item from the list “In Compagnia” (things to share) that they liked to order. Broccolini Fritti was lightly battered broccolini crowned with lemon zest and pecorino cheese. The batter was light and salty like a tempura batter and the citrus and cheese was so satisfying that I tipped the serving bowl onto my side plate and scooped it up with a spoon. R made me perfectly comfortable with my brazen table manners by saying that a friend of his had done exactly the same. ascari2 When we each ordered our pasta, R selected another sharable of Cavoletti di Bruxelles. The shaved Brussel sprouts were tossed with guanciale (an Italian style bacon made from pork jowls), garlic chips and toasted walnuts. They too were so satisfying that I plan on getting my mandolin out and shaving some Brussel sprouts sometime very soon. ascari3 M chose a salad of charred romaine hearts that she was happy to share with us. Dubbed Insalata Americana, the boats of blackened romaine were filled with oven-dried tomato, tiny slivers of radish and a creamy oregano dressing. Sunflower seeds and fried shallots added extra crunch. ascari5 I was eager to have a taste of M’s Linquine alla Puttanesca with the traditional ingredients of tomato, anchovy, caper and olives. She liked the unusual addition of smoked cod. My taste of the latter revealed an overwhelming salty and smoky taste. I was glad that I had not been tempted by her choice and tucked into the evening’s special of Tajarin Ai Fungi. ascari4 My favourite pastas are lightly tossed with a few simple ingredients reminiscent of our recent time in Tuscany. Fresh and delicate Tajarin noodles (like spaghettini but square not round) had been tossed with beurre fondue (melted butter), tarragon, chanterelles and “heavens be praised” truffle oil!  We have travelled through many regions of Italy but not yet Piedmont where Tajarin noodles are a specialty. Each spin of the pasta was concluded with a spearing of chanterelles. The fungi (mushrooms) complemented the musky dab of truffle oil. Simply divine. We washed everything down with a wine of R’s choosing-a light and slightly acidic Basadone from Casetto Di Verduno. The wine also hails from Piedmont, so it was a tremendous choice. Upon further research, this is what I discovered: “The Barbera d’Alba label has a drawing of poppies which are called Basadone in local dialect (papavero in Italian). Basadone in dialect also means a little kiss – local tradition has it that Pelaverga is an aphrodisiac!” ascari6 We concluded the evening with a lemon pudding and three spoons, remembering a time when they as a couple took me under their wings and provided companionship after a bumpy time in my life. Although my timing was a couple of days off for this dinner, it was a lovely celebration of their love, marriage and our long lasting friendship. Ascari Enoteca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Kath’s quote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy”.-Giuseppe Verdi img_0184 Love never fails.

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