Happy Thanksgiving Canada

….celebrating with a Southern flair

This year we substituted turkey and stuffing with deep fried chicken, BBQ ribs and macaroni and cheese. We started the meal with curried pumpkin soup, served in the pumpkin shell and freshly baked corn bread. Our daughter hosted the meal and because there were 14 of us we decided to share the work with a pot luck meal. I brought the soup and bread and plum cake. Gaelan and Brendan cooked the meats and the mac and cheese. Other contributions included roasted potatoes, pasta salad, coleslaw, wine and meat and cheese platters as appetizers.

As you can see from the photos our granddaughter loved the pumpkin but she loved the soup just as much. Even my Dad who normally dislikes pumpkin pie enjoyed this soup.

The recipe came from a cookbook that my friend Janice gave me as a gift last Christmas. Her church, St. Philip’s Lutheran Church, collected soup recipes from friends and members of the church and created the book It All Begins With Soup and sold the cookbook as a fundraiser. This recipe is dead simple.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 large can of pumpkin puree

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic

3 cups of chicken broth

1 Tbsp curry paste (more if you like spicy)

1/4 tsp. coriander, salt and pepper (adjust seasoning to your taste)

3/4 cup coconut milk (1/4 cup for swirls in the serving bowls)

Saute the onions and garlic in the coconut oil. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, paste and seasonings. Stir and cook until boiling. Cover and continue to boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pumpkin puree and coconut milk. Whisk until smooth. Cook for a final 5 minutes before you puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Serve warm with a swirl of coconut milk in a bowl.

  • if you are vegan you can substitute chicken broth with vegetable broth
  • I doubled the recipe to serve 14 people – the bowls were small but some people had seconds
  • my pumpkin was way to big – the soup filled just over half the pumpkin

A Birthday Party and the Royal Botanical Gardens

….a busy week with the family

On Sunday, after returning from the cottage, Kevin, my father and I went to my daughter-in-law’s father’s 80th birthday party. I knew when we got to the party that my father would make a big deal about being the oldest person there. He quickly found the over 80 table and made himself comfortable and engaged in conversation with people he had never met before. That’s what my Dad has done his whole life and I remember as a kid being so embarrassed by how easily he would go up to perfect strangers and start talking.

The party was a huge success and the daughters actually pulled off surprising their father. The mostly Italian and some Argentinian guests thoroughly enjoyed the food and there was lots of laughter and lively discussions.

On Monday I drove to Hamilton to spend the day with my daughter, Gaelan and her daughter, Winnie. Brendan was working from home that day so he decided to join us for lunch at a great Chinese Dim Sum restaurant. Winnie has been introduced to a lot of different foods as soon as she started on solid foods and I was amazed at how much she enjoyed digging into the sushi.

After lunch it started to pour and we waited in the strip mall while Brendan ran home and brought the car back. I felt badly when he got back because the rain had almost completely died down. Thank goodness it had because Gaelan, Winnie and I decided to go the Royal Botanical Gardens. The part we went to had a lot of indoor displays but the rain was so light that we ventured outside and took Winnie to the children’s area where she could run around and play in the sandbox.

Just before we went back home we decided to go the Tea House for some refreshments. We had tea, coffee and scones. Winnie drank the milk they brought me for my tea.

A wonderful two days.

Cheers!

Ten Days and Counting

…..retirement is close at hand

I don’t normally count down the days to the end of the school year but this year is different. I’m finally retiring from teaching after 35 years of service.

I know some teachers who when they know they are retiring start the  count down from the first day of school in September. This is not my style but as my last day approaches I’m starting to feel that my life is about to change. I’ve written three speeches for three different retirement parties that all took place in the space of one week. The first one was for my principal and good friend, M, the second one for my longtime friend, L and the third was for me.

All three parties were very different. The first one was a sit-down dinner in an Italian restaurant, the second in the nursing home where L’s dad lived and mine was also in an Italian restaurant but less formal with finger foods being served.  All were special in their own way and I loved them all.

M’s party was held at her favourite restaurant. The meal was excellent and the speeches were warm and personal. M’s family was there and both her youngest sister and her niece spoke. They were funny and touching at the same time. L and I gave our speech in the form of a report card, which the staff thoroughly enjoyed because it was a bit of a roast but in the end the message was more serious. When M spoke she talked about how and why she came to be a principal.

L really wanted her father to be able to attend her retirement party and for that reason she booked the ‘party’ room at the nursing home. There was a piano player who played the entire evening in very comfortable surroundings. There were couches and overstuffed chairs situated around the room where people could sit and talk and listen to the speeches. Friends manned the wine table and servers walked about the room with canapés. The highlight of the evening took place when L and her father sang together and at the end of the evening L sang a solo. Three former principals came to the party plus family, friends and colleagues from school. It was a very musical evening and the accolades about her teaching career, especially those about her choirs, were very fitting for a much loved music teacher.

My party was the last one, held on Wednesday of this week. It took place in a restaurant literally up the street from where I live. My husband and I had eaten there on a couple of occasions and thoroughly enjoyed the food. My family, including little Winnie, friends from years past who were now at other schools, retired friends, neighbourhood friends, life long friends and colleagues from school attended. I was especially honoured when my very first principal from 1976-79 arrived with his wife. I wanted the party to be casual and fun. The finger food was amazing, the aperol spritzes refreshing and the cake and desserts delicious. My friend P, was the MC for the evening and he kept everyone laughing. Three of my friends used the Wizard of Oz as their theme for the speech they gave about my time with them at the school where we all met and worked at for eight to ten years. There were so many wonderful speeches that it would take too long to talk about each and everyone of them. I had the best time and will never forget the thought and care people put into planning my special day.

 

Share Your World – Feb. 6, 2017

….thank you Cee for continuing to come up with new questions for Share Your World

Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?

Since we got our new fridge just before Christmas it’s pretty organized. In the old one many of the shelves and bins were broken and removed so it was really difficult to see what was in the fridge. I’m loving my new fridge.img_0735

Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?

I’m not too fussy either way but I do love casseroles and soups. I’ve never understood people who can’t have their food touching other food. I think it’s some kind of mental disorder.

Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?

I like looking through coffee table books but my favourite genre of books would have to be fiction. I’m partial to historical fiction and mysteries. I’ve tried reading biographies but I find many of them to be too dry and factual. I guess if they weren’t factual they wouldn’t be biographies but sometimes too much and perhaps unnecessary information is included and that makes the story burdensome and long winded.

Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you?

Right now the bottom of my left foot is sore. It’s only sore on the heel and once I start walking on it I forget about it. I don’t know if I need to change shoes, get orthotics or lose more weight. It’s probably a combination of all three.

Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful that my report cards are done. My father seems to be doing well and is making plans to travel.

Since I’m late posting this week’s Share Your World, last week’s  gratitudes are from 10 days ago. I’m grateful for being invited to attend a Varsity Blues Women’s Basketball game with the grades four and five students. It was a lot of fun.

This week I was able to spend some more time with my granddaughter and I enjoyed going out at different times with two very special friends. Yesterday another good friend, D, hosted a musical bells party. It was wonderful seeing a number of people from the cottage and D’s extended family. Playing the bells was a lot of fun as well.

 

The Best of 2016

…..despite the terrible events that took place in 2016 on a personal level it was a wonderful year

Most people would agree that 2016 had to be a terrible year for natural disasters, untimely deaths of beloved celebrities, horrendous terrorist attacks around the world, the Syrian refugee crisis, Brexit and a nasty election campaign in the U.S.

Even on a personal note, 2016 hasn’t been all sunshine and roses but there were many memorable and special moments.

In January our son ended up staying with us for an extra week before heading back to London, England. The circumstances of his extended stay aren’t exactly positive but we did have him with us and for me that was special. By the way, at the end of December of last year, he slipped on the ice and broke his upper arm and he required surgery. The surgery was successful and he was released from the hospital on January 1st. IMG_7188

In February my friend M celebrated her 64th birthday and my niece, S, her 26th.

The biggest event in February was our daughter’s wedding to her first love and partner of 10 years. They met on Feb. 10th so they decided on their 10th anniversary they would make it official and tie the knot. What a special day!

In March while we experienced snow, our future daughter-in-law was sitting in an outdoor caffe in Assisi planning her wedding.

In May we celebrated Mother’s Day with the family in the backyard (a little chilly) and at school we had our Forest of Reading celebration, Jump Rope for Heart and our annual Fun Fair. Winnie also had her first swimming lesson and her Daddy started Go Cart racing. Also A and J and their brother-in-law, G, ran the Sporting Life 10k.

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In June two of my colleagues retired from teaching, my very good friend, A, celebrated her 75th birthday and our son and his love were married in London at City Hall.

Our school choir also sang at a Blue Jays game and we put on our annual outdoor extravaganza at school.

July was the highlight month of the year for our family. We took a trip of a lifetime. My sister and her family from Calgary and my two daughters and their families and my husband and I travelled to Italy to celebrate the union of our son, B, and his beautiful Iranian bride, Az. We travelled for the first 11 days visiting places like Venice, Florence, Bologna and Lucca and then we all met in Assisi where the actual wedding took place. After three days in Assisi we made one more stop in Rome before flying back home.

In August  I was able to open up the cottage and spent about 5 weeks there off and on. My husband and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary and I had another birthday.

September brought a new school year and my last first day of school. My husband had  been coaching a small group of boys from our extended family to get them ready for this year’s cross country team and they were all entered into the Railpath Community Run. In fact there were 11 of us from the family that ran that day. I was happy to do 5k without stopping in 45 minutes. At least I wasn’t the slowest person on the course. The boys did really well and some of them walked away with some prizes.

October was another busy month with a lot of milestone birthdays. My husband turned 65, my dad 90, my son-in-law 40 and Winnie celebrated her 1st birthday. I also organized and ran my last book fair school. We raised the largest sum of money ever. I now I have the fun job of buying books and supplies for the library and classrooms.

In November my oldest daughter, A, celebrated her 37th birthday. Where has the time gone? My younger daughter, Winnie and I attended the Royal Winter Fair and I, along with five other teachers took 59 students on a three day overnight winter camp in the Kawarthas.

In December my Dad moved from his apartment to the retirement home across the road. We held our annual craft night at school, held a Christmas concert and had our staff party at a local restaurant. Christmas was a three day affair; one day in Hamilton, another in Toronto and the third in Oshawa. On the 30th of the month we celebrated the birthdays of our twins who are now 35. As my principal and friend M would say ‘Carol you’re old!’

So as you can see there were lots of bright moments in 2016 for me and the Cormier family. Wishing you all a bright, happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

Cheers!

A Busy Week

….a lot of driving, twice to Oshawa and twice to Hamilton

Since Christmas Eve we have been constantly on the go. This year we celebrated Christmas Eve in Hamilton and on Christmas Day we celebrated some more here at home. No turkey this year, another first.

On the 27th I drove to Oshawa to bring my Dad his Christmas presents from my family. In the move a few weeks earlier he lost the remote control for his radio/CD player and he had to unplug the machine every time he wanted to turn it off or change the CD. Our daughters, A & J picked up a new remote control from a store downtown close to where they work. Dad was so happy to finally be able to play his music properly.

Two days later we drove out to Oshawa again but this time the whole family went to celebrate with Dad. There were 11 of us and because his new apartment is so small we all met in the library of the retirement home. After opening presents we headed out to the restaurant to enjoy a meal together. Today my sister sent me a few more photos that I can share with you.

Yesterday we were back in Hamilton to celebrate the birthdays of our twins. Our son, unfortunately, is not celebrating here in Canada but is with his new family in Iran. From his photos and messages it sounds like he’s having a great time. Our daughter opened her house for yet another celebration in less than a week. Our good friends A and W, who were unable to join us this year on Christmas Eve, made the trek to Hamilton as well. It was a lovely time with family and friends. Very low key and relaxed and of course the baby stole the spotlight again.

A Persian Wedding in Assisi

….the highlight of our trip to Italy was our son’s wedding to his beautiful Iranian bride

Talk about a destination wedding. What do you do when half your family lives in Canada and the other half in Germany and Iran and your friends come from all over (Canada, England, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, etc.)? You find a location that everyone is happy to travel to and won’t break the bank.

That perfect place was at Casa Rosa near Assisi. Az and B already had a connection to the place through a friend whose family owned the ‘farm’. It is actually located in the hills of Umbria about 10 kilometres away from downtown Assisi.

On the day of the wedding the family was very busy getting the spread called the “Sofreh-ye Aghd”ready for the ceremony. Traditionally the Sofreh-ye Aghd is set on the floor facing east, so when the bride and bridegroom are seated at the head of the Sofreh-ye Aghd they will be facing “The Light”.

On the cloth, the two most important elements are the mirror and the two candelabras on either side of the mirror. They represent the bride and groom and the brightness in their future. All the different foods on the cloth are symbolic. For example, the tray of seven multi-colored herbs and spices “Sini-ye Aatel-O-Baatel” guard the couple and their lives together against the evil eye, witchcraft and drive away evil spirits. The eggs and decorated almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts in the shell symbolize fertility. A bowl made out of crystallized sugar “Kaas-e Nabaat/Shaakh-e Nabaat” sweetens the life of the newly weds and a bowl of gold coins or money represents wealth and prosperity. its-all-symbols_27904572193_o
At the beginning of the ceremony the bride is hidden from the groom. In our case a group of women, friends and family, stood in front of Az while B (our son) sat on a bench in front of the Sofreh-ye Aghd facing the mirror. He lit the candelabras and was asked if he consents to marry the bride. In a loud voice he answered with a rousing yes. When the bride enters she sits on the groom’s left side and the wedding party holds a canopy over the couple’s heads.

This is where the fun begins. Az’s uncle was the officiant and when he asked her if she consented to marrying B her role is to make the guests and the groom uncomfortable by not answering the first time. Some of her friends then call out that she’s doing the laundry as an excuse. The same thing happens the second time she is asked. The officient asks a third time, and this time, the bride says ‘with the permission of my father and mother- balé!’ And everyone starts kelling (the loud lee-lee-lee-lee sounds all middle easterners make) and clapping in joy.

Az’s uncle did a great job explaining all the rituals and symbolism of this ceremony. One other interesting symbol is the needle and the seven coloured threads used to hold up the canopy or shawl above the couple. Figuratively it represents sewing up the mother-in-law’s lips to keep her from speaking unpleasant words to the bride! As you can imagine I got quite a bit of ribbing about that one.

After the bride and groom have consented to marrying each other, the groom picks up a jar of honey (asal) from the table. He dips his little finger into the jar of honey, and feeds it to his bride. She then does the same for him. This is to symbolize that they will feed each other sweetness and sustenance throughout their lives together.

In this ceremony Az took her shoe at the end and snuffed out all the candles. I can’t remember what that symbolized and I can’t find anything on line to explain it. Maybe some of my Persian readers could bring me up to date on this tradition.

As in western cultures the ceremony ended with the groom kissing his bride.

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After congratulations were bestowed upon the newly married couple the guests and the wedding party made their way to grounds where tables of food and drink were set and photographers were busy snapping hundreds of photos.

The food at this wedding was amazing. Our son kept telling us to leave some room for dinner. The first round of food immediately following the ceremony were just appetizers and cocktails. I can’t even begin to explain or describe how much food there was and everything was so delicious. When dinner was served there were five more courses and dessert was served later. I never made it to dessert. In fact I never made it to the party. After dinner I was done and went to bed. In hind sight it was a dumb thing to do because I couldn’t sleep anyway. Between not feeling well from too much rich food and the noise from the party afterwards, sleep was impossible. The party went till 4:00 in the morning. Somehow I managed to fall asleep around 3:00. All in all it was a great day, one that I will never forget.