Saturday, August 28, 2010

Favourite Summer Meal

I love Italian food. I know, right? Who doesn’t? I work with a man from Italy and I have learned quite a bit about Italian dishes. He has made this for me a few times at work and has shared his secrets for success with this dish.

Its very simple, with very few ingredients, but the taste to me is pure summer. It is also quick and cheap to make (especially if you have an over-producing zucchini plant in the garden) so its a dish I make often for myself. D wont eat much pasta himself but that just leaves more for me. :) 

Zucchini and Pasta for Two 

What you need:
1-2 small zucchinis cut lengthwise and then sliced into thin half-moons. 
1 handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1-2 Tablespoons of good olive oil (by good I mean one you like!)
2 portions of your favourite pasta (I’ve used bucatini, rigatoni and spaghetti for this dish)
Fresh ground black pepper


Cheese – Parmesan if you are a stickler for authenticity or feta if you are feeling rebellious - I often am.

Start your pot with water and a generous portion of sea salt for the pasta. Omitting the salt here really messes things up – I usually put in a full tablespoon. Keep in mind, however, that if you add cheese it will kick up the saltiness of your dish*.

Use a big handful of parsley!

As this comes to a boil, wash and cut your zucchinis and parsley. Heat your olive oil on high and add the zucchini – I like to cook this on high for a good 8-10 minutes to create a nice browning on the vegetable. Once the zucchini starts to look transparent and delicious, add the chopped parsley, stir it up and shut off the heat.

Yummy golden bits

By now your water should be boiling with the pasta cooking. Cook according to the package directions and to your taste. I prefer my pasta al dente, so I watch it closely to make sure it doesn’t overcook. Drain your pasta and reserve some of the cooking water. Over low heat, add the pasta to the vegetables and mix together. Add a tablespoon of cooking water to thicken the “sauce” and add your black pepper. Now is when you may add your cheese if you wish. Serve and enjoy! 

Love it!

*Sometimes I have added too much salt to the water, but you can always rinse the pasta to get some salt off if this happens to you. Try the pasta before you combine everything if you are worried about saltiness. 

Friday, August 27, 2010


I have been missing good old fashioned, double-boiled, Cape Breton-style tea ever since I got married and lost the use of my Mom's Corningware teapot. You can't buy these new anymore so it can be hard to come across one at a garage sale or second-hand store.

My aunt looked for one for months when she first got to Toronto, so I was expecting to have a hard time finding one myself. Today Mom and I stopped in at the Salvation Army and lo, I looked up and saw this beauty! Its in perfect condition, even better than my mom's, and it was priced right - 99 ₵  .   

Today was a good day! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The view from our hotel room

We went to Fatima on our honeymoon in June. We arrived there in the night with D.'s Uncle and we stayed at the Pax Hotel. It was a large hotel, and the nicest one we stayed at apart from the Montochoro in the Algarve. However, the sleeping arrangements were far from ideal!

Two single beds = one double room

I did sleep very soundly that night! I think as a newlywed the hardest thing to get used to is sharing a bed with another person. 

Outside the older church at Fatima

Fatima was the most overwhelming place I have ever visited in my life. I have literally never seen so many people in one place before. The odor of melting wax, like the inside of a Catholic church on a hot day, was everywhere.

The line-up for candle offerings

I soon found out that many, many people burn candles and wax offerings at a huge pyre very close to the spot where our Lady appeared. People actually had  wax models representing illnesses and maladies affecting the body. I learned about this practice when studying Medieval Europe and I was half-shocked and half-pleased to see it with my own eyes. 

The first chapel built over the place of the apparition

The smell is really almost overpowering, and the heat from the huge fires is scorching. I found it was hard to pray surrounded by so many other people but we did light candles and place them among the racks. 

We visited the new Cathedral first.

 The new Cathedral at Fatima

The building is very simple and contemporary. Lots of people hate the look of it but I was intrigued to see a new style of architecture being used for such a purpose. The crucified Christ outside the new church is also in a more contemporary style and D. didn't like it much.

 The interior of the new Cathedral

The space between the old church and the new church is used by pilgrims who crawl on their knees to the spot our Lady appeared.

The long area between the two churches

I would estimate they crawl for a half a kilometre all the way around the shrine. I didn’t take pictures of the people out of respect – I was a little horrified by what they were doing, but mostly I was in awe of their personal sacrifice and religious devotion. It seemed to me that I could never crawl so far on my knees. But when I saw a young mother crawling with her infant, I knew that she was there in thanksgiving for an answered prayer and I was overcome with emotion. I know what it is to pray for something for years and years and finally receive that gift. 

The old Church

The old church was in a more traditional style. There were so many people present that it was difficult to pray in peace there.

The interior of the old church

For this reason I preferred the other churches we had visited that were comparatively vacant and peaceful. We did take a few moments to sit and see what people had made in devotion to the Virgin - it is amazing what hands can do. 

The altar in the old church

It was such an honour to go somewhere so special on my honeymoon.  

All in all, I enjoyed the experience but I felt overwhelmed most of the day and by the afternoon with the heat and the crowds I was glad to leave.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Slippery Slope

Well turns out that dollhouses are crazy addictive!

Resist if you dare!

I had an inkling I would be in trouble and now I am! I have put together my dollhouse and it is almost finished. I just need to stain the roof shingles and touch up the paint here and there. As you can see I succumbed and bought wall paper.

actually its scrapbook paper 

What you do not see is the tiny furniture I am currently making and painting. Yep, I have gone there - given myself up to the siren call of dollhouse furniture. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dollhouses: Am I Crazy?

In Cape Breton, I have a favorite antiques store that I must visit every year. Myles from Nowhere is in Margaree Forks, by the Co-op, in case you are passing through!

Anyway, I saw a number of crudely made dollhouses for sale there and while I was intrigued by them, they were much too ugly for me to consider buying.

A few days later, on a blog I frequent, Nie Nie Dialogues, I happened to see a beautiful little house used in her decor - I can only guess that it is a dollhouse. I love how it is used in the room and since I am always dreaming about how I will decorate my own home, I felt that I must look around to see what was out there.

And so last night I plunged into the world of dollhouses! It is an expensive and labour-intensive world. I was seriously afraid that I was getting myself into a new and pricey hobby.

Luckily after some searching I came across the most wonderful website - The Little Dollhouse Company - and their shop is literally across the street from my boss' restaurant! It was a great excuse to eat great meal and peruse the dollhouses. Which is what D. and I did today!
I bought the simplest, smallest kit they had, and I am in love with it already. I took it out of the box and fit it all together and it is the cutest little thing ever. I can't wait to start building it!

The only bad thing is I was in a store filled with expensive, small and ridiculous items. So I was totally in my element! I am afraid that I have started down a path...even D. was drawn to the little furniture and accessories. I think we might be in trouble :)

Monday, August 2, 2010


I was in Cape Breton for a week. It was a hastily planned trip to see my grandmother who was sick in the hospital. She died the morning of our flight in so we missed her by hours.

Its strange how a place I have loved so much and knew only under happy circumstances has become such a source of sadness to me in memory.

Now that I have been back a week I don’t remember most the fun times I tried to have. All I can see is her empty spot in the kitchen, and what I saw at the funeral. I remember her, and I miss her. Her absence jarred my whole experience of Cape Breton.

Although I have come to some sort of peace with her death, there are many moments of disbelief and profound sadness at the realization that she is really, really gone.

I haven’t been a Catholic for very long – its been four years since I was baptized – and while I feel a sense of peace because of my faith I am also experiencing a black hole of fear and doubt.

In any case, my grandmother was a good woman and I will miss her. I am sure I will love Cape Breton again without the sadness I am feeling now.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I want this!

This is a cross stitch kit called "Silhouette Collage" - designed by Eva Rosenstand. Its a huge project at 50 x 40 cm but it appeals to me on so many levels - the monochromatic imagery broken by the flowers in the centre. I love how the primary colours contrast with the black and white. And the subject matter is so sweet. Its a little expensive for me right now, so I will just have to dream about it for now.