Friday, November 21, 2014

The Waning Days of Summer

My last visitor in Nova Scotia this past summer was my friend Mary who lives in Ontario.  We first met in the mid 1970s in Lahr when both our husbands were posted to Germany.  Three years later we were all posted to Winnipeg, Manitoba, thus we have been friends a long time.

This picture of Mary was taken in Annapolis Royal where we spent some time meandering along the street and checking out the shops along the way.

The souvenier store, the Crooked Floor and the Fort Anne Cafe


The boardwalk in town along the Annapolis Basin

Mary and I swam, ate, drank some wine and beer and did a lot of talking.

On one of the evenings for supper we had Buletten, a German specialty.  (I wrote about them at length in my blog post "All About Buletten" on March 19, 2011.)  Paula and Laurie joined us as did our friend, John.  Hans had made them before leaving for Germany and had them in the freezer for me all ready to thaw and heat up.  He had also frozen his cooked red cabbage, which is traditional with the Buletten as is the cucumber salad, especially in Berlin and eastern Germany.  (I made the cucumber salad although it is Hans' recipe.)

 We began the evening in our front porch at the round table with Sekt/sparkling wine and melted Camembert, accompanied by slices of French bread.  The cheese is sliced in half and filled with a mixture of garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest.  (The recipe can be found on my post of Nov 25, 2013, "A Wedding Celebration.")  I have served this many times as it is not only easy and fast to prepare but everyone loves it.  I always serve cranberry sauce with the cheese but forgot that evening.  (In Germany, I serve my own cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier as one of the ingredients.) 
NoteI had already published this on line when I realized that it is not cranberry sauce that I usually serve with the Camembert, although that is very good with it, it is hot pepper jelly that I generally serve as it is a great contrast to the mild Camembert.

(The recipe for Buletten, the sauce and the cucumber salad I gave in my blog post of March 19, 2011; the recipe for red cabbage can be found in the post "Advent" on December 16,  2010.)
So once again, the meal was really Hans' dinner; he just wasn't there to enjoy it.  On this evening, I kept it casual, so everyone helped themselves at the stove and carried it out to the table at the other end of the porch, near the kitchen.

A couple of days later I once again made those sweet and sour pork chops that I talked about in my recent blog post and which were so black we couldn't eat them that particular night.   This time, I did not forget them in the oven.  Paula and Laurie joined Mary and I and, thankfully, they were a success. 
I served the chops with oven baked potatoes, cleaning them but leaving the skins on and cutting them into chunks.  I then rolled them in some oil and butter and sprinkled them well with minced garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary and some thyme.  If making them that way, turn them over occasionally so they do not burn and will cook evenly.
I have enjoyed this dish since the late 1960s.  The recipe for the chops came from the Star Weekly Magazine and was printed in their Star Weekly Cook Book in 1967.  I have made them throughout the many years since. 
Preparation time is only about 5 minutes and baking time: 1 hour.  They can be prepared ahead and baked before serving.  Just don't forget to check the oven!
Sweet and Sour Pork Chops:  4 servings
4 one-inch thick pork chops
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 lemon
Heat oven to 350F/180C.  Arrange chops in a single layer in a casserole dish.  Don't leave too much space around them.  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Mix together the brown sugar and the mustard and spread it evenly over the 4 chops.
Cut the lemon into 4 slices.  Place a slice on each chop.  Squeeze the juice from both ends into the casserole dish around the edges (not on the chops); add 1/4 inch water.  Bake chops in preheated oven about 1 hour or until tender.
I usually put whole potatoes into the oven to bake at the same time; both the chops and the potatoes will be ready in an hour.  If the potatoes are not done, remove the chops and keep them covered; raise the oven temperature to 400F/200C and check the potatoes for doneness in about 10 minutes.  (This time I had cut-up potatoes instead.)
Along with a vegetable and a salad it is a simple meal.  Teens like this as do younger children.
A day or so later Mary left for Ontario and home.  From then on, I was busy until I returned to Germany less than a week later.  Fall was closing in although the weather was still lovely.  I did capture on camera some of our animal visitors during that time and over the summer.
Yes, we see skunks every so often.  They come by but just keep going.

The raccoons come around towards evening and thus far have done no damage.  Hans feeds them; I do not.


These beautiful creatures are so timid that at the least sign of movement they are off and running.  I took these two pictures through the front porch windows (as I did the other two as well).

To those in Canada and the United States with snow and cold temperatures, keep warm in a cosy kitchen and enjoy some home-cooked food and a glass of wine or a well-poured beer. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Celebration to Remember

My three sisters: Anne, Paula and Carol
The greatest celebration of the summer was for me and it was a total surprise.  My sisters got together and planned a pre-birthday bash for a big one of mine coming up in March 2015.  As they won't get over to Germany, Paula, Anne and Carol decided to celebrate it with me ahead of time in Nova Scotia. 
Anne and I

Of course, it wasn't a traditional celebration as none of them ever are when we all get together.  The theme was a look back at my life.
Carol, inviting me to the celebration!
The three of them laughed for days as they were getting ready for the party.  Keeping it from me was no easy task.  They went right back to my school days when I was a majorettte in the Dartmouth Youth Band and a cheerleader during my high school days.  They also took into account former boyfriends and my Scottish ancestry.  And, of course, Prince Edward Island, the province of my birth, by showcasing Anne of Green Gables, the story by Lucy Maud Montgomery, one known around the world.  They didn't forget my country of residence, Germany, either.
Anne as the MC and announcing the program to follow
The program

The majorette, the flag bearer, the drummer and the Scottish piper!



As a young child, Anne could not always find her way around; below, it looks like she still can't!  Paula is trying out her bagpipe.

The costumes they came up with were worth all the effort.  Paula spent hours making her Scottish outfit and helping with the rest of them.  Friends, Jean and John, joined in.  Unbeknownst to me, they had even contacted my first high school days boyfriend, who lives in Ontario, and set up a time for him to phone me during the celebration.  The one absent was Hans, who was in Germany, but he certainly had heard all about it and before I did.  All the same, he was missed.

The following pictures tell the story.

The house below is where I grew up in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  The cushion was part of the celebration.  Right below, Paula in her Scottish dress along with Carol.  Below centre, the four strutting to their own drummer!




This is one of my favourites:  Anne, Paula and Stephen (who was impossible to recognize)

Picture below left:  An ode to my very first teen and junior high school boyfriend with the windmill hat.  Paula has never forgotten Ralph who would stand outside our house in Dartmouth and whistle for me. Carol remembers that as well.  He wore a beanie with a windmill on it.  Laurie is doing the honours on this day.
On the right is John wearing a Bavarian hat with all the various German pins and a feather.

Jean representing Anne of Green Gables and my Prince Edward Island province of birth.

John surprised everyone as he hadn't told them that he had this in mind.  The hula skirt represents a cheerleader (at least, that is what I think!). 

The two pictures following I especially like.

The gang who made my day!  John took the picture.
That was the end of the program, with BJ taking up the tail end

The festivities were not yet over though.  Food and cake and wine were still to come.  John made the cake, one of his specialties.  Superb!


It will be difficult to top this unique day.  This was a day to remember for me and for all of us.
All I can say is thank you and what a wonderful celebration it was!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Summer Days: August Celebrations

August began with a spaghetti dinner. This was really Hans' dinner, as he had made the sauce and had frozen it before he left for Germany.  As always, it was excellent.  Part of his secret is using lots of Italian seasoning and plenty of red wine.  Hans had made enough for almost two dinners.  My brother-in-law, Stephen, liked it so much he didn't want me to eat the remaining spaghetti but take it with us to Prince Edward Island where we all would meet a few days later.  And that is what I did.  I carried it in an ice box in the trunk of the car on a five-hour plus drive to the Island. 

Along with the spaghetti that evening, I served a salad and French bread.  For me, that latter is essential. I spread each partially attached slice with garlic butter before heating it in the oven.  Spaghetti is not that easy to eat, so bibs were the order of the day.
My sister Carol was visiting me from the U.S.A., so the following day she and I drove to Hall's Harbour, a delightful small village north of Kentville, directly on the Bay of Fundy.  That day the tide was out as usually seems to be the case whenever I visit it.  It was also foggy, as is sometimes the case.  The restaurant there is basic but has indoor and outdoor seating. 

Fresh lobster is available: to eat there or to take home.  A small store is located beside the restaurant where one can buy souvenirs, including plastic lobster bibs, which we both bought.  Sometimes hard to find unless in a tourist area.  They are almost a necessity when eating your own whole lobster with juice running down from it as you break it apart.  They are also perfect to wear when eating spaghetti, which we did the night before, as I had a few that I had saved.

Below, boats moored on dry shore until the tide comes in; the restaurant with my sister Carol in the forefground; lobster traps below right


The sun appearing, with guests enjoying their lunch.

Long-time friends from Germany visited me in mid August.  Sylvi and Hans live in our area of Baden-W├╝rttemberg.  They were on a trip to both the United States and Canada.  This was their first time to Nova Scotia.  We laughed, ate, enjoyed some wine and beer and also fitted in some sightseeing during the two days they were with me. That included driving up the North Mountain to Hampton on the Bay of Fundy. 
Sylvi and Hans investigating the rocky shoreline

The Bay of Fundy stretches for about 270 kilometers between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, two of the Canadian provinces bordering the Atlantic Ocean.  It has the highest tides in the world, with 160 billion tonnes of sea water flowing in and out of the Bay each day.  That water is very cold so one wouldn't last long if falling into it from a boat.  Many fishermen have lost their lives during fierce storms in the Bay of Fundy.   But, a positive note:  because of the cold water, some of the best scallops and lobster in the world comes from it.  As well, some beautiful stones can be found along the rocky shore if one wishes to look for them.
From Hampton we headed along that coastline for a time before driving back down the mountain and into Annapolis Royal, Canada's oldest town.  It dates back to 1605. I have written several times on my blog about this lovely town .

Above, Hans Schlager in Annapolis Royal.  This is a private home on the main street offering a place to rest.  He took advantage of that offer.

The house on the left is one of the oldest in town.

We arrived home at about 5:30 to 6 p.m.  I rushed around preparing supper.  My sister Paula and my brother-in-law Laurie would be joining us as would my sister Carol who had driven to Chester on the south coast for the day. 
First would be appetizers and drinks on the deck.  All was great fun with lots of laughter.  I had placed dinner in the oven to bake:  pork chops in a sweet and sour sauce and potatoes.  A simple meal, with carrots on the stove top ready to go plus salad.  We were having such a good time with lots of talking going on that I forgot to check the oven in time.  I opened the oven door and smoke billowed out.  My chops were black, the potatoes like golf balls and the kitchen filled with smoke.  So now, what to do?  I was tired and there went our dinner! 

On the left below, my sisters Paula and Carol (in white) and Hans 
I had a day earlier thought of going to the pub but decided to cook instead.  A mistake!  Hans then said, "The pub it is!" so off we went to town.  It was now after 8 p.m. 
A couple coming out of the pub told us that the chef had finished cooking for the day.  I went inside anyway to check and talked to Sheena, the owner's daughter, whom I know.  Sure enough, no more food.  She suggested we go to "Mama's Pizza" down the street.  So off we all went, along with the other couple, who happened to be visiting Bridgetown from Comox, B.C. and who also hadn't eaten. We did get pizzas and brought them home to eat (no tables at the pizza place).   They were good and so was the wine! 
As my sister Carol said, "Look at it this way, Janet, you have no dishes to wash!"  True, I just had to clean the casserole dish that had pork chops glued to it!  We all had a good laugh and with the wine helping to soften the disaster, the evening turned out to be an enjoyable one.

Laurie celebrated his 78th birthday in mid August.  Paula served scallops in a wonderful sauce, wild rice and green beans.

 A chocolate cake with candle glowing and the big 78 on top followed.

Paula's Scallops:  Here is how Paula cooked her scallops:  Saute the scallops quickly in butter and oil in a fry pan along with some minced garlic; when browned, remove from pan.  Deglaze the pan drippings with white wine; add a packet of chicken oxo.  Stir well.  Add whipping cream and Montreal Steak spice without the salt.  Check for seasoning.  Put scallops back into the pan for a second or two.  Serve with rice and the sauce.
At the end of August friends arrived for lunch with their two teens.  Dave and Karen live in Newfoundland but visit Dartmouth, N.S. every summer to visit Dave's parents, Liz and Niel, whom I have known for many years.  I served a simple lunch after which all four enjoyed a swim in the pool.
A day later my friend Mary arrived from Ontario to spend a week with me.  She was my last visitor before I headed back to Germany five days later.  I shall talk about that visit plus a special celebration in my next blog.  The summer is gone but we can all remember the sunny, warm days.
Mary enjoying one of those summer days.