Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
When I was about 12, my parents took me to see Peter Paul and Mary at Hamilton Place as part of their Reunion tour. My dad was a huge fan and had all of their recordings on vinyl. We wore those records out when I was a kid, and when I was older I replaced each and every one on CD. Since that first concert, I have been privileged to see PPM live on at least a dozen more occasions, the most memorable was when I took my own sons several years ago to Roy Thomson Hall. Mary Travers was always the centre of the group. With her pitch perfect nasal harmonies, trademark blond flip of the hair, and true passion, she was able to convey the message of the songs with unmatched eloquence. I feel like a part of my childhood died this evening. May her memory be forever a blessing.
- Note the beauty and not the flaws. We all make mistakes. I have hit more wrong notes in my career than I care to remember. I have been part of choirs that have barely made it through some pieces. I have had to leave the bimah on occasion to retrieve forgotten items and I have left the bimah (white robes flying behind me!) to silence noisy crowds that seemingly have forgotten that they are not in a sporting venue. These are the things that people comment on and remind me of year after painful year. Instead, try listening for the tight harmonies on well-rehearsed yearly favourites. Look around the B'eit T'fillah (sanctuary) and note how beautifully it has been decorated and appreciate the work of the volunteers that put it all together. The silver is polished, the Sifrei Torah are decked out in their finest, the music and sermon topics carefully chosen and diligently rehearsed, and everything resonates with that yontif aura. Accentuate the positive.
- Try reading the machzor with a new eye for understanding. Yes, it is true that many of the selections and prayers come off as trite or pedantic, but many others offer true comprehension of the themes of the holidays. True repentance can only come with bona fide understanding. Perhaps when the cantor or choir is singing, examine the translation of the piece. There is usually reason behind it.
- Try singing, even if you posit that you can't. I recently wrote the following for our temple's bulletin.
I would like to suggest that the rabbi and cantor are not on the bimah to pray for the congregation, but rather their roles are to facilitate prayer, so that it might be accessible to each individual, and thus enable every person to find his or her voice in order to engage in a personal conversation with God. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur especially, it is incumbent on everybody to find a portal, an avenue, or a gateway towards that conversation, so that we can pray with true sincerity, and make t’shuvah with an honest and repentant heart with each other and with God.
We aren’t merely working towards yet another performance, we are striving for holiness and we want each and every member of the congregation to join with us. We need to hear you sing. We need to feel your presence and your prayers. We are not performing for you, we are praying with you, and your participation is not only requested but also required.
Music elevates our spirituality. Yes, I realize that this platitude is coming from a singer, but I have heard it from congregants over and over again on how the music has taken them to new heights. Try it. Music speaks louder than words. (With apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary.)
- Use the silence. There is a distinct purpose for personal mediation. Find something within yourself that challenges your thought process. Express gratitude, fear, pain, joy, anxiety or simply find peace. Close your eyes and internalize. Blinker the fidgeters, the wrapper crinklers, the doodlers, and the clock-watchers. Attempt to engage in that personal conversation.
- Remember what is important about these days. Does it really matter if some boor misbehaves? Does it really matter if some worshipper is inappropriately dressed? Does it really matter if some small detail is forgotten? (You need to know how difficult it was for this anal retentive schnook to write that last one!) What really matters is our communal conversation and our personal repentance. While we might wish for everybody to follow our ideas of standard dress, behaviour and decorum, we can only advise, strongly suggest, and police so much. Everything else rests with the individual. That said, please note that you are entering into a holy space. Proper respect is due your surroundings and those who attend. Cell phones discourage, detract and distract. Unless you have a direct line to The Holy One, turn it off!! (Not mute. OFF!!)
- Finally, COME! For those of you who beg off synagogue attendance, try one service. Open the book, read the prayers, listen to the music and participate. And once it is over, come back. Wish your seat partner Shana Tova, bring your children to hear the shofar, and join with the choir in singing. You just might find renewed energy and rediscover your heritage.
Friday, 11 September 2009
But I guarantee it, if we do not win a majority, this country will have a Liberal government propped up by the socialists and the separatists. That government may not last long but every day it's in office it will do long-term, real damage to this country. This country cannot afford a government like that.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has done absolutely nothing to endear himself to the electorate. As a matter of fact, he was AWOL for most of the summer while the country was sweating and sinking. NDP leader Jack Layton spent his summer months trying to decide if his party should change their name. A rose by any other name, Jack--well you know the rest. The Bloc is trying to dismantle Confederation, and The Greens have yet to appeal to many outside of their fringe of tree-huggers and granola eaters.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Gray squirrels are the preferred ones; red squirrels are small and quite gamey in flavour. There are, proverbially, many ways to skin a squirrel, but some hunters claim the following one is the quickest and cleanest. It needs a sharp knife.
To skin, cut the tail bone through from beneath, but take care not to cut through the skin of the tail. Hold the tail as shown on the left and then cut the skin the width of the back, as shown in the dotted lines. Turn the squirrel over on its back and step on the base of the tail. (I love this part!!) Hold the hind legs in one hand and pull steadily and slowly, as shown in the centre sketch, until the skin has worked itself over the front legs and heat. While holding the squirrel in the same position, pull the remaining skin from the hind legs. Proceed as for Rabbit, page 452, cutting off the head and the feet and removing the internal organs, plus two small glands found in the small of the back and under each foreleg, between the ribs and the shoulders.
Stuff and roast squirrels as for Pigeons, page 475, barding them, or use them in Brunswick Stew or prepare as for braised Chicken. (I always knew that squirrel tasted like chicken!!) Season the gravy with walnut catsup and (here is comes--the best!!) serve with POLENTA!!!
There are very few people that I have talked to that know something about eating that do not rate squirrel at the top of the list when it comes to eating wild animals. Squirrel meat is light coloured, fine textured, with a mild delicate flavour. Squirrel meat is far superior to venison or moose (Insert moose/squirrel joke here!) and you do not tire of it as easily as you do such meats when you have it for a mor or less steady diet.
I have eaten fried squirrel, roasted squirrel and stewed squirrel in the central, southern and eastern states and I just love them in any of these styles.
If I get to eating too much squirrel, (TOO MUCH SQUIRREL!!) I make sure to have it Belgian style as I never tire of it that way. Be sure to try it this way. I know you will enjoy it a great deal.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Knowing that this would be the final cottage visit of the season for us, and knowing that Twin Son and His Better Half would not be able to return until Thanksgiving, the removal of said vessel took on an added urgency this long weekend. Twin Son was all about winches, hitches, engines and trailers. The Husband politely nodded his ascent as if he had a raging clue what was being discussed. The testosterone was flowing at high levels. Just get any man talking about a trailer hitch and a power washer, and watch their face light up with excitement. The boat launch is at the opposite end of the lake from "The Cottage", so the plan was for The Better Half and myself to take one last summer spin in the boat, and have the guys hook up the trailer to jeep and meet is on the other side. It was all proceeding exactly according to Hoyle. We renaissance women had no trouble maneuvering the boat into position, and The Husband operated the winch like a seasoned pro! (I must admit that watching him in the pursuit of manly endeavours was quite the turn-on!) And the fun started!
It has been an extraordinarily wet summer around here and the ground is very soft-almost sand-like. The boat launch is little more that a divoted piece of beach on a wicked incline. Add to that mess, is the fact that Twin Son traded in his 6 cylinder, 4-wheel drive Jeep this past year, for a smaller 4 cylinder, front-wheel drive model. Needless to say we got good and stuck in the soft earth. No amount of gas, rubber, or digging was going to free the beast. Luckily for us citified idiots, some local idiots were making the most of the last long weekend of the summer. The nicest group of refugees from Woodstock you will ever meet. There wasn't a T-shirt or shoes on any of them, (maybe even the women-I failed to notice!) the beer was flowing quite liberally for 11:00 am in the morning, and the air had that sweet smoky smell I recall from my university days. These guys jumped to our added faster than flies to shit, and were even prepared to pull us out with their pick-up and some heavy duty chains. We were a sight! 6 shirtless hippies looking for a Hendrix concert, The Husband in rolled up denim so as not to dampen the cuffs, The Better Half with sand encrusted blond hair flying, and The Twin Son giving his poor suburban car all the gas it could take-finally pushed the sucker up over the ridge and onto the road-facing the wrong way! I of course was cheering them on the entire time. (I honestly couldn't help without being in the way. Sometimes one just has to know when to back off!)
It is also one of the adages of cottage life, that one looks out for one's neighbours. Without our friends, we would still be stuck in the mud and muck screaming pointlessly for HELP! Beer is on the way as a thank you kindly to our chivalrous, half-naked knights in white satin! Here's hoping that they don't laugh at our Yuppie Coronas!