PhotoHunt: Public

One of my favourite pubic pieces of art in Ottawa, outside the National Gallery of Art.

"Maman" Louise Bourgeois

I should say that the sculpture is of a female spider carrying her egg case (a sort of cage under her abdomen) which is why the title is “Maman”. It is quite tall, so it dwarfs the humans walking past or under it (brave souls). It stands across the street from the Peacekeeping Monument commemorating the Canadian men and women who have served as Peacekeepers with the UN.

New (old) family.

My mother left Scotland back in 1950 and emigrated to Canada. Both her parents were dead and she was an only child She had several cousins but they lived in different parts of the Britain and Scotland. She was teaching but because in Scottish schools teachers were required to strap children and my mother just couldn’t bring herself to do it, she was looking for other work. Unfortunately, now that the war had ended and men were reentering the workforce, whenever she applied for jobs, she was always up against several male candidates and they were the ones who got the jobs.

After listening to a talk one evening on Canada, the next day she went down to the travel agent’s and booked passage to Canada for the next week. She got a colleague to take over the last two weeks of her classes and didn’t even tell her employers she was planning on leaving.

The next week she boarded The Empress of Scotland for Canada. Some friends saw her off.

A few years ago I said “It must have been an emotional day for you, saying goodbye to everything you knew.”

She said “I never looked back”.

She kept in touch with her cousins and few remaining Tocher aunts, her mother’s sisters. Most of her father’s family had cut their connection with her parents towards the end of the war. The last of his sisters had cut her connection when my grandmother, by then very ill with cancer, said that she no longer had the energy to look after a niece who had been staying with her and my Mom (Grandfather had died at the end of the war).

She was very close with her mother’s family, though and remained in contact with her cousins over the years, until they all passed away. Her cousin Kenneth had divorced many years ago and his children stayed with their mother so we didn’t have contact with them. I never imagines that all these years later, through FaceBook, we would suddenly find each other!

Last week, my cousin Mags (Kenneth’s daughter) messaged me on FaceBook and this evening, her sister Sue friended me.

Mags sent me a photo of her grandfather, John Tocher. I’d never seen a photo of him before, so I was thrilled! John Tocher was the designer (apparently never credited but confirmed by Mags) of the Portobello Wave Pool, Edinburgh.

Uncle John Tocher (seated right)

I think Uncle John looks like “James Bellamy” (played by Simon Williams) from “Upstairs, Downstairs”.

Portobello Wave Pool

I was so pleased to have been contacted by Mags and Sue and look forward to getting to know them…

Sad day…

We got an email from our office, today.

The husband of one of my co-workers was killed when the small plane he was flying in crashed near James Bay.

Family and friends of a popular Gatineau high school teacher are grieving after the west Quebec man was killed in a weekend plane crash in northern Quebec.

Michael Robinson, who taught at Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau, was one of two people killed when a float plane went down, crashing into a swamp near James Bay. CTV


The survival of the three injured passengers is credited to the quick arrival and actions of Air Inuit employee Jonathan Perrier, who kept them from drowning until first responders arrived on the scene. Nunatsiaq Online

My friend and her husband have a young son.

This sounds wonderful…

I often check out the links that appear at the bottom of my posts as “suggested links”. You never know what you’ll find. This time it was “Whatever gratin” from “The Catskill Kiwi“.

Be sure to read the full posting because I like her writing style….

The recipe (which will be on the menu this week, Chez Mudhooks) is…

Gratin (these proportions will fit a 8 x 11 sized pan)

  • 3 yukon gold potatoes sliced really thin, as thin as you can get them
  • 2 zucchini (I had 1 green & 1 yellow), left over from our grillin dinner
  • 1 onion sliced,
  • 2/3 cup grated cheese (any kind) I used some kind of hard cheese, the label had fallen off
  • 1 1/2 cup cream, heated with 1 sprig rosemary, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 2 cloves garlic mushed (I used my favorite Trader Joes Dorot garlic) if you don’t have that, peel cloves mince really fine, then add a big pinch of kosher salt and using the back of a knife smear the garlic into a paste….. and if this feels to complicated just add minced garlic. Heat on low for about 3 minutes to combine and infuse.

Heat oven 375F

Caramelize onions in 1 tbsp oil, until golden brown.  Set aside.  Grease baking dish with butter, make one layer zucchini, one layer potato, one layer onion.  Pour half of the cream mixture over, sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese, sprinkle pepper.  Repeat.  Finishing with cheese.  Cover with layer of buttered parchment (this will stop the cheese from sticking to foil) then wrap the dish in foil.  Bake in oven 30 mins, take off foil and parchment and bake another 30 mins. It will be golden brown, bubbling and MOLTEN hot!  Consider yourself warned.

Just because…

These are both animated so you have to click on the second one in order to see it in action.


Dinner tonight was a zucchini casserole.

  • 1 Yellow and 1 green zucchini, thinly sliced (courgette, for the Europeans)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • white cheddar cheese cut into chunks
  • Gouda cheese
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper

Layer thinly sliced zucchini and onions, alternately with Parmesan cheese and cheddar, garlic and chopped tomato in a lidded casserole dish.

Add a little pepper and salt half way down, last layer of cheese and top with Gouda.

Bake at 400 until bubbling.

Remove the lid and broil to make the cheese nice and crispy… Enjoy.

Sorry… didn’t think to photograph it before we started on it!

Dessert was fresh pineapple all the way from Hawai’i, courtesy of Shirin (as was the dashboard hula dancer, below).

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Dashboard hula dancer

My thoughts on Volvos and their drivers

As I have said before, Volvos are very safe vehicles. Apparently, they have a much lower rate of accidents. That is, in my opinion based on thousands of hours on the road, because their drivers never drive them fast enough to get IN an accident. Frequently, the oblivious behaviour of Volvo drivers causes accidents which drives up the accident rates of other model cars.

I have known only one Volvo driver who EVER drove at or above the speed limit and have very rarely encountered a Volvo driver who has not driven at well below the speed limit, gone through an intersection at anything but a crawl, and not been at the head of a line of traffic going well below the speed limit.

Is it the car or the driver?

This afternoon, on the way out to collect a U-Haul van, I was behind a silver Volvo station wagon (99% of Volvos on the road seem to be station wagons — more often silver).

In a 60 km zone, he was driving 40, except through the intersections where he slowed to 20. Sorry… he “sped up to” 20 after crawling out of a stop at every intersection because by the time we got to the intersections, the light was red. I finally was able to slip past him when the road widened to two lanes. Whereupon, he sped (in the right lane) up to pass all the traffic in the fast lane and skim into the lane when the right lane merged. So I KNOW that his vehicle could drive over 60.

As soon as he merged into the lane, he slowed to 40 again along the single lane with no passing allowed, and again crawled through every intersection.

Why Volvo is spending millions on automatic collision detection system is beyond me… Even if it did work, Volvo drivers would never get within 18 feet of another car in front of them to have this system kick in.

I’m glad I’m not the only person who hates Volvos and the drivers that own them.

“So why do I hate Volvo owners? Because they know damn well that if they if they ram you in your proper car, they’ll live and you’ll die. How would you act at work if you nicked a carload of office supplies, seduced the boss’s teenaged daughter and committed nine counts of aggravated fiduciary misconduct and someone else got fired for it? Now imagine how Volvo owners drive.”

I have actually heard Volvo drivers defend their driving 20 km and more below the limit by saying “I drive at that speed to be safe”. In that case, you are an idiot. Driving at 20 km below the limit doesn’t make you “safer” than other drivers. Not driving within the safe speed limit and causes other drivers to get fed up and do stupid things to get around you. That is why in Quebec and other jurisdictions, there are minimum speed limits which are usually about 10 km less than the maximum. Driving 20 km under the limit under normal road conditions is just as dangerous as driving over it.

Get over yourself and get over the mentality that the car you drive makes you a better person and therefore, a better and safer driver.

Now… don’t get me started on Subaru drivers….

PhotoHunter: Hanging

The theme this week is “Hanging” (Next week’s is “Public”… did anyone spot that? Was the choice deliberate?)…

A few years ago, September 2008, we had gone for a drive and ended up in Richmond, Ontario. They were either getting ready for or were finished with the Richmond Fair. The town was done up in style and beside the chip stand (French fries, Poutine*, and other delicacies) I saw this….

Hanging squashes, Richmond

Hanging squashes, Richmond

"Biggest Pumpkin" float, Richmond

*Poutine, for the uninitiated is is Canada’s favourite heart-attack on a plate. But who can resist? What a way to go…

Basically, French fries topped with cheese curds, and gravy. No cheese curds? You COULD substitute white cheddar cheese but is just is not the same. You can’t skimp on the curds or the gravy and “industrial gravy” must be used with caution. The worst Poutine I have eaten was at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (which has the worst food, anyway). The best? So far, my favourite is at The Dairy Barn chip and ice cream stand in Kemptville.

Some would say the best are in Montreal. I haven’t eaten them in Montreal but since Quebec is the birthplace of Poutine… why not?

The actual origin of Poutine will be argued about for centuries to come but legends abound. My friend Lefty McRighty sings of the Great Poutine War of 1955 and who am I to debate the historical accuracy of his account? The CBC wades into the debate, on Q (podcast, about 2/3s of the way through). And it is pronounced “Poutin”, not “pooteen”, no matter how many “experts” mispronounce it. Marion Kane, Food Sleuth, interviewed on Q lays it out for you on her website.

I actually thought I invented it in 1970 and was surprised to learn that I wasn’t the only person to like cheese curds and gravy on fries…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

For those interested, there are many “different” recipes which diverge from the gravy/cheese curds basics and include vegetarian, “healthy” alternatives (why bother????), and “international’ versions. As far as I am concerned, they aren’t Poutine and don’t qualify as Poutine “variations”.And, for a while, McDonald’s offered a “poutine” on their Quebec menus which consisted of McD French fries, curds and gravy but Poutine requires home-cut fries and those need to be thick, not the thin McD-style fries. They need to be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and that calls for the traditional chipwagon-style of fry.

via Jerome's blog

To make Poutine you need:

  • potatoes
  • white cheddar cheese curds – if you don’t know what cheese curds are, you can try a roughly chopped mild white cheddar. Or you can make your own. The idea is to get chunks that melt but still stay sort of firm. DO NOT SHRED THE CHEESE!
  • gravy – preferably a home-style gravy and not an “industrial” gravy (the kind bought in huge cans or sold in powder form). Some people prefer a spiced gravy like those from St. Hubert chicken  restaurants (blecccckkkk!). I personally prefer a hearty chicken gravy.

The potatoes are thickly cut and let stand in ice water for about 10 minutes (other “purists” say let them stand in the air until they oxidize). The chips are fried  at a low temp until translucent, drained and allowed to cool, then re-fried at a higher temp until crisp.

Drain the fries, sprinkle the curds over the top (or you can distribute them throughout the fries, that way they aren’t all on the top. Pour on the hot gravy, enough to get right to the bottom of the fries…. enjoy.

Sprinkle with pepper, if you find you like it a little spicier.

And… NO… “Cheese fries” and “chili cheese fries”, while probably delicious in their own way, just are not the same.

Andy White at The Blacksheep, and the usual beautiful drive home.

For some time, now, I have been hoping to get to see Andy White. But since Andy White is an Irish Musician who lives in Australia, the chances were pretty slim that I was going to see him in these parts.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

andy white – if you want it

I was surprised and pleased to hear that not only was he going to be here in the area, but he was going to be at my favourite venue, The Blacksheep Inn, in Wakefield, Quebec.

So…. I headed off to Wakefield, arrived early enough to order AND eat something from the restaurant next door (great food at a reasonable price!), run to the bank machine, AND get a spot right up front. Andy is really personable and a great songwriter.  While the crowd was small (something we have to rectify next time he is in town!) it was enthusiastic. I think most of the audience were familiar with his music and had seen him before. I am new to his music and have only heard the songs he has on his MySpace page, so I was really interested to hear a wider selection of his work.

He is great!

Andy White

Andy’s songs are pure magic, both in terms of the lyrics and in terms of the on-stage sound. He said towards the end that sometimes his guitar, which is a small 12-string (I’m not sure if it is a guitar or another guitar-like instrument… It is the size of a child’s guitar but puts out an incredible sound), seems to just have a mind of its own and start doing its own thing (in a good way)… It starts to hum and vibrate and reverberate, and coupled with some pedal-tweaks by Andy, you get a surround-sound,  synthesizer experience! I was so caught up in the music I didn’t want to videotape, which is a first for me.

Some favourites? “Looking for James Joyce’s Grave“, “If You Want It“, “Italian Girls on Mopeds“, “Travelling Circus” (My favourite of the favourites).

Andy also co-wrote “If I Catch You Crying” with Stephen Fearing for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings which I didn’t know until this evening. That’s a favourite song from the B&tRK CD…

Andy White, at The Blacksheep

After the show, I took a brief trip up the hill to the cemetery behind the Blacksheep to see whether you could see any stars (it’s a great spot for viewing). Unfortunately, there was some cloud cover and a bright moon, so the stars weren’t terribly bright.

It is a cool night and the smell of woodsmoke was in the air.

Coming home, I took the River Road down through all the little which have been (why oh why do they do this?) renamed Chelsae… Completely idiotic, if you ask me since the signs all down the highway has “Chelsae” in large letters and the old name in brackets. Why not just leave the damn name alone? Was there anything wrong with the names “Farm Point” or “Larimack”? Of course, this was an idiotic fad of the late 1990s to create “megacities” which petered out when most of the smaller communities which were absorbed into the much larger ones found (no surprises, here) that they gained nothing from amalgamation and lost autonomy. I STILL have to put my address as Nepean, despite being told “Oh, that’s Ottawa” because if I don’t my mail gets lost…. ten years after amalgamation.

On the road down through “Chelsae” I spotted a bunch of what I thought were raccoons but discovered was a pride of cats out for a prowl. There must have been 5 or six all darting across the road. Luckily for them, I was taking my time on the road.

Crossing the Interprovincial Bridge, on the Hull (oh… SORRY… the “Gatineau”) side of the river, there were a whole lot of fire trucks, ambulances, paramedic vehicles, and police cars with flashers on. They fire engines seemed to have their spotlights trained on the Ottawa River on the North side. Not sure what was going on.

PhotoHunter: Triangle

This week’s PhotoHunter theme is “Triangle”…

The Andrewsville Road Bridge at Nicholson’s Locks in the Rideau Canal. A makeshift memorial to two people drowned two weeks before, one, an off-duty Navy rescue person, trying to rescue a drowning teen. A reminder that even the most quiet river can have hidden dangers.


The next image is one of a series which I have tentatively titled “The Portfolio“. They “recreate” the portfolio of a fictional woman photographer of the mid-19th century, as it would have been rediscovered long after her death. Since it is a work in progress, many of these are experiments.

"Railway bridge"

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