Brunch /brənCH/

Weekends are divine, and brunch is my favourite time. I am soooo poetic! But, it’s true. I love brunch; I love planning brunch, I love prepping for brunch, I love having friends over for brunch, and I love eating brunch. And Sunday’s are my favourite day for brunch!

brunch collage

Last weekend, we had some of our amazing friends over (well, “technically”, as Mouks would say; all of our friends are amazing – seriously!) and these particular compadres we hadn’t seen in quite a while. Life gets busy, and with kids, activities, work and coordinating schedules, we seem to only ever have time for … you guessed it – BRUNCH!

I love trying out new dishes, and am thankful, that for the most part, everything just kind of magically ‘turns out’. At least in my head it does … and everyone seems to choke it all down with a polite smile and a degree of enthusiasm … so I forge ahead with delight!

depression glass bowl labeledPart of enjoying a tasty meal, is the art of setting the table. I like to putter and fuss, and believe that everything tastes even yummier, with a delightful presentation. For this particular brunch, I pulled out some of my favourite pieces. My Baba’s cherished green depression glass bowl housed a yummy fruit salad (I often speculate on how this beloved piece came into her possession), while my antique yellow and white napkins snuggly engulfed delicious bagels in a sweet little basket.

brunch table settingAnd no table setting is complete without added  height; so one of my many cake plates was layered with a coordinating red damask napkin with additional bagels gently laid on top. A secondary stand held a yummy homemade apple coffee cake, and a cute antique glass sugar pot with a lid, held some delectably delicious whipped creamcheese. I used a painted ceramic egg cup to host the capers and put it on a small rectangular glass plate with sliced red onions. To complete the look, everyone had a special ‘spreader’ at their place setting, lime rimmed crystal goblets for water, and red antique low stemmed juice glasses. I don’t segregate kids dishes from adult dishes. (I’m all about equal opportunity for breakage). Once Mouks hit the age of 3, we pretty much threw out the plastic cups and plates, and he went right to glassware and ceramic dishes. I think it makes everyone feel special, and particularly for nice occasions. In my head, I believe it instills a sense of confidence and the opportunity to act more grown up and “M” for mature. (I use this video game analogy to bribe Mouks into acting more mature, citing that he can start getting “M” rated games, when he can act like an older guy – hey! … whatever works – we gotta speak their lingo)! My mom (Bobs) did this whole dish deal for us as well … though I know I am certainly not scientific proof that it instills maturity, because I’m still a bit of a goofball AND a bull in a china shop!; but it sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?! And, in fairness to any youngen who’s eaten in Smackiland, they have not yet broken a dish or glass. Now, that’s impressive!

tulips in milk jugI did buy some lovely fresh tulips and put them in a butter coloured metal milk jug to coordinate with my vintage inspired creamy yellow dishes, meticulously placed on a faded red floral tablecloth reminiscent of a country garden. And… ahhhhhh… my ‘pre-spring’ brunch table was set!

I like to serve a menu with a variety of items everyone will enjoy. Here is a list of my latest offerings:

Bevvies:

  • Big D’s ‘Stand-Up’ Lattes. The name says it all… a load of rich, luxurious caffeine, smothered in frothy goodness, and so thick your spoon will stand up.
  • Juice d’orange.
  • San Pellagrino, with fresh lime wedges.

Cold Delights:

  • Flavourful fruit salad, consisting of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple and blueberries. Topped with maple infused whipped cream. Mmmm…. Mmmm… who doesn’t love just a little touch of maple syrup goodness?
  • Kettleman’s bagels (only THE best bagels in all of Ottawa); poppyseed, sesame and ‘everything’ selections.
  • Deli toppings: prosciutto ham (a.k.a. Moukie’s ‘special ham’), smoked salmon, with ultra thinly sliced red onions and capers.
  • Assorted cheese plate: stinky Rouy cheese, double cream Brie, and garlic Boursin, garnished with grape clusters and strawberries.
  • Whipped cream cheese. I find spreadable creamcheese, whipped with my hand blender makes it creamier for spreading with not a lot of fuss.
  • Delish berry jam.
  • Pads of butter.
  • Homemade apple coffee cake.  Stay tuned for this uber awesome recipe!

Warm Goodness:

  • M-mm-mmm maple sausages…. yummmm… sausages! Easy to throw in the oven on a cookie sheet, and voila!
  • Egg nests! Yeah… you heard me.. but these are different, there are no birds. My latest experiment…. I found a little recipe online, so gave it a whirl! Here’s the Smack-Attack version:

eggs in phyllo recipe

Please call ahead to book your Brunch reservation in Smackiland!

Now taking appointments….

My father’s love lives on …

sherri with dad 1972 cropped and adjusted It’s crazy to think that 15 years ago today, the life of one of the most important people in my world, was suddenly over. Gone. Just like that.

I remember getting the call that he had almost died. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the fear. The tears. The anguish. And, that I was here. In Ottawa. Sitting in my little cubicle. Living my life, while my dad was fighting for his, and I didn’t even know it.

I look back on that time as though I was watching a movie in slow motion. I can hear the sob escape my lips, and see the desperation in my tears as deafening silence engulfs the office. Sixty people stop cold. No movement, no sound as the heavy hush falls. In my movie, I see my good friend rush over, grab my hands in hers, and my voice shakes as I tell her. Silence. Gripping fear. Real, desperate heartache. I hear my voice talking to the doctor, to see what shape he’s in now. And hear his deep soothing tone tell me “You’ll never regret coming, even if he was to get better”. breaking_hearts blog And… it is at that split second… that very specific moment in time, that I feel the ‘crunch’ of my heart cracking; it’s jagged tear echoing in my ears. I will never experience life the same. He won’t be getting better. This the beginning of the end. A piece of my heart will always be broken. Forever.

In a blur, I take the next flight home to Edmonton, where my best friend is waiting to take me to the hospital. I remember sitting outside in her car, sobbing. Again. Trying to muddle up the courage to see him. The hollow “click clack” of my shoes resonate against the linoleum floor of the empty corridor as I sneak into his room after visiting hours. I remember holding his hand in mine, the raised purplish veins under his skin, and the familiarity of his kind, gentle, warm touch. I can close my eyes still today, and see the same hazel eyes looking back at me, and hear him tell me “I almost didn’t make it today”. How the words hurt to hear, but the relief of being with him, even for a few minutes, hours or days were of comfort. He must’ve made a joke, because I remember smiling a real smile, not a sad smile. He had that way about him. That charm. That gentle soul. The one I still miss.

As the days passed, and we were all around him, I felt the warmth of his love mixed with the fear of losing him. Of never being able to see him again. To ask his sage advice, to sit with him in silence and watch the squirrels on our deck, to lay beside him, match his breathing and hear the ticking of his mechanical mitral heart valve pumping the blood in and out, or to hear the unexplainable joy in the sound of his laughter and telling of witty jokes.

dad alesiaThe day he died, my sister and I were trying to coax him into eating his lunch. My niece was just a baby (the apple of his eye), and my sister and I were both on the verge of bursting into tears, because it was just too hard. It was – too hard. It was hard for each of us, in the same ways, yet differently.  But mostly… it would’ve been the hardest on him;  in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend… or face.  My mom and brother were talking to the doctor… my sister had taken my niece to the lounge… and I sat with him, and tried to convince him to eat something. I heard the rasping of his shallow breathing, saw the very distant far away look in his flecked hazel/brown eyes, and knew something was… wrong. I remember desperately trying to press the nurse’s call button – and choking out a plea for help – and then running down the hall as fast as I could to find a nurse. I could feel the pounding in my chest, the panic and the feeling of wanting to scream as loud as I could; but not being able to.

By the time I had found everyone, he was with my brother and had taken his last breath. And … I had missed my chance to say goodbye … to hold his hand and reassure him so he wouldn’t be afraid and to tell him how much I loved and admired him. In my heart, I knew that he knew all the love we each carried for him, but… my heart’s regret is that I didn’t just stop and hold him… that I ran to find help… and that for a fraction of a second he may have been alone.

On the way to his funeral, we were all sitting in the car, and I can’t remember which one of us said it, but it was his classic line. “I’m okay… you okay?”… And I remember looking at my mom, and I think that was the first time we were all able to smile. And it was because we felt him with us. That he would always be with us, in the big and small ways. And that in moments such as this, we were reassured that he would always be a part of us.dad alesia and me

It took at least 6 months of deep hearted sobs every day, which tapered to every few days, then weekly, monthly and now, fifteen years later, in moments when I least expect it. The tears will trickle, and I can feel the ache of that hairline fracture that remains in my heart.

In our culture, we celebrate the lives of the people who have passed. At a young age, I was introduced to open casket funerals. I was five when my dad’s dad passed away, and I was scared to view his body at the funeral. My dad gently took me by the hand, and reassured me that everything was going to be okay. He led me past the pews, up the long red carpeted aisle to the coffin, where we stood in front of my grandpa’s body. My dad reached out and touched his hand, and took my hand to do the same. Nothing happened, and I remember distinctly that any fear I had , dissipated. We had annual gravesite visits at Provody; where baskets of food and Ukrainian bread lit with candles are laid on the graves, and they are blessed. The baskets are then given out, in memory of our loved ones, and the lives of those who passed are celebrated. As a young child, I knew that death was a part of life. And to this day, it brings me comfort knowing that each and every day my father’s life is celebrated in everything we do.

dad in boat croppedThe crack in my heart is still there, but it is healed by his memory; filled with joy from the time I spend with my family, and blessed with the love I see in my son’s smile when he laughs and expresses himself in ways that remind me of my dad, even though he passed before Mouks was born. It makes me think that my dad lives in more than just my memory, that he really is a part of each of us.

My dad worked hard, laughed heartily, enjoyed life, and loved deeply. He lived his life with integrity, joy, humour, trust, kindness, generousity, optimism and enthusiasm. It is my wish that I can live my life with the same abandonment. That any obstacles I am faced with, I can rise above them, and see the hope for tomorrow, the beauty in the moment I am in, and appreciation for the life I have been given. And to know, that no matter what, we’ll all be okay.

“I’m okay…..you okay?” Johnny Huculak

dad collage 2

Sized up

Okay… so I’m irked. I mean totally ticked, agitated and pretty much, more than unimpressed. That is my way of trying to edit my language to keep it clean for my readers; okay, okay… I mean for my mom. Yesterday, a colleague at work showed me the YouTube video of the WKBT Reporter, Jennifer Livingston (who by the way has a very famous brother from the TV show, “The Office”; and, YES… we were YouTube’ing during work time, but that’s okay, ’cause the big boss watched it too), who received a degrading email from some guy (and by that I mean ‘knob’) about her weight. Like it’s any of his business what the size of her waistline is. I’ve read a load of the articles out there on it (’cause there’s about a million of them, as it’s pretty much plastered all over the internet). And I guess I’m gonna re-hash some of the same ca-ca that’s flying around out there:

Some dough-head writes this Wisconsin news anchor an email that in a nutshell, calls her fat and that he hopes she doesn’t consider herself a role model for young girls. Because, “ohhhh, yes, of course the size of someone’s ass determines whether you can be a role model”. Seriously? I guess a woman’s intellect, compassion and generous spirit would have nothing to do with it… at all? What delusional world does this guy live in? It appears from the media reports that he is a fitness fanatic and, based on his trade, would be deemed as highly educated, tho through his actions, he appears to have some kind of ‘holier-than-thou’ complex. My assumption, is that’s he’s been rejected by women for being so arrogant (I would say that’s probably a safe bet), which masks his insecurities (we all have them), that he potentially (a little butt covering here) lives in a love-less life and obsesses about exercise because it’s the only way he can find any real pleasure (a guess, but plausible). The fact that he even gives a rat’s behind what a television news anchor looks like is beyond creepy. (Like c-r-e-e-p-y kinda creepy). Oooooh.. and get this…. he’s now saying that he’s trying to encourage her to lose weight and wants to help her. HA! Okay… need I say more? I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I can smell a l-o-s-e-r a million miles away!

I do wonder a teeny smidge, in the back of my mind, if he would’ve written this same email to a male news anchor? I would take a stab in the dark that he probably wouldn’t. No offence to any of you fellas out there; consider yourself lucky he’s neglected you. AND… by the way, no where have I read yet, how attractive she really is. And she is. Beautiful. Very much so. And articulate. And darn smart. Who cares what size she is. All I’ve read is that she’s fat. Though, I do have a preference for the term ‘chubby chick’, personally. And… I have a ‘zero tolerance policy’ for people who can’t see internal and external beauty beyond someone’s physical size. We all come in different packages. How amazing is that?

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

So, October is Anti-Bullying month… and, she’s fighting back, while teaching girls that they can stand up for themselves. “Girl power!” Yes, we could take over the world if we wanted to. One of Jennifer Livingston’s quotes was “Do not let self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many”. I suppose that if I sent him a copy of my blog, maybe he’d think I was a bully for calling him a knob … hmmmm… food for thought. (Mmmmm…. double chocolate hot fudge sundae; Kidding! Gotch’ya!). I guess my rant is really directed in general solidarity. Chubby chicks. We’re everywhere. Get used to it buddy.

One of my favourite Dove ads … she is stunningly beautiful.

One of the most amazing marketing campaigns I think I’ve seen is the “Dove – Campaign for Real Beauty”, which targets real women. All women. All inclusive. I find it inspiring.

And, here’s my appropriate quote for today:

“It’s not the size of our butts that matter…. it’s the size of our hearts”. – Smacki