We went to Niagara’s Greekfest this weekend – we never miss it!
After leveling three family size orders of Loukoumades, we all did a shot of ouzo in memory of my dad.
“Living One.” You are finally here! We have all been getting ready for you over the past several months… your dad making space for you in the house and your older brothers making space for you in their hearts. Your presence is already changing the tone of this family… it’s a little bit softer and I am feeling a little less outnumbered. (Thank you!)
I want to tell you about a place your dad and I visited once… It was a breathtakingly beautiful Greek island with towering mountainous ranges, fertile forests and tranquil turquoise beaches. We visited a remote mountain village there, with no plumbing and limited electricity. Many of the townsfolk were dressed in heavy orthodox attire, and trying to keep cool under vineyard covered trellises. We passed through the center of town where all the women used to sit at a stone mill and grind wheat to make bread. We went inside a house that had been frozen in time for nearly a decade; beds unmade, dishes in the sink, a few dozen pictures on the mantle… pictures of our family.
My dad, whom you will unfortunately not meet in this lifetime, had grown up in that house. Actually he helped build it. There was an iron stove out the back door, where your great-grandma would cook long, thin loaves of bread each day, one for her husband and each of her boys to keep in their back pockets as they worked the fields. We saw where they would have kept the donkey, goats and chickens. We walked through the pomegranate and olive orchards they once tended to. The sheer lack of what my dad had grown up with was staggering… and yet he lived such a rich life. He loved his family fiercely. He shared all he had. He never compromised his integrity. And he cultivated a full, safe and happy life for our family. The legacy he left on our hearts will extend far beyond his 57 years on this earth.
On that day, when I saw where it all began, I knew a little piece of my heart would not be coming home with me. It was the only place I have ever been that broke my heart and filled it to overflowing at the exact same time. And I am learning that the most beautiful aspects of life are just like this… watching your kids grow up, embracing new seasons and allowing necessary changes to take place in your heart. It’s like… an intersection, where joy and sorrow meet. A holy threshold. I am sure Jesus knew this cross-road well, as He died on one. I pray you would learn to live your life this way, able to experience all God has for you in every moment and know that all of it is good.
So… one day, my darling “living one,” your dad and I will take you to this place so you can experience it for yourself – the unforgettable village of St. Anna’s, on the breathtakingly and heart-achingly beautiful island of Evia, Greece.
I have seen countless posts about the controversy over this movie, and in trying to keep an open mind I have read them all. Many of these articles have been posted by people I respect and consider dear friends and I would honestly like to keep it that way. I have no desire whatsoever to start another vicious online Christian debate that accomplishes absolutely nothing. I have come to the conclusion that the interwebs have no interest in which of us is theologically superior. Everyone on this earth already knows an overly-opinionated Christian who has exhausted his or her soap box privileges. No one is reading our posts except those who already agree with us. No one else is listening. No one else cares. Probably because, apart from our unsolicited advice, we have only ever shown by our actions, that we don’t truly care either.
The big ticket holidays always remind me of dad the most. No doubt he would have said something ludicrous like “the Greeks invented Thanksgiving” or something, but… he was all over big family get togethers, tacky decorations and exceptionally delicious food. I stumbled on Jamie Oliver’s “Chicken in Milk” recipe a few years back and was oddly intrigued at the idea of lemon, cinnamon and milk combined together. It sounded like something Daddy would have made. When it was in the oven I was immediately transported back in time to the mouth-watering scent of his Easter cookies in the oven. From the exact moment that chicken hit my lips, I basically vowed to never have chicken any other way. My husband and I were both sucking the bones dry. It WAS that good!
So, last year I thought I would do something audacious for Thanksgiving and try a similar recipe with turkey. I’ve done it 2 or 3 times for both my Greek and non-Greek family members with raving success. This recipe is almost embarrassingly easy. Tempted to try it? 😉
- 5-7 kg Grade A Turkey
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 sprig rosemary, whole
- 4 lemons, zest of
- 1 bulb garlic cloves, seperated with skin left on
- 4 cups milk
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Remove turkey innards. Rinse the bird and dry with paper towel.
- Cover the turkey with olive oil and season it generously.
- Fry the turkey (in the pot) on the stovetop on high for about 3 minutes total, ensuring to turn on all sides for an even golden colour. (This step can be skipped but it locks in the moisture, taste and colour.)
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, cover with tin foil and cook in preheated oven for 3½ hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. Remove tinfoil for the last 20 mins.
- Pull the meat off the bones and arrange on a serving platter. (You can arrange the whole garlic cloves around the platter too. These are perfect for true garlic lovers to pinch and spread over meat, bread, potatoes...)
- Remove the carcass and return pot to the stovetop.
- Add a little flour or corn starch to the milk mixture to thicken gravy, whisking frequently.
- Pour all the liquid through a strainer into gravy bowl.
- Best accompanied by mashed potato, crusty bread, spinach and roasted root vegetables.
Disclosure: As much as I hate exclusivity, this message is not for non-moms who might think this sounds an awful lot like AA. God bless you in your blissful naivety. Real life moms – this is for you.
This is how I have hosted all summer long and it has been the EASIEST and most fulfilling method. If you, like me, have littles underfoot and a more-than-discriminate aversion to hotdogs, this is a perfect “after bedtime” way to make your tribes-people feel especially loved without causing yourself all the undue stress and preparation of a regular summer get-together. Let this serve as appetizer, dinner AND dessert.
Less prep-time equals more face-time!
All you need is a bistro set, a cool night breeze and some creativity. If you don’t feel like you have the latter, let me show you a few tricks. It’s cheaper and easier than you think. YOU are a culinary artist and your trusty old cutting board can be your canvas.
You will need:
- 1 hard cheese (like the smoked gouda pictured above)
- 1 soft cheese (like Boursin pictured above, brie or goats cheese)
- At least 1 bite-sized cheese (like the bocconcini balls or cubed feta pictured above)
- 1 sliced meat (like the proscuitto and/or smoked salmon pictured above)
- 1 hard meat (like the Italian sausage pictured above)
- Pickles, olives, capers or peppers.
- 2 or 3 types a fruit. (Melon and grapes are ideal.)
- Crackers, bread or nachos
- More wine.
Step 1: I used my solid cheeses as my focal points. I spaced them out across my platter.
Step 2: I lined one side of each cheese with meat.
Step 3: I had my guests fill in all the gaps with whatever contribution they brought. (Not joking.)
Step 4: I did the finishing touches. (… I corked the wine)
Optional: You can line your platter with colourful lettuce leaves like swiss chard or raddichio. I topped it off with a sprig of fresh Rosemary. Or you could tuck fresh leaves of basil in any remaining crevices. Give your guests a pile of tooth picks for easiest self-service. Encourage them to try different concoctions.
YOU can do this! And quite likely on very short notice since most of these are pantry items. Try it out – tonight! And leave me a message in the comments below with some of the different selections you tried!
*Special thanks to my
food good friends over at thecuriousconnoisseur.com for the photography.
This platter (and it’s affiliates) served 8… for about 5 hours.
Three of my grandparents died before I got the chance to meet them.
The one that remained was good and fair… mostly present in my life, but we never really connected.
So I could never empathize when a friend lost a grandparent and grieved as though they had lost a limb.
I didn’t realize how great a loss it was for another member of that admirable generation to pass away.
Then we got word… “this might be the end.”
And my heart sank to the pit of my stomache.
I remember my very first race at my very first track and field day in the third grade at Victor Lauriston Public school. My gangly and accident-prone stick legs finally did something right. I crossed that finish line before all of my peers. I crossed that line… but looking back, I see that I never stopped running. I never stopped racing from that moment until now.
By the time I was 23 years old I was a business owner and employer, a service provider to hundreds, an editor-in-chief of a woman’s magazine, a worship leader and involved in almost every musical or production that my older sister directed at our old church. My husband and I hosted dinners all the time… sometimes reaching a guest list of 150 people. We travelled. We were both constantly on the go and insanely busy. But I just kept “running the race that was set before me” because I was headed somewhere important… and everyone knows that you don’t stop in the middle of a race.
If “home is where the heart is” then my heart must be about an acre wide.
We bought a century old home out in the country about eight years ago and I have to admit, my heart doesn’t stop at the front door. I love this whole place. But it wasn’t always that way. On the far corner of our property we had our own little junkyard that faced the road and ran off into a ditch. Since the day we moved in, it had been the bane of my existence. It wouldn’t matter if my house was spotless and the lawn meticulously manicured – if I looked out the window to that corner, malicious utterances escaped my breath. It was completely overgrown with 7-foot tall weeds. AND, I’m pretty sure there had been tenants there for the first few years. I’m glad we never actually made acquaintance, it sounded like they had a pretty raucous lifestyle. And I’m pretty sure they had too many legs. It didn’t help either, that our 80-year old next door neighbour believed the entire corner to be his own personal dumping ground for all his dead, destroyed and disgusting things. I suppose we could have asked him to stop but that would require admitting that we had watched him struggling to carry debris bigger than he was. (We’re nice Christian folks. We don’t have time to help elderly neighbours.)
Some of my earliest memories include: a hairbrush, Amy Grant on audio cassette and a mirror. These three items respectfully standing in for my microphone, my hero and my best friend. By the time I was 6 years old I had found what I then believed to be my passion… I LOVED to sing. But if I’m going to be honest, I probably loved the recognition and affirmations even more. Since I grew up in the church, my gifting provided me opportunities to be on stage, in just a slightly different culture. Accolades sounded more holy but they soothed this approval addiction of mine just the same.