Friday, February 25, 2011

A Passage to India

Nope, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth - I've been reading. Gasp! Yep, I had to do some rapid reading so that my book was finished for our book club meeting last night. As William put it - it's a book club not a synopsis club, Mom, you'd better get your book read.  And I did.   

Having tea at the club (source)

I read A Passage to India, E. M. Forster's 1924 novel about racial tension and mistrust in British Colonial India.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I re-read A Passage to India as I originally read it about twenty-five years ago around the time when the movie came out (1984).  This book has been selected as one of the 100 great works of literature by the Modern Library and won the James Tait Black award for fiction in 1924.   

Aziz looking for Adela at the caves (source)

In searching for some photos to use with this post, I found an excellent website (here) detailing the set locations from the movie.  Not only are there screen shots from the movie, but the author has also traveled to India to locate where many of the scenes from the movie were actually filmed.   It is very well researched and an interesting addition to reading the book.  It is very fortunate for me that I found this website as what is a blog post without some photos and these photos are gorgeous.  Anyway  back to the book...

Heading out on the picnic (source)

A Passage to India is a wonderful depiction of life in India in the 1920s as seen through the relationships of the four main characters.   Throughout the novel there are racial tensions and prejudices that interfere with relations between the British Colonists and the Indians; between the Muslims and the Hindus; and between the men and women in the book.

At the club (source)

The novel opens with Adela and Mrs. Moore having just arrived in India from Britain as Adela is to marry Mrs. Moore's son.  Adela and Mrs. Moore hope to see the real India and are dismayed by the prejudice and distance between the British Colonists and the Indians.  Mrs. Moore and Adela become friends with Mr. Fielding, a headmaster of a local school, and Aziz, a Muslim physician. Aziz plans a picnic to the Marabar caves and during the trip the heat and a strange echo in the caves have a sickening effect on Adela.  Adela runs off and when she gets back to town, accuses Aziz of attempting to assault her in the cave.  Relations between the Indians and Brits deteriorate dramatically at this point and all the prejudices are brought out into the open with both sides misjudging situations and each other's actions.  Finally, at the trial Adela is asked directly if Aziz assaulted her and she realizes the truth of the situation.  Not wanting to give too much of the book away, I'll leave it at that.  

Entering the first cave (source)

I love Forster's descriptions of India and particularly some of his evocative ways of describing the heat and the monsoon rains.  My friend Kim and I will be going to Bangladesh in the monsoon season this summer and I was a little bit sorry that the monsoon coincided with the only time of the year when I am available to travel, but reading Forester's description of how highly valued the monsoons are in India made me want to experience them.
The scenery, according to their standards, was delightful - the sky grey and black, bellyfulls of rain all over it, the earth pocked with pools of water and slimy with mud.  A magnificent monsoon - the best for three years, the tanks already full, bumper crops possible. 
"This is our monsoon, the best weather," .... Now is the time when all things are happy, young and old ... the tanks are all full so they dance, and this is India.

Monsoons begin as they leave the courthouse (source)

I found A Passage to India a wonderful book to read and would highly recommend it to anyone.  Although it was set in India in 1920s, the tensions and problems in the relationships are timeless.

Aziz in Mr. Fielding's house (source)

I especially loved reading this book, as I have had Bangladesh and India pretty much on my brain all week.  Kim and I are in the process of deciding if we will go to India for a bit after our month of teaching in Bangladesh this summer.  So as you can see it was a very timely read.  

Linked to What We're Reading at Art @ Home

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Few Pleasant Surprises

Don't you love it when life throws you a pleasant surprise.  Well I had two this past weekend. We just had a three day weekend due to the new Ontario Family Day holiday.  We didn't have any grand plans, just some lovely relaxing time.  I made a couple of suggestions to the kids as to things we could do - go to the Art Gallery of Ontario or have chocolate fondue. The answer was "Yes please" so go to the AGO and have chocolate fondue we did.

Going to the AGO is a wonderful experience, but I always have to brace myself a bit for the sticker shock of the admission price.  For myself and Kate and William the admission price was going to be $49 along with the cost of parking.  However - here's one of the weekend's pleasant surprises - both William and Kate got in for free because they are under 25 years of age and several major sponsors (including Scotia Bank) have donated enough to allow young visitors to get in for free.  When I went to pay for my ticket she took $2.50 off the price because I was paying with a Scotia Bank card and Scotia Bank is one of the AGO's major supporters.  So instead of paying $49, I paid $16.50. Yeah Scotia Bank (that may be a first - me cheering for a bank).

The Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Court exhibit (you can see some of the images here) was magnificent, especially the silver carriage and the traditional outfits.  I so wish you could take photographs in the exhibit to share with you.  I borrowed the following three photos from the AGO blog (here) so you can see the gorgeous landau carriage with the plants and animals decorating it.

There was also a fantastic exhibit of prints by David Blackwood depicting life in the poor outposts of Newfoundland.   Really the two exhibits could not have been more different - one dealing with the excesses and riches of royal families in a warm climate, and the other depicting the struggles of the poor, hard-working fishermen and their families in a cold, damp maritime land.  

Detail of the Black Ice by David Blackwood
S. S. Imogene Leaving for the Icefields, by David Blackwood

The next day we had our chocolate fondue.  I've never made one before because we didn't own one of those special ceramic pots with a place for a tea light to go under it.  I tried to buy a chocolate fondue pot at the grocery store, but didn't feel like forking (get it - forking!) over $30 for a set so I decided we would just put it in a regular bowl and re-microwave it if we needed to.   And my second pleasant surprise of the weekend - it worked!  Maybe that's because it didn't have time to solidify.  I'm just saying.

Bowls of kiwi, half mini donuts, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, and marshmallows

I melted an entire box of Baker's semi-sweet chocolate squares and had read that you should add some table cream.  Well I didn't have any so I added skim milk.  Yes, I know it was diet chocolate fondue.  I have to say it was delicious and tasted as good as any I have previously had.  Have a look at the action shot below.  I think that speaks for itself.

Fun activities and nice surprises to celebrate our long weekend.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Culinary Adventures Around the World - Algeria

We are cooking our way around the world (you can read the details in the page under the header called "Culinary Adventures Around the World") and have finally arrived in Algeria.   It has taken at least a couple of years to make our way through Europe and it is quite exciting to finally be in North Africa.   The food in North Africa is primarily from Berber and Arab culinary traditions, although Algerian food has been influenced by French cuisine more than food in other surrounding areas.  Most of the dishes include meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) with dates, almonds, apricots, chick peas, and other fruits and vegetables mixed with cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, and served with couscous.   

Many of the Algerian recipes were similar to the ones we had when we cooked Moroccan food (here), so I tried to find a recipe that involved different ingredients. The recipe I found online to make for our Algerian meal was Chicken with Chickpeas and Lemon (found here) and served with couscous.

Ingredients (with my alterations in brackets):
  • 2 Cloves Garlic -- Chopped
  • Salt And Pepper -- To Taste
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Saffron (I couldn't find this so didn't use any)
  • 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter (I used margarine and less than the amount specified)
  • 1 Large Chicken -- Cut Into Pieces (I used 2 large chicken breasts)
  • 1 Stick Cinnamon (I used 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 1 Bunch Parsley -- Chopped
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro -- Chopped
  • 3 Medium Green Onion -- Chopped
  • 1 Can Chick Peas (I drained them and used some of the liquid as needed to help make a sauce)
  • 1 Red Onion -- Chopped
  • Lemon Juice from one lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups couscous

I didn't follow the directions listed on the website as I was running out of time.  Instead I put the chicken in a frying pan with the butter and as it was cooking I added the other ingredients pretty much in the order listed (with the exception of the couscous).  By the time I was down to the bottom of the ingredient list the chicken was partially cooked, so I put the lid on the frying pan and cooked it on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.   As the chicken was cooking, I boiled the water to make the couscous and I chopped up some red peppers and cucumbers to put out on a plate with some dried apricots to serve with the chicken and couscous.

The meal was delicious, although William thought there were too many onions.  It is a meal that I will make again since it was easy to do and tasted good.

And now on to Libya!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pining for Twine

I saw a big spool of cotton twine for sale at Anthropologie before Christmas for $18.  I didn't buy it as it seemed like a lot to spend for some baker's twine, but I have to say I'm pining for some.  I keep seeing images of things wrapped in the lovely two coloured twine and I'm just going to have to find some so I can get a bit of the action.  Have a look at these images and see if you don't soon have cotton twine on your "must have" list.

Studio Carta

Oh my, I don't even know what colour I would buy - one of each maybe!  There's an online store that sells it in the US with a lovely sampling of different colours all paired with white.

The Twinery

It looks adorable used to attach tags to presents,

The Twinery
or to tie around presents,

Martha Stewart Kids

or to wrap food,

Cupcakes and Cashmere
or for crafts,

Thinking Inking

or to make a garland,

Beth Kruse
or to send your love in a card,

Chavez Designs
or to bundle together wedding invitations,
or to adorn a save the date card (which combines my love of maps with baker's twine - does it get any better).

Beautiful Paper
And how adorable is this as a way to dispense the baker's twine.

Pebbles in My Pocket

So basically I heart twine.  What about you?

Smooth Pebble

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wedding Bouquet Decisions

Our oldest son is getting married in May and the wedding details are slowly falling into place.  In order to keep costs down and to add personal touches we are doing some of the things for the wedding ourselves.   One of the things I volunteered to do is make the wedding bouquets. 

Ages ago I wrote a post about different colour bouquets that would coordinate with a red bridesmaid dress (which you can read here).   Christie, my daughter-in-law-to-be, looked at the choices and decided that she preferred an assortment of bright flowers (like in the last few photos).  I searched on-line for directions that looked manageable on how to tie the ribbon around the stems to hold the flowers in place and have found several good sources (for example here and here). 

Since it's always fun to look at wedding bouquets I've pulled together some images so we can consider what style of handle would be best.  I was not able to find all of the bouquets in the colours we will be using, but you can still get the idea of how the handle is formed.  There appear to be eight main handle wrap styles:

1)  The ends are tied into a bow (sometimes a big bow as in the first photo or sometimes smaller as in the second and third photos).

Martha Stewart



2)  The ends of the ribbon can be tied in a simple knot with the ends left trailing.
Martha Stewart

Wedding Dream

3) A wide ribbon is used to wrap the handle and another narrower ribbon is layered on top to finish the look (the first one being a simple version of this and the second one much more complicated).

Martha Stewart

Chez Wedd

4) The ribbon is pinned into the handle with pearl head pins.

Wedding of my Dreams

5) The end of the ribbon is held in place with a decorative button.

Martha Stewart

6) The ribbon on the handle is decorated with one or more pretty brooches.

Wedding Flowers

Style Me Pretty

7) The handle is wrapped with a handkerchief embroidered with the wedding date.

Martha Stewart

8) Moss or vines are wrapped around the ribbon to finish the handle.  Although I think this looks really pretty, it might be a bit messy.

Aren't they all so gorgeous.  It is hard to decide what style of handle wrap looks best.  I'll be interested to hear what Christie says.  

Once I began collecting inspiration photos, I realized there is a second decision to be made - what colour of ribbon to use.  There seem to be three main choices.

1) Green so it blends in with the colour of the stems.

Better Homes and Gardens

2) White so it coordinates with the bridal gown.

Better Homes and Gardens

3) A colour taken from the flowers or the bridesmaids' dresses.

Better Homes and Gardens

I think looking at those pretty flowers was just what I needed after months of our long snowy winter.  

What type of handle do you like best?  Are there any others that I didn't mention?  

I'm going to check in with Christie after she reads this post (which I know she does) and see what her preference is.