One way or another, we have made it through the strangest festive season of our lives and, much to my surprise, I find myself quite cheerful about it all.
While I missed the social gatherings that are usually a big part of this time of year, there was something liberating about knowing we were not seeing people because that would be against the rules.
For two weeks, I received no work emails or phone calls and had no online meetings. That left a lot of time to do other things. On the work front, I got ahead on some policy writing commitments, free from the constant email and meeting interruptions of regular workdays. On the rest of my life front, I had spontaneous telephone visits with friends, spent whole afternoons lying on the couch reading books and, in the spirit of honesty, binged my way through the final two seasons of The Blacklist. There was lots of time to cook, bake, make cocktails and then enjoy the products of those efforts.
Monday of this week brought reality back with a crash. By mid-morning, my email inbox was overflowing and my week was packed with meetings.
However, at least for now, I seem to be approaching the year from a place of calm and, dare I say it, contentment.
I love to start a new calendar, which is a good thing, because we have a lot of them around our house. There are those we want: the beautiful calendar my farmer son creates each year with photographer Andree Thorpe, that I am always excited to hang up on my office wall. Then, there are the ones we need, like the giant desk calendar on which I (usually) keep track of all my travel so my partner knows where to find me. This year, the calendar’s blank face stares accusingly up at me every time I sit down at my desk.
Out of all our calendars, including the free and unsolicited ones that come in the mail, the only one that has anything in it is my appointment calendar, which has most days chockablock full until well into February. I may not be going anywhere, but I seem to have lots to do right here at home.
I am sure I was not alone in committing to replace my 2020 pandemic couch potato habits with some serious physical activity in 2021. My partner and I got off to a good start, with a new year’s day walk at a nearby conservation area. It was a beautiful mild day, if grey, and we really enjoyed our almost-four-kilometre ramble along the lakeshore and through the forest. The chickadees, nuthatches and squirrels were very friendly, especially once they realized my partner’s coat pockets were filled with black oil sunflower seeds.
Because of the provincial lockdown, my yoga class has been moved to zoom. On Monday, I hooked up my laptop to our television screen, rolled out my mat and told my partner to keep his distance. It was not an easy class, but I made it through and will try again next week. And, maybe, this month I will finally start doing some exercises in between classes.
Snow, beautiful snow
“For bringing us the horse, we could almost forgive you for bringing us whiskey. Horses make a landscape look more beautiful.”
That’s how I feel about the snow. It makes everything more beautiful and, since we can’t travel these days, we can enjoy it without worrying about icy roads or blizzard conditions.
On my walk last Sunday to pick up my order from the Memorial Centre Farmers Market, the snow was still fresh and largely unblemished, it covered up all the muck that lingers long past its best before date and made the trees I passed look magical.
I jammed in my earbuds and listened to Over the Rhine’s Blood Oranges on the Snow as I made my way to collect my carrots, celeriac and blue oyster mushrooms, all grown by local farmers, soaking up the sun and snow as I walked,
It’s cocktail time, of course
Having enjoyed a wallop of almond liqueur in his morning cup of chai the other day, my partner decided to dream up a cocktail with it as the base. After two evenings of careful, professionally controlled measuring and tasting, all purely in the interests of science, he came up with one of the tastiest drinks I have had in a while.
In honour of Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti mysteries — which we both enjoy — and the Italian liqueur that forms the base of this cocktail, we are calling our newest concoction the Commissario. Here’s how to make enough for two people:
Combine in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice: 6 oz. almond liqueur, 4 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice, 4 oz. pineapple juice, juice of 1 lime, 3 oz. ginger lemonade concentrate and 1/2 tsp. bitters. Shake well and pour into cocktail glasses over ice.
In no time, you will think you can solve one of the Commissario’s mysteries all on your own and, as was his habit, be home in time for dinner.