I have always enjoyed the fall: the crispness in the air, the changing colour of the leaves and the relief from the summer’s heat and humidity all suit my constitution and personality.
This year, though, thinking about fall makes me think about winter. And, in a pandemic world, those are not happy thoughts. Many of us have learned to enjoy our outside social encounters with family and friends. We have been able to spend time with young grandchildren outdoors. We have lived in our backyards like never before. Some of us have ventured onto restaurant patios for the odd meal. Whatever are we going to do when the weather forces us back inside?
I am not ready to drown myself in those gloomy thoughts quite yet. Instead, my partner and I continue to find new spots close to home where we can enjoy the outdoors while getting some modest exercise.
While he eschews walks in our neighbourhood, dismissing them as being too boring, I still enjoy the occasional stroll around the area where we live. For one thing, it’s easy – just walk out the front door and turn right or left. No need to get in the car, look at a map or try to decide where to go.
I always seem to find something I have never noticed before — a house that catches my fancy, a changing flower garden or a little library on someone’s front yard – or I just lose myself in my thoughts for 20 minutes or half an hour.
If I want to walk with my partner, I have to think of somewhere interesting, but close, to go. He’s tough to satisfy, and for good reason: for many years, we lived in the country, on a 120-acre piece of land with mixed forest, meadow and river frontage, so he could wander about all day if he so chose.
Two weeks ago, we took a walk along the K&P Trail, which meanders along the St. Lawrence River through the city’s downtown area and eventually becomes a rural trail that heads north of the city.
As we walked through what is known as the Inner Harbour, we encountered others out for an early morning stroll, but there was lots of space for all of us. We watched ducks and cormorants, checked out the many turtle egg boxes along the path, enjoyed the Street Art Wall, where anyone is welcome to create a painting on a retaining wall that runs along the side of the path, and listened to a young woman, complete with flowers in her hair, as she sat on the river bank and sang.
Another morning, we drove out to Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area, where we did not find the promised osprey platforms but saw the tallest pine trees we have seen this close to home.
Last week, we headed out to a section of Lemoine Point Conservation Area that we had never visited before. At 7 a.m., the trail was almost empty. We wandered along the side of Collins Bay, accompanied by ridiculously tame squirrels, chipmunks and the occasional rabbit, watching the dozens of ducks, with the odd gull, dunking for food in the water. We didn’t see anything extraordinary, other than an umbrella in a tree, but it was peaceful, green, the air was fresh and we both came home feeling ready for the rest of the day. I enjoyed it enough that I returned with a friend a few days later for an equally pleasant walk.
Back in the kitchen
My recently-turned-15-year-old grandson has found a full-time job in one of Kingston’s finer restaurants. Food is his biggest interest, and he is already skilled in the kitchen, although he has a tendency to be creative and leave the mess behind for someone else to clean up.
Not in this job! As the newest and youngest on staff, his official role is dishwasher, but he is also the fetcher and carrier for everyone else, the floor mopper and the staff bathroom cleaner.
It’s a hot job, however you look at it, but he is delighted. He is in a professional kitchen, surrounded by people who know what they are doing with food, getting to taste bits of this and that, making serious money and, as of last week, has become the official oyster shucker.
Unlike my grandson, I continue to find ways to avoid the heat of the kitchen while still trying to produce interesting food. Cheese balls have made frequent appearances on my menus, whether as an appetizer when people join us in our backyard for cocktails or as part of a meal.
There are dozens of recipes for cheeseballs, all of which are quick and easy to put together and don’t require any cooking. Here is my favourite recipe at the moment:
Place together in a food processor: 8 oz. chevre, 1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese, ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese, ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 – 3 Tbsp. minced chives, 1 – 2 finely minced cloves garlic and 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce. Process until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
Shape into a ball (if it is too soft to do this, refrigerate until it is firm enough to handle). Roll in finely chopped parsley or nuts and enjoy with crackers and your favourite cocktail, while you plan your next close to home excursion.