Friday, September 24, 2010

Single Handed Race - Part 1 - The night before.

It's currently the night before the single handed race.  Not sure if I will go or not, if the wind is over 15 knots then I can't do it, Ashe doesn't have an autohelm and I can't handle the boat without one in over 15 knots and choppy seas.  So I sit here, drinking apple wine listening to the wind pushing it's way through the plethora of mature trees on our street hoping for less wind tomorrow. says right now, (9:12 pm) the wind is gusting to 30 knots, that is a lot!  I bet it's a bit more than 30 knots right now.

The saving grace of this evening is the temperature.  It's perfect, about 27 degrees in the house - perfect.  I would have gone sailing tonight, in the dark, in the waves but the wind...hmmm  The beauty of sailing is your total dependence on the weather and reading it correctly.  We've chanced it and won and we've chanced it and lost - getting caught in a downpour or a squall or two - or three.  

A couple of years ago, Paul and I were racing home from the Scarborough Bluffs with our usual group of eager beavers when a squall hit the fleet.  We all saw it coming and frankly, there was nothing we could do about it!  Full sail, hatches open...  I have no idea what the wind gusted, coming out of the south east, but I remember the driving rain, the unusual calm of the water and the smile on Paul's face as he hung on for dear life on the tiller.  I was worried about the sails being damaged, he was enjoying the force of nature - the beauty of it's fury and our helplessness.

This summer, a weekend in August, we planned on sailing across the lake to 50 Point.  We set out under cloudy skies.  We watched a several squalls develop over Mississauga, squalls develop to our south and one about 1 football field from our port side.  It always amazes me to see the rain off in the distance, slowing soldiering it's way toward you, you see the trees and the land disappear then you see the water being pelted as the rain mingles with the lake water and it splashes up to the sky with the force from every drop.

I grabbed the raincoats, battened down the hatches (yes that's a real term) and smiled as we watched the full force of the wind pass behind the boat.   The full  downpour pelted the deck of Ashe.  I was laughing as I looked at Paul in his medium grade yellow rain jacket scowling as rain ran down his visor around his neck and down the back of his rain jacket.  I didn't care - it felt wonderful.

When it rains like that and you are on the water everything disappears, all around you is water and you are there on your own, the boat becoming your saviour underneath you.  Strange, you are floating on the water, yet in the water.  Personally, the downpour ended way too soon.  I was enjoying it.  I couldn't see out my glasses, we were soaked inside and out and it seemed like we were the only people on the planet.  We were laughing!

We have a cool little boat that Ashe - a tough cookie.  She's old, needs a little TLC but she's also our way out of the boring city.  Our way to be on our own.  When we sail - it's always too short a time or it's too long until the next sail.

My wine glass seems to be empty.  I guess it's time for a refill and a quick check on Sailflow to see if tomorrow's forecast has changed...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sad state of eating in public

I admit it, I'm lazy when it comes to packing a lunch.  I think about it, mull it over all weekend and then conveniently forget Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and of course Friday.  I spend probably close to $10 a day.  Shameful I say.

However, yesterday's lunch at Druxy's at commerce Court might have solved my problem.  I wanted a sandwich and didn't want to spend $10 at the Sandwich Box so I tried Druxy's (they have a new look - and free Wi Fi).  So I ordered  a sandwich with Hummus, Avocado, mango, sprouts and Swiss Cheese all on French Bread.  As I watched the woman make my sandwich, try and cut a slice or two of bread a consistent thickness and I end up with a sandwich that 3 people could have lived off of for a month.   Even the owner made a comment and I told him that's the worst sandwich I have ever seen.  Bless him for only charging me $2.

The bread was tasteless, cheese was poor quality, mango was crunchy and the hummus was uninteresting.  I think that was the last straw.  I and everyone I know work hard for their money and I just want a decent lunch, put together or made by someone who actually cares.

I went home that night and made 4 cranberry French baguettes - 3 in the freezer and one in the oven.  Total actual work: 40 minutes - total baking time: 30 minutes - total rising time: 2 hours.  Now I have enough homemade bread for the month and it has flavour and is interesting!  

I think it's time to stand up to mass produced food - after all food allows us to walk, talk, breathe and blog.  Say no.  If it's not good say something, take it back.  Eventually we might change the way process food is cranked out of uncaring factories.  

Here's my Cranberry French Baguette recipe, it makes 2 loaves.  Everything is in weight because it will guarantee consistent loaves each time, it's more accurate then volume measurements:

425 g    Water
7 g          Instant Yeast (1 package)
750 g      Bread Flour
12 g         Salt
4 g          Malt Syrup or honey
12 g       Sugar
12 g      Butter

Mix all dry ingredients and sift.  Add remaining ingredients and knead 10 minutes.  If needed add more flour to a wet dough or a little water to a dry dough (I had to add a little water).  In the winter time the dough will be drier then during the summer humid months.  Cover and let rise about 1.5 to 2 hours.  In warmer weather the dough will rise faster then in the cooler winter months.  In the winter, I put the dough by my furnace to rise.

When doubled in size, remove from bowl and knead for about 5 minutes.  Divide into 2 equal parts.  Roll out with rolling pin to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Sprinkle with desired amount of dried cranberries or your favourite dried fruit and roll into a baguette.  

To freeze: wrap in plastic and pop in freezer for a rainy day.   

To use right away: cover baguette with a towel and let rise another 30 minutes.

To bake baguette: preheat oven to 400 F, put a bowl of water in with baking - bake for 10 minutes, remove bowl of water and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes.

To bake frozen loaf: remove from freezer and remove plastic wrap.  Cover with towel on a cookie sheet and let thaw all day or over night - about 8-9 hours.  Bake as outlined above.

Enjoy fresh bread - remember, practice makes perfect.   Once you get the technique down, most likely after the first try there's no excuse to buy bread again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Went up to Bobcaygeon this past weekend.  Love it up there.  It's a very small town with the Trent Canal running through and lock #32 right there on the main drag.  Lots of cute houses, some new, some old, some wreckers.  Lots of little cafes, cute shops.  There's a little restaurant/gift shop just north on 48 going toward Kinmount.  It's called Harmony Farms.  Food is great, nice books, jewellery and clothing, everything very reasonably priced.  I was there to peddle my chocolates.  Got a deal.  Going up Nov 13 to make chocolate santas as part of their open house.  Gives me another excuse to go to Bobcaygeon.  My dad lives there with my step mom, Sue.  They have a cute house.

We also dropped into Kawartha Country Wines.  They specialize in fruit wines.  Some sweet, some dry, some bitter.  They also have vinegars that you can drink as an appertif.  I am working on a chocolate using their Cherry Balsamic Vinegar and they might be interested in carrying my chocolate as well.

Dad took us for a little toot down Valley White Road.  It's a one lane dirt road in the woods with a few houses set back.  The road winds and has lots of ups and downs, on a day like Saturday, with the trees turning colour it was beautiful and quiet. 

Sue went to the farmers' market Saturday before we got there and I made dinner for Dad, Sue and Paul.  We had a striploin roast, roast potatoes, cauliflower and some kind of radish/turnip veggie and green tomatoes from Sue's garden.  I also made an apple pie for dessert with blackberry wine.  We drank Kawartha Country Wine's Cherry wine with dinner and got all excited discussing and laughing at our selves and our embarrassing adventures sailing and racing.  No pictures of the feast because we were drinking Bailey's and Rum and forgot.

If you have never had a striploin roast, you should do it once a year, worth the money and it's easy peasy - lemon squeezey:

Roast Striploin with Roast Potatoes
Serves 4 - don't expect any leftovers!

 2 pound      AAA Black Angus striploin - fat on
4                 Red Potatoes, quartered
1 large         Onion, chopped
2                 Sprigs of Rosemary

Preheat oven to 250 F.

Put large skillet on stove and heat to smokin' hot.  Sear the roast on all sides to a deep brown.

Put potatoes, onions and sprigs of rosemary in roasting pan and place seared roast on top.  Place pan, uncovered, in oven and cook for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 140 C for medium rare.

Remove from oven and put roast in separate pan and cover with foil to rest.

Increase temperature of oven to 400 F and put potatoes back in oven to crisp up (can also put apple pie in to bake at this time).  Let potatoes cook for about 15 minutes.

Slice roast thin or thick - end pieces are the best! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Recipe after a day of racing

Finally had fair winds, although the race started off with a 15 minute start delay praying for a breath of wind, which finally came - and it was a breath.  Downwind start, which I'm not comfortable with, so we took our time to get the spinnaker up, even after with me wrapping both the spinnaker sheet and guy around the bow pulpit...  The wind was strange, one boat just 50 feet to our right took off like gang busters, that Sierra Tango...grrrr.  Six miles to the mark, dead  downwind going a painful 3 knots, that took about 2 1/2 hours.  Turning the mark, the wind picked up and we picked up to 6.5 knots, but not enough to catch anyone. Unfortunately we did finish 5th out of 5 boats but we had a great time - after all we were sailing!

Came home and made a roasted pheasant with an apple cranberry chutney.  This recipe will be featured in the next Chill magazine (it's free at the beer store) but here's a sneak peak at the chutney recipe - it's amazing with the pheasant (which was cooked with 2 slabs of bacon on top):

2             cored and diced green apples - skin on
1/4 cup    brown sugar
3             sliced shallots
1/2 cup    apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup   dried cranberries
1 tbsp.    dried thyme
1 tsp.      fresh grated ginger
2            garlic cloves
1 tsp.      black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp.   cayenne pepper
to taste   salt and pepper

  1. Put sugar in large sauce pan on high heat and let melt, add shallots, vinegar and garlic and cook shallots until they are translucent. 
  2. Add remaining ingredients, cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until apples begin to soften.  Cover with lid and remove from heat.  Let sit off heat approximately 10 minutes to steam.

Totally yummy!  That's one recipe I have no problems sharing - because it's so good.  Maybe Stella's Cafe on Amherst Island will adopt it and call it Jen's Chutney... 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trying not to run away

I'm trying not to just leave it all behind - I mean everything.  Sell it all, buy a boat, a Morgan 40 or Island Packet Centre cockpit or even a Corbin and just go, see everything, experience everything.

I feel so tied down.  I'm sure a lot of people feel the same but I almost feel sick about being stuck here, the same thing everyday, the pushing and shoving making my way just down the street.  The anti-humanness of Blackberries and iPhone, not looking up to even excuse your self or allow someone to pass by.  The total boringness of people who only care about 1 or 2 things in their life, not wanting anymore or not seeing anything beyond large homes, fast cars and their iPhones.  

I sometimes wish I could be boring but I think that would bore me.  I want to do stuff, experience life, what it's like to really be a human.  I don't think being human means walking to work while punching meaningless half sentences into a Blackberry make you human.  I don't think owning a nicer car then the suit next to you on the GO train makes you human.  What I think makes you human must be experiencing all the natural world around oneself because it's that world that made humans.  

I would like to experience mother nature's worse:

And I would like to experience her beauty:

The lucky few who get to experience the world as human beings without the confines of a big city or the crowds actually make me green with jealously - and I'm not proud of that.  

Maybe some people love the crowds, the noise, the dirt, the waste, I don't know.  Maybe because I don't enjoy any of those things I would never make acquaintance with people like that.  I long for quiet, like on Little Cayman, swinging on my hammock in the late afternoon, experiencing a different kind of noise, not the noise of society, or the noise of burning fossil fuels, or the noise of people talking about nothing.  It was the noise of the crabs and the birds going about their business.  The sound of the wind in the trees, rustling the palm leaves, listening to the angry surf on the windward side of the island and the soft, sweet lapping of the waves on the leeward side.  Even the creek of hammock as it swung from side to side.  Just laying there staring up into the mango tree and glimpsing the blue sky every once in a while. 

My joys in life are simple - the cool fall breeze stroking your face as you fall asleep at night, the sound of the winter wind blowing through the pine trees in the forest in the dead of winter.  Sitting under a pine tree in winter, sipping on some rum, and the quiet pounding of your own heartbeat in your ears in that forest.  Sitting at the dock or hanging over the side of the boat looking at the bottom of the lake or just looking at the water going by your feet.  Enjoying the different colours of the water.

All the what-ifs.  I don't know if I'm more scared to leave all the financial stability behind and do what I really want to do or if I'm more scared to be missing out on everything.  Those are 2 very large questions indeed.

There must be a way to experience this, yet be able to live somewhere, as an old person, who will require medical help - that's inevitable, aging will happen to all of us, but how we get there is a journey.  There must be a way for me to go on my journey.  I guess I'll have to keep on looking.  At least if I keep on looking it gives me hope that it is possible to spend 5 or 10 years seeing humanity and the world and how humans fit into the grand scheme of things, and how we have messed things up for the future...I don't want to be disappointed in my journey.  Do you?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eating with 2 talented chefs

Imagine being married to a chef.  Imagine being married to an avid sailor who is also chef.  Today, we were supposed to take Claudia and Claudio sailing then back to the boat club for dinner.  Unfortunately this weekend's weather for sailing was terrible so we started dinner at 3 at my house.  

We started with some fruit wine tasting - apple and pumpkin wine from Kawartha County Wines in Buckhorn.  My favourite winery, their fruit wines aren't very sweet at all.  We then tasted their Sour Cherry Balsamic Vinegar, which was killer good!  Chef Claudia brought a plate of antipasta along with walnut sourdough bread.  She is so talented with bread - you have to have patience for that!  Then we moved onto a lobster tapas with Old German Heritage tomatoes from my garden, chives and really fruity, organic olive oil.  It could have used a little acid in the form of a really good champange vinegar but c'est la vie.  A nice truffle oil would have rounded it off nice as well - that's for next time.  Great boat food - easy and everything in a bottle and portable.

The main course was a 60 dry-aged black angus sirloin, cut about 2 inches thick and cooked to a medium rare served with just a simple salad with heirloom tomatoes, blue cheese and fennel.  For dessert, we had a peanut butter terrine - which was an experiment of mine.  The terrine needs to be more peanut buttery but what could be better than peanut butter and chocolate?  Then Claudia tried my new Sour Cherry Balsamic Vinegar chocolates and the caramel ones I made this weekend - yum.  The caramel is my VERY favourite!  Caramel is such a great invention.

So the husbands got fat, helped a bit, served the wine and beer and cleaned up.  We're all full and tired now.  Chef Claudia and her husband went home and I'm on the couch with the top button of my pants undone - perfect!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Long Weekend

So it's Saturday morning and windy as hell out.  Not as windy as out east where Hurricane Earl is touching down, but gusts of 60+ kms and sustained winds of 41 kms is pretty windy.  Enough to keep the boat at the dock today.  However, it gives me time to make, wait for it people - PEANUT BUTTER BARS!  Also a peanut butter and chocolate terrine for dinner with friends on Monday, after an afternoon of sailing.  Porno Paul is going to make Sushi for dinner tonight - YEAH!  In a couple of weeks I'm heading up to Bobcaygeon to sell my wares at a local artisan cafe.  I hope they like my signature chocolate - cherry balsamic, made from local cherry vinegar from Kawartha County Wines.  Those guys have it figured out, too bad I have to drive that far for some of their fruit wines - although a weekend in Bobcaygeon is always awesome.

Since it's Saturday morning, we slept in and are now having coffee and watching Bugs Bunny.  Amazing how Bugs Bunny, being so old still makes me laugh hard enough to make me cry.  Everyone should take the time to watch Bugs Bunny.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


My husband and I own a Bombardier 7.6.  A 25 foot racing sailboat, built in 1981.  We bought it in 2000 for a song and man it needed work.  However, it's now in great condition and a ton of fun.

Although the racing season at LSYC is almost over there are still 4 more Wednesday night races left, plus 2 long distance races and the single handed, plus the weekend fun!

Coming out of the spring series, we placed 2nd over all, and coming out of the summer series, a respectable 3rd.  Best year yet for Ashe.  
Last night was a blast.  There was about 18 knots of wind out of the south with lots of chop.  Waves from 6 inches to 2 feet, nothing organized.  The current was very light, which was a blessing because we had to fight pretty hard up wind against the chop.  

We had a not too bad start - 10 seconds late (like usual) then had a great upwind leg.  We were in good standing at the windward mark and after shaking out the reef in the main, decided to throw up the spinnaker.  It went up without a hitch and we were cruising!  However, myself and Kat are the only 2 crew members who know what we're doing - the other 2 are newbies.  So I was driving the boat and flying the chute and Kat was on foredeck readying for a gybe.  Unfortunately, we caught a gust and the boat rounded up - broach!  I did a face plant into Lake Ontario before letting go of the Spinnaker Sheet.  Here we were, me trying to keep the boat from crash gybing, and hauling in the spinnaker and Kat on the foredeck trying to get the pole under control and the other 2 starring wide eyed in disbelief.

After much yelling, the boat was under control and the head sail back up and we were on our way after losing 10 minutes.  Sadly the entire fleet passed us by. 

The last downwind leg we caught up to a Grampian 26, which we call Rupture, due to their inability to control their boat, and pinned them on our low side.  Just before the finish we gybed, back up to speed and called them on Starboard - sorry guys but sometimes I make some brilliant moves.  We finished 2 seconds ahead of them with the race committee clapping.

Although we came in 9 out of 9, we had a great time and both me and the crew learned a lot last night.  Stay tuned - there's nothing but fun and adventure on the decks of Ashe