Monday, 19 March 2012

The Chronicles of March Break Madness

This week had a continuous ribbon of hope, a joyous ticking count down, and the anticipation of open air. This past week was the week before March Break. After 7 months in the kitchen, several show pieces, and final assignments I am ready for a break. The kitchen was pretty slow this week with lots of room for me to finish up on some portfolio assignments. I made Chocolate Truffle Torte for the Lucy Maud Dinning room and had some free time at the end of the week to make a couple loaves of bread to take home. I also had time to work on my piping skills and make several hundred chocolate garnishes. I spent all afternoon on Wednesday piping chocolate filigree, drawing delicate loops and swirls, and free handing my own designs. I needed 12 perfect garnishes for my portfolio and I managed to pipe out 300! When I got home from school I noticed my arm was very sore and tender. It felt like I had pulled a muscle and I realized that I had pulled a muscle while piping chocolate! If that’s not dedication and hard work to my craft I don’t know what is. It’s true what they say too, “No pain, no gain.” With each chocolate garnish I got better and better, improved my technique, confidence, and speed.

This week was not only a count down to March Break but a count down to my dear friend Emily’s arrival. I had invited her to come to the Island a few weeks ago and to my delight she took me up on my offer. I got to the air port early and waited patiently for her plane to land, passing the time by reading a book and chatting casually with strangers waiting for their loved ones to arrive.

As a crowd of people from the plane flooded in I stood on my tip toes scanning faces, searching eagerly for my beloved friend. Suddenly there she was, wearing a vibrant pink sweater. I called her name, shuffle over to her excitedly hugged her and burst out laughing! “You’re here!!” We laughed, and hugged, and then meandered over to baggage to pick up her luggage. Bubbly chatter quickly simmered between us as we caught up on each others life, shared exciting news, and told funny stories.

We arrived at my apartment and were greeted at the door by the warm aroma of a home cooked Dutch meal: Nasi Goreng. It was the first time I have made a home cooked meal since being on the Island. With having a meal plan at school and eating rack of lamb, lobster, brine chicken, or ginger beef every day with all the fixings I’m not very hungry for a second meal in the evening. I usually will just fix myself a sandwich, pasta, or munch on veggies and crackers. I enjoyed chopping onions, peppers, leak, and celery and slicing the fat off a pound of pork roast. I added the whole mixture to a crock pot and let it cook all day until the meat melted off the bone and all the flavours blended together in a delicious melody.

The first night when Emily arrived we spent the night talking and talking and talking. We woke up the next day and I took her to school with me. Since it was the day before March Break we spent the whole day just cleaning, throwing out old food, and organizing the kitchen. The entire class was shoved into the kitchen and we were off! Everyone got their hands dirty emptying the fridge, cleaning cupboards, organizing dry storage and sweeping the floor. I decided to tackle the stove. I filled the sink with hot soapy water, armed myself with two dish cloths and took the grills of the stove top two by two. I only burned myself twice and by the time I was done scrubbing those babies you could eat off them.

There was so much energy and excitement in the room that it only took us 2 hours to clean the entire kitchen top to bottom! Awesome sauce and a half! After eating lunch in the cafeteria with Emily and introducing her to my friends, we toured the school and kitchen. I am so honoured to have Emily here and to be able to share my world with her in such a tangible way.

In the afternoon I took Emily for a long stroll all around the city. I showed her my favourite haunts and with the weather being so gorgeous and warm it was sheer delight. The warm weather made the snow ideal for snow man building and Emily and I built an energetic, fabulous 4 foot tall snow man in Victoria Park. This was no ordinary snow man, this was an upside, in mid cartwheel, aerobics snow man, complete with scarf head band and an empty muscle shell for eyes. We had so much fun, and lots of passer bys admired our engineering and artistic abilities and honked their horns or waved in approval. 

Friday night I took Emily out to the best fish and place in town: Brits Fish N’ Chips. This delicious restaurant has become my go to when I have visitors from off Island. My parents and I ate there when they dropped me off back in September, and when my friend Natasha came for a visit we dinned on Cod and Haddock before I conquered a deep fried Mars bar, so it seemed only fitting that I treat Emily to the same experience. The fish and chips were excellent, but we decided to save the deep fried Mars bar for Tuesday afternoon before she flies home.

Saturday was one adventure after another. We woke up at the crack of dawn, packed my lunch bag full of travel snacks, apples, and celery, grabbed the iPod and hit the road for an epic day of driving all over the Island. The morning started off dreary and the Island was draped in a thick soapy fog, but as we neared our destination it began to lift to reveal a clear blue sky, fair weather, and a happy ocean breeze. We went to Seacow Head Lighthouse, the lighthouse where the dashing, charming, and kind Gus Pike from Road to Avonlea was said to live. I hoped and dreamed he would be there waiting for me, hanging thin bright Island melodies in the air with his fiddle and smoking his pipe while resting on the front step of his lighthouse. The route to SeaCow Head involved two seasonally closed roads, so we had to walk a kilometer in shin deep snow. As we neared the lighthouse it was clear to see my beloved Gus Pike was not there waiting for me. Sigh. The windows were boarded up as well and the door was locked, I suppose his marriage to Felicity King really worked out, no matter how often I hoped it would ship wreck and sink out of sight, haa haa.

The lighthouse wasn’t a total loss. The cliffs were rich in texture and colour, the red umber of the cliffs complimented the white drifting snow as they cascaded down to the gulf below. The ice had frozen in thick chunks and as the ocean current continued to move underneath it had pulled the ice apart and pushed up against each other in gnarly formations. The ice was thick enough to walk on though, not that I learned this from personal experience but I saw snow show tracks in the thin layer of snow that covered the ice, as well as plenty of bunny and fox tracks.

The whole scenery was so inviting, so gently calling that I had to taste a sample of its danger. Down a long shallow slope of one of the cliffs there was a rock that was sitting quite straight and securely on the edge, it was a perfect place to perch oneself and allow your dreams to become realities as you watched the tide. I carefully made my way down the cliff, stepping carefully, picking solid patches of cliff to place my feet rather than a shotty slope of snow. I reached the rock, hopped on and stood in amazement at the ocean below and in front of me. No matter how many times I look at the ocean, or how many visits I make I am always amazed at its splendor, life, and sound, its simple and yet complicated rhythm, its phantoms that churn and thrive below the rolling and rippling surface, and at times its almost glass like state. After taking a moment to inhale a deep gulp of thick ocean air I made my way back up the cliff and allowed Emily to venture down to the same delicious vantage point. After taking some very goofy pictures we trudged back to the car and carried on with our journey.

We had hoped to find an antique shop and spend the afternoon swooning over vintage and well crafted artifacts and treasures, but winter is cruel for antiques and there was none to be found. However, we did find a delightful little pottery shop somewhere between Seacow Head and Cavendish. We pulled into the driveway just as the owner was crossing the yard, he greeted us warmly and after inquiring if they were open for business he informed us he would be more them delighted to open up shop just for us! What luck! The pottery shop was steep in production and the shelves were full of unfired mugs, bowls, platters, soap dishes, and brie bakers. However, there were a few shelves of fully finished well crafted treasures and we each found something to take home. I invested in a beautiful large coffee mug painted in all the shades of blue of the ocean, Emily favoured a brie dish in the same colour scheme. Happy with our purchases we thanked the owner profusely and then continued on our way.

We drove through the center of the Island weaving around thick woodlands, patch work pastures, and tiny villages. The inland of PEI is just as rolling and rippling as the ocean that surrounds it. It is a ribbon of hills that rise and fall, twist and turn, and flow and fade just as fluidly as the Atlantic Ocean.

Somehow we ended up at the home of Anne of Green Gables in Cavendish. Being as it is the off season it was plain to see the grounds were closed but there was no sign telling us otherwise and no gate to keep our curiosity out. The house and barn was boarded up and locked but the grounds were free to roam. Emily desperately needed a picture of the house so by her lead we jumped the fence and meandered around the property. The house was quiet, and sat on the hill like a plump slumbering old man. The hill sloped down to a creek over a bridge and into the Haunted Wood. After taking advantage of the deserted grounds we took some photos and then made our way back to the car.

Just as we reached the highway a fox crossed our path and then stopped dead in our tracks. I was thrilled beyond thrilled! We immediately pulled over, rolled down our windows and coaxed our furry friend over by baiting him with the cheese and crackers from our lunch. He was taken with us and happily accepted all the food we gave him, he was especially fond of the gluten free sea salt chips Emily had found. Emily and I adored him, taking fifty photos each of him and cooing and making kissing noises to grab is attention anytime it looked like he might run off. I was so tempted to get out of the car and pet him, but he seemed a little skittish and I didn’t want to scare him off or get bitten. As he got more and more full he began to take the food we gave him and burry it in the snow to save it for later, it was so cool to watch him savour the treats. Before we left we rewarded him for being so cooperative by giving him a rainbow chip cookie. He held it in his mouth about to bury it but then took a little nibble out of it. Deciding that it was the most delicious thing he had ever eaten he cradled it in his mouth and trotted off to his den. We waved sadly as he left, but were happy to have such a magical encounter with a friendly fox.

I have never been out on the town on St. Paddys day, but I found the courage tonight. Emily and I adorned ourselves with as much green as we could find and hit the town. The Old Triangle is a fabulous Irish style Pub and you can imagine how hopping it was! There was a line up out the door of colourful people trying to get in. When Emily and I got in it was standing room only. We had plans of ordering appetizers but a drink on the run would have to do. We searched for a table and couldn’t find anything. A very friendly and sauced gentleman got our attention and asked “What are you looking for?” “A table,” we replied, shouting over the Irish music and garbled chatter of the giddy drunkersds. The man spread out his arms, motioned to his vacant lap and said, “There’s plenty of room here.” Haa haa!! I’ve never been hit on by a drunk man before, come to think of it I’ve never been hit on by a sober man before. Aside from all the crazy and happy drunkerds it was a great night out. We grabbed a drink, had a few laughs, and took in some fabulous East Coast music. I learned three valuable lessons about how to make St. Paddy’s Day enjoyable and less awkward:
1) Avoid wearing a winter coat. If you can tough out the cold, dress in light layers, or grab a green shall to wrap around your shoulders when strolling from bar to bar. A winter coat adds weight and awkwardness when crammed into a full bar.
2) Leave the purse at home. Have you ID, cell phone, debit card, and lots of cash on you. Shove it in your pocket or bra and hit the town. A purse can be bulky and be heavy to carry. 
3) When a boy offers his lap for you to sit on, grab the seat next to him and at least let him buy you a drink, it will save you having to buy your own and you might make a funny friend for the night J

Praise the Lord for Sundays! After taking Emily to church and introducing her to all my friends and going out to lunch with the young adults, we went home and spent all afternoon making cards. Emily is a master at home made cards and graciously brought most of her stamps and paper punches from home. We plunked ourselves on the living room floor and spread out our card making goodies all around us creating a nest of creativity. It was dinner before we knew how long we had been at it and our growling tummies convinced us to pack it up and relax for the remainder of the evening.

Tomorrow is the beginning of March Break and Emily will be here for another 2 whole days. Check back next week for a commentary on more March Break shenanigans.

Chocolate Truffle Torte with Cranberry Sauce

Chocolate garnish

Aerobics Snowman!


Seacow Head Lighthouse. Home of the charming Gus Pike from Road to Avonlea.

Pashmina Power

More pashmina power

Bugaboo Barn Emp. "Emp" for Empire!

The windowsill of the master potter.

Feed me more pretty ladies, feed me more!

A cookie for the road.

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