Sunday, January 15, 2023

Gaston in his Glory

I went out to get my Christmas tree earlier than planned. I had friends coming over to help me decorate on 18 Dec, so I had thought to get the tree on the Friday before but when I came home from my agility class on the Monday, 12 Dec, I drove by the Christmas tree lot, and it seemed the stock was dwindling rapidly. So, I went home, emptied the car and drove back up to the lot to get the tree. There still was a quite good selection, although everything they had was now in the lot. Usually, I look for a tree with a nice top and a fairly thick trunk as even though my tree stand looks like it would hold a very small trunk, the tree stands more solidly with a thicker trunk. I had looked at several trees before I stood up this one and I just knew it was the one. The trunk wasn't as thick as I would have liked but it had a beautiful top and a great shape. 

I had three friends over to help decorate; it goes so much faster with people to help. I had already done the lights, so it was just putting on the ornaments. We were done in no time at all.  Another of my friends names their Christmas tree so I decided this year to do the same.  The first suggestion my friends made didn't work at all in my mind, but the second seemed to fit him and so Gaston was named.

Gaston in his glory!

Of course, Gaston was the focal point for many pictures over the Christmas holidays. He filled the dark nights with such a wonderful light. 

Gaston was part of our New Year's celebrations too. I had some friends over again this year for New Year's Eve. We kept the evening to a small number, and we didn't actually stay up until midnight but did our toast for 2023 at about 10pm. 


It's sort of a sad time to have to say goodbye to such a beautiful tree. I always wait until after Epiphany to take down the tree; that's what we did when we were kids. I don't understand people who put it away on Boxing Day; I like the season to last. Gaston didn't really want to go, and he hid an ornament from me right until the very end. I thought for sure I would find the ornament when I took the lights off, but no. 

Lights coming off.

Just a star!

Gaston has left the house.

I looked and looked for that last ornament before putting Gaston out on the porch. One of my sisters suggested giving him a good shake which I did but to no avail. Gaston dropped lots of needles but still I didn't find the ornament.

What Gaston left on the porch.

I took Gaston done to the end of the driveway, turned him round and round and laid him against the snowbank after giving him yet another shake, but I still didn't find the ornament. I took one last picture of Gaston out waiting for his lift and decided then to take just one more look. I'm sure glad I did as there was the little ornament! It was nearly at the bottom of the tree and luckily near the front or I wouldn't have seen it.

Perhaps Gaston wanted a souvenir of his time as a Christmas tree with me and the dogs as the ornament he hid is of a Christmas tree with a dog running round it called Chasing his Tail. The dog actually does go round the tree, good thing my dogs don't run round the tree.

Chasing His Tail

Last night at home with Gaston.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Christmas Memories

I thought I would drive out to Cabela's in the west end of town; it's about a 30-minute drive when the traffic is good. It's dog-friendly and has a nice fireplace that makes it a good place to take Christmas pictures with the dogs. I hadn't been there since I took Beckett and Keltic in Dec 2019.

The picture above was taken on 17 Dec 2019. How was I to know that just six days later I would let Beckett go.

Unfortunately, this year, the fireplace was blocked off by the tree and a table so I couldn't recreate the photoshoot.  We did get some decent shots in front of the tree and in Santa's workshop. Santa wasn't there though, probably a good thing.  I had thought to get both Teddy and Liam in the chair at the same time, but I don't think it was quite big enough and it was a rocker.

Liam did quite a bit of sniffing and barking at the reindeer. I'm quite sure he thought at first it was real. 
We did manage to get a few photos with the Christmas tree with the fireplace in behind. 

I don't know what it is about going into stores, but Teddy and Liam are avid shoppers. They really seem to like wandering around and sniffing everything. I did buy them some more Christmas gifts while we were there.

I think Cabela's must hire the most dog-friendly staff; one staff member even took their picture that he said he was going to post to Facebook.  I got lots of compliments about how well behaved the dogs were, while all the time I was telling them, don't pee.

So, while I couldn't recreate the 2019 photo, we did make some new Christmas memories. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Acadian Meat Pie - A Christmas Tradition

When I was a child, we always went to Midnight Mass with Mum, not when we were very little but once we were old enough to sit still. While we were at Mass with Mum, Dad would heat up a Christmas meat pie and when we got home from Mass, we would have some meat pie, some sweets and sometimes would get to open a present before going to bed. My mother always called her pies "tourtiere" but when I was posted to Quebec, I found out that they weren't.

A tourtiere is made with a mix of ground meats and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. My mother's meat pie had chunks of chicken, pork and beef and was flavoured mainly with summer savory. I was told that her mother's recipe used tea biscuit dough for the pie pastry but that my father found this too heavy, so she started making her pies with regular pie dough. 

So, with COVID when everyone seemed to be baking, I thought I would try to recreate her meat pies. My mother didn't have a recipe, she just knew it by heart. I found out there are as many recipes as there are Acadian families. The first year, I made one pie and it used some of the spices that you find in a tourtiere. It was good but didn't bring back those childhood memories. Last year, I made pies that just used summer savory and oregano, they were much closer in taste, but do you think I wrote down how I made them. This year I again edited the recipe and I think that I have something that's pretty close. I used three or four different recipes that I found online to come up with mine.

My Acadian meat pie is made with a center pork roast, chicken breast and chicken thighs. This year I used a small pork roast, three boneless chicken breasts and six boneless chicken thighs. You cut all the meat up into chunks, a half inch or bigger. If you use bone in chicken breasts and thighs, take as much meat off of the bone as you can. You put all the meat including the bones into a pot and cover with chopped onion, about a cup of onion will do. Fill the pot with water until all the meat is covered, I had water about an inch over the meat and onions. To this you add, some salt and pepper about a half to a teaspoon; then cover it all with summer savory. The picture below is not mine but from one of the recipes I used for inspiration. It has to be summer savory, which isn't always easy to find if you're not in the Maritimes. 

You bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. You may have to add more water, some recipes say to just cover the meat, but I always put more water than that in the pot. This year, after the mixture had simmered for about an hour, I added a tablespoon each of oregano and of coriander seed as well as two packets of chicken bouillon powder. If you've used bone in chicken, you'll have to remove all the bones, allow them to cool a bit and pull off the rest of the meat, which is why I used boneless. Now you let it continue to simmer, until the meat, especially the chicken breast breaks down.  Then you have to let the filling chill for several hours, I let it chill overnight. If your filling, after chilling, is still watery, you can pour out the broth and with some flour and butter make a bit of gravy and mix it back into the meat mixture. Again, not my picture but the meat filling will look something like this before chilling.

This year I had enough filling to make three pies and some mini tarts. One pie is a little light on filling though as I still had meat mixture left after making the first two pies and the tarts, so I bought another pie shell. I guess I should learn how to make pie dough. My mother did have a Never Fail Pie Crust recipe, but it made enough dough for five double crust pies. I made it once and it worked the first time, but I never really needed five pies at one time, although she did say you could freeze the dough.

You fill your pie shells with the meat mixture, cutting some vents or poking holes in the top crust. Some people add an egg wash to the top crust, but I didn't. The pies are baked at 350F for 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is golden.

The result

Mini Meat pies

The meat pies can be frozen and reheated. If you've thawed them, it takes about 30 minutes at 350F, if they're frozen it will take quite a bit longer. These pies will be part of our Christmas Eve supper.  My sister and brother-in-law make my mother's Acadian meat pie as well as his family's tourtieres for Christmas and I'm sure they will be on the menu Christmas Day. 

Making the meat pies made me think of my mum and dad making Christmas meat pies and all the other holiday treats we enjoyed that made Christmas so special. To paraphrase, Maroon Five's song Memories:

Toast to the ones here today,

Toast to the ones that we lost on the way,

Cause the food brings back memories,

And the memories bring back memories of you.