Category Archives: 2018 Archive


Posted: December 23, 2018

Well, it’s interesting that over the last year we have had many more people reading multiple posts and spending longer on the website but fewer emails. Remember if you want to find me just send me an email at

So there were a few emails that covered the same issues so I am going to write a bit longer an explanation on just two topics covered in these two typical emails.

  1. I am a novice cook and am liking the cooking posts but I am seeing a guy who says that your not a trained chef so I should ignore your food postings. Also, what do you think of cookbooks and any you would recommend?

These are good questions. So first, the easy one – on the issue of cookbooks, I have been working on a post on that very topic so watch for it. The simple answer is that like music there is a full range out there and you need to find which author appeals to you best. Today there are so many good cookbooks its overwhelming.  But watch for that full-on post on the topic. I have a number of posts that I want to do and Jim has some topics for me so it won’t be until late 2019 I expect.

The second part of your question regarding my credentials is also pretty straightforward but deserves a longer explanation. I didn’t go to chef school, which when I was young didn’t matter as much because there were some pretty awesome apprentice programs. I didn’t do that either, nor did I work under a really good chef. I just worked in a food factory (the food prep area of a cruise ship) and didn’t know anything about what I was making. I could have been putting bolts on a car in an assembly line and know about as much about cooking. That was the early days of working on the cruise lines. After a while, I started to get a better idea of what real cooking was but it was still largely as a contributor or the master of only one small component. I went for over a month where almost all I did was prepare and caramelize onions. Another time I was doing shoestring potatoes.

So while doing those things I wasn’t learning to be a cook or a chef but just doing the repetitive exercise that today a robot would do. What did happen however was that occasionally when onshore my shipmates would expect me to cook some meals as I worked in the kitchen on the ship so I would make something that was a direct extension of something I had been doing. Some would ask about the calorie count or glutin etc. and I had no idea. When I first started using a conventional residential stove I learned I needed to set a temperature and preheat it which was bizarre to me. Most of my tasks had been to prepare something as shown, put it in oven thirteen, for example, press the preset timer button and then get the next batch ready to go in when the first batch was ready. I had no idea for example what the temperature was or whether we were roasting or baking something. I was just a human-robot.

Over time I learned to cook but most of that came over time as I developed an interest in cooking and started to get to do more interesting things in the kitchen. But I don’t want to exaggerate it – I was never trained, but have lots of hours in on a bunch of basic kitchen tasks. Later when I needed to cook to live and I genuinely started to put it all together, but even then it was all trial and error working of a core skill I might have. If you have looked at my posts and read about cooking for Marc and Lotte and family in The Netherlands,  I  was a pretty amateur cook overall but could nail a few key things and had what superficially looked like immense knowledge. The big thing for me was to learn new measures. When making hollandaise sauce at home you measure in tablespoons and teaspoons, not in liters!

So your boyfriend is right – I am not an educated chef. Or a trained chef. Or even a trained cook. I am just a guy who is discovering fun things in the kitchen and like Jim, we share some ideas like two characters who have just discovered camping for the first time and are sharing some things that seasoned campers would laugh at and see as self – evident. Jim went back to a local college culinary program when he retired in his 40’s but didn’t spend a lot of time learning to cook. His main interest at the time was the financial aspects of the food industry and restaurants. Even when he started his cooking school he wasn’t the guy teaching the classes or making the food, he was running the business and hired the culinary talent.

So just think of me on the same journey as you in the kitchen. On some things, I might be a bit ahead of you or you a bit ahead of me. It’s not a competition. It’s all good.


  1. Django you seem to be pretty focused on the past, and I don’t see a lot of present or future in your posts. What’s that about?”

Ah, well this is probably the most important part of what we are doing with this website, so I am going to chose my words carefully so I don’t upset Jim and you should get a mug of coffee to reflect on this as you read if its before noon, and a glass of wine if its after 6 pm and its your choice in the middle.

If you read the ABOUT section or have read many of my posts you probably know that Jim and I both have the same neurological issues. You probably also know that Jim decided to do this website for several reasons.

The first was to get me “back on my feet” and doing something positive.

But an equally important second reason was for he and I to work together with the idea that my deep stress, anxiety, etc. which is probably at the root of my problem will be reduced if I get a bit of structure in my life and have a future I am confident about. The other side of that symbiotic relationship I have with Jim is that he is learning to be a lot more like what I have been – living in the moment. Jim has never lived fully in the moment. The two other tenses – past and future tend to dominate and the present is only the tool on the way to using the experience of the past to change the future. Most people who are (mis)wired this way are successful as it’s a winning formula for achieving things, but not a winning formula in life. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that he doesn’t enjoy himself in the present it’s just the mix is pretty slanted to the past and especially to the future. So he is working on being more like me to truly live in the moment.

And the third reason he wanted to do this website is that  a person who has been focused on the future who learns that his neurological system may well let him down means that the future may not be quite what you thought it was going to be. To be blunt, having an episode where you are looking at a screen and can’t remember what the words mean, or having the right half of your body not function for an hour scared the hell out of him. His parents both had dementia and he watched the slow motion process of them losing their minds. Yikes!

To that end, I have actually been working on a draft that I am not happy with quite yet called:   “Becoming comfortable with the notion of losing your mind” which really explains more of this.

But the point here is that he wants to have these posts to tell the stories and document the memories that are important to him, things and people and experiences and emotions that are important to him and Janice so that he will have some reference point to who he was as things start to go. So some of the things you are reading about here are important parts of his life, some are just fun stories of friends lives and some are just ramblings. But they are all important to him, and some to Janice and/or me as well. Sorry to go all heavy on you but that is what we are really doing here.

With that said I expect that you will see more present creeping into the pieces as Jim is starting to spend some time in that (present) dimension and he is the one who feeds me ideas for posts.


So that’s it for my responses to the emails.  As we come up to the end of the year I am not really a “new years resolutions” guy but we are living in very ominous times and as I have never been as future-focused as Jim (well the truth is I have never thought about the future until linking up with Jim again) here is what I see for 2019:

  1. Putin will continue his aggression and Trump will be one of several leaders to not respond
  2. Trump will trigger a massive economic recession through foreign and trade policy
  3. Theresa May will continue to grapple with a stupid party and an even more stupid Parliament
  4. Janice and Jim will go to Russia, and the Baltics and Scandanavia for a trip
  5. I will get my new captain and hopefully continue to do well in my improved life.

So the first three are sad but predictable, the fourth one is interesting and the fifth one, of course, is the only one that matters. LOL!  I am pretty pumped about getting my new captain and once she is on board (literally and figurately) I will post some details.

Enjoy the holiday season and see you on the other side.


A Limited View of The Future

A Limited View of The Future



Posted: July 1, 2018

I was at a pretty low point when I first bumped into Jim at the hospital in the fall of 2013. I had just learned of this problem I, well we, have and was not looking forward to going back to more of my life in Europe scraping by. So I stayed with Jim and Janice for a bit and got re-energized. I had to go through a series of MRI’s cat scans, bloodwork etc. so it worked out pretty well.

During that time Jim and I got caught up and I got to know Janice. I get why he turned his life around with her.  So after a while, it became clear that Janice was pretty frustrated with my agonizing over my bad life and not doing anything about it. She pointed out the obvious to me – “you have this fabulous boat, and you just rent it out as a Bed and Breakfast? You need to hire a captain and take people out for day trips at least, if not two or three-night excursions and charge accordingly”. So yes this is self-evident but I guess I had needed this observation made by someone real to hit home. Jim and I spent some time on what he called a rudimentary business plan – something new for me. It was really just setting out how I could book things, track them, cost them, etc. We decided the best way for me to manage this would be to make the captain participate in the profits to really get him or her engaged in the process and to not have to pay for a captain when we didn’t have bookings.

When I went back to Croatia where En Plein Air was sitting I had new energy and a new focus. I would find a local captain who would be up for the exercise and cut him or her into the deal. After spending a week chatting with various people I knew it was clear that there were two that I would love to work with, but one would not be available for many months each year based on other commitments   and the other who was keen to join me in this venture could only do so in a few months. She was Irish and I will tell you more about her in a future post. We entered into a deal and I set out to find someone to fill in for the intervening few months.

Who I found was Kyle. He was an American who had flunked out of art school in Lacoste  France. The Savannah School of Art and Design has a program there and he was more interested it seems in the art of French life – food, wine, sex and not nearly as much in the techniques of visual art. So he had bummed around Southern France for a while and eventually made it across Italy and down to where I was. He was making his living doing occasional captains work on local yachts as he had been a competitive sailor when growing up in South Carolina. He had also been a competitive bodybuilder so he and I looked like the “before” and “after” shots from a gym, and also from life.

The good news was that all he wanted was a berth, and to be fed and would be the personality and the captain so we could take groups out for day trips or two to three-day local excursions. At that point, we were based in Cavtat, just south of Dubrovnik so the usual thing was to just take tourists out to either see Dubrovnik at night or to do a few day cruise south to some secluded beaches in Albania, but more often around the islands just north of Dubrovnik and back.

A big challenge for me then, and now was not being able to really advertise and promote as I needed to, and still need to, fly below the radar. The boat I don’t own, so I can’t register it, so I cant get a valid operating license for a business. I am caught in this messy world where I don’t pay tax, don’t pay licensing and registration fees but cant plan anything very far out on the calendar as I may have to move locations. Even my boat insurance is a bit peculiar as there are only a few companies that will give me liability insurance and to keep the costs down I have a big deductible, and no insurance for the boat itself.

Jim is a pretty straight arrow when it comes to taxes and regulations etc. and in a future post, I will tell you how he has me staying “ethically straight” while not paying licensing fees and income taxes.

For the most part, the arrangement with Kyle worked well in the beginning. He was a very personable young guy and when not focused on getting us to where we were going would help out a lot with getting drinks and setting out food etc.

But captain Kyle was nothing like the disciplined Captain Sven I was used to. Kyle drank all the time and would cut his lines through the small islands desperately close to the shoals. Captain Sven used to say that as he grew older he had a healthy respect for “how shoals would grow from when he had seen them last”.  Captain Kyle had no such respect.

And then there were the guests. Yikes. He was a good looking kid and didn’t like wearing a shirt and for the older women on board he was a bit of a novelty, but whenever we took out a group of young women who were on a bachelorette party before a wedding he was in his glory. One at a time to all at once. And then go again. I remember the 70’s and it was much more like serial monogamy than this. And these young women – crazy. They had their own version of the “me too” movement. We had at least three trips out with groups like that. I would come back exhausted and was not even a  participant!

But during that time we started to make some money. For the first time in a long time, I could think about what needed to be repaired or replaced on the boat or buy a new shirt. It was only a few months from learning of my condition and meeting Jim again and now things were looking up.

If Kyle didn’t crash En Plein Air into some shoals and we continued to have bookings then things would really start to work out for me.

P.S. I have put in a few pictures of Cavtat which is just a little port town to the south of Dubrovnik. It has a nice promenade to walk, up above the rocky shore. There are tourists of course but it’s not overrun with them and while the marina has a lot of tourist boats in all the time it is not where the Johnny Depp’s come to hang out. The size of the public marina and the small number of places to stay in town means that it is for the most part just a nice little seaside town.



Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2018

So what is special about mothers day- you have to ask? We may not all have had fathers but we all have had mothers. They are the ones who traditionally made the family a unit, and in bad families were the ones who held it together.

The notion of “Mothers Day” I have always found a bit strange, however. There should be an acknowledgment of these wonderful creatures but it almost cheapens it to make it just one day.

I am not going to go on about my mom. She was a good mom and I loved her and I regret that for too many years I was just thinking about my own life, not coming home to visit. I think about this a fair bit, but I can’t change it, I can only remember her and my dad and try to learn from my experience of not being a better kid.

What I am going to do is tell you about a poem Jim wrote. He is not the best poet as you know but I particularly like this one. It’s about his Nana. Like me, he had a great relationship with his paternal grandmother. Her real name was Hannah but Nana is what he called her. During those years in high school when most of us were somewhat alienated from our parents and vice/versa the relationship we had with an aunt or uncle, grandparent or even an older cousin is what got some of us through. They can bring a perspective that may not be the same as ours but might be somewhat different than our parents – and they bring it with love and no expectations.

So during his late years in elementary school and through high school, Jim and his dad would drive up the Ottawa valley from their home in Ottawa one evening a week to a little village where his Nanas house was. This hadn’t been her lifetime house or even a place she had lived in for a substantial time. It was a house that she had bought in later life just to get back to living in a smaller community, having a garden and being out with nature. It would be followed by the reality of having to move into an apartment in Ottawa closer to Jim’s parents but for about a decade, she enjoyed her small-town life in her little place, where she could walk to the village shops for groceries, or the post office or to get her hair done.

So on Tuesday nights from May until September Jim and his dad would drive there. Jim’s dad would usually work on repairs of some kind, while Jim would cut the grass, and do some weeding in the garden. They would all then have dinner together and before it was too late in the evening (as Jim would have to go to school the next day to fail Math, Science or French) Jim and his dad would drive back to Ottawa.  Sometimes he would complain about it as he would miss something that a bunch of us were doing, or a TV show he wanted to see but for the most part he looked forward to his Tuesday nights both for seeing his Nana and for having some time with his dad that was not focused on how badly he was doing in school or what mischief he had gotten into that week.

This is his poem and as I said above I do like this one as it reminds me of times with my grandmother. Jim has really been opening up over the last few years and I think he is better for it.



Every Tuesday night,

My dad and I would drive

To the country to see my Nana.


I would cut the grass,

Dad would repair something

Or weed the garden.


Nana would make us dinner

Of fresh vegetables and meat,

Roast potatoes and pie.


I never liked

Beets, green beans or brussels sprouts,

Except at my Nanas.


My Nana is gone, my dad is gone,

But as often as I can

I eat beets, Green beans, and brussels sprouts.


So that’s the poem. He is getting better at this poetry business I think.  I don’t yet have a picture of Jim with his Nana but I am trying to track one down.  I do have her recipe for apple pie and a picture of Janice and the first pie she made for Jim when they were living at their first apartment in Kingston. Janice had finished her program in fashion design and was working as a fashion designer at that point and Jim was doing graduate work in Urban Planning and Development.




Jim’s Nana seemed to like to work with really big pie plates – about 30cm so almost one foot. For some of us, that is just one big unwieldy pie, especially if you are working in a small space like the galley of an old boat like mine so I have scaled the recipe he gave me down to a 23 cm size (9 inches) pie.  Even when I am making a pie for a larger group I prefer to make two smaller ones and then do one as a bit of a variation in look or taste or to make one as a pie and a few tarts as well.

Ingredient list: Pastry – 2 pieces as its double crust for the 9-inch pie if you are buying pastry.

Of course nothing duplicates a pastry you make yourself. If you have not done so before this adds quite a bit to the exercise so for the first time I would just buy the dough. Once you are comfortable with making pies move on to making the pastry yourself. Most recipes for dough don’t really tell the story  of the tricks or rules to make a good pie crust but one that I really like is


Pie Filling

Peeled & sliced apples 5 cups            (1.25L)

Sugar *                             3/4  cup       (175 ml)

Flour                                 1 tbsp           (15 ml)

Cinnamon                        1/2 tsp          ( 2 ml)

Lemon Juice                    1 tbsp           (15 ml)

Butter (unsalted)           1 tbsp           (15 ml) cut cold butter into little pieces to distribute

Egg                                    1 egg                      for eggwash

*  Now I have tried to make this faithfully to the original recipe but Jim tells me that pretty regularly his Nana would claim to be low in sugar and would “substitute” with some rum or with a fruit liqueur or with maple syrup. His recollection, however, is that there actually was no substitution just “supplement” of these items at times. I have experimented with each of the products and found that up to a half tablespoon of rum or up to a full tablespoon of maple syrup or liqueur such as  Grand Marnier can add some sweetness and depth to the flavour.


To make the pie:

1. Preheat the oven to 220C (425f)

2. Line the pie plate with the lower pastry piece

3. mix the cut apple slices, flour and sugar*, lemon juice and cinnamon then gently pour the mixture onto the                   pastry

4. put the little butter pieces around the top of the mixture

5. drizzle the rum/ liqueur etc. around the mixture if substituting/ supplementing

6. cover with the top crust, then seal and pinch (flute) the edges

7. You need to put in a few slits for the steam to be released. Jim would chatter on about how his Nana would not just cut little slits for the pie to release steam but instead would do a little shape – a few slits to look like a conifer tree or a little rabbit or acorn.

8. a little brushing of an egg wash and a bit of a sugar sprinkle and its ready for the oven for 30 minutes then watch it for the next five to ten minutes after that to take the crust to the way you like it.


While some weeks Jims Nana would do cookies or cake, most weeks it would be a pie dessert and Jim, who has a whole mouthful of sweet teeth would tell me about the one that week – Wild Blueberry Pie, Maple Syrup Pie, Buttertart Pie, Fresh Rasberry Pie ….

Come to think of it, on the vegetable front today he does eat a lot of brussels sprouts, and green beans and even more beets than the average person.

And I would be remiss to not wish Janice a happy mothers day. She got cheated out of experiencing her mother during her adult years as her mom passed when Janice was in her early twenties.  I think she is making up for that missing experience by being so good a mom to Jade and Jason.






Posted: January 20, 2018

Well, there is a catchy title. And not a bad measure to live by in these strange times.

This account  I have worked on for a bit of time but have decided to post it today based on the one year anniversary of Inauguration of Donald Trump. While it has always been the case, I think that today especially we need good role models in the world, not homophobic, racist liars who cheat on their taxes and burn business partners and contractors. Donald Trump was not respected in the real estate investment industry because of his unethical behavior.

When he was elected over a year ago most critics thought that once in office there would be one of two outcomes: he would be impeached, or that he would otherwise rise to the occasion and perform in a way that the office he holds deserves.  Well to date he is still in office and by most accounts has become less statesmanlike. The groups he gave indications during the campaign he did not respect- the LGBTQ community, Americans of any colour other than white, the poor, and anyone who ever voted Democrat, were now fair game for his intolerance.   Members of those groups who as loyal Republicans voted for him and thought he might change after the election (perhaps with some encouragement from other elected Republicans) are now seeing their voting error turn into a horror.

Leopards don’t change their spots. While this has been a horrendous year with him in office, with good civil servants running for the door and taking early retirement and positions being filled with opportunists  I am afraid this is only the beginning of his reign of terror and that he will continue to divide the country and diminish its role in the world even more.

The American people have made peculiar choices at times. When George W. Bush was elected the first time, it was just a fluke but to elect him the second time knowing what he was like and having seen the way he handled things in his first term is baffling for most of us as outside observers. I recall when Ronald Regan was elected and Jane Fonda was asked what she thought of “an actor in the Whitehouse” and her response was that the significance was not that he was an actor, but “so bad an actor” on all levels. Sometimes the American people get it right – Barack Obama as a recent example, but Trump? Yikes!

So back to the topic at hand. I have met Margaret Atwood a few times and can definitively report that it was more of a thrill for me than for her.

On her writing I am a picky fan, loving some, liking most and some, well not so much. On her role as an activist, dissident and staunch supporter of good causes however I am immensely proud of her and other than one letter of support for a University of British Columbia professor who did not deserve it has had an impeccable record of calling it right and fighting the good fight.

In Canada, she is of course viewed as a national treasure.

The piece below is fictional I have to say for legal reasons but based rather faithfully on a true event. A few details have been altered to make it fictional and to keep me out of jail. I have spent a few nights in jail cells and they are not recommended for anyone, but especially for anyone with an older back. The food is also not recommended. They also have a nasty tendency to leave the lights on all night, and not to provide pillows.

It is a story about the challenge of celebrity and persona, an issue to be grappled with by any person in the public eye, and the associated responsibility not only for the person involved but even for those who might somehow represent them.



It was October 2014 and the event was not a regular one on the New York arts calendar.  The celebration of The Books to Film Centers move to their new facility was both an acknowledgment of the work that everyone had put in, the financial support of the donors to date and a final push to fill the last gap in the funds needed.

And then it happened, The Donald arrived with his posse. The room all seemed to inhale simultaneously at the arrival and if the facial expressions could be frozen in time it would be a snapshot of shock and awe.

While she had no particular role at the event one small woman in her seventies with a crown of curly grey hair was pensive. “What would Margaret Atwood do?” she thought to herself. She was often taken for the writer, particularly in Canada or at literary events. Originally Peggy was amused by the attention and instead of embarrassing the person doing the asking she would simply smile, shake a hand, and on rare occasions sign a book. She had never been seen with Margaret Atwood, and it was a good thing as they didn’t look all that much alike in her opinion. If anyone had seen them together she felt it would be obvious that she was younger, better looking and a bit “hot” in a seniors way. She had thought often of doing her hair differently or dressing differently than she and Margaret Atwood typically dressed but had not made the change for some reason.

Most of the time she found the attention positive or amusing but often, being interpreted as the celebrated author and advocate for various causes, had its burdens. She would be letting Margaret Atwood and her public down to not act in character in some difficult situations.

“What would Margaret Atwood do?” she thought again to herself as he began walking her way.  Yes, it was going to be another encounter with this ass. The last time she had run into this arrogant bully all he could say was ” I seen a movie made from one of your books”.  What an insightful, and grammatically innovative comment she had thought at the time and had conjured up her best impression of what she thought Margaret Atwood would say “Well I hope you are the better for it”.

So here he was again, pushing his way toward another experience with a writing legend whose work he had not read, but felt compelled to speak to – one legend to another. What would Margaret Atwood do?  Peggy smiled as she thought of some of the possibilities in this evening where many had put on skits acting out famous scenes from books and film in support of the cause. The images that ran through her head included pretending to pick her nose while he spoke to her, crouching down as if on a toilet as he approached, and pretending to snort cocaine.  These all made her smile, which he noticed and brought out a smile on him as he loomed closer.

No, none of these things she would do, as clearly, they were not things that Margaret Atwood would do. With only moments to go and as his hand began to move upward to shake hands, Peggy turned around to put her back to him and was immediately joined by her friend to the right and and then her friend to the left and others as they closed in to make a circle, tightly packed shoulder-to-shoulder and one started telling a story so they could all be engrossed in the moment and stay an inwardly focused and very tight group. Seconds later other groups started doing the same as The Donald hunted the room. From above it would have looked like synchronized snubbing.   He turned a little rouge, put his chin up and reflected for a moment while massaging the front of his neck, then pivoted, and after conversing with part of his entourage briefly and he was off to another event.

Peggy had averted another disaster, and after some polite chats with the host and a few others headed off herself, with both her and Margaret Atwood’s reputations intact.




A note to readers: I don’t have a problem with this or any other piece of mine you read here being reproduced, but please attribute it to me.   Thanks. Django