Thursday 27 February 2014

At Ikea and Pulitzer Prize Winning March

At Ikea, the cafeteria seats 6oo people and opens a half hour before the store itself.  Lots of seniors have discovered the $1.99 breakfast special which includes free refills on the coffee.  Hubby loves the coffee but he loves the giant cinnamon buns even more.  We are here in the morning so we will miss out on the $4.99 dinner special of 19 Swedish meat balls with potato and vegetables (yes they do specify the number of meatballs). 
What is it about Swedish design that looks perpetually modern?  Glancing around, the  tables, chairs, dinnerware, all look sleek and European to me (not that I really know what that means), but it seems like it all came from somewhere else, far away.  I really like the tray carrier, a four legged walker that you can rest two trays on and push around instead of having to carry your trays.  I notice these are popular with the seniors as well.  There is a sitting area with large couches and people are having their coffee and reading; it is all very civilized and relaxed.
We are here searching out shoe cabinets; yes, it is time to get the shoes off the closet floor and organized in their own piece of furniture.  It all seems a little extravagant to shoes their own space like this, but later at home, with it all set up and the shoes resting in their little slots behind their cupboard doors, I must admit, this is better. 

                                              What's on my night table....

This book, March by Geraldine Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006.  It tells the story of Peter March, the absent father of the March girls in L.M. Montgomery's Little Women.  I really wanted to love this book but I didn't; I did like it though.  My main problem was I just never cared that much for Peter; I found him pious, full of himself  and frustratingly unaware of what his actions were doing to anyone else.  The book switches to Mrs. March's side of the tale about half way through and we find her to be rightfully (I think) bitter and unhappy with her husband.  Several sections of the book were very slow-going for me and I found some of the situations contrived and certain sentiments expressed too flattering and gratuitous.  However, the book is a very accomplished work overall with beautiful writing at times and I can only imagine the creativity involved in writing an historical novel, in this case, one about the American Civil War. Just the research alone would have been a massive undertaking.  Read this book if you liked Little Women; you might find it a very interesting back story to learn more about the father and mother of those girls. 

Wednesday 26 February 2014

The Lego Movie and Tammy and the Bachelor

Yesterday, I took grandson to a movie- his choice, The Lego Movie in 3D.  He had informed me that Morgan Freeman voiced one of the characters as a way to get me interested, I think.  So there we sat, him with his popcorn combo snack and both of us in our 3D glasses.  It was one of those children's movies where the writers have made an effort to cater to the adults in the audience.  Some of the jokes referencing old trivia were very funny and I could hear several of the men laughing loudly from time to time.  Who would believe you could elicit empathy for Lego-made, little blocks characters, but of course, the brilliant animators achieved just that.  It was good enough to recommend.
I have a love of going out to movies reaching back to my childhood.  On Saturdays a group of kids from my neighbourhood would walk downtown and decide what to do with our ten cent pieces.  One day the choice was a plate of take-out French fries from the stand on the corner or going to see a movie.  That very first movie I saw was Tammy and the Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds; I think I was about eight years old and I was enthralled.  The scene where she sings Tammy's In Love has stayed with me all my life and I have that song on my playlist in the car.  I don't think there were any ratings or age limits for viewing movies in theaters in those days. Not long after, I saw a movie that I think was probably The Thing From the Lagoon.  It terrified me and I had bad dreams about it for a long time. Years later I saw it on t.v. and realized the seaweed haired creature was actually laughable but it certainly wasn't to me back then.    
Grandson loves movies too and we have made a pact to always go to movies together. 

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Old Time Ice Tracks and Bad Goldfish Mommy

This is a photo I took when I was "kid-sitting" the other day; it is looking out my daughter's kitchen window. Her backyard faces a wide expanse of farmland so it is a peaceful, tranquil view most days.  It was pouring rain at the time which didn't last long and quickly turned to freezing rain and then snow with very low temperatures overnight.  The result of all that 'weather' is very slippery conditions.  Hubby found an old pair of tracks to attach to his boots; I think these are a forerunner of the fancy kinds you can buy today.
He reports that these are effective, old and simplistic though they may be!
 Goldfish Update
I must tell you about my sad goldfish for if a fish can't swim what is the point.  It seems I haven't been doing a good job of taking care of them.  In fact I have been feeding them completely wrong.  I understood you had to feed goldfish infrequently and be very careful about the amounts.  I'd read the major cause of goldfish death was overfeeding so I was feeding every three days.  I now know that doing this causes the fish to gorge themselves which in turn causes bloating and constipation.  That will fool up the air bladder which is essential in swimming properly.  I read an antidote was to cook green peas, remove the thin coating and feed them to the goldfish.  I did this and noted all three of the fish seemed to like the peas and ate them.  This morning when I checked, they were all swimming around normally and not a pea in sight.  Fingers crossed it worked.

Monday 24 February 2014

Decorating Country-Style

One of my daughters enjoys primitive style decor and has quite a few such items she has carefully chosen to decorate her house.  Some are more vintage type accessories and others are kind of country elegant, I guess you could say.  This photo is of an embroidered saying she has above  her doorway entering the kitchen.  It was worked quite simply in running stitch for the letters and stems; daisy stitch and French knots for the berries.  It gives a rustic impression but upon close inspection, was worked quite well.
So sorry about the flash blossom in the center of this photo.  This is another example she has on one of her walls.  Again it is a simple design for the embroidered picture and is worked in running stitch with a few French knots and straight stitches included.  The little unrhymed verse reads "The bright warm sun of happiness, the soft cool shade of joy, May these always be in your heart, today and your whole life through."

Country Sampler

I often read the magazine Country Sampler and enjoy looking at all the projects, crafts and handmade items available to order.  It is published seven times a year and always includes a visit to a house that people have renovated or built and decorated with a country/primitive style.  There are many ideas for how to include antique and vintage items in your home decor.  They include prices and addresses for obtaining most of the items featured which is very useful; I especially like the Craft Showcase section with all the links to online sites.
 click to enter~

 The Christmas issue is always my favourite followed closely by the autumn one.  So much inspiration from so many people out there crafting and collecting!

Saturday 22 February 2014

Baby quilt and Knitted Shawl: Another Update

Here is a closeup of Grandson's baby quilt.  I am quilting through the layers by outlining animals in the plain blocks.  It took a bit of fiddling to find the right sized quilting hoop that would accommodate the layers of material.  Then I had to decide on thread colour and settled on this Aurifil in light blue.  True to form for me, first I had to unsew a motif  that I had sewn in a light tan colour, and then didn't like it.  Italian Aurifil threads are my favourite to work with.  I was introduced to them years ago when I took a course in Redwork and loved them.  But you do have to make sure you have the weight correct for your particular project. 

I've decided to outline each block with some kind of embroidery.  So far, I've used button hole stitch and different sizes of herringbone.  I'm really enjoying working on this project and am determined to take my time with it. I have to overrule my tendency to hurry finishing up one project just so I can start the next. 

It's a little daunting to see my stitching up close like this, eeek!

And here at last is the shawl I was knitting in the last month or so with the Lion Brand Homespun wool.  It is very warm but I'm not convinced about the shape being quite right.  It seems to me the two ends that drape the shoulders and cross in the front are a bit too short for total comfort and the tail in the back is quite long.  I've looked back at the original picture and mine is not that different, so...  I do have this same wool in violets and pinks and I think I will search out a different pattern when I'm ready to begin that one.  It is a shame this wool is not photographing well; it really is lustrous and soft. 

Friday 21 February 2014

Treasuring Time with Grandson

"You are the bows from which your children

 As living arrows are sent forth."

                        Kahlil Gibran

                                                                                         Grandson In His Panda Bear Mask            
                                                                                         and Headphones Playing On His IPad

We have made scrambled eggs, played zombie hide and seek (which it turns out Nana is scarily good at), found Sonic on every page in his Where's Sonic? book, and jumped around to the video of What Does the Fox Say.  We also watched the Olympic hockey game of the U.S. versus Canada and cheered when Canada won.  I am ridiculously happy that Grandson still wants to play with me when I occasionally have to spend the day with him babysitting (or kid-sitting, as he's asked me to call it).  I know I'm in a somewhat time-limited relationship with him.  He is nine now, such a sweet age just before adolescence will no doubt mean Nana will be relegated to a back seat if not completely designated chopped liver. No doubt whatever his generation will be into will take him away from his Nana.  Hopefully, I will have a few more years to treasure his company before that happens.  Of course, I will always be here waiting to fulfill whatever role in his life he will want me to. That is a given.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Saved by the Billboard

New to driving in this area, detours are a genuine fear of mine as in, me having to take one when driving by myself.  I have developed set routes that I drive with a level of comfort.  One night after dark, I encountered a closed road; the police were directing everyone to take a right hand turn down another road I had never driven before.  This would take me in an almost opposite direction from where I was going.  Even in daylight, country roads are long roads.  You can drive for miles and not encounter a house and the farms you do notice seem to have a sameness about them; at first glance they all have the silo and big barn behind or to the left of a two story dwelling, more or less alike.
Starting out on this detour, I thought great, I'll follow this car in front of me.  However, not too far along he put on his signal and turned off up a narrow pathway; not the route I should take for sure.  I drove on in the dark, my anxiety mounting just a little, trying to orient myself to get around to where I needed to be heading. You have to understand that I'm a person who always joked about needing remedial orientation training, I'm that hopeless at directions. In this situation,  I was thankful of my habit of keeping the tank full of gas; being overly cautious sometimes works out so at least I did not have to worry about running out of gas.
Suddenly, on my left, I spied a very large billboard, so big you just can't miss it. This billboard is memorable as it advertises something called an adult store, one with thousands of items apparently.  I'd seen it before and always thought it incongruous in the Canadian bucolic farming countryside and therefore, very out of place.  But, as I said memorable, happily for me because in that instant I knew exactly where I was. With one more road turn, I was back on my route and breathing the proverbial sigh of relief.
 Later I found out the cause of the detour was a car accident and the next day on the news I heard a young child who'd been in the car, had died later at the hospital.
  Such a tragedy; I felt badly then that I'd been so wrapped up in myself and my own inconvenience which was so trivial under the circumstances.    

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Amusing My Small Mind

I have my elliptical trainer positioned in a large window in the back bedroom.  I can see the side woods down to the outer garages and part of the front lawn from this window.  I keep an eye out for the birds that I can tell are crisscrossing from the feeder to these trees.  Today a small black squirrel provided me with some amusement while I went about my workout.  It did not want to traverse the lawn in a direct path; I'm thinking the zigzagging and antics he was going through were particularly to thwart some unseen enemy.  Just what enemy did he think was watching?  He would certainly know better than I.  Here's what he was doing...he would creep down to the base of his tree, hold steady there for a minute, then make a mad dash across the lawn, suddenly stop and hold himself completely still, turn around and race back to the sanctuary of his tree.  After a brief rest, he would slink back down the tree and start this process all over again.  This advancing and retreating lasted about fifteen minutes till he finally made it across the lawn.  Sadly, these efforts may not be fruitful; the front feeder is one of those that is squirrel proof and the lever shuts when any weight is on it.  However there are usually some seeds scattered around on the ground so with a little luck he may find a nibble or two.
My little friend may be one of these three who have been hanging around lately. 

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Ongoing Patchwork and All Seeing Women's Eyes

"You're looking with your man's eyes" I say to hubby when he can't see the pickle jar, the very large one right  in front of him on the fridge shelf.  Sometimes I catch him on the verge of accusation, thinking I've hidden something, but I think he has learned better.  He will say to me now that he needs my woman's eyes to help locate this or that. 
I could never be a hoarder; perhaps my mild claustrophobia prevents such a condition in me.  Those homes where you have to climb over mounds of stuff to wend your way through make me almost breathless to watch.  With such in mind, I have been steadily cleaning out the basement.  Four decades of accumulation translates into lots of stuff to be weaned for the garbage.  I always let hubby see into every bag.  He possesses a hawkish memory and I always know somewhere down the road he would think of some widget or other and go looking for it and you know who would be blamed for its disappearance.  He's been wonderful, I have to say though, about supporting my basement ditching efforts. 

Here is my summer project I label "ongoing" (rather than "unfinished").
I accumulated a lot of blue fabric and needed to use it up.  Since it was all different sizes I decided to sew a patchwork type block, sort of a haphazard log cabin formation.  I enjoyed the process of this very much and in no time, had sewn quite a few blocks which I then sewed together four to a large block.  I figured out I would need approximately 49 of these to cover my king sized bed.  But how to quilt them?  My little $75 Brother doesn't have the attachments for free motion quilting so my blocks are resting in a box waiting for the day when I can complete the last step.  I think they are pretty and deserving of proper quilting and would be so warm.  Perhaps it is time I look into a new machine.

Monday 17 February 2014

On the Lookout for Owls and Comfort Coffee Cake

Winter, it continues.
 These are the days though that when out and about the idea of home, our slippers, a cup of tea, glass of merlot, the latest episode of The Young and the Restless, whatever, call to us.  Inside is better.
 I just came in from a walk through the woods. I was bundled up wearing my fake fur hat that matches the coat I showed you, and I took Rex with me.  He loves running up the path and then full tilt back to greet me.  I was on a mission today.  I was looking for owls; there have been numerous owl sightings this winter all over our region.  We have many old trees on the property with just the type of knotted holes in them that I think would be owl heaven, but no luck.  I did see where squirrels have leaves filling one such hole so I imagine they are enjoying a snug winter home.

This is the season for comfort food for sure.  Here is a fruit cobbler/coffee cake I made last weekend.

Here is the recipe:
1/2 cup coconut oil(or butter)                                 Fruit Mixture
1/2 cup white sugar                                                 I use whatever fruit I have on hand, in this case I
1/4 cup brown sugar                                                used apricots, prunes, and blueberries.
2 eggs                                                                     
1cup sour cream
1 tsp almond flavouring                                          Topping
2 cups flour (I used half almond flour)                    2/3 cup chopped almonds
1 tsp baking powder                                                 2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda                                                      1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt                                                                 1/2 tsp cinnamon; a pinch of salt
                                                                                   3 tbsp coconut oil or butter
For the cake:
Beat butter and sugars, add eggs, almond flavouring and sour cream. Mix well.  Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat till well blended. Pour into a greased 9 x 9 square pan or a round 9 inch springform pan.
Spread the fruit mixture over the batter.
Topping: Mix together the flour, brown sugar and butter. Stir in the cinnamon and the almonds.
Sprinkle this crumb mixture on top of the fruit.
Bake in a 350 degrees oven about 35 - 40 minutes.  You can try the toothpick in it to see if it is cooked but this can be a bit deceiving with all the fruit.  I always err on the side of longer time.

I watched another episode of Vera last night; isn't that Brenda Blython wonderful?  It helped me finish up the shawl.  Now I  just have to decide about an edging.  I'm a little unsure about the shape of the thing in the end.  Seems to have a very deep v in the back.  Photo to follow.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Something in a Sunday

9 am and the day is going well.  Workout done, new-to-us ancient grains oatmeal cooked and eaten.  Crock pot retrieved from the small appliance garage (which in my case is literally a shelf in the garage) and whole chicken inserted up to its breast in water with one onion sliced over it all.  The idea is that this will cook while I am out and about running a few errands.  I imagine this is the feeling you have when you actually have a cook at home doing kitchen duty for you.  Some days are like this;  reach into a cupboard and your hand finds exactly the thing you want as opposed to those days when you can't find that thing, get down on your knees to find it, knock it over putting it further out of know what I mean.
And it's Sunday.  For quite a while in my life Sunday used to make me feel what Johnny Cash sang about..."something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone".  I was fresh from leaving home and missed family, I suppose. Gotten over that now. 
Meanwhile, my shawl is almost finished.  Knitted a while last night watching the Olympics and an episode of True DetectiveMatthew McConaughey is doing a fantastic job in his role in that series but besides that, I love how he rescues pets. 
Yesterday at the library I read a People magazine.  Here is what I learned...Justin Bieber is out of control and his mom is 'concerned', Christie Brinkley is 60 years old (and looks 20, but says she has not ruled out future plastic surgery) and David Beckham sports arm loads of tattoos ( I think they are called sleeves).  Ahh, the lives of the rich and famous.
It seems today we are being rewarded for good behaviour or something because it is a positively radiant blue sky sunny day.  The snow is glistening and I am looking forward to my walk about.  Hope there is some sun in your Sunday where ever you are.

Saturday 15 February 2014

A Photo of Me Today

Here is a photo of me taken today.  I have been gradually going gray/white and I am almost there.  I am on my way out the door and I've done my little five minute makeup routine.  I am pleased to have found L'Oreal Magic Lumi for my face; it gives my face a certain shine that I believe photographs well.  I also have a new lipstick...Color Whisper, #85 called Berry Ready.  I am not photogenic so it is always a bit of a relief when I can get a photo that looks okay.  Hubby took several of me and this was the best one.
I am wearing my fake fur coat I bought at a value village several years ago.  I don't so much mind real fur for coats; I don't judge other people wearing them.  I've lived in places where trappers made a living at getting furs for the trade.  I've also lived on Baffin Island and know exactly how important the seal, its pelt and meat is to the Inuit.  So I'm a bit conflicted about that issue.  Being a fervent animal lover, though, I just can't see myself personally wearing fur ever. I joke about this coat...a hundred teddy bears had to die for it.  All that being said, this coat is very warm and I used it a lot last year walking the dogs.  In fact, when I put my hand in the pocket the first time I got it out this year, I found a pocketful of dog biscuits.
I also want you to notice the scarf.  This is the scarf I started to knit at the very beginning of this blog back in November.  I love how cheery it looks and the raspberry/strawberry colours.  Now that my hair is more or less gray, I think it is important to wear brighter colours and not be afraid of them.  I would never have worn these reds when I was younger.
I'm feeling happy in this photo...I'm off to the library to read and research, one of my favourite things to do.  Hope you got to do a favourite thing today too. 

Friday 14 February 2014

Snowy Valentine's Day

A photo of the birch in front of the house last night.  The snow falling is captured as streaks.  We are receiving about fifteen cm today so it is a very snowy Valentine's Day.

At this stage of life most of us could qualify as relationship experts.  We've worked on enough staffs or teams, had a few partners, and worked through teenaged years with the children; all in all enough to make us wonder why it is that relationships must be so hard.  If there is one thing I have learned, it is just that- relationships are hard work.  But there is also no denying that most of the time the people involved are worthy of that hard work, so we do our best to keep at it.    
I have a perpetual curious streak about the whole marriage/partnership relationship.  As an institution, marriage is not working very well.  I heard an "expert" explain that this generation of young people will likely have at least three and maybe as many as five partners throughout their life time.  They will be much more adept and accepting of change than my generation. 
Ahh, Valentine's Day.  Each year it seems to be accorded more attention.  I must admit some of these extravagant gestures made just for the day bother me.  I have qualms about them, however sweet and genuine they appear. 
 Before you think me a total cynic about loving and relationships, I should declare that I am somewhat of a romantic though perhaps one with a firm hold on realism.  I much prefer small daily gestures of a loving nature; I try to give these and I'm happy to report, that I'm also on the  receiving end of them as well. 
Here is what King Henry VIII once wrote to Anne Boleyn," I have now been above one year stricken with the dart of love."  Well we know how that worked out for her, don't we? 

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Undecorating and String Quilt

                                              Time to take them down, sigh.

I follow the tradition of my island home and hang my Christmas cards on string over the doorways.  This year I had enough to decorate the entrances to the dining room, hallway and living room.  I love seeing them displayed like this because you get to see each one and also it is nice to carry on another tiny tradition.  I let them linger as I take my time 'undecorating' the house after Christmas.  These will be the last to go.

                                         Red, White and Blue String Quilt

This is a string quilt I made last year.  I was reviewing the quilting videos on Youtube when I came across a string quilt tutorial from the wonderful Moussouri Quilting Company.  I realized I had lots of scraps and the method presented was a great way to use them up.  Jenny Doan shows how to foundation piece using ten inch paper for the foundations.  I decided to do a Union Jack theme of red, white and blue and followed Jenny's directions with one exception.  I cut ten inch squares of white cloth instead of paper; I think it was an old sheet I'd found in the back of a closet.  It worked up quite quickly and is an effective way to use up those larger pieces we all have in our stash.  

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Bald Eagle Sighting and a Sandra Dallas Book

Hubby thinks I am some kind of bird whisperer.  He has never noticed all the different birds till I came to live here; of course, I know that has everything to do with the bird feeders I keep stocked in both the back and front yards. 
Last year we were driving up the laneway towards the house when I spied a familiar form perched in the birch tree in front of the bow window.  It was familiar only from films and photos because I knew I'd never seen this bird before.  It was a bald eagle and I could hardly believe a real bald eagle was sitting there as calm as you please in front of our house.  It was exactly like its iconic image...white head, dark body, yellow hooked beak and as we neared the house, I could even see its yellow talons.  He was massive looking and seemed totally unafraid of our presence.  I ran in the house to the living room to try to see him, but he was too high up in the tree.  I ran back outside and snuck looks from around the corner at him. Amazing.  He was slowly turning his handsome head left and right, so erect and proud looking, I could see why the Americans made him both their national bird and animal. Then I thought of my camera, raced inside to get it, but when I went back out, he had gone.  I had missed his takeoff  which I wanted to see.  Imagine those massive wings sweeping upward.   I returned inside to jealous're never that excited to see me, he says. 
 But really, he liked seeing the eagle too and he had never seen one here before; sadly we've not seen him since.

                                               What's On My Night Table

This historical novel, Fallen Women by Sandra Dallas had been recommended by the library committee.  Sandra Dallas has written a number of books so is fairly well-known.  The story is about a New York socialite who goes to Denver to investigate the death of her sister.  She teams up with a local detective and they work together to untangle what happened to the sister, who was working as a prostitute in a brothel at the time of her death.  I thought the plot transparent and had worked out who the murderer was very early in the reading.  I did finish this book because it was well written and I did like the protagonist.  I do enjoy historical novels from the point of view that you usually learn so much from them; unfortunately, this was not the case with Fallen Women

Monday 10 February 2014

Addicted to Crosswords

My mother got me started on word games.  Usually, once or twice a week when I was little, she would choose an extra long word from the dictionary, the Bible or the Viking Desk Encyclopedia and we would see who could find the most small words in a given time.  There were few rules just one- you couldn't use a letter twice in a word unless it appeared twice in our big word.  I remember we worked with Mesopotamia once, probably gotten from the encyclopedia.  She still works out a crossword puzzle each day usually from the newspaper, but she also has puzzle books around that she uses from time to time.  Mom has also developed her own crossword dictionary with frequent clues written into notebooks; when you first glance through them, you think it is written in some kind of code with words like au or qu. 
When I visit her these years, she is always up for a game of Scrabble, something we both love.  This is when those crossword notebooks come in handy.
I work on a crossword puzzle each day myself.  In fact I am a little addicted because my day doesn't seem complete now without it. These years I'm working out Adrian Powell's crosswords found in the Ottawa Citizen.  For many years, I used Walter D.Feener's puzzles in the National Post.  In fact I was so accustomed to Walter's style it took me some time to adjust to Adrian's.  I use a couple of crossword dictionaries including the one shown. 
I've read that working on word games like crosswords is good for the brain. It seems to be holding up for my mother who is still as sharp mentally as she always was.  Hopefully, it can work for me too...fingers crossed...

Sunday 9 February 2014

On the Right Side of the the Solstice and Hans Brinker

The story of winter is told in the sky.  Look up, there is the ever-present cloud cover but not the fluffy, white clouds from other seasons; this is flat, monochromatic, reaching as far as the eye can see.  However, we are on the right side of the Winter Solstice  now.  Where during the lead up to Christmas we were daily subtracting minutes of light, now we are adding and a difference in the daylight can already be felt. Many people have been happily commenting on this so perhaps we all have a greater sensitivity to a lack of light than we realized.
This has been a week of Olympic flag-bearers and symbolism and glorious achievement. I have been watching the speed skaters.  I just love the look of their bodies sleek in their various coloured suits.  When they strike that special stride where they tuck their arm behind their back and swing the other, and skate with those long beautiful strokes, I can feel my heart lift with them.  I want them all to win.  I have a sentimental reason for liking the skaters.  I watched the movie made from the book Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates on the Walt Disney television show in 1963, or thereabouts.  I just loved the story of Hans and his sister, Gretel, their love for each other and their ill father and of course, Hans' sacrifice for others, even to the point of sacrificing those beautiful silver skates.  I never forgot the images of the children skating on the canal.  Years later I learned the book was written by an American woman.
Watching the skaters makes me feel out of shape and too sedentary for my own good.  I can only imagine the stamina it takes to make it to the Olympics.  And excellence takes so much time and includes a ten year rule... about three hours a day for ten years.  Even if I began right this minute...  

Saturday 8 February 2014

Good-Bye to Lacie, the Dalmatian

"The average dog is a nicer person than the average person."  Andy Rooney

On this property too lies a pet cemetery.  This is a little corner of ground behind the garage just as you start to enter the woods.  There are eight pets buried there, six dogs and two cats.  I had a hand in the last dog's burial.  The Dalmatian, Lacie, was seventeen years old and extremely feeble.  She required help standing, swayed on her feet and had to be carried outside to do her business, but still hubby could not bring himself to take her to the vet.  It got much worse with her body steadily degenerating, many mistakes made in the house, and finally she was unable to stand.  I was even then afraid hubby would be unable to let her go, but he finally agreed with a reluctance that was heartbreaking to watch.
The vet was kind and solicitous.  We were able to keep Lacie in the back of the car wrapped in her blanket.  I held her head while hubby cried and as the vet administered the drug, I could tell our poor old girl did not need much of it before she was gone.
Back home, at the pet cemetery, hubby decided the hole we had dug earlier needed to be deeper.  I did the digging as he was so tired from the sadness of the experience.  It was all exhausting for him; he had loved her so.
Lacie is lying on the property where she lived all her life.  She was elegant in form and movement; the arrangement of her spots was admired by all who knew her.  She was sweet-natured and in older age, seemed for all the world like a dignified old lady.  Lacie slept on a human bed till the last year of her life and her winter coat is still hanging in the front closet.   

Friday 7 February 2014

Land Loss and Supper Salad

The sea, they say, is gaining on us.  Around Ottawa, it is housing that is constantly advancing on us.  Last month I drove by a spot where a small stand of trees had been left by a housing developer.  Behind them sat a brand spanking new set of condo buildings where, just weeks before that, a forest had stood.  The trees caught my eye because I could see two leafy, messy nests balanced high in the tree forks, unmistakably squirrel nests.  These were very close together no doubt because of the sparseness of the trees left there. I understand squirrels prefer more space between nesting sites and I felt sorry for them trying to cling on to what would have been their familiar territory.
 Just now I drove by and saw that the stand of trees is also gone.  What became of the squirrels, I wonder.
There has been a steady and startling advance of houses here.  People have been lobbying hard to slow it down, but it doesn't seem to help.  One small community saw 5500 new homes built between 2011 and 2013 and are now grappling with the subsequent increase in traffic.  People purchased homes backing onto farmland and now find themselves sitting in the middle of a huge housing tract.  Some have concerned themselves with the loss of farmland but to be fair to the developers, a lot of the land lost was not good farmland anyway or at least that is what was written in the paper.
I guess it is progress; a means to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.  Everyone deserves a home.
For me, it is just worrisome to think of the animals...deer, coyotes, raccoons, etc., not to mention the birds too, that are now having their territories invaded and seized.

 Other things...Supper last night...

This is my vegetable and shrimp salad.  I sometimes use leftover rice to make a supper salad.  This one includes chopped onion, chopped cabbage and one green pepper fried in olive oil till soft.  I mixed this with the rice, some chopped dates and apricots.
I mixed together 1 cup of broth (chicken or beef), 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and a little soya sauce (I try not to use much of this because I find it salty).  This got poured over the rice mixture and heated through.  I added the shrimp last so they wouldn't overcook.  I use whatever vegetables I have on hand...peas, corn, carrots, whatever for this recipe and sometimes I add a can of chick peas.  


Thursday 6 February 2014

No Siree, Not Me

They say you should never say never.  Maybe is the new never. But there are at least three things that at this stage of life I can say I will never do.

#1 Go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Why on earth not, you might ask?  Anyway, the first person to survive a trip over the falls was a woman, Annie Edson Taylor, in 1901.  Good for her.

#2 Go bungee jumping.  Besides my fear of heights, I have this thing about how the jump must affect your joints particularly the ankles, as in, not good for them.  I also will never do the walk around the outside of the CN Tower tethered onto it somehow; it's called Edgewalk and I understand they have several months waiting list for people lined up to do it.  Not me.  You will never find me hiring a helicopter to take me up a mountain so I can ski the sheerest of cliffs down.  I guess I could have shortened this one just to say any extreme sport or anything involving heights.

#3 Driving with the window down and my arm stuck out.  Do you realize how many people have sheered off an elbow that way?  Apparently quite a few. It just gives me the shivers to think about it.  I bet those people were not driving a Corrolla or a Honda Civic, though.  Strikes me it would have to be something cooler. 

                                                What's on my night table

 This book, The Widow's Tale by Mick Jackson, is a very enjoyable read.  The writing style is chatty and funny (it reminded me of Bridget Jone's Diary) even while dealing with a sad topic.  The heroine is just widowed and she literally runs away from home while she comes to grips with her new status. I loved her honesty and witty take on aging, men, relationships, etc.  I was surprised to realize the author, a man, could so aptly identify the emotional baggage women carry.  

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Vireos, Vinegar and Nish Skin

I am sitting at my table, the one pushed up next to the big bow window in the living room.  I have a view of the feeder in the birch tree and the ground beneath and here is what I am watching.
It is a flock of white-eyed vireos that make an early morning visit to my feeder.  I've counted about thirty of them at any one time.  A pretty little bird, they have noticeable white bars among the black wing feathers and their overall colour varies from mustard yellow to sage green. 

 My skin is nish; that is an old word common in Newfoundland and used to describe skin that is sensitive and easily bruised.  I am reminded of it often because I have to do so much hand-washing here living with two dogs, digging in a garden, handling wood, etc.  I have mostly resorted to baby soaps and use the baby wash for my kitchen sink hand soap.  I don't know why but I hate wearing rubber gloves to work around water and sometimes thought they made my skin feel worse.  Last year I was pleased to find a formula for cleaning that was easy on my hands.  It was baking soda, vinegar, and dish detergent and I use this now for cleaning my fridge and cupboards. 
I do believe many beneficial uses of common products get dismissed because they are unpatentable (sorry, unsure if that is a word!).  This means no big drug company can make money from them because, sadly, it is like the old saying "whatever subject we are talking about, we are talking about money." Just last month, I was reading about wonderful results for certain skin conditions obtained from using common household bleach.  Yes, bleach.  The list of healthy uses for apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda are endless.  There are a number of books available and any of the Old Farmers' Almanacks have lots of ideas for using these common items.  By the way, did you know you can buy an Old Farmers' Almanack that is for kids only?

Sunday 2 February 2014

Restaurant Manners

It is still early morning here.  Coffee is still being drunk.  Dogs have been fed and paper fetched from the box at the end of the laneway.
I'm thinking about last night out for dinner.  We were just settled in our seats when another couple was ushered in.  Youngish, probably mid thirties.  She was nicely dressed and had her hair and makeup done.  It was obvious she had made an effort because of the restaurant, a nice Italian place and it being a night out and all.  They were suitably matched; she attractive and from what I could see of him, also nice looking.  I couldn't get a good look because he was wearing a baseball cap, which he kept on throughout the meal.  For some reason this really bothered me.  I wished someone in authority would go to him and ask him to take it off.  I must have been raised with some kind of cap/hat code which included no caps at the dinner table.  I don't know why he was wearing it even outside; with the extreme cold we've been having he actually needed the warmest of woolen toques.
Meanwhile at our table, three of the six of us were on cell phones at any given time.  Two of them, the youngest, were taking photos, no doubt to send directly to their face book pages. 
The drive home included a familiar manners are not what they used to be, how it's all going to hell in a hand cart; you know the usual tirade you'd expect from a pair of old fuddy duddies especially ones that don't own a cell phone capable of transmitting a photo.

Anyway, I should update you about my projects.  The knitted  shawl is coming along; almost finished the second ball.  The wool, Lions Brand, Homespun, is soft and very easy on the hands.  So far, I'm pleased with it.
 Still working on Grandson's quilt in the daylight hours.  Till now, I've sewn a rabbit, bird, squirrel, elephant, cat, pig, owl, and giraffe.  Photos will follow.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Food, Weight and Wellness Juggling Act

"Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." 

I had this quote on my fridge for many years. I'd always believed it but just now I am rethinking it. After eating salted caramel ice cream (which I mentioned before), I have found something that possibly tastes as good as thin feels.  Maybe.
I don't own a set of scales and have never judged my weight by poundage.  I generally go with how I feel in my clothes and since the size hasn't changed in a couple of decades, I'm okay with it.  I love to eat so I have to play a bit of a juggling act (I used to joke that I had a fat person inside wanting to get out); I'm lucky that I love all kinds of food so can happily make a meal on salads and fresh vegetables and other healthier food.  I also choose to exercise most days of the week; I use an elliptical trainer and light running. In recent years I've added a routine with 5 pound weights for my arms which I think are hopelessly weak.
 The exercising doesn't have much to do with weight though; I just feel so much better, stretched and more energetic when I've done my little workout.   Lets be clear, I don't overdo with any of this and any time I feel like eating a piece of cake, I do. 
I get weighed by the nurse when I go for my annual checkup.  Last time I realized I weigh 3 pounds more than I did when I entered hospital to give birth to daughter #2 almost forty years ago and she weighed 8 lb 6 oz.  Good grief; I don't feel that gigantic!  Where is all that girth??  They say women my age must choose between our hips or our faces.  If we want our faces to not look haggard we need a little padding on the hips.  I personally don't feel we should be too thin as that can bring its own set of issues. 
Think I'll go and put the kettle on...and show you what I made yesterday speaking of food...

This is my version of a Cranberry and Apple Crisp.  I love cranberries and believe in their goodness.  I include them in many dishes.  For this one, I used  three cups of cranberries mixed with two apples cut into cubes.  I sweetened them with a little agave syrup.  For the topping I mixed one cup of almond flour and one half cup of flour with three cups of rolled oats ( I always use more oats than any recipe calls for because I love them).  I used one half cup of brown sugar and half a cup of butter all rubbed together. I always give it a little taste to adjust if it needs a bit more sugar.  I baked it in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.   This time I served it with a scoop of mango frozen Greek yoghurt.