Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the best of the season.

We were blessed with an exquisite amount hoar frost and no wind. It has been like driving through a winter wonderland for the past four days. So incredible! I felt like I was in a Christmas card at times, especially at night.

Christmas is winding down for us now. We just finished a lovely traditional dinner with lots of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and the like. Now, we are all lolling about enjoying the digestion process and sipping a little something. It was a different Christmas for us as this was the first time one of our daughters was not here for Christmas dinner! It felt so quiet but it was still lovely because we had our other daughter and my sister-in-law here.

Well, hopefully your Christmas was just as nice. Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Half of a Whole

I followed him as he drove slowly down the street. It wasn't a long street; just a long, short journey. I wondered if he even noticed me as I drove behind him or if he was still so wrapped up in his thoughts that the outside world didn't really exist for him. I noticed only because I had to. I had been following him since he turned off the main road just before I turned and followed close behind him. I watched as he slowly made his way down the street and turned into a driveway about half way down the block.

The house was unassuming in the most unassuming way. It had almond coloured siding and brown trim that had once been very popular in the 60's and 70's. The picture window was covered by equally neutral drapery, again reminiscent of a past era. The house was well-maintained and had an air of quiet comfort, despite it's bland exterior. It was so reflective of the way he lived his life that it made me sigh quietly inside.

As I pulled into the driveway, I could see that he had waited for me. I turned off the engine, undid my seatbelt, and slowly climbed out. I could see his pleasure of seeing me reflected in his eyes but also the deep sorrow furrow his face. He held out his hand and folded mine gently into his as we quietly walked up the path to the front door. As he reached into his right pocket, I could hear his keys jingling quietly as a solitary bird leapt from the bush by the steps and flew off. He pulled them out and unlocked the door.

"I...I guess we had better get out some food," he said with a hesitancy that had never been there before.

Knowing that he was overwhelmed and would rather just go and sit, I swallowed and quietly replied, "Yes, I guess we had better do that. Why don't you just go and sit for a bit while I put it out?"

He looked at me for the first time that day, as if he was really seeing who I was. "I would like... like that, just to sit a minute before...before..."

"I know. This isn't easy is it?" I cut him off before he could say it out loud and we would both have to face the awful truth once again.

"No it isn't!...I just wish it wasn't at all!!" he barked out.

His vehemence surprised me. He had been so placid and accepting up till now. I hadn't realized how angry he was. I didn't blame him, it was so needless that she died the way she did. They had always been such a loving couple, so supportive of one another in their quiet way. I understood in a flash that he was now only one half of a whole and beginning to realize it himself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Into the Void

I stood on the edge of a dream, distraught and completely disorientated. I felt it's remnants in my shattered soul; a tapeworm of terror coiled in my bowels of hidden thoughts. Snippets of truth intermixed with the dream creating an indiscernible reality. I lay in terror unable to thaw my frozen limbs and not really knowing if I had yet awakened.

I could still see my lovely home floating in the abyss of space; it was split in two - a torso ripped in half with multi-coloured tendons of wire and raw splinters of bone/studs exposed for all to see. Tendrils of ice cold horror coursed through my veins and filled me with despair as I realized that I could not reach my precious babies floating in the black void of neither here nor there. My screams shrank and were sucked into the silence of darkness; my husband slept, unconcerned and completely disconnected from the truth around him. I wept tears of hopelessness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lust, Baby Lust

He thought he could hear her heart beating. He paused briefly, surprised with the knowledge that it was his heart beating that he could hear.


He could hear it speeding up...pathump-pathump/ she drew closer to him.

He inhaled her smell, the perfume that gave her a warm, spicy, fruity, all-female smell. Her essence undermined her perfume and added a warm, earthy undertone to it.

How he lusted after her breasts, so warm and hard with perfect pink aureoles. It made him drool just thinking about them. He wanted them so bad that he could almost taste them in his mouth. He ran his tongue around his lips, as if caressing them. He reached for her and she dodged him, turning away briefly. He started shaking with a rage that soon overwhelmed him; the desire for them that great. With a raucous cry, he grabbed at her once again and pulled her roughly towards him. She laughed, picked him up and undid her top so he could drink the nourishing milk that he so desperately wanted.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Dad, the Daughter and the Snowman

This was an email I sent out to my husband's sisters. My husband loves to pull practical jokes and tease us all quite mercilessly. Our Youngest can be the same way. Here is one of their jokes:

Hi Guys,

I had to email you about this because it is such a rarity in our household that Hubby admits he was beat at his own

Hubby and the Youngest were joking back and forth and somehow it came up that the Youngest would make a snowman this afternoon before her Dad got home from work. Well, the bet was on and the stakes were high - Hubby bet the Youngest that she couldn't make a snowman this afternoon because the snow was too dry and not sticky enough to roll the balls for it.

So, the Youngest being the Youngest, and definitely a knock-off of Hubby when it comes to practical jokes, sat down and thought about this snowman. She knew that the snow was no good for rolling because it was too cold out but there was $20 bucks at stake....She came upstairs at lunch and consulted with me how to make snow sticky. We talked and decided that if she just made a bunch of slush it would stick enough to make a snowman. So, she headed off downstairs and got all dressed up to go make this snowman. I, in the meantime, left for work thinking that it would take her awhile to make this work of art.

I came home later and asked the Youngest about her snowman.

She said, "Didn't you see it? Dad said it had to be out front to count."

Now, I hadn't seen anything resembling a snowman, other than snowpiles, on the front lawn. When I said I hadn't seen anything she said to look on the front step. So, outside I went and looked. Our step isn't that big that I would have missed seeing a snowman on it as I came up the stairs but I had! There it sat in it's glory, with peppercorn eyes, toothpick arms and bowtie, in the middle of one of the black planters - all eight inches of it!

I laughed so hard, I almost choked...and then we waited very impatiently for Hubby to get home. Like me, he did not see the snowman as he came up the front step and had to go back out and look for it. He was a little surprised and chagrined by the snowman's size but had to admit that there was no stipulation made in that almost killed him to admit that she beat him at his own game but he did. In the end, he really enjoyed the joke quite a bit and was very proud of the fact that she had pulled a fast one on him!

Couldn't help but share this - it was too funny not too.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Downside/Upside of Winter

We are now totally in the grip of winter. It is a gentle, beautiful vice of magical, glittering diamond sharp snow that surrounds us. Already, we have more snow than we have had in November in years. The temperature is hovering around -20 Celsius - the perfect temperature for winter. At these temperatures, the roads are not slippery and we know we have to dress properly or we will freeze. The rivers and lakes are making strong, rock hard ice as I write and soon it will be time to drag the ice fishing shacks out to the frozen water bodies.

I woke this morning to the kind of sharp frosty air that pulls at your nose hairs when you inhale too fast. Unfortunately, I had to stay home sick with a wicked sore throat. That was the downside...but the upside is that I can enjoy the lovely view from my window. The sun is shining brightly through the absolutely clear morning air, the kind of crystal clear air that you only get when the temperatures fall. The hoar frost is thick on the trees and there is a gentle wind that is just starting to blow it off. It falls through the sunlight like magical crystals, fairy dust that flashes cheekily as it twirls and rotates in a happy eccentric dance to the ground.

I can see Squirrely Magirly hopping along the fence and then pausing. She digs daintily in the snow until she unearths a treasure. It is a small pinecone that she gives a decisive shake to. Now she starts to peel away the layers to get to the delicious pine nuts at the base of each cone scale. The dog is going nuts inside because she can see her on the fence but Squirrely Magirly remains completely unperturbed as she snacks away in the sun.

And to think I would have missed all this if I wasn't at home sick!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fingerless Gloves/Wrist Warmers

I just ordered some really neat wrist warmers/fingerless gloves from Sarah at Cottage Garden Studios. I have an artist friend whose hands are always cold - now she will be able to draw and stay warm! I picked up a couple of other pairs as well to use as gifts in the family. I think that they are going to be a big hit!!

Sarah has some wonderfully different yarns and some really cute styles of fingerless gloves/wrist warmers, scarves, and other items that she does for both kids or adults. She is also an incredible photographer that teaches and sells her work. (Both pictures I have shamelessly copied from her blog.) You should check out her blog and Etsy shop as well!

Here is her marketing address that also connects to her other blogs and Etsy shop:

It would be wonderful if we could support her in her endeavours - she does lovely work and like a lot of people, has been affected by the downturn in the economy. I have followed her blog for quite a while and have enjoyed her photography immensely. I hope you enjoy her site.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Help wanted and the big disappointment!

I need some help! Not that kind, well not right now anyway. I requested a pasta maker for Christmas but didn't realize that there were so many types on the market. I thought an electric one would be nice because it is not as messy but even these have numerous styles and attachments. Does anyone have a pasta maker, manual or electric? I really am not sure which way is the best direction to go. My hubby was thrilled with the request - he openly admits that he is missing his pasta "off" switch and the thought of fresh pasta definitely has him smiling and quite pleased to fulfill my request. I would like something not too fancy, not too expensive and not too hard to use...any other suggestions what I should be looking for?

Well, I was a bit crushed/disappointed that no-one took up the challenge of a limerick. My Irish roots were saddened that I had no-one to give my give-away to. Barb, from The Bad Tempered Zombie, offered her comment of "Yoiks, limericks!" (A remark which, for some unknown reason, I was unable to publish on the post - still can't seem to get it on there...) Whoever heard of a give-away that didn't go? I think I will send it off to Barb as part of her Christmas parcel for at least commenting...

I can always tell when I have been feeling under the weather - the frequency of my blogging goes straight down. Sorry about that. It has been a bit of an up and down year health-wise but am hoping to get things resolved soon - It is not life-threatening, or anything like that, just incredibly tiring and it is sometimes a bit of a nuisance when I can't get all the extra things I want to do done. What I need is a magic wand that I can wave and my list done for me just the way I like it but I bet all of us wishes that at some point in our very busy lives.

Also - I almost forgot - limericks are actually of English descent but that oops! is ok because my English roots were equally

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Halfway to 100 posts!!

Seems like I hit 50 posts on the last one and didn't even realize it! I think that calls for a give-away! Now I am not sure what I should give away but I'm sure I can find something nice and maybe a little quilted item and something delicious to dig one's sweet tooth into as well. I will randomly choose from whomever sends me a limerick about the great snowstorm we just had across the prairies but to make it a little more difficult it also has to have the number 50 in it somewhere. The other caveat is to become a follower. The cut-off will be the Nov.25th at midnight - an early Christmas present.

Have fun!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

First Annual Family Pumpkin Carving contest!

I am posting this a little late but what the was too good not to share!

We hosted our First Annual Pumpkin Carving contest (FAPC) starting the night before Hallowe'en! We are at the stage in life where the kids are now adults and all the fun things associated with Hallowe'en sadly no longer involve us as much. However, we decided that we needed some family time and still needed to decorate outside with pumpkins. So we held our first annual Family Pumpkin Carving Contest.

Our daughter and her boyfriend and ourselves literally dug into four lovely orange globes to each create a masterpiece! Each of us took a pumpkin and went off to our respective corners and slashed and carved and carved some more. We handed out knives, scrapers, bowls for the guts and hoped for the best. Although everyone tried to keep their design "secret", it was pretty hard especially when we all sat on the kitchen floor together, cutting, scraping and moulding our respective gourds. We were only somewhat successful. Well, truthfully, not particularily successful but it made for some good fun and camaraderie.

Finally, they were done. The men chose logo type of carvings, while the two women were more creative and opted for more art/sculptural types of pumpkins. One was an outdoor, traditional scene and the other an incredible 3D face.... Our older daughter and her boyfriend came over the next day to do their rendition of a masterpiece. We still needed to see what they would bring to the table...and it was to be interesting! The judging took place after supper, in the form of ballots, and interesting prizes were awarded.

There was lots of food but, in the name of safety, no liquor was served at our FAPC until all the cutting was done. I could imagine severed fingers and slashed wrists adding to the drama and mess in the kitchen.

Kiwi, the dog, participated fully - eating her way through numerous pumpkin seeds and pumpkin viscera. Seems she has a penchant for raw pumpkin - all of it - not even fussy which piece she ate. Could hurt in the morning when she goes outside though...

The pumpkin results were wonderful - all were executed in good detail and we had diverse skills levels and subject matter.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Things are growing in the Dark...

Things are growing in the dark and destroying my beautiful batches of wines. I have had trouble with the last few batches of my wine turning, shall we say, rather undrinkable? It is very disappointing when I would bottle a batch of wine and it tasted quite nice - raw but nice - only to have it be almost undrinkable a few months later. It was a smell and taste I couldn't put my finger on. I started to super sterilize (obsessively?) all my equipment and nothing seemed to make a difference. The last batch of raspberry broke my heart and I knew I had to do something about it.

I grabbed a bottle and went down to the local wine store. Neil and his buddy opened it, sniffed it, and tasted it. They pulled out the manuals and went through it all. We finally decided that the wine was oxidizing - that perhaps I hadn't stirred it enough before bottling it. So I bought a wine whip and hopefully this will help my wines in the future.

Now, I had a conundrum - what to do with all the oxidized wine? I considered dumping it then gave my head a shake. Why on earth would I dump it? It is only a couple steps away from being wine vinegar. As you may remember, I make various types of vinegars: red and white wine, cider and also ginger beer vinegars. However, an over-sized pickle jar would not hold all of the wine that has oxidized. I dug around and realized that I had a glass carboy that had a huge opening and that I had never used because I couldn't find a food grade cork big enough locally. So - I now have a container. I can still use a paper coffee filter to act as a cover and keep the vinegar flies out and other unsavoury treasures but the oxygen can still get in. The first batch of wine to go into the carboy was my Riesling. Thirteen bottles later, I had filled it almost halfway. I added a jar of white wine vinegar that had a nice little mother in it and gave it a stir.

Now came the second conundrum, where to put this carboy? We have a nice house but it didn't come with very many or very large closets and storage is always an issue for us. I definitely couldn't put it in a closet and it is too heavy to go in the cupboard above the fridge. Vinegar, in the making, needs to be kept warm and in the dark. I mulled this over in my pea-brain and decided that a cover was the way to go. I went downstairs and again dug around for something suitable that could just stay in the kitchen in a corner. Nothing appealed or matched. As I was walking through the laundry room, I spotted an old, black heavy knit dress of mine. Aha!! the lightbulb went on and the peas sprouted! I took it upstairs, cut part of the skirt off, and sewed a sleeve out of the skirt with elastic on the bottom and a drawstring on the top. It looks reasonable enough to sit in the corner (although I think I will change the drawstring to black once I find where I put the old black shoelaces) and it solves the problem of leaving it somewhere in the dark!!
So the next conundrum will be what to do with 5/6 gallons of white wine vinegar? It has to sit probably until the spring before it is ready and mellowed. However, I think I have this one already taken care of - I have many friends who are thrilled with the prospect of vinegar in the spring when it is done.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Show and Tell and Do!

I spent a wonderful evening and day at a trunk show and workshop put on by a couple of our local merchants. It was a treat for all of us who attended.

The guest quilters/owners (Jeanne Large and Shelley Wicks) were from The Quilt Patch in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (Shelley and Jeanne recently published a quilting book called "Tis the Season." It was their first time publishing a book and were they pleased with it!! It is a very nicely laid out book with lots of very brightly coloured, easy to follow designs in it. I expect it will do very well for them.) They not only designed but created the quilts that were featured at the trunk show. For those of you who are not quilters, a trunk show is like a fashion show of quilts. They talk about each quilt and then they are literally paraded around the room for everyone to look at. To our surprise and delight, we were advised to touch them. This is unusual because the audience usually does not get to handle the quilts because the oils from our hands can discolour and stain them. Shelley and Jeanne believe that quilts are meant to be handled and used in order to be fully appreciated. I applaud them for this because quilters are a tactile bunch - we love to feel the fabrics and quilts, turning them this way and that for a better look.

Unfortunately, my camera was dead and I didn't get to take photos of the trunk show. I did, however, get a few pictures the next day from the workshop.

We made a good dent in the lap quilt "High Strung",from their new book"Tis the Season," before the end of the day. It was an exercise in applique!! Cutting and sewing those numerous points on the trees definitely took time, as did the holly leaves. It is a very striking looking quilt; my picture does not do it any justice. I decided to try using felted wools for the first time. I was quite impressed with how they handled and how the felting prevented them from fraying. It did need a bit more pressing to get it to adhere to the cotton for appliqueing - quite a bit. I am pleased with the overall effect though - it adds a tactile/rustic quality that you don't get if you use only the cottons. I was disappointed that we ran out of time to finish our quilt tops. (Yes, I am This workshop would have been great as a two day event so we could finish more of the top. I never expect to completely finish a top at these workshops but always hope I will get done. I was very pleased with how they were on hand to help us and they gave us some great suggestions while we were sewing.

What a wonderful group of women from "As the crow flies...quilting workshops", Sheila McNish and Marlene Biles, that organized and attended the two day session! Everything was well planned and they, very generously, gave out numerous prizes throughout the two days. (My friend, Peggy, was one of the happy recipients of a turnover of fabric.) We had a lovely snack of homemade dainties Friday evening, a generous breakfast of muffins and coffee cake along with a variety of teas and fresh coffee for breakfast. We later had a very nice luncheon of tea sandwiches, fruit and (you guessed it!) more dainties. I don't think anyone could slight the organizers for their first ever quilt endeavour! They did a super job!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

No password! No entry!

I changed my password to my Google accounts and then discovered, the next day, that the one I thought I had chosen was not actually my new password!! I had changed it but had not gone back to use it a couple times and as a result forgot it. I have to admit I did panic somewhat...ok quite a bit...more than I should have. I had not realized that not being on-line would even create a void for me. I sat and examined my feelings. I realized that I was actually quite bereft; I felt left out. It was like knowing about a party and not being invited into it.

I tried numerous words that I really like the sound of and had considered in the past for passwords. Words like shalloon, guidon, or flowers like day-lilies, or peonies came to mind but they definitely were not my new password. After numerous attempts I finally decided I should contact Google and see if they could help me track down my new, elusive code. I attempted to fill out the form, which I discovered is not for the non-memorizing types like me (like who ever memorizes email addresses or the like?), and submitted my information. I am still awaiting a reply. I have to give them a bit of leeway here because they did say 24 hours and it has only been about 18 hours...

I dug through the pile of papers on my desk in hopes that I had written down this elusive word. Again, I had no luck. This morning, I was grumbling and rolling words through my mind, all of which I quickly rejected knowing my pension for odd words - most were just too ordinary.

So, by now I was getting pretty pissed off with myself and Google! It was they who had informed me that my account had been hacked and to change my password. It was just so easy to blame them, when in fact it was neither of our doing. Damn hackers! It felt good to blame someone other than my rather elusive memory.

I told my husband, in hopes that I had given him the password. No luck. Now, I was definitely upset and hoping Google would have a password for me. So, I have to admit I waited - not very patiently.

I sat down and read the local rag. As I turned the page I happened upon a word that seemed surprisingly the point where I ran downstairs and typed it into the password section. I hit paydirt!! I now know my password and have written it down elsewhere so I don't forget it again. Still haven't heard from Google though...

This got me to thinking about our aging society. We use passwords for everything; access to our bank accounts, our phone service, our computers, pin numbers for our debit and credit cards, just to name a few. I recently read an article in Time magazine how the number of people that will develop Alzheimers or age related dementia will be astronomical in the coming years. It makes me ask the question: What will happen to all the accounts that people don't access and lose track of? Are they contacted by the companies that they subscribe to? And just what if? It is kind of scary thinking about this but it can conceivably happen that we just forget and don't even know that we have forgotten, as is the case of many of these brain/memory related diseases.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I thought I should throw a bit of fiction out, for a change. I seem to documenting my life instead of writing like I originally intended to...this piece is called:


She was devastated when she got it, even a little confused. It was beyond her understanding this little piece of paper. Although she knew that it would have to be done sometime, she assumed that she would get a call or an email from them not a bill from the church announcing that it would happen the weekend coming up. It was less than five days away; she just couldn’t get her head around it.

She was still heartbroken from when he passed. God, she missed him so much. She missed visiting him, and chatting with him. She missed his big warm hands that held hers while they sat together in the common room at the home a few times a week over the years. Despite his infirmities, they always had a nice time visiting. Him, quiet and gentle while she was more outgoing and chatty. They were good friends and respected each other in their own quiet ways. She would ask him what he wanted to do with this or that whenever issues came up or if it was ok to change something or if she needed help with Mom. He was good that way and would let her know if that was fine or not, he liked that sort of thing.

He had had such a hard time; his body gave him no rest and robbed him of whatever dignity he tried to maintain. She would pretend that she didn’t notice anything and he would pretend that nothing happened. It was their way of caring. They both knew that time was getting shorter and shorter and that each day was a gift. He never complained or took it out on her. Whenever there was a problem, she would quietly talk to the nurses before leaving, out of sight from him, letting them know if he was having difficulties. She didn’t want to embarrass him; he had so little left that was his.

When her mother-in-law passed, he held her hands and mourned the loss along with her knowing how much she had loved her. He told her, choking on his emotions and words, saying “It’s ok my girl, she is resting now.” He was showing how much he loved her by trying to soften the pain, the only way he knew how. He wept with her and she loved him all the more for it. He had always been this way with her, always gentle. That was why it was so devastating to get the bill -no one had told her that they were going to bury him the next weekend.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I am so Lucky!!

I am a little late at posting this because I have been so swamped but Sarah at Cottage Garden Studios has invited me to join her e-course on photography ,Photo Bee, for free!
She is a fabulous photographer and does amazing things with her camera. I am so lucky!!

Anyone out there who does not know her blog should check it out . Not only is she an exceptional photographer but a talented artist as well. I admire her creativity in her artwork and her wonderful sense of colour and balance in both disciplines. Click on her follower link on my site and see what I mean.

So - thank you Sarah!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lasagne and then some more Lasagne!

I am not a huge pasta person but I love lasagne. It is one of the few pastas that I admit to really liking. When I make my lasagne, I make the sauce from scratch - fresh tomatoes, blenderized zucchini, basil, onions and celery from my garden, some wine and hamburger from a friend's farm. I use regular noodles so they will absorb any extra moisture from the sauce and I don't pre-cook them - I find it saves me a ton of work omitting that step and there is no difference in taste or texture. I have no real recipe - I just throw everything into a pot, cook it down till it is thick, delicious and smells divine.

I made a huge batch of sauce the other evening after work. It was so cold out I had to do something that would warm us up, even if it was just psychologically. I phoned my oldest daughter and told her to bring some pans over - that I was making lasagne! Making only one is a waste of time if you can make more than one - right? I think so anyway. So I made six lovely lasagne; first a layer of sauce, then a layer of noodles, layer of cheesy white sauce, layer of sauce, some parmesan cheese, layer of noodles - you get the picture. After they were all done, I wrapped them with some parchment paper and slid them into some plastic bags for freezing. So good. My version of fast food for busy days. My daughter was delighted to take some home for her freezer as well.

What's not to like about all that lasagne just waiting to be eaten, especially since it can't blow a cork!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Booze Bombs and the Joys of Winemaking

I was busy replying to the Barb and Laurita's comments the other night when I heard a persistent rustle of cardboard behind me. I thought it was one of the cats playing with the cardboard boxes that some of my wine is stored in. It wasn't the cat. She sat there, head tilting from side to side looking intently at the center box with a perplexed expression on her face. The odd scratching noise continued until suddenly, there was a loud POP, like someone opened up a bottle of champagne. A small but forceful stream of liquid whipped open the cardboard box and shot a cork across the family room. The poor cat jumped about three feet in the air and skedaddled up the stairs so fast you would have thought the cork was after her! Amazing how far it shot! It was hilarious except for the mess it made on my carpet and the fact that my rumpus room smells like a brewery. I guess one of my bottles of wine was not finished working and blew its cork across the room and proceeded to blast wine right behind it.

Ah, the joys of making wine.

(I noticed that the cat hasn't kept me company down here since....)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pictures ad nauseum

As you may have noticed but I have started to include more pictures on my last blog and added a new background picture taken of my garden to my title area. I finally broke down and bought myself a new little Kodak camera a week or so ago. I am finding that I am quite pleased with my little camera and have been snapping everything and anything. I have always liked taking pictures and love when they actually turn out! (Doesn't mean I'm good at it. lol)

I have taken pictures of literally everything just to see what this camera can do. It can take a picture of my dog sitting on my lap -a distance of 8 inches - a bit overexposed because of the flash but I was surprised that it was as clear as it is. Its zoom capabilities are definitely limited. I was impressed, however, that it can take relatively decent still shots from the side window of the vehicle of the side of the road when we are travelling at 100 km/hr (60mph). Distance/panoramic shots are sadly an issue but otherwise I think that I will persevere despite this and keep the camera. It is smaller than a blackberry, came with its own case and 4gb memory card so not only is it easy to slip into a pocket and take along when I head out but can store a huge amount of pictures. I also really like how it came with only one cord and a small adapter that can be used both for transferring pictures onto the computer and for powering up. Not too many negatives with this one. The screen is also large which makes picture viewing very easy. I like the smaller buttons it has as I won't accidentally turn on the camera when it is in my pocket.

I know I am going to enjoy having a camera once again. It will be fun to be able to take pictures of all the wonderful things and people in my life.

Kayaking the Little Saskatchewan River

My hubby and oldest daughter headed out on what was supposed to be a 2.5 to 3 hour kayak adventure on the long weekend. He GPS'd the distance and said that it was about 13 kms as the crow flies, what he did not take into account was how this very old river meanders.

I dropped them off at the bridge on hwy 354 and was to pick them up 3 hours later at the first bridge along hwy 250 just south of Sandy Lake. Despite the weather being somewhat inclement, they decided that yeah, they were going to do the river and just hope it didn't pour on them. It was drizzling when they left. I had my doubts about this but I was just the driver and just needed to be there when they finished. I didn't want to drive all the way back to Clear Lake so invited a good friend along, reassuring her that hubby said it would only be about 3 hours maximum.

While they navigated the wilds of the river, my friend and I went exploring ourselves. We went into the small community of Elphinstone where we discovered a mid-sized home with a small wind turbine and solar panels that were obviously being used to supplement power for their home. I was tempted to knock on their door to ask them questions about it and hopefully get a tour of how it operated but unfortunately I held back and just paused on the road for a few moments before we drove on. This is a very tiny community with some lovely gardens and lots of trees.

We then continued down the road and went off to the community of Sandy Lake. It is located in a beautiful rolling landscape that boasts a fair-sized lake and gorgeous golf course. I don't know the population of this lovely little town but it is small and like many others in rural areas, it's numbers have declined over the years.

We discovered a new shop called "Generations" while there that had recently opened up mid-summer. It turned out to be lovely. It serves coffee, tea, and lunches that are to die for. Besides being very reasonably priced, the cinnamon buns are exceptional and their wraps are huge and everything is made from scratch! The ambiance factor is also delightful and there is much to discover and purchase, should one desire. It turned out that I knew the owner, Carrie, and we were pleased to compliment her on how much we enjoyed her shop. We will definitely make it a destination for a lunch or a shop later in the fall!

We couldn't dally too long at the shop because time was catching up to us and we still had to get to the bridge on highway 250. Never having been there, I was uncertain how long it would take us to get to our destination. As it turned out, it was actually just a spit away and we were there before we knew it. We found a scenic little spot beside the bridge to park and wait. The day was much improved from earlier and we enjoyed our break. And so we waited, and waited, and waited some more and soon realized that it was well after 5pm and they should have been back already. We had no cell phone reception down in the valley and could not contact them, even when we tried. We thought maybe if we headed back up the hill we could get reception and sure enough, we did. We could not contact them, just others. So down the hill we went again to see if they were at the bridge. Still no kayakers.

Time was beginning to stretch, so we pulled out some binoculars and watched a beaver swim around and several small birds and a large hawk flying. Time was stretching even further and around 7pm we were starting to get a little concerned as it had been 5 hours since we dropped them off and it would be dark in just over an hour. We weren't sure what to do so headed back up the hill and into Sandy Lake to see if any of the locals would know anything about the river. No such luck, everything was closed up tight for the evening. We headed back to the bridge and on the way there stopped in at a farmsite at the top of the hill hoping that someone was there and knew about the river. We were fortunate enough to meet the owner and I think his son and explained our predicament. They were more than generous and hopped on their quad to a lookout point further down that overlooked about 2-5 miles of the river. We told them we would head back down to the bridge. They left and we headed down the hill again. It was already 6 hours later and 8pm. It was now definitely dusk and darkness was falling. As we crossed over the bridge to turn around, we caught sight of the kayakers about 100 feet down the river. I laughed with relief and turned around. We pointed out the best spot to climb up the rather steep bank. They came up jubilant but exhausted. Mr. van Damme came down the hill on his quad when he spotted them and we thanked him once again for his efforts to help us. It is nice to know that there are such generous people in this world.

Not surprising, there is a moral to this story which is not to believe everything the GPS shows - many of the loops, etc in the river were not even on the map that was displayed because of the constantly evolving nature of the river. The reading of their trip on the GPS looked like a twisted piece of yarn that turned back on itself numerous times. What we thought would be possibly about 15 kms or so turned out to be about 30kms, double the distance and double the time.

The upside is that they had a wonderful adventure and saw a part of the river that very few people ever get a chance to see. They saw many beaver, an old log cabin, lots of birds and found several very old bones and unique limestone rocks that had holes worn right through them. As the driver, I found a lovely gift and luncheon shop that my friend and I will visit once again. It was a good day for everyone!

A good deed indeed!

Imagine, two posts in one day! An unheard of event in my life!

I was delighted when I checked my emails and postings from fellow bloggers after arriving home from the lake. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had won a prize from a very generous blogger, Linda at leftbrainwrite. Linda posted 30 gratitudes for 30 days. When someone posted a gratitude on her site as well, she would donate to two charities. She raised almost 150 dollars doing this! All the winners were Canadian - I don't know if this says anything about us or if it was coincidence but I would like to think that we are indeed heartfelt, quirkie and lucky. These were her winners (including moi):

The Most Heartfelt Gratitude: Written by a writer with a romantic and compassionate soul ==> LAURITA MILLER
The Quirkiest Gratitude: Should come to no surprise to those who know her ==> CATHY OLLIFFE
Lady Luck winner: Also no surprise, as this woman left more gratitudes than any other individual ==> UMBRELLALADY

I like to support a good cause and felt that not only did I benefit by pausing to think about what is wonderful in this world but also others would benefit from her generosity as well.
I didn't realize (or had forgotten) that she was also giving away prizes to us for participating - so it was indeed a nice surprise for doing a good deed!

Thank you Linda.

I must apologize if the links do not work - I am still figuring these things out but wanted to thank Linda and highlight her generosity despite my shortcomings. I will post them when I do. :)

September Long and the Eye Patch Band

I love going to the cabin on the September long weekend. The weather is generally cooperative and the trees are just starting to turn colour. Although a lot of folks are closing down their cabins and leaving for the season, we are lucky enough to be within an hour of the lake and have the luxury of being able to just zip up at a moment's notice so will continue to go up until Thanksgiving weekend in October.

However, the real reason I love this weekend is because of the Eye Patch Band. For 30 plus years, this band has rallied folks together for a last stroll through our Old Campground with their tunes and Pied Piper Parade. It is the last hurrah of the season for most folks before they head home for the winter. Most will be back next year but some may not.

It is dark outside when The Eye Patch Band starts out on 2nd Street with their large drums, bagpipes, shakers and other instruments suitable for walking a parade. As they travel slowly singing songs like (I am not sure on the titles here...) A Long Way To Tipperary, You are my Sunshine, and finishing with classics like Goodnight Irene. They have a surprisingly extensive repertoire that includes polkas and war-time tunes and play, not necessarily in unison but always with enthusiasm. Sometimes they have guest musicians and anyone is welcome to join in.

The crowd grows as folks wait as the band travels down their streets where they will either join the parade or watch from their decks as it passes by. The Eye Patchers are generous with their music and patient with the crowd as more and more people crowd around listening and joining in singing the songs and clapping or dancing along with the various polkas.

As the night air drops in temperature the crowd continues to increase until finally they reach the corner of 2nd Street North and South. Then it is time for the final performance and speech. Each year, one or another of the band members reminds us how fortunate we are to have the privilege of owning a cabin in Riding Mountain National Park, there is always a brief talk of major events of the year given with the hopes that all will be well. A prayer is sometimes given for all of those serving overseas or folks in other areas of the world that are having difficulty. Finally, they sing Goodnight Irene and then there is a very enthusiastic and heartfelt singing of our national anthem of Oh Canada. Hats are replaced on heads as the crowd starts to dissipate. Many people are slow to leave and stop to chat and say their goodbyes, wishing well to one another for the upcoming year. The night air is full of laughter and good tidings as the crisp fall air surrounds us.

We are all so lucky.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Crabs and Balls Insanity

This has been a cooking up a storm week for me because the weather hasn't been great and the house needed some warming up. Yikes - I can't actually believe I am saying that I had to warm up the house so early in the year! It has been cool, especially at night, and I really don't want to turn that furnace on. It goes against everything to turn it on before October. Almost blasphemy to think such a thought!

Hubby and I went over to our daughter's and picked a primary (a large vertical tub used for making wine) full of crabapples. We came home and I washed and topped and tailed them, then divided them between 2 primaries to make crabapple juice. I dumped in twice as much boiling water as there were crabs and a half a box of cream of tartar in each. I covered them with a cheerful checkered tablecloth and left them to soak overnight . Twenty-four hours later, I fished them out and moved the crabs to my big turkey roaster and then into the oven to cook through. I took the strained juice and simmered it until it was a mouth-watering, aromatic golden amber colour. Finally, I added some sugar until my tastebuds no longer imploded and it had a nice fresh bite. I poured the juice into 29 sterile sealers and let the sealers sit until the lids popped. Done.

Now, it was time to make applesauce from the baked crabs. I got out the Foley food mill and ran them through. I had enough sauce to make 9 trays of fruit leather, twice over. (I sweetened it with some warmed honey and added some cinnamon and nutmeg - all to taste.) They smell divine and taste pretty good - not super sweet but good- like eating applesauce. I gave the first batch of leather to my oldest for her lunches and some of the juice to take back home in return for giving me all those crabs. The rest I will wrap and freeze for later in the winter for our bag lunches. Now both the house and the garage smell great because of the crabs (the dehydrator is in the garage) doing their thing.

After finishing with the crabapples, I had about 140 apples from our tree to cook down. These I turned into applesauce. I stemmed, cored, and cut off the blossom ends and threw them into a pot with a bit of leftover crab juice and lemon juice to cook down. I ran them through the Foley food mill and have a lovely applesauce all spiced and ready to eat this winter.

I was happy I did all that because I still had four grocery sacks of apples to deal with from the church ladies. I made these into an apple pie filling that I make every year. It is so easy and so flavorful to use. It is especially nice during the winter for apple crisp, pies or whenever we have unexpected company for dinner because it is simply a matter of dumping the frozen apple pie filling into a bowl, zapping it to soften and spreading it into a dish with some oatmeal for a quick crisp that is comforting and good. I was able to make a huge (almost as big as my turkey roaster kind of huge) bowl of pie filling!

I only wish that my tomatoes were doing half as well as my daughter's crabs and my apples. I have so few that we have only eaten 5 - yes - only 5 tomatoes have ripened so far!!! This is just heartbreaking for me because I usually have enough to make salsa, chili sauce, spaghetti sauce and plain tomato sauce, besides enough to eat them everyday for lunch until November. I just cringe at the thought of having to buy pre-made sauces and hard tomatoes this winter. Groan. This darn global warming is darn chilly here on the prairies and the humidity has encouraged all sorts of blights that are attacking my plants...

So today I headed downstairs to grab a can of pineapple to make some pineapple sweet and sour meatballs for supper. No pineapple. I already had the meatballs cooking/browning in the oven. What to do? I went on the net and found a recipe for a sweet and sour that called for cranberries and chili sauce. Hmm. I knew I had some cranberry sauce left from that turkey the other day and some chili sauce that I had canned up last year. It sounded like the weirdest concoction to me but hey! who am I to doubt all the multitude of similiar recipes that professed its exceptional flavour? I mixed equal amounts of them together and it looked like someone puked in my bowl - really. It was hard to taste but I closed my eyes and ... it is actually really, really good! Now, I have to do a sell job on it - hopefully it will look much better once it cooks.

The cranberry chili sauced meatballs are a hit - everyone really liked them. Thank goodness! They were so quick to make and in the end, looked pretty good after they cooked for a bit and I didn't even have to do a sell job. Life is so good!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Turkey in August!

It was cool here today, with temperatures around 14 Celsius and the wind that sadly had that fall bite in it. It felt like a good day to roast something in the oven. After perusing the freezer, I discovered a small turkey left from the spring and decided that it was just the thing to cook. Thawing it was another matter -I felt like Dave on Vinyl Cafe trying to hurry it along so I could cook it today. Nothing like deciding to cook a frozen turkey in time for supper midway through the morning! I should have had my head examined... I did it though and it turned out just fine. We had a lovely supper and then the best part was I had a nice carcass to brown in oven to make some turkey stock for soup. The house smells great.

To make a nice stock, I brown the turkey carcass (uncovered and remaining meat removed) in the roasting pan for about an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it is a nice golden brown. Roasting the carcass before adding the water and other ingredients makes a darker, richer stock that is delicious for making soup or just sipping on a chilly day.I then chop up some carrots and celery stalks, usually about 3 or 4 of each, along with some yellow onions (they give the best flavour), a dozen or so black peppercorns and a couple bay leaves. I add a good handful of Italian parsley and sage as well. After the hour is up I throw everything in, add water just to cover and then about another inch . Then I return it to the oven but lower the heat to 300 and leave it for about 2 to 3 hours depending how much time I have. I used to cook my stock on top of the stove but found that I like putting it into the oven better because it comes out super clear and wonderful without all the little splatter marks on the stovetop. The roaster is easier to clean as well because everything that is baked on from cooking the turkey or chicken dissolves and adds to the flavour. I usually adjust my salt near the end when I reduce the stock down.

Turkey sandwiches tomorrow! I am so glad I baked bread this morning because turkey sandwiches made with homemade bread tastes so good! I think I will take some of the stock and freeze it. The rest I will make a nice soup out of because my fridge is bursting at the seams with garden vegetables. Not sure what I will put in it yet but I know I have some purple beans, zucchini, onions, carrots, but the celery I will have to pick and hopefully a couple peppers are ready in the garden and of course I will have a little turkey meat to pop in as well. Looks like supper is already planned for tomorrow.

What are you planning on making for supper? Do you have a garden that is ready for picking?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Real Food or not?

I know I have said before (more than a couple times) that cooking has always been something I love doing. It is so relaxing even when chaos overtakes the kitchen. I know, I know, that is essentially an oxymoron. Consider this - when you cook you have to pay attention to what you are doing or it really doesn't turn out. Unless, of course, you are making fast food stuff that is heat and serve and that really isn't cooking or in truth, real food. I agree that it is simple to heat and serve but basically it is just sustenance or something to put in your gut along with all the chemicals that they need to preserve it or keep it from separating or whatever. Where is the pleasure in that? I don't mean to sound like a food snob, that is not how I mean it, I just mean that real food is just so good - good for the body and the soul as well.

I understand that there are time crunches, especially when children have events they must be at or you have a meeting to attend. However, it really is easy to develop a few "fast food" meals that can be made when you are cooking on a non-rushed day and be frozen for later consumption. They are so much more satisfying and are just as quick as going through a drive-through without all the downsides to fast food.

I admit that I do queue up to a drive-through occasionally (very occasionally) even though I know that there are alternatives that are better. I feel guilty every time I am in a line because I don't find it particularly satisfying, food-wise. I also find it hard justifying all the additional gas that is burned idling through and the cost of the products. I never feel guilty about making or eating good food that is made from scratch at home.

I laughed to myself when I heard about the slow-cooking movement. I didn't know that what I did each day had a name, I thought it was just cooking. Over the years I have taken a lot of flack for all the care and time that I put into the meals I make for my family. Quite a few individuals didn't get it or felt that it was a waste of time, that my family was spoiled. They would ask me why I bothered going to all that work when I could just as easily go down to the grocery store to pick up anything I wanted already made up. Somehow, a lot of people have lost the desire to cook real food. I know that sometimes it can be cheaper to buy a store-bought meal but in terms of your health, it really isn't cheaper.

I am pleased to see that the process of cooking is changing and becoming a pleasure once again. It really is about sharing and savouring with the added bonus of getting real nutrition from the food that I have taken time to prepare. It is not just about getting our greens and carbs and being low fat, it is about enjoying the process and benefiting from it. The nutrition part just happens when all of us cook real food and the bonus is that we really don't have to keep track of the carbs/low fat/salt etc, it just isn't all that necessary if you choose recipes that don't use a lot of processed ingredients. The best part of taking your time is how it brings everyone together to enjoy one another's company at the table.

A number of years ago, a national food chain renovated one of their local grocery stores and discontinued a lot of the ingredients I needed to make certain breads and recipes from scratch. Instead, they stocked the shelves with a lot of pre-packaged foods. I shook my head and wondered how on earth I was going to be able to cook properly without them. I was quite disappointed that they had gone this route and made it more difficult to obtain basic ingredients. I have since sourced out these ingredients but still am disappointed to see our stores going that direction.

The basics give me more enjoyment that complicated foods. One of my little pleasures is walking out into the yard, picking a nice plump raspberry and popping it into my mouth. The smell and taste of it, softly warmed by the sun, is divine. When I was a kid, my mother would haul all of us out into the bush to pick fresh, wild raspberries. I don't remember if I was a very good picker when I was a kid (most likely not) but I do know I was a good berry eater and I always appreciated the wonderful taste and smell of those berries! I didn't even realize that my mother was providing us with organic food. It was just food. Along that same thought-line - who could ever deny that a fresh, sun-ripened tomato has the most incredible flavour when it comes to making toasted tomato sandwiches? My mouth is drooling just thinking about them. Both of these are the simplest of pleasures but offer fresh, healthy, organic food loaded with taste and all those vitamins, etc so vital to good health and no chemicals!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Protecting our National Parks - Environmental Water Issues

The environment is something that I try, in my very small way, to protect. I recycle, I try very hard to re-use, and to cut back on purchasing things that are over-packaged. I also garden without using fertilizers and use compost to nourish my soil instead.

I have talked about our cabin in Riding Mountain National Park and how very special it is to us. It is a big deal to have the privilege of being in such a beautiful park. I believe we should do everything we can to protect it and that includes the water bodies that are in the park.

We do not have running water in our cabin, nor do any other of the 500 cabins that are in the Old Campground. There is a movement to have water installed which would eliminate the need to for communal washrooms, shared water taps and the communal shower building. The vocal minority (only 13%) have a desire for running water. We feel that they want to follow Waskasu's lead in Saskatchewan and where the price of the cabins jumped up to 150,000. when water was put in. The other 87% of us love our sense of community which would be long gone big-time if the water happens. Most of us just want our cabins to retain some of that sense of community that we have cherished over the years and part of what makes that is the having and sharing of washrooms, shower building and cookhouses, for us it is not about the money.

It also so much easier not to have water because there are a lot of other issues that will develop if this happens. Our little cabins are very close together and any odours from a bathroom fan will vent onto each others air space. I know I would prefer not to smell my neighbours bm's while sitting on my little patio. (Sorry for being so blunt but we are that close together!) Washers and dryers will come in as well as dishwashers. All of these appliances use an incredible amount of water and promote use of non environmentally friendly products. The dryers will vent to the outside as well and again, who wants to smell bounce or similiar products when we have such a great quality of air right now?

There is also the issue of locking up and preparing water systems in the fall. All the toilets and tanks, etc. will have to have an anti-freeze product poured into them to keep them from freezing and bursting in the winter. In the spring these products will be drained into the system and you can't tell me that this doesn't effect the watershed area. When you take that times 500 plus cabins that is a lot of anti-freeze and laundry/dishwasher products that will go into the watershed area that are currently not.

There are other issues as well, including the fact that in order to put in the water systems they will have to remove most of our spruce and other trees and that it will look like a new subdivision and become almost devoid of trees. Who wants that? Our trees are a major part of what makes this area so beautiful.

Another issue is the fact that the campground will be a construction zone for at least ten years, if not more. And so many families can't afford to pay for the the added construction of adding on an addition to accommodate bathroom facilities. It would cost a minimun of at least 15,000. dollars if not more by the time the dust settles. This is a large sum that most people would have a hard time coming up with, especially new families and retired folks.

This is an issue that is very contentious and ultimately will create a huge division in our campground. It is sad that this has to happen when summer is meant to be enjoyed and this could ultimately mar it for years to come.

Plumbing Rant

We had a bit of a problem with drainage on our kitchen sink about a year and a half ago. It would give us a glugglug sound everytime we ran water or poured something down the drain. Hubby climbed on the roof and poured some hot water down the vent stack, thinking that it was frozen up. Problem solved. That year. This last winter it started again and the sink was having issues draining. Up the ladder with a bucket of hot water and voila the problem was fixed - or so we thought. Then it started again with a vengeance. I used vinegar and water, drano and some other non-environmentally acceptable methods. Everything worked, for awhile, and then it would start glugglug again and the sink would slow down. We called in a rotorooter guy to clean out the sewer to the street thinking maybe it was tree roots. He put down drop cloths around the sewer hole and proceeded to snake the drain. After he was done he cleaned it up and put everything back how it was. Did it help? He did produce some tree roots and maybe it helped for a bit.

Grr-rr Now it has started in the summer and we are at our wits end! We decided to go with a professional and call a plumber. He came in a couple days later and went to work cleaning out the drain under the basement floor,thinking that was the issue. No drop cloths, no rags for mopping up. His phone rings and he answers it but it is dead. He starts again. The rings again and he answers it and has a short conversation. Hubby is instructed to fill the kitchen sink and release it when he yells. This he does but the plumber forgets to cap the pipe and water spews all over him and the basement as it gushes a couple feet out the pipe. He contines to snake it but his phone rings again and as he struggles to answer it there is crud splattered all over the wall, floor, and fridge. I got him some of my cleaning rags. He smeared it further and further up the wall until I told him to leave it. He headed upstairs and was going to snake it from under the sink. We removed some stuff but he said just to leave the rest. I wasn't keen on it but ok I would give him the benefit of the doubt (which was huge by now). Still no rags in sight. He snakes it down to the basement. His phone rings and he has another slightly longer conversation. It seemed to go well. Things were starting to look up by now.

The plumber then proceeds to feed the snake up the vent stack. There is a loud snap and some angry words from the plumber. I come back in the kitchen and find out that the snake has broken in the stack and is still up there. He makes a couple phone calls and has a couple conversations. Then he goes to get another snake to snare it and hopefully bring it down. No luck. I am not a plumber and please correct me if I am wrong but I would think that you would feel it when it is blocked - wouldn't you? I have to ask you - wouldn't you stop before it breaks?

The plumber then decides to check the drainage on the sink by filling it with water and letting it drain. His phone rings and he has a conversation. In the meantime, he forgot to put the plug back on the pipe and the sink full of water literally gushes out all over the inside of the cabinet and the kitchen floor. Hubby and I scramble for more towels and rags to clean up. As we cleanup, his phone rings and he answers it (6th time?). Eavesdropping his conversation, I hear him give advice to whomever is on the other end and say he will help him out in a half an hour. Things are taking a decided downturn again as he explains to us that he has to remove the dishwasher, cut the pipe and try to fish it out that way. !!!!?? I am getting a little stressed by now wondering what other destruction he is going to bestow on us. Then he is suddenly packing up and says he will come back Tuesday morning to finish. ??? We tell him that Tuesday does not work that he has to come Wednesday and why is he leaving when the job isn't done? Says that he has to go to another job. This job he volunteered for as he was working under my sink!!

After the plumber leaves I crawl under my sink to make sure the plumbing is where it should be and that everything is sealed back up. As I crawl out I realize that everything, including the cabinet is covered in black crud. I remove the rest of the stuff, fill the sink and wash down the cabinet and all the stuff that was under it. Grrr!

Now we have a snake with its head stuck up an already challenged stack, thereby reducing air flow even more and another day that will be tied up with plumbing. Now we have a dilemma - do we allow him to come back and correct his/our problem and probably wreak more destruction on my home or do I call someone else to clean up the mess left by this fellow?

I do have to add this - he was a very nice man which made it difficult to get angry with him but that does not excuse all the mess.