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.