Friday, December 30, 2011

Party Preparations

chefs vintage image graphicsfairy002bYesterday and today we have been busy getting ready for our New Years dinner party. It will be pretty small this year, and looked for a while that it would be smaller still as there was freezing rain in the forecast. Thankfully that weather system has passed us by so it will be a dry night for driving. A few years back it started pouring freezing rain mid evening – no one stayed for the countdown and it was just as well as the roads were already skating rinks when they headed home. We don’t want a repeat!

Friday we got the rice side dish ready: Red & Brown Rice with Sausage and Fennel. It's a version of last years stuffing for the pork roast, but I made it with more rice so that it can be the side dish instead of potatoes.  Our menu for tonight is:

   Crostini with goat cheese & pear
   Olives & pickled eggplant

   Pork tenderloin
   Rice with Sausage & Fennel
   Brussels Sprouts  (wonder how many people like them!)

   Cold Lemon Soufflé (I make this almost every New Year – there are rarely leftovers)

   Laurie & Trudie's desserts




As you can see between cleaning the house and food preparations today was a busy day! The table is even set so we are well on our way to being ready – I even have time to write this post and then sit with a cup of tea (I think – let me check my to-do list – yup a few more minutes and then the big rush starts. I am so scattered that I need a minute by minute checklist of what I have to do – otherwise I just might not get the meat into the crockpot on time! This year I’m trying a new recipe for cooking the tenderloin (yeah I know – for company!). It calls for 4 hours on low in the crockpot, but WAIT – I just checked some other recipes and they call for 4 hours on HIGH… so what to do? Since we don’t want to eat in 2012, I’ll try it on high but check the temp of the meat – the slow cooker has a keep warm setting if need be.


1aaaaabirdnewyr006No time to talk about resolutions today but I have been giving some thought as to my goals for next  year. More on those thoughts next year! This poem was on the BPHope email this morning.

A New Year's Wish
Author Unknown
At the sound of the tolling midnight bell
a brand new year will begin.
Let's raise our hopes in a confident toast,
to the promise it ushers in.
May your battles be few, your pleasures many,
your wishes and dreams fulfilled.
May your confidence stand in the face of loss
and give you the strength to rebuild.
May peace of heart fill all your days
may serenity grace your soul.
May tranquil moments bless your life
and keep your spirit whole.
Wishing you peace, love and hope
—now and throughout the New Year.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

One Year Today

Yes, it is already one whole year of retirement done.  Time surely does fly. It seems like just the other day, and yet forever ago at the same time. I still have the occasional dream about work (had one last night) but generally it's rare that I even think about it. I do miss some of the people though and think about them. It has taken a while but the feeling of rush and hurry has finally left. I no longer feel anxious and in a hurry and am learning to just enjoy the moment better.

Has it been a good thing? HA HA YOU BET!

Today we went into town for some shopping (and also to see my friend at her sister's visitation). We also stopped in to see Carm's mom - she appreciates the company. She wanted to feed us lunch but instead we just had some cookies - she had made tons of different kinds of Italian sweets. Yum... and she sent me home with a tin of my favorites. She is 84 years old in just a week, but has the energy of a much younger woman. I don't know how she does it, but she just never sits still.

One of the things we picked up was a bottle of Coconut Water - this is supposed to be the new sports drink full of electrolytes but without the sugar... well... YUCK! Carm had one sip, I managed to have a few more to give it a fair chance, but yuck - the rest ended up in a Costco garbage can.

I also scored a huge hurricane style candle holder - perfect scale for the coffee table. I've been looking for something for a while and was thrilled to find this at 50% off! Instead of a candle I've filled it with blue Christmas balls. It's pretty.

Today the blog post has been done 100 percent on my tablet. No spell check so there may be mistakes! Sorry - I've always been a terrible speller.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Deer Hunter(s)

dogsanddeer-graphicsfairy007bTuesday afternoon we were out front putting up more Christmas lights and I noticed the dogs weren't around so went to look for them. I could see them running around the "lower pond paddock" down below the house, towards the creek. I also thought I saw one of them way to the east (but I think now that it was a deer that I saw). They disappeared so I started walking after them. We haven't been down into that paddock for some time, and with the horses being gone it is overgrown with weeds and brush. I followed the dog tracks and soon came to a green spot in the grass - some large animal had clearly been lying there just recently and there was also some deer scat was near by. So that's what they were tracking... I had to walk for quite a distance before I saw them and got close enough that I could call them off the trail. (note to self - work on recalls). Thank goodness that they hadn’t seen it or I might still be looking for them… Now I'll have to really keep an eye on them as they'll be back down there at the first opportunity.


20111227_lights_001On a better note, we got 15 packs of big multi-coloured lights up on one of the big spruce's at the front of the house. With a total of 375 lights the tree looks great and I can even see it from my seat on the sofa :-)  I love lights - they always make me smile so why haven't we done this sooner?



Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Written in the car on the way into town:

retro christmas tree gfairyChristmas day was a lovely one, but a bit sad. Both my family and Carm's family gatherings were missing a lot of family members - but we tried to look at the bright side. Spike came with us - he loves to visit Grandma. Santa had filled Spikes stocking with several toys so he had fun playing while we all opened our gifts. Soon though he had all his toys piled on his little bed and squeezed himself on as well for a little nap.


Then we headed over to Carm's brother Joe's. Well, Sunny, Spike's cousin, flew out of Sandy's arms to see Spike. They remembered each other right away and started running and playing. Sunny was SO excited, we all laughed and laughed as Sunny ran circles around us. After that we visited Carm's sister Maria, where his mother was. Spike stayed on his leash here as they have a cat, but was a good boy and lay by my feet. By the time we got home he was one tired puppy.


Today we are driving into town to pick up some boxes - get it - boxing day - no seriously we are hoping to find these funky winter hats like the one Graham got from Santa. They have flaps that cover the ears and maybe cheeks too. They'd be perfect for our daily walks around the property. I remember as a kit Boxing Day was always spent cocooned in the house playing with our new toys, or maybe on the toboggan hill with our sleighs.

After our shopping we'll have turkey dinner with Mom & Dad - it will be quiet with just the four of us, but we rarely get to visit one-on-one so it will be a pleasant time.

Speaking of walks, this morning's was quite a trudge. We got just under 10 cm so our path had a fair amount of snow to drag our giant farmers boots through.

(p.s. I love my prun (Transformer) – it is so easy to type things on even in a moving car!)

Written at home after a long day:

The hats weren’t on sale so we came home without them – there was a sale online so we’ll save the $18.00 and order online – they even have free shipping.

We did luck into the mother-lode of Christmas lights so stocked up on several strands of big led lights – they will look great on our big blue spruce. There were lots of other decorations on sale so I stocked up.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

20111223_snow_009Today was an absolutely glorious day - the sun was shining, the air cold and crisp, and not a breath of breeze. It reminds me of one Christmas Eve afternoon when I had a horse boarded at a nearby stable. After we got home from work I quickly changed and headed to the barn. A few others had the same idea so we all saddled up (me with a new sheepskin seat cover - nice...) and headed out to the back of the farm. The horses were frisky from the fresh air and trotted with big, bouncy strides through the snow. It was quite possibly the nicest Christmas Eve afternoon I've ever enjoyed.

During our working years (grin) Christmas Eve mornings would be spent at work. Since almost everyone brought their kids to work I'd often take a parrot with me, in the early days Buzz, and more recently Grace. The kids got such a kick out of seeing her - most had never seen a parrot before. Then they'd let us free from work and everyone would leave in a giant crush, bogging the roads for ages. We'd finish our last bits of grocery shopping on our way home. Then as soon as we got home, we'd load the car with food and gifts and drive back to my parent's house to continue the festivities.


After a lovely walk with the dogs, we headed into town to spend the afternoon with my family. The afternoon will be capped off with our traditional Norwegian dinner. The table will be groaning with plates of lefse, lutefisk, meatballs, gytost (cheese), pickled herring, tortierre for those non-Norwegians among us, and all the other fixings. We'll finish supper with a rice pudding dessert that is also traditional. An almond is hidden in a bowl and the happy recipient is said to be the next to get married - which is a little silly given that most of us already are! We saw a program recently that paired a marzipan pig with the lucky almond. Perhaps a more practical outcome unless like me you aren't overly fond of marzipan...


Gosh it was hard getting into a cold car, but it was time for our trip home. We made the usual Christmas Eve detour through the village to see the Christmas lights. Then home to the pets – the dogs were anxious to get outside, and even more anxious for their late supper. Grace wasn’t saying much we we could tell she was hungry for her dinner.

After I get this uploaded it will be time for a hot tea or chocolate and a Christmas movie.

It is nice to have these traditions and fun to pass them down to the next generation.


Christmas in Norway

christmas santa vintage image graphicsfairy003bIn 1973,  when I was just 11, our family spent Christmas in Norway with relatives. I have sketchy memories of the time, but some things stand out in my mind.

The first place we stopped was cousin Harry's, just outside of Oslo. He picked us up from the airport, I remember it was almost dark and there were few cars on the road. Apparently he had to get a special permit to be driving as 1973/74 was the year of the oil shortages. We were put up in a room downstairs - I remember there were bunk beds - but what I most remember about that room was being woken up in the morning with mugs of coffee and hot chocolate and plates of sweets - this was unbelievable and most wonderful.


On one of the nights we were at Harry's he loaded us onto a dog sled, pulled by his English Pointers, and took us kids to a shows playing at the local community centre – I think they were cartoons. Another evening we went carolling and each house brought us in for treats. I had learnt the words to Silent Night in Norwegian so was able so sing along.

Glade jul, hellige jul!
Engler daler ned i skjul.
Hit de flyver med paradis grønt,
hvor de ser hva for Gud er skjønt.
Lønnlig i blant oss de går.
Lønnlig i blant oss de går.

Eventually Harry (or was is someone else?) drove us up to Otta to stay with more relatives. I remember driving through tall forests of snow covered spruce (Norway Spruce perhaps?). I remember that it was snowing.

Once in Otta we stayed with a cousin (Ragna I believe) who lived just outside the village next to a farm with an old barn full of sheep. Everything seemed so different and such an adventure. We visited lots of other distant cousins, each one as hospitable as the last - my gosh those ladies could bake. Everywhere we went there were trays and trays of baked cookies and cakes. For a little girl with a sweet tooth this was some kind of heaven.





One of our outings took us to the old ancestral homestead. It was no longer owned by a family member, but it's buildings still stood - some for centuries.

On Christmas Eve a large extended family gathered to celebrate. Just before we sat down to dinner there was the sound of sleigh bells on the front lawn and who should appear but Julenisse (Santa Claus). He had presents for everyone but we had the best one - a "spark" or sled with two metal runners. After the excitement had died down we sat down for a huge feast with reindeer meat (sorry Rudolf), lutefisk (cod soaked in lye), lefse (potato pancakes), and all the rest of the trimmings. It was delicious!

box5_cel01-03_21 box5_cel04-05_19


box5_cel01-03_15The next morning we loaded up a bunch of sparks and sleds and drove up a mountain. Then down! down! down! we sledded - we think we know how the sleds got their name - sparks would fly as a little pebble would get caught up in the runners. Oh what fun it is to ride...


My mom & dad still have the spark.


box5_cel01-03_07I don't remember much else of that Christmas... I suppose there was more visiting... we went to a little town to buy duvets. As it turns out we needed them BADLY for our stay in England (more about that some other day). We went to some Christmas concerts,  I got to know some cousins quite well - Tom Arthur and Espen - in fact one of them gave me the mumps! Somehow we managed to communicate with each other even though neither of us spoke each other’s language.

Most of the people we met we had never seen before. There were some cousins that had visited Canada a year or two before so we did know them (Julie, Ida, Ragna & Raghnild – I hope I got that right – it was a long time ago!). Even though the rest were strangers they treated us as treasured family members. They made us feel welcome.

To this day the smell of wood smoke in the winter air transports me back to those magical days in Norway. I can close my eyes and picture riding along on the back of the dog sled, the cold nipping at my nose, the snow scrunching beneath the runners. It was a wonderful trip made that much more special by the hospitality and warmth of the people that we met.


Merry Christmas and Happy Memories to All


Friday, December 23, 2011

In the Meadow We Can Build a Snowman

tree pine-graphicsfairy008bJust in time to put us into the spirit a little bit of snow has dusted the property. Christmas preparations were underway today. Presents have been wrapped and lefse has been made.

Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes. The dough is rolled out and then cooked in a dry skillet. It is a slow and tedious process (we made 3 batches), but with each of us manning a post it wasn’t too bad. We listened to Christmas music and recounted memories of Christmases past.



The dogs of course just took the opportunity to lay around like dogs!



Santa Reindeer vintage image graphicsfairy008cI follow Google LatLong blog to keep up to date with what Google is doing with maps and earth. Today the post was about their partnership with NORAD to track Santa on Christmas Eve. The post told how the tradition started (wrong number!), and how NORAD has expanded their offerings. I remember hearing the updates on the radio when I was a little girl. Oh what a thrill passed through me - Santa really was coming! Today the thrill is still there but some tears prick my eyes as well. Why? I think there's a little bit of me that still believes, but there's another part that is sad for the passing of innocence.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Especially Good

20111210_christmas-decs_012After watching last nights news report about all the freezing rain and associated accidents, we thought that it was an especially good day to be retired. But wait, it's especially good when the weather is marvellous as well! Could it be that it's just especially good, day in and day out ;-)  That being said it was nice not to have to brave the icy roads for that long drive to and from work. Freezing rain is the worst.

This morning the bright sun sparkled off the crystal gown that everything was wearing - it sure was pretty  (I may have Will Rogers on the brain with his country drawl - sure was all y'all). And crazily by 1pm the temperature was up around +5C! What's with that?



I broke down and had pancakes for lunch today... bad bad me... but something reminded me of the wonderful homemade Maple syrup that we got from friends a while back and I needed a fix. ETL (Eat to Live) Fat-free vegan supper tonight to make up - White Bean and Garlic Stew with Spinach. It's one of our regular meals - it's ETL friendly, tasty, easy to make, cooks in the crockpot and makes enough to have leftovers for another night. I try to plan one or two meals every week that will leave us some leftovers. We try to make the majority of our meals ETL but it's awfully hard...

There were still geese flying over this afternoon when we went for our little walk. Not a huge flock, but still a few hundred birds.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

(Almost) Winter Solstice

It's (almost) here - the shortest day of the winter (or more precisely 12:30 AM on Dec 22). It’s been a freezing drizzle kind of day, the kind that is so dark it seems that there was no daytime at all – fitting for the 2nd shortest day. We still made our twice daily trek around the property – the dogs are happy to get out no matter what (although I think Kabira would have appreciated her rain slicker). The return of the sun should be celebrated so we will be sure to raise a glass to her golden beauty and warming rays. There is something to say about the low sun though - it shines ever so nicely into the great room, bathing the room in sun spots.

imageOh - there was a big flock of geese overhead yesterday morning. The sun was so low, or perhaps they were flying at such a great altitude, that it glinted off their light coloured bellies making them look like snow geese, doves, or maybe even swans. We don't get swans in this area of Ontario, but there were 100s (1000s?) of them in Brighton where we camped last summer. I'm sure they've gone south by now.

I woke up Monday feeling so tired and achy that I was sure I was coming down with something. I barely made it to the futon for a day of reading and movie watching which seemed to be just what I needed. I did drag myself to the local Home Hardware with Carm where we picked up a few more strands of lights to string outside - the house looks positively festive. We just have white ones, but we might pick up some blue tomorrow if they still have any.



As you can see we still don't have any snow, and it looks like there won't be any this year – although the long term forecast for Christmas day has snow – of course – the day we HAVE to be driving around hither and thither.

Tuesday we did some more drywalling - we are close to having the craft room "boarded". It takes us forever to get even one sheet up, and longer still if there is any cutting.  Have you ever looked closely at drywall or gyprock - it is pretty strange stuff with its paper sheathing and chalky white innards. Who ever thought up such a thing?

We met friends at the Casino for supper (also known as "that place to which we wear pants with elastic waists so that we can fill up on really bad (and slightly gross) food"!). In fact I had to search the whole buffet to even find a shred of salad greens or other vegetable (even the carrots were glazed and buttered). Most everything was some sort of meat or pasta dish – food that is totally not in our regular diet. Of course the food was only secondary to visiting with friends. After supper was done with we headed into the casino for 45 minutes. I will have to say though that I don’t get the gambling thing. Carm handed me $10 to play with – I tucked it in my pocket and left it there. It just didn’t seem like enough fun for 10 bucks. Leo, one of the fellows were were supping with won $54 – so I guess it was fun for him!

Christmas... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.
Freya Stark


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nothing Much

The last few days have been lazy ones with nothing much to write about. Pleasures like walking outside in the frosty air (still a few geese this morning but didn’t see any this afternoon). This morning the trees and plants were covered with a chemise of frosted rhinestones that sparkled rainbow colours in the sun.

Last night we watched an old movie about the life of Will Rogers. He was an interesting man with something to say about most everything. His son played him in the movie. Perhaps his most famous quote is

Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
Will Rogers

I’ve been reading (still the same book – Spontaneous Happiness). There is a lot of good material to ponder and put into practice.

Happy Tails Trails