Sunday, January 29, 2012

Congenial Kitchen

20120128_bruce-tina_001Saturday,  after a day of house cleaning and playing around outside, we had friends Bruce & Tina over for supper. We gathered around the kitchen island nibbling on snacks and sipping our Lemon Thyme White Wine Spritzers, while I put the finishing touches on supper - prime rib and yorkshire pudding. I turned away from the stove to see the three of them talking and laughing and I realized how lucky we are to have such a great house for entertaining. The kitchen works so well, with its two sinks, corner windows, and giant island.  It is great to have friends seated at the island while I buzz around the kitchen getting our meal ready. It was very congenial.


The kitchen was put into good use today too, although for a vastly different purpose. You see, Carm came home with 66lbs of partially frozen chicken carcasses (or would that be carcai?). We pulled them all apart then layered them on waxed paper to go into the freezer. They are big and meaty, much better than the chicken backs that we've gotten before. A few times a week I'll be able to grab one or two to augment the dogs regular meal of raw ground meat/bone/organ. Nature's toothbrush :-)


Seek home for rest, for home is best.
Thomas Tusser

Friday, January 27, 2012

Freezing Rain, Rain then Snow

Friday morning I headed outside as soon as I got up only to find rain, ice, and a bit more ice. There had been a few cm of snow followed by a nice thick coating of freezing rain. Oh, and it was still raining. Because the temp was hovering at the freezing point it was a weird combination of crispy ice over slushy snow. Yuck. I was wavering on the brink of the path, wondering if I wanted to continue or just go get a cup of coffee, when Spike zoomed past me, running way, way down the path and back, then way, way down again. He seemed to be really enjoying the way the ice gave way under his feet. I laughed at his antics and with that motivation headed down the path. Yuck. Wasn't it just yesterday when I talked about a winter wonderland, loving winter, blah blah and all that crap... oh yes, lovely... coat, mitts and hat soaked from the January rain...


But later, after the rain changed over to snow, and the trees were fluffy with snow it was a pretty sight. A trip down the path to the lower paddock revealed a picturesque winter landscape. The late afternoon light turned everything a pinky, orange hue. It was really pretty to wander down the path, stopping with my camera when something caught my eye. I was back to loving winter.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

All the Way to the Moon

20120126_car-400k_006Today was an auspicious day for our little car – the odometer rolled over to 400,000 km – yes that’s four hundred thousand kilometres (240,000 miles). Long enough to have driven to the moon, but not back. Long enough to have driven almost 10 times around the earth. Wowzers little car, you’ve been a good one! Not to become a Subaru commercial but what a great car this has been. No wonder we are seriously considering another one (when this one hits the dust).

20120126_frost_009Before I get any further into my day I have to share my morning with you. It was a bit warmer this morning (-12C) so I was out of the door before my pillow had a chance to cool off. The morning was perfect – no breeze and everything beautifully decorated with a layer of frost. It was one of those mornings when I am just so glad to be alive and even winter seems wonderful.

The reason I headed into town today (and racked up all those km), was to meet up with Jo Ellen so that we could attend a retirement lunch for Blair. He was part of the directorate that I started work with so I’ve known him 30 years. I remember the first year I worked there Blair arranged a nice lunch for my 20th birthday – he was always good at those sorts of things. I don’t think he’s missed giving me a birthday card since.


One of the people at the lunch, Dave, is sight disabled (can I say it that way?). He worked for the department in the early years as well. Dave was a computer programmer. He had a special monitor that showed one letter at a time – yes, that’s 1 letter at a time. He could write and debug code one letter at a time. In COBOL. To me that is the most amazing thing, I mean… how could he keep a whole module in his head like that. I don’t know if he still programs, but I would imagine that new technology would make it easier. He has a lovely black lab now for a seeing-eye dog.


On our way home we made the usual stops. First stop Factory Direct for an SD card – they are on sale. Then to Belfast fresh food store where we ordered two 15kg boxes of chicken frames for $15 each – that will give the dogs a bit more chewing in their diet – their teeth are getting some tarter on them. And for us we picked up a bunch of fresh produce. The prices are great. Then Costco, which is never just an in and out – we bought 2 resin shelves to get a start with organizing the work shop – no more excuses!

Our final stop was for gas. Sitting next to us was this big, ummm… did I say big? What I meant to say was really, really huge SUV. As it pulled out of the gas station I could see that it was named the Armada… chortle… what! Of course what immediately came to mind was the Spanish Armada – around half of the 151 ships returned to Spain. Gosh, do you really want your vehicle associated with such a disaster?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baby Bok Choy

I made a new recipe last night - Baby Bok Choy sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes, tossed with some lemon zest and then served over a mixture of brown rice and lentils. It came about because I had bought a huge bag of the babies at T&T (they were so lovely and fresh looking) and now had to figure out something to do with them. I had planned on mixing them with some other vegetables but we didn't make it to the grocery store. As it turns out it was a tasty enough meal that will be added to the regular rotation. So many nutrients!


Last night was also a good one for idle pleasures. For a bedtime snack I cut a thick slice of bread and popped it in the toaster. Spread with peanut butter, its crispy outside and soft inside was totally enjoyed. What a taste treat. Now you may have noticed that I had this really healthy supper but then was hungry by bedtime... if I was being really serious I'd just ignore the hunger and go to bed, but, since I dropped down on a med dosage I'm having trouble sleeping to start with so don't want to make it any harder. blah blah blah.

20111227_lights_005Christmas lights were another idle pleasure. I had accidently left the bedroom curtain open a bit - when I lay down in bed I saw that I could see the lights in the tree outside :-)  Sweet. That's a happy sight to fall asleep to.

I have gotten out of the habit of listing all the pleasures everyday, but they are somewhat repetitive - sunny day, sunlight on the wall, fresh pineapple, crunch of snow, starry nights, Christmas lights (yes the outside tree is still lit up), puffy poodles (next week will be a hair cut day for them), flowers - lots of flowers - the daffodils are on their last legs but are still giving a bit of a show, and the roses are in full bloom, getting up when I naturally wake up and not to an alarm, walking on our land. These are just off the top of my head. I try to note things throughout the day.

Today has been a lazy one. We started out on our morning walk but with the warm temperatures we were just wrecking the path so we turned back before any more damage was done. We need that path to last us for the rest of the winter! Once we got back inside I read all the blogs I follow and then fired up Quicken so that I could do some analysis of our spending for last year. It is fun to tab through some of the reports and see that 3% of our spending was for the pets, or that we spent $2600+ on gas for the two vehicles. There wasn't anything that will prompt changes but it is nice to have an idea where everything goes.

If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, you'll often find that you are right.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Boy Genius


You've probably already guessed that this post is about the golden boy, Spike (who isn’t at all spoiled). Of course you are right! Saturday afternoon when we were out for our little walk I (purposely) dropped a mitten. After we had gone about 20 feet, but the mitt was out of sight, I called Spike over, showed him my remaining mitten and asked to to "Find it!". And you know what - he did - and he even brought it back to me. What a wonder boy :-)  We tried it a few more times, each time with the mitt further away. My mitten got a little slobbered, but what's a little slobber in the name of fun.


Later, I wanted to show Carm, but Spike got confused and I had to help him a bit. I suspect he was thinking I wanted him to find Carm cause that's the find it game that we most often play. In the end he did track down the mitten from 10 or 20 feet away.

We had fun playing around outside Saturday afternoon. It was so beautiful, about -11C, full sun and only a breath of wind. We did our walk - did parts of it again and generally putzed around outside until we couldn't put off the inevitable anymore. Company was coming for supper and our house was a wreck - time to get the vacuum and dust cloths out.


20120122_roses_004We got the house all polished up in time for Deirdre and Chris's arrival. Deirdre and I share a love of horses, in fact we used to ride together, went on the Cattle Drive together, and have spent many congenial hours both with horses and without.  Chris is a friend from work - we've known each other for about 27 years - wow! We had a lovely time visiting with them. As a real treat they brought me the most lovely roses in an amazing deep pink, almost red colour.

Fresh flowers in the house are so luxurious feeling, especially in this icy cold climate.  I've been really lucky this year with fresh flowers - Jo Ellen brought beautiful roses on New Years,  Steve brought potted daffodils and now these roses. No wonder my emotional health has been so good this winter.


The Amen of nature is always a flower.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, January 20, 2012

Plans go Arwy

We started out with plans to go to the Home Renovation show at the new CE Center. We turned onto Uplands Drive and wham - stop and go traffic. Thirty long minutes later we were at the gates to the parking. We had already discussed how much we'd pay for parking - $5 sure, $10 no. Turns out that it was just in the middle - $7... so what did we decide - well, we were cheap and decided for $27 dollars we just weren't that stuck on the show. Fixed income of retirement does that to you!

So we turned around and went to T&T to pick up a few groceries. After being stuck in traffic for another 15 minutes we were shopping the isles - so much strange and sometimes wonderful foods but pig spleen? At $6.75/kg!  I had a package of chicken feet in my hands as a treat for the dogs but decided it would be too gross - I could see Carm turning green. Maybe next time.

Now it would be time for lunch or should we just go home and eat there? But what a gyp that would seem - an outing with no outing. So we went into a little Shwrama place and stood in line for a while... it was moving slowly and there wasn't much place to eat - let's just go home... got back into the car and decided we'd drive to the Pho place that we sometimes go to. It was a good 15 minutes away, but at least we would have a nice lunch. And so we did. Have a nice lunch that is. The place is a little whole in the wall in a slightly scuzzy strip mall. The plates are chipped but clean, and the food is really tasty. We've been going there for a few years and always have a good meal - at a good price too - we still saved over going to the home show! Yeah yeah we're cheap sometimes but what the heck - I guess that's how we got to the place that I could quit work at 48 when Carm retired! But that's another story.

After we finished our tasty lunch we decided to head over to the local Subaru dealer to see what's new. Since our car is getting up there in age - almost 14 years old - we've started the initial investigations for what we will replace it with. We are leaning towards another Subaru since our current one has been such a great car. Today we test drove an Impreza with cvt (continuously variable transmission) that gets 5.5L/100km. It was nice! And felt like a sturdy, well built little car.

All in all a good day even though we did spend a certain amount sitting in traffic!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Made It

We received a phone call yesterday afternoon from friends about meeting them at the Bierstube for supper. It was Trudie's birthday so of course we had to go. Right away my anxiety started - the Bierstube is 50 minutes away, on dark, icy, back country roads. Not my idea of fun and the stress was mounting. Carm promised he'd take it easy so I climbed into the car.


When we left there was still some light so we could see where we were going and the condition of both lanes of the road. There was ice, lots of it, in the lane coming home... oh boy...

deer antlers vintage image graphicsfairy3Watch out!!! A deer… slow down to make sure there aren’t any more… whew, we made it safely past.

After 50 long minutes we turned into the restaurant parking lot. Big sigh – we are here. And to Carm's credit, I wasn't totally stressed out from the drive.

We had a lovely time with Trudie, Leo, Vashav and Marie that stretched from 6pm all the way to 9:30 when we took our leave - they were still sitting around the table with the owner of the restaurant and staff when we left. The food was great as always - everyone had schnitzel which was as light and crisp as you could want it – perfection. The warm German potato salad was delicious, and there were also bowls of sweet and sour red cabbage. A true German feast.

Now for the drive home... 50 more minutes of icy roads and pitch dark (no moon but oh my the stars were bright). I don't see very well in the dark (who does!) and my eyes get confused as to where the road is - I avoid being the driver but even in the co-pilot seat I feel the stress. I try my hardest not to let my nervousness affect the driver (Carm) and I think I did okay last night.  Sometimes the road was so dark the only way we could see where to drive were the ghostly snow banks at the side of the road. Thank goodness for the snow, otherwise it would have been like being in a black velvet cave.

Finally, as we crested over a little hill, in the distance we could see the street light to our little road and near it the light from the front of our house. We were almost home! As we drew nearer the Christmas lights became visible. Oh how lovely they looked - it was our first time coming home in the dark from that direction. And home, we were almost there. As we turned into the laneway we looked at each other and said "We made it".

There is nothing quite like the feeling of getting home after an "arduous" journey (okay, it wasn't that bad, but you know what I mean). The release of tension you get stepping into your own home. The warmth of being in your own space. Not just emotional warmth – physical warmth too – it was cold last night – I was frozen from sitting in the car! The dogs went crazy, leaping and crying, Kabira was almost howling - they missed us. I got into my jammies and brewed a mug of camomile tea for a few minutes of unwinding before heading off to bed.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Pay it Forward

We went for a drive today to pick up another load of dog food. It's about a 55 minute drive there and back. Burr it was cold - I had planned on writing some of my blog in the car but it was far too cold for bare fingers. First we went into Kemptville where we tried our hand at a GMC promotion - maybe we could have won a free car, but no such luck. We did look at a few of their models, but I'll have to say I wasn't fussed. The new styling has the windows so small, and that coupled with the tinted windows make for a dark, cramped feeling interior. Plus there was only one that came in all wheel drive and we are sort of stuck on that after owning a Subaru for so long. It doesn't hurt for us to start looking for a new car though, even though we expect the Subie to last thru the winter and maybe even the summer – but if something does happen to the Subie we will be positioned to really start looking.

The drive takes us through some very pretty countryside as well as past some pretty run-down, junky places. Today, even the seedy little villages were beautiful with their thick coating of bright white icing.

Last night we watched "Pay it Forward". It is a pretty old movie (I think 2000), but we hadn't seen it yet. Have you? I don't want to wreck it for you if you haven't so skip right on past if you want. Carm thought he would just read, but I could tell from the sniffling beside me that he was watching too. It captures your attention right away with a moving speech from the teacher, and it keeps your attention the rest of the way through. There were plenty of opportunities to reach for the tissue box. However, the ending... what can I say about it except I don't understand why they decided to end it that way. I found myself waking up through the night thinking about it. It left me with a feeling of unreality, denial, that it couldn't possibly be true.

Remember that old song “Turkey in the Straw” – weren’t those the days of zany music! Today - we saw a little flock of about 7 turkeys on our journey. It's neat to see such large birds roaming free.

turkey vintage image graphicsfairy4

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Lovely Winter Day

20120115_sunny-winter-day_004It was another cold one - minus 23 when we got up but it warmed up to minus 16 by mid-day. There wasn't much wind and the sun was shining so I bundled up and headed out. It was lovely! Everything was still so pretty, although the ice was melting off the trees, I really love a winter day like this. I suppose sun can make anything seem good, but when it sparkles off the snow, well, I just love winter. (Is that insane or do you think it's the change in medications?!)


300px-Mancinimercer003Last night we watched... wait for it... you'll never guess... "the Lawrence Welk Show"! Yes, we took a step back to 1974 to bask in the dorkiness that was. If you thought it was dorky then (and I did), it is over the top now. We laughed and laughed! There was a good tap dancer though. But who tap dances anymore? As far back as I can remember the Lawrence Welk show has been on at 6pm Saturday nights, always right after the Bugs Bunny show. Well, it is still on at 6 but no Bugs. According to the narrator at the beginning of the show it's been on for 50 years! It's older than I am. Ain't that a hoot!

pine cone vintage image graphicsfairy3c

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spiced Lentils with Spinach

This is one of the best lentil recipes that I've come across so far. The flavours are very fresh and upbeat. Use lentils that don't turn to mush, and watch the cooking time to keep them firmish. The recipe calls for du Puis lentils, I used Eston which also hold their shape well (but take longer to cook).

Yields: 4 Servings, 2 if using as a main dish

2 tablespoon Olive oil I used water, no oil
1 large Onion finely chopped
1 large Garlic clove crushed
1/2 tablespoon Ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Ground ginger
1 cup Lentils
2 1/2 cups Chicken stock
3 1/2 ounce Baby spinach leaves I used 1 pkg chopped frozen
2 tablespoon Fresh mint
1 tablespoon Fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Fresh parsley
1 whole Lemon juice & zest
Salt & pepper

1. Heat the oil/water in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown.
2. Stir in the lentils. Pour in enough stock to cover the lentils by 1 inch (I used all the stock), and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender. The lentils that I used required 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach leaves in several changes of cold water and shake dry. If using frozen, squeeze dry. Finely chop the mint, coriander and parsley leaves.
4. If there isn't any stock left in the pan add a little extra. Add the spinach and stir through until it just wilts. Stir in the mint, cilantro and parsley. Adjust the seasonings, adding the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve, garnished with lemon rind (I just mixed the rind in before serving).

Source: 1000 Low Fat Salt, Sugar & Cholesterol Recipes

A Quintessential Winter Day

Plenty of sun and freezing cold temperatures greeted us this morning. It was -18 with a wind so we put off our morning walk to mid-afternoon when it warmed up a bit. And what a lovely walk it was. With the sun glinting off the ice covered vegetation it looked like fairies had dusted the earth with diamond dust. Such a pretty sight. I really do love all the seasons and would (possibly) miss winter.




Before I forget - last night's lentil dish was great. With the fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, and parsley), as well as the juice and zest of a lemon it was a bright, fresh tasting dish. It was easy to make, fat free, and low carb - a perfect addition to our regular rotation. Talking about regular rotation - I've been in a bit of a rut with menu planning. My friend Ruth told me that she used to have 6 weeks worth of menu plans that she would cycle through. This kept her from repeating things too often. I think this is a great idea and got started this afternoon. It's harder than you think! I thought I had a good plan made but then realized that I hadn't taken into account ingredients and how to use them for multiple dishes to reduce waste so it's back to square one for me.


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Fire is so Delightful

How does it go? Oh yes:

Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the fire is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping, And I've bought some corn for popping, The lights are turned way down low, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight, How I'll hate going out in the storm! But if you'll really hold me tight, All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying, And, my dear, we're still good-bying, But as long as you love me so, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

That about sums up the day, except for the freezing rain that accompanied us on our morning walk... again, we were happy not to have to brave the wicked roads. Instead Carm started a roaring fire. Perfect -  I pulled the loveseat over to the fireplace and read. I could look up and see either the warm flames or I could look out the window to see the snow fall. I'll have to say - a day spent like this is no real hardship!

20120113_snow-day-inside_002 20120113_snow-day-inside_006

At our regular 3:30pm walk-about time we bundled up and headed outside. There was a lot of snow! Carm shovelled the decks while I took the dogs (minus Kabira who woossed out and stayed inside) for our walk. The snow was deep, 3/4 of the way to my knee. It was a hard slog but we made it for both loops. Spike and Bella were having fun leaping through the fresh snow. Spike always amazes me cause he's so little and works so darn hard to keep up but he's 100% keen.

20120113_snow-day-outside_007 20120113_snow-day-outside_012
20120113_snow-day-outside_014 20120113_snow-day-outside_024
20120113_snow-day-outside_019 20120113_snow-day-outside_023

It feels like we should be having a treat supper - after all we survived the blizzard, but I don't know what to make so will stick to my plan of spiced lentils. It's a new recipe that has fresh cilantro and mint. What is your snow day supper?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting the House Back to Normal

20120112_decorations_005With freezing rain battering at the windows, we put on our new opera cd (yes, on purpose!), and got to work getting the house back to normal. Once I gathered all the little things onto the table I was shocked how much stuff was there. How was I going to fit it back into the boxes? The answer soon become obvious - I wasn't. I didn't think I had gotten that much new stuff but I guess I had.  But then it turned out okay - I decide to pack away the Christmas tree, with all it's lights and decorations. It is tucked away in the basement carefully wrapped in a sheet ready for next year. The house is back to normal, but it sure looks bare with all that bric-a-brak gone.


Meanwhile the freezing rain continued pouring down. I made sure we had buckets of water in case the power failed. On days like this we can't help remembering the  1998 Ice Storm when we were out of power for 9 days. Nine days is a long time to have no electricity in the dead of winter - especially with an aviary full of parrots in the basement. Try as we might we couldn't get heat from our upstairs wood stove down into the birdroom. To say we were stressed is an understatement. Many people left their homes and moved in with family in town, but that wasn't an option for us, not with 10 parrots, 3 dogs, and 2 cats. On the last day the temperature of the birdroom was down to 49F. It was Friday night so we figured we had all weekend to run the generator for the space heater to try and get it warmer before the work week started again. It was about 9pm when we looked outside and saw a light on down the road. Could it be? YES! Our power was back.  I guess it won't be too surprising to find out that we finally installed that basement wood stove that we had roughed in. Now we are better positioned to weather a long storm - not that we want to!

Luckily by mid afternoon the freezing rain had changed to snow. Mind you, it still wasn't nice out - we tried to do our little walk - Bella and Spike were keen, but we couldn't lure Kabira off the front porch - I don't blame her as the wind was just howling. We took our excuse and headed back inside where a fire has been roaring all day. Toasty!  Really just the perfect day for staying inside.

20120112_flowers_003 20120112_flowers_001

My pleasure/gratefullness today - the fact that we didn't have to drive anywhere in this mess! Another pleasure, believe it or not, feeling the cold wind whipping at my body - I can't help but feel ALIVE! Yesterday at Costco we purchased a cd set of "Greatest Italian Opera" so we played that today - it has over four hours of music, but honestly we could only handle an hour or so, but what we did listen to was a pleasure. What voices! And the last pleasure that I'll mention - enjoying the beautiful blossoms of a daffodil plant that was gifted to us by one of our lunch visitors on Monday. They are like little suns in all this winter mess.