Sunday, January 31, 2016

what is mundane

Yesterday evening I sat on the sofa, tired with a bit of an achy back,  thinking about my day, the lefse and other mundane things. Music was playing in the background, the songs in and out of my consciousness. A song came on, (I don't remember now which one), from when I was 12 or 13 and I wondered what my 12 year old self would think about the way my day went. Would I be horrified at the simplicity, the perceived boredom,  and do something to change the course of my life? Had my 12 year old self thought of the future at all? Did I just assume that it would be much like my mother's with children, housework, and whatever else I thought she did?

I think that every life, if lived in peace and not war, has long stretches of comfortable activity. Making the bed, making a meal, doing laundry, these are all things that can be considered mundane, but I think that with mindful attention can create contentment.

Where does meaning come to my life? What is meaningful? Does it have to be something of greater scale than kneading a ball of lefse dough? Or perhaps the greatest meaning comes in the small things that we do for ourselves and to help others. I can find contentment in a cosy winter evening, or a walk in the sun. It can come from admiring an orange, for its perfections and imperfections. I can find pleasure in the simple act of making the bed.

By the end of the song I had come to the conclusion that mundane is a negative state of mind and is the opposite of mindful contentment.

So, after thinking of all the angles, I found satisfaction in my afternoon of lefse making and hope that my 12 year old self would find the same.

We made 61 lefse... roll roll roll cook cook cook eat eat eat!

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”  ~Albert Camus

Friday, January 29, 2016

getting started

I had that wonderful feeling of contentment tonight, much like the feeling one gets from an idle pleasure. I had just finished getting the pots soaked and was walking to the sofa. I still had 1/2 a tasty German beer to savour, I had my cuddly fleece sweater on and flannel pants. The evening stretched in my imagination - the news, then maybe we'd watch Paddington. Life is simple but satisfying.

We relaxed for a short while then decided to peel and mash some potatoes so we can make lefse tomorrow. Russet potatoes are on sale, and some sort of madness made Carm pick up 20lbs. That's a lot of potatoes for two people… By working together the five pounds were quickly peeled, cut, in the pot, and coming to a boil. We watched something on TV that I can't even remember while they cooked and then Carm mashed while I fine tuned the flavour. I'm happy to have them cooling in the fridge but honestly aren't sure if I'm up for another afternoon with the rolling pin. It took my back 3 or 4 days to recover after the last marathon batch!

Today it warmed up to -1C, warm enough to melt the snow on the front deck. I got outside a few times to enjoy the relative warmth and once to open the gate for Christina who was coming to visit. She got here just after Carm got home so we didn't have the house to ourselves, but Carm stays out of the way to give us a chance to talk. It was over a month since our last visit so we had lots to talk about.

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."  ~Mark Twain

Thursday, January 28, 2016

hot tea and flannel

Hot tea and flannel pajamas featured in my afternoon after a morning freezing in the library at the creative writing group meeting - I brought the second chapter of Spike's book and got lots of good feedback and suggestions, I can't wait to apply the changes and move onto the next chapter. I had a hard time critiquing the other ladies stories though - they are good to start with!  As a group, our writing has improved since we started in the fall.

Diane, (a creative writing guru), and I decided to meet for lunch, but I was a blonde bimbo and went to the wrong restaurant. I was slow to figure out I was in the wrong spot but eventually clued in that I was in the Aroma cafe when should have been in the Euphoria cafe one town over. Luckily, Diane was still at the right place when I rushed in 15 minutes later. What a doofus. We now have each other's cell phone numbers programmed in our cell phones…

Back to the pjs. A light snow was falling as I drove home and it felt frigid, although the thermometer said it was -1C - it wasn't a 'dry cold' - it was a damp cold that sunk right into my bones. Mugs and mugs of tea, fluffy pjs and a fleecy sweater wasn't enough, I needed a thick blanket as well. But what I'd like to know is this: what's wrong with wearing pajamas 24/7!

Carm had to run an errand in the village and thought to check the used store for a pot lid that was the right size for making lefse. What I've been using works… but it is a rounded glass edge that doesn't cut very well. Carm found something just the right size with a sharp, cookie cutter edge. Hummm. We'll have to make a batch this weekend to test it out!

She enjoys rain for its wetness, winter for its cold, summer for its heat. She loves rainbows as much for fading as for their brilliance. It is easy for her, she opens her heart and accepts everything.”  ~Morgan Llywelyn

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

easy pleasures

A pile of books sits on the coffee table with the sun streaming down on them like a beam from heaven. I thrill at the sight of them, not only are they lovely, if a little beaten up, they are bargains. The writing book that I just finished reading suggested E.B. White as an author to study. The store didn't have any of his books of essays - that will have to be Amazon - but they did have his three most famous children's books: 'Charlotte's Web', 'Stuart Little', and the 'Trumpet of the Swan'. Reading these books should give me some help writing Spike's Adventure.

I also happened upon a little book by John Steinbeck called 'The Pearl'. The sequel to 'Angela's Ashes' was also on the shelf. Frank McCourt is lauded as a memoir writer. As I read through 'Angela's Ashes' I have to remind myself to notice the writing as the story is captivating and I forget why I'm reading it. The writing doesn't get in the way of the story.

A book of short stories about dogs was also on the shelf - perfect for a number of reasons, the least of which it will be fun to read. Carm picked up something by Dale Brown (sci-fi).

As if the books weren't pleasure enough... the bill for seven books was two bucks (which in American money would be $1.40).

Monday we were thrilled to meet up with Jo Ellen and Don after such a long absence. She's been going through some stuff that has kept her mostly homebound so it had been several months since our last visit. I told Spike in the morning that she'd be coming - he perked up his ears and looked around. For their arrival I locked the dogs in our bedroom to give everyone a chance to settle in without dogs going crazy. I cracked open the door to let Spike out and told him 'Jo Ellen is here'. Well, he raced down the hall and into the kitchen where she was sitting, crying and yipping the whole way. You've never seen a dog so excited. He greeted her for several minutes before he could finally calm down. Jo Ellen was Spike's special friend at work, who often arranged meetings in her office in the afternoon when the sun made a Spike sized sun-spot.

Tuesday night we made a trip to the Sol de Acapulco for Elenor's going back to Australia supper. Seven of us enjoyed each other's company, not to mention a big supper. We've had lots of good visits while she's been here and are sad to see her leave, but now need a little break from the fun!

How's this for a full page of idle pleasures, and I didn't even mention the beautiful sunny days we've been having - pretty lucky aren't I :-)

"Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing."  ~Anne Frank

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WYL #21 On the Lighter Side: On Iron Wings

 On Iron Wings

Spring was in the air that fine April day in 1982. It had niggled its way into my blood and was flooding my brain with fanciful thoughts. We were out for a walk in the Glebe and as we walked past one store I could see my reflection among the motorcycles. I grabbed my boyfriend Steve's sleeve and dragged him inside. Rubber, oil and steel fragrances the air. I was overcome with a dizziness of common sense and started walking among the bikes. Most were giant monstrosities that  would overcome my slight (at the time) frame.

My eye caught sight of a beautiful burgundy bike, the light danced on the chrome muffler - I was drawn to it as a moth is to a flame. My hands caressed the handlebars and slid down onto the seat. I couldn't help myself… I slung my leg over and settled my weight onto it. The handlebars reached back to my hands, meeting at the perfect, most comfortable, location. My feet were firmly on the ground. I swooned. It was meant to be. This motorcycle fit me like a hand-made glove, one that had been made for me and me alone.

I looked at Steve and he saw passion, or was it madness, in my eyes. He likely understood as he had a dirt bike that he liked to ride around his parent's farm. I remember riding it up a 20’ towering mound of dirt and flying off the other side. My heart was in my mouth during the air time and the rush of adrenaline surged through my veins as I successfully hit the dirt on the other side.

The price tag fluttered on the side of the bike bringing me back to earth - I knew it was beyond my paltry salary. My smile turned into a frown. The look of disappointment was written in bold. Steve, also caught up in the magical moment, offered to lend me the money. I lept off my iron steed (I was already saying my) and hugged him, then dragged him over to the sales desk. The deal was made and arrangements were finalized for pickup.

I floated out of the store.

The next day I called my dad to tell him the exciting news. He swore. The day before he had been at a home for the disabled and wondered about all the young men in wheelchairs… motorcycle accidents. I asked him to tell mom. She swore (my mom does not swear - ever).

There was only one small, or perhaps it was major, problem. I didn't have a motorcycle license. That didn't slow me down for long; I practiced on Steve's dirt bike then we picked up my beauty with Steve's dad's truck. As soon as we unloaded it in the dusky, dewy evening I jumped on. And immediately wiped out on the slick grass. Not a good start, but a good lesson.

I practiced and practiced then drove to Smiths Falls for my licence. I got it in the first try and my wings were unfettered. I galloped on my Pegasus (at the speed limit of course) around the  countryside. My iron pony felt like it was a part of me. It was a feeling of freedom unlike any I had ever known.

To appease my parents I took a motorcycle safety course. It was time and money well spent as they taught the finer details of control and staying safe. I loved driving the back roads to practice maneuvers. I loved pulling up to a gas station or corner store and pulling off my helmet so my longish blonde hair could spill onto the shoulders of my leather jacket - that always got a reaction. There weren't very many girls riding their own bike back in 1982.

Mom and dad lived in Toronto, but kept their sailboat near Kingston so that is where I visited them most often. On my first trip to show off my bike, Steve drove with me behind him and my dog Chetta in a milk carton on the back. It was a heavy load for a 400cc bike but it stepped up to the job. Everyone at the yacht club crowded around to see my chromed ride and my dad even took it for a spin.

The second year I had it, my parents let me bring Olaf, my 7 year old brother, from Kingston to Ottawa for a visit. Olaf was a trooper on the back, riding like a pro. Looking back on it I wonder about my parents sanity!

My longest trip was from Ottawa to Niagara Falls with Steve to visit his relatives. It was a long trip, especially the part on the 401 with driving rain and transport trucks pushing us around. That was the sort of freedom that I could do without!

I had my bike for a few years, then circumstances and money made me sell it.

On a side note, my father got a Harley several years later, and my mom got her motorcycle license when she turned 57, along with a little bike of her own.

Finally, in the words of Arlo Guthrie "I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride my motor-cicle"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

holding the wolves at bay

I've slashed and burnt this post a few times, but I have a senseless compulsion to share, it helps me, and I hope it helps you. If you wish you can stop reading here…

I was feeling rather smug about how great I was doing and that maybe I had this bipolar thing conquered. Never feel smug, because that is exactly when trouble comes to roost. I feel fine today but for a few days did not.

It started first thing Thursday morning - it was writing group day and I had to get the frost off the truck. I'm too short to use the long scraper and too short to use the short one. I hacked away at the windshield getting more and more frustrated and cold. I eventually I gave up and went inside fully intending to just go back to bed. Luckily Carm came out to help me and I got to the library. Still cranky. And then in the middle of the meeting, whomp, my mood plummeted and didn't bounce back.

Later in the day I lay in bed watching the orange band highlighting the horizon get narrower while the blue sky turned to indigo, and wondered: is this just a bad mood? One like anyone might have? Or is it the start of something worse. I didn't know. Either way I made myself get up and wander into the light: the living room (whose name seemed particularly appro).

Friday was not better. I slouched around doing nothing other than snap at Carm, not even reading (I'm reading Angela's Ashes which is not exactly PollyAnna), just wallowing in misery with strange thoughts forming in my head. My mind doesn't usually conjure up these horrible images for a simple 'bad mood' - I thought the signs weren't good.

Saturday morning started out the same, but I could no longer indulge my gloom - we were having company for supper and there was a full day of prep ahead of us. I wasn't sure if it would work but took an emergency med, and got to work, paying special attention to being mindful and keeping control of my thoughts. I imagined a knight vanquishing all negativity. As the day passed my mood improved - meds and mindful activity saved me!

So for anyone that struggles like I do or has a loved one that does, know that blips happen and don't give in if you can help it. Maybe a day or two of indulgence is okay but take care! That day or two can slip into something much worse and may be harder to save yourself from. Have an action plan in place. And know that you are not alone.

On a more normal note, we had a lovely time celebrating Trudie's birthday. Marie and Vashek, as well as Leo and their daughter Eleanor toasted a glass to her. Carm (who helped all day) and I made a turkey dinner which turned out great. I got the idea from my mom to do the stuffing in the crockpot - it was excellent. We had sweet potato, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, mushroom gravy, and of course turkey. Darn - I forgot to put out the cranberry sauce. Bella reveled in all the petting that Eleanor lavished upon her. Spike sat close to her hoping for his share. Kabira, as usual, stayed nearby but not in the line of pet.  It was a late night so I'm a bit bleary today…

You are stronger than you seem, Braver than you believe, and smarter than you think you are.”  ~A.A. Milne

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Poodle Procrastination

For a long time I've known that the energy put into procrastinating could better be put into doing that which is being procrastinated. I know this to be true, yet I often don't action it. Today I did one of those jobs that I should have done weeks ago but have found countless excuses and reasons why 'today' was not the best day. Well, finally, today was the best day and I got the job done done.

The poodles hadn't had a haircut since mid September and since my habit is to do a proper groom every 5 weeks or so they were way, way overdue. They were covered in a thick hair that formed into ringlets. They even had ringlets on their toes (rings on their fingers and bells on their toes). The hair came off in sheets, falling to the grooming table in blankets.

As if the haircut wasn't horrible enough, they also got a bath. Squeeky clean dogs, all with short hair. There will be pajamas all around at bedtime.

Last night the windchill was -30. Today wasn’t windy and the sun was out, but it was cold. I stood at the window enjoying the sun, but I could see the cold in the air. It had a sharp look about it - I wasn’t tempted to even stick my nose outside. I’m a woos and haven't made it out of the house for a few days! We've reached the time of year when cuddling up with a book and sipping a cup of tea is the best way to spend a day. However much I want to hibernate, tomorrow more than my nose will venture forth as it is writing group day.

I finished my Christmas present book, "On Writing Well", which has been an excellent read, both entertaining and educational. Throughout the book the author has suggested readings and it just so happened that I picked one up at the used store this fall. Frank McCourt's 'Angela's Ashes' is listed as an excellent example of a memoir. I started it the other day and have to keep reminding myself that I want to learn from how he writes, not just gobble the story. I think I can apply some of his techniques to Spike's book.

(you’ll have to excuse the photos - Carm accidently had the camera set to effects).

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”  ~John Steinbeck,

Sunday, January 17, 2016

that’s what families are about

On Sunday Spike got to go to Gramma's house and meet his 'new to Canada' cousin, Freya. First he had to get puffed up and with his overly long hair he looked like an apricot cotton ball. Just for fun, I started to teach him to bring the brush; once he figured out the best way to pick it up he was a pro. He's not crazy about the actual puffing, but does like the end result as it usually means an outing, and that outing is usually to Gramma and Poppa's house.

As it was, I don't think he had the best time as much of it was on his leash. I wanted to keep him out of the way from a running little person, big people cooking sugar in the kitchen, and other perils. I think one of those fabric folding crates would be just the ticket for visits like this.

The people had a good time though!

Saturday night was our Norwegian feast. As usual, Mom had covered the table with plates and bowls of delicious food. I had a bit of fun writing about it during my writing practice today:

"She bustled around the kitchen, laying out cold meats, plating the blocks of yellow and brown cheese, and stopping to peer at the thermometer with a cable that snaked into the oven. A pile of lefse almost a foot high, nestled in a red dish towel, tried to warm itself beside the stove. On the cooktop was a large stainless steel pot full of chunks of potato. On another cold burner was a low pot with shredded red cabbage. Both burners would be turned on closer to supper time, bringing the boiled potatoes and cabbage with caraway to life.

A crystal bowl of ruby lingonberry jam sat on the counter beside a small crockpot of melted butter; bacon bits with their unctuous fat in a sturdy glass measuring cup nearby - a trio of toppings for the star of the show: lutefisk. It was in the oven beside the pork roast. Oh, there were other things: peas, meatballs for those didn't care for the lutefisk, kale salad, and countless platters of other food.

The feast of Norwegian and Canadian foods would mingle on the plates later in the evening, when the stars were out and the moon hung in the sky. She would sit at the head of the table as family gathered, the places for the three absentees forlorn. Laughter would ring through the air. "

Of course I didn't put include in my little story that my mom got a fish bone stuck in her throat… isn't that good luck or something? (I actually googled this and didn't come across any luck references, but did learn some tips on helping to remove it. Eating marshmallows or bananas seem like good options.)

It really was a lovely evening. I sat at the kids table with Juliette, Erik, and newly arrived Freya. Tammy and Graham rounded out the company at the kitchen table. I did miss out visiting with the grown-ups (and I use that term loosely) in the dining room. I'll catch up with them later.

"One wants to be together with one’s family. That’s what families are about."  ~Aung San Suu Kyi

Friday, January 15, 2016


Puffs of flour clouded the air and fell on my shoulders like fine talc. It may have dusted my nose as well. The squeak of the rolling pin and the scrape of a metal spatula against cast iron were the only sounds to be heard. It was our annual lefse day in preparation for our postponed Norwegian Christmas Eve celebration Saturday night. We had been holding off until max family saturation. I mentioned my brother-in-law Shawn the other day - he is visiting from New Zealand. But we got a bigger surprise before Christmas: my brother Olaf and his wife, Tammy, and their daughter, Freya, are moving back from NZ. Olaf got a job in a city 2 hours from here so we are wildly excited to have them back home. I haven't seen them for 2 1/2 years. Most of the family will be together tomorrow, except for Kirsten and the girls. Their absence will be a huge hole. I have a fantasy that they will do a surprise visit.

Once the last burner was turned off, we pulled a few still warm lefse from the carefully wrapped pile. Prosciutto (the closest we can get to reindeer meat - the sacrilege!), lingonberry jam and gjetost were carefully layered and then it was wrapped like a crepe. My watering mouth couldn't get a bite of it quick enough. Ahhhhh… yeah…. so, so good.

You are possibly wondering what lefse is. They look a bit like tortilla or soft tacos except the dough is made with potatoes which have been mashed with butter, milk and salt and then mixed with flour. My Kitchen Aid mixer is a great help as it does most of the kneading for me. This soft dough is rolled out thinly and cut into circles. The disks are cooked on a dry pan, flipping often, until they cooked and lightly browned on each side. Once ready they snuggle up under a dishtowel.

They are precious.

The gjetost that I put on it is a brown whey cheese from Norway. It is creamy (but semi-hard) with a sweet, almost butterscotch flavour. It must be sliced thin with a cheese slicer or it's gross.

It is precious.

I wonder why we don't make them throughout the year?

Lefse specs as a reminder for next year:
  3 recipes of 2lbs russet potatoes (6lbs) made 85 lefse. It took 2 1/2 hours with both Carm and I working steadily. We had 4 pans on the stove plus the griddler, which can do 4 at a time. Two people are mandatory to get this enormous task done in a reasonable amount of time.

I think the lefse recipe is somewhere on my blog.

"I may not always be with you
But when we're far apart
Remember you will be with me
Right inside my heart
~Marc Wambolt

Thursday, January 14, 2016

writing is freedom

Tuesday, after our trip into town for eye doctor and dentist appointments, I wandered through the house collecting Christmas decorations. I don't like to remove all traces because I like to have something special left out for the winter. A few bowls of coloured balls still sit on the table and countertops, a bit of bright sparkle for the darker days. The tree was already downstairs, wrapped in its colourful sheet. In the early spring the winter stuff will be packed back into the bins, and the "regular" treasures will surface again.

The pared down version of decor, along with sunlight flooding into the room, set the stage for a lovely lunch and afternoon with my brother-in-law, Shawn, and his sister, Kenda. My new oven thermometer was put to use - it may have been helpful or it may just have freaked me out when the oven temp shot up to 575F when it was supposed to be at 425F. Luckily I was serving Costco chicken wings and not a delicate souffle. That would have been bad. As it was the wings just caramelized a bit (a fancy way of saying they didn't burn very much). I really have to stand by the stove and monitor it while visions of a new convection oven float through my head.

Today was the first creative writing meeting since before Christmas. We don't have Don leading us but I think we'll be okay, at least until he comes back from his winter south. I don't know what anybody else thought, but I was mighty pleased to get a critique of the first 1/2 chapter from Spike's Adventure. The group pointed out a few places where I need to rewrite, which is just the kind of thing I was hoping to hear. Well, to be honest I was hoping to hear that it should be on New York Times bestseller list. I wasn't shocked to hear it need work though.

Today I feel that I'm pulling words out of my head like they were burrs stuck in Spike's fur. I wonder, why am I doing this?

For some reason, I feel a compulsion to get words down "on paper".  I like telling my story in writing as then I have time to find the words and structure my sentences. I'm not good at that in real life. When I'm writing I imagine that we are sitting in the wing chairs by the fireplace with a pretty teapot and delicate cups on the table between us. I'm telling you a story, but like the little girl who plays with her tea set with an imaginary friend, you are silent. I set out a cup of tea for you anyway, hoping that you’ll show up.

Writing is freedom from a medicated mind.

"He captures memories because if he forgets them, it's as though they didn't happen.”   ~Donald Miller

Monday, January 11, 2016

no pinktastraphy

With the only vaseline in sight safely corralled in its container, I unearthed the accoutrements from the drawer. The bright pink jar of dye was set on a towel on the bathroom counter, with comb, shower caps and the rest of the implements required for the magical sleight of hand nearby. Everything else was stored away from any pink mishaps.

Carm was on hand to help with any pinktastraphies (there were none), so I got to work, swirling gobs of paste into a little section of my hair. All went well and I sat about to wait for the unveiling. Thirty minutes have never seemed so long, but finally the moment was at hand. It worked!

Crazy! And perhaps a little childish, but hey, one of the things I am going to work on this year is bringing less adult and more child to my life. I read a blog post (which I lost - dooh) about New Year traditions. What this guy did is sit down (with a bottle of booze, but that's neither here nor there), and write down things that he'd like to do in the upcoming year. Including things that will make him a better person or that might change his life. He gave a few examples and then I quickly opened a notepad and started my own list. It has the usual stuff which is pretty cliche, but near the top is "laugh more - watch funny movies or programs, read funny books, be goofy". This is one area of my life that I feel needs the most improvement. I used to be goofy and laugh more, then my illness struck and either it or all the meds sucked the funny out of my life. I like funny, and maybe if I work hard on this I can recapture some of the zany. Carm doesn't help as he may be more serious than I am (he claims he isn’t, which means that I must be pretty darn serious). So we'll both have to work on it. We can do it together, while practicing the rumba.

"There's only one true superpower amongst human beings, and that is being funny. People treat you differently if you can make them laugh."  ~Jeff Garlin

Sunday, January 10, 2016

a certain level of insanity

Rain poured down from the sky as if a giant bucket was being tipped above the house. If it was summer a day of rain would green the grass and make flowers bloom. Instead, the blooming laneway has been made into an impossible path, glare ice glazes its surface and with the rain on top of the ice it is slicker than slick. We were pleased we didn't have anywhere to go, but often walked to the window like a prisoner in a grey cell.

The dogs, of course, get pushed out the door at the usual times; Kabira has to be given a second shove, but the poodles with their thick fur are more compliant. Their long, kinky hair absorbs water like a sponge and when they shake, pools of water form. Spike has to be sent to bring me fresh socks. Not a shirker, he jumps to the task, eager to be told how helpful he is, and maybe thinking about the treat that is sure to follow.

I'm sure you don't remember the fiasco of the dog bed cover I made last year. It has been giving good service, but Kabira occasional pulls it off one end of the bed. It needed elastic at the corners to foil her efforts. I finally got around to doing the enhancements, wrestling with the 6' long heavy canvas cover and jamming the needle into the thick layers. Like most of my sewing efforts, it is a hack job, but hopefully will do it's job.

I don't know if I should admit to this level of insanity or not… I have an Android database program that I've designed tables and forms for keeping a food log and mood log. I also have tables to keep track of camping and a freezer inventory. I've been thinking of adding tasks such as 'wash the blinds in the guest bathroom', etc. I have this feeling that if my list is computerized I will be more likely to get the job done. It may be a pipe dream, but today I was feeling antsy and a bit like immersing myself into my favorite parts of my old job so got to work. A combination of lookup tables and data tables have combined together like the ingredients for an old fashioned English trifle (oh my, why did I chose that analogy, now I'm hungry, and not for brussels sprouts).

I hope I’m not tempting fate, but we are well into the winter and I’m still ‘A ok’. It might be a combination of careful attention to medication, sleep and activity levels and I suspect that a big dose of good luck has been on my side as well! I know I’ve been sharing posts on facebook about depression, not because I’m dragging the black dog, but because they are good articles that I hope might help someone.

Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.”  ~Bill Watterson

Saturday, January 9, 2016

ground meat

On Friday the walls of the house started closing in on us. We hadn't been out for what seemed like ages, so, like knights on a quest we rumbled down the road in our trusty black steed (Subaru) heading south. Our sights were set on the St. Lawerence, or more accurately 1km north of that mighty flow of water. We turned into the Basket Case parking lot, turned off the car and walked to the door. A sign tucked in the bottom right corner of the door proclaimed that they were closed for holidays and wouldn't be open until January 12. Monday. This was Friday and we'd just driven 45 minutes for lunch. We were both in the mood for a club sandwich, and no other club would do.

Reeling with disappointment we tried to figure out what to do. I headed into the used store to give myself time to think. A few books caught my attention and with the distraction of a shelf full of dishes I remembered the Donair place down the road. Okay. That's where we'll go.

Drive drive drive some more - our destination was almost 30 minutes away. Liquidation is on our way so let's stop there. I argue that we don't need anything and if I go in I'll find something to buy. I'm talked into a quick visit. I find something to buy - winter boots which will be great for snowshoeing and walking in puddly days. Carm got some boots too.

A better idea for lunch comes up. The Works for a hamburger - we have a coupon for $5 off. It's only another 1/2 hour of driving. As we near the city traffic builds and the crush of buildings takes over from gentle farmland. Finally we are there.

It is a small restaurant and they don't seem interested in making it very warm. I needed the full-on seat heater when we were back at the car. I had a 'Man-o-War' which was a combination of caramelized onions, horseradish, cheese and dijon sauce. A piece of cardboard would be good with this concoction. On a burger it was great.

Did I really eat the whole thing? You betcha (not the fries though).

We had one more coupon to cash in: a $5 discount on anything at Pet Valu. I bought another bag of the Zuke's pork treats which smell like pork and rosemary.

We needed the umbrella this morning. Yesterday the forecast was for freezing rain or snow overnight and into the morning. We had to get going early to pick up 240 lbs of frozen raw meat/bone bricks for the dogs, and unfortunately the meeting place was a 45 minute drive away… if the roads were good. I tossed and turned all night worried about the potential freezing rain. I'm a nervous passenger at the best of times...

We had gotten snow overnight and the temperature had raised to rain range so we were spared the freezing rain. Instead it poured while we were waiting for the delivery truck. A line of around 100 people stood under umbrellas and with hoods pulled over their heads. I will admit to staying in the car for much of the wait, while Carm braved the rain. He was happy though as there were lots of people to talk to and the common interest is dogs.

I joined Carm just before the truck arrived, insinuating myself into the group of people Carm was talking with. They represented a variety of breeds: German Shepherds, Rotties, and two unrelated people with Great Danes. Add our poodles and ridgeback and it was a multi cultural group. None of us had our dogs with us, we needed room in our vehicles for bags and bags of dog meat. Whoa there! Not 'dog meat' but meat for dogs.

Had I mentioned that it was raining and that it is January 10th? We were happy to get safely home with no icy roads (actually there was some ice on the way there), and the freezer is full to the top. I think we have enough for almost 3 months.

"The trees down the boulevard stand naked in thought,
Their abundant summery wordage silenced, caught
In the grim undertow; naked the trees confront
Implacable winter's long, cross-questioning brunt."
~D. H. Lawrence

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

it's freezing in there

A respite. The sun was warm on my skin as I stood outside with my face tipped to the sun, or maybe it wasn't really warm at all but was a contrast from the biting cold from a few days ago. -30C with the wind chill to a balmy -1C. There was a bit of a breeze, enough to make me wish I had a hat on, but light enough to ignore unless I was standing still.

The snow was perfect for making a snowman, but my lack of mittens held me back. That and the fact that I can't remember where the dogs have been pooping these days.  One snowy evening during our first year of retirement we made a snowman, rolling big balls of snow and piling them up into our version of Frosty. I think we were more in the moment then, and still delighted with the freshness and excitement of retirement. I think we have to get out of our rut and make a few snowpeople!

Carm left some groceries out it the car overnight... in freezing temperatures... it was produce. Garlic, 2 giant red peppers and 2 good sized sweet potatoes were frozen solid. Luckily it wasn't lettuce or other vegetable that would become slime. It would be a shame to throw out such a bounty, so I got busy. Red pepper and sweet potatoes were minced in the food processor and thrown into the crockpot for a soup (along with onion, diced tomatoes and thyme). Half of one of the red peppers married with some celery, onion and carrot for the mirepoix that is the base for butternut squash risotto. We cooked the squash in the microwave to make it slightly easier to peel. It is a brilliant orange, a remarkable colour. Finally there was the garlic. It got roasted and packaged up in foil, one bulb in each shiny bundle. They are getting frozen for real now, ready to make dips and spreads. I saw a recipe for a vegan dip with white kidney beans that is a must try!

It took me a few hours to get all the chopping and food processing, peeling and baking done but now I have 3 meals worth of the risotto and probably 3 of the soup (it is still cooking in the crockpot). Yeah!

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”   ~Edith Sitwell

Monday, January 4, 2016

in the Pink

It is sunny today!!!! Beams of light are flooding into the house brightening not just the surroundings, but my mood as well. It won't be long (I'm writing this part at 1:50), until the sun moves into the west window and makes a giant sun spot on the futon. The dogs will migrate from other parts of the house to this warm pool of light, and I might squeeze myself between them and do some writing for the creative writing group which will start up in just over a week.

Sometimes when I want to do something, I get caught up in just getting it done and get in a rush, at times not thinking things out fully… This happened to me yesterday. I planned to dye a strand of my hair pink with the new permanent hair dye I got the other day. Easy, right. Just follow the instructions. So I did. I pulled my hair back with my hands and started applying vaseline to my hairline and forehead. Small problem, my hair had dried falling over my eyes, and not carefully blown back. The vaseline was getting everywhere, including in some of my hair - I panicked. I called Carm and got him to hold my hair back, and as he did so he reached his hand down my forehead and pulled back. Ack! My hair was/is/may be for days covered in a thick layer of slick vasoline. It wasn't really his fault as I hadn't told him why I wanted his help. I washed my hair with Dawn but I think I only succeeded in spreading, not removing. Talk about a bad hair day! My hair is standing straight up in a greasy, unruly mess. No photos.

Some things went right yesterday. We picked up a few more tomatoes for the wonderful salsa that I made New Years. It turned out perfectly with just the right amount of heat. We ate it with celery, cucumber and of course nacho chips... while watching 'CSI Special Victims Unit'. I've never watched it before - I'm not actually crazy about dramatic programs - but Carm was watching it and I got sucked in. We binge watched, if 2 more episodes counts as bingeing.

Later on today… I washed my hair a few times and went through the rigamarole of dyeing. I now have a very faint, semi-permanent (how long we shall see) pink swish in my bang. It can barely be seen by the naked eye, and there is only a bit of vaseline slicking some of my hair back. I guess I'll have to work on this hair colour thing…  Still no photos (maybe in the glare of light tomorrow).

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance. The wise grows it under his feet.”  ~James Oppenheim

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year! 2016. Impossible. It's cliche, but every year the time seems to go faster, speeding up like a runaway train. 2016, retired 5 years, 53 years years old… the list of impossibilities goes on. I was in my 20s just the other day… Y2K was in recent memory… well, you know!

It was a quiet night with only one friend over. Cathey has been with us to toast in the new year for many years. I was glad it wasn't a big do as I wasn't feeling very well. We started a new tradition last night, instead of heaps of rich, fat filled foods, we ate the new year in vegan style. What could we possibly eat?

We started with cucumber and celery with a hummus dip, plus I made salsa using the recipe from the Acapulco (roast tomatoes and jalapenos with a bit of garlic. Process in food processor. Eat while smiling broadly at the deliciousness.

Lemony Lentil soup was the second course. Rich tasting with the brightness of lemon. A bit filling but since we were spreading the meal over a few hours it was okay.

Roasted portobello mushrooms, red pepper, and brussels sprouts was served with brown and wild rice. A thyme scented mushroom gravy and peas finished off the main course. It was actually pretty good.

Vegan black bean brownies were enjoyed for dessert. They aren't like a rich, chewy traditional brownie, but I guess they are better for the waistline. Plus there was no butter, flour, or added sugar. They were sweetened with a couple of dates and a ripe banana.

Not exactly pork roast stuffed with a sausage, wild rice, fennel dressing, but a healthier start to the new year (a part of me says pish posh to healthy for a big occasion, but I was catering to our friend).

After a night that almost met daybreak I watched the Rose Bowl parade then switched the channel over to TCM for some black and white classics. Mindless entertainment for a mindless day.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.  ~Helen Keller