Wednesday, August 30, 2017

jeweled balm for the battered spirit

The sun beat down on my back as I sat on the step filing my nails. It felt good. I raised my eyes and looked towards the trees that skirt the far side of the pond and marveled at the crispness of each leaf. Above them, the sky was the kind of blue that you see in the fall, when the air isn’t languid and soft with humidity. All the moisture now lay in the grass, a thick layer of dew that fell in the night. The dogs got their legs wet, and my pink crocs did nothing to keep the water away from my feet when we did our little toodle around the edge of the field this morning.

Thoughts of winter flash in my brain - unwelcome and quickly pushed away.

It was haircut and bath day for the dogs yesterday. They showed a certain amount of dismay when Carm hauled out the grooming table as they know full well what is coming. They were good though and cooperated well. Now they are sleek and hairless until their coats grow in, which will take less time than one would hope…

Sunday I attended my niece, Grace’s, wedding shower. I hitched a ride with my sister-in-law Tammy as it was way out on the far side of town. It was a lovely shower and I was so glad that I went. As an added bonus we stayed for supper at Frank & Tammy’s, something that we rarely do. The thing about families is that often get-togethers are all or nothing events, and with 4 siblings and their families it gets to be overwhelming.

I’m good with 2 or 4 guests at a time, after that I start to panic. I never know what to cook for big crowds. I think it is easier when a hunk of meat is at the center of the menu, but since I try to keep plant-based it gets trickier.

Of course I say plant-based, but what do I have in the instant pot? Eggs. We’ll be giving those up as soon as golf is over. I like to send Carm with a snack for the 9th hole and an egg, apple and walnuts seem to keep him fueled.

See this site for some eye opening facts about eggs:

All that being said about eggs, I love a hard-boiled egg just barely cooled. And the instant pot makes them gosh-darn easy to peel ;-)

Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.”

~Ada Louise Huxtable

Saturday, August 26, 2017

common everyday life

Fall has surely arrived. I made a go with the swing (after pre-made a bunch of lunches and suppers), but when the sun skirted behind the clouds I felt a definite chill. I was tempted to bring out a blanket for the cool bits.

It is almost 4pm and I’m inside now watching golf… it is the CP Women's Open which is being played in Ottawa. We have a runner in the race too which makes it as exciting as a game of golf can be (yawn). Too bad that she played earlier in the day before the cameras arrived.

Remember that chili the other day… well… it came out totally runny, more like soup than chili. I was going to drain it but then at the last minute thought of adding rice and cooking it for another 7 minutes. So I divided all but one supper’s worth into containers and added the rice. Fire up the IP and voila. The result was great!

I put one container in the freezer for camping. My plan is to have a few meals in the bag so to speak for our trip so that we keep with the weight loss.

I decided to spice things up a little yesterday and made a trip to Dollarama for some spice jars. The camper cache hadn’t had a good go through for ages but  now they are in matching bottles and filled with fresh herbs and spices. I’ll be motivated to cook when we are out :-)

Just look how exciting my life is. I’ve become obsessed with cooking and finding recipes, but not much else is going on.

a little while later… soup is done and packaged up. Four suppers for fridge/freezer. When it is time to eat: add to instant pot, add mushrooms, frozen veg, and uncooked pasta. Seven minutes on high pressure and supper is ready. (note to self: that’s 7 minutes after it comes up to pressure which might be 20 min if frozen.)

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, August 24, 2017

its been chili

Four o’clock. It’s two pm now so I have two hours until I have to start the chili… two hours to work up the energy to get chopping and slicing. The beans have soaked and are ready to go, but the red and green peppers, and onions sit on the kitchen counter, taunting me with their wholeness. The knife still has to do its work there. I haven’t made a chili for a few years and can’t recall the potion of spices required to make a tasty meal but how hard can it be?

Monday was possibly the last day of summer. I lazed around on the back deck, taking it easy on the swing, and dipping in the pool when I got too hot. I was glad that I luxuriated and didn’t spend my day in the basement sorting, or equally as bad, in the city.

It has been sunny but cool for the last few days (or was there a day of rain in there?). Nights have started dipping below 10C, so that might be it for the pool until next year. We don’t have a heater, instead we rely on Mother Nature to keep it warm which usually works out okay. This year she’s favoring and earlier move to autumn.

Yesterday I had breakfast with Diane and Mary. It was a treat to see them :-) although meeting at the bakery was a challenge for me: unctuous apple fritters, delectable donuts, marvelous pastries… well, you get the idea. I stuck with a bagel & cream cheese which wasn’t the best, but was a nice treat.

Four o’clock already and the chili has started to cook. As usual, I put too much stuff in to be able to fit everything that I wanted. Can of diced tomatoes - nix. Mushrooms - nix. So, I’ll do what I’ve been doing with the soup: cook the base, divide into meal portions, then when it is time to make the meal add the missing ingredients and fire up the instant pot. I’ve been thinking of getting the bigger pot, but figure I’d be in the same boat, just with more meal portions. A second pot? Maybe. Better planning? Perhaps.

Monday, August 21, 2017

these beautiful days

A week has passed since I last wrote. It wasn’t a hectic time, but somehow there was never the time or energy to put my fingers on the keyboard.

We picnicked again, this time after a visit with Carm’s mom. We stopped at a  beach along the Ottawa river and spread out our tablecloth. Pita spread with hummus and jammed with arugula were repeats on the menu, along with bright red cherry tomatoes.  A summer delight. There was a kiosk selling beer and burgers, but we were good.

That was Thursday. What did we do Friday? Can’t remember much except that I made a giant pasta fagioli soup to have on Saturday with guests. Don’t you feel that soups and stews are always better the second day? Saturday I just had to add 4 servings back to the instant pot, add a bunch of vegetables, the pasta, and set the timer for 5 minutes. Voila!

The instant pot makes soups a breeze. I saute the onions and celery right in the pot, then add my spices, dried beans, and any vegetables that I want to over-cook. Turn it on and leave it to do its work. The beans get soft and make a thick broth and the flavours have a chance to meld under the pressure.

We had Jim and Cathey over for supper Saturday. We ate the soup to start and then since Cathey was curious about it, I put the actifry to work and brought out dish after dish of roasted vegetables to nibble on. We had sweet potatoes, regular baby potatoes, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms, and maybe something else that I’m forgetting. We didn’t even leave the table all night.

Sunday we helped my mom get her new bedroom set put together. Carm and Graham huffed and puffed the old mattress and box spring downstairs and the new one upstairs. The headboard and footboards had to come up the stairs. It was heavy work and I’m glad Graham was there to help. And of course Carm is my muscle man.

My mind keeps going to Barcelona and all the people that lost their lives or loved ones, or were injured by the insanity. We were there just a few months ago - one of the clips shows the shop where I bought coasters - it was all bashed in. I know I shouldn’t dwell on it and that the odds of something happening are slim… but...

Now, it is a beautiful sunny day (albeit windy), and I am writing this on the swing. I might go for a swim soon. There are fewer days left of summer than we’ve already had so each day seems more precious than the last.

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

a picnic basket

The raindrops splattered on the windshield less than 10 minutes after we were in the car. It was okay though: we were on our way home and we’d already had the picnic that had been planned months ago. As the weeks rolled by there were countless reasons we didn’t pack up the picnic basket and hit the road: afternoons often had rain in the forecast; Carm was golfing 3 days a week; visits to my brother were higher priority; Carm was visiting his mom. There were more reasons than could be counted.

Yesterday was forecast to be beautiful but I had woken up limp like a dirty dishcloth. I knew if we stayed home I would mope around all day so I took that chance that I’d perk up and we hit the road - finally that picnic would come to life. There was no fried chicken and potato salad in our basket, no, we had our usual lunch of hummus with pita and arugula. The previous night’s transgression at my mom’s had left Carm with higher blood pressure (we are guessing salt), and an uptick on the scale for both of us. We are determined to get into fighting fit shape.

It was about a 50 minute drive to our destination, but some of that was on a low speed road with beautiful homes and farms abutting the strip of asphalt. Old stone walls with stone houses hidden behind trees sparked wishful thinking (on my part anyway).

It was a beautiful day for a drive.

We reached our first destination and grabbed the picnic basket out of the car. An old white table cloth was thrown over the nearby table. Before eating we took a little walk along the lock and wondered if we’d be lucky enough to see a boat go through (we weren’t).

Lunch was eaten in the dapple shade of giant trees, sun glinting off the still canal waters. Lovely.

After lunch we drove to Merrickville, a little ‘boutique’ village not far from the locks. We wandered up and down the street, ducking into the odd shop to see their wares. Carm bought some spicy peanuts. Before we went back to the car we stopped at the locks in the village to see a boat go through. It was tall enough that they had to swing the bridge clear of the waterway. There wasn’t a clunk or a shudder as the road swung around - the mechanics were perfect.

And then we were back to the car, ready to make our way home. It was a lovely afternoon!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

that beautiful season

As I walked down the laneway, dogs on their leashes beside me, I was almost overcome by the perfection of the morning. The sun shone brightly with only a few fluffy white clouds on the horizon, the air was soft and warm, the fragrance of honey dripped from the goldenrod. Something else is flowering too, adding a depth to the sweetness in the air. Heavenly.

We completed our walk in bliss and once back in the house I rushed around getting the swing and back deck ready for a lazy day. Grace was equally anxious to get outside, muttering under her breath as we stepped out the door.

The last few days have been much like our other days, a mix of busy and remarkably lazy. I visited my brother on Tuesday, we went shopping on Wednesday (at least I think it was Wed, the days have been blurring together), we visited my brother-in-law on Friday, were lazy on Saturday. I’ve left off Carm’s exertion marathon of grass cutting.

I lamented the other day about not being shoppers and not having that activity to distract us. For one afternoon that was remedied: Wednesday I decided that we’d go to the mall in the hopes of finding one more top for the cruise - the summer stuff should be on sale. In the first store I found a nice, slightly dressy top that will be perfect. We tracked down a changing room and as I stared at the blinding white lump in the mirror I remembered my aversion to shopping… I stuck my head back into the sand and stepped outside the changeroom so Carm could make his proclamation. It was a buy.

I girded my loins (so to speak) and we continued our quest. Maybe we’d find another. In the second store I noticed a bright fuschia top hanging against one wall. The colour caught my eye so I grabbed my size and searched for the change room. Again we found the cash register and walked out of the store with a second bag.

Still we pressed on. I think Carm was on a roll and secretly hoping that we’d never have to come again if we made one more purchase. He was in luck - two more tops were bagged.

This is a big change for me as none of the tops are t-shirts, which is pretty much all I wear. I suppose I am starting to dress my age which totally freaks me out as I’ll be 55 in just over a month. Holy crap. But that’s a whole other topic…

I haven’t been getting on the treadmill but I do have an excuse. Since the hay was cut, I’ve been walking the dogs around the field several times a day. The exercise is good for all of us, plus it’s good mental stimulation for the dogs. Sometimes I walk them around on their leashes, mainly so I’m not standing calling them constantly as they find something else to investigate. It’s also good for them to remember leash walking as in less than a month we’ll be camping!

Sound fills the air. Cicadas are singing. Grace is chatting. Leaves are rustling.

At this exact second in time life is perfect.

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, August 7, 2017

days dash by

I opened the door to September this morning: cool with a bright sparkling sky. I’m holding out hope for more swimming weather near the end of the week - I just bought a new pool noodle to try out!

Yesterday (Sunday), after some futzing around, which included some house cleaning, we decided that we’d like to have company for supper so gave a ring to Peter and Julie. As luck would have it they were free and joined us for a congenial evening. We met up with them not long ago at the Keg where we celebrated our shared anniversary together.


Some of the text below was written on Sunday afternoon, before we cleaned the house and got ready for spur of the moment company. The rest was written the day before that - it is all a jumble and I don’t expect you to read through it.

I wish we were shoppers, you know, the kind of people who are happy wandering around a mall with no goal. It would be good to have something to do when I want to get out of the house, but there is no particular destination. Going out for lunch would be nice, but we are on a serious weight loss program.

Today is cool and windy - a day we’d be happy with if it was October…

When I opened my file to start today’s blog I found a few paragraphs that I had started but never finished. I want to remember some of it so will look back into the past today.

Thursday was a whirlwind of visiting Graham, and then Carm’s mom who is in the hospital. She is safely out, back into the nursing home, and doing well. At 89 even the simplest ailments are serious.

I had started the day Thursday with two small pieces of grilled tofu and by 3pm was faint with hunger. Luckily (?) the hospital has a Tim Hortons so I was able to get a bagel with cream cheese. I should have passed, as not only eating in a hospital a little gross (all those germs - we passed one room that was being cleaned by people with hazmat suits on), but we left for home not long after so I could have saved the calories. Carm is now down 21 lbs, me? only 8…

Saturday we got the grooming table out and gave the poodles haircuts on their faces and bellies. And then everyone got a bath. There wasn’t much happiness in our house yesterday afternoon.

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
~Norman Vincent Peale

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

summer's sweet sensation

I thought I’d stay on the swing and enjoy the light shower - I’d be protected overhead by a small canopy and there was no wind to drive the drops underneath. Then the thunder started and I figured that sitting on a metal swing, under a metal gazebo, would not be the smartest.

We are having another gorgeous day, until now (it’s 2:30pm). Clouds have moved in as forecast - boo hoo. (But wait an hour and the sun is in and out of the clouds.) But no matter the clouds hazing the sky, the air is fragranced by the nectar of so many wildflowers. I stand and breathe in deeply and a feeling of contentment descends.

I don’t know why, but today I am so tired I can barely move - I’ve been like that for a few weeks but today was the worst. Since we’ve drastically cut down salt, I’m wondering if my lithium levels are getting out of whack. The two are tightly bound. I guess I need to find a way to add a little bit of salt to what I’m eating while not increasing Carm’s intake.

I did drag myself into the car for a drive - Carm at the wheel. We picked up dog food in a village about 20 min away, driving down country back roads for a change of scenery. I love the beauty of a rural road with their ditches brimming with wild flowers, and newly cut hay fields stretching out on either side.

I’m making cajun black beans and rice in the instant pot tonight, and cauliflower and zucchini in the actifry. The black beans are cooking now - it is a bit of an experiment with cooking them partway from dry so I can finish them with the rice. We shall see. I’ve never had much luck cooking dried beans in the ancient past and had given up trying. Since we got the Instant Pot I’ve done romano and chickpeas with great success.

The luxury of all summer's sweet sensation is to be found when one lies at length in the warm, fragrant grass, soaked with sunshine, aware of regions of blossoming clover and of a high heaven filled with the hum of innumerous bees.”
~Harriet E. Prescott

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

lie sometimes on the grass under the trees

Grace crunches her dried pellets, a slight breeze ruffling her feathers. The pellets are a treat for her when she is outside - I think it must be like us eating a bowl of popcorn or other crunchy treat. Usually she eats people food.

It is a beautiful summer day with a bit more heat than we’ve been having. We had scheduled a picnic along the Rideau waterway for today, but decided to save it for a day that isn’t so hot. These sultry days are treasures for lazily reading (and writing!) on the swing, with an occasional dip into the pool. The pool liner is blue which makes the water look like an exotic sea set in a field of grass and wild flowers.

After making all that pesto yesterday I felt that it was only fair to invite Trudie & Leo over for supper. Half of what we ate came from their garden: new potatoes, zucchini (done in the actifry), the pesto that was slathered on the pasta. Oh to be able to have a summer meal in the winter with vegetables fresh from the garden!

I made hard-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot today - wow. Easy to peel and perfectly done - yolks were creamy but firm. No guessing, just 5-5-5 (five minutes at high pressure, 5 minutes natural release, then 5 minutes in icy water.) I may have been imagining it, but these were especially delicious.

I do wonder how I cooked before the Instant Pot and Actifry!

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.”

~John Lubbock