Monday, January 29, 2018

a heartbeat at my feet

Ice. Ice. Ice. We are living in a world of ice and I’m sick of it. The laneway is impassable to all except our trusty Subaru. Our visitors last night slipped and slid into their parking spaces and needed a few shoves to get them on their way again at the end of the night. I won’t walk outside. I get in the car for a drive to the gate when we go anywhere, and even then slide all over the place when I open the gate.

It is ridiculous. The field is covered in a thick glaze. We could probably skate on it.

So life carries on inside the house. I’ve still got the cooking bug and made a ginger lime carrot soup that came partly from a recipe online and partly from my head. I’ll write it down in ChefTap so that I can recreate it. We had company and everyone had seconds.

I’ve probably mentioned Spikes anxiety over Pat’s visits. He has a good memory and we are pretty sure he associates her with me leaving. He tries to hide and shakes like a leaf when she comes over. Poor Pat - I hope she doesn’t take it personally. His anxiety triggers my anxiety and when we are away I am worried sick about him - scared he’d run away or something - obviously nothing happened, but I can’t help but worry.

So after we got home I knew I had to find a solution otherwise there is no point on me going away. I investigated drugs (there might be one that works), I tried a herbal concoction called Rescue Remedy - it had helped him relax in the truck on our trip west a few years ago - but it didn’t work. Then I remembered someone talking about D.A.P. collars/sprays a few years ago. I did some research -thank goodness for Google! DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone which is the hormone released by a nursing dog to keep her puppies calm. It seemed worth trying. A local trainer carried a few items so I met with Michelle yesterday and got a spray and a collar.

Pat was coming to supper so it was the perfect time for the first trial. I followed the instructions for the spray (I’ll leave the collar sealed until our trip) and tied the spritzed bandana around Spikes neck a few minutes before Pat’s arrival.

He didn’t exactly run to the door to greet her, but he didn’t hide and stayed on ‘his’ loveseat for a while. He wasn’t shaking and didn’t have his tail tucked. He was noticeably better - he only hid in the pantry a few times and could be lured out with a treat, which he actually ate. He even did a few tricks which wouldn’t have happened before. Others noticed a difference too, so it wasn’t just me.

I have hope that with exposure he’ll come to love Pat as much as the other dogs do, and maybe not worry so much about us leaving.

My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet.” ~Edith Wharton

Thursday, January 25, 2018

freezing rain again

We had freezing rain Monday night into Tuesday. Spike had to go out in the middle of the night and I could see him slip sliding as he made his way across the snow. Tricky to do business when your feet don’t stay underneath you! Luckily it had changed to rain by mid morning and the roads were clear by early afternoon.

The temperatures dropped again and now our laneway is a treacherous skating rink and I am reluctant to stick my nose out the door. I did eventually work up the nerve and strapped on my ‘icers’ so I could (gingerly) walk down the laneway… once... Sheer ice.

I’ve been in a cooking mood lately and have been trying some new recipes. Two Sundays ago when Pat was over I tried a ‘creamy wild rice soup’ which was good, but I don’t think it was good enough to waste a cup of wild rice over.

This past Sunday (Pat was over again), I made a lentil mushroom shepherds pie and I’ll have to say that it was fantastic. It got an easy 5/5 stars from all of us. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it as lentils are not my favorite, but the seasoning was bang on so it wasn’t ‘lentily’ at all.

Tuesday night I made up an onion mushroom soup. Again, 5/5. It took a lot of cooking time in the IP but since it was all unattended it was no big deal. I often throw together a bunch of ingredients together and usually forget how much of everything I used, so lately I’ve been either updating the recipe with my changes, or adding new recipe to the database. I use an app called Cheftap on my tablet/phone/pc that imports recipes from the internet with just a press of the button. Then I can categorize and edit the recipe. There is an export feature to take a backup, and since it is in the cloud I can access from all my devices. How cool is that!

We had Jo Ellen and Don over last night to celebrate them booking the Panama cruise with us. We are now a group of 8, including Andy & Edna, as well as Jo Ellen’s cousin Kathy & Neil. We are excited :-)

We have all our bookings, including air and hotel, for another Caribbean cruise the beginning of April. We may have lost our minds a bit (especially Carm, this was pretty much his idea). I told Spike but I don’t think he understood… I may use a DAP collar for him as these supposedly alleviate anxiety - does anyone have any experience with them? I may need one for myself :-0

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
~Ursula K. Le Guin

Saturday, January 20, 2018

bling and lots of it

It wasn’t snowing yesterday (which means the roads were clear and almost dry), and it wasn’t -30C, so we decided to venture out to Winchester, a nearby town with a few shops. I was interested in clothing stores which is somewhat out of character for me. We have another cruise in our future and since we plan on eating in the dining room instead of the buffet, I want a few nicer outfits.

Yes, I said it… outfit. I don’t think I’ve ever used this word to refer to myself, Kabira is the only one in this house that has an outfit. There is something so, well, I don’t know, maybe middle aged about the term. Certainly it isn’t a term to be used for the jeans and t-shirts that I normally wear. But I’m going to expand my wardrobe for this cruise and dress up a bit.

Which brings us to shopping. Our first stop was at a place called CJam - it had an eclectic collection of clothes and a charming owner to help us, so I picked out a few things to try and disappeared into the change room. Not much of it fit very well, or just looked stupid on me, but I did find a dark navy sleeveless top that fit perfectly, no small feat as I rarely have luck with sleeveless. I also scored a simple black camisole to be worn under a scarf thing that I bought on the last cruise.

But on a shelf along a wall flashed a necklace that kept drawing my eye… it was a huge statement piece with tons of bling. It is over-the-top fancy. I tried it on… we negotiated with the owner… and it was packed into a bag with the two tops. I was thrilled. I love bling.

I wore it around the house last night and marvelled at the way it caught every flicker of light. I can’t wait to wear it somewhere, but aside from the cruise (where it will fit right in), I’m not sure where.

Friday, January 19, 2018

black slash

The alarm went off before the sky was fully light, actually it never did get bright out as there was a thick cloud cover all day. Well, back to getting up… the stove was coming between 8am and 12, so we had to get at it and get the old stove out of the way and cleaned up, and the spot wiped clean of years of cobwebs and other yucky things. I guess we aren’t good housekeepers as we don’t drag the stove out very often.

After some scrubbing all there was left to do was wait for the delivery. Happily, at 9am the truck rolled down the laneway. The delivery guys had the stove in and the old stove into the garage within 10 minutes - these guys were efficient.

Once we let the stove come to room temp Carm got in place to plug it in. Nope, nada, not going to happen. The plug orientation had the cord coming out at the bottom and there was no way there was room for the thick cord. The breaker was already flipped to turn the power off, so we got a screwdriver and got to work. Carm was able to rotate the outlet 90 degrees so that the cord would be in the right orientation - it took a few tries to figure out how to do it, but eventually the stove was plugged in.

The huge black cooking service, and the huge black glass door, are like a huge black swath in my all-white kitchen. The stainless parts are minimal and therefore don’t look too bad. It’s the black that catches my eye. I can’t say that I was overjoyed. Oh, and that black and stainless: impossible to keep clean, showing every fingerprint and smudge.

And then it was time to fit in the stuff from the bottom drawer… you know, the cookie sheets, baking pans, muffin tins… not happening… at least not all of it… the drawer was ½ the size. Now I had to find room for the rest so emptied a spot in another cupboard and tried to find a place for THAT stuff… the ripple effect.

After an hour of ‘break-in’ time (run oven at 400f), I put in a batch of shortbread cookies and was pleased when they came out perfectly.

So what next? I decided that, even though we rarely cook meat, I wanted a roast of something so we trundled out to the grocery store. A pack of pork tenderloin had our name on it.  I searched the internet for cooking instructions and finally settled on a method. In at 375 for 30 minutes, but since I was cooking at the convection roast setting I backed the time to 25 min. It was perfect.

The top of the stove wasn’t so perfect: I had browned the meat before putting it in the oven and the black stovetop was spattered with oil… oh yuck. I suppose my old stovetop would have been the same, but I don’t think it would have required a special cleaner to make it streak free again.

Tonight I might make biscuits. Any suggestions of other oven dishes that I can try out?

“Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
~Craig Claiborne

Monday, January 15, 2018

dirge music

Her stories are like Leonard Cohen’s songs, beautiful prose about depressing topics. Dirge music. Dirge stories. I can’t do a marathon read of Alice Munro. Her stories are about the poor and downtrodden, those without much hope or beauty in their lives. The settings are often depressing and hardscrable: shacks, scruby old farms and dingy homes in poor towns. Their struggles are depressing and the outcomes rarely uplifting. The topics are raw and gritty, impossible to put down, but difficult to start again. Her brilliance with the written word has me turning the pages again.

So, like my Leonard Cohen albums (which I can only listen to for a while), her stories are ones to be read and savored, but not for too long.

Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o'clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.”
~Thomas de Quincey

Sunday, January 14, 2018

swarovski crystals

It is sunny today and that is a blessing. Of course with the sun comes wicked cold, but that’s okay cause I’m toasty and warm in a sun spot.

The trees outside are glinting in the sun, the ice on their limbs like the swarovski crystals on the bracelet my Mom gave me for my birthday: Nature’s inspiration.

I’ve been getting on the treadmill most days but skipped yesterday. Instead I froze my butt off shoveling over a foot of snow from the back deck. I was out for around an hour, although I did have to deek into the house to warm up and find some long johns… luckily I had bought these awesome merino wool blend tights that did the trick. I didn’t take them off for the rest of the day as they were so silky. They were from Liquidation or Costco last winter - I wonder if they still have them, and if they do will they also have a top? A head to toe outfit would bring joy.

I don’t know if he’s keeping track, but Carm has been out with the snowblower countless times this winter. I should ask him: which is worse? snowblowing or lawnmowing? We are blessed that he is still fit enough to do both (or at least I am!).  (just checked - lawn mowing is worse because of the heat)

“Melancholy were the sounds on a winter's night.”
~Virginia Woolf

Friday, January 12, 2018

curtains of fog

Curtains of fog drift across the field blurring the trees along the road. Occasionally a puff of wind clears the fog for a moment but it soon returns. A steady rain (freezing rain maybe?) starts, beating the curtain down and I am left with an even more dismal view. Will it seem better when the rain changes to snow? Or will I feel more trapped inside.

But honestly, it’s all okay. I have a few lights on which give a nice glow, a pot of soup simmers in the instant pot (vegetable again), some old music is playing. It is warm and cosy and better yet I have nowhere to go in this soup. Carm is out visiting his mother, but should be home before the rain turns to snow. We’ll light a fire to further banish the gloom.

But day after day has been grey here and it is starting to affect my thinking, or at least I think it is. I don’t feel depressed, just meh, slow as if I’m entering a hibernation. And maybe I am, maybe that’s what I do in the winter and instead of accepting it, I rail and beat myself up over my lack of motivation. Maybe I’m quite comfortable to be all slow and sluggish, cuddled under a warm blanket, happy in a subdued way, or if not happy, at least content. But no, I feel that I should be, must be, doing things and since I don’t get going I call myself a failure and my mood takes a nose dive.

So what does all this mean? I think I’ll just go with the flow and see how it goes. I’ll be more accepting, taking the slow days as they are and enjoy the energetic days when they come. I’ll try inviting people for supper - it makes me feel cosy to cook a simple warm meal and then sink into sofas for more conversation. Going in the car doesn’t inspire me, especially if the weather is bad, but on a nice day a car ride is a nice distraction. Reading during the day is a special treat. I’ll try luring myself onto the treadmill with the promise of ‘just 10 minutes’ - that sometimes morphs to 20 minutes (and today 25 min!) - I can feel satisfied with that. I’ll find little tasks to give me a sense of accomplishment.

Then maybe I’ll get through the winter without the black dog.

And maybe, just maybe I’ll get something done in the house.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

new friends

The frost fairies got into my body powder last night and dusted the trees outside. It sparkles in the sun and with the pale blue sky it looks like a piece of art done with pastels. I actually ventured outside for more than a minute to enjoy the wonder.

Last night we met some new neighbors: Shane & Inge came over for a visit after supper so that we could meet and discuss the possibility of Shane dropping in mid-day to let the dogs out if Pat is skiing while looking after the beasts. We had a delightful time and hope to see them again soon.

The dogs took a shine to them, Spike even did some of his tricks. I think it helped that Shane & Inga didn’t hug or try to hold them, just simple pets and scratches won them over. I don’t think it is uncommon but my dogs do not like to be hugged, even by me. Their old dog, who recently passed over Rainbow bridge, didn’t care for hugging either.

My pleasures today: taking a container of soup and dumping it into the instant pot switched to the low slow cook function so that it would be ready for lunch; didn’t require any attention so I was able to get on the treadmill, which brings me to my next pleasure: snow in the field sparkled in the bright sun. The up and down motion of my steps made the stars twinkle. So pretty and motivating. If only I could bottle up the feeling.

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

a cure for all ills

A swing of 40C (counting the wind chill) has brought us up to 0C today. A pleasant break from the deep freeze, but I hope and pray that the forecast rain skirts us…

We got our hair cut yesterday, but the poodles will wait a month or two until it is consistently warmer - often we all get sheared on the same day… which reminds me, it is time to do their faces - their most dreaded day.

We were desperate to get out again today so we braved the mostly just wet roads and went to Liquidation, just to look around… Well, I don’t think I’ve ever come out of there with empty hands and today was no different. One of my finds is a shawl type thing that will be perfect for travelling. It slings over the shoulder and is easily opened for those hot flash moments. No more struggling with getting into and out of a sweater on the plane. We also picked up a few other odds and ends including a few things for gifts. So much for looking around :-o

Before we left on our sojourn I got a soup cooking in the instant pot. The beauty of the IP meant that I could set it and then leave. Today's soup had garlic, onion, celery, carrot, green beans, dried peas & romano beans, a can of diced tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1 tsp garlic powder, and of course 3 hot peppers. Ummm… it was good and made me think that maybe I need to go on a ‘soup’ diet where all I eat for a week is soup. I’d surely lose this cruise/Christmas weight quickly. Maybe next week.

The grocery store had pork loin roasts on sale for $2 and I’ll have to say I was mighty tempted to eschew our vegan diet for a hunk of meat. They were huge and could easily be cut into a few roasts - I’d love to try cooking one in the instant pot, and maybe one in our soon to be new stove (Jan 18th). But Carm was there as my good sense leprechaun so I walked away. At $2 it isn’t even too expensive for the dogs to have some as a treat.

“The lore has not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either.”
~John Steinbeck

Saturday, January 6, 2018

too cold

Minus 40… yes -40… and today was the day to line up outside to get the dog’s meat. The air was so cold it hurt and the wind whipped it into every crevice of my coat and pants. Luckily the meat guy was on time so the wait wasn't too long. We were glad when we had the 280lbs of frozen meat tucked into the car.

It is time for this cold snap to end, although who’s to say that the freezing rain we got at the beginning of January the previous two years is any better. We’ve had a vivid reminder of what ice can bring - the news has been bringing flashbacks to 1998’s (that’s 20 years ago now) ice storm when we were out of power for 9 long days. So maybe the cold is okay, for us anyway.

Aside from a quick run into Costco for some groceries we came straight home, the feeling of warmth and safety of home like a salve for frozen fingers. I quickly got to work and got a pot of soup into the instant pot for a hot lunch. It’s a lentil soup so it takes a bit longer to cook (I like the lentils to break down into a thick broth), but it should be done in less than an hour. Three hot peppers will make sure it warms us.

Tomato lentil soup: dice 1 large onion, a few cloves of garlic, 3 little hot red peppers. Saute until soft. Add 1 tsp of cumin and stir for a minute. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 ¼ cups rinsed lentils, 4 cups of chicken broth, enough water to bring the level to just over 6 cups. Cover and set IP to manual for 25 min, NR, whir up with immersion blender. Couldn’t be easier! I made the same recipe a few days ago and when I asked Carm what kind to make today he said the exact same soup. I’m writing it down here cause I’m sure to forget it.

p.s. the soup turned out great

“It's too cold outside for angels to fly.”
~Ed Sheeran

Thursday, January 4, 2018


It was a grey day yesterday, but warmer than it had been for the last week, and no snow (to speak of) falling from the sky, so we decided to drive into the city to look for stoves. I’d been putting this off for perhaps a few years, but after the New Year’s Eve fiasco we decided it was time.

My current appliances are white; my kitchen cabinets are white; I wanted white. Have you been appliance shopping in the last few years? No white, all stainless :-( Stainless and black. Not white. Oh sure, there were a few basic stoves in white, but they weren’t convection and that was a must have. So, I settled on a mid-range range in stainless. Passed over the higher-range stainless which had some nice features but was mega expensive (could that have been the right one despite the expense?) I am underwhelmed and underexcited.

The earth is all white outside my window… the sky is white… everything is white except the freaking stove. I think I’m overthinking this and worrying too much about matching and how it looks.

As I walked around the showroom I couldn’t help but notice the fingerprints and smears that were so visible on the ss. Carm said he’d look after it.

I unearthed my copy of Alice Munro’s ‘My Best Stories’ from the bookshelf and have treated myself to one short story already. Even though I’ve read it before, maybe even multiple times, her turn of phrase continues to astound. In one paragraph she’s talking about murder…

“Does the thing have to be carried through, in the end, partly for the effect, to prove to the audience of one - who won’t be able to report, only register, the lesson - that such a thing can happen…”

The victim can’t report, but will register, seems to give the victim a voice, even in death. I love the way with words she has.

I’m a slow reader though as I savour and try to absorb each word, phrase and sentence. I study the punctuation and note that even dreaded comma splices are put to work. Semi colons, commas, and periods move then slow then speed the story along, creating a rhythm that adds a depth to her words.

The birds have finally found our bird feeder and none too soon as the temps are forecast to drop into the deep freeze range again. This morning the bright red feathers of the cardinal contrasted with the blue jay’s plumage. Christmas ornaments on the tree.

The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.”
~Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


It has warmed up significantly… it is now a balmy -16C, a temperature that doesn’t hurt the skin in seconds. There are some things that I buy that I may not end up liking, or maybe it isn’t as good as I hoped for, and are a waste of money, but my down winter coat that I got two years ago is not one of those things. It cuddles me up in a puffy embrace, keeping me warm and cozy in the cold. It makes the cold days of the winter bearable.

A friend (thank you Marie), gave me a down blanket for Christmas. It is another warm hug and it’s slippery, silky, fluffiness has been keeping us warm in the evening as we watch our fix of TV. Last night we both cuddled under it to watch the last Peter Capaldi episode on Dr. Who.

My brain is muddled and is having trouble coming up with words. I’m not off to a good start for 2018. I think I’ve let my thinking become lazy… so I’ve unearthed my book of short stories by Alice Munro… her turn of phrase astounds.

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
~Ellen Goodman

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ring in the new

December 31st...the last day of 2017… where did the year go? It seems like it was just last week that I was rushing around getting ready for our celebration, and here I am again.

Last night we ventured out into the cold (-22C) to visit our neighbors. Marie and Vashek have the farm across the road, but also have a lovely condo in the village. The best of both worlds! Last night we were toasty in the condo.

It is still bitterly cold, but thankfully sunny.

Well, that was a dream thinking I’d have time to finish yesterday’s post when I had a dinner party to prepare!

So here we are in 2018, a new year, a time for new beginnings. We began the year with dear friends and plan to increase our gatherings this year. I have to remember that a simple meal with friends is better than a less frequent feast (New Year’s is the exception of course, we have to finish the year in style).

Cathey, one of our guests, spends time on Jan 1st reviewing the previous year’s goals and writing out new ones. It seems like a good idea to have something to work towards. I coast through the year and perhaps don’t get the best from my time. Today isn’t the day to do that though, my head is foggy from a busy day, a late night, rich food, and perhaps a bit much good cheer ;-)

We had a prime rib dinner and I am so disappointed that I wrecked the lovely piece of meat. My oven and oven thermometer were acting in concert to give me no idea what the actual temperature of the oven was, however I did have a meat thermometer which usually does the trick. It buzzed when it reached 142F so we quickly removed the beast. It sat under foil while I futzed around with the yorkshire pudding and by the time we cut it the meat was medium rare… by the time the yorkshire was done and we served up the meat was well done. I like it rare. Arrrrr… beating fists on chest…

I cooked the potatoes in the instant pot for the mashed potatoes. I think they turned out better than the boiling way, although that might have something to do with the gobs of butter and cream that I used. It was nice having the stove top clear for gravy making and other duties, plus they didn’t overflow all over the place.

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take a few photos of us, maybe a selfie so we’d all be in the photo. Jo Ellen and Don, Cathey, Pat, and Dave gathered around the table. There would have been room for Jim but he came down with a cold.

Time for the Rose Bowl Parade before I finish up with the cleanup. I should do a shout out to Carm for his part in all the preparations and cleanup. He was 100% a partner in all the activities (actually he did more of the cleanup than I did).

Happy 2018 :-)

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
~Alfred Tennyson