Sunday, 9 December 2018

Instantpot Questions

So, here's what you need to know about me. I'm not a good gift buyer. Nor am I a good gift suggester.  At this point in our twenty-seven year marriage, neither one of us "needs" anything, my husband is ridiculous to buy for, and the things I really love, he's either already done for me (fixing up my chicken coop for example), or I like to pick them out myself (plants, books, boots...). So, in desperation, I said, "I might like an Instantpot." I would love to quote what my husband suggested that I get for him, but HE HASN'T SUGGESTED ANYTHING YET! (December 9th, 16 days left until Christmas).

I thought I had better look up what size Instantpot is the best and after a little researching on the interwebs, I figured six quart would be correct.

Today, after we discovered that two of the recently, time-consumingly-put-up-wired-into-place strings of outdoor "warm white" lights decided to stop working and I almost cried because the little decorative tree that sits outside the door also stopped lighting up even though it was also working just fine literally hours ago and then I stomped off outside with a declaration along the lines of, "I'm going out to the chicken coop to see if all the chickens died...",   husband gathered up the lights, stuffed them into the remaining two boxes which had already been flattened and put into the recycling container and the receipt long since thrown away, drove into town to the Canadian Tire store where I originally purchased the lights just two weeks ago to try to get our money back. (How's THAT for a run-on sentence??) Whilst there, he checked out the Instantpots and came home later asking for a bit more specificity. Apparently there are a few versions of 6 quart ones.

I have NO idea what to get in terms of an Instantpot, but you, my bloggy friends, probably have the experience. Please let me know if you would recommend it, what model you would recommend, what you like best about it... just please don't tell me it's an awful gift idea because I'm o.k. with it. I am not offended by kitchen items. I am nothing, if not a practical kind of gal, and confident enough in my own world to not feel that a kitchen item is sexist in our world of over sensitivity. I do the cooking because, quite frankly, I'm better at it, and I like my own food better than what husband can make. I'm pretty sure he's o.k. with that, too.
Oh, and for interest sake, Canadian Tire told husband that he could just get two more boxes, which he did. Let's hope these last longer than two weeks.

Now then, let the Instantpot comments begin:

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Decorating gingerbread cookies with a sense of humour

A couple of days ago, I made my traditional gingerbread cookie dough. It's thick and stiff and doesn't really roll out. Instead you kind of press is down with a rolling pin, then use cookie cutters, squeezing the edges of the cookie cutter together to keep the dough in the cutter to transfer it over to the cookie sheet, and then releasing it, hoping it doesn't fall apart. I won't even share the recipe, because if you have ever made gingerbread, you probably have a better recipe than this! However, here is a picture of a tray of them after being baked. (LOVE parchment paper, by the way).

Regardless of the difficulty of the dough, they do taste good, and if you are careful not to leave them in the oven too long, they are still a bit soft, which is what I prefer.

Tonight, when son was actually home (a rare thing these days) and husband and I had both had rather shitty days at work, I decided it was time to decorate. (Sorry, dear daughter, away in the city, normally you are part of this, but I will text you later and tell you to read this post, and hopefully you will laugh at us).

It all started in a traditional, reserved way (by me, I might add).

Pretty, don't you think? Certainly not professional, but acceptable. A present with a bow shape, a gingerbread man shape, and a round ornament shape. Nice, predictable, Christmas colours...

Ummmm, then son produced this masterpiece. (He is about a month away from being 19 years old, just so you know - he is not six years old).

We also had a Santa shaped cookie cutter. You would end up decorating the cookie something along these lines. Both are mine, and I admit the one on the left is pathetic. I got a bit better with practice.

It was then discovered that if you turn that same cookie, it looks a bit like a whale. Whale was what husband was going for. He thought it ended up looking more like a shark (?) and then I accidentally broke off the little round bit on the end of its tail. Stunning.

Things pretty much started going down hill from there.

Then came the variations on the gingerbread men (or "gingerbread people" if we are going to be all politically correct).

Here we have the unibrow gingerbread man.

We follow with the Santa and the skeleton gingerbread men.

If you turn the cookie upside down, you can turn it into a reindeer (if you squint, and use your imagination).

This is the Lieutenant Dan gingerbread man. (A Forest Gump reference). Son made this one.

Here we have the Black Knight. Not familiar?


"It's just a flesh wound!"

And finally, nothing says Christmas like a grenade.

They will be put into the freezer to be taken out at Christmas when the rest of my twisted family will be here to enjoy them.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

It's a Jan Brett time of year

One of my favourite children's authors and illustrators is Jan Brett. I've read her books to my own two children. I loved the simple story lines featuring animals, such as hedgehogs and bears, and creatures such as trolls and tomtens. I adore her illustrations which feature detailed borders. Within the borders are hints of what is to come in the story. But mostly I want to live in a Jan Brett world.

In recent years, the Danish concept of hygge has become popular. It is all about feeling cozy and contented and enjoying simple pleasures. Brett's illustrations often have a Scandinavian feel to them with intricate carved wood, knitted clothing, lots of texture, serene winter scenes, and old fashioned toys.

This story would be a favourite at this time of year. I tried to find some pictures of the reindeer stables. There is carved wood and their names are also carved above each stall.

Look at those wooden buckets, and the elves making woolen hats in a countdown to Christmas.

This was another favourite book, the story of a lost white mitten which becomes a temporary shelter for a number of forest creatures. Notice the birch bark border.

Hedgehogs are prominent animals in Brett's stories.

Wouldn't you love to live in that adorable home?

I think I bought the books more for myself than for the kids.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Beautiful Morning

Not a fan of winter and snow and storms, but even I had to admit that it was beautiful this morning. It looked like the December picture on a calendar, or an old fashioned Christmas card. As I was having my coffee, I did my usual letting in, letting out of cats. Samson just wanted to sit on the front porch.

This was the view to the east after significant snow fall throughout the night.

I always feel a little bad getting our neighbour's house in the pictures, but hey, you shouldn't have built right across from us!

Before I leave for work, I do my morning chicken chores - shovelling some snow so I can still open the big gate, giving them a bit more food, opening up their little door, checking if there is an early morning egg. Here are some scenes on my way out to the coop.

Now, coming back to the house.

I love the light in these pictures and the sense of blue.

I think we're in for a good, old-fashioned winter this year. I'm finishing writing this at about 5:15 p.m. and the light is almost gone from the sky. This reminds me so much of my childhood, times spent at my uncle's / grandmother's dairy farm, bundled up, walking from the house to the barn in that wintry dusk, that particular light, the squeaky sound of boots on snow.

I think I may have to start decorating for Christmas.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

My, How You've Grown

Wacky weather. Just days ago, the weather was so nasty that some buses were cancelled, snow plows were out, there was just a LOT of heavy, wet snow. Then the temperature dropped! Now we have had a mild spell, some rain, and much of the snow is gone. Great chunks of it tobogganed off our metal roof with thuds.

If you recall, I mentioned that husband put up a coop heater that looks like a little flat screen.

There it is, mounted to the wall behind their roosts. It does a fine job keeping them comfortable. They are, in fact, able to withstand quite cold temperatures like other birds in the wild do. They fluff themselves up, sit with their feathers over their feet, even huddle close together. The "flat screen tv" keeps it just warm enough. They also need ventilation in the winter to release the build up of moisture in the coop. The remodelling of the coop this past summer now provides that perfectly with two vents up at ceiling height, away from the birds so they don't get a draft.

However, we just went through a wicked cold snap, ridiculous for November with temperatures of "feels like -18 degrees Celsius". Because I give the birds the option of stepping outside through their little chicken door, the heat does not stay trapped in the coop during the day and their water kept freezing. I would smash through it in the morning, but by evening it was frozen again, sometimes almost solid in a bucket. It was time to drag out a purchase made a few years ago that never got used, until now.

Voila! The heated water bucket to the rescue. Because husband redid the wiring to the coop there was no problem attaching the bucket cord to a short extension cord which I secured to the conduit with some zip ties (don't want any crazy flapping to pull down any cords). That should do a great job keeping their water from freezing in the next cold snap (which I am hoping doesn't come again for a little while!)

I grabbed my phone to take some pictures of the roosters while I was out there because they are quite remarkable now. Here is what they looked like when I first got them at only about four months old.

The orangey / light coloured one on the left is Buffy. The brown /black one in front is Nugget, and the brown /black one at the back, right is Bruce. At the time I didn't even know they were roosters. Have a look at them now, at about seven to eight months.

Here is Buffy, all windblown and sexy with his white tail feathers.

Here is Nugget, no longer just a little chicken nugget, being a little younger than the other two, not quite as magnificent yet...

For the grand finale, here is Bruce. Normally his tail feathers are in a beautiful, iridescent black/green arch, but it was windy today. He is the biggest of the three, the dominant rooster, and quite handsome. He is, however, approachable, not at all a jerk like the tiny Rusty we once had. I am trying to get rid of the other two, and I intend to keep Bruce. Unfortunately, nobody is interested in two free, gorgeous roosters. I want them to join a flock, not become supper. I personally will not be eating them, that's for sure. They have names and personalities.

Tomorrow, husband and I are taking his mother (is in a senior's home, has dementia, is perfectly healthy otherwise), to have her first cataract surgery. It has been an incredibly long wait to get this done. There have been initial consults, follow-up appointments, and of course the usual ridiculous wait time. We kept wondering when the surgery would be, hearing nothing. Husband phoned Friday only to find out that they are closed in the afternoon. Then, much to our surprise, we got a phone call at 5:45 p.m., Friday, as a courtesy call from the hospital reminding up of her surgery... THIS MONDAY at 7:30 a.m.  What????

Husband told the person he was talking to that he had not received this information. She replied that they had let his mother know. Oh good lord. She would have forgotten the conversation within moments of hanging up the phone. He politely, yet firmly let them know that he had left instructions that he was the one to be contacted, not her, as she has short term memory issues. So, much scrambling was done, arranging to book time off work, informing the nursing home, finding paperwork, realizing there was a prescription for eye drops that she was supposed to be using a day before the surgery... Everything is now arranged. We will bring her here to spend the night at our house, as the hospital is not close by and we will have to leave early the morning to get her there for the beginning time of 7:30. All of this running around and last minute arranging could have been avoided if instructions had been followed. We've just had too many incidents of people messing up, not doing their jobs, that we almost come to expect it now.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the surgery (it's laser surgery now) will go smoothly and there won't be any issues. They only do one eye at a time, so hopefully when it is time for the other eye, we will be contacted with an appointment time well in advance. I also hope that this cataract surgery improves her quality of life, as she does enjoy watching tv, but must have a tough time of it right now with her vision as bad as it is.

Apart from all of that, there were fantastic sales on at Canadian Tire this weekend and I bought new outdoor Christmas lights for our rail fence. We have had multi-coloured lights, but I wanted all white to make it a bit more "classy". This is called 'warm white'. Unfortunately, I underestimated, so I shall go back in and buy two more boxes, still at the sale price. Today was a perfect day to put the lights on the fence because it wasn't too cold and I could have my thin gloves on to be able to wire them into place.

That's it for me, hope you had a good weekend!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sunday, November 18 /18 (Gripping Title, isn't it?)

Tonight for supper I am making Diana's pork chop recipe from her most recent post. I bought pork chops yesterday when I was doing my regular Saturday grocery shopping, but then we decided to have two more people for supper, so off I went to Walmart this morning to grab an extra package of pork chops and the apple juice I forgot to buy(!), and a little miniature Christmas tree for MIL's room at "the home". She isn't big on change and her usual answer is a tilt to the head, lips pressed together and a "no", but we figure if daughter (granddaughter to her) just brings it along when we pick her up, she won't say no to her.

I have some chicken chores to do, a kitchen to sweep, some bird seed to put out, and the rest of the supper to make, then back to work again tomorrow. Sometimes when I think to myself that I have been working for 36 years since I've been 16 years old in some capacity or another and only had one part of the year when I did not work (first year university) and then two six months stints when I was home with my babies, I just feel tired. Anyone else??

On a more positive note, to round out your weekend, here is Scooter asleep, with his cat toys on his head, because that is what our son does.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Northward Ho! - A College Visit

A couple of days ago, we embarked on a trip northward. Husband and I both booked a day off work and set up an appointment to take a campus visit at a possible college with our son. It was kind of a gamble, as I watched weather forecasts. We've been experiencing a hideously bleak, early winter type of November and the day I chose was the only "clear" one amidst snowy ones.

We started out bright and early (but in retrospect we should have been even earlier).  We knew we had a few hours ahead of us to get to our destination: Sudbury, Ontario. Quick history lesson - nickel / copper ore was discovered in the Sudbury basin when the transcontinental railway was being put in, in the late 1800's. Nickel mining dominated this remote, almost bi-lingual community for many years with boom and bust times corresponding to war requirements, and lumbering came in a close second as a main source of employment. Unfortunately, the sulfuric acid that resulted from smelting decimated the landscape and Sudbury was long known as a "wasteland". Later, efforts were made to reclaim the natural environment with some success. Thus endeth the lesson.

Our drive north was clear and uneventful, which is a good thing. As we got farther north, the landscape began to change dramatically. Where we live is a region known as the St. Lawrence, Great Lakes Lowlands - lots of topsoil, farmland, big lakes, populated... We were entering the region of Canada known as The Canadian Shield - igneous rock, water, trees, repeat.

Here are some images from our drive:

There was quite a bit of construction going on, as some parts of the highway are being transformed from one lane each way, to a double lane highway.

This shot reminded me of a Group of Seven painting. (A group of seven, plus two, Canadian artists who, among other things,  painted the wilderness of the Canadian north).

Here are a couple of examples of some famous paintings:

The top painting is by Frederick Varley and the bottom one, J.E.H. MacDonald. 

We saw a very interesting bridge on the way there. 

This is not a bridge for vehicles or people. I do apologize for the blurriness of the photo. We were driving. This is a wildlife overpass!! Due to the large number of deer, moose, and other animals in the area, and an area where collisions between such animals and vehicles is a serious danger, a multi-million dollar wildlife overpass has been built. You can't see from the photo, but tall fencing directs the animals toward the overpass. The overpass itself is planted with vegetation, so it is like the natural surroundings that the animals would already be used to. I checked out the web and there are photos and videos of animals (moose, bear, deer...) using it. I just love this idea! There are apparently culverts as well, in other areas, built for this purpose. 

We eventually got to Sudbury, found the college, and did our tour. Our two tour guides, young women who are currently enrolled in health sciences, did a fantastic job of showing us around, and answering questions. We don't know if this is where our son will end up. There is another college in Ontario that offers the programme he is interested in, so we will also tour that one (totally opposite direction, not quite as far). He will apply before Christmas and we will see how things go. 

I managed to get a little choked up thinking of him being so far away. Why is it a little harder when it is your second / last one leaving home? Of course I was teary when our daughter left, but I guess I knew she was only barely two hours from home, and I still had another child living at home. He would be about five hours away, in an area that feels so foreign and different. Perhaps. Oh well, suck it up mama, you wanted your children to be independent, self-confident individuals!!

What is the last part of the story? Well that would be the weather (of course). What was a clear day with even about five minutes of partial sunshine ("Ahhhhhh" - angels singing), became a snowy mess on the drive home. It was almost laughable as we proceeded down the highway watching snowplows/ salters/sanders travelling in the opposite direction. Over and over we saw snow removal equipment going northward as we were travelling southward. Then we had to find a gas station, the first one being closed!!! What should have taken about 4.5 hours ended up taking over 6 hours. We were exhausted upon our arrival home, but glad to be there.