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Saturday, 7 September 2019

After the First Week...

Yes, I'm still alive. I made it though the first week. The first week of returning to work with 24 grade fours, and the first week of being empty nesters. I'm physically exhausted by the end of the day. I had a hoarse voice by the end of the first day. I stopped crying intermittently a couple of days ago.

Honestly, I'm not a super cry-ie person generally. I have always believed in raising children to become independent, responsible, capable human beings. But here's the deal - having the second (and last) "child" move out of the house was a whole different ball game. I turned into this ridiculous sappy mess leading up to the day he went away to college. I held it together on moving day until the very end when we hugged to say goodbye, then I started and then my daughter looked at me and started. I made sure we were outside the college entrance, off to the side, so as not to embarrass son, not that he knew anyone anyway. I don't mean I was a sobbing, bawling mess, clinging on him and wailing away, but my face was screwed up and there were some tears.

Then two days after that, daughter moved back to her university city. Not as many tears, because we've been down this road before with her. She'll be fine, she's established there, has friends, knows the score.

The next morning, as I was going through my routine, getting ready to go to work, I found myself in son's room - just standing there, taking in the nineteen-year-old-young-man essence that still hung in the air. I resisted texting him that morning!

Daughter, of course, texted the next day to show that there is now a cat living in the house she rents part of. Nice! Then texted about getting into a course that she didn't think she'd get into to, but there was one opening left, and she did. Then texted to show she was eating one of the muffins I had sent her away with (homemade - zucchini chocolate chip - made with love - yes, son got some, too).

Then, it wasn't until a couple of days later that I started to realize I now have another drawer in the bathroom. I do not have to shift and balance my way through four different bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, god knows what else... in the shower. There is an extra bed I could go to if husband's snoring gets to the "I want to smother you with a pillow" stage. And when I go grocery shopping tomorrow, the list will be considerably smaller. These aren't necessarily observations of "better", just different.

The whole getting back to work thing? To use an over-used phrase, it is what it is. It is what I do as a profession, I've done it before (30 years of it) and I'll do it one more time, and then that's it. It's a new group of students, we'll established routines, we'll work our way through the curriculum, we'll deal with all that is eight to nine year olds. We've already had our first staff meeting, we have "Open House" (formerly known as Meet the Teacher or Meet the Creature) this coming week. These make for long days when your body is just getting used to standing all day long and your throat is getting used to talking all day long and you're reminding yourself that patience is a virtue.

We are now just the two of us. But our conversations still often revolve around the kids. Today we are off to a little Fall Fair where we will see a display of my aunt's artwork. She died a little while ago and her daughter is putting on a display at a fair that is the "hometown" of her mom's youth. We will see my siblings, as we are all doing a bit of a jaunt to go there and enjoy looking at her paintings again. After, we will visit with my childhood friend and her husband, who are also now empty nesters, but not quite as much, as their son lives just down the road with his wife and new baby.

Time now to read some of your blogs and catch up on your lives.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Crickets, Yellow, Purple, New Beginnings - All that is Late August

Late August is always a meaningful time of year for me. It signifies so many things, and this year, it signifies even more.

In terms of my natural surroundings, August is a crickety time, a crunchy time, a very yellow and purple time. The fruit trees are laden, gardens are full, the corn is tall, many plants are winding down and becoming withered and tired. I love the "feel" of this time of year. The light is different.


Yellow.


Purple.


Yellow.


Purple.


Yellow.


Purple.


Yellow and Purple.

Yes, I'm seeing it, too. I need to plan my gardens better. What else is blooming right now that could provide a much needed change in colour? I do have some creamy whites with my hydrangeas. I can tell what time of year it is from this particular hydrangea (thinking it might be called something like Pink Diamond??).


The blooms start out white, but when they become pink, as they are just beginning to now, you know that summer is coming to a close. Soon they will be all a beautiful rusty pink colour.

My sad, sad, very sad vegetable garden would normally be producing scads of green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and still lettuce at this stage. I am harvesting minimal amounts of beans, zucchini, and cucumbers. The lettuce just doesn't get eaten in any great quantity, so the chickens get to enjoy the stalks that are beginning to go to seed.


They rushed to the fence in hopes that I had something to feed them when I was taking pictures this morning. I didn't. I think I heard one of them swear as I walked away.

But there is hope. A tiny, little, pathetic bit of hope...


Do you see it, in all its cracked glory, amongst the blighty leaves? Toasted tomato sandwich, here we come!! (Another late August thing).


Shall we compare my struggling little tomato to this hearty beast? This is a plant that gets a bad rap - it's goldenrod. Another yellow of late August, it gets blamed for seasonal allergies. The real culprit is ragweed which is prevalent right now, but isn't as showy, so it hides in the background causing people to pop allergy meds. like tictacs. I think goldenrod is quite pretty, and lord knows, it grows well with no help from me at all.

The new beginnings part of my post title? Well that refers to a couple of things. Of course, for me, it's the approach of a new school year. Most people's years go from January to December. Mine go from September to June, with bonus months in between. This will be my second last new school year ever. It is odd to think that. It will be even more significant when it is my LAST start to a school year, but this is my last full year. I will only teach from September to January in my final year. That is when I can retire with full pension. So, this is my last time to have a class from start to finish. When you've been doing something for 29 years, and it's your last time at it, it makes me ponder, reflect, consider...

Another new beginning for myself and husband is the advent of being empty nesters, at least for most of the time. This September we launch both kids away to post secondary education. Now, this is old hat for us when it comes to our daughter. She's been away to university for a while now, coming home for the summer to work. However, this is the first time for our son, moving away to college in a town about three hours away. I must admit, I've been struggling a bit with this. Not to be interpreted that I care more about saying goodbye to one child more than the other, but now it means they are both gone. No more waiting to hear his car pull up after his shift at his part time job is done. No more preparing supper for four (or sometimes five or six depending on who's coming). No more knocking on bedroom doors to make sure someone is definitely awake in the morning. No more piles of shoes in the mudroom, or three different bottles of shampoo in the bathtub, or buying Nutella because son likes it, or sriracha chili sauce because daughter likes it. The house will feel so very empty. And oh my god... it's going to be just husband and I.      Let that one sink in for a moment.



Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Oatmeal Eggwhite Pancakes

When I was into "clean eating", I learned how to perfect these. Now I make them because I'm always wanting to use up some more eggs, and they are so darn tasty!

Oatmeal Eggwhite Pancakes

-1/4 cup dry oatmeal (quick cook is fine)
-a dash of water
-3 egg whites
-cinnamon to taste
-fruit for the top if you wish
-choice of syrup
-Pam cooking spray (or some other type of nonstick spray)

First, measure out 1/4 cup of dry oatmeal into a small mixing bowl. I use whatever "quick cook"oatmeal I have on hand - cooks in 1 minute, or instant... it doesn't matter.

Then I pour in a little bit of water that is leftover from the kettle. It's often still warm, which I think helps to soften the oatmeal a bit first. I don't really measure, just enough to wet the oatmeal. Then stir it around with a fork. At this point I also add a few shakes of cinnamon, stirring that in.

I use our own chicken's eggs, so they are probably what would be considered "large" size, but again, it doesn't matter. Do you know the easiest way to separate yolks from whites? Crack your egg and separate it into two halves. Pour the contents of the egg from one half to the other, while letting the whites pour out and keeping the yolk in the half of the shell. It may take a couple of back and forths from shell to shell to fully separate, but it works like a charm. Don't worry if a little yolk gets in there. Either dispose of the yolks or keep for some other purpose in the fridge.

Stir the egg whites in with the oatmeal, water, and cinnamon. Mix with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Use a small nonstick frying pan. My nonstick frying pans aren't always nonstick, so I spray it with Pam. I generally spray the frying pan and have a little heat under it to get it hot while I'm making the mixture.

Pour your mixture into the frying pan and allow it to cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes. DO NOT TRY TO FLIP IT UNTIL IT IS NICE AND SET, ALMOST A LITTLE BIT CRISPY AROUND THE EDGES.  Honestly, just let it sit in the frying pan and cook. Walk away, check your phone, feed the cat... don't try to flip it if it's still a little bit soft and runny.

When it is browning up and the edges are a little crispy / firm, use a wide spatula to flip it, just once. This side won't take nearly the same amount of time to cook, so just give it a minute or so. It should come off looking like this:


This is not a light fluffy, cakey type pancake. It has the nice nutty texture of the oatmeal and an almost custard quality to the eggwhites. It's as if an oatmeal cookie married a custard.

Depending on the season, I might slice strawberries on it, or have fresh blueberries. However, right now it's peach season, so this is about half a peach cut up, with two tablespoons of maple syrup (actual maple syrup). For those of you who might be concerned, the pancake itself is 126 calories. Shown my way with the syrup and a half a peach it is 265 calories altogether.

Speaking of peaches, why is there such a limited window of opportunity when it comes to peaches?? One day they are sitting there, all lovely and pinky orange, just perfectly ripe and ready to eat, juice dripping down your chin. The next day they are moldy and grey at one end. I do take them out of the basket after I buy them and set them separately on a large serving platter. Doesn't seem to matter. Don't tell anyone, but I just cut off the yucky end and eat the rest! (But I wouldn't serve that one to you if you came for a visit).

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Bagpipes

Someone somewhere in our little village has taken up the bagpipes. They have practised every day in early afternoon. They are working on Scotland the Brave and aren't half bad. I've been known to almost tear up and have to choke down a lump in my throat when I hear bagpipes in a parade. They remind me of my father. No, he didn't play, but held on to his Scottish heritage.

Unfortunately, the only thing I can think of when I hear these pipes in the afternoon is this:


Wednesday, 14 August 2019

No Fruit, No Nuts

No fruit, no nuts - that's always been my insistence when it has come to planting any new trees on this property.  Although some favourite childhood memories come from time spent under a chestnut tree, collecting the shiny brown chestnuts, I know what a mess fruit and nut trees make. Since I am the gardener around here, it would be me cleaning it up.

Alas, we did not plant our old apple tree. It's been here longer than we have, that's for certain. Last year when we rented the beast of a wood chipper, we did a lot of cutting and trimming. One tree that got a good once over was the old apple tree. There were many dead limbs that needed pruning.

Well, naturally after that good hair cut, the tree has had a bumper year!

Unfortunately, these are not quality apples. They bruise the moment they hit the ground, are a rather soft fruit, and aren't terribly big. I think once I laboured over them to make apple sauce. It wasn't worth it. We don't spray, so there are wee critters that make their way through the apples. Mostly, I rake and dump. Sometimes I squish a few underfoot and toss them in the chicken run for the hens. They enjoy them.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of this task, here is a picture of having almost finished the last of the raking and dumping of apples.


I decided I would take a picture the very next morning to show you how many apples come down in less than a day.


I couldn't quite capture the full collection because they fall quite far (and roll) (into my flower bed). I didn't actually rake at all yesterday, so there is a tremendous amount out there this morning. I don't think I can leave it much longer without raking today! What about you? Any messy trees on your property?

And to round off the morning, I leave you with a hen in a box.


Her expression said, "Leave me alone, I have a job to do."

Monday, 12 August 2019

August 12, 2019

I've been somewhat absent from posting lately. It's mid August, a bitter sweet time for me. I feel like summer is slipping away, I'm thinking / not wanting to think about returning to the classroom (we go back in early September here), the nights are cooling off, the summer flowers have faded and look bedraggled.

A big part of our time has been taken up with pool issues. Last year, at the end of the season, it became painfully clear that we would need a new liner. We had some significant tears that had been repaired, but were beyond that now. We had such a cold, wet spring this year, and other factors, and it prevented us from getting to the point of getting things ready to order a new liner (we do the installing - we do not have a pool company that does the work for us). The pool was completely drained (not an easy task when it rains nonstop in the spring), detailed measurements were sent away to the company with which we were dealing to order the new liner, frogs were saved.


A pump can only do so much, after that you are working by hand - shop vacs are a beautiful thing!

'Twas a tag team effort, husband pushing the full shop vac up the slope and emptying it into buckets, me carrying full buckets of hideous swamp water up and out of the pool area to dump elsewhere. I got my workout that day!

What's the expression - as mad as a box of frogs? Well, here is a box of frogs. It was sooo hot that day. We managed to save quite a few frogs. A couple made their way back later.

The old liner was pulled out and eventually the new liner was shipped to us. Putting in a pool liner yourself is terrifying the first time you do it. There isn't a lot of room for error. It is slightly less terrifying the second time you do it, as you know which errors to avoid. Last time, I assisted husband. This time, son was available (he was 11 years old the first time - now much more of a help!).


Spiderman son clinging to the sides at the deep end.

There's a whole lot of lying on one's stomach in this part.


Gorgeous new liner being sucked into place by a shop vac (you can't see it in this picture), with water being added to the bottom. Bottom main drain cover has now been put in place by husband. As the water level rises, other intakes and skimmer holes, etc get cut out and re-installed.

Yes, this is all very late to be doing this now, in Ontario, where the main time for pools is June and July, but it could not have been left empty and undealt with through the winter. We will get a few swims out of it before the water becomes too cold and it will be time to "put it to bed" in the fall.

It was husband's birthday two days ago. We went to the drive-in! Drive in movie theatres are going the way of the dinosaur, but we are very fortunate to have one in the little town close to us. It was always a summer tradition to go to the drive-in with the kids when they were little. They would be dressed in their jammies, snacks would be brought, drinks in a cooler, and the van would be backed into place, so the back could be opened up. The kids would snuggle up with blankets and pillows in the back, watching the big screen, husband and I on lawn chairs. Sometimes we would just stay inside the vehicle because it was too cool, or buggy.

When we went two nights ago, very little had changed, there were young (and old) kids running around on the grassy area in front of the screen before the movie started, tossing a football around. Little ones were in their pajamas, ready for when they nodded off before the movie ended. Some people were in the backs of their pick up trucks, with air mattresses and pillows. It's a nice tradition. In the "olden days", of course, you pulled up and attached a speaker to your partially rolled down window.


source

Now, you tune your radio in to a particular station and listen to the movie over your vehicle speakers.
We saw both features, making it a late night! Son was able to join us when he was done work, missing only a little bit of the first movie. Daughter was there for both. Much older, and not dressed in their jammies, but still a nice bit of tradition. We saw "Shaw and Hobbs" with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham and "Yesterday", the movie about the Beatles' music. Both were good. The first was action adventure, but funny, which is necessary for me because I have little patience for violent good guy, bad buy movies, and the second one was also funny but sweet and I loved the music. I know the Beatles were not my generation's music, but I did go through a phase in university where I bought up tons of their old albums from a used record shop in the city and spent a lot of time listening to my favourites. Do you have a drive-in movie theatre near you?

Monday, 29 July 2019

Snapdragons

Snapdragons are magical flowers. They take me right back to my childhood. My mother often planted snapdragons in pots or in the "rockery". Did anyone else have a rockery, or was that just a term that my mother and grandmother used? It was a flower bed, lined with rocks and had special rocks placed throughout.

Snapdragons were wonderful because of their variation of colour, as well as the nifty trick you could do with them by squeezing the blossoms "just so" causing the little mouths to 'snap' open and shut.

I don't put snapdragons in every year, but I did this year in the window boxes on the shed. I like the rocket series because they are tall. Generally though, they bend and stretch, rather than staying completely upright. Here are some of the gorgeous colours they surprised me with:



Picking a favourite flower would be like picking a favourite child, but snapdragons might be in the top ten! What is your favourite flower?