Thursday, 25 August 2016

Sleepy Cats and Cicadas

Many bloggers have commented on how it is starting to feel a bit "autumnal". Although I LOVE the hot weather and all that is summer, I must admit that it is that time of year. For me, late August means harvest. At the moment I have more cucumbers in the fridge than can possibly be consumed by one family. No, I am not going to make mustard pickles, or bread and butter pickles, or any other kind of pickle because I know they won't get eaten and it is too much work for jars that will just sit on a shelf in the basement. I've managed to give one cucumber away. I feel like I could be Oprah, saying, "You  get a cucumber, and you get a cucumber, and you get..." but I just haven't seen that many people recently.

As well, I've been stockpiling zucchini and last night I got around to getting out my handy dandy food processor and shredding a whole bunch, then bagging them in 2 cup amounts to be stored in the future for muffins and cakes.

I tried a new recipe for zucchini applesauce bread as well. I think I under-baked them. They are almost too moist (i.e. not quite fully baked in the middle), but still tasty with a cup of coffee. I will freeze one of the loaves for later.

The cats are incredibly lazy. Scooter has been even more talkative and affectionate (on his terms) after having an upset tummy a couple of days ago and successfully purging himself of a giant hair ball. Life is tough when you are fluffy. When he's not talking, he's sleeping.

This time of year also means blooms of a different sort. It is yellow and mauve time in the gardens. Although I declared all out war on Rudbekia (Black eyed Susan) last year, I still have a lot of it in different spots around the property. I does look attractive right now when other things have faded and are looking positively mangey.

Late August also means tomatoes, sweet corn, and cicadas. I picked my first decently ripe tomato this morning with lots more green ones waiting to ripen up. I plan on buying some corn at a road side stand soon. And I can hear the cicadas now, through the open windows in the kitchen. I know summer is wrapping up, but we often have many more warm days in September. It is certainly not time to get the sweaters out. In fact, it is maybe my most favourite time of the year. What is yours?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Leaving the Nest (Again)

Yesterday, we moved our daughter back to university. She is entering her third year of a four year programme. This year she is a Don at one of the residences. The Dons go back a couple of weeks early to do their training and be moved in ahead of the time when the other students return in September.

In her first year of university, we packed her up in the back of the Toyota Highlander and moved her into residence. She brought too much stuff, but live and learn.

In her second year of university, she lived in a house that she rented with three other girls. We rented a U-Haul trailer to move her there, and a U-Haul cube van to move her back home for the summer. This was a different situation because it involved furniture, kitchen items, a new desk...

In her third year of university (present day), we used the same trusty Toyota Highlander and even though she pared down her clothes, brought nothing "wintery" because she will be home before that, she still managed to cram stuff into every conceivable space.

Hey, how are you doing back there?

You all right, buddy?

I can't actually move my feet.

Thankfully it was only about an hour and three-quarters to get there. Upon arrival, we realized that work is still being finished in the residence. There were workmen, painters, people putting things into trucks, equipment still in hallways, furniture not yet moved where it should be. This is not a new residence, but maintenance is done over the summer months. For the rest of the students, they have about two weeks before they get to move in. For the Dons of each floor, they get to share their space with people finishing up various tasks. This residence is set up "apartment style" with four bedrooms, one kitchen, two bathrooms, and one small livingroom area for each section. Our daughter will be sharing one of these "quads" with three first year students, but she gets a separate office in which to conduct "Don business".

This is a standard bedroom with stuff jammed in. Note the gift of giant stash of toilet paper! You're never fully independent until you buy your own toilet paper.

This is the small livingroom area, complete with sixteen year old brother on his phone.

Here is the kitchen area. Don't know if one of the first years will contribute a microwave. There is NO dishwasher. Let's see if they all wash their own dishes. They will all have meal plans as well, so this kitchen will likely be for snacks (or beer if they were older than first year!)

It's always good to have a brother to help you move in.

We got a mother / daughter selfie before we said our goodbyes. (And yes, I see him in the background).

Family selfie.

We said our goodbyes. It gets easier with each passing year. I remember crying down the street as we pulled away in her first year. This year, she and her brother were riding down the hall on her office chair with wheels (remember, she has the whole floor to herself at the moment). We went to the mall to take care of some back to school clothing shopping for our son. Now that he has a part time job, some of the purchases came out of his account!! We got home later and I relaxed with a couple of episodes of Coronation Street which has been put on hold for the two weeks when the Olympics were on.

I think she's going to have a great year. If she can handle us, she'll be fine with her floor of first years.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Travel Advice for Canadians going to England

I am not a world traveler. I have gone to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, some of the New England States, Prince Edward Island, and various places in my home province of Ontario. This was my first trip to the U.K.

Flight Advice: The flight is about eight hours long (from where we live in Ontario to Gatwick Airport in England).  We booked using Expedia and flew with Air Transat. We did not travel first class because we can't afford it! Bring head phones / ear buds. There was a little screen (tv monitor?) on the back of everyone's seat with options to watch movies, tv shows, listen to music, play games, etc. This was a godsend because otherwise you will go squirrely. Our flight was an overnight flight. I did not sleep a wink. You should bring a light weight blanket that squishes up small so you can cram it into your very large purse (which doesn't count as a carry on!). The only way you get a blankie on the plane is to buy one! I would also recommend that you test drive your travel pillow (those u-shaped pillows that go around your neck) because the one I brought was far too densely stuffed and was actually quite uncomfortable. Take along chewable Gravol in your purse. If you are anything like me, you may find napping difficult, or you may feel queasy during turbulence or with the taxiing that comes with landing. I find that chewing one or two Gravol, it really helps with that motion sickness feeling and maybe, just maybe, I might nap (well, you might nap, I am a pathetic napper). If you sit in the middle seat, you will be cramped. You'd better be close friends with someone on either side of you because you will want an arm rest (or two) at some point in the flight so that you don't feel like a praying mantis. If you bring a book to read on the flight, make sure you don't buy the paperback version of the hardcover that you have already signed out of the library and read several months earlier. (I have a Patricia Cornwell's Depraved Heart sitting in my house that I'll be giving away to someone). (Duh)

Luggage Advice: For one week, you can easily exist with one carry-on piece of luggage per person and one extra piece of checked luggage. Nobody measured our carry-on to make sure it complied with some sort of size standard. Our carry-ons were, however, weighed to make sure they didn't exceed a weight limit (unfortunately, I have no idea what that limit is, but apparently we were fine). I don't bother to lock my carry-on. I'm the only person who is touching it and if you need to get into your carry-on for something quickly, you don't want to have to dig around in your already jam-packed purse (with useless paperback, earbuds, Gravol, important papers...) looking for the impossibly tiny key for your luggage lock. Remember to put your 100 mL or less liquids, including makeup, shampoo, moisturizer, etc. in a Medium size freezer ziplock bag in your carry-on. If you have larger sized items, just put those in your checked luggage, but be sure to keep them in zip lock bags in case they leak. When I bring jewelry, I keep it in little black pouches I received with some Home Shopping Network Joan Rivers items I bought years ago. They pull closed tightly and they are completely black, nobody can see through them which may deter someone from wanting to steal things. Of course, I would never bring my most expensive items anyway, unless they always stay on my body (e.g. rings). Our luggage is NOT fancy, it is soft-sided, vs. the hard shell kind of luggage. I would not bother to purchase expensive luggage because it really does get thrown around and beat up. As well, you might want very plain coloured luggage, but so does everyone else and when you are waiting for your piece of checked luggage to come around the merry-go-round of every piece of luggage that was riding in the belly of the plane, you will perhaps be thankful that your brightly coloured luggage stands out, ready for you to grab it and go. Our checked bag is red, and there are many red bags, so I have made sure to tie a bright orange ribbon to each one of our bags, easily spotted, as well as a Canadian flag that attaches to the zipper pull. (Even with those identifying features, I still coach my husband as he stands by the luggage carousel, ready to grab any and all red bags as they come around). I have seen pieces of luggage on which people have stuck large pieces of brightly coloured duct tape. If that works for you, great. I prefer the ribbon method.

Rental Car / Airport Advice: When my husband booked our flight through Expedia, he also arranged for a rental car. It cost approximately $600 for the week. The car was provided by Enterprise at Gatwick airport. The rental man tried to get us to rent a more expensive car which would be a little bigger, but had a GPS system. We did not wish to spend more money and believe it or not, we do not use GPS here at home. I'm 50. I use a map. (I'm a dinosaur). Here is what was good about that decision: a bigger car would have been a nightmare on those tiny, narrow Costwolds roads. Here is what was not good about that decision: we did get a big turned around on a couple of occasions and ended up having to use my cell phone to find where we wanted to go, so maybe GPS would have been handy. The little car that we rented was a Vauxhall Corsa. It was great for what we needed. A handy dandy feature that I would recommend when manoeuvring around hedges, stone walls, impossible tiny parking spots, and other quaint English encumbrances, was sensors which beeped and provided a lit up diagram on the dashboard to let you know how close you were getting to denting the car or ripping a mirror off (which would result in extra costs with the rental company!). We chose to fly into Gatwick because we had heard that London driving was very difficult (and after talking to the locals, even they don't drive in London!). Gatwick is south of London and we didn't have to drive into London at all to get where we wanted to go. We did however, discover that the "ring road" (M25) is insanely slow, but I've already mentioned that, so it's best to avoid it if possible. English rental cars, of course, have the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car (as you are sitting in it). This is pretty cool, but truly, we kept going to the wrong side of the car to get in. As well, my husband kept reaching to the wrong side to get his seat belt or put the car in gear. He purposely chose an automatic because he was pretty sure he could drive on the "wrong" side of the road, but didn't want to add shifting a manual transmission with his other hand to the confusion. A rental car was the best decision we made because we would have been extremely limited in where we could go if we just relied on walking, or public transport. During those first several hours of being a passenger, I was pretty tense and kept gently reminding my husband to stay a bit more in his lane (I felt like we were always too far to the left), but his skill grew considerably within just the first couple of days. The funny part was when we were back in Toronto and dropped off by the shuttle van where we had parked our vehicle, my husband had to concentrate to drive on the "correct" side of the road again!

I don't know if any of these tips will help anyone, or if you can relate to these. Chime in with your travel tips, too!

Friday, 19 August 2016

More from our Trip to the Cotswolds

I am so glad that we decided to take this trip. I am not easily parted from my money and it was difficult to make this decision as we are also sending our daughter off to her third year in university, will be insuring three vehicles instead of two, went away in March as well, and have all sorts of other reasons to save our money. I am now very happy that I thought, if not now, then when?

We spent the whole week in the same area known as the Cotswolds where "charming" never gets old. Old is also a relative term. Here in Ontario, we live in an "old" home, built before 1900, we aren't even totally sure when. This past week, we went into places that were hundreds of years old. For example, this was carved above the door to Manor Farm Bed and Breakfast, where we stayed for one night.

That certainly wasn't the oldest place we went into this week, but it does make our century home seem positively recent.

Here is what I can take away from this trip:
-English people are absolutely skilled and fearless when it comes to driving.
-You are never out of place if you dress up for an occasion.
-I am likely going to drink more tea for the next while.
-The beauty of the Cotswolds almost brought me to tears at times, and never failed to be anything less than enchanting.
-The M25 highway should be avoided at all costs.
-I need to walk more. The English walk. A lot. I think it is because there are no places for people to park, get out and buy something, get back in the car and drive to the next place, park again, get out and get what you need, repeat. Parking, at least in the area we were in, was tiny to nonexistent. I do not know how they do it.
-There was a lot of England that I did not see because I couldn't see past the hedgerows.
-Being "wealthy" is also a relative term. My husband was in awe of the amount of expensive cars he saw throughout our trip. And then we saw Blenheim Palace.
-Dead badgers there, are like dead raccoons here. Road kill is different in England.
-The public washrooms were the most clean and lovely of any other place I've been.
-I take the amount of space that I am used to for granted. Historically, as well as in present day, the English have very little space for homes, roads, parking, living, breathing...
-Place names in England often consist of two or three words. (e.g. Bourton on the Water, Chipping Campden)
-A pint of beer is bigger than a bottle that you would get here.
-I will definitely return to the U.K.

Here are some highlights of the trip:

Castle Combe is one of the little villages that almost made me cry with joy.

A typical cream tea is the perfect thing to have to tide you over between a full English breakfast and a later supper.

Gates, walls, and doors add the charm and essence to so many places.

Store front signage is fabulous, and would be completely out of place here, but seems perfectly normal there.

To recreate the look, you need an ancient climbing rose around your doorway. What blew my mind was the absolutely tiny, miniscule space from which these roses grew. Even their plants have to adapt to small spaces. Look at that picture above! How does that rose survive??? And they all do!!

Except at Blenheim Palace, where plants are provided with a little extra space in which to grow.

When we entered this pub, called The Fleece (there are quite a few pubs called The Fleece), we were in for a real treat. It is OLD (even by English standards) and wonderful. The food was excellent, the beer was cold, the conversations with other guests was memorable.

We were sitting in the room with a collection of pewter plates. I am enjoying a pint of beer. The couple behind us was lovely. Across from me was an enormous fire place area with huge timbers forming the mantle, as well as holding up the ceiling. The fireplace was so large, there were little wooden seats built into the two ends, and even a tiny window was located at one end.
The countryside is beautiful, even if you have to climb a tower to see it. The smaller roads are almost always lined with hedges. Sometimes the hedges are so high on either side, that they curve over head and form a canopy around you. It is magical and those places where we drove down into shady, secretive places made me think that fairies and gnomes really might exist. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the hedgerows as we were always driving along these roads and were unable to pull over because there is literally NO space at the sides of the roads. Every once in a while there is a little space created so that you can meet other traffic and not take each others' side view mirrors off. As I said, the people that live there should be highly respected in terms of their ability to judge distance while driving.
I will leave you with an idyllic moment: photogenic geese, right out of a Beatrix Potter story, as we had to slow down to let ducks cross, and then were able to stop and photograph this little group who posed for us.


Sunday, 14 August 2016

I'm Far Away in England!!

I am at this  very  moment  sitting on a bed in a hotel in a town in the Cotswolds  called Chipping Norton, taking advantage  of the free wifi. We passed on the idea of sitting in a restaurant and eating some kind of creative nouveau artistic over priced food in favor of grabbing a pizza and two cokes from the local pizza/kabob place and eating it in our room instead. It was delicious and economical. Hubby's got an episode of Top Gear on the television and all is right with the world.

We arrived in England via the Gatwick  Airport on Friday  morning. We got our little rental car and Hubby did quite well navigating on the opposite side of the road. Nothing,  however could have prepared us for the "Fresh Hell" that was  the M 25 which is the highway that essentially goes around  London. We kept thinking the stop and go traffic was  due to construction or an accident, but it was neither.

We thought we would do better  once we got off that highway and onto the M 3 but alas that was not to be. The only ones who were  making any headway  were the motorcycle drivers  who whipped between the cars.

We had prebooked our first night back home but when we finally made it to the town and then found the hotel, we discovered  they didn't have anything under our name. It was a bit of a relief actually because the place was filthy dirty, tired, and seemed to be the gathering place for an assortment of interesting individuals, so off we went to find a different spot for the night. This took a long time but we ended up in Chippingham. We were utterly exhausted due to not having slept since two nights prior and driving so long. We were very happy  to be sleeping that night.

The next day ( Saturday) was wonderful starting off after a full English breakfast  and going to Castle Combe. There is just too much to write about, but I will include a picture and a promise of another  post soon.

This is the magnificent manor house at Castle Combe which was built in the 1300's, I think. No, it's  not where  we  stayed, but you can, for the right amount of money!

More later...

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Ugly Shoes

It's been a long time since I've worn heels of any considerable height. When I was a teen / early twenty-year-old, I could traipse around in pumps, dance even. Now I don't get much over two inches of heel height, if that!

I am trying to decide which shoes I should bring to the Cotswolds. I know tons of people do the whole walking tour of the Cotswolds, but we are renting a car and can drive anywhere we want to go, so it's not like we need hiking boots. As well, I don't think we are going to be doing "fine dining", so I don't feel the need to bring dressy shoes and dress clothes (a relief, really!).

I was out looking for comfy shoes and had heard that Skechers are a good choice. The first pair of Skechers that I was considering looked like a two-tone light brown pair that were a bit like topsiders, but they just weren't quite right. Another pair was too tight in one size and too loose in the next size up. They did not have a half size. Then when I went into an athletic store with my daughter, I found a pair. They are called Skechers Go walk 3. They had them in the half size, and so they fit perfectly. I am not used to how these feel, like you are walking on a mattress. Normally I'm not great in squishy shoes, they make my knee ache after a while, but these are different. They aren't just squishy in the heel, they are squishy everywhere. I quite liked them. Then my sixteen year old son saw them, and with an exaggerated "Nice shoes, Mom", I started to question my shoe choice.

You tell me... are these ugly?

They feel like slippers. Do I in fact, look like I just walked off the ward without signing myself out?

And just when you thought you might be sporting ugly footwear, you check out these...

I always hated Birkenstocks. I thought they were just too earthy/hippy for me and the idea of wearing socks and sandals makes me ill. Instead of the Birkenstocks that are the two strap over the top of the foot kind, I tried these. Ta Daaaa!! Totally so much better. I can just hear my mother saying, "How can you stand those things between your toes???" I find these very comfortable and I've been living in them since I bought them for myself as a Mother's Day present. They are perfectly worn in and conform to my feet.

So, I guess what I'm saying is I will be bringing two butt ugly pairs of shoes to England with me. Fashion is not my main concern. I'm going for comfort.

Let's see what other ugly shoes are out there on the "Interweb":

Do you remember this little pieces of sweaty jellified plastic we used to wear when we were young?

Ahhh, yes, the Earth shoe. Who decided it was more comfortable to have your heel lower than your toes, in an attempt to stretch out your Achilles tendon, or your hamstring, or both??

Lord help me, I'm probably destined for these. My poor old grandmother had a few pairs like this, hers often padded in different sections with Elastoplast and moleskin.

My apologies to those of you who wear and enjoy these. I think they are really quite awful and they would be like wearing flippers on my narrow feet. Shrek feet, anyone?

Then there's these. I think my Skechers are better than these.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

33, feels like 33

The weather that I check online tells you what the current temperature is, then it tells you what it feels like. It does that because when we have humidity, which we often do, trapped in our little Great Lakes basin, it feels warmer than it actually is.

In the winter, we get the temperature, and then the "feels like" due to wind chill, which often makes it feel colder than it really is. So it's generally all a big lie.

But right now, at 6:54 p.m. it is 33 degrees, and it feels like 33 degrees (Celsius, of course). It is very hot. I do not mind, but when I admit that it is hot, it really is hot, because I do not complain about the heat.

I've driven past the same corn fields four times today and corn does a weird thing in extreme heat, with little to no rainfall. It gets upright and pointy. It makes me think it looks more like sugar cane than corn. In fact, it is already turning brown. I don't know what effect it will have on the yield for the farmers, but it is very pointy corn. I should have pulled over and taken a picture.

Today I went to a new physiotherapist who does acupuncture. She was great, very thorough, asking all kinds of questions, having me do all kinds of movement tests, assessing this, and checking that. I had my first acupuncture treatment today. I've had acupuncture before and this session didn't even register on the uncomfortable meter. I am hopeful it will help with the pain in my lower back and hips, as I am also doing different stretching and strengthening exercises. If you ever consider having acupuncture, be reassured that it is NOT the same as getting a needle, or having blood drawn, or any such thing. Needles don't really bother me as long as I don't watch. My friend is a pharmacist and now in Ontario, pharmacists are trained to give needles. They administer flu shots. She has given me my flu shot for the past couple of years. I would much rather receive a flu shot than give one.

Tonight for supper, I made sausage on the barbecue, a tossed salad, and corn on the cob. This is the first corn on the cob we have had this summer. It was o.k. but lacked a really good taste. I bought it at Walmart for very cheap (I know... for shame... I should be buying locally grown, just picked this morning corn). Now that I have eaten Walmart corn, I will definitely be buying local. There are a lot of farms in my general area that sell vegetables at the road side, or at the very least on their property. Many of them are Mennonite, or Amish. There is one place that is quite a big production, with orchards and lots of vegetable gardens. They also sell butter tarts road side. Do you know how many times I have wanted to hit the breaks, squeal my way into a 180 and go back for those butter tarts??? But I haven't done it yet. (Remember, I'm the one that does not believe that desserts can be too sweet or too rich).

A week from now we go on our England trip. We are so low key about it right now. I don't know why we aren't crazy excited, or laying out clothes, or creating lists, or any of those things. I think it is because my husband it knee deep in creating this bathroom upstairs where there never was a bathroom and it is so detailed and time consuming. I did buy an umbrella that is small enough to tuck away, and a new carry-on piece of luggage because one of ours is suffering a bit from tropical trips and is ripping on one side. Unlike Mexico, I do not think we can get away with one carry-on each and nothing else. I think we will each have our carry-on plus one other piece of luggage. I am looking forward to a trip on which there won't be a language barrier. To get ready for this trip, my husband keeps joking (I hope) that he is going to practise driving on the other side of the road. Lookout!!