Wednesday 30 December 2015

Windows 10, How do I Hate Thee, Let me Count the Ways...

Ahhhghghghgh, so we got talked into the free Windows 10 update, more than 30 days ago, and maybe I'm just a dinosaur who prefers things the way they were, but I'm so NOT happy with it. And yes, I looked it up, and after 30 days you can't go through a bunch of steps to get rid of it. Well, maybe someone can, but I can't in my limited capacity as a computer owner.

The latest thing is when I look something up, or click on a blog to read from my list of favourites, the circle thing spins for a while, then a screen comes up showing a little "thought cloud" and the words, "Hmm, we can't reach this page", then three suggestions: make sure you've got the right web address, refresh the page, search for what you want." I click refresh and it usually takes me to what I was wanting.  I end up having to do this round about way of getting to sites almost all of the time.

So... I don't see myself delving into my settings (or wherever I am supposed to solve this), nor do I feel like taking the computer to a professional for a chunk of money. Just wondering if anyone else is having the same luck with Windows 10?

On a different note, who has started packing up Christmas? I have the urge to take it all away now and get back to normalcy.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Christmas 2015

I hope everyone in Blogland had a peaceful, merry Christmas. Our Christmas this year was very nice. We watched our movies that we watch every year (Scrooge, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story) and we opened presents Christmas morning with the big hit being my husband's miniature Godzilla that has a light that shines out its mouth and real Godzilla sound (seriously). We played some games and went back in time with Snakes and Ladders, Uno, and even Candyland!We ate my baked goods, drank some wine, and stuffed ourselves on two turkey dinners (one at our home Christmas eve and one at my brother's Christmas day).  It is so wonderful having our two children home with us.

 As we were driving home from my brother's house in a city two and half hours away from us, we just had to stop and look at this home. There was even music to go along with this spectacle. Is it just me, or is this a little over the top?

I bet their neighbours hate them.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Tree Decorating Traditions

Last night we decorated our tree. I think we are a little later than most people. We have a real tree, and we wanted to wait until our daughter was back from university, so it was better to wait, rather than purchase it too early and have it dry out too quickly, or leave our daughter out of the decorating.

The tree has been in different spots over the years. This year it is in the living room, or "red room" as we refer to it. We moved a wing back chair and little side table out of the way. The tree fits perfectly. The procedure goes as follows: my husband puts it into the tree stand. This involves using the drill with a hook on it to screw the trunk into place, sometimes with blocks of wood to make up the extra space. The tree stand is heavy, so it goes on a mat so that it does not dent the wooden floor underneath.

Next come the lights. We just have plain, clear bulbs. I am in charge of the lights. After that, my daughter takes care of the beads. We have strands of "pearl" beads and gold beads. When she is done putting on the beads, I put on the ribbons. We have had these ribbons for so many years, but every year, they are carefully wound up and stored away to be used again next year. They are wide, wired ribbons that catch the light nicely. My daughter usually rearranges them a bit so they look perfect.

Then everybody gets involved in hanging the ornaments. The colour scheme for the tree is red / green / gold. No blue or silver. We usually start by clustering three plain balls on one wire and distribute those throughout the tree. We have collected ornaments over the years. My husband likes the special glass ones, like Santas or snowmen, or a reindeer. We do have a few "kid" ornaments that either have their name on them, or they made in school.

Traditionally, our daughter puts the angel on the top. This year she only needed to stand on a kitchen stool and place it on the top. Other years, when she was little, she would sit on her dad's shoulders and put the angel on.

A final job for my husband is to use some thin, sturdy wire to wire the tree in place. This year he has secured it to a door knob and the old hinge on the door behind it. We had an unfortunate tree falling incident in the past which resulted in a few busted ornaments and we don't want a repeat this year!!

Of course, the supervisor was there to make sure everything went smoothly.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

On what do you do your blogging?

Hello anyone out there reading this blog... I am thinking of getting either a new laptop or maybe an ipad for a variety of reasons, with blogging being one of them. I was wondering what any of you use? Also, what browser is best for you? Do you just put your pictures into your own computer or do you use another picture storage online? I am not hugely technical, but tend to just learn things as I need them. I am old fashioned in that I actually type on a keyboard. I am not a thumb-typer.  I do not own an iPhone and don't see myself purchasing one anytime soon, if that makes a difference.

I have tried using firefox, but now when I try to open it, it becomes MSN. I have no idea why. I don't like google chrome because it wants to be the boss of our home computer and it messes up other things already in place.

So, any suggestions would be appreciated. I don't know if any kind of tablet would be the way to go in terms of convenience of size, or if a laptop is better...  I might make a decision in time for a Boxing Day sale. Thanks for any suggestions.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Stealing 35 Questions from Other People's Blogs

I am borrowing an idea from Home Grown Journal and Our Quiet Life in Suffolk because I enjoyed reading their responses to these questions, so I thought someone out there in blog land might enjoy mine. Here goes:

1. Do you like blue cheese? 
It's not my favourite, but it is my husband's, particularly Stilton blue cheese. In fact, he often receives some as a present for things like birthday, Father's Day, etc. I like it in small doses.

2. Have you ever smoked?
I think I tried a sneaky one with some pre-teen friends and then again later tried a menthol one with a housemate in university. Now, I cannot even stand to be close to someone who smokes, even when they are not smoking, for the smell that comes off their clothes. Blech!!

3. Do you own a gun?
I am Canadian. I don't do guns.

4. What flavor of Kool Aid is your favourite?
I don't drink Kool Aid at all anymore. As a child, my mom thought a treat was orange Kool Aid and salmon sandwiches. (Note: I HATE salmon sandwiches, always have, my mother continuously forgot that fact, confused me with siblings that liked salmon)... the whole thought of Kool Aid brings back bad memories).

5. Do you get nervous before dental appointments?
Not anymore. I'm not afraid of the pain like I was as a child. Dentistry has definitely improved over the years!!

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
They're o.k. if you can have them with fried onions, but I don't eat them very often.

7. What's your favourite Christmas movie?
I LOVE Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase (Save me the neck), and I also love A Christmas Story (you'll shoot your eye out kid! I like the Wizard of Oz. Fra-jeel-ay, it must be Italian). My apologies to those who have no clue what I'm writing about.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
I have one coffee, instant, with milk (NO sugar).

9. Can you do push ups?
Hanging my head in shame here. I used to work out with weights and even then I did bent-knee push ups. Now, since becoming rather sloth-like (I'm totally blaming my waxing and waning hormones here), I don't think I could even do those.

10. What's your favourite piece of jewelry?
I would say my rings. My husband had my wedding ring made from the stones in a gaudy cocktail ring his grandmother gave him. So, my wedding ring has a square cut emerald as its main stone (which I love). He also gave me a ring with three garnets in it. Ironically, my daughter was born in May so her birthstone is emerald. And after receiving the garnet ring, I had our second child, my son who was born in January, making garnet his birthstone. I used to tell them it was like I was wearing them.

11. What's your favourite hobby?
I would say gardening, both vegetable and flowers.

12. Do you have ADD?

13. Do you wear glasses or contacts?
I have never needed glasses until a couple of years ago, when I started carrying cheap reading glasses (magnifiers) in my purse so I could read the small print on packages when I was shopping. I seem to need them even more now and it bugs the heck out of me.

14. What's your middle name?

15. What are your thoughts at this moment?
Will anyone even read this?

16. Name three drinks you regularly consume.
Coffee, tea, wine.

17. What is a current worry of yours?
Hmm, this is tough to narrow it down to one thing. Likely a family issue that I won't go into in blogland.

18. What do you currently hate?
Pajama pants in public.

19. Where is your favourite place to be?
Where I am now - home.

20. What do you plan on doing on New Year's Eve?
This year, we are having a family member stay with us for a few days, so likely we will just be home, nothing too exciting.

21. To where would you like to travel?
Switzerland, Greece, England (countryside), other parts of the Carribean...

22. Name three people you think will do this questionnaire on their own?
I'm not sure I even understand this question. Is the emphasis on "on their own", meaning without assistance from someone else? Or is this question about knowing three people who would do this questionnaire? I don't know.

23. Do you own slippers?
Yes, I'm wearing them right now.

24. What colour shirt are you wearing?

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
No. Cotton in warm months. Flannel in the winter.

26. Can you whistle?
Yes, I can. I'm no Roger Whittaker, but I'm not too bad.

27. What is your favourite colour?
There are certain shades of green that I love. I also tend to wear black. I also love a warm camel colour.... (I don't think it's fair to be asked to choose just one).

28. What songs do you sing in the shower?
I don't sing in the shower.

29. Would you be a pirate?
No, I get motion sick on boats.

30. What's in your pocket right now.

31. What's the last thing that made you laugh?
The biggest laugh I had was when my son accidentally scared my husband and the way my husband shouted, did a little frightened dance, and then got mad at my son for scaring him (again, accidentally).

32. What vehicle do you drive?
A well-worn Toyota Highlander. (Which is paid for, I might add!)

33. What's the worst injury you've ever had?
I don't know if you can count this as an injury, but I had a DVT in my right leg (blood clot).

34. Do you love where you live?
My home, yes. The surrounding village, not so much.

35. Would you change your first name if you could?
No. It's who I am.

Friday 11 December 2015

Early Morning Gratitude

It is early morning when I try to wake our 15 (almost 16!) year old son, just after 6:00 am. He isn't easy to rouse - he's a good sleeper. I come back two or three times to his room, turning on his light, nudging his arm, reminding him that he has practise. It is a basketball morning. I need to get him to the school by 7:15. We almost always get there a bit late. Even though he showers and gets things ready, packing his basketball shoes, grabbing his lunch, eating a "power breakfast" of a granola bar because he doesn't have time to anything else, he is usually comatose in the vehicle until we pull up to the school.

There is very little light at this time of the morning. The headlights are necessary as I drive the country roads on the back way to the school. It is quiet and peaceful. We don't talk much on the way there. It's only a short drive.

Sometimes it's hard to coordinate mornings with three of us getting ready (and one bathroom, that renovation isn't done yet!), making lunches, letting the cat in and out about four times, remembering to grab my laptop, straightening my hair, figuring out who is doing what after work... and sometimes it is frustrating having to take our son somewhere before our work day starts. Sometimes my husband takes him and rushes to have a shower before he goes to work.

Two recent events, however, make me thankful that I have these busy, dark, early mornings (and had them with our daughter as well - volleyball mornings usually). A young man in the community committed suicide . He left a lengthy note. It was a huge funeral. A young woman, my sister-in-law's niece, just died of a rare and very aggressive form of cancer. She had her whole life ahead of her. I believe she was 22 years old. I imagine the parents of these two young adults would give anything for the opportunity to go into their child's room and wake them up, or share a cold car ride together. They would probably long for another simple conversation, or to have them sit next to them on the couch and burrow their feet behind them, sharing a blanket, laughing at the same stupid scenes in a movie. I cannot imagine what the families must be going through. I'm just truly thankful that our two children are healthy and happy. Those are the basics- healthy and happy- the rest is just icing on the cake.

Go hug your children.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Bread making and more renovating

Yesterday I dragged out my breadmaker. Why? Because I am trying NOT to eat carbs in the form of breads, cakes, cookies, buns... so naturally I thought I should bake some bread (glutton for punishment).  So that's why I picked up some fresh yeast when I went grocery shopping and also a small bag of powdered milk. The ONLY reason I would buy powdered milk is for breadmaker recipes. Otherwise, it smells gaggy to me and brings back a bad Home Ec. memory from elementary school.

I found a recipe online that was for whole wheat bread and included honey and molasses. It was to make a two pound loaf. So, I put everything in, in the order it called for, pushed a button and waited about five hours. I was pleasantly surprised that my breadmaker (which hasn't been used in over a year, maybe more) worked like a charm, if you ignore the squeaky sound it made.

I should have taken a picture of the breadmaker before I took the loaf out. I know it shouldn't have been so big as to press ominously against the little viewing window. But I couldn't really do anything about the ballooning bread, short of stopping it and abandoning the whole venture. So I let it go until it beeped three times at me.

I only had to wrestle it out a little, then tipped it out onto a cooling rack. Then I took a picture.
You can see where it oozed out over the top of the inner baking container and stuck to the inside of the lid of the bread maker.
But even though it looks odd, it turned out to be a very nice loaf of whole wheat bread. I only had one slice, but husband and son have both eaten a couple of slices. I probably won't make another loaf for a while and if I use the same recipe I will have to cut it back a bit.

Meanwhile, our home is often in some sort of state of renovation. Most recently was our kitchen which is now 90% done. The project that my husband is currently working on is the upstairs bathroom. In our old house (more than a century old, but not totally sure exactly how old it is), there was never a bathroom when it was built. When we purchased it 16 years ago, the bathroom was very big and was in a room that was likely a parlour type of room, maybe a dining room. Either way, it was turned into a bathroom at some point. Upstairs in our house there were four bedrooms. Three bedrooms were of a respectable size, and one was a bit smaller. That room was our son's room for a little while but he has since moved into a different room. Then that room was the inevitable "storage room", but let's be honest, it was the junk room, a place to store things that didn't really have a home.

Now that room is being turned into an upstairs bathroom - a real luxury when it is done. I will not miss having to go all the way downstairs (18 of them!) in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. My husband is doing all of the work (in addition to doing his full time job). He was at it this weekend. Here is a sneak peak at the work being done.
The tub and surround is already in place. Where the ladder is will be the spot where the toilet will be tucked in. The ceiling will be dropped from the original high ceiling in order to accomodate lighting and wiring and such.
The blue wall that you see beside the tub enclosure is leftover from when this was our son's room. That alcove sort of space will be a built in cupboard for towels, supplies, etc.
This shot is looking into the closet in which my husband has placed a cheap shelving unit to put his tools while he is working on this project. When everything is finished, this closet will be a linen closet, something I have been waiting 25 years for. In every one of our houses, we have not had a designated linen closet. I have stored sheets and blankets in all sorts of ways like in drawers of dressers placed in spare bedrooms, in large rubber maid containers in "junk rooms", and in a bathroom closet which wasn't really big enough to be a linen as well as a bathroom storage closet. So, although it will be wonderful having an upstairs bathroom, I think I might just be a wee bit more excited to have a proper linen closet!! There is no completion date goal because this reno is happening when my husband has time and energy.

I often wonder what it would be like to have a totally finished home. Have you ever lived through multiple renovations? Do you hire people, or do it yourselves?

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Made to Last

I was reading a post in Hopalong Hollow Gazette  where the blogger was describing her collection of threads and wooden spools and it made me think back to the little front sewing room in my grandmother's house. She had a treadle Singer sewing machine in a wooden cabinet. There were some small drawers in the sewing machine cabinet as well as in a desk with sewing items in them. I used to love looking through them with their collection of threads, yarns, thimbles, bobbins... I used to watch my grandmother and sometimes my mother darn socks. My uncle wore what we referred to as barn socks which would have been thick work socks. If a hole developed in the heel, it would be darned. This meant that a glass light bulb was put into the sock where the hole developed so that a rounded shape could be achieved, like a person's heel. Then a darning needle and some yarn was used to weave and repair the hole. The sock was then able to be worn until a new hole developed.

Now if I get a hole in one of my socks, that sock is no longer worn. I WILL NOT be darning socks. Why? Well, because people just don't. Things aren't made to last anymore, anyway. Things get purchased, used for a short period of time, then they break or wear out, and they get trashed. And it is ridiculous. Actually, I don't throw out my son's socks that have holes in them. He likes the ankle height socks and I have a collection of them in a basket that get used as dusting rags. They fit perfectly over my hand and I spray them with something like Pledge and then when they get dirty with dust, I throw them in the wash with my towels. But, apart from my son's holey socks, many things get thrown away.

We have had fairly new items break on us over the years. Often this happens soon after the year's warranty is up. We purchased a washer and dryer set: stacking and high efficiency. My husband enjoys researching what to buy by reading Consumer's Reports. Regardless of good reports, the washing machine stopped going through the cycles. It wouldn't fill up properly. My husband thought perhaps it was the "Mother Board", i.e. the brains of the thing, so he ordered a new one. That wasn't it. Luckily I am married to a rather handy guy and he was actually able to figure out it was all down to one flimsy cheap little piece of tubing which got a tiny hole in it due to the action of the machine and he was able to replace it. Most people do not have the patience, skills, or tools to fix their own appliances. Do you think the manufacturers count on that?

We bought new kitchen appliances when we finally renovated our tired, old kitchen. Sure enough, the nifty little digital read out on our stainless steel dishwasher stopped reading out. Well, it shows some things, but doesn't show everything anymore. I really liked the words that let you know the load was clean and not just rinsed. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Likely this is a part that costs less than a dollar. Yes, our appliances are still under warranty. No, I can't be home between 10:00 and 2:00 for someone to come and fix it. No, there isn't someone who can hang out in our house and wait for you.

My parents had things for years. I mean YEARS. There was a refrigerator in the basement. It was called the milk fridge. (That's another story). Anyway, this was a small fridge that wasn't always in the basement. At one time it was the fridge in the kitchen. It was old. It likely wasn't very energy efficient. But that fridge still worked after all of us had grown up and moved out of the house! That fridge put our appliances to shame. I'm not kidding when I say that we have gone through three dishwashers in the course of maybe 15 years. My son wants a new gaming system for Christmas because the one that he had for, hmmmm, maybe two years??? doesn't work anymore. Prior to that gaming system, the one we had when the kids were younger also "gave up the ghost" and we had to replace that as well.

These are expensive things to replace. These aren't socks. But even little, inexpensive things break easily, long before they should. I was cutting a delicious gourmet  frozen pizza with a circular pizza cutter and the round blade broke off of the handle. I honestly wasn't leaning into it or anything. Can I survive without a pizza cutter? Yes, but that's not the point. (And actually handy dandy husband went out to the shop with the broken cutter and replaced a part and now it's useable again... but most people would toss it in the garbage).

And don't even get me started on vacuums. We have gone through A LOT in the course of our marriage. Granted, my husband sometimes has been known to use a house vacuum more like a shop vac and suck up various home renovation chunks and particles with it... but I recall my mother using an old long canister Electrolux for what seemed like my entire childhood. (Come to think of it, we've gone through a few shop vacs as well!!!)

How 'bout you? Tired of things not lasting? Or do you have a good old tried and true item that has lasted for years?

Sunday 29 November 2015

Morning Ritual

I don't get people who do not have breakfast in the morning. I know I would get a headache or feel sick if I didn't start with something in my stomach. Lately I have been trying to eat "clean". That just means that I try to eat whole foods, less processed, more proteins with complex carbohydrates at every meal. So, I have been choosing this smoothie as my breakfast a lot. It is a combination of something I saw on Dr. Oz last year, and my own taste preferences and need for protein in the morning. I have this smoothie on week days when I am going to work, as well as on weekends when I can slow down and not have to rush through my morning routine.
The ingredients (in the order that I put them in my blender) are: a generous handful of baby spinach, a couple of hefty spoonfuls of plain yogurt (which I forgot to include in the picture), a banana which has been peeled and broken apart into a few chunks, then frozen in its own ziplock bag (which I reuse over and over for more frozen bananas), frozen blueberries (maybe half a cup??), a scoop of vanilla whey protein powder, and some almond milk so it will blend well. I used to just use water to top it up and blend it, but discovered almond milk. The taste is much better than soy milk, it has a lot of B12 in it, which is good for me right now, and it lasts a long time in the fridge. I wouldn't sit down to a big glass of it, but I like how it makes the smoothie taste.
This is the pretty colour that it ends up being after you pulse / blend it in a blender. I like to keep mine more on the thick side so it feels like I am having a milk shake for breakfast!!

I always start my day with one cup of coffee. But after coffee comes breakfast in the form of my protein smoothie. The rest of the ritual is that I sit at the computer and sip away at it through a bendy straw (yes, a bendy straw) and read blogs. This protein smoothie is delicious. You do not taste the spinach at all, if that is a concern. Best of all, it feels like a decadent treat.

What does your morning routine entail?

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Holy Snow Batman!!

This past weekend was quite busy. Our daughter in university texted us saying that she was feeling a bit homesick and could she come home. She does not have a car at university, so we would need to pick her up and take her back. So my husband left right after work on Friday and drove to the city in which her university is located, which thankfully is only a little more than an hour and a half away. The weather reports were calling for some substantial snow, but that sort of thing doesn't really bother my husband.

So, our daughter was home with us Friday evening which was fairly uneventful with everyone being tired by the end of the week, and son playing basketball. He is now learning the hard way how braces and an arm to the face don't go well together. He spent the weekend nursing the inside of his mouth which got a bit torn up by his braces.

When I got up on Saturday morning, I was greeted by this:
looking to the north

looking to the south
That was A LOT of snow that fell in a relatively short amount of time. We went to a nearby town to do some shopping and the snow continued later in the afternoon, and like every year before this one, the first significant snow was not removed by snowplows until the next day. We had a tricky drive home!

When I was grocery shopping Saturday morning with my daughter, I saw what I can only describe as my own personal Christmas nightmare.
Yes, it is a huge display of fruit cake. I know, I know... there are lots of people out there who like, maybe love, fruitcake. I am not one of them. I think of fruitcake as a gift that you give to someone you hate. I remember as a child seeing slices of fruit cake and thinking all those colourful pieces of fruit and that lovely thick white icing on the top must be something sweet and wonderful. Then I would take a bite and it was everything I could do to keep it in my mouth and swallow it. I guess I am just not equipped with the right "fruitcake tastebuds". I really think the world can be easily divided into two categories of people. Those who love fruitcake and those who hate it. I don't even think there is an inbetween.

Anyway, the rest of the weekend was spent with close friends, eating my first ever whole chicken I made in a crockpot (pretty good, very moist!), and driving my daughter back to her university town , thankfully on cleared roads with not much snow in the air.

In which category are you? Love or hate fruitcake?

Sunday 15 November 2015

Snow... not yet, please

Yesterday morning I awoke to a light dusting of snow. It melted by about noon.

How did that make me feel? Well, I actually felt grateful that we hadn't really had much of anything in terms of snow before now. In previous years we have certainly had snow by mid November and much colder weather.

I realized that an adult's perspective on the first snow is so different than a child's. I remember the excitement of looking out the window in the morning, as a little girl, and having that thrill of being able to bundle up and go outside in the snow. The first snow meant you were getting closer to Christmas which was an excitement that was palpable, an excitement that vibrated within you.

Now when I see the first snow, I feel a slow building of dread. I think of driving through storms and of cleaning off the vehicle before you can leave work to come home. I think of cold fingers, cold feet, lack of sunlight, icy roads. I think of this:

Or perhaps this:

 Today, however, is a whole different story. Today is warm, sunny, envigorating. I went for a walk to the post office, and then a little farther. I tossed the slowly sagging jack-o-lantern from the front porch and put the wooden bistro set in the shed. I grabbed some more landscape fabric to cover the bed close to the house that I cleared a couple of weeks ago and anchored it with rocks from the back of our property. Now I won't have to fight with weeds in the spring when I want to start planting in there. I put a couple of planks of wood down over the landscape fabric so the oil delivery guy will walk on the wood to get to where he fills our oil tank, rather than ripping away the fabric and defeating my work. (Well, until it gets completely covered in snow, than it won't matter, he will be walking through a narrow path that we carve out of a snow bank for him).

But let's hope that the snow bank waits for a few more weeks, at least.

Lest you think that I am unaware of what is going on in the world, I am thinking about what happened in Paris, and of the many people who intended to go out for a bit of fun on a Friday night and ended up never coming home. There are no words.

Friday 6 November 2015

Living Past 100 and Blue Zones

Last night on tv I was watching a programme about  being able to live well past 100 years of age. In this programme, they discussed how as long as the brain is working, we should be able to use "bionics" or robotics to do the tasks that our muscles and limbs would normally do. They showed a man in his 80's who competes in track and field events, as well as a woman who did NOT look 82 years old. Also, the programme spoke about Sardinia, Italy and an area of Japan which are described as Blue Zones. These, and other areas, are parts of the world in which people live much longer. Not only do they live longer, but they are healthier and able to continue to do things in their advanced years.

Some of the common denominators of  Blue Zone areas (I've read the book, it's excellent) are that people have a sense of community, they get together with other people, they don't live out their final years in isolation. Also, their diet is not one filled with processed food. They also use their bodies in purposeful ways everyday. For example, they may walk everywhere, or sit down on the floor and stand up again multiple times a day, or they may machete the undergrowth that encroaches their yard all the time. These elders do not lie in a bed and watch tv day after day. They get up early, boil water, perhaps cut some firewood, walk somewhere, meet with other family members, eat fish or vegetables, or drink red wine, or tea. These people have a reason to get up in the morning.

The tv show really had me thinking (as did the book when I read it a few years ago) about aging. I am currently 49 years old and dealing with all the usual 49 year old female stuff where I swear I am forgetting everything and I feel like an "old woman" when I get out of bed in the morning. My job is mentally exhausting and I have no energy by the end of the work week. I get scared that I won't have enough energy to enjoy life to its fullest upon retirement. I worry about how I feel physically right now. If I am "creaky" and achy now, what will I be like when I am in my 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond.

Do people really want to live past 100 years? What would your life be like? I suppose if all of your friends and family members also continued to live longer, it would be better because then you would have them to share experiences with. I would not want to live to be incredibly old if my health was failing. I've seen far too many people in nursing homes whose failing brains did not allow them to recognize their own children. They could no longer walk on their own legs or feed themselves. To be curled up on a bed unable to communicate and depend on someone else for every function would not be the way I would want to exist for many years beyond the normal life expectancy of humans.

I don't know if I am odd in this, but I always read the obituaries in my little small town newspaper. I always want to see how old people were. I am fascinated by the people who live a long time, but are still vibrant, contributing, mobile, interested people. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to know why they were able to carry on a long, healthy life, but others have not. Is it just good genes? Is it about never really "retiring", but instead being busy and involved in many things?

Sometimes I think that when I retire and get rid of job stress and mental exhaustion, that it will be a chance to really "live" and spend time the way I want and go places, do things, or maybe do nothing at all for a while and experience quiet and blissful laziness (although I don't think I could do that for very long).

Do you know someone who lived to a ripe old age and had all of their faculties about them, continued to drive, do things, go places...? What was their secret?

Saturday 31 October 2015


I wasn't going to do a Hallowe'en post, but then when I was driving home on my usual route from getting groceries today, I saw this.

Isn't that awesome??  It's actually painted ( I guess) onto the horse!!!! I laughed when I drove past, then thought, hey that's what cell phones with cameras are for. I turned around and pulled over and took a couple of pictures. I didn't figure the owners would mind, because if you are going to paint a skeleton on your horse at Hallowe'en and put it in a paddock close to the road... well, people are going to take pictures. Here's another shot:

Then I got to reminiscing about Hallowe'ens of past years. Our two kids always started out by going out with one, if not both, of us around our little village. There certainly are enough houses here to satisfy any trick-or-treaters' needs. I don't have pictures of them when they were very little that I can import into the computer, but here are some fun pictures after we got a digital camera.
Pretty sure I know who would win this fight. 

There seems to be a theme here.
We usually decorate the porch for Hallowe'en. When the kids got older, they helped a lot.

As the kids got older, the look turned more toward gore. This is my daughter's makeup job on my son. 
When you are married to someone who likes to use tools, sometimes carving the pumpking can become a bit unconventional.
witch's fingers cookies!
That last photo is of cookies that I made with the kids one year. They are basically a sugar cookie recipe that you form into finger shapes. You use a sliced almond for the finger nail. If you look closely, you will see one that is supposed to be a toe. Later, one of the kids told me that they didn't really even like these cookies, they grossed them out! Oh well, you don't know until you try.

This year my son is too old to go out trick-or-treating and I don't know what shenanigans my university-aged daughter is going to get up to. My husband and I will take turns getting up off our respective couches to hand out candy at the door to whoever shows up. My husband LOVES the old black and white horror movies, as campy as they are, so no doubt he will want to watch one this evening. I went to the library today, so I will have a couple of books I can read while he is watching his movie and glance up occasionally to see what mummy or dracula is up to no good.

Thursday 29 October 2015

I'm on Mute

So... I have been off work for two days with full blown laryngitis. This has happened before. (I talk a lot in my line of work). I know that all I can really do is just not talk and rest things. It is really frustrating. I do whisper to my family but generally try not to talk at all.

What I have learned from this is that daytime tv, even with lots of channels, leaves a bit to be desired. I have NO books on the go right now. I'm not feeling top of the world (coughing, yucky) so I can't really summon up energy to get much done at home. As I have posted before, I am useless at napping during the day. (Would pay good money to be able to do that).

I intend to return to work tomorrow, but my voice is nowhere close to being back. One year I had laryngitis for about three or four weeks. It was terrible. Hopefully that will not be the case this year.

On a different note, Hallowe'en is Saturday. We are at the end of a dead end street in a small village. We generally only get a small amount of trick-or-treaters, but some years are surprising. I have purchased Hallowe'en treats (and NOT eaten a single one). Hopefully I have enough. I like to hand out more than one thing at a time. Do you get many trick-or-treaters?

Sunday 25 October 2015

Favourite Treats

Why is it when we can't have something, it's all we think about?  I have decided recently to reign in my horrendous eating habits. I am doing something that really worked well for me several years back called "clean eating". It was a fairly new term then, used mostly by those in the fitness industry who were trying to get lean for an event or photo shoot. (I was NOT someone in the fitness industry!)
Now, clean eating is nothing new and all you have to do is search for it on Pinterest and you get more information and recipes than you could possibly read.

So, anyway, here I am, planning my chicken and brown rice and salad, and writing down my meals with my protein and complex carbs and feeling all proud of myself, and Hallowe'en is just around the corner. My strategy for Hallowe'en was always to buy the Hallowe'en mini chocolate bars that I liked in the hopes we wouldn't have many kids and then I would be able to stuff myself with chocolate and a big glass of milk. But this year I have sworn off chocolate altogether, as well as any sugary treats that might be handed out (or not).

So, what are my favourite treats? If it is just in the category of chocolate bars, I would say Skor bar or Caramilk (best if put in the fridge!). My "drug of choice" for sugary treats would be chocolate covered almonds, or those candied peanuts (toffee covered peanuts / beer nuts). I am not a fan of anything "gummy" such as gummy worms. My son likes "fuzzy peaches" but I do not. My husband loved Reese's peanut butter cups. My daughter also likes those. I also do not like hard candies like you would find in a glass bowl at Christmas time, or mints- waste of time, mints.

But not this year.This year I will be eating an apple cut up with natural peanut butter in a spoon for dipping. MMM mmm good.

That's right...avoid the house where they're giving away apples!!

Saturday 17 October 2015

Family Tradition with a Sick Twist

We keep the usual traditions around here : homemade birthday cakes, husband reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve, taking pictures on the first day of school, marking measurements on the measuring stick every birthday, turkey at Thanksgiving... 

But we also have a rather odd family tradition. It involves this:

Here's another look:
Charming isn't it? To imagine the size, I have photographed it on top of a wooden kitchen stool.

I don't know how this began, but this delightful severed head was purchased with some Hallowe'en items. My kids loved Hallowe'en. I say "loved" because the rule in our home is you can go trick or treating as long as you are in elementary school. If you are high school aged, you are officially done. (I remember grudgingly handing out candy to a young man who was smoking and his voice had already changed). My husband and the kids often gravitate to the Hallowe'en isles when we are out shopping. They like all the gizmos, gadgets, masks, and costumes. I can take it or leave it.

Anyway, someone started by hiding the head. I can't remember where, or who it was, but then the games were on. All four of us at some point or other have found the head and then hidden the head for someone else to find. This is not limited to Hallowe'en. This head has shown up throughout the entire year. I once found it on the shower head one morning as I was about to get in the shower to get ready for work. Coffee cups, dresser drawers, under pillows... have all been successful hiding spots.

Our daughter came home from university for "reading week" this past week, so naturally, I made up her bed with the head under the sheets. She then hid it for my husband to find. It's always best when it is least expected. So it is wise to allow some time to pass before hiding it again.

This disgusting little item isn't the first thing to be hidden, however. When the kids were much younger we went to the Toronto Zoo. As a momento, each child got a toy from the gift shop. I believe my daughter chose a stuffed snake big enough to wrap around herself, and our son chose "Charles". Who is Charles?

Charles is the silver back male gorilla at the zoo. I hope this is a picture of him, my apologies if it is a different gorilla. The real Charles is mesmerizing.  He is huge and wonderful and seems to know what you are thinking as you look at him through the very thick plexiglass wall. The stuffed toy Charles that my son chose was similar in that it looked quite real with deep brown eyes that seemed to stare back at you.
It wasn't long before someone placed Charles at the top of our stairs to be seen as you were going up the dimly lit staircase to go to bed. Freaky.

Another tradition involving hiding is birthday presents. We have been hiding the kids' birthday presents since they were little and then they would begin the hunt with the encouragement of "warm, warmer, cool, ice cold, getting warmer, you're burning up!!" to help them find presents hidden behind furniture, inside the refrigerator, in the bathtub, under couch cushions, and so on. Honestly, they still enjoy it as teenagers. In fact, they often want to be part of the hiding for the other's birthday, making it more and more difficult.

Hiding Easter eggs is another tradition that our two kids still want, even though they are way too old. I use the plastic eggs and put jelly beans or chocolate eggs inside and hide them all over our one acre property. One year they were each limited to collecting certain colours of eggs, so even if they found an egg, they had to leave it alone if it wasn't their colour.

The head is now in possession of my husband who wants to find the perfect spot for our daughter before she goes back to university on Sunday. Game on.

Monday 12 October 2015

Rose Coloured Glasses

I just love the colours of autumn. We are now seeing more beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow in the leaves of the trees around us. They were a little late this year, perhaps due to the wonderful warm September that we enjoyed. The maple trees, the sumacs, and burning bush are all in their glory.

When the children were younger I would point out the colours as we drove together. I even commented on the deep golden yellow of the cornfields. As well, I would say how the cows looked so lovely and reddish brown against the green fields. I couldn't understand why the kids weren't oooing and ahhhing about all the pretty colours. Maybe I just appreciated them more.

This would occur the next autumn as well, me going on and on about the beautiful colours. Even the weeds in the ditches were lovely. Yellows and purples complementing each other. The silver maples, showing the silvery undersides of their leaves in the wind were also pretty. The only one who seemed to marvel over these beautiful colours was me.

And then one day my daughter pointed out to me that it was my sunglasses. She said I should take them off. Yes indeed. I'd been seeing the world literally through rose coloured glasses.
Normally I can be a bit of a negative grouch.I don't sugar-coat things, or hand out false complements. I am not one of those constantly happy people who always sees the good in everything. I'm probably somewhere in the middle of complete depressive and insanely joyous. But I really, really loved what the world looked like through those sunglasses. Everything was gorgeous and perfect and technicolour.

When we were on vacation in Cuba one March, I had set down my sunglasses with the rose coloured lenses in a washroom and forgot to pick them up on my way out. When I realized what I had done and went back to the washroom, they were gone. I did bring another pair of sunglasses with me, so I used those instead. When we returned home after the vacation, it wasn't too long before I was looking for another pair of sunglasses through which I could see a perfect world. I do not require designer sunglasses. They do not have to be expensive or act like a status symbol. They just have to be rose coloured.
 These are not my sunglasses.  My first ones were white framed, and my current ones have a tortoise shell frame, but these are cute, too.

Friday 2 October 2015

Teach...your children well...

I borrowed the title of the post from Crosby Stills Nash and Young.

My daughter, away at her second year of university, has taken to sending us pictures of her food. Last year she lived in residence as pretty much all of them do at that particular university. But second year, she is renting a house with three other girls. She now must make her own food and try to be economical at the same time. So far she has sent us a picture of her spaghetti and her "smashed" potatoes. She said they were "like mom's" and she wanted some food that reminded her of home.

Did I do a good enough job preparing my child to make her own meals? Sure I did the cookies, muffins, pancakes thing with my kids when they were little, letting them dump in the various ingredients and stir it around. But did I really insist on her learning the basics? Just because a child is in the kitchen with you doesn't mean they actually know how to make the food you are preparing. A few times, especially in these last couple of years, I would get her in the kitchen and call her attention to something I was doing. I had her peel potatoes, keep watch on onions frying in the pan, that sort of thing. But sometimes I think I should have done more. I do know she can sure make brownies from a boxed mix!!

But then I realize that this generation doesn't actually need to have the hands on experience, because undoubtedly there is a You Tube video which will show them step by step how to make shepherd's pie, or roast a chicken, or can tomatoes (not like she will do any of those while in university).

And my son? Well, he makes a mean sandwich. He does pick up after himself, and both kids know how to properly load a dishwasher! But this year in school, in grade 10, he has taken "Foods". Did he take it because he has a deep interest in how to prepare various dishes? Nope. He just didn't want to take art or music, and foods was the only other option. But I know they have already learned about safe handling of food, how to properly use sharp things, and they've made cookies, spring rolls and salsa.

When I was in elementary school, we had Home Ec. (home economics). Only the girls took home ec. We learned how to sew on a machine (I was already doing that by about age 9 or 10) and how to make meals. I don't think I really learned very much about cooking. I do know that I learned that powdered milk is horrendous stuff and shouldn't be fed to humans. I grew up around women who cooked and made things from scratch. I'm pretty old fashioned in that I still process things in jars and make jam, stew, roasts, and pies. I do not bake my own bread. I have used my bread maker occasionally, but I don't really even do that anymore, although now that I'm writing about it, I think I kind of want to drag it out from wherever I have stored it and have a go at "making" bread again, if you can call it that when you use a breadmaker.

So I am glad that my daughter is attempting some entry level dinners and that she isn't just making microwave popcorn and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I'm curious to see what the next picture will be!

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Felt like Fall

Last night before the light faded too much I thought I should pop out to grab the last few tomatoes out of the garden. The temperature had cooled off and there was a "feel" in the air. The sun was just beginning to set and as it continued, the colours were magnificent. It was like the sky was on fire. Of course, you just can't catch the true essence with a cheapo camera, but I tried.
Here is our backyard shed as the sunset began.

 gorgeous sky

black-eyed Susan with the sunset peeking through the trees

Sunday 27 September 2015

A Beautiful September Day

I love autumn. I love the colours and cricket sounds and pumpkins and sweaters. Autumn also means yard work for me. Today I managed to get a few things done before I knew I should stop or I would not be able to move tomorrow morning.
I had two beautiful crazy mandevilla plants hanging on my front porch which got chopped up and added to my compost as well as my red geraniums that hung at the arbour. There used to be a time when I would pot up those geraniums and try to keep them alive over winter so I could use them again next year. Yup, well, I don't do that anymore. I have gotten over my plant guilt.
Years ago I received two little clumps of forsythia from a wonderful woman that I worked with. That wonderful woman has since retired and amazingly survived an almost fatal brain aneurysm. Her two little clumps of forsythia have thrived and grown so much that they got a little out of control. They share a bed with perennials and have shaded and crowded out some of their neighbours. So today I ruthlessly cut back the forsythia. It was a big job. My son helped by pulling the "Gorilla Cart" filled with branches back to the burn pile about four times and dumping it.
Although it just looks like some sticks coming out of the ground right now, the forsythia will put on some new growth in the spring, although it probably won't bloom like it usually does.

As well, I have cut back the dead hollyhocks from various places around the property. I love hollyhocks when they are blooming, but when the blossoms fade they just look mangy. Not only do they look horrible, but their big circular shaped seeds drop everywhere, like the walkway, the grass, and the soil all around them, and they reseed very well! Of course as I am cutting them off and moving them to the cart, the seeds are scattering anyway.
We have a very big Norway Spruce in our front yard and it is now dropping sticky cones all over the grass and in my beds. I raked a whole bunch up and added those to the cart to be dumped in the burn pile (which now has taken on rather scary proportions). My leather work gloves can now stick to things all by themselves, they are so covered in sap.
big spruce with lots of cones

Although I have only just put a dent in things (WHY do I have so many perennials??), it feels good to get some things done. It is warm today, but there is a lovely breeze. Unfortunately it is a breeze from the south. Why is that a problem, you ask? Well, because there is the world's most gargantuous pile of turkey manure in the field to the south of us. Every year or two the farmers who own the land around us clean out huge turkey barns and create this behemoth which sits there for weeks, even months until it is spread on their fields. The stench on certain days is unreal.
You can't really grasp how huge this pile is by looking at a photograph, but trust me, it's massive.
One job I didn't have to do was "tucking the pool in" for the season. Husband and son did that.

I grew up in the country. I am used to the smell of manure. In fact, I quite like the smell of a horse barn! I rode along with my uncle in his tractor when he spread manure on the fields from his dairy cows. I have shovelled my share of chicken manure when we had our little backyard flock. But where I grew up, NOBODY created giant mountains of manure like that! Oh, and the farmers do not live here, they are a couple of concessions away, so they do not have to smell this.
O.K., back to something a bit more positive. For supper tonight I am putting in a beef roast. It will cook away in the oven in something I like to call my "magical cooking pot" because everything I cook in there ends up moist, tender, fall-apart succulent. It is made by Kitchen Aid and I got it at a greatly reduced price last year. It is called a Dutch Oven.

Magical cooking pot. Love it for anything from roasts to stew to chili!
So we shall have potatoes from the garden, the last of the beans from the garden, tomatoes from the garden, roast beef and some wonderful french bread (no, I did not make that!).
Hope everyone's weekend was productive and enjoyable!