Saturday 28 January 2017

Things you Find by the Side of the Road

I was driving to work in the morning. I saw this in the distance.

Keep in mind, I travel a rural backroad to get to work. There was a bush lot on one side of the road and a field on the other. I got closer.

Yup, it's a chair. At the side of the road.

It doesn't even look that bad. I wonder what the story is behind this?

The chair remained for about three more days. Then it was gone.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Incredibly Sad

Yesterday I learned that the daughter of friends of ours died in her sleep. I remember when she was born. We saw her in the hospital in her little blanket all bundled up. Her parents are wonderful people with whom we had many fun times and who also helped us out when we needed extra hands. She was twenty years old, if memory is correct. She just died in her sleep. She had her whole adult life ahead of her. She was healthy and smart and vibrant. I don't know how you carry on after something like that.

My heart is breaking for her, for her parents, for her brother, and her friends.

I came home from work and hugged my son. I contacted my daughter. My daughter, who is close in age and away from home as well, who I don't say goodnight to every night now, who I don't see when she wakes up in the morning, but who I just assume will be fine each day.

We must go to the funeral, but I am also dreading the funeral. The pain will be palpable.

I want to put my own two children (can I even call them children anymore?) in a bubble and make sure no harm ever comes to them. I know that isn't possible.

It's just so tragic.                   I don't even know if I should post this. I feel selfish in my own grief.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Weight Mindgames

That really is me. I finally got the willpower to get away from sugar (I could easily say I was addicted). I had frozen all the rest of the Christmas chocolates and treats, but even that didn't stop me. I still chewed on frozen chocolate. I eventually had to bag it all up and give it to my son to take to a party he was going to. I figured a bunch of teenagers could lay waste to it in no time flat.

With this kind of addictive personality it's a good thing I never got into smoking, or doing drugs! We won't mention wine.

This is not about a new year's resolution, it just happens to fall at this time of year - post Christmas excess and a goal of going on a vacation to the south in March. It also falls on the heels of basically eating what I've wanted and being inactive for the last two (?) years. It doesn't help that the fifty year old female body likes to redeposit and add to fat stores in places that were never your "trouble zone". What the hell happened to my waist??? I used to have one. Really.

Anyhoo.... the thing that has always worked for me is writing down my food. I do love to write things down. So I dug out my little spiral bound notebook that I had been keeping track of my eating in a while ago, opened it up again and started. I was very successful several years ago with clean eating. I'm sure I don't need to explain the whole thing, but it involved about 5 small meals a day with protein and complex carbs in every meal and just good non-factory-processed food. I also was successful 15 years ago with weight watchers.

This time around I applied a combo-pack of the above strategies and got to work. I also started increasing my activity. THEN I FOUND MYFITNESSPAL!! I am likely the last person on earth to discover this app, but it is so cool! I'm not a phone person. I really only text my children on it, for the most part and I don't sit about looking up things on the internet because I live in fear of going over my data minutes and paying $5000.00 on my next bill.

The groovy little feature on myfitnesspal that I quite enjoy is the barcode reader. You just point your phone at the barcode of the food you are eating, it scans it, and determines the calories per serving. You can adjust it if you are having a half a serving, or two servings for example. Yes, there are bar codes on things like blueberries or slivered almonds.

Along with the whole keeping track of food and moving more, I also weigh myself. I know you aren't supposed to weigh yourself every day, but I do. And here is how I do it. I am going to bet that this strategy is not unknown to some of you out there. I only ever weigh myself first thing in the morning, naked, after going to the bathroom. Not a sock or an earring need be part of the read-out on the scale! I have even anguished while watching weight loss shows where people get weighed with clothes and shoes on. Come on, people! Get rid of those running shoes! They must be at least a pound!!

O.K., spill the beans people. How many of you do the old "I didn't eat after supper, so I should be a pound lighter tomorrow" thing? "I went to the gym, so I should be able to see my biceps now." Let us all share in our weight loss lunacy.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Comfort Food on a Thursday Night

It's still dull and it's still January, so you might as well have some comfort food. This is one of my favourite home made soups. It ends up being wonderfully creamy and flavourful, but it is full of wonderful vegetables and absolutely no heavy cream. It is time for potato leek soup!

Here is everything you need to make this soup: potatoes, leeks, onion, celery, carrot, a little butter, chicken stock, a little milk, salt and pepper (also some parsley if you have it).

Melt your butter and start chopping. All the vegetables go in to be stirred around with the butter, then over low heat, let the veggies cook a bit in a covered pot.

Add a whole container of chicken broth.

Pour in a little milk, not even half a cup. I always use 1% milk for everything.

After the veggies are nice and soft, season with salt, pepper and parsley. It is time to make this creamy. But first, we need to have a moment of silence. I lost an old friend today:

My good old Braun hand blender has been with me longer than one of my own children. It has blended many pots of soup over the years. In fact, I took this picture and was then going to take a picture of me blending the soup right in the pot, but the poor old thing just gave a dull buzz and ceased to whir. So, I was forced to use my blender to puree the soup, a few ladles at a time. It worked fine, but being able to use the hand blender in the pot is so convenient. You don't have a blender, or a food processor to wash up afterwards.

All nicely blended but still a few little chunks so you don't feel like you're on a liquid diet.

Here's the final result with a nice warm slice of cheesy garlic bread. There are lots of leftovers for later in the week. Good comfort food at this "lovely" time of year!

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Devoid of Colour

Fresh snow is pure and sparkly, and for some, lovely to play in. January snow is dingy, dirty, tainted. I was driving to work and realized that the world is rather monotone right now. I drive through the countryside and the fields and snow and trees are all varying shades of brown and grey. It is like living in a sepia tone photograph. Except it's real.

my parking lot

my drive home

my drive home with fog to further obliterate any possible colour
I have no doubt that the patches of earth that are showing through the snow will be covered with more snow and that this mid January melt is just a blip. It is a very dull world out there right now, however.

The blanket that snow provides, the whitewash of the world around us, the softening of sharp edges is what makes spring so magical. It truly is a rebirth for those of us who experience a snowy winter. The contrast between the non-colour of winter and the bright spring greens, pinks, yellows awakens our senses, makes us feel hopeful and alive, and gives us a real sense of having survived yet another season.

Alas, I can't let these dreary, lifeless surroundings get me down. We have two more months ahead of us of more of the same. But at the moment, I'm feeling a bit like Eeyore.

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

Monday 16 January 2017

Well, We Can Cross that One Off the List

So, on my quest to lose some weight and be a healthier, trimmer me, I looked at the produce aisle with new eyes this past weekend. I find myself in a bit of a rut sometimes, making the same suppers, or at least the same side dishes. I thought I should check out vegetables that I normally wouldn't pay attention to.

I came home with this.

It looks healthy, doesn't it? All that dark, leafy goodness..

This is what it's called. It is not actually a member of the broccoli family, but is more like a member of the turnip family, more closely related to "greens". It is called broccoli rabe because of the little heads that look like broccoli.

I didn't know how to properly prepare this lovely bunch of vitamins and minerals, so I googled it and found out that you should first blanch it in salty water to eliminate any bitterness. Then you saute it in olive oil with some garlic. Well that sounded good, so that is what I did.  It was to be my side to some garlic sausage and mashed potatoes.

We got our plates ready and sat down at the table. I was ready to embrace this glistening dark green vegetable. I already felt a little bit healthier just for having it in my house! I took my first bite... and it was horrible. I don't mean "fussy kid, I hate broccoli" horrible. No, it was bitter, "I tried to take a pill but it dissolved in my mouth before I could swallow it" horrible.

I told my husband and son not to bother to eat it, it was that bad. My husband did actually eat it and said he didn't mind it. My son took my advice and didn't even try.

I don't know why I bothered to put the unused portion of broccoli rabe / rapini back in the fridge. I won't be doing anything with the rest of it, apart from taking the pictures for my blog. I might as well just put it in the compost bin now.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

listening to a storm

I'm  propped up in bed, laptop on my lap, and I'm listening to the wind outside. I can hear the tree branches hitting the side of the house and the rain sounds like waves breaking. We are having a high wind alert right now. We can have gusts of wind up to 90 km per hour (which is about 56 miles per hour).

I should really have the light out and be asleep by now. I love the sound around me. Is that weird? I find the whole thing so cozy, to be piled with blankets and hear the low roar and swish and know that I don't have to go anywhere and everyone is home, safe.

My father loved a good storm. In the summer months, he would sit out on the porch sometimes and watch the lightning. He taught us, I suppose, to not be afraid of thunder storms, as so many people are. Our own children slept through most thunder storms.

Weather that makes me nervous is when it seems like tornado weather. Then I get antsy and watch the sky carefully. I also do not enjoy white out conditions while driving. But hunkered down in this wind storm, it's nice. It will lull me to sleep. I suppose it's a bit like what I've been reading on many blogs lately, this notion of "hygge". If I had some beef barely stew right now to eat while listening to the wind, it would be perfect!

Friday 6 January 2017

Sleep, perchance to dream...

Last night I had the most bizarre dream. In my dream, my back teeth were loose. I could feel them move under my tongue. Then later in the dream, my back teeth came out, just like when you are a kid, and there is no root left, just tooth. Shortly after that, the teeth in front of those also became loose and fell out! Of course there was other content to the dream, but I can't really remember much of that, but the whole tooth thing seemed so real that when I woke up I could still remember it and actually was happy that my teeth were still there!

Have you ever had a tooth dream? Apparently, they are quite common. I remember sitting in a highschool science class and a classmate talked about having a dream where he crunched and ate his own teeth. "They tasted like those candy cigarettes!", he said.

When I was in university, my housemate took a course in which she had to keep a dream journal. As part of the course, they were given common dream interpretations. For fun, I kept a journal as well. We would then analyze our dreams. Much of this interpretation wasn't rocket science. Usually dreams reflected what you had been experiencing as of late, or what had been on your mind.

A common meaning of "tooth dreams" was having to deal with a stressful situation. I doubt there is anyone who isn't dealing with some kind of stress. Another dream that I have had involves going through a big house with many rooms and hallways, not necessarily one I could identify. The interpretation for that one was trying to work out a problem, or make a big decision. Kind of a theme, here.

I used to dream much more vividly than I do now. I also used to remember my dreams much better than I do now (mind you, I used to remember a whole lot of things better than I do now). I think you can train yourself to remember your dreams better. When my housemate and I were keeping a dream journal, we were able to recall details better as we continued to do it.

Our son used to talk and walk in his sleep A LOT. It caused me a lot of concern. I worried that he would grow up and move out of the house and go to university and continue to sleep walk and get into all sorts of danger. I talked to our family doctor about it and he found the whole thing fascinating rather than concerning. He said it would likely stop around age twelve or thirteen. Well, darned if he wasn't right! Our son did in fact stop his sleep walking when he was around twelve.

If you've never witnessed a sleep walker / talker, it is a bit disconcerting. Our son would have his eyes open and he would walk into the room and talk in a normal tone to us. Usually this would happen within an hour or two of us putting him to bed. We would be downstairs watching tv and we'd hear him come downstairs from his bedroom (yup, walked down 16 stairs without a problem). Often the one way that we could tell if he was still asleep was to ask him a skill testing question. Usually it was, "What room are you in?" If he told us a different room than where we actually were, we knew he wasn't really awake. He never left the house, but that was always a fear.

Our daughter did not sleep walk, but I do remember night terrors when she was quite young. She would scream like a banshee after being asleep for a while and there was no consoling her until she just ran out of steam. For first time parents, that was also a bit disconcerting!

Apart from my teeth falling out, another dream experience that I had only once was an incident in which my body really was paralysed. I had learned that our body has the ability become paralysed while we sleep and have particularly violent dreams so that we don't hurt ourselves. In this incidence, I woke up from a bad dream and honestly was unable to move. It was scary, but I actually reasoned with myself what was happening and fell back asleep for a bit, and then when I woke up it was all fine.

So, there you have it. Respond with your sleep walking, recurrent dream, teeth falling out stories!

Sweet Dreams!

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Change of Birthday Plans

Today our son turns seventeen. The beautiful sunny weather I just posted about? Well, it got replaced with snowsqualls, whiteouts, some road closures, so the birthday plans have once again been changed. This poor kid has had his birthday messed about so many times. There have been many times where we have had to be on the road on his birthday, either returning my mother-in-law to her daughter, driving our daughter back to university, or just plain old horrible weather.

Our daughter has had so many of her birthdays spent in a three day dance recital that it just became normal. Any gatherings or parties that she had were almost always the weekend before, or the weekend after her birthday.

These pictures don't really give credit to the blowing and squalls, but I took them this afternoon.

In fact, it looks positively balmy in these shots. When the wind picked up, you really couldn't see a thing.

The change of plans meant that his girlfriend couldn't come for a visit today, we couldn't go to a town about 45 minutes away to eat at Boston Pizza, in fact, we didn't even leave the house. Instead, we had home made nachos and birthday cake (always home made) and watched Star Wars. (Yes, the non-movie watcher had her laptop and other distractions at the same time). Our daughter is already back at university, doing her own thing.

Birthdays were not a huge deal for me growing up. I have a summer birthday, not during school time, so birthday parties were not part of my childhood experiences. We didn't live in town with neighbours close by, so birthdays were usually just immediate family. My mother baked a cake and there would be presents, but I don't have any specific memories of a cherished present, or gathering. For this reason, I always like to make sure my own kids feel like their birthday is being celebrated. We still put up some kind of decoration, even if it is the Happy Birthday Sign. Sometimes there are balloons and streamers, even at the ages they are now. I always bake a chocolate layer cake (their request). We still hid our son's presents and told him if he was hotter or colder as he looked for them in the house.

At present, a very young Harrison Ford is on the screen and I am about ready to pass out from the heat of the wood stove and the one glass of wine that I've had, but we managed to celebrate son's seventeenth birthday and he isn't one to fuss if things don't go as planned, so it's been a good day after all.

But it would likely be easier if we just had cats.

Putting order to a small corner of my world

You know how sometimes you just have to control one little aspect of your life when you feel like you don't have any control at all? Today I tackled the fridge. Oh yes, I pulled every single thing out of that stainless steel bottomless pit of all things half empty. I was ruthless.

I looked at every single "best before" date. If it didn't say 2017, it was gone. (O.K. just so you know, I threw contents away and then rinsed containers and put them in the bluebox because you don't want to be too much of a rebel). I got rid of the half consumed pickled beets, blueberry jam, and salsa with corn in it. (These were all gifted to me, gulp, two years ago).

I was brave enough to open the container of cottage cheese that had just a little bit of cottage cheese, and some shaggy blueish grey mold in the bottom. Yup, rinsed that one out for the recycling as well. I poured the last of the garlic rib sauce down the drain, as well as the not so great chipotle ranch salad dressing.

I took out shelves and scrubbed them and dried them and put them back in (I think in the same spots). I questioned how fruit flies can live (and then die) inside a refrigerator. I really, really wrestled with saving the limes. They were supposed to be for something that I didn't end up making, but they are still fine, and now I feel obligated to look up some recipe that I don't really want to make just so I can use the rescued limes.

I threw out the mostly uneaten plum pudding (happy dance and firm, "I asked you about four times if you still wanted some of this!" to my husband). I questioned why I had not one, but two unopened small containers of sour cream. What the heck was I planning on serving at Christmas time that was such a good idea I bought sour cream twice??

But now, it is a thing of beauty. In fact, there are even bare patches where the gleaming glass of the shelves shows through! It looks almost like the fridges in ads for fridges do, with matching containers and just two apples, or six eggs and carrots with the green tops still attached, just lying there artistically.

When I open the double doors, a bright light shines out and a chorus sings and all is right in my world (until somebody spills something).

Monday 2 January 2017

January 2nd 2017

In years gone by, the week that begins January has been notoriously stormy. There have been bus cancellation days for schools and even road closures. So, it was rather pleasant and surprising that today started out with such beautiful sunshine.

It was lovely to have a cup off coffee at the computer with the sun streaming into the kitchen.

Scooter the tailless cat appreciated the pathway I made for him on the porch.

Sampson the stripy cat also enjoyed having the sun on his face. (That's his contented expression).

Yesterday I finalized the packing up of Christmas. I never seem to get it repacked in the same way each year and so I ended up with some things that did not fit in the giant Rubbermaid boxes and had to be stored separately. Now all that is left is a naked tree. I will leave the moving of that outside to the husband and I will (of course) vacuum up the needles which will wedge themselves between the floor boards.

Today we delivered our daughter back to university. It was a perfect day for driving. We were determined to have a shwarma lunch on our way to her dorm. Because we live in an area with very little cultural diversity, we like when we can go to places that offer a variety of cuisine. I had the chicken with rice and lentils and husband had the beef. Daughter had hers as a wrap. Son decided he was going to stay home and sleep, so he said goodbye to his sister this morning and went back to bed. (Priorities) Husband and I asked for mild meals but there was still a nice kick to them. There was so much food, we brought our leftovers home and heated them up for a late supper. So good!! I would love to be able to replicate it at home but I have no idea which spices are used. I suppose I could look it up. I always laugh when I watch cooking shows and the recipe calls for a particular spice or ingredient and the host suggests you buy it at your local Asian/ Mediterranean / Middle Eastern food market. Well, that would be about two hours away!

As I type this post, the husband is watching a movie that he recorded called, "The Robe". There are  Romans and marble columns and many well-draped women. It stars a young Richard Burton. Isn't it funny how all other civilizations speak with an English accent! I'm not much of a movie watcher. I will sit in the same room, but I'm often on my laptop, or with a book. I'll get up to put a load of laundry through, or tidy up the kitchen, or some such mindless task. Sometimes I think I'm a little bit attention-deficit.

While we were in the city, we were on the hunt for some new prints to put on the walls of the den (the room I had recently painted). I was disappointed with all the same cheap frameless "paintings" of either abstract looking birch trees, floral skulls (???), swirly colours with a shot of glittery silver, or just text printed on cheap wooden backgrounds. I really just want some nice framed prints of old-fashioned still life (think fruit on a simple wooden table in subdued colours), or some kind of charming furry animal (hare maybe, or fox), or even a couple of botanicals. But I was not enamored by anything we saw in the chain stores. However, we aren't in a position to purchase any originals either. I think we need to go looking on the internet and find something tasteful, casual, rural... I'll keep you posted.

Well, there's my life in a nutshell. Hope everyone is well and moving forward with their new year's resolutions (eye roll due to breaking pretty much every resolution I've ever made).