Sunday 27 August 2017

Writing - You'll Never Know Until You Try

Writing has always come easily for me. I never found the concept of grammar difficult. Spelling isn't usually an issue. I enjoy words. I like finding out the origins of expressions. I so appreciate well written stories, books, instructions... I write a great deal for my job. This blog, however, was the first time that I had ever written for pleasure and allowed other people to read my writing.

I have never been one to put myself out there in situations where I think I may come off looking like a fool. For example, I do not possess great physical prowess, so I am always hesitant (read "never will") to try things like downhill skiing, roller blading, group sports, etc. for fear that I will be so atrocious at it (or will seriously hurt myself). I'm not saying this is a healthy attitude, but it's how I am. Please don't recommend counselling. The one thing which is in stark contrast with this chicken shit persona is speaking in public. I actually don't have a problem getting up in front of a large group of people and speaking as long as I am prepared, or know what is needed of me. But don't ask me to hit a ball, or dive into the deep end, or play piano. Please don't ever ask me to play piano in front of anyone except maybe my cat.

So it was a bit of a leap for me to blog and send my words out into the great "inter web". It was shocking to receive that first comment. It was a greater shock that people returned to read what I had to say. I'm still completely thrilled and delighted to see comments (unless it is that creepy weird Asian spam comment).

Many moons ago, when my crazy grandmother was still alive, she would say that I was going to write children's stories when I grew up. When I was little (4, 5, 6 years old or thereabouts) I spent a lot of time drawing stories in booklets of plain newsprint. I would draw out the various scenes of stories, often about the Easter bunny (still love rabbits!), then would narrate them to my grandmother as she was working away in the kitchen. I did this because my older sister did the same thing. She would draw stories for me and tell me the stories out loud. There was an ongoing one that involved a squirrel (Sammy?) I adored these stories. It wasn't unusual to create illustrated stories. This was long before technology or even cable or satellite tv. I drew and created stories for fun. But as I say, my grandmother was crazy, so what did she know? She had full on arguments with the radio.

Where am I going with this? I am trying to gather up the nerve (because I feel this is a brave thing to do) to take that first leap into writing. I get worried about the what-ifs. I think too far into the future. My husband, who is always so encouraging, has told me to not even think about publishers or rejections, or copyrights, but instead to just write. Just write something. I think I could write for children because I've read a great deal of junk written for children and question how it ever got published. I feel that I could write rhyming stories, humorous stories, stories that children could relate to.

With my humble little blog, I am asking for guidance, suggestions, practical details, anything that you could tell me because YOU have written something and got it published, or your brother has, or you have a neighbour who works for a publishing company, or you are a free lance writer, or your great aunt Matilda writes for Hallmark cards, or anything! I'm not digging for compliments. I'm actually hoping somebody out there has already been down this road and can offer up some helpful hints on how to even begin and how to go from writing in long hand on three ring binder paper to actually sending an idea to a publisher.

Thank you, ahead of time, for any and all suggestions!

Friday 25 August 2017

What's For Supper / Nearing the end of August

There is a palatable change in the air. It is always this time in August that the crickets are noticeable, there's a bit of a snap to the morning air, many flowers have faded, while others become dominant. Although I LOVE summer, I actually really like how this time of year feels. Normally, flower beds look bedraggled and crispy, but of course this year with our relentless rain, everything is lush and full. The "snap" of the morning air was closer to "bloody cold" these past couple of mornings. We are supposed to go down to a low of 6 degrees tonight!! (Celsius - have no clue what that is fahrenheit, but 0 is freezing).

Normally, as well, I have a glut of garden produce, but the relentless rain caused a lot of blight, etc. so my glut occurred with my strawberries. I have some beans, some zucchini, quite a few cucumbers. The rabbits continue to trim the peas as soon as they grow a little, and the tomatoes, well let's all just bow our heads and grieve over the loss of the potential tomatoes. I've dug out a few potatoes (like buried treasure!!) but even they show the effect of too much moisture with hollow discoloured centres, although the rest of them are still quite edible.

Recently, blueberries were a very good price in the grocery store, so I bought a giant container. I seemed to be the only one eating them, so I had to decide how to use them before they became a loss. I got out my trusty recipe book.

I love these recipe books (there are three altogether, created by the two sisters pictured on the front cover). They were originally published as low fat recipes, but they are just tasty and fun, regardless of being low fat or not (sugar is the devil, anyway, not fat).

I love the names of their recipes, always with some kind of corny pun involved. I frequently write in my recipe books, with helpful future hints, or even a rating from the family. Obviously this recipe was a winner. So I made it again and indeed it was very good.

This was the oats mixture that gets put on top.

Here are the blueberries mixed with sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice.

This makes a big dish of dessert. I like it served warm with a little milk, but we've had it with vanilla yogurt, or frozen yogurt, or just plain. It does stain the dickens out of your teeth, however, so brush well after eating!

Today I got my hair dealt with, regrowth at the roots dyed and some lowlights dragged through my overly blonde hair. I sincerely hate getting my hair coloured, not because of the chemicals, or the price (although it is pretty pricey), but being captive for almost two hours having to make small talk with someone that I have very little in common with. I'm a fairly private person (who writes a blog... I know, a bit of a contradiction) and I just don't enjoy that constant banter of question / answer that is part of sitting in a hair stylist's chair. I have tried various hairdressers over the years. I know it's just my problem, probably other people think it's a lovely treat, but I just want to be quiet.

Anyway, after getting home, I embarked on something I've been wanting to do for a little while. I was inspired by Mama Pea over at A Homegrown Journal who has written a few times about her stuffed peppers. Now, I do NOT have any mature peppers yet (the poor little things, I don't think they'll ever see full maturity before we get frost!), but I have been harbouring a few zucchini in the crispers for a little while now. So, I looked up a some recipes for stuffed zucchini, had a look at what I had in the house and concocted some filling for my scooped out zucchinis. In no particular order or quantities, I combined ground beef, onions, green peppers, soft bread crumbs, egg, parsley, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, leftover cooked rice, and some plain spaghetti sauce. I let my stuffed zucchini bake away in a 350 oven for at least 45 minutes (the meat mixture was raw when I put it in the oven) and then put a little mozzarella cheese on top to melt. They were pretty good! I like that you get the flavour of meat / spaghetti sauce without the pasta, and it uses up at least two zucchini!

Here are a couple of hollowed out zucchini boats.

I really heaped up the meat mixture so each one got lots of filling. Here they are pre-baking. I didn't take a picture of the finished product, because we were hungry. I would definitely make this again, although the filling could change depending on what's in the fridge.

I've been typing this while listening to news casts about the hurricane affecting Texas and surrounding areas. I hope everyone is safe and secure. We don't get hurricanes here. I guess our natural disasters would be tornados and to a lesser extent, blizzards. It's always scary when nature takes over and is far more powerful than you are.

Thursday 17 August 2017

Jiggity Jig

Yesterday, we went to the "big city", well, a big city. Just husband and I. We went to Costco. This is a big deal because we never go to Costco. (It's a big box store where you have to buy a membership and you can buy all kinds of large amounts of things from office supplies to groceries to toys). We had been earlier this summer to renew a very expired membership, but their machine that takes the pictures and produces the membership cards wasn't working, so they sent us home with an official piece of paper saying we had paid.

We decided to officially get our membership cards and have a look around. Because we so very rarely go to Costco, the place still amazes me. The giant boxes of everything just astound me. I am also floored by the prices of food. There was a huge pie for an incredibly good price. Why would you bake???? My husband bought a great brick of old cheddar for the price that we would pay for one half that size. I can see why some people who live right in the city do their regular grocery shopping there.

Costco is also a very dangerous place, to me anyway. You can easily convince yourself that you need the 24 pack of coloured Sharpie markers ( I LOVE Sharpies), or the dual pack of Nutella, or the muffins that are the size of cakes. Heck, you could buy a mattress, or a refrigerator, or a sectional couch. But I have now discovered the best way to go to Costco. You must go there in a little two-seater car, which is what we did.  No back seat and a relatively small trunk completely prevents you from overspending! I actually had to take things out of boxes and throw the boxes away in the parking lot garbage can so they would fit in the trunk! I think the worst way to get to Costco is in a van, or a pickup truck. Then, you likely would leave with a refrigerator.


As it turns out, we will never run out of packing tape, I will truly enjoy my Sharpie markers, there is a tray of giant muffins in my fridge, my new slippers are fabulous, we have enough extra strength no name ibuprofen for an infinite amount of headaches, and I've already stashed away the triple pack of goldfish crackers so my son doesn't eat them all in one day.

I am actually very glad that I don't live close to a Costco. I fear my control would be tested.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Save Some

It's Tuesday. Nothing special, just a normal Tuesday, so I made just a normal supper. We had burritos. You know, the kind made with Ol' El Passo tortilla wraps and ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning. Throw on some cut up peppers, onions, cheese, and salsa and there's dinner.

My daughter was working tonight and would not be home until after 9:00. That means she will want supper when she gets home. That means I had to remind my husband, when he went back for seconds that he has to save some meat for her. There was plenty of everything else, but a limited amount of seasoned ground beef. Sometimes (often) my husband will just "clean up" the food that is still there by eating it. I do have to mention that one, or both of our kids will want some of this when they get back home. This is standard. But I still say something. I must be annoying.

There is a reason, though. I don't know if you have a husband, wife, partner, dog, whatever, that cannot be trusted around food. Although this picture is not my daughter's, it is something she has done on various occasions with leftover take out food, usually pizza. (She does not include the death part).


Sometimes it works, other times he doesn't even look at the box. There have been many sticky notes over the years. One thing I have had to hide is cheese. God love him, he really can't be trusted with cheese. I will put cheese in the crisper drawer instead of in the drawer where we keep sandwich meat, eggs, and cheese. In the past, when I was the lunch-making mama, I would sometimes buy special sliced cheese like Havarti or swiss for sandwiches. If I did not hide it, there wouldn't be enough for sandwiches that week.

His birthday was this past week. He LOVES Stilton blue cheese. I bought him a nice big piece, but I was planning on using a bit of it in the salad and to go with the steak I was making for his birthday dinner. So, I put it in a paper pharmacy bag and kept it in our other fridge until the birthday supper. It was safe.

I work in a place where almost everybody brings their own lunch from home. There is a fridge in which you can keep your lunch if it needs to be refrigerated. Every once in a while someone mistakes someone else's food for their own. This usually happens when it is not in an actual lunch bag. Some people bring their food in just a grocery bag, or they just have a yogurt or some fruit that they put in the fridge. I find this utterly ridiculous. If I made my lunch, I would know which one is my lunch!

But what is worse, is the person who just leaves their food in the fridge, and then forgets about it. I've gone on some mighty fridge purges at work, reading "best before" dates out loud before chucking them in the garbage. The mold encrusted food, the leaking container, the shrimp dear lord the shrimp, the very very old cream... it's all been tossed after I just can't take it anymore. How do you not know you've left your food for that long??

But I digress, my theme was making sure there are leftovers for those people who are not present at meal time due to varying work schedules by reminding my husband not to eat it all. You know, this is usually only a meat issue. I've never had to say, "Leave some of that salad!" or "Make sure there are still cucumbers!" or "Don't eat the last of the carrots!" It's not that he doesn't eat vegetables, but meat is really his passion.

Not to sound perfect, if there is chocolate in the house, there really is no hiding from me!


Sometimes chips are on sale (potato chips = crisps to my lovely English readers) so I will buy a couple of bags. Both of my children are terrible for staying up late. One likes to be in front of the tv in the den until all hours and the other prefers his bedroom with his computer. They both like to snack. I hide the chips in my bedroom closet. I think they both know they are there, but they know my closet is off limits (like little kids at Christmas who know where the presents are hidden, but don't want to spoil the surprise). I like to have snacks in reserve if someone should drop by.

There have been many times over the years when I have gone to the fridge to get something that I was planning on making, or using in a recipe, or putting in someone's lunch only to look high and low, and then utter the famous words, "R., did you eat the ________?"   They are usually followed by a , "Sorry, I didn't know!!"

I shall finish with something that perhaps a few of us can relate to:


Wednesday 9 August 2017

A New Post.

I admit I've been a neglectful blogger. I just haven't had a lot to write about. However, I have taken some pictures, some from a while ago, so here goes a long, "picture-ful" post.

I had taken some flower pictures last week to show what's thriving.

Although this constant rain has been a pain in the neck and interfered with sunshine for most of the summer, my urns are doing very well. I try to fertilize every week or week and a half.

I took this picture for Joanne (Cup on the Bus) to show her my obedient plants and see if she thinks that is what she has in her garden. They are definitely August bloomers.

This clematis was given to me 11 years ago. It has bloomed once before. (I am a patient gardener). This year it is putting on its best show ever.

Quite obviously I have not managed to rip out all of my black eyed Susan. This picture is actually trying to show you one of my favourite fillers: Russian sage. Again, this year it is doing remarkably well and the purple plus the height create a lovely background for so many flowers. You can see my giant hydrangea behind it.

Onward to the vegetable garden, which you would think, would be thriving beautifully with all this rain. Not so much. This is a collection of about 4 or 5 cucumber plants. In previous years, the vines would have been roaming across half the garden. I am at least harvesting some cucumbers here and there.

May I now introduce to you the world's saddest patch of tomatoes. This well and truly breaks my heart. They developed blight very early in the season and there was no coming back. I even bought expensive copper-something-or-other powder that I mixed with water and sprayed on the leaves. It didn't matter. By now in other years, my tomatoes have been so huge that I've had to pound wooden stakes in along with the tomato cages so they didn't keep falling over from their own weight. Next year I will have to plant them elsewhere because I think the blight can stay in the soil. No, I do not put the dead leaves in my compost.

These guys are my only hope for toasted tomato sandwiches. Sniff. It reminds me of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree bending over with the weight of  one ornament.

Here is what husband has been busy with . Our shed now has a red metal roof like the rest of the structures on our property. He's been working away, strapping over the old shingles, and cutting the metal and putting it up. This morning he was finishing the ridge. Do you see him up there? I asked him if his running shoes had "sticky" enough soles. He makes me nervous. He built the shed himself about 16 years ago.

There he is!

This, to move onto a totally different subject, is the back of my daughter's head. She had just quickly put it back into a braid and I took a picture of it on my phone so she could see how incredible her hair looked. All those variations of colour are totally natural. Lucky duck. I'd have to shell out about a hundred dollars to get highlights like that!

Yup, so that didn't work. Sorry those are sideways. I am also too lazy to go back and try to turn them before uploading them again. Tomorrow is husband's birthday. He'll be a big 53 years old. Today I will bake a cake, a really good decadent chocolate cake, layered, for his birthday. That is what I do. To me, a homemade cake means 'I care' and 'you are important enough that I will make the effort to bake you a cake'. I remember being shocked and little disapproving when I first started going out with my husband and on birthdays in their family, they just got a purchased cake, and not even anything terribly special. Funny, the things that matter to one person, but not another.

Finally, I need to ask, are any of you getting weird comments on your blogs that are just pieced together comments written by other people and seem to be coming from an Asian source? What have you been doing with them? I delete them sometimes and other times click on spam, although truth be told, I have no idea what happens when you mark something as spam. I'm concerned it is some sort of virus infiltrating my computer and doing terrible things. Anyone know anything??

Hope you are all enjoying your second week of August. It is lovely and hot here (for the moment).