Thursday 29 December 2022

Post Christmas Post

How can the weather go from full on blizzard with all roads closed to sunshine and a high of 7 degrees celsius (44 degrees fahrenheit) four days later? I've just shoveled a bit of snow and opened up the chickens so they can stand in the sunlight for a little while. I took the new header photo today while the sun was creating nice shadows on the snow. We are supposed to get to a high of 10 C tomorrow (50 F)!

Christmas happened on the 25th with just our immediate family. It was very nice and very cozy with huge amounts of snow outside and more of it continuing to come down. I am now done with Christmas, ha ha! Is anyone else like that, ready to pack it all up and put it away for another year? I'll do it in drips and drabs, but I'm not one of those people who keeps Christmas on display after the New Year. We have zero plans for New Years Eve and I am totally fine with that! All I can say is I would like if 2023 is not as dramatic as the previous year!

Finally, yesterday my husband and I drove to "the city" to see my sister who is sitting up in bed, talking, sounding like herself, looking much more like herself, and has a dramatic reduction in the amount of lines and tubes assisting and monitoring her. Of course she has days and weeks ahead of her in terms of recovery, but her improvement has been mind blowing. She has been out of ICU for a few days now and she has just been approved to eat food. I am hoping that she can have more tubes, etc. removed in the very near future. Many family members and friends created short videos of encouragement for her and sent them to one of her daughters who then had them compiled into one video which she has been able to watch. I got to see it yesterday with her watching it again and it was heartwarming. Her daughters set up a Gofundme account, as she won't be able to work for a while and it was unknown how long her progress would take. People have been incredibly generous and brought me to tears on a number of occasions. 

Saturday 24 December 2022

Christmas Eve

 On this blustery evening where we are hunkered down in our home, listening to the wind blow and not seeing out the windows because snow coats the screens, I wish for all my blogger friends a Christmas of contentment, peace, and good health. 

Whether you are with family or on your own, I hope you find things for which to be thankful and take comfort in the simple pleasures. 

My Christmas is complete because I will have my daughter and son and husband with me ( if plows can get out to clear the roads tomorrow) and I was able to speak on the phone with my sister today. She has been moved out of the ICU and is awake and trying to talk even more. And that is the best gift of all.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday 22 December 2022

December 22, 2022 Updates

 I would like to sincerely thank everyone who sent their support, prayers, positive thoughts and kindness concerning my sister, Jade. In my previous post, I wrote how she very suddenly, within hours, went from being taken to hospital by ambulance, admitted to the ICU, to having sepsis and being put on a ventilator. 

Progress is being made slowly. The doctors felt it was time to start to slowly take her off the ventilator and sedation but this is not without problems. She experienced and is still experiencing agitation, confusion, delirium and so she is re-sedated and provided with oxygen. She is not yet talking. I'm no expert, but the reading that I did tells me that this is not unheard of. I just hope that she eventually has no memory of this horrible time and that she fully recovers from this terrible ordeal. I don't know how long this will continue.

A definitive answer as to why she became so unwell in such a short period of time has still not been reached. It was found that she has pneumonia in one lung (but wasn't suffering from symptoms prior to this), but consensus hasn't been reached if that is what caused this or not.

As we come up to a major winter storm, I likely will not be seeing my sister in the next several days (she is in hospital a number of hours from me). Here, we have respect for words like "blizzard" and we frequently have road closures in situations like what is to come. But I am in daily contact with her two daughters and I have siblings who live in that same city, so she will not be alone (although she has a constant nurse with her).

I hope all of you have a contented, healthy Christmas, celebrating it in whatever way you choose. Thank you again for you good wishes. 

As an aside, I will share our upcoming weather warnings with you, perhaps interesting for those of you who don’t experience winter the way we do:

Sunday 18 December 2022

My Sister

 On Friday I got a call from my brother saying my sister was in hospital. That was around noon time. By late afternoon I found out that I should be coming to the hospital and the family needed to gather round.

Now, maybe two days later, I'm having a hard time keeping track, she has defied odds and is still with us and making very small progress. She is in in critical care at a big hospital in her home city. We don't know what this is or what caused it. Don't even know if it is viral or bacterial. She is intubated and has many many lines running into her and is being monitored if every possible way.

This came out of the blue, she hadn't been badly ill leading up to this, just complaining of a bit of flu-like gastro flu like symptoms a few days before, but nothing very serious. Both flu and covid have been tested for and are negative. 

I am not a religious person, but I believe in energy. I talked to her  and told her how strong she is and also just talked to her and joked around with her like we normally would if we were talking on the phone to each other. I know some of you are religious and any healing thoughts, vibes, or prayers are welcome. 

My sister's name is Jade, she is five years older than me and the mother to two young adult daughters. She is artistic, loves to paint, create, design, she loves animals of all sorts and I featured her artwork on my blog a couple of years ago, showing the paintings she was doing as a business of people's pets. Jade's heart is incredibly big, she is always thinking of what she can do to make things nice for other people and goes beyond what she should for family and friends. She has a little grey cat named Finn who is missing her very much. 

This is surreal for me and the shock at how quickly something truly horrible and impossible can happen has left me stunned. I am back home with my husband for now, to re-energize, but as a family (myself, my two brothers, my nieces, my sister's good friend) are in constant contact and her eldest daughter is a fellow (one step from being a doctor) and so her insight and her explanations for us as to what is happening is incredible. 

I don't know why I'm blogging, I probably shouldn't even be taking the time to do this, but sometimes I feel like my blogging family are my other distant relatives and that somehow you should know about this.

Call your loved ones. Hug your partners. Pet your cat. 

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Day Three of the Seven Treats of Christmas

 Tis a snappy cold day here, no snow in the air, but the threat of high winds and some ice in the next day or so. Thankfully I don't have to be on the road, but likely it won't be as bad as predicted.

Enough of weather (must be done, I'm Canadian), and onto today's treat: Sweet Marie Bars! This is mostly no-bake until the very end where you need your broiler for no more than two minutes. 

I am guessing these are called Sweet Marie Bars because long ago, in my youth, there was a chocolate bar called "Sweet Marie" which had peanuts and chocolate in them.


I'm pretty sure I have the correct "vintage" with this image, but maybe a fellow Canadian can let me know if this is what they looked like in the 70's (Debra? Martha? Rosalea? Maebeme? Patio? Melinda? Other names I've forgotten... sorry) 

Here is the recipe, front and back of the card:

Don't you love my high tech way of providing the recipe? Ahhh well, this is Blogger, not paid-for Word Press! 

Here is an assembly of ingredients, however I realized I did not show the butter/margarine or the vanilla.

Notice the no-name corn syrup and parchment paper (Ooops, sorry, just noticed I had the French side showing, think I did with the peanut butter as well), the store brand peanut butter, chocolate chips, and peanuts. I must clarify that I purchased the no-name stuff eons ago, not as a result of the beloved Galen Weston reaching out to the minions and maintaining the prices of his no-name items in an effort to justify his healthy Loblaw's profits as of late (but I digress...). The Rice Krispies are name brand because they were on sale, but any knock off variety would work just fine.

I decided to use parchment paper in the baking pan this time, as it will be a sticky mess trying to pry it out later. Here is a nifty parchment paper trick that I did not invent myself. To get your parchment paper to sit securely in your baking dish, instead of sliding around and shifting, rip off the amount you need, then crumple it into a ball.

Then uncrumple it, smooth it out a little, and it will fit nicely in your baking dish (use a bit of pleating in the corners to make it fit even better). 

Did you know you can re-use parchment paper? If I was using it to line a baking sheet for cookies, (and not to use for something sticky like this), I could use it over and over and it still does the trick!

Next, use a big enough pot to hold all the ingredients eventually, and put in your sugar, peanut butter, and syrup.

Heat this on a medium, or slightly medium high heat, stirring all the time until it is smooth and just starts to bubble, shifting it off the heat at that time so you don't start burning any of it. 

Then add the butter (I used margarine) and vanilla.

As usual, save money by buying artificial vanilla extract, rather than the much pricier pure vanilla extract. Unless you are making quite an exquisite dish that requires the real thing (or scraping an actual vanilla bean pod!), nobody is going to know the difference.

Then it is time to dump in your Rice Krispies (or similar cereal) and the peanuts. Your pot should be off the heat by now.

Take the time to really stir this well, coating everything. (Excuse the front of my stove on which the finish has worn off over the years of wiping it down ).

Dump your mixture into the parchment lined baking dish (I think it's  9 x 12?) and smooth it out, trying to get it as evenly distributed as possible.

Then sprinkle your chocolate chips on top and put the pan under the broiler for no more than a couple of minutes. I didn't even let my broiler come up to temperature, I just turned the broiler on and stuck the pan under it and the chocolate chips were soft enough after two minutes.

Once it's out of the oven, spread the softened chocolate chips as evenly over the top as possible, and let it cool. Cut into small squares and enjoy!

I still have ALL of my wrapping to do, almost all of my stocking stuffers to buy, and four more treats to bake. When I'm all done, this is how I will look:

For the record, I have completely given up on keeping that tree skirt in place and properly tied. Like last year, I will need to remember to leave a cat sized hole when I start putting presents under the tree. 

Sunday 11 December 2022

Day Two of Seven Days of Christmas Treats

 We got a wee bit of snow last night. It looks nice, but isn't so much that it makes life difficult. 

However, if you still have lots of shopping to do or whatever else may still be on your list of to-dos, maybe this will scare you into action:

Yes, fourteen days, including today, but not including Christmas day, because quite frankly, by Christmas morning, if you haven't done it, you probably never will. I realize not everyone has plans, or has tasks to take care of, but for those who do, yikes! How many weekends are left?!?

Anyway, enough of that, let's get to the good stuff. This is a non-bake recipe (in that you don't need to heat up your oven, but you will need a stove, or if you are brave, a microwave).

As you can see, I write extra little notes on my recipe cards, the same way I do in my recipe books, my text books, my journals, my calendars... 

Here are your ingredients. Yes, the butterscotch chips are "name brand", but that's because they are constantly sold out at Food Basics in the cheaper variety, but these were a good price at Walmart.

For those of you with easy access to Costco, you can probably get enormous packs of these things, but Costco is well over an hour for the closest one. If you order your baking goods online and get an Amazon box at your door, well, we live in different worlds. Just can't embrace it.

I don't know if you are familiar with the chow mein noodles. They are available at this time of year, packaged up like this (although it took me three stores to find them), I'm guessing specifically for this cookie.

To melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips, I use a double boiler. 

I hear that you can use your microwave to melt them, but I tried one time, for a different recipe and I messed up, essentially "burning" the chocolate, so I stick with a tried and true method.

For this go round, I used two cups of chocolate and two cups of butterscotch. It makes tons! 

Little by little, the chips melt until they are all creamy and blended and you can't see anymore individual chips. Then dump in the salted peanuts and chow mein noodles. This is not an exact science. I started with a cup each, then more, and then more until I thought it was enough. You want to stir things around, (still with the double boiler over a low heat at this point) to make sure everything is well coated. Don't worry if you break any noodles. It doesn't matter.

In the end, I used up that whole container of chow mein noodles. Prepare probably three cookie sheets by putting waxed paper on them (not parchment, too expensive, and you just need to be able to peel these "cookies" off after they cool, you're not baking them). 

I use two spoons to scoop and scrape onto the cookie sheets.

They are not the most attractive treat in the world. Son has always called them "Spider Cookies". They are, however, very nice if you like a "snap" to your treats and that sweet/salty combo. 

When you put them on your cookie sheets, don't worry about nice little rows and spaces. They won't spread, so just cram as many on as possible.

When you've scooped and scraped out as much chocolatey goodness as you can from the double boiler, put your cookie sheets in the fridge to set up (I'm fortunate in that we have a second fridge out in the mudroom and have room for that). You can also put them in a freezer if you have room. When they are nice and solid, peel them from the waxed paper and store in an airtight container. I usually keep them and all other Christmas treats in the fridge in plastic, lidded containers. If it is too far ahead of Christmas, I put those containers in the bottom of my chest freezer and hide other things like bags of rhubarb I'll never get around to using or ground beef on top to keep them from being eaten before needed.

So...who makes these? Who does the "haystack" thing, which I  believe involves coconut instead? Who thinks these are weird and have no intention of making them? Who is wondering if I'll be making fruitcake or Christmas pudding? (Don't hold your breath on that one). 

Saturday 10 December 2022

The First of Seven Baking Posts

 I have seven different treats that will be made for Christmas (time, not necessarily just that day). For those who like to make something or something different, or for those who just enjoy it when someone else does, this and the following six posts will feature recipes that are quite likely familiar to most of you.

Today’s treat is Hello Dollies. They may be called something different where you live. Let me know if they are!

Along the way, I’ll add the money saving tips I used this year because we are ALL watching our pennies ( even though Canada cancelled pennies ) . 

This recipe called for a half a cup of butter, but since you need a second mortgage for things like butter ( and romaine lettuce!), I scraped the last bit of butter off the wrapper from the butter I bought a little while ago on sale and the rest was the cheapest margarine I could find. 

Apologies for the vertical picture. Didn’t realize that you can’t change that on your phone ( or I don’t know how).

If you tilt your head, you can see that the butter/ margarine was melted in the baking dish while the oven preheated. Edited to add: make sure you grease up the sides of the baking dish a bit, too, so it isn't too hard to remove the squares when they are all done.

Next, add 1 1/4 cups of Graham cracker crumbs to the melted butter. I mixed it up a bit and pressed it down a bit with the back of a spoon ( careful - the baking dish is hot!)

Then put your cup of chopped walnuts or pecans on the Graham crumbs. SAVINGS: pecans were not on sale. Walnut pieces were! I chopped them myself.

After that, add 1 cup of chocolate chips. At this time of year you can often get the larger bags for a good price. Trust me when I say the rest of the bag will get used! These are semi- sweet.

Next comes coconut. I didn’t buy the sweetened coconut because lord knows this will be sweet enough!

You need 1 1/3 cups of coconut.

Buy the cheapest sweetened condensed milk you can find. Who will even be able to distinguish a difference?? And if they can, they likely won’t eat your Hello Dollies anyway!

As an aside, anyone remember the pull tab top puddings we had as kids? Now of course, they are plastic tops as the fear of lawsuits from life threatening pudding top cuts are too much for our society and the fact that children couldn’t possibly be expected to learn how to open them safely without direct supervision…( ok, I’ll stop).

Pour your sweetened condensed milk all over the top.

Oooops, I need direct supervision for taking photos!!

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. This is what it looks like after baking. Let it cool, then cut into smallish squares as they are pretty rich!

And that, my friends is my first dive into the holiday baking on December 10th. I don’t know if I’ll bake something else today or not, but it will be a different day’s post. 

What have you made? Are you familiar with these? Do you have a coconut hater in the family? Can you discern the difference between cheap and luxury sweetened condensed milk?

Saturday 3 December 2022

Whimsical Christmas and physical efforts

 After reading Deborah's post this morning, I thought I might share what we did this year to make this Christmas more whimsical and fun. After the last few months, I knew I wanted to insert some fun into the decorations and the Christmas season. Every year (EVERY YEAR) I put up the village. It has grown and morphed over the years and has changed locations in the house. Often I get help from the family. It's a bit of an ordeal, placing everything, hiding all the cords under the "snow". Deciding how we want to divide up the village - where will residential go? What about the commercial district? What about the duck pond? Is the school too close to the pub?

Along with all the buildings, there are accessories like trees, stone walls, and people. I decided that instead of using the people we always use, we should use Lego mini-figs (figures). These are the little people and characters that come with Lego sets. Over the years our son received many Lego sets, some themed like Star Wars or Indiana Jones movies. Our son dug out his collection(s) of mini-figs and he and his sister (ages 22 and 26 respectively) started assembling them, including items in their little yellow "hands". Our daughter had the idea that we should each make a mini-fig to represent ourselves as well. That was fun. Mine had a book in my hand, husband had a drill in one hand and a beer glass in the other.

Then the placing of the little Lego people began which was lots of fun. Here's daughter with the village.

Next, Darth Vader has joined in on the fun. 

Frankenstein's monster is waiting on the porch of the Norman Rockwell collection home where two old folk are enjoying their tea.

We almost always put Santa in the gazebo in the town square. We allowed for him to be there this year as well, but it is the storm troopers who are lining up for Santa instead. 

One poor, unfortunate storm trooper is being dragged under the bridge by a crocodile. It happens. 

Next, we have Rebel fighter pilots (as the only non- Star Wars junkie in the house, I had to ask husband what the orange guys were) atop Santa's workshop.

This knight is ready for battle on top of another Norman Rockwell house where everyone is gathered at the table for a Christmas dinner. If you look closely, you can see husband's mini-fig where he is sitting on the side porch, waiting to be invited in for dinner. 

Outside the pub (the log built structure) we have Hagrid helping out a patron who is bent over the fence after too many drinks (it's actually daughter's boyfriend's mini-fig and no he is not a big drinker) with two Rebel fighters seeming to be ready for a brawl in the street.

Outside the same pub, we have Han Solo and Indiana Jones (ha ha, get it, both of them were played by Harrison Ford, so they are seeing each other at the same time!)

This is how the entire village looks. I have to decide what I am going to put on the bare shelf above. Something less "busy" I imagine.

Husband, by the way, built that piece of furniture after we saw similar ones in P.E.I. one summer. 

Onto the physical effort part of the post. As part of making my chronic back crap feel better, I roll around on the floor and do physio stretches and strengthening exercises. I also decided some overall increase in activity would be good now that most of my recovery is behind me. I'm not the only one in the family with an expanding middle:

When I unroll my yoga mat to prepare to do my stretches, this happens:

Not helpful, Murph. 

The first time I decided to use the treadmill for walking because "outside" was too cold/snowy/wet/windy, this is what I found:

Again, not helpful, Scooter. (Excuse the two Christmas storage boxes... it's that time of year).

Do any of you have a Christmas village? Do any of you have pets who thwart your exercise efforts? Do any of you have a treadmill that just doesn't get the same attention is used to get?

Have a great weekend, all.