Sunday, January 28, 2018

Out foxed again!!!

Few things brighten a January day in Toronto. However, today ....

1. The sun was shinning.
2. There was no line-up at the bank.
3. I found a legal parking spot.
4. A red fox crossed my path!!

Well, it wasn't just my path there were, obviously, several other pedestrians, a dozen cars, maybe a few dog walkers and one amazing, very clever red fox.

I was coming out of the bank about 2:00pm on a sunny Thursday in January, when I saw this red fox blithely walking along the sidewalk towards me. We do have ravines in Toronto and more wooded areas than most cities, but none were close. Remember this was on Yonge St. - Toronto's main north-south street and in case you didn't know - the longest street in the world. Yonge St, actually becomes highway 11 somewhere beyond the suburbs. Highway 11 goes right up to James Bay, which is a small bay that opens into Frobisher Bay somewhere a little below the Arctic circle. That's a long way away!!

But I digress. Foxxy was obviously out for a stroll. However, he needed to cross the street to get to where he was going and since he was aware of various cars on the road, he walked to the crosswalk, waited for the lights to change and then crossed.

Someone on the other side of the street captured this splendid moment in time. The photo is a little cropped, however, I am on the right side of the street, just a little out of the picture (go figure). The other two pedestrians in the picture walked passed me and commented. At which point, I closed my jaw, which had dropped in awe and answered them!!

In fact, I was amazed to see the picture on FaceBook! I had been telling everyone about the fox incident and now I had proof!! It would have been perfect, though if the angle of the camera had moved just a degree or two to the right and then I could have said, "Look, there I am."

However, this seems to be the story of my life - Never quite in the picture, never famous, always in the wings while others take all the glory!!

This time, that "other" was a red fox. I think the cosmos is trying to tell me something :)

Have an awesome day!!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Charity, thy name is knitting!!

I'm cheating. This is repost from a page I wrote for a knitting retreat that I attend in the Spring - Yarnover Sleepover. This year it's April 20-22 At The Fern Resort, Orillia ON. I hope you enjoy it.

Many of us knit or crochet for charity. There is a wonderful feeling about being able to share not only our talents and our yarn with other people, but also our hearts.

However, it's hard to find just the right charity. There are so many really deserving ones out there. In fact, I don't think that we actually reached out to any one charity, in particular. I think that "The Shoebox Project" found us.

Here is what happened.

One day, as I was coming to work, I was approached by one of the architects on the main floor. He said, "You knit, don't you?" I thought. "Here it comes. Would I knit him a sweater."

Well, slap my wrists. He was wondering if I could ask some of my friends, if they wouldn't mind knitting a few headbands for a charity his wife supported - The Shoebox Project. I said that I would ask around and get back to him.

Here was my strategy.
  1. Call Julia Bryant. I know she has more friends, generally speaking, than myself and many of her friends either knit or crochet.
  2. Do an e-mail broadcast to yarn stores across Canada to spread the word about this wonderful project.
  3. Talk to Yoso members about The Shoebox Project.
First, of course, I had to explain exactly what the charity was. The Shoebox Project is an international organization that gives gifts to woman in shelters at Christmas. In fact, there are 22 chapters in Ontario.

The idea is that over the year, members collect small gifts for these boxes. One of the most popular items, I am told, is a knitted or crocheted headband.

This is how my strategy played out.
  1. Julia contacted her friends and from August to October they created over 50 headbands.
  2. My e-mail to stores brought in several headbands from Creative Yarns, where Trish Denhoed often teaches. In fact, Trish knew of the project and was actually with a friend in California on Hallowe'en - the night a Shoebox group, there, assembled their boxes.
  3. Yoso accepted my proposal to adopt The Shoebox Project as our charity.
All of us are, now, knitting or crocheting headbands and we are asking everyone who attends our weekend to consider using up some of their stash by knitting some quick and easy, or more challenging - especially if you want to try out some new stitches - headbands. Bring them to Yoso and we will see that they get into some wonderful boxes. Or contact a ShoeBox chapter in your area and see if they might like some headbands knit by you and some of your friends.

Here are a few links to free patterns for headbands. Also feel free to add and/or post your own patterns in our face book group - Yarnover Sleepover All Year .

Click here for some free patterns - you will be directed to a Ravelry page. Key "free headband patterns" into the search bar and Voila! Click here for local drop of places or bring your headbands to YOSO and we will drop them off for you.

Please share pictures of your headbands in our FaceBook group too. We'd love to see them!!

To me a headband is like a small "hug" from afar. We've all been through some difficult times and it's wonderful to know that someone cares.

The pictures? Headbands I have crochet, so far, for the project.

Have a charitable day!!

Friday, January 12, 2018

January Thaw...

.....warmer weather is always worth writing about. We have moved from daily highs of -20ºC to +10ºC in just a few days. However, it will move back down to -10ºC in just a few hours - sigh!

Anyway, warm weather thaws the brain and gets the creative juices working. At the beginning of the thaw, I saw a post about a book on creativity - Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was thinking of buying the book to speed up the thawing out of my brain. However, I've been there before - 1. Bought self-help book. 2. Read the first three chapters. 3. Decided how it was going to end. 4. Closed the book. 5. Did a little something creative and that was it.

This time I went to Good Reads and read the reviews. Well, there was enough in there to light my creative fire, that I didn't have to actually buy the book. So, creatively, this is what I have done -

1. Started a new personal website on felting -
2. Got an idea for a new product and emailed it off to a supplier.
3. Finished a book - "Galore" by Michael Crummey. The book was great, with events that could only happen in Newfoundland - the setting and author's home. (Really, as an author, I would have done a name change.)
4. Continued posting in a group I started on Facebook for our Spring Knitting retreat - Yarnover Sleepover. The magic number for engagement, I am told is 100! We're at 24 - coming along.
5. Started a new headband for our charity, the Shoebox Project. That will be 7 headbands from me, when completed.

Now if I could only continue with the book I started writing last year. I'm at 5,000 words - need another 45,000. I think I need another thaw.

The picture - I've posted it before - whenever I feel that I have seen the light.

Have a brilliant day!!

Friday, October 27, 2017

...On the (in)convenience of blinds....

A few years ago I changed the window dressings of the upper front rooms in the house - these rooms would be the bathroom and the front (our) bedroom.

Actually, if the truth were known, I would gladly have left the windows bare - all the better to see you with - no wait - all the better to let all the light in - I am a morning person!!

However, I decided to respect the family nature of the neighbourhood and have a blind or two, on the upper windows.

Enter my son. It seems that the blinds I had chosen from Ikea, let the light in, but did not screen out the activity in the effected rooms. One could actually see, through a haze, towels, shower heads and maybe the odd body part or two - sigh.

My son opted to shower in the dark. So, am I the mother/decorator from Hell?

We discussed the problem over dinner. It was at this point that I realized the transparent nature of the blinds was not the real issue. The problem was actually more of a sociological one.

He said, " Look at all the people on the street. They all have curtains or blinds on their windows."

This is where I knew I had failed!! Failed, not in following the everyday conventions of other people, but failed, in my communication, of the fact, that you don't have to be like other people, all the time. Yes, it's important, to follow the main rules, most of the time, however, where, let's say, taste, art, and/or individual preference is concerned, it is important to be yourself.

My answer was, "I have spent most of my life (as had my parents before) not doing what other people do." This is not a purposeful statement to stress, that "we are different - so there". It is just that we have always followed our own instincts - right or (hopefully not) wrong. Yes, I do love what other people do. It's just that I have to do what's right for me/us - well, maybe not all of us!!

The picture - for those who would see through the darkness into light - just sayin'

Have an unconventional day.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Tomato Soup for the Soul...

......I know the book is "Chicken Soup for the Soul," but our area of Toronto has not, as yet, been designated a "live chicken" area, so I didn't have any chickens alive or dead to make chicken soup. However, I did have lots of tomatoes!!

I have become increasingly wary of mass produced food, delicious, as it may be, with all those additives. As a result, I've been trying to get as much unadulterated food as I can into my cooking, on my table and subsequently into my body!!

I'm not yet at the point where I want to move to a farm and house livestock, however, this year, I turned my front lawn into a market garden. I planted tomatoes - big and small, red and yellow. I planted aubergines (eggplants) all long and tubular and I planted peppers, red, green, yellow, sweet and hot. Beans and peas were varied in their output and Zucchini needs to learn how to grow in shade!! Did I mention that cucumbers disguise themselves and are only noticed when they turn yellow and Romaine lettuce, a little tough at times, is my knight in shining green armour.

I have always had herbs in pots, however, this year, I was able to increase my basil plants in the garden, thereby freeing up more space, in the pots, for parsley, chives, thyme, sage and rosemary - I feel a song coming on!!

Now, I have the 10 foot diet, better than the 10,000 mile diet. Ten feet from my front door, I have the ingredients for pasta sauces, soups, almost any vegetarian meal, gifts for neighbours, food for raccoons, etc. etc. Fortunately gardening and cooking are chores I don't mind, which is lucky, indeed, because there is always too much of everything in September and lately October. This is how it came to pass that I spent my entire Thanksgiving weekend cooking. It was, however, very therapeutic. I not only fed my body, I fed my soul, reaching Nirvana with my tomato soups.

Here is how it went.

1. Our friend, Brenda, came for Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night. Brenda knows everything about cooking and mentioned that she often made her own tomato soup. Wow, was I impressed!!

2. I searched on-line for some easy tomato soup recipes and adjusted one I found from the UK to my style of cooking. It was very easy to start with, but I made it even easier.

3. The recipe called for 2 pounds of tomatoes - about 10 tomatoes. Well, in my haste, I confused the numbers and thought I needed 10lbs of tomatoes. After coring and chopping 5lbs, I re-read the directions. My husband thought this was hilarious, until I mentioned that he could be eating tomato soup for breakfast!!

4. I hauled out my cast-iron casserole, which was the only pot big enough for all the tomatoes and I began cooking. Did I mention that I love using this heavy but beautiful pot. It takes me to rural France, every time I lift the lid.

5. To two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil, I added two chopped onions and sweated everything over low heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes. I then added 5 cloves of garlic crushed and half a teaspoon of sea salt.

6. To this mixture I added 5lbs of tomatoes cored and chopped. Yes, I could still get the lid on. After the tomatoes had softened and disintegrated into a watery mass. I took the lid off and added 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and about six leaves of fresh basil. I added some black pepper, a little more salt and two whole dried chilli peppers. I did not add a spice such as nutmeg, cinnamon or cloves. The UK recipe called for Garam Marsala, which I skipped.

7. Everything thickened nicely, so I didn't even add the two tablespoons of rice called for in the original recipe as a thickener and skipped the extra cup of water and two more tablespoons of butter - whatever was she thinking!!

8. In batches, I pushed the whole pot (contents of the pot, that is) through a sieve and ended up with a very creamy - no cream added - mixture. That tasted wonderful!!

This was a soup with the only chemical addition being sea salt. The tomatoes were organic, of course, as were the basil leaves and thyme sprigs. The onions and garlic were commercial and the butter and olive oil may have been doctored, but I didn't add water (city water) and no extra flavour enhancers.

I loved it so much, I took all the tomatoes I had cored and frozen in the small freezer of my fridge and made another batch - make that 3 batches, I had another 5lbs of tomatoes.

Nirvana, thy name may also be Big Boy or Bonnie Best. Next year, all I'm planting are heirloom tomatoes, to avoid any that may be genetically modified.

Have a slurpy day!!

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Would that everything were as simple..II

Door knobs to doughnuts....or something like that. In a previous post, I mentioned that I was thrilled to solve, what I thought was the mysterious shifting of the house, with the simple answer that my son had oiled all the hinges in the home. As a result, doors stood awkwardly open or closed inappropriately, when they should have done the opposite. But at least it was not the fault of a seismic leap of the foundations and a similar seismic thrust of money from our bank account for repairs. I am ever grateful for the simple things in life!!

Well, last week, we had a similar situation. OK, it wasn't the house, but is was our bikes and, although it didn't cost a lot of money - $17.50 to be exact, it was the difference between life and death, maybe. Let me explain

My husband and I get out to cycle 20 kms - more or less - once a week from April to October. Well, lately the cycling had become significantly more arduous. I didn't "get it." This should be easier. Weren't we building muscles, endurance, stamina? With a sigh, I resigned myself to what I thought was the steady aging process. Only I wasn't keeping it a bay. It was maybe, not so slowly, taking over - sigh!!

Enter the flat tire. We had actually taken a few days to cycle a favourite trail - Le p'tit train du nord - in the Laurentians. On the last leg of our trip, and maybe that of my body, my husband's front tire went flat. Uncharacteristically, we had packed a hand pump in the panniers. We began to pump - not easy and no one stopped to help, either!! Finally the tire was pumped enough to get us the last 3 kms to a village, where we knew there was a bike repair shop. Voila! the inner tube had a puncture, which was fixed for $15.00 and the shop owner, pumped the tires on both bikes for another $2.50.

It was then I discovered, to my great delight, that I wasn't slowly dying from exhaustion. The stamina problem was the fact that I had just 3lbs of pressure in my tires, when I should have had 60lbs. Needless to say, our last 10kms, were a dream!! I was "pumped" so to speak. I felt as though I had shed 10 years from my aching body, which miraculously didn't ache anymore. Tour de France here I come!!

Would that I could solve all those nasty life threatening problems with just a hand pump.

Have an exhilarating day!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Would that everything were as simple.....

...... the other day my husband and I had one of those "wait a minute, what's happening moments." Somehow, most, if not all of the doors in our house had somehow repositioned themselves. That is: the doors that never closed were now tilting significantly towards their jambs and the doors that never stayed open, were now blocking every hallway!!

What's happening....

OK, we've had a lot of rain and yes the foundations of the house could have shifted. I immediately pictured thousands of dollars in repair bills. This was a logical, if not cheap explanation. The other theory, of course, is eerier, poltergeist!!

Could we have for years been living in a house with supernatural powers err beings? And now suddenly they have decided to "come out!"

We started to ask questions.

Us to daughter - "Have you noticed anything strange in the house lately?"
Daughter to us - "No, oh wait, the cat keeps getting trapped between the basement door and the pantry door no biggie, but I think she's hungry."

Author's aside - She can't get to her food in the basement so she might start eating ours!!

Us to son - "Have you noticed anything strange in the house lately?"
Son to us - "No, oh wait, I oiled all the hinges with WD-40 the other day. Now the doors don't squeak!"

Author's aside - Nor do they behave the way they have for the last 35 years!! We have adjusted our life around the peculiarities of various doors in the house and now in our retirement years, we have to change the habits of a lifetime - painful, but not as painful as replacing the foundations of the house!!

I thought to myself, no one asked him to oil the hinges, however, he did. We always ask him to mow the lawn and he never does. There is a lesson here. Now, if I could only open the doors of my mind to the answer, I might be able to solve the universal problem of millennial ennui. Somehow I don't think it's squeaky doors. Maybe it's just a lack of "spirits."

The picture - a knob from one of our closet doors - crystal balls come to mind :)

Have a quiet day!!