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 affected 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. After using my immersion blender, 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!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Asparagus as Theatre

One of my favourite poets is T.S. Eliot and one of my favourite books is Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. I love, love, love everyone one of the poems in the book and yes, I am a cat person!!

Ironically, this weekend one of those magical poems came to mind. It was Gus - The Theatre Cat. Why? Well, I don't always have reasons for why things just pop into my head out of the blue, however, if I really think about it, there was probably a trigger. In fact, the trigger this weekend was an article in the paper about asparagus - not the cat, the plant.

Ho hum - boring old asparagus. Now, it could be less boring, if you came from Europe and were used to white asparagus and then decided to get into an argument about the attributes of white asparagus over green. This might, however, turn into a kind of class warfare, where the upper classes always ate the purer, more refined foods - white asparagus, for example, while the servants ate the stodge.

No, the article wasn't putting anyone down. It was actually praising researchers at Guelph University who, in 2000, developed a kind of super asparagus. I had visions of an aspragus spear in a crusader's cape, slaying the equivalent of vegetable dragons - OK it was a slow day!!

Really, only a gardener can get excited about a plant that grows at twice the speed of its generic equivalent, lives twice as long - about fifteen years and has a significantly higher nutrient value. Throw into the mix the fact that it is frost hardy, can grow in really cold weather, poorer soil and needs very little in the way of pesticides.

I think that it's time to get an asparagus pot!! For those of you who didn't find this very theatrical - did I mention that it grows so fast, that you can almost see it move - here's the poem!!

Gus - The Theatre Cat
by T. S. Eliot

Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door.
His name, as I ought to have told you before,
Is really Asparagus. That's such a fuss
To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake,
And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats--
But no longer a terror to mice and to rats.
For he isn't the Cat that he was in his prime;
Though his name was quite famous, he says, in its time.
And whenever he joins his friends at their club
(Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
For he once was a Star of the highest degree--
He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree.
And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.

"I have played," so he says, "every possible part,
And I used to know seventy speeches by heart.
I'd extemporize back-chat, I knew how to gag,
And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag.
I knew how to act with my back and my tail;
With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail.
I'd a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts,
Whether I took the lead, or in character parts.
I have sat by the bedside of poor Little Nell;
When the Curfew was rung, then I swung on the bell.
In the Pantomime season I never fell flat,
And I once understudied Dick Whittington's Cat.
But my grandest creation, as history will tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."

Then, if someone will give him a toothful of gin,
He will tell how he once played a part in East Lynne.
At a Shakespeare performance he once walked on pat,
When some actor suggested the need for a cat.
He once played a Tiger--could do it again--
Which an Indian Colonel purused down a drain.
And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
To rescue a child when a house was on fire.
And he says: "Now then kittens, they do not get trained
As we did in the days when Victoria reigned.
They never get drilled in a regular troupe,
And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop."
And he'll say, as he scratches himself with his claws,
"Well, the Theatre's certainly not what it was.
These modern productions are all very well,
But there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
That moment of mystery
When I made history
As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."

How he ever got the name Asparagus, I'll never know. But clearly he was a star and so is Guelph Millennial (crazy name too) that new breed of asparagus, which is producing a little theatre in the garden. Move over Sweet 100s, you've got competition!!

Have an aspiring day!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Garden Porn...

I just received, with my papers - we still subscribe to both Toronto newspapers -  the Lee Valley flier. Now, most fliers come in the front door and go out the back!! I know I don't need more clothes, or shoes, or furniture etc..etc.. However, I "brake" for gadgets. I don't actually buy them, but I salivate over them, even if they aren't for the kitchen.

Speaking of kitchens, Lee Valley - garden and maybe kitchen supplier to the world - had a universal blade sharpener listed. I struggled hard to find a need for it, after all it was only $23.50. Now all the knives in my kitchen are dull - maybe even duller than the cooks :). However, I know that if you don't sharpen a knife at the right angle, you actually do more harm then good. My life is a testament to the fact that, I could do more harm then good in most departments, so I skipped the sharpener.

I was intrigued, though, by the potato pot that lets you grow potatoes in a small area, then lift them, temporarily, out of the soil to see if they are "ready." The pot was only $17.90. Yes, I know, I could buy several pounds of small potatoes for the price of one pot. However, it's not about the savings. It's about the entertainment, the drama, the fun! There I go, I've almost talked myself into one!!

I also liked the glass and surface cleaner kit that's ideal for car windows and their dusty dashboards. I have, though, given up on cleaning my 19-year-old Honda Civic. It's too bad, because the tool came with 3 removable and washable cleaning pads and an extra "foot" for a quick change of pace (I couldn't resist) - no that should be a quick change of the bottom of the tool for some extra cleaning, maybe. Did I mention that when I was driving my son to work one day, he pulled down the sun visor and decided that he really ought to go home and change - he was covered in dust. For a mere $26.50, I could, at least, have a clean conscience.

I couldn't even find a use for four very colourful Bottle-Top Waterers. These are tops that you screw onto a water bottle to give you either 1. a fine spray, 2. a drencher, 3. a weeder tip - whatever that entails! At a price of $7.50 for all four, I should just buy them for their brilliant colours.

The pictures - my garden porn.

Have a colourful day!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Sheltered Life....

A friend posted this to my wall on FB and I thought that it was fun. I realized, however, that I had too many "no"s - so I guess I have to get out and do a little more!! Here it is, with comments

✍ Tattoos - no
Your (my) skin is an organ and when given the choice, years ago of "clean mind or clean body - take your pick." I opted for a clean body - so no inking inside or out!!

😷 Surgeries -2
Such is the stuff of life. For a clean body, some dirty Cancer had to be taken out 16 years ago.

🏥Broken Bones - no
Clearly, I haven't played hard enough!!

🔫 Shot a gun - no
I'm so opposed to guns, I can't even look at them, let alone shoot one. I'd rather shoot off my mouth - oops!!

😕 Quit a job - yes
But I had taken a three year leave of absence from it - teaching - before I decided to quit. I've never regretted it - except for the pension!!

✈️ Flown on a plane - yes
At first I thought this read "Flown a plane" so I said no. I'm not sure that I know anyone who hasn't flown on a plane.

🚙💨 Driven 100mph - yes
Yes, when I was young, careless and always in a hurry. Now I keep it about 120 KPH. I get stopped at 130.

🚁 Rode in a helicopter - no
I could actually pay for one of those rides over niagara. Then again I have never ridden in an air balloon either. I have a fear of heights. That did not stop me walking the Caminito Del Rey.

⛑ Gone zip lining - no
Again the heights, but I may, at one point :)

🍼 Watched someone give birth - no
No, I've never had the opportunity and then I view this as a private event.

😯 Watched someone dying - yes
My mother, on the dance floor. She went out in style - in a sparkly dress and silver shoes, dancing the Tango. It was very sad, but amazing!!

🏈 Been to an NFL game - no
Not a sport I enjoy, but I've been to hockey games - another sport I don't enjoy, and countless baseball games, many in iconic stadiums - obviously a game I enjoy!!

🍁 Been to Canada - yep,  live here
I not only live here, I was born here. However, I am always homesick for places I have never been.

🚑 Ridden in an ambulance - no
...and I hope I never have to, unless it's to save a life!!

🏦 Visited Washington D.C - yes
Next to the Victoria and Albert, the Smithsonian is my second home!!

🌞 Visited Florida - yes
I have gone most often in summer. I hate crowds.

🗻 Visited Colorado - not sure
I have changed planes a few times in Denver, does that count?

🎉 Visited Mexico - no
I have avoided Mexico - too violent.

🎲 Visited Vegas - no
I'm not a gambler. I would also hate the Disneyesque nature of the place. Give me a cute European village and I'm happy :)

🍔 Eaten alone at a restaurant - yes
Why not. I meet people that way.

🎤 Sang karaoke - no
I sing off key, so I avoid performing, unless I'm alone in my car and then I get weird looks at stop lights!!

🎿 Been downhill skiing- yes
I took it up again about 15 years ago. It's the only "thing" that gets me through winter!!

🎼 Ability to read music - yes
I am currently looking for a small piano or keyboard. I don't play well, but I can read music.

🚵 Rode a motorcycle - no
I might have liked to when I was younger. I ride a bike, though, all the time!!

🏇 Rode a horse -yes
I'm not a large animal person. The idea is romantic, but horses need a lot of care. My father had several and I have a sister who rides!!

🏥 Stayed in a hospital - yes
Sadly, yes. For myself and members of my family. We (Canadians) have the best health care in the world and it's all FREE!!

💉 Donated blood - no
I'm very queasy.

🏕 Slept outside - yes
I was a girl guide. What's not to love about camping. I've slept on beaches in Greece, in a car in Portugal and Yugoslavia, on the floor in Cornwall. I have never slept in the snow!!

🚗 Driven a stick shift - yes. 
I learned to drive on a stick shift. My father thought that automatics were for the weak. It's still my favourite!!

🚓 Rode in a Police Car - no
Never and if I have to, I hope it's only to save a life.

😇 Grandkids - no
I started late and adopted my youngest at 49. Now my father is 102, so there is still hope!!  P.S. My younger sister is a great grandmother.

🚤 Driven a Boat - yes
I'm not very fond of motorboats. I would kayak to the edges of the world, though!!

🐌 Eaten Escargot - yes
..and winkles, and eel, and lots of sardines - fresh or canned. I am an adventurous eater, when I'm in the mood, although, I don't eat liver!!

👽 Seen a UFO - maybe :)
I have seen weird things in the sky, that are not stars, planets or planes. And if they were supermen, they didn't come to the rescue!!

🛳 Been on a cruise - no
....and I never plan to either. There is something about crowds and being marshalled about here and there that I dislike. There is also something very artificial about hanging out in a floating hotel and being dropped at a port for a few hours, every few days. I much prefer overland travel. One of my regrets in life is never to have taken the London bus from Earlscourt to Katmandu!!

⛽️ Run out of gas - yes
....Well almost. I have a guardian angel and I have coasted into a few gas stations, when I was younger!!

🍣 Eat Sushi - yes
Not my favourite. I dislike the taste of seaweed. As kids we had to take cod liver oil on a tablespoon in winter. I hated it!!

👻 Seen a Ghost- maybe
I'm one of those photographers who has pictures with weird, ghostlike shapes in them, that weren't there when I took the picture. I see people on the street that I swear are people from my past, who have died. The other day I saw a video on FB of a woman dancing and it could have been my mother.

🎅🏻Still believe in Santa Claus- Yes
I believe in magic. I believe that wishes and dreams come true!!