Monday, August 10, 2020

Of tomatoes and pumpkins....

.... I sing. The line is really, "Of arms and the man, I sing." Or what will get you a few more marks in Latin, "I sing of arms and the man." It's the opening line of a poem by Virgil, that celebrates heroic deeds. I often use this line, adapted to the situation, when I see someone struggling to overcome various obstacles, or juggling a number of awkward items, at a time, as in, "Of diaper bags and strollers, I sing." or accomplishing a host of other spectacular feats, such as, growing giant tomatoes!

This year I have managed, to grow some giant tomatoes. I didn't do anything special with them - just the usual TLC, and that was it. No extra fertilizer, watering, pinching of suckers etc. Below is the biggest of the beefsteaks I planted.



When I first brought it in, it was somewhat orange in colour and looked like a pumpkin. However, within a day or two it ripen to a nice red. It weighs 1.25 lbs. has a diameter of 5" and a circumference of 15.25" It will go down in history, my history at least, via this blog (where I chronicle some of my more amazing feats :) as my biggest and best tomato yet.




Oh, and did I mention that this tomato also looks like it may give birth to some smaller tomatoes. Who knows, it is one "mother" of a tomato. I'll let you know how it tastes, when I eventually have the heart to cut it up.



Have a fruitful day!

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

45 rules to live by....

45 might be the real meaning of life, as opposed to 42. Here is a post I copied from someone else, with my notations:
"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written. (Here it is)
My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:
Well I'm not there yet, but if or when I do get there, I would like to be able to write something like this! I also have to believe the writer is a Leo, as I am.
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good. It truly isn't fair, but it's still better than the alternative.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step. A good friend of mine once said, "Start small, but start."
3. Life is too short – enjoy it. I'm trying to live more in the moment.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Cultivate friends, make family bearable.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month. Finally, yes!
6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself. I am practising - keeping my mouth shut. It works most of the time :)
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone. I'm not sure about this one. I don't share my down time.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it. Maybe, or he sends snow in May.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck. OOPS a bit late now.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile. This is probably true, but I would expand it to pie - all sorts - not to be confused with Liquorice All Sorts.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present. I'm still waiting for it to come back and haunt me.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry. It may have happened once, but then I'm a stoic.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. So true.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it. Nailed it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry, God never blinks. But I'm sure he hides his eyes, at times.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind. I often ask myself, will this matter in 10 years time. If not, forget it.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways. So true, now if I could only convince the rest of the family of this.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger. Maybe, but I have died of embarrassment many times.
19. It's never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else. So true.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer. I think I have failed this a few times.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special. I still have dresses in my closet, I have never worn. Just waiting for the right occasion.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow. Always.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple. I see too many older women wearing purple. I will never do that - now red, red is different.
24. The most important organ is the brain. That's why I do brain exercises everyday.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you. Worth repeating.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?' OK I say 10 - but life is short, maybe it should be 5.
27. Always choose life. Yes, it's a matter of whose.
28. Forgive. I don't think I can ever do this.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business. I know, but sometimes they tell me :)
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time. Sigh!

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. Time passes and this too shall pass.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does. Especially my children.
33. Believe in miracles. Everyday
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do. I wish that were true.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now. I like to pick my battles - like the ones I can win.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young. For sure.
37. Your children get only one childhood. This I have never forgotten.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved. May I add, 'the right people.'
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere. Agreed
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back. In a heartbeat.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need. I am trying to do that.
42. The best is yet to come... I sure hope so.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up. This one is tricky, but I'm working on it.
44. Yield. Merge, notice the bump, left turn only....etc. Signs on the road of life.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift." Yes it is.
The pictures? Random shots from a life lived rather randomly.

Have a great day!

Monday, July 06, 2020

Honk if you love geese...

..... Canada Geese particularly. I was in a suburban area of Toronto the other day, waiting for a friend, when I saw this parade of geese come over a rise on the west side of a busy north-south thoroughfare. They walked towards the road, stepped into traffic, waited for the cars to stop and then proceeded to waddle at a very slow, very dignified pace, on an angle, blocking 8 lanes of traffic, to the other side of the road(s).



It was a long slow journey and a long slow wait for the cars, as 18 or so geese took their time to clear the intersection. After two or more missed traffic lights, the drivers began to honk. I thought, this is ironic, usually it's the geese that honk! In any event, the geese did not change their pace, nor did any of the cars, charge the procession - good for them.

This was just a little aside, on an otherwise uneventful day. Then again, maybe this happens everyday, or maybe it's because of the reduced traffic, during this pandemic, that has allowed nature to take its course - law and order from a different source.

Have a surprising day!

PS. If you're from Toronto, you know the city is basically a grid running north from Lake Ontario. That's why we give directions from east-west/north-south axes. Before we were Toronto the Good - We were Toronto the Grid. Sorry I couldn't avoid the pun.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Word Study #2 Mantel

I like the word "mantel." It's a covering, a cloak, perhaps. I think of phrases, such as, the court's "mantel of justice" or the skin's "acid mantel" and I think of protection. I plant the flower, Lady's Mantel, for many reasons, partly because I like the sound of the name, partly because of its concept of protection, but mostly because it reminds me of my grandmother.



Although my grandmother had lived in Canada for more than 50 years, before she died, I rarely remember her speaking English. She could, of course, speak perfect English, but she was happiest speaking German - hochdeutsch (high German). I hear her even now saying "meine mantel" - her coat (her lady's mantel) as she was getting ready to go out.



Lady's Mantel is a herbalist's herb, Alchemilla Vulgaris. The flowers have protective properties, when used in teas, and the leaves, crushed, are especially good as poultices. I don't use Lady's Mantel for it's medicinal properties, I use it, as a florist would use Baby's Breath. It's a wonderful filler in flower arrangements. I know, this is a little frivolous, certainly a come down from loftier associations, such as justice, medicine or even the memory of my grandmother.



Well, we all have our weaknesses. One of mine is "composition" as in the arrangement of "things" for display. I hate, for example, a poorly arranged bouquet, snapshot, room setting - the list goes on. Another of my weaknesses is flowers or growing "stuff." I have, at the moment, 10 pots of African Violets on my windowsill and another one in the kitchen. One of the plants needs dividing, so that would make 13 pots and I have now run out of window space. I could put them on the mantelpiece - there's that word again, but there isn't enough light. Sigh!

Maybe, I'll just have to start giving them away.

Have a glorious day!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Word study #1 - Mawkish

My husband is amazed that I have the followers I have. How many people would read a blog on the importance of a word (or two), especially when it's particular importance has nothing to do with them, personally.

Well, you never know. One of these days you might just happen to need to use the word, "mawkish." I don't know, maybe you are about to buy a card for a mother-in-law, sister-in-law, distant friend and you settle on one of the very soppy cards you find in the racks at a drug store, (there is a reason why they are sold in drug stores) and you say, "Eureka," I think that this is mawkish(soppy) enough to suit the tastes of Belinda B - exactly!

OK, here's the back story. I do crossword puzzles - go figure - and the clue was "Mawkish girl gets nothing in return."  I was fascinated by a word, I don't hear often. Mawkish means, overly sentimental, soppy. The sound of the word, itself, does not complement, its meaning - mawkish doesn't sob - it snaps.

I was stumped for a while, then I finally figured out that the girl's name was Maud and the "nothing in return" was "nil or lin." The answer was "maudlin" -  another soppy, somewhat sad, word.

Wait!! It doesn't stop there. I am a lateral thinker and as often as I try to straighten out my mind, it decides to bend and lead me down paths, I have (had) never intended to wander. There are a number of "Mauds" that now have to be considered.

1. Tennyson's Maud.

Come into the garden, Maud,
     For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
     I am here at the gate alone ;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
     And the musk of the rose is blown.


In addition to planting the flowers, that grew in my grandmother's garden, I grow the flowers from poems I have read. I grow roses, and soon, passionflower, and bleeding heart for all the poems that don't mention flowers, but bleed so much passion, they have to be remembered!!

PS: I don't have the dates on the gravestone, but it is amazing that someone who died maybe 50 or so years ago is now posted on the internet. This requires another post. I'll go back and get the information. This is time immemorial.

2. Maud Gonne

W.B. Yeats' muse was Maud Gonne. There is something about the tension (not Tennyson) in unrequited love that spurs the poet. Yeats proposed to Maud Gonna many times, only to be rejected. Here is his poem to her.

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The picture? Taken in Mt Pleasant Cemetery. Perhaps as mawkish, as the tributes on tombstones. Come into the garden, indeed. The evil in me has to tell you that mawkish comes from the old norse for maggot. Tempus fugit - Gather ye rosebuds while ye may - and maybe read a few poems along the way!!

Have a meaningful day!!



Thursday, June 18, 2020

Ongoing...going on...

Our writing word again, after a break, is "ongoing." Certainly this lock down for the pandemic has been ongoing, but we keep going on. We keep believing that it will all be over soon and that we will get back to "almost normal" before we know it.



I think we have to keep believing this, even though we know that many will have lost their jobs and have to start looking for other jobs at less pay, poorer conditions, etc. etc, if they can even find a job.

Many companies will have closed. Consumers will be buying less, taking on less risk and generally making do, with what they have. The future looks grim. What can we "go on" doing? Well the human race is pretty creative. It has come this far through many pandemics, wars, recessions, depressions and "still we rise" or more correctly, "have risen."



Maybe, we will become part of a smaller, more closely knit community than before. Maybe, we will gather people around us, keeping them near and dear. Maybe we will enrich what we have, rather demanding to have more.....the list goes on.

In fact, Covid 19 has shown us a lot -

1. We can make do with what we have. We don't need to buy more.
2. We can spend hours with ourselves, alone and survive.
3. We can find productive things to do in small spaces or large time slots.
4. We can find joy in simple activities - baking bread comes to mind.
5. We respect more deeply other people - their space and their way of coping with life.
6. We can create more fresh space without expanding, by cleaning and decluttering.
7. We can appreciate the simple pleasures of a walk.
8. We have come to realize how creative, resourceful and resilient we really are.
9. We have had time to think and understand what is really important for us.
10. We are now more open to accept a changed future.



Add to the list - it's ongoing, as we keep going on.

The pictures? Flowers always give me pleasure.

Have a spectacular day!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Purposeful progress....

As we work (or not, as the case may be) through this lock down, I am reminded of the need to have purposeful activity. Day 3 of my 27 day writing exercise was a poem about saving an ant. Well, I have too many ants and more than a dozen ant traps in the house to have any sympathy with saving the life of one ant.

No, my purposeful activity has been to water the seedlings that have started to sprout from the seeds I ordered in April. I know I'm a little late to hope that any of these will bear fruit in August, but I can't see them wither away either, because the timing is all wrong.

Nothing says hope and promise like a sprouted seed. This is the beginning of life. OK, plant life, but it is still life and the perfect analogy to life, in all its many forms. It is, with this hope and this analogy in mind, that I water these seedlings every morning.



They may never go outside. I may just have these vegetable plants on my windowsill all summer, fall and winter. Why not? I have started something and I plan to see it through. We have to move beyond the present at times and look into the future. This is not to waste away the days, at hand, but simply to find a way through the "tough bits," to find a reason, however, simple to carry on.

Now, it may only take me ten minutes or so to water the trays, but I can look at them during the day and everyday there is something different to look at. So what do I do with the other 14 hours and 50 minutes, that I have left in the day? You had to ask, didn't you. Well, I have now written about the seedlings. I did listen to the podcast about the writing idea and I did do 15 minutes of writing - longhand - before I came up with this post.



The rest of the day was survival - a little cooking, no cleaning - but I thought about it, lots of looking out of windows for a change in the weather, a flutter of bird life or a return to life of the flowers that were ill prepared for three days of snow in May. Clearly, I don't need a lot of stimuli to function. My heart goes out to all those children with boundless energy, who are shut in, to the parents and caregivers, who have to cope and to the many others, who have not found a purposeful activity.

Have a focused day!


Saturday, May 09, 2020

This is the wrath of God.....

.....snow in May. He is angry - very angry. OK, I'm not much of a believer, but there are times when I feel that the cosmos is trying to tell us something. Mute nature, finds ways of communicating. Time to listen to the snowflakes.

Poets have been trying to tell us for years, that we are worshiping the almighty dollar instead of worshipping the Almighty or Nature or something like that -



From William Wordsworth - 1807

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; -
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Perhaps this pandemic is a wake up call. Probably not. We didn't learn much from the Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people.

Too many have not observed the lock down. Too many places are opening too soon. For profit care had the greatest number of fatalities. The list goes on....We need to change.



From Gerard Manley Hopkins - 1877

...........Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

What to do? Turn back, where we can. Go back to walking, cycling; go back to locally produced products, local communities, stay home, foster what is within your reach. Research, support truth, start leading rather than following. Be the change you want to see in the world.




Pictures for a snowy day in May. Stay safe, well and warm!!


Monday, May 04, 2020

Curbside Curtsies......

During the shut down for this pandemic, retail has "kept a light on" by doing curb-side pick up, as well as, shipping out and deliveries. I have ordered a few things on-line and specified curb-side pick up. Well, spell checker decided to change "curbside" to "curtsied." I'm not sure why. I thought it was just me, until the other day, I saw a post on FB from a Toronto blog I follow. They had listed one of the ways you could collect your on-line order, as "curtsied" pick up. Eureka! It wasn't just me!!



Now, who should be doing the curtsying? I might, but I'm inside the car, with the trunk open. The store employee is too busy running my order out to me, that it wouldn't make sense. Plus they are at the back of the car, in jeans and a mask. Somehow the grace of a curtsy would be completely lost, especially if the curb-sider were male. Sigh!



Alas, ordering on-line, even without the curtsy, has its drawbacks. I tried to order garden soil from a nursery only to be told, in a note on-line, that soil was not available at my chosen location. Well, I saw it there, yesterday. I called the store and had soil added to my order. I curtsied on the other end of the phone.



I tried to order wood stain at another store. I found the stain, but it had to be tinted. However, there was no way of adding the colour of tint to the stain, on-line. I did not curtsy. Plus I had several other items to order including "fairy lights" (it's an English thing) for the apple tree. Maybe no midsummer dancing and curtsying this year in the garden. I also needed to buy spray paint for my garden ornaments - twelve wooden cats - they needed to be "refreshed." Again maybe not this year. Anyway, I've never seen a cat curtsy, a dog, yes, but a cat, never.

The pictures? My cat ornaments, plus the real life model. I bow to cats :)

Have a fulfilling day!

PS - May the fourth be with you!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Darkling Thrush......

It's a phrase that was written a long time ago in a newspaper one Spring and it caught the attention of the staff room on a giddy day in early May. The complete phrase is :

"In Spring, nothing looks more like a clump of earth than the Darkling Thrush.." or something like that.

It took on a life of it's own and throughout the day it became...

The Darkling Thrust - when the VP in charge of staff poked his nose into the staff room and frowned.

The Darkling Rusk - when someone's toast was overdone.

The Darkling Gust - when a chilly wind blew in through an open window.

The Darkling Lust - yes, there was always the weird one salivating in the corner.

The Darkling Musk - to the teacher who always wore too much scent.



And so it went, here and there, now and then, a clever punster would resurrect the phrase to peals of laughter. Such is the headiness of Spring, when we are finally released from months of hunkering down in the darkness, waiting for a time when we can revel in the lushness of green, the warmth of air, the scent of earth and the trill of birdsong. Come clumps of earth and morph into thrushes, rushes, ruses or fuses that through the green leaves drive the flowers.



My staff room story is a moment in time I want to remember. I also want to remember the Spring of this pandemic. How the easing of the lockdown has sent waves of hope through those prisoned in tiny rooms, afraid to go out, terrified of catching, what could be a coughing death. Has IT "passed over"? Are we safe to open our doors?

I also want to remember the animals that came out of hiding, when we were in our hiding. I want to remember a boardwalk with a foxes' den under it. I want to remember all the stories of all the animals that walked fearlessly through city streets and parks, empty of people.



I, also, want to remember the birds in the garden - so many more than we have ever had in the past - blue jays, cardinals, robins, chick-a-dees, house finches, yellow finches, juncos, downy woodpeckers, sparrows - several different kinds and one that we may have wrongly identified as a hermit thrush - perhaps the original darkling thrush.



An engineer once told me that, if you were to give nature 50 years, it would take over all this development and return it to forest - how about 5 weeks?

Bring on The Sparkling Rush!!

Have a Spring Day


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Crazy...ness

OK, it's starting to get to me. Can't go outside - it's raining. I've cleaned the bathroom - there's nothing left to clean. Well, maybe there is, but I'm not doing it today. Yes, I have knitting to do and several books to read, but I'm climbing the walls. This is where it really gets "silly."

I posted parallel poems to a poem by William Carlos Williams - The Red Wheelbarrow - in my last post and found some old pictures. OK. I like looking at pictures. So I decided to find another short poem and do some more imitations - with pictures. Here it(they) is(are).

From Ogden Nash

The Cow

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other milk.

From me:

The Pig

The pig is of the porcine kind;
One end is oink, the other rind.

Bacon anyone?


The Snake

The snake is on the elapine list;
One end is rattle, the other hisss..t

Well, you get the idea.


I can't believe I came that close to even take a picture.

The Horse

The horse is in the equine group;
One end is neigh, the other poop.


Well, I think it's time to go :)

Have a poetic day!

So much depends upon.....

The title of this post is the opening line of a poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow," by William Carlos Williams. It came to mind the other day when I saw the same line under a picture in one of our Toronto newspapers, either the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star. We get both - it's all about the crossword puzzles :)

Here's the poem.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

The newspaper imitated the poem under a picture of a closed park, because of this pandemic. I would often take a small poem and have students imitate it in their own words. Here are some pictures and my imitations.


The Pink Flamingo

so much depends
upon

a pink plastic
flamingo

hung in winter
trees

beside the grey
houses



The Red Tulips

so much depends
upon

ten red
tulips

accented with yellow
centres

beside the white
snowdrops



The White Mountains

so much depends
upon

white marble
mountains

misted in soft
clouds

beside the small
village

That's it! My poetry contributions for the day, inspired by a picture in the newspaper. We take our muses where we find them. They are not completely accurate imitations. There are too many syllables  in some places and the wrong parts of speech here and there. These days there is little discipline.

Have an amazing day.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Busy-ness..... Gardening

If it ever warms up.

Inside gardening....

April has been a cold month. A week or more of days under 5ºC can set a garden back a fortnight. (I still read Dickens.) On the one hand, I like the fact that the cold weather has helped people stay in and keep their distance, on the other hand, I hate that I can't get the beds ready for planting.

In mid April, I bought seeds on-line from Stokes, because I thought bedding plants would be scarce, if the lock down continued into June. I do know I cannot go a summer without growing something. Hence, (I look for opportunities to use this word) I ordered seeds online - tomato, cucumber, egg plant and zucchini. They took a long time to arrive and I knew I was behind the 8-ball, when the directions suggested starting the seeds indoors in January or early February. We shall overcome!!



Anyway, I had been saving all these empty egg cartons and styrofoam meat trays since March. I also now had seed packets with interesting names, such as, Patio Baby (egg plant), Everglade (zucchini) and Sub-Arctic (tomato), well, it could be a very cold Spring.......and I needed to plant something, so I spent the day starting my seedlings indoors. I'll let you know if anything sprouts.

Outside gardening....

Yesterday, it warmed up enough to venture into the garden. I had a project in mind - I needed a raised bed for strawberries. I had already bought the frame a week or two earlier, on-line, from Home Depot. It was now time to assemble it. The instructions said - "Easy to put together - Assembles in minutes." Several hours later we finally had a 4' x 4' x 1' grey plastic frame to hold soil for a raised flower bed. Now, of course, it had to be filled. At this point, my husband disappeared - go figure. So, it was that I, in my twilight years, filled 9 wheelbarrows full of compost from one of our compost bins and trucked them halfway down the garden to fill the raised bed. Never say never!! I now have a patch of 10 strawberry plants 1 foot off the ground and my fingers crossed.



Scoring...

Well, yes, gardening in some areas is also a kind of sport. Today the score is Squirrels - 6. Homeowners - 2. Now that would be daffodil flowers heads - why they can't just eat the bulbs and die, is beyond me. The pansy score is a little better, for the moment. Squirrels 2. Homeowners 34 - yeah!! Well, without baseball, you sort of go to bat where you can and believe me, if I could catch them, I'd beat the daffodils out of them - just sayin'

Have a safe day - we're all going a little strange - that's my excuse.

Busy-ness.....Meals...

I try keeping busy. I do a little cleaning, a little cooking, a little gardening and these days a little knitting. It fills the time, gives me a sense of accomplishment, a full stomach, a somewhat clean house and more sweaters than I will ever wear in a life time!!

Still by the fifth week of doing all this busy-ness, it gets a little boring. I need to use the creative muscle a bit more. Well, believe me, I don't get very creative about cleaning, but I can, when pushed create some interesting meals or make the mundane meals a little more interesting and I can definitely push the limits on gardening.

Meals

I think I've mentioned that we've recruited our youngest to make pizza from scratch every Saturday night. He's a Gordon Ramsey devotee and can make pizza dough without a measuring cup!! This, in itself, is a miracle. The only drawback, in the process, is that he takes pictures every step of the way, for Instagram posts. What might be a prep. time of an hour or two is now an hour or four!! Fortunately, he gets up about 3:00pm in the afternoon (I know, when was the last time you were able to stay up past midnight.) and we get him started on dinner, then or we'd be eating at midnight!



In the meantime, I have resurrected four French Onion Soup bowls that I bought at Kitchen Plus for $15.00 - for the set!! I've used them once, because it took me all day one October to make the soup. The accountant in me says, that would be about $4.50 per serving, not counting the cost of the stock, onions, bread and cheese, sigh.


Fortunately, I decided to use them again this week for what started out as a tortiere and ended up as shepherd's pie, because I decided to use tomato and mashed potatoes instead of pastry - down to $2.25 per serving. Plus I could use up some stale hamburger buns, because there wasn't enough filling to properly fill the bowls and mashed potatoes look silly somewhere in the middle of a soup bowl. The hamburger buns (half of one per bowl) filled the bottom of the soup bowls, soaked up the liquid and did a great french imitation of a sloppy Joe. I thought I could do a cute translation for sloppy Joe, until I found out that I had a choice of three french words for sloppy - negligeé, débraillé or per soigné. Now to decide which one goes with Josef. Clearly this needs another post.



The soup bowls were a hit, so much so that I am making chicken and biscuits tonight and serving it in the individual bowls. I should clean out my "china" cabinet more often!

Gardening - next post.




Friday, April 17, 2020

Another pandemic moment...

What to do when there is nothing to do. Or how to fill your time with nothing. We had Easter dinner on Friday. It's a tradition. We then eat turkey all weekend. Tonight I will make turkey a la king. The question is what to pour it over. Normally it would be egg noodles, but since we are low on egg noodles - 1/4 of a bag, we have to get inventive. "What do we have," asked my husband. " I don't know. I don't do the shopping."

Whereupon, he went to the cupboard and produced -

2 full bags of spaghettini
1 full bag of spaghetti
2 full bags of penne and a small 1/4 bag, also of penne
1/2 a bag of macaroni - someone is not making home made KD
1/2 a bag of orzo
1 full bag of rice noodles - someone is not making Pho
1 full canister of rice
1/2 a canister of both spaghettini and spaghetti mixed together - who did this?



I did not mention that we also had 1/2 a bag of short grain rice and 3/4 of a bag of brown rice. We also eat potatoes, couscous, polenta.....etc. Obviously we have enough starch in our house to stiffen the upper lip :)

So in this virus void, I can now meditate on why we have so much pasta. Make a plan to use it up and maybe think in terms of using up some of the other starches as well. I could make a turkey pho tomorrow and use up the rice noodles, since we've found a recipe on-line that uses some ingredients we have. The rest, we'll just have to fake!

I think I'll have to give my husband another guideline when shopping. Right now he's obviously using, "When in doubt buy pasta." How about, "When in doubt buy Lysol." (If you can find it!)

Have a productive day.

PS. Did I mention the beans, both dried and canned - OMG!


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Pandemic vs Pendemic

OK, I'm writing much more and will probably be writing even more. I've joined a free 27 day writing group. We are sent a writing challenge every day for 27 days and must write (by hand) for 15 minutes on a stimulus we are given. Today it was to remember something from this pandemic. Here's mine.

I want to remember the togetherness. The way four people, in a 7 room house lived and worked together for weeks and weeks and weeks. We stayed away from each other and came together as needed - imagine a very slow dance. My husband and son ordering food on-line was a time of togetherness. My son helping me cook, stirring, mincing, chatting was more time together. Why both kids didn't show up for dinner until dessert, was probably their time away.

I want to remember my daughter sitting at the picnic table in brilliant sunshine and 10ºC working on her computer. I could see her from the window and I thought she was crying. Had she lost her job? Had a friend been diagnosed? Later we learned that she, in fact, had not lost her job, but that her job had changed from swimming instructor to IT expert on Zoom. She could not be in the pool, but she could be on-line helping teachers and grade one students get up to speed on Zoom. She wasn't crying, she was laughing at the six-year-old, who was rolling on the floor, instead of watching the lesson on the screen.



I also want to remember the bananas!! About a week ago neighbours had received their first on-line order. There are always surprises. Sometimes you get what you ordered and sometimes you don't and sometimes you get some real surprises. They had ordered 4 bananas and got 4 bags of bananas. They called. Could we use some bananas? Well, we go through a dozen bananas every two days. Yes, we could!

Yesterday, we got our first on-line order. We ordered and were shipped 8 bananas. However, we already had 5 bananas. We called our neighbours. Could they use some bananas? Well, apparently her husband had gone out for fruit and had forgotten bananas. Yes they could take 6. We may all end up a little bananas, when this is all over.

Have a day with appeal :)




On how I complicate my life.......

Really my life should be very simple. I'm retired - sort of. I'm not a doctor. I don't have to make life and death decisions. I don't have to count ventilators or keep people out of parks. All I have to do is cook, clean and craft. I don't even have to feed the cat - the kids do that. So why can't I just keep it simple, you know KISS.

Well, I really think that I am actually keeping it (life) simple and then the gremlins come in and make it very complicated. Here's what I mean.



1. The other day my husband decided to refresh the Forsythia we had brought in for forcing the week before. He was heading out to cut a few more twigs, when I said, "Wait a minute there are a few very long branches that need to be pruned from the bush. Why don't you take the bigger clippers and cut off one of the limbs, then we can use the twigs at the end of the branch for forcing?"



This is where it got complicated. The limb didn't come down with one cut. It needed several and each piece needed to be pulled from the tangle individually. Eventually, there was just one piece left. However, it refused to yield. In fact, we all tried to pull it down, only to fail miserably. Finally, my son climbed onto a wooden flower box to give the limb one last yank. Well, you guessed it. The flower box collapsed; my son landed in a nearby flower bed and the branch, undisturbed, remained in the tree. Alas!



At this point, I decided that, really, clipping a few twigs would have been a much simpler idea. Now we have to dismantle the broken flower box, remove the soil and decide what to put at the edge of the deck to stop more people from falling into the flower bed. Sigh!

The complications, however, did not stop there. Here is another one.

2. The other night about 4:00am a car alarm sounded outside on the street a few houses east of us. It woke us up. Someone would hear it, go outside and turn it off, I thought. No one did. It beeped on..and on..and on. Then it would stop for a second or two and start up again. I tried sleeping through it. Maybe I did for a while or maybe I just thought I did. Anyway at about 7:00am, I finally got up and decided to help everyone out by calling the police. I called their non-emergency number or at least I thought I was calling their non-emergency number.

Here is the back story. We have a list of phone numbers on our fridge, mainly the numbers of people our kids might hang out with, in case we needed to call. Plus the non-emergency number of the police. Well, somehow we mixed up the number of the parents of a friend of my eldest and the police's number. We found this out about eight or nine years ago, when our youngest was overdue home one very cold night in January and we called the police to see if they had found anyone in a snowbank.

You guessed it. At two in the morning, we had actually called the home of my son's friend's parents (is this complicated enough). They recognized our name and called their son, who was now married and in his own home. Our friend called our eldest in the morning and he contacted us. "What was going on?" To make a long story short, everything worked out OK and we were forgiven. I took the parent's number off the list and said this will never happen again.

Well, it did, because I hadn't realized that the numbers had been switched and the number beside the police was actually the parent's number. I had in fact deleted the police's number, not the parent's number some eight years ago. So when I called the police at seven in the morning, I actually called the parents. They recognized our name. They called their son, who called our eldest, now in Calgary, at the equivalent of 6:00 am. He called us at 8:00am. Oh God, how I hate caller ID. We called them later and apologized and erased their number, again. There's something to be said about updating lists every year or so, rather then every decade.



I finally did get through to the police, however, who said it wasn't a police matter and referred me to the city. I called 311 and was told that during the pandemic, they weren't dealing with this sort of thing. My answer to them was, "What if there's a dead body in the car?" He laughed.

I'm waiting to have him laugh on the other side of his face, because, it's been two weeks now and the car is still there. It doesn't have a parking permit, so it is not owned by anyone on the street. We believe it is an abandoned car and yes, there may still be a dead body inside.

I have no intention of calling the police or the city again.

Oh, and did I mention that my husband woke up with a pinched nerve in his back, because of the stress of the car alarm and was in excruciating pain for several days. Not exactly a dead body, but not exactly capable of doing anything either.

Have a quiet day!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Today we have making of masks....

OK, I started yesterday, but finished to-day. In fact about a week ago, I decided to make several face masks with material left over from a cushion I had made several years ago. I would normally not panic and wear a mask and/or gloves, but there have been too many articles in the paper lately showing that this pandemic has been slowed somewhat in countries where people were ordered to wear ordinary face masks. I decided to comply - but it wasn't easy. Here's what happened:

1. I went on YouTube and found a few sites with instructions on making your basic cloth mask. I had to watch, or partially watch, several videos because I either couldn't stand the voice of the instructor, the instructions were too complicated, the lighting was poor, the background noise distracting etc..etc... Finally I found a lovely person, who explained the making of a very simple mask, in a friendly down to earth way. She had normal nails, a normal, relaxed voice and tended to estimate rather than measure exactly. I loved her!! Here she is

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inJQexwK8Yg

2. However, she used a piece of flannel, as an insert. I had no flannel. Instead, I decided to use a piece of felt, of which I have about 1,000. I cut out twelve 7" x 9" pieces of fabric from my newly washed, not yet ironed length of cotton and a smaller insert of the felt. Everything worked well until the pleating part. The felt was too heavy to pleat. Sigh!



3. I then tried making just a round disc - no pleats. It didn't work either - too many gaps. My husband suggested a short flat piece with no pleats. It still didn't work. Plus it was too difficult to breathe through the felt. I would have suffocated, before I died of the virus :)

4. Finally I ditched the idea of the felt, since my son convinced me that my simple cotton mask would pass the flame test. That is, if you can't blow out a match by blowing through your mask, then it's fairly disease resistant or something like that.

5. I now had enough fabric for four masks, which I lined with some white cotton for extra measure.



6. However, I didn't have any elastic and going to the dollar store, possibly picking up the virus in an attempt to make something to protect myself from the virus seemed too ironic. I decided to crochet eight 7" chains, which had some give and use them as ear loops. So far they are working.



7. Although, I might not have had elastic, I did have pipe cleaners, so I put a folded pipe cleaner in the top seam of the mask for shaping and it works.

I must apologize for the pattern on the fabric, it looks a little like droplets or virus molecules. Irony is never too far away.

Also, apparently, I am not finished yet. My son suggested adding an initial to each mask, for each person in the house. The Devil's work is never done.

The title of the post is a nod to a favourite poem of mine - Today We Have Naming of Parts. It's a war poem - go figure!

Naming of Parts
Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call is easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have the naming of parts. 
Have an accomplished day!!