Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Rain?

This has been one of the rainiest summers on record in Ottawa. Some reports say three times our average rainfall... According to one newspaper article, we have had only 6 rain-free days in July! Any way you look at it, there has been a lot of rain!

But as a gardener, how can I complain?! I rarely find rain unwelcome... In fact, I hate to waste good drinking water watering the grass!

Which brings me to another bonus: I haven't been able to cut the grass in the rain... And when I do go out to cut it, I also discover another welcome surprise - bunches of flowers growing there. I usually mow around them. Occasionally I dig them up and move them to a flower bed.

I think I'll just mow around these!

All this, thanks to our abundant rain!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today's Task

In early spring I thought it would be nice to have a wooden chair with wide arms - to hold my cup of coffee while I sat outside enjoying the morning air. I didn't know what to do: To buy one already assembled and try to fit it into the car?

Or to buy a kit and assemble it at home? In the end, I bought this chair kit at Costco - and it has been sitting in the corner of the porch ever since!

(In fact, the box is already invisible to me - it feels like it BELONGS there!)

But today - aided by my trusty TO-DO LIST which jogged my memory - I decided that the time had come to open the box and put it together.

I must admit that I dreaded opening the box - I envisioned lots of little pieces that would take hours to assemble! So to make it more interesting, and to keep me on task, I decided to see just how long it would take...

So here it is...

7: 20 - Opened box and scanned directions. Realized I would need glue. Do I have any glue? Ran off to check.

7:30 - Emptied box. From the look of the pre-cut wooden pieces, I will also need some sandpaper to avoid getting a sliver. Also need a different screw driver...

7:40 - Laid the pieces out and began to assemble the chair

10:40 - Here it is, all assembled - ready to be varnished... It's pouring rain so that will have to wait for another day. But I can still enjoy sitting on it on the covered veranda!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lake Monster Baseball

Kelowna, the city in British Columbia where I spent my teenage years, is very proud of its lake monster, the OGOPOGO - a mythological creature believed to inhabit the depths of Kelowna's Okanogan Lake. This cousin to Scotland's Loch Ness Monster is not the only water monster in North America!

On a recent trip to Burlington, Vermont, we encountered Lake Champlain's monster (or, rather, his statue...)

And the baseball team named after him - the Burlington Lake Monsters!

We enjoyed a game in their lovely old stadium - we heard that this may be the last season it is used. The place was packed!

The field is great...

But the old wooden seats brought back memories of a bygone era...

And what better way to end the game than with free scoops of ice cream provided by Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, located near Stowe, Vermont?!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No pain, no ... what?!

I have been enduring a little pain this week - as a tooth I really never gave much thought to began to make its presence felt. By mid-week, I was popping pain killers (and feeling a whole lot more sympathetic towards people who endure constant pain...) Yesterday my dentist gave me antibiotics, which should tide me over till I have a root canal done in a few weeks...

All this to say, that I have a new appreciation for being pain-free!

I have never really liked the expression "No pain, no gain" - not because it isn't true that sometimes we have to work through difficult (perhaps even painful) times to achieve a goal - but because many young athletes abuse their bodies in the name of gain. We see it again and again in professional sports.

A number of years ago, my then-teenage son injured his toe playing soccer, but - following this mantra (No pain, no gain) refused to heed the pain - and ended up in the hospital with endocarditis, a potentially fatal heart infection... After surgery, months of antibiotics and numerous heart tests, he was - thankfully - completely healthy again. But I will never view a small cut or injury as "insignificant" again. Once infected, it can be life-threatening.

And I will never forget my son's reply to me, when I had suggested he stop playing until the toe had completely healed. It was: No pain, no gain...

The body is not made for pain... In fact, pain is a little alarm that goes off to remind us to pay attention to what we are doing, and perhaps change our ways...

So right now, I'm sitting here - basking in the joy of feeling NOTHING! Or at least, no pain... If pain should rear its ugly head again today, I will check the clock, to see if it is time to take another pain killer - and curl up in a ball until the pain goes away.

Because the best thing about pain is not the gain, but the joy and appreciation of again being pain-free again!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Installing Updates...

It's hard when computers have a mind of their own, as ours did recently. When Terry was ready to turn it off and go to bed, instead of shutting down, it restarted and began installing updates. He tried in vain to get it to turn off - so that he could go to bed. But it refused to listen ... It just kept on installing updates!

I was awake - my sleeping brain had wakened me to install updates of its own! We had just come back from a relaxing few days away. While on holiday, we had visited old friends we hadn't seen since... since our hair was less gray! Little had changed - except that now we were talking about children's jobs, plans for retirement ... and parents who were no longer alive.

Back home again, I had anticipated a good night's sleep in my own bed - but instead, my updating brain had wakened me with thoughts of GETTING OLD!

It's not the first time my brain has had to install updates! I remember well the panic nightmares I had when I brought each of my newborn babies home from the hospital: sometime not long afterward, I would dream that I had gone somewhere and left them behind, because I HAD FORGOTTEN I HAD THE BABY!! My brain was installing updates...

Then there were the panic dreams of later years - I'd wake up at 3 am and realize that I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE MY CHILDREN WERE... WERE THEY OKAY?! I had to remind myself that they were adults now, living on their own... and I would hear if there were a problem... Installing updates...

It will be nice when these latest updates are all fully installed - fears quelled - and the enjoyment of yet another phase of life will begin!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Quebec-style Fried Egg Sandwich

Before living in Quebec, the only egg sandwiches I had ever eaten were made with hard boiled eggs, mashed with mayo to create an egg-y paste, served between two slices of bread. I now know that as an egg-salad sandwich.

That was what I expected to get when I ordered an egg sandwich at a diner one day in Montreal.

But instead, I got a fried egg sandwich - an egg (fried) served between two pieces of toast.

After my initial surprise, I found I liked it, so occasionally I still have it for breakfast or lunch.

So here it is, this morning's breakfast - a toasted fried egg sandwich. It promises to keep me full for much of the day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Merrickville Canal Fest

One of the small-town festivals we enjoy visiting most years is in Merrickville, Ontario - about an hour's drive south of Ottawa.

The Rideau Canal - a world heritage site that opened in 1832 and has been operating ever since - runs through the village of Merrickville, where there are a number of canal locks.

Most of these are operated by hand - often by students as a summer job.

Why do we like to visit the Merrickville Canal Fest?

We enjoy the music - this year we heard these Celtic musicians. With this year's rain, they needed a plastic canopy to keep off the showers.

It's always fun watching boats go up and down the locks.

There is a sense of history about the place: There are canal museums and historic enactments.

Here is an old-style blacksmith (who works for Parks Canada) and an old-fashioned soldier.

They have races on the canal - these canoes were starting when we were there. One year we took a bird-watching ride on the canal, but we didn't see that this year.

Whenever I visit this peaceful, beautiful place - with it's gracious one-and-two-century-old buildings, I am reminded that it wasn't that long ago since people depended on rivers (and canals) for transportation - because high speed highways and motor vehicles simply did not exist.

But life is a constant change: Whenever we come, we remember the Merrickville bakery where we used to buy barley bread. It has closed down. And the Hershey Chocolate Factory not far away in Smiths Falls - which we used to visit, coming home with bags of chocolate we didn't need! It just closed down last winter - and a bottled water plant will be installed in its place, a sign of the changing times!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Weeding My Garden - Weeding My Life

It's raining outside ... AGAIN ... but because I have a garden, I don't mind TOO much. Gardens thrive in rain - and my flower beds certainly have been thriving!

My favorite one is my front flower bed. I planted it a few years ago, and it expands yearly. As the plants grow bigger, they have to be moved farther apart. I feel I still have control over this flower bed - I can see most of the plants clearly - and I enjoy watching it grow.

I have another flower bed that I'm not enjoying too much these days. It rewards me with flowers all summer long - and I'm glad it's there. In fact, it has lots of the same plants in it that I have in the front flower bed. But I've lost control of it!

Years ago, in my inexperience as a gardener, I put in a few plants that spread - and those plants have taken over. This wild bed is now in dire need of weeding. I do weed it (or some part of it) almost every summer. (By weeding, I mean I pull out plants that have covered other plants. I pull them out ruthlessly, filling my compost heap, opening up the light to hidden plants below.) But the roots of these spreaders run deep - and next year they're back again. They grow well, especially when it rains!

It occurred to me, as I was looking out at this bed this morning, that my own life is a lot like this overrun flower bed. Over the years, a lot of activities have filled my life: parenting, playing and listening to music, traveling, taking pictures, weaving, writing, studying, teaching, sewing, furniture refinishing, quilting, knitting, creating a family history... the list goes on...

I still do a few of those, but I don't seem to get as much done as I'd like to. Maybe I need a clearer focus on what is really important to me right now, at this stage of life. To get this clearer focus, maybe I need to pare away stuff I no longer use and may never again need.

If I weed out the books, tools and craft supplies I no longer use, maybe I'll be able to focus more clearly on things I really want to be doing right now.

So as I weed my garden, I am also thinking of weeding out my house, my bookcase, my basement.

But then again, I wonder if I'm really capable of it! Maybe I should just follow the advice of my neighbor, who commented, when he saw my back flower bed: I would just let this one run wild!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Favorite Banana Cake

It has been a long time since I posted a cake recipe. I don't make cakes as much as I used to - there are fewer at home to eat them!

But a bowl full of over-ripe bananas reminded me of a cake I used to make regularly years ago. I enjoyed eating it for breakfast and snacks - often with a dish of plain yogurt - because it contained bananas, a healthy food! But it does have white flour and quite a bit of sugar... so I modified it a bit to satisfy the NEW ME (the type-2-diabetic ME who tries to eat less white flour and sugar).

The original recipe comes from a favorite dessert cook book, the Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cook Book of 1967. (Page32) The original calls for frosting it with chocolate whipped cream. That would make it too rich for my purposes - a healthy breakfast or snack.

I have modified it a bit.... using less white flour and sugar. But this slightly healthier version is just as tasty - and rose just as high as the original would have. So I'm again enjoying it with a dish of plain, unsweetened yogurt... After all, the cake is sweet enough on its own.


Stir together
  • 2/3 cup of shortening or margarine and
  • 1 2/3 cups of sugar (This time, I used only 1 1/2 cups of sugar.)

Add the following dry ingredients
to the above ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour. (The recipe calls for sifted cake flour, but I substituted a mixture of flours. I used approximately 1 cup of unbleached white flour plus - and to make up the last cup and a half of flour, I mixed together 2 TABLESPOONS EACH OF PSYLLIUM, WHEAT GERM, SOY FLOUR, AND OAT FLOUR - and then I added enough SPELT FLOUR to make up what was lacking. Spelt flour is apparently a healthier choice for diabetics.)

After blending this dry, crumbly mixture, add
  • 1 1/4 cups of fully mashed bananas (Or approximately 4 medium bananas) and
  • 1/3 cup sour milk or buttermilk (Add 1/2 a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk if you don't have sour milk.Yogurt can also be substituted for sour milk.) Mix well.

Now add another
  • 1/3 cup of sour milk and
  • 2 eggs. Mix well again.

Put batter in greased cake pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 175 degrees Celsius) for approximately 45 minutes in a large pan. Cake should be brown on top and pulling slightly from the sides of the pan when done. Test by putting a toothpick into the cake - if it comes out dry, the cake is done.)

Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. Enjoy!

PS It is soft enough to eat on a soft-food diet!