Thursday, October 31, 2013

Memories of... a Witch's Kitchen!

Last Saturday was the final Farmers Market for the summer season.

(There is one more in December, a popular Christmas sale.)

Seeing the "haunted house" on the second floor of the market building reminded me of the time, when I was four or five, that I attended a Halloween party in my mother's elementary school classroom.

The cloakroom at the back had been transformed into a "Witch's Kitchen." Older students blindfolded us younger ones, one by one, and led us through. They dipped our hands in "fresh blood" (warm water) and gave us "bones" (uncooked pasta) to eat. The horror of it all!

After being led through, blindfolded - amid cackles and screams, we were thankfully able to watch the next victim being led through. Seeing what they were actually eating and touching quelled our fears! But it must have been memorable - I haven't forgotten the event some 60 years later! It was also a lesson in the power of suggestion. I learned that what I thought was real - and reality - could be very different things.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Three Ways to Eat Waffles

I recently discovered three delicious ways to eat waffles:

With maple syrup... and baked beans on the side!

With scrambled eggs, salad and fruit!

And (my personal favorite) with strawberries and nutella (and extra fruit on the side)!

(No wonder I gain three pounds every time I go to Toronto!)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Graduation Celebration

My high school graduation was a big family celebration. It marked the end of my life at home. I was anticipating the next phase of life -  moving away to university. That path led me half way around the world, where I eventually graduated with no family at my side. That was one time I wished they were near...

Remembering what it was like to celebrate alone, I like to be there whenever any of my children walks across the stage.

It's a time to celebrate the end of an era (being a student) - and remember those who have taught you and those behind the scenes who have proof read your papers and encouraged you on.

It's our day, too: Parents, family, friends... husband or wife.

Good luck, all you future journalists! We're counting on you to tell it right!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Last Flowers of Fall

I love the first flowers of springtime. They fill me with hope and joy!

But these days I appreciate the last flowers of fall: The hardy few that have survived a few nights of frost, like the blue scabiosa that are still blooming (above)...

... a handful of Knautia...

 ... the few geranium flowers that have returned for a second time.

And this bunch of pink Achillea, still blooming in my side garden. They're not as showy as the black-eyed Susans I saw still blooming in a neighbor's yard, but pretty nonetheless.

I also appreciate the red sedum flowers that have stopped blooming but continue to hold their pose all winter long, even when covered with mounds of snow. As they peer through snowbanks, I admire them - and appreciate them most of all! They just never give up!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

With God, There Is Only One Direction: Forward!

There is a delicate balance between looking back and being stuck in the past - thereby missing the present! I remember the mother of a friend who wore black (in mourning) for several years after her husband died. She then switched to brown (a lesser form of mourning). When her oldest son died unexpectedly, she informed her daughter: I'll be wearing black for the rest of my life now.

Years later, I felt sad for the woman - always dressed in black, a reminder of her losses. She had so many good things in her life. Was she focusing on them as well?

Whether I wear black symbolically or not, I sometimes get stuck in the past and spend too much time (and energy) thinking about what I did or didn't do, what I have or no longer have.

For me, writing blog posts about some of life's nagging disappointments has been therapeutic for me. But eventually I have to close the book on the loss, so to speak, and move on.

I find it interesting to encounter this same message in my reading as well:

Joyce Meyer writes: "One of the great things about a relationship with God is that He always provides new beginnings.  His... mercy is new every day." (The Confident Woman, p. 46)

I have also found helpful the Benedictine attitudes of consciously seeing each day as a new beginning and accepting the situations I find myself in as part of God's "curriculum" for my spiritual growth, not an oversight on God's part or a sign of His disapproval. One of life's challenges is "obeying" these situations - doing my best in them.

I recall reading that one of the desert Fathers (who lived almost 2000 years ago) was asked if it was possible to begin again every minute. He replied: Not only every minute - every second.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Now that mornings are cooler, time to make muffins again! Here is a recipe I tried recently, portioning a "Cranberry Bread" recipe into muffin tins. I mixed the dry ingredients together first, then added the liquid ones.

1. Mix together:
  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour. (I used a mix of whole wheat and spelt.)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons (30 ml) hot water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) baking powder
  • 1 cup whole cranberries (I used frozen.)
2. Add:
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) orange juice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil

3. Mix and portion into muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes. Test with toothpick.


(Next time, I might sprinkle some sugar on top before baking.)

(The Cranberry Bread recipe was taken from the cookbook, Mother's in the Kitchen.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Finally Done!

I have been working on an afghan that I started about two years ago... perhaps longer.

It's finally done!

It was exciting to use up all the yarn I had bought - and to add the black border.

I have two other unfinished afghans. I started this one a year ago. I crocheted a few rows but now I'm not sure I like the colors. (No drama!)

And I'm beginning to wonder about this one that I started more recently. Inspired by our trip to Pennsylvania, I wanted to use Amish colors... But it seems a little repetitive and busy!

Should I continue the pattern or make a change?

Questions like these are one of the reasons I sometimes put a project on hold for a while. (Then forget about it!) When I come across it again, often much later, I see it with fresh eyes and can judge better what to do. It's hard to work on something I have doubts about.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sick Day!

Temperatures are changing as summer ends. It's cold season - and, as usual, I have succumbed!

No energy for anything but sitting around.

Why not do some painting?! I could practice some of the techniques Kerri recently taught us.

So I did just that!

Later I had to admit: Painting had made it a good day! I felt as if I had accomplished something.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's Raking Time Again!

It's raking time as leaves - and pine needles - fall from trees.

Years ago, we had more leaves to rake than pine needles.

But all this has changed. Nowadays pine needles are a double problem in our front yard. I have to keep them off my flower beds, or the acid soil they create will kill many of my plants. But they just keep coming! One day I rake them up, the next day they are back again.

There are a lot of needles on this tree! I'm ready to cut it down... but Terry loves it! And so we rake...!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Discovering Dumpling Squash

There are many fruits and vegetables available nowadays that I have never seen before.

One is Sweet Dumpling Squash, an interesting looking vegetable that my art instructor, Kerri, brought to class for us to draw.

Suddenly I began to notice them in different places.  I even sampled one at our local Farmers Market. So I bought one - first to draw, then to eat!

They look pretty simple to sketch - but I've practiced several times without feeling I've really captured the shape.

The website above says they keep for up to 3 months! That should give me plenty of time to try to get it right!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Noticing... Pottery!

It's not surprising that I'm noticing more pottery these days - and appreciating it more too! Trying to learn how to make mugs and bowls has made me realize what a skill it is. It's hard it is to make something truly beautiful.

One potter I admire sells her creations at the Carp Farmers Market.

I don't really need anything - but I wanted to have a sample of her work... so I bought this bread warmer, meant to be heated in the oven, then placed in a basket to keep bread or rolls warm during the meal.

(Her wrapping was beautiful, too!)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Time to "Obey"?

Obedience has always been a difficult concept for me (unless, of course, I was expecting my children or my students to obey ME!)

My father used to say: Family is a democracy. (Though it really can't be - not when one person holds the responsibility and controls the purse strings!) But I appreciate what he was trying to do. He didn't want us to live in a male-dominated family where father was dictatorial boss. And he was trying to get my brother and me to think for ourselves. (Of course, I often took that a step further and challenged what he said or did - yet he never expressed regret at taking that parental approach.)

I have been thinking about "obedience" in a different light recently - obedience that extends beyond control to meeting (or "obeying") needs of those around us. In our family, I tend to do the baking. I don't know why - that's just the way it is. Terry often expresses regret that I don't bake much anymore. (I stopped when I became type 2 diabetic!)

So as I notice the three boxes of cakes that he purchased to fill his cake "need," maybe it's time to "obey" my family and start making home-made cakes and cookies again.

Not every day perhaps, but certainly from time to time.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Baked Mini-Omlettes

I am always looking for interesting egg recipes, as eggs are low in carbs and calories. My mother used to call eggs (and milk) perfect foods: both supply complete nutrition for babies (baby chickens and baby cows!)

The recipe for oven-baked omlettes contains both "perfect" foods! And it's really easy! Basically, it's this:
  • Mix together 4 beaten eggs and 1/4 cup (75 ml) milk or half and half.
  • Pour into 6 buttered muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 mini-omlettes
Important Note:
 Before baking the eggs and milk/cream mixture, you can add other ingredients to the omlettes, such as bits of bacon, ham or sausage; grated cheese (or small cheese pieces); pre-cooked veggies.

I added two tablespoons (30 ml) salsa to the eggs, then added cheese and chopped sausage to each mini-omlette. They were delicious!

Next time, I plan to try chopped fruit, such as pear or apple pieces, and maybe sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Second Pottery Class

Second pottery class! This is what the wheel looks like before I begin!

This is what it looks like when the class is in full swing, and I've just removed my latest attempt at a "cylinder" - i.e. any round hollow object, like a vase, mug or bowl!

One memorable moment was spilling a basin of water all over the floor. Fortunately the water was clean - I had just replaced the dirty water. (I accidentally bumped it when I put down my bag of clay - the large brown package on the right.)

I spent some class time mopping! (There are a lot of mops around!)

This time I made four pots in my attempt to learn how to make "cylinders." Two turned out more or less even and and two ended up wonky again! On the plus side, the instructor said that he wants us to have less than perfect vases and bowls to practice our glazing on.  

No point it ruining a perfect bowl with imperfect glazing, he says. That's encouraging! (I'm good at imperfect vases!)

Every time one of us messes up, he tells stories of his own pottery disasters. All this reminds me of a Jewish proverb: A perfectionist doesn't make a good teacher. This guy is really relaxed! He doesn't expect us to be perfect!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

More Construction Chaos!

In the ongoing saga of neighborhood construction, I was glad to miss a day of power outage when hydro workers recently replaced the telephone pole next door.

I left for my pottery class just as the workmen were setting up.

Electricity was slated to be out for the whole day, so I decided to eat out and go shopping after class.

No point in rushing back! (There is only so much construction chaos I can handle!)

I got back 7 hours later, just as they were putting the finishing touches on the new pole! An hour later, electricity was restored.

I'd like to think that this is the end... But instead, I wonder which house on our street is next in line for renovation, removal or demolition! Fifty years ago, when many of these houses were built, this neighborhood of big lots and small homes was outside of the city limits. The city grew to encompass it. Nowadays builders are looking for lots big enough to divide. Two homes often go up where one small house stood. Others hope to build rooming houses for students who attend college nearby. Whatever the plan, our neighborhood is changing!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Back to Crochet

I usually have several projects on the go, in quilting, knitting or crochet. I'm not sure why - I guess starting is easier than finishing!

This afghan has been sitting in a bag for a while now. I remember my wrist hurting from the repetitive motion of hours of doing the double crochet stitch - so I took a break from it. But I didn't realize how long that break has been until I happened to read this old (2011) blog post!

My wrist is better, so I've decided to get back to it and hopefully finish it. (In time for Christmas, perhaps?!)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Chip Wagon Pays a Visit

When I first moved East, it wasn't long before a friend introduced me to poutine - French fries or "chips" served with cheese curds and gravy, made in an outdoor "chip wagon."

Built into large vans, chip wagons often move from place to place. No summer event is complete without them.

A few days ago, one even paid a visit to my mother's nursing home! Terry and I walked over to join in on the fun.

Fortunately the day was sunny and warm. We all enjoyed eating French fries outdoors.