Monday, August 31, 2015

Microwaved Mini-Cakes

I rarely turn on the oven when the weather is hot. But recently - during a heat wave - I craved chocolate cake. I decided to bake one of my favorite easy cake recipes, not in the oven, but in the microwave.

And rather than use my silicone muffin tins - which are microwave safe - I'd try baking small individual cakes in pottery bowls I had made.

I prepared my "Blue Monday Cake" (recipe here from a 2012 blog post). I didn't have any white flour, so I used a mix of spelt and whole wheat - to Terry's chagrin! I also added an egg, as most of the mug cakes recipes online seemed to have eggs in them.

I filled the containers about 1/3 full.

I started out by microwaving them for about 20-30 seconds on high power - give or take - depending on the size of the container. I then switched to 70% power for 40-60 seconds. If, after testing with a toothpick, the batter was still runny, I added another 10 seconds on high. I baked the bowls individually, on a paper towel - in case there was spillage. (There wasn't any!)

I was really pleased with the result! (Here they are, just out of the oven.)

And, even though I didn't grease the pottery bowls, they cleaned up very easily!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pink Sedum - Sign of Fall

I notice that the sedum in my garden is beginning to turn pink... a sure sign of fall!

Fortunately a few other flowers are still in bloom, too...

At this time of year, my flower beds have a wild, unkempt look about them! It's been too hot to do much weeding the past month or so.

It's time to think about dividing plants that have grown too large, like this Euphorbia plant (behind the brown-eyed Susans and to the left of the pink windflowers). The Euphorbia's yellow flowers bloom in spring.

I notice that the geranium plant that blooms in spring has a flower or two again... I wonder if they bloom twice a year.

And one lowly daisy is blooming... (I appreciate late bloomers!)

This lovely mauve flower is finally blooming. (I don't know what it's called - but I love it, even though it only blooms in late summer.)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Outdoor Art at the Carp Farmers' Market

Last Saturday we headed to the Carp Farmers' Market again.

It was a busy place - busier than usual.

Artists had set up their "Art on the Lawn" in a nearby field. Some were simply selling. Others were sitting and painting as well.

Had I known about the "plein air" - outdoor - painting, I'd have brought along my water colors!

I wonder if this is an annual event... If so, I'll have to come prepared (with paint, paper brushes, water... and a comfortable chair) and plan to participate.

There aren't many opportunities to do art outdoors with others. It could be an interesting experience.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dunder Mifflin Paper

I don't watch much TV. (In fact, I no longer know how to turn the TV on - there are too many remotes and boxes involved!) One of the programs I used to enjoy watching was the Office, a long-running comedy which ended a few seasons ago. The setting for the show was a fictional paper company called Dunder Mifflin

Recently shopping for computer paper, I was amazed to see...

... Dunder Mifflin paper!

For a moment reality and fiction collided as my mind flashed back to the Office...

I had to remind myself that, though the paper is real, the company wasn't!

Finding Dunder Mifflin paper in the computer paper aisle brought a smile to my face - and lots of great memories!

Thursday, August 27, 2015


We have an 8-foot fence along part of our back yard.

I was surprised to see - blowing in the wind above the fence - a more-than-8-foot high thistle...

Its fluffy seeds were flying over the fence into our back yard!

Now that's a plant I don't want to encourage!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What to Register For...??

Our local school board catalog of fall and winter evening classes has arrived in the mail.

I can't resist going through it, circling all that interest me. (Strangely, most are held on Wednesday evenings!)

These courses can be life changing! I learned to quilt at a night school course when my children were young... and I've been at it ever since! I can't imagine life without that creative outlet!

Not sure what to do this fall and winter. Drawing? Painting? Group ukulele classes?

One that interests me is "Repurposed Fashion" - modifying old garments to create new ones. I've often thought of re-purposing T-shirts. I even bought a book about it. But I haven't tried yet. Maybe I need a course to get me going!

The beginner level doesn't begin till February. That gives me lots of time to think about it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Basket Weave Crochet

I first learned to crochet in my teens, when crafts like knitting and weaving were making a comeback. Over the years, I have crocheted a lot of items, mostly afghans and hats. Once, as a poor student, I bought some cheap synthetic yarn and crocheted a dress to wear to a new year's eve party!

(I remember someone asking: Where's the string that pulls it all apart?!)

Thankfully it didn't fall apart! In fact, I later sent it to my mother, who wore it for years.

All this to say that, with my crochet experience, I was surprised to recently come across a stitch I had never heard of before: basket weave crochet. I watched this You Tube instructional video...

Then I headed upstairs to see if I had any yarn I could use to try Basket Weave Crochet. I found five skeins of thick and thin French Pengoin wool I had bought at a garage sale and gave it a try...

I love the effect! I only hope that I have enough yarn to make something useful!

If I have enough, I think it would make a nice wrap.

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Quilting Accessory

I recently received a new quilting accessory: a needle minder...

Meant to keep track of your needle, on a table or in fabric... it consists of 2 magnets that clip together.

Normally it would sit within arm's reach when sewing. Instead of putting a needle down on the table, where it often disappears into the background and gets lost, it can provide a temporary VISIBLE place to put the needle.

But more ingenious still, the needle minder can rest on fabric when a needle is still in the fabric.

(The second magnet holds it in place from underneath.)

I'm not sure how many layers of fabric and batting the magnets will hold through, but I'm looking forward to experimenting to see!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ordinary Life

Early in my retirement, a friend loaned me a book that introduced me to the life and writing of a Christian monk who lived 1500 years ago, whose "Rule" for monastic living is still followed by many today - including those, like me, who have no connection to any monastery.

Since that first book, entitled Benedict's Way, I have read quite a few books on Benedictine spirituality. I have just started another, entitled No Moment Too Small. It reminds me that I was first attracted to the Benedictine way of life because it is focused on "ordinary" day-to-day living, which is what my life in retirement is.

Norvene Vest writes: The key to Benedictine spirituality life in the word "ordinary"... no moment is too small for nearness to God.... Christian living is daily. Everything in my life matters... 

The rules for getting along with others: When we experience weakness in others, are we disappointed that they have let us down, or do we gladly offer them our strength, knowing that we can depend on theirs in other circumstances? 

Are we sufficiently sensitive to the needs of others that we will pass the bread in response to a mere nod?

How do we care for old clothes and garden tools?

(Benedict's Rule deals with details like these - out of respect for people and for belongings.)

I'm looking forward to reading more. (Sometimes all we need are gentle reminders!)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Outdoor Blooms

From mid-August on, my garden is on the decline.

So I'm happy to see this new flower begin to bloom...

It's called "Anemone tormentosa" or Windflower "robustissima."

Its leaves have been growing and spreading all summer. Finally the flowers have appeared.

(I may have to divide it once its blooming season is over... that and the cheerful nearby Browned-eyed Susans...)

That's the cycle of a perennial garden: plant, enjoy, divide... Plant again!

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Money in the Bank"

"Money in the bank" is a concept we are all familiar with... If we have money in the bank, it's there to spend. But it can get used up.

The expression is a useful tool to understand other aspects of life, as well.

A while back, Terry used the expression "money in the bank" to illustrate goodwill in personal relationships. I had overstepped my bounds in a comment I made to one of my kids. In response I got a very cold shoulder.

Do you think our relationship has been damaged for good? I asked Terry.

I think you have enough money in the bank to cover this one, he replied. But if you keep taking money out, the account may run dry... (In other words: Watch what you say... Don't do it again!)

Money in the bank may also be a useful way to view unwanted weight gain, as well! Annoyed that I seem to gain and then lose the same five pounds over and over again, I thought about all my calories "in the bank."

I've been adding for so many years, it would take a major lifestyle shift - and a considerable amount of time - to get the "bank account" down to what I would like it to be!

Do I have the self-discipline for that challenge?! I'm not sure!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ukulele Update

Playing the ukulele is one of my more recent interests. A free introductory lesson in Hawaii last winter hooked me in! Who'd have known it was so much fun to play?!

In April (back home) I bought an inexpensive ukulele and had a few more classes. I've also learned a bit more from instructional You Tube videos... (There are a lot online.)

I haven't found time to take any more classes, but I do attend a twice-monthly jam session for beginners whenever possible - held in the basement of a downtown pub.

Not sure what my next step will be... but in the meantime, I've bought some music books, a ukulele stand and a neck strap to help hold my uke stable when I'm switching chords...

Is ukulele music the new rock and roll?!! one of my sons wondered when I told him about my latest passion.

He did some research...and discovered that the ukulele has quietly been making a comeback. Ukulele sales aren't currently growing in Canada, but they are holding their own. His article "Is the Ukulele really, truly, honestly here to stay this time?" summarizes his findings.

Is the ukulele a toy or a serious musical instrument? 

I think it's a little of both! That's what makes it so much fun to play! As instruments go, it's not expensive. And it's not that hard to learn. But the sounds it can produce are amazing, especially if you're as skilled as this Ted Talk musician!

(And to think that if I hadn't gone to that free lesson in Hawaii last winter, I probably wouldn't have known any of this!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

African Violets... in Bloom!

Gardening season outdoors is slowly winding down, but indoors some of my African Violets are beginning to bloom!

These face to the west, in a window that gets direct sunlight around mid-afternoon.

I never have figured out their blooming season - if they have one!

But I do enjoy them - any time they surprise me with their colorful flowers.

I'm still hoping the nearby orchid will take the hint and burst into bloom as well. My mother's beautiful orchid (in her north-facing nursing home window) is almost always blooming! But then, her room is constantly warm. Much more like Hawaii... all year long.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What I Need is... a Drone?!!

I often buy books on - not because I don't want to support my local bookstore, but because they don't usually carry the books I'm looking for. Book stores carry titles for about six months, then send unsold copies back to the publisher. I don't usually buy the latest best sellers. My buying pattern is to come across a reference to a book in an article or in the bibliographical notes of a book I have enjoyed - then hunt down that title. So most of the books I order have been around for a while.

Occasionally I buy a pottery tool on as well...

So I was more than amazed when recently Amazon suggested that (based on my buying habits, I presume), I might be interested in purchasing a DRONE?!!

A drone?!! (Not unless they can help me with my quilting!!)

I didn't even know that Amazon carried drones!

As I look at them online, I think that they're what we would have called a remote control plane in my childhood. My brother had one. As I recall, he (and my father) spent most of their time trying to get it to work! These drones on Amazon seem to come equipped with a camera, so I guess they'd mostly be used for taking pictures from overhead... (Another way of taking a "selfie"?!)

I wonder if they come with drone insurance - in case they fall on someone's car - or head!

No, Amazon - I'm not looking for a drone! I'm not interested in taking pictures of myself from above - or in being sued if the drone were to come crashing to the ground - like my brother's remote control plane so often did.

I wonder... Who buys these things?!

Come to think of it, my father (a self-taught car mechanic and inventor) would probably have loved one!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Greek Fest is Here Again!

Summer is a great time to celebrate... whatever! A few weekends ago, we attended Merrickville's Canal Fest... Then there was the Brockville RibFest...

Now we're enjoying Greek Fest - the local Greek community's fundraiser to support their church and cultural activities.

(We like to go early, to avoid the crowds.)

As with all "fests," the big drawing card is food!

This time, I stopped in at the craft fair as well, to admire some of the pottery for sale (created by Dina, one of the potters I share the studio with).

We didn't stay for the music and dancing this time. But I'm sure we'll be back.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Appreciating Summer ... and Kingston on the River

It's always a treat to get out of the city into nature. We did that last weekend when we traveled to Kingston, on the St. Lawrence River.

The drive was lovely!

We always enjoy spending time near the river. No boat ride for us this time...

But we did go to the weekly Farmers' Market (held on Saturdays).

And we happened upon the flea market as well (held on Sundays).

It's a wonderful time to be outdoors, whatever the reason.

A beautiful, relaxing place to be!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Big Boats On the River

We recently visited Kingston, Ontario on the weekend of a BIG boat race...

(By that, I mean that the speedboats in the race were really BIG!)

I would guess that they are only used for racing.

The event was sponsored by Power Boating Canada. 

Dozens of spectators wandered around the piers admiring these impressive monster boats.

We didn't watch the race - but as I heard the boats rumbling through the water to the starting line - and smelled their diesel fuel - I couldn't help but wish they would use a less polluting energy to power them.

There is only so much clean air and water on the planet!

Friday, August 14, 2015

At the Ribfest... in Brockville (Again!)

One of the highlights of the summer - for Terry - is the Brockville Ribfest. This year he was able to go not one, but three times! It's a popular community event, a fundraiser for the local Boys' and Girls' Club.

There were lots of ribs and other goodies to choose from...

The blooming onion was a hit...!

After eating, we took time to wander around the park that overlooks the St. Lawrence River.

The weather was perfect. (Already looking forward to next year!)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Weekend Wedding Near Kingston, Ontario

We recently attended the wedding of a young lady we have known since she was born...

The weather was perfect!

(It's amazing how quickly she has grown up!)

The venue - a "crystal palace" from another era - was lovely!

(We reminded the bride's parents that we had attended their wedding!)

After all these years, another milestone shared!

A perfect day!