Thursday, November 30, 2017

(Re) Discovering Collagen

I recently came across an online article about the benefits of eating or drinking "collagen." In this article (click here to find it), Emily Eisen claims that after drinking a collagen supplement added to chai tea (recipe included) daily, she has noticed improvements in skin tone, hair growth and digestive issues.

Collagen? What's that? I wondered... It's a word I've only associated with cosmetic surgery... Is it a food?!

From Emily's article, it appears that collagen can be purchased as a powdered supplement.

I've never felt comfortable eating or drinking powdered supplements - unless I've made them myself... (like the soy flour, psyllium and wheat germ I mix up in equal parts and add to cottage cheese or yogurt) for added protein and fiber.

Further online research on the natural sources of collagen led me to food that I rarely eat anymore - but which my parents had often... Jello dessert, soup broth made by boiling beef or chicken bones, and "head cheese"... (a jellied sausage my parents bought - and even made a few times)  I enjoyed eating it - with vinegar.

In short, natural animal-based gelatin.

Time to get back to making homemade chicken soup - and beef broth. And I think I'll even try to hunt down some head cheese!

At the supermarket, I found beef soup bones. After boiling them for six hours in water with some vegetables and a little vinegar added, I now have half a dozen jars that I plan to freeze and begin eating (or drinking) regularly. I may add this broth to vegetable soups that I regularly make.

It's always interesting to find out that foods my parents and grandparents regularly ate - which I assumed had limited health value but were eaten because they were poor and didn't waste anything - are actually very good for you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Snow... Again!

Yes, we have snow (again)!

It's our second snowfall of the year. The first (thankfully) melted.

I wonder how long this one will last. It's supposed to warm up this week, so this one may (hopefully) melt quickly as well. But one of these days, the snow will be here to stay!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Iphone Dilemma!!

I've had an iPhone for a year and a half now... And I love it! This small portable device allows me to do everything I can with my Ipad and Ipod: take pictures, send and receive emails and messages, check the weather forecast, refer to a map, count my daily steps, look up things online - while on the go. (I'm sure most mobile phones these days have the same wonderful features.)
I've had my Ipod and Ipad for years now... and they both still work fine... But my Iphone recently developed a problem... It still works fine, but there is a line in the middle of the screen. Below the line, a pinkish film covers everything; above the line everything looks normal...

Checking online, I see that this isn't an unusual problem... so I head over to the Apple store.

You need to backup your phone contents before we can look at it, I'm told...

So I head back home - and backup all my photos (something I've been meaning to do for years) on Google Photos - which is free! Then I backed up the rest of the phone on my PC.

Your screen must be cracked on the inside, an Apple Store technician tells me. It's a result of impact...

But I didn't drop the phone, I tell him. And I use a plastic case on it to protect it further.

But the one-year warranty is over and they have nothing more to offer me. I have several options: I could have the phone repaired - which would cost more than upgrading to a new phone, under the terms of my corporate telephone plan. Or I could wait until March, 2018, when I could sign on for a new term - and get a new phone for free in the bargain...

I've decided to do the latter... and put up with the inconvenience of a two-toned screen in the meantime.

I'm disappointed that my Iphone doesn't seem to be as sturdy as my Ipod or Ipad, but I've decided to look on this whole annoying experience on the positive side: It forced me to backup my phone and photos - something I've intended to do for years!

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Handy Gadget

I recently bought a pair of shoes that I really liked - but the right one was a little too tight to be comfortable.

My daughter, who occasionally has shoes stretched, suggested this as a possible solution. (Why have I never had this done?!)

It worked! Overnight, the problem shoe fit perfectly...

Hmmm. I have other shoes that would benefit from a little stretch...

I immediately hunted for shoe stretchers online!

Now I have one - and I love it!!

I can't believe  that it's taken me this long to realize that stretching my tight shoes was even a possibility!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Consumerism" in Prayer

I am re-reading a twentieth-century Benedictine book entitled The Path of Life...

Written by a modern-day Benedictine monk from Britain, it presents an interesting point of view. Often I only read half a page before I stop to reflect.

In a chapter devoted to prayer, I paused after reading the following: A very common obstacle for people like ourselves, living in the late twentieth century, is the hunger for results. Influenced as we are by our consumer culture, we tend to see prayer as a product which we have bought, and therefore we expect it to yield quick results. What sort of results? Many of us, when we settle down to pray, do so with a number of unconscious or half-conscious expectations. Since I have decided to give up some of my invaluable time to God, I expect him to do something for me in return, preferably rather quickly. A sense of inner peace and tranquility, for example, would be nice to have; or a glimpse of the unity and harmony underlying all things. An occasional prophetic glimpse into the future would be welcome as well... If none of these things happen, we feel cheated and want our money back. We expect perceptible results in a short time, and because these have not been forthcoming, we conclude that something has gone wrong... (p. 93)

Am I like this? I have to ask myself... Is consumerism a cultural bias I bring to my understanding of prayer?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Remembering... The Tiny Steps

It's fun to be reminded of the millions of tiny steps involved in learning grown-up skills:

Skills like opening blinds...

Playing cashier, sitting at a table (and getting up onto a chair alone)...

Washing dishes and helping in the kitchen...

Folding blankets...

Playing hide and seek...

Learning the difference between big...

...and small!

It's also fun to look back (in amazement!) and see how quickly changes occur - those first 18 months!

(Last November - a year ago - our little granddaughter had just started to sit on her own!)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Brockville'sTrain Tunnel - Still Open in November

On our recent visit to Brockville, Terry and I wandered over to the restored train tunnel - the first train tunnel ever built in Canada, that goes underground for several city blocks...

It's closed from early December till the end of March - so it is still open in November!

In spite of the sign's warning, it's no longer used for trains. It's now a pedestrian walkway.

But moving lights and sound effects give the illusion that ghost trains are still zooming by!

It's a fun place to visit!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tait's Bakery in Brockville: a November Visit

A few weeks ago Terry and I were in Brockville.

We stopped at Tait's Bakery for chili and dessert.

I noticed a small plaque that said that the original bakery - built on this site in the early 1900's - was established by a Mr. Tait who had learned his baking skills in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace!

I wonder if any of their current recipes...

... or furnishings date back to those early days.

I don't know how old this building it - but it has lovely old features, like tin ceilings - that one doesn't see much anymore.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

First Snow!

Last Sunday, we woke up to see snow on the ground...

(I wasn't thrilled! Was this the end of my outdoor walking weather?!)

But yesterday it started to melt away...

No guarantees that it won't be back again... this time to stay!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Unending Stash!!

I buy quilting fabric when I see something I like on sale...I wash it, then store it in clear transparent bins, grouped according to color.

Wanting to add a border to the long, narrow mauve quilt top I had made out of left-over strips of cloth, I pulled out my bins...

To my amazement, I found four full of mauve fabric or colors that would work with mauve!

(I wonder: How many more quilts can I make before my mauve stash is gone?!!)

Monday, November 20, 2017

What Have We Lost?!

Education has changed over the years. My mother - who started her teaching career in a one-room country school in 1939 - valued good penmanship. In her later years, she often complained that children nowadays learned printing, but not neat cursive writing.

My handwriting wasn't all that legible, so I didn't share her concern... My educational regret was that memorizing poetry wasn't part of the school curriculum anymore. My life had been enriched by the poetry I had memorized - and could still recite - and the psalms I had been challenged to memorize in Sunday School.

But I didn't think we had really lost anything - education had simply changed. That was all...

But I may be wrong. The book on recent brain discoveries that I'm currently reading (The Brain that Changes Itself) says that the brain can be exercised like a muscle. What exercise benefits it? It turns out the cursive writing and memory work are two that do!

In the chapter entitled "Building Herself a Better Brain" Dr. Doidge writes that "... for hundreds of years educators did seem to sense that children's brains had to be built up through exercises of increasing difficulty that strengthened brain functions. Up through the nineteenth and early  twentieth centuries a classical education often included rote memorization of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened the auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical attention to handwriting, which probably helped strengthen motor capacities and thus not only helped handwriting but added speed and fluency to reading and speaking... Then in the 1960s educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum... But the loss of these drills has been costly; they may have been the only opportunity that many students had to systematically exercise the brain function that gives us fluency and grace with symbols. For the rest of us, their disappearance may have contributed to the general decline of eloquence, which requires memory and a level of auditory brain power unfamiliar to us now."

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What Happened to My Dreams?!

What do you want to be when you grow up? children are asked...

From the time I was 8 or 10, I'd have replied: A writer. 

Behind my answer was a desire to bring the same joy to others that I had found in books. I wanted to travel and write about life in faraway places. Creating stories just felt good!

Don't you want to be a teacher, like your mother?

No! I'd firmly reply. I really didn't want to be a teacher... But a teacher I became...What happened?!

It's a question I still ask myself: Why didn't I follow through with my dream?

Making peace with what we have done with our lives is, I think, part of getting older. I never wrote those fictitious adventures of a traveling heroine I wanted to write... (And my daughter reminds me that it isn't too late!) But I do enjoy writing a daily blog - and sometimes the posts touch on travel.

I enjoy other forms of creativity as well - quilting, drawing, painting, taking pictures... These were interests I pursued in my teenage years... I'm thankful for the time and opportunity to do them now.

But my writing dreams... What happened to them? 

I think a mentor would have made a difference, someone to advise me. I didn't know any writers - but I did know teachers! 

Fear definitely held me back...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chocolate Honey

I have been trying to make healthier food choices - but it's hard! Research conclusions on what's "good for" us change year by year.

For the past year or so, I've been trying to eat "simple" foods - foods in their simplest form, that I can recognize.  I try to avoid processed food. When traveling, for instance, I no longer bring along a package of store-bought granola bars to snack on. Instead, in the back seat, I keep a jar of unsalted nuts.

White sugar is something else I'm trying to replace. I don't buy much, though I do keep some on hand. Substituting brown sugar, honey or molasses for white sugar would change the taste and consistency of family-favorite cakes! But I don't bake cakes much anymore - unless I'm expecting a group to help eat it.

But one sweetened food I still enjoy, especially in winter, is hot chocolate. My mother used to make it with cocoa powder and white sugar, stirred up, boiling water added. She then added milk or cream as one would to coffee.

I like mine made with hot milk rather than water. For years, I've used "instant" sweetened cocoa powders like Nestles Quik. For a while, to make it less sweet, I added equal parts of unsweetened cocoa powder to the sweetened chocolate powder. But this year I've tried something entirely different: homemade chocolate honey...

It's easy to make: mix equal parts of honey and cocoa powder and store it in a jar.

I add my chocolate honey to warm milk or plain yogurt whenever I crave something sweet.

Occasionally, I mix it with equal parts of peanut butter and uncooked oats, for a quick sweet snack. I wonder if adding nut butter to my chocolate honey would make a convincing Nutella substitute. I have to try that next!

The last time I made it, I warmed the honey a bit, to liquefy it, making it easier to mix.

Perhaps I should buy some liquid honey and try adding chocolate to that.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dividing My Aloe Vera Plant

I don't usually have a lot of luck growing aloe vera plants. I've tried numerous times, only to have them die...

But a few years ago, I bought a healthy-looking one at a church plant sale - and it has thrived!

I've kept it in a north-facing window where we have afternoon sun... At some point, I transplanted it into a larger pot where it has continued to grow.

It was beginning to look too crowded... I felt it needed to be divided... But how?!

Never having had one do so well before, I really had no idea!

Fortunately there is lots of advice online. After viewing a You Tube video, I felt ready to tackle it...

(Except that, now, it's too cold to take it outdoors!)

I found a large cardboard box where I could lay the plant after removing it from the pot. Then I proceeded to hunt for "pups" - little plants with roots, that have grown next to the mother plant.

I mixed a bag of cactus soil with some regular house plant soil.

I put a few "pups" into each pot - in case some don't take root. I packed the soil around them and watered them well.

Following the online advice, I'll wait till the soil dries completely before watering them again.

Now I have seven plants! Hopefully they'll take root and grow.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


For ten years, I spoke Hebrew on a daily basis.

For the first three, when I was a full-time student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, I rarely spoke English.

So I remember struggling at times, during my first few days and weeks teaching at the Anglican International School, trying to remember certain English words... (Strange, I know, but true...!)

I learned Hebrew by being immersed in the language - hearing it spoken around me. Slowly I'd pick out sounds - from the jumble of sounds I heard daily - then more sounds, and discover what they meant. (So different from the way I studied French in high school here in Canada, where everything came from a book.)

This oral method suited my learning style, though, on the negative side, I never learned to write or spell very well. An added difficulty was that the Hebrew alphabet is entirely different.

I've been away from Israel for over 40 years now, and I'd guess that I've forgotten 40% of my vocabulary.

But when I went to Israel with one of my sons in 2008, I was still able to converse fluently, though at times I had to struggle to find words.

Over time, hearing words spoken around me, I'm sure many more words would resurface. That's the amazing way the brain works!

I've been reading an interesting book on the brain entitled, "The Brain that Changes Itself." In it I read that learning a foreign language is a good way to exercise the brain. So is travel, as it immerses a person in situations where everything is new and different, forcing the brain to work hard.

I don't know if it's because the book is making me think about my experiences in Israel, where I was totally immersed in a new country and language - but suddenly Hebrew words have been resurfacing in my mind... Words like "stam" - which means "for no good reason" or "just because I felt like it."

One might ask: "Why did you do it?" and the other person would simply say: "Stam."

(I love the concept! It suits an impulsive person like me!)

The brain is so amazing: I don't think it's churning up words from my past "stam" (or willy-nilly).

Perhaps reading a  book on how the brain works is another good way of exercising the brain! 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Storing Pencils

My desk drawer used to be full of stubby pencils...

I gathered them up, sharpened them - then put them in a small cut glass bowl...

My "pencil arrangement" sometimes gets compliments...

And I can always find a pencil whenever I want to write something down!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Heritage Quilts

A friend recently gave me a book about Ontario's Heritage Quilts.

I was surprised to see how modern many of the quilts in the book were - even some that are more than a hundred years old.

This was especially true of the "log cabin" pattern - which can create many timeless designs.

Here it is, in a quilt called "Sunshine and Shadows"...

There were a number of two-color quilts in the book, in a variety of color combinations.

Yellow and white...  blue and white...

Or red...

Also black and red, a combination I don't remember seeing before. Very striking!

It's an appliqued leaf motif - leaves joined at the stem...

Here is another, this time a red oak leaf on a white background.

I've seen similar ones in Hawaii - where tropical leaf patterns are used. It's a lovely, flexible design!