Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Raclette Meal

Years ago, we had dinner with friends, who had spent time in Switzerland...

The meal they served - called "raclette" - was a memorable family event. We still remember it.

Our friends served boiled potatoes - which we all proceeded to cover with various toppings, like bacon, cheese, and a variety of vegetables.

This we browned in a raclette grill.

There is a lot of food prep involved - the bacon needs to be fried up, cheese grated. We cooked broccoli and asparagus spears as well.

It makes for a leisurely meal, as each individual is involved in preparing his or her individual portion ... and then grilling it at the table.

I later purchased a small raclette grill, but we've only used it a few times.

Why not make "raclette" for supper, one of my sons asked recently... So we did!

It was as delicious as we remembered. We really should make it more often! It's delicious - and fun!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Early Spring?!

What a difference a few days make...!

A week ago, the ground was full of snow...

But mild temperatures - and freezing rain - have changed all that...

Now we have water and ice...

And a few stubborn piles of hard snow.

A late winter snowstorm could  change this scene - but, personally, I hope our mild weather heralds an early spring!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Moving Along... in Quilting

My daughter commented that the mauve quilt I recently finished reminded her of pastel-colored candy Easter eggs...

It's the second mauve quilt I completed this winter.

The white squares in my first one (which I finished just before Christmas) reminded me of Christmas tree lights...

I've also been working on my black and white "Bento Box" quilt.

I hand-quilted it in two large sections, sewed the two together, then added binding.

I'm glad to see that my bin of black and white fabric is not as full as it used to be! I may even be able to transfer it to a smaller bin!

That would be "progress"! My goal is to use up the fabrics I've accumulated over the years.

I did end up buying some soft flannel to use as backing on the black, white and red quilt I plan to make next...

But I managed to complete the last three quilts without purchasing anything!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Anxieties About Our Early Spring Thaw!

In February, Ottawa's weather often warms up for a week or so - creating an early spring thaw...

The melting snow causes puddles to form in the back yard.

As the puddles grow, our anxieties increase!

In our basement furnace room, there is a sump-pump hold. It monitors the underground water table levels. If the water levels rise too much, an automatic pump empties the water out of the hole, through a hose opening in the back yard.

(The little cardboard "traps" around the hold have adhesive strips to catch bugs that enter the basement. It's a non-poisonous method that works really well, we've found...)

Fortunately, until the frozen ground begins to thaw, the melting snow runs over it, not into the ground.

In our yard, a lot of the water pools under the hedge between our yard and our neighbor's.

Unfortunately, if there is a lot of water pooled in our back yard, it can enter and freeze shut the end of the outdoor pipe where water exits from our sump hole.

To prevent that from happening (and flooding our basement), we have to carefully monitor both the sump pump hole and the outdoor pipe. 

If it looks as if we may need to use the sump pump, we have to make sure that the outdoor pipe has no ice in it. If it does, we connect a long hose to our basement laundry taps, run the hose through a basement window and into the frozen pipe outdoors. Then we turn on the hot water and melt the ice that is blocking the sump pump hose...

It's not that hard to do, though it is a two-person job. But the watching and waiting are nerve-wracking, and Terry often worries that water levels will rise and flood the basement when we're not at home...

(I wish we had a back-up system...)

So, every spring, when warmer weather comes - as it has come this past week - we are both on "water watch"! 

(If the situation lasts too long, Terry talks about packing up and moving... to higher ground!)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rabbits in the Snow

At times, we regularly see rabbits hopping around in our yard in the snow...

And then, for days, or even weeks, we may not see any...

It always makes me wonder where they live...

...if they hibernate...

... and what they eat when snow is a foot or more high.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Downtown Guelph - in Winter

During my last trip to Toronto, my daughter and I headed to Guelph, Ontario - for an afternoon.

It was a "business trip" of sorts - she was scouting out apartment options, were she to move to Guelph.

We took the train one way, and a Greyhound bus the other.

By train, Guelph is an hour away from Toronto. The bus - having to deal with traffic - can take a bit longer.

It was interesting to see the lovely old buildings of historic downtown.

And to check out a few coffee shops in the course of the day.

This one had toys... and "vintage" crocheted afghans - 1960's style.

I've been to Guelph before... I used to attend an annual Christian Writers Conference here, but it was held in another part of town.

That was years ago - long before I retired - and I never did explore the downtown core.

I'd like to come back once the snow is gone...

It always makes exploring a little harder.

If my daughter moves here, I expect I'll be back.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Winter Train Trip

On my last visit in Toronto, I took the train.

It's always fun to view different scenery than we do taking the highway.

On my return trip home,  the car I traveled in was referred to as "vintage" by the conductor...

(Do they still call them "conductors" - even if they're women?!)

There was a business class "special" when I booked my return trip home - so I decided to pay a bit more for a free meal, free drinks... and a less crowded car.

(This was my mid-winter mini-vacation! Why not pamper myself?!)

As the train passes interesting areas, I often ask myself - What would it be like to live here?!

Living on the shores of Lake Ontario would be lovely in summer...

I wonder if it's colder in winter, when the winds blow in from the lake.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Winter Cycling

I'm daily amazed to see cyclists out on our snowy paths and roads...

This one often drives down an icy path, then turns onto our street. Occasionally I see him get off the bike and walk it to the road, but not very often.

I see he has winter tires, which are wider than summer ones, I think.

I hope he stays safe. But I do wonder why cyclists do it. I can't imagine loving cycling that much!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

At the Pottery Studio

My pottery "season" is almost ending. This year, they cut the winter session short in order to re-program the computer system. In the meantime, I'm in the midst of "production"!

These bowls just came out of the kiln. I expected them to be bluish green, but they turned out brown.

Not sure how that happened. One of the potters suggested that I didn't dip them in glaze long enough.

I notice that the inner surface has ridges that I didn't notice before. Smoothing out the inside is something I'll have to focus on next time.

Other bowls have been bisque fired. and are ready to be glazed when I'm at the studio next.

I made a few pottery heads. They're always fun to do! Not sure what they could be used for... Possibly paper weights!

Not sure what else I'll have time to make with my big bag of clay... But time is running out... I'll have to work fast!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Family Day: Granddaughter Time

Today is Family Day in Ontario.

My personal "family day" happened last weekend when I headed to Toronto by train for a brief visit.

It's been three months since I've seen my granddaughter. At 21 months old, she has more teeth...

...and knows more words to express what she wants - and doesn't want.

We played "Ring around the rosie" and watched TV.

And she showed me her favorite bath toys.

I hope it won't be all that long before Terry and I are back in Toronto again.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

10 Years!

This month is an anniversary for me... marking 10 years of retirement! I retired from teaching on February 1, 2008.

As I recall, the first three months (until spring arrived) I headed into the basement every day to sort through boxes of files - my teaching materials. I hadn't had time to sort through them while I was still working... so I emptied my two filing cabinets at school into large boxes and carted them home. It took hours and days, but I eventually got through them...

To make matters worse, I wasn't sure what I'd be doing once I retired. It was hard to think beyond the working world. So I didn't want to get rid of everything. Instead, I again filed them away (which meant that I did eventually have to sort through them all again!)...

Would I volunteer to teach at a community program? Would Terry and I head overseas for a year to travel and work once he retired?

I filled a file folder with ideas...

I pictured retirement being like my life in my single years. Carefree travel... Freedom to do whatever I wanted (that I could afford) .

The things I didn't picture - I was incapable of picturing - was how my current life and responsibilities (owning a house, being married, needing to help my mother) would impact my retirement. I also didn't realize that Terry view of retirement was different from mine.

My mother was still living in her own apartment, a five- minute drive from our home. She'd just had surgery for breast cancer in December, and my life involved taking her to various post-operative medical appointments...

Here she is outside her apartment building, with my older son.

Like unpacking boxes of old files, taking her to medical appointments was not always an easy task.

She was very independent - not open to taking advice, even when offered by health care professionals or by me. I think she saw my role as one my father used to have - he drove her where she needed to go. We weathered those storms and, over the next nine years, I helped her downsize twice, first into an assisted living retirement home where meals and nursing care were provided on site. Then, when she could no longer walk and her sight was failing, into a nursing home. Thankfully, she was happy to move both times... In fact, she asked to move!

(Here she is, in her home at the assisted living residence, celebrating a birthday with my brother and other family members.)

During those years, my mother and I took a few trips, among them to Edmonton, to celebrate her older brother's 95th birthday. Here they are, the two siblings, aged 90 and 95!

Eventually I started blogging...

I also traveled... One or another of my children accompanied me on a number of short overseas vacations - as Terry hates to fly.

I returned to Jerusalem for a short visit with one of my sons.

Once winter was over, Terry and I began taking day trips and drive-able vacations.

Two years later, he retired... another change!

Eventually I began taking the art classes I never had time for when I was working, and I began to quilt more.

My friend Janet loaned me a book she was studying at her church, which introduced me to the 1600-year-old Benedictine approach to life - with its motto: Work and Pray -  and that became a "rule of life" for me. I  attended several Benedictine conferences where I had the opportunity to meet women whose books I had been reading. One of the most interesting was in Canterbury, England, where my daughter and I participated in a conference led by author Esther da Waal.

It has been an eventful 10 years! Not at all what I pictured 10 years ago as I was approaching retirement... But equally interesting.

 I wonder what the next 10 years will bring!