Friday, January 31, 2020


I've never been one to take many selfies and whenever I did, they certainly did not turn out well. I wasn't sure why and figured I am just older than I feel and it just showed up when I pointed a lens in my direction.

Over the Christmas season, someone wanted to take a selfie with me and I cooperated. But before she pressed the button she gave a little instruction I wasn't expecting. "Look here," she said, tapping the corner of the screen. The picture turned out fine.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a photographer on Facebook was about to give a 5-day free course on how to take good selfies using our phones. Well, mine has a crappy camera but I was not about to pass that up!

The instructor, Sab Will, is a well-known street photographer and writer currently working out of Paris. He started us off by having us express any emotion other than the usual happy smile or dreaded duck face where you purse your lips like you are about to give a kiss. He told us to locate the camera lens and look at that instead of our image on the screen. Ah, so that's what my friend was having me do to get the shot she wanted!

Lots of people took the course but not everyone posted the results. Some of them were hilarious though so we were already having fun. Right away I started liking the pictures more than others I had tried to take.  I don't feel you get as much out of a course unless you work it. Sure some likely did the exercises and just didn't post because they are too embarrassed or something, but really, the community atmosphere of any course is what makes them so much fun.

On other occasions Sab had us doing things with reflections and frames and words. He even had us change our point of view at one point.

There was no requirement to use a mirror for reflection ones. Some used windows or other shiny objects. That sometimes distorted the image but that just made it more interesting. I tried a few such surfaces but even he preferred this one with the three-way mirror and the actual image in the phone all at the same time.


The lesson about being framed by something gave us choices to be within the frame, have it in front of us, or behind us. A doorway can frame you, but there are lots of more interesting frames to be found if you just look for them or make them, as I did with a belt.

One of my favourite photos resulted from a lesson about looking somewhere other than the camera. I chose to look at one of my own paintings.

Another fun lesson had us include words. We were supposed to find something with words on it that seemed appropriate. Many used a book or a sign.  I had a bit of fun with this one. I'm a housewife so I couldn't resist taking a shot with this can of compressed air in hand.

I'm quite pleased with some of the selfies I have produced while working though this wee course. Oh, by the way, what started out to be a 5-day course stretched to about 2 weeks but still only had 5 separate lessons. Some of the participants said it was hard to fit the challenges in every day with their work schedule, etc. Sab was quick to cooperate.

At the end of the course, Sab honoured some people by posting his favourites and asked the rest of us to post the pictures of others that we liked too, and to tell him why.  Apparently, me peeking through my hoya plant was a big hit. That was one of my framing shots and I started using it as my Facebook profile picture practically as soon as I took it.

The whole experience was well worth the time.

A Creative Smartphone Photography Masterclass will be made available starting in late February.  More info in the link.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Instant Pot Extras

Last year I got an Instant Pot for Christmas. There was some concern that I would be afraid to use it but I must say I love the darn thing.

My mother used a pressure cooker when I was young and I will admit to having a fear of that thing. But the Instant Pot has computerized safety features and I don't worry about it at all. It has given me a burn warning a few of times.....but all while cooking one meal. I have to assume that I didn't get the pot deglazed well enough after browning the meat as I had made that dish before with no incident. I took the top off, and carefully stirred, scraping the bottom of the pot with a plastic spoon and hoped for the best. There was just no other reason for it to be warning me. Dinner was just fine and in the entire year, that was the only incident.

I'm still reading messages in the forums from people who are staring at their new Instant Pots and are too afraid to plug them in. I say, do the seal test, as described in the manual, and the cook yourself a perfect egg or two, just so you will get the idea how to use it without worrying about wasting too much money on some more expensive food that you are so convinced you will ruin. Then use actual Instant Pot recipes as this method of cooking is definitely different from what you are used to.  Over time you will learn the tricks and come to understand just how this gadget works. After that, you may start to develop ways to use the Instant Pot to cook some of your old favorites.

The Instant Pot will not only save you time, it will save you money on your electrical bills as well. The other thing it will do is save you money by stretching  your food dollars.  When you use an Instant Pot you must always put at least a cup of water or some other fluid into the pot first. The juices off your meats will end up in this water and I came to the conclusion that it had to be good for something. I started freezing it and asked an online group if they every use that liquid for soups or other dishes. The answer was a resounding yes!  So today I thawed out one of those containers of frozen liquids and mixed it with the juices from the most recent meal. Both were chicken dishes, but quiet different from one another so the juices were different colours and had different flavours. It didn't matter.  I added a bit of store bought chicken broth too, just to top up the pot a bit so there would be enough for four bowls. Then I divided it in half as there are only two of us here.  I considered adding vegetables, but just went with noodles for today. The other half may get the vegetables since I'm exploring taste sensations.

It was so good, and full bodied. We really enjoyed it. So, besides already getting a couple of meals out of my cooked dinners, I will get a couple more out of the simple water that was required to cook them. You can't beat that kind of savings, especially since it was so good. The juices can, of course, be used in your other cooking as well. I may cook some rice in it next time.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Meeting Up with Online Contacts

With the advent of social media, it has often been said that your real friends are the ones you have around you and not the ones you meet online. I'm sorry but I love many of the people I've met online and some of them I have considered to be my friends since well before the invention of the modern internet and Windows and definitely before the term, social media ever started to be in common use.

I have met a few of them over the years. Sometimes they are quieter in person than online. Sometimes it's just the opposite. Sometimes we seem to have said everything there is to say online and it's difficult to make conversation in person without repeating ourselves. Other times we don't discuss much other than what the topic of where we met is online and in-person we really get to know one another by talking about anything and everything. It's always an adventure.

This past week two separate women contacted me out of the blue to join them for coffee here in my own little village. The first one is a businesswoman who joined a networking site called Alignable where you basically only interact with other businesses.  She has lived in the area for the past ten years but she has never really become part of the community as she did her work elsewhere. She is now in the transition of bringing her business here. She thought it would be good to get to know some other people in the area so she has started reaching out to make coffee dates with other local business people she finds on that computer site. I wasn't really comfortable with this in the beginning. I mean, I didn't have a clue who she was or know anything about her line of work. Why would she want to meet me?  But after a week or so of writing a few messages back and forth, I decided I would go and find out. I did a little computer search on her so I had some idea of who to look for in the restaurant. She seemed a little impressed that I recognized her and knew just where she worked and lived. I'm apparently more computer literate than she is so perhaps I can be of some assistance to her in the future. She is a lovely lady and we found a lot of topics to discuss other than what we each do in our respective businesses. We exchanged a stack of business cards that we can each give to our own contacts so now I guess I'm networking offline as well as online.  I also told her of various social gatherings where she might meet more of the people she lives amongst and hopes to work with. I do hope she comes to some of them so I can get to know her better. I think we could become great friends.

The second one contacted me just the evening before she wanted to meet with me. She was going to be in my area the next morning and wondered if I was going to be free. I did a quick check with my hubby to see if he had any plans for us, but he was only planning to make a trip to the dump so I agreed to meet with her. Now this one I knew from a Facebook group or two so I knew we had something in common, but I didn't know much more about her either. We met through Sketchbook Skool so of course she came fully prepared to draw during our meeting. I had thought of that originally but somehow managed to leave my sketchbook in my other bag.  Silly me!  Well, she did dig out her beautifully handmade sketchbook and proceeded to draw me anyway, as she uses it as a sort of journal and this was her way of recording out meeting. I did a quick doodle in a little lined notebook I had in my purse, but I also took a couple of pictures of her and combined them to create my own drawing once I got home.  This meeting was a very comfortable one. It didn't feel like meeting a stranger at all. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did as I know she comes back to this area from time to time. I'd love to spend more time with her and have already promised to bring my sketchbook and be prepared to draw with her in the future.

I do feel I'm in the process of making two new friends that I never would have met if I had not found them online first.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Thanksgiving Traditions

I know most of you think of Thanksgiving as a time to get together with family eat everything in sight, but our tradition is a little different. Thanksgiving comes at a time when nature is in her full glory and we like to find someplace where we can enjoy all she has to offer.

I have always been a rock and forest person. I feel a need to be in the woods and climb on rocks or at least be where there are some sizeable ones. I have long since warned my hubby that our summer holidays will include climbing either rocks or a lot of stairs in a natural setting. This year we didn't go on a vacation, but for Thanksgiving weekend, we finally made it to Rock Dunder.

The Rideau Waterway Land Trust preserves special places for the public to enjoy, and this is one of them. The trails at Rock Dunder are meant for the physically fit, and there is no way you could drag along a stroller or wheelchair though I did see several families with children and their dogs.

I have wanted to go there for several years, but I had bad knees, bad hips, the weather was too hot, too cold, too wet or there were just too many mosquitoes. There was always a reason we couldn't go.

This year I had not been feeling well for over a week before it was suggested we go. I knew that at 73 this might be my very last chance. I decided to go and just keep any complaints to myself. The weather could not have been more perfect, nor could the time of year. The leaves were spectacular and it was cold enough that there were no bugs at all, yet warm enough that I removed my jacket partway up the trail and never put it back on. The trail is challenging but fun.

There are interesting things to see along the way, if you keep your eyes open, such as this face in the rock. The problem is you are usually too busy watching where you place your feet to look up and around you very often.

My hubby was keeping an eye on me as he knew I had not been feeling well. Every once in a while he would make me stop to rest, though I must admit I objected most of the time.
There are a few benches along the way at good look off points, and there are a couple of cabins in the woods too.

 Yes, this is part of the trail, and not an unusual part either. Sometimes it would be hard to know which way to go, but there are yellow triangles nailed to the trees and where it's mainly rock, there are blue arrows painted right on the rocks.

The climb is worth it though. The view from the summit is spectacular, especially at this time of year.

I don't know if it's always this popular, but there were lots of people up there when we arrived and all along the trail. The parking lot was full and people were parked along the road for quite a while back on both sides. Some of them parked within the no parking zones, which was not good as the OPP are known to ticket the offenders.
It's a whole new way for me to see autumn leaves from above like this. I would happily have stayed up there for quite a while. The thing is though, that we wanted to be safely down off the rock before the sun went down and we weren't sure how long it would take. We were going down a different way than we came up. The brochure says the hiking time for the summit loop is 2 - 3 hours. Well, I'm sure we managed that easily enough but never having walked this trail before, and already seeing how the leaves and pine needles could hide an obvious path, we decided it was best not to linger too long.

The trail coming down sometimes went up as well.  There were little drizzles of paint on the rocks between the arrows so you stayed on the path.

Just like on the trip up, there were surprises to be found on the way down. These ones were harder to miss. There were several places where people had built lots of Inuktitut. They kind of made me smile whenever I came across them. There was also a beaver pond with a beaver house visible in it.

There were other people on the trail that we ran into fairly frequently. It turns out that one couple just lives about 12 miles from us. We likely saw them more often than any of the others since they were also in our age range and traveling at the same speed as we were. We often stepped off to one side of the path to let others go by in either direction.

I knew I didn't want to try to go down the way we came up. I thought it would be too difficult in that direction. I think I chose correctly as I don't think I'd want to go up in the direction we came down either. There are a few difficult spots going in either direction as it was. I occasionally needed a hand when the step was too big for me to handle unaided. I'm quite proud of myself for managing as well as I did and quite thrilled to discover I have no achy muscles the next day. I'm not so old after all. 

It was a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving, and I'm so glad I got to go.  I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as I did.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Call Before You Dig

I've seen a lot of ads lately reminding us to call before we dig. I had put off digging up a small flower garden in the front yard for a few years because I felt I had to call first, and I am notorious for avoiding picking up a phone. The thing is, the garden had been there for years when the gas company came along and shot their line right under it.  No digging required on their part, but it certainly put a complete halt to any digging I might do. My son, who used to work for Promark, tried to tell me that I wasn't going to dig deep enough to worry about, just moving flowers, but I figured if anyone was ever going to dig through a gas line, it would be me, so I just left everything to grow until it got completely out of hand.

Last fall I knew the day had come that I was going to have to bite the bullet and move that flower bed. I used a trowel and removed what I could and then we filled the whole area with rocks. This spring I discovered that I did not actually get all the roots and various things came up anyway. But at least I didn't dig through any gas lines.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for one of my neighbours recently. I heard sirens and went outside to see what was going on just in time to see a fire truck come down my street. It parked in front of a house a couple of doors down and another one came and parked just beyond our lot line, and blocked off the road. Of course several of the neighbours wandered down the street to see what was going on. One said, "Well, there doesn't seem to be any smoke or fire,"just before he spotted a small digger and decided the gasline must have been breached. At that point, he turned around and headed for home without another word. The house owner came over and I asked if they broke the gas line, and she admitted that was what happened.  A fireman came and told us all to disperse.  He told us to get away from the area as there was gas and it was dangerous. Lovely.

I didn't have the nerve to dig the depth of a shovel without calling but if I was going to use a mechanical digger, I certainly would have made the call first.

The fire department has to wait for Enbridge to shut off the gas. Enbridge seemed to take a long time to arrive and it was all starting to make me a little nervous.  But eventually the line was secured and all the fire trucks and Enbridge vehicles went away.

This week there was a major explosion in London, Ontario when a car ran into a house and ruptured the gas line. The fire department was there within two minutes but about 12 minutes later the whole neighbourhood blew up. Seven people were injured. One hundred homes were evacuated and ten of those will be demolished. That has nothing to do with digging, but it sure lets me know how lucky we all were here.

Now I'm really glad I have a few flowers that I just didn't dig deep enough to eliminate. I might have eliminated myself in the process.  It's important to call before you dig!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Cucumbers Like to Hide!

Every year I learn something new while gardening. This year was no exception.

I had tried to grow cucumbers before, but all I ever got was little round balls. It's not me, it's the soil in this area as my neighbours had the same problem. But now I have a raised bed filled with proper garden soil (not topsoil), so I thought I'd try again.

I put in three plants that I started from seed. One died immediately. A second one died after a couple of weeks. The third and last one sat there and didn't look like it was going to do anything for quite a while, and then suddenly it took off and grew vigorously.

I had tried to get this cucumber to climb a pole I had put in for it. I even moved the pole when it went in a different direction. It ignored the pole completely but decided that tomato plants were great for climbing on. Who knew?  The first cucumber I found was growing under tomato leaves. The second one was also under tomato leaves but outside of the garden, hanging over the side.  Then I found another one when I tried something I read in someone else's blog.

I like to grow zucchini. One plant is more than enough for any family. I usually just let the thing grow however it wants to. They look like tropical plants and that kind of pleases me somehow. Then I read that zucchinis, like tomatoes, grow all on one stem, and should be supported the same way you support a tomato plant. Well, the zucchini plant was far too big to put inside a tomato cage, so I got out one of my peony rings and passed the hoop around the plant and fastened it. Then I carefully poked the legs into the ground and the zucchini stood up so the new flowers won't have to fight for the light.

I had already been pruning off some of the leaves, but what I read said any leaves below the bottom zucchini could go. The stems are hollow but they are solid next to the stock so the trick is to trim them close enough that there is no hollow part left for insects or diseases to get into. Once I had done that I was rewarded with an unexpected third cucumber, happily hanging from a tomato plant just behind the zucchini.  I never would have spotted that if I had not read that other blog and decided to try what she was telling me.  I'm sure there are more in there somewhere but the tomatoes are too think at the moment to spot them.

Isn't gardening fun?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Mighty Weed Killer

My rock river has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years. We are not done yet. This year we put in some edging and the next step is to build a bridge across the river and maybe erect a trellis.

There is a wee bit of grass growing between where the mulch ends and the edging was placed. We will haul the mulch back a bit and put more garden fabric right over to the edging, but first we wanted to kill off the grass. Hubby went out with a concoction of vinegar and water, with a bit of dish soap. That didn't work, so he tried straight vinegar and declared the vinegar from Dollarama to be inferior stuff as it just was not killing off the grass.  I sighed and bought more of that same vinegar.  I had seen a recipe for a weed killer that was supposed to really work.
I figured we'd mix up a batch of that and give it a try.  Well, hey,
It not only killed off the bit of grass along the rock river, but I tested it out on the stone sidewalk out front too.  As  you can see, the part we sprayed died off within a day. Now we'll do the rest and test it out on individual weeds to see if we can get rid of big patches of creeping charlie or those pesky violets that just won't stay in the garden where they belong. If we can target the broad leaves on those without killing grass I will be thrilled!
For the rest of you who may wish to eliminate some vegitation, here's what I used.

One gallon of vinegar
One cup of lemon juice
One cup of salt
Two tablespoons of dish detergent (I used Dawn)

Put it in a garden sprayer and get to work.