Monday, September 26, 2016

The Gift of Garden Abundance

Once upon a time people used to deposit large zucchini at my door, and run.  That has not happened in a few years now, but this year I was asked if I wanted a few pumpkins.  I had planted pumpkins myself this year, and though I watered them every day, one day the plants all just decided to die. So yes, I said I'd be pleased to have some.

I did specify "I don't have freezer space for much pumpkin stuff, so don't get too generous. Think jack o lantern or other decor, and I'll cook up what I need from that." 

The pumpkins were dropped off at my hubby's place of employment, and he trotted them into the house and deposited them on the table, and just looked at me.   I'm glad I told his cousin not to be too generous!

Obviously there are far more than I can cook up, so I set about searching out ways to use them.  I was looking for ways to use them as autumn decorations, but mostly I found Halloween ideas, or how to cook them. I have always just boiled up peeled chunks of pumpkin and then drained and mashed it, much like I would potatoes. The cousin cuts them in half and bakes them, cut side down, in the oven. I discovered they could also be cooked in the microwave as well.  That sounded like the best energy saving option.

When I laid out the pumpkins on my front step, to show you, I discovered one that was quiet rotten (it's not in the picture) and another that looked like it would go bad next if it wasn't used up.  I decided to try the microwave version of how to cook it.  Now, keep in mind that these are not huge pumpkins, but even so, I had a hard time fitting even one into my 2 quart casserole dish.  Eventually I peeled and cut up one section of it, just to get it into the dish in a way that allowed me to get the lid on.  I added a little bit of water to the bottom of the dish, covered it, and put it in the microwave on High, for 15 minutes.
I figured I'd have to leave it there longer, but would check it at that point, and then guess at  how much longer it would take to make it tender.  It was done perfectly in just 15 minutes! I also found it was extremely easy to scoop off the shell. This may be my new way to cook pumpkin from now on, though I think I'll give the  oven method a try too, just for comparison's sake.

I don't like to freeze cooked pumpkin. It's too easy for me to ignore.  So, the next order of business was to make some muffins.  Of course, I also roasted the pumpkin seeds while I had the oven on.  

Over the weekend one of my grandson's suggested we make some cookies. He's quite the baker, that one.  I got out all the ingredients, and found myself making the cookies on my own, while he artfully rearranged all my fridge magnets. Both the cookies and the muffins were very well received, and I still have enough pumpkin left to bake up something else.  

I notice one of the other pumpkins has a hole or two in the skin, so it will be the next one to be cooked.  My grandson pointed out one of the others, and laid claim to it. I believe he's planning to carve that one closer to Halloween. His little brother will be wanting in on that action too, with a pumpkin of his own, so I'm more and more sure we will find a use for this pile of pumpkins.  

As much as I love baking with zucchini, this year I'm glad I don't have to deal with the usual baseball bat sized one, and the pumpkins too.















Thursday, September 22, 2016

Parc Omega Worth the Journey

This summer we finally made it to Parc Omega in Quebec, up near Montebello. We chose to drive on the Ontario side up toward Rockland, and then crossed by way of a ferry both coming and going. We took the Cumberland/Masson ferry over, and the smaller, cheaper cable Thurso/Rockland ferry back.

When we arrived at the park, we had a quick meal at the snack bar at the trading post, though we found there are various places where we could have had a picnic of our own.





 

As soon as you enter the park you are greeted by a welcoming committee looking for treats such as apples or carrots. If you didn't bring any from home, the carrots are also available at the trading post, at no more than they would cost you at the supermarket. They come from a local farmer and certainly taste better than what I have at home.

Our first stop was at the new First Nations Area.  There is a trail around a small trout lake. It's a beautiful, easy walk with Totems along the way representing the various tribes.






You might even run into some deer along the path.








And you can feed the trout too.










Most of the park is a drive through, and is much larger than I'd expect. Even so, you could drive though it several times if you wanted to, and see something different each time.

For instance, this fellow may have been on the road at some point, but it's really nice to see him relaxing in his natural habitat.







And perhaps we would not have been held captive by this buffalo who decided to stand in the middle of the road for 5 minutes and keep us from passing.  You are not allowed to feed the buffaloes and I suspect he was protesting. In the end he took a step forward, and my hubby inched the car past his hind end ever so slowly.  I'm still not sure that was a wise move, but we made it safely out of there.


We just caught the end of the bird show, but were in time to see them feed the wolves.  The wolves know that when we all show up, they are going to be fed, and they also seem to know we want to get pictures of them so they take turns posing on various stumps and rocks.



We followed a nice trail over to the farm area.









Where there were plenty of domesticated animals of all descriptions.









Throughout the park there were various places where you came across examples of some pretty amazing carving.  There was just so much to see, I'm sure we could benefit from a return trip.












There was one section of the park where the animals were kept at a safe distance from the vehicles.  That's where you found such things as the arctic wolves






and the bears.









 So, why am I telling you about our summertime trip now that fall has begun?  The country side up that way, and throughout the park land is so beautiful, during the summer, I'm sure it would be a spectacular place to visit once the leaves start to change colour.  Why don't you go see for yourself?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Evolving With The Times

I was first introduced to television in England in about 1951.  It wasn't even ours, but the neighbourhood gathered to watch it from time to time.  Everything was live back then, and that alone could make for some entertaining moments.

We came back to Canada in 1953 and within a couple of years we had a television of our own.  We were one of the first families in our area to get one, and just like in England, neighbours sometimes came over to watch with us.

This means I've had a TV for at least 60 years now.

That is, until just recently.

EastLink Cable has decided that it is no longer cost effective to offer their service in our town as of September 1st. We briefly considered getting a satellite dish when we first heard this was going to happen, but didn't want to sign a contract. That meant we would have to pay a fee to have the dish installed.  We decided to just go without TV.

I tend to spend more time on the computer than with the TV anyway.  There isn't much on anymore, and what there is always seems to run like a serial, so no matter how good it is, if you miss a week or two, you don't know what's going on.  I've stopped watching a lot of things that I once enjoyed for that very reason. Anyway, now there is NetFlix, and things like that, if you really want to watch a series.  Funny thing is, I had access to Netflix for several months before all this took place, and only ever watched 4 episodes of one show, and never bothered with it again.

People have been asking how things are going here without TV.  I discovered I could watch the soap opera, (The Young and Restless) that has been part of my day for the past 40 years. Global puts it online one day later.  I can live with that, as I often watched parts of it on two different days anyway, as something (meal preparation) was always interrupting.  I was sad to think I wouldn't get to see the end of America's Got Talent. The contestants this year are truly amazing, and I have no idea who is going to win. I don't actually see the show, but I do get to see each and every act the next day too.  I've just watched some more of the finalists performances and then watched the rest of a documentary on Mona Lisa that I started yesterday.  I find watching what I want at my own convenience is very liberating.

I actually did not miss my TV at all until there was a storm on Saturday night.  I saw tornado warnings just before I unplugged the computer.  We went to the basement.  Normally we would leave the TV on the weather channel during bad storms, but of course there was no TV.  We turned on the radio to the local station, and heard the warnings again, but everything else on that station seemed to be prerecorded as  no announcer came on even to give the standard news and weather reports.  Maybe he was hiding in the basement too.

Anyway, if I didn't unplug the computer, I'd at least have had better updates on the storm.  Do I miss the TV?  No, I guess not. But I'd certainly miss my computer!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Carving Out a New Hobby

This week I learned a new skill, and had fun doing it.

Local artists Holly Dean and Laura Starkey are putting on a series of mini 2 hour workshops, and I decided I wanted to get in on one of them.

I became interested in multimedia art a while back and looked into purchasing some interesting stamps to add to what I was doing. I found the prices to be rather high, especially since I wouldn't want to use just one or two stamps in too many pieces.  That would become rather boring, I thought. I considered carving my own, and actually came home with a blank 4 x 6 inch carving block from DeSerres one day, but I never did anything with it. This mini workshop was just what I needed to give me a kickstart in that direction. Holly and Laura taught me how to design, and carve a stamp all by myself.

First we were introduced to our cutting tools, and got to make various marks on scraps left over from Larry Thompson's Lino cutting, just to get the feel of things.  Of course, being the klutz I am, the first time I tried to change a blade, the whole tool assembly fell apart, and I quickly pushed the pieces over to the instructors to be put back together.  After that Laura decided she should teach us how to fix our tools if that sort of thing happened again.

Upon looking into the cutting tools available, I found a set that includes a little wooden dowel. It seems that using the blades often pushes them more tightly into the handle, and instead of risking cutting yourself, or having the whole assembly fall apart like it did for me, all you need to do is shove the dowel up through the handle to help push the blade out.  That was a definite selling point for me as I didn't find the blades easy to change.

After our practice strokes we were all given a couple of feathers which we could use for inspiration to make our first stamp. That was fun, and I learned a few tricks along the way working out how to accomplish what I had in mind.

Then the moment of panic arrived. We were given a blank similar to the one I had purchased months previously, and told to trace it on a piece of paper, and draw what we wanted to cut our stamps to look like.  We could cut the blank into smaller pieces if we wanted.  I was tempted to do that as I was still feeling the need to practice, and making more than one stamp would give me time to improve my technique.  But what do you draw when you are surrounded by artists, and don't think you draw well?  A moment of panic set in until Laura walked by me and suggested I had several interesting patterns right on the shirt I was wearing.  As my mind has gone as blank as the block in front of me, I took a look at my shirt. The patterns all looked pretty complicated to me, and I tried to draw a few of them on the paper provided.  I knew time was limited, so I set out to reproduce the picture of a bird on the blank, and started to really get into the process.

While this is the first time I've cut stamps, I think they turned out rather well, and know I'll be using them. Already I'm starting to see all kinds of designs in my day to day world that are calling out to me to make them into stamps. I think I may have a new hobby.

Maybe you would be interested in some of the workshops these ladies provide. Check them out at Artsy Life Workshops.





Friday, September 2, 2016

Getting Rid of the Other You on Facebook

There are a lot of people on social media these days, but not everyone is comfortable enough with it to know how to do even the simplest things, let alone survive a hack attack by someone who pretends to be them.

I have now been cloned at least 3 times on Facebook.  While I had seen it happen to others, and knew enough to report the fake friend requests when I saw them, I do remember freaking out a bit the first time it happened to me.

Recently, I was happily sitting at the computer, taking a webinar, and keeping an eye on the goings on on Facebook at the same time.  I left the house for about half an hour, and when I came back there were numerous notifications from my Facebook friends who wanted me to know they had received friend requests from me,  and since they were already on my friend list, they were sure I was being impersonated. My immediate response was to ask them to report the fake.  Of course, some had no idea how to do that, and others had already deleted the request, so I'm going to walk you through how to handle this problem if you ever see it, or if it happens to you.  You might want to bookmark this particular blog.
If you are the person who's account is being duplicated, first ask your friends to report the fake account rather than just deleting the friend request.  They can do that by clicking on the name of the person requesting friendship, and then, once on their page, they simply click the three little dots  up next to Message, on the right hand side of the Cover Photo,and that will produce a drop down box.  The report button is there.


Also, get someone to send you a link to the fake person's page.  It will look like your page, but won't have as many friends yet. Click on those same three dots, and report the creep yourself.  What both you and your friend want to do, is Report Profile.



After clicking the Continue button, you will be given a range of choices.  The second choice, "They're pretending to be me or someone else I know," works best if the perpetrator is pretending to be you.  Others might be better off clicking on the "This is a fake account," since the previously mentioned choice tends to ask who they are pretending to be.  It's much easier to say "Me" than to name the person being cloned, as both the real and the fake account have the same name attached and you don't want the real account to be eliminated accidentally.

Once the reports go in, especially if you are reporting that it is you, yourself who is being duplicated, the Facebook staff will quickly pull the plug on the imposter.  They take these things seriously and act very quickly.

I hope I've been able to help some of you, as I'm seeing this happening more and more often lately. Another friend just sent out a warning today to ignore any strange friend requests.  Once these people get your friend to accept them, they start sending private messages, and sooner or later, they try to pull a scam.  Pulling their plugs as quickly as possible is the safest way to proceed.

Good luck, and play safe.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Old Passion, Reborn

When I was a teenager, my father built a little wooden boat called a sea kayak. It had pockets of air both fore and aft, and a square box to sit in with your knees bent while you paddled like you would in a kayak. I loved that thing and spent many happy hours in it.

For me, it was a safe little boat, as my center of gravity was down inside the box, at the waterline. It would have been hard for me to tip it over.  The time came when my younger brother began to grow and as his center of gravity, as it is in males, was up at chest level, he often tipped the little boat.

One day, I came home and noticed the boat was missing. I asked where it was, and was told that it had been sold as it was too dangerous for my brother to use.  Nobody had ever consulted me, or taken into account how much I loved that little boat.  It had just been sold out from under me, and I don't think I ever forgave my parents for that.

This past weekend our village celebrated Canalfest.  My hubby and I went down to see what was going on, taking our seven year old grandson with us. There were crafts, face painting, and music and food. There were also miniature remote control boats in the basin and Voyageur canoes in the channel, waiting for passengers.



As soon as my grandson spotted the Voyageur canoes, he immediately wanted to go for a ride in one.  As it turns out, the public could go for a half hour paddle for free.  They needed at least eight passengers in order to make the trip. We signed up, picked out the appropriate sized life preservers, and a paddle, and got ready for a little adventure.

First there was a little lesson and dry land practice in the four strokes we might be called upon to execute. Then we were loaded aboard, two by two.

Step one was to turn the canoe around. Following directions, and a little teamwork got it done. We paddled down the cut from just above the upper lock to the open water of the Rideau River, and then across to the far shore.  We paddled right through the lily pads to get a closer look at an osprey nest, complete with young ones.  We flushed out some ducks that were floating in the shade beneath  a tree. On the way back we saw a loon, and paddled right past a whole flock of seagulls that didn't seem to care that we were there.  My grandson kept declared that this was all so much fun! 

The next day we tried to convince the 11 year old grandson to go with us for the same experience.  There was no way we could coax  him to give it a try.  So we left him with his dad and brother and went on our own.  This time a gaggle of geese swam in front of us.

I told our guide that they had created a monster.  I had not paddled anything in over 50 years, and the experience on Saturday brought back to me how much I enjoyed it.  That's why we had come back again the very next day.  I told her to expect us again in the future, as I had signed up for their newsletters so I would know where they were.  She clapped her hands, clearly delighted, and quickly told me they would be in Smiths Falls this coming weekend.

Smiths Falls is  holding it's annual Paddlefest Saturday, August 6th.  Follow the link to learn more.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Too Close For Comfort

Last evening I was out in the garden picking blackberries.  There were clouds starting to form to the west, but they didn't look bad.  I know we get sudden storms at this time of year, especially when the temperatures get as high as they did yesterday, so I was keeping an eye on them.  Nothing to worry about.  But then the wind started to pick up.  My garden is under poplar trees, so I'm always nervous about the wind.  My hubby opened the window to suggest I come in, and I told him I'm on the way. I left the garden immediately and headed for the house. The wind was getting stronger, even before I was indoors, so I went immediately to my bedroom window to look out.  I wanted to see how the trees were moving.  What I got was a shock. In the length of time it took me to get indoors and go to a window, Mother Nature had rearranged my back yard.
I had a brand new tree growing there.  From the angle I first saw it, I thought a branch had split my apple tree in half, but in reality, it was the top off of one of the poplars, which had embedded itself into the ground with such force, it now stood upright, taller than my apple tree.









The broken top off the tree had dug into the ground so well, it actually looks like it grew there.








So, now it looks like I have two trees growing in my back yard.








Notice that the new one, on the left,  is not only taller than my very mature apple tree, but also equally as big around at the base.








And notice that there are other upright spears that were also thrown down from above.  Nothing in this picture belongs there except that sliver of apple tree visible on the far left.






Of course there were a jumble of other branches too, some of which broke off the new tree.








And some of them are even fell through the flower garden.








The wind left a clear trail between the houses, indicating a straight line of destruction.  My blackberries are on the west side of the yard and only a few twigs are evident there.  I'm just lucky as it happened so fast and to a tree just two over from where I was standing. Too close for comfort. 

These old poplars are the tallest trees in my village. They don't belong to me or they would be gone by now.  From left to right, the first one is the only one that still has it's original top.  That's the one I was under, and the one we worry about most, as it could damage the house if it fell.  The top off the second one is lodged in the top of the fourth one, and has been since a previous major storm. The top off the fourth and fifth were lost in the Ice Storm of 1997. I'm hoping our neighbours will be convinced that it's finally time to do something about these trees.  They were beautiful in their day, but now they are just plain dangerous.