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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ahoy Matey

We attended this year's Pirate Festival in Gananoque last weekend.
There was a small ship

A dashing ship's Captain


and of course, treasure.

Actually there was even an area where kids could dig for treaure.  There were lots of things for kids to do:

Games to play

Musical activities to take part in

Sword fighting

Over all, it was good family fun.  People were encouraged to dress in pirate garb, but not everyone did.

There was entertainment for adults too, including music

and dancing wenches

Here are some of my favorite Pirates of the day

The sword master
A fellow with a friend (this particular parrot wasn't real, but was animated)

The Newfie pirate, complete with Salt Water Sally

And of course, the star of the whole event, Capt N Tor

It wasn't huge, but it did make for an enjoyable afternoon and I'm glad we went. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Horses on Parade

Lombardy Fair is celebrating it's 150th anniversary this year. One of the ways they have chosen to celebrate was to hold a parade of 150 horses, right though the center of Smiths Falls, Ontario.

The weatherman was warning of thunderstorms, which would have ruined the whole thing, but luckily the rain held off until just after the event ended, and any thunder happened well before it even started.

I've been asked if there were really 150 horses in the parade. Well, I didn't count them, but even though I know of two that were supposed to be there and were not, I'm sure the count was close.

 There were all kinds of horses, both big and small, some being lead, others ridden either English or Western style, some pulling wagons and some pulling other things. There was even a race horse in the mix with the driver in the sulky behind. While most of the riders were dressed in their regular clothes, but there was a couple in period costume, and of course, the cowboys. A few of the horses were also decked out for the occasion. I especially like the one painted up like a zebra. The parade was well worth watching and I'm glad I didn't let the idea of stormy weather keep me from attending.

 I'll just share a few photos with you.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Artfest Kingston - How I Spent Canada Day

This is the season when all the art shows, studio tours and fairs seem to take place. We like to go exploring, and things like this make for interesting stops along the way.

This past weekend it was time for the the Kingston Artfest.  This is more than your usual outdoor art show.  While it had about 150 assorted artists displaying their work, it also had much more than that.  This is a very interactive event.

One could learn various kinds of drumming, for instance, as there was a different type of drum seminar each hour, all three days.  There was everything from a Beginners Rhythm Workshop, to Taiko Drumming between the hours of 10:30am and 3:00pm.  After that an open community drum circle was held each day of the festival.  I was really interested, but we ran out of time and the sky started to promise rain.  Okay, so I chickened out.

Nearby there was an opportunity to learn to sculpt in rock. That also looked interesting, but I'd want all day to work on something like that and we were only there for a couple of hours.

At one on of the booths, I saw a little girl getting a lesson in how to work a spinning wheel.

 There were also an assortment of art classes available, for both adults and children.  I always seem to miss the timing for the ones I'd be most interested in.  Perhaps I need to get my hands on a schedule ahead of time somehow.

I spotted one of our local artists, Larry Thompson from Greyweathers Press,

and was fascinated by some interesting crafts, like these ukuleles made out of tin cans.

I see a bright future for this young fellow.  I've seen designs cut into metal objects with a plasma cutter before, but he turned some old junk into amazing works of art.

Over in another corner there was the opportunity to paint on a mural.  I remember I was there a lot later during last year's event and it was getting pretty colourful by then.

I understand there were 20 picnic tables that entire families could paint on too. At the end of the weekend there was a silent auction to determine who got to keep them.

Habitat for Humanity was ready to teach you skills while helping to build a playhouse on site too. That was also to be auctioned off at the end of the event.

At the Easel Invasion, one could paint a picture of your own. An artist was on hand to help guide you, if needed.

Nearby was a poetry tent, if that is your sort of thing.  There was also music stage, and a beer tent.

The giant puppets were back too.  Last year I saw them being operated, as they walked through the crowd, towering over us. It's hard enough to work a regular sized puppet. These ones need more than one person each to operate them.
Then there were the stilt walkers.  Some people obviously have been doing this for a long time, but what they were doing there this weekend was teaching others to do it.  I saw kids with their feet tied to the stilts and wondered what would happen if they fell.  The instructors were there to catch, I suppose, but later I saw a group of three kids on stilts walking down one of the pathways toward the food area.  They might as well have been on their own two feet, they seemed so comfortable.

If you have never been to Artfest, you should go at least once.  There truly is something for everyone.  Best of all, it's all free.  It was a great way to spend Canada Day this year.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brockville's Historic Criminal Past

I was lucky enough to be included in the dress rehearsal of the Brockville's Historical Criminal Past Walking Tour Tuesday evening. The Brockville Museum (5 Henry Street) will be running this tour every Friday at 3:00  and 7:00 PM beginning Friday, July 1st (Canada Day) until Labour Day.

Katelyn Ressler, from Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, who is studying dramatic arts at St Lawrence College, was hired by the museum for the summer, and she was the one who led us on the tour. This energetic young lady took us on a loop along trails, through parks, and the downtown core, and even through a back alley.  We would stop now and then to be told tales of  murder and mayhem, robbery and burglary.....and yes, apparently there is a difference, which was explained to all of us, in terms we could easily understand and remember.  We even heard how a crime was committed in the early 1800's in order to have a courthouse more centrally located in Brockville instead of where it was in Johnstown at the time.

We've all heard that crime doesn't pay, but the crimes in the Brockville area kept the courthouse busy, and the newspaper in business, which in turn provided jobs for the residents. Perhaps crime does pay after all.  Now this tour can be had for a mere $6 charge, though it's not recommended for children under 10 years of age. It's a great way to spend a lovely summer evening. If you are interested, you should call ahead to reserve a spot.  613-342-4397

I had expected other drama students to pop up along the way to act out the stories, but I'll have to wait for the Spirit Walk in August for that kind of action.  I'm sure that will be great fun, and can hardly wait.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Old Dog, New Tricks

My grandsons love it when I bake something for dessert, so when I came across a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, I decided that sounded like a good treat for them.  I mentioned it to them and they got excited, and were all ready to help me make it.  But I was missing the main ingredient....the chocolate they had to wait until I got some.

I picked some up on my next trip to the store, and since the kids were coming back the next day, I decided to do some baking.  I turned the oven on to preheat while I followed the recipe, but when I went to pop it in the oven there was no heat.  My hubby checked the fuses, and then found the switch had burned out.  He had replaced that once before, but this time there were no replacements to be found as the stove was 40 years old.  The pie went into the freezer.

Well, I now have a new stove, with a self cleaning oven.  It even has the convection feature.  The boys will be back tonight for supper, so I took the pie out of the freezer last night to thaw, and popped it in the oven this morning at 5:30am.  I thought I'd have it cooked before the hydro rates change. As there was still someone sleeping I decided to bake the usual way, as I don't know if the convection fan makes a noise or not, and really, I wanted to see if I actually needed it.  I set the timer on the stove, and also set the timer for a couple of minutes earlier on my tablet, since I was planning to read on it elsewhere. 

When the timer went off I was already back in the kitchen.  I pushed the Stop button on the stove, but it kept beeping.  It took several seconds for me to realize it was the tablet timer that was beeping.  I shut that off, but figured I'd already disturbed the one remaining sleeping body in the house by then.  Moments later the stove timer also went off.  Why didn't the Stop button put an end to that, I wondered. I finally hit the Timer button and all was quiet again. You have to realize that I'm not used to these digital settings.  My 40 year old stove had easy to use dials!

I checked the pie, by inserting a knife in the middle.  If it comes out clean the pie is done.  Theknife wasn't clean, but then, the pie was cold from being in the fridge overnight so it's logical that it would need a bit more time.  I gave it another 5 minutes.  Then another 5, and then 10, before I finally noticed that the oven indicator light was no longer lit.  When I had pushed the Stop button, I had turned off the heat in the oven instead of the timer.

I removed the pie, preheated the oven and put the pie back in for a couple more tries.  It finally was finally cooked by 7:50am, so I didn't save any electricity.  It also made a mess of the oven. I'm not sure how as it didn't actually boil over, if you examine the crust.  I expected the smoke detector to go off as the spills really smoked as they cooked onto the bottom of my nice new clean oven. Normally I use a pie ring when I'm baking fruit pies, but I wasn't expecting a mess this time. I opened the windows to let the smoke out and was very glad that the temperature had dropped dramatically since yesterday.
 I asked a lot of questions about self cleaning ovens before I bought one.  People said they don't find they have to actually turn on the self cleaner often, as they just wipe the stove out when there is a spill.  Well, this spill will not simply wipe out.  I tried that.  I even tried the srubby side of a sponge and then a metal pot scrubber, but none of those cleaned up the mess. I'm wishing already it wasn't a self cleaning oven, as a little squirt of Easy Off would take care of that spill, no problem.  I'm apparently going to be using the self cleaner a whole lot sooner than expected and probably a whole lot more often than the people I've been speaking to.  Normally I'd be worried about baking this mess on even more with the dinner I have planned, but since the self cleaner is going to incinerate it anyway, I guess that's not a concern. 

I guess I'll learn how to use this new fangled gadget sooner or later but I can't say that I'm off to a good start.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Finding the Right Appliance

Forty years ago, when we first bought this house, I had to go appliance shopping. I knew which features I wanted, and just went to Sears and, for my stove, for instance, just said, I wanted an electric stove with two large burners. They only had one model like that, and so that's what I bought.

About 15 years ago, when my son first bought his house, I thought I'd pass him my old stove and get myself a new one, so he wouldn't have to buy all his appliances at once.  But when I looked at what was available, I discovered things were not made as well as they used to be, and there were too many confusing choices to be made.  I kept my old stove, and gave him some money instead.

Last week, the switch on my oven died. It had been replaced before, but when my hubby looked for parts this time, he was told there were none available as that model was out of date.  That wasn't totally unexpected since the stove had served me well for 40 years. It was time to go shopping.

Today's stoves will not last as long, but they do come with modern conveniences that I know nothing about.  I went to Facebook and asked the question,  "I've never had a self cleaning oven, but I'm getting older and hoping this will be the last stove purchase, so I'm wondering if I should look in that direction. Then I think of our electrical rates, and how much they not only have gone up in recent years, but how much more they tell us we can expect to pay in the future. I'm not sure having a self cleaning oven is worth all that. I wouldn't hesitate if I had not heard that you should never manually clean a self cleaning oven. Which would you choose today, and why?"

The responses showed me that people either loved self cleaning ovens, or hated them. While some claimed it was a convenience much like self defrosting refrigerators, others warned they start fires. I heard tales of how they scorched the wall behind, or melted the counter top on either side. The high heat used for cleaning also cooks the computerized electronic panel, I hear. I can just imagine that! But on the other hand, surely safety standards come into play, and perhaps people aren't reading their manuals thoroughly enough.

While nobody confirmed that you couldn't clean a self cleaning oven in the old fashioned way, I was informed they are easy to wipe out. They said I didn't need to worry about the electrical usage, since I'd likely only need to run the self cleaning function a couple of times a year. That's true, I guess as that's about how often I clean the oven anyway.  They said it was better than using chemicals. But I've read that the ovens are stinky when they are in cleaning mode, so I'm not so sure about that.  I was also told to just clean the oven during cold weather months, since it puts off a lot of heat and it would heat my house up not only while it was cleaning, but during the time it took to cool down. That, supposedly, would equalize any extra charges for electrical rates.  I was also warned a couple of times against getting a model that basically steam cleans the oven.  That system doesn't work well apparently.

So, I went looking, thinking I'd just skip the self cleaning feature, and look for a white stove with my two big electric elements in the right configuration. None of this is the standard today, of course. I also wanted a decent broiling element as I use that a lot.

We looked at Sears, where all my appliances have come from over the years, and found they had several models. The first thing I noticed was that some of the burners didn't have as many coils, and looked just plain cheap.  Those stoves also only had a couple of passes of the broiler element, which doesn't seem sufficient to me. Too bad because they were the only ones that had the burners in the right configuration for optimum safety in my kitchen. The one I liked best there turned out to be a self cleaning oven. I thought we'd shop around.

I had found one that looked like it was perfect for me while searching online. Home Depot had a GE model that fit the bill.  I went to look at it, and it was so flimsy, even the display model was in bad shape. Also the bottom drawer had no decent pull on it, so it was hard to open.  I was so disappointed.

Then we dropped in at Leon's. They only had one white stove with electrical elements, and it had a flimsy broiler.

Talking to salesmen in the various stores, I often heard them state that the convection ovens distributed the heat more evenly. I suppose these guys are all on commission and trying to up sell.  Now, I have never had a problem with uneven heating in the oven I've been using all these years, and basically said so.  But upon closer examination of the element placement in these new fangled stoves I found that the broiler was pretty well in the middle of the oven, and so was the bottom element.  My old stove has the broiler coming to within 5 inches of the oven wall, and the bottom element runs all around the outside edges on both sides and the front. That way the heat is not directly below what's cooking, but fills the oven evenly.  Why that design was ever changed is beyond me but it does explain why a new system had to be developed to ensure even heating.

I gave up and went back to Sears. I intended to pick their stove with the best broiler, though it was still a lot flimsier looking than the one I'm used to, and the elements, to me are backwards to how I'd like them. The small appliance plug is also on the less preferred side, but that also seems to be today's standard.  I discovered I could get an oven with a flat bottom. The bottom element is below the surface. Then the salesman pointed out a stove I'd missed entirely, because it was black (but comes in white).  It had the same features, but was also a convection oven. And this week it's on sale, and cheaper than the one I had been looking at.

I hear things cook faster in a convection oven, so I may have to learn to cook all over again, just like I had to learn how to do laundry all over again last year, when I got my first front loading washing machine. The new stove also has the self cleaning feature, though with the flat bottom, I may be more inclined to wipe it out myself more often. Where my stove sits, there is nothing on one side of it, so we have decided to pull it away from the wall on those occasions when the self cleaner is used.  We bought a maintenance plan so if the heat does damage the computer controls, we're covered. If you don't have a problem during the years the maintenance plan is in force, Sears now gives you a gift certificate worth the amount spent on that protection, so you never lose the money.

I will miss my old stove.  I just hope this new one lasts long enough so I never have to go stove shopping again.