Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Fruit That Bites Back

Lately, I have been buying more fruit. We almost always have apples, bananas and grapes in the house, unless we run out of something before the next shopping trip. I usually have a couple of oranges and lemons here too.  Lately, I've added whatever others were on sale in a bid to keep myself out of things like cookies and potato chips when I get the mid-day munchies.

Last week it was kiwi and strawberries. This week the pineapples were on sale for $1.98. I took a good look at them and found a big one with a fresh top that looked a bit riper than the others. I took it home, put it in a paper bag with a couple of apples and left it on the counter for a day and a  half. When I looked again it had ripened right up. The ethylene gas in apples does that to a lot of things but this was the first time I'd tried it on a pineapple.

I never used to like pineapple. Then I went to Hawaii where it was part of every morning's breakfast buffet. Oh my goodness, people, you have never tasted real pineapple until you've had one that was actually ripe when it was picked! They are so sweet and delicious! The ones we get here are picked green and most of the time we don't give them a chance to ripen up. Well, my method did wonders for the one I brought home as it was definitely sweet and juicy, and I really enjoyed it. That is until I was reminded of another reason I'm not fond of pineapple.

My tongue got sore. I had forgotten that feeling. Pineapple always makes my tongue sore. But hey, today we all have the internet so I decided to type in the question of why that happens. Seems I'm not the only one that's asked that question and the answer is really easy to find. Not only does pineapple contain citric acid (like lemons), it contains an enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme digests protein. In fact, it does that so well it is often used to tenderize meat.

Pineapples are the only food that contain bromelain. The protein it finds when I eat pineapple is the tender tissue inside my mouth. It actually starts digesting me!  My lips, tongue and cheeks can get sore. It seems it can get so bad in some people (who likely eat more pineapple in one sitting than I ever would) that their mouth actually starts to bleed.  In most cases, though the effects wear off in just a few hours.

The best way to enjoy your pineapple and avoid such a problem is to cut the core out. Most of the bromelain is concentrated there.  Hawaiians say that you can lessen the problem by soaking the whole thing in brine before cutting it up or just sprinkling salt on the cut pineapple. I've never tried that but I do put salt on other things people find strange (apples, watermelon and cheese) so I may just try that. Another trick is to eat the pineapple with yogurt or ice cream so the bromelain has another protein to digest instead of your sensitive tissue. 

One good thing I've learned from all this research though is that the bromelain may act as an anti-inflammatory.  With the weather swings we have been having lately, that could come in handy.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cooking in the Modern Age

This question has come up on Facebook:  "How many husbands are absolutely thrilled you've become obsessed with your Instant Pot?"  It seems most of them are. In fact many of them have either taken over the cooking job or declared themselves official tasters. I did have to laugh when one woman said her husband has pleaded for a pork chop cooked in a frying pan though.  I'm not obsessed (yet) but I am discovering how easily that could happen.

On Christmas morning my son said to me, as I was opening my presents, "If you don't want this, or think you might never use it, just say so and I'll take it back." He was somewhat concerned about what he referred to as my phobia concerning pressure cookers. Okay, true I never used one because I was sure I'd blow up the darn thing.  My mom loved hers but she never taught me to use it, and they didn't teach us about them in home economics where we learned most other housewifely duties either. (Okay, so I guess I just aged myself).

I accepted the gift, though it took me a little while to get brave enough to use it. I really didn't like the sound of any of the recipes in the book that came with it so I wasn't tempted at first. For a couple of days I was actually thinking I really should have turned this rather expensive gift down. What do I need this thing for anyway? Then I decided I better run the test cycle and figure out what to do next. Testing involves putting some water in it and bringing it up to pressure, just to make sure the seals work. So far, so good.

I went online and looked for recipes and also discovered a group on Facebook called Instant Pot 101 for Beginners. That sounded like a good place to start. From there I found a really good newsletter that lists several tried and true recipes each week. Wondering what to start with, someone suggested I practice by just boiling eggs. There is a chart available that shows all the different stages of cooked eggs and you can decide how long to leave it in there by matching the picture of the egg that looks like your idea of perfect to the time to cook it. So, I tried that. I can't say that it was any faster than boiling one as the water had to heat up enough to build the pressure up before the timer would start. But the egg did come out perfect and I had finally cooked something in there. It won't become the way we do boiled eggs here though as I like a nice runny yolk and my hubby likes everything super firm. In a regular pot, I can just take mine out after 3 minutes and have it all gone before he is even thinking of removing his. In an Instant Pot, you can't exactly take the cover off to take out the one I consider done as it will let the pressure out.

So next I decided we could try some pulled pork. The instructions told me to cut the roast into 3 or 4 pieces and use the Saute setting to brown the meat first. After de-glazing the pan I added the rest of the ingredients and cooked the meat. Since it was already cut into 4 pieces, I just shredded one of them for the pulled pork, and we ate the rest as roast pork. That's great for us as the individual pieces can become separate meals, and I can even freeze portions if I want for some other time.

The next thing I made was a mix of chicken thighs, rice and black beans and salsa. It had chili in it and was really tasty. That also lasted us a few days.


Then this week I brought home both ribs and chicken legs from the grocery store. I thought I'd cook one of those up and freeze the other, but I ended up cooking the ribs the first night, and cooking an entire meal of chicken, potatoes, celery, carrots and onions  the next. Everything came out perfectly cooked and very tasty. The trick is in the stacking. Apparently you have to put the stuff that will take the longest to cook at the bottom. I'm getting so brave I even changed the spices I used and cut down on the onions.

Last night we ate the left over ribs with the left over potatoes and carrots from the chicken dinner. Tonight we can eat the left over chicken which I will likely pair with some rice. As I see it, this gadget should cut down on my electric bill as it only takes minutes to cook a meal that could take an hour or more in the oven and on the stove. Since there are only two of us, there is always enough for another night or two. That means I don't even have to cook as often, which should cut the electric bill even further.  I'm not obsessed with this gadget yet though, as I still have a lot of favourite recipes that I will cook the way I always did. In fact, I like my old way of cooking ribs better, because I like to put sauce on rice to go with them and that didn't happen with the Instant Pot recipe I used. Maybe I just need to try a different recipe next time.

With Instant Pot, I am still at a stage where I have to follow the directions step by step. It's not like you can just take the lid off and check on how things are doing or adjust the spices.  Or maybe you can, but then I wouldn't know how much longer to put it back in for. I'm learning as I go though, and it's rather fun to see how things turn out. I know others have had failures and I will keep following the facebook page page as the people there are quick to give guidance if you need it.  Right now, I'd say it's the biggest time saver since the microwave, and may soon be used here just as often. As for my husband, I'm not sure if thrilled is the word, but he is enjoying the food that comes out of this gadget, and that's all that matters.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

New Year, New Way of Life

The holiday season has come and gone so people are back to asking me how things are now that my hubby has retired. This is when I have to confess that it's more like I'm the one that retired.

It used to be that I worked through the week at housework while he was out making a living. There were times when I truly felt overwhelmed at how much there was to do and how little time there was to do it all in. I had a schedule. There were certain things to do every day, or once a week or once a month. There was always a running list of chores and at certain times of the year they piled up because of extra seasonal things that got added in. Spring cleaning tends to start in January around here as tax season comes along soon afterwards and I do taxes for everyone in my family. Then its gardening season and apple season. It['s a lot of work just picking up the windfalls and making something out of them every day. Then comes baking for Christmas, which usually starts just after Halloween. Those pumpkins need to be used up you know. Christmas shopping, decorating and doing the cards rounds out the year. It doesn't help when I decide to get in on International card exchanges where I'm expected to design, draw and hand paint the cards myself.

Some people think I'm on the computer a lot but it's really only a moment here and there while I catch my breath with a spot of tea. And while I'm on there I'm doing my banking, paying bills, catching up on my business accounts, dealing with the martial arts federation and the school board as well as inquiries from students and would be students. I'm a pretty busy girl running a house and a karate club at the same time.

Normally.

The thing is, I never did any work when my hubby was home on weekends. He was off, so I was off and we were free to do whatever we chose to do with those weekends. But now he's home all day, everyday and I seem to be in weekend mode all the time. I've apparently retired too.

I didn't want him bored so I've included him in my social outings. That's good as he's making new friends. He's not one to sit idle so he has cleaned up his work area in the basement and now has a place to create things out of metal or wood. We had part of a huge tree taken down, so he's been busy cleaning up the mess made by that operation. If he has a spare moment, I catch him doing dishes or laundry or dust-moping under the couch. It's nice that he's willing to help me, but I must admit it makes me feel guilty. I'm not keeping up with my chores these days. In fact, I'm not on track at all. I really have to get back to my schedule. I'm already two weeks behind on the spring cleaning as all I've done so far is clean out a couple of kitchen shelves and done some of filing. As things stand I'm sure my hubby is now convinced I have never done anything around here all those years he let me stay home.

I'm not even getting my daily exercise as he keeps wanting to drive me everywhere I normally walk. But yet he goes for a brisk walk everyday. Between not moving as much around the house and not getting out for my walk while I do my downtown chores, I'm likely to gain weight, or stiffen up with age, or both.

Okay, so it's Spring Cleaning time.  Let's start with the light fixtures.  He can climb up to take them down one by one. I can wash them and he can put them back up. He likes to work so maybe I can get him to work for me. Maybe between the two of us we can get things done in half the time and still have time for us both to be retired at least part of each day.  We can walk down for the mail together, and then he can take off at a clip in whatever direction he wants and I can meet him at home. I like that plan. I never thought I could retire too.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Surprise!

When I went to get the mail today and saw a Christmas stocking hanging on the handle of the drop off box at the post office. "How nice," I thought. "They are actually decorating the post office this year!" As I checked my mail I noticed a note attached to the stocking and stopped to read it on my way out. The note invited me to help myself to an ornament, which I immediately did, thank you. Then it went on to say to move the stocking to another location and to let the Cardinal Youth Centre know where it went.  Fantastic!  I happened to be heading out of town, so I grabbed the stocking and headed for the car.

I'm a geocacher and have done this sort of thing with trackables found hidden in some of the caches I've located.  Normally you take a treasure and replace it with something else, so the cache is never empty. I have a great collection of things I've found over the years. The trackables aren't meant to be kept though. You are supposed to redeposit them somewhere else as quickly as possible and log where you picked them up and where you dropped them off so that the person who originally purchased the thing can keep track of it's travels.  This stocking was just like that only I didn't go looking for it in the first place, I just happened upon it.  This find made my day.

The idea is to leave it somewhere for someone else to find and to do so without letting anyone catch you.  The stocking, when I found it, still had 4 ornaments left inside. They were all hand painted by the kids at the youth group. One had obviously been dipped in shaving cream and acrylic paint. I've done that sort of thing myself in the past, but never with Christmas ornaments (but you can count on that happening sometime in the future!)

On the way to a nearby town to do a wee bit of shopping, I thought over where I could leave this Christmas stocking. I didn't think a store would be a good idea as people would just think it was part of the merchandise, or someone would think it was being stolen if it was seen being carried away. Where could I leave it where it wouldn't get wet and where I knew it would be found quickly. I smiled as I came up with the perfect place. After finishing our shopping we often drop by the local McCafe for refreshments. I could leave it there.  I stuck it someplace where it was likely found even before I left. I didn't see that happen though as I didn't sit where I could keep an eye on it.  I'll find out when I see the find posted online.....hopefully.

While making my choice of ornaments I discovered that one of the others was broken. It was a delicate glass ornament and as I was afraid someone might cut themselves on it, I disposed of it, and all the shards I could find in the stocking. That's when I discovered there was also $4.55 cents tucked down in the toe.  I imagine someone dropped the coins in as a donation to the Cardinal Youth Group but as I doubt anyone will ever even send them back their stocking, I guess the last person will end up with the loot as well as sock.  I bet they will be thinking it's a lump of coal in the toe!

However it works, I think this was a really great idea and I will be putting it forth to some of the groups I'm involved with next winter. Hopefully we can create and track the travels of our own Christmas stockings too. It seems like a great way to spread Christmas cheer.  If all else fails, I may have to enlist my grandchildren to create some Christmas balls for this sort of project.  I can hardly wait!

Note:  I have since learned that the Cardinal group is hoping to hear where the socks end up so they can come and collect the donations. Apparently other socks have money in them too.  Please keep this in mind if you find one. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The New Life

I have had the house to myself for almost 44 years while my hubby has been the sole bread winner. I often laughingly threatened to send him out to be a Walmart greeter when it came time for retirement as I was used to my routine and didn't think I'd want him underfoot all day. He doesn't sit still well and I know he'd have to be doing something. He must have decided he liked the job he had better than the one I was planning to send him off to because he just kept on working right past his 70th birthday.  Two other businesses have already told him, "Don't go to Walmart. Come see us!" I guess that must have sounded like a plan if he decided he was bored at home because he retired soon after those invitations.

People often worry about what they will do with all that extra time once they are out of the workforce. I know the military used to have programs to train you in how to deal with life after retirement. That's not a bad idea. Some transition is definitely needed, not only for the retiree, but for others in the household.  I did hear people ask him what he was going to do.  I quickly mentioned that I had a list.  I figure it's better to steer him towards things I wanted done than to have him dreaming up jobs I'd rather not see started. But I did say that he could just relax for the first couple of weeks, and then we'd be busy with Christmas. In the new year there is some deep cleaning to be done, and anticipating that, he's already started in the basement. It might be that he's just hiding down there, but the work table might actually be useful for something other than storage for the first time in decades.

He has not had time to get bored yet as we have had lots of things to do together. December 1st was the big annual Christmas celebration in this village. There are all kinds of things to do and people come from miles around to take part. The weather was good so we went downtown and wandered around for a while too.

A couple of my friends dropped by on the 4th, and he joined us for coffee and goodies. One of them even brought butter tarts because she knows he likes them. That was the beginning of our busy social events as the next day was the day I go to the Drop In centre, and I took him with me. He got to meet a couple of other men he could enjoy conversation with, so I'm sure that will be a regular event.  I had 2 tickets for the Ottawa Originals craft show for the 6th, so we went and prowled around there and bought a few things. Then we had a meal out before heading for home and attending a local business's 30th anniversary open house that evening. That was definitely a full day, so the next day we just went grocery shopping because the karate class was supposed to be that evening. At the last minute we discovered the school board had cancelled our class though, but a quiet time at home can be enjoyable too.

The next day was Saturday, and while I don't remember too much about that, other than us attending a local craft show in the old United Church that has now become more of an entertainment centre, we had another annual event to attend that evening. One of my old friends holds a big house party every year. And she has a house big enough to handle that. There are always people there we don't see more than once a year so it's nice to be able to gather in this way.  The very next day was the monthly Sharing Table which is something we will start attending more often. They usually just have soup, salad and dessert, but this time they were serving a complete Christmas dinner, with other treats to take home. This event was a complete success and every seat was filled.  Did I mention that it was free?

About this time one of my friends asked when I get my housework done. My answer was that if we aren't there to mess it up, there's not that much to do. The truth is, I have traditionally taken weekends off to spend with my hubby, and with him home, I was in vacation mode too. By now he must be convinced I never do anything around the place!  But he'll find out at the beginning of the new year because, as I said, I have a list.

This brings us up to December 10 and a Pizza Party and Chinese Auction at my arts guild. We were invited to bring our spouses along, so it was another nice evening out. On the 11th we had dental appointments. On the 12th it was time for the Drop In center again, but this time it was Stone Soup day. Everyone brings a vegetable of some sort, and it all gets put into a pot. The most delicious soups have been made each month in this manner. There are always sandwiches and beautiful desserts to be had too. My grocery bill should look good after all this eating out. I'm afraid to get on the scale though!

On December 13th we went to Ottawa again, but this time to do some serious Christmas shopping. Time is quickly running out, after all. We did well and came home with several packages. As seems to be the trend, after a busy day in Ottawa, we had a quieter one the next day. It wasn't idle though, as we had appointments at Robillard's to check up on our hearing aids. That happens every six months. After that we went for lunch and then grocery shopping, and that evening it was karate class. Did I say we had a quiet day? Maybe I should have just said less exciting.

December 15th we popped in to wish a couple well on their 60th wedding anniversary. There was a party being held in the same hall where the Drop In usually is, and since that's where we know this particular couple from, a lot of the usual gang was there too, so we stayed longer than we may have originally intended and quite enjoyed ourselves.

Since then it's been more about getting ready for Christmas around the house. I made meat pies yesterday while hubby created some heart shaped necklaces out of horseshoe nails. He has decided they make good gifts and has been out giving them away. One even seems to have become a window decoration. I can see a craft table of his own in his future, and if I get busy and create some art I can join him on the craft circuit.

Yesterday we put up the tree. Today we started wrapping. For once I don't have to do that all by myself. Yes, I've put that job on the list!  There will be plenty to do getting ready for this coming feast, and I will be glad to have help as really, I feel I'm getting too old for all this.

So, how will it go after the holiday busy time?  I don't know, but already we go for a walk every day. Well, I've always walked for the mail and he likes to walk for exercise, so we start out together and then, because I walk too slow for him to get a cardio workout, we separate at the post office and meet up again at home where we sit and have the hot beverage of our choice.  I expect January and February to be the real test as we both have lots of things we like to do outside and it will be too cold and slippery for me then. That's why I do my spring cleaning as soon as the new year starts. So for a while, he can work for me. And if that doesn't keep him busy enough, there are several single ladies around here that need help too. One has already contacted him about snow removal, and as he has already removed some from her driveway once, I guess he's taken on that job.  He has mentioned that he can't believe more than two weeks have passed already. It's all going to be just fine.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

No Mail Guarantee this Christmas

Canada Post says it can't guarantee your mail will get delivered in time for Christmas this year. We had a postal strike, after all.  Mail had piled sky high at major distributing sites even before people started ordering gifts online or adding to the pile by mailing early cards and long distance parcels.

I seem to have been caught in this mess too as I ordered something from Amazon back in November. It got shipped out on November 27, and I was given a tracking number. I have been able to watch this parcel since it left Amazon.

Even though it said there was a delay in delivery due to weather or natural disaster it got to Ottawa quickly enough. I went to the post office the day after it arrived there, expecting to pick it up. It wasn't there. It didn't come the next day either so I used the tracking number and discovered an amazing thing. My parcel had gone to Winnipeg!

Why would my parcel go to Winnipeg when it got so close to me so quickly?  It had to be a mistake, I thought, and it somehow got into the wrong pile. Then it came back to Ottawa. Each day the message continued to say that there was a delay due to weather or natural disaster, but we all know this was a man made disaster created at the post office due to failed negotiations or poor timing by the government as to when to order the postal workers back to work. True, the postal workers have every right to strike. If the government wanted to mess with that, and put them back to work, they should have done it before the piles became so unmanageable that the postal workers not only didn't get what they were after but also had to work so much overtime to try and clear out the mountains that have accumulated at the busiest time of the year.

The next time I looked, my parcel was in Montreal!  What???  How could that happen?  Why was my parcel getting to Ottawa, and then moving on again?  Could it be the mountains there were already so high the workers just waved at the trucks and said, "No way are you unloading here! We don't have room for any more!"  I don't know but what other reason could there be?

Meanwhile two of my friends ordered something from Amazon and their orders arrived in less than a week. I'm wondering if they have an Amazon Prime membership. It's Christmas and you can have that for free for 30 days, so why didn't I think of that?  It would likely have meant my parcel would have been sent by priority post. Why else would theirs get here before mine?


I just checked again on Tuesday and it's finally gotten closer to me. It actually traveled in the right direction this time! It seems it got stuck again though as it spent 4 days just 12 miles away before
finally showing up here today.  Oh, and look, they did stick a priority post label on it.  Can you imagine how long it would have taken if they had not done that? 

What ever happened to  "Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"?  Oh ya, I forgot, that's the American creed not ours. Ours is simply, “From anywhere … to anyone.”  It doesn't promise a quick delivery, or even a direct route.



Sunday, December 2, 2018

Unbidden Memories

For the past couple of weeks there has been a song stuck in my head. It's in a commercial that plays very frequently during a show I watch on  https://www.globaltv.com/.  I've heard it so often all I remember is the song and not actually what they are selling.  I'd just as soon forget the song too, as it brings back a memory I think I could live without.

When I was a little girl living in Nova Scotia, we used to come to Ottawa to visit my grandmother and my aunt. I didn't know anyone else in that area, but one summer there was another little girl about my age who was living next door, and someone introduced me to her. I suddenly had a new friend in the city. One day she came up with the idea that we should set up a lemonade stand on the corner. Her mother agreed to make the lemonade for us, and we lugged out a small table and some chairs and made a sign and set ourselves up on the corner of Gilmour and Kent. By then a big jug of lemonade and some glasses were delivered to us and we were in business. A few people stopped by and remarked that it was a perfect day for such a business. They wished us well and sampled our wares. Then my dad came along and told me he was going to a movie and asked if I wanted to come. I really did, because I loved spending time with my dad, and I liked movies but I felt obligated to stay with my new friend. She could see I wanted to go, and told me it was alright, just go and she'd see me later. So I went.

I don't think I enjoyed that movie much. I felt guilty the whole time. I felt even worse when my new friend tried to split the earnings with me when I got back. I couldn't accept, but even her mom wanted her to do that because I was there in the beginning.

I think now that this is the only bad experience I ever had with my dad, and likely the only mistake he ever made while raising me. He shouldn't have put temptation before me like that, or he should have scolded me for accepting it. Meanwhile my friend's mom was teaching her to have a kind and generous spirit. We went home shortly after that and she wasn't there the following summer. I still feel guilty to this day for walking away from a friend.

The song is Que Sera Sera, but when I look up the movie it came from that doesn't seem like the one we saw. It doesn't really matter since it is the one that triggered the memory.  What will be, will be.