Saturday, January 9, 2021

Good Food From Leftover Scraps

These days, with more and more people being at home and maybe not wanting to venture out to the grocery store, there is a lot more home cooking going on.  People are learning to bake, make their own bread and soups, and finding out that cooking can actually be fun.  I have been at home for almost 47 years and have always cooked the family meals anyway, but I still tend to use recipes for most of what I cook.

A few years ago a lady at the Drop-In Centre I like to hang out at came up with the idea of making Stone Soup once a month. I had never heard of stone soup before so she explained it to us all.  It seems a traveler came to a village where he found the people unwilling to share their food. He filled his pot with water and a stone and set it on the fire. When asked what he was doing he told the people that he was making stone soup and that it was really good. He said he would share it with them but it needed something extra before it would be ready. Each villager contributed a little something to the pot and in the end, the whole village was able to enjoy a delicious soup without denting their precious food supplies.

I have made many soups over the years but I had never heard of this, and I always used a recipe.  The soups we had at the Drop-In Center were marvelous and never the same. Suddenly I was feeling much braver. Throw stuff in a pot and eat.  What a concept! 

I have an Instant Pot. To cook anything in there you have to add liquid first. Juices off the meats fall into the liquid and make such marvelous juices and I began saving them in the freezer.  Now I combine a couple and maybe add some bouillon or store-bought broth to it to make more, and throw in whatever happens to be in my fridge....leftover corn, bits of meat, maybe some cooked pasta or doesn't matter.  The combinations are endless and I doubt that I could ever duplicate anything. I do remember that the juices from a country chicken dinner and those from barbequed flavoured spare ribs together were totally amazing.  Who knew?  And just like the villagers, I feel that I'm getting a good, hardy meal (a few actually) out of free bits that might otherwise have ended up in the garbage or down the drain.  

A bit of homemade bread just adds to the enjoyment.

Or, since we are using leftovers from the fridge, how about some potato buns?  Enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Covid Grinch

Today the Prime Minister of Canada said that a normal Christmas is off the table. I had already decided that and informed my family a couple of weeks ago.

Normally by now, I would have already been to my first Christmas house party. I'd have a lot of my baking done, and would even have received my first Christmas card. Soon we would have a major Christmas event in our village with people coming from far and wide to take part. None of that is happening this year. Exchanging presents with my family is also off the table.

Pandemics change the way the world works.  People are working from home, shopping more often online, wearing masks when they venture out, and keeping their distance from those they meet. Shopping for gifts is much more difficult this year. Normally I wander the stores hoping to find something that will make me think of one of my recipients. I seldom know what I'm after until I see it. I ask for lists but never get them so they just have to be happy with what I find.  This year I have not been in an actual store except for groceries since March. The second wave of this nasty virus is upon us and there are more cases than ever so I'm not about to start shopping now, at the time of year when the stores would have even more people.....or worse still, lineups to get into the stores where I'm not even sure I'd find something.

As for shopping online, it helps to have a clue what you are looking for or you could be scrolling aimlessly for months. For me, there is an even bigger problem than that. While many of you are lucky enough to have things delivered to your door, I live where you have to go to the post office to pick up a parcel. There are lineups there already so you can imagine what it will be like as the big day draws closer. Only a couple of people are allowed into the building at a time so everyone else has to stand outside at this time of year when the weather is also about to get worse.  I'm too old to stand for long, freezing temperatures or not.

I finally faced the fact that I just couldn't do it. I have told my family not to expect presents this year.  Instead, I suggested that they take the money they would have spent on us and go buy something they want for themselves if they care to. Unlike me, they can get packages delivered to their door. It might be nice if they could show us in pictures or live video on Christmas morning and we would still get a surprise, and delight in their choices. That's right, we can't even be together for the holidays. 

What I want most from Santa is a new bed, and that is one thing I know can be delivered here without a problem.  I just won't be able to test out any in the shops, but that's okay as I used to order my mattresses from the Sears catalogue. I will miss getting together with my loved ones, but I am actually relieved not to have to try shopping for presents under the current circumstances.

The Grinch has stolen Christmas this year. He came disguised as Covid-19 (or maybe me), not the Prime Minister.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Enjoying a Summery November

 I saw someone walking out of a store yesterday carrying a Christmas wreath. I thought, "What? No way!" and then had to remind myself that it's actually November. Halloween is over and people are starting to decorate for Christmas.  That's mindblowing to me as it feels like summer this week.

The only difference is, the leaves are gone.

We couldn't pass up a chance to go for a walk on a local trail in this 20C weather. This one is close to home but I have not explored much of it over the 46 years I've lived here. We didn't really go too far this time either but we enjoyed the walk and will definitely go again.

On the hill above our village is an old country road called the Scotch Line that runs through the northern portion of the Limerick Forest. It is not fit for automobiles but very popular with recreational vehicles and people walking their dogs.  Some parts of the road are naturally paved in limestone that lies at the surface level up there. Other parts of the road are often muddy or downright wet.  

Shortly after we began we came to a side road called the Old Schoolhouse Road, which is also naturally paved in places but leads to a swamp. I have no idea where the old school was, as I didn't see any sign of it on our journey today.

The recreational vehicles were out in full force though. The fact that the water covered the road far beyond where we could see didn't stop them. We saw four different vehicles make the journey into the wetlands. I do hope they made it out the other side without getting stuck. Maybe there is enough rock on the roadway through the swamp to prevent that. 

I walked through there once during a dryer period back in 2000 but it was not possible today, so we went back and continued up the Scotch Line. Old cedar rail fences line the abandoned fields. Many of them have been knocked over with the passage of time but I found this one little stretch where it was still in pretty good shape. 

There is nothing too exciting at our end of the road, but there are apparently some boardwalks into the swamp further along, and an old abandoned house somewhere too.  I love to explore trails and this time of year is perfect because there are no bugs. Summer weather in November is okay with me. Just don't mention Christmas. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Whole New World

 Various groups I belong to have gone digital. They have Zoom meetings. I had never done that and since I didn't necessarily know the members of such groups well, I wasn't comfortable with the idea of joining an online meeting on an unknown platform. Then I got an e-mail from the leader of a group of local artists who normally gather at the public library. She decided Covid -19 had kept us all separated long enough and she initiated a Zoom meeting so we could reconvene. At least I personally know most of these people and I felt more at ease joining them online while many of us learned how it all worked. 

The instructions that I got by e-mail prior to the meeting did not fit with my device so right off the bat I had difficulties. I went in expecting to have to apply a password but immediately saw faces I recognized. I couldn't hear anything though so I poked at things until I could. I've never been afraid of pushing buttons on a computerized device. Little school kids do that every day and I have never heard of them blowing up a computer yet.  So, once I could hear the others they tried directing me to the gallery. I had no such button but I tried one marked Participants. That just gave me a list. Once it was determined that I was attending the meeting on an android tablet I was told to swipe left and that worked great. I was so happy to see so many people I have not seen for most of this year!  Others were still having difficulties even getting into the meeting so I felt I had done well. I still must have been nervous though because every time I was called upon to speak I found myself babbling and I'm not really sure just what I said, or if I made any sense.

While others talked and sorted out problems during this orientation meeting, I attempted to sketch one of the other participants. I have been drawing my mirror image for another group almost every Sunday for over a year now. I'm getting to know my own face well but I have not had a lot of practice with others.  I didn't get a likeness but it was still good practice. I showed the model what I had been doing and she said that at least I had been productive while she just sat and listened. She was one of the more experienced Zoom users so she likely didn't even need to be there for this meeting.  She really must have just wanted to see our faces too.

At the end of the meeting, it was suggested that we practice Zoom calls among ourselves so we would be more familiar with the process in time for our next meeting a month from now. Perhaps I will visit some of the other meetings I know about, just to see what they are up to. A whole new world may be about to open up to me.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Dirt on Groundhogs

We recently discovered that we had a groundhog living under the corner of our garage. At least, that's where the hole we found was.  A hydrangea bush covers that particular area so we may never have noticed it until fall if my neighbour had not happened to see a groundhog in our back yard.  Once he was spotted, we all watched it for a couple of days. I even saw it chasing a baby rabbit out of the clover patch at one point.  As cute as he was, we really didn't want him tunneling under things on our property so we went out and purchased a live trap.  The very idea of that must have let him know he wasn't welcome as we had not seen him for over a week after that.

My hubby decided it was time to fill in the hole, figuring if the groundhog was still around he would try to dig it out again. Well, hey, that's what the nuisance chipmunk did a few years ago.  Upon exploring the hole it was discovered that it not only went under the garage but under the patio stones as well.  One patio stone was removed and I guess he discovered that wasn't going to be a good way to go for an escape route as it didn't go very far in that direction. It was found that he went from digging horizontally to vertically.  After a little probing, we found the hole went down quite a distance.  Checking on line I learned that the average burrow depth is five feet!  I guess this was the pipe down to that and the patio stone was just a protective roof. 

When the chipmunk dug its hole under the garage it made this big pile of dirt. The groundhog made no such pile.  I was curious as to where he put all that dirt so I looked online for the answer. Apparently, there are a lot of smart asses on the internet.   I asked the simple question,  "Where does the dirt from a groundhog hole go?" What I got from was "Traditionally the answer to this question is that since the object in question is a hole, there is no dirt in it." 

And the next answer I got was from Joan Morris of the Bay Area News Group when she answered the same question from someone else. She said, "This isn't widely known, but gophers finance their lavish underground lifestyle by selling all that excavated soil to garden centers, which then sell it to us to use in our gardens." 

Well, to be fair, she later explained that the ground beneath our feet here is not as solid as we think and that it is actually filled with air pockets due to all our digging and tilling in our gardens and lawns. The groundhogs collapse and compact these air pockets while building their tunnels. They use the excess dirt to fill in abandoned tunnels and some of it might even make it to be mounded around the entrance. We certainly saw no evidence of that, which is why I went searching for an answer.

The hole did not fill entirely with the dirt available and I still have no idea where the rest went.  I will have to dig some out of the garden to fill the hole the rest of the way.  But not yet, I guess, as the little devil is back and he's trying to reestablish the hole under the garage.  The trap will now be bated with cantaloupe as I have been assured by a couple of people, and the internet that they just love that stuff.  Wish us luck before the garage disappears into a sinkhole.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Adjusting to the New Normal

In case you are wondering, I am still alive.

When all this Covid-19 stuff started I didn't want to write about it.  There was a little survey from my only soap opera (Young and Restless) that asked if we wanted them to write the virus into the story line. I instantly replied NO as entertainment is meant to distract me from life's real problems and soap operas, to me, are to make me feel like whatever my problem is, it's not so bad after all. But if the story on the screen is going to play out real life happening now, I'm not going to want to watch. Likewise, I want to be entertaining when I write and not go to dark places.

With the lock down, nothing else is actually going on in my life to tell you about and everything comes back to the virus one way or the other. I have come to realize that these current conditions may become the new normal and I might as well get used to it.   My blog is usually light hearted and I wanted to keep it that way. But maybe, once I get this first blog post in many months out of my system, I will be able to share my thoughts and bits of life with you again.

I live in a tourist town, but like everything, it has been effectively closed down due to Covid-19. This has worked well since not one case has ever been confirmed here. But now the government has decided to gradually start allowing certain businesses to open up.

Most of our shops have turned to e-commerce so buyers can pick up their purchases at the door of the shops or even have things delivered. The restaurants all have takeout available. The ice cream  parlour has modified their operation so that they now have a takeout window too.  Recently at least one of the chip wagons have opened. Besides all it's usual yummy food offerings, this one also serves ice cream and beer. That is sure to be popular and may cause some line ups.  Speaking of line ups, the liquor store seems to always have one these days. I've never seen it so busy before!

All this is great for those of us who live here but we had a couple of warmer days a week or so ago and the outsiders started flocking in.  That may be good for the businesses but it has caused concern for the residents as these much needed customers may bring the virus to the village along with their money.  The local mayor has been all over the news lately expressing our concerns.

One thing that may cause a problem for these outsiders that is not a problem for the villagers is that they will find no restrooms available to them. The public toilets are simply not open at this time.  Knowing that I would have nowhere to go if nature called kept me from joining my hubby on a ride into the city recently.  I wonder how many of our village visitors even consider that they may run into this problem when the venture out here on their day trips.  Maybe that's what the mayor should be telling them.  Then at least the ones that come would be here to pick up orders and know they can't be lingering.

I have not seen many masks in this area yet but as things are about to open up, I think there will be a bigger requirement for them soon. This week I got my hands on some pretty ones so I'll be ready.

It might help me to feel less self-conscious if I have masks that are at least attractive, colourful or just plain fun.

I'd like life to get back to normal though I know normal will likely be different in the future.  We are certainly going to miss all the wonderful festivals and entertainment that normally goes on during the summer.  Hopefully we have not seen the last of them though.  I do want to be able to tell you all about them again.  Stay in.  Stay safe. Let's eliminate the stranglehold Covid-19 currently has on us so we can all have some fun again.

  I live in a tourist town but it has been effectively closed down due to Covid-19. This has worked well since not one case has ever been confirmed here. But now the government has decided to gradually start allowing certain businesses to open up. Most of our shops have turned to e-commerce so buyers can pick up their purchases at the door of the shops. The restaurants all have takeout available. The icecream parlour has modified their operation so that they now have a takeout window. Recently at least one of the chip wagons have opened. This one also serves icecream and beer and is sure to attract business. All this is great for those of us who live here but we had a couple of warmer days a week or so ago and outsiders started flocking in. That may be good for the businesses but it has caused concern for the residents as these much needed customers may bring the virus to the village. One thing that may cause a problem for these outsiders that is not a problem for the villagers is that they will find no restrooms available to them. The public toilets are simply not available at this time. Knowing that I would have nowhere to go if nature called kept me from joining my husband on a ride into the city recently. I wonder how many of our village visitors even consider that they may run into this problem when they venture out here on their day trips.
sorry, that wasn't meant for you.  LOL

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.