Saturday, 29 March 2014

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to me and Midweek Musings.


On March 24th last March I launched my blog and it’s been an interesting and challenging year. I have almost reached the 3000 mark for views, from forty different countries. Thank you all for your interest and support.

It’s been great fun writing about all these snippets of life, and I find as I go about my day I constantly find topics for my blog or a new book. Any and all activity can be made into a story of some kind. I should know, I wrote a murder mystery inspired by pigeons on a roof.

When I meet my brother or my friend for lunch, we meet at a half way point. The restaurant knows us now, and that once we’re there, we’re bunkered in for hours. I’m more of a small town driver, two lanes are enough for me; and I’m intimidated by the 4 lane highway leading in and out of the city. When I’m ready to leave for home thousands of others are doing the same, so it’s rush hour on the highway.

To avoid the stress, and as I’m in no hurry, I take the same route, a main street running east across the bottom of the city. Eventually, I drive from city, through a small town, a village and then the rural route home. Its great thinking time as much of our lunch conversation is on writing or some other creative endeavour. My mind is on overdrive, and I take advantage of the stops to make notes for future reference.

So, the pigeons on a roof. One day I was stopped at a red light and saw a house just ahead, with the roof covered with pigeons. I’d never noticed this before, and was intrigued. As I passed by the house I looked down the drive way and saw what I assumed was a pigeon coop at the rear of the property.

Interesting. This was a commercial district, except for the odd house, a leftover remnant of the old neighbourhood. What a perfect place for a murder. By the time I got home I had the basics of a book. And as it was September, I also had my novel idea for the National Novel Writing Month, or what I more affectionately call NaNo. This is the world wide challenge to write a novel in the 30 days of November.

So I started to research, racing pigeons, banding, one way doors on the coop, racing clubs…you get the idea. The racing caught my attention, and an article about messages being sent by pigeons during the war. My first idea had to do with smuggling; after all, the pigeons can cross borders without having to stop at check points. Then I had to think about what the pigeons could carry, and how the races could be used to smuggle…whatever.

It seemed feasible, but not really. So the pigeons took a lesser role in the book, but as a crime scene the coop had merits. And I couldn’t let all that research go to waste, now could I?

The book is titled Hiding From the Night and is in its final edit.

Back to the blog. March was a great time to start my blog as I entered the A-Z Blog Challenge for April and was thrown into blogging with a feeling much like jumping into the deep end of the pool. And here it is almost April again.

The challenge is to blog every day but Sunday for the month of April, which just happens to be 26 days. So each blog is to have something to do with the corresponding letter of the alphabet…from A-Z. I’m already planning and am ready to start. A is for Apple, could I be any more obvious?



Friday, 28 March 2014

Itchy Feet

Last week I was out, wearing the running shoes that I’ve worn all winter. They’re a solid shoe, with a heavy sole. By the end of the day my feet felt confined, tight, and I couldn’t wait to get home and kick my shoes off.
Since I’m barefoot or in socked feet at home, it’s no wonder I find shoes confining. This week I changed over to my pair of crocs, and as long as the roads stay dry I can wear these lighter, airier shoes until its sandal weather.

Sandals and no socks, a sign of spring and summer, and I can’t wait.
When I was part of a writing group, we would come up with a new topic each week and be challenged to write a 150 word story based on that theme. I always found it amazing that we came at the same topic in so many different ways. One time we were to write an ode to spring. As to be expected there were stories about flowers, but my story was about my itchy feet.

As my thoughts this week were following along the same lines, I remembered this exercise and searched through my files to find what I had written. Just thought I’d share as I’m sure we’re all more than ready to shed the winter footwear.

Ode to Spring

My toes are tingling. That itchy, fidgety, tingling sensation that can only mean one thing. It is almost as if they are yelling “off damn socks”. It's spring, time to cut loose from the confines of winter, to get rid of the boots, the sneakers, the socks. I can almost feel it and wait in anticipation, for the freedom, the absolute frivolity, of flip flops.

One day soon I hope.




Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Betwixt and Between

I’m restless, unable to stay focused on any one task, doing bits and pieces of many things and accomplishing nothing. I blame it on the weather. After the long, harsh winter, spring arrived officially last week and since that time we’ve had more snow and frigid cold. It’s not enough any more for the sun to shine, for sunset to come late giving us more hours of daylight. I need to see green, and I need to feel warm.

All winter, when we had sunny days, you could feel the change in people. We felt the wonder of nature in the blue skies, the sunlight glaring off the white, the squirrels playing like children in the snow. It was a moment’s respite from all the gray, the continuous snow and freezing temperatures.

I need some joy, some happiness, but will have to settle for contentment. I had this conversation with a friend last week. When, I asked, was the last time she’d felt real happiness, that deep from inside, overwhelming feeling of bliss. She’s almost twenty years older, and like me, has lived alone for a long time. Is it living alone that prevents one from reaching that level of joy? Is it the sharing, knowing that someone is there for you?

Many people live alone, but they don’t feel isolated because they have a network of friends and family. Maybe that’s what makes the difference. Being alone does not have to mean being lonely. What you want to know is there are people who care about you, who understand and value you. If you have that, waking up alone every day is not so terrible.

I can see the value of pet therapy. I miss having my cat. He was someone I could talk to; though he never answered he was a great listener. He knew my moods, knew those days I needed that extra head butt, and needed him to stay close so I didn’t feel quite so alone.

My brother just got a cat he rescued from the shelter. I find it so hard to believe this is his first pet. When I was married we always had a black Lab for a house pet and a kennel full of hunting dogs. Later, I had cats, as I could leave them alone for hours at a time when I was at work. But always, until these last few years I had another living creature here with me. Maybe I could get a goldfish, or a hamster, but it wouldn’t be the same.

In my old apartment there was a woman who visited regularly with her dog. That dog became like the building mascot. Everyone fed it treats, some looked after it when the owner was away, and I even made him a dog coat for winter. Pet therapy.

My neighbour had a cat that she walked numerous times throughout the day, just like a dog. The cat was not a social animal, and would run from any contact with others. But I won him over, feeding him cat treats from my window. It got so I looked for them to come walking by, and was disappointed if I missed them. The cat finally trusted me enough to eat from my hand, and maybe, while he was busy eating, I could cop a feel. I also enjoyed those moments of conversation with my neighbour. It was a nice break from my own company.

Maybe I should give this cat socializing a try. The local Humane Society is always looking for volunteers. I’m afraid I’d want to bring one home, and that’s against the rules here in my new place. It’s something to think about.

Meanwhile I’m looking for spring, and hopefully by Easter we’ll have something to celebrate.



Wednesday, 19 March 2014

I almost missed Wednesday

OMG. I can’t believe it’s after 5 pm and I just realized it was Wednesday, and I forgot to blog.

It’s been a busy week so far, out running errands on Monday, a writing session with a friend at  McDonalds yesterday, so by Tuesday night I was whipped. Had a 2 hour nap at dinner time and was a bit disoriented the rest of the evening. Today was laundry, as I had put it off too long and was out of the essentials.

I started to crochet while I was over at the main building doing the wash, and kept right on going when I got back. Not sure what finally trigged my memory about the blog, usually I'm better organized.

I’m making a baby set for a friend, a special order for her to give as a gift at a baby shower. I’m making a baby cocoon, with matching hat for the new baby, plus a hat for the baby at age one, and a matching one for the older sibling. The theme is white, green and yellow with a Green Bay Packer logo. Don’t know who’s the football fan in that family, for me it would have to have been double blue, for the Toronto Argonauts, my Dad’s team.

I love these baby cocoons, the possible themes are unbelievable. They’ve become very popular with photographers as props when taking photos of newborns.
Fairy tale themes for the girls.

Sports themes for the Dad's and their little boys.
Check them out on Pinterest, either by a search of knit/crocheted baby cocoons, or baby photography, there are sites galore.

I love crocheting for babies, it’s such fun and there are so many choices in the patterns to try, from sweaters, to afghans and toys.

It must be the time change and a few days of sun that have thrown me off. Even though it called for rain/snow today and tomorrow, so far it hasn’t amounted to anything. You can just feel the difference in the air. Winter will soon be over, weather wise as the days progress, and officially when Spring arrives tomorrow according to the calendar.
It can't come soon enough.


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A Tease of Spring To Come

The time changed last weekend and that should have been an indicator that spring is not far off. Yeah, right.

This has been one of the worst winters in my memory. Snow storms are one thing, but snow storms one after the other without any lull in between is wearing, really wearing. Those small breaks with no snow and milder temperatures, and the knowledge that there will be a change of season eventually, is all that keeps us going some days.

What’s that saying about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel? I’m not so sure anymore.

Monday was an absolutely beautiful day and you could see the change in people. I met a neighbour and had a nice chat standing outside in the sun, enjoying above freezing temperatures. Everywhere I went people were smiling and talking about what a gorgeous day it was.

Today was about the same. Then I came home and watched the Weather Channel and the storm warning for tomorrow.

I’m watching TV tonight on a station out of Buffalo. There is a continuous banner running across the bottom of the screen announcing all the closures for tomorrow. They are expecting up to 14 inches of snow in New York State.

The words to some silly song kept running through my brain on Monday, something about Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows. It was that kind of day.

What are we going to be singing tomorrow? I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it’s as bad as predicted.

As we’ve said for months now, winter can’t last forever. It just feels like it’s been forever already.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

I Got a New Cookbook

It has snowed, yet again. Does the 4th of March fall into ‘lion’ territory, for that ‘in like a lion, out like a lamb’ form of weather prediction? Or is it too late to count? I swear we have another 6-10 inches out there it’s been coming down steady all day.

I received a beautiful new cookbook for my birthday, and it seems like the perfect day to sit back with a coffee and peruse the pages, maybe try one out and let the aroma of fresh baking fill the air.

The book was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law, and she was kind enough to give it to me along with a couple of samples from the book, a banana snack cake, and coleslaw.

I used to try out different recipes for main course meals, but since I live alone, that kind of cooking has lost its appeal. If I still cooked meals for company, maybe, but I don’t.

Over the years I’ve changed from cook to baker. I make cookies, tarts and cakes for the grandchildren, and they love it. At the other place I was known to bake and share the goodies with my neighbours, much to their delight. So, most of the recipes I try and collect are in the appetizer, snack, or baking categories.

There is a special knack to being able to cook for company, and this is one area in which my sister-in-law excels. Not that her everyday cooking is a miss, by no means, but she can throw together a meal like it’s nothing.

I remember staying at her home one weekend and the meals were fantastic. Even breakfast was like a 5 Star buffet, with so much to choose from. I know many women think any meal they don’t have to prepare themselves is good meal, but, there are levels of good.

Women who like to entertain are great multi taskers. That’s probably why I don’t entertain, I can’t juggle things like I used to, but when I’m alone, I can bake up a storm.

One of the samples from my new cookbook was for a banana snack cake. This is a much improved version of the old banana bread. I have a 24 inch oven, smaller than the usual 30 inch ovens, and have found over time there are some things I just can’t bake in the smaller space. Banana bread was one, along with my rhubarb loaf and chocolate zucchini bread.

Whenever I baked these, the inside stayed doughy, and the outside was hard and dry. I began making the same recipe and baking it as muffins; and that worked. I also changed cakes to cupcakes, and made 2 bite brownies instead of a pan full.

This new recipe is baked in a larger pan, but isn’t as thick, so it bakes faster.

I’ve fallen off in my baking. I was trying to make something regularly, for the grandkids and their school lunches. Three kids each, five days a week, at least 2 snacks a day, that’s at least 30 snacks a week. Even if they like what I baked, it’s got to be boring having the same snack everyday. That’s what’s good about having a freezer, it allows for some variety.

Here’s the new recipe.



1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
½ cup light sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar, eggs, and butter on medium speed of electric mixer. Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Beat again until smooth.

Gradually add flour mixture to banana mixture, beating after each addition. Batter will be thick. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly using a spatula. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in centre of cake comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 16 pieces and store in an airtight container.

Try it if you get a chance, it was great same day it was baked, and still very moist and delicious the next day.