Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Z is for Zenith


Today is Z day, and the final day of the A-Z Blog Challenge. I didn’t have a theme this year, was sort of winging it, and boy, my blogs have been all over the place. In preparation I did make up a tentative list of topics. Just a few ideas in case I was feeling brain dead when that letter’s day came up.

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing, and yes, I admit I’ve been watching, this last blog could have been Z is for Zamboni. But when you watch hockey on television you never actually see the zamboni, and to be honest, there’s nothing interesting about watching a big machine driving around in circles on the ice.

Zucchini muffins were on my list of potential topics, chocolate chip zucchini muffins to be precise. I decided that should be a topic for later in the season, when the gardens are full of the vegetable and every gardener would welcome a recipe to use them up.

I decided to do Z is for Zenith, not the celestial kind, but the ‘culminating point or stage’, that highest or climactic point. I’m not really a big sports fan, but since I grew up in a house where it was sports all the time, I find it makes good background noise as I’m doing something else. With the hockey playoffs and the recent Masters’ golf tournament, I was inspired for today’s topic.

The commentators, during any golf tournament, talk about the Masters and the other three ‘major’ tournaments like they’re the Holy Grail. I suppose to the golfers they are. To win a major tournament is to reach a level of achievement that cannot be denied. So the poor guy who wins tournaments, but can’t win a major will always be…in Rocky’s words, ‘could have been a contender’.

In the current competition for the Stanley Cup, it’s much the same. How many professional hockey players have never won a Stanley Cup? How many football players have never won the Super Bowl? And how many athletes never win an Olympic medal? I’m out of sports analogies, but I think you understand what I’m getting at. There are levels of achievement in almost any endeavour, some people will excel and make that zenith level, but those who don’t should never be deemed failures, or second class citizens in their particular area of expertise.

The ability, work and dedication that's required to get to professional status, or to participate in the Games, is an achievement not to be negated just because that person did not achieve their ultimate goal.

There are similar comparisons in other fields. Take one I’m familiar with…writing. I see the names of my favourite authors on the best selling list; see them achieve a financial success that is to be envied. But there are many other authors who may not write best sellers, but can still take pride that they are ‘published’.

I came at writing with a serious intent rather late in life. I don’t expect I’ll ever write a best seller, nor achieve financial success, but writing has given me so much more. For years I have dealt with the loss of my 30 year career due to health issues. I was a workaholic and had nothing to replace the time and effort I expended at work.
 
When I found writing I found a purpose. I have been able to deal with my cognitive issues (memory and concentration) by making notes, lists and some serious editing and rewrites. I am dedicated to making my writing the best it can be.
 
I’m working on my 8th novel and am proud of the fact that my imagination is still strong and thriving. I have been able to sustain the effort in not only finishing the story, but doing something with it.

I self publish on Amazon, and while that is not the same as having a publisher seek me out to publish my books in hard copy, it is still a major achievement. I’m excited when I make a sale, happy to share my work with others. But for me, the success is in seeing it through, from a germ of an idea, to final product.
 
If others enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it, it’s icing on the cake.

 

 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Y is for Yarn


My feelings about crochet are similar to my feelings about New Year’s resolutions. Good intentions, but doomed for failure. I convinced myself not to buy more yarn unless it’s for a particular project, and I’ve done pretty well with that. But there’s this other thing I was determined to do, and that was to use up all the bits and pieces of yarn that have been left over from other projects. I have a large pink bin full of all that kind of yarn.

I found a pretty crocheted jacket pattern on line that is made in hexagon granny-style blocks and sewn together. The centre of each block is like a flower, edged with black. .I need to look at my stash and see what colour combinations I have. But the thing is, I would probably have to buy more yarn to make the colours blend well, and I’d definitely have to buy the black. So, not exactly a stash busting project.

I have managed to use up a fair bit of my yarn. I’ve been making hats, ladybug, zebra and baby bear hats. I’ve made hats and scarves, hats and mitts and just plain hats. It was like binge crochet. I was going fast and furious and then I hit a wall, and needed a break.

But I’m baaack. I just made covers for the cushions on my couch, a baby gift for a friend and yes, I bought yarn for a project for next Christmas.

I looked in my knitting bag and saw the vest I made my son for last Christmas, The knitting is all done; it just needs to be sewn together. This kind of project is much like anything else. Once you step away from it, you lose the momentum, and it’s very difficult to get back at it.

If I got it finished, hey, I could set it aside until next Christmas and I’d have a start on my shopping. That gives me nine months to get it done. Spring is bound to come eventually, and he doesn’t really need a sweater vest in this warm weather, right” Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I’m going to be like the little engine that could. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Whatever.

Monday, 28 April 2014

X is for X-ceptional


April 27th was the annual MS Walk, their slogan is Every Step Matters. This fundraising event involves more than 40,000 walkers in more than 160 communities across Canada. In my community there were 156 registered walkers, and 23 teams, and at the last tally they made more than $47,000 for MS research.

I am very proud that one of those teams is made up of the members of my family.
 

 
 
I have volunteered at a Walk and am always impressed with the time and effort taken to make sure everyone has an enjoyable experience. Each walker gets a goody bag and food and drinks are provided for everyone at the end of the walk.  The mood is high; everyone enjoys the camaraderie and shared hope for a cure.

Though I have mentioned that I have Multiple Sclerosis I have tried not to belabour the point in my blog, though I know it has come up now and again. This last year has been a tough one as. I’ve had a relapse that I have not recovered from. I’ve had to make adjustments, a major one was to ask for and accept help.

Unable to do the walk, I was on pooped patrol today; my duty was to pick up the stragglers who were not going to make it the entire 5 K distance. At the half way point I picked up three 5 year olds and one other granddaughter, age 9. We went for a drink and met the rest of the group at the high school, the end point for the walk. The entertainment was provided by a young singing duo, and volunteers manned the buffet table where lunch was available, pizza, hot dogs, snacks and drinks, plenty for everyone.

We had our picture taken as we won first prize for team name. Debbie does MS. What can I say; my kids have a strange sense of humour. Of course the joke with the name was lost on the younger kids. Myself, I’ve lived with the jokes through the years, with a variety of versions of what Debbie does. Next year we’ve vowed to have team shirts, and everyone has already signed up.

I had a bit of a melt down at one point. The duo was singing a Keith Urban song, always good for an emotional response, and I looked over at my group as they chatted and enjoyed a snack after the walk. It struck me, how much it meant to me that they had taken the time out of their busy lives to do this walk. This year, a year when I have needed the support of the kids, they have never let me down. It was as if they were doing the walk and stating, in clear terms, that they were there for me.

I know I’ve made it difficult for them at times. I tend to hide bad news, trying not to add any further stress to their lives, but as I’ve been told, it’s easier to cope and accept when they have time to deal, than to be hit with something serious after the fact.

So, a big thank you to my children and their partners, Jenn and Jeff, Josh and Rachel, and the grandkids, Tia, Kayla and her friend Ally, Rianna, Jaxon, Izzy, Cole and Chloe.

It was a great day.

 

 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

W is for Words



Words

Angry,
angry words,
hurt and pain to inflict,
angry,
angry words
fulfilled in their intent.

Never
do I learn,
with anger I forget,
such words
once spoken,
I will live to regret.


This is a poem I wrote in 1998. It was the first piece I had published and appeared in the anthology The Sounds of Silence , by the National Library of Poetry.

I used poetry to express my thoughts and feelings, my form of journaling, I suppose. I wish I had thought of it as more than that, and that I might have been a writer.

When a new writing group was established in town, I joined, and a whole new world opened up for me. I began to write, just the short 150 word stories at first, as prompted at the meetings, but it was never enough. The words that had been in my head had finally found a way out.

Now, many short stories, a blog and seven novels later, I think I can finally say it…I am a writer.

Friday, 25 April 2014

V is for Vinny





 

Vinny is a two year old, black and white cat that my brother and his wife recently adopted from the Humane Society. My brother is a Cat Socializer there once a week; and finally broke down and brought a cat home for his very own

If cats have the ability to think about their life, then Vinny must think he’s hit the Mother Lode. After growing up in the confines of the Humane Society Shelter, he must feel truly blessed that he finally has a home.

Now, growing up at the Humane Society is not exactly like growing up in the ‘projects’ (television education, sorry), that would be a feral cat’s plight. But to quote Dorothy, an authority on such things “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Did I just compare my brother to Auntie Em?

Funny, my brother has never had a pet, and Vinny had never had an owner. They were made for each other, both coming at this pet thing with fresh eyes and no preconceived notions.

I can understand why Vinny, of all the cats, gained their attention. Each cat that is available for adoption has a history that tells where the cat came from. It helps in looking for placement to know whether the cat had been in a home with other cats, or children, or was wild, you get the idea.

I may not have the facts exactly right, but basically, Vinny has lived his life at the Shelter. Whether he was born there, or was a newborn litter drop off, I don’t know, but the fact is he has never lived anywhere else.

I’ve learned a lot about the animal shelter through my brother’s experiences and know that the animals in their care are tended well, with an eye to more than just their physical needs. Which is where the socializing comes in. This is a time for each cat to have individual human contact and playtime outside of the cage. The cats are allowed to play with the toys, play with the human, or just watch out the window, for this is their time to do as they want.

All of Vinny’s litter mates were adopted, but not Vinny. How sad that in two years no one who came to the shelter saw him and…wanted him. Because we all know there is no better feeling than to be loved and wanted.
 
From everything my brother has said, the settling in period has been…interesting. Like the Sunday morning 6 am wakeup call, or the 1 am playtime. The cat had to learn how to do stairs, and once he did, my brother had to learn that a small four legged body could screech by him on the stairs with no warning.

There is a neighbourhood cat that often visits my brother, and would often stay for hours at a time. The visitor cat and the resident cat have not come to peaceful terms as yet, each still staking out their territory. Good thing the Shelter believes in preventive parenting, Vinny being a male and the visitor female. My brother could have had a “Who’s your Daddy?” moment when the neighbour cat and her litter of kittens showed up at his door.

You have to be careful with cats, having one just seems to become having two…or maybe more. I had a cat, and then got him a friend so he wasn’t alone. The cats make you think it’s all your idea, but I don’t know, they’re sneaky that way.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

U is for Underwear


A recent trip to the Emergency Department reminded me of some old story, or mother’s advice or whatever, something about always wearing clean underwear in case you got hit with a bus. Like you should never get caught with dirty drawers, silly, right?
 
But it got me thinking about the state of my underwear, and I decided it was looking a little shabby and in need of replacement. So, the next time I was in the department store I decided to remedy that sad situation.

Facing a wall of packaged underpants was enlightening. Who knew there were so many varieties? Briefs, Hi-Cuts, Bikinis, Boyshorts and let’s not forget…the Thong. I got frustrated looking for my size and style and went home empty handed.

Next trip I had better success; it seemed the shelves had been restocked and I easily made my selection.

At home I removed my purchase from the plastic bag and read the laundry code on the back. Machine wash cold. Understandable, as the garment was 100% cotton and would shrink if washed in hot water. Do not bleach. Tumble dry low. Again, 100% cotton; and normal precautions.

But the Low iron and Do not dry clean instructions just blew me away.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I hear there are people who iron everything. They must have a lot of time on their hands.

Who knew shopping for underwear could be so complicated?

 

 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

T is for Tree


My tree is going under the knife, a chainsaw actually, on April 28th. I’m sad, because I hate to see another tree destroyed, but again, I don’t want to live through another night like I did last December.

It was the night of the BIG ICE STORM, and a frightening encounter with Mother Nature’s unpredictability. I had watched the weather worsen through the evening, with short term blackouts that threatened of something worse. I could hear the freezing rain strike against the window, saw the road glisten with ice. I was glad I was tucked in safe and sound, with no need to venture out in the cold.

Power outages were common across the county, and in many areas it would be days before power was restored. It was late when my power finally went out, and stayed out. With nothing else to do, I went to bed, huddled under layers of blankets as the warmth gradually ebbed away. Unable to settle, I read by flashlight until sleep finally took me over.

The first big bang woke me, but with no clock I had no idea how much time had passed. I’ve never experienced anything like it; the noise was incredible in the silence and isolation of my dark world. I moved from door to door, watching and listening to the frenzy outside. I could see the trees at the far edge of the property, bent over and unable to fight against the force of such a wild wind. I could hear it, and thought of the trains I can sometimes hear on a summer night, sounding louder and closer.

Every few minutes I could hear a crash on the roof, sometimes loud enough to make me jump, other times not so scary. When I looked out the window I saw twigs, small branches, bigger branches and finally limbs, some as big as 6 inches in diameter. The yard was littered with tree debris.

Now, that tree and its debris are no stranger to me. All summer long it dropped its small leaves on my patio and sidewalk, and I swept them away, to keep the area clean. I’ll admit I found it annoying. Neighbours said the positive, to balance out the negative sweeping, was the shade the tree provided, some relief from the summer sun.

That tree has to be at least thirty feet tall, maybe more but I’m not a good judge of that kind of thing. For a good twenty feet the trunk, at least 2 feet in diameter, goes straight up. The limbs and thick branches are all at the top, far above the roof, so I wonder how much shade they really provide. So many of the limbs were dead, and had no leafy shelter to offer.

The Tree Doctor was called in and his diagnosis, the tree was dying. Those limbs, so high up, would be in continual danger of breaking off and falling in any strong wind. And he was right. Throughout the winter the tree continued to disperse its dead and dying branches into the yard, adding to the litter from the storm.

The yard has been cleared of all the debris, and raked so all the ugly reminders are gone, and what is left is grass, trying so hard to be green with this crazy spring weather. We’ve gone from lovely warm spring weather right back into winter cold. Last week we had snow, and heavy morning frost.

I’m trying to think of something positive to come of having my tree cut down, and the resulting tree stump that I assume will remain. What to do, what to do?

As the tree is situated at the side of my place, right in the middle of the grassy section between the house and the walk, it could be an eyesore. Maybe a big pot of flowers, sitting on the top will give it some beauty, for the summer months at least.

But…I remember seeing the base of a cut tree made to look like a fairy house. A door was made and attached at the base, with a window too, I think, and a kind of smokestack at the top. Now that would be a work of art made out of something not so pretty. And who knows, if you believe in fairies, some just might come and live in a house made just for them.

It’s worth a try. We can all use a little fairy magic…right?

 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

S is for Soup


I feel like I’m constantly disparaging my Mother’s reputation as a cook, but Susie Homemaker she was not. We were fed well, and with a sometimes creative flair, but preparing meals was not her end all be all, her art was. I understand how it is to get lost in the creative process, and lose track of time only to realize it was dinner time and there was nothing prepared.

The only homemade soup I remember my Mom preparing was a potato soup. It wouldn’t have appealed to anyone who liked a thick soup, as this soup, even though it had a milk base, was as thin as a chicken noodle broth. I’ve made it over the years and have always loved it. She would chop onions and celery into fine pieces and sauté them in butter. Then she boiled the potatoes, also cut into small pieces, in just enough water as to cover, adding the sautéed vegetables. When the potatoes were cooked she added the milk and let it warm up, on low temperature. If you let it boil you get that milk film over the top.

I remember this soup was usually served with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Years later, when the kids and I were living in Toronto, we would go to Bloor West Village to a bakery restaurant called Bread and Roses. We would have soup and a sandwich, often sitting out on the sidewalk patio, and take home some fancy sweet for a treat. This is where I found that creamed soups were thick and…creamy.

I am still not a big soup fan; never order it out unless I try a French Onion Soup, which is a meal in itself. In the last few years I have taken to making soup, usually a French Onion, or the steadfast potato of my youth. And then I began making creamed vegetable soups, like broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus, soups that used the leftover bits of vegetables.

I bought some fresh mushrooms the other day, not sure why exactly, as I had no specific recipe in mind. I could always fall back on the old sautéed mushrooms on toast, but hey, no more toaster oven, and toast made in the big oven sucks.

So I made a homemade cream of mushroom soup that was absolutely nothing like the creamed soup from a can.

I cut the mushrooms and onions in fine pieces and sautéed them in butter, with some crushed garlic. I then peeled a couple of potatoes, diced them and boiled them in enough water to cover, until tender. As the potatoes were cooking, I added a chicken stock bouillon cube to the water along with the other vegetables. I mashed the potatoes a bit, to thicken the soup. When the potatoes were cooked I added milk to the pot and set it on low, to heat it through. This is an updated version of Mom’s cream of potato soup.

Now if I were serving this to a family, I would probably add bread or a homemade biscuit, along with a salad, but for me the soup was enough. And it was delicious.

Monday, 21 April 2014

R is for Rhubarb



Rhubarb is one of those sure signs of spring. It was always a favourite of mine, whether baked in a quick bread or baked in a pie. Anyone who has a patch of rhubarb in their garden knows it grows bigger every year, and the more you use from it, the thicker it gets. The fresh leaf stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong, tart taste.

One of my best loved cookbooks is Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook. I’ve probably had it for thirty years and so have my favourite, tried and true recipes. One of these recipes is for Rhubarb Pudding. It’s much better than just stewed rhubarb, and I always thought the difference was in boiling the water and sugar together, rather than just adding sugar to the cooked fruit.

My kids loved this, as they did the rhubarb bread. Here’s the recipe, just in time for the new crop.


 
Rhubarb Pudding

1 ¾ cups water
¾ cup sugar
4 cups rhubarb, cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup cold water
3 Tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar

Heat 1 ¾ cups water and ¾ cup sugar to boiling, stirring occasionally. Add rhubarb. Simmer uncovered until rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes.

Mix ¼ cup water and the cornstarch; stir into rhubarb. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in vanilla. Pour into serving bowl or dessert dishes. Cover and refrigerate.

Beat whipping cream and 2 tablespoons sugar in chilled bowl until stiff. Drop by spoonful onto pudding.

If you are lucky enough to have a rhubarb patch you’re probably always on the lookout for new ways to use it up. This pudding is quick and easy, so give it a try.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Q is for Quotes

Quotes. There is something about a well worded quote that can make you feel better, offer encouragement or just make you feel good. I searched to find some quotes for or about my closest friends and family, and wanted to share.







 



I was going to tag the pictures and decided to leave it for them to guess which quote was for them.





 
 
 
And then there's family.
 
 
 




 And children.







 
 
 
Love you all, thanks for always being there.

Friday, 18 April 2014

P is for Procrastinate



Procrastinate: to defer action, to delay,…procrastination n

 

Hello, here I am, Queen of Procrastination. Does it show a lack of drive or determination that I am so easily distracted? Is it a case of adult ADHD, or just spring fever?
 
In January I was all enthusiastic about the new book. The beginning was front and foremost in my mind, even though I hadn’t done my usual prep work, you know, developing a plot, characterizations etcetera.

Not my normal style, says this usual ‘plotter’. At any rate I was going along pretty good, developing the fine details as I went along, and then Spring comes. Or didn’t come which is more to the point.

I got restless for blue skies and sunshine, to be rid of the winter coat and have my denim jacket be enough. I wanted to put the boots, hats and mitts away and finally be done with them.

It’s amazing what will distract me. Games on Facebook, or Spider Solitaire can consume a lot of time, and to what result? I check my E-mails and Facebook messages so frequently, not really expecting to see anything new, but just to have something to do.

I started a new crochet project, combined 2 notebooks of ideas, notes and patterns into one new one, and reorganized my closet. Hell, I even started my Christmas List.

 
 
 
And wasn’t it handy to have the A-Z Blog Challenge start, and give me something else to write instead of the new book? I did some editing, but it was a challenge to stay focused.

And staying focused is the issue. Maybe it’s Spring Fever, and only summer will cure it. Does that mean I have another few months of restlessness, muddled thoughts and zero productivity?

I may have to resort to writing longhand, or taking the laptop to a public place to write, a place with different kinds of distraction than here at home. I seem to be able to write in the coffee shop, or in a restaurant, as there is no television, no phone, (I have no cell), and no refrigerator. The noise doesn’t bother me, and when I need a bit of a break, I can people watch for a few minutes and get back to work.

I hope this mood with the change of season is a temporary thing, something to suffer through this year, after the particularly bad winter we’ve experienced. I hope it doesn’t rain all spring, making the transition to summer, and another change of season, something to endure.

We’ll have to wait and see, Mother Nature is nothing if not unpredictable.

 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

O is for Over and Over



Cause its all in my head…

I think about it over and over again,

I replay it over and over again,

And I can’t take it yeah

I can’t shake it

Nooo.

 

Lyrics from the song Over and Over by Nelly and Tim McGraw

Written by Cornell Haynes Jr., Jayson ‘KoKo’ Bridges and James D. Hargrove

 

Sometimes there’s just too much stuff going on in my brain and I need to sort it out. It doesn’t matter whether it my personal feelings or memories, my to do list, or snags in the plot of my newest book, talking it out, or writing it out seems to simplify things and I can think better, clearer. It stops all those thoughts and feelings from circling around in my head, fogging up my mind so I never find any answers or resolution.

I met a woman, years ago, who had hit a rough patch in life. She had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. Her husband had just had a heart attack. Not a good year for them, right? They weren’t coping; their worries for their own personal health issues were compounded by their fear for their partner. Their first inclination was to keep their fears to themselves, so as to not burden their spouse; after all, they had enough to deal with.

So who do you talk to when the one you’re most used to talking to is unavailable? I told her my secret for staying sane in bad times…journaling. I advised her to get a pretty hardcover or cheap paper notebook, it didn’t matter, hell, binder paper would work. The point was to put all those unspoken and swirling emotions on paper, hopefully to make some sense of them and, at the very least, find some comfort and relief in getting them out of her head.

This kind of journaling is not to be shared. It’s an opportunity to sort out feelings, be angry, spew out negative thoughts, whatever you need. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve written myself into a state of calm and acceptance, and, I’m sorry to say, might have attained this by dumping on others, on paper. None of that was ever meant to be read by anyone else, and it has all been shredded, so it never will be. But writing things down, venting, if you like, is a much kinder and safer way of dealing with things than to actually say the words to someone and have to live with regret.

I wanted to help this woman and sent her a pair of journals to get her started. When I met her a year later she told me that journaling had been a lifesaver for them and greatly affected how they coped with all the stresses they’d faced.

In the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ the author talks about daily notes. It’s basically the same theory as my journaling only for dealing with a creative block. I was given the book as a gift, as I had not painted in a year and was struggling to find my way back to it. I read the book and did all the exercises the author suggested, including the three pages of daily notes.

Write whatever comes into your head, the book instructed. In the beginning, I wrote things like ‘I have to write these damn pages and who cares what I write, I need to shop, wouldn’t it be nice if the weather cleared…you get the idea. It was drivel, nonsense, and it was done out of a sense of duress. But it worked. Within a very short time my notes were all about creativity, short poems, sketches for future art work, and my tension over losing my artistic ability was gone, and I found myself painting again. The style might have been different, but that was okay, I was painting.

I still have notebooks galore, full of art ideas, story lines, maybe just words or phrases I like. When I have the need for that other kind of journaling, the need to vent kind, I do it in a story, anonymously of course.

 



 

 

 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

N is for Nearsightedness


I started wearing glasses in Grade 5. I remember sitting in class one day, playing around, wearing someone else’s glasses and found I could see, surprise, surprise, that the girl in the hall was not only wearing a gray skirt, she was wearing a gray pleated skirt. This was the first time I became aware that I was missing out on the details of what I was seeing. I told my mom, but she didn’t believe me, not until the letter came from the school (they did visual screening on all students back in my day) informing her I needed to have my eyes checked. So, I got glasses. I picked out a blue pair with little rhinestones on the winged corners. That fussy frame stage didn’t last long; I switched to black for my next pair, it was a more mature look for high school.

Nearsighted means I can see close up, but not far away. I definitely need glasses to drive and should be wearing them all the time. When my very near vision began to fail, I was told I needed bifocals. So that meant glasses for distance and glasses for close up, and what a pain that turned out to be. I got the bifocals, with the invisible line between the two lenses, and found myself dizzy, and tripping all the time. My eyes couldn’t make the transition, so I’m back to the hard line between, and that seems to warn my brain about the change. Works for me…when I wear the glasses.

I seem to live my life in the middle world, for if I’m not wearing my glasses, that’s all I can clearly see. I can’t work on the computer with either the distance lens or the bifocal, and since I spend so much time on the computer I tend not to wear glasses at home. I leave them by the door, with my car keys, as they seem to go together.

The only good thing about all this is that I can read regular print, and I can still do most of my crafts without glasses. Since I watch, more like listen, to television while I read, write or craft, I miss a lot of the visual aspects of TV. I like to watch and re-watch shows, and have found there are always things I missed the first time around because of multi-tasking or poor vision.

Technology has changed that for me, I may need to wear my glasses for TV after all. With the new style of phones and the increase in texting, I’m missing out on a lot more because I can’t focus on the small screens. Like on Hawaii Five-O, the cop holds his phone out to a witness to show him a photo of a suspect. Or he shows his partner his phone to share who’s calling. And the texting, I can’t read any of that without my glasses, so I miss out on a lot. At least there’s an opportunity to catch it next time around.

I thought I was so smart. Last time I bought glasses I got the 2 for 1 deal. The first pair, black of course, I had made with my distance lens, and had them tinted so they went dark in sunlight and faded in the indoor light. I figured this solved the problem of sunglasses. I hate those creepy little lens covers that make any glasses into temporary sunglasses. This also saved me from changing back and forth from prescription sunglasses to regular frames.

But once I’m out, I’m wearing glasses and have to take them off to read tags in stores, menus, directions on the ATM. My friend wears her bifocals on a chain around her neck, and flips them on and off as needed. And that works for her because she doesn’t otherwise wear glasses. Once I take mine off in a store, I hang them by the arm in the neck of my shirt, not exactly safe, but handy.

The second pair I got were softer looking than the solid black. A nice brown multi tone, with round lenses. They reminded me of a pair I had when I was younger, ones I had thought were complimentary, and I hoped they’d give me a more scholarly, writerly look.

I was pleased with my purchases, until I met my daughter for lunch and she laughed, calling me Harry. Harry? What was that all about, I wanted to know.

It seems my new look was more wizardly then writerly. It shows my age that I didn’t immediately connect the frames with Harry Potter, but I’ll know better next time.

 

 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

M is for Minion


 
Last fall I was asked to make a minion hat for a friend.
 
I’m a little behind the times as far as animated movies go. When the grandkids were little we watched a lot of movies, of the princess type as the first three were girls. When the first grandson was born I branched out, and saw Cars, over and over again.

But I hadn’t seen Despicable Me, though I did know what a Minion was, as it has consistently been used as my brother’s profile picture. Still, I had to research to find some pictures and even found a pattern for a crocheted Minion hat.

The first hat I made was such a success I ended up making 2 more, made another for my granddaughter, and just for fun, made one for my brother for his birthday. Can you guess who loved his minion hat the most? The big kid, my little brother, of course.

 

I finally watched the movie, have it on my PVR for when the kids, or my brother come over to visit.

Monday, 14 April 2014

L is for Lunch with my Brother


It seems that my brother thinks the blog ‘I’ is for Idiot could have been for him, just as ‘B’ should have been for Brother, and ‘J’ could have been for his name. He feels left out of the A-Z blogs written so far this April. (See comments for I is for Idiot.) I understand, he was mentioned last year when my topic for the A-Z Blog Challenge was ‘My Favourite Things’. This year I went more generic, and have no common theme.

I am a solitary person, spend most of my time in solitary pursuits like art and my writing, and recognize that I let few people close to me. But a few years ago life became overwhelming and I hit a particularly dark spell. Not one to seek out the help of others, I did turn to my sister in Florida, safe I thought, as she was so far away. My siblings surprised me, she called my brother, and he called me. The next day we went to lunch and have tried to meet for lunch every month since that time. Only now we meet because we want to, not because of his concern for me.

Family took on a whole new life for me at that time. I gained a brother and a friend, and my kids got the uncle (and aunt) they’d never had growing up. We have family gatherings and the family relationships are only stronger because of the bond my brother and I have created.

We meet for lunch at a half way point between his home and mine. I think he got more than half, as I got the easy drive, and he has to cross the city in rush hour traffic. Boston Pizza was our first meeting spot. We became regulars and formed a friendship with our waitress, feeling disappointed if she wasn’t there. When she left, the job and the area, we changed venues and now meet at Wild Wings.

We ordered the exact same lunch every time at BP, the Thai chicken bites and three cheese bread. Now we order wings and the GarPar Onion Rings. Who needs a menu? We’re regulars at the new spot, and in summer will sit for hours on the patio, talking about anything and everything.

This winter has been hard. I’m a nervous driver and don’t like to drive that far in unpredictable weather, especially when I’d be driving home in the dark. So we’ve not met for lunch since November, I think, though the family has met for the holidays and my birthday. I miss those lunches, and all that talk about writing, art, and any other creative ventures that have caught our interest. It’s stimulating and on the drive home my mind would be bursting with ideas.

My children, as adults, have always lived in close proximity to each other, and have children close in age. It’s nice to see that they are both friends and family, and the grandchildren are close, as cousins should be. Plus, they have extended family in the area, on their Dad’s side. I see the difference it makes for them, how settled they are here with that sense of belonging.

My mother was an only child; and her parents lived in the US so we maybe saw grandparents once or twice a year growing up. My dad had a maiden sister he was estranged from, who also lived in the US, his parents deceased. So we had no roots, no history where we grew up, no aunts or uncles, no cousins. It’s not surprising that we grew up without that sense of family. But better late than never, we have that family now, three generations worth.

Our lunch planned for last week got cancelled, and needs to be rescheduled. It appears my brother had a prior commitment he’d forgotten. I understand, really, I do, sort of, maybe. Oh well, there’s time and opportunity now unless Mother Nature has more tricks up her sleeve. I think spring has finally arrived and the warmer weather can’t be too far off. I think there’s a patio table out there with our name on it.

 

 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

K is for Keurig


I have a new Keurig coffee maker, a gift from my daughter for my birthday. I had been considering getting one for myself, thinking it was ideal for me because it was so versatile. I had a small 2 cup coffee maker, and a large kettle. There was not enough room on my counter to have both out at the same time. So the coffee maker won out, as I enjoy those 2 cups of coffee every morning. But I also like a cup of tea in the afternoon, maybe after dinner, and occasionally a hot chocolate on a cold night.

The problem is…I’m lazy. I hate pulling out the kettle, and the base it sits on, and having to put the coffeemaker away. In my own defence, my bad back has made all the bending and lifting difficult so I had to make do. I made my tea with microwave heated water, which was totally disgusting.

My history of making a decent cup of coffee is bad, which is why I switched to tea. But with the 2 cup machine I had been more successful, and I enjoyed that coffee, as long as I had the vanilla coffee creamer to add to it. So I like flavoured coffee, which is why the Keurig is perfect for me.

I buy the little brewing cups thirty at a time, and have developed my own list of favourites; coffee, teas and hot chocolate, whatever I have a taste for at any given time.

Have you seen the television commercials? They are a catchy representation of the product. The whole idea of the Keurig machine is the individual choice it offers in what you drink. How appropriate to display the machine and have the different choices represented by the mugs.

The first ad I saw has a music background, different kinds of music, and a mug to match. One says “Born to Disco”, another Rock ‘N Roll. Then there was a mug where the handle was the back end of a horse…Country Music Forever. The last was ‘World’s Greatest Whistler’. Every time I see the ad come on I have to watch.

At Christmas they did a holiday version…Naughty or Nice, Naughty and Nice. There were more but I can’t remember them all.

As I write this I have a medium blend Vanilla Hazelnut coffee at my side. It’s good, but later I’m going to give the Caramel Drizzle a try.

Thank you Jenn, for the perfect gift.

Friday, 11 April 2014

J is for "Jammies All Day"


JAMMIES ALL DAY...a short story

“Are you wearing your pajamas?”
Katie looked down and saw a small child with the most angelic face framed by a mop of soft curls. Wouldn’t you know, she thought, a quick trip to the store and she’s caught out by the curiosity of a kid
“They’re not pajamas, exactly. They’re called sleep pants.
The child reached out a hand and touched her leg, testing the fabric of her flannel pants. He had that stubborn look on his face, that very stubborn look that toddlers are known for as he declared, “they feel like my jammies”
Katie looked around the store, hoping to be rescued from the critical eye of this mini member of the fashion police.
“My Daddy says I have to get dressed before we go out. Why does your daddy let you wear your jammies?”
Beyond embarrassment now, Katie knelt down to talk to the child face to face.
“I’m all grown up, so, I guess if I want to wear my pajamas out, I can.”
“Daddy won’t let me wear my Spiderman pajamas out of the house. They’re my favourite but I have to leave them under my pillow.”
She smiled at the boy with his bright blue eyes, the smattering of freckles over his nose and found him irresistible. “Well,” she said as she started to rise. “Daddies know best.”
He grabbed on to her pants and pulled until she knelt down again.
“He’s mean,” he said. “Why can’t I wear my Spidey jammies all day?”
“This is my special jammies-all-day day,” she told him. “You can’t do it everyday or it won’t be special anymore.”
Katie could see the boy thinking that over and looking at her skeptically.
“When can I have a jammie day?”
“You’ll have to ask your dad about that. But, just think what you have to look forward to every night. You get to put your jammies on and snuggle into bed wearing them for the whole night.”
“Adam, where are you?” an anxious voice called out.
The little boy leaned in, as if to tell her a secret. “That’s my Daddy,” he whispered.
“Oh, okay.”
“That’s his mad voice.”
“I don’t think he’s mad. He’s probably been worried ‘cause he can’t find you.”
Katie stood and held out her hand. The boy grasped it tightly as they walked from behind the produce display that had hidden the child from his father’s view.
“Does this little guy belong to you?” she asked.
“Adam, what did I tell you?”
“Stay close,” the boy said in a mumbled voice, avoiding eye contact with his father.
“Right.” The father bent down in front of his son. “Look at me,” he said, resting his hand lightly on his son’s shoulder. “Daddy worries when he can’t see you, so stay close, okay?”
As the little boy nodded, the man stood and realized his son was holding on to the woman’s hand. He looked at her with suspicion. “What are you doing with my son?”
“I was just talking to him,” Katie said, suddenly aware her friendliness could be misconstrued now that she was facing his concerned father.
Adam pulled on her hand and she looked down to see what he wanted.
“Tell Daddy about jammie day.”
Katie figured being embarrassed for wearing her ‘jammies’ out of the house was better than being taken for a child molester, so she tried to explain.
“Adam came over and asked if I was wearing my pajamas. I told him it was my jammies-all-day day, it’s something I treat myself to once in awhile, not that I usually leave the house, but I was cooking and found I didn’t have any…carrots.”
She felt a pull on her hand again as Adam glared at her. “Tell him,” he repeated.
“I think Adam would like a jammies-all-day day so he could wear his favourite Spiderman pajamas for the whole day.”
“It’s a special treat, Dad.”
Adam’s father, his immediate fear for his son’s safety gone, finally looked at the woman his son had picked up in the produce department. She was very pretty with intriguing smoky grey eyes.
“Hi,” he said holding out his hand. “I’m Jake Turner, Adam’s father.”
“Katie Tremblay,” she replied, taking his hand.
“So,” Jake said. “You’re having a jammies day, are you?”
She smiled, recognizing where the little boy had gotten his charm and appeal.
“They’re Hello Kitty jammies Dad. I told her Spiderman was my favourite.”
“This sounds like a great idea, Adam. Maybe Miss Tremblay would like to tell us how this jammie thing works.”
He looked at Adam for his approval. “What if we were to take Miss Tremblay out for some hot chocolate, there’s a place just across the road. You’d like that wouldn’t you Adam, if we all went for hot chocolate?”
“Yes, yes, come on,” he said taking Katie by the hand and dragging her toward the door. “Let’s go Dad.”
“Yes,” Jake said. “Shall we go?”
Katie hesitated for a moment then let the little boy lead her out. She’d been feeling a little blue, a little woe-is-me and had planned to stay home all day until she’d found she was out of carrots for her stew.
Who would ever believe that her Hello Kitty sleep pants would be her good luck charm?

 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I is for Idiot


It’s not that I’m feeling ‘holier than thou’, I’ve had my idiot moments, so it’s more a case of a ‘been there, done that’. But there are idiots, and there are idiots. In some, the behaviour is so idiotic it leaves me irritated and perplexed.

Inappropriate, the kids, guys and girls, who swear, using the F-word with such glee. Do they think it makes them seem tough, maybe more adult? But being an adult means, even when you want to swear, you do it in the proper time and place. I do most of my creative cursing home alone or in my car with the windows rolled up.

I like to watch golf, and don’t understand why the fans have to be so ignorant as to call out or take photos as the player is teeing off, often in the middle of the player’s backswing. And what is the purpose of yelling of “Mashed Potatoes” after?

Every job has a learning curve, some worse than others. I was in line for coffee at Tim Horton’s one day and watched a trainee struggle to keep her composure with an insensitive customer who was impatient for his order. By the time I was at the counter she looked really stressed and apologized for the delay. I told her it was no problem, gave my order and watched. To register the order she had to give every detail using the touch screen on the cash register.

One touch for in house or takeout, size, beverage, and any additives, all put in separately. So that’s take out, medium tea, black, 1 sweetener, bag out. Five keys for one order. I think it would take anyone some time to be familiar with the screen.

Have you ever been following one of those irresponsible drivers who pull out to pass…you think, only to realize he wasn’t just passing but pulling out because the car in front of him had braked, maybe to make a turn? I usually see this on a country road or a two lane highway where the speed limits are greater than in town. I’m driving along and see the car pull out only to have to slam my brakes on because I couldn’t see the car ahead of him had slowed, couldn’t see his brake lights. A brake light warning might have been nice.

Have you ever had one of those sales clerks who make you feel like the fact you’re buying something is intruding on their personal time and space? How dare I want to shop?

On the other hand, how about those waitresses who are inhospitable, tossing down menus and leaving you sitting, waiting for service? The direct opposite are the ones who are so bright and cheery, the “Hi, my name’s Barbie and I’m your server today. Can I take your order?”

Telemarketers, how could I forget them? First, they are incoherent. Whether this is because of an accent or because they read from their script so fast it doesn’t make sense, I don’t know. What I do know is they are annoying.

Okay, I think I’ve let off enough steam for all those irritating, illogical, and impolite interruptions to my inconsequential life that only serve to illustrate that I am not immune to the influence of imbeciles and their idiotic antics.

That’s all the ‘I’ words I can use for this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

H is for Hockey Moms



I always thought it was an insult when my son complained I couldn’t tie his hockey skates tight enough. It was a blessing when one of the team fathers took over that responsibility until the kid was old enough to do his own skates up. Where were the thanks for dragging that stinky equipment bag around and spending all those hours driving him across the city from game to game?

That’s easy, the thanks was in watching him play. That boy could really skate and it was a pleasure to watch his games. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

I earned my Hockey Mom status the usual way, up through the ranks of beginner skating, to house league, to All-Star, to Triple A. It began with one house league game a week, and one practice, then when All-Star was added another game and another practice. Hockey took up most of our evenings and at least one Saturday morning. When my son went Triple A it meant a home game, an away game, and a practice. Fewer nights out but so much more travelling.

We lived in the West end of Toronto and played games all over the city. I remember the days I rushed home from work, and did the drive thru bit, once to pick the kids up at home and the second time to feed them. I hated winter driving even then and hated the 401 highway at night, so I drove across the city by the fastest route I could find. Traffic was always bad and we were always under the gun, time wise.

Some nights I knew we were going to be late, and my son would dress in the backseat, all but his skates. I’d drop him off at the door of the arena so he could race ahead while I parked.

I remember the year we were in playoffs, and were playing in some arena just west of Yonge Street. My son collided with another player on a breakaway and fell to the ice, hurt. He made it off the ice wirh some help. Sitting on the half wall behind, his feet on the bench, the coach loosened his skate and applied ice to his ankle. I stayed in my seat, knowing better than to be the hovering Mom and embarrass him while he was being brave.

I could hear the coach talking to him, wanting to know if he could play and saw my son nod yes. With his skate tied tight, he jumped off the wall…and it was game over. His injury was more severe that we’d realized, and a hospital trip was in my immediate future. Turned out it wasn’t the ankle at all; he’d fractured his tibia, just below the knee. In emergency that night he was given a splint and an appointment the next morning with an orthopaedist. He ended up in a bright blue fibreglass cast from his toes to his groin, and we were done hockey for the year.

My grandson, Cole, at hockey, age 5.
The parents who support their kids in organized sports form a bond, cheering on their own kids and their teammates. It’s a group that may meet again, year after year, with some leaving, and others joining the pack, but everyone eager to watch their kids play. Neither sleet nor snow nor freezing cold will stop them from cheering the team on and giving their support, win or lose.

My daughter has a son of her own now, and he’s just finished his first year of hockey. Her creds were earned years ago, for she attended every one of her brother’s games, just as I did. She laughs about what a Hockey Mom she’s become, and has an idea what’s in store for her if her son’s obsession with hockey stays this keen.

 
 
 
 
Oh well, where else would you want to spend a cold winter’s evening?

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

G is for Girls


 
 
For many years my time as a grandmother was all about pink, and princesses, and all those girly things. There were tea parties, pretend spas doing our nails and hair, and movie time snuggles.

I remember frilly dresses, hair bows and fancy shoes. I remember denim with embroidered flowers, and hats, all the hats I’ve made through the years.

Now, mothers and daughters are a whole other issue and could fill my writing forever. There’s a special bond there, at times tenuous, but always present.

My girls are growing up now. You can see their unique personalities developing, each special in their own way. It’s sad in a way, for those years when they were small were so much fun, and never to be forgotten.

Thank you for the memories, love you all.

Monday, 7 April 2014

F is for Fudge


What are your memories about fudge, that creamy sweet confectionary delight?

I remember being on my honeymoon in Niagara Falls, (I know, how cliché), and touring the shops close to our hotel. There was a store that sold only fudge, and you could watch them make it from beginning to end. They had huge copper kettles they mixed it in and poured it out on a marble slab to set. From there it was cut into ¼ pound pieces and wrapped for sale.

Those packages of fudge can be seen for sale in special displays, usually in some artsy/crafty store that serves the tourist trade. One of my favourite stores is called Taste of Country, in Belleville. The last time I was there, and it’s been far too long because of this terrible winter, my friend bought some of this fudge and shared. And as a true friend, I couldn’t let her indulge in that sinfully sweet treat all alone. It was soooooo good.

I remember when the kids were small, the mother of one of their friends made homemade fudge for Hallowe’en. It was one of the first stops we made when trick or treating. I have a recipe for a peanut butter fudge, haven’t made it in years.

My grandmother made fudge using a jar of mallow cream, similar to marshmallows. I finally found a recipe that called for this, if you can find it in your local grocery. Here’s the recipe.

 
Creamy Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar
¾ cup margarine
6 oz can evaporated milk
12 oz pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
7 oz jar of marshmallow cream
1 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla
 
Combine sugar and margarine with milk; bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes over medium heat; stirring constantly (mixture scorches easily). Remove from heat; stir in chocolate pieces until melted. Add marshmallow cream, nuts and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour into greased pan and cool. Cut into squares. Cool in refrigerator.

This recipe is from the ‘Our Favourite Recipes Cookbook’, published by the Camborne Public School parents and staff. 1982. When I like a cookbook I keep it for a long time, and the people listed in this book were my friends and neighbours from the village.

Another fudgy recipe I found is this cake recipe called Tunnel of Fudge Cake. This is an old recipe, updated by Pillsbury as some of the original ingredients are no longer available. TIP: Nuts are essential for the success of this recipe. This cake has a soft filling so ordinary testing with a tooth pick cannot be used. Accurate oven temperatures and baking time are required.

CAKE

1 ¾ cup sugar
1 ¾ cup margarine or butter, softened
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 ¼ cup All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts

Glaze

¾ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup cocoa
4-6 TB milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan or 10 inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and margarine, beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, level off, By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended.

Spoon batter into greased and floured pan; spread evenly. Bake for 58-62 minutes.

Cool upright in pan on wire rack for 1 hour; invert onto serving plate. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, blend ¾ cup powdered sugar and ¼ cocoa and enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake allowing some to drizzle down sides.
 
Darn, now I'm in the mood for chocolate, but I'm missing some ingredients for the above recipes. I guess plain old brownies will have to suffice. I think I can make do with that.