During a recent holiday, family members treated us to a tour of a “Lottery Dream Home”. The two-story home, furnished by designers, is a fund-raiser for a local hospital. On the first viewing we encountered a well laid out mud room/ laundry room. The room featured lots of storage for boots, shoes, hats, mitts and all the accouterments associated with the always changing weather of this country. There would be no excuse for tossing clothing and footwear on the floor of this entrance from the garage.
The next room we entered was the kitchen and this is where our views changed. As ‘mature retired’ folks we were looking for easy of care. A mirror back splash does not contribute to easy clean. Can you imagine cooking bacon on the stove top with a mirror gleaming behind it? It would be a greasy mess once the cooking was complete. Twelve foot ceilings housed cupboards to the top and we wondered how you would ever reach items in them.
The house was painted out mainly in white and had batten and board design on most walls. Incorporated into the wall design mirrors where everywhere. White furniture was found in both the living room and family room. All lovely but so impractical for a family. Another couple of our vintage commented on how hard it would be to dust the batten and board walls. The little corners would require a q-tip swab to remove the dust.
The family room featured a dry bar, winer cooler, pub tables and a large sectional to enjoy television. A very narrow, electric fireplace was inserted into the batten and board feature. A strange cubby enclosed by open board design was piled high with pillows. Not sure what the point of this was as it could only be a place for children to snuggle and read. Having raised a family and being grandparent I can only see this as a messy, toy laden place on a daily basis.
The mirrors recurred in many rooms, including dining room, sitting room and vanity doors of the bathrooms. The lucky winner of this home would need to purchase glass cleaner by the five gallon pail.
We asked volunteers why they didn’t feature a “regular” home as part of their lottery and we were told that they did try that once and the tickets did not sell well. People are looking for the ultimate “dream home”. We have to agree that this home does deliver as a “Dream Home”; even though we may have a difference in perspective. May the lucky winner find happiness in a truly dream like setting.
A warm, sunny day spent creating a chain from dandelion stems is a happy childhood memory for many. Who hasn’t held the yellow bloom close under a young friends chin, pretending to determine if they like butter, only to rub the flower on their skin leaving a yellow stain?
The much maligned dandelion is the enemy of many gardeners. Money and time is spent eradicating the yellow marauder. There is another side to this herb. All the parts of the plant can be consumed either for food, drink or medicinal purposes.
A truly resilient plant, dandelion’s grow in pastures, lawns, waste ground, sand, rocks and even pop up in the cracks of concrete. They are the first shot of colour to appear in the spring. Yellow is such a happy colour even if we consider the plant a weed.
Harvested from lawns or meadows that have not been sprayed the leaves, flowers or roots can be used for making tea, wine a coffee substitute or salad.
By washing flowers and leaves and steeping in hot water for 15-20 minutes a cup of dandelion tea can be made. To make tea from roots; thoroughly wash roots then chop into fine pieces, heat on high for approximately 2 hours and finally steep 1-2 teaspoons in hot water for 10 minutes.
Local health food stores may offer prepared dandelion root as a coffee substitute. To make your own coffee substitute, roast young dandelion roots to a dark brown colour. Steep roasted roots in hot water, strain and enjoy.
Another use of the yellow plant is the making of wine. They are best harvested between the end of March and beginning of May, using the fermented flowers.
Dandelion’s have more vitamins and minerals than most vegetables. The next time you feel like digging out or spraying dandelions on your lawn think about the great ways they can be used beneficially.
Recently friends gave me a copy of a novel “Letters from Skye” written by Jessica Brockmole. The novel, historical fiction, is a series of letters. It begins with letters between a poet and a fan written during the first World War. It progresses to letters between the poet’s daughter and her lover and were written during World War 2. The author cleverly weaves the lives of these people through war-time and is set in a backdrop of Scotland, Paris and London.
There is an element of mystery that keeps the reader engaged as the story unfolds. Elspeth and David pour out their hearts as pen pals; sharing fears and challenges. Elspeth is able to overcome a debilitating fear for David and he pursues the adrenaline rush he craves.
Margaret, daughter of Elspeth, writes to Paul and a long estranged uncle as she tries to understand where her mother is and what is keeping her away from the family. Family secrets begin to be exposed but the author manages to keep the reader guessing where the story will take them next. It was indeed a powerful read.
I am looking forward to reading another novel by Jessica Brockmole. Anyone looking for a cozy read on a cold winter day this is a novel I happily recommend.
I have written before about the length of time it takes me to shop for groceries due to the time spent visiting with various folks throughout the store. I have shared my recent experience with friends and decided that it would be great to write a blog post about.
Three different friends stopped to chat with me last week. After picking up the essentials I made my way through the cash and walked out to the parking lot. This is where things got interesting. I had spent so much time in the store that I had forgotten the carefully noted landmark as to the place my car was parked. As I walked between two vehicles in the general direction; I hoped of my car; another driver decided to drive into the parking spot I was walking through. Trying not to impede this lady I pulled to the side of the space and hit a pothole with the grocery cart. I pulled hard on the cart to avoid hitting the car parked to my right. This sudden jolt caused one of my bags of groceries to take a header off the cart and spilled my carefully selected food into the pothole. Frustrated I began to re-pack my groceries while the driver waited, I hope patiently; oh who cares, for me to get out of her desired parking spot. My grapes had spilled out of their bag and some had to be discarded, the balance would need an extra wash at home. Once I moved she rolled down her window and told me that she was going to warn me that my grocery bag was in danger of falling but was afraid that I would feel rushed. Really……..
I was still looking for my car and decided to resort to pulling out my keys and beeping my car. Lo and behold my keys were not in my pocket nor in my purse. No car,no keys but I had my cell phone; however I was not ready to call the ‘old guy’to admit that I had lost not only my keys but also my car.
Finally I saw my car and hurried over thinking I might see the keys inside and still have to call for a spare set of keys to arrive but at least I knew where the car was at this point. Once more I searched my pockets; where I normally put them when shopping, and then took everything out of my purse and still no keys. Then a memory flashed through my head and I remembered beeping the car when going into the store to confirm I had locked it. Now, knowing that I had the keys outside of the car I stopped to think and had a light bulb moment. I reached down into my spare grocery bags and there they were waiting to be retrieved; like some wonderful treasure. I never put my keys there but for some strange reason that is what happened. I loaded up my groceries, started the car and drove home. No way was I taking a chance on another brain fart moment.
After telling my friend about this experience I offered her a few of my ‘pothole’ grapes and for some reason she declined. No sense of adventure I guess.
The big day has come and gone. Torn gift wrap overflows from the garbage; recycling does not accept gift wrap; clothes have been tried on and put away. So much preparation and it is over in a few hours.
Fourteen people sat around our table which was laden with a variety of food from the traditional turkey, stuffing and gravy to Moroccan carrots, cauliflower pie, sour dough biscuits and kale salad. There was no excuse for anyone leaving hungry.
After indulging we adjourned to the family room to check out the gifts under the tree. A surprise gift exchange yielded an amazing array of treats from hot chocolate, gourmet popcorn, date night movie CD’s, gift cards for movies, coffee and lottery. This chocolate lover scored a box of chocolate treats. I believe that the chocolate gods steered that box to me.
Later the little ones sat in a circle with a large ball of plastic wrap in the centre. Treats could be seen in the wrap. Taking turns each child would wear a Santa hat and a pair of oven mitts while the person to their left rolled dice. The object was to open the ball of plastic wrap before the next person rolled doubles. This is not an easy feat wearing oven mitts. Once doubles rolled the hat and mitts were passed to the left. As the plastic unrolled any treats that fell out were the property of the person holding the ball. Candy, gum, socks and hair scrunches were among the prizes. A few tears and lots of laughs accompanied this game while the adults looked on.
Not to be left out there was an adult version of this game. A square, gold foil wrapped box was placed in front on a player and they too had to wear the Santa hat and oven mitts. Lots of tape held the wrap in place and once the box was opened another box was found inside wrapped and taped. The game continued around the table with lots of laughter and some colourful language as the adults struggled to open the never-ending smaller boxes until Tim cards popped out in front of one lucky player.
The youngsters drifted away to other rooms engrossed with lap tops, phones and new toys. One over-tired five-year old found a bed to curl up on for a little rest. The adults were now mellow and sat around exchanging stories and sampling the dessert and cheese trays that magically appeared on the dining room table.
Many hands made clean up and restoring the house to order easy and another Christmas day has been put to bed. I believe that everyone agrees that the best part of the day was the camaraderie, love, laughter and time together with friends and family.
Thanksgiving and Halloween have come and gone. November 1st, sad, soggy Jack O Lanterns appeared on the curb waiting for compost pick up. Throughout the town people can be seen wearing poppies in remembrance of those who did not return home from various wars and conflicts. Remembrance Day has been observed at the Cenotaph. The community takes time to remember the fallen and reflect on the sacrifice.
Slowly the Christmas decorations appear on lawns and roof tops. I have it on it on good authority that the Grinch will be showing up on a nearby lawn. No one has turned on the lights yet but they are waiting for the switch to be flipped.
My daughters and I have completed our long-standing tradition of chocolate making. This year we made a total of 42 pounds of sweet, peppermint chocolate coated treats. Very few of the chocolates are consumed at home as they become gifts for bus drivers, teachers, co-workers, friends and neighbours. Our chocolate making day is a time to re-connect as a busy family and share laughs and plans for Christmas.
Much to my delight Christmas movies are being featured on television and Christmas music is available on some radio channels. I indulge in the movies like a huge box of chocolates without the calories; that is if I refrain from snacking or having a glass of wine with my viewing.
Craft shows, concerts and bazaars fill the weekend calendars for November and December. Even the mild November weather does not take away from the ramp up of Christmas magic.
Music, decorations, food, movies and the laughter of children make it a season of joy. I feel a little sadness that the feeling of ‘Good Cheer’ does not always extend past December 25th but will embrace it for the next few weeks.
A group of crows is called a ‘murder‘. The crows that come to our neighbourhood have been slipped the schedule for garbage pickup. These annoying critters can demolish a bag of garbage as slick as any dog or cat. They must have a sense of smell as they hone in on the best of the smorgasbord and rip apart the bags, dragging their favourites out and littering the lawns.
This week the murder of crows provided me with an afternoon of entertainment. The recycle of choice this week was plastic and I don’t know if the crows found this particular treat in a blue box or from a torn garbage bag. Wherever it came from they were delighted with a plastic clam shell that still harboured a morsel of food. Now this clam shell must have been a super one as many times I have been handling one of these plastic carriers and had it pop open and spill the contents but this one was not giving up its contents easily.
I watched a lone crow toss the plastic shell around on the street; turning it over and over. Finally he tossed it on the nearby lawn. He would pick it up and shake it repeatedly. Occasionally one of his buddies would saunter over and attempt to assist or steal the treat; not sure what his motive was. Like dogs around a dish of food the first crow would move around the shell pushing his friend aside. His buddies flew up to the top of the street light and taunted him with loud raucous caws.
A few of the other crows wandered around the lawn and would approach the owner of the shell and observe carefully, hoping he would become tired of the challenge and leave it for them. The first crow turned the shell around, picking it up by the edge, dropping it and circling it, tipping his head looking for a weak spot.
I became tired watching this production and returned to my book. From somewhere nearby I heard a pecking sound, not unlike a woodpecker looking for bugs in a tree. Looking up, I saw that the crow was now pecking the top of the shell. He must have a headache and sore beak today as he hammered away for at least a half hour. Finally he and the other members of the murder flew off to find easier pickings.
I resumed reading, enjoying the warm, early fall weather. Once more I heard the pecking sound and realized that the murder of crows had returned and attacked the clam shell again. Pecking, tossing, and shaking the shell was now shared by three other crows, but the shell was not giving up its treasure. These silly crows could have found other treats along the street but they were determined to not be beaten by this well constructed piece of plastic.
My afternoon of reading and crow watching ended when the sun receded and the cool fall temperature chased me inside. This morning I found that the shell was no longer on the neighbours lawn. I don’t know if the murder of crows carried it off to some place where they had tougher tools to tackle the project or if the homeowner came home and removed it from their lawn. No fear crows; this clam shell could show up in next weeks garbage and you can start the process over.
Another glorious October afternoon; one to be enjoyed reading outside. A gust of wind sent my book mark sailing out on to the sweet, green grass. Barefoot, I stepped on the cool grass and immediately was catapulted back to my childhood. Shoes and socks were objects I shunned in those days. The grass was sensual, like velvet, beneath my feet today.
My mother often admonished me that I would rue the day I walked barefoot across not only grass but gravel as well. I would arrive home at the end of the day with grimy feet. A sturdy brush and soapy water would take care of the dirt. These feet were toughened to explore without pain. I still can feel the cool, slippery surface of a beaver dam as I walked across; while looking for a key log or stick to dislodge the dam. There was a certain thrill when the water would gush over the weakened dam. Beavers are destined to build dams but their dams flood precious farm fields. Almost immediately these industrious creatures would repair my damage and the game was on.
Barefoot, I would wander across muddy fields, allowing cool muck to squish between my toes. The only fields I would avoid were those that the grain had newly been harvested. The straw stalks were sharp and would cut my ankles.
These toes and feet have matured and are not as tough as they once were but thanks to regular pedicures they have suffered no irreversible damage. They are not beautiful but still do the job and keep me upright. Sorry mom but you were wrong.
It was great to revisit wonderful childhood memories while venturing onto the grass without shoes and socks once again.
Last weekend ‘the old guy’ and I had the pleasure of taking 2 wine tours in Prince Edward County.
Friday, our son and daughter-in-law picked us up and we traveled to the County Cider Company in Waupos. We ate pizza cooked in a wood fired oven; accompanied by a glass of locally made cider. Sitting under a colourful patio umbrella, looking out over Lake Ontario, on a beautiful late summer day was a delightful way to spend time. The only draw back was the annoying bee who was determined to partake of our cider. Drunken bees must be common place around the county.
We visited several wineries, the cheese factory in Black River, and a farm stand on Highway 33. Wonderful cheese and a blue pumpkin were purchased. The blue pumpkin was bought just because it was different. Who wants to have the same decorations on their front porch as the neighbours?
At a small, new winery my son was delighted to find a taco stand in the parking lot. Freshly prepared tacos got thumbs up from him, and he promised to return with his young daughter to introduce her to this tasty treat.
The following day we joined our daughter, son-in-law and 8 other wine enthusiasts in a limo for another wine tour in the county. The ladies all wore pink, princess tiaras. This coupled with the long, white limo garnered many stares and even a few folks took our photos. Famous for a day!
Of the 7 stops only 2 were repeats of the previous day. We purchased some cider and a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy at home later. Another winery featuring a wood fired pizza oven was discovered in a very Italian setting in the country side. We plan to return to sample their pizza during another visit.
Lots of laughter, food, wine and camaraderie were part of both trips.
Of the 2 wine tours the best part was to spend time with our kids and friends.
Despite the heat and humidity fall is in the air. My glorious flowers are starting to show their age. The vibrant, fuchsia petunias still proudly show off their blooms but are now on long, leggy stems. Morning glories are climbing over the fence in the backyard. Pots of yellow, bronze and red mums are appearing on front steps. Giant, red hibiscus snuggle up against the hydrangea, knowing all to well that soon the dreaded ‘frost warning’ will destroy their beauty.
Squirrels are busy hiding nuts. We watch them scurry about the lawn with their treasurers clamped securely in their jaws and shake our heads when we find they have dug holes into our flower beds to hide the nuts. Birds are busy flitting about the trees. Saucy blue jays screech from the tree tops; while a flock of starlings complain nearby.
The air has a smell of decaying foliage and grass. Fall is creeping closer as summer fights to keep a hot grip on the days of September.
Do not expect to see trees take on the mantel of fall. The reds, oranges and yellows of autumn will be tempered with dried browns.
During a walk crickets can be heard chirping; a definite sound of fall. Evening walks now take place as the daylight recedes.
I am looking forward to pulling out my sweaters, socks and jackets. Don’t get me wrong I am not courting cold, bitter temperatures; just cozy sweater weather.
The big yellow monster pulls up on the street and gobbles up the children, only to return at the end of the day and spit them back out. Yes, the routine of school has returned in the neighbourhood. After school activities begin as well, with hockey and figure skating sign ups.
Fall programs are being advertised for adults. Those who have spent the summer at the cottage or relaxing on their decks are wooed back to exercise and arts programs in the community.
Ahh, even as a retiree I look forward to routine and the change of seasons.