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.
“Can I throw my cup in the sink?” Thank goodness for plastic.
“Does Poppy still feed the fish the same?” Meaning he thinks too much.
On the death of the actor who operated the levers for C3PO; “I hope the new actor is good too.” Is C3PO still part of Star Wars, I wonder?
“Canned peaches are better than fresh.” This was followed by a discussion as to why he believes that canned is better than fresh. There was never a consensus reached on this deep subject.
“Is there sugar on these peaches?”
“I asked Mom if I could take my birthday off from school. Her answer “Maaaybe” in my head means no.”
“Remote control cars are fun until they don’t work anymore.”
A pedal car can have 2 wheels until I mentioned a little thing like stability and then he decided that 2 wheels does not work for a car.
This is some of the conversation between my 7 almost 8-year-old grandson and I as we shared breakfast the last two mornings. Sometimes the conversation was wordless and consisted of rolling eyes, raised eyebrows and tilting of heads. Only a Nan and grandson can carry on this type of conversation.
I will always remember breakfast with a 7 almost 8-year-old grandson even if he does not.
According to the Toronto Star, July 15th issue, macrame is making a comeback as an art form and decorative trend. I smiled as I read this article. Long forgotten memories of my mother and I taking on macrame projects bubbled to the surface. I had purchased a ‘how to’ book and we spent hours reading and re-reading the instructions. An avid knitter and handy with a crochet hook she believed that this was not beyond our skills. We settled on a plant hanger project and traveled into Kingston to purchase the required jute.
Once home we set about measuring and cutting the jute. We were able to complete our first plant hangers that afternoon. Over time we added colourful beads to our projects and before long our homes featured several plants hangers with spider plants and ivy trailing down. I attempted to make purses and wall hanging as well but always returned to the plant hanger. More complicated patterns were added to our repertoire. Then like many fads we lost interest and slowly the hangers and plants disappeared.
Maybe the resurgence of this craft will bring others mother and daughters together to create. Kids home from school for the summer can easily be taught this art form and it is relatively inexpensive. My macrame days are long gone but not the memory of fun spent with my mom.
This weekend we are tasked with the duties of shuffling one of our teenage grand-daughters to her 3 part-time jobs. When we were getting the schedule set out she requested a certain menu for Saturday dinner. She told her Mom that she would need comfort food and “Nan makes great comfort food”.
What is comfort food you ask; well for her it is my meat loaf and slow cooker hash brown casserole. Much to her chagrin a salad also appeared on the table to balance out the meal. A small amount of salad found its way on to her plate and was dutifully consumed.
Once the meal was finished I announced that I cooked and she and the ‘old guy’ were on clean up duty; a small price to pay for a special request.
Below I have included the recipe from the Mary Moore cookbook, for the Hot or Cold Meat Loaf. I prefer it cold, sliced thin, served with mustard as a sandwich. Due to the cost of sausage meat I usually reverse the quantities for the sausage meat and ground beef.
Interesting enough this week my daughter-in-law asked for this recipe as my son had been telling her about how much he loved the cold version for sandwiches.
I hope in the distant future my family will still talk about my meat loaf and comfort food.
2 lb sausage meat
1 lb ground beef
1 cup onion chopped
4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
3/4 tsp poultry seasoning
In a large bowl combine all meat loaf ingredients thoroughly. Pack meat mixture into a standard loaf pan and bake 350 deg 1 3/4 to 2 hours.
Note: Place loaf pan on foil or cookie sheet to prevent fat from spilling into your oven.
Check meat loaf after 1 hours to see if the surface is as brown as you would like it, cover loosely with a sheet of foil for the remaining bake time.
Pour off accumulated fat once or twice during baking and when loaf is finished.
When cooked carefully turn over and out on serving platter to cut hot at the table, or onto a large plate to cool thoroughly before wrapping and storing in the refrigerator for a cold supper or hearty sandwiches.
As a winter lover I am wilting in this 30 degree plus heat. Whenever I hear someone say how much they love the heat and it can’t get hot enough for them, I smile on the outside and cringe on the inside. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I think the heat lovers are overlooking people who must spend their days working in the high temperatures and humidity. Mail carriers, construction workers, farmers, gardeners and what about the fire fighters in their turnout gear struggling to save your home or business? We all benefit from these workers.
Construction workers toiling on black asphalt are making our roads better and safer. Imagine standing for eight hours flagging traffic around the site. All the trades required to build a house for families are subjected to the heat.
In my teen years I worked in the fields on our family farm to bring in the hay. It must be harvested in hot dry weather. One particular day stays in my memory. I recall drinking cold water each time we brought a load of hay to the barn. Returning to the house and after eating a healthy meal I immediately became sick. I went outside as our home did not have air conditioning and curled up under a tree and slept. Yes, heat is not my friend.
When you go to the beach or play in a pool remember those who are not able to enjoy the summer heat on the same level as you. Please try not to brag about how much you love the heat. If you do brag I promise I will return the favour next winter when the temperatures plummet and a wind chill sets in.