Category Archives: cooking

Ten Cheap Valentine’s Gifts Moms Will Appreciate…

I know I’m a little early for this…most men will probably be hitting the stores on Sunday.  Forget lingerie that requires an instruction manual to put on…I would like to offer this list of ideas for inexpensive gifts for the mother in your life:

1. Let her sleep in on the weekend.  Feed the kids breakfast.  Get them dressed.  Keep them quiet.  For bonus points: bring her breakfast in bed after two hours. 

2. Pick up your socks.  Put them in a hamper near you.  If you’re feeling really generous, do a load or two of laundry (in the correct temperature), fold it, and put it away.

3. Empty the dishwasher.  Put the dishes in the correct places in the kitchen.  Don’t leave the ramekins on the counter and claim you don’t know where to put them.

These are ramekins (the dishes, not the food)...put them in the cupboard...

4. Her own snacks.  Does she love Ruffles Sour Cream and Bacon potato chips?  Buy a bag just for her, and hide it from the kids.

5. An hour of uninterrupted bathroom time.  Shaving one’s legs in the shower just isn’t practical sometimes.  Threaten to subject the kids to watching golf on TV if they disturb her!

6. Fuzzy slippers.  Check her shoes to make sure you buy the right size.  Most of us have cold feet in the winter.  If her toes are warm, she’ll be a happy girl.

Happiness is warm tootsies...

7. Make dinner for the family.  Try to find the ingredients/dishes you need yourself.  It doesn’t matter what it is (with some obvious exceptions)…food always tastes better when someone else cooks it.

8. Quiet time.  Take the kids out for a minimum of two hours, and leave her with the house to herself.  Give her a call when you’re on the way home, so she can avoid the kids catching her in mid-dance move.

Make sure if your kids are going to see this, that their friends are with them!

9. Movie night at home.  Let her pick a movie she wants to see and watch it with her.  Bite your lip if you’re tempted to complain about the lack of ninjas or machine guns.  Agree with her when she comments on how attractive the male lead is.

10. Kiss her and tell her you love her.  Cup her face in your hands and look deep into her eyes when you say it.  

There’s nothing to keep you from doing the whole list if you want to…I’m sure your actions will be rewarded!  If you print out this post and save it, these suggestions work equally well for Mother’s Day!

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Filed under cooking, family, rants, satire, shopping

A Cutie, A Cake, Cars, Cousins and Confusion…

It’s been another busy week…welcome to another random chapter of my crazy existence!

1. A Cutie.  While digging through old photos looking for a picture of my paternal grandparents (I didn’t find it), I found this gem from early 1963.  That’s me a few months before I turned two (no cat’s eye glasses yet!).

Wendy as a toddler...Ohio, 1963...I still have those cheeks!

 2. A Cake.  We’re big fans of the Food Network and TLC at our house…we especially love watching cake shows like Cake Boss, and The Next Great Baker.  One of the cakes we see a lot is Red Velvet Cake…Hope wanted desperately to try it!  On Friday night, she went on the Internet, and printed out a recipe (Google it…I don’t know which one we used!).  The recipe called for two tablespoons of red food colouring…we didn’t have quite that much, but it still came out very nicely.  The cream cheese icing makes it though!  The only drawback is having to find space in the fridge for the cake.

Hope's and my Red Velvet Cake...

Doesn't it look delicious?

3. Cars.  I told you earlier about Jim’s issue last week with our Toyota Corolla.  Well, the news from the transmission place wasn’t good…with almost 300,000 kilometres on it, spending another $1500+ to repair the car wouldn’t be very smart.  We just forked over $1500 to fix our van.  So…we’ve got a “new to us” car, a 2005 Mazda 6.  Jim is very happy…he likes sporty cars (I’d be happier if it was automatic!).  When Kaylee and Scott found out we weren’t going to keep the Toyota, they offered to buy it.  Scott’s Acura Integra isn’t a very practical family car, and he’s capable of doing a lot of the work on the Toyota himself.  Jim sold it to him for the cost of the winter tires we just put on last fall.  Win-win for everybody!

Jim's New Baby...

4. Cousins.  I also found this picture of me and some of my cousins (ca. 1982) while looking through photos.

Left to right: Me (back in the days of the perm), my brother Jeff, Barb, Darin, Larry, and Sandy

These last two didn’t come along until later:

Caryn and Ron, ca. 1986

My mom was the second of four sisters…each sister had a girl and a boy.  My cousin, Barb, was nine months younger than I was…we used to spend hours playing in her toy-filled bedroom.  She had more Barbie dolls and clothing than I’d ever seen!  Barb’s younger brother, Darin, was nine months younger than my little brother, Jeff…Darin was into cars and trucks with sirens.  When we stayed at Barb and Darin’s house, I remember having chocolate ice cream for breakfast on more than one occasion…we loved going to visit them!  My cousin, Larry, was ten months older than I was…it was he that I had the famous Iced-Tea Chugging Contest with.  His sister, Sandy, was three years older than I was…she had a major crush on Bobby Sherman when we were teenagers.  We six cousins had a wonderful time playing water volleyball in my Aunt Judy‘s back yard swimming pool!

My cousins Caryn and Ron were considerably younger than we were (their mom is my mom’s youngest sister).  My Grandma had a bed on the living room floor where she spent her days…her spine had deteriorated due to osteoarthris.  I remember Caryn when she was three years old sitting beside Grandma…that little girl was the perkiest kid I’d ever run across…she was always talking!  The last time I saw Ron, he was about 15 months old…he was running around the pool wearing a dripping disposable diaper which had swollen to three times its original size with water, and was threatening to come off any minute!  It didn’t bother him a bit…he just kept going!  It still makes me giggle thinking about it!

Today, all my cousins (except Ron – he’s only 25) have kids of their own.  I’ve only met a couple of them, but have enjoyed getting to know “the second generation” on Facebook…very talented bunch!

My family is currently planning a family reunion, which I won’t be able to attend due to time and distance…I miss them all and wish I could be there!  I’m hoping they take lots of pictures!

5. Confusion.  We were eating supper on Sunday night when Anna asked, “Is the Super Bowl live?”  My children have led sheltered lives, at least when it comes to major league sports…

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Filed under cooking, family, food, memories

Flax, Fishing, Flickr, Flatulence, and Frustrations…But the Alliteration Stops Here…

It’s been another “can’t get out of my own way” week…here are some of the highlights:

1. Flax.  Spurred by my friend Suzanne’s success with homemade bagels,  I decided to give them a try.  I make bread a lot, but have only tried to make bagels one other time (with disappointing results!).  I eat a bagel (with jam) every morning for breakfast…my favourite flavour is “Sunflower Flax,” so I looked for a recipe for Flax Bagels online (thank you, Kristin!).  The recipe I used recommended dividing the dough into small balls before forming the bagels by sticking your thumb through the ball and stretching the hole a bit.  The boiling time was also quite a bit longer than Suzanne recommended: 5 minutes (I compromised with about three minutes).  One thing I learned is that I should have loosened the bagels from the cookie sheet right after I took them out of the oven…as they cooled, the sugar water stuck them to the tray like glue (even though I oiled the pan first).  Here are six of my 18 “beauties”:

Flax Bagels...they tasted as good as they look!

2. Fishing.  One of Jim’s work colleagues invited him to visit his ice-fishing hut this past weekend (we wanted to go, but were too busy ferrying kids around – maybe next weekend!).  I’ve loved to fish since I was a kid in Rednersville in Prince Edward County, Ontario…the best part of fishing is digging for the worms!  My younger brother and I would buy fish hooks at our neighbourhood store (2 for 5 cents), and take our rods down to the Bay of Quinte.  Mostly, we caught sunfish, perch, and large and small-mouthed bass…we always threw them back (the only fish we ate then came in stick form, and the Bay was known for its mercury contamination).  One day, I caught a big catfish. Unfortunately, it had swallowed my hook…I tried and tried to get it out (I even went home and got Dad’s needle-nosed pliers!).  After an hour-and-a-half, I reluctantly cut the line, knowing that the fish would probably die…what a decision for an eleven-year-old!  I was a guilty mess for the rest of the day!

The last time I was fishing was about seven years ago, when Hope was five…we took the kids to a Fish Farm, where they had a pond stocked with speckled trout.  You could catch as many as three fish, and pay, based on the weight of what you caught.  Hope has a rather short attention span…she was done in about three minutes.  I took over her pole (Anna stuck with it!).  We got our three fish, and took them home.  Once they were cleaned and filleted (a part of fishing I refuse to do), I stuffed them with fresh mushrooms and baked them in the oven…yummy!

Jim and I got fishing licenses the first summer we lived at Hammond River, but never ended up going fishing…maybe this summer!

3. Flickr.  Anna got a spiffy new camera on the weekend, the Nikon D3100.  The plan is for her to start building her portfolio for her post-secondary education (she graduates in 2012).  She’s been borrowing Jim’s zoom lens and taking photos of our back porch wildlife.  Anna has a new account on Flickr if you want to see more (link also under “Photos” at right).

One of our kamikaze squirrels...someone should tell them that plastic isn't good to eat! (Photo by Anna Matheson)

 

4. Flatulence.  The other day, I was having a spirited conversation with a customer at the bookstore about the beauty of structural details in old buildings.  We were standing in front of the “Technical” section…I heard a series of small explosions as he stepped quickly away from me, excusing himself.  Whoo-eee!  I don’t know what the man had for breakfast, but my money’s on beans!  I bit my lip, trying hard not to laugh…it doesn’t take much to get me going…I wonder sometimes if I was a 10-year-old boy in another life!

5. Frustrations.  We had another snowstorm yesterday, which dropped another foot on us, and gave the kids another snow day, their fifth one this winter (it came at the end of the high schoolers’ exams, and two “turn-around” days, so the older kids had a whole week off!).  Since Jim had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, his boss suggested he work from home in the morning.  I decided to take a “snow day” too.  I stayed in my jammies all day, stepping away from the computer every once in a while to break up arguments in the family room (and load the dishwasher with millions of cups and bowls!). 

Jim left for the doctor’s office around two…the snow was a blizzard by then!  He texted me to let me know he’d made it to the office, and then called once he was finished with his appointment.  He advised that he was going to pick up a prescription and then return home.  My dad called at 4:00 from the bookstore to say that he was planning to close early and come home…he wanted to know how the driveway was.  I told him our plow guy hadn’t come yet, but he’d probably make it in if he hurried!  Fifteen minutes later, Jim called to tell me the transmission on the car had died a mile down the road…he was waiting for a tow truck, and directing people around the car, which was still in the roadway.  Luckily, our neighbour who lives in the house near where he broke down invited Jim in to get warm while he waited…he usually wears several layers of clothing (he once went to work with two pairs of pyjama pants under his jeans), but had left the house in a hurry in the afternoon (at least there was a toque and gloves in the car!).  He finally got home about 5:15…the tow truck driver had kindly dropped him off (for just over $140, it was the least he could do!).  So our Toyota is sitting at the transmission repair place in Saint John waiting for parts, in line behind several other vehicles whose parts were delayed by the snowstorm.  Did I mention we just had our van towed to the garage on Monday to have the problems with the power steering and the blower fixed (tally for that is over $1000 so far – they found some rusty lines)?  Thankfully, Jim’s parents will lend us a car until we have at least one of our vehicles back!

I got to bed late last night after a long distance phone call to a dear friend who’s going through a big crisis in her life.  Apparently, I neglected to set my alarm, and woke up an hour late this morning (and spent ten minutes looking for Anna’s cheerleading shorts, and then her coat).  I’m hoping people won’t notice that I haven’t had a shower…

At least I’m not farting…

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Filed under books, cooking, family, memories, nature, self-discovery

A Premature Passing; Pecans, Pesto, and Pizza; and the Plowman Pops In…

The past week was pronounced…no matter how I persevered, people persisted in being a pain in my patoot:

1. A Premature Passing.  On Wednesday night, I was poking into the family photo albums, looking for the prized pictures of phenom puck-passer, Wayne Gretzky, for the post I published for his prestigious birthday.  As I perused the pages, my dad was peering over my shoulder.  “Oh, was that when Anna was cremated?  You looked good there!” he proclaimed.

Taking pains to prevent the peals of laughter that would probably provoke my pop, I parried with “I think we’ll wait until after Anna dies to cremate her (my very much alive 16-year-old was standing next to me at the time).” 

Putting on a pained expression, Dad picked up on his mistake.  “You know I meant christened,” he pouted.

Anna...not quite ready to be cremated...

 

2. Pecans, Pesto, and Pizza.  Thursday, the “powers that be” proclaimed a snow day for public school pupils.  My “pets” pronounced it “Piss Off A Parent Day.”  Anna and Hope passed the day at the bookstore with me, plundering my purse for every penny.  They prevailed that they were “parched” and might “perish” if their pleas for payment were pooh-poohed.  When not pestering me, they picked at each other.  Anna proposed patronizing Pomodori for supper.  Jim and I permitted it, since I had no prior plan for our evening meal.  I ordered the Spinach Salad with Sugared Pecans, Feta, and Figs, something I’d been pumped to partake of.  The progeny both had Chicken Pesto Pizza, and Jim got Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza with hot peppers.  After paying with pre-purchased gift cards, we polished off our plates, and the girls took some pizza home in a package.

3. The Plowman Pops In.  I preach to people I know that I’ve got “the best plow guy in the world.”  He was that every other day but last Thursday.  On our way home from Pomodori, my phone rang.  My dad called to tell me he was stuck partway down the driveway…he had tried to power his way through the plentiful snowdrifts…the plow guy had not been there at all that day.  As we approached, we saw Dad shovelling behind the paused vehicle.  That was when the plow guy made his appearance, approaching from the other direction.  Jim parked by the side of the road, and the girls and I plunged through the knee-deep snow towards the house to get more shovels.  When we got there, we were exhausted.  I changed my socks and was at the door putting on my boots, when the plow guy came to the door.  He asked if I wanted to pay him!  I was more than a little peeved, thinking I’d be more inclined to pay him if he’d shown up before my dad’s car got buried up to its rims in pesky precipitation!  I wrote him a cheque (a preposterous amount, since he hadn’t asked for payment all winter!), and then waited as he plowed near the house so that I could get back out to where Dad’s car was.  I made it just in time for his car to be freed, and for Jim’s battery to die at the end of the driveway.  Dad parked his car in front of the garage, and then helped me push Jim’s car until it started again.  It was after 8 by the time we got in the house!  We plunked down on the couch.  We were all pooped!  Our pooch was pleased to see us…he parked himself on my chest and pushed his head up under my chin.  After a few minutes of “puppy love” the pains of our predicament were forgotten…

Puppy Love...(photo by Hope)

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I’m a Little Bit ADD, I’m a Little Bit Rock and Roll (With Apologies to the Osmonds)…

Fasten your seatbelts, readers…it’s going to be a bumpy ride…I’ll be going through topics faster than my kids can make ice cream disappear.  You’ll laugh; you’ll groan; you’ll salivate; you’ll wish you were having dinner at my house!

1.  Best. Candy. Ever.  Utah didn’t just give us the Osmond family…they also have the Sweet Candy Company which makes the best candy ever: Raspberry Sticks, which are described on the package as “raspberry jelly centers dipped in luscious milk chocolate” (this is NOT a lie!).  I discovered these bits of deliciousness at our local Co-Op when they were marked down after Christmas last week…I bought three boxes…unfortunately, they were gone when I went back for more last night!

Sweet's Raspberry Sticks...

2. Did You Miss a Post?  It seems that my blog host may have been having issues last week…just wondering if everyone who subscribes got notice of my Friday post on the Bay of Fundy…it was a “rerun” from the early days.  I wasn’t the only one having problems: my friend Renée at Life in the Boomer Lane moved her blog to a different host, and her subscribers aren’t getting their notifications (if you’re a fan of Renée’s, the link in my “She Said” blogroll still works!).  Poor Todd at Todd Pack’s Messy Desk put up a post on Thursday that got far fewer comments than usual…he thought the post was bad, but I tried to access it twice, and got the message “Post Not Found” both times!  He ended up taking it down.

3. Cooking Up a Storm.  Jim cooked twice last week, making a turkey dinner with dressing, mashed pototoes, and vegetables last Sunday (and Grammie Clark’s cheesecake for dessert!), and a lovely seafood chowder on Wednesday (with homemade biscuits!).  This past Sunday, I used frozen tomatoes from our garden to make some more pizza sauce (took several hours to cook them down), and made a deep dish pizza (which I forgot to photograph before people dove into it!).  For dessert, we had sour cream chocolate cake.

Homemade Pizza Sauce...I wish you had "Smellovision"...yum!

Leftover Pizza...I cooked the dough a little too long, but it tasted good!

 

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake...sinfully delicious!

4. Mr. James to the Rescue (Again).  When I came downstairs Sunday morning, Dad informed me that Jake was “having trouble” again.  He’d obviously gotten into something he shouldn’t have, and was pooping everywhere (Jake, not my dad!).  Consequently, the fuzzy white hair on his rear end wasn’t so white any more (still Jake).  After giving the dog a bath, I called our resident hairdresser and dog groomer, Jim (aka “Mr. James”) downstairs to do a quick trim on our schoodle’s bum.  I love that man!  We decided it would be best to sterilize the scissors with a little bleach before putting them in the dishwasher…

5. Valentine’s Day.  I’m finally taking down the Christmas books display at the bookstore and replacing it with a Valentine’s Day-themed selection.  Books with the word “love” in the title will be 10% off for the next little while…

Lover's Secrets...10% off...any takers?

6. Crossing Guards With Magical Powers.  As Jim and I were watching our usual Wednesday night comedies on ABC, a commercial that featured a crossing guard caught my cynical eye: she stops the kids in the middle of traffic to take a decongestant (?!!).  Jim helpfully pointed out that she had also stopped the traffic: “She’s an omnipotent crossing guard!” he declared.  I thought The Omnipotent Crossing Guard would make a great blog title.

7. Off the Map.  Speaking of ABC, I’m loving the new drama by the creators of Grey’s Anatomy, Off The Map.  It’s got interesting plotlines and characterization, cool guest stars (Michael McKean and Cheech Marin, so far), and a leading man from New Zealand named Martin Henderson, whose pecs are as sexy as his accent (don’t worry, guys…there are beautiful women on it too)!

Martin Henderson as Dr. Ben Keeton...hot in the jungle...

8. Just Call Me ‘Ms. Technical’.  Yesterday, Dad’s monitor started flickering for no apparent reason.  I got on the phone with Jim (the computer tech), who advised me to try my monitor to see if if would work.  After unhooking Dad’s heavy old-style monitor and hauling it down off the desk out of the way, I carried my slim-line monitor over from my office across the hall, only to find that it didn’t have the right connector to plug into Dad’s computer.  I carried my monitor back, and hooked it back up again.  I only swore a little bit.  Then I went into the back room and pulled out the old (massive) monitor to try it.  I connected it to Dad’s computer (right connection, but no picture…hurrah!).  Still flickering though, from what I could see.  Unhooking it again, I was getting ready to put it away when Dad insisted on carrying it for me (have you ever been offered help when you didn’t really want it?…sigh).  After reconnecting the regular monitor, the problem persisted, and I did a Google search, which suggested that if it wasn’t the monitor, it was likely the video card.   I called Jim again, who said he would look at it in the morning.  After we got home, I floated my “video card theory” for Jim, and was shot down.  Fast forward to this morning:  I turned on Dad’s computer and the monitor was fine.  I forgot the standard advice offered every week by the technicians on The IT Crowd: “Have you tried turning it on and off?” 

9. I’m the Last One Picked for Wii Games Too.  The kids conned me into playing Wii with them the other night.  I totally suck at baseball and tennis…at least I started to get the hang of bowling halfway through!  Damn that hand-eye coordination…I wonder if they have word games for Wii?

10. Classic Albums Live: The Who

Where?  The Imperial Theatre. 

When?  Saturday night. 

What?  An amazing group of musicians recreating the “Who’s Next?” album. 

Why?  I bought Jim tickets for Christmas, and we desperately needed a Date Night!

How?  Very skillfully!  This was our second Classic Albums Live show (we saw the Supertramp: Crime of the Century show last year and it was equally great!).  The band did an excellent job recreating the album note-for-note, and this folkie girl was instantly transported back 35 years to her “headbanger period” (age 15-16).  All the musicians and singers were very talented, and the drummer was awesome! 

If you have a chance to see a Classic Albums Live show, I’d heartily recommend it!

This concludes your tour through my rather addled Tuesday brain…I hope that the transitions didn’t cause any whiplash!

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Welcome to Hammond River…

Today, I’m guest hosting at my friend Maura’s blog, 36 x 37, while she’s working on a special assignment…I’d like to thank Maura for trusting me to “mind the store” while she’s away.  For my regular readers, please check out my post (it’s from my early days) and Maura’s archives if you haven’t yet…she’s an Ohio girl like me, and a talented writer!

If you’re new to my blog, please make yourself at home…the tea is always on (I’m afraid if you want coffee, you’ll have to make it yourself…being a bit mechanically-challenged, I’ve never learned how to operate a coffeemaker!).  There’s probably some Peppermint Cheesecake left in the fridge:

Peppermint Cheesecake that Hope and I made...

You might want to bring a warm coat, boots (please leave those by the back door!), a hat, and some mittens…this is what we woke up to this morning:

Jim's Toyota Corolla is somewhere under there...that's our driveway and garage in the background...

The kids were happy to have a Snow Day (no school)…the first one this year (this snowfall wasn’t bad by New Brunswick standards…only about a foot).  They’d probably say they got a Snow Day because they wore their pyjamas inside out and backward last night (a tradition among Maritime children).

As Maura said, my blog is a mixed bag…some might call it “unfocused,” but I’d prefer to think of it as “eclectic.”  It’s probably easier to use the tabs to get around…if you want funny, click “satire.”  If you’re looking for stories of my childhood, look at “memories.”  There’s a lot about the daily life of my rather large family: hit “family.”  Last spring and summer, I worked on my garden, which will be found under “gardening.”  Since I love to cook and bake, you’ll find some delicious things under “cooking” as well.  I talk about pretty much everything here, except sex and religion.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Hammond River, and come back often (click on the Sign Me Up! button, and I’ll come to you in your e-mail!…how easy is that?).  Also, over the nearly 10 months I’ve been writing my blog, I’ve built what I think is a pretty amazing community of blogging buddies (you’ll find links to them on the right side under “He Said”, “She Said”, and “They Said”).  Check them out too!

Thanks again to Maura for directing folks here, and thanks to you for taking time out of your busy day to read my “musings.”

Enjoy,

Wendy

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Bits and Pieces…

I’ll start by apologizing to my regular readers for the long hiatus from posting…it was a combination of laziness, and not having much to write about.  Here’s what’s been going on the last little while:

1. Kaylee and Scott celebrated their fourth anniversary together last Monday.  Anna put her artistic touch on a Black Forest Cake I made.  We also made cupcakes, which Hope and Brianna decorated. 

This is the cake...we found out afterwards that neither Kaylee or Scott are fans of maraschino cherries...

Brianna's cupcakes...

 

Hope's cupcakes...

 

The cake recipe was from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook…I’d like to try pairing it with my brownie recipe for a “chocolate overdose” dessert…maybe a layer of each with chocolate ganache in between?  Yummy!

2. Jim made a delicious turkey soup with the remains of our Christmas bird and some more of our garden veggies, and served it with awesome homemade biscuits.  That was a good supper!

Jim's soup and biscuits...delicious!

3. Jim was on vacation last week, but spent almost every day doing something IT-related…a great deal of time was spent building my dad’s computer for him (Christmas present).  We installed it at the bookstore on Wednesday (the same day I was running late, and Dad decided I wasn’t coming and left ten minutes early, without me!)…unfortunately, neither Jim or I remembered to feed the parking meter out front in the afternoon, and we got a parking ticket!  On Saturday about lunchtime, Dad’s monitor “went black.”  We didn’t find out about it until Sunday morning about 9, when we came down to find a note he’d left us.  If he’d called us at one of the three phones we have between us, we could have fixed it for him Saturday (my dad’s picture is in Webster’s under “passive-aggressive”)!  I discovered this morning that the monitor had bitten the dust…luckily my old one was still out back, and I got it hooked up with no help from my techie guy…I was pretty proud of myself! 

4. Last week, I was honoured to be asked by my blogging buddy and fellow Ohioan, Maura at 36 x 37, to be a guest host at her blog while she is offline this week.  You can find me over there on Thursday with a post from when I had five loyal readers my early days.  It was neat to get the invitation…it’s lovely to know that someone likes (and trusts) your writing enough to put it on their blog!   I told Maura that I finally felt like “one of the cool kids” (the other writers who are filling in are also on my Blogroll).

5. I have a famous visitor coming in the next couple of weeks…all very hush-hush for now, but of course, I’ll be blogging about her visit!  We’ll be showing her the highlights of Saint John, New Brunswick…she’s never been in the Maritimes before!

6. We got a big bunch of books in on Thursday…17 garbage bags full…yes, I did say “garbage bags.”  Believe it or not, they’d been thrown in the back of a pickup truck!  It was all anybody could do to lift them, and of course, all the corners were ripping through.  What a mess!  At least there were some decent books in the lot.  That was a first in ten years…it amazes me how stupid people can be, especially with valuables!

7. Devin went to driving school last week.  He had some bad luck in the classroom simulator the first day…I asked him on Thursday after he got home if he’d hit anything that day: “I don’t think so,” he replied.  Probably not the best answer…he reported that at least when he had hit something, he didn’t scream and take his hands off the steering wheel the way the girls in the class did!

8. I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction/support to my last post…so far, we’re doing well with our “experiment.”  Anna and Brianna de-decorated the Christmas tree on Friday, and Jim dismantled it (that’s probably a record for early removal!).  I almost “slipped” on Saturday, when Anna demanded I make breakfast for her.  I was making my own anyway (the same thing), so Jim suggested I do it at the same time in a larger pan (I was going to make mine first, and then hers, after she got out of the shower).   Anna floored me yesterday by asking what I needed help with while I was trying to get dinner ready (I needed someone to take stuff out of the washer and dryer, and put more clothes in, which she did).  Anna and Hope have even been getting along better!

9. Anna’s friend, Celia, came over on Saturday for a sleepover.  It was her first time visiting.  Jake liked her as long as she was either sitting or lying down (or feeding him treats)…standing up, not so much!  Luckily, Celia works part-time in a veterinary hospital, so was fairly comfortable with our neurotic dog.

10. I am now the proud owner of a “pastry cloth.”  After a search through Saint John’s kitchen stores, I finally found what I was looking for at Decor 8 in Brunswick Square…a thick cotton cloth especially made for rolling out dough.  It even came with a rolling pin cover: $10 plus tax.  It will make things easier not having to use wax paper!

11. Elise and her parents were here for a visit last night.  Elise’s vocabulary of words (and signs) is growing quickly…that was the first time I’d heard her say “NO”!  I warned her parents that Kaylee had hit “the terrible twos” at eighteen months (Elise was 16 months old yesterday).  I’m working on trying to get Elise to say “Gramma.”  She is also having fun with the Elmo drum set that her sadistic “Uncle Ben” got her for Christmas…glad those things stay at her house! 

12. The kids go back to school tomorrow, after the longest Christmas break ever!  We’re all happy!

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Still Learning in 2010…

Taking the lead from my blogging friends, Todd Pack, Izzie Darling, and Lady Justine, here’s a list of the things I learned this year…if you want to read the full story on any of these lessons, search a keyword or click the appropriate tag in the sidebar:

1. Our dog thinks porcupine poop is dessert.

2. Hope loves Jake enough to share her toothbrush with him.

3. Homemade rolls don’t have to be “pretty” to taste good.

4. Egg cartons are not good containers to start plants indoors in.

5. Dogs love to destroy egg cartons with seedlings in them.

6. Jim’s parents are our biggest supporters.

7. Bleachers are hard things to sit on for more than a couple of hours.

8. I am really out of shape.

9. Seeing a toy from your childhood 40 years later brings you right back to that time in your life.

10. If the winter is mild enough, spinach from last year can survive.

11. Maple vinaigrette makes spinach salad a beautiful thing!

12. There’s no such thing as “too many bird feeders.”

13. Squirrels can do amazing tricks to get to a bird feeder.

14. Some people keep their toilet paper in the breadbox.

15. Mothers-in-law are often right.

16. More people in Saint John knew when the new Costco was opening than were aware of the city’s 225th birthday this year.

17. Rhubarb runs amok if left to grow unchecked.

18. Orthodontists make more per hour than most of us.

19. Sometimes plants get a lot bigger than the seed package says they will…my five-foot sunflowers ended up being seven or eight feet tall!

20. I like portobello mushroom/swiss veggie burgers.

21. Our dog enjoys eating Popsicle sticks.

22. Cosmopolitan was a literary magazine back in the early 1900’s.

23. There is only one kind of hummingbird which frequents New Brunswick: the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

24. I love Mint Crisp M&M’s.

25. I learned what a “fisher” was, after seeing one cross the road in front of our car.

26. Before you construct a really big birdhouse, figure out where you’re going to put it and how to get it up there!

27. My dad’s a good singer, and I’m not the only one who thinks so!

28. They sell live ladybugs at Home Depot.

29. Right after you purchase twenty tomato plants, the forty you started from seed will rally.

30. Ladybugs aren’t always red with black spots…sometimes they’re brown with cream spots.

31. As long as they’re under warranty, Vogue Optical will replace glasses which have been chewed by a dog!

32. We have a cherry tree, and eight high-bush blueberries I’d never noticed before.

33. “Beaver Tails” are too expensive to buy now.

34. Hope really likes getting muddy.

35. Wallpaper is nearly impossible to find.

36. Hummingbirds are fearless.

37. The Chinese cabbage I planted is not the “head” type.

38. How to make good piecrust…the secret is lard.

39. Some people will ignore a sign that says: “Danger – Do Not Touch.”

40. Deer can be aggressive.

41. Organic broccoli often goes to seed faster than I can harvest it.

42. I love rutabaga!

43. I found out what “purslane” looks like.

44. It’s never a good idea to put a chicken burger into a toaster.

45. I don’t hate all sci-fi…I enjoy “Eureka.”

46. You can purchase a sailboat on the Internet.

47. Ripe canteloupe is not a good lunchbox food.

48. Picking things from the garden in the dark is really difficult.

49. I suck at “Musical Chairs.”

50. The blogging community is full of incredible people…I am so happy to have made their online acquaintances!

I’m looking forward to learning more in 2011!

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Charming Cherubs, Ghastly Greenery, and Other Holiday Highlights…

Christmas, 2010, is history in Hammond River…here are some highlights (and lowlights!)…you might want to pour yourself a cup of tea and grab a cookie or two…this is a long one:

1. Christmas Cabaret.  On Wednesday, Anna went to her high school’s Christmas Cabaret at the Lily Lake Pavilion at Rockwood Park.  She insists that she didn’t dance with any boys while she was there, but claims she had fun!

Anna before Cabaret...my little girl is growing up!

2. A Visit from “New Orleans Nick.”  Thursday evening, I came home from the bookstore with a killer migraine…I went upstairs to bed.  While I was up there, Jim’s cousin, Nick, stopped in enroute to Nick’s mom’s house in Fredericton.  Jim had bought a router for him to give to his mother as a Christmas gift along with a new computer Nick got for her.  Nick’s plane from Louisiana had landed in Bangor earlier that day, and he was driving from there to his mom’s.  I’m sorry I missed Nick…he has a pretty tight schedule when he comes home to visit! 

3. Ghastly Greenery.  I managed to kill my 2-year-old poinsettia by overwatering it, just in time for Christmas…this is how it looked before it went to the big compost bin in the back yard (note to self – look in the pot before watering…don’t just pour water on it blindly!).  The Christmas cactus (you can see the buds in the lower left corner of the photo) is doing fabulously, though:

Dead poinsettia in the kitchen window...

4. A “Touch”-ing Evening.  We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Jim’s parents’ house, followed by opening presents with Devin and Brianna before they left for their mom’s house.  I let Anna and Hope unwrap one of their presents too…all the girls got iPod Touch’s (I wonder if the bank will give us a mortgage on a house we don’t own?).  Jim told Hope to turn hers over after she opened it…we had them engraved with the girls’ names.  “What does it say?” Jim asked.

“iPod!” Hope answered.

Hope with her new toy and her fleece sweater from Grammy and Grampy...the brown sweater behind her is one she gave Jim...

Devin’s big present was driving lessons, but we also got him a new chair for his computer desk.  I got him a new sandwich maker that doesn’t require a twist tie to hold the two sides together…nothing but the best for our boy!

5. The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas,

And all over the floor,

A creature was puking

And leaving piles galore…

Jake had been the recipient of the ham bone from our dinner at Grammy’s house…he wasted no time in attacking it, much to his later regret (and ours).  Jake threw up all night and half of Christmas Day…during a somewhat hysterical holiday phone call, our local vet managed to talk me down out of my (Christmas) tree, assuring me that Jake was “a victim of his own excess” and that he would probably be fine.  The doctor didn’t see our water-hating dog climb into the bathtub (twice), or fall asleep standing up while desperately trying to find a comfortable position!  The vet ended up being right, though…thanks, Dr. B.!  Thanks also to my dad, who did most of the cleanup duty! 

6.  Operation Stocking Complete.  I managed to finish Elise’s handmade crocheted Christmas stocking at Jim’s parents’ on Christmas Eve while the kids were opening presents…considering I completely made up the pattern (except for the snowflakes), I think it came out pretty well!

Elise's one-of-a-kind crocheted stocking...snowflakes on other side too...

 

7. Our Green Christmas Came Early.  About 7 a.m., Hope opened our bedroom door and called up to Jim and I that it was time to open presents…I was grateful that she’d gone to bed late (otherwise, she might have had us up at five!).  We stumbled downstairs in our jammies, and sat on the couch while the kids piled presents in our laps as fast as we could open them (they did open some themselves, in between).  I got lots of chocolate (just what I need…not!), gift cards (yay!), and a promise of a trip (without kids) to Prince Edward Island with Jim sometime in the early season (can’t wait!).  Jim and Devin also did an upgrade and installed a new flat-screen monitor on my home computer (the old one was on its last legs!).  Thanks, Honey!  I think Jim liked the dress wool jacket I got for him (sometimes procrastination pays off – 40% off two days before Christmas…score!), and the tickets to The Who tribute concert in January at the Imperial Theatre.  He’s also planning to buy a snazzy new lens for his camera later on…I’ll kick in some funds for that too!

I had just nicely finished my breakfast about 10 a.m., when I realized how many presents were still under the tree awaiting Kaylee and Scott’s arrival…I thought it would be a good idea to suggest they allow extra time to stop at home and drop off presents before proceeding to their next destination after our house…Scott’s car is rather small!  I was talking to Kaylee on the phone when it suddenly went dead…they walked in the door two seconds later, a full two hours before we were expecting them!  They’d been on the go since 5:30 that morning, but hadn’t had breakfast…I switched into “Mommy mode” and started a bagel/toast production line for everybody who was hungry…

Elise had already had some practice opening presents at Uncle Sean’s that morning, and Grampy Paul’s the night before…she was starting to get the hang of it.  Jim took this photo of Elise opening her Etch-A-Sketch/Magna Doodle combo:

Elise opening her presents Christmas Day...

I think Elise’s favourite presents were the soft baby doll I got her, the Potty Elmo from Auntie Anna, and the Little People Farm from Grandad.  I think Kaylee and Scott were happy to have the portable highchair Grandad got for them…it even goes into the dishwasher!  Kaylee liked the tickets for the Great Big Sea concert Jim and I gave her, and Scott seemed to like the lined hoody I got him (plain black, of course).  He wondered if the shaving cream in his stocking might have been some kind of hint…

Elise was exhausted by the time she was finished…they took her home for a nap about lunchtime.  I started making my rolls for our Boxing Day/Christmas Dinner the next day.

About suppertime, we got ready to go over to Jim’s parents for Christmas Dinner with them and Jim’s sisters…unfortunately, Jim’s sister, Kim, wasn’t feeling well.  Her husband, Chris, came and picked up plates for them to take home.  We had another scrumptious dinner with turkey and all the trimmings, and apple pie for dessert!  Yummy!  Jim’s sister, Tracy, played Santa Claus and passed out presents.  Jim’s parents got me some more gift cards, a beautiful set of three bracelets, and a long-sleeved top.  Jim got a nice sweater, a shirt and a pair of pants.  Jim’s mom and dad liked the printer we got them, the Sears gift card, and the shaped 1000-piece dragon puzzle Anna and Hope gave them.

We went to bed soon after we got home…it was a busy day!

8. No One Was Punched on Boxing Day (they waited until the next day).  In Canada, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday the day after Christmas…pretty much everything is closed.  It was after I made everybody a sausage and scrambled egg breakfast that I discovered I hadn’t left us enough eggs to make my stuffing and Jim’s dressing later in the day.  I started making my stuffing and getting the turkey ready to go into the oven (I used my new food processor to cut the celery and onions), while Jim made an emergency egg run to Shoppers Drug Mart (thank goodness they have eggs!).  Devin and Brianna came back from their mom’s…before she left, they showed us their new chihuahua puppy, Azul, who was a lovely shade of gray-brown, very unusual colour for that breed. 

The snowstorm started soon after that, and continued through Monday until we had about a foot of snow. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon peeling and cutting vegetables for our dinner: carrots and rutabaga from the garden, squash from our garden (from the freezer), potatoes, broccoli, and corn.  Jim made his dressing, and the gravy…we danced around each other in the kitchen…it’s not my favourite thing having people there when I’m cooking!  I tried unsuccessfully to find my Christmas tablecloth and placemats…no luck!  My stuffing got soggy in the top of the potato pot because I had so many potatoes in it…I tried to dry it out in the oven a little bit.  Everything took longer than I thought it would, and I ended up serving it about 30 minutes later than I intended to.  The kids were all sitting around the table waiting by the time I brought the food in (I think Elise was already eating carrots!).  The buns were delicious…

Buns, fresh from the oven...

 And so was our blueberry/blackberry pie I took out of the freezer for dessert…remember this?

Blueberry/Blackberry pie I made this fall...

After a day of doing dishes and finally getting around to making a couple of loaves of lemon bread, I’m back at the bookstore today…glad to get back to my routine!

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Monday Miscellany…

I spent most of yesterday catching up on laundry, since I didn’t get any done with our shopping trip on Saturday.  We had to go to town to pick up Hope from her friend’s house, and stopped at Co-Op for gas.  An older man cleaned our windshield while Jim was filling the tank, and then went over to speak to another customer that he knew.  I overheard him say, “He was autocratic, but fair.”  Not a word I expected a gas jockey to say…     

After we got back, I took the time to make some Spinach Manicotti.  I was quite pleased with how it came out, since it was my first time making it, and I was completely winging the filling!  I had seen the noodles on sale for $1 a package at Liquidation World…I bought 2 (because I always buy even numbers of anything that’s on sale…I have a thing for symmetry).  I had a couple of packages of spinach in the freezer, which I thawed.  I bought two large tubs of lasagna-type cottage cheese, and mixed it with the spinach.  After cooking the noodles for the amount of time indicated on the box, I thought I could use a pastry decorating tool to squeeze the filling into the noodles.  That was a fail…I ended up standing the noodle on end in my hand, and using my other hand to fill it!  I stuffed noodles until I ran out of filling, put them in a casserole, poured a jar of 4-cheese pasta sauce over the top of the stuffed noodles, and put them in the microwave.  I still had several unstuffed noodles left over, which are in my fridge.  Next time, I think I’ll throw a couple of eggs and some shredded mozzarella cheese into the filling…it will probably give it more body.  Along with some garden green beans from the freezer, the manicotti made a tasty supper last night, and a good lunch today!

I was having vivid dreams most of the night…I dreamed that I had gone downstairs.  At that very moment, Jim woke me up because he was “having a low”…I needed to go downstairs to get him some juice and cookies.  I told him I was technically “already up.”

When I arrived at the bookstore this morning, I sat down to read the blogs that I follow.  One of my friends had included a link for some music in her post…I looked in vain for my earphones to listen to it (I don’t have speakers on my store computer).  I texted Anna to see if she’d borrowed them.  “No…” was the reply.  Then I remembered the somewhat “sketchy” girl who had come in on Friday…I had purchased a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” from her and had left her alone near my desk while I went into the other room to get her money.  Crap!  I was excited to get a copy of the book (we get lots of requests for it, but that is only the second copy we’ve had in our ten-year history!)…apparently $5 wasn’t quite enough for her!

The rest of the day passed without incident…we had one customer in, who bought one book (and three Internet orders).  I spent a lot of time looking for an image on Google for a blog post I wanted to write…no luck!  Anna and I came home with Jim, since Dad had an extra rehearsal for the Men’s Chorus tonight…their Christmas Concert is tomorrow night.  While we were eating supper, Jim got one of his “smile” fries caught in his throat.  Hope said, “They’re not supposed to make you choke…they’re supposed to make you smile!”

"Smile" Fries...

 

Anna remarked, “I love irony.” 

Hope asked, “Who’s Irony?”

After supper, Anna poured herself a glass of eggnog.  “What spice is it that you put in it to make it taste good?  Paprika?”

“No,” I answered.  “You should probably use nutmeg!  Paprika would be a whole different taste…”

Hope is making Christmas cookies for her school’s bake sale tomorrow…the school is buying turkeys for people who can’t afford them for Christmas.  I’ve been recruited to help make icing…I think it’s going to be another late night…

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