Category Archives: gardening

The Kilbourne Vine Caper…

Note: Today would have been my mom’s 72nd birthday.  This was my second post, so there are a lot of people who haven’t seen it…I am rerunning it today in memory of my mom.

Mom and Dad didn’t follow the typical path of Midwestern young people of their time: graduate high school, get married, and start popping out kids…Dad did a Bachelor’s in Journalism, followed by a Master’s in Divinity, and dreamed of going “back to the land” (he was raised in rural Ohio).  Mom was a “townie” – an artist who also loved music.  They were becoming more and more disillusioned with Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the crime in our neighbourhood.  In the summer of ’69, Dad quit the church and he and Mom packed up our suburban house.  Off we went to Southern Ontario, Canada.  After renting a house for a year, we settled in an old farmhouse on 43 acres of land in Prince Edward County in 1970.

I remember having a vegetable garden for several years when we first moved to the County.  Mom and Dad bought a big chest freezer, and Mom worked hard freezing everything we managed to grow.

Mom never forgot a plant that grew near the house where we lived when I was born in Kilbourne, Ohio in 1961.  She didn’t know its proper name, but called it “Kilbourne Vine.”  It was pretty, and it grew wild – that’s probably one reason it appealed to her.

Fast forward to the early 1980’s…Mom, my brother and I were planning a trip to visit relatives in Ohio.  It was on that vacation that Mom decided to bring a piece of the past home with her: she wanted to plant some “Kilbourne Vine” in our yard in Ontario.

Having arrived at my Grandad’s house in Bellefontaine, we set out for Kilbourne one day.  We got there about lunchtime, and Mom guided us to our old house.  We waited in the car while she jumped out and rang the doorbell.  No one answered.  My brother and I were somewhat horrified at what happened next…my mom began pulling pieces of the “Kilbourne Vine” out of the yard!  We kept our ears open for the scream of sirens, as we imagined being arrested by the Kilbourne sheriff for pilfering plants without permission.  Mom came back to the car, showing us her prize in triumph.  We left in a hurry, hoping some nosy neighbor hadn’t alerted the authorities!

We made it back to Bellefontaine without incident…the next hurdle would be getting through Canada Customs.  Having made many trips back and forth to Ohio over the years, Mom knew that bringing plants into Canada was illegal, but she had a plan: “I’ll put it on the floor of the back seat in plain sight, and if they say anything, I’ll just say that I didn’t know you couldn’t import plants,” she said.  My mom the rebel!

My mom the rebel!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and pulled up to the Canada Customs booth in Windsor.  My brother was driving.  The Customs officer was female, in her early 20’s, and was looking at Jeff with love in her eyes…she asked three questions (none of which pertained to the plant on the floor), and we were through!

We arrived home, and Mom planted the vine in her flower garden.  It thrived in its new home.  Twenty years later, Mom took a piece of it with her when she sold our house and moved in with my brother and his family in Carleton Place, Ontario.

Mom died in September of 2007.  The urn with her ashes sits on a stone wall in Jeff’s back yard, with Kilbourne vine planted close by.

I have seeds from the Kilbourne vine…I will find a special place and plant it here, too, in Mom’s memory.

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Day of Whine and Noses…

Warning to my regular readers…this is not my typical “everything is wonderful” post…

Anna and I are home sick today…she has the flu, and Hope was generous enough to give me a cold…since I’ve been awake since 3:30 a.m., I decided that I should probably stay home from the bookstore. 

AWOL Bloggers

There seems to be a rash of good bloggers lately who are “taking a break” or quitting blogging completely.  Your public misses you…please come back (you know who you are)! 

Pothole Piss-off

Thursday night, we blew another tire on the Mazda 6 when we hit one of the 30,000 potholes lurking on our local streets…it was the second tire we’ve had to replace in two months!  Seriously…it’s spring…the snow is long gone!  Fix the damn holes!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I think it’s rained every day of May so far…they’re predicting a sunny day for Kaylee’s birthday on the 22nd…I won’t hold my breath!  Luckily, our landlord was able to get our garden plot plowed for us on Saturday morning…he kindly extended it another 6 feet so that we’d have more space.  If it would stop raining for a while, I might be able to get some seeds planted, and my seedlings put outside…they’re definitely not very happy in my back kitchen:

Lackadaisical plants in the back kitchen..."We need sun, Mom!"

Cheers and Tears

Saturday morning was Anna’s provincial cheerleading championships.  The Harbour View High team performed very well…they were enthusiastic and tight, and there weren’t any major mistakes.  I was sure they’d be called back…I was wrong…again!  Congratulations to the repeat champions, Harrison Trimble High, whose performance was flawless, as usual!  Special kudos to the team from Carleton North High, who I also thought should have been called back…they have improved a lot since the beginning of the year!   I would like to give a shoutout to Fredericton High, who kept the crowd entertained all season in between performances with their infectious dancing!  They were the embodiment of “spirit” even though they were never called back!

Harbour View High team after Provincials...Anna is crouching down in the middle of the back row (photo by Brianna)

   

Network Numbnuts  

I watch very little network TV, so I was upset on the weekend to learn that ABC had cancelled three of my shows in one go:  Off the Map, Mr. Sunshine, and Better With You!  

Off the Map was the only drama I watched.  It was created by the same folks as Grey’s Anatomy (which I used to watch until about four years ago when I started working an evening job).  The acting was good, the plot twists surprising, and it starred one of the sexiest New Zealanders (not Australian…thanks, Lynley for the correction!) I’ve ever seen, Martin Henderson.  I hope you get a new gig soon, Martin!

When I first watched Mr. Sunshine, I wasn’t expecting great things.  I was pleasantly surprised though: Alison Janney‘s narcissistic character was hilarious, and Nate Torrence as her son was adorable…that guy just had to smile, and it made you feel good!  Matthew Perry‘s character wasn’t far removed from his Friends persona…the wise-cracker who just wanted people to like him.  I will miss this show!

Nate Torrence and his irresistable smile...photo from hitfix.com

Better with You was the “bridge” between The Middle and Modern Family on Wednesday nights.  It explored three related couples in various stages of their relationships.  An excellent ensemble cast made the show a lot of fun…notable members were Jake Lacy, whose combination of goofiness, facial expressions and comic timing was funny every time, and Debra Jo Rupp, whose character always said what people are thinking but are afraid to say.  This was one of the only sitcoms I’ve ever seen that portrayed couples in a fairly realistic way (The Middle is another one).

I’m happy to see that CBS has renewed The Amazing Race and Big Bang Theory, as well as Two and a Half Men.  However, word that Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen on Men sounds like a death knell for that show…the last couple of seasons haven’t been great anyway.  Ashton was fine on That 70’s Show as the brainless Kelso, but I don’t think he has the “parts” to pull this off…

Canine Cacophony

Jake is driving me nuts!  He barks whenever he sees a squirrel or chipmunk on the back deck, or hears the slightest little noise…I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow!

"What are you barking at, Stupid?" (photo by Anna)

Hopefully, I’ll be feeling better by the time I post again…thanks for letting me vent!

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Easter, Elmo and Elise Come to Hammond River…

After another busy holiday weekend, I’m happy to say that we survived to go back to work this morning…

One of the things I wanted to do on Friday morning when I woke up was get my indoor seeds started…it was sunny and warm on our back deck, so it was perfect for it.  I also made an executive decision that it would be a “jammie day”, which for me consists of a T-shirt and yoga pants (I don’t do yoga…I just like the pants!).  I set my 130 small peat pots out on some metal trays that I bought at Value Village…13 to a tray.  One at a time, I brought the trays outside to fill the pots from the industrial sized-bag of dirt, and put the seeds in.  As I worked, the birds flew past me on their way to the 392 bird feeders on our deck, some brushing close enough to me that I could feel the wind from their wings (I was glad they were birds and not bats!).  I was leaning over the table poking holes with my finger in the soil to deposit the seeds into, when I felt something on my back.  Reflected in the glass of the deck door, I saw that a chickadee had landed on me.  I have no idea what he thought I was, since I didn’t resemble any local tree in my bright orange T-shirt!  I hollered for Jim, who was immersed in a computer game in the living room on the other side of the glass…by the time I got Jim’s attention, my new feathered friend had abandoned his perch.

After I’d finished planting, I carried the trays carefully into our back kitchen, where I set them on a table I hope is high enough to prevent a repeat of Jake’s destroying my plants like he did last year!

Trays of planted seedlings...

Saturday afternoon after picking a few groceries for our Easter family dinner, I decided to try out a new recipe for the rolls…Clover Leaf Rolls.  I spent all afternoon making them…three rises…they looked amazing!

Rolls before putting them in the oven...photo by Anna...

I put them in the oven, being careful to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees, as our oven is quite hot.  Fifteen minutes later, they came out looking like this:

Finished clover leaf rolls...

Unfortunately, I baked them a little longer than I should have, and I decided they weren’t good enough for company…I had Jim pick me up some more rolls that afternoon.

While I was baking, Jim had conned the kids into helping him raise the giant birdhouse from last summer into one of the apple trees…it ended up one platform down from its intended resting place, but at least it was finally off the ground!

Remember this from last year? (photo by Anna)

I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning at 8:30…I had a 12-lb. turkey to make stuffing for and have in the oven for noon, 7 loads of laundry to fold, and mega cleaning to do for our company (Jim and the kids helped after they got up)!  I was still working on all that when Kaylee, Scott, and Elise arrived at 2:30 (dinner was at 6).  Hope had organized a small Easter egg hunt for Elise in the living room (Hope hid them in plain sight).  Elise fed Hope and Jake some of her Fruit Loops (much to Jake’s delight).  Later, Hope took the opportunity to improve on Elise’s hairdo:

Elise...hair by Auntie Hope, photo by Auntie Anna...the theme of Elise's bedroom is Dr. Seuss...surprised?

Jim presented Elise with a fun children’s CD by one of the singers from the Presidents of the United States of America (they did the theme song for the Drew Carey Show), Chris Ballew, aka Caspar Babypants.  We also gave her an Elmo building toy, which led to a rather hilarious slip of the tongue from Hope:  “Look Elise…it’s Elmo Kotex!”

Maybe "Kotex" is his horse's name?

Jim’s parents and his sister, Tracy, came a little closer to dinner time.  Jim had made his Grammy Clark’s dressing and gravy…I did the turkey, mashed potatoes, squash (from the garden), cauliflower/broccoli mix, and corn.  Synchronising all that food takes a little talent.  I realized as I was serving myself corn that it was still frozen, and took it back to the kitchen for a couple more minutes in the microwave.  When it was done, I brought it back, and spooned some more on to my plate.  It was only after I finished loading up my plate with other things, that I discovered I’d made two piles of corn!  Other people had noticed, but were too polite to point it out! 

After dinner, most people were too full for dessert…Jim and I put the food away in lunch containers, and he put on the bones to boil for turkey soup.  We chatted for a while and then I served apple pie to those who wanted it.  By this time, Elise was so tired she could barely stand up!  Her parents took her home, and Jim’s family left soon afterwards. 

We watched Amazing Race before I went to bed…we were all sad to see Jet and Cord eliminated…the Goths have gotta go, especially that whiny Kent!

Happy Trails, boys...you were true gentlemen and awesome competitors! (photo from cbs.com)

Jim stayed up to finish making the soup broth and finish his game on the computer…
 
I hope all my readers had a Happy Easter…I’m going to spend tomorrow catching up on all the blog posts I haven’t read yet…

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Fondant Stars, Chicken Hearts, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and Prawn Skips…

I haven’t done a rambling, random post with lots of food in it for a while, so here’s one for you:

1. Anna convinced me to buy her some pre-made fondant at Bulk Barn a couple of weeks ago so she could do some cake decorating…last summer, she and Brianna had made fondant from scratch for a cake for Jim’s birthday, but it was apparently a sticky nightmare to work with.  So Mom forked over $16.00 for 4 lbs. of fondant.  Anna made yellow cake, which looked like this when she finished decorating it:

Anna's Star Cake...she cut out the stars freehand with a knife...

2. Kaylee and Scott came over for supper on Sunday…I made gingerbread for dessert (sorry, no photo…it’s gone!).  Lucky Scott found the “bonus hair” in his!  I apologized profusely, but he seemed okay with it (of course, he might have been scared to make a big deal…would you yang at your mother-in-law about her cooking?).  Apparently, Kaylee’s hair is all over their house, and hers is a lot longer than mine!

3. Speaking of hair, I finally got to the hairdresser this week after four months (I normally go every 6-8 weeks).  My grey is gone again (Anna says I look like a “ginger”) and Heather cut about 4″ off the bottom.  I now have a somewhat sexy bob (which unfortunately accentuates my fat cheeks!).  I’m waiting for the last of the snow to melt so I can get out my bike and get rid of the extra inches around my middle!

4. Devin got his learner’s permit last week…Jim is looking forward to passing the torch to Devin as “family chauffeur” once he gets his license!  Anna and I are next!

Elise and Uncle Devin checking out "Dwarf Fortress"...photo by Jim

5. Hope, Dad and I enjoyed a feast of Chinese Chicken Hearts early this week (no one else in the house will eat them, although Kaylee converted Scott and his friend!).  I sauté them, and then add soy sauce, garlic powder, ginger, and brown sugar…yummy!  I made rice pilaf with chicken for the non-heart eaters.

Sautéed Chinese Chicken Hearts...don't they look delicious?

6. I was excited to pick up my seeds for the garden last week!  I can’t wait to start planting the indoor stuff.  I’m going to try leeks, kale, arugula, spaghetti squash, a yellow tomato called “banana legs”, and a black cherry tomato for the first time this year.  I was dismayed to discover that I only have three bags of green beans left in the freezer…will be rationing those from now on!

7. I was supposed to donate blood today, but found out that the clinic was cancelled…I’ve been drinking (water) like crazy all week, to avoid the problem I had last time.  I read somewhere that drinking a couple of glasses of water a half hour before one eats is a good weight loss tool…it makes your stomach think it’s full sooner, so that you don’t eat as much.  I tried that yesterday with my Chinese food at lunch…my stomach told me it was full, but I pretended it was one of the kids and ignored it!  Today I’m paying for that beef and broccoli…the day I stop eating red meat all together is looming!

8.  The Pillsbury Dough Boy is 50 years old today…how ironic that a big-bunned girl like me was born the same year as a guy known for his rolls!

"Wow...you made me a cake?" Photo of Pillsbury Dough Boy from about-recipes.com

9. Jim decided to make banana bread at 10:00 at night on Tuesday night…the two loaves are nearly gone three days later!  Kaylee sent me a recipe for soft pretzels, but it only makes 10, which would disappear in about five minutes at our house!

10. Hope came home from cheerleading with an injury on Wednesday…she had gotten hit in the face while trying to catch their flyer.  Her glasses dug into her nose, and her nose was dented and bruised.  Anna messed up her knee at her cheerleading practice on Thursday.  She used a bag of frozen corn as an ice pack last night.   Competititions start in a couple of weeks…I hope they’re better by then!

11. I got some awesome new cookie sheets last night…ours are getting really decrepit.  The ones I got are heavy Pyrex brand, non-stick ones for only $6 each…I bought two.  They even have the spots for cookies marked on them…how cool is that?

Pyrex cookie sheet...see the markings for those of us who have trouble making straight rows? Photo from productreview.com.au

12. Elise is getting some experience tasting international foods.  Kaylee has a cyber-friend in Ireland named Clodagh (they’ve been friends about ten years), who sent her a book recently.  Knowing Kaylee’s penchant for UK foods, Clo thoughtfully included some Prawn Cocktail Skips (shrimp-flavoured chips), Jaffa Cakes (chocolate covered cookies with jelly in the middle), and Barratt Nougat (chewy candy) in the package.  Here’s a video of Elise trying the Prawn Skips (Scott is not a fan!): 

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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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A Wilde and Snowy Weekend…

I apologize for the four-day gap between posts…even though it was not a holiday weekend here in Canada, it was a busy time!

1. Sinking to New Depths.  On Wednesday afternoon, Jim looked out the window and saw a septic tank cleaning truck stuck up to its axles in the mud in our front field…very bad idea on the part of our landlord’s brother, who owns the lots next to our house and is trying to sell them!  Needless to say, no sewage was sucked that day (although I imagine the truck driver was probably throwing the S-word around pretty freely)!

2. Lost Subscriber.  I think it was sometime on Thursday that I discovered that someone had cancelled his subscription to my blog…being obsessed with stats as I am, I was upset and hurt.  Had I said something to offend him?  Was my blog quality slipping?  After second guessing his motives for a few minutes  hours days, I decided to get over it…he “just wasn’t that into me.” 

3. Parent-Teacher Conference.  While my American friends and family were eating turkey on Thursday, I was on the Stairmaster meeting with Hope’s teachers at Quispamsis Middle School.  I met with six of her teachers in five different classrooms on two different floors.  Suffice to say, whoever made up our schedule must have known I need to lose a few pounds…the first meeting was on the second floor, second meeting on the first floor…you get the gist of where this is going!  I was up and down more than the Canadian dollar!  All of Hope’s teachers were very nice, and told me what a pleasure she was to have in their classes (I’m pretty sure they were actually talking about my kid).  I was relieved because I had been dreading the encounter with some of them.  I made sure Hope was thoroughly embarrassed by giving a lot of them my bookstore business card.  I also ran into one of Kaylee’s former high school teachers (he has a child attending QMS).  To Hope’s horror, I whipped out the photo album with Elise’s pictures to show him what Kaylee’s daughter looked like!

4. Alice’s Adventures.  One of the things that came up at the Parent-Teacher conference is that Hope needs to spend more time reading.  When we got home, I took down our copy of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and asked Hope if she wanted me to read it to her.  She was unsure at first, but trudged upstairs with me anyway.  That book is quite enjoyable to read aloud, and Hope laughed in all the right places (I decided that the Mouse would have a Manchester accent).  We read two chapters Thursday night, and two more last night.

5.  Back to Work Friday.  The kids had the day off Friday because of Parent-Teacher conferences, but it was Jim’s first day back to work after his surgery.  He arranged with his boss to leave a couple of hours early in the afternoon…wanted to ease into the routine.  Hope came to town with me to hang out with her friend, Gabrielle, and go shopping.  Here’s what Hope bought for Jake at the Dollar Store:

Hope and Jake (photo by Jim)...this will be Hope's Christmas card this year...

6. The Importance of Being Earnest.  Jim and I went to see an ultra-modern version of Oscar Wilde’s excellent satire on Friday evening at the Imperial Theatre (there were references to Facebook and e-mail, and characters were checking their PDA’s).  The Saint John Theatre Company did a bang-up job as usual, delivering Wilde’s lines with the biting sarcasm we’ve come to expect from Oscar.  My favourite is Lady Bracknell’s response when Jack declares that he’s an orphan: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

7. Santa and Snow Come to Town.  Saturday morning was bright and sunny when we woke up…surely the weatherman was mistaken about snow later in the day…Anna had to be on the West Side at noon for the Lancaster Santa Claus Parade.  After an emergency stop at the mall for black sweatpants, she arrived just in time to make it into the team photos being taken before the parade.  By then, it was snowing like crazy!  We watched the parade from the car (Hope got out…she collected the candy given out during the parade, but didn’t share with us!).

Anna...self-portrait after the parade...

After a nap for Jim, and a quick supper, we were back on the road enroute to the Kennebecassis Valley Santa Claus Parade, which Hope’s cheerleading team was marching in.  The coach had told the girls to be there by 5:30…we were a little late due to a stop at Co-Op for a can of tomato paste.  The parade was forming at the high school, and by the time we got near it, the road was blocked off.  Traffic was crazy!  Jim drove us to his parents’ house, and we all walked to the high school from there (about a mile, I think).  Hope got there just in time to join up with her team.  Anna and I watched the parade, while Jim followed Hope’s team in the parade, snapping photos like a paparazzi.

Hope and her cheerleading team in the parade...photo by Jim

After the parade, Anna and I met Jim back at Jim’s parents’ house…Jim’s mom made Anna hot chocolate, and some tea for me.  I was exhausted, but not as tired as Hope, who had walked another half an hour longer than I had!  She went to bed as soon as we got home!

8. Little Wendy Homemaker.  Sunday morning, I got up early…in addition to four loads of laundry, I had plans to make homemade spaghetti sauce with tomatoes from our garden.  Kaylee, Scott and Elise were coming over for supper.  Jim suggested I make chocolate macaroons for dessert…we call them “doodoo drops” at our house:

"DooDoo Drops"

 

I took precautions and put up the baby gate in front of the dining room door, to prevent a repeat of the unfortunate molasses brown bread incident.

9.  Ridiculous Gifts.  In between loads of laundry and cooking, I had a little time to peruse some of the many catalogues which have made their way into my mailbox.  Here are a couple of examples of what people are supposedly plunking down their credit cards for: 

Cast Iron Giraffe Toilet Paper Holder - $27.95...what kind of self-respecting jungle animal wears Charmin as an accessory? I could make him a scarf...

The Hot Seat Swivel Stool...$395...I can't have one of these because they only deliver to the continental U.S....darn!

10. That’s What She Said.  When Kaylee and Scott arrived (early, as is their custom), Elise happened to find the TV remote, and turn it on.  The big-screen TV also acts as Jim’s computer monitor, and he had been looking at his photos onscreen.  Anna and I took the opportunity to show our guests some shots from our PEI trip this summer.  Jim had several shots of some very tame foxes.  Kaylee looked at one and announced confidently, “That one’s definitely a girl!”  Anna asked, “Are you sure?”  After taking another look, Kaylee said, “Oh…I thought that was a hole…”(the poor girl inherited my eyesight!). 

One of the fox photos...not the one that fooled Kaylee!

We had fun with Elise…it had been a couple of weeks since we’d seen her.  She has added the word “flower” to her vocabulary…she had flowers on her very cute little coat that she got for her birthday.

Kaylee, Elise, Hope, and the fuzzy flower coat at Elise's 1st birthday party...

11. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.  After simmering for a little over five hours, the spaghetti sauce was finally the right consistency.  To save a major mess, I decided to serve it with penne rigate instead of spaghetti, since we don’t have a high chair for Elise yet.  She rejected the old dishtowel I tied around her neck as a bib (it was clean, and only had a couple of holes in it!).  I also offered utensils, but she preferred to use both hands to feed the pasta and carrots into her mouth.

12. Nick Needs to Go!  Amazing Race is down to the last four teams…last night, Nick showed himself to be the whining dickhead that he truly is once again (sorry for the potty mouth, but Nick is a waste of skin).  Poor Vicki was struggling to run in the heat with her asthma, and he was telling her to “suck it up”!  She spent the episode throwing up after a food challenge, but didn’t want to quit.  When faced with finding a certain fishing boat in the dark, Nick gave up, and said he was going to go to sleep, leaving Vicki holding the ball again (she is the only one who has any, apparently).  They ended up at the pit stop without completing the task, and now have a six-hour penalty and a speed bump…it was a non-elimination round.  Please, Vicki…stop wasting your time with this buffoon…he keeps saying he’s changed, but he lies!

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Introducing Jake…Guest Blogger…

"Writing skills run in my family!"

Mommy’s gone back to the bookstore today after kind of a crazy week…she asked me to tell you about yesterday.

I woke up when Grandad got up…he took me outside on the leash, but I just sniffed around looking for this guy, who was on our porch with his buddy last night, devouring our Halloween pumpkins:

Doesn't he look like fun to play with? (Anna took the picture)

I waited until Grandad went back outside to work on the woodpile before I snuck into the back kitchen and pooped on the floor.

Mommy came downstairs about 9:30, looking like something the cat drug in…oh wait, Mommy had to get rid of the cats when she moved in with Daddy…allergies and stuff!  Hope had hollered upstairs and told her how hungry she was, so of course (sucker that she is) Mommy came running down right away!  I jumped all over her and gave her kisses, so she’d know how much I loved her!  Daddy won’t let me jump on him right now…he’s afraid I’ll bump my head into his sore nose!

Mommy got out all the stuff to make Toad in the Hole for three, but then Hope said she didn’t like that kind of bagel, so she didn’t want any.  Anna was getting in the shower, so she wasn’t ready for hers yet.  Then Anna asked, instead of Toad in the Hole, if she could have French Toast Bagel, with cinnamon.  Mommy was muttering bad words while she made breakfast.  She made Daddy some tea…he was lying in the LazyBoy chair in the living room.  She got him some antibiotics too.

By the time Mommy sat down at the computer to check her e-mail and eat her breakfast, Anna was out of the shower.  She and Hope started their usual Sunday morning bickering.  It took Mommy half an hour to drink her tea…she got up so many times to referee the stuff going on in the family room!  I got to lick her plate though!  Finally, Mommy went upstairs to have a shower.

When Mommy came back down, she was in a little better mood…weird thing about humans…they don’t like being dirty like we do!  She started folding the eight loads of laundry, while Hope and Anna played on their computers, and listened to crappy music (my excuse for not helping is that I don’t have opposable thumbs – I barked at the squirrels on the deck, and begged to be let out every half hour, just so Mommy wouldn’t be bored).  Daddy was watching something on TV (but his eyes were closed).

About lunch time, Mommy went outside to the garden…I watched out the window while she pulled up rutabagas and carrots (rutabagas suck, but carrots are awesome and crunchy!).  Her nose kept running whenever she leaned over.  When Mommy came in, she had mud on her face from blowing her nose with muddy fingers (I think she had tissues in her pocket).

Mommy told Daddy that Kaylee and Scott were coming over for supper.  I love them, but I hope they don’t bring that thing!

Isn't it scary?

Mommy started making meatballs for supper…mmm!  She hasn’t made those in a long time!  She used Daddy’s ice cream scoop with the release on it, so she wouldn’t have to touch the raw meat with her fingers.  Grandad peeled and sliced the carrots…it took him forever (but not as long as it took Anna to peel and slice the potatoes for the Spinach and Potatoes Alfredo – oh, my Marmaduke – that kid is slower than Mommy!).  I hoped Mommy would forget the rutabagas, but she put them in the oven to bake.

Kaylee and Scott came about 4:30, and my worst fears were realized…it must have snuck into their car when they weren’t looking!  I barked, but it didn’t go away!  Mommy ran around the living room, picking up clean clothes off the couches and chairs, firing empty meal replacement shake bottles into the recycling, and pushing the LazyBoy back where it belonged against the wall.

Daddy settled himself back into the LazyBoy, and Mommy came in to visit with our guests while supper was cooking.  They let the thing walk and crawl around on the floor…it was picking up all the good stuff that I like to eat!  I watched from the safety of Grandad’s lap.  I never saw such a squirmy thing!  Kaylee had made chocolate chip cookies…they didn’t share those with me (a little chocolate never hurt anybody…oh, yeah…now I remember Hope’s birthday party last year and the Smore incident!).

Oh, no!  Daddy picked it up…”Watch out, Daddy!  It‘s going to whack you in the nose!”  I barked, but Mommy yelled at me.

Soon, it was time for supper…I staked out the couch in the dining room, waiting in case anyone dropped something on the floor…no luck!  “What do you keep giving that thing perfectly good carrots for…I could take those off your hands!”  Daddy slipped me some meatball when he thought Mommy wasn’t looking.  They were having pumpkin pie for dessert…I’m not a fan!

After the dishes got carried to the kitchen, Mommy put down the meatball pan and the potato dish for me to lick…amazing stuff…I love that woman!

Kaylee and Scott left with the thing right after supper…they said something about it‘s missing its afternoon nap…I was glad it was gone, so I could have my Mommy and Daddy to myself again!  The nerve of them bringing that to my house!

I jumped up on Mommy just as soon as she sat down on the couch to watch TV…I think they should do a new version of the Amazing Race with Mommies and their dogs!  I’m smarter than Nick, for sure!

Nick...I've eaten Milk-Bones smarter than he is!

After the show was over, Mommy went upstairs to bed…Daddy stayed in the LazyBoy (she wasn’t mad at him…I saw her kiss him good night!).  I wasn’t lonely last night…maybe if I’m lucky, Daddy will sleep down here every night…

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Blackberry Cobbler and Light Bulb Tomatoes…

Note to readers:  I am rerunning the post below, which appeared in the early days of my blog, in honour of what would have been my Grandma’s 106th birthday today.  A former teacher, Grandma was an amazing woman: stoic and proud, and not at all touchy-feely…we knew she loved us because she fed us (I talked about her soft molasses cookies nearly as big as my head in another post)!  She sent every grandchild (there were 16 of us then) $2 on their birthdays, and kept up a regular written correspondence with me after we moved 500 miles away.  As far as I know, she probably never travelled more than 50 miles from her home in Logan County, Ohio, in her entire life.  Here’s a photo of her butter pat collection which was donated to the Logan County Museum after her death:

Grandma's Butter Pats...

Original post (March 25, 2010)

My paternal grandparents were great role models for how to live with very little…they lived on a number of small farms in Ohio, raising all their own vegetables, eggs, and sometimes meat.  Grandma made all their bread as well, in a huge, dark brown stoneware bowl.  Their last farm before Grandpa died was a sheep farm…they also had a couple of goats.  This farm had a cold water tap in the kitchen, but hot water was heated in a large kettle on top of the stove.  Baths were taken in a copper boiler.  The outhouse was a dilapidated wooden structure (2 holes as I recall) where one used the pages of the Bellefontaine Examiner (torn into small pieces) as toilet paper.  Every bed had a chamber pot tucked under it for the night.  I remember Grandma squeezing the water out of her beige, opaque stockings with the handcranked wringer washer, and the clothesline full of freshly washed laundry.  There were at least seven rocking chairs in the house, of varying styles and ages.

To save gas, my Grandpa used to turn off the car, put it in neutral, and coast down the hills (there are a lot in Central Ohio).  I remember Grandma washing every piece of aluminum foil and putting it in a drawer to reuse.  She was also a string saver.  The radio was the only electrical form of entertainment – there was no TV.  The shelves of a big cabinet in the living room were stocked with books, board games (Monopoly, Anagrams, and Pit), puzzles (which Grandpa and I did together), and scrap paper for drawing on.   On the bottom shelf, Grandma’s diaries (one for each year since the 1930’s) were arranged in chronological order.  There was never much juicy information in them, mostly weather and trivia about relatives/neighbours I didn’t know, although Grandma also used to record gardening details: “Planted peas today.”  Grandma was the one who taught me how to crochet when I was five, using old stockings for practice chaining.

When I was small, I used to love going out to the chicken house with Grandma to collect the eggs…I still fondly remember the smell of the chickens.  We would put the big brown eggs in a wicker basket and carry them into the house, with Laddie the collie following close at our heels.

Another favourite task was going into the garden to harvest…Grandma grew many exotic things not in my daily suburban diet: zucchini and other kinds of squash, cabbage, and little yellow tomatoes shaped like light bulbs.  Those were the best: we would pop them into our mouths, where the juice and seeds would explode into a sweet taste sensation!  It was my Grandma who used to cut cabbage into slices and spread peanut butter on them for an afternoon snack (I still love that today!).

Light Bulb Tomatoes

In the woods near the house, there were hundreds of wild blackberry bushes.  I never met a berry I didn’t like, but blackberries are my absolute favourite!  For dessert, Grandma would make a biscuit dough, bake it, and then cover it with berries.  We’d pour a little milk on it, and voila! – blackberry cobbler!  Another treat was her molasses cookies – soft morsels almost as big as our heads which she stacked in round cardboard Quaker Oats containers.

We ate our meals at Grandma’s house on transferware dishes – I remember the square, deep-dish plates of random colours and patterns…I wish I had a couple of them today!  Grandma was never much for fancy stuff, but she did have a large collection of butter pats, which was donated to the local museum when she died.  She enjoyed showing us her new acquisitions when we visited.

Dishes similar to Grandma's

My Grandpa was killed in a car accident in 1974, and Grandma sold the farm and moved to an apartment in town.  She still planted a garden, and we still enjoyed many meals at her house.  She died after a short bout with colon cancer in 1987.

I never forgot about light bulb tomatoes – last year, we went all over New Brunswick looking for plants, but no one had them!  This year, I was very excited to find heirloom seeds for them in the Hope Seeds catalogue (see “Companies I Like” for link).  I will plant them in memory of my grandparents.  I have a secret blackberry patch that I go back to every summer, and pick berries…I think of Grandma every time we eat them!

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Of Pumpkins, Presidents, Pooches, and Puddin’ Pop…

Here’s a wrapup of the last few days in Hammond River:

1. Regular readers of this blog know that I had a really big garden this year…we had frost last week (the rest of the tomatoes are ripening in the basement under newspaper), so it’s time to start bringing stuff in before the snow starts to fly.  I spent Sunday harvesting the remaining pumpkins and squash, and stored them in the basement…the kids each want to carve a pumpkin for Halloween (Hope’s already decided on Mickey Mouse for hers).  I also brought in about eight rutabagas, and cooked them in the oven.  Loads of rutabagas, carrots, and beets still in the ground…they’ll be okay for a while.

Here's a less-scary photo of Puddin' Pop than the last one I posted...

2. Anna slept most of the day on Sunday…her cheerleading team had a “Wakeathon” fundraiser on Saturday night.  Luckily, my dad went to town to pick her up at 7:30 in the morning…Jim is not a morning person!  She was one tired teenager when she got home…they had fun though!

The girls at the Wakeathon...Anna is the tall one in the back with the "Aeropostale" shirt on...

3. Hope was in a baking mood when she got up on Sunday…she wanted to make muffins, so she found a recipe for Cinnamon Muffins and we made them.  They were yummy…tasted like those little cinnamon donuts we used to have when we were kids!  We used wooden skewers to spear the muffins and roll them in the cinnamon/sugar mix…way less messy that way.

4. We’ve had an issue with rodents in the house again this fall…Dad has set traps all over the basement, and a few baits as well.  He’s caught four star-nosed voles in the traps, which he then puts into the compost bin outside…he reported this morning that that latest one he’d caught had been partially eaten!  Can’t wait to see that one in the bin – NOT!  Dad really wants to catch the critter that’s running through the walls of his bedroom and keeping him awake at night…he thinks it’s one of our squirrels or chipmunks.

5. Dad has a couple of good friends who usually stop by on Saturday mornings at the bookstore for a chat…he mentioned that they hadn’t been around for a while, because they were away on a trip to Washington, D.C.  Dad said that he’d encouraged them to stop in at the White House to see if the President had received the Abraham Lincoln bookends he’d sent him.  What??? 

“When did you do that, Dad?” 

“Three or four months ago,” he answered. 

“I’m surprised they haven’t sent you a Thank You note by now,” I said. 

“Oh, there was a box to tick if you wanted an acknowledgement, but I didn’t check it off.”  That’s my Dad…he’d read somewhere that Abe Lincoln had been a hero of Obama’s (as he is for my dad), and decided to send him his bookends, which he’d had for many years.

My Grandad T. had the same birthday as Abe Lincoln...

6. I smelled a skunk just before I was about to let Jake out into the back yard the other night (I decided to take him out on the leash out front instead!)…we saw one dead in the road near our driveway yesterday…reminds me of a song!

7. We took the Toyota to Canadian Tire yesterday to have new snow tires put on…while we were waiting, we visited Jim’s parents.  The guy at the service counter told us it would be an hour-and-a-half, and they were true to their word.  Jim is quite excited about the new tires…we were “testing” them on the highway on the way home…he took his hands off the steering wheel momentarily: “Look…no more wobbling!” he said.  I was disappointed when we got home to find that Jake hadn’t folded the two big piles of laundry in the family room…we may have to look into trading him for a more industrious canine!  He can undo zippers on lunchbags…why couldn’t he fold laundry?

8. Last night, we had Puddin’ Pop (Elise) and her mom and dad over for supper…it was Scott’s 27th birthday.  Scott had grown a beard in honour of his birthday.  I had roasted a couple of small chickens, made mashed potatoes, corn, and a Whipped Rutabaga Puff with the rutabaga from the garden.  It was amazing and easy: just threw some eggs and bread crumbs in with the cooked rutabaga, and used the mixer to whip it.  We had two cakes: Black Forest, and a Cinnamon Coffee Cake for the non-chocolate lovers (Devin and Hope).  Jim and the girls got the cakes ready in the kitchen, lit the candles and carried them in.  I brought up the rear, and started counting 1-2-3, and burst into the Happy Birthday song…all by myself!  They’d gone ahead without me, and had already sung it.  Everybody (except me) got a good laugh out of it!

Scott sharing his popsicle with Elise...

After supper, I played with Elise a bit…she had a great time grabbing my glasses off my face and trying to get hold of my dangly earrings.  I’ve missed her since I last saw her two weeks ago.  We’re looking after her on Saturday while Kaylee and Scott go to a wedding.  I told Kaylee she’d better have instructions for me:  have never put on a cloth diaper in my life!  I’ll have to remember not to throw them away!  Hope will help me with that, though…

9. Thanks to the Internet, I finally have an idea for Halloween costumes for Jim and I for his sister’s party Friday night…big secret…will post photos later.

10. My friends have been having some good fortune this week:  my buddy, Guy, was elected to his municipal council in Lavigne, Ontario; my buddy, Jamie, was in a BMW Mini TV commercial (click on his name to see it – he’s the bald guy trying to break the egg); and my blogging friend, Lin, got to meet David Sedaris who talked to her while autographing two books (click on her name to read all about it)!

The new municipal councillor - Guy...

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Two Thanksgivings, A Quarantine, A Helicopter Attack, and A Giant Pumpkin…

So, this was our Thanksgiving weekend…it was a busy one.  On Sunday night, we went to Jim’s parents for a combination Thanksgiving/birthday dinner for Jim’s son, Devin.  He turned 17 on October 4th.

The Birthday Boy...

We had a lovely meal: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, rolls, green beans, gravy, cucumber/tomato slices, and a delicious turnip puff that Jim’s sister, Kim, made.  I had two helpings!

Unfortunately, Jim’s dad only joined us for a few minutes, sitting way over in the corner by himself…he was suffering from a bad cold, and didn’t want to give it to anyone.  He had spent the past few days in the basement.  Kim’s husband, Chris, pointed out that Gordon couldn’t have been suffering too much…he had the big screen TV, computer, and a fridge nearby.  Gordon came up to watch Devin open his presents: he got some clothes, lots of money, and a remote control helicopter that Jim bought for him.  It was fun watching it fly around, although it didn’t fly very high on the first night…it wasn’t fully charged.

Dessert was yummy…my blueberry pie, Jim’s mom’s pumpkin cheesecake, and purchased carrot cake for the birthday boy, who doesn’t like chocolate.   Jim’s sister, Tracy, had to wait for a minute to bring Devin’s cake out…Jim wasn’t ready with his camera…

Kim invited us to her Halloween party: “Everybody has to wear a costume!”  I have no idea what I’m going to be.  Halloween isn’t my favourite holiday…Jim the smartass suggested I go as a “party pooper.”

We got home just in time for Amazing Race.  I was so happy it turned out to be a non-elimination leg…I like Kevin and his dad!

I woke up Monday morning feeling like a dump truck had driven over me several times…my cold was back!  Jim didn’t feel much better.  I dragged my butt out of bed, made a bagel and tea for breakfast, and started getting the stuffing made for the turkey.  Kaylee, Scott and Elise were coming over for Thanksgiving dinner.

I got the turkey into the oven by noon…then I went out to the garden to harvest some vegetables for dinner.  I got a couple of Red Kuri squash, some beets, three rutabagas, and some mutant-looking carrots (average 4″ long, but fat little things).

Carrots, Rutabagas, Squash, Beets from the Garden...

I took a little break and sat down at my computer to check e-mail and Facebook.  Jim and the kids were playing with Devin’s birthday present again.  It went really high – almost up to the ceiling!  I was sitting there minding my own business when I felt a breeze over my head…a couple of seconds later, there was a helicopter entangled in my hair!

The Killer Helicopter...

Jim swears it was an accident: “It just lost power!”   I think he was secretly getting revenge for the times I injured him earlier in the week…an elbow to the nose (“It hurt for two days!”), and a whack to the temple with a snow brush handle (we were cleaning out the car, and he asked me to hand it to him so he could put it in the trunk).   I apologized profusely, both times, but warned Jim that there probably would be a third time…these things always happen in threes!

It took a few minutes to free my hair from the vehicle nesting in it.  It was at that point I decided it would be a good idea to have a shower.

Devin and Brianna went to their mom’s house for their second Thanksgiving dinner of the weekend.

Kaylee and family arrived about 4.  Elise is now taking a few steps on her own, and asking what everything is.  I didn’t have much time to spend with her though, because I was busy cooking (and also didn’t want to reinfect her with another cold). 

Kaylee wanted some pictures of Elise with a pumpkin, so everybody trooped outside, leaving me in the kitchen with the food.  Jim took the photos below:

Elise and the Pumpkin...

"Let's see how it tastes..."

"Yummy!"

Apparently, Elise couldn’t wait for supper.  She also sampled some fall leaves…I let her take the pumpkin home, since she’d already licked it!

Our Thanksgiving dinner was also delicious, if I do say so myself!  In addition to the turkey, stuffing, and vegetables from the garden, we had whipped potatoes, broccoli, and corn.  Jim made his Grammy’s dressing (which Hope loves), gravy, and a sauce for the beets.

Elise was falling asleep, so Kaylee and Scott left before dessert…I sent them home with a blueberry pie.  The rest of us ate pumpkin pie…it was yummy!  Devin and Brianna made it home just in time!

Jim and I packed the leftover food into lunch containers…Jim is planning a turkey stew for his night to cook…looking forward to it!

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