Monday, December 28, 2015


December is like a rollercoaster ride. It starts to build with holiday preparations and events and then all of a sudden we are at the end and swoosh! We take a corner and it's Christmas! Swoosh again down a hill and we are well into the loop on our way to New Year's Eve. And then - it's over. Just like that. As I write this it is Dec. 28. I've packed away the decorations, the tree is looking forlorn and naked on the front yard, waiting to be made into wood chips for the local dog park and I've had a weekend packed with family fun and food. 

Lots of food...lots and lots. 

You may not know it but I really do enjoy food. Good Food. So I'm just going to Eat It. If you have ever met me, you know I'm a scrap of a thing - no more than 5 feet tall and I hover around 100 lbs. People will often ask me how I stay thin and no, it is not because I have an incredible metabolism. In fact I don't know any woman over 50 with an incredible metabolism!

Well listen up - I'm about to reveal the Big Secret...

Watch your portion sizes
Get a good night's sleep

Mind blowing - I know!  

And when I eat, I enjoy it. So bring on the fine dining. I'm not going to waste my time on cheap chocolate or McDonald's French fries. 
 I want home made baby spinach and cheese quiches

or Gingerbread with a hot butter rum sauce!

How about a squash cauliflower soup topped with roasted sunflower seeds?

Or freshly made pasta with homemade mushroom meat sauce!!

So remember my advice: Watch your portion sizes, exercise, get a good night's sleep and by all means, Just Eat It!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


It's that time of year again. When the die-hard-has-to-be-a-real-tree types go out hunting down that perfect tree. You may be a Griswold and hanker for the biggest, fullest tree in the forest or maybe you are a Charlie Brown type that just wants to find a poor sap(ling) in need of a warm blankey and some love. We Crowders are somewhere in the middle. 

Now for the past number of years we have zipped right around the corner of our house to the closest parking lot where Switzers  graciously provided fresh, hot from the forest trees. After a quick assessment of what was left, cause we are last-minute types or, because it was frigidly cold, we settled on a satisfactory specimen, threw it on top of the car and took the 10 second drive back home. 

But THIS year a new Christmas Tree farm has opened about 15 minutes outside of town. And let me tell you, these people know how to do it right.

We landed at Denmar Farms to find free hot chocolate waiting for us and treats to be had.

We mowed down a couple of these while we warmed up beside the fireplace.

If you are in need of a few more ornaments or fresh greenery, they are on hand!

Then the little red wagon arrived to take us to the hunting grounds.

It does not seem to matter whether we are at the local parking lot or out on the top of a hill, tree hunting is dang cold business! 

Here is my daughter Randi and her husband Dan. I know they are smiling, but it was cold out there, dang cold with a bitter, bitter wind!

After a quick assessment of trees, we settled on one for us and a smaller one for Dan and Randi ( cute). Trees were tagged and hauled up on the little red wagon for a cold ride back.
The lovely people at Denmar Farms will then give your tree a shake-rattle-roll dance and throw it in this very awesome and festive looking machine!
It goes in one end and....
There you have it, a perfectly bagged tree!

After that more hot chocolate ensued to warm up again and then I heard a rumour there were marshmallows to roast. 

Hello....roasted marshmallows? Yes, yes, I know it's cold but I can't resist and I drag the family out to the roaring fireplace for a roasting time. You just can't get that at the local parking lot.

Here's wishing you all a Griswold/Charlie Brown/Crowder Christmas! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015


There are standard questions you will here in Canada. Things like:
Crazy weather eh?   Or
Did ya Watch the game, eh?   Or
Eh??? (that's it, just eh???)
And starting in mid November this one starts to come into play:
Eh, have you started decorating yet?

Because we all start to rummage around in our sordid storage places, push aside whatever skeletons may be in there and pull out the bins marked "Christmas Decorations."

We have two malls in our little city. One, the Quinte Mall, is the big Kahuna. It has numerous train sets we all look forward to seeing and watch what is going on in the little settings as the trains toot by. The kids especially love it and press their little perfect noses up to the glass leaving perfect little smudges.

One year someone stuck a tyrannosaurus in there with his head hanging out a window - I thought that was awesome. 

There is another mall at the other end of town, much smaller but it also has its own unique Christmas decor. In fact, when I was 15 (that was a long time ago), I would hang out at this mall before my piano lesson killing 40 minutes or so. And there they were...staring at me...
With those beady eyes

And maniacal smirks

They used to move slowly, their little hands picking up a present and putting it down, picking up and putting down. Or stabbing something (seemed like stabbing), at a pot on a stove. 

I work in this mall....they're back every year still staring at me with those beady eyes.....

But we all have Christmas decorations we love and or hate and each year we bring them out.  

This one I hang on my door. No, I don't really want it to snow, I'm just trying to be all Canadian like

These hang around the neighbourhood and are lit up at night. They make great snow gauges! Usually they are well covered in snow (but old man winter has been very kind to us this year) and I know once I see the tips of their tails we are on the home stretch.

My original stocking - older than most of you reading this. I don't use it any more but I still pull the old girl out and hang her up.

My artistic gifting (not) was really shining through in Kindergarten when I made this paper star and plastic straw garland. It still goes on the Christmas tree, in the back, where no one can see it. 

I hope you are enjoying the season, seeing the Christmas decor, good, bad and ugly that are back every year. Or maybe you are investing in something new and snazzy. Who knows... 20 or 30 years from now someone will be looking at that once new and snazzy decoration thinking "look at those beady eyes...."

Sunday, December 6, 2015


I'm smack in the thick of the Christmas shenanigans. I had a concert on Friday, a Christmas party Saturday and in the middle I had some down time in one of my favourite places, the kitchen. 

Even better, I got to spend some time baking with my baby (daughter). What a luxury for me to have her nearby after so many years of nothing but skyping! 

So there were a few recipes I wanted to do and a few she hunted up on Pinterest - a magical website I'm staying far, far away from. For I know it will suck me into it's spell and you may lose me forever. 

Every year, I like to make shortbread of some sort and this year was a pecan type. These are melt-in-your-mouth and nutty!

Then I made a long standing family  recipe of sugar cookies. I bought a couple of new cookie cutters. They are supposed to be snowflakes, but I think they look more like flowers!

Randi wanted to pack in all the baking in one night so we were busy little bees. We made these peppermint brownie cookies 

And she also picked out these adorable cube shortbread:

There is dough prepped and firming up in the refrigerator for some molasses cookies and she also wants to make some truffles. But we ran out of time (and energy). 

Maybe you are a shopper and you get a kick out of finding that perfect gift. Maybe it is the parties that pick you up or maybe, like me, it is family time and you are baking with your baby. Whatever floats your boat, I hope you are enjoying this holiday season!

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I have a problem with November. We just don't see eye to eye. It is a respectable month so, what is the beef?

November is gray
It's the opening credits to a long, cold winter

It is close enough to Christmas to start to stress about it but not close enough to get excited about it.

But I'm trying to change my ways! For one thing this is my birthday month and accolades and good wishes come my way.

It is usually the month when we get our first snow, and no matter how you feel about the white stuff, the first snow is a magical experience.

There is a delicate beauty to the landscape as the bare branches of the trees look so fragile and vulnerable.

This past November is nearly behind us and has been incredibly gracious this year with genteel temperatures and an easy slide into winter.

So who cares if November means its time to start having to scrape down the ice off of every window of the car? I can handle it!

Or how about trying to push that grocery cart through the slushy snow? Ppffffttt....please

Or the complete necessity to gear up in boots, hats, mittens, scarves etc. etc.  so I can survive the outdoors.

Or the fact that the only meal I'm actually eating in daylight right now is at lunch. 

I think I may have a problem with November...

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I  did the last of the yard work yesterday - one more bag of leaves, one more round on the lawnmower, and tucked the whole thing to bed. My roses had a hard go of it this year. So when I walked about yesterday in the backyard and found a few roses still putting on a brave face and a geranium still proudly blooming in one of the potted plants I thought it was a beautiful thing. 

And my thoughts went to Paris, and the other senseless tragedies this world has faced of late. In the face of such sadness, such pain, I'm trying to find some beauty. 

There is a story in Mark 14 about a woman who shows up at a party and pours a very expensive jar of perfume on Jesus' head. Some of those present were not impressed and let her know in no uncertain terms this was a stupid thing to do - a waste of money. 
But Jesus says "leave her alone, why are you bothering her? She has done beautiful thing to me." Further on it says "She did what she could."

In the midst of the tragedies we face, we can support one another, love and pray (if you believe in such a thing), try to meet practical needs. We can do a beautiful thing for someone else.  Even if other people misunderstand our actions. 

You may feel helpless, angry, scared and shaken. But fight the darkness.

Do a beautiful thing for someone else.

Do what you can.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Here in Canada we have just finished Halloween. We also had a time change and we set the clocks back one hour. This should calculate out to an extra hour's sleep for all those sugared up kiddies (and parents). However, at my house no one told Lulu about the time change so she was up-an-atem for her walk and 4:45. For the record, dogs are a good idea, 80% of the time. The other 20%......

But this is not about dogs. This is about cats. Besides Lulu, the white demon dog, there are two cats in this house: Sasha a Russian Blue we rescued from a shelter and Frodo my 14 year old tabby (so fluffy!). 

Now Frodo, or Old Man, as I now call him, has been a great cat. Other than the usual financial maintenance and a few nasty abscesses I've had to deal with he's been no trouble, 80% of the time. The other 20%......

Like when I started a new puzzle. Frodo likes to inspect the goings on.

This is a common dilemma for cat owners. We know that as soon as you spread that puzzle out, or open that book, or sit down with a cup of tea, a cat inspection is pending. 

Fine Old Man, by all means please examine what I'm doing. But that is not enough. Frodo feels this is an excellent place for a bit of washing up!

And now that he has my undivided attention, a little R&R with a few rubs under the chin are in order

"Hey, Old Man. It is impossible for me to work on the puzzle like this!" The cat, or any other cat in the universe, does not care. 

I've noticed Frodo cannot retract his claws as well as he used to so when I pick him up I sometimes need extra hands to help disengage the cat now permanently attached to my clothing. 

So now I have cat trouble. In my attempt to extricate thine Fluffy Majesty from the puzzle he proceeds to ruin most of what I have completed. 

Cat - 1
Me - 0

There will be no more puzzling done tonight. 

For the record, 80% of the time cats are a good idea

The other 20%.......

Saturday, October 24, 2015


I've just finished a week of holidays! A staycation in fact. But in case you thought I was sleeping in until 10 every morning and partying every night (well, maybe a small glass of wine every night but nothing excessive, I assure you), you are misinformed. 

I had yard work to do - trim down the plants, rake leaves etc., little errands and chores, lots of one on one time with the dog but I packed in so much more. 

So, here are the hi-lights!
I made homemade applesauce with my daughter Randi! First time in a long time as she has been overseas for several years. I now have a freezer full.

This stuff is comfort food to me. Add some hot buttered homemade toast and a nice chunk of cheese and you have a perfect meal.  

Did a fair bit of cello time with Morrie. 

Took my girlfriend Denise to the County for a daytrip and started Christmas shopping. In case you are wondering, this is a package of "nothing" (for the person who has everything) and it's yours for only $9.95. 
No. I did not buy it.

Found a glorious new bakery called "The Pink Lunch Pail Bakery". And it's a winner! If you are in Picton, do check it out. 

These were adorable little cookie displays. I can't imagine what they will make for Christmas!

Cappuccino and biscotti are always a good idea.

Thursday dawned glorious with temps around +15 Celsius so I slipped in a bike ride, probably one of the last for this year. 

The trail down by the waterfront was beautiful!

Come Monday, it's back to 9 to 5, in the office, in my windowless little pod. Am I refreshed and ready to back? You bet. I'm very grateful to have a job and work with such amazing people. But every now and then - a Staycation is just what I need. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I was at my parents for Thanksgiving last week. Just before we were about to head out the door, my Mom handed me a plastic bin full of pictures. 

Pictures of me.

Me as a baby (not a pretty baby either)
Me with my siblings
Me with my parents
Those awkward school photos
Me with my husband-to-be
Me with my newborn daughter 
Me, Me, Me.

The first part of my life, up to about the age 35, all nicely assorted in one plastic bin.

I have yet to really look through them all. But how strange to see so much of one's life all in one place! Especially as I'm usually the one taking photos and I'm not often in them. 

Stranger still, due to the changes in technology and pictures now being electronic, there are practically none in the plastic bin from the past 15-20 years. 

Which makes me wonder if I should start printing off photos to fill  the 15 to 20 year void that is missing in the plastic bin. I mean, I'm still here people or as they say in Monty Python "I'm not dead yet!" 

Maybe I'm still old school. But these photos seem so much more real and tangible. 

And there is something about seeing your life, all in one place. All in one plastic bin. 

Monday, October 12, 2015


We Canadians know about giving thanks! How can you not when you live in such a country as this: freedom, abundance, beauty, peace. We have so much. 

I don't know one Canadian who does not like fall. The closest you may get to someone grumbling about this season is the fact that winter is fast on its heels. It is so incredibly gorgeous around here. And we have so much. Put the two together and you have a Canadian Thanksgiving. 

Let's start with the market! I went down on Saturday and it is brimming with colour and produce everywhere you look!

 I picked up fresh beans and little baby beets. We have so much abundance to be thankful for!

But part of this post is the giving part! So I was busy in the kitchen whipping up goodies to "give" towards our thanksgiving meals. 
Earlier in the week I had prepped sweet potato and pumpkin into a nice fine puree. So I made a pumpkin Thai soup  and gave most of it to my kids. I made and froze sweet potato and salmon cakes, ready on hand to fry up when need be. 

I also made a sweet potato pie with a quinoa maple crust for gluten free guests.

And strawberry tarts for our nongluten free guests!

Unexpectedly, I was able to go to Hanna Park in Trenton to see a bench my parents had installed in memory of my sister. 

As Lulu and I walked down the path under the gently falling leaves  I reminisced about all the bike rides, the cross country skiing, the sharing of secrets or just getting into mischief that I did with my sisters on these familiar grounds

Heidi's body was cremated and there is no gravestone marking her beginning and ending on this earth. It is very emotional for me to have this place here, acknowledging her existence finally after over 25 years. 

I'm so very grateful for the time we had together, to share life with each other, even though it was so short. People sometimes ask me why I'm so busy. Part of the reason is I feel obligated to live this life for two, my sister Heidi and for me. Life is precious and our time here can be so fragile and tenuous. Don't waste it!!

Finally, for the first time in 3 years, I got to spend Thanksgiving with both my children. Even better, the family is growing! I know have the best son-in-law ever, Dan, and soon I will scoot Carolyn, Adrian's fiance under my wing as well. 

I gave them life and now, they give it back to me, doubled up! 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!