Sunday, October 15, 2017

IN SEARCH OF THE GREAT PUMPKIN



Do you remember Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for the "Great Pumpkin" to arrive? Can you believe this was created in 1959?? Me neither. Linus firmly believed that the Great Pumpkin would rise out of the pumpkin patch and deliver toys all over the world to good girls and boys..

Well, Linus, I wasn't too keen on waiting all night in a pumpkin patch so I headed to the next best option - Pumpkinfest in Wellington!  If the Great Pumpkin is gonna be anywhere, it's there.


There were some mighty big pumpkins there and they take this business seriously. 


Trimming and a-cleaning are required before an official weigh-in to see who will be the "Great Pumpkin" winner. The biggest I saw weighed in over 1000 lbs.  That's a lotta pie. 

But don't worry, if anybody can utilize a good gourd, it's Wellington on Pumpkinfest. 


Pumpkin tarts, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread..if it can be made out of pumpkin, it was there to be had. 

The day starts off with a parade (I missed the parade, dang it, I love parades) and then the whole town just gets into the spirit.


Almost every third person, big or small, young and old, were wearing these little pumpkin toques. Best...Hat...Ever.

So, like Linus, I'm now a firm believer. The great pumpkin is out there. He's either showing off his accolades picked up in the Wellington beauty contest on Saturday or yet to be discovered, somewhere in the most sincere pumpkin patch prepping for his Halloween flight. 

Now can someone please pass me the whipped cream?

Monday, October 9, 2017

RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS DON'T HAVE TO GET ME DOWN

It's Monday and we are at the end of our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was balmy and warm until this morning when, thanks to Hurricane Nat, we are getting a good drenching. 



"Hanging around, nothin' to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down" ☔️ 


That's what the Carpenters taught me way back in 1971. 

Well, it's Monday and definitely rainy but it don't have to get me down! For one thing, I have the day off work. Can't tell you how many times I've stared out the kitchen window at the office on a rainy day wishing I was home puttering and cooking. Today, my wish has come true!



It's a perfect soup making day. We went to the orchard on Saturday and I had a big bag of cortlands to contend with so I made a roasted squash and apple soup.




Garnished with goat cheese and candied pecans, this soup has a bit of zing thanks to the apple in it. It's thick and autumny-warm going down.



But I've got leftover turkey too so why not soup that up as well? 




Lots of big chunks of turkey with carrots and mushrooms to start. Sadly, I had no celery on hand so I made due with other left over vegetables from Thanksgiving.




This goodness is simmering on the stove and will be perfect for supper. 



Now it is almost 3:00 and what I call "3:00 syndrome" aka Need-a-nap time is setting in. And, since it's Monday and rainy and I'm lying here on the couch and not sitting at my desk, a nap is just the ticket. 



Rainy days and Mondays - they can have their perks. 


Sunday, October 1, 2017

THE POWER OF COMMUNITY

Have you ever watched Gilmore Girls? Yes, ladies, I see those hands. One of the endearing things about the show is the quaint sense of community in the little picture perfect town they live in. Everybody knows everybody, and there is always some sort of festival going on. 

There is a lot of power in community! If I were to give you a definition (and I am) it would be "a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage." 

This past weekend I saw a lot of community power going on: We had Porchfest for one thing.


We Bellevillians could walk, ride or bike to different houses and check out live music. My friend Ted was jamming on the bass at this hot spot. Kids, dogs, people all enjoying the sense of community.

My work community is made up mostly of women, which means lots of mothering and good food. If you want to grow Community somewhere, start feeding people!


The Social Club board is highly focused around eating- chilli fest and potlucks but there is always fun to be had, like Halloween Bingo (for Sue, our longstanding employee cause she loves Bingo). 

In the office we have one area where plants are thriving. Someone stuck this sticky note on one of the plants:


Because we can have fun in Community and at work we need to have a good laugh every now and then. 

My Church community was also connecting in a big way this weekend with a Conference and special speakers.


When a community starts to form around common ideals and goals it births a culture where people begin to feel a part of something and connected.

Finally, last night we took part in a celebration of life for my brother in law, Wyatt, who passed away in early spring.


Friends and family gathered together for a barbecue to remember honour Wyatt's life. This community of family was there to support, encourage and strenghten.

If you find you and your TV are just not cutting it, get on out there and see what's going on in your Community. Check out events, head to church, gather your family and friends together. You will find a sense of connection and power is in the air. And, probably, some good food!





Sunday, September 24, 2017

TO MARKET, TO MARKET TO BUY A FAT PIG

Not only did a buy a fat pig, as in sausages, I bought everything else for a fresh Market Meal!

But let me start at the beginning. I love going to the market each week to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. Then I had an idea....why not create a dinner out of all things Market Fresh?


There was salad of market greens topped with roasted mushrooms and red peppers, Baba Ghanoush for dipping radishes, cucumber  carrots, broccoli, and some funky white turnip (that was a big hit), barbecued honey garlic and spicy sausages, roasted potatoes and beets,  garlic bread, cheese biscuits and pholourie, little spicy balls of chickpea dough. 

Dessert consisted of Raspberry pie, churros, fresh berries and, well I cheated a little here, banana bread from my freezer.



I invited some friends to help me taste the wares and review the bounty. The winners were everything, but coming in at first place were the funky white turnip, roasted beets and potatoes, sausages and pholourie.

It was a lot fun deciding what to buy for the Market Meal. The options were endless and the people friendly and knowledgeable about their products.

This is Justin, the sausage dude. He knows how to treat pigs right!

You pay a pretty price for the mushrooms from these guys but they are worth it I tell ya, worth it.


This is Bya, ladling out the Phlorourie for us. I also bought the little cheese biscuits from here and had to resist the roasted chickpeas - I'll save that one for next week. 

We also checked out the "authentic Russian food" from this very authentic Russian lass:


I'm planning on making this an annual event opening it up for everyone to explore the market and bring a dish of their own creation. 

So come on everybody! To Market to Market to buy a Fat Pig - Home again, Home again jiggety jig!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

BEAUTIFUL ENDINGS

When we start something new it can be very exciting and fresh: new marriage, new job, new house for example, and often endings can be sad and difficult. But many endings can be made into something beautiful. 

My garden is at the end of it's seasonal run right now. Today I went out to snap a few pics. After a heavy fog, the plants were wet and dewey. 

The morning primroses, once green with bright yellow flowers are turning this beautiful shade of red.


The rose bush is starting to turn sleepy brown and the bee balm has a few straggling strands of red fronds left.


Only a few short weeks ago, the phlox was white and frothy! The lily of the valley is mottled and brown.

But I find a lot of beauty in the garden right now, even with the plants at the end of their growth and blooming. 

Yesterday I volunteered at the Greg Shepherd Memorial Run. This fundraiser is in honour and memory of Greg, who was like a son to me. After a night of hanging out with his friends at Kelsey's on July 11, 2013, Greg hopped on his motorcycle and was barely a block away when he was stuck by a car. Greg passed instantly. We all still grieve this sudden and inexplicable loss. 

But his family decided to make a beautiful ending.


Each year they host a motorcycle ride to raise funds for a bursary, given to a deserving student taking the DSW program at our local college.


Motorcyclists, friends and family, gather together to honour and remember Greg.

Endings can be hard...really hard. But look closely, you may be able to find there is beauty in the ending. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I'VE GOT GOOD NEWS AND I'VE GOT BAD NEWS

If you follow me regularly you know I often write about my biking adventures. Just this past April I wrote "The Bicycle, Season 47, Episode 1" and in Spring 2016,  "Ready to Ride".  


But this year, there's been a few plot twists I did not see coming; some good and some bad. So, let's start with the bad news.

In mid-August I rode my bike to work. Lovely ride, no surprises until I strolled out of the office with helmet in hand to discover my bike was not where I had left it - stolen is the word. My faithful bike with the skull and cross bone duct tape on the seat, the one I just invested a good couple hundred dollars in to keep her spruced and rolling was not to be found. Yes, it was locked and he/she was good enough to leave me the lock but not so much the bike. I called the Police and left a description and that was that. 

Now, onto the Good news! About 3 weeks ago, I got a new bike! Another Raleigh with fat juicy tires and rides like the wind. A purple beauty with a little yellow bell. I'm back in the saddle.

But, another plot twist, back to some bad news....Two weeks ago as I'm crossing an intersection a truck misjudged how fast I was going and hit the back end of my bike. I lost control and took a tumble. There was no head injury, just some prize winning bruises. I did not call the police but the driver assured me to call if there were any damages. 

I was sore, stiff and shaken plus I wanted to take my bike back down to where I bought it for a check up before I started riding again. So, this past Saturday I took my new bike back to Stephen's License (they are great to deal with) and after a little tweaking it was deemed as good as new.


I feel I've earned a good cappuccino and perhaps a little chocolate madeleine after all that, don't you?


Life is full of good and bad news. There are things we just don't see coming. I'm grateful that I was not badly hurt, that I sat beside my beautiful daughter in church today, that I went for a drive in the County with my husband and had a nice lunch. I'm grateful that I'm not in the path of Hurricane Irma at the moment and hunkered down in a shelter hoping my home will still be standing when I get back. 

Be kind to one another. You don't know if they have just been hit by a truck or landed big money or in the path of a hurricane. We all need grace and support to get through whatever is coming our way. 



Sunday, September 3, 2017

SCHOOL DAYS

What seems like 100 years ago, I was off to kindergarten. My parents had to take a pic of myself and my sisters ready for our big day. I love that we are united, holding hands, matching pixie cuts and me with one sock up and one sock down.
For the first time in about 25 years I don't have a child in my house heading back to school this September.

No first day jitters, no snapping a pic, no lunch packing, new clothes, supplies or back packs kicking around. 

I feel a little out of the loop! And I miss the energy and excitement in the house. Granted, I won't miss trying to wake someone up who has about 5 minutes left to leave, or the angst over an assignment or trouble with a best friend either. 

But still, this is a special time so I hope all you moms and dads are appreciating the moment! 

Near our house we have an old public school that has been abandoned for about 10 years now. The property was sold some time ago and I was expecting to hear the constant sounds of construction as a new subdivision began to take over, but as yet, the place is quiet and still.

All windows and doors are boarded up. The pavement in the school yard is crumbling and the basket ball hoops, though still occasionally used by local kids, are hanging in shreds. 

We take Lulu for a walk in the huge field that used to be filled with giggling12-year-old girls and the hollering of boisterous boys showing off. 

As we pass by some old trees at the back of the property I can almost here the secrets once shared. "Meet me by the big tree!"


This bench once held would-be sluggers about to knock it out of the park. "Batter, Batter, Batter Uuuppp!" The star pitcher stares them down...

Someday, probably soon, this school will be gone and Lulu won't have the big field to race freely around in anymore. Someday, you too will have the last time you see your little ones off to public school or high school and before you know it, you will be dropping them off at University and driving away (a tearful, heart wrenching process, let me tell you). 

But for now, enjoy the school days and all that comes with them! If anybody wants to meet at the big tree to share secrets, let me know!


Sunday, August 27, 2017

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

It's a sure sign my summer season is winding down when I spend a week at the cottage. 

We have been able to enjoy this little slice of paradise nearly every year since the kids were still teenagers. 

Cottage time insists on a complete change of pace, in fact, for something completely different!

I only have one cottage rule, and that is to go swimming every day.
This year the weather was on the coolish side, much like most of our summer. The owner had given me a heads up that the water was a "Tad" cooler and he wasn't kidding. One day topped off with a high of 18 degrees celsius! But swim I did - every day.


Randi was up for the weekend only and we spent some time on the dock painting our nails. I admit, this is completely different for me. I have maybe painted my nails twice in the past 5 years. But as I stuck my pretty pink toes in the water I wondered if the fish might find them worth nibbling on (they didn't). I'm a high multi-tacker but cottage rhythm insists on me slowing down. So if I spend a good 20 minutes just getting my feet adjusted before I take the plunge, that's OK. Every now and then I need to slow down. 

I also rarely sit through watching TV for any length of time. But again, I did indeed catch up on some old movies. Sheldon and I watched most of the Lord of the Rings from the Hobbit on down. And I snuck in a good girl flick too!


Lulu and I had a complete change of scenery on our morning walks.

It was shockingly quiet with only the sounds of a distant loon on the water, a pewee calling out and one noisy, "I'm-the-king-of-the-world" squawking bluejay. No sounds of sirens, or traffic or the busy, urban Robins singing for their supper in town. Now that's something completely different!

Good food is good food, no matter where you are, and it always tastes better after a day outside.


Bacon is a rare treat; the last time I had any was at the cottage  a year ago.

We also enjoyed, compliments of the owner Robin, some fresh lake trout! I breaded those babies and fried them in butter.

Cottage time is a quality break from my busy daily routine. This year, quiet as it was with only Sheldon and I there most of the time, it was still crowded, full of memories from when my kids were little and friends laughing and swimming. 

Sometimes it's hard to switch gears, slow down and do, well, practically nothing. But I'm grateful for cottage time that insists on changing my routine and doing something completely different.




Sunday, August 13, 2017

CHARMS OF HASTINGS COUNTY

There's no denying Prince Edward County is one of my favourite go-to spots. It's a hop-skip-jump over the bridge away from my home and loaded with great places to eat, visit and just relax.


But this past weekend I checked out the charms of Hastings County, my very own backyard. And I must say, they can give the County a run for my money!



In my early 20s Corby's Distillery was still a very functioning industry making whiskey and had been supporting the community for over 100 years. I remember taking a tour and watching the bottles whiz by the ladies sitting there with their hair nets. The smell of molasses was sweet and heavy in the air. In 1991 the factory closed down and Corbyville grew quiet and sleepy. 



But it's hopping (pardon the beer pun) now! Richard Courneyea, a local businessman has refurbished and opened the Signal Brewing Company. The place is beautiful taking advantage of the location.




The patio was nonstop with staff providing friendly and prompt service to the thirsty patrons.



Our friend Theo checked out the local offerings made on the premises.


His favourite was the dark ale.

And we snacked on nibble size portions 



These yams were a hit at the table


Then we headed over to the Air Force Museum in Trenton.


Loaded with artifacts and information on  War lore, the centrepiece is a Halifax Bomber pulled up from the bottom of a lake in Norway in 1995 and fully restored. Being a history buff I was fascinated. I even sat in a few cockpits and tried out my signature "pew, pew" sound as I shot down the Red Baron (in my mind). 

And who says the County has all the good restaurants? We finished off the day with dinner at Linguine's in Belleville.


My pasta with grilled salmon was delish with lots left over to take home. 

I will always be heading over the bridge to take in the delights of Prince Edward County, but from now on I'm keeping my eye on the Charms in Hastings County too. Bottom line, the Quinte region is a great place to live!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

THE SUMMER OF '77

The two young girls looked about 13 or 14 years old. They had stopped to shake a pebble out of one of their sandals when I passed them on my walk. A little heavy on the make-up but still young and innocent.

And suddenly I was back to the summer of 1977, the summer before I started High  School. 

And I remembered.

I remembered hanging out with my girlfriend Lynda. 

Lisa, Laurie, myself, Bernice and Lynda on Grade 8 Graduation

We were determined to wow them when we walked into that high school so we spent a lot of time pouring over 17 Magazines and trying makeup and hair products. Blue eyeshadow was all the rage. So was "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific" and "Short and Sassy" shampoo. 

I would either bike to her house or, her to mine. We would have sandwiches and  Koolaid and sometimes if we had any money, buy a popsicle. We were still so innocent.

But life was about to teach us a lot in a few short years.

That summer would bring the death of Lynda's father. I would sit outside the hospital on a bench in the hot sun while Lynda would visit her father inside. Little did I know in 10 years I would be doing the same thing in the same hospital with my own sister before she would pass away from cancer. 

High school brought experiences with working and making my own money. With the loss of other friends through foolish accidents or suicide. It brought the intoxicating experience of falling in love, a much too heady potion for any teenage heart to bear. It brought independence and many, many mistakes with drugs, addiction and sex. 

I passed by those two young girls, little heavy on the makeup, and wondered how they would fare through their High school years. 

Life is an incredible journey. Full of wonderful and fearful experiences that mold us into who we become and even though I felt I had lost all my innocence by the end of those 4 years, I had not. It is still there, still hidden away inside the little girl within me. 

You just have to remember.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

MY OLIVE OIL AND HONEY OBSESSION


I'm not a collector. Honest. I don't have a shelf full of figurines, or a box of buttons and I definitely don't have dolls or clowns stashed in a special room.

But I've noticed I seem to be amassing quite a large variety of two specific things in my cupboard: Olive oil and honey. I thought I'd put them all together for a family photo:


SMILE!!

In the Oil section I have: a basic olive oil, a habanero, lemon, garlic and a Tuscan oil that is great for making salad dressing.  In the honey section there's mountain, clover and wild flower that I picked up in Vancouver and Lavender from the local lavender farm. 

Maybe it's that pretty golden colour that attracts me, but mostly I think it's the practicalness of these products.

I use honey for sweetening my green tea or on a fresh piece of bread lightly toasted. I always have a batch of homemade granola in the fridge made with honey and maple syrup.

Yogurt and fruit with granola and drizzled with honey is a staple for me!

The variety of oils are always being used in cooking. I usually use a lemon oil for salmon but lately I've been into this habanero oil which adds a beautiful hot spiciness to the fish!


Just squeeze fresh lemon on top of that and you've got the best of both worlds!

And let's face it - these products border on miraculous. Honey never spoils, it has tremendous medicinal benefits including regulating blood sugar, and healing attributes. Even the way it's created is incredible!

Olive oil is a powerful antioxidant that can fight inflammation and the fact that heart disease is rare around the Mediterranean Sea leads many to believe their large use of Olive Oil plays a part in this. It also has anti-bacterial properties. What more could we ask for!

Bottom line, I guess if I'm going to start collecting, I think honey and oil are good candidates. 

Someone pass the Corn Flakes and a spoonful of honey!



Sunday, July 23, 2017

ROADBLOCKS AND BUMPY JOURNEYS

For the past couple years they have been chewing up downtown replacing old pipes and fixing whatever else has been lying under there. 


It makes for a messy commute to work! I can still bike through but it's kinda like going through an obstacle course and driving is out of the question. 

Sometimes, life is like that. You are cruising along when out of the blue your path ahead is blocked, even downright dangerous. You need to find either a way through it or take an alternate route. 


These roadblocks happen to everyone: illness, death, letting something (or someone) go, letting something (or someone) in, failures and consequences from our own mistakes. 

Being a music lover, I love the encouragement and the honesty in Psalms. When the road ahead is looking dicey I can echo King David's heartfelt request: 

"You are my rock, my rampart; true to your name, lead me and guide me!" Psalm 31:3. 

I figure He has a better view than I do of what lies ahead.

Really in a jam? David penned this in Psalm 18: 

"I called to Yahweh in my anguish, I cried for help to my God; from his Temple He heard my voice, my cry came to His ears." I can picture God turning His head and looking down at His child who is in peril. "Then the earth quaked and rocked, the mountains foundations shuddered, they quaked at his blazing anger." Look out...Daddy is coming and He's not happy! "He reached down from on high, snatched me up, pulled me from the watery depths, rescued me from my mighty foe, from my enemies who were stronger than I." 

It's encouraging to read this an know there is a force way more powerful then I, ready to come to my aid. 

But sometimes the road blocks don't seem to dissolve, the path gets darker and rougher and there is nobody coming to help. 

Almost all Psalms end on a positive and hopeful note, that God will come through. But Psalm 88 is honest enough to point out we don't always feel that way:

But, for my part, I cry to you Yahweh, every morning my prayer comes before you; why, Yahweh, do you rebuff me, turn your face away from me?  vs 13 & 14.

He ends his lament: You have deprived me of friends and companions, and all that I know is the dark.

They didn't have to put this song in there, they could have left it out. But scripture is brutally honest about the human experience.

If you are presently looking at a roadblock or the path ahead is unclear, I understand. King David understands. God understands. I pray you find your way through. 

Much Love!