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Monday, 30 December 2013

A Quiet Weekend

   Not much happening - the Christmas tree is back in its box, cards and decorations are packed away until next year and leftovers are almost all eaten up.

   Today I ventured out (even though the temperature was at -9C) and picked up some Christmas cards for next year - 75% off - and a new tree decoration. It was sunny and really quite pleasant, despite the low temperature. I really should have gone for a walk but took a nap instead!

  My neighbours still light up their houses every night but I'm afraid I have dispensed with that ritual - my inner Scrooge revealing itself! However, still eating Christmas leftovers.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

More Catch Up

Wednesday 25th.
Early start to get the bird stuffed and in the oven by 9:30 a.m. I thought I had loads of time but before I knew it, the folks were at the door and the excitement was palpable! I had just got the potatoes started when it was time to open the gifts. Usually this is quite an orderly procedure - youngest to oldest and one at a time - but James was so excited that he could barely wait for his turn. However, everyone was very happy with their gifts and Ariel helped with the cleanup of wrapping paper and ribbons and bows.

   Lunch started on time - shrimp, smoked salmon and smoked mackerel for the first course, capon, stuffing and vegetables to follow with cranberry sauce and gravy, and finally, the climax, flambeeing the plum pudding! I have to say it was spectacular. Elliot declared it the best ever. This was accompanied by custard, cream, strawberries and mince pies. So everyone had something to their taste. Coffee followed for the adults while the kids were excused to enjoy some of their new toys.

   Later, everyone retired to the kitchen to clean up or the family room for more games and toys. I was quite happy to stay in the kitchen as the kids by now were getting hyper from all the excitement. Once the dishwasher was loaded (thanks Dave) it was time to relax. Soon things were being packed up and the respective families were ready to head home. Another load in the dishwasher and I was ready to retire - still no TV - it had been a long day.

   Thursday 26th.
It had snowed most of Christmas Day which, although beautiful, meant more shovelling and scraping. I managed to get most of the ice off my driveway but didn't tackle much else other than a few clean up tasks. The house is almost back to normal and I will start putting away the Christmas decorations on the weekend.

Friday 27th
I was expecting a new stove and range hood to be installed and was delighted to find I was finally hooked back up to the phone, TV and internet. The delivery arrived just after noon but the guys didn't come to install the hood until 7:30 p.m., just as I was settling down to a movie on TV. Rather inconsiderate of them! However, at least it is done and I didn't have to spend another day waiting for them to arrive.  

Friday, 27 December 2013

A Few Days of Catch Up

  The internet has been down since Sunday when the power went off so I have several days to catch up on. We had a massive ice storm on Saturday and Sunday with power off all over the city and since then none of my Rogers systems, phone, cable TV and internet have been working.

   Friday, Dec. 20th.
Plans to go skiing did not transpire, in fact I had got the date wrong and it was the following Friday when Judy planned to go to Brimacombe. Can't remember what I did instead.

Saturday 21st.
Normal day until 4:30 when the kids arrived for a sleepover. Their first task was to prepare their Christmas cakes for marzipan and icing. While we waited for the marzipan to dry I prepared supper. After eating we iced the cakes and decorated them with maraschino cherries, candies and silver balls. They looked very festive when we were finished. Then it was off for baths and bed with a bit of TV in their P.J's. James took a while to settle (he and Elliot were sharing a bed) but he was pretty exhausted and soon dropped off. I wasn't far behind them.

Sunday 22nd.
We woke up (rather early!) to a spectacular display of ice coating every tree and branch. Thank goodness I had put my car in the garage or it would have been coated too! Several tree branches were down all around the neighbourhood, one almost blocking the road. Breakfast was pancakes and sausages washed down with orange juice and soon Judy arrived to take them home. Just before that the power went off and on a few times then finely stayed off. Traffic lights were also off in several parts of the city making Judy's drive home an adventure. Dave came by in the afternoon as they couldn't get me on the phone and got my car out of the garage so at least I was mobile if the power stayed off. I spent the day in a progressively chilly house, had the gas fire on and candles going by dusk and nothing to do but read. An early night was called for.

Monday 23rd.
Woke up around 1:00 a.m. to the sound of the furnace kicking in - the power was back on. However, no phone but Steve dropped by to see how I was faring. I tried again to find some salt for the driveway with no success - all sold out everywhere. I picked up a few more items for Christmas dinner and started a major cleanup of the house, all set for visitors on Wednesday.

Tuesday 24th.
An early start to beat the crowds in the grocery stores - still traffic lights out but not much traffic on the roads and, surprisingly, no big crowds in the stores so I was home again by 10:00 a.m. With no TV, I decided to see a movie in the afternoon, "Saving Mr. Banks". It's about how Walt Disney persuaded P.L.Travers to let him make a musical out of her book, "Mary Poppins". Coming home traffic had picked up and getting through the intersections with no traffic lights was extremely slow going. A final cleanup around the house and then another early night.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Busy Morning

    As predicted, it has been quite mild today - more like the temperatures we expect towards the end of December. Up to +4C today but rather dull and overcast.

    I spent the morning running errands - the drug store, the library, the beer and liquor stores, the bulk food shop, the grocery store. Just a few small items but it took 2 hours! The stores weren't too busy and the parking lots were relatively easy to navigate. I'm sure the weekend and the days leading up to the 25th will be much more hectic.

   I have decided to make the marzipan for the Christmas cake myself. I priced the prepared stuff and to cover the whole cake would have been about $15. I have most of the ingredients - just had to buy ground almonds, a lemon and almond essence. I got the recipe from a contributor to the Cottage Smallholder forum. There is a wealth of information on that site and so many talented people contribute to the forum.

    When the kids come over on Saturday (parents are having a dinner party so the kids will sleep over here)  we will cover and decorate the cake, or perhaps I will cut it up so they can have their own to decorate. First comes a coating of jam, then the marzipan and finally some icing and candies for decoration. Photos to follow

    A quiet evening at home is called for as I am going skiing with Judy and the kids tomorrow (if the weather cooperates - freezing rain is forecast). It will be an early start and quite a tiring day. I must check the Brimacombe website to see what the snow conditions are.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Better Weather

   It is slightly warmer today, even got up above freezing this afternoon. The wind seemed to be coming from the south east so we may be in for a few days with more seasonal temperatures. No sun, though, and a light dusting of snow has turned everything white again.
 
   I managed to get James outside for almost an hour today, shovelling snow (me) and jumping in and out of snowbanks (James). He was completely snow covered and I had to strip off his outer clothes before we went inside. It is quite a production to get him in and out of snowpants, making sure the snow cuff is down over his boots, and securing his mitts so no snow goes up his sleeves!

   In the afternoon we went to Judy's school to watch their concert rehearsal. James thoroughly enjoyed himself, joining her Kindergarten class for the performances and a snack afterwards in her classroom. Unfortunately, this change to his routine upset him somewhat and he had a "hissyfit" when we got home. Luckily he exhausted himself and fell asleep so I had a quiet hour to myself. Then we were off to Swiss Chalet for our annual family get-together over the Festive Special (chicken, stuffing, cranberry sauce). The eight of us had a very pleasant meal, much more civilized than in previous years as the kids mature!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Day at Home

   Got several calls for work this morning but decided to stay home and catch up on chores. First off I wrote my local Christmas cards then, in a sudden burst of energy, sliced up some lemons and ginger to make marmalade. I have decided to use some of my preserves as gifts this year as I seem to have accumulated quite a pile of jams, marmalades and chutneys - more than I will ever be able to consume before the next crop.

   More snow shovelling today as it snowed pretty much all morning. It wasn't as cold and there wasn't as much of the fluffy stuff so the job went quickly. However, if this is a taste of how winter is going to be this year, we will all be mightily sick of the white stuff by March!

   A brisk walk down to the mailbox and that should be the last of the Christmas mailings for this year. However, I have a few cards on hand in case I receive one from someone I have forgotten. One last chore - a trip to the library for a book waiting for me. Now I can relax with the fire on and something to nibble before fixing dinner. Tonight it's ham and roasted vegetables but I will skip dessert - until later in the evening, that is. There are mincemeat tarts calling to me from the freezer!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

First Winter Storm

     It's not even winter yet and already we are inundated with snow!

   It was quite a storm yesterday - strong winds, frigid temperatures and lots of snow - 12 cm here and even up to 40 cm in other areas. In fact, where the wind had blown the snow into drifts, it was probably quite a bit more. 

   Today was a day of shovelling. I had to do it in batches but, as I wasn't planning on going anywhere, there was no pressure to get it cleared. Sad to think we won't see the grass again until March or April.

   Only two other chores to do today - bake some mincemeat tarts for the freezer and get the lights on the Christmas tree. I had promised James that we would put up the ornaments tomorrow.  So now I will be able to keep my promise!




Wednesday, 11 December 2013

On the Go All Day

   James arrived late today - Judy is home sick so Dave had to bring him over after he dropped the other two at school. This gave me a chance to get started on the sausage rolls although he was there to help with the final step and to claim some credit in making them. Then we were off to the play group and a visit from the big man in the red suit (forgot my camera, unfortunately), and a feast of goodies.

   The sausage rolls were popular but I also liked the egg salad sandwiches, the spinakopita and the mini-quiches. James ate mostly cookies and other sweet treats. I ate enough for lunch and thought we could skip it today but by 1:30 James was hungry again so I fixed him his usual soup and grilled cheese. The up side of that was that he went for a nap without a whimper and I had to wake him an hour and a half later.

    In the afternoon I got a call from Judy saying she was still too sick to come for James so I drove him home around 4:30. Then I continued downtown for a cooking demonstration at the Queen' Quay Loblaws store. The traffic was pretty bad (first I tried the highway, then side streets but neither were moving faster than a snail's pace ) and I barely arrived in time, having been on the road for nearly two hours. However, it was all worth it as the chef was entertaining and instructive and the meal, when it finally arrived, was excellent. We were served four-vegetable tarragon soup, poached salmon with maple brandy sauce and broiled asparagus, and  a delicious raspberry and blueberry flan. The drive home only took about 25 minutes and that included a stop for the Ride police. What a relief I didn't stop at the Wine Rack store in the mall where they were giving out free wine samples!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tidying Up

   I finally cleaned the oven this morning - I had a spill a couple of weeks ago which actually ignited the next time I turned on the oven. It has been getting progressively more charred each time I used the oven so a cleaning job was well overdue.

   I also cleared and cleaned the hall closet and put together a couple of bags of assorted scarves, hats, headbands and outer gear to deliver to the used clothing box at the church. Hope someone is able to make use of some of the items. On the way home I popped into the drug store for my 'flu shot - it is so convenient  compared to making a medical appointment. I read recently that these shot are only 50 to 60 % effective although the pharmacist thought it was more like 80%. But it helps by reducing the symptoms if you do contract the virus.

   This afternoon was also busy - I had a teaching assignment lined up and trundled off there for 12:30. It was French but I managed to struggle through. Then home for a quick snack then off to the cinema to see "Philomena", starring Judi Dench. A rather moving story based on real events but I won't spoil it for you by revealing the ending.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Saturday Chores

   Back to frigid temperatures, -2C this morning with a bitingly cold wind. The sun was shining but it didn't do much to ameliorate the chill. So I was sprinting from the car to the store and back again while out running errands. Judy ordered me some copies of a photo of the grandkids to put in my Christmas cards so I picked them up at Walmart this morning and will get them in the mail tomorrow. I also got some seed bells for the birds which I will hang from the front porch. James and I like to watch the sparrows swinging from them as they peck at the seeds.

    I made a concerted effort this afternoon to finish my current library book, "Sweet Tooth" by Ian McEwen (quite a surprise ending!) as there was another book waiting for me at the library. So, another trip to the mall but now I am all set for a day indoors tomorrow.

   I defrosted some scallops for dinner tonight as I feel like something fairly light. I will have them with pasta and a mushroom and cheese sauce. I have lost 5 lbs. this month and hope to keep it off during the time of feasting that is coming up.  Best not to weigh myself again until all the festivities are over!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Getting Cracking

   I was up and off early today to Bayview Village Mall, where I got started on the preparations for Christmas. The day was amazingly mild, already 9C and it got up to 14C and the sun came out before I returned home. I ordered a capon from Pusateri's, my usual choice for the Christmas bird. Normally I don't shop there as it is rather upscale and expensive but it's one of the few places I know that has capons at this time of year.  It will be a 10lb bird, almost as big as a turkey but, hopefully, more succulent. There will be 10 of us for the meal but, as three are kids, that should be big enough. I am hoping to farm out the preparation of the accompanying vegetables to the other ladies to keep things simple for myself. Apart from the bird I will cook the stuffing and potatoes. And, of course, the plum pudding for dessert is all ready just to be heated up.

   Next stop in the mall was "Mastermind", a store that has a huge selection of educational toys for kids. After a bit of searching I managed to find age-appropriate games for all three grandkids that should also be fun, and one was on sale! I just hope they like them. That's all the gifts I'll be buying as the adults among us have agreed to give to charities in each others' names instead of gifts, an eminently sensible solution to the problem of choosing something appropriate for each other.

   Then on to the liquor store as I had decided to treat myself to a cooking demonstration in the New Year. The one I chose is called "Mainly Mushrooms" and includes tips on how to select and prepare exotic mushrooms and sampling such delicacies as Tuscan Roulade and Mexican Chocolate Truffles. Sounds delicious and I can't wait to attend.

   Last stop was Starbucks in the Chapters store for a Decaf Tall Latte - I really didn't need it but it's become an essential part of this pre-Christmas trip to the mall. I will be back on Christmas Eve to pick up the capon and all the trimmings for the Christmas feast.

   As I said, it was a very mild, pleasant day today so, just before lunch, I strung some Christmas lights on the bushes by the front door. James has been bugging me to get out my Christmas stuff but I have been procrastinating. Maybe this little touch will get him off my back! 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Our Final Dance

   The band was giving it their best, the food was excellent, and the dancers were well prepared for a lively evening last night. We had 114 people attend our final dance so it was a fitting end to a long and successful tradition for the Scarborough Social Group.

    After several encores, things finally wound down around 11:30 ( a bit tough for those who had to get up for work the next morning - me, I slept in until 10:30 a.m.). So I have had a lazy day today with a late breakfast, a short walk before lunch, then a nap and some reading in the afternoon. Nothing like being retired and with few commitments! I was the lucky  recipient of our table centrepiece, artfully created by Jean who did all 16 of them. I hope it survives for a week or so, it is so beautiful.

 
    Tomorrow I have to start thinking about Christmas which will be upon us before we know it. Better get those Christmas cards off overseas in the next few days! 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Close Call

   I lost my wallet today - silly sod!  I had it in my pocket as I biked down to Starbucks for a special promotion, a Crème Brulee latte (it was delicious when I finally got it). The wallet must have popped out as I turned a corner. What a shock when I got off my bike and found my pocket empty!

   My good fortune was that somebody honest picked it up off the road and called me to let me know. Meanwhile, I was retracing my steps in the vain hope of coming across it lying in the gutter, to no avail. I even tried some of the local stores to see  if someone had handed it in there. But my good Samaritan, who lives nearby, was able to find my phone number (through my hospital registration card) and leave me a very welcome message. All's well that ends well.

   I have had a beef stew in the crock pot since early this morning and it is beginning to smell delicious. The meat should be good and tender in a couple of hours and the vegetables will be well flavoured by the meat, wine and tomatoes. And I will definitely not need a dessert tonight as the special coffee treat was sweet enough.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

End of November

   I heard on the radio today that there are just 21 days until the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year. Then things start to improve as the days get longer again. It's not quite so cold today but still around zero and we could do with some sun to take away the chill.

  I managed to find a bottle of Marsala wine at the liquor store today so was able to give my Christmas cake a soaking. I have to be careful not to add too much alcohol in case the kids get into it. Somehow I don't think it will be to their taste! 

   I took my gingercake and some shortbread to my dance group last night (my turn to bring the "treats") and they were well received. Still some left to nibble on when the notion strikes. For dinner tonight I have a salmon fillet and will broil it and have some quinoa and peas on the side. Stewed plums and frozen yogurt for dessert. Who said cooking dinner is a chore? Nothing easier!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Winter Marmalade

One grapefruit, one lemon and two cups of sugar. Magic!
   Currently got a pan of lemon and grapefruit marmalade boiling away, the only real chore I have done today. However, I did get quite a few loose ends tied up and feel slightly more organized than when I got up this morning and was confronted with last night's dirty dishes!

    After an easy start sorting out paperwork, I headed out, well bundled up as the temperature was in minus territory and the wind chill was -13C. Picked up a bottle of wine for Donalda's gift but couldn't find the Marsala I want to pour on the Christmas cake. I will have to try another LCBO branch and see if they carry it. Made the last deposit of cheques and cash for the Christmas Dance and cashed a cheque to pay the band and door prizes. I think and hope that all else is taken care of. Should be a fun evening. Just before lunch I took a walk around the block; it was lovely in the sun but the wind was very chilly.

   I am running out of reading material but James and I will head to the library first thing tomorrow and hopefully there will be a book waiting for me. Then we will spend an hour at the Early Years Centre which is in the same mall.
 
    Going out for dinner tonight for the "Festive Special" at Swiss Chalet, an annual treat. Usually in December the whole family gets together there one evening so we had better organize that soon as the days seem to fly by on the way up to Christmas.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Christmas Cake

     Normally my main effort at Christmas baking is the plum pudding. It's already stored and maturing but, this year, I decided to try a Christmas cake. Most of the family are not big on fruit cake so I am hoping to convert them with a nice moist one. The recipe I am trying is courtesy of Aly on the Cottage Smallholder forum  (www.cottagesmallholder.com).

   First step was to soak the fruit (2 1/2 lbs. of it) in rum. Unfortunately I only had Tequila but it still smelled pretty fruity in my kitchen!. After a few days I beat, stirred and folded in all the ingredients, spooned it into my one and only cake pan, and baked it in a warmish oven for 4 hours. It came out much as expected except I think, next year, I will omit the prunes and dates (they made the cake a bit too dark and sticky) and add more glace cherries as they are my favourite part of a fruit cake. Now all that remains is to let it mature for a few weeks with the addition of more alcohol (probably Marsala), then add marzipan and icing and decorate with some more dried fruit. Can't wait for the end result!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

First Snow of the Season

    It has been getting progressively colder all week with a strong wind out of the north - the forecaster yesterday described it as "Arctic" and I believe her!

   Today I woke up to -10C with a smattering of snow on the ground. If the temperature remains in the negative values, it will probably stay around but there isn't enough to cause driving or walking problems. It is still early in the winter to be having to deal with drifts and paths needing cleared. Might be a good idea to fill my gas container in case I have to fire up the snow blower any time soon. Last year I didn't use it at all and that would be my preference again this year.

    Nothing exciting planned for this week although we are gearing up for the Scarborough Christmas Dinner and Dance on December 2, just a week away. We have sold an amazing 114 tickets so it should be a jolly night. Tomorrow we will practice the dances with Donalda until we are "step perfect"! 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gingercake

   I started my seasonal baking yesterday with a perennial favourite - gingercake. The plum pudding is already stored and maturing in a dark cupboard but I have little in the freezer for impromptu nibbling. The gingercake is quite plain but tasty; I prefer it buttered, and it is so easy to make. I mix the whole thing in a pan on the stove. Here's the recipe:

4 oz. preserved ginger                                         1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 oz. butter                                                          4 tbspn. milk
3 oz. syrup                                                           8 oz. flour
1 oz. treacle or molasses                                    1 tsp. ground ginger
4 oz. brown sugar                                                1 egg; pinch of salt

Melt butter, syrup, sugar and treacle in a saucepan. Add chopped ginger and, when cool, 3 tbspn. of milk and the egg. Mix flour, salt and ginger and slowly add to saucepan, beating well until a smooth batter. Dissolve baking soda in 1 tbspn. milk and add. Bake in a small, greased loaf pan at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool before removing from pan.


Friday, 15 November 2013

A Week of Birthdays

   This week has just flashed by - finished the paint job on Tuesday (very happy with the fresh new look), took James to play group on Wednesday and he made a very fine gingerbread boy at the craft centre, Thursday and today I got birthday gifts organized for Natalie, Steve and Alison (and bought myself a new winter coat and some lovely sherry glasses). Steve and Alison are on the 18th and 14th respectively, and Natalie's is on the 22nd.
 
   So, tomorrow Judy is hosting a birthday threesome with a dim sum lunch and cake. Natalie will be 6 - can't believe she is so big. I'm hoping to get some good photos of the kids but they are really uncooperative when I bring out the camera.

   I stuffed and cooked a chicken last Sunday and have been eating it ever since - two meals of the dark meat, stuffing and vegetables, and two meals of the white meat in a chcken pot pie with lots of carrots, peas and mushrooms. My fridge is almost empty - in fact I'm down to one banana, one lemon and some bread in the freezer! Shopping tomorrow.

    I managed to get one last shot of a rose in the garden, looking rather wilted but hanging in. The nights have been below zero this week and more cold weather is on the way. No Indian summer this year!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Next Coat of Paint

    It wasn't really warm enough (just 7C and a strong north-west wind) to keep the front door open but that's what I had to do while the paint dried on the door frame.  It would appear that the rest of the woodwork will need a primer coat, but that will have to wait a couple of days. Other than that nothing much going on. Glad I have a good book on the go.

   The gas fire is now up and running for the first time this year, such a welcome sight and adding some warmth to the family room. Leftovers warming in the oven and a quick apple crumble in there too. Unfortunately, no apples left for James tomorrow!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Two Good Tasks Accomplished

   I thought I was going to have a quiet restful day today but that's not how it turned out at all.

   The morning temperature of 4C was a surprise, and it rose to 13C by noon. This tempted me into tackling a job that I have been postponing for months - painting the trim in the front hall. When I had the painter in during the summer he left me with both primer  and paint and the suggestion that the bare wood around the front door (probably been like that for 4 or 5 years) should be painted. I think he was angling for the job at the time but I didn't take him up on it.

    So, first I sanded the wood and wiped it off, then applied the primer. Actually, I sanded all the trim in the front hall and will paint everything the same colour. With the day being relatively mild I was able to leave the door ajar until the paint dried although when it comes time to apply the next coat I may not be so lucky.  I will tackle the final coat on Thursday (James is here tomorrow, not ideal time to have cans of paint out!) weather and other conditions permitting. I am excited to see how it looks after all this time with bare wood.

   In the afternoon I dug up some mint and cleared a patch to put in next year's garlic crop. I was reluctant to dig into my current crop for the cloves as they are so tasty compared to the store bought variety, but the thought of the crop they will produce next summer made up for the loss. I still have three heads left but they will soon be gone. The onions I dug up in September are long gone. Next year I will plant a second crop of onions to harvest late in the Fall.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

In the Minus Temperatures

    Woke up to a chilly morning and it hasn't warmed up much since. The sun was shining, though, so I was able to get out in the garden - all bundled up - for the last grass cutting (I hope!) of the year. In fact, at one point I took a few minutes on the lounger and the sun felt positively warm on my face and hands!

   There are still a few roses on the bushes but I trimmed everything else back, pulled up the remaining Swiss Chard, rhubarb and other leftover plants as they were all looking rather sad after the freezing night temperatures. Next job will be to rake the leaves off the grass but I will wait until the trees are quite bare.

   I made some butternut squash soup for lunch today, and had it with a cream cheese and cucumber croissant and also a couple of the yellow cherry tomatoes which have ripened since I brought them indoors a couple of weeks ago. There are still lots, so I hope I can eat them up before they expire. Rainbow trout for dinner tonight with some vegetables from last night's stew. Dessert will probably be a couple of the Hallowe'en candies! Didn't have many visitors last Thursday due to the wet windy weather.

    I've started a new book - "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I think I will enjoy it. She wrote "Eat, Pray, Love" - a memoir, but this one is a historical novel. Should keep me interested for a couple of weeks at least.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Jack-o-Lantern

   Almost missed out on buying a pumpkin. The first grocery store was sold out but, luckily there were plenty at the other store and we picked a big tall one. James was rather repulsed by the slimy contents but we managed to get it scraped out without too much "Yuk" factor! 

  Soon the face was carved to our mutual satisfaction and without any blood shed. All it requires now is a candle to light on Thursday to welcome the "Trick-or-Treaters".  

   Tomorrow there's a Hallowe'en party at the church. James will dress up as a kangaroo and I'm sure will pig out on Hallowe'en goodies (wiggly worms, pumpkin cupcakes and anything "cho-cho" (chocolate). No lunch will be required after that!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Last From the Garden

   Woke up this morning to great gusts of wind buffeting the windows and rain lashing down. It's also colder than normal, more like the end of November than October. I will be praying for an "Indian Summer" next month. The rain has brought down lots of leaves so soon it will be time to start raking -too wet right now though!

    Yesterday I picked the last three eggplants and a bunch of Swiss Chard. That's probably it for the garden vegetables although I have some green tomatoes ripening in a sunny spot indoors.  

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Chilly Taste of Winter

It was a chilly start to the day, 4C with a bitterly cold wind from the north-west - that's straight from the Arctic! The sun was in and out and did help a bit but the temperature barely budged all day.

   James and I had fun at "Sing, Play, Learn" and on the way home stopped off at the park. No one else there (no surprise there, it was freezing) James was dressed for the weather in his winter jacket, hat and mitts but, for some reason, I had only worn my light jacket and froze. I couldn't wait for him to decide it was time to head home but he was quite comfortable and enjoyed himself on the gym equipment and in the sand for nearly an hour. I will know better next time!

   Petronella tonight and we did some fun dances. We finished with a challenging 5-couple dance which I am glad I stayed for. That's the first time I've made it to the last dance - a big improvement in my stamina!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Just Chores

   Did some banking for Scarborough Dancers, and got a replacement light for the kitchen. Cut the front grass then had lunch and a nap.

   After that took the car for its rust and tire pressure check. Cooked a salmon fillet which I got for half price - it's rather pungent, I can still notice a strong smell in the kitchen. I may decide not to eat the rest of it tomorrow!

   Plants in again tonight (and maybe for good) as the overnight temperature will be low. That's it for today!!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Some more gardening

    Picked all the green tomatoes this morning and composted the vines as we are expecting low overnight temperatures this week.  There's nothing worse than having to dispose of slimy tomato vines! In the process I found three small eggplants but I have left them as is to see if they get any bigger. I'm hoping they are not as susceptible to frost as the tomato plants.

   I also potted a geranium and a poinsettia that have been flourishing in the west-facing border. Once they have adjusted to their new homes I will bring them indoors with all the other pots. That's a step I take reluctantly as it means that winter is on the way. Every added day they can stay outdoors is a bonus!

   Just a small select group at the tennis courts today. One net is down and some of the windscreens, courtesy of Tamara and Washington, so we only had two courts to play on. But they were filled. I just hit for 30-40 minutes then headed to the coffee shop for a special offer ($1 off) then back home, all on my bike, so I feel I got plenty of exercise.

   Judy completed the half-marathon today - way to go, Judy! It must have been a chilly start as my thermometer was only showing 4C when I got up this morning. However, she managed a good time, 2h 27m. and got well deserved praise from all sides.

   Bought a delicious piece of Borgonzola cheese (no, that's not a typo, it is actually called that) and ate almost all of it on a homemade French loaf I had in the freezer. It was delicious. Now I have potatoes roasting in the oven and three small lamb loin chops marinating in the fridge. I will BBQ them soon and cook some green beans. Should be well and truly stuffed  in an hour or so!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Three Days in One

   Wednesday: James here and we had a nice morning at "Sing, Play, Learn". He didn't nap but stayed quietly in his bedroom reading while I lay down. Dinner was a quinoa salad, with red pepper, corn and cucumber, sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil. Went to Petronella in the evening but didn't stay to the last dance. Carole was whipping through the program for the Kingston workshop but I'm not going so didn't mind missing a dance or two.


Brilliant tree colours.
Thursday: No tennis this morning. Four guys were on Court 1 but no one else showed up so I just headed back home. It was a little on the chilly side anyway. Later in the morning I headed down to the Collision Centre to get an estimate for the scratch on my car. It was still too much for my budget but the guy cleaned it up a bit and suggested I try some touch-up paint before deciding on repair. Next stop the Toyota dealership and a $15 purchase which sufficed to cover the scratches. Now to see if it prevents the area from rusting! Cooked chicken thighs in a pasta sauce with potatoes, mushrooms and sweet potatoes.

Friday: James here again and today he did nap. He was pretty beat, and quite fractious so I wasn't surprised when he nodded off after two stories and one song. Went to Wendy's group tonight and she taught the dances for the Stouville dance tomorrow. It's a nice program but I don't think I will attend it either.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Last Koffeeklatch

   Up early to make some sausage rolls - my contribution to the potluck lunch today. I got in three good sets of tennis before lunch then stuffed myself silly.  Lots of great dishes, salads, an especially tasty herring salad of which I had two helpings, spring rolls, fried rice (several kinds), dumplings, sandwiches, devilled eggs (Kathy's contribution), and several desserts. I managed to restrain myself and just sample two but one cake came with a delicious butter rum sauce, yummy! Harold brought his special Mulligatawny Soup which was spicy but so heartening.  Something must have been very salty as I have been drinking gallons of water all afternoon. There's always too much food when we have a potluck - everyone brings way more than they could eat so, of course, there's an overabundance! The summer club is now over and the bubble for the winter tennis will go up later this week - that's it for me at Don Mills until next Spring.

My Fall Planter
   Staggered home about 1:30 and dived into bed for a short nap. No supper tonight (or at least not until much later and then only soup and a small sandwich). I brought home a slice of pumpkin pie which I will have as a late night snack.

   Tomorrow is garden refuse pickup day so I spent an hour this afternoon trimming bushes and filling the bins. Soon it will be time to start raking the leaves but most of them will go in the composter. Got another tomato from the garden and another is almost ready to pick. Hope the frost stays away a few more nights!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Holiday Fun

   Last Tennis Social of the year. The Thanksgiving BBQ with salads and a pie contest. And tennis thrown in for good measure. It all got underway around 10:00 a.m. with round robin play - a good way to get to play with folk you don't normally see at the courts. I had three good sets but was worn out after that and ready for lunch.

   Hamburgers, sausages, pasta and green salad were followed by the entrants in the pie contest. Unfortunately I didn't get to sample the winning pie - pecan - but there were lots of apple pies, a pear pie and a pumpkin pie, and an apple crumble, all delicious, all homemade, and I didn't have to do any baking! There was a good turnout considering it is late in the season, and the weather cooperated beautifully. Tomorrow is our last Koffeklatch and later in the week the bubble goes up for the winter tennis club so our season is almost over. It has been a good year, all in all.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Thanksgiving Feast

   Yesterday, another beautiful fall day, was the perfect time for a family get-together. This occurred at the Atherton's with Dave handling the turkey on the BBQ and Judy doing stellar duty in the kitchen with all the fixings that traditionally accompany the Thanksgiving meal. I don't know how she manages to juggle a full-time job, three small kids and produce such an excellent meal!

Handsome Elliot with his new haircut
 - the only one to sit still for a photo!
   There were 11 of us around the table and the food just kept coming. First we had a delicious pumpkin soup. This was followed by the turkey (tender and juicy), stuffing, sweet potato casserole, Brussell sprouts (roasted with bacon by Alison) a yummy risotto with, I think, squash and cheesy topping, ham, roast potatoes (my contribution, I got off easy) and cranberry sauce. Wine was on tap and generously poured. We all did the meal justice but I'm sure there were tons of leftovers. Dessert was a pumpkin cheesecake with cream and pumpkin pie and ice cream - you could have one, both or a mixture of all. By this time full capacity was being reached and only room for a coffee and some relaxed conversation on the back patio. The kids vegged out in front of the TV so the adults were able to enjoy the outdoors peacefully.

   Today started out, and remained, rainy though still mild. Nothing much on the agenda other than a few chores and grocery shopping. A light dinner is indicated tonight after all the food consumed yesterday!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Little Visitors

Friday, October11, 2013   

 I had the grandkids over this morning - yes, all three of them! They had a day off school but they brought over their Great Aunt Lena who is visiting from Scotland. So there were two adults to corral them. A quick trip to Tim Hortons (hot chocolate and timbits, coffee for the adults), a visit to the park, and then home for lunch, so the morning went pretty fast.

   I've been trying to get my eReader working but my computer won't recognize it. I must be using the wrong cable - it seemed to fit but I think it is from my camera so possibly isn't compatible. Dinner in half-an-hour then I am off to Wendy's class at Westview Church. I hope we do some interesting dances. Tomorrow is our family Thanksgiving lunch at the Atherton's so I will be up bright and early to get the roast potatoes started. Judy and Dave will be cooking the turkey on the BBQ, I think, so all will be go at their house too. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Still Things Ripening

   Another beautiful fall day - makes up for the grim weather still to come. We were at the tennis courts for nearly two hours this morning, a perfect day for hitting the ball.

   I can't believe the tomatoes are continuing to ripen - I will be able to pick another one soon. And there are another two eggplants forming. However, I doubt they will ever be big enough to pick. I did quite a bit of garden tidy-up this afternoon; the back garden is looking quite spruced up.
 
Salmon and quinoa for dinner. I have been eating too many carbs so this should be a bit healthier!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Bit of Gardening


   I have decided to get rid of the violets behind the pool as they were threatening to take over the whole back border and even spreading into the grassy patch by the bench. Luckily their roots are not deep and next spring there will be room for a few strategically placed perennials, maybe some more sedum which I love.
First half done - so much better!



Still a lot to go.

There were originally some yellow flowers in the second spot but they seem to have been completely pushed out. Perhaps I will find them as I start to remove the violets. Then it's on to the peonies which need to be cut back and tidied up. There's always something to do in the garden.

   Dancing at Petronella tonight - their first night of the season and I hope to sell some tickets to the Scarborough Christmas Dinner and Dance. First off, left-over lasgana roll-ups; I like to have an easy meal on the nights I go out, so I don't need to rush around cooking something,so warming up leftovers is ideal.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Finally, Sun!

    What a gorgeous day!  It started out cool, but by the time I got to the tennis courts (traffic horrible!) it had warmed up a couple of degrees. Soon we were stripping off the layers and in summer outfits. Not too busy either, which meant no long waits between sets. Jasmine had brought in a birthday cake for Magda so we had a little treat mid-morning along with our coffee. We only have one more week before the bubble goes up for the winter club, which I don't join, so will make the most of these two weeks.

    I bought the ingredients for Lasagna rollups on the way home and that will be dinner tonight. I need to use up some Swiss Chard from the garden and will use it as a substitute for the spinach. Nothing much on TV tonight but I have a good book - MaddAdam by Margaret Attwood. That will keep me going for a few days.

    

Sunday, 6 October 2013

No Sun All Weekend

    It has been a pretty miserable weekend, weather-wise. Rainy or overcast with not a hint of sun or blue skies. Luckily, I had lots of plans so time did not hang heavily on my hands. In fact, I could have done with a little more time to nap!

    Saturday morning, chores and shopping. Afternoon, meeting with Wayne and his Membership Committee. Evening, arrive at Crescent School for the monthly dance at 7:20 and set up the 50-50 draw table. Sell tickets, do some dances, have tea and snacks, more dancing, then head home around 10:30. I didn't manage to stay to the end or drop in on Margaret's after dance party, but it had been a busy day.

    Today not quite so hectic but I am still feeling the effects of yesterday. Just a demo practice in the afternoon which I would have been happy to miss. I haven't signed up for any demos yet this year as my energy level is still pretty low. Hopefully, things will improve as the medication is reduced. However, we finished off the session with one of my favourite dances, Chrysanthemum. It's a square dance and is really fun to do, once you have memorized it. Now to relax and enjoy a roast chicken and veggies dinner. Yum!

   I had one interesting thing happen yesterday at the liquor store - I picked up a really inexpensive bottle of Chardonnay but it came up as more expensive at the checkout. When I queried it, it turned out that it had been incorrectly labelled (the price listed was actually for a half bottle) but they had to give it to me for the listed price! I will really enjoy drinking it.

  

Friday, 4 October 2013

A Rainy Day

   Have spent a quiet day at home as I woke up to rain so no tennis this morning. James was at day care so I spent the morning doing some light housework and reading. Got out in the garden this afternoon once it had dried up but didn't do anything too strenuous.

   Dinner on the go, pasta and shrimp, and then I am off to dancing. We need to learn one more dance for tomorrow's dance at Crescent School so I hope Wendy teaches it.

   Yesterday I attended an interesting presentation on The Galapagos Islands, given by a travel company. It's an expensive trip so I doubt I will be going but there was a wealth of information on the habitats and vegetation to be found there. Also Ecuador sounds like a delightful place to visit so I will keep that on my list of "go-to" places.

Monday, 30 September 2013

A Birthday Treat

   I had a lovely day for my birthday today - lots of little treats and fun with James. It was a rather dull, dreary day but all the attention raised my spirits.
   First off, Judy arrived with James and two gorgeous cupcakes (not to be eaten until after lunch!). Then later in the morning James and I headed down to Starbucks for my free birthday coffee. We shared an oatmeal chocolate bar as I downed my decaf tall latte and he his apple juice. 
    Just before lunch Judy arrived with a sushi lunch which I decided to save for dinner. After our usual lunch we managed to find a candle and James gave me a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" before blowing it out. He is really getting so big and grown up.
   The next surprise was a present from Judy and Steve - a Kobo eReader! Can't wait to get it booted up and some books downloaded. That was quite unexpected and wholly appreciated. Now to enjoy my sushi meal - no preparation required! 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Busy Weekend

    As well as my usual chores on a Saturday (shopping, laundry etc.) I spent the afternoon at Eastminster Church where we were holding the Scottish "Culture Days" celebration.  Arrived there at 1:00 p.m. without having had any lunch and helped set up. Lots of Scottish paraphernalia, including a piper to attract people to the event, and Keith was on hand to take the visitors through some Ceilidh dances. Then we had snacks - luckily someone brought sausage rolls as I was starving! Then some more dances; by this time there were more volunteers than visitors so we ended around 4:00  and headed home. A light supper (still full from the sausage rolls) and some TV then off to bed.

   Today I decided to give tennis a miss. After all the dancing yesterday I was late getting up. However, I managed to fill the day with gardening chores; there is always a lot to do around the garden in the Fall. I picked this humungous tomato for my lunch - it weighed more than half-a-pound - but it will likely be the last to ripen on the vine as the rest are still very green.  There's still most of it left for another day. I also picked three yellow cherry tomatoes and there are some more of them almost ready. Tonight is smoked salmon on crostini and cream cheese - my version of bagels and lox - and liver and mushrooms with some left-over quinoa. Shouldn't need any dessert after that feast!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Departure for Home

   On our return from Pamplona we had an early dinner and a short night's sleep as our departure from the hotel was scheduled for 3:30 a.m. We had to be at Bilbao airport for the 6:30 flight to Frankfurt but when we arrived there, nobody was about. However, all worked out and we departed on time, made our connection in Frankfurt and arrived in Toronto uneventfully. A very long day by the time I arrived home that evening (including a 6-hour time change) but, all in all, a successful trip. I managed to get one beautiful sunset shot of the bay at San Sebastian on our way home from the restaurant.. 
Hotel Londres y Angleterre


   This has been a glorious week of weather and it is forecast to continue for a few more days. This is one of my favourite times of year, sunny days, cool nights, the smell of Fall in the air. James and I have had fun at the park this week and I have been playing quite a bit of tennis too. Having a refreshing beer before I go off to cook a nice light dinner of salmon fillet, quinoa and roasted peppers.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pamplona

   Our last excursion was to Pamplona and we started the day with a very interesting lecture on Ernest Hemingway and his influence in bringing Pamplona to the world's attention. The running of the bulls as described by him in his novel "The Sun Also Rises" was merely part of a once a year festival that ran for a week in July and culminated each day in a bull fight.


   Although the early morning event where the bulls run through the town to reach the arena looks dangerous and exciting, it is largely overplayed with the bulls merely following a lead steer through the town. One year when the road became blocked by an accident, the bulls merely slowed down and milled around until the blockage was cleared! No one was hurt. Although there are accidents, they are usually minor and there have been very few deaths.

   The town is all about Ernest; where he stayed, his favourite watering holes (and the prodigious amount of liquor he and his friends consumed). There are several statues of him and one particularly impressive one of the bulls in full flight with men desperately trying to avoid falling under their hooves. 
 

The Running of the Bulls
 
Pamplona Town Hall

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Bilbao

   Our next outing was to the industrial city of Bilbao. The waterfront has been rebuilt in recent years and this is where Frank Gherry designed and built the Guggenheim Museum. It is more an art gallery than a museum and I was not too interested in the exhibits housed there at the moment. The building, however, is pretty impressive. From the opposite bank of the river it looks like a great silver boat. Indoors it is light and airy with lots of exposed steel and concrete. I also loved "Puppy", a huge floral dog set just outside the upper entrance.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

San Sebastian

The only building that survived
These young ladies posed for us.
   We were very fortunate to be in San Sebastian on the day, August 31,they celebrated the survival of the town from a siege and fire that almost destroyed it. Only one building remains of the original old town. Despite it being a serious anniversary, there was much music, marching bands and jollity. The residents all dress up as the two opposing armies (British and French, but there were many different uniforms) and march through the streets firing rifles and banging drums. Then all congregate outside the Town Hall for more music and drumming. As well as squads of soldiers, there were groups of women and children, all dressed in their Basque national costumes and equipped with a small barrel which they used like a drum.

   The Old Town is very interesting and a popular hangout for the young people with many tapas bars and small shops. I happened to come across an evening event in which couples performed national dances, competing to see who won a trophy. They danced to live music, very exhilarating!
 
One of the squads of soldiers


Saturday, 21 September 2013

From Catalan Country to Basque

Town Hall
    After 4 days in Barcelona we boarded the bus for San Sebastian. The scenery was magnificent - steep gorges and wide valleys with little habitation. What did surprise me, in the flatter areas, were field upon field of solar panels. Also, there were great quantities of wind farms.

Goya
   We stopped at Zaragoza for lunch and had a tour of the main square and cathedral. We saw one of the results of the Spanish Civil War here in the church - an unexploded bomb, said to have been dropped by a pilot who was from the area and removed the detonation in order to preserve his cathedral.
 
    The city was shared with the Moors and both a mosque and church were in the main square. The city was also the birth place of the famous Spanish artist, Goya.


   Later that afternoon we arrived on the Atlantic coast and were soon ensconced in the Hotel Londres, San Sebastian, just steps from the beach. Even at that time the beach was thronged with swimmers and sun worshippers. Although undoubtedly many were tourists, some local families were also there enjoying some relaxation after a day of work or school.


Mosque tower










Thursday, 19 September 2013

Antoni Gaudi


   I have finally downloaded all my vacation photos and can start to retell the days as they occurred. Barcelona is known for its architecture and one of its most famous architects is Antoni Gaudi whose most famous work was done in the early 20th century. He was a local Catelan and built many unusual structures throughout the city. Our first visit was to an apartment building called "La Pedara" with an unusual layout around a courtyard with each circular apartment facing out with windows on all sides. The roof was also worth a visit. Another building looks like a Disney castle and "Park Guell" has a very unusual gathering area supported on pillars.

  In 1920 Gaudi also began work on the magnificent "Sagra Familia" cathedral. This is scheduled to be completed in 2020 but was dedicated by the Pope last year and is now open to the public inside. You can see the original exterior is quite in contrast to the portion being completed at this time. 





Early portion of "Sagria Familia"

"Park Guell"



Rooftop "La Pedara"
Inner courtyard "La Pedara"