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Friday, 31 May 2013

Trials and Tribulations

   Too hot to post today! The temperature went up to 29C but the humidex (how it feels taking the humidity into consideration) was registering 33C.
   Tennis in the morning - only played two sets. My face was so red by then (not from the sun, just from exertion) that I knew it was time to quit. Worked in the afternoon - a difficult Grade 1 but it was likely just Friday afternoon syndrome.
    Going to the last night of the Fallingbrook group in an hour. We'll dance until 9-ish then have snacks and treats. I'm baking sausage rolls. Considering the hall isn't air conditioned we may quit early!
   The temperature has fallen a couple of degrees in the last half hour and it looks like a storm is headed this way - quite a dark sky and the wind has picked up. Yes, it's raining - I'm hoping for a big dump as my swimming pool is still half empty and some rain would help my water bill. I've had the hose running off and on for the last couple of days but it still needs another foot or so.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Potato Pizza

   Sounds like an oxymoron but was surprisingly tasty and easy to prepare. It would be a good substitute for someone who can't eat gluten. I was too hungry to take the time to photograph the end result!

   Slice a couple of potatoes (skin on) very thinly. Thinly slice an onion and half a red pepper. A mandolin would give the correct thickness. Mix them with a tbspn. of olive oil, a minced garlic clove and a tbspn. chopped parsley. Pack mixture in a circle on an oiled cookie sheet or a pizza pan. Try to make sure layer is even and not too thin at the edges as they will burn. Bake in 450F oven for 15 mins. or until potatoes are soft and edges are crisp. Top with your preference in pizza toppings (I used mushrooms and some leftover chicken. Cover generously with cheese. I used cheddar and parmesan. Bake another 5 to 8 minutes until cheese is melted. Allow to cool and cut into wedges.

   Very hot today - hit 30C this afternoon - and very humid after all the recent rain. I got in an hour of tennis this morning before we all expired from the heat. Since then I have stayed indoors with periodic trips outside to empty the bucket that is collecting the drips from the leaky hose that is filling up the pool. Oh, except for a trip to the community centre for a swim. My pool is still a bit on the green side so I wouldn't want to take a dip in it just yet.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Last Planting

   We had a humungous storm last night and the garden is quite saturated. However, the good news is that I had not planted the vegetable plants I got yesterday so they weren't swamped. The weather has been somewhat unpredictable recently. Yesterday was cool - stayed overcast and 12C all day until, late in the evening, it shot up a couple of degrees. This morning early it was already 17C and now (late afternoon) it's 24C but feels like 29C with the humidity resulting from all the rain. Tomorrow's forecast calls for 30C!

Swiss Chard

   The last spot in my tiny vegetable garden is now filled with 4 eggplant and 8 Swiss Chard plants. I love Swiss Chard, especially as I can just take a few leaves at a time and it keeps on growing. My last batch lasted well into the fall so I'm hoping for a good crop this year. It's an excellent substitute for lettuce and spinach. Eggplants are a new crop for me so we'll see how they come along. 

Eggplants

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Dull Day

   Woke up to rain this morning so knew that tennis was off. Phoned to find out how James was - seemingly he threw up a few times after leaving me yesterday - but he is still sick and staying home with Dad today. I had picked up an afternoon job so spent the morning quietly at home, puttering around, nothing too strenuous but catching up on housework.

   The job this afternoon was an easy one, rotating around several classrooms to give teachers release time. One period consisted of only 2 students who were getting reading remediation - right up my street!

   On the way home I dropped by the Garden Centre and picked up some more vegetable plants as I realized I still had room for a few more things. I will get them in tomorrow, with James' help, if he is well enough by then. Dinner tonight is still leftovers - some rice from the paella and two chicken thighs I cooked up in sofrito with a garnish of onions and mushrooms. It was very tasty yesterday and should be even better today. I will cook some brussel sprouts as well for something green. It is still dull but the rain has stopped. The temperature never budged all day, a decidedly inclement 12C. Hope it warms up tomorrow.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Planting Potatoes

Potatoes - Day 1
   I'm trying something new this year: container potatoes. These come in the form of wizened up potatoes from last year that have started to sprout "eyes". I did as instructed and cut each potato into 2 or 3 chunks, each with a couple of sprouts, and planted them in layers in a container with drainage holes. I used "Black Earth" from No Frills as the growing medium and will carefully document their progress over the summer.

   A major problem was where to keep the container as I am a bit tight for space in my back yard. They do, however, need a sunny spot so I settled on the area behind the house which, although it doesn't get sun all day, should get enough late afternoon sun to keep them happy. Time will tell!  I will have to keep reminding myself to water them regularly as that's an area of my garden I rarely visit and tend to neglect. One thing's for sure, the container is too heavy to move now that it's filled so they will have to stay there for this summer.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Paella

   I found a new product at the supermarket today - a jar of sofrito. It was described as a Spanish style condiment. On a whim I decided to buy it as I seemed to remember having a recipe that called for it. I was right, the paella recipe I got at a cooking demonstration required half a cup of it. So, tonight I embarked on an experiment: to create my own version of paella, minus the chicken, shrimp, clams and mussels!

   It turned out well and as I had defrosted a salmon fillet, broiled that to make a delicious meal. Tomorrow I will toss in a few shrimp and, if there's any left on Monday, I will cook up some chicken thighs and add them to the leftovers. The only problem was that paella requires a particular kind of rice  - Bomba - which I didn't have. I substituted Arborio rice, the type used for risotto, but the recipe stressed strongly not to stir the paella or the starch would be released from the rice. So my version turned out to be more of a risotto with Spanish flavours. I was even able to use some saffron that I had brought back from Morocco a couple of years ago. 
    Today I also cooked up a batch of pickled beetroot - so easy and inexpensive and it will last me for a month or two.
   Cook beets until tender, remove ends and skin. Slice 1/4 inch thick and pack into pint jars, add 1 tbsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt to each jar. Mix cider vinegar and water in the ratio of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water, enough to cover the sliced beets. Boil together for 1 minute. Fill jars and seal. Keep in refrigerator.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Wigelia


   I have three Wigelia bushes (almost trees)  in my back yard and this one is always the first to bloom.   
The other two have to be kept well trimmed as they overhang the pool, but this one is allowed to grow unfettered and has long cascading branches always covered with blooms.

   I was very relieved when I woke this morning that the blossoms had survived the night as we had very low temperatures. Yesterday, which started out nicely enough, saw the temperature plummet accompanied by a bitter wind. The forecaster said it was a north-westerly but, to me, it seemed to come right from the North Pole. We started the day at 22C; by 2:30 it was 17C; by 4:30 13C, and when I got home at 9:00 last night it was a meagre 7C. This morning it had fallen another 2 degrees and the plants I had moved outside just a few days ago were looking mighty miserable. I have brought the ones in pots back inside as tonight there is talk of frost, but the ones transferred to the garden will have to "tough it out". Luckily they are mostly on the south side of the house which is somewhat protected.

   Today has continued cold but the sun is shining and we did manage to reach 15C this afternoon. James and I didn't venture to the park but managed to put in the day indoors. In winter we would have been outside well bundled up but not at this time of year!

   I have started a new book which I think will be most enjoyable. It's "The Purchase" by Linda Spalding and is set in the late 18th century. It combines the travails of a Quaker family with slavery in Virginia, not unlike another book I read recently (I will try to remember the title) which dealt with the same themes.
 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Too Much Food!

   Set off for the tennis courts to take the snacks over for the social. There were a couple of people there already and more arrived while I was there. Next stop was Q-ssis for the RTO AGM and coffee to keep us awake. This ran over slightly so I indulged in a glass of white wine until lunch arrived around 12:30.  - a nice salad, roast chicken (again!) with r oast potatoes and veggies. Fruit and ice cream for dessert and more coffee. The entertainment was a Barber Shop choir - pretty nice singing and quite moving. The best part was that attendance at the meeting qualified one for a free lunch. Stopped off at Walmart on my way home for a new ink cartridge for my printer.
  
    Home for a nap, woke at 4:15 and out of the house by 4:20 to drive across the city to the location of the ETT AGM - no more coffee but the meeting was pretty entertaining with lots of Union and contract talk. The entertainment was a Barbara Shop choir ( a different one but much more professional and easy on the ear). This was followed by a lovely meal shortly after 7:00 p.m. - a delicious ginger salad, salmon and rice with roasted peppers, asparagus and pea pods. Thank goodness for something different. Petits fours for dessert and strawberries dipped in chocolate - again a welcome change! Also a glass of red wine was served - all for $10.
  
     Now I feel like not eating for a couple of days and have done enough socializing to last me a week. It has been a very busy few days.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Another Lucky Day!

   A wild night last night with thunder, lightning, rain and wind. I'm glad I got the photo of the lilac yesterday as it is looking very sad and droopy this morning. More rain forecast for later today which may completely put paid to the blossoms. Everything else seems to have survived the storm and the grass is nice and green. I have finally got all my indoor plants outside - or at least those that are easy to move . Makes watering much easier, but I have to keep an eye on them as they are not used to direct sun. 

   Got in some tennis this morning although the courts were still a trifle wet - played two sets back to back, had a coffee and some cake, then called it a day. Back home for a quick shower then off to "do lunch" with the RWTO ladies. Believe it or not, my luck is holding as I won $21 on the 50-50 draw! Almost enough to pay for lunch (spring salad, chicken breast, veggies and roast potatoes, and fruit and ice cream for dessert).

   We had an interesting talk about a munitions factory which was located in Scarborough during WWII, mostly manned by young girls - out in the country in those days. It seemingly was huge, covering the equivalent of a whole city block. The girls were paid $22 a week which was a very good wage at that time. But it was dangerous work, assembling ignition fuses for bombs. The actual bombs were assembled in Ajax before being shipped overseas. 

   It is getting very dark so I think we are in for another storm. The trees are beginning to blow around quite alarmingly and I can hear thunder rumbling in the distance. A good evening to stay indoors.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Victoria Day

   There's been some talk about renaming this holiday but, for now, it's still Victoria Day, commemorating (I think) Queen Victoria's birthday. Tennis this morning at the Don Mills Club and, wonders of wonders, I lucked out in the lucky draw and won a tennis racquet, unstrung, but, nevertheless, a huge prize! This is the first time I've won anything anywhere more substantial than a can of tennis balls or a bottle of wine. We also had a very nice lunch, all for $2. Can't complain about that.

   I finished planting this afternoon and, in the process of hanging baskets and pulling weeds I walked by the lilac bush. What a perfume! Too bad the blossoms only last for a few days but, soon the lilies will be up and they have an even more powerful perfume.

    It was an afternoon for sitting in the shade reading and I came across an anecdote that really made me chuckle. It was in Francis Mayes book, "Every Day in Tuscany" which I am rereading and goes like this: she is talking about "carpe diem" (seize the day) and relates how her Aunt Hazel   "seized my grandmother's furs and jewelry during the funeral she was "too upset" to attend, By the time we trailed in, her Lincoln was packed." What gall!
 
   After a substantial lunch (breaded chicken, green salad and potato salad, cake and trifle), I plan to go light and have an avocado and grapefruit salad for dinner. Tomorrow is another meal out for the RWTO luncheon, Wednesday is the last night for the Petronella group, with snacks and treats after, then Thursday I have two meals out: lunch following the RTO AGM (free if you attend the meeting) and dinner after the AGM of ETFO ( $10 for a quite substantial meal - I chose salmon) . This week will go down in history as one of overeating. Time to start that diet!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Day of Gardening

  Yesterday was grass cutting but today I finally got started on bedding the plants I bought last week. First the tomato plants went in, just four this year: one Early Girl, one Super Star, one yellow grapes and one cherry tomatoes. I put in just a little fertilizer as last year I had lots of greenery but little fruit. We shall see if that makes a difference. They look pretty puny at the moment but have a few flowers getting ready to open.


Fuschia
   I also filled my hanging baskets, the three on the front porch with New Guinea Impatiens (got a gorgeous deep pink for one of them) and the one in the back with two fuschia plants which hang rather dramatically over the edge of the basket. This is a first attempt with this particular arrangement so it will be interesting to see how they develop (or not!)

   I had an interesting find at the Garden Centre - garlic chives. I have had a chives plant that came up every year since I moved here but last year it was completely overwhelmed by mint. I dug up the mint in the fall but was unable to save the chives. So we will see if this one establishes itself in a new spot. The mint has come back but not quite so abundantly. I also bought Italian parsley this year. I usually get the curly sort and sometimes it will appear the next year as well. But most recipes call for Italian parsley so I will see how it turns out.

   Turned off the gas fire for good as the weather seems to have settled into Spring/Summer mode. I feel I have accomplished a lot today so don't feel guilty about vegging this evening. I have a good book and there are a couple of shows on TV I want to watch. Dinner will be easy, broiled salmon and quinoa with peas. And, probably, a glass of vino!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Chicken Tuscan Style

   I have made this recipe many times as I love a dish that can be prepared and eaten from one pot - and has left over ingredients to make into something else. It's from "Every Day in Tuscany" by Francis Mayes, the author of "Under the Tuscan Sun", and has many recipes that I like. One other favourite is Foccacio Bread. I usually make half the quantity so have artichokes and chickpeas left over. The artichokes go into a baked dip with mayonnaise and parmesan cheese, and the chickpeas become hummus with the addition of lemon juice, garlic and sour cream, all whizzed up in the blender and served with crudites and pita chips.

Pollo Con Carciofi, Pomodori E Ceci
(Chicken with Artichokes, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Chickpeas)

5 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut in 8 pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup thyme or marjoram leaves
2 cups chickpeas, cooked
1 can of artichokes, drained
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1medium onion, chopped and sautéed

   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in a flameproof and oven proof casserole. Saute the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes per side in oil. Do in batches if necessary. Add wine and transfer to a baking dish.
   Mix the remaining ingredients, pour over the chicken, and bake, covered, for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, turning the chicken once.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A Novel to Recommend

   I have just finished reading "The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is loosely based on the family of the young dancer who modelled for Edgar Degas' statue "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen".
   The story follows the two van Goethem sisters who were spotted by Degas as they trained to be ballerinas of L'Opera in Paris in the late 19th century. The author advances the story by alternating the narrative between the two sisters, Marie (the subject of the statue) and Antoinette, giving a vivid picture of the competition and struggle for survival that these young dancers faced to make it to the second quadrille (the group of dancers who backed up the lead performers).
   Many of the story lines are based on actual people and events, and the descriptions of places, streets and characters of 19th century Paris took me back to visiting the city. It was a difficult time for the masses of poor people and Miss Buchanan describes it in a moving yet unsentimental manner. Worth a read!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Chilly for May

   Still pretty chilly here for the middle of May. James and I were back to winter outfits (gloves and hats as there was a strong north wind) for our trip to the park yesterday and, although I played tennis today, I was well bundled up for the first half-hour or so. I managed to play for a bit longer today, my stamina must be building. However, I have to say I didn't have very challenging opponents in any of the games. Went for a swim later in the afternoon but didn't manage to improve on the 12 laps I did last week. Must keep working on that!
  
    I went to see "The Great Gatsby" today, well worth the trip but I will have to get the Fitzgerald book to really understand the plot. Costumes, special effects and photography were all fabulous, but some of the acting was a bit thin and artificial in places. I doubt it will take any awards next Oscar season!


    Had the gas fire on again this evening so it is toasty warm in here. Usually I have it turned off by this time in May but I'm certainly glad to have it tonight. The temperature is to go down to 4C so no plants outside yet.
 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

I'm Back!

   No news is good news, so they say, but truly there has been little to report for the last three or four days. I've been busy tidying up the garden as the weeds are running rampant. We've had quite a bit of rain, resulting in even more growth and I have cut the grass twice in the last week. It is now fertilized and de-dandelioned although I see many of them coming back.
   James is back in full fettle but seems to have taken an aversion to any and all outings. We managed to the "Sing, Play and Learn" group on Wednesday but have stayed close to home since. It was too wet to go to the park on Friday.
    Last night I attended the "West End Ball" and danced my feet off after a delicious roast beef dinner. This is the second to last event of the dancing season and the last time it will be held in the same location. We finished the evening around midnight with a rousing rendition of "Auld Lang Sine" as a tribute to the 40-odd years the Ball has been held there. Rumour has it that the banquet hall will be torn down to make way for even more condominiums. I had many good partners but the most memorable was Ella, a sprightly 93-year-old, who was as nimble as all get out. Hope I'm still around and able to dance at that age. 
   It's a cold (7C) dreary day with overcast, threatening skies and strong winds. I have a small painting project on the go so will be able to complete that without being tempted outside. It certainly doesn't feel like the middle of May!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Today

   Went to the tennis courts for a couple of hours this morning - probably played for half that time and sat chatting with friends over coffee for the rest. After lunch did some gardening but got so hot I headed over to the rec centre for a swim - did 12 lengths (I was up to 20 lengths over the winter but haven't been for a couple of months). Came home and collapsed, exhausted, on the sofa for half an hour. I think I may have dozed off - not used to so much fresh air and exercise. Plan to cut the back grass when it cools down a bit this evening. That's my day!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Sunday and Monday

  
   As the saying goes, "April showers bring May flowers". This is true but the last few days have been so hot that the flowers have bloomed and faded without a chance to photograph them.  Now the trees are beginning to green up or, as this maple in front of my neighbour's house testifies, produce many different hues. When its leaves appear, they are a shiny  purple bronze colour. I'm not sure which type of maple it is. Maybe one of my readers can supply that information. Some trees are still completely bare, some have just a hazy green to them and there are a few that are well covered with leaves already.

   My little planter on the front porch, which has morphed from its winter style with the addition of some pansies, was improved with a couple of forsythia stalks but they will soon need to be replaced. It's too early to plant annuals or tender vegetables as frost can still occur up to the end of this month. Hardly seems likely with the high temperatures we have had recently, but best to err on the safe side.

   James was here today and seems fully recovered - ate everything I put in front of him, and asked for more! Yesterday I was "stooging" again for the teacher candidates, thoroughly exhausting but someone has to do it. There were 18 of us this time so we didn't need to stand in for all the candidates. I was done (in more ways than one) by 4:30. Got a nice e-mail this morning from their instructor with thanks from all the candidates and herself.

 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Three days to catch up on

   On Thursday, sunny and warm, the daytime social at the Bridlewood tennis courts started. We only had 6 people but we had fun and left tired but satisfied after coffee and cookies. Hopefully next week will bring out a few more of the old faces.

   On Friday James came for the day. He is recovering from a nasty bug requiring two visits to Emergency to sort out his dehydration. He is almost back to normal but still not 100%, so wasn't ready to go back to daycare. We went up to the Mall as I had a few errands to run, but he was quite washed out by the time we got home and barely made it through lunch before he nodded off. That evening I spent a couple of hours stooging for the teacher candidates at the local Orange Lodge. There were 16 of us and we got quite a workout, with step practise and new dances.

   Today was the first social at Don Mills Tennis Club, the official opening day. A couple of matches, volley practise with the "pro" and a nice lunch were followed by speeches and prizes (I didn't win anything), but it was fun to see everyone in tennis attire after a long cold winter. It was a beautiful day so quite pleasant to sit outside and chat. A bit of gardening when I got home and a guilt-free evening watching TV, having accomplished plenty.