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.