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Monday, 29 December 2014

Colder

   A lovely lunch at Judy and Dave's today - Yvonne was there, delivering Christmas presents so I got invited too. Lucky me!  We had butternut squash soup with wholegrain baguette slices, Pork Wellington, asparagus, green salad and potato salad, and a delicious crème brulee for dessert! And, of course, a glass of wine (just one as I still had to drive home). I am still stuffed so will only need a light supper later tonight. After lunch we played a trivia game but soon my head was nodding so I thought I'd better get home.

    The temperature is back to more seasonal levels, -1C was today's high. I saw a few snowflakes but nothing has accumulated so far. Dave has started a backyard rink at their house but it really hasn't been cold enough yet. He should be able to get things going over the next few days.

    After a short nap I spent the rest of the afternoon getting caught up with the weekend newspapers. Now I am about to get my fix of bridge with an online game; last night I was beaten badly by the computer but most nights I come out on top. Can't wait to get back to playing with real people! Some good shows on TV tonight so I should manage to stay awake until a reasonable time.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Two Recipes

   I found some blackberries at the store yesterday at a reasonable price  ($1.65 for a punnet) and will have then with my home made crème fraiche. It is so easy to make and, in my opinion, better than the real stuff which is quite high in fat. I use a small carton of low fat sour cream and a tablespoon of brown sugar, well mixed.

    Here's another recipe - my grandmother's recipe for stuffing. I used this to stuff the capon for the Christmas dinner but had a bread stuffing cooked separately for those that prefer it. But I did notice that both were popular. I had a little left over so mixed it with some sausage meat to stuff in the neck of the bird.. It was delicious too.

   8 ozs. oatmeal
   4 ozs beef suet
   1/2 onion, chopped
   1/2  tsp. salt and some freshly ground pepper
   milk to moisten

   After taking the stuffing out of the bird, fluff it and check it for seasoning (oatmeal does need quite a lot of salt) and add more if needed.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Lucy's Visit

     Lucy the dog arrived around noon yesterday. Steve and Alison were on their way up north for an overnight visit. Lucy didn't seem to object to being left and we had a pretty active afternoon, playing in the back yard and a walk to the park. She can spend an inordinate amount of time fetching a tennis ball and waiting for it to be thrown again.

    We had an early start to the day today with a trip outside at 5:00 a.m. However, after she had finished her business and come back in, I headed back to bed and got another couple of hours sleep before starting the day for real. That's actually a better performance than when the grandkids sleep over. More walks this afternoon and more action with the tennis ball! While in the back yard I did a bit of a clean up since it's still mild (up to 9C today and last week's snow pretty well all gone) and put a cover on my air conditioning unit. I would like to keep it looking new as long as possible The old one got very tatty looking before it was replaced.

   Now Lucy has departed (she was very glad to see Steve and Alison) and I can relax and start on the leftovers again. I have put half the leftover chicken in the freezer for another day and plan to start with the Taramasalata and a glass of White Zinfandel. I should be able to finish off the potatoes, gravy and green vegetables tonight and I gave Steve and Alison most of the plum pudding - there's just enough to have with some custard if I have room!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Back To Normal (almost)

     Just a day for sorting and tidying. The dishwasher is finally empty of all the pots and pans that had to be handwashed. A quick run (or rather fast walk) down to the drug store for milk this morning 
 - I knew they, at least, would be open, not sure about the supermarkets. Got the capon carcass in a pot and cooked up some soup - barley, lots of veg and spices, and, an interesting addition, a tsp. of vinegar. Supposedly it draws calcium out of the bones and into the soup - all the better for my bones!

   Steve and Alison arrived around noon with Lucy dog who is having a sleepover with me tonight. She is a delightful house guest, very low maintenance, except she is leaning on my arm, making it difficult to type. We went for a long walk just before lunch so she slept while I had a nap. I hope tonight is equally calm!


She loves her yellow tennis ball - we needed an indoor one and an outdoor one due to muddiness.

In her Christmas finery and eyeing the snacks on the table.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Time to Relax

    The meal is over, dishes all clean and put away, and the visitors off home. Lots of leftovers in the fridge and I shouldn't have to cook (other than heating things up) until next week.

    I had the bird (a capon) in the oven by 9:30 a.m. and everything else under control by 11:30 when the guests arrived. Following was a frantic opening of gifts (the grandkids) and some more genteel exchanges (the adults) accompanied by snacking on crackers, cheese and sausage. Soon the meal was ready - shrimp and smoked salmon, followed by capon, green beans, brussel sprouts, carrot and turnip mash. roast potatoes, two kinds of stuffing (probably a redundancy of carbs!) cranberry sauce (Judy's homemade), and gravy. It was quite tricky getting everything hot and served at the same time! It was only after we were finished that I realized I had forgotten the sausage stuffing in the neck of the bird. Well, I will eat it tomorrow.
Getting the bird ready for the oven. It was just under 9lbs.
 
A tranquil time around the tree.


   After a brief respite dessert arrived - fruit and crème fraiche, flambéed plum pudding, and mincemeat tarts. The little ones had to try everything (they have really sweet teeth) and Elliot had seconds of each. Coffee followed for the adults while the kids were excused to try out their gifts

   After a walk around the block with Lucy the dog, out  came the Christmas Trivia and that lasted as long as James's patience. Then the kids decorated gingerbread men while the adults had more coffee and the cookies came out. Surprisingly they disappeared pretty fast.

   Everyone departed around 5:00 p.m. and I have been sitting with my  feet up since. I did finish the kitchen cleanup; there's still  a bit of a tidy up needed but that will keep until tomorrow! 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

    An early start today, on the road to Bayview Mall by 8:30 to pick up last minute groceries. As expected they didn't have everythng I wanted ( but I did get the bird for tomorrow) so there were three stops on the way home - the bank, Metro at Kennedy Commons (no smoked mackerel but I did get the rest of the groceries) and, while I was there anyway, a trip to Kitchen Stuff Plus for a new coffee press. I had a lucky event there; the guy in front of me in line had a 25% off coupon that he couldn't use and he gave it to me. Result - $4 off the coffee press!
 
   The rest of the morning was house cleaning (all done except the kitchen floor) and the afternoon was pre-preparing some of the food for tomorrow. I experimented with a stuffing recipe (sausage, celery and dried cranberries) and it turned out quite well although I think I was a bit heavy-handed with the spices. Also made a turnip and carrot mash which will heat up quickly. I decorated the mantelpiece and added some evergreens to the porch planter and wreath, so I think I am done! Luckily I have leftover lasagne for dinner.

Fireplace looking very festive.


Table set for 9.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Getting Close to the Big Day

    Two busy days - yesterday I spent the morning tidying the house and setting the table for Thursday's lunch. In the afternoon I took in a mediocre movie, "Interstellar", with Matthew McConachie. I had a free pass so it didn't cost me anything, thankfully. On the way home I stopped in at Adonis and got some tasty cheese, a gorgonzola and a piece of Shropshire Blue. I really shouldn't go there on an empty stomach! 

    Today I had a good two hours of tennis at Hendrina's condo with her, Lillian and Swan. We played three sets, changing partners each time but I was only on the winning side once. After lunch and a nap I went for a swim. Being the holidays there were lots of kids but they mostly kept out of the deep end so I was still able to swim lengths (actually breadths as they didn't have the lane markers up but I did 24 as they were considerably shorter). On the way home I stopped in at Walmart, looking for a new French Press coffee maker. I broke mine this morning carrying it to the table, so careless. However they didn't have one so I may have to stop in at Kitchen Stuff Plus, I know they have them. 

   I came home and made some shortbread to give to my neighbour - I knew I would cave and reciprocate the gift!  Then I made an artichoke and spinach lasagne which looks and smells delicious - can't wait to get tucked in!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Winter Solstice

      The shortest day has been and gone so now the daylight hours should be increasing. It's been my observation that there is no noticeable change until well into January but we can live in hope! It was quite pleasant today - above freezing with a bit of sun. I had a walk around the block before lunch as I have hardly been outdoors all week.

    I have started cleaning the house for my guests and today rearranged the dining area to accommodate my table with two leafs in. It should make getting around easier once everyone is seated and didn't require too much shuffling. Now that the grandkids are bigger, they require their own space at the table. Also Ariel (Alison's niece) is coming which brings us to 9. Plus there are so many dishes (the guests are providing the vegetables) that we need a big table. I will take photos before we start to eat.

    I went to Metro today to spend my Air Miles bonus - $10. I managed to spend much more than that but got smoked salmon and flavoured coffee at quite a reduction. So I am well started on the Christmas lunch menu. I just hope everything else is equally easy and non-pricey! I plan to pair the salmon with shrimp and (if I can find it) smoked mackerel, and some crusty brown bread. And, of course, lemon wedges - the grandkids love to suck on them until their mouths pucker!

   One of my neighbours came by with a small gift today, quite unexpectedly, as we don't normally exchange gifts. Now I have to decide if I should give a return gift or just accept it and see what happens next year. We had a brief chat at the door but, really, don't have much in common so I'm not sure why she decided to treat me. I will probably feel guilty if I don't get her something.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Last of the Christmas Purchases.

   I can put away my credit card as the only purchases I need to make now are the food items for the Christmas Day lunch. I bought the grandkids books this year as I am also buying items from the "Gifts For Hope" catalogue in their name. I usually do that for Judy and Steve and their spouses but I decided this year that the little ones get so many toys they won't miss one from me. They got to choose the item purchased in their name so everyone was happy with the decision.

   Bridge on Thursday was fun and I think my partner and I came out on top although we don't actually keep score. I had been to the golf clinic in the morning (the only person there) and went for a swim after bridge so it was a busy day. Friday was just a few errands then making some mincemeat pies in case anyone wants an alternative to plum pudding on Christmas day. Then I made a delicious pizza using my bread machine to make the dough. It had pesto, caramalized onions and mushrooms and a few anchovies under a covering of cheese and the crust rose up a treat. Yummy!

   Today I did a light grocery shop then made a gingercake from my mother's recipe. It is so easy, you just put butter, brown sugar, syrup and molasses in a pan to melt, add chopped preserved ginger and then the dry ingredients. So it's just one pan to clean and the tin it's baked in. I love it slathered with butter and it's also nice with a chunk of nippy cheese.

   A light dinner tonight as I had a big chunk of pizza for lunch along with butternut squash soup which I made earlier in the week. I have defrosted a basa fillet and will have it with sweet potato fries and peas - my go-to green vegetable when I can't be bothered cutting and chopping anything else. I will bread and fry the fish which is so quick and easy. There will be leftovers for tomorrow as the fillet is huge!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Festive Dinner

    Yesterday was my family's annual dinner at Swiss Chalet for their Festive Special - quarter chicken, stuffing cranberry sauce and a choice of salad, fries or a vegetable. This has been a mid-December tradition for a few years now and so far we haven't missed out on it.

    I had picked up the grandkids from school and spent an hour at my place before heading over to Swiss Chalet. They made some Christmas cards (lots of glitter in the process) and I left it a little late to tidy up and herd them into the car. But we got there just a little late and at least gave the other grown-ups (Steve and Alison, Dave and Judy) a chance to socialize and relax before the kids arrived.

    Everyone enjoyed their festive meals and all the plates were cleaned, even James. Steve opted for ribs and I understand they were pretty good too. We all got a little box of Lindt truffles and did some trading before departing for home.

    Today I wrote my local Christmas cards and got them in the mail. Then I bought ingredients for a Butternut Squash soup which I whipped up for lunch. I do like a hot soup on these dull rainy days. While it was cooking I put up the outdoor Christmas lights. Note to self: now that it's dark, check if any bulbs need replacing. Now the fire is on and I have finished off the cheese straws with a glass of wine. A salmon fillet is ready to be cooked for a quick and tasty dinner. Must fly!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Card Crafting

   I had a few errands to do this morning and, on my way home, stopped in at Home Depot. I have been on the lookout for an electric snow blower and they had just what I needed - and only six left! So I snapped one up and it is all ready in my garage for the next snow storm. Dave took my old gasoline machine last weekend but so far hasn't got it working. It sat unused in my garage for a couple of years as I found it too hard to start and too heavy to manoeuvre. That may be the reason it's on the blink.

    This afternoon I spent quite some time making Christmas cards, with mixed results. I am still having trouble getting a clean stamp, something I managed quite easily at the card-making class. I think the stamp and/or stamp pad I bought may be the reason but I will persevere. I now have enough cards for the local ones I will write and send off later this week and hope my friends will forgive their slightly sloppy appearance. After all, it's the thought that counts!

   Dining on leftovers tonight so it's an easy supper. I made some cheese straws this afternoon from leftover puff pastry and they turned out really well -almost all gone already!




















Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lots of Parties

   Friday's jury duty went quickly, no cases requiring our presence in the morning and we were released around noon. Seemingly one case was resolved with a plea bargain and the others weren't ready to come to court. I got home around two and went out right away to buy a small gift for our Friday night teacher, Wendy.

    Sheila arrived around 6:30 and we headed out for our party. We set things up then danced until 8:30 when we retired to the well-stocked tables for our party fare, really too much food but I was pretty hungry. We had a 50-50 draw which Ken won and lots of time to chat and socialize. After we had tidied up I had lots of food to take home, my contribution of sausage rolls and salmon sandwiches - usually there are no sausage rolls left but I will freeze them to bring out later.

   Saturday was the monthly dance - Family Night and there were lots of kids and some new dancers. We sold a lot of tickets for the 50-50-draw - the pot was $154 - and Pat won it, lucky girl! I got home around 11:00 p.m. but needed a hot bath to relax my muscles before heading to bed.

  Today I had a very late start, still in my p.j.'s at noon but after a late lunch and a nap, I settled down to writing my overseas Christmas cards. Then I had a walk down to the drug store for stamps (more expensive than the cards!) and they are now on their way. I am making a chicken pot pie for dinner tonight - shouldn't require any side dishes as there will be lots of vegetables in the pie and the puff pastry lid is all the carbs you need. Better get cracking!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Day at Home

     Just a quick note before I head to bed for an early night. I have been shovelling snow all day and my driveway is only half done! Every time I went out I had to redo the portion that I had previously  cleared as the snow just kept coming down all day.
 
     Yesterday we were released around noon from the courts and were not required to go in today as there were no new cases. I have my fingers crossed that I manage to get through tomorrow without being selected - it would be highly inconvenient to be placed on a jury with just two weeks to go before the busy Christmas season.

    Still cold but it's supposed to warm up by the weekend, hopefully enough to get rid of all that snow. We have had around 10 cms. today and more expected to fall overnight.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Jury Duty

   It was an early start on Monday morning as I was required to be downtown at the courthouse by 8:30 a.m. I drove over to the subway station and parked there ($6! I won't do that again!!) then two subway rides got me there in plenty  of time. There were about 100 of us and we were divided into four panels and, after receiving copious instructions into what to expect this week, our panel was called to court to select a jury. The case was an "assault with a knife" and although my name was picked quite quickly, I was "challenged" by the prosecutor, so went back to the panel. No other calls that day and we were released just after 4:00 p.m.

   Last night was the year-end party at one of my dancing groups and it was lots of fun. We danced until 8:45 then ate and partied after. Sheila had organized the food and there were lots of nice treats. I had been starving when I got home at 5:00 and had some soup and a sandwich but I was still able to polish off quite a few treats!

   Back downtown again this morning but not as early so I left the car at home and took the bus. I was still quite early even though the bus took longer and the subway was quite a bit slower. Only one call again today and my name wasn't drawn so we were off again by 4:00. I just hope the rest of the week goes as easily. I spent the day reading, chatting and doing a puzzle. I would like to find 3 other people with whom to play bridge game but so far no luck.

    Leftover chicken for dinner tonight then an early night. Considering I have spent the day being completely inactive I am surprisingly tired. I guess it's not having an afternoon nap!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

My House of Fun

   It was fun and games at my house last night when the grandkids came for a sleep-over. Judy and Dave were hosting a dinner party ( or at least one course, I think it was a travelling dinner) and it made things easier for them to have the kids out of the way!

    The kids arrived around 4:00 p.m. and were go-go-go from then on. First off was getting the artificial tree out of its box in the basement and hauling it upstairs to the family room. Then came the lights and decorations. I basically left them to do it themselves and, under Elliot's guidance, they did a remarkable job. 

     Then we got out the Christmas cake that had been soaking in spirits for a couple of weeks. I had made some marzipan yesterday so rolling that out was Natalie's job. Meanwhile James had doused the top with honey and Elliot had prepared the icing. We got the layers on and put it in the fridge to firm up prior to decorating.

   Since I had company I had taken the opportunity to roast a chicken. Elliot accepted the challenge of carving the bird and did a decent job and proudly carried the meat to the table. With it we had roast potatoes and corn kernels. I was amazed by how much food the kids consumed but there is still lots left for a few more dinners next week.

    While the bird was cooking Elliot and James concocted a dessert. It turned into a sort of fruit sponge and Elliot wrote up the recipe. It went into the oven just as the chicken came out and was ready shortly after we had finished with the chicken course. It proved to be rather filling so we had small helpings. It took only a few minutes to decorate the Christmas cake and, as we had previously rinsed and dried the glace cherries and mixed fruit, it was easy to do. A few pecans added to the overall effect. I will keep half of it and they took the other half home today.

    They had brought a couple of DVD's to watch before bed so while they did that, I cleaned up the kitchen, quite a mammoth job! Then bath time, teeth brushed and into bed - not a sound from them, they were exhausted. I followed them shortly as I knew they would be up early. Before I knew it they were up and on the go again! It was still dark and I tried to ignore them but, as soon as the clock said 6:00, they were ready for breakfast. Pancakes, sausages, eggs, toast and a gallon of orange juice filled them up, in fact Elliot and Natalie had some cereal while they waited. At least they have good appetites. I was sorry and glad to see them go by 10:00 and headed back to bed for a couple of hours!

   

Friday, 5 December 2014

An Unusual Sighting

    I spotted some kind of hawk in my neighbour's tree early this morning - not close enough for a photo although I did try to snap it. It was still hanging around when I left for Fitness class but it soon flew off, probably in the hunt for a small rodent or squirrel - I hope it was successful. Yesterday I put out a couple of seed bells for the finches and sparrows who hang around my front porch and have been rewarded with their twittering whenever I walk out the door. The grey squirrels have been hanging around trying to reach the seeds but I give them short shrift if I catch them at it.

    The Gentle Fit class at the Senior's Centre is just my speed - not so much aerobically, but my muscles were aching and I had worked up a bit of a sweat by the end of the hour. Sad to say, this was the last class but I have registered (on the waitlist) for the Winter session which starts in January. I stayed to chat and have coffee with some of the other ladies and found we are almost neighbours. They told me of some other classes I could try to get into if this one remains full but I like this Centre as it is only a 5-minute drive from home.

   A quick dinner of leftovers tonight as I will be heading out around 6:30. It's not been quite so cold today and still no snow. Hope it lasts!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A New Addiction

   Today was Bridge club and I learned that you can get bridge games on the computer. So that's how I frittered away an hour after coming home this afternoon! It is quite compulsive and will really help me with play of the hand. I was paired up with an imaginary partner and we came out on top playing against the computer. I can tell I will be spending a lot of time this way this winter!

   The ladies I play bridge with at the Senior's Centre taught me Gin Rummy today and we played that for the last half-hour. It's really easy and I will try to teach it to Elliot and Natalie when they are here on the weekend. I'm sure they could pick it up quickly. After Bridge/Rummy I went to the pool and did 16 laps - it was rather busy so I didn't attempt more but next week I might try to increase it. I followed this with a soak in the hot tub, as usual, and came home refreshed. I also hit 4 buckets of balls at the golf clinic this morning so certainly got some exercise today. In addition I spent some time sawing away at the dead bushes at the front of the house as the sun was out. The temperature was barely above freezing but I managed to work up a sweat in short order.

   I didn't cook the salmon last night - just had a bowl of my very filling Minestrone soup - so I will have it tonight. Luckily I bought quinoa this week at the bulk food store so that and green beans will be the side dish. My fridge seems rather bare this week so I will have a big shopping list on Saturday.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Staying Warm and Cosy

   Not much happening today.  I woke up to a chilly 2C and snowflakes drifting down but no accumulation on the ground. I lay and read in bed for a while so had a rather late start. Then a quick breakfast before getting a loaf of bread going in the bread machine. It turned out well. I have cut down the amount of yeast required in the recipe and am much happier with the results. While that was baking I got a pot of soup going - Giada's Winter Minestrone, without the beans. Its secret ingredient is a parmesan rind which I wanted to use up. So that cooked all morning.

    Made myself a delicious decaf latte around 10:30 then headed out to pick up a few groceries at Food Basics. Got a nice piece of salmon and some green beans for dinner. This afternoon I finished two books, "The Children Act" by Ian McEwen (excellent) and the last DS Wallender book by Henning Mankell " An Event in Autumn" - also good. I have nothing waiting for me at the library so had to delve into the bin of paperbacks destined for sale at the next RWTO lunch, but that's not until January so I will be finished well before then.

   Time to get dinner started and then just some light TV before heading back to bed - not much accomplished but managed to keep myself busy on a cold day!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Tennis and Bridge

   After a quiet day at home yesterday, it was all go,  go, go today. I started the day with a visit to Pusateri's to order the Christmas bird. I am getting a capon again as I've had enough turkey this year. I will pick it up on Christmas Eve and hope for a decent sized bird.

   Next, after grabbing a coffee at Chapters, I met up with Hendrina and Pat at Hendrina's condo to play tennis. She is just a bit north of Bayview Village Mall so it was sort of on the way. Swan was there too and we played for about an hour and a bit, before heading home. I had a quick lunch and made it over to the Senior's Centre for a bridge lesson by 1:30. I was at a table with quite experienced players and had to play most of the hands myself - lost the all! However, I did learn quite a bit about bidding and playing the hand. Eventually it will all make sense.

    Now I am cosily ensconced by the fire with a glass of wine and crackers, cheese and smoked oysters. I have some scallops defrosting and will cook them eventually but I'm in no hurry!