Dec 22, 2021

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Okay, it’s not really. We had a little bit of snow on the weekend, but it warmed up again so it’s pretty much gone. *sigh*

But here are some more of my favorite Christmas videos to help with the Christmas Spirit.

Dec 20, 2021

Happy Holidays

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
— Hamilton Wright Mabie

Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money. Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
— Oprah Winfrey

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.
— Victor Borge

I’m tired. It’s been a whirlwind week of getting the tree up, finishing the shopping, and wrapping presents. This week I need to get my baking done.

We finally got some snow. Not a lot, but it’s mostly white out there. How long it will stay is anyone’s guess. The temperature is supposed to rise today and then it’s up and down the rest of the week. White Christmas? Green Christmas? Who knows. *sigh*

I asked the grandbaby last week which she’d rather have for Christmas dinner, turkey or ham. She wants both. I recall I served both once before when I could only find a small turkey, so both it is. I even found room in the freezer for them both, and there’s actually room to spare.

This pandemic is starting to piss me off. We’re back to being under restrictions as of midnight last night, and I’ve heard rumours that we’re headed for a total lock down on Boxing Day. It’s going to make it dicey to visit relatives in Hamilton on the 27th.

And that’s pretty much it for this post. Like I said, I’m tired and no matter how organized I am, there’s still a lot to do before Christmas.

That being said, I’ll be doing the Christmas videos on Wednesday, but I won’t be posting next week. Check out my other blog on Friday for a holiday themed story.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you in 2022!

Dec 15, 2021

Counting Down

The closer to Christmas we get, the more our temperatures seem to go up. *sigh*

I don’t know about you, but I need some serious Christmas music to get me into the spirt of the season.

Dec 13, 2021


The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.
‒ Erma Bombeck.

Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.
- Gertrude Stein.

If you spend fifteen minutes in a shopping mall, you will pass more people than our ancestors saw during their entire lifetimes.
‒ Rolf Dobelli

How much shopping do you do online?

I’m not opposed to shopping online, but I’m a little cautious. I admit to being burned a few times – products that weren’t as advertised, products that never came at all. But I’ve also found a lot of great stuff.

It’s a learning experience, I guess, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is: just because it’s advertised on Facebook, doesn’t mean the vendor can be trusted. Like the pre-Christmas present I got the daughter. I saw an ad for a David Bowie advent calendar and couldn’t resist ordering her one. I could just picture her pleasure at all the little bobble head Bowies and other treasures. I even paid an extra $20 for the deluxe edition.

I started getting worried when it took so long to get here, but it did get here, and it looked like it did online. However, the little collectibles within each day’s compartment are not as advertised. It’s very disappointing.

So, when buying online, it pays to stick to vendors you know you can trust, like Indigo for books, or Old Navy for clothes. And another drawback of buying on line is the wait period.

Now with Indigo or Amazon Prime, you usually get your product in a couple of days. But with a lot of vendor it could take a couple of weeks or more. Which is why I didn’t do a lot of online shopping for Christmas – by the time I thought about it, I wasn’t sure I’d get what I ordered on time.

Which is also why I’ve subjected myself to that dreaded seasonal pastime, Christmas Shopping. I absolutely refuse to go shopping on the weekend at this time of year, so the hubby and I have been going during the week. Four trips in all (counting the solo trip I made last night because I had to go to Toys ‘R Us) and we’ll be going again today. Dare I hope we’re able to finish off our lists today?

I remember back in the day I used to love Christmas shopping – the decorations, the music, the energy. Of course, back in the day there was lots of snow by now to make the season bright. Yesterday it was so warm people were wandering around in spring coats.

Also, over the years I’ve started liking being around people less and less, even before the pandemic. Ideally, I’d like to do more Christmas shopping online, but it means having to do it in October because I’m too focused on NaNo in November.

Maybe I should pencil it in on my 2022 calendar.

Dec 8, 2021

Happy Wednesday

As you may have noticed, I didn’t manage a spice post last week. What can I say? Time got away from me. December is a busy month for me, and I don’t necessarily mean writing wise. I have a lot on my plate right now so I’m going to suspend the spice posts until after the new year.

But never fear! I have something else in mind to keep you entertained on Wednesdays. Traditionally, this is the time of year I post Christmas music videos. So here you go with the first batch. Hope you enjoy.

You have to be a certain age to remember this one from 1984, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas.

Mariah Carey does it with style, with All I Want For Christmas.

Nothing beats the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby. And you can sing along, too.

Best version of Feliz Navidad I’ve seen yet!

Dec 6, 2021

More Nostalgia

Nostalgia: A device that removes the ruts and potholes from memory lane.
— Doug Larson.

Nostalgia is a powerful drug. Under its influence, ordinary songs take on dimensions and powers, like emotional superheroes.
— Kate Christensen

It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.
— Frank Zappa

We’ve got a nice routine with the grandbaby on Sundays. She comes over in the afternoon to do crafts with Gramie, and when she gets tired with that spends some time with Grappy in the recording studio where they’re working on a CD of original music.

Doing crafts with the grandbaby always makes me nostalgic. One of my fondest memories of when I was a kid was visiting an aunt who instilled the love of crafts in me. Every time I visited she had a new craft to show me.

I remembered one in particular I thought the grandbaby would enjoy – making a wreath out of a wire coat hanger and garbage bags. First, you bend the coat hanger into a round shape with the hook at the top. Then you cut up garbage bags into short strips and tie them to the hanger. You have to keep pushing them together to make them nice and tight on the hanger, but when you’re done you have a wreath, ready for decorating.

The first problem I ran into was trying to find green garbage bags. Most garbage bags are black now, and while a black wreath might be fine for Halloween, it’s not very Christmassy. However, I did find some white garbage bags and then bought blue decorations (blue is the grandbaby’s favorite color).

The second problem I ran into was the grandbaby having trouble tying the strips to the wire. It was something I’d never considered, but she had a hard time getting the hang of it and was getting a little frustrated. So I pulled out a package of self sticking foam shapes to make decorations out of instead, telling her I’d tie the plastic onto the wire, and she could decorate it the following week.

She loves to draw and paint, so I picked up some wooden, and clay ornaments for us to paint, but we didn’t get around to it this week. We started with decorating the wreath, then a couple more foam decorations, then some snow flakes cut out of coloured paper, and then she did some drawing, which is where she really shines. I ask you, does this look like the work of a six-year-old?

Next week I think we’ll focus on the decorations to be painted so she can embellish them with glitter glue. Glitter glue is a wonderful invention – all the sparkle of glitter with a fraction of the mess.

Trust me, Gramie would never steer you wrong. LOL

Nov 29, 2021

Magazine Nostalgia

Most women’s magazines simply try to mold women into bigger and better consumers.
— Gloria Steinem

Magazines all too frequently lead to books and should be regarded by the prudent as the heavy petting of literature.
— Fran Lebowitz

A magazine or a newspaper is a shop. Each is an experiment and represents a new focus, a new ratio between commerce and intellect. — John Jay Chapman

I started thinking about magazines recently and it was a real trip down memory lane.

When I was a kid, I have a vague recollection of my mother picking up the occasional women’s magazine, like Family Circle, Woman’s Day, and Good Housekeeping. When I was a young teen I’d read about my favorite pop stars in magazines like Tiger Beat, and Teen Beat, and Sixteen Magazine.

My favorite magazine over all at that time, which you could only subscribe to through school, was one called Co-Ed Magazine. It was filled with wonderful articles, not glossy pictures. It also featured at least one or two fictional stories, which was another big selling point for me.

In my later teens I subscribed to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, which I believe is still around today. It’s a digest sized magazine filled with stories. I used to dream about being the youngest person to be published by IASFM, but I knew very little about writing back then, so I also subscribed to Writer’s Digest.

I remember picking up the occasional glossy fashion magazine like Vogue, or Harper’s Bazaar. I rarely found anything worth reading in them, for me it was all about the fashion. I couldn’t afford to follow the fashion trends, but I could sure look at them in the magazines.

Magazines are an amazing thing. They come in all shapes and sizes, from glossy fashion magazines to digest sized periodicals that are easy to carry with you. They inform, they entertain, and they can open up the world to you. In today’s electronic world I’m actually surprised to see so many of them still on the shelves.

What started me thinking about this is that I couldn’t help but notice a special issue of National Geographic, the king of magazines, on the stands recently. It concerned ancient cities, which has always been an interest of mine (the hubby’s too). I was very tempted to get it, but the price put me off. I mentioned it to the hubby and he said I should go ahead and buy it, so I did. And then I told him a subscription to National Geographic would make a good Christmas present.

I used to get magazines passed down to me from an aunt – Chatelaine, Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living – and I’d go through them and merrily cut them up. I have file folders full of pictures I’ve cut from magazines, all neatly organized of course, to inspire me in my writing. I rarely consult them, mind you, but they’re there. I have fewer folders of articles I’ve found interesting enough to save, and of course I have a few folders of recipes that I have given up trying to keep organized.

The only glossy magazine that was safe from my scissors was National Geographic. My uncle subscribed to it, and he’d pass his old issues on to me. There was so much information in them that it was like having a set of reference books, and I certainly wouldn’t cut up reference books. However, sometimes I’d find National Geographics at a church book sale, and if they were duplicates of ones I had, then I felt free to cut away.

I buy two magazines on a regular basis when I grocery shop, First For Women, that comes out every two or three weeks, and Woman’s World, that comes out weekly. The first one I get for the recipes mostly, and the second features a short, romantic story as well as a mini mystery. And let’s not forget the horoscopes. ;-)

My only subscription at this time is to Fairy Magazine, which comes out quarterly and is now called Enchanted Living. It’s another magazine that’s safe from my scissors, although I’m running out of shelf space for the back issues.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? Buy them when you grocery shop? Inquiring minds want to know. . .

Nov 24, 2021

Spice of Life Part XIII

Cardamom comes from the seed pod of the Elettaria cardamomum, a perennial plant in the ginger family. The entire cardamom pod can be used whole or ground. The seeds are small and black, while the pods differ in color and size by species. It has a warm, pungent, sweetly aromatic flavor.

Cardamom can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. It’s a popular seasoning in Indian and South Asian dishes, especially curries. In Scandinavia it’s used in pastries and mulled wine. Cardamom is a key ingredient in Arabic and Turkish coffee, as well as masala chai.

Cardamom is one of the most ancient spices in the world, dating back at least 4000 years. Initially it grew wild in South West India where the native tribes harvested and sun dried it to trade. It was brought to merchants who took it to the ports along the Malabar coast. From there it found its way to the various trade routes.

The Egyptians used it in medicine and also added it to the oils used for preparation in the mummification process. The Arabian traders introduced cardamom to the Romans and Greeks, and it became a popular trade item with the Babylonians, Mesopotamians, and Assyrians as well.

The Vikings came cross it in Constantinople, and introduced it into Scandinavia, where it remains popular to this day. During the 19th century, British colonists set up cardamon plantations, some of which are still in use today, although Guatemala is the largest commercial producer of cardamom. In some areas, it’s considered an even more valuable crop than coffee.

Medicinal Uses:
The Ancients used cardamom to help with digestion issues, specifically indigestion, nausea, and relief from ulcers. It’s both an antioxidant and a diuretic that may help lower blood pressure, and it’s believed to contain cancer fighting compounds. Its anti-inflammatory compounds may help protect from chronic diseases such as liver disease.

Chewing gum often contains cardamom to fight off the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath, although chewing on cardamom pods after a meal can have the same effect. Breathing in essential oils containing cardamom can help relax your airway, stimulating your oxygen intake which is helpful when treating asthma. Cardamom extracts and essential oils have compounds that fight many strains of bacteria that can cause fungal infections, food poisoning, and other stomach issues.


Cardamom Sun Tea

6 cups water
1/4 cup loose white tea leaves
6 whole cardamom pods

Place water, tea leaves and cardamom pods in large container or pitcher. Stir. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Let stand in sun for 3 to 5 hours.
Strain tea, discarding tea leaves and cardamom pods. Serve over ice or refrigerate until chilled. Sweeten with honey, if desired.

Indian Rice Pudding

2/3 cup jasmine rice
5 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flaked coconut
6 whole cardamom pods
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
2 tablespoons raisins

Combine rice and milk in medium saucepan. Bring to boil on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; simmer 30 minutes or until rice is tender and creamy, stirring frequently.
Stir in sugar, coconut, cardamom and vanilla. Pour into bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours or until ready to serve. Remove cardamom pods. Sprinkle with almonds and raisins before serving

Nov 22, 2021

Three Sheets to the Wind

The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.
— Ogden Nash

I have cotton or flannel sheets, depending on the weather. They have to be ironed, and I get my bed changed nearly every day.
— Martha Stewart

The housekeeper had been there that afternoon. I could always tell because the sheets on the bed would be tucked in so tight, trying to get them out was like wrestling an alligator.
— Tiffanie DeBartolo

How often do you change the sheets on your bed? Weekly? Every other week? Once a month? Twice a year?

With me it depends on the season. When we have a hot and humid summer (like we did this year) the sheets get changed more often than they would during a cold, dry winter.

Yesterday the hubby had to be up and out early for a bowling tournament, so I took advantage of the fact he was gone to get some re-organizing done upstairs. See, the problem is, I don’t get many opportunities to work upstairs during the morning because he sleeps really late. And by the time he does get up, any urge I have to do anything upstairs is gone.

So yesterday I started by changing the sheets on the bed, then washed and dried a couple of loads of bed linens. THEN I decided I wanted to reorganize the linen closet upstairs, and maybe make room for more of the blankets and pillows that were stored in the guest room, getting them out of the way of all the craft stuff I have in the bookcase in the guest room, but can’t get at as easily as I’d hoped because of all the aforementioned ‘stuff’ in the way.

I started by taking the sliding doors off the upstairs closet. See, the mirrored doors are meant for a much bigger closet and overlap so much you can only access about a foot, foot and a half of the closet. And that’s just at either side (one at a time). You can’t get to the middle part of the closet unless you take the doors off.

The center of the closet is mostly taken up by a chest of drawers, which I’d like to get rid of so I keep it empty. But there’s also space on top of it, and a couple of shelves above it, and a narrow shelf unit to the right which is where I store the extra sheets.

I pulled stuff out of the closet and pulled stuff off of the bookcase in the guest room, and immediately lost interest in finishing the job. LOL It was a heck of a lot of work, but I moved stuff around, rearranged the spaces, and even managed to clear a path to the craft supplies.

I made room for pillows and blankets in the linen closet, and was a little appalled at the number of sheets there were for two people. Time to thin things out. I kept six sets for the queen sized bed and five sets for the double sized bed, and have a nice pile to donate. Don’t judge.

Have you ever noticed that no matter how clean your sheets are, if they’ve been in a closet for a while they start smelling funky? I don’t remember where I learned this trick, but I put a set together in a plastic bag, and put a dryer sheet in the center of the set and it keeps them fresh smelling. But you have to remember to tuck the ends of bag underneath it, because if the bag is left open you get that funky smell.

And no one likes funky smelling sheets. :-)

Nov 17, 2021

Spice of Life Part XII

Though similar in flavor to star anise, anise is slightly different. It comes from the Pimpinella anisum plant, which is part of the parsley family. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor that is much like black licorice. In fact, it is often used to flavor licorice as well as black jelly beans.

It comes from the Mediterranean region and is a key ingredient in candy and alcoholic drinks, such as Ouzo, Sambuca and Absinthe. It pairs well with seafood, and can also be used in dairy products, gelatins, meats, and breath fresheners. In Europe it’s used in cakes, cookies, and sweet breads, while in the Middle East and India it’s used in soups and stews.

It’s generally agreed that the Egyptians were the first to have cultivated anise, more that 2,000 years ago. Both biblical and ancient Egyptian texts mention its use for both culinary and medicinal purposes, and the seeds were often entombed with the bodies of Pharaohs.

It was also cultivated by the Greeks and Romans, and made its way to Europe by the Middle Ages. By the 14th century, anise could be found throughout the Mediterranean as well as Germany and England. Anise seeds were introduced to the New World by the Spanish and the Virginia colonists, and made its way to Mexico where it became a staple in many Mexican dishes.

Medicinal Uses:
Anise is most commonly used for indigestion, and to reduce the pain and bloating of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A cup of anise tea before bed is thought to reduce the symptoms of asthma and sleep discomforts due to allergies. Anise seed extract has been taken to reduce the frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women. It is sometimes used as an expectorant for dry coughs, and aniseed tea can help alleviate the pain of a sore throat.

Other Uses:
Anise has a wide history of use in folklore. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed anise seeds had the ability to avert the evil eye. It was also believed to act as an aphrodisiac. It was used in voodoo and lunar rituals, and it was believed that filling a small pillowcase with anise seeds will prevent nightmares, while the fresh leaves will ward off evil spirits.

In modern use, anise seed extract is used in perfume, soap, creams, sachets, and toothpaste. It can also be mixed with lard for a treatment for insect bites.


Anise Milk

1 cup milk
1 teaspoon crushed anise seeds

Place milk and anise seeds in a pot and bring to a gentle boil. Strain into a mug. Add sweetener if desired.

Bizcochitos (Anise Cinnamon Sugar Cookies)

1 cup butter
1 3/4 cups sugar (divided)
1 1/2 teaspoons aniseed
1 large egg
2 tbsp rum
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 F. Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
Crush the aniseeds in a mortar and pestle.
Add the crushed aniseed, egg, and brandy to the creamed mixture and combine thoroughly.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a 1-inch thick disk.
Wrap disks of dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cup of sugar with the cinnamon.
Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick on a well floured board. Cut the dough into shapes.
Dip in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and put on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool.

Nov 15, 2021

Eye Yi Yi!

No person ever ended his eyesight by looking on the bright side.
Zig Ziglar

Life begins at 40 - but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.
Helen Rowland

My eyesight's gone, my reflexes are shot, and I can't stay awake, but thank God I can still drive.
Robert Breault

Last week the optometrist’s office called to remind my husband it was time for his two year check up. While I had them on the phone, I mentioned that I was past due for my yearly diabetic eye check. I was told “So sad, too bad, you can’t have one.”

You see, starting on September 1, optometrists in Ontario have been withholding their services from patients covered for eye care under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. This includes children under 19, seniors over 65, and those with certain eye conditions, like me with my diabetes. The Ontario Association of Optometrists made this decision because they feel they’re not being reimbursed enough from OHIP for their services.

So I asked, if we could no longer have eye examinations, why were they calling my husband. Turns out my husband can have his eyes examined because he’s not a senior and he pays for it himself.

I was more than willing to pay for my exam – I suspect my eye sight has changed over the last year and I really needed my eyes checked. But no, me paying for it on my own isn’t allowed. I guess just being on the OHIP list makes you personae non grata.

What bothers me even more about this, is the fact that my granddaughter is starting to have trouble seeing the black board at school and she can’t have her eyes checked either because of her age – she’s covered by OHIP. And again, they won’t let my daughter just pay for the exam or use her benefits from work to cover it.

But . . . I was talking to a friend last week and she’s heard that if you get your doctor to refer you to an ophthalmologist, you can get your eyes checked by them. I have a (phone) appointment with my doctor this Friday, it might be worth mentioning.

And it’s also worth mentioning to my doctor that I think the “timed eating” thing the substitute doctor put me on is a bust. I maintained my weight, but my A1C went up instead of down. In fact, it’s the highest it’s ever been, and I refuse to believe it’s my all my fault. The timed eating thing goes against everything I was told when I was first diagnosed with diabetes.

My blood pressure’s gone up too, not surprising.

But you know what’s good for lowering your blood pressure? Snuggles with a puppy.

Meet Omega. He’s a ten-week-old, purebred yellow lab puppy, and the newest addition to my daughter’s family. We drove up to the kennel on Wednesday to pick him up. The daughter had already been on the list for a puppy before Bishop got so sick. With the pandemic restrictions being eased up, she figured he could use some company. And maybe even teach the next generation some of his good habits.

But alas, it was not to be. And then the breeder had to let the daughter know that the breeding didn’t take, so there were no puppies yet. The daughter told her about Bishop, and the breeder said she had one puppy that she just got that she was intending to show and later breed, but health issues were going to prevent her from doing so. As much as she was loathe to let him go, she thought the daughter would be able to provide a good home for him (which is why she jumped her to the head of the puppy list.)

He is darn near perfect. First of all, he’s a yellow lab instead of black, so people aren’t going to confuse him with Bishop. He was a good traveler – a couple of whimpers when he was put in the crate, but not a peep out of him during the two hour car ride home, and he never got car sick.

He’s clumsy and friendly and totally in love with his new family, especially the youngest human. He’s already housebroken, and knows a few basic commands. AND, and this is the most important part, the crotchety, elderly cat loves him.

Clearly, it was meant to be.

Nov 10, 2021

Spice of Life Part XI
Star Anise

Star anise comes from the illicium verum, an evergreen shrub native to Southwest China and Vietnam. The star shaped pods are picked before they’re ripened and then dried in the sun, turning brown or rust in color. It has an intense, licorice-like flavor with hints of mint and clove.

In Europe it’s used in cakes, cookies, and sweet breads, while in the Middle East and India it’s used in soups and stews. The French use it in mulled wine and coffee, and it also pairs well with fish. It’s widely used in Chinese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisine.

Star Anise has been used in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking and medicine for over 3,000 years. In the late 1600s an English navigator was introduced to it in the Philippines and brought it back with him to England. By the 17th century it was being traded in the western civilizations and the Mediterranean and by the 18th century it had spread along the tea routes to Russia and Germany.

Medicinal Uses:
It has both antiviral and antimicrobial properties and has shown promise as a treatment for influenza. It may also lower the risk of cancer, prevent fungal infections, and boost circulation. The relatively high amounts of antioxidants it contains can help improve skin health and help old scars and blemishes to fade as well as support respiratory health.

Star Anise has been shown to possess sedative properties which can aid in sleep issues. It has a high level of iron, which helps boost red blood cell production. It has long been used for digestive issues, including easing cramping and flatulence, and maintaining bacterial balance in the gut. For women it is effective for regulating menstrual cycles and controlling mood swings.

Other uses:
The oil from star anise oil is extremely fragrant and is also used in perfumes, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams. In Chinese folklore, it was considered good luck to find a star anise with more than eight points.

When using star anise is used for medicinal purposes, its important that you use Chinese star anise and not Japanese, which is poisonous.


Star Anise Tea
4 cups water
2 tea bags (black tea or green tea)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 star anise
2 teaspoons honey (optional)

Bring the water to a boil and pour into a tea pot. Add the tea bags, cinnamon sticks, star anise and honey.
Stir the tea, and leave it to steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, add any extra sweetener if you want, then serve!

Honey Glazed Chicken

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup liquid honey
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp fresh ginger, cut in thin strips
6 star anise
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds boneless chicken (breasts or thighs)

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl, mix well.
Pour into a zip lock bag with chicken and refrigerate 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish (or line with tin foil).
Place chicken pieces in baking dish and pour remaining marinade over top.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until done, basting every 10 minutes.

Serve with rice or Chinese noodles.

Nov 8, 2021

Going to the Birds

Give food to the birds, you will then be surrounded by the wings of love, you will be encompassed by the joys of little silent hearts!
— Mehmet Murat Ildan

Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain.
— Douglas Coupland

Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?
— David Attenborough

Do you put out seed for the birds?

We have a variety of birds around here, and I just started appreciating it this summer. So I got a bird feeder and hung it from a shepherd’s crook, and sporadically filled it with seed.

I know some people don’t put out seed during the summer, but I did once in awhile so the birds would get used to checking it out and the plan is that when winter comes I’d fill it on a regular basis.

Right off the bat I noticed how greedy the grackles were. They could empty a feeder in under an hour, so I began varying the days and times of day I put out seed and at least the other birds had a chance once in a while.

Then the grackles disappeared. I have no idea where they went, I was just happy they were no longer holding my feeder hostage. So I began putting the seed out a little more regularly. And then I noticed that it seemed to be disappearing a little faster than it should be, given the frequency of the birds that visited my feeder.

Then one day I happened to notice a chipmunk scurrying across the deck. Normally I think chipmunks are kind of cute, but this one headed for the shepherd’s crook, climbed the pole, and then crossed over to the feeder where he proceeded to stuff his little cheeks with my bird seed!

Eventually I determined that there were two of them (I think they live under our deck) and between them they could empty my feeder almost as quickly as the grackles. They didn’t seem particularly worried when I’d go out to yell at them, so I tried talking to them instead, patiently explaining that the seed was for everyone, not just them, and if they didn’t start sharing I was going to stop putting it out.

They must have seen I was serious because they actually did ease up a bit. Instead of emptying the feed in a couple of hours, they’d take a couple of days. Or maybe they were just getting tired of the same old seed every day.

I also put out peanuts for the blue jays and just recently started putting out black sunflower seeds, which seem to attract some kind of small bird – sparrows maybe? – as well. And squirrels. Lots and lots of squirrels.

In the past when I put out a feeder, squirrels were the reason I’d give up filling it. One was a finch feeder, which lasted about two days before the squirrels destroyed it. The next one was a really nice wooden one I’d been given as a hostess gift, and it took a couple of months before they (with some help from the grackles) gnawed through the top of it.

I’d hung both of those two in the birch tree beside our deck, and I guess it was a little too easy to access. The feeder on the shepherd’s crook has nothing within jumping distance, so it’s lasted a little better than the others. However, the squirrels are still somewhat of a problem.

Yes, that’s a squirrel inside the feeder. When I first saw him he was upside down and I thought he was stuck, but he managed to get out okay. What I’d really like to know is how he got in there in the first place.

It’s too bad the green spaces are all disappearing from our area. I really wish the coyotes would come back to keep the squirrel population down!

Nov 3, 2021

Spice of Life Part X

Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. It has a distinctive, slightly bitter, warm flavor and can be found as either whole dried seeds or as a ground powder. It’s a common ingredient in many spice blends, and a staple spice in a variety of cuisines such as Mexican, Indian, African, and Asian.

It works well in soups, stews, and curries. Ground cumin is stronger than the seeds, and adds a distinctive flavor to marinades for poultry, lamb, or pork. It’s used in both meat and vegetable dishes, and can be added to chili or sauces.

Cumin is one of the more ancient spices. It was used in preserving mummies in Egypt as well as a spice. Mention of it is made in both the old and new Testaments of the Bible. The Romans introduced cumin to Europe where it was valued both as a spice and for its medicinal qualities. Traders from Arabia introduced cumin down the Persian Gulf and into South Asia and China.

After its popularity peaked in Europe and Britain during the Middle Ages, the Spanish took cumin with them when they settled the Americas. It became integral to Spanish and Mexican cuisine and is a key ingredient in chili powder.

Medicinal Uses:
Cumin has a long history of medicinal use, mostly for digestive and bowel problems. It has also been proven helpful for those trying to lose weight, lower their cholesterol, or control their blood sugar. It can improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating and stomach pain. As an antioxidant it helps the body handle stress and can help improve memory.


Cumin Tea

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups water
1 teaspoon honey

In a sauce pan, add water and cumin seeds.
Bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Strain liquid into a mug. Add honey and stir well.
Can be drank hot or cold. Lemon can be added for extra flavour

Spiced Pork Chops

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground red pepper
4 bone-in, ½ inch thick loin pork chops
Cooking spray

Combine first 9 ingredients; rub over both sides of pork.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
Coat pan with cooking spray.
Add pork; cook for 3 minutes on each side.

Nov 1, 2021

Happy All Saints Day

Would it surprise you to know that Halloween is actually a three-day celebration? It starts October 31 with All Hallow’s Eve, November 1 is All Saints Day, and November 2 is All Souls Day. Just one of the many pieces of trivia rattling around in my brain. :-)

I usually enjoy Halloween, but I felt curiously let down this year. I think a lot of it had to do with the weather. We’ve been experiencing intense wind the last couple of weeks, sometimes with rain, sometimes without, but it put the kibosh on my decorating plans. The skeleton with the seven foot long trailing shroud and the witch for the front porch are both battery operated, so I didn’t want the electronics ruined by the rain. And the smaller bridal skeleton couple also had trailing shrouds, and not much weight to them so I didn’t want them to get blown away. So I didn’t put anything out until just before the trick-or-treaters started up. And as it was, the wind kept knocking over my witch.

Though windy, it wasn’t rainy or all that cold last night so I was surprised we didn’t have more kids than we usually do. Of course I remember the years when we had like 6 kids at the most. But the area has built up since then and there are more kids on our street. There are also a couple of big subdivisions off the next street over and the smart kids would hit that first. LOL

I think I remember last year that not only did I wear a mask, I used tongs to drop zip lock bags full of candy into the trick-or-treaters pumpkins. This year, nobody was wearing a mask and I just handed the bags over. But I’m not naïve enough to believe this means things are getting better, pandemic wise. Case in point, our shopping trip to Peterborough Friday.

I think we’re all getting used to wearing masks in public places, but what I found disconcerting was when we stopped for lunch. We decided to pick something up at the food court of the mall, which was fine, but when we went to sit down in the center court we had to show proof of vaccination and a picture ID. Seriously?

This was the mall. People were going in and out of stores and ordering food from the venders in the food court, all without having to prove they were vaccinated. Yes, they were masked, and I think that should have been enough.

I was at that same mall a couple of weeks ago and the only thing that changed was the cordoning off of the center court. There was one way in, and one way out. The seats were still spaced out and every other table had a “do not use” sign on it.

I understand that businesses and restaurants have the right to ask for proof of vaccination, but I always thought of the food court as a public space, like a park. I find it disturbing that if I wasn’t vaccinated I could shop in the mall and buy food in the mall, but couldn’t sit down for afternoon tea (or lunch) in the big open food court. It makes me think about the segregation of the 60s in the southern states where people of colour were only allowed in certain areas, only today it’s vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers.

Is this what we’re coming to? Think about it.

Oct 27, 2021

Spice of Life Part IX

It takes more than 225,000 stigmas from the crocus sativus to produce one pound of saffron. No wonder it’s considered the world’s most expensive spice. The stigmas, called styles, are collected and dried, and often ground into a fine powder before being sold.

Saffron is subtle and fragrant, and has a spicy, pungent, somewhat bitter flavor with a sharp and penetrating odor. A little goes a long way and it’s most often found in Spanish paella, Italian risotto, rice, chicken, seafood stews, and many Middle Eastern dishes.

Pigments made from saffron have been found in 50,000 year old prehistoric cave drawings. It is mentioned in Chinese medical texts dating back to 300 BC. Early uses include ritual offerings, a source of dyes, perfumes, and medicines, and was one of the sweet-smelling herbs mentioned in the Song of Solomon.

The saffron crocus was cultivated in Iran and Kashmir and was introduced into Cathy by the Mongol invasion. It was cultivated by the Arabs in the mid-900s. It was used in Roman cuisine and it was one of the spices they took with them when they settled in southern Gaul. It next appeared in the 14th century as a treatment for the Black Death. Europe imported large quantities of saffron from the Mediterranean. A fourteen-week-long war, called The Saffron War, was precipated when one of the shipments of saffron was stolen.

It was introduced to the Americas in the 1700s where it was cultivated by the Pennsylvanian Dutch. The Spanish occupying the Caribbean purchased large amounts of this saffron, creating a high demand for it and driving the price up. This lasted until the War of 1812 when so many saffron laden ships were destroyed it collapsed the trade. Today, saffron is usually imported from Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India.

Other uses:
Aside from its long history of use in traditional medicines, saffron has also been used as a fabric dye and to perfume bath water. In Asia saffron was a symbol of hospitality and in India people used it for caste marks to indicate wealth. Minoan women used it in cosmetics and Medieval monks added it to egg whites to create a yellow glaze that could be substituted for gold in their manuscripts.

Medicinal Uses:
Saffron is a source of compounds known to have antioxidant, antidepressant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s effective in reducing inflammation, reducing appetite, and aiding in weight loss. It can help improve your mood, memory, and learning ability. It may aid in lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and improve eyesight in adults with age-related macular degeneration. Research has shown it useful in the treatment of depression and tests have shown it to selectively kill colon cancer cells or suppress their growth.


Spiced Saffron Tea

4 cups water
2 teaspoons loose leaf tea, preferably white
¼ teaspoon saffron
1 pinch sugar
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
2 cardamon pods
1 tbsp fresh ginger slices
liquid honey

In a saucepan, boil water and add tea.
Add cinnamon, cardamon, and ginger. Turn off the heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
Grind up the saffron threads and sugar into a powder using a mortar and pestle. Add to tea steep for another 3 minutes.
Add honey to taste.

Saffron Rice

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 1/4 cups water
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
5 cloves
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear.
Place cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, and saffron in a cheesecloth bag.
In a medium non-stick pot, add everything except the butter.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let sit without removing the lid for 10 minutes.
Remove cheesecloth bag. With a fork, gentle stir in the butter and serve.

Oct 25, 2021

Putting the Garden to Bed

Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable…the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown along the street…by a gusty wind, and the gabble of a flock of migrating geese.
— Hal Borland

...I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.
— Nathaniel Hawthorne

If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.
— Victoria Erickson

You know it’s autumn when . . . the temperature drops enough that we’re almost getting frost at night. And even on the sunny days we’re still needing to wear a sweater outside, if not a jacket. Yup, it’s my favorite time of year.

I even went down to the waterfront with a friend one day last week. We took our travel mugs of hot beverages and meandered along the boardwalk to the end, then sat in the sun on one of the benches. The wind coming off the lake was cool, but the sun was pretty warm so it kind of evened things out.

Then on the way back we watched a rather large flock of geese flying overhead and they began to circle in for a landing in a soccer field along the boardwalk. And then we noticed something we’d never seen before. The geese were flying sideways. I didn’t even know they could do that. And I really regretted that I didn’t have my phone with me because I would have taken a video of it, just to prove I’m not crazy.

At least I had witnesses though. My friend saw it too, and the artist who was weaving cloth into the chain link fence dropped what she was doing to take a video with her tablet.

The following day the hubby and I decided we should take advantage of the rain-free weather and clean out the vegetable gardens. There were actually a few beans left on the vines on the fence, and a lot of ones that had gone to seed and dried out. I already had enough seeds for next year so I didn’t feel bad at all pulling those vines. I noticed my neighbor on the other side of the fence had already pulled hers.

The yellow bean plants in my garden had already started to die off, and again there were still beans on them, mostly gone to seed and dried up. But believe it or not, there were still blossoms on some of them, meaning they were still producing beans. I didn’t care, I pulled them anyway.

My first crop of peppers had been lost to creatures unknown, and my second crop was so nice looking it was a shame to pick them, but I did. Better I get them than the frost. The same went for the tomatoes. We got a few of the larger tomatoes when they ripened on the vine, but none looked as good as the green ones I ended up picking. I think I’m going to try making a green tomato salsa with my bounty.

I knew the tomato plants were big this year, but it wasn’t until I started pulling them that I realized how insanely big they were. Most of them were doubled over their cages and when straightened up were taller than me. And most of them still had blossoms on them.

We had such a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes (I have about 15 bags of them in the freezer) that the hubby decided to not save any of the green ones, and the few red ones that were left (some of which were already on the ground) he left for the forest critters.

Now all that’s left of my vegetable gardens is the asparagus and the rhubarb. According to my neighbor (who gave them to me), I’m supposed to wait until the foliage dies off and then cut them back.

Looks like I’m ready – bring on the frost!

Oct 20, 2021

Spice of Life Part VIII

Paprika comes from the Capsicum annuum family, which includes sweet and hot peppers as well as chili peppers, but the peppers used for paprika tend to be milder and have thinner flesh. The striking red peppers are dried and powdered, and range in taste from sweet and mild to hot. American Paprika is the blandest, while Hungarian Paprika has the greatest range of flavor.

The version you find in the spice aisle of your average supermarket is very mild in flavor, with a sweet taste and subtle touch of heat and is best used to sprinkle on a finished dish, such as deviled eggs, and to add color to grilled meat like in a rib spice rub. The stronger Hungarian paprika is very versatile and is good in egg dishes, meat and poultry stews, game, rabbit, fish, soups, boiled or steamed vegetables, rice, and cream based sauces.

Historians believe the peppers used in paprika were first cultivated in the area of South America that is now part of Brazil and Bolivia. They were discovered by Columbus on one of his voyages to the New World at the end of the 15th century. Though at first the pepper plants were used as a decorative plant, they spread from Spain through Europe. The Turks introduced the pepper plants to Hungary (which was under Turkish rule) in the 16th century. It was at first used as a cure for fever and typhus in Hungary before it was used as a main spice for Hungarian cuisine.

The Turks introduced paprika as a spice to the Balkan Peninsula in the 18th century, and it was not used in the west until the mid-1900s. The paprika from Europe was somewhat hot, but through careful cultivation and grafting, growers were able to produce a sweeter, milder paprika.

Medicinal Uses:
Paprika is loaded with vitamins A, E, and B6 as well as iron. It also contains antioxidants which help fight cell damage due to chronic ailments such as cancer and heart disease, and may help protect against inflammatory conditions like arthritis. It also contains nutrients that promote better eye health and lowers the risk of cataracts. As well as improving cholesterol levels, it may also improve blood sugar levels and stave off anemia.


Tomato Cocktail

16 oz tomato Juice
1 oz red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cucumber - peeled and pureed
4 wedges lime - for garnish

Add all ingredients, except lime wedges, to a pitcher and stir well.
Chill for at least 2 hours.
Serve in highball glasses full of ice, garnished with a lime wedge each.

Hungarian Goulash

1 3/4 lb of stewing beef, cubed
4 red peppers
2 tbsp of flour
1 3/4 oz of butter
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup beef stock
1 pkg egg noodles
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp of chives, chopped
3 pinches of salt
1 pinch of pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.
Peel the peppers, then cut them in half lengthways and de-seed. Lay in a roasting tray, cut-side down, then drizzle with a tablespoon of oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook in the oven until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, then cut into 1/2 in slices and set aside - leaving the oven on.
Combine a pinch of salt with the flour in a bowl. Lightly coat the diced beef in the seasoned flour and brown in batches in the butter in a frying pan. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onions to the same pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden. Stir in the paprika and peppers and cook for another minute.
Place meat, onions, and peppers in a casserole dish and add the beef stock. Cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours until the beef is tender and cooked through.
Once the meat is almost tender, cook the noodles in salted boiling.
Remove the casserole dish from the oven, season (if necessary) and skim off any fat that has risen to the surface. Stir in the sour cream.
Divide noodles into bowls. Spoon the goulash on top and sprinkle with the chives. Serve immediately.

Oct 18, 2021

All Roads Lead to Chickens

Well, maybe not all roads, but the roads I had access to this past weekend.

In February 2020, I signed up for the Spring Thaw writing retreat. Then we had a pandemic lockdown so the retreat was changed to the fall of 2020. Then we had another lockdown and the retreat was moved to April 2021. And then, because things were still locked down, it was finally moved to October 2021, which is just as well because I was in the hospital having my cancer surgery in April.

The retreat was held at Elmhirst’s Resort on the north side of Rice Lake, a lake that lies north of Cobourg. While it’s not far as the crow flies, it’s kind of round about if you’re taking a car. Rice Lake is positioned at about a 45 degree angle from Lake Ontario, with Cobourg well below it but kind of at the halfway point between east and west. I had a choice of going east around the upper end of the lake, taking me further north and then south, or going much further west around the lower end of the lake and then turning north. According to Google, it would take me 53 minutes one way and 54 minutes the other. It would have only taken me half an hour if I could have driven across the lake. LOL

The retreat itself was amazing. Everyone was friendly (we’re Canadians, of course we’re friendly!) and supportive of each other’s work. There were group activities, but lots of opportunities to work on your own. I learned a lot, especially about myself as a writer. I would go again in a heartbeat.

We were in shared cabins, strung along the shoreline. Every cabin had view and a fireplace – a must for any writer. I was in a three bedroom cabin, which meant I had two roomies. We shared the kitchen:

And the living room:

And the view (yes, it was raining most of the time):

But we each had our own bedroom and there were two bathrooms. Lunch and supper was provided, but we could breakfast at our leisure as the kitchens were well stocked with juice, milk, coffee, bread, and eggs. Which brings us to the chickens.

Among other activities (fishing, boating, horse-back riding, visiting the spa) there are walking/hiking trails. One afternoon one of my cabin mates followed the road and stumbled across a large enclosure of chickens. Early yesterday morning I followed the path along the shoreline (below the cabins) and . . . ended up at the chicken coup as well. So we decided all roads lead to chickens.

Oct 13, 2021

Spice of Life Part VII

Cloves are the reddish brown flower buds of the clove tree [syzygium aromaticum], a tropical evergreen tree of the myrtle [myrtaceae] family. In stores it can be found in both whole and ground forms. The flavour is strong, hot, and pungent.

It goes well with allspice, bay, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and nutmeg and is used in recipes around the world, particularly in Middle Eastern, Indian, and North American cooking. Because of its strong flavour a little goes a long way and should be used sparingly. It’s delicious in baked goods and pies, and also pairs well in savory foods, particularly rice dishes, spicy meat dishes, and curries.

Archaeological evidence has the first appearance of cloves dating back to 1721 BC, where cloves were found in a ceramic vessel from Syria. In 200 BC emissaries from Java are recorded having brought cloves to the courts of China, where it was used to freshen the breath of those seeking audience with the emperor. There is evidence that cloves were found in Rome in 1 AD, Egypt in 176 AD, and Sri Lanka in 900 AD.

Native to the Indonesian Spice Islands, during the Middle Ages cloves were traded by Arabs in the Indian Ocean trade. Late in the 15th century, Portugal took over the trade and brought cloves to Europe where it became a valuable commodity. The Dutch took over the spice trade in the 17th century and kept a tight control over the production of the spice to keep it rare and therefore profitable. In the 18th century the French managed to introduce the clove tree to Guiana, Brazil, the West Indies, and Zanzibar, thus breaking the Dutch monopoly. Today, Indonesia is still the world’s largest producer of cloves.

Medicinal Uses:
Like many of the warmer spices, cloves contain eugenol, which is a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants help prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. The eugenol found in oil of cloves is also a natural analgesic and antiseptic, and is used for relief from a toothache or as a remedy for colds coughs, fever, and sore throat. Topically, oil of cloves is used on acne, warts, and scars. It may can help lower blood sugar and supports liver health.

Other Uses:
Clove cigarettes, often to be considered more of a cigar, are smoked throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. The bioactive chemicals of cloves make it an effective an ant repellent – my aunt used to scatter cloves throughout her trailer when she was winterizing it to keep pests away. The effective component of cloves, eugenol, is often used in germicides, perfumes, and mouthwashes. An orange, studded with cloves, was often given as a yuletide gift and even now is used as a seasonal decoration


Hot Toddy

1 ½ tsp honey
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar syrup
1 ½ ounces scotch whiskey
3 cloves
boiling water

Warm a mug or heatproof glass. Add the whisky, lemon juice, syrup, cloves and honey. Top up with boiling water and garnish with a lemon skewered with cloves and a cinnamon stick. Give it a quick stir and serve immediately.

You can also simmer whole cloves in boiling water for 5–10 minutes to make a soothing cup of clove tea.

Spiced Pork Tenderloin

1 1/2 pounds pok tenderloin
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves
Zest of one orange
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray, making sure that the dish is large enough to allow room around the tenderloin.
In a small bowl, combine sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves ,and orange zest. Rub all over pork tenderloin and place in the baking dish.
Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until thickest portion registers are 155-160 degrees. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into 1-inch pieces.

Oct 11, 2021

Happy Turkey Day!

I love Thanksgiving because it is a holiday centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me.
— Marcus Samuelsson

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.
— Cicero

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any big meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it then go home and cook, chop, braise and blanch. Then it’s gone in 20 minutes and everybody lies around sort of in a sugar coma and then it takes 4 hours to clean it up.
— Ted Allen

If you live in Canada, today is Thanksgiving. If you live south of the border then today is named after that guy that didn’t really discover America. LOL But either way, today is a holiday.

We had our big turkey dinner yesterday, but the prep work started Saturday. I did the turnips, carrots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, which were easy to store in the fridge in foil containers that could got into the oven when the turkey came out.

This year’s turkey was a Butterball, which I’ve never tried before. Normally I go for one of the cheaper utility turkeys, but I guess I waited too long or something (no room in the freezer for one) and it took me three stores before I found one. Walmart only had little ones (although I heard later they got some big ones in), No Frills had none! What kind of grocery store doesn’t have an abundance of turkeys at Thanskgiving? I finally found a large, unstuffed, turkey of considerable size at Metro. It was a little pricey, but worth the effort.

And instead of green beans (I’m still kind of beaned out from the explosion of them during the summer) I decided to try peas. Fresh peas. Which foamed when I cooked them, so I rinsed them before putting them in their designated container, and they smelled really off – how can fresh peas go off? So, not wanting anyone to be sick from my dinner, I sent the hubby off to the store for some frozen ones. LOL

Today I can bask in the glory of another holiday dinner done right. The house is clean, more or less, and the leftovers all fit in the fridge. All I have left to do today is the lemon cheesecake for the daughter’s birthday tomorrow.

Happy holidays, wherever you are!

Oct 6, 2021

Spice of Life Part VI
Pumpkin Spice

This fragrant spice blends together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. In the beginning it was used pretty much exclusively to give flavor to the somewhat bland pumpkin being used in pies, but when McCormick’s began selling it commercially in the early 1950s the name got shortened to pumpkin spice and it began to see a wider range of uses.

With the blend made more convenient, people began to put it into other foods as well as beverages. As well as pies, you can use pumpkin spice in cookies, cakes, vegetables, stews, and fall soups, such as squash soup. It’s delicious sprinkled on oatmeal, or used in pancakes.

To make your own pumpkin spice, combine ¼ cup of ground cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of ground ginger, 2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, and 2 teaspoons of ground allspice.

Like the spices used in this blend, pumpkin spice got its start with the Dutch East India company when it was known simply as “mixed spice.” Cookbooks from the late 1700s included it as an ingredient for pumpkin pie.

In 1934, McComick introduced the blend as “pumpkin pie spice” since it was intended to enhance the flavour of pumpkin pie. In the 1960s the name was shortened to pumpkin spice. In the 1990s, other coffee companies began to experiment with adding pumpkin spice to their coffees, but it wasn’t until 2002, when Starbucks created their Pumpkin Spice Latte that pumpkin spice hit its stride.

By 2015 people had become obsessed with pumpkin spice and it began to dominate the fall season in everything from scented candles to take-out coffees. By 2018, pumpkin spice was a $600 million industry.

Medicinal Uses:
The spices that make up pumpkin spice have been shown to be beneficial to your health: cinnamon is excellent for balancing blood sugar levels; ginger is highly anti-inflammatory and supports immune health; nutmeg and cloves are rich in antioxidants, plus they have anti-viral and anti-microbial actions; and allspice has anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. However, when pumpkin spice is used as flavoring in lattes or processed foods there are often artificial flavors, sugars, and fats that are added.


Pumpkin Spice Latte


1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup (4oz / 115g) strong brewed coffee
1/2 cups (4oz / 115g) milk

Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
Stir and bring to a simmer.
Pour into a mug.
Decorate with freshly whipped cream and a sprinkles of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon.

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell

Step 1 Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Step 2
Pour into pie shell.
Step 3
Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
This is the recipe my family traditionally uses, taken right off the back of the can’s label.

Oct 4, 2021

Summer’s Over . . .

A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave goodbye. — Unknown

Life and summer are fleeting,' sang the bird. Snow and dark, and the winter comes. Nothing remains the same.

— Elyne Mitchell

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I love this time of year. I love the cooler nights and the turning leaves, even though it’s a precursor to the coming darkness of winter. There’s just something in the fall air . . .

The impatiens in the front garden are still doing well, but the vegetable gardens are pretty much done, as are the beans on the fence. I was really annoyed that the peppers that looked so promising a couple of months ago have pretty much disappeared from the garden. Then last week I noticed a second crop of them starting. Whether they’ll be big enough to pick before the first frost is anyone’s guess.

The grackles disappeared. Someone told me they migrate in the fall, but they actually left several weeks ago. This was good news for the other birds in the neighbourhood because it meant I could fill my feeder again. Except . . . the first time I filled it the seeds lasted for a week. The next time, several days. The time after that it was empty by the end of the day.

At first I thought the squirrels were the culprits. After all, they were pretty much partners in crime with the grackles most of the summer. But no, it was not the squirrels. It was a chipmunk. That’s right, one of those cute little greedy so-in-sos! Actually, I think there’s two of them and I’m pretty sure they live under my deck.

Even though I’m pretty sure my pair of cardinals have given up on my feeder, I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I have a few other birds that are still faithful, and the chipmunks have to run out of space to store their stolen seeds sometime, right?

Yesterday the granddaughter and I were at the dining room table doing crafts when all of a sudden she said, “Grammy! There’s a duck in the pool!”

I didn’t believe her at first, but I looked out the deck door and sure enough there was a female mallard swimming in the water on the tarp covering the pool. She seemed so small and lonely.

Not wanting to scare her, I tried to take a couple of pictures through the screen door. Then we thought she looked hungry so we tore up a slice of multi-grain bread, but when we cautiously went out onto the deck, she was gone.

We thought we could hear her though, and the eagle eyed granddaughter spied her back in the pond. We snuck up as close as we dared to toss bread at her, but she was rather unimpressed. Let’s face it, bread is not exactly known for its aerodynamics.

I think I mentioned before that we haven’t seen any ducks since we replaced the pool, so it was nice to see her. You can be sure I’ll be keeping my eye peeled, and some bread handy, just in case she returns.

Sep 29, 2021

Spice of Life Part V

Allspice, also known as Jamaican pepper, is the dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant. The fruit is harvested when it is green and unripe and traditionally dried in the sun. Once dry, the fruit is brown and looks like large brown peppercorns. It comes from the West Indies, southern Mexico, and Central America and can be found in both dried fruit form and as a powder.

It is a pungent, aromatic spice that seems to embrace a combination of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. In fact, that’s how it got its name. Whether in kernel or powdered form, it should be stored in a cool, dry place.

Allspice is an essential ingredient in Jamaican jerk seasoning. It’s used to flavor stews, meat dishes, and tomato sauce. You can also find it in pickling spice, spiced tea mixes, cakes, cookies, and pies. Food producers use it in ketchup, pickles, and sausages. Many patés, terrines, smoked and canned meats include allspice.

Allspice comes to us from the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus discovered it during his second voyage and, thinking it was pepper, named it pimiento (Spanish for pepper). It was introduced to Europe and the Mediterranean soon after, although it only became popular in England where it became known as allspice because it seemed to be a combination of spices.

Jamaican allspice is considered superior to any other, but today it is also grown in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Tonga, and Hawaii.

Medicinal Uses:
Allspice contains an oil called eugenol, which produces a warming effect. During the Napoleonic war, Russian soldiers would put allspice in their boots to keep their feet warm. As well as the warming effect, allspice also has a mild anesthetic, which makes it valuable as a home remedy for arthritis and sore muscles when used in a poultice. It can also be applied directly to the affected area for muscle pain and toothaches.

It has been used for indigestion, intestinal gas, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, colds, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Allspice tea can be used to treat nausea or settle an upset stomach. Eating more allspice can be a low-risk treatment for easing the symptoms of menopause.



4 quarts apple cider
2 quarts orange juice
1 quart cranberry juice
2 cinnamon sticks
12 allspice (whole)
18 cloves (stuck into 1/2 a large orange)
1/2 cup(s) brown sugar (or to taste)

Bring all to a vigorous boil for 5 or so minutes then reduce to low simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sprinkle ground nutmeg and cinnamon on top of the finished Wassail. This is much better the next day when spices have blended and mellowed.

Jerk Chicken

1 onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small hot pepper, seeded, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Combine all ingredients (except chicken) in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree forms.
Put chicken in a large bowl and pour marinade over. Stir chicken pieces to coat completely; cover and marinate at least 6 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill on medium heat (350 F to 375 F) for direct/indirect grilling.
Remove chicken from jerk marinade. Place chicken skin-side down on the direct side of the grill.
Cover and cook for 15 minutes until the skin is charred and crisp, controlling any flare-ups on the grill. Turn the chicken over and move to the indirect side. Close the lid, and cook an additional 10 to 20 minutes, removing pieces as they become done.

Oven Method:
Jerk chicken is best done on the grill, but if this isn’t possible you can cook it in the oven (although the taste will be milder).
Prepare marinade and chicken as above.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken pieces in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 40-50 minutes.

Sep 27, 2021

The Pitfalls of A Rainy Day

Housework is what a woman does that nobody notices unless she hasn’t done it.
— Evan Esar

Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture.
—Mario Buatta

You know what would make house cleaning more fun? A maid.
—Phyllis Diller

Last week was pretty grey and dismal. And anyone who knows me at all knows I don’t do well in grey and dismal. There was a lot of napping, a lot of reading, a lot of head aches.

By about Wednesday I decided I was tired of not getting anything done, so I decided to clean out the craft closet. This was not a task to be undertaken lightly, it’s a huge closet, but I figured I had the entire day so why not do something constructive with it?

I keep saying I’d like to work more on crafts in the evening while watching T.V., but I’d open the door to the closet and stuff would fall on me. Plus I’d have to unload half the closet before I could find what I was looking for (if I found it at all). So yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Naturally, I had most of the stuff pulled out of there before it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.

I really wish I’d taken a before picture of the closet, but then again maybe it’s just as well. The picture above is only about half the stuff I had in there. I actually had to sort through it and get everything organized before I could get the rest of the stuff out.

To my chagrin, I found an astonishing number of unfinished projects in there. There was a rug I’d started hooking way back in the 70s or 80s, a really nice long skirt I cut out but never got around to sewing, and stitchery projects in various states of doneness. There were also a few canvass bags with knitting/crocheting projects that never got finished – a baby afghan I was crocheting from odds and ends, a navy blue cardigan that will be gorgeous if I ever finish knitting it, a long vest I’d started knitting from my own pattern, an afghan I started when we first got Amazon Prime, and two bags with projects that I don’t remember starting.

Time for a little organization.

While what I truly need to be organized is a brand new room dedicated to crafting, it’ll be a couple of years before we can afford that. So in the mean time, I put my yarn stash into five medium sized, clear plastic bins (so I could see what’s in there) and stacked them upstairs in a corner of the guest room (because there’s no room in the massive upstairs closet).

It made better sense for the yarn to go upstairs because one, it’ll be easier to access in the bins, and two, when I work on a knitting/crocheting project I usually designate one of my many bags for that purpose. So all that stuff doesn't really need to clutter up the closet.

My material stash is in one massive bin in the bottom of the closet, and the rest of the closet is filled with sewing accessories and stitchery supplies. One medium sized bin holds the bags of unfinished knitting/crocheting projects which is easy enough to get to that I no longer have an excuse for not finishing them.

But I’m still not happy. Yes I can open the closet and nothing falls out, and I can definitely find stuff easier, but I still think I can do better. For one thing, I cannot for the life of me understand how I could get all that yarn out of there – originally spread between one massive bin and several bags – and still have trouble fitting everything back in there.

The sewing stuff and stitchery stuff needs to have better separation, and I have two bins of unfinished projects that includes a half-hooked rug and the glue gun I was looking for months ago (and finally replaced). Maybe things that are not strictly sewing or stitchery need to go upstairs with my other craft stuff.

I think I need another rainy day.

Sep 22, 2021

Spice of Life Part IV

Nutmeg comes to us from Indonesia, from the dried seeds of the Myristica fragrans, a tropical evergreen tree. It can be purchased whole or in powdered form. Grating the seed directly imparts a fresher, cleaner taste than the powder. Whole nutmeg will stay fresh indefinitely, but like the powder should be stored in an air-tight container away from heat, light, and moisture.

Nutmeg can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It has a pungent aroma and a warm, slightly nutty, slightly sweet taste. It’s featured in many baked goods as well as puddings, potatoes, meats, sausages, sauces, vegetables, and such beverages as eggnog, coffee, and hot chocolate. Sprinkle it over oatmeal or other breakfast cereals, fruit, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or winter squash.

Evidence suggests that nutmeg was brought to Constantinople by Arab traders as early as the 6th century. The source of the spice, the Banda Islands, part of the Maluku Island chain, was a closely guarded secret.

In the late 1400s the Ottoman Turks took control of the land trade routes, which prompted several European countries to search for the source of the spice. The Portuguese discovered the Banda Islands in the early 1500s, torturing and killing the Bandalese in order to establish a monopoly.

The Dutch East India Company ousted the Portuguese in 1603, but the British managed to acquire seedlings and planted them in several British colonies in the East Indies. In the late 1700s the French smuggled nutmeg seedlings to their colony on Mauritius where they flourished, breaking the Dutch monopoly for good.

Medicinal Uses:
Nutmeg contains powerful antioxidants, and as such has anti-inflammatory properties which help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. It has also been shown to have antibacterial properties that can inhibit the growth of harmful bacterial infections, including cavities and gum inflammation.

While nutmeg in small quantities is not only flavorful but beneficial to your health, taken in large doses it can have several adverse side effects – rapid heartbeat, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, and agitation. Taken in large quantities, one of its early uses was as a hallucinogen, but this can also be accompanied by loss of muscle coordination and organ failure.



1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butterscotch sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
6 (12-ounce) cans vanilla cream soda, or one 2-liter bottle

In a small bowl, combine the cream, spices, butterscotch, and softened butter.
Whisk for 2 minutes to mix. Avoid whipping it so long that it becomes whipped cream, but it should thicken and increase in volume slightly.
Place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes to give it a good chill. If not using immediately, cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Fill a frosty glass about two-thirds full with cold vanilla cream soda.
Pour the chilled batter over the back of a spoon and into the glass. It will naturally rise to the top and float on the soda. Make this layer as thick as you like, but go slow because it will grow fast. Serve it with a straw or drink it straight from the glass (and experience the foamy mustache).

You want a frosty mug or tall glass for your butterbeer. For a quick chill, rinse each glass with cold water and place them in the coldest part of your freezer for at least 2 hours.

Nutmeg Cake

3 eggs, room temperature
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
Caramel Icing:
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cream
¼ cup butter
1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
Beat the butter and white sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add the room-temperature eggs in three batches, blending them into the butter mixture fully. Stir in the vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.
Pour 1/3 of the flour mixture into the bowl; mix just until incorporated. Stir in 1/2 the buttermilk, mixing gently. Continue adding the flour alternately with the buttermilk, mixing until combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert them on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Caramel Icing: In a medium saucepan, heat the brown sugar, cream or milk, and 1/4 cup butter until it boils. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Let cool. Stir in confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Add more cream or milk or confectioner's sugar as needed to achieve desired spreading consistency. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.