Friday, August 31, 2012

School Days - School Days

This week has been very strange for me because, although Bram started at SIAST, Palliser Campus, I did not start back to school anywhere.  I don't know how many years it's been since I haven't started teaching immediately come fall, but I do know that it's been a long, long time.

I took a picture for Bram's first day of school though, to keep up with the tradition of a photo for the first day.
It seemed strange to send him off on the bus, but he's doing ok - he's enjoying his classes; has got a couple of scholarships already, and is making friends and doing homework nearly every night.  For the long weekend I've got him helping shingle the garages at my 4-plex, so that he can make a little extra money.  It does help that he's already received two scholarships, one for $1,000 and one for $3,000.  He's applied for several more, so we'll have to see if he gets any of them.  Every little bit helps.  The two he's already received will cover his tuition and books for this semester.  He has only one more semester before he will start the first coop program of his course, and hopefully after that he'll be pretty much self-sufficient.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hard at Work

My cousin Janelle wrote about the work being done just a few blocks down the street from my house to retrofit a tiny wartime house.  You can read about it here: Bless This House.  As soon as the word "retrofit" is mentioned, you know that my dad must be involved.  So are two of my brothers-in-law and a brother.  Dad's spending his evenings in my spare room, and I'm feeding them all supper at night.  However, it's a real blessing for me because they've decided that there are some things that need to be done at my house as well.

Last week Randy tackled my back yard.  Now I don't do too badly on the front yard (although Randy pointed out to me that it is possible to water it on a regular basis) - but the back yard was in really sad shape; overgrown grass, bushes taking over, etc.  Randy worked an entire afternoon on it and turned it into an oasis - it's nicer than it's ever been since I've moved in here I think.  I was almost in tears when I saw it.

Now they've decided that my fence needs finishing.  When I bought the house, there wasn't a back fence - which is pretty much unheard of for any property on the Canadian prairies.  However, I did have a side fence that went right to the street (in violation of the city bylaw), and I paid to have it taken down and moved to the back.  It didn't fence in the entire yard though, so I still had a fairly large section at the back that was open.  Last night they went out and purchased the lumber and hardware, and they got started after supper tonight.  After a full day of working on the other house, they worked for another couple of hours at mine!  I am so blessed with such a generous family.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Doing Grown-up Things

I've been living alone all this month (mind you I've had lots of guests) and so any chores that need to be done, need to be done by me.  I've always felt that those jobs that you really hate doing but must be done are "grown-up things".  Grown-ups take responsibility for themselves and ensure that the important things are done, even if they're no fun to do.  That doesn't always mean that they do all the chores themselves, but they do ensure that the chores are done.  However, this week I've been home alone, so I'd better get the jobs done.

What kind of jobs do I really hate doing?  Cleaning toilets - especially in the bathroom that I don't use; scrubbing tubs, paying bills, taking out the garbage, washing out the stinky garbage can.

I find that if I can find some way of being thankful while doing those chores, it makes them much less onerous.  Doing dishes used to be one of my "grown-up things", but I've changed my thinking about it totally - it's now my time for quiet thanksgiving.  It's rare to be interrupted while doing the dishes (no one else wants that chore), so I use that time to commune with my Lord, and thank Him for my many blessings.  I can't say that I really look forward to doing the dishes, but it's no longer something to be procrastinated about or dread doing.

I'm working hard to change my thinking about paying bills.  I'm so thankful that I can afford to pay bills.  I'm thankful for the Lord for providing for me in all things, and paying bills is a way of acknowledging that He continues to provide.  Not quite there yet.

I haven't had a change of mindset yet about doing toilets and tubs.  My bright pink tub was looking grey, and I took a sponge and some comet into the shower with me everyday for the past two weeks and worked on a little section after each shower and it's looking much better.

Toilets?  Yuk!  Oh well, one baby step at a time.

Salmon Loaf Recipe

When Ruth and I did our cooking together last weekend we didn't make anything with fish in it, and here it is Friday without having fish all week.  I've been craving it, so I made salmon loaf this morning in the microwave (because this is a very nice microwave recipe - although it also works in the oven), and Ruth mixed up some cocktail sauce to go with it.  Ruth said that she hadn't had this before, and that I should post the recipe, so here it is.  This recipe is obviously from our family's gluten-free recipe period, although it doesn't have to be (I used puffed wheat instead of puffed rice this morning, because that's what I had on hand).

Salmon Loaf
1 can salmon (213 g)
1 cup milk (or milk substitute)
1 egg
1 cup puffed rice
1/2 onion, diced

Open can of salmon, place in bowl including all the salmon juice, and mash with a fork.  Add the milk, egg and diced onion.  Stir.  Add the puffed rice and stir a final time.  Place in an 8" square glass cake pan.  If you're doing this in the microwave, place an inverted glass in the centre of the cake pan.  Microwave on 8 (not high) for about 9 minutes or bake in the oven for about 20 min.  Serve with cocktail sauce.

Homemade cocktail sauce
Mix together three parts ketchup to one part horseradish sauce.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Today is my parent's anniversary.  They were married on the eighth day of the eighth month, 59 years ago.  Eight kids, 22 grandchildren and 13 great-grands later - I think they're pretty amazing.  They are still so busy, that when they come to visit, I feel worn out by what they do when they're here.  Theoretically they're retired, but in actuality, they're usually busier than most people who hold down a full-time job.

One of the things that I really appreciate about my parents (and I appreciate many, many things about my parents) is that they model how a really good marriage should function.  They don't always agree, but they know how to disagree, they know how to negotiate and they know how to fight.  They work together, have shared goals, and dreams.  They share their lives, not only with each other, but with all of us. And all of us who are privileged to know them are better for it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

While you're at it

They say that the most feared expression in home remodelling is "While you're at it".  When we needed to reshingle our roof in Yellowknife, we actually changed the ceiling in the living room to be a cathedral ceiling.  That's a fairly major change, and as always with remodelling, cost more and took longer than we originally estimated.  That's nothing compared to what my brother Robert did though.  Their house needed new siding - and they added an entire second storey, as well as super-insulating the whole thing.

I've been thinking about doing some remodelling in my house.  I can't afford to anything much right now - but dreaming is free.  There are several things I'd like to have done.  I'd like to add a shower to the half-bath that's just off my bedroom.  In order to do that, it'd be necessary to reconfigure the main bathroom so that there'd be room for the shower in mine.  (While we're doing the renovations, let's get rid of the pink tub, sink and toilet.) While we're doing that - I'd really like a fan in both bathrooms.  And... I'd like to move the washer and dryer out of my kitchen - and steal from the linen closet that's in the hallway just outside the master bathroom, and put them there.

That's just bathroom renovations - but while I'm talking about that - I'd really like to add a third bathroom.  I have a really large, strange closet just off the back door. It's L-shaped,  easily 6 feet long, before you get to the L, and about 5 feet wide, before the L (the part past the L is very small and narrow).  It's easily large enough for a bathroom.  Then when I have guests, everyone wouldn't have to share one bathroom.

Then there's kitchen renovations.  I'd like to get rid of my furnace room; change to a high efficiency furnace and put it in the crawl space.  Put the hot water heater down there too.  Then the kitchen could take over all the furnace room space.  That would give me a kitchen that's 18 x 20 feet - or big enough for an island in the middle; and that's before you even touch the dining room (where I'd like to get rid of the carpet).  I'd like to replace my original appliances from the 1950's with up-to-date new ones (that aren't pink).  I'd like to have enough plug ins that I wouldn't have to plug one crockpot in the hallway and another in the dining room whenever I'm cooking.  (I'd also like more than one plugin in each of the bedrooms.)

Then, I'd like to do an energy retrofit - replace the windows with tighter ones, add more insulation, etc.

Dreaming is free - and that's all it's going to be for a long time, just dreams.  I think that the renovations would cost enough that I should consider taking out shares in a plumbing business to start with.  However, I've lived here two years now, and maybe if I start saving, I can afford to do some renovations to the bathroom in another two years.

Couscous Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

The other day I was in the bulk store and saw that they had wholewheat couscous.  I didn't purchase it, because I still need to use up the couscous I have in my pantry (I have both the "regular" couscous and some tri-colour couscous, which is really pretty - it's dyed with vegetable products - but has no more fiber than the ordinary stuff).  Next time however, I'll definitely purchase the wholewheat stuff.  We're  into the high fiber option whenever possible in this household.

2 cups couscous
4 cups boiling water (The recipe I was originally following called for "instant couscous" - however, all couscous is pretty instant.  It also called for only 2 cups of boiling water, but I've found that couscous is better if you add as much water as it will take - which is usually double the amount of couscous.)
1 tsp oil

Combine all three ingredients in a bowl and let it stand while you prepare everything else.

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 bell peppers (we had red peppers, so that's what we used, but I think it would be nice with yellow, orange or green ones, as the cherry tomatoes are red, so you'd have more colours.)
1/4 cup chopped green onions or chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice (I always use 2 TLB frozen o.j. and 2 TLB water to reconstitute it - a little stronger than usual, but great for recipes)
1 TLB grated orange zest
3 TLB red wine vinegar

Ruth chopped the mint in the food processor and also did the orange zest in it.  I have to say that it's much easier than chopping it by hand or grating it with a hand grater.

I'll try to post a photo later when I find my camera.  We tried this recipe for the first time yesterday and really liked it.  We're definitely adding it to our salad cookbook.  We chopped up all the mint we didn't use and put it in the freezer for the future.

Pea Soup

Pea Soup has always been a family favourite. It's comfort food for a cold winter's day, but I made it yesterday, because it was a cold August day. It's also a soup that works extremely well in a slow cooker.  Put it on in the morning and it's ready by noon.  It's best served with fresh from the oven homemade bread, and cheese.  My son Bram really likes to put the cheese in small chunks into the hot soup so that they melt.

You will have many choices when you go to purchase dried peas at the grocery store; whole or split? Green or Yellow?  Personally, I prefer the split green peas the best, and would take split over whole in any case.  I particularly like to make pea soup after I've baked a ham, and to start it by putting the ham bone with the left-over ham on the bone into the slow cooker.  However, it is also a good vegetarian soup.

OK, that's enough commentary, here's the recipe.

Pea Soup
1 pkg (450 g. or 1 lb) split green peas
1-2 carrots, cut into pennies
1 onion, diced
1-2 stalks of celery, sliced
About 6-8 cups water (if I'm starting the soup later in the morning and want it ready for lunch, I add boiling water, otherwise I don't worry about it).
Most people put in 1-2 potatoes in their pea soup, however I'm allergic to potatoes, so I never do.  I occasionally,dice up a sweet potato and put it in.  I would put that as optional, however.
Also optional is the addition of any meat.  If you have a ham bone, start with that.  If you have leftover ham, add it closer to the end of the cooking period.

Cook until the peas look like they've been pureed.  The carrots should still be largely intact.  
I never add salt while cooking, but pea soup definitely needs salt before serving.  If you've cooked it with ham, it will need less salt, so taste it first.  It's also good with the addition of cracked black pepper.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Ruth and I cooked up a storm this morning.  We got groceries first, and were starting to create by 9 am.  We ended up making three salads and four soups or casseroles.  I have a wonderful three-pot slow cooker that we used, as well as my largest slow cooker.  It's now evening and I just finished finding containers for all the hot stuff (we put the salads away in the morning) and putting them in the fridge.  Ruth is now making banana chocolate chip muffins with Emmet helping.

So, what did we make?  The salads:  Greek Salad (an old favourite and really easy to make.), Couscous salad with mint (a new salad, but very nice and I think we'll be making it again) and Moroccan Chickpea Barley (another old favourite).  The hot dishes: Pea soup (one of my personal favourites), Curried Cauliflower Soup (something we tried for the first time, and it's ok, but I don't think we'll try it again), Chicken Ratatouille (very good and definitely worth repeating), and something that was called "World's Best Chicken Casserole" only we made it with hamburger (it was very good).

We did our best to clean up afterwards - made sure all the salads were binned and ingredients put away from the table, large bowls washed, etc.  However, the sink is absolutely full this evening again, it's the empty slow cookers and cup measures and stuff.  Unfortunately, none of those things will fit in the dishwasher - they're hand wash only.  I think that they will wait until morning however.  I'm very much a morning person - and what's impossible in the evening is very doable in the mornings.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Starting Over

I've started over several times in my life.  Any time there's a new beginning (which always sounds so promising) it means that I'm also starting over.  I started over again yesterday.  This time the new beginning is a new job.  I'm still at the figure out what I'm supposed to be doing, how does the software work, what are my coworkers' names - stage.  I think I'm going to like the job.  I have really good coworkers - and so much of a workplace is who you work with.  I like riding the bus. (I've done it to work once and home twice now.)  I think it's a little amazing that I've lived in Regina four years now and this is the first time I've ridden the bus.

One thing that's interesting about this job is that although I was hired because of my background in Adult Education, I won't be actually teaching.  I make links between volunteer tutors and learners, and supervise the computer lab, and do lots of contacting learners and tutors - but not much teaching.  This will be different.  Being a teacher has been part of my identity for so long, that I may have to mentally redefine who I am.

Now that I'm starting to get settled in my job, I want to further explore what classes I want to take this fall.  Bram will be going to SIAST and I may want to do that as well (an on-line course).  I need to make a decision by the 15th, I think.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Last week was Mission 6:10.  I helped with it, did a bit of cooking, drafted out the Prayer Walk brochure, and helped with Northwest's VBS.  We have had a VBS for the past three years as part of Mission 6:10, and have held it each year in the park at the corner of 7th and Pasqua.  This puts us at the mercy of the elements - if it rains, it will be cancelled.  However, the Lord, as always, provides.

We always start each VBS with a carnival on the Sunday evening - an opportunity to play with the kids and meet with the parents and let everyone know that we will be having the VBS this week.  We had a good turnout for the carnival, but we don't really do attendance for that.  Monday, we had 75 kids!  That's a new record for us.  Tuesday was cold and although it had been rainy all day, it cleared up by 4 - so when we had the VBS that evening, we had a good turnout.  Wednesday and Thursday we worked at building numbers again.

I don't do much for the VBS - it's planned by the Greenville Oaks team who comes up from Texas each year.  I purchase the snacks and transport all the supplies - and consult on most of everything else.  Usually I do the attendance as well but this year we had a parent from the community who did that most nights for me.

I always find the VBS a lot of fun - and exhausting!  I was kidding with one of the other adults who was helping that the best thing about a four-day VBS was that it isn't five days.

Now I need to find the time to do the follow-up.  I took pictures of most of the kids and told them I'd try to mail them their pictures if they gave me their address.  I wanted their addresses so that I could invite them to The Party which will resume again in the fall.  I plan to mail out their photos this week and then the week before The Party starts to send them out a postcard to invite them.  (I'm also looking to find someone to pay the costs of the two mail outs and the printing of the photos - hint, hint).