Sunday, September 29, 2013

Grandmother Lidbury

I've been remembering my Grandmother Lidbury lately; I think it's because when I look in the mirror, I may not see her face, but I've definitely inherited her body.  Grandma was stocky; barrel-shaped - so am I.  When I work out at the gym and I see all of those ectomorphs around me, I just tell myself, "I have my Grandmother's build."  I think all of us sisters do.

Grandma liked to do handwork.  She tatted, and crocheted, and knitted, and made hairpin lace, and...  During the last part of her life when she had difficulty walking, her hands were always busy.  She taught me to tat, although I don't know if I remember how now.  She tried to teach me how to crochet - I remember making a chain that stretched from one end of the house in Moose Jaw to the other.  Every furniture surface in Grandma's house was covered with doilies that she had made; most of them were crocheted in the pineapple pattern.  It was my job to go next door to their house once a week (on Saturdays) and to dust everything.  Grandma would hide pennies under the doilies, and you couldn't see them unless you picked up the doilies and dusted it properly.  I always understood the parable of the lost coin, because if I finished dusting and had only 24 pennies, when a roll of pennies contained 25, I would start over again, looking for the missing one.

Grandma loved to have visitors; she was very hospitable.  Because I was fortunate having my grandparents live next door to me when I was growing up, there were many times I would be over there and someone would stop by.  Grandma would introduce me, and if I was lucky, I would be invited to stay for lunch.  Although she was born in Tennessee and lived in Texas before she was married and all of her siblings and family lived a long ways away from where she lived in Canada, she stayed in touch with them all through letters.  She wrote regularly, and would keep in touch with everyone.  She tried to visit as often as possible too.  She was the oldest of a large family and she was the one who kept everyone connected.

Grandma had a strong sense of humour.  She liked to tell us funny stories, and when she got to laughing, it was really contagious.  When she laughed, she would be helpless with laughter.  When we heard the sound of her laughing uncontrollably, we knew she was in trouble, but you couldn't help laughing with her.  I remember one time when our family and the Boatwrights were driving together up to Yellowknife to visit David and Shirley and family up there.  (I actually wasn't on the trip, but this has become a family story to be shared many times.)  The Boatwrights had a pickup with a camper on the back, and the kids would go back and forth between the cab and the camper through the sliding window in the back of the cab.  Grandma had to be boosted up into the back of the camper up the steps though, because she had difficulty walking and the step up was so high.  So she decided that if the kids could go through the sliding window, she could too.  She got about half-way and got stuck.  We knew she was in trouble when we heard her laughing.  We all laughed so much, but it took a bit of effort to get her unstuck.

Another time she was in the bathtub and couldn't get out.  Grandpa heard her laughing and asked what the problem was.  She explained that she couldn't get out of the tub.  (After this incident, we installed grab bars in the tub.)  He wanted to pick the lock and come in to help her, but she wouldn't let him see her without any clothes on.  He had to phone next door to have mom come to rescue her.

Grandma died in 1983.  She was down visiting family in Texas and was buried down in Allen, Texas.  Grandpa was never the same after she died.  He had lost the light of his life.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Who am I

For the first time in over 20 years, I have not started out the school year with the usual teacher anxiety; what classes will I have; how can I reach this particular student, have I planned enough, etc.  I also have not had the usual teacher nightmares, where I am supposed to be teaching a particular class but can't find the room; or I left all of my materials at home; or it's a subject I know nothing about.

The reason for this is simple:  for the first time in over 20 years I'm not teaching this fall.  I'm still working - being able to afford retirement is a long ways away, but I made a decision last fall that I wouldn't substitute teach (I did nearly 10 years of that when my children were small) and that I wouldn't go back into the public school system.  Instead, I hoped to get a position in adult education, where I had worked before moving south to Regina.  Unfortunately, although I had many, many interviews, I didn't get any of the positions I interviewed for, and so I am working, but not teaching.

I have always worked in business as well - usually part-time; but before I took my degree in education, I took a diploma in business.  It has always stood me in good stead, and it's proving its value once again.  Currently, I'm working two part-time jobs; one position three days a week at the Orr Centre (my brother's my boss there), primarily doing books but also doing "other duties as may be required".  There's a lot of the second part of the job description.  I am also working two days a week for a legal firm (my sister's) as a legal assistant.  So, I'm working for family; I'm working in business; and I'm adapting.

It's also a bit dislocating.  I've always been a teacher.  That's part of my identity.  I'm not sure how to introduce myself when I don't state that I'm teaching here or there. However, there's lots less stress working outside of the educational system; and I don't mind that.  (There's also much less pay, but, the Lord always provides for me, and I am doing fine).  I have decided that regardless whatever I'm working at, I'll be the best I can be.  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, it is the Lord Christ you are serving."  (Now that's from memory, so it may not match up with the text verbatum.)

I have also decided that part of my job needs to be to ensure that I make my coworkers' jobs easier.  I find that enjoyable - doing my best to look out for my coworkers.  I have to say I am enjoying rediscovering who I am.  Long may the journey continue.

Monday, July 29, 2013

House Guests

I was delighted when the Steiners (senior) showed up Saturday.  Now of course, it meant that there was an instant crowd; they don't travel when it's not a crowd, plus everyone else who came over to see them.  On top of that, the Steiners (junior) were having a garage sale on my front lawn; so there was a fair bit of coming and going with that.

All in all, it meant that a lot of my weekend plans got changed.  Ruth and I still did our Saturday morning cooking together.  We took the Daryl and Kristen's oldest two girls to the farmer's market with us.  The crowd didn't arrive until noon - so we fed them and then started on baking.  Made pies; apple pies, saskatoon pies; pies mixed with rhubarb; gluten-free pies.  Lots of pies.  Put them all in the freezer.

Saturday night we had over 30 for supper.  I moved it all to the backyard; borrowed Ruth's folding tables (they were already over at my house for the garage sale), and we visited outside.  It was very nice.  Sunday was much cooler and promising rain so we ate inside; but still nearly 30 people I think (not all the same people).  Saturday night we had perogy casserole and borscht and chicken and dumplings.  Sunday we had ham and hash brown casserole and three different kinds of salad.  Mid Sunday afternoon everyone took off and we had a quiet(er) household again.   I had an afternoon nap then I needed to go out and get groceries but unfortunately my van was blocked in by someone's car so I stayed home.

It's nice having all the company; it's great that I didn't need to do all the cooking by myself (thanks Loopie and Ruth); and it's very nice having my home back again.  I still need to do a few dishes and a bit more laundry (did three loads this morning and about the same yesterday) - and the liner for my kitchen garbage can seems to have disappeared, but we're almost back to normal now.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cooking - long distance

So, I didn't end up as cook today.  However, the cook didn't show either.  As Rose has been hired as kitchen help - this meant that Rose was the dishwasher, sous chef, cook, waitress, and any other job that needed to be done in the kitchen.

I had done up the menu for today and tomorrow for her; and ensured that it was (what I thought was) really easy for her.  We had chili as one of the options yesterday so today was a choice of hot dogs or chili dogs; served with either french fries or a green salad.

Apparently what I thought would be really easy, wasn't quite as easy for Rose.  She did very well, but she texted me every step of the way.  Here's a sample of the texts I got throughout the morning:

  • When should I start the hotdogs?
  • And reheat the chili?
  • What else is on the menu?
  • I need to know what prices to charge
  • What do I do to the buns?
  • For the cheese dogs, do you put it on the bun or on the chili?
  • I found the cheddar but a lot of it is dried out
  • A lady ordered just french fries.  What should I charge?
  • Chili dog is bun hotdog chili and cheese, right?
  • Any prep work I need to do for supper?
However, despite her many questions, and how she was feeling totally inadequate, I think she did just fine.  She's gone above and beyond what she was hired to do, and has done a good job of it.  Here's a picture of her first chili dog that she prepared (before she added the fries).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"And other duties as may be required"

I think that all the employment I've ever had has had the expectation that I be adaptable.  In formal contracts, it may be expressed as "and other duties as may be required", but whether or not it's in a formal contract, I have always felt that I need to be prepared to do whatever needs doing as part of my job.

I have always felt that that expectation was especially valid for teaching. However, now that I'm not teaching, I've discovered that this expectation is in other places as well.  I currently do three days a week as a bookkeeper and two days a week as a legal assistant.  However this week I got to where I do bookkeeping to discover that the manager is on holidays this week, which means that I really can't do any bookkeeping because he has to sign off on all invoices before I can enter them into the system.  However, the cook was sick on Friday and was sick again Monday and today.  So, without any warning, I became chief cook.  (Rose is chief dish washer.)  I made up the week's menu, went and bought groceries, and Rose and I cleaned out the two walk-in fridges of all the disgusting, who knows how long they've been there, leftovers.  The regular cook is supposed to be back on Thursday (I go to my other job Thursdays), but I've got easy meals planned for Thursday and Friday anyway.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

VBS and Mission 6:10

This is the first year in over 20 years that I am working in the summer.  That's because this is the first year in over 20 years that I'm not teaching, and the income has to come from somewhere.  So although this past week was Mission 6:10, I didn't have as much to do with it this year as in previous years.  I still helped to organize the VBS and was there every evening, but that was about it.  I didn't do the booklet for the prayer walk (they reused the one I did in winter), and I didn't help cook, except for the Sunday potluck, and I wasn't around to lend a hand.  I felt badly that I wasn't able to do that, but not that badly.

VBS, as usual, was in the park at 7th and Pasqua.  As usual, we prayed for fine weather because poor weather meant that we'd have to cancel or do something else in a hurry.  As it turned out, Monday we ended up moving to Zeike's place, which was where we ran the teen program and the day program because the weather had been so threatening all day, but it turned out to be a beautiful evening and we really didn't have to move it.  Tuesday through Thursday we were in the park, and the weather was perfect each evening.  It rained and stormed Friday through Sunday but we were done by then.  Thank you, Lord.

I think we had around 45 kids each night; a smaller number on Monday because we had to transport them.  Everyone had fun.  I found it a fair bit more exhausting, doing the VBS after 8 hours of work, and would usually go home afterwards and tumble into bed.  I'm very thankful for everyone else that did their share; from Daryl who did the games and songs at the beginning, to Marti, who wasn't able to come up this year, but still gave us the benefit of her experience in the planning, to Courtney, who planned the Carnival - which was a big hit (but don't do the human pancake again, ok?  The wasps really liked where the syrup was spilled on the ground.).

Bram was working the noon to 8 pm shift at SaskTel and so helped with the mural in the mornings and then went to work.  It seemed strange not to have him helping with the VBS as he has done every other year.  Rose helped a couple nights but wasn't feeling really great the other nights.

As we've done every other year, we kicked off the VBS with a carnival in the park on the Sunday afternoon.  This year we had cotton candy and hotdogs as well as games, etc.  Everyone had fun. I helped with the cotton candy and babysat Emmet and Jane.  It was interesting helping with a toddler on one hip.  Here's some pictures from the week.

Remembering Grandma Orr

I was out in my garden yesterday in between the rain falls, and it reminded me of my Grandma Orr.  She loved to garden and loved plants.  When I was in university I would take the bus down to Wawota in the fall and help her bring her gardens in.  She had three gardens; a large one taking over the double lot in their back yard in town; and then two farm gardens - one at the Husband's and one at the Weatherall's.  There was a fair bit of work involved in doing that much gardening, but Grandma considered it to be one way that she could provide for those in need without much cost.  She had so much produce that she rented locker space at the butcher's in town.  I remember one year that had been a good year for cucumbers.  We did over 40 quarts of dill pickles as well as I don't know how many quarts of bread-and-butter pickles (and as Grandpa couldn't eat them, they were solely to be given away).  In addition, anyone who came to the door for any reason whatsoever was given a bag of cucumbers, and I was sent home with three or four bags of them on the bus.

Grandma also had lots of plants in the house.  When she was away for awhile, she gave me careful instructions on how to water all of them (this one only gets one tablespoon every day; don't water this one until the soil is dry - about every third day, etc.).  She kept rain water and snow water for her house plants, and it generally took one to two ice cream pails to water everything.  She kept a special plant "hospital" in the basement for plants that were sickly or had bugs that she didn't want to infect the rest of the house.

I lived with Grandma for six months when I got my first teaching position.  It was the year after Grandpa, Aunt Rose and Grandma Husband all died and she was living alone. I got a teaching position in the next town over.  It was good for both of us.  I was blessed with the benefit of her years and years of teaching experience and this was the first year she was alone. I think I got the better part of the deal, but we both enjoyed each other.  I brought a quilt with me that needed quilting and we set it up on a frame in the basement and would visit as we quilted it.  I got to know Grandma a lot better when I was living with her, and to appreciate her wisdom and experience.

Grandma had a good sense of humour.  She liked to tell stories of how she got the best of Grandpa (who also enjoyed a good joke); such as the story of the chick starter muffins.  She also enjoyed a good joke on herself.

It's hard for me to believe that Grandma had been unwell most of her life.  The Grandma I knew was always slightly hyperactive; seldom sat down - and although she would set a plate for herself at the table for meals; generally wouldn't sit and eat with us - she was too busy bustling.  However, when her children were young, she had been an invalid.  She had an undiagnosed thyroid condition and was usually too exhausted to do much.  In addition, she had hepatitis as a teen and had difficulty eating foods with much fat, as her liver couldn't handle it.  By the time I knew Grandma, her thyroid condition was treated with medication and she seldom slowed down.

Grandma was a person of action.  Other people would talk about something that needed to be done; Grandma would go and do it.  The year I lived with her, she was excitedly making plans to go to New Guinea.  She explained that she had always been tied to home.  In the last few years it was an old folk's home, with Grandpa an invalid; Aunt Verna Husband, who was very frail and couldn't be left alone; and Aunt Rose, who needed care for even the most basic things.  However, now that they were no longer with her, she could go on to new adventures.  She queried me, "do you think I could help the work over there?"

Unfortunately, my children didn't get to know Grandma.  By the time they were old enough to visit her, she was in a nursing home and had a stroke and couldn't talk.  I am hopeful that my memories will help her seem more real to them.

Homemade Bread

It was cool and rainy Friday and Saturday, and we had a thunderstorm this morning before I got up.  Perfect bread making weather.  (Earlier in the week was hot and sunny and weather when heating the oven doesn't seem at all practical.)  So I pulled out a recipe I've used before and tweaked it a bit and am fairly pleased with the results.

This is a whole-wheat recipe - no white flour used at all; so it's fairly dense, but makes a nice even crumb.  It can be made in a bread maker but I made it by hand and baked in my Grandmother Lidbury's bread pans, which I inherited.

Whole Wheat Bread (with a little flax and rye)
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 TLB honey
3 TLB oil
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup gluten flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup Red River cereal
2 tsp yeast

Mix everything together; if it's too dry, add a little bit more water. Knead for 10-15 min.  Let rise 1 hour.  Punch down.  Form into one very large loaf (Grandma's loaf pans were big) or two small pans.  Let rise until double.  Bake at 350 F for 40 min or until nicely brown.  Turn out of pan(s) and let cool.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The recipes for the fruit soups

Rose wanted me to post the recipes so that she'd have them if she wanted to cook them again.  So here they are:

Rhubarb Strawberry Soup
1 cup diced rhubarb
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Cook all together then puree in the blender.  Chill.  Serve cold with a dollop of sour cream for garnish.

Pear Soup
4 cups pear juice
4 pears, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Simmer everything together until pears are barely tender.  Chill.  Serve with a cinnamon stick in each bowl.  Serve cold.

Apple Soup
Same as pear soup, only use apple juice and apples instead of pears.

Mixed Fruit Soup
2 cups fruit juice
2 cups fresh fruit diced (can be apples, pears, blueberries, peaches, etc. either fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tlb cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice

Simmer together the fruit and juice until the fruit is tender.  You can choose to either run it through the blender for a smooth soup or leave it in chunks for a clear soup.  Chill or serve hot.  Add a cinnamon stick or fresh mint leaf for garnish.

Blueberry Soup
It's the same as the mixed fruit soup, only use frozen blueberries and 2 cups blueberry juice.

Cherry Soup
1 can cherries (ideally pitted, because otherwise you'll have to pit them)
1 TLB fred wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar

Use the juice from the canned cherries.  Put them with the pitted cherries in the blender.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  Chill.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cooking: the next generation

Rose has been cooking most of the day.  She wanted to try to make fruit soup.  We had fruit soup as one of the appetizer choices on board the cruise nearly every day and liked them.  So Rose made pear soup last night and today she made apple soup, rhubarb strawberry soup, blueberry soup, cherry soup and mixed fruit soup.  My personal favourite was the rhubarb strawberry, followed by the pear soup, but they were all good.  The cherry soup and the blueberry soup were a little too dilute; I think if we were trying them again we'd made them with the liquid being cherry juice or blueberry juice instead of water.  In any case, we really enjoyed them.  We ate them for appetizers and then had potstickers for main course.  The soup was really filling though, which meant that there were enough potstickers for all of us.  (Otherwise, I don't think there would have been.)

The biggest disappointment was with the mixed fruit soup.  It made nearly a full ice-cream pail full, and Rose put it in the outside freezer to cool.  However it tipped over and most of it spilled out into the bottom of the freezer.  There was still enough for all of us to have a taste, but it made a big mess to clean up, and three-quarters of it was spilled.

We also had two little girls come and bake muffins this afternoon.  They are cousins and they attend The Party regularly.  I had promised one of them that she could come and cook some time ago, and she phoned yesterday to see if she could come today.  She brought her cousin with her.  We made carrot muffins.  They were also good, I think; I didn't eat any, although I do have some leftover.  I sent a paper plate full home with each of them.

It's been a busy day for all of us, and we're now sitting on the couch, vegging.  When the washing machine finishes spinning out, I need to get up and make beds (I think I have company tonight).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sisters, Sisters

Ruth and I have been cooking together for about four years now.  Just in the last month I also started working with/for her, two days a week.  It's a good thing we're good friends.  It reminds me of that short song from White Christmas.  See it here.

We were sitting side by side at the reception desk Friday; Ruth was dictating to me and I was typing.  We were working together trying to get some correspondence done, when one of Ruth's tenants came in.  She commented, "Boy, I wish my sister and I could get along like that."

I really am fortunate though.  We do enjoy each other's company a lot.  Yesterday made up our week's menu, went grocery shopping and then made three salads together: Morocccan chickpea barley, Broccoli with Grapes, and Cauliflower Apple.  We also made a beef stew (which we ate for lunch, but there's enough left for another day) and borscht.  This morning she came over and we whipped up three different types of perogy casseroles (spinach and feta perogies with a cream sauce; regular potato cheese perogies with a cream sauce, and plain old ordinary cheese perogies with butter).  This was the first time we tried doing perogies without the cream sauce, with just butter, and they didn't stick at all!  That was in the my three-pot slow cooker.  In one of my larger slow cookers we had the borscht, and in the other large slow cooker we had cabbage rolls.  Then we also threw together three pans of pear upside down cake.  Got everything started and dashed off to church (5 minutes late).   We have enough leftover perogies for at least one more meal and a fair amount of borscht but all the cabbage rolls went.  There's also lots of salad left.  I've done up the dishes three times since yesterday morning, but still have pots and pans to do up along with another load in the dishwasher tomorrow morning.

I'm very thankful for my new dishwasher too.  It means that I don't have to wash my dishes before putting them into the dishwasher.  (This is a very good idea).  It also holds more and is much, much quieter.

It has not been a quiet relaxing weekend.  After cooking with Ruth all morning, I went into the office with her in the afternoon and worked with one of her other employees at organizing her files, from 1 to 5 pm.  When I got back home I was so tired I was in bed before 9 pm.  This afternoon we babysat Emmet and Jane while their parents had a date.  Then I had a short nap, followed by sewing.  I had a grad dress that I finished hemming, and a top and shorts that I promised to shorten for someone else.  I also whipped up a pair of shorts for Jane (and Emmet) because Rachel had sent her kids without the diaper bag and we needed a change of clothes for Jane.

It is now evening.  All the sewing is done.  I'm sitting where I cannot see the dirty dishes in the kitchen - they'll wait for tomorrow.  I've done a bit of planning for this summer's VBS, but need to talk it over with someone else before I send it off.  It's been a good day.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Abram Dietrich Thiessen
December 5, 1925 - May 29, 2013

My father-in-law died the end of May and we buried him on Tuesday.  He was a quiet man, never boisterous, but always he quietly loved those around him.  He was always very generous, with his time and money.

I have so many memories of Dad.  I recall one of the very few times he came up to Yellowknife to visit us.  He was there for only a short time before he became very ill, his kidneys shut down for awhile, and he ended up in the hospital in ICU.  When they discharged him from the hospital, he insisted on driving back home again, the very next day.

When my children were very small, Rose was three and Bram was about three months old, I drove south with the children by myself.  It was a long, long trip to Eyebrow; about 28-30 hours driving.  For the last hour and a half of the trip, Rose had found a box of cereal and was throwing it by the handful throughout the car.  By that point I didn't care; she wasn't crying and it was keeping her entertained.  When I arrived in Eyebrow, I handed the kids off to their grandparents and went to lie down and sleep.  While I was sleeping, Dad took the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed out the car.  He saw that it needed doing and so he did it.  That was the way Dad was; he continually showed his love for us by noticing what needed to be done, and doing it.

Whenever we went out to eat at a restaurant with Dad, we had to make arrangements to pay the bill when we made the reservations, otherwise he would be sure to grab the cheque and insist on paying.

Dad had lived all of his life in Eyebrow; first on the farm and then in town.  He had served on the municipal council for years and later as the reeve.  He knew everyone, and the state of their crops.  He loved to go visit with everyone at the coffee shop.

I was sorry that I wasn't able to visit with Dad before he died.  We had gone to Moose Jaw several times to visit with Mom but she was in the nursing home and our visits hadn't coincided with Dad's visits.  However it was good to visit with all of the family at the funeral.  All of the children and grandchildren were there.  I hadn't seen the great grandchildren before (there are now six of them); it was also good to visit with Aunt Edna, Mark and Florence.  It was so good that they were able to come up from Texas.

Although Dad is no longer with us, his legacy lives on in his five sons, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.  He lives on in the love he showed us all, quietly, without many words.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reading Aloud

I don"t remember a time when reading aloud wasn't a part of my life.  When I was younger, of course, I was the one being read to.  When we were a newly wed couple, Lloyd and I took turns introducing each other to some of our favourite books by reading them aloud to each other.  From the time my children were very small, I've read aloud to them.

Right now, Bram and I are enjoying one of Lois McMaster Bujold's books, Mirror Dance.  We've read a number of her books from the same series to each other; alternating with the Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Liaden books.  I have a number of both author's books purchased as ecopies, which has the advantage that it's  impossible for Bram to read ahead, as I only have them on my computer.

When the Friesens come over, Emmet and Jane have their own particular favourites as well.  I have a paperback copy of the song "A Hunting We Will Go" in a children's book format.  Jane wanders around singing it all the time.  She also likes Green Eggs and Ham; but I think her favourite its Oh my baby, little one.  I have to admit, I really enjoy it too.

Now, I don't want you to think that we only read fiction aloud.  Last year, we read The Disappearing Spoon; which goes through the periodic table, talking about each of the elements.  We really enjoyed that one too.

There are real advantages to reading to the various age groups as well.  When reading to the little ones, like Emmet and Jane, the books are really short and it doesn't take much time to read one.  (A possible disadvantage is you get to read the same book over and over and over again, so choose your books wisely.)  An advantage to reading to older people is that you can take turns, or even say, "I'm tired of reading right now, why don't you read for a bit."

One of the real blessings of reading aloud however, is that it builds relationships.  You're sharing together.  Unlike watching TV together (something we honestly never do), when reading aloud, you can comment on what you're reading to each other, put it down at any time and pick it up again later and do it in a car (and while the driver can't read aloud, he/she can definitely enjoy it and participate)..  In addition, it allows you to introduce a book or books to someone you love, who wouldn't otherwise read it on his/her own; or to introduce a book or books that are beyond that person's reading level; or even a book that may be beyond that person's maturity level, because you can discuss and explain as needed.

What books would you recommend to read aloud, to what ages?  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Picnic

For the second time this month we had a picnic after service.  We went to the Rick Hansen playground at AE Wilson Park.  We invited a number of people to come and join us; but only ended up having Walt and Ruth, Bram and I, Rachel and kids, Kevin V and his extras (2 of his kids and 4 extras) and Jeff S.  Ruth and I had been busy this morning getting things ready.

We made ribbon sandwiches.  One set had layers of salmon, egg and ham, while the other set had layers of turkey, egg and ham.  They were layered strips of brown and white bread separating the various types of fillings.  In addition, we made pinwheel peanut butter and honey and peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  That was the sandwiches; but we also had three different types of salads (Greek, Waldorf, and bean), pickles, veggies and dip, and orange jello with cream cheese and mandarin oranges for dessert.  It was all excellent.

Unfortunately, the wind was strong enough that we had to hold our plates or put weights on them so they wouldn't blow away.  However after eating, everyone had fun playing on the playground equipment.  They played grounders.  (I played with Jane instead.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Vegetarian Mexican Quiche

OK, tried this for the first time and found it a little boring; so I'm writing the recipe as I'll make it next time I try it (I'm adding a little more heat).

1 frozen deep dish pie shell
2 cups grated cheese (sharp cheddar would be good)
1/4 cup (more or less) sliced jalapeno peppers, diced small (wear gloves to dice peppers)
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
1 small onion, diced
1 cup 10% cream (or cereal cream)
3 large eggs, beaten
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Spread 1/2 the grated cheese over the bottom of the pie shell.  Cover with the diced peppers, green chilies and diced onion.
Mix together the cream, the eggs and spices, and pour over the cheese mixture in the pie shell.  Cover with the remaining half of the grated cheese and the chopped cilantro.
Bake for 40 minutes at 325 F or until a knife inserted half way to the centre comes out clean.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

More Recipes - Mexican Lasagna

OK, we had the Mexican Lasagna that we had made last month for supper tonight and it was excellent.  We had the Quiche earlier this week.  It was also really good; so here are the recipes.  (Both of these recipes can be made in advance and frozen; I never thought it would be possible to make quiche in advance and freeze it but it worked very well.)

Mexican Lasagna

1 medium onion, chopped
3 - 14 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup salsa
2 cups (or a 15 oz can) kidney beans
chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper etc. to taste (about 1 TLB of chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin)

1 large egg
2 cups creamed cottage cheese
1 pkg. frozen diced spinach
1 tsp crushed garlic

1 1/2 lb cooked boneless chicken cut into small bites or 1 1/2 lb hamburger meat, cooked

1 box uncooked lasagna noodles (I use wholewheat noodles; or if I'm going gluten-free, rice noodles)
1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

The first mixture is the sauce mixture.  Cover the bottom of the lasagna pan with sauce.  Top with uncooked noodles, then half of the meat.  Add 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture on top.  Repeat (sauce, lasagna noodles, meat, cottage cheese).  Top with lasagna noodles, then add some more sauce, grated cheese and the green chilies.  Cover with foil and freeze.

You can bake this  at 350 from frozen (about 90 min.) or thaw it the day before and bake for about 40 minutes.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sometimes it's just hard

Coming back from holidays has been difficult.  First of all, I had serious problems at my four-plex; they hadn't had hot water for over two weeks and were unhappy about it.  Got that fixed, however I've also discovered that my master keys have gone missing.  This means that I can't enter the four plex unless someone's home and I can't take the coins from the washer and dryer.  Finally, one of the tenants appears to have skipped out; leaving the apartment trashed and in arrears on the rent.  That's just the four-plex.

In addition, my boarder has also moved out. I had interviewed for a job right before I went on holidays to discover a form letter "thank you but we've hired someone else" when I got back home.  I have someone's (I don't know which relative's) car parked on my front lawn.

I think it must be time to count my blessings:

I have a home; I was able to get the hot water fixed right away; my son's got a good summer job; I've got my tax refund back.  It's sunny and warm outside - 22 outside right now!  (I could have come home to the blizzard they had last Tuesday.)  Although the cruise was amazing, and the food choices were also wonderful - it appears that I didn't gain any weight!  I'm in good health.  It doesn't look like there's too much physical damage at the suite (a door off the hinges, a window broken); it's mostly abandoned possessions and garbage to clean up.  I've got my dishes done, my laundry done - and put away, and meals planned and groceries purchased for the week.  I discovered it was our week to bring the snack for The Party before I got there tonight, so was able to prepare for it.

OK, that's at least 10 blessings.  I'm feeling better.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Toilet Tales

My niece is contemplating potty training her daughter in the near future.  I was visiting with her this morning and she was saying how Jane was very ready - it was mommy who perhaps was not ready as she knew how much work was involved.  (She may find, however, that potty training a little girl is much easier than potty training a little boy).  That being said, it's been a long, long time since I potty trained my kids.  However, we definitely noticed the toilets when we were on the cruise.

First of all, there were the toilets in the airplane on the way over.  Now I've used airplane toilets before.  I consider the best approach whenever possible is to use the toilet before you catch the plane.  However, on a 10 hour flight, this may not be possible.  My most memorable airplane toilet story is the time I was flying from Hong Kong to Haneda (Tokyo) - 30 years ago.  It was a huge airplane (a 747?) and they actually had real toilets; not the ones shoehorned into the smallest possible space.  They had several of them, side by side, in the middle of the plane.  I opened the door to one, and discovered a small toddler in there, who had pulled all of the paper off the roll and was trying to stuff it back.  I let the door gently fall back hiding her from view and used a different stall.

However, airport toilets are another matter entirely.  We discovered the airport toilets (or public toilets) in Japan to be very interesting.  For a start, the toilet seats were soft (padded) rather than the hard plastic ones we're accustomed to in North America.  Secondly, they were heated!  You sit on the seat, and it's warm!  Then, as soon as you sit, the toilet begins making white noise (so that the person in the next stall can't hear what you're doing in there).  The white noise continues until you stand up again. Finally, when you're done, there's a choice of three different buttons you can push.  There's a bidet button, a shower button and a flush button.  I wasn't going to try them out in the airport but I tried all three for comparison purposes in the hotel.  The difference between bidet and shower is where it sprays the warm water on your genitals.

However, there are also the squat-type toilets in public washrooms in Japan.  Generally, there's at least one "squat style" toilet and then the rest are the pedestal type that we're accustomed to.  I actually find the squat style convenient to use if you're wearing a skirt, or if there's a line-up for the other ones and you're desperate.

Welcome back?

So I got back last night around 11:30 pm.  This morning, bright and early, had a phone call from the City Health Department because apparently I haven't had hot water in my apartment for about 2 weeks.  Now, I'm not going to feel too terribly guilty about it because I put a letter in each of my tenants' boxes telling them that I was away and giving them Ruth's office number for an emergency contact.  I've talked to two tenants and both tell me that they didn't see the letter.  I know I hand delivered it to their mail box - what else can I do?  I couldn't have phoned them as most of them don't have phones.  I feel badly for them that they haven't had hot water for two weeks - but not all that badly.  I planned ahead; I gave them contact numbers.  Oh well.

On the other hand, it wasn't a great welcome back to Regina for me.  My boarder is also moving out May 6 - and only wants to pay half a month's rent for May.

Welcome home, I guess.

Friday, April 12, 2013

And... we're off!

Well, almost off - we leave tomorrow morning very early, Lord willing.  We is my parents, my daughter, Rose, and I.  We're going on a holiday cruise; we fly to Calgary tomorrow where Rose meets up with us.  Then we fly to Tokyo.  We start the cruise on the 15th (we miss the 14th entirely because of the international date line) from Kobe.  The cruise ends in Vancouver on May 1.

So my parents arrived yesterday from Saskatoon.  The weather was horrible (it's been more horrible than not lately), and they ended up taking the bus from Saskatoon to get here, because it was "travel not recommended" for the highway.  It's been "travel not recommended" far too often this winter.  Bram left to write his second final exam this morning, travelling a highway that was "travel not recommended" for the umpteenth time.

Mom and I have been busy getting things done and ready to go.  Last night I took her to pick up a very nice pair of velour pants and matching sweatshirt for her to wear when we do our circuits of the ship in the mornings for our morning exercise.  Dad needs to get himself a fleece jacket because he forgot his at home and his parka is really too heavy to take with him.  This morning I did my taxes.  Mom brought the software, and I had everything ready to go and it only took me an hour.  I get money back, and I'm happy.

I've got my suitcase packed, got supper started for tonight, and the freezer is full of meals for when I'm gone for my household. My to-do list is completed (I think). (I just remembered - I need to buy a sump pump for my rental property and put it in the sump hole.  Then my to-do list will be done.)  Bram's got the whole carpool thing arranged (he's tutoring one of his classmates every night in exchange for a ride to and from school), and he only has one more week of exams until he's done anyway.  Then he'll start work, but he has two weeks off first and he's planning to fly to Yellowknife for his time off.

So, it's time to take a deep breath and relax.  Let the holidays begin!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday - get it done today!

I've done myself up a to do list (in my head for today) and am slowly working through the list.  I need to apply for some jobs as the close in the next week or so.  I also need to collect rent (because it's the first of the month), get some travel insurance (have to get that this week; not necessarily today), finish cleaning up after the big get together yesterday, etc.  I've done one on-line application and cover letter - two more to go.  If I update my list for to do this week; I also want to finish sewing the clothing I want to take with me on the cruise and the seat covers for the dining room chairs and get the bills paid (collect rent first).

So it's been three Sundays in a row that I've had a crowd over.  The excuse this week is that was Easter. We had 21 people (mom counted); including my parents.  My parents brought the ham, Aunt Alice made buns, Margaret made bannock (even though she didn't end up coming), I made Easter Bread earlier this week; Ruth and I had made three different salads yesterday, etc.  There was lots of food and it was all good.    I think this is the first time we had three different types of bread - and both Dad and Ruth are doing gluten-free so they couldn't eat any of it (although Dad had brought some of his own anyway).

The other major thing I did over the weekend was do the on-line check-in for the cruise I'm taking in two weeks.  It took about 1.5 hours to finish the whole thing.

Ruth and I tried a new salad this week, it had sweet potatoes and green beans in it (and cherry tomatoes).  It was good but the dressing for it was kind of bland and boring and I think we need to tweak it a little before I'm happy with it.

Bram had both Friday and today off; is sitting doing homework. He's got a take-home math exam that he's probably spent five or six hours on already and he's only half done.  (I don't miss that part of homework at all.)  He's back to school tomorrow.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Quick Update

Well, Bram finally got his criminal record's check completed and his driver's license transferred to Saskatchewan.  It was a big deal to get it done.  He had to have the licence so that he could get the criminal record's check.  He couldn't get the license without his birth certificate.  It finally arrived express post from Yellowknife.  They sent it Thursday; it arrived Wednesday afternoon.  (Not very express, if I do say so.)  Wednesday evening Walter took Bram to the insurance office to get his license transferred.  However while they were in the process of doing it, the power went off.  Nothing gets saved if the computer goes down; and even though he waited until closing time, the power didn't come back on.

So, yesterday I picked Bram up from school in Moose Jaw shortly after 12:00 (he left his class early; his lunch break doesn't start until 12:30) - he knew he'd have to miss his afternoon classes and lab.  We got to the insurance office by 1:30, but the person there wouldn't accept all of his ID (health card, NWT driver's license, birth certificate, tax form) without an additional proof of Saskatchewan residency showing his address; and although he had a letter from SIAST showing that he was accepted as a student there; that wasn't on their list of acceptable ID.  So we had to drive to the bank so that they could print out a bank statement that gave his address, had a teller's stamp and signature on it; and then go back to the insurance office.  (What a pain!)  Once Bram had his temporary licence in hand, we went to the police station to get the criminal record's check.

I actually dropped Bram off there because I had a planning meeting about The Party.  We've lost a lot of the adult helpers lately and you simply cannot run a program for around 40 kids with five or fewer adults.  It doesn't work!  So we brainstormed how to get more helpers and what things could be done differently.

Meanwhile Bram got his criminal record's check and dropped it off and took the bus home.  Unfortunately, not having taken the bus before, he took the bus with the right number but going the wrong direction and it took him two hours to get home. All in all, it's been a bit of an ordeal.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


It's been a busy few days.  Saturday Ruth and I did our regular Saturday cooking and meal planning for the week.  We made three salads, one new one (Ham and Chickpea), plus Lentil Black Bean and Fake-um Potato Salad.  We also made a spinach meat loaf (it was supposed to be a meat roll, but we made it ground chicken instead of ground beef so it was too soft to roll and I ended up making it in a square cake pan.  What else?  Oh yeah, David was wanting some precooked hamburger patties, but we couldn't find any in the store so we put some in the oven and baked them while we were making other things.  Oh yeah, we also made a Mexican Chicken Lasagna.  (It was interesting, ok, but not great).

I had warned Ruth Saturday that we weren't having a crowd over Sunday.  I'm trying to keep it down to once a month, because it's expensive (and I'm currently unemployed), and we'd already had a crowd over earlier this month.  However, Saturday evening, Joyce phoned to ask if she and Robin (and Gideon) could come for Sunday dinner, and then if I could babysit Gideon while they went to Rider Pep Band practice.  Well, sure, of course - so then we invited a crowd over for lunch.  I think we probably had around 20 people, but I'm really not sure.  I have 17 plates and they were all used, plus some paper plates; but some plates were used as serving dishes. We had baked fish with lemon, left-over Mexican Chicken Lasagna, a vegetable frittata (Ruth and I had been wanting to try this and it turned out really very nice - easy too), plus Lisa brought tortillas and made quesadillas.  There was lots of food, and lots of visiting and we all had a good time.

Sunday evening I was feeling a little bored, so I decided to make Easter Bread (Paska).  I mixed up my yeast and then discovered I was really low on flour, so had to run out to the store to buy some; plus some more eggs because we had used them all up making the frittata.  Nicole was happy to help me bake (she really likes cooking).  I ended up making four of the traditional loaves (baked in cans so they're tall cylinders), and 20 buns.  They tasted really good, but I thought they'd be better with some lemon curd on them (traditionally they're iced, but I find that way too sweet), so then I made some lemon curd.  Very good.

Monday I went over to visit with Aunt Alice, and to deliver her some Easter Bread.  Then I went to visit the Steiners.  They're so busy, trying to get their house in shape before they leave, that I ended up inviting them for lunch, and to look after their girls in the afternoon. (Some things are just easier without preschoolers helping). I made a big batch of chicken vegetable soup and we had it with sandwiches and homemade dumplings. While Scarlett slept, Hadasssa and Ahzriel and I made mini muffins (a double batch of cranberry orange muffins and a single batch of gingerbread muffins).  I was wanting to have muffins for The Party last night.

Then I made Pizza Soup for supper (soup twice in the same day isn't generally what I plan to do, but that's the way it worked out last night) and then the usual dash out the door to The Party.  Bram stayed home.  He's had a really bad cold the past several days and also had a big assignment due Tuesday that he needed to work on.

We had around 40 kids for The Party, but were really short on helpers. (Bram was sick, Debbie is home recovering from surgery, Loopie's in New Guinea, etc.) (Did we notice?  YES WE DID!!!)  It was pretty wild and crazy last night.  When I finally got home, I went to bed early.  Bram was a little disappointed; he wanted me to proof read his assignment, but I was already asleep when he woke me up to ask me.  I proofed it this morning.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who is he, really?

Bram needs to have a criminal record's check for his summer coop placement.  They gave him a one-day extension, but he's supposed to have it in to them by Friday at the latest.  In order to have a criminal record's check, he has to produce two pieces of government-issued ID, one of which shows a Saskatchewan address.  Here-in lies a problem.  For ID he has:

  • A Saskatchewan Health Card (is government issued, shows signature, doesn't show address)
  • A NWT driver's licence (won't work for anything because he's lived here longer than one year)
  • a NWT birth certificate (unfortunately it's in Yellowknife and they'll have to courier it down here)
  • A passport (if he could find it, it would solve all of his problems - can't find it here or in YK)
  • A SIAST student card (which is government-issued ID but they won't accept it; it's not on their list of acceptable ID).
He can get a Saskatchewan ID card, but it takes two weeks (too long); and only if he has a birth certificate (coming down by courier) and two other pieces of ID (the health card will count as one - he can use a T4 for the other, I hope).  However there's still the two-week waiting period problem.

We'll try again tomorrow.  This might be a little frustrating.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Today is theoretically the first day of spring.  So we're having a blizzard.  I keep a close eye on what's happening with the weather and the highways because Bram commutes to and from Moose Jaw every day to go to school.  It's only about 65-70 km on an excellent divided highway and should only take about 45-50 minutes, at least in good weather.  At worst it can take up to two hours (and no one should be on the highway if the conditions are that bad).

I wake up to my clock radio in the morning and don't get out of bed until I hear what the weather and the road conditions are.  Too often this winter it's been "travel not recommended" on the No. 1 highway.

The good news is that Bram car pools with several of his instructors, and they are very careful drivers.  Because he (usually) carries his cell phone with me, he can keep me posted about road conditions and where he is and how long he'll take to get home.

Here's a map of a large portion of the province showing what road conditions are right now.  Red means that the highway is closed, white means travel not recommended, yellow means winter conditions exist and black means good driving conditions.

OK, I'll add a link to some photos put up by Sask Dept of Highways - here

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Treaty Drive

My friend Sheena writes a blog called Treaty Walks, where she talks about treaties and social justice.  Back in late January, she set out a challenge, to walk somewhere in our community and write about what they have learned.  See her original post here.  I've been thinking about this ever since I read that posting, and here's my response.

Sheena, this is a treaty drive (because it's close to -30 out and I'm a wimp, sorry).  Every day I drive this route to pick up my son from his car pool to Moose Jaw where he goes to school.  I drive down Lewvan to Dewdney, turn right and drive out of town until I get to the corner of Pinky Road and Dewdney Avenue.  There's a little gas station there where I sit and wait for Bram to be dropped off.  When he gets there, I turn around and drive back.  The entire trip is less than 10 km, and I do it every school day.  No big deal.

However, when we're thinking about treaty relationships and history, it changes my perspective entirely.  First of all, I drive past the RCMP training depot.  It has been here over 100 years.  When the Royal Northwest Mounted Police were first established, this was headquarters.  It was also here that Louis Riel was held for his trial and after the trial until his hanging.  I imagine that when it was first set up here, it was well out of town; it's still on the edge of town.  However there's been a long history between the RCMP and treaties.  They were there for the signing of all the treaties.  The RCMP were originally set up because of troubles between the first nations, settlers and whisky traders.  It's interesting to think that I drive past such a historical site every day.

Then I drive past what looks like an empty field.  Right now, the snow drifts are so high that I can't actually see the field, but it's essentially just a barren field.  However, at one time this was the location of an Indian Industrial School (a residential school), and there is still a grave yard there (unmarked - you can't see any of it).  The news story talking about it is here.  Again, a truly historical spot that I knew nothing about until I read the news story.

Finally, the gas station where I sit and wait for Bram to arrive, is a native-run business, on treaty land.  It's like an urban reserve, only it's not very urban; situated in the middle of a field, at an intersection, with nothing else near it.  The people who work there are very friendly.  It's also a full-service station (which is a real bonus when it's -30 out).  However, this is a also sign of a hopeful future.  People drive out from Regina all the time to purchase their gas here, or to be honest, to purchase their smokes there, as they're not paying taxes.  It's a sign of growth, of employment, of what we want to see as a result of treaties.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sloppy Joes

Ruth and I looked at several Sloppy Joe recipes and none of them had beans in them!  However, I feel that Sloppy Joes should have beans (just like chili should); so our recipe does.  It also stretches the meat further. Because we wanted to make a recipe that Nicole could eat, and she doesn't eat beef, we made this recipe with ground chicken, but we would ordinarily make it with ground beef.

1 lb ground meat
2 cups cooked kidney beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce (look for the low salt variety)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TLB cider vinegar
2 TLB chili powder

Cook the meat and onion until the meat is no longer pink.  Mix everything together with the meat.  At this point you can freeze everything until you want it for supper.  You can reheat or cook it all in a slow cooker.  Serve on open hamburger buns.  (If I'm doing gluten-free, I serve on cooked brown rice.)

I use cider vinegar instead of white vinegar because if you're doing gluten-free you don't want white vinegar.

Spinach/Mushroom Quiche

1 - 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 eggs
2 cups diced mushrooms
2 cups creamed cottage cheese
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

2 frozen deep dish pie shells (optional)

If you're making this gluten-free, place the mixture in a greased 10-inch pie pan (the glass ones work well).  If you're not worried about gluten-free, then you can place this in a pre-made frozen pie shell (yes, I do wimp out and buy these).

Mix everything together.  Divide it between the two pie pans.  At this point you can freeze it without baking, slide each pie pan into a large freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. (You can put a piece of parchment paper on top of the mixture before you slide it into the freezer bag and it won't stick to the bag).

If you've frozen it, you need to let it thaw before  baking.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.


We had made pizza Friday night for supper, so had leftover garlic sausage.  This made me decide to make Jambalaya.  Now when I'm making this gluten-free; you have to be careful about what type of sausage you use.  In western Canada at least, I find that the Grimms brand is gluten-free; but the cheap no-name varieties will nearly always have flour as a filler.

1 onion chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 pound garlic sausage or kielbasa, cut into small slices or chunks (this is a cooked-type sausage)
1/2 pound ham, diced
1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes (go for the low salt variety)
2 cups fish or seafood
2 cups shrimp (optional - but really nice; remove the tails ends)
1 tsp dried chilies
1 bay leaf
2 cups water or beef bullion
1.5 cups brown rice (I prefer the basmati rice)

If you're going to make this in advance and freeze it; you can mix everything together and freeze it now, before cooking anything. Freeze it in a large freezer bag (label the bag with a permanent marker).  Then thaw it the day you want it, and bake it in a covered dish (I used my dutch oven, but you can also use a 9x13 in pan and cover it with tinfoil) for about 1 hour at 350 until done.  (A slow cooker doesn't cook rice very well, it tends to be crunchy.)  You can also cook it in a dutch oven on the stove; bring it to boiling, then turn the burner down to low.

We made this with a bag of mixed sea food because I didn't have fish in the freezer and ring of shrimp that we had bought around Christmas and forgotten and was getting freezer burn and needed using.

Fish cakes

Every time I made fish cakes (also known as fish burgers), I find that regardless of what I put in them, they tend to fall apart when I fry them.  So this time, we baked them.  Much, much better!  They stayed together perfectly!  We don't even have them on the menu for this week, so we froze them all.

When I'm making this recipe as a gluten-free recipe I substitute puffed rice for bread crumbs.  I whir them in the food processor or blender until they're like crumbs.  This is a standard substitution for me.  (I cooked gluten-free for about five years for Bram when he was younger, but was so thankful when he was again able to eat a full diet.)

I always make fish cakes with canned salmon if I'm using canned fish (it's got far more calcium than tuna, which I don't use at all), but I have also made it with cooked leftover fish (which is a rarity in our household because everyone really likes fish and it's hard to have leftovers).

2 cans (213 g) salmon, with juice and bones, mashed up or about 2 cups leftover cooked fish
2 eggs
2.5 cups bread crumbs or puffed rice (see note above)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 TLB lemon juice

Mix everything together.  Measure out with a half cup measure to make burgers.  I find it's good to press them into a margarine lid; it makes a good "quarter pounder" size burger.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  (I always use baking parchment, then I don't have to grease the pan and the pans stay so much cleaner.)

This makes about 10 burgers.

Saturday's Cooking

Ruth and I did an inventory of the fridge Saturday and decided we didn't need to make any salads for this week.  We still had Coleslaw Forever (hardly even touched from the week before), a large four cup container of Warm Winter Vegetable Salad, and a large four cup container of Current Quinoa Salad.  So we made main courses instead.

I'm planning on going on a holiday in April.  Lord willing, I'll be flying out mid month to Japan with my daughter and my parents.  We'll be taking a cruise with several stops in Japan before going across the Pacific and doing the Alaska cruise, ending up in Vancouver at month's end.  I'm excited and apprehensive about this.  What am I doing booking a cruise when I'm unemployed?  Can I afford this?  How will Bram and Nicole manage while I'm gone?  How will Bram get to his car pool every morning?  All of those kinds of questions.

Some of those questions are easily answered.  Leslie W. has generously offered to drop Bram off to his car pool and pick him up again.  Bram's writing  final exams the first week I'm gone and then he's off school until he starts his summer job, so it's only one week that he needs coverage for.

And Ruth and I have made up a menu for the weeks that I'm gone and I'm trying to have meals made up and ready for all of those days.  This also means that I need to have the freezer cleaned out so that there's room for all of those meals.

Saturday Ruth and I made double sets of meals; one set for this week to eat and one meal to go in the freezer for when I'm gone.  So far I've already got lasagna (three different variations - see the previous post), a roast, borscht and the makings for pea soup in the freezer.  Saturday we made Jambalaya, Fish burgers, Sloppy Joes, and a Spinach Quiche.  This means that I've got over half of the meals already made for when I'm gone.  However when we made the meals, Ruth wasn't on a wheat-free diet, so she won't be able to eat the quiche.  I will freeze some of the chicken soup I'm making for supper tonight as well, so that's one more meal.  Most of the remaining meals on the menu are ones that I don't need to have made in advance but that Bram, Nicole or Ruth can make that night.  We have pizza, wonton soup, oven fried chicken, perogy casserole, taco salad, hamburger helper and stir fry on for other nights - none of which I need to have made up in advance.  So here I am, just short of a month before I leave and I have three week's worth of meals planned and made up.

I'll post some recipes for some of these meals though, because they are really good and it's nice to have the recipes on-line; it's easier to find them there than to search through various sheets of paper and cookbooks to find where they were originally.

Cooking for allergies and food sensitivities

I've always had to deal with some allergies/sensitivities.  Since I've been an adult, I've been unable to eat oats, and currently I carry an epi-pen just in case I get accidentally exposed to them.  No big deal with that - my main problem is remembering that the epi-pen can't be frozen, and I therefore can't leave my purse in the car.  Both of my kids seem to have inherited this sensitivity (I feel like I should apologize to them).

I'm also unable to eat potatoes.  This is a bit more of a pain; they taste really good and they're in lots of things.  I do eat them occasionally (mooching the odd french fry, eating perogies, etc.)  I'm usually sorry later, but I can deal with that.  I know it's my own fault, and I remind myself not to do it again.

I'm lactose intolerant as well.  I can eat one small yogurt a day, two is too many.  In the same way, I can eat a little bit of cheese, but need to take a lactose tablet if I eat something like lasagna, which has lots of cheese.  I use rice dream instead of milk on my cereal in the morning (soy milk may be cheaper but it has the same effect on me as milk, not fun).

All of these allergies or sensitivities are almost second nature to me; I've lived with them so long that I don't really think about them at all.  When I cook at home, I don't think of them at all - when I am eating at other locations, I read labels, ask questions, and am a little bit more careful.

However allergies and sensitivities are becoming more and more common.  When I have the family over for our regular meal together, I'm now doing as many as three different variations on the same meal.  Ruth is trying out wheat free (or maybe it's gluten-free, I need to check) at the recommendation of her naturopath for the next while.  My dad has also gone wheat-free and has found it has really helped his health.  Rachel and Joe are milk product free (I use soy cheese for them).  Nicole (my boarder) doesn't eat beef at all.  In addition, Ruth is diabetic and has high blood pressure (low or no sugar added whenever possible, low sodium whenever possible).

 So, if I'm making something like lasagna  I will make the main casserole for "everyone else" - layers of meat sauce, cottage cheese and spinach, topped with grated cheese.  For Nicole, I'll make a small individual lasagna with soy meat instead of hamburger, but everything else the same.  For Rachel and Joe, I'll make a loaf pan sized lasagna for them to share, with only meat sauce and soy cheese on top.  For Ruth (and Dad if he's visiting), I'll make individual lasagnas with rice noodles instead of whole wheat noodles.  I now make my lasagna with low sodium canned tomatoes or tomato sauce (the regular stuff can have as much as 540 mg per half cup!).  That's four different types to keep straight!

It is easier to do all of this because I do cook most things from scratch.  However, cooking from scratch generally means that I do open cans; cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce or whatever, occasionally canned soups (cream of mushroom or tomato), bouillon, etc.  I'm finding it more challenging all the time though.

Today for supper I'm making homemade chicken soup.  Right now I've got the chicken on in the slow cooker.  When it's cooked, I'll remove the meat from the bones and add them back.  Then I'll add in vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, etc.)  Before all these food restrictions, I would have likely made homemade dumplings or noodles to go in the soup.  However I think I'll add lentils instead.  They'll still add the body to the soup, making it more filling, but no one I know of is allergic to it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pleasant Dreams

I had such a nice dream this morning; I was lying in bed in the partially awake state and I had such a vivid dream.  I was at home (the home I grew up in, in Saskatoon) and I was packing my lunch to go to work at school.  Also there was my sister Ruth and Jean Borsheim and her son Mark.  I got my lunch together and explained what I had packed to Mark, had a short visit with him but I wanted to pack cookies in my lunch and we didn't have any.  So I thought that Grandma would have cookies next door, so I went next door to where my grandparents lived.  My grandfather walked down the short flight of steps at the back entry to let me in, and when I had come up to the kitchen, there was my grandmother, sitting around the table with my cousin Janelle and her boys.  Janelle was just pulling a baked ham (baked with pineapple) out of the oven and they were obviously getting ready to eat lunch.  I was thinking that Janelle was also going to be late for work - then I realized that Janelle didn't work at the school I worked at, then I realized that I didn't teach at the school I had attended when I was growing up, so I woke up.

However it was such a great dream.  I'm sure I haven't seen Jean Borsheim in over 20 years, although I'm her friend on facebook.  I know I haven't seen her son Mark in at least as long, if not longer.  We were friends when we were in university together but after we graduated we left for opposite ends of the continent and I know I haven't seen him since.  It was so nice to have a short visit with both of them, even if it was just in a dream.

Then, to get to see my grandparents again!  They've been dead for a long time; my grandmother for over 30 years now, my grandfather for over 20.  To see them, and to share a moment of time with them was wonderful!  It was also great to see that Janelle was visiting them, and that she got to introduce her boys to them, seeing as they were born after our grandparents had died.

Even if it was only a dream, it was a great way to start my day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some Days are Harder than Others

I was excited this morning; I had a job interview - my fourth or fifth, and I was sure I'd get this one.  I had a good interview, I think I answered the questions fully.  I think I had good answers.  I drove home feeling good about the whole thing.  But I got a phone call saying that I didn't get the job.

I'm disappointed.  I want to be working.  I want to be bringing in a income.  I want to feel in control.  However, the truth is, even with a job - I'm never truly in control.  Things can change in an instant. God's always in control and I need to remember that.  He wants the best for me, and that will come in his time.  I have to trust in him.

Still, it is hard.  Back to prayer one again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


There are so many little things in my life that I can be thankful for.  From when I get up in the morning to when I go to bed at night, there are a lot of small things that make me smile and be thankful.

When I first get up in the morning, I get a bowl out of the cupboard, put a small plate under it, and put a quarter cup Red River cereal in it.  I add a cup of water, put it in the microwave (4 minutes at 70%; 9 minutes at 40%), and wait for it to be ready.  Sometimes I go back to bed to wait.  However, every morning when I open my cupboard and pull out a bowl and plate, I'm thankful for my dishes.

When I first moved to Regina, shell-shocked after having my marriage fall apart so abruptly, I moved down with my clothing and personal possessions and nothing else.  The church here gave me a shower and provided me with the things I needed to make a home.  The Hinnergardts gave me the dishes.  I use them every day and am thankful for them, and thankful for friends who knew what I needed.

Now I have to mention that I'm also thankful for the cupboard the dishes are in.  I have a fairly large kitchen with lots of cupboards (not that you can ever have too many), but the wall where my dishes are stored didn't have cupboards on it before this fall.  That's when I splurged and purchased some and my brother-in-law put them up for me.  Now I have my dishes stored between the dishwasher and the dining room - which is the ideal location.  It's so much more convenient than it was before.  I'm thankful for the many storage spaces I have throughout my house - and I'm thankful for my cupboards.

After I eat breakfast (or sometimes while I'm waiting for my porridge to be ready), I unload my dishwasher.  Sometimes I do up the dishes in the sink as well - sometimes I figure they'll wait for a bit.  However I taught myself years ago to be thankful while I was doing dishes.  It's something that has to be done pretty much every day, and it's a bit of a pain and a nuisance, however I have the choice to either complain about it or be thankful for it.  I've chosen to be thankful that I have food to eat and dishes to wash.  My dishwasher is very old (the serial number starts 67 - which is the year it was manufactured I think), but it still works, and I'm very thankful for that.  I'm thankful I have a dishwasher so that there's not that much I have to wash in the sink.

I usually have my sister and her husband eat supper with us, and once a week (tonight in fact) I have the rest of the family over for supper.  I have a dining room with a large table, and lots of chairs.  I can seat 12 around the table; any more than that and we have to expand to other rooms.  I bought the table, chairs and buffet off kijiji - for a really good price.  Right now my table is covered with "stuff"; I'm working on recovering the chairs and have fabric and sewing implements all over it.  It'll get cleared off before supper.  I have a skylight in my dining room.  It means that during the day it's nice and bright in here (it's where I'm typing this up right now).  It's so nice to have the natural light in here - I'd love to have another skylight in my kitchen.  Last week my brother-in-law ripped the carpet out of the dining room.  Right now we have the original tile showing.  It's a very pretty brown, but some of the tiles have lifted out of place, and some of them have nails all over them (I'm sure that they were just nailed down firmly before they lay the carpet.)  But it's much easier to sweep a floor than vacuum it; especially when we regularly have small children and toddlers eat with us.  When I get a job, I'll celebrate by laying a new floor.  I'm so thankful that I have the space to have family and friends over; that we can share a meal and our lives together.

After supper everyone usually moves to the living room.  I have a really large living room; I've had over 40 people in it at one time; I have three couches in it, a piano, two cedar chests, three arm chairs, and lots of floor space.  My couches are all second-hand, and two of them have holes where the fabric's worn through. However, they are comfortable, and until I can afford something else, they work just fine.  When I first moved here, my Dad made me a front hall closet, borrowing a bit of space from the living room for it; it has a book case on the back side.  The living room is large enough that I don't think anyone would notice that the closet isn't original to the house.  I'm thankful that I am able to have a crowd over with lots of room for everyone.  I'm so thankful for my front hall closet.  I'm thankful that I have such generous parents who would build me a closet.  I'm thankful that I have friends that visit regularly.  (I'm really a home body and would rather have people visit than go out to visit.)

When I go to bed in the evening, I'm so thankful for my bed.  I just bought myself a new bed this fall.  For Christmas I bought myself new sheets (300 count, really nice.)  It's an added bonus that my sheets exactly match the quilts on my bed.  It's such a wonderful thing to be able to snuggle into bed, with such soft, soft sheets.

Right now my house is terribly messy, from one end of it to another.  My kitchen sink is filled with dirty dishes; my living room looks like it's conquered with clutter; I have trouble walking through my bedroom because of sewing machines, sergers, sewing projects, etc. piled up in it; my dining room table is covered with clutter, and the floors all need washing, sweeping, or vacuuming.  Some of it will get cleaned up before people come over this evening.  Some of it won't.  Oh well.  I'm thankful that I know how to do the cleaning (even if I don't always have the inclination).  Life is good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Answered Prayer

I have written previously about the challenges I faced daily, dropping Bram off to meet his car pool.  Every day was scary - not the actual waiting, but getting back to Regina; having to cross the divided highway with all of the early morning traffic in the dark to head back the other way.  It didn't help that I missed the meridian access twice in the dark and had to be towed out both times.

Here's where we used to go:

Well, I prayed about it.  And my prayers have been answered.  They are busy building the new overpass at Pinkie Road, just before the layby where I used to drop Bram off.  I'm assuming it's because of the work there, but they have barricaded off the layby - it is no longer accessible.  So, we can't use that as a meeting place for the car pool, and the one group that usually leaves a vehicle there until they come back from Moose Jaw, can't anymore.

So the car pool has found a new meeting place, by a "Welcome to Regina" sign.  It's less than half a kilometre closer to Regina - but that 4000 m or so makes a big difference because it's off the service road, on the south side of the highway.  This means that I can just take the Lewvan overpass directly to the service road, and then take the little side road to where the parking is by the sign.  I can also take the service road back to the Lewvan overpass.  No more crossing the TransCanada highway during rush hour in the dark.  It has made such a difference to my peace of mind.

Here's where we go now:

Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Whew! Well I'm glad that's done!

Two of my sisters are leaving next week on two different mission trips.  Nancy is leaving Monday for India.  Glenda is leaving Thursday, I think, for Guatemala.  They both had requests for me.  Nancy wanted me to sew her some skirts with pockets, as skirts are the appropriate attire in India and skirts with pockets are so much more practical.  Glenda wanted some bolero jackets, as the mission team she's going with has a dress code that includes wearing sleeves (no sleeveless outfits), and she had three dresses she likes to wear that are all sleeveless.  And.... seeing as I'm not working right now and as I do sew, could I sew for them?

I was actually quite pleased to be asked.  It didn't take that long... once I got past the procrastination stage - which took much longer than what I'd like it to.  Glenda had three dresses; a pink one, a blue denim one, and a brown one.  She suggested a white bolero would do for all three and I went by Fabricland, thinking that I'd just pick up some white eyelet.  Unfortunately, Fabricland didn't have anything like that, so I ended up purchasing three different lengths of fabric, and making three boleros - one of which is reversible.  I also sort of drafted my own pattern, using an existing pattern I had that was for stretch fabric and for long sleeves.  I was quite pleased with the way they turned out, but then had to worry about whether they'd fit.  Glenda says they do, so I'm happy.

Unfortunately my serger isn't working right now (I need to take it in to be serviced), so I got to finish all the seams in other ways.  I guess it's good for me, but I really think I need to get my serger fixed.

Nancy provided the material and patterns for her skirts.  She had four different lengths of fabric; a paisley like print with burgundy and brown in it, a blue sari fabric (really light weight) border print, and two green chiffon-like prints to go together.  Only one of the patterns had pockets, so I adapted the patterns to incorporate pockets and to change the openings omitting the zippers, and having them open in the pocket.  The paisley print went really, really well.  Nice and easy.  I purchased some solid burgundy material for the yoke, making it a contrast yoke and I was really pleased with the way it looked. The green fabrics went together in a skirt that was asymmetrical and curved down.  Also very nice, but because the fabrics were so light, the skirt had to be lined.  I didn't have too much trouble with it until it came time for the hem - and I'm really not happy with the way the hem turned out (sorry, Nancy), but it's done.

Then there was the sari fabric.  I had trouble with the sari fabric.  First of all, because it's a border print, I cut it out carefully so that the skirt wouldn't be hemmed, with the border print at the bottom.  However, because a skirt normally has a curved bottom print, it meant that the skirt had a fishtail hem at the centre back.  It wasn't what I planned, but it seemed ok.  However even though this was the pattern that already had the pockets in it, the skirt didn't work out and I had to rip out the side seams and try again.  This took awhile, and considerable more muttering to myself and procrastination.  Finally last night I took another try at it and sewed it up and I think it's ok but because I had so much grief with it, the whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm not sure if it's good or just finished.  Sometimes finished is good.

Because I felt like procrastinating with a purpose, I also sewed some tops for Nancy.  She had planned to line the skirts with the same fabric and I lined them with purchased fabric so I had lots of fabric left over.  First of all I made a batwing type top out of some of the green chiffon fabric.  I had enough lining to line it (which was essential), and I think it turned out pretty good, but it couldn't be worn with the skirt, as the skirt really needs a top that can be tucked in, and the batwing top will have to be worn loose.  However, it is a nice top.

I also purchased some really pretty solid burgundy fabric (from the clearance section of Fabricland, of course), to sew a top to coordinate with the paisley print skirt.  It's a really lightweight fabric and the top will have to be worn with a camisole or something underneath it, but I'm very pleased with the result.  I cut the top out a week ago, and sewed it up last night and finished it this morning.  I think I'm most pleased with this top out of all that I sewed.

I also scraped together enough of the other green chiffon material to make a top.  I had to cut the sleeves off grain to get them out of the remnant of fabric left, but I managed it.  I whipped it up this morning.  Finally, I attempted the sari fabric again, and cut out a blouse and managed to get it sewn up in under half an hour after Ruth and I finished our cooking this morning.  Then we folded everything up really small and tucked it into a padded envelope and Ruth took it to drop off at the bus depot at at about 11 am this morning.

And.... I'm done!  I'm hopeful that Nancy will send me photos because I didn't take photos of any of her skirts or tops.  I'm glad I did it - I wish I didn't have to put everything off until the last minute, but that's the way it goes sometimes.  If I get photos I'll add them to this blog posting.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In His Hands

Since my term position has ended, I've driven Bram most mornings to a lay-by (a pull-over spot for trucks) just west of Regina, across from the weigh scales.  We have a real routine; we leave the house at 7:10, arrive there about 7:24, and wait until around 7:30, when his car pool arrives.  While we're waiting, I usually read aloud to him from whatever is our latest read aloud book.  Currently we're enjoying Alexander McCall Smith's The Double Comfort Safari Club.  Then Bram transfers to the van for the car pool to Moose Jaw and I leave the lay-by to drive about 100 metres further on to get to where I can cross the meridian and drive back to Regina.  I usually arrive back home about 7:50.

Then at about 5 pm I need to drive back out there to pick Bram up.  He usually arrives some time between 5:10 and 5:20, and we drive back home together.

It sounds very routine - nothing much to it.  However, I have to say that it's the worst part of my day, everyday.  To start with, this is an extremely busy stretch of highway.  Lots and lots of traffic; many, many people commute down that road - and most of the commuters travel that stretch between 7 and 8 in the morning and between 5 and 6 in the evening.  In addition, because it's midwinter, it's always very dark out, and all that can be seen is the lights of traffic coming and going.  The sun currently rises between 8:30 and 9 and sets between 5:30 and 6.  In order to get to the meridian to cross to the east bound portion of the number 1 highway, I have to cross three lanes of traffic - all of it attempting to speed up to 110 kmh, while I'm trying to see the little sign showing do not enter and slow down to nearly a stop so that I can enter it.  Then on the other side of the road, there is no merging lane, so I wait until there is no traffic coming to cross two lanes of traffic and drive back to Regina.  I've missed the spot in the dark twice and have had to be pulled out (that really added to my pleasure in the morning).

This morning was worse than usual.  They warned before I left the house that there was blowing snow, but the driver for Bram's car pool had texted him saying that they were going as usual.  Two minutes after Bram transferred to their vehicle and had left for Moose Jaw, the radio announced that it was travel not recommended in all the areas around Regina, and they specifically mentioned Highway No. 1 between Regina and Moose Jaw.  It was a little late by then, but I still had to make it back to Regina.  Visibility was nearly nil and I didn't drive above 50 kmh the whole way back.  I was very thankful to have Bram text me to tell me that he had arrived in Moose Jaw, and I texted him back that unless the weather improves, he needs to plan to spend the night there.  (Thanks to the Buchanans, who are his storm-stay location.)

I have gotten so that I really dread this drive every morning and evening.  I have tried to find some other location that I could drop Bram off or pick him up - but he doesn't live anywhere near any of the car poolers and it's dependent upon their convenience.  Sometimes I can pick him up elsewhere, but it really depends on what vehicle some of the others drive to the drop off location.  If they drive a smaller vehicle (and they take turns, so it really varies), then there's no room for him.  There is no other option that I've found for the drop off.  The other option is for him to take the STC SIAST bus instead - however that costs $50 a month more, and I'm currently unemployed, so that's $50 out of an extremely limited budget.

Today I came to the realization that I'm as much in His hands as when I was commuting to Moose Jaw everyday all fall (which wasn't nearly as scary).  I need to turn this burden over to Him and let Him carry the load for me.  I think that's the best I can do at this time.