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.