Fortune Cookie Future

This one is for Gillian, Aces and the Hilltop Ladies’ Trekkers, who requested that I repost my fortune cookie story.  So, as I start my “hilly” route and they tackle their hilly hike, here is my fortune cookie post of  2014.

Fortune cookies are one of my secret weaknesses. I know it’s very non-Chinese of me because honestly, fortune cookies were never a genuine Chinese tradition–only in Chinese restaurants as a gracious way to present the bill. I hate it when the Chinese restaurants offer the obligatory fortune cookie to each person at the table. This means you only get one grab at a fortune. But when you get to scoop a bunch of tasty fortune cookies in your own bag, then your chances of getting a decent fortune increases tenfold.

You know, when you have one of those moments when you crave something less potent than dark Belgium chocolates and a lot more than healthy snacks? This is one of those snack attacks when chips and Cheetos just won’t do, but you definitely don’t want a rice cracker either. When all else fails to entice, then it’s a bag of fortune cookies for me.

I had the fortune cookie craving the other day. I felt I needed some fuel for walking the hilly 4-mile route around my neighbourhood. Reading the fortunes always spurred me on as I snacked while tackling the hills. Besides, I could burn off 2000 calories, maybe even 3000, by the time I completed my route.

The first hill is a killer because my knees practically hit my chin as I make my way up the top, munching three fortune cookies during the climb. Before descending the other side, I read my fortunes. Number 1 said: “Beware any obstacles.”  As far as I could see, I had two more hills before the route leveled out and got me home. Fortune #2 said: “Smile and the World smiles with you.”  Just knowing I had two more obstacles made me groan. Who could possibly smile?  Fortune #3 said: “Your efforts will pay off.”  Now, that one was a keeper.  I wanted to look great in my new dress and by gosh, by golly, I will!  Tucked this fortune in my pocket and chucked the others in the trash bin.

Downhill was a breeze—a fast pace downwards, a block of level ground and the n the start of hill number 2. This one is a sneakier hill because it’s a gradual upgrade, then steep near the top and a slow drop down the other side. Because the route is longer here, I ate five more fortune cookies. Finally reaching the peak, I sorted through my fortunes, two were the same: “Stop and smell the roses.”  Not yet, not until I complete the last hill. The next fortune predicted: “Today, indulge your craving. Tomorrow arrives soon enough.” Whoa, was that some kind of dire warning? My last fortune said, “The sky’s the limit this month.”  I liked that. Tucked that one in my pocket; but wait, five cookies should have five fortunes. One of my cookies arrived empty—or, was it? I didn’t think I had dropped a fortune and I sure as heck wasn’t going back to look.

Trudging down the gradual decline I waited until I got to the final hill before I ate my way through the last four cookies. This was actually a medium hill with a medium incline and then a running decline. Finally, a block from home, I checked my slips of paper:  “Laughter is the music of one’s soul.”  Hmm-m, that sounded nice. The next slip of paper said: “Fortune has a fickle heart and a short memory.” Guess that meant my lottery ticket didn’t win–again. The final two were identical and whoever wrote these had a terrific sense of humour.  “Fortune smiles at those who help themselves; but sometimes Fortune needs a good kick in the pants to recognize you.”

Never mind that I devoured a bag of fortune cookies. Of course Fortune was seeing the future thinner Me. That 4-mile walk had to have burnt off 3000 calories. Whoever said “Never trust a fortune cookie” didn’t know what they were eating—I mean, reading!

Side Roads, Fences and. . . .

Beckoning RoadBeckoning side road

I’ve been tackling some challenging walking routes in my daily routine. I’ve walked or more like climbed some very steep hills; the kind where your kneecaps almost hit your chin, if you’re a short person. I’ve also walked a route where the hill begins gentle and gradually keeps climbing. These are my deceptive hills. It doesn’t really start as a very steep hill because it tempts you to keep moving. It isn’t until you look behind you that reality hits that it had been a steady climb upwards; the final hill being a kneecap-to-the-chin climb before it finally leveled off to a fantastic view of water and mountains. I like exploring side streets or lanes that beckons. Sometimes, unexpected surprises pops out when you least expect the unusual.

This is a very creative gardener to use an old bicycle as part of the garden display. And no matter where you roam, the urban deer roams close by, unafraid of any humans.

Bicycle by a Garden - Copy (2)                                                                                    Cropped Pic of Deer on Victoria Drive

Fences catch my attention because Victorians do know what kind of fence they prefer.  Some Victorians can also make their distinctive statements regarding their privacy. . . . .

corner wall                 Decorative Fence in Hampshire Lane                                             fence4

And best of all, the colours and art that springs out to delight the eyes of any walker. . .

Birdhouse               Red Poppies - Copy

Heron at garden Centre2

Walking is definitely a fun way to enjoy exercise, fresh air and the unexpected treasures encountered on a daily jaunt. Just watch out for sneaky hills. . . . .and urban deer.

 

MACHO MAN of the GYM

One of the first things taught to everyone who attended Liz’s “Orientation Class for Using the Weight Room,” was that we  had to wipe the machines down and leave it at its zero settings when we finished. Everyone who attended Liz’s classes did exactly that. We respected each other’s efforts and treated the machines as if it were ours.

BUT, when the weekends and evenings arrived, so did Macho Man. He and his fellow Macho Men ignored the signs and did all the things we were told not to–drip their sweat on the machines as they tried to best each other by adding more weights or peddling faster on the stationary bikes or running harder on the treadmills. And, that was just warming up. When they left each equipment, the next person to use it had to wipe it down and reset the weights.

I know. I especially know all the moving parts of each piece of equipment and how to reset the weights on the equipment used for upper body strength. The first time I reset the weights, I was so nervous I unscrewed this huge nut and the whole system fell out of the metal support.  I had to spend most of my reserved 1/2 hour putting it all together and then using the remaining 10 minutes to make sure the equipment still worked as it should. It did.

Normally, I don’t go to this particular gym in the evenings but Lyssa, my god-daughter, who is on the university swim team, wanted to put in some gym time. I agreed to go with her to keep her company. She calmly watched Macho Man leave his machine to amble over to another. He was not coming back to clean off his machine or reset it.

“Hey Muscles!” she called out. “You didn’t wipe your machine down or reset it.” She tossed him a casual smile and stood there waiting—61 inches of slender female in an oversize tee-shirt and pink shorts; long curly hair held back with a scrunchy and patiently tapping her shapely sneaker clad feet on the mat. Macho Man stopped and turned around, rudely eying Lyssa like a tasty appetizer.  Lyssa stopped my angry movement and stepped in front of me.

“Not nice to drip your sweat all over the equipment, Muscles–especially not cleaning up after yourself. This is a nice gym and has rules for a reason.”

“You going to stop me, Mini-Gal?”

No, but I can stop you from coming back.”

“Don’t think so ’cause I’m way bigger than you, Mini-Gal.”

“I wouldn’t touch you unless I had my sani-wipes in my hands, Muscles. All I have to do is tell my Daddy about you and all your buddies. My Daddy is the Chairman of the Board that runs this gym.”

Macho Man, aka “Muscles,” displayed his most intimidating pose, pumping up his muscles and staring Lyssa down with a petulant smirk. His body language and smirk said very clearly, “Make me,” as he sauntered off to join his buddies in the testosterone corner—that’s where all the serious weights and bar-bells were.

I had encountered bullies in the schoolyard and bullies in the workplace. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find bullies at the local gym. The weekdays were so much more civilized since all the macho men and bullies were busy terrorizing their workplaces.

Three days later, I returned to the gym to catch the excited buzz zipping around about the Macho Men. Henry, the stationary bike guy I peddled beside, gleefully said:

“Guess you heard what happened on Sunday?”

“Haven’t been back since I hit the gym with my god-daughter on Friday evening. Lyssa had a few words with Macho Man,” I replied.

“Seems the chairman of the board for Parks and Recreation was hitting the circuit when the Macho-Men came in and did their usual thing. The chairman called them on it and reminded them nicely to wipe down the equipment they used and reset it back to zero. Macho Man told him that wasn’t their job and to feel free to do it. Then the yahoo went off to join his buddies.” Henry continued with a grin at what happened next.

Well, it seemed William S. Sorensen, Chairman of the Board for Oak Bay Parks and Recreation, was no wuss to stay silent. He threw out his booming drill-major voice and brought the entire gym to a halt.

“Halt, You! In this gym, no one ignores rules that are there for a reason. If you wish to continue using this gym, then you do your own wipe-downs, etc. Otherwise, I have the power to ban you from any Oak Bay Recreation Centre and I will pass the word along to my colleagues in the other municipalities as well.”

There was silence as 6 feet, 4 inches of muscle-bound Macho Man tried to outstare 5 feet, 6 inches of the Chairman of the Board. Then Macho Man quietly got a paper towel and sprayed it with disinfectant to wipe down the machine he had been using. He also reset it at zero, ready for the next person.

“No one’s seen any of them since,” Henry reported. “It seems the Macho Men probably found another gym they could take over and do as they wish. Hope so, ’cause the machines are always clean and reset now.”  Thoughtfully, Henry paused for a moment and then remarked, “I’ve never seen William S. Sorensen in this gym before and you know what else? I checked the names of the Board members and there is no William S. Sorensen on the list.”

Falling “Off” the Foodie Wagon

There is one word I try never to use—the word is d-i-e-t, diet. I figured I would burn-off excess calories the way I always had in the past. Well, okay, in the far, far, long ago past. However, a recent family wedding which involved numerous photographs, taken at every conceivable angle, showed my Winnie-the-Poo “hunny” tummy. I was determined to get back into my svelte shape–wait, that wasn’t me–that was my sister. . .Anyway, as everyone knows, it’s way easier to pack on the fat cells and tons harder to remove them.

My plan was simple—no breads, no mini-doughnuts, no dark chocolates. Caffeine was okay since black coffee didn’t have calories. Since this was my favourite season, Hubby and I would load up on fresh veggies (salads) and fresh fruits with fish or chicken for the protein. Seemed like a good plan and easy to follow. It wasn’t really a diet, just not eating all my favourite no-no’s.

The first day of following the agenda was almost my downfall. The Avenue, outside my front door, was closed to vehicular traffic as vendors from all over Vancouver Island and Greater Victoria, converged for the first Oak Bay Summer Outdoor Market. The first Avenue Market is always the best because this is the one where new vendors test the waters for public response to their products and older vendors return with the public’s favourites.  I had already lost 4 pounds and felt confident I would not be tempted by delicious foods and/or fancy pastries. Hubby came along with me and since he never indulged in sweets, it felt doubly safe to have him as my deterrent.

Ha, fat lot of good that was! We had already navigated past 3 French pastry stalls, 3 different home-made fudge and chocolate vendors, a fabulously awesome macaroon pastry stall, 2 farm-fresh produce stalls, the Greek food cart, the Mexican Taco food cart, the Risotto Ball food cart, a Barbecue Salmon food cart, the Italian pasta/pizza food cart, the Sausage Wagon, 3 wineries, 2 gin companies,  2 cider/beer vendors, Grandma’s Kitchen plus 4 jewelry vendors, 2 hand-made children clothing carts, a candle-maker, a leather accessory vendor and an exotic lady selling silk scarves and blouses. We were almost homeward bound when I fell off the foodie wagon, figuratively speaking.

What made it difficult not to stop was the vendor was in my sing-along group. The cart was operated by the Rotary Club and the funds it generated went to good causes. Before I could say, “Hi Ray!” a bag of mini-doughnuts, hot from the conveyor belt, was in my hand. I guess I’m only human when I inhaled the scent of the cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on each mini-doughnut. In a nano-second, I decided that doughnut holes were way more calorific than mini-doughnuts. The logic being that regular doughnut “holes” were 100% fried dough–miniature size but still  solid mini-balls of dough. BUT, miniature doughnuts were tiny AND had a hole in its centre, making it less fried dough. Perfectly logical and reasonable thinking. . . .

The next day, I tackled the elliptical for 15 minutes at Level 7 with the incline. Then I went for my 4.5 miles of walking.  Hopefully that “burned-off” the bag of mini-doughnuts.

The following week, I scheduled a full-day of exercise. My “drill sergeant” was really tough. Mena Maye had made the amazing discovery that she could not only stand upright but run like the wind when you’re not watching. Fourteen months old and already in charge of her domain including everyone around her. By this time next year, Mena Maye would be “training” a new sibling, but in the meantime, my little dynamo kept me moving and ever alert. That was a fun work-out as well as a bonus break for her Mom. I have signed on for a few more sessions with MM as she’s “tough” but I get results!

I have learned something about myself over these past few weeks. I only like “fun” workouts. Not all exercise classes are fun but I thoroughly enjoyed the drop-in Line-dancing and the Zumba Gold.  Zippity-doo-dah music with lots of movement in a class filled with enthusiastic women brings us all back. It’s true when the experts claim that a simple 15-20 minutes of daily walking helps, but for me, I need more. It’s been a learning process to find what works for me. And, it’s working if it doesn’t feel like exercise. As long as it’s entertaining, enjoyable and definitely not boring, I’ll eventually reach my goal.   Line-dancing anyone?

 

 

Searching For That Perfect Outfit

I don’t know if other women, out there in the universe, have problems finding a summer outfit for an outdoor wedding. Maybe I should restate that and specify women under the age of 40. There are a lot of fit, slender, tall females who would have no problems finding their perfect dress, skirt or top. But not every woman, regardless of age, wants a backless, plunging frontage, no sleeves garment. Most of all, I can’t envision any piece of clothing without pockets—not the shallow, fingertip ones or the decorative ones that are really no pocket at all.

One store I went to had a very helpful assistant. She hauled out what she thought would suit my coloring, height and size. The dress was sleeveless, with a front that would best suit a robust chest and a hemline that fell to my ankles. The hemline was suppose to be just below the knees.  Worst of all, there were no pockets.

“There’s no pockets,” I pointed out in a shocked voice.

“My dear, the material is much too delicate to include pockets. And if there were pockets, it would be mainly decorative. Ladies do not carry heavy items in their pockets and so wouldn’t need them.” As an after-thought, she added, “That’s what husbands are for. They have space in their pockets for their wives’ necessities.” Yikes, wait ’til I get home to my Hubby and tell him I need to claim space in his pockets.

I opted out of malls after searching through all the ladies’ wear. I decided to  try the independent boutiques. I still had time as the wedding was only 5 days away.

I enjoy shopping with best friends who need my . . .umm-mm, my discerning eye in giving an honest opinion plus my expertise in spending their money. That translates to a delicious lunch of lively conversation discussing the specifics of the perfect outfit while enjoying our faves in appetizers and desserts. On the other hand, I totally detest shopping for myself, especially with a deadline looming closer. Somehow, all the trendy shops seem to favor the Millennials. What happened to the Baby Boomers and GenX? I wandered into one shop that actually had possibilities. The dresses and tops were not sleeveless. They all had acceptable necklines–not at all scoopy, plunging or barely there. The dresses and skirts had pockets—deep pockets that were meant to be used. There were 4 slender young ladies in their early 20s who could model any of the outfits in the entire store. They were all eager to serve.

“Would you like some assistance in finding something?” said one

“No thank you. I’m just browsing,” I replied. But before long, I had 3 items on my arm and searching the racks for another piece that had caught my eye.

“Would you like me to put your selections in a dressing room for you?” asked another.

“That would be great, thank you,” I murmured, passing over the 5 items I had found.

“Now honey–when you have them on, come on out to show us how fabulous you look,” declared the third salesperson, flashing a sunny smile.

Horrified at this thought, I blurted, “Not going to happen.” And a voice from the next dressing room replied, “Ditto for me!”

In the end, I resorted to Plan B. I searched my own closet and decided on a posh silky culotte skirt with deep pockets and coordinating jacket. Forty-eight hours before the wedding, I bought a complimentary top that tied the whole outfit together. Looking back in a positive light, I decided it wasn’t finding the perfect outfit to wear but losing 5 pounds with the stress of shopping for myself.

I’ll just say one more thing. There was this perfect dress. It had short sleeves, a higher neckline and a fabric that draped well. Unfortunately, I needed to grow at least 5 inches taller and lose 10 pounds. I think the deciding factor was no pockets. This dress was at the wedding. It was worn by a tall, slender brunette and she looked spectacular in it. . . .

 

SUMMER HUGGER-MUGGERS

Summer is often portrayed as a time of family, friends, joy, weddings, barbecues, picnics, sunshine,  liquid spirits plus great food. But no one ever mentions that social gatherings can still include those pesky hugger-muggers. How can I explain my problem with hugger-muggers except to say, “I’m a hugger-mugger magnet?”

Don’t get me wrong. I like hugs and depending on who the “hugger” is, I give back good ones too. But, I only like to exchange hugs with people I know—Hubby, close friends and close relatives. My friend Rachel’s cousin, three times removed, doesn’t count as a close friend even though he is tall, tan and hunky. Marsh is a California life-guard half the time and a night-club bouncer the rest of the time. AND, he is definitely a hugger-mugger.

Hugger-muggers should be labeled as weapons of mass destruction. Seriously, these people should come with a warning tag as they can destroy a social gathering with their exuberant hugs. Marsh’s best friend, Tack—yep, that’s the name he responds to—is Marsh’s physical opposite. Tack is short, slightly rounded and cuddly; a lethal sort of cuddly. As the “hugger,” Tack gives a politically correct and inoffensive hug. Tack, the hugger, then passes along the “huggee” to Marsh, who stands beside him and gives hugs as only hugger-muggers do.

Not all hugger-muggers are alike. Some are grabbers who call it the seasonal salutation. Others are sneaky huggers who come up behind you, profess to know you, then hug and run behind another potential huggee.  At Christmas, these sneak-and-run huggers usually have a sprig of mistletoe handy to use as their excuse.

I don’t attend too many social gatherings but this occasion was the 60th wedding anniversary for former neighbors and good friends. I had Hubby and my visiting cousin, Rick, a certified accountant who looked like a 7-ft. linebacker. Tack and Marsh were there too.

“Hey, there’s a familiar face!” Marsh’s voice came from behind me.

“Hi Marsh,” I replied ducking behind my cousin just as Marsh reached to give me a hug and inadvertently grabbing Rick’s arm.

“Sorry,” Rick growled, “I don’t hug guys.”  Marsh looked up at Rick’s stern face and backed up, stepping on Tack. Tack was about to say something, took one look at “mountain-man” Rick and hastily backed away as well.

Needless to say, Rick was a popular man. The party was a huge success, enjoyable and fun. It was even better when two hugger-muggers left early.  On the way home, Rick commented, “That was a fun party despite the fact that I didn’t know anyone there except for you two. What’s with those two guys we met at the beginning? They didn’t stay long. I thought Marsh and I might have something in common.”

“Rick, you have nothing in common with Marsh except maybe to do his taxes,”  I replied, smiling at the memory of Marsh’s face when he encountered my gentle giant of a cousin.

THE REAL NANAIMO BARS

It always amazes me what sort of things end up on the Canadian stamps. It makes me wonder how I can get myself on the Stamp Committee to decide what should be the next eye-popping theme. The latest series of Canadian stamps to venture forth highlights our “National Desserts.”  I’m not sure who decides that as I never thought one way or the other that we had any particular Canadian desserts. But apparently we do and my province of British Columbia supposedly salutes the “Nanaimo Bar.” I’m not sure I agree with this choice even though these bars have always been around.

Nanaimo Bars were something Grandmas or Moms made and taught to their daughters. It was a dessert that always made an appearance in potlucks, church bazaars, get-togethers and even as a “saved-in-the-freezer-dessert emergency”.   Canadians know exactly how a genuine 3-layer Nanaimo Bar tastes with its base layer of butter, graham-wafer crumbs, cocoa powder and fine coconut base with a firm custard-like middle layer and topped with a slightly thinner layer of dark chocolate. Every family had its own version and every version was supposedly the best.

Nanaimo Bars are probably considered sugar overload and a calorific delight. This 3-layer treat is not a skimpy square. These bars are rich, sweet and hearty. Despite the postal service’s explanation that there are many versions of Nanaimo Bars, the one depicted on the Canadian stamp is not a Nanaimo Bar–it is an impostor. At this moment, there is a Canadian crisis as all the chefs, pastry-makers, grandmas, moms and yes, even politicians make their protests known and flaunt their true version of this delectable treat. This crisis has even caught the attention of the New York Times. Thanks to my friend, Emsch the Mensch of “Notes From the Cupcake Rescue League,” here is an article from the NY Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/22/dining/nanaimo-bars.html    And, if you want to sample this treat in the privacy of your homes, I am including the original recipe below. Just remember we all make our little changes here and there for the base and the filling but the base must be as high as the filling with the melted chocolate topping just a tad thinner. . . .

Nanaimo Bar Recipe:   Bottom Layer:   1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 5 tbsp. cocoa, 1 egg beaten, 1-1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs, 1/2 c. finely chopped almonds, 1 cup fine coconut.   Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″x8″ pan.

2nd Layer:  1/2 cup  unsalted butter, 2 tbsp+ 2 tsp. cream, 2 tbsp. vanilla custard powder, 2 cups icing sugar  Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer

3rd Layer:  4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1-oz each), 2 tbsp. unsalted butter.  Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer.  Chill in refrigerator until firm enough to cut into small squares.