All posts by sammee44

About sammee44

I am a West Coast Reader and Writer who enjoys the big and little things in Life. My philosophy is--if you don't enjoy those precious moments and savour the joy, then how can you appreciate the little things that crosses your daily path?

ARE WE GETTING OLDER OR ARE WE GETTING WISER?

I’m not sure if it’s the dreary weather of fog, ice, rain and broody gray skies, but lately little things have caught my attention.

Tracy Ewens, in her blog, “From the Laundry Room,” (https://fromthelaundryroom.com/2022/11/20/air-dry-2/) mentioned how little things have captured her attention—things taken for granted or barely noticed before but now examined with a critical eye.

I, too, have noticed this phenomena. Hubby did point out that we are getting older, but I made it clear that one of us was and it wasn’t me.

My theory is that retiring from the work world gave us an opportunity to slow down our insane rushing here and there. Every day is a weekend so there was plenty of time to enjoy all the mundane, ordinary stuff we had missed when working. This was our time to enjoy our morning coffees and leisurely breakfasts. Our time to relax and plan a day filled with all the things we had put aside for this new chapter of our lives.

I had planned on reading through my stack of books set aside for when I had time; fun lunches with friends; side trips around the Island and over to the Mainland. I would spend more time on my needlecrafts and photography AND write the great Canadian novel!

Hah–that was 10 years ago. So much for great plans.

No one had ever mentioned how the days would slide quickly away. Suddenly, it was the end of another week and you’re asking yourself, “What did we do?”

The other day I was doing my weekly grocery shopping and darn if an energetic senior didn’t pop out from another aisle and almost slammed me to the ground. I moved but my cart didn’t. He looked 99 but had the moves of a 70 year old. My scream of alarm didn’t slow him down at all. His mission was getting to the cashier before any lineup formed. Visions of me possibly lying unconscious in the soup aisle with grocery cart wheels rolling down my body didn’t elicit any guilt or remorse.

It made me realize how our lives can end in a nano-second. One small incident could change a life forever. I was not going to end my life in the soup aisle.

Are we getting older or are we just getting wiser? I like to think we are getting wiser. My list remains the same except my stack of books-to-be-read continues changing. I don’t grocery shop as early as I use to—-that’s the dangerous hour for maniac seniors whose mission is to charge through the store to beat the non-existing rush. I have definitely slowed down to see all the things I missed before. I love photographing all the bits and pieces I see on my walks as people have a playfulness that shows in their gardens or nooks or fences or in tiny corners where walkers like me, wander by and really notice whatever it is.

I want to reassure my friend Tracy, “From the Laundry Room,” that we are both very fortunate in finally having the time to appreciate all the little things and small special moments in our day-to-day life. It’s wonderful to do what we want when we want most of the times. Let’s embrace our freedom from clocks and schedules with laughter and joy; a bag of Cheetos and a good movie; a new coffee bar and a chocolate dessert and the list keeps growing.

Now, if I could only find time to write my great Canadian novel. . . .

HALLOWEEN and AUTUMN

Halloween is not my favorite holiday,. I don’t think it ever was even as a kid. But on my recent rambling walks, it never fails to amaze and amuse me whenever I pause to admire a homeowner’s enthusiastic display of gloom and doom. I discovered that there is a definite creepy creepiness versus creepy entertainment that’s more vintage horror movie and atmosphere. My choices are entertaining. The Halloween decor can be as simple as hairy spiders and cobwebs. . . .or pumpkins and cobwebs. . . . . .

Last year, the trend was headstones, skulls and skeletal bones scattered above the ground. . . . . .

But this year, it seems two or three cackling witches stirring their cauldrons dominates many Halloween yards with an additional “guest” or two such as the creepy butler waking up his “beloved” or the ghoul and ghost meeting by the stone steps.

Enroute home, it was almost a relief to see normal scenes celebrating Autumn and not Halloween–apples ready for harvesting. . . .

Sunflowers reaching for the sky and a pumpkin, hopefully the first of a “bumper” crop of more to come. . . . .

October is rapidly coming to a close and November is standing in the wings, ready to wrap its late days of Autumn around Winter’s arrival. . . . .I give you this wonderful display of pumpkins, squashes and Fall flowers.

I wish each and everyone of you a safe Halloween and a bountiful Harvest.

MORE FENCES, GATES AND OTHER STUFF

When I take my morning walks, I have no specific routes in mind. My area has an amazing number of connectors and lanes that beckons; and I enjoy the adventure of discovering something new or unusual that captures my attention.

On one of the many lanes and connectors, there is a fence that is a delightful and whimsical display of the many “treasures” an imaginative homeowner had found at garage sales or collected over the years.

Gates are often a sight to enjoy. I came across the “Spirit Deer” gate which stopped me in my tracks.

The homeowner also had another “Spirit Deer” gate at the

front of his house. I was passing his back gate that faced a lane.

On another morning I discovered a pair of ornate gates that shielded a medical building’s parking lot. I had passed it many times and only discovered they showed a pair of hummingbirds. . . .

And what about nooks and crannies? Don’t you just love what creative homeowners do with small spaces? One homeowner made an artistic display of their short driveway fence. And, by a Rooster back gate, there is a rustic seat beneath a shady tree.

On my route homewards, a swinging cat and a vintage bike on a rusty gatepost ruled the scenery. . . .Where do people find these?

It’s amazing what a person can see. . . when a person really looks.

“NEW AND IMPROVED,” BANISHED HERE

I suspect when the words, “New and Improved” appears on any product, item or whatever, it usually means the product, item or whatever has been improved better than the original. I hate these words because for me, it’s usually the kiss of death when these words appear.

Why are products, items or whatever—that are perfectly fine and need no further improvements—are suddenly improved? Is it because the little elves and drone bees have nothing to do except make life miserable for the rest of us who enjoy the product, item or whatever, just the way it is?

Let me put this perplexing problem into perspective with a few examples.

My favorite Belgian dark chocolate almond bar was unavailable for two months due to production and transportation problems. Sound familiar? Well, my favorite chocolate bar finally arrived on store shelves but the fancy new wrapper had sparkly green letters announcing “New and Improved.” How can anyone improve on chocolate? I read the small print on the wrapper. My 72% Belgian dark chocolate with roasted whole almonds has more alien ingredients to preserve its shelf life. If my chocolate bars were being sent to the astronauts on the space station, then the need to add more preservatives are understood. BUT, come on, we’re talking chocolate here and at my house, there’s no worries about chocolate hanging around too long. . .

Some months back, Hubby and I discovered a commercially baked apple-rhubarb pie and a sour cherry pie that tasted as if I had baked them myself. These store-bought pies were delicious. They had all-natural ingredients and that flaky golden crust with the lumpy surface because it was stuffed with great filling. The filling wasn’t that thick, icky-sweet commercial filling, but tasted as if I had peeled, sliced and sweetened with just enough sugar and spices. These pies were the dessert answer when I didn’t have time to bake. Today I saw the pies—new box, new size, new label, new price and with those dreaded words, “New and Improved.” I checked the ingredients and sure enough, there were sufficient chemicals to make that thick, icky-sweet filling and a phony pie crust. It was also a smaller pie with a bigger price. I decided to go home and bake my own.

The absolute, totally worst scenario is when “New and Improved” hits technology. I’m not against any improvements if it makes life easier. BUT, I am against any improvements relating to my computer programs that are working perfectly fine.

Do those techie knuckleheads ever consider the number of people who do not need to link their computers to smart phones, electronic notepads and all the other techie gizmos other people need to stay connected to? I only have my laptop that so far, can be persnickety, but if it had to deal with learning a new system, it (the laptop), would go into such a traumatized state, that no amount of dark chocolates or mini-donuts, would cajole it into a working mode.

I state this with complete sincerity—“Leave my programs alone!” It took me 6 months to learn the ins-and-outs of the previous program and another 6 months to learn the program that’s now been discontinued. I am literally getting older by the minute each time there is a you-know-what announcement. I don’t want to link my computer to my wrist-watch. I like my peace and quiet when I’m away from my desk. There are no buzzes, beeps or cheery tunes to call me back.

I like my old programs because it continually works for me. It doesn’t need any further improvements, So, please leave us a choice of whether or not we want the improved version. My “senior” laptop and “senior” cellphone thanks you.

Wait a sec— I was just about to take a calming bite of my dark chocolate almond bar when I noticed something else in fine print on the spiffy new label. The chocolate company is now under a new “Mother Ship.” If there is anything worse than “new and improved,” it’s called “Under New Management.”

Sigh. Life just handed us another lemon. . . . . .

THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE. . . . .

I enjoy hitting the walking route early in the morning. This is the absolute best time to see the wildlife not normally seen later in the day. For me, this is also the coolest time of the day for a lengthy walk. The walk had barely started when I finally topped this hill and spotted Mama Deer and her Twins. She was “teaching” them the joys of nibbling someone’s garden and totally ignored me, so I hauled out my senior cellphone and snapped off a quick photo before noticing “Papa” was watching curiously behind me. Continuing on my way, a family of raccoons ambled across the road and up a long winding driveway. Mama Raccoon leading her 4 babies, while “Dad” followed at the rear–all focused on their morning buffet in another tasty garden. I totally missed that photo-op as I had never seen such a large party of raccoons before. By the time I thought of my cellphone camera, the family had disappeared from view.

It is astonishing how a densely populated urban area can produce wildlife that can somehow survive and thrive. I have seen brown and gray squirrels; numerous deer, bucks and their off-springs; raccoons, a rabbit and a peacock along my various routes.

Gates never stop the wildlife. Deer could go around or jump over them while raccoons could just mosey up the winding driveway like expected guests. Gates fascinated me because some gates screamed “Private, Go Away.”

While other gates beckoned and smiled “Welcome” with a bit of floral art wrapped around the iron work. . . .

Fences and driveways can be amazingly aloof and private but can still give positive vibes with plants, ornaments or a bit of creative thought.

I enjoy the sight of pink roses that add a splash of color poking through a worn fence . . . . or a graceful ornamental crane to brighten a corner of their garden.

I love this sight –it looked so right in the garden. . . .

Splashes of brightly coloured geraniums against this fence, interspersed with bits of tiny blue flowers, grabbed my attention each time I pass. . . .

My early morning walks are a daily adventure as I never know what will be captured by my camera. All I know for sure is that it will tease the senses and make me stop, if only for a moment. . . .

LESS IS MORE. . .OR MAYBE NOT

Since the Covid isolation tentatively ended, I’ve noticed friends and family have looked more well-rounded, if you get my drift. Perhaps social interactions–pre-Covid–were often linked to group exercise and snacks, so the enforced self-isolation still linked to snacks, but without the closeness of social activities.

I have a theory about myself. There were no mini-donuts because the weekly Farmers’ Markets, the Arts and Crafts shows, the Collectible Car shows and all the other stuff that brings on the mini-donut carts were all cancelled for 2 long years. I should have been cured of mini-donuts and should have emerged, at least svelte, even if I was still short.

It didn’t work that way–at least, my Fairy Godmother didn’t make it happen.

You know that old saying, “If one addiction flies out the window, another will fly in”?

Well, I discovered a cookie that was so disgustingly healthy, that I can’t believe Hubby and I are devouring them. These cookies are dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. AND, it shouldn’t have been delicious, but it was.

On one of my long walks, I had stopped to buy some fresh fruit and a bag of Rebel’s Peanut Butter cookies. The Chocolate Chip, the Cashew Butter and the Triple Chocolate with Walnuts slots were empty. There was a bag of White Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts left as well as a couple of bags of Cranberry Oatmeal, but I snagged the last bag of Peanut Butter and eternally grateful that I did. The taste buds were happily saturated with that real peanut butter flavour. And, the cookies were healthy.

Hubby tried one and declared it “O-kay,” which is equivalent to my enthusiastic “a Keeper!”

I tried to remember which store along which route that I got these scrumptious cookies from. None of the stores I returned to had any and no one recognized the brand-name.

I resorted to logical thinking. Selling a cookie that was dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan to boot would need a specific market, so I tackled the organic markets next. The first one I checked carried the Rebel brand but they were waiting for their next shipment that had been delayed by transportation problems. Having the bakery on the Mainland and living on an Island had its drawbacks. But being a resourceful person, motivated by the craving of having my cookie now, I remembered there was a second outlet enroute home. At that store, the new shipment had already been delivered so I got my bags of Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip and Triple Chocolate with Walnuts.

Hey, you didn’t think I was going to miss out on the chocolate ones, did you? I had checked the list of ingredients and all the chocolate was dark and the chocolate chips were real dark chocolate and not carob. Hubby and I unanimously voted that these were all “keepers.” The best part is I know where to get more when the cookie jar is empty. . . without turning my oven on.

HOTDOGS AND MINI-DONUTS

I think it’s because an American, Joey Chestnut, won his 15th Nathan Hot Dog eating contest that I even contemplated the thought of having a hot dog for lunch. After all, anyone who can successfully defend his dubious title “Hot Dog King” by gulping down 63 of them of them in 10 minutes—that’s buns and weiners—deserves to have little ol’ me eating at least one. However, Mr. Chestnut must be slipping a tad as last year, he woofed down 76 of them dogs.

But another short article caught my eye , as it too mentioned Joey Chestnut. This time Canadians in Regina, Saskatchewan would be the lucky ones to see Joey in action. He was going to compete in the “Celebrity Mini-Donut” contest in August. Competitors would have to be very good to beat Joey’s world record of chomping down 220 mini-donuts in 8 minutes.

My brain tried to figure out how anyone could possibly force that many mini donuts down their gullet without spewing them back out. My other question was why anyone would want to do that—speed eating specific foods in x number of minutes.

I think everyone is a bit competitive. Back in his youthful days, my neighbour Big Al would recall the good times he and his bowling buddies had every Tuesday night. The “Alley Cats” would compete to see who would end up with the most strikes that night and then celebrated by attempting to outdrink Sweeney Muldoon with pitchers of beer. Sweeney was built like a beer barrel and had the ability to hold his beers. It was a weekly challenge when Sweeney happily guzzled all the free beer he could while each of his competitors fell like 10 pins

We probably all grew up being competitive in various degrees. My hairdresser’s twins, Charlie and Arlie were born competitive. I remember when a very pregnant Liz would suddenly wince when she was clipping my hair.

“Oh no, you didn’t clip a finger did you?

“No, one of the twins just kicked me and the other one kicked back even harder!” See, it starts in the womb.

But back to Joey Chestnut. Who is he and why does he do what he does? Good ol’ Google blabbed everything—at least the juicy bits. . . .

Joey Chestnut is 38 years old, 6 feet tall and when competing, his weight hovers between 225 to 240 pounds. He started competing in 2005 when he gulped down 12 pounds of deep-fried asparagus spears in 10 minutes, beating out his competitors. Major League Eating, an organization that arranges eating competitions ranked Joey as the world’s best eater.

Joey’s diet is not a healthy one but it certainly is a diverse one. A few of his world championships includes devouring 7.61 pounds of buffalo chicken wings in 12 minutes; swallowing 141 hard-boiled eggs in 8 minutes; bolting down 55 glazed donuts in 8 minutes; gulping 390 shrimp wontons in 8 minutes; consuming 121 Twinkies in 6 minutes; shoving down 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes and chomping 32 Big Mac sandwiches in 38 minutes.

I didn’t want to know how he trained for each event and I definitely didn’t want to view any YouTube videos of what he looked like galloping through the competitions. I just know it wasn’t a pretty sight.

“The Sun” reported that , as a professional speed eater, Joey supposedly makes $500,000 annually—a very small portion from the eating contests with most from endorsing various products and brands. One of his past endorsements was for Pepto Bismol. Joey also has his own brand of condiments.

I salute this 38 year old for staying off the bread-lines and finding his own niche in this amazing world we live in. But looking over Joey’s list of unhealthy successes, I hope he switches to another vocation in the near future. It would be nice to think of Joey enjoying his success while he is still young and relatively healthy.

As for me, sharing my bag of hot mini-donuts dipped in cinnamon sugar was a lot more fun to savour and took much longer than 8 minutes to eat a baker’s dozen.

MEN AND CARS

Several Readers have requested this blast from the past as they remembered how much their little boys loved their cars when they were toddlers and still love their cars as adults.

I’ve often been baffled by men and their cars. Don’t get me wrong —I adore any male who knows how to handle an ornery car. That takes talent and artistry and a confident craftsman to deal with automotive problems. I’ve seen calm, gentle men go into shock-mode when confronted with the family car—battered and scraped from the war-zone of a shopping mall parking lot.

Me? I just want my car to take me from Point A to Point B without any hassles. And yes, returned safely too, without any new battle scars from careless shopping carts.

I have seen baby boys grasp their teddy bears and their tiny cars. It’s hard to say if the tiny cars take precedence over Teddy but you can bet your accelerator that the cars play a large part in their genetics.

My stepson has always been attracted to cars. Ever since I knew him as a sixteen year old car junkie, he always had his head under the hood and his hands near the engine, dealing with some doohickey that didn’t sound right, while his girlfriend obligingly stepped on the gas pedal for him. When my grandson was barely old enough to cling to the coffee table, he had a tiny toy car in his hand, making that sound like an engine revving up as he circled around the table. I remembered that because our table still has the grooves his tiny car made as he laughed and made car noises.

I am convinced that all baby boys have a genetic gene labeled “cars/trucks.” Little girls aren’t born with this gene even though they do learn about cars from their dads and/or brothers. But little boys are definitely born with the car/truck gene.

At Home Depot, I’ve seen those shopping carts with the miniature cars attached to the front. While little girls ride like princesses, little boys as young as 14-months, instinctively turn the steering wheel, push buttons , pull levers and honk the horn. See, it’s in their genetics.

Two blocks from our condo, there’s a huge construction site on the corner. A little guy, not quite 2 years old, was totally mesmerized by the huge bull-dozer tearing up the corner lot and tossing huge shovelfuls of dirt into the back of a waiting dump-truck. He had such a gleeful expression on his face by simply watching the action across the street. I’ve seen that same expression on a 4-year old who watched the fire-truck pull into the library parking lot. When the fireman noticed the little tyke’s fascination, he asked the little boy if he would like to come and sit beside him. I have never seen a little face beam so joyfully.

Try this on any 6-months old baby boy—hold a toy car in one hand and a soft stuffy in the other. Watch which one his eyes travel to first, At least 90% of the time, he’ll reach for the toy car. Congratulations–you have probably activated his car/truck gene and set the wheels in motion. Darn it, how can you not love a dedicated male and his car?

THE CHAIR

The Tilted Stool

When Hubby and I moved from our house to a condo, the selling features were the small den I claimed as my “writing space” and the breakfast nook in the kitchen. We had the perfect table for two that would fit nicely into the nook with enough room for two chairs. Hubby and I decided that two adjustable stools would look absolutely smashing and being a short person, I embraced the idea of sitting “higher” at the table.

Five and a half years later, disaster struck. I blamed Covid. My spouse, wise man that he is, merely rolled his eyes and remained silent.

It wasn’t my fault when parking my butt on the seat, as I normally do, that the seat tilted and threatened to unseat me. I thought I heard the murmur of mini-donuts at the other end of the breakfast table, but Hubby’s attention was focused on his breakfast.

Carefully, I eased myself back on the stool and the most awful groan and screech came from the bowels of the pedestal that raised and lowered the seat. My sub-conscience snickered and said, “Honey, those 72% Dark Chocolate Godiva bars are not the thing to nibble for calorie control.” As I attempted to adjust my weight evenly on the stool, the darn thing screamed in agony and defiantly tipped 45 degrees, staying there in a permanent position. AND, when I slid off to manually straighten the seat, it emitted this terrible moan.

This morning was the final straw. I cautiously approached the stool, gingerly sat on the edge and promptly toppled off. So I did what any short underweight person would do. I went out and got a replacement.

Tomorrow, I will be sitting tall and straight on my new stool that is balanced, comfy and best of all, quiet. . . . .

BOOKS, BROWNIES AND BUTTONHOLES

Covid seems like a permanent guest and in these pandemic times, it’s amazing how we all cope. My go-to fix is a good book with authors who know how to tell a tale and practically have you there, along with the hero/heroine and of course, the sleazy, slimeball villain. I enjoy books that grabs you from the first page and never lets go until the case or mystery is solved. And, if a book really has your total attention from beginning to ending, then that is one darn good writer.

My choice of books depends upon my mood and my choices are quite eclectic. I enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, adventures, romance-mysteries, sci-fi, histories, biographies and even westerns. But they all have to grab me by the eyeballs on the first page and leave me gasping at the end.

Books can also influence what tasty treats go into my oven. The principle character in one light-hearted mystery whipped up dark chocolate brownies whenever her stalker tried to strangle her, shoot her or tried to run her over with his mini-Cooper. By the time I reached the end of Chapter 2, dark chocolate brownies were on my brain. And the only way to exorcise that image is to bake up a pan of my go-to “Dark Chocolate Fudgy Brownies with pieces of 72% dark chocolate Lindt melted on top. Here is the link to my tasty recipe –the Lindt was my idea. https://www.landolakes.com/recipe/18243 /fudgy-dark-chocolate-brownie/

Books and food seem to go hand-in-hand in a number of books I devour—oops, pardon the pun—however, even heroes and villains have to eat! One story was set in the Old West–gunslingers, cattle drives, mountain- men, gamblers, saloons and of course , a few women who knew the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. And believe me, the old West back then, did not have all the herbs, spices or varieties of meats and veggies available to us today. One of these hard-working women managed to cook up a hearty buffalo stew with hot biscuits, while doing her chores of hand-washing tubs of laundry, milking the cow, gathering the eggs and tackling huge piles of mending. I didn’t have buffalo but I did have a nice piece of chuck steak that I cut up, floured, seasoned and started simmering. My beef stew was accompanied by light and tender “Cloud Biscuits.” I can only say that I was extremely relieved that I didn’t have to hack off my stew meat from a skinned and salted buffalo haunch stored in the coldest part of my home! The link to the cloud biscuit recipe I like to use can be found at: https://www.food.com/recipe/company-cloud- biscuits-200086

There is nothing worse than reading about anything with chocolate or baked apples with brown sugar and cinnamon or hot cinnamon rolls AND not having any in the house. Tossing the book aside, it was a debate between a hot apple pie with brown sugar and cinnamon or hot cinnamon rolls. The dark chocolate whatever would be saved for another day. Hubby and I decided on cinnamon rolls which were quick to make and smelled delicious as it was baking. I added chopped pecans and dried cherries to the filling. For my go-to cinnamon rolls, here is the link: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/241917/quick-cinnamon-roll

Moving away from food takes me to my current project—knitting a sleeveless cardigan vest for Hubby without a proper pattern. Using his favourite vest as a template, I devised a knit-as-you-go pattern. I knitted the back and the right front that would have the buttons–straight knitting and decreasing and casting off when it came to armholes and shoulders and neckline. I even figured out a V-shaped front. The part that kept me awake at nights was how to knit buttonholes. All the other sweaters I ever knitted were pullovers or the occasional cardigan that didn’t require buttons or buttonholes. My “eureka” moment came when my brain cells screamed “search online”! Well, of course—anything can be found “out there”. I not only found out how to do it, but also a video that showed how to do it.

Buttonholes can drive a knitter to chocolate and that was when the perfect chocolate recipe was used. After all, if one has to be rewarded for a job well-done and chocolate is the ultimate reward, then this is the one decadently dark chocolate cookie to be savoured and tucked away in your chocolate collection. This treasure can be found at: https://www.wellplated.com/dark-chocolate-cookies

May the Kitchen Goddess bless you with ample supplies of apple pies, chocolate cookies, chocolate fudgy brownies and all the other goodies you are reading about. Stay well, stay safe and be happy. . .