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?

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. . .

Recipes and Food Sites Discovered in 2021

Yes, 2021 was another Covid year along with its different Variants. According to some of the news reports, vast numbers of the population self-isolated themselves in their own bubble of family and friends, discovering board games, puzzles, online shopping, Tik-Tok, Instagram and for me, food.

I discovered a world of food sites and made some new friends. One of my favourite sites is by Bernadette Laganella, or simply, my friend Bernadette who writes her “New Classic Recipe” blog. Bernadette’s numerous friends contribute family stories behind the cherished recipes. Bernadette herself, contributes her own stories and family faves. I love her “Mom’s Apple Cake” and her pasta dish, “Pasta e Ceci Alla Romano”. This is a worthy site to keep: New Classic Recipes can be found at: https://newclassicrecipe.com

Another delicious site is from Chef Ronit Penso’s kitchen and is called “Tasty Eats.” Chef Ronsit’s “Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce” caught my eye as I was checking out possible duck breasts recipes for Christmas or New Year’s dinner. Recipes for entrees as well as baked goods and desserts are varied and from all over the world. The directions are easy to follow and the ingredients are normally found on your kitchen shelf or at the supermarket. Chef Ronsit Penso’s site, “Tasty Eats” is found at https://ronitpenso.wordpress.com.

Having time to peruse recipes for entrees and baked goods online, I discovered a regular “treasure trove” of edibles, nibbles and treats. One of my surprising successes is a recipe for “Dropped Lemon Blueberry Scones.” Trust me when I say, this was a total time-saver as there was no kneading, rolling or cutting out involved. Just drop by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I used lots of fresh blueberries, but frozen berries work equally well. Try these easy-to-put-together scones. It can be adapted for both gluten-free diets as well as diary-free diets. Just don’t forget the baking powder as I did one time. The scones were still delicious, as my guests politely assured me, but the scones were flatter than a pancake. My neighbour laughingly assured me he loves pancakes The link that will get you to these amazing scones is: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/lemon-blueberry-drop-scones?_cmp=stf

In case I mistyped the link, use your search engine and type in taste of home dropped lemon blueberry scones and the recipe will pop out.

If you’re a chocolate fan and I definitely am, this is another recipe I lucked into, probably because the words “cherry” “chocolate” and “chunk” all appeared on the same line. I have to warn you that these are very addictive as I also threw in a cup of mini-dark chocolate chips along with the baking cocoa powder and the dark chocolate chunks. Um-mm, don’t forget the dried tart cherries but if you do forget, the cookies won’t miss them with its abundance of you-know-what. This tasty morsel is found at: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cherry-chocolate-chunk-cookies?_cmp=stf And, if this doesn’t get you there, use your search engine and type in taste of home cherry chocolate chunk cookies and that will get you to your chocoholic fix asap.

Chocolate brownies were also part of my self-isolation with Hubby. If I didn’t include this recipe in my earlier brownie blog, then I apologize with my mouth stuffed with the fudgiest dark chocolate brownie in 2021. Here is the delicious link to that recipe: https://www.tasty.co/recipe/the-best-fudgy-brownies

With New Year fast approaching, this last recipe is a very savory nibble to have on hand to ring in 2022. It’s cheesy and hot with the additional taste of lemon. If you like peppery, this recipe will grab your taste buds back for more. The recipe below is from my go-to Christmas baking book by Maria Robbins titled “Baking for Christmas,” and copied verbatim.

I wish all of you a truly Happy, Healthy 2022. No matter what, we do have to eat. I hope you enjoy looking into my favourite foodie blogs as well as trying a few “goodies. Happy Eating!

Lemon Parmesan Crisps: 1-1/2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese (approx. 1/4 lb) 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more according to personal taste 4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter 1 tablespoon water and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice Place the grated Parmesan, cold butter, flour , lemon zest, black pepper and cayenne in a large bowl—either a food processor with a steel blade so it can be pulsed on and off to combine OR with a blending knife. Whatever is used, cut or pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on the water and lemon juice and mix until it just forms a dough. Remove to a floured surface and knead briefly until the dough holds together. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a log about 11 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide. Wrap log tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm enough to slice. NB: the dough will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days or for a month in the freezer before slicing and baking. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the log into 1/4 inch slices and arrange them 1-inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes or until they are golden around the edges. Use a metal spatula to move the cheese crisps to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up tom 2 weeks. (We’ve never had to store these crisps for 2 weeks–it gets eaten immediately!)

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CHAOS

It was a scene plucked from a Hollywood movie, panic and determination etched on the many faces. It was a kind of organized chaos , with one goal in mind—find what you can, toss it into your grocery cart, head for the cashier and out the door to freedom. Yes, I’m talking grocery shopping days before Christmas.

I thought shopping for the necessary groceries, a few days before Christmas was a pretty good strategy for me. All the major items on my list could be purchased now. Any last minute gotta-have item could hopefully be picked up at the Village grocer.

Obviously, 8:30a.m. was not early enough to tackle the large supermarket.

Armed with crazed drivers, grocery carts became weapons of mass destruction. At this time of year, shopping for food became an Olympic event testing the dexterity and nimbleness of non-violent persons. And, if you happened to be a senior, who’s not quite as nimble as she once was, you learn quickly to bob and weave with the best of them.

I met some very amiable people too—the taller gentleman who helpfully reached up to the top shelf, reached way to the back and got me that package of elusive ground flax. He stayed to do the same for two other ladies who needed items from another hard-to-reach shelf. There was the lady who was bobbing and weaving with the rest of us and got slammed with a grocery cart whose “driver” didn’t even stop to see if she was hurt. The “hit-and-run” driver kept going before anyone could stop her. Luckily, the lady who got hit was shaken but not injured. Then, there was the very elderly lady who had only 3 items in her basket but there were 3 people with laden carts ahead of her in the lineup—she was gently passed ahead by each person in front and safely out the door before you could say “Bob’s your uncle!” As the lady in front of me commented, “A genuine Christmas miracle from a “battle-field!” All of us laughed as a person has to believe and retain a sense of humour.

Despite the inconveniences of crowds, the short tempers and the rudeness, I still love this time of year. There are still caring and good people around. Covid may have robbed us of more traditional family gatherings and hampered traveling to join love ones at this time of year. But humans are adaptable and survivors despite whatever is tossed in our paths. We care deeply and we help wherever we can. We have our hopes and retain our sense of humour. We cherish our family and good friends.

At this time, I wish all of you a truly Happy Holiday Season. May Peace and Good Will rule. AND, may the New Year bring us a Happier, Healthier 2022.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

I hope those of you into this “spooky” day enjoy it to the fullest–especially all the little ones who are able to go “Trick or Treating”.

If you’re interested in one of the traditions of this time of year, the “Jack O’Lantern”–please click on the link below and hear Bernadette’s version. It is also a fantastic site for great recipes and the stories behind them. . . .Bernadette’s “New Classic Recipe” is one of the sites I am now following.

WISHING YOU ALL TREATS AND NO TRICKS – New Classic Recipe

DISTINCTIVE OCTOBER

I never thought of October being a notable month as I usually gravitated to April, May, June, July, September and December. But on my early morning walk yesterday, it struck me that October was quite an exceptional month too. Our Canadian Thanksgiving was especially meaningful this year as more family members could connect in person. I enjoyed the sight of towering yellow sunflowers reaching for the warmth of the Autumn sun. The bounties of the gardens yielding their harvest of corn, beans, apples, pears, melons and squashes makes October special. And of course, there are pumpkins—pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Pumpkins carved and lit in such a spectacular fashion that in previous years, these unique pumpkins were part of a vast exhibit.

My early morning walk had me chuckling over the very creative Halloween scene one homeowner had assembled.

Want my head? You got it!

Other homeowners get very serious in creating scary scenarios in their front yard.

Remember the little red Elf’s door? How about a “Ghost” door instead? It is Halloween. . . .

Welcome Halloween Ghosts

I never know what fantastic scenes beckons my camera on this early morning, but October has proved to be just as colourful as the other months have been.

The rainy weather has encouraged an abundance of mushrooms, popping forth in many gardens. The ones below are huge, flat, creamy white with brown specks–perfect to photograph for this Halloween theme. And, let’s not forget Mother Nature’s colour palette at work in the gazillion leaves we eventually have to rake and bag in this month of October.

Wherever you are, I wish you a wonderful month of October–what’s left of it—-and a Happy Spooky-Fun Halloween. . . . .

ZEN ZINGER

A ferocious dinosaur conference on the sunny lawn. . . . . .

I had survived a very challenging week and needed to restore the Zen in my mental balance. No power -walks for 2 days didn’t exactly help restore the zippity-do-dah in my normal embrace of daily life. Finally, when projects came to a halt because of circumstances and the Labour Day long weekend, I grabbed the moment, took time to breathe deeply and once again seek out treasures of visual delights.

The Brighton Street home that had displayed a parade of dinosaurs in their driveway and then later, had them climbing up the small sapline in their front garden, now had a ferocious dinosaur conference on the sunny lawn. The sight of them was enough to bring a smile.

Further along, another home had brilliantly painted rocks, tucked among the plants and greenery–the colours and designs were extraordinary. . . .

I think part of the reason my power walks are so restorative is probably because I never know what may catch my attention. The sight of a mother deer and her two fawns, crossing a busy intersection, had my heart in my throat until they were safely across. A reprimand from its mother stopped an adventurous fawn from crossing back to the other side. It reminded me that even in the animal kingdom, there are always young ones who test their Moms and challenge the humans. . . .I can almost hear Mama Deer say, “Now stay together and don’t wander off on your own!”

And yes, these are the same mischievous twins seen in an earlier blog. . . .

Apple trees ready to be harvested–definitely a sign of Fall. Further along, one homeowner had a wild tangle of grape vines, twining itself along his fence and over his gate. Doesn’t he know he has a supply of grape jelly or even a couple of bottles of wine at his finger-tips?

Chick weed and sweet clover covers a lawn with not a deer in sight. Guess the thought of roses and other blooming delights are far tastier than good-for-you veggies and other salad greens.

My walking route took me back along Cowichan Street with the sight of a bunch of Fall crocuses tucked among the leaves and patches of bare soil.

And a few houses down, a creative gardener made a heart shaped frame, composed of small pebbles and filled with mini-cacti, nestled between tow small plants.

Turning a corner, who can stay serious when confronted with a cheerful geranium border? There is something about bright red geraniums that dares anyone to stay solemn in their presence. . . .

I can happily say I found my Zen as well as the Zippity-do-dah Zinger. A stroll around my neighbourhood had restored the energy I had missed in seeing all my visual treasures as well as discovering new ones.

JUST WALKING TO NOWHERE

My Readers are often amazed at the things I see on my many walks here, tthere and everywhere in my neighbourhood. “You couldn’t have seen this. . .or that!” they would exclaim. My theory is that in a car, a person can miss so much of the tiny, sometimes not so tiny things that are tucked away under a bush or hidden behind a wall of rocks or even in plain sight like the pair of fawns following their mom to the next garden buffet or one of many painted scenes on utility poles or awesome outdoor art on permanent display. It’s often the unexpected that falls along the walking route. And, I’m a great fan of the unexpected.

I’m often fortunate in meeting people who have a story behind their piece of sculpture or unusual mailbox that makes a home among their trees and flowers. The miniature yellow volkswagon mailbox reminds the owners of the many happy family times that transported them to campsites and holiday destinations. The mini-house and orca whale mailboxes differentiate two houses on a steep lane—one behind the other.

I’ve often stated that Victoria is a haven for artists, writers and photographers. On my walks to “Nowhere”, art is everywhere. You just have to focus and bingo, there it is. It can be an amazing mini-art gallery mounted by the side of the road or the simple way a flowering plant drapes itself over a worn weathered fence.

Or portions of a wonderful mural on the entire side of a convenience store. The mural is named “In the Trees” and was created by artist Caitlin McDonagh in 2019. This is only a small portion of this colourful mural.

Or even a smaller mural with “Thank you” in 30 different languages—covering the enclosure for the local eatery, the White Spot’s recycling and garbage containers.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else where my walks are always fascinating discoveries of visual “treasures.” And, it’s an absolute requirement to do this on foot—because, in a car you’ll miss so much. . . .something like this gem of a free-lending library tucked in the foliage or a pretty bouquet growing blissfully among the tall grass.

Happy Walking, wherever you are—I hope you encounter some visual treasures of your own. They are there. You just have to look and appreciate what you see. . . .

THIS AND THAT

My feet tend to follow laneways and byways and connectors that seem to pop up everywhere along my route–whatever route I decide to follow.

Oak Bay is an area that is filled with streets that begin as one name, but around that bend, it becomes another street altogether. Laneways, byways and connectors can quickly put an adventurous walker into a different neighbourhood.

A driveway is transformed into a parade of colourful dinosaurs.

A tiny rural corner can open into something very surprising.

These beautifully painted stones, carefully placed beneath clusters of sunny yellow flowers—-are these someone’s artistic and poetic nature striving to be heard. . or are these rocks a remembrance to a passing poetic soul.. . . .?

I enjoy seeing how people make their entryways totally theirs. This custom iron work with its colourful red tulips is one example.

A homeowner decided to make the corner boulevard, outside his front gate, part of his scenic garden. . . while others use ornaments and flowers to capture passer-by’s attention.

Just leaning over a stone wall can bring you a woodsy wonderland. . . . .

Or just beyond, a charming children’s playhouse

Sometimes a few steps to the left or a few steps to the right will bring a walker to some incredible gates. What is it about gates that implies “keep out” or “Welcome, do come in. . .”

Doors can be intimating too–but there are some eye-catching ones that makes you wonder who are the people behind them?

Homes are as diverse as their owners. It’s always fascinating to speculate on whoever lives there and the choices they made to make the homes theirs. Besides admiring their gardens, it does pay to look upwards too. . . . .

Summer is almost here but the weather has been perfect to explore the byways and laneways—-time to follow this connector back home.