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?

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.

A SPRINGTIME JAUNT AROUND MY NEIGHBOURHOOD

When I start my early morning jaunts around my neighbourhood, I often have no idea where my route will take me. I follow my adventurous feet and discover corners and areas I never knew existed. A cedar chip path, off a residential street, led me through a grove of trees. Who would have known this existed except for the locals who lived close by?

With this pandemic heading into its second summer, people have tended to their homes and gardens with much more attention. Some neighbourhood streets have undergone transformations that brings a cheerful ambiance to their area. One street had talented artists who painted utility poles to show that Life doesn’t stop because of a virus.

Some homes are unique in creating spaces with a welcoming hospitality. . . . . .

Some homes choose to have unusual ornaments mysteriously hidden behind the foliage or in plain view.

Others choose to have an eye-catching entrance to their home.

Palm trees always make an impressive entrance and Victoria can certainly boast of palm trees popping up here and there. After all, we are the Banana Belt of Canada, especially in the winters and springs.

My feet are now on the final hill and homeward bound. The magnificent magnolias, in their creamy whites and pale pinks unfurl their petals in the various gardens I pass. But, it’s the stunning deep pinks of the small magnolia trees outside the grocer, that captures my attention.

Almost home and a few specially crafted “free lending libraries” are spotted along the route.

Down a sunny path and I’m finally home—another fun walk to Nowhere. . . . . . . .

MARSHMALLOWS and . . . .

I bought a 5-pound bag of marshmallows the other day. I was at the checkout and it fell into my cart. I told the lady it was for the grandkids but she gave me such a knowing look–she may as well have done the wink-wink thing.

It wasn’t really 5 pounds, probably more like 2 pounds. These were definitely not your normal size marshmallows. I would describe them as marshmallows on steroids. They were huge.

Monster Marshmallows

I will confess I had a craving for some marshmallows. I actually pictured them smaller and dipped in dark Belgian chocolate. Somehow, I got the big bag of colourful ginormous ones that decided they wanted to come home with me.

After he stopped laughing, Hubby told me I was on my own with the monster marshmallows. And after I ate about 5 or 6 or 7–spread over 2 days–I had to figure out some way to use them up. I decided on a pan of the family favourite–the familiar Rice Krispie Squares made of rice krispies, marshmallows and a dollop of margarine.

The bonus of the whole project was a nutritious snack composed of puffed rice, melted marshmallows that were light, slightly chewy and not too sweet; a generous splash of pure vanilla flavouring and a dollop of margarine—low-cal, low sugar, low fat and nutritious as heck.

What could be better for a normal human? Maybe next time I could melt some dark Belgian chocolate into this mixture or even peanut butter. After melting these colossal marshmallows, the colours disappeared somewhere but the results were still delicious.

HOOLA HOOPING

Does anyone remember hoola hooping in your younger days?

It was a big thing when I was in my early teens. And it recently came back on the local news because a Victoria teen-ager broke the World’s Guiness Book of Records for swivelling his hips gazillion hours while simultaneously solving the Rubik’s cube gazillion times.

I remember doing the hoop way back when. It didn’t take a lot of swivelling—just the momentum to get it going and gravity to keep it up.

My big brother and younger sister were quite good at it. I wasn’t too bad either.

So I got myself an adult hoola hoop. What exactly is that? To begin with it has a weight of 3 pounds. Theoretically, as you swirl it around your waist, it’s supposed to whittle away the inch or two or three of excess pounds that have made a home there.

Huh—it seemed like a fun sort of exercise and I liked fun stuff when it came to any form of exercise.

The hoop came in a long narrow box that contained 8 sections—each one a different colour. By the time the hoop was fully and firmly assembled, it was a rainbow of colours.

The instructions for hooping seemed simple: (1) Press Sports Hoop tightly against the back of your waist. (2) Keep the hoop in the horizontal position before swinging out. (3) Swing out the hoop forcefully and horizontally. (4) Move your body in any direction against the hoop. (5) Keep your motion fast enough to allow the hoop to stay up.

Easy-peasy, right? Not even close.

First of all, I got steps (1) and (2) without any problems. I even got step (3) moving for half a second. I know the concept of step (4), but even though my brain was yelling “opposite” direction, my body moved with the hoop’s.

I was told that once you learned how to hoop, it’s like riding a bicycle—you never forget.

How the heck did I do it when I was younger? Okay, okay—a whole lot younger.

I dredged up the memory of my Big Brother telling me, “Don’t think about it, just do it.” And, so I did.

This time I followed steps (1) to (3) and when it came to (4), I just reverted to instinct and did it. By golly, I did 4 revolutions before I realized I was really hooping. And, just that second of celebratory glee caused the hoop to falter and drop with a thud on the floor.

I’m told that perseverance and patience are senior traits learned from years of experience. I don’t know about that but stubbornness is definitely in my genes.

And I did do 4 revolutions. If I can do 4 revs, I can do more.

Yesterday, I did 8 revolutions.

There is a definite learning curve to hoola hooping. I’m talking adults‘ learning curves, not little kids or teenagers. Adults have to learn not to question the thermodynamics or science of hooping. As for the “instructions”—honestly, it’s like needing detailed instructions on how to open a door.

I would rewrite the instructions for hoola hooping. Simple is best, right?

My instructions would read: “Don’t think about it. Just swing the hoop to get it going and let your instincts do the rest. Keep it movin’ and groovin’. Gravity keeps it up.”

Don’t be distracted. I find my crime-writing thoughts are quite random and could involve a problem that needs to be solved. One such problem was how to murder someone with a hoola hoop. Don’t even think this as it will seriously cause the hoop to fall to the ground.

I just noticed that there are a series of Cautions and Warnings on the back of the Instruction sheet.

I am so glad I didn’t read these first. My hoop would still be in 8 sections and still packed in its box. Today I can do up to 8 revolutions. Tomorrow, I will do more. And somewhere along the way, I’ll know how to “murder” someone with a hoola hoop.

Happy Hooping, Everyone. . . .