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FRIENDS WITH CALORIES

Friends I’ve known most of my life are the ones who really tell it like it is—especially when it’s something I don’t want to know or having my faulty reasoning crushed.

Respecting the social distancing, we sat at either end of this long bench and sipping our respective take-out cups of caffeine, I remarked glumly, “I’ve got to seriously lose some calories. Note that I didn’t order a monster cookie to go with this coffee.”

Raising an eyebrow, my coffee buddy replied, “Girf Friend–I think it’s more than a few calories. I figure it’s at least a hundred-thousand or more.”

“Where did you get that amount?” I yelped in dismay, nearly snorting the coffee up my nose.

“Well, we’ve been self-isolating for quite a few months now—only going out to do errands, getting groceries and stuff, right? And in those times, neither of us have been meeting for coffee or lunches like we use to. If our daily diet comes to 2000+ calories and we’re not physically active–you know, like river rafting or mountain climbing, we fill that gap with munchies and. . .”

“But my munchies have been very healthy. . .” I interrupted. “I’ve switched to veggie chips and high-fibre, low-salt snacks.”

“Are those the veggie chips with sprouts and kale in it?”

“Yes and they’re delicious,” I replied defensively.

“Only after you devoured a bag before reading what veggies were actually in it,” my coffee buddy laughingly pointed out.

“Well, okay. . . ” I slowly admitted, “once I read the part about sprouts and kale; it did turn me off. But the other flavour was roasted cauliflower and spinach, which is even worse!”

“And how exactly did you know that?”

“Had to eat a variety of veggies, so I tried a bag,” I mumbled.

“Uh-huh, I rest my case,” my best friend declared with a grin.

“I could still get a monster cookie and share half with you–that would only be half the calories for both of us.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s another of your illogical reasoning but for half a monster cookie, I can overlook that,” my buddy chuckled.

And that’s what we did to reduce our calories. Tomorrow, we’ll do better.

STEPPING ALONG TO ADVENTURES

I consider myself very fortunate living in an area where there is such great walking routes. No matter which direction I choose to wander, there will always be something new or inspiring or whimsical to admire and smile over.

A fairy door at the base of an old oak tree and a banjo birdhouse is not a normal sight to see.

My walking route always includes gardens–after all, Victoria is known as the “City of Gardens.” Not only are there colorful and spectacular blooms but often unique or unexpected “gems” often showcase the flowers. One of my favourites was the unexpected three little dwarfs who cheerfully “claim” to hear nothing, say nothing and see nothing. . .

I enjoy viewing garden ornaments that are striking. A number of garden enthusiasts appreciate the mysteries of the Orient as evidenced below.

My walks may start with a beckoning road that promises an escape from an ordinary experience–at the very least, an adventure that may end with a pleasant encounter of some kind. . . .

It may involve steps to get up a steep hill—with the added bonus of seeing at the top, a house with a domed tower room. . . .

And further along, there is an artist who made her wall very special with her extra pottery plates.

And always, on every corner, in every yard—even in a crevice on a stone wall, something blooms and thrives.

I promised to myself, after a walk that had so many attractions, there had to be a reward at the end—and thanks to my California friend, Eva, that’s planting some very special seeds. . . . .

I hope you all have fun walks too—Take good care; Stay well and always Be Safe.

PEANUT BUTTER AND. . . .

Honestly, I thought I was one of the few humans who actually enjoyed peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Don’t you think it’s very ho-hum to slather peanut butter onto fresh bread and slice bananas or strawberries or drizzle honey or smear jam on top? Everyone who likes peanut butter enjoys these combinations.

But there is a goldmine of great combinations right in your cupboards or fridge. Mind you, I used the sliced sweet pickles on my peanut butter even though a few insisted the dills gave the peanut butter that extra boot to the upper levels of gourmet eating. However, I’m not convinced as I thought my version had that special kick too.

Did you know olives worked the same? I’m not sure what kind as another foodie pal insisted the fat black ones with no stones and sliced in halves were excellent. He’s reserving his opinion on the stuffed green ones on his peanut butter.

I have it on good authority that peanut butter and crispy bacon makes a superb sandwich. That grabs my taste buds and I’m eager to try that next. Another foodie pal tried it on top of his hamburger in a bun and proclaimed it elevated his lowly burger to superior heights even though no one else in his family wanted to try this.

Going online brings you all kinds of nuggets including a peanut butter and sweet onion sandwich as well as a non-traditional peanut butter and jelly with Doritos in the middle.

I wanted to know what other food combinations “normal” people eat at home, especially the house-bound ones making use of their “emergency” supplies. How about Frosted Flakes with cheese or chicken nuggets in ice-cream or mango with chili peppers?

Reading down the list, I decided my peanut butter with pickles was pretty tame compared to what other foodies tried and liked. However, when it came to chocolate, I promised myself one thing. I would never, ever insult phenomenal dark chocolate by serving cold meatballs with melted chocolate, Parmesan with chocolate or beetroot with chocolate.

Now I’ve really worked up a hankering for peanut butter and chocolate. I guess it’s time to dive into my emergency stash of dark chocolate peanut butter cups to remind myself that chocolates and peanut butter is one of the best combinations ever besides peanut butter with sweet pickles. . . . .of course.

Stay well and be safe my Friends. Enjoy whatever is tucked in your emergency cupboard.

WRITERS AND ENDINGS

Okay, I want everyone to know that I heartily approve of writers adding a preview peek of their next book at the back of their last book. I only approve because this stops certain Readers from accidently dropping the book and accidently landing on the ending of the book. With the addition of a preview excerpt, the Reader–who wants to sneak a peek at the ending–would have no excuse when he/she falls on his/her proverbial nose to deny any such intent.

Now that I’ve totally messed up everyone’s mind, let me explain.

During the suggested staying-at-home period of the coronavirus alert, I have been able to tackle the books I had put aside for “when I have time.” Well, like the rainy day fund, this was the time to read my way through some familiar and unfamiliar authors. My first choice was one I thoroughly enjoyed–a meaty historical Elizabethan epic novel by Ken Follett titled, “A Column of Fire.” It was immensely satisfying, historically well-researched and satisfied my blood-thirsty soul for an excellent story. Sneaking a peek at the ending was impossible because the writer provided pages and pages of research sources covering the last years of Mary Tudor’s Catholic reign, followed by her half-sister, Elizabeth the First’s long Protestant reign. Elizabeth may have had a “Golden” era, but when it came to religion, it was a very turbulent and violent period where friends and acquaintances could change in a blink of an eye.

After that blockbuster novel, I decompressed by tackling a few light mysteries. There was no need to sneak any peeks at the endings as these entertaining books were devoured quickly with satisfying conclusions. I enjoyed Diane Kelly’s “Dead as a Door Knocker” the first in a series about realtor Whitney Whitaker’s misadventures; Vivien Chien’s “Egg Drop Dead,” another in the Lana Lee series and my favorite author, Nora Roberts writing under her J.D. Robb moniker on her futuristic homicide cop, Eve Dallas. In the 2060s, Eve dealt with unusual homicides still caused by greed, passion or revenge. After enjoying “Salvation in Murder,” I was heartily glad I could still eat doughnuts, chocolates and french fries with no trace of any soy–unless like Eve, you were married to a multi-billionaire and could afford the real thing.

Now I was ready to hit James Rollins “Sandstorm.” I had read it before but this is one of those books you can read again and see it with new eyes. I have always thought of James Rollins as part archeologist, historian and anthropologist. Many of his books are crafted so realistically using archeology or anthropology and some history that it draws the Reader into the story and holds him there. The unbelievable becomes believable and logical. Peeking at the back of the book for the conclusion didn’t work because James added the tantalizing opening chapter of his next book there. “Sandstorm” was another well-crafted adventure/thriller that I couldn’t put down. During this period of staying at home, James Rollins kept me totally immersed in his story.

It felt good clearing out some space in my vintage bookcase. I needed to find some new books to fill the gaps. My local bookstore, Bolens offered online shopping making it convenient to browse the bookstore via the computer. Checking out some favorite authors as well as new ones, made it hard to resist purchasing anything and when the shopping cart rolled by, I obliged by tossing in a book. At this point, I tell myself I’m supporting the book biz and celebrating writers–in actual fact, I am keeping my fingers crossed and praying hard that the Public Libraries will re-open soon before my rainy-day piggy bank empties!

Meanwhile it may not be just a coronavirus keeping us safe at home–take good care My Friends– stay well and always be safe during these uncertain times.

Topsy-Turvy

During this time of social distancing and self-isolation, Hubby and I have discovered a few things. The first is that we can still make each other laugh and we still genuinely love each other in our own ways. The second is that we are responsible adults–actually bonafide grandparents of four–and hey, we can break every rule we ever made regarding kids and mealtimes. Now that was a real revelation and a cause for celebration during our second month of “snugging-in.”

One morning we ate leftover spaghetti for breakfast and another morning we enjoyed leftover pizza. For lunch one day, we both felt rather blaa-ah about lunch food so we both devoured some warmed-up blueberry muffins and a bowl of strawberry ice-cream. This was totally amazing. We were killing any serious food plans and thoroughly enjoying every moment. Last week we both had a relaxing day and neither of us felt like a meat-potato-veggies dinner–instead, we opted for a thinly sliced ham and egg sandwich with a side of tossed greens. There were even days when we were both happy with home-made soup and crusty bread.

No kidding, going for the unconventional meals and completely changing when to eat it is utterly freeing. I think my Mom and Grandma would be envious. In their days, this just wasn’t done, but now it’s my time and we’re doing it!

In case you think we’re missing the food train in not having the correct balance of carbs, proteins, fibre and what-have-you—trust me, the rest of the week’s meals are perfectly calculated. However, it’s perfectly acceptable in eating whatever you want a few meals a week. After all, what better way to eat up leftovers that doesn’t have to be solely for lunch or dinner?

As my disclaimer, just remember I am not a nutritionist—I’m merely that person who loves dark chocolates and have a passion for mini-doughnuts, both out of reach due to temporary closures of their makers. Perhaps a number of you are already topsy-turvying? Hubby and I are late-comers to breaking eating traditions. AND remember, breaking meal traditions makes any mealtime fun and unexpected. What’s for breakfast at your house? We’re having leftover spare-ribs and apple pie. . . .

PENNING MORE THOUGHTS

Pens in Pot          I always believed that a writer must have the right inspirational tools to push and pull that elusive creativity along the pages. Sometimes, that inspirational spark just dances along the page, doing their own private dance while you’re doing your best to remember all the moves with your pen. Other times, the pen does its usual doodles and follows its far-off thoughts.

Yes, I did say pen. I have a whole pot of fanciful pens to inspire.  AND yes, their job is to inspire.  All writers have to have certain tools of the trade. Mine are simple:  pens, paper, working computer, coffee, chocolates and doughnuts. However, in this time of social distancing and self-isolation,  some things are given up—doughnuts are one.

As mentioned earlier, I have a variety of pens that are never used. Yep, you heard that right too.  The pens appealed as they displayed much better than a regular pen, but I discovered some things about pens and why I prefer one over the other.  You may or may not agree with me, but if  a pen came for a job interview, it would have to have those  listed below on their resumes.

I like a good pen that flows easily and smoothly across the pages of my pad. It has to have a nice point–one of mine makes a fine line and I find this especially great when I have only a teeny piece of paper to scribble on. It’s fast becoming my favourite because it has  purple ink, making it easy to find among the scraps of paper on my desk.

Purple Pen2  The pen has to have a good grip so the writing flows without cramping your hand. So far, my almost favourite pen fills that criteria extremely well. At the time (pre-pandemic) I bought one to try—a Pilot Hi-techpoint with a V7 Grip—now I wish I had 6 more, it’s that good.

The last important thing a good pen has to have is balance. None of the fun pens have this. Having the right weight makes a difference. Bobble-headed pens tend to bog your writing down. In fact, any pen with too much of a fun ornament on the top end tends to throw the balance off and pushing the top-heavy pen slows the thought processes. So, even tough all my fun pens can be squished, pulled, twirled, tap and gosh-knows-what-else–it cannot  write for a long time.  It can only boast of being a distracting bit of show-biz flash and dazzle.

I guess that’s why one of my most entertaining bobble-headed pens that flashed rainbow colours while it twirled around my fingers ran away from home.  It just didn’t like hard work. I think it’s still slumming with *Emsch the Mensch’s missing sock.

(Check out  *Notes From the Cupcake Rescue League blogsite. )

 

NAME CALLING

Don’t you just love it when you have all these self-isolation time to think? I mean,  really think.  You know—about all these inconsequential things as opposed to serious stuff like the coronavirus.

With all this “at home” time, it gave Hubby and I a chance to clear out our closets. When we moved into our current home, I distinctly remember giving away all our metal coat hangers. Somehow the two left in the back corner of the closet had managed to mingle and multiply from a pair to an even dozen. Who would have thought?

Hubby decided the next project would be a car-washing one. Our building was one of the few that had a car-washing area in the back corner of the parkade. I had moved the car to its designated spot so Hubby could wash and hose the soap off. My job was to move it back into our parking space for its annual wax job. This year I noted a ladder and buckets were set against the wall and as I backed the car up, carefully avoided these. But then, I missed the turn to my parking space and backed up a bit more so I could make the turn. I forgot to allow space for a wall and a fire-hose box. As I made a perfect turn into my parking space, there was the sound of a tail light smacking into a wall. All I heard was my Hubby’s sigh and comment, “Yessirree, Bob–you did it again!”  I did–five years ago, but that’s another story.

Actually it was Hubby’s comment that set my thoughts galloping. How many other names were used as a means of expressing whatever emotions at that particular moment?

I could think of a few.  “By George, you got it!” except the “By George” part reminded me of the best baked cookies from the Mall bakery with that name.

One of my friends would say “Jeez Marie!” a lot whenever she drove and there was a single pedestrian who would dart across on an amber light just as she was about to execute her long-awaited chance to turn right.

My Grade 4 teacher would smile when one of my classmates always put his hand up to question, “Why?” when she started the facts. Mrs. D would say to him, “That’s a good thing you’re a “Doubting Thomas” because curiosity is a good trait to have.”

While going to university, I remember briefly working weekends for an elderly couple. Whenever a customer would argue for a discount on a barely detected flaw in the garment, Mr. C would always start with, “If I could do this–Sam’s my uncle–I would. My father owns the store and he has to make a living too.”  It never occurred to the customers that Mr. C was all of 80+ so his father would have to be at least 100 if he was still alive.

The garbage collectors were a rough lot when I was a kid. In the summer they often had a student working to earn their university fees for the fall. Some of the beginners were really good and quick learners. Then, there were the few who were slower and not accustomed to lugging  the heavy garbage cans, then heaving the contents into the back of the truck. Being young kids, we would gather around to watch. We would see the can dropping to the ground and the garbage spilling out. I’m pretty sure the garbageman wanted to yell something saltier and suited to the moment. Instead, he yelled “Holy Je-osaphat, Kid–use the gloves and pick it up!” We would all run off repeating “Holy Je-osaphat!” all the way home. Now, I’m wondering, who the heck is “Je-osaphat”?

In fact, who are Bob, George, Marie, Je-osaphat and Thomas? Why do they rate as yell-words?

And. this is what we’re reduced to in these at-home-self-isolation moments—-idle thoughts that creates more idle thoughts—just like those darn coat hangers.

ALIENS

I think—no, I’m positive—there are aliens holding my keyboard for ransom. These space creatures are invisible, love mini-doughnuts and dark chocolates, but are a real pain-in-the-butt.

I’m absolutely convinced these aliens are closely related to COVID-19 because my keyboard was held for ransom just as the coronavirus was getting a foothold on civilization.

Being in self-isolation, I figured I would have plenty of time to finish all my writing projects.  After all, there is no excuse not to finish something since there is so much more  free time for inspiration to hit.

Trust me, I have bribed the Muses with Banana/Blueberry/Orange muffins, Peanut Butter cookies, my famous Banana/Cherry/Cranberry/Apricot loaf and my secret stash of dark chocolate bars tucked away for emergencies. Believe me, this is a real emergency especially when even the doughnut places have temporarily closed.

Maybe my stories need more meat and potatoes–metaphorically speaking. So the Muses were bribed with Hearty Beef Stew, Mom’s Famous Pot-Roast, Sammee’s Pasta with Tomato Meat Sauce and the list rolled along.

All I can conclude is that during this period of self-isolation and social distancing, I have gained a few pounds while Hubby is looking fit and trim. I think I can still wiggle into my skinny jeans, button the waist and breathe—kind of. . .

However, inspiration temporarily eludes me in the writing world. I can only say I can get inspired when I do my bread-making. I love the feel of warm dough that needs to be kneaded.  Did you know if you over-knead, you can take the dough, shape it into a big round flat circle and bake it as a giant pita bread. No one will ever know it had started out as a loaf of bread. . .and I certainly won’t tell.

During these unusual times affecting all of us, please keep safe, stay healthy and keep looking on the positive side. As with all calamities, this too shall eventually pass.

 

 

THAT BLASTED CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus or specifically  COVID-19, has invaded everyone’s lives all over the world.  I’ve named it the “World War III of the 21 Century. After all, nearly every country in the world is involved in doing its part to slow COVID-19 down and hopefully eliminating this common enemy. Closing off borders and self-isolating the inhabitants supposedly helps; social distancing is very evident in grocery stores, pharmacies and other needed facilities.

I’ve discovered that most humans are social animals, no matter how much some may dispute this. Fifty years ago, having “things” to occupy one’s mind or hands would have been simple. Women had crafts such as sewing, knitting, crocheting, artwork and there were always meals to plan, baking to be done and usually a garden to attend. Men had projects too–tinkering with the family car and maintaining the condition of their homes by painting and repairing. Then the weekend was over and people were back to work and/or school the following Monday.

With no schools or universities available for an indeterminate time and many work-places closed temporarily, our lives have changed in a huge way. Self-isolation was not an ordeal the first few days, but then the days stretched into a week and another week loomed, then passed into more weeks.

Human connections have never been more important for surviving during these difficult times. Today, there is Facetime, Skype and Zoom for seeing family or friends. We have our cellphones, Smartphones, laptops, desktops, notepads, ipods and probably a Dick Tracy wrist watch to listen to,  keep in touch and  be entertained. Fifty years ago, most people only had a single telephone to connect to others. At that time, party lines were still almost a way of life until a family could either afford a private line and/or private lines were already mandatory. We had television, the radio and a record player for at-home entertainment as well as board games, jigsaw puzzles and other hobbies.

During this pandemic, our hardships extends to closures of coffee bars, doughnut and pastry shops, chocolatiers and bookshops; public libraries and re creation centres. The realities of searching for needed necessities such as flour, sugar, fresh fruits and veggies plus a variety of fresh meats harkens back to my grandparents and parents’ days coping with wartime (WWII) and wartime rationing.

We have all grown to embrace our modern life-style and many have forgotten or perhaps never known truly difficult times—times when most things we take for granted today were not known or available back then.

Perhaps the hoarders and those who purchase more than they need have taught the rest of us a valuable lesson. Like my grandparents and parents learned, one has to make do with what we have. We are “spoiled” with the every day selections and easy access of the variety of  out-of-our-season fruits and veggies from countries that  grow them and export to us.

At the moment, we are all coping and enduring by whatever means we have access to. This pandemic will eventually flatten its upward curve and level off. In the meantime, as intelligent, compassionate humans with strong survival instincts, we will all be okay. We will all look out for our family, friends and neighbours and get through this. After all, we still have an amazing 21st Century to enjoy.

Keep well, stay healthy and be safe, my Friends.

 

A PILLOW FACE HAT HAIR DAY

You just know that it’s going to be a bad day when you wake up with a “pillow face”–that’s waking up with the edges of a lacey pillow imprinted on your cheek—or having bad “hat hair”–that’s when you whip off your hat and instead of perfectly curly hair like in the movies, your hair is flat and yukky.  You absolutely know that it’s going to be a totally horrific day when you get both “pillow face” and “hat hair” at the same time. I was right. The omens never lie.

Milly confronted me just before I made it out the front entrance of my condo building. Milly was another owner in the building who made everyone’s business hers. For someone who called herself “shy” and reclusive”, she managed to keep her entire hand on the pulse of the building.  I had privately labeled her a “condo bully.”  Today, she was the self-appointed “condo police.”

“Hi Milly. I’m just on my way to an important appointment and I don’t want to be late.”

“Not to worry–this won’t take long. I wanted you to know that someone is not flattening their cardboard cartons when dropping them into the paper dumpster. And someone is tossing his recyclables in the wrong containers.  And someone’s car is polluting the air with a heavy burning odor that I’m sure will kill us all.”

“We have a number of new owners in the building and there will be an orientation meeting for the new owners as well as a refresher for anyone who wants to attend,” I replied.

“I’ve left a number of letters in the Council mailbox about things happening in the building, but no one has responded yet.”

“I’m sure the correspondence will be attended to and you will be receiving a reply to your concerns. Now I really must be off or I’ll be even later for my appointment.”

Walking briskly, I decided to alter my walking route so that I was a good distance away from anyone from the condo. I opted to walk to “Delish” for my morning caffeine and their fresh baked almond pastry.

The morning became worse. “Delish” didn’t have any almond pastries left and there wasn’t a single vacant chair anywhere in the room.

I had a late morning meeting with a security consultant who worked for one of the major banks. I had hoped to pick his brain on preventative measures on embezzlements and modern day bank robberies for a story I was writing.  Because of horrendous winter weather, his plane was still in Montreal with no immediate plans to be air-bound to the West Coast.

Bummer. The gods were really having a terrific time messing up my day. Since I was only a few more  blocks to the water, I sipped my take-out cup of coffee and kept walking. Victoria was having one of its sunshine days with clear blue skies–cold, but good walking weather if dressed for it.

I noticed the patches of purple and white crocuses popping up in various gardens. There were unexpected “carpets” of creamy white snowdrops in gardens and along the boulevards. The pale pink blossoms of the Japanese plum trees were slowly beginning to open and by the corner of another neighbourhood coffee-bar, a pussy willow tree showed the furry promise of small green buds. There were yellow daffodils and the creamy whites of narcissus bursting forth ahead of the bright reds, yellows and purple tulips. A Mama Deer moved cautiously across the road, followed by her two youngsters. Checking impatiently behind her, Mama Deer waited impatiently as two more youngsters gamboled across the street, not at all repentant about keeping their mom waiting. The Fairy House, at the base of a giant fir tree, had a fresh coat of red paint on its tiny front door. A labradoodle, wearing a sassy straw hat, happily ambled alongside his owner. They brought a smile to the faces of everyone they passed.

Well, it was just too nice a day to feel miffed. Pillow-faces aren’t permanent. Hat-hair is also resolvable–don’t take off the hat  Spring was definitely on the horizon as all her colours were bursting forth.  Despite the crisp cold and annoying beginning, it had become a peaceful, relaxing walk at the end. Who can stay miffed and exasperated when Mother Nature coaxes you to enjoy her daily show. . . . .