Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Senses

I'm glad I didn't have a phone with me.  Or an iPod.

Just a book and my picnic lunch.

I sat and ate my picnic in the park, listening to the leaves fall from the trees.  It's quiet and you'd miss the sound if you had anything else to distract you, but they do make soft sounds as they fall.

And obviously they make a sound as the multitude of walkers and joggers crunch down on them, releasing the scent of fall, mingling with the vanilla scent of the allysum growing in the huge planter beside me.

I love fall and I love Indian Summers even more.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ornamental

I thought that ornamental crabapples served no purpose.  Besides being ornamental, of course.  And in truth, they are only really ornamental in the spring when in full bloom.

I just watched a squirrel for one hour run back and forth between the tree and his stockpile, carrying an apple in his teeth on every second lap.

For a squirrel, it isn't only ornamental.  It's winter food.  

Maybe it's even wine by the time he gets to it.  And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

News!

I don't actually call myself a blogger anymore because it's just too sad to see this empty space. 

However, if you're following the blog, this may be the best place to tell you.

I got a job!

Not that I haven't been working every year of my life.  I've done all sorts of things in the last few years, including editing, formatting, designing corporate stationery, administration, invigilating (proctoring) exams, reception and writing notes. 

Lately it's added up to almost a full time job and it's all very interesting.  What other job lets you learn about house framing, stress management and coding in SQL all in one day?  And then watching over the writing of exams for an hour or two?  It's fun and every one of those tasks actually includes a whole lot more, but that's maybe a nice, simple way to describe my days.  I'm certainly not leaving this job due to the environment or the tasks or the great people around me. 

However, it isn't actually full-time.  It feels like full-time because I'm out of the house a lot.  But there are gaps between classes, or classes are cancelled and I don't have to be there.  Or students get sick and I can't attend classes without them, or they have a scheduled exam during which I am not there.  And school holidays (that don't coincide with my kids' school holidays) and summer holidays are all unpaid.

There are obviously positives to that too that I had to consider before accepting a full-time job.  I won't have those summer holidays anymore to play with and garden in.  I won't be able to buy groceries in the middle of the day between classes or sleep an extra hour because class isn't until 9:15.  And I'll miss the people.  And it feels good to provide a needed service to students.

But here's the thing.  I have teenagers.  Teenagers are expensive.  They eat as much as adults or more.  They use tons of water (but I'm glad they're clean now).  Their activities are more expensive.  We can't really afford teenagers on 1 1/2 income.   

But now I'll get paid more.  I know from semester to semester what my hours will be.  I'll get benefits to top up Yvon's benefits.  Holidays will be paid.  I'll be learning new things, challenged in new ways, meeting new people.    It shouldn't all be about money, and it isn't really.  There's always more, but the money does/should allow for a slightly different lifestyle for us.

So, the new job?  Back to Hewlett-Packard. I'll be working with a friend as his Project Administrator.  It's almost a government job, being located in their client's facilities, but hopefully has the attitudes and work ethic of still being a private corporation.  I know that some government jobs are great, but in my experience, I'd prefer to be in the private world.

Anyway, Easter Monday is my first official day.  You gotta like that it's also my first paid holiday of my new career.  So expect me to blog less because I'll be working more.

                                    (I know.  Blog less?  Less than what?)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Menu Planning

Okay.  I'll try to be back and present on the blog.  That was my longest absence yet.

I won't quite get you caught up in everything that's going on around here because it's a bit much, really.  And that kind of thinking stops me dead in my tracks and I won't write ever again.

Basically, I've been easing my way back into fulltime employment.  I'm not there yet, but it's threatening to happen in the new year.  Last November I started working a very casual job that quickly became not-so-casual.  This September it turned into a 20 hr/week  job which greatly cuts into my time spent on homemaking.  Part-time work sometimes doesn't make sense though.  Although it's only 20 hours a week, it means adding hours for travel and time for lunch every day and suddenly I find I'm away from home for 8 hours and only billing for 5. 

So an opportunity came up to apply for a fulltime job.  Maybe I wasn't ready, but it felt like it might have been a good fit.  I didn't get the job, but another one seems to be presenting itself right away which may work out better.  Anyway, we'll see what happens in the new year.

I've let some things in my life slip a bit.  Apples were picked and went bad.  Pears as well.  Swiss chard was left to freeze in the garden.   Kale as well.   A few leeks are also buried in the snow.  I missed my usual trip to the Okanagan for wine and fun, and I didn't can any peaches and only a bit of applesauce.

And I've only managed to watch Beth play one game of volleyball on her first-ever school team.  I hate that.  Way more than I regret not canning things.  I don't want to have to miss things that are important to the girls, especially while they still want me to watch.

I do realize that I can't do everything as if I wasn't working.  I'm really not beating myself up about it, but it is an adjustment. 

One of the things I've successfully been doing to help make things manageable is to plan my weekly meals.  Just the dinners. 

Once a week (Mondays), I sit down and try to watch a cooking show for inspiration.  Usually it's Rachel Ray's Week in a Day.  Then I plan my meals, go shopping and cook as much as I can for the week.  It doesn't eliminate the rush at dinner time totally, but it helps a whole lot.  It means that if I get home before Yvon, I can sit with the girls for a while and chat about our days, find out about homework or friends and keep in touch.   Dinner just needs reheating or a few things done to finish them.

For example, this was last week's menu.

Monday:
       Potatoes, Corn,  Roast Pork Loin with apples (already in the freezer ready to go)

Tuesday:
       Turkey bean casserole (So yummy - inspired by Rachel Ray)

Wednesday:
       Gnocchi with creamy artichoke sauce (meh)

Thursday:
       Elk sausages, carrots and polenta (not everyone's favourite, but I love it)

Then when I had no ideas for Friday (and I don't  plan Saturday and Sunday), Alice filled in every blank day with "Sausage, sausage, sausage".  I guess I don't have to ask her what she likes for dinner anymore. We actually went out for dinner.  Which is precisely why I like to plan.  It's way to expensive to got out with 6 people (we had one friend with us) and means I worked all that day and only broke even.  What's the point of that? 

Lunches consist of leftovers, and weekends give us a chance to empty the fridge and have things like KD, scrambled eggs or pancakes.

One day last week (? maybe the week before) my neighbour called and asked if I wanted to grind fresh moose meat in his garage while he butchered one leg.  I went home with about ten packages of ground meat and stew meat.  Now I have to incorporate more game into our menus. 

This week's menu is:

Monday:
      Curried chicken and veggies, coconut rice and gingerbread cake (brought to a monthly potluck dinner)

Tuesday:
       Moose meat with BBQ sauce, stuffed potatoes and beans

Wednesday:
      Moose shepherd's pie (I made an extra for my generous neighbour)

Thursday:
      Pasta with creamy shrimp sauce (I don't work Thursdays, so I didn't have to pre-make this)

Friday:
     Shrimp and sprouts in rice wraps, ginger/soy dip

I've gone through phases of menu planning before, and just making the plan eases the stress of feeding my family every day.  Preparing as much as possible is helping that much more.

Is there anything you do that could help me even more?  As finals at school approach and my workload increases,  I may need as much help as I can get!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Biking Adventure with Ev

Every year I try to ride my bike more.  This year I've hit a new record because I'm trying to ride to work once a week, which is about 20 km round trip.

If my mind could project it's thoughts to you as I ride, this is what yesterday's ride would have sounded like on my way home.



-----------------------

I'm so glad to be out in the fresh air instead of sitting in a car.  30 degrees in September!
I didn't have to find a parking spot this morning.
Gloria had to arrive at 6:30 am to find a spot today.
I left the house at 7:00.

Isn't this great?
I could lose my butt if I keep this up.
OOo, look at that guy's calves.  Maybe mine will be that muscular one day.
I don't want bigger calves.  I'll limit my riding to one day.
Then I won't lose my butt though.  I'll always be the fat lady who looks silly on a bike.
I wonder if I should have gotten a wider seat.
It's pretty cool that the bike shop has a special "sit bone" measuring tool.  Who'd want to measure ladies' butts as part of their jobs?
I'm glad he thought my butt was meant for the narrow seat, not the old lady seat.

Mmmm, apples.  Must be an apple tree nearby.
Does everything think of fall when they smell apples?
Ew, now I smell sewage.  Or worms. 
Is that how my laundry smells when it's on the line?  Nope, it's different somehow.  Not good.
I haven't killed any fish with my laundry detergeant for about 3 years.  Aren't I good?  I'm a treehugger.  Not using any gas to get to work, using soap nuts for my laundry.
But I don't hang my laundry anymore.  I won't blog about that failure.
Where do soap nuts grow anyway?

I hate it when people ruin the fresh air by smoking.  Look at that guy.
Mmm, it smells like my Opa.
Or Uncle Jim.  I love Drummond tobacco.
Uncle Jim looks just like my Dad.
It was good to see them at the reunion this summer.

If I keep squinting into the sun, I'm going to look like this by the time I'm 45.



Relax.
     That's better.  

Wow, I've only ridden halfway.
124 - 106 = 20 something.  No, 18.  Is that right?
118 - 111 = 7   That's only 25 blocks so far.
I should figure out the halfway point because I do this every time.

Water.  Water would be good.  Maybe at the next red light.
Cars keep stopping to let me go.  I need to stop for water.

Aw, that's cute.  I should take a picture of Gemma's Lending Library sometime.
Michelle and I used to have a library.
No one used it.  I need to get rid of those Star Trek books.

My butt hurts.  How far do I have to go?  165 - 142.  That's a long way still.
Oh, come on!  Cross the street so I can go!  Can't you see my butt hurts?

So hot!  So hot!
Squinting again.  Relax.  Better.
I wish I were in my van with a comfy seat.
Look at those people, cruising along with air conditioning.
Why did I bike today?
If it snows tomorrow, I can stop biking to work.  That's possible.

Ow.  That pothole was pretty huge.
I remember the speed bumps when I was in labour.  Did those hurt more?
I think my lady parts are bruised.  This is not a good seat.  I want an old lady, cushy seat.

Almost home.  At least the rest is not against the wind.
I'm driving tomorrow.
I don't think my butt can take this seat two days in a row.

Yay!  Home!  Gimme a Mr. Freezie!

----------------------------------

Wasn't that fun?  Aren't you glad you can't always see what's in my mind?  It's a big mess in there.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

It's the Pits

I have plums.  Lots and lots of plums.

I pitted lots and lots of plums.  I put them in the dehydrator and I canned some with cherries and they turned out just lovely. 

After I was done, I looked at my fruit stash and realized that I still had plums.  Lots and lots of plums.  They are unfortunately not "freestone" plums.  Do such things exist?  I did not relish the thought of pitting the rest of my plums. 

I search Google to find easy ways to pit plums.  Alas, there was no magical solution.

But...

One side releases from the pit easily.



The other side does not.

So....

one side goes onto trays for freezing or dehydrating, or into muffins,
 

  and the other side...


... goes into the pot for jam.  Pit and all.

Apparently the pits contain some arsenic.  So?  Who hasn't accidentally swallowed some apple seeds in their childhood?  When I was young, we used to think an apple tree would grow in our stomach when we did that.  Now, with lack of innocence, we are supposed to worry about arsenic getting into our jam.

It's not that I'm keeping the pits in the jam.  The pits nicely release after a few minutes of boiling and I can scoop them out. 


Hardly any wastage of plum this way, and WAY less work. I'm not worried about the arsenic and the jam turned out awesome.  

(Recipe:  Fruit and enough sugar to suit your taste.  Boil until thick enough to spread.  The peels contain enough pectin to make it gel and basically dissolves into the jam.)


Friday, September 6, 2013

September rush

It requires few words, but besides working more hours outside of the home and getting the kids settled into school again, these are some of the sights around our house right now.

Mixed veggies for the freezer

Not nearly as much garlic as last year - maybe I shouldn't have let so much of it bloom!

Plums made into jam, canned with cherries, dehydrated and frozen.  Apples - who knows yet what they will be?

Foxgloves!!  For the first time in years they have bloomed, in both white and purple.  Beautiful!

I know I should be clipping the buds and letting them go to rosehips now, but I love the late colour.

Just a few for height and interest and a meal or two.  I did not anticipate the 10 ft. sunflowers that self-seeded!

I'm always amazed that a tiny pepper plant can produce such big peppers.

I was worried about lack of tomatoes this year with less than my usual number of plants, but some as producing like crazy.

I finally remembered to add some fall colour.  I usually steer away from yellow, orange and reds and then regret it in the fall when they do so well.

Our only little brocolli floret for the year.  The slugs made a mess of my plants this year.

The other little project I've worked on was a flyer for my cousin who is running for School Board Trustee in Sherwood Park.  If you live there, check out her website and remember to vote.  She'll be great in the role with lots of experience and a good, strong foundation and interest in what's best for all levels of the education system.  Go, Sally, go!