Blog Archives

The original hacker’s manual

I’m an old-fashioned girl. And, let’s face it, I’m old too. Some of the newfangled stuff out there takes me by surprise, especially when it comes to the language used to explain it. I didn’t know what a “hack” was until my stepdaughter explained the concept to me. Now that I do know, I realize I’ve been a fan of them since before they were called hacks. It’s why I love The Old Farmer’s Almanac.


I’m a sucker for little trivia tidbits and tips on how to make life easier. When I first discovered the Almanac as a young adult, I thought I’d found the mother lode. In those days we didn’t even have a water cooler around which to chat! I just loved the philosophy of their founder, Robert B. Thomas:

“Our main endeavour is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor.”

Did you know that the Farmer’s Almanac is the longest continuously published periodical in North America? The first edition was published in 1792 – when George Washington was President! Its combination of weather forecasts made with uncanny accuracy, gardening guide, recipes, and general advice for around the home has worked for 225 years and they are still going. (The secret formula for weather forecasts is apparently still locked in a little tin box in their head office in New Hampshire.) After all, where else could I find out:

  • A dream of eating stew foretells a reunion with an old friend
  • When the colours orange and blue are placed next to each other, they seem to vibrate
  • The first full moon of the year is called the Wolf Moon. February’s full moon is the Snow Moon (I bet you can guess why!)
  • If you turn clothes inside put before laundering, you can reduce pilling (those annoying little fuzz balls that appear over time)
  • If you see grass in January you should lock away the grain in your granary. (Don’t plant the garden quite yet!)

Are you impressed yet? You can check out more on the Almanac website if you like – and find links to your favourite social media channel too. Just think of all the hacks you can post 🙂

Or you can keep watching here; I’m sure to pepper my posts with little gems from my appointment calendar in the weeks and months to come. 

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Wishing for marmalade skies

img_0431It’s another grey blustery day here – this shot is one I took on last year’s holiday in Jamaica. As my bones and I pine for warmer climes and more spectacular sunsets, I search for activities to brighten the day. Thankfully, it’s Seville orange season! So I might not be able to have marmalade skies, but I can have my marmalade on toast. That is, if I get to work and replenish my stock!

Those of you who know me have probably tasted my marmalade if you like the stuff. Many people don’t, I have discovered – more for me, I say! If we don’t know each other personally, I will apologize here and now: I’m sorry, but this is a recipe I don’t share. It was given to me in trust by an Englishwoman who made it regularly for her guests. She and her husband owned a lovely B & B in the Maritimes that I was fortunate enough to visit one summer long ago. They were a charming couple – he a Canadian who served overseas in World War II and her a war bride doing community work, whose husband was killed in service with the RAF. They met again after the war when he came back to London as a widower and connected. Happy endings don’t get any better than that, I think – although they did joke ruefully about their paradoxical plan to “relax as owners of a b & b”. They don’t own the place anymore, but it is still there and still looks as lovely. If I ever get back to that neck of the woods I will certainly visit, and I do recommend you check out Fairmont House in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.  It’s a quaint seaside town south of Halifax; it was the perfect end to a day on a summer cycling trip.

Now that we are in the world of the internet, you can find endless recipes for a good old-fashioned marmalade. The recipe I have takes 3 days to make – it is not for the faint at heart. But it’s a very heartwarming effort on cold grey winter days.

So, here I go! If anyone wants to come for tea on Thursday afternoon, I’m sure there will be a few spoonfuls to enjoy. I might even make biscuits to put it on!

marmalade-start

Ta ta for now 🙂

 

How to make your own sunshine

This morning was grey and cold. It looked like a dreary day, a drastic change to yesterday’s glorious sunshine. I can handle the bleakness of winter in the sun, but I struggle when the clouds make me slouch and the wind howls. So, I took on a winter version of taking lemons and making lemonade…

When I need cheering up, I bake. This morning I needed something quick and comforting, a bit of winter sunshine. Luckily, I have an old favourite that does just the trick – Cornbread Jam Muffins ! Cornbread Jam Muffins Happy GourmandAs you’ll see if you click on the recipe link, this is something I tested on the hardworking cast and crews I worked with during my years in movie catering in Vancouver. If something can bring a smile to the face of a weary soul at the end of a week working outside in the cold winter rain, then I know it works. And I get to enjoy their smile as well as my own when I taste one!

Muffins are listed in cookbooks as “quick bread” for a reason – they are simple to mix, and don’t take long to bake. If you planned just a little, these could cook while you were in the shower and the coffee was brewing. Extras freeze easily and can be reheated in a toaster oven (microwaves tend to make them tough, but if that’s your method, stick to under 15 seconds for best results).

Even if you save this recipe for a day off, I guarantee they will cheer you up. Go ahead and customize them if you like (the recipe includes a savoury variation, or you can make them without jam if you prefer; they even work if you substitute gluten-free flour). Sharing the goodness of these little gems will give everyone a good start to the day.

As I write this, I notice the sky has cleared a bit over us and even the grey skies over the lake look less menacing. I am breathing deeper and a smile is creeping across my lips. It appears my little dose of sunshine worked its magic quite well!

rabbit-hollow-winter-view

 

 

How sweet it is!

On Wednesdays, I get to bring out my alter ego. For most Wednesdays over the past eleven years, I get to be a big kid. I have been known for most of that time amongst the other kids as “Poppy”, a name that I love not just because the flower is one of my favourites (bright, a bit unruly, and one of the first to happily signal summer is coming), It was also the name of one of the coolest grown-ups I knew when I was a kid. My Poppy had long red hair and she was a sort of princess in my mind – the peasant skirts, the hippie music that seemed to follow her and the magical smile and twinkle in her eye were all part of that persona. I don’t get to be that much of a free spirit, but the blue vest adorned with crests and pins all around a gigantic trefoil on my back do give me some renown. You see, I am a Girl Guide leader.

girl-guide-leaders-at-camp

one of my favourite camping trips, and the leaders who made it so much fun!

kpl-and-nancy-at-ggc-christmas-sing-along

With my mom, at the yearly district Christmas sing along (where we have 400 plus people around the bonfire!)

Currently, I am working with Sparks, the tiniest of girls allowed into the organization. We have 22 little sprites in our unit, run with wonderful humour and an incredible sense of organization by my fellow leader, mentor and friend of those eleven years, “Sparkle” (aptly named, don’t you think?).

girl-guide-leaders-with-olympic-torch

“Sparkle”, and another of our fellow leaders from when we had a Guide unit. Great experiences!

It’s a wonderful experience to share in the adventures of young girls, and ones this small are especially enthusiastic – about everything. It’s contagious.

This week we are learning about Canada, and so I bamboozled my fantastic husband to help me represent Quebec at one of our activity stations. We only have ten minutes out of an hour’s meeting to wow them with something memorable, so what to do?? Well, it’s not that tough – we will tell them about Bonhomme and the Quebec Carnival, and we will feed them maple taffy on fresh snow, called “tire sur neige” in Quebec. How cool is that?! We are going on a tobogganing camp in a couple of weeks, so this is sure to put them right in the spirit of winter. Thankfully, at this age, they don’t seem to feel the cold and so being out in the minus twenty or so weather will just be an adventure. Meanwhile, I’m digging out all my woollies to take to camp!

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I could post historic photos of sap being gathered. I wish my hubby had pictures of when he was young and on the horse-drawn wagons at his uncle’s sugar shack. But we’ll have to make do with the sticky fingers and gooey taffy to give you the general idea of the fun we had. tire-sur-neige-1Some may say it’s bad to give kids sugar so close to bedtime, sending them home all hyped up to their weary parents.tire-sur-neige-2 Sorry folks, I will selfishly say that I enjoy every minute and don’t intend to stop having fun with my little Spark pals anytime soon. I hope they will remember me with the same kind of mischievous twinkle as I do the Poppy of my childhood.

 

 

 

Winter Wonders

enjoy-winters-idle-hoursWinter in most of Canada is cold, windy and white. Kids and animals are mostly okay with that, but most adults don’t seem to have much patience for wintery weather. I walk every morning with my chocolate Labrador, Ella, in a fruit orchard and pumpkin patch so I’m out there in the elements daily. I decided that I might as well enjoy it, and so I look to Ella for inspiration.

This year the snow has built up and it’s gotten harder to walk each day. There is no real path as we are the only regular walkers, except for the odd coyote or deer tracks we see. So in loose snow I felt as though I was making two steps forward and one step back. I already do a workout inside, so I didn’t want to be doing more. Then I noticed Ella’s pawprints in the snow – she spreads out her toes in deep snow, to make the best use of her webbed Labrador paws. Her usually tiny feet with their winter fur between the pads end up almost twice the size – like snowshoes! “Aha”, I thought – I can get on that bandwagon. This morning our little sojourn in the field was much more enjoyable with my snowshoes on. Ella was in a fine mood too, bounding off my track to leap in the deep snow like a baby deer.

We were lucky enough to have some blue sky and sunshine today, so I did my best to soak in the good vibe. Ella leads the way, and she is a great role model for enjoying the moment. She trots along, not afraid to stick her head deep in the snow to sniff out the tracks of another creature (even if it is a woozle). She bounds about, and if I stop to blow my nose, as often happens on a cold day, she will happily plunk down, her fuzzy bum in the snow (makes me cold just to see it happen!) She also loves to eat the snow.
mitten-full-of-snow

So here’s my foodie epiphany for the day: take a moment to truly experience the weather. I scooped my mitten in the fluffy snow and took a tongueful. It tasted clean, it sparkled on my tongue the same way it sparkled in the sunlight. It was pure and fresh and gone too soon. I wanted more. After a few mouthfuls I was deep in the memory of days spent tobogganing and playing tag on sticky frozen monkey bars. My heart soared with the sheer joy of it all.

ella-and-kpl-in-the-snow

P.S. If you’re wondering what a woozle is, brush up on your Winnie the Pooh here.

 

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