Earth Day 2017

Friday April 21 is Earth Day. The theme this year for Earthday.ca is “Earth Play for Earth Day”.

I won’t give you a “when I was a kid” story. I know, I used to roll my eyes when I heard that line come from an adult’s mouth, but…

I moved to the country a couple of years ago. We have a couple of acres of land, some of which is not cleared. My grandchildren love to play outside. Our land has lots of large boulders on it and my granddaughter has named one of them “castle rock”. It is a large flat piece of granite that sticks out of the ground and is bordered on one side by small trees. She and her brother gather up their toy trucks, dolls, shovels, buckets, and sometimes a container of water to mix with the earth to make mud, and take them out in the yard to play with. They will stay outside for hours, and if they are not at “castle rock”, they are in other parts of the yard extending their stories and their adventures. I love to hear their stories as bits and pieces float on the wind to where I sit on the deck.

My favorite place to work is my back deck. I wheel out my laptop desk to the screen gazebo that is there. I get settled in on the comfy love seat or chairs, and the words seem to flow better. The sun, the wind, and the amazing landscape help feed my imagination. It is glorious.

I miss this spot terribly in the winter when the temperatures are freezing and the snow is piling up. The spring finally arrived to my neck of the woods last weekend and we were able to get the gazebo back up. I couldn’t wait to get out there. I’ve spent every possible minute out there since, even if I have to put on my winter coat to do so.

Here’s to a great summer full of sunshine and warm temperature so we can all get out and play!

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Pet Day

Today is Pet Day.

I can’t remember a day in my life that I didn’t have a pet. Mostly dogs and cats but I have also had a rabbit, a rat, and lots of fish.

Each has held a part of my heart. The dogs that graced my life over the years were my best friends and confidants. My partners in adventures. As an only child, they filled the role of siblings. Someone to go for a walk with, someone to take to the lake swimming and then put in the basket of your two-wheel bike and drive home. Someone to get me out of the house and get me active. But the best part about all of them was the unconditional love. Ceileigh is really good at the unconditional love part.

I also have a Maine Coon cat that I’ve mentioned many times on this blog. He is the one that sets my mornings to rights. We have a morning tradition, that on the rare occasions when we don’t participate in it, are both a little off all day. I will sit at the kitchen table to drink my first coffee and scan through my social media, he will jump up and cuddle in. His constant purring while sitting on my lap sooths my soul and puts a smile on my face. What better way to start the day?

Not one to miss out on the action Ceileigh, my toy poodle, will come over and request to be patted at the same time. Both Coed, and I will lower our “paws” and give Ceileigh what she needs, a little rub on the head.

Both animals follow me to my office in the morning. The cat will either lay on the desk behind the lap-top until I am done or lay on the bench by the window. Ceileigh has her own cushion beside my desk, and she will curl up in a ball and stay there for hours. Most days I leave the office before she does. Her dedication is beyond. If I choose to write on my chaise in the living room you can be assured they are both there with me, either on my lap or laying beside.

I don’t think I see a day when I won’t have at least one pet in my life. The entertainment, the friendship, and most importantly the love makes it all worthwhile.

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Make Your Own Sunshine

Mother Nature has her own agenda and nothing the calendar or the groundhog says will change her mind. We had snow on Sunday and there is a Special Weather Statement for our area for tonight and tomorrow. The statement suggests we will get snow, ice pellets, and freezing rain. Accumulation will be anywhere from 5 – 10 cm.

To cheer myself up yesterday, I made a lemon loaf. The sweet, yet tart flavour tastes like spring and sunshine. It is an old recipe I’ve used for years and it never disappoints. We always have an argument in my house over the end pieces. The loaf is glazed with sugar and lemon juice on all sides when it comes out of the oven. The end pieces get more glaze than a centre cut of the loaf so everyone wants one.

To add some sunshine to your day here is the recipe:

Lemon Loaf

½ cup butter softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk

Glaze:
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon juice and peel. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; gradually stir into creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.

2. Pour into a greased 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean.

3. Combine glaze ingredients. Remove bread from pan; immediately drizzle with glaze. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Note the recipe calls to drizzle the glaze over the top of the loaf. I always brush the glaze on all sides of the loaf, with the biggest share being put on the top. And although the recipe says to serve warm, it is equally good served cold the next day.

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Where has the time gone?

One year Anniversary Really?

This week marks my one year anniversary as a Retired person. Well, at least in the employer/employee realm. I still work, for myself now a days.

I left my full-time job at the end of March last year. It was a scary time, but also a time to celebrate. I’d been in the work force a long time, over 40 years to be exact. I started my work life at the age of 15 with my first part-time job.

I used to laugh at people when they retired and after a couple of months would say, “I don’t know how I ever managed to work and do other things. The hours fly by, my days are filled to the brim with things to do and yet I feel I don’t accomplish anything.” I was determined that would NOT be me, I would know where every hours was spent and I would be productive.

Before I left my employer for good I sat with my scheduler and made sure I had something in there for most days. It was fat with stickers, tape, drawings, and wonderful colored deadlines and events. I was going to start my new life as an entrepreneur, and nothing was going to stand in my way of succeeding. Look at all the hours I would have each day just to spend on doing those things I always wanted to do…

Fast forward to this week. I have accomplished some of what I set out to do, but life has certainly got in the way of some of my goals. I can’t believe this is the end of March already.

I have bruises and a concussion from two of my set deadlines that ran me over as they flew by. My to-do list has grown, not shrunk, and every day before I know it the morning had turned into afternoon and all the boxes are not ticked in my scheduler. I have turned into one of those people I said I never would.

Ughhh… I’ll have to add another task to my To-Do list. Or maybe I should go back to work for someone else so I can get more things done… NOT!

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Guilt

According to Webster’s Dictionary this is the definition of the word:

1: responsibility for having done something wrong and especially something against the law.
2: a feeling of shame or regret as a result of bad conduct.

And, according to Webster’s Thesaurus here are a few synonyms and antonyms:

Synonyms: Antonyms:
blame innocence
culpability guiltlessness
fault

This is the first time I’ve looked the word up in the dictionary and I have to say I’m surprised at the definition. Why? Well, I’ve been using the word a lot lately when talking to myself and this is not the definition I would have used. Let me explain.

A. When I don’t get to my writing desk or I don’t meet my word goal for the day. I say I feel guilty. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong and it certainly wasn’t against the law – well maybe Linda’s law but…

B. Someone asks me to do something and I have something else on my schedule for that time period so I say no. Again, I didn’t do anything wrong or against the law…

C. I take time for myself. A nice long walk, a bubble bath, or meeting with friends instead of working on my manuscript or leaving my days open in case someone wants me to do something for them. Is it wrong to do that? Bad conduct? Against the law???

Even more astounding now that I’ve read the definition, is why I think I should feel guilty for any of this. I’m entitled to look after me first or make my own decisions as to what I do with my time am I not? Why is it I feel that everyone else’s priorities are more important than those I’ve chose for myself?

Here’s the thing. I’ve always been this way. I was taught to put everyone else above/before myself. It was the right and neighbourly thing to do. My role models always did, and I live what I learned.

We show/train others how to treat us. I’ve dropped everything and gone to help others so often now it is the expected response from me. Even I know I will say yes. Others don’t feel guilty calling me because they know I will do it. I’ve trained them well.

Problem is, I’m older now (not necessarily all that wiser so I’m finding out), and I struggle with being the one everyone expects to say yes. I still believe it is a good thing to help others out, and I’m all for it, and I will still say yes to some things, but sometimes my needs and wants have to come first.

When I try to tell myself this, I feel guilty (there’s that word again). Then I get angry with myself for feeling this way or for giving in and saying yes when I wanted to say no. Why am I angry at myself? Because I said no and disappointed them, but mostly, because I feel I did a disservice to myself.

I know the world won’t stop if I say no, although the first time I said it, I was in a real state. Heart palpitations, sweaty palms, waiting for the hammer to fall on my head! I held my breath for the reaction from the other person. First there was a shocked look on their face and then they shrugged their shoulders and said. “Okay, I’ll ask someone else. No big deal.”

Even though I know this, I still feel guilty every time I don’t say yes. Old habits die hard and I need to work on this some more.

After all – If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

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Getting Ready for the Green

This Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. With the name O’Toole I have no choice but to celebrate, right?.

We will have stew made with Guinness Beer and Irish soda bread to go with it. I can’t wait!

Of course, I will have on my St. Patrick’s day shirt and I even have green color for streaks in my hair.

What is Irish Soda Bread?

The essential ingredients in a traditional Irish soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the base of the baking soda to provide the bread’s leavening.

You can bake it in a cast iron frying pan –the traditional way- or on a regular baking sheet. I will use a regular baking sheet this year because I will be making two of these loaves to feed the crowd.

Soda bread dries out quickly so is only good for a day or two. It is best eaten freshly baked, warm from the oven and slathered with butter.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients
• 4 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute 1/2 the all-purpose flour with whole wheat if you like)
• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups buttermilk (I usually don’t purchase buttermilk but use the substitutions below so I don’t waste the left-over milk.)

METHOD

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, baking soda and salt. Make a well in middle of the flour, and add buttermilk all at once. 

Use your hands to mix buttermilk into flour to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Lightly knead the dough a few times to make a smooth ball.

Place loaf onto parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. With sharp knife, score a large ‘X’ on the top of the dough. Bake in the center of a 425 F (220 C) oven for about 35 minutes. The loaf is done when browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Serve warmed with butter and honey.

There are a number of substitutes for buttermilk in baking. For each cup of buttermilk, you can use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes. (I use vinegar when I am making mine.) You can also use 1 cup of plain yogurt or 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar plus 1 cup milk.

Thanks to Canadian Living Magazine Website for this recipe. I’ve taken the liberty to change it to suit my taste.

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Come on Spring

Bring on spring, I’m ready for it after spending last week in Cuba.

The weather was outstanding. Average daytime temperatures were 29-32 and the evenings were not much lower. No need for a sweater or a wrap at night over sleeveless tops. It was glorious after the 100 centimetres of snow we had here the week before I left.

We spoke to the locals about the high temperatures and they told us they didn’t really have a winter this year. Even they were surprised at the heat this time of year.

Sunscreen is a must. The sun is so strong these days it is a vacation essential I make sure I pack and use it daily. Even with sunscreen on this year, I managed to get a bit of a burn and I was only in direct sunlight for 30 minutes at the time. Thankfully it was not bad enough to ruin the rest of the vacation. There were a lot of really burnt people walking around. Some I’m not sure how they were coping with the sun beating down on the burnt skin. One year I was stupid and didn’t put on sunscreen first thing, after all I was sitting under the palapa so why did I need it right then? Unfortunately one ankle was in the sun and I didn’t realize it. Well it burnt to a crisp and I could barely stand the next few days walking around with the sun beating on it making it sting constantly.

I used to be a big sun worshiper. I’d sit in the sun for most of the day trying to bake my skin to that golden-brown color that I always thought was healthy looking. Now I don’t sunbathe hardly at all. Most of last week I stayed in the shade under the palapa. I still wore sunscreen and I came home with a tan. I can’t get over the strength of the sun.

It was a wonderful week of relaxing and reading. I loaded a number of books on my reader before I left and had a great time reading a few of them. Relaxing under the palapa was also a the perfect time to let my mind wonder and think of stories I want to write, and to find a solution to a plot problem I have in a current story. Observing at the bar and pool area gave me lots of ideas for characters for future stories – a few tidbits of conversation here and there to add to dialogue and character quirks to make characters more real.

The internet is spotty at best in Cuba, so for the first 5 days I was completely unplugged and it was refreshing. I had no idea what was going on outside my little area under the sun. I probably would not have bought an internet card, or at least not until the last minute to check in with home to say my plane was on-time, but a lady gave us 3 cards for one hour each. She could not get them to work for her and she didn’t want them. It’s funny how quickly you get pulled back into the hub-bub. I found myself checking Facebook, PMing my friends and family, reading my email. Just that short time back in “reality” and I was getting antsy. There went the wonderful calm relaxing in the warmth had given me.

I left Cuba on Thursday night, the temperature was 25 degrees Celsius. I arrived home and the temperature was minus 5 degrees, and it was snowing and blowing, and the high temperature for Friday was minus 15 degrees! I near froze to death all day. It was enough for me to start thinking about next year’s trip already.

This week it’s back to reality…

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