What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Though it is mid September–it is still summer so hopefully not too late to post this.  I wrote this a few weeks back but was having trouble posting my columns–this is a semi-oldie and I will let you decide if it is a goodie:

Short but sweet. That is the definition of my summer vacation. But it had somewhat of an inauspicious beginning.

Pre-vacation was spent stressing out to come up with the perfect time to take a few days off. Then there was the problem of packing. Whenever I pack I tend to hate my wardrobe and can find nothing, and I mean nothing that seems right to wear for the various occasions I expect to be experiencing. And then there is the problem of packing shoes—running shoes in case we walk (or God forbid hike) somewhere, casual shoes to wear with my ever present denim jeans, dressy shoes in case we go somewhere that warrants it, and another pair thrown in for good measure. I was only gone from Friday to Wednesday, so four pair of shoes for five days seemed just about right.

Our destination was the Ottawa area and my sister’s cottage in Montebello, Quebec. An interprovincial vacation—how exotic is that? So exotic that it took us about 13 hours to get there. It would have taken someone who read the Google instructions correctly maybe 9 hours not counting traffic and construction in TO and Ottawa. We made fairly good time for the first three-quarters of the trip, having left at 1:20 a.m. Friday morning (so not my idea) to avoid the nightmare gridlock that is Toronto. A variety of people had warned my husband John of the horrors of Toronto traffic and so his plan was to get there early enough to avoid it. His plan worked. But when we got into Ottawa we were stuck in jam for about an hour. Then we did not make a turnoff—so had to turn around, go back and find it. But that was only a 15 minute mistake.

I was the one who made the big, huge, gigantic, enormous, titanic of a massive mistake which cost us two hours of travel time, adding more time to an already long trip. I try to look on the travel time as part of the vacation, but when you have been on the road for over 10 hours, that aspect quickly goes out the window. The 28 steps outlined in the Google directions from Kingsville to Montebello were pretty clear, unless of course you read the instructions incorrectly. After we got onto a certain road, for sake of clarity let us call it 17, we were supposed to look for a turnoff, say 5, which would then take us onto the 406. Reading instruction number 23, I read that the turnoff was 120 kilometres away instead of 12.0, so we did not bother looking for the turnoff as we thought we had a good while to just relax and enjoy the ride.

Then we came upon a sign that declared: “Montreal: 78 kilometres”. Hmmm………. I knew that my sister had said that Montebello was only about an hour away from her home in Orleans and we had been on the road for well over that amount of time. We were on our way to Montreal—which might have been a good vacation if it had been our destination. But it was not. So we stopped and looked at the directions again and my husband said, “Are you sure there is not a dot there and it says 12.0 and not 120? “Well, I will be darned”, I said. I generally do not swear, but if memory serves me right, I did not say darned but it will have to serve as a good facsimile thereof.

We turned around, having gone an hour out of our way, to travel the hour back. My husband was exceedingly sweet about it—but what choice did he have—he was stuck in the car with me and it would have been a lose/lose situation to get upset. But John on vacation is different than John either post or pre-vacation. He is cool as a cucumber and ready to take on anything.

Oh, and did I mention that we had no cell phones? So my sister was panicking and putting out feelers to my sons as to where we were. Pay phones seem to be the dinosaurs of the 21st century and so were somewhat incommunicado for hours. But———when we reached our destination—we had the time of our lives. The cottage, which could be featured quite appropriately in any homes magazine, was situated on eco-Lake Charette. The view was absolutely unbelievable, the host and hostess were the mostest, and we spent four relaxing days chilling out. The ride home was much less eventful, hence enjoyable.

Postscript: Our youngest son took us to The Source in Kingsville as soon as we got back, and both my husband and I are now the proud owners of cell phones!

Do you have an area where you are behind the times?

Published in: on September 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm  Comments (29)  
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I Need Your Help

Mystery

Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read this to my Writers’ Group today and they liked it. I have a few ideas of where this is going–but if you want to give me any ideas I would more than appreciate it. Some of it is true, some of it is not. The part about the hairy legs is true.

 

Short Story 1

            She remembers the girl who wore knee socks and long denim shorts to hide her hairy legs. She remembers the girl her mother did not want to grow up.

            The mossy smelling countryside returned to her mind’s eye. Riding her bike down the road. Catching glimpses of the cows in the overgrown pastures, the creek full of brown water, the cars whizzing by her.  Her first freedom.  The wind blowing her long hair into tangles.

            She started riding a bike when she was twelve. Much older than most kids, but she had always been a late bloomer. There had been no bicycles to ride at her house before that. Her brothers had bikes but they were much older. Now teenagers they had given up their bikes long ago for fast cars.

            Her sister, three years younger, was far more adventurous than she was. At least in practice. She went on adventures in her head; her sister went on actual adventures. That her sister started riding “the” bike (they only had one and had to share) at nine was not surprising. A year later her sister would shave her legs, no matter what their mom said. And she would too—if a ten year old could do it—then certainly someone on the cusp of being a teenager should be able to.

            Today, as she sifted through her memories of decades ago, she remembered something that had always puzzled her. Something that had niggled at the back of her mind, but something she had shelved because questions about it had been met with icy silence. But now, she wanted to know.

            As a kid, she knew that things did not add up. But trying to make sense of certain things was stymied. It was like when she asked her dad where babies came from and he said ask your mother, knowing she would not ask her. She was very very old before she understood where babies came from—because no one at her house talked about things like that to her. Her older brothers were protective, her younger sister even more innocent than she.

            In fact, years later, her sister would complain that she had not told her about the “monthly miracle”. She refused to call it a curse—it was part of being a woman, and she often wondered why women did not embrace that part of themselves. She often heard that if men menstruated, they would brag about the pain, the duration, the amount of blood. But no, women tried to hide it, like it did not happen. Like it did not exist. Yet it was a big and important part of their lives.

          Her mind was wandering. She refocused. She remembered little pieces of conversations that would stop when she entered a room. She learned not to interrupt these conversations, she learned to stay where she was not noticed and listen. But not enough was ever said.

            Five decades later she had discovered a clue, one so big and obvious that she could no longer deny what she had felt since she was young. She was not one of them. Her family had always been loving in an uncloying way. They were not demonstrative. Hugs were few and far between.  She had always known she was loved, but there had always been a feeling of not quite fitting in.     

Published in: on May 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm  Comments (30)  
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Take Two

English: Double pink tulips and filigree acer....

These double pink tulips have nothing to do with this post but I thought they were pretty. My business cards are pretty too.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a novice blogger in May of 2011, I did not have the “following” I have now (lol). I wrote a blog that asked the question: “Have you ever received something for free that was not really free?” My sister Peggy, (who has been a faithful follower since the beginning) said: “I  get lots of free advice and I don’t even ask.” At first I missed her witicism, but then I thought her observation was hilarious.

Here is the post many of you did not read because you were not around then:

“The writer experiences everything twice.”  ~ C.D. Bowen

This is the quote that appears on my “business card” which I designed myself for free. As we all know there is no such thing as a “free lunch” and this pithy piece of advice was proven (unfortunately) correct in this instance as well. I had to pay for the shipping, which was reasonable, but on the back of each of my lovely mint coloured cards is an ad for the business that printed the cards. Had I known that this was the cost of “free”, I would have paid for the cards, or at least saved my pennies up until I could afford them sans advertisement.

Perhaps I overlooked the important (but non-existent) sentence that stated: “You can have these cards for free, plus shipping, if you agree to have an ad for our business on the back, thus spoiling them.”

Perhaps I was so taken with getting something for “free” that I was not careful enough.

Perhaps I should charge the company for “free” advertising.

Whatever the case, I now have about a zillion of these cards (which are quite lovely by the way) that I have to “make do” with. I do this by applying a label on the back and writing in my email address and a little “check out my blog: onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com”. The labels probably cost more than paying full price for the cards. Oh well, live and learn.

Have you ever received something for “free” that was not really free? Or, on the other hand, have you ever received something for free that was blissful?

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Comments (37)  
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~ Family Bliss ~

Three butter tarts on a plate, with flash

Three butter tarts on a plate, with flash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favourite definitions of bliss is family harmony. I am in a family sort of mood this weekend as my sister Peggy and my favourite (and only—but that does not take away from him being my favourite) brother-in-law, Herb are visiting us from Ottawa which is about an eight hour drive away. I have not seen them for over a year and a half.

They arrived in our small town of Kingsville at suppertime last night, and are staying at my oldest brother Jim’s house. My kids came over, his kids came over and we had pizza and beer and Prosecco and a lot of hugs and laughs. I am feeling wrapped up in warmth this morning.

Today my sister and I are going to lunch and I am taking her to my favourite winery, showing her our new library, and just spending time with her. We email each other every day and talk several times a month, but having her here in person is such a treat.

The “boys” will be hanging out together today and talking cars and politics, and joking around a lot. Then we will all meet to go out to dinner tonight, using up a certificate my brother was given for Christmas at a nice restaurant up town. The only thing missing is my other brother John and my sister-in-law Starr, but they were here a few weeks ago—so the last few weeks have been rift with family moments that I just want to capture, put in a jar, and save.

So since John is not here, I am going to share one of his favourite treats that my Mom used to make and he devoured. In fact, he would line these tarts up on his arm and eat them one by one with a big glass of milk. It is an image I will never forget.

My mother, unlike her oldest daughter (me) baked up a storm, particularly at holidays.  This recipe is for her famous raisin tarts, and though I have never made them, I can attest to the fact that they are the best ever.

So, on this Saturday in mid-January I share with you a little family bliss and a little piece of bliss from my childhood in the form of these tarts.

Raisin Butter Tarts

Ingredients:

2 eggs

2 tbsp.vinegar

1 cup butter melted

2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ cups of raisins, nuts, or currants (Mom always used raisins and walnut pieces)

Beat eggs only until whites and yolks are mixed. Beat in sugar, vinegar and vanilla. Stir in melted butter and fruit and nuts. Half fill tart shells. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees for 20 minutes longer.

Enjoy a little bit of heavenly bliss!

This recipe was handwritten in a spiral notebook which is covered in splatters from many many sessions in the kitchen. I may not have lined up my arm with these tarts, but I always had more than my fair share.

Do you have a recipe that harkens  back to your childhood days?

Published in: on January 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm  Comments (51)  
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Can Bliss Be Nutritional? ~ Recipe Saturday ~ 1/12/13

Spinach

Spinach (Photo credit: stormgrass)

Seriously, the irony is not lost on me that I am providing you with recipes. For a number of reasons I am about the last person to provide information on cooking. Here is why:

1. I generally do not like to spend more than thirty minutes in the kitchen as it does not take the people I cook for thirty minutes to eat what I have prepared. It takes them five minutes. I like a balance between the time I put into a project and what I get out of a project. (Yes, I call cooking a project). I will put in more time when I have company as the time it takes them to eat the food is more than five minutes.

2. I am a gourmet reader of cookbooks. I am not a gourmet cook. I am barely a cook. I hardly ever follow a recipe. The fact that I have fed my family for about thirty years and they have not died from malnutrition gives me a gold star in my book.

3. I generally do not use a recipe that calls for more than five ingredients or has more than three steps.

4. I hate to clean up after I cook.

So, what makes today’s recipe special (blissful even, since that is the topic of the year)? It has more than five ingredients. It has more than three steps. It is not quite gourmet but pretty darn close for me. But it is soup so it makes more than one meal. It is healthy and my husband likes it. Usually those two phrases do not go together.

I must warn you that when I provide recipes—they are sometimes written down quickly, the steps truncated, and they are not triple tested by me. They are maps, not definite trips. But I try to be as clear as I can be. Without further ado, here is a recipe I enjoyed at my sister’s, wrote down, and made. It is good and warming on a winter day:

White Bean and Spinach Soup

Ingredients:

2 tsp. of olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Pinch hot pepper flakes

1 –  19 oz. can of white kidney beans, drained and rinsed

5 cups of chicken stock or 1  – 10 oz. tin chicken broth plus water to make up 5 cups

½ cup small pasta (macaroni, stars or wheels)

3/4 lb. fresh chopped spinach or 10 oz. frozen

1 tomato diced

Salt and pepper to taste (always feel so creative when something is to “taste”)

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I used dried—certainly not 2 tbsp though)

Directions:

1. Cook onion, garlic, and hot pepper flakes on low until tender (of course I cooked them on high—I cook everything on high—though I am learning to turn the heat down).

2. Add beans and stock—bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper “to taste”.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for ten minutes.

3. Puree soup and return to heat. (I did not puree, but mashed it a bit). Add pasta and cook 5-10 minutes or until tender. Soup will thicken.

4. Add fresh spinach and cook until just wilted – 2 – 3 minutes. (Frozen—I suppose you thaw it out— I used fresh).

5. Add tomato.

I don’t know where the parsley came in— guess I did not write it down. Since I used dry—I am sure I just threw it in with the spinach. Most of you are more highly developed cooks then I, so you make the decision.

Makes six servings.

EAT!

January 2010 Snow Scene

January Snow Scene (Photo credit: ς↑r ĴΛϒκ❂)

I love this soup, though I am pretty sure I only added about half of the fresh spinach. My husband loved it—so that was a super bonus. It is good for you too. Nutrition can be bliss.

Do you have a healthy recipe that tastes really, really good?

Published in: on January 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm  Comments (42)  
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~ Easiest Stew Ever ~ No Kidding! ~

a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think by now you have learned not to look to me for fancy cuisine, gourmet delights, or even recipes with much more than five ingredients. But since it is November, the harbinger of cold weather, I thought I would share my recipe for the “Easiest Stew Ever” with you.

When I shared my Chili recipe in a post, I asked if you wanted my easy stew recipe. Several of you answered in the affirmative (big word for yes, I know-keep it simple stupid). A number of you nodded your heads vigorously (I could hear the rattle). So without further ado, I will give you the original recipe that my sister-in-law, Brenda, provided for me about two decades ago. Then I will tell you how I have adapted the recipe. Are you ready?

Here goes:

OVEN STEW

1 ½ lb. stewing beef

1 10 oz. can mushroom soup

1 envelope onion soup mix

¼ tsp. thyme

¼ tsp. pepper

1/3 cup sherry (or water)

Put all in casserole, cover tightly and cook 2 – 3 hours at 325 degrees. Brenda’s comment on the recipe: “All in one pot, extremely easy, very good…my kind of cooking.”

Now, I used to be a little bit of a snob about cooking with soup and soup mixes (I don’t know why—must have been from reading Gourmet magazine, not from cooking from it).

I have never made this recipe the way it was written, and a lot of times, I just throw the ingredients in the crock pot—so here is what I do ~

Put the soup and soup mix in the crock pot. Whisk it until it is smooth. (Sometimes I double the recipe). Then throw in the stewing beef—you don’t have to brown it. Add pepper and sometimes paprika if you have it.  I leave out the thyme because for some reason I do not like it. Add the water (as I never, ever have sherry and my husband does not like wine in his food.) I add more than a 1/3 cup of water (usually half a soup can unless I double it). And there you have it—

I usually cook it anywhere from 6-8 hours on low or four hours on high in the crock pot. Most of the time, I add carrots and onions and potatoes and then I have a complete meal.

Sometimes I will do it in the oven—but both ways are delicious. It makes surprisingly good gravy. If you make it without the potatoes and carrots, it is good on rice or noodles.

I have a whole binder full of recipes (not women) from my family. My sister instigated this recipe exchange about twenty two years ago, and for several Christmases members of my family would add three recipes. If there is a demand, I can make Saturday recipe day. Just to get your mouth watering– the next one I will share is my brother John’s Fried Bologna Sandwich. It is a gourmet delight (seriously).

What do you think? Should I make Saturday recipe day? And do you have any easy recipes to share or hints for fast meals?

Comforts ~ Day 8, Or Don’t Gag, I Am Going to be Sappy

wistful rose

wistful rose (Photo credit: macrophile)

I cannot ignore these very important three “things” I am grateful for. They are:

1 Jim, my eldest brother

2. John, my older brother

And last but certainly not least:

3. Peggy, my younger sister.

First of all I am very lucky to have just three siblings because these posts are supposed to be about three things I am grateful for each day, and if I had a fourth sibling I am sure I would be thankful for them too, but it would mess up the whole balance of this challenge (even though I realize I cheated yesterday and just used a quote—but it was a busy day.)

I am seriously lucky to have these three people in my life. I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am – you cannot choose your brothers and sisters, but I would choose these three without a second thought. I know at least two of them are going to read this and I don’t want to embarrass them too much – but guys—I do not know what I would do without you. You are there for me every step of the way and I know that I could ask any one of you anything and you would do it for me. And I for you. Okay, enough – one can only get so maudlin without the gag reflex factoring in.

I simply could not do a grateful challenge without listing three of the most important people in my life other than the three I listed in an earlier post (my husband and sons). It just would not be complete.

Three Sappy People

Three Sappy People (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Published in: on August 20, 2012 at 2:18 am  Comments (33)  
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