Spring Is Here!

I think.  It’s beautiful and sunny and temperatures are now above seasonal! After a cold start to April with lots of snow, we’ve finally turned a corner into spring.

Last evening, I brought in the last of the maple sap and took the taps out of the trees. Maple sap runs when overnight temperatures are below 0 Celcius degrees (32F) and daytime temperatures are above zero. Those days are behind us now and the trees know it – sap production has dropped drastically in the last couple of days.

The last pot of maple sap is boiling down on my wood cookstove. I really don’t even need to make a fire these days with wake-up temperatures around zero but I want to finish up my maple syrup. This year I boiled down about 48 litres of maple sap and ended up with about 7 cups of pure, natural maple syrup and a half cup of maple taffy.

SparklingWater

My Lake of Shining Waters

The ice is all gone now. My pond finally melted this week and now the wild Mallard duck couple, who come back every year, enjoy swimming in it. The river broke up weeks ago. Great Blue Herons, Robins, Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Red Wing Blackbirds have all returned from their southerly winter homes. The little Goldfinches are changing from their winter olive colour to their summer bright yellow. Beavers swim by close to shore at dawn now too. Raccoons are up and about and I imagine the Black Bears too. Daylillies, daffodils, and tulips are poking through the ground and buds are swelling on the trees. The sun is SO bright especially when it reflects off the river and sparkles brilliant light. I’ll be glad when the leaves grow on the trees and shade my windows which will be much easier on my eyes in the morning. Thanks Robin for planting that Maple tree beside the back deck over 30 years ago!

This week, I hung some laundry outside on the line. WOW, do I ever love that fresh smell when I bring it in! The line was completely full of sheets and blankets that first day with the wind blowing them dry in just a few hours. I’ve hung laundry outside every day!

Forsythia

Forsythia

Outside chores are staring me in the face. Leaves have to be scooped out of the pond and the leaf net removed. Then I have to reconnect the pump hose that I accidentally disconnected before I hook up the pump and filter. That’s my first plan of action. I hope to revitalize my garden this year with a load of rotted horse manure; plant another row of raspberries; plant the 70+ trees/bushes I ordered including some Serviceberries and Highbush Cranberries to add to my berry production; pick up all the branches that blew down from the trees during the winter; rake leaves; freshen up the house trim, porch, and garage door paint; and spread the dump truck load of wood chips sitting in my driveway. After being diagnosed with skin cancer this winter (which I’m still waiting for treatment – I was recently told it would be six months!), I was feeling somewhat reluctant to plan a lot of outside work because of the fear of sun exposure. But I can’t live my life in fear of being outside so I’ll just continue to keep on keeping on…… with sunscreen now.

I know that Spring is really here because my son Taylor left this week for his job at the hot springs in northern British Columbia. I was sad to see him go because I know I will miss him but happy for him too, knowing he’s on a fabulous cross-country drive.

My TV

I like to watch television especially during cold winter evenings. For decades now, we have subscribed to a satellite TV company and have a small 3 foot satellite dish mounted on our roof. I remember the time before satellite TV was available that the options were a TV antenna or a monstrous, spaceship-looking 10 foot diameter satellite dish. The small TV antenna could simply be mounted on a roof or an antenna tower. However, those huge old school vintage satellite dishes required ground mounting and were an eye sore. My husband Chris wanted badly to get one of those huge monstrosities but I put my foot down and said no way I’m gonna look at that thing! When the new small satellite dishes came on the market, he convinced me that it would look unobtrusive mounted on the garage roof and I wouldn’t even notice! Besides, he said, I would get to watch crystal clear TV instead of the ‘snowy’ pictures I was used to and the signal wouldn’t cut out at 10 p.m. near the end of a good show. Okay, SOLD!
The dish was mounted and hooked up by cable to the indoor receiver (which was an additional cost). And now, instead of free, albiet fuzzy at times, TV we had a monthly bill! It started out as a reasonable $30 and stayed that way for quite a long time. Then in the last decade, the price kept creeping up. I promised myself that when it got to $50, I was going to cancel it, then $70, but I kept it anyway – it’s now $77 plus over $10 in tax. I calculated that we’ve probably spent nearly $10,000 on satellite TV over the years – crazy!   I think I was addicted to satellite TV – I now LOVED watching the Home and Garden TV (HGTV), the Women’s Network, and the History channel!
In the past few years, my grown kids kept telling me that there was a better way now. There was online streaming, Netfix, Project FreeTV….. I learned also that a few years ago, the industry changed the way TV signals over-the-air were delivered from analog to digital High Definition to TV antennas. My son Darin even made me a “coat-hanger antenna” (which I mounted on to our telescope at the window) so I could watch non-satellite, over-the-air (old fashioned way) high definition local TV programs on our new flat screen TV. It was SO much clearer than the satellite TV reception! I wrote about watching the Olympics (here). Oh yes, you can pay the satellite provider more money for high definition after you also purchase from them a high definition receiver.

100_3799

Home made antenna

I’d been getting “all my ducks in a row” over the past six months anticipating making a change. It was a bonus to me when the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) announced last fall that service providers must offer basic TV packages for $25 or less by March 1, 2016. I began taking note of the TV channels that I watch the most. I already knew that I usually watched only about a dozen channels of the 225 in the package that I subscribed to. There wasn’t much choice – it was the ‘Package’ or nothing.
I shocked myself when I realized that I was ‘addicted’ to satellite TV. But once that happened, I was determined to do something about it. My family will tell you that I’m a bit of a ‘control freak’ and I didn’t feel that I had any control over my satellite TV programming. I knew I had to make changes in stages. I had to find an amicable balance that worked for ME.
The first week of March, I went online to check out the new $25 “Skinny” Basic TV packages with my satellite provider, Shaw Direct, but was very disappointed that their website did not have these up and running yet. So this week, I went online again and the ‘Limited’ package was finally available! They sure know how to use marketing skills calling it ‘Limited’ and making customers feel that they are getting something sub-standard or limiting. I found that it was exactly what I wanted! I had already decided the amount of money I would pay for my television entertainment: maximum $50. The Limited plan gave me all my local stations (most of which I could also watch in high definition on my homemade over-the-air antenna as long as the weather was good) and a few others plus the Weather Network (a must for me) – up to 50 channels. Then there were several bundles which you could add: 5 more channels for $15 and another 5 for five bucks more. Luckily, the channels that I had already determined that I wanted were in the cheapest bundle. Not only that, several channels were bundled along with another similar channel like HGTV with the DIY channel (which I didn’t have before), both Women’s Network East and West, and History channel East and West. I ended up with all those channels plus CTV News Channel and Cottage Life channel (which I had watched at my sister Faye’s house). So basically I got MORE for LESS $$! And I came in under budget. AND I GOT TO CHOOSE.
I found our old TV antenna in the loft of the playhouse – I want to mount it on the roof again and see what reception I can get with it before I spend money on a new TV antenna. I like to BE the chooser of how I spend MY time. I don’t want it imposed on me when I decide to watch television. I can pick whether I want to watch TV shows or movies via my chosen satellite programming or over-the-air antenna in high definition or stream via my computer hooked up to the HDMI to my TV.
I’ve been beaming all week.

The Holleford Crater

Yesterday my son Taylor and I went on a road trip to the site where a meteorite crashed 550 million years ago: the Holleford Crater. I never even knew it existed so close to home until Taylor told me about it last year. We intended to go and see it then but never got around to it before he had to leave for work in the far north. It dawned sunny and above zero so we decided to make the two hour trek about 40 minutes north of Kingston. ROAD TRIP!!
We drove along country roads which followed the river, then climbed windy hills passing frozen lakes and rock-cuts while listening to Beatles music, at first – Taylor thoughtfully loaded a bunch of my favourite music. The last stretch of our journey to the crater passed by hilly farmland on backroads directed by the GPS app on his phone. We pulled over in front of Crater Farm and low and behold there was an official Ontario landmark sign for “The Holleford Crater”!

Holleford Crater

The Holliford Crater aerial photo

The plaque at the site tells the story of a 90 meter in diameter meteorite, traveling 55,000 kilometres per hour, smashed into the earth here eons ago, blasting a hole 244 metres deep and 2.5 kilometres wide. When the crater hit the surface it would have sent up a cloud of debris 2-5 miles into the Earth’s atmosphere.
In 1955, aerial photographs revealed the crater. Canadian scientists from the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa confirmed it was indeed a meteorite crater from a series of four geophysical studies: magnetic observations, seismic studies, gravity studies, and a diamond drilling program. The crater contains a thick layer of Palaeozoic sediments but still has the remnant of a rim, rising 100 feet. At first the depression filled with water, becoming a circular lake. Later Palaeozoic seas swept in sediments, filling the crater to its present depth of about 30 metres. The explosive impact of the meteorite is still evident in the hundreds of feet of shattered rock that drilling has detected beneath the original crater floor.
At the time of impact, the landscape was devoid of any kind of vegetation or animals except the odd algae life form. The North America continent was slowly drifting away from South America. It was a LONG time ago!

TaylorWM

Taylor at the Holleford Crater

We enjoyed our packed lunch while gazing over the countryside towards the impact area which looked ordinarily like most of the landscape. We spent 15 minutes there then left for home. We continued our journey on another road taking a circuitous route towards home along narrow country roads.
Both of us were very pleased that we finally visited the crater and got to spend a pleasant day together on this road trip.
The Holleford Crater is N 44° 27.511 W 076° 37.985 about 27 km north-north-west of Kingston, Ontario.

Meteorite 550 Million Years Agometeroite550millionYearsAgo

 

A Day in A Life that Was

It’s been 8 years today since Chris died.  This year, I salute his life in a series of unpublished pictures to try to show what our life with him was like.

1.1992 Teaching Nellie Mini-putt

Chris was a patient person, even trying to teach baby Nellie Mini-putt!  We always tried to find mini-putt whenever we went on vacation since the kids loved it so much.  Chris would do anything for the kids and me.

2. Carving Pumpkins

2b.Pumpkinmobile

At Halloween, every kid had their own pumpkin to carve…..after Chris scooped out most the seeds!  One year, he created the “Pumpkinmobile” for Halloween night by strapping onto the top of the van, a large carved pumpkin with a blue flashing light inside.  We drove the kids around our neighbourhood and nearby homes so the kids could trick-or-treat.

3.BuildingGarden

Chris was always building something around the house:  the front garden or the playhouse or the pond.

4.Patio

One of our favourite summer pastimes was ‘Patio’ where neighbours (human and canine) would gather at our house to visit and sing.

5.Rink

Chris prided himself in his skating rink out on the river.  This one had a rink plus a skating oval around it.  He’d spend hours cleaning it off after a snowstorm and flooding it on -20C days.  He hung lights for nighttime skating too.  Every winter, we hosted our annual skating parting for neighbours and friends.  We skated on the river, keeping warm at a bonfire at the beach then shared a potluck supper in our garage/party room.  Every Saturday night during the hockey season, we would host a ‘hockey party’ where we would watch NHL games while playing darts or pool with our friends and neighbours.

6.WhaleWatchingTadoussac.png

Chris would always take us anywhere we wanted to go at any time.  This picture shows us at Tadoussac, Quebec where we went whale watching and stayed at a cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  We were on our way down home.

7.TorontoZoo

One year, we took the whole family to the Toronto Zoo and Wonderland for the weekend.

8.Waterskiing

At home, he loved boating on the river in the summertime.  He patiently taught our kids and friends to water ski.

9.JoeyVisit

He loved it when our brother-in-law Joey came up for his annual visit.  This picture shows their favourite spot to sit and talk and enjoy a cold ‘beverage’.

12.HardatWork

He loved working with Mark and Simon, travelling at times to Niagara and British Columbia on jobs.

 

9b. SantaGrampie

Chris was such a good sport:  he played Santa to all the kids in the neighbourhood at our annual Christmas Party.  Here he is with Kalia as Santa Grampie.

10.Camping

What an incredible man.  Even though he was in the middle of daily radiation treatments for cancer, Chris insisted we didn’t cancel our family camping plans.  We camped on the St. Lawrence River and him and I just drove up to the Ottawa Hospital for his treatment then back to the campground.  Pain and the side-effects from radiation treatments didn’t stop him from sleeping on the ground in a tent so the kids would still have a holiday.  He was adamant that he would try to make the kids feel like life was as normal as possible, until it wasn’t.

13.LastFamilyPhoto

Our last family photo when everyone came home in 2007.

 

 

 

Candied Squash

I love squash. My favourites are the winter types like Acorn, Butternut, and Buttercup but my overall, hands-down best is Butternut. During the summer, I like to BBQ sliced Zucchini squash brushed with my homemade Italian salad dressing.
I’ve roasted Butternut squash halves in my oven while I cook dinner. I’ve also made a yummy Curried Squash Soup (recipe here) that my DIL Jeanette introduced me to. Lately though, I’ve been craving for squash nearly every day – it’s probably due to my body’s need for more squash-specific nutrition. Afterall, squash is the new Superfood. It contains a huge amount of vitamins A, C, E, B6, B2, B3, K, niacin, thiamin, manganese, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, omega 3 fats, magnesium, and fiber.

homegrown squash

Organic Homegrown Squash

I grow squash in my garden or purchase locally grown produce in the fall – one of the best things about squash is that it’s locally grown and available all winter long. It’s not suprising why North American Natives grew “the three sisters”, corn, squash, and beans as a dietary staple. I store it every fall in my mudroom in a basket on the floor. It’s pretty cool in there all winter and I know squash probably doesn’t like it THAT cool (45F degrees/7C) but they seem to be just fine. It’s easy to cut off a hunk from the neck or half a squash and cook it randomly inside the oven of my wood cookstove.
I decided to add a little zest to my squash and now this has become my favourite! I call it Candied Squash.  It’s not really candy but it might as well be to me!   Here’s the recipe:

1WM

 
Candied Squash Recipe

1/2 butternut squash or the neck of a butternut squash
Butter – please, please do NOT use margarine (a bucket of chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
cinnamon
Scoop out any seeds inside the squash half you are using. I cover the open end of the other piece with a leftover plastic bag and put it back in storage with the rest.
Slice into one inch pieces. Peel off the outer skin. Cut into one inch cubes.

2WM

Butter lightly a baking dish or piece of tin foil. Put in the squash. Add 4-5 small pieces of butter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover or wrap the tinfoil to completely cover it.

3WM

Bake for at least an hour at 325F degrees. I left mine in the cookstove yesterday for 4 hours because I forgot about it and it was deliciously ‘well-done’!
I usually simply pour it into a bowl and eat. Sometimes, if I’ve planned ahead, I add it as a side to my dinner meal.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and discover that squash tastes as good as it looks.

4WM

The Link

I’ve been blessed with many, many cousins – hundreds probably! The vast majority of them are on my Mother’s side – down home cousins like Maureen and Carolyn; Montreal cousins; second cousins; second cousins twice removed; and even newly found cousins in the USA. But there is one cousin on my Dad’s side that has always been near and dear to my heart – Graham. Until the last few years, Graham had been my only paternal cousin that I ever knew and it’s all because of the special link that our mothers shared.
My father and Graham’s father were brothers. They both served in World War ll. My parents grew up in the same small town on the Gaspe coast and married after the war. It’s my understanding that Graham’s parents met during WWll in London, England and were married. So how did our Mothers ever meet and become friends? After the war, when Graham was a baby, my Aunt and Uncle moved back to his hometown where our Mothers met and became lifelong friends. Then both families moved on separately. My parents and oldest sister Faye, moved to Ontario where they would make a life. Graham’s family moved to Montreal briefly until Graham and his Mother moved back to England. That could have been the end of that. But that true friendship between our Mothers endured.

Our Paternal Grandmother and Aunt

L-R:  Our paternal Grandmother and our Aunt 1945

I remember the packages that arrived for my Mother from Auntie Ivy in England, when I was a child. I recall the smell of the paper that the magazines she sent were rolled in. Our Mothers always wrote to each other sharing who knows what but certainly telling each other news about their offspring. I saw my cousin Graham grow up in only a few photographs his Mother sent us.
After my mother passed away when she was only 45 years old in 1975, I began sending my Auntie Ivy Christmas cards every year to stay in touch. When we went to London, England in 1977, I arranged a visit with my Aunt and Graham, now grown up and married with two children. We met in Hyde Park then took a taxi to a museum, which was closed. The meet-up was short but sweet and I finally got to meet my cousin Graham in person! Auntie Ivy came to Canada for a visit in 1981 just before we moved but she stayed with us for a few days anyway.
Life went on as usual – Christmas cards every years exchanged updates on family life. Then one year, I received my Christmas card back stamped ‘deceased’. I was quite upset with myself for not getting Graham and Valerie’s address – how was I ever going to find them now?
One sunny, summer afternoon a few years ago, I received a phone call from Graham in England – he had found my phone number in his mother’s papers and hoped that I still had the same number. Hurray!! We were back in touch. After a long conversation, we exchanged emails and the promise to visit me in Canada. The next year, Graham and Valerie came to stay with me and travelled down east to our family’s hometown where he briefly lived as a baby. My sister Faye also came to stay for this impromptu family reunion.

Visiting National War Museum

Visiting the National War Museum:  Graham, Me, Valerie, Faye

Graham and Valerie have made a few trips to Canada to visit with me in recent years. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company – day trips to the War Museum or the Rideau Canal locks or just watching TV at night. In 2012, we met up in Florida when we were both there with our families at the same time visiting Disneyworld! We hadn’t actually planned it that way, but it was fortuitous. One of these years, I’m going to visit them again in England.
I am SO grateful to both our Mothers who, despite being separated by an ocean for decades, managed to remain close and keep in touch with each other. Their gift to both Graham and myself, was that lifelong link of family.

My Cancer Journey

I have skin cancer – a type called basal cell carcinoma.
I want to share my experience right from the beginning through my blog. Don’t worry, it won’t dominate this blog – there are recipes to share and other experiences to write about. Cancer does not define me. I won’t let it. It’s part of my whole life journey. It’s part of me. I own it.
One might think, whew, it’s only skin cancer….. good thing it’s not a more serious cancer. Cancer is cancer. Those mutant cells have now been identified in my body. I AM grateful that basal cell carcinoma has a very good success rate of treatment and survival rate of 95% at five years.
This kind of skin cancer is attributed to UV rays from sun exposure or tanning beds (which I’ve never used). Some scientists say that the sun’s rays were doing their damage decades ago unbeknownst to me. When I was a kid in the 1950s , we practically LIVED outside, summer and winter. Sunscreen hadn’t been invented yet and climate change wasn’t recognized. We played outside in the summer wearing as few clothes as possible with our bodies becoming browner as the summer progressed.

DaisyWM
I felt suspicious about a few spots on my face several years ago so I went to my former family Doctor. He thought they were insigificant, cosmetic spots and proceeded to do a freezing-like treatment on each one – it’s called Cryosurgery which uses liquid nitrogen to destroy the pre-cancerous cells. It didn’t help. I changed physicians to a young woman who was only 4 minutes from home – I ‘interviewed’ her and decided she was easy to communicate with, up-to-date on the latest research, and had no problem with addressing each other by our first names. Last year, I showed her my little ‘spots of concern’ on my face and asked for a dermatologist appointment to get them checked out. She suggested that first we try the freezing treatment (again). After a month, it was clear that it didn’t work (again) so a referral was made to a dermatologist. My concerns centered around one particular area on my upper lip which bled off-and-on and never healed completely. It looked almost like a roundish scar, but I had never been cut there. And it was growing in size.
Finally, my dermatologist appointment arrived after 8 months of waiting – I could have gone earlier into the city but I didn’t want to drive there as parking is a nightmare. The Doc walked in and introduced herself and her collegue, asking for my permission that he be there. She walked up to me sitting on the examining table half dressed and stated matter-of-factly “I see you have skin cancer”. Just like that. A family doctor couldn’t identify a suspicious skin anomaly? Anyone can ‘google’ my symptoms and get a probable answer. She checked me over but was focused on that one spot. She thought that it was a large basal cell carcinoma. Her and her collegue talked about various treatments and even called in the plastic surgeon from the clinic next door. They all agreed that Mohs surgery was called for: basically, at the Ottawa Hospital I will be under local anesthetic and the surgeon will scrape away layers of the cancer, testing it after each layer until no cancer remains. It’s quite successful for the treatment of this kind of cancer. The surgery will likely be in about 3 months.
While I was there, the dermatologist did a biopsy by injecting freezing into my upper lip and removing a portion of the cancer with a scalpel to send off to the lab for confirmation. I had no problem looking at the needle with freezing going in but when I saw her coming close to my face with the scalpel, I thought to myself “it’s okay to close your eyes now” hehehe. Then she proceeded to cauterize the area, which hurt because some of it had no freezing. I said that I shouldn’t be such a baby since I gave birth to seven children without as much as an aspirin for the pain.
She talked about sunscreen… calling for biopsy results in 3 weeks… the surgeon’s name… Mohs surgery… reconstruction…. and other things and I was worried that I wouldn’t remember it all. Then she handed me a sheet of paper where she kindly wrote it all down.
I’ve been thinking alot about being outside and gardening this summer and driving with the sun pouring through the window and forgetting to lather on my 60 SPF sunscreen and a whole lot of other things that never concerned me before.
Biopsy results confirmed basal cell carcinoma.
Let the journey begin

8wm

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