Curried Squash Soup

With it looking so wintery outside, I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite recipes:  Curried Squash Soup.  I have to admit, I wasn’t a curry fan ever since my university days when the people in the apartment down the hall lived and breathed curry…….. and so did the rest of the floor as the odour permeated right into our apartment.  Heck,  I wouldn’t even use curry inside my house and refused to let anyone else use it, until……… my son Marty said “Mom just try it!”.  So I reluctantly allowed him to cook an Asian dish with curry in it (probably because I was abit fatigued from cooking for the last 40 years, 3 meals a day Haha).  Marty and his girlfriend Jeanette are world travellers and have spent alot of time in Indonesia (where you tell them to put in “no spice” just to make the spiciness palatable) and Malaysia, as well as other countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Nepal, and even China.  So, I trusted his expertise.  Plus I felt that I was being too stuck in my ways and needed to ‘expand my horizons’ ….   Marty’s stirfry tasted awesome and I was hooked on curry!   I didn’t realize that there were SO many types of curry from red, green, yellow, etc.  – I think red is the hottest.

Organic Homegrown Squash

Now about winter squash – I just discovered this vegetable a few years ago and it’s become my favourite winter veggie.  There’s Acorn squash, Buttercup squash, and my favourite, Butternut squash plus others like spaghetti squash.  It grows very easily in my garden.  I cut it in half, scoop the seeds out, add a spoonful of water to the scooped-out inside, put it on a baking sheet covered, then bake for about an hour and a half. I usually bake it in the oven when I have something  else cooking in there……  It goes really nice with any ‘meat and potatoes’ type dish or I just save it in the fridge for making this Curried Squash Soup another day.

Baked Butternut Squash

So without further adieu, here’s the recipe (which came from Jeanette, by the way):

Curried Squash Soup

1 and 1/2 cups cooked Butternut Squash

1 medium Onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Tablespoon Curry Powder (I use the yellow kind ), a bit more if you like

1 Cup Sweet Apple Cider or Apple Juice, if you don’t have any cider

1 Cup Chicken Stock or more if it’s too thick

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Bake squash, cut in half, @ 350F for 1 hour.  Scoop out.

Saute onion in butter in frying pan over medium-low heat until soft.  Add curry and cook 2-3 minutes.

Put squash in blender/food processor.  Add onions and a little chicken stock.  Puree.

Add Apple Cider/Juice and more Chicken stock.

Add Salt and pepper.

Puree until smoothish.

Heat and serve.

or you can put in the fridge and just heat a bowl/cup at a time when you’re ready.

Easy peesy!  And SO nutritious too!

Curried Squash Soup

Awesome!  My mouth is already watering as I write this !  Enjoy.

First Snowfall

Sparkly Snow on Pine

I’m like a kid on Christmas morning today because we had our first snowfall of the season!  It was just a measly 5 cms  (2 inches) but it looks awesome.  EVERYTHING is coated in white fluffy snow and the river has skimmed over with ice out to the main channel.  Now it looks like winter!  My son Marty, in Malaysia, was just asking me last week if we had snow yet – but that day it was +10 degrees celsius (50 F) outside.  Today it doesn’t bother me that it’s Minus 10C (14F) and we have 4 months ahead of us of cold, snowy weather – I don’t care.   My red and white Canada flag really stands out at the beach in the white snow – it’s tattered but it will tell me which way the wind is blowing all winter long.  I’ve got a fire on in the cookstove, so I’m warm and toasty.   Here are some pictures of our first snowfall:

Sugar Coating of Snow

One thing that I love about snow is that everything gets covered up by this frosty precipitation!  You can’t see all those leaves in the driveway that I didn’t rake up, can you?  And I bet you don’t even notice the perennials that I didn’t get cut down either?  lol

Road

The road always looks so desolate after a snowfall – like we live in the middle of nowhere…….  I’m just grateful that my neighbour Randy has a big truck that always leave big tire spaces for me to walk in after a snowfall!

Snow on Glass Ball

I can always measure the snow by looking at the amount on top of the red glass sphere in the garden – it’s about the size of a basketball and sits on top of a strawberry pot.  In a few short months, the snow will be over top of that entire ball.

Yucca Plant

Isn’t this Yucca filamentosa plant so cool?  It’s amazing to me how a plant that is almost tropical-like can survive in our cold winters and hot summers.  The sword-like leaves stay green all year long, except it gets covered in a couple of feet of snow around here.

Yukon loves the snow

My husky dog Yukon just loves the snow!  Even though he’s 15 years old now, he acts just like a puppy when it snows – he gets SO excited rooting his nose into the snow and making “doggy angels” while rolling around in the white stuff.

Backyard

It’s alway nice to look out my big windows at this sight – I will never tire of this……..

 

 

Smokin’ Cigarettes – NOT!

Phlox

I am proud to say that I am a lifetime non-smoker.  Oh, I did try smoking once – my dear Sister MADE me take a drag off of everyone’s cigarette at her party once when I was a teenybopper in the ’60s…… and I was SO sick, I NEVER EVER wanted to smoke again.  EVER!

Oh how times have changed:  when I was a little girl in the ’50s, my next door neighbour used to send me to the corner store to buy cigarettes for her!  I think they cost 25-30 cents for a pack.  I even got to spend a few pennies on candy for my service!  LOL – can you imagine that happening today?  (illegal where I live)  Child abuse!

Some of my pet peeves revolve around cigarettes.  I’m really perturbed when I see cigarette butts on the ground when I’m walking around or in town.  I can feel my blood pressure rise when I find one in my own driveway!   I have no idea how it gets there but picking it up is like touching the plague to me.  Or while walking leisurely,  I unexpectedly take in a deep breath of someone else’s cigarette smoke!  Grrrr!

I think that most of the arguments I had with my late husband Chris were about cigarette smoking.  I hated the fact that he smoked, even though he took his bad habit outside rather than pollute the inside of our home.   He ‘quit’ smoking cigarettes and graduated to ‘Colts’ (baby cigars, kinda)  – and I wasn’t fooled one bit.   I knew that his choice to smoke affected our entire family.   I will always believe that the additives in cigarettes are carcinogenic and on a cellular level, they can alter cells in the entire body not just the lungs.   I feel that cigarette smoking was a contributing factor in his Prostate Cancer and death.  Can you tell that I’m still resentful?   My Dad died of lung cancer grown from 60 years of smoking too ……

Chris

My choice to be a life long non-smoker was simple:  I didn’t like smoke.  I didn’t like spending money on something that just burned up right before my eyes.  I preferred to taste my food rather than having my taste buds stunted by cigarettes.  I’d rather smell the roses than the smoke all over my clothes and body.  I like white teeth not nicotine-yellowed teeth.  Same goes for my fingers.

I’m pretty critical (to myself) when standing in a line-up behind a smoker.  OMG, I just choke at the reek of smoke on some people – I’ve even left the line and gone to another one.  But worse critics than me are Ex-smokers!  hahaha

I’m pretty proud of both my Sister Faye and my Son Taylor since they quit smoking this year.  I’m sure it’s a struggle and not easy and I appreciate their committment.   Bravo!

I started on this rant because I had a visitor recently who was my age.  This person has also been a smoker as long as I have NOT.   My visitor thought my place was so beautiful (and likely wondered how I could afford such a place).  Well, my dear, I NEVER smoked.  I quickly did a calculation and figured that I had saved enough money from not smoking to pay for my home more than TWICE (1981 purchase price)!   Then I went on the American Cancer Society website and used their ‘cost of smoking’ calculator and discovered that I was wrong:  I could have paid for my house more than FOUR times over!  Or bought a Lamborghini !

Home

Ready for Winter

Winter Sunrise

Well, I think I’m finally all ready for winter now! I made a list earlier in the season to help me get all my tasks done:

1.  Woodstove cleaning:  Last week I cleaned out my chimneys’ soot – Darin had swept the rooftop chimney for my cookstove a few weeks ago and today I swept the pellet stove chimney that sticks out the basement wall about a meter (3 feet) above ground.   I just had to spend a morning taking off the cookstove burners on top and the nameplate on the front  then scraping the soot that accumulates around the oven into a bag or shop-vaccing the corners.   I washed the nickel-plated trim and porcelain coated doors with a little hot water and dish soap then coated the cast iron stovetop with a little Olive Oil on a rag.  Downstairs, I gave the pellet stove a good cleaning out of ‘fly ash’  – I keep saying to myself that I’m going to clean my stoves in the late spring after heating season, but then I don’t, justifying it to myself that the fall would be better in case a bat or bird spent the summer inside.  I spread two ashbins full of ashes in my garden, which always helps sweeten the earth.

Clean and ready to burn

Cleaning Cookstove top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Driveway:  On Friday, I was outdoors in the beautiful sun sticking reflective markers along side of the driveway for winter snowplowing.  For the first time in my life, I’ve decided to hire somebody to plow the snow from my laneway this winter.  I’m really afraid that we are going to get walloped by tons of snow this winter since we got off SO easy last winter.  Melvin and I were able to cut a path through the heavy snow in the driveway last winter but this year he’s finished high school and may be busy working.   I had Chris’ plow truck (3/4 ton diesel Chevy 4X4) until last year – I sold it since I only used it for plowing in the wintertime and it was just alot of truck to keep on the road for only that purpose.   I even dug out our old snowblower and worked on it for days (soaked the carburetor in ‘carb cleaner’) but I just couldn’t get it started.  I sent it to the Co-op to get fixed but a simple Carb Kit didn’t do the job and I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new carburetor that might not even fix the problem….. oh well, I tried, but I don’t know what else to do.

Driveway in Winter

3.  Firewood:  The woodshed is full plus next year’s firewood is piled up outside.  I’ve phoned my firewood guy Gerald already to order 10 cords for next spring – he cuts it during the winter and ‘bucks it up’ to dry abit.  He’ll bring it out in April or May when things ‘dry up’.   My pellet order was unexpectedly here today………but I was not (@ Darin’s doing the snow tires).   So this week I should have my one and a half ton of pellets delivered and stacked inside my garage.

4.  Pond:  At the beginning of November, I disconnected the pond pump and brought it indoors for the winter – I keep it in water in the big winter tank that my fish go in.  I’ve already placed the leaf net on the pond weeks ago after I removed the fish.

5.  Garden Hoses: All the garden hoses have been rolled up and put away for the winter.  The outside taps have been turned off and drained.

6.  Coldroom storage:  My potatoes, onions, squash, canna lilies, etc. are all stored for winter use.

7.  Windows:  I gave some of the windows a cleaning, inside and out,  so the warm winter sun can shine through.  I love looking outside through clean windows!

Mourning Doves on Clothesline

8.  Outdoor Furniture: I put away the chairs and took down the screened Gazebo about a month ago.  It was challenging waiting for a dry weather.  But having my sister Faye coming up for a visit in October really gave me incentive to get stuff done before she arrived!  The dock out on the river still needs to be tied against the shore and the canoe needs to be brought up beside the Playhouse but it’s better to wait until it snows because the canoe slides effortlessly on the snow-covered grass.

9. Winter Snow Tires :  On Sunday, my son Darin put on my snow tires – it was actually a beautiful, sunny, warmish day.    This was the final winter preparation task that needed to be accomplished.

Rideau Canal Fun –
Skating and Beavertales!

Frosty Morn

Well I guess summer is REALLY over……… and fall is in full swing.  The last two mornings have been almost -10 degrees celsius (16F or  so) and heavy frost has set in.  The pond has skimmed over with ice overnight but the river still remains warmer than the air so it hasn’t glazed over yet.  These cold mornings are a whole new world!  Plants take on a whole new perspective and animals, like my dog Yukon, are loving the refreshing coolness after the brutally hot , dry summer we had.   So this morning as I walked Yukon, I snapped some pictures with my phone to share with you.

See, it’s true….BRRR

Lone Clover flower covered in frost

Japanese Maple leaf mottled with frost

Frosty Lamb’s Ears

Yukon loves rolling in the frosty grass

Ornamental Grass

Frosty Glasses back inside

What?!! Christmas is Coming…….!?

I noticed that on Halloween night, it was official:  the Christmas Season has begun!  After going around  my Granddaughters’ neighbourhood ‘trick or treating’ with them , I came home and turned on the T.V. and the first thing I saw was a commercial for Home Depot about Christmas.  Heck, ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ wasn’t even over yet and the media was already ushering in Christmas!   Isn’t the end of October a little early?  Bah, Humbug!  Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas!

But one good thing:  it DID get me thinking about Christmas and motivated me to take stock of my own Christmas gift preparations that I started many months ago.

Winter Planter

In November, I create my Winter ‘display’ in my 2 large recycled pots out front – in the summer I plant canna lilies, marigolds, and cosmos in them.  First I go for a walk-about in my neighbourhood and cut a few Red Dogwood branches which usually grow in the ditches.  They are SO striking looking with their red branches against the white snow.   I usually place them in the back of the pot.  Next I go around looking for broken pine branches from blue spruce or white pine.   That shouldn’t be too hard considering all the wind we had this past week because of Hurricane Sandy.   I also cut some dried hydrangea ‘snowballs’ on long stems to add.  In the garage, I have a bucket of ‘decorations’ that I keep from year to year to add to my planter display, including small and large red ‘balls’ , old fake poinsettias from an old ‘plant’, decorative ball chains, etc.  I just begin to create my display, standing back to assess it until it’s finished.

Around here, Christmas doesn’t just happen on December 25th with the opening of presents.  It’s actually many months long in its duration.  First I begin anytime after last Christmas, pondering whether my Grandchildren might like a particular full-of-thought gift I’ve come across.  My granddaughter Kalia is easy – she has always LOVED No-Name Creamy Garlic Dressing so a  couple of years ago, I bought her a jar and wrapped it up.  She was absolutely thrilled and told everyone she saw that her Gramma gave her Garlic Dressing for Christmas!  She actually was REALLY delighted (as I knew she would be) whereas those she told likely thought I was just cheap.  lol  I did buy her something else too but nobody can remember what it was……. only the Garlic Dressing!

A few years ago, it became just too much trying to find the right gift for each of my 7 children,  children-in-law and grandchildren plus the never-ending gift wrapping……….. it was just too much for me  and it was not fun anymore.  It became a chore.  SO last year I decided to only give gifts to my grandchildren and my two youngest children who were still living at home.  I felt as if a big weight had been lifted.  But I did manage to come up with a ‘family’ gift for everyone:  I have had 20 years worth of VHS tapes of our family adventures (9 tapes) that I recorded over the years which we lovingly named “Family Frolics”.

Family Frolics

I spent about 6 weeks transferring the video from my VHS tapes onto my computer, then formating them onto DVDs (32 of them).   And ALL without my computer techie kids knowing or guiding me how to do it.  I purchased a connection gadget from Ebay (VCR to PC) to make this possible.  I was actually quite proud of myself for figuring all this out even though it was frustrating at times.  I had a great time watching the videos again too.  This year, I’m not sure if I can come up with a family gift that grand…..I have to admit, I’m a little slow this year or tired or something.   But I still have time to figure something out …..   I’ll know it when I ‘feel’ it.

In years past, I’ve created several gifts for my family and friends.   I have done several  paintings for many of my grown children including “Pacific Ocean @ Bamfield B.C.” for Robin,  “Backyard Sunrise” for Darin,   “Home” for Taylor, “Perce Rock” for Kristi, and “Cardinals at the Feeder” for Marty (which I completed at 4 a.m. one Christmas Eve).

Backyard Sunrise

Another favourite was the photo albums I created for each Melvin and Nellie called “Daddy and Me” with 200 pictures of each of them with their Dad Chris, who passed away when they were 13 and 16 yrs old.   I made another photo album for  Kristi which included every picture I had of her.  I even scanned and emailed a treasured grade 8 school project to Robin called “All About Me” when he lived across the country.   And one year I found his favourite TV show of all time,  ocean videographer John Stoneman’s “The Last Frontier” on DVD, (the complete series!) at an Ebay store!   Of course, baking is usually a welcome gift too, especially my homemade peanut brittle and Christmas squares.

Cardinals at the Feeder

I like taking a long time to create Christmas – I’m not a “last-minute shopper” or even a ‘shopper’.    It’s more about the ‘feeling’ I get than about the gifts:  how excited I feel when I make or find something I know the recipient will adore; or having a ball searching for and cutting down the perfect Christmas tree with my children and grandchildren; or feeling abit nostalgic when watching the Christmas movies like “Christmas Comes to Willow Creek”; or knowing how much everyone will enjoy all the baking I’ve done when we settle down for some dessert on Christmas Day after supper; or the smell of the cinnamon soaking in apple juice on the wood cookstove;  or how a beautiful, red Poinsettia  plant on my dining room table seems to make everything complete; or thinking about Taylor (and missing him) every year when I set up the Christmas Village he gave me long, long ago…….

Homemade Peanut Brittle

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