Long Distance Grammom

I just returned from British Columbia where I took my daughter Nellie and two teenage granddaughters, 14.5 year old Kalia and 12.5 year old Livi. We spent time on my son’s farm on the Sunshine Coast getting to know my two baby granddaughters, 2 month old Clare and almost 2 year old Elsie.

 

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Clare and Elsie

Nellie, Kalia, and Livi had never met Clare and Elsie before but I had spent time with them recently when Clare was only a few weeks old. We had a grand time playing with Elsie and holding Clare.

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Kalia, Livi, & Clare

 

Kalia, Livi, and Nellie also helped with some farm chores like feeding the goats, chickens, and rabbits as well as helping Rob install some gate posts. We picked cherries at a neighbour’s farm too and enjoyed them fresh and in a homemade pie. And of course we went to the beach every day looking for driftwood and beach glass!

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Elsie, Kalia, Livi, & Nellie on the beach

It wasn’t easy saying good-bye.

Kalia and Livi (and my other 4 grandchildren) live near me so I’ve seen them often for their entire lives. We’ve spent birthdays, Thanksgivings, and Christmases together and sleepovers in between. It’s taking some getting used to being a long-distance Grammom.

Email, Facebook, and Skype have all helped me feel like I’m participating in Elsie and Clare’s lives. Pictures are a big help too. But nothing is better than holding your grandchild in your arms and watching them sleep or smelling their sweet new-baby smell or reading the same stories 10 times in a row. I feel like their Gramma when I’m with them.

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Grammom and Elsie on the beach

 

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to travel across the country to spend time with them even though it’s only been a couple of times a year.

As my wee granddaughters grow, I hope to be able to visit them as often as possible and stay in touch through the latest technology.

……. because I love them as only a Grammom can.

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Rob and his girls

 

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Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

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I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

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Dear Lawn Tractor,

 

Thank you for your 21 years of service to our family. Every time you cut the grass for me, I get to ride on you while the breeze cools me, watching the sparkling river, seeing how my garden is growing, or looking at the fish as we zoom past the pond. I’m grateful every time you start without complaint.

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I apologize for ignoring your needs especially over the past 8 years. I’m sorry for not changing your oil for 10 years. I’m so grateful that even with such inexcusable treatment, you still keep on going. Well, I did sort of have an excuse because I couldn’t get your oil plug off – it was screwed in SO tight by Chris that I didn’t have the strength to undo it. But yesterday, I was determined!

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Removing Oil Plug – it helps having the right tool!

 

Luckily, my motto is “never give up” so I put all my brute force behind it, with echos of Chris saying “give ‘er!” and reminding me in my thoughts to just ‘force it’. Well it worked! And I felt the screw budge and finally start to turn! Eureka! It helped finding the right tool that would fit in the slot (among the hundreds of options I had in Chris’ tool chest). So now your engine can bath in fresh new 5W30 oil instead of that black stuff that came pouring out – all 4 liters of it……… sorry I overfilled your oil. You don’t have to apologize to me for not wanting to keep running especially when I kept adding oil beyond the safe limit.
I know you have more energy now too! That new battery must feel like a Red Bull energy drink! I realize that when you refused to start last September you were just putting your foot down and begging me to pay attention. I’m really glad that you continued to work through the long summer without much complaint even though you had every right to quit. Thanks for going on strike so I would be forced to attend to your needs.

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Left:  old air cleaner.  Right:  new air cleaner

 

Did you notice that I put in a new air cleaner? And a new fuel filter? And a fresh new spark plug? I’m sure you did because you ran SO smoothly when I cut the grass last night I almost felt that you were dancing for joy!
I was glad to clean up around your insides of all the debrise and oily dirt. And I dusted off your outside too. I promise to give you a wash soon.
My dear lawn tractor, you have been a vital part of this family helping to maintain our property over the years. You go girl! (Of course you’re a girl with THAT much stamina)

 

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Backyard at sunrise

Fireworks!

After a long, cold winter, we’ve celebrated the beginning of summer with a neighbourhood bonfire at our place on the Victoria Day long weekend in May. The entire neighbourhood, family, and friends were invited over after supper to sit around the campfire and catch-up on the news while the kids played. There were games like tag, volleyball, frisbee, badminton or bocce. Kids and adults alike could bring their fishing rods and cast away trying to catch little sunfish or larger pike from the river. We’d start the bonfire early, before dark, to get the most out of the party. Everyone would bring snacks to share and beverages for themselves as well as some fireworks to add to the communal collection for after dark.

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Neighbourhood dogs were also welcome as they liked to play with each other too. Everyone took their pet home before the fireworks began though because they were usually terrified of the loud bangs.
As dark closed in on us just after 9:00 p.m., everyone gathered closer to the campfire to wait until it was pitch black in the sky. Then the fireworks would begin!

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The older, teenage children were allowed to be in charge of the fireworks display. It was an honour to finally be old enough to set them off instead of just watching them. We usually had 3 or 4 five gallon buckets filled with sand to put each piece of fireworks in which were set up along the waterfront. The teenage ‘pyrotechnicians’ had already organized the fireworks during the daylight and decided in which order they would be set off and who would do it. It was quite the organizational feat! While waiting for dark, the younger children got to use Sparklers, with parental supervision – mostly there were no incidents of being burned with their own or someone else’s sparkler. The burned wires were put into the bonfire pit rather than left on the grass to damage my lawn tractor or bare feet.
Once the campfire died down to low embers after dark, it was time! The dogs were all taken home (and locked inside) and the adults and younger children sat about 25+ feet away waiting in excited anticipation for the fireworks display to begin! Years ago, we had driven to community fireworks displays in small towns and even the capital of Canada, Ottawa on Canada Day , so the children could see these amazing colours in the dark sky. It was always crowded, buggy, and a traffic nightmare to get home. Our homegrown neighbourhood fireworks and bonfire was just right.

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Over the years, all the older children who were in charge of the fireworks display did an excellent job! They set them off over the river with a multitude of different types of fireworks including rockets, roman candles, cone fountains, strobes, flares, pinwheels, etc. We always concluded with my personal favourite, The Burning Schoolhouse(s) – sometimes we had several.
After fireworks, everyone gathered around the bonfire to chat, roast marshmallows, play guitar, and sing songs. One former neighbour had a talent of writing songs and sang them at our neighbourhood parties, to everyone’s delight – some of the titles were: The Firetruck Song (that’s another story of one of our bonfire events); The Trespassing Song; and Mike always did an animated recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” to everyone’s delight in front of the glowing campfire! Other favourite campfire songs over the years include “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” and “They Built the Ship Titanic” plus I always loved it when someone played guitar and sang Gordon Lightfoot songs like “Black Day in July” or “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” or “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. And of course, my granddaughter Kalia’s favourite “Moonshadow” (by Cat Stevens in the 1970’s). It’s a good thing we love music because now my children know how to play guitar and sing my favourite tunes! The little children and babies would fall asleep in their parent’s arms and be carried home in the dark after the embers in the campfire burned down.

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These days, we usually have a family bonfire at my son Darin’s place. It’s smaller and cozier but still has all the familiar songs, Smores, and roasted marshmallows!  And besides, I have trouble staying awake until after dark for fireworks now anyway!
Happy Victoria Day Canada and Happy Memorial Day U.S.A!

fireworks set

Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl. 😦

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Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

Dish Washing

I have a dishwasher. I’ve had a dishwasher almost since I became an adult when I moved out of my parents home and eloped at 18 years old. My first dishwasher was a cute, efficient little table-top model which sat on the counter and was hooked up to the tap. It was marvelous even though it took up the entire counter space. As a busy university student, I didn’t have the time or interest to do something as mundane as washing dishes.
When my first baby was born, I was even busier. I evaluated my time vs. money spent on a dishwasher. My time with my baby was the most important and I still didn’t like washing dishes. So I figured out a solution: I cloth diapered (disposable diapers where a new fad) and breastfed my baby and saved money. After doing the numbers, I concluded that I would pay for a dishwasher in 6 months with the money I saved by breastfeeding and washing the diapers. So we bought a portable dishwasher.
I have even fixed my dishwasher when it was broken. Mostly times when it was plugged or the timer was broke (I ordered a new timer). Once, after struggling to fix a plugged line, I finally gave up and called the repairman: he was there for 10 minutes, pulled out the peanut which was plugging the line and handed me a $45 bill!

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My current dishwasher is showing it’s age. But as long as it works, I’ll keep it. Late last year, after a family dinner, I found it plugged. After soaking up all the nasty standing water with towels, I took the draining area apart and cleaned it thoroughly, using a toothbrush to clean all screens. I even took pictures of every step just in case my memory failed me when it came time to put it all back together. Then I sprinkled a liberal amount of baking soda on the drain and soaked the bottom in vinegar – it fizzled up like the school volcano projects!  I boiled the kettle while I let it sit for 15 minutes. Instead of making tea this time, I poured the slightly cooled-down boiled water into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Then I ran it through a short cycle – and voila, it was unclogged!
Now that my dishwasher was almost as good as new, I noticed that the wire racks were really rusty in spots. I went online to research what to do and discovered that they make a special paint to repair dishwasher racks called ‘Rerack’. I figured that while I was at it, I might as well fix that too so I ordered some from my local Home Hardware store.
BUT THE MOST AMAZING THING HAPPENED WHILE I WAS ON THIS DISHWASHER ADVENTURE! I started doing dishes by hand again! And I loved it! Actually, I’ve only used my dishwasher twice since late last year. With just two people in the house, it used to take 3 days to fill the dishwasher and by then it was kind of smelly even though we rinsed off the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Every night after supper, Nellie and I take turns washing the dishes by hand. The two of us don’t use many dishes in a day anyway. I even bought a dish drying rack and tray from the dollars store. We let the dishes air-dry overnight and I put them away in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil. Amazing! I even feel like my kitchen is cleaner too!

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I’m sure my dishwasher will get plenty of use when the family comes for dinner and I don’t mind using it then. I have to admit though, I love washing dishes the old fashioned way again!

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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