Upper Wellington

When I was 11 years old, my parents bought their first house. I’d lived in Hamilton’s east end on Eaton Place (read more here) my entire life. My whole world was there in that quiet idyllic neighbourhood on the edge of the city. Then we moved up on the mountain to 425 Upper Wellington Street to a small 800 sq. ft., two bedroom pink (with black trim) bungalow on a busy 4 lane street at the top of the Jolly Cut mountain access road. Our Upper Wellington Street home had a very small kitchen, a livingroom, one bathroom (much to my Dad’s pain, with three daughters), 2 bedrooms, and an unfinished basement.  My Dad got busy right away finishing a bedroom for my oldest sister Faye and a ‘rec room’ for us to hang out in.  I REALLY  More

Heat Dome

We’ve had a lot of very hot weather lately and now it’s even been given a name: a Heat Dome! This phenomena is the summertime equivalent of winter’s Polar Vortex. I need a weather dictionary to keep up with all these terms! Even though I’ve never heard of them before, apparently Heat Domes are not all that rare. What does this all mean other than it’s friggin’ hot outside?

A Heat Dome is a dome of heat (duh!) that is actually trapped in the atmosphere and becomes stationery. Atmospheric conditions have to be just right for a Heat Dome to occur. The Jet Stream of westerly winds is further north than usual – this time near James Bay. A high pressure system is parked over most of the US and parts of southern Canada. The air is apparently ‘heavier’ which causes it to sink, compress, heat up, and remain in the same place causing poor air quality. David Phillips from Environment Canada said “we are breathing in the same air as yesterday”. This re-circulation of stale air can be dangerous for certain people like babies, seniors, the chronically ill, and people with respiratory conditions.

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Temperatures have been in the 30+C degree range plus with added humidex factored in makes it feel in the high 30s/low 40Cs. There have been Heat Warnings issued in major cities in Eastern Canada. In southern Ontario, there have been about 20 days this year of temperatures over 30C degrees whereas last year there had been 2 by this time.

This morning, the temperature outside felt cool and refreshing so I opened up all the windows! I’ll shut them when it starts to feel hot out and close the curtains as the sun moves during the day – to keep the house as cool as possible. I do have air conditioning but I hate to run it in the daytime unless absolutely necessary, like on Friday. I’ve already had it running twice as much as last year (5 days). Sometimes it’s just hot and I can handle that. It’s the humidity that makes me cave and turn on the A/C because I sometimes feel that it’s hard to breathe. Usually the outside temperature cools down during the night so I turn off the A/C and open up some windows to cool the house down naturally.

For my garden, the heat has been brutal. Luckily, this heat has spawned afternoon/evening thunderstorms which water my garden and refill my rain barrels.

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.

NettlesWM

 
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/ .

Nettle2WM

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.

LawnTractorWM

 

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!

OilPlugWM

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.

AirFiltersOldNewWM

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)

 

backyardWM

Backyard at sunrise

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. 😦

WM

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.

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

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