Tuesday, April 25, 2017

cutting Tiny Tomatoes

I enjoy cutting up veggies but sometimes one has to speed things up a bit.

Whip the cover off the margarine. Slice right along the bottom of said cover with a serrated knife.

voila! Sliced tomatoes. I think this will work for grapes too.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Little Green Onions

That onion that went all sprouty before I got to use it.  Now I have fresh green onion to snip. Just make sure you don't submerge the bulb or the water will become nasty. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Love Cement

Year before last I tried hypertufa and I was sorely disappointed when my creations crumbled away. So this year I bought the real stuff. A bag of post haste and one of mortar. Oh! Concrete heaven.
I can't help it. We have done a bit of concrete work about the place. We have round concrete steps at our back door. Our son was itching to try it... on someone else's concrete budget. It was worth the anxiety all the night before as I worried what would happen if the layered thin plywood forms burst through. They didn't.  
We have worked as volunteers on many a cement pour and I marvel at the way something like porridge can turn into something so durable.
But one can also make beautiful things with it. So. Here are some things.
This is the link to the excellent site that taught me this  


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Setting a Lunch Table

So this is an idea of the order of things the way we set them out.  I made this map because I just know I will lose my notebook.  I know what trays and utensils I have available.  And for the latest funeral lunch I requested four tables in a row instead of just 3 and it made such a difference.  The table was arranged so a line could go down either side and make it go quickly. I like a fast food line.  There was more room between the serving dishes and that seemed to make a big difference.
We also found that less choices can be better.  We did three kinds of meat.  One kind of cheese and one type of pickles which really simplify things.
One day I will add some links to the excellent pages that helped us arrange things.  In the mean time if you have to arrange something like this...make a plan. Make a map.  Makes things go smoothly.

Drunk Bees

David phoned about the issue down at his compost pile. He said there were bees there so he thought he would donate them the remains of a honey pail as a little gift to their industriousness. 
To his surprise they totally ignored him. Most springs they are thrilled with it but today nary a one would even look at it.
He took a closer look at the situation.  He said they were drunk on rotten banana peels. 
He says they were flying in circles and doing loop-the-loops,  landing in the sawdust areas to roll down the slope or riotously kicking holes into the sawdust. He was sure they were giggling foolishly in tinny inebriated little voices. 
Appalled by the scandalous behaviour, he tells me they were the  sensible working class worker acting like teenagers on their first drinking party.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Mother's Hands

Life is a funny thing. I've been reminiscing about people. Could have something to do that my father in law just passed away, days short of turning 97. Not many left of the generation born in the '20s.
Time marches along. I look in the mirror and the time line lurches abruptly ahead. I see my mother. I don't feel like my mother. But my hands feel like her hands.
I remember talking to her when I was pregnant with my first child. I knew I could love the baby to the moon and back but how would I have all the answers. My mother did. Or at least it seemed like it. She could flip the blankets, twice, and the bed was ready to tuck in the pillows and call it made. She could sew, and knit, and bake, and preserve and garden. She dry walled their house. She built furniture. Refinished stuff. Raised chickens. Made roses of craft paper. Fixed scratches. Recycled stuff. Took things apart. Put things back together.  Sewed clothes.  Her hands knew what to do. Like they had a mind of their own.
I told her I was afraid I wouldn't have all the answers. And she said it was ok. A tiny baby didn't have a lot of hard questions. I would figure it out as I went along.
And she was right and she was wrong. Some things I did learn as they happened. Somethings I had to figure out and research. And somethings I fell flat on my face trying.
Today I was cutting parchment to line baking pans and pulled out the right amount without even thinking. My hands knew. And I remembered my mother again.
What will my children remember about me when I am gone.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Fever

Spring is coming.  I'm sure it is.  The crows are back in town.  I saw a goose flying. The chickadees are singing their spring song.
And the planning of gardens has begun.  I have been stretching the borders of Pintrest to the limit.  Last year I tried hypertufa.  Fail.  It disintegrated.
So this year I bought cement I love working with it.  My heart beats faster when I hear the distinctive sound of a cement truck revving its motor.
So after my son made cement counter tops for their kitchen I decided I would play with the real stuff.
First bag I bought was PostHaste from Home Depot.  A little coarse,  but very real. I made the bumpy jar and the doily pot and the ice cream container with it.  There is a problem with cement bags.  They don't hold a lot.

Next bag was mortar.  I made the cement hands (stuffing cement into plastic gloves is not as easy as Pintrest nonchalantly insinuates it is).  I lost a little finger.  Not mine;  a cement one.  Then I made the basket thing the hands are on.  Lost the basket in the unmolding.  Oh well.
But I didn't like the round edges on the cement hands where the wrists should be.  So I but a few inches of cuff and sleeve off an old cotton sweater, stuffed the middle part, soaked it in cement and dressed up the hands.  The broken finger got cemented underneath  and the whole thing is aging in the garage.  I will post more pictures when I get things planted up.
I do love cement pots.  They are heavy but they don't blow around the yard much on a breezy day.
There are some terrific tutorials out there.  Little video clips that make me hyperventilate in delight. I research and research and pin and screen shot until my device batteries croak.  A word about these projects...everything I tried so far worked but there are some issues; a chip out of the bottom of the smooth round pot.  And the doily just isn't sitting flat.  It's tippy.  I think I will make up a little saucer of cement and set it in for a base.
So one has to think ahead a little bit.  Something I'm not terribly gifted at doing.  But I'll make it work.
Happy as a pig in mud...or Gramma D in the cement.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Almost Drop-Free Pen

For little people old enough to use an ink pen. The ribbon can be looped through the coils of a notebook or a buttonhole to keep it from falling into an inaccessible part between the seats of the vehicle or two aisles over in the auditorium. 
Or for someone doing merchandising where the pen is constantly getting lost. For an adult who doesn't care for polka dot ribbon...use the black cord that hold eyeglasses.

Those Tricky Fitted Sheets

Fitted sheets are the nemesis of the tidy linen closet. They bunch and lump and use way more than the share of space. So one day when Mikkayla,  our friend who worked in hotel laundry,  was over for supper I  asked her to show me how to fold a fitted sheet. And she could do it quickly and beautifully. 
And then my DIL drew up a series of pictures to show how to. 
Lovely.  Thank you Mikki and Sabrina.

As soon as I can I am going to make this picture more clear.  Just waiting on technology to get it from my phone to my computer.

Friday, March 3, 2017

China Memories

I love walking through the dishware at secondhand stores. Memories jump out at me and say "Remember me?  I used to live in ___'s china cabinet and you were just little and you used to look at me through the glass door. " And, yes, I  remember. Old farm houses. Good friends.  Favorite Aunties. 
And then suddenly today my memory time line sped years forward. Memories of someone I love dearly and is no longer in my life. Funny how a set of dishes in Value Village can make one cry.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Real Books

I do love technology.  Photoshop is a close friend.  I carry my ipad with me everywhere I go, and my phone is never far.  I have downloaded books that I have never seen in our library and read them on a black screen with white letters.  But books are my first love.
There is nothing like holding a real book with rustling paper pages, scanning the story line by line, and then turning the page in breath holding anticipation of what happened next. 
Reading is a physical thing as well as mental.  It’s the crispness of the paper, the flow of words that conjure up picture after picture in the mind, and the smooth heavy richness of a leather cover warm on my knees or the rough texture of a linen finish on the covers.
Actually it goes back to standing in front of the book case and scanning the titles.  Tipping one or two partly out, teasing myself with the story I know is there, ready to take me instantly from my easy chair to anyplace in the world, or the universe.  In a book anything is possible.
 Then there is the preparation to read. The cup of tea or coffee.  The treat to snack on.  The fire burning brightly in the fireplace, and a little blanket to cover the knees. 
Then, a sip of beverage, running the hand over the book, and opening the cover. Blank page. Turn. Title page.  Maybe an illustration.  A table of contents.
 And then...chapter one. A skillful author can have you immersed and gone in the first half page.  A story has begun and trees and gardens and people and mountains rise around the chair, until some mundane  responsibility pulls us back to reality.
 Ahh, the acquaintance of the book.       
 An experience the double tap can never give you. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I truly wish I had the answers.  I like to fix things. But some things...many things...Probably most things are beyond the scope of what needle thread and crazy glue can mend.
I wish there was a recipe for happy that would work as well as a cup of strong tea for a headache or a bowl of chicken soup for a cold. Haven't found one yet.
It seems that we probably can't change some of the things that cause depression and unhappiness.  What we have to do is adjust how we react to the situation so we can keep our head out of water.
I've been told about rip tides. Fortunate enough not to have experienced but I've been told that they drag one out into the ocean without mercy and there is no swimming against that current. But if you swim parallel to shore eventually you can get beyond it'd influence and get back to shore.
Unhappiness is going to drag you down and out too. All I can think of to say is don't panic as you see the shoreline receding. Do what you have to do,  whether it is counseling,  prayer,  medication, vitamin d, and/or therapy and swim parallel to shore.  Don't panic.  You can do it.
Conversely something that I have experienced are hot flashes in the night. Likewise without mercy they leave one uncomfortable sometimes to the point of nausea. Occasionally one can quell it by sticking ones feet out from the covers. Sometimes by getting up for a drink of water and waiting it out,  bare feet on a cold tile floor,  staring out the window at a dimly lit backyard and wishing it was gone. And then as suddenly as it came it is gone and the prospect of warm blankets is a welcome thought. And sleep comes again. Things pass.
And that is my advice to someone I love who deals with spells of Unhappiness. I wish I  had the fix it app to make it better. But I give you the suggestion that works for me and my wish is that it might help you too. When you have done what you know you can then ride it out. Swim hard but with purpose. There is no instant fix. I have no idea what medication or therapy will help. Some things you must work out for your personal circumstance. But once you have done this  you must know it will pass. The sun shines on the other side of the clouds and when they part it will shine on you too. Honest.
And my advice is not gospel. Maybe it's ridiculous.  But that's what works for me and I hope it works for you too. Because I truly care.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Bun Box

I found a large size crate at Home Depot to use for serving buns at a potluck.  I found a couple of free clip art wheat to use and played around with text in Photoshop to fit the word to the page. 

I turned the paper over and pencil carboned the back of the design, and then taped the paper to the end of the box.  A ball point pen traced the edges of the design into the soft wood.

I used the dremel tool  to etch out the design..

Stained with tea

Finally...a use for the old tablecloths that I can't bear to part with.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Find it With Google Photos

I used to think that finding pictures on negatives was hard.  All that squinting and shuffling.  And my eyes were good in those days.
I thought that digital would be so easy to keep track of.  Alas.  Not only do we take hundreds more pictures, they are on, let's see...old camera, new camera, the 32GB card, the 3GB card, the 8 GB card, the old computer, a variety of cds, even some floppy discs, memory sticks...oi! Just try track those down.
So with my phone, which is an android, I have discovered something which both fascinates me and creeps me out.  It's called Google Photos, and while I can't quite describe exactly how to make it work, all my phone pictures go there. And then Google asks me who people are and remembers it (the creepy part).  But it also recognizes food, pickup trucks, rain, flowers, birds, cats,  places like Edmonton, Barrhead county, and so on, and dates they were taken. All the way back to 2014, when I started using it. So you can search by those and many more categories. Occasionally it makes a mistake.  It said my grandson, on the couch wrapped in a leopard spot minky blanket was a cat, and occasionally mistakes other things, but sometimes you just have to look carefully, and, sure enough, even though you took a picture of a tree, there is indeed a pickup in there somewhere.  See how well Google did in bringing up these pictures by category. And the joy of this is when you are wanting to scrapbook something that you are sure you got a picture of you can search for it several different ways.  Even by colour.
Now if I can figure out how to put pictures from the 3, 8, and 32 GB camera cards onto it too...
Maybe I should Google it and learn how.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Frosty February

It's minus 25. Feels more like minus 35.
Just moody and miserable.

Meanwhile back at the ranch the geraniums have been getting tall and leggy.

Add caption the time has come to trim them off. Quite short.
My mother did this every winter, much to the horror of my grandmother, who let hers grow tall and leggy. By summer her plants would tower taller than I but only a bloom or two. And mom's would be wild with colour.
Almost 2 new branches for every stem cut.

Hoping the cut off ends will root.  Sometimes they do. I am planning a pink balcony railing geranium display so every one that takes is one less to buy.

Here we are a few days later...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Counting Food

Another funeral...another friend gone.  DH and I were asked to take care of the funeral lunch.  Food is good.  Food gives you something to do while you remember someone who has been a friend of the family for forty years.  And it's something one can do for the family.
My issue is always trying to economically estimate the amount of food needed. Funeral lunch is not science. It is wild guess work.  We figured at least 200.  Shoot for 300.  But I learned something useful.  You know those blue IKEA trays?

Take one cantaloupe
One honeydew melon
Half a small watermelon
One pineapple
I followed the most excellent instructions on this blog and I appreciate the search capabilities of google/images. And people who share how they do stuff.  So I pass it on.


This will feed about 50 or more people. We fed 239 people and only used 3 trays, (and someone brought another plate of fruit) and we did have a big bowl of oranges cut into 1/6s but the family had a beautiful arrangement of fruit to take home.
Now I have to write down how much of everything else was used so I will know how much is needed next time.  Because, unfortunately, there will be a next time, and a next...
Sorry I didn't get a better picture but I was too busy to find my phone until it was saran wrapped over and once the lineup began we were scrambling to keep the food dishes full.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Well the worst thing about funerals, after the obvious, is planning the lunch. How many will be there?  It is very cold. Probably less. There is a big family.  Probably more. It's on a Saturday.  Less people are working and therefore may come.
So how much do you prepare? And how crazy do you go with food?
Today I helped a friend who lost a family member.  Her husband is recovering from a stroke and her knee is bad. We threw numbers back and forth. Cold day. Work day. Small family. But Fern was loved by a lot of people. How many? And it had to look nice because if Fern was doing it it would have been done well and she loved pretty.
So we struck a balance. We bought the squares at Costco. Arranged them on pretty serving dishes. And those who could brought sandwiches.  We were dealing with a building with no kitchen so we nixed the cheese-pickle-cracker-olive variety.
 Coffee.  Tea. Juice. A beautiful pitcher of ice water.  You would not believe how many people went for water. We will have to remember that. Sandwiches.  Squares. And a glass bowl of mandarin oranges.  I think we did well for ourselves.
There was enough food.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cataract Surgury

As I get older (this wasn't supposed to happen, the getting older you know) I find all sorts of things that don't work so well.  And I'm not refering to aging kitchen appliances.
One of the things causing me grief was my eyesight.  Working on the computer it didn't seem to matter if I wore my glasses or not, or cleaned them or not.  Always there were areas of smudges, kind of like grease on the lenses.  I would have to turn my head to see around them.  Very annoying.  Finally I decided it was time to see if my prescription had changed.  Yes, there was a change in my eyes.  The right hand side had developed cataracts.  Hmm.  Some things began to make sense.  Walking across a snowy yard was scary.  I had no depth perception unless I wore sunglasses and then it was a little better.  Even so I would be very conscious of where the ground ended, and it made walking very slow.
Like most people I know I have issues with things touching my eyes, and I was apprehensive about the what-ifs of the situation.
Turns out I had two choices; take my chances with the surgery or go blind. So July 6 I went for a procedure I had serious reservations for.
So.  It is...unpleasant.  The staff was fantastic and they all worked hard to put me at ease.  I sat in a huge recliner chair.  Drops in my eye. Booties on my feet.  A cap to cover my hair. More drops.  A hospital gown over my clothes.  More drops. Then they wheeled me off to wait my turn in yet another room.
Those were awesome recliners.  The nurse tweaked something and they stretched out flat into a hospital bed.  Cool.
I didn't care much for the light cover they put over my face but along with it came a little tube of oxygen to make it more comfortable.
I don't remember a lot about the surgery; bright lights, surprisingly loud noises, and some sort of guard that they slipped around my eyeball so I couldn't blink.  It was actually a comfort as I could  squeeze my eyelid against it and feel like I was doing something to protect myself.
I would describe it as unpleasant but not scary.  For my next eye, when it needs doing, I plan on coming equipped with 2 pain killers, a box of kleenex (the eye just leaks tears, no matter what) and a little plastic bag to put those kleenex into.  I was out of surgery by 9 in the morning, and  I was uncomfortable until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, laying on my daughter's  couch and listening to her and her dad clean out something jammed in the sink drain. But after we ate we went for a drive to tour the university area, rubber neck Roger's Place, and admire the view from the top of Connor's Hill.  And I could see.  Still needed the kleenex handy, but I could see.
I am happy to report that the things went well.  I am almost looking forward to getting the other done.  I have made up a picture to describe the before and after vision I had.  I now need reading glasses but I don't need glasses to drive or work about the house.  What a joy.
Ironically, for the first two months every night when I went to bed I would reach up to take my glasses off.  I wore them for more than 50 years but I sure don't miss them.
So as you can see, not perfect but much much better than before.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It Doesn't Have to Match to be Beautiful

 I have heard of people who believe everything should match perfectly and be part of a (preferably expensive) set.  I don't believe that. Because, not always, but occasionally, too perfect is just another name for snobbery. Or maybe insecurity and a feeling of inadequacy.
Yes, sometimes matching is nice.  And sometimes it may be our preference or style. I marveled at all the matching china when I watched the staff set the table for some state dinner on the TV show The Crown.  It was impressive and stunning.  But I was more impressed with the setting of the shower for my great-niece Brooklyn.  Every pattern of china they could beg or borrow.  A plethora of colours and styles with the theme "pretty" tying it all together. It was breathtaking.
I have square Corelle dishes. They started off as green bamboo.  Then I added a couple of white ones.  Then I found the floral ones. And so on.  Just two or three of different styles.  And it brings me more joy to find a random dish in the pile than having a hundred of the green leaf ones although I still love them too.  And no one complains if the table is set with mismatched dishes.  Not to my face anyways.

The Japenese have a term, wabi-sabi.  It is the opposite of matchy matchy and/or new and perfect. In its secular meaning, it is appreciation for the imperfect, the old, the flawed, the mismatched. These could very well have much more meaning than perfect expensive things bought at some prestigious store.
Our youngest daughter's wedding was a collection of wonderful meaningful things that reminded her of people and things that affected her life.  A spool table that she rescued and refinished herself.  An old typewriter she and I picked up at a garage sale.  An old fashioned looking lamp that might have been coal oil. A cupcake tree that her sister in law uses for every big BBQ they host. Mason jars full of dried rose leaves.  A set of horse head book ends that were my mothers. Hundreds of hardcover books tied with lace and trim my mother saved over the years.  Paper flowers made from books fallen apart from years of loving use. Tea light holders in many variations of clear glass collected up from years of weddings. Her grandmother's wing chair.  Milk glass vases that were Fran's.  A copper rose the neighbour made. The curtains with writing on them that hung in a bedroom she painted herself. A few new things to round things off.  Nothing really matched but the atmosphere it gave was warm and nostalgically welcoming. Yet it would have been flat and flavorless without those who came.
 It's people who made our lives special that day.  The people who came cooked and baked the cake and cupcakes and helped set up and take down. Those who brought little desserts to add to the table.  The person who folded the book pages to say 2016.  People who loaned us things and picked up supplies. The people we had for support when things were...crazy.  The bridal party (bless them) who cleaned the washrooms at 1 am to help us shut down sooner. Even the staff at the Thorhild community hall. The people who cared and helped and were there for us. Match your "stuff" if you want to.  But you don't have to.
it doesn't have to match to be beautiful. In the end it's the quality of the people who count.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The view  out my back door is less than inspiring.
This recipe. ..much more so. The pumpkin scones my son on law baked when he was here are nearly all gone so...

Which brings me to the topic of silicone baking mats. They are pretty good stuff! Two of those cookies fell off on their own as I turned the cooling rack.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Hey hey hey! Look what I  found just in time for too many tomatos season.

The Nest is Empty

Well it's not the first day of autumn yet but the dust is beginning to settle. An extra spare room for when they visit. And now it's just us two old chickens left in the coop. Very quiet. But that's OK.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Looking Forward to the First Day of Autumn

Help! I want my house back.

Boxes of decorations and dry supplies for a wedding are overtaking my house. But when autumn arrives I trust it will be all calm and settled. First time in ages I have looked forward to the end of summer.

Another Walmart Find

Anyone looking for a good bread knife? I picked this up at Walmart in Red Deer to help make lunches while we were there and I  am totally impressed with how well it cuts bread and tomato.  And a sheath to protect it in the drawer. It's a keeper.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Favorite New Gadget

And see how wonderfully sized they are.
Oh, oh, oh! A cookie scooper that really really works. I  love it. All the same size. Easy release.  Found at Walmart. $7.49 @ St Albert. Approximately twice the price in Ft McMurray.  Rachel bought one up there for her kitchen but who knew? I  bought myself one on Monday and didn't get to use it until tonight. I am charmed.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Old Salad Recipes and Sweet Memories

One day I was in a meancleaning mood and my attention turned to one of the many bookcases in my house.  The cookbook one, specifically.  Out with this one.  Out with that.  Then I took down the binder that my mother had put together of recipes culled from newspaper articles, relatives, neighbours, and whatever other source there was.
In those days you couldn't say "OK Google" or "Siri, what is the recipe for..."
But what my mother didn't have filed away in her head or her binder she would know how to research it, or who to ask about it. And now she is gone.
But I have Google.  So I opened the binder to say goodbye to the yellowed  newspaper clippings and collections of booklets from the home economist. And there were recipes handwritten by her.
Carefully copied out in her dainty handwriting.  And I felt her hand and I saw her face with my heart and for the love of all that is clean, tidy, and uncluttered I could not bring myself to throw out my mothers handwriting.  So to make myself feel better I threw out a handful of little recipe booklets and kept all she had carefully copied or cut and pasted (with scissors and glue, not CONTROL + X and CONTROL + V} and I share a couple of recipes that I had to make black and white to make the faded blue ink show.
Enjoy. My mother loved to share.