Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Another Christmas Season

Hopes and dreams of a romantic winter vacation spent beside a warm swimming pool, under the shade of a beach umbrella have faded to black. We just could not get on the same page concerning location, dates to be away, length of vacation and so on. The ability to make clear decisions quickly appears to be yet another victim of old-timer-disease. Result of our indecision is that I am heading to Florida Feb. 12th, and dear hubby is staying home to mind the cats and his business.

My Christmas decorating is just about done. Tree is up, garland is draped over the mantle, Hallmark village and miniature evergreen coverning the sofa table, and Nativity Scene holding the place of honour atop the family room mantle.

Instead of hanging stockings over the fireplace I hung 4 of my homemade quilted ornaments.
They are years old now, but took so long for me to make that I don't have the heart to get rid of them now.









This morning as I was sitting at my computer the Christmas tree began to shake. The red and gold balls swaying gently too and fro. EARTHQUAKE!! or at the least a tremor was the first thought in my mind. Then common sense kicked in and I realized that there was no tinkling of crystal accompanying the swaying decorations. After a moment they settled down leaving me scratching my head, a mystery indeed. A few minutes later they began bouncing again and this time I noticed 2 white paws perched beside the tree, little black knees flexed, then a wee bounce as Staccato reached up and swatted at the glittering ball closest to the tree bottom. She isn't known for being a very "cat-like" kitty, so catching her in the act of playing with something is a rare treat. I'm glad she's getting into the spirit of Christmas, maybe she's hoping for a stocking this year.

I've had some success with 2 recipes I tried this week, Porc en Croute and Carrot Souffle.

The Porc en Croute recipe I used is Emeril Lagasse's, found on the internet, and the Carrot Souffle is from SimplyRecipes.com. My sister had sent me another carrot souffle recipe which is much sweeter so I didn't use that one. It is from the Piccadilly Buffet in Florida, and tastes more like a dessert than a vegetable dish...simply yummy!

The next new thing to try will be to make my own sushi. Asked my Japanese friend if she could give me a lesson and she broke into gales of laughter, and said she doesn't have a clue how, her mother always made it. So, I'll just have to beg my friend Sharon to show me. Evidently she has all the right equipment, which is the key to success in all things according to my husband.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The more things change.....yada yada yada

In September 2010 we headed to the UK for our annual re-introduction to life in the fast lane. The grey skies of Vancouver were gearing up for the fall deluge, a good time to leave town.

The flight was great, Air Canada meals suit us just fine, and we both managed to log some zzz's so were in fairly good shape when we landed at Heathrow. No difficulty locating our train (the Heathrow Connect) and were thrilled to see it was 1/2 the cost of the Heathrow Express and took us to Paddington Stn. with only a few stops along the way. Definitely worth it if you have more time than money.

On arriving at Paddington Stn. the high, higher, and highest expectations for a gorgeous fall vacation were quickly and wetly dashed. The city of London was covered in wet grey clouds which threatened to unleash torrents any moment. With much confidence we fired up our Garmin GPS, coded in the hotel address and headed off down the street, patting ourselves on the back for being such tech-savvy senior citizens.

We were booked in at the Blakemore Hyde Park hotel, a "short 10 minute walk" from Paddington Station. What a gem of a location! 15 minutes later, feet began to complain - are you SURE it is a 10 minute walk? - my DH continued to lead on, I dutifully followed.

20 minutes later we began to wonder if we'd taken a wrong turn? or entered the address incorrectly? Dear hubby rechecked the coordinates and we did seem to be on the right trail, but we were both noticing some familiar cross street names as ones we'd crossed 10 minutes before, and again 15 minutes before that? A further 15 minutes along, feet were now screaming and right hip had joined the chorus " Give me a BREAK, this is NOT a 10 minute walk!".

Confusion now amplified by drops of rain found us sprinting for the overhang of a nearby townhome. 20 yards from shelter the heavens unleashed and within steps we were soaked through to our unmentionables. In addition our suitcases were soaked, water had seeped through the zippers and our packed clothing was soaked. Without a doubt one of the heaviest rainfalls I've ever been in. Welcome to the UK!

Once again the GPS was checked, and re-checked and finally !! D. noticed the Settings button which revealed options for mode of travel: Car, Public Transport, or Walking, and it was set for CAR. The Bayswater section of London is a maze of one-way streets, T-stops, dead-end courts...you get the picture. We were being led up and down, around and around, working our way to our hotel in our fictitious vehicle, when on foot we could have simply walked straight through on the sidewalks that connected the one-way streets.

2 Lessons Learned: a little technology is a dangerous thing, and garbage in / garbage out.


Our hotel was in the older section of Bayswater/Hyde Park area, served breakfast in a basement breakfast room every morning, and was a short walk from 2 tube stations and Hyde Park. Great location for soaking up the feel of Victorian London, while being within walking distance of mass rapid transit, the best of both worlds.





A sharp right turn at the hotel entrance and a 2 block walk south will get you to a lovely little pub and a great mediterranean restaurant that was booked solid all but 1 evening during our 5-night stay. This was a small family run restaurant that appeared to be operated by 3 generations, 2 brothers led the kitchen staff, their children cleared tables, poured water and refilled bread baskets, dad, mom and a sister took orders, and Grandpa greeted you at the door with open arms and decided if they could squeeze you in even if you did not have a reservation.

We dined on braised lamb shanks, rice pilaf and a complimentary drink poured by the grandpa whose main job seemed to be making every customer feel like family.



The following day dawned with some improvement and after a busy day of sight seeing we ventured out to dinner at Ristorante Italiano on Queensway. We dined in style on Calamari, Calzones with red onion and Italian Sausage, a bottle of Giaconde Merlot (a lovely dry Red Wine), and of course 1 dessert to share.





London is a fascinating city to spend time in, loads to see and do and many attractions within walking distance. We spent a day in Hyde Park, checking out Kensington Gardens and watching the waterfowl compete for food in the lake.




We took in an evening concert at Royal Albert Hall, directly across Hyde Park from us as the crow flies.



And of course, what would a holiday in London be without a day at the Tower and a visit to St. Pauls.



Thursday, 2 September 2010

Up Up and Away



The more we travel, the less we want to tote along with us. As we age our desire to be seen dressed in some semblance of today's fashion is fast fading away. A good suitcase pack job now consists of the old standards, 1 weeks worth of T-shirts and undies, 2 pair of slacks (one light weight, 1 blue jeans), several pair of black sport socks, 1 nightgown and a warm sweater. If room allows, toss in a 2nd pair of shoes to alternate with the running shoes on our feet.

When we see couples our age in the airport lugging 2 giant cases each, plus various carryons and backpacks, I wonder just what they could possibly be lugging along? For our 5 week holiday last year, we each had 1 suitcase and backpack (1 camera pack, 1 computer pack), plus we brought along another case full of items that Chris had left at home or asked that we bring as they were hard to find in Scotland (like peanut butter).

My theory on vacation packing is driven by the fact that, our daughter aside, we don't know anyone we will be meeting. We will likely never see them again, so why would we want to take a different wardrobe for each day to ensure we aren't seen twice in the same outfit?

Besides packing up, we're trying to get the house into some sort of order for our housesitter. She is a university student who will be preparing for her fall work term, and will be way too busy to have wild parties or anything of that ilk. We are so fortunate to have her move in, and that she loves cats is an A-1 bonus.

My only other accomplishment this month has been in the kitchen. Chris had posted photos of her Chicken Pot Pies, along with the recipe. It sounded so delish that I made some for us one day and it is a definite winner.

We stopped at Vandula Farms market a week ago and I bought 10 lbs of baby beets. We both enjoy pickled beets and they are the easiest thing in the world to make. Nothing gives me a greater sense of accomplishment than seeing a row of jars sitting on the cupboard.


Our trailer didn't sell as we hoped this past week, so unless God performs a miracle in the next 5 days it looks like we will be camping again next summer. Once the warm season is over the trailer sales business drops to near zero. Should the temperatures sky rocket next year like they did this year, we may be very grateful we didn't get our wish. However, we've left the results to God and will go with whatever happens.

We had friends over for dinner last night and had a super duper time, as usual. Tina from down the road, Sharon, Bill and Mary from New Westminster came around 4:30 and we had a terrific time. Mary and her late husband were fishermen when Sharon and her sister were young, so they had many stories to tell of what life was like for families that worked on the water.

For supper I tried a new recipe, OVEN CHICKEN FRICASSE: The original recipe was found on cooks.com but I made a few alterations that suited our tastes better.

10-12 boneless chicken pieces, I used 4 breast halves, skin removed and cut into 3 pieces each, and 8 drumsticks
I also added 1 medium onion, diced in large dice
6 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 to 2 tbsp. paprika
2 cans condensed mushroom soup
1 c. water
1/2 c. sherry

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan ( a bit larger pan would have worked better as this was pretty full and did sputter over in the oven ). Scatter onions on the bottom of the pan and arrange the chicken pieces on top of them. Using a pastry cutter, mix the butter, flour and spices until crumbly. Spread on top of the chicken. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Whisk together undiluted mushroom soup, water, and sherry. Pour over the chicken. Bake 30 minutes longer, or until tender. Serves 6 with leftovers.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting a lady who recently moved here from Oliver. She was my mom's best friend, and is considered the Aunt that we would have chosen, if my mother had been blessed with having a sister. She is a terrific Scrabble player so I'm looking forward to the visit.

There will not be any blog updates until we get back from vacation, but I look forward to keeping abreast of what's happening at home so make sure you keep YOUR blog current..
Ciao
Marg

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Thoughts for the Day

Finally! Rain! The sound of rain falling off the roof onto the deck was the first sound I heard this morning.  Power washing the deck in preparation for staining has once again ended our dry spell.  It's as much a "sure thing" as forgetting your umbrella at home.  If you listened closely you could hear the ground inhale the moisture.

The past 2 weeks of warm, and not so warm, sunny weather has brought the last of spring's flowers out in their finest. The bridal wreath spirea, Siberian Iris, and hybrid lilac are all in bloom.




The last week has been rather hectic in our house. ESL will be winding up next Thursday so Don had to make a video of all the students reading a short presentation to show off their new-found English skills. They have worked very hard in preparation, and the video will be shown at our potluck lunch on Thursday.  The potluck lunches are something to behold. You don't realize how many cultures are represented in the Bethany ESL groups until they all try to feed you their favorite foods.  Definitely not a diet day! 

These are 4 of the 5 students in my Level 1 class this session.

Linda is from mainland China. She currently assists her husband in his accounting firm, but her first love is cooking.

When she first arrived in BC several years ago she took a cooking course at the Vancouver Culinary Institute, then worked as a cook at the UBC Golf Course for two years .  Prior to emmigrating to Canada Linda and her husband spent a year in South Africa operating a small hotel.


           

Gracielle is from Columbia. She and her husband have landed immigrant status. They came to Canada 6 months ago, following two of their 3 children and several grandchildren.

Gracielle had taken several English classes in Columbia but is finding it quite different to be the only person in the classroom who speaks Spanish.

Michelle is a single parent, mother of 2 adult children. Her daughter is a flight attendant with Air Canada based in Toronto, and her son attends University in Burnaby.  She is from Seoul, South Korea and is a vibrant Christian. Currently Michelle works in a Japanese restaurant and shares her home and her heart with her son and an adorable pooch named Toto.



This is Grace.  She is the youngest of our students at age 23.  She is single, and an elementary school teacher  from Seoul, South Korea.  When she returns to Korea this fall, she plans on teaching English as a Second Language .  While she is shy when speaking in class, she has very good English skills.  She joined our ESL class to work on her pronounciation and to gain more conversation skill. She has attended many ESL classes during her teacher training, but finds the Bethany group provides her with the interaction that was missing in some of them.

Our summer plans are very laid back this year.  We hope to travel a bit in the fall, assuming we find a suitable house sitter, so want to save our pennies for that.  While we visited Glasgow and Edinburgh on our last 2 trips to the UK, we have yet to see anymore of Scotland. This time we will recitify that.  Plan A is that we will arrive in Edinburgh in advance of our daughter's vacation and visit some castles, a whiskey distillery, and some of those lochs we've been reading about all our lives.  Who knows, we might even catch a glimpse of Nessie! 













Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Retreated


Whoever decided to call them "retreats" obviously never attended one. The sole purpose of going to retreat is to "encounter", so I propose we call our next one the 2nd Annual NABC Women's Encounter.  All in favour, email Ruth and see whether she will go along with it.

With expectations high, bags stuffed with nibbles, bible, notebooks, and PJ's, 30 or so women boarded the bus Friday at noon. Rachel had prepared delicious box lunches for us, enabling us to barrel right through to Chilliwack for our next pick up. Now just to set the record straight, the Bethany group were my bet for " most boisterous " group, but those gals from Chilliwack were not letting any grass grow under their feet either.

After a 2nd short stop in Hope to collect the last few ladies, we headed up the Coquihalla Hwy. Just outside of Hope the landscape began to change quite dramatically.

By the time we neared the summit we were in the middle of a real snowstorm.  The mountain sides were white and drifted snow formed curls over the edge of the rock  formations that edged the highway.  What a change from the trees at home. We arrived at Green Bay Bible Camp about 15 minutes ahead of schedule so had time to wander around and check it out before registration and room assignments.

I hardly recognized the place! When we left Westbank in July of 1985 there were vineyards, orchards, and campgrounds surrounding the GBBC. Now, mega dwellings, complete with circular towers on the corners border up against the cedar hedge on the North side of the camp.  The South side is not much better, condominium apartment buildings have erupted and all but obliterate any view until you walk right down to the beach and pier.

With registration pack in hand, Tina and I set out to find our room, luckily for us it was the 1st room in the Lodge building, perfect for someone who is as navigationally challenged as I am.  A surprise was waiting in our room - no bedding, no towels, no pillow - guess who totally forgot to bring her bedding?

A short walk down the hall with palms outstretched, calling out "Spare Bedding, spare bedding ,  anyone have some spare bedding?", netted me a king sized sheet from Michelle from Trinity in Kelowna,  shown in the pic on the right, and a pillow from Ruth, plus a blanket and towel from the Long Tall Man from Texas who I'm sure has a name but it escapes me at the moment. He's also known as the Camp Director.

Friday evening session we got to meet Donna Carter, the guest speaker.  She is truly a gift from God. Her messages were spot-on in meeting the needs of the ladies present. She stretched our thinking and encouraged us as individuals and as churches.  After circle prayers we retired for the evening. For me that meant laying quietly in my bed while Tina slept.  Just like my Brownie Camp days, I cannot sleep the first night at retreat and judging by the sounds from upstairs and down the hall, I am not the only one.

Saturday afternoon Heidi S. had arranged for several of us to go to the Village at Smith Creek extended care home. The home is built on the land that our home backed onto when we lived in Westbank. We moved to Westbank in December 1975, when it was a rural area of vineyards and orchards, and looked like this. Beautiful !!
The dimming of the day
The extended care home is one of the Baptist Care Homes, and occupies the area once filled with white wine grapes, seen in the photo, stretching the full width of the picture, from behind the 2 houses in the foreground, all the way back to the 4 white homes in the center of the photo. Our house was the 4th one furthest right.

As volunteers we were to assist the residents of the Village at Smith Creek with their afternoon social activities.  What FUN!  I met a gentleman who not only shared his ice cream sunday with me, he regaled us with tales of his youth. He played multiple instruments, violin, guitar and piano and also played in an orchestra.  Now stricken with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, he was still gracious, welcoming and a real joy to be around.  I can only pray that I age as gracefully.

Did I come home rested - NO, did I come home uplifted - YES, will I go again next year ?  Definitely!



Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Snip Snip Snip

That is the sound of apron strings being cut. Honestly, I thought they were all cut by now, however, my daughter's latest adventure brought more to the surface. 


As you see in the photo above, she was born a normal healthy Canadian, who got itchy feet and in 2006 decided to pack her bags and move across the ocean to reside in Scotland.

This past winter a close friend of her's decided that a milestone birthday required a milestone trip, so their group of 4 friends decided to do the Trans Siberian Rail journey from Vladivostok to Moscow.  they were to be gone from April 9 to 25th and would keep in contact via the internet as they moved from city to city.

My last contact with her, mere hours before leaving her flat in Edinburgh, was to say she had a 4.5 hour layover in Moscow where she would meet up with her travel companions. She was sure she would have lots of time to seek out a wi-fi spot and drop us a line.

Moscow is a relatively short flight from Edinburgh, via Amsterdam, so I expectantly fired up the computer the next evening ready to read all about the trip. Upon opening my email I saw everything BUT  her name. Now the apron strings started to twine around me; had she missed her flight? did the customs folks in Russia take issue with her documents? had the plane never made it...shudder? Motherhood is wonderful but stressful at times.

After fervent prayer I shook off the "what if's" and began packing my bag to head for a ladies retreat in the Okanagan.  You will never guess what we talked about - are you ready for this? Drumroll Please ! " Giving up Control " What Divine Hand sent me to the place where I would find peace from God's word and the fellowship of ladies who understood. It was a "God thing",  to be sure, not just mere coincidence!

Sunday morning at Green Bay Bible Camp I signed onto the camp computer to find that she was safe and sound in Vladivostok, but her luggage was not. Evidently in the great frozen wastelands of Russia there are not a lot of wi-fi signals drifting around but there is a lonely suitcase with all her clothing in it.

Is it ok to pray for a suitcase? I think so, feel free to join me if you do too.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

On the VERGE

This will go down in history as a year of firsts. My first cruise across the Pacific Ocean, my first visit to Hawaii, my first day as a real senior citizen coming up in September, my first ride on the Eurostar train, my first visit to Belgium to celebrate my 65th birthday, AND the first time Vancouver had hosted the Winter Olymics.

The thought of turning 65 is a bit nerve wracking to say the least. Questions arise "Am I turning into my mother?", "Will you still need me, will you still feed me etc.?", and the biggie, "Should I totally eliminate the grey hair or continue to streak around them?"

My DH and I celebrated our 45th year of wedded bliss in Dec. 2009, but we were unable to get away that month so planned a February cruise from LA to Hawaii to celebrate. Vancouver was going to be filled with millions of Olympics crazed tourists and this seemed to be the perfect time to slink away to warmer climates. On Feb. 14th we flew to LA and boarded the Golden Princess.

Friends from Ontario, Lois and Karen B., agreed to house sit for us and care for our 2 cats as they wanted to experience the 2010 Olympics first hand. They arrived Feb. 10th with all the enthusiasm Vancouver was hoping for, and then some. Karen, shy & quiet by nature, really came out of her shell. If you know Karen you realize this is being said tongue-in-cheek.



The 4 day Pacific crossing from Los Angeles to Hilo, Hawaii on the Golden Princess was a great way to start our vacation. The meals were wonderful, maid service excellent, the pace relaxing and the sunsets in the evening were breathtaking. The most difficult decision we faced during the 4 days at sea was whether to have one or two desserts after dinner.


Hawaii was a surprise, in both a good way and a not-so-good way. The temperature was wonderful, the ocean was turquoise, the whales spectacular, the beaches golden, all this was good. However, I missed visiting the Polynesian Cultural Centre as it was closed, and missed attending a Luau as there was none on the shore excursion list. We also opted to not go to the USS Arizona memorial this trip. This leaves us with a desire for another trip to Honolulu for 1 or 2 weeks. Since neither of us are beach bunnies, staying at a beach resort is not as attractive as being in town, but we would like to be close to a beach for walking in the morning or evening.

We are now back into the normal chaos of our daily routines. ESL classes started the week after we got home, Don's audio business is busier than it ever has been, and our church activities are gearing up for the celebration of Easter.

I've finally accepted the fact that I do not have the time to continue being a facebook farm junkie, and have a real life too. Therefore I closed my 2 farms on Farm Town, my Farmville farm, my Cafe World restaurant and my Zoo. How Facebook will ever manage without me, I don't know. Surprisingly enough, since I shuttered the doors of my games 2 of my friends have done the same. Maybe we should start a 12 step program for Facebook Gamers??

I'm looking forward to this summer as we are expecting visitors, my sister and brother-in-law from Belle River, ON, and my cousin and his wife from North Battleford, SK. Living on the west coast is wonderful, but would be even better if our family lived closer to us. Who knows, some day, maybe, they MIGHT move west too.