Monday, December 23, 2013

Weather Aftermath Monday

I have deliberately refrained from commenting on Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto. The police, the media, comedians, and others have done enough to make him world news. Besides, there's nothing I can add and I've been busy doing other things. Last night and today, I heard Mayor Ford speak at a news conference about the conditions in the city. I must say, I was impressed. He was articulate and organized. He was well dressed, composed and controlled. He spoke clearly and diverted questions about hydro, transit and the like to the appropriate knowledgeable people when necessary.

My friends and family have had lengthy power outages. This weather has been severe enough that some have had to leave their homes to stay warm. Others, with fireplaces are braving the cold. It certainly makes me rethink my complaints about our brief monthly power disruptions and our three hour outage on Saturday night. It's miminal in comparison to what many have endured.  My son sent me photos of massive trees on roads in Toronto. In Cobourg, we have icy, sparkling, trees lining the streets. On t.v. they have been showing limbs cracking and falling onto cars and houses in the city. We've had ice encased cars and doors. It's all relative.

The temperature is not rising anytime soon. Not much has changed. Hopefully, the people who are currently forced from their homes will be back in time for Christmas. That's my wish. Here are more photos. I actually ventured past the front door today, not far past, but past.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

World of Weird Weather

I am currently sitting around in my pajamas. Church is cancelled. Our front door is frozen shut. The tree limbs are dropping. There are power outages and lots of unhappy dogs. We are blanketed in ice.

My daughter came home Friday night and was unimpressed that I booked a hotel room at the airport. I refused to drive home. It turned out to be a good choice. We made it back here safely yesterday between storms.

Our power was out during the night and therefore we had a shaking dog and no cpaps. We are fortunate that hydro and heat are now restored. We had naps.

We are watching the news and seeing joggers in shorts running through Central Park in New York. Egypt had its first snow in over one hundred years. Tornadoes, snow, and ice are threatening throughout the U.S. and Canada. Streetcars in Toronto are cancelled because of iced wires. Bizarre.

As much as I'd like to venture out to take photos after our door thaws, I won't. I heard from a nurse friend that emergency was packed with people with broken bones. I don't need that. So, here are my pictures out the windows. Lovely, but treacherous.
Front door from inside

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Let's Slow 'Er Down...But Just a Tad

I admit I like to be busy elsewhere. I'm not one to hang around the house excessively. These past few months or more have been a bit too much even for my sensibilities. My friend mentioned my lack of blog production. "You've had no time to reflect." she stated. I realized she was correct.

Last year, I was writing one a blog a day in November. This year, I didn't complete any. On the other hand, perhaps that's a good thing. Maybe that means I've been living life more and not just sitting around writing random ramblings.

I am now home for the first time in over a month. As I look around, I see no evidence of the upcoming season. In fact, I was certain I'd cleaned up Thanksgiving d├ęcor prior to leaving and yet, I have found some out of place scarecrows and fall leaves and flowers. I have a few days to wrap my head around the idea of Christmas, wrap my paper around some pre-bought gifts and wrap the house in the splendour that is the season. This week, more visiting relatives.

The past months have included concerts, hanging with friends, Halloween, visits from relatives, visits to relatives, a cruise and more. As soon as I get my now past due December newspaper column completed and submitted, I'll try to catch my blog up on all my recent escapades. I believe the easiest way to do it will be photo diary recap. Upcoming tripadvisor reviews will also be numerous because after all, I go noplace without my notebook.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Art in the Park

When I was eleven, my parents moved to a subdivision in Pickering called Bay Ridges. It was touted as one of the first real Ontario subdivisions. For five hundred dollars down, you could own your own house which cost anywhere from eleven to fifteen thousand dollars. The houses were small, but adequate and appreciated. There were none of the current extreme expectations for new houses. For example, the driveways were unpaved, there was no garage and no grass. When they were able to afford it, my parents seeded, sodded, watered and fertilized. Sadly, no pavement grew so they relented and a few years later got the driveway paved.

Eventually, there was a small local newspaper founded by a man named Alex Robertson. He contributed a great deal to the community by beginning the Bay News. Local highlights were always of interest to this new community. I went through school with his son, who was around my age.

Our cozy little suburb soon became home to the Pickering Nuclear Power plant. As the plant expanded, so did the community. There was a population explosion and the influx created a boom. A huge shopping plaza (Sheridan Mall, now Pickering Town Centre), transportation in the form of a GO train and overcrowded schools became the norm. The newspaper if I recall correctly, turned into the Bay News Advertiser. I lost track and possibly interest after that since I left the area to attend university.

I always admired a lovely wooden, carved sculpture at my dad and stepmom's house. It was created by Canadian artist, Dorsey James.

When I heard that the community Bay Ridges had old hydro poles carved by this same sculptor, I became intrigued. After a bit of research, I learned that they were in fact located at hydro hill, part of Alex Robertson Park and had been there since 2001. ttp://  I had to go and see this for myself.

As I approached the park, all I saw was old telephone poles. I got closer and wondered if that was all there was.

As I ventured on, the full scope of this fantastic exhibit came into view. One after another, like monoliths, the carvings rose from the ground. Spectacular!

They seemed endless as the path wove around and around. I was in awe. Each sculpture was meant to symbolize a different culture, belief and time period.

I learned that the cluster of hydro poles at the top of the hill were there to symbolize the growth, evolution and prosperity of the community. I am proud to have been a part of that history.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yep...I'm Still here

 I was taking a break. Too busy to write anything but my column. Lots of company and lots of travelling around. It was lovely. This was me.

Taking a moment to commune with nature.

I'm back temporarily now and have lots to write about. It's just a matter of getting it done. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dog Blog Two

On November 8, 2012 I shared the steps to washing a dog in  "Dog Blog".

In that particular case, I washed a dachshund. I had no idea that all smallish dogs are not created equal. There are some dogs, specifically chihuahuas, who think they are in fact gazelles. This makes them particularly difficult to capture and to bathe. Here are my suggestions based on experience.
 Step #1

Acquire an unsuspecting chihuahua or a reasonable facsimile. Documentation as to potential breed and bloodline will not be checked. Sometimes, it's difficult to determine whether said dog is actually dirty. A chihuahua has grime associated habits all its own...sneaking licks of creamsicles, burrowing in gardens, and then of course, there are the usual eye crusties. Chihuahua markings might be deceptive. Until dog is washed, assume that the dark or sticky spots are dirt.

Step #2

Since this is a species of dog that people tend to dress in outfits, remove all clothing, life jackets, raincoats, harnesses, anti bark collars or whatever else the chihuahua might be wearing on that particular day.

Steps #3, 4 and 5

Prepare bath products as in original dog blog. Bring chihuahua into bathroom. Start the shower. Exhaust dog by holding her above the flowing water, allowing her to make rapid swimming motions with all four long doggy legs. This is an important step. Should you skip this step and accidentally place chihuahua directly into tub, she will leap up and out with her kangaroo-like skill. She will then shake and jump wildly about while spraying you, the walls, the mirrors, your toiletries and all your dry towels.
Wet and soap dog. Rub fur rigorously and note the unusual bristly, resistant texture of the chihuahua's coat. Dog remains almost the same size, unlike previously bathed incredible shrinking dachshund. Still, she will attempt to escape so a firm but gentle grip will help keep her securely in place.

Dog will attempt to garner sympathy, as all dogs do, by looking pathetic, soggy and doe-eyed. Be firm and be sure to remember the eye crusties. Rinse dog, making certain she is soap and grime free. This is easy because of aforementioned hair texture. Like water off a duck''s back.

Step #6

Remove dog from tub captivity and wrap in a towel, rubbing gently to absorb moisture. A second towel will rarely be necessary. Chihuahua will be so terrified at the experience that she will shake with fear while hiding her tail. Be aware. Tail retains a lot of water and if it isn't properly dried, dog might exact her revenge at a later time.

Step #7

It is uneccesary to reward chihuahua with a treat as this particular breed believes in helping itself. (see previous creamsicle photo or ask dachshund)

Step #8

Place chihuahua on floor. It will immediately seek out other dog to discuss this undesirable experience. Both will sniff the air, look around curiously, and wonder why they smell alike. 

Then chihuahua will dry itself further by putting its mark on any accessible piece of fabric...rug, carpet, sofa, socks. Unlike dachshund, chihuahua prefers cloth to walls.

Step #9

Dog, being young and inexperienced might try to squeeze into a small space like under a coffee table to hide. She will then scratch carpet in a digging motion attempting to create more head and leg room for herself. Dachshund will show up to give chihuahua a tip. "Dude...I can see you. Under the bed is a much better hiding place. Roomy, soft and already furry."
Step #10

Dog creeps out from hiding place and makes a sad face until you grab a protective towel and pick her up. Turns out the second towel is needed after all.

Your little buddy will soon ready to be dressed up in her finest outfit yet again.
That little dog sure has a lot to learn. Fortunately, I can share my 12 years of experience.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Macarons Are Not Macaroons - Part 3, Not the Final Chapter

Macarons at Le Dolci...$2 a piece
Our macaron making day finally came. My friend Denise and I excitedly went to the class location on Dundas St. W. We arrived early, parked and enjoyed a chat over a latte. Shortly before eleven, we ventured to Le Dolci where other eager participants, all women, were donning their pink aprons and  talking with the instructor, patisserie chef Eyal Liebman.
When Chef Liebman asked who had attempted macarons before, most of the hands went up. We laughed when he said, (with French accent) "Ah, that is why you are all here."

We listened, we watched, we asked questions, we learned. Chef Liebman explained and demonstrated. Some people took notes, some observed, some participated, and some daydreamed while visions of macarons danced in their heads.

Measurements and instructions were posted on the wall. We were using an Italian macaron recipe and it was slightly different than what we'd tried at home. This method involved boiling sugar and water, using a thermometer to get to the correct temperature and then gingerly pouring the syrup into the egg white mixture.
Almonds and powdered sugar were then added and the mixture stirred rigorously until the dough, when left for about seven seconds flattened smoothly back in the bowl. It is important not to overmix or undermix at this point. We then received instruction on how to pipe the dough onto templates on the baking sheet.
Denise and I learned that when we worked at home, our almonds were not sufficiently ground and that they should have had a more floury consistency. We had also not beaten our egg whites enough. This is how they should look when ready.
We then divided into groups to make our own macarons.. The three resulting batches looked like this.
Batch #1 (Chocolate) Created by Chef

 Not quite right but then some were piped by students. Nonetheless, they were filled with ganache and sandwiched.
Batch #2 (Pistachio) Created by Group 1 
These cookies were a bit of a disaster. The pistachio butter from a bakery supplier was blamed and the chef informed us that he personally uses pistachio paste from Spain. Neither option (supplier or Spain) were amateur cookie maker friendly suggestions. The cookies cracked while baking and were not filled and sandwiched.
Batch #3 - (Plain) Created by Group 2
These turned out quite well. Except for some piping issues which created a few deformed cookies, they all rose nicely. They were filled with lemon curd and sandwiched. Denise and I were involved in making these. Clearly, our previous at home practice helped with our effort.
We were unable to determine whether the chef was impressed with our efforts or whether he was just relieved that it was all over. You be the judge.
After the course, Denise and I talked over lunch and planned another macaron home baking session. We are feeling much more confident that our future efforts will not resemble feet, acorns or tongues. I've even found a great new recipe from Canadian Living magazine and I'm looking forward to one last kick at the can.