Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's Cooking?

As a guy blogger, I don't much get into exchanging awards and gifts, but when Donna offered a Slow Cooker cookbook I thought I'd throw my name into the hat. We purchased (actually used points) a slow cooker recently, but we haven't used it much, so I got off my high horse and asked to be included in the contest. A few days later, Donna let me know that she had chosen lil ole moi and that the book would shortly be on its way. Well, it arrived and looks quite usable. So, thanks Donna.

Now, I will now formally go back to being aloof and withdrawn ... when it comes to awards and exchanges. :)

Meanwhile, since we're all here, I will stay on long enough to say that we went on another bike ride yesterday. Aside from the normal rises and falls, it had one fairly significant hill that we barely survived, but survive we did. Barely. Talk about puffing and panting. That's good for me though, right?

This is also the final day to file taxes, and I must do that and then figure out how to pay them. Fortunately, the simplified two-line form does help with the filing ... if not with the paying.

Line 1: How much did you make last year?
Line 2: Send it in.

Monday, April 27, 2009

At Least there are Endorphins

I am taking another break from my blogging break to check in and tell you that Cuppa and I went cycling this morning. I know that it's not exactly earth-shattering news, but it's about all I have to offer these days.

Several years back, we did a lot of summer cycling, almost pedalling 2000 km one year. But that was in Lambton County where the terrain is flat and times were different. Here we've had injuries and babysitting and ... hills: the combination of which kept us off the bikes completely last year. But we've already been out a few times this year, just sauntering around town ... if it's possible to saunter on a bicycle, that is.

However, this morning we went on a real pedal. It wasn't all that far, only 17 km, but it was enough. Our typical ride back in Lambton was 30 km, but the local terrain seems to make every kilometre worth two or three of the flat Lambton countryside, so we don't really count mileage or kilometerage seriously any more. (It's true, I've hear it called kilometerage but only by officials at the board of education — I mean to say that I was a teacher but really — kilometerage?)

We stopped and greeted these horses on our journey. The three above were on one side of the road and the donkey (below) was on the other. He brayed when we left, maybe because we hadn't paid him enough attention.

Anyway, we came home rather worked out. Several years later and more than several pounds heavier, we're not as fit as we were. But I feel good. I have puffed and panted, and my puny muscles have been well worked, but the endorphins that result from physical effort seem to be flowing freely.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rock On, Dude ...

... or ... On Rock, Jude

This is what we saw when we arrived to babysit for a little while this afternoon: big holes, big rocks.

All the kids want to do is fence in the place so that Nikki Dee and Zachary (when he's ready) can play outside safely. But the bedrock is close to the surface here — to say the least. The fence guys started with a big auger yesterday but had to augment that with a drill. Then they went back for a bigger drill, but it still wasn't enough.

So the backhoe arrived today, and was busy digging out huge holes for little fence posts ... because that's the only way they could dig out and move the rocks that you see in the next two photos.

Is that crazy or what?! It took two guys to pivot the rock in the next picture into the bucket because the backhoe wasn't able to get a proper purchase. Big sucker, eh?

Fortunately, the kids back onto a wooded area, so it was easy to dispose of the rocks, and that's what's going on in the next two photos.

In Sarnia, we had about a million feet of clay before you got the bedrock (enough to build a railway tunnel through the clay under the St Clair River anyway) but here in Eastern Ontario it's right below the surface in many places.

I have been enjoying a partial break from blogging and commenting so far this week, but I had to take a break from my break to show and tell you this little story.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Foto Friday

Nikki Dee enjoyed her third trip to McDonalds last week. We shared a small fry — as opposed to chips. The kids really liked them, and so did the Buppa.

Oh yeah. Gimme sum a dat.

Yup, just as good as I remembered.

I love to lick the bag. Yum.

Meanwhile, Cuppa took some belated Easter pictures of little brother.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Surest Sign of Spring

The Chip Trucks in town opened today, or at least one of them did. The specific one that I am speaking of stations itself in the parking lot of a car wash, but it still does a fair business. When we went by at noon, there were several good souls waiting patiently for their first chips of spring to fry. I think we have four trucks operating in our fairly small town plus a place that specializes in takeout chips. It's a Canadian thing, eh?

Do you have chip trucks in the lower half of the continent? If so, what do you call them? I ask because I think it might confuse you to call them chip trucks since chips are something different down there. Well, we have those kind of chips too, and like you in fact, we call the kind of chips that come from trucks, fries. But we retain enough Britishisms up here that we can make out from the context whether we're talking the cold kind that come in bags or the hot fries that come out of the grease vat.

Although we generally call the hot version, fries, the trucks remain Chip Trucks, not Fry Trucks, and we have fish and chips, not fish and fries. How we distinguish without going crazy is beyond me, but we do. It would have been easier to follow the British way and refer to fries (the hot greasy kind) as chips and to chips (the bag kind) as crisps, but we reamin a six of one and half dozen of another type of nation. We're caught between two versions of English up here in The Great White North, but somehow we seem to make some sense of it all. If Canadians can make sense out of anything that is.

Forget about crocuses and daffodils. Whatever the name, chips or fries, the opening of dem dere trucks is about the surest and sweetest sign of spring.

Back in Sarnia it was de rigeur to visit the three chip trucks that parked under (so to speak) the [Bluewater] bridge at least several times a season. We would sit there, by the water, on a halcyon summer day enjoying the gentle lake breezes, watching the lakers (ships) navigate by, and munching the most scrumpdilicious chips in the world. Oddly enough, although I found both of these pictures via Google, the one below is from one of those very famous Sarnia chip trucks: Albert's.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Portraits? Hah!

I kinda groaned inwardly when Cuppa informed me of her intention to take Easter portraits of The Girl, for I still have vivid memories of our Christmas attempts. To get to the point, she either can't or won't sit still for more than two shakes of a lamb's tail ... if that. But try we did, and by hook or by crook, we finally came up with a few keepers.

The first two are early-session shots (below), and I thought, "We'll this isn't going too badly." However, even by the second she was becoming fidgetty — to put it mildly.

So, Amma shifted her to a different spot and brought out the props. And we got another pretty good photo (below).

Back to the first chair. Another prop. Another photo.

Yet another prop, but she's already beginning her escape.

Put a cute, Eastery hat on? No thanks, Amma.

We pretty well gave up at that point as she clambered up on the bed (below) and rolled around being impish and silly. You can see the impishness, can't you?

She put us through our paces on the weekend. On our third and final night, Cuppa and I stumbled into bed like two prizefighters who had gone toe to toe, slugging it out for about ... oh ... about fifty-six rounds. We gazed at each other in stupefied bewilderment ... and began to giggle ...

What can you do but laugh and roll with the punches?

She's a handful, but I love her dearly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It Tastes Like Easter

We weren't going to do it this year, Cuppa and I. No, we had decided not to indulge in chocolate, more specifically the annual gorging upon the Laura Secord Easter Egg that looks something like a real egg inside: white under the chocolate and yellow in the middle. Cadbury has an egg something like that and maybe others do too, but the Cadbury version is runny and not nearly as good.

I was quite content to do without, but our kids left us an Easter treat for minding their kid for the weekend, and ... after a very hectic morning with the bonnie wee one, we were both in such emotional shambles that we couldn't resist. In fact, our good intentions went straight to unowhere as we dove right into the box with the reckless abandon of starving jackals on a carcass.

This is our traditional Easter treat, I don't know when the tradition began. For me, I think it began many decades ago when I was a boy. Beyond that I can't say. Did my mother start it when I was really little? Did she begin it even before I came along? Or did it just become a tradition sometime in my late childhood years or teenage years? Whenever it began, Cuppa and I have kept it going for our almost forty years together although I'm sure we've missed a year or two here and there — as we would have this year if the kids had not strewn temptation in our path: temptation we were able to resist for that we were unable to resist for even a nanosecond ... whatever in tarnation that is.

Here's my picture of the box and a sample egg. Traditionally, these eggs come in various sizes, but this box contained about a dozen small eggs. I had to take my own picture because I cannot find any mention of this delicacy on the Laura Secord website. Which I find totally bizarre. But this is Canada, eh?

For the non-Canadians out there, here is the précis version of the Laura Secord story. She's a genuine Canadian hero although she saw it as being loyal to the British crown, and as we seem to find heroes hard to come by in this country we built a monument to her that stands at Queenston Heights (near Niagara Falls) where a decisive battle took place. A much more important tribute, however, was the naming of a chocolate company after her. (Yes, we Canadians are a strange lot. It's because of the long winters doncha know?)

In the war of 1812 between the Brits (and therefore proto-Canadians) against the vile Yanks, down near Niagara Falls there was a war front. Some sinsiter American soldiers invaded the Secord home and demanded feeding. Laura eavesdropped of their conversations and heard them plan a surprise attack against the good guys. She then went on a marathon, eighteen hour walk to warn our side of what she had overheard. Her information led to a significant victory, and in the end we won the war although I understand that those nasty Americans tell a different version. Apparently though, in an if you can't beat em join em scenario, the Laura Secord chocolate company is now partly owned by those evil dwellers to the south of The True North Strong and Free. (The narrative is told in more detail on the Laura Secord website.)

Anyway, the point is that, as we sat outside facing south with our backs as close to the wall as possible on this not totally weather-wonderful Easter, I said to Cuppa, "It tastes like Easter." It must have been so because she didn't disagree. I know it's a doggone minute point for such a long telling, but I am what I am, and it is what it is.

Note: I trust that all my good American friends who drop by recognize my references to them as my usual feeble attempt at humour and not my real viewpoint of "Ye Salts of the Earth."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Crocuses

I guess it was just about a decade ago that I decided to plant a garden. I had gone five decades without getting around to it, but I suddenly felt the call. For whatever reason, I was only interested in perennials, including spring bulbs that came up every year. Crocuses were the first flowers to come up, and I was smitten. Every year since then, if possible, I try to take some crocus pictures. Even though I don't have a garden at present (I just haven't gotten around to it in this new place), I enjoy Thesha's crocuses every spring. This year, I decided to concentrate on macro shots, which are not that easy, but I'm happy enough with a few of them.

Happy Easter from me and the crocuses.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Foto Friday

Blogger is being most uncooperative with regards to uploading photos, so I'm using the more cumbersome method of importing them from Flickr. The first is of the little guy who is obviously waving to his Buppa — clever fellow. Literally, he has gone bye bye for the weekend. Mom and Dad have taken him on a long journey to Sarnia to visit friends, one of whom is a new mother. we all feel that he'll cope with the trip very well, but that Nikki Dee wouldn't. So guess what?

Hi Buppa

She's staying home with us; that's what. It will be interesting to say the least. maybe we'll do some more work on her alphabet, which she knows surprisingly well by the way.

Learning Her Alphabet

She has trouble getting the shapes to fit, but she can call many of the letters out and will immediately take them to the right spot on the board. Oh, to be young ... and smart!

And to get really excited by finding the W in your hand.

Learning Her Alphabet

But wait, there's more!

I have some photos that I took two weekends ago on the Maple Run Studio Tour. It was a gorgeous day, better than today for sure, and I topped it off with a double dip, waffle (dipped in Belgian chocolate if you please), Rolo ice cream cone. I am now on a diet. Anyway, these photos are taken at Chris Van Zanten's place. He's a glass blower up Pakenham way. There are more photos on my computer, but this is as far as I've got. I quite like some of them, but most are better when viewed large back on Flickr.

Just a Shed

Ye Olde Shed

His Other Shed

Old and New

A Fragment of Art

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Not Exactly a Brain Surgeon

I refuse to stand for this any longer! My own stupidity, I mean.

I'm a guy who doesn't do details very well. On the whole I am okay with who I am. But there's one area where I have lost patience with my lovable, old self. It has to do with groceries and lists.

As I have written previously (but am too lazy to look up the references which is okay because no one would bother to check them anyway, and I really don't blame you for being such a sensible steward of your time), I have a problem with groceries and lists. Almost invariably, I fail in either the making of that list or the shopping of same. It's not that it happens on occasion; it's that it happens frequently: so frequently that I'd pull out my hair if I still possessed a strand or two.

This time around, I managed to get all of the ingredients on the list for my Hamburger Noodle Casserole: pasta, beef, stewed tomatoes, cream of tomato soup, cream of celery, onions, and green peeper. Yup! They all got on my list. But they didn't all get home: namely, the green pepper. It was on the list; I just plain missed it.

I could forgive myself the occasional goofup, but we are talkin goofups plural. It happens over and over again. More frequently, it's that I don't get all of the ingredients listed in the first place, but it can be that I simply miss picking up an item that's on the list. Either way, it drives me crazy. I drive me crazy.

So, I made up some new rules. (i) Cuppa will double check the lists that I make, especially when I have copied the ingredients from a recipe. (ii) I will rewrite any haphazard list in an orderly fashion to make it more difficult to overlook something when I am shopping. (iii) I will take a writing utensil to the store and carefully cross out items as I place them in my cart. (iv) If I forget to bring a writing utensil, I will borrow a stubby pencil from the bakery department. (v) I will steal the dangblasted pencil if I have to.

Having decided on this protocol, I went shopping. This time, because we love our tender moments of togetherness, Cuppa came with me (isn't it touching?) and did the bulk of the shopping whilst I stared into space and did what I do best — gathered much mental wool. Towards the end of the expedition, however, she made a fatal error in judgment ... and left me to pickup the coffee cream, butter, and juice from the dairy-end of the store. I managed fine with the juice and butter, and the fact that the store was out of coffee cream wasn't my fault.

What was my fault, however ... was the buttermilk that I so sincerely added to the cart. Cuppa had written butter on the list, which you may recall I was able to obtain, but somehow my brain added another version of butter to the list — buttermilk. So you see, even when I don't forget to add items to the list and/or I manage to retrieve every ingredient on said list, I am likely to make up a new version in my head and add items willy nilly.

The thing is that although I will never be asked to perform brain surgery, I'm actually not all that dumb. But I sure feel dumb when I keep doing this ... over and over ... and ...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Conversing with Buppa

Cuppa has already posted this clip of Nikki Dee and me on the weekend, but I like it and can't resist. It takes fifty seconds.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Speaking of Spectacles ...

... as I was the other day, Somebody got a little silly the other night when we were visiting the kids. The hat and ball came from a collection of hand-me-down goodies that were brought over by a friend that day. She grabbed the sunglasses that were already in the house. And so the fun began.

She was getting a lot of reinforcement through family laughter, so she made the rounds visiting this person and that person.

At the same time and not visible in the previous photos, she was also wearing rubber boots from the new grab bag of goodies that I mentioned.

Of course, some one of the rest of us had to get in on the clown act. I mean to say, she deliberately ta ta-ed these items to me. I don't know why she picked Buppa, but what could I do but comply?

A good time was had by all, but some might have had more fun than others.

A Convergence of Two's

Be careful for the planet is in a powerful phase, and it's all our fault because we have caused what is known cosmically as A Convergence of Two's. Okay, so I'm making up the cosmic part but not the two part. You see, Cuppa has recently turned sixty-two, and even more recently Zach attained the ripe old age of two months. Meanwhile, the fabulous Nikki Dee will become two years old within two weeks. All this within the passing of one calendar month. So, be afraid; be very afraid.

I haven't been posting many photos of Zachary lately, partly because he's always about the same. Most often, he's sleeping, and when he's awake he's generally looking about placidly. It's even easy to forget he's around. To wit: we were over for dinner, so he was placed out of sight and out of harm's reach (aka Nikki Dee's reach) while we were eating. He was awake the whole time but so quiet I forgot all about him. To this day, that has never ever happened with his big sister. For some strange and inexplicable reason, one is always aware that Nikki Dee is in the room.

Nevertheless. we do mange to get snap some shots from time to time, and here are a few taken on or near his second month birthday.