Saturday, 31 March 2012

So She Sails...

God is good, but never dance in a small boat. - Irish Saying

I was not looking for nice weather, but I glanced out the window this afternoon, and saw beautiful blue skies (This time, I know, that is not what was forecast.)  Mentioning this fact to my eldest son, I convinced him to join me on a canoe outing, to which he quickly agreed.
So we packed some drinks and muffins (ready for a long journey), put on our water shoes and were off.
After pointing out which was the front of the canoe several times, and him doubting me, we finally got the canoe into the water.
My son, wanted to be in the stern, to guide the canoe. He is much taller than I am, and was hoping for the extra leg room. His only experience canoeing was last fall, and I did not want to be moving in crooked patterns across the lake. Reluctantly, I agreed and  I was pleasantly surprised. He was able to hold his own.  Maybe my dreams of long canoe trips are not so far off....
We canoed farther than we have ever gone before, following the shoreline, looking for birds, and animals.  We did almost hit this rock...but then I noticed...our blue skies had vanished and the wind began to pick up...
(I guess that weather report wasn't too wrong...)
We had hoped to go longer, but we were thankful for the short trip we did have, and headed home.
Here's to our first canoe outing!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ricotta Gnocchi and waiting for the skies to clear..

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet. - Roger Miller

It looks like we are going to have more rain and cooler weather...with snow to follow by the weekend.  Our visions of canoeing are dashed at the moment.  But sometimes you just have to adapt to change and find the good in apparent bad situations.
Here is our gloomy day pick-me up meal.  Guaranteed to bring smiles.
It was on the table, from start to finish, within an hour.
This is really great pasta dish.  Higher in protein than regular pasta, super easy, super delicious and perfect soul food for a rainy day. 
 Ricotta Gnocchi
( from allrecipe poster shelbi)
serves about 5*

gnocchi dough:
1 container ricotta cheese ( or try making your own using this recipe homemade ricotta cheese )
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup flour

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 can (24 oz) diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning ( or 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil)
1 cup of mozarella cheese cup up into small cheese ( I have also used cheddar and fruilano cheese)

* I did double this doubling, I had one part ricotta and one part pressed cottage cheese...which was also very nice. Instead of a straight double of the parmesan, I had one part parmesan  and one part grated fruilano cheese. 

1.  Stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan Cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl until evenly combined. Mix in 1 cup of flour. Add additional flour if needed to form a soft dough. 
 2.  Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces, and roll into 1/2-inch-thick ropes on a floured surface. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces, and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. 
roll into rope shape

cut into one inch sections

on the floured baking sheet
 3.  Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, and cook until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in diced tomatoes and red pepper flakes; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in Italian seasoning(or basil) and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
 4.  While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Boil the gnocchi until they float to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain. 
boiling water with gnocchi at the bottom

floating gnocchi, ready to be removed from the pot
 5.To assemble the dish, stir the cubed mozzarella cheese into the sauce and allow the heat of the sauce to soften, but not melt the cheese. Place gnocchi into a serving bowl, and spoon sauce over top.  (See the first image.)

* I did double this doubling, I had one part ricotta and one part pressed cottage cheese...which was also very nice. Instead of a straight double of the parmesan, I had one part parmesan  and one part grated fruilano cheese. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Canoeing, Anyone?

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing. -Henry David Thoreau

I had thought that the weather report said that it was going to be 17 degrees Celsius(about 63 degrees Fahrenheit).  I had planned to go canoeing today for the first time this season, but someone was wrong. Either I heard wrong, or the weather report was wrong.  It was not warm at all today. The canoes would have to stay in the boathouse longer...
My favourite willow tree under overcast skies...
 I have enjoyed canoeing since I was younger and now, that we have relocated next to a lake, I am excited to teach my children how to canoe.  Last fall, I was able to teach my children a few canoe skills...but I am ready to teach them more.  I am hoping to build their love of canoeing so that we can camp, canoe and portage across several wilderness routes on Ontario's lake and river systems...but that is just a dream...
project from Home School in the Woods, Colonial Life Unit, completed by my neice

So for today, we did arts and crafts instead.  My daughter and my nieces were very excited....and spent many hours working on their projects.  My older sons did the minimum...and commented, "boys don't like colouring and pasting..."
Too bad, they had their hopes on canoeing...
we will try again tomorrow...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Little Bookstore

Medicine for the soul.  ~Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

Today my brother and sister in law gave my husband and I a special treat.  They offered to babysit for the day...and they recommended a restaurant and a destination, the nearby town of Port Hope.  
The restaurant was Bualai Taste of Thai...and was amazing. But, that was not the only, noteworthy stop that we chanced upon this day. There were many little shops and cafes that we walked past, including a cafe with live music. One of the nicest stops, however, was to find Furby House Books.  A little bookstore situated in the middle of town.  
There is something inviting about a small bookstore with shelves of books that have been lovingly displayed.  I searched for a new book to read aloud to my children.  So, tonight I start, Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick.
Port Hope was a wonderful find.  Furby House Books was a wonderful find.  And Bualai Taste of Thai was a wonderful find.  Living in the country has more surprises than I thought!

Friday, 23 March 2012


One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. - Rita Mae Brown
a flower or a cabbage?  what do you think.?
So, I try to be forgetful, really I do.  But, I have a really good memory.  I can remember the name of every single person in a room of 20 people on first greeting, I remember people's birthdays, whom I was friends with, when I was two years old. I remember the first person killed in the American Revolution, I was not there, but someone told me, and that weird little fact has been stuck in my head for over twenty years...I have tried sweeping it out.  My mind is full of many wonderful memories of kindness that people have shown me...and the little times that people have taken the time to show they care.  I treasure these memories and stored them beautifully in my mind. But, I do have a few boxes that are taking up some needed shelf space.  I don't know how I should file away the memories of the crazy things that people do either.  I have tried to rationalize them away.  Tried to cover them with dust cloths.  I asked my husband today if he wanted any of my old boxes or had a suggestion of where to put them...and he laughed.  I guess he didn't have any room for them either. Do you?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Pictures of Spring part 2

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in spring and stay that way later in the fall. - Nadine Stair

feet that have walked through the soft ground of spring...

puddle reflections...

An old fence

a country lane....

 geese, returning from southern travels...

mesmerized by the newly melted lake...

newfoundland puppy swimming to greet a goose....

bird feeding time....

first blooms....

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Pictures of Spring

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. - Doug Larson

On a country drive
sheep from a nearby farm

Alpaca and sheep in a pasture

a little stream....

blue skies....

water shoes...

a rock collection...

our path to the lake...
our lake today...

Our lake one week ago

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Little Picnic Food

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's Party!" - Robin Williams

Today was an official picnic day.  My daughter and her cousins had decided.  The weather was right.  The sun was out and the snow had melted.  Eating outside always makes the most ordinary food taste wonderful. And somehow, for children, picnics make the day more memorable.

Here is the menu the little girls came up with.
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (cut into triangles, crust removed)
sliced cheese
chocolate pieces
homemade crackers
strawberry lemonade

To make
Strawberry Lemonade:
6 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cup frozen strawberries
about 7 cups water

1.First the girls juiced the lemons using a small plastic citrus juicer.
2. Then they poured the lemon juice into a glass pitcher and set aside

3.  Next , the girls put frozen strawberries into a small blender to be pureed. They added water to the container, just enough to help with blending.

4.  They pureed the strawberries for about 2 minutes...This is about what the strawberries should look like at this point.

5.  The girls poured their puree into the glass container that already held the squeezed lemon juice.
6.  Next, add the water.
7.  Add sugar and honey. (You might need to add slightly less, or slightly more sugar, based on the sweetness of your taste it before you serve)

8.  Now it is ready to serve!
     A  perfect picnic drink

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Spring! (I hope)

If we had no winter, spring would not be as pleasant: If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be as welcome. - Anne Bradstreet
our lake finally melting

Growing up in the south, everyday was like spring....and then a few days later it would be hot summer.  But, I will never forget the first spring in Canada.  It was an experience!  It was as if the world came alive again.  The empty frozen streets, became busy again..with people waking, biking, window shopping....the barren brown landscape transformed to a beautiful green almost overnight and the skies left behind their winter grey.  In almost everyone's face was a look of...We made it through!
I often wondered if I could appreciate spring in Canada, if I did not go through the long winter first. 

ready for biking
This morning, on our first day of warm weather, my daughter woke up early.  She greeted me good morning, and told me she was going for a bike ride.  I said, "What about breakfast?"  She said that she would get it later and that she didn't want to miss the nice weather, just in case it changed in the middle of the day.  Well, the weather did not change...and my daughter, and all my children and my nieces and nephew stayed outside the whole day.   
chalk drawings by my second son


Here's to our first day of spring!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Small Things

I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. - Helen Keller

I do love reading quotations.  When I was in high school my grandmother sent me a small book with a quote for every day of the year.  I still have the book.  I still like to read the quotations inside its' pages.  Sometimes just a few words can stay in one's memory more than a whole speech...or lecture.  The above quote was one of my favourites when I was young.  Like most teens I dreamt big...I dreamt of doing great things....but, it is true,  the small things that people do can matter most...and can stay in your memory longest.
Today was the beginning of Canadian Spring Break(well, make that Ontario's spring break).  You can not tell by looking at the weather, no one will be going out in their shorts tomorrow...unless they have travelled south...but you can definitely tell by the look on my children's faces.  My son was excited to be hosting one of his friends for the next couple of days.  To make the day more special....I decided to make a dessert for dinner.  I made a huge pan of brownies and bought a lovely ice cream from a local dairy(one of the perks of living in the countryside, I will treat you to some, too, if you come for a visit).
Every time I make brownies and add a big scoop of ice cream on top, I think of my little sister.  On one visit to the lovely warm south, my sister served this dessert up, jumbo sized, for my children.  It was many years ago, she has probably even forgotten, but I still smile every time I eat brownies, thinking of her cooking that dessert for her little niece and nephews.  My children definitely think she is magical.
So, sometimes I wish that I could tell her how much she is loved...and I try to think of all these fabulous ideas...but then I know it is the simple things....the small things that people remember most...
Here is the simple dessert that still fills my memory...give them a try...They are simple and so delicious!!!

Peanut Butter Brownies topped with Ice Cream
(please note that this recipe was altered from the original recipe my sister baked...hers came from a box...which was very delicious, too. She is an American and was unaware that brownies could be made from scratch...hee, hee)
(This is adapted from Better Food For Kids by Joanne Saab, RD and Daina Kalnins, RD)

Makes 16 small brownies
Preheat oven to 350 F
8-inch square baking pan, greased

1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  Make a hole in the centre and stir in butter, peanut butter, egg and vanilla.  Stir until fairly smooth.  Press batter into prepared pan ( the batter is quite dense).  Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes ( but if you want more gooey brownies...cook a bit less).  Serve warm with a scoop of your favourite ice cream on top.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A Little Shopping Trip

Apparently, there is nothing that cannot happen today.-Mark Twain.  
Grandmothers can be pushy.  Great-grandmothers can be even more pushy (but I love them, don't worry).  Yesterday, my husband's grandmother asked me to take her to the store.  Not any store...but one particular store.  It is not nearby, so I told her very definitivly..."Maybe."  She sort of squinted her eyes at me and walked away.   About 15 minutes later she came back and asked again, "Are you going to take me to Costco or not?"  Again, because it is a 40 minute drive away I said, "Maybe, we'll see"  and "by the way, what do you need to buy?" She told me she needed to buy cookies (hmm, I see...she has diabetes...)
My husband's grandmother is a very lovely lady, however,  she is not your "quiet" grandmother type.  She grew up as the only daughter in a family of 7 children back in Yugoslavia.  She moved to Canada in her mid thirties and worked very hard to provide for her family.  She knows how to hold her own.  Little did I know, how determined she was to go on her cookie shopping outing.  When no one was around, she walked up to me again..blocking my exit from the room.  Having me cornered, with her head tilted downward, eyes fixed on mine, she said in a low steady voice,"You take me to Costco...yes or no"( know, I think I was being threatened by a 84 year old great-grandmother if I did not buy her cookies).    Smiling, I finally said, "Alright...we can go to Costco."
So, today, after my children finished husband, myself, our four children, and great-grandmother went on a trip to buy cookies. ( Did I mention the store was 40 minutes away?).  
She did buy cookies....and a cake....some nice bread....(and some vegetables, too)...and she treated us to a pizza lunch.  But, you know, she didn't eat any of the cookies she bought.  She gave them all to my children and my other nieces and nephews.  She just wanted to treat her great-grandchildren to something special and to show them that she loved them...and a 40 minute drive was not going to be her obstacle.  

Friday, 2 March 2012

Being Thankful

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. - Miester Eckhart

Ice covered Queen Anne's Lace
It was pinned to a wall in the long term care facility where I worked.  One resident had decorated a card and wrote the quote across the page.  It was the quote that I wrote above.  My initial response?  Well, I thought,  "Really?  I don't think that life could be that simple."  But, I couldn't get the quote out of my mind.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how little I was thankful for.  I was happy, don't get me wrong.  I am a happy person in general...but, thankful is different.  There was always something keeping me from being perfectly thankful..."one thing" that always wasn't right.
But now I understand.  The quote has immense value.  I can't tell you the exact moment that I understood....I think there were many moments along the way...but perhaps the greatest lesson was learned through one of the most difficult parts of my life...within a short period of time...I had a newborn, my husband had a brain tumor removed and was recovering...then unexpectedly, my little brother died of a heart condition, of which we were unaware...I felt alone...and trapped.  I woke up angry.  I went to sleep angry.  My thoughts during the day were full of anger at what life had delt.  I remember the moment that I just threw up my hands and said,"Why?!" And somehow in that moment...I began to see what I had...I had life.  I had a beautiful life.   I had a beautiful lifewhich I chose not to see, because I was  trapped in my own discontentment.  But from that day...things began to change...or maybe it didn't, I can't really tell...I think it is more that I changed.  So, sometimes, I do slip back into my old ways.  But then I remember...and hope to never forget...I have a beautiful life....thank you!