Friday, December 18, 2015

How to end the Year at Work

The office doors are locked; the school is closed until the new year, and soon my Christmas vacation will begin.

In the meantime, the bosses and I are indulging in a little bit of Xmas spirit as we tie up all the loose ends ...............

Homemade salted toffee truffles and a wee dram of Grand Marnier in the coffee.

Isn't this what the last day at work before the holidays is supposed to look?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Eating to Lower Potassium

I'm counting down the days here at work up to my 2 week Christmas break. Fortunate, I know, to have such a long period of time off. But I do not get paid for it; so I budget accordingly.

I've got a lot planned for my week before Xmas off.  There's the usual cleaning from top to bottom, of course; things that are forgotten (aka dusty bathroom fans and tops of picture frames) will be wiped clean of any evidence that I don't often look up! Weather permitting, the girls and I will trek to the u-cut Xmas tree lot this weekend and spend the next day decorating. And then there's the baking.

I just found out that I have slightly higher than normal bad-cholesterol levels as well as potassium levels. Potassium? You hear so much about making sure you get enough that it's a shock to know you've got a little too much and its dangers.  Once we ladies reach a certain age, heart disease and stroke are dangers we constantly have to beware of. So, I'll have to be careful; I can't "eat whatever I want and deal with it later" as I've done in other years. 

Knowing what to avoid and moderation in all else shall be my mantra. Thankfully, turkey is one of the things that I'm encouraged to eat. Once I'd visited the doctor, I began to think proactively. 

But before that visit, AnnKatrin and I visited the Gingerbread Haus Bakery in Halifax and bought some German Christmas cookies. 

I have shortbreads and Baklava (in honor of the Turkish guest who'll be at our table). And there's dough for Rugelach and orange gingerbread in the freezer which will be made up next week with my students. Christmas dinner dessert is a pear pie with a pecan 'n' cheese crumble crust -- not too sweet. And I'll make sure there's plenty of low-potassium fruit in the house so I can reach for those. Thank goodness I'm such a snob when it comes to chocolate! These days, it has to be my perfect kind for me to indulge.

And grapes are on the list of go-to fruit for me; but I shall remind myself over and over again that it should NOT be in liquid form.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Room at the Inn!

This is the airport at my nation's capital this morning.

And this is my Prime Minister, greeting my new neighbors and handing out winter coats to some of the families.

I am so proud to be Canadian!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Chutney

Having international students during Christmas season means that I sometimes get to incorporate their traditions into our time together. Here are 2 of Annkatrin's Xmas traditions:  an advent candle that is burned each evening during the meal and a "smoking" wooden shepherd. He "smokes" incense which unfortunately means that I can't use him because of my sensitivity to scent. But he is pretty cute on my table. And I have the satisfaction of conforming this staunch German into a non-smoker!

One of my annual traditions is the making of the cranberry sauce. But I've accumulated a number of different recipes for chutneys; and with the great price I paid for a large bag of cranberries, I decided to give it a go.  I made three different recipes. (I like to give some as gifts).

The first -- and my favorite -- is a citrus/cranberry preserve: cranberries, orange, lemon and lime chunks flavored with the zest and a touch of cinnamon and allspice.

The color here is gorgeous.

And the flavor is wonderful! 

This could easily be used as a regular cranberry sauce. (Think of how delicious this would be on a cold turkey sandwich!) Or you could just spread it on your toast. Yum yum!

Next we have a cranberry/apple compote: tangy Granny Smith apples, fresh & dried cranberries, both white & brown sugar, finely diced onion, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon & ginger. 

This has a marvelous flavor and would be perfect on top of a baked brie, I think. 

Look at those lovely little chunks of apple and again, that rosy glow from the fresh cranberries.

The last chutney I made is a dried apricot, date and ginger chutney. This has the addition of garlic, a touch of cayenne, golden raisins and what was supposed to be red wine vinegar. Alas, other than 1/4 cup of the necessary 1.5 cups, I was out of red wine vinegar. So, I substituted a little Japanese wine vinegar and an amazing Black Cherry balsamic that I have and topped it off with good old regular vinegar.

This is thick and rich and utterly delicious. The recipe says to top meat, chicken or fish with this chutney. I'm looking forward to trying it tomorrow night with my pork chops.

And, of course, these will become even more tasty as they mature a little.

If anyone would like a recipe, just send me a note.

In the meantime, tell me what you've been cooking up for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rabbit, Rabbit.

Imagine:  December already! 

I'm sorry for the month long delay in posting:  I've been doing some extensive house purging and dealing with some other things that have left me with little time and no energy.  But I enjoy you all so much, I shan't give up blogging just yet. 

Isn't it marvelous that December is here again. The countdown to Christmas is on.My three daughters will be home.  The gifts are purchased; the menu is planned and cupboards are being stocked; the hoarding of goodies is well underway; thrifted festive duds have been procured; and cheesy music has already rung out in the halls of my wee mansion.

My German student comes from a country where so many wonderful Christmas traditions began AND probably the best Christmas markets in the world happen. I'm sure she's curious about how Canadian Xmas differs, but she knows the drill. I'm looking forward to her teaching me how to bake some German Xmas cookies. (And to her parcel from home coming! Will there be marzipan do you suppose?)

But my Japanese student is so excited at the thought of Canadian Christmas. This, of course, makes the whole thing more fun for me because it's almost like having a child in the house.

  • A tree larger than her? Oh joy!
  • Turkey with stuffing and the wearing of funny paper hats round the table? Great!
  • Upwards of a dozen different kinds of Xmas cookie and squares? Bring them on!
  • 2 weeks vacation from school (and work)? Ahhhh, rest!
  • Boxing week sales in the city with time out for sushi and meet-ups with school friends? Happiness!

And me?  Well, never mind Santa; I'VE got a list that I check twice. Scheduling for three people at this most busy time of the year and making time for baking and Xmas movies and such requires precision and a well placed calendar. 

But I'm also smart enough to not do what would over-do me. Moderation and enjoyment together. Also, in between the moments of near-madness, I'll make sure there's resting with my feet up and a cup of eggnog or mulled wine. 

Let the Christmas season begin!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rabbit, Rabbit! and Sci-Fi

Rabbit Rabbit everyone.  Another month has passed and this steam-punk bunny is here to say "Not so fast! Before we get to November, tell me about how you spent this last weekend of October 2015, Sandy."  Well Bunny, I spent it with my daughter at Hal-Con Hal-Con, a sci-fi, fantasy and gaming convention held in Halifax NS and run completely by volunteers.

Although I've always known I was weird, I've only just begun to realize I am also a bit of a geek ...... with my lifelong love of Doctor Who, my recent addiction to The Walking Dead and my ever-growing addiction to sci-fi. This was my first Hal-Con, but it sure won't be my last.
Here's Molly and I getting our own steam punk on with these gorgeous hats. A bit too expensive for our pocket-books, but they sure are inspirational for next year.

In spite of the fact that I really know nothing about gaming, my tour guide did; she would point to people dressed up and tell me what game they were from. I loved checking out all the vendors -- people selling furry clothes, chain-mail clothes, elven ears ($$$), jewellery, etc etc. I did buy myself some Tardis earrings, an earth-pic necklace and some books. But I mostly loved just viewing who (or what) was walking around and their own personal rendition of their favorite character; home made costumes abounded and it was fascinating to see what was used in their making! Also, every time I asked permission for a picture, they stopped and immediately posed.

On the left is a couple in steam-punk cosplay. (It was encouraging to see the different age groups.) And on the right are a cute couple of girlies from some video game; I saw them several times throughout the building, always carrying their trays of colorful cocktails. 

Dr Who was represented several times. This young man on the left is obviously a Tom Baker fan, Doctor #4, I believe. And on the right is King Renley from Game of Thrones (may he rest in peace).

This elf really impressed me. She made her own costume, wore a beautiful bow and home-made leather arrow case, had lovely pointed ears and a narrow little circlet of golden leaves round her head with a gem in the middle. Molly and I saw her at a panel we sat in on; she was right across the aisle from me. And while we were listening, she must have been hungry because I noticed her take out a green packet tied with twine. When she untied it, I realized the green were leaves and inside it was lembas bread -- just like in Lord of the Rings. Wow! Now that's dedication to the cosplay!

But in spite of the beautiful costumes and the variety of characters depicted, my favorite of the whole day was this most beautiful of all the woodland elves, my daughter Molly. Ya know, it's wonderful to find at my age that I can share this new-founded common interest with my gorgeous geekie daughter. 

The family that's cos-plays together, stays together? Yeah! It sure creates some wonderful memories.

We got to eat a couple of great meals together, and I got to go thrifting the next day before I headed home to once again become a responsible employee and mother to internations.  

But I've got a whole year to get a few costumes together for next year's Hal-Con. 

Have you ever been to a sci-fi convention?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Boring is Nice Sometimes, Right?

I've spent so many weekends doing day trips and taking the girls for Farm Market drives that I welcomed last Saturday's turn in the weather and a chance for a simple, boring weekend. 

Beautiful boring! 

For most people (especially younger people), boring is thought of as negative. It can bring up dreary images or thoughts of dull tasks -- things like regular fall or spring cleaning. (Hahaha! I say that as if this is something I do every spring or fall when, in fact, the only thing regular in my house is me ..... if I eat my salad and yogurt every day! Oops! Sorry! TMI!)

But the experts say that there's nothing wrong with kids becoming bored. For me personally, boring is necessary to my mental health. I can get bored; but I can also be willingly "beautifully bored". 

Beautiful boring fills me with contentment and feelings of satisfaction. For me, it means having the time to hang and home and do little things:  things like changing out my wardrobe, tidying the linen closet; cleaning & purging the china cabinets. It means that I now know how many bottles of face cleanser I have (4 --- and see, that's info I NEED to know before I save more money by buying yet another sale item!); I know how many bars of goat's milk soap I have (6 --- and ditto on the saving money again). Beautiful boring means that tears of joy and self-satisfaction come to my eyes when I see my basement full of bags and boxes to be taken to the thrift stores in the city (because then I can use that 30% off coupon to buy more unnecessary items that in turn bring me joy).
Beautiful boring is ALL about the joy, people!

And what makes these beautiful boring tasks even more beautiful is that they are interspersed with tea breaks ..... or an hour in front of the telly just resting in between tasks ...... or a chance to have yet another look at the Saturday crossword puzzle. Beautiful boring is the luxury of having much needed chill-time while doing mundane tasks. JOY!

Last weekend's beautiful boring also meant vacuuming and dusting the living room and putting out a little Autumn decor. (Although the multi-colored leaves that seem to be constantly in the entrance-way should count, don't you think?)

What have you been doing with your Autumn?
Do you have times of beautiful boring?
Or perhaps you just consider mundane tasks plain boring?

Monday, October 19, 2015

That's a long drive just for some apples!

Nova Scotia is known for it's apples, especially the MacIntosh. And the Annapolis Valley is the best place to get them. So, even though Lunenburg County has it's own apples, I always like to take a trip to The Valley this time of year; the apples are tastier there ..... and it's a pretty drive.

At the last minute, the girls and I got an email telling us that the international students are actually headed to The Valley today (Monday) to pick apples and do the corn maze. So, we decided we'd head a little more south and see sights I hadn't seen for many years. We went to historic Annapolis Royale.  And to be honest, the deciding factor was this German restaurant - Sachsen Cafe. Annkatrin was hankering for some "home cooking".
The food and the service were delightful. We each had a luscious bowl of German tomato based soup, filled with veg, ham, salami and chopped pickle. Delicious! And Annkatrin and I also shared a schnitzel sandwich: dark bread, sliced sweet, white onion, thin sliced tomato, greens and just a smear of mustard. Quite wonderful!

But did you get a good look at the pastries? Wow! Such a selection! I bought bread and these amazing, chewy pretzels. (And I may have had a cherry turnover for dessert; I just may have, but you'd never find the evidence on me because I didn't let a single flake of that thing get past my lips. Soooo good!) Both girls opted for the huge, flakey, chocolate-dipped pig's ears. Chihiro may look daunted, but she was able to handle the whole thing.

It wasn't a day for sight seeing ..... not outside the warmth and calm of your car anyway. The sun was beautiful, but it was only 1 degree celcius and it was blustery! My little nose got quite red. We walked for a little and took some pictures. As a matter of fact, just next door is the inn where I stayed for part of my honeymoon. I have lovely memories of Annapolis Royale and the surrounding area. 

However, we quickly got back in our car and took another 1.5 hour drive through some of the prettiest towns lined with autumn's finest foliage:  Bridgetown, Middleton, Greenwood, Kingston, Aylesford and finally Berwick, the apple capital of the world! 

We stopped in at Bargain Harley's, because you really never know what you'll find there:  chocolate covered cranberries, undies, brand-name cosmetics at a fraction of the price, a huge mounted moose head ... it's always fun to visit. We saw the dreaded white stuff floating down from the sky as we entered! EEK! But there was no evidence of it when we left. 

 Last stop was one of the many, many farm market stands for apples: we choose Granny Smith, Gravensteens and Honeycrisp; and drove the 1.5 hours over the mountain back home, the girls asleep in the back seat, the whole car fulled with the fragrance of our purchases, and my not-so-dulcet voice singing along to Charlie Tuna's "Hits of the 70's".

Yes, that was a lot of driving just for a few apples. So, I added a little variety to add a few more memories!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oils of Life

With a post title like this one, you could be thinking I'm talking about olive oil or flax seed oil or coconut oil: there are so many beneficial oils and so many ways to take them into/onto your body. But no:  today we talk about different "oils of life".

I read a UK blogger's post last week on Style at Every Age and she talked about this new Body Shop product line called Oils of Life. I use Body Shop products as part of my daily skin care regime. And one of my favorite home-made things to do is to add a drop or two of essential oil to a bottle of light olive oil and rub this over my legs, feet and arms after I shower. So, I was interested in checking of the Oils of Life line. And the opportunity came up on Saturday when the girls and I went to the city.

I have to be really careful with scented products; most make me terribly ill (tummy and body aches, migraines, nausea), sometimes even from one little whiff. But I listened to the young salesgirl describe the line to me and I tried a little on my wrist and sniffed, thinking at least I'm near a washroom if I have to hurry and wash my hands. 
The oils used here are seed oils - Black Cummin, Camellia and Rosehip to be exact. They are supposed to be both an antioxidant and anti-bacterial and benefit your skin in the same positive way that eating super foods would benefit your body. That's a plus!

The bottles themselves are lovely to look at; they look high quality (without being high priced). On application, the oil was light and not greasy; it absorbed into the skin quite quickly. The cream was silky smooth and again there was no greasy feel to it. The scent was beautiful! Delicate, earthy, intoxicatingly delicious! And although I thought I recognized the scent, I couldn't put my finger on just what I was smelling.  Cummin? Rosehip? My mind went through the other familiar yet exotic aromas of my spice rack.) All I knew was that I smell good enough to eat! Hahaha!

I've been using their Pomegranate skincare line, so as I only needed a night time cream, I just bought the revitalizing cream at $34 Cdn and was gifted a free sample of the facial oil. After using them for the past 3 nights, I love it. Again, the scent is so lovely and the feel is so silky.  

Once I run out of my other product ..... and once this new product becomes old enough to be added to their frequent sales (buy 2 get 2; but 3 get 3, for example), I'll try the other products.

In the meantime, someone get over here and sniff me!
And then file me under delicious!

Note: I sure hope this satisfies hunger pains rather than working up an appetite or I'm in trouble!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The joy of the unexpected.....

Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving; and this year my  daughter, Molly, is hosting us .... which means a trip to the city (and NO dishes for me to wash!) So, my plans for my b'day were a day at home going through my winter wardrobe to see what shrunk again while in boxes under the bed. Darn dust bunnies!

But early Sat morning when the rain and clouds began to clear, it was "Let's go eat cake and sushi in Halifax"The girls were all for it. 

The marvelous start of our day began with "breakfast" at Julien's French Patisserie. It's located in the beautiful Hydrostone district of Halifax, an area rebuilt with stone houses after the destructive Halifax explosion of 1917. Julien's has such a great variety of sweets and savorites which made it too difficult to decide what treat to have ..... so I bought 3! After all, b'days only come once a year! 

I then dropped the girls at the mall to meet up with friends, and I headed to Value Village to walk off breakfast and look for nothing in particular. (Nothing in particular cost me $30.) Back at the mall, I treated myself to a new facial cream from The Body Shop and did a little early Xmas shopping. 

And at 5 pm after we'd all worked up an appetite finding bargains, we headed to my favorite little sushi restaurant B-Well Cafe. It was Chihiro's first sushi experience in such a long time, so she was very happy. Annkatrin had never eaten Japanese before but liked her chicken terriyaki bowl (but not so much the sushi she tried). And I was so happy to have both tempura and inari sushi. Yum! 

At home with aching feet, I opened my gifts from the girls - each one unique and lovely with a touch of homemade. I am blessed to have such great kids. Then we sat around until the wee hours of the morning playing Yahtzee and Phase 10 and eating sour gummy worms and the rest of my "breakfast". (Sugar hangover today!) 

While the sun shines, a person has to take advantage of it and get out and enjoy. There's always tomorrow for chores, right.  
And tomorrow is here! Today is winter clothes day ..... and perhaps I'll make some Million Dollar relish ... and I know I'll do a lot of relaxing ... all wrapped in the joy of an unexpectly wonderful birthday. 


  Sorry! I thought I could return to a normal schedule. But my sense of 'normal' has changed. After the past 5 years of various ailm...