Category Archives: Uncategorized

I will be leaving WordPress Shortly

WordPress.com/Automattic (the business) recently announced they were deplatforming a conservative blog called The Treehouse.

As far as I can tell the only offence or violation of WordPress ToS is WordPress.com/Automatic just doesn’t like conservative voices.

I find nothing more disturbing than decisions to deplatform by large media corporations for apparent disagreement with political leanings. We have too much censorship in our society today as it is. When the internet biggies announced the deplatforming of Alex Jones I wasn’t particularly upset because, well, I think he’s a nut. But others said that if they can deplatform Alex Jones they can deplatform anyone. Those words were prophetic. There are fewer and fewer places in society that will tolerate conservatives. And if you think you are safe, you’re wrong. You’re on the list. Your turn to be deplatformed will be coming.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me. 

I will leave this blog up as long as they let me but I will no longer post here except if I find a new place to post. I will let you know if that happens.

Quiet Remembrance Day

I rarely if ever miss a chance to attend a Remembrance Day service. This year due to COVID I am at home. Both my grandfathers, my father, my brother, and several uncles have all been in the Canadian Military. The women in my family also served as they sat and waited. I have not forgotten.

Two New Exterior Doors Installed!

I wish it were easy to explain how excited and how delighted I am with the latest business at our house. We have two new exterior doors. A bit of background is required to understand why this is so positive. Over the years I have moved about once every two to five years. Each time I have moved into a new house I have renovated. Each house has had nasty, old, leaky, insecure doors. Because changing doors is very expensive, it was always put off to the future. And so I have never had a home with decent doors. My little yellow house on the prairie was no exception. The doors the house had are the original old wood ones with a big, leaky, single pane window. In the wind, the doors would creak and moan. Drafts were flow from underneath. In a blizzard snow would accumulate under the door sill. My storm doors would always ice up due to warm moist indoor air leaking into the space and moisture coming out as the air cooled and then the condensation would freeze. We have been living here five years now and finally, finally, we got around to getting new doors.

The new doors were sitting in the garage after their delivery, waiting.

By some wondrous blessed miracle, we suddenly had three lovely days of T-shirt weather and our carpenter was available for one of those days. We agreed to take off the old storm doors and strip everything else we could so he would have time to replace the two doors in one day. We would then be responsible for putting the storm doors back on and doing the interior trim. That suited me just fine because that part we could do. He was charging by the hour so it would save us money, and he only had the one day to work while the weather was suitable. And he did it!

The day before he arrived we were frantically busy removing the screen doors and clearing the area so he could work. The day he arrived, I was run ragged on several fronts. First we acted as his assistant, fetching stuff, holding things, helping him carry the doors and so on. He set us to work doing small jobs like scraping all the paint off the old door hinges and removing the screws. I also cleaned a lot as he worked. After he sawed stuff, he would have me vacuum up the dust and stack the garbage. Between those jobs I had to chase the pets. The cats were really distressed by the disruption, especially his noisy tools. And my poor dog, who doesn’t like change, almost had a nervous breakdown over this stranger breaking apart her home. I locked all three of the pets in the basement with their beds and treats and I tried to ignore the whining and crying. My husband finally took her for a long walk and she finally calmed. Plus I still had my usual duties making dinner such. (Out in the country you can’t just order a pizza on a busy day.)

By 4:00pm the carpenter was finished and I had two lovely doors installed! I was so pleased. The next morning I got up to the promise of another lovely day with sunshine streaming through the new east window making prism rainbows all over my kitchen. BONUS! I knew the door was lovely but I didn’t expect the dawn sunlight to make lovely rainbows for me.

It was a good thing I was so delighted because the weather forecast said the weird and totally unseasonable November T-shirt weather was coming to an abrupt end with incoming freezing rain turning to a blizzard. This meant I had no time to lose. The screen doors had to go up that very day even though I was tired and aching from the day before. I set to work and got the screen doors back up with my darling husband helping me. We made a trip to a nearby lumber store to get the trim and calking and insulation I needed to finish up and then I worked until I was worn out again. The outside was ready. We were winter tight. Let the cold come.

The next day the sky was heavy with grey clouds and intermittent cold rain. Hubby dearest and I hauled all the garbage in the yard off to the dump. My goodness, it felt so nice to heave those leaky, frosty, old doors into the landfill! Those doors had served well enough for the sixty odd years they had been in place but it was past time for their retirement. We drove home and admired our new home which now not only is now far less drafty and much warmer than before, but is filled with rainbows when the dawn shines in.

Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu, melekh ha’olam, shehecheyanu vekiymanu vehigi’anu lazman hazeh. (Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.)

Winter is here.

Winter has arrived early, just as it did last year. Fortunately, it did not arrive in a big blizzard. It just sort of came creeping in while we weren’t looking. Everything in the yard is dormant, covered, or packed away from the snow and cold. Life has been very quiet in our little corner of Alonsa. We don’t go out much. We don’t socialize much. Everything is tight due to COVID fear.

The only really nice thing about the cold is that Klinger no longer sleeps in the cold basement. Klinger is now playing with Mali and playing a lot because he isn’t outside running off his energy with the cats across the street. Mali doesn’t keep trying to get outside because she hates the snow. So the cats are now playing during the day and sleeping next to me all night long. I like nothing better than falling asleep to purring kitties. (If you are an instagram fan Klingermain14 is their account and the two cats have 1303 followers as of today and they post daily.)

Now for some really positive news. Today, after many delays, COVID and otherwise, my new doors for our little house on the prairie were delivered! There are three doors. Two of them are to replace the old leaky warped wood doors that frost up in the winter. We have lived with these outdated doors for the last five years. The third door is an exterior single French Door style that we want to open outward onto our planned new southern deck. My husband’s office space on the south side is dark most of the day and this door will make that room into a sunroom. With the second window, the sun can come in from two directions. I can just imagine the February sun streaming directly in via all the little square windows of that door, warming the entire house up even if it is -40C outside. The west window will bring in the sunshine in the late afternoon until sunset. During summer, we can open the window set in the door and get a cross breeze and we can walk out onto our deck through this door. (The door is also 36″ whereas the other two doors are 32″ so we will have one wide door for moving furniture in and out if we decide we want to.)

This door will be in the kitchen. The kitchen is kind of dark and the natural light coming through the glass that is nonetheless just opaque enough to be private should make life more pleasant purely from a visual perspective, never mind the better quality of door. The new front door matches this door but has a smaller fan shaped opening instead of such a big window.

Tomorrow morning a carpenter is coming by to give us a quote for the installation. I am SO excited! I have wanted these beautiful doors since we bought the house but other renovations were higher priority. The imagined look has been in my head for five years and now it will finally become a reality. Once these doors are in, every major renovation and upgrade is complete. (Well there is that problem bathroom with the old chipped tub….)

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

This weekend marks Canadian Thanksgiving. There is a lot of overlap between our holiday and the American one. The most important difference is that if we waited until the end of November for our Thanksgiving we would be doing it in winter.

Due to COVID we will be having a very quiet Thanksgiving by ourselves. Our children have made plans elsewhere though we would love to be with them, we are playing it safe as Manitoba spirals into another wave with record levels of infection. Nonetheless, I am making a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings even if it is just for the five of us. Mali and Misty will be happy to join us for turkey.

Klinger will likely not enjoy the turkey but I suspect he’ll enjoy eating turkey liver.

Klinger in a sunny spot luxuriating.

And once the turkey is cooked and we’ve eaten our fill I see leftover and special turkey based meals in our future. It’s a substantial bird. I like to cut the cooked leftover turkey up and make containers of meat appropriate for a variety of future dishes. I pop these into the freezer and when I am ready, I take them out and put them in a dish. I see Turkey Bombay, Turkey Lentil Curry, Turkey Pot Pie, Turkey Chili, Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash, and at least three forms of turkey soup including Turkey Tortilla Soup. And of course we will enjoy turkey sandwiches and fried leftover turkey for breakfast. I would prefer to have all my family around me and few to no delicious leftovers but I’ll enjoy the variety of turkey dishes over the next few weeks.

I have much to be thankful this year. We are not having a giant Manitoba Storm like last year’s Thanksgiving. My husband has fully recovered from his stroke in March. The doctors can’t even tell he had one anymore, he’s done so well. One of my sons who is an aide in the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg has been exposed to COVID 19 twice at work and had to go into isolation but he did not get sick. No one else in my family has gotten sick with the virus or had to isolate due to exposure. We have been blessed to not even know anyone who died from it. Little Mali joined our household and has brought us endless joy and diversion and she’s only broken and mauled a few things. I finally got my own greenhouse. My winter preps are done. My freezer and pantry are well stocked just in case we have another lock down. I am ready to snuggle in for our long cold Manitoba winter.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Stay healthy and be blessed in all things.

Mali decided Dick’s mouse was a fine toy. This is the replacement and Dick moving quickly to prevent another incident.
Mali immediately after realizing the new mouse is off limits.

Simple Cold Process Soap Making

Some of you may recall how I have written before about living with allergies, especially my allergy to scents. My husband and I found a nice castille soap in the USA that I could use without setting my allergies off. It was available in the Walmart in the USA. Each year, I would stock up on our trip south to have enough until we could make it south again. We hit a sale on our last trip home in 2019 and I bought the place out. This year, for the second year, there is just no going south and my stock of scent free no allergic reaction soap was rapidly diminishing. Since I also used the soap to make my laundry detergent it was a double problem.

I tried finding my soap on line and in the grocery stores here. As it turned out, I could buy my soap from Amazon but only for an astonishing $15/bar. (Gasp!) So I started looking into making my own. I watched several videos on line and I searched for recipes. The simplest of all soaps is a cold processed three ingredient castille soap made with olive oil. That was also really close to the simple castille soap I was already using. I started with that.

I found a perfect recipe from Lovely Green. Goodness I just love her lovely site. Simple easy clear directions for a small batch of the easiest soap. It was absolutely perfect for a beginner like me. I ordered the molds for six bars she recommends. I picked up some lye flakes from our local hardware store. I also purchased a hand held mixer of the type she recommends. (I actually found one made in Romania, not China!)

I made the first batch outside and it went smoothly and easily. After about a half an hour I had six bars of pure castille soap with 100% olive oil. After 48 hours they had hardened enough to remove from the bars and set to finish drying in the basement. Now the bars have to sit for 28 days so I figured I would keep trying some other recipes and see which one I liked.

I next tried making a 70% olive oil and 30% canola oil. Canola is the cheapest oil around here and being a geneticist I understand its reputation for being a GMO is both untrue and not horrid even if it was. If I could cut the olive oil then I would have a soap that was a lot cheaper and made from something we grow locally.

My third batch was 100% coconut oil. I overheated the oil and got a “volcano” effect which was startling but after it settled the bars seemed like they would be usable anyway. I knew better for batch #4 which was 50% coconut and 50% olive oil. I rounded that off with a final batch of 70% coconut oil and 30% canola.

I ended up with five batches of six bars each. The coconut/canola was the softest and it took five days before I could remove it from the mold. Now I just have to wait until the drying/aging time is finished and try the soaps out. I can hardly wait!

Except for dissolving the lye in water, I found the soap making much easier than say, making bread. I wore all the proper safety equipment and handled the lye with extreme care and I had no trouble. The bars feel lovely and I can put them up to my nose and smell them without the tickling and running. I can hardly wait to try them. Once I decide on a base soap I like, I will try adding things I know I am not allergic too, like peppermint or maybe a pure orange for a bit of scent. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just enjoy the pure simple soaps. I also want to try making soap in pretty little rose bud molds or maybe even fun shapes like animals. I loved shaped soap when I was a little girl. Do any of you recall Fuzzy Wuzzy Bear Soap from Avon? I sure do.

And making my own soap was not just about a pure soap that didn’t set off my allergies. It was FUN!

If you decide you might like to try soap making I heartily recommend the recipes from Lovely Green for your first foray. They’re lovely!

COVID Blues

COVID is really getting me down. Yesterday we made a trip to town because Hubby Dearest strained his back. We had to ask for an exception to the telephone call only rule. HIs back is slowly healing but it’s hard to deal with inflammation when you can’t take anti inflammatories. The doctor sent us home with a topical cream stuff. While we waited our turn, I was asked to stay outside the office because they only let patients in, not family accompanying them. When my husband protested, they relented and let me stay. However we were both asked to stand outside and wait because the waiting room was overcrowded. Every other seat had a sign on it saying you can’t sit there. This meant even if we could have been inside the waiting area, we could not sit together. We needed to use the washroom after an hour and half of driving but we were told the washrooms were out of service due to COVID. Not allowed to sit. Not allowed to pee. Those rules are new ones incidentally. We were there in May and they weren’t like that.

On the way out we snuck into a washroom probably reserved for staff but honestly it was that or wet myself. I was very careful to wash everything afterward and hopefully not contaminate the washroom with COVID germs I don’t really think I have. The doctor ordered a blood test, just in case, and since we were in town anyway. We drove over to the lab. Again I had to wait outside. This one we didn’t argue about because there is no set of instructions from the doctor for him to remember without my help. Last time we went by the lab I went in after he came out to use the washroom and I had to go through a literally ten minute screening process to make sure I was not a threat due to COVID before I could use the washroom right beside the exit. This time I decided I’d just hold it until I got home.

After our doctor’s stuff I went to the grocery store. He sat in the truck, in what has become out usual routine, because the store only allows one person per family inside. I bought a pumpkin and some halloween candy. I don’t know if it will even be used. There is some talk about not allowing Trick or Treating in town and having a community event in the community arena instead. That will be a neat trick because the board of the community arena/hall just decided that in order to protect our community’s elderly, no one will be allowed in the arena. Some of us seniors like go to the arena to get deionized water. I am not sure why forcing us seniors to get our drinking water somewhere else, like a grocery store, is making us safer, but the board has decided this and that is that. So how they will also have a community Halloween event to avoid the danger of Trick or Treating when no one is allowed in the arena is really beyond me. If any kids show up I will have treats for them.

Masks make me dizzy. I think it’s my asthma. When I wear them I feel lightheaded and like I am going to pass out. I wear them anyway because if I don’t, I can’t get into places. It feels like everything and everyone is now about what we are not allowed to do. You can’t sit down. You can’t shop with your husband. You can’t go out in the community. You can’t visit your grandchildren. You can’t visit your elderly friends in senior homes. You can’t even pee these days. Every time I turn around there is some new rule to worry about. I feel like the entire world has gone stark raving mad. I am beginning to think we’d be better off just letting the bug loose and if it kills us, then let it kill us. We are not being allowed to live.

I will be glad when winter comes. We tend to stay home and cocoon in winter anyway so that will probably feel more normal. I have to start making a very deliberate effort to think positive thoughts and stay cheerful.

Funny Big Cat – Little Cat Story

My husband and I often lie in bed and watch TV in the evening before we fall asleep. The cats join us for a cuddle and an ear rub. Klinger really enjoys our evening time. He snuggles up close to me and I give him a massage and he purrs his fool head off until we fall asleep. He will eventually leave during the night and go sleep somewhere else. I assume it is out of kick range. Mali has adjusted to the routine very well and she usually joins us. It has taken her time to learn that evenings are for quiet cuddles not wrestle, jump and attack time, but she has mostly learned it. She especially likes to cuddle just touching Klinger. Last night she carefully groomed his tail for him and he appears to like that.

We had to go to town for the day. We took Misty so Klinger and Mali were left alone for several hours. We came home to a frantically upset kitten. She greeted us with joy and relief but refused to settle down. No, she wasn’t hungry. No, she didn’t need fresh water. Nothing we tried satisfied her. Eventually, I figured out whatever the problem was, it was in the basement. I followed her downstairs while she frantically meowed at me, circling me in terrible distress. She led me straight to Klinger’s favourite quiet spot on his bed downstairs. She put her little paws on the edge and looked down on him and cried.

At first glance I thought “Oh no! Klinger has died in his sleep.” He was curled into a tight ball and he was not moving. Even as I thought it, I saw him partially open one eye and then quickly squish it down again. The old cat was faking it! Being left alone with this energetic kitten had obviously driven him crazy. He went downstairs and played dead so she would leave him alone. Chuckling to myself, I made him ‘wake up’. Mali changed from distressed kitten crying to joyful greeting mews with full body rubs and relieved purring for both of us. Mali was so happy. I had fixed Klinger for her. Klinger meanwhile gave me one of the dirtiest “if looks could kill” irritated feline glares I have ever been subjected to.

Did you know cats will play dead? I certainly did not.

Dried Pepper Prepping

I like eating these multicoloured sweet peppers because they taste great, they are low calorie and eating lots of bright colourful foods helps to stave off macular degeneration. If I cut up a bunch of fresh peppers in strips and leave them in the fridge handy to eat, we snack on those instead of stuff like cookies. I also like using peppers in many of my favourite dishes. Last spring I bought a lot of fresh coloured peppers and soon found myself with a bunch of peppers slowly turning to mush. I hauled out my dehydrator and cut the peppers into small pieces and dried them. The result was remarkably effective. The dried peppers can be easily stored in a jar near the stove so anytime I want them, I can add a few dried peppers to a dish. This has worked really well for sauces, stews, soups and more recently my vegetable quiche.

My dried peppers from April. They have slowly turned more brown than coloured but they still taste great when rehydrated.

In Canada, we get our fresh peppers imported from South American and the USA in winter. During the spring, summer and fall, we also get them from Canadian greenhouses. There have been shortages of fresh peppers this year due to both labour issues in local greenhouses and trouble with the supply chain for stuff from the south. When there are shortages, there are also crazy sky high prices. I did manage to get peppers to grow in the garden this year after five summers of failure. I did not need to buy fresh peppers for nearly three months which was great given how pricey they are. I have big plans for next summer’s garden. My supply this summer just met our day to day eating needs so I had none to put by for winter.

As it happened, during my last trip to town, beautiful peppers were relatively cheap and in fine condition. I bought a lot of them. Later that evening I washed most of them carefully, sliced them into small bits and left them in the dryer overnight. By the next afternoon I had two jars of dried peppers for use over the winter. That is double the amount I put by in April. Last time I did this it was a desperate bid to avoid food waste. This time, drying was a deliberate plan. I will still pay those crazy high prices for a few fresh peppers for snacks but I will use these dried ones for cooking. This pandemic is teaching me lots of new ways to cope with food shortages and high prices. This tactic for sweet peppers is easy.

Peppers nearly dry enough for storage. They retain their bright color for several weeks after drying but do eventually fade to a dull brown. When rehydrated though, even the brownish ones still provide great flavour in dishes.

Manitoba Gold – Fall Colours

I grew up in Quebec where fall colours are celebrated. As a child I recall how the radio announcer would breathlessly advise us that this week the colours were declared to be at their peak. My parents would take us on a drive to the Laurentians to see the display. During our full time travel trailer life, my husband and I moved slowly south and we got to enjoy those fall colours beginning in Boston and moving south for nearly nine weeks before we reached Florida. Part of our journey overlapped with a formal RVer tour that began in Newfoundland and followed the leaves south to Florida. The participants just raved about how great that trip was.

Fall in Manitoba is different and a bit of a disappointment by comparison. One reason is that there are no full sized trees that turn flaming red and purple the way it happens in the east. Here the colour of the tallest trees is invariably gold tones. Red and purple and deep oranges are only found in the understory. Plus, with a few exceptions Manitoba is so flat. There is no display climbing the mountain sides. Once I got used to the difference, I began to appreciate Manitoba’s subtler fall scenery. This week the colours are in full glorious display. I am enjoying this beauty a lot more this year.

This little tree is a hardy apricot. It is supposed to produce apricots when it matures even growing in our fridge Zone 3a region. I bought two of them for the possibility of my husband’s favourite fruit, assuming we should live so long. Imagine my delight to discover this little apricot tree turns as brilliant an orange as any of the finest oranges in Quebec. Planting this tree was an act of faith in our future.
This bush is turning from the top down. It almost looks like it is on fire. The green spruce beside it was only six inches tall when we moved in. It doesn’t seem like our fifth fall here already but it is.
Here is an example of how reds are limited to the understory in Manitoba. These vines are as red and lovely as any Quebec maple. You just have to look down not up to find red.
The tamarack, a close relative of the Siberian larch, is a native tree that tolerates wet. After having two regal evergreens die in this low spot always damp to soaked, I put a tamarack seedling in instead. It has thrived. The tamarack turns a brilliant gold in the fall, drops its needles, and then grows new ones in the spring. This little tree is halfway to gold now and is the prettiest bright yellow/green.
My neighbour’s glorious paper birches turn a particularly brilliant gold bringing me much pleasure in fall. Bonus: I don’t have to rake those leaves.
I took this picture on a very windy day. I didn’t see the bumblebee taking shelter there until afterward. Clever bee, shelter and food in one spot. The sunflower is a wonderful contrast of yellow and brown. I plant Russian giants every year and almost always have a few blooming in the fall. I leave them standing through the winter and the birds always pick the seeds clean.
This aging apple tree is called by the locals here a “throwing apple” tree. It sits on the edge of our property looking more wretched and miserable each year. The apples taste like wood and have a texture only slightly better than sawdust, hence they are good for nothing but throwing. Once the fruit has frozen, it gets soft, slightly ferments and sweetens. Still unfit for humans, deer love to come into town to eat them in winter. The tree goes from green straight to brown but the apples have a lovely soft peach tinted orange this time of year, adding a cheerful variation on the fall colours. So we let it continue its slow decline because of its redeeming qualities.

I see some parallels with my fall experience and my own aging. When I think only of the beautiful fall colours I had in my youth in another place and time, Manitoba gold seems subdued, less. But when I stop comparing this to my memories of the past and concentrate on what I have here and now, Manitoba Gold is stunning and wonderful.