Thursday, September 30, 2010
On Christmas Eve of 2000 Alexandra managed to get sick. Make that very sick. While the turkey was roasting in the oven, Alexandra was baking on the couch. When her temperature hit 105F (40.5C) I knew she was in trouble and I rushed her into emergency. I will spare you the details of that less than memorable night. The point is it was the highest I had ever seen that thermometer register, and I assumed I would never see it reach that mark again. I held that assumption right up until last night, when she managed to tie her own previous best in the "personally baked" category of illnesses.
Never one to shrink from a challenge, this afternoon she managed to shatter the previous record and come sizzling in at a toasty 105.8F (41C). After a couple of hours of IV fluids at the local hospital emergency department she started to become coherent again and asked what can happen if your temperature gets too high. I pointed out that if it had gone any higher she could have ended up like our cat Emily, who spent an expensive 5 days at the vet hospital last spring with a high fever and some sort of infection. Ever since that illness she has been acting strangely, clearing having toasted a few neurons. For instance, she will go up to the screen door and make horrible yeowing noises for hours at a time. I am not exaggerating- hours of yeowing. If you were going to pick a cat sound to invoke the same response as a fingernail on a chalkboard this would be the front runner.
Alexandra is home now, feeling somewhat better, and because she is feeling better that means I am too. That's how it works when you are a mom. So now I am headed to bed, thankful on many fronts, not the least of which is that I live in a country where I don't have to worry about what this evening cost, or how much my insurance might cover. The sum total of my bill was a $3.50 charge for parking. Which is exactly $959.50 less than it cost me to treat the cat.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Ick. Ick. Ick. This was at the beginning of my walk, which meant that for the remainder of the time I was totally and completely paranoid. I jumped at every stick and piece of debris on the trail, and when a leaf blew in front of me I might possibly have shrieked. I'm not sure what was up with that- in my state of terror I must have temporarily forgotten that snakes don't fly.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
So it is with some pride that I can say yesterday's purchase was actually planned. I love each and every Canadian Living cookbook I own, and the latest issue of the Costco magazine said this fall they would be stocking a new Canadian Living cookbook called The Vegetarian Collection. I was a happy shopper when I saw it had made an appearance amongst the stacks of books in my favorite Costco aisle.
Please note what this picture does not show. This is only the front row of cookbooks. Crammed in behind is another row of cookbooks that have currently fallen out of favor. If that was all it might not be so bad, but there is also this drawer.
And this one. Keep in mind these books are the top of stacks that sit four deep!
Clearly an intervention of some kind is needed, so this fall I am forcing myself to undergo the "Two Weeks, Two Cookbooks" treatment. Under the strict guidelines of the plan every two weeks I will choose two cookbooks to use. Any recipes I make can only come out of those cookbooks, or be something I make up myself. I am hoping this will keep me from going back to the same "favored few", and force me to get to know what's inside the pages of all those stacks and rows of culinary possibilities I have taking up valuable kitchen space. Exemptions will be allowed for birthday and Thanksgiving cooking, and for desserts. The thought of choosing the first two seems overwhelming, but hopefully as I move forward in my recovery it will get easier.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The list of sick appliances we have owned over the years is extensive. For a long time we seemed to be stuck in a defective furnace phase. In a brand new house with a brand new electric furnace we managed to have it break down several different times. The worst was the time we came home from a trip to Vancouver to discover that somehow the furnace had turned on and had never shut itself back off. By the time we got home it was over 30C (close to 90F) inside our house and that baby was still going strong. At least we didn't have a fire. No, the fire would have been in the gas furnace when we lived in Richmond. Okay, technically it wasn't due to a defect in the furnace, unless you count the fact that there was an open space at the bottom where too much cat hair accumulated as a design fault. Before this event I had no idea that burning cat hair could result in such huge flames.
Hot water heaters have also given us some grief over the years, starting early on while we were living in Fort St. John and continuing to challenge us right through our Nelson years. Oddly, it was also at our new house that we had the worst bout of hot water woes. Two different times we had a burner go out, and by the time we moved I suspected that burner number three had just bit the dust. If, after one of your teens runs the hot water out, it takes four hours to get hot again I don't think I was just being paranoid.
I fondly look back on Richmond as our appliance purgatory phase . Yes, there was that incident with the furnace, but for the most part our problems were transitioning to the kitchen. Unbeknownst to me, a whole new appliance terror was just around the corner. This was the transitional stage where some of our appliances now had digital circuitry. That fancy new stove we purchased for our kitchen? The one with the digital key pad and display? All I can say is I am glad when it died it at least had the decency to do so while still under warranty.
The thing about purgatory is you still don't know which way things are going to go. So I remained optimistic that things would be better in Kamloops. After all, the house we were moving into was only three years old, the appliances were all new and name brand, and many were still under warranty. Yes, you are allowed to laugh.
Like clockwork, just as each warranty expired, so did the appliance. It is as if some guru pre-programed them with a Hindu worldview. We pay huge sums of money to get them fixed, they live a new life for awhile, then die again. It is like they are all striving to be reborn as something better and are caught in an endless cycle of life, death and rebirth, which, sadly, leaves us in an endless cycle of spending.
Our front loading washing machine had the drum break off its attachments to the machine in an event our repairman described as "highly unusual." Then there is our dishwasher. It has resulted in the repairman visiting us several times, each one to replace digital components that have fried themselves. What I had hoped was a one-off incident with the stove in Richmond actually proved to be the portent of doom for our appliance malfunctions here in Kamloops. The computer components are all made in China, and to put it bluntly they are junk. Not only are they all designed to self-destruct, much like those messages in the old TV show Mission Impossible, they apparently don't even keep these components in stock in Canada. I have a theory that it is because they are afraid of contaminating their warehouses with these sub-standard products. And yes, I might be a bit bitter. This means that when your dishwasher dies you pay to have the guy come tell you its dead. Then you wait six long weeks for your part to come over on the slow boat from China. Then you pay for the repairman to come back and fix your dishwasher. We repeated this process three times, and by the time we were finished could have more than paid for a new dishwasher.
We are now entering a stove phase again. It started during the Christmas season of 2008. Should I ever reach a point of deep enough healing I might someday blog about that total holiday fail, but for now I will restrict myself to our dead oven, the one with the 25 pound Christmas turkey sitting in it. This was when I discovered that it just wasn't dishwasher parts that come on that boat from China. Now I am not saying that everything that is made in China is horrible. After all, my daughter-in-law Diana was made in China, and I think she is terrific. (However, if she had any computer chips or digital circuitry boards in her I might be forced to downgrade my opinion.)
Our recent stove episodes have, surprisingly, not involved circuitry. When the burner on my ceramic top died back in July I felt oddly relieved. After all, it was just a burner, right? In the good old days of those open ring burners you could easily change it yourself. Not so with the ceramic tops. So we paid for the initial call for the repairman to diagnose the problem, then waited four weeks for the new burner to arrive, then paid for him to come replace it. Not only did this cost over $300 by the time we were finished, I was starting to worry the neighbors might be wondering if I am having an affair with the appliance guy his truck is here so often. It would have been much nicer having the burner fixed had it been possible to have it on anything but high heat. No matter what setting I turned it to the burner remained red hot. Clearly this was not a good sign. I once again called the repair place, whose number I now have memorized, thankful that at least the burner was under a 30 day warranty. Which, of course, turned out to be totally worthless because it wasn't the burner that was the problem it was the switch.
I am sure by now you will understand when I tell you that before the repairman came yesterday I left the house. I went for a long walk through the brush near our home, deciding that a potential bear encounter was preferable to one with the appliance guy, leaving my husband to deal with this latest appliance failure. And just so you know we don't discriminate against small appliances, during the time period between the burner fix and the switch fix our rice maker died. It was rice maker number six, not that I'm counting or anything. Oh- and the reason for the title of this post "Fridge Fright?" Simple. It is the one major appliance in this house that hasn't broken down. Yet.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So in case anyone from our community saw me slinking out of the Valleyview Liquor store at approximately 10:00 this morning, I am going to blatantly ignore the first rule of holes (when you are in one, stop digging) and repeat what I told the cashier. Only this will be better because you get pictures and she didn't!
First up is the bottle of Glenlivet Scotch Whiskey. (Does the word whiskey get capitalized when used with the brand name? Hopefully my ignorance in this matter should offer up some proof that I don't usually imbibe.) You see, I make my own vanilla, and my supply was getting low. I bought some vanilla beans at Costco last week but still needed to get some whiskey before I could proceed. Now you are beginning to see why the cashier was giving me a strange look. Anyway, making vanilla is actually quite simple. You take a couple of vanilla beans and slit them lengthwise, then cut them into thirds and plunk into the bottle of liquor. I have a master bottle that I keep refilling, keeping the old beans in to add to the flavor. I add the whiskey, give the bottle a gentle shake, write the date on the label on the front, then set it on my kitchen cupboard to remind me to shake it every day for the next couple of months. I will have a new batch of delicious vanilla just in time for Christmas baking!
And I'm sure there's a good reason for the wine. While I sit and relax with a glass I will see if I can come up with one.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
At the same time my brother and parents looked over and said, "Look at the Indians," out of my mouth came the words "I'm getting a picture of those Natives." In the USA it is still perfectly acceptable to use the term Indian. Not in Canada. Even the term Native is a bit of a stretch. First Nations or Aboriginals would be preferable. (Lest someone accuse us of being crass, please note these are mannequins, not real people.)
While south of the 49th I also made a trade with my brother, and I have to say I definitely got the better deal. I went to the local yarn store and picked up some wool to knit John a toque. Drawing once again on my bilingual skills I will translate this for my American readers. Toque=hat. I madly knit away while we visited and played card games together, and by the end of the visit John had this toque to take back to Chicago.
For my end of the deal I was given a gallon of huckleberries that were promptly made into this jam, which happens to be the same no matter which of my two official languages I am speaking- delicious!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
I hope you slept better last night knowing that you were kept safe thanks to the brave act performed by one of your border guard heroes yesterday afternoon.
Note to the border guard:
I hope you and your family enjoyed the 5 pounds of organic garden tomatoes I was bringing down to give to my elderly parents. I find myself regretting the fact I didn't use chemicals on the crop.
Questions for the US government:
1. Are tomatoes your definition of the "new red menace?"
2. Why, after years of being allowed safe passage across the border, did you suddenly decide 6 weeks ago to stop the transportation of tomatoes across the 49th parallel?
3. If a tomato is grown by a US citizen in a foreign country, shouldn't the tomato hold dual citizenship in the same way the tomato owner's children do?
Note to self:
Thank you for totally forgetting about the container of cherry tomatoes in the cooler until after you entered the US.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
This picture is just a tiny slice of what was a river filled with sockeye in their bright red spawning colors. Some were still in good shape like the ones in this photo, swimming against the current to make their way to the spot they where they would make their redd (the space at the bottom of a stream that a spawning salmon makes for its eggs; also a good word to know for Scrabble). Others were not looking so good, basically meaning if they weren't dead yet they soon would be. I thought this couple was especially poignant.
After observing the sockeye we decided to take a hike along the Adams River. It was one of those perfect fall days- the sun was warm on our backs, the air was crisp and fresh, and the scenery was spectacular.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I spent a happy half hour perusing the pages, but in the end didn't feel like I had happened upon exactly what I was looking for. My qualifications for a perfect recipe?
-obviously it needed to strongly feature tomatoes
Here is where the recipe got rather annoying. As I came back into the house grasping a handful of parsley, rosemary and thyme the song Scarborough Fair started going through my head and I couldn't get it back out for the rest of the day. Those of you that are my age or older (that would be above 49) will know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you too young to have a clue this is what I am referring to.
It couldn't have been easier to put together. I cut the sausage into bite size pieces, halved the tomatoes, added the herbs and whole unpeeled garlic cloves (I left them roast in the pan, then squeezed the garlicky goodness out and mixed in just before serving), added a few glugs of olive oil and stirred. Then I popped the roasting pan in the oven for an hour at 300F. Ten minutes before it was done I cooked some linguine. Just before serving I topped it with fresh Parmesan and basil.
An hour later we enjoyed the first of our 2010 garden tomato dinners.
Here are a few shots of what awaits us in the garden. Clearly this won't be our last tomato supper!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
His most egregious season of procrastination occurred several years ago when he had drawn my niece's name. I had heard through the grapevine that she wanted the boxed set of the Harry Potter series. That news came my way in early November and I immediately passed it on to son #1. The week before Christmas I phoned to ask if he had picked up the gift yet. Normally I wouldn't do a rescue like this, but the thought of my niece ending up with no package on Christmas morning was just too much to handle. Karsten covered up his surprise at the news he was to be purchasing the book set by quickly assuring me he would be getting it the next day. It wasn't until after the gift exchange was over and we were left with a pile of discarded wrapping paper littering the floor that the whole story came out. Apparently there had been some confusion over who was going to pick up the books. He though his wife was buying them, but hadn't actually communicated this to her. They were coming out on separate flights due to different work schedules, and it wasn't until a few hours before Karsten took off that he discovered that Diana hadn't bought the books and she was already en route. So instead of heading to the airport he found himself detouring to the closest Chapters. The day before Christmas. With his flight due to take off in under 2 hours. Obviously he did make the flight since he was there telling us the story, but he literally only made it by minutes.
Then there are the plan-aheaders like Rebekah. If you found yourself reading the opening sentence of this post and saying to yourself something along the lines of "Oh right- I better start thinking about this," you most likely fall into this category. With a large family we have found it works best if we each pull a name out of a hat and buy for that specific person. With 5 kids, 2 daughters-in-law and 2 parents it is simply too much to exchange with everyone. Besides, and this would be another post for another day, for a number of reasons we jumped off the Christmas crazy wagon a number of years ago, meaning we have tried to simplify and focus on a family-driven model of Christmas rather than a consumer-driven one.
Here is the part Rebekah wants to change. Her proposal is that we still do the name draw, but tighten up the gift $ limit. Then we would have everyone contribute to a charitable organization. She suggested we do it as a group effort. We would decide ahead of time what organization we want to focus on and pool our money. Her thinking was that would enable us to purchase something substantial like a farm animal for a family in a third world country. I like this idea!
I had planned to do some research over the next month to see what the possibilities are for giving. Then, this morning, I happened upon http://www.charitywater.org/. I learned about this amazing work through a blog I read. Check out http://blog.beliefnet.com/omeoflittlefaith/ to see what this blogger and 29 others are doing during the month of September. There are many things to like about this particular organization, and if you go to their website you can see video clips and hear stories about the difference that access to clean water can make in people's lives. I was also impressed by the fact that 100% of donations go toward the work. How, you may ask, is that possible? The following is taken from their FAQ page:
1. The 100% model: How it works. From the very beginning, restoring people's faith in charity was an important part of our mission. This is why we direct 100% of donors' money straight to on-the-ground project costs. In fact, we're so passionate about giving 100% that we pay the PayPal and credit card transaction fees each time you donate online. Each time someone gives, a true 100% goes straight to the field.So how do we keep our lights on? A group of private donors, foundations and sponsors help pay for the everyday costs of running the organization. Our flights to the field, our staff, our office, even paperclips and ink toner, are sponsored so every penny of your donation goes straight to water projects.
This will certainly be a front runner for potential organizations our family could donate to this upcoming (or far away, depending on your personaltiy type!) holiday season. I am sure many more will come to my attention over the next few months.