Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Little Tour

 Because we had so much rain this June our landscape is lovelier than ever.  This morning Jim and I took a little tour, and here are some of the photos from that walk, all between the house and the road.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Full Steam Ahead

 This is my first full week of retirement, so what am I up to?  All the usual, and then some!

Sunday afternoon my student M. gave a small recital at the old folks home here.  She played pieces from Suzuki books 4 and 6.  For the Bach Double Violin Concerto I played with her.  J.B. accompanied us, and did a wonderful job of it.  The old folks were very appreciative and really enjoyed our little concert.

Then Jim and I made an offer on another condo in Arizona, the smallest unit this time, just as a stopgap because we've rented out the unit we have there.  So Monday morning I walked into town to get a statement from the bank that, yes, we can put our money where our mouth is!

Today we were busy trying to wire the earnest money to the title company.  Cross border transactions are a hassle!

Before 9 a.m. I had done the weekly laundry and washed the windows at the back of the house.  What an improvement that was!  M. and I had our vigorous walk together, during which we decided I would chauffeur her parents to the airport tomorrow afternoon.

Late in the morning I tackled the railing on the balcony, which S. had scraped.  The light grey is the primer.  I will paint these areas with the brown topcoat later this week--or whenever I get around to it!

Dinner was served at 2 p.m. and then S. arrived for a violin lesson.  She's been my student for several years, progressing through books 1, 2, 3, and currently 4 of the Suzuki Violin Method.  We both enjoy the lessons so much (I think I can speak for her on this) that they last for quite a while.  Why stop when you're having fun!

I still need to get some baking and cleaning done before D.S. #2 and family arrive on the weekend.  Plus finishing the knitting and sewing of gifts.

Frankly, I think this is a typical retirement week.  And actually, would I have it any different?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Floods and Baking

This is the third weekend in a row that I made the Lemon/Poppyseed cake.  It's such a nice snack, not too sweet and not too oily.

Next up is a dozen cranberry muffins.  That recipe came from the Lighthearted Cookbook, but I've changed it a lot.  I now use my "Better Blueberry Muffins" recipe that I got from a Robin Hood flour bag and reworked to include a lot of other ingredients, including rolled oats and yogurt.

On the right are 20 buns of the sort we've been calling "Nice Buns."  They are made with cardamom and glacéd fruit peel.  I've struggled with them all along.  I used to make them with a sweet dough recipe, lots of butter and sugar.  Lately I've started just using my basic bun/bread recipe that calls for 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar (for a sweet dough, otherwise 2 Tbs.) and 3 Tbs. canola oil. They turn out just fine that way, and we avoid too much fat and too much sugar.

They usually take forever to rise, and I've wondered if this was due to the cardamom.  This particular batch I forgot to add the powdered cardamom to the dough, and they rose the way bread and buns usually do.  They turned out lovely: soft and fluffy.  With some jam, or honey, or cheese, they'll be a treat.

Our D.S.#2, DDIL and dear granddaughters (10 and 13) plan to come for a visit a week from tomorrow, so I'll be baking ahead again, as I did in March for DD#2 and her family.  All this baking goes into the freezer, and is still lovely when it's thawed for use.

We've had a very cold and rainy June here.  Hasn't felt much like summer at all.  All the rain also boosted the mosquito population to high nuisance levels.  This past Wednesday it started to rain and rained buckets for days.  This morning was about the first time we saw any sunshine, and right now it's warm and sunny, a real treat!  Calgary had more rain than we did, and the foothills of the Rockies got as much rain in some places as they do in half a year.  There are two rivers, The Bow and The Elbow, that converge in Calgary, and all that rain upstream resulted in devastating floods.  Altogether about 100,000 people had to evacuate their homes and go to friends, relatives, motels, hotels, and even strangers' homes.  There is an unbelievable amount of damage.  Go check it out on the web!

But, according to today's Calgary Herald, almost all people affected by this disaster are simply going forward, doing their best, and being helpful to each other and grateful to all the emergency workers who have come in to help.  Edmonton sent 100 policemen to help patrol the evacuated areas.  There have been no reports of looting or vandalism or any disorderly behaviour.  The worst incidences are cases where people refuse to leave their homes and then have to be rescued.

One of the things that made this flood so bad, in addition to how much area was flooded, was the rapidity with which the waters rose.  In many cases that was the cause of need for rescue.

On the whole, the response of the flood victims and of those who are involved in rescue and relief makes us proud to be Albertans.  This is a good example of the "Can Do" attitude and the neighbourliness that Alberta is known for.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

All Done

Wildrose Strings, May 15, 2013
Yesterday I taught my last violin lesson.  It was a make-up lesson for one that had been missed earlier.  I am now officially "retired."

When I originally agreed to teach here it was as a substitute for a teacher who was going abroad (to Beirut, Lebanon) for a year.  She and her husband had both been invited to teach at the American School there for a year.

That one year turned into two, so I took on a second year, which has just been completed.

This is a picture of the little string group just after we finished giving our year end recital on May 15th.  You can see from all the big smiles that we were very happy with our playing.  It was the capstone of a long, sometimes difficult struggle to learn our music and learn how to play as a unit, not a collection of individuals.

I feel a sense of "completeness" about finishing this two year teaching stint.  I'm glad that I did it.  I'm happy with the progress that each of my students made. (They are the center six people in the photo, two in the front row, three in the middle and one hiding in the back.)  And I'm more than pleased with the accomplishments of the little string group.

There were times when I wished I didn't have to go out teaching on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Times I would rather have stayed home and sewed, knitted and read novels, especially when the weather was frigid and stormy, which was a lot of the time this past winter.  But, without exception, each time I was there with the students, I enjoyed them.  Sometimes I was just blown away by what they accomplished.  Sometimes it was evident that they hadn't put in enough serious practice time.  But each and every time I enjoyed them as the persons that they are.  It's a treat for an older person, such as myself, to be associated with young people.

I will miss them!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


 I can't show my current knitting or sewing projects, as they are all for gift-giving in the near future.  So I thought I'd just wander a bit outside and share some of the beauties currently blooming on our place.  First up a magnificent yellow iris.  We have lots of different colours.  This one was close to the driveway, making it easy to photograph.

Earlier today we had a few thunderstorms pass through our area, and now, with the sun shining and hardly any wind, the mosquitoes are out in their hordes!

A bush of blooming lilacs

 A field of lupins
 Nasturtiums--which always seem to me like a very old-fashioned flower, because I have a large old-fashioned coffee pot decorated with nasturtiums.
A deep, deep red peony, which appears much lighter in this photo

From now until the middle of August, our landscape is a profusion of blooming colour, much to Jim's delight--he planned and planted it all, with S's help.

Monday, June 17, 2013

New Favourite Recipe

Here's my newest favourite recipe:
1 pkg. lemon cake mix
1 pkg. lemon instant pudding
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup poppy seeds
4 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350º.  Soak poppy seeds in milk.
Grease a bundt cake pan.  In a large bowl mix together cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, oil and water.  Stir well.  Add milk/poppy seeds.  Mix well.  Pour into bundt cake pan.  Bake in oven according to directions on cake box.  (42-45 minutes)  Cool thoroughly, turn out onto cake plate.

I haven't been able to find lemon instant pudding, so I substituted vanilla instant pudding and added 2 teaspoons of lemon extract.  That seemed to work fine.

It's a very easy, not too sweet, cake that is moist and freezes well.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Winding Up

On Wednesday I taught the last of the regularly scheduled violin lessons.  There are two make up lessons to do, one next week, and one the week after.  So I'm feeling much more free to do "my own thing."

I finished the pair of socks intended as a present for a dear one this summer, and started a second pair for another dear one.  I also started sewing some other presents.  They can't be shown until after they are gifted, as the recipients do read this blog.

Tomorrow afternoon we will have our end of year "violin party," at which the students will play their most recent finished pieces and receive certificates for their accomplishments.  I promised to make it a dessert party, so today I baked two cakes, one a chocolate cherry, the other a lemon poppy seed.  I have in the freezer two loaves of Deet's Koek (that recipe has been on the blog) which I will also slice up and serve.  A bucket of vanilla ice cream and a platter of fruit will round out the eats.

This year for the first time I will also play a piece, "Meditation from Thais" by Jules Massenet, mainly because the "concert" is going to be a very short one.  One of my students, the one who played "Fiddler" will accompany me on piano.

Now that summer's here I've started cutting flowers for bouquets to grace the dining room table.  Here's today's fresh flowers.  They won't last long, but there are lots more out there for future bouquets.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Project

Jim has, somewhat inadvertently, started a major summer project.

The small pond at the front of the property was looking pretty green, and he wanted to pump some fresh water into it before starting up the little waterfall he made a few years ago.  He pumped out all the mucky green water into the shelter belt where it will nourish the trees and shrubs.

With the water gone, the fuzzy mat at the bottom was revealed: totally covered with green muck.

When we constructed this little shallow pond we first lined it with some black plastic.  In no time deer walking through the water had punctured the plastic and drained the pond.  Jim found a very heavy black plastic, sourced from an oil field supply company, designed to line the holding area around oil tanks.  He lined the pond with that heavy plastic and no water could seep out.

That company also provided some fuzzy mats to place over the plastic, additional insurance against puncture by deer hooves.  Those mats have sometimes presented problems by not staying at the bottom, but floating upward here and there, looking like little islands.  In fact at one barbecue we hosted two teen-aged brothers dared each other to hop to an island.  The older boy hopped and found out it was NOT an island!  He got a good soaking for his shoes and the bottom of his trousers.  Fortunately, the pond is very shallow, probably about a foot and a half when full of water.

When Jim saw the condition of the mats he decided to remove them completely.  This simple task is turning into a major project, because he weighted the mats down with stones--some here and there in the middle, but a solid covering of boulders around the verge of the pond.

Today he started removing the boulders by hand, one at a time and heaving them onto the rocks surrounding the pond.  These are all large stones that he placed individually, by hand several years ago.  He thought he had completed all that work, and here some of it is back for another go 'round.

It doesn't seem to be a project that I can be of much help, just to encourage him as he works on it and urge him not to try to finish it in one day, maybe in one week!