Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tonks and the Great Outdoors

As you remember, I now am the keeper of Stephanie and Sean's two little cats, Paralax and Tonks.

Tonks is the scardiest cat I have ever met. She stayed in the closet in the bedroom for 3
days...NEVER coming out when she first came to our house. Then she moved to staying under the couch for over a week, and only came out at night... I mean when everyone was gone to bed. Then she game out early in the morning, and evening...
Now she is out often, and its not a shocker to see her, like it was the first few weeks. That being said.. Terry and I walk softly around her, careful not to move too suddenly, or make sudden noises because she darts under cover for an hour when she is spooked.

She loves all the windows of our house and its not uncommon to come home from work and see her sitting in the basement window, looking out at the world at ground level. She watches "Bird TV" quite a bit too. Terry trimmed our bird feeder tree yesterday and filled it up with sunflower seeds. The little chickadees spent an hour diving and foraging... giving both cats a fabulous "Action" show. Pika.. slept quietly on the couch... bored with such mundane viewing.

The blue jays arrived with their big voices and large presence and that turned the cats into "Flat" cats, because they couldn't have lowered themselves any lower into the bench...
We were as much entertained by the cats as they were by the birds.
This afternoon, a nice cool fall afternoon, I spent time outside, transplanting some Christmas Bulbs and potting some outdoor plants into indoor plants. Now, Paralax uses every opportunity to get outside, and she plays around the cedar (under the bird feeder) or in my side garden but she doesn't wander far. We keep a close eye on her. She keeps a good eye on every moving object, from leaves, acorns to poor helpless bugs.Well, today... Miss Scaredy Pants, Tonks... watched me out the window of the door.... and when I offered her the wide open view of the front yard... curiosity overrode her fear.She stayed in the foyer with the door open to her for a few minutes, just looking. Then she moved to the doorway... and stuck her head way out... just to look. Then... onto the door step.... At this point... she had been in and out of the door no less then 10 times. We stayed very still, so as not to spook her... and she moved to the bench. The little birds were fluttering around, and she was on the hunt.... She overcame the initial fear of the outdoors, and just became skiddish with every new texture... pavement, rocks, dirt.. and the little pond!! She explored every little movement, under the bench, under the tree....following Paralax, and joining Pika. It was a fun little afternoon for all the cats. Paralax enjoyed having Tonks outside. Mainly so she could take off and explore our next door neighbours yard without us knowing.
You can see her little grey body sneaking behind Mac's house...... Geesh.
.. I just about had a heart attack when I couldn't find her. She then skirted all around Mac's house with both Terry and I following her, trying to corner her. She darted all around and finally made her way back into our yard, where she laid down to rest... probably relieved that her brush with unknown territories was over.

We have opened a real can of worms now though, as both cats seem to love the idea of going outside now. Ugh... try getting out the door with a purse, a school bag, three lunch bags and my keys.. and a jacket.. while kicking a cat out of the door... geesh...

Monday, September 28, 2009

OK, now they are cute again... geesh

I got home from doing some last minute school groceries and was putting away the groceries when 5 minutes later Terry arrived home from bowling and told me to go to the window. This is what Terry saw.. thinking that the raccoon had cleaned out the feeder while we were out. On closer inspection, the little guy was still there, sitting with all 4 feet in the feeder, and his head totally immersed, and through the glass of the feeder, you could see his little feet working hard to get all the seeds. He was very comfy with us taking his picture, and stopped a few times to pose, while he turned his big fat body around to get the other side of the feeder. We figure he showed up sometime after 9:30.. and well... its 11:00pm... and he is still there.....

Pika and Paralax love this prime time channel on the the bird TV.. must be a season premiere. Its the Raccoon station after 9pm...

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

I don't know which came first....

Julie/Julia or Stephanie O'Dea. Who, you say? Well, Stephanie O'Dea is a fellow blogger. She had this fun News Year's Resolution .... starting on Jan 1 2008, she would use her slow cooker every day of the entire year.... and blog about it EVERY DAY!
I jumped onto her blog as a follower about March, hearing about her from Paula and Jerry who were following her from their camper while in Mexico.
I recently went to see the movie "Julie/Julia" where there is a girl who adores Julia Childs and decided to cook every recipe in one of Julia's French cookbooks over the course of a year (400 recipes) and blog each day about it. When I understood the basis for the movie, and I had read it was based on a true story, it reminded me of Stephanie's quest.
Stephanie's blog not only has recipes, but pictures of the ingredients, of the finished product, comments, verdicts (good or bad) and they are all gluten free as a bonus for my friends who need this.
The one thing in my house that is under utilized is my slow cooker (oh, and my exercise bike). I am not a big fan of stew, and honestly, anything I have made in my cooker that wasn't a stew, still looked like stew and tasted like stew. Stephanie's blog gave me hope that
maybe I could actually make something that wasn't stew, in looks, taste or other wise. Now this blog is not about how I have turned into a slow cooker advocate.... I will leave that to Stephanie.
But... this weekend I decided to make a chicken in the darn thing. I searched the blog for a chicken recipe and although there are 59 chicken recipes (and tons of yummy ones) I wanted a whole chicken recipe. I decided to use Rotisserie Chicken Recipe.
She starts with a 5lb "skinned" whole chicken. OK, I thawed a 3 lb chicken and then this morning I looked at my little chicken and though... how the heck do I skin it. I was going to forget that one step, but then her comment "I skin whole chickens because I hate the idea of the chicken fat simmering all day in the crock---it also looks disgusting when the chicken is cooked because it's all slimy and icky." stuck in my mind, and I thought, I better try it.
Well, skinning a chicken isn't all that bad and it took 10 minutes at the most.
I had two wonderful and supportive cheerleaders watching me, which also added pressure. If I dropped the sucker, it would be not a pretty picture.
I got about half of the skinning done, and I thought I would show you my cheerleading team in action. That added to the prep time... washing hands.. drying... finding the camera.... and hoping they didn't jump onto the counter while I was out of the room for 10 seconds.

Chicken was on by 9 and cooked by 4. I let it sit on warm while the rest of supper was cooked.
There was tons of juice at the bottom, and the spices added a nice spice to the chicken and the juices. I made a nice little gravy out of the juices and with potatoes and brocolli... it was a very yummy supper.
Stephanie turned her year of blogging recipes into a book that will be released in October. You can get it from Amazon and I have mine already ordered.... yipee

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have I told you lately.....

hee hee..... well, everyone who knows me, knows I hate peas. So, I just wanted you to know, that I ate a fantastic Chicken Pot Pie today... from Noreen... with tons of peas in it. I took my time... and picked out every blessed one of them... and the pot pie...was delicious... without them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Raccoon troubles

Well, one has to love those little raccoons and there ingenious ways of getting things done. We have had a love/hate relationship with the raccoons of our neighbourhood for over 20 years.

This summer we fell in love with three young raccoons who invaded our front yard bird feeder and our hearts, but now I back to be mad at them. When I got my pottery bird feeder a few years ago, I blogged several times about its frequent visitors.
You can have a look here and here to see how fun this feeder has been in the past... I had to add this screen hanger on the bottom of the feeder because the birds spill so much seed, which was quite dangerous for the little guys since
I have a very opportunistic cat! Well my little raccoon friend was on the deck and somehow tore the screen off the bird feeder and mangled it so badly that I can't quite fix it! Geesh.
He didn't stop with the bird feeder either. He also smashed my brand new shiny purple compost bowl that was on the deck and filled with veggie peelings (of no interest most other days). He slid it under the rails of the deck and onto the sidewalk, 5 feet below.
Imagine, just in August I wrote about how sweet they were....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Creative surrounding

When you are use to a way of life, you figure that everyone has the same experiences... right? Like if you always pick apples in the fall... and then you meet someone from another location who is experiencing the Valley for the first time, you are amazed that they didn't spend their fall picking apples or buying tomatoes, potatoes or pumpkins on the side of the road... you know, like we do here.
Well, something I realized over the past year, is that I am surrounded by creative people... in my family, and my friends. Absolutely everyone I know is a knitter, a sewer, a painter.... my mom was the queen of "crafts" that my kids will always remember her by. Before my mom got into "quirky" crafts, she was an amazing sewer, an amazing crocheter, making beautiful lace doilies. She dabbled in painting, and she just started to do tatting before she her life came to a quick end from cancer, more than 16 years ago. My sister and I follow in her foot steps, trying many different craft experiences before settling on things we enjoy. My mother in law, two sister in laws.... they are a collection of knitters, painters, sewers, rug hookers.... my daughters are amazing knitters and both sew. Sean's family all make livings as artisans of their creative abilities.. in pottery, glass and silver. My friends all sew, paint, draw....

The second thing I realized is that this way of life is not as common as one would imagine. Recent experiences made me realize that although I may be surrounded by creative family and friends who think nothing of "making" something... there are large scores of people out there who don't feel they can "craft" and this therefore breeds whole families of people who don't sew, knit, paint, draw, scrapbook, or hook rugs.

I am so lucky to have been raised with the attitude that the sky is the limit as far as what you can do and make...

My mother in law, Joan, loves to sew and she has a particular love for fleece. She sews all the time. All her granddaughters have grown up now, and she has no one to sew for. If Joan had 25 granddaughters, she still wouldn't have enough people to sew for. Therefore, she makes little jacket, hat & mitt sets for fun and tries to sell them. I have sold a good number in my day, but I am done with that. Last weekend, Michelle and I labeled and boxed about 25 sets of kids jackets, hats, mitts, scarves and pants... with labels and prices and we took the m to a new consignment job for artisans. Its called Beautiful Creations, located in New Minas. They contacted my MIL last July to say they were opening a store and would love to have her sewing.
When Michelle and I brought all her sewing to the store, we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of crafts. There was stain glass, quilts, wood carvings, beautiful handmade jewelry, hand made cards, trinket boxes, knitting, rug hooking and paintings. The owners are very enthusiastic about their store and she talked about all her plans to market Nova Scotia handwork in other parts of the country. Its all very exciting and I hope that the store sees lots of visitors and I hope that Joans' crafts do well. She so needs an avenue to market her talent.
I didn't think to take pictures of Joan's little jacket sets, nor did I feel I could take pictures of the great wares inside the store. Please drop by and have a look.. there are at least 4 things I am going back to buy!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day - Keji Weekend...

I can't tell you how much I love Keji. I haven't camped at Keji in a couple of years, although we have visited the park at least twice a year for the day, hiking and most recently kayaking.

This weekend started with a frantic cooking, planning, finding, packing and hauling all our stuff on Thursday night into boxes, tubs, coolers, baskets and suitcases. I had to arrange for kitties to be babysat and make two suppers and a lunch.

Work on Friday was good, things are getting into a routine.. and I was determined to leave work at 4, so I could get home and finish all the car and cooler packing and hit the road by 5:00. I didn't exactly get out of work on time, but I made up for it at home, doing the speedy pack moves, like a madwoman, on a mission. We hit the road and after a quick phone call to Mel to let them know we were on our way.... I lost cell coverage for the weekend (Thanks Rogers!)

The park was full of tall scrubby trees, wood smoke and every type of camper and tent imaginable. We arrived at 6:30 as scheduled and had supper going and the camp being unpacked with help from Jill and Mel. We were sitting down to a big camp chowdown by 8:00 and sitting around the camp fire by nine! I am not going to give you a blow by blow of the weekend but I want you to imagine what laying in your comfy "bed in a bag" at 11:30 at night, the temperatures dipped to 10 degrees. You are snuggled under a winter sleeping bag, and one of Nanny's extra warm quilts on top. Wearing jogging pants, long sleeve tees shirt and a hoodie. The "just past" full moon is lighting up the whole tent. The loons are talking to each other way off in the distance. Then the owls... sing to each other. Every call to each other gets closer and closer to us until there is a medley of 3 to 4 owls hooting their loud haunti
ng songs right over us. Along with the owls, an ambitious raccoon sits on Jill and Mel's table and noisily finishes off a small bowl of peanuts and then makes his way over to our utility trailer and hops in. His heavy body lands on our coleman stove and the metal vibrates loudly in the amazing quiet (except the owls) and he rummages through our stuff trying all the containers and bags for some goodies. He scrapes his way out of the trailer and moves on to the next campers. The owls stop.. the loons quiet and the raccoon leaves.... and the quiet returns. Terry and I just exhale and say wow.... Keji is full of those magic moments.

We spent the weekend with Jill and Mel, and Tabatha and her family. We shared meals, shared fires and some great laughs. We taught the Durling family the game of Dice and the night ended in screams of laughter and a round of high 5's from Logan who ended the game quick and painless with a 1 and a 5!!!! What a blast.

Jill, Mel, Terry and I got up early this morning and packed up our gear and headed out by nine o'clock and stopped for breakfast at the M & W Restaurant that is located right outside the entrance to Keji. We had a round of "Tent Travelers" Breakfasts which was 2 eggs, toast, hash browns and your choice of ham, bacon or bologna. Well, our token newfie HAD to have the bologna and when Marilyn (the owner and cook) told him she had none, it started a whole lot of bantering and laughing, and before breakfast was served, we had made fast friends with our cook. She cooked our breakfasts and chatted to us over the stove, and when we drained the coffee pot, she allowed me to go behind the counter and make a new pot. When breakfast was served, we noticed that the "boys" got ham AND bacon AND some sort of salami on their plates, along with all the other stuff. She felt bad for not having the bologna. We chatted amongst ourselves while she was busy with a few others in the restaurant (family, I think) we laughed about the idea of having Thanksgiving Dinner here, when we all come to Keji for Thanksgiving. When we asked if she served dinner that day and she said she did, and it was a packed event. She told us if we wanted to reserve, she would put together a buffet spread for our gang of 12 or so.... how fun would that be. We are still planning that weekend but Marilyn gave us her phone number to call and reserve! I think when I go back there, I will bring her a big bag of valley apples for her family.

The weekend is over.... and it was a spectacular weekend.... hiked a 2 km trail that the book failed to mention was mostly UPHILL.... we kayaked the Lake all the way from the Meadows to the Pete's Point and back (2 hours). We paddled amongst 8 loons who seemed to show off a little while we watched in awe.... We ate Hodge podge... breakfast sandwiches.... shishkabobs and jambalaya... I napped, knitted and read recipe books. We ate too much, and it was way too cold at night....

I think I am ready to start the week now, and I revel in the fact that its only 4 days long!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just as I suspected....

We had a much better day today. The bells worked, Oh Canada was sort of on time... no lost children.. in the morning, at least.
I had a tummy ache as I walked into the building this morning, feeling like I was walking into a slaughterhouse.. I dreamt I complained to the "Transportation bosses" about the terrible situation of our buses (such confusing bus runs) and the took ALL our buses away from us. Parents had to come and pick them up...because of me.
Walking into my office today, I expected phone calls with complaints, parents arriving with complaints... I rehearsed answers, in my mind, on the way to school. I waited... and... nothing. Not a phone call. We did have one mom show up and talk to Mrs. Harris at the buses, to discuss the mix-up that her son had. Understandably, she wanted to know how her son got put on his babysitters' bus, when he was suppose to go home. But other than that, there were a few phone calls I made to talk to parents about bus numbers and our dismissal went fabulously (compared to yesterday anyway)
We put a few kids on buses who were suppose to stay here to be picked up, but quickly got them off before the buses left, we had two spare buses with strange bus numbers, which slowed things up until we got that cleared up, and we were delayed by 10 minutes waiting for the buses to arrive from the other schools. All in all.... so much better. Not one lost child.....
My blogger friend, Ann, commented on when her son got on the wrong bus on his first day of school and how awful it was. I totally know how awful that must be, for both mom and child, and I truly remember each and every child that we have gotten onto wrong buses and how that would taint their first day of school. That is partly my tummy ache, because it is never forgotten, or forgiven. Hopefully, it becomes a funny story when they are older... thats all I can hope for.

Some great moments today....
Conversation with grade 2 boy....Me.. "How was your summer, Sky?" He said "great!". I gushed that he had a great summer and I asked him what his favorite part was and he said "playing in the rain!"... That was soooo great to hear. I expected... Upper Clements Park... or vacation talk... or summer camp stories.. or visitors from away.... but playing in the rain... It brought great memories from my childhood of laying on the hot pavement of our driveway, in a pounding rain storm and feeling the hot on my back and the ice cold rain on my front. I would hold my arms up over my head on the pavement and make a dam for the water to build up and then move my arms so it would pour past me over my shoulders. He laughed when I told him about that and he thought that was a good idea!

Little Sara E saw Linda Young (my office partner)for the first time in over a year (Linda was away for a year) and ran to her and immediately asked (with her hands, she is non verbal) if she could feed Linda's Fish "Rosie". Sara use to feed Linda's fish almost 4 years ago, (different fish) and it was so nice to see Sara remember Linda and remember her fish. It was heartwarming!

Funny moment... there is always one..
I got a phone call at about 4:45 today with a mom asking me if there was school next Monday. I told her no, that it was Labor Day. She said that she got the Calendar from us today, and it didn't say No School on that day, it only said "Labor Day". So she thought there might be school!!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It can ONLY get better from here on in... right?

What a day. I am thinking no one has a worse job than me on the first day of school. But on the bright side, no puke and no fires. But that's where the "good" moments end.

Before school started... a child in Grade 2 .... was missing. His mom was in hysterics because, she put him on the bus, but he wasn't on the bus, when it got to our school. A little freaky wouldn't you agree. At first, we searched the playground, hallways and cafeterias, while others questions mom as to what bus, where did he get on, who was with him, etc. Within 15 minutes, it escalated into hysteria by more than one adult and resulted in three different adults on three different phones talking to three different authorities and a very upset mom staring at all three of us.
Who knew... that his bus stops at a different elementary school
before it comes to Kingston. Who knew that the parents would know to tell the bus driver where the child was to go. Who knew that the bus driver would automatically drop him off at the ONLY elementary school he drives too and who knew that the child wouldn't know he was at the WRONG school! We found him at St. Mary's Elementary school, in a classroom! In reviewing the whole event, there is no one at fault. The family is new to the area. They requested our school for convenience sake, knowing that the transportation would be a little complicated. They reviewed with the children, the routine that was to happen. The driver was to bring both children to the middle school, and the younger would walk to our school, as the bus doesn't come here. Sadly, the bus driver was not told this plan (I am not sure why) and because its not one of our buses, we had no idea that it stops at St. Mary's on its way to Kingston and the little boy didn't know, it wasn't his school. It was the wrong planets lined up.. and it all worked out but what a way to start the day!

We had no less than 50 parents at the buses when their children got off, which complicated the entrance of kids into the building. We had no less than 50 parents needing bus information, or changing phone numbers, or paying for supplies or registering for school.. in amongst our panic search for the missing boy. We had no OCanada or announcements until 9:30, and by then we had sent home two children who were feeling ill and ghostly white.

We had 1500 sheets of paper to count in bundles for the kids to take home... of important "first day" information. We reviewed all the bus numbers with students for the end of the day and we had a PA that works good in one direction, and terrible in the other. We have bells that go off when we don't need them , and then some that don't go off at all.

We lost no less than 8 kids, by them going on their babysitter bus, instead of home bus, or by going on the bus they thought they went on because their friends go on that bus. We had some kids who just remembered they "MOVED" at 3:00 and shouldn't go on the bus they went on the year before..... but don't know their new address... we had two brothers who each went on a different bus.... and they were both wrong! We had three new classroom teachers, plus three teachers teaching younger grades for the first time.... who are far more needy at dismissal....
and we had TWO.... TWO buses.. break down.... one on its FIRST RUN ..... and the other in our bus lane. It had 5 buses blocked behind it..... and they couldn't move around them. Eventually, they went "off roading" over the curbs, on to the school grass, weaving around trees... to get around the stalled bus. What a fun story those kids would get to tell their folks.! The broken bus kids got to play in the playground for a half hour while the garage tried to solve that one... and we at the office answered phone calls until 5:30.... discussing why buses were late, and how "my child" got on the wrong bus...

It can ONLY get better from here on in.... right?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The beginning of things

Now that I am solidly in work mode now, I look back at the summer and wonder if we really did much this summer. We have had a wedding, we have had family stay for a few weeks, we have beach combed, we have camped, gardened, and kayaked. And then it was over!
The end of summer signals the beginning of lots. The beginning of school for Terry and I at our respective schools, the beginning of school for Stephanie in Korea, the beginning of School for Scott at St. Mary's University and the beginning of school for Michelle.

For Terry and I, its the same ole thing, except a few changes each year. Some new staff and some staff that isn't returning. I hate change, its my blanket statement each year. Getting use to a school year without some of them has been weird, but its so busy you fill your day with other things, and just once in a while you stop and reminisce about those who are not returning. Pat is off for a year, and I hope that we see each other socially. Suzanne is off to a new school, which was unexpected, and so, I feel like she really isn't gone, but I just haven't seen her yet (that's also called denial). Danielle, MJ and Sara, both off to new schools and very excited about the changes ahead. That makes it easier for me to let them go, since they are on new adventures and that's exciting. Alicia will be around hopefully at the end of the day to visit (and lend a hand!!!).

Michelle and Scott are off to school this fall, but it will be a be change for both of them, as they venture in different directions, into different worlds. Scott is off to do his Masters at St. Mary's University. He will have to get use to a new school, new classes, driving to school each day and having classes at suppertime instead of during the day, doing something he absolutely loves.... Michelle will be off to community college to study Baking and Pastry Art... What a blast. She will be wearing uniforms, taking public transit to school with a 7:30am start to her day and doing something she absolutely loves to do....Stephanie, in Korea, riding confusing buses, eating unfamiliar foods, totally out of her element in two elementary schools, doing something she has absolutely wanted to do for a few years....

I have shared Stephanie's blog address with you. Both Michelle and Scott are blogging their new adventures as well. There blogs are listed on my side bar as well, but if this is a facebook read, I will link their blogs here..
Micks Blog "Ohmyblog"