Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review: The Honey Thief by Elizabeth Graver


I'm getting a lot of reading done lately.  I just finished The Honey Thief by Elizabeth Graver.  First . . . what's good about the book . . .


Graver does an interesting job of introducing the characters a little at a time, sharing all their goodness and all their flaws as well.  You become involved with the lives of the little girl, her mother and the bee keeper very quickly.  And you really want things to work out for them.


My one complaint, if you want to call it that, is that I wanted the book to continue.  Is there a second volume in the works?  Please?

Hot Bean Dip-idity Do!

Friend "other" Pam brought this dip to an event and I just love it so I decided to share it with you.

1 can refried beans
1 pkg. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 cups of shredded cheese (mix it up, use nacho cheese or any 2 cheeses you like or just 2 cups medium cheddar)
1 pkg. taco seasoning
green onions

Blend all together with electric handmixer or food processor.  Put in a smallish casserole dish.  Add a little more cheese on top.
Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees F, remove from oven and top with green onions.
Serve hot with tortilla chips.  You can also serve with french bread slices, melba toast rounds, breadsticks, etc.

Lots of variations in this dish:  You can add chili peppers or hot sauce.  You can add onion and green peppers.  You can add some salsa.  Go wild!

Stracciatella


2 servings

Preparation 3 minutes
Cooking 5 minutes
60 calories per serving

1 large egg
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp Italian parsley, fresh
ground pepper to taste

In a bowl, lightly beat the egg and grated Parmesan cheese. Add the grated nutmeg and freshly ground pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Lower the heat but keep the broth simmering for the next step.

While stirring the broth slowly in one direction, gradually add the egg in a steady stream. The egg will cook and feather. Garnish each bowl with chopped parsley and serve.

Comfort food that is so easy and quick to make. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I hate waking up on the wrong side of the bed . . .

I don't like waking up in the morning.  I'm pretty sure everyone knows that about me by now.  This morning I woke up before 8 am . . . what's up with that?  And it just kept on going . . . I'm working away madly at my Dreaded To Do List . . . and I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere.  Really that's just the mood I'm in because I can see all the chores scratched off.  So I am getting things accomplished. 

Hal is supposed to be home today.  He turned off his phone yesterday when they went into the States with a load.  He was supposed to turn the phone back on when he got into Ontario.  He still hasn't turned his phone back on.  Either that or he is ignoring my texts.  Something tells me I'm going to get woke up in the middle of the night or some ugly hour in the morning to pick him up.  And the forecast is rain and snow.  And I hate driving at night.  And I really hate driving long distance.  But I want him to come home . . .

I went to get gas and some yahoo was blocking the enterance from the road.  So I ran a couple of errands and then went back.  I was planning to get gas yesterday at $1.12 so of course today it is 1.188.

See . . . I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today . . .

And now I've gone and shared my lousy mood with you . . . sorry . . .

I've completed several scrapbooking layouts this week but I can't share any of them yet.  They are either for a class or a manuscript I'm working on.  And I really want to share them because I am really pleased with them.

I finished three swaps this week and got them in the mail.


A Year of Tags, Crockpot Recipes, Photo Mat Swaps
 I received back one of the swaps I participated in last month and I was really pleased with most of it.  I could see just how much effort everyone had put into their deco square sets . . . except one . . . I guess that's pretty good though.

Well I think I will go watch a little TV and then hit the hay.  Maybe I'll sleep in tomorrow and get my good mood back.

Nighty Night
Pam

Mexican Lentil Soup

I first tasted this soup at a crop at Central United Church. I had to have the recipe!!


1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 chipotle or jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 cups green lentils, rinsed well and picked over
8 cups homemade vegetable stock
1-1/2 cups niblet corn
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in large saucepan on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender. Add cumin and pepper and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add carrots, celery and potato and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in lentils and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until lentils are very tender. Add corn and lemon juice and cook for 3 minutes.

Source: Heart Smart Cooking, Bonnie Stern

Hot Brownie Pudding

I have a stack of recipes I've been planning to post here . . . but this one is a real favourite. If I didn't fear I would eat the entire pudding, I would make some right now.


1/2 cup sifted enriched flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp melted shortening
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
3/4 cup boiling water

Sift flour with baking powder, salt, sugar and 1 tbsp cocoa into bowl. Add milk, shortening and vanilla; mix only until smooth. Add chopped nuts. Turn into a greased casserole or small baking dish.

Mix brown sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa together and sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over top of batter. This forms a sauce in bottom of pan after pudding is baked.

Bake in a moderate oven (350 F) for 30 to 40 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letterboxing in Kilworth

Saturday morning Kate called and asked if I could look after Taylor and Cameron.  Of course I would.  Grandma Joanne dropped them and some clean clothes off and they both had showers.  When they were all sparkly and clean we watched a movie, Galaxy Quest, and made our shopping list.

During my recent trucking adventure my glasses got bent a bit.  It probably wouldn't usually be a big deal but I have bifocals and with the line on one lens wouldn't meet with the line in the other lens, it was enough to make me cuckoo.  The store where I bought my glasses closed at noon and we arrived at 1 pm so I had to spend the weekend crooked.

Next stop was to visit Grandma Joyce and some friends at the Central United crop.  Mom was ready to come home so we packed her up and loaded all her scrapbooking supplies into the van.

Next we went grocery shopping because I didn't even have a slice of bread in the house.  Then back to the apartment for lunch . . . baguette sliced and covered with Nutella or cream cheese . . . juice boxes . . . red grapes.

I hadn't had much sleep so I tried to talk the boys into doing a craft.  Of course not.  The boys wanted to go letterboxing.  I, on the other hand, really wanted to stay close to home so I could wait for a call from Kate letting us know how Austin's surgery went.  I let the boys win.  I didn't want to drive far and fortunately my online search turned up a brand new box in the Kilworth area -- What's on your Christmas tree?.  It took some serious figuring and some driving around to solve the clues but we were so proud of ourselves when we did solve it.  The hike was quite lovely and Cameron was so proud that he was the one to solve the final clue to locate the letterbox.  The box was out in the open so after we stamped in we rehid the box better than we found it.  We were first-finders and we found a hitchhiker inside for a nice bonus.






Hiding our tracks


When we returned home, we learned that Austin's surgery had gone fairly well and that Grandma Joanne was coming to pick the boys up for supper. 

Adventures in a Transport Truck - Friday

When we reached the Ottawa yard, Hal requested some off duty in a motel.  When we returned to Toronto we were possibly picking up a load for Winnipeg.  We both were in need of a shower and a warm bed.  And I was going insane with no internet access all week.


So we bobtailed it to the WelcomINNS Hotel in Ottawa.  It is a very nice hotel, but to us it was luxurious.  And the free breakfast was still set out . . . score!!!  Hal jumped into the shower and then crashed into bed.  I was more interested in finding out what was going on at home.  Boy was I in for a shock.  That's when I found out my oldest grandson had been injured and was in hospital in London waiting for a room, a surgeon and an operating room.  I wish I had been there, but at the same time I'm glad I wasn't.  Leaving a child with a badly broken and dislocated arm, nerve and tendon damage and keeping him stoned on morphine rather than getting him fixed for over 48 hours was more than I could of handled without smacking someone.  My fuse is much shorter than it was when my kids were young.  Austin is now home and beginning to recover but its going to be a long road for him.

I made the decision then that I wasn't going to continue on the road with Hal.  It was time to go home.  I finished posting a couple of blog posts, drank a couple of coffees and ate the fruit and muffins from the breakfast bar.  Dispatch called to let Hal know that he was picking up another driver in Toronto to take a rush load to Calgary.  So I guess I was meant to come home.  I finally jumped into the shower and then went to bed.

We woke up around 3 pm and headed back to the Ottawa yard to pick up our trailer.  And then we were off to Stittsville and then Toronto.  Hal kept laughing at me because I have apparently started talking like a trucker.  Not swearing.  But constantly bitching at all the cars, the GPS, construction and anything else that affected our trip.

We stopped at Denny's somewhere on the road and had a really nice supper.  It was my first time at a Denny's.  I had country fried steak & eggs with and grits.  Hal had Sweet & Tangy BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes and fiesta corn.  Both entrees were delicious. 

Now, if you know Hal, you know he does not like spicy food . . . not even a little bit.  So he looked at the corn rather suspiciously and asked what was in it.  I said I saw tomatoes and onions and that's all I said.  He took the first bite and seemed to be enjoying it . . . and then he shivered.  What the heck was that, he said.  And then he had another bite and commented that it was kind of a fun taste.  He cleaned his plate.  I guess he is finally learning to love spicy . . . maybe a little.

I couldn't resist ordering a dessert and two spoons . . . Maple Bacon Ice Cream Sundae . . . and surprisingly it was delicious. 

When we arrived at the Toronto yard it was mass craziness.  Trucks were everywhere and everyone was in a hurry to get out on the road.  I've never seen it so busy.  I unloaded all my luggage from the truck and took home all the laundry as well.  I was sad to end my trucking adventure but looking forward to getting home to check on Mom and Austin. 





I was really nervous about the drive home alone though because I knew I was already tired and I had a 2 hour drive ahead. 

I did well until around Woodstock and I noticed I was starting to nod off.  So I cranked up the radio, rolled down the window and screamed disco songs all the rest of the way home.

Adventures in a Transport Truck - Thursday

OMG . . . the constant travel is making me so tired but at the same time I'm totally fascinated and I'm enjoying the time with Hal. 

Here are a few more random photos of our route.


Yes it is construction season again!






The sunsets as we headed to Toronto each night were so pink.

Where the heck did the snow come from? 
Remember the story about the Ottawa guys trying to repair the fences using a tractor trailer and a strap?  Well on Thursday they came back with this . . .





Success!  This show was better than television.
I finished another book and loved it.  It was so totally ridiculously out of control and funny.  I think it would make a great movie or situation comedy.

Sylvia Mulholland's Woman's Work will likely strike a chord with any woman who has juggled family, career, and home ownership and wondered in the process whether a course in time management might be not only helpful but essential. Mulholland, a Toronto lawyer and frequent contributor on women's topics to The Globe & Mail's Facts & Arguments page, knows of what she speaks. The novel is in many respects unapologetically autobiographical. Claire, the novel's protagonist, is a lawyer too. Her husband, like Mulholland's, is a plastic surgeon who used to play semi-pro hockey in Sweden. Fortunately, in this particular novel, the personal experience is put to good use.



The plot is rather simple. Claire is thirty-nine and married to Ben, who is seven years younger. After giving birth to her son Harry, she returns to work but not without trepidation. Ben has insisted on hiring as a live-in nanny Brita, with whose family he became acquainted during his stay in Sweden. She is a stereotypical Swedish beauty if there ever was one, and Claire's insecurity increases with each passing week. She hasn't been able to lose all her pre-maternity weight, she is chronically tired, falling behind at the office, worrying about a troublesome client, indulging her shopaholic tendencies, and becoming alarmingly forgetful. In the meantime, Ben and Brita are getting along far too well for Claire's comfort.


Mulholland's narrative voice is clear, confident, and at times laugh-aloud funny. The one notable weakness is in the plot itself, specifically, the resolution of the Ben and Brita relationship at the end. Fortunately, Claire herself is amusing enough to make the book a satisfying literary entertainment. Eva Tihanyi(Books in Canada)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Adventures in a Transport Truck - Wednesday

And now it is Wednesday. Driving back to Ottawa this morning was crazy. Weather was good. Road conditions were good. But Hal was so tired. He still hadn’t had a chance for any real sleep. Halfway to Ottawa I made him pull over for a power nap and then we stopped at the next truck stop for coffee.


Now that Hal knew the best way to dock trailers at the little Ottawa yard he had no problems. We unhooked, found a parking spot, had a quick breakfast and tucked Hal into the bunk for a nice long overdue sleep. I tucked myself in with some knitting and a pillow in the cab and had some lovely quiet time. Well as quiet as you can get when you are in an idling transport truck in a busy industrial area with trains running on the nearby tracks. The truck was idling so that we didn’t kill the battery running the heat and refrigerator. I had a couple of lovely cat naps in the cab and finished the body of my pretty silver grey sweater. Now I just have to crochet the hood and assemble it. I also finished a great book called A Dream of Canada: An Incredible Story of Struggle and Overcoming by Kaanayo Nwachukwu.

When Hal finally woke up late in the afternoon we had a lovely lunch of chicken sandwiches and potato salad. (Special note to Cameron: Grandpa doesn’t always eat his crusts either.) Hal threw the crusts from his sandwich out the window figuring a squirrel or bird would eat it. The crusts were attacked by a horde (which is much more than a flock) of seagulls. One second no birds, next second a horde. Once the horde flew away, we went into the ladies room so Hal could help me wash my hair in the tiny sink. It is very “interesting” trying to keep clean when you are on the road but I’m managing so far. We found out our load wouldn’t be ready until 4 pm so I made Hal go back in the bunk for another cat nap. Remember in a previous post I mentioned the banged up fences around the yard? While Hal was having his nap I watched them use a truck and strap to try and pull the fence to the gate back into position. It didn’t work. More on this little segue later.

When our load was ready we hit the road again. I spent my time taking photos of everything and anything that interested me while Hal drove.





Just before we arrived in Toronto tonight we started noticing cars with snow on them and then we started seeing teams of snow plows. The further in we got the worse the roads were. The scariest part was when a car pulled in front of us off one of the collector roads so Hal had to slow down very quickly on the slippery roads. And then the driver of that car must have panicked because he hit the brakes. Hal had to swerve into another lane to avoid crushing him. Some people just have no business on the roads. And yes, I am referring to the panicked driver, not Hal.

We made it to the Mississauga yard and dropped our trailer early. We are just waiting for them to finish loading our next trailer and we will be back on the road again. I hope the snow plows are through clearing the highways by then. It was so weird seeing the slippery snow-covered roads. When we left Ottawa it was sunshiney and clear skies. We had the truck windows open, for goodness sake. And then to travel south and find snow! According to Toronto dispatch when the snow started it created near zero visibility. I guess that explains all the accidents and tow trucks we passed.

Adventures in a Transport Truck - Tuesday

(We are in a hotel today and I am supposed to be sleeping . . . but I'm waiting to hear news about my grandson, Austin, who has been in a London hospital since YESTERDAY waiting for an operating room and a bed so they can repair his broken arm . . . so I thought I'd share more of my adventures in a transport truck to keep myself busy.)


We pulled into the Ottawa yard before the sun was up. Oh my goodness, the yard is tiny and crowded and mushy and muddy and still has snow. And a couple of walloping big pot holes which we found . . . the hard way. Despite his fatigue and despite the “assistance” he received, Hal still managed to dock the trailer successfully. There was evidence all over the yard from drivers who were a little less successful in this exercise. There is a lot of damaged fencing. I’m sure the size of the yard isn’t a big deal for smaller trailers and trucks that don’t have sleepers which I believe is what they mostly get (at least in my short experience). But when you have a sleeper cab and a 53’ trailer this is not simple.


Once the trailer was docked, we unhitched our truck and parked in a back corner of the yard for some breakfast and very long overdue sleep. Hal pulled down the second bunk and that is when we found out there was no mattress. Hal tried to sleep in the top bunk with his sleeping bag but it wasn’t long before he joined me in the bottom bunk. This may sound romantic but it wasn’t. We were both so exhausted but with being so crowded every time one of us moved it woke the other up. It was not a good sleep at all. After a couple of hours I got up and sat in the front of the cab so Hal could sleep. But he didn’t get near enough sleep. He reassured me this is normal for the first day on the road and that by the next day he would be back in a successful sleep schedule.

When Hal woke up we drove to a nearby Tim Horton’s . I cannot even begin to tell you how rough driving in a transport truck can be when there is no trailer attached. I snugged up my seat belt and held on for dear life. When we returned to the yard our load for Toronto was ready. I made each of us a tray full of finger food – the chicken legs, pickles, eggs, and veggies – since we didn’t have time to eat. We hooked up to our trailer and off we went, first to Stittsville and then on to Mississauga.

When we arrived at the customer’s in Stittsville I became a “bit” concerned when I saw the driveway was quite narrow with deep ditches on each side. It didn’t seem to bother Hal so what could I do but pretend it didn’t bother me either? Hal did get a little cranky when he saw a tractor trailer parked in the middle of the yard and no driver in sight and he was a little smug when he managed to manoeuvre our truck and trailer into the dock on the first try, narrowly missing the other truck and trailer in the road. We were hoping for a little wait time when we pulled into the Toronto yard, but Hal’s next Ottawa load was ready. So off we went again, dropping our Ottawa trailer and picking up our new load, repeating all the steps I mentioned earlier and we were on the road again.

Here are some of the ways I entertained myself today:


Adventures in a Transport Truck - Monday

There is some scrambling to be done to get Hal back driving with his regular partner. When Hal was off for a week with the flu, Florin had to find a new partner. And since then their schedules haven’t meshed. For the last month he has been teamed up with Olga.


Hal really enjoyed his month with Olga. Apparently she is very chatty and loves car shows, two characteristics he really appreciates in a teammate. And she is a good driver which makes Hal happy because he can sleep without worry of being tossed around the bunk or being thrown out of the bunk. Apparently it is hard to sleep in a moving vehicle. I don’t understand that personally. I can fall asleep in a moving vehicle about ten minutes after we start moving.  Hal is jealous that I have that skill.

Olga is taking her final driving test and then will be paired with her husband as a long-haul team. I wish I could learn how to drive a truck and learn how to not get sleepy when I drive for more than an hour or so. I think Hal and I would make a great team. We get along really well when we are traveling together.

So Hal is running single this week. Neither Hal nor I are very fond of single driving. Hal doesn’t like it because he has no one to talk with and it is much harder to drive 13 hours straight than it is to drive in 5 hour shifts while team driving. And Hal really hates having no one to talk to. The last time Hal drove single for a few days, he called me as many as five times each day. Not that I mind talking to him, but my life isn’t that exciting so by the third phone call I really have nothing left to say.

Hal invited me along as his passenger this week so he won’t be lonely. And, besides, I am an excellent navigator with maps and the GPS. It was a struggle to decide to go because I had made some commitments this week – the most important one to my Mom.  Special thanks to family and friends who have stepped up this week to take my place getting Mom to her appointments.  I really appreciate all your help.

I love road trips. In fact we usually go on road trips either visiting or letterboxing at least once every time Hal has time off. And I really want to know what Hal does every day when he is away from home.

Hal was pretty excited when I agreed to come along while he was running single to keep him company and act as navigator.

Monday was spent running errands, cleaning the apartment, doing laundry and taking Austin to an appointment at the sports clinic. By the time this was all done it was supper time. Hal went to bed after supper to try and get some sleep before it was time to leave.

I packed the mini fridge with lots of yummy food. I roasted a chicken breast and sliced it for sandwiches, boiled eggs, made potato salad, baked some chicken legs and packed several containers of cut up fruit and veggies. We also packed cereal, peanut butter, jam and bread and a tin of Nanna cookies.

I should have slept. Hal should have slept more. We headed out the door, van all packed, by 8:30 pm. I shot a short video on our trip showing our perspective of other trucks, cars and signs from our van window.

We arrived at the Mississauga yard at 10:30 pm.

After I signed four pages of legalese I was ready to accompany Hal on his runs. I had to promise not to operate the truck and not to get run over by other trucks. I can see how that could happen especially since I don’t have a reflective vest. (You always forget something when you pack, don’t you.) On the other hand, my slippers have glow in the dark moons and stars on them. I imagine that should help make me more noticeable as I’m running across the yard in my slippers to find the ladies’ room.

There is so much to be done before heading out on the road. You have to get paperwork, find your truck, pack your truck, check your truck, fuel up your truck, check all your fluids, find your trailer, double check that the load is ready to go, lock onto your trailer, check your trailer, weigh your trailer, pull up to the office and turn in your inspection sheets and pick up your paperwork for the trip. And you must be sure to update your log book. Then you are finally ready to head out on the road.

While Hal was doing all the above chores, I spent my time watching all the jets taking off and landing at the airport which is right next door. They are so low it seems like they are going to snag on the fence here.

Needless to say it was well after midnight drove through the giant automatic gates and headed out on the road for Ottawa. It was a lovely trip despite some light drizzle. Hal had a little trouble adjusting to the shifter on this truck. I pointed out that judging from the condition of the shifter, other people had trouble shifting it too.


I took a video so you can see what I saw. The world sure looks different from the seat of a transport truck. I was way too excited to be tired so of course I didn’t sleep at all.

(Note:  It looks like I'll have to wait until I'm home to upload the videos)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Standoff by Sandra Brown


This is a story about a hard working reporter who's much needed vacation is put on hold when she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous standoff.  It is more of a novella than a novel but that's okay.  It made for a quick yet exciting read . . .

I definitely recommend this book for a little light summer reading.

See ya
Pam

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring has sprung . . .

We spotted this little robin visiting a neighbours patio.

Hal is figuring out how to work my NEW free grill that I won from Dempsters.

. . . and I finally finished up this layout today.  All that it needed was a title.

Elgin Military Museum

A few weeks ago I took my grandchildren to the Elgin Military Museum for a tour.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time and couldn't complete the tour.  Our lovely guide gave us complimentary passes to return and finish the tour.

We picked up the boys Saturday morning and went to finish.  There wasn't a tour guide available so I decided to let the boys give Hal the tour.  I was thrilled to see how much the boys remembered from the original tour including information about the guns, Victoria Cross, L/Sgt Sifton and the Silver Cross.  Cameron (6) referred to the Silver Cross as the "badge you don't want to get."

I used WWII newspapers to discuss how bullying happens and why.  How better to explain how a small group of men could force a whole country to do horrific things they really didn't want to do.

We checked on all our letterboxes that are planted in the area.  They were all in good shape and didn't require maintenance.  It was fun going through the log book and seeing who all had visited.

We learned about Canada's leading role in peacekeeping and that an important leader in Canadian peacekeeping went to Wellington Street School, just like the boys did.  We learned about wars going on today.  We saw what a home looked like during the 1940s.  So much to see and do and talk about.









And since we didn't get a tour guide, we got our tickets back to use another time.

We had brunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, watching movies and enjoying being together.




Top Movies of All Time according to IMDB ~ #17 Goodfellas (1990)

Apparently I love gangster movies.  Of course this another one that was shot back in the day when we didn't have to see all the gory...