Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Pancake Day

It's Shrove Tuesday today, the traditional feast day to use all the eggs and fats in the larder before the penitential season of Lent starts on the following day... Ash Wednesday.  Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter.

When I was growing up in England, Mum always made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day. I don't mean the thick fluffy flapjack style that are eaten in North America with bacon and sausage and maple syrup. When I first arrived in Canada, I always thought that particular taste combination was very strange, however I quite like it now. Perhaps I'm used to it.


The pancakes that Mum made were very thin and light and lacy, just a little bit crinkled and browned on both sides. Once on the plate, the pancake was sprinkled with caster sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and then rolled up, and always eaten in rolled slices. So good, I remember licking the plate!


The pancake has a very long history and featured in cookery books as far back as 1439. The tradition of tossing or flipping them is almost as old: “And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.” (Pasquil’s Palin, 1619).

In Britain, pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes. The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run. Possibly Mr. Covid will put a stop to the pancake races in 2021!

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Marmalade Season

At this time of year, I'm usually making a nuisance of myself by bothering the produce managers in the local grocery stores, looking for Seville Oranges.  Luckily, I found some for sale on my first visit to the big grocery store at the other end of town.... I don't usually shop there. They are small, wrinkled, bumpy, and very bitter oranges. Rather nasty looking. Why would anyone want them? Well.... they are absolutely essential to make lovely yummy home made Marmalade.

I bought 8 Sevilles (pretty pricey at $2:99 lb, oh well, I needed them) 2 lemons and 2 sweet navel oranges.  Squeeze out the juice and remove the pips and membranes, and slice the peel into thin strips.

For every cup of peel and juice, add 2.25 cups of water and soak overnight. Boil the pips and membranes in a separate container and strain out all the liquid... it's full of pectin to help the marmalade set.  Add the juice to the peel and then for every cup of fruit add 1 cup of sugar. Boil it up for 30 minutes or so. As I stirred it I could feel it get thicker and starting to set.
Stir for a while to cool it and to make sure the peel doesn't float, then it goes into jars that have been warming in the oven, pop the lids on, and let them cool. The jars all give a satisfying "pop" as the lids seal.

According to a Scottish legend, the creation of orange marmalade in Dundee occurred by accident. The legend tells of a ship carrying a cargo of oranges that broke down in the port, resulting in some ingenious locals making marmalade out of the cargo.

I could buy marmalade in the store, but it's always far too sweet, and doesn't have that tang that home made marmalade delivers. I'm looking forward to some on my toast at breakfast.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Winter Weekend

I was able to spend a few fun days with YoungerSon and family at their country property despite the Covid.... yes, it's February and it's COLD! Temperatures at night were around -17C, that's 1.4F, definitely chilly. And I was sleeping in the bunkie!

There's a small pond fed by a stream at the low point of the field, and the kids have been skating on the ice. They are missing their hockey at the moment due to the Covid lockdown. YoungerSon is out there at all hours smoothing the ice. We call him the Human Zamboni.

This is what the same pond looked like in the middle of July!


In the evening there was a fierce game of Monopoly.... I was doing really well at first, but I crashed when I rolled a double and landed on a very expensive hotel, then rolled again and scored a 2.... I had to pay up for a visit to the next very expensive hotel..... I never recovered.  Bankruptcy was inevitable. 
Advice: never trust the banker when she keeps dropping the money under the table. There's definitely something dodgy going on.
All three of my grandies have been teaching themselves to play the ukulele using a teaching CD and song book, and various YouTube videos. They were using two ukes, one was a Christmas gift to Emma, the other was a used one bought by Max from Kijiji. So I found a couple more for sale from a neighbour, both used, so now they have four, one for each ukulelist (what a great word!), and one for their Dad (who is playing and singing at the same time.... awesome!). 

I'm looking forward to the summer singalongs around the camp fire!

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Candlemas

I have to admit that this is a rehashing of a post from a couple of years ago..... but always worth another look, especially as I haven't much else to offer during this lockdown when I seem to the confined to the house every day with no excitement to report.

Today is February 2nd..... 40 days after Christmas. The ancient celebration of Candlemas.

Candlemas is a Christian holy day commemorating the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Some Christian communities bring candles to church, where the candles are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.

In France and Belgium, crepes or thin pancakes are a traditional Candlemas treat. Each family member cooks a pancake while holding a coin in the other hand, thus ensuring wealth and happiness for the next year. The pancakes are round and golden in colour, and are a symbol of the return of spring sunshine after a cold winter.

In Mexico, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple is celebrated with family meals of tamales. Whoever finds the bean in the king-cake at Christmastime is responsible for cooking the Candlemas tamales for the whole family.

There's a theory that Candlemas derives from pagan celebrations as it occurs halfway between the December solstice and the March equinox, winter's halfway point while waiting for spring.

Many people believed that Candlemas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. A bright sunny Candlemas meant more winter to come, and a cloudy wet stormy Candlemas meant that the worst of the winter was over. This is the basis for the February 2nd tradition of North America.... Groundhog Day. Will the groundhog see his shadow? I wonder.......

If Candlemas Day brings snow and rain,
Winter has gone, and won’t come again.
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright,
Winter will have another flight.

or another version....

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

I need some Colour!

It seems that it's been grey and dull and gloomy for the whole of 2021, yes, I know we are only at Day 17, but it's a lockdown too, and I need to brighten up my life with some COLOUR!

I spent an afternoon playing with the gelli pad and some paint, making prints of leaves that I gathered last fall. Some of them can be made into cards.... others might end up in a scrapbook. Lots more leaves left so I'll be making more prints/

And when cleaning out one of the basement closets, I unearthed this tapestry work that I started at least 17 or 18 years ago.  All the tapestry yarns were purchased in a huge bag from the local Thrift Shop for around $8, someone's unfinished project. I had done just two of the flowers before I ran out of ambition.... so I thought lockdown was the perfect time to continue. Looking pretty good so far, although not quite sure what it's final use will be.


A pretty good lockdown time waster, and I love working with colours!

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Day Three O Eight

This morning at 12:01am the Province of Ontario was ordered into yet another strict lockdown due to alarming numbers of Covid infections and deaths. In the words of Premier Ford, "Stay at home!" Currently in Ontario there have been 230,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths, mainly in care homes for the elderly. Positive tests are going up by more than 3,000 a day.

We can go out for daily exercise, walking the dog (I don't have a dog), medical appointments, going to work, shopping for essentials. But of course everyone has a different opinion of what is essential. I made sure I had lots of groceries all ready for this. And library books. And art supplies.

The sun came out for the first time in a week today, so I took the opportunity to go for my permitted exercise. It was so quiet.... no traffic noise, hardly anyone about. A couple of dog walkers, that's all. I could have walked down the middle of the road quite safely. (But I didn't!)

This week.... my old breadmaker bit the dust so I ordered a new one. Haven't made bread in it yet, but I will soon, looking forward to it!


And once I bake the bread, I'll have something to spread on it. I was complaining here about the lack of Marmite in the local grocery stores, and blogger emeritus EC in Australia answered the call, sending me a jar of the precious gooey black stuff. Then I mentioned it to one of my British cousins, and guess what appeared in my mailbox last week. So now I can do a taste comparison..... Red top is Australian (actually made in NZ) and yellow top is British. Two Marmite fairies..... thank you!

And there is still a lack of Marmite on Canadian store shelves!

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Day Two Ninety Nine

It's Day 299 today, I've been keeping track of the days on my calendar since Covid took over our lives. Positive test numbers are going up here, another 14 positive tests registered in our small town yesterday, making 74 reported in the last 7 days. That might seem a small number, but high when I consider that the majority of people seem to be following the rules, wearing masks, sanitising hands, keeping the correct distances. But there are sure to be more infections after careless holiday gatherings, and the hospitals are filling up.

One bright light in all this is the arrival of various vaccines. At risk seniors in care homes and their carers and hospital staff are being vaccinated first. I have no idea when my turn will come, but as I was watching the National News yesterday, I counted 31 images of arms receiving a needle... and I only watched the 1 hour broadcast for 30 minutes. Too many needle images! I am hoping the next arm I see with a needle sticking into it is mine!

Abject apologies to any blogger who has left a comment on this blog and wondered why it never appeared. I recently found over 300 comments that somehow got missed, no idea how, blogger seems to have hidden them, anyway, I reinstated them, well, the ones that weren't spam. Some were from a couple of years ago. They used to show up in my email but now they don't. Weird.

And on a lighter note, I saw Mickey out on the street yesterday. He was feeling chilly but enjoying the sun.



Friday, 1 January 2021

2020 books

Back in March 2020 when I heard a rumour that the local Library was closing due to the Covid pandemic, I rushed with my library card in my hand and took out as many books as I could carry. I didn't even have time to choose titles, I just grabbed from the shelves before the doors closed.  Some of those books are on this list, and helped keep me sane and busy. The Library re-opened in August thankfully, but with reduced capacity and lots of hand sanitizing and mask rules. But now we're back into lockdown again until at least January 23. 

January 2020
Leaving Van Gogh - Carol Wallace
The Post Birthday World - Lionel Shriver
The Art Forger - B. A. Shapiro
North Korea Journal - Michael Palin

February 2020
We need to Talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
The Flight Attendant - Chris Bohjalian
The Mandibles, a Family 2029-2047 - Lionel Shriver (I think everyone should read this after experiencing Covid-19 lockdown)
The Juggler's Children - Carolyn Abraham

March 2020
Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick
The Mighty Franks - Michael Frank.  (DNF)
Arthur and Sherlock - Michael Sims
The Hotel Neversink - Adam O'Fallon Price
Finders Keepers, A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession - Craig Childs

April 2020
Waiting for Tom Hanks - Kerry Winfrey (DNF, a bit too silly and juvenile)
A Madness of Sunshine - Nalini Singh
Cover of Snow - Jenny Milchman

May 2020
The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway (great book)
The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R King
The Truth According to Us - Annie Barrows
Skizzer - A J Kiesling (predictably silly but I finished it)
The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd (loved this book)

June 2020
Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo (absolutely loved this book, I read it twice)
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (another book that I loved so much that I read twice!)
Being a Beast, Adventures Across the Species Divide - Charles Foster (very weird)
Salem Falls - Jodi Picoult
The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris
A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult

July 2020
Oil and Marble - Stephanie Storey
Bridge of Clay - Markus Zusak
Girl - Edna O'Brien
The Wall - John Lanchester
Liberation - Imogen Kealey (very ho-hum)

August 2020
The Mirror and the Light - Hilary Mantel (third in the trilogy)
Night Boat to Tangier - Kevin Barry (DNF)
If I Had Your Face - Frances Cha
Capital - John Lanchester

September 2020
Reservoir 13 - Jon McGregor
The Other Americans - Laila Lalami
Futureface - Alex Wagner
The Genius Plague - David Walton

October 2020
The Memory Police - Yoko Ogawa
Orhan's Inheritance - Aline Ohanesian
The Walk - Richard Paul Evans
My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me - Jennifer Teege
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel (apocalypse after a pandemic.... very timely! Good story too.)
Accordion Crimes - E Annie Proulx (I read this years ago, just as good the 2nd time)
A Day Like Any Other, The Great Hamptons Hurricane of 1938 - Genie Chipps Henderson

November 2020
Seven - Farzana Doctor (terrific book)
The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
Such a Fun Age - Kiley Reid
The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes
The Sleepwalker - June Callwood (true story)
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen - Syrie James

December 2020
Between - Angie Abdou
The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert (Liked this book)
The Eavesdroppers - Rosie Chard (rather odd)
The Vacationers - Emma Straub
The Mothers - Brit Bennett
Stutter's Casebook, A Junior Hospital Doctor 1839-1841 - E.E.Cockayne and N.J.Stow (transcription of Dr. Stutters notes regarding his patients, their illnesses and treatments while he was a junior doctor in Suffolk, UK..... fascinating reading, and edited by a dear cousin who sadly passed away earlier this year.)

Currently steadily plodding through The Murder of Cleopatra, History's Greatest Cold Case - Pat Brown. Interesting but it's taking me a long time. I'll finish it in 2021.

For a list of books I read in previous years, click on Books at the end of this post.