Saturday, May 31, 2008

Today


is a very, very good day!I have a wonderful husband.
We live on a beautiful island.
We have amazing family members and friends who care for us and who are there for us.
We've got a really funny doggy baby and a couple of cute felines who make us laugh every day.
We (Hubby and I) both have jobs that allow us to do what we love doing.
The weather is starting to warm up.
We've got sunshine!
We've got a life that is full of hope and new adventures just waiting to be revealed!

Today is definitely a good day!
Friday, May 30, 2008

For Karen, Cherry, and Sandy


My bloggy gal pals and I were laughing about the "Little Asian Girl Haircut" (A.K.A. The Bowl Cut) that we all sported when we were kids. Growing up the 1970's and 1980's, it seemed almost everyone had the same hairstyle. I never knew why it was called "the bowl cut" until I saw my Mom actually put a bowl on my brother's head and cut around it!!! Ha! Ha! Ha! I still laugh every time I picture her doing that.
*sigh* I was so skinny back then!!

In the last photo, I'm the one on the right. I'm the only girl, yet we all have the same haircut!!
Oh, don't think for one minute that Baby Bro was spared from Mom's wielding scissors and most detested "bowl cut" bowl! Though an entire decade passed between Baby Bro, Middle Bro and me, that didn't stop Mom's bowl cut! I think I was ten or eleven when I begged her to take me to the hairdresser's to get my hair cut!

When I have kids, I am going to leave the haircutting to the professionals!
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Two Interesting Reads




The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Both books were written by Michael Pollan. Have you read them? If yes, what do you think?

Now You're One...


This post is actually two months late, since my little nephew turned a year old in March. I am always amazed at how quickly time flies. It seems that not too long ago, we were still anticipating his arrival. Now he's a year old, talking (sort of) and walking running all over the place.

**If you've been reading my blog for the past year, you may have seen some or all of these photos already.**

Dear Kenny,

It is hard to believe that we didn't even know that you were on your way when this photo was taken. Your Mom and Dad had no idea that they were expecting you when they were at our wedding on the Island!
When your Mom and Dad found out and told us the good news, everyone was so excited! You are the first grandchild on both sides of your family. Your Mom looked so radiant when she was pregnant with you. You should know that you've got a wonderful Mom and Dad! They are so very blessed that you came into their lives.
I remember after you were born, I went down to spend a week with you and your Mom. I can't even explain how amazing it was to hold you. A perfect, precious, tiny little miracle came into our lives and changed us all forever.

I don't think you realize just how much you've captured our hearts. We are all in love with you.
The tiny hands and baby's breath...the soft cooing and the breathing noises you make when you sleep just entrance us all.Even your "Tito Baby Bro" fell in love the day you were born.
Over the months, your features changed and you started developing your own character. Your great-grandma is fiercely proud of you. She always talks about her first great-grandchild! She's so happy that even in her 80's, she is still strong enough to carry you.Your Mom and Dad love you so very much. They've shared all your milestones with us and we are so lucky to be able to make it to your special occasions. You were such a good baby at your Christening. You never cried once, even when the priest was pouring water on your head. You are such a good boy. Your Tito J and I love you very much and we enjoy visiting you and your parents. You make us laugh and smile with all of the funny new tricks you learn. I sometimes wish we didn't live so far away. It would be nice to see you more often. It's always so hard for us to say good-bye to you at the end of our visits.You're growing and changing so much each time I see you.

I'm really fortunate to have been able to spend some time with you. I love watching you eat, play, sleep and run! You are such a funny little boy! Oh, and I don't even mind changing your diapers. You haven't taken off on me yet! Thank goodness! I don't know how I'd explain a toddler with a poopy bottom running around the house to your parents! Thank you for always co-operating with your Auntie/Tita C! :)Another special time with you was celebrating your very first Christmas! I think you enjoyed playing with the boxes, bags and wrapping paper more than your actual presents! Being the first baby in our family, you were certainly very spoiled by all your titas, titos, great-aunts, great uncles, and both sets of grandparents! You are such a happy, playful boy! I love your laugh and your smile.
I can't even tell you how much your Grumpy Gramps and Lola love you. You are their everything right now. They love and miss you so much. I've never seen Grumpy Gramps so happy. He's not grumpy when he's with you. I guess it's true that babies change people. Grumpy and Lola always talk about you.
Now you're ONE and you're laughing, chatting, running, playing the piano, and becoming quite the little character! I am so very happy that I am your auntie. I love you very much, you little snuggle bug!

Love,
Your Tita C

**I tried to upload a really cute video of Kenny laughing and running around, but for some reason the upload was unsuccessful. I'll try again later. You're going to fall in love with those cute, little chubby legs of his!!**
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In Season


Growing up, our family was never really exposed to rhubarb. It just wasn't something that we ate. It's not common in either of my parents' cultures, so it wasn't used in any of the cooking.

I remember living in a small suburb of Montreal called Roxboro, where our neighbours' houses were so close to each other. Naturally, we became friendly with our immediate neighbours on either side of our house. Two doors down, there was another family we became friends with. The girl was about the age of Middle Bro (a year and a half younger than me). This was long before Baby Bro was born.

The girl was an only child (she had a sister born the same year as Baby Bro--when Middle Bro was nine and I was eleven). She, Middle Bro and I used to hang out a lot. Her mother would look after us after school while we waited for our parents to come home from work. We'd do our homework, do some arts and crafts, play outside and just be kids.

We learned a lot from that family. They sometimes took us to their family farm an hour and a bit outside of Montreal. We were introduced to some good 'ol Quebecois cooking too. There was this little chip stand on our way "up North". It seemed to be a popular stop for people heading from the city to the country. Isn't it funny how one can remember something so trivial as the scent and flavour of home cut fries and not wanting to use the public bathroom because the owners of said chip stand (or Pataterie in French) had this massive black dog that always scared the living daylights out of us kids!?

Our neighbour's grandmother was from the country and she made a lot of preserves and jams. One time, when we were in our neighbour's backyard, I noticed these plants growing that we didn't have in our garden. I inquired because I wasn't sure whether it was a fruit or a vegetable. The leaves were big and broad, and the stems (which I was later told were called stalks) were a greenish-reddish colour.

Amazed at this new discovery, I asked how it would be used. Do we eat it raw? Do we cook it? What do we cook it with? What kind of dishes could we make with these things? My friend's mother cut a stalk of this reddish-green vegetable and dipped the end in a bowl of sugar. She then told me to take a bite.

Blechhhhhhhh!!! That had to be the most vile thing I had ever tasted in my entire (albeit, short since I was only six) life. Why, oh why would anyone actually eat that stuff? It was very tart...almost bitter! It sure had lots of pucker power!

My friend and her parents laughed as they munched on the sugar dipped stalks. They offered me a slice of the grandmother's rhubarb-strawberry pie. I must have had such a horrible experience with the raw rhubarb with sugar that I didn't enjoy the pie. Another time, they let me try grandma's rhubarb-strawberry jam on a slice of toast. My friend ate this for breakfast with her brown sugar sprinkled Weetabix and warm milk. I still didn't like it. Could it be that I just never got past my initial reaction to rhubarb? Had it forever left a mark on me? Would I ever learn to like it?

Fast forward to my thirties, where I am now living on a farm and married to a farmer. We grow a lot of things on our farm. Everything from raspberries, red currants, apples, corn, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, beans, peas (the list goes on, but I'll spare you)...and yes, rhubarb!When I first saw our rather large rhubarb patch, I remember telling Hubby, "Oh, NO!!! I HATE rhubarb!!!" Hubby then replied with a "What?? How can you hate rhubarb?? It's so good!!"

Yeah. Right. To be honest, I tried to neglect the rhubarb in hopes that my most hated vegetable would die. No such luck. These plants are hearty and prolific. The harder I tried to neglect them, the more they seemed to thrive! Hmph! Here I was slaving over my tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, corn and broccoli, and it was the rhubarb that was thriving without any of my attention and care! Go figure!

Hubby went on to tell me all about his mom's delicious rhubarb desserts and jams. Apparently, rhubarb and strawberries are best friends and always go well together. Sure enough, one evening when we were dining at his mother's house, she made a strawberry-rhubarb dessert.

Now, I come from a culture where refusing to try the food someone offers to you is very impolite and inconsiderate. Teaching in Japan, I also learned that one must never offend the host/hostess and turn down their food offerings. In my head, I thought "Okay, just suck it up and try it". I am so glad I did! That fruit dessert was delicious and unexpectedly became one of my favourite desserts of all time. The sweet, yet tart flavour of this dessert is really refreshing on a hot summer day.

Seeing how it is now the season for rhubarb, I have been enjoying harvesting our rhubarb crop. So far, in the past two days I have cleaned, cut, and frozen six bags of rhubarb and there are A LOT more to cut in the next few days.

This time of the year, whenever I see the rhubarb ready to pick, I always remember my first encounter with rhubarb and my carefree days as a child living in Quebec.

**I'm still rather new at the rhubarb thing and only know how to make a few strawberry-rhubarb desserts. I took the liberty of finding some recipes online for anyone interested in cooking with this vegetable...since it is in season right now! I try to cook with produce that is in season as much as possible. If it's not grown on our farm, then I try the local farmer's markets. If all else fails, the grocery store carries some locally grown (as in "grown in Ontario")produce too.

Here's a website for some really tasty rhubarb recipes, as well as a website for the nutritional value of rhubarb.

Another interesting rhubarb fact that Hubby mentioned to me today: NEVER eat the leaves from a rhubarb plant! They contain oxalic acid and may be toxic. That's right! Hubby said never make a tea out of rhubarb leaves. It can kill you.**

Monday, May 26, 2008

Little Miracles...and a Hairy Butt!!!


I haven't written a Thankful Tuesday post in a while. I think I started writing Thankful Thursday posts, but Thursdays became Throwback Thursdays once Pinks & Blues invented those wonderful weekly specials.

Anyway, today I am thankful for:
* a husband who is so very supportive of me and who believes enough in me so that I can have my own business doing what I love (teaching ESL). Thank you, Hubby! :)
* being able to live on such a beautiful island.
* living a few minutes away from my parents so that I am able to have supper with them once a week! :)
* being able to witness little miracles each and every day.
* blue skies and sunny days!

Okay, I promise that my next post will not be about the barn kittens, my dog, the cattle or the farm. I realize I've been going just a tad overboard with all the cute animal photos here! I just can't help it though!

I am just so amazed at how tiny the kittens were when they were born and how quickly they grow! They are much more active and mobile now at a month old, and they are each developing their own character. One of the little grey ones is definitely going to be named Hissy because every time I try to get near him to pick him up, he hisses and spits at me! It's really funny to see this adorable, tiny fuzz ball looking so cute...and then hissing!

Another thing that amazes me is that this is Fred's/Mama Cat's second litter and she is such an amazing mom! I love watching her with her babies. She's an incredible hunter and really takes care of her kittens. Remember the time last year when she went on her hunting expeditions and brought her loot back to our house? My students were in tears!

Fred had her kittens a month ago and her daughter from her first litter last Spring had a kitten two weeks ago. It's the weirdest thing. She only had one kitten! I have no idea if she had more, but that was the only one that survived or if she did in fact have just one kitten.
Though we need a few barn cats, I am going to get Fred and one or two of the others spayed and neutered once the kittens are weaned. The rest will be given away to anyone who wants a kitten. We usually get a few people wanting some of our kittens. The ginger coloured kittens are quite popular these days. They are pretty cute!

The interesting thing about the mother cat and her daughter having kittens at the same time is that I noticed that they take turns watching and taking care of the kittens. I never knew that cats would do a tag team parenting thing! Hubby told me this morning that Fred's daughter from last year had all of the kittens sucking from her. I had no idea that cats even took shifts and shared parenting like that!

Look who was hiding from me when he heard the sound of my vehicle! Too funny!This little ginger kitten is the only ginger kitten in the litter. I'm thinking of calling him "Old Blue Eyes" after Frank Sinatra.This little black kitten is the newest one I was talking about. His eyes are still closed and he's not very mobile yet. He is so sweet. I told Hubby that I've never had a pure black kitten before. *Hint! Hint!* Hubby said, "He's not going to be completely black. He's going to turn grey...and the answer is no. You can't have any more house kittens!" *sigh* I tried! I really like the cute little six-toed kitten and the tiny black one.Hubby says that all the animals on our farm have jobs. The reason we have cats is so they can act as pest control. The reason we have a dog is so he can guard our property and our home. Yeah, right! Chance is quite possibly the friendliest dog ever! One time, our friend Super Girl came over and Chance didn't even let us know that she was here! She knocked on the door but we didn't hear her, so she let herself in...with Chance escorting her in! Some guard dog!

Well, I suppose if he doesn't know the person he does bark or growl.

Speaking of Chance, here's his hairy butt! He is so darn hairy! I came in this afternoon and spent over an hour combing his thick coat and trying to get his undercoat taken care of. My arms were so sore after! It was a workout and a half just to comb his coat! Oh, he enjoyed it. I was thinking of shearing his coat for the Summer because it's so thick, but someone told me that I shouldn't do that. They said that he needs a thick coat to protect him from the sun and bugs. What should I do to keep him looking nicely groomed?

Since I left Toronto four years ago, Chance has not gone to the groomer's. He was accustomed to a pampered lifestyle of being groomed a few times a year and going on trips to the pet store to choose his new toys. Now, he just looks so scruffy! Anyone out there have a hairy dog? What tips do you have for grooming him myself? I don't want to subject him to what I did to him last year. The poor boy was mortified.

Okay, next post won't be animal or farm related. I promise! :)
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Around Here...


I've always been called a "bleeding heart". Ever since I was a little girl I was dubbed a "bleeding heart". Some have said in the past that I am "overly sympathetic to the plight of others" and when discussing topics like Darfur, Tibet, Burma, or China, I get the "who cares if people in other countries are suffering? People should just take care of themselves." If being a bleeding heart is a bad thing, then I guess it's something I'm going to have to deal with. That's just who I am. I'll do what I can to help out others who are in need and who are not as able as most to help themselves.

These bleeding hearts in the photo are located in front of our house next to the tulips. They're very special to Hubby, as his family used to have bleeding hearts when they lived down south (before they moved to the Island).
Around here, I've been known to come up with some pretty wacky recipes. This particular one is a spin-off of my aunt's zucchini pie. We just love her zucchini pie! Instead of zucchini, I used mushrooms this time. It was quite tasty with the mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil. We had this savoury dish alongside our three bean salad (chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, cucumber, tomato, corn, red onion), which was layered on top of a bed of romaine lettuce with just a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
Around here, the barn kittens have started to become very mobile! They are now a month old and Fred (AKA: Mama Cat) is giving them some crucial lessons in survival!

Here's our little six-toed friend. He's just darling. I would love to make him into a house cat, but I think my husband would protest. We've already got two house cats! I was giggling at the thought of making all our barn cats into house cats. Wouldn't Hubby just love that? Yeah, I know. We do need cats in the barn for pest control. Can't blame a girl for trying though!
Around here, my lovable pooch, Chance leaves his toys scattered all over the lawn. I found his ducky while coming back from the garden. Poor Ducky is missing a foot and his beak is tattered. Despite all the abuse Ducky has endured (being dragged through the mud, being left in the field, being rained on, and being buried in the snow until Spring!), Ducky still quacks when Chance tosses him in the air...and when Hubby accidentally runs over him with his truck.
Here's Chance's buddy. Chance sleeps with his buddy and treats it like a baby. It's too funny to watch. Around here, Hubby thinks I'm a bit nuts for pampering our animals the way I do! ;)
Thursday, May 22, 2008

Farming 101


Alternate title for this post = City Girl's Guide to Life on the Farm!

Sometimes I feel so stupid. After nearly two years of being married to a farmer, I am only now learning some of the lingo used around here. Remember the time I thought that "a cow dropped" meant that she had cardiac arrest and just collapsed in the field and died? Hubby had to tell me that it meant that the cow gave birth to a calf. Sheeesh! There are some expressions that just aren't natural or don't make sense to city folk like me.

I'm pleased to say that I have learned what "seeding" means. It does not mean when a man goes around and "spreads his seed". I've learned that "first cut" and "second cut" aren't expressions used only in the movie/film business. I've learned that "baling" is an agricultural term used when a farmer "bales" hay (or whatever else is in his crop). I've also learned that "wrapping" refers to wrapping bales with plastic and not wrapping presents for your wife! ;)

I know what baler twine is. I know the difference between round and square bales...which is rather obvious since one is round and the other is square! Duh!

"Calving" is when the cows have their babies. Not all bovines are "cows". Funny, growing up in the city, we were never taught the difference! Show me a photo of a "cattle beast" and I'd tell you it was a cow! That is not so. A cow is what they call a female, therefore a bull cannot be a cow. There's a huge difference, people! Teachers never taught us that in kindergarten! Hubby had to explain to me that there are cows, bulls, heifers, steers, etc. Now, when I drive along the highway and see cattle grazing in the lush green pastures, I never yell out "Oh! Look at those cows!!" anymore. That is, unless I know that they are in fact cows and not bulls, heifers, and...well, you get the point!

I've also learned that making bread is an art and a science. You absolutely must sterilize your jars and lids when canning! Oh, and "canning" does not refer to the act of firing someone from their job. It's the process of making preserves!

Ah! Another thing I learned shortly after moving here is that small rural communities have what is called a "reeve". A reeve is sort of like a mayor...and not reeve as in "Christopher Reeve". The community is a really tightly-knit one. Members of the community generally help each other out when someone is in need. People actually greet their neighbours here. Oh, and a neighbour does not mean just your immediate neighbours. People down the highway about 4 miles away call us their neighbours. If you ever ditch your vehicle like I did, know that people will always be there to help.

Many of the wives get involved in the community too. There are functions where they socialize, such as the teas and bazaars. Some join a quilting guild, the hospital auxilliary or other groups and organizations. I've learned a lot from some of the other ladies in town. The pie crust for a pie is the most important part. If you can't make a good pie crust, your apple pie is doomed. Also, homemade is much better than store-bought! There's a huge difference! I will never eat another store-bought pie again. Ever. Actually, I'm not really a pie fan so it doesn't really matter to me (but don't tell Hubby, he loves his cherry pie...and blueberry pie...and apple pie)!

*sigh* It really, really shocked me to see how little I knew. Coming from a lifestyle of world travels, big charity fundraisers and soirees, art gallery/theater/museum excursions, university education, and life in the big city, I thought that I knew a lot. I knew about world issues, current events, social issues, environmental issues, human rights, politics, history, art, literature...yet on the farm, I am just learning the ropes. It's a rather humbling experience. I'm not a know-it-all after all. Who would have thought that I'd ever need to know that the word for bear poop was called "scat" and that fiddle heads were just the curled up tips of ferns!?!

Though I may sometimes feel like a fish out of water and get frustrated because I'm used to being a know-it-all when I'm in my element, at least I'm trying...and loving every bit of my new life! Yes, even those difficult, challenging, and not so clean moments! ;)

Throwback Thursday #27




I know I'm way behind in posting my Throwback Thursday posts. Again, no excuse other than it's been crazy busy around here. Haven't we all heard that one before? ;) Though I've been really bad terrible horrible at keeping up with my TT posts, I'm glad that the Pinks & Blues Girls came up with this fun idea of taking some time to walk down memory lane. When I do actually get around to posting, I always enjoy reminiscing.

This set of photos is from my not so distant past. The photos were taken on June 1, 2001. I was twenty-five years old, living in Toronto, enjoying my life as an ESL teacher at a really good ESL school and just loving my time with my friends.

Here I am with some of the other teachers I worked with. Oh, we weren't always allowed to wear casual clothes! Only on Fridays! Plus, we were taking our students to Canada's Wonderland via bus and subway that day. My beautiful friend, Gavie's Gal is posing in the top photo with me. Gosh! Look how young we were in that photo!!!These photos were taken at Canada's Wonderland. Part of the activities at the school included field trips and outings. There were Niagara Falls trips, a trip to the "sugar shack" to see how maple syrup is made, New York trips, and local excursions (like Canada's Wonderland). Of course, the teachers were eager to go on this particular outing with the students! After all, who doesn't love amusement park rides, over-priced souvenirs and greasy food? I can honestly tell you that now, seven years after these photos were taken, I don't like any of those things I just mentioned! Is that a sign of old age? I have no idea how I used to be able to stomach all those rides. Now, I get sick even thinking of being on a roller coaster or being on a ride that spins while I'm upside down!!
I decided to throw in a few other photos. Here's a photo of some of our Korean, Japanese and Mexican students. Gavie's Gal and I took them for their first maple syrup experience. The students were able to see how maple syrup is made and they had a big, hearty breakfast (everything slathered with maple syrup, of course)!

This last photo is of a little "Bon Voyage"/"Going Away" BBQ I threw for some of our graduating students. My parents were kind enough to let us host the BBQ at their house. The students enjoyed lazing around the pool. I just realized that Gavie's Gal is in this photo too! I love looking back at old photos of my ESL years in Japan, Toronto and on the Island. Most of the ESL students I've had are wonderful, hardworking, fun, funny, and very special individuals. I'm still in contact with most of my former students. ESL students hold a very special place in my heart. I guess this is why I continue teaching ESL

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About the Blog Author


City girl moves to the country, falls in love, and marries a farmer. She tries to incorporate her city ways with her new country lifestyle and blogs to keep in touch with friends, family & students who live far, far away :) Can this city girl go country? Watch as she learns all sorts of exciting things about life on the farm and in a small rural community. *UPDATE* We are now parents! Our baby girl was born on Nov. 11, 2008 (at 28 weeks gestation- 12 weeks premature, but she's quite the trooper)!!!
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Life on Manitoulin: Just a bunch of ramblings from a city girl gone country!

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