Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Chocolate Adventures

I decided to have the family Easter gathering a little early this year, in order to make sure I got a turn with the grandchildren. I wanted to get them some treats, but decided that it would be more fun to let them make their own.  My grandsons are now 6 and 10 years old, and I figured they might enjoy filling some of my old chocolate molds themselves. 

The younger one put a few spoonfuls into the mold that made assorted bunny and chick shapes, and then wandered off to watch a movie. The older one loves doing anything involving food, so he stuck around and finished filling that tray. I popped it into the freezer, and proceeded to teach him how to make a  hollow egg.  While he was doing that, I made a hollow duck for his little brother.

I also had a mold that has a space for sucker sticks, but that mold makes 8 three inch rabbits, and that can be a lot of chocolate to eat all at once.  I added some Rice Krispies to the remaining chocolate, and we proceeded to create those together. He spooned the chocolate, and I inserted the sticks, banging the tray on the table from time to time to settle the chocolate more evenly into the molds. 

When things came out of the freezer, I had everyone's attention.  They liked the cute shapes the chocolate had made.  I divided up everything equally, and putting the treats into special bags I had picked up at Bulk Barn. They had different colours and patterns on them so there would be no arguments about who owned the one that had the most left in it later in the week.

When we were making the hollow stuff, I was busy instructing my grandson to turn the egg, to make sure he got the chocolate everywhere on both sides and to keep turning it so that none of the chocolate would settle in all one place inside.  I wasn't paying enough attention to the little duck I was making.  When we unmolded them, the little duck had weak spots, and broke.  Luckily the younger grandson was not at all disappointed. He quickly learned that you can eat mistakes and they taste just as good.

I hope everyone has a very Happy Easter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My New Computer Washes Clothes

Recently my washing machine threw the breaker switch. This was a good thing as the motor had seized and when that happened to the previous machine, it caught fire. While I had been contemplating getting a new washer because the finish on the washing drum was wearing out, I was not expecting to have to go looking quite so soon, or without time to weigh my options.

We have always had a suds saver machine. That's one where the soapy water goes into one laundry tub, while the rinse water goes into the other one. The machine draws the soapy water back into the drum so that you can reuse it for another load.  That saves a lot of water. This has become even more important to me now that we are on a water meter and the rates have gone up so much that I tend to hold my breath as I open the bimonthly bills.

Apparently the manufacturers have stopped making the suds saving washing machines. To buy another top loader, with the usual agitator, would mean an instant increase in water consumption. I noticed that they now make some without agitators, but I don't understand the process, and am not comfortable with the idea of something so new and foreign to me without having time to look into it.  I had been told that front loaders use much less water so we started by look at those.

I was instantly confused by all the different models and options. In the past, I had gone in and asked the salesman for a suds saving model, and then bought the only one they had. Not only did I not have a specific feature to ask for now, I also had no idea what all these new computerized models were capable of doing. Nor did I have time to do a lot of research. I needed to make the purchase quickly.

I was delighted to discover that the store where I have always bought my appliances had a sale on. There was $250 off the Whirlpool machine.  That made it cheaper than the others in that store, and seemed to do more than I'd ever need it to do.  We went off to do some other shopping while we thought about what to do, or if we should look elsewhere for comparison's sake.

When we went back to find out how long that sale would be on, we found out it was just for the day.  Then the salesman pulled up a price comparison page, on his computer monitor, and found it for about $50 lower somewhere else. He immediately matched the price. No comparison shopping necessary, at least not in person these days, it seems. No matter how much time and thought and research I put into buying a new machine, I'd never feel sure I was choosing the best possible option out there. Manufacturers give us too many choices these days. We decided we'd probably be just as happy with this one as any, so the purchase was made.

The salesman said that the motor on my new washer is guaranteed for 10 full years. That might have been a great selling point, given our two past experiences but I almost laughed as this machine is practically a computer, and I expect the electronics will fail first.

Now I have to learn how to do laundry all over again. This is the first time I have ever had a washing machine that required programming.  I'm used to just twisting a dial to indicate the size of the load, the temperature of water I want to use, and occasionally setting the machine for a gentler cycle than usual.  This new one senses the water level needed, and while I can set it to take care of more heavily soiled or more delicate loads, that's done on a touch screen. 

One of the main advantages of this electronic marvel is that I can put the load in during the day, when the electricity rates are at their highest, and ask it to start during the evening when the rates are at their lowest. In the past, I would think about doing a load at night, but then not want to go down to the cold basement after dark to do that. I ended up doing all my laundry on weekends, which used to be considered time off.  I just may wear out the timer before I wear out the washer, as I know that pre-set feature is going to get a lot of use. 

Now I have to remember to leave the door and dispenser open after the wash, to prevent mold, check under the rim for small object that might have fallen in there, and run a cleaning cycle once a month. That means I have to buy a special cleaner, as well, apparently a different kind of laundry formulation. It will be a learning experience. Each load will take longer to wash, but since I will no longer be washing two loads at once, and hopefully not spending my weekends doing laundry, that shouldn't be a problem.

While I have purchased the High Efficiency detergent now, I bought the liquid kind, like I normally use. The manual says that liquid detergent works best as the powdered stuff may not dissolve properly and could form clumps. It also tells me that for pre-set washes, I apparently need the powdered kind anyway, so it doesn't seep into the washer ahead of time, and gum up the works.  The new fangled capsules, on the other hand, are to be added to the drum before the laundry, and could likely be the answer for pre-loaded washes.  I'd love to hear from any of you who have detergent stories.

We've done two loads so far. The laundry came out soft and clean and was spun much dryer than usual. It wasn't tangled up either.  I left the door open afterwards, but forgot about the soap dispenser the first time. My hubby forgot to put the detergent in before starting the water the second time, and discovered the water shoots up through the dispenser if you open it while the machine is on. Like I said, it will be a learning experience.








Friday, March 20, 2015

Too Many Choices

Once upon a time you could go shopping for what you wanted without having to make a lot of decisions. If you wanted clean hair, you bought shampoo. If you wanted a skin cream you bought a moisturizer. If you wanted an appliance, you just asked for one that did what you wanted it to do, and the salesman showed you the right model. Things have changed.  Now we are faced with entire walls of shampoos and skin creams and when it comes to appliances, well, it's too confusing for words.

There are not only a multitude of shampoo brands to pick from, you have to narrow it down to whether you want to build body, control frizz, repair damage, protect colour or even enhance grey. There are shampoos that are organic, sulphate free, offer thermal protection, are fortifying, nourishing, hydrating or clarifying.  There are shampoos for children, oily hair, thin hair and some that prevents hair fall. There are dandruff shampoos, dry shampoos, pet shampoos, and 2 in 1 shampoos that combine the conditioning with the cleaning power.

I'm thrilled when I get samples and find something I like without having to face that wall of decisions and take a chance on spending money on something not right for me.  I just have to locate the one I want next time I go to the store, though even that isn't always easy.

For face care there are cleansers, exfoliators, toners, serums, gels and  moisturizers.  There are day creams, night creams, eye creams, and throat creams. There are things called BB creams and CC creams. There are products that protect, nourish, clarify, lift, rejuvenate, brighten, illuminate, and erase blemishes and dark spots. Oh and let's not forget the ones that promise to prevent or diminish wrinkles.

A friend called recently to ask what I use on my face. She admitted that she was never one to use moisturizers and such, and had come to the conclusion that it was time to try to do something about what nature does to us all over time. I've been using moisturizers of one sort or another since way back when I even washed my face with Noxzema in my early teens. She said when she looked at the wall of products available, she had no idea of where to start.  I'm not sure any of us do. 

Really, I believe that more is not necessarily better, and that comes to choices too.  I can't tell you how many times I have considered trying a new brand of makeup and found that I couldn't decide on what to pick because there were too many brands, with too many different lines, and too many shades in each. I found this site where you could match the shade you currently use with others available on the market. It didn't work for me though as I've been using Yves Rocher products for years and that brand is not listed.

I'm not sure why any one brand would make so many different lines of things that do so many different things. Sure that would create something for everyone, but  I would think that would also cost them more in development, production, packaging and advertising than if they just created a few good products and put them where we all could find them. I'm sure that added cost gets passed on to us, the consumer.

Once again, I'm glad that so many samples are offered online these days. I've discovered some marvelous products over the past few years that I likely never would have purchased, or even known about otherwise.  Facing that wall of decisions every time I need to make a purchase has, on occasion caused me to walk away with nothing. I know I'm not the only one that has reacted that way. The companies can't make any money that way.

Keep it simple, I say. The population is aging, and there are days when we don't want to have to read a million labels just to buy some every day product.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Soupfest 2015 - Sold Out

It's been a hard winter with so many funerals in the family, but a group of us recently found a much better reason to get together.  The annual Soupfest, in support of the TLC Ministries,  took place in Kemptville on Saturday March 7th. This year it drew a record breaking crowd.  Every ticket was sold, and we were glad we were even able to find a place to sit. 

The tables were set up for 8 people at each, but we needed 10 chairs this year. The number of cousins in this family gathering together for this event reached an all time high. One branch had three generations present. With two children at our table, Brad the Balloon Guy stopped by to work his magic, just proving that Soupfest is fun for all ages.

Seventeen restaurants took part in the event this year.  There were a couple of new ones from Merrickville.  Both the Sugar Belle Bake Shoppe (their table pictured here) and Cha Tea House are new to the village this winter and decided Soupfest would be a great way for people to become acquainted with them.  Smiths Falls representation was conspicuously absent this year. Some of my favorite soups have come from Smiths Falls entrants in the past, so I hope they come back next year.

This year's judges were Executive Chef Michael Blackie, Chef Jocelyn Myre, Executive Chef Jhonatan J Gonzales and Nutritional Columnist, Heather Westendorp. They chose their three favorite soups of the day, and the people got to vote for their favorites also. The only soup chosen by both the people and the judges was the Sweet Potato and Cabbage Soup, topped with pancetta from the Brigadoon in Oxford Mills.  The people put it in Second place while the judges gave it a First.  The judges awarded Second place to the Merrickville's Yellow Canoe and gave Third place to Brewed Awakenings of Kemptville.

The people chose The Crusty Baker from Kemptville in Third place, Brigadoon in Second, and gave top  honours to The New Rideau for it's Butternut Squash with Maple Cream.  That was a little too sweet for me, but the rest of my table just loved it. That, of course, is the fun of Soupfest. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and it's great fun to discover that the people sitting with you disagree with your choices, and vice versa. Some pretty lively discussions come about by comparing opinions on the offerings.


The various establishments hope to call attention to themselves, and while some managed to do that by letting us know they had great soup, others, like the Crusty Baker will be getting my business in the future, not only because I loved their Potato Stilton Soup, but also because they gave us a hot cross bun, which was one of the best I've ever tasted.  I'll be checking out more of their baked goods in the future, even though I'll have to travel to Kemptville to do that.

We all had a great time and are already looking forward to next year's Soupfest. It's a much more enjoyable reason to gather than another funeral.




 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You Don't Have to Win to Be a Winner!

When my youngest son was small, he used to go bowling every weekend at the Kemptville Bowling Lanes. Now it's his oldest son's turn, and for the past seven years he has taken on the challenge. This year he qualified to take part in the 4 Steps to Stardom, and recently went to the Provincial Tournament in Brantford.

In order to qualify, first you have to have good attendance at the weekly games at the local lane.  Then, if more than 4 bowlers wish to take part in the Singles Zone Final they have a bowl off there, to determine who can advance.   The winners from the Zone Final go on to the Provincial Tournament, and the winners from there go on to the Nationals.

In December, my 10 year old grandson became an Ottawa Valley Champion, and qualified to move on to the Provincials in Brantford. That got us all excited.  As I understand it, he is only bowler from the Kemptville to ever advance to the Provincials.

Because he came in first at the Zone Finals,  he was even interviewed on the radio.

Now the neat thing was that when I was busy bragging about him on Facebook, a lady I met the
previous year at her niece's wedding jumped into the conversation to ask where and when the Provincial tournament was being held. It seems her granddaughter would be there too, and would be representing Grimsby.

We made plans to join my son and his family to attend the Provincial Tournament in Brantford. It was the first chance to give our new GPS a good trail run.  I've always been the family navigator, but I think I can actually retire now.  Not only does this handy gadget tell you how to best get to where you want to go, it also warns you well in advance of traffic slowdowns ahead, so you can avoid them if you feel that necessary. 

For a while there, we were worried that he wouldn't get to go as our little bowler sprained his ankle a couple of weeks before the tournament.  Luckily the young heal quickly and after wondering for a week or so, the trip was on.

The tournament was great fun, and it was even better since I had friends to visit with and two kids to watch, instead of one.  They were not competing against each other as they are in totally different divisions, due to both age and gender.

While my grandson did not win the tournament, he is still an Ottawa Valley Champion, and now officially the eleventh best bowler in the Bantam Boy division in all of Ontario.  We are extremely proud of him.  Since he's only 10, I'm sure there will be more bowling competitions in his future. 
 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Eggs-Traordinary!

I had to buy some more eggs. I still have several left from my last dozen, but I wanted to make a quiche and I just couldn't get myself to beat any from the last bunch.  You see, the previous purchase held a surprise. 

One morning I was all set to make breakfast of a scrambled egg rolled up in a soft tortilla. When I broke the egg into the bowl I was going to microwave it in, I discovered that it had two yolks.  I have not seen a double yolker in many years and there was no way I was going to scramble that baby up.  I got out my frying pan and had a fried egg on toast instead. 

As the week wore on I discovered that all the eggs in that carton seem to have double yolks.  A little discussion on Facebook let me know that several other people were experiencing the same thing.  As it turns out, they all bought their eggs from Walmart.  Amazingly, for the first time ever, I had also purchased eggs from Walmart, and those were the double yolkers.

Such a treat!

It does get confusing when you are cooking though.  I was about to make waffles the other day, and my recipe called for 2 egg yolks. I'm pretty sure that the two yolks from one of these eggs would not big enough to fulfil the requirement. But if I used the yolks from two eggs, there would have been 4 and that may have been too much yolk.  Three might have worked, but I'm finding these yolks rather fragile, so decided to just make pancakes instead.  No separated yolks required for that.

Then I wanted to make a quiche, but that required three eggs and I didn't want to waste my beautiful double yolked eggs by scrambling them all up. I gave up and bought a second carton, but I got them at my usual store, instead of Walmart, and they are, as expected, normal, one yolked eggs. 

One has to wonder what's going on here, as a double yolk happens when the egg gets backed up in the chicken's oviduct system, causing two yolks to be encased in the same shell.  It can also happen when ovulation occurs too rapidly. Either way a double yolk is supposedly a rare occurrence, and is believed to happen in only one out of 1,000 eggs.  So how is it that Walmart is selling whole cartons full of them to so many people all of a sudden?  Are their suppliers doing something to the chickens to cause them to lay eggs too often?

Apparently very young hens can produce double yolked eggs too, because their hormone system is not fully developed.  Since flocks of hens would all be roughly the same age, that might account for why so many of these young chickens are laying double yolked eggs all at the same time.

I have read that some hens are even bred to produce eggs with a double yolk, but I'm sure that the producers and the stores would both advertise they are double yolkers and expect to be paid more for these special eggs.  All it says on my carton of large eggs is "Great Value".  Well, I sure can't dispute that!  One double yolked egg would be a treat. A carton full is a bonanza.









 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Family Day, For Whoever Feels Like Family to You

The idea of a close family is often shaped by the media. I grew up watching such things as Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver.  Everything was perfect, or if there was a problem, it was really nothing serious. We all know real families are seldom like those.  More recent TV families have somewhat more realistic problems, but once again, things are usually worked out by the end of the  time allotted for the program each week. Real life families have a much longer time frame for problems to arise and diminish in, but the media has planted false ideas in our heads and not everyone seems to understands that.

We are all born into our first family, though some of us never feel like that's the one we belong in. Children within a family can be so different from one another, that though their parents may love them equally, the kids themselves never quite connect. They may fight as children and then become total strangers once they have grown up and left the nest. Other families are more closely knit and they are the lucky ones, though even those often have problems. No family is as perfect as we would hope. That doesn't mean the members don't love each other.

Many people find others they feel closer to than the ones they grew up with.  There is just something they connect with that draws them together.  In some cases they can form and build their own families with those people. The rest just enjoy one another's company and feel accepted and understood and have what we grew up believing a close family connection would be like.  There are the families you are given, and the families you create.

February 16th is Family Day.  Draw those dear to you close. Let them know you care. Everyone longs to feel some sort of family connection.  This is the day to try to create it.